Alabama Homing

Family lines converging
on Geneva County
in the late 19th century

The Murphy Medal

for battles far from home     

L.A. Expatriate

I wasn't born in Alabama, but it wasn't my fault.  Five generations before me had been born there, but it fell to me to be the first born in Lower Alabama.  It was wartime and there was work to be had at the Wainwright Shipyard in Panama City, Florida.  At peak production in June 1943, there were over 15,000 employees working there, but by October 1945, nearly all production had been stopped and the workers laid off.  The work gone, my family moved back to Geneva County briefly before returning to West Florida and ultimately migrating farther south.

My cousins who still live in West Florida don't really identify with the popular concept of "Florida."  Their side of the state has long been known jokingly as "L.A.," for Lower Alabama.  When they travel to the peninsula, they speak of going "down to Florida."  You might still hear someone there say, "My cousin moved off down to Florida."

Holmes County, Florida, and Geneva County, Alabama, are like Siamese twins joined at the heart.  Their people moved back and forth with no thought of boundaries, and left descendants on both sides of the line.  The same might be said for all of South Alabama and West Florida.  Settlers from Butler, Barbour and Pike counties routinely inched southward, following the lumber and turpentine industries and farming when they could.  Many ended up in the sawmill towns of Bagdad, West Bay and Millville or the farming communities of Hurricane Creek and Westville.

Thirty years of loving labor have gone into tracking these elusive people.  They have not been easy to document, as most of the relevant courthouses burned at some point.  In the beginning, I knew nothing about any of them beyond my grandparents, and very little about them.  Discoveries along the way led to new understanding of why many families jettisoned the past and gladly moved on without it.  After the passage of so many years, it is all reduced to an abstraction, the people unreal and almost mythical in their deeds and misdeeds, with no more bearing on our lives today than Zeus' antics on Olympus.

The intent was to publish a traditional book about them to record the chain that links us, even if only mythically.  However, the advent of newer technology made me decide to publish this book electronically -- it weighs a lot less, you don't have to ship it and it can be updated easily as new facts are discovered.  This website will eventually include all the chapters.

A large amount of the data here is the product of my own research, but many people over the years have been kind enough to share their families' history with me.  Memories are not perfect, so it is only reasonable to expect some measure of inaccuracy in legends handed down.  Also, in some cases, I have relied on the published findings of other researchers on some lines.  For some claims, I have found corroborating census or other records, but others have not been verified.  In all cases, the reader should remember never to accept anything as gospel until you have verified and documented it for yourself.  In spite of careful editing and painstaking proofing, errors of various types manage to creep in.  This researcher will appreciate being notified of any typos or anomalies.

See helpful information about census extracts.

Note: Some of the PDF files on this site are quite large.  Unless you have broadband, expect lengthy download.

Note: Items in this color on the descendant lists have been added or updated since the list was generated and may not be reflected in the corresponding family report.

Photo legend, clockwise from upper left:  Derlie Clemmons Murphy, abt 1912;  Etta Gray Owens and sister Hattie Gray Nicholson in the cornpatch, early 1950s;  Derlie Clemmons Murphy and children Leola, on lap, and Ambers, standing, on porch at 31 Catawba Ave, Florala, Alabama, abt 1912;  Ambers and Bertie Owens Murphy, abt 1929;  John Richard Owens, abt 1940?;  George Murphy in car, right, abt 1905? (person on left unknown).

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