|Dad, age 60, and me
(blonde wig & all!)
|In front of what remains of the home where Elijah Thomas, b.1842, lived out his last days, taken October 2002|
I was born in Kentucky, the first child of Bill Elijah "Lige" Thomas and Mildred Louise "Mickey" Overman. Dad was born and raised on Doe Creek Road in Owsley County until about the age of 16. His mother, Lona Sizemore, died in 1923 when Lige was 13 years old and by 1926 he and his dad, Lewis "Bud" Thomas, had moved to Newport, KY. It was there that Lige met and married my mother, Mickey, in 1946. It was a second marriage for both of them, Mom having 2 small children from her first marriage. They lived in Newport for four more years and then in 1950, having heard glowing reports about job opportunities in California, they packed up their belongings and they with their 5 small children, set out for California. I was 3 or 4 years old at the time. They settled in the small mountainous community of Coarsegold, California.
In 1954 Mom and Dad divorced and I was raised by Mom and my stepfather, Gerald "Jerry" Cross, in Ahwahnee, California, a small country town near the foothills of Yosemite National Park. I didn't see much of Dad until years later when I was in my teens or pre-teen years. One thing that stands out in my mind about my visits with him at those times was his yearning to return to the hills of Kentucky where he grew up. Sad to say, he was never able to realize that wish, but it instilled in me the desire to someday go to his childhood home. Through the years he told us bits and pieces about his life in Owsley County, mentioning once that we had a Cherokee grandmother somewhere in our line. (Doesn't everyone?) Later that tantalizing little bit of information would impel me to learn more.
In 1972 Dad died at the age of 62 without ever having returned to his beloved Kentucky home. As the years passed I became occupied with the all-consuming task of raising a family of my own. It was not until 1989 when my younger sister, Joyce, asked me about our Cherokee ancestry that my interest in family history was aroused again. I also began to think about how little I knew about Dad's family. None of us had ever met our grandparents on Dad's side since they were already gone before Dad married Mom. These two things became the motivating force behind my search for my family roots.
My search for family history led me to Owsley County, KY. First I learned what I could from the few living relatives that were remaining and got some facts I could start with. From that I was able to send for public records through the mail and I made weekly trips to the LDS Family History Center where I scoured census records and vital statistics. When we made our first trip to Owsley County, a cousin, Henry Sizemore, took us to the Griffith "Griffey" Cemetery, relating information he knew about various ones buried there and to Doe Creek road, known locally as "Thomas Holler". What a thrill it was to finally see the area where Dad had spent his youth, and we copied information from the headstones that were readable in the cemetery. While in Owsley County, we visited the county library and examined the records available in their genealogy section. This helped to widen out my knowledge of the people I was kin to. Since that time we have made several trips to Owsley and other counties gathering information from historical societies and cemeteries, etc. And now we have the Internet! I have been able to make so many connections from cousins everywhere and, since posting my website on the internet, I have heard from many, many Marchant Thomas descendants. We also now have the Owsley County History and Genealogy Society which is growing in leaps and bounds, making available to researchers everywhere as much information as possible on Owsley County genealogy and history.
In conclusion, I'd like to add that in a recent trip to Owsley County, we found an adventuresome soul (James Bowman) who was willing to take us all the way up the left fork of Doe Creek road where Dad lived and played in his youth. We found what was left of the home where his grandfather, Elijah, had lived and I have preserved a piece of that homestead, in the form of a Daylily, that I transplanted here at my Sacramento home.