Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Part I: Pomerania - An Introduction

In February 1945, as World War II was drawing to a close, the leaders of the Allied “Big Three” — Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill — met in Yalta to discuss, among many things, the realignment of borders after the war. Of the four proposals given for the partitioning of Germany, three of them would have kept the province of Pomerania as part of a partitioned Germany. The fourth proposal, pushed by Stalin and eventually agreed upon, did not. It is in the province of Pomerania where my German roots lie.

Pomerania's northern border is the Baltic Sea. To its west lies the province of Mecklenburg, to the south Brandenburg and to the East, Poland. The part of Pomerania that lies west of the Oder River is known as Vorpommern, while the land to the east is called Hinterpommern.

In 1939, at the beginning of World War II, Pomerania was comprised of 32 counties. In German, a county is called a Kreis. The Kreis Stolp was one of the northern most counties, and the second farthest eastern county, and it was this county where my great grandparents, Leo Schröder and Emma Gleffe Schröder, were born.

Their families lived in the southernmost area of the county, very close to the Rummelsburg and Butow counties of Pomerania. Stolp was one of the least populated of the counties and it was dotted with many small villages whose names I now recognize. Names such as Budow, Gross Gansen, Klein Gansen, Wundichow, Gaffert, Muttrin, Klein Nossin, and Nippoglense have become like familiar friends.

Budow, for example, was the village in which my great grandparents were living when their oldest son Wilhelm, or Willi, was born. The village is mentioned in a document dated 1340 but it is thought to be older than that. Slavs settled first in the area and later Germans moved in and coexisted peacefully with their Slavic neighbors.

According to one legend, the village was moved after a particularly devastating plague killed many of the villagers. They shoveled under the old village and rebuilt it in another location not far away.

While the village was once a part of the Holy Roman Empire, and as such a Catholic village, a local priest by the name of John Stojentin began to follow the doctrine of Martin Luther, and the villagers became Lutherans by default. This did not set well with their Polish neighbors and once, in the early part of the 16th century, Polish raiders came and burnt the village along with the church as the people who had been worshiping watched in horror.

The word of the burning of the church spread, and donations from all across the Pommern came, enabling a wonderful new church to be built. During the Thirty Years War, once again, the church went up in flames and once again, it was rebuilt. The church burned a third time in September 1815 when a house next to the church caught fire and the straw roof of the house blew onto the wooden roof of the church. The church that was rebuilt this time was the same church in which my great grandparents had their sons Willi and Max baptized in 1903 and 1905, respectively.

In Gross Gansen, where my great-great-grandfather Gleffe lived, the population numbered 362 in 1905. It was this village that Emma and Leo listed as their home on the ship's manifest in March of 1906.

The county Stolp, had as its largest city, a city also named Stolp with slightly more than 31,000 people in 1905. A letter from Stolp arrived in Clyde, Ohio in 1908. The language spoken in Pomerania was Plattdüütsch or Low German, which is still spoken in parts of Northern Germany and it is a separate language from High German, the official German language. An Internet friend from Germany, Jörg Gliewe, translated the letter into High German for me, so that I could get an approximate translation from my online translator.

The letter is from Emma's brother Paul and his wife, Bertha. Karl who is also referred to in the letter was Emma's youngest brother, who was 10 years older then his nephew Willi.

Below is an approximate translation of the letter:

Dear brother and sister

We have gotten your letter and the picture. We have always asked if you still think of us. Karl has always talked about Willi. He says he remembers quite well how he and Willi drove to Gross Gansen in the wagon. He was very pleased about the picture. We will also send one. We now have 3 (2 boys and a girl) The smallest boy is 1.5 years old.

Dear Sister, write us whether you still want to come back. Or don't you? Or do you think you do (in America) better than in Germany?

I like it in Stolp and it is also quite good. I deserve also very beautiful. I am here also in the Steinsetzern. I will make 4 Mark each day. I still learn and I only receive about 6 Mark each day. Then I will be ready.

Write us, whether the work is also very difficult and how long you have to work. We work here 10 hours from 6 to 6. Tell us whether you also live in the city or in the countryside. And if you live in the country, do you have cows and pigs and chickens -- Just like here, too? Do you have grain and potatoes? And is it also expensive as here? Or is it cheaper? Write us again exactly how it for you. What else I do not know to write. Now you as well and send us back soon.

Karl says to say hi to Willi. He says: Willi should come back again. Now you write to us soon.
Best Greeting

Paul and Bertha

An address directory in 1938 confirms that Paul and Bertha were still living in the city of Stolp at that time. As far as we know, because the letters stopped coming from Germany at the start of World War II, all the remaining family were living in either the city of Stolp or in the villages of Stolp as the Russian Army approached from the East in early March 1945.

Tomorrow I will continue this series with a look at end of the war and its aftermath.

Until Next Time - Happy Ancestral Digging!

Note: At you will find these maps of interest.
Pomerania – Mid 19th Century
The German Empire – 1871 – 1918
Pomerania – 1938

At this website, you can see the villages and towns of Stolp. Most of the villages mentioned can be founded at the southern most tip of the map.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I am a German girl

For many years, I avoided doing research on my German ancestors. As a child I had read such books as, “Diary of Anne Frank,” “Escape from Warsaw,” “Snow Treasure,” and “Mila 18.” I remember watching World War II movies as I drowsily fell asleep in the back of our old Chevrolet station wagon at the local drive-in. The lesson from all these books and movies was clear — Germans bad, everybody else good.

I consoled myself with the thought that most of my German ancestors had made it to American shores by the end of the 18th century, so I hoped that whatever character flaw allowed the evil of Treblinka, Dachau and Buchenwald to occur, had not yet entered the German gene pool.

But one set of great-grandparents did not make the American voyage until the beginning of the 20th century. They left behind, in the old country, a large family of siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces. Many of their family, my family, were still alive when the Nazis came to power.

With as much trepidation as a child opening an old cellar door, I have opened my own door to my German past. It is an ongoing project, whose treasures are not easily found. Tomorrow, inspired by the Carnival of Genealogy's next edition, “A Place Called Home,” I will share with the information about my own German homeland

Until Next Time ...

Note this post first published online, April , 2008, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Thursday, April 24, 2008

My earliest, scariest television moment — a Sunday in November

Cheryl of “Nordic Blue” has started an intriguing meme that asks the question, “What was your earliest, scariest TV moment?” For Cheryl, who like me is a member of the Baby Boom Generation — the first generation to grow up with television — her answer was the very first episode of “The Outer Limits.”

I've been sitting here pondering what my own answer to the question would be. I have a hunch if I could remember back that far, my answer would be seeing Clarabell the Clown, on “The Howdy Doody Show.” I've never liked clowns and to this day just seeing a picture of Clarabell makes my stomach hurt. But I was too young, and the actual memory has long since dissipated.

I know for years that the annual showing of “The Wizard of Oz” would necessitate my hiding behind the couch when the Wicked Witch of the West appeared calling Dorothy “my pretty.” Really, I hated that show — even though I watched it year after year. The sight of those beautiful ruby red slippers kept me coming back.

But if I were to nominate the scariest moment of all, it would have to be what I witnessed on TV at the age of 10. To this day, I don't know if I witnessed the actual event as it happened, or if I just saw one of the many replays that flooded the television later. All I can say for sure is that when I saw it that very first time, I didn't realize what was actually happening until it was over. At 10, before I had become hardened to the violence that the magic living room box could bring nightly into our home, I was inconsolably horrified.

As I watched unsuspectingly, the Dallas police brought Lee Harvey Oswald, arrested for the assassination of President Kennedy, out through the basement door of the police station. Jack Ruby, a local nightclub owner, stepped up and shot Oswald in the abdomen, on television, in front of a shocked nation.

Those three days in November, almost 45 years ago, with the shooting of an American President, and the subsequent shooting of his accused killer two days later, shook the very core of my emotional being. It stripped from me that gentle cloak of childhood innocence, and I remember quite clearly thinking if no one could keep a President from being shot and a group of policemen could not keep his killer from being shot, then how safe could anyone, like, say, my father be?

Before those three days, I did not run out into traffic, not because I really thought a car would hit me, but because I knew if my parents found out there would be lectures and some sort of punishment. I didn't accept candy from strangers, not because I feared poison or some pedophilic lure, but because again, I knew my mother would know and again there would be a lecture and punishment.

The world became a darker place for me after those three days in November, and I adjusted my life and my thinking accordingly. Did this in some fundamental way change the person I became? I don't know — maybe, probably. But the sight of a real living, breathing man being shot on television certainly was my earliest, scariest TV moment.

So, what was it for you? What was your earliest, scariest TV moment?

Note this post first published online, April 24, 2008, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pension File Stories: The Mystery of the Missing Bible

Last month, in my first installment of pension file stories, I introduced you to my great great grandparents, Louisa Ish Smathers and Henry Smathers. Their story was a sobering account of life in the aftermath of war. But not all information found in a soldier's pension file requires such somber thought. Sometimes you come across a piece of family history that will cause a smile. Take the case of the missing family Bible.

Henry had several brothers who served with Union forces. Two of those brothers, Reuben and Franklin, served, like Henry, in Company E 53rd Infantry Regiment Ohio.

Henry enlisted November 21, 1861, followed by Reuben on January 6, 1862, with Franklin enlisting on February 29, 1864. According to their military records, the brothers were 23, 20, and 18, respectively, on their dates of enlistment.

Congress passed one of several pension acts in 1907, specifically the Act of February 6, 1907, setting the monthly pension payments for veterans of both the Civil War and the Mexican-American War based on the age of the veteran. At age 62, provided the veteran met the other requirements of this act, he would be entitled to $12 a month, while at 70 the amount increased to $15 and at age 75, the amount topped out at $20 a month.

On April 1, 1909, Reuben applied for an increase in monthly pension, claiming that he had turned 70 earlier that year in February. One problem — he had stated his age at enlistment as 20 years old in January of 1862. A February birthday would mean that he would have been born in 1841 and therefore was only 68 years old in 1909. According to the pension papers, Reuben's testimony was:

He was born in (the) Month of February in year 1839, and the way I fix the date of my birth is that I voted my first time for Abraham Lincoln for President of the United States in the fall of 1860.

There was a family record of my birth but it has long since been lost, and I know of no public record of my birth.

Was baptized when quite a small child but am not able to give a record of it as it has been so long ago.

It seems that the Officers made a mistake in my age when I enlisted in the Army and I thought it not necessary to ever have it corrected, and can only make affidavit that I am positive I am over 70 years of age.
The pension board was not content with Reuben's testimony and on April 27, 1909, his brother, Lawson Smathers appeared in neighboring Athens County and testified to Reuben's age. The following statement is found in Reuben's pension file derived from Lawson's (whom the record listed as Losen Smathers) statement.

He is a Brother of the above named Reuben Smathers, of Co. E. 53rd, Ohio Volunteers Infantry. And that he is the youngest of the Smathers Family and that the family record was left in his care and that his children got hold of it through some means and destroyed the records. And that his brother Reuben Smathers was born in the month of February 1839 in Clarion County, Penn.

In truth, Reuben probably was not certain himself of his actual age. In the 1850 census, his age is listed as 10. The 1860 census has him as 21. The 1870 census finds him at 28. In the 1880 census, he is listed at 39. The 1900 census shows him at 54 and in his final appearance in a census, he is listed as 71 in 1910. It's interesting to see that he aged 16 years in the 10 years between 1900 and 1910.

Franklin Smathers, the younger brother, also makes a statement about the family Bible in his application dated October 30, 1915. He states that there is no public or family record that proves his date of birth, which Franklin states was January 20, 1846.

Affiant further alleges that his brother, Lawson at one time put a sum of money in the family Bible and during the night season the house was burglarized and the said family Bible together with the money was taken and never recovered.
Same brother, same record, different story. Maybe family Bibles were hot commodities for thieves at the turn of the century, but my hunch is that if the Bible had indeed ever existed, the first version of the missing Bible would probably have been closer to the truth.

Though my goal in poring over page after page of pension file papers is that of finding some vital statistic to add to the family tree, these well-mined anecdotal nuggets are the true reward. They fuel the imagination and add to the “color” of my family portrait. For each unexpected find, I am always delighted and grateful.

Until Next Time - Happy Ancestral Digging!

1. Reuben Smathers (Pvt., Co. E, 53rd Ohio Inf., Civil War) pension no. 414111, certificate no. 509149, Case Files of Approved Pension Applications, 1863-1934, Civil War and Later pension files, Dept of Veteran Affairs National Archives, Washington D.C.
2. Franklin Smathers (Pvt., Co. E, 53rd Ohio Inf., Civil War) pension no. 896663, certificate no. 676404, Case Files of Approved Pension Applications, 1864-1934; Civil War and Later pension Files; Dept of Veteran Affairs National Archives, Washington, D.C.
3. 1850 US Federal Census, State of Pennsylvania, Clarion County, Madison Township, v 1319, Head of Household, Jacob Smathers, online digital image,
4. 1860 US Federal Census, State of Ohio, Vinton County, Clinton Township, v 498, Head of Household, Jacob Smathers, online digital image,
5. 1870 US Federal Census, State of Ohio, Jackson County, Milton Township, v 238, Head of Household, Reuben Smathers, online digital image,
6. 1880 US Federal Census, State of Ohio, Jackson County, Milton Township, v 284, Head of Household, Reuben Smathers, online digital image,
7. 1900 US Federal Census, State of Ohio, Jackson County, Madison Township, v 90, Head of Household, Reuben, Smathers, online digital image,
8. 1910 US Federal Census, State of Ohio, Jackson County, Madison Township, v113, Head of Household, Ruben (sic) Smathers, online digital image,

Note this post first published online, April 22, 2008, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Monday, April 21, 2008

Genealogy Quick Notes — The COG has arrived and Desktop Genealogist Archives

Carnival of Genealogy

The Carnival of Genealogy has arrived. The focus of this edition is inherited family traits. To check out the interesting variety of traits each of the genea-bloggers highlighted, go to The subject for the next edition is A Place Called Home.


If you read this blog on any kind of a regular basis, you've probably picked up on the fact that one of my frustrations is that there ARE NO ARCHIVES, so to speak. So rather than continuing my sniffling whine on the subject, I slapped myself on both cheeks and said to myself, “SELF, DO SOMETHING!” So I did.

I've set up a separate blog site specifically for archives of “Desktop Genealogist.” It's called “Desktop Genealogist Unplugged.” (I know, but I only told myself to do something. I forgot to order myself to be creative & original.) For now, it's strictly for archives and my plan is to update the site the first of every month with the previous month's posts.

The advantage of having archives is I can refer back to previous posts when necessary. I have some posts in mind in the next few weeks that may take advantage of this new capability. I didn't want anyone who clicked on a link to the archives to get excited, realize that they weren't in Kansas anymore (read The News-Messenger Web site), and think that their computer had been taken over by aliens, a malicious virus, or candid camera.

I haven't finished labeling the posts, and inexplicably I am missing seven of the darn things, so I am going back to figure out which posts I missed. This blog remains my main mode of communication, and therefore, I won't be posting anything new on the archived site. If that situation should change, I will let you know.

I have not corrected or rewritten any of the original posts. I figured if I started doing that I would be spending all my time working on old material, instead of researching and/or posting new stuff. I do confess, that I did change one word in one post, mainly because I think I made the word up out of thin air. And no, I'm not telling which word or which post!

The web address for the archive is

Until Next Time — Happy Ancestral Digging!

Note: If you aren't reading Desktop Genealogist Forums you should be! Sandi posted that the following website has FREE access to Civil War databases until April 30!
The web address is Way Cool, Sandi! Thanks for keeping us updated!

Note this post first published online, April 21 , 2008, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Genealogy Quick Notes - Veterans of Different Wars

I didn't intend this week's “Genealogy Quick Notes” to be strictly about veterans, but a Where Were You Carnival, a comment, and a well-written blog post by another author have conspired to make it the topic of the week.

Where Were You Carnival

GenLady has posted this month's “Where Were You” Carnival at The subject of the posts is “Where Were You (or in this case, your ancestors) during the Civil War.” Seven authors responded to the challenge. Next month's subject — Pearl Harbor.

The Wall

Dawn left a comment on the forum section of Desktop Genealogist that has placed what they are calling an “Interactive Vietnam War Veterans Memorial” You can search for specific names that appear on the wall, leave stories or perhaps a tribute. Footnote has made this part of their database free. Nice job Footnote! And nice job Dawn!

And Finally, a Touching Post

I love this post written by Lee Drew at “FamHist Blog.” In “I Met a Veteran Today” he writes — well, any description I give won't do it justice so you'll just have to go read it for yourself! You can read it here:sUntil Next Time - Happy Ancestral Digging!

Note this post first published online, April 16, 2008, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

My Toxic Effect

I toss my laptop over to my husband to read my “This Little Piggy” post to get his reaction. I watch as he reads it and see him smirk approvingly several times.

“Is it okay?” I ask.


“You think it's funny, right?”

“Yup,” he says as he walks out of our living room into the kitchen.

“You don't think it's too weird, um, talking about my feet do you?”

Silence. Dead silence. I get up, run out to the kitchen, and catch him deep in thought.

Finally, “Well, I think it's funny, but then I've been living with your sense of humor for a while.”

Holy cow, my humor is so warped that I've killed my favorite love's sense of what is and isn't funny. Be afraid, dear reader, be very afraid.

Note this post first published online, April 15, 2008, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Monday, April 14, 2008

This Little Piggy

Okay, anybody who has just eaten or is about to eat, back away from your computer right now. Don’t look left. Don’t look right. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.

Now for those less squeamish, let’s talk toes. Yep, those ugly little piggies belong to yours truly. Normally, I try to shield you, dear reader, from the uglier aspects of my life. You can place the blame for this squarely on the shoulders of Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist or Jasia over at Creative Gene , or for that matter, the blame can be placed on my dad whose toes I've inherited.

Lisa suggested the topic for this edition of the Carnival of Genealogy. “What traits run in your family? Which of them did you inherit? “And Jasia was all like, well sure, that sounds good.

So let’s just take a little peek at my toes. (Haven’t been able to take your eyes off them, have you?) If you look closely, you can see that the second toe is longer than the big toe. My father’s toes have the same arrangement. When I was little, he said a longer second toe was a sign of intelligence. I believed him. In fact, in times when I have doubted all of my abilities, I’ve clung to the thought that at least I had the intelligence thing going for me. After all, I had that longer second toe to prove it.

Turns out Dad fibbed. While this is one of the myths surrounding a lanky second toe, the toe itself is actually a deformity. That’s right I have a DEFORMED TOE. It even has a name, Morton’s Toe. There’s also a website,, which talks about the definition of Morton’s Toe, what problems it causes, and the treatment of said toe. I was happy to know that there are no sharp objects like surgical knives involved in treatment.

The website suggests that those suffering from the affliction wear “footwear with a high and wide toe box” and notes that often, wearing a shoe a half size larger will “accommodate the longer second toe.” Hah! No wonder my shoe size was always bigger than my friends. It also explains why I preferred cutting my bare feet on sharp stones to putting on shoes as a child.

Without the Carnival of Genealogy, I would never have explored this aspect of my being. I now know that I am deformed and probably as dumb as a box of rocks. Thanks COG, thanks a lot.

Until Next Time …

Note this post first published online, April 14, 2008, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Happy Birthday, Little Sis!

Today is my little sis’s birthday. The story goes that shortly after they brought her home from the hospital; I came perilously close to sticking my fingers in her eyes. I am told that I had a rather evil look on my face and my parents could read the complete disdain that was registering in my two-year-old brain without any need for words. For the record, my fingers never connected with anything more than air.

My hunch is that my parents or someone else had probably fed me the line about having a wonderful new playmate. Let me tell you, that mewling, mother-stealing creature wasn’t my idea of a perfect playmate and all the “oh, look at the cute baby” comments in the world wouldn’t change my mind.

However, the creature did turn into a sweet tempered baby, much more of a laid-back person than yours truly, and she became my very first BFF. It helped that her laid-back nature let me boss her around in the way only a big sister can, and whether it was paper dolls, Barbies or the game, “Colored eggs”, I usually set the agenda for our play.

As our world expanded to include other children, my little sister often took a back seat to my own budding socialization skills. Often, my mother would make me take little sis with me when I went to a friend’s house to play. Very often, the friend would be our neighbor, Debbie.

Debbie was a whole year older than I and she went to Catholic school. Now there is a definite pecking order to childhood play and being older and therefore more experienced gave Deb the natural advantage, especially when we played school, and especially when we played school in her basement.

Those nuns must have been tough at Deb’s school, because she was a tough teacher with her make believe students, little sis and I. In fact, on one occasion she gave my sister a big fat “F” on one of her papers. I’m not sure if my sister knew exactly what an F was, but she knew it was bad. Proving that she was not nearly as laid-back as she appeared, she took immediate umbrage and marched her little feet all the way up Deb’s basement steps.

We probably had a look of “what’s her problem” written all over our faces, but her problem became our problem when my sister ran smack dab into Deb’s father, George. I don’t know how the conversation went, but a few minutes later both Deb and I were called on the carpet and instructed that we were never, and he meant NEVER allowed to give my sister an “F” again. George had taken a shine to my little sister, and he would check in and make sure we were following his instructions – you might say, to the letter.

My sister learned how to read when I did. I would come home and teach her the words that I had learned that day. She was like a sponge, soaking up every new word I threw at her. I would shuffle flash cards at her, and she would always get them right, without any hesitation. I knew when she sounded out the word ‘vegetable” in one of the “Flicka, Ricka and Dicka” books that I was enamored with that summer that the pupil had out mastered the teacher. She was only four.

When we moved out of our old neighborhood, we were sad that we left behind all of our old friends. But that sadness was tempered with the knowledge that each of us still had our oldest playmate, we still had each other.

My sister and I have very different personalities. She is pragmatic, while I’m often in the clouds. She loves to be out with people, while I yearn for time to myself. She is the conservative and I am the liberal. Yet for all of our differences we have an unbreakable bond. She is the keeper of my childhood memories, and I the keeper of hers. We have a history of shared secrets and the knowledge of shared dreams. She is my sister, my very first best friend, and the one who has known me longest. I love her dearly.

Today is her birthday. Happy birthday little sis – I hope all your wishes come true.

Your bossy big sister

Note: Originally Published on News-Messenger Website, April 9, 2008

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Where Were You - An Overview of My Family and the Civil War

Five of my ancestors wore Yankee blue during the Civil War. Four served with Ohio regiments and one with a Pennsylvania unit. Two served at the war's end doing garrison duty and never saw battle. Another was discharged in 1863 for a wound to his left hip received at the battle of Fredericksburg. One died in Kentucky from pneumonia, and the last had his leg amputated above the knee after being wounded on the skirmish line in Georgia. They were all privates.

If you expand the list to include the siblings of my ancestors, an additional 11, maybe more, from my family tree served on the Northern side of the conflict. Elizabeth Armstrong Feasel, my great-great grandmother, had two brothers who joined the Union Army. One, John Wesley Armstrong, was captured at the Battle of Chickamauga and held in various Southern prisons, including the notorious Andersonville, until his release in 1865.

Elizabeth's sister, Susan Teresa Wilson, who had gone west in the 1850's, met and married a man from Arkansas in 1865. It is interesting to note, given the fact that her brothers served on the Northern side, that she named a son Stonewall Jackson Wilson and another Jefferson Davis Wilson. Such was the nature of this war of rebellion.

If you include cousins and nephews of my ancestors, things get even more interesting. Three strands of my family web came to Ohio from Virginia, and though they were all here by the mid 1830's, some had family still living in Virginia at the time the war broke out.

Joseph Good and his wife, Magdalena Click Good, were born and raised in Shenandoah County, Virginia. All of Joseph's siblings except one moved north and west. His sister, Elizabeth Good Toppin, stayed behind with her family. Though Elizabeth died long before the Civil War, her only son, William Toppin was living in nearby Rockingham County, when the first shots of war were fired.

William enlisted in the 7th Virginia Cavalry, known as Ashby's Cavalry in 1861. In 1864, when his three years were up, he reenlisted. Records show he was paroled in New Market, Va., on April 20, 1865.

The majority of Magdalena's family had remained behind in Virginia. Her father had been a Brethren minister. Dunkers, as the Brethren were called, did not believe in bearing arms, and many of them refused to join the Confederate army. For a time they were allowed to pay fines to avoid service, but as the war lingered on, a shortage of men meant that they were often conscripted into the army.

Magdalena's nephew, Daniel Click, served as an ambulance driver in Company I, of the 33rd Regiment Virginia Infantry. The Dunkers were often used in this type of capacity. Another nephew, Joseph Click, avoided conscription and tended to his farm. In his deposition before the Southern Claims Commission, Joseph stated that he had “piloted Union soldiers through the mountains and fed them.”

Many of the Dunkers, as well as their Mennonite neighbors were Unionists (those who believed that Virginia should not have seceded from the Union).

One of the Dunkard ministers, John Francis Neff, was another of Magdalena's nephews. His son, also John F. Neff, had graduated from the Virginia Military Institute prior to the war and joined the Confederacy as soon as war seemed inevitable. One can imagine that the pacifist father and the military-minded son may have had a few disagreements on the course that young Neff had chosen.

The son, a lawyer, who would first be commissioned as a lieutenant, then later be elected as a Colonel by his men, would die at the Second Bull Run or as the Confederates called it, the Battle of 2nd Manassas.

Though Magdalena had died in 1853, Joseph lived to see war come to his old childhood home. He also lived to see peace restored to his country.

The advantage of hindsight isn't just the ability to know what the correct thing to do is. It is the quiet simple knowledge that the world can survive such a terrible calamity.

Until Next Time - Happy Ancestral Digging!

Note: This post was written for the “Where Were You” Carnival hosted by The Gen Lady

Note this post first published online, April 4, 2008, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Not feeling so smart right now, am I?

Remember way back in September when I was running around à la Chicken Little telling everybody, “NARA's fees are rising! NARA's fees are rising!” I felt oh so smug because I had ordered ALL my direct ancestor's pension files before their cost exceeded the gross national product of Lichtenstein.

Except, of course, in January I uncovered a GGGG grandfather who at the age of 42 enlisted as a Private in Company D, 194th Infantry Regiment Ohio. He served a little more than six months — ordered first to Charles Town, W.Va. and then after General Robert E. Lee's surrender, to Washington D.C. Not only that, but there are three brothers or possibly cousins who also served at the same time in the same unit.

I am practically salivating over the prospects except that it would cost $300 to order all their complete pension files and another $100 for their compiled military records. AARRGH!!!!!!

But of course, I can't beat myself up for being a few months too slow in discovering ole Nimrod. (No really, that's his name.) But I might want to whack myself in the forehead for not reading carefully the information on the 1812 pension files.

I have found only one ancestor that enlisted during the War of 1812. Ezekiel Anderson died after serving a little over five months at Fort Findlay in 1813. I had read that Congress passed legislation in 1871 and 1878 concerning pensions for the 1812 Veterans and their widows. Since Ezekiel died in 1813 and his widow, Margaret Scott Anderson Isenhart had passed away in 1863, I mistakenly thought there would be no pension file.

When I finally renewed my subscription, guess who popped up in their “US Pensioners, 1818-1872” database — Margaret Isenhart, widow of Ezekiel Anderson. Double AARRGH!!!!!

I went back to NARA and double-checked. Sure enough, there was an act passed prior to the 1812 War that allowed pensions and land bounty grants for veterans and their widows. To quote NARA about these pensions:

Of the two, the widow's or minor's application is potentially the richest in genealogical information. This is because the widow had to provide proof of marriage, including the date or place of marriage, and usually the maiden name. Important data about marriages before 1815 found in some of the files may not be available anywhere else.

It makes a person positively giddy to think about what MIGHT be in Margaret's pension file. Fortunately, pensions prior to the Civil War cost only $50. What's fifty bucks?

So what have we learned?

1. I am not as smart as I think I am. (But you knew that already, didn't you?)

2. I need to find a new, fully loaded piggy bank to break.

3. Smugness is a sin that seldom goes unpunished.

Your formerly smug friend,
Desktop Genealogist

Note this post first published online, April 3, 2008, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A look back — on Women's History Month and beyond

When my sister and I were young, we would play make-believe games. I would be married to the President of the United States, and she the Vice President. I would be married to the richest man in the world and she the second richest.

That I was always the one married to the richest, the smartest or the most powerful should come as no surprise. I was, after all, the eldest sister and my added two years of wisdom, not to mention my unbridled imagination, put me at an advantage in all of these make-believe scenarios.

But what was surprising, given my rich flights of fancy, is that I never once considered offering myself the role of President, nor that of smartest or richest person. In a “Leave it to Beaver”/”Father Knows Best” era, I never once entertained the idea that I as a female could do any of these things.

The horizons of the average woman in 1960 were limited to housewife, teacher, nurse and secretary — or possibly a model or a stewardess if one was thinking of something a little more exotic. (“Exotic” as defined by a 7-year-old has serious limitations!)

I would like to think that my 7-year-old counterpart in today's society would not find her make-believe scenarios as severely restricted as mine were almost five decades ago.

If that is true, then the essence of Women's History Month is how we as females leapt from playing second fiddle in our own fantasies to the role of leading lady in the last 50 years. How we went from the inability to vote to being full-fledged participants in the elective franchise in the 40 years prior to that. And how we, as females, went from individuals deemed unworthy to hold property to that of property owners in the decades before that.

Someone recently accused me of being a feminist for spouting similar sentiments. I defer to a quote made by Margaret Atwood on the subject.

“Does feminist mean large unpleasant person who'll shout at you or someone who believes women are human beings? To me it's the latter, so I sign up.”

And on that note, I would like to close the books on Women's History Month with Jasia's 44th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy. The subject, fittingly enough, was “A Tribute to Women.”
( I can't give a better endorsement for reading these tributes than Jasia's own words.

Thirty-two participants penned tributes to a variety of different women. This was an especially wonderful edition of the COG because so many of the tributes came from the heart. It took me a long time to put it together because I was moved to tears so many times and just had to walk away for while. What a tribute that is to all of you who participated! When an author can stir your emotions and touch you with their words and pictures they have real talent.

So find the time to read these remarkable essays. I guarantee that you to will find a post or two that will move you.

Until Next Time — Happy Ancestral Digging!

Note this post first published online, April 1, 2008, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online