Greenness, trees, and mountains surround the people who visit Amicalola Falls. They gather to enjoy nature or be with friends and family. Some might hike the start of the Appalachian Trail. It was at this place a group of near and distant kin gathered August 12th, 2017 for the 39th annual Gilreath Family Reunion. Visiting and eating potluck lunch after a beautiful prayer of thanks have always been the mainstays of the reunion. Pictures and records of ancestors grace the welcome table. That’s a Gilreath reunion.
One special member of the clan is Melvin Gilreath. Melvin and cousin Kenneth started researching the family line years ago, publishing their body of work in December of 1994.
Melvin continues his research even today and is active on genealogy internet sites such as Ancestry.com. He is a wealth of knowledge – a real walking encyclopedia of GILREATH family history facts. This is no small feat since the first GILREATH, William, appeared in America in the mid 1700’s. It is estimated he had about 10 children and they in turn had many children themselves. Most survived to have large families of their own for generations. The clan is quite large. Melvin can tell you stories and cite documents about your GILREATH ancestor as though he knew them personally. He is truly amazing. When you come across information about the GILREATHs with Melvin as the author, you should respect what he has to say and take his lead.
As I prepared for attending the reunion, I went to Family Search.com to refresh myself on my Gilreath lineage only to be dismayed at the incorrect and assumptive information connected to William GILREATH and his children. It seems as though enthusiasm for finding family connections can sometimes overshadow the process of seeking, finding and submitting correct information.
To date, my GILREATH line on FamilySearch.com tells me my ancestor is William Wesley GALBREATH. I’ve never heard that middle name associated with this man from the 18th Century and he is listed in the earliest records as a GILREATH. Interestingly enough I found the following dialog between Cindy Brock and Melvin Gilreath about the middle name ‘Wesley’ on Ancestry.com. Melvin does a beautiful job explaining:
For years William Gilreath, Sr. (born 1725-1730) was simply listed as William Gilreath, now it seems that the information is all over the place that his name was William Wesley Gilreath. When and how did this start? I have never seen any documentation that listed his middle name as Wesley.
Also of note on middle names, I have recently seen someone lists son John (born abt. 1753) with the middle name Arrington. I have also seen no documentation showing William Gilreath, Sr.”s (born 1725-1730) son as John Arrington Gilreath.
Where are all these middle names coming from?
No commoner of English, Irish, Scottish or Welsh heritage had a middle name prior to the end of the American Revolution. Check the signatures of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and you will find no middle names. Also check the names of our first five Presidents and, again, no middle names. I wonder if folks just want to distinguish a particular individual so they add a middle name,
By the way, I doubt seriously that Mary (Arrington?) was the mother of any of William Gilreath’s children, other than son Jesse and daughter Mary. Note that according to William Gilreath’s will, only these two offspring stand to recieve a possible share of her dower.
Another point, William’s oldest son JOHN was born well before 1753. John’s brother William (Jr) was born in April that year (see his 1834 pension record). Besides, John signed as a witness to a deed in 1767 and he was living on his own in 1771 – possibly married (see 1771 Bute County, NC tax liat).
The first record of a William Wesley Gilreath shows he was not born until January 1824 (in Kentucky), Turns out he was my greaat grandfather. You can find a photo of his tombstone on “Find a Grave”, Gilreath cemetery, McCreary County, KY.
It’s on my list to straighten out the characters of this branch on FamilySearch.com. In the meantime, I recommend you keep your own digital or hardcopy of your linage and use it as a standard to measure the valuable and convenient internet resources available.
NOTE: Melvin passed through this life in 2017. His work with family history has been monumental. Here is his obituary: