The Dallas Journal, Volume 42, 1996 Page: 1
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Pieces And Patterns
A Life Quilt
Donna Ward Smiley
In 1964 I was one of seventy-eight graduates from Duncanville High School. In
1994 there were 650 graduates. Duncanville, a suburb of Dallas, has grown substantially
from the town that my family moved to in 1959. Then, there were about 2,000 people
living in a tight-knit community that was centered around family, school, and church.
Today, the community I live in is much larger and more diverse. Upon reading the local
paper, however, I can still see the community's interest in family, school, and church. The
place hasn't really changed so much; there is just more of it.
It was in Dallas, though, that this story begins. My family lived there until I
finished the seventh grade. I had a wonderful teacher that year; her name was Eloise
Santerre. I loved her and learned much from her. Miss Santerre told us she was a
descendant of the French who founded the La Reunion settlement in what is now the
Chalk Hill section of Dallas. She said that her name meant "without land" in French. One
of our assignments was to write a story about our family history. I asked my father about
his family, but he didn't know anything. I asked my mother, and she told me that her father
said the first Barganier had come to America with the pirate, Jean Lafitte. Wonderful, I
thought, I have French ancestry along with Miss Santerre. But, the suggestion that my
ancestor might have been a pirate would never do. What would Miss Santerre think of
me? So, when I wrote the story, I changed LaFitte to Lafayette --- my ancestor had come
over from France with General Lafayette to help the Americans fight for their
independence. It certainly made a good story.
That was my first experience with family history. As I grew older, I lost interest,
filling my life with other important pursuits --- boys, dating, college, marriage, a son.
Then, a few years ago, my sister took a class that included writing about her family. She
called me to ask if I knew anything about our history. I realized that I knew no more than
I had as a 12-year-old. But, now, the time was right. My son had decided to pursue a
musical career instead of college, my husband's career was going well, and I was bored
stiff with the secretarial work I had been doing for over twenty years. I took a class in
genealogy, and it was as if discovering a new world. I was fascinated to discover that my
Ward ancestors had come to Texas while it was still a Republic. No one in my family
knew that. Another thing I discovered was that I loved doing the research; I could spend
hours in the library or studying my notes without getting bored. How amazing that so late
in my life I should find my "calling."
Now, after investing several years in pursuing my family's history, I have begun to
see patterns. Not unlike the pieces of a quilt, they all fit together to present a wonderful
story of the importance of family. Part of the pattern is each generation's desire to re-
create its own "hometown" experiences for the next generation, no matter where the
family lived. My great-grandfather, Henry Redding, moved to Texas from Georgia before
1996 DGS Journal
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Dallas Genealogical Society. The Dallas Journal, Volume 42, 1996, periodical, December 1996; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth186855/m1/7/: accessed January 24, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Dallas Genealogical Society.