From the Inbox: Finding Jim & Carrie of Roots: The Next Generations

The benefits of sharing genealogical information online are far-reaching and make our volunteer work here at the TNGenWeb ever so worthwhile.   In many cases, you’ll find that our volunteer and information-sharing spirit extends beyond the confines of just the TNGenWeb project.   I’d like to share a story with particular relevance to Tennessee and the state’s Alex Haley connection.

Alex Haley’s Roots has undoubtedly been a major milestone for family history pursuits in this country; for African American families and for families of many ethnic backgrounds.  Growing up in Henning, Lauderdale County, Tennessee,  Alex heard many stories about his ancestors and wrote a moving narrative about the family history.  My family and I watch the mini-series often and particularly seem to watch Roots: The Next Generations even more often than Roots.

Last February, my genealogy-curious nature got the best of me and I set out to see if I could locate some of the real people behind a family depicted in the mini-series – that of Jim and Carrie Warner.  In the mini-series, Jim & Carrie are family friends of Tom (Chicken George’s son) and his family.  Carrie is a black school-teacher and Jim is a member of an affluent white-family in town.  The two fall in love, marry, and have children.  As might be expected, Jim is outcast from white society.

Richard Thomas, Fay Hauser, and Henry Fonda as Jim Warner, Carrie & Jim’s father, Col. Warner in Roots: The Next Generation.

On my personal blog, I shared the process I took in order to seek them and documented a couple whom I believed to be them.  Instead of  “Warner,” their last name is “Turner” and their personal characteristics and family seems to be a match – including a son named Hardin who grows up to be a doctor.  Naturally I blogged about the hunting process it because I believe so adamantly in sharing information online for others to find.

And, find they did.  This past week, I was contacted by email by a descendant of Jim & Carrie’s!  Sure enough I had found them and Sharon, one of their great-granddaughters, and I had a nice chat over the weekend.  Sharon described that yes, Jim & Carrie were friends of the Palmer & Haley families and Sharon herself grew up in Henning.   She too heard many stories of her ancestors while sitting on the porch of the family home; much like Alex Haley as a child.  Some of the life details of Jim & Carrie vary from what is represented in the mini-series, but that is of course to be expected.   One of the questions I had when I wrote my blog post was to wonder if the descendants knew that it was their family in the show – Sharon confirmed that yes, they did.  She’d always known growing up that her great-grandparents were part of the Roots narrative.  Isn’t that amazing.

Even more incredible though was that as we were close to finishing our conversation, Sharon mentioned that she had a picture of Jim and Carrie.  And, she has given permission for it to be shared online.   Meet the “real” Jim and Carrie – along with sons George Hillard Turner,  Hardin Alexander Turner, and William Turner.

Jim & Carrie Turner with sons George, Hardin & William.

How incredible! Sharon is thinking about beginning a blog to chronicle her own adventures in her family history – wouldn’t you all agree that she should! Jim & Carrie lived into their 80’s and 90’s and I am sure there is so much more of the history that remains to be told.

At top – Jim & Carrie in the 1940 census – Henning, Lauderdale County, TN. At the bottom of the page is Alex Haley’s grandmother Cynthia Murray Palmer and her sister Elizabeth.

Thank you Sharon for sharing your family history with me and thank you for allowing me to share it with our researchers.  The TNGenWeb Project is about making connections in family history and this is a great example of how sharing can reap positive rewards.   Alex Haley would be proud.  🙂

Note:  If you have research interests in Tennessee, we’d love to have you collaborate with us by sharing your family research or chatting it up with us on Facebook, Twitter & GooglePlus!

18 Replies to “From the Inbox: Finding Jim & Carrie of Roots: The Next Generations”

  1. This is so fascinating! And yes, Sharon definitely needs to start her own blog!

    Great work Taneya. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Wow, how fascinating! It’s ironic that I was thinking about Roots earlier today and come home to find this wonderful post. I too had always wondered about his family.

  3. The generosity of this family is overwhelming – as is yours. Thank you for sharing such an inspiring experience and photo!

  4. I just love the story roots and Queen. I always wonder about this family. Such wondreful love and happiness despite the hate they had to endure.thank your for your story and photo.

  5. Wow – that is awesome. Thank you for sharing your information. Roots the Next Generation is airing again on TV One this week and it had been years since I saw it last and I didn’t remember the Warner story. So, I started wondering if they were based on a true story or fiction. Thank you so much.

    • Hi Faith – thanks for your comment. It is interesting indeed to learn more about the people behind these stories 🙂

  6. Here is the obituary and notice of the death of W.E. Palmer, Alex Haley’s grandfather. Feb 1926 from the Enterprise

    Good Colored Citizen Dies

    On February 5, 1926 at 6 p.m. the death angel visited the home of W.E. Palmer
    and carried that noble soul of his to that city of undying rest. He was born
    in Haywood County Nov. 16, 1872. He was the son of George and Salina Palmer.
    His parents moved to Lauderdale when he was a small boy and located at
    Henning. Here he grew to manhood and in 1897 was married to Cynthia Murray,
    daughter of Tom Murray. To this union a daughter was born. He leaves to mourn
    his loss, his wife, Cynthia Palmer; a daughter, Bertha G. Haley; two
    grandsons, A.M. Palmer and G.W. Boyce Haley. His sister, Hattie Fisher, of
    Carbondale, Ill.; and brother, Charles Palmer, of Mobile, Ala., were all
    present at the services except the latter. W.E. Palmer had been in the lumber
    business in Henning several years, and had built up an excellent trade and
    made many friends, respected by members of both races, as was demonstrated at
    the funeral services, the white citizens occupying one section of the church,
    and had words of commendation coming from the leading citizens among whom were
    Mr. S.M. Roy, who paid a lasting tribute to the deceased. Following Mr. Roy of
    the whites present, came words of praise from Mr. W.W. Nall, a representative
    of ICRR. A life long friend, J.G. Fisher

    • This is wonderful! I have an Illustrious uncle who passed in 1898. A library at Florida A&M University has a library in his honor. So I’m aware how exciting finding material like this can be! I recently asked a distant cousin about the possibility of finding his funeral service.

  7. always been fascinated by roots and often wondered what happened to jim and carrie.thanks for sharing

  8. I have heard many stories about my sons LaBou, Lee and Louis Turner great grand daddy from George Turner the boys grandfather who lives in Ripley, TN and tonight the rest of the puzzle was put in place and now my boys know a lot more about their ancestry. We live in Charleston, IL and we visited Ripley often when they were boys. This is truly amazing.

  9. Hey my name is Billy Nixon and I’m the grandson of George Turner who is the son of William Turner.James was my great great grandfather and Carrie is my great great grandmother….I would really like to meet other members of this family who my grandad haven’t introduced us to….I hardly kno any of his relatives…my mother is Joyce hobbs daughter of George Turner…