Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Last New Year's Eve I wrote about the German traditions my mother's family's ancestors observed. In 2014 I have been researching and writing about my father's Scottish ancestors as it was a part of his family tree that was difficult to research before the Internet. I thought it would be appropriate to write about Hogmanay, the Scottish New Year's Eve.

Historians believe the Scots inherited the celebration from the Vikings, who paid attention to the passing of the shortest day of the year. Christmas was nearly banned in Scotland for approximately 400 years -- from the end of the 1600s to the 1950s. During the Protestant Reformation the Church of Scotland portrayed Christmas as a Catholic feast. Many Scots worked over Christmas. Therefore, they celebrated New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, which was a holiday, with family and friends. Many weddings occurred on New Year's Eve so family could join in the celebrations.

On Hogmany, parties are held and gifts for small children are distributed. Old traditions include cleaning house, clearing debts, and taking out the ashes before midnight. The underlying belief is to clear out the vestiges of the hold year, have a clean break, and welcome in a young New Year on a happy note. Immediately after midnight, many sing "Auld Lang Syne," by Robert Burns, who wrote the lyrics though the tune was in print 80 years Burns' published version.

"First footing" -- the first foot in the house after midnight -- is not as common as it used to be. To ensure good luck, the first foot should be male, dark and should bring symbolic coal, shortbread, salt, black bun and whisky.

Today Scottish families welcome friends and strangers on Hogmanay and wish everyone a "Guid New Year." Bonfires and fireworks displays are also common. And, in what I believe to be the epitome of good sense, January 2nd is also a holiday, giving Scots time to recover from several days of merry making!

Prosit Neujahr!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

52 Ancestors #52: Tuberculosis: Greatest Killer in History

Dr. Frank Ryan in his book, Tuberculosis: The Greatest Story Never Told, called tuberculosis "the greatest infectious killer in history."

Tuberculosis, or TB (short for tubercle bacillus), has also been called phthisis, phthisis pulmonalis, or consumption. It is in many cases a fatal, infectious disease, which attacks the lungs as well as other parts of the body. It is spread through the air when people who have an active tuberculosis cough, sneeze or transmit respiratory fluids through the air. In the middle of the 19th century tuberculosis accounted for approximately one in eight of all deaths in Scotland.

While the coal mines and textile factories provided work for our Muir ancestors, the industrial developments in many areas of Scotland were so rapid that provisions for public health did not keep pace. Ten to fourteen people lived in single-room homes with rudimentary facilities for hygiene made for unhealthy living conditions. Until the late 1800s most health care was provided by local authorities and was haphazard at best. Homes and workplaces were incubators for disease, especially tuberculosis.

It was not until 1882 that doctors and scientists understood tuberculosis was caused by an infectious agent. The invention of the X-Ray machine in 1895 enabled doctors to diagnose and track the progress of the disease. The United Kingdom considered tuberculosis its most pressing health problem at the turn of the 20th century. An international health conference was convened Berlin in 1902. Among the proposals arising from the conference was using the Cross of Lorraine as the international symbol of the fight against the disease.

Famous poster designed by Ernest Hamlin Baker; image courtesy of
U.S. National Library of Medicine

National campaigns swept across Europe and North American to try to curb the rise of tuberculosis. Many of these campaigns incorporated the Cross of Lorraine. In Great Britain there were campaigns to stop spitting in public places and the infected poor were pressured to enter sanatoria that often resembled prisons. Surgical interventions were also conducted with doctors collapsing an infected person's lungs in order to allow it to rest.

It was not until 1944 when streptomycin was isolated and an antibiotic developed that tuberculosis was brought under some sort of control. In 1948, George Orwell wrote about the drug while in Hairmyres Hospital, Scotland, being treated for tuberculosis:

"This disease isn't dangerous at my age, and they say the cure is going on quite well, though slowly...We are now sending for some new American drug called streptomycin which they say will speed up the cure."

But streptomycin wasn't the total cure. Tuberculosis frequently mutated and became resistant to it so the search continued for new drugs. Eventually, combination therapy began to work and while tuberculosis was never totally eradicated in the western world, it was brought under some sort of control. However, it continues to rage in Africa and other parts of the world.

Researching my Scottish ancestors made me aware of how frequently an early death was caused by this cruel disease.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Worldwide Genealogy -- Christmas Tree Traditions

Today is my day to contribute a monthly post to Worldwide Genealogy -- A Genealogical Collaboration blog. I wrote about Christmas tree traditions from the countries where my husband and my ancestors lived. The traditions came from the Lenox "Christmas Trees from Around the World" collection my mother-in-law started for me in 1991.

I hope you'll click over to my post to learn more about the Christmas tree traditions from Austria, Canada, England, Germany, Hungary, Russia and the United States.

I will share two countries with you here -- one from my family and one from my husband, Pete's:


Ireland is said to be the place where many Christmas costumes and rituals were born. To bring good luck, the early Winter Solstice celebration -- Alban Arthusan -- involves burning the Yule log on the remains of the previous year's ashes. Also, decorating the tree with heavenly objects dates back to early Irish times. Hanging small gifts on the tree as spiritual offerings evolved into the custom of exchanging gifts. The practice of placing a red candle in the window on Christmas Eve to light the way for Mary and Joseph also began in the Emerald Isle.

2001 Lenox Ireland plate

The 2001 Lenox plate is inspired by this rich Irish legacy and captures many of the timeless Irish holiday traditions.


Poland celebrates the Christmas tradition as a Festival of the Star. As the first star in the evening sky appears on Christmas Eve, the day-long feast of "Wigilia" is ended and families gather to honor the Holy Child. A small table before the family Nativity shrine is bright with candles and special pastries for the season. After a festive Christmas Eve supper, the Star Man arrives to present the children with small gifts which they believe are sent by the good Star of Heaven, but carried to them by the Wise Men. Villagers dressed as characters from the Nativity travel from house to house singing Polish carols that date back to the fifteenth century. At midnight on Christmas Eve "Pascerka," the Mass of the Shepherds is celebrated and the legend retold that those who have lived good lives can see a vision of Jacob's ladder on this special night.

1994 Lenox Poland plate

The 1994 Lenox plate is decorated with paper chains and ornaments made by school children and sold in village ships. At the base of the tree are gathered the traditional sweetmeats that accompany the Christmas Eve meal.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Historic Bird Prints

I love bird watching and old books. I found a wonderful book in the Library of Virginia's digital collections, American Ornithology or the Natural History of the Birds of the United Statesby Alexander Wilson, a contemporary of John James Audobon. This is an engraving from Wilson's book and includes Virginia's state bird, the Northern Cardinal. The other pair are Scarlet Tanagers.

The idea for this post came from Were any of your ancestors bird watchers?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

52 Ancestors #51: The Irish Wife

For several years Dad and I could not find the death date for his grand uncle, Leo James Jennings. I was able to solve that mystery a few months ago, using a technique my fellow Worldwide Genealogy -- A Genealogical Collaboration blogger, Hilary Gadsby, called Killing Them Off.

While killing off Leo, I discovered he had divorced his first wife before 1930 and married Kathleen O'Gorman on 14 March 1933 in Yuma County, Arizona.  Who was Kathleen? Where did she come from? And who were her ancestors?

Several birth years between 1898 to 1905 have been listed on Kathleen's records, but I've settled on using 4 September 1899, the date used on most frequently on her naturalization records. She was born on Enniskillen, Northern Ireland to William and Margaret O'Gorman. They were Roman Catholic. By 1911 the family was living in the Pembroke West in County Dublin. William and Margaret had 11 children.

Kathleen grew up during the height of the "Troubles," one period of which occurred between 1912 and 1922.

Enniskillen Castle; photograph courtesy of Wikipedia

When Kathleen was 21 years old, she boarded the S/S Celtic in Liverpool on 20 October 1920 and arrived in New York City nine days later. Her destination was Los Angeles, California, to visit her sister, who was listed on the passenger manifest as Mrs. O'Neill. Kathleen returned to Liverpool on 22 December 1920 aboard the S/S Duchess of Richmond, which she boarded in St. John, Canada.

Three years later, she was back in North America. She traveled as nurse with her employer, who was going to the Chateau Frontenac, a grand hotel in Quebec City. They sailed aboard the S/S Mastonia.

Chateau Frontenac circa 1910; postcard image courtesy of Wikipedia

Two weeks later, on 2 October 1923, Kathleen entered the United States at Port Huron via Canadian Railway. She was was headed to Rory Gowen, her brother-in-law's, home in Pasadena, California. On the border crossing form, she was described as being 5 feet 4 inches tall, with a fair complexion, light brown hair, and blue eyes.

Port Huron passenger train station, which was torn down in the 1970s;
photograph courtesy of the Port Huron High School Class of 1961

On 3 January 1927 she filed her Declaration of Intent to become a naturalized U.S. citizen in District Court. She was single, a bookkeeper, and lived on 644 West 41st Boulevard in Los Angeles. By 1930 she was living with Charles and Mary Lewis in Pasadena; Mary was another sister.

Her petition for naturalization was granted on 21 December 1931 by the Los Angeles District Court. She became a naturalized U.S. citizen on 14 June 1935.

Before that, Kathleen married Leo James Jennings on 14 March 1933 in Yuma County, Arizona. Seven months later she traveled back to Northern Ireland, arriving in London on 7 October 1933. She sailed aboard the S/S Pacific Grove from Los Angeles, which meant she traveled through the Panama Canal. She returned to the U.S., crossing into Detroit from Canada on 20 November 1933. She sailed aboard the S/S Duchess of Bedford and had arrived in Quebec City on 18 November.

In 1940 Kathleen and Leo were living in Calabasas, California. It is in the canyons between Thousand Oaks and Los Angeles. They owned their home, which was valued at $5,000. Leo was a supervising inspector of traffic signals and made $1,820. He indicated he had other income, which may have been his World War I pension. Kathleen was a secretary in a law office and made $1,500. They had a live-in housekeeper named Jane Lowery, who had been born in Canada. Calabasas is currently home to Justin Bieber.

View from Calabasas Peak; photograph courtesy of

Kathleen died on 23 December 1959. Before her death she made at least two more trips back to Ireland. It appeared Leo never accompanied her on those trips.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge.

Kathleen O'Gorman was born on 4 September 1899 in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, to William and Margaret O'Gorman. She married Leo James Jennings on 14 March 1933 in Yuma County, Arizona. She was his second wife. Kathleen became a naturalized U.S. citizen on 14 June 1935. She died on 23 December 1959. Her husband Leo died on 3 October 1973 and was buried in Green Hills Memorial Park at Rancho Palos Verdes, California.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Starvation Faced Fredericksheim

This story was adapted from a letter written by Ed C. Jeager and appeared in the book entitled From the Frontier Days in Leduc and District, which was published by the Leduc Historical Society to commemorate Alberta's 75th anniversary.

As the last forms were being locked up for this book a letter came from Mr. Ed. C. Jaeger telling of pioneer days at Fredericksheim, and that goes back to 1893 when Rev. F. A. Mueller led a group of Russian settlers into that district, first white homesteaders southeast of Leduc. There were the Falkenbergs (two families), Schalins (two families), Bienert, Hammer, Hiller, Boelter (or Belter), Khunert, Klatt, Roth and a few others. The colony faced actual starvation when the federal government and Winnipeg people sent flour, for rabbits then had a disease that made them unfit for food. Rev. Mueller tried valiantly to comfort his lamenting, homesick colony, predicting great things if they only stayed and had faith in God.

A German farmhouse in then Volhynia, Russia; photograph courtesy of
Lucille Effa Fillenberg

So most of the settlers braved the adversities and after many years their faith was more than justified for it's a fine district today. Later immigrants, also from Russia, were terrified at the echoing howls of the coyotes, which they were told were prairie wolves, and two men without families and with pocket money started walking back. They were Muth (Courage in German) and Froelich (Happiness in German) and they finally made it to Winnipeg overland but with shoe soles gone. The remainder of the newcomers stayed with Rev. Mueller and his people, only because they and no money to return to the old land, where they had left good homes. Later on they could laugh at their troubles, as had a Mr. Hiebert from Oregon who came on the same twice weekly train to Leduc and thought it highly amusing that men named Courage and Happiness were wailing louder than the coyotes they were afraid would eat them alive!

Typical southern Alberta pioneer home; photograph courtesy of Norm

It's quite different from the homes they left in the Volhynia region of what was then Russia don't you think?

History of Fredericksheim
Fearless Females: Religion
Fearless Females: Immigration
Being German in Tsarist Russia: Why They Left
Moving Halfway Around the World in 1893

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

History of Fredericksheim

This story was written by Rudolf Grunwald, a distant cousin, and appeared in the book entitled From the Frontier Days in Leduc and District, which was published by the Leduc Historical Society to commemorate Alberta's 75th anniversary.

My Schalin great grandparents immigrated to the Leduc area of Alberta in May 1893 and settled in the area that became known as Fredericksheim. My grandmother was their first child born in their new country.

My great grandfather, Wilhelm Schalin. Personal

Rudolf Grunwald's story movingly tells why they came and the hardships they faced:

"Our parents left middle Europe for various reasons. Among the complaints were overcrowded conditions, lack of personal and church freedom and generally poor government. Owing to the ban on religious gatherings the church sent Rev. F. A. Mueller to Canada to look around for a place in which their people could locate. Upon his return to the Old Land he recommended the district of Leduc in the far off Northwest Territories of Canada. Thus the first group of settlers landed in Leduc in the spring of 1893, homesteading nine miles southeast of the depot and railway siding that then constituted the place called Leduc. The second group of settlers arrived in the fall of 1893 and took up land in the same locality as the first group.

Needless to say there were no roads, only deep-rutted wagon trails winding through the timber from house to house, and the wagons being drawn mainly be oxen, with scarcely any horses in the new community. Much of the moving about was done on foot. But gradually small clearings were chopped out of the bush and attempts made at growing wheat and coarse grains. At the first early frosts and even snowstorms ruined most of the grain, especially wheat, and flour had to be ground from the frozen darnels. First threshing was by means of flails, or by having horses trample on the straw on frozen ground, after which it was thrown against the wind to remove the grain from the chaff. It the spring grain was sown broadcast by hand and covered with harrows or brush drags. Not many years went by however before improvement was made in seeding equipment and a horse-powered threshing machine was secured to take care of enlarged fields, and within a few seasons steam-powered threshing engines were brought into the settlement.

A German farmhouse in then the Volhynia region of Russia; photograph
courtesy of Lucille Effa Fillenberg

The first dwellings at Fredericksheim, as in other parts of the entire Leduc district, were made of logs but instead of sod such as most other settlers used, the German immigrants often thatched their house roofs with straw and hay but there were no windows at first and heat came from open fireplaces built of clay. Hardships were common and constant. Quite often families had to live without any bread or flour for two or three weeks at a time, the main food supply being the native rabbits. These were caught by digging deep holes on rabbit trails or near hay stacks and covering the top with logs and wild hay which the animals dearly loved. The only work available for the men was whip sawing lumber by hand for which the going wage was $0.25 a day, the workman providing his own grub.

Bush fires were frequent until the wet seasons came along in 1899, and while the fires helped clear the land they often got out of hand and all night vigils were necessary to save the log buildings. The first settler was John Frederick and after the first school was built about the close of the last century the district was named Fredericksheim in his memory. The first church was build in 1894 of hand sawn lumber with Rev. F. A Mueller as pastor. The first dinner guest was a big black bear which came out of the woods to investigate a kettle of rabbit stew cooking over an open fire. It's worthy of note that many of the settlers in Fredericksheim took up homesteads that had been filed earlier and abandoned by people from Ontario, Minnesota and the Dakotas. The first teacher in the Fredericksheim school was Charles Richardson.

Photograph taken in 1903 in front of the First Baptist Church in
Fredericksheim. My great grandfather helped build the church;
photograph courtesy of Lucille Effa Fillenberg

Fearless Females: Religion
Fearless Females: Immigration
Being German in Tsarist Russia: Why They Left
Moving Halfway Around the World in 1893

Sunday, December 14, 2014

52 Ancestors #50: Absent without Leave

Ancestor Name: John MCDERMOTT (1876-unknown)

John McDermott was born on 6 Aug 1876 in County Mayo, Ireland. He married Mary Ann Boyle on 12 July 1901 at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in Blantyre. He was a 25-year-old coal miner and she was 19.

By the time the 1911 census was enumerated John and Mary Ann had five children, ranging in age from 9 years old to one. Their youngest, Mary Ann McDermott married my third cousin once removed, Charles Findlay, in 1938.  The family lived at 88 South Glencraig in Lochgelly, Fife, Scotland. They had moved to Fife between 1904 and 1906.

John was conscripted or enlisted on 7 August 1916 when he was 39 years old. He began his military service with the 2/1 Battalion, Highland Cyclists. He remained in Scotland until 14 February 1917 when he was transferred to the 1/7 Battalion, Black Watch. The regiment had been fighting in France since 1915 as part of the 153rd Brigade, 51st Highland Division. John arrived just days after the brigade was sent to the Frevilliers area of France and preparations for the battle of Arras began.

Highland Cyclist Battalion; photograph courtesy of Lenathehyena's Blog

John McDermott was wounded on 16 March 1917 during preparations for the battle. Perhaps he was sent on a raiding party to make gaps in the enemy barbed wire or to destroy the enemy dugouts. We just don't know. We do know from John's military service records that he remained in the field with his unit after being wounded. 16 May marked the end of the battle. British troops had made large advances but had been unable to achieve a breakthrough.

Aftermath of the battle of Arras; photograph copyrighted by the Imperial
War Museum

In September the division fought in the third battle of Ypres and the battle Cambrai. The division remained in the Cambrai until March 1918. John McDermott was granted permission to go home on leave from 21 January until 4 February. On 17 February his battalion commanding officer reported that he had not yet returned to the unit. A letter was sent to the Lanarkshire Constabulary and they investigated. They learned he had left his home in Blantyre on the 26th of February and planned to return to France.

He arrived in Cambrai on 2 March 1918 and was arrested the same day. On 7 March he was tried by a Field General Court Martial for absenting himself without leave for nearly a month and was convicted. He was sentenced to 56 days of Field Punishment No. 1 and began serving his sentence on 9 March 1918.

The punishment consisted of the convicted man being placed in fetters or handcuffs and attached to a fixed object such as a fence post or a gun wheel for up to two hours. He was also subjected to hard labor and loss of pay. Field Punishment No. 1 was eventually abolished in 1923.

Contemporary drawing of Field Punishment No. 1; image courtesy
of Wikipedia

John McDermott was discharged from the British Army on 15 August 1918.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge.

John McDermott was born on 6 August 1876 in County Mayo, Ireland. At some point he immigrated to Scotland and began working in the coal mines in Blantyre. He married Mary Ann Boyle on 12 July 1901 in Blantyre. Between the birth of their second son in 1904 and their third son in 1906, the family moved to Lochgelly, Fife. On 7 August 1916, John enlisted or was conscripted into the 2/1 Battalion of the Highland Cyclists at Kirkcaldy. At the time he entered military service the family was living at 56 North Glencraig in Fife. The cyclists provided homeland defense in Scotland. On 14 February 1917, John McDermott was transferred to the 1/7 Battalion, Black Watch and sent to France to join the regiment, which was part of the 153rd Brigade, 51st (Highland) Division. He was wounded in action twice and saw fighting at Arras and Cambrai. He was late returning to his unit from home leave in 1918 and court martialed. He was discharged on 15 August 1918. I do not yet know when he died, but do know he was still alive at the time his youngest daughter married in 1938.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Vice President, Double Envelope Corporation

My Beard line, the ancestors of my great grandmother, Effie Davis Beard, used to be a brick wall until AncestryDNA testing helped me trace much of the family back to Adam Beard (1725-1777), who was the father of at least two Revolutionary War patriots.

Recently, I reached out to another member who had a photograph of my great great grandfather's headstone on her tree. I wanted to know the name of the cemetery and how we might be related. She turned out to be a wonderful researcher, who had collected a trove of original documents about the family. She also provided the clues I needed to trace my great great grand uncle, Charles Edward Beard's daughter, Elmira Lorena Beard. She married Edmund Lowry Sublette on 21 March 1888 in Bedford County, Virginia. Together they had six children: Reyborn Roy "Pete," Carrie, Lounell "Nell," Mamie, Elizabeth Virginia, and Christine Sublette.

By 1900 the family had moved to Roanoke, Virginia, Edmund died in 1919 and his wife in 1938. By the time of her death, her oldest son, Reyborn, was vice president of Double Envelope Corporation.

According to the company's website, it was founded in 1917 and has always been a leading manufacturer of envelopes in the southeast U.S. Its assets were acquired in 2001 by BSC Ventures, a custom envelope manufacturer and web and off-set printer. The company is headquartered in Roanoke.

Reyborn Roy "Pete" Sublette was born on 21 March 1891 in Roanoke. On 5 June 1917, when he registered for the World War I draft, he was a clerk at the Norfolk & Western Railroad and had a wife, named Annie Mary Jones, and child. By 1920 he was the railroad's auditor of receipts. By 1922 he was vice president of the envelope company.  The family lived in progressively nicer houses until 1941 when they were listed as living at 20 Oakwood Drive, Roanoke.

20 Oakwood Drive, SW, Roanoke; photograph from Google Maps Street View

Reyburn's son, Reyborn Francise Sublette, also worked at Double Envelope Corporation by 1950 and retired from the company as an executive vice president in 1984. Many of the Sublette family's descendants are still living in Roanoke today.


I must admit to being a little disappointed with the Double Envelope Corporation. Their website included very little about their company history and I tried writing to every email address listed. Each message bounced back as undeliverable. So I went searching for the history of the envelope...well, wouldn't you do the same?

I highly recommend The History of the Envelope by Maynard H. Benjamin.

AncestryDNA and Finding a New Cousin

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: The GIs Best Friend

I ran across this extract from Isaac Asimov's book, Earth is Room Enough, where the author describes a conversation filled with remembrances of two World War II veterans:

They drank beer and reminisced as men will who have met after long separation. They called to mind the days under fire. They remembered sergeants and girls, both with exaggeration. Deadly things became humorous in retrospect, and trifles disregarded for ten years were hauled out for airing. Including, of course, the perennial mystery: "How do you account for it?" asked the first. "Who started it?" The second shrugged. "No one started it. Everyone was doing it, like a disease. You, too, I suppose." The first chuckled. The third one said softly, "I never saw the fun it it. Maybe because I came across it first when I was under fire for the first time. North Africa." "Really?" said the second. "The first night on the beaches of Oran. I was getting under cover, making for some native shack and I saw it in the lights of a flare."

Who were they talking about? The GIs best friend, a simple doodle or grafitti, that showed up in the most irreverent places everywhere GIs were.

Kilroy Engraving at the National World War II Memorial; author's
personal collection

The idea for this post came from

Sunday, December 7, 2014

First Shot at Pearl Harbor

My brother John wrote a guest blog in honor of the 73rd anniversary of Pearl Harbor. I knew about the Japanese submarine but I had no idea people doubted its existence or that it had been sunk by an American ship.

Just as President Franklin D. Roosevelt suggested it might, December 7th 1941—the day of the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor—has indeed “lived in infamy.”  Seventy-three years latter most everyone is familiar with the general narrative of the events of that day.  At 7:55 am on a quiet Sunday morning Japanese carrier-based bombers attacked the ships of the US Pacific Fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  Of the eight American battleships present four were sunk and the others damaged.  Numerous other ships and shore facilities were destroyed or damaged.  2403 American sailors, soldiers, airmen and civilians were killed in the attack.   The USS Arizona, which sunk with the loss of 1177 men when her magazine exploded, is now a memorial operated by the National Park Service.  Visited by over a million people a year, the memorial keeps alive the tragic events of December 7, 1941.

USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor; photograph courtesy of the
US Navy

Another important part of the Pearl Harbor narrative are the warnings that went unheeded and the radar contacts of the incoming Japanese striking force that went unreported.  These failings contributed to the Pacific Fleet being caught by surprise at anchor.  But perhaps less well remembered are the actions of USS Ward, whose skipper and crew reacted quickly and decisively when a Japanese submarine was spotted trying to sneak into the harbor an hour and a half before the Japanese attack began.

An old World War I four-piper destroyer, Ward was manned by men of the Minnesota Naval Reserve when she joined the Pacific Fleet in 1941.  On the morning of the Japanese attack she was conducting a routine patrol off the entrance of Pearl Harbor.  At 0637 skipper Lieutenant Commander William W. Outerbridge was alerted when a periscope was spotted behind USS Antares, which was towing a lighter into the harbor.  The unidentified submarine was apparently trying to sneak through the anti-submarine nets behind Antares in an effort to gain entrance to Pearl Harbor.  Accelerating to 25 knots Ward closed on the submarine in a few minutes and initiated an attack by guns and depth charges.  A shell from #3 gun was observed to strike the submarine at the base of the conning tower, after which the submarine heeled over and sank.  A large oil slick was observed where the submarine went down.

USS Ward; photograph courtesy of the US Navy

To fully appreciate Outerbridge’s actions one must understand how easy it would have been to succumb to self-doubt before ordering the attack.  Obviously, the war had not yet started, so technically speaking he was operating in a time of peace.  Although aggressive actions on the part of the Japanese were not unexpected, most believed if anything happened it would be in the Far East.  It was certainly possible for a Japanese submarine to operate off Hawaii in peacetime, but highly unlikely for one to attempt to enter the harbor.  How easy it would have been for Outerbridge to assume the suspicious submarine was a friendly one?  Instead Outerbridge charged in for an attack without hesitation, and his actions likely saved further destruction and loss of life at Pearl Harbor.  Contrast his response with those manning Hawaii’s radar defenses that fateful morning.  When alerted to radar contact of an unidentified flight approaching Oahu’s north shore, officers of the Army’s Intercept Center assumed it to be the expected arrival of a flight of B-17s.  Consequently, they took no action and failed to pass on the information to higher staffs.

Captain William W. Outerbridge; photograph courtesy of USS Los
Angeles (CA-135) veterans website

For many years historians doubted the claims made by Ward’s crew to have successfully sunk the submarine engaged.  This was mainly because no wreckage was found; however, on August 28, 2002 a team from the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory spotted the sunken remains of a Japanese Type A midget submarine in 1200 feet of water.  It had a shell hole at the base of its conning tower, the result of the first shot fired in World War II in the Pacific.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

52 Ancestors #49: Killed in Vietnam

Ancestor Name: TAYLOR, James Lawrence (1943-1966)

I have written about many of my veteran ancestors as part of Amy Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge. And this post will be no different. James Lawrence Stewart was my 6th cousin; our shared ancestor was my five times great grandfather, Adam Beard (1725-1777).

James was born on 9 June 1943 in Putnam County, West Virginia, to Monte Samuel and Ruth Muriel (Ogburn) Taylor. He was their third son.

According to a medal citation, he was Sergeant in the Special Forces, Detachment A-102. On 9 March 1966 Jim's unit was sent to Camp A Shau in the Thua Thien province of South Vietnam to reinforce another special forces detachment already deployed there.  The next day the camp came under attack. Sgt. Taylor died while in close combat with the enemy.

James Taylor's name is engraved on the Honolulu Memorial, also known as the Courts of the Missing, which is located at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. The cemetery is situated in an extinct volcano called the Punchbowl.

Honolulu Memorial; photograph courtesy of Find a Grave members
Harold and Wanda Blackwell

Photograph courtesy of Find a Grave member Sunny

He was awarded the Silver Star posthumously in June 1966 and his parents were presented with medal in a ceremony in South Charleston, West Virginia.

Mr. and Mrs. Monte Taylor receiving the Silver Star awarded to their son,
Jim Taylor. Robert Taylor, another son, looks on. Photograph courtesy of
West Virginia Culture

The Silver Star citation reads as follows:

TAYLOR, JAMES L. RA13688444 SERGEANT E5 United States Army
Det A-102, 5th SFG (Abn), 1st SF, APO 96240
Awarded: Silver Star (Posthumously)
Date of Action: 9 March 1966 to 10 March 1966
Theater: Republic of South Vietnam
Reason: For gallantry in action

Sergeant Taylor distinguished himself on 9 and 10 March 1966 while serving as a weapons platoon leader of a Nung "Mike Force" company during a mission to reinforce a special forces detachment at Camp A Shau, Republic of Vietnam. When the camp was attacked by intense mortar and small arms fire at 0350 hours on 9 March 1966, Sergeant Taylor organized and encouraged his weapons squads in defending their positions. Throughout the entire day, he exposed himself to the deadly fire and ran from position to position to insure that his men were effectively defending the camp. When the "Mike Force" company commander was killed, Sergeant Taylor immediately assumed command and prepared his men to repel the imminent Viet Cong assault. 

At 0400 hours on 10 March, the fanatical insurgents launched a regimental size assault in conjunction with accurate mortar and recoilless rifle fire. Wounded and cut off from other friendly forces within the camp, Sergeant Taylor organized his defenders in a circular defense and fought off the attackers on all sides when the Viet Cong breached a wall to his right flank. As a result, the Viet Cong assault on his position was stalled and the camp was not immediately overrun. When he rejoined the friendly troops at another wall, he set up a strong defense and personally engaged an insurgent recoils rifle position. After receiving a direct hit from the insurgent recoils rifle, Sergeant Taylor died en route to a rescue helicopter. 

Sergeant Taylor's extraordinary heroism in close combat against a numerically superior hostile force was in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

Authority: By direction of the President under the provisions of the Act of Congress, approved 9 July 1918.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Bedford County Court House Plan

My post yesterday was about a legal case that took place in the Bedford County Court House from 1891 through 1901.  A little more than 100 years before that, the county was planning its first Court House building and the plans may be found at the Library of Virginia in their digital collections.

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These drawings were created in 1785 and the second one is a unique fold-down that two dimensionally illustrated the floor plan, walls, roof, and chimney of the proposed structure. The drawing is unsigned so the draftsman is unknown. I have never seen this type of architectural rendering before.

The complete file includes three pages of handwritten text that describe the site.

The idea for this post came from

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Court Doth Adjudge, Order and Decree

One of my favorite resources for Virginia genealogy research is the Library of Virginia. Several months ago I discovered that my great grandmother's half-siblings sued her and her full siblings over a piece of property in Bedford County, Virginia, in 1891. Fifty electronic images comprising the case file were available for download on the Library of Virginia's website.

The plaintiffs in the case were: Burwell David Mitchell and his wife, Martha Virginia (Beard) Mitchell, and E. M. Beard.

The defendants were: Effie Davis Beard, Sallie Birdell "Berta" Beard, and David Fleming Beard, Jr.

Old Bedford Court House in used from 1834-1930; photograph courtesy of
a Pictorial History of Bedford County, Virginia

One of he plaintiffs, Martha V., was the product of David Fleming Beard, Sr.'s first marriage to Ann Dooley, and was the only living child from that marriage at the time the suit was filed.  The defendants, Effie, Berta, and David, were products of David Fleming Beard, Sr.'s second marriage to Barbara Ann Mitchell. I do not know why their older brother, Albert Monroe Beard, was not a party in the case. Perhaps because he had moved to Roanoke, was married with two children, and had a job as a conductor with the railroad. The younger three children were still under the age of twenty-one at the time of their mother's death.

In a wonderful case of tangled tree roots and branches Barbara Ann Mitchell, the defendants' deceased mother, and Burwell David Mitchell, one of the plaintiffs, were brother and sister.

David Fleming Beard, Sr., owned 210 acres of land in Bedford County. After his death in 1878, his widow, Barbara Ann, continued to live on the property with her children. When she died in 1890, the three younger children found homes with relatives but did not immediately sell their father's land.

Case No. 3555, Mitchell, B. D. and Martha V. and E. M. Beard, Plaintiffs, vs. Beard, Effie et als, Defendants, began on 12 March 1891 when the plaintiffs filed their initial bill:

The complainants initial bill; image courtesy of the Library of Virginia

To the Honorable John D. Horsley, Judge of the Circuit Court of Bedford County:

B. D. Mitchell and Martha V., his wife, who was Martha V. Beard, and E. M. Beard, complainants, respectfully represent that David F. Beard departed this life several years ago, intestate, leaving surviving him his widow. Beard had the following children to wit: Martha V. Mitchell, E. M. Beard, Effie Beard, Berta Beard, and David Beard. The last three of whom are infants. At the time of his death the said David F. Beard was [illegible] and possessed of a tract of land containing 210 acres, mostly mountainous and of little value. The widow and infant children occupied this place until last September when she the widow died. 

These complainants believe such that the said tract of land cannot be conveniently divided in kind as the larger portion of it is mountainous and of little value. No adult presently on the homestead. The infants here found homes with their relations, and the land will hereto be either sold or rented. These complainants allege that it will be to the interest of all concerned were the land sold and the proceeds divided amongst the parties entitled to it.

To this end, therefore, that justice may be done in the premises, and as these complainants are without remedy save in a Court of Chancery, they may that Effie Beard, Berta Beard, and David Beard may be made parties defendants to this suit and be represented by their guardian ad litem to answer the charges and allegations of this bill, appoint a guardian ad litem, order a sale of the said tract of land, grant until complainants such other [illegible] and several reliefs as the nature of their case requires, and equity and good consideration may [illegible] and in duty bound they will ever may be.
B. D. Mitchell
Martha Mitchell
E. M. Beard

H C Lowry, Attorney

A pox on H C Lowry for his absolutely terrible handwriting! I had to call in cousin research collaborators for assistance with the transcription.

E. P. Goggin was appointed as the Beard children's guardian ad litem, depositions were taken by Attorney Lowry, and a decree was issued by the court. The judge found for the plaintiffs and ordered the land to be sold. He appointed H. C. Lowry as Commissioner in charge of the sale. The tract of land was duly sold to A. M. Beard for $441.00, or $2.10 per acre, who then defaulted on his first bond payment. Attorney Lowry was called back into service as Commissioner to oversee the resale and distribute the proceeds of the resale to the five children of David F. Beard, Sr. The case finally wound down with a final decree on 23 October 1901.

By the time the final decree was issued for Case No. 3555, Effie Davis (Beard) was no longer an "infant under the age of twenty-one years." She had been married for six years and had three children.

Effie Davis (Beard) Jennings; photograph courtesy of Janie (Moore) Darby

I have wondered if A. M. Beard, the first purchaser of the land, was the older brother of Effie, Berta, and David. His name was Albert Monroe Beard. But I'll likely never know.

At first I thought the plaintiff, E. M. Beard, was Edward M. Beard, Martha Virginia (Beard) Mitchell's brother. But that cannot be correct as Edward M. Beard died on 16 June 1863 in a Confederate States Army hospital in Richmond, Virginia, of typhoid. At this time, I am not sure who he is, though according to the case file, he is a son. One I must be missing.

If you are a member of and would like to read a complete transcription of the case click here.