We sailed great ships; some as slaves, some as seamen and some as immigrants. We dug the Panama Canal. We supported the Tuskegee Airmen. We were famous athletes, Knighted by the Queen. We were laborers, carpenters, grooms, porters, domestics, spinsters, musicians, educators, policemen and policewomen. We were businessmen, scientists and engineers. We held patents for our ideas.
These are just a few of the things that I was never told as a child. Unfortunately, it wasn't until several key members of my family died, that I began to seek the knowledge of my family history. If I had only asked when I was younger, I could have obtained a great deal more information.
Never the less, it's amazing what you can find out if you only ask. As I started this story, I still had two living grandmothers, each in their nineties. (Both have since passed onto a better place.) Some days they couldn't remember a thing. On others, it was just incredible what they could tell you. You just have to keep probing and asking questions.
As African Americans, we're usually limited to how far back we can trace our lineage. Often times we've only owned our names for a century and a half. To-date, I haven't been able to trace my family beyond the end of slavery, either in the United States or in the Caribbean.
My family tree sprouts from four different branches, Ghyll, Hinson, Sobers and Williams. For the record, at least three of the family names, Ghyll, Hinson and Sobers, are of British origin. We picked up Ghyll from Wales and Sobers from the British West Indian Island of Barbados. To-date, we've not traced Hinson or Williams beyond America.
While I'm not sure how the Ghylls arrived in Wales, I'm assuming that the other families (Hinson, Sobers and Williams) were slaves in each of their respective countries and owned by other families that bore our names. For the moment, this is all speculation. However, most of what follows is what I do know.
The title of this web site, "We Sailed Great Ships," comes from the realization that not only did some of my ancestors arrive on these shores by ship as slaves, but some immigrated here arriving at Ellis Island, while others made their living as merchant seamen during parts of the 19th and 20th Centuries.
The following pages contain highlights and excerpts from the book "We Sailed Great Ships: Ancestors of Donald L. Hinson, Jr." based on the ongoing research of my family history.
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Updated July 4, 2012
Donald L. Hinson, Jr.