Saturday, December 03, 2011

My Grand Passion

Martha "Patty" Bailey Tipton Cooper
My paternal great-great grandmother

So what does this old picture of an old woman have to do with my Number One Passion?

When I first began my genealogy research of my family back in 1994, I didn't know the name of my paternal great grandfather.  My father didn't know the name of his grandfather because he was brought to Pennsylvania when he was ten years old with his eight brothers (two more were born in Pennsylvania for a total of eleven boys, no girls).  My father was a hillbilly from western North Carolina where where the mountains border eastern Tennessee.

I was always interested in my family history but had little hope of finding anything about my paternal line because my father showed no interest and had no knowledge other than he was born in Pigeon Roost, North Carolina.  Well, to make a long story short (a more detailed story is on my blog "Tipton Tales and Trails"), through a lot of hard work which included much travel and many interviews with family relatives I was able to establish a basis for my family tree.  From there on out it was just a matter of filling in the missing pieces of the puzzle.

One "piece" that always eluded me but I knew existed was a picture of my great-great grandmother Martha "Patty" Bailey Tipton.  I was told that one existed somewhere but no one knew where it was exactly.  Just last month I found where she was buried quite by accident.  I was working on my account and was reading through an obituary for a daughter of one of Martha's sons and it mentioned survivors.  I called one of the survivors and through our conversation she told me where Martha and her son Baxter Tipton were buried!

This folks is how genealogy research is done.  Through a lot of digging through records and interviews.  You just never know when a "gem" will pop up.

I told my brother John who lives in Greenville, South Carolina that Martha was buried at a church cemetery in Ashville, North Carolina.  John and his wife Barbara took a week to tour the "homeland" (as we call those"hollers" in the mountains of North Carolina that form the border between North Carolina and Tennessee) and found her grave and took pictures for me!  I was so excited but I thought this was as close as I would get to see my paternal great-great grandmother.

Then lo and behold last week a book arrives on my doorstep called "The History of the Toe River Valley Volume X."  These books are written by Dr. Lloyd Bailey, who is a professor at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.  Lloyd is the person who was the key to me researching my ancestry.  I will be forever grateful to him.

Every time a one of his volumes of Toe River Valley History comes out I order it.  This volume has to do with how the Civil War affected the mountain folk.  As I was flipping through the pages I came across this picture of Martha!  I couldn't believe it.  My heart started to race!  This was finally the picture I've been looking for.  WOW!  Now I feel complete.  The only way this could be better is if I had a picture of her husband, my great-great grandfather John Tipton.  But that is probably impossible because he was killed while recruiting for the Union Forces in those same mountains in 1863.  He and some of his neighbors were ambushed by a Confederate Calvary which was lead by a Colonel Noah Wichter.  Colonel Wichter and his men were in the mountains trying to discourage Union sentiment and especially recruitment for the Union forces.

After my great-great grandfather was killed Martha and her neighbor went to fetch his body and he was buried on the family farm.  She was now a widow with eight children.  Not an easy situation to be in those harsh days of the Civil War.  Life in the mountains was difficult even with the husband alive.  So here she was a widow during those difficult times with eight hungry children to raise on her own.

Her third child was my great grandfather Hiram Tipton.  He was eleven years old when he lost his father John.  Hiram's fifth son was Fieldon Tipton was my grandfather.  Fieldon's fifth son was my father Isaac Tipton.  And here I am, the End of the Line.

Martha never did learn to read or write.  She signed her application for Civll War Widow's Pension Benefits with an "X".  But she did raise her children all to be successful.  In fact, Martha remarried to a doctor; Dr. Thomas Cooper.

Looking at her face looking at me through all these years gives me a sense of tranquility and completeness.

I know that some in my family and friends think that I take too many pictures and I can be annoying with always wanting to take "just another photo" but I'm telling you...there will be someone like me one hundred years from now who will appreciate all the photos I've taken of my family.

I may not have a family, and I haven't written the Great American Novel.  In fact, I have no discernible talent but one thing I do have is a passion for researching my family history and putting the record out there for future generations.  I love it!

My Family Tree


Ur-spo said...

I love this stuff.

anne marie in philly said...

if you look into her eyes, I see you; amazing how the resemblances pass down thru the generations.

congrats on finding a missing puzzle piece!

nitewrit said...


You look at that portrait and you can see both a sadness in the eyes and a determination in the face.


Ron said...

Dr. Spo,

I love this stuff too, more than sex.

Ron said...

Anne Marie,

I noticed that too! That's what I love about seeing old photos of family members, the similarity that passes through the generations.

Ron said...


She saw a lot of rough times during her life but she raised all her eight children on her own. She was amazing.

Hula Hank said...

I have the same passion with my family tree. I have made great strides with my mother's side thanks to most of her family lines arriving in the US during the colonial days.

My father's side I am not so lucky. I can find nothing on his mother's side and on his father's side I can only get as far back my great grandfather, then nothing...

My question though, is at some point when I was gathering this information, I wondered what I was going to do with it all.

It seemed like a lot of work just for it to sit on a difficult to read ancestry website!

Do you have any suggestion as to what to do with this information to get it out of the interwebs and into something more physical, if you understand what I am saying?

Ron said...

Yes Hank, I do have a suggestion. Put your family tree on If not there then there are free websites like Roots.web that you can upload your GEDCOM file. Thus, when you're gone, all the work you have done will be available for future generations of your family. This has also been a concern of mine that all my work would be lost. Now I feel more confident that I have built a base from which future members of my family can build on.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ron, it's crazy that I found your blog trying to find information about Pigeon Roost so I could show my wife pics of where we're going for our family reunion. My dad's family is from Pigeon Roost and I've still got relatives there. We go for a reunion every year but a back injury prevented me from taking her since we've been together. My dad's father was a Bennett and his mother was a Miller, both from the Roost. Another coincidence, I lived in Greenville, SC for most of my life and just moved from there. I don't know if I ever met your brother in Greenville or not because I'm terrible with names but it is possible since I worked in retail. Good luck with your family research!

Ron said...

Thanks for your comment. We're probably related. Send me your family tree (the names of your grandfather and grandmother) and I can compare it with my family tree that I have on