Friday, April 29, 2016

My BIG Brick Wall: Augusta Fabrizius

When I checked my Ancestor Score a couple of months ago, I knew 15 of my 16 great great grandparents. The reason I don't know all of them is my BIG brick wall is my great grandmother, Auguste Fabriske / Fabricius / Fabrizius, who I know next to nothing about.

My pedigree chart; image courtesy of

I know from ship passenger manifests that she was born about 1861; that she married my great grandfather, Wilhelm Schalin, on 20 December 1881 (converted from Julian calendar); lived in an area of Tsarist Russian that is now Ukraine; had six children there before immigrating to Alberta, Canada; had three more children; and died on 12 February 1898. Other documents to support these facts include the registration of a daughter's birth, which provided the marriage date; a list of headstone transcriptions of the people buried in the cemetery of the First Baptist Church of Fredericksheim in Leduc, Canada; and a book written by Lucille Marion (Fillenberg) Effa, entitled Our Schalene Family: 1770-2003. Mrs. Effa was my second cousin once removed.

The birth registration of daughter, Wilhelmine Schalin, who was born in 1892, is in Russian. The document includes middle names for the parents -- Wilhelm Gottlieb Schalin and August Wilhelmowa Fabrizius. It is the only record which includes middle names for my great grandparents. My current belief is that they are not middle names but rather patronymics. Wilhelm's father was Gottlieb Schalin. If so, then Auguste's father's name was Wilhelm Fabrizius -- the only chip in my brick wall.

Most of this information was included Mrs Effa's book. I found the few documents I have about Auguste as I conducted by own research to verify and extend the information in the book. Late last year I hired professional researchers to assist me break through the brick wall that was Auguste Fabrizius. However, they found so many documents about the Schalin family in Poland, where they lived before moving to Russia/Ukraine, that we concentrated our search there. So I am saving the Ukrainian research for another day.

Ancestor Score and 500th Post
Deciphering Cyrillic: Finding Tuchyn
Fleeing a Tsar
Starvation Faced Fredericksheim
History of Fredericksheim
Fearless Females: Religion

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Lange Family Bible Unlocks the Life of Traugott Lange

Based on the transcriptions and translation I conducted on the three pages of family information in my Grandpa Lange's bible, which I received from an aunt in March, I believe the bible originally belonged to Grandpa's brother, Traugott Lange. The family lore about Traugott was that he immigrated to the United States from Russia sometime in the 1920s, went to Alabama and was never heard from again.

It turns out Traugott lived a very different life from what many in the family believed.

He was born on 16 October 1890[1] and his birth was registered in the parish of Rozyszcze, Volyn, Ukraine (at the time of his birth, it was part of Russia), to Carl August and Caroline (Ludwig) Lange. He was their second son, two years younger than my Grandpa, Gustav Lange.

Grandpa left Russia soon after his father died about 1905 and went to Essen, Germany, to work. He immigrated to Canada in 1911 and settled in Winnipeg, Canada, where he lived with his maternal uncle, Gustav Ludwig[2] and his wife Matilda Yeske. They lived at 386 Thames Avenue.

386 Thames Avenue, Winnipeg, Canada; courtesy Google Maps

Traugott followed his brother to Winnipeg about 1912. When the Canadian census for what became the provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan was enumerated in 1916, Traugott lived at 386 Thames Avenue with Uncle Gustav and Aunt Matilda and worked as a laborer at an iron works.

He married Katherina "Kate" Magdalena Hirt on 23 June 1917 in Winnipeg. She was the daughter of Nicholas "Mike" and Anna Hirt and had been born in Sanderfalva, Csongrad, Hungary, on 30 September 1899. Her mother and three of her siblings had immigrated from Hungary in 1905 and joined her father and oldest brother in Winnipeg. She was Roman Catholic and Traugott was Lutheran. Traugott became a naturalized Canadian citizen about this time.

Katherina Magdalena Hirt is second from the left; the bridal couple is
Mathias John and Anna Rose (Hirt) Becker, 1916; courtesy of
member jay_barbara

Traugott and Kate had their first child, Peter Lange, on 5 March 1919 in Winnipeg. The next year, on 24 November 1920, the young family boarded a Canadian Pacific train and left for a long-trip across two countries to Maryland. They arrived in the United States at Noyes, Minnesota, indicated their destination was Cheltenham, Maryland, and they were going to see Traugott's brother, Gustav Lange. Gustav and his wife had moved to Maryland the year before after a buying a farm sight unseen. Was this when Traugott gave Gustav his bible?

When the 1921 Canadian census was enumerated in June, Traugott, his wife, and son, were lodgers at the home of his Uncle Gustav Ludwig, who had moved to 445 Riverton Avenue in Elmwood neighborhood of Winnipeg. On 30 August 1921 their daughter, Magdalene Elizabeth, was born in Dakota County, Minnesota.

Traugott and Kate received U.S. Alien Certificates in Winnipeg in 1923 from the U.S. Department of Labor after being examined by government officials prior to immigrating to the U.S. Traugott preceded his wife and children to Los Angeles, California. He likely stayed with his brother-in-law, Mathias Becker, who married Kate's sister, Anna Rose in 1916. Kate and her young children boarded Canadian Pacific train No. 110 in Winnipeg and arrived in Noyes, Minnesota, the same day. They told U.S. border officials their destination was 4204 Hubert Avenue in Los Angeles, the home of Traugott Lange.

Traugott Lange Alien Certificate; courtesy of
Katherina Magdalena (Hirt) Lange U.S. Alien Certificate; courtesy of

It is entirely possible the family returned to Winnipeg soon afterwards. There are several records, which indicated Traugott traveled from Winnipeg to Los Angeles in November of 1924. On those records, he said his wife, Kate, lived at 404 Tweed Avenue in the Elmwood neighborhood of Winnipeg.

However, by 1930 the family had settled permanently in Montebello, California. Traugott owned a home at 4470 Lovett Street, which was valued at $3,000; no occupation was listed on the census form.

Traugott Lange died on 13 April 1932 in Los Angeles County, California, at the age of 41. Six months later, Kate married Sandor "Sam" Egrasky on 1 October 1932 in Los Angeles County. He had been married before. On 27 February 1935 Kate and Sam had a son, Sandor Nick Egrasky, in Los Angeles County.

In 1938 Sam and Kate were listed in the Los Angeles city directory living at 4470 Lovett Street in Montebello -- the house she had lived in in 1930 with Traugott. They remained there when the 1940 census was enumerated. Kate and Traugott's children, Peter and Magdalene were enumerated with the Egrasky surname.

Tragott and Kate's son, Peter, became a U.S. citizen on 11 April 1941. He had changed his name to Peter Charles Lang (no "e" at the end) before he earned his U.S. citizenship. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942.

Kate became a U.S. citizen on 10 December 1943 and still lived at 4470 Lovett Street in Montebello.

Kate (Hirt) Egrasky petition for U.S. citizenship, 1941; courtesy

Sam Egrasky died on 19 September 1963 in Los Angeles County; Kate died on 18 December 1970. Kate's three children are all deceased.

[1]This is a Julian calendar date; it converts to 28 October 1890 in the Gregorian calendar, which was the calendar in used at the time Traugott lived in Canada and is still used today.
[2]More about Uncle Gustav Ludwig in a future post.

Grandpa Lange's Bible and New Mysteries

Monday, April 25, 2016

Grandpa Lange's Bible and New Mysteries

In early March with snow in the forecast for our home in northern Virginia, Pete and I headed south to Florida. In Jacksonville Beach on a beautiful morning, we attended the memorial service for Byron Vance, my cousin's husband. It was one of the most moving services I have ever attended. It was held on the beach in front of the American Red Cross Life Saving Station. There was a military color guard, a bagpiper, and the life saving squad rowed Byon's ashes out to sea and scattered them.

American Red Cross Life Saving Boat; personal collection

After the ceremony, we had lunch with Nancy's family and during our visit, Aunt Jeanne gave me one of the most meaningful gifts I have ever received -- Grandpa Lange's bible.[1]

Grandpa Lange's Bible; personal collection

Grandpa's bible was in German and contained several pages of family information about his family and that of his wife's, the Schalin family.

First page of Lange family information; personal collection

Eltern und Geschwitser des Ehemannes.

Ein weiser Sohn ist feines Vaters freude;
aber ein thörichter Sohn ist feiner Mutter Grämen.

Parents and brothers and sisters of the husband.

A wise son is his father's joy;
But a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.

The handwritten information is translated as follows:

Gustav was born 12 February 1888
Traugott was born 16 October 1890
Richard was born 5 February 1900
Fridrich was born 30 July 1905

Second page of Lange family information

Familien = Chronik.

Erwählet euch heute, wem ihr dienen wollt...
Ich aber und mein Haus wollen dem HErrn dienen

Family = Chronicle.

Choose you this day whom ye will serve ...
But I and my house will serve the LORD.

Name, Geburtstag und Geburtsort des Ehemannes.

Name, date and birth place of the husband.

Fred Lange
Born on 26 October 1890. (It looks like 1899 was written first and then overwritten with 1890.)

Name, Geburtstag und Geburtsort der Ehefrau.

Name, date and birth place of the wife.

Katherina Magdalena Hirt
Born on 30 September
Ungarnia, Sanderfalva (which is current day Sanderfalva, Csongrad, Hungary)



23 June 1917
by Pastor Wutcki
in Winnipeg, Manitoba

The first page correctly lists four of the five Lange brothers with their correct dates of birth. Only brother Heinrich is missing. Also missing are the two sisters.

The second page is the page that created much confusion. The Fred who married Katherina Magdalena Hirt cannot be Gustav's youngest brother. He was born in 1905, according to my grandfather. Fred's granddaughter agreed and said her grandmother's name was Theofile Schrohschein and that Fred and Theofile were married in 1929. It must belong to Traugott, who Mom always called Fritz. He listed his birth date as 26 October when his birth registration indicated 16 October, but that can largely be explained away by the difference between the Julian calendar, which was still in use in Russia when Traugott was born and the Gregorian calendar.

According to family lore, Traugott "Fritz/Fred" immigrated to the U.S. via New York and went to Alabama. The family never heard from him again during the 1920s. Yet, Grandpa Lange and Traugott were together in Winnipeg after they both married there and Traugott gave his brother his bible.

The third page of family information included in the bible are the birth dates of Grandma Lange's siblings. My guess would be they were written by Grandpa Lange after they married in 1915. The handwriting is very, very similar, maybe identical, to the first two pages of family information.

Grandma Lange's Schalin siblings were included on the
third page of the family bible; personal collection

Did Grandpa Lange write all three pages? Did Traugott write the first two pages and Grandpa Lange the third? What does everyone else think?

[1]Aunt Jeanne is the widow of my mother's brother, Alfred Lange. Grandpa Lange was their father.

The Sibling Problem

Friday, April 22, 2016

Who Got the Great Jennens Fortune?

In almost every Jennings genealogy written in any country, there is a section about the Great Jennens Fortune, which was left by William Jennens who died intestate at the age of 97 in 1798. His death set off a multi-continent legal free-for-all that was the basis for Charles Dickens' book, Bleak House.

William Jennens, who was described as a "crusty old bachelor," had his unsigned will in his pocket and was on his way to his solicitor but forgot his spectacles, started home to retrieve them, and died. This part of the tale does not seem to be in dispute. Every source that discusses William and his fortune mentions it. Where the story differs is the beneficiaries.

I thought I had solved who finally got William's fortune when I wrote this blog post, which indicated Mary (Finch) Howard, Viscountess of Andover, and Richard William Penn Curzon, later made Earl Howe, received the bulk of the fortune. A book[1] prepared in 1879 for a Jennings family association in England interested in pursuing what they believed was their rightful portion of the fortune listed the peers as the beneficiaries and provided their genealogies. The book was written by genealogists hired by the association and so the book also "proved" how the courts in England had erred. These genealogists believed Lady Andover and Lord Curzon were really related to the William Jennens who died in 1803. An earlier report[2] written in 1863 for a Jennings association in the United States said the fortune had been distributed by 1821. It then went on to indicate the errors of this dispersal.

Partial family tree of John Jennens, the "Ironmonger of Birmingham," created
using Microsoft Powerpoint

But not so fast...I found another book[3] about the Jennings family on the HathiTrust website which also tells the story of the great Jennens fortune. It indicated a different beneficiary and said the decision wasn't made until about 1852:

"...we noticed that the Court of Chancery, after 54 years of deliberation, had recently come to a decision as to the appropriation of the immense property comprised in this estate. The heir-at-law proves to be a person named Martin, a descendant of Jennens' sister. He is now 90 years of age, and his daughter is the wife of a person named Langham, at this time in the employ of Mr. Hawes of Maldon, plumer and glazier. Martin was originally connected with the trading craft, in the Maldon river, but of late has been in low circumstances. The 12th of June next is fixed for the transfer of the funded property in the Court of Chancery, and the estates are expected to follow."
-- Benjamin Gibbs Mitchell, Consanguinity of the Families of Gibbs and Mitchell

Snippet from Documented Notes on Jennings and Allied Families by Beatrice
Mackey Doughtie; courtesy of HathiTrust

This is a much different and more heartwarming end to the tale of the richest commoner in England who died intestate than two peers receiving yet more money and property. So who really did get the money? According to Wikipedia, the lawsuits dragged on for over a hundred years and eventually exhausted the fortune. The only way I can think to resolve these conflicting reports, is to think the Viscountess of Andover and Lord Howe received the estate first but legal challenges continued. In one of those suits, the Court of Chancery ruled against the peers, and the case drug on until the money was gone.

Many public trees indicate my four times great grandfather Benjamin Jennings was a descendant of the John Jennens (died 1653), known as the "Ironmonger of Birmingham," and the great grandfather of the William Jennens who left the fortune. Wouldn't that be nice?

Unfortunately, the first documented record for "my" Benjamin Jennings is a 9 September 1776 payroll record from the Virginia Militia company commanded by Capt. Thomas Gaddis. He was selected by Col. Morgan in 1777 as a sharpshooter in Morgan's Rifles. After the war he owned land in Powhatan County, Virginia, where he appeared on several tax lists. His will was probated on 19 July 1815.

Even though he has caused me no end of grief trying to cross the pond with my Jennings ancestors, I've grown quite fond of curmudgeonly old William Jennens, often called the richest commoner in England.

[1] Harrison and Willis (Compilers). The Great Jennens Case: Being an Epitome of the History of the Jennens Family, (Sheffield: Pawson and Brailsford, 1879), pages 85-89, 98, 101, 113-114
[2]Smith, Columbus and Fisher, C. M. (Compilers). Report to the Jennings Association, U.S.A., (Rutland, VT: Tuttle & Gay, Printers, 1863), pages 11-12
[3] Doughtie, Beatrice Mackey. Documented Notes on Jennings and Allied Families, (Decatur, GA: Bowen Press, Inc., 1961), pages 1-6.

The Great Jennens Case
There's One Born Every Minute: Scamming the Greedy
A Forcible Act of Possession
Dickens' Bleak House Is about My Family

To read more about the details, T. Mark James has written an article entitled The Humphrey Jennings Estate Fraud that is worth reading.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Finding Alfred's Daddy

Last year in total frustration I wrote a post entitled Who's Your Daddy, Alfred Riggin? Alfred was my three times great grandfather who appeared out of thin air in 1833 in Madison County, Illinois, when he applied for a marriage license. He left evidence of a couple of land purchases, was listed in the 1840 and 1850 census...then disappeared never to be heard from again.

Well, I found my space alien's father! I found a family tree on RootsWeb that listed a John and Margaret (Farris) Riggin as the parents of Alfred. However, the tree had no source citations. I emailed the tree owner and got passed around to various people before connecting with a person who had done extensive research on our shared Riggin line. He sent me several documents which proved the relationship between James and Alfred.

Funnily enough, when I was just starting my research, I had James and Margaret as Alfred's parents. Somewhere along the line I deleted them when I realized there were two separate Riggin families floating around Madison County, Illinois, early in its formation -- my Riggin line and the one that descends from Teague Riggin of Somerset County, Maryland. I know these two lines are related in some way because I have a DNA match with a Riggin descendant from Teague's line; but no one has discovered the connection...yet. The Teague Riggin line has maintained for years the two lines are not related.

Alfred's Daddy, John Riggin, was born in 1780 in Warren County, North Carolina. His father may have been a William Riggin but this has not been proved. Margaret Farris was born on 4 April 1784 in Tennessee to James and Anne Farris. John Riggin and Margaret Farris married in 1807 in Tennessee. They followed Margaret's father when he brought his family to Madison County, Illinois, in the spring of 1818.

Farris family biography from the Centennial History of Madison County,
Illinois; courtesy of Internet Archive

John and Margaret had eight known children -- their names were included on a list of heirs his son, James, provided to the court in Gasconade County, Missouri:
  1. Mahala Riggin born about 1808; married Joseph E. Gaskill on 13 March 1828, five children; died 1838.
  2. Alfred Riggin born about 1811; married Sarah "Sally" Piper on 7 April 1833, six children; died soon after the 1850 census was enumerated
  3. Thurza or Theresa Riggin born about 1812; married Elias Hays on 5 March 1828; died about 1860
  4. Louisa Riggin born about 1814; married John Rankin on 22 November 1831
  5. Delana Riggin born about 1818; married Nelson Daniels on 17 March 1836
  6. James Riggin born about 1821; died 27 February 1887
  7. William Riggin born about 1823
  8. Lucinda Ann Riggin born about 1825
John owned a lot of land in Madison County and was in business with two gentlemen from Missouri. John apparently had a wandering eye and in the late 1830s had an affair with Eva Copenberger. He divorced Margaret in 1839 and married Eva on 9 March 1840 a few months after their daughter Susan was born. I am pretty sure this caused quite a scandal and may be the reason the Teague Riggin line does not acknowledge a relationship.

John and Eva had another child, John B. Riggin before John died in 1844. I had quite the time finding evidence of his death mostly because he died in Gasconade County, Missouri, and I was looking in Illinois where he had lived since 1818. The family rumor is that John successfully hid his assets from his first wife Margaret, selling most of his land in Illinois without her knowledge. He used that money to move he and his second family to Missouri.

Missouri Wills and Probate Records, 1766-1988, for John Riggin, courtesy of
Who's Your Daddy, Alfred Riggin?

Monday, April 18, 2016

In the Heart of the Balkans

As anyone with Eastern European ethnicity appreciates, genealogy research about my husband's ancestors has been difficult.

My husband's ethnicity estimate based on DNA; image courtesy of

Pete's mother gave me the names of her Adametz grandparents and great grandparents not long after we were married 28 years ago. I was able to add the parents of Pete's great grandfather, Leopold Fishtahler, when added death certificates a few years ago. I also learned the maiden name of Leopold's wife, which was Elizabeth Grotohville. We photographed their headstones in September during our last trip to Michigan. I knew Elizabeth died in 1922 but could not find her death certificate. Just last week I was able to discover the names of Elizabeth's parents and complete the list of Pete's maternal great great grandparents on his pedigree chart.

Pete's pedigree chart; image courtesy of

Sometime recently, added or updated their database of Michigan death certificates and I was able to find the certificate for Elizabeth (Grotohville) Fishtahler. She died on 2 January 1922 at home of cancer of the uterus and was buried three days later at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Detroit. She and her husband lived at 6115 Cadillac Avenue.

Elizabeth's husband immigrated to the United States in 1899. He boarded the S/S Willehad on 7 September in Bremen, Germany, and arrived in Baltimore, Maryland, on 20 September. His destination was the home of a daughter and son-in-law in Philadelphia. He left his wife, a son and four daughters in Banaiste, Serbia.

A daughter, who I believe to be theirs, immigrated about 1903 to Pittsburgh where an uncle lived. In August 1905 the rest of the family booked passage on the S/S Noordland, which left for the United States from Liverpool, England. However, they were not on the ship when it sailed. Son, Jacob, and my husband's maternal grandfather, left Europe a few months later on 14 December 1905 aboard the S/S Cassel. He and his mother and sisters lived in Novi Sad, Serbia, when he left home.

Elizabeth and her three youngest daughters did not leave Europe until 25 July 1907. They arrived in Baltimore aboard the S/S Breslau and made their way to Detroit where her husband and son lived. Leopold and Elizabeth were enumerated in two census before their deaths. According to the 1910 record, they married about 1876, had 6 children who were still living, and considered their nationality and that of their parents to be German even though they were not born in Germany. Leopold's death certificate simply listed Hungary as his place of birth. Elizabeth's death certificate listed Kobien, Jugo Slavia, as her place of birth. Trying to find Kobien on a map took hours but I believe it to be Kovin, Serbia, which is about 55 kilometers east of Belgrade on the north side of the Danube.

Kovin, Vojvodina, Serbia; image courtesy of Google Maps

It was an eventful time in Serbian history. The country had attained its independence in 1878 at the Congress of Berlin, which ended the Russo-Turkish War. In 1903 there was a coup d'etat and the King Alexander I and Queen Draga were assassinated. Peter I was declared king by the coup leaders and elected by the Serbian Parliament. His reign was known as the "Golden Age of Serbia," due to unprecedented political and press freedoms. Luckily for the Fishtahler family, they had all emigrated before the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913 and World War I.

As mentioned previously, Leopold and Elizabeth had six children who lived to adulthood. I believe they are:
  • Daughter Fishtahler, married Franz Dreaker and immigrated to Philadelphia before 1899. (The only reference I have found to this daughter is her father's passenger record, which listed his son-in-law as his contact in the United States.)
  • Julia Fishtahler born about 1881; immigrated about 1903; married Milan Dragomirovich
  • Jacob Karl Fishtahler, born 29 October 1883; immigrated 1905; married Elise "Elsie" Adametz; died 29 November 1933
  • Rosa Marie Fishtahler, born 4 April 1890; immigrated 1907; married Rade D Majstorovich; divorced 1949; died 30 May 1981
  • Johanna "Joan" M Fishtahler, born about 1895; immigrated 1907; married Phillip Thomas Brode 1919
  • Theresia M Fishtahler, born about 1897; immigrated 1907; married Elmer Edward Marvin 1916
As you will note there are still several mysteries regarding this family group. One that is especially bothersome is where Elizabeth (Grotohville) lived when she immigrated in 1907. I have not yet been able to decipher the passenger ship record.

Passenger manifest for Elizabeth (Grotohville) Fishtahler which listed her
last residence before immigrating to the United States; image courtesy of

Passenger manifest for Jacob Fishtahler which lists last residence before
immigrating to the United States; image courtesy of

I believe mother and son listed the same last place of residence on their respective passenger ship manifests. Any thoughts on what it could be?

Knowing the spelling of the place names in this area of Europe is only half the battle. For example. At the time Elizabeth emigrated, her mother lived in Berzaszka, Hungary. That is now Berzasca, Romania, about 120 kilometers further east of Kovin along the Danube.

Distance between Kovin, Serbia, birthplace of Elizabeth (Grotohville)
Fishtahler and Berzasca, Romania, where her mother lived in 1907;
image courtesy of Google Maps

Friday, April 15, 2016

Killer Cabbage

Charles Dagutis was born on 12 February 1914 in West Hazleton, Pennsylvania, to Adam and Cecelia Daguts, who were my husband's paternal grandparents. According to my sister-in-law, Adam and Cecelia had thirteen children, including at least two sets of twins. To date, I have only found evidence of nine children. Little Charles died on 19 March 1920 at the family home on Winters Avenue. He had just celebrated his sixth birthday barely a month before.

411 Winters Avenue, West Hazleton, Pennsylvania, 2009; personal collection

I didn't know of Charles' existence until the Pennsylvania death certificates became available online a few years ago. From the death certificate, I discovered that Charles died of gastroenteritis and had suffered from the complaint for a month. While many call it a stomach flu, it really has nothing to do with the flu at all. Gastroenteritis is caused by a bacterial or viral infection. When caused by a viral infection the most common are the rotavirus or the norovirus. When caused by a bacterial infection, the most common causes are contact with another infected person, contaminated food or water, or unwashed hands after going to the bathroom or changing a diaper.

At the time Charles died, the Dagutis household was likely in a bit of upheaval. His mother gave birth the day before to the family's youngest known son, Albert Paul Dagutis. It's quite likely that Charles' older sister, twelve-year-old Anna, was responsible for his care during the final days of his illness.

Charles Dagutis 1920 Pennsylvania Death Certificate; courtesy of

While I will never know for sure, an interesting notation on Charles' death certificate leads me to believe he died because he ate contaminated cabbage. It probably was not thoroughly cleaned before eating.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Understanding the U.S. Army World War II Infantry Division

The United States Army had studied its organization extensively after World War I and reorganized the infantry division in the 1930s and again in 1942 and 1943 after a series of large training exercises. The division that fought in World War II was a more compact offense force than in the previous war, carrying a minimum of defensive weapons, streamlined for open warfare, and backed up by other types of units as needed. "It was the smallest Army unit capable of operating completely independently."[1]

However, divisions were still what most would consider large organizations of about 14,000 men organically composed according to the Order of Battle of the United States Army World War II, European Theater of Operations, Divisions. They could be modified to suit any tactical situation by the attachment of other types of units, such as anti-aircraft, chemical, and engineer, etc. Central to the infantry division's mission was the rifle squad, composed of 8 to 24 men, though 12 was most typical.

Organization of a generic Army World War II infantry division
without the support and specialty unity which augmented
battalions, regiments and divisions; created using Microsoft

My father-in-law, Peter Charles Dagutis (1918-1991) served as a Staff Sergeant during World War II, having been promoted to that rank from Private, with the 5th Infantry Division. The organic composition of his division included the following units:

Organic units of the 5th Infantry Division; image from Order of Battle of the
United States Army World War II, European Theater of Operations, Divisions

Divisions are attached to corps, corps to armies, and armies to an army group. For example, my father-in-law's chain of command was:

The Army officers in my father-in-law's chain of command; created using
Microsoft Excel

Lt. Gen. Omar Bradley reported to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force. When I am reading about World War II, I keep this chart nearby. Enlisted men are very rarely mentioned in the histories or even contemporary unit reports. The commanding officers are much more likely to be mentioned. If I spot a name on this chart, especially a name near the bottom, I make a note of it as whatever occurred may have involved my father-in-law. Knowing how the Army was organized and the chain of command also enables me to better understand combat narratives and the after action reports.

[1] Forty, George. The Armies of George S. Patton, (London: Arms and Armour Press, 1996) , page 65.

Army Campaign Streamers

Friday, April 8, 2016

Old Postcards: Amherst Court House, Virginia

I like collecting old postcards of place or events of relevance to my ancestors.  Here is the image I found on USGenWeb Archive of one of the first postcards I purchased:

Postcard with street scene of Amherst Court House, Virginia; image fromm
USGenWeb Archives of one in my collection.

My three times grandfather, John William Jennings, Sr., moved his family to Amherst County in the 1830s. His grandson, and my great grandfather, enlisted in the 19th Virginia Regiment on 1 March 1862 at Amherst Courthouse not long after turning 18 years old. It is a place name that appeared on countless census documents bearing the Jennings surname. Descendants of John William Jennings, Sr. live in Amherst County to this day.

Amherst County was formed in 1761 out of Albemarle County and named in honor of Lord Jeffry Amherst, the Conqueror of Canada. In 1807, the size of the county was reduced when Nelson County was formed. The majority of people who lived in the county in the early days were farmers and the cash crop was tobacco.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Richlands Brickyard

From the Town of Richlands photo tour website:

Although the coal industry was not the heart of Richlands, Richlands was certainly the heart of the coal industry. Local coal mining included operations at Big Creek, Seaboard, Hill Creek, Doran and Raven, as well as the Middle Creek and Indian Creek at Cedar Bluff, according to the Richlands New Press Centennial Edition.

Dependent on coal was the brick plant located off Kents Ridge Road. Dating to 1890 when the town had iron, ice and glass factories, the brick plant alone survived. Howard E. Steele in a news article in 1923 wrote that the brick plant was the "town's most important industry." During World War II the plant supplied 95 percent of its production to the war effort.

Richlands Brickyard Kilns; image courtesy of the Town of Richlands

In 1908 bankruptcy notices on the plant became payable. Mr. C. C. Hyatt purchased the business in 1911 and continued the plant until ill health led him to lease the plant to General Shale Corp. A. H. Kelly assumed management until his retirement in 1964. In that year production numbers listed 80,000 bricks made daily with plans of doubling that with future installation of four new kilns. Using as much as 30 tons of coal per day, the plant remained for a long time a major purchaser of coal. However, by 1973, General Shale had converted all but one of its Richlands coal-burning plants to gas operation.

In 1982 the business begun in the 1890s closed. Of the operation that once extended from the shale pits located on the east and west ends of town to the massive plant on Kent's Ridge, there remains a shopping center and a parking lot. Perhaps Civil War chaplain, Abram Joseph Ryan, said it most appropriately, "A land without ruins is a land without memories -- a land without memories is a land without history."

'Richlands Brick Yard Kilns,' Town of Richlands
Town of Richlands,

Monday, April 4, 2016

Relief Fraud in Centerville, Illinois

Scandal rocked St. Clair County, Illinois, when the Alton Evening Telegraph hit the news stands on 14 December 1939. A Centerville Township supervisor had been indicted, along with several aids, on charges of relief fraud.

Indict 9 in Relief Probe of St. Clair
Centerville Township Supervisor, Aides Are Named

BELLEVILLE, Dec. 14 (AP) -- Albert Ulrich, former relief administrator in Centerville Township, adjacent to East St. Louis, and eight other persons were indicted by a St. Clair county grand jury today on charges of relief irregularities. 

The indictments were partly the results of an investigation instituted after the Illinois Emergency Relief Commission named an acting administrator, and declared 36.5 percent of the persons receiving relief allotments were not in need.

Five indictments were returned, charging falsification of public records, conspiracy to defraud, and making application for "relief" not required. Ulrich, who is Centerville Township supervisor, was named in four.

Named with Ulrich on a charge of falsification of relief records were his two sisters, Miss Josephine Ulrich and Mrs. Louise Ulrich Reiff, and a case worker, Miss Dorothy Bruce.

Dr. Walter Boyne, former St. Clair county coroner, was named with Ulrich on a similar charge. 

Defendants in the indictment charging conspiracy to defraud are Ulrich; Francis Touchette, a township highway commissioner; August Ulrich, an East St. Louis druggist; Max Lane, an employee at relief headquarters; Herman Harris, a negro; and Miss Bruce and Mrs. Reiff. Touchette was also charged with "making application for relief not required."

Assistant General Timothy J. Sullivan, who helped State's Attorney Louis P. Zerweck present the evidence to the grand jury, said some of the charges grew out of alleged payments of personal bills with relief funds charged to accounts of clients, with the records covering the transactions falsified.

In the case involving Ulrich and Dr. Boyne, Sullivan said an allowance was alleged to have been made for an operation on a negro woman who never underwent such treatment.

The case went to trial in January 1940. It transpired, according to the Freeport Journal-Standard, that Ulrich's chief accuser was Mrs. Tillie Toth, the relief office administrator and sister-in-law of my grand aunt, Verna (Muir) Burglechner.

St. Clair County Courthouse; photograph courtesy of the Belleview Historical

Mrs. Toth testified that she wrote a check on Ulrich's orders for $50 in the name of Henry Nunn, a negro, and that the check was given to Dr. Irene Waters, East St. Louis dentist, in paying a dental bill for work on Miss Josephine Ulrich, the former relief administrator's sister and an employee in the relief office. Testifying in his own defense, Ulrich claimed he did not issue any orders in the relief office and that checks for clients were signed in advance in blank. Ulrich said because he did so much night work on relief cases he frequently did not go into the office during the day. Mrs. Toth, his chief assistant handled the affairs of the office. However, under cross-examination Ulrich was forced to identify 11 written orders he had signed that were sent to relief clients.

Then, in a strange turn of events Ulrich and five others were acquitted, according to a 16 December 1940 article in the Daily Independent, while four of the state's chief witnesses against Ulrich were indicted, including Tillie Toth, her mother, Mary Burglechner, and her brother Frank Burglechner, my grand aunt's husband.

16 December 1940 article in the Murphysboro, Illinois, Daily
; image courtesy of the Illinois Historical Society

The Edwardsville Intelligencer reported on 31 December 1940 that the indictments against Tillie, her mother and brother were dismissed upon the motion of the Illinois Attorney General John E. Cassidy who told the Circuit Court judge presiding over the case they had been granted immunity for testifying for the state in Ulrich's trial.

Prosecutors must have appealed Ulrich's acquittal verdict and in a new trial, Ulrich and his sisters, were convicted. Because on 10 April 1941 the Alton Evening Telegraph reported the Illinois Supreme court had reversed his conviction on charges of falsifying relief records and remanded the case to the St. Clair County Circuit Court for a new trial. In a surprising twist, Ulrich had been re-elected supervisor of Centerville township after his conviction!

In quite a stinging indictment on Tillie Toth's motivations, Chief Justice Walter I. Gunn wrote in the majority opinion, "Tillie Toth was not a disinterested witness. She had something against Albert Ulrich and Louise and it is quite evident she bore a strong feeling of animosity against the siblings." Earlier in the opinion Gunn had called Toth's actions "extremely ambiguous conduct."

I could find no additional articles about the third trial of Albert Ulrich, but in a case filled with strange twists and turns there had to be one more. And, of course, there was.

Because Ulrich had been re-elected township supervisor, he was again the administrator of the Centerville Relief office. The Illinois Emergency Relief Commission (IERC) was clearly not happy about this state of affairs, and barred the release of money to pay Centerville relief claims because they were waiting for Ulrich to be "qualified in accordance with the law to administer the funds." Illinois Attorney General George F. Barrett was having none of it, however. He ordered IERC to release the funds.

And I feel like I have barely escaped a legal maze caused by dirty Illinois politics.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Civil War Guerrilla Partisans: Mosby's Rangers

Perhaps one of the most famous Confederate commanders was the Gray Ghost as John Singleton Mosby was known. Mosby was the commander of the 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry. They were partisan rangers and not a typical unit of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Mosby's rangers conducted hit-and-run raids on the rear of the Union armies in northern Virginia; then melted into the surrounding countryside. Detachments were scattered throughout the region and were a persistent, nagging threat to Union soldiers. Many of the battalion's actions went unrecorded. The most fruitful way to research the Gray Ghost's troops, is to read the unit histories of Union regiments that served in Virginia.

My first cousin three times removed, Matthew Wilson Jennings enlisted in Company F on 17 September 1864 for the duration of the war. The company elected Walter Frankland captain. He had been with Mosby since February 1863 and was the battalion's quartermaster. Soon after the company completed its organization, Mosby sent them to scout the Shenandoah Valley with Brigadier General William Chapman, commander of 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, Cavalry Corps.

Walter Frankland; photograph from A Southern Spy in Northern Virginia: The
Civil War Diary of Laura Ratcliffe,
by Charles V. Mauro

The Union Army had recently executed six of Mosby's rangers in Front Royal, Virginia, and his men were enraged and looking for revenge. They ran into elements of the 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry near Opequon. After a brief but intense fight, Chapman's men had taken 23 prisoners across the Shenandoah river to the safety of Loudoun County. One of the Pennsylvania prisoners, Private John Zinn, observed his captors seemed very riled by something and talked continuously of hanging and shooting the prisoners. Regardless, of the vengeful chatter, the group of prisoners were delivered to the provost marshal at the courthouse in Culpeper, Virginia.

Mosby's next target was the Manassas Gap Railroad, which the Union army was rebuilding in order to use it as a supply route. General Chapman and his men marched to Salem, Virginia, to destroy a federal camp and tear up the railroad. They continued harassing the railroad for some weeks, attacking, destroying, and disbanding in order to disappear.

A detachment of Mosby's rangers; photograph from an online gaming site

Exasperated Union officials determined to take the war to southern citizens in retaliation. The decision was made at the highest levels:

"The Secretary of War directs that, in retaliation for the murderous acts of guerrilla bands, composed of and assisted by the inhabitants along the Manassas Gap Railroad, and as a measure necessary to keep that road in running order, you proceed to destroy every house within five miles of the road which is not required for our own purposes, or which is not occupied by persons known to be friendly. All males suspected of belonging to, or assisting the robber bands of Mosby, will be sent, under guard, to the provost marshal at Washington, to be confined in Old Capitol Prison..."

The next Union plan to protect the railroad called for building forts within sight of each other all along the railroad. Still the rangers remained active. Company F captured several prisoners near Newtown around this time. In one of their most famous raids, the "Greenback Raid," they captured a valise containing $172,000 meant to pay Union troops. Finally, the Yankees conceded defeat and began resupplying their army via an alternate route through Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

Next, came the downfall of Company F's commander. After a botched raid, in which several Confederate soldiers were killed and wounded, and about which there is much controversy, Mosby relieved William Frankland of command even though Frankland's men had petitioned Mosby to keep him. It was about this time, my ancestor, Matthew Wilson Jennings went absent without leave not to appear again in the records.