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Count them — five generations in matriarch Edna Vaughan-Sothard’s family; she’s 91, baby is 4-months

By Ginger Dawson
NKyTribune reporter

Family connections, in the early part of the 20th-Century, were quite a bit different than they are today.

Generally, there were a lot more kids and extended family relations were common and close. Multiple generations were in daily contact with each other, and if there were any hardships (financial or otherwise), there was a definite sense that they were “in it all together.”

Matriarch of her five-generation family, Edna Vaughan-Sothard.

Edna Vaughan-Sothard, age 91, was born into a family like this.

Edna, the youngest of nine children, was born to Mittie and Cleaber Vaughn on Feb. 8, 1928. It was a happy introduction, naturally, but it was surrounded by hardship, before and after her birth.

When Mittie was seven months pregnant with Edna, the family house burned to the ground!  The timing could not have been worse, and there were eight other children to worry about.

As was common in that era, family and friends came together and pooled resources to help the family. They were in it together.   

As if this was not enough hardship, the worst possible thing happened next.

Mittie became ill, and three months after Edna was born, Mittie died of liver disease. 

It was a terrible blow to the family.

Everyone’s lives changed.
Edna’s oldest sister, Virginia, had to quit school just a few months from graduation to help her father take care of her siblings.

A photograph of Mittie, Edna’s mother, who passed away three month after Edna’s birth.

Mittie’s closest sister, Ona, had a change, too. A decision was made to give baby Edna to her to raise. Ona, with only two children, had the time and resources to help out.  And so she did.  

Edna grew up to accept Ona as her mama.  

These kinds of family arrangements — giving children to relatives and even other families to raise was not out the ordinary. There was not a social safety net, per se, back then.

Family was the safety net. People did what they had to do.

Edna grew up and followed tradition and had a big family of her own. She is the mother to seven children.  

Check out these birth years:  1951, 1952, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1967 and 1970.  Babies spanning three decades!

She was actually pregnant with her last child when her oldest daughter, Brenda, was pregnant with HER first child.

Edna and family settled in Taylor Mill. She was a mother and homemaker most of her life. In addition to regular mom duties, she also taught her children how to garden and preserve food.  

Edna’s favorite thing was teaching her children the Bible. She taught them the Lord’s Prayer with this emphasis, “Let your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”

The second generation: Brenda Sothard-Bergeron, Edna’s oldest daughter.

But, before marrying and settling down into family life, Edna struck out to see a little more of the world.  

In 1945, at the age of 17, she applied for a job with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Department of Justice.  She was accepted as a clerk. This was during World War II, and it was a common thing for citizens to want to contribute to the war effort.

This adventure took her to Washington D.C., far away from her home town of Hatton, Kentucky.

Missing the closeness and support of her family, homesickness became intolerable after about eight months and she returned home. Souvenirs of this adventure are letters of acceptance of employment and resignation signed by J. Edgar Hoover himself, the provocative and feared head of the FBI in that era.

Motherhood did not cause Edna to abandon her adventurous spirit.  At the age of 35, she learned to drive a car, and at the age of 40, she learned to ride a bicycle!

Edna’s oldest daughter, Brenda, beginning a third-generation, gave birth to her first child in 1970. 

Brenda and her husband, Bill Bergeron went on to have two more daughters and relocated their family to Florida to enjoy nicer weather during the winter months. 

Third, fourth and fifth generations: Elisha Bergeron-Hess, Patience Hess-Bass and Quinn Evelyn Bass

They stayed there for many years and moved back to Georgetown, Kentucky in 2007 to reconnect with family. Brenda got homesick, too.

Florida became home to Brenda and Bill’s daughters and all three still reside there.

Moving on to a fourth generation of the family, Brenda and Bill’s middle daughter, Elisha Bergeron Hess (b. 1972) gave birth to daughter Patience in 1993.

And here is the amazing thing — a FIFTH generation joined Edna’s bunch in April, 2019 when Patience and her husband, Johnathon Bass, welcomed a little girl into the world —Quinn Evelyn Bass.

Even though Edna lost her own mother at such a young age, she has gone on to meet her fifth-generation grandchild. 

This is something that doesn’t happen every day.

In total, she has 7 children, 11 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. Thirty-two offspring!

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