Category Archives: Genealogy

Finding My Great-Great-Great-Grandfather

WARNING:  Boring family history post.


     Tracing my father’s paternal line has not been easy.  My father was raised by his mother alone, and he had almost no contact with his father for most of his life.  It’s a sad story.  My grandfather had been married to a woman before he married my grandmother.  He then divorced my grandmother and went back to his first wife.  Since my father did not know his father, he did not know his grandfather either.  He heard no stories of his ancestors.

     After I was born, my mother tracked down my father’s father.  She thought he should know that he had a grandchild–another grandchild as it turned out.  I visited my grandfather a few times while I was a child.  He was a nice man, and it turns out that my grandmother somehow kept him away during my father’s childhood.  I don’t really understand it, as a father should be able to see his son–one way or another–if he wants to.  I learned that my grandfather’s first name was Homer and that his father’s first name was also Homer.  But that’s all I knew.

     Other the years I tried to find out more, and finallyI was able to discover the name of my great-great-grandfather.  His name was George, and he came from Ireland to Canada and then to the United States.  His wife was originally German, and she changed her name from Maria to Mary.  A third cousin of mine sent me a picture of their tombstone.  I also found a baptismal certificate for their first son and many other documents related to them.  However, I never found the names of George’s parents.

     Until now!

     A different cousin, a fourth cousin, found a marriage record for George and his second wife, Rosilla.  It lists George’s parents names, Richard and Esther.  They must have been born in the 1820′s, and I have not been able to find out much more about them.  At least I have their names.

     To a genealogy enthusiast like me, this is big.  It’s like a miner finding a big gold nugget or an astronomer discovering a new nebula.


Family Connections

     Most people realize that researching family history can connect you to the past.  I have recently been learning that it can also connect you to people in the present.

     I was trying to find data on an uncle of mine who was kicked out of the family by his brother, my family.  It is a long and complicated story, and the details do not matter.  What matters is that in trying to track him down, I found some cousins that I never knew.  My uncle, it turns out, had committed suicide about six years ago.  I wish I had tried to find him sooner.  However, he has a daughter and a son, and I have struck up a relationship with them.  I have been able to help them learn more about their father’s early years, and they have helped me learn more about his later years, including his last few days.  It has been a very positive experience.


     Just last night, I gave one of my nieces a pedigree chart with her ancestors, going back four generations from her.  She had asked me questons about it, and so I knew that she was interested.  She was very happy to have it all printed out on paper.  It is her mother who died of cancer two years ago, and so family and heritage have taken on a deeper and more significant meaning for her.  It created both a tangible and an emotional connection between me and her.


     I have also shared a lot of my research with my mother, who has taken a renewed interest in her ancestry.  She has been a great informant, and now she is eager to learn what I have discovered and to see the supporting documents.  I think that at her age, she feels more of a need to preserve this information and the stories that accompany it.  She wants to pass it along to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  Her memories of her younger days seem to be coming more clearly into focus, which seems to be a common experience for people as they age.

     All summer, my mother and I have talked about family history and other subjects, and it has drawn us closer.  Over the last year I have wished for a closer relationship to my relatives, and I have been able to make a lot of progress this summer.  It makes me very happy, because I know that it makes them very happy.  There has been some strain over the years, and I won’t go into too many details about that.  Now, though, I want to do everything I can to make things better, mostly to honor my sister’s memory but also to find peace for myself.

Illegal Immigrants?

     I’ve been reading about the protest rally in Postville, Iowa, that occurred on Sunday.  The protest had to do with a raid on a meatpacking plant that occurred in May.  Several hundred illegal aliens were caught in the raid.

     It’s not the raid or the protests that caught my interest the most.  What caught my interest were the terms in which the issues were discussed.  Almost every article I read referred to the undocumented workers as “illegal immigrants.”  Some of them said that the protest involved disagreements over immigration, and that the counterprotestors were against illegal immigrants.

     As my long-time readers know, words are very important to me.  Words can inform, but they can also misinform.  They can persuade, but they can also mislead.  It is important that we use them carefully.

     An immigrant is “any person who is residing in the United States as a legally recognized and lawfully recorded permanent resident,” according to  That’s how I have understood the word.  There cannot be “illegal immigrants,” since immigrants are “legal” by definition.

     So, who were the Hispanic people caught in the raid in Postville?  According to news reports they were not “legally recognized and lawfully recorded.”  Therefore, they are not, according to the legal definition, immigrants.  They are illegal aliens.  To put it bluntly, they are invaders.

     My great-great-grandfather was an immigrant.  He got permission to enter the United States from Canada in 1867, and he became a citizen in 1878.  My wife has ancestors who immigrated to the United States from the Russian Empire at about the same time.  They landed in New York and Philadephia and went through all the necessary formalities to legally enter the country. 

     So you see, I’m not against immigrants, and neither were the counterprotestors in Postville, I suspect.  What they are against, and what I am against is crime, and invading a country without permission is a crime.

     The protest wasn’t actually about immigration, then.  Immigrants are welcome.  They aren’t rounded up and put in jail.  They are not deported, unless they commit crimes or let their visas lapse.  The protest was about allowing illegal entry to the United States, and that is something we should all oppose.

Ancestors and Descendants of Lt. Colonel Henry Millard

Several people have been interested in Lt. Colonel Henry Millard‘s family tree after I wrote a post about him.  It has been fun to be in contact with some of his living descendants.  People have asked for more information, and while I don’t want to go into much detail, I’m posting a bit here. Continue reading

William Brink of Vermont

     This is a blog post about one of my ancestors and some of his descendants.  It will not be of interest to everybody, so feel free to skip it.  If you are a relative, please let me know how to contact you.


Generation 1

     William Brink was born in Vermont in about 1769.  This researcher has not been able to determine the identity of his parents or his exact birthplace.

     He was living in Tinmouth, Rutland County, Vermont, in 1820 and in Goshen, Addison County, Vermont, in 1830.  In the 1830 census he is listed next to a Horace Brink, who is possibly his son, and a William Brink, who is almost certainly his son.  If he was the father of Horace, then he is the ancestor of the founders of the Brink’s armored car company of Chicago. Continue reading

What’s in a Middle Name?

     Names can be a source of conflict, as in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  Of course, the conflict was about something other than the names, but the names signified a connection to particular families, and the families of Romeo and Juliet were feuding.  When Juliet suggested that either she or Romeo change their names, she was really suggesting that they cut themselves off from their families.

     Our current president, George Walker Bush, has a name that was passed down from one generation to another.  His great-grandfather was named George Herbert Walker.  His father was named George Herbert Walker Bush, presumably after him, and then two of those names were passed on to the current president.  He doesn’t seem particulary ashamed or embarrassed by his middle name, although he usually uses just the middle initial.

     A certain presidential candidate was named after his father.  I would tell you his fall name, but apparently that is a very wicked thing to do.  He is known as Barack Obama, and he doesn’t seem to want anyone to use his middle name.  I can understand that somewhat, as my mother is embarrassed by her middle name and seldom reveals it to anyone.   In her case it is because it is a very rare and funny-sounding name.

     How about you?  Do you like your middle name?  Do you ever use it?  Are you in any way ashamed or embarrassed by it?

     I routinely use my middle name or middle initial in real life.  I always sign my writings with all three names.  In fact, I like my middle name more than my first name, and I was given it in honor of my father’s best friend, which makes it special to me.

UPDATE:  There’s a great discussion of the Barak Obama problem over at World on the Web.  Check it out.

UPDATE:  Mike Gallagher wrote an open letter to John McCain to discuss the flap over Bill Cunningham’s use of the middle name that must not be spoken.

A Blue-Eyed Mutant

Blue Eye     It’s official.  I’m a freak of nature.  And so are some of you.

     I have blue eyes, and, according to a genetic study in Denmark, their light color is a result of a mutation in one of my early ancestors.  Furthermore, if any of you has blue eyes, then we are both descendants of this genetically deficient ancestor.  Hi, cousin!

Hey!  Since I have a genetic abnormality, I should be able to get some kind of disability payment.  I should be able to sue those arrogant brown-eyed people who tease those of us who are pigmentally challenged.

John Marshall of Hopkins County, Texas


     This post is a biography of one of my wife’s ancestors.  It will not interest most of my regular readers, but it might interest my wife’s relatives and anyone interested in the history of Hopkins County, Texas.


     John Lewis Marshall was born on June 12, 1826, in Morgan County, Alabama.  His parents were Andrew J. Marshall and Mary Russell.    

     He married a woman named Susannah M. “Susan” McDonald on July 8, 1847.  She was born on December 19, 1824 in South Carolina, probably in Laurens County.  Her parents were also born in South Carolina, and they are probably a John and Naomi McDonald, although one sources supposes that her father was a certain James McDonald.  Family tradition indicates that she was part Cherokee and was “a small, dark woman.” Continue reading

Females in the Family Tree

     It has been a longstanding tradition in many societies for a woman to drop her original surname and to take on the family name of her husband.  This tradition presents a difficulty in tracing one’s lineage.  I have several places in my family tree where a woman is at a terminal branch, because all I know is her married name.  However, I also have many places in it where my persistence paid off and I was able to discover the identity of a particular woman’s parents.

     Here are some ways that I was able to do so:

1.  Find her marriage record.  The easiest way of all to find a woman’s maiden name is to find her marriage record, where it will be listed.

2.  Check every census in which she appears to see if her father or mother or brother or sister (if unmarried) ever lived with her.  A niece or nephew with a differnt surname is also helpful, if it turns out to be the child of her brother.

3.  Look for somebody with the same birth year and same first name in the census records and birth records.  Start with the earliest known location that you have for this female ancestor, and then check neighboring towns.  You might not get a definitive answer, but you might find evidence to form (or to support) a guess.

4.  Look for the name of her father, mother, brother, or unmarried sister in the female ancestor’s obituary.

5.  Look at the names of her children.  It was common in the past for one of the children, especially one of the boys, to carry the mother’s maiden name as a middle name (or sometimes as a first name).  Even a guess at that point could prove fruitful, if you pursue it.  The first names can also give you a clue (or help substantiate one), as one of the boys could be named after her father, and one of the girls could be named after her mother.  This process works better if the names are unusual.

6.  Visit the cemetery where your female ancestor is buried.  Her maiden name might appear on her tombstone.  Look at the family names of nearby graves, as they could be her relatives.  Her tombstone will usually give her exact birth and death years–and often the exact dates.  With the year and/or date of birth it will be easier to find a birth record, which will show the maiden name.

7.  Look at her neighbors in the census, including those found on the previous page and the next page.  Some of them could be her relatives.  Pay close attention to men and women whose age makes it possible to be her parents.  Also remember naming patterns; your ancestor may have named some of her children after her own uncles and aunts, brothers or sisters. 

A Blended Family

cguy.gif     I was born in New England, but my wife was born in the South.  Yes, it has been an interesting adventure.  But I just discovered something that I find intriguing, but that you might find quite dull.

     My wife’s great-great-great-grandfather, Andrew J. Marshall, and my great-great-great-grandfather, Darwin Azro Brink, were soldiers during the War Between the States–on opposite sides.  I wish I could tell you that they faced each other in battle, because it would make an even better story, but I’ll be honest.  Based on what I have ascertained they were probably never within 1,000 miles of each other during the war.yankee1.gif

     However, I wonder what that does to the relationship between my wife and me.  Should we cheer for different sides at a re-enactment?  Will we have to hang a Union flag and a Confederate flag on our house?  And what about our children–are they Yankees or Rebs?

     I wonder if our 19th Century ancestors would ever have imagined that their offspring would marry each other.  What a scandal that would have created in their minds!