About a month ago, my wife and I drove from North Carolina to St. Augustine, Florida. Our route via I-95 took us through the town of Walterboro, South Carolina, where I decided to take a little detour.
Why? So we could visit the Breland Cemetery, which is in the rural countryside several miles outside of Walterboro. It’s a small cemetery that contains about 45 graves and is surrounded by a chain link fence on a plot of ground located between a farmer’s field and the surrounding woods. One of the trees closest to the cemetery has what appears to be a deer hunter’s tree stand attached to it.
My mother’s maiden name is Gloria Dell Breland, and I knew that she was descended from a man named John Robertson Breland, who was born in that part of South Carolina in 1794 but had settled in Louisiana before the War of 1812 began. I knew this thanks to a book, The Breland Families of the Southern States, 1755-1875, that was written by my mother’s older brother, Charles Gregory Breland. Uncle Greg self-published the book in manuscript form in 1987. After Uncle Greg died in 1994, my mother’s younger brother, Hunter M. Breland, arranged for a memorial edition, which he edited, to be published as a hard back.
So I figured there was a good chance I was related to the Brelands who are buried at Breland Cemetery. Once we got back home from that trip, I started looking into it, and found that I was indeed related to everyone in that cemetery who was born with the Breland surname. I can’t say that for the wives of men named Breland who are buried there.
If you trace John Robertson Breland back to his earliest confirmed Breland ancestor, you get to his grandfather, a man named Abraham Breland, whose surname was recorded at various times as Breler, Brelar, Breelo and Breland. Abraham was born about 1725 (some researchers say he was born in Pitt County, North Carolina; others say he was born in what later became Germany) and died about 1805 in Estill, South Carolina. The Breland Cemetery outside Walterboro is about 33 miles from Estill.
Abraham was the father of William Breland (1753-1825) who is one of eight Brelands buried at the Breland family gravesite at Rivers Bridge State Park at Ehrhardt, South Carolina, in Bamberg County. That gravesite is about 19 miles from the Breland Cemetery outside Walterboro. The names of the eight people named Breland are inscribed on one side of the headstone at Rivers Bridge State Park. The inscription on the other side reads:
FROM BAVARIA GY. 1776
As I continued to research the Brelands buried in South Carolina, I learned that many of them trace their ancestry back to the same Abraham Breland as my mother. And, thanks to Uncle Greg’s book, I knew that many of the Breland families in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama are descended from Brelands who moved west from South Carolina in the early 1800s.
There are only 2,663 people named Breland listed worldwide on the Find A Grave website. The overwhelming majority of these, more than 2,500, are in the Southeastern U.S. Based on this information, it seems plausible to me that I may actually be related to most if not all of the Brelands in the South. That is certainly not the case for the surname I inherited from my father, which is Hughes. There are more than 100,000 people named Hughes in the U.S. listed on Find A Grave, and I know from my involvement in the Hughes DNA Project that there are many people named Hughes that I am not related to.
As a pilot test for my theory about the Brelands, I decided to research the Brelands who are buried at Mobile Memorial Gardens in my hometown, Mobile, Alabama. One of my mother’s brothers, Lyman Breland, is buried there. But there are several other Brelands buried there that my mother told me she had never heard of, including the Rev. Murphy B. Breland (1910-1997). After researching his Breland line, I came to the conclusion that he is my 4th cousin, twice removed.
So, is your name Breland? Want to find out if we are related or not? If so, then I’d love to hear from you. Email me at email@example.com.
This story was published on page 3 of The West Alabamian newspaper on Wednesday, August 22, 1917.
An interesting social event occurred last Wednesday at the residence of Mr. J.H. Doughty, three miles north of Reform, in the marriage of his daughter, Miss Virgie, to Mr. Arlie E. Hughes, of Fayette.
Mr. Hughes has recently graduated in the law department of the University of Alabama and received an appointment to the officers’ training camp at Fort Oglethorpe. He is a young man of excellent character and attainments.
The bride is from one of the best families in the County, and is a young lady of rare accomplishments.
The Alabamian, with numerous other friends of the happy couple, extends congratulations.
UPDATE (posted Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014): I am way overdue in posting this, but I am happy to report that the Alabama Department of Public Health has amended this death certificate as I requested.
I started my search for my great-great grandfather’s death certificate armed with what I thought was all of the correct information, which I provided on the application form that I sent to the Alabama Department of Public Health.
As the form requested, I gave his full name — James Thompson Hughes. I also gave the names of his parents, the dates of his birth and death, and the two Alabama counties where I thought he was likely to have been when he died, Fayette and Pickens. I even included a print out of his Find-A-Grave memorial, which showed that we was buried in the Ashcraft Corner Cemetery in Fayette County, when I mailed in my form and the required $15 payment.
After some time had passed, I received a letter saying they had conducted a search of death certificates from Fayette County but were not able to find one that matched the information I had provided.
However, I knew at the time there was a death certificate on file reporting that Thomas Hughes, an 89-year-old white, male widower, died near Millport, in Lamar County, Alabama, on June 30, 1919. My great-great grandfather was called “Thomps,” which was an abbreviation of his middle name, and which sounds a lot like “Thomas.” According to his headstone, “Thomps” died on June 29, 1919. And, he was an 89-year-old white, male widower at the time of his death.
Millport, Alabama is less than 15 miles from the cemetery where Thomps is buried. So, I ordered a copy of the death certificate for Thomas Hughes, which is shown below. I believe this is the death certificate for my great-great grandfather and that his first name was simply recorded incorrectly.
Notice that the physician who certified the cause of death was A. W. Clanton. He was Albert William Clanton, and he also happened to be the nephew of Thomps’ first wife, Epsey Clanton.
In addition, in 1900 when this Albert W. Clanton was 19 years old, he and his mother lived in a household in Palmetto, in Pickens County, that was headed by Essie Cornelia Dollar Hughes. In 1900 Cornelia, as she was called, was the widow of John B.D. Hughes, who was a son of Thomps and his first wife, Epsey Clanton.
All of these factors taken together convince me that the man whose death is recorded on this certificate was not “Thomas Hughes” but was instead my great-great grandfather, Thomps Hughes. I have submitted an official request asking the Alabama Department of Public Health to amend this death certificate accordingly. So far I have not received a reply to that request.
What are the take-away lessons for me in this? When doing genealogical research, sometimes you won’t find what you’re looking for if you only search for what you believe to be the “correct” name of your ancestor. In such cases, you need to consider the possibility that your ancestor’s official records, including death certificates, may have been recorded under an alternate spelling of your ancestor’s name, or even under the wrong name. You also need to consider the possibility that the county where your ancestor is buried may not necessarily be the county where your ancestor died.
This one-sentence item ran on the front page of The Fayette (Alabama) Banner newspaper on Thursday, July 3, 1919:
Mr. Thomas Hughes
Mr. Thomas Hughes, well known and highly respected citizen of the Ashcraft Corner community, died last Monday, and was buried Tuesday.
The name of the deceased was given as Thomas Hughes, but I believe this was an error. My great-great grandfather, James Thompson Hughes, was called “Thomps,” which is short for his middle name. “Thomps” and “Thomas” sound a lot alike, especially when “Thomps” is pronounced the way many Southerners would say it — as if it were a two-syllable word.
Thomps is buried at the Ashcraft Corner Cemetery in Fayette County, Alabama, and the date of death given on his headstone is June 29, 1919, which was a Sunday. The newspaper gave the day of death as Monday, which would have been June 30, 1919.
So, if I am right about this, and if the date of death on Thomps’ headstone is correct — then the newspaper managed to pack two factual errors into just one, 21-word sentence.
This Larkin Hughes was not a direct line ancestor of mine, but he was a first cousin of my great-great grandfather. This story was published on the front page of The Pickens Sentinel on June 25, 1914.
Mr. Larkin Hughes Died Tuesday, 23d
Mr. Larkin Hughes, one of the old and honored citizens of Pickens County, died at his home about 4 miles from Pickens at 3 o’clock Tuesday a.m. He developed a case of pneumonia only last Saturday.
Mr. Hughes was a little over 90 years old at the time of his death and was one of the oldest and best known men in the county. His friends were many and they will be deeply grieved to learn of his death. He was born in Pickens County and served in the Confederate Army and was made a lieutenant during the war. During the war he received a wound in one arm and it gave him trouble until his death.
Mr. Hughes was twice married, his second wife and the following children are living: Jas. A., and Alfred Hughes, of Laurens County; Mrs. Charlotte Clayton and Miss Tirzah Hughes of Pickens County, and Mrs. Belle Davis, of Inman.
He was a member of Twelve Mile Methodist church and Keowee Lodge No. 179 A.F.M. The funeral was held at Bethlehem church Wednesday and the body was buried with Masonic honors.
The Sentinel joins with unnumbered friends in extending to the family sincere sympathy.
This James W. Hughes was not a direct line ancestor of mine, but he was a brother of my great-great-great grandfather. The obituary below was published in The Pickens Sentinel on July 21, 1881.
DEAD – James W. Hughes, died at the residence of his son, Larkin Hughes, four miles South of this place, on Friday, the 15th instant, at 6:30 o’clock p.m. Mr. Hughes was born near Pickensville in this County, on the 31st of day of July, 1798, and was consequently eighty-two years, eleven months and fifteen days old. He lived all his life in this County, except about four years which he spent in Georgia, and reared a family of children here who, together with several grand and great grandchildren, survive him. He had been an earnest devoted and exemplary member of the Methodist Church for sixty years or more, and all who knew him had the utmost confidence in his honesty, patriotism and Christian fidelity. He died full in the faith and much esteemed and beloved by all his circle of acquaintance. His remains were interred in the graveyard at Bethlehem Church, Rev. S.P.H. Elwell preached his furneral, and in an eloquent and feeling manner portrayed the moral worth and many Christian virtues of the deceased. To the sorrowing relatives we extend our heart felt sympathies.
As I have written about before, I simply cannot say with any certainty at this point, based on the evidence I have in hand, exactly where my 4th great grandfather, Andrew Hughes (1755-1843) is buried.
The question of where my 3rd great grandfather, Andrew’s son, Elisha, is buried — is fraught with even more uncertainty.
But I can say with great certainty where Andrew’s son, and Elisha’s brother, James W. Hughes (1798-1881) is buried. And, it is that certainty that led me to take my chances on a rainy Saturday and drive more than 2 hours from Charlotte, N.C., down to the countryside outside Pickens, S.C., to see the cemetery where James W. was laid to rest some 133 years ago.
Also buried in the same cemetery is a son of James W., named Larkin Hughes. The fact that I am related to James W. and Larkin has been confirmed by the Y-DNA test I did with Family Tree DNA. A descendant of James W. and Larkin showed up as a match for me in the results I got from that test.
I’ve known about the locations of these graves for some time now. I’ve seen pictures of their headstones on Find-A-Grave and ancestry.com. I’ve viewed the cemetery and its surroundings on Google Earth. But for me, a tremendous amount of value comes from seeing places like this in person that cannot be replicated any other way.
After visiting the cemetery, I find myself left with many questions. Why, for example, is James W.’s headstone, which at this point is no longer legible, of such markedly poorer quality than that of his wife, Mary Jane Smith Hughes, who died 8 years before him? Was his family no longer able to afford to pay for a nice headstone by the time he died?
Did James W. ever meet his nephew, James Thompson “Thomps” Hughes (my great-great grandfather)? Did he know that Thomps, after being born in Habersham County, Georgia, ultimately settled in “the other Pickens County” (in Alabama) and lived the rest of his life there?
And what about Larkin Hughes, who was Thomps’ first cousin — did he ever meet Thomps? Both Larkin and Thomps fought as Confederate soldiers in the Civil War, and both suffered for the rest of their lives as a result of that experience. Were they even aware of each other’s existence?
There’s a good chance I may never find the answers to those questions. And, there’s a good chance I’ll never know for sure where my ancestors Andrew Hughes and his son, Elisha, are buried.
But, I feel better now after having seen the grave of James W. Hughes in person. Because that may be the closest I’ll ever get to the grave of any of my ancestors from that era.
This obituary was published on page 2 of The Tuscaloosa News on Wednesday, March 12, 1969.
Arley Ezra Hughes, 78, of 1519 Fifth Ave., died this morning at Druid City Hospital.
A native of Pickens County, he had lived in Tuscaloosa for 50 years. Mr. Hughes was a graduate of the University Law School in 1916 and worked for many years with the Alabama Power Co. here.
Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Strickland-Hayes Chapel with the Rev. Allan Watson officiating. Burial will be at Evergreen Cemetery.
The body will lie in state in the funeral home until servicetime.
Surviving are a daughter, Mrs. C.C. Davis Jr. of Marietta, Ga.; two sons, H.L. and A.E. Hughes Jr. of Mobile; seven sisters, Mrs. Naoma Ashcraft of Tuscaloosa, Mrs. Floy Patterson of Columbus, Miss., Mrs. Pluma Franks of Columbus, Mrs. Dorothy Hill of Philadelphia, Miss., and Mrs. Annie Mae Sanders of St. Petersburg, Fla.; three brothers, Eli Hughes of Tuscaloosa, Charles Hughes of Columbus and Auvin Hughes of Marietta, and nine grandchildren.
Active pallbearers are Lee Hughes, Charles Davis, Larry, Mark, Lowell and Howard Hughes, Robert and Johnny Doughty.
Honorary pallbearers are Roscoe Gibson, Wilburn Christian, Ed Mathews, Glenn Partrich, Joe Brown, Alton S. Shamblee, and the adult men’s Sunday School classes of Calvary Baptist Church.
This obituary was published on the front page of The Commercial Dispatch newspaper in Columbus, Mississippi, on March 21, 1957.
RITES SET FRIDAY FOR J.H. HUGHES
Well-Known Farmer Of New Hope Community Dies At Age Of 89
Services for James Harvey Hughes, 89, well-known farmer of the New Hope community who died about 9:30 p.m. yesterday at Doster Hospital, will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, New Hope.
The Rev. J.F. Sansing will officiate. Burial will be in the Mt. Zion Cemetery. Memorial Funeral Home, in charge of arrangements, announced that the body will lie in state at the church from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m., tomorrow preceding the funeral.
Mr. Hughes, a native of Pickens County, Ala., had lived in Lowndes County for 36 years and was a member of the Mt. Zion Church.
He leaves his wife; four sons, A.E. Hughes and E.T. Hughes of Tuscaloosa, Ala., C.G. Hughes of Columbus and A.J. Hughes of New Orleans, La.; seven daughters, Mrs. William Stinson, Mrs. Belton Patterson, Mrs. Titus Patterson and Mrs. Jack Franks, all of Columbus, Mrs. Ingram Ashcraft of Tuscaloosa, Mrs. Ozie Sanders of Gainesville, Fla., and Mrs. Breland Hill of Philadelphia; three brothers, A.E. Hughes of Tuscaloosa, M.E. Hughes of Fayette, Ala., and A.W. Hughes of Kennedy, Ala.; a sister, Mrs. Clersie Livingston, Jacksonville, Fla.; 24 grandchildren and 31 great-granchildren.
Active pallbearers will be James Arvin Jr., Herbert Lee Hughes, Billy Hughes, Lowell Hughes, Howard Hughes, J.C. Patterson, all grandsons.
Honorary pallbearers will be Birney Imes Jr., Audie Pennington, Franklin Brown, Dr. D.D. Griffin, Henry Daves, V.A. Deason, Grover Sprouse, Dr. A.E. Brown, Dr. Bernard Ellis, Robert A. Ivy, Willis Pope Sr., Willis Pope Jr., Clarence Waldon, Sidney Camp, Ben Christopher.
Serving on the flower committee will be Mrs. Clarence Walden and Mrs. Eubanks McCrary; and the granddaughters.
I was quite surprised to learn this story while tracing the ancestry of my grandmother, Virginia Doughty Hughes (1896-1978).
In 1804, my grandmother’s direct line Doughty ancestors lived in the western part of the Pendleton District in South Carolina. The eldest was Joseph Doughty (1755-1815), who was my 4th great grandfather. His children included my 3rd great grandfather, Jeremiah Doughty Sr. (1777-1838) and Jeremiah’s older brother, Daniel.
Towards the end of November 1804, Daniel filed a will saying that he was “sick and weak in body but of sound & disposing mind memory and understanding.” In the will he bequeathed “unto my dearly beloved wife Rachel Doughty one feather Bed with the furniture belonging to the same and her wearing clothes and no other part of my Estates.” He left the rest of his estate to his sons, Joseph and Laban.
By the following February, Daniel was dead and his “dearly beloved wife” was in jail, accused of murdering him. A second suspect named John Andrews was also in jail but the alleged mastermind of the crime — Rachel’s father, Laban Oakley — had escaped from jail and was on the run.
South Carolina Gov. Paul Hamilton issued the following proclamation on Feb. 19, 1805:
State of So. Carolina. By His Excellency
Paul Hamilton Governor & Commander
in Chief in & over the State aforesaid.
A Proclamation. Whereas I have received
information that Daniel Doughty late
of the District of Pendleton has been
most barberously and wickedly destroyed
by his wife Rachel, his step-father Laban
Oakley, a certain John Andrews who dis
regarding all social, moral, & religious ties
did most treacherously & cruelly combine
and conspire together and did infuse
into the drink, food and medicine of the
said Daniel Doughty repeated doses
of ratsbane or arsenic of the effects of
which after the most excruting tortures
& lamentable suffering the said Daniel
Doughty did at last die. And whereas the
said Rachel the wife of the said Daniel
Doughty and the said John Andrews
have both been committed to Gaol
under strong evidence of their guilt
but Laban Oakley the step-father as above
said who is believed to have been the first
mover of this wicked conspiracy has
fled & eludes the pursuit of justice. There
fore I deem it proper to issue this my
Proclamation hereby offering a re
ward of $400 to any person or persons
who will apprehend & deliver to the cus
tody of the Sheriff of the District in
this State the said Laban Oakley to be paid
on his being convicted of the said offence.
And I hereby most earnestly call upon
& require all officers civil & military and
all other friends to the peace safety and
happiness of the Community to the
aiding & assisting to the utmost of their
power in apprehending & bringing to
answer with his accomplices to the
Laws the said Laban Oakley to the end
that this dreadful & wicked outrage on humanity
may be followed by the punishment
which is due to it and an example
made which may deter others from
the perpetration of crimes of a nature
so flagritious & detestable. Given under
my hand and with the seal of the State this
19th day of February A.D. 1805 and of
American Independence the 29th.
Paul (L.M.S.) Hamilton. By
the Governor Daniel Huges Secretary
of State. Recorded 19th February 1805.
A document from Gov. Hamilton dated Dec. 13, 1805, indicates that $400 had been paid “for apprehending Laban Oakley, a murderer under Proclamation who broke Gaol and fled in Tennessee.”
After the death of Daniel Doughty, his sons went to live with their grandfather, and Laban Doughty’s first name was changed to Daniel. By 1820 this Doughty family had moved from the Pendleton District to the area around Tuscaloosa, Ala. Several of them are buried at Big Creek Cemetery. (My grandparents would meet, almost a century later, when Virgie Doughty wrote a letter to Arley Hughes, on behalf of her father, James Harvey Doughty, inviting him to apply for a job as a school teacher in Pickens County, Ala.)
According to sources I found online, Daniel Doughty the younger (the murdered Daniel’s son) later changed the spelling of his last name to “Doty.” Why he did this, I don’t know, but it may have been an attempt on his part to stake a claim of descent from the Mayflower passenger Edward Doty.
He ultimately settled in Mississippi, where some say the community of Doty Springs was named after him.