Sunday, May 3, 2009


I'm back from my short journey to Tennessee. It was an eye opening experience but not in the way I had hoped. Several things hit me and I'm still processing them.

First, the area where my maternal ancestors lived is still very rural and sparsely populated. For example, my grand aunt Inez lived a few feet from the church where she was eulogized (and a few blocks from Alex Haley's birthplace). However, we traveled 45 minutes and through two counties to get to the cemetery where she was buried. My sister, who was driving, was concerned about running out of gas. She was advised to get gas when she went through downtown Maury City. Unfortunately, we didn't recognized downtown when we went through it. It was one short block of family businesses.

My aunt lived in this area all 102 years of her life. That had to shape her vision of the world. I see that same vision in my mother even though she has lived in an urban area most of her life. The viewpoint is narrow, comfortable and void of inquisitiveness.
That speaks to the other thing that struck me. All the knowledge my aunt had of my side of the family has now gone to the grave. I had accepted that my aunt did not want to talk about her family because that's what my mother and my aunt Adrene told me. Then at the funeral, a woman, a niece of Inez's husband, talked about how she asked questions about the family and how Inez gladly recited family stories to her. It makes me so mad and sad at the same time. I asked my mother if she ever asked my aunt anything to which she said never. My mother is now one of the oldest living Koonce so I will have to unearth whatever I can through circumstantial evidence not oral stories.

I can't imagine not wanting to know everything about my family history. My mother is interested and satisfied with her minute knowledge. She doesn't understand my thirst and my endless questions. I don't understand her nonchalance and acceptance. The worst part and the best part is that I seem to be "that one" in the family that pursues the answers. It's a lonely job but, I believe, somebody's gotta do it.

This summer, I will go back to Tennessee and delve into court documents and look up books in the local libraries and talk to people who may know about my family history. Too bad I wasn't able to do it before my aunt passed away.


Robyn Smith said...

Jennifer, I'd really like to connect with you. I love your blog. My family is from Hardin County, TN. I started new blog at It's called "Reclaiming Kin". Please check it out when you can and do email me (info on my About Me page). I have so much I'd love to talk to you about!

GeneaDiva said...


I laughed out loud when I read your post about passing through "downtown" Maury City. I'm sorry, I just couldn't help it.

I live in West Tennessee and know exactly what you mean about the towns, the roads, etc.

Keep asking the questions. It is lonely, but oh such a thrill when someone does respond.