Just how does a black American matriarch set roots In New Zealand?  American slavery left an unwitting legacy on most of us descended from Africans. The sad thing is that most of us don’t know our history and for those of us who can trace back our ancestry, we are stopped for the most part at the slave owner. For instance, I traced my family back seven generations. It wasn’t a surprise where my family got its name Murrell as it was the name of the man who purchased my progenitors. He came from Ireland back in 1799.

It only took 2 great grandfathers located on an Alabama 1860 slave census (last census before emancipation as slaves were property and Samuel Murrell’s descendants had to pay taxes on them). Time and expense has stopped my further research but one day I plan to continue the process. Thankfully the Internet provides a wealth of information and one no longer has to sit watery eyed looking through rolls and rolls of microfiche as I did back in 1989 at the Alabama Department of History and Archives. There are a precious few who can trace their black ancestry a little further. Who knew that an American matriarch who set roots in New Zealand would be descended from one of America’s most controversial families? Several knew as I will explain.

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Elizabeth Cabell was born in 1921 on the island of Fiji. Her father John returned to the US but Elizabeth and her Samoan mother Lura stayed behind. Elizabeth apparently had a privileged upbringing in Fiji and attended private schools. She always maintained a relationship with her US family even naming her daughter after one aunt Arabella. In 1940 Elizabeth married Charles Compain when she was 19 years old. They had 8 children all born in Fiji. In 1959 the Compains moved to New Zealand where they set up roots. About 20 years later Elizabeth became a widow on April 27, 1979. Three years later at the age of 61, Elizabeth married Larry Foley. The second marriage lasted 15 years when Elizabeth became a widow yet again. In 2000, she remarried at the age of 78, to Bill Weatherley. This woman obviously had no issues marrying as senior. No doubt Elizabeth was a champion vetter choosing marriage minded men. She certainly had no problem finding men.

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Elizabeth Cabell and Charles Compain, married in 1940

ec 3Elizabeth Weatherly (nee Cabell) with husband Bill. Elizabeth married in 2000

Elizabeth Cabell is the 4th great granddaughter of President Thomas Jefferson. Her 3rd great grandfather was Thomas Woodson, the eldest son of Jefferson and Sally Hemings. Progenitor of yet 3 more generations, Elizabeth Cabell leads a legacy of American history by her bloodlines. The matriarch has scores of grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren. Many are accomplished in their own rights due in part to Elizabeth’s parenting and encouragement. One of Elizabeth’s granddaughters Megan Compain is a former WNBA Utah Starzz team member. Granddaughter Adele Pope describes Elizabeth Cabell:

“She is the magnetic center that “keeps our family together. Nana has a fabulous voice and has passed that talent on to some of her children and grandchildren. There have been many family gatherings over the years where good food (a lot of island food), drink, music, and conversation have prevailed. Nana has shown many skills over the years and has won trophies and awards in crafts, flower growing, golf, tapestries, and art. She also does fantastic baking!”

Sounds like a true matriarch.

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Elizabeth with her sons. Bryce Compain, Len Compain, Herbert Compain, Frederick Compain, Bruce Compain and Ben Compain.

See more photographs and read more about Elizabeth Cabell, Thomas Woodson, other Jefferson-Hemings children and descendants.

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Elizabeth Cabell

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Cross posted on Beyond Black and White