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All information contained on this page relates to an African American family that resided and still resides in Baltimore, Maryland. The records contained in this family tree indicate that the family has been in Baltimore, Maryland since at least 1767 - the birth of Abner Coker. No doubt, the parents of Abner Coker would extend the family before 1767. However, no records have been found to verify Coker's parentage.

The Cokers, Hilliards and Giles branches were identified as "Free Colored" in the early Maryland Census records. Therefore, there is more family-related information than one would normally expect to find on most African American families. In addition, Abner Coker was an early deacon in the Bethel A.M.E. Church. As such, there are quite a few references to Rev. Coker in A.M.E. documents and records of that time.

If you have any information to share that might help in this family tree project, please feel free to contact me at the e-mail address listed.

Dave Watts

The Saga of an African American Maryland Family
Updated September 1, 2011

Alfred David Watts
6915 Brompton Road
Baltimore, MD 21207-5748
United States

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Family Photos

  • Alfred David Watts - Principal Researcher (5 KB)
    David Watts is the principal family tree reseacher. However, many family members have and continue to contribute to this family tree project.
  • Eden Street Between Orleans & Mullikin Streets (46 KB)
    Where They Lived - This is a picture of the 300 Block of North Eden Street, about 4 blocks from where Sarah Hilliard Giles lived (704 North Eden Street). Eugene (1856-????) and Hester (1865-????) Hilliard lived 2 short blocks away (428 North Spring Street). Samuel and Nellie Giles Watts lived 2 blocks east of this location (309 North Caroline Street). Thomas J. Hilliard lived and had his store at 1416-1418 Orleans Street, near the corner of Eden & Orleans Streets - to your left. Mullikin Street is to your right. (Compliments of Enoch Pratt Library)
  • 1st Lt. Alfred David Watts - The US Army Years (14 KB)
    David Watts entered the service in September 1966. He was commissioned a 2LT after completing Army OCS in August 1967. He left active duty August 1969 as a 1LT after serving overseas in Southeast Asia. Dave is front right with a big smile because he made it back! The person sitting to the left and to the rear of the table is Capt. Richard Pleasant, an Army buddy of Dave Watts.
  • 1st Colored Baptist Church - Caroline & McElderry (23 KB)
    Where They Lived - The 1st Colored Baptist Church is at 525 North Caroline Street - on the corner of Caroline & McElderry Streets. Dunbar Junior/Senior High School was built directly across the street from the church. In 1900, Stephen (1856-???) and Charlotte (1866-????) Giles lived at 505 N. Caroline Street. While Laura Hilliard White (1864-????) lived at 513 N. Caroline Street. They would have recognized this corner. (Compliments of MD Historical Society)
  • Rev. Abner Coker - Pioneer AME Minister (7 KB)
    Rev. Abner Coker (1767-1833) was, according to Bishop James A. Handy, one of the founding AME ministers. He was a contemporary of Bishop Richard Allen and held a leadership role in the formation of the AME Church in the U.S. He purchased a home on Low Street near the Belle Air Market for $195. He died at the Low Street location in 1833. There is no information on Rev. Coker's parents. However, there is a link to a possible Eastern Shore family connection listed at the bottom of this page. Rev. Coker's portrait painting is believed to be by Joshua Johnston - the first known Black portrait painter.
  • Paul Chester - Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas (5 KB)
    Paul L. Chester (1911 - 1992) was the brother-in-law of Samuel C. Giles, Sr. (1898 - 1977) and the younger brother of Beulah Chester Giles (1900 - 1977). Paul was the first member of the extended family to run for public office and win. In 1970, he was elected Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas for Baltimore City. His term of office was from 1970 to 1975.
  • Father Charles Dunn - The Sweet Singer (10 KB)
    Rev. Charles Dunn (1799-1862), also known as Father Charles Dunn, was the Brother-In-Law of and assistant to Rev. Abner Coker. He was the younger brother of Susan Dunn Coker (1785-1859), Rev. Abner Coker's wife. He was, also, Rev. Coker's neighbor. According to the 1820 Census, the two families lived four doors from each other on Low Street in Baltimore. In fact, the 1847-1848 Baltimore City Directory listed Rev. Charles Dunn's address as 99 Low Street. Rev. Dunn remained at this address until his death in 1862.
  • 300 Block of North Caroline Street (232 KB)
    Where they lived - This is the 300 Block of North Caroline Street. Samuel (1880-1935) and Nellie Giles (1888-1967) Watts lived on this block, 309 N Carolione Street. Their front door is just behind parked car - 5 doors from Mullikin Street. Samuel's older brother Jessie Watts (1867-1937) and Jessie's wife, Mary (1874-1935), lived at 224 North Dallas Street - a short 2 block distance. Nellie moved to 911 North Caroline Street sometime after her husband's death in 1935. (Compliments of Enoch Pratt Library)
  • Kittrell College - Kittrell, N.C. (8 KB)
    What They Did - According to the Waters AME Church Centennial and Mortgage Burning Program of 1943, Thomas J. Hilliard was a trustee of Kittrell College in Kittrell, NC. Kittrell College, a small college sponsored by the AME Church, opened in 1886. It finally closed as a four-year college in 1948. In 1953, it re-opened as a junior college and closed for good in 1976.
  • Thomas J. Hilliard - Merchant and Community Leader (59 KB)
    Thomas J. Hilliard (1847-1914) was a prominent member of the Black Community in Baltimore and prominent Waters AME Church member. This picture appeared in the March 7, 1914 edition of the Afro American regarding his death on February 26, 1914. He was the oldest son of Hezekiah (????-????) and Martha Coker Hilliard (1830-1905) and a grandson of Rev. Abner Coker and Susan Dunn Coker. Since he grandmother died in 1859, it is virtually certain that he knew her quite well and learned much about his grandfather from her. Thomas was about 12 years old and lived a couple of blocks from Susan Dunn Coker when she died.
  • Dallas Street - An East Baltimore Alley Street (367 KB)
    This is a picture of Dallas Street, also known as an alley street. Dallas Street ran in a North/South direction with Caroline Street to its West and Bond Street to its East. (Compliments of Enoch Pratt Library)
  • North Eden & East Fayette Streets (40 KB)
    Where They Lived - This is a picture of the 100 Block of North Eden Street as seen from East Fayette Street. This picture is typical of the neighborhoods inwhich the family members lived when they resided in East Baltimore. (Compliments of Enoch Pratt Library)
  • Thomas J. Hilliard's Grave Stone (6 KB)
    This is a picture of Thomas J. Hilliard's grave stone. Thomas was buried at Laurel Cemetery in February of 1914. However, his grave stone was moved to Eldersburg, Carroll County, MD when Laurel Cemetery closed in 1958.
  • Thomas Jefferson Giles (309 KB)
    Thomas (1928 to 2008) was the son of Samuel and Beulah Giles. Thomas graduated from Penn State University in 1949 and taught Mathematics at Praire View A&M University. He, then moved to New York where he met and married his wife, Dorothy Aileen Dove. Thomas, then, became an Architect and worked as a Project Manager at SLCE Architects of New York City.
  • Harriet Ann Harden Hilliard (17 KB)
    This is a cropped picture of Harriet Ann Harden Hilliard (1853-1921). She was the wife of Thomas J. Hilliard. She and her husband were very active at Waters AME Church and maintained a successful merchant business at 1416-1418 Orleans Street and the City Market.
  • Maternal DNA Linkage Letter (1578 KB)
    If your linkage can be traced to Susan Dunn Coker (1785 to 1859) , wife of Abner Coker, (and that's true for most family members) this letter will apply to you. Your Coker/Dunn maternal linkage shows European origins with obvious African paternal linkages. A picture of Susan's younger brother, Charles Dunn (1799 to 1862), shows the African lineage. But it's clear that Susan's mother or grandmother, based on DNA analysis, was European (possibly English or Irish indentured status) while her father or grandfather was African (slave status). Feel free to print or save a copy of this letter for your records.
  • Map of East Baltimore - 1918 (154 KB)
    This is a 1918 map of East Baltimore. This map can be used to identify the streets of East Baltimore where our family members were born, lived, worked and died. For example, Rev. Coker died (1833) less than one mile from where David Watts was born (1943) 110 years later. Of course, many of the streets no longer exist as shown on this map.
  • Waters AME Church Sunday School - November 8, 1912 (100 KB)
    This is the complete picture of the Waters AME Church Sunday School - November 8, 1912. Harriet Ann Hilliard is 1st row, 2nd from left and seated. Margaret Marshall Purviance, Eubie Blake's first music teacher, is 2nd row, 5th from right and standing. The identities were provided by Anita Woodlon (1912-2001), a life-long Waters AME Church Member.
  • Elmer and Areitta Giles (352 KB)
    Elmer Giles (1906 to 1962) and Areitta Morris Giles (1906 to 1975) are pictured above. Elmer was the youngest son of Samuel and Sarah Giles. Elmer was employed at the US Customs House (a very unusual position for an African American during his time) and was a respected member of the Baltimore political establishment.
  • Waters AME Church Exterior (75 KB)
    Where They Worshipped - Waters AME Church, located at 417 North Aisquith Street, was the family's East Baltimore church. Many of the family members attended Waters. This is a picture of the church's exterior with the original front doors. (Compliments of Waters AME Church)
  • The Hilliard Sisters (7 KB)
    Laura Hilliard White (1864-????) (seated) and Sarah Hilliard Giles (1860-1926) (standing) were the sisters of Thomas J. Hilliard and the granddaughters of Rev. Abner Coker. Their mother, Martha Coker Hilliard (1830-1905), was Rev. Coker's youngest child. Their father was Hezekiah Hilliard (????-????), a property owner whose property was vauled at $1,100 in 1860.
  • Harry White, III - Tuskegee Airmen Class Picture (481 KB)
    This is a picture of Harry White's Tuskegee Airmen Class 45-C-SE (Single Engine). According to his sister, Harry White (1924 to 1990) is in the second row, the last pilot (circled) to the right - under the propeller.
  • Waters AME Church Main Sanctuary (64 KB)
    Where They Worshipped - This is a picture of the main sanctuary of the church. Waters was central to the religious life of the family. In fact, the family's relationship with Waters goes back to the church's formation in 1843. (Compliments of Waters AME Church)
  • Joseph Wesley Giles - Sergeant First Class (18 KB)
    Cousin Joseph (1931-2000) was the third son of Uncle Carl and Aunt Beulah. Joseph was a retired career soldier who served in Korea and Vietnam. Joseph made a life for himself on the West Coast and is buried in Las Vegas, Nevada.
  • Sarah Hilliard Giles' Grave Site at Laurel (6 KB)
    This is a rare colorized photo of Sarah Hilliard Giles' grave site taken in 1926. The grave was located at the Laurel Cemetery. Sarah's grave is covered with flowers. The white grave stone next to Sarah's grave marks the graves of three sons that predeceased her - Harry, William and Thomas. The cemetery was condemned and closed in 1958. The land was converted to commercial use.
  • Nellie Giles Watts (8 KB)
    Nellie (1888-1967) was one of the daughters of Samuel Henry Hopkins Giles (1858-????) and Sarah Hilliard Giles (1860-1926). She was the grandmother of Alfred David Watts (family tree researcher). We called her Mama.
  • Samuel Watts (6 KB)
    Samuel Watts (1880-1935) was the husband of Nellie Giles Watts and the grandfather of Alfred David Watts. Samuel was from St Mary's County and very little is known about his family.
  • 500 Block of North Gay Street Looking Downtown (307 KB)
    Where They Lived - This is a picture of North Gay Street with a view towards downtown Baltimore. The Mattheson Building can be seen in the background. The firehouse tower on the corner of North Gay Street and East Ensor Street can be clearly seen. The Mott Street intersection can be seen to your right. The Belle Air Market, which cannot be seen, is further down and to your left. The intersection of Gay, Aisquith and Monument Streets is to your rear. Alfred David Watts, principal researcher, was born about 4 short blocks from this location at 911 North Caroline Street. (Compliments of Enoch Pratt Library)
  • Samuel C. Giles, Sr. & Beulah Chester Giles (18 KB)
    Uncle Carl (1898-1977) and Aunt Beulah (1900-1977) lived in East Baltimore but relocated the family to Philadelphia where both were in the ministry. Uncle Carl was the son of Samuel & Sarah Hilliard Giles. He was the younger brother of Nellie Giles Watts. He was a big and impressive man with a booming voice. Uncle Carl was, also, a musician who played, on occassion, with the Count Basie Band. Aunt Beulah's younger brother was Paul L. Chester (1911 - 1992). In 1970, Paul was elected Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas for Baltimore City.
  • Marceline White Sitney (15 KB)
    Marceline White Sitney (1915-2002) was the oldest sister of Harry W. White, III (the Tuskegee Airman). She was the eldest child of Harry W. White, Jr. (1884-????) and Mary Wesley White (????-????) and a granddaughter of Harry W. White, Sr. and Laura Hilliard White.
  • Samuel C. Giles, Jr. - Sergeant First Class (21 KB)
    Cousin Sam (1927-1987) was the oldest son of Uncle Carl and Aunt Beulah. Cousin Sam retired from the US Army and was very instrumental in providing information for this family tree project. Cousin Sam is buried at Arlington Cemetery - a real honor.
  • Dr. Samuel Hopkins Giles - A Remarkable Man (7 KB)
    Samuel Hopkins Giles (1899-1993) was the youngest child of Stephen and Charlotte Giles. He graduated from Lincoln University in 1923. He was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. He got his Masters Degree in Theology from Drew University. He got his Ph.D. at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. He was a Lt. Colonel in the US Army Chaplain Corps at a time when there were no Black US Army general officers,therefore, he was one of the highest ranking Black officers in the US Army. He was a college professor at Morris Brown College. He was the Associate Pastor at Big Bethel AME Church in Atlanta, GA and he was a Church Historian. Samuel Hopkins Giles was truly a very remarkable member of the family.
  • John Paul Giles - Master Sergeant (17 KB)
    Paul (1932-1990) was a career soldier who served his country with honor. Paul was the youngest son of Uncle Carl & Aunt Beulah. Paul's tours of duty included Germany, Japan, Korea, Okinawa and Vietnam.
  • Maud Hilliard (15 KB)
    Maud Hilliard (1887-????) was one of the children of Hezekiah Hilliard, Jr. (1849-????) and Fannie Hilliard (1847-????). Hezekiah and family lived at 1709 Orleans Street - about three blocks from his oldest brother, Thomas J. Hilliard. According to the 1900 Census, Hezekiah lived within a six block walking distance of his other sibblings and his mother - Martha Coker Hilliard.
  • Carrie Giles Pinkett - A Very Long Life (4 KB)
    Aunt Carrie (1890-1994) was the youngest daughter of Samuel & Sarah Giles. Aunt Carrie has the distinction of being the longest lived member of the family. She lived to the age of 104. Aunt Carrie's husband was Raymond W. Pinkett. He entered the US Army on October 28, 1917 at Camp Meade, MD and was assigned to Battery C, 351st Field Artillery Regiment (155-mm howitzers), 167th Field Artillery Brigade. The 351st was a "Colored" unit that distinguished itself as a fighting unit in France during World War One.
  • Adell Elsley Pinder (31 KB)
    Adell (1915 to 1970) was the mother of Xavier Pinder (aka Sababu Shabaka) and Cecelia I. Pinder Coffey. Adell was the 8th of 10 children born to William (1873 - ????) and Addie Giles Elsley (1880 - 1946). She was the granddaughter of Samuel & Sarah Hilliard Giles.
  • Maud Amby (Cole) Dean (13 KB)
    Maud (1895-1988) was the granddaughter of John Henry (????-????) and Alverta Hilliard (1856-????) Askins and the only child of Walter (????-????) and Lena Askins (????-????) Amby. Maud's grandmother, Alverta, was an older sister of Sarah Hilliard Giles & Laura Hilliard White. Maud was, also, a family member blessed with a long life. She lived to age 93.
  • Harry W. White, III - A Tuskegee Airman (14 KB)
    Harry (1924-1990) was the grandson of Harry W. White, Sr. and Laura Hilliard White and the son of of Harry W. White, Jr. (1884-????) and Mary Wesley White (????-????). He was a single-engine pilot in the famed 99th Fighter Squadron during World War II. He, also, rose from Patrolman to Lieutenant in the Traffic Division of the Baltimore City Police Department.
  • Map of Baltimore City in 1870 (698 KB)
    This is a map of Baltimore City in 1870. This map can be downloaded and viewed using Windows Picture and Fax Viewer. The map provides a historical view of where the family lived in the 19th Century. Please remember that the family lived in East Baltimore. So look for the hospital symbol on Broadway Street then look just West of that location to see where the family generally lived. For example, Rev. Abner Coker lived on Low Street near the Belle Air Market. Look for the #6 symbol to see about where Rev. Coker and his family resided when he died in 1833.
  • Thomas Elsley - A World War II Veteran (23 KB)
    Thomas Elsley (1913-1995) was one of the sons of William (1873-????) and Addie Giles Elsley (1880-1946) and the grandson of Samuel & Sarah Hilliard Giles. Cousin Tom was a Corporal during World War II, was wounded in battle and received the Purple Heart Metal for his service in action. Cousin Tom was very helpful in providing information for this family project.
  • Leroy "Roy" Elsley (89 KB)
    Roy (1903 - 1969) was the 3rd of 10 children born to William (1873 - ????) and Addie Giles Elsley (1880 - 1946). He was a grandson of Samuel & Sarah Hilliard Giles. Roy was a great story-teller and quite a beloved character.
  • Reginald Watts (41 KB)
    Reginald "Reggie" Watts (1949 - 1984) was the oldest child of Sarah Watts and the grandson of Samuel (1880 - 1935) and Nellie Giles Watts (1888 - 1967). Reggie's main ambition was to be a physical education teacher.
  • Ralph Cole, Sr. - Dedicated Postman (44 KB)
    Ralph Joseph Cole Sr. (1924 - 2003) was employed by the U.S. Postal Service for over 30 years, during which he served the communities of Halethorpe and Walbrook Junction as a dedicated letter carrier. Earlier, he was - one of the first African Americans to be employed with Kent Fisher Fur Company in Baltimore. Proud of his many years of service as a neighborhood postman, he retired in 1983. Born Dec. 27, 1924, in Baltimore, he was the son of George Walter Sr. (???? - ????) and Maude Amby Cole Dean (1895 - 1988). He died in 2003 at Northwest Medical Center following a lengthy illness.

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