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  • 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.

  • Sep20


    Yesterday I made a nice discovery by simply trolling through the NYS Archives documents on Ancestry: my great-uncle Thomas F. Tierney enlisted in World War I, was stationed at Fort Slocum, and eventually made Sergeant and getting assigned to the Cavalry. We already knew another brother Michael had been over there and was a part of the Meuse-Argonne offensive, but Uncle Tommy’s service was new info to me. Turns out the war ended before he could be deployed overseas.

    So, with some down time last night I began to look for the assignments listed on his Abstract card: “4 Rct Co GSI Ft Slocum NY” and “MG Tr 310 Cav”, followed by “20TM Btry”. That poking around led me to find an interesting book on Archive.org: Brooklyn & Long Island In the War (1918) contains more than 200 pages of vignettes about the war, stories and photos of men from the area and lists of the killed and wounded. Published by The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, it has the feeling of a newspaper with focus on the men.

    If you have family from the New York area that fought in WWI or are just interested in that period in history, you should give this book a look.

  • Apr13

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    I’m back with another edition of cool old books I’ve found online. If you have Scottish Ancestry, you may want to flip through this 1850 book entitled (now would be a good time to get a beverage or snack, because you might be here awhile…)

    The Clans of the Highlands of Scotland, An Account of their Annals, Separately and Collectively with Delineations of Their Tartans and Family Arms.
    Edited by Thomas Smibert, Esq.

  • Feb3

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    Update February 3, 2016: On a recent trip to Manhattan, I decided to take a walk over from midtown to see St. Stephen church myself… and found that it had been closed. (A quick Google finds that I am late to this party, as it had closed in 2014.)

    In relation to this older post below, I am unsure where the records for the church and St. Gabriel now reside, so I suppose I need to send another letter to the archdiocese. It is a sad thing to see such a beautiful church close. You can see some of the wonderful art work, including paintings by Constantino Brumidi at this link.

    In a previous post St. Gabriel Has Left The Building I outlined my search for the Manhattan church where my grandfather and siblings were baptized and hopefully the one where my great-grandparents were married.

    Glow of the City, Martin Lewis, 1929

    Martin Lewis, “Glow of the City” (1929)

    With some effort and a nice amount of luck I discovered information on the now dismantled St. Gabriel’s Church on East 37th Street.

    I then found through the Archdiocese of NY that the Church of St. Stephen now held those parish records and was able to obtain my grandfather’s baptism. (Still looking for the marriage record.)

    As is my wont, I posted the images I use here on this blog on The Flickr as it makes a fine scannable archive and doesn’t fill up my hosting quota here on this domain. A few days ago someone found that image and commented on it:

    This is the church whose steeple is seen in the famous print by artist Martin Lewis, “Glow of the City” (1929). I’ve looked a long time for the location of this church.

    I was not aware of the artist nor the print, but it has a wonderful feel of the time, don’t you think? I’ve since learned that while Australian born, he was a contemporary of Edward Hopper who is a favorite artist of mine.

    From Williamsburg Bridge, Edward Hopper, 1928

    Edward Hopper, “From Williamsburg Bridge”, 1928 Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

    In the days when I delivered construction materials and spent mornings sitting in a truck on the congested Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, I whiled away the time imagining Hopper making his studies of the buildings visible from my vantage point. A fine example is Hopper’s From Williamsburg Bridge, 1928 at right.

    I suggest that anyone who has an interest in the history and architecture of New York City just after the turn of the 20th century seek out the work of both of these artists.

    The Brooklyn Museum holds quite a few Lewis pieces in its collection. Visit the Metropolitan Museum for its collection of Edward Hopper’s work.

    The Glow of the City image above is courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum.