In the footsteps of my husband’s ancestors

In the footsteps of my husband’s ancestors

In the footsteps of my husband’s ancestors

Linda Helliesen-Gray
Published: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 at 04:06 PM.


We had always heard about my husband’s family history, family stories, where his parents were from, what his parents’ parents and their ancestors did for a living… but the reality has been an exciting “adventure into ancestor land.” We walked in their footsteps, looked at their homes, went into the church where they worshiped, probably ate where they dined, and touched their graves.

On a recent trip to Apalachicola, armed with some information gleaned from family stories, history and the internet, we traced the footsteps of his great-grandfather, George Henry Whiteside and his brothers. His mother’s parents, William Peter Brunson and Mattie Kilby (Whiteside) Brunson passed away when Cordelia Noelle Brunson (Gray), “Mom” was rather young. After her parents passed, “Mom” was sent to Atlanta to live with her Aunt Ann a Wallace (Whiteside) Nichols. Mom later attended a teacher’s college in Athens , Ga. , married Frank H. Gray and had six children and traveled as a Army wife. She told stories of her younger years as a girl growing up in Apalachicola, her loving family, her innocence and privilege.

Our first stop was the municipal library where we found a wealth of information and photos. For the first time we saw a photo of my husband’s grandmother, Mattie Kilby Whiteside Brunson and Mrs. W. H. Whiteside, who were members of the Philaco Woman’s Club.

Looking into the eyes of his ancestor grandmother, tears welled in my husband’s eyes. No, we had never met her and don’t even know what she was like… but she contributed to his gene pool and later, to our son’s gene pool. We were extremely fortunate to speak with the knowledgeable librarian who said the historical librarian would be there the next day. We left our telephone number and the place where we would be staying. We drove by the ancestral home to see what it looked like. We then headed for the cemetery to see if we could find the final resting places.

The Chestnut Cemetery for some reason didn’t fit; it did not feel right. The ages of the stones appeared correct, but we just didn’t think we were in the right area. We then went to the Magnolia Cemetery. We were told by the librarian that the Magnolia Cemetery had been relocated after the original resting site was flooded. We spent hours looking for a gravesite, which we knew was somewhere because we had a “web” picture of it. Where could we find the grave markers and other information?

 We went to lunch, probably drove the same area where our ancestors walked, sat and ate. We enjoyed the abundance of oysters and shrimp, something else his ancestors would have eaten. As we talked, we devised a research plan; we needed a telephone book to locate additional information. We needed to locate the courthouse, hopefully to obtain more information. So, we returned to the hotel where I would make some calls.

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