St Clair Cemetery, Mt Lebanon, Allegheny Co, PA

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Twas The Night Before Christmas......Genealogy Style

This was sent to me by a geni friend. Enjoy!!

'Twas the night before Christmas
When all through the house
Not a creature was stirring,
Not even my spouse.

The dining room table with clutter was spread
With pedigree charts and with letters which said...
"Too bad about the data for which you wrote;
Sank in a storm on an ill-fated boat."

Stacks of old copies of wills and such
Were proof that my work had become too much.
Our children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads.

And I at my table was ready to drop
From work on my album with photos to crop.
Christmas was here, and such was my lot
That presents and goodies and toys I'd forgot.

Had I not been busy with grandparents' wills,
I'd not have forgotten to shop for such thrills,
While others bought gifts to bring Christmas cheers,
I'd spent time researching those birth dates and years.

While I was thus musing about my sad plight,
A strange noise on the lawn gave me such a great fright.
Away to the window I flew in a flash,
Tore open the drapes and yanked up the sash.

When what with my wondering eyes should appear,
But an overstuffed sleigh and eight small reindeer.
Up to the house top the reindeer they flew,
With a sleigh full of toys and 'ole Santa Claus, too.

And then in a twinkle, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of thirty-two hoofs.
As I drew in my head, and bumped it on the sash,
Down the cold chimney fell Santa--KER-RASH!

"Dear" Santa had come from the roof in a wreck,
And tracked soot on the carpet, (I could wring his short neck!)
Spotting my face, good 'ole Santa could see
I had no Christmas spirit you'd have to agree.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work
And filled all the stockings, (I felt like a jerk).
Here was Santa, who'd brought us such gladness and joy:
When I'd been too busy for even one toy.

He spied my research on the table all spread
"A genealogist!" He cried! (My face was all red!)
"Tonight I've met many like you," Santa grinned,
As he pulled from his sack a large book he had penned.

I gazed with amusement--the cover it read
Genealogy Lines for Which You Have Plead.
"I know what it's like as a genealogy bug."
He said as he gave me a great Santa hug.

"While the elves make the sleighful of toys I now carry,
I do some research in the North Pole Library!
A special treat I am thus able to bring,
To genealogy folk who can't find a thing."

"Now off you go to your bed for a rest,
I'll clean up the house from this genealogy mess."
As I climbed up the stairs full of gladness and glee,
I looked back at Santa who'd brought much to me.

While settling in bed, I heard Santa's clear whistle,
To his team, which then rose like the down of a thistle.
And I heard him exclaim as he flew out of sight,
"Family history is Fun! Merry Christmas! Goodnight!"

--Author Unknown

Monday, December 18, 2006

Sewing the Seeds Again and Again

I watched as my spouse, yet again, threw out more grass seed, a
biannual event at my house. A few minutes later, the birds swooped
down and started to enjoy their unexpected treat. I wonder how many of
those seeds will take root and sprout, or just disappear into the
bellies of those who just want a quick treat.. Just like my research
into my family. It seems as if I constantly am throwing out those
seeds. Sometimes I wait and wait to see if they will sprout.
Sometimes, I just have to do it over. And sometimes, I get lucky.

As many of you are aware, I am heavily involved in what I like to call
my family cemetery in PA. Now, technically, it is not mine, but I have
loads of kin all buried there since its inception in 1804-06. I try to
research the various families buried there and have this information
published at the cemetery website. I truly enjoy being able to assist
someone else as they try to locate their kin there.

One day, I got an email from the web mistress who asked me if I would
look at the information that a lady in Sweden sent. She believed her
family was there even as the web mistress warned me not to get excited
as she was not kin to me. One look at the names and I knew exactly
where these people were buried. They are buried quite close to some of
my family plots. I contacted the lady in Sweden and we began a
dialogue. Turns out that we have cousins in common. We were able to
help each other in tracing the children and grandchildren to Christian
Co, IL from this plot of land in PA. Not only that, but this lady in
Sweden said she would help me in locating my mother's family in Sweden.
Now that was a find!! Especially since I don't speak Swedish!! She
researched the records for me and a few months later, we contacted
living cousins of mine in Sweden. I'm pleased to say that my Swedish
cousins can speak some English and we correspond on a regular basis.
Oh those little seeds sprout big sometime. Who would think I would
find my mother's family in Sweden through the cemetery where my
father's people are buried in PA? Amazing little seeds of hope.

So, my wish for you as you continue in the search for your own roots as
you throw out those many seeds is this. Volunteer to help others in
their quest. You just never know when one of those little seeds will
take root and sprout a whole new tree for you to learn about. It's
amazing to think how much can happen from just one little seed of hope
in finding your past.

Happy Holidays.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Saints Vs. the Strangers

Sounds like the perfect football game for the season. But wait, just who are these players?

Back in the early 1600s, a group of people born in the Elizabethan age in England wanted to practice their faith as they saw fit. They were led by a man named William Brewster, who organized and then became the ruling elder of the Pilgrim Church, in Scrooby, England. King James demanded that all of his land be members of his church and give him absolute obedience. The Pilgrim Community insisted on passive obedience. So, the saga begins.

Around the 1608 to 1609 time period, Rev. Brewster moved from England to Amsterdam and finally to Leyden. Many of his people left England under the cover of night as the King's men were making it harder for these people to worship and live. Leyden was a natural place for the Pilgrims to go as the Dutch were much more tolerant of differences between religions and cultures. The Pilgrim Church flourished well until the Pilgrims felt it was time to leave, as King James was putting pressure on the Dutch to crack down on the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims arranged for passage to America and received a grant for land to be called "Pilgrim Plantation" at the mouth of the Hudson River in the Virginia territory.

The Pilgrims arrived to find they indeed had two boats for their voyage, the Mayflower and the Speedwell. Unknown to the Pilgrims, the investors in this crossing of the Atlantic also sold passage to a group of tradesmen, hence the origins of the term "The Saints and the Strangers". The Saints, also known as the Pilgrims, were infuriated with this change of plans but there was nothing to do at this point. The two ships set sail for America in 1620. Constant leaking of the Speedwell resulted in the ships returning to port. After some considerable time and effort, it was decided that the Mayflower would sail alone, carrying both the Saints and the Strangers.

The ship's crossing was not an easy one and much has been written on this. They saw the land we now know as Cape Cod. Their intent was to follow the coastline down to the mouth of the Hudson River. However, an tricky area around Cape Cod and the winds blew them back to Cape Cod. They went ashore and well, the rest is history. Some of the most fascinating accounts of their lives were written by a member of the group named William Bradford.

This story has much to teach us. For my family, it is the story of my children's ancestors. Yes, my children had two grandpas on the Mayflower voyages, a William Lumpkin and a Richard de Warren. And naturally, it is from the side of my beloved spouse. So, here I am, descended from poor farmers from Sweden and Ireland, while my spouse's family history has a decidedly much more colorful tale to tell in the settling of our great nation.

After much gnashing of teeth over my spouse's apparent illustrious lineage, I finally realized that my poor Irish and Swedish farmers offered as much to the founding of this wonderful nation of ours. The Saints and the Strangers may be the story told around this time of year, but all of our ancestors had a vital part in shaping this great land of ours.

Happy Holidays.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Coward by name, not by nature

I was on another manhunt.

This time, I was furiously searching for those elusive Cowards on my maternal side. I had just returned home from a trip to Charleston, where I spent a full day digging and sneezing my way through their main library files. A kind older employee named Henry in the South Carolina Room took pity on my wide-eyed look of confusion as I asked where to find any information I could. He pitied me so much that he took me by the elbow and spent several hours at my side and explained some of the databases to me. By the way, I strongly encourage you to find such a kind soul the first time you really dig deep in a large library. With his assistance, I was able to locate the units of several of my kinsmen from the Civil War as well as several birth and death records from the area. This in itself is rather amazing as South Carolina was rather late in joining everyone else in requiring vital statistics. Henry was amazed when he found out that I was kin to Lt. Col. Asbury Coward.

Lt. Col. Asbury Coward lost so much during the War of Northern Aggression. He lost most of his family, several children, and all of his money. Not so uncommon for the time. What he did after the war deserves remembering. Lt. Col. Asbury Coward was born in 1834 on Quenby Plantation outside of Charleston, SC. His parents were Jesse Coward and Keziah Anne Dubois. Asbury graduated from the Citadel at the age of 19 in 1854 and was a professor by 1860. He was a cofounder along with Brigadier General Micah Jenkins of the King's Mountain Military School in the poverty stricken area of York Co, SC. General Jenkins was subsequently killed in the Civil War.

On Christmas Day in 1856, he married Eliza Corbet Larimore Blum, the youngest daughter of John A Blum. Together they had several children who died either as infants or as children.

When the disagreement between the North and South raged into war, he joined the 5th Regiment, SCV, and served under General Robert E Lee at Bull's Run. Asbury witnessed the shot that mortally wounded his younger brother, Jesse James Coward, as he was helping another fallen soldier. Asbury sat with his brother and prayed earnestly. After Jesse's death at age 25, Asbury arranged for a coffin and sent his slave, Charles, to accompany his brother's body home. Col. Coward was at Appomattox during Lee's surrender to Grant. His last commendation by General Longstreet, which is found in the book The South Carolinians, had a handwritten postscript by General Lee of "I concur in the commendation bestowed on Colonel Coward by General Longstreet. I have always considered him one of the best officers of this Army."

After the war was over, Asbury made his way back home to South Carolina. His memoirs tell us that as he crossed over into South Carolina amid all of the destruction and utter ruin, his spirits soared. He was back home, back to a new beginning, and had the faith he would triumph again. And he did. Asbury returned to his school and ran it for 20 years after the war. His former slave, Charles, elected to remain with Asbury as a cook for the school. Asbury served as SC State Superintendent for Education from 1884-1886, before becoming the Superintendent of the Citadel in 1890. His portrait hangs at the Citadel and the dining hall is named in his memory. Lt. Colonel Asbury Coward died in 1925 and is buried at Rock Hill, SC, next to his brother.Keep digging up those roots. You never know where the next clue will take you.

Lt. Colonel Asbury Coward, the man my mother called "Old Uncle", a true American giant. Asbury Coward, my cousin. The man who exemplifies the family motto- Coward by name, not by nature. Indeed.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Can you imagine?

I had already decided some of my paternal line had to have been
aliens. Seemingly, they dropped in, married, had children, and left
again-- all in the space of a decade- between census years at that.
After all, I had spent the last ten years looking for them. Sure, I
could find evidence of my other paternal lines, but this one appeared
to be an impossible hurdle for me. Imagine my surprise when an
attorney answered my email inquiry on my "alien" family line. Imagine
my surprise when someone else had real evidence that they existed!!

This retired gentleman was kind enough to tell me that his family
thought they were kin to mine. In fact, they wanted to be related to
mine. Imagine my surprise when he told me my family had a bigger role
in the new America than I had any knowledge of. He had a scrapbook of
old newspaper articles from the 1880s which one of his kinsman had
written about my family. It would appear his kinsman conveniently
overlooked the small fact that his ancestor had nothing in common with
mine except for a surname and a general locality. To be fair, that
information is sometimes all we do have when we begin our search.

The attorney sent me wills, land deeds and a copy of the scrapbook.
Imagine my wonder as I found out this particular line did exist-- and
exist, they did. The documentation located by this attorney and
another attorney clearly documents my 5th great grandfather owned a
tavern in NYC. Now that in itself isn't unusual. What is unusual
about this is he owned this tavern as early as 1776 on the northwest
corner of Wall and Nassau Streets. What is unusual about this tavern
is that it was located next to City Hall, which was renamed Federal
Hall in 1785 when it became the seat of the United States government.

Can you imagine the scene on April 30, 1789? The day when General
George Washington and John Adams were to be sworn in as the first
President and Vice-President under the newly ratified United States
Constitution? Tis little doubt my family members easily were able to
watch as these great men took their oaths of office. Tis little doubt
my family came into constant contact with heroes of American Revolution
as they held their sessions at Federal Hall. While it is not known, it
has been surmised by other authors that my little family tavern
assisted in the celebration of the day.

While the Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787, in
Philadelphia, it took some time for all the new states to ratify it.
Can you imagine the sense of pride and accomplishment of the men, many
who were farmers, who wrote the Constitution? Can you imagine how they
would feel today, some 219 years after its signing?

In 1956, President D D Eisenhower signed a bill into law which
established Constitution Week. This week long commemoration of the
signing of the United States Constitution will be celebrated September
17-23. Members of various Daughters of the American Revolution
Chapters and Children of the American Revolution Chapters will be
trying to raise public awareness on this document. I know one chapter,
the Augustin Clayton Chapter DAR, is reading a book to elementary
school children on the writing of the Constitution. I know many
chapters are ringing bells in honor of this event and receiving
proclamations from many cities. In addition, the Marquis de LaFayette
Chapter Sons of the American Revolution will be in parades and continue
to spread the message of patriotism and its continuing importance

Can you imagine if we were all more aware of our precious heritage and
the freedoms which this document provides to us as American citizens?
More than ever, with the trials this great nation is facing, we need to
honor our Constitution and the men and women who are defending it
today. Imagine my thrill in finding out the different roles my family
had in the fight for our country-- not only during the American
Revolution, but continuing on today to my kinsman who is serving in
Iraq. Can you imagine my gratitude to all these soldiers? To these
brave men and women who are willing to lay their lives down today for
the ideals of freedom? I pray, dear reader, that not only can you
imagine, but rather, you share my sense of pride in our country and
gratitude to her soldiers.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Past, Part 2

My mother was right. Of course, she always knew that. It’s just that I didn’t. Her family did have strong roots going way back in South Carolina. “The Book”, which I mentioned when last we met, was a great starting point for me to find her family. While the information was indeed sketchy on her direct bloodline, the clues jumped off the pages at me.

By looking at the location of some of the distant sides of her paternal line, I was able to determine where I needed to look. I had always thought her family was from Charleston. Not so. Before they got down to Charleston in the mid-1800s, they were up in the Marion District. Going further back led me to North Carolina and even back to the Philadelphia area in the 1700s. That was a surprise! Who knew that my mother’s genteel southern family had roots up in Yankee land?

The Marion District of South Carolina was up by the North Carolina border. I started looking at wills and deeds to find the family. I even came across some old jurors’ names that had been called for jury duty. This all just didn’t appear. It took many hours of laborious searching and endless sneezing at the dust on old books in the Charleston library as well as locating a local historical society outside of Charleston. There is a great historical society called the Three Rivers Historical Society. They have gathered a lot of information on the Marion, Williamsburg, Florence, Pee Dee and Georgetown areas of South Carolina. If you have any roots going back to those areas, these people, who are located next to a funeral home, have a good chance of either having it or knowing someone who does. Their records include wills, deeds, old family Bibles, cemetery readings, obituaries, local church records, and other obscure documentation. They are certainly worth checking out. I own several of their books and use them as reference on a regular basis.

It was relatively easy to trace some of my mother’s people by looking at all these records. What made it fun was stumbling across a 94-year old woman who remembered my great grandmother. She was a charming old lady and happy to talk of the old times. When I asked where my great grandmother was from, she replied, “Hell Hole Swamp.” “Just exactly what,” I asked as she glanced at the astonished look on my face, “is Hell Hole Swamp?” She laughed easily and said, “It’s a BAD place to be from.”

I found that comment intriguing enough to start me on another road trip. Hell Hole Swamp is actually a very real place located in the Francis Marion National Forest outside of Charleston. With my trusty map, spouse, children, and a full tank of gas, we started out on this journey. We turned right at the little old store that she had spoken of and found the cemetery where some of the family rests. We traced back to the store, turned left, and found one of the plantations, which she had mentioned. Then, a little ways further down the road, we drove into Cordesville, the actual birthplace of my grandfather. A turn, the only turn I might add, onto Alligator Road led us to Hell Hole Swamp. The only sign of human life on this journey, other than the man at the store, was one other man who was putting on hip pants, presumably to protect him as he prepared to walk in the swamp.

We found two more cemeteries, which yielded me with more pictures of relatives’ final resting places. I even gleaned some other surnames for which I would later search. After all, in the middle of the swamp, how many other families come through with fresh blood to marry? In those days of old? Not many, I would say.

We found one hand painted sign on the side of the road, which read “Hell Hole Swamp”. Voila! We were there! Suffice it to say, there was nothing there. At least, nothing that I would classify as civilization. That’s not quite right. There’s plenty of lush vegetation and I would venture to say it’s just chock full of animals who slither and crawl around. I imagine some of the swamp’s occupants gave Alligator Road its name. It’s hard to believe anyone ever had any reason to live there. But live there, they did. They were there during the jubilant era of rice planting in the Carolinas. That took lots of water and the swamp was a natural place for these fields.

As cell phone service was nonexistent in the swamp, I was thrilled our car did not break down. I doubt the local inhabitants would truly believe that I was just looking for my family deep in the swamp! Just looking at the landscape made me truly realize how far my grandfather did go in his lifetime. From birth on the edge of a swamp, to marrying the daughter of Swedish emigrants, to becoming renowned as the person to call to restore old plantations, to witnessing the births of his grandchildren, my grandfather had an interesting story. I only wish he was here to tell me about it.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Who cares about the past?

<fontfamily><param>Times</param>Family History. That's in the past.
Who cares? That’s a common response from relatives when I start
asking questions. Who cares? I care. By looking at the past and by
gleaning what information we can from the records, we can start to
understand why our elders had some of their sayings about life.

For instance, my maternal grandfather was known for saying one’s name
should only be in the newspaper three times- once when you’re born,
once when you marry, and once when you die. And, of course, my
personal favorite saying of his was “Company are like fish, after
three days they stink.”

My grandfather was very interested in history. Not so much of his
personal family history, but rather that of the town he lived in. A
quaint town, known as the Holy City, and to outsiders as Charleston,
SC, is a wonderful old town full of history. If you have a chance to
go, do so and take the time to learn something about it. After all,
it has been around since 1670. My grandfather was most interested in
the architecture and had the opportunity to restore many an old
building and plantation. He was also president of the Charleston
Hysterical, er, Historical, Society.

Now, why would he say that one’s name should only be in the paper
three times. He was well known for his restoration skills and his
name is still recognized in historical circles some 40 years after his
death. I admit, I didn’t know hardly anything about his family. All
I knew was he died when I was young. It wasn’t until I got interested
in genealogy that the clues began to surface.

My mother told me the family had owned some five plantations before
the War of the Northern Aggression, also known as the “Recent
Unpleasantness” and that she would play with confederate money in the
attic of one of the plantation houses. Now that was something I
wanted to check on.

I started searching the census records for the Charleston area in
addition to searching the newspaper archives for my grandparents. By
checking the obituary for my grandfather, I found his parents’ names
and the location of his birth. I checked the names of his siblings
and their obituaries. Slowly, but surely, I was beginning a database
of his roots. And then, I found the book. There was a book written
about his family, by distant cousins. Now to be fair, it was only a
minimal genealogy book, which left much to be desired. But it was a
start. From there, I gathered more obituaries and then started
looking at church records. My excitement grew as I found the maiden
name of his mother.

In my excitement, I started trying to track her family. My mom had
told me long ago that they used to go to Palatka, FL, to see some of
her daddy’s people. Now, how did they get there from SC? I found the
clues in a book of church records as well as a book about the Civil
War. The book on the Civil War was actually the memoirs of Colonel
Asbury Coward, who was a cousin of my great grandmother, and the man
my grandfather knew as “Uncle Asbury”. Asbury Coward’s story was a
fascinating one and one worth reading. Asbury Coward is still
remembered today in Charleston as The Citadel named its dining hall in
his honor and his portrait hangs at the school. By looking at his
portrait, I could easily detect which side of the family that my
mother’s and my uncle’s cheeks came from. The book can be found
through interlibrary loan and a copy is at the Georgia Tech library.

Who cares about family history? I care. The story of my family’s
past is fascinating and I know that your family history is as well.
Who cares? We all should. We should all know something to tell our
children, of our history, which also tells us of our country’s history.

(To be continued)


Friday, July 21, 2006

July 4th & The Patriot's Hymn

The crowds were all out early for the July 4th parade in Peachtree City. The parade participants were eager to start, and the children lining the parade route were eager to see what goodies were in store for them this year.

Along with the candies was another great treat. Men and women of our Armed Forces joined in to salute America’s birthday. A lump formed in my throat as I watched the crowd clap, cheer, salute, and verbally thank the veterans of today.

We have much to be thankful and a wonderful heritage is waiting to be discovered in old records. One such find of mine was discovered in the Philadelphia area a few years back. My research uncovered an uncle of mine who was a Presbyterian minister in the 1850-1862 time frame. While he was born in Pittsburgh, his preaching assignment was in Philadelphia. This young man wrote eloquent sermons, of which one has survived and is in possession of the family. He died in 1863 of yellow fever while on a missionary trip to Egypt. I’m sad to report he left only a young widow who soon fell and drowned in a bathtub.

One of the churches he probably preached at had another young minister who penned a hymn for the July 4th celebration of 1915. This young minister was Rev. Thomas Garland. His words still carry meaning today and I humbly present them as a tribute to the veterans, past and present.

The Patriot’s Hymn

Lord, in thy house this sacred day
We kneel where patriots knelt to pray;
They pledged anew their faith in Thee,
Then took up arms for liberty.

Not is their strength, but in Thy might
They trusted to defend the right;
And Thou didst guide them by Thy hand
And ‘stablished firm our fatherland.

God of the Patriots! Be our guide,
Protect this land for which they died;
Give us our fathers’ faith in Thee,
To live for truth and liberty.

Lord, lead us in the paths of peace
Till wars throughout the world shall cease;
Till Nations’ hate and strife have died
And righteous peace and love abide.