Robert Messer: North Carolina Regulator

I love a good story and genealogy is full of them. There is no other place that you will find as many different characters as someone’s family tree. Genealogy is more than dates and places. It is about love and struggles and new adventures. Today, I’ve decided to write about one of my favorite stories that I have found in my family tree (and there are many to choose from). Here is the story of my 7thgreat grandfather, Captain Robert Messer.

Captain Robert Messer was born in New Bern, Craven, North Carolina in 1734. History tells us that New Bern was named after the town, Bern, in Switzerland. While I have yet to prove that the Messers came from Switzerland, it is safe to say that they did come from the Germany/Switzerland area. Not much is known about Robert’s family. I have yet to find any information on his parents or if he had any siblings. We do know that Robert married Mary Ann Basket. There are rumors that say Mary was at least part Indian and that her Indian name was “Little Flower”. Now I’m not sure how true this is. Maybe Mary was part Indian or maybe somewhere down the line somebody thought “Little Flower” and Basket went good together.

Robert and Mary Messer had 6 children; Christian Sargent, Joseph E, Tipton, Jarred, Mary Ann, and Solomon. Christian is my 6th great grandfather, and along with Robert plays an important roll in some pre-Revolutionary folklore.

In the early 1770s, the colonists were beginning to become dissatisfied with the British Crown. In North Carolina, this led to the formation of the Regulators. While the Regulators are usually ignored in Revolutionary War history, it is safe to say that the battles involving the Regulators are basically the beginning of the Revolution.

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In May of 1771, the Battle of Alamance took place in Orange County, North Carolina. Captain Robert Messer fought along other Regulators against Governor William Tryon and his militia. While the Regulators lacked the supplies and organization that Tryon’s militia had, they were able to hold their own during the early part of the battle. Unfortunately, the battle turned and ended in the favor of Governor Tryon. In the end, Tryon took 13 Regulators prisoner…one of those being Robert Messer.

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In the days after the battle, Tryon killed one of the prisoners to make an “example” of what would happen to someone taking a stand against the Crown. The other 12 were told to take an oath in order to show their allegiance to the Crown. Only six of the Regulators took the oath while the others were on their way to stand trail for treason.

It didn’t take Tryon long to decided that the six remaining Regulators were guilty of treason against the Crown. Judge Richard Henderson handed down the judgment of violating the Riot Act to Robert Messer and the five others. Messer and the other captured Regulators were to be hung for their crime. Like many of Tryon’s acts, this was to be a public hanging with hopes of putting a stop to the Regulator uprising.

The most gut-wrenching part of the story would happen next. In hopes of a last minute pardon, Robert Messer’s wife, Mary, and son, Christian (who was around 11 years old at the time), made their was to Orange County. In the minutes before the hanging was to occur, Christian Messer, threw himself at the mercy of Governor Tryon. It is said that Christian begged Tryon to take him instead and allow his father to go home and continue to provide for his family. Legend says that Christian told Tryon he was worried about what would become of his mother Mary if Robert was to be killed. Tryon took no pity on the Messers, and along with the 5 other “traitors” Robert was killed.

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If you ever find your way to Hillsboro, North Carolina, there is a marker in a field where the hanging took place. This is the one place where I can go and actually feel a connection to my ancestors. It’s strange to stand there and think what was going through Robert’s, Mary’s, and young Christian’s mind. I’m very proud of my ancestors for standing up for what they believed in, regardless of if all the stories are in fact true. Stories like this make spending countless hours in a library well worth it.

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Tuesday’s Tips: The Road to Nowhere

I had a whole topic planned for today’s tip, and then like I usually do…I fell down a genealogy rabbit hole.  You know what I’m talking about.  You have a plan.  Just some quick research and then you start chasing an ancestor.  You’re determined that whatever question you’re trying to answer can be found just around the corner…and then three hours later you still have no answers.

That is where I found myself yesterday.  I found myself researching an ancestor that I had done some work on before.  I remember this ancestor well because I have yet to be able to find what port they came in when arriving in America.  It’s like I have a crazy amount of puzzle pieces and yet none of them will go together.  What is a genealogist to do?!

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This is where I’m reminded about migration paths.  Where one family traveled, more were bound to follow.  If you’ve done research in Kentucky, I’m sure you’re familiar with the “Wilderness Road”.  These paths were taken by many families and some even turned into the roads we used today.  If you have a general idea of where your family either started or finished their journey, you may be able to use these paths to find them in other locations.  Some researchers specialize in this topic and therefore a quick Google search can provide you with the information you’re looking for.  Remember, though, to keep it broad.  Many paths covered the same areas so don’t get discouraged if you don’t find your ancestors right away.

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The other tip to finding the migration path your ancestor may have taken is to look at census records.  I know it’s easy to get caught up in only looking for, and recording, your particular ancestor, but it’s important to pay attention to those living around them.  I know that I have a group of ancestors, the Loys, the Sharps, and the Graves, that traveled the southern part of the United States together.  While I am still trying to find where the first came to America, I know that these families started together in Virginia, then onto North Carolina, and then settled together in Tennessee.

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By researching these families together,  you will not only discover how they traveled, but other insights into their background.  You will find that the families that migrated together had a lot more in common than just where they lived.  These families tend to share the same religious preference and country of origin.  So, even if you can’t find the history of your particular ancestors, you will gain some insight into what their background may be.

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Genealogy FOMO

Hey guys!

A new goal I have is to make sure y’all know about local/national seminars that are happening. There’s nothing worse than missing out on something great! If you know of something coming up…and would like to be featured send me an email to coolgirlgenealogy@gmail.co

It’s free advertising! Make sure to include all the details; who’s hosting, location, price, and a short description.

I’ll be posting them under the “Seminars/Conference” tab on the right side of the screen.

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

 

I suppose before I jump into what I did on my trip to Ireland, I should give you a little background on how all this came about.  The short story is that it was all divine intervention.  The (shortened) long story is a little more random.

Like a lot of my best stories, social media played a big role.  It all started with an Instagram post.  I saw a posting talking about a program called SALT (Serving the Aged Lovingly Today) that was sponsored by the Carmelite Sisters of the Aged and Infirm.  Now here is where I should tell you that I’m not Catholic.  Yes, I have some interest in the Catholic faith, but I was raised as Baptist as one can be living in the South.  Anyways, here was a program that was based around serving the elderly, something that is very near and dear to my heart.  I immediately filled out the application, but took pause when it asked me my interests/hobbies.  I put the basics down.  You know the ones: reading, spending time with my friends/family, etc.  The only problem was do I list genealogy.  Genealogy is a huge part of my life, but how could I possibly use it to help the elderly?  I continued and finished filling out the rest of the application and then right before I hit submit, I went back and added genealogy to list.

Okay…I’m going to skip a large chunk of the story here.  One, because this will be a really long post if I don’t and two, it’s just details.

The fact that I added genealogy to my “hobbies” list opened a huge door and an even bigger opportunity.  The suggestion was made to use my genealogy knowledge and make “memory books” for the residents at the nursing homes the SALT volunteers would visit.  That way, the residents would not only have their stories written in a book, but they would also have something they could pass down to future generations.  I thought that this was an amazing idea!

Fast forward a couple of months and I find myself on a plane to Dublin, Ireland…the first stop on the SALT “tour”.  I had never been to Ireland.  Sure I had heard family folklore stories about Ireland, particularity from my Grandpa who was very proud of his Irish heritage.  To say I was excited would have been an understatement.

Myself, along with seven other girls, would be staying at a nursing home located in Dalkey, Ireland.  We would “live” there for the week and serve the elderly the best way possible, by just being there for them.  We would go to Mass with them daily, play games and have sing-a-longs with them, and most importantly work on their memory books.

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My view from my room at the nursing home.

The “memory book” project started day one.  I found myself explaining to the other girls who were there volunteering what exactly these books needed to be and how to put them together.  I had worked on a list of questions to ask the residents for their books just in case any of us got stuck during our one-on-one time with the residents.  To say I was a little intimidated would have been an understatement.  Sure, I had done other projects like this before, but never in a group setting and never at a nursing home.  I just prayed that God would show us the best way to tackle this project.

Oh boy, did God show up!  Each of the volunteers were assigned two residents, with the hopes that at least one would be willing to participate.  We had some residents that didn’t feel comfortable sharing their life stories.  We had others that didn’t think they had done anything worthy of a “memory books”.  Then we had the residents where we didn’t even have to ask a single question because they were that eager to share their story.

At the end of the week, we presented our residents with their “memory book”.  All of the girls had done an amazing job.  Each book was made not only out of the love we developed for our resident, but out of what we discovered they needed most.  One book was made as a sensory book for a resident who was losing their sight.  One book was made as a remembrance for the family members that a resident had lost.  One book was made as a family tree so as not to lose the ancestors who came before.  Each book was unique to the experience and each book served as a genealogy treasure, either to remember the past or to not forget the present.

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The “Memory Book” project.

 

I think as a Genealogist we sometimes forget the human connection.  That those living are creating history as we speak.  We get so involved in those who have already passed that we forget the importance of recording what is happening now.  My week in Ireland reminded me to not only record the stories of my Grandparents (and those older generations), but to also start making notes of my own history.  All any of us wants someday is for somebody to listen to the things we have experienced and how those moments made us feel.  Yes, the majority of the time spent doing genealogy is research, but we shouldn’t forget the importance of listening.  Hidden gems are there just waiting for us to take the time to listen.

There is so much more I could write about this experience.  My fellow volunteers, the Sisters, the staff, and of course, the residents, made this a week that I will never forget.  I highly suggest that if you have the time to sit down with the elderly and just talk about their lives, you will not regret it.  Also, if you looking for more information about the SALT Program or the Carmelite Sisters of the Aged and Infirm, I’ve posted some links below.  Lastly, if you have any questions on the “memory book” project, feel free to email me at coolgirlgenealogy@gmail.com

 

Carmelite Sisters of the Aged and Infirm

SALT Program

Fact or Fact?!

We’ve all heard those crazy family stories.  You know the ones I’m talking about.  The crazy stores of an ancestor that you know can’t possibly be true.  What if I told you that story was true?  You would probably think I was crazy too, huh?

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Okay, I’ll admit, I don’t know if all your family stories are true or not, but what I do know is that somewhere in that story is some truth.  I know you’ve heard the saying, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire”.  Well, the same can be said for genealogy and family stories.  Somewhere along the way, that story was told.  Maybe the facts got twisted along the way, but it is still a real story about your real family.

Maybe I’ve confused you now.  Let me give you an example.  From an early age my Grandfather would tell me a story about how he pushed an Indian off the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan.  Yes, this falls into the category of “crazy family story”.  For years, I brushed it off as nothing but pure fiction.  (If you know anything about the Mackinac Bridge, you know why).  Come to find out, there was a bit of truth in that story.  No, my Grandfather did commit a crime by pushing someone off a bridge, but he did work on the Mackinac Bridge.  He helped to install the elevators on the bridge back in the late 1950s.

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The moral of this story is to not be so quick to dismiss family folklore at just that, a bunch of untruths.  If you look close enough, you might just find a nugget of truth to bring your ancestor back to life.

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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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