Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Conversations: Gloria Duncan on Using Bibles for Genealogical Research

I met Gloria Duncan about a month ago when she came to church one Sunday while visiting her daughter Andrea Matthews (the subject of a BC post on February 21—Andrea is a pediatric pharmacist) and her son Cameron. Andrea of course knew about my interest in writing and mentioned that her mom was a writer, and that she had produced a genealogical study of their family. 

When I talked to Mrs. Duncan, her enthusiasm for her writing and for research into her ancestors was evident. She spoke of using Bibles to find information about forbears, which had never occurred to me but made perfect sense. 

I have done a little with genealogical research, which means I sat down with one day and in an hour found out that a line of descent on my mother’s side went back to an indentured servant who came to the Jamestown area in 1640. His grandson was a captain in the Virginia militia during the Revolution.

Mrs. Duncan by way of contrast had invested countless hours, traveled thousands of miles and met dozens of people doing her research, resulting in a beautiful book that was truly a labor of love. I have cut in some image of several representative pages of the book at the end of this post. I hope you enjoy reading them.

Mrs. Duncan wrote me in more detail about her use of Bibles for research.

Since you are interested in my reliance on Bible records I thought I would tell you about what resulted from some Bible pages.

My husband’s sister, Joyce, had done some family genealogy work in the 1970’s.  During that time she had copied some Bible pages that their uncle had copied from a Bible that was in the family.  She didn’t remember who had the Bible at the time and the uncle has died, so I had no idea where the pages had come from.  One page of notes Joyce had from her uncle mentioned that “Sammy says this is all of the Bible pages.”  I tried and tried to find out who Sammy was…there were several Samuels in the family…but could not locate who would have had the Bible.

In collaborating with another researcher of the family in Texas, I mentioned I had some pages that had come from a Duncan Bible.  She had been researching about eighteen years and had not heard of the Bible.  As it turned out, she had been looking all those years for when my husband  Joel’s great-great grandfather, Browning Duncan, died.  The Bible page had his death date.  I also had the birth and death of a child whose lone tombstone was in Tennessee that we were then able to identify.  The children of his great grandfather were also unknown until we looked at the Bible pages.  About four of the five girls had died before adulthood and were unknown to the present families.  So the Bible pages turned out to be the ONLY source for this data.  The other researcher found out that the only thing any of her contacts knew about the Bible was that supposedly it had survived a tornado in Oklahoma.

Just this February when Joel and I were in California, I went through all the old notes of his sister’s again and found a manila envelope from the same uncle who had copied the Bible pages and just written on the envelope, but not as an address, was the name Sammy Duncan, Mulhall, Oklahoma.  I felt sure that I had discovered the Sammy who had had the Bible. 
The white pages on the Internet confirmed the existence of a Sammy Duncan in that town and gave a phone number for him.  When we contacted him it was indeed the Duncan in possession of the old Bible and it had survived a tornado and was in very fragile condition.  I actually had copies already of all the pertinent pages for genealogy, but it was so gratifying to know where it was and who had it.  It also opened up another branch of the family and Joel discovered more second cousins he knew nothing about.  One is the State Music Director for Georgia Baptists, Jon Duncan.

What an incredible story! Thanks to Gloria Duncan for sharing with us. 

The title page of Gloria's book

First page

Family page

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