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.
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.
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. . . .”