Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Fortress Metz and the 5th Infantry Division

Haskins Thomas Farrar was my third cousin once removed and the grandson of Alexander Miller and Ann Marie Jennings. He was born on 4 Nov 1924 in Chesterfield County, Virginia, to Thomas Dyson Farrar and Eva O'Lillian Miller. Haskins grew up in Midlothian, Virginia, until he was drafted into the U.S. Army on 2 July 1943. After basic training he was assigned to the 10th Infantry, 5th Infantry Division. My father-in-law, Peter Charles Dagutis, fought in the same division but in the 2nd Infantry Regiment. The 5th Infantry Division was part of General George S. Patton's Third Army and their exploits in France were the stuff of legend until they literally ran out of gas.[1]

Kevin M. Hymel described this time in France in his book, Patton's Photographs: The War As He Saw It: "....Patton put his tanks to work. His armored divisions smashed through the front lines and rolled through the countryside, splitting into three directions. Patton's amazing advance surprised friend and foe alike and he cheered every time he ran off one map and had to use another."

Because of an acute shortage of gasoline, Eisenhower suspended Third Army operations on 22 September 1944. The moratorium lasted six weeks. Instead of rapid advance, Patton would be required to capture Metz. The fortifications of Metz consisted of several forts and observation posts all connected by tunnels. General Patton, said this about Metz: "Fixed fortifications are monuments to the stupidity of man. " But the job was very difficult indeed.

Map of Metz fortifications; image courtesy of eBay

The attack on the first Metz fortress, Fort Driant, began on 27 September 1944; it was repulsed. After several more failures, the attack was called off on 9 October and the last U.S. soldiers withdrew during the night of 12-13 October. The second attempt to capture Metz was called Operation Madison, which began in the General Walton Walker's XX Corps sector on 9 November. (5th Infantry Division was assigned to XX Corps.) Hitler declared Metz would fight to the last bullet two days later.

5th Infantry soldiers clearing houses in Metz on 19 November 1944; image
courtesy of Wikipedia

On 14 November three of the "Seven Dwarves" forts were captured -- Jussy Nord, Jussy Sud, and Saint-Hubert. The 5th Infantry Division was responsible for a close-in envelopment of the city, attacking to the east and making contact with the 90th Infantry Division as it circled around Metz from the north. Men of the 5th entered Metz on the night of 18 November. On 13 December the last fort, Fort Jeanne d'Arc surrendered. The battle for Metz was over.

My father-in-law survived the battle, the war and went on to marry and have three children. Haskins Thomas Farrar was not so lucky. He died on 19 November 1944. I do not yet know if he died of wounds sustained earlier in the campaign or was killed that day as his regiment cleared houses inside the city limits. Haskins was buried at the Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial in Saint-Avold, France.

Lorraine American Cemetery; image courtesy of Tourism Saint-Avold

[1]For more information about the 5th Infantry Division's fighting in France, read When Pursuit Comes to an End

For more context about the battle for Metz, read my brother's guest blog, Long, Bloody Battle for Metz.

Cole, Hugh M. Lorraine Campaign (Washington, DC: Center for Military History, U.S. Army, 1993), pages  372-446

Monday, February 22, 2016

Guest Blog: Long, Bloody Battle for Metz

I recently discovered a third cousin once removed in my Jennings line served in the 5th Infantry Division during World War II as did my father-in-law, Peter Charles Dagutis. Sadly, my cousin Haskins Thomas Farrar, died near Metz. So I asked my brother, amateur World War II historian, to write a post about the battle for Metz, providing context for my father-in-law's wartime experience and the death of my cousin.

Over to John.....

As Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Western Euorpe General Dwight D. Eisenhower's mission was to "undertake operations aimed at the heart of Germany and the destruction of her armed forces.”  He intended to approach Germany along a broad front, taking advantage of all of the historic invasion routes between France and Germany.  One of those invasion routes was the swath of open terrain between the Ardennes and Vosges Mountains.  Situated along the northern edge of the invasion route the city of Metz had been a kind of gatekeeper since ancient times and was unsurprisingly one of the most heavily fortified cities in Europe.  In all its long history Metz had never fallen to direct assault.  Its fortifications included a line of eleven forts constructed by the French prior to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 that lay in a ring approximately 2½ miles outside the city.  The German defenders of World War II used this “inner ring” as infantry strongpoints.  An outer ring of eight, more modern forts—built by the Germans before the First World War—formed a line some six miles from the city.  Among the fortications was the impressive Fort Driant, which housed five 150mm guns and was protected by a deep, dry moat and covered by infantry trenches, machine gun nests and barbed wire fences.  The guns of the fort commanded a large sector of the Moselle Valley.

Eisenhower entrusted the advance past Metz and into Germany to Lieutenant-General George S. Patton, Jr.’s US Third Army.  The difficulty of Patton’s mission was three-fold:  his army had to cross the Upper Moselle River, reduce or bypass the forts and finally capture the city of Metz.  The American effort to take Metz began on 6 September, 1944 with the unconventional tactic of using 7th Armored Division as a kind of reconnaissance-in-force to probe for crossing sites over the Moselle both north and south of Metz.  They reached the Moselle the next day and were soon followed by two infantry divisions, the 90th being directed toward Thionville north of Metz and the 5th toward Metz itself.  Despite turning back a German counter-attack the Americans could not get across the Moselle in the Thionville sector due to deadly shellfire from several German forts.  Closer to Metz 5th Infantry Division, along with elements of 7th Armored Division, managed to establish a bridgehead at Dornot, but the guns of Forts Driant and Blaise prevented the building of a bridge so the crossing had to be abandoned.  Another bridgehead was achieved on 6 September farther north at Amanvillers and a bridge was successfully erected that night.  A breakout was not to be, however; gunfire from Fort Driant destroyed both the treadway and pontoon bridges and determined resistance from German panzers denied all attempts by American armored units to breakout of the bridgehead.  Although Patton felt the German reserves were thin and a breakthrough imminent if he could just keep the pressure on, by mid-September it was obvious a set piece battle would be required to defeat the defenses of Metz.

Soldiers of Third Army crossing the Moselle River; courtesy of a United States
Army in World War II, Pictorial Record: The War Against Germany: Europe
and Adjacent Areas

Another major effort against Metz would have to wait until supplies could be stockpiled.  In the meantime, Patton initiated what he called a “pecking campaign” to reduce several forts southwest of Metz, particularly the troublesome Fort Driant, whose guns had been so effective in turning back the attempt to cross the Upper Moselle in early September.  Taking the fort would unlock an avenue directly into Metz via the valley of the Moselle.  The task of taking Fort Driant fell to 5th Infantry Division, which launched its attack on 3 October behind one of the most concentrated artillery bombardments of the war.  For all of its intensity the shelling proved ineffective, for nearby German forts returned the fire, catching American infantry in their assembly areas.  Although the Americans reached the fort and gained entry the following day via a ventilator shaft, the fort’s defenders fought back skillfully in savage subterranean gun duels.  The underground battle raged for several days but the Americans failed to breach any of the fortified casemates.  By sweeping the exterior of the fort with artillery and machine gun fire the Germans denied American reinforcements from entering the battle and eventually gained the upper hand.  Patton finally decided the fort could not be defeated and called off the operation; the last American troops withdrew the night of 12-13 October.

The final battle for Metz began on 8 November.    Patton prepared an envelopment of Metz by concentric attacks from north and south.  90th Infantry Division crossed the Moselle just north of Thionville.  The combination of German artillery and rising flood waters frustrated all attempts to erect bridges until the second night, but the defending Germans could not take advantage of the precarious American situation because they were not expecting an attack so soon after the torrential downpours of the previous few days.  By the time panzers were able to mount a counter-attack the Americans were secure enough in their bridgehead to turn the enemy tanks back just short of the bridge.  After Forts Koenigsmacker and Metrich had been reduced 10th Armored Division was committed as the northern encircling pincer and from 15 November they began picking their way carefully over muddy roads to the southeast toward the Nied river.  Meanwhile, 5th Infantry Division had crossed the Seille southwest of Metz and skirted round the city to cut its eastern approaches.  They met troops from 90th Infantry Division at Pont Marais on 19 November to encircle Metz.

Third Army Soldiers entering the outskirts of Metz; courtesy of the United
States Army In Europe, Pictorial Record: The War Against Germany: Europe
and Adjacent Areas

Despite Hitler’s decree to hold Metz until the last, the Germans withdrew most of their forces out of the closing jaws of Patton’s pincers, leaving only a volksgrenadier division to garrison Metz.  95th Infantry Division closed on Metz proper from Maizieres-les-Metz while 5th Infantry Division invested the city from the southeast.  American troops entered the city on 11/18/44 after Nazi officials and many German civilians had been evacuated.  Firefights erupted throughout the city as the American infantry rooted out the last pockets of German resistance.  The garrison commander gave himself up on 21 November, thus ending the struggle for the city proper.  The outlying forts, which had been contained but not assaulted, were gradually smoked out over the next several weeks; Fort Jeanne d’Arc was the last to capitulate on 13 December.

Some historians have made much of the fact that Patton was perhaps too keen to capture Metz, that the lure of going down in history as the city’s first captor led him to direct too much attention upon the city.  Was it even necessary to capture Metz or could Patton have ensured the security of his northern flank by merely masking the city?  Patton believed it was necessary, thinking it unwise to leave the dangerous enemy concentration around Metz on his flank while transiting the invasion route into Germany.  An interesting opinion was offered by the Germans themselves in their post-war appreciation of the campaign in Europe.  Although they respected Patton as the Allies’ most aggressive general, they criticize his handling of the Lorraine campaign, particularly noting the failure of American forces to concentrate at a single point.  Patton directed his two corps toward separate objectives (Metz and Nancy), preventing them from gaining overwhelming superiority at any one sector.  Had Patton concentrated his corps for a single thrust at either Metz or Nancy, the Germans believed he would have easily broken through.  The fact that Patton did not concentrate everything on Metz (when his enemy expected him to) would tend to discount the theory the city held a kind of vainglorious attraction for him.  Those that fell in the long, bloody battle for Metz gave their lives for a legitimate and necessary military objective, one of many such objectives on the road to ridding the world of Hitler’s evil regime.

For other World War II guest posts written by my brother, visit War Stories.

Greenfield, Kent Roberts (General Editor). United States Army in World War II, Pictorial Record: The War Against Germany: Europe and Adjacent Areas, (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1951), pages 147-260.

Friday, February 19, 2016

New Holland Society

As I was learning about my newly discovered eight times great grandfather, Arent Van Hoeck, I looked for a lineage society for descendants of New Netherland or New Amsterdam descendants. The New Holland Society is such an organization. It was founded in 1855 in New York City and its mission is to collect and preserve documents relating to history and settlement of New Netherland. Their library is now on my list of places to go to conduct research.

New Holland Society logo

Unfortunately, it is society whose membership is only open to men. To date, I have found no comparable society for women to join. If anyone is familiar with such a society, please leave a comment below.

How I descend from Arent Isaaczen Van Hoeck (1623-between 1696 and 1697):
  • Arent Isaaczen Van Hoeck married (3) Stynie "Christina" Laurens, widow of Jan Hendricks (unknown-1682); their son,
  • Laurens "Lawrence" Van Hoeck/Van Hook (about 1670-1724)  married Johanna Hendricks Smith (1673-1747); their daughter,
  • Francinke Van Hoeck/Van Hook (1714-about 1785) married Reverend Samuel Blair (1712-1751); their daughter,
  • Mary Blair (1739-1806) married Reverend David Rice (1733-1816), their daughter,
  • Frances Blair Rice (1766-1861) married Reverend James Mitchell (1747-1841); their son,
  • Daniel Mitchell (about 1781-1860) married Sarah "Sally" Wood (1792-1864); their daughter,
  • Barbara Ann Mitchell (1841-1890) married David Fleming Beard, Sr. (1812-1878); their daughter,
  • Effie Beard (1871-1906) married Charles Edward Jennings (1843-1917); their son,
  • Marvin Edward Jennings, Sr. (1901-1961) married Alice Muir (1903-1993); their son,
  • Charles Theodore Jennings, Sr. (1931- ) married Dorothy Ailein Lange (1930-2014), their daughter,
  • Schalene Jennings is me!
Discovering a New 8 Times Great Grandfather: Arent Van Hoeck

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Discovering an 8 Times Great Grandfather: Arent Van Hoeck

A few weeks ago a new DNA match enabled me to push part of my tree back three more generations to an eight times great grandfather, who was born in the Duchy of Oldenburg and immigrated to New Amsterdam in 1655. His name was Arent Isaaczen Van Hoeck, which was later anglicized to Van Hook. A descendant wrote about book about Arent and his descendants in 1998, which I have ordered.

Arent Isaaczen Van Hoeck was born in 1623 in Hookseil, Duchy of Oldenburg (now in Lower Saxony, Germany). He was born during the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), one of the most destructive wars in European history. Entire regions were decimated with famine and disease significantly reducing population. Arent moved to Amsterdam in the Dutch Republic as young man. Perhaps he did so for a chance at better opportunities.  The 17th century was considered the Dutch Golden Age because the tiny republic dominated world trade. Arent became a Dutch citizen in January 1652 and that same year married Sara Van Cliet on 30 March 1652 in Amsterdam. I suspect she died sometime before 1655 as Arent married Geertje (Sophronia) Everts in January 1655. Both his marriages took place in Dutch Reformed churches. Arent and Geertje immigrated to New Amsterdam in the spring of that same year.

View of New Amsterdam circa 1664; courtesy of Wikipedia

Brief History of New Amsterdam
The colony of New Netherland had been established in 1624 and grew to encompass all of present-day New York City and parts of Long Island and New Jersey. The largest town was New Amsterdam, located on the tip of Manhattan Island. On 27 August 1664 several English frigates sailed into the harbor of New Amsterdam and demanded the surrender of the colony. The articles of capitulation were signed on 8 September and New Amsterdam was renamed New York, in honor of of the Duke of York, who later became King James II, in June 1665.

England and the Netherlands were quickly at war after the take over of New Amsterdam. The Treaty of Breda ended the Second Anglo-Dutch War in 1667. The Netherlands did not press their claims for New Netherland and England administered the former Dutch colony. Peace did not last long, however. The Third Anglo-Dutch War broke out in 1673 and the Dutch military briefly occupied New York City and named it New Orange and installed their own governor. The 1674 Treaty of Westminster ended the Third Anglo-Dutch War and the former Dutch territory reverted back to English control and New Orange became New York City again.

After being a citizen for a year and six weeks and paying 20 guilders, Arent was awarded small burgher-rights and became a shoemaker. Only great and small burghers and employees of the West India Company could practice a profession or work at trade. Arent moved his family to Albany, New York, in 1659. The colony was called Beverwijck. Geerjte died in 1663 or 1664. Shortly after her death, Arent returned to New York City with his three children.

Blockhouse (for protection against Native Americans) also served as a church
in Beverwijck, c1650; image courtesy of Real Estate New York

After the English take over, the citizens of New Amsterdam/New York City swore an oath of allegiance and became citizens of England. Arent married Stynie (Christina) Laurens, widow of Jan Hendricks, the year of the official English takeover. The couple had five children and I descend from their son Laurens (Lawrence), who was born about 1670. Arent moved his family to Brooklyn in 1676. Sometime before Stynie's death in 1682, they had moved again to Kingston, New York.

Arent married for the fourth time in 1685 to Lizbeth Stevens, widow of Abraham Valdinck. Lizbeth died sometime in the early 1690s and Arent married yet again to Maria Jan Van Hobocken, widow of Otto Laurenzen, on 12 January 1696. Arent died before October 1697 when Maria appeared on a tax list as Widow Van Hoeck.

I am much indebted to Ancestry member boconnell179, who wrote a wonderful 23-page narrative of Arent Van Hoeck's life, which was exhaustively researched, and shared via his family tree.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Cousins: Served Together, Died Together

Two young men died within days of each other during World War II. Not unusual, sadly, until I discovered they were cousins and served in the same Army infantry regiment. Wallace Jennings Horton, son of Richard White Horton and Virginia "Jennie" Ellen Jennings served with the 119th Infantry, 30th Division. He died on 13 September 1944 near Henri-Chappelle, Belgium, two days after the city of Maastricht fell. He was awarded the purple heart. So he may have been wounded some days earlier.

Wallace's third cousin once removed, Nathaniel Thomas Miller, son of Napoleon Bonaparte Miller and Annie Etta Stinnett and grandson of Anne Marie (Jennings) Miller, was born on 28 February 1919 in Amherst County, Virginia. He was born on the family farm where he lived until he was drafted. By 1940, he was 21 years old and worked as an assistant machinist for the state highway department. He entered the Army on 1 October 1941, almost two years before his cousin, Wallace, likely during one of the first rounds of the new draft created by the Selective Service and Training Act of 1940.

Little Hampton, one of the 30th Infantry Division's training areas in England;
photograph courtesy of Britain from Above

The 119th Infantry Regiment sailed for England on 12 February 1944 aboard the S/S Brazil and joined the largest convoy ever assembled until that time 100 miles east of Boston the next day. The regiment arrived in Liverpool on 22 February and continued training in Sussex and Buckinghamshire. On 8 June, two days after D-Day, they arrived in Southampton and began marshaling for their transport to France. They landed on Omaha Beach on 13 June and moved to Les Oubeaux, the division's assembly area. By the end of August, the 119th Infantry Regiment had liberated 83 French cities and towns and entered the Netherlands on 12 September.

By 18 September XIX Corps, of which the 30th Infantry Division was a part, had reached the German border. 2nd Armored and 30th Infantry Divisions were to attack the Sigfried Line, or West Wall, as early as 20 September and assist in the encirclement of Aachen. However, Operation Market Garden, farther to the north, had begun on 17 September and was given priority over other operations. Eisenhower issued a moratorium on offensive operations on 22 September due to critical supply shortages. As a result, the 30th Infantry Division's attack on Aachen never really got off the ground.

Sigfried Line, or West Wall, which 30th Infantry had to attack; image courtesy
of the 104th Infantry Division
The Sigfried Line; photograph from The Sigfried Line
Center for Military History, U.S. Army

The division wasn't idle, though. While top brass planned the next attack on the West Wall, which was set to jump off on 1 October, the soldiers were involved in intensive patrolling of their front lines. Nathaniel Thomas Miller likely was injured or killed in action during one of those patrols. He died on 29 September 1944 and was also interred at the Henri-Chappelle American Cemetery and Memorial.

Be sure to read my brother John's guest post, When Pursuit Comes to an End, for more on the 30th Infantry Division's story.

I have often wondered if Wallace Jennings Horton and Nathaniel Thomas Miller knew they were cousins or that they served in the same regiment.

Chart illustrating how Wallace Horton and Nat Miller are
related and how I am related to both of them; created using
Microsoft Powerpoint

Killed in Belgium During Heavy Fighting
When Pursuit Comes to an End

MacDonald, Charles B. The Sigfried Line Campaign, (Washington, DC: Center for Military History, U.S. Army, 1993) pages 251-322

Friday, February 12, 2016

Daniel Webster Jennings' Farm

I participated in Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge in 2014 and 2015. Last year Amy provided optional themes for each weekly post. For Week 34, the theme was the census non-population schedules. I wrote about the farm of my great great grandfather, John Wesley Riggin, and used the 1880 agricultural schedule as the source for a description of the farm.

Writing that post got me thinking about how to use those schedules to better understand how an ancestor's farming operation evolved over time and if I could discern economic conditions in their area using those schedules. I ran a report of the sources used in my family tree and discovered that I had three agricultural schedules for Daniel Webster Jennings, my great great uncle, for the years 1850, 1860, and 1880. In addition, a products and industry schedule for 1860 included an entry for him. He lived in Virginia during a time the commonwealth experienced great economic and social upheaval during and after the Civil War. It would be a good case study.

Daniel Webster Jennings was born about 1807 in Buckingham County, Virginia. His father was John William Jennings, Sr., a War of 1812 veteran, moved his family to Amherst County in the mid 1800s. By 1840 Daniel had married Martha Ann Staples and lived in Amherst County. They had one child and a young female slave.

When the 1850 census was enumerated, Daniel and Martha had six children ranging in age from 13 years old to two. Daniel owned 200 acres of land, 150 of which were improved, and his real estate was valued at $2,700 on the population schedule. He valued the land at $1,600 on the agricultural schedule. He had farming equipment valued at $75. While he owned 6 horses, 4 milk cows, 10 head of cattle, and 10 sheep, most of his livestock were swine, of which he had 160 animals. He valued that stock at $600. On the farm he grew wheat, Indian corn, oats, and Irish potatoes. His wife, Martha, oversaw the making of 200 pounds of butter.

By 1860, Daniel's farming operation had grown. He now owned 500 acres of land, of which 200 acres were improved, and he valued his farm equipment and machinery at $200. He owned 8 horses, 3 milk cows, 14 head of cattle, 25 sheep and 150 swine. He continued to grow wheat, Indian corn, and oats, as well as a small amount of peas and beans but his cash crop was now tobacco. He harvested 1,500 pounds in 1859.

Daniel also owned a mill in 1860. He invested $1,000 in the operation and hired one worker, who he paid $16. They milled 3,000 bushels of corn and Daniel valued that production at $3,300. It appears that Daniel owned another type of business, but I could not decipher what it may have been. The mystery business is the second entry underneath Daniel's name on the snippet below.

1860 Schedule 5--Products and Industry entry for Daniel W. Jennings;
image courtesy of

The next year the Civil War began. No battles were actually fought in Amherst County, but there was a lot war related activity. Fort Riverview was constructed in Madison Heights to protect Six Mile Bridge, which was an integral part of a major Confederate supply route. At least three of Daniel's sons fought in the war.

According to the 1870 census, Daniel's real estate was valued at $1,000 and his personal property at $330. His oldest son lived next door and a younger son lived nearby. Their census entries did not include a value for real estate or personal property. Perhaps, the war did have a negative financial impact on Daniel or perhaps he had begun distributing his assets to his children?

In 1880, the Census Bureau changed the agricultural census quite a bit. Much more detail for each farm listed was now required. Daniel owned 350 acres of land, 150 less than in 1860. He farmed 175 acres and the remaining land was unimproved. He valued his farm equipment and machinery at $150 and his livestock at $500. The big change in the farm animals was that Daniel was no longer raising swine. However, he had many more sheep. He had reduced his tobacco growing to two acres, but the other crops remained the same. This agricultural schedule asked about orchards, chickens, and other farming related activities. Daniel had 50 chickens, raised apples and peaches, and kept bees for their honey. He also made a small amount of money from his forest land.

By using several non-population schedules over a period of 40 years, I was able to identify changes in Daniel's livelihood. What was less obvious, was the reasons for those changes.

I used two Census publications to decipher the meaning of the non-population schedules used as sources in this post:

Agricultural Schedules: 1850 to 1890
Instructions, 1860 Decennial Census (products and industry)

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Beard and Jennings: More Interconnected Than I Thought

I spent a lot of time last year researching the descendants of my three times great grandfather, John William Jennings, Sr.'s children. But I had never gone one generation further back to the children of my four times great grandfather and American patriot, Benjamin Jennings[1] until recently.

I was working on the descendants of Benjamin's daughter, Elizabeth Jennings when I discovered my tree was more interconnected than I thought. Elizabeth's birth date is unknown, but she was born in Powhatan County, Virginia, likely well before 1800. She married Benjamin Waldron, who may have been her second husband. They had at least three children.

Elizabeth's great great grandson, Howard Preston Waldron, was my fourth cousin once removed. He was born in 1910 in Lynchburg, Virginia, and married Frances Dorothy Beard in 1937. That got my attention.

One of my great grandmothers was Effie Beard. Both Frances and Effie were from Bedford County, Virginia. I suspected they were related.

Known intermarriages between my Beard line from Bedford County and
my Jennings line from Amherst County

It turns out that Effie and Frances Dorothy Beard were first cousins twice removed. I am Frances Dorothy Beard's third cousin once removed and a fourth cousin once removed of her husband, Howard Preston Waldron.

Are you confused yet?

[1]DAR Ancestor No. A062263

Monday, February 8, 2016

Simmonds Disease

Ruby James Graham was the second wife of my second cousin once removed, Wallace Edward Dawson. Wallace married Ruby on 11 May 1940 in Lynchburg, Virginia. She was the daughter of Roosevelt T. Graham and Thelma G. Moon. The couple were married 13 years before Ruby died at the age of 33 on 19 July 1953 at the Lynchburg General Hospital. The cause of death was malnutrition and the contributing cause of death was Simmonds Disease of which I had never heard.

Ruby James (Graham) Dawson death certificate; image courtesy of

I learned that Simmonds disease is extreme and progressive emaciation, loss of body hair, and premature aging caused by atrophy or destruction of the anterior lobe of the pituitary. It is also called hypophyseal cachexia, pituitary cachexia.

The first known report of Simmonds disease was made by German physician Dr. Morris Simmonds. According to Wikipedia, "He described the condition on autopsy in a 46-year-old woman who had suffered severe puerperal fever (postpartum infections) eleven years earlier, and subsequently suffered amenorrhea, weakness, signs of rapid aging and anemia." By the early 21st century doctors had no problems recognizing the disease.

A study conducted in Spain measured the prevalence of Simmonds Disease and concluded that 45.5 out of 100,000 people had been diagnosed, with 4.2 new cases per year. Most often the disease was a result of pituitary gland tumors or other types of lesions. More recently, studies show that people who have suffered from traumatic brain injury or brain hemorrhages or had radiation therapy in the cranial region are more likely to experience persistent pituitary hormone deficiencies.

Simmonds Disease is a permanent condition; it cannot be cured, only managed. And it must be managed for a lifetime. Today sufferers may experience a normal lifespan something not available to Ruby in 1953.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Happy 3rd Anniversary to Me!

Tangled Roots and Trees is three years old today! I started the blog as a way to tell stories to my Dad to let him know that his love of genealogy and the research he did for many years continues. The audience has expanded a bit since then and I still enjoy telling family stories.

Image courtesy of

I define "ancestor" more broadly than most and will write about my own and those who belong to my sisters-in-law, nieces-in-law and cousins. I most frequently write about these families:

Created using

The most popular posts I wrote in 2015 were:
  1. (Guest Blog) A Star in Heaven: Chelsea Ann Tucker (1989-2015)
  2. Introducing the Slave Name Roll Project
  3. Social Security Applications and Claims Index
  4. Slaves of Harvey Claytor (1800-1871) of Franklin County, Virginia
  5. Cecelia's Big Secret?
  6. Last of the Covered Wagons: Duck and Cover
  7. The Onion Layers that Were Cecelia Dagutis
  8. In Celebration of Black History Month (or More DNA Discoveries)
  9. Professor Frederick Speece's Will
  10. Discovering My Local Family History Center
Perhaps, selfishly, the biggest news of the year was that I retired. (I'm Retired!) I now get to spend about 4 hours almost every day researching and writing about my extended family tree. I am also able to fulfill a promise I made to my mother before she died -- volunteer work, which I do with my DAR chapter. I also read to senior citizens in a couple of nursing homes.

In late 2014 I started what turned out to be an ambitious project -- a book about the descendants of Robert Muir (c1800-1869), my three times great grandfather and the one line on my father's side, he could not research very well as his great grandfather, James Muir, Robert's son, immigrated to the U.S. from Scotland in 1887. Dad did not have access to Scottish records at the time he was able to conduct his research. I promised I would write a book for him. That promise turned out to be a 8-volume opus! Two volumes are completed and available for download and I am now working on Volume VII: Descendants of James Muir (1848-1926). Only five more to go!

Covers of the Descendants of Robert Muir (c1800-1869)

The books and associated genealogy reports, including source citations, are available for download at: Robert Muir Family Blog/Books.

I also wrote a month-long series about the 19th Virginia Infantry regiment which fought for the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. My great grandfather, Charles Edward Jennings, his brother, and three of his first cousins fought with the regiment. I am condensing the series now into an article for a magazine to be published later this year. You may find the series under the Civil War heading on my War Stories page.

On Veterans Day 2014 I began contributing to Heather Wilkinson Rojo's Honor Roll Project, which is an effort to photograph and transcribe the names of men and women who served in their country's armed forces in times of war so the names will be indexed by Internet search engines. I continued participating in 2015 and have several photographs and names to share for Memorial Day this year.

During Black History Month in February 2015, I began the Slave Name Roll Project, with five contributions. The objective is to record information about named slaves whenever and where ever they may be found so that African-American genealogists and family historians may break through the wall beyond the 1870 census. Documents such was wills and other probate records, bills of sale, court cases and newspaper advertisements for run-away slaves are often rich sources of information. Today, the project has over 310 contributions and continues to grow. If you have found a named slave in your research, I hope you will consider contributing.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Those Rascally Kidds!

Emma B. Jennings was born about 1867 to Daniel Rose and Mary "Mollie" (Johnson) Jennings. She spent the first few years of her life on her parents' farm in Amherst County, Virginia, before the family moved to Appomattox County where her father worked as a machinist. By 1886 Daniel had moved his family again, this time to Richmond.

Emma married John Kidd on 15 April 1890 in Richmond. He was the son of Chapman and Virginia Kidd and had been born about 1856 in Fluvanna County, Virginia, according to their marriage record. Soon after their marriage John and Emma moved to Chicago. Their two children Mary Ruth and Hugh Pointer Kidd were born there in 1893 and 1896, respectively.

Index record of the marriage of John W. Kidd and
Emma B. Jennings; image courtesy of

When the 1900 census was enumerated, however, Emma was a widow and she and her two children lived with her parents in Richmond. According to a city directory, Emma was still living with her parents the next year at 311 -- 2nd Street.

She married James Jordan Beavers on 28 November 1907 in Henrico County, Virginia. James was the son of Jeduthan and Sallie Beavers and was born on 23 February 1867 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. He worked as a bookkeeper for a plumbing concern. He had also been married previously and had been widowed the year before. Apparently, their marriage was a short one, however, as the 1910 census indicated James Beavers was a widower in 1910. Interestingly, his in-laws, Daniel and Mollie Jennings lived with him.

Index record of the 1910 census for James Beavers;
image courtesy of

Emma's daughter, Mary Ruth Kidd, married Herman H. Smith on 3 October 1912 also in Henrico County. He was the son of Benjamin and Allie Smith and had been born about 1887. She and Herman had one known daughter and lived in Richmond for the remainder of her life. She died at her home at 1915 -- 4th Avenue on 19 January 1968.

When Emma's son, Hugh Pointer Kidd, registered for the World War I draft on 5 June 1917, he lived in Ashdown, Arkansas, and worked in fishing for John Mosby in Millswood. He was single and his appearance was described as short and slender with blue eyes and a full head of brown hair. He had served for three years in the Virginia militia. In 1920 he lived in Benton, Arkansas, and worked as a cook in restaurant.

He married Bessie Daughten on 1 December 1927 in Sevier County, Arkansas. She had been married previously to a Cecil Adams. Hugh and Bessie had two children and they remained in Ashdown, Arkansas, for the remainder of Hugh's life.  He worked as a laborer for a carnival that was in Sequin, Texas, on 7 September 1967, the day he died of a heart attack. He was interred in the Blackerby Cemetery in Little River County, Arkansas.

Hugh Pointer Kidd death certificate; image courtesy of

It all sounds like a fairly normal biography of a family group but finding the information was anything but normal. For example, I can find no death record for John Kidd, who was always listed as a child in the census as John W. Kidd, but listed on his son's death certificate as John H. Kidd. I only know that John's wife, Emma, was listed as a widow in the 1900 census and in a 1901 city directory. I have noticed it was not unusual for a divorced woman to say she was a widow at that time. Therefore, I have expanded the date range of John's possible death to include 1896 (son's birth) to 1956 (his 100th birthday). I have yet to find it.

Emma's second husband died in 1937. His death certificate stated he was widowed at the time of his death. The 1910, 1920 and 1930 census records also stated he was a widower. Yet I have been unable to find a record of Emma's death, which should have been between 1907, the date of their marriage, and 1910, the earliest record that listed James as a widower.

Emma and John's children were also problematic. Mary Ruth Kidd was listed as Mary C. Kidd in the 1900 census. It wasn't until I read a chapter about the Jennings families in the book, Miller-Duff and Related Families, which listed her married name as Ruth Kidd Smith. Once I knew her as Mary Ruth (Kidd) Smith, I was able to find her death certificate. This provided the date and place of her birth as well as her husband's name.

Hugh Pointer Kidd was listed as Hugh R. Kidd in the 1900 census. Again, finding his death certificate in Texas provided most of what I know know about him. That information led to his World War I draft registration, which also provided Chicago as his place of birth.

There are still many questions about this family group so I will continue to research them. If you are related and know information I do not, please leave a comment below.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Slavery in Illinois and the Slave Name Roll

One of the prized possessions in my genealogy book collection is my two-volume, Centennial History of Madison County, published in 1912.  From it I learned the French first brought slaves to the land that became Illinois as early as 1719. When the Illinois territory split from Indiana in 1809 it adopted an Indiana code, which permitted a modified form of slavery. The code allowed slaves to be introduced into the territory and held as "indentured slaves." This enabled Southerners moving into the Illinois territory to bring their slaves with them as long as they indentured them for a term of years. There were thought to be about 900 slaves in Illinois when it became a state in 1818.

Illinois came into the United States as a free state under the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. However, the pro-slavery people believed the ordinance could not abrogate the rights of property guaranteed by the 1763 treaty in which Virginia ceded the land. So the slavery issue roiled the state for several years.

In the 1820s pro-slavery elements tried to call a convention to legalize slavery. A referendum held the next year indicated 60 percent of citizens were opposed. It was during this period that a possible[1] Riggin descendant joined an anti-slavery association. In 1853 a law was passed which prohibited African-Americans, including free persons, from settling in the state.

From the Centennial History of Madison County; personal collection

The Centennial History of Madison County included an example of a Record of Indenture:

"Be it remembered that this day, to-wit the 15th of March in the year of our Lord 1815, personally appeared before me, Josias Randle, Clerk of the County Court of Madison county in the Territory of Illinois, JACK BONAPARTE, a man of color, and Joshua Vaughn, both of the county of Madison, and the said Jack now being the property of said Joshua, and for other considerations, doth hereby agree and freely oblige himself to serve the said Joshua Vaughn, his heirs and assigns, ninety years, as a good and faithful servant, and the said Joshua Vaughn obliges himself, as long as said Jack continues with him, to furnish the said Jack with good and wholesome food, necessary clothing and all other necessaries suitable for a servant. In testimony thereof both parties have hereby agreed to the forgoing bargain in my office the day and year aforesaid.

Josias Randle, County Clerk of Madison county
Entered 1815, Term of service: 90 years. Jack Bonaparte will be free in 1905.

Fielding Bradshaw"

The 1820 tax list indicated that 20 people owned indentured slaves in Madison County. One of them was Isom Gillham, father of John C. Riggin's wife, Mary Adeline Gilliam. That must have made for some interesting discussions over dinner. Isom owned an unnamed indentured slave valued at $700 and his son-in-law was a founding member of the Madison Association to Oppose the Introduction of Slavery in Illinois. John C. Riggin's father, Reverend James Riggin, had manumitted his slaves when he converted to Methodism and became a preacher.

If you find named slaves in documents about your ancestors, will you consider participating in the Slave Name Roll Project? The project is a collaborative, continuous effort to help those with slave ancestors break through brick walls in their research by putting slave names in places that make them available to Internet search engines.

[1]There were two different Riggin families in Madison County in the early days of the county's history. Descendants of Rev. James M. Riggin claim those families were unrelated. However, I have a DNA match with a descendant of Rev. Riggin's youngest son. So my Riggin family, which begins with a John Riggin who married (and divorced) Margaret Farris, are likely related to the other, more prominent Riggin family in some undetermined way.