Q: Are we related to country music legend Mickey Gilley?
A: Although I have not personally researched his particular line, we know that he descends from a line of Gilley’s located in Louisiana. From information provided by other researchers, this clan can be traced back to three brothers that immigrated from Ireland to the United States. It is believed that they came to port on the Georgia coast, moved across the deep South, and settled in Louisiana and Texas.
Q: How did you get into genealogy?
A: While discussing family names with my parents, no one could remember any beyond my grandfather. This resulted in an inquiry to several relatives about names and our origin.
Q: How long did the research take?
A: Hundreds of hours and many expenses went into the project. Initially, I had quick success in tracing my family back to Francis Gilley because all of the necessary documentation was located at the Henry County Courthouse. After two years (1987-1989), I printed a small pamphlet of my findings and concluded that further research was futile until someone discovered Francis’ true origin. Sifting through some family photos in the spring of 2004 rekindled the genealogical flame, and my goal became to fit all of the Gilley names into one giant puzzle. For the next three and a half years, the names and information expanded at an alarming rate, and it literally became a part-time job. Facing major burnout, I decided to draw the line and publish all that I had accumulated.
Q: Why publish a book?
A: Most people will admit that genealogy can become an addiction and that it can draw you in deeper. I was just astonished at how much information on the Gilley family was available. My immediate goal was to glean as much information as possible from interviewing the older generations and then preserve it for others to enjoy.
Q: Where did you start?
A: Once my line was fully traced, I began piecing together information on the original family from documents at the Henry County courthouse. Then I tracked down each family and followed their migration patterns using census records and collaboration from others.
Q: Where did the spellings Gillie and Gilly come from?
A: This question is difficult to answer, but there could be several factors involved. Because illiteracy was a problem until the mid 1900’s, both census takers and citizens struggled to read and write. In the 1800 censuses, the records vacillated between Gilley and Gilly; then in the 1900’s we began to see Gillie. In my experience with vital records in various locations, there was very little consistency in the spelling. Another reason could be from the fallout over land disputes within families where some disgruntled relatives did not want to be associated with the Gilley name any longer. Lastly, some folks changed the spelling just to be different.
Q: What would be your advice in starting my own family research?
A: A great place to begin is with your immediate family and relatives. Interview the older generations first and capture these moments on audio or video. Records will always be available, but the family accounts told by loved ones will not always be around, so do not procrastinate on this…..it is very important! Prepare a list of questions beforehand and get as much detail as possible. Next, you can begin collecting information from your county courthouse or Register of Deeds office, the genealogy section of your local library, and from various internet sources (usually pay sites).
Q: Is my family in the book?
A: Click on “States and Counties” to see if your area is listed. Keep in mind that there are different laws in each state regarding the privacy of vital records. North Carolina and Texas were the only two states that had online resources to where I could trace families up to the current generation. If your state protects these records, then you may have to start with your grandparents and work backwards. Please remember that it was impossible to include every single person in the book as time and financial constraints prohibited research outside my region. Also, feel free to contact me by email to inquire about your family, and I will be glad to look it up.
Q: Will there be a second edition?
A: Unless there is an overwhelming response with a lot more family names and photos to include, there are no plans at this moment for another edition.
Q: I’ve heard the Gilley name mentioned on the Andy Griffith Show. Are we related to Andy?
A: No...but the Gilley mentioned on the show (as the case with many characters) was based on a real person. He was my uncle (dad's brother) and he married Andy's first cousin. Details are listed in the book along with information about our family business.
Q: Where do most of the Gilleys live in the US?
A: While Gilleys can be found all over the country, Texas has the largest Gilley population, with as many people as all the other states combined. But not all the Gilleys in Texas are related, as it is a melting pot of different clans. The book contains maps that highlight major states and counties where Francis' descendants reside.