78th Annual Bracewell Reunion
You are cordially invited to the 78th annual Bracewell Reunion April 12th at the Bedias, TX Civic Center. Bring your entire family to celebrate our common ancestors and family history. This year we celebrate Bracewell owned businesses. Who better to spend your money with than a family member. If you own a business bring your product and share it with the group.
v Group and family photos
v Potluck lunch (Full kitchen available)
v Playground for children
v Genealogy displays
v Family photo displays
v Music provided by family members (bring your instrument)
In two short years we will celebrate the 80th annual reunion. What better way to celebrate than to break the 1948 attendance record of 200 family members. This one day each year will bring you such valuable memories that will be cherished for the rest of your life. I do not recall missing a reunion and attended my first at just a few weeks old.
Don’t let this opportunity pass your family by!
The official Bracewell Family Tree has grown to 2,728 people dating back to the 1700’s. Richard Luke uploaded family photos for many of the Joseph Marion Bracewell family this past year. This helps put a face with our common ancestors and makes navigating the tree faster. The archive contains 9,268 documents including birth, death, marriage, burial, and much more. Ancestry.com has a unique hint feature search for new documents based on our family tree and has over 1,000 new documents ready for review. The collection of family photos has grown to over 2,000.
The Bracewell Archive started in the year 2000 with the mission to save, protect, and share our family history. This is achieved with a multi-layered approach. Multiple backup copies of our family documents are kept in fire safes, digitized on multiple online storage sites, and shared via bracewellfamily.com, bracewellarchive.org, Facebook, and ancestry.com.
The Bracewell Family now has a group on Facebook. Join us at www.facebook.com/groups/BracewellFamily to share family history information, meet distant relatives from across the country, learn more about our family origins, receive reunion updates, and much more. The group has already recognized distant family members and provided some interesting family stories.
GENEALOGY: 136 YEARS OF FAMILY HISTORY
The first documented reference to our family genealogy is from 1879. The history of James Bracewell who was one of the first settlers of Gwinnett County, GA was published in the Weekly Gwinnett Herald, October 8, 1879. The article gives detailed history on our first ancestors in the new world. The publisher was so amazed by our family’s knowledge and pride of our ancestry that he wrote
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THE IMPACT OF GENERATIONS
One of the most common questions I receive is why more people do not attend the reunion. Typically 1/3 of the reunion mailing list attends each year with the largest recent attendance around 1/2. The Bracewell Reunion is not unique in this challenge. All major organizations and retail business spend billions each year developing ways to bring people back. The Bracewell Reunion is extremely lucky to have been around for 78 years and still draw decent crowds each year. I believe this is accredited to our family’s 138 years of genealogy research and desire to know who we are in this world.
Attendance fluctuation occurs naturally in any event. I believe there are four main reasons for the recent fluctuation. First, when I was a child, the reunion was politely implied, Mandatory Attendance Required!
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Genealogy: Continued from Page 1
“It is complimentary of them that they have kept a history of their family and can trace it back for nearly two centuries. In my task of trying to chronicle the Early Settlers of Gwinnett I have found that their descendants generally were lamentably ignorant of their Genealogy”.
In June 1937, the children of Joseph Marion Bracewell started the family reunion we now attend. The reunion is a yearly remembrance of our ancestors and a chance to share our common heritage. The intent is very clear in early reunion records. The minutes of the second annual reunion were approved in 1939. “The Family Tree was presented in a most clever manner by Reginald Bracewell. His interest and work in getting the needed information is deeply appreciated.”
The 1958 reunion minutes show Reginald Bracewell was the family historian and custodian of the family tree. 1966 starts the annual addition of new limbs. Proud parents would bring their new children to the reunion and add them to the family tree. 1970 starts the reunion in song with “When We All Get to Heaven”. 1971 was the start of “THE REUNION” newsletter that you are now reading. The newsletter showed the past years genealogy research, highlighted branches of the family, and shared our family history. In the 1980’s Raymond Bracewell, hand drew the entire family tree on two refrigerator boxes. In the late, 1990’s Ron Perkins digitized the family tree with the newly released Family Tree Maker and it was 20 feet long. This huge undertaking was the foundation of today’s master family tree on ancestry.com that is over 60 feet long.
Today with the help of new online research tools, our family tree grows taller with new branches, and we discover more and more of our roots every year.
TALE OF TWO MT PLEASANT CHURCHES
Is it possible Mt Pleasant Church in Bedias, TX was named after an Mt Pleasant Church in Dale County Alabama? The church in Bedias was founded shortly after our ancestors settled in Grimes County. Founding members included several Bracewell’s in the summer of 1885. The church remains in the controlling interest of our family to this day.
Mt Pleasant church in Dale County Alabama also known as Wiggins Church was founded in 1859 on the site where Richmond court house stood. The Pastor in 1890 was Rev RC Deal and membership was about 140 people. Located directly behind the church is one of the oldest and largest cemeteries in the area. The cemetery began when a family passing through the area on covered wagon was forced to stop due to illness of a child. The child died and was buried here, becoming the first grave. Due to fire, many of the membership records have not survived; however, we know our ancestors lived just 10 miles away. A search of the cemetery records on findagrave.com do not show any Bracewell names buried here. www.mpbcdothan.com/who.html to visit the church website.
Census records show Joseph Marion in Dale County Alabama in 1850 when he was 16 years old. The 1860 census has them located out of the Newton, AL post office just 10 miles west of Mt. Pleasant church. The 1870 census shows them out of Skipperville, AL post office due north of Mt. Pleasant church. Instead of moving every ten years it is more likely they lived in the same location as the cities formed around them.
WHO STANDS BEHIND YOU? A family photo project
A Generation Photo Challenge will be part of this year’s reunion. At some time in your life, a realization that you look like your parents is bound to happen. Did you know you probably look like your grandparents and great-grandparents as well? Take the challenge and see.
See the sample collage below and bring your ancestors photos to the reunion
The family website is undergoing a complete renovation. Soon every historical document we have will be online viewable by the family. I would like to personally thank Mildred Schmidt for funding the website this year.
Nutrition Depot - Kingwood, Amanda Bracewell
Nutrition Depot - Conroe, Ryan Bracewell
Bracewell & Patterson - J. S. Searcy & Fentress Bracewell
The Jacob Austin Band - Jacob Machac
Magical Designs – Remodeling/Design, Pat Bracewell
Kristi Bracewell Photography - Bedias, TX, Kristi Bracewell
Luna Wellness Designs – Kemah, TX, Sally Bracewell
There are many more not mentioned here today.
Add yours on our Facebook page.
CIVIL WAR LETTERS: Research by James Ray Bracewell of Florida
has produced the identities of the Georgia civil war letter authors. The letters were published in the Dublin paper June 12, 1936. Joe Taylor published a reunion hand out in 1992 titled “Recently acquired letters written by Bracewell’s during the Civil War”. As part of this was an article on “Five Georgia Brothers”. William S. A. Bracewell, James W, Jessie A, John C, and Wiley K. Bracewell. Turns out these men were cousins.
Reunion: Continued from Page 1
If someone was absent from the reunion, they would receive flowers and a get well soon card, because it was assumed they were ill. This can be found all through the reunion minutes with comments like "... was missed today. The secretary was instructed to send a card because they must not be feeling good." Now that many of the early 1900’s generation have passed or unable to travel, there is not that grandparent figure enforcing attendance in each group. Just like a Ferris wheel--the grandparent figures today are the same children that were forced to attend the reunions years ago. If this generation does not assume their grandparent’s role and be the cheerleader for their branch of the family, then attendance recedes like a Bracewell hairline. It was also a friendly competition between branch elders to see who could have the largest turn out. Maybe this is why the Walter and Tuck branches have so many grandchildren.
Second, younger generations need an interest in the reunion. I can remember as a child having to wait for my grandfather or someone I did not know, to stop talking so we could eat -- the best part after all. Today I would pay for audio tapes of those 1970-80 reunions. When the final hymn was called for that was the kids signal to sneak to the back of the room before the gavel fell. This ensured we were first in line to eat. At the 2000 reunion, I answered a challenge from Ron Perkins on a better way to update and share the family tree. Ron was going out of the country for business and would not be able to attend next year’s reunion. As I began to collect family documents and read our family history, an interest to protect this information turned into the Bracewell Archive Project that continues today. It became interesting to read stacks of yellowed reunion announcements my grandparents saved in their nightstand that showed a clear history of our ancestry. Maybe this is something you would enjoy taking over or improving.
Third, you will find the classic excuses such as time, money, I don't know anyone, and I will go next year. In today's world where most people work weekends and the family has extended across the world, time and money definitely come into play. Even after 40 years, I still do not know everyone, so stand up and say hi my name is . . . and I am your cousin. It is clear that as people age they become more interested in who their ancestors are. Maybe the Ferris wheel has to revolve for the generations to age before they will once again return. It always interests me to see how much the Bracewell families have in common when we get together. Our Jeff Foxworthy joke might be is -- if you have more hair on your arms than your head, you must be a Bracewell. It is also amazing thanks to 136 years of our family keeping genealogy research, I can take a person who I have never met, ask three questions about their father and grandparents and within hours know their entire family history. Side story: At the 2008 reunion, an older gentleman came up, gave me his name, and asked where he was in the family tree. His name was Ernest Bracewell of Southside Market & Barbecue. We always knew of the legendary cousin who was thought of as the Bracewell Barbecue king, but was not sure where or how they were related. Not knowing anything but his father’s name, I was able to trace Ernest’s family all the way back to our ancestors in Georgia. Surprise we were related and closer than you might expect. Did you know they lived in Bedias for a short time? I am pleased I was able to know Ernest before he passed away and now have the pleasure of sitting down with his grandson Bryan Bracewell over lunch at Southside Market. This same scenario occurs several times each year at reunions and over the internet.
Finally, is the desire to attend, will I have fun, what will my take away moment be? This fourth and final obstacle is in fact the largest hurtle to overcome, because it feeds the first three. Each of the above side stories are memories I have of past reunions. Just the other day my nine year old was asking when we were going back to that place, where all the cousins played outside and his one cousin has horses. He did not remember names or where it was, but he knows it was a good time and we go each year in the spring.
I leave you today with the following thoughts: What will you and your children’s reunion memories be? Will they grow up knowing the true history behind what they learn in school and that our ancestors were there? Will their family history school project contain 138 years of genealogy references? Will your child be the president presiding over the 100th Annual Bracewell Reunion in 20 years? You may never know unless you attend.
DEVOTIONAL DELIVERED BY
JOSEPH SEARCY BRACEWELL III
AT BRACEWELL REUNION — JUNE 5, 1977
I am honored to have been asked to speak today. It is always a pleasure to come to the reunion and see old friends whom I haven't seen in a long time. I always find it interesting as well to see the large and growing group of people at the reunion whom I don't know. The fact that common ancestry brings together each year a group of people from different parts of the state and different walks of life is a credit not only to the original common ancestors, but to those family members who—over the years—have worked hard to keep the reunion a viable event.
A question that intrigues me, however, is this: Why do we come to the reunion? What do we get out of it? What are we seeking that draws us like a magnet to Bedias in the spring of each year?
I believe there are several things about the reunion which cause us to come, not the least of which is the fine lunch which is always served. I also believe that much of what we learn and feel by coming to the reunion has a direct application to our daily lives in a world of people who do not happen to be members of the Bracewell family.
One obvious and important purpose of the reunion is the opportunity for fellowship with relatives and good friends. The sharing of a few hours, a meal, a few prayers, and a few songs, makes us feel closer to people we love and reminds us that there are others in our lives with whom we should be sharing similar moments.
In remembering the generations which have gone before us—and in welcoming the newborn into the family—the reunion gives us a sense of continuity, an understanding that we are both products of the past and creators of the future. In our larger family of mankind itself, we occupy similar role positions, and our family experience provides us with a sense of personal perspective as we think about our place and mission in the world.
By gathering on Sunday and worshiping together, we affirm a common belief in God. While we rejoice in the fact that a strong Christian faith has been a source of strength for our family, let us not forget that all creators of the world are children of God—all mankind created in his image and endowed with his love. This knowledge should also be a source of strength and a cause for rejoicing.
In these years of the American Bicentennial, we are reminded of the national heritage which we share, and of the long history of the Bracewell family in the settlement of this country since its very inception. The reunion kindles in us our sense of patriotism, our desire to preserve and to improve our nation, its resources, its people, and its government—for our own and future generations.
Although our lives lead us in different directions, the reunion reminds us of family pride and family honor. What glorifies one of us—in some measure—glorifies us all. What saddens one of us, saddens us all. Our sharing of these feelings with one another presupposes mutual respect and a belief in the inherent dignity of other family members. To show respect for—and to see dignity in every human being—is what Christ demands of us when he says: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matthew 25:40)
Finally, I believe we seek in the reunion a sense of our own immortality. An ancient Greek proverb declares that: "It is not possible to step twice into the same river." We are continually made aware of the transitory nature of our lives and the fact that, once past, time can never be relived. We seek, as man has done throughout the ages, for a sense that we share in a life that is greater than ourselves, that a part of us lives on. By focusing on thoughts and beliefs which are shared by each of us here, which were shared by members of our family who have passed away and which we hope will be shared by descendants yet unborn, the reunion gives us that reassurance. By sensing that we share certain values and beliefs which are eternal, we begin to understand that only those parts of us which we share with others will extend beyond our lifetime.