Family Reunion Forum
Back from NORRIS Family Reunion in DALLAS!
I hardly know where to start so I'll just hit the highlights. I returned from my first Family Reunion every for MY family in Dallas, Texas on August 27th. Common sense told me that surely there were a few people still related to the Norris' in the Dallas and Marshall, Texas area but, I had no idea that I would find and meet hundreds of them! At first I wanted only to find where my Great Grandfather, Charlie Miller was buried at in Terrell, TX.
My reesarch started last year in October and through the Internet, the wonderful people that I met here on Afrigeneas and the grace and blessings of my ancestors and God Almighty, my dreams came true!
On Memorial Day of this year I first heard there would be a Reunion and my brain went into overdrive on how share the research I had found thus far as well as how I would get to Dallas! Who were these people, why didn't I know them and most important of all, would they embrace me?
Within two weeks I had purchased 2 tickets for Dallas and reserved a hotel for one week. The Reunion was to be August 25 & 26th. Within three days I had "tracked down" the Norris Family Reunion Coordinator, Kim Favors, who turned out to be my Cousin! We became fast friends and to be truthful we were like two sisters who had only been separated by geography! Kim insisted I stay at her home, so I dumped the hotel reservation for 3 of the 5 days. Between Memorial Day and 3 weeks prior to the Reunion I worked on putting my research together into a book form. The book itself was 96 pages, full-color, had over 112 photographs of family members, 3 photos over 120 years old, WWI Draft Registration Cards, Census in from 1870 through 1930, an 1884 Marriage Certificate, family stories, recipes, beginning of Master Cemetery List, Obituary Copies, an 1894 actual letter I found on Internet from a Texas Slave, Morris Mitchell, to his former Mistress, brief history on Marshall, TX and South Carolina, Family Tree for LACY/COLLIER lines that descend from NORRIS' and a brief explanation of how the census works and how people can join the search for more of our ancestors. My Fiance printed 105 copies of which 85 I shipped to Dallas to await my arrival.
I arrived at DFW Airport on Wednesday, August 23rd and was met by Kim at the airport with balloons, flowers and a warm hug! Much to my surprise before going to Dallas I had made up what I refer to now as my "Wish List" for things I definitely wanted to see and accomplish while there because I knew once there I'd be too excited to remember. Two days before I flew to Dallas, my new Cousin, Kim emailed me and suggested that I construct just such a list. Were we sisters of the blood or what? I sent her my list ASAP! There were over 10 things on my list which included driving from Dallas to Terrell, Marshall, and Hallsville, TX. Kim made sure that I saw them all and refused to accept one dime from me. Not even for gas. I was told repeatedly that "your money is no good here in Dallas."
The first day Kim drove me to Terrell, Texas where I met the Niece of my Great Grandfather, Charlie Miller for the first time in my life. I traced her by his Obituary first to the Church, then to a Deacon of that Church and finally to her, Earl Lee Ashley. Her father and my Charlie Miller were brothers. She opened her front door and I saw my Great Grandfather in her face, we stood in her doorway for about 5 minutes just hugging and crying. She took us to the graveyard and we for over 30 minutes we tried to find him as Earl Lee knew the grave was unmarked but, directly behind a large stone for a CORA BELL CRITTENDEN. Yes, we found them! My great grandfather Charlie Miller, his mother, Mary Henrietta Miller and a sister, Almeta Miller. Mother and daughter side by side with the son, my great grandfather as the T to cross their heads.
It was very emotional and I could only think over and over again "does he know I'm here, the little girl he last saw at 2 years old?" When we returned to Earl lee's home she popped in a vhs tape she had told me she had over the phone. The sole purpose was so I could see a picture of the Minister that preached the funeral of my Great Grandfather. The tape was in black and white of her Wedding in 1952 at age 19. Earl Lee was a beautiful bride and it wasn't until after a few minutes that I realized that this was a Wedding and whoever that man was that was walking her down the aisle, he had to be important in her life. I turned to her and asked "who is that man, Earl Lee?" To which she calmy replied "oh, that's Daddy, your Grandpa Charlie's only brother, Jack McFadden".
We both burst into tears as I rose from the coach to sit on the floor in front of the screen, close enough to reach out and touch him. I'd never seen him in my life but, had always heard about how close the two brothers were, Jack and Charlie, Miss Mary's boys! Earl Lee only had one copy of that tape and had never been able to have a copy made because of its age. Do you believe she let me bring it back to California with me to make a copy? She did and I sent her another copy as well on CD so they could burn copies for her children. Earl Lee also gave me a picture of her mother Pearlie Mae who my Great Grandma Sadie always spoke fondly of as well.
The next day Kim, her mother Myrtle Faye and another cousin, Beatice drove me to Marshall, Texas to see where everyone had come from, where it had all started after they had migrated from South Carolina. This was the city my family had spoke of always as though it were a fariry land of good times and family. I hadn't been to Marshall since I was 3 or 4 years old. It was beautiful! Breathtaking to me and very green! I had never in my life taken a drive in a car and have someone continue to say to me for over 30 minutes "this is all still Norris Land, we're on." Every where we went, we cried. I cried and they cried. Especially if the person we were visting was over 80 years old, they all took one look at me, grabbed my hand and began to cry "Coudin Sadie, Coudin Sadie, Coudin Sadie" over and over again. I look very much like my greatgrandmother and in most cases, they had only to see me to know who I was.
Everyone welcomed me with open arms and kisses everywhere I went. The family owns a restaurant where we visited on my first day and almost every customer seated that day had heard of the cousin coming from California who had used the Internet to find them. This amazed them over and over. They kept saying I knew more about them than they knew about their own selves.
There were so many people at Afrigeneas who helped me but, two of those people will always have a special place in my heart and that's Dawn Ownings and Vicky Davis! There's actually a picture of Dawn as well as some of her line in my Norris Family Reunion Heirloom Book.
The highlight of my trip was the visit to the Taylor Cemetary which happens to be MY FAMILY CEMETERY! PLEASE forgive the boast but, I can't help it. Who would ever have thought that my people had thought that far into the future and knew that they would want to slumber eternally together. I sure hadn't. They were all there. Many of the names that had haunted my dreams and waking moments from the Census reports, they were all there together. Yes, I cried there as well. As I removed dry grass or leaves from headstones I'd talk to them as though we were not meeting for the first time. The pictures I'll treasure forever. I wasn't able to find my Great Grandmother's parents and grandparents there that day but, I now know that they are there. Cousin Rozella told me when I visited her in the Marshall Manor Nursing Home.
Rozella was a very young 94 and still a real ball of fire! She hugged Kim and I so and cried and said over and over how much I looked like Coudin Sadie. She also gave me other information that I've followed up on already and found more relatives to boot! I hated to leave her that day, we could have talked all day and night. Rozella's Granddaughter told me last week that Rozella loves her copy of the Reunion Book and won't allow anyone else to turn the pages. As Rozella flipped through the book from her bed she called out the names as though she were reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. She knew them all, their parents, children and so forth. Rozella will outlive us all, trust me and what a still very beautiful and regal being she was.
There was a Fish Fry Meet & Mingle the night before the Dude Ranch at which probably over 100 relatives attended. We had such a good time together that many were still there the next morning.
The morning of the Reunion at the Dude Ranch I had a nervous attack and my hands began to shake like you wouldn't believe. Kim's sister, Janice took me to the side and she held me as though I were the only person in the world, she soothed my back and she told me "whatever you say to them today, they will love it. Just be yourself and ifi you start to cry, just take a break. They'll wait for you." Just those words calmed me like nothing else would ever have.
There were many relatives who had reserved booths in advance to share products, business information, momentos, etc. I had one for my Reunion Book. It was a bit slow at first and I began to worry if I would be bringing them all back to California with me. Two young men, cousins, were my first visitors. I had placed 3 chairs on the opposite side of hte 6 ft folding table, complete with cloth, and placed my signage and two copies for viewing purposes. The taller was the first to break the ice with "is my Grandmother in that book?" I asked him who his Grandmother was and to my delight she was one of my favorites from the 1920 Census, Ophellia Norris. I told him yes and a few other items as well. He asked what and I began what I called a History Walking Tour through the entire book from the first page to the last. At one point I looked up and there were about 20 people all crowded around the table with their mouths wide open.
The looks on their faces as I turned the pages were worth a lifetime of happiness and the way that they hung on my every word assured me that even after her death, I had made my Great Grandma Sadie proud of me once again. The hands began to reach out with voices that followed with "I want one!" They went like hotcakes. As word began to circulate the room we hardly had time to catch our breath as we placed copies into large envelopes for them. People I had never met in my life approached me and hugged me with tears in their eyes as they confided "I never knew so many of these things. Thank you for taking the time to put all this together for us. It's something we can keep forever for our children and their children."
In the book I also placed what I called mystery photos. Grandma had not written any names on them so I placed them in the book with the hopes that others might identify them. There were 3 photos in all and 2 of them were identified answering one of my brick walls in my research!
The information that I received from one Cousin not only gave me the birth city of my Great Great Grandmother but, helped me find her parents, sibblings as well as her Father's brother. By attending the Reunion I now know for a fact that there are other lines for me to follow as well from the NORRIS line such as: LACY, COLLIER, TAYLOR, CLARK, COATES. and ROBERTSON! I now know that there is also family out there in the universe related to me in SOUTH CAROLINA, ALABAMA, and TENNESSEE!
I'm trying today to figure out how to start my own blob on Yahoo so I can display my pictures from the Reunion to share with you all because I truly feel like the folks at Afrigeneas are my FAMILY now too!
Oh, the best part, I met another wonderful person here that actually turned out to be related to me by marriage. Her, father, Otis ANTHONY, married my Great Uncles daughter, Rosie NORRIS in Marshall, TX in the earl 20's. Her name is Gwenda! We invited Gwenda to the Reunion and she came to that as well as the Fish Fry! I had the pleasure of introducing Gwenda to her Aunt and Uncle for the first time in her life, Joanne and Howard, who also lived in Dallas, TX. Gwneda lives in Corscicanna, TX. Is it a small wrold or what?
Also, hope I'm not bragging too much but, guess what? MY very first Afrigeneas Angel, Vicky Davis, turned out to be related to me as well by marriage. Her Grandfather's sister married my Great Great Grandmother's sisters son. Were you able to follow all of that?
I know I said I'd make it short but, there was no way to convey the experience in a briefer version. Overall, I feel as though I've been baptised again but, this time in the spirit of Family. Oh, how proud Sadie NORRIS would be of me! The relatives in Texas were exactly what she always said they were "good people"! They embraced me and I've never been more warmly welcomes anywhere at any time in my life than I was in Dallas, Terrell and Marshall, TEXAS this past August 23 through the 27th!
Giving lots of serious thought to moving to Dallas!
AFRIGENEAS, I love you!
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