• A visit to Union 2013. If you grew up in Union, West Virginia and you have not been able to return to Monroe County recently, chances are you will enjoy a little tour of Union and the area.

    View a Picture Tour of Union & Monroe County.


“Genealogy Story” by Ann Porterfield Dillon

Ann Porterfield Dillon


By Ann Porterfield Dillon, daughter of James and Lucille Porterfield

From the Sinks Grove Community, Monroe County, West Virginia


Several years ago I had an opportunity to take an early retirement, as I started working for the Government in DC  just a few weeks after high school graduation and had worked almost continuously.   It was an exciting opportunity to finally pursue some interests that had to be put on the back burner during work years. (I later returned to work part-time and recently “re-retired” but that’s another story for another day.)

Genealogy had always interested me, but other than cousins and a host of aunts and uncles from both my maternal and paternal lines, most of my family knowledge was limited to information on great-grandparents that Mother had completed for me in a family bible my husband and I received shortly after our marriage. A book on the Porterfield’s had been published in 1947, but our family copy perished with the fire that destroyed the family home in Sinks Grove.

Fortunately, living near the Virginia State Library as well as a large Mormon Church—both of which have a large repository of old records—my initial ancestral search was somewhat easier than it otherwise might have been so I was able to determine many births, deaths, and marriages. Census records provided children’s names. I’d gathered about three generations of information and was off and running. The more information I gleaned- the more I wanted. (It’s a common “affliction” to which most genealogists eventually succumb.)

As time passed and I expanded my search, I visited courthouses in Monroe and Greenbrier, as well as several counties in VA where I’d determined ancestors lived and I gathered more data. Along the way I discovered a variety of publications and one of the more enlightening ones was the book about the Ballard’s of Monroe written by Margaret Ballard, which I found at the VA Library. As I went through the index I saw so many familiar names that I knew I could never figure all this out unless I had my personal copy. Although the book has long been out of print the library had a copy available for checkout so I took it home, got access to a copy machine and proceeded to make my very own copy—all 410 pages.

Over the years I’ve heard some criticism of Dr Ballard’s book, and yes, I’ve even found a few minor errors. But I can tell you emphatically that it is impossible to write a family history book without error. Families sometimes contribute information to the writer that has some errors, sometimes newspaper accounts have errors, sometimes a name is improperly recorded at courthouses, sometimes census records are wrong, sometimes there’s just a typing error- etc.  But from my perspective, Dr Ballard’s book is a treasure. She obviously put her heart and soul into the research (long before computers!) and the results are invaluable. I’ve verified from courthouse and census records most of the information in the book that relates to my own direct lines and I salute her and her work.

Among my high school classmates, I had a first cousin, Ronnie Bostic. His mother, Winifred Porterfield Bostic, and my father were siblings. I had another more distant cousin, Bill Porterfield. His grandfather, Isaac Lafayette Porterfield and my great-grandfather, Emmett Clayton Porterfield were brothers.  Little did I know that through Dr Ballard’s book I would discover so many more “cousins”.

This may seem complicated, but in the interests of brevity and not to bore readers with all the begats, I’ll try to simplify. William Ballard came to America about the middle of the 18th century, probably from Larnark, Scotland. Maggie Ballard recorded 12 children- one of whom was also named William (1732-1799) who came to what is now Monroe County in 1793. This William (called William I in the book) and his wife Elizabeth (nee Steppe) had ten children. Among them was William II.  William II is my g-g-grandfather—on my father’s side. Voila! New additions to one of my ancestral lines. (William II is also my g-g-g-grandfather on my mother’s side however, once again, that’s another story for another day.) But then it got more interesting- two of William II’s nine siblings were Jeremiah and Mollie. Jeremiah married Jalia Thompson. Jeremiah and Jalia are the g-g-g-grandparents of Julia Dillon Kanatzar (class of ‘61, like me).  Sister Mollie married Michael Kesinger; they are the g-g-g-g-grandparents of Betty Leach Moore (also class of ‘61). How about that! Two special friends from my class with whom I shared so many wonderful times during our high school years were actually cousins. But wait, that also means they’re cousins to my other cousins in the class—Ronnie and Bill (like me, both also descended from William Ballard II). Who would think, that in a graduating class of only 46, there would be at least 5 members related to one another through a common ancestor who came to live in Monroe County before it was even formed?

There’s much more I could tell about the exciting discoveries I’ve made during this fascinating pursuit, but I’ll share only one here. Although not in my class, throughout my growing up years one of my best friends was Linda Carol Anderson Weiss (class of ‘63). I like to say that we probably knew each other before we were born since our mothers were classmates (class of ‘35). We’ve kept in touch since school. Linda also has genealogy interests and while on one of my visits with her, we began comparing notes and discovered that our g-g-grandmothers were sisters, Anna and Rachel Sydenstricker (unconnected to the Ballard lines I’ve mentioned), and perhaps even twins. Is this a small world- or what???

If you grew up in Monroe, no doubt you too have cousins you don’t know about among your friends. I’m so happy to have begun this rewarding journey. And the search never ends. I strongly suspect that I’m related to two other classmates—Wayne Ellis (a mutual Foster ancestry) and Jerry Lowe (a mutual Lowe ancestry)—but I’ve not yet found the documentation to prove it. Who knows- there may be others. A work in progress. If anyone has clues they’d like to share, please get in touch. The voyage continues and fellow travelers are always welcome.

Ann Porterfield Dillon, Class of 1961
March 2011