Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Eleys and Genealogical Research: Sharing Family Information

The Eleys and Genealogical Research:  Sharing Information
Written by Esther Eley Jones

     Mother do you know anything about your family? That was a question that I asked Mother back in the 1970s trying to pick her brain to get information about her and her Coon family. That was the extent of my knowledge of how to interview someone to gather family information. Luckily, Mother gave her and Daddy’s birth dates, places of birth, their parents’ name and names of her siblings to me and I wrote the information on a piece of loose leaf paper. That was all the information I gathered in that interview from Mother.  I had stored the piece of paper that I had written the information on in a binder and forgot about it.  Several years later while cleaning out the attic, I found that piece of paper.

That piece of paper would later be valuable in researching the family. Ruby the oldest of the siblings knew more about our family than the other children. Seems she and a cousin had done genealogical research on our families. In 2001 when I began my quest to learn about “family” my sister, Ruby, gave me names of grandparents, where they were from originally, Granny Eley was Alice Lee from Alabama, and her parents were William and Emma.   As you know, that was not much information to go on to start a journey into family history research, but it was better than not having any information at all. The information from Ruby and Mother was enough information to start on the journey of genealogical research. 
     As I started my journey of genealogical research I read how to books on genealogy, and surfed the web to gather information on how to research my family lines.  There were family trees on Ancestry with names familiar to the ones I was researching. Therefore, I used the information that I found on Ancestry as a guide in my research. I took those names, researched them using documents that I found such as census records, land records, cemetery records, family stories, and probate records. I verified the information that was found in family trees to make sure that I was researching my correct Lee, Ramsey, Coon, Edwards, Meadows, Oliver, and White family lines. Then I decided it was time to visit the last of the Eley siblings, Aunt Gladys. With no experience how to interview an elderly family member, I planned a trip to visit Aunt Gladys.
Taken Dec 1970 - Left to right Buddy, Aunt Gladys, Daddy
Buddy is Vernon Roy Eley, Gladys Inez Eley, Esters Eley

    Then,  I made the trip to visit the last of the Eley siblings Gladys to see if she could give me information on the Eley family.  It was a very disappointing visit with this aunt. I quizzed her about the Eley family and she did not know anything. She did know that Granddaddy Jack always dressed up with a large hat. She also remembered visiting a brother of Jack Eley who lived in Rayville. She could not remember his name, but he lived in Rayville. She told me, “Back when I was growing up, kids were to be seen and not heard. Parents did not talk about things. And you did not ask questions.” Well, needless to say she did not give me any genealogical information that would help me in my research of family. However, years later I found out the reason for her sealed lips.

     By the way, the “brother” this aunt was talking about was actually Granddaddy Jack Eley’s uncle, Robert Lawrence. He was the youngest of the Robert Lawrence Eley I, children. Jack Eley’s father Joe had petitioned the court for guardianship of his siblings after the death of his father in 1862. Robert Lawrence I, was killed at the Battle of Corinth and Martha Horn Eley had died after the birth of her last child about 1860.

     Two years later I made another visit to Gladys' to find out if maybe her memory had been jogged about the Eley family and there was information she would like to share. I took her a printout of the genealogy report from my Family Tree Maker file when I visited her the first time. Well, she didn't know anything and stuck by her story of families didn't talk and children were to be seen and not heard. So I thanked her for allowing me to visit her and wished her well. She died the next year with all the family secrets going with her. However, in researching and using DNA test results I now understand why her lips were sealed and she wasn't sharing information.  You can read the story on this blog. 

     I have done this project alone since my sister Ruby passed away in 2006. She would be so happy to know that I have continued the quest and have made so much progress researching these family lines.  I have two living sisters and a brother, and they listen with interest as I share my latest find with them or how I use DNA test results to find and verify cousin matches. They share a tidbit of information along the journey. So, the journey continues!

     Genealogy research is not a hobby that can be done in isolation and be fruitful. Be willing to share surnames you are researching and information with other family historians and possibly, you will make contact with others who have a common interest.

     Remember that family secrets can be revealed and it is a good idea to share them as you know them, and keep in mind that every family has them. These stories are a part of our family.  By sharing them you will save your loved one countless hours of researching that may be spent on other family lines. 

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