Thursday, November 30, 2017

Another Honor Roll Project Success!

I can't let the month in which we celebrate Veterans day to pass without mentioning another Honor Roll Project success. The objective of the project is to photograph veteran honor rolls memorials and transcribe the names so they would be indexed by Internet search engines and available to family historians and genealogists when searching for their military ancestors.

In September of 2015 I accompanied my husband to Albany, New York, where he works. While he slaved away at the office, I explored the cities, towns, and villages in the Berkshire mountains of western Massachusetts, photographing war memorials and other interesting things. In Pittsfield, Memorial Park is downtown and includes an honor roll memorial for the men from the city who served in the Civil War. I contributed the photographs and names in a blog post in honor of Memorial Day 2016. Another member of our Genealogy Bloggers Facebook group discovered her four times great grandfather's name among those listed in my post!

Facebook conversation about the Honor Roll contributions for Memorial
Day 2016; screenshot courtesy of Facebook

I was so excited as this was my second success.

The Honor Roll Project was created by Heather Wilkinson Rojo, author of Nutfield Genealogy. My contributions may be found here.

Monday, November 27, 2017

5th Infantry Division World War II Combat Narrative

Peter Charles Dagutis was born on 10 March 1918. He was my husband's father and we lost him in 1991. He lived in Detroit as a young man and was engaged to be married. Then, his life was interrupted by the military draft enacted under the Selective Service and Training Act of 1940. He was drafted on 7 April 1941 and did not return home from Europe until 18 June 1945. He served as part of the 5th Infantry Division, more specifically with Company H, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Regiment, 5th Division, Third Army.[1]

This combat narrative was written by Army historians after the World War II and is part of the official history of the U.S. Army.


The division arrived at Utah Beach France 11 July 1944 and assumed defensive positions from 1st Infantry Division near Caumont 13 July 1944. On 26 July 1944 it attacked to take Vidouville and made a limited advance to Torigny-sur-Vire-Caumont Road, after which it was reassembled 1 August 1944. On 8 August 1944 the division opened its offensive toward Nantes, taking Angers 10 August 1944, and with the assistance of 7th Armored Division, captured Chartes 18 August 1944. Speeding easter the division crossed the Seine at Montereau 24 August 1944 and took Rheims 30 August 1944 and established a bridgehead across the Meuse at Verdun at month's end. The division began the battle for Metz 7 September 1944 as the 2nd Infantry was stopped in the Amanviller-Verneville area and the 11th Infantry pushed up the Meuse heights near Dornot. The 2nd Infantry continued to batter the city's outer fortifications, and on 8 September 1944 the division gained a precarious bridgehead over the Moselle which immediately came under heavy shell fire and continuous counter attack. The 2nd Infantry made repeated frontal assaults as engineers bridge the river for tanks on 12 September 1944. But the Arnaville bridgehead effort was hampered by German shelling or the deep mud and ammunition shortages. The 10th Infantry and 11th Infantry regrouped inside the perimeter and defended it against a strong German attack 17 September 1944.

Soldiers of the 5th and 95th infantry divisions in Metz; photograph courtesy
of the Center for Military History

The division attacked Fort Driant commencing 27 September 1944, which guarded the northern approaches to Metz. The 11th Infantry forced its way into the bastion's outer edges 3 October 1944, but the Germans counterattacked from the tunnels after dar. The division committed itself entirely into this battle in very costly combat, but by 12 October 1944, attempts to seize the fort were given up, and the division withdrew to rest. On 12 November 1944 the division returned to the assault and was counterattacked at once as it entered the bridgehead of 6th Armored Division. Over the next few days the 2nd Infantry took Ancerville; the 10 Infantry reduced Fort Aisne, BOies de l'Hospital, Marly, and Fort Queuleu; and the the 11th Infantry pushed into Metz itself, the division encircling the town completed the following day. Rear-guard opposition inside Metz had been mopped up by 22 November 1944, but the division kept infantry to contain the forts there while it relieved the 95th Infantry division and attacked cross the Nied 25 November 1944. The Ste. Quentin fortifications surrendered to the division on 6 December 1944 as it was pulled back to assembly areas.

Belgium and Luxembourg

On 16 December 1944, the German Ardennes counteroffensive began, and the division relieved the 95th Infantry Division at Saarlautern bridgehead, attacking out of it 18 December 1944. After slow progress, Waldbilling and Haller fell 25 December 1944. Throughout January the division continued to reduce the southern flank of the German drive in conjunction with 4th Infantry Division. On 4 February 1945 it was relieved in line by 6th Cavalry Group and took up new positions.

5th Infantry Division medics during the Battle of the Bulge; photograph
courtesy of the Center of Military History


It attacked across the Sauer River near Echternach 7 February 1945 despite strong currents and German shelling which prevented bridging. It expanded this bridgehead to the West Wall LIne by 10 February 1945 and by 19 February 1945 cleared up to the west bank of the Pruem RIver. After regrouping, the 2nd Infantry and 10th Infantry crossed the Pruem near Peffingen during the night of 24-25 February 1945. The 11th Infantry cut the Bitburg-Trier Highway on 27 February 1945 and cleared to the west bank of the Kyll by the following day. The division opened its attack to establish the Kyll bridgehead between Erdorf and Philippsheim on 2 March 1945. Progress was rapid as the division leapfrogged elements past numerous towns and reached the Moselle 10 March 1945. The 2nd Infantry and 11 Infantry crossed the rivier 14 March 1945 after divisional regroupment and seize Treis, Lutz and Eveshausen.

5th Infantry Division crossing the Sauer River; photograph courtesy of Center
for Military History

Working closely with the 4th Armored Division, the division reached the Rhine with the 11 Infantry at Oppenheim and Nierstein on 21 March 1945. The next day the regiment crossed the river with little difficulty. On 26 March 1945 the 10th Infantry captured the Rhine-Main airport as the division reached Frankfurt-am-Main. On 4 April 1945 it completed clearing the city and secured it until 9 April 1945 when it closed into the Olsenburg area. The 10 Infantry attacked to take Arnsberg while the 2nd Infantry reached the Ruhr River 12 April 1945. The 11th Infantry rejoined the division from Frankfurt on 14 April 1945, and the division then occupied Westphalian regions south of the Ruhr until relieved by the 75th Infantry Division on 24 April 1945.

Czechoslovakia and Austria

On 1 May 1945 the division advanced across the Czechoslovaian border and into Austria behind armored units. On 5 May 1945 the division attacked across the Tepla River and followed the 4th Armored Division through the Regen and Freyung passes as the hostilities brought its offensive to a halt.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Why John and Mary (Boyd) Mitchell Are Not the Parents of Robert Mitchell (1714-1799)

After researching the ancestors of my great grandmother, Effie (Beard) Jennings (1871-1906), I learned she was the daughter of David Fleming Beard, Sr., and his second wife, Barbara Ann Mitchell. Barbara Ann was great granddaughter of Robert "the Elder" Mitchell (1714-1799).[1] Robert Mitchell was born in Londonderry and immigrated with his parents and siblings to Pennsylvania. They settled in Pequea, Pennsylvania, where many Presbyterians of Scottish descent settled prior to the Revolutionary War. We known Robert "the Elder" Mitchell migrated to Bedford County, Virginia, where he wrote his will and died in 1799.

Many, many family trees indicate Robert is the son of John Mitchell and Mary Boyd. I do not believe these are the correct parents for Robert "the Elder" Mitchell. Instead I believe his parents were Robert Mitchell and Mary Innes said to be of Edinburgh, Scotland, for the following reasons:

John Mitchell's Will
John Mitchell was born on 1 July 1682 in Londonderry and he wrote his will on 14 February 1771 in Augusta County, Virginia. (Chronicles of Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia: Extracted from the Original Court Records of Augusta County, 1745-1800 by Lyman Chalkely). This will has been cited as evidence that Robert (1714-1799) and James Mitchell (between 1710-1720-before 1776) are John's sons.

In his will, he named Elizabeth, his wife (not Mary Boyd) and the following children: Thomas, Robert, John, James, Elenor (Mitchell) Wilson, Mary (Mitchell) Right, and Elizabeth. Son James was born about 1742 in Augusta County and could not be the James Mitchell who married Margaret Caldwell circa 1751. All of John Mitchell's other known children who were alive at the time of his death were mentioned in his will.

Several sons with given names whose descendants are DNA matches were not mentioned in the will.

Robert Mitchell's Will
Robert "the Elder" Mitchell wrote his will on 23 April 1781; it was proved on 25 February 1799 in Bedford County, Virginia. The will includes the following bequests:

"To my beloved wife Mary I give the Plantation I now live on during her life or widowhood, at the end of either I give it to my son Samuel. Also to my wife Mary I give all my movable Estate to be disposed of at her discretion...

To my son Daniel I give one hundred acres of Land where he now lives.

To Robert and Stephen I Give the remainder of the Upper Tract I bought off Hilton.

To Josiah Campbell the lower half of the same tract."

Rev. William Henry Foote wrote of Rev. James Mitchell, son of Robert "the Elder" Mitchell, in his book, Historical and Biographical Sketches of Virginia, based on information he received from a Mitchell descendant, Rev. Jacob D. Mitchell in 1854:

"...He father Robert Mitchel, was born in the north of Ireland but emigrated to America while still a youth...His wife, whose maiden name was Mary Enos, was, it seems of Welsh extraction...This excellent pair resided in Bedford County for many years...They had 13 children, of whom not one died less than 70 years."

Only five children are named in his will, and I have 15 possible children in my tree. I have been using DNA to confirm which of those 15 children belong to Robert Mitchell and Mary Enos. Using DNA and documentary evidence I have been able to prove these children: Susannah Mitchell, who married Josiah Campbell; Rev. James Mitchell; Stephen Mitchell; Robert Harvey Mitchell; Mary Mitchell, who married Samuel Beard; Margaret Mitchell, who married Adam Beard; Martha Ann Mitchell, who married Samuel Claytor; and Daniel Mitchell.

Mary Innes/Mary Enos Problem
Several trees have compressed two generations of Robert Mitchells into one generation. I believe the problem was caused by the similarities of their wives' maiden names.

Robert "the Immigrant" Mitchell, married to Mary Innes, immigrated to Pennsylvania when with his wife and young children in about 1735. One of his sons, also named Robert, who I call "the Elder," married to Mary Enos in Delaware.

Other children of Robert "the Immigrant" may be Daniel (about 1718-1775), married to Mary Caldwell, and James (before 1720-before 1776), married to Margaret Amey Caldwell.

Daniel Mitchell's Will
Daniel Mitchell was born about 1718 in Londonderry and wrote his will on 13 June 1775 in Bedford County. An estate inventory and appraisal was filed with the court on 18 October 1775 so I am assuming he died between June and October 1775. In his will he named his brother Robert (including the relationship between them) as an executor. (Abstracts of Bedford County, Virginia, Wills, Inventories, and Accounts, 1754-1787 by Joida Whitten)

Daniel made his brother his executor yet Daniel was not mentioned inJohn Mitchell's will which was written when he was still alive.

Documentary evidence of residence in Pennsylvania and Bedford County exists for Robert "the Elder" Mitchell. However, no documents proving residence in Augusta County have been discovered, which would be likely if Robert Mitchell was the son of James Mitchell and wife, Elizabeth. It is possible a Robert Mitchell lived in Augusta County but he has not been proved to be Robert "the Elder" Mitchell.

Books about the Mitchell Family
Shipley, Mitchell, and Thompson Families compiled by Stith Thompson and published in 1964 includes a family tree that indicated Daniel and Robert were brothers and their father was named Robert:

Mitchell family tree; image courtesy of

Mr. Thompson's book includes the following:

"Up to the present time we have few reliable records of this line of Mitchells before 1747. It is clear that at that time there were two brothers in Bedford County, Virginia, Daniel Mitchell and Robert Mitchell. What we know of the father of these brothers comes from letters embodying the traditions of the family of Rev. James Mitchell (son of Robert) who was born in 1747. These traditions assert that the father of Daniel and Robert was Robert Mitchell of Londonderry, Ireland. He is spoken of as "the Immigrant."

Mrs. W. H. Walthall of Roanoke, Virginia, wrote on 4 February 1895: Robert Mitchell was born in Londonderry, Ireland, in the latter part of the 17th century. His father's family suffered greatly in that noted siege of Londonderry (1689), of which he loved to talk. When a young man in the first part of the 18th century, he married Miss. Mary Innis of Edinburgh, Scotland, and moved to America and settled at Pequa, Pennsylvania.[2] They had thirteen children. While the children were young he moved to Virginia and settled in Bedford County. He raised them all and as soon as they became grown they scattered all over the Union, all married and raised large families. Rev. James Mitchell, my grandfather was his youngest child. He was born 29 January 1747."[3]

From a letter from Mrs. George P. Parker of Bedford, Virginia to Stith Thompson dated 24 September 1934 we have the following: "Robert and Daniel Mitchell were sons of Robert, Sr., the Immigrant. Daniel and Robert Mitchell, Scotch Irish immigrants landed at Philadelphia about 1735, went to Pequa and to Bedford County, Virginia, about 1754-56." (This information is from family notes belonging to Dr. John Mitchell of Bedford County.)

Pequea, Pennsylvania. The river is the Susquehanna; courtesy of RootsWeb

Mr. Thompson believed the Mitchell brothers traveled to Lunenburg/Bedford County in a large party led by the Caldwell family.

My paternal uncle, siblings, cousins and I who descend from Effie (Beard) Jennings have 28 DNA matches that have a Mitchell as the common shared ancestor. For 26 of those matches Robert "the Immigrant" Mitchell was the common shared ancestor. This is not surprising as we descend from his son, Rev. James Mitchell (1747-1841). However, for two of those matches, the common shared ancestor was Robert "the Immigrant" Mitchell (before 1689-unknown). One descended through the son James Mitchell (between 1710-1720-before 1776) and the other descended through Daniel Mitchell (born about 1718-died 1775).

Based on family tradition, histories written just decades after the relevant people died, documentary evidence and DNA seem to support my conclusion that Robert "the Immigrant" Mitchell was the father of Robert "the Elder" Mitchell and at least two other sons -- Daniel and James. What is still unknown was which of the two Robert Mitchells had 13 children as one sources says the Immigrant and the other says the Elder. Perhaps one day we'll be able to solve that mystery.

[1] Effie (Beard) Jennings >> Barbara Ann (Mitchell) Beard >> Daniel Mitchell >> Rev. James Mitchell >> Robert "the Elder" Mitchell >> Robert "the Immigrant" Mitchell

[2] Bedford County was formed from Lunenburg County on 15 December 1753. Thereafter, the Robert Mitchell lived in Bedford County.

[3] Pequea (pronounced peck-way) was spelled Pequa in the Colonial Era.

[4] According to several documents I have found, Rev. James Mitchell was not the youngest son of Robert "the Elder" Mitchell and Mary Enos.

More information disputing the relationship between John Mitchell and Mary Boyd as the parents of Robert "the Elder" Mitchell may be found here: Mitchell Family History

Revisiting Daniel Mitchell, Patriot
Robert Mitchell, the Elder

Monday, November 20, 2017

DNA Discoveries: Jewell Progress

I've known since I took over our family's genealogy research from my father in late 2012 that my great great grandfather Powhatan Perrow Jennings married Catherine B. Jewell, a daughter of Thomas and Sallie (maiden name unknown) Jewell in 1836. After spending an afternoon in the Virginia Room at the Fairfax County Library, I could add a bit more to my scant Jewell knowledge base. Thomas Jewell[1] died before 21 October 1833 when Catherine's brother was made a guardian of his sister Catherine:

From the The Wills of Amherst County, 1761-1865:

CATH. JEWELL -- Book 8, Page 355 -- Guardian Bond -- October 21, 1833. JESSE JEWELL, JAS. JEWELL, and TERISHA JEWELL for JESSE as guardian of CATH. JEWELL, orphan of THOS. JEWELL, deceased.

I assumed Thomas' wife, Sallie, was also deceased since Catherine was considered by the courts to be an orphan.[2]

And for years I never tried researching the Jewell family in any depth until I looked at this DNA match which was a new entry in my list of matches:

Family tree of new DNA match for Schalene (Jennings) Dagutis; image
courtesy of

Only the Blankenship surname was familiar to me and no geographic locations were included in this tree but after looking at our shared matches, the match had to be part of my Jennings line, who have been in Virginia since before the Revolutionary War.

I started at the top of his tree and entered what little information was provided about Russell Moon, and added that he lived in Virginia. The Find A Grave record included parents and the 1920 census confirmed Oscar L. and Valera Moon were his parents. Searching on Oscar revealed Valera Moon's maiden name was Burley. That was a familiar surname of which I have several from Amherst County in my tree. I learned her father was Thomas Dillworth Burley and his father was Uriah Burley.

I search my tree prior to entering a new person to ensure I am not entering a duplicate. When I searched my tree for Uriah Burley, I discovered he was already in my tree, married to Catherine Jewell's sister, Terisha (in the will book), but Tacie/Tacey in other records. I had Terisha as a possible sister of Catherine's but had no proof of the relationship...or so I thought.

So I now knew that the common shared ancestor between the DNA match and myself was Thomas Jewell, my first DNA confirmation the paper trail was correct.

My research skills have improved since 2012 so I thought I investigate Thomas again. The first thing I did was to review what I already knew. And slapped my forehead (figuratively) in frustration as this transcription stared out at me from my tree:

From the The Wills of Amherst County, 1761-1865:

THOS. JEWELL -- Book 8, Page 354 -- Administrator's Bond -- September 16, 1833. JESSE MUNDY. Bondsman: CHAS. MUNDY. Book 8, Page 364 -- Inventory -- Farmer - $3,706.76. September 30, 1833. WM. KENT; LAWSON TURNER; RUBEN CARVER. Book 9, Page 22 -- Division to legatees: JESSE JEWELL, WM. WOODSON, JAS. JEWELL, CATH. JEWELL, URIAH BURLEY, TERISHA JEWELL. October 30, 1833. JNO. DILLARD, WM. KENT, D. STAPLES.

I believe I now know who the children of Thomas and Sallie Jewell were, who were living in 1833. Catherine (Jewell) Jennings' headstone indicated she was born in 1813, which would have made her 20 years old at the time of her father's death. Because she was the only child who required a guardian, I am assuming Jesse, Sarah (wife of William Woodson), and James were all older than Catherine.

What has me a little puzzled is that William Woodson was named as a legatee but not his wife, Sarah (Jewell) Woodson yet Terisha (Jewell) Burley and her husband, Uriah, are both listed as legatees. Does this mean Sarah died prior to her father?

Update 28 December 2017: Thanks to a comment on this blog, we now know the name of the wife of Thomas Jewell. It is Sarah Downs, daughter of Henry Downs who wrote his will on 23 May 1835 in Fauquier County. Also, I had assumed James Jewell was the son of Thomas and Sarah (Downs) Jewell. He was not. He was a son-in-law, married to daughter Harriet, per Virginia Chancery Case (Fauquier Co.) 1841-009.

[1] Thomas was listed in the 1810 census as 26-44 years of age; the same age range in 1820; and in 1830 was listed as 60-69 years. I'm assuming the 1830 census was an outlier with 1761-1770 as the range of birth years and that he was born between 1776-1784, the overlap in possible years of birth in the 1810 and 1820 census; or at least that is my current working theory.

[2] Many public trees indicate Sallie's maiden name was Guilford but I have seen no proof that is the case.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

DNA Discoveries: Lillian Pearl (Wells) Porter Porter Walker (1889-1990)

As I was working on some new DNA matches, I got to "meet" Lillian Pearl Wells all over again. She been in my tree for years as the wife of of Joseph "Jesse" Isaac Porter, without known parents or death information. I knew Jesse and Lillian married sometime before 1930 and he had previously been married to and divorced from Emma Mabel Riggin, daughter of Theodore Augustus Riggin (1840-1910)[1] and Caroline (Vangundy) Pritchett, and my first cousin three times removed.

Because of my new DNA match, I did a lot more research into Lillian and I believe my working theory is correct.

Lillian Pearl Wells was born on 10 April 1889 in Chicago, Illinois, to George Washington Wells[2] and his first wife, Ida Logenia[3] Ewing, daughter of Sylvester Ewing and Mary A. Briggs. George and Ida married on 21 June 1885 in McLean County, Illinois, where Ida grew up. After moving to Chicago, George became a policeman and at least one more child was born to he and Ida -- Arthur Washington Wells, who died on 4 May 1894, the same day he was born. His mother died two days later. At the age of 36, George married Bessie Sackett on 9 September 1894 in Chicago.

George Washington Wells (1858-1920); courtesy of
Michelle (Wells) Ward

Lillian Pearl, who sometimes went by Lily, married Daniel Ethan Porter in 1906 in Monroe County, Illinois. He farmed on rented land in 1910 but by 1920 worked as a pipefitter. Together Lillian and Daniel had five children:
  • Lorene Lillian Porter (1909-1992)
  • Clara Porter (1916-1917)
  • Eunice Porter (1917-1984)
  • Nellie Porter (1919-2009)
  • Nettie Porter (1922-2013)
Sometime before 1927 Daniel Porter was committed to the Alton State Hospital, a hospital for the insane built in 1917. He remained a patient until his death in 1955.

Lillian married Daniel's older brother, Joseph "Jesse" Porter[4] soon after Daniel was committed. They had one son, Robert George Porter in 1927 (died in 1991) and the family was enumerated together in 1930. Joseph was an engineer at a flour mill. This second marriage did not last.

By 1940, Joseph and Lillian divorced. Lillian married Francis Marion Walker, a widower, and lived in Henderson County, Kentucky. Her two youngest children lived with she and Marion.

Francis Marion Walker died in 1948 was interred in Fernwood Cemetery in Henderson, Kentucky, beside his first wife. Lillian Pearl (Wells) Porter Porter Walker died on 4 October 1980 in Henderson County.

I have several DNA matches to other descendants of common shared ancestors James M. Wells and Mary Hearelson through their children: Clementine, Daniel, and George. And these matches are also shared with this new match which allowed me to discover Lillian wasn't "just" the second wife of my cousin's husband, but also an ancestor. But before I sorted all the relationships out, I spend several hours very confused!

Diagram depicting the relationships described in this blog post; created
using Microsoft Powerpoint[5]

[1] Theodore Augustus Riggin was a son of my three times great grandfather, Alfred Riggin (1811-about 1850). I descend from another son, John Wesley Riggin.

[2] George Washington Wells was the youngest son of James M. Wells and Mary Hearelson, my three times great grandparents and parents of Clementine Wells, the second wife of John Wesley Riggin (mentioned above).

[3] I had not known George Washington Wells had been married twice. Ida Logenia Ewing was a new discovery.

[4] Joseph "Jesse" Porter had been married and divorced two times previously. First to my cousin, Emma Mabel Riggin; and second, to Margaret (Bone) Purkhiser, whose first husband worked for the railroad and appeared to leave her in Illinois with two young children. He died in California in 1949.

[5] The correct surname of Lillian's third husband is WALKER, Francis Marion Walker.

I descend from James Wells and Mary Hearelson as follows:
Clementine (Wells) Riggin Collins
Ida Mae (Riggin) Muir
Alice (Muir) Jennings

New Wells/Murphy Family Tree Branch
Squabbling Siblings
The Wells Spinsters
New Wells Family Tree Branch