Thursday, January 3, 2019

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 1: First Genealogy Road Trip

This is my second year working on this year-long prompt, hosted by Amy Johnson Crow. I will write each week in one of my two blogs, either Mam-ma’s Southern Family or at My Trails Into the Past. I have enjoyed writing about my children’s ancestors in new and exciting ways.

In October 1995, I took my grandmother, Pansy Louise Lancaster Johnston, whom I call Mam-ma, on a trip to Stephenville, Texas, so I could see where my mother grew up.

My mother had passed away on 2 Feb 1992, so I couldn’t take her, or even ask her about her early life in Texas before moving to California. I hadn’t started my genealogy adventure until after her death and I have such regrets now.

So I thought the next best thing would be to take my grandmother to Texas where she could show me first-hand some of the places they lived. I paid for the trip, and she made the arrangements with family as to where we would stay.

We were picked up from the airport in Fort Worth by my grandfather’s niece, Sandra Hall and her husband, Hal, and taken to their home in Burleson, where we stayed the first night. I believe our dinner was the first time I’d eaten French food.

Hal & Sandra with me
Sandra and my mother grew up together in those early years as they were close in age and in my grandmother’s photo collection are many photos of Sandra and Lela Nell (my mother) together with their grandfather, Daddy Tom.

Lela Nell & Sandra with Daddy Tom
Sandra had some lovely photographs of the Johnston family and with my film camera, I set the photos on the carpet in the sunshine and shot black and white photographs of each of them. I treasure this images very much.

From top clockwise: Beryl, Mildred, Luther, Hal, Tom Jr.
The next day, they drove us to Stephenville to stay with Mam-ma’s brother,  R.D. Lancaster and his wife, Barbara. During the ride, everyone reminisced about old times while I recorded notes in my notebook. I continued to do this when we were with RD, too.

RD, Mam-ma, Barbara
RD took us all around the Stephenville and the surrounding area, stopping at various places of interest. The family moved often, and when asked why, my grandmother said to look for cheaper rent. During this time, I had slide film in another camera and took photos of houses, schools, churches, and tombstones at the cemeteries.

We also visited a Welch cousin, Thelma Evans, who was born Thelma Gladys Welch in 1900 to William Madison Welch and Sarah Ann Ward. At the time of the visit, she was 95 years old. I wish I had known more about doing genealogy research then. I would have asked better questions and taken better notes! I did get the address of Elois Evans (her daughter-in-law), who lived in Mississippi and knew all about the Welch family. I corresponded with her for years.

We also visited Faye Loveless’s home. She was the daughter of Luther Arthur Loveless and Vera Eden, which made her my second cousin, twice removed. When I walked into the room, she said immediately that I looked like Aunt Jo. Aunt Jo was Josephine Lancaster, who married William H. Loveless, who were my grandmother’s aunt and uncle on both sides of her family. I need to search out some of her descendants to find a photo of her.

We spent a great deal of time at several cemeteries where I found tombstones to take pictures of. I also recorded the information into my notebook. 

Some tombstones from Upper Greens Creek Cemetery
One the last day, I finally got to do some real research. Barbara took me to the county recorder’s office and I got to sit in the vault and look at any book I wanted. I dutifully copied down births, deaths, and marriages. Little did I know that these same books had been microfilmed and were available at the Family History Library. There were probably other books that hadn’t been microfilmed that I should have looked at.

After lunch, I got about 30 minutes in the public library where they had some genealogy books. I found cemetery inscription books and marriage indexes. They had to drag me out (kicking). Someday I’d like to return and get a better look. There are other libraries in the area, too to check out—in Dublin and at Tarleton University.

Still, it was a great trip. I recorded conversations between my grandmother and her brother, telling stories about the family, that is priceless. This trip was also the last time they saw each other. I’m glad I had a part in that, too.  

Copyright © 2019 by Lisa Suzanne Gorrell, Mam-ma's Southern Family

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