• History
  • Feb22

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    Earlier today I read an article on the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of World War I, which started 100 years ago today and left 26,000 men killed. My great-uncle Michael E. Tierney had been a wagoner in supply support for the 324th infantry which fought in that battle. It had been awhile since I had looked through his military service records that I obtained from the NARA, so I pulled up the PDF and had a look through.

    So first, a sideline: Detail from detachment records for Michael E. Tierney, WWI (source: NARA)One thing I found oddly intriguing was in some details of his detachment and pay records once he returned to the United States in 1919. There’s a section for “Clothing Settlements” that appears to be an accounting of uniform-related items (?) when the soldier is separated from active service. A couple of the lines have the US due $15.00 and $6.60 for something or other (I can’t really read what the notes say.) But, in one of the lines, under the “Balance Due Soldier” column is the figure ($10000.00) . What could THAT possibly be? Did he forget to return his wagon or truck?

    Well, no matter I suppose. What I really wanted to focus on in this post was the introduction to a book of photos I found relating to the Meuse-Argonne area fight. In Pictures of the battlefront of the 324th infantry: Meuse-Argonne, November 9-11, 1918, company Chaplain T. G. Vickers returned to the area the year after the battle to take a large number of photos.

    DedicationHe also wrote what I find to be a very well-put sentiment on the need for men to stand up on the side of the Right* and that the men that have shared his terrible experience in this battle and the war overall will need to stand up and help steer the ship of the United States in a positive direction – while pointing out that the United States’ reaching a welcome and righteous destination is far from guaranteed.

    (*Read “The Right” as the Honorable or Moral position, as opposed to a political standpoint is it is more often used today.)

    I do not use this genealogy blog to espouse particular political agendas, but I do think his experiences make his perspective one worth listening to, and the strength of his words lingers in my mind as I think of our current events. Vickers says,

    Such a body of men assembled for battle makes a serious situation for the enemy. Such a body of men scattered throughout the country in their homes and home communities makes a leavening element that will go a long way toward helping to make America an invincible force for right in the world, or a selfish, money-grabbing, power-drunk giant which will not only consume others, but must certainly come to destruction itself.

    He goes on to say…

    America needs manly, unafraid, unselfish men every- where as she needs nothing else.
    Politics needs to be purged of its self-seeking, unscrupulous elements in order that our government may serve the ends for which it exists. It is imperative that there be born a feeling of brotherliness and co-operation among Capital, Labor and the Public. Wherever you look there is the same call for men who will do their work not only with an eye to their own rights, but also with due consideration for the other fellow.
    Social life needs to be cleared of some of its dangers. In Church, in politics, in industry, in business, in the social fabric, in international matters, in everything there is the same urgent demand, nay, pressing necessity for men who have seen the value of Right, that they may decree by the irresistible force of their determined convictions that this country shall not become the victim of selfish or half-crazed men seeking to ram some pet scheme down the nation’s throat.
    If we who fought in the Great War make up our minds that America shall go right she will go right, and no power can lead her astray. It is the man determined to live according to Truth and Right that must keep this land safe.

    I strongly suggest you read his entire dedication and page through his photos and their captions.

  • Feb27

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    In an effort to find some clues to some of my wife’s family lines during the early settlement of Cape Breton, I began to read through the St. George Church records page by page. Her 4x-great-grandmother Elizabeth Grandy, in particular, has so far offered few clues as to her origin, so I am hoping to perhaps find more of her family in order to expand my search and determine whether her family was Irish, French or of the Channel Islands (all possibilities I have seen mentioned by others online.)

    While paging through the Baptisms, Marriages, Burials 1785-1824 records for St. George Church I did find another Grandy marriage for a woman that could potentially be a sister of the person I am researching. During this process, I read through the usual sets of general BMD records, with most being cursory entries with a name and date, at best.

    If you really want to gain an understanding of an area at a certain time, reading through all of the entries tracing lives and deaths is a very helpful and interesting method of doing so. However, it can also often be a sad endeavor.

    In the course of paging through the entries of people who were European emigrants and their children, I also found regular entries interspersed for “negro” adults being baptized, as well as children with only mothers being named.

    Then I read an unusually long and detailed entry. The priest obviously thought this event warranted more detail, as you can see from the outrage in his entry:

    Diana Bastian Burial Entry

    “Sept 15th 1792

    Buried Diana Bastian a Negro Girl belonging to Abraham Cuyler Esq in the 15th year of her Age, She was Deluded and ruined (^at government ???) by George More Esq. the Naval Officer and one of Govr. Macarmick’s Counsel by whom she was pregnant with Twins and delivered off but one of them; She most earnestly implored the favor of Mr. More’s Brother, [the local] Justice to be admitted to her oath, concerning her pregnancy by him; but was refused that with every other assistance by him or them.”

    Digging a bit more, I see I am not the first to have noticed the entry as it is mentioned in a few papers posted online such as “The Struggle over Slavery in the Maritime Colonies“. (Also, this biography of Abraham Cuyler is less than flattering.)

    Despite the event having occurred 225 years ago, one can’t help but feel terrible for this poor girl’s circumstance and add our own outrage to the treatment those in power subjected her to.

    Once again I’ve found that even individual records not directly related to those you research can provide dimension to the lives of our ancestors by helping depict the social and political climate of a particular time and the hardships some or all endured.

  • May5

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    Emma S Clark Memorial Library DoorBack when our kids were fairly small, my wife started a terrific tradition while looking for things to do in the otherwise lazy summertime: Library Field Trips.

    She began to seek out various libraries in our county of Suffolk on Long Island and they would pack up some things for snacks and/or lunch, pick a town and just browse the library there. As a life-long book and library fiend, I am aghast that such a thing never occurred to me, except maybe for larger libraries such as the New York Public Library in Manhattan.

    The kids have loved it – an opportunity to find new books they’ve never seen before along with at least the small sense of adventure one feels when visiting a new place. We’ve found some wonderful libraries, and also found that even though they’re all in the same county system, the facilities – and rules – can vary greatly. We’ve toyed with the idea of creating a dedicated blog for these trips, and now I regret not creating one a few years back. (Especially now that our son is 12 and less inclined to find the adventure. *sadface*)

    Stained Glass WindowToday I believe we have found my favorite Long Island library: The Setauket’s Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, opened in 1892 in memory of Miss Clark, who was the niece of millionaire confectioner Thomas Hodgkins.

    The library has been greatly (and beautifully) expanded several times since that first day, when the annual membership charge was a whopping 10¢ per year. The magazine area is housed in the original structure, constructed of arches and old wood that creaks comfortably beneath one’s feet.

    As my wife and son perused other areas of the library, my daughter Lily and I sat in this wonderful spot. I could easily imagine people running up to the overlarge entrance door in older times, shaking off the snow, pulling a volume from a shelf and sitting in the nook beside the fireplace and golden bottle-glass adorned windows.

    Clark Library StairsLily read quietly as I imagined these ancient goings on, and spoke only once to say “It is so peaceful here!” *Sigh.*

    As an added bonus to the library itself is that the area is of historical significance and has some beautiful churches and cemeteries to explore nearby. Walking out through the library’s nice plantings we then crossed the village green to learn that the Revolutionary War Battle of Setauket was fought here.

    Lily in a Flowering Tree




    For those who are viewers of the show Turn: Washington’s Spies on AMC, you might recognize the location name. (I have requested the first season from my own library, so please don’t tell me who wins!)

    NYS Historical Sign for Setauket village GreenThe area still has a nice rural feel to it, and it is easy to imagine carriages and soldiers milling about while crossing the triangle-shaped green on our trek over to the Setauket Presbyterian Church. As usual, the headstones in the cemetery called to us and we wandered through for the better part of an hour.

    Setauket Presbyterian Church

    Grave of Abraham WoodhullWe noted a few Revolutionary war soldiers as we walked through, and more than a few DAR markers. Then we stumbled upon one raised memorial that appeared to be built over the original headstone and had coins and stones scattered across its face.

    Abraham Woodhull PlaqueThe plaque on the top of the memorial informed us it was for Abraham Woodhull, “Friend and confidant of George Washington, head of Long Island Secret Service during the Revolution, and operated under the Alias of Samuel Culper, Sr.”

    Overall, an excellent field trip day, I must say.

  • Apr8

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    I am only a couple of generations removed from my Irish immigrants to the United States, so my own direct Irish ancestors were not here during the American Revolution.
    But, while scanning Chronicling America for interesting things, I happened upon a 1919 newspaper article in The Sun entitled Irishmen In Our Revolution, which is a review of Michael J. O’Brien’s (then) new book A Hidden Phase of American History.

    Irishmen In Our Revolution
    The review itself is an interesting read from a historical perspective – both the role the Irish played in The Revolution, and the 1919 perspective of it all.

    However, perhaps more interesting than this to those researching their Irish family that may have been in America that early is that the book itself has an Appendix entitled Officers of the American Army and Navy of the Revolution of Irish Birth or Descent – with a very long list of names and assignments. And a bonus: he has marked all of those born in Ireland with an asterisk. You can find a full copy of Irishmen In Our Revolution over on The Google Books.

    Who could asterisk for anything more?

  • Nov4

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    I took some time at lunch to catch up reading one of my favorite blogs (and the accompanying podcast), The Bowery Boys: New York City History. Their latest post is Photographs of Wonder from the American Museum of Natural History, which showcases several photos from the museum’s AMNH: Picturing The Museum image collection online.

    Children doing Indian Dances in Plains Indians Hall, American Museum of Natural History, 1939, Bierwert, Thane L.

    Children doing Indian Dances in Plains Indians Hall, American Museum of Natural History, Image 291994, Bierwert, Thane L., 1939

    They included some terrific photos from most of the earlier decades of the 20th century. My favorites are definitely the photos from the Education section of the collection, as they show students in various locations and activities in the museum, and reminds me of my own school field trips there in the 1970s.

    I enjoyed them all enough to scroll back up to look at the photos again… then I saw him: My Dad in 1939, dancing with other students in Native American headdress in the Plains Indian Hall!

    It is decidedly a sideways shot and not at the highest resolution, even on the AMNH’s own site, so I suppose there might always be some doubt.

    Comparison, AMNH Photo and a young Michael Tierney
    But having scanned and worked with all of my family’s photos over the last several years, plus knowing what my brother, nephews, son, and I all looked like around that age: THAT is a Tierney face.

    (Click on any photo to see it larger.)

    Another instance of genealogical serendipity – More proof that if you keep looking long enough, someone you know will show up!