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 Book Reviews

Book Review: TVA and the Dispossessed

Celebrating your 40th birthday during a global pandimic is not the ideal situation. To make up for it, my family decided to get everyone involved in the celebration by buying me a book for my birthday. The goal was for me to receive 40 books on my 40th birthday. I have never felt so much love in my life!

You’re probably wondering what that has to do with this book and my book review. In that collection of 40 books was a book by the name of “TVA and the Dispossessed” by Michael J. McDonald and John Muldowny. I’ve made no secret of my slight obsession with the Tennessee Valley Authority and their construction of Norris Dam. I had no idea that this book existed, but my mom found a random bookstore in England (of all places!) that had a copy and she was determined to get it for me for my birthday. I devoured this book in no time.

The Book

TVA and the Dispossessed starts at the very beginning of the Norris Dam project. The book does a good job at explaining why the Tennessee Valley Authority even took on this project. It introduces all of the players and the roll(s) they played in the process. The book explains how the TVA looked at the Norris Basin as not just a way to bring jobs and electricity to the area, but also as a social experiment. They looked at those who lived in the Norris Basin area as people from a different era.

This books does take a deep dive into the data collected by the Tennessee Valley Authority. While some charts seem to get repetitive, they do a good job of really showing important information.

The Surprises

This book includes interviews from those who lived in the area at the time of the TVA request for relocation. The words they share paint a clear picture of what life was like. It also clearly shows just what was at risk for families being forced to relocate. For example, the chart below shows the living conditions/personal possessions of those who were being relocated. It clearly shows what the families were at risk of losing. While some may not believe they were losing much, this chart shows how they were accustomed to living.

Chart explaining the living conditions of those being removed for the Norris Basin

The authors of this book also took the time to interview some of the residents who were living in the Norris Basin at the time. These were families who were being forced to relocate. By reading their words, it really gives you a sense of what life was like for them. It also gives you a better understanding of what their feelings were about the TVA.

But…most people…didn’t want to leave, and they thought they should have been…given something for having to move or being driven out of their homes where they’d lived for generations, their forefathers lived there before them, and I think they should have been allowed some consideration for that.

Hubert Stooksbury “TVA and the Dispossessed”

The Verdict

This books ended up being eye-opening for me. While I thought I knew a bit about the TVA and the Norris Basin project, I had never looked at it from the other side. I will admit, it did not change how I feel about the situation, but I did come out of it with a better understanding. The book was fairly easy to read only because I had a vast interest in the subject. It does go into the data of the project quite a bit and I did get a little confused with all the names.

If you had ancestors in this area in the 1930s, I highly recommend reading this book. It will allow you to walk in their shoes and experience the uncertainty of relocating and losing the community you had known. Researching documents will only get you so far. This book does an excellent job at filling in the blanks and giving the complete story.

With that said, I would give it an 8 out of 10. The technicalities of dam building and relocating got a little old, but I understand why it was included. Read this book for the words of those who were there. Read this book to feel more connected to your ancestors.

Previously…in book reviews…

Make sure you check out my other book reviews!

Posted in Genealogy 101

Genealogy Burnout

It is a new month which means an opportunity to reset my genealogy goals and make plans for new content. As I was doing so, I realized that during the month of July I had unknowingly put all my genealogy work on the back burner. It wasn’t something that I had done intentionally. When I looked back at my weekends, I realized that most of them were spent just looking at my computer and making up excuses of why I couldn’t research or write. That’s when I realized that I was deep in genealogy burnout.

Just like anything else you are passionate about, at some point you have spent all the energy you have. The things you loved to do, like chasing down a DNA match, seem more like a chore than an adventure. Genealogy is such a time consuming and emotionally investing hobby, that sometimes we need to take a break. The question then becomes, how do we get back to this journey that we love so much?

Go Back to Where You Started

When I say go back to where you started, I don’t mean that you should start over. Just go back to the basics. Find that family line that you researched when you first started and see if maybe you can extend/expand that part of your tree. Sometimes going back to the line that first hooked you into doing genealogy will be the cure for your burnout.

For me, this means going back to my Miller line. If you’re familiar with my story, you know that John “Raccoon” Miller is my gateway ancestor. He is the one that helped me find my genealogy passion and is now the cure for my genealogy burnout. Luckily for me, he had a bunch of kids who had a bunch of kids. Whenever I’m struggling with finding my groove, I go back to this line and start searching for cousins. It usually does that trick!

Talk to Other Genealogist

You may be surprised how many of us find ourselves in some kind of genealogy burnout. The upside is, we don’t all experience it at the same time. This means that while you’re in a funk, your genealogist friends may not be. Talk to them about what they are researching. Find out what they are excited about. Sometimes when you talk to someone who is passionate about what they are doing, their passion is contagious.

Get Out of Your Head

Get out and experience genealogy. If you’re like me, you have a designated area in your house, or maybe at the library, where you always go to do research. That is great when you are focused and able to concentrate on researching. On the other hand, the routine can feed your genealogy burnout. When that happens, get out of there! That could look like going to visit a cemetery or going to a new research facility. One of my favorite things to do is to visit a local historic site. Even if it doesn’t relate to my ancestors, something about walking in history gets my genealogy soul moving!

Be Kind to Yourself

The most important thing you can do when you find yourself with genealogy burnout, is to be kind. Don’t force the research. Don’t force the connections. I guarantee when you do, you will find yourself dreading doing any kind of genealogy activities. You and I both don’t want that! It is okay to take a break. Life is happening now and sometimes we have to set the past aside and deal with the present. Your ancestors understand that better than anyone else. Give yourself grace. The passion and desire for genealogy will come back…I promise you.

Posted in Ancestor Stories

Robert Messer: North Carolina Regulator

The big moments in history are often the only moments we talk about.  The Sons of Liberty, George Washingon, and The Battle of Yorktown seem to get the most press when talking about the Revolutionary War.  What about all of the moments that happened before the war even started?  What about the story of the North Carolina Regulators?  Here is the story of my 7thgreat grandfather and North Carolina Regulator, Captain Robert Messer.

Who was 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.

The Regulator Movement

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.

Highway marker in Alamance County, North Carolina

If you are an Outlander fan, who may recognize the story of the Regulators, after all Murtagh was one.  You also know that the series covers the Battle of Alamance and even mentions the notorious Herman Husband.  Husband was one of the most well known Regulator leaders and is often credited for the documents produced by the movement.  Governor Tryon had his sights set on Herman Huband even before the Battle of Alamance occurred.  For the record, I kept waiting for them to mention Robert Messer in one of the Outlander episodes.  Sadly, he didn’t make the cut.

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.

messer 3

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.

Let’s Make a Deal

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.

Article from The Daily Times-News (Burlington, North Carolina) July 23, 1934

Tryon’s assistant, Colonel Fanning, stepped in and convinced Tryon to momentarily pardon Messer. Fanning came up with the deal that if Messer could find Herman Husband and bring him back to Tryon, then Messer could have his freedom.  (Sidenote:  while Herman Husband was at the Battle of Alamance, he did not actually participate in the fighting.  He was a Quaker.).  Messer took the deal and set off to find Husband.  To keep Messer honest, Tryon held Robert’s wife and son as hostage until he returned.

Messer was able to track Husband down just across the border in Virginia.  The only problem was that Messer was one man and had no way of actually bringing Husband back to North Carolina.  Realizing that he had run out of options, Messer made his was back to Tryon empty handed.  Tryon then proceeded to arrest Messer and release his wife and son.  Tryon took no pity on the Messers, and along with the 5 other “traitors” Robert was killed.

Headstone that marks the place of the Regulators hanging in Hillsborough, North Carolina

If you ever find your way to Hillsborough, 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.

messer 4

Check out some 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 Book Reviews

Book Review – The Lost Family

I knew when I first heard about Libby Copeland’s book, “The Lost Family”, I had to read it. It has been on my must read list since last year. I finally got around to buying, and reading it, this month. What can I say, the list of books that I want to read is at least a mile long!

The Book

The Lost Family takes a look at genetic DNA testing and the many different outcomes that may come from it. The book covers from the time DNA test first hit the genealogy scene to what the future holds. Even while diving into the scientific aspects of DNA, Copeland continues to weave the emotional, real-life stories throughout. The Lost Family really makes you pause and think about all the possible outcomes and effects of DNA testing.

I thought that I was an early tester when it came to DNA. However, Copeland goes into such a detailed history that even the most seasoned genealogist will learn something. This book does a wonderful job at taking the reader step-by-step through DNA testing. It never gets boring. For a book that detoured into scientific jargon from time to time, I found it relatively easy to follow.

The Surprises

I really picked up this book to read in order to recommend it to others. I really did not expect to get anything new out of it. I am happy to say that I was wrong. Seeing the fallout of DNA results from real people and real experiences was eye-opening. One story in particular (don’t worry, no spoilers) kept me hanging on the edge of my seat. I think as genealogist, we get so wrapped up in DNA and our matches that we sometimes lose the mystery aspect of the process. Copeland does a great job of taking us on a DNA journey.

Aside from the personal DNA stories, I was really surprised at how the section regarding DNA and race/ethnicity hit me. Whenever I discuss DNA testing, this subject is usually my soapbox. I think DNA is a great way to open our world, and our minds, to other ethnicities and how we connect. Copeland wrote about, and gave facts about, aspects of ethnic identity that I had never thought about.

To attempt to read the past through the genes, you need more than knowledge of science, statistics, and algorithms. You need to understand history, and history is profoundly messy.

Libby Copeland “The Lost Family”

The Verdict

If you have ever taken a DNA test, or have considered taking a DNA test, you should read this book. To say it is eye-opening would be an understatement. My only issue (and for me, it wasn’t that big of an issue) is when Copeland takes a deep dive into the science of DNA. I love science and even for me it became a bit dense. It also seemed to get a bit repetitive when talking about the technical side of DNA. It is not so big of an issue that it would cause me not to recommend the book. I just want you to be aware of that part of the book.

All in all, I would give this book an 8 out of 10. You should read for the DNA history, learn the DNA technicalities, and stay for the DNA stories. For the conclusion alone, you will not be disappointed.

Previously…in book reviews…

In case you missed my last book review…got check it out!