Mary Anne (Walker) Burns, known widely as Annie Walker
Burns (and briefly as Annie Walker Bell) was a prolific
writer of genealogy books, with more than 300 at the
Library of Congress alone. For the most part, those
books were transcriptions of records such as marriage
licenses, census records, and military pensions, but
she did write two books on the Edward Walker family
and mentioned her family in others.
Annie was born 8 December 1894 in New Tazewell, Tennessee,
probably at or near Walker's
Ford on Bear Creek. She grew up in the region, where
her father was a farmer, stone mason, and merchant.
But, in 1912, when her father's mercantile business
at Walker's Ford foundered, the family moved to Wallins
Creek in Harlan County, Kentucky.
In Harlan County, Annie found work as a stenographer
at a coal mine. On her 25th birthday, she married Gillus
Burns in the town of Cumberland Gap, and the couple
soon ended up in Frankfort, Kentucky, where Annie was
a secretary for the state Automobile Department.
The book itself was not a traditional, polished family
book. Instead, it consists of transcriptions of letters
written to her by family members in response to letters
she wrote; she did not transcribe the letters she sent
to those family members, so the context of some of the
published letters is not always clear.
Annie typically did not write any sort of analysis
of the information she published. At the time she was
writing the book, she was corresponding with a number
of people who were in a position to know much more about
the family than Annie published.
taken about 1930 on Annie Walker Burns's grand
tour of relatives following the publication of
her 1929 book. From left: Birdie Bybee (Walker)
Humphrey, Isaac Parley Click, Laura Click, Dr.
Silas Anderson Walker, Annie's friend Miss Purple,
Mary Anne "Annie" (Walker) Burns. At
the time, Annie was visiting Lizzie (Walker) Click
in Andersonville. Photo courtesy Lizzie's granddaughter,
Laura Roby (Sneed) Stooksbury.
Following the publication of her book, Annie embarked
on a grand tour to visit at least some of the relatives
with whom she had been corresponding, including Lizzie
(Walker) Click, at whose home the photo on this page
was taken. Undoubtedly, discussions of family history
were common on these visits, but Annie apparently published
no record of these conversations.
Modern readers often make mistakes in interpreting
the evidence presented in the book, with numerous false
claims arising from that misreading. For example, letters
indicate that Annie's father was either given to telling
tall tales or did not realize that all
Walkers are not related. He believed that he was
related to, among others:
Felix Walker, a companion of Daniel Boone and North
Dr. Thomas Walker, the first recorded European to
pass through Cumberland Gap
John Walker, Jr., who married a daughter of the
Cherokee chieftain Nancy Ward
Annie included information about both Felix and Thomas
in her 1929 book but did not claim a proven connection;
B. Walker was not related to Felix or Thomas. Unfortunately,
because of the inclusion of the information and the
disorganized structure of the book, many people have
On 6 May 1931, her husband died after a bout with peritonitis.
Annie soon followed some of her siblings to Washington,
DC. There she met Robert L. Bell and married him 13
May 1934 at her home; they separated 7 July 1935 and
soon divorced, but a few of her books were published
under the name Annie Walker Bell or Annie Walker Burns
After her divorce and for the rest of her life, Annie
lived with various family members and made a career
in genealogy, publishing her books of records transcriptions
and occasionally producing family books for hire, the
latter typically being in her classic style of record
transcriptions without analysis. She was such a constant
visitor to the National Archives in DC that the staff
there set up a work area just for her, her sister Lucy
Kate, and the various nieces and nephews she put to
Hawkins County John Walker Theory
Annie did make a major mistake in her work. After the
1929 book, she did not write again about her own Walker
family for many years, although she occasionally mentioned
them in some of her other books. She attributed John
Walker of Hawkins County, with an 1818 will there mentioning
a son Edward, as the father of Edward B. Walker, and
she clung to that theory for the rest of her life.
She apparently continued her research on the Walkers
after the 1929 book, publishing a book of Hawkins County
wills in 1933. Sometime in that period, she probably
saw the John Walker will, and knowing that Edward Jr.
was drafted for the War of 1812 out of Hawkins County
and moved to Claiborne County from there, she assumed
that he was the son named in the will. He was not, and
the family of Edward B. Walker is
not related in any way to Hawkins County John Walker.
Annie, working primarily with her sister Lucy Kate,
continued to publish throughout her life. In 1957, she
published her second book of Walker family records,
which she called Walker
family records: from the shadows of Cumberland Gap,
Claiborne County, Tazewell, Tennessee. Distribution
of this second book appears to have been limited; while
several branches of the Walker family still have copies
of the 1929 book, the 1957 book has only been seen at
the Daughters of the American Revolution library.
This new work did contain a few letters she received
after publishing her 1929 book, but, for the most part,
it included transcriptions of census and other records
for this Walker family and a few other people. Excerpts
are available online in the bibliography section.
In a phone call in the early 1990s, Annie's grand nephew,
General Lewis "Sonny" Blanton told me that
Annie, a diabetic, lived with his family from about
1960 in Laytonsville and Olney, Maryland. She contracted
cancer on her nose and tried to hide it for years instead
of having it treated. She always claimed that, while
waiting for a train to Wallins Creek, keys hit her on
the bridge of her nose, and years later she got cancer
She died 7 November 1966 in the old Washington Sanitarium
and Hospital, later known as the Washington Adventist
Hospital on Carroll Avenue in Takoma Park, Maryland.
She was buried in the cemetery at Laytonsville United
Methodist Church in Laytonsville, Maryland, although
the grave is not marked.
Status of Her Records
In a phone call about 2003, her niece, Anna Kate, told
me that Annie, once she finished typing something, usually
threw the original source away. Little, if any, of her
original documentation remains. She did leave the family
with a summary of family information which continued
to incorrectly list Hawkins County John Walker as Edward's