I just wanted to give everyone an update on some exciting things coming this month in case you haven’t already heard!
Baking With My Ancestors
This new monthly series will feature recipes from around the world as well as their significance to their particular culture. I’ll actually be baking these goodies and sharing the “how-to” so you can enjoy it at home!
The Unknown Heroes of the Revolutionary War
This monthly series will feature some of the lesser-known folks who either fought in or supported the cause of the Patriots during the Revolutionary War. I’ll be featuring both men and women (because women were awesome during this time in history!) and how they helped to shape the world we live in!
Summer DNA Basics Class
In July, I’ll be teaching a class via IGTV or YouTube all about the basics of DNA testing. I’ll be going over the why you should do it, the science behind it, and how DNA testing can make the world a better place! Also, there will be a super special giveaway!
New Monthly Newsletter
Make sure to sign up for the new monthly newsletter! In the newsletter, you’ll get a sneak peak on upcoming blog features as well as tips & tricks for your own genealogy research. I’ll also give you an update on what I’m currently researching and the tools I’m using to do so!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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?
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.
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.