In 1992 if anyone had told me that I would spend the next thirteen years on an ancestral journey I would have laughed at them. Like everyone else in
America, I too had watched the 1976 movie Roots by Alex Haley. The movie caused me to experience many different emotions; however, none of them ignited a desire to follow in the footsteps of Mr. Haley. As a matter of fact, I probably did not think it was a possibility for the average person.
I’m not sure what it is about one’s personality that draws them to the art of genealogy and family research because it can be tedious, discouraging, dirty and expensive. However, it can also be full of surprises and very rewarding. Whatever the reason, there is a very strong desire to discover who your ancestors were and to share information about them that no one else knows. You begin to wonder if you look like any of them, did you pick up any of their personalities or skills, and what were their lives like during their lifetimes.
As I mentioned, I began my journey in 1992. My mother and I had visited with some of her old friends in Andalusia, AL (Covington Co.) and we were now visiting relatives in
Union Springs, AL (Bullock Co.). It was a very hot summer, and on this particular day, while driving around town in my rented air-conditioned car trying to keep cool, I found myself in front of the Union Springs Court House. What an imposing post-antebellum building. It looked just as I had remembered it as a child when my family drove down from
Pennsylvania to visit with grandparents and cousins. This particular day, I decided to enter the court in search of relief from the heat. Once inside, I introduced myself to the clerk and informed her that my grandparents had lived in the city. I then asked if they had any information on past residents. The clerk, Donna Smith, directed me to a room across the hall that was full of hidden treasures. There were separate red leather-bound and white cloth-bound books of Colored and White Marriage records dating back to the mid 1800’s. There were also deed books, voter’s registration cards, and miscellaneous court record books stacked on shelves that went from the floor to the ceiling. The adjoining room had old newspapers and more current deed books, and much much more.
I decided to start with the marriage records and prayed as I selected a book that I would find the marriage record for my paternal grand parents. To my surprise, the book was sectioned off by the alphabet. I turned to the “D” pages, and after scanning the information found the marriage record for my grand father, Obie Davis to Eliza Tabor. They had been married on September 9, 1905. They were married at St. Mark Church by Rev. J. W. Hicks. I then proceeded to go through the alphabet for all of the family surnames that I knew. That day, I left with copies of the marriage records for not only my paternal grand parents, but records for my maternal grand mother, Lizzie Renfroe, to her first husband, Elbert Swanson, along with marriage records for some of my aunts and uncles. Boy, what an exciting way to spend the day; in an air-conditioned room researching my ancestors. I stayed in the court house until it closed and was on a high when I returned to my relatives, anxious to share my “treasures” with them. They were not excited. My mother asked, “Why do you want to “dig up the dead”? My only response at that time was, “because I want to”. What can you say to someone who is not as excited as you?
Well, needless to say, this was the beginning of my ancestral journey. I then returned to
Pennsylvania and enrolled in a six week genealogy class offered by the community college. I also continued to do research off and on over the next six years.
In 1998, I decided it was time for our first family reunion and so with the information I had found, I organized the first Davis-Dean and Tabor-Berry Family Reunion which was held in 1999 in
Montgomery, AL. Only forty-five family members attended. They were impressed with my efforts and the booklet of my research that I had put together for them. We had a great time so the family decided to have another reunion in 2000. We now have a reunion every two years and each family leave with fond memories as well as a family reunion booklet with the latest finds in it. Over the years our gatherings have grown in attendance, and this year we will celebrate our fifth reunion in
Stay tuned, because as time goes on, I will share with you our family history as well as provide tips on how you too can find information for your very own family history.