Our ancestors are our roots!

“Our ancestors are our roots, without roots there is no life” (Perings, 1990, p3).

Agnes Perings was my second cousin twice removed on my paternal side. Without her research, I would know little about the Kersten side of my family. Her booklet as she calls it, sheds light on the family and heritage of Mathias Kersten and Anne Maria Reiter.

Agnes in her booklet, describes the way property was divided historically. The “Realteilung” or Real Division meant that each child inhereits part of the families property and could marry. However, this meant that the property got divided and subdivided into smaller and smaller parts. “This explains why already from 1840 people began to move from the Eifel to the Ruhrregion (to the mines of northwest Germany) or to emigrate to America hoping to find work and bread there” (Perings, 1990, 7).

The essence of the tale is one of poverty. Due to the structure of the homesteads and the time period (19th Century), there was not enough “work, money and bread” so Peter the eldest living son emigrated to America. His brother Hubert also emigrated (Perings, 1990, 9). Peter Kersten was my great-grandfather. We have discussed him previously in this blog.

The name Kersten was at its origin derived from the baptismal name Christian. Historically the name was written in a variety of ways: Kirst, Krist, Kirsten, and eventually, Kersten.

 

Eifel Region

Eifel Region

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Civic and Fraternal Organizations

In my family tree, I have family members that have belonged to several national fraternal organizations. However, I ran across an organization in studying genealogy that I had never heard of before (Knights of Pythias).

It seems to me that these are dwindling as the years progress. Since I studied Sociology I could theorize that the reason some of these organizations have dwindled is due to the diversification of our communities. The family is much more busy in times past. I cursorily searched on the internet and it seems that all of the organizations have suffered the same attrition.

According to the Free Masons webpage, “It is no secret that participation in the Masonic fraternity has been dropping for at least 50 years. Evidence of our decline is the fact that our membership totals are at their lowest levels in more than 80 years (msana.com).”

I was talking with a friend the other day and we both were discussing how hard it is for us as couples to find like minded people these days to socialize. So many people work 40-60 hours a week, have a commute to work that is over 30 minutes, by the time people get home, all we can do is make dinner (I know, probably not), kiss the children and do some more work (from home). This environment is not what my parents experienced, nor their parents.

I wanted to take the time to cite the organizations and family members that I know were members and see if my readers knew any other family members. I know there are plenty more.  So, if you recall one please let me know.

 

Free Masons

-George Wiley Whitehead (paternal second great-grandfather) ~Please see my post on George Wiley Whitehead to see how he was a civil war prisoner at one time.

International Order of Odd Fellows

-John Thomas Sublett (maternal great-grandfather)

Knights of Pythias

-Asa Chandler Stevens (paternal great grand-uncle)

Kiwanis

-Lawrence Walter Whitehead (father)

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Sentimental Sundays

In the summer of 2012, I planned a genealogy trip to my mother’s birthplace.  What happened along the way was an opportunity to reconnect with family members and to visualize for myself the rich history that was in our family.

I had been discussing this trip with a genealogy friend I made online.  Rita, she had provided me with some photographs of family headstones via the website Findagrave.  It was this friendship that spurred in me an idea that I needed to get my feet on the ground in order to explore backwards.  There is only so much I can do from a laptop and an internet connection.

So, as I began planning, people started to get excited.  I reached out to my mother, who in turn reached out to her sister.  My sister also decided to come along.

Now, for any of you that has planned a genealogy trip, you were a step ahead of me.  I knew I wanted to go to this grave site that Rita had told me about.  Problem was it was on private property.  Rita and her husband Bill, stated it would be no problem, they had contacted the local Sheriff and was informed that the owners of the property do not live there full-time and the Sheriff would unlock the gate for us.

There were other locations that I wanted to visit.  I wanted to go to Buckingham, Virginia, where my great-grandfather was born.  I wanted to go to Amherst, Virginia to see the grave sites of the other side of the family.  I also wanted to go to libraries to do some research.  Well, now I had an entourage to accommodate.  It didn’t take me long to come to the decision that it was going to be more valuable for me to get this quality time with my Aunt, Mother and cousins then being stuck in a library.  The library would always be there, but the memories of my most precious resources (family), might not be.

We had a great adventure that weekend  I think my sister visited more cemeteries than she thought she would, but we also got to walk on the land that our forefathers farmed.  I also got to spend time with my Aunt Carol, my mother’s only sibling and to see things from her perspective.  My mother has a phenomenal memory and was able to provide details to the places where they played as children, went to school and blossomed into adulthood.

I will not trade that trip for all the money in the world.  I got some great family pictures from that day.

Two generations of Sisters (Amherst, VA)

Two generations of Sisters (Amherst, VA)

This is a picture of my sister, mother, Aunt and me in front of the Hicks General Store in Amherst.

Property surrounding Wares Gap Cemetery

Property surrounding Wares Gap Cemetery

This is a picture of the property surrounding the Wares Gap cemetery.  This property once belonged to my family members.  The cemetery was so overgrown, had it not been for the extra lawn equipment that Rita and Bill brought, I would not have been such a success.

Overgrown cemetery

Overgrown cemetery

 

During this great adventure, I also got to visit with my first cousins once removed, Nashella and Larry.  Additionally, I got to meet with Joan, whose husband Charles was also a cousin.  Given that they had remained in the geographical region during their life time, gave me a distinct opportunity to learn some things that might have gone unknown.

Larry told us about the local Postmistress in Naruna.

Naruna Postmistresses Home

Naruna Postmistresses Home

Also, after befriending this little old lady who resided in my great-grandfather’s home, Larry told us about what the house looked like before the remodel.

Larry and Nashella give us a short history on John Thomas Sublett's home.

Larry and Nashella give us a short history on John Thomas Sublett’s home.

Overall, it was a trip of a lifetime.  So for all of the genealogists out there, don’t forget to get outdoors and to tap into our most treasured resources, our family!

Until then, I will continue to explore backwards!

 

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Daughters of the American Revolution

Daughters of the Revolutionary War

When I started researching my genealogy, my Aunt Annette told me that we qualified to be included in the DAR.  At the time I did not know what all it meant.  Below is from the DAR website (2014):

The DAR, founded in 1890 and headquartered in Washington, D.C.,

 is a non-profit, non-political volunteer women’s service organization

dedicated to promoting patriotism, preserving American history,

and securing America’s future through better education for children.

 

Wow, that is an ambitious objective.  But, how can I not want to be included.  I am fortunate enough that I can qualify for membership on both sides of my family.

From my maternal side, my fifth great-grandfather, Benjamin Sublett fought in the war.  He enlisted 6 December 1776, he was 43 years old.

According to a document online about Revolutionary War soldiers:

Benjamin Sublett was initially a Private and then Corporal in Captain James Gray’s Company, 15th Virginia Regiment of Foot (later the 11th Regiment of Foot); Corporal in Major Stephenson’s Company of the 5th and 11 Virginia Regiment of Foot).  It appears that his regiment was at Valley Forge during the Revolutionary war.

On June 20, 1783, Benjamin was given 200 Acres of Land from a Revolutionary War Warrant.  He served three years as a Sergeant in the Virginia Continental Line (Kentucky Secretary of State Land Office).  After receiving the acreage, Benjamin and his family moved west to Kentucky.  Benjamin died in Warren Kentucky in 1816 near Bowling Green.

 

Benjamin Sublett Military Warrant

Benjamin Sublett Military Warrant

Benjamin Sublett

Benjamin Sublett

 

On my paternal side, it was Charles O’Kelley, my fourth great-grandfather that fought in the Revolutionary War.  He was a member of the 8th Virginia Regiment.  Charles was born in 1756 in Virginia to Thomas and Elizabeth Dean O’Kelley.  He served under Colonel Peter Muhlenberg.  Charles was also at Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War.  If you want to read more about the history of the 8th Virginia Regiment you can read about it here:  http://www.8thvirginia.org/history.html

 

Several years after the war Charles moved south to Georgia.  In 1805 he joined his brother Francis in Oglethorpe County.  It is there he bought land on Cloud’s Creek.  He subsequently died five years later  in 1810.  His daughter, Polly Crowder O’Kelly was only 13 years old.  Polly married Joel Whitehead in 1816.  Charles brother Francis received land as a result of his participation in the Revolutionary War in Oglethorpe County.  It is unknown if Charles was given land, as I have not found documents to support it.

 

Charles O'Kelley

Charles O’Kelley

Topography of Clouds Creek Area

Topography of Clouds Creek Area

As we continue to explore backwards, I am amazed by twists and turns I have discovered.  It is still a great adventure for me.

 

References:

http://www.dar.org/natsociety/whoweare.cfm

http://landofficeimages.kyos.com

 

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Growing up with Liver and Onions

My dad was a stickler for eating what was on your plate.  I remember many a time when we were kept at the dinner table until we managed to eat that broccoli or that cauliflower.  Whatever it was for you, you know what I am talking about.  This was way before the time when parents made two meals one for the adults and one for the children.

My dad seemed to like everything at the dinner table.  However, I learned there were things that he did not like to eat. 

I recall this one story that my dad told me about how his mother would trick him into eating liver and onions.  You have to understand that my dad grew up in the 40’s and 50’s.  They were a working class family. 

                              When I was 8 or 9, I didn’t like the taste of liver [and still don't]

                               and it was one of her and my dad’s favorites. She would cover the

                              smell with bacon and onions and tell me we were having steak.

                              After one bite I would gag and wise up, I actually can’t remember

                              what came next, assume I was sent to my room [oh that’s right

                              I never had one]” (Larry Whitehead, 2014).

 

My mother tricked me too on at least one occasion that I can remember.  I must have been 9 or 10 years old and for some reason I was going to run away from home.  I have no idea as to what devastated me so badly that I would pick up and try to leave at that young age, but it must have been important.  Anyhow, I must have gotten my suitcase or satchel ready and was heading out the door when I remember my mother telling me that I she was cooking my favorite dessert.  So, I should stay until after dinner.  I said, really? Chocolate pudding?  She answered yes.  It wasn’t until after dinner and she was serving something other than chocolate pudding that I realized she had duped me into staying.  By that time, it was too late in the evening to run away!

What are some of your favorite food memories?  Please feel to share them here!

 

 

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Hobbies

Since I have been researching my family’s history, I have learned about what their occupation was, who they married, the children they had.  One thing that I haven’t learned a whole lot about is the hobbies they kept.  A hobby, according to Oxford’s dictionary, “is an activity that is done in one’s leisure time for pleasure” (Oxford, 2014).  Obviously, genealogy is one of my hobbies.  But, I also enjoy camping and reading in my spare time.

When my Aunt Viv and I went visiting old family residences in Chicago, I learned that my great-grandfather, Peter Kersten, made his own wine and beer at home.  He worked as a Master Brewer for Keely’s Brewery, but he also did so as a hobby.  Additionally, Viv told me that he had a wonderful garden in the back.

My mother has shared with me that her grandfather, Thomas Irving Sublett also gardened.  I know that my grandfather, Lacy Luke Sublett, enjoyed fishing.  My father enjoyed painting when he was younger.  My grandmother, Virginia Odelle Moss Sublett, did not pick up a paint brush until her 70′s but she had a talent within that our family takes pride in these paintings.  They hang on the walls of our home in several different states!

I know some of my family members were part of civic organizations during their lifetime.  For example, John Thomas Sublett, was a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.   My father was in the Kiwanis Organization when we were younger.

I know that we have more than our fair share of Mason’s in our family including my great, great-grandfather, George Wiley Whitehead who was captured during the Civil War, but was later exchanged when he gave the Union Soldier the “Masonic Sign.”

For all those that read this blog, tell me what hobbies you enjoy?  What hobbies can you remember from our ancestors?  What other civic organizations do you remember our ancestors being apart of?

Until next time, I will continue to explore backwards!

 

 

 

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Obadiah Stevens

Happy New Year everybody.  I hope yours is getting of to a great start.  As a start another year of my genealogy, I am reminded of the roadblocks, obstacles and other adventures one faces while research the past.  I am so glad you have chosen to explore backwards with me.  Please feel free to make comments, suggestions or give me additional facts.

Here is the story of Obadiah.

Obadiah Stevens was my third great-grandfather.  His name was spelled Obediah and Obadiah on various documents, so it is unclear as to which was accurate.  I really like that name.  It is a name of substance.  It is a biblical name, meaning servant to God.

Obadiah was born 7 May 1809 in Oglethorpe County, Georgia.  He was the eldest of ten children.  His parents Joseph and Martha Carter Stevens raised their children in Oglethorpe County.

I thought for a long time that he had later became the Commissioner of Agriculture for Georgia.  However, as genealogy goes, you really have to scrutinize the person.  Therefore, needless to say, I did a lot of research on a relative that was not mine.  It is a good lesson though.  Regardless, I have an electronic book that I found on Google entitled Georgia: Historical and Industrial that I thought was written by him in 1901.  It still has some very interesting tidbits.

The book was written in response to the growing demands of resources and possibilities available in Georgia (Stevens & Wright, 1901).  The book is very lengthy, but one of the things I learned was that James Edward Oglethorpe was sent from England to manage a colony that was to be a refuge for the “poor and other persecuted sects” (Stevens & Wright, 1901, p. 15).  Georgia was named after King Georgia.  This colony was planned as a model colony, one that prohibited both slavery and rum.  John and Charles Wesley (founders of the Methodist Church) were among the inhabitants of this new colony.  While Oglethorpe remained in Georgia, liquor and slavery were prohibited.  Oglethorpe returned to England in 1743 and a few short years later the laws regarding liquor and slavery were abolished (Stevens & Wright, 1901).

Obadiah married Martha “Patsy” Watkins on 18 July 1832 in Oglethorpe County.  Obadiah was 23 years old and Martha was 17.  They owned several hundred acres on Grove Creek.  In The Stevens Family book, written by Claude Gibson Stevens in 1973, Claude inserted a letter from Obadiah to his wife when he went to visit his second son, Walter W. Stevens at the front line of the Civil War.  This is interesting on several fronts.  First, I have never heard of anyone “visiting” someone while he was a soldier in the war.  Second, aside from giving an account of the wounded and injured, he asks to have his low grounds worked and his hogs kept in the pasture (Stevens, 1973).

Obadiah was a slave owner, like most of the landowners of the time.  According to the 1850, Slave Schedule, he had 15 slaves.  However, if you look closer at the records, about 10 of them were under 15 years old (“United States Census (Slave Schedule), 1850,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-266-12880-33218-98?cc=1420440&wc=6145828: accessed 01 Jan 2014), Georgia > Oglethorpe > image 50 of 95).

Obadiah and Patsy had three sons:  Joseph Reese Stevens, William Walter Stevens and Columbus Augustus “Gus” Stevens.  All three sons, fought for the Confederacy.  Walter did not survive the Civil War.  According to the Steven’s book, he died as a result of injuries suffered (Stevens, 1973).

I do not know about you, but I find it extremely gratifying to place my ancestors in their historical context.  It helps me know more about them.

Tombstone Obadiah Stevens-Sandy Cross, Oglethorpe, Georgia

Tombstone Obadiah Stevens-Sandy Cross, Oglethorpe, Georgia

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December, Christmas Time

There is no better time to reflect about our family and our place in our genealogical tree than Christmas time.  I enjoy Christmas time.  I have a favorite Christmas song, The Christmas Song.  Some of you may not know it by its formal name.  If I started singing, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” You would know exactly what song I was singing.  For those that don’t know me well enough, I was singing it as I wrote it! I have a favorite Christmas cartoon, A Year Without a Santa Claus.  This is the one with Heat Miser and Snow Miser.  Classic Stuff.

Proposal

Proposal

My father, Lawrence Walter Whitehead, proposed to my mother on Christmas Eve.  When I think of this, I realize it is a romantic time to propose.  Christmas equals family time.  We have our religious traditions as well as our ancestral traditions.  Each year we would debate about whether we should go to Christmas Eve Mass at Midnight or the earlier service.  Did your family open any Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve?  I was so jealous of my friends that had that tradition.  Until later in life when given a choice then it made it somehow infinitely better to stick it out for one more day! Ha.

My siblings will recall many of Christmas Eve’s driving around with Dad looking at Christmas lights.  Little did we know it was “come hell or high water” for us to stay out of the house for a certain amount of time.  It was a ruse to get the children out of the house so my mother could get “Santa’s” gifts ready.  So, if Dad got back to the house to early, it would be bad news.  My siblings, David and Kathy could tell a few stories about this, I hope they do.

I have this picture of my grandparents in front of their Christmas tree in 1963.  If I am calculating this correctly, this would have been their first Christmas as empty-nesters.  My grandfather is hugging grandma and looking at her as he always did.  I love the tree with its tinsel.  There is this Christmas ornament on the tree of a red elf with long legs and a short skirt; it seems very familiar to me.  I think we might have had one on our tree as well.

Odelle & Lacy Sublett December 1963

Odelle & Lacy Sublett December 1963

My siblings and I have grown up and left our parents to be empty-nesters, but we have taken our familial traditions and morphed them into new ones.  My sister’s Santa wraps gifts in the same colored paper for each child.  Our Santa did not wrap his gifts.  We had stockings with fruit and some candy.  I do not know what Joe and his wife do for stockings.  Maybe they take on some of Bethany’s family traditions.

Cheryl and I decided long ago that we would get a tree every year.  We each wrote a short essay to each other to explain why it was important to have a tree.  I am not sure why.  I am sure I have the essay somewhere, because I do not throw anything away.  What I can remember is that in my essay, I gave all kinds of reasons, and hers basically said, that if I wanted a tree, she wanted me to have a tree.  That is love.  See Christmas time is family time and family time is Love.

1-IMG_0063

Here’s to a great Christmas season with your family.

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Humor

What does it mean to be funny or witty?  I think both are different types of humor.  What part does humor play in our family?  Where do we get our sense of humor?

“Humor: The ability to laugh at any mistake you survive.” ~Jerry Tucker

“Humor must not professedly teach, and it must not professedly preach, but it must do both if it would live forever.”
- Mark Twain in Eruption

My family cracks jokes (teases) with each other often.  It was one of the first things I warned Cheryl about was that if we tease you, it is because we like you.  Cheryl did not really seem to understand this logic.  I think it took Dee Dee a while to understand it was our family’s way.  But, it is.  I do not know where we got it from because neither of my parents teases in this way.  Don’t get me wrong, my parents are fun and humorous people.  But, they do not use teasing as a way of expressing themselves.

I have this picture of my grandparents, Lacy and Odelle, dressed up for some type of party.  It makes me smile.  Where are they going?  I am not sure, but they both look like they are ready for a good time.  Lacy has a pipe and some suspenders.  My grandfather passed away when I was very young (11 years old), but I always remembered him as a jokester.  I know I have written about it before about his wiggling his ears, etc.

 

Lacy and Odelle embracing the funnier side of life

Lacy and Odelle embracing the funnier side of life

My grandmother was not as silly as my grandfather, but she enjoyed a good time.  I remember her laughing a lot.  I wonder if that is what she saw in my grandfather.

My Uncle Don is a funny guy as well.  He would honk to cows when we were younger and is always jovial.  He would place bets with my mother on golf and they would sign and date bills.  They both kept them for years.  He even made a shrine of them one time.

The Shrine

The Shrine

uncledon and leah

Don and Leah paying homage

Who else was funny or has a great sense of humor in our family?  If you have a story, please share.

 

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Kersten History

Much of what I know about the Kersten side of the family (my father’s mother side) is from my Aunt Annette.  Annette’s research and her connection with Agnes Perings (my second cousin 1x removed).

I am hoping Annette will add her knowledge as we explore this side, as I have not done as extensive of research.

Below is a type of transcript from Agnes.  Since English was not her first language, I have changed the wording to flow better but not the content.

He was born 24 March 1843 in Manderfield.  He died 13 January 1905 at Hergersberg.  His wife was Anna Maria Reiter, she was born 24 August in Hergersberg and died 31 January 1917 at Hergersberg.  Mathias’s father was called Daniel Kirsthen.  His wife was Margaretha Gierten.  Daniel’s father was named Mathias and his wife was Magdalena Hoffman.

Daniel Kersten (Kirsthen) was born 16 October 1792 at Kleinlangenfeld by Prum.  Due to the change of name from Kirsten to Kersten I think, that there is a connection between his desertion from the army of Napoleon.  At that time Daniel Kirstehn was a soldier with the Napoleon Army during the Napoleon Wars.  Daniel escaped from that country, he came to Belgium by way of Austria and Switzerland.  There he (Daniel) learned the trade dyer and cutter.  He stayed at Manderfeld, married and called himself Kersten.

Napoleonic War Map

Napoleonic War Map

Source: http://www.worldology.com

What I have heard about where my ancestors lived was a piece of land that moved into various countries during the wars.

Map of Central Europe from 1814-1923

Map of Central Europe from 1814-1923

Hergersberg is a hamlet in the district Manderfeld located in the Belgian province of Liège So, does this make us German or Belgium?  I am not sure as the history of this area went through a series of transformations.

 

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