Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Who was Mary Bell Dennis?

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. 

Marion Washington Dennis
b. ca. 1856-FL (or AL possibly)
d. 1906-San Angelo, Tom Green Co. TX

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
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! 

Happy Hunting, 

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