I spent Saturday, Sept. 21, at the national reunion meeting of the Bland Heritage Foundation at the Best Western Plus hotel near Kansas City International Airport in Platte County.
This was an opportunity to learn more about the Blands who migrated from England to the colonies, initially to Virginia, in the early 1600s and then to other areas, mostly south and west.
Someone once said that those who write for newspapers are producing the “first draft of history.” Most reporters and editors that I know have a keen respect for history. It is only logical that I continue to have a love affair with the past.
Charles Lewis Bland, a retired history professor and administrator at the State University of New York at Buffalo, is the quintessential historian of the Bland Heritage Foundation. His book “A vision of unity: the Bland family in England and America: 1555-1900” is the most comprehensive authority on Bland history.
Charles theorizes that all of the Blands in this country may have from a common line that settled in Virginia in the early 1600s. He wrote the book in 1982 and revised it in 1990.
Fast-forward to more modern times. Those wanting to trace their family roots can use DNA testing. DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid, the hereditary material in humans and most other organisms. Various members of the Bland family, including myself, have submitted swabs to have our DNA analyzed to determine who our ancestors were and are.
Several years ago, a first cousin, Larry Max Johnson, from Augusta, Kan., sent me information about the Bland family from Family Tree.com that indicated that my roots extended back to the First Families of Virginia.
A couple of years ago when I attended the Bland Heritage Foundation meeting in Alton, Ill., I learned that genealogical information was not correct—that I probably came from the second generation of English immigrants that came to Virginia.
A little more than a year ago I submitted my swab to Family Tree DNA. This is the same organization that is helping the National Geographic Society trace roots of millions of people.
I now know that my roots can be traced back, based on proof-positive DNA results, to Prince William County Va., in 1751 to a William Bland who married a Julia Ward. More information will become available as more and more male Bland descendants submit their DNA swabs.
My friend and neighbor, Paul Goudy, told the story of his great-great grandfather, William J. Bland, at the Bland reunion. William Bland was born in Adams Township, Champaign County, Ohio, in 1838. After fighting in the Union Army in the Civil War, he and his family settled on a farm in Rice County in south-central Kansas.
Paul, who is in charge of historic records for the Unified Government, said it is important to preserve the family stories that make life interesting. He told of how Jesse James robbed William Bland and his family, escaping with money and other valuables. That story was verified in a program on the History Channel.
I spent time at the reunion visiting with my first cousins, Gladys Earlene Bland Alley; her son, Link Alley, both of Woodward, Okla.; and her sister, Joyce Colleen Bland Flikeid, of Enid, Okla. All are very interested in tracing family roots, particularly those of our great-great-grandfather, John A. Bland.
We know John A. Bland fought in the Civil War; however, we are not certain what he did after the war. One of the family stories was that he left his first wife and then married a woman who was a member of the Wyandotte Indian tribe. That was denied, however, by a Wyandotte descendant who has done extensive historical research on tribe members.
My cousins and I will continue to be history detectives, hoping to find out the story of John A. Bland. As Paul Goudy told us, a very important part of being history detectives is the thrill of the chase.
Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press.