My Unusual Surnames: Brayboy

Syntrilla Brayboy married Lewis LeJay in De Soto Parish, Louisiana, in about 1870. Their daughter, Sylvia LeJay, married Richard William Gines in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, in about 1883. The Brayboy, LeJay, and Gines families came to Louisiana from South Carolina.

These are the most unusual surnames in my family tree and they have proven to be the most elusive ancestors as well.

The surname “Brayboy” is said to derive from the name “Braveboy.” A variation in spelling is “Braboy.” The surname appears to be concentrated in just a handful of states in the U.S.: the Carolinas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, and Kentucky. Interestingly, the geographic distribution seems to have a racial component. In North Carolina, most Brayboys are American Indians, primarily of the Lumbee Tribe, which consists today of the descendants of Cheraw and other Siouan-speaking peoples. In South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas, the name “Brayboy” appears predominantly among African-Americans. In Kentucky, the Braboys [note the missing "y"] are nearly all white. The name “Brayboy” is one of a handful of surnames predominant among the people of the Carolinas known as “triracial isolates.”

[Note: There are "triracial isolates" all over the Southern United States. Theories about their origin and ethnicity are controversial. Some self-identify with other groups such as American Indians, African-Americans, or whites. Others self-identify as "Melungeons." Other surnames prominent among the Carolina triracials are Locklear, Oxendine, Chavis, Lowry, Hammonds, Brooks, and Revels. Probably the most well-known descendant of these people is the actress Heather Locklear.]

The African-American Brayboys of South Carolina and Louisiana are the descendants of slaves owned primarily by Boykin Witherspoon (1814-1898). Witherspoon moved to De Soto Parish, Louisiana, from South Carolina in 1854, with more than a hundred slaves. It is unclear to me how the slaves acquired the Brayboy name, which they may have had before Emancipation.

Witherspoon built Buena Vista plantation in Stonewall. Witherspoon’s general contractor, identified in documents that I have seen only as “M. Robbins” [Miriam: a relation?], created homes for a number of wealthy planters in Louisiana. Buena Vista (not to be confused with a plantation of the same name in St James Parish) is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

My great-great grandmother was Syntrilla Brayboy, born in about 1843. She was the daughter of William (b. 1795, South Carolina) and Bettie (b. 1800, South Carolina) Brayboy. Syntrilla married into the LeJay family of De Soto Parish, Louisiana. She and her husband, Lewis LeJay, had 14 children, at least nine of whom who survived to maturity. One of them, Sylvia LeJay Gines, became the matriarch of the Gines family described below. Syntrilla Brayboy LeJay died in Louisiana in 1922.

I had written most of this post several years ago at a time when I did not know about Boykin Witherspoon, the slaveowner. I learned his name just about three months ago. Then while updating this information today, I came across the information about Buena Vista. Below are photographs of Buena Vista.

M. Robbins created this plantation house for the Witherspoon family in the 1850’s.

Slave Cabin on Buena Vista Plantation,
Stonewall, Louisiana. Did my great-
great-grandparents live here?

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Craig

One Response to “My Unusual Surnames: Brayboy”

  • Fenix says:

    Wow. I can’t tell you how floored I am by this post! I both appreciate and admire your work. I’ve been working really hard on my tree which has proven to be very complicated but this is a breath of fresh air. It’s chilling to see the place where our ancestors were enslaved. Thank you!


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