Bryson Book Commentary

Book Commentary by Marty Grant

"Armstrong, Branyon, Bryson and Allied Families of the South"  by Ethel S. Updike, 1967.

The Hobby Press, Salt Lake City.

This book was written by Ethel Speer Updike, who was born 7 Oct 1899 and is now deceased. Overall, this is a very good book, but I am aware of several errors in it.

The most obvious error is that Ethel listed William BRYSON Sr as being married to Elizabeth COUNTRYMAN. This is the oldest known BRYSON in the family, and the progenitor of the rest of us. The following commentary is based on several things: available documented facts, conversations with Lawrence Wood of Franklin, NC and my own research and my own opinions.  Hopefully this will not offend anyone:

There is some serious confusion about the Elizabeth Countryman. I'll tell you what I know. There IS an Elizabeth COUNTRYMAN born 20 Sep 1716 in West Camp, NY. She was the daughter of Andrew COUNTRYMAN and Sibylla SCHARMANN. This is well documented. The COUNTRYMAN name is German and had been something like "Gunterman" before. In the 1930's through 1960's when Ethel Updike was researching her book, everyone told her that she had a COUNTRYMAN in her ancestry (and she did). However, she was convinced that her ancestor Isabella BRYSON (wife of John ARMSTRONG) was a daughter of William BRYSON and Isabella HOLMES. Apparently, the old timers (that she interviewed) knew that William's parents were William BRYSON and Elizabeth BYERS. However, Ethel couldn't reconcile this with her own alleged COUNTRYMAN connection, so she just changed Elizabeth BYERS to Elizabeth COUTNRYMAN and decided the Elizabeth COUNTRYMAN who was born 1716 was the one since the dates seemed to fit. Old family documents that were in the hands of BRYSON's in Sylva, NC told that old William was married to Elizabeth BYERS (no one seems to know where these are today, unfortunately). Ethel stated that she thought James Holmes BRYSON's wife might be a BYERS. It is likely she transposed them. The above is a recreation based on what it seems like happened, and is entirely conjectural, at least in regards to why Ethel Updike wrote what she did.

The mistake Ethel made was that she knew she had an Elizabeth COUNTRYMAN in her lineage, because it was family tradition. The trouble is she mixed up who it actually was. Her ancestor Isabella BRYSON Armstrong was NOT the daughter of William BRYSON and Isabella HOLMES, but their GRAND Daughter instead. Isabella BRYSON was the daughter of James Holmes BRYSON and Sarah COUNTRYMAN. Sarah COUNTRYMAN was the daughter of Andrew COUNTRYMAN and Elizabeth ___ Countryman. So THERE is her Elizabeth COUNTRYMAN. This woman is the one whom Daniel BRYSON supposedly carried over the mountains on a sled and who lived with him in her old age and was also the one who supposedly went to Kings Mountain after the Battle and looked for familiar faces among the dead. This is 100% proven as far as I'm concerned. There is a deed in York Co, SC from Elizabeth Countryman (widow of Andrew) to her "Daughter Sarah Bryson, wife of James Bryson) dated Oct 1797 (Deed book E, page 210) that proves this connection. Ethel Updike's book has caused a lot of confusion in this matter and sadly, most folks don't realize that it is wrong.

The age of this Elizabeth is also in doubt. Although it is stated that she lived to be 118 in Talitha Allen's history, was this really the case? Was that added later, or did Talitha herself say that? I wish we knew. It is entirely possible (but unproven) that this Elizabeth did not live to be 118 or any other such age. The death date of Elizabeth wife of Andrew COUNTRYMAN may have been calculated by using the BIRTH date of the other Elizabeth who was born 1716 to come up with such an old age. The stone that is in Scotts Creek was put there AFTER Ethel Updike came there to visit in the 1930's, so she may have given the information for the stone. This is just my opinion, and since I can't prove any of this at present, take it as just theory. Also, none of the rest of the COUNTRYMAN family came to NC, they all remained in York Co, SC, some probably migrated elsewhere, but they didn't follow the BRYSON family into Western NC. Supposedly, old Elizabeth did come to Daniel BRYSON's and die there. She would have been his grandmother. We don't know what her maiden name is, but she was married to Andrew COUNTRYMAN, son of Andrew COUNTRYMAN (Sr) and Cornelia KEYSER. Andrew (Sr)'s 2nd wife was Sibylla SCHARRMAN.

After saying all of the above, I can say with 100% assurance that old William BRYSON's wife Elizabeth was not a COUNTRYMAN. Of course, nothing I said proves, or even suggests that she was actually a BYERS though. I have some doubts about that myself. However, this name supposedly comes from the old documents that the Sylva, NC Bryson's had at one time. If someone could find those, it might solve all the debate (or cause a lot more!). Some serious research in Pennsylvania or even Ireland might help sort them out.


"Bryson Family of Western North Carolina 1664 to 1980"  by Lawrence E. Wood, 1981.

Lawrence Edward Wood (1937-1997) wrote this book. The book is out of print currently. Lawrence's book is very good. His does have a couple of errors in it that I will note. The first two generations as presented on page 1 are inaccurate. The progenitor of the family is claimed to be Capt Samuel BRYSON and wife Mary, and they were listed as parents of: Samuel C. BRYSON, James, William, Daniel and Andrew. All of these should be deleted.

The next generation started with Samuel C. BRYSON and wife Rebekah and their children: William, James, Henry, John and Andrew. This generation also should be deleted. Those names were given to Lawrence Wood and he found out after he published, that they were erroneous. No documentation could be located to support them. So as far as we know, with any certainty, William BRYSON and Elizabeth (BYERS?) was our first generation. They were parents of William BRYSON who married Isabella HOLMES. Brothers of either William are not known, but some have been speculated.

Another error in the book concerns the WOOD family as listed on pages 59 thru 98. Lawrence removed those pages due to errors. I do not have copies of them.

One last known error is on pages 311 through 316 concerning the Phillip PHILLIPS family. Phillip's wife Mary was not a BRYSON, but an O'NEAL.

Other than the above three items, I'm not aware of any major errors.


Commentary Copyright © 1998-2000 Marvin A. Grant Jr, All Rights Reserved

Marty and Karla Grant:

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