W. Preston Haynie, d. 6 June 2008 ~ Insights

As webmaster of this site, I never had actually conversed or researched with or spoken to Mr. Haynie. However, he touched the lives of most serious genealogical researchers in the area, and many other people beyond that. After many comments were made regarding his death, on the VANORTHU rootsweb mailing list, I asked individuals on the list to send me any anecdotes or comments they would like posted to the Northumberland County VAGenweb site in his honor. Below is the results of that request. If you have any comments or anything to add, please email to EmbryProject@gmail.com and it will be added.

~ Alice Warner



From Susan Rager:

Preston Haynie was truly a selfless person who gave endlessly to others. He enjoyed the triumphs, both small and large, that researchers in his library experienced when they, in response to his kind and quietly offered suggestions, would uncover some new link, some new generation, some new dates. He had an absolutely uncanny memory for where every bit of knowledge in the Historical Society library was stored, and could usually, within a few minutes, come up with a folder, a book, an article right on point. I'm sure that right now, he's making personal acquaintances of all those Northumberland ancestors of his and ours whose names he knew, and whose lives he had followed so closely. What a great loss to all of us. What a remarkable person to have known.

As webmaster of the national Jamestowne Society site, I put a notice about him on the What's New page on June 6) (see below). Even though he did not want an obituary, it would be absolutely unforgiveable to allow this great person's passing to go unnoted:

June 6, 2008 - Preston Haynie:  W. Preston Haynie was not a Jamestowne Society member, but in his role as volunteer librarian and archivist for many years at the Northumberland County Historical Society in Heathsville, Virginia, he was responsible for hundreds of Society members being able to connect the generations on their applications and locate the necessary supporting documentation. Preston Haynie died in a Richmond hospital on June 6, 2008, following cardiac surgery in recent weeks. He left (typical of his unassuming nature) a request for no obit and no funeral. However, there are many whose lives he touched who will feel the need to say thank you in a tangible way. Those who remember him might consider a donation to the Northumberland County Historical Society, POB 221, Heathsville, VA 22473. Northumberland County is the parent county of the Northern Neck of Virginia, and in that role, it was the repository for many of the very early records on which our research so depends. While the source documents lie in the courthouse in Heathsville, the key to locating them often was Preston Haynie's knowledge which he gladly and graciously dispensed a couple of doors away at the Historical Society, leading researchers to clues and data hidden deep in the Society's files and bookshelves. He left no children, although in a very real way, all of us whom he helped truly regard him as family.

He had been at the Historical Society so long and knew the records there so thoroughly, he helped me find some genealogical notes which had been submitted by my mother, Evelyn Noel Godman, many decades ago. While most people resent interruptions, I think that this gentle person actually looked forward to them as another opportunity to help yet another person find just what they needed. Always gracious and always patient, he was both methodical and dedicated in his ability to find details and shed light on even the most obscure request. And he shared with everyone the pleasure they experienced upon finding one more of the many lost clues.
There is a quote by Hodding Carter that says:
"There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings."

In the ordinary sense, Preston Haynie did not have children. But in the sense that children are people for whom you provide training, support, encouragement and assistance, he was a parent figure to many of us who will be forever grateful that he had the kind instincts of a parent to forgive our obvious mistakes, and guide us along the path which would reward us most. Perhaps in not having an official service, which I understand that he requested not to have, it will leave us all with the memory that he is still there in the library at the Historical Society, waiting for our next request, the next opportunity to assist us. And in a very real way, I believe that is true. Every time I find a new Northumberland discovery in my family's lines, I will think of him.
My connection to Northumberland is through many families. My Noel ancestors moved from Essex to Northumberland in the mid1800s. My mother grew up in Ophelia. There are Hudnalls, Robertsons, Ingrams, Harveys, Blackwells, Windsors, and many more names to which I relate in the county. I currently live in Westmoreland County where I have a criminal defense practice.
I hope that the information I have provided above gives some insight into the person who was W. Preston Haynie.
-- Susan Noel Godman Rager
P.O.Box 117
Coles Point, VA 22442


From Jack Fallin:


My story is, I know, typical in terms of Preston’s kindly
helpfulness.  It may be a bit more personal because, as we
discovered, our families were knit together more than a couple of
times.  A home, now destroyed, that was owned by my Great Great
Grandfather Joseph H. Fallin belonged to Preston’s Grandparents when
he was a child.  He was kind enough to forward some old photos of the
home and even responded to my request for his best recollection of
the floor plan.

I have been uniquely blessed in my Northumberland County research.
Another family member, Bill Porter, (married to my second cousin
Mary) had started researching our family long before I started.  I’ve
been able to “coast” on his research, and a little of my own, to some
pretty strong results.  Preston was kind enough to meet with and
assist Bill and Mary long before I met with him, so our collaboration
lasted many years.  My file on my direct line of ancestors includes
entries from a tree specifically constructed, and from time to time
corrected, by Preston.


From Martha Hardcastle Guthrie:

Mr. Haynie is a man whom I can't even begin to describe regarding the
depth and breadth of his knowledge of Northumberland County history. I
had the honor of spending a few hours with him in September 2006
researching my Grinstead ancestors. A man without a computer, but whose
mind is probably the largest repository of the county's history and also
the way people and places interconnect. What's more, he knew how to put
his hands on original documents and work he previously published to gain
even more perspective.

Even though Northumberland is somewhat mid-Atlantic in character, Mr.
Haynie is the quintessential southern gentleman in the most honorable
sense of that term - a soft-spoken  man with complete sensitivity,
kindness, intelligence and dignity.

I only wish that someone could have done a series of video interviews
with him so that future researches could "know" the man whose labor of
love of history will benefit generations of those seeking their roots in
Northumberland County. A decade ago, I had never even heard of the
county or my people there. Today, thanks to the "work" of Mr. Haynie (as
I don't believe it was work - more like passion) I have fully documented
information about my ancestor Elizabeth Key and her husband William
Grinstead. That may not sound like much to some people, but Elizabeth is
arguably the most well-documented woman of color born into slavery in
the century between 1630 and 1730. I owe much of that to Mr. Haynie.

Martha Hardcastle Guthrie
Dayton, Ohio by way of South Central Kentucky and Northumberland County.





Northumberland County, Virginia