Barry's Genealogy Diary

This online genealogical diary is hosted by Barry T. Self. It is primarily for information pertaining to the SELF surname, more particularly for descendants of John J. and Lydia Avaline Waters Self, who were married in Union County, GA in 1851. Barry Self is the SELF proclaimed family genealogist and historian, having spent over 20 years researching this Self line. This diary is dedicated to preserving and sharing the findings of his research.

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Location: Madisonville, Tennessee, United States

I am married to a wonderful and sweet wife, Svitlana, who is from Ukraine and we have a beautiful daughter, Lydia Elizabeth. I have worked in the funeral business since 1988 and thoroughly enjoy researching my family roots.

Friday, August 14, 2009


August 6, 2009 marked 30 years since the double murders of Bertha Louisa Self Ward and her youngest child, Betty Jo Ward Kennedy who was about 40 at the time she was killed. The murders took place four days before Bertha would have turned 71 or 72 years old. (Bertha was the daughter of Lewis Monroe and Cora Self). She was the widow of Joseph Ward. The murders shocked the Ward and Self families as well as the entire Fowler’s Mill community where these two women lived in Monroe County, Tennessee, near the Monroe County/ Loudon County line. The murders were committed at Bertha’s house on Corinth Road.

Bernice Ward Breeden, a daughter of Bertha Ward and sister to Betty Kennedy, spoke to me recently about the murders. She said the family had 22 deaths within two years following the murders. It was so stressful on the entire family. Bernice said it took her five years or more before she really got over the tragedy.

Harrison Lee Neeley (or Nealey), age 41, whom authorities described as a family friend, was convicted of the murders. He died in prison after serving several years for the crimes. Some believe Neeley (Nealey) was not actually guilty of these horrific crimes. He paid for the crimes, guilty or innocent. Edward Kennedy, husband of Betty Kennedy, was in the military at the time of the murders. He committed suicide in 1999. He and Betty did not have any children together. He re-married after Betty’s death and lived in Lenoir City, TN. There were no children born to this union either. Mr. Kennedy is buried in Loudon County Memorial Gardens, Lenoir City. He and Harrison Lee Neeley were related. Mr. Neeley (Nealey) had reportedly been living at the Ward residence for about a year before the double murders occurred. Mrs. Ward’s husband had died and Harrison Lee Neeley (Nealey) was living there to help Mrs. Ward with the chores.

Bertha Ward had six children with Joseph Ward; two girls and four boys. The children are Charlie Louis Ward, Bernice Ward Breeden, Gid Harley Ward, Clifford Winfred Ward, Larry and Garry Ward (twins), and Betty Jo Ward Kennedy. She had a son, Jessie, from a previous marriage to Jack Clark. Jessie took the Ward last name after his mom married Joseph Ward.

Betty Jo Ward Kennedy had three sons from her first marriage to Robert Ervin. Her sons are Bobby Joe, Howard and Monte Bremen Ervin.
Bertha Ward and Betty Kennedy are buried at the Corinth Baptist Church Cemetery in Loudon County, TN.