Progress: Business

April 4, 2012

Jordan’s journey

Man explores his family’s ancestry, learns about links to Georgia’s history

Jordan Scoggins’ journey is not over.

After spending parts of three years exhaustively researching his family history in northwest Georgia, he had a book published about that history and genealogy. Research took him to Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Virginia and several other states.

The result was “Jordan’s Journey: An Illustrated History of My Family Ancestry,” which he describes as “a lush, high-quality artist book that will be right at home on coffee tables everywhere.” The full-color book contains more than 75 original photos and more than 150 vintage images. In addition to the photos, there are plenty of pages detailing his family’s history.

Scoggins traced the direct lines of his four grandparents (Mary Pope, Earl Jordan, Harold Scoggins and Dorthelia Holcomb) and various allied family lines. Each family examined is rooted deep in the earliest days of Georgia’s history. The book also explores the broader local history of the hometowns of the author’s ancestors, including Villanow, Trans and Green Bush (in Walker County’s Armuchee Valley) and Subligna (in Chattooga County’s Dirt Town Valley). Scoggins represents the latest in a line of eight generations to live in the area.

But despite the amount of information in the book, Scoggins still has several unanswered questions. To borrow a line from a popular song by U2, he still hasn’t completely found what he’s looking for.

Scoggins was born in Whitfield County. At the age of four, his family moved to the generations-old Pope family farm in the east Armuchee valley of Walker County. He said those formative years growing up on the family farm helped stoke his interest in genealogy. Most of his family is centered in that area in Walker County. He graduated from Trion High School in Chattooga County in 1998.

“Because of so many generations living there and since I grew up on that farm, I always was sort of keenly aware of this connection to the past,” Scoggins said. “It was always talked about and there were a lot of images shown throughout the family. We’d go out to old graveyards and I always had an interest in it.”

Scoggins has his mother to thank for piquing his curiosity, since she dabbled in genealogy. He found his family’s connection to local history and the Civil War engrossing.

“I started realizing how much information there is out there about our different family lines and how the family lines interconnected in some of these interesting ways,” Scoggins said. “I started discovering that some people I went to school with that I’m distantly related to and never knew it. It became really fascinating to me to explore the connection.”

A book was always Scoggins’ goal. He admits that many family history books are not exciting to look at, so as an artist he wanted his to pop. Scoggins aimed to bring a creative touch to the genealogy world “in a way that would be a treat to the eye,” he said. Scoggins did all of the work. He wrote the copy, took pictures, designed the layout.

So where did Scoggins start?

Amassing a family history sounds daunting. Scoggins said the first step is to talk to as many people as possible: parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. Find out what they know. Write everything down. Who were their grandparents? Where did they live? What did they do for a living?

“You might find that different people in your family tell you slightly different things,” Scoggins said with a laugh. “People remember things differently that get handed down. It’s part of the process.”

After that initial start, Scoggins said he expanded his research by building a family tree and using websites such as ancestry.com to help connect the dots. He said local historical societies, libraries and public records gave him an even bigger insight into his lineage.

Scoggins learned several surprising facts about his family.

Scoggins’ ancestor Abraham Anderson lived in Whitfield County but served the Union during the Civil War in a Tennessee regiment. Abraham’s half-brother Francis Marion Anderson (who also lived in Whitfield County) fought for the Union as well. Francis Marion is buried in Hopewell Baptist Church Cemetery. Abraham is buried in Deep Springs Baptist Church Cemetery. Both are in Whitfield County.

“My family did not know that, but I did all of the historical research, got his (Abraham Anderson’s) service records, his pension records,” Scoggins said. “It’s very interesting. You were sort of raised to think, ‘Oh, everyone in the South fought for the Confederacy.’ It’s not so black and white. There is a gray area.”

Through all of the research, a few mysteries still exist, such as his ancestors Burrell Jordan and his wife Keziah. He has yet to learn Keziah’s maiden name. If any descendants know her maiden name, he asks them to contact him.

“This has been one of the ‘brick walls’ in my research,” Scoggins said.

There were facts that weren’t such a joy to discover and left him disappointed.

Some members of his family were responsible for helping clear out the Cherokee Indian tribe in the 1800s.

He had ancestors that were slave owners — one was a minister who also owned slaves.

“How could a Christian minister own slaves?” Scoggins said. “You have to understand it was a different time and things were different. It doesn’t mean that you’re proud of everything your ancestors did.”

In the olden days, it was socially acceptable for siblings to marry siblings, he said.

“When you think about it, you had such a small social circle back then,” Scoggins said. “You didn’t know people back then like you do now. It was extremely common back then.”

Today, Scoggins lives in New York City’s Greenwich Village and is a writer and photographer, publishing work under the name luke kurtis. “Jordan’s Journey” is his first book under the name Jordan M. Scoggins. Published by his own studio, bd-studios.com, you can order the book at http://bd-studios.com /journey or for more information email contact@bd-studios.com.

Scoggins realizes his journey will probably never be completed. New research, photography and videos are planned for his blog.

“It’s a living and breathing project,” Scoggins said.

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