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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Will My Real Great-Great-Grandfather Please Stand Up!

Sometimes I feel like I am playing that old game show "To Tell the Truth" when looking for my great-great grandfather, John L. Hairston. Three or more John L. Hairstons claim to be my great-great-grandfather and a panel (myself and other Hairston researchers) ask questions and vote as to which one is my great-great-grandfather. Once the votes are cast, the host asks, "Will Diana's real great-great-grandfather please stand up?" 

My great-grandfather, Phillip A. Hairston

I know that John L. Hairston was my great-great-grandfather as I found him as the father of my great-grandfather, Phillip A. Hairston, in the 1880 census of Falls County, Texas. My John L. Hairston was one of at least three John L. Hairstons living during his lifespan

From my great-grandfather, Phillip A. Hairston's, obituary, I knew that the John L. Hairston family lived in Hinds County, Mississippi prior to moving to Falls County. I found my John L. Hairston in Hinds County in both 1850 and 1860. However, I was unable to identify his parents. 

After posting a query on a Hairston message board in the late 1990s, I was contacted by Ed Bregenzer.  He was a Hairston family researcher (but not a Hairston) and he and Victor Hairston had compiled The Hairston History. Ed knew all about my John L. Hairston. He believed that my John L. Hairston was the son of Robert Hairston and Sarah Lang who married Syrene Thompson. This John L. Hairston also had a son, Phillip. 

Well, my John L. and Ed's John L. were both born in South Carolina in about 1811 or 1812, but they were not one in the same as Ed's John L. remained in Alabama until at least 1880. 

Weeks later, Ed again contacted me. He and Vic had conferred and thought that I should look at John Lewis Hairston, son of Hugh Brown Hairston.  

In The Hairston History, the following was written about John Lewis Hairston, son of Hugh Brown Hairston.

 "Note: ! We think, November 2000, that this is the John L. Hairston that first left Georgia, most likely went into Alabama and from there traveled to Arkansas for a short period of time and at least by 1853 was in Hinds County Mississippi. Later, from there he went into Texas. 

No exact proof that this is the correct John L. Hairston, but it is the last John L. Hairston that we haven't eliminated as being the correct person."

I have not been able to prove that my John L. Hairston is the son of Hugh Brown Hairston and neither did Ed or Vic. However, more than 50 Public Member trees at say that it is so. J

If John L. Hairston is the son of Hugh Brown Hairston, his grandfather is also John L. Hairston. John L. would have had several cousins and an uncle named John; at least one was John L. 

So, if I were one of the panelists on that game show, here are ten questions that I would ask the contestants.  

1. Who were your parents? 

2. Was your son Phillip A. Hairston (and what was Phillip's middle name)?

3. Who were your wives? 

4. Was one of your wives Native American?

5. Were you the John L. Hairston who received land in the Georgia Cherokee Land Lottery of 1832? Or, was that your grandfather?

6. Were you the Lewis Hairston who was arrested, in Butts County, with James M. Hairston (son of Hugh B. Hairston) for gambling in the dance house in 1831?

7. What became of your children?

 8. Was anyone hurt in the house fire in 1870?

9. When and where did your parents die? 

10. Who was the James Hairston who died, at age 36, in Falls County in 1905?

I have more questions and some, including many of the above, can never be answered. On a positive note, autosomal DNA results and some new clues found by browsing tax records at lead me to believe that I should continue looking at the Hugh Brown Hairston family. 

Meanwhile, will Diana's real great-great-grandfather please stand up? OR, at least stand out!


© 2013

Sources: Georgia Cherokee Land Lottery, 1832 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2000. Public Member Trees [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2006.

Georgia. Inferior Court (Butts County). Inferior court minutes 1826-1850, Butts County, Georgia. Salt Lake City, Utah: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1958. Microfilm.

"Mississippi, State Archives, Various Records, 1820-1951," images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 24 Dec 2013), Hinds > County tax rolls 1831-1848, Box 3655 > image 286 of 319.

Hairston, James, Report of Death no. 26188 (1905), County Clerk, Texas, Falls County. 

Hairston, Victor , and Edward Bregenzer. The Hairston History.  1998. Print.

"Texas Items." Galveston Tri-Weekly News.  13 Apr. 1870, 97 ed.: 1.

Year: 1850; Census Place: Hinds, Mississippi; Roll: M432_372; Page: 165A; Image: 336.

Year: 1860; Census Place: Hinds, Mississippi; Roll: M653_582; Page: 674; Image: 206; Family History Library Film: 803582.

Year: 1880; Census Place: Fort Deposit, Lowndes, Alabama; Roll: 20; Family History Film: 1254020; Page: 117A; Enumeration District: 106; Image: 0536.

Year: 1880; Census Place: Falls, Texas; Roll: 1302; Family History Film: 1255302; Page: 190B; Enumeration District: 038.


  1. One year I have had my FT-DNA Family Finder results. Just received a reply from descendent of Hairston (possible variant of HARRISON?). THOMPSON is my NC maternal Line. My cousin HAIRSTON descendent and I are in communication as of near end of 2017 July month. Wondering about genealogy of this female Thompson Serena Syrene

    1. I would love to know more about your Hairston family. See my "about me" page to send an email. I don't know anything about Serena Thompson. She was married to this John Hairston at the following link.

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