Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Beyond Southern Hospitality - My Experience in Laurens County, SC

On my way to Charleston for NGS, I stopped in Laurens County, South Carolina for a research day and I stopped again on the way home. My 3rd great-grandparents, David Gamble and Anna Finney were married in Laurens County in 1814 then moved to Heard County, Georgia between 1830-1840. I’m just starting the process of proving their parents and grandparents so all I had to go on was census records for people in Laurens County with these surnames, some deed and will abstracts from a couple of books I’d found in nearby libraries and some leads from online trees as to how these people all fit together.

When I stopped at the Laurens County Library on the trip home, there were two local ladies in the genealogy room when I arrived. They struck up the usual conversation – asking where I was from and what families I was researching. When I rattled off Gamble, Finney, Ewing and Munford one of them said she had some information on the Gamble and Ewing families although she was not actually related them. She had an ancestor’s sister who married a Gamble and had thought at one time that her Adair line might have a connection to the Ewing family because they were constantly appearing as witnesses in each other’s records.

Mary (as I’ll call her from here on out) said she should go home and get her notebooks for me. Next thing I knew she was gone but she returned in a little while with two notebooks. (Did I mention that she doesn’t live in the town where the library is but 11 miles away?)

 

Now that was a very nice thing to do but Mary didn't stop there. She insisted that I not interrupt what I was doing in the library to look at her books right then. She already knew that I was spending the night in Laurens County (turns out in the town where she lives) so she insisted that I take her notebooks back to the hotel with me and she would pick them up the next morning before I left town.

We exchanged phone numbers and before she left Mary asked if I had been to Duncan Creek yet. When I told her I had not been, she said she would just take me out there the next morning when she came to pick up her notebooks. Scotch-Irish settlers founded Duncan Creek Presbyterian Church in 1752 and, apparently, my ancestors were among them or arrived in the area shortly thereafter. Some of them were buried (without headstones) in the cemetery there. In addition to the church and cemetery, the families all lived in that immediate area so I was definitely interested in taking the drive.

When I got back to the hotel and started looking at Mary’s notebooks, I was glad I brought my travel scanner. I saw right away that I couldn’t “waste” time looking at what was there because I needed to copy as much of it as possible. The notebooks were full of land records for Gambles and Ewings and some of their neighbors along with Mary’s hand written notes, which included her analysis of the records. I decided to scan the documents and photograph her notes in order to have a shot at getting through everything. It only took 6 ½ hours.

When Mary arrived at my hotel the next morning, she brought copies of a couple of other things she thought I should have. One was a copy of Rev. War John Finney’s estate papers. According to Mary, Rev. War John Finney was the grandfather of my Anna Finney. She also brought a 1987 article from The South Carolina Magazine of Ancestral Research regarding a 1779 petition of the Little River Regiment in support of James Williams. Now I am not connected to James Williams (as far as I know) but Mary thought I’d be interested in the petition because it was signed by four of my ancestors!

Unfortunately, it had rained all night and was still raining the next morning when Mary came by to pick up her notebooks so we passed on the Duncan Creek trip. It’s going to take some time to sort through everything I brought back from Laurens County and to piece these families together. I can't thank Mary enough for her help which went way beyond southern hospitality. Mary said she was just glad she ran into me because she'd always thought that someday someone related to these families would come through Laurens County looking for the information she had accumulated.


16 comments:

  1. Amazing! Talk about serendipity! Now I need to find my own Mary . . .

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  2. That's just fantastic! Those records should keep you busy for a while. I wish I had a Mary ...

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  3. God Bless Mary, what an angel.

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  4. Ah, reading this makes me even prouder of one of my favorite states. Enjoy your new "goodies" (I'm having fun with the ones my cousin gave me in Orangeburg)!

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  5. There truly is such a thing as "southern hospitality! It's good to hear positive things about research trip experiences now & then!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Karen

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  6. I just love this story, gives me genie shivers! Have a grand time with the review of all this great stuff!

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  7. How amazing--talk about serendipity! Mary sounds like such a sweet soul. Have fun with all your new discoveries!

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  8. Thanks for all the comments. I guess the moral of this story is always talk to the locals you encounter on a research trip. You never know what might be waiting for you.

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  9. What a great story! I went to Newberry County (right next door to Laurens) after the conference. My first time there, but Southern Hospitality was certainly noticible. We loved talking to all of the locals. I didn't get binders of research as you did, but found many gems!

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  10. How cool!! I wish that I had some more Southern roots. :)

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  11. Hi Linda, wow, what a find! Congrats! I am curious about the James Williams you mentioned above. I had a James Williams from SC. He was a Rev. War Soldier who died at the Battle of Kings Mountain.

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  12. Ginger - Was he from the area that is now Laurens County? If so, it's probably him. I'll scan that article about Williams tomorrow and e-mail it to you so you can maybe figure it out. If it's him, then our ancestors apparently knew each other. That would be cool to know!

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  13. Hi Linda, I just looked through my notes, and yes, my James Williams was of Laurens Co., and he was an elder of the Little River Presbyterian Church you mentioned. He had two daughters, Elizabeth Tinsley and Mary Williams who are buried in the Williams Cemetery I believe at the home of James' brother, John Williams. I can't wait to see the article!

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  14. All I can say is OMG! If only we could all have angels like that waiting for us!

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  15. The rest of this story is that it turns out James Williams (the article she gave me just because my ancestors signed the petition) is one of Ginger's ancestors.

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