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Below is a family biography included in The History of DeKalb County, Tennessee published by Goodspeed Publishing Company in 1887.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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James A. Donnell, United States commissioner of internal revenue for the middle district of Tennessee, and an influential citizen of Alexandria, was born August 13, 1834, in Wilson County. He is the eldest of two children of Allan and Casandria H. (Britton) Donnell. The father was a native of Gifford County, N. C., born in 1806, of Irish ancestry, a son of Adlia Donnell, a native of North Carolina, whose father came from Ireland. Allan came to Tennessee about 1832, and a year later married and located in Lebanon, where for some time he taught school, afterward engaging in the mercantile business at the same place, then at Center Hill and finally at Commerce, where he died in 1838. He was a man of ability and influence, successful in all his undertakings. His wife was a daughter of Lanie Britton, a native of East Tennessee, and an early settler of Smith County. Mrs. Donnell was born in 1813 and died in 1876. Both were members of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, highly respected by the entire community. The subject of this sketch was educated in the common schools in Wilson County. At the age of twenty he went to Missouri, where for two years he engaged in farming and stock raising. He returned to Wilson County. At the outbreak of the civil war, he enlisted in Company A, Seventh Tennessee Infantry, was in Virginia and all the great battles. He was captured at Gettysburg, Penn., July, 1863, and taken to Baltimore, then to Point Lookout. After seven months imprisonment he was exchanged and joined the army in the Southwest. In the spring of 1864 he was sent to Tennessee to look after some absentees of the original command; he was again captured and took the oath of allegiance. In February, 1866, he married Mrs. Nannie M. Ward, a native of Alabama, by whom he had one child, Robert G. Mrs. Donnell died in 1867. The same year he wedded Miss M. E., daughter of William and Mary Swann, who was born in Wilson County in 1844. Four children were born to this union: Jane Annette, Minnie C., Mary E. and Ann Lou. After living in Smith County Mr. Donnell returned to Wilson County in 1872, and resumed his farming. In 1878 he removed to Alexandria and purchased a half interest in the flouring-mills, now owned by Brown & Donnell, and since that time has been engaged in his present business. For one year he served as constable of the Twelfth District of Wilson County, and in October, 1886, was appointed by Judge Howell E. Jackson to his present office. He is a strong advocate of general education, and is trustee of the Masonic Normal College. Previous to the war he was a Whig, casting his first presidential vote for M. Fillmore, in 1856. He is now of the Democrat party. For nearly twenty years he has been a Mason. He and his wife are esteemed and earnest members of the Methodist Episcopal Church South.

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This family biography is one of 45 biographies included in The History of DeKalb County, Tennessee published in 1887.  The History of Dekalb County was included within The History of Cannon, Coffee, DeKalb, Warren & White Counties of Tennessee. For the complete description, click here: History of Cannon, Coffee, DeKalb, Warren, White Counties of Tennessee

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