Steven Butler in London, England (where his convict ancestor came from), 2007.
This section of my website is where I share (whenever I have the time and inclination) any news I may have about my family history research and also my views or thoughts regarding the results of my research. Most visitors, I expect, won't be terribly interested in this section but that's okay. I have added it as much for myself as for anyone else, to give myself a place where I can put down in writing the myriad thoughts that go through my mind while researching or while reflecting on my research.
If you do decide to read it, I hope you enjoy it. If you have a comment or question, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
412 and counting!!
(Sunday, January 31, 2021)
One of the things I've resolved to do in the new year is to replace my paper family history files with digital files, in order to make more room in my house. Right now I have a huge file cabinet full of folders that is taking up an enrormous amount of space. Sometime this year, I hope to discard all papers that are not original documents, replacing the bulk with digital files, and then either get rid of the file cabinet or use it to store other things that are also taking up space in boxes.
As part of the process, I've been taking stock of my ancestral research, which is now entering it's fiftieth year. It was in November 1971, that I first became interested in tracking down my ancestors, to satisfy my own curiousity and also to leave a legacy to my children, grandchildren, and any other descendants I may have, so that they will know where they came from, which I didn't when I started this work.
When I began, I knew the names of my parents, of course, and also my four grandparents. In addition, I knew the names of five of my eight great-grandparents. That's a total of eleven people. Yesterday, when I made a spreadsheet listing the names of all my known ancestors to date, I was astonised to learn that there were 155 surnames and 412 individual names! Of those, 81 surnames are paternal and 74 are maternal. Of the 411 individuals, 195 are paternal and 217 are maternal.
As it happens, I already have digital files for most of these people. What I need to do now is compare what I have in the physical folders with what I have in existing digital folders to make sure the digital folders are complete before tossing out any paper copies of documents. This is likely to be a time-consuming project, but it's one that needs to be done. When I started this work in the early 1970s, actual physical files was the only way to go. I did not have a computer of course, and none of the material I accumulated could be found on the Internet because there wasn't an Internet!
More than 400 years in America!
(Sunday, January 31, 2021)
Yesterday, when I was in the process of creating the spreadsheets I mention in the section above, I was reminded that although Christopher Branch was certainly one of my earliest ancstors in America, he wasn't the first. I had forgotten the fact that an ancestor named Cicily Reynolds arrived at Jamestown aboard The Swan in 1610 or thereabouts, some ten years earlier than Christopher Branch. Sometime after, when she was about sixteen or seventeen, she married a man named Thomas Bayley or Bailey. Precisely when he arrived in the colony is unknown.
The Bayleys (or Baileys) had a daughter, named Temperance, who was born in Virginia about 1817. We know that her father died about two years later and that her mother married a widower named Samuel Jordan, who had three sons. Together, Cicily and Samuel had two daughters, Margery and Mary, and then Samuel died, about 1623, which was a year after the Powhatan Indian uprising of 1622.
After Cicily's second husband died, she led two other men to believe that she would marry them, but when she didn't, one of them sued her for breach of promise. Instead, she ended up marrying another of my ancestors, a man named Wiiliam Farrar, for whose family Farrar's Island was named. In the meantime, Temperance Bayley or Bailey grew up and in 1637 married another of my ancestors, Richard Cocke, who had arrived in the the colony just the year before!
There are a lot of Americans who would like to be able to trace their ancestry to one of the passengers on The Mayflower, but I don't care about that. The Mayflower didn't bring the Pilgrims to America until 1620. At least one of my ancestors was in Virginia at least ten years earlier, which to me is even better!
400 YEARS IN AMERICA!
(Thursday, October 8, 2020)
Believe it or not, my "roots" in America go back exactly 400 years this year because my earliest ancestors in America, an Englishman named Christopher Branch, and his wife, Addie, sailed from London aboard a ship called the London Merchant, in March 1619 (old style) or 1620 (new style), bound for Virginia, where the English had first established a colony only thirteen years earlier, in 1607. For those of you unfamiliar with what that means, England was then still using a calendar in which each new year did not begain until March 25.
Because he arrived in America just as England was beginning to establish a toehold in America, Christopher Branch, to whom I can trace descent on my father's side of the family, eventually became a wealthy land owner. When he died about 1681, at the then-remarkable age of 83, he owned a 1,380 acre plantation at Henrico.
Obviously, since it is now October, this posting is six months overdue. I should have added it in March, but that's when the COVID19 pandemice broke out and family history got pushed to the back of my mind for awhile. But, as they say, "better late than never!"
Evenually, when time permits, I'll add a biography of Christopher Branch and his family to this site.
Picture above courtesey National Park Service.
In Memoriam: Kathleen Jenkins Eavenson (1950-2020)
(Thursday, October 8, 2020)
On Friday, September 25, 2020, my cousin, Kathleen Jenkins Eavenson, died at her home in Phoenix, Arizona. She was four months short of her 70th birthday. She was the daughter and only child of my Uncle Lindell Ray Jenkins and his wife, Betsey Torrey Strow, of Dallas, Texas, where Kathleen was born and raised.
As children, Kathleen and I were playmate. During the summer of 1955, shortly after my parents divorced, she and her mother lived with me and my mother. Like all kids, we didn' always "play nice." In later years, Kathleen was fond of reminding me that one day during that long-ago summer, she gave me a bloody nose, when I called her an "old trash-can lid." A few years ago, I had a coffee cup made for her, with a picture of a trash-can lid on it, assuring her that "Old Trash-Can Lid" is actually a term of endearment.
She also liked to remind me that I drove her crazy playing my "Ballad of Davy Crockett" record over and over and over again. Kathleen said that whereas I liked to dress up and pretend to be Davy Crockett, she wanted to be Billy the Kid. In our later years, whenever we wrote to one another or spoke on the phone, she would sometimes call me "Davy" and I'd call her "Billy." In the photo to the left, which was taken at my sixth birthday party, she is dressed as Billy the Kid. That's her dog, Duffy, in the picture. Kathleen really thought it was funny to have Duffy wearing a party hat.
The last time I saw Kathleen, when we were children, was in February 1959, when her father took me and her to the movies. I didn't see her again after that until the spring of 1985, when I chanced to fly to Phoenix on business. We were in our 30s then. Although due to physical distance, we only saw each other occasionally over the years, we never lost touch again, and correponeded with one another or spoke on the phone several times each year, and we always sent each other a birthday card.
On thoae infrequent occasions when we got together, it was almost always memorable. In 1998, Kathleeen and I accompanied her father to Muskogee, Oklahoma, to help him place some paving bricks around a grave marker he had made for his mother, our grandmother, Ida Lee Seay Jenkins. Thankfully, I took a viedo camera with us so that I now have a permaanent reminder of what was definitely a trip I'll never forget. In 2010 Kathleen and I visited Paris, Texas together, to see the final resting places of some of our ancestors. That same year, my father and I spent a few days with Kathleen and her husband, Mike, in Phoenix. During that time, she went with us to see Sedona, Montezuma's Castle, Wupatki National Monument (where the top photo above was taken), and the Grand Canyon. Between 2014 and 2017, I made several automobile trips to California, which gave me multiple opporuntities to enjoy the hospitality of the Eavenson home in Phoenix. Sometimes, Kathlleen came to Texas. In 2000, when her father died, she flew to Dallas and I helped her make his funeral arrangemtns. In December 2018, she and Mike came to Texas. I didn't know then that when we said goodbye in the parking lot of the El Fenix Mexican restaurant where we had just enjoyed lunch with her husband and some members of his family, it was the last time I would ever see her in person. The last time I spoke to her on the phone was in August of this year. What made the call memorable is that she barely mentioned any of the many health problems she had been having for the past decade.
She was definitely one-of-a-kind and I am already missing her very much.
Rest in Peace you old trash can lid.
My New Book
(Saturday, January 25, 2020)
Earlier this month, my latest book, Miles Away from Butler: How a DNA Test Rewrote my Family's History, was published by Poor Scholar Publications. Consisting of seven chapters and an Introduction, it tells the story of how in 2019, thanks to the results of a 23 and Me DNA test, I uncovered a 91-year-old family secret that had the effect of pruning several branches from my family tree and the addition of many more new ones!.
You can purchase a copy from Amazon.com for only $12.99, plus tax and shipping.
My Family Tree is Branching Out
(Monday, December 23, 2019)
It may be winter, but my family tree is branching out like it was spring. This year (2019), owiug to the subtraction of four pateranl branches by DNA testing and the addition of seventeen "new" ones in their place, combined with six others that were the result of regular research, my paternal branches now total thirty-four.
The overdue addition of nineteen maternal branches, resulting from regular research, brings the total of maternal branches to forty-five.
This means it is time for an update to this family history website, but with so many "new" families to add, it may take a while.
At last it can be told.
(Sunday, December 22, 2019)
Yesterday, Saturday, December 21, 2019, was what would have been my father's 92nd birthday. To commemorate it, I had lunch in the same restaurant where I had taken him out to lunch on his birthday every year, or almost very year, since he turned 65. Later, I visited the cemetery where he was recently buried, to sprinkle some earth from the front yard of the house where he was born on his grave. I had scooped up a little for that purpose back in February, when he and I visited the old homestead in East Dallas. (See March 1st posting below.) I didn't think I would need it so soon. Even though he was then 91, I had hoped he had at least another two or three years left, but it turned out to be only a few months instead.
In the evening, my two brothers and I, and their wives, and a nephew and his wife, gathered at the home of one of my brothers to remember our father and to celebrate his life. After enjoying some barbecue from the restaurant where we had taken our dad to lunch on Fathers Day every year since about 2001, we sat down to watch a 37-minute long tribute to Dad that I made using bits and pieces of video that I had reccrded over the past few years. Parts of it were funny, but by the time it ended, several in the room were tearful.
Finally, at long last, I told them about a family secret that I had only learned about some eight or nine months ago: That the DNA test that I wrote about in my April 15th posting on this site, had revealed that our paternal grandfather was not the man that our dad had thought was his dad, and that our dad was the result of an extra-marital relationship between our paternal grandmother and her next-door-neighbor in East Dallas, a man named Charlie Miles (see photo, above left).>
When I learned this secret back in March, for several weeks afterward I mentally wrestled with a dilemma: Do I tell my father? Or not? In the end, I decided it was beest to remain silent, thinking that it might have done him more harm than good to have this information so late in life. My brothers agreed that I had done the right thing.
Before telling my brothers all this on our father's birthday--a day that I had deliberately chosen for that purpose--I had worried a lot about how they would take the news. To my relief, they were not only unfazed but also curious to know about our "new" grandfather, Charlie Miles.
In my April 15th posting, I said I had not yet met any of my living "new" relatives. Well, since then I have made the acquaintance of one "new" cousin, who like me is a grandchild of Charlie Miles, and she has been very gracious and welcoming. In fact, we have got together several times since May, and in June I even arranged for her to meet her "new" Uncle, my father, by inviting her to a picnic that I hosted, passing her off as a colleague from work. Of course, he did not know who she was, but she knew, and it was gratifying to both her and to me that she was able to meet him before he passed away, She and her husband also attended his funeral in November.
So, where do I go from here with my research? Well, truth be told, I have already done a lot. In the spring I made two family history research trips, one to Oklahoma, where I visited the gravesite of my "new" great-grandmother (Charlie's mother), and to Tennessee, where Charlie was born. Thanks to the plethora of documentary records that are now available online, I was able to quickly trace some of my "new" family lines back to the 1600s, and ever the 1500s in some cases. It was particularly gratifying to learn that one of my "new" ancestors was one of the very earliest settlers of Virginia, arriving only thirteen or fourteen years after the colony was founded!
Amd as I make mew discoveries, you can be sure that I will add them to this site!
In the meantime, you can read about "Grandpa Charlie" and my MILES FAMILY ancestors HERE.
In Memoriam: Raymond Joe Butler (1927-2019)
(Saturday, December 14, 2019)
On Wednesday, November 13, 2019, my nearly 92-year-old father, Raymond Joe Butler, died at Dallas Medical Center.
To honor him, I have created a Find-a-Grave memorial which you can view HERE
My father devoted 50 years of his life to Scouting, as a Boy Scout himself and also as both a Scoutmaster and Cubmaster. The photo seen here was taken at Camp Wisdom in the southern part of Dallas County, Texas, where my father often camped as a boy and also as a Scout leader. At his request, he was buried in his Scoutmaster's uniform. My father was also a U.S. Navy veteran who in 1946 took part in the first postwar atomic bomb tests in the South Pacific, while serving aboard the U.S.S. Bexar (APA-237).
Some Unexpected DNA Revelations
(Saturday, April 13, 2019)
Two weeks ago, after comparing DNA results with some of my known cousins and with some of my recent DNA matches on both 23 and Me as well as some on Ancestry.com, I learned some startling news about one branch of my family tree. Without going into any details, I'll just say that the result has been to more or less "erase" three or four lines from my family tree. In short, I found out that I am not descended from some of the people I had thought, in some cases for decades, were my ancestors. In effect, they have been replaced by a whole new set of ancestors I never knew I had previously. I've also discovered that I have a whole "new" set of living relatives, some of them residing in the area where I make my home. As of this writing, we haven't met in person yet, but we have been in contact by email. I look forward to making some new acquaintances soon, and also learning more about my "new" family, which isn't really "new" at all. I just didn't know about it before. I'd be a liar if I didn't say that the news, for a whole variety of reasons, was a bit shocking at first, but after much reflection, I have come to terms with it. The DNA testing simply revealed that for a long time I was on the wrong path, but now that I know the right one, I am determined to move on and continue my research.
This Old House
(Friday, March 1, 2019)
In the spring of 2014, when I took my oldest son and grandson on a drive-through visit to my grandparents' old neighorhood in East Dallas, I was astonished to see that their house was still standing. Most of the original wooden homes in the neighborhood were already gone by then, replaced by new houses made of brick. Three years later, when my elderly father and I went by to take a look, the old house was gone, but there was no new house, only a vacant lot. When I looked again this year, in late January, I fully expected to see a brand new house on the site. To my surprise, the lot was still vacant! I realized then that my dad and I still had a chance to do something I wished that we had done in 2017--that is, get out of the car and walk around the place. Recently, on Sunday, February 24, a remarkably sunny, warm day in North Texas, my 91-year-old father and I did just that.
In the photograph seen here, Dad and I are standing on what used to be the front porch of the house in which he was born and spent his entire childhood, and where I also spent some memorable childhood days as well. I'm not entirely sure what thoughts were going through my father's mind as we stood there on a spot that was once so familiar to us both, but for me the experience was surreal. As I walked around the property, I recognized it, yet at the same time I didn't recognize it. Where was the house, the focal point of the whole place? Gone of course.
It seemed so strange to stand in the spot where my grandmother's living room had once been, where I had played with my toys when I spent weekends with her in the late 1950s and early 1960s, where I read my Superman and Mickey Mouse comic books, and listened to "Nannie," as I called her, tell me stories about her childhood, and then walk over to the place where the bedroom had once been, the place where she had taken care of me when I came down with scarlet fever, but now with no walls or ceiling to enclose what had formerly been a snug and comforting space.
My father did speak of some of the things he remembered, like the time his own dad--the grandfather I never knew because he died before I was born--made him a kite that was so big it lifted my dad up off the ground, and how he (my dad) climbed up a backyard tree and then had trouble coming down!
While we were there, I thought about how fortunate my father had been, even though his family was poor. Not only was he born in that house that was no longer there, but also he grew up there. Unlike me, he never had to move houses as a child, never had to change schools except when his age demanded it, never had to make new friends in new neighborhoods as I often had to do when I was growing up, and never had step-parents. In short, he had a stable childhood, and though his father died when he (my dad) was not even seven, his mother and also her sister, my dad's Aunt Mamie, doted on him, and did everything in their power to give him a happy and secure youth. To the best of my knowledge, they succeeded.
Since this page is meant only for brief notices and I have a lot more to say about this subject, I have created a webpage about my grandparents' house, illustrated with photos, which I invite you to visit. Here's the link:
This Old House: 1432 Rowan Avenue (The Butler Years)
I Got Some More DNA Results!
(Thursday, February 21, 2019)
Well, my 23 and Me results became available today. Not surprisingly, I am mostly British and Irish (67.2%) with some French and German (15.3) and general Western European (11.3%), which was no surprise at all. I have plenty of documentary evidence that supports the same conclusions.
One surprise, however, is that they found a trace amount of Native American (0.3 percent), which my Ancestry DNA results did not find, so I guess now I can restore that once elusive "Cherokee Princess," whoever she may be, to her rightful place in the family tree! The test also found a tiny smidgen of East African DNA (0.2%).
They also found I have 2.8% Scandinavian DNA. The Ancestry test originally said I had about 9% Scandinavian DNA, but then later they retracted it.
Another surprise is that I am very distantly related, through a common ancestor, to Alexander Hamilton!
There was also a very big disappointment. For decades I have thought I might be descended from Kinnard Butler and Nancy Ann Johnson, who I believed, even though all I had was circumstantial evidence, were the parents of my great-great-grandfather Alfred Butler, but they are not. How do I know? Because someone I've communicated with in the past on Ancestry.com, who is descended from them and who also took the 23 and Me test, is not on my list of 23 and Me DNA matches. If I were also a descendant of Kinnard Butler, that person would have shown up in my matches. So now I am back to "Square One" on the Butler line research.
Interestingly, when my cousin Kathleen got her 23 and Me results, she had two women (twins) show up in her matches as first cousins. They were born in 1963, but had been given up for adoption in their infancy. Kathleen couldn't think of anyone on her mother's side of the family that could be the father or mother, so she speculated that my mother, who was living in the same city where these twins were born, as a divorced single mom, was their mother, and that my mother had taken the secret to her grave. In other words, Kathleen suspected that these twins were my secret half-sisters. Well, they aren't, because neither of those two women showed up anywhere in my DNA matches, much less as my sisters! I didn't think they would. But now Kathleen is going to have to figure out who on her mother's side of the family had some children she never knew about!
The Kindness of Strangers
(Tuesday, February 3, 2019)
In late January, I received an email from a woman in Dripping Springs, Texas that read:
Recently, my daughter and son-in-law were in an antique store and left with a very old photo. Names, dates of birth and deaths are written in pencil on the back. They thought it would be cool to try to find the family it belonged to. Since they were in the middle of a move, they left the photo with me. This morning, I Google searched TW Jenkins and found your website with a great story about him. I am certain the photo we have is one of Thomas and Louisa Jenkins. We would like to send this wonderful old photo to the family it belongs to. If you will provide a mailing address, we will be happy to send it to you.
Naturally, I wrote back right away, to confirm that the photo in question was of my great-great-grandparents on my mother's side of the family, to thank her for her offer, and to provide my mailing address. I also offered reimbursement for the cost of the photo and also the cost of postage, which was very kindly refused. This morning, there was a small package in our mailbox that contained the photo, which can be seen above. In addition to the inscription on the back, which enabled the writer of the email to locate me, the name "Beedie Jenkins, Powderly, Texas" can also be seen. I know that T. W. and Louisa had a daughter named Susan Zobedia, whom I've heard was nicknamed "Beadie" or "Beedie" (not sure of the spelling), so it must have been hers. One of my cousins also has a copy of this picture so it's obvious that after T. W. and Louisa visited the photography studio where they had the photo made, they must have ordered duplicate copies for all their children. This means that there may be as many as eight in existence, provided they kept one for themselves. My cousin has one and I now have two. I wonder who has the others?
On close inspection, a name, beginning with the letters "PRA" can be seen embossed, at an angle, on the lower right side of the front side of the photo. The letters "HOTO" can also be seen. Unfortunately, the letters in-between were stamped right on top of the decorative edge so they are hard to make out. After consulting a 1908 Paris, Texas city directory (the earliest I could find online), I see now that it says "PRATT PHOTO" because a man named George H. Pratt had a photography studio at 217 N. 20th Street in Paris. Unfortunately, the photo itself is not dated, but judging by the apparent ages of T. W. and Louisa in the photo, I am guessing that it was made right around the turn of the twentieth century, give or take a few years.
Upon reflection, I have decided to "pay it forward" by looking for Beedie Jenkin's descendants, if any, to see if any one of them wants the photo. If so, I will pass it on, since I already have one that was passed down through my branch of the family. If anyone reading this should happen to know where they are, please let me know!
(Monday, August 27, 2018)
Note: In order to protect the privacy of the people in the following story, I have not given their names nor, I hope, any information that would make it easy for someone to identify them. Doing so made it a lot more difficult to write in a coherent fashion, but I hope I have managed to do so.
Above is a photo, taken at White Rock Lake in Dallas about 1953, of me (wearing cowboy hat), my step-great-grandmother on my mother's side of the family, and three other kids whose identities, until last summer, were a mystery to me. Little did I know that my efforts to discover their names would lead me to also discover some remarkable and completely unexpected coincidences!
To make a long story short, I finally found out last summer (2017) that the three other children in the photo were the son and two daughters of one my mother's cousins, who I have no recollection of meeting, although I probably did because there are three of his kids in this photo! This means they are my second cousins, since their father is my first cousin 1x removed. However, that was probably the first and only time because I have no recollection of either him or his kids, who I probably never saw again---until recently that is, some sixty-plus years later!
Last summer, I managed to learn the name of the cousin sitting in the stroller in the photo, and invited both him and his uncle (who because his grandfather had two wives, is actually younger than him), to lunch. During the course of our conversation, I was told that the older girl in the photo, the one standing next to me, now lives overseas but that the other girl, the baby in the photo, lives in an adjoining state. After I got her email address from her brother, I wrote to her, to introduce myself, and received a very welcoming reply, inviting me to look her up if I was ever in the state in which she resides.
About two weeks ago, while on a road trip through that state, I phoned her and we set a time and place to meet up toward the end of my vacation. Four days earlier, while traveling through an entirely different city in that state, my youngest son (who accompanied me on the trip) and I had dinner with another relative, one I had never met before--the brother-in-law of a first cousin on my father's side of the family.
Okay, so here's where the remarkable coincidences begin: While conversing with my second cousin (on my mother's side, remember), I casually told her than the man my son and I had dinner with a few nights earlier happened to have the same last name as my second cousin's mother, and I wondered aloud if they might somehow be related since it was an uncommon surname. My second cousin then asked: "What's your brother-in-law's wife's first name?" When I told her, she asked, "Does she have a brother named XXXX?" When I said, "yes," my second cousin asked, "Did they live in [a certain part of Dallas]?" "Yes," I replied. And then, my second cousin said, "I know him!" "What! How it be that you know the man my son and I had dinner with the other night, who is the brother-in-law of a first cousin on my father's side of the family?" "Because," she replied, "My brother and sister and I grew up in the same part of town." "In fact," she added, "the man you had dinner with was my brother's best friend!" But wait! There's more: When I afterward emailed her brother to tell him that I had had dinner a few earlier with one of his childhood friends, he not only confirmed that they were buddies in school but that he (my second cousin on my mother's side of the family) had been best man at his friend's wedding! (Remember, the man in question, the man my son and I had dinner with, is the brother of the wife on one of my first cousins on my dad's side of the family.)
To make things even more remarkable, my second cousin, the woman with whom I was having this conversation, revealed that she had once lived in the same neighborhood in which I now reside, and futhermore, that her children went to the same elementary school as my kids! But not at the same time, because she and her family had moved away from that neighborhood the year before I and my family moved there! Keep in mind that this is a second cousin I had not seen in over sixty years, since we were children and had our photo taken together!
Well, needless to say, I was completely taken aback and astonished by all these remarkable coincidences! What's ironic though, is that after doing some research upon returning home, I have discovered that the answer to my initial inquiry--were my second cousins on my mother's side related to the wife and brother-in-law of my first cousin on my father's side--is almost certainly "no," although I still think there might be a possibliity of it if I (or someone) made the effort to go back a few more generations.
So, as I often say, doing family history is a lot like Forrest Gump's proverbial box of chocolates, "You never know what you're going to get!"
A Mother's Day Tribute to the Five Most Special Mothers in My Life (Sunday, May 13, 2018)
Well, it's been a while since my last post, almost two years! But here I am on this Mother's Day to pay homage to the five most special women in my life, all of them mothers!
The first on the list (I'm going in the order in which I became acquainted with them) is my actual mother, born Ida Louise Jenkins in 1930 in Muskogee, Oklahoma.
Sadly, my mother's own mother died when she (my mother) was a little girl of three. Consequently, my mother was raised by her father, William Ollie Jenkins, and also, because my grandfather was not always the most reliable or responsible parent on the block, her grandparents, William Newton and Lestie Jenkins, and then later her Aunt Pearl and Uncle Ernest Hayes, with whom she was residing in Dallas, Texas, when she met and married my father in the late 1940s.
Unfortunately, although my mother and I loved each other, we were not as close as I would have liked. Why? Because I didn't spend a lot of time with her. In effect, I "lost" her three times. The first time, in 1958, when she and my first stepfather moved to Shreveport, Louisiana and I went to live with my dad and new stepmother. The second time, in 1960, when she left my first stepfather and then went to live in Chicago, where she remained for the rest of her life. The third time was in 1995, when she unexpectedly died at the age of 64.
The second mother on my list is my mother's older sister, my Aunt Nez Hickman, born Emma Inez Jenkins in 1927, also in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Aunt Nez was one of a handful of people who saw me and held me shortly after I was born. During my childhood, she and my Uncle Charles Hickman were like a second set of parents to me and I spent a lot of time with them, so much in fact that after my parents were divorced and my mother remarried, they proposed to adopt me. My mother wouldn't agree to it, however. I owe Aunt Nez a lot because she was there for me, loving me and caring about me during a time when I often felt unloved and unwanted, after both my parents remarried. She was in some ways more of a mother to me than my own mother and we remained close until she died in 2009. Aunt Nez was also special to me because unlike my mother, who had no interest in family history, Nez was enthusiastic about helping me learn more about my maternal ancestors. She was a great help to me in that department also.
Third on my list is my grandmother, Alice Tate Butler, who I called "Nannie." Born in a little town in Alabama in 1885, she came to Texas at the age of three with her family, settling in Dallas in 1890. She also loved and cared for me during those unhappy years when I felt like a "leftover kid." I spent a lot of good times with her, staying with her on weekends and sometimes longer, at her home in East Dallas. When I was around twelve, she nursed me through a bout of Scarlet Fever, an infectious illness that she had suffered herself as a child. By the time I came along she was in her sixties so I only remember her as an old lady, but a very sweet and loving one, who always made me feel wanted and special. When she died in 1972 at age 86, I felt like I had lost one of my best friends in the whole world, which I had. I still keep a photo of her and I together, taken when I came home on leave from the Navy, on my chest o'drawers. I also owe my grandmother a debt of gratitude because it was she, albeit without meaning to do so, who inspired to to begin my lifelong hobby of family history research.
The fourth mother on my list is my mother-in-law, Fay Wolfson. What can I say about Fay? She had a heart of gold and I just wish everyone could have a mother-in-law as wonderful and kind and generous and sharing as her. Born in London, England in 1913, Fay had a hard life, especially during the Second World War, when the Germans were bombing the British capital, but through all her hardships, she kept smiling. She always made me feel welcome, from the first day I met her in 1969. Unfortunately, like my own mother, Fay died suddenly and unexpectely, although at the more advanced age of 74.
Last, but hardly least on my list, is my wife, Anita, the loving, caring mother of my sons, and the wonderful "Nana" of my grandsons. There are not enough superlatives to express how much I love and appreciate her. She figuratively, and perhaps also literally, saved my life by coming into it at just the right time. Of all the people in my life, she is undoubtedly the most important. Although the other women I've named above have all, in their own way, made me feel special and loved, no one has ever done a better job of it, and for much, much longer, than my wonderful wife.
A Special 4th of July (Another additional posting 28 June 2016)
One of my goals when I first began to research my family's history was to learn how the Butler family came to be in Texas. In fact, I remember very well, back in November 1971, asking my paternal grandmother, after she told me how her parents brought her and her siblings to Texas from Alabama in 1888, if she knew how my grandfather's (her husband's) family came to be in Texas. She said she didn't know. All she knew was that he (my grandfather Butler) grew up in Denison, a little town located on the Red River a little more than an hour's drive from Dallas. For a long time that's all I had to go on and it wasn't much.
In 1986 (or thereabouts) I discovered that my grandfather's grandfather was the first member of the Butler family to come to Texas and that he arrived in 1846 (shortly after Texas became a state) as a soldier in the War with Mexico. A decade or so later, after doing some research in the Alabama state archives in Montgomery, I discovered that his regiment (the First Alabama Volunteers) had first arrived in Texas not just on any old day that year but on the 4th of July!
This means that for our family, the 4th of July is not just Independence Day but also "Arrival in Texas Day" and this year marks the 170th anniversary of that event. This is something else of which I remind myself whenever I'm feeling down about my seeming inability to break through those genealogical "brick walls" that frustrate me. Forty-five years ago I set out to answer a specific question and although it took me something like twenty-five years to do it, I did do it!
My next quest, after that goal was accomplished, was (and still is) to try to find when the Butler family came to America! We are, I think, either English or Irish in origin. Unfortunately, so far I haven't been able, despite my best efforts, to get any further back than my grandfather's grandfather! I live in hope however and if I ever achieve this so-far-seemingly unattainable goal, I will be sure to post the news here! In the meantime, have a safe and happy Independence Day and if you are related to me, be sure to fire off an extra firecracker (only if it's legal where you live) or drink an extra beer or something to mark the occasion of our family's 170th anniversary in the State of Texas!
37 Family Trees (Additional posting 28 June 2016)
Starting last Thursday and finishing today, I have created several "Family Tree" webpages for this site that illustrate the line of descent from thirty-seven different pairs of ancestors down to and through me to my grandchildren. When I started my research forty-five years ago, I only had knowledge of two (my two sets of grandparents). When I think about about all the genealogical "brick walls" I've yet to overcome and become frustrated, it helps me to remember that if I had not made this effort, it would either have had to wait for another generation to discover all that information or it would have continued to be "lost."
The first of these trees was the toughest to build because I used what is known in HTML lingo as "nested tables." The information boxes, with the names and dates of birth and death for each ancestor, weren't so hard. It was making sure all the connecting lines went in the right direction and made the right connections that proved to be the most difficult part of the job, but I knew that once I finished one successfully, it could serve as a model for all the others, which it did except for the two that illustrate how I have two sets of first cousins as husband and wife in my tree. One of these is one my father's side of the family and the other is on my mother's. Here's a link if you are interested in taking a look!
I'm not adopted. (Posted 28 June 2016)
As announced in a previous post, I recently bought an Ancestry.com DNA kit for my 88-year-old father. Yesterday, the results arrived. The good news is that the man I've spent all my life thinking of as my father actually is my father! In short, I'm not adopted or someone else's kid. Not that I ever thought so after I told my oldest son about the test he said, "Hey, what if you find out he's not your Dad?" One of my cousins said the very same thing. My reply to both of them was that I would be pretty upset about it, of course. When I told my dad what they said, he replied that he would be pretty upset too! Fortunately, there's nothing to be upset about and the DNA test proves it. Not that I needed one for that purpose. I only have to look in the mirror to see quite clearly that I'm my father's son.
My father's results are as follows: Completely European (no surprise there); 57% British (less than me but still high, I have 70%), Irish 18% (higher than me, I'm only 6%), Western European 15% (higher than me, I have only 3%), Scandinavian 4% (much lower than me, I have 9%), Eastern European 2% (lower than me, I have 3%), Finland/NW Russia 2% (I don't have any of this at all!), and Iberian Peninsula 2% (I have 5%), No Jewish or Caucasus or Italian or Greek at all. Since I have trace amounts of all these, I guess this test means that I got them from my mother's side of the family.
Guess Who I'm Related To! (Additional 18 June 2016 posting)
I nearly forgot to mention that almost exactly a year ago, while doing some research on my mother's side of the family, I discovered that I am descended from a Frenchman who is known as Mareen "The Immigrant" Duvall.
Mareen is apparently so well known in history that he even has his own Wikipedia page (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mareen_Duvall. He also has a lot of descendants, some of whom are famous.
What this discovery means, fortunately or unfortunately depending upon one's point-of-view, is that I am distantly related to at least two U.S. Presidents as well as some other famous folks, who are also descendants of Mareen "The Immigrant" Duvall. Here are photos of the Presidents:
Barack Obama (ninth cousin)
Harry S Truman (seventh cousin, twice removed)
Other famous cousins include the actor Robert Duvall (eighth cousin, once removed), Wallis Warfield Simpson (sixth cousin, two times removed), the divorced American woman for whom Britain's King Edward VIII abdicated his throne , and former Vice-President Dick Cheney (ninth cousin).
Friends and family who know me well will have no trouble guessing which of these cousins I am pleased to have as relatives and which I am not too happy about!
In any event, as I have frequently commented, ancestors and relatives are like Forrest Gump's proverbial box of chocolates, "You never know what you are going to get!"
Thanks to the White House Presidential biographies webpage for presidential photos.
Random Reflections (Posted 18 June 2016)
I can't believe it has been nearly a year since my last post. The older I get, the faster time seems to pass!
Since tomorrow is Fathers Day I'll mention that about a month ago I bought an Ancestry.com DNA kit for my 88-year-old father. We haven't got his results yet (it will probably be another month or so) but I am eager to find out from which side of my family I got which percentages of my genetic ethnic makeup. I can't have my mother tested unfortunately because she died more than twenty years ago but having my father tested ought to be sufficient to figure things out.
I have to say too that I am impressed with the accuracy of these DNA tests. My cousin Kathleen (on my mother's side of the family) was tested earlier this year and after her results were in, Ancestry.com correctly identified her as my first cousin! More recently, they connected me to a fellow I had never met (although as it turns out I knew his father, a first cousin of my mother's), saying they were pretty sure we were either second or third cousins. Well, they were right, he is my second cousin. (I used my Family Tree Maker software to calculate the relationship.)
I am a little puzzled though about one thing: Although Kathleen's father and my mother were siblings, Kathleen had no percentage of Western European ethnicity in her DNA. I find that curious in light of the fact that we are both descended from the same set of French, Dutch, and German ancestors who are quite obviously Western European. I think I read somewhere though that even siblings do not always get the same "dose" of genes so maybe that accounts for it. In either event, I thought it was odd.
I GOT MY DNA TEST RESULTS! (Posted 11 July 2015)
About a month ago I received the results of my Ancestry.com DNA test. In the main the test revealed what I already believed to be the case, namely that my ancestry is almost entirely European (98%) and largely British (70%).There was only one small surprise (1% European Jewish) and also a small disappointment (no Native American DNA at all). The test revealed that my non-European ancestors (2%) came from the Caucasus region of Western Asia.
Here's the complete breakdown of percentages:
- 98% European
- 70% British
- 9% Scandinavian
- 6% Irish
- 13% "Trace Regions":
- 5% Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal)
- 3% Eastern Europe
- 3% Western Europe
- 1% European Jewish
- less than 1% Italy/Greece
- 2% West Asian (Caucasus Region)
Above: A satellite photo of my ancestral home.
The Caucasus, according to Wikipedia is "a region at the border of Europe and Asia, situated between the Black and the Caspian seas. It is home to the Caucasus Mountains, which contain Europe's highest mountain, Mount Elbrus. Politically, the Caucasus region is separated between northern and southern parts. The southern parts consist of independent sovereign states. The northern parts are currently under the jurisdiction of Russia. The region is known for its linguistic diversity: aside from Indo-European and Turkic languages, the Kartvelian, Northwest Caucasian, and Northeast Caucasian families are localized to the area."
According to the map that Ancestry.com uses for DNA test results, the Caucasus region also includes Turkey and much of what we today think of as the Middle East (Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Iran, and Iraq).
As I say, the results were not terribly surprising and also, by corroborating the documentary evidence I have so far uncovered, they are actually reassuring. I knew already that my mother's ancestors were Welsh and it's a fair bet that my father's are either English or Irish. Along the way, I have discovered ancestors who were Scottish, Northern Irish, Dutch, French, and German—all of which the DNA test results seem to confirm.
A LOOK BACKWARDS AND GETTING ORGANIZED (Posted 11 July 2015)
The receipt of my DNA results prompted me to do something I have been meaning to do for quite some time, namely get things better organized. Whether it is the work I do to make a living or the work I do as a hobby, the part I like the best is the actual "doing," which in the case of my family history work means "research." The part I like least is the "paperwork," that is getting things organized.
As I looked around my house, I realized I had lots and lots of unfiled notes and papers that needed to go into the file folders I created long ago in an effort to keep things better organized. So, after buying new file folders and labels (to replace the folders and labels that had become rather battered-looking over time), I spent about a week, on and off, just filing. Apart from a small stack of notes, I am now finished (at least for a while) and feel a lot better about things.
One thing that came to my mind as I was filing was that that three of the five drawers in the large filing cabinet I possess are devoted to Family History folders. I also have some other Family History related items in cardboard boxes, as well as in binders, some of which are quite large. In other words, during the nearly forty-four years I have been trying to track down my ancestors, I have accumulated an enormous amount of data.
There and then, I realized I also need to do something else I have been meaning to do for a long time: Digitize as much of this material as possible, so that it won't take up as much physical space in my home and also so that I can share it with other family members who may be interested. That's my next big project!
Getting better organized also led me to contemplate the fact that although I often getting frustrated by my seeming inability to break through some of those genealogical "brick walls" that nearly every researcher inevitably encounters, in nearly forty-four years of intermittent research I have actually made tremendous progress.
In November 1971, when I first set out on this journey of discovery, I knew practically nothing about my family's history. I did know who my grandparents were and I personally knew two of them—my mother's father ("Grandpa Jenkins") and my father's mother, or "Nannie" as I called her—the person who was the first one to help me on my quest.
Thanks to my "Nannie," I also knew the names of two of my great-grandparents (her parents) and that they came to Texas from Alabama when my grandmother was very young. I also knew that my grandmother's father had been a Confederate soldier in the Civil War. On my mother's side of the family, I personally knew one step-great-grandparent (my grandfather's stepmother)—but that was it!
As for my father's side of the family, all that "Nannie" could tell me is that her husband—my grandfather Butler—had spent his childhood in Denison, Texas before his family finally came to Dallas.
That was then; but what about now?
Today, I know the names of more than fifty direct ancestors on my father's side and more than twice that many on my mother's side! That's more than 150 altogether! And that number does not include all the aunts and uncles and cousins I have likewise discovered, some from the past and some still living today! (And sometimes helping me or me helping them with our mutual interests and research!)
In some cases I also know much more about my ancestors' lives than just the dates and place of their birth, marriage and death. I have also personally visited the places where some of them lived and died and are buried, and in a few cases where they fought in some of our country's wars.
I have traced some of my ancestors all the way back to Europe and in a few cases, I even know the name of the ship that carried them to the "New World."
These are all things that that might have continued to be lost to history had I not made the effort that I've made over the past four, going on five, decades!
I have to remind myself of these accomplishments from time to time because I often become discouraged by my seeming inability to learn the answers to the things that I still don't know, to get through the so-called genealogical "brick walls" that in some cases have frustrated me for many long years.
Looking back, I am also struck by something especially ironic. Although my father is not as intensely interested in family history as I am, he seems to enjoy hearing about my discoveries (provided I don't go into too much detail) and has never discouraged me from pursuing my research. In fact, from time-to-time, whenever I've asked him, he has been quite helpful. In contrast, my mother's attitude was "let the dead stay buried." In other words, she not only had no interest whatever in her family's history, she also tried to discourage me from looking into it. I can see why. Some of it, particularly the story of her own immediate family, is quite sad. Her mother, who she barely remembered, died young from tuberculosis and her father spent some time in a TB sanitarium while she and her siblings went to live with grandparents who resented taking the responsibility and treated the children accordingly. The irony therefore is that I have had much better success tracing my maternal ancestry than my paternal ancestry! This is something I would never have accomplished had I not chosen to ignore my mother's indifference and even opposition to the effort!
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