52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, My Family Tree, Paternal Side

Week 22: Military

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.

Post-War

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).

My Family Tree

My Warner Family – Winfield S. Warner

This week I am going to share another installment of my Warner family by exploring my great-great-great-grandfather, Winfield Warner.

Early Life

Winfield S. Warner was born on 14 April 1847 in Potter County, Pennsylvania. His parents were Oliver Charles Warner and Mary Ann Jones and he was the youngest of their five children, the others being Emeline, Angelia, James, and Roscoe.  His dad was a successful lumberman and farmer, as lumber was a very lucrative trade in Potter County at this time.

Civil War

At the age of 17, Winfield joined the Union Army. He was a private in Company K 13th Regiment of New York with the heavy artillery, which was used in attacks on fortified positions. According to the Adjunct General’s Office Register, Winfield enlisted on 17 October 1864 in Mount Morris, New York to serve one year.  He mustered out with the company on 28 June 1865 due to the end of the war in Norfolk, Virginia.

13thArtHvyPhotoMillerIII_95
A photo of the Heavy Artillery division of Company K 13th Regiment of New York and can be found on the website of the New York Military Museum and Veterans Research Center

Married Life

Once the Civil War ended, Winfield returned home to Pennsylvania and married Orienta Gustin around 1869. They settled in Sharon Township in Potter County where he was a farmer. They had their first daughter, Mazie Lorena on 21 Jul 1877, their next daughter, Cymanthia Lencretia was born 18 March 1881, Jeanette was born in July of 1887, while their youngest, Catherine Belle, was born 25 August 1890.

1890 Census

Because he was a Civil War soldier, Winfield was listed in the still remaining 1890 Census for the Veterans Schedule. When it asked if he had any disabilities from the war, all that is listed is Sunstroke.

Sunstroke (or heat stroke) is the most serious form of heat injury that can cause damage to the brain or other internal organs caused by prolonged exposure to the sun while being dehydrated with a core body temperature of over 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Other symptoms include headaches, seizures, nausea, confusion, loss of consciousness, dizziness, a lack of sweating, and disorientation. It can take from 2 months to a year to overcome heat stroke (WebMD). However, it has been noted that most heat-related issues during the Civil War were noted as sunstroke regardless of how severe the ailment was (Ithaca College)

Death

Winfield Scott Warner passed away on 21 March 1899. His obituary described him as an “old soldier” but what is sad as that he was only 51 when he died. I guess this leaves a lingering sting as I’m 4 years away from that age myself. I guess this is one of the ways the world has changed in 121 years.

The Potter Enterprise, Wednesday, 22 March 1899

Of his family Winfield is the only member I don’t have a photo of at this time. I have a couple of photos of his wife, Orienta, and 3 of his 4 daughters (Mazie, Cymanthia, and Jeanette), and photos of his parents. On his Civil War papers he is listed as having brown hair, black eyes and a light complexion. He stood 6 foot, 1 inch tall. Hope that one day when the National Archives opens up again and I can retrieve his military and pension records that maybe within it there will be a photograph as well. Fingers crossed.

Genealogy

Writing Your Family History

I constantly read how I should be writing my family history down but the question is HOW?  I obviously want it to be entertaining and not cause people to be snoring within minutes, but do you just plop down the statistics?  Do you try to give it personality?  These are the things this inquiring mind wants to know.

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How You Will Share Your Writing

What form of media will you use to share your family history?  This is a very important decision.  Will you write a book? A newsletter?  A blog?

The format of your writing determines how formal your writing needs to be.  If you choose a blog (I obviously write about my own family discoveries along with tips of how to do your family history) you need to be a little more entertaining to keep your reader’s attention (hopefully I succeed in this).  This would probably be similar advice if you thought of doing a newsletter.

If you are going to write a book you obviously want people to enjoy what they are reading but you can also make sure you throw in statistics you have gathered about your relatives/ancestors if that is the only information you have.

Photographs

If you have photographs of the people you are writing about, make sure you include them. This is probably a no-brainer but it’s worth stating.  I know whenever I come across a photo of a relative I get so excited to see how they looked at whatever stage in their life.  I am hoping to one day find a photograph of my great-grandfather, Charles Morgart, as he is the infant/toddler in my blog’s header.  I have yet to see an adult photo of him but so wish I had one.

Photographs also make people real.  Face it, you can tell people that this is when they were born and this is when they died – but it’s when you give the details of how they lived and what they looked like that makes a person become alive.

Add Some History

You may be thinking,  “of course I am going to write history, I’m writing my family’s history”, but sometimes it’s nice to give your writing a little bit of historical context.  Relate to your reader what is going on in the world to give a better sense of the time period when your ancestor lived.

For example, I am presently reading “National Geographic’s Atlas of the Civil War” as my great-great-great-grandfather, George Henry Fesler, fought in the Civil War.  I have obtained his military file and it details all the battles that he fought in and where he was stationed.  George fought in many battles but I will confess they tend to be a lot of the smaller battles, not Antietam, Vicksburg or Gettysburg, the battles that the average person has heard of, so I’m reading this in-depth book about all the battles so I can include better details in reference to him.

There are different ways you can highlight historical events, you can just do a sidebar of big events that happened during the time period or you could have a timeline listing similar details.

Setting Your Book Up

When writing a book you can always highlight a different ancestor in a chapter.  For example, you can have a chapter on your mother, then a chapter on her mom and a chapter on her dad and within the chapters referring to her parents you can detail her siblings.

You may not have any intimate details about some of your relative’s lives but when you come across those initially you can just put the vital statistic information that you have on these individuals.  Sometimes you may just have very limited information, but if you have gathered any city directories about your ancestor, often they list where they worked, which helps give a little more insight into them.  Censuses will often list a general occupation as well which is still helpful in painting a picture of your relative’s life.

Make a Video

I know on my mom’s side of the family, my aunt and uncle were occasionally asking me how I was progressing on my research.  Not having anything written down, but having found photos of various members of my mom’s side of my family, I made a minute-long video that briefly highlighted my grandmother, great-grandmother, great-great-grandmother and lastly my great-great-great-grandmother and my great-great-great-grandparents (the photo of my 4th great grandmother happened to be a photo with her husband). I used the online video maker Adobe Spark which is free to use and even can be made with background music (the default was surprisingly fitting for my video). I shared the video with my aunt, uncle and many cousins and they loved it!  It was long enough to be interesting and short enough to keep their attention.

Your Program May Write the Book for You

I use Legacy Family Tree to store all my family’s information and there is a way to print a book using all the information I have entered into the program.  It fills in written accounts listed in the notes on each individual as well listing all the sources that you have attached for all the records included. This is a nice, no-brainer way of writing a book with the click of a button.

Brings Your Research Together

Writing about your family is a great way to make your research more interesting to the average person.  Family Historians often find such neat information about our ancestors through vital statistics, newspapers, and family lore, compiling them all together for future generations just makes sense.

No matter what form of media you choose to use – book, newsletter, or blog, anyway that interests you in writing down your information is how you should publish your work.

You don’t have to stop all of your research to begin writing a book, but it may be something to focus on one day a week in order to get ideas together on what you may want to do. I know I have been thinking about how I want to do mine for a while and I like about taking it an ancestor at a time.  It may provide you with who you want to focus on for a bit as well, and if you have all your writing on a computer you can always continue to add the further along you go with your tree.

No matter how you opt to write your genealogical findings, I wish you great success in your journey.  Sharing your research with the world is one of the greatest honors we as family historians have.

Good luck!