Saturday, February 11, 2023

Back on the Trail of Uncle Dabney


Do you ever, in the pursuit of your distant ancestors, run across a name so different that you just have to grab it and run with it? That's the case in my current chase after the family of Zachariah Taliaferro: I've run into a name I'm certain has to be one of a kind.

True, the man's surname is Jones, and that can be impossible to research. But for a first name, Dabney has got to be unique. And that is indeed what I'm discovering.

Recall last week, in examining the will of my fourth great-grandfather Zachariah Taliaferro's brother Richard, how specifically he identified his sister Frances Taliaferro Penn and her two children. While mentioning his nephew Richard Penn, the elder Richard went into far more detail about Frances' daughter Mary, first identifying her as wife of Dabney P. Jones, then putting her inheritance in the control of a man named John H. Johnson, rather than bequeathing it directly to his niece or even to her husband.

You can read volumes into a statement like that. And you know I need to follow up on that trail.

So why the concern? It's hard to say, from information on the surface of local history. Apparently, Dabney P. Jones was well known among the residents of Georgia. A Methodist preacher, he was credited with preaching the first sermon in Newnan, Georgia, in 1828. On the Fourth of July in 1832, he made what some believe was Georgia's first temperance speech, "the beginning of a labor that ended only with his life."

Eventually considered the state lecturer for the Temperance Society in Georgia, Dabney Jones was soon "known everywhere as Uncle Dabney" (see page 63 here). He was mentioned by that moniker in biographical sketches of other notable residents of Georgia, owing to his influence during that era.

Funny thing is, I've been down this research trail before. Ever have that déjà vu feeling dawn on you?

It turns out the name Dabney P. Jones had been stuck in my mind four years ago when someone mentioned the name "Dabney" during a Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy course I was taking on Southern Research. Of course, I had to check it out then—even wrote about it in a blog post.

Reviewing my thoughts from that 2019 post made me realize something else. There are two huge reference collections which were mentioned in that SLIG course which may be extremely pertinent to my Taliaferro research now.

It's time to revisit those collections. This could be a chance to unearth some valuable reference material. Somehow, you know I'll be weaving those manuscript collections from that old 2019 post into my work during the rest of this month's research goal.


  1. You are still plugging away! I hope you are having a good winter!

    1. Yes, I am still plugging away here, Far Side--although sometimes I forget what I've already written! And the first hints of spring outdoors are putting too many temptations ahead of research...


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