Chapter 1 - Ancestry

Each of us is a composite of our ancestors. Our height, weight, hair and eye color, etc., are predetermined by our genetic makeup. My story would not be complete without providing my ancestral background. 

Maternal Side - Mother - Doris Luella Thomas

My mother, Doris Luella Thomas was born in Prospect, Ohio, October 13, 1922, the daughter of Ross Lancaster and Helen Pearl (Smith) Thomas. My grandparents divorced while my mother was young and she was raised by her grandparents on the Thomas farm, on the River Road, Ohio Route 309, about two miles south of Prospect. My grandfather Thomas remarried and became a machinist in Cleveland, Ohio. He claimed to be an inventor, and supposedly invented a popular type of can-opener and the trigger mechanism used on the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. This was entirely possible. He was a walking encyclopedia and one of the most fascinating men I have ever known. His stories could keep you entranced for hours. I think that much of my love of learning and my interest in almost everything that exists comes from him.
My Great-grandfather Josephus Thomas came to Ohio in 1906 from Blacksville, West Virginia, from the family farm which had been occupied since shortly after the American Revolution. Thomas’ lived at the family farm for 200 years! The family cemetery is on the farm, which creates a very interesting dilemma. The farm straddles the state line between West Virginia and Pennsylvania. The state line runs through the family cemetery and part of the family is buried in Monongalia County, West Virginia, while others are buried in Greene County, Pennsylvania! My 6th great-grandfather William Thomas had migrated from Wales before the American Revolution and served as a soldier in the same. Family legend says that he was a Welsh stable hand working for an English Lord. He eloped with the Englishman’s daughter and had to flee to France with a price on his head. They eventually came to America just before the American Revolution. In 1798, he was massacred by a band of Delaware Indians while building a split-rail fence on the farm.
There may some truth in the elopement story because my Mother’s family always believed they came from France, even though there are no French names in the family. Another possibility is that the Thomas family may have lived in the Norman-occupied area of Wales, and may have had Norman blood. Other family names on the Thomas side were Keck, Swan, Miner, and Van Meter; these were all English, German or Dutch names except Miner which is an occupational name (originally Mynor of Norman origin, granted as a reward for service performed by the Baskerville who were Plantagenets.  So it quite possible that the family belief in French origin comes from the Miner family.
The Smith family had settled in Nelsonville in Southern Ohio. My great-grandfather Nelson Zachariah Smith moved to Richwood, Ohio in between 1900 and 1912. Family legend says that he was forced to leave the area because his bride Clara Morrison was a Quaker and the family shunned them because he was a Baptist. Her family was a mixture of Irish and Bavarian Quakers, with family names of Morrison, Haines (originally Heinz), Fairman and Ladusky. The Morrison family came to Ohio from South Carolina. I know very little about this side of the family, other than they held extensive land holdings in Vinton County, Ohio. The old family farm is now a very large State Park – Tar Hollow. I do know that great-grandfather James Morrison had a town named after him Jimtown, Ohio. This small community has long since disappeared. 
I know very little about the Smith family.  I know that they had come to Ohio from Pennsylvania.  My great-grandfather Smith was said to be a very closed-mouth and strict Baptist, who revealed little. My grandmother Helen Pearl Smith was born in 1905. Her middle name was originally Pauline.  She changed it unofficially and even her death and social security records say Pearl.  However, her marriage record to Ross L Thomas, my grandfather, says Pauline. There is conflicting information about where she was born. The 1910 census says she was born in Ohio.  Some records say she was born in LaRue, Ohio while another says she was born in Claibourne Twp., Union Co., Ohio.  I have never been able to find her birth record, but, her marriage record to Ross L Thomas says she was born in Richwood, Ohio. This matches her father’s move from Salt Creek Twp in Hocking Co., Ohio to Richwood which is in Claibourne Twp, Union Co., Ohio.  However, my grandmother said she was born in Laurelville, Salt Creek Twp. Hocking Co. before the move.  My grandmother, Helen was one eight children.  She married my grandfather Ross Lancaster Thomas in 1922.  They divorced and she married Ernest (Jack) Leslie Chapman from Humboldt, Tennessee in 1935.  
Other family name associated with the Thomas and Smith lines are:  Minor, Miner, Keck, Reeves, Fairman, Haynes, Haines, Heinz, Swan, Lancaster, Devine, Mundell, Allard, Pickens, and Carter (through 6th Generation)

Paternal Line - Paul David Penry - Birth Father

This might be a good time to identify my family’s military connections. My 6th great-grandfather William Thomas was a Virginia Regiment soldier in the American Revolution and was killed during the Indian Wars.  My great-grandfather John Price Penry was a American Civil War veteran.  My Uncle Ray Jacobs was a WW1 solder who fought in Germany.  Both my birth and adopted fathers were WWII veterans. My uncle Leroy Gilliam was a Korean War Veteran.  My grandson, Dylan Niles was a Navy Corpsman.  I served 20 years in the military, U.S. Marines and U.S. Air Force and served in Vietnam.  Of course there are generations of uncles and cousins who served in the U.S. and Confederate military.
My birth father, Paul David Penry was born in Prospect, Ohio 4 May, 1916, the son of John Jones Penry and Martha Ethel Latham.  He worked on the Erie Railroad as a telegrapher, was a WWII Veteran in the Pacific Theater, and was the commander of the American Legion Post in Prospect, Ohio.  He was responsible for the veterans memorial section of the Marion Cemetery.
The Penry family came to Ohio from Breconshire, Wales in 1806 and settled in Radnor, Ohio.  My 3rd great-grandfather, David Penry, named the community Radnor because his wife Mary Pugh was from Radnorshire, Wales which is across the Wye River from Breconshire. My 2nd great-grandfather, David Penry Jr. was the first American child born in Radnor Twp.  His son, John Price Penry, my great-grandfather. was a soldier in the Civil War, with two enlistments with the 20th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry.  He traveled with Grant on his march through Georgia and was wounded during the siege of Atlanta.  He carried a Confederate minnie-ball in his body for over thirty years, lived on a small disability pension, and had a small farm near Radnor. My grandfather, John Jones Penry was a locomotive repairman with the Erie Railroad. 
I grew up with very little contact with my father’s side of the family. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I met most of them. All were wonderful and talented people. Each of them always told me that my father was a black sheep and a renegade and felt sorry for my mother.
Other Ancestral Lines associated with the Penry Line are: Jones, Fleming, Evans, Latham, Osborn, Rodgers, Geer, Pugh, Brown, Dulin, McKellips, and Grover (thru 7th generation)
My grandparents on both sides went through some very rough times during the Great Depression. My mother said that food from the Thomas farm kept them from starvation, My Mother indicated that the stock market crash of 1929 nearly bankrupted Josephus Thomas who had invested heavily. I do know that both of my sets of grandparents worked in bars in Prospect, Ohio to earn money during the Great Depression, and because of the attitudes of the residents, my parents were pretty well ostracized in school.
Prospect was a town of very conservative church-going people. Alcohol was readily and widely consumed, but to sell or be involved in the sale of the “Devil’s Brew” was something no self-respecting person would consider. This attitude was unfortunate since both sides of the family were very old respected pioneer families.My great-grandfather was a well-known Civil War veteran and one of the county’s leading citizens. But, it appears that my father and both grandfathers had drinking problems which resulted in my father becoming an alcoholic. This contributed to the eventual divorce of my parents, and of my Thomas grandparents. My parents had marital difficulties that ended in a very bitter divorce. Mother forbade me to visit my father or my father’s family, even though she still maintained a friendship with my father’s sisters. 
I have never known the full reasons for the divorce, but my mother said that my father’s drinking made him an abusive drunk and would not discuss him. However, in later life, she became senile and constantly reminded me of how I looked like him, even to the point of occasionally calling me by his name. My grandmother Penry said that my mother was too young and not strong enough to stand up to my father.  At the time of their marriage he was 23 and she was only 16.  They had run away to Kentucky to get married. 

Paternal Side - Henry J Gilliam - Adopted Father

My Dad, Henry J. Gilliam, born Henry Junior Gillam, not Gilliam.  In the region of Kentucky where Dad lived were several Gillam clans. To avoid confusion, each clan adopted different spellings to help in mail delivery (often delivered by Mule).  So we had Gillam, Gillum and Gilliam. The original family used Gwilliam, a variation of William.  The family ancestor John Gwilliam was born in Twickenham, Middlesex, England in 1614 and immigrated to Virginia, and then to Kentucky just before the Civil War, settling in Carter and Floyd Counties. 
 When Dad went in the Army in World War II the Army listed him as Gilliam, so he kept that spelling for the rest of his life.  He dropped the middle name of Junior and replaced it with just a J., and always signed documents as Henry J. Gilliam.  Since his father was named Henry, the family called him “Bud” instead of Junior.  When my sister and I were young, we also called him “Bud”.  My sister usually called him “Pops.”  As an adult, I started calling him “Dad”.  
When Dad was mustered out of the Army in 1945, he came to Ohio like so many from Kentucky looking for work.  He worked for a few months as a farm-hand in Union County, Ohio, then worked on an oil rig, finally taking a job at Pollack Steel in Marion, Ohio.  He met my mother on a blind-date and they married in 1946.  Both worked in factories, saving their money to purchase a farm, which they did in 1952. This was a small farm, just west of Richwood, Ohio on State Route 47.  Dad raised hogs and planted corn and soy beans.  He kept working at the factory until retirement.  Buy this time, he was able to buy and rent farmland throughout the county. He finally sold the farm, and paid cash for a home in Englewood, Florida on the Gulf of Mexico, and also owned many rental properties in Richwood, using a property manager, my uncle Bob Redman.
Dad’s parents were Henry and Minnie Mae (Crisp) Gillam.  They were of Welsh, Norman, and Cherokee ancestry, Dad was one-fourth Cherokee and had inherited a darker skin, black hair, dark brown eyes and high cheekbones.  He was very handsome and at one time he was offered a job as double for Gregory Peck.  As a teenager, I used to get annoyed when every girl I dated, flipped out over my dad! 
Other family names from the Gillam line were:  Crisp, Hicks, Click, Stegall, Roark, Salmons, Sammons, and Webb.  
Last Updated Mar 9, 2021

 My Grandfather Ross Thomas and My Mother Doris Luella Thomas

                                                                               Thomas Farm – Blacksville, West Virginia


Josephus Thomas Farm – Prospect Ohio



                                                                                                                                                                                      Smith Home 

Grandmother Helen Pearl Smith (Thomas) (Chapman) with her second husband Ernest Leslie Chapman


                                                                                                                                                      Paul David Penry – My Father 


My Grandparents John Jones and Martha Latham Penry


My Great-Grandparent’s Family. John Price Penry, John Jones Penry, Angelina Augusta Fleming Penry, David, Charles, Crozier, and Myrtle

Front Row: John Price Penry and siblings: Mary and Thomas  Second Hannah and Amelia

Homes of my Ancestors:

Cefn Brith – Penry Ancestral Home – Breconshire, Wales built in 9th Century

Maesclytwr Farm in Gwenddwr Parish, Breconshire Wales –  
where David Penry lived in 1804



Gwenddwr – Saint Dubricus Church (David Penry)
Lllandeilo Graban Saint Teilo’s Church (Mary Pugh)
David Penry Jr’s Farm, Radnor, Ohio
John Price Penry’s Farm – Radnor, Ohio

John Jones Penry Home – Prospect, Ohio


                                                                     The Lychgate – Entrance to Radnor, Ohio Cemetery, duplicate of one in Radnorshire, Wales

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