a new azimuth

the website of john l. neel  www.neel505.com

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" There are two lasting bequests we can give our children - one is roots, the other is wings." ~Hodding S. Carter

My parents came from large, close-knit farming families who scraped through the War of Northern Aggression, Reconstruction, The Great War, the Depression, and through World War Two.  They made sure we knew all of our cousins and spent time with our grandparents, aunts, and uncles.  They taught us family history.

Mom was the keeper of family information, kept in small notebooks and on scraps of paper, bound together with rubber bands.  She added notes to the backs of photographs and kept them in a dedicated bedroom drawer.  Her work, though never cataloged, has been invaluable to me.

Now that I have more time on my hands, I hope to make a decided effort in searching family history and, on this page, finally, publish what I have in a concise format, used easily by who will take up the family history after me.

Emmette Conwell was a farmer and Postmaster for the Geiger Alabama area. He and wife Myrtle once ran Neel Eats, a small restaurant in town owned by his brother Mal.

Myrtle Wicks Williams was a housewife and raised five children.

Emmette died in 1949 of a heart attack at the young age of fifty-four.  Myrtle, continued to live in Geiger until 1981, dying at eighty-one.   They are buried at Soul's Cemetery in Geiger.

Neel-Williams Photos

Barnie Emmett was a farmer and store keeper for Yellow Front Stores in Havanna and Geiger Alabama. When those stores closed, he ran his own country store and farmed a small garden in Berry Alabama. He was married to Evie Leigh Johnson, who worked in the stores, and, as a housewife, raising three children.

Evie jarred all of the vegetables that Barnie grew in his garden.

Barnie died in 1972 of a heart attack at the age of seventy. Evie passed away in Birmingham, where she lived with her daughter, Juanita, in 1999, at the age of ninety.

Both are buried in Tuscaloosa Alabama.

Lee-Johnson Photos

All I know about Joseph Dennis is that he was the son of a Syrian immigrant, whose actual name was Choueri Sawaya.  Joseph ran a venetian blind business in Fairfield, Birmingham. He married Nell Thompson and had a girl, Barbara, named after his mother.

Nell was a bit of a bad girl and had Bill by another man, Earl Holland, to whom she had been engaged before marrying Joseph.  This is confirmed by DNA testing as Barbara and Bill show totally different geographical areas and with conversations with Barbara.

Earl may have also had a child with Nell's older sister, which is what caused the Earl and Nell breakup.  One story has Nell's sister lying about the situation to get Nell to break up with Earl.

Joseph and Nell are buried together at Elmwood Cemetery in Birmingham.

Dennis_Thompson Photos

All I know about these folks, is that Mr. Bragg worked at US Steel most of his life and was some kind of engineering genius.  I have asked Syl's brother EB if he can send me all he has and he says working on it.  K is also working with her sister on what she has.

The Bragg family has a very extensive library on line.

Bragg-Terry Photos


Emmette joined the Army late in WWII, training in communications.   He was assigned to the 8th Army Air Force and stationed near Ipswich England.  He married Juanita Ann Lee upon his return to the States, earned his college degree in Chemistry and Physics, teaching high school and running his own radio repair shop for a while.

He was hired by Southern Railway as a signal maintainer and promoted to Supervisor of Communications for the company, retiring around 1977.  He died of cancer at the young age of sixty-seven in 1991. He was a 33-degree Mason, former Worshipful Master, and Shriner.

Juanita was a housewife, raising three boys, and later worked for the University of Alabama in Birmingham's payroll department.  She died from Alzheimer's Disease in 2016 at the age of eighty-seven. She was passionate Bird Watcher, active in the Methodist Church, sang in the choir, was a past president of the PTA, and Member of the Evening Star.

Neel-Lee Photos

William Edward was born and raised in Fairfield, until joining the Air Force, where he was a Mechanic and Crew Chief on the F84 jet fighter. After the service, he became a Real Estate Agent and worked for the Jefferson County Zoning Board. He married Sylvia Terry Bragg. Bill died in 2016 at the age of eighty-seven.

Sylvia was a house wife and raised three children. She and Bill were active and founding members of Doctrinal Studies Church in Roebuck. Sylvia died of Pancreatic Cancer in 2016 at the age of eighty-two.

Dennis-Bragg Photos

John was born in Grove Hill, Alabama and raised in Birmingham.  He was career military, working after retirement at Virginia Military Institute.
He married entirely too early, had a daughter, then divorced in 1980. He doesn't talk about this. 

He married Kady in 1981, which made all the difference in his life.

Kady raised their two children, alone, while John played Army. She is amazing at everything she does, cooking, decorating, event planning and is adored by everyone who knows her.

John is a lucky boy.

Neel-Dennis Photos

My DNA Geo-Map

Kady's DNA Geo-Map



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