Journey of a Genealogist #3: Permitt Lee lived here



By Barry J. Ewell

Episode 3, entitled It’s Time to Start Your Genealogy Research of the Series Journey of Genealogist where Barry J. Ewell shares a few of his personal experiences as a genealogists.

It was 9#1:00 a.m. Sunday morning, Knoxville, Tennessee.  I had driven just under 500 miles from Washington, DC the day before in order to meet John, a distant cousin.  We were both decedents of Permitt Lee who had lived in the 1700’s. I descended through his daughter Sarah, and John descended through his son Sam.  We had corresponded over the previous three months and agreed to meet.

Upon meeting each other, I presented John with a binder that all of the research I had on the Lee family, and he John provided his research on the Lee’s that stay in Knoxville area. Following a few minutes of discussion, we spend the next several hours touring the area learning more about the Lee family’s presence in the area then and now.  First stop was street named Sam Lee.  As we drove around the area, we saw many of the mail boxes having the Lee name on them.   We viewed a small cemetery behind a very simplistic white church.  In the cemetery John showed me family headstones.  He also indicated that almost all of the persons in the graveyard were family members who had married into the Lee family. When Permitt left Knoxville, several of his sons stayed in Knoxville and had posterity 200 years of history in Knoxville.

We took photos of some of the grave stones, I felt the need to see if we couldn’t locate plot map for the cemetery showing who was buried where.  Where to begin?   There were few cars next to the church, let’s start there. We went into the church and followed the fresh smell of brewed coffee and we found the pastor and others in a prayer meeting. Of course I interrupted the meeting and learned that the church was no longer involved with the cemetery but they did give us directions to the home of the cemetery sexton/caretaker.

We drove about a mile from the church to Coon Lane and found the caretaker of the cemetery who  allowed us to photograph the plot map which was littler more than a hand drawn paper with squares and names within the squares. Upon returning the cemetery, I was able to use the map to find family graves and identify graves where there was no headstone. With the knowledge that many of those who were buried in the cemetery had intermarried with the Lee family, I chose to take pictures of all headstones and later use census records to help tie family connections.  John and I spent the rest of the next two hours seeing the land and exploring the area.

As the day progressed, we viewed lands once owned by Permitt Lee and discussed family history and hearsay.  As I left John provided me what would later become an important clue in searching Permitt Lee namely that his grandmother had told him that she had always been told that the Lees were from Shropshire, England.

Lesson’s learned.

  •  Cemetery plot maps are key to understanding who is buried where.