“Our history begins before we are born . . . and our ancestors virtually live in us.” That’s a quote from James Nasmyth that quickly sums up my interest in genealogy. I desperately want to know who’s living in me. Whose genetic inheritance am I bearing? Through anectdotal evidence and documentation, I’ve been able to trace my family tree back to the early 1800s.

Henry Nance (1837-1926). My great-great grandfather, who according to family lore, left a family of 16 children in Tennessee to start a second family in Coffee County, Ala. The death certificate I found for Henry confirms that he was in fact born in Davidson County, Tenn. It also gave us more insight to his background: his parents were listed as William J. Nance and Lula Nance.  It is also believed Henry was one of 14 children.

I haven’t been able to locate any documentation for Henry between his listed birthdate of 1837 and 1900, when he and his wife– my great-great grandmother– Annie Cotton Nance were living in Haw Ridge, Ala. One  of my uncles told me that Henry was a runaway slave. But I wonder why a runaway slave would run further South.  And why to Haw Ridge?

Toward the bottom of the page you'll see Henry and Annie Nance's family. My great-grandfather, James Evan Nance, is listed as "Evin" and was 9 years old at the time