A PARTIAL FAMILY HISTORY

I have two older sisters and a nephew who spent years compiling a history of my fraternal relatives, the Bells, and my maternal relatives, the Rankins. I was only mildly interested and would spend a small amount of time reading the genealogical record they produced. Over the past five years since I have had time to do some research of my own I have become very interested because as you read about the ancestors, you begin to understand that human history repeats in the form of triumphs, tragedies, successes and failures. We not only share genetic material but psychic tendencies as well. For example, my fraternal family came from Northern Ireland to Virginia, and began to expand south as well as west. Some were killed by the British and some by Indians. We always thought we were of Irish descent, but because of the trouble between Cromwell and James I, much of Northern Ireland was depopulated. As a result, Northern Ireland was open to settlement from Scotland. The Scots were primarily Protestant while the Irish were Catholic which later led to the killing on both sides by the Protestant and Catholic factions of Northern Ireland. When the Scots were defeated by Cromwell’s Army at the Battle of Dunbar, many of the leaders were started on a forced march to the South of England, and like the Cherokee Indians, in the forced march known as the Trail of Tears, many died during the march and during captivity. My wife’s ancestor, Ninian Beall, was one of the captured leaders of the Scots. He was sent to Barbados and served four years in prison before coming to the area now known as Washington. DC. He served five more years as an indentured servant and was given fifty acres of land at the end of his servitude. By the end of his life, he owned seven square miles of land in what is now known as Washington D.C., served as a Col in the Militia. Either he or one of his sons built the mansion that Jacquelin Kennedy lived in for a year after President John Kennedy was assassinated.

The Scots were scattered worldwide many going to Australia and the Americas. The ones staying in Great Britain, became leaders in medicine, teaching, finance and many other professions requiring advanced education. During the Cromwell era, the Royalists were scattered as well with many of them coming to Maryland and Virginia for their own safety. My first known relative, a John Bell came as a stowaway on a ship, probably to escape from Cromwell’s tyranny. He married Ann Bennett, member of a prominent Virginia family. There are two distinguishing characteristics of the early families to their new homeland, one they acquired vast tracks of land and two they had large families. My ancestor and his new wife were given a large track of land by the Bennett family. This trend continued as the families moved westward on both sides of my family and my wife’s family. Another interesting pattern was the marriage of first cousins and the marriage of two or more brothers marrying sisters in a neighboring family. My wife’s mother and two of her sisters, of the Goss family, married three brothers of the McGehee family. These same patterns happened in my family as well. Cousins born into these families are referred to as double cousins. They often have similar medical problems and other similar traits because they share more genetic material than normal cousins. I do not know if any double first cousins intermarried, but I would certainly hope not.

GENEALOGICAL RESEARCH
When my nephew, retired from teaching, he started his own genealogical business. He had much experience and was able to gather information on my wife’s family and found that our ancestors had intermarried. A McGehee married a Borum on my side of the family. I grew up in Oregon, and my wife, Doris McGehee Bell grew up in Mississippi. but we met in Oregon. My Mother grew up in Jonesboro, Arkansas and my wife’s Mother in Greenwood, Mississippi. These two communities are only 150 miles apart and both in what is known as the Mississippi Delta. However travel was limited for most families, so communications were also limited. Another limiting factor is researching ancestry are the changes in spelling. Bell and McGehee have many variations so that from one generation to another the spellings may change from Bell to Beall to Beal, etc.

Many emigrants to this country were at the mercy of the census taker whose spelling was poor or who could not understand either the dialect or the language spoken by the immigrant. If one looks at writings in early American , the spelling was not standardized.

The practice of having large families was necessary in order to manage the large tracks of land and also because so many children did not survive to adulthood. My paternal grandfather had eleven or twelve children, but only three survived. His first wife died after having nine children with one daughter surviving and one who was born blind and raised by another member of the family. He then married a second time to a young woman who was a friend of his eldest daughter and also the same age. His second wife was supposedly part Cherokee, but this is primarily oral tradition. She had two children and two miscarriages and died in her twenties. It was not uncommon for the men to have two, three or four wives by the time they died. One of the common ancestors of my wife and I have had twelve children by her mid-thirties and died. Her husband married again and had more children.

Like many families who had ancestors living in both the North and South, we very likely had family members fighting against each other. The conflict we have been having this past six years is only a continuing saga in human history. Finally, the Scots have continued the tradition of scholarly achievement in the United States and have held public offices in all branches of government and in the professions. My family has a long tradition in teaching as well as military service. If I remember this fact correctly, about two thirds of the leaders in this nation are descendants of Scots, so Cromwell may have done a great service in sending them on their way from England. I have a book of note: Sir Robert Bell and His Early Virginia Colony Descendants, by James Elton Bell and Frances Jean Bell(2007).
Kentucky Ancestry: A Guide to Genealogical and Historical Researchby: Roseann Reinemuth Hogan
Scottish Ancestry: Research Methods for Family Historians Revised 2nd Edition
Tracing your Scottish Ancestry Third Editionby: Kathleen B. Cory, Leslie Hodgson
Plantagenet Ancestry: A Study In Colonial And Medieval Families (Royal Ancestry) by: Douglas Richardson; Kimball G. Everingham
Google Blog Search
I have my own blog, actually two blogs. I might very well consider dedicating one of those blogs to book reviews and another to genealogical research. Of course I would like to monetize them to support my hobby. I could easily start with my own library and expand from there. I have many topics in mind including reincarnation, utopian novels, zen philosophies, several books such as writings by Kahlil Gibran which are out of print but not out of mind,
I lean to reincarnation, because it is the most logical. It is not a continuation of life from one point, i.e., birth , but a continuation of past, present, and future. I would hate to think as some scientists claim that we are nothing but a combination of atoms and that thought is merely a chemical process. If you consider scientific thought and look at persons such as Einstein, or children born with information that they could not have acquired in such a short span of time, it creates doubt that we live only one life. In fact thought may be the ultimate reality.

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106 Replies to “A PARTIAL FAMILY HISTORY”

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