a tree-rific journey into family history

Archive for the category “Family Tree Field Trips and Genealogy Journeys”

Fifty Cents and some Animal Skins: a look at the land of Landess

John Henry Landess, my great-great-great-great grandfather, was born of Dutch extraction on November 18, 1799 in Kentucky. He was one of eight children born to the union of Henry and Gracie Landess. In the 1820s, John Henry Landess bought an acre of land near Bellville, Tennessee for 50 cents and opened a tannery business. He also started the first cemetery in the area.  Apparently he knew his animal hides well because by 1850, his property was valued at $28,000. By his death on September 11, 1876, his land totaled more than 600 acres. Some combination of hard work and good circumstance led to this vast expansion and success. His accumulation of land is significant for someone who started with only one acre and whose surname is just one letter away from Landless.

John Henry Landess married Mary Hurst Stone (1815-1891) on April 5, 1831 in Lincoln County, Tennessee. A native of Virginia, Mary Landess bore 11 children: Earline Bobo, Sarah Landess, Sallie L. Landess, Martha A. Terry, Fannie Elizabeth Holman, Mary Goodrich, John Henry Landess, Susan K. Landess, William James Landess, Ella J. Landess, and Charlie S. Landess. One son, William Landess (1852-1932) married Ida Mae Boone (1856-1949), a descendant of Daniel Boone’s brother. I descended from one of John Henry Landess and Mary Hurst Stone’s daughters: Fannie Elizabeth Landess Holman (1843-1923). You can read about her son in another post here.

I went to Lincoln County, Tennessee earlier this year to see the towns where many of my maternal ancestors settled. For the Landess branch, I drove to the Bellville community. I followed a map to the area where Landess Cemetery sits, but I did not find the exact spot. (Luckily, I found some Landess family grave pictures on The land where John Henry Landess settled appeared untouched by time. As I traveled through the rural countryside, I saw hills, fields, creeks, spring blooms, and even horseback riding. I feel a sense of pride knowing that I went over the same land where my great-great-great-great grandparents lived, made their home, worked, raised a family, toiled, died, and created a legacy.

My 4x-great grandfather, John Henry Landess (1799-1876), is interred at Landess Cemetery outside Bellville, Tennessee.

My 4x-great grandmother, Mary Hurst Stone Landess (1815-1891), is interred at Landess Cemetery outside Bellville, Tennessee.

Lincoln County, Tennessee is an important county for many of my maternal branches: Holman, Landess, Feeney, and Woods. This March, I was fortunate to travel there with my aging grandmother so she could see the city where her father was born. I hope to return someday.


Sharing Family History… with Your Family!

Family history is best when shared, especially among family. Whether the sharing is a simple story or a large collection of research, communicating such information with others ensures the legacy and tidbits of our ancestors are passed on. While we may sometimes feel ownership over our hard-sought information, the heritage belongs to them as much as it does the person who researched it. The family members may not understand the painstaking effort and time you put into every detail of the family tree, but most will appreciate the overall narrative you made available. Names and dates do not interest everyone, but juicy and provocative stories do. A family history provides a sense of belonging in the greater historical context. The stories of our ancestors bring entertainment, pride, and motivation. Family history helps older family members recognize their role in bridging past and future generations. Younger relatives may recognize better their own heritage and connections to family and community.

Simple Ways to Share

Show Them: People like to see artifacts and records that provide insight into the lives of their ancestors. I have a hallway full of old family photos, and if anyone related to us in any way visits, I make sure to show them. Pictures are wonderful visuals, and I have not found anyone yet who has said, “I do not want to see what my great-grandmother looked like.” Heirlooms, antiques, newspaper clippings, or other items that belonged to someone in your tree make great conversation starters. Show people their heritage.

Take Them: There is a special feeling when standing on the same ground your long-gone family members stood. When sharing your family story, take people on a “family tree field trip”: a journey to the very spots their ancestors lived, learned, worked, and worshipped. A few months ago, I took my aging grandmother on a genealogy journey to a county seven hours away. We saw the town that our ancestor helped build, drove to the old home place (now a horse pasture), and visited grave markers that honored many of our forefathers and mothers. Cemeteries provide great visuals for our genealogical relationships. Last year, I showed my wife a spot where her great-grandfather pastored a church in the 1890s. She grew up seven miles away and had never seen it.

Give to Them: Printing a family tree or family history booklet provides someone with their own copy of your research. I have printed a few booklets for relatives, and most of them seem to take pride in having their own copy of the family story. Obviously a great deal of work goes into a book, and you may discover vital information later. But a printed document can be a real treasure to that person. Even a simple, inexpensive gesture such as printing a photo or pedigree chart could mean a lot to someone.

Share your story. You’ll probably learn something new when you do!

My great-grandmother, Martha Ann Brown (1904-1986) passed on important family history to my father when he was a boy. He, in turn, shared that with me years after her death. She is pictured standing here with her mother Mary Etta Childers (1877-1966) and sister Lola Mae Brown (1908-1945).



My wife’s great-grandfather, Rev. Matthew Hawkins (1858-1922), received a federal land grant for 160 acres in Conway County, Arkansas in 1890. People may enjoy hearing about it, but there is something special about actually going to the spot he homesteaded.

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