Monday, December 2, 2013

An Unexpected Thanksgiving Gift

In pursuing a research strategy leading up to a trip to Ireland late in 2014, I’ve been systematically reviewing and documenting what I’ve already discovered on the various branches of my husband’s paternal one-hundred-percent-Irish line.

Of course, best intentions can sometimes encounter resistance. If you’ve been a regular at A Family Tapestry, you are probably aware that November was not the easiest of months for me. The beginning of the month brought our family a sad loss in the passing of my aunt—my mother’s only sister, for whom I was named.

You may also recall that, before leaving my aunt’s home in the Columbus, Ohio, area last month, I found and carefully packed several items of family memorabilia to bring back home. There was a lot of material to follow up on.

You know how time, intentions and obligations mix. Something inevitably comes up and even the best intentions get laid aside for a more convenient time. For the rest of November, I hardly had a moment to spare to explore these documents, letters, newspaper clippings and photos I had garnered from old storage boxes and albums in my aunt’s home.

After realizing I was literally moping over all this sense of loss—not to mention, having boxes sitting out on shelves in my home, now demanding their own rightful place to be stored—I decided this weekend to switch directions and lay aside my Ireland research plans and focus, for a little while at least, on these Davis and McClellan lines of my Southern maternal heritage.

I’m not sure why I hadn’t focused on these lines before. Oh, I did do a little writing about the McClellan line—mostly for the discovery that one branch of that line provided the key to qualify me for Daughters of the American Revolution membership, and also on account of that unexpected revelation that my great grandfather’s Florida home has undergone a rehab project as part of a downtown historic district designation.

As for the rest of my maternal line, well, perhaps the reason I never pursued further research on these surnames was that I already knew others had blazed the trail ahead of me. Somehow, as much of a struggle as it has been to even work my way back to a mere 1850, I enjoy the thrill of the hunt with the many undocumented paths my husband’s lines have taken over gliding down the smooth, broad highway of time travel back to the 1700s and even 1600s in documentation others have provided for some of my own maternal lines.

But now, in the wake of the Thanksgiving holiday, and with thoughts of the soon-approaching Christmas celebration, I’m flooded with the nostalgia of family memories. I can’t help thinking about those, like my aunt, who will no longer be with us to once again pick up the family traditions. Perhaps this will be not only a convenient time, but a therapeutic time—why resist the urge to delve into all those items I’ve found?—to set aside my Ireland focus and turn my attention to the more immediate details of my own family history.

So that’s what I began doing this past weekend: poking around what could be found online for my Davis family and related lines. I wasn’t too surprised that it didn’t take me long to stumble upon details others had documented and posted online. I had already seen that while working my way back to the 1850s in that small village in the hills of eastern Tennessee—the town of Erwin, to be specific—in past research attempts.

It was in the Davis line that, this weekend, I discovered someone else had documented a link to the Tilson line—a family named in the D.A.R. database, already. Here was another way to trace my connection back to a Patriot. I wasn’t surprised. I had heard from family that this line had been in the New World for a long time.

A second detail popped up shortly after that discovery: a connection to the Mayflower. While I will have to prove this assertion for myself, it was a pleasant and timely discovery on this Thanksgiving weekend—though the doubtful side of me is demanding an explanation for how a seagoing vessel (admittedly headed originally for the Virginia plantation) arriving in present-day Massachusetts could yield descendants who were decidedly Southern in heritage.

All this will reveal itself in good time, I am sure. For now, I’m just basking in the timeliness of discovering I may have a closer connection to the Pilgrim story than I had ever imagined.

Above: Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor, William Formby Halsall (1841-1919); courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. My mother's family came from both the Virginia and Plymouth Colonies - with a smattering of a few Germans from Philadelphia/Lancaster. There was a "migration" southwards since the British government wanted the Native America's to "have the lands west of the Appalachian mountains".

    1. That makes a lot of sense. Thanks for posting that link, Iggy. Looks like I face a steep learning curve, now that I've got to consider just how those Southerners originated from arrivals in Plymouth. Understanding the "thoroughfares" of the times used for their migration patterns helps.

  2. I am looking forward to the journey...It may be just what you need to help with your grief...and just a respite you need to recharge for Ireland 2014! :)

    1. Thanks, Far Side. I'm hoping that's what it will be.


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