Elvis Ancestry: who were the parents of John Mansell?

+8 votes
In attempting to confirm or debunk the claimed Native American ancestry of the King of Rock'n'Roll, we are focusing on the Mansell (var. spellings) branch.

There is confusion about which William Mansell was the father of this John. See John's mother's profile to see the two different Williams. We are seeking the help of experienced researchers to help us distinguish these two (or more?) Williams, their respective origins and their respective spouses and sets of children. (This thread is focused NOT on Morning White's origins-- that's a separate issue we will address elsewhere.)

Can you please help?
WikiTree profile: John Mansell
in Genealogy Help by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (816k points)
edited by Jillaine Smith

there is a dearth of documentation in Ancestry other than "trees"

Many posts about Elvis's ancestry refer to the Hicks compilation as their source which is in the DAR Library catalog and can be found in libraries listed in Worldcat



The “Elvis and Gladys” book just repeats the myth that William Mansell married a full-blood Cherokee woman named Mourning Dove.  It also states that they met and married in western Tennessee, a place the Cherokee never lived.  This supposed wife is also said to have died by 1835 (meaning she would not be on the 1835 Cherokee census).  Although it’s all undocumented, the “western Tennessee” statement would support the William Mansell on the 1820 census in Franklin, Tennessee as John’s father.
one of the children also attributed to this pair was Morning Dizenzie Mansell who married Russell Palmer and she did exist

Name: Hisikiah W Palmer
Birth Date: 1849
Birth Place: Hamilton, Alabama
Death Date: 7 Mar 1922
Death Place: Hamilton, Marion, Alabama
Burial Date: 8 Mar 1922
Cemetery Name: Palmer
Death Age: 73
Occupation: Farmer
Race: White
Marital Status: Married
Gender: Male
Residence: Harrisville
Father Name: Russell Palmer
Father Birth Place: Alabama
Mother Name: Normen Mansella
Mother Birth Place: Alabama
Spouse Name: Susan F Palmer
FHL Film Number: 1908237
Wills and Probates: Hisikiah W Palmer - 1922

Source Information:

Ancestry.com. Alabama, Deaths and Burials Index, 1881-1974 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

She is listed in several census as Morning Palmer as well

Name: Mournin Palmer
Age: 28
Birth Year: 1832
Gender: Female
Birth Place: Alabama
Home in 1860: Western District, Marion, Alabama
Household Members:
Name Age
Russel Palmer 41
Mournin Palmer 28
Joseph Palmer 14
Benj Palmer 12
Hezekiah Palmer 10
Wm Palmer 8
George Palmer 7
Lafayette Palmer 5
Zachariah Palmer 4/12
Emily C Mansir 13
Horton Palmer 2

Source Citation: Year: 1860; Census Place: Western District, Marion, Alabama; Roll: M653_16; Page: 540; Family History Library Film: 803016

Also, there are at least four similar William Mansell's in Wikitree, with Morning Dove married to two of them.
Still, you can't say there were no Cherokee in  western Tennessee. There were. Not whole tribes, but as the British Army came into any territory, it hired Native people as laborers, servants. Guides, translators, hostelers, laundresses, cooks, and whores. And, as I've said before, men want women and when their own kind isn't readily available, they take what is, often for long term relationships. So, whichever William this is, he very probably did, as legend says, have a Cherokee wife/concubine/mistress/housekeeper mother of some of his children.
I think that is not at all likely.  There are no mentions in any records of Cherokee women leaving their homes to go anywhere with white men.  They had no reason to- Cherokee were matrilineal, the home belonged to the  woman. Women married whom they pleased for as long as they pleased.  A woman who left her clan family would cease to  exist.  White men who had Cherokee wives lived with them in the Cherokee Nation, not vice versa because the wives had what the men needed - an “in” with the tribe for trade and/or access to land.  A white man didn’t have much to offer beyond trade goods or a skill the Cherokee lacked like milling.  That’s not to say it never, ever happened, but if it did it was rare.  No one has yet identified the parents of John Mansell, but none of the William Mansells of the right age have been shown to have any Cherokee connection.  By the time William Mansell married the Cherokee were reduced to a very small land area. White men didn’t just pass through the Cherokee Nation and pick up a wife as they passed through.  Enslavement of Cherokee ended early in the 18th century.  And the South was racist.  Mixed race people were not welcome most places.
The two William Mansells attached to Morning Dove are exactly why I created this thread.  

We need to carefully document each William to determine which one was the Presley ancestor.

But I'm now concerned because Kathie is pointing out that we have not even found/confirmed the parents of John Mansell.  So that appears to be an important task at hand as well.

Mourning Flowers born South Carolina, died Alabama, is a man, wife Celia

Alabama, Marriages, Deaths, Wills, Court, and Other Records, 1784-1920

Name: Mourning Flowers
Will/Court Date: 1830
Will/Court Location: Greenville, South Carolina
Roll #: 10
Archive Collection #: SG031411
Name Range: Donaldson - Evam
Source Citation: Alabama Department of Archives and History; Montgomery, Alabama
That's a different person, actually a man named [James] Morning Flowers.

Possible sources, reliability unknown

South Carolina Magazine of Ancestral Research, Vol 3, # 1

 The Heritage of Covington County, Alabama. 

I think the Covington Mansells are probably unrelated, or at least not directly related.  Lots of same names, were in Alabama during the same time period, but Covington is down by the Gulf Coast.  I've been trying to confirm the supposed Mansell land claim in Marion County, but can't find any land patents there until the 1850's.  James J. Mansell, apparently a son of John and grandson of William, obtained patents there.

there are in Ancestry, only land records

I found no wills for any spelling
Thanks you two for working on this.

I have ordered the Carol Hicks book/booklet. She was the secretary for the Presley (var. spellings) family association and did a bunch of research that she compiled in the mid 1990s. Based on my review of the association's newsletters, we should expect decent sourcing.

There may be another source for this line:

Julian C. Riley, The Roots of Elvis Presley, Phantom Printworks, LLC, 2010, p. ??, citing... ? Available for purchase at Amazon; copy also apparently available at Tombigbee Regional Library System, West Point, MS

I have found quite a lot of her material from the newsletters posted on line and it all related to the Presleys.  She does appear to be a reliable researcher, so if she includes information on the Mansells that may also be worthwhile.  The often-cited “Gladys and Elvis” book (by a different author) is not sourced or reliable.
I did considerable research on the Presley lines last year.

Donnie Blackstone's wife shares a ggg+gramps with Elvis

and we really worked on it. You know Donnie SOURCES

like a demon-possessed LOL

Never found anything reliable on the Mansell family which

is why Donnie never got involved on that side
That's good to hear - not that we can't find anything, but that a good researcher like Donnie hasn't found anything either.  I've started a spreadsheet with the various people listed so I can keep better track of information and add the litlle bits that I find to them as I go along.
Meant only as a cautionary, I don't think we should discount the Cherokee attributions simply because the names don't appear on Cherokee-related government documents. As I discovered in researching my own slave ancestors, minorities in the nineteenth century frequently evaded any sort of government involvement. Lying or refusing to give correct information on census records etc.  I've found in researching the Jewish immigrants to America, this was still true in the early twentieth century. They lie about their  birth years, their old-country connections , even lying about the dates they emigrated to America. Even lying about being Jewish. The USA is the best country in the world, but it hasn't always been friendly to its minorities

As a side note, going back to the champ of good work, Donnie Blackstone, he has DNA tested as having Native American descent, but with all our diligence documenting his family, we can not identify a nineteenth century ancestor who admitted to being half-caste.

Eddie, you wrote: "Never found anything reliable on the Mansell family..." At what point? Where did the reliability stop? 

Nothing reliable = no church (or civic) records for marriage, birth or death & no wills or land transfers between family members.

In effect, we have no PRIMARY sources available through Ancestry or Familysearch research. I am a member of the Tennessee Genealogical Society and, so, far, have found nothing through that resource, either.


There are census records, of course, but we do know those are not always accurate. I found nothing PRIMARY to confirm family relationships re William, his wife/wives and reputed children.
Thanks, Eddie. I didn't express myself clearly enough. At what point in the lineage?

I.e., which Mansells (var. spellings) can we confirm? The woman who married a Presley? Her parents? Her grandparents?

my apologies.

this is on Elvis's mom's side

20th century stuff available on Ancestry/Familysearch

Gladys's mother was Dolly Mansell/Octavia/Lavinia Mansell

reliable records start there with her parent's marriage, census records - Mansell/Tackett

no birth record for White Mansell

Thanks, Eddie. So... Dolly's parents were A. W[hite?] Mansell and Martha Sue Tackett. The 1880 census allows us to form a family for A.W. because enumerated with him and Martha are his mother and some siblings; leading to the following family unit:

______ Mansell (d bef 1880) m. Elizabeth "Betsy" (b c 1830);d after 1880. Their children include (may have been others):

  1. ? William Mansell b abt 1850; m Lucinda; enumerated on same page in 1880 as A.W. et al
  2. A.W[hite?] Mansell, b abt 1854; m 1870 Martha Sue Tacket (b 1854)
  3. Edy (female) b 1855; single and living with AW et al in 1880
  4. Mary b 1860; single and living with AW et al in 1880
Also living with AW et al in 1880 is an aunt Rebecca Mansell, b abt 1845; with her are two "nieces" (of AW; i.e., her children), also Mansells; this suggests that Rebecca is an aunt by marriage having married a brother of AW's father.
Can we find a family unit in the earlier census records that is comprised of those siblings above?

Yes, the 1850 census lists John, Elizabeth, William and Edy.

"United States Census, 1850," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MH5Q-N49 : 12 April 2016), John Mansell, Marion county, Marion, Alabama, United States; citing family 106, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

but who begat John LOL

heavy sigh !!
A. W. Mansell was actually born about 1849, he and Martha appear together in the 1870 census.  He is listed as "Marshall White" age 21,  but I'm sure it's them because they are living next door to the Tacketts.
You think this one's a toughie, wait til you try to prove/disprove Johnny Cash had Cherokee descent.

(paternal side through the inevitable Cherokee princess)
Ugh, I thought I ordered the Carol Hicks booklet, but it looks like I ordered the Elvis and Gladys book which we've already determined is unreliable. Oh well, it wasn't too expensive.

We have to figure out how to get our hands on the Carol Hicks work.
What worries me about that 1850 census is that Edy is a completely different age than the Edy in 1880.

I wish we could find them in 1860 and 1870.
I've written to the compiler of the Presley (et al) family association newsletters to see if s/he can connect me with Carol Hicks and/or her compilation.
There’s a copy at the DAR library.  I can’t get there for at least a week, though, but it’s probably worth a trip since one of the Mansells is supposed to be a Revolutionary War vet.  Some of their documents might reveal that connection.
There's a copy of Carol's work at the LoC?

file 9 in box 3

University of Central Arkansas


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all the newsletters from Carol Hick's Presley Family Assoc


Hi Eddie, I've read every one of those newsletters; it was through them that I learned of her work.

And Eddie, thanks for finding her on FAG. You're a wonder! I'll email her.
I am the X-Treme Kong !!

Found this in one of the newsletter issues: Q. Is it true Elvis Presley"s mother was Italian and his father was Irish? If not, what nationality was Elvis?--Susan Grace, Quakertown, Pa. 

A. Elvis Presley's mother, the former Gladys Smith, told an interviewer she was of English extraction, and her husband, Vernon Presley, said, "The same is true of me." But the most likely truth is that they had no idea from where they came--except that it. was close to Tupelo, Miss. In 1956, Eivis1 father confessed, "I never heard tell of any of my kinfolk coming over from anywhere. I guess it must have been a long way back." Incidentally, the official word out of Graceland, the Presley estate in Memphis, is that Elvis was of Irish descent. The singer himself used to say, "I'm American," and let it go at that. 

-Parade Magazine, Apr. 21, 1991 

Kathie, when you get a chance, could you report on your findings from your trip to the DAR library? I think we can rule out one of the William Mancill's currently attached as Morning White's husband.

And I think we also have enough data to draft something about John's mother.
John Riley's book focuses on the Presley line and barely mentions the Mansell line.
I have the book.
My 3rd G Grandmother is Hannah Mansell. Daughter of Elender and William Mansell. Elender is on the 1860 census living with Hannah and her husband Solomon Kimery.
Elender's name was spelled Mancil. She was 70 yrs old.
She was not to be found after this, so I assume she died.
Many people have Elender as Elender Jane Egar. I am not sure why as there are no documents to prove that....same as marriage documents to Elender or Morning Dove White.
The only proof of Elender and Hannah is the 1860 census. I have not as yet found the son Benjamin.
We need to be careful what we add as assumptions. So many will take any information as gospel and run with it causing so many incorrect trees and information.
If high profile genealogist cannot get past this, I doubt many of us will either. But here is hoping!!
Hi Janet,

Thanks for your response.

Yes, the only evidence of Elender that I've seen is that 1860 census.  No evidence of husband's name or maiden name anywhere.

Hi Jillaine,
It just has her name, her age, that she works as domestic, personal estate is 50, born in NC and cannot read or write.
All the years I have searched, this is the only document I can find on Elender.
How did you confirm the identity of Hannah's father?
I'm not sure what, if anything, connects Hannah Kimrey with William Mansell in Alabama.  Hannah was the wife of Solomon Kimrey. There doesn't seem to be a marriage record for them in North Carolina, where both were born, or in Tennessee where they apparently lived in 1840. In 1850 they lived in Murray, Georgia.  By 1860 they lived in Marion, Alabama, which is where many of the Mansells lived, and "Ellender Mansell" is listed as a domestic in their household.  I don't think there's anything to support Ellender as Hannah's mother, although it's certainly possible.  By 1870 Hannah and Solomon have moved on to Tippah, Mississippi.   Solomon wrote his will in 1883 in Mississippi and Hannah was still alive.
My G Grandmother was Gillie Clementine Donaldson. Her mother was Amanda Kimery. Amanda was Hannah's daughter. My Grandmother Gillie had a bible with all of the family written in it and she showed it to me when I was 16 yrs old. No interest in genealogy at all at that time. She passed when I was 20, just 2 years before I became interested in genealogy. She said the bible was mine when she passed.
Long story short....an Uncle came in and packed up everything of hers at gave it all to his children. No one will own up to having the bible.
I do remember her saying and seeing that Hannah Mansell was the son of William Mansell but I do remember his wife was not legible and Grandmother could not remember her name.
We had no idea it would link us to Elvis back then. Actually I was told this 5 yrs ago and laughed it off...but it looks like it is quite possibly true.
I would scoff at this if someone else posted it, but I did see this bible and for all I know it may not have been accurate....but I think it was. She was sharp as a tack back then. I do wish she had told me more about the Donaldsons....her Grandfather is a brick wall big time.
So no actually "documents" other than a bible I can no longer produce.
So just word of mouth from her Granddaughter and what I remember seeing.

Heartbreaking story for any genealogist / family researcher, Janet.

I assume you meant to write that your grandmother told you that Hannah (wife of Solomon Kimery) was the daughter of William Mansell. 

A source citation for this would look like:

Gillie Clementine Donaldson McGuyer (188x-197x), as told to Janet Fowler about [year]. Gillie was daughter of Amanda Kimery Donaldson, and granddaughter of Hannah Mansell Kimery. This information was supposedly recorded in a family bible belonging to Gillie (seen by Janet Fowler in [year]), which was lost after her death.

Yes, my age is catching up with me. Thank you for correcting that.
I will use that as a source. Thanks again.
Kathie Forbes
You are correct. The only "document" we actually have is the 1860 census. The spelling was Elender Mancil. The spelling has been spelled both ways through out this family. I am a stickler for not using assumptions, folklore or word of mouth, so I am like you... still uncertain if Elender was indeed her mother. But as stated above, I did see the bible with William Mansell as Hannah's father.
One can only assume it was how the census taker spelled it, Elender was listed as "could not read or write". Actually Hannah was listed the same.
Hannah is not "listed" as being buried in the same cemetery as her husband Solomon Kimery....unless it is an unmarked grave. I think if we could find where Hannah is buried, we might find Elender?
Solomon was buried in Canaan Cemetery in Canaan, Mississippi. Hannah is listed in Solomon's will, so it is assumed she out lived him. Both are listed with death dates in 1886, but nothing to show when Hannah actually died.
I wonder if she moved in with one of her children? They had approx. 12 children living around Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia and Alabama. I think one was in Arkansas.
So we still do not know who this woman really was.
Hopefully something other than books without documents will come through.

3 Answers

+2 votes
I have copies of land deeds in Marion County Alabama for William Mansell and for James Jordan Manscill his son.  I also have copies of military records for both.

James Jordan was my Great, Great Grandfather.

William married Jane Elender Egar.  They had six children.  I can find no divorce papers or records.  Both were still living when....

William then was with Morning Dove.  I can find no marriage records.  They had 5 children.
only single names of the landholders are on the grants

there are no "joint" grants and nothing to indicate paternity

there is only proximity

there are no proofs re parentage for any of the children attributed to the William under study here
James, thanks for joining this inquiry.

What sources support the theory that the William Mansell who was supposedly married to Jane Elender Egar was also married to Morning? And what sources support the identity of either woman?

I found a reference to a circa 1900 document where a son of Morning Dizenia Mansell named his grandmother Morning White. No Dove. No Native American reference. Trying to find the origins of this reference.
James, would you be willing to share the military records of William?

The source is a 1904 facebook, “Notable Men of Alabama” Joel DuBose, Vol. 2, which included Alexander Sherman Palmer son of Russell and Dizenia Mansell Palmer. Free to read on Google books. 


above is a census record of daughter Morning.

she existed

Jillaine needs proof she had a brother John who leads to Elvis

Thanks Eddie and Kathie for finding the 1904 bio of Alexander Sherman Palmer, son of Morning D. Mansell Palmer and grandson of Morning White Mansell.

I can't access the profiles right now, but when we can here is the citation to add:

Joel Campbell DuBose, Notable Men of Alabama, Atlanta, GA: Southern Historical Society (1904), volume II, p 381.

Please provide documents of Elender's middle and last name. I believe that Jane and Egar is incorrect as there are no documents to prove this.
+2 votes
Please note that there are several William Mansells in the lineage.  I believe that he Mansells in Covington Alabama are related to the Mansells in Marion County, Alabama.  Notice the names from both groups.

Lots of folks including the Elvis tree genealogist claim that William came from Morning Flowers and Richard Rice Mansell.

My DNA refutes that claim.
It's quite a muddle.  The fact that the various Mansell families lived so far apart strongly suggests they weren't siblings, maybe cousins of some kind.  If the William of Marion County truly died in 1842 he cannot be the William who was the son of the Jackson County TN Richard Mansell.  That William died in Illinois in 1876 (and there is no 'Rice' that's just a bad transcription of Ric'd  - the census taker wrote "Robert" who was listed earlier on the same page, realized his error, crossed it out and squeezed in "Ric'd" instead).  I have pored over pages of War of 1812/ Horseshoe Bend and Flordia Indian Wars service record and found no Mansell with any spelling.  I found a William Mansell from Virginia who served in the Revolution, and I found the records for Moses Purser.  

The census records don't say much about wives.  The 1820 census in Franklin TN shows a wife under 26 and two children, 1840 census in Marion  shows a wife under 40 - who could possibly be the same woman, but could be a younger, second wife - and four young children.  It seems unlikely that a woman who had young children in 1820 would still have young children twenty years later.
James, who is "the Elvis tree genealogist"?
There are also a Thomas White and family living in Franklin County, TN on the 1820 census.  The ages of the parents and their children show that they could be "Morning's" family.  I will try to find more information on them.

Kathie, on the 1880 census, it indicates that the parents of Morning D[isenzia] Mansell Palmer were both born in South (I think) Carolina. See: https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GYB7-1SW?i=5&cc=1417683&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AM4V9-YNV

This is also repeated in the 1900 census:

"United States Census, 1900," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-691Q-CSP?cc=1325221&wc=9BQT-T3J%3A1031034401%2C1030809801%2C1034286301 : 5 August 2014), Alabama > Marion > ED 58 Precinct 1 Hamilton Hamilton > image 1 of 34; citing NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

This suggests that Morning White and her husband William Mansell [or whoever Dizenia's parents were] were born in South Carolina (assuming they were indeed the parents of Morning Disenzia Mansell Palmer).

The 1790 census for Fairfield, S.C. includes a family headed by John Flowers and three families headed by men named Robert and Richard Mansell. One of the Roberts and Richard both appear with their families in Jackson County, Tennessee on the 1820 census.
+2 votes
Hi jillain!   I had worked through this at one time.   Richard Rice Mansell did have a son named William Lovitt Mansell who died in Hamilton Co., IL.   The Wm. I think you might be talking about also went to a county that was close to Hamilton in IL.   He came through TN and stayed with Richard Rice like they might have known each other from SC but I never could prove that these Mansells/Mancills were related.   They may be way far back somewhere, but I always had a sneaky suspicion that the two Wm. were  cousins.   Richard Rice's wife was Elizabeth Mobley and there were lots of Mobleys in SC.   I've always wondered if your Wm's mother wasn't a Mobley or kin.

There is a wonderful website with lots of proof about this.   To some people this website is difficult to understand, at least to some of the researchers I was working with at the time.   The website is entitled "Pioneers along Southern Trails", subtitle EDWARD MANSELL: An Indian connection for Elvis Presley.  I'm having trouble copying the URL, so maybe you can get it from this.

This blog post has lots of documentation for lots of people, but there is zero documentation for anyone being Native American, just statements that at various times people can’t be found in records for example, "It is an assumption that, at this time as a young man, William knew and associated with Native Americans."  and that somehow that creates an Indian  connection.  These references are all to records from the colonial era, a different William from the "William Mansell" who ended up in Alabama.  

From that blog:

"At age thirteen, William Mansell, the son of William and Katherine Mansell of Boston, Massachusetts, left Boston and arrived in colonial Virginia shortly before 30 May 1678. <5>  When he came to Virginia, William Mansell received a voucher or “headright” for 50 acres of land."

I don't trust that at all. First that a minor-aged male left Boston for Virginia--rare for anyone much less a13-year old. Second that a 13 year old received a head right for 50 acres.  This leads me to be highly suspicious of anything else on this blog.  

Wouldn't it depend on the age of discretion - and whether he lied about his age?

Minors could own land, depending on the circumstances.

There was no such thing as teenage.  It was child, or adult.

Males aged 16 had to serve in the militia.

Adulthood was often determined by puberty.

No idea if this has anything even remotely helpful, but offer it anyway: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centuries_of_Childhood

Melanie, I don't have time at this moment to track down the reference, but my experience working the records is that males were not considered adults until they were 21 in this era/place. I.e., they couldn't own land or qualify for freeman status prior to that time. We also typically don't see males marrying before age 21.

The other problem with the linked blog is the claimed migration from New England to Virginia. Not impossible but exceedingly rare.

Absent independent evidence that the Virginia man originated in New England, this wreaks of same-name syndrome.
Minors in Virginia in the 1600’s and early 1700’s could only own land received by deed of gift or inheritance. They could not buy or sell land or enter into any enforceable contract.  The only exception was that they could indenture or apprentice themselves without parental consent at age 14.

@ Jillaine and Kathie -

That's why I posed it as a question.  The age of majority was not the same thing as the age of discretion - and land could be owned by minors, but not legally sold by/to them, nor legally purchased by/from them.  There were a lot of other things minors could (actually legally could not) do, but if you entered into any contract with them and not their appointed guardian, the contract could be voided by dint of the minor having no legal right to enter into it in the first place and said minor simply walking away from it.

Girls could be married off at age 7 (but I don't remember if it said they could choose such).

Different areas had their own rules/laws, so what a minor might be able to do at the age of discretion (not majority) was determined by the rules/laws of that place.  (I DID research this a little, but not in-depth enough to be certain of exactly what was legal in which place.)  If I recall my reading correctly, Virginia was one of the places that very much had "own laws" about such things.

@ Jillaine: I agree it reeks of same-name syndrome.  (That, or cloning! cheeky)

The blog sentence is not clear. At age 13 he is likely to have moved with his parents, and thus it could have been his father, William Mansell (Sr.) who received the head right.

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