Signature of Edward B. Walker Genealogy of Edward B. Walker
1756-1838, Duplin County, North Carolina - Sullivan, Claiborne, Hancock Counties, Tennessee


Annie Walker Burns (1894-1966)

WorldConnect: Annie Walker Burnsoffsite link to WorldConnect
Spouses: Gillus Burns
Robert L. Bell
Family Bible: Unknown
Photos: On file; none known of husbands
Signatures: No known samples
Tombstone: Annie's grave unmarked; locations of others unknown
Wikipedia: Daniel Boone
Flem D. Sampson
Felix Walker
Dr. Thomas Walker
Nancy Ward
Others: DAR
Daughters of 1812
KY Mountan Laurel Festival
Library of Congress
National Archives

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.

Her 1929 Book

About 1929, Annie decided that she wanted to join the Daughters of the American Revolution and National Society United States Daughters of 1812, and she embarked on what seems to be her first genealogy work, Record of descendants of Edward Walker, Revolutionary soldier of North Carolina and Tennessee.

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.

Birdee Bibee (Walker) Humphrey, Isaac Parley Click, Laura Click, Silas Anderson Walker, Miss Purple, Annie Walker Burns
Photo 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 Carolina Congressman
  • 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; Edward 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 assumed otherwise.

However, Annie's interest in Dr. Thomas Walker led her to further research on him. As she learned more about his then-unappreciated passing through the Cumberland Gap, she wrote a new book, Daniel Boone’s predecessor in Kentucky, authentic history, about 1930.

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 Bell.

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 work.

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.

Later Works

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.

Her Death

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 there.

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 father.

All original material © 2007-9 by Phillip A. Walker or by cited authors. Submissions are welcome. Reuse allowed under limited conditions. Page last modified Sunday, 09-Sep-2018 13:19:36 MDT .