Searching for Descendants of the Alexandria Freedmen Cemetery

Over 1700 African Americans are buried at the “Alexandria Freedmen Cemetery” located at Church and Washington Street in Alexandria, VA. These African Americans were contraband of the Civil War. They fought, walked, and ran from their slave owners to areas that provided them safety. Freed African Americans were also at risk during the Civil War and many of them found the same safety net as the slaves. For more information on the Alexandria Freedmen Cemetery, go to the “The Friends of Freedmen’s Cemetery” site at

In April 2008, the City of Alexandria, Virginia asked me to assist them in locating descendants of the Alexandria Freedmen Cemetery.

The City wants to recognize the descendants of the Freedmen Cemetery. Please go to the Alexandria Archaeology Museum’s web site that discusses the Contrabands and Freedmen’s Cemetery Memorial at

As of 2008, I have identified the descendants of over one hundred people who are buried at the Freedmen Cemetery. I am still looking for descendants. If you have more than four generations of your family from Alexandria, Virginia and your surname is on this list, please contact me through my blog e-mail address The City of Alexandria is building the Contrabands and Freedmen’s Cemetery Memorial. It is going to be a great Ceremony honoring the former Contrabands and their Descendants.

The Ceremony will be in the Spring of 2014. If you want to be counted as a Descendant, please notify me. Thanks!

Author: cmb12

Char McCargo-Bah is the owner/founder of FindingthingsforU, LLC. She is a professional genealogist, researcher consultant, lecturer, teacher and author coach. She is the author of two books and you can find those books on by putting search on her name. She became a Living Legend in Alexandria, Virginia in 2014.

17 thoughts on “Searching for Descendants of the Alexandria Freedmen Cemetery”

  1. I am a Wanzer and live in Woodbridge. My grandfather, father, and I, all have the same name and both of them were from Alexandria. My Great Grandfather was Allen W. Wanzer, son of William Wallace, son of Wallace Wanzer, son of Hannah and Joesph Wanzer. I have found that they moved from Culpeper to Alexandria. I’ve pulled together an ancestry tree but have gotten stuck at Hannah and Joesph. Some of the information about the Catalpa Plantation from this post has helped. If anyone has any additional information, that would be great!


    1. Thanks William! I am working on another project at the Virginia Theological Seminary. Please read my recent posting on Virginia Theological Seminary on my blog. Thanks!


  2. Hello. I just happened upon this site. I have a Great-Great-Great grandmother named Kitty (Katie) Wanzer (or Wanser). She married Jacob Jackson and they migrated up to New York from Virginia back around 1860s, definitely before 1870 because their last child was born in NY in 1870-71. I believe she had 14 children but all were not in NY at the time I find them in records. I wonder if you can find any connection to the Wanzers in Alexandria cemetery? I have seen it spelled with an “S” in place of the “Z”, so I don’t know if the families are necessarily connected or not.

    Thank you for your efforts,

    Lisa Preston


  3. Hello. I hope this site is still active. I am a descendent of Wanzers from Virginia. I recently found death certificates for my great-grandmother’s siblings who passed away as young children in the early 1900’s. The death certificates state “Grantville” as the burial sites. I was confused by this because we have a family plot where the children are buried and it is not in Grantville. As I looked at the burial list for the freedman’s cemetery, I noticed the word/place “Grantville” is associated with many listings. Can you please tell me what/where this place “Grantville” is? I am also interested to learn more about my possible relatives in this cemetery. I have been doing my family genealogy for the past decade and I would really appreciate any information you can provide or we can share. Please contact me at your earliest convenience. Thanks so much!!!


    1. Thanks J Roberts for your comment. Grantville is a location in Alexandria, VA. Alexandria had several distinct neighborhoods that were considered African American and Grantville was one of them. The area back then was Princess and Patrick Streets where Third Baptist Church is located.

      Your Wanzer’s connect to the Cemetery. I was able to connect them back in 2008 through Mr. Lucian Johnson who is a second or third generation from Wallace Wanzer. Wallace and his family buried family members at the Freedmen Cemetery. Thanks!


      1. Thank you so much for your prompt response. I stayed on-line last night and found some articles that explained more about the Grantville neighborhood. I have several census records for Wallace Wanzer in the late 1800’s, but to date I haven’t traced my ancestors to him. My line is James E. Wanzer (2x’s great grandfather), Aaron Wanzer (3x’s GG), and possibly Alick Wanzer (4x’s GG.) Oral history says we had relatives in Alexandria that my family visited in the early 1900’s, census/death certificate records show relatives in Admondsville, VA (?) and Catalpa (plantation?) Culpeper in the mid-late 1800’s. I appreciate the information you provided and I will be on the look out for connections to Wallace Wanzer. It’s amazing how these names circle around, I actually have Colberts, a Johnson, and several Eliza’s in my family, as well, but I don’t think there is a relation to those listed in this blog, but I’ll stay alert. Thank you!!!


      2. Thanks J Roberts. You mentioned the Colbert and Johnson. Both of these surnames connect to the Wanzers. A female Johnson, the granddaughter to Wallace Wanzer married a Colbert. This family lived in Alexandria on the West end which is on Seminary Road area near Theological Seminary Institute.

        Based on what you have told me, I believe you are related to the same family. Also Wallace’s wife maiden name was Roy. Wallace I believe came from Culpeper, Fauquier, Warrenton and one of the neighboring counties during the Civil War. Unfortunately Wallace died prior to vital statistics being recorded. I do have a copy of his death mentioned in the newspaper.


      3. I was going to mention I have also seen Faquier in relation to my Wanzer family. On the Colbert side, we have family that migrated from Florida to Pennsylvania by the name of Sam Colbert (great-grandfather) that married James Wanzer’s daughter, Norma (great-grandmother.) These ancestors passed away relatively recently 1972, 1961, 1996, respectively, and are well-known to the surviving family in Pennsylvania. I currently live in northern VA and will have to make a trip to the Freedmen’s cemetery to pay my respects. As for the Johnsons, I have records that indicate that James Wanzer’s mother name was Eliza Parker married to Aaron Wanzer. When she was 80 years old, there is record of her as Eliza Johnson in Detroit. I recently found her name and haven’t yet researched her further or whether her surnames are maiden or married names. I will definitely stay alert for any further records I can find to connect these families. Thank you so much! I’ll keep you posted.


  4. I am a descendant of the Wanzers and I live right here in Alexandria, VA – My great great grandfather’s name is William Wanzer who lived in Fort Ward. I purchased the home of my great grandmother – Goldie Marie Wanzer I would love to have my family added as descendents – Please let me know what I need to do.


  5. My surname is Brooks. My Great Grandfather was Benjamin Franklin Brooks. He is buried in Bethel Cemetery alongside his wife Mamie Brooks. Also, my Great Grandmother was Eliza Alexander Riddick. She had a baby named Eliza Riddick, although I can only validate her on the 1880 Census at age 2. I am interested in knowing more about the Freedman cemetery and the possibility that I may be a descendant.


    1. Gale,

      Based on my preliminary research, I have been able to connect you to the Alexandria Freedmen Cemetery through your Alexander’s relative. I was unable to connect you to the Cemetery through your Brooks and Riddick families. Please contact me through my e-mail address by sending me your direct e-mail address. Thanks!


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