Thursday, September 7, 2017

Connecting Another Generation's Dots

When it comes to thinking about those empty branches on my family tree—like the Broyles family I'm now plugging into my database—I can't help but recall one particular visual reminder. It's a photograph that comes from another genealogy blog, aptly named—yes, you guessed it—Empty Branches on the Family Tree. Blogger Linda Stufflebean uses the perfect visual complement to her blog's title: a photograph of a fully-grown tree with a significant portion of its bare branches lacking any of the green leaves covering the rest of the tree.

Living in a state which, only last summer, was deep in the clutches of a relentless drought, I run across such reminders as Linda's tree often as I drive around town. Lately, thinking of the missing branches on my own family tree, I can't help but return to brooding over that lack, every time I drive by one of those drought-stricken trees in town—especially now, as I take up the task of focusing on my Broyles family branch of my maternal line.

As genealogical projects go, this is not an overwhelming assignment. After all, if my goal is to be able to chart all the descendants of my third great grandparents, all I need do is push back the record one single generation. I already have documented the line from my mother back to my second great grandfather, Thomas Taliaferro Broyles, since it was his mother whose line provided me access to membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution.

But Thomas' father's line is a different story. I do have some information on Ozey R. Broyles children—Thomas' siblings—and I have been working through the process of documenting all their descendants.

Since I have access to genealogies of the Broyles family line, though, why not test the waters on these hundred-year-old resources to see how correct the data might be? Besides, if I can push back just one more generation, it will provide the insurance to help back my case if a DNA match on the Broyles line turns up a distant cousin who is just a little bit shy of the centiMorgan count necessary to firmly place the relationship in the camp of fourth cousin. Not to mention, this Broyles line, like many colonial families, had a tendency to intermarry, thus running me the risk of having a relationship show up as closer than it might have been in fact.

Ever the one to be prepared, I'm pushing back another generation. In one way, this is not too difficult a proposition. But in another way, it is: this was the era of families with many children, and in the case of the Broyles lines I'm working on, it seems they favored lots of daughters. This is also, incidentally, the era in which some women became invisible as they crossed the threshold from single to married status.

To get started, yesterday I mentioned finding one genealogy—actually an annotated volume commenting on the work of another published genealogy—but in reality, it was only the first volume of that project. Heading to the book section at, I located several listings of genealogies containing Broyles family members, where I spied a resource for volume two of John Kenneth Broyles' critique of Arthur Leslie Keith's work.

Let the grunt work begin! I've pushed back one more generation to add Ozey R. Broyles' father, Aaron Broyles, and his wife, Frances Reed (or other phonetic spelling variations). I'm working my way through each of the seven siblings of Ozey that I've been able to locate, adding their information to my database, verifying the Keith and Broyles assertions with whatever documentation I can find independently, and then tackling their descendants, generation by generation.

This will take a while to complete, of course, but as I work, I'm making some discoveries, which I'll discuss in a few days. In the meantime, I'm also finding myself crossing ancestral trails that have been visited while pursuing other branches of my maternal family.

Sometimes, I wonder just how many of my ancestors' marriages were really between people who knew each other because they had migrated together from homes far removed from the eastern Tennessee area where I had found them. That, as it turns out, only serves to emphasize the validity of the concept of F.A.N. Clubs—the friends, neighbors and associates who turned out to be the traveling partners of our migrating ancestors.


  1. Good luck with pushing back one more generation. I hope those books are useful & I hope there have sources.

    1. Oh, thank you, Colleen! So far, the process seems to be going smoothly, but it's likely because I'm able to check documentation on the more recent generations online. I have a long way to go, though, before I complete the entire roster.

  2. Thank you for the shout out. It is much appreciated. That is a tree in the yard of the house where we lived when I began blogging. It was a perfect fit to go with my title.:)

    1. Yes, I love it, Linda! And it's iconic to what I'm going through at the moment. Every time I see a tree like that now, I not only think of my research challenge, but I also think of you and finding that photo to match your blog's title. It's the perfect match!


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