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McCoy Family History and Legacy

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The McCoy family fought to make a way for themselves and their community. Their legacy endures today.

The McCoy Family

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McCoy family in the 1870 Census

Sometime after 1865, Jacob McCoy purchased the farm owned by Jabez McKay, his former enslaver. This allowed him to provide for his family and leave a sizeable estate to his wife and children upon his death. Though their conjoined twin daughters Millie Christine were not returned to their custody, Jacob and Monemia had several other children: Amy, Murphy, Hutson, Clara, Elvy, Coleman and Preston.

Image of census record that lists the McCoy family

McCoy family in the 1870 Census

Understanding the 1870 Census

For many African Americans, discovering their ancestors in the 1870 U.S. Federal Census marks a research milestone. As the first census after the Civil War, the 1870 census identifies Freedom’s First Generation—those born enslaved who bore witness to emancipation. It is the first census listing formerly enslaved family members living in the same household by first and last name. Genealogists analyze the information in the 1870 census and other records like slave schedules and the Freedmen’s Bureau to research formerly enslaved people.

Image of census record that lists the McCoy family

1870 United States Federal Census showing the McCoy family

Family Inheritance

Jacob McCoy died in 1888 and left tracts of land and parts of his estate to his children, including Millie Christine. He also left land and parts of his estate to his grandchildren.

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Jacob McCoy’s last will and testament dated May 3, 1888

Image of Last Will and Testament of Jacob McCoy  document

Jacob McCoy’s last will and testament dated May 3, 1888, page 2

Returning Home

Cover of History of the Carolina Twins book

History of the Carolina Twins, undated.

In the mid-1880s, Millie Christine returned to Whiteville, North Carolina, where they penned an autobiography detailing their career performing at venues around the world, including a performance for Queen Victoria in 1871.

Cover of History of the Carolina Twins book

History of the Carolina Twins, undated.

Pillars of Their Community

In their retirement, Millie Christine were generous donors to their local community. According to the family's oral history the twins helped establish a school for the African American children of Welches Creek and donated money to Palmer Institute and other state educational institutions for African Americans.

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Palmer Memorial Institute operated from 1902-1971

Legacy

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Descendants of the McCoy family honoring Millie Christine at their gravesite

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Nieces of Millie Christine sitting in the entrance to the family home ca. 1940s

Millie died of tuberculosis on October 8, 1912. Christine died 12 hours later. The twins willed their land and home to their remaining siblings, nieces and nephews. Today, Millie Christine’s story is preserved through their family’s oral history and has emerged as an important part of North Carolina history.

Image from YouTube video showing decedents at a gravesite

Descendants of the McCoy family honoring Millie Christine at their gravesite

Black and white photograph of small wooden house

Nieces of Millie Christine sitting in the entrance to the family home ca. 1940s

Image from video about Millie Christine's family

Descendants of the McCoy family honoring Millie Christine at their gravesite.