Friday, May 29, 2020

About that Fourth George

Research pop quiz: if "A" equals "B" and "B" equals "C" does that mean I can connect the many Hugh Mercers of Savannah's Mercer House and Moon River's Johnny Mercer with the two Georges who were both sons of yet another George Mercer?

Perhaps you were wondering that very thing, yourself.

Not that I want to guarantee that any three trips down the rabbit hole will result in a trifecta of answers, but I feel as if it would be worth our while to consider yet another Mercer before we proceed to our genealogy puzzle's answer.

I'm talking about George Mercer IV, the unfortunate young Savannah resident who turned up missing in early 1980. We already know he somehow was related to songwriter Johnny Mercer because the newspaper report of his kidnapping included that assertion—and we all know how accurate such reports can be.

As horrified as I am over what became of young George Mercer IV, I really wasn't looking for him when I stumbled upon that news clipping; I was looking for a different George Mercer. Well, make that two George Mercers. No, three. One was the dad who named both of his sons George Mercer. And both of them were still living, best I could tell, during the time period in which their names showed up in government records.

So...was one of those George Mercers related to this new man by the same name?

Despite the tragedy occurring forty years ago, it wasn't—and still isn't—a hidden event. Just googling that name plus the city of Savannah brought up multiple hits for my search. Besides newspaper reports, the crime was revisited by Calvin Trillin, then a journalist for The New Yorker, who later expanded his notes on the episode into a chapter for his 1984 book, Killings. As the situation dragged on from kidnapping to report of ransom notes to discovery of a dead body, summaries of the 1982 court case trying the man accused of George Mercer IV's murder can also be accessed online, providing a clear, if extended, explanation of what happened to the man.

Published commentary on what befell the young George Mercer can still be found, even as recently as four years ago. A childhood classmate of the young George recalled in 2016 that Mercer was "always pleasant, smiling and ready for a laugh or to tell an amusing tale, with his very relaxed and easy-going demeanor," and that it still seemed a shock to realize what had befallen someone like that.

Delving into far more detail than I ever intended to review, however, still doesn't answer my research question. Despite how horrible the outcome was for one young man in Savannah who possessed the same name—without the "IV," of course—as two of my grandmother's third cousins, I still can't say if the unfortunate demise of this new George was a tragedy which befell someone in my George Mercer's family.

Which means, of course, that it's time to crawl back out of yet another rabbit hole, dust ourselves off and get back to the business of piecing together a paper trail from both ends of the multiple George Mercers question. Let's see whether we can actually find any connection, beginning with yet another clue: the other uncle mentioned in that initial news report, Chris Hammond.  


  1. My great grandfather and his cousin with the same approximate birthdate and exact same name lived in the same county. Both had a wild streak and I have a stack of printed newspaper stories from our local papers that someday I am going to sit down and see who I can attribute to who. I will say the headline about the Daniel who was married to 3 women (in different locations) at the same time threw me! That one I have proved was cousin Daniel.

    1. I always have to remind myself, when I run into stories like that one you mentioned, that every situation has a back story--hopefully, one which will enable us to view it with greater understanding. But I imagine it was quite a wild ride for you when you traced that great-grandfather and his cousin, Miss Merry. The pursuit of family history can definitely unearth some surprises!


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