Stories in a family often times hold
some truth OR a lot of truth OR none of the
proceeding. Think of how something you say
today to a friend can be added "on to" as
it passes from person to person. The
same is true for our family stories.
The Marion Washington Dennis family
has such stories. Which leads me to ask,
"Mary Bell, Mary Bell, Who Really Are You?"
Mary Bell was said to be the Mother of
my 2nd gr-grandfather, Marion Washington
Dennis. What we know of her is very limited,
and mostly from a letter written by Marion's
daughter Hallie Dennis Nugent to younger
half-sister, Mary Dennis Gardner.
The letter is hard to read.
The punctuation and spelling is
not great. The letter is old.
Was the Mother of Marion named
"Mary Bell", with
Bell being her surname? Or was her
name "Mary Bell _" with her surname being
unknown to us after years of searching?
We have nothing to go on other
than this letter.
Family stories passed down said that
Marion's father was born in Ireland.
After years of brickwalls, my Dennis uncle's
tested in the Dennis Y-DNA Surname Project
only to discover that we were not Dennis' at all,
but rather descended from the family of
men with the surname FREEMAN! Surprise!
And then the biggest surprise of all -
we carry the Y-DNA haplogroup Q1a3a,
the only haplogroup given to Native
American Indians in the Y.
Only then did one of my uncle's tell
me his grandparents always told him that
the Dennis' were "black Irish".
That is sometimes how people of Native
American Indian backgrounds referred
to themselves in order to escape the
stigma of being Indian.
Several descendants of Marion's children
have tested at 23andMe
and at Family Tree DNA
in the Family Finders test.
We have hundreds and hundreds
of matches. I feel sure some
of those matches come from
Marion's mother, Mary Bell's, lines.
We sure could use her last name
to help us out in our DNA journey!
Attached is the letter Hallie Dennis
Nugent wrote to her sister, Mary.
It also includes information relating to
Mary's Mother's (Laura Smith of TX)
families (Smith and Pendley).
The letter is hard to read, so
here is the best attempted transcription
done by one of my Dennis cousins
who has the original letter in his possession.
May the journey go on and may we
one day find out who "Mary Bell" really was!