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Bennie L. Phifer III

Bennie L. Phifer IIILatter Day Conductor on the Underground Railroad

Bennie Phifer's genealogical journey began long before he started his research in 1993. It began as the result of his familyís yearly two-week trip to Arkadelphia, Clark County, Arkansas to visit his fatherís side of the family. Bennie remembers that he had nothing but fond memories of meeting family members and his experiences while visiting. However, he recalls, the same relatives never visited his family in Troy, Ohio. He wanted to know more about his Arkansas relatives so he began his genealogical quest to find out more about them and their lives.

His early research was a learning experience and was done on the Internet with some research at public libraries and courthouses. Being a law enforcement officer prepared him to know what types of public records were available to assist genealogy researchers. His research progressed rapidly when he began using FamilyTree Maker software to organize his research (800+ names and 275 marriages to date) and free and paid subscription services like,, and, which provided online searchable census and death databases, in particular, and a multitude of other searchable genealogical databases. As a result, he was able to trace the paternal side of his family back to 1841 (PHIFER and Carter, South Carolina & Arkansas) and the maternal side to 1815 (COLEMAN, South Carolina and Hall, Kentucky).

Bennie L. Phifer III In 2002, Bennie convinced his wife that rather than take a vacation to the Bahamas, they should go to Arkansas and do research for a week. Somehow, he was able to convince her and they set off by car to Arkadelphia to do four days of research at Ouachita Baptist University and then three days at the Arkansas History Commission located at the Arkansas State Archives in Little Rock, Arkansas. Bennie was able to obtain a wealth of data and spent over $500.00 to duplicate different documents and records. Upon returning home to West Chester, Ohio (near Cincinnati), Bennie spent the next 2Ĺ years indexing the data gathered in Arkansas. He still hasnít finished all of it. 

So far, Bennie's Arkansas research has disclosed that his great grandfather was Israel Phifer, who was born Abt. 1841 and was a slave of the John M. Doby family of South/North Carolina. According to Bennie, the Doby family moved from Lancaster County, South Carolina to the Clark County, Arkansas area about 1856 and Israel remained in the Arkadelphia area after slavery was abolished, at which time he became a sharecropper for his former slaveholder. 

"My most moving experience was when my wife and I found a 140-year-old subpoena, which summoned Israel to court as a witness. I was able to touch the same document that my great grandfather had signed with an X, due to his being unable to read or write.

The most interesting things I have found to date in my research was that Israel was married before (Mariah McNeill), he married my great grandmother (Susie Meadors) and had seven children by the previous marriage. I found that I have a half-sister, which I knew nothing about and I have been able to contact her. I also have found eleven (11) different documented spellings of Phifer (Fifen, Fifer, Fefer, Pfieffer, Pfeiffer, Pfifer, Phifer, Phiffer, Phiefer, Pheifer, and Phipher) in various official documents during my research to date." 

Bennie L. Phifer IIIHis favorite types of genealogical records are birth, death and social security, which provide several generations of parents or relatives.

Bennie L. Phifer III has been a FamilySearch Center Consultant since the opening of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio in August 2004. He is also a primary contributor to the AfriGeneas Death Records Database. Professionally, Bennie has worked in law enforcement and currently works for PNC Bank as their Fraud Investigations Manager. He lives in West Chester Township, Ohio. You can contact him by email at


15 Oct 2004 | 06 Aug 2006
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