My journey through the world of writing and everything that lies in between…

Family Trees

I don’t know what started me on the genealogy kick, but the last few days I’ve been finding many interesting things about my family 🙂

My parents did a lot of family tree research when I was very young. I remember going with them to interview older relatives and playing with dolls or whatever else I had with me. Through their research, they found the unmarked graves of my great great grandmother’s children (on my mom’s side); one who died of diptheria at the turn of the 20th century and her quads (yes–she had the first recorded quads in Cleveland back in 1914 or so). The latter only lived a few days; if they had been born 50 or more years later, they probably would’ve survived. I’m just amazed she was able to give birth to FOUR babies naturally. And she was a smaller woman too.

My dad’s side of the family has its share of very interesting stories too. That side has its roots in the South, generally near the borders of Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama, specifically the region known as Sand Mountain (which is really a plateau but anyway…).  I definitely have hillbilly blood in my genes!

My great-great grandfather Frank Whetzel was a known moonshiner 😛 I’ve found a blog that gives the history of him, submitted by a distant relative. Much of what’s said there is a mix of documented happenings and family lore, but this much is true: He often gave the law enforcement a difficult time. His wife, Aley, often helped him out of his predicaments until he just up and left one day, never to be seen again.

It’s said that he went in search of work at a local town known for being a lumbering center. There were also rumors that a headless body was found along the railroad tracks between that town and where he lived…so who knows what happened to him.

Another relative, Frank’s grandfather and my great-great-great-great grandfather (supposedly) was John Burt Countiss, a captain for the Confederacy in the Civil War. The same blog has info about him–and much of this was stuff even my dad didn’t know!

We knew he was court martialed and cashiered for insubordination to his superiors (he was known to have a bit of a temper apparently). But he managed to get his rank back after distinguishing himself on the battlefield in Gettysburg. It makes me wonder what exactly he did that was so heroic, enough to earn his ranking back. That’s something we’ll never really know.

There is some confusion though around him, his wife and his brother. Just before his brother Benjamin died during the War (of disease), Benjamin made him promise that he’d look after his wife, Lucinda. John B. did that–he married her (and divorced the “tramp” of a wife he did have, :P). Now Lucinda is supposedly the mother of Martha (who was our moonshiner Frank’s mother) but the question is who was her father?

I’ve seen other family trees online compiled by various relatives that say she was Benjamin’s daughter and born in the 1850s. But it conflicts with what my dad had been told: he thought she was born during the war, or just after. So that’s something that needs further research. John Burt may or may not be my grandfather; it may have been Benjamin.

Either way, he’s a distant relative and it’s quite interesting to read about him 🙂

I’ve also found the cemetery in Alabama where John B, Lucinda, Martha and Aley are buried. It’s literally in the middle of nowehere, about 1 mile west of the Georgia border and 5 or 10 from the Tennessee border. I just Google mapped it and found out they actually have a street view of the road! It’s little more than a gravel road. I’m sensing a road trip there…

There’s a lot of other interesting things I’ve found too, specifically through Lucinda’s line, the Troxell family. There seems to be a rumor of her grandfather marrying a Cherokee princess named Cornblossom, but many people think it’s a myth.

I’m inclined to believe it too, since there’s no documentation anywhere of her existence and the fact the Cherokee have no record of her ever existing–let alone the fact that there’s no such thing as a princess among the Cherokee people. The daughter of a chief was simply another woman of the tribe and nothing else. Still, I wonder who exactly my distant grandmother was…perhaps someday I’ll find out.

More along the lines of the Troxell family…Lucinda’s grandfather fought in the Revolution (supposedly); his grandfather emigrated from the Alsace region of France, very close to the German border; even farther back the family came from Switzerland, but it’s said they moved there from Germany during the Reformation because of persecution. And the name was spelled “Trachsel.” Sounds German to me. And another rumor–the family is said to have descended from Hebrews in Asia Minor. 🙂

Who knows really, I’d have to do months or years of research. I already know that there’s a lot of great book material in my family history, specifically with Lucinda, Benjamin and John. 🙂

Do you have any interesting family stories to share?

Comments on: "Family Trees" (3)

  1. Oooh, I used to love finding out about my past relatives in the family tree. We have a similar story, that one of our great-great grandmas married an Indian chief up in Canada. I guess because two different great-grandparents of mine were French Indian. That’s what they called it but I’m still not sure exactly what tribes.

    Cool stuff Dara!

  2. Lovely stories! Some people like to use geneaology to find famous people they’re related to, but I think finding out the ordinary lives of family is so fascinating and rewarding.

  3. My whole book is based on information I found in my ancestors history from Iceland. It’s a great reference.

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