Beyond the fact that there are so many Trotter, Hampton, and Newton families, each with such huge farm households, there is also the issues of lines marrying together in multiple ways and illegitimate children taking the last names of their mother. The family of our Uncle John Newton is a fabulous example of this. And in talking with his relatives—which turned out to be on both sides of my father’s family—it really brought home how careful I had to be in my research.

What I knew going in about John W. Newton (who lived from Feb 1880 to Oct 1968) was that he had married at least twice—first to my 2nd Great Aunt Susan Trotter (in Mar 1902) and once to my Great Aunt Irene Trotter (in Jun 1939)—who I am told moved in to help with the children when his wife was ill. Census and Marriage Records actually show that Amanda Hampton was in between Susie and Aunt Irene (in Dec 1917). Also, John had at least 21 children with his three wives: 11 with Susan, 3 with Mandy, and another 7 with Aunt Irene.

Then when I went down to Bradley County, for my Great Aunt Ometha’s funeral in 1999, the family took me to Palestine A.M.E. Cemetery (which is probably 99% family) and started telling me stories as we walked through. My aunts told me about Miss Becky Newton, who never married but had at least five children connecting different lines in my family in surprising ways. For example, John W. Newton, was her son by Mose Wheeler, my Grandma Elnora’s Grandfather. So, as I walked through with Burlon Newton (Aunt Irene’s eldest son) and my Grandmother it occurred to them that they were first cousins though they didn’t seem to think of it that way at first as Grandma is also his aunt by marriage. Uncle John turned out to be my Great Uncle and 2nd Great Uncle by marriage as well as my 2nd Great Uncle through the Wheelers.

That connections forced me to rethink just how tightly woven this community was (and in many ways still is). And it took me—the product of a 2 child nuclear family not brought up in the community with my extended family—a while to get my head around all the ties this created and how it might (and come to find out does) play out in other lines. For example, the world gets a little smaller when you realize that Mandy Hampton’s mother was Jeanie Avery Hampton and her aunt was Mose Wheeler’s last wife, Josie Avery Wheeler—making him both uncle and grandfather to Mandy’s children. Or, to follow the Wheeler’s another step, one of Josie and Mose’s daughters married a Trotter cousin making their children both first and second cousins of mine (twice removed).

It can get a little dizzying if you spend too much time on it… but it’s also a fascinating puzzle.

Happy Hunting!

Jess

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