Anyone who has done any digging into their family tree knows that you actually become attached to some ancestors long dead and forgotten. Over the years I've amassed piles of papers, long list of names and lineages going back a dozen generations. It's all interesting but there are three men, three of my grandpas that I feel as strongly attached to as to a living relative. They are my great great grandfathers Gilbert Creech and Erasmus Bedwell and my great great great great grandpa John Fields. If I could talk to one long dead ancestor I would not know how to choose between Gib, Rass and John.
I became interested in genealogy in part by talking with my sister and remembering stories we grew up on, told by our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and neighbors. A few really stuck with me. One my Dad and Uncle Oscar often told was about an ancestor (I never really understood how he was related to me) who, during the Civil War was caught by Yankees and tried as a traitor. He was sentenced to death by firing squad. They sent for his wife and kids who were allowed a last visit and left to go home. Among the children was a girl who was my Dad's Granny. (As a kid, it was hard for me to understand how my Dad could have a Granny). The story always ended with “And that girl heard the shots that killed her Daddy”.
I found several accounts of the story but finally through a connection with the Kentucky State Archives located among the papers of Governor Thomas Bramlette real documentation in the form of indictments against the men on the firing squads and request for clemency for them. In the process of all this I became really attached to my Great Great Grandpa Gib. He was really the one that pushed me to find out who I came from. The documents from the Bramlette Papers is here:
When you start doing genealogy the “experts” tell you to start with yourself and work back. I have since wondered about how smart the experts are as some of my best stuff has come from working sideways and a little to the left hand corner but still at the start I did as instructed and went from me to my Mom, Grace Adams to my her father, my poppy, Marion Adams. To his father John Wiley Adams. This took about a second because I grew up knowing all that. Next step was to look for John Wiley's father who, logic says must have been somebody Adams.
Logic is not always right. Logic never met Eramus Bedwell and Letty Adams who got married, had kids split up and suddenly all the Bedwell kids became Adams kids. Then Rass married someone else and had a bunch of Bedwell kids. And Letty went off and did or did not actually marry somebody else but in any case had more kids. Who were called Adams. But then the census taker came and they were all Bedwells, even the ones born after Rass was married to someone else living in the next county. All I knew was that my Adams family were really Bedwells. So I set off chasing Erasmus Bedwell all over Southwestern Virginia and Southeastern Kentucky. I finally figured out that he was the eldest son of John Bedwell of Grayson Co Virginia, that he came to Kentucky and seemed to have dropped out of sight in the Bedwell research. In the process of searching I became fascinated with Rass, why he came to Kentucky, why his children dropped his name (but knew what they were doing. They were Adams' in daily life, Bedwells on any deeds or marriage licenses or other “legal' things) ---just who was this guy and how much of him is me?
The fact is that Rass became so alive to me that when I finally found a reference to his death, I was shocked and my first thought was “Oh God no, Rass is dead!” happily for me, my next though was “He always has been you idiot!”
Probably the coolest thing is the 1880 Perry County Kentucky census. On it you find two households side by side, Gilbert Creech and Erasmus Bedwell. Rass and Letty have a two year old son, John Wiley. Gib and Becky have a four year old daughter Chloe. They went their ways soon after but John became my maternal great grandfather and Chloe my paternal great grandma.
I wanted to gather Rass' family back together for him so I did a web page focused on his descendants. You can find it here:
As I understand the DNA marker stuff, if all my grandmothers were true to their vows then I carry John Fields' Y chromosome. Of coursed it came to me via my Dad who got it from my Grandpa Neil who got it from his father Anderson who had it passed to him by his father Mahlon who got it from his father Stephen who got it from John. And someone gave it to John and back and back.
But for me, John is the one I think of as having given me my Y. When I started looking I was told over and over that some man named Hiram Fields had given the Y to John and six other sons. I just accepted that. Then I started looking for something to document that fact and discovered not only that there was no evidence of Hiram but that a lot of other “facts” about John were wrong. John applied for a pension for his revolutionary War service. He never got it but in the process to trying to prove he served a huge number of documents was left. Among them is proof that John's wife was Polly, not Elizabeth, that he not Stephen was the original Fields to come to Kentucky, that he grew up on the Holstin River in what is now upper East Tennessee and that he had a brother Stephen but no mention of Hiram Fields his wife Fanny and his “seven sons”.
Those records made John real to me, a man who was wild in his youth, haunted in his old age and who personified the Over Mountain Men who roamed the edges of the frontier. I spend a lot of my Fields genealogy time trying to undo decades of confused information about John. I like him a lot and it's important to me that people understand who he really was. John led a astounding life that should not be lost. And he had a great Y chromosome!
This link will take you to extracts from John's pension application. He tells a great story.