LAWRENCEVILLE - Liz McLeod has never been to Gwinnett County.
She has never even been to the United States.
Yet she feels an odd connection to this county, which bears the name of the man she's almost certain is her ancestor.
Elizabeth Anne Gwinnett McLeod said by phone from her home in Queensland, Australia, that she first became interested in learning more about her family's history when she found a two-page pamphlet on Declaration of Independence signer and county namesake Button Gwinnett among her deceased sister's belongings.
McLeod and a cousin, Christopher Gwinnett Coote, both share the middle name that has been in her family for generations. But McLeod said she had no idea where it originally came from, or how she might be related to Gwinnett.
"It's just a little name that keeps on popping up," McLeod said. "It sort of spurred me on. It's given me a lot of interest."
McLeod, who is 61, has lived in Australia her entire life. She said her mother is from New Zealand, and her grandmother from England, and that she decided to pursue her family's history after retiring.
She started by doing some research into Gwinnett's life and learned, among other things, that she shares a name with the only child Gwinnett had who reached adulthood.
Her maternal grandfather, Morton Gwinnett Sharp, might hold a clue to the family history. McLeod has requested a copy of her mother's birth certificate to search for clues and has contacted the Gwinnett County Historical Society in the hopes that someone can give her more information about her heritage.
"One day, I'd like to go over and have a look around the area," she said of Gwinnett County. "I think it would just be interesting."
McLeod said she was surprised, when searching for information online, to learn about the county's existence. After seeing that, she found out that Gwinnett's signature had sold for $110,000 in 2001 and decided there really must be something significant about the man.
"I started to get a little bit of interest," she said. "I keep retapping that little piece of paper my sister gave me."
McLeod said she did not pass the name on to her daughter, but is beginning to regret that fact. After beginning to do some research, McLeod said she may have to try to convince her daughter to augment her own children's names with Gwinnett.
For now, her search will continue. McLeod remembered a book her mother had from America that had information about the family history and would love to find it and get into the nitty-gritty of her genealogy and her connection to Gwinnett.
"History is lovely. I loved history in school," she said. "I was interested in him, and I'm interested there's a place named after him in America. It spurred me on to find out more history of my family."