09 August 2010

Remembering Robert Morris Rennick

compiled by Teresa Martin Klaiber August 2010

The Lexington Herald and the Daily Independent ran a very small obituary announcing the death of Robert M. Rennick in Prestonsburg, Kentucky on August 6th. Mr. Rennick was a rather quiet person with a very active life.

While working in the genealogy department of the Boyd County Library he would come in, always dressed in his suit and with a small smile and a nod get right to work. On several occasions Mrs. Rennick would accompany him patiently waiting for him to complete his work.

Mr. Rennick always enjoyed talking with me about place names in Boyd County. Our conversation usually ended up with a discussion about why there is a Big and Little Garner in Boyd County. Rennick was quick to point out to me that his interest was geography. It only took a few moments to realize the gentleman was not only versed in geography but had acquired mountains of historical information for every county in Kentucky.

As I sit here I have my copy of Kentucky Place Names beside me. Rennick authored many books including From Red Hot to Monkey's Eyebrow: Unusual Kentucky Place Names which was released about the time I first was acquainted with Mr. Rennick. He was chairman of the Kentucky Committee on Geographic Names and was coordinator of the Kentucky Place Names Survey. Rennick knew all the now gone post offices around the state. He was a frequent contributor to the Kentucky Humanities Council magazine and a member of The American Names Society.

In 2005 he wrote an interesting article for the Humanities Council on nicknames that overshadow real names of places in our state. While the article is short it is long in lessons for researchers that can not locate a given place that might be handed down in family stories.

John Kleber listed Robert Rennick as a Floyd County notable in the Kentucky Encyclopedia. I found him down to earth during our pleasant conversations. He knew his away around every repository in the state of Kentucky and was a walking encyclopedia with or without map in hand. Every time we shared an afternoon in the library together I felt I learned something new, yet he was the one who would always stop at the door to take the time to thank me for assistance. I assured him each time that the honor was all mine.

We never resolved the question about Big Garner and Little Garner in Boyd County. I was able to share with him that the first notation of Garner I could locate in Carter County records in 1845. Both of us were aware that no Garner family resided in the area in those early years. He was quick to point out that there is a Garner in southeastern Kentucky, now Knott County. Many migrated through the Pound into Letcher and Perry before moving northward in Eastern Kentucky. Knott was formed much later from portions of Letcher, Floyd and Perry Counties. If I ever find the key that unlocks the question I certainly will have Robert Morris Rennick in my thoughts.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for remembering Robert Rennick. He helped many of us discover the geography of our family roots. Several months ago I called him at his home in Prestonsburg and asked him about Thor, Kentucky (Lewis County). He stopped what he was doing and did some research while we were on the phone. He thought it unusual that someone with my surname (Patrick) was researching Lewis County: "There are no Patricks there." I explained the research was for my wife. Afterwards, we continued talking for some time. My grandfather was a postmaster in Magoffin County during the 1920s. He told me a few things about how my grandfather did his work. Robert Rennick was one of Kentucky's treasures. I will never forget him.

    Bob Patrick