Thanksgiving is good time to pass on, and gather, family stories

  • Kenneth H. Thomas Jr.
  • For the AJC
5:16 p.m Monday, Nov. 6, 2017 Living
AJC file photos

As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s a good time to prepare to ask some family history questions and pass on some family stories.

With relatives gathering — maybe for one of the few occasions that bring together the extended family — this is a good opportunity to discuss things that are difficult to talk about via email or phone. Bring some family photographs to pass around. Bring up a story you’ve heard and see what others might add to it. It’s a good time to ask questions such as “What role did Granddad play in the war?” Also, it could be the perfect time to discuss your latest genealogy find, in moderation. Flooding families with pages of data, an idea many genealogists relish, is usually not the way to get others interested. Family stories, whether totally provable or not, are always a good way to prompt the conversation. You might also bring up DNA testing, as a new way to get folks involved. Be prepared to record the talks on your phone, tablet or some other device to transcribe later for preservation.

“Bibb County, Georgia, Superior Court Trial Records, 1822-1842” is the latest work by the prolific Michael A. Ports. If you have roots in Macon, and wondered if a relative really was a horse thief, then check here. These are the kinds of juicy court documents you wish existed for every county. Only by examining actual Superior Court cases do we get all the details. Many folks appear as jurors, others are on trial or as witnesses. While there are some murder cases, and lots of assault and battery, the best trials are those over moral issues, relationships outside of marriage, running a “lewd or disorderly house,” and such. The book is useful to genealogists, but social historians should find it good fodder for analysis of why people were taken to court in those days. The softcover book is fully indexed and available for $38.50 plus postage from the Genealogical Publishing Company of Baltimore, genealogical.com or call 800-296-6687.

The Yazoo Fraud of the 1780s has always been a controversial part of Georgia history, and many of our ancestors got tangled into it. For a fresh, scholarly look, see Brenden Kennedy’s “Not Worth a Pinch of Snuff: the 1789 Yazoo Land Sale and Sovereignty in the Old Southwest,” in the Georgia Historical Quarterly’s third issue for 2017. This fully footnoted article leads to many other sources and is well worth reading. The GHQ can be found at the Georgia Archives, other libraries and from the Georgia Historical Society in Savannah, via its website georgiahistory.com.

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