25 May 2015

Remembering My Fallen Ancestors

     My family has been lucky not to experience the loss of a soldier, sailor or marine since the days of the Civil War, though many have since fought for our country.  Since Memorial Day evolved from the Civil War, it seems fitting to remember those ancestors today.

     Private Wiley Powell was 42 years old when he enlisted in the 38th GA Infantry Regiment as a substitute.  I have to assume that either his family needed the money, or he supported the war effort and saw a financial opportunity.  Wiley fought at 2nd Manassas, Chancelorsville, Winchester, and Gettysburg.  From his service record, it seems that Wiley was often ill (chronic rheumatism, tuberculosis) and, on 14 January 1864, he succumbed to his illnesses at Hospital No 3 in Lynchburg, Virginia.   He is buried in Lynchburg at the Old City Cemetery.

     Franklin E Leaphart was 25 years old when he enlisted in 1861.  As a young father with two children, he must have been a supporter of the war.  He fought at Sharpsburg, Chancelorsville, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg.  He was promoted to 2nd Corporal in June of 1863 and later promoted 1st Corporal and then to Sergeant.  He was shot at the 3rd Battle of Winchester and was a prisoner at the US Depot Field Hospital in Winchester, Virginia.  He died of Dysentery there on 12 October 1864.  His burial location is unknown.

     Many other ancestors have fought in our country's wars, but have been lucky to survive.  Today we give thanks to those men and women, though it feels that no number of "thanks" will ever be enough.

22 May 2015

Mom's Membership, Complete

     Mom's application for DAR membership was received in DC on April 5th.  Today, May 22nd, her application was verified - much to everyone's relief.  As opposed to my application, which went through my dad's line, hers was pretty difficult.  All of her family lines are complicated, many of them being "red-lined" in the DAR database (meaning there's a problem with the prior applications).  I thought that the line we chose, which traced back to Samuel Armstrong of South Carolina, and before that, Ireland, would be the simplest one.... Yeah, not so much.  And it the trouble wasn't even about the Revolutionary War Patriot!

     First of all, with the DAR, you really have to prove every fact that you put on your pedigree chart. If you "know" that someone's name was John James Doe, you need to prove it.  If you records only ever give the middle initial of 'J,' well, that's what you'll have to put on the form.  So the fact that mom's grandmother, Auline, was called Arlene by her 2nd husband, complete with a Death Certificate and Headstone that read Arlene, created issues.  In order to have her name properly recorded on Mom's application and in the DAR database, I transcribed an interview I'd previously recorded with my great-aunt where she discussed her mom's name.  We then had my mom, who conducted the interview, get the the transcription notarized.

     Moving back through her tree, we had a few places where the documents that I had needed to be reviewed and evaluated to see if they were good enough.  I discovered a few places where I didn't have the documents that I thought I had, though I had others that served as proof.  For example, I don't have the death certificate of my Great-Great Grandmother, Nina Sprouse Albea.  I do have her obit and social security application, but was surprised to not have her DC.

     Possibly the most uncertain aspect of Mom's application was the son of the Patriot.  Previously, all DAR applicants had gone through Samuel's son, William, who also served and had a pension.  We were going through Samuel's son, John.  John is listed in Samuel's will as John Armstrong. However, in all other documents he is listed as John H Armstrong.  Since there was a name variation, our registrar felt that we would need to show that John and John H were the same person.  She wrote an analysis, evaluating all John Armstrongs in the area and detailed a theory on the addition of the middle initial after our John became guardian to a younger John Armstrong.

     In another couple weeks, Mom will have her membership number and her lineage will be added to the database.  She's very happy to be a full member and to take part in this fantastic service organization.

11 May 2015

The Lottery Winners

     I have some Georgia ancestors who, for some reason, up and moved late in life.  Or who had random land half-way across the state in their estate records. Why on earth would they move like that or have than random land?  Because they won the lottery.

     In the early 1800s, Georgia was expanding.  In 1802 the western boundary of the state was established, though much of it was land belong to the Cherokee and Creek Native Americans.  As we all know, this land was taken piece by piece.  Once it was taken, the state government wanted to fill it with white settlers.... or cannon fodder.  Depends how you want to look at it, I guess. And of course, there were a ton of young families looking for land to building their lives on.

     The easiest way to settle Americans in the newly acquired land was to simply give it away.  Georgia used a lottery system and in 1805, 1907, 1820, 1821, 1827, 1832 (twice) and 1833, citizens received land.  You could purchase a ticket in the lottery if you met certain criteria, which changed each time.

    Searching for your ancestors in the lottery is a great way to find out if they fought in a war, were a widow, an orphan, or of a certain age.  Also, if you have an ancestor who lived in Georgia and simply disappeared around this period, it might be that they won some land and moved.  If you suspect that your John Smith from Elbert County is the John Smith who is suddenly living in Gwinnett County in the 1830 census, that might be because he won land there during the 1820 lottery.  Lottery records can help confirm your theory.

     Researching these records can be a bit confusing.  There were a lot of lotteries and a ton of records created through the process.  I highly recommend the book, "Georgia Land Lottery Research" by Paul  K Graham, to help figure things out.  It's on the shelf at the Georgia Archives, next to the books that index the winners.  The book has information on requirements for each lottery, maps of the land given away and, best of all, tells you the exact drawer and box of the microfilm you need.  And for each person you want to look up, you'll need to pull a series of four different films.  See why you need the book?

     One last hint, which I picked up from a fellow researcher while a friend and I were trying to figure out the lotteries: some books just list the winners.  If you can find it, look for indexes of eligible drawers, not just fortunate winners.  Even if you ancestor didn't win, you'll find out a bit about then simply knowing that they were eligible.


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