Family History as Legacy: Beyond Dollars and Land

Texas Independence DayHappy Texas Independence Day.

In estate planning, one's legacy is often thought of as the value of land or money that is left to your heirs. But Merriam-Webser also defines legacy as "something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past." In this sense, one's family history and roots can be part of that legacy.

On March 2, 1836, delegates in Texas signed the Texas Declaration of Independence, creating the Republic of Texas. Yes, McCreary Law Office is in Florida, but Attorney Jana McCreary is a Texan with deep Texas roots. This post honors those roots—that legacy within her family beyond the Buck family farm.

The Seeds of Revolution Grown Into Independence

After Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, Mexico quickly realized that the colonists it had allowed to settle land in the northern part of its territory (promising land grants to the Americans who moved to the open land and settled) actually did not plan to continue allegiance to Mexico. Mexico tried to get the area under control, but those colonists rebelled. The Texas Revolution began with the Battle of Gonzales in October 1835. Following the battle, Texas declared its independence from Mexico the following March.

The Battle of the Alamo

Yes, at the same time in March of 1836, The Battle of The Alamo was being fought. The Alamo was under the command of Jim Bowie and William B. Travis. (Texans know the names Bowie and Travis among many others who fought at the Alamo — at the very least because of street, county, and school names). The men at the Alamo never knew of the declaration, and almost everyone there died under the attack of General Santa Anna’s army from Mexico by the time the siege ended on March 6, 1836.

Included in the casualties was Attorney Jana McCreary’s great-great-great grand uncle, Joseph Bayliss (age 28 and from Montgomery County, Tennessee). Joseph is listed as a member of the Volunteer Auxiliary Corps of Texas and rode with David Crockett and other Tennessee volunteers from Nacogdoches to the Alamo, where they arrived on February 8. Just fifteen days later, the attack began.

From Collateral Ancestor to Direct

Texas allotted land—2756 acres—to Joseph Bayliss’s heirs for his service to the Republic of Texas. (No doubt, Joseph originally went to Texas due to the promised Mexican land grants; oh the irony of those grants building the army that fought Mexico.) Joseph’s brother Harris (who was Jana’s grandmother’s great-grandfather) claimed the land allotted to Joseph, Harris eventually settling in Johnson County, Texas. Harris’s daughter Catharine moved to Texas later with her husband, James Mason Buck (these were Jana’s great-great-grandparents*); they settled in Rockwall County. That line of the family stayed or eventually returned there. Jana’s father was born in Rockwall County, Texas in 1940.

What is Your Legacy?

Thanks to the research of Jana’s aunt, Donna McCreary Rodriguez, Jana knows about this family history. Who knows the family history in your family? Who’s written it down? Have you told your own children about that part of their legacy? Whether through photo scrapbooks, family history ledgers and websites, or video interviews, don't let go of the stories of those before you. Hold on to that legacy so you too can pass it along.

(*Prior to Tennessee, Bayliss’s family traces to the North Carolina colony well before the American Revolution. James Mason Buck has ancestors recorded in the Virginia colony as far back as the mid1600s. )

Categories: Miscellaneous