Category Archives: General

Parting Words

In retrospect, of course I believe I could have done more in this class. But I don’t see the privilege of learning about my family history as something to be rushed. It is a never-ending process (unless I choose it to end) that I can continue for the rest of my life. Knowing how much I enjoy listening and learning from my grandparents about their lives, their relatives and their values, I can’t wait to assume the role of the storyteller. This honor that we have as human beings to pass on our history, both personal and non-personal, is not to be taking lightly. I believe that we were meant to know history further back in time than our own lives or our parents lives. The role of history is to teach us how to live by retelling and explaining the lives of others before us. I want to be the storyteller of my family. I want to be the records keeper. It’s a responsibility that I’m eager to undertake.

Nuances and tidbits

This weekend I’ve been copying down manuscripts, finding graves, and adding a bunch of new relatives. It really is amazing how much research you can conduct with the most basic of information. Of course there have been many stumbling blocks. As I stated before, on my mother’s side, my 5th and 4th great grandfathers were both named Hiram McDevitt, but I hadn’t yet realized that they both married women named Elizabeth. One was named Elizabeth Gosnell, the other named Elizabeth Stewart. Elizabeth Gosnell’s mother was also named Elizabeth, and married into the Gosnell family. Simple problems really, usually nothing that a few more hours of research won’t solve.

I’ve also come across some interesting names in my ancestry. More recently, one of my 3rd great grandmothers was named Amarada Chandley, I still know very little about her, other than that Chandley (her maiden name) is derived from the old French word “Chandler” meaning candle-maker and Amarada is most-likely derived from the French word “amor” meaning love. In the distant past, one of my ancestors that traces my line back to Hugh Capet, the first King of the Franks, was a woman named Honor Clayton, from Chinchester in Sussex, England. I consider names like that (or Prudence, another of my ancestors) as very distinctive and noteworthy, and I think it’s a shame that most parents don’t consider names like that for their children; instilling (or at least teaching) them the importance of family values.

Native | Issue No. 7 | January

The brothers bourbon…

“Prohibition forced Charles Nelson to shut down one of the nation’s largest whiskey distilleries in 1909. Now, his great-great-great grandsons are on a mission to bring it back to life.”
Read the full artcile in Native | Issue No. 7 | January.

Charlie and Andy Nelson turned their family history search into a successful career, and they will be sharing their story with our class on Wednesday, Febrary 23.  Charlie and Andy are also my fourth cousins – recent “finds” in my search along my Nelson line.

You can read about their business and their journey:

Words from Rob Glander

Treat every assignment as a chance to shine.

Make every task a work of art.

– Rob Glander, CEO of GWC Warranty Corp.

Mr. Glander provided numerous words of wisdom to the students at the Sophomore Experience this weekend.  I found these two phrases especially meaningful.

Lucile Mendenhall

Hester Nettles Mendenhall and her daughter Lucile

Hester Elizabeth “Hettie” Nettles was my great-great grandmother.  She was married to James Kirk Mendenhall.  James was the pastor of many churches, including the First Baptist Church in Columbia, South Carolina, from 1873-1874.  James had attended Brown and Princeton Theological Seminary with James Petigru Boyce, founder of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  They named one of their sons Boyce Rutledge Mendenhall.

Their daughter, Lucile Adele Mendenhall Lawton, was my great-grandmother.  When she married my great-grandfather, Herbert Lee Lawton, she passed the name Boyce down to her son, Boyce Mendenhall Lawton, Sr. (my grandfather).  That name made its way down to me, Boyce Mendenhall Lawton, III.

Project introduction

This project will focus on personal investigations of family histories. Students will construct detailed histories of their families using interviews, online resources, and archival documents such as census records, draft registration cards, birth and death records, city directories, newspaper articles, letters, diaries, tax records, and cemetery listings to better understand who their family members were and how they led their lives.

This search for relatives will be aided by the use of autosomal DNA testing which will provide each student with an ethnic profile, maternal haplogroup, and paternal haplogroup (only available to students with Y-chromosomes). These results will be shared across thousands of other users to search for relatives. Each student will gain a “beginner’s understanding” of genetics.

Students will compare their families to others in the country through readings on the history of the American family.

The course will focus on personal investigation, but the results will be shared with the group through daily discussions and online journal entries.

Students who enroll in the course must agree to provide a saliva sample for the genetic test. Students must also be open to the “unknowns” that arise when investigating family backgrounds.

Even if you don’t know anything about your family history, if you are worried that you can’t find anything out before the Civil War because your ancestors were enslaved, if your family lives far away from Spartanburg, or if you are adopted (like my sisters) and don’t know even know what family history “means for you” in a class dealing with genetics… you are welcome in this interim project.