Published in SGES Quarterly December 2005 Volume 46, No. 196

By J. G. Braddock Sr.

Suppose I had said no.

It is amazing what we sometimes find when we venture down a road we haven’t been on before. I was dragged kicking and screaming 14 years ago down one I didn’t want to travel and am still being amazed at what I’m finding along its way. 

The trip down this road started the morning Valerie announced I was to go with her to the library and help research her family genealogy. Although she had for several years been filling one steno pad after another with notes of her Humbert family, I had managed to keep myself unencumbered with her “hobby.” Her tone of voice that day, however, told me unmistakably that I could dodge the bullet no longer. I discreetly turned my face away from her and grimaced wryly.

My displeasure stemmed from the fact that I knew absolutely nothing about genealogy and didn’t care to know. I had always assumed it was a complicated subject capably pursued only by professional genealogist who had extensive training in the subject. Besides, after my father died when I was five, my mother remarried and we moved from the Braddock stronghold of North Florida to Charleston , South Carolina . Consequently, all I knew of my Braddock family besides my father, my brother, an uncle, and two first cousins was that my grandfather, who died before I was born, had worked for Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, and his son, my father’s brother, had been killed working for ACL. That was sufficient family history for me. Besides, why look in South Carolina for a Florida family? I almost said no, but something in the tone of her voice said I had better not refuse.

So off to the South Carolina Room of the Charleston County Library we went. I quickly learned that my assistance was not a one-shot involvement. Over the next few weeks we visited the South Carolina Historical Society, the Charleston Library Society, the LDS Family History Center , the South Carolina Genealogical Society, and the Office of Mesne Conveyance. I was amazed to discover that the city in which I had grown up was a mother lode of historical records. It is especially rich in those of the colonial era when many of the settlers and immigrants coming into the south were entering through its port. Some stayed in the area. Others moved on as frontiers expanded westward. Many left some kind of public record that has been preserved in books, on microfilm, or in original form.

 Totally ignorant of research methods used by professionals, I developed my own. At each research facility we visited, I started at the first book on the first shelf and worked my way to the last book on the last shelf, checking each book’s index for Valerie’s family names. In books that had a sparse index or none at all, which were many of the older ones, I flipped slowly through them as my eyes scanned their pages for the names she was researching. It is surprising how many pieces of vital information I found in this manner.

  While checking a source for Valerie’s family names, out of nothing more than curiosity, I also checked for Braddock. On my very first outing I found the name of Captain David Cutler Braddock in a book of South Carolina colonial records. He commanded one of the galleys protecting the young colony. Having never heard of him before, I flipped on by the page on which his name appeared. Shortly afterwards I received in the mail from my first cousin, Oswald Braddock, a copy of a Braddock genealogy compiled by the late Helen Hodges of Callahan, Florida. The genealogy mentioned Captain John Cutler Braddock as being one of our ancestors. My very next outing turned up the birth record of John Cutler Braddock. David Cutler Braddock and Mary Lyford were listed as his parents. Going by Mrs. Hodges genealogy, I determined that John Cutler Braddock was my 4th great-grandfather, which meant David Cutler Braddock and Mary Lyford were my 5th great-grandparents. I added Lyford to my list of names to check for and soon learned that Mary’s father, William Lyford also commanded one of South Carolina ’s galleys and that he and David Cutler Braddock had gone to the aid of General Oglethorpe when the Spanish invaded St. Simons in 1742.

      I began photocopying each page on which their names appeared and filing them chronologically in a 3-inch binder. Before long, I had filled it up and had started on another binder.

     After learning William Lyford had a son, William Jr., I found mention of the son and of David Cutler Braddock in The Georgia – South Carolina Border, a book by Dr. Louis Devorsey, professor emeritus of geography at the University of Georgia and author of numerous well known books about Southern geography. I wrote Dr. Devorsey asking his sources for these mentions and got more than I bargained for. Not only did he respond promptly with the information I sought, he told me that a chart of the Florida Keys made in 1756 by David Cutler Braddock was in the Library of Congress and that a chart of Tampa Bay he made that is no longer in existence is mentioned in a book published in 1775. Dr. Devorsey also mentioned a chart William Lyford Jr. had made of the Savannah River entrance, but he did not know where I could find a copy. I was able to purchase from the Library of Congress a negative of the Keys chart, and I found the book mentioning the Tampa Bay chart. It took some doing, but I also located Lyford’s chart. I suddenly became the one anxiously dragging Valerie out on research forays.

Charleston ’s old newspapers dating back to the first one published in 1732 are on microfilm in the Charleston County Library. I found in them numerous items mentioning activities and exploits of William Lyford Sr. and David Cutler Braddock on the two galleys they commanded. In an issue dated April 23, 1778, I found a transcript of a letter written by Colonel Samuel Elbert from St. Simons Island , Georgia relating the capture of three British men-of-war by three Georgia galleys. Captain John Cutler Braddock, my 4th great-grandfather commanded one of the galleys.

Learning David Cutler Braddock’s origin became one of my primary goals. Guessing that his middle name and that of his son was a family name, I added Cutler to my search list. Not one Cutler was mentioned in any of the old South Carolina records. However, an old genealogy of New England Cutlers, on microfilm at the LDS Family History Center within a few blocks of my house, listed the marriage of Mary Cutler to Captain John Braddick of Long Island , New York . Captain Braddick’s will, which I also found on microfilm at the History Center , confirmed he was David’s father. The Cutler genealogy also revealed that Mary Cutler’s father, John, was a surgeon who had come from his native Holland to Massachusetts in mid-1600s and had changed his name from Johannes DeMesmaker to its American equivalent. Sometime later Valerie, who was now assisting me with my Braddocks much more than I was assisting her with her Humberts, found an article in a Huguenot Society quarterly that established that Julia Ward Howe, author of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, was descended from the same John Cutler.

We eventually exhausted sources in Charleston and began visiting other cities, finding something to add to my collection in each. I learned in the South Carolina Archives in Columbia that John Cutler Braddock had commanded a galley operating out of Fort Lyttleton in South Carolina in 1779 after the British gained control of Georgia . Colonial and Revolutionary records and newspapers in Savannah’s Georgia Historical Society contributed reams of information on my four men including the answer to how David Cutler Braddock, a Yankee from Long Island, had ended up in the South—the merchant ship on which he was first-mate was captured by the Spanish and taken into St. Augustine. Escaping, he made his way to Georgia where General James Oglethorpe placed him in command of a ship. The Georgia Archives in Atlanta , with abundant information about John Cutler Braddock’s two terms as a representative in the state assembly, land grants for his military service, and records of his service in the Glynn County militia swelled my collection to three 3-inch binders full of pages.

One of the high points of my research occurred at the University of Georgia’s Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library in Athens where I got to hold in my hands the actual letter, with the wax seal still on it, that William Lyford Jr., a devout Loyalist who had been run out of Georgia at the start of the Revolution, wrote after the end of the war vainly requesting permission to return to Georgia.

It became clearly evident during my research that a mutual animosity existed between the colonies of Georgia and South Carolina almost from the founding of the younger colony. I found so many instances of it that at one point I was tempted to write a book titled The War Between the States – Georgia Versus South Carolina. Surprisingly, although it now manifests itself a lot less frequently and on a milder level, the animosity still exists. From time to time evidence of it pops up in the media. In recent years the two states wrangled over the exact location of the border between them before the issue was settled in court. At the opening of a grand, new bridge in South Carolina , the Governor announced he was going to shake the bridge in Georgia ’s face. And there is a not so subtle competition between Savannah and Charleston for the port and tourist businesses. However, as Valerie and I learned, the modern animosity is practiced for the most part on a person to person level. Once, while paying our bill in a well-known boarding house dining room in Savannah , we were asked where we were from. When we replied “ Charleston ,” we were told, “If Charleston keeps on, it will be as good as Savannah one day.” Another time, we made the mistake of revealing where we’re from while boarding a tour bus. We spent the entire tour listening to the driver putting down Charleston to the bus load of tourists with remarks such as, “This building is an example of Savannah ’s beautiful brickwork. Charleston is built of our reject brick,” and “ Savannah is famous for its wrought ironwork. Our castoffs were sent to Charleston .”

Although our origins are 200 miles apart, Valerie’s in Charleston , mine in Jacksonville , we found two instances of surprising coincidence. On the same day, at the Georgia Historical Society, we found an old Savannah document one of her Humbert ancestors and Joseph Clay, a Colonial Georgia leader, had signed. The next document we looked at was signed by David Cutler Braddock and Joseph Clay. The other coincidence resulted in another Georgia versus South Carolina incident. Before Valerie dragged me into her research she had learned that one of her ancestors was married in 1759 in Jerusalem Church , the oldest standing public building in Georgia , in Ebenezer, outside Savannah . Upon learning that John Cutler Braddock had married Lucy Cook in the same church in 1769, we decided to visit the church. We pulled up in front of it and while reading the historical sign, a guy wearing a black leather cap and jacket pulled up next to us on a motorcycle and began glaring at us. I rolled down the window and asked what his problem was. His expression growing meaner, he replied, “We don’t like South Carolina people coming over here.” When I grinned and replied, “Tough tahootie,” he began laughing. He was the caretaker arriving for work and thought he would have a little fun with us South Carolina folks. He then proceeded to give us a private tour of the building along with an in-depth recitation of the building’s history.

After four years of research, which became intense almost to the point of obsession after my retirement from work, I had accumulated four and a half 3-inch binders of information. Filing the copied pages in chronological order, I found them to be like dots that at first were too distantly spaced for a discernible picture to be seen. The more pieces of information I found, the closer the dots grew. Soon, definite lines began replacing dots, telling a clear and surprisingly detailed story of the four captains. I began seriously entertaining the idea of making a book of their many exciting exploits but decided that, besides not being a writer, I lacked one vital ingredient. I knew the ultimate end of three of the men but not the fourth. I knew from a copy of William Lyford Sr.’s will that he had died in the Bahamas . An item in a 1769 issue of the Georgia Gazette told of David Cutler Braddock’s death. And the April 23, 1794 minutes of the Executive Council of Georgia told of John Cutler Braddock’s death. However, I had run out of places in which to research without learning William Lyford Jr.’s fate. I knew he had fled to British held East Florida as a Loyalist at the outbreak of the Revolution. I knew he had served the Royal Navy in the war by piloting their men-of-war up and down the Southeast coast. I knew he had returned to Georgia after the British recaptured Savannah in 1778. I knew he had fled again to East Florida at the war’s end and had in vain written a letter to the new state of Georgia ’s governor asking to be allowed back in Georgia . I had a strong feeling he had gone to the Bahamas along with most of the other Loyalist in Florida when England had ceded Florida back to Spain in 1783, but I had found no records to prove it. Beyond that, I knew absolutely nothing.

With no place left to research to occupy my time, I began keying my mass of information into my PC. Massaging it into a readable story as I went was no easy task for me as I had not been the brightest kid on the block during my high school years, especially in the intricacies of grammar and punctuation. Thankfully, I had Valerie to give me advice. I also had my daughter Debbi, who had edited theses to help work her way through college, to look over my shoulder and keep reminding me, “Keep it scholarly, Daddy.”

Midway through the keying in process, an item in the magazine section of our local newspaper revealed that actor Sean Connery lived in Lyford Cay, an exclusive residential resort on New Providence Island in the Bahamas . I strongly suspected that William Jr. had some connection to this Lyford Cay, but did not know how to pursue it. So, I merely filed the item in the appropriate binder. Doing nothing immediately with the Lyford Cay information later proved to be the best thing I could have done at that time. Three months later, when I reached the point in entering the four mariners’ story where William Jr. had fled to East Florida and was piloting British men of war, I again convinced myself the story would not be complete until I knew what happened to him afterward. After much deliberation, I wrote a letter addressed to “Lyford Cay Resort, New Providence , Bahamas .” In it, I asked if William Lyford Jr. had any connection to the resort. If so, I would give them a copy of my book, should I complete it, for any information they could give me of him. A month passed with no reply. I had all but given up on my fantasy of publishing a book when my phone rang one Saturday afternoon. The caller, a resident of the resort, informed me in a heavy British accent that he was calling about the letter I had written to Lyford Cay resort. He by chance had been in the office of the resort’s manager when my letter arrived and was shown it. He said the resort was, indeed, named after a Lyford, but for years they had thought his given name to be James. They had seen the name James, William Jr.’s half-brother, in William Lyford Sr.’s will in the Bahamas Archives and assumed he was their man. The caller asked what I knew about William Jr. I facetiously suggested he come to Charleston and see. He said he just might do that. He then identified himself as Arthur Hailey, internationally famous writer of such popular novels as Airport, Wheels, and Hotel.

Mr. Hailey did come to Charleston . One of the first questions he asked was why I had sat on the Connery item so long before acting on it. I told him I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and that if I had mailed my letter at any other time, he would not have been, by chance, in the manager’s office when it arrived. We spent three days together going over the 57 pages of information I had accumulated on William Jr. Delighted with the information I gave him, he returned to the Bahamas and started a Lyford Cay newsletter through which he told William Lyford Jr.’s story in installments. He gave me full credit as the source of the information he used.

He also hired a researcher to comb the Bahamas Archives for records of my four men. The voluminous and exciting information that began arriving almost daily in my mailbox provided me a conclusion to William Jr.’s part of the story and much more. I learned the birth dates of William Lyford Jr. and his sister Mary, David Cutler Braddock’s wife; that he and his nephew, John Cutler Braddock, had participated in Colonel Andrew Deveaux’s famous raid that drove the Spanish from Nassau and that both men had received two grants each for their services; and when and where William Jr. died. The most surprising thing I learned from the information Arthur Hailey sent was that William Lyford Sr.’s father-in-law, William Spatches, was once president of the Bahamas .

While I was in the midst of keying in all the new information Arthur Hailey had sent, he invited me to take part in a lecture he was giving on William Lyford Jr. at the resort. I was to say a few words about William Lyford Sr. Lyford Cay would pay all the expenses for Valerie and me. Completely forgetting I suffer from extreme stage fright and panic at even the thought of standing up in front of people, I blurted out that I would be glad to take part. We stayed a week, spending the first two nights being royally treated at the Lyford Cay Club Hotel and the remainder at the Hailey’s guest house next door to their home. We dined with the Hailey’s every evening and were made to feel as if we were among old friends. The lecture went off without a hitch. As superb as he was as a writer, Arthur was equally superb as a lecturer. And I surprised myself by giving my six minutes worth without missing a beat. By the time I got up to speak, my mind was so intoxicated with getting to meet and chat with the Governor-General of the Bahamas and other dignitaries before the lecture began that I forgot all about my stage fright. The lecture was later deemed the most successful and best attended ever given at Lyford Cay.

Before going to the Bahamas I had found on microfilm the grant in which William Jr. had received the land on which Lyford Cay now stands. Apparently, the original had become wet and splotches of the ink with which it was written made reading of it difficult. I scanned it into my PC, cleaned it up enough that all its writing was legible, and printed it out on parchment paper.  I then created a near-facsimile of it on my PC using similar looking fonts. I mailed, unannounced, both versions to Arthur. I was pleasantly surprised to find both, neatly framed, hanging on Lyford Cay Hotel’s lobby wall when we arrived.

One of the highlights of our visit was getting to see the still-standing tabby walls of the house in which William Jr. and his family had lived two hundred years earlier. I added a picture I took of it to my book.

Mr. Hailey gave the same lecture again three years later, and I was again invited to take part. Valerie and I were able to enjoy another nice week in the Bahamas as guest of the Haileys, all expenses paid.

In the early stages of my book, I named it On Both Sides of the Revolution because the story took place before, during, and after the Revolution and John Cutler Braddock and William Jr. were on opposite sides. I used in my speech at Lyford Cay the old aphorism, “In the olden days they had wooden ships and iron men; today we have wooden men and iron ships,” in describing the breed of mariners of William Sr.’s day. As I said the words, “wooden ships and iron men,” during my speech, I immediately knew what the book’s title would be. 

After entering all the information Arthur sent me, I printed the book out, all 300 pages, and had Valerie proofread it. I then had my daughter Debbi edit it. The two of them came up with enough corrections and suggested changes that it took me a week to make them. I soon had the book ready for publishing. I had keyed it in in camera-ready format so that all a publisher had to do was photograph the pages and print the book from the photo plates. This saved me the added expense of the publisher having to key in and format the book’s text. Now to find a publisher. I found a list of them in a reference book at the library and picked out about 30 who published historical type books. I wrote each a letter and included a couple of sample pages. I received four responses, each saying generally the same thing: “We are not doing that kind of book at this time.”

     I could have thrown up my hands at that point and said, “What’s the use.” But I was determined to see it in print, not because I could say I had published a book, but because I knew the story of the four mariners was worth sharing. Back to the library I went to look for books that told how to self-publish. In a surprising short period, Valerie and I learned and carried out the legal and other formalities necessary for starting our own publishing company, VJB Press—V for Valerie, J for Jerry, B for Braddock. We also fathomed the mysteries of getting the book copyrighted through the Library of Congress and an ISBN number assigned to it.

     Now that we had a publishing company, all we needed was to get the book printed. Back to the library I went and compiled a list of book printers. I was shooting for getting a good quality book with hard cover and dust jacket I could sell for no more than $20.00.

     Unsurprisingly, I received a quotation from every printer to whom I had written and learned that the cost of getting a book printed is predicated on the number of copies—the more, in increments of a hundred, the less the price per book. Prices per book, based on 500 copies, on the quotations ranged all the way up to $45.00 each. Only one printer quoted a price low enough to allow me to sell for $20.00. However, the price was so much lower than the other quotations that I didn’t think they could deliver a quality product for the amount. While again on the verge of giving up as a lost cause getting my book published, I received a handsomely made history of the Bahamas as a gift from Arthur Hailey. While flipping through the front pages of it, I noticed that it had been published by the University of Georgia Press . Looking further down the page were the words, “Printed by Thomson-Shore.” That was the printer I had written off! I couldn’t get to the phone fast enough to set in motion their printing Wooden Ships – Iron Man.

     Thomson-Shore gave me the option of their designing the book’s jacket or my having someone locally design it. Either way would be an additional cost of over $100. I suddenly became a book jacket designer.

     An advance copy of Wooden Ships – Iron Men arrived from Thomson-Shore early in July, 1996. I soared into a state of ecstasy as I pulled the culmination of five years of blood, sweat, and tears from the envelope and laid my eyes on it for the first time. Physically, it was an attractive book by any standard. I immediately sat down and began reading it. I had read it in bits and pieces while writing it but not all the way through after completing it and making corrections and changes. I was a sick man long before I reached the last page. I could not believe the number of typographical errors it contained: missing or wrong punctuation, 1970 instead of 1790 in one place, left-out words that changed meanings of sentences, etc., etc., etc. After two almost sleepless nights of agonizing over what I was going to do with 500 books riddled with errors that were barreling down the road on a truck somewhere between Michigan and Charleston, I reasoned that they contained more than enough previously unknown history of Braddock ancestors to make them worth the price. I decided I would make an errata sheet and stick it in the back of each book. I had seen a few books with such sheets in them during my research. After preparing the errata sheet I was surprised at how short the list looked. The first book I distributed was to Arthur Hailey. He called me after receiving it and chided me about the errata list and advised me to leave it out as most people give little thought to minor errors they encounter in books. So much for the errata sheet. For the large number of books I’ve sold, the 1970 for 1790 error is the only one someone has mentioned.

     As part of getting a copyright and an ISBN number from the Library of Congress, I had to send them three copies. A few weeks later, I received a phone call from Virginia Steele Wood, a Senior Reference Librarian and Specialist in Naval & Maritime History at the Library and author of several historical books of coastal Georgia . She called to congratulate me on the amount of research contained in the book. I later had the pleasure of telling her to her face that her call removed all doubts of my book being worth the price.

     The satisfaction of getting your book published when no one else would even look at it and gaining a little admiration from a few for having done so is about as far as the benefits of being a self-publisher go. Getting it sold is completely your responsibility. Not even the merest thought of how I was going to sell them crossed my mind when I made the relatively quick decision to self-publish. Only when I wrote that big check to the printer, draining my savings, did the full reality that selling the books rested fully on my skinny little shoulders hit me. I couldn’t sell dollar bills for fifty cents. It was back to the library to get a list of newspapers in the Southeast. I wrote a letter to almost every one of them, offering to send a copy of the book if they would mention it in their paper. Only one took me up on the offer, but what a result it brought! Beth Gay gave it a generous mention in her genealogy column, Hunting Forbears, in Jacksonville ’s Florida Times-Union. The mention resulted in numerous descendants of the book’s heroes calling long distance to order copies.

     The first weekend after receiving the books, Valerie and I drove to Jacksonville to give my first cousin, JoAnn, a copy, stopping by Waycross , Georgia on the way to give a copy to my other Braddock first cousin, Oswald. He had given me the copy of Helen Hodges’ Braddock genealogy that played a key role in starting me down the path to publishing the book.

     In years past I had seen a Braddock Hardware in Yulee. It was only a stone’s throw off our route as we headed back home from Jacksonville . On the spur of the moment I decided to attempt my first ever sales pitch. We entered the store and asked to speak to Mister Braddock. He shortly appeared and I fought off my stage fright long enough to tell him the book was 300 pages worth of exploits of our ancestors—his and mine. He looked at the cover, flipped through it, pulled a twenty from his wallet, and handed it to me.

     Continuing our homeward journey we stopped by St. Simons to visit an uncle. Emboldened by the ease of the Yulee sale, we stopped at a bookstore on the island and I made a pitch, holding the book up for the owner to see. He took it, turned it in his hand as he studied the cover, flipped through a few pages, then announced he would take two. Even more emboldened, we tried another bookstore on the island and got the identical reaction, except the owner took only one book. On the way out we sold a copy to a bookstore in downtown Brunswick with relative ease.

     As soon as we arrived back in Charleston I made my pitch to the manager of a nearby Books-A-Million store. Not only did she take six books, she set me up for book signings at her store, another local book store, a Books-A-Million in Columbia , SC , one in Savannah , and two in Jacksonville . I wrote a letter to the book review editor Charleston ’s Sunday newspaper saying that I heard they did not review self-published books, but if that was incorrect, I would gladly send a copy for them to review. When I answered the phone several days later, my ear was greeted with, “You are right. We don’t review self-published books, but I will mention your book signings.” It was the book editor himself.

     I learned very quickly that unless you are a famous author or a celebrity, a book signing can be a dull, drawn out, disappointing few hours of watching people walk on by the table and chair the store has set up for you as if you were part of the furnishings. After a while, from sheer frustration, you start trying to get passersby’s attention by holding up the book and saying, “Hey, here’s a great book on maritime history,” or some like comment. Most smile, politely nod their heads, and pass on by. Of those who stop long enough to engage in a little dialogue, most listen to your spiel, ask a question or two, then move on. Some ask you question after question or get you to tell them half the book, making you think you have a sure sale, then move on without their hands going anywhere near their wallets.

     The mention in the Florida Times-Union brought an invitation to tell about the book at the annual Braddock/Higginbotham reunion in Callahan , FL. The invitation meant much more to me than a chance to sell some books. As said earlier, the only Braddocks I knew were my late father, my brother, my uncle, and two first cousins. Now I would get to see and meet many more bearing the same surname. And, although my great and great-great grandmothers were Higginbothams, I had never seen a Higginbotham in the flesh. A lengthy article about my book in a Nassau County newspaper must have helped add to the crowd. As soon as we pulled up and started carrying a box of books into the building, I was literally mobbed by people waving money and checks before I even got to the door. Still in a state of astonishment at how people were clamoring to buy a copy of the book, I gave my prepared speech. It was brief and printed out in 18 point type so that I would have no difficulty in reading it. My stage fright almost caught up with me near the end, and I just barely made it through. Another paragraph and I would have disintegrated into a nervous heap. By the time we left for home I was on a first name basis with more Braddocks and Higginbothams than I ever dreamed existed.

     Acquiring the names and addresses of numerous Braddocks from a rip-off Braddock genealogy book I had ordered from an ad I received in the mail, I sent a flyer to over a hundred Braddocks in Georgia and Florida without receiving a single response. Copies of the flyer I mailed to libraries and historical and genealogical research facilities in the Southeast fared better as the book is now in numerous such places. A letter I wrote to a local TV station resulted in my being invited to tell about the book on Charleston ’s top rated daytime talk show. However, my appearance did little to stimulate sales as few Braddocks beside my children and I reside in the Charleston area.

     It sometimes pays to know someone who knows someone. The Atlanta Journal was one of the many newspapers from which I received no response earlier to my letter seeking mention of my book. Braddock descendant Alex Williams, a retired judge and historian of sorts, was so pleased with the copy he had ordered that he called his friend Ken Thomas who writes a genealogy column for the Atlanta Journal, resulting in a generous mention of the book in his column, which resulted in several sales.

     I sent a copy to my old alma mater, North Greenville College , which I attended on a football scholarship. I say alma mater; I was kicked out at the end of my first semester because of bad study habits. Apparently no longer holding my past against me; they published a full page article about the book and me and included a picture of Arthur Hailey and me.

     I signed up for the Internet and, with some instructions from one of my sons, soon had a web page advertising the book. With the number of family history hunters using the Internet for researching their genealogy growing exponentially, I immediately began receiving orders from fellow descendants who hit on the web page while searching for their Braddock ancestry. However, the best sources of sales proved to be people who had already bought the book wanting more copies for other family members and people who had seen relatives’ copies.

     Several reunions involving Braddocks are held in North Florida . One of them, the Braddock/Stokes group, invited me to present the book at their reunion. In spite of my acute stage fright, I felt unusually comfortable about accepting the invitation. I had done reasonably well giving speeches in front of large crowds at Lyford Cay and the Braddock/Higginbotham reunion. Besides, I would be using the same speech I had prepared for the Braddock/Higginbotham reunion. Feeling confident, I made little effort to rehearse or psyche myself up for it as I had the other speeches. One thing that helped me tremendously in the earlier two speeches was being able to see Valerie sitting within the first two rows directly in front of me. I had kept my eyes on her as if I were making the speech to her. At the Braddock/Stokes reunion, they seated Valerie at a table far to one side. Each time I looked up, instead of seeing her smiling face of encouragement, I saw the frowning face of a big, tall man sitting directly in front of me. Letting his frown discourage me, my stage fright kicked in in all its fury. Somewhere between the fourth and fifth paragraphs I became so flustered that I lost my place and my nerve and for the life of me could not find either again and had to sit down.

     I had earlier been invited by the Hilton Head Historical Society to make a presentation about David Cutler Braddock, for whom the southern tip of the island and a nearby cove are named. As soon as I returned home from my Braddock/Stokes disaster I wrote the Society informing them that, because of a fear that the same thing would happen again, embarrassing them and ruining their meeting, I was withdrawing my commitment. I received by return mail a clipping from the Hilton Head newspaper announcing I was to speak at the Society’s next meeting along with a letter from their president informing me there was no way I could cancel. I called him and stipulated that I would come only if Valerie were seated so that I could easily see her. My daughter Debbi surprised me by arriving moments before the meeting started. Between being able to see their two faces smiling up at me and Valerie having rehearsed me, rehearsed me, rehearsed me, I didn’t miss a beat and was able to deviate from my script several times without losing my place.

     All the while, Arthur Hailey continued publishing William Lyford’s story in monthly installments in the Lyford Cay newsletter from my research material and would send each article for me to edit and approve. Not many people who failed high school senior English in high school get to edit a world renowned author.

     Although I had become completely fascinated almost to the point of obsession with Braddock history, I had found little interest in the genealogical side. In researching my book I learned that John Braddick had married Mary Cutler, daughter of John Cutler who had come from Holland , and that John and Mary’s son, David Cutler Braddock, had married Mary Lyford, daughter of William Lyford, and had John Cutler Braddock. From Margaret Hodges’ Braddock genealogy Cousin Oswald had sent me, I learned the names of those through which my father had descended from John Cutler Braddock. So, I knew my direct Braddock ancestry all the way back to John Braddick of the seventeenth century. That was sufficient for me.

     It is only fitting that I comment further on the amazing Braddock genealogy the late Margaret Hodges compiled. She published it long before the advent of the Internet, which has made it possible for many people, using sophisticated search tools, to pull together a comprehensive family genealogy in one sitting. She did her research the old fashioned way: traveling week after week to numerous repositories of public and historical records and painstakingly poring for hours over old ledgers, newspapers, and microfilm. Several family members, including me, who pursue our Braddock ancestry have built our databases on the genealogy she labored so long and hard to compile. Her daughter, Jean Mizell, is expertly carrying on her mother’s work.

     Because many who bought copies of my book included genealogies of their limbs of the Braddock tree with their orders, and others who bought it were asking how they fit in, I began a Braddock genealogy database, initially populating it with information from Helen Hodges’ genealogy. My interest in genealogy grew with each addition I made to the database, especially when the addition revealed a surprise. One surprise was learning that a plainclothes juvenile officer who almost arrested me for swimming in Charleston ’s public lake soon after I arrived in the city in 1941 was my second cousin twice removed.

     As my database grew, I became interested in the genealogy of my ancestors other than Braddocks. Through family records I traced my mother’s ancestry back to Levisa Bennett. Further research revealed that Levisa’s grandmother was Mary “Polly” Cook, sister of Lucy Cook, wife of my ancestor Captain John Cutler Braddock. So, their father, James Cook, was my 5th great-grandfather on my father’s side and my 6th great-grandfather on my mother’s side, making me my own cousin. Tracing the Bennetts farther, I found that my father’s brother’s wife, step-son, and son-in-law are my cousins on my mother’s side.

     In addition to helping sell books and enabling me to meet many cousins in places far and near, the Internet web pages I created to advertise Wooden Ships - Iron Men have brought me some interesting opportunities. Anne Higham, a serious Lyford researcher in England who saw these web pages, not only ordered a copy of the book, she continually sends me copies of old letters, charts, and documents concerning my ancestors she finds in the British Public Records Office. After seeing my web page, Gail Swanson, a Florida Keys historian, sent me voluminous information of William Lyford Sr. being pilot of the HMS Loo when the frigate ran aground in 1744 on the Florida Key that now bears the vessel’s name, information I had missed while researching my book. She also sent me several large metal fragments salvaged from the Loo’s anchor. Using the information Gail sent, a copy of Lyford’s deposition of the Loo’s loss sent to me by Anne Higham, and information I already had, I wrote a ten page article, my first such endeavor, and had it accepted in Carologue, South Carolina Historical Society’s quarterly magazine.

     After seeing one of my web pages, the Marshes of Glynn Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution at St. Simons Island, GA, invited me to make a presentation commemorating the capture of three British men-of-war by three Georgia galleys, one commanded by my 4th great-grandfather. The presentation went well enough that Bill Ramsaur, president of the St. Simons chapter, and I were invited to make a joint presentation at the Lower Altamaha Historical Society in Darien , GA.

     After much effort, the Marshes of Glynn Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution succeeded in getting approved a historical marker commemorating the April 19, 1778 victory by the Georgia Navy. Georgia ’s governor declared April 19, 2005 the first annual Georgia Patriots Day. A lengthy celebration lasting most of the day was held on that date to, among other things, dedicate the marker. I had the honor of reading a poem I wrote about the capture as part of the marker’s dedication ceremony.

     In light of my initial concerns about my book’s errata, not least among the pleasures I’ve found along this road Valerie had to drag me, kicking and screaming, onto are the several favorable reviews the book has received, including one by writer Arthur Hailey. All of them were complimentary enough to use in my flyer and Internet advertisements. But a copy of Wooden Ships – Iron Men I sent to the Southern Genealogist’s Exchange Society resulted in the review I treasure the most. Written by the Society’s president Jon Ferguson, it appeared in the Society’s quarterly. I was so impressed with the review and articles in their quarterly that I decided to join. I also opted to subscribe to Heritage Quest Online through my SGES membership. Within weeks, I found enough information about one of my early ancestors through Heritage Quest Internet to write an article and have it accepted for publishing in the SGES quarterly.

     I don’t know how much longer I will have the exciting and pleasurable adventure of traveling this road onto which Valerie dragged me, kicking and screaming; however, I do know that the only way to get me off it now is to drag me kicking and screaming.

     Another thing I know is this road didn’t just happen, nor did the many repositories of historical and genealogical documents and records I’ve encountered at the road’s every turn, nor did the ever-increasing ease with which these documents and records can be accessed—I recently put together a genealogy of my cousin-in-law’s ancestry without leaving the chair in front of my PC. People built this road, most of them volunteer “road-builders.” In the infant days of family research, these road-builders scraped a crude two rut road of family information through a wilderness of ignorance by starting to accumulate genealogical and historical records. Over the years, they built buildings and founded libraries and started archives and formed societies in which these records could be housed and in a way that people could come and access them with relative ease. They made themselves experts of genealogy to make the researcher’s job easier. They started quarterlies and news letters to reach beyond the walls of their repositories. They started conducting lectures and seminars and training classes. They worked diligently to improve ease of access by transcribing paper records to microform, CDs, and web pages. Gradually, these road-builders transformed the rut road into a superhighway along which researchers can move with ease and speed on their way to compiling their family histories.

     My boss of over thirty years, who had retired the year before I did, told me the week before I retired 10 years ago that I would be bored to death with retirement. I couldn’t have written a better script for my retirement years than what I have been living out on this road on which I was dragged kicking and screaming. I sometimes shudder when I think that I almost said no.