The scant bits and pieces of oral history that build the story of my mother’s southwest Georgia roots continue to fascinate me. But one of the most frustrating my brick walls is the story of my great-grandmother, Rachel Bryant.
She is my mother’s maternal grandmother, and little else is known about her.
My mother always told me that her mother, Lula Bryant Pinkard (1925-1983), was adopted. “Adopted”, as I had come to understand from NBC Movies of the Week and Phil Donahue, meant that my maternal grandmother had been shuffled through an agency and never knew her birth parents. As I grew older, I shed the fictionalized wisdom imparted to me by made-for-TV-movies and talk show hosts. I began to understand family dynamics, and more specifically my family’s dynamics.
My Grandma Lula’s mother was Rachel Bryant. My grandmother never knew her birth father. (A request for my grandmother’s death certificate, which provides the names of parents, when known, was unfulfilled. I’ll try again later). She was raised by an uncle, Will Bryant, and his wife, Marie.
My mom often talked of her Grandma Marie (pronounced mair-REE), a sassy, pistol-toting lady who lived in Columbus, Ga., during my mom’s early adulthood years.
A 1930 U.S. Census confirmed this: Will and Marie Bryant lived in Lumpkin, Ga., in 1930. Listed in the household are a 5-year-old Lula and a 9-year-old Tom. Lula’s relationship to the head of household is niece. I began to trace the Bryant family further back and discovered that Will Bryant was the older brother of Rachel Bryant. Will and Rachel Bryant were two of the seven children born to Crawford and Laura Dobbins Bryant.
I haven’t been able to find any record of Rachel Bryant after 1920. The only thing I do know is that she lived between 1894 and at least May 25, 1925– the day my grandmother was born. I don’t know if she died in childbirth, left Omaha and got married or what. She seems to have just vanished.