Tag Archives: genealogy

Stray Leaves Has a New SURNAMES Genealogy Database

The new “official genealogy” database for the family of Frank & Jesse James is gigantic. Researchers now will have more paths of discovery to kinship relationships, not only with America’s iconic outlaws, but also with presidents, office holders & public servants, famous arts & cultural icons, and business behemoths who changed the nation.

surnames
The Stray Leaves SURNAMES genealogy database

It’s been a decade since the popular SURNAMES genealogy database on Stray Leaves was last updated. While visits to the database rose as high as 55,000 daily, its content was replicated across the internet. Meanwhile, new research did not stop growing the database.

Eric F. James has compiled the SURNAMES database since 1997. “Most genealogists only research their own family surname. So did I – in the beginning. But soon I learned that the in-law families of the James knew more about the James than the James knew about themselves. So I started to research the genealogy of the in-law families just as much, if not more. That’s when the explosion came.”

The more his research expanded, the more the names of other historical American icons entered his genealogy. “In 2002, when I showed Judge James R. Ross, Jesse’s great grandson, my findings about his previously unknown ancestry, he was not so surprised. James family lore historically foreshadowed his relationship to the French Bourbon Kings, but never to Judah, the King of Judea. As a lifelong Democrat, though, Judge Ross was dumbfounded completely to find himself related to the Presidents Bush.”

One research discovery now produces more controversy for the James than does their relationship to outlaws. “In today’s social climate, what can you say when you find out Wal-Mart’s founder Sam Walton is your cousin?” As Eric F. James is called upon often to defend kinship with the criminal career of Jesse James, he’s just as often called upon to defend the business practices of Wal-Mart. James thinks he found the perfect answer, though. “I simply tell people this when I request the family discount at WalMart, I never receive it.”

data transfer
Upload of the SURNAMES database began January 23rd, and continued to upload over 100,000 new web pages around the clock until 2 a.m. January 28, 2014.

Stray Leaves’ new SURNAMES database expects to serve more than just genealogists and family historians. The database now includes 273,469 people, in 94,761 family groups, almost double the size it was before. “It got that way,” James says,” because a third tier of research was added. Beyond the James family and their in-laws, I also explored the relatives of the in-laws of the James. That’s when a lot of new James family history was discovered.”

The third tier of research led Eric F. James in unexpected directions and down pathways he never would consider taking before. “Soon, not only was the genealogy piling up, but a lot of new history, previously unknown, was revealing itself, too.

“That’s when it became necessary to start writing the history of the Jesse James family. I had to explain with more than just a skeletal genealogy format what happened with the James, with whom, and why. That’s also why his book Jesse James Soul Liberty is just the first of five volumes to be published in the coming years. Volumes of new history have emerged from the genealogy. “I could write more than just five volumes.”

“The new SURNAMES database includes many of the characters who populate my history books. Readers will be able to go to the database, and clearly see the relationships, how they went back generations, and why their existence was not so surprising after all. The James family were not isolated. The James were part of a large influential community, that cut its path across America together, all the time creating the fundamental identity of America and what it stands for in the institutions they founded, that still hold sway and influence in American life today.”

surnames
List of surnames appearing in the Stray Leaves SURNAMES genealogy database
Book author Eric F. James
Eric F. James, historian, genealogist, compiler and publishers of the Stray Leaves SURNAMES genealogy database

What will another decade hold for the SURNAMES database? “Believe it or not, the database had to be cut back about 15% in order for the software to compute and report kinship. The process of very selective trimming took almost two years. The database continues to grow exponentially. In the future, there may be more than one gigantic database. There may be many databases that will be all interlinked.”

James adds, “My time for this may be running its course. The next stage probably will be handled by someone younger, coming up behind me. I love everything I’ve learned hanging out with the dead. But, really, I’ve got to get up from this desk.”

Jesse James Family Wins Distinguished Milton F. Perry Award

An epic history of the family of Frank & Jesse James has garnered the esteemed Milton F. Perry Award.* The James-Younger Gang Conference of 2013 conferred the prestigious award upon author Eric F. James. His book, Jesse James Soul Liberty, is the first of five volumes the author is writing about the family stigmatized by their outlaws. The author’s acceptance, below, paid tribute to the James family, whom the author says defines what it means to be American in their actions, character, and soul. The James family alone, says the author, reveals why Jesse James endures as a cultural America icon.

Milton F. Perry Award

I thank the James-Younger Gang for this award. For a long time, I was aware this award is given only to those who make some ground- breaking contribution to the historical record. That makes this award special, and one well worth having. Especially gratifying to me are my friends and colleagues who advanced the candidacy of my book. I thank them, too.

When first publishing my research and genealogy findings for public review on our website Stray Leaves, starting in 1997, I fully expected assassins to come out gunning for me. Indeed, they did. Over ten years, mostly blank pot shots were fired, principally by claimants, charlatans, and detractors with no foothold in the facts. But there were others, too, who also came forth. They were more firmly grounded in factual history and evidence collecting. They offered contributions of their own, making the data, even more, bullet proof. I thank those contributors, also.

Curiously, I thought I would have received this award years ago when the ground-breaking genealogy for this book first was made known. When I last addressed you in Northfield, Minnesota in 2005, though, I was made keenly aware that not everyone wants to deal with the hardcore, dry data, which irrefutable genealogy provides.  I will never forget the words of Rex McBeath. Before me and all of you, Rex took dead aim at me and said, “Old Eric there, he’s only interested in who begot who. I’m interested in who be-shot who.” I recognized then that the new history my genealogy research possessed would have to find its audience in some other way.  So, this narrative history was begun. Then, one book turned into two books, and quickly into three, and now into four books. For the history book now, and the three yet to come, thank you, Rex McBeath.

Judge James Randall Ross
Judge James R. Ross

I next want to thank Jesse’s great grandson, the late Judge James R. Ross. Jim followed my study intently and avidly. He was always prompting me for the “evidence.” Little did I expect that after I had presented him an abundance of it, Judge Ross would hand me a 10-year sentence. “Why don’t you write a book about our family,” Jim asked. “Everyone writes about Frank and Jesse. No one ever writes about the family.” Meeting the James family, it was quickly clear. The James family had lost its history and its identity. One family line could not recognize another. I thank Jim and his wife Rosemary, and their next generation of Jesse James’ great grandchildren, for all of their continuing support.

This award deserves to be shared with the Jesse James family itself. After 130 years of self-imposed silence and self-inflicted anonymity, they finally broke their silence to recapture their lost identity and to reunite themselves in this effort. By offering me their documents, personally written memoirs, letters, and photos, and by making themselves available for long and intensive interviews, the Jesse James family now self-defines who they are, and what the James family is all about. As no historian can, the James family alone presents us the personality, character, and soul that they genetically share with the two disreputable family members who stigmatized and imprisoned them for so long.

Barbara James
Barbara James

Individually, I’d like to thank Barbara James, daughter of Daniel Lewis James, the Hollywood screenwriter, blacklisted as a Communist by the House on Un-American Activities Committee of the U. S. Congress. When Dan wrote his award-winning book Famous All Over Town, using his assumed pen name of Danny Santiago, Dan James was exposed and additionally brown-listed by the Hispanic literati. Thanks to Barbara’s first-hand testimony, the chapter in my book about Dan James was commissioned to be made into the play produced by Chicago’s Tony-winning Steppenwolf Theater. The award-winning Hispanic playwright Carlos Murillo has written the play and production is pending. Ironically Carlos lives on the same street, two blocks away from where I grew up. Carlos and I share a common belief that some divine hand has directed our works.

Joan Beamis
Joan Malley Beamis

Among other descendants of Drury Woodson James, I additionally thank J. Mark Beamis for making me custodian of his mother’s research records. The writings of Joan Beamis show clearly she knew there were much more James family genealogy and history to be known than what she had published in Background of a Bandit. Illness and death overcame Joan’s attempt to write a biographical history of the James family. I’m privileged and grateful to pick up what Joan left uncompleted.

Rev. James B. Malley S.J.
Fr. James B. Malley S.J.

Thanks, too, to Joan’s brother, Father James Burns Malley, a Jesuit priest in Boston. Father Jim provided his biography, showing how those among the James, who intentionally performed good works still became the targets of the government, social persecution, and ostracism – just like their notorious cousins. Like Father Jim, Judge Ross also was made a pariah. When Jim handed down the first judicial decision in America to help gay rights, Judge Ross was driven from his bench by masked political forces. The first purpose of Frank and Jesse to defend people’s rights continues today. For Father Malley and Judge Ross, we all should be grateful.

The many others whom I thank, you will find in the “Acknowledgements” chapter of my book. I’m sorry I could not be with you tonight. When informed of this award ceremony, I already had pre-scheduled commitments. I thank Charlie Broomfield for standing in.

Charles Broomfield
Charles Broomfield, Director, Clay County (MO) Parks & Recreation

In closing, many among the James family denied me access, as they did before with Joan Beamis. Joan wrote, “I was specifically warned not to try any correspondence at all with any relatives in Missouri.” I was told more strictly, “to mind my business.” Hopefully now, your approval and the imprimatur of your award upon this new history, will serve as a standing invitation to those among the James family, still dis-joined. It’s never too late to hold a family reunion. Without any doubt, there is more Jesse James family history to come.

More than my book, it is the James family who defines Jesse James’ soul liberty. More than my book, it is their stories, their deeds, and their history that represent in no uncertain terms what it means to be American. The James family alone elucidates why Jesse James endures as a cultural America icon.

My thanks to them, and my thanks to you.

Milton F. Perry & President Harry Truman
Milton F. Perry with President Harry S. Truman

 

* The Perry Award is named after Milton F. Perry, the founder and curator of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Perry also founded and was the first curator of James Farm & Museum in Kearney, Missouri.

 

A Mountain of Genealogy Comes Down to Earth as Entertaining History

screenshot of book review

“Mr. James has conquered the Everest of writing a family history genealogy book that is interesting enough for the rest of us to want to read.”

Transforming 12 years of genealogy research into a biographical history book that appeals to most any reader who enjoys a good tale, indeed, has been one of the most formidable challenges of my life.

Physically, I’ve never climbed Mt. Everest, though the prospect of doing so often has fascinated me since I was a  teen. I preferred writing to mountain climbing.

Having now climbed the Mt. Everest of turning a massive genealogy database of close to 300,000 related people into an epic view of one family and their panoramic history, and the reflection of their discovery of self in that view, has left me standing on the mountaintop, definitely feeling the chill of the thrill. When I was the author standing alone on the mountaintop, though, I was challenged with bringing that thrill back to earth in an intimate and engaging story for the average reader. This was the most formidable challenge in writing Jesse James Soul Liberty.

Eastman’s Genealogy Newsletter is a primary meeting ground for genealogists and family historians at all levels of experience. From how-to and tech tips to the latest news in archival development and events, Eastman’s covers the full spectrum of genealogical interest. In recent months, the book reviews of Bobbi King have been added as a regular feature.

Bobbi King has reviewed a couple of family history books on Eastman’s before mine. Mostly they appear as personal memoirs, more than an objective history book. So I was very pleased when Bobbi accepted the challenge to review mine.

In her book review of Jesse James Soul Liberty, Bobbi King gently reminds genealogists that a good family history book should be interesting to an audience beyond a book’s own subject family.

As I was inadvertently climbing my Mt. Everest, every step that lead to each successive discovery or view made me wonder, how can someone else see what I do and enjoy the experience of it. The view from the top of the James family’s precipice is spectacular, and each step leading to that view is an insightful reminder of what it takes to make a magnificent mountain. Magnificent mountains always have interesting stories to tell.

– ERIC F. JAMES, Author

Film by Elia Saikaly

 

 

In-Laws of Our James Know More Than Us Sometimes

Was it not for Ruby Tidwell-Johnson, few of our James family would know about the descendants of John James of Alvarado, his story, & the story of his line. Ruby is the wife of Dennis Lee Johnson, a James family descendant.

Ruby Tidwell Johnson & Husband Dennis Lee Johnson

For years, Ruby meticulously compiled a history of her husband’s family. Ruby not only collected the required genealogy of names, dates, & places of individuals, spouses, children, and their births, marriages, deaths, & burials, Ruby also collected the family lore & stories attached to John James of Alvarado & his descendants, that cause their history to live and be relevant today. Over the years, Ruby generously has shared what she learned among her James relatives.

Prior to the start of Stray Leaves’ publication in 1997, Ruby also shared the history & genealogy she collected with Stray Leaves author Eric James. In turn, her information has been shared countless times among other members of the James family who found their way to the James family’s web site, & among a public drawn to the James family’s story.

Ruby is not the only in-law to reveal the history of the James. In the twelve years of research conducted by Eric James, many times Eric encountered in-laws of the James who knew more about the James than the James knew about themselves. Except for those in-laws found among the line of Frank & Jesse James, who felt stigmatized by their marriage relationship and did not want it made known they were related to the notorious outlaws through marriage or any other way, James in-laws outside that line were more than willing to share what they knew. In some cases, they revealed family secrets unknown to the James themselves.

Some of what Ruby Tidwell-Johnson collected soon will find its way into Eric James’ epic, new history of the James family Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I, Behind the Family Wall of Stigma & Silence. In the book’s “Acknowledgements” chapter, Ruby is appreciatively cited as a valued keeper of the James family’s history, for whom many are grateful.

PEDIGREE

Dennis Lee Johnson & Ruby Tidwell

. Lecil Johnson & Fredda Louise James

.. Jackson Waite James & Maggie Dozier Fitzgerald

… John James, of Alvarado & Mary Elizabeth Rosaline “Ross” Bradley

…. Cyrentius Waite James & Amanda Jane “Manda” Hall

….. Rev. Joseph Martin James & Rhoda May

…… John M. James & Clarissa “Clara/Clary” Nalle