Earlier this year, you might have seen one of several articles on the Jordan’s Journey book that appeared in northwest Georgia newspapers. If you haven’t read them, be sure to check out the press section of this site, which will link you to each of them. It was hard work talking to the press! It’s an experience that is difficult to prepare for, and even having experienced it on a small, local scale, I have a whole new appreciation for what it’s like to be a high-profile celebrity who constantly deals with the press. It’s not that the reporters twist your words or ask trick questions or anything quite so nefarious, it’s just difficult to put your words together clearly and elegantly when you’re on the spot–especially when you’re dealing with a subject as convoluted as genelaogy can be!
One of the things I mentioned in the interview for the Dalton Daily Citizen article was that brothers and sisters often married each other. Uh, what?! Yes, that was my reaction when I saw it printed on the page. I realized immediately that what I said sounded very… wrong. What I meant to convey was that siblings from one set of parents often would marry siblings from another. That’s a very different thing than brothers marrying sisters. You can see how my words were not formed as accurately as they should have been. And I fret to think that genealogical researchers years from now may stumble across that article and think, “Wow, that guy who wrote Jordan’s Journey made some crazy claims!”
So here I am to set the record straight: it was not common for a brother to marry his sister. Yet, brothers from one family often married sisters from another family (or cousins from another family). Let me give you an example.
In my family tree, three Scoggins men (cousins of mine) married three women from the Bagwell family. The closest of these connections is through my great grand uncle William Fred Scoggins (1884-1968). Fred married Corinthia Addeline “Addie” Bagwell (1890-1980). In the photo above, left to right, are Addie, Fred, and their daughter Annie, taken in 1958.
There are other Scoggins/Bagwell connections, too. Fred Scoggins had two Scoggins cousins that married Bagwell women:
William Wiley Scoggins is Fred’s first cousin once removed. Wiley married Susan Parasade Bagwell. The second connection is a slightly closer relationship. John Lindsey Anderson Scoggins is Fred’s first cousin. John married Mary “Mollie” Frances Bagwell. Mollie and Susan are sisters and daughters of Berry Bagwell and Elmina Ware. These two Bagwell sisters are first cousins once removed to Addie Bagwell above.
The chart above (click to view in full) illustrates these connections. I think it’s pretty fascinating. But the most interesting thing is that these sorts of multiple connections between families were not unusual. It happened all the time. There are numerous examples throughout my tree. When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. It’s what I was trying to get at in that Dalton Daily Citizen interview: before we traveled all over the place and met people from all walks of life, your social circle was pretty small. The newspapers were the hub of your social media and covered primarily your local area–not the entire world like with Facebook and Twitter today. So, if your brother was keen on the neighbor girl, and that neighbor girl happened to have a sister that caught your eye, it would not have been unusual. I think these types of multiple connections between families are partly responsible for the stereotype of Southerners being a bunch of inbred hillbillies. It’s not inbreeding in the least–it’s just confusing enough to look that way!
As an aside, it’s worth noting that Larkin Bagwell, shown in the chart, had a brother named William Henry Bagwell. William Henry married Margaret Zilley Lawrence, daughter of Thomas Anderson Lawrence and Sinia Ann Scoggins. Since I descend from the Lawrence and Scoggins families, I am related to this branch in multiple ways. What a confusing web! This branch of the Lawrence/Bagwell families embraced the Mormon faith and migrated to Colorado. I’ll try to explore that story here in a future post.
When I think about these sorts of patterns that make me related to people in more than one way, I can’t help but wonder how things will look to researchers 100 years from now. It would be almost unheard of for families to interconnect in this way in today’s world. My family is almost wholly rooted in northwest Georgia–you have to go back pretty far to trace them elsewhere in the state and even further to get outside of Georgia. Ancestors on my father’s side lived near ancestors on my mother’s side. My pedigree is incredibly homogeneous. I think that most people growing up today will have very different pedigrees, and this will influence the way future genealogists look at their research. How we meet people in the 21st century has introduced a lot more diversity into our lives and our genealogy. Diversity is a good thing. Diversity makes us stronger. It’s exciting to think about the new era that is emerging.
As for the Bagwell family, they don’t only connect to my Scoggins cousins. You should know by now that it’s never that simple around here! Stay tuned for another post about the Bagwells in the next week or two. In the meantime, what kind of exciting connections have you discovered in your family tree?