Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day 2014

A post on what Memorial Day is for, besides barbecues.

The above image comes from a past version of the Memorial Day page at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, explaining that Memorial Day is a day for remembering those who died in the service of their country.  [Read the full text of the poem.]
Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates U.S. men and women who died while in the military service. First enacted to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War (it is celebrated near the day of reunification after the civil war), it was expanded after World War I to include American casualties of any war or military action. [source]
[More on the history of Memorial Day]

Unnamed Remains the Bravest Soldier - by Walt Whitman (From 'Specimen Days')

OF scenes like these, I say, who writes—whoe’er can write the story? Of many a score—aye, thousands, north and south, of unwrit heroes, unknown heroisms, incredible, impromptu, first-class desperations—who tells? No history ever—no poem sings, no music sounds, those bravest men of all—those deeds. No formal general’s report, nor book in the library, nor column in the paper, embalms the bravest, north or south, east or west. Unnamed, unknown, remain, and still remain, the bravest soldiers. Our manliest—our boys—our hardy darlings; no picture gives them. Likely, the typic one of them (standing, no doubt, for hundreds, thousands,) crawls aside to some bush-clump, or ferny tuft, on receiving his death-shot—there sheltering a little while, soaking roots, grass and soil, with red blood—the battle advances, retreats, flits from the scene, sweeps by—and there, haply with pain and suffering (yet less, far less, than is supposed,) the last lethargy winds like a serpent round him—the eyes glaze in death—none recks—perhaps the burial-squads, in truce, a week afterwards, search not the secluded spot—and there, at last, the Bravest Soldier crumbles in mother earth, unburied and unknown.

The cartoon above is by John T. McCutcheon - published circa 1900

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Caution is needed with obituaries

Obituaries can be great resources for filling in both recent and past generations of branches of your family tree, but one has to be very careful about the assumptions one makes when reading them.

[All names below have been altered.]

I read the below obituary of a distant cousin

SCHWINN, ROBIN (nee Goldstein) … dear mother of Penny Ann (Edward) Molloy, Ethan J. (Marcia) Johnson and the late Alice First; dear grandmother of Lana (Louis) Spalding, George W., Jack C., Rachel A. Johnson and Melissa Steinway; dear great grandmother of Matthew and Michael Spalding...

From this obituary I entered three children for Robin Goldstein and __ Schwinn
  • Penny Ann Schwinn – (married Edward Molloy)
  • Marcia Schwinn – (married Ethan J. Johnson) (daughter Rachel)
  • Alice Schwinn – (married ___ First)
I was unable to assign the other grandchildren to their parents without further information. I suspect there are a number of genealogists who would fill in the blanks as I did, carefully noting where they got the information, naturally.

Then I found Alice Schwinn’s obit

...Mrs. Schwinn…She is survived by her father, Ethan Johnson; mother, Robin Schwinn; sister, Penny Molloy; brother, John Johnson; grandmother, Opal Johnson; and close friend, Patricia Marie.

I knew something was wrong somewhere. There was no way Alice's father was her sister’s husband. And here was a brother not mentioned in the first obituary.

After a little thought I redrew the tree.

Robin Goldstein (Spouse 1: Ethan John Johnson) (Spouse 2: ___ Schwinn)
  • Penny Ann ___ (married Edward Molloy)
  • Ethan John Johnson, Jr. (married Marcia ___) (daughter Rachel)
  • Alice Johnson (married ___ First)
This information fits both obituaries, but contains some new assumptions. In order to confirm these, I could make a trip to the library and look up some marriage records in the microfilm. Or I could try to contact the cousins.

It is common for individuals to be better known by their middle name than their first, especially when they share a name with a parent. It is also common for half-siblings and step parents to be referenced without the modifiers. This leads to ambiguity that sometimes doesn't appear ambiguous.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Amanuensis Monday: Reasons for taking up arms

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, newspaper articles, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them.

I began this project back on February 16, 2009.  (Recently the posts have been sporadic, but for a few years it was weekly.) Since I began, many others have joined in on the meme. I am thrilled that this meme I started has inspired so many to transcribe and share their family history documents. Why do we transcribe? I provide my three reasons in the linked post. You may find others.


I've written in the past that in the role of Family Historian "I’m careful not to infer what someone’s thoughts or beliefs were, unless they were written down. I record the facts as they are known." While the reasons that the southern states seceded in the Civil War are well recorded with each state's Declaration of Secession, the reasons individuals chose to take up arms are not. The reasons individuals join the armed services today differ greatly, and I imagine the reasons differed 150 years ago, as well. So I refuse to sit in judgment of the decisions of my ancestors without knowing their reasons.

Two years ago, I discovered some records at Fold3 concerning my wife's 3rd great grandfather, Lewis C Gober. It appeared that he spent some time in the St. Louis Gratiot Street Prison as a prisoner of war after voluntarily giving himself up. The records indicated he surrendered himself on Aug 28, 1863, was charged with violating his oath of allegiance, was tried by court martial, and was released on Feb 29, 1864. There was no other information, so I had no clue why he violated his oath and joined the Confederate army. I also had no clue why he decided to surrender himself.

In the past 2 years, Fold3's Civil War records have grown. I conducted a search recently, and found some more relevant records. I found the actual signed Oath of Allegiance, dated December 23, 1862, as well as the official declaration of charges against him, and his signed statement explaining his actions.

A transcription of his statement follows:

Statement of Lewis C. Gober

I am 33 years old reside in Cape Girardeau County and by occupation a Blacksmith. I took the oath of allegiance the 23th December 1862 at Jackson Mo. The oath was administered to me by Adjutant Greene.

I joined Co. A Jeffers Reg’t C.S.A. in May ’63 for the war and deserted on the 18th of August following. I knew I was violating the oath of allegiance but was under the influence of whiskey at the time I enlisted.

Subscribed and sworn to before me this 15th day [?]‘63
L Dodge
District Adj’t Marshall

This is a reason for taking up arms I hadn't previously considered, and is a good example of why one shouldn't make any assumptions about an ancestor's thought processes without seeing an explanation in their own words.

[Note: This statement is clearly in the handwriting of the District Adj't Marshall, and was likely transcribed from oral testimony. Lewis Gober's signature indicates he did at least know how to sign his name.]

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Surname Saturday: Hartley

Discuss a surname and mention its origins, its geographical location(s) and how it fits into your genealogy research.


Hartley is a locational surname derived from the Old English 'Heort' (Hart) and 'Leah' (Wood or clearing). George W. Hartley is my 3rd great grandfather. His descendants testified in front of The Dawes Commission that he and his wife were part Native American. Most of their descendants remained in Texas.


The numbering below follows the d'Aboville system. The first digit represents the order surnames make their first appearance on my ahnentafel. (I've emboldened the names of  my direct ancestors.)

16. George W. Hartley ( - 1835) married Eliza Beasley

16.1 Samuel Tillman Hartley (1830-1920) married (a) Margaret Rawls (1848-?) (b)
Nancy Virginia Rock (1853-1932)
16.2 Sarah Ann Hartley (1836-1898) married (a) Ebenezer Ophan Denyer (1828-1872) (b) George Willliam Foster
16.3 William Hartley (1844-)

16.1a.1 Caroline (Callie) Texanna Hartley (1866 – 1941) married Jesse Taylor
16.1a.2 Georgia Amelia Hartley (1870 – 1940) married Miles Phillips
16.1a.3 Robert Hilliard Hartley (1872 – ) married Margaret LNU
16.1a.4 Virginia Hartley (1874 – ) married Henry Schultz (1870-)
16.1a.5 Helena Senthliza Hartley (1875 –)
16.1a.6 Sophronia Hartley (1876 –) married James Cagle (1864- )
16.1a.7 Amie Hartley (1881 – )
16.1a.8 Samuel Hamler Hartley (1885 – 1964)
16.1b.1 Edna Hartley (1891-1973) married Manuel Taylor McCorkle (1887-1933)

16.2a Follow their descent at 8.2.3 
16.2b.1 Eliza Caroline Foster (1875-1916) married William T Reeves (1871-)
16.2b.2 George William Foster (1877-1957)
16.2b.3 Sarah Ann Foster (1878-1961) married William McCarty (1865-1953)

16.1a.3.1 Bessie Leanner Hartley (1896-)
16.1a.3.2 Youler May Hartley (1898- )
16.1a.3.3. Mantie Hartley (1901 - )
16.1a.4.1 Birdie Schultz (1890- )
16.1a.4.2 Callie Schultz (1891- )
16.1a.4.3 Julia Schultz (1897- )
16.1a.4.4 Richard Schultz (1899- )
16.1a.6.1 Hazel Cagle (1894- )
16.1a.6.2 Dessie Cagle (1898- )
16.1a.6.3 Flossie Cagle (1905- )
16.1a.6.4 Edna Cagle (1907- )
16.1a.6.5 Ruby Cagle (1911- )
16.1a.6.6 Otis Cagle (1915- )
16.1b.1.1 Clarence Taylor McCorkle (1923-1988)
16.1b.1.2 Grady McCorkle (1925-1990)

16.2b.1.1 Nora Alice Reeves (1893-1985)
16.2b.1.2 Ada Bell Reeves (1895-1948) married Riley Green Vann (1890-1949)
16.2b.1.3 James Allen Reeves (1897-)
16.2b.1.4 Lona Mae Reeves (1906-) married Galveston Clark Pittman
16.2b.3.1 Lillie May McCarty
16.2b.3.2 Ollie McCarty (1898-1973) married Oda LNU
16.2b.3.3 William Franklin McCarty (1900-1971) married Ola Dee McWhorter (1902-1980)
16.2b.3.4 Elizabeth Ann McCarty (1904-1996) married Oscar Marian McWhorter (1895-1981)

16.2b.3.2.1 Ruben McCarty (1918-1997)
16.2b.3.3.1 Pearl Louise McCarty (1926-2007)
16.2b.3.3.2 Joy Lynn McCarty (1942-1971)

My number is 16.2a.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

May Day! May Day!

Holidays on May 1st

  • Loyalty Day - a holiday created in America in the 1950s to 'counter-balance' International Worker's Day.
  • MayDay - "An initiative to protect cultural heritage from disasters." 

Note: the distress call "Mayday!" actually derives from the French words venez m'aider - meaning "come help me."