Saturday, January 15, 2011


© Kathy Duncan, 2011

RULES ARE MADE TO BE BROKEN. One of the newer, cardinal “rules” of genealogy is to research one surname and one surname only until everything about that family can be discovered. The key is to avoid being distracted by other families even when they are found in the same geographical area. When researchers visit a library or courthouse, they are supposed to stick to a predetermined surname or list of individuals within a surname and ignore other family members when they pop up because those individuals can always be researched at a later time. That means if you are researching your paternal grandmother’s family, you don’t allow yourself to be distracted by your maternal grandfather’s family - even if you have traveled 300 miles to conduct your research. Instead, you return at a later date to focus on gandpa’s family. Whatever! I’ve always been too short of time and money to count on a second visit any where to do more research at a later date. Plus, I like to pursue whatever is interesting at the time. If I’d followed this “rule,” I would have spent the past 20 years futilely researching Granderson D. Nevill, and I would know nothing about any of my other family lines or my husband’s family.

Conducting successful research is often like a conversation. One topic often sparks another one and leads the participants into unexpected, but equally delightful subjects. There is spontaneity because conversations and memories do not follow rigid rules. I always tried, with varying degrees of success, to ask my grandparents questions that would spark a memory revealing new information. They must have often felt like I was grilling them under an harsh, bright interrogation light.

Once I asked my paternal grandmother Duncan if her Davis grandmother or aunt and uncle ever returned from West Texas to visit any family left behind in East Texas. My grandmother’s grandparents, Mary Lavinia (Yarberry) and Eli Van Buren Davis, left Bowie County, Texas in the early 1900s before my grandmother was born. They had settled near Hedley in Donley County. Her mother’s sister, Mary (Davis) Hardy and brother, “Bud” Davis had also removed to West Texas. Of their small family, only my great-grandmother Louise (Davis) Dendy was left behind.

My strategy worked on one occasion, and my grandmother immediately launched into a memory of her Aunt Mary and Uncle Bill Hardy stopping for a short visit on their way to “old” Jud Meadows’ place in Bowie County, Texas. My reaction time is sometimes a little slow, but in no time at all I jumped right in and interrupted her. You see, Judson Meadows was a younger brother of my great-great grandmother Martha Frances (Meadows) Chapman, who in turn was my maternal grandfather’s grandmother. I recalled in that moment that Judson Meadows had settled somewhere in Bowie County. The Meadows and Chapman families had mostly lived around Mt. Pleasant in Titus Co., TX. The upshot was that the Chapman and Meadows families on my mother’s side were in no way related to the Davises and Dendys on my father’s side. Yet here they were, interacting with each other.

“Why on earth were they going to visit Jud Meadows,” I blurted out? My grandmother’s story, where ever it was headed, was squashed right there, and she was off on a new tangent. It seems her Uncle Bill Hardy’s sister Anna had married “old man” Jud Meadows. According to my grandmother, Anna’s step-daughters were so mean to her that when she died, they refused to bury her by their father. Instead, she was buried by herself in a far corner of New Hope Cemetery in Bowie County.

I convinced my mother that we really, really needed to visit New Hope Cemetery . Within a few days we had gotten the directions off of the internet and were on our way. However, as is often the case, the cemetery was not easy to find. We were twisting around one dirt road after another and were on the verge of giving up when we met a pick up truck. The driver was dressed in a crisp, white dress shirt worn under a starched pair of overalls. He sported a neatly trimmed white beard and a straw hat. He was the very definition of dapper. “I bet he’ll turn out to be a Meadows,” my mother mused hopefully. I said no way. A man that dapper had to be a Nevill of some sort. He was surely a descendant of old Granderson D. Nevill Sr., a man who had at least three or four wives and had been divorced from two or three of them by 1880, a man who must have been able to attract the ladies.

Mother hailed the truck, and the driver stopped beside us. He readily give us clear directions to cemetery. Then he asked mother who we had buried there. That gave her an opportunity to ask if he was related to the Meadows family. Turns out, no, he was a Davis. That prompted me to ask if he was related to any of my Davises. Again, no. His mother, however, was a Pool. Excited, I asked if he was related to a woman named Minnie Pool. Oh yes, indeed. His grandparents were Oliver and Minnie Pool. Minnie Lee (Nevill) Pool was a grand daughter of Granderson D. Nevill Sr. and a sister to my great-grandmother Susie Gertrude (Nevill) Duncan! HA!

Mr. Davis had just left his mother’s where there was a family reunion in full swing. He gave us directions to her house and invited us to drop right in. The road to New Hope Cemetery took us right by her place. Her yard was packed with cars. It was tempting to stop, but crashing a reunion seemed awkward. I’ve wished many times, though, that we had stopped. Since then, Mr. Davis and his mother have died and an opportunity to learn more about the Nevill family has been lost. Still, I have fond memories of the day I met Minne Pool's grandson in the middle of the road.

In the photograph, Minnie Lee (Nevill) Pool is seated with baby Bess Lee (Pool) Davis on her lap. Husband Oliver Green Pool sits on the right and her father-in-law John J. Pool sits on the left.

No comments:

Post a Comment