We’re All In This Together

Forget the Adam-and-Eve story. Ignore the Darwinian “common ancestor” (or “missing link”, if you prefer). You can disbelieve either of those narratives, and yet — if you are Appalachian — you still cannot deny that we are all related to one another!
When I first began to delve into Appalachian history and genealogy, I already knew that certain surnames were prominent in every community and every family’s background. It was that awareness that spurred my interest in documenting the interwoven stories of “the pioneers”.
Now I have compelling evidence of the interconnectedness of our Appalachian family experiences.
First, let me digress…  Few folks would recognize my surname “MOHN” as Appalachian; it is doubtful there are more than a few dozen individuals with the Mohn surname in all of the Cumberland Highlands. (Go to Pennsylvania or Peoria, Illinois and it would be a much different story). In fact, my paternal grandfather, William Howard Mohn, came to eastern Kentucky as a “powder man” working for the railroad in the late 1910s. He fathered a son and a daughter, and two of my paternal grandmother’s other children adopted his surname. He died when my father was a toddler. And his early years (in or around the coal mining areas of Peoria) are still virtually blank pages in my research notes. That leaves a big “slice of the pie” missing when I chart my ancestors back several generations.
But that still leaves me with good ol’ mountain blood pumping through my veins from my maternal (Hall/Franklin) side and from my father’s mother (Pratt) and her ancestors. And what a bunch of familiar surnames emerge and repeat themselves.
DCMFanChtIllustrated here is a fan chart — which, using the data charting tools I have introduced to this website recently, visitors can utilize to plot their own family connections — that begins with me in the center. Each concentric circle represents the next preceding generation of my ancestors. Counting myself, seven generations are listed here. The outermost ring records my fourth-great-grandparents — the “gggg-grandparents”.
If you wish, you may click here to open the fan chart full-screen for greater readability. And, if you have stayed interested enough to read this far, you will probably want to check to see how you and I might be kinfolk. But, just for the sake of brevity, I will hit the high points.
Simple math suggests that tracing an individual’s ancestor back for six generations of foreparents, a total of 64 surnames might appear. Because the ancestors of one grandparent cannot be traced, that reduces the possible distinct surname “universe” by one-fourth — to 48 surname instances on that outermost ring. There are three individuals in that outer ring whose names I have not discovered — leaving the final possibility of 45 distinctive surnames.
Now, let’s examine surname repetition in that generation — which happens, by the way, to represent the time period in which the first settlers moved into the headwaters of the three major rivers of Eastern Kentucky (Kentucky, Cumberland, Sandy).
Among my seventh-generation forebears, the Mullins name is most prominent (four instances). Next were the Caudills (three instances), who along with the Webbs (two instances) and Adamses (surprisingly, no direct ancestry to me!) first settled the head of the Kentucky. My Hall (two instances), Johnson (two instances), and Tackett gggg-grandparents (two instances) settled more in the Big Mud and Shelby Creek areas of “old Floyd” — Big Sandy territory; they were joined there by some Caudills and Mullinses. My Combs ancestors settled a bit further down the Kentucky, centered around the Leatherwood area and present-day Perry, where they joined with Pratts, Campbells, Cornetts, Watts, Stacy, and Terry families, who are also represented on my fan chart.
My Franklin line (through my maternal grandmother) only shows up only once on that outermost (seventh-generation) ring — but that Franklin was the progenitor of Franklins in Letcher, Knott, and Johnson Counties of Kentucky, by way of Scott County, Virginia. And the children and grandchildren of the Franklin progenitor were related (over and over) by marriage to the Hall and Mullins families, as well as Stallards and Carters.
Now… Do you get the picture? Quite literally? If you use the fan-chart tool on this website to plot your ancestry, I can almost guarantee that your fan chart will inersect with mine — and in probably numerous ways. In doing so, you will assuredly also discover the clustering of surnames that confirms how extended family groups migrated and settled together, opening up particular communities centered along the various tributaries of the rivers of eastern Kentucky.
Soooo…. Howdy, cousin! And have a great day in the woods!

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2 thoughts on “We’re All In This Together”

  1. Hi Dan,
    Just wanted to drop a note to you and tell you what an awesome page you have created. I’m a descendant of the Samuel Auxier/Sallie Brown line.

  2. I have been trying to solve a family “secret” for some time.
    My paternal grandmother, Mary Blair was married to William F. Compton and they had a boy child named “Smie”. I kind of challenged that name until I saw that William F. Compton had an brother named, “Smie”.
    No where can I find anything else about “Smie”. No birth or death records.
    I discovered your site by googling “Smie” Compton. I also noticed some blanks on the Justice side of your chart. I think I may be able to help there.
    Jimmy Justice
    Blacklick, OH

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