The 2,446 Descendants of James Russell “Major” White

Me and my Dad, Myrland Edward “Sam” White, Jr.
Do you ever have an idea from childhood that sticks with you? Then, you say it out loud as an adult, and you think, I’m not sure that’s true! I’ve had experiences like that more often than I’d like to admit.

One of those ideas was that I (with my brother) was one of the last males in my line of the White’s.

I think there are two reasons why I developed that conception. First, my Dad’s name is Myrland Edward White, Jr. If any of you know him, you may be surprised to read this because he goes by “Sam.”

My Dad’s Dad, Myrland Edward White, Sr., died after 3 months of marriage to my Grandmother, Betty Lindsey. During those 3 months, my Father was conceived. For the first 3 years of his life, my Dad was often with his Grandfather, Sam White. He lived with them long enough to get the nickname Sammie that he carries with him to this day as “Sam.”

Eventually, Betty remarried to Lloyd Babb, and my Dad went into the orbit of the Babb’s and Lindsey’s with little contact with the White family.

The second reason is that growing up I didn’t know any male cousins with the last name of White. My Dad connected with one of his half brother’s, Larry, who was a White, but he had only one child, a daughter.

So, from one perspective I was right. I was one of the only male descendants of Myrland Edward White, Sr. However, what I discovered is that if you extend that out to one, two, or three generations beyond my grandfather, then it’s not even close to true.

Here’s how I made that discovery.

Through some strange circumstances that I won’t go into, I ended up taking a DNA test from Ancestry.com. This led me into an initial foray into genealogy. You can read about that here.

Through a couple of genealogists on my Mom’s side of the family, I had a pretty good sense of where my Mother had come from. However, I only had a vague idea of where my Father had come from.

So, I made it one of my goals to research my Father’s ancestors. I just needed some time to go through the material on Ancestry.com. That would be my start.

Several months passed.

Then, I got sick. As I lay in bed trying to recover from the flu, I realized I had enough strength to do some searches on the internet. It was time to research my Father’s ancestry.

I made some significant progress, but I also realized that when you look at other people’s research on Ancestry.com, you need to trust but verify.

Gravestone of my 3rd Great Grandfather, James Russell White
I knew my Dad’s Grandfather’s name on the White side was Sam, but I didn’t know much beyond that. Gradually, the story began to unfold. From what I could tell, My Great Grandpa Sam’s father was Robert Dempsey “Dock” White. Robert’s Father was James Russell “Major” White.

James Russell White’s family lived in De Kalb County, Tennessee and moved up to Russellville, KY, probably sometime in the early 1860s. I had moved to TN thinking I was going to a place where The White family had never lived before. Perhaps I was wrong.

In spite of this initial research, I was still skeptical. If this was correct, I realized that I probably had a bunch of cousins in Logan County, Kentucky.

So, I asked a couple of my older relatives on the White side if “Russellville, KY” meant anything to them. They both replied, “Oh, yes. We went down there to visit relatives often.” It turns out that five of Robert Dempsey’s children had moved to Owensboro from Russellville and yet stayed in contact with their relatives in Russellville. One of my living relatives even confirmed that they had heard the name “Major” White before.

I was quite satisfied that the link between my White’s and the Russellville White’s was established. Still, I wanted to know more, and I wanted more documentary proof.

I probably had searched James Russell White’s name on Google a few times, but I did it again. To my shock, I discovered that there was a book, The Descendants of James Russell “Major” White written by Michael and Barbara Christian. Wow! I thought. That’s amazing. I wonder if I can get a copy. I could not find it in any of my normal searches for book purchase.

What about libraries? I wondered. I found through WorldCat that this book was in 7 libraries in the United States. One of them were relatively close (compared to Utah!): Muhlenburg County Library in Greenville, KY. I was going up to visit some relatives in Louisville and Owensboro over Christmas break, so I concluded that I could stop by the Muhlenburg County Library’s Genealogical Annex and take a look at this book on my way home.

The Courthouse in downtown Greenville, KY
So, that’s what I did. I arrived in Greenville on December 28th at about 11:00 in the morning. Google Maps told me that my destination was on my right. I got out of my car and looked at the library. There was yellow warning tape in front of it: Under Construction!

Seriously? I thought. I come all this way, and it’s closed? So, I called the Genealogical Annex.

“Are you open?” I asked.

“Yes, we’re temporarily located in the basement of the Old National Bank. What do you need? Most of our stuff is in storage?” The lady on the other end asked me.

“Well, I’m looking for a book called The Descendants of James Russell “Major” White.” I replied.

“I have it!” She answered.

“I’ll see you in a minute.” I said and then hung up.

With the joy of potential discovery in my heart, I went over to the bank. The librarian gave me the book, and I sat down at the front of her desk while she worked on her computer in the tiny room where the Genealogical Annex was housed.

I opened the cover and saw the first page of the book written around 1996. I opened the book and began reading, “James Russell and Mary White did not leave behind many worldly goods. However, they had 10 children, and their 2,446 descendants have settled throughout the United States from California to Florida. . . .”

On New Year’s Resolutions (With a Few of Mine)

Me at the cemetery of my Keith ancestors, a partial fulfillment of one of my resolutions (see below)
I’ve talked to a few people recently who’ve said that they don’t like New Year’s resolutions because they never do them.

I can understand that, but I would really encourage people to make New Year’s resolutions.

Resolutions are about thinking about life and being proactive rather than simply reactive and going with the flow. If we simply react and go with the flow, we will probably miss out on a lot of things and take the path of least resistance.

Making resolutions is about walking with our eyes in our heads (Ecclesiastes 2:14). King Solomon advises his son Solomon: “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways” (Prov. 4:26). Making resolutions is about giving careful thought to how we live.

A couple suggestions on making New Year’s resolutions.

First, I try to think of my goals along the lines of Jesus’ growth as recorded by Luke: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man” (2:52). From this, I take four categories: spiritual, social, physical, and intellectual. To this, I might add things that I want to do just for fun (though I could probably fit those into the four categories above).

Second, when I make goals, it seems best to me to make them as specific as possible. For example, “Stay in touch with my Grandma” is probably not a very good goal. “Text Grandma everyday” is a good goal (this was a resolution one of my daughters made, completely without my prompting, I might add).

Third, don’t give up because you fail. This is also one advantage of being specific. If you mess up, just keep going. If you forget to text Grandma one day, just text her the next day. If you don’t read the Bible one day, read it the next. Life is going to interrupt our goals. If you recognize that going in, you’ll be OK?

Finally, just make some goals. Think about your life. Don’t let life happen to you. Take charge of it and make things happen that you want to happen. Why should we not do that? Why be a slave to circumstances? Why not begin to change what you can change?

Here are a few of my resolutions:

  1. Don’t use computers or movies to relax in the evening except when doing so with other people. Instead, use fiction books.
  2. Go outside each day and work a little bit on my yard.
  3. Check the news and Facebook once a day only.
  4. Visit and tour the places where each of my grandparents grew up this year and see the places where they grew up and where my ancestors are buried (Note: partially accomplished already).
  5. Attend more worship services and church events in other churches.
  6. Connect individually with each of my children daily.

Reading over my resolutions, I realized that I need to follow my own advice on some of them and make them more specific. Thinking about our lives and what we want them to be is a continuous process.

At any rate, I hope in the next year to try and walk “with my eyes in my head.” Have fun making your New Year’s resolutions! “May the Lord make all your plans succeed” in 2018 (Psalm 20:4).

Don’t Judge and Drive

I have to admit. I wasn’t paying as much attention as I should have. I was on the phone (albeit hands free!).

I was at the corner of the intersection of Parkway and Main Street.

Let me tell you about this intersection. If you want to go south at that intersection, there is only one lane. If you want to turn left to go south, you cannot be out in the intersection at all, or you will make it very difficult for the cars that are turning left coming from the north (going east) to get around you.

This is the single lane heading south

I was in that turn lane coming from the east to turn south where you cannot be out in the intersection.

The white Ethra bus is where I was. Notice that it is several feet behind the line. I was about that far in front of the line.

Earlier, I had noticed that a cop had come by and gone south, but I hadn’t paid that much attention to what he was doing.

The left turn signal turned green, and I was ready to head south. So, I began pulling out into the intersection.

Then, uh-oh. There was a stationary semi that sitting in the only lane going south. I could not turn, but I was already out in the intersection a little ways.

Never mind. I’ll back up. Uh-oh. There’s a truck right on my tail. I’m stuck. I can’t go anywhere.

The light turned yellow then red. Still, I could not move. There was nothing I could do.

Finally, it came time for the cars coming from the north to attempt to turn left and go around me. It was not easy.

I got nasty look after nasty look. Several cars gave a long honk on their horn.

There’s one of two possibilities here. They may have seen the semi blocking my turn, and then they thought I was an idiot for trying to turn; or, they didn’t see it, and they just thought I was an idiot who just wanted to make their lives difficult.

I thought, come on people, it’s either an innocent mistake or an impossible situation.

At that moment, I thought of all the times I had honked my horn at other cars. I wondered, how many times have I honked the horn without realizing all that was going on? Probably quite a few.

A good lesson for me. Don’t judge and drive.

3 Principles for Speaking into Your Child’s Life

There are a large variety of areas in which you need to speak into your child’s life. You need to help them with finances, schooling, jobs, God, ethics, relationships, and so on.

In each of these areas, you need specific wisdom and insight into how to speak well to them. I like to develop little phrases that I can go back to again and again. Some I invent. Others I borrow. In most sports, one of the keys is “keep your eye on the ball,” which is a good life principle as well.

However, there are several ways of relating to our children that apply to any and every situation. Let me suggest three of them.

Value them
First, value your children. Children can be overwhelming. It’s easy to see the things that you could be doing if you didn’t have them.

Children can cause you trouble and pain. They have their own minds and wills. They don’t always follow you or do the things that you like. They sometimes decide to get angry or do crazy things in public. Let’s be honest. It can be wearying at times.

It’s so important that we don’t let the struggles cause us to miss what a blessing they are. The Bible tells us, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them” (Psalm 127:3, 5).

Be Present
Second, be a calm presence in their lives.

This has two parts. First, we need to be a presence in their lives. Quantity of time matters. We can’t just show up when there’s a problem. We need to be developing relationships with them.

The second part is that we need to be a calm presence. We should not let the children bear the brunt of our anxiety. There are ways to resolve anxiety. Dumping on our children is not a good one.

Think of Jesus and the disciples. He had opportunities to speak into the disciples’ lives because He was with them constantly. He was also a calm presence in their lives, even while they were really struggling.

Teach Them
Third, do teach them.

It’s easy to think that we might not have much to offer or that you have no influence. You do. Your children do listen, and you have much to teach. God has put you in the position of parent in large part for the very purpose of helping your child learn how to live.

Whatever other things you do in discipline, let the majority of your shaping of their lives be through conversation, discussion, and instruction.

The Bible tells us, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).

The book of Proverbs is a great guide. The book is basically a father teaching his child about the consequences of various actions.

Conclusion
These are rather simple principles. I find, though, that the most important principles are generally the simplest.

What are some general principles that you might offer for speaking into our children’s lives?

A Day at Neyland Stadium

Have you ever been to an SEC football game? It’s something to behold.

A year ago, I went to my first game–UT vs. Mizzou. It was an amazing experience. 100 points scored. The deafening cheers and the loud boos. United emotions all directed toward one object. You’re part of something that’s much bigger than yourself.

This year, I wasn’t sure I’d make it. I studied the ticket prices over and over, thinking over the dates. Could I afford it? What was a good day? A lot going on this fall.

Then, my good friend Jeremy Daley said he was going. He wanted us to go with him.

I pulled the trigger. 8 tickets for $23 a piece for the UT-UMass game. 4/4s of his family and 4/9s of mine.

The Trip to the Stadium
The days passed. Game day arrived. We left at 9:00 a.m. from our house in Sevierville to drive 45 minutes down Chapman Highway to get to Knoxville.

Knowing that it would be a long walk to the stadium, I decided to stop at Bojangles to use their restroom. Plus, I could get a country ham biscuit. I also purchased 6 Bo-Berry Biscuits for the girls at a combined total of 2,820 Calories. The fact that they were shaped like footballs made them even better.

We parked at the Kern Bakery on this side of the Henley Street Bridge. This bridge crosses the Tennessee River and leads into downtown Knoxville.

There are several advantages to doing this. It is easier to get out after the game. It only costs $10 to park. You get an amazing view of the city and the Tennessee River. In addition, you are going to walk no matter where you park. There are very few parking spaces directly next to the stadium.

Still, as children complained about the long walk across the bridge and asked to be carried, I doubted myself. Was this really the best place to park? Continue reading “A Day at Neyland Stadium”

What’s Your Story?

What’s your story?

Like most Americans, I was pretty hazy on where my ancestors came from and how they got here.

My Mother was born in South Africa to American missionaries. My Father was born near Owensboro, KY. I always thought of my Father and Mother as having very different backgrounds.

A few things happened recently that led me to do some research and realize that the two sources of my ancestry were quite close.

One ancestor that I knew of was Levi Parks Keith. He was from my mother’s side, was in the Illinois cavalry in the Civil War, and died of disease late in the war.

I realized that “Levi Parks Keith” was a pretty rare name, so I did a Google search. This led me to a site called Grave Finder.

On that site, I found not only where he was buried but also information about his life and links to other family members, including his father and mother.

His Father, Mason Parks Keith, came from Virginia to Kentucky and then moved to Southern Indiana where most of my family stayed.

This intrigued me because I knew my Father’s family was rooted in Northern Kentucky and Southern Indiana as well.

I began to plug in some general history. The Great Lakes States as we know them were not open to settlement until quite a few years after the Revolutionary War. In addition, Kentucky was opened for settlement before the Great Lake States. Continue reading “What’s Your Story?”