By Clint Confehr
FRANKLIN, TN — Born in this city known for its Civil War history, Georgia Harris, a family history consultant, found her antebellum ancestors and subsequent cousins.
“His people owned my people,” Harris, 82, said of an old Williamson County family’s early 1800s relative. More than 10 attempts to reach several of his descendants Feb. 16-17 were unsuccessful.
“Three years ago, or more,” Harris visited Joseph D. Baugh Jr.’s law office. The former district attorney is one of the descendants of the man who enslaved Harris’ ancestors. “He was interested to know that I had quite a bit of information. He wasn’t proud of his family for having slaves. He was sorry about that. We just discussed it.”
Harris’s on-line search led her to an 1857 inventory naming Daniel Baugh. She doesn’t anticipate a gathering of Black and white Baughs.
Having verified connections in state and county archives, Harris searches for African roots through DNA, familysearch.org, rootstech.org and its Feb. 25–27 conference, including Janice Gilyard on Getting Past the 1870 Brick Wall.
Harris said she got a “good” education at a Rosenwald school in Williamson County “because the teachers took time with us.” She attended Franklin Training School, married, had three children and finished her education. Harris is semi-retired after decades as a registered medical assistant, first for a hematologist at Meharry Medical Center, in the lab, then for a medical group with nine doctors at Meharry. She’s worked with doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and doctors in Franklin.
Years ago, Harris started her research through the Church of Latter-day Saints.
“I didn’t know anything about my family back then,” she said. “Now I have created books about each side of my family and it seems like I know them.”
She has a report on her DNA. “The biggest part (19%) comes from the Republic of Liberia on the West African coast, Great Briton, Ireland and Scandinavia. “You can kind-of see where they went around the coast picking up slaves.”
Harris reports “helping a man in Franklin with his genealogy to know more about his family … He gave me a list for things to find.”
She’s been to Marshall County’s archives.
Because she attended a Rosenwald school in Franklin, Harris helped the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County find and preserve the building between Lewisburg Pike & Spring Hill. One of her cousins “made it a house and then it was made into a club,” she said. “The foundation bought it. They’re to bring it to what was the O’More College of Design in Franklin.
“I’m still learning a lot about things I went through when we were growing up … “My grandmother’s mother was a Stephenson,” Harris said recalling U.S. Navy veteran James Stephenson. On Feb. 25, 1946, he defended his mother, Gladys, who was threatened by a young white male store clerk. Their fight led to the Columbia Race Riot.
Harris works for the Franklin Special School District as a monitor for“special needs kids,” she says. Part of the job is to make sure the children use their seat belts on the school bus.