Thursday, April 22, 2010

Reflections on the First Year

Today is my first blogiversary! I can't believe a whole year has gone by and I've managed to keep this going. I will admit there was a lot of self-doubt in the beginning that this was going to last. I am INCREDIBLY technologically challenged so overcoming many of the "techy" aspects of this has been a great learning experience.

So here are some things I have learned during this first year, in no particular order:
  • Blogging is time consuming....but worth every minute.
  • The Geneablogging community is very warm, welcoming, and incredibly helpful. We all jump for joy with great discoveries and shed a tear over a tragedy.
  • I still probably shift tenses and dangle prepositions, much to the dismay of my high school English teachers. Alas, twenty years later I still don't always recognize when I make those errors.
  • Writing the stories, or even just the facts, of our ancestors has created conversations with my sister over our heritage. She has always been interested but doesn't want to partake in the research. However, some of the things I have written have prompted her to talk about it with me.
  • You never know who you might be related to or where you might recognize a common surname.
  • That writing about my ancestors would lead to connections with distant cousins, and that those new-found relationships can lead to photos and documents and history that I would have never otherwise obtained through traditional research.
Many thanks go out to those of you who follow my blog and leave an occasional comment. That in and of itself is motivation enough to keep going. I hope you will join me for Year Two. I can hardly wait.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Woodland Cemetery, Ashland, Virginia

Back in early March, I wrote a post on my 3rd great-grandparents, William M. Woody and Marginia M. Thomas.  I was thrilled to receive a comment from Rick Walton, a Historian for the 6th North Carolina Troops, which included the infantry unit that William served in during the Civil War.  At the end of my post, I stated that I did not know where the men from the 6th were buried that had died at the hospital at Ashland, Virginia.  Rick was kind enough to provide that information and so much more.

Grave 198 at Woodland Cemetery in Ashland, Virginia is the final resting place of William.  The graves are unmarked but the roster of those buried at the cemetery lists some familiar names to Mitchell and Yancey county researchers, including my ancestor Archibald McNeill's brother, Daniel, in Grave 194.  It should be noted that the soldiers buried in this cemetery are not just from North Carolina, but also include troops from Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and a handful from Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Maryland, and Tennessee.  There are 8 for whom the state is unknown.

Additional information on the 6th North Carolina Troops can be found at their website:

Many thanks to Rick for sharing this information with me.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I am Ancestor Approved

This is a long overdue thanks to Carol at Reflections From the Fence and Yvonne from Swedish Thoughts, who awarded me the Ancestor Approved award. I am very honored and humbled that they considered me worthy of this award.  As I read Carol's list, I was surprised to see so many similarities to my own family.

As a recipient of this award, I am to list 10 things I have learned about my ancestors that have surprised, humbled or enlightened me and then pass the award on to 10 other genealogy bloggers who I feel are doing their ancestors proud.

1. I was surprised (more like shocked) to learn a very close relative was born "three months premature" in the 1920s at, of course, a very healthy birth weight.....

2. I was surprised (more like appalled) when an ancestor was digging through a pile of old black and white photos (about 3x3 inch size) looking for photos of her husband as a child when she came upon a couple of photos showing a KKK group dressed in full garb.  I think I was rendered speechless (hard to do for me) and never did really ask if she knew if there was a family member in that photo as that seemed like the only plausible explanation for why she'd have such a thing. I suspect it was from somewhere in Missouri because that is where her family is from, but that is only a suspicion.

3. I was surprised to learn recently from a fellow descendant of Thomas Howell that he fathered *at least* 19 known illegitimate children. I knew there were about five or six but am rather stunned at 19. What is even more stunning/disturbing/annoying is that he was unable to help his son-in-law, Archibald McNeill, by providing an affidavit for Arch's Civil War pension that could have helped provide details of the time in question that was the primary reason the government kept denying the pension. But yet he had 19 illegitimate children! FYI - the lady that shared this information and I both descend from legitimate children from his first marriage to Piety Wilson.

4. I am humbled by my ancestors who left their homeland to come to a country unknown on the hope and a prayer of a better life. It makes me realize how cushy I have things and I don't know if I'd ever have half the courage these individuals had to have had to come to this new world.

5. I am humbled by all the ancestors that have served our country in the military, including countless WWII soldiers, including my grandfather and his two brothers; a great-grandfather that served stateside in WWI; at least four ancestors served during the Civil War on either side of the battle; and at least four known ancestors served as Revolutionary soldiers.

6. I am continually surprised at all the distant family of my grandfather Lee McNeill that is out there and seeking our mutual ancestors. I am humbled when I am asked to help provide information as I distinctly remember when I started out that I was the one asking ALL of the questions.

7.  I am humbled at all my grandmothers who bore countless children with little to no medical help, raised their large broods without modern conveniences (the washing machine comes to mind here), or worse yet had to bury their babies or young children.  One distant grandmother gave birth to 13 children and only one a set of twins.  In her case almost all survived to adulthood.  It just makes me very thankful for modern medicine and conveniences.

8.  It was surprising to learn that my most recent immigrant ancestor came to the United States in about 1881.  From where you might ask?  Canada.  Of course Fannie Arnold Harmon had originally come from England in about 1867 to Niagara, Ontario.  I think based upon my public school history classes I assumed that I had Ellis Island people.  Instead I have colonial people by the dozens.

9.  I had a moment of enlightment several years ago when I realized that I could no more take credit for my ancestor's victories than I should take blame for their faults (see #2 and #3 above as well as to some extent #1).  I think it helped make me more objective as I try to assemble the story of the family's life.

10.  It is very humbling to know that I am who I am because of all those that came before me.  My upbringing is a result of my parents and grandparents, and their upbringing as a result of their own parents and grandparents.  To paraphrase what Glenn Close said in "Faces of America", we are all products of those that came before us.

Now because I am long overdue in acknowledging this award, I have no idea who has and hasn't received it.  If you have not yet been a recipient, please consider yourself honored.  I would love to hear about your list.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

We Now Return to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming.....

Life in the last few weeks has been hectic, to say the least.  I have just concluded my busiest time of the year at work and am frankly exhausted.  Last week was the culmination of nearly three months of hard work and I wasn't sure how I would make it to the end.  I have just spent this first free weekend since January with my family doing mundane chores, enjoying the beautiful sunshine and even a trip to the local zoo with my kids.  It's amazing to see animal life (or any other kind, for that matter) through the eyes of two curious children. 

I also spent this weekend almost entirely away from the computer.  It was a refreshing change after having been stuck at my desk for three months plugging away on the keyboard.  Please bear with me as I regroup from my work season and my focus turns back to writing about my long-gone ancestors.  During the last few months, I have received some fabulous information on my North Carolina ancestors, "met" a new cousin (via email), and even saw some new photos that put a few missing pieces of the puzzle together.

I have much to share so stick with me as we now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Dates in my Family History

This month is light on birthdays and is dominated by deaths it seems.

3rd - this would have been the 63rd anniversary of my maternal grandparents. They only made it to 47 though.

3rd - death of Betty Presnell or Pressley, my 4th great-grandmother, in then Yancey Co, North Carolina. She was the wife of Hector McNeill. She died the day after giving birth to a daughter, Elizabeth.

4th - death of Rev. Isaac Grindstaff, my 2nd great-grandfather, in 1936 in Bakersville, Mitchell Co, North Carolina.

9th - death of Sarah Ann Sparks Silver McNeill, the second wife of my ancestor Archibald H. McNeill, likely in Mitchell Co, North Carolina

21st - anniversary of my 3rd great grandfather, Archibald H. McNeill, and his second wife, Sarah Ann Sparks Silver in 1864 in Mitchell Co, North Carolina

25th - birthday of Bedie Buchanan, my 3rd great-grandmother, in 1829 likely in Burke Co, North Carolina. She married Henry Grindstaff.

25th - death of my grandfather, Fred Harmon. He served a pivotal role in my life as the father figure I needed but didn't have. This was a devastating day for our family following a six-month battle against brain cancer.