My fascination with my family’s history dates back to summers and holidays spent around the table in my grandmother’s pink-tiled kitchen in Edinburg, Texas, listening to my grandparents talk about their lives. The most memorable story involved their meeting, which occurred after my grandfather was brought to the hospital where my grandmother worked; he was a passenger in a car being driven by a "red-haired girl" he was dating (she was speeding), and there was some kind of collision at a railroad crossing. The story was tinged with humor and pathos, as it brought forth memories of my grandmother working as a registered nurse before her marriage, work of which she was extremely proud and which she would have undoubtedly continued with, had my grandfather not insisted she quit to raise a family.
My grandfather was most proud of two things – his Irish heritage, and of being a “fifth generation Texan.” I never thought to ask him what specific ancestor or line he had in mind when touting his Irishness – and I doubt he would have been able to answer. Having researched his lines, I know that only a few can connect “across the pond,” with most in North America since at least the mid-1700s. I think his Irish pride was just an ingrained part of the Scots-Irish identity which made up the bulk of his ethnic heritage. As for his being a fifth generation Texan – well, that was a stretch for someone whose father was born in Arkansas and both maternal grandparents in Alabama.
I also remember my grandfather ribbing my grandmother for being a Yankee, and about that, at least, he was correct. My grandmother remembered being told that her family was Pennsylvania Dutch, but none of us knew at the time that Dutch was a malformation of “Deutsch,” or had any idea how Pennsylvania figured into the story. I later discovered a substantial section of her tree was part of the German Palatinate migration, settling in Washington and Frederick Counties, Maryland, in the mid-1700s, where they lived for generations.
That was the line of my grandmother’s maternal grandmother, a woman whose name she reported as Sarah Kelly. It was actually Sarah Haynes, and discovering her was like opening a treasure chest, with documents, letters and newspaper articles chronicling her lines for generations. The man she married, Charles Anderson, involved another mystery which would be solved with DNA. My grandmother said he was a French orphan who was adopted as a child after making the transatlantic crossing. This seemed fanciful, and after I discovered his death certificate, which – surprisingly and somewhat improbably – provided his father’s last name (Whittier), I was even more skeptical. But a perfect Y-chromosome match with a man named Robert Whitaker and my kits’ close autosomal matches with his sister led to the discovery of Charles as a 9-month old baby in the 1860 census. His mother died in 1862, and his father subsequently abandoned the family.
My father’s side of my family had a more direct – if localized – effect on my research: my great-grandfather, Robert Ewing Lewis, lived to be 89 years old. I was fascinated by having a living great-grandparent, and wrote him a letter requesting information about his lines. I had been named for my grandfather, Eugene Barton Lewis, who was named for his grandmother, Bob's mother, Julia Barton.
My great-grandmother, Chloe Brockett Lewis, was much loved by my father, who she raised when his parents were working in the munitions factories during World War II. Chloe was a kind woman with a playful sense of humor whose early life was marred by tragedy. She was conceived when her mother, Lena, was seduced by a traveling salesman who had stopped at her grandparents' hotel in Gallatin County, Illinois. Lena, who had been doted upon as her parents' youngest child, was ostracized by her father and eventually went to St. Louis, Missouri to work as a telegraph operator, where she died of pneumonia at the age of twenty-five. Lena and Chloe, photographed shortly before Lena's death in 1895, are shown on my home page. Chloe's father's identity remains a mystery, one I hope to solve with DNA.
My paternal grandmother, Bertha Prahl, was the daughter of a first generation German-American whose parents left Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany in the 1860s. They are the only one of my lines to arrive in North America after 1800. Her mother was descended from Virginians who were all in the colony by the mid-1700s.
I have organized my lines alphabetically by surname on the "Surnames" page. There, I have added discussions of each line and downloadable images of public and private records. Comments, corrections or additions are welcome.
This site is dedicated to the memory of my late aunt, Joan Smith Longorio Claybourn. Joan was the senior genealogist in our family and did groundbreaking work on the lines of my maternal grandparents, Dewey N Smith and Neva I Hatten. We started researching together in the 1970s, but I eventually lost interest while Joan kept working our lines. Joan combined a no-nonesense approach to life with great warmth and intelligence. I miss her friendship and think of her often.