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Search continues for family history

Posted on October 16, 2016 at 8:46 pm

By Chasity Blair

Where do I come from? Where did my family members come from?

The answer: Scottish, English, Indian and Irish, according to my mom. Unfortunately, there are no records that prove this to be true.

These vague unproven answers fuel more questions. I don’t know the names of my family members who immigrated or why they traveled to the United States. What is clear, however, is my determination to find the answers despite the challenge of a lack of recorded history.

 / Photo by Rachel Hobbs

Chasity Blair is a senior journalism student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. / Photo by Rachel Hobbs

Armed with websites like ancestry.com, that are useful in finding bits and pieces of possible genealogical lineage, I started the search for my family history.

With help from my maternal great uncle, Dewayne Hopson, I found that my great great grandparents were John Rollis McKenzie and Georgia Lee Cluck of Dodd City, Texas.

Tracing the Clucks history through ancestry.com, I found my third great grandfather, William Pryor Cluck. That discovery led me to Sarah Sally Mount Pollard, who could be my fourth great grandmother.

Pollard was born about 1806 in Sevier, Tennessee, and died in 1880 in Clitheroe, England.

Could this be the English heritage that my mom refers to? Maybe, but there is no birth certificate that linked Sarah Pollard to my third great grandmother Susanna Ann Pollard. Also, Sarah’s death and burial in England only suggests that she had ties to the country. It isn’t clear if she was an immigrant or a child of immigrants.

Here was a stalemate. I gave up on the Cluck line and decided to see what I could find on the McKenzie side.

My third great grandfather, William Pryor Cluck.

My third great grandfather, William Pryor Cluck. / Courtesy photo from Ancestry.com

Using public member trees on the website, I located an Alexander McKenzie born in Scotland in 1740 who later married Sarah Dalton from Virginia. If this was my seventh generation great grandfather, why did he immigrate to the U.S.?

According to a public tree on ancestry.com, farming might have been the reason.

During the 1700s, there were droughts that caused famine within England, Scotland and Ireland. The famines caused mass migration to southern states in the U.S. for farming. In 1763, McKenzie purchased 150 acres of land that was later sold in 1764, according to the ancestry.com records. Records also indicate that there was an Alexander McKenzie that fought in the American Revolution.

It would be interesting to know if he was my relative, but the public trees on the website don’t require documentation that verifies date of birth, name or other facts in order to add a person to the tree. This means that the information could be inaccurate. Without documentation, it would be difficult to prove that he is my seventh generation great grandfather.

Again, another brick wall.

I could’ve tried tracing my paternal ancestry, but that too is a lost cause. I have heard stories about my paternal great grandmother, Mabel Louise Henry, from my dad, Shaun Henry.

Great grandmother Mabel Louise and grandpa Edward in Amarillo, Texas.

Great grandmother Mabel Louise and Grandpa Edward in Amarillo, Texas.

“She was such a beautiful Indian woman,” he said.  “That is where you get your curly hair and olive skin from.”

According to my father, she was a Cherokee from Amarillo, Texas, and my paternal great grandfather, was a Creole from Louisiana.

The first time I saw pictures of the two of them was in March after finding a phone number for a distant relative on Facebook.

Sadly, the names of their parents are unknown, which leaves a big hole in that genealogical line.

But I was thrilled to finally have some knowledge of my dad’s side of the family’s history. I was also disappointed. The frustration of dead end after dead end overwhelmed me. Continuing the search felt like a waste of time, but I had to keep going for my two children. One day they will need answers to the same questions that I asked my parents.

Fortunately, the sliver of information that I do have of recent generations could curb further questions.

Almost all of my ancestors lived in the South. From Virginia, Tennessee and Arkansas to Texas. Some of the Census records show farming as the occupation of my relatives except for John Rollis McKenzie. He worked for a railroad during the Great Depression.

Many of the men served in the military: John Rollis McKenzie served in WWI; my maternal great great uncle, Burl McKenzie, served over 20 years in the military including WWII and Vietnam; Edward Henry, my paternal grandfather joined the military and was stationed in Germany during the 60s; and Hopson served in the Marines. Most of the women were likely housewives.

Will that be enough history to ward off further questions from my children? If not, at least my husband’s history is documented back to 1825 when his first relative emigrated from Ireland.

Even if it is enough historical information for my kids, I won’t stop searching for the history of my ancestors. That void needs to be filled. So, I’ll continue trudging along in the hopes that one day, I will stumble across a family artifact or reach a distant relative that knows where the family history is hiding.

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