Tammy at Anderson Cemetery, Subligna, Chattooga County, Georgia, May 2012.

I love studying genealogy–and not just the genealogy of my direct ancestors. I love looking at all the different branches of my tree and discovering unique and interesting connections all over the place. Sometimes, you can map out distant relationships to famous individuals, and other times you discover you’re kin to people you’ve known for years… but never knew you were related. Either way, unexpected connections are always a lot of fun.

I made one of those unexpected connections recently. I found a relationship between my family and the family of my best friend, Tammy. A fellow writer and artist, Tammy and I have always shared an intense creative spark. We love to work on creative ideas together, and I’ve photographed her a number of times over the years. Above is the most recent of those portraits (taken in Anderson Cemetery in Subligna).

The connection to Tammy comes through my great aunt, Battie Lee Smith Pope. A descendant of the Brock/Kinsey families of the Armuchee Valley, Battie lived only two doors down from me when I was growing up. I stayed with her occasionally when I was a little boy. Her mother was Margie Smith. I remember Margie well from East Armuchee Baptist Church when I was growing up. I even remember a community dinner at Margie’s home one summer. We all gathered on the grounds–her house stood on top of a hill not too far south of the church–and had a good old-fashioned Southern potluck picnic. I remember playing hide and seek inside the house. The place seemed ancient and mysterious. Indeed, it was an old house and so far gone that it was torn down after she died. But in my mind, it was a grand house, glorious and dignified. It is one of many very old Armuchee Valley homes that has faded into the past over the years. I wish I had a photo of it. I’m sure that house has a story to tell if only I could uncover it.

The important detail here, though, is that Margie Smith’s maiden name was Pettyjohn. So, too, is the maiden name of Tammy’s mother. I certainly couldn’t accept it as a blind coincidence and eventually traced the lines. Both are descendants of John Perry Pettyjohn (1847-1927). Amazing!

It’s not a blood connection, as my great aunt Battie is my aunt by marriage. So I can’t call Tammy “cousin.” But that’s probably for the best anyway… Tammy’s much closer than that. We’ve always had a soul connection, the kind of bond that goes beyond strands of shared DNA. Nonetheless, discovering a new way in which we are bound together was thrilling and is furthermore evidence that, yes, we are all connected. We are one.

And one is all we are.

Coming up next week, watch out for the first of a new series of blog posts about a significant Armuchee Valley woman.

Take a trip into the past

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