The benefits of sharing genealogical information online are far-reaching and make our volunteer work here at the TNGenWeb ever so worthwhile. In many cases, you’ll find that our volunteer and information-sharing spirit extends beyond the confines of just the TNGenWeb project. I’d like to share a story with particular relevance to Tennessee and the state’s Alex Haley connection.
Alex Haley’s Roots has undoubtedly been a major milestone for family history pursuits in this country; for African American families and for families of many ethnic backgrounds. Growing up in Henning, Lauderdale County, Tennessee, Alex heard many stories about his ancestors and wrote a moving narrative about the family history. My family and I watch the mini-series often and particularly seem to watch Roots: The Next Generations even more often than Roots.
Last February, my genealogy-curious nature got the best of me and I set out to see if I could locate some of the real people behind a family depicted in the mini-series – that of Jim and Carrie Warner. In the mini-series, Jim & Carrie are family friends of Tom (Chicken George’s son) and his family. Carrie is a black school-teacher and Jim is a member of an affluent white-family in town. The two fall in love, marry, and have children. As might be expected, Jim is outcast from white society.
On my personal blog, I shared the process I took in order to seek them and documented a couple whom I believed to be them. Instead of “Warner,” their last name is “Turner” and their personal characteristics and family seems to be a match – including a son named Hardin who grows up to be a doctor. Naturally I blogged about the hunting process it because I believe so adamantly in sharing information online for others to find.
And, find they did. This past week, I was contacted by email by a descendant of Jim & Carrie’s! Sure enough I had found them and Sharon, one of their great-granddaughters, and I had a nice chat over the weekend. Sharon described that yes, Jim & Carrie were friends of the Palmer & Haley families and Sharon herself grew up in Henning. She too heard many stories of her ancestors while sitting on the porch of the family home; much like Alex Haley as a child. Some of the life details of Jim & Carrie vary from what is represented in the mini-series, but that is of course to be expected. One of the questions I had when I wrote my blog post was to wonder if the descendants knew that it was their family in the show – Sharon confirmed that yes, they did. She’d always known growing up that her great-grandparents were part of the Roots narrative. Isn’t that amazing.
Even more incredible though was that as we were close to finishing our conversation, Sharon mentioned that she had a picture of Jim and Carrie. And, she has given permission for it to be shared online. Meet the “real” Jim and Carrie – along with sons George Hillard Turner, Hardin Alexander Turner, and William Turner.
How incredible! Sharon is thinking about beginning a blog to chronicle her own adventures in her family history – wouldn’t you all agree that she should! Jim & Carrie lived into their 80’s and 90’s and I am sure there is so much more of the history that remains to be told.
Thank you Sharon for sharing your family history with me and thank you for allowing me to share it with our researchers. The TNGenWeb Project is about making connections in family history and this is a great example of how sharing can reap positive rewards. Alex Haley would be proud.