TODAY’S COMPLICATED FAMILY TREE
The Towerys originated in Italy? So says some shakey research. The Turraine families in the Principality of Milan became so obnoxious the populace demolished their houses. This helped them decide to migrate to the British Isles.
It is still a matter of conjecture that the Turraines were the forebears of those who spell their name: Towery / Towry.
We do know that John Towery and his two brothers from Scotland, settled in the Carolina Colony. Sometime later John married Miss Betsy Cannon. (Unconfirmed item: Betsy said to be a niece of William Penn, the Quaker who founded Philadelphia.)
The newly weds, John and Betsy, had a son they named Mannering (1778), married Winnie, and they had a son named Wilborn (1805), whose wife Nancy Teague gave birth to my great grandfather, Argyle Campbell Towery (1844). By the middle of the 19th century the clan had spread across the south.
On October 18, 1861, Argyle enlisted in Capt. R. J. Armstrong’s Mississippi Volunteers as an 18 year old private. In his Confederate States of America files they show he was AWOL (absent without leave) more than once.
He was without leave all right, but not intentionally. He was not a deserter nor a disgrace to the CSA. On Nov.25, 1863, Pvt. Argyle Towery was captured by Union forces at Missionary Ridge, Tenn. As a prisoner of war he was first sent to Louisville, Ky., and later Rock Island, Ill. On March 10, 1864, he took the oath of allegiance to the United States and was exchanged two months later in New Orleans.
After the war, Argyle came to Texas. One of his sons was my grandfather, Roland and the other was grandfather of Kenneth Towery, the cousin who won the Pulitzer Prize in the 1950s.
By 1906 Argyle was living in Rockwall County, Texas, applied for his Civil War Pension. He never got it, possibly due to “joining” the Union before the war was over. He was almost blind by this time. He had no property, but he did have one pair of Mississippi mules and a wagon.
Genealogists have long had a blast with this kind of detail. Where they define familial relations according to bloodlines, marriage or war. Today, the composition of families is changing to such a degree that it is almost impossible to know who gets a branch on a family tree.
In the early 20th century some elementary school projects included making family trees according organized traditionally according to genetic information. Today there is hardly a school student or graduate who ever heard of such an exercise.
Such exercises in schools are gone from today’s schools. With at least half of today’s marriages ending up in divorce court and the children scattered back and forth, home to home. (For the last six years, according to United States census data, there have been more unmarried households than married ones. And more same-sex couples are having children using surrogates or sperm donors or by adoption.)
Add to that the use of surrogates, sperm donors and same-sex parents and making a family tree is next to impossible. It looks more like Uncle Remus’ brier patch – common name for a thicket formed by any of a number of unrelated thorny plants.
Learning about out heritage is more than just a hobby. There are medical and legal implications, particularly when it comes to death and inheritance.
For some children, having to explain their family tree can be alienating and discouraging.
The Stepfamily Foundation, a family counseling service based in New York City, gave up on the traditional family tree for a network of circles (females) and squares (males), with dotted and straight lines to connect married and blood relatives. Its complicated any way you look at it.