Saturday, November 12, 2005

I Found You!

I did something today that I had wanted to do for a long time. I looked up my paternal grandfather, John William Walter Byrd. This crest is not the one we had on the wall when I was a kid, and I am not sure if the good folks at know about the one we have.

Actually I have seen a several crests that bear the surname "Byrd" and this is one of them. Byrd Family crestThere are also several mottos attached to them. One of the mottoes is "Cruce Spes Mea" or "My Hope is in the cross." That happens to be on this crest, which I found at but again this is not the one that our family had. The one we had was closer to the one at the top of the page. And our motto reads "Nulla Pallescera Culpa" which I once learned translated into "Never Pale at Any Crime."

Byrd Northamptonshire Crest Then I found this intimidating looking thing from ,which is also listed as the Byrd crest from Northamptonshire in England and I thought was quite sinister looking. But I must admit it would be a badass thing to have on your armor or shield when you were on the battlefield. I couldn't find the motto for it.

But all this heraldry and pomp must belong to another branch of the family because my grandfather was poor. I found him -- and my grandmother -- in the 1930 census at the National Archives in Washington. They are listed in Patterson Township, in Durham County. There are several things this one piece of microfilm told me:
  • My Grandfather was born around 1900 (really 1898) and was listed as 30 years old when the census was taken. He was actually 32, but the census taker did not list his actual birthdate. From the records in Durham County, he died in March of 1974, and lived to be 76 years old.
  • He married early -- he was 23 and my grandmother was only 16 when they married.
  • My grandfather could not read or write by the time he was 30 years old.
  • He rented their house on a farm in Durham County;
  • He worked in a cotton mill as a laborer and was employed the day before the census was taken in April of 1930. (I thought that was impressive, at least a little because he did have a job. There were some folks in 1930 that did not, with the Depression just starting a few months before).
  • He had two sons -- William Aubrey (my uncle) who was 6 at the time, and "Bobbie R." -- my dad -- who was listed at 3 months old.

I looked up John W. Byrd in the Durham County records and found that he is buried in Maplewood Cemetery located in Durham on Maplewood Avenue and bounded by Kent Street, Chapel Hill Road, and University Drive. Ironically he is not far from Duke University's Wallace Wade Football Stadium and Cameron Indoor Stadium. You basketball fans have surely heard of that. Both my parents and my elder brother attended Duke, but my grandfather never went to college.

My uncle, William Aubrey Byrd, is buried in the same cemetery along with my grandparents. He died in 1985 at age 61. My dad? He's scattered over the Atlantic Ocean -- he was cremated after he died in August of 1995.

I also learned a few things about Willie Mae Byrd, my paternal grandmother. She was born in South Carolina, not North Carolina, in 1906. She died September 22, 1938 -- she was only 32 years old. My dad had talked about her dying of breast cancer, but I am not sure. One thing I do know: my dad lost his mother when he was eight years old. That must have had a devastating effect on him.

I know my grandfather remarried; her name was Nancy Jacobs and she worked in the cotton mill in Durham catching bobbins. That's what destroyed her fingers. She lived to be in her 90s, I think, but my grandfather died in 1974. I never met him.

So why compose this post? Why should the public care about my search for granddaddy John? Because my dad hated him, and I never knew the truth about him. I know he abandoned Nancy Jacobs (and the rest of the family) when my dad was in junior high school or high school, but I don't know much more than that. So I wanted to find out where I came from. I know which family motto fits me now: Because I am a Christian My hope is in the Cross. I have a new family, a new lineage -- that of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the Lord Jesus Christ. But I was still curious about the old one.


Cheryl said...

We'll be going down to Durham next week for Thanksgiving. I know exactly where Maplewood Cemetery is. This was kinda cool: If you go to your map, go south and follow Chapel Hill Road to University Drive. Follow Univ. Dr. to University Dr. Ext. On the very corner of Univ. Dr. Ext and Old Chapel Hill Road is where my mother lives. Follow Garrett Rd. south, zoom in (click on the + sign once) until you see King Charles Rd. Right below that is the high school Sam and I graduated from, and Matt and Chris attended before we moved to Manassas. I could show you other "points of interest" but how boring would that be!! I'll send pix of the cemetery to you.

David La Roche said...

David, my name is David Byrd (La Roche) and I think we may be related. My grandfather is Robert (Bobby) Byrd, son of Walter Byrd and Willie Mae Jefferson. I too have been trying to learn of where I come from and I stumbled on your page when looking for a "Byrd" crest. I've been creating a family tree and have learned quite a bit. It we are indeed related, I have an entire Byrd family over here in California, including Grammy, Gertrude Byrd, Robert (Bobby) Byrd's wife and all of my aunts and uncles that would love to fill you in on where you come from.

Take care David... I love the name by the way!