Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

My New Cousin

Posted May 15, 2008

How has the internet helped you in researching your family history? Well, it’s helped me a lot.

It all began with a phone call I made 20 years ago to Vance-Granville Community College. I was generating new story ideas for the Tar Heel Traveler segment. The operator put me through to a Martha Bergeron who headed up the English Department. “Bergeron” I exclaimed! “That is my mother’s maiden name. Do you think we’re related?” Martha said she had very little knowledge of her father’s family. I told her the Bergerons were also the weak link in my own family knowledge which includes Leslies, McDowells, McKessons, Averys, Waltons, Stringers and Wilhelms.

Martha retired a couple of years ago and moved to the western part of the state but she didn’t forget about that phone call. With spare time she plunged into genealogical research visiting cemeteries, using the Internet and scouring state archives. She was able to trace her Bergeron family tree all the way back to France in the early 1700s.

In February Martha read this Carolina Conversations blog when I mentioned my grandfather Bergeron who grew up near Zebulon and Lizard Lick. Martha knew her father was raised near Spring Hope. She was convinced the two were related. So Martha emailed me, reminded me of a our phone conversation two decades ago and asked me for my grandfather’s complete name. I responded. I told her my grandfather was William Wesley Bergeron and his father was James Reddick Bergeron. This was her reply:

“James Reddick was brother to John Bergeron, my grandfather. My father, Joseph Bergeron, and your grandfather William were first cousins making you and me second cousins once removed (only in the South do they distinguish such things!) At any rate we share the same ancestor William Benjamin Bergeron (b 1824, d 1870). He is my great grandfather and your great-great grandfather. I do have lots of info all the way back to when the Bergerons came to this country from France as indentured servants in NYC at the turn of the 1700s.”

Cousin Martha and I have become good friends and correspond regularly. She sent me a batch of interesting family information and I sent her the Bragh Adair CD featuring the song I wrote called “Bergeron.”


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  • SaveEnergyMan May 16, 2008

    Tracing my family has been a fun past time for me for several years too, but I won't bore anyone with details. When Dave Barry said that there is fine line between a hobby and an obsession, I think he meant genealogy.

  • davidgnews May 15, 2008

    I knew her when I worked at VGCC, nice person !

  • bleslie May 15, 2008

    mdoodle - probably - I interviewed him once via satellite but we didn't have a chance to compare notes. He was a very nice guy.

  • blytle May 15, 2008

    Hey Bill, are you related to Tom Bergeron, the host of Dancing with the Stars??????

  • bleslie May 15, 2008

    Thanks Garnerwolf - maybe there is yet another Bergeron cousin out there.

  • Garnerwolf1 May 15, 2008

    There is a golo member that posts under the name Harrison Bergeron...

  • thefensk May 15, 2008

    My wife had a similar experience. She's done some genealogical work but one branch had a real soft spot. She had an unknown cousin from that branch who contacted her a few years ago, just checking links he found. They managed to share quite a bit of data and fill in a lot of holes they both had in their "trees" up to that time.

  • Mmaker52 May 15, 2008

    Genealogy is a fantastic past time. Eventually it seems to become an obsession. Great site tio get help from this very friendly group is Try it I have found many cousins through the years using this site. Broken down into states and then counties and even surnames.. Happy hunting

  • MaplesMom May 15, 2008

    Bill- this is always a fun topic. I began researching last month my dad's family tree. He is from PA (About an hour and half north of Pittsburgh). Data is hard to collect out of state, so I've got some family up there working on it for me as well. It's amazing how quickly family trees shrink when a grandparent passes away. If they didn't document their own lineage, it's gone with the wind. Anyway- this project for my dad will be his Christmas present this year. I'll probably be heading north in the fall to collect documents. I can't say I am in love with geniology- but it is interesting!

  • Garnerwolf1 May 15, 2008

    jcsmom - remember that many people here are not from here!




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Bill Leslie