Brick Wall Ancestor Series #28: Locating the family of an African American man of unknown origins who lived in St Louis

A man named O.C. Richardson lived in St Louis in the 1920s and 1930s, and no documents had been located about him. Family information, autosomal DNA testing, census records, and a death certificate identified his family of origin.

What We Knew

  • According to family information, the father of William L. Richardson and Hutchinson W. Richardson was named O.C. Richardson. William was born in St Louis, Missouri, in 1926 and Hutchinson in St Louis, Missouri, in 1929. The mother was Thelma Berry. Thelma didn't marry O.C. Richardson.
  • Thelma Berry lived with a man with the surname Wilbon and he was listed on the birth certificates of William and Hutchinson, though he wasn't their biological father. So birth certificates for the children didn't list their biological father.
  • The family story was the O.C. Richardson died in a chain gang in Alabama.
  • There was a family photo of O.C. Richardson with Thelma. In the photo he looked older then Thelma. No documents had been located about O.C. Richardson and his origins were unknown.

Records We Located

  • We searched for O.C. Richardson in marriage records, city directories, and census records in St Louis. We didn't find any documents about him under this name.
  • A granddaughter of O.C. Richardson had done autosomal DNA testing. We examined the branches of her tree and were able to find relatives in each of the family groups of her tree. She had other close DNA matches with other known descendants of O.C. Richardson. We located a family group who matched the granddaughter with large segments of DNA, as well as all of the other known descendants of O.C. Richardson, and they matched each other closely as well. The amounts of autosomal DNA fit these family members as being 2-4 cousins. The common ancestor this family group had in common was a Mack Richardson, an African American man born in Alabama.
  • We examined records about Mack Richardson. Mack married Violet Neal in Pickens County, Alabama, in 1877. He married Sarah Fort in Pickens County, Alabama, in 1891. Mack was listed in the 1880 census and 1900 census records in Pickens County with wives and children. In the 1900 census, there was a son living in the Mack Richardson family named Osy Richardson, born in 1887 in Alabama.
  • We looked for other records about Osy as his name would have been pronounced in the same way as "O.C.", the known name of the person were were looking for. We located a death certificate for Osy in 1938. He died in Pickens, Alabama, of heart dropsy. The undertaker was listed as Reform Charity, which perhaps could be a reference to him having been in prison, though he wasn't listed as being a prisoner at the time of his death. His parents were listed as Mack Richardson and Violet Neal. The informant was a Ward Richardson who appeared to be the brother of Osy. Ward Richardson was a nickname that was used by the sons of Osy Richardson, though before viewing the death certificate, the origin of this nickname had not been unknown.
  • The photo we had of O.C./Osy Richardson showed that he was quite a bit older than Thelma, and the age of Osy of Pickens County, Alabama, would have made him 16 years older than Thelma, and this fit the way that the photo looked as well.


Ocy/O.C. Richardson died in Pickens County, Alabama, in 1938. DNA indicated that his likely parents were Mack Richardson and Violet Neal of Pickens County, Alabama. The sources we located are listed for Ocy Richardson and his family members in the FamilySearch Family Tree, ID G397-Z6T.

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