Sunday, November 30, 2014

Share a Memory- The Drawing on the Wall

I am late for this but I wanted to post something. Work and illness have made it impossible to get anything together before now. I can't make it to Rootstech so don't worry about including me in a drawing. It's enough to enable me to sit here and tell the story of the drawing.

For as long as I could remember there was an old framed drawing of my maternal grandmother somewhere in my grandparent's house. It was always just there, something you glanced at on your way into or out of the room. I had been told the story of it many times over the years but it wasn’t until my mother gave it to me that the whole thing had meaning.

The drawing was made by a friend of the family who either worked for Walt Disney or would later work for him. The frame is beaten up but it has been in there for so long I don’t want to risk ruining it by reframing. I believe it also adds to the charm.

Drawing in Possession of Author; Reflection awful.

 The best part about it was the letter. Grandma was named Teresa after her Italian grandmother. It used to annoy her when people would call her Theresa. For some reason my grandfather could never spell it right. With the way the family would pronounce it he always thought it was Threasa. We didn’t know but a few months after her death he wrote a letter, put it in a ziplock bag, and taped it to the back of the photo. Including the wrong spelling.

Letter by John Randel Dorn, 5/1/2002, letter in possession of author

He wanted Jean to not be forgotten. And it added something to my story. You see, he always said they were married at the Little Church Around the Corner in NYC but I never knew they had eloped first. I have the certificate from the NYC church of their marriage that I plan on framing and hanging up next to a photo of their wedding day. It was a shock to discover that they were married for almost a month by then!

Sitting across the room from it I am reminded of family get togethers at their house where everyone was yelling at each other.We spent most of the time in their half of the house. The other half was where Jean's parents, Oscar and Mary lived. We would go in there to eat if it was a big family event. I can still see all the Blue Willow Mary collected and hear Oscar putting us to sleep with stories of his childhood in Guardiagrele, Italy. Along with a long list of other things that flash into my mind every now and then.

There are other times I look and see my daughter. You can put photos of them next to each other and not be able to tell which was which if not for the age of it.

It's funny how something I knew existed but never really paid attention to as a child could come to flood me with such memories as an adult.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

52 Ancestors- Richard J. Wentworth- Shot through the body where??

I’ve fallen way behind in my 52 ancestors posts. Not having done any in a while makes me feel extremely guilty. To start back up I thought I would use the pension files I am currently going through from a visit to the National Archives in Washington D.C. It will give me 5 people to talk about so it will hopefully help me get back into the swing of things. Before I begin I must first say I have one of the best husband’s ever! Not the least bit interested in genealogy he surprised me with an overnight stop outside of Washington D.C. He knew I was itching to view some pension files and we were heading down south to visit family. Since we had to go by D.C. he figured it would be the best chance I had of doing this. He even went so far as to sign up for a researcher’s card and photographed two huge files for me. What a man!

When we look into the lives of people we sometimes forget that they led lives beyond those dates we see in records. We see a marriage date for a couple but how often are we encountered with how they felt about each other? We see a death date for someone but how often do we read an affidavit from a man talking about visiting a brother’s home to celebrate the birth of a child only to be faced with the death of a loved one? I was lucky enough to find these things in the files I viewed. This may be an incentive to get more people to consider the costs of obtaining their ancestor’s file.

I am going to start with Richard J. Wentworth, a cousin of my direct line ancestor. A quick background about Richard before starting on what was in his file. Most of what I have found about the family is from “The Wentworth Genealogy: English and American, Volume 3” by John Wentworth. I am currently working on verification of the information used. Richard Joseph Wentworth was born 28 May 1837 in New York, the third child of Richard Holloway/Halloway Wentworth and Mary Harris Lyons. He married 23 November 1862 (pension file says 26 November 1862) at Albany, NY to Mary Elizabeth McClellan. Richard enlisted August of 1864 in the 158th Regiment, New York Infantry. The same Regiment his brother, Samuel Henry, had enlisted in in 1862. The first reference I find to anything having happened to Richard is a form his brother David Lyons Wentworth, (176th NY Infantry) had filled out. He said his brother Richard had been shot through the body. His hand? Leg? Shoulder? I wondered about this for ages but could not find anything detailing his wound. Until his pension file answered the question for me, above his hip and out just near his spinal column. Even better than the description from the medical records were the letters his widow included with her pension application. Richard had died 8 March 1884 in Albany, NY. 

He wrote to her about his experiences. Things like having to walk a mile away from camp through fields, over hedges and up hills to a rapid creek in a ravine to break the ice to wash clothes. He also talked about how a man froze to death due to drinking too much bad rum. In every letter he talks about his love for her. “I am still without a letter from her I love more than life itself. Yes dearest even so more than my own life- except to prepare for an endless eternity- is mine, if it was not to be shared by you, and in the enjoyment of your love.” Even in the middle of a war he is worried about her. (see image)
letter from Richard J. Wentworth to Mary McClellan-Wentworth, 24 March 1865, Mary E. Wentworth, widow's pension application no. 324,671, certificate no. 226,152; service of Richard J. Wentworth (Pvt., Co. F, 158th N.Y. Inf., Civil War); Case Files of Approved Pension Applications..., 1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; Nation Archives, Washington, D.C.

In another letter he talks about how his unit was ordered to NYC for the election crisis but could not obtain transportation so the order was countermanded. Instead they were put into battle lines outside the Fort [Fort Burnham, or Fort Harrison] and heard a heavy rumbling sound from artillery. As soon as all was set they were told the “Rebz” had mined the fort and had fixed on daybreak to fire the train. They all turned to catch the first sign of the day and listening for the shells from the guns. “…while in our Bomb Proof (which you must know are holes dug in the ground and covered with logs and dirt) would have blown us up. Our Bomb Proofs in that case would have proved our graves.” Nothing happened and they went back. Only to do it all again and again until their trench and counter mine were ready.

Then comes the letter every wife feared in receiving. According to his file it was received in action at Fort Gregg, VA, outside Petersburg. 
letter from Richard J. Wentworth to Mary McClellan-Wentworth, 5 April 1865, Mary E. Wentworth, widow's pension application no. 324,671, certificate no. 226,152; service of Richard J. Wentworth (Pvt., Co. F, 158th N.Y. Inf., Civil War); Case Files of Approved Pension Applications..., 1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; Nation Archives, Washington, D.C.

The rest of the pension file is interesting reading, including affidavits from people describing his condition since he was discharged. It also has several mentions of the wound “entering left side just above and anterior to hip passed through and escaped opposite and to the right of spinal column.” Which, leaves him unable to perform manual labor. A description of Wentworth by a neighbor is heartbreaking. “..the general appearance of said Wentworth is vastly different than it was previous to his enlisting. Previous to his enlisting he has the appearance of a strong vigorous physical condition and that since and now he is a week pale nervous person with a constitution very much shattered.”

Another thing I discovered from the pension application was that he had one child “by adoption” named Howard. I had Howard as his biological child so I will have to look further into this.

If I haven’t convinced you to get any pension file for your family maybe next weeks will. I also want to thank Dear Myrtle for the tips and tricks in dealing with the National Archives. Her blog and her genealogy community are a must for genealogists.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Pitfalls of Collaboration?

I want to talk about something that a lot of people have probably experienced.In no way am I saying people should not work together. I just want to point out some issues I have experienced in the past.

One of the problems I have had with collaboration is the reaction you get for questioning someone’s research. The following situation happened to me recently. I asked how they found the parents for so-and-so. The answer was “from my father’s research.” I have been unable to document the parents for this person so I asked how their father came about the answer because I have yet to find anything. The person got defensive and accused me of saying their father made things up. I never once said that the information was wrong I just asked how they figured it out. 

For me, if someone does not ask how I came to a conclusion, I worry. Do I want to collaborate with someone who does not even bother asking for sources? We should be excited to find someone else interested in an ancestor. I would rather spend the time researching my family tree instead of someone else’s that I mistakenly thought was mine. So yes, I do ask questions. 

What do you do when someone will not listen? 

One of my ancestor’s had a sister Catherine "Kate" Bennem. Kate married a man named William Oldfield Allen. Trees on ancestry have William’s wife as Catherine Meyer. I have records coming out my ears saying his wife was Bennem. Church records of their marriage and baptisms for their children, Kate’s obit and her death record. I also have the marriage record and license for one of their daughters. Every record says her maiden name is Bennem. From the records I know William was only ever married to her so it wasn’t a mistake of mixing up wives. I contact the people nicely pointing out the fact and ask how they came up with the Meyers last name. I never received a reply. You can tell from the trees it was a matter of copying one tree to another. 

So what do I do? All I can do is what I already have. Contact them and make sure my tree is properly sourced and up to date. Hopefully people go for quality over quantity. 

The curse of being a Bennem descendant

Another concern is people blindly attaching documents to people. This has also occurred with my Bennem line. The main issue is that two brothers (John and Daniel) both had sons named John. Not surprising given their father’s name was John. One, my line, I have worked on for years and the other I have just started to look into. I have recently decided to redo my tree due to wanting to follow proper citations. The Bennem family is one that I did have citations for except for a few records. Someone not long ago attached all my research to the son of Daniel while I had proven the family’s link to the son of John. I have it publicly in my tree so why would someone attach them to what is obviously the wrong person? I will never understand that.

I commented on the person’s page on John Bennem’s profile stating that he was the son of John not Daniel. If someone goes to the page seeing all my documentation attached I’m afraid they will take it as fact. Again, all I can do is keep my tree available and hope people question everything they see.

Through all of this I have considered making my tree private and having people contact me to see my research. It’s something I don’t want to do because it could lead people to think the public trees are the only option. What do others do to deal with these situations?