The Gatekeeper

Family reunion from 2010

August 2015

Sardis, MS

Nana is in her element. This is the largest family reunion that we have ever had. Over 85 people from six states have gathered at Sardis Lake in Mississippi to eat, tell stories, and eat some more. The smell of my Granddaddy’s famous barbecued brisket combined with dozens of other homemade dishes fills the air and offers an invitation to feast. My mom’s mother, Nana, has been in charge of the family reunion since before I can remember. She is the gatekeeper of my family’s history and is passionate about keeping a record of how we got where we are today. It’s crazy to think that we would be in a totally different place if it hadn’t been for one man who pulled up his roots from England, and moved them to an unknown new land called America.

November 1620

Plymouth, MA

Peter Browne stepped off of the Mayflower onto the bank at Plymouth just days after he had signed one of the most influential documents in American history, The Mayflower Compact. The Mayflower Compact was the first governing document penned in the New World and established a framework for other governing documents, such as the Constitution, that were to follow. He was yearning for adventure and excited to make his life in the New World. He was completely unaware to the hardships and trials that awaited him. Peter definitely wasn’t thinking about Trey Logan who was fifteen generations and 375 years away from existing. The courage and the fortitude shown by Peter and the rest of the settlers at Plymouth Colony led to my family tree and also the history of America.

Christmas 2003

Batesville, MS

I had heard my family members discuss this thing called genealogy and I knew that Nana, my grandmother, was really interested in this thing, but I had no idea what it was. Nana had decided that this was the time for her to tell me a little about my family history. We curled up on the couch by the TV and looked through old photo albums and family trees that Nana had collected over the years. I don’t remember everything she said that day, but I do remember seeing my great-grandparents headstones and also seeing pictures of my ancestors in Civil War uniforms. I remember the passion and enthusiasm she had for this subject and our family’s history and that has stuck with me since then. Nana records, saves, collects, and preserves almost every piece of family culture that she can in order to pass down a lasting legacy to her family.

May 28, 1946

Natchez, MS

Aureliaus and Leah Jones were blessed on this day with the birth of my grandmother, Judy Jones, in Natchez, MS. I honestly don’t know a ton about my grandmother’s childhood: where she grew up, how many times she moved, etc. She married my Granddaddy in 1965 in Marks, MS and had my mother in 1970 in Crowder, MS. Nana and Granddaddy moved from Mississippi to Abilene, TX when my mom was in junior high and returned to Mississippi after my mom graduated college. These moves mainly happened because of my Granddaddy’s job with the Bell telephone company. My grandparents have now lived in Batesville, MS for as long as I can remember and that place is now ingrained in my family’s culture. In my interview with her, I will learn more about her personal story while I am trying to uncover more about my heritage.

August 2015

Athens, GA

As I am sitting in English 1102, I hear my professor describe our course and immediately am excited because I know I have an advantage in my Nana. In this project, I hope to learn everything she has learned about my family’s history while also learning about her life and experiences and how those helped shape what our family has become. I plan to use my wild card section of this project to do some research on my father’s side to learn more about the other side of my family. I have never been passionate about genealogy or learning about my ancestry, but maybe this project will create a newfound drive to uncover the truth about my heritage. Who knows? I could become the next gatekeeper to my family’s history.

This is my favorite place in Athens. Kind of ironic seeing how my family began with the Mayflower in Plymouth and carries on at Mayflower in Athens.


1. What was life like growing up in Mississippi?

2. What do you remember most about your parents?

3. Did you ever move?

4. What was your school experience growing up?

5. How many siblings did you have?

6. Do you remember any particularly good or bad times that stand out?

7. What was typical food like in Mississippi when you were growing up?

8. What role did music play in your family and what type of music did you listen to?

9. When did you meet Granddaddy?

10. How long has our family lived in Mississippi?

11. In what way has living in Mississippi shaped our family culture?

12. How did Granddaddy’s job influence where your family moved?

13. What got you involved in Genealogy?

14. Where in America has our family lived that you know about?

15. Is there any Native American heritage in our ancestry?

16. Were our ancestors involved in any great American historical events?

17. What do you believe defines our family today?


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