DESCENDANTS of a Tullibody native who went on to establish what grew into a university in the USA have been traced locally.

Sauchie man David Morrison was left "gobsmacked" when local historian Christine Calder chapped on his door after finding a fresh lead.

Records show that David, 71, and sister Cecilia Brown, 78, from Fishcross, are the great-grandchildren of Dr William Burns Paterson – the Tullibody man credited with establishing what later became Alabama State University in the town of Montgomery.

Paterson was born in the Wee County town on February 9 in 1850, and eventually became a champion for African-American education following the liberation of slaves after the civil war.

His years in the US, which saw him stand up to the Ku Klux Klan twice, deserve a story of their own and all can be discovered at Tullibody Heritage Centre.

Simply put, Dr Paterson was held in such high esteem that his birthday is still celebrated nowadays at the university, as part of Founder's Day.

Chris, a former Clackmannanshire Citizen of the Year and founding member of the history group, has been fascinated with the story for close to two decades now.

Her quest to find living relatives led her to two siblings David and Cecilia, who had little clue about the connection they had.

David told the Advertiser: "I was just gobsmacked. I knew of a Paterson connection, but she [Chris] just filled me in on everything."

He added: "It makes myself and my sister rather proud that William Paterson was an ancestor, for what he achieved and what he stood for."

At a young age, Dr Paterson worked alongside his father as a gardener in Tullibody House and took his skills overseas.

Coincidence or not, Chris found it interesting how David also chose a similar line of work as a seedsman and latterly in sales and marketing at a horticultural business.

Cecilia added: "He was over the moon when he phoned and I was, too, actually. I was really enthused."

Chris, who is excited to be flying out for Founder's Day for the first time this week, always wondered whether any relatives remained locally.

She got on the right track last year when she found the gravestones of David and Cecilia's great-grandparents Janet Paterson and William Morrison in Sunnyside Cemetery.

According to the death certificate, William ran a newsagents in Sauchie.

After some more digging, and using the power of social media, she eventually found David in the town.

It was a lucky encounter as David was just preparing to go out when she chapped the door – but two hours later they were still chatting away over the now complete family tree.

Furthermore, it appears like there may be a third descendant alive as well, who contacted the history group from Newcastle upon Tyne just two days after Chris met David.

It was a find she could not believe after 18 years of searching and said: "I'm just over the moon, and so excited."