2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 25 (June 17 – June 23): Earliest

2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 25 (June 17 – June 23): Earliest

“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!


Earliest… there’s so many!

When I first read the prompt, “Earliest”… many ideas ran through my mind. Earliest ancestor, photos, baby pictures, memories, heirlooms, books read, school memories, hobbies, road trips, and suggestion of your earliest ancestor who migrated to America. After not being able to make up my mind… I finally decided to write on my earliest Bryan ancestors who migrated into Georgia.

My “Earliest” Bryan’s in Georgia


Left: James, Parthena (daughter) and Elizabeth (Cain) Bryan… Right: Berrien C. and Elizabeth (Free) Bryan. (Berrien, son of James Bryan)

Through my research, the earliest records I’ve found of my Bryan’s in Georgia were tax records in 1807 in Captain Cleveland’s District, Franklin County, Georgia… showing John Bryan (5th ggrandfather 1753-1835) and later James Bryan (4th ggrandfather 1790-1885). It was James son, Berrien Clark Bryan (3rd ggrandfather 1821-1921)… of which I will write on… his “earliest” days of living in Lumpkin County, Georgia.

Berrien Clark Bryan was born in Habersham Co., Georgia… slightly northeast of Lumpkin, where he moved as a young boy. Boundary lines changed so often in those days, that they often never even moved to the next county… the county lines were redrawn, which then placed them in a new county. Berrien’s father, James, was one of the “earliest” judges in Lumpkin County… it was very uncivilized in that area, as early Lumpkin County still had many Cherokee Indians living among them. It slowly began attracting more families, especially seekers of gold; gold was first discovered there in 1934. What once was a small and sparse community of pine poll cabins was now being overrun with gold seekers… seeking their fortune in the many rivers that ran through that area.

I’ve often wondered if my earliest ancestors panned for gold on a daily basis, but I haven’t heard many tales of such. They seemed to be more hard working dirt farmers, but I’m sure they must have given it a try as they lived near Cane Creek. Any running water in that area had pockets of gold here and there. It was even said, that there was so much gold in the area that when the shopkeepers swept their floors out into the street, that gold dust could be found.

I panned for gold on one of my early visits to Dahlonega… my son and I enjoyed panning our bucket of river dirt as we eagerly hoped to find one of those gold nuggets we’d so heard about… we only left with gold dust in a vial! What back breaking work, to be on your hands and knees all day on the river banks… but you were highly rewarded when a gold nugget appeared in your sluice tray.

My son, and I, along with other family members walked the family lands of our earliest ancestor who lived and farmed in Lumpkin County… along the famous Cane Creek in Dahlonega. Berrien lived a simple life there with his wife, Berilla Free… and in their simple log cabin they raised fifteen children. Life in those early days wasn’t easy… walking or riding into town in a wagon… if you were lucky to even own one.

Beerrien’s daughter, Parthena, was a weaver and it was said that she wove cloth for many of their clothes. I’ve often pictured her sitting in the cabin by a spinning wheel as she spun yarn to weave. What did they use for spinning… did they own sheep maybe? It was said, they had cows… most likely for milking, or possibly even meat, but many raised pigs for meat in those days. Chickens could always be found in the yard… another supplier of meat and eggs for cooking.

Those early days of living and farming were back breaking days. Early rising to plow their fields… endless hours walking behind a plow. Berrien plowed many fields as he raised vegetables to feed the family… and probably selling the surplus to supplement items he didn’t grow. With the creek name being Cane Creek… I often wondered if wild cane grew along the banks… which would supply them with sorghum syrup.

Even when my 3rd great grandfather was in his nineties… it was written he still walked to town to cash his pension check from the war (civil war). Such strong people they were in those early days… he didn’t just live around the corner from town, but I’m sure he walked the woods… as the crow flies… and not the dirt roads they had carved out of the mountain.

Their church, Cane Creek Church, was close, but they always used the walking path up the mountain behind their cabin, never traveling there by way of a cut road. Everywhere they went was usually by walking paths, as it was usually the shorter route.

Early days of cooking was either outside over an open fire or a cast iron stove in their kitchen area. I’m sure they didn’t mind firing up those stoves in the dead of winter in the mountains, but summers were blazing hot enough, without the added heat of those stoves. Lighting those stoves required heavy lifting of many sticks of wood… how did they judge temperatures? My mother often talked about her mother cooking on a cast iron stove… and never having a problem in cooking… so I guess they learned to judge the heat with much practice.

It was the women who rose early to light the fires in the kitchen… preparing to cook either on the cast iron stove, or even earlier in the large open hearth… which would be the room they used for cooking. What I wouldn’t give to have a cast iron pan that they once used… they are all we use today for cooking. Their hearth would have hanging cast iron pots as well as pots with legs that sat in the hearth; the stoves and hearths also required daily cleaning of the ashes.

The men and boys often hunted to supplement the meat on the table… summers yielded them more choices of meats… and many varieties of vegetables and fruits.  They salted and dried meats for the winters and stored foods under cool hills of dirt to preserve them for the winter months.

Those earliest days were days of just survival… no pleasure days like today. Everything they had, they used and saved. If flour or sugar was bought in sacks… the material was saved to use for clothing. Nothing was discarded so freely like today; they reused everything until it was no longer useable. I remember piles of “junk” behind my own grandfather’s smokehouse… that was his “go to” for when he made repairs. There was no Home Depot to go to!

I don’t envy those “earliest” days of living… working from sunset to sundown… with hardly any time for pleasure; I’m sure days of fun was far and few in between. No one travelled many miles away from home… a wife was usually found within the community. Most couples courted within church socials… under the watchful eyes of family!

I’m thankful for my earliest ancestors… they braved the new lands to live, raise their families… seeing few changes during their lifetimes. They paved the way for us all!

Stay tuned for Week 26 … Legend

Continue reading 2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks over HERE!

To read more Family Stories… click HERE.


© 2019, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

My blog is at: https://everyonehasafamilystorytotell.wordpress.com/
This entry was posted in 2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Daily Writings and funnies..., Family Stories and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to 2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 25 (June 17 – June 23): Earliest

  1. Those old photos are remarkable and you’ve told their story well.

    Liked by 1 person

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