St Clair Cemetery, Mt Lebanon, Allegheny Co, PA

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

NARA Provides Life to the Dead

Last month, I finally got around to ordering the pension file for one of my Civil War gramps.  It seems like I would have done this years ago since I am so deep into learning of the past and my family's role in the history of our land.  Well, don't judge me quite so fast on this one.

It wasn't until this year that I stumbled on the little fact that 2g granddpa George was even in the Civil War.  He was born in 1834 in Pennsylvania, and was married with a growing family by 1860.  For whatever reason, it just didn't occur to me that he would have been in the Civil War.  I guess I thought he was too old and settled to go off and fight for the Union.

Guess I was wrong!  I really hadn't been looking for him lately as I thought I had found most of what I could locate.  On a whim, I decided to go back and check one of the paid sites just to see if there was anything new on several members of the family. While checking on Uncle Addison and a veteran census, I saw the name George W CALDWELL blaring off the page.  What?

So, I let my fingers do some walking and found where he had been in a Home for Veterans in Dayton, Ohio.  Ohio?

I just had to contact NARA and see what they had.  That's a big jump for me as they had nothing on my grandfather from World War I.

Just this week, the small envelope arrived with a CD.  In to the computer it went.  For the next several days I poured over each and every word.  Then, I had to go and research more.

Grandpa George was a volunteer in the PA 102nd Infantry Co. E.  Of added interest was the fact his brother-in-law, Ben F HUNNEWELL, was also in the same unit.  Anyway, he was down at Fair Oaks when he was discharged with a surgeon's certificate.

First question---  what was Fair Oaks?  The Battle of Fair Oaks took place May 31 and June 1, 1862, in Henrico Co, VA.  It seems like both sides claimed victory for that battle although they both sustained fairly equal casualties.  General Johnston was wounded in this battle.  General McClellan is reported to have written to his wife that he was getting tired of all death and suffering of the troops on the battlefield.

Second question--  Was Grandpa George wounded in the battle?  Alas, the answer to this one is no.  He was moving some heavy rations, and fell on a box which caused some type of internal damage to his kidney.  He was in the hospital for three weeks, and then he was discharged.

Grandpa George returned home where he spent the next 40 years or so disabled.  He apparently suffered a great deal from that fall and lost the majority of his hearing during the war.

The best part of the pension papers came with the date of his marriage to his lovely bride, Mary Jane HUNNEWELL.  Yes!  She has always been somewhat of a mystery to me.  I knew her name.  Her birthdate came from a Bible in the HUNNEWELL family.  Her death date is unknown.  She disappears after the 1870 census.  I suspect she died after the birth of a child.  The big confusion with her is I have a letter from my great grandmother in which she writes to the daughter of George and Mary Jane and mentions she had just seen "your" mama.  The letter is from the 1890s. Hmmm......

But wait---- there's more to be found in the pension.  Grandpa George states that they had 5 children.  What?  I only knew of 4.  More life to be found!  And Grandpa George tells where a son of his has moved!  And---  all of his children married.

Previously, I only knew of two of the children marrying.  So, life continues in the family!

The other "aha" moment in the pension file is the naming of the preacher who married him.  By coincidence, it is the same name as the man who his half sister married.  Gee, I didn't know he was a preacher.  I only knew he was older and died before they had any kids.  The lovely widow goes on to marry again-  this time a widower who lived across the street from other family members.

Ahh, genealogy.  Sometimes the dead can come to life when we explore deeply enough into their lives.

©2010 AS Eldredge

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday: Gone but Not Forgotten

Back in 2004, descendants of John Henry (1750-1838), an Irishman who came to the colonies and later fought for the colonies, gathered for a party in the St. Clair Cemetery in Allegheny Co, PA.  We gathered for the dedication of two new headstones for our grandpas John Henry and James Glenn (1750-1813).  Even though both of these men have been dead for many a generation, their faith still speaks to the descendants today. 

Recently, my buddy, Margaret Jackson of the Historical Society of Mt Lebanon contacted me to let me know the original headstone of John Henry was located.  In addition,  a fieldstone with the initials J G has also been located.  

So very cool. 

Ahh, genealogy.  It's greatly satisfying when the gone and not forgotten do something to make us think of them and their contributions to this great nation of ours.  And the blood goes on and on........

©2010 AS Eldredge

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Old Pittsburgh Newspaper Index Just Grows and Grows

As you know (or at least you do now,) I spearheaded a project to index old Pittsburgh newspapers vital statistics in January.  I trust that this project will be appreciated over time by those genealogy buffs who are searching for their Pittsburgh area roots.

Update as of Thursday, May 19:
36065 death entries
3865 couples announce wedded bliss
446 couples are not so happy  (divorce)
386 photo entries

If you are new to genealogy, then please realize that there is an immense amount of time and effort given to the cause by the volunteers.  We do the best we can.  Yes, sometimes errors and typos happen.  We do correct them when they are brought to my attention.

The treasure chest of genealogy love going into this project will help you in your quest to learn more.  Just remember, this is not a substitute for going and digging around in the archives or libraries in the area.  While I enjoy gleaning more family tidbits from the comfort of my home, I love going to Pittsburgh and honoring my family while I tend to their graves, visit with cousins or just walk the land that my ancestors walked.

In case you want to check it out to see if you have roots in "Da Burgh," here is the link:

©2010 AS Eldredge

Treasure Chest Thursday: Wonderful Glimpse of History Through Letters

Just this morning, a cousin of mine suggested I look at the Letter Repository.  The Letter Repository has "lots" of old letters which have been transcribed.  There are letters from Americans, English, Irish and Scotsmen.

While it is not searchable by name and thus of limited use to genealogists, it still is interesting to take a glimpse into the past and see what folks were writing about.  The letters cover a range from the 1700s up to, and including, the American Civil War, World War I and and World War II.

The site has been live for about one year and is focusing efforts on letters written in English.  According to the site, they are hosted by an Irish company and are Irish owned.

So, grab a cup of Joe and relive some of the past through the words of those who were living it.  Jump on in:

Guess I'll be digging out my old family letters today and reliving the past of my family.

Ahh- genealogy.  Gotta love it!

HT to Susan for the suggestion!

©2010 AS Eldredge

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday: One Stitch in Time

Can you imagine what it was like for our female ancestors when all sewing was done one stitch at a time?  Can you imagine the glee when sewing machines were invented?  Seems that owning one of these miracle machines could really make a difference in the lives of women.  I wonder if my seamstress kin enjoyed having the new contraption or were they forced to continue to sew by hand.

I thought that today would be just perfect for sewing, and then I thought, that, maybe, just maybe, I would rethink that thought.  After all, looking at my old family machine might be more fun.  And by my family machine, I mean family.

I do have an old Eldredge sewing machine built by the company of Barnabus Eldredge (1843-1911).  This company, which also got into the business of bicycles and automobiles, was only in business under the Eldredge name from 1869-1890.  In 1890, he changed the name of the company to the National Sewing Machine Company.

Of interest to me is that Barnabus's grandfather is also the 3g grandfather of my spouse. Barnabus's earlier family came over on the Mayflower voyage, although the Eldredge line itself were actually latecomers--  arriving in 1635.  The Mayflower Connection even has one of his grandpas as the 17th signer of the Mayflower Compact and arriving in 1620. 

I also have a card on the Eldredge Sewing Machine.  My machine is a different model as mine is a rotary machine. But the overall case and design of the metal work is essentially the same. (Note the pic depicting the name change on the pedal.) 

It's neat to think that ole Barnabus was of the opinion that a job with him was a job for life.  He didn't fire people when they got old.  He just left them on the payroll.  I bet that made for some loyal employees especially during the Great Depression!

Click here to read more about the business itself.

Guess I'll have to find some more of these old machines so each of my kids can take a tangible, metal piece of family history with them. 

Ah, genealogy.  Just a stitch in time.

©2010 AS Eldredge

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Gee, An Award?

A couple of weeks ago, I received an unusual email regarding the GeniTales Blog.  It seems as if MyHeritage was trying to contact me about an award.  I was suspicious, but here is the essence--  my ramblings on genealogy were liked and noticed.

It's cool to have the roles of my family in history read about today. I just hope that those of you readers who are my cousins  enjoy reading about our family as much as I enjoy researching them.  For you "others," I hope my tales have inspired you to learn more about your own roots. 

Thanks!  Ahh-  genealogy.  It's a hoot!

On a sidenote, my death indexing project from old Pittsburgh papers is still growing strong!  At the last update, we had:

32382 death entries
3387 marriage entries
350 couples divorced
312 old photos

In case you want to check it out to see if you have roots in "Da Burgh," here is the link:

©2010 AS Eldredge