Monday, December 12, 2011

Bannerman Family Mystery

Among the many old photographs originally in my grandfather's possession, there is one that has haunted me and has remained a mystery all these years. The photograph is of three children with their names and ages typeset at the bottom of the photograph. “William, 10 years, Robert 8, and Maggie Bennerman, 4 Years Old.” Who were they?

My grandfather was not able to identify them, though his memory was remarkably sharp and accurate until his death at the age of 96. I first noticed this picture and the others that my grandfather had in 1989 when I embarked on the adventure of genealogy. Since then I have traced all of my father's ancestors at least back to the early 1800s (and a lot beyond). But I never ran into the Bennerman name, anywhere. Not as ancestors of mine, not even as neighbors.

I am lucky enough to even have a name to match the faces in the photograph in the first place. Early in my research, I visited the Tampa stake of the LDS church and I mentioned the Bennerman name as one I'd be researching. The director there commented on the name but we didn't go into specifics and I quickly found information on other names of interest and forgot about them for awhile.

Several years later, I had the opportunity to spend the weekend at the Orlando library. I had been studying my old photographs and again my interest was piqued about the Bennerman name, especially since I had completed a lot of research at that point and had not run into the name in any family lines. I took the photograph along with me and first did research on old photographs to try and determine the time period in which it was likely to have been taken. From the information of one book, I believed it was taken in the 1860s. I then checked the 1860 census index books for the states of Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee. These states are primarily where most of my father's ancestors lived. I had no luck in any of those. One of my family lines (Lovelace/Stiller) came from North Carolina (Iredell & Rowan Counties) so I tried there. There I finally found some Bannermans. It turned out to be a more uncommon name than I had thought. These Bannermans came from Bladen and New Hanover Counties. Not near my other North Carolina families, but after checking the other records available for those counties, I believed I had the right family to match my photograph. After my research trip in Orlando, I went to the Tampa stake and spoke with the director again. He gave me more information on this particular Bannerman family that he had in his files. The director was descended from Bannermans but not the particular line as the children in the photograph. (See compilation of family information following.)

It seems as though the Bannerman family originated in North Carolina (from Scotland?) and the branch I'm interested in migrated to Tallahassee, Leon County, Florida. The mystery is how and why the photograph ended up in Christian County, Kentucky. I have identified the majority of the old photographs that my grandfather had and there are no others from this Bannerman family. I just can't come up with a plausible explanation for it.

 Bannerman Family Information

The following information was taken from Bible & Family Records of Bladen Co, NC, publ. by Bladen County, NC Historical Society. Vol. 2, pp. 28-29 and Vol. 3, pp. 56-61.

"Bannerman Bible Records" copied from the National Genealogical Quarterly Vol. XXI, June 1933 and contributed by Louis Carr Henry, Washington, DC. Records were included in the book because of the connection with Bladen County families.
George Bannerman was born 18 February 1762. He married Phebe Williams who was born 5 December 1793. They had eight children. Phebe died 23 December 1803. George then married Hester Player. George and Hester had three children, including Charles Bannerman who was born 16 Ju11806.

This next information was taken from a bible published by the American Bible Society, NY, 1850. It was in the possession of Mrs. Katherine Player (Bannerman) Robertson, Tallahassee, FL. This Bannerman family lived near Tallahassee, Leon Co, FL in 1933.

Charles Bannerman, b. 16 July 1806 married Elvira Ann Cardin (b. 14 Aug 1819) on 5 May 1836. They had the following children:

Hester Avarilla Ann, b. 29 Apr 1839; mar. John T. Harvin in Sept. 1856
Thomas Edwin, b. 15 June 1841; d. 13 Apr 1857
Charles Washington, b. 19 Dec 1843; d. 16 Nov 1917
Joseph Cardin, b. 28 June 1846; d. 16 Feb 1872
John George, b. 9 July 1849; d. 10 Mar 1857
William Tennent, b. 20 Dec 1851
Robert James, b. 27 Dec 1853; d. 31 Dec 1913
Richard Baxter, b. 28 Feb 1856; d. 26 Nov 1856
Mary Elvira, b. 9 Dec 1857; d. 4 Nov 1930
Sarah Elizabeth, 28 Jan 1860; d. 6 Nov 1883
Katie Player, 16 Feb 1862

From this information, we can see that in the year 1861, when the photograph was probably taken, the family looked like this:

Charles, Sr, age 55 Elvira Ann, age 42
Hester, age 22 married to John T. Harvin
Charlie, age 18
Joe, age 15
William, age 10
Robert, age 8
Mary E., age 4
Sarah, age 1
CDV ca. 1861 Bennerman/Bannerman children

Although the photo says Maggie not Mary, all the other information fits. The young Sarah was probably too young to hold still with her siblings while the photo was being taken. Joe and Charlie were practically men by that time.

The family was enumerated in the city of Tallahassee, FL in the 1850, 1860 and 1870 census and is likely where the photograph was taken.


  1. My great-grandmother was Margaret Susan Bannerman Williams, but would have been 20 in 1861. Her father was John Player Bannerman, in (I think) New Hanover County, N.C.

    1. Sounds like the same family if not the same branch. Thanks for your comment!