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“Now, what was your mother’s maiden name?” I imagined the man in the portrait at the library asking in the cultured Southern drawl of Val Kilmer as Doc Holiday in the 1993 movie Tombstone. It was the first thing John E. “Jack” Ladson, Jr., asked any new acquaintance, I was told, although his interests probably weren’t the same as my husband’s when he asked about the families of our three daughters’ prospective boyfriends. Fact is, you can learn a lot from a name. With just a name, Jack Ladson could tell you more than most of us might want to know about our Toombs County kinfolk. Some of you may have known Jack Ladson personally. But because of the great gift he gave our community, we will all remember him for a long time to come. Interestingly, his family wasn’t from Toombs County. He moved from his home in Moultrie to Toombs County in 1960 after he met and married his wife, Margaret Brice. “Jack Ladson was a student at Duke University when he first got into genealogy. He was 19 years old,” said Debra Fennell, whose official With books dating back to the 1600s, the Ladson Genealogical Library is the first place to look for family connections and works of art. searching for History title is “Ohoopee Regional Library System Heritage and Family Montgomery County Librarian,” adding that they call her “Heritage Librarian for short.” Today, Jack Ladson’s collection of genealogical research is so extensive that Debra receives calls almost daily from people from all over the United States who are looking for information, some of which can only be found at the Ladson Genealogical Library in downtown Vidalia. With the right family name and lineage, the materials available there could possibly take a person back to William the Conqueror. Jack didn’t begin with a library in mind. That came later of necessity. His interest began as a personal quest and focused mostly on Georgia and the Southern Seaboard. But as he delved deeper, the roots he discovered reached farther and farther from home. Before long, people he knew and others he didn’t begin to call or simply show up on his doorstep asking for help with their own genealogical research. Some needed historical verification to become a part of an association such as the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Others felt the imprint of the past in their DNA and longed for information about the ancestral journey that preceded them. “Jack told a story about a man who came to his house asking to look through his research material,” said Heritage Librarian Debra Fennell. “After a while, the stranger asked if he could use Mr. Ladson’s restroom.” BY TERI R. WILLIAMS PHOTOS BY ERIC LOVE ABOVE Researching genealogical material was Jack Ladson’s passion. 68 Toombs County Magazine


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