Recording family stories

April 6, 2012

Recording family stories is one of the most interesting activities of a genealogist. Even a beginner can enjoy this activity.

 Recording family stories

The best family story of all time and the proverbial thorn in my side is the story that began my search. It’s ironic he’s the one ancestor I can’t close my research on because he disappeared off the face of the earth after the American Civil War.

 My grandmother used to tell the story she heard from her husband’s grandmother. The lady was named Nancy Mahala Boggs and her first husband was John Robert Taylor. In the beginning, I didn’t even know Robert’s name. Only the story.

My grandmother told me Robert would tie his wife to the bed and be meaner than the devil himself. Legend has it Robert ran off with another woman sometime after the war. His wife Nancy remarried a man twelve years her junior after learning of his death. The trouble was, Robert was still alive. He turned up again sometime after Nancy had remarried, then took off for parts unknown.

Through countless years of research, I learned Robert’s parents were Levi Taylor and Nancy Dowis. This is as far back on the Taylor line as I’ve ever gotten. Robert was born in the late 1830’s in Pickens County, SC. I learned from military records that he was a private in Hampton’s Legion, Company D. He was captured at some point. One record even listed him as having dark hair and blue eyes. He’s also listed on the roll of Gist’s Rifles as “dead” after the war ended.

One bit of information I learned was his 16-year-old brother was a member of the same legion. What a nightmare! Can you imagine trying to keep your brother safe and not get yourself killed in the meantime?

I learned from one of grandpa’s distant cousins, Miner Taylor, that his father John used to visit Robert in the mountains of Rabun County, Georgia in the 1880’s or later.

I also learned from Miner Taylor that a lot of the Taylor family moved to the Mount Pleasant area of Texas.

The glitch comes in the form of the family Bible (more on Bibles in another article). Robert is listed as having died during the summer of 1869 in Longswamp, Florida. I learned Longswamp was located in what is now Marion County.

Follow me with this now. Nancy remarried around 1880 and the story was that Robert returned AFTER she had remarried. The Bible was printed in 1896, so we have a deliberate action to falsify his death. If the Bible had been printed before 1869, we could say Nancy recorded the death and never changed the date after Roberts return from the grave.

My guess is she wasn’t too proud of being married to two men at the same time. Even by accident.

I also have a family story about my great great grandfather Clark Andrew Holcombe told to me by my great great aunt Estee. She told me on one visit of being with her dad before he died and he was taken to heaven by his mother and father in a covered wagon. I always thought that was SO interesting. To be on his deathbed and have a covered wagon pull up to take him to his heavenly reward.

The third story I have should be made into a horror film. I’m not going to mention names, but I swear it’s true.

I have a distant relative who had an affair during her marriage to a witch (or warlock). After this witch died, she had to be committed to an insane asylum for a period of four years. I have her commitment papers! I often visited this “witchs” grave at a private family cemetery as many of my ancestors are buried there. His is the only grave that has dead grass. All over the cemetery I look around and see green except for his grave. Strange, but true…I often wonder if his death made my ancestor go crazy, or whether the affair drove her insane. I’ll never know because anyone who could have told me the rest of this story is now resting in that same small cemetery.

So you see, family stories are important. Even the “skeleton in the closet” ones. Storytelling is a dying art-form and the burden falls on family genealogists to keep them alive.

In this age of getting the names and facts, we must remember to record the stories of the people who made us who we are.

After more than thirty years of research, I’m still looking for death information on John Robert Taylor. It’s sad to report I have the story but no data. This does happen sometimes. There will always be a few ancestors who refuse to be found.

I believe he changed his name and remarried. That’s just my personal opinion. I believe there’s a Taylor line out there full of tall, thin men with blue eyes and long fingers. Possibly mean as the devil himself, from what I’ve learned from descendants from the other Taylor lines whom I’ve been lucky to find.

I credit John Robert Taylor with my genealogical research. My curiosity about this man started it all. It’s ironic he’s one of the few I can’t resolve


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