Getting acquainted with nine generations

Grandpa, tell me ’bout the good old days…”
—song lyrics by The Judds

Because my father was adopted by an aunt and uncle and raised as an only child, there is much about his family history’s good ol’ days he didn’t know. He associated briefly with only two of his 12 siblings and the last time I saw them or any of my cousins on dad’s side of the family, I was just 13.

However, through the resources of family tree websites, I’ve recently become acquainted with nine generations of ancestors back to 1500s England. The CliffsNotes version reads like this: An English couple’s son from the Besson family travels across the Atlantic to the Virginia colony in the early 1600s and marries a Maryland woman; their daughter marries a man from England named Aldridge and they settle in Maryland. Subsequent generations bearing the Aldridge name migrate South to Kentucky and Mississippi. Connecting the many lines between the 294 names and five centuries now in my fledging family tree structure has me wishing there was some way to hear their stories about the good old days.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

Francis Besson, born in 1566 in Beeston, Yorkshire, England married Marcella Cunningham and in 1616, she gave birth to Thomas Philip Besson, Sr. at St. Andrews, Plymouth, Devon, England. Young Besson became a captain in the English military before coming to Virginia where he married Anna Hester Talbot from South River Park, Anne Arundel, Maryland. Their daughter, Martha, married Nicholas Aldridge from East Willow Parish, England, thus the first Aldridge surnamed ancestor in the “East Texas branch” settled in America before the Declaration of Independence was even signed.

Nicholas and Martha’s son, Thomas, became the first Aldridge in the “East Texas branch” born in America. He married Mary Margaret Hooks from Maryland and their son born in Kentucky, another Thomas, became the first generation of the “East Texas branch” whose parents were both American born. Kentucky-born Thomas married Elizabeth Knapp from Buckenham, Norfolk, England, and their son, also named Thomas, married Catherine King. Their son, William, married Caroline Massey.

 – – – – – – – – – – – –

Stories from the lives of these ancestors would be priceless. What did they do for a living? What successes and failures did they encounter? What historical events did they witness first hand? What prompted the shift of later generations toward the South?

 – – – – – – – – – – – –

William and Caroline’s son, Leo, was born in Mississippi in 1859. He married Catherine Crecink and they had several children including brothers Sylvester V. and Willie L. Willie L. Aldridge married and fathered 13 children, the last one, Leon D. Aldridge, born in Doyle, Louisiana, in 1923. His mother died giving birth to him. A record of her name exists, I know it does, but I have yet to locate it. Sylvester V. Aldridge and his wife Hattie Lois Farmer (living in East Texas) took Leon to raise before his first birthday and later adopted him. He married Indianola Johnson in 1944 and they had four children: Peggy Jean born in 1946 and died shortly after birth, Leon Jr. born in 1948, Leslie Diane born in 1951, and Sylvia Anne born in 1953.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

Hints of interesting stories from the good old days most likely now lost to time are often suggested by facts found in family history research. Things like how one branch of the Aldridge family went to Kentucky about the time others were apparently headed for Mississippi. Mary Margaret Hooks Aldridge, mother of Thomas Aldridge born in Kentucky in 1757, died in Clark County, Kentucky and was buried there in 1810.

That’s significant because the county seat of Clark County, Kentucky, is Winchester. My mother, Indianola Johnson, was born in Winchester in 1923, some 113 years after Mary Margaret Aldridge was buried there. In 1944, 134 years after Mary Margaret’s burial, Indianola married Leon Aldridge from Texas, my father, who was Mary Margaret’s great-great-great-great grandson.

What a fun story that would have been to tell my parents. I’m sure they had no clue. It’s just one of many I can now share after becoming acquainted with Aldridges in my father’s lineage, ancestors he knew nothing about.

A family tree is a work in progress, and I’m just getting started. I’m looking forward to hopefully uncovering many more stories from the good old days about my father’s family.

—Leon Aldridge

(Photo above—Three of my first cousins the one and only time I saw them in 1961. I was 13 years old. The picture was made at my father’s sister’s house near Tickfaw, Lousiana, where I went with my father and the only brother he knew to pick up the car pictured—a new 1961 Ford purchased by my uncle in Baton Rouge.) 

Aldridge columns are also published in the Center, Texas Light and Champion and the Mount Pleasant, Texas, Tribune.


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