Melton asked about my grandfather and then promptly sent me an e-mail tracing my lineage back to the American Revolution.
Spencer begat Joe who begat Joe who begat Joe who begat Ira who begat Joe who begat Dave who begat me. They apparently followed the receding frontier, from Virginia to Kentucky to Indiana to Illinois.
Over the next few days I studied where each person was born, when and where they died. I groped for ways to make it seem real, to wrap my mind around that gulf of time between Revolutionary Virginia and suburban California.
I saw that Spencer lived long enough to see his grandson, whose own son lived to see my grandfather.
But where did Spencer come from? There was no record of his birth. His parents were unknown.
DNA testing of one of Spencer's male descendants did not show a direct paternal connection to Edward. Nor would my DNA. Spencer probably was the illegitimate son of one of Edward's granddaughters — a Margaret who never married, or another Margaret, whom the sheriff dragged into court for adultery. But records of women were sparse, so we might never know for sure.
Spencer first showed up in a 1782 census, heading a family of "six white souls."
I found it in the library and, scanning for more Mozingos, came upon a name that had me reeling: Spencer lived near James Madison, the "father of the Constitution" and future president of the United States.
There were only 61 households in their census tract. Of course, maybe their circles didn't intersect much. Spencer was a poor, possibly mixed-race farmer on rented land. Madison had more than 80 slaves and went to the College of New Jersey, which became Princeton.
But seeing that Spencer was even in Madison's orbit was a boon for me: Historians had undoubtedly pored over every letter, diary and document relating to him. Perhaps my progenitor would turn up in one.
On a damp winter morning last year, I crossed the silty breadth of the Rappahannock River as fishermen in low wooden boats hauled up lines in the gloom. The highway traversed tidal flats and gently lifted into the low clay hills of Virginia's Northern Neck.
I pulled into the little brick town of Warsaw, which was called Richmond Courthouse when Edward lived here and won his freedom in 1672.
The Neck was still wilderness then. The settlers were at war with Indians from the north and stayed mostly to the shoreline of the Rappahannock.
When peace came shortly thereafter, they pushed into the forested interior, clearing the timber to grow tobacco and widening the Indian trails into crude roads. They put the tobacco in casks called "hogsheads" and rolled them with oxen to warehouses along the river. Life was miserable. People starved; disease was rampant. The crops were plagued by drought, tobacco worm and tobacco flies. Most farmers lived in windowless log hovels with dirt floors.
Edward had been a servant to Col. John Walker, a member of the colony's legislature. When Walker died in 1669, his widow inherited Edward and remarried a powerful Virginian, John Stone.
Edward sued Stone for his freedom. Little is said about the lawsuit in the court record, only that there was an appeals hearing in the high colonial court, that "Divers Witnesses" testified and that the judges concluded "Edward Mozingo a Negro man" had served his term after 28 years of indenture.
Edward and his wife, Margaret, and their two children, Edward and John, grew tobacco and raised livestock as tenant farmers on a creek called Pantico Run.
Where Edward came from before his years of servitude can only be inferred from history.