2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 12 (March 18 – 24) No. 12
“Twelve” Things I Discovered while Researching My Family
I “first” joined Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks on its “first” year in 2014… and what a whirlwind year that was… writing, editing and researching daily for 365 days! As much as I wanted to continue the following year, I found that I didn’t have the time to continue another year with that type of research… although I did continue blogging and writing stories at my own pace, which allowed me to write on other topics as well as family stories when ideas came my way… but I’ve often missed it. The first year were no specific weekly prompts like today… but I’m taking a different spin on them. There will be some posts on a specific ancestor, but most will be memories that spring from those prompts. Head over to 2014 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks to read about my ancestors in the first years challenge.
If you’re new to genealogy, make your “first” stop to Amy’s website for genealogy ideas or even join in on this 52 Week challenge… you learn by doing… not procrastinating! There is no right or wrong… anything you do is a start!
Week 12 was another head scratcher… “12″ what? Should I pick an ancestor who had 12 children, 12 wives… now that would be a story, 12 eggs in a recipe, or possibly when I turned 12 years old… how I wish I could remember? After choosing none of the above… although I thought the 12 eggs would be interesting, but my husband’s Grandma Minnie always told me odd eggs were better to use in a recipe… so that was out… hubby suggested turning age 12, and while I thought that suggestion was great… I just couldn’t remember anything specific… so again, after more mind wracking… is that even a word… I chose…
“Twelve” Things I Discovered while Researching My Family
1: After writing to a granddaughter of my great uncle Clyde Bryan, of whom I’d never met, and asking for family history… besides the family history dates and such she sent… a letter arrived soon after with a photo of my father, about age 3, with brother Floyd and aunt Louise (Gossett). She wrote “In looking through the family photos, and finding this photo of your father, I felt it should be sent to you.” I was super excited to have and see this photo of my father… as it was the youngest photo of him I’d ever seen… it has been one of my greatest discoveries!
L.toR: Floyd (uncle), Clayton (father) Bryan, with great aunt Louise Gossett (Walker-Fouche)
My father seems to be around three years old in this photo (b. 1928), and I’m assuming it might have been taken at the mill house they lived in at 48 Lamb. Ave. in Union Point, Georgia. The mill house was rented from The Union Manufacturing Company… where my grandfather Paul P. Bryan worked. I was excited beyond words, when I first saw this photograph… immediately thinking how he resembled “Spanky” of the Our Gang television shows. Many young children in this time frame, especially in the South, were always barefoot on a daily basis… but being Aunt Louise was older and a girl… she seemed to have her Sunday shoes on! As this photo never appeared in my grandmother’s photo album… I might assume that someone from Uncle Clyde’s (Bryan) family took this when visiting. They didn’t make many copies at that time to send back to the family… it was often only one photo… that’s why it’s good to contact cousins when researching. Without contacting this cousin, who had this one lone photo of my father… I would never have seen it… or now have it!
2: In researching my father’s Navy records… I learned the names of the ships he served on, the USS Blue Ridge and the USS Washburn… and later, after researching the ships… I discovered that my father, Clayton Bryan, had a front row seat at the first atomic bomb testings at Bikini Atoll in 1946 while onboard the USS Blue Ridge. I was enthusiastic as I researched those bombings… reading and rereading… unlike how I perceived history in school. History was never an interesting topic to me at that time… but now, I can easily spend an entire afternoon completely absorbed… oblivious that dinner should have been prepared an hour ago!
Harold “Clayton” Bryan (1945-1949)
My father took several photos while on base in San Diego, California before shipping out on the USS Blue Ridge… heading “secretly to the islands of Bikini Atoll.
My mother always talked about how daddy jumped in radioactive water while at sea, which caused him to lose his teeth when he returned, but in as much as I’d heard the story… I never knew or even asked why was the water radioactive? It wasn’t until I began my family research, did the questions of “why”… cause me to discover Why! Daddy was present at the making of history… and never talked about it… Why?
3: By studying more of the background details in my family photos… something I never did before… I discovered a photo of my grandfather, Edgar T. McKinley’s, barn… hiding in the background of a photo. My mother had several small photos… photos I’d seen several times, but it was actually only after I scanned and viewed them on my computer, did I finally discover what had been hiding from me. I have many memories of granddaddy’s barns… they were my places to play detective… I was Nancy Drew there, sleuthing to discover the many mysteries of granddaddy’s barn. There was so much there to wander amongst… while often getting in trouble… especially when I fed the barn mice… by grinding the corn cobs through the sheller… leaving the kernels scattered all over the floor. If only I had a camera during those times… my Nancy Drew persona would have captured all what the barn held within… oh what a discovery that would have been! Study your family photographs… look in the backgrounds… they often hold the key to the heart of the photograph.
It was in this small photo my mother took of mama’s best friend, Willie Mae (Walker) Sisson… that I made my discovery of finding the only photograph of granddaddy McKinley’s barn.
Granddaddy McKinley’s old barn had been hidden away in this photo… just waiting for someone to discover! It was in this barn where granddaddy milked the cows morning and evening… stored his hay and cotton bales… and where the famous corn crib was… where we believe he hid the whiskey he sold!
4: In nightly conversations with my mother, and thinking I’d heard it all… mama said one night… “Did I ever tell you the time I flew in a plane over Siloam?” Well No, you haven’t… so give it up! It seems, as often as you think you’ve been told all the tales… keep asking questions… you never know when another family tale will surface. This story soon had me researching what planes were there, and why, and where they landed. Through all my research, I wrote “Just when I thought I knew it all”.
Did my mother fly in a small two-seater plane in the 1940’s, such as this one… on a Sunday afternoon… when plane rides were given at a “hefty” price tag of $5.00?
5: I met cousin Ila Stargel Jones Sewell after writing a letter to her sister, inquiring on their family history she’d submitted for the Greene County Heritage Book. It was her sister Ila who answered my letter… telling me that she was the one who knew the family history, so she would answer my letter. She most definitely had the answers and knew the family history… writing to tell me that she knew our Civil War grandfather, Berrien Clark Bryan, my 3rd great grandfather, her grandfather. I was floored as soon as I read those words… and excited to have contact with someone who actually knew my 3x grandfather who fought in the Civil War; Ila was nineteen years old when he died. In a post titled, I Met Ila on a Georgia Back Road, …… I wrote about meeting Ila in Dahlonega, Georgia and searching for the cabin site of our shared grandfather.
Besides being my cousin… Ila Stargel Jones Sewell turned out to be quite a celebrity in Georgia… She was the oldest living person in Georgia and the 2nd oldest living person in the United States… Cousin Ila was 114 when she died on Nov. 10, 2017. (Ila is the girl with the big bow in the middle. (in photo she’s holding)
6: I’ve met many new cousins through the years as I researched… with each one of them adding to my research by offering photographs as well as family history stories. It was Cousin Noma Walker who was the first one to talk about the early pictures of James Bryan, my 4x grandfather. She was a hoot to talk to on the phone… but I never had the chance to meet her before she passed away. My cousin, Charles Bryan, met her once… and often said, “she was a character“. The day I talked to her on the phone, she hadn’t located the photos she had told me about in a letter, but soon after a letter arrived with her priceless photos enclosed. She entrusted me to make myself a copy and return them… I was floored!
James, daughter Parthena, and Elizabeth (Cain) Bryan (4th great grandparents) Photo taken abt. 1880
7: I’ve also discovered… that I can write stories! If only my writing passion had come to me when I was in school… I might have had even more stories. I can just picture myself sitting by my grandparents, with pad and pencil in hand… interrogating them… as my mother tells me I so often do to her! Through the years, she’s often told me that I should have been a lawyer… as I ask way too many questions!
There’s usually one family story teller in everyone’s family…and as I’m not the storyteller… I have become the one who writes their stories… and it’s been my honor to do so!
It was the blogging challenge of 52 Ancestors, 52 Weeks in 2014 which began me writing those stories. I had previously written my life stories titled “Growing up Southern”… but never writing in such detail, with detailed research, as that first challenge encouraged me to do. I completed a full years challenge on that year, but it’s taken me until this year to return to it again. I’ve done several other challenges through the years, such as the 2017: A to Z… All About Me, the 2015 Advent of Christmas Challenge, 2016: A to Z Southern Foods and Memories, the 2017: A to Z Conversations with Mom, the 2018: A to Z All About Nancy Drew, the 2019: A to Z Italian Famiglia Foods and Memories, and this years 2019: 52 Ancestors, 52 Weeks Challenge. Do take a peek through… if you have time!
8: Another photo, or rather I should saw photos acquired by writing many letters… was to my cousin Carroll. AFter finding several names on group sheets sent to me by the Dahlonega, Georgia library… I wrote to each name who’d compiled information. Slowly over the next few weeks, they were all returned to me but one… later a letter arrived from Carroll. My original letter had been forwarded to him as his address had long changed. He began researching our “Bryan” family while in college… and through the years, had amassed a large collection of photos and family history. He graciously began sharing history and photos of our Civil War shared grandfather, Berrien Clark Bryan, along with his Civil War Pension documents; he had traveled to the National Archives to view… actually holding the originals in his hands. Carroll researched way before the computer… which has now changed how we research today!
Berrien Clark and Elizabeth (Cain) Bryan (I believe this photograph to have been taken after the Civil War. I was told he was shot in the face during the war… there does seem to be a mark there.
9: Through the help of cousin Ila Stargel Jones-Sewell, I was able to also discover the actual homesite of our shared Civil War grandfather, Berrien Clark Bryan. Ila wasn’t able to walk the miles back through the woods to find where Berrien’s log cabin once stood… but she was in spirit with us on every step we took alongside Cane Creek… walking the same path as our Bryan ancestors once walked. I wrote a blog post on that search, that can be found HERE. After leaving the cabin area, we visited Cane Creek Church and cemetery… where my photos taken inside seemed to show ghostly images; the local newspaper, The Dahlonega Nugget, featured them with our story.
Cane Creek Church ghostly images
10: Without asking countless questions to my mother… I would never have known what the “P” stook for in my grandfathers name… Paul P. Bryan. The “P” stands for Pinkney! Mama says… “he was always embarrassed with the name and never used it or told anyone his middle name“. I began researching to discover where it came from and traced it back to his maternal grandfather, William P. Turner, but I’ve hit a brick wall on tracing the name “Pinkney” to another family. It’s a well known surname in South Carolina… and as I’ve traced my Turner line there… hopefully at some point, I’ll do a happy dance! My William P. Turner was often referred to as “Pink”… and listed in the newspaper as a hatter.
11: I had several letters saved that my mother gave me years before I even thought to research… they turned out to be a wealth of information. Many were heartbreaking to read… they were the letters written to my grandparents when their only son Leroy McKinley was killed in the war. The other letters were actual letters written by Leroy to his parents and my mother… his sister. Reading those letters left me feeling sad… here was a young boy, sitting in Germany, writing home to his parents… trying to be upbeat, but probably scared beyond belief. Mama always talked about how her brother hated to plow when he was home, but in one of those very letters written to his parents… he wrote about how he couldn’t wait to come home and help his father plow the fields.
Leroy’s V-Mail letters written to Sis, Mom and Dad
12: How do I wrap up my “12” post… there are so many tidbits of information I never would have discovered if I didn’t research my family history… like the fake Navy ID of my father, that shows a birth date of 1925; he ran away to join the Navy, and actually got in for a few months before being discovered! Or searching a newspaper site and finding a small article mentioning my father joining up in Macon, Georgia. Or learning that my great great grandmother Fannie Fortner Bryan is buried at Hickory Flats Cemetery, on top of Springer Mountain in Georgia… which sits alongside The Appalachian Trail. Or that my Bryan family first settled in Dahlonega, Georgia… and later discovering that as a small child, my parents actually went to a Bryan family reunion there in those very mountains in Dahlonega. Or that my great grandfather W. C. Bryan was selling something stronger than the spring water, that was supposedly in those jugs in the back of his wagon… thank you cousin Charles Bryan for spilling the beans… I’m thinking he probably tasted it to really know! Or learn that my granddaddy McKinley actually owned both a Model T and a Model A automobile. And I wouldn’t have the only photo of my Granddaddy Bryan chopping BBQ… something he was well known for in the family. The list could go on and on…
Granddaddy Bryan (left) doing what he loved… chopping BBQ with brother Clyde Bryan at a family reunion.
These 12 things I never would have known or even saw if I hadn’t researched my family… but there’s even more than 12… and I’m extremely thankful that Amy didn’t pick a higher number!
Stay tuned for Week 13… In the Paper
Continue reading 2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks over HERE!
To read more Family Stories… click HERE.
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