Posted in Genealogy 101

Why Genealogy – Kathryn’s Story

Welcome to week five of the series “Why Genealogy”. I’m sharing the voices of my fellow genealogists and family history enthusiast who were all were bit by the genealogy bug at a young age. Genealogy isn’t something you have to wait to do! There is no age limit to who can learn about their family’s past.

This week, meet Kathryn!

It was a rainy Sunday afternoon and my father decided to get the old family cinefilms out for us to all watch. He dusted off the projector and put up the big white screen and drew the curtains and suddenly all of his yesteryears were being shown. People that had come long before me, were suddenly animated once again and that’s where my fascination with family history started. As a child, I’ve always been interested in history so naturally, a progression to family history was perhaps a given!

By the late 2000s with the use of the internet and home computers becoming more commonplace, I joined Ancestry in 2006 aged 13, and started to build my family tree. 15 years later I’m still building that tree!

I think what puts people off researching their family history is they believe their family isn’t that interesting, but it’s the stories of the ordinary folk that keep me hooked. The stories of bigamous marriages, murders, accidental poisonings, industrial accidents, and more are what I consider the most fascinating. I love sharing these stories and discoveries with my family whether they want to hear them or not! Joining the social media side of genealogy and sharing my knowledge and stories was something I had always wanted to do so I threw myself into it this year and was so pleased to discover a growing group of young genealogists already present.

Kathryn Archer is a 28-year-old genealogist based in Yorkshire. With familial links to Yorkshire, Warwickshire, and Cheshire. When she is not researching family trees or going through DNA matches you can find her digitising old cinefilm or scanning family photos. Her other hobbies include stamp collecting and coin collecting. You can follow her on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok @that90sgenealogist.

Make sure to check out the other voices featured in the “Why Genealogy” series!

Posted in Genealogy 101

Why Genealogy – Sophie’s Story

Welcome to week four of the series “Why Genealogy”. I’m sharing the voices of my fellow genealogists and family history enthusiast who were all were bit by the genealogy bug at a young age. Genealogy isn’t something you have to wait to do! There is no age limit to who can learn about their family’s past.

This week, meet Sophie!

A seed of curiosity is where my genealogy interest originates. My paternal grandmother is a many-cousined woman, and she would return from the funerals of her numerous aunts and uncles naming reams of people I was related to but didn’t know. She kept their names up her sleeve like a Magician’s never-ending hanky. The fact that my Nan held all the knowledge about these people and their relation to us began to worry me. One day she wouldn’t be here, and then who will remember their names, or how we’re related? I decided I needed to take on the job myself to preserve the information. So in 2012, at the age of 16, I began building out my known family tree online, pulling out the never-ending handkerchief from Nan’s sleeve, and laying out each square to untangle the list of cousins she’d preserved. Soon I was able to document everything we knew about her side of the family. 

Moving on to my paternal grandfather, I asked about his extended family but he didn’t really know anything. How can my Nan know so much about her family, but my Grandad know so little about his? My nosey nature sent me digging to find out more. This led to me uncovering that his parents had moved to Derbyshire from Gloucestershire after they married. My Grandad’s mother, Dorothy, was from Somerset and hadn’t always lived with her parents and siblings, instead living with a different family nearby. Perhaps this was why my Grandad never met his maternal grandparents, despite the fact that his grandmother lived until he was 15. Then on my Grandad’s father’s side – James was his name – he’d been born in Leicestershire, then moved to Lincolnshire, to Gloucestershire before finally settling in Derbyshire. Both James’ parents died before my Grandad was born, and his three siblings lived in Yorkshire and the Isle of Wight, which is likely why my grandad never knew a cousin on that side.

As to why I love genealogy is a layered answer. I’ve mostly grown up with one side of the family, and have never known my aunt, uncles, and cousins on the other side. It’s a shame, but it’s hard to navigate a mountainous landscape of relationships without a guide. I find genealogy is a great way to feel more connected to these people, even though we don’t have contact in daily life. If we ever do get the chance to meet, I’ll have plenty to tell them about our shared history. 

A lot has happened in my life since that seed of curiosity first sprouted in 2012. Genealogy has grown roots deep into the foundations of my identity. Having struggled with mental health issues, the process of researching is a logical and organised task that’s been a great distraction at times. Each time I’ve found stories about my ancestors has felt like lighting a candle in a dark room, over and over until the whole room’s illuminated and you can finally see what’s around you. Having a clearer picture of my family history has helped me understand more about my living family. Knowing I come from generations of working-class families and who sometimes worked and worked in difficult and dangerous conditions has helped me understand my family’s background and attitudes more. The process of learning more about the hardships and events that my ancestors lived through in order for me to be here has given my life a renewed sense of meaning, and has made me feel happier and more appreciative for the life that I have.

It’s been empowering to learn where I come from, after feeling so lost and disconnected from myself. I feel emotionally and spiritually closer to family, and connected to some of the places they’ve lived, especially Derby. It’s the city where I grew into myself as a person; where I lived and worked, studied and struggled. Knowing that for multiple generations, this city shared the same importance and was home to similar life experiences for my ancestors, which makes it feel like such a special place. Being able to walk through the city reminiscing my own memories, whilst envisioning their lives among the same street names, buildings, and monuments is a magical feeling that I am so fortunate to experience. 

Sophie Haire is a 25-year-old genealogist based in the UK. Her research interests are in the East Midlands, Somerset, and Aberdeenshire, and in the use of DNA. She is a member of The Hidden Branch and enjoys encouraging genealogy among younger generations. Alongside genealogy, she enjoys writing and psychology. In 2020 Sophie graduated with an MSc in Psychology, and also holds a BA in Creative Writing. Sophie is passionate about researching the intersection of these three areas. You can find her on social media @DerbyGenes.

Check out the previous voices featured in the “Why Genealogy” series!

Posted in Genealogy 101

Why Genealogy – Jennifer’s Story

Welcome to week three of the series “Why Genealogy”. I’m sharing the voices of my fellow genealogists and family history enthusiast who were all were bit by the genealogy bug at a young age. Genealogy isn’t something you have to wait to do! There is no age limit to who can learn about their family’s past.

This week, meet Jennifer!

What is genealogy if not the search for something missing? It is the search for a missing piece of us, or of our identity. Even if the researcher is not cognizant of what they’re looking for, genealogy is, at its very core, the act of searching for those who came before. My path to genealogy was driven by such a search, and since establishing genealogy as a hobby, my search has at times taken on seemingly mythical proportions, like one of Hercules’ labors or Perseus’ quest.

In my earliest years, until I was 7, I lived upstairs from my great-aunts, my grandmother’s two spinster sisters, lovingly referred to by everyone as “The Aunts.” My grandmother and her siblings were first-generation Americans, with both of their parents having come to the United States from the south of Italy around the turn of the 20th century. Well, though I didn’t know it then, The Aunts were a genealogical goldmine, and their love of family history was passed to me.

Edie, the older of the two sisters, and Clara, the youngest of the family, spent many hours with me as a child. They had a small chalkboard, and would dictate words for me to spell, or math problems for me to figure out. They also talked, and talked, about their parents, and the towns – villages, really – where they came from in Italy. Beautiful placenames like Montefusco and Montemiletto and Montefredane, places I have not yet seen with my own eyes, but which I hope to see one day. Neither of The Aunts ever made it to Italy themselves, a fact that will always make me sad for them, but based on what filtered down to me, their knowledge of family connections throughout the mountains and countryside of Campania and Benevento was quite extensive.

When I was 21, Aunt Clara passed away, and I moved in with Aunt Edie to help her out. She wasn’t in good health, and with some knowledge of actual world history at that point in my life, and desperately wanting to figure out who I was as a person, I talked to her in the evenings about her own youth, her education, trips, vacations and jobs and suitors… her history. She remembered a lot. Place names, names of cousins (were her parents actually distant cousins?!), how old were they when they came here? Did they ever get to see their parents again? I kept a notebook of answers to these questions, now long since lost, but it remains indelibly inscribed on my heart. 

This was right around the time that the internet was really experiencing explosive growth, and Ancestry.com was new on the market. I signed up, plugged in what I could, and began to build my tree. Sounds pretty simple, right? Wrong. 

I didn’t remotely comprehend how a website like Ancestry worked, only knew that I could build a family tree on it. I would get frustrated when I couldn’t find what I was looking for, only to realize years later as I studied actual historical records what actually goes into building such databases And let’s not discuss how many “hints” I accepted that were for completely different people and families! I can laugh now at my own foolishness, but it was tough at the time, and in those early days, I did a lot of revising on that tree! 

As I mentioned, I was at a point in my young adulthood where I was trying to figure out who I was, other than the typical elder-millennial/late gen-x mess! I wanted to know why we didn’t know my mother’s family well, why we weren’t raised with her extended family in the same way we knew my dad’s myriad cousins. The reasons for that are not mine to share, but suffice to say, I thought that if I could build Mom’s tree and trace the family patterns, I might find where I fit into it, and that might help my search for identity. 

It’s been 25 years since then. I’ve taken trips to the archives, have spent countless hours searching databases online, I’ve looked up things for others, and have had others find records for me. Genealogy goes in fits and starts for me, but when I’m on a hot streak, whew, look out! Even the advent of genetic genealogy has been amazing, enlightening, and a quagmire of questions and discoveries. Have I found who I am? Well….

I have found facts about my grandparents (who I knew) and my great-grandparents (who I didn’t know), and even my great-great-grandparents. I spent years tracing names and dates and newspaper clippings and church bulletins and military records… and I’ve put together some pretty comprehensive pictures of these people who formed the people who formed me. Through genetic testing, I have found “family” in unexpected places, with people I never knew I was related to, but who are so similar to me it’s as if we grew up in the same family unit, and that has been an incredible gift!

After decades, genealogy remains one of my favorite habits. I don’t do it every day anymore, because life, amiright? But at least once a week I give a once-over on everything and sometimes do a little digging. Thus far, nobody in the next generation of my family is interested in carrying the mantle, but they all call me when they have a question about the tree, our history, and our collective past. That’s become a large part of the identity I worked so hard to find!

About the Author: Jennifer wears many hats including wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend. She has a Master’s Degree in History with a specialization in modern Irish history. She is also in training to become a Licensed Professional Counselor. When not studying or running the house or raising her sons, Jennifer volunteers with JDRF, mentoring local families who are newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, as well as raising awareness and encouraging radical acceptance of those living with autism and ADHD.

Check out previous stories by clicking below!

Posted in Genealogy 101

Why Genealogy – Katty’s Story

Welcome to week two of the series “Why Genealogy”. I’ll be sharing the voices of my fellow genealogists and family history enthusiast who were all were bit by the genealogy bug at a young age. Genealogy isn’t something you have to wait to do! There is no age limit to who can learn about their family’s past.

This week, meet Katty!

I sat my Dad down. The burden of my news weighed heavily on my five year old shoulders.
“Daddy, did you know that you are not my real Daddy?”
No-one knows who told me. My biological father had left before I was born and the divorce finalized before my first birthday. I was almost two when my mother married my Dad. I grew up with parents who loved me and loved each other. It wasn’t a family secret, there had just been no reason to talk about it.
“Yes.”
“But you still love me don’t you?”
“Of course! You will always be my daughter!”
Content with that answer I merrily trotted off and carried on doing the things five year olds do. Dad says I did not mention it again for years.

I don’t look like my Mum, Dad or younger brother. They are tanned and dark, products of generations of English agricultural labourers on both sides. I am fair skinned and blonde, like my Irish biological father. Ireland was a place I owed half my heritage and clearly a lot of my genetics to, but had no link. This missing piece of my history laid the foundations for my interest in genealogy.

At eleven years old, I sat at the family computer listening to the whirs, beeps and whistles of the dial up modem. The birth of the internet had opened up the possibility of researching from your own home. I Asked Jeeves how to find my family, and then posted in all the family history forums and genealogy message boards I could find to try and locate my biological family. Alas the internet was too young, and there were not enough people to connect with to get any real answers.

Three years later my biological father made contact, and my parents welcomed him into our lives. He has now been in my life for longer than he was absent. My children have a huge loving family and no idea that 3 sets of grandparents is not the norm.


The way I was raised has given me the strong belief that family and genealogy are not the same. It is why I am interested in the stories and relationships behind the names. I look at next door neighbours on census records and trace the lives of the witnesses on marriage certificates. A third of my family are no blood relation to me at all, yet I research my Dad’s family as thoroughly as my other branches. I may not share their blood, but I am part of their story. I share their name.

I was pregnant with my daughter when I started researching my family history seriously. There was something about preparing for a descendant that made me feel linked to my ancestors.

I signed up for a free 2 week trial with Ancestry, and bothered all my relatives for names of great aunts and uncles and any other tidbits that could help me in the right direction. After 2 weeks I wasn’t finished, so I bought a month, then a year. I learned that a family tree is never finished. That is the addiction. As my tree grew, so did my fascination. Finding more sources, and documents. WWI records with my Great Grandfather’s height and eye colour. Newspaper articles of unpaid bastardy payments. Plans of an avenue of tree’s planted by a landscape gardener 5 generations back that can still be visited today. People who lived and loved, drank and fought, won and lost. People who raised children, who raised children, who raised children, who raised me. Forgotten people, remembered.

I recently discovered that my beloved Grandad had an illegitimate Aunt that no-one knew about. Census records show that she was raised by her grandparents. I wonder if she ever knew her biological father? Or if she was able to find that sense of belonging and family that I am so fortunate to have. That sense of family that is nothing to do with bloodlines. I hope so.

You can find Katty on Twitter at @gene_alogy

Katty is a performer and director from South London. Since Covid she has been at home raising her two young children by day, and researching family history by night.

In case you missed week one, go check out Daniel’s story by clicking below!

Posted in Genealogy 101

Why Genealogy – Daniel’s Story

Welcome to week one of my new series “Why Genealogy”. I’ll be sharing the voices of my fellow genealogists and family history enthusiast who were all were bit by the genealogy bug at a young age. Genealogy isn’t something you have to wait to do! There is no age limit to who can learn about their family’s past.

This week, meet Daniel Loftus of Daniel’s Genealogy.

My Genealogy Journey

Now, while it seems that the question “What’s the best way of getting young people interested in genealogy?” seems like it should have a definitive answer – it doesn’t! There are a number of ways that the Next Gen of genealogists can pick up the genealogy bug. They could be curious about the story behind an old family heirloom that’s been passed down for generations. Some might even want to find more out about themselves to be able to see where they come from. Or you could even be like me, someone who had a long car journey back home and you had 2-3 hours to kill so you decided to quiz your parents on what they knew about their family. Guilty as charged! So while I’ve listed at least three different scenarios, that doesn’t mean that these are the only three ways to engage and even inspire young people to look into their past and those that walked the Earth before us.

So before I give some tips, I figure I may as well continue my story – so after I drove my parents nuts (no parents were irritated in this story!) asking them about their family history, I was just processing what I was hearing and I couldn’t believe some of the stories (good and bad, truth or rumour) that I was hearing. So nothing really happened for a few days until fast forward to January 7th 2017 [5 days later after the funeral] and I’m sitting flicking through Google on free family tree builders until I discovered Family Echo (I was not aware of Ancestry, FindMyPast or MyHeritage like I am now) and I thought brilliant, I can start adding my family to it and I did. Although it was just me filling it in to start and it only showed me how little about my own family, my own personal history. I showed my mother and asked if we could start filling more in but we left it until tomorrow and the following evening my mother dug out a dark green book with a gold ornate frame on the cover with the words “The History of our Family”. I asked her about the book and she said for my father’s side of the family, she sat down with my grandmother who was alive at the time and wrote down all the info that my nana was telling her about her family and a bit about my grandad’s family. Now for my mother’s side of the family – we were not so lucky when it came to info. Her mother’s side, she had no living aunts or uncles still alive (last one died in 1995) so she only had limited info. Her father’s side we didn’t have a clue about. I would sadly lose my grandfather that year as well but he was able to tell me his parents’ names and I’m grateful for just that piece of info (as small as it may seem it helped me to push back a number of generations.) and spent that evening inputting all of the info in that book and working back! I had a bit of help from cousins who knew bits that corroborated with what I was hearing. And from then on there isn’t much more to tell from then on – I just kept building my tree more and more. 

I think the main thing to keep in mind with all of this is it’s not going to be a quick task – I’ve been doing this for 4 years now (at time of writing) and while I may not have gotten any new leads or bits and pieces from family, who’s to say tomorrow won’t be the day that a brick wall could be broken? But what I’ll finish with is the answer to this question “What made me want to delve into my own history?” Well it was a combination of things, I love history as a subject in school (am better in that compared to some subjects!) I also wanted to know more about my family and where I came from and I’m so happy at the amount I’ve been able to discover about my past. And most importantly, I thought it’d be fun to try (and can happily say it was one of my best decisions!) And trust me, if you don’t think genealogy is for young people, then stick around with me on Twitter, [am on Facebook and Instagram if you’re not a Twitter user] I might be able to change that opinion. And most importantly – if any young genealogist does see this and is on the fence about doing this – it’s so much fun and a great hobby and if you’re a young genealogist reading this, please get in contact with me, I’d love to hear from you.

[Editor’s note: Thank you Amanda for the opportunity!]

Are you ready to get started on your genealogy journey? Check out my post on getting back to the basics!

Posted in Ancestor Stories

Loyston Family Relocations

Imagine living on the land that had been in your family for generations. Your great grandfather had immigrated to America and settled in the area that is now your home. Close family and extended family are buried in your backyard. You know everyone who lives in a 10 mile radius since you see them every Sunday at church. To say you have deep roots in this land would be an understatement. Life can be hard, but it is what you know and you love it.

Now imagine a corporation comes in and tells you that you have to move. They explain that this is for your benefit and not theirs. This is the foundation of the Loyston relocation process.

The Interviews

When the Tennessee Valle Authority came in the area for the Loyston relocation, they knew they needed to interview the families who they needed to relocate. In order to do so, they reached out to local teachers and others who they considered “educated”. The thought was, if those who were being relocated were interviewed by others in the community, it may lead to a better outcome. This was true with some of the residents, but others did not trust the TVA no matter who they talked to.

As part of the interview process, Loyston residents were asked about themselves, their family, and how the supported/were supported by the community. Questions ranged from their religious affiliation and where they went to church to what newspapers they subscribed to. It interviewer also asked how far each parent went in school and if anyone in the family had a “physical defect”. No question was off the table in order to help the TVA collection information.

Evaluating Farms

In order for the TVA to give residents a dollar amount for their property, they needed to evaluate three things; the property, the resident’s income, and their expenditures. The majority of the families that were part of the Loyston relocation were farmers. Therefore, much of what was being evaluated had to do with farm land, livestock, and other farming needs.

Property

When looking at the property, the TVA made note of any livestock on the property. This included all animals from horses to bee stands. It was noted how many of each were located on the farm and then assigned a monetary value. Machinery used on the farm was also assigned a value. The last items listed as property was that of a personal nature. This included if the resident owned a car, a radio, a stove, a sewing machine, etc.. Just like the farm equipment, each of these items were given a price as to the value.

Lewis Loy’s Property evaluation
family income

To get a full picture of the family’s income, the TVA looked at both expenditures and receipts. Expenditures included everything from food to feed the livestock to taxes on the property. It also included cost of insuring the property which most farmers did not have. On the receipt side, the TVA looked at if the family when to market and how much they received for selling goods such as fruits, vegetables, milk, and other homemade goods.

The TVA also took into account the cost of running the household. They broke down each food item and evaluated how much the family used and what the cost would be. On some of the documents, you can see the actual receipt tape where the interviewer added up all of this information.

Lewis Loy’s income information
Outside income

The TVA also wanted to know if the resident was receiving what they considered “outside income”. This included income from savings account, pensions, insurance policies, and investments. This is also where if there were any kids living at home and working elsewhere would list their income. As you can see on the example below, the interviewer made a note that Lewis was “very curious about these questions.”

Lewis Loy’s Outside Income Information

The Final Report

After all the questions and evaluations, the interviewer was responsible for writing up a report of their findings. This report was basically an opinion of the interviewer of the likelihood of the resident willing relocating. You can see below in Lewis’ report, that the interviewer said he “gladly cooperated” with the interview, but that his attitude towards the TVA was “antagonistic”. The interviewer goes on to say that Lewis needs “further study” and that Lewis is only willing to give up the land that floods.

Final Page of Lewis Loy’s questionnaire

The last question which asks for the “gist of conversation” is always interesting to read. On Lewis’ form, it states that he is very clever but vows to not leave. This is usually where the interviewer gets brutally honest with how they feel about the family. I read one where the interviewer stated that the family desperately needed help or else their daughter would end up “working on a street corner”. I have also read several that call the family uneducated and, for that reason, easy to convince that relocating is for the best.

The Final Evaluation

The TVA took all of this information to form their opinion on where the displaced families of Loyston would go. While the majority of the residents finally gave in to the idea of moving, most agree that they were not given fair market value for their land. Farmers felt that they should have somehow been compensated for the fact that this property had been in their families for generations. The TVA did not pay for the emotional attachments that these families had.

Loyston and the TVA series

Make sure to also check out the other posts in this series…

Posted in Podcasts

Stories In Our Roots Podcast

A few weeks ago, I was a guest on Heather Murphy’s podcast, Stories In Our Roots. I talked with Heather about how I originally hated genealogy, but thanks to the stories, I fell in love. We also chat about why I feel it is important to know where you came from and how it effects our future.

I had so much fun on this genealogy podcast! I hope you will take from this talk how that no matter the connection, we are all family!

Posted in Ancestor Stories

Revolutionary Man – John “Raccoon” Miller

We all have what I like to call a “gateway ancestor”. You know the one ancestor that as you were researching you realized that you actually like genealogy. For me, that ancestor was John “Raccoon” Miller. I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about how my mom got me started in genealogy, but it wasn’t until I started researching John Miller and reading his stories that I became truly hooked. Let me tell you a bit about this revolutionary man.

Who was John “Raccoon” Miller?

John Miller was born in 1747 with the exact location still up for discussion. Some say he was born in South Carolina. Others state that he was born in Holland. Nobody has any proof to back up those claims. I tend to lean to the third opinion. That he was born in Scotland. If you know the history of the Scottish coming to American, you know that North Carolina was a hotbed for Scots to settle. Also, I have found a document placing a John Miller being born in 1747 in Scotland. The only problem is, with such a common name, it is hard to say with 100% confidence that this is him.

Documents for John Miller are a bit scarce until he shows up in Haywood County, North Carolina in 1776. At this point, the American Revolution is in full force and he is serving with the North Carolina militia. However, he does find time in his busy schedule to marry Eve Weidner. Together they have seven children; John, Nancy, Isaac, Lewis, Rachel, Elizabeth, and Jacob. The family will eventually make their way across the mountains and settle in the State of Franklin (modern day East Tennessee).

It’s War Time

When the American Revolution made it’s way to the North Carolina back country, John Miller did not hesitate to join. Enlisting in the North Carolina militia, John was able to encourage others to join the cause due to his standing in the community. He fought bravely in many battles, the most notable being the Battle of Kings Mountain.

Artist painting of The Battle of King’s Mountain

John not only served his county proudly, but he made some useful connections along the way. One of his new friends was future Tennessee governor, John Sevier. John soon found himself as one of Sevier’s trusted companions. So much so, that Sevier made John a Captain in the militia. The two would remain friends after the American Revolution. The would both be instrumental in what would be known as the State of Franklin.

It’s Peace Time

After the war, John would find himself with significant land holdings in both North Carolina and Tennessee, thanks to military land grants. John would hold onto most of the land, allowing it to pass down the generations. However, always being one up for a good story, there is a rumor regarding John and the land he owned in what is now Middlesboro, Kentucky. Supposedly, John was given an offer he just couldn’t refuse and “sold” the town for a bottle of moonshine. I have yet to find any documentation that this actually happened, but I feel like if moonshine is involved it may have been an “under the table” transaction.

One of John Miller’s land deeds

John was also quite the entrepreneur, not just with land but with some unique items. He took it upon himself to buy some silkworms and set them up in his barn. John then proceeded to sell the silk to local merchants to make some extra money. Nobody in the area had ever grown silkworms or even knew what to do with them. But, in true John Miller fashion, he figured it out and turned that silk into gold.

The Legend of John “Raccoon” Miller

Nobody really knows how John Miller was given the name “Raccoon”. The most logical story that has been handed down is that since there was another John Miller in the area, he was given a nickname in order to distinguish between the two. Whatever the reason, the memory of “Raccoon” Miller still lives on in East Tennessee. If you ever find yourself in Maynardville, Tennessee, you will see Raccoon Valley Road which runs though that acreage that belong to John. You will also find a highway maker that shows the location of Miller’s blockhouse.

Highway Marker in Maynardville, TN

John Miller passed away on August 25, 1832 in Maynardville, Union County, Tennessee. He is buried along side his wife, Eve, in Ousley Cemetery in Maynardville.

John and Eve’s headstones in Ousley Cemetery, Maynardville, TN

I think it is safe to say why John Miller caught my attention. He was the first ancestor that I really got to know. Researching John is the reason I joined the Daughter’s of the American Revolution. I guess you could say that even in death, John “Raccoon” Miller is still making his presence known.

My Daughter’s of the American Revolution pin

Make sure to read the stories of my other revolutionary ancestors.

Posted in Ancestor Stories, Revolutionary

Eve Weidner: Revolutionary Woman

Often, when we think about the Revolutionary War, we only think of the men who fought.  We focus on the battles and who won or lost.  We talk about the men who were Generals, the men who enlisted, and all the men in between.  We tend not to talk about the women and how important their role was in winning America’s freedom.

Who was Eve Weidner?

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.

Like Father, Like Son-In-Law

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.

Show Me the Money

John passed away in 1832 and had never applied for his Revolutionary War pension.  Well, Eve decided that she would go for it, twenty years after John died.  It seems that Eve was not a woman who would ever take no for an answer.  I will tell you that people thought that a woman her age attempting to get her dead husband’s pension was crazy!  According to the pension documents, Eve was 100 years and 6 days old when she started the application process.  While there is no documentation if Eve ever received John’s pension, I think it is safe to say that whatever Eve put her mind to she succeed.

An example from Eve Weidner’s pension application.

Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story

Eve passed away on August 12th, 1853 in Union County, Tennessee.  She was 102 years old.  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.  It is always nice when women recognize other women!

Eve Weidner’s gravestone.

I feel that it is important that we continue to share the stories of our female revolutionaries.  The Revolutionary War was not just fought on the battle field, but all across the colonies.  These hidden stories need to written to preserve the memories of colonial women.

Posted in Places To Visit

Places to Visit – The Museum of Appalachia

This week, I’m taking you to my happy place. No matter how many times I have been, whenever I’m in the area, I have to stop by the Museum of Appalachia. Many of my maternal ancestors are from this area of Tennessee, which makes visiting the museum even more special. Let me try to put into words why I love this place so much!

Looking out from one of the cabins

The History

The Museum of Appalachia was founded in 1969 with the intentions of showcasing an authentic mountain farm and pioneer village. John Rice Irwin, who was instrumental in the founding of the museum, helped to collect over 250,000 artifacts ranging from folk art, musical instruments, baskets, quilts, and so much more. Side note: John Rice Irwin is my 4th cousin 2x removed on my maternal. I had no idea of this connection when I started going to the museum, but now it just adds something special!

John Rice Irwin

The main focus of the Museum of Appalachia these days is to preserve its massive collection and to develop educational programs. The goal of the educations programs is to encourage others to preserve the past for the future. This is something I can very much get behind! The museum is also a Smithsonian Affiliate museum.

Things To Do

The Museum of Appalachia covers about 65 acres that are absolutely beautiful. The land boasts 35 log cabins, barns, farm animals (my favorite are the goats), churches, schools, and gardens. Speaking of farm animals, watch out for the peacocks. The last time I was there, two peacocks were ruling the roost. They just wander the grounds from the gift shop to the outer cabins. They are beautiful to look at, but don’t get too close!

The Peacock!

The gift shop is a must visit and hard to miss. Literally, it’s hard to miss since that is where you buy your tickets. Everything you could possibly want to shop for is in the gift shop. Of course, the majority of it is geared to Appalachia. They have everything from books to candles to toys to apparel. I mean, I could almost guarantee that you will not walk out empty handed.

The Gift Shop

If you want to make a day of it, make sure to visit the museum’s restaurant. If you are looking for some yummy, authentic Appalachian cuisine, look no further! They do only serve lunch (from 11am-2pm), but serve lighter dishes, such as soups, sandwiches, and desserts until 3pm. They do have a daily menu, so check out their website to see what they are serving on the day you are visiting. An example of their daily menu would include Herb Roasted Pork Loin, Chicken Noodle Casserole, Turnip Greens, Broccoli Casserole, Sweet Potato Casserole, Buttered Corn, Deviled Eggs, and Mac & Cheese. I’m full just thinking about it!

More Information

Ticket prices range from $18.00 (adults) to $6.00 (children). There are group rates and senior discounts, so make sure to check the website for more information. Their summer hours are 9am-5pm (monday-friday) and 9am-6pm (saturday & sunday). They are closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. They also have special events and special days throughout the year.

All this information and more can be found on their website https://www.museumofappalachia.org/

I can’t recommended enough the Museum of Appalachia. When I’m there, I just feel closer to my ancestors that lived much in the same way that they are preserving at the museum. If you have Appalachian ancestors, or just wonder how folks lived there in the past, you will not be disappointed!