Have you ever found a shocking discovery while working on your family history? I have found a few with it literally being a shock when I discovered a distant cousin was electrocuted by the State of Ohio (see my tale of Ralph Reed here). I found out via DNA that the man listed on my grandmother’s birth certificate was not her dad (see that discovery here).
But I will never forget standing in the Bedford County Historical Society trying to obtain more information on my fifth-great-grandfather, Peter Morgart, who I discovered previously was at the Battle of Yorktown during the Revolutionary War, only to learn he was an antagonist of the Whiskey Rebellion and a reason President George Washington went to Bedford County, Pennsylvania to settle things within our very young country.
Protests began immediately as the new tax was unfair to small producers. Where the larger distilleries paid a yearly tax at 6 cents per gallon, with even more tax breaks the more whiskey was produced, the smaller distillers paid 9 cents per gallon and had to pay with cash.
Initial protests were refusals to pay the tax, but then they began intimidating officials and violence broke out. For example, 11 September 1791 Robert Johnson from the excise office, went to collect the tax, he was surrounded by 11 men dressed as women where they stripped him naked, tar and feathered him, and stole his horse, leaving him alone in the forest. Mr. Johnson recognized 2 of the men and warrants were issued for their arrest. When John Connor went to take the arrest warrants to them, the same thing happened to him. They resigned after that.
In 1792 Washington tried to resolve things peacefully, but by 1794 actions began to get out of hand when a fire was set to the home of the regional tax collector, John Neville. President George Washington organized a militia and headed to western Pennsylvania. By the time he arrived the rebels had “dispursed” with 2 being found guilty of treason (they were both later pardoned by Washington).
My fifth-great-grandfather on my paternal grandmother’s side witnessed Cornwallis surrender his sword to George Washington at Yorktown. So that he was one of the many men refusing to pay the tax blew my mind. He paid his fine (to my relief) but it had me rather unsettled that my relative was one of the reasons my hero had to go to Bedford County.
I am not sure if Peter Morgart was a distiller himself but he did build the Morgart Tavern in the late 1700s. I’m sure being the owner of a tavern brought about it’s own sort of related payments to the whiskey tax.
The Tavern went on to be owned by my fourth-great-grandfather, Baltzer Morgart.
Back in late November during a Black Friday Sale I purchased my registration for all 3 days of classes at the Ohio Genealogical Society Conference that was taking place at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio.
But of course, like so many other events, it was cancelled so here I sit, with my children, working from home instead of driving to Sandusky for a few days of family history fun.
So I’ve been thinking about what I can do to still give myself a conference experience.
I happen to have a subscription to Family Tree Webinars so I am able to watch as many webinars I want. But throughout this past April they’ve had a free webinar each day, and the Webinar Wednesdays are normally available for a week after it first airs for everyone to watch for free so you can utilize it for one of the days as well.
Check Out Some Podcasts
Podcasts are something I need to listen to more often. There are a variety of podcasts out there for you to enjoy for free. Here are some I’ve listened to and enjoy:
Generations Café by Amy Johnson Crow – these are fun to listen to and they tend to be on the shorter side, which I sometimes like. I don’t always have 90 minutes to spare to listen to a to longer ones in their entirety and these are just right.
The Genealogy Guys – I met George Morgan and Drew Smith at least year’s OGS Conference (and they were to be a part of the Meet & Greet last evening as part of the Genealogy Squad). They have lots of great information on their podcast.
Genealogy Gems – Lisa Louise Cooke always has an informative podcast on her website that is always filled with a variety of topics.
Extreme Genes – it’s America’s family history show! Hosted by Scott Fisher and David Allen Lambert, this successful podcast has topics pertaining to all sorts of areas to help you on your genealogical journey.
These are just a few that I’ve listed. If you Google “genealogy podcasts” you will get about 30 links that you can click on to see if anything flips your trigger, plus there are a bunch of articles that give you the “20 best genealogy podcasts” as well. I just gave you ones I knew existed and had checked out that were off the top of my head.
Read Some Books
Read! And it doesn’t have to be just genealogy based books (I’m presently reading the How to Do Everything Genealogy Fourth Edition by George G. Morgan – yes, same as mentioned above from the Genealogy Guys. It’s 480 pages and I’m loving it as it just gives me common sense suggestions that I may have overlooked as I have never read an intro book before). You can read books that relate to your relatives.
For example, I recently finished a book by John Fitzgerald called Dirty Mines and it went job by job on what coal miners did, beginning in the breakers for the young kids who could have been starting between the ages of 8 and 10 years old, to being an independent contractor as an actual full-fledge coal miner (they had to pay their helpers with the money they earned for each cart of coal). It was extremely enlightening as I really didn’t know much about what positions there were as you moved up the ladder. It also went into detail about the creation of the United Mine Workers and the Molly Maguires court cases where several men were executed for no other reason other than they were framed because everyone was in cahoots with the other – government, coal companies, judges. Several of my ancestors were coal miners, so this book was exactly what I was looking for to educate me a little more about this industry.
You can also read about the towns your family lived in, books relating to the historical happenings at a specific time of your ancestor, be it on a city, state, or country level. Sometimes international happenings can effect our people, too.
The same can be said for Civil War diaries. It may not be the diary of your ancestor, but it would still have similar details of what may have been going on with your relative.
Hang Out in Genealogy Facebook Groups
Lastly, to give me that true conference feel, going and posting questions or helping others with their family history journey will be the icing on the cake. By visiting some of the many family history groups I belong too on Facebook I should be able to get that wonderful vibe that I got last year about just communicating with others who have a love of this wonderful hobby (well, maybe obsession is a better word). If you have a Facebook account but haven’t checked out any of the genealogy group offerings, you are really missing out. It is so much fun to read of others’ tales of triumph and woe (well, maybe not fun for this, but there are some stories that definitely bring a tear to your eye).
A person’s family history journey is so special and unique, and being able to share it with others is wonderful. Not to mention the people in these groups are outstanding, I honestly we feel overall we are the friendliest of all the hobbies as we are always willing to lend a helping hand.
I will power through this and I’m sure I will find ways to successfully pass the time while I research my family members. Yesterday happened to be the 235th birthday of my 4th-great-grandfather and I realized I’d found and saved his information but hadn’t put any of it into my software program. So we are going to delve into Baltzer Morgart. He was born in 1785 and I know he ran the Morgart Tavern in Everett, Pennsylvania. I was able to see the building last summer (sadly, we knocked but no one was home to see if I could have gone inside). He died at the age of 68 in December 1853.
From July 15-17 my husband and I traveled to Bedford County, Pennsylvania so I could research my family. It was such an honor to know I walked where they walked. It was a great trip that was full of adventure and I’ll be honest, spending one on one time with my husband was a nice treat.
As I recount my trip I just want to add that I suggested to my husband that maybe we should take my car as it would get better gas mileage. I’ll be honest with you, I have a 2013 Chrysler 200. I love my car (the first car I ever purchased was a 1993 Plymouth Sundance, and if my Sundance would have evolved, it would be in the realm of the Chrysler 200). Even my father thought we should take it for the same reason, better gas mileage. But believe me, my front-wheel-drive vehicle could never have conquered the hills of Cambria, Bedford, Huntingdon, Fulton and Somerset counties like my husband’s Ford F-150. As we headed from one cemetery to the next in Cambria county, we went up a hill so steep it was at a 15-degree incline (well, that hill we didn’t have to go up – hubby did it for fun). My car would never have survived either hill. I attempted to take a photo but my phone doesn’t do it justice.
First Stop: South Fork Cemetery
We left Ohio on Monday morning and traveled to Pennsylvania. It only took us about 3 hours and our first stop was South Fork Cemetery in South Fork, Cambria County. Here I found 2 out of 3 of my direct line relatives, and the grave of my Great-Aunt Vada. The person I couldn’t find was Susan Jane Foster Blair, my Great-Great-Grandmother. I was really bummed. I remember seeing her name as a teenager and you know how sometimes you have a relative that just pops out at you? That was Susan Jane Foster for me. We searched all around but were unable to locate her grave. South Fork was probably the largest cemetery we visited, but I am hoping to contact someone who could possibly have a map or layout of the cemetery, as it is one without an office, which explained the lack of information on the internet. (I’ll note here, none of the cemeteries we visited had an office).
Second Stop: Mount Hope Cemetery
Our next stop had us taking the above hills to arrive at Mount Hope Cemetery. This was a much smaller cemetery, and luckily because of websites like Find A Grave someone had already uploaded a photo of my Great-Grandmother’s gravestone so I had some idea what to look for shape-wise.
Below is the headstone belonging to Margaret Wise Custer, though I knew her as Gammy. She is the only one of the relatives I searched for on this day that I had met. I have vague memories of her playing the “mouth organ” in a nursing home. She passed away in 1987 at the age of 96. My Grandma, her daughter, lived to be 94. Good genes.
Third Stop: Hopewell Cemetery
When we looked up Hopewell Cemetery on Google Maps attempting to get something of an address for this location, it looked rather flat. We could see it had sections but never dreamed the slant that the cemetery was created on. It was the next largest cemetery we visited. I didn’t find my Great-Great-Grandparents that were buried here. Since I had no cell service I wasn’t able to consult Find A Grave to see if either of them were listed. Turns out that my Great-Great-Grandfather, Philip Wise did have a photo on the website, but his wife, Barbara Waite Wise, did not.
Hopewell is filled with old graves that are very worn. We tried to look all over in the older section of the cemetery, thinking that is where they may be (Philip passed in 1878 while Barbara passed in 1881).
I did find my Great-Great-Aunt Elizabeth Childers Whitfield’s grave in my search and took a photo of it (she was my Great-Grandmother Bertha Childers older sister). I figured it made the stop somewhat worth it. But looking at the photo – look at how angled the ground is! This was another spot I’m not sure my car could have survived.
Stop Four: Duvall’s Cemetery
Duvall’s Cemetery was built on land that belonged to my 5th-Great-Grandfather, Basil Foster. So this one had a little extra charm for me, I was going to walk on land that I knew belonged to my ancestors. I’m a geek and think that’s thrilling. I think everyone else thinks I’m nuts in these situations (you should see me at Yorktown and Mount Vernon knowing I’ve walked where George may have stepped, it gives me goosebumps).
But Duvall’s Cemetery is also where many of my direct line relatives are buried. I actually found out 2 days after this visit it held one more grave, that of Andrew Jackson Blair, my Great-Great-Grandfather, father of the aforementioned Andrew Jackson Blair, and husband of the aforementioned Susan Jane Foster (yes, as in Basil Foster). I actually looked for Susan here but was unsuccessful.
Here are my relatives buried in Duvall Cemetery: Andrew Jackson Blair (1851), Charles Jackson Morgart (my Great-Grandfather, first husband of Margaret Wise, aka Maggie Custer), Basil Foster, Richard Lewis Foster, Charity Johnstone Foster, Thomas Foster, Eliza Horton Foster – just to name a few. These are my direct line ancestors as on my first trip, I’d have to spend all day in each cemetery to find everyone.
I was unable to find Thomas Foster, my 3rd-Great-Grandfather, or his wife, Eliza Horton Foster, my 3rd-Great-Grandmother. There were many worn graves and some that had fallen apart off the screws where the tops were face down into the grass. It was so sad to see so many graves this way. These were someone’s people, and my husband told me straight off that no, he could not lift them alone. He knows me so well.
Stop Five: Wells Valley Methodist Cemetery
As we were driving, on our way to what ended up being our sixth stop, I saw a road and it turned out we were near Wells Valley Methodist Cemetery, where a majority of my Fesler and Childers family members are buried. I was not able to find everyone, but I did find 2 of the 5 that I was looking for – the first being my 3rd-Great-Grandfather, George Henry Fesler who fought in several smaller battles during the Civil War and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Oakman Fesler. My Great-Great-Grandmother, Sarah Jane Fesler Childers is reportedly buried there as well, but I was unable to find her. The area where the Fesler’s is an older portion of the cemetery in the back corner under a huge tree. Where George’s has been maintained – his wife and children’s are very worn.
Others we were unable to find were my 3rd-Great-Grandparents, Abraham Childers and his wife, Mary Ann Green. This was another spot where Find A Grave would have been helpful as it has one of theirs listed, but again, no service (I’ll know to save the photos ahead of time for future visits).
Stop Six: Mount Zion Lutheran Church Cemetery (aka Rays Hill Cemetery)
When we pulled alongside the road to Mount Zion Lutheran Church and Cemetery, the parking lot was blocked off with metal gates. As we sat in the car we saw huge gravestones saying “Ritchey” which was one of the names I was looking for. We searched for a while and then it hit me – I’d seen the headstones on Find a Grave and began looking for white. Here, if we had just started in the front (translated, not far from where we parked) my Great-Great-Grandparents were in the front row, and my 3rd Great-Grandparents were in the row directly behind them.
Stop Seven: It’s Not a Cemetery, it’s a Tavern
So as we drove along the Lincoln Highway I hoped we would drive by the Morgart Tavern, which was started by my 5th-Great-Grandfather, Peter Morgart, and then run by my 4th-Great-Grandfather, Baltzer Morgart. The building was constructed in the 1760’s and the walls are to be 2-feet deep. I was so excited when we found it. We knocked on the door before taking photos but no one was home. It’s when you find the places and even buildings where they lived that tickles me the most, a feeling of they were here.
Stop Eight: Providence Union Church Cemetery
This was our favorite cemetery, primarily because when we arrived we parked the truck, opened the door and there was my 5th-Great-Grandfather’s resting place front and center. He and his wife were our easiest finds of the day. We probably spent 5 minutes here. Captain Solomon Sparks fought in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. His daughter, Mary Sparks, was married to the before-mentioned Baltzer Morgart.
Stop Nine: The Morgart/Morgret Family Cemetery
This was a fun one as it’s literally in the middle of someone’s backyard. I don’t think the family is a Morgart, I would like to think they would have asked more questions about my being related to them (or not, being an uber-introvert my husband knocked on the door and asked if it was okay to go look at the cemetery, they were very nice and told us we could even pull up in the driveway next to the pole barn. I also want to add that seeing as it was mowed to the same height as the rest of the yard, this family took excellent care of the cemetery, you could easily read things, the gravestones we were weed-whacked, just really impressed).
So here I had many relatives buried, my 5th-Great-Grandfather, Peter Morgart, and his wife, Christiana Hess (my 5th-Great-Grandmother), my 4th-Great-Grandfather, Baltzer Morgart and his wife (and my 4th-Great-Grandmother), Mary Sparks, and lastly my 3rd-Great-Grandparents, Andrew Jackson Morgart and his wife, Rebecca O’Neal.
Last Stop: Dudley Methodist Cemetery
Our last stop was to find my Great-Great-Grandparents, Jonas and Anna Maria Leighty Wise. I was so excited to find them as 2 days later I was able to take a photo of a picture that my second cousin Hope had of them that was left after a Wise Family Reunion back in the 1990s. My Grandma Blair (her married last name) also talked so fondly of her “Granny Wise” that finding their graves had a lot of importance. But my husband and I must have looked at every single tombstone in the cemetery and we were unable to find them. I was so disappointed. I had no cell service so I was unable to look them up (it would have done me no good, there are no photos on Find A Grave). They were the parents of my Great-Grandmother, Margaret Wise.
Since returning home I did email the Dudley United Methodist Church on a hope they had a layout of the cemetery but I’ve not heard back from them. I could kick myself as it didn’t occur to me when I was there, but my husband found 9 graves of Wise’s but I didn’t recognize the names. Only later did it register that my Great-Great-Grandmother had a total of 15 children, but only 5 survived. Nine graves he found – I wonder if they are 9 of the 10 she lost.
Wrapping It Up
Since this post is ever-so-long I’ll stop here and do another post for the next 2 days. Cemetery hopping is fun. It gave me an opportunity to be near my ancestors. Without them, I wouldn’t be here. It’s just so fascinating to learn their names and to do my best to learn about them and who they were. Just trying my best for them not to be forgotten.