The Spectrum of Emotion

I have been full of emotions since coming back from Georgia.  As I am putting together the life and times of my ancestors, I have found a series of events that are heart wrenching.

One of the many treasures that I have gathered was some of his personal papers from his life.  It seems that there was this large blue plastic tub that was wrapped up that held some records that Sara’s mother or grandmother thought was important.  It has turned into a treasure trove.  It is in this collection that the story emerged.  I have pieced together a time line for you.

As discussed previously, my great-grandfather was a very patriotic man.  He found ways to serve his country even when his age and physical limitations prohibited it.  Here is a snippet that he wrote for the Selective Service Medal Ceremony in 1946 when he was 77 years old.

WEW Biography by WEW

On 21 January 1946, my great-grandfather, Walter Everett Whitehead appeared in the East Room of the White House to receive the Selective Service Medal from President Harry Truman.   What an incredible honor for a Patriot such as Walter, or Papa.  He took his middle son, Walter “Joe” as his guest.  The event commemorated draft board members that served their country in faithful service during the “emergency” (WWII).

WEW_1946_with_President_Truman

WEW news clip about medal

One day later on 22 January 1946, at 12:46 PM a telegram from Bay Pines Veterans Hospital was sent to the Stevens Martin Company in care of Joe (he was the executor of George Steven’s Estate), stating that his condition is considered critical.  Joe and his father Walter were still in Washington DC.   Later that same day, a telegram was sent from the Stevens Martin Company to Joe or Walter in Washington DC stating the same.  George died two days later.

We can only speculate what thoughts were going through Walter and Joe’s minds as they boarded the train back to Georgia with these heavy thoughts.  He had suffered complications due to surgery he had.  You can read more about him here:

https://exploringbackwards.wordpress.com/2014/11/11/george-stevens-whitehead-part-2/

On 27 January 1946, George Stevens Whitehead, WWI veteran was laid to rest in the family cemetery.  He was only 49 years old.

The very next day, Walter stood in honor at the Atlanta Municipal Auditorium being honored with the Selective Service Medal and Certificate of Merit at the State Ceremony.

WEW 1946-letter

One can only imagine what emotions the family would be feeling.  On one hand, being so proud of the well-deserved recognition for a true Patriot and on the other hand, mourning the loss of a Rhodes Scholar Brilliant man cut short in his life.  What a week that must have been.

Until later, I will be exploring backwards.

Exploring Georgia Roots II

What a wonderful trip back to Georgia, Cousin Sarah and Charlie were the most gracious of guides.  My Cousin Susan picked me up from the Atlanta airport to conduct round two of Exploring Georgia Roots.  She was my faithful companion and photographer.  It is amazing how we can just pick up and not miss a beat.  We made our way to Lexington to the old court house.  My great-great grandfather, George Wiley Whitehead, was the surveyor of the county when this historic building was built.  The clerks office was a bit of a bust.  The County Clerk’s Office wanted fifty cents per copy.  I had brought my scanner, but they said I would still have to pay.  We counted over 38 pages in one deed book alone and their copy machine would not handle the size so we abandoned the project as futile.  We would go broke first.  We were blessed with Deeds later in the trip.  I will discuss that another time.  Stay Tuned!
Oglethorpe Court House 1

Cousin Sara and David have moved into the Carlton home full time.  David cleaned out the front office and now uses it as his office.  While touring the front office that Coco and Betty both employed for many years, I noticed a painting of the Carlton Place that was done in the style of my father.  Upon closer inspection, I found my father’s mark (LWW) and knew for certain that his painting had found it’s place on this office wall for at least the last 20 years.  It is a beautiful representation of the  home in Carlton.  David offered it to me immediately knowing how special it would be for me to own this painting.  Sarah of course quickly agreed.  There might have even a little tear in my eyes knowing that this beautiful painting had adorn the walls of his grandfather ‘s home for many years.  Now this beautiful painting is hanging in my home.

 

LWW Painting Carlton

 

While sifting through an old box, I came across a letter from my father to his Uncle Joe (Walter Joe Whitehead) and his wife Chloe.  It was a letter/wedding invitation dated 4 April 1963.  Here is my favorite line:

“I am going to be married on the 20th of April to one of your southern girls.”  Of course he was talking about my mother.  I know they did not have a large wedding; so it was nice that his Uncle Joe was able to attend.

Another treasure found was a letter from my Dad’s mother to Chloe and Joe, indicating how happy it was that Joe was able to attend (the wedding).  Margaret’s letter indicates that it was probably her and my Aunt Annette’s first airplane ride.  She wrote, “We had a much more smoother trip back…We found out that if you sit over the wings you do not notice the motion too much.”

All in all, it was a great trip and I will have much more to write about as I explore backwards.

 

The Miracle in Savannah

I have a friend at work who is retired Navy and now working as a homicide detective.  He and I have bonded over genealogy and the military.  I know, I have never been truly a military buff, but as I have delved into my genealogy and realize what a presence the military has in my family, I have grown more familiar.  With this in mind, I began thinking about George Wiley Whitehead and the miracle that happened in Savannah, Georgia.

I wrote about him in 2013.  You can read about him here:

https://exploringbackwards.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/george-wiley-whitehead/

 

What I didn’t know at the time was how his company, The Echols Artillery, was a part of a book that recalled their involvement in the War of Northern Aggression, or The War Between the States.

The book, This They Remembered,  written by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Oglethorpe County Chapter, documents four companies who fought in that war.  I have two relatives that are documented in this book, Columbus Augustus Stevens and George Wiley Whitehead both which whom served in the Echols Artillery, and both of whom are my second great grandfathers.

Below is a short timeline as described in the book.

Timeline:

1 March 1862               Echols Artillery organized and mustered in.

19 August 1862            Company ordered to Atlanta, Georgia

6 January 1863             Company received orders to report to General Howell Cobb at Quincy, Florida.

Mid March 1863           Company left Quincy, marching through Tallahassee to Camp Leon then to                                          Brokaw.  (Comprised of a six-gun battery; G.W. Whitehead, 1st Gunner),  Private                                          C.A. Stevens among many soldiers).

27 May 1863                 Company ordered to Ft. Gadsden and Battery Cobbs, both on the Apalachicola                                         River. Conditions here were poor, due to swamp conditions.

January 1864                Company reunited back at Camp Leon.

“In the short space of six months the company had been transformed from the finest and robust body in the service to a company of weak and sallow invalids.  Twelve had already died and many more were stricken never to recover (page 122).”

9 February 1864            One section ordered to Mosely Hall.  Glanders disease, is a contagious, acute or                                           chronic, usually fatal disease of Equidae broke out among the horses.

1 June 1864                    Company ordered to Tallahassee.  The enemy was in Jacksonville.

Late November 1864     Ordered to Savannah, Georgia

“Sherman was approaching Milledgeville on his famous march to the sea (p. 123).”

17 December 1864        G.W. Wounded in Action (G.W. Whitehead Pension Papers)

George Wiley Whitehead

George Wiley Whitehead

“The Echols Artillery was in charge of a siege battery on the Augusta road, where, during the ten days siege they were engaged in firing shot and shell and in return received close attention from the enemy’s sharp-shooters, but so well protected was the battery that the casualties were few, G. W. Whitehead seriously wounded (p. 123).  It is unknown what happened to G.W. Whitehead after he was wounded.  Family lore suggests he was captured by the Union.

This is what Chloe Adams Whitehead wrote for the North Georgia Life in 1965:

“Wounded and left for dead on the battlefield, George regained consciousness to find a Yankee officer standing over him.  He gave the Masonic sign which the office returned.  The Blue Coat carried his wounded Masonic brother to his own camp where he was given medical attention and as soon as George was able to travel, he was exchanged for a Yankee prisoner.  George returned to Oglethorpe and married Cena in 1866 (North Georgia Life, 1965, p.6)”

21 December 1864        Company was withdrawn from Savannah.  The company boarded a train to                                           Pocataligo, Georgia.  For those unfamiliar, this is located very close to                                            Oglethorpe County, where the Echols Artillery formed.

1 January 1865             Company ordered to James Island, Fort Jackson (near Charleston, SC).

17 February 1865          “All the works around Charleston were evacuated, the Echols Artillery going out                                              with the rest, marching all night and encamping at Monk’s Corner (p. 124)”.

Unknown 1865             Company marched from Monk’s Corner to Kingstree to Cheraw, they faced the                                          enemy there, and had to withdraw and marched via Rockingham to Fayettsville,                                          NC.  They then marched in the direction of Raleigh.

16 March 1865              Company along with General Hardee made a stand; however losing a few.

19 March 1865              Company joined General Johnson’s forces at the Battle of Bentonville.  The                                          Union won this battle.

21 March 1865              Company along with General Johnson moved to Smithfield, NC.  The Echols                                          Artillery had been reduced to 43 men.  The effects of two years in Florida made                                          them weak and frail.

10 April 1865                Company was sent in the direction of Raleigh however, they continued westward                                          to Greensboro where a surrender took place.

26 April 1865                Confederate Troops surrender.

27 April 1865                C.A. Stevens was present at last call, but G.W. Whitehead was not.

 

The important thing is that George came home from the war and married Cena Ann Mathews.  In 1889, he completed an application for pension due to his injury in the war.  He was granted $50 per month.  In 1990, the effects of his head injury had left him partially paralyzed and he reapplied for pension and received $100.  In the pension application, his physician wrote in part:

“I hereby certify that one George W. Whitehead was wounded in top of head during the war between the states and at the time he received said wound he complained of a numbness through his whole system.  Which has recurred periodically ever since until about a year ago when this numbness became permanent and brought about a partial paralysis.  He has since that time been entirely helpless and most of the time bedridden (Confederate Pension Applications).”

GWW Pension Papers

GWW Pension Papers

George Wiley Whitehead died 31 May 1891.  He was 62 years old.  He left behind his wife and 7 children.  The youngest child at the time of his death was Theordoric, who was only 8 years old.  If he hadn’t survived the war, I wouldn’t be here today.

CSA Marker for GWW

CSA Marker for GWW

When I write about my ancestors, I feel closer to them.  I believe in telling their stories, our lives are enriched.  Coming home from a war wounded he married a sweet girl, 16 years younger than him.  I wonder what Cena’s parents, Raleigh and Mary Mathews, thought.  Did they approve?  Did he prove to them that although he was wounded he was worthy of her hand in marriage? In addition to farming, George became a county surveyor, as well as a County Commissioner.  We do know that he ended up with lots of land.  In his will, he mentions 270 acres that the Home Place is on; as well as 450 acres that he and Obadiah Stevens; however, it also states some is to be sold to pay off some debts.  The Home Place is still owned by the family.  My Cousin Sara has taken on the huge responsibility of two of our families homes, one in Carlton and the Homeplace in Oglethorpe County.  To her, I am most grateful.

 

 

Sources:

United Daughters of the Confederacy. (1986). This they remembered: The history of the four companies and those in other companies, who went from Oglethorpe County to serve in the War Between the States : the Gilmer Blues, the Oglethorpe Rifles, the Tom Cobb Infantry, the Echols Artillery. Columbus, Ga: Brentwood University Press.

North Georgia Life, The Oglethorpe Echo, February 17, 1965, “The Whitehead Homeplace recalls Rural Life of Yesterday.”

Confederate Pension Applications. Ancestry.com. Georgia, Confederate Pension Applications, 1879-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009.

Thankful Thanksgiving Day Thursday

As I sit here in my home this Thanksgiving, I want to thank my ancestors.  I have been exploring backwards for several years now and every time I discover a new gem or connect with a distant cousin, I am thankful for those that have gone before me.  I just wanted to write a short bit about a few.

 

I am thankful for my great-grandfather Peter Kersten for embarking across the Atlantic Ocean to start a new life here in America.  He was 21-year-old, and in his native country of Germany, it was not the familial custom to acquire land from his parents, so he was left with little options.  He chose to come to the new land, America.  The year was 1893, it was known as the Progressive Era, a period of widespread social activism and political reform in the United States.  Support for prohibition was growing as was woman’s suffrage (source:  The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project).  The irony is Peter was a brewer by trade until Prohibition (1920-1933).  According to the 1930 US Census, he was an Elevator Operator.  The effect of prohibition was so profound that he had to change occupations.

Kersten Family

Kersten Family

I am also thankful for my grandfather, Lacy Luke Sublett, he was born in 1909, he was too young for World War I, but when the Second World War came along, he had incurred an injury to his leg that would keep him home.  This had to be difficult to see your other friends and neighbors go off to fight the Axis powers.  I consider him the family chameleon.  He was born in the country on a tobacco farm but made his way to the city of Lynchburg at a young age.  He started out on his own living in Lynchburg as a shipping clerk in 1921.  He married his first wife in 1931.  By 1934 he was working as a Life Insurance Agent for Provident Relief Association of Washington D.C.  He met and married my grandmother, Odelle.  They went on to have two children, my mom and my Aunt Carol.  He worked for a couple different Insurance Agencies until he went to work for Conner Produce Company.  He continued to work for them throughout the war.

Lacy and his daughters

Lacy and his daughters

Lastly, I am thankful for Margaret Agnes Kersten, my paternal grandmother, whom I have never had a chance to meet.  She was a first generation German-American growing up on the south side of Chicago.  Her and her brother during prohibition and she came of age during the roaring 1920’s.  I often wonder how she introduced Fred Whitehead to her parents.  He was a Georgia born, Army man who was working in Chicago at the Army Recruiting Offices when they met.  He had been born and raised Baptist and Margaret was a devout Catholic.  They married and went on to have three children.

Margaret and her Parents

Margaret and her Parents

Although I often write about dead people, I am most thankful for my family that is living in my life today.  My parents are both so warm and loving.  I am so very blessed to have the best siblings and sibling in-laws, nieces and nephews.  So, take the time today to let the “family” in your life how thankful you are for them.  I am thankful for mine.

 

Source:

Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, retrieved 11/24/19 from https://www2.gwu.edu/~erpapers/teachinger/glossary/progressive-era.cfm

 

 

 

Follow Up Friday DNA revisited

I know I haven’t written in some time.  A lot has been going on.  I was teaching a couple of online classes.  My dog, Junie passed away about 7 weeks ago after a long illness.  My niece got married.  So, a great number of factors have been keeping me away.  The biggest, is probably writers block.  I feel that I have done most of the stories that came easy.  I have to dig deeper as a writer and genealogist to get to some new ones.  I am working towards that.  But, that also means more researching and less writing.

While in Kentucky for the wedding, my mother surprised me by getting her DNA tested through Ancestry.  This was a wonderful surprise and led to many discussions during the wedding weekend with the family.  I had tested my own DNA with Ancestry several months prior.  Trying to explain the different DNA processes to others when I barely knew it myself was a challenge.  So, I came back from the trip and did some reading.  This is what I have learned as it pertains to my family.

 

First, the test that I did on my father is called a YDNA test (Family Tree DNA).  This test traces the Y-chromosome through the direct paternal line.  The reason for this was due to the fact that I have my major brick wall at the 6th great-grandfather of Samuel Whitehead.  This test only tests the Y chromosome, that is passed on through the males (in our case, Larry, Fred, Walter, George, etc.).  As a result it does not test the autosomal DNA like the Ancestry test.  The YDNA test investigates deep ancestry.  It is good for surname studies and looking at migration patterns of various Haplogroups.  It has not produced the smoking gun that I had hoped.  But, I have not given up on it yet.

Second, I tested myself with an autosomal DNA test.  This is the test that Ancestry does.  This is the test of the 22 pairs of autosomes.  These tests are used for recent ancestry, determining genetic cousins.  This test provides an admixture analysis also known as Biogeographical ancestry.  “An admixture analysis is a method of inferring someone’s geographical origins based on an analysis of their genetic ancestry (ISOGG Wiki).”  This is also the test that my mother had done.  The benefits of this genetic testing is that it tries to provide an estimate of one’s ethnicity.  This is very fun for the average person.  It is not as important for the dedicated genealogist, who is more concerned in validating connections.

Lastly, one needs to take these results with the grain of salt.  These tests are still new and the companies responsible for making these estimates are not as accurate as they will be.  By thinking of them as stepping-stones for future inquiries, you will not be unsatisfied.

 

As far as my family goes; this is what I know.

Paternally, I know I have German roots.  My father’s mother was 100% German.  The Whitehead name however has been thought to be English.  But, since I have not made a connection to Europe, it still alludes me.

Maternally, I know I have French roots.  My mother’s father’s name Sublett derives from a well-known Huguenot family, Soblet.  However, on the Moss side, I have not been able to get a connection to Europe.  The name however, lends itself to English and Welsh.

Krista   Betty  
Europe West 41% Europe West 36%
Ireland 13% Ireland 26%
Scandinavia 13% Scandinavia 22%
Great Britain 10% Great Britain 10%
Iberian Peninsula 10% Iberian Peninsula 4%
Italy/Greece 8% Italy/Greece <1%

 

The Scandinavia is the ethnicity that struck us the most, as we do not have any knowledge of having family in this region.  However, I have read recently, this is one of the areas that Ancestry has been criticized for.  According to the International Society of Genetic Genealogy,

The Genetic Ethnicity Summary (of Ancestry) consistently overestimates the Central European and Scandinavian ancestral components for people whose ancestors were from the British Isles. The ancestral component from the British Isles is overestimated for people whose ancestors were from continental Europe. Overall, the European ancestry predictions tend to be inaccurate.

Regardless, the main benefit of doing DNA testing on Ancestry is that you can link your genetic matches to your ancestry tree and that is a pretty cool feature.

 

So, I will continue to explore backwards

 

 

 

 

 

ISOGG Wiki retrieved on 9/30/16 from http://www.isogg.org/wiki

The Barn

 

Imagine for a minute you are going down an old country road with its twists and turns and in the distance you see an old barn.  What goes through your mind?  I will tell you what goes through mine.  I wonder what type of barn it is.  Is it a tobacco barn, used to store and dry tobacco?  Is it a livestock barn, used to shelter and house livestock?  Is it used to store tractors and other implements?  Barns were built to solve problems for the farmer and to serve a multitude of functions.

There is a show on television called Barnyard Builders we have been watching.  The premise is the restoration and re-purposing of old barns in America.  They look at the way the barn was built, what kind of lumber, what type of notches.  Every time I watch it, I can’t help but think of the barn at the Whitehead Homeplace.

When I did the genealogical trip in May 2015, we did go see the barn.  But since I hadn’t seen the show, I hadn’t really appreciated it as an artifact that it is.  If I had, I would have taken more pictures.  Maybe my cousin Sara will take some for me.  The inside has been reconfigured by the hunters that lease the property.  However, you can still see the original beams inside.  I am not sure when it was built, but I would have to imagine it was after the Civil War when he married Cena Ann and moved to the Home Place.

Stone and Wood Barn

Stone and Wood Barn

5-barn at the homeplace2

The barn at the home place is made from large hand cut stone and wood.   I believe it has a metal roof.  Cousin Sara told me earlier they were going to put a new roof on it this year.

The barn stored the horse and mules.  It is a short walk from the homeplace.  I just found George Wiley Whitehead’s Will online, and I now know the names of his live stock.  In his last will and testament he directed that Viz and Beck his mules to be sold, as well as Sallie, a Sorrel mare and Belle a Bay mare.

The Home Place

The Home Place

I think that our ancestors would be proud to know that this barn is still being cared for by the family some 150 years later.  Thanks Sara!

 

Until later, I will be exploring backwards.

Family Heirlooms

 

While exploring backwards, I have become the repository for some of our family’s heirlooms.  I could not be more proud.  However, in order to be a good custodian, you want to know the story behind the object or objects.

I have my great-grandfather Peter Kersten’s revolver.  It is a top-break Iver Johnson.  It is a very old gun.  I suspect he purchased it so after he arrived in the United States.   Peter immigrated in 1893.  The model that I have is probably from 1895.

Peter and his gun

Peter and his gun

As discussed previously, I am the custodian for the Whitehead Family Bible.  You can read about it here:  https://exploringbackwards.wordpress.com/2015/12/12/the-bible/

I also have two books that my grandfather, Fred Whitehead had in school.  One that I received from my cousin Sara, and just recently, my sister, Kathy passed on the Fryes Higher Geography book.  Inside the book, it has my grandfather’s signature and a date of September 16, 1913.  That is over 100 years old that he was holding this book.  He used this textbook in high school.

Fred's textbook

Fred’s textbook


September 1913

September 1913

Most recently, my sister let me take home a portion of a tea set of two mugs and a sugar bowl.  It is unknown if there were more pieces at one time.  The history of the set as we know is that it came from my German Grandparents, Peter and Anna Kersten.  After inquiring with my paternal Aunts, neither of them knew anything about it.   I am stuck without a story.  You see, the set has images of the Cherbourg Swing Bridge that was created in 1885 in Cherbourg-Octeville, France.  This is on the English Channel.  Therefore, it is unknown how my great-grandparents come to have this piece.  I am left to wonder.  Maybe it was a house-warming gift from a family member.  Maybe they took a trip at one point after they were married; a honeymoon even.  Maybe Anna found it at a flea market or estate sale.  Who knows?

Anna Kersten's tea set

Anna Kersten’s tea set

I think I will try to my second cousin, 2x removed, Father Ron.  Maybe he can shed some insight.

Heirlooms.  You do not need to fill your house with everything they owned, but to share these priceless family artifacts with each other is what genealogy is all about.  Until later, I will be exploring backwards.