Here is the remainder of a now-deleted Brodnax post. It has information about the authoritative compiled history of the family and a bit about my own Brodnaxes. It also has an irrelevant and irreverent meme I cannot resist sharing, as well as a preview of upcoming posts.
The definitive Brodnax book and where to find it.
Mildred Seab Ezell wrote the authoritative compiled genealogy on this family. It is titled Brodnax: The Beginning and is available at the libraries listed here. An Addendum was published in 2005. So far as I have found, the only place to purchase The Beginning and the Addendum is on Ebay.
Fortunately, LDS has digitized The Beginning and it is available online here. You can only access the book if you have an account with FamilySearch.org and you are logged in when you click on that link. Accounts are free, and you can create one here. FYI, a FamilySearch account is far and away the best bargain in genealogy for family history researchers. The website has images of millions of original county and other records, including deeds, probate and tax records – if the LDS has filmed it, you can probably find it at Familysearch.org. Some of the records can be viewed only at an LDS “Family History” center, but many are available online from your own kitchen table.
My own Brodnaxes
My father’s mother was née Brodnax: Emma Leona Brodnax (“Ma”) Rankin. She lived and died in small town north Louisiana from 1878 – 1968, and she was a card-carrying, equal-opportunity bigot. Sadly, that particular insanity was almost certainly the norm in the Caucasian population when and where she lived. On the positive side, she was evidently much admired by her Eastern Star sisterhood. She raised my father, as kind and decent a person as I’ve ever known.
Ma Rankin may have smiled once or twice in her life, although none of her grandchildren mentioned ever having seen that happen when we got together at the first Rankin cousins’ reunion in 1995. The adjective of choice for Ma was “strict.”
The Rankin cousins were late getting together as adults. I am the youngest of the six first cousins, and I was just shy of fifty in 1995. Butch, the host, had to ask a P.I. friend to find me. I had last seen a Rankin cousin at my father’s funeral in 1979.
There was a good historical reason for this. Family occasions at Ma Rankin’s absurdly overheated house in Gibsland, Bienville Parish, Louisiana were torture for attendees of all ages. “Conversation” consisted mostly of long silences, punctuated by desultory remarks about the state of someone’s health. I first heard the term “gall bladder” in Ma Rankin’s living room. I gathered it was an unnecessary anatomical feature, since someone was always having one removed.
Occasionally, someone attempted to break the silence. Uncle Louie once made a feint at lively repartee during a Thanksgiving get-together in 1957. He said something about Sputnik, the satellite Russia had launched the previous month. Ma Rankin stopped that conversation dead in its tracks, a bullet through its heart, like so: “If God had meant for man to be on the moon, he would’ve put him there.” The grandkids bolted outdoors, where the temperature was cold enough to see your breath and was a welcome relief. I was 11, and my cousins were ages 16-19. I think we had a pecan-throwing war, although that may just be me romanticizing my Rankin cousins, whom I like.
Ma did not have an easy adult life, having married a penniless Rankin. At that first reunion, I asked Butch what our grandfather did for a living. “Anything he could, hon … anything he could.” Butch hit the nail on the head. Once I discovered census and other records, I learned that our grandfather worked at various times as a driver of a dray wagon, restaurant waiter, and parish sheriff, all while raising four kids and living in a rented house. There was a dusty old popcorn wagon under the Rankin pier-and-beam house in Gibsland, which was built on a fairly steep slope from front to rear. The rear of the house had sufficient headroom underneath for an adult to stand up, and that is where the popcorn wagon rusted away. As a child, I thought my grandfather’s profession was selling popcorn. It seems he did that, too. Ma Rankin took in mending to supplement his earnings.
Fate intervened to improve family finances. Ma’s brother, Joe Brodnax, died and left part of his estate to her. Great-Uncle Joe owned mineral rights in considerable land sitting atop a prolific gas field in north Louisiana. Ma Rankin’s inheritance allowed the family to buy a home and send three of their four children to college. After that, according to my father (the youngest), “the money ran out.” Joe’s bequests also allowed another Brodnax sister, Great-Aunt Effie, to remain unmarried and live in Washington D.C., where she single-handedly raised an orphaned niece. Effie always had a smile and a big, welcoming embrace for her great-nephews and nieces, who were concerned only that we might suffocate in her ample buxom. I think (but am not positive) this is Effie Theo Brodnax as a young woman.
And here is a picture of James Harper Tripp Brodnax and Susan Demaris Harkins Brodnax, the parents of Ma Rankin, Great-Aunt Effie, Great-Uncle Joe, and seven other children. J.H.T. Brodnax and Susan married in Perry County, Alabama in 1865 after he returned from the Civil War. He enlisted as a Corporal, but mustered out as a Private. There is bound to be a good story in there somewhere, but I haven’t found it.
Finally, here is the meme I cannot resist. Someone posted this in response to a stupid tweet about the Notre Dame fire by the junior senator from Texas. Politics aside, the tweet was tone-deaf and dumb, something about Disney princesses in new Notre Dame stained glass windows. I won’t be able to use it, because I don’t tweet. But one of you out there can perhaps put it to good use.
Coming attractions on this blog include an article Gary is working on about a Foster Willis. From me, a continuation of a series of articles about the family of John Burke of Jackson County, Tennessee. Then Parrotts, Graves, Rivers or all of the above.
See you on down the road.
My father did say exactly that, but he was probably being facetious. Ma Rankin remained in that house until she died, and she certainly didn’t have a pension on which to draw. I would bet that Uncle Joe’s bequest was sufficient to provide for her old age.