Thank goodness for fashion, otherwise we would never be able to figure out what era our family pictures came from. Fashion is also the theme for this week’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, and though there is not much for me to say, more or less to show, I am going to showcase my 2 fashionable aunts on my maternal side of the family.
Ina May Dunbar
I remember a few weeks ago when I was binge-watching Downton Abbey, when I saw Edith’s ‘do in season 3 as we entered into the 1920’s I smiled at how much her hairstyle reminded me of my Great-Grand-Aunt, Ina May Dunbar, older sister to my Great-Grandmother, Mildred Laura Dunbar.
She is so beautiful and stylish, between the fur top of her coat and the pearls. I always have wondered how they got those beautiful waves in their hair, I’m sure I would utterly fail if I ever tried to attempt it myself.
Terry Mildred Fairhurst
My Aunt Terry was such a wonderful lady. She had a hard life, mostly because she made poor choices, but she always did her best to make lemonade out of lemons. Or at least that is how it seemed to me when I would talk to her. No matter how bad life seemed to get, she was a fighter and found a way to land on her feet (probably because she had family who loved her).
But my Mom always loved how stylish her younger sister was. My Aunt loved to dance and just have a good time. I loved her laugh.
I have so many other photos of beautiful ladies but these are the two I have that just really exemplify the decade of fashion they were taken in. The 1920’s and the 1960’s had such unique style, so much that they are often imitated even today.
Today I am not writing about a direct line ancestor, but a man who seems to have been a very special person. His name is Samuel J. Randol and he was the second husband of my maternal great-great-grandmother, Mazie Lorena Warner.
I will tell the tale of Samuel as he at one point worked for the railroad when they lived in Potter County, Pennsylvania. Then, after moving and settling in Akron, Summit County, Ohio, he worked as a truck driver. He was actually making a delivery to Decatur, Macon County, Illinois, when he became ill and died.
Samuel Joseph Randol
Samuel Joseph Randol was born 5 October 1874 in Independence, Warren County, Indiana to Alonzo Randol and the former Laura Altman. Upon doing my homework for this post I came to the conclusion that Samuel had been married three times. He was divorced from a Rosa Cox (born in 1876 and passed away in 1924), and his second wife, Emily, died of a cerebral hemorrhage a month before he married Mazie (I tried to keep an open mind hoping that Samuel and Emily had only been married a short time, but it was 14 years, but this was over a century ago, they did things different then, right?)
According to the 1900 Federal Census, Samuel was listed as a teamster. For those who do not know what a teamster is, it is a truck driver or a person who drives teams of draft animals.
In the 1910 Federal Census he was listed as working for the railroad. This was not his only stint with the railroad, he was employed with the Pennsylvania Railroad once he settled in Akron from 1917 through about1922. When he initially moved to Akron he worked for the Swinehart Rubber Company, which was not far from where he lived.
Around 1923 he opened his own grocery store entitled “SJ Randols” located on Howard Street in North Akron. This entrepreneurial endeavor did not last long as he was once again a truck driver by 1925 (I tracked his occupations once he arrived in Akron using the digitized City Directories that are located online by the Akron-Summit County Public Library, from years 1859-1969).
Life With Mazie
Seeing as his first 3 marriages did not last long, that Samuel was married to my great-great-grandmother for 23 years, it must have been love (or at least I hope it was).
Samuel and Mazie were married in Olean, Cattaraugus County, New York on 16 December 1914. By this point in time my great-great-grandfather, Arthur Dunbar, had been dead for 2 years (he passed away of heart failure, most likely a complication from his having polio).
When Samuel married Mazie he got a full package, her and 3 daughters, who he took on and cared for as his own. Myrtle had already married William Harvey of Elmira, Chemung County, New York, but Mazie was still raising a teenage Ina May Dunbar and my 6-year-old great-grandmother, Mildred Laura Dunbar.
Just before moving to Akron, Samuel and Mazie had a son, Richard LeHoty Randol 8 March 1916. Five months later on 7 August 1916 he died of intestinal intoxication, which is a severe dietary deficiency. It’s so sad when you see dehydration and malnutrition as causes of infant deaths just a century ago as IV’s and formula now do so much.
Samuel and Mazie had no more children but had their hands full with Ina and Mildred.
Ina married John Slater, had a daughter, but when the marriage didn’t last it was Samuel and Mazie who took them (Ina and daughter) in. The same could be said for Mildred twice over as she got married, then divorced, got remarried, had a daughter, then another divorce and when she married for the last time they lived with Samuel and Mazie for a couple of years before finding a home (I like to think they were saving up for a down payment?).
Ina did re-marry Ralph Stone in 1928 and I remember attending their 50th Anniversary Party. I was 5 and my Daddy was getting me punch, not realizing it was spiked. All I remember is laughing a lot and saying “Oh Johnny” as I thought my older teenage cousin was really cute (Johnny descends from my Aunt Myrtle, and I have yet to find him in my genealogy search).
Anyhow, I digress. In 1938 Samuel was still a truck driver, often going to Decatur, Macon County, Illinois. He apparently got sick while there, was taken to the hospital and after a week “with a complication of diseases” he died.
They shipped his body back to Ohio, and his funeral had quite the turnout. Along with the photos and such my dad gave me that were my great-grandmother’s, Samuel’s funeral book is among the items. I was amazed at all the names of all the people, at least 10 full pages, who either attended calling hours or the funeral (or both). Among them, one of his first Ohio friends, Clyde Geer (and most likely my great-great-grandfather). Clyde worked at Swinehart Rubber Company when Samuel did when he first moved to Akron in 1916.
But working in transportation – be it by train or automobile (maybe even heading up a team of animals???) is how Samuel supported himself and his family. That he changed with the times was quite trendy of him.
Though I never met Samuel (he died about 35 years before I was born), he seemed like a loving man and I couldn’t have asked for a better person to care for Mazie.
Transportation was the theme for week 28 of Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks family history writing challenge. It’s a fun way to stop and write about your family each week. If you would like to sign up, please do so here.
Free is the prompt for this weeks 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, and who better than to write about than my 5th-great-grandfather, Solomon Sparks, who fought in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
Solomon Sparks was born 13 June 1758 to Joseph Sparks and the former Mary McDaniel in Frederick, Maryland. Overall he was the fifth of at least nine children, and the third boy. (As a side note, Solomon’s younger sister Sarah is also my 5th-great-grandmother, making Joseph and Mary my 6th-great-grandparents two times over).
Solomon’s family moved from Maryland to Bedford County, Pennsylvania in 1778 and in 1782 Solomon joined the militia as a private, mustering out when the war was over in 1783. He was a part of Captain Boyd’s Company of Rangers, their job was “to scout the forests and guard the settlements against surprise attacks from hostile Indians” (Taken from the History of Bedford, Fulton, & Somerset Counties).
Upon the war ending Solomon returned to Frederick, Maryland to live for a short time. This is where Rachel Weimer also lived, and they very well could have known each other or met at this point in time. They married in Pennsylvania in 1786 and had 11 children, settling in Providence Township in Bedford County, where he became a successful farmer.
When the War of 1812 began Captain Solomon Sparks and his Regiment of Rifleman “marched through the wilderness to the Canadian frontier and there performed efficient service” (Taken from the History of Bedford, Fulton & Somerset Counties).
Solomon passed away on 8 April 1838 but I wonder if he had been ill for a while. His will is dated 10 January 1821 with the beginning wording as “being for time very unwell but sound in mind, memory and understanding” (will was found in records not yet transcribed on FamilySearch). He gave $200 to each of his daughters, and money and homes to each of his sons. His wife, Rachel, was Executrix and his oldest son, Abraham, Executor.
Famous words that finished a speech given by Patrick Henry on 23 March 1775 that encouraged the Second Virginia Convention that was taking place at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia to become a part of the Revolutionary War (or at least put Virginia in a place of defense).
After his memorable speech Patrick Henry was named Chairman of the Committee to build the Virginia militia.
No one knows for sure if Patrick Henry said the infamous words or if his biographer, William Wirt, created them. Regardless, men who were in attendance that fateful day claim it is the “boldest, vehement, and animated pieces of eloquence that had ever been delivered” according to John Marshall who spoke on behalf of his dad, Thomas Marshall. George Mason claimed “every word he said not only engages but commands attention”.
Who Was Patrick Henry?
Patrick Henry was born on 29 May 1736 in Virginia. He was born of privilege and at age 10 was taught Latin, Greek, Math, ancient and modern history by his father. He was a self-educated lawyer, who like the philosopher Cato would use speeches as a form of persuasion.
Following the Declaration of Independence, Patrick Henry served as it’s 2nd and 6th Governor (from 1776-1779 and again from 1784-1786). Throughout his life his other vocations were planter, politician, and orator.
He made countless speeches over the years and no one ever wrote them down, a sad tale for his biographers. He was a highly respected man and is considered one of our nations Founding Father’s.
He passed away on 6 June 1799 of stomach cancer.
The Entire Speech
If you would like to read or hear the entire speech given at the Second Virginia Convention, please click here to visit the Colonial Williamsburg website where you can download an MP3 version to listen or read the words already typed out of this speech with the famous ending.
I found the information used above by reading a variety of websites:
When it came to finding conflict in my tree, as that is the theme for this week’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, one of my biggest puzzles is how George Mullen is related to my to my 2nd-great-grandmother, Anna Maria Leighty.
Supposedly George is Anna Maria’s son, but I don’t have any concrete proof that he is her son. I will confess I do have him listed in my family tree software as her son, only because of the below note on the picture of Anna Maria Leighty and her husband, Jonas Wise that my first cousin once removed, Hope, found left behind at a Wise Family Reunion in the 1990’s.
The note states:
Jonas Wise 1856-1913 Passed away at age 57 and was stone deaf
Anna Maria Leighty Wise 1849-1933 84 years of age, 15 children only 5 lived
George, Henry, Riley, Mary Ann, Maggie
Even the note is incorrect, Anna Maria first shows up on a census in 1860 because she was born in 1851. Most documents support Jonas being born in 1855. Their death years are both correct.
When you put all the pieces of the puzzle together, the only other piece of information that helps me think for a moment that he was her son is that she was living with him and is listed as his mother in the 1920 census (though i know you can’t always go by what the census says).
George Mullen was also supposedly born in 1874 but he is not living with Anna Maria Leighty in the 1880 census. He is listed with his grandmother (Anna Maria’s mother) Mary Ellen (Adams) Mullen and her 2 sons (who are younger than Anna Maria), William and Michael Mullen in Carbon, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. George is also listed at this time with the last name of McCre. I do realize he may have been visiting, but I don’t have any record of his living with his mother.
In the 1880 Census, Anna Maria Leighty is married to Jonas Wise and they were living in Coaldale in 1880 with their oldest son, Henry (next door to my 2nd-great-granduncle, George Washington Blair – one of my infamous brick walls). Henry was born in 1876.
Now I did know one of George Mullen’s children, his daughter, Anna Mary, who my grandmother did consider a cousin, but I was little and didn’t think to ask questions. I know Anna Mary died in the early 1980’s and I always thought it a bit peculiar that she carried a doll with her everywhere. I now know she probably had dementia or Alzheimer’s but I didn’t understand as a child of 6, why I couldn’t carry a doll everywhere too. The other thing I think of when I think of Anna Mary is that she was a huge supporter of Nixon, I had a bunch of jewelry supporting Nixon that I was given to play dress up with when at my Grandma’s, I’m sure it was thrown away when my Grandmother passed away, but it would have been an interesting keepsake.
I never would have known until examining the 1920 census that George was Anna Maria’s son if it weren’t for Anna Maria Leighty’s page on Find a Grave. There are so many inconsistencies for whomever it was that wrote out the information that it makes my head hurt.
The person who wrote it was the grandchild (or possibly a great-grandchild) of William Mullen, who was the son of Mary Ellen Adams, half sibling of Anna Maria Leighty. They proceed to list all of George Mullen’s children, and as an after thought lists Anna Maria’s children with Jonas Wise (Henry, Riley, Mary Ann and Margaret). They list Margaret “Maggie” Wise as marrying a Blair, it was her daughter, Anna Maria Morgart who married a Blair. Anna Maria was also never a Mullen herself, her mother was, and I have a feeling since she more than likely raised George, he eventually took on her last name (which at that time was Mullen). Regardless, he was raised by the family and is one of us, I am just trying to figure out if he belongs where others have placed him.
So I’m sure you can understand my conflict.
Lastly, I share no DNA matches with anyone named Mullen. I find this interesting that George and his wife had 9 children and not one of their offspring has taken a DNA test. Or they have and they don’t match. I have even used the Thrulines tool on Ancestry and I have matches with descendants of Henry, Riley, Mary Ann and another for my own great-grandmother, Margaret Dora Wise. But not 1 match for George Mullen. After looking at my other DNA matches though, none of them have George listed as a child of Anna Maria Leighty, either.
Which once again leads to my conflict.
Working on this article I’ve learned that I have a lot to do on my Leighty family. I am missing many censuses for my great-great-grandmother (Anna Maria) and several of her siblings (Mary E., John Quincy, Joseph, George, Uriah, and Sidney). Joseph married an Ellen McCray, could this be a relation to the McCray that is supposedly the father of George?
I also think I am going to try to reach out to anyone who may appear to be a descendant, or at least someone who has researched George Mullen and his family to see if any of them have tested their DNA to see if there is a match. I know it may just be grasping at straws but this may give me insight on who George’s parents are, and confirm if it is my great-great-grandmother.
When finding the obituary of my great-great-grandfather, George Washington Morgart, there was always a part of it that interested me:
” The Knights of the Golden Eagle, of which he was a member, turned out in a body at his funeral”
Who are the Knights of the Golden Eagle? That is what I set out to learn this week.
The Knights of the Golden Eagle
The Knights of the Golden Eagle is a fraternal organization that began in 1873 in Baltimore, Maryland (I say is as via a Google Search there are claims it is still handing out scholarships in areas of Pennsylvania). The group was set up in Philadelphia by 1876 (with the help of the Odd Fellows).
The KGE local chapters were “castles”, state castles were “grand castles” and the national headquarters were “supreme castles”.
The castles were set up like the Crusades and had 3 degrees:
The first degree had you as a pilgrim where you “were taught fidelity to God and man”.
The second degree had you as a medieval knight where you “revered religion, fidelity, valor, charity, courtesy, and hospitality”
The third degree was based on a crusader where the member was “equipped against the evil of his enemies”.
To become a member the following qualifications are to be met:
Over the age of 18
Have no physical or mental handicaps
Ability to write
Able to support themselves
Sound moral character
Of the Christian faith
Meetings were held in an orderly fashion with songs mixed in.
The group tried to do good things for their community and help members widows and orphans when they need protection.
* The above information was found on Wikipedia and The National Heritage Museum
My dad has always been a low-key kind of guy who prefers books to most people (this is not that he doesn’t like people, he just loves to read!). So with this week’s theme being Father’s Day and me not knowing a whole lot about my Pappy (aka Leroy Blair, my dad’s dad) I took a moment before the day began today to ask my dad some questions about his dad.
A little background on him. Charley Wilmer Blair was born 13 February 1912 in Todd Township, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania to Andrew Jackson Blair and Bertha Childers. He was their oldest living son. I’m not sure how long he had the name of Charley Wilmer before his mother decided she liked Leroy better, but this was the name he went by the rest of his life (I always think it’s funny she just decided she liked something better).
My dad didn’t really have one particular favorite memory of his dad, but was always amazed how quickly he could make up a meal. They would often go for a drive in nature and his dad would stop the car and pull out the Coleman stove and a pressure cooker and could have a meal made up in moments.
So funny that he had this memory because when I was scanning my grandmother’s photos, she had noted on the back of a photo of how they had stopped and Leroy had made a wonderful beef stew in the pressure cooker.
My favorite memory my dad had told me was how Pappy went to my dad’s school one day and excused him from class and decided to drive across the country to Arizona with him. What a trip that had to have been for the two (his older sister Vada lived in Arizona with her husband Charles and daughter, Darlene).
What Leroy Was Like
My dad has always described his dad as being a fairly simple man. They would go fishing but it was more of it being a quiet hobby because he (Leroy) never caught any fish. This is something that my dad must have inherited as he doesn’t catch fish very often either (luckily I am able to catch a fish but just about always throw them back).
My dad told me in the past that Leroy was also an excellent hunter. I had actually asked him about this because I know his (Leroy’s) brother Donald did. It surprised me to hear this as my grandparents house was never filled with the heads and other trophy animals that his younger brother’s house had. My dad then went on to tell me that once my grandfather was able to provide for his family and buy meat at the grocery store, he no longer went out and hunted for food.
I do know that he liked farming. My grandfather had a farm in southern Ohio and oddly enough where his potato fields were was the same spot that I always wanted to build an A-frame home. The field is surrounded by apple trees and the smell is so wonderful when they are in bloom. And it’s nice and quiet. My dad was always the buzz kill because he always made sure to tell me it would cost a million dollars just to build the driveway.
How I Wish I Had Gotten to Know Him
Of all my relatives I wish I had gotten a chance to speak to, my Pappy is at the top of the list. I wish I could have known him, as my Grandma Blair always said I was just as stubborn as he was, and that I had inherited his odd shaped feet.
I know he (Leroy) wasn’t always fond of my mom but even she was always upset that I never had a chance to know him. He always wanted to go in and see me when he visited, it didn’t matter that my mom had just put me down, I was always miraculously awake when he came out to the kitchen asking if he could hold me. “The baby’s awake” he would say.
I often wonder if he would have been the strong, silent type with me as he was with my dad. Or would have been a little more forthcoming with his granddaughter? I’ll never know. He died of a heart attack on 14 May 1975.
Luckily I have always had a good relationship with my dad. He is the best buddy a girl could ask for as we always did stuff together when I was growing up such as fishing, going to the movies, playing catch with a baseball in the backyard (despite my never trying out for little league or anything) and I’m sure a ton of other things that were just so commonplace they aren’t standing out. But he was always this strong presence. Still is today.
So as I write this on Father’s Day, I know my dad had a good dinner (we had cheesy brats and hamburgers with some calico beans and potato chips with cherry cupcakes and vanilla marshmallow frosting) and it was a good day with family.
Wishing all of the dad’s out there a very Happy Father’s Day!
For the first time ever, Juneteenth is being recognized as a national holiday in the United States as President Biden signed it into law on 17 June 2021. It had already been an official state holiday in Texas since 1980.
For those who are unaware, Juneteenth, or 19 June 1865 is when the residents of Texas finally learned of the abolishment of slavery when Union soldiers made their way to Galveston, Texas (the Emancipation Proclamation had been put forth by President Abraham Lincoln on 1 January 1863 making all slaves free, but it took 2 years for this information to spread across the land). These former slaves began to celebrate with dancing, singing, eating, and prayer.
Hoping that this leads to more progress in having us truly be the United States of America.
Bridge. Such an ominous theme for this week’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. I didn’t know what I could possibly write about. A bridge – I don’t know enough of the specifics of my ancestors to see if a bridge made any sort of impact in their lives.
So I kept thinking – and it finally occurred to me that I am the bridge, I am the link between my family’s past and present. So this week I am not going to write about an ancestor, I am going to talk about me.
I was born in the early 70’s in Akron, Ohio, the exact same city as I live right now. Though I was raised in the Akron suburb of Cuyahoga Falls (it means “crooked river” in Indian). I am the youngest in my family – my only other sibling is my older sister, who was 5 when I was born (read between the lines here that she wasn’t happy with the attention I took away). I don’t think my sister ever realized how envious I was of her – she got dance lessons and I had…. nothing.
Not that I was upset, but I what I wanted to learn more than anything was to play the piano. I use to pretend that the end of my bed was a piano and I would “play” music for hours (it was me, humming the music). My mom always told me she wanted to get me lessons, and it’s not that they couldn’t afford them, they couldn’t afford the piano. Oddly enough, as I am typing this “from the hip” I ordered up a 36-lesson course to teach myself to play, and it just arrived, so maybe my inner child’s dream will come true.
My childhood was nothing extraordinary – if anything it was extra ordinary. My sister and I had our spats – she pulled me by my feet around and around the two entrances into our living room giving me a horrible patch of rugburn on my chin (yes, the chin was what was on the ground) while I ended up pushing her off the top bunk of her bunk beds when she finally gave me a minute to get up there (she went to push me but I pushed first – don’t worry, Grandma Blair took care of the situation – which means I didn’t get in trouble at all).
I remember learning a bit of math early on because I saw my sister doing it so I wanted to do it too. When I started to learn how to read in elementary school I went at it with everything in my being because my dad and sister were big readers, so I wanted to read too.
But there came a point when I saw where my sister didn’t always get the best of grades and I saw how upset it made my mom and so the “watch and learn” period began. I did my best to get good grades as that made my mom happy. Maybe not ecstatic but at least it gave her less to be upset about.
It’s funny, my sister pointed out how I tried to be better than her on a road trip to me within the past year. She thought I was doing it to be better than her, and I guess after a certain point it was, but it really started out trying to keep up with her. I didn’t think about not being as old as her, I only wanted to be on the same level as her, and being 5 years younger I had a lot of catching up to do.
In fifth grade I began my love of history. For some reason Ms. Roberson made history entertaining. None of my other teachers really had, and my history geek self was born.
In sixth grade I gave a complete answer to a substitute teacher in Social Studies and so the nickname of “Becky the Brain” was born. And instead of trying to put it out of my mind, I attempted to live up to it every year. Though I wasn’t very good in math so I couldn’t understand how anyone would think of me as a “brain” but I tried to keep the moniker alive. All the way through high school.
The College Years
College was my troubling time. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up (and face it, time was running out, what am I talking about, I am still trying to figure that out). I opted to get a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration/Marketing in Management, not sales. But everyone assumes you want to do sales. I enjoyed marketing research. I find it thrilling to analyze information and detect trends. But you needed an MBA to even get your foot in the door and I was sick of school.
My goal was to move to New York City. I was born in Ohio but I was meant to be a New Yorker. The city brings a confidence in me that I have never experienced anywhere else. The energy makes me feel more alive and that’s why I tried to find a job there. But every job I was offered didn’t pay enough money, and though my mom didn’t tell me I shouldn’t go, she just offered one bit of advice: Do you really want to live somewhere that you have to work 3 jobs to get by? The answer was no, because then I’d never be able to enjoy living in the city I’d so wanted to be a part of.
In 1999 I returned to school and earned my Bachelor of Arts in History with my focus being American History. I don’t think I ever read so much in 1 year (well, except for the year I chose to read a certain number of books – and though I started off with a goal of 100 books, I condensed it down to 60 in June realizing I did need more of a life than just working and reading). While going back for my history degree, one of the classes had us getting internships at the local historic house, Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens. This class changed my life, as one internship turned into a second, which turned into a job. Best place to work to this day and it was all because of my co-workers. Many I am friends with on social media, but they were all genuinely good people. I just wish I could have continued working in the history field as I know I’d probably be a bit happier. What is that saying – if you do what you love you never work a day in your life?
I met my husband while working at Stan Hywet. Anyone who is willing to try burnt hot chocolate to impress you must not be so bad, right? We got married in 2003 (the photo to the right below is of the English Garden at Stan Hywet, where hubby proposed) and have had two wonderful children (isn’t that what you are suppose to say???). Actually I can’t complain, I nag about grades (for some reason the more I nag the less interested they are – and they weren’t like this in elementary school, and they are both so smart which makes it that much more infuriating).
We do the simple things – eat dinner together, go on camping trips as a family (well, the heat of Myrtle Beach did me in so now I prefer hotels), or go to places like Washington, D.C. (that was our last vacation – last year we were contemplating things but Covid-19 nipped those plans).
Our house isn’t fancy but it is home. We have a dog as well. Max, a Jack-Russell who is now finally almost 13 and starting to mellow for our standards.
My Love of Family History
My love of family history began when I was in 6th grade and had to do a genealogy project. It was simple, you had to either get to a different state or a different country. I had it lucky – my dad’s parents had both been born in Pennsylvania and my mom’s grandparents were either Pennsylvania or England, so score me extra points for getting out of the country.
I then began gathering information and doing stuff when I first began college. I really wish I would have stuck with it in the early-to-mid-nineties because I could have asked both grandmothers so much information. But I am not always so smart. My cousin, Darlene, who also worked on genealogy, sent me family group sheets and such to help me get started. Of course working and going to school ended up taking up a bunch of my time and it once again got put on hold.
Fast forward to 10 August 2016, the day I decided to Google family history or genealogy, who knows, but it was the day that I signed up for FamilySearch.org and I have never looked back. It started because on this particular day, I missed my Grandma, and I figured a way to get close to her was to learn all I could about her family.
I have learned so much about so many members of my family. And the more I learn the more mesmerized I am. These people were so strong and lived through so much. Life today would seem like a cake-walk (well unless family history became their hobby and they had some of the brick walls I do about them).
I’ve had DNA lead me to a branch of my tree that no one even knew about (well, unless I’m totally wrong). It’s amazing what a powerful tool a simple spit test can be.
Between attending conferences, family history days at the Family History Centers, and webinars and other online/in-person presentations, and Facebook groups, I have learned so much about this hobby of mine, and just how generous people in the genealogy community are, always willing to jump in and research from a different angle.
I Am the Bridge
I am the bridge because I then tell my family about what I have found. I deal with the eye rolls and whatever else may come my way for that person who says “wow, that’s interesting” and it makes it all worth it. I know my dad enjoys hearing what I find, often telling me he would never have the patience himself to do it, but he loves to hear about it.
I firmly believe in the Russian proverb I posted a while back, “You live as long as you are remembered” and I try to keep each and every one of my ancestors alive.
So I will do my best to work on my tree, break down walls, and do my best to fill in the dash between the years, attempting to bridge the present with the past. All along, hoping to make my ancestors proud.
This weeks post for Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is all about military and who better to write about than my 3rd-great-grandfather, George Henry Fesler who fought in the Civil War.
His Early Years
Born on 18 October 1824 in Brush Creek, Bedford County, Pennsylvania, George Henry Fesler was the oldest child of William Frederick Fesler and Mary Polly Evans. George was the oldest in their family of at least 7 children: John, Mary, Matilda, Sarah, Alexander, and Samuel followed.
By the 1840 Census it appears that George, all the way to 15 years old, is no longer living with his parents. In 1844 he is selected as a private in John B. Alexander’s Wells Valley Riflemen (also referred to as Wells Valley Union Rifle Company), a group commissioned by Pennsylvania Governor Porter. Their first muster was 4 July 1844.
On 10 February 1847 he married Mary Elizabeth Oakman, the sister of one of his fellow Rifleman, Squires Oakman. He and Mary had a total of 11-children: Sara Jane (my 2nd-great-grandmother), John Oliver, Mary Isabelle, James Squires, Rebecca May, Margaret Elizabeth, Frances, Harry Franklin, George Henry, Jr., William Gilmore, and Lilly Mae. The last 2 were born upon his return after the Civil War.
In some documents George is listed as a farmer, in others a stone mason like his dad.
The Civil War
The first war where Congress passed an act for the first wartime draft was the Civil War. All men between the ages of 20 and 45 were to register. The difference between then and now was that you could buy your way out of the draft. For $300 you could avoid it all together (which is what wealthier men did) or you could hire someone to take your place.
It appears George was a draft dodger, and they caught up to him in September 1864 where he was arrested and forced to serve in the Union Army.
George mustered in as a Private on 19 September 1864 becoming a part of Company G of the 61st Regiment of the Pennsylvania Infantry on 2 November 1864. From December through the end of the war in June he served by defending Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C. was defended by 68 enclosed forts that surrounded the capitol city.
After his return to “normal” life, George and Mary had their last 2 children only for her to pass away in 1872.
At some point in time, George became acquainted with his neighbor, Fayetta Ann Childers, who was also the sister of his son-in-law, Randall Childers (Randall is my 2nd-great-grandfather and was married go George’s oldest daughter, Sara Jane). In 1883 George and Fayetta had the final piece of the Fesler family, Edgar Sheridan “Sherd” Fesler.
George and Fayetta never married legally, but theirs would be considered a common law marriage.
He filed to receive a pension in 1889 where medical reports have him as having chronic diarrhea and other rectum diseases which declared him an invalid (or at least made it difficult to work as one never knew when one of these bouts were going to hit. This was a common ailment among Civil War veterans).
George passed away on 14 October 1911 with Old Age being listed as his cause of death, he was 4 days shy of being 86 years old. He is buried with most of his family (as well as many of my Childers relatives) in Wells Valley Methodist Church Cemetery.
The Pension File
I purchased George’s pension file 2-years ago after I came home home from the Ohio Genealogical Society’s Conference. A gentleman I met there, Brian, has based a good portion of his business travelling to the Archives in Washington, DC to help genealogists such as myself get the military records for their ancestors. (If you are interested you may want to check out his website at www.civilwarrecords.com).
I will admit, I paid for everything (he had a discount for those attending the conference, and afraid I’d miss some detail if I didn’t get it all). I had glanced at everything a few times but will confess truly began dissecting the file when doing this post.
Take my advice, however you get your hands on your pension file (as you can order through NARA yourself), find the portion that tells you when they enlisted. The pension file for George included the entire war for Company G for the 61st Regiment of the Pennsylvania Infantry. As I read through their start in 1862 I am tracking their movements through Virginia in Newport News, how they fought at the battle of Fair Oaks and then Gettysburg, and I was so enamored that I started mapping a vacation to follow in his steps.
Then I clicked on another folder that had his enlistment papers and it was then I discovered he didn’t begin to serve until late 1864 and all the “cool” battles his regiment had been in were done.
My trip will just be visiting our nations capitol and visiting a barricade that still exists on the outside of the city.
I learned quite a bit about George while writing this post. He was the last surviving member of the Wells Valley Union Rifle Company, and a great hunter (various newspaper articles about this).