Our Family History

The families of Dale Lee Durnell and Donna Eileen Hammer


As Eugene Peterson chronicles the life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, he paraphrases the first three verses of the gospel of Luke in “The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language” with these words.

So many others have tried their hand at putting together a story of the wonderful harvest of Scripture and history that took place among us, using reports handed down by the original eyewitnesses who served this Word with their very lives. Since I have investigated all the reports in close detail, starting from the story’s beginning, I decided to write it all out for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt the reliability of what you were taught. (Luke 1:1-3, The Message)

Those words pretty much sum up what you’ll find on these pages – my attempt to write down and record for you, information that I have researched, gleaned, conjectured, and construed about our (your) family.

For example, I have found a couple of book that have been written about Alexander MACK (1, 2), the founder of what has become known as The Church of the Brethren. It was a book about his descendants, and their marriages, and their children from back in the early 1700’s in Germany down to my mother’s generation in 1943. I also found a book had been written about Thomas MAXWELL (3), a Scotsman who came to the U.S. in the 1700’s. The book comes down to your mother’s grandfather on her mother’s side of the family (down to Daddy Clyde). With those resources in hand, I have been working on connecting the dots to bring the line down to you. Those books and other family trees have made part of the journey a little less challenging but haven’t answered all the questions, and occasionally have caused more than a little confusion because the research of others has not always been that sterling.

My fascination, infatuation, and passion for genealogy (call it what you will) was kindled some 60 years ago. I was in about the 8th grade at the newly built and recently opened Christopher Columbus Junior High School (a part of the Los Angeles Unified School District) in Canoga Park, California. I was among the first graduating class (class of 1960). I remember, we had a class project – to prepare a chart of our family and to trace it back at least two generations from us (to our grandparents). And then, if possible we were to gather information about their parents also. It was nothing elaborate, just a simple “Pedigree Chart,” but I didn’t know that’s what it was called back then. It included the names (with maiden names for my mom and my grandmothers) and their date and place of birth. That’s all I really knew. Oh, and for those who had already died, the date and place of their death (people like grandfather DURNELL (d. 1954), and great-grandpa WILKINSON (d. 1951).

Three score years later, that simple 24" x 30" poster board chart has, for me, become a link with the past, present, and future. I kept the chart for years, as your mom and I moved across the county and around the world. Eventually, I let it go. It had gotten more than a little dog-eared, and on one move, the chart didn’t come with us.

In preparing this work for you, I have tried to find and present more than just the date and place of birth (and death) of our ancestors. In fact, I am finding a microcosm of American history in the journey our ancestors made and the footprints they left on the landscape of our land. It seems strange that all this grew out of a classroom project one of my teachers assigned to a class of 8th graders in a new school.

One of my biggest regrets in my life (and for your father, there have been more than a few) is that I did not have the foresight to dig a little deeper, and probe, and record what would have been first, and at worst only second, hand information. Dad’s mother, Mimi, lived with us in the same house, for several years. And while mémère shared many things that I stored away in my memory banks, I did not take the opportunity it presented to learn more, and to be more efficient and thorough in recording what I learned. We were close to both my mom’s mother and her dad and although I personally knew great-grandpa WILKINSON, I was too young to think about asking questions when he was alive. When I figure out how to incorporate it, there will be a whole separate page in here about what I’ve recently learned about him and his family (but for now, you can Click HERE to read it on www.familysearch.com).

Love ya, Dad (Papa)

1.        Alexander Mack, The Tunker and Descendants, Rev Freeman Ankrum, Herald Press, Scottdale, Pennsylvania, © 1943

2.        Counting The Cost : The Life Of Alexander Mack, 1679-1735, William G Willoughby, Bretheren Press, Elgin, Illinois © 1979

3.        Thomas Maxwell Of Virginia And Georgia And His Descendants. Annie Norman, Press of the J.W. Burke, Co., Macon, Georgia ©1956

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