Earlier this year, we were contacted through Ancestry.com by a representative from the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Athens, Texas about their plans to re-dedicate the gravesite of my husband’s ancestor, William T. McLane. They had been searching for his direct descendants for some time without any luck, when my own entries into the family tree popped up. This initial email set off a flurry of phone calls to relatives throughout Texas as well as some intensely focused research into the McLane story.
The re-dedication was on 3 November; we used our time there to do additional research into the line, reunited with distant relatives, and met our local McLane kin for the first time.
I’ll write a post later (with pictures!) about the re-dedication ceremony itself, which turned out to be a more emotionally moving event than we anticipated.
- I had just 8 hours — Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, to get any local research done on area relatives. Most of that was spent inside the Henderson County Historical Commission in Athens, where I received the undivided attention of Phyllis Vermillion as I pored through folders, books, and maps. It was she who suggested I look through their list of “orphan” marriage licenses and as a result I was able to retrieve the original documents for three relatives. I discovered new details about the life and military service of William McLane, and I believe that I have also located the land he and his family farmed. I also obtained leads on the elusive Nettles family, including the fact that a supposed “he” was really a “she.” If you’re researching family in the area, I highly recommend you let her know in advance that you’re coming and be prepared to devote at least a half day to the task.
- Back issues of the Athens Review are located in the Trinity Valley Community College library in Athens. They are book-bound lithograph copies, which makes retrieval a lot faster. I had a list of items I had located in the index kept at the Historical Commission (the library obviously has one as well) and was able to retrieve and photograph them all in about 30 minutes. The library also has copies of local histories; if you want to just sit down and thumb through them its probably a better place to do so than at the Historical Commission.
- County map: get one (or find a source for one) before you visit. I had to ask at several different places and finally located a single file copy at the library. Plat books are available at the Appraiser’s Office.
- Internet access: Recommended: Coffee Love — located across from the college and Athens Fire Department – has free wifi and a great cafe menu. Comfortable seating, great atmosphere, and the owner doesn’t care how long you sit there sipping on a tea. There is no public internet access at the Historical Commission (and no place for members of the public to just plunk themselves down, anyway). The public library also has wifi, but it was down the day I visited.
Primary Surnames: McLane, Dansby, Nettles