Finding Your Folks: Saying good-bye … but not really

Judy Fowler Kilgore's picture

It is Oct. 31, 2008, and here we are at the end of the road … the last page of the final chapter … the final "Finding Your Folks" genealogy column. I'm giving you the date because one of the biggest problems with our website when it changed back in 2005 was that there were no dates on the "blog" type stories. The old website, which can only be accessed through a special link, featured a date with each story, making it easer to reference them. However, you can estimate the dates by going back a week for each one. They were published each Friday on the Web.

There were a couple of gaps … one when I had open-heart surgery back in March of 2006. Columns didn't resume until June or July. Another gap occurred most recently when I had cancer surgery back in June of this year (2008). I skipped two weeks. If you are concerned about a date and want to use information, just drop me a note and I will look it up. I have all the old columns here on my home computer.

I want to give you that old link one last time so everyone will have access to all the columns for research purposes. The columns from January 2001 to October 2005 may be found at:

There are no spaces in that link and it's long, so be careful when you copy it.

I think doing these columns has been one of the most enjoyable things I've ever done. The people I've "met" and friends I've made are downright amazing. Although I have never met many of them in person, and probably never will, I feel they are friends for life. Discovering their families and, most of all, being able to help others, has been one of the most rewarding things I've ever experienced. In many cases, I feel as if I know your ancestors personally … some more than others.

Take, for instance, my favorite genealogy character of all time, Wilkins Stone. Wilkins first came to us as a mystery back in July of 2003, but, as others joined in the hunt, we learned most of the true facts of the case. According to the family story from Georgia descendants, Wilkins just disappeared one night and was never heard from again. But a person by that name, same age, same birthplace, turned up in Illinois in 1870 with another (much younger) wife, and again in 1880 in Arkansas. What a cad, we thought, if that was the same person.

However, more research was launched and since that time, thanks to the generosity of a descendant who sent a photo, I have literally looked Wilkins in the face. A man with a face that gentle and eyes that kind could never be a cad.

Although we could never find any divorce or separation papers for Wilkins and his first wife, we know the second young lady was Anna Christina Kempson Herndon, widow of Marshall Herndon, who Wilkins helped through the settlement of her husband's estate in Meriwether County after he died in the Civil War. What happened in this situation is their business, but I can't help but feel certain that Wilkins' reasons for leaving his wife and family in Meriwether were his own and what he felt was best for all. His first wife, Sarah, apparently had a hard time accepting the situation. Her gravestone at Bethel Baptist Church near Rocky Mount says, "Sarah, wife of Wilkins Stone." May they all rest in peace.

Another fun series was the Bethany UMC cemetery series when I finally became convinced that the Bethany Boyds were definitely connected to my own. Bethany celebrated its 150th anniversary back in 2005 and we celebrated by doing stories on just about all the families buried in its cemetery. I could not have done that one without the help of Mary Harper in Florida.

I remember when I first started the columns back in 2001 and received a letter and a phone call from Frances Hanson Arnold in Fayetteville, hoping that her Nathan Fowler was the same as mine. He wasn't but that contact started an unbelievable friendship and an affection for Frances that is so close I sometimes feel as if she's another mother.

There have been so many special people over the years. I hesitate to try and mention them all for fear of leaving someone out, but here goes my best shot.

A big thank you to … "cousin" Nell O'Shields and Jackie Lambert for their help with the Tidwells, Hayes and Herndons; Vicky Jones Chambers who is more like a sister than a new-found Fowler fourth cousin; Carla Patterson for her help with the Byrams; Valerie Freeman for her help with most of the Coweta families; Bob Johnston for his help with the Westmorelands and Moodys, among others; Ken Arnold for all his letters about the Arnolds, Bowers, Summers, Cates and other families in Coweta's White Oak area; Clarke Rodgers and Michael Bell for the Boyds, Bells, Caldwells and Herrins; Nancy Cornell, Robin Parker, Carol Hoyt and Anne Westbrook Green for their wonderfully written family stories; Lynn Cunningham and Linda Blum-Barton, Pike and Fayette County gurus, respectively, for all their help with families in those areas; my grammar school, high school, college classmate and friend of nearly 60 years, Jackie Porter, who isn't into genealogy but who reads my column faithfully every Friday; and to all those who have written, read, followed and enjoyed reading about south side families over the years, thank you for your readership.

As I said above, it's not really good-bye because I'll still be researching in the counties around Atlanta, I'll still be leaving messages on the Internet message boards and mailing lists … just not doing the columns. I hope you'll all keep in touch. I wish you all the best in finding your folks.

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