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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

My New Cousin

Posted May 15, 2008 9:11 a.m. EDT
Updated May 15, 2008 2:07 p.m. EDT

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.”