Why Should I Care?!

The most popular question I get when I say I’m a genealogist, besides “will you do my genealogy”, is “why should I care about my genealogy?”  It’s at this moment that I have to remind myself that not everyone is a big nerd like me.  Haha!  Anyways, with this post I’m going to do my best to convince you why you should care about your genealogy.

Knowing Who You Are

Okay, so your genealogy isn’t going to tell you what you’re destined to do in life, but sometimes it can help shed a light on one of you passions.  When you start looking into your ancestors’ occupations or hobbies, sometimes you find that you have something in common.  Take music for instance.  Maybe you like to play the guitar and everyone in your immediate family can’t understand why.  When you start digging into your genealogy, you find a great-grandfather who played guitar and his father played guitar and so on.  You instantly find a connection to your past and realize your passion is part of your history and your future.

Ownership in History

While in school we all had to memorize important dates and historical facts, without really understanding what the point was.  What if, when researching your ancestors, you find someone who had their hand in making history?  That might make that historical fact a bit more important to you, right?  For example, my research specialty is the Revolutionary War era.  Researching my ancestors during this time in history has not only provided me with many great stories, but it has also given me a new sense of pride during holidays such as the 4th of July.  When history becomes personal through your ancestors, you gain a new perspective on what those who lived it actually went though.

 

DNA

Now this reason I’ll go into a little more in-depth h in a later post because there is so much to talk about!  On the surface, DNA can tell you most of your genetic makeup.  It can break it down and really tell you what nationalities you are.  I know what you’re thinking, you already know that your family came from Ireland and everyone in your tree is Irish.  Think again!  There is a video that has been making the rounds about genealogy and DNA.  They talked to a lady from France and asked if she would like to take a DNA test.  She said sure, but she could already tell everyone that she was French, her parents were French, and her grandparents were French.  Imagine her surprise when her DNA test came back and she had absolutely no French DNA ancestry!  She was actually British!

 

Answering the Unanswered Questions

This one can be a bit tricky and can sometimes backfire on a reason why you should be interested in your genealogy.  We all have those stories in our family tree that are basically family folklore.  Some stories are good and some are bad, but we all have a part of us that wants to know the truth.  Genealogy research allows us to be our own family detectives.  To follow where the paper trail goes and answer the questions that have been plaguing our past.  While family trees don’t always have perfect branches, it is a combination of all the stories that have shaped not only our families, but our own lives.

 

I could keep going on and on about why you should care about your genealogy, but lucky for you, I don’t have the time!  While finding your ancestors may be no easy task, the rewards it gives you can be bountiful.  So the next time you wonder why you like something, or why you do something a certain way, the answer just might be with your ancestors.

Tuesday’s Tips: TVA Records

This week’s tip takes a look at Alford Sharp’s cemetery/burial records.

In 1933, the TVA was given the task to build Norris Dam (and lake) in what is now Anderson/Union County.  In order to do so, TVA had to move not only families who were living in the area, but also the graves of their family members.  Included in this “move” was many of the members of the Sharp family.

Many of the Sharp family members were buried in the town Loyston.  In order to visit the town now, you would need a boat and take it to the widest area of Norris Lake.  If you suspect you had a family member buried in this area, your best bet to find where they are located now is to look up the Tennesssee Valley Cemetery Relocaton Files on Ancestry.com

If you are able to find your ancestors in these documents, you should find anywhere from one to four pages.  These pages may include everything from your ancestor’s cause of death and death date to what type of coffin they were buried in and the contents of the coffin. Below you can see a copy of Alford Sharp’s relocation paper.

http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60427

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Alford Sharp: Tennessee’s First Family

This week I am writing about Alford Sharp, who was a member of one of the first families of Tennessee.  The Sharps lived in Loy’s Crossroads in Union County, TN.   This area was flooded by TVA and is now at the bottom of Norris Lake.  Big Ridge State Park is the closest one can get to standing in the area of Sharp’s Chapel.

Alford Sharp was born to William “Station Bill” Sharp and Rachel Stiner on February 25, 1809 in Anderson County, Tennessee.  Alford grew up surrounded by family.  Not only was he one of sixteen children, but his father had seven siblings, making Alford’s extended family very large.  It is well documented that the Sharp families ran the same circles as the Loy and Graves families.  This is more than likely due to the fact that these families all emigrated from Germany and stayed together due to the sharing of language and customs.

On July 15, 1851, Alford married Elizabeth Loy in Union County, Tennessee.  They had eight children: Nancy (m. Ruben Bledsoe), Jacob L (m. Sally Plyes), Caswell C. (m. Elizabeth Oaks), William (m. Nancy Condry), Jane (m. John Pleasant Oakes), Parly (m. Caswell Wilson), Rachel Irene (m. Elias Carroll), and Alfred B (m. Nancy Gentry).

Alford Sharp was said to be an outstanding member of his community.  Not only did he serve as Justice of the Peace, but was even granted guardianship of his cousin’s children.  According to the early tax records of the state of Tennessee, Alford owned 70 acres of land worth $520 and one slave worth $500 in 1837.  When Alford passed away on December 20, 1876, his will listed five pages worth of personal property that had to be inventoried and divided between his heirs.

Alford was buried in Sharp’s Cemetery in Union County, Tennessee.  In 1935, when TVA planned to flood the area to build Norris Dam, Alford’s grave, along with many others were moved to different cemeteries.  I’ll talk more on this with “Tuesday’s Tips”.

 

Alford’s lineage is as follows:

Alford Sharp – Elizabeth Loy

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Rachel Irene Sharp – Elias S Carroll

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Susan Jane Carroll – Abraham Benjamin Price

 

Tuesday’s Tips: What Are You Fighting For?

 

Yes, I know it’s Wednesday and I’m just now posting “Tuesday’s Tip”.  You can blame the NHL playoffs for that! Haha 🙂

Anyways…this week I have been showcasing Thompson Baker.  You have already read about his time in Union army during the Civil War.  That brings us to today’s tip!  Always look…and read…the pension papers!

You never know what you may find in pension papers.  Look for both the soldier’s and his/her spouse.  For example, Nancy Henderson Baker, Thompson’s wife, applied for the widow’s pension.  In her statement, she verified not only that she was married to Thompson, but the date, place, and person who married them.  (A copy of that page of her statement is below).  Sometimes in pension papers you will find children’s names, ages, and if you are lucky enough, who they married.

My favorite place to search for pension records, and really any type of military record, is http://www.Fold3.com

…and when you find these documents, make sure you actually read them!

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George Thompson Baker: Age Doesn’t Matter

This week’s “Sunday Spotlight” is George Thompson Baker, the son of Brice Baker and Mary Arthur.  Thompson Baker was born in 1809 in Knox County, Kentucky and was the youngest of seven children.

Thompson married Nancy Henderson on October 31, 1829 at her father’s (John Henderson) home in Knox County.  Thompson and Nancy would have a total of 11 children: John (m. Elizabeth Rogers), James Madison (m. Martha Agnes Butcher), Mary, Andrew Jackson, William (m. Emily Martha Tompkins), Emily (m. William Clark), Mahala (m. John Clark), Elizabeth, Pleasant Martin, Eleanor, and Nancy.

The most notable aspect of Thompson Baker was his support of the Union army during the Civil War.  It is noted that in his community in Knox County, he was known as a staunch Unionist.  His views on the War would cause him to do something that most men his age wouldn’t dare.  At the age of 54, Thompson would accompany his son, Andrew Jackson, to Camp Dick Robinson in Kentucky to enlist in the Union army.

Shortly before he was mustered into the Army, Thompson wrote his will.  In it he stated, “Expecting in a short time to be exposed to many dangers and being desires to settle my worldly affairs have made and ordained this my last will and testament…”  It seems that Thompson knew how dangerous the war would be for a man his age.  Thompson and Andrew would be officially mustered into the Union army on September 22, 1861.

Thompson and Andrew, along with the rest of the Kentucky Volunteer Infantry, would see action in not only Kentucky, but also Ohio, West Virginia, Tennessee and Mississippi.  In 1863, Thompson would fall ill to smallpox and be treated at a hospital near Louisiana.  A few months later, Thompson was transferred to the R.C. Wood Military Hospital Steamer on the Mississippi River just outside of Memphis, Tennessee.  According to documents, Thompson would die in June of 1863.  The official cause of death was listed as dysentery.  It seems that Thompson knew his fate was sealed when he wrote his last will and testament.

Thompson’s widow, Nancy, did not find out about his death until a year later.  It is noted that the body was never returned home.  It is more than likely that Thompson is buried at one of the “unknown” sites in the Memphis Military Cemetery.

While there isn’t too many details about why Thompson was such a staunch Unionist, you have to respect a man who will stand up for what he believes in.  I would be interested to know if he joined the army because his son Andrew did, or maybe it was just something he felt strongly that he needed to do.  While we may never know what led to his decision, George Thompson Baker is definitely an ancestor to be proud of and one that did not let his age stand in his way.

George Thompson Baker’s lineage is:

George Thompson Baker – Nancy Henderson

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John Baker – Elizabeth Rogers

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John William Baker – Melissa Charity Tompkins

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Stella Alice Baker – Frank Martin

 

 

Throwback Thursday: Show Me the Money

For today’s “Throwback Thursday”, I am sharing some of the documents found when Eve Weidner attempted to get her husband’s (John Miller) Revolutionary War pension.  If you notice in the first document, it states that Eve is 100 years and 6 months old.  It seems that Eve was a go-getter late in life.  The second document shows where Eve and John’s children (Lewis Miller, Jacob Miller, Isaac Miller, Nancy Loy, Elizabeth Graves, and Rachel Cox) appeared in court to support Eve’s claim.

There is no documentation that show if Eve received John’s pension or not.  It seems that there wasn’t very much evidence of his service which made it an issue for Eve to obtain his pension.

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Tuesday’s Tips: Spelling Doesn’t Count

This week’s tip is to not get hung up on spelling.  As you’ll see when you research census records, ship manifests, and even court documents, everyone had their own way of spelling names.

Take this week’s spotlight ancestor, Eve Weidner, for instance.  As I have done research on Eve, I have seen both her first and last name spelled many different ways.  For her first name I’ve seen Eve, Eva, and even Lucy (someone stated this was her “nickname”).  Her last name has many different variations including Whitener, Widner, Wydner, Whiter, and many more.

You may be wondering why all the different variations in names.  This occurs most often on census records when census takers either guessed at the spelling or just didn’t care if they spelled it right or not.  This is why it’s important to take some liberties in spelling when researching your ancestors.  In case you didn’t realize it, on ancestry.com you can choose “phonetic matches” and/or “names with similar meanings or spellings”.  This is a smart tool to utilize when you may be a roadblock in your research.

Eve Weidner: Revolutionary Woman

The first “Spotlight Sunday” belongs to Eve Weidner.  She was an adventurous woman who seemed not to be afraid of anything.

Eve (or Eva) Weidner was born to Ludwig (Lewis) Weidner and Barbary Boyer on January 31st, 1751 in Lincoln County, North Carolina.  While little is known about her mother, Ludwig was of German descent and held his German traditions close to his heart.  Growing up, the Weidner’s were known revolutionaries living in a county full of loyalists.  This more than likely made growing up challenging for Eve.  This is why the Weidner family started moving towards western North Carolina and the Tennessee border.

Records for Eve become a bit scarce until she marries John “Raccoon” Miller on March 1st, 1776 in Haywood County, North Carolina.  The Millers would move on to Hawkins County, Tennessee and eventually settle in Union County, Tennessee.  Once settled, Eve and John would have seven children: John, Nancy, Isaac, Lewis, Jacob, Elizabeth, and Rachel.

If legend is true, John Miller seems to be a lot like Eve’s father, Ludwig.  They were both revolutionaries and participated in battles with local militia.  One of the most notorious stories of Eve is when she was left at home with the children while John was off on one of his excursions.  The story says that the family dogs started barking and going crazy while Eve and the children were inside.  Living in known Indian Territory, Eve immediately had the children hide while she grabbed a shotgun.  Eve then went outside to defend her home against the said Indians.  While not much is known about the actual encounter, I think it’s safe to say that the Indians probably thought twice before messing with Eve again.

Eve passed away on August 12th, 1853 in Union County, Tennessee.  She was 102 years old.  Just a few years earlier, Eve had attempted to get John’s pension from when he fought in the Revolutionary War.  I’ll post more about that on “Throwback Thursday”, but I will tell you that people thought that a woman her age (near 100) attempting to get her dead husband’s pension was crazy!

Just a few years ago, a local Daughter’s of the American Revolutionary chapter in Knoxville, Tennessee, recognized Eve for her efforts and support during the Revolutionary War by giving her a new headstone.  A picture of the new headstone is attached.

If you’re still trying to figure out how Eve Weidner Miller is related to you…here is her lineage:

Eve Weidner – John “Raccoon” Miller
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Nancy Miller – John “Fisher” Loy
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Elizabeth Loy – Alford Sharp
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Rachel Irene Sharp – Elias S Carroll
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Susan (Susie) Jane Carroll – Abraham (Abe) Benjamin Price

Check back on Tuesday for “Tuesday’s Tips” where I’ll give some research tips that I learned while researching Eve Weidner.

Contact

If you have any research questions or maybe a question about a particular surname that I’m researching, feel free to contact me!  You can find me at:

Twitter: @CoolGenealogy

Email: coolgirlgenealogy@gmail.com

I welcome all questions, concerns, and comments!! 🙂