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John Hilyard Family ca. 1909

Sunday, December 28, 2014

My Family in the Civil War, Part Four: Ansel Wilson

This is the fourth in a series on my Civil War ancestors.

Ansel Wilson, 17th Regiment Kentucky Infanty, Company C (continued)

Ansel Wilson deserted.

From his military file, on a card labelled "Descriptive List of Deserters," it reads: "This man deserted from the 4th Div. Army of the Ohio, of which he was at the time Wagon Master. Has rec'd no Bounty. He has drawn clothing to the amt of $34.45."

In researching desertion during the Civil War, I found an informative explanation on the teachinghistory.org website. It's really too long to quote, so take a minute to look it over. The gist is, there were many deserters on both sides. For the union, about one in five men were absent without leave at some time. Though it was a crime punishable by death, this action was rarely taken; only 147 men were executed for desertion. The referenced article states that President Lincoln offered general amnesty to 125,000 men in March of 1863.

In his pension file, this statement is made: "This man deserted on or about Nov. 9, 1862, and returned on or about June 19, 1863. As he was subsequently restored to duty by S.O. [special order] No 9...dated October 26, 1863, without trial, but upon conditions which appear to have be complied with (so far as not waived by the Government) the charge of desertion no longer stands against him. The record of the fact that he was absent in desertion from on or about November 9, 1862, to on or about June 19, 1863, can not, however, be expunged."

Looking at the muster rolls, they show Ansel returned to his company on January 20, 1863, but was then absent again from April 30th to June 19th. He remained in active service until his discharge 1865.

[I'd like to point out that Ansel left one very pregnant Cinderella behind when he returned to duty. Amanda Florida Wilson was born July 29, 1863.]

Shortly after initially returning to duty that January, Ansel was injured.  From his application for pension, while "in the line of duty as wagoner at Chattanooga, in the State of Tennessee on or about February 1863, he was run over by a Government wagon loaded with corn which injured him in the spine and left hip; also being taken with Rheumatism (sciatic) while in the line of duty at Shell Mound in Tennessee. This occurred about April 1863." It is noted he was treated in the hospital in Chattanooga, and that he was totally disabled from his work as a farmer. This declaration was made in 1886 when Ansel was 51.
Chattanooga, Tennessee. View of the front and side of Crutchfield House, post headquarters and hospital during the Civil War, and railroad depot. - 1862
Possibly the hospital Ansel was treated in

The application details his marriages and lists his 13 surviving children with their birthdates. 

I ordered Ansel's files through the mail many years ago. While the copies I received contain a lot of information, I suspect I did not receive the complete file. Conspicuous in their absence are doctors' statements and remarks on the extent of his disability from close acquaintances. There are also no eyewitness accounts of the injury as I've seen in other files. The file does reference hospital records. Perhaps since he was treated in hospital, other accounts were not necessary but I would like to double-check the entire file at some point.

In "Kentucky Genealogy and Biography" vol. 3, edited by Thomas W. Westerfield and published in 1885, is a biographical sketch of Ansel Wilson. It mentions his Civil War service, his biographical info, and ends with this paragraph: "Mr. Wilson is a successful farmer, having 571 acres of productive and well-improved land in good condition and a high state of cultivation. He is also engaged in distilling. Mr. Wilson has worked his way up from a small beginning to a comfortable competency. He is a member of the Christian Church and a stanch Democrat."  No doubt with his war injury, he was assisted in all this by his sons.

Cinderella McIntyre Wilson

Cinderella passed away December 5th, 1904 at 66 years old. Ansel married a third time to Mary A. Strasburger on November 6th, 1908. He was 74, she was 43, and it was her first marriage.  She gave birth to a son on February 13, 1912 and they named him Ansel Strasburger Wilson.  When the baby was just eight months old, Ansel Wilson passed away at the age of 78 years and four days of heart trouble and bronchitis.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Have You Met Dead Fred?

Just a quick post here to share my latest tech discovery. Have you heard of Deadfred? It's a genealogy photo archive, attempting to reunite photos with their families.

I heard about this site while working through the back episodes of Family Tree Magazine Podcast (I believe it was one from 2009).  If you haven't listened to this podcast, it's one of my favorite genealogy ones so far.

At Deadfred, I typed in just the surname for several of my less common names, adding a state for some of the more common ones.

I actually got a hit on my Cremean line! The photo is not of direct relatives, but of their cousins, which is still interesting to me. I have contacted the photo's submitter and am awaiting a response.

You can browse through the site by surname, location, check out mystery photos, and even submit photos you have found that you want to get back to their families. Leave a comment if you find anything for your family.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

My Family in the Civil War, Part Three: Ansel Wilson


Ansel Wilson, 17th Regiment Kentucky Infantry, Company C

Ansel Wilson is a great-great grandfather on my mother's side. He was born on October 8, 1834 in Ohio county, Kentucky to Christopher Collins Wilson and Ursula Satterwhite Wilson. He was the oldest of their 14 children except for one older brother, Zephaniah, who died shortly before his first birthday.

Ansel Wilson

He married Harriet Stinson on November 30, 1854. He was 20 and she was 19.  Harriet gave birth to twins the following August. Sadly, the twins were stillborn, and Harriet died giving birth.

The following year, Ansel married Miss Cinderella McIntyre on September 8, 1856. Imagine my delight as a 10 year old finding out my great-great grandmother was Cinderella! This couple went on to have 14 children. Their oldest son Carson was my great-grandfather.

At the time the Civil War broke out, Ansel was 26, Cinderella was 22, and they had three young children.  They lived on a small farm in Ohio County, Kentucky. Ansel enrolled for duty as a private in Capt. Gary's Company of the 17th Kentucky Infantry on October 28, 1861, which came to be called Co. E. Soon, the 17th and 25th Regiments were consolidated due to loss of men; they kept the name of the 17th and Ansel was eventually put in Co. C.

The Company first mustered in at Calhoun, Kentucky, on January 4th, 1862 and were sent into battle the next month at Fort Donelson, Tennessee. I'd like to point you here to an excellent blog that follows the 17th through the war and really brings home what these men went through. Just for this engagement alone, I learned that the men were not allowed to have campfires; three inches of snow fell during one of the nights of the battle, and the temperature dropped to 10 degrees. This was the first time many of these men had seen combat, and certainly the first for Ansel. You can learn more about this battlefield via our National Parks Service.

As with my other posts, I want to focus on my ancestor more than the specific battles; however, the 17th was a well-respected and admired regiment. They fought at Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Corinth, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, and Kennesaw Mountain, just to name a few.

Perhaps due to his age (nearly 30) and farm experience, Ansel Wilson was appointed the position of wagoner on June 30th of 1862. I inferred from this he drove a wagon, of course, but wasn't sure what that entailed. I found a great description of the job on a Civil War message board, and I'll quote it directly here:
"You have charge of at least two of the most incredibly stupid beasts ever created. You don't just just ride a wagon, you have to take care of the horses. You have to feed them and curry them and try to not work them overmuch. And you have to take care of the tack and the wagon and you don't get all that much time to grab a beer with the guys.  
You have to know when the horses need a break. When you're pushing them too hard. When they're not working together. When the axles need greasing and about how far you can get without greasing them.
Being a teamster or wagoner was not a cushy job. He was not ordinarily expected to man the ramparts or fix bayonets, but one of the primary objectives of an opposing force was to cut the line and capture the wagons. 
It did take a special skill-set to be a wagoner. It was not an assignment for the slacker."
Civil War Supply Wagon
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress


Ansel was detached from his company all of the summer of 1862 to drive the division team in the 4th Division of the Army of Ohio. Then, on November 9th of that year, he did something that at first shocked me.

He deserted.

Ansel's story will be continued next time.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Life and Murder of Peter Harper

I want to tell you about one of my most colorful relatives. He isn't a direct ancestor of mine. His name was Peter Harper, and I think I'm one of the few people that can tell you his story. Peter didn't live long enough to have a family of his own. He was murdered on this date, two hundred and twenty-five years ago and by my best guess, he was about 27 years old.

(This is not Peter Harper. But this is what he looks like in my mind. 
 Picture borrowed from another family history blogger.)

Peter's brother John was one of my 5th great-grandfathers on my mom's side. Peter and John lived during an exciting time in our country's history, when citizens of the newly-formed United States were spreading into Kentucky.  They lived during the time of Daniel Boone, and even lived at his fort during the hard winter of 1779.

There are several first-hand accounts of these days.  Many of the early settlers and pioneers were interviewed and their stories written down. I have been fortunate enough to find several references to my Harper family in these literary gold mines. This is an area I am still actively researching and I have much more information than is presented here, but I want to focus on Peter for this post.

Just a little background: Peter's mother Betty was kidnapped by Indians after moving from the relative safety of their home in Prince William County, Virginia to the Potomac River valley frontier. I haven't been able to pin the year down exactly, but it was around 1760. While in captivity, she became pregnant with Peter by one of her Indian captors. As you will see from an interview below, Betty and her young son Peter were rescued and returned to the Harper family, which included at least seven brothers and two sisters.

These are some of the recollections about Peter I've been able to track down:

From "Shane's Interview with Pioneer William Clinkenbeard" published in the Filson's "The History Quarterly" April 1928, vol. 2, no. 3, p. 104:

"Peter Harper, a half Indian and Enos Terry were along. Harper shot, at the distance of ten steps, against a tree, and the bullet flew back, flat as a 4-pence, so that he just took one step and picked it up. Hit a buffalo in the forehead and it fell off flattened, it did, never entered the buffalo. The buffalo had been wounded several times and lay in a creek. They stoned it till it set after them. They are very quick in their motion and it bounced up and was after Harper and Terry. Terry caught hold of Harper's sleeveless coat as they run. Had like to have a fight about it. Didn't want it to die there."

From the same interview, pp. 109-110:

"Peter Harper, that half Indian, and the whole family (Mother, Jim Harper, her son, Peter's brother, and two or three of her daughters) lived in the fort {Strode's} awhile. None of them half-Indians but he. I think he was the youngest. Looked as much like an Indian as could be; black hair and straight walk. [His mother was rescued from the captivity, which was the cause of his Indian paternity, by Boquet's Expedition in 1763.] Their feet less in size (Indians) toes turned in. We could tell their tracks. Knew one, Big-foot's; he used to visit us often."

Peter received a land grant of 400 acres. He and two other men surveyed the land on Slate Creek in what was at the time Fayette County, Virginia on January 27, 1784. This would later become part of the commonwealth of Kentucky.  This is the little map that was sketched into the survey record:
Land descriptions of this time and place are very...interesting. We'll leave that for another post.

The next year, Peter returned to his old home in Prince William County and wrote a will on October 10, 1785. He was only about 23 at the time and unmarried, so he willed his possessions to his mother Betty.

Peter was back on his land grant by 1787 where he appeared on the tax list. His land was located fairly near his mother on Howard Creek, and his brother John on Lulbegrud Creek. Peter's nephew George joined him in his little cabin. They planted corn. A story was even told that they 'caught four or five bear cubs and kept them in a low pen covered over with logs and there was fattening them upon his corn. They came for the corn as natural as a parcel of pet pigs would.'

Peter kept dogs that were known to neighbors. William Clinkenbeard, an early pioneer, wrote about chasing after an Indian, "Saw a little dog of Peter Harper's after the Indian that got away, jumping up by his side, three or four times. Thought, if there had been anyone had been near to give him encouragement, he would have taken the Indian. Peter Harper always took this dog with him."

By considering different accounts of Peter's last days, I was able to pinpoint his death date.  In the book, "In Search of Morgan's Station" by Harry G. Enoch, p. 46: "Several misfortunes occurred in Bath County during the winter of 1789-90. On a cold December morning, Peter Harper went out hunting on Salt Lick Creek about ten miles east of Morgan's Station. He killed a deer and carried it home. The next day Harper went back to Salt Lick and never returned. On the morning of his disappearance, Harper stopped at Morgan's Station. He told James Wade that he was going out to gather some large pine knots, which he had promised to take his mother for her neighbors. They used rosin from pine knots to make wax. Wade later recalled, 'There was a little spit of snow that day. Harper had gotten to his destination and was ready to start back at the time that, we suppose, the Indians killed him. For the horse came in with the pine knots and leather apron across his back and the pommel of the saddle was all bloody.  George Harper [Peter's nephew] came and told us of it."  ...The Wades spread the alarm...and went to tell Harper's mother on Howard Creek.  A company of militia was sent out, but Harper's body was never found."

On p. 48 Enoch continues: "On Sunday morning, December 12, Benjamin Allen killed a turkey with his father's shotgun." In the next paragraph, he states: "The Allens had reached the mouth of Mud Lick Creek Sunday afternoon with about an hour of daylight left. Peter Harper, hunting for his two dogs, came along while they were waiting. He said the dogs had run off chasing a bear, and he was going to look for them at the beaver pond, about two miles north on the Licking River. This was the same day Harper was killed."

So, combining these testimonies, Peter Harper left his home on Saturday, December 11, 1789, to go hunting on Salt Lick Creek. He got a deer and came home. The next day, he went out again. He stopped at Morgan's Station, and talked with James Wade. He let Wade know of his plans to gather pine knots. He was accompanied only by his dogs.

Late in the afternoon, the dogs took off after a bear.  Peter came upon a party of men, including the above Benjamin Allen, who was 16 at the time. These men were hunting at the salt licks, coming from the Clark settlements. The party had split up, and Benjamin's part of the group was waiting for the rest. Peter said he was going to look for his dogs. The Allens decided to build a fire against the cold and snow. The rest of their party didn't return, and neither did Peter. The next morning, they were attacked by a party of four Indians. Benjamin's dad was shot, and Benjamin was taken captive. This is what led some to believe Peter might have been killed by Indians, as this Shawnee party was active in the area. At this same time, also according to Benjamin Allen, James McMillan was hunting in the same woods as Peter Harper. McMillan later boasted about killing an Indian that same day.

William Clinkenbeard recalled: "Harper built a little cabin tother side of the Little Mountain [Mount Sterling]. We passed by there going after horses once, following Indians. He had jerked meat hung up in the cabin. Harper got killed and we never knew how, whether by the whites or Indians. His horse was found with saddle and blanket and a pine knot tied on it behind him. Supposed it was on the waters of Lulbegrud Creek where McMullen said he shot an Indian (James McMillan). Everybody said it was Harper from the description given by McMullen, an Indian on a horse. Harper was never found that I heard tell of. McMullen said he killed an Indian on a sorrel horse with a bald face, coming up through a canebrake on the waters of Lulbegrud.  McMillan was a fine soldier. Would fight like a horse. Never seemed to do well after this. Everybody believed he thought it was an Indian, but if it was a white man through mistake, he ought to have told it. McMullen and Harper, too, were quiet, peaceable, harmless sort of men. Nobody believed McMullen would have done it intentionally."

So, on December 12, 1789, in Bath County (then Virginia) Peter Harper met his demise, either at the hands of a Shawnee party, or being mistakenly shot by James McMillan.

This is as close as I can get to Peter Harper, photographically:

Martha Tillery Moore (1853-1932)
Great-grandniece of Peter Harper
My great-great grandmother


Friday, December 5, 2014

My Family in the Civil War: Part Two: John H. Anderson

This is the second in my series on my Civil War ancestors.

John H. Anderson, 8th Regiment Kentucky Cavalry, Company K

John H. Anderson, one of my great-great-great grandfathers on my mom's side, was born June 22, 1841, in Logan County, Kentucky.  Except for a year he spent fighting in the Civil War, he never lived anywhere else.

James P. and Mary (Anderson) Farmer with their son Milton
Probably taken around 1918
Mary was the second oldest of John H. Anderson's children

John was the second son of Leonard Jr. and Emily (Smith) Anderson, and grandson of Leonard Anderson Sr., a Revolutionary War veteran and certainly a subject for a future post.  He was part of a family of 14 children who all lived to adulthood, 11 boys and three girls.  I don't have any photographs of him, but his pension file describes him as about 5'11, around 200 lbs. He had a light complexion, light hair, and blue eyes.

What I have learned of John comes mainly from census records and his Civil War pension file. I haven't traced any cousins down to share stories with on this one.  According to these sources, John was a farmer, and was not able to read or write, though he was able to sign his name on his pension deposition. 

John, along with his brother Sam, enlisted in the 8th Regiment of the Kentucky Cavalry on August 15, 1862 and served a term of one year, mustering out on September 23, 1863. During the Civil War, the role of the cavalry was primarily reconnaissance, defense, and raiding rather than face-to-face combat. Cavalrymen were issued a horse and a weapon, usually a carbine, saber, or pistol.

The most significant action seen by John was as a scout following General John Hunt Morgan's men through Indiana and Ohio. Morgan's Raid is worth reading about. For a very general overview, check out Wikipedia's page.  

Among the many depositions in his pension file, John gave this testimony on June 21, 1897 in an attempt to get an increase in his monthly payment. It is a rather autobiographical, so most of it is included here.  

"I am 57 years of age. Occupation, farmer. My residence and post office address is Anderson, Logan Co., Ky.

"I served as a private in Co. K 8th Ky.Vol. Cav. from about August 15th 1862 to Sept. 23rd 1863. I have never served in the army or navy of the U.S. except as above stated. I never served in the rebel army or navy and never bore arms against the government of the U.S.

"I am pensioned at $6.00 per month under the Act of June 27th 1890 and am paid at the Louisville Agency. I base this claim for pension under the Old Law on disease of eyes. I was born and raised in the vicinity where I now live and lived there all my life until my enlistment. I have always been a farmer...

"I had a little spell of fever when a small boy but no other serious sickness before my enlistment. I was always stout and healthy up to that time. I never suffered from any physical ailment and was especially free from eye trouble before my enlistment. Dr. Turner was our family physician before the War but he is dead. Dr. Jackson Linley(?) of Auburn, Ky. treated me when a boy for the fever. I never was treated by any other doctor or for anything else before my enlistment. I was examined by a doctor at Russellville, Ky. at the time of my enlistment and he pronounced me sound. No, I don't think I was stripped.

"I first contracted my eye trouble near Brandensburg, Ky. about July 1863. They did not get sore all at once but gradually. I had been on the scout after John Morgan for three or four days. We started out from Bowling Green, Ky. I think my eye trouble was caused by the dust, loss of sleep, and exposure on said scout. I know they first became affected on said scout and know of nothing that could have caused them to become affected except the exposure on said scout. My eyes have been more or less sore and affected ever since... When my eyes first became affected they got red and watered, felt sore and as if there were dust in them and my eyesight was impaired some ... I never was treated for my eyes and never called for any treatment while in the service. I didn't ask for treatment because I was afraid of going to the Hospital....

"I had the yellow jaundice at Hopkinsville about Jany 1863 and Dr. Black gave me couple of pills. That was the only medical treatment I received in the service. I treated myself with bitters I made out of whisky and cherry tree bark. I was unable for duty and excused from duty on account of the jaundice for about a week. I got over it all right and it left me with no resulting disability as far as I know." [Note: there were over 70,000 cases of yellow jaundice reported during the Civil War.]

"I suffered more or less with the toothache in the service for about four weeks. I had the tooth pulled and was not troubled with the toothache any more in the service. I also had a cold and the diarrhea at Bowling Green, Ky. in the service but I recovered from said disabilities in a week or so and was not troubled with them afterwards...When I was discharged I went to my father's near where I now live and have lived there ever since. 

"My nearest neighbors and most intimate associates since my discharge now living have been Joseph N. Sweatt, John H. Glasgow and George W. Webb of Dallam's Creek, James A. McKinney and W.H. Suddeth of Anderson, and John Kittle and S. S. McReynolds of Lewisburg, Ky. ...I have gotten drugs and made washes for my eyes a few times since the War. I got some sugar of lead from John H. Hines of this place, now dead, and made a wash for my eyes two or three years ago. I have been bothered with a knot on the back of my head for a long time. I think it was coming on me when I went in the army. ...but it has gotten larger since and pains me at times. I have been troubled with palpitations of the heart for two or three years. I have been troubled with the rheumatism in my knees, ankles and joints for 15 or 20 years especially in the Winter. No I was not troubled any with the rheumatism as far as I know in the service....I think I have been on an average about one third disabled for work since my discharge by reason of my eye trouble. Samuel P. Anderson and, I think, John Kittle were my bunkmates and messmates. Levi Vantrees and Wiley Hendricks were also bunkmates and messmates of mine but don't know where they are. I think most of those on the list of comrades were on the scout and would remember about my eye trouble. About all the company was on said scout. I don't care to be present during the examination of my witnesses. I have heard read the foregoing deposition and am correctly reported therein.
                                                                         

From the deposition of John Kittle, age 55, farmer: "We were in the saddle pretty near all the time for about thirty days...I saw [the knot] a number of years ago and it was about the size of a partridge's egg." July 26, 1897

From the deposition of Samuel P. Anderson, age 53, farmer: "I served as a private in Co. K 8th Ky Vol Cav. from about August 15th 1862 to Sept. 1863. I am a brother of the above named John H. Anderson and we have been together and lived near each other all our lives. I bunked and messed with him most of the time he served. I recollect that when claimant returned from the Morgan raid about July or August 1863 he was complaining of his eyes and they appeared to be inflamed and sore. I was not on said raid. He was gone about a month on said raid and he thought his eye trouble was caused by exposure laying out and taking cold in them and the dust and hardships he underwent on said raid...Neither my father nor mother nor any of my brothers or sisters ever had any eye trouble except claimant and myself. My eyes have been troubling me about four years and my doctor J.L Simmons says it is caused by neuralgia. I think perhaps claimants eye trouble is caused by the same thing." July 28, 1897

From the deposition of Joseph Sweatt, age 55, farmer: "I have lived from two to three miles of said claimant, have been associated with him a great deal, have worked with him some, and have seen him on an average about ten times a year ever since his discharge...He has complained of not being able to see good ever since his discharge and his eyesight is much worse now than when he came home from the service. I have seen him wear green glasses frequently on account of his eyes. I have seen him when he would take a severe cold in such shape that he could hardly see at all." July 26, 1897

In trying to locate information on "green glasses" I found this interesting blog post.

From depositions from various doctors, John's eye problem appeared to be mild and his vision was considered normal for his age. He did suffer from rheumatism, heart problems, a growth on his neck, and piles (hemorrhoids).

After the Civil War, John married Martha Jane Goswick (a surname of many spelling variations) on May 23, 1865.  I would like to point out here a few things about the pension file. First, it contained specific names and dates I wasn't able to find anywhere else, such as this, their wedding date.  There are two sheets where John had to provide information about his family. The first was in 1898, when he was 56 years old. Here the names are written probably as John spoke them to person taking the information from him. Martha was "Marthey" and Minnie was "Miney". One of his children he just referred to as "Sis."  Also, at this time John could still provide his marriage date, where it took place, and the man who married them, Ike Barrow.

The second time John provided this information was in 1915.  By this time, he was 73, and had been widowed for five years. He could only say he had been married "about 50 years," which was correct, but leaves me to wonder if he was losing some memory. The person completing his information this time fully spelled out each name, using Isaac Barrow instead of "Ike" and for the children, used first and middle names.  All of the birthdates agree between the two forms except for that of my great-great grandmother (Mary, pictured above); on the first he gave her birthday as July 17, 1868, and on the second July 21.

All of these dates were very useful; many I hadn't been able to track down. There was even one daughter I hadn't been able to locate elsewhere, and there she was. Pension applications often have this kind of information and are very helpful to family historians.

John's wife Martha died in 1910. In the federal census of that year, John was living with three of his grown children in a blended household. His son Monroe, along with Monroe's wife Ellen and their two sons, appeared to be running a farm with another of John's sons, Hugh. John and his daughter "Sis" also lived there. Sis died less than two years later of breast cancer, and John passed away September 29th, 1919. His cause of death was given as chronic rheumatism.

He is buried in the Anderson Cemetery in Logan County.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

If I Liked it Then I Shoulda Put a Pin In It; or, My Budding Relationship With Pinterest

There's a bouncy pop song from way back in 2008 called "Single Ladies" by Beyonce. The gist is, if you didn't want to lose the girl, you "shoulda put a ring on it" and made her yours.

I have to say, as a genealogist, I have flirted with a lot of websites lately. I've been looking. A lot. Can I remember all their names? Not really. Some had flashy pictures; some had wonderful long lists of data. There were a few offering up some new techniques I wanted to try. But when I try to remember which god-forsaken corner of they internet they were located on, I can't come up with it for the life of me.

I''ve tried bookmarking them. That's like writing their names in a little black book. There's a name and a number, but what was it about? What piqued my interest there? I hate actually calling up the page and having to say, "Oh, sorry; it wasn't you."

Enter Pinterest. Now don't run off screaming into the night. It's not just for recipes and funny cat memes. If you've never heard of Pinterest, it is a website that offers you a visual way to bookmark websites and sort them into categories. You get a sneak peek at what the site was about to refresh your memory.

Pinterest is free to sign up for and use. You can sign up via email or a Facebook account. Once you have an account, you can create "boards" or categories that you want to sort your pages into, or "pin" the pages to. You can add new boards any time. If you would like to see what boards I currently have you can check them out here.

As of this writing, I have a few boards labelled "Surname SoAndSo" for when I find a page specifically about a certain family I'm researching. I've created one for Naturalization Sources; this is a new area to me because most of my lines are colonial, and I'm getting schooled on some unfamiliar types of records. A few others, self-explanatory I believe, include Civil War Information and Historical Fashion. Again, you create the categories, so they are tailored to your personal interests.

Two things I've found that make pinning really easy: the mobile app and the Pin It! browser button add-on. If you are using a mobile device, you can get the free Pinterest app in the same manner you get all of your other apps. When using your device, if you are on a page you want to save or "pin," you use the "Share" option in your menu and you can choose Pinterest there from among your other programs such as Facebook and Instagram.

As for how to add the Pin It! button to your browser, I'll let Pinterest tell you how. It is very easy to do, and places a small button in the top right corner of your browser that lets you pin whatever site you are on with the touch of, well, a button.

A warning, gentle readers: Pinterest is one of the greatest time sucks known to man. Be prepared to waste a little time your first few visits. Once the new wears off, I hope you will find it a useful tool in your genealogy research.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

My Family in the Civil War: Part One, Thomas Hilyard

I have four known ancestors who fought in the Civil War: Thomas Hilyard, William Henry Harrison Reck, Anselum Wilson, and John H. Anderson. I'd like to honor each of them with a post here.

This is the first in my series on my Civil War ancestors.

Thomas Hilyard, Ohio Volunteer Infantry 81st Regiment, Co. E

Tom Hilyard was born on November 13th, 1840 in Fairfield County, Ohio. His parents were Jeremiah Sylvester Hilyard, who was 23 at the time, and Mary Ann Valentine Hilyard, who was 21.  Tom had five brothers and two sisters, though one sister died as a child.

Tom's family moved to Allen County, Ohio sometime in the early 1850s, where his dad Jeremiah died in 1855 at the age of 37. At age 14, Tom was the oldest child of 7 on their family farm.

The Civil War started in April of 1861. That fall, Tom answered the call for volunteers. He enlisted for a three year term on September 1st, 1861 in the 81st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Company E (81st OVI Co. E).  He was 20 years old. His company was sent to Benton Barracks, Missouri.

Much can be read online about the specific battles in which Tom's regiment fought. Anyone with a passing knowledge of the Civil War will recognize Shiloh and the Siege of Atlanta, and later Sherman's March to the Sea. Here, I want to focus on how the war affected one particular soldier and his family.

One of the first battles Tom was involved in was the Battle of Corinth II, fought October 3-4, 1862, in Corinth, Mississippi.  Confederate forces attacked Corinth, but the Union claimed victory.  Tom's regiment lost 11 men, had 44 wounded, and three captured by the enemy.

According to testimony in his Civil War pension file, Tom also received a fatal blow of sorts at Corinth, though it took some years to kill him. It was there he contracted tuberculosis, called consumption at that time. His friend Joseph Wagoner, who was only 17 when he entered the war, made a statement in 1888: "[I] was well acquainted with Thomas Hilliard, comrade. I was also a member of the same company and regiment. I know of Thomas Hilliard being sick and bleeding at the lungs which was at Corinth, Mississippi in the year 1862."

Tom went on to complete his three years of service. If you've never read about the siege of Atlanta, you should. Imagine yourself walking hundreds of miles from your home, in all kinds of weather, to fight your fellow Americans.  Picture the huge earthworks that Tom Hilyard helped create, then sat in while fighting the rebel southerners, all after surviving for three years with hunger, cold, war, and the disease festering in his lungs that was going to kill him.

Atlanta fell on September 2nd, and Tom's term was up. He and 150 of his fellow soldiers headed back to Ohio. There, Tom married Rachel Cremean on December 29 of that year. One year later, they welcomed their first child, Jesse John Hilyard (the man in the portrait on my main page) into the family on December 19, 1865. The war was finally over and they could move forward.

However, Tom's health was never good again. He pension file is filled with testimonies from friends, neighbors, and doctors about how the consumption affected him.

Joseph Roush, about Tom's age, of Allentown, Ohio had this to say:  “I was acquainted with said Hilliard at least 12 years before the war, and lived near neighbors to him, within a half mile.  I have worked with him a great deal before the war, at all kinds of work, and I always found him a stout, hearty, healthy young man as I ever knew.  I never knew him to be sick a single day up to the time of his enlistment and I know that if he had been subject to any complaint or disease I would have known it.
            “When he returned from the service he came back to live in the same place.  He returned in the fall of 1864 shortly after I had enlisted a second time, and I saw him immediately on my return in June 1865.  I know that he was not then in good health; he seemed to be very much broken down, and I have often heared him say he was broken down and could not perform the labor he once could.  He came to work for me soon after my return, and I know he was not able to perform manual labor equal to a well man, nor as he could do before his service in the army. 
            “I remember that one of his symptoms was what is called a hacking cough, which troubled him constantly, and I think his cough gradually grew worse, and after a few years he began to have spells of bleeding from the lungs and his disease became fully developed as a case of consumption.  During the last six years of his life I did not live so near to him as I had before, but still saw him frequently so that I know his disease continued right on in its course untill he died....His habits were exemplary and strictly temperate.”  Signed 26 May 1888.

Another contemporary, Abraham Stever of  Elida, Allen County, Ohio:  “[I] was acquainted with said Hilliard for at least ten years before the war, and lived in same neighborhood, or within about one and a half miles, and have worked with him at hard labor.  I know that up to the date of his enlistment he was a sound, able-bodied, robust young man.  He was entirely healthy or I would have known it.  I never heared him complain of any sickness or disease up to that date.
            “I returned home from the service on the 12th of June 1865, and then I lived within about a half mile of Hilliard.  I saw him within a day or two after I got home.  He was then very much out of health, complained of a pain in his breast, and suffered from a cough, and raised thick yellow matter from his lungs.  I noticed that sometimes after coughing he would spit out matter tinged with blood.  I saw this more than once and can not be mistaken about it.  I worked with him quite frequently when he was able to work up to 1877 and after that I saw him often, and had knowledge of him all the time untill he died. 
            “He was able to do some light work at first, but not very much; was not able to do hard work at all and had frequent spells when he would not be able to do anything.  This continued, and his disease of the lungs continued to increase in severity untill for a considerable time before he died he was not able to do any work at all.  Soon after his return his disease became a settled disease of the lungs from which he ultimately died.”  Signed 10 Apr 1888.

There are other affidavits in the file, but I leave you with this one: Dr. Henry G. Stemen age 36, of Delphos, Ohio:  “I was called to examine and treat on the 27th day of May 1882 Thomas Hilliard, who was then living in Delphos, Allen County, Ohio.  I treated him from that time untill he died August 8th, 1882.  His disease was pulmonary consumption.”  Signed 3 Aug 1886. 

Tom was 41 when he died. He lived the last half of his life with a disease he contracted fighting to preserve the union of our country.


Tom and Rachel had six children. Two of them died before reaching age two.  His oldest son, Jesse John, was my great-grandfather. He moved from Ohio to Indiana, eventually settling on Grease Gravy Road in Orange County, Indiana, the county I was born in. He died long before I was born, but I have a picture of him with my dad.


Francis Hilyard (b. 1939) with his grandfather Jesse John Hilyard, early 1940s


I don't have any pictures of Tom, but I do have photos of two of his brothers and his two sons. There's a strong resemblance among them, so perhaps we can get an idea of what he looked like from them.

Brother Noah Hilyard (1851-1931) on his 76th birthday

Brother Ephraim Hilyard (1854-1918) painted from a tintype


Curtis and Jesse John Hilyard (sons of Tom), Arthur and Vaughn Hilyard (grandsons of Tom) about 1935


You can read a concise summary of the 81st Regiment's movements and battles on Wikipedia.
The very detailed history can actually be read online at Google Books, History of the Eighty-first Ohio Infantry Volunteers, written in 1865.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Like a Dog With a Bone, or Are There Any Kind Souls in Pennsylvania?

I decided to focus a little while on my surname, Hilyard. This is a line I got stuck on before my hiatus. As records stood 6 years ago, I was going to have to travel to Pennsylvania in person if I wanted to learn more.

Enter the Internet.

My last known ancestor on that line is Thomas Hilyard. From what I've searched so far, I knew he was born about 1750 and died about 1817. His wife's name was Mary, maiden name unknown. They spent most of their lives in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, down in the western corner of the state.  I know of eight children they had, including my next ancestor Thomas P. Hilyard.

I won't go into all I know in this post, but just my superfind of the day. Google, dear Google, told me about a book called the "Journal of the Forty-Eighth House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,". Here the title continues on to a second page, but you get the idea. Perfect bedside reading if insomnia is your problem. If you are interested, it is available free in its entirety on Google Books.

However, on page 40, I located this little treat. "Mr. Coplan presented the petition and documents of Mary Hilyard, of Fayette County, stating the services of her late husband, Thomas Hilyard, in the Revolutionary War, and praying for relief."

Obviously, these are my people! Mary is applying for a pension that soldiers and widows of soldiers of the American Revolution were entitled to. Up to this point I have never been able to find any military records for Thomas. After learning of this, I did a pretty exhaustive search back at Fold3, and still couldn't find any mention of him.

Back to the Google. Some wonderful person had contributed this page to the USGENWEB Archives because it contained a record of their ancestor. My ancestor was serendipitously located on that same page.  It turns out Mary Hilyard was approved for her widow's pension of 40 dollars per year. Huzzah.

Now, how to find out more? Google explained that Mary HILLARD's file (yes the different spelling is ok, it's her) is located in Harrisburg, PA at the State Archives. Well, it takes nearly 8 1/2 hours to drive there from home, or Google maps also pointed out I could fly there in under three hours, starting at $237. Wait, it's Sunday and they are closed. Plus I have to work tomorrow.

My next step was to turn to Facebook. I put out a plea on the Pennsylvania Genealogy Network group for someone to go there and copy it for me. Come on, Internet, You can't let me down now!


Portrait of Alice (Holtzapple) and Jesse John Hilyard Family
taken about 1923--baby in center was born in 1922 and before my grandparents married in 1925

Back row: Grace (Tomlinson) Hilyard; Vaughn Hilyard (my grandfather); Leonard Tomlinson; Tessie (Hilyard) Tomlinson; Irene (Reese) Hilyard
Middle Row: Arthur Hilyard; Alice (Holtzapple) Hilyard; Jesse John Hilyard; Warren Hilyard
Front row: John Hilyard; Eugene Hilyard; Vivian Tomlinson; Marion Tomlinson; Agnes Hilyard; Louise Hilyard; Nonda Hilyard

Friday, November 14, 2014

Not So Ancient History

Most of the photos and artifacts I've been given over the years are very meaningful to me, and I am grateful to have them. They are generally old things, attached to people I never met, and they have little direct emotional affect on me.

Last week, my father gave me a small shoebox of letters and mementos belonging to my brother Scott. Scott passed away unexpectedly three years ago at the age of 50. He was nine years older than me, and as a child I always admired him.

My father left it to me to curate this box. I let it sit for awhile, not sure what would be in it. I lifted the lid this morning, braced by my coffee and assisted by my ever-curious cat. No demons jumped out. I found I didn't even cry, at least until writing this post.

Nearly everything in the box is from 1978-1980. It contains cards Scott received for his high school graduation in 1979. There are many letters he received from family and friends during his Air Force basic training in late 1980.

The graduation cards include little notes from family long gone. I will treasure those. The letters he received during basic training include several, of course, from our mother. She was a good reporter of what was going on at the time. Many of the events she mentioned I remember well, though I was only 10. Her voice comes through just as it does today, the same mannerisms and turns of phrase from half a lifetime ago.

Also included are several letters from another of our brothers. He was also in the Air Force, stationed in Florida. I recall him being a prolific letter writer, though I sadly don't think I kept the ones he wrote to me. His sardonic humor rings through, also little changed from when he was 20.

A few items that I want to keep and preserve include a playbill and script from the play M*A*S*H that Scott was in during high school. This is the first play I can recall attending and I was so excited when I saw my big brother on the stage.

The box also contained a series of cartoons my brother drew. He had a few characters back then, but these are Granny Grunt, and how she accidentally got sent to the moon. I plan to have these copied and bound with his other cartoons I have to share with my family.

So this little gift from my father will be added to my family treasures. Scott has three little granddaughters he never got to meet. I would like someday to tell them some good stories about their grandpa and what fun we had as kids.

Vonda and Scott Hilyard
at our family home around 1978


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Dipping Into Evernote; or Should It Stay or Should It Go?

I decided it was time to try out Evernote for keeping track of my research notes. I currently have about one and a half file cabinet drawers and six or seven linear feet of three-ring binders full of stuff.

To try it out, I selected a slim folder from my Farmer family research. My mission: to digitize the file and deal with the paper.

First, I took a look over each piece of paper in the file and decided if any of it was trash. Surprisingly, there were four things I could throw away. One was a printed email of someone researching the name from who knows how long ago, not related to me. One was a cryptic sheet of notebook paper with a few names, no indication of where it came from, useless.

Second, I determined what I absolutely could not throw out. These included photos and certified copies of death certificates. After scanning, these went right back into the file. The .pdfs got uploaded to Evernote.

Third, what could I scan and dispose of? I decided that handwritten notes containing abstracts of censuses and books fell into this category. I'd already put that information into my genealogy database (good old Family Tree Maker) ages ago. I scanned it to my desktop, where the .pdfs will remain. These also got sent to Evernote, but where I had 12 sheets of paper containing census abstracts, I now have two neat digital "notes".

(Confession: I technically haven't really thrown any of this out yet. I'm going to have to let it sit on the table today while I'm at work and carry out the disposal tonight. Consider it a wake, if you will.)

Lastly, there are some photocopies I made of original records. These are the toughest call for me. I will of course scan them and upload to Evernote. I don't think I can let go of this paper just yet. I'm going to let time tell me what to do on this one.

George Thomas Farmer (1861-possibly 1924)
brother of my great-great grandfather J.P. Farmer

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

SQUIRREL! Or, How I Discovered Fold3

With a few hours to myself, I decided I would like to learn more about Evernote. From what I have gathered, Evernote is da bomb for keeping track of EVERYTHING in my research, from old research notes that I can scan in, photos, anything I find on the web can be "clipped" and filed. All of this stuff is OCR'd (the computer reads it and indexes all the words) and can be searched. Plus, all of this information is "synced" or copied across all of my devices. This is great because I scan stuff at my desktop, but take my laptop, tablet, and phone elsewhere.

So, while looking for information on that topic, I just happened across a link to Researching Your War of 1812 Ancestor and thought, "Oh, why not?" That took me to an Ancestry blog post, written just a week ago. This, in turn, mentioned a website called Fold3 that has free military records. Click.

Well, there was another rabbit hole. I typed in one of my 1812 ancestors, Smith Cremean. I'd already gotten his records the OLD-FASHIONED way, i.e. I drove to Washington D.C., donned the white gloves, and photocopied them myself. That was in 2004, by the way.  Well, if I'd only been patient, here they are in all their scanned and beautifully readable glory.

Then I noticed a banner, "Free Access to WWII Records", available through November 30th. Yesterday being Veteran's Day, my grandfather was on my mind, so I typed in his name. Voila, there he was. I am fortunate enough to have his records and medals passed down to me, so there was nothing new here, but what a wonderful site! I took time to add his service photo to his memorial page.

So, I still don't know any more about Evernote, though I am desperate to learn how to save those War of 1812 images But what a great find in Fold3! And why is the site called Fold3? According to their blurb, " Traditionally, the third fold in a flag-folding ceremony honors and remembers veterans for their sacrifice in defending their country and promoting peace in the world." Great name for a great site.

William Lee Moore, 1911-1978
My grandfather

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

My Triumphant Return

Well, it only took six years, Pa.

In the summer of 2008, I was 37 and pregnant with my first child. My father came over to help me pack up my craft and hobby room to convert it into a nursery. As we carefully packed and labelled boxes with "Genealogy Stuff" my father quipped, "You can open these in about 18 years."  We had a chuckle over that.

Fast forward to November 2014. I decided last week it was time to return to my beloved hobby. I've been interested in genealogy since age 10, and fairly serious about it since my early 20s. I've been a Family Tree Maker fan since, well, let's just say the floppy disc days? My last iteration was FTM 2010. I figured there must be an update, so that's where I started. I downloaded the 2014 version, and was off and running.

Whoa. What happened in the last six years? 

In the last week, I have discovered genealogy podcasts and blogs. There's something called Evernote that I MUST learn about. Ancestry.com has expanded by leaps and bounds. I found a few pictures of family I didn't even know existed. Not just the pictures existance, but the family.  All this in just a brief time online.

I know I want to blog about my return to genealogy. I want to do it right. But I want to get started now while this is all fresh on my mind. This post is called My Triumphant Return with tongue in cheek. I feel like Rip Van Winkle; so much has changed that I don't even know exactly what I have to catch up on. I thought I was a pretty effective researcher before my hiatus. In some respects, it's back to Genealogy 101 for me. 

Blogger forced me to pick a title for my blog when I hadn't given it any thought yet. I figured I'll be doing this in my precious spare time, which is mostly the late evenings. But at least, I didn't have to wait the whole 18 years.