Great Aunt Jennie was the third daughter of my maternal Great-Great-grandparents, Samuel Grimsley and Nettie Smart. Her oldest sister was my Great-grandmother Sarah Lula Grimsley Ervin.

My Grimsley ancestors lived in Abbeville, Henry County, Alabama. Henry County’s border touches the Georgia’s state line.

Sarah, her husband, Jarrett Ervin, and their four children migrated to Columbus, Ohio, in the early 1920s.

Jennie and her husband, Carl Tiller were a childless couple. They migrated to Bayonne, New Jersey, in the early 1930s.

Annie Jennie nicknamed Zada called Sadie came to visit her sister in 1932.

How do I know these names are for the same person?

  1. 1910 Alabama Census shows daughter Gennie Grimsley, nine years old.
  2. 1920 Alabama Census shows daughter Annie Grimsley, 18 years old.
  3. The Ohio death certificate shows, Jennie Tiller, her parents Sam and Nettie
  4. The Alabama marriage certificate shows Zada and Carl Tiller
  5. 1930 New Jersey Census shows Jennie Tiller

My mom’s oldest sister, Aunt Ceil, told me this story about Jennie’s visit.

Jennie didn’t return home to her husband.

Sarah had been ill, near death. When Jennie saw her lying in bed, she prayed, “God allow me to take on her sickness so she can care for her many children.” Sarah had four children at the time of her sister’s visit; three sons and a daughter had previously passed. After her prayer, Jennie became ill. She laid down in Sarah’s bed. Sarah’s health improved, and she rose out of that bed. Jennie died. Family members said an image of a dove appeared and flew away when Jennie passed.

Just like that Aunt Jennie went onto glory.

Abstracted Jennie Tiller’s death certificate

I never repeated that story, until I found some evidence that supports Aunt Ceil’s account about an aunt dying on a visit to Columbus.

Jennie Tiller’s Ohio death certificate shows that she was not a Columbus resident. Jennie died from Bronchial Pneumonia, Influenza on December 19th, 1932. Mrs. Irvin, Sarah is the informant. I discovered a small blurb in the 1933 Jersey Journal Newspaper stating Carl Tiller was an heir to $500 from Jennie’s death.


The Flu is a contagious respiratory illness. It is still a dangerous illness to contract. According to the 1932 Mortality schedule, 129,540 people died to Influenza and pneumonia. Data for Columbus, Ohio, shows that over 200 African Americans died in 1932 from the illness. Jennie is in that number.

Mortality Schedule 1932 Columbus, Ohio African Americans died from the Flu or Pneumonia like illnesses

There is an expression that says; There is no greater love than a brother to lay down his life for another. In this story, Jennie had loved her sister; she died for Sarah to live.

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The repositories and databases I accessed to support my Aunt’s account of our family history are listed below.

Familysearch an online census records database.

GenealogyBank, an online newspaper database.


UPDATE: On June 15th, 2021, A correction includes Sarah lost a daughter.

6 thoughts on “A Sister’s Love, Annie Jennie Grimsley Tiller

  1. Tammy, you did one hack of a job in researching our family history. Great job well appreciated. Thanks your cousin & grand-daughter of Sarah Lou & Jarrett Ervin Karen Ervin-Lee

    Liked by 1 person

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