Okay, I couldn’t resist the title of this post. And no, my Ming ancestors were not Chinese, but I can’t really tell you what they were. The tradition is that the family came from Wales, but Ming is not a known Welsh surname. As far as I can tell, even the die-hard Ming researchers are stumped as to the origin of our Mings, although DNA results point generally to the British Isles. All I know is that it’s the one surname in my family tree that has been pretty easy to search—at least within the United States--because it’s so unusual.
The Mings came into my family tree with Cynthia Ming, daughter of William Frederick Ming and Susanna Wheat, who married Joseph Wheat in 1877. According to The Peters Colony of Texas by Seymour V. Connor, William F. Ming came from Alabama to Texas as a 24-year-old single man before 1848. The Peters Colony was a business venture in which a group of men, headed by William S. Peters, contracted with the Republic of Texas to bring 600 families to inhabit land in north Texas. In 1850 William was living in Dallas County with his wife Frances J. In 1855 he sold his land in Johnson County to Elisha Rhodes, his neighbor. In 1890 after the death of Joseph Wheat, his daughter Cynthia married Thomas L. Rhodes, son of Elisha, in Weatherford, Parker County.
|Extent of Peters Colony|
By 1860 William’s wife Frances had apparently died, and he had remarried to his first cousin, Susanna Wheat, 11 years his junior. On that census they had three children: Helen, 6; Thomas, 3; and (Cynthia) Francis, 1. It has always been my opinion (or maybe just a hunch) that the oldest child on the 1860 census, Helen, was the daughter of Frances, and not of Susanna. I mostly based this on the fact that on the 1900 census, Helen said her mother was born in Tennessee, and Susanna was born in Arkansas. However, Helen was remarkably inconsistent in naming the birthplaces of both of her parents. In any case, I have this instinctive dislike of William F. Ming—maybe deserved, maybe not—and one of the reasons is that he named his second daughter Cynthia Frances, in honor of his first wife. If I had been Susanna, I would not have been pleased, although she went on to have several more children with William: George A., Jefferson Davis, William Alfred, John, James N., Martha Emily, and Josephine. In 1880 they were living in Collin County and shared their home with daughter Cynthia, her husband Joseph Wheat, and their two children, one of whom was my grandfather.
|Mings and Wheats on 1880 census in Collin County, Texas|
Another thing that makes me think that Helen was the daughter of William’s first wife is that William was living with Helen and her husband Isaac Tompkins in Greer County, Oklahoma, from at least 1900 until he died in 1911. You may ask, “What is wrong with that?” Nothing, except that William was claiming to be a widower, and his wife Susanna was living with another daughter, Martha (Mattie) and husband Benjamin Bell, on the other side of the state. Susanna is buried in Carson, Oklahoma, while William rests 200 miles away in Granite.
|William F. Ming with Tompkins family in Greer County, OK--1900|
I’ve been to William’s grave. It’s kindof a funny story. I visited Granite with a friend whose mother had recently remarried to a man from there. He happened to know the cemetery where William was buried and offered to take me there. I never would have found it myself. After we walked out in a pasture and through knee-high grass to find the graves of William and members of the Tompkins family, Teresa’s stepdad said, in a slow and rather understated way, I thought, “You know, I probably should have warned you about the snakes.” After all that, I had forgotten to bring my camera, and I thought I would never have another opportunity to photograph William's grave. I'm very appreciative of Desiree Strong, who posted this picture of his headstone on findagrave.com.
|William F. Ming headstone|
Quartz Cemetery, Granite, Greer Co., OK
On the 1860 census William is living next door to his father, Thomas N., and mother, Susanna (Stephenson) Ming, for whom his wife was namesake and niece. Thomas, born in 1796 in Chowan County, North Carolina, listed his occupation as carpenter. William was listed as a cooper. Pictures I have seen of Thomas N. Ming on ancestry.com show him holding his carpenter's square. Thomas died in 1887 and is buried in Burnet County, Texas.
|William F. and Thomas N. Ming families|
1860 Grayson County census
|Thomas N. Ming|
I hesitate to trace the Mings back any further, as I have not done the research myself, but most researchers on ancestry.com seem to agree on the following. Thomas’s father, James Ming, was born in Chowan, N.C. in 1868 and died in Limestone County, Alabama. His wife was Ann Beasley. James’s father was Thomas and his wife was named Delilah. Thomas’s father was Joseph Ming(e) who was married to Rachel Ward. Joseph’s father, Joseph, died in 1707, and was married to Sarah. Some researchers list his father as David Ming and his mother as Elizabeth Carter. Most of these ancestors lived and/or died in Chowan County, N.C.