Drennen – A Place, a Name, a Family

Just this past January, I got a notice from MyHeritage that they were allowing Ancestry DNA kit files to be uploaded to their site for a free limited time. I now get notifications from them for cousin matches, which is great, but you don’t get much access to see much more unless you pay to become a full member.

Anyway, I uploaded my Ancestry DNA kit file as well as my wife’s kit file just to see what we might get. I’ve been getting notifications here and there, and there really wasn’t anything too earth shattering as they were typical matches that were common to Ancestry. Then, earlier this month, I got a list of cousin matches for my wife. The very first one on the list was for a Jeff Drennen, managed by Conner Drennen. Well, I’m very familiar with the surname Drennen, because I have worked for the past 21 years with a Mark Drennen, former supervisor and now fellow colleague.

In 2018, I had asked Mark if I could delve into the roots of his family, because Mark had mentioned that his ancestral family originated from West Virginia, which he shares in common with my wife. Mark’s son Gramm also shares a passion for his family history and now has all of my research for his family.

Now, getting back to Conner. On a hunch, I decided to see if Conner was on Ancestry, which he was. The first thing I did was reach out to Conner to see if he knew of anything about Mark’s family. I also began looking at Conner’s Ancestry family tree. I then sent Conner the research I had done for Mark and lo and behold, Conner responded saying they are related. Conner’s 3x great-grandmother, Mollie Drennen (1868-1958) had a son before she was married, James F. Drennen, Conner’s 2x great-grandfather, and James kept the Drennen name. Mollie had a brother named Stonewall Jackson Drennen (1863-1933), who just happens to be Mark Drennen’s great-grandfather. So Conner and Mark are 3rd cousins, twice removed.

The story doesn’t end there…if you’ll remember, Conner connects to my wife as well. Actually, they share that rare “genie” label of “double cousins”. It begins back with Conner’s 3x great-grandmother, Mollie Drennen and the son she had before she married, James F. Drennen (1885-1961). James married Lula Pearl Summers (1890-1975). Lula Summers was the g-g-grand daughter of John B. Morris (1789-1865) and Virginia Jane Brown (1786-1855), who are also my wife’s 4x great-grandparents. My wife and Conner also connect through the Summers family. William Bell Summers (1811-1901) was married to Martha A.B. Morris (1813-1902). Martha was also the daughter of John B. Morris and Virginia Jane Brown. A portion of Conner’s family are buried in the Keenan Cemetery in Nicholas County, WV, which makes another connection to my wife, as her great-grandmother was Alsona Jane (Keenan) Morris. Many of the Keenan and Morris family are buried there.

Both Conner’s and Mark’s ancestral families have deep roots in Nicholas County, WV, more specifically, a small hamlet known as Drennen, WV.

Drennen, WV is an unincorporated community about 8 miles west of Summersville. There seems to be no sure time period of when Drennen was founded, but we do know that an historical residence in the shape of a log cabin was built by William Powell in 1818, the same year Nicholas County was formed. William Powell sold the property, about 137 acres to Sam Neil, one of the original settlers in the area in 1809. Sam Neil did not live on the land. In 1832, Sam Neil sold the land to Jacob Drennen for $1, including the log cabin. Jacob Drennen built an addition onto the cabin and operated a post office and a store in town. Jacob’s post office was the 3rd in Nicholas County and Jacob was appointed Postmaster in 1831.

The Drennen house eventually came down to Charles M. Drennen, who acquired the property in exchange for caring for his parents during the time of their remaining years.

The completed house was considered early Republic/Federal style. The house eventually became the home of A. E. Drennen, the son of Charles, under the same circumstances that his father performed for his parents. The house left the Drennen family in 1919, and by 1921 had gone through 3 owners. Martin “Bibb” Mason became the next owner, thus the name of the house as it stands, the “Mason-Drennen” house.

Image Courtesy of The National Register of Historic Places

The “Mason-Drennen” House – it still stands today.

As I was writing this blog, a friend of both my wife and I, Dea Hamrick Hawks, who turns out to be related to the Drennens, tagged me in a posting from the Nicholas County, WV Historical Society Facebook page, SummersvilleOnline – are shooting a documentary about the “Mason-Drennen” House and are wanting to interview descendants of the ancestral owners of the house including Drennen descendants.

Conner Drennen is currently preparing for a new adventure, as he is currently living in Italy, but will be moving to Ireland in the coming weeks to complete his Masters Degree. You are more than welcome to visit Conner’s blog site.

Gramm Drennen is a cellist living in Boston, MA. Here is his site.

The Drennen, Summers, Morris connection is far from over. I will be helping Conner discover his West Virginia roots even more so. One exciting piece of information I was able to convey to Conner was the fact that he is a cousin through the Morris family of our 1st President, George Washington, as is my wife.

Conner did ask me if I was familiar with the story of the “Morris Massacre”. I told Conner I was very familiar with it as that was one of the very first family stories that my wife told me regarding her Morris family.

Hopefully, one day Mark, Gramm and Conner will be able to meet face to face, but in the meantime, they have already connected and have begun the process of sharing. I know they will treasure this for years to come.

I encourage all of you out there not to ignore your cousin matches, whether through Ancestry or MyHeritage, or any of the other sites. Keep an eagle eye on these matches because you never know who will pop up and surprise you. You can only imagine my surprise when Conner’s name appeared and I found out that he and my colleague from work are cousins, not to mention his connection to my wife.

This experience has been one of those special blessings that you just cannot make up or try to explain. It has been a distinct pleasure and privilege to be able to bring these families together, even if was just by sheer luck, kismet or fate…whatever you want to call it, but it’s something that gives me great joy to do!

The National Register of Historic Places



Featured Image: Map of Nicholas County courtesy of My Genealogy Hound

Conner Drennen

Mark Drennen & Gramm Drennen

Dea Hamrick Hawks

Nicholas County Historical Society

My wife who continues to support me and love me

Brian S. Miller

15 thoughts on “Drennen – A Place, a Name, a Family

  1. I would love to know more about Washington being a cousin to the Morris (WV) family. The Morris family left the Old Dominion before the Revolution. I never found the connection.
    My husband and I have thoroughly investigated/researched the Morris family – my family. John B Morris is the son of Henry Morris. Henry is the brother of William Morris Jr and son of William Morris Sr. William Jr is my line. Matter of fact we researched all 10 (ten) children of William and Elizabeth. Yes, all 10. Turned out to be 28 volumes and is located in 3 libraries and the West Virginia Cultural Center where we spent many weeks researching. Researching this family took us to many states and locations within various states besides West Virginia. This is not internet research except for census records.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The connection is through Henry Morris’s wife, Mary (Byrd) Morris. Her lineage goes back to the Gilpin family, Lydia (Gilpin) Dean was Mary’s grandmother. Tracing back on the Gilpin line, William Gilpin married Elizabeth Washington. She would have been George Washington’s 5x great aunt.


      • This is amazing, Brian. Henry and Mary Byrd Morris are ancestors of my younger half sister and her father, the man that adopted me when I was three. I have worked on the Morris family from time to time but never Mary’s family. My dad’s mother’s maternal line includes Morris, Ashley & Jarretts from WV and her paternal line is the Lentz family that we’ve discussed!


      • Wow! It’s such a small world…I would love to discuss this further. Send me an email sometime. I’d love to tell you all I have found. You can also check my other blog posts about the Gilpins and Washgintons. Brian


  2. Mollie Drennen was my 3x Great Grandmother! my grandma said they called her great grandma bell after marrying Charlie Bell later in life. My great grandpa would’ve been her grandson, his name was Lee Drennen (passed in 2012), love this article!


    • Hi Emma, I’m not sure I remember replying to your comment and if I missed it, I apologize! The Connor Drennen I mentioned in the post is also descended from Mollie (Drennen) Bell. I am revisiting the Drennen family with a record paper trail to verify descendancy going further back then John H. Drennen. The daughter I have seen by records born to John H. Drennen and Elizabeth Grose was named Mary Elizabeth Drennen. Is this Mollie? Thank you! Brian


  3. Hello,
    I would like to know more about the Drennen/Morris family connection. My father was Michael Drennen Morris. He was born in Omar, WV in the early 1940s. I am unsure of his father or mother’s name.
    Thank you


      • Found DOB was 28 July 1942. The two brothers (my uncles) I knew best were James Morris (went byJiimmy, passed away almost 27 years ago.) The other brother was Paul Morris (went by PJ). The brothers were all in Vietnam. Jimmy served in the Navy, PJ served in the Air Force and Mike (my dad) went Army then transferred to the Air Force. In a “saving private Ryan” type of tale, the military gave them all a chance to meet up with their father during the war.

        Another interesting factoid is my brother is named Drennen Morris. Drennen was my paternal grandmother’s maiden name and Morris is the family name. I think my paternal grandmother’s first name was Elizabeth, but not too sure about that.

        There are other half siblings but I didn’t know them that well, they all live in Ohio now.

        Here is the obit for my dad:

        You’ve inspired me to complete my ancestry.com kit…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, and I see he played the guitar…so do I. I’ve been a musician for 53 years. My brothers and I had a band back in the late 70s early 80s.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The whole family did! I have this great photo of all the brothers and their dad sitting around, smoking, drinking and playing guitar. I’ll see if I can track it down.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. HAHA! That’s fantastic, thank you for your help and writing this initial blog! I’m excited to see if anything comes from the research.


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