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Edward N. McAllister and Annabelle Cox

Authors of the Brasfield~Brassfield Genealogies Book

by Teddye Clayton

Post Women's Writer (circa 1960 In the Houston Post - Now the Houston Chronicle)

Sisterly generosity started Mrs. Edward N. McAllister on the track of her family tree: Her sister needed proof of lineage to join the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Husbandly interest brought Mr. McAllister in the Search.

Together they traced the family back to Revolutionary times through Anniebelle Brasfield, Mrs. McAllister’s maternal grandmother; and the sister happily submitted her qualifications to the DAR. But the Brasfield family history had hooked the McAllisters, and they couldn’t stop.

“We had gotten so much information that other people didn’t have that it became a sort of responsibility, Mrs. McAllister said.

The result was a documented, indexed, 720-page book called the “Brasfield-Brassfield Genealogies” that took 30 years to compile. Published in 1959, it traces the lineage of every Brasfield and Brassfield family in America.  Research involved more than 2,000 Brassfield families and 2,500 family names other than Brassfield.

The couple still can’t stop. Mr. McAllister, retired after 36 years with Humble Oil, and his wife are compiling a book on the Estes family (Mrs. McAllister’s maternal great grandmother was an Estes), whose early records are in what is now King and Queen Count, Va.

The material was originally intended for the Brasfield-Brassfield book, but the size of the book created a problem in binding. They expect to have the Estes book ready for publication in six months.

After that, they will work on the line of Samuel B. Davis (Mrs. McAllister’s great-great grandfather) which has had them at a dead end for years, and do more research on the Townsend and McAllister families.

Where did they begin?

“You start with what you know,” Mrs. McAllister said. They talked with relatives to obtain as much information as possible. Then they spent their vacations poring through hundreds of city and telephone directories, census, court, county, and state records, territorial grant books, and other documents in 16 states and Washington, DC.

Mrs. McAllister spent countless hours in the New York City Library while they were living in New Jersey and the National Archives and the Library of Congress in Washington. She sent out 1,500 pieces of publicity about the project, and “wrote as if we were cousins to hundreds of people.”

They developed a talent for reading faded, almost illegible documents, and following a family name through a variety of spellings.

The research on the Brasfield-Brassfield line ended in Oulton, Norfolk, England in 1477, where they found a record of a will made by a Robert Brassfield.

Mrs. McAllister got a copy, but even then the path was thorny. It was written in Latin.

Records are sketchy during the late 17th century when the plague hit England, and there is no definite proof of the connection between the American Brasfield’s and the English Brassfield’s of the 15th century, “but it is very likely that the group was all related,” Mr. McAllister stated.

Through their detective work, the McAllisters have much more about the Brasfields and the Estes than dates of birth, deaths, and marriages.

Military records and honors, tax records, land titles and transactions, court actions, property sales and settlement of estates give insights into personalities. Mrs. McAllister is happiest when the trail leads through court records, which she believes reveals the most.

“You can’t always take your line back to royalty, but you can appreciate the qualities of each generation,” she said.

Family lines have been traced back to Adam, Mr. McAllister said, but whether this is factual or not, I don’t know.

“When you can’t get beyond the waters of this continent, Adam seems rather far fetched,” he added.

Not everyone tracking down a family tree has to do the research the McAllisters did. Microfilm records and books like the “Brasfield~Brassfield Genealogies” have made it easier, and may people can trace their lineage without leaving the Historical Room of the Houston Public Library. The couple has lived in Houston for more than 4 years and believes the library is one of the outstanding ones in the country.

The McAllisters are members of a number of historical organizations. Both belong to the Huguenot Society. Mrs. McAllister is a member of the National Society of Colonial Dames of America, the Daughters of the American Colonists, the Magna Charta Dames, and the DAR.

Mr. McAllister is a member of the Society of Colonial Wars in Texas and New Jersey and the Magna Charta Barons. His is immediate past president
of the Houston Genealogical Forum.

Why are they fascinated by genealogy?

“I like orderly arrangement and problem solutions,” Mrs. McAllister said. “It gives us a great satisfaction to save what might have been lost for other generations to know and enjoy.”

The McAllisters had 400 copies of the “Brasfield-Brassfield Genealogies” printed. Only 70 are left. Although they are still in the red on the publication, notes from those who use their book make it seem worthwhile. “I’m so glad you included the marriage records of my ancestors in your book,” one woman wrote to say. “I always thought the line was illegitimate.”

Note: Although the original book has long been out of print, copies do show up from time to time at online book sellers. It is also available through most inter-library programs. The Higginson Book Company of Salem, MA prints reproductions "on demand" with a 6 to 8 week delivery time at a price $109 for paperback and $121 for hardback.