Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Only one great-grandchild of Jesse James has three distinct lines of James ancestry. The three lines offer indisputable evidence that the ancestry of the Jesse James family is more extensive and permeating than formerly known. Moreover, it is a sure guarantee that Elizabeth Ann Barr is none too happy about it.
Betty Barr’s father, Lawrence Henry Barr, never was happy about his kinship to the Jesse James family, even though he married Jesse’s daughter. When the James family’s genealogist Joan Malley-Beamis sent letters to Lawrence to learn about the kinship that her research showed they shared, Lawrence stonewalled her. On numerous occasions, Lawrence rudely provided Joan no reply whatsoever. Betty’s mother, Thelma Duncan Barr, took it upon herself to intervene, to restore courtesy and civility among the James family’s descendants. Thelma wrote to Joan Beamis, pleading for Joan’s understanding about her husband’s inexplicable silence.
“Dear Mrs. Beamis, My name is Thelma Duncan Barr. My husband is Lawrence Barr…I am sorry he did not see fit to answer your letter. You have no idea how many inquiries he gets through the mails.. He simply did not want to be bothered. I told him he should have answered your letter. However, he does not know very much about the historical facts of the family. Mother Barr [Jesse’s daughter Mary Susan James-Barr] would not let it be ‘talked about’ in her home.”
BAR TO THE CORE
Without a doubt, Betty Barr is her father’s daughter. From her father’s sense of protection and self-insulation, Betty inherited and maintains the bar to interest in the James family that her father erected.
Years later, when Stray Leaves publisher Eric F. James queried Betty about her family history, word came back through a longtime family friend Marjorie Highley-Best, “Tell Eric James to mind his own business.” Unlike her father with Joan Beamis, at least Betty had the courtesy to provide a reply, albeit an indirect one.
When Judge James R. Ross, another third great-grandchild of Jesse, personally invited Betty to attend the James Gang & Family Reunion in Paso Robles, California in 2002 to celebrate Drury Woodson James, Betty declined. She cited the recent attack of 9/11 as her reason not to fly, although she could have traveled safely and more comfortably by train. Her attendance at the family reunion would have been a historic event in itself, bringing together all of Jesse’s third generation in one place, in one photo, for one last time.
Among most of the James family, escaping the notoriety of Jesse James, and their kinship to him has become a genetic obsession. Across several generations, being a direct descendant of Jesse James, as is Betty Barr, has not been without pain and difficulty. Despite the family stigma, for the most part, the family phobia remains self-inflicted.
More significantly, today such avoidance and aversion are needless and unwarranted. Now, a blanket of James family exists to give comfort to the stigmatized James. The broader James family of teachers, preachers, educators, and poets, together with a gallery of public servants, politicians, and community builders as Jesse James Soul Liberty documents, asserts a family reputation the isolated Jesse James family never before could claim.
Betty Barr may hide in a citadel of silence, but never can she escape the inviolate facts of her genetic genealogy. In the 135 years since the assassination of her great-grandfather, new research into genealogical facts of the Jesse James family makes it clear that Betty Barr has more than one line of James ancestry. She has three. When compiled together, Betty’s three lines offer her more than ample reason to escape her Barr family citadel, which has imprisoned her.
BETTY’S DESCENDANT LINE FROM JESSE JAMES
If “Mother Barr” (Jesse’s daughter Mary Susan James-Barr) elected not to talk about her infamous father Jesse, she had ample reason for not doing so. Jesse’s firebrand burned fiercely throughout the lifetime of Mary Susan James-Barr. The burn and sting transferred easily to Jesse’s grandchildren and beyond.
Three generations of the outlaw’s progeny would have to pass before the flame would subside sufficiently for the James family to escape the stigma of disgrace. Joan Beamis made ample note of this in her essay “Unto the Third Generation,” now published in Volume I of Jesse James Soul Liberty. Betty Barr is a great-granddaughter of Jesse James, making Betty one of the third generation whom Joan Beamis addressed. With more than a century of time now passed since Jesse’s assassination, Betty should live completely free and unfettered from her great-grandfather’s notorious past.
Betty’s descendant line from Jesse James is as follows:
1. Jesse Woodson James & Zee Mimms
2. Mary Susan James & Henry Lafayette Barr
3. Lawrence Henry Barr & Thelma Duncan
4. Elizabeth Ann “Betty” Barr
BETTY’S FIRST LINE OF JAMES ANCESTRY
Since 1970, when Joan Beamis published the first genealogy of the Jesse James family, Background of a Bandit, Betty Barr knew only six generations of her James ancestry beyond herself. Joan Beamis was not able to identify any James ancestry beyond that, although she suspected there was much more to be found, as she stated in “Unto the Third Generation,” now published in Volume I of Jesse James Soul Liberty.
Betty’s James ancestry as compiled by Joan Beamis is as follows:
1. William James Sr. & Mary Hines
2. John M. James & Mary “Polly” Poor
3. Rev. Robert Sallee James & Zerelda Elizabeth Cole
4. Jesse Woodson James & Zee Mimms
5. Mary Susan James & Henry Lafayette Bar
6. Lawrence Henry Barr & Thelma Duncan
7. Elizabeth Ann “Betty” Barr
BETTY’S SECOND LINE OF JAMES ANCESTRY
For twenty-five years from 1970 to 1995, Betty satisfied herself with the genealogy that Joan Beamis produced. Meanwhile, claims continued to assault the established kinship of the Jesse James family that remained for the most part as small, confined, and isolated.
Stray Leaves was hot on the trail to discover Betty’s hidden past. Other genealogists also were on her ancestral trail. Stray Leaves started to publish its new research, starting in 1995. The findings have been peer reviewed by over two hundred genealogists and historians since. As Joan Beamis suspected, a deeper and broader James ancestry was found.
Betty’s ancestors in her James line now extend five generations beyond what Joan Beamis could find.
1. John James, the Immigrant & Unknown
2. Thomas James & Sarah E. Mason
3. George James Sr. & Mary Wheeler
4. Esther James & Henry Field Sr.
5. Mary Field & Joseph James, the Elder
6. William James Sr. & Mary Hines
7. John M. James & Mary “Polly” Poor
8. Rev. Robert Sallee James & Zerelda Elizabeth Cole
9. Jesse Woodson James & Zee Mimms
10. Mary Susan James & Henry Lafayette Bar
11. Lawrence Henry Barr & Thelma Duncan
12. Elizabeth Ann “Betty” Barr
BETTY’S THIRD LINE OF JAMES ANCESTRY
From the ancestry of Betty’s mother Thelma Duncan-Barr, Betty possesses yet an additional line of surprising ancestry that connects Betty to her James family’s first immigrant to America, John James in the early 1600s.
This additional line of James ancestry weaves through several generations of other families with various surnames. As the research of Stray Leaves showed since 1997, these families were known to be socially related to the James through several generations in Colonial Virginia. The ancestry of Betty’s mother Thelma Duncan-Barr serves as further confirmation of Betty’s blanket James ancestry.
1. John James, the Immigrant & Unknown
2. Thomas James & Sarah E. Mason
3. Capt. John James & Dinah Allen
4. Sarah James & Peter Hitt Jr.
5. Miriam Hitt & Archibald Holtzclaw
6. Rebecca Holtzclaw & John Quincy Adams “Sweet Potato” Capps
7. Elizabeth Louise Capps & Joseph B. Hart
8. Clarissa Rebecca “Clara” Hart & Louis Fry
9. Louise “Lulu” Fry & Jeholda Duncan
10. Thelma Duncan & Lawrence Henry Barr
11. Elizabeth Ann “Betty” Barr
The fact that both of Betty Barr’s paternal and maternal lines can be traced back to the same set of James ancestors indisputably confirms the identity of the James ancestry of the Jesse James family.
Betty’s ancestry is a unique pedigree peculiar to her alone. Her maternal antecedents confirm her James extraction indirectly, exclusive of her paternal line leading directly to Jesse James. No other great-grandchild of Jesse James’ third generation can claim Betty’s unique pedigree – not Judge James Randall Ross, not Donald James Baumel or Diane June Baumel, and not James Curtis Lewis.
The time is now for Betty to stake her claim in a notable and laudable ancestry that completely outshines the stigma from which her Barr family has been hiding. The time also is now for the ancestry of the blanket James family to recognize and celebrate this uniquely American family for its formidable contribution to society, and not for its legendary sensationalism.
More information about all of Betty Barr’s ancestors can be found in the SURNAMES genealogy database of Stray Leaves.