Our little adventure out to find Revolutionary War graves over the Memorial Day weekend got me started on a fishing expedition for family information. I feel spurred to share a few of my discoveries regarding service in many of the wars this country has fought because of John Richardson’s Memorial Day post featuring the draft registration cards for his father and grandfathers.
I knew my great grandmother was a member of Daughters of the American Revolution, so I thought I would see what I could do to join since there are multiple active chapters around this part of Pennsylvania. After a few emails back and forth with my grandmother, we discovered that my great grandmother’s membership was no longer valid, not because she passed 11 years ago, but because the only family member she documented to DAR (her 3rd great grandfather) was found to have been turned down for a pension in further record reviews. However, she told my grandmother that she had documented multiple family members who had proven service in the Revolution. My grandmother, happily enough, pulled out a book from her father’s side that gives a direct and handy list of all the relatives back to my 6th great grandfather who is documented to have served in the war.
However, in my little trial of Ancestry.com, I started clicking on random branches with their little leaf hints attached. I am no where near done since most branches of my family have been in this country for a long, long time. However, I did just hit a someone who appears to be a documented veteran of the War of 1812. There’s totally a lineage group for that–National Society United States Daughters of 1812. I don’t really know much about them, but they don’t have a presence in the Philly area.
I also found a documented veteran of the Confederacy on a side of the family I really didn’t expect to see it on. Yup, there’s a group for that, too. (United Daughters of the Confederacy) My grandmother thinks that we also have documentation to prove lineage from a Union soldier as well. That would cover me for Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War, 1861 – 1865. I’m seriously thinking that if I can document both connections, I may actually join both. Maybe I’m just silly, but I would find amusement in that.
I haven’t gone digging deep yet, but the family that is reportedly connected to Jefferson Davis, eh, not looking so good. As Sebastian noted, there are probably lots of Southern families with people named Davis who claim a relation. However, that side of the family is really into genealogy, so my mom is going to see what she can gather from those folks and we’ll see if there really is a connection. (Interestingly, if this connection is proven and documented, it could also be a different path for me to DAR, and the only likely path for my niece.)
I set up a tree on my account for Sebastian, and if he has followed the census records properly, he may have found a 3rd great grandfather who served for the Union in the Civil War whose service was previously unknown to his family. (Yes, there’s a Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.) Considering his family on both sides has been presumed to be fairly recently off the boat, this is actually an exciting possible find for him.
Another little tidbit I’ve discovered (though am waiting on family records to verify), is that by moving to be with Sebastian here in Southeast Pennsylvania, I’m apparently simply returning to the family lands of my 5th great grandfather. It turns out he owned 99 acres in Upper Bucks County as far back as at least 1789. I find that very, very odd.
To bring this rambling family war service post back to guns, we have learned that between the two of us, family names include John, Moses, and Browning.
20 thoughts on “Family War Service”
It’s really exciting to be able to do that! None of my ancestors were here much before 1851 – 1852.
For awhile I harbored the romantic idea that one of my g-grandfathers had been among the Irish immigrant miners who drove the Union Army out of Lackawanna County, PA, when they tried to enforce conscription in 1863, but no such luck, it appears.
What I always thought was funny about family is how much alike they can be no matter how far apart they are. its always fun to see where you’ve come from.
Hehe, I have Cherokee and Sioux in my blood line, along with the English and Scotts. We can trace the scotts line pretty far back. Not so much with the others.
I should thank you (I guess). Now I’ve just spent a couple of hours on Ancestry.com and found that one of my first cousins has been doing some research as well. He’s done a lot more and I’m back to the 1660s so far through my great-grandmother’s side of the family.
Have a look here as well to see if any known family names tie into some of the reports here. I was able to use this to go back to the 1620’s in Kent County MD.
That’s pretty cool. Wish I could say similar, but given that one half of my lineage is from around Edinburgh and the other is a Highland clan, I’ve pretty much given up hope for a Josef, FrantiÅ¡ek or KouckÃ½ in my background… :)
Congratulations! You have discovered the crack that is called genealogy.
I started mine…and I CAN’T STOP!
Now it’s a rambling bush..actually vine…covering my family line…my sibling’s husbands and wives…their childrens’ husbands and wives….my wife’s family…and all the assorted cousins that I can find…and their are alot. I have multiple layers of grandparents with 15-20 siblings each.
Thank GOD that my mother’s side is fully documented.
And I know what it’s like about “returning” to the homestead. Turns out I had ancestors in my new homestate….Virgina. I’m originally from New Orleans.
Good luck and have fun.
I see myself pretty much documenting back to when they came over here. Given that I’m not so good with languages, I don’t really think I would get anything worthwhile from looking at family before they came to the US.
John as a family name is often an Anglicized version of “Jahn” or something similar.
If you are looking through Pennsylvania history, use the phrase “Pennsylvania Archives” in books.google.com with names that you want. You will be astonished. The search string with Browning gives lots of matches.
Wow, I already have a hit in those archives from a PA ancestor. In the land warrants, I see that my first ancestor off the boat in the branch that started here in PA bought 50 acres to start. His kid eventually bought 99 acres elsewhere, and then they took off and moved south. I guess I’m shocked by how quickly my early family members dropped their initial ties to the East Coast and headed west (via the south). There’s one branch that it seems like every kid is born in a new state as they live somewhere for just a bit and then keep heading either south or west.
I should mention that one of my earliest ancestors in the U.S. was Thomas Nash, colonial armourer for New Haven Colony in 1640. And one of his sons was an expert witness in America’s first firearms product liability suit in 1644. Top that for bragging rights in gun circles!
That is awesome. I have traced back to the DAR-qualified patriot who is from New Haven. I haven’t looked any farther than that yet to see how long they had been in New Haven. I am not very good at the research side of this since I get distracted with other branches pretty easily. I don’t like when my branches are uneven. :)
More than one person has told me they started in on genealogy (or their spouse did) and stopped because they were finding so much that was nothing to be proud of. One person told me they found one of their ancestors had apparently been married to two sisters — at the same time! And somehow the community had appeared to accept that. Another thing that is not uncommon is for an ancestor, usually a male, to appear in history out of nowhere with no earlier records. It is often suspected they were a fugitive or runaway from somewhere else, who adopted a new identity. The Civil War provided many opportunities for shedding an earlier identity.
I don’t understand why people would ditch it after discovering stuff like that. First of all, there’s a good chance that the records are simply screwed up. Even if they aren’t, weird stuff happened in history. It’s not anything to be ashamed of. I could see finding something you don’t “brag” about, but to actually feel shame enough to quit looking? That’s just odd.
I’m not saying “me,” I’m just reporting what other people have told me of their experiences and their conclusions.
As for me, my maternal grandfather’s brother did two hitches in prison in NY, and my father’s oldest brother died in prison, in the 1930s — though from disease, not a life sentence! I’m not embarrassed by either fact. My uncle was a colorful (if not nice) character, and the irony is that he went to prison for something very petty, and not the rest of the things he actually did.
A few months ago, my wife finally found the death date of one of her ancestors: he was shot by a lynch mob, for killing the sherriff. (Later it was discovered that it was just an attempted killing: the sherriff was stabbed, and since everyone thought he was going to die, they killed my wife’s ancestor.)
In some ways it’s interesting, and even sort-of funny, to find checkered characters in your lineage. Since we are all descended from imperfect human beings, it’s even inevitable!
Not to continue being Mr. Negativity (for a change) but one additional hazard is that actual research can shatter some treasured family myths.
Not that it was a biggy, but my family harbored the classic American immigrant myth that my grandfather “came here and was a patriotic American, who became a citizen on the first day it was possible for him to do so. He insisted everyone in the family speak English at home, ‘Because we’re Americans now. . .'”
When I actually researched the records I found he didn’t apply for citizenship for over 13 years, and then only after a trip back to the old country that turned disastrous. All of the circumstantial evidence I’ve found suggests he was planning to go back, but changed his mind after WWI when his kids were all natural born U.S. citizens who were thoroughly American. As for his insistence on English, well, I knew him, and I never heard him speak English unless he was speaking to someone who spoke no other language. But some family members still tell the original stories.
I have that exact problem of mysterious ancestors. My Great-Great Grandfather’s obituary contradicted his statements to earlier census takers. He finally stated he’s from MA. We then found an army enlistment in New York in 1824 by someone with the same name and birthdate. That person deserted 6 months later. My ancestor appears in the Mississippi territory and get gets married in 1829. HHmmmmmmm….. makes one think. And that’s as far back we can find on that tree. Apparently there may have been one or two fires in Marblehead.
My sister has done a great deal of research on our Mother’s side, so I believe that is well covered. Now that I am retired & have plenty of time I intend to start on Father’s side of the family. Hopefully, I won’t find too many disreputable ancestors….
Thanks for posting.
My wife is a DAR with multiple Patriots. One Family (Trafford) were armorers for the Revolutionary forces in NY. My ancestor (yet to be fully proven) was a “Surveyor of Roads” in support of the revolution. Cool stuff…..
I’ve got a couple of ancestors in Sons of the Revolution. But what makes them interesting is that they were part of the Spanish Galvez expedition From Spanish Louisiana against the English fort at Pensacola. The organization decided to recognize even foreigners that became American citizens in that case since their efforts were against the British. Now I just have to get my paperwork in.
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