A Personal Note
Writers of genealogies, especially large genealogies, can grow to think of their subjects just as groupings of dates (birth, marriage, death, repeated ad infinitum). I try to fight this tendency, and to bear in mind that each of these date assortments was a living, breathing human being, with human strengths, weaknesses, problems, joys, sorrows, a unique personality, and a family. This humanizing becomes progressively easier as the generations get closer to the writer’s own.
In the rest of this book I will be dealing increasingly with people whom I have known personally, or have heard family members talk about. I believe that these personal impressions and family legends hold just as valid a place in genealogy as the vital statistics. I will continue to record the known, proven facts; but also, beginning to a slight degree in this chapter and increasing progressively in the remaining two, I will set down for posterity my own recollections about my family members, and the tales about them that have circulated in the family. Much of this material will be subjective, rather than objective; it should not be taken as proven truth. To distinguish it from the factual bulk of the book, this purely personal content will be printed, like this passage, in italics.
This remainder of this chapter is about my great-grandfather. I never knew him, nor was he the subject of family folklore that I heard. The single thing that humanizes him most for me will be described later in this chapter, in a reminiscence about a sword.
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Albartus Burgin, CSA
Thomas A. Burgin and his new bride Martha Ann Davis left the log house he had built for her in Tuscaloosa County, and moved to Dallas County, Alabama, probably around 1841. The 1850 census showed them and their five children there: Thomas Burgin, 34, a farmer, value of real estate owned $5,000, place of birth Georgia; M[artha] A[nn], 31, born in Alabama; Elizabeth, eleven; J[ohn] D[avis], nine; D[aniel] A[ugustus], seven; M. A[nn] J[udson], four; M[elissa] M[andeline], three; and W. J. Harris, 28, a saddler, born in South Carolina (probably either a boarder or a hired hand.) The children were all born in Alabama. As the census shows, Thomas’ land holdings were already a significant asset. His youngest daughter Melissa Mandeline (“Duck”) Burgin Ragsdale, writing in 1926 at the age of 80, continued her parents’ story:
They farmed there until the children were old enough to be in school and then moved to [the county seat] Selma and stayed until the children were ready for higher schools and then moved to Tuscaloosa City, where children all finished their education in the A.C.F. and University of Alabama.
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