I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb
Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website
each week and be added to the archives.
The Articles started December 2007.
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A penchant for genealogical pursuits
By Barry Schrader.................................September
Seventy-four Tevis sons and daughters are still living
as the second book was published this year.
Mary Bell, like thousand of others, has pursued her family
tree back to the early days of the United States, even before
it gained its independence. But she has gone so far as to write
and publish two sizable volumes on one branch of her family in
the past six years, each one containing more than 500 pages,
hardbound in red leather. Even though the two books overlap telling
much of the same history, between the first and second editions
there were many additionsseven new family units, 52 marriages
and 104 deaths. Out of the 1,365 descendants of her forebearer
Robert Tevis she was able to trace 91 percent of them throughout
Author Mary Bell perusing her latest volume on Tevis
two volumes are a culmination of 20 years of research centered
around three week trips to several states each summer as the
NIU professor of physical education, now retired, carried out
her pursuit. She visited courthouses, funeral homes, cemeteries,
and distant relatives. She did it all in longhand and then hired
a typist to put it in final form before being mailed to the publisher.
Bell had previously published a book in her career
field Womens Basketball and taught athletics
at Northern from 1957 to 1988. As Director of the intercollegiate
athletics program for women she coached several sports and took
her womens basketball team to the National Championships
in 1972. A member of the NIU and Illinois State University (where
she got her undergraduate degree) Halls of Fame, she also formed
a town team in womens softball called the DeKalb Merchants
that competed around northern Illinois.
she finally found the time to complete the two genealogical books,
but said her quest for more family history will never end. Her
first foray into genealogy occurred during 8th grade when her
teacher told her charges to write down your familys
background. Living with a grandfather at the time Bell
was able to collect stories from him and write them down. She
still has those notes to this day. Then in her sophomore year
in high school another teacher urged students to look into their
family tree and this time she queried her father. He gave her
the name of an aunt still living in England at the time and Bell
exchanged several letters with her, learning much about life
over there during World War II. Many years later she took part
in a genealogy workshop in England and got to visit the County
of York where she located more of her fathers people.
Back stateside she had traced down the earliest of
the Tevis family homes, built in 1836 and still standing today.
Named Sleepy Hollow the homestead is located in Madison County,
Kentucky and has several additions to the original farmhouse,
which is pictured in her books. She has ancestors who fought
in wars in France and Italy, even before the Civil War, and one
who was a prisoner at the notorious Andersonville. Another ancestor
was a prominent Californian and has a horse race named after
himthe Tevis Cup, which involves a 24-hour marathon by
horseback each year.
Bell didnt find any
horse thieves in her lineage, but did uncover a couple of curious
deaths.. One involved the death of a wife when handing a gun
through the fence to her husband and allegedly accidentally discharged.
The son didnt buy the accidental shooting and went to the
authorities to have his father arrested. Another case was a suicide
by a family member who was apparently being investigated by the
FBI. It was never reported the reason for the feds interest
Relatives and others with an interest
in her family have written to commend her for the work she did,
especially a complete index at the back of the second volume.
One satisfied customer wrote to express my appreciation
for your outstanding work
It is well documented, thoroughly
readable and formatted in a way which is indeed user friendly.
He added, many thanks for a lifes work well done.
Your Tevis genealogy can serve as a standard for genealogists
everywhere; it is a significant addition to the profession.
Bell has other interests in history as well. She
serves as historian for DeKalbs United Methodist Church.
The columnist can be reached via email at :
or by snailmail at:
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115