Wednesday, February 6, 2019
The Definition of Kin
"We may be related," the woman just inside the door to the Suwannee Valley Genealogical Society library announced to me as I stepped in to wrap up my second day's research in the vicinity of my McClellan roots in northern Florida. "I think we are cousins."
A cousin I had never before met—let alone been aware of—was the stranger who had received my online query about the society's library holdings. (Frankly, I was quite jealous that a place as small as the vicinity surrounding Wellborn could boast not only their own library, but the building in which to house their collection, as well.)
In preparation for my visit, I had sent in my questions ahead of time, just in case there was any chance that the books I was seeking might be in their holdings. There have been a number of history books published on the county as well as the town of Wellborn, and though I am aware of them—and the tidbits they hold about my family's history—that doesn't make them any more easy to access. Most were privately published or done locally in a short run, with nary a copy still available for sale, new or used. Not even on Amazon.
Naturally, in my email preceding my visit, I mentioned the surnames I was seeking—not only McClellan, but McLaren, Tison, Townsend, and Charles. Especially Charles. The society had notebooks prepared by members on their research findings on a wide variety of surnames, including some of the ones of interest to me. Thus, before she ever met me, this society volunteer knew we'd be related. We both, as it turns out, descend from McClellans.
Just how, we didn't know, right away. It took some sketching out. A bit of double checking on two different genealogy database programs to make sure. After comparing notes on both our lines—it turns out her line, in my records, is a complete black hole after the patriarch of her McClellan line in early, territorial Florida—we decided on the verdict: fifth cousins.
Well, howdy. It's always nice to meet another cousin.
When I took the Advanced Southern Research course at SLIG last January, one of our instructors had explained the real definition of the term, "kin"—at least the way you'll find it used in the South. You may know the word as a synonym simply to explain that two people are related. Our SLIG instructors took it farther than that. According to our intrepid southern research experts, using the word "kin" means "yep, we're related, but we can't explain just how right now."
In other words, it's too complicated.
The entire South, according to these instructors, is so interrelated as to reduce the explanation of how anyone is connected to anyone else to one word: kin.
You from the South? Great. Me, too. We must be kin.