Name: George (Chicken George) Lea 1 2
Reference Number: 18104
FACT: Chicken George
Birth: 1806 in Caswell County, North Carolina 3
Death: 1890 in Henning, Lauderdale County, Tennessee 2
George (Chicken George) Lea (1806-1890)
(for larger image, click on photograph)
Researchers are admonished to proceed with caution with respect to the claimed early ancestry of author Alex Haley. See additional warnings below. Do not accept what is found here and perpetuate it without also including these admonitions and warnings. No primary evidence has been found documenting the early ancestry of Alex Haley.
Note that the existence of and descendants attributed to Kunta (Toby) Kinte that run through Caswell County and eventually to author Alex Haley are based upon the novel written by Alex Haley, Roots: The Saga of an American Family (1976).
While Haley claimed as fact the people and relationships set forth in his book, others have criticized his research as faulty. Moreover, he was required to settle plagiarism charges. Accordingly, proceed with caution in using this information, which is placed here for research purposes only. See: Roots; and Roots Revisited.
Kizzy is auctioned off to a disreputable slave owner in North Carolina named Tom Lea. On Kizzy's first night at his plantation, her drunken master makes crude sexual advances to her. When she refuses to have sex with him, he brutally rapes her in the barn and then drops a quarter in a jar next to her bed as thanks for her services. He continues to abuse her several times a week, leaving her a coin each time, until she is five months pregnant. She gives birth to a son whom her master insists on giving a European name, not an African one. The baby is named George. Source: Roots.
Alex Haley May Not Have Graves Ancestry
Quite a few years ago Theron Smith of Fort Worth, TX suggested that Alex Haley (the author of Roots, the book and television miniseries) was probably related to the family of Capt. Thomas Graves of VA. Alex Haley is best known for his book, Roots, which was made into a very popular television special on PBS. Varney Graves, formerly of Fayetteville, GA researched the connection and concluded that Alex Haley was actually a Graves descendant, descended from Thomas Graves (born 1691 in VA) and Ann Davenport through their daughter Nancy Graves who married William Lea. A profile of Alex Haley is on our website page for famous family members. The line of descent from Capt. Thomas Graves was believed to be Thomas1, John2, Thomas3, John4, Thomas5, Nancy6, Thomas7 Lea, Chicken George8 Lea, Tom9 Murray, Cynthia10 Murray, Bertha George11 Palmer, Alexander Murray Palmer12 Haley.
However, as a result of the interest of Chris Haley, a nephew of Alex, in exploring his ancestry, I have taken another look at the Graves connection. It now appears that may not be the correct ancestry for his Thomas Lea, and that his line was probably descended from a brother of the Isabella Lea who married John Graves and the William Lea who married Nancy Graves (both children of Thomas5 Graves, b. 1691). It is still possible that Alex Haley was a Graves descendant, and if anyone can provide more information about his ancestry and the relationship to the Graves family, that would be appreciated.
Source: Graves Family Association
At the time of the 1880 US Federal Census a George Lea was found living in the Lauderdale County, Tennessee, household of white farmer William P. Posey. Lea is enumerated as a 74-year-old black, widowed, male, who was born in North Carolina (father born in North Carolina, mother in Virginia). His occupation is given as "Servant." In addition to Posey family members, other servants are in the household. This includes Kizzie Morris, a 37-year-old widowed black female and who appear to be her two children. She is described as a "Domestic Servant." That this George Lea is "Chicken George" has not been confirmed. However, while no family connection is shown between George Lea and Kizzie Morris, the name of Kizzie is interesting in the context of the "Roots" story.
1880 US Federal Census
Name: George Lea
Birth Year: abt 1806
Birthplace: North Carolina
Home in 1880: District 3, Lauderdale, Tennessee
Marital Status: Widower
Father's Birthplace: North Carolina
Mother's Birthplace: Virginia
George Lea 74
Father: Thomas Lea b: 1785 in North Carolina
Mother: Kizzy Waller
Matilda McGregor Murray b: 1806 in Caswell County, North Carolina
in Caswell County, North Carolina 2
- Tom Lea Murray b: 30 SEP 1833 in Caswell County, North Carolina
- Louis Murray
- Details: Waller Family Website
- Details: Haley Family Tree
- Details: Note that Tom Lea was not the husband of Kizzy Kinte her owner as Kizzy Kinte was a slave. The son that resulted was Chicken George Lea. While he never was formally given the surname Lea, it will be used here to keep the relationships in order. Source: Roots