For the last 86 years descendents of David R. Wingate have met for an annual family reunion. This year the reunion was bittersweet. The day before the reunion was held on June 13, the patriarch of the family, Nicholas Matthew Wingate, better known as “Nick” died. Nick was known in the large family as “Uncle Nick”. He had reached 96 years of age, was slowing down a bit, but was still mentally active and always ready with a smile and a story. Nick began to have headaches and was taken to the ER at the local hospital where it was discovered that he had bleeding in his brain. Nothing could be done, except to try to relieve his pain and let him go home to spend his last hours with his family. He passed away Friday morning.

Saturday at the reunion he was given a fitting tribute to his service in the Navy in WWII, stories were told about fishing trips and there were both smiles and tears.

The sweet side of the bittersweet reunion was the revelation that there had been the discovery of a new branch of the Wingate family. Peter Wingate, one of the sons of Cecil and June had been doing extensive genealogical research for years and has built a tree of over 3,000 people. Along the way he had submitted a DNA sample to Ancestry.com to become part of their data base of several hundred thousand people. When a sample is submitted to Ancestry.com that sample is automatically matched to anyone who may be a close match. The persons then have the opportunity to make contact if they desire.

Alicia Wingate had submitted a DNA sample for her father, Deryl. One of the matches to his DNA was Peter Wingate, Orange, Texas. It was a surprise to both men because Deryl is Black and Peter is Caucasian.

“I wanted to find where I came from, who my family had descended from, where they had lived, and if I had any family I did not know about”, said Deryl. “I got a DNA match from a man named Peter Wingate, who is White in Orange, Texas. I decided to send him a message and see if he would respond. We made email contact and then talked by phone.”

“For years I had thought there may be some ancestors who were slaves, but I never knew for sure then, I got the message from Deryl”, said Peter. “We were both glad to discover that we had a family we did not know about. We talked and found out that we had ties to Newton County, that David R. Wingate was the common ancestor, and for years when my Wingate family was having reunions in Newton County, Deryl’s family had held reunions at the same time. We discussed meeting face to face at our reunion this year. Both of our families agreed that it was time to meet. I did wonder how Deryl felt when he thought he had come from a small family and then all of a sudden discover that he had several thousand new ancestors.”

The 2015 Wingate reunion

The 2015 Wingate reunion

   Deryl and his sons Deryl (not junior), and Lynn attended the reunion and there were welcomes from all of the nearly 70 Wingates descended from David R. and Caroline Wingate.

Deryl was raised in Beaumont and had graduated from Charleton-Pollard High School. After graduating he enlisted in the Army and made a career, retiring as a First Sergeant after over 20 years. He married his wife Birgit while stationed in Germany and they have three children. After retirement he settled in Arlington, Texas.

In doing his genealogical research he discovered that he was descended from David R. Wingate who had been a plantation owner with over 100 slaves at Belgrade in Newton County, Texas. David had fathered four children with Mary Samuel, who was a house servant. “We know that Mary Samuel was a Mulatto or maybe a Quadroon, she was very light skinned”, said Deryl. “We have relatives in California who are very light skinned and could pass for White, if they wanted to. We had never known for sure that we had White relatives, although we were fairly sure we did.”

Mary Samuels had listed the four children on census records as having the Wingate surname and David had never objected or denied parentage. On some early census records, she had listed the children as White and some records as Black. The birthplace had always been listed as Newton County, Texas.

The separation of the two families appears to have occurred when David and Caroline Wingate relocated to Orange County. Deryl’s Wingate family had owned property along Cow Creek in the Bon Weir area. It is possible that David had made provisions for Mary and her family.

“We are a proud family; proud of where we came from and what we have and accomplished. Until I sent in the DNA sample, I thought that I was partly Native American. I found that there is only 2% of that. I am 79% African- American and 18% European. Doing the research has helped me discover a whole new family and find out what my heritage really is”, said Deryl.

Each year at the Wingate reunion, Peter conducts a discussion of the genealogy of the family. This year Deryl was included and explained what he had discovered about his lineage and was amazed and pleased to find what Peter had spent years discovering. Peter was able to show the Wingate family tree going back to the early 1600s.

There is an organization, Coming To The Table, that has been formed to help bring together the families of former slaves and enslavers. The purpose is explained in their mission statement:  Coming to the Table provides leadership, resources and a supportive environment for all who wish to acknowledge and heal wounds from racism that is rooted in the United States’ history of slavery.

“CTTT is an organization that can provide information and resources for anyone wishing to research a possible tie to slave ancestors or ancestors who were slave owners. We have been pleased to discover the other Wingate family and they are pleased to find that they have such a large number of ancestors going back so many generations. I think that to some degree we all want to know where our families originated and, as much as possible who they were and what they did. I can highly recommend having the DNA testing done. You may discover a whole new world”, said Peter.

The photo at above right shows Deryl Wingate and Peter Wingate meeting for the first time.