How We Wrote Our Sloan Family History - A Mini-Memoir

Phillip and Eve Jones
By Phillip Barron Jones

Blog publisher's disclosure: Phillip Jones is a distant cousin of my wife Eryleene whose mother was a Sloan. See the library article below. WEG

In 2007 my wife and I published Sloan and Related Families: Descendants of George Thomas Sloan (1756-1836) of County Cork, Ireland, and Spartanburg and Laurens Counties, South Carolina. It was a culmination of thirty-five years of research. Our purpose was two-fold. First, we wanted to share with family and other researchers the results of our work in collecting photographs and family
stories and searches in courthouses, libraries and archives. Second, we wanted to preserve the work that we had done.

Eve and I seemed naturally predisposed to be interested in family history. Her mother was a repository of family history and enjoyed sharing those stories and she helped a lot of people in her small town compile their family information for application for membership in the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Eve also had a great aunt who published at least a half dozen genealogical books on families in Middle Georgia and eastern North Carolina.

Influence of My Grandparents
On the other hand, I grew up spending a considerable amount of time visiting with one of my sets of grandparents during the summer and other holidays. When extended family would come by to visit I would enjoy listening to the stories the adults would tell. Over time, I began to quiz my grandmother about how people were related and ask questions about my great grandparents. My grandmother would also sit with me and we would look through the box of family photographs that she had collected. By the time I was an early teenager, I started recording information with pencil and notebook paper and even constructed crude family diagrams, all in an effort to understand how everyone fit in the family.

Eve and I met in the late 1960s when we both started college. We dated for most of our entire four years of school, became engaged and married in the early 1970s. After marriage one of the things we did as a shared hobby was to take a photography course. Not only did we learn to operate a 35 mm camera but we also took additional courses in darkroom photography learning how to develop film and print black and white photographs. In the process, we developed a greater appreciation for our families’ photographs and became aware of the need for the images to be identified, preserved and shared. We purchased a copy stand for our camera and close-up lenses, borrowed photographs from my grandmothers, my parents and Eve’s parents and began to copy, reprint, identify, organize and preserve them. The collecting of pictures just naturally evolved into collecting information about people in the family photographs—both genealogical facts and family stories.

I Become Hooked
As we started our journey looking for family information, an uncle provided me with a short paper of information compiled by one of his cousins for a family reunion which listed family forebears for four generations back to a George Thomas Sloan who the paper had indicated fought in the War of 1812. Upon sharing this with my mother-in-law she was able to locate and request copies of an application for a pension for service in the Revolutionary War for a George T. Sloan from South Carolina. When twenty or so pages of information arrived in the mail and I realized that this was, in fact, my George Thomas Sloan and the amount of detail that was available included a first-hand narrative of his naval service in the Revolutionary War [not War of 1812], I was hooked. From then on I became obsessed with finding as much about each Sloan ancestor as I could possibly find as well as information on all of my ancestors and relatives.

When we would travel from Kentucky back home to Georgia and South Carolina during summer and Christmas breaks from school and work we would almost always schedule time to visit courthouses, cemeteries, libraries and family members. In particular, we most enjoyed visiting and talking with family members about their remembrances and getting them to share any family photographs that they might have. We packed up our copy stand, camera and lenses in a small suitcase that we could take with us so that we could copy photographs without the owner having to let them out of their possession. We made audio recordings of many of our aunts and uncles and cousins—even distant relatives that we had not previously met. We were fortunate to have developed an interest in our early 20s because we were able to visit some older relatives that would not have been available to us if we had developed an interest in genealogy later in life.

We Adapt to Technology
We have maintained our interest in family history throughout our lives and have continued to collect information on all of our family lines. The time that we have spent in this endeavor has varied depending on our lifecycle. After our two sons arrived when we were in our 30s we naturally laid aside most of our genealogical pursuits for other activities. In 1984 after the advent of personal computers, we did publish a rudimentary Sloan History using word processing on an Apple II computer and a dot matrix printer. We did incorporate about 10 pages of pictures in the front of the book and we had a small print shop prepare 100 spiral-bound copies This provided the basis of the volume that we produced in 2007.

As personal computing advanced, we transitioned from film to digital photography, from dot matrix printers to laser printers, from paper file folders to digital file folder and databases. The advent of the internet and genealogical services such as Ancestry significantly changed the way we searched for information. In the mid-2000s, after our sons left home and I retired from my profession, we decided it was time to reprint the Sloan book. We spent a couple of years re-examining our old notes and photographs and gathering new information. We greatly expanded the scope of the book. We met even more distantly related Sloan cousins and gathered their family stories and photographs. With their help and additional research, we were able to trace the migration of some of the Sloan descendants into Georgia, Alabama, Missouri and Texas. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, we published our updated version of Sloan and Related Families in 2007.

More Pieces Are Out There
We were fortunate to have developed an interest in family history early in life. It has been a fascinating avocation and obsession. We met relatives and heard their stories and viewed their family photographs and heirlooms—most of whom are no longer living. We have preserved some of their stories in our book and in other smaller manuscripts we have written for other family lines. We have enjoyed visiting places that some of our earlier ancestors lived, we have cherished holding in our hands some of the original documents left by our forebears in county courthouses and archives. (Now much of those original documents are no longer easily available but are better preserved for the future.) We have enjoyed piecing together bits of information as if we were putting together pieces of a picture puzzle. We have found many pieces of the puzzle and have shared the picture that we have so far. However, there are still more pieces to be found and the complete picture is yet to emerge.

Photo courtesy Phillip and Eve Jones. 

Copies of Sloan and Related Families may be purchased by contacting phillipj@earthlink.net  

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