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Remembering Private McAdow

I had numerous ancestors who fought in the U.S. Civil War. On my mom’s side, one of my direct ancestors was a Union spy during the war. He was captured three times. We joke sometimes that he was better at escaping from Confederate prisons than he was at being a spy. He survived the war and lived a long life.

On my dad’s side, Dr. Isaac Proctor Farquhar put medical school on hold and became Private Isaac Proctor Farquhar, like many of his brothers did. The elder Farquhar brothers who were already doctors became officers in the Union army, while the younger Farquhar brothers became infantry. All survived, came home to their families and resumed their productive medical careers.

James Washington McAdow did not.Read More »Remembering Private McAdow

My connection to the new center of the U.S. population

The new population center of the United States is a town I’m sure you’ve never heard of before, though I have. It’s Plato, Mo., a town 22 winding miles southwest of Fort Leonard Wood. The population is 109, up from 74 in 2000.

As you approach Plato from the east on Missouri 32, you pass a road on the right called Groves Drive. My great grandmother was a Groves. The next street on the right is called Kimrey Drive. My great grandfather was a Kimrey. They both lived and died in Plato. I’m probably exaggerating if I say I’m related to all 109 residents of Plato, but I’m related to a sizable percentage of the people who live there, and perhaps an even more sizable percentage of the people buried in the cemetery there.
Read More »My connection to the new center of the U.S. population

The American Dream vs. the American Greed

Last week at church, our newly-installed vicar preached about greed vs. generosity, and he ripped a little on the American Dream, which he defined as each generation having better stuff and living more comfortably than their parents did.

I think he’s right, letting that consume you definitely leads to problems. But I was taught that the American Dream was more about opportunity than it was about materialism. And maybe that’s where we’ve gone wrong.

I’m probably 10 years older than the vicar is, and I attended schools that didn’t exactly value new history books. So what I was taught probably dates back two generations, not just one.

And when I was in school, for the most part they taught us that the American Dream was about opportunity, and about parents giving their kids better opportunities than they had.

Today, I hear marketers on the radio saying, "That’s the American Dream, isn’t it? Owning a home?" Or tying the American Dream to any other materialistic thing.

Note the shift. It shifted from the kids to self.

I don’t know exactly why my direct ancestor, Adam Farquhar, came to the Americas in the 1700s (perhaps 1729). Presumably it was because he couldn’t get land in Scotland. But you see the American Dream working from generation to generation. Adam’s son Benajah owned land. Benajah’s son Edward became a doctor. At least five of Edward’s sons, including my ancestor Isaac, became doctors. Isaac’s son Ralph didn’t become a doctor, but he became a successful businessman who hobnobbed with some very powerful people. Ralph Jr. revived the family tradition of being doctors, and he was wealthy enough to give my dad every opportunity in the world.

My dad never did become as wealthy or as successful as his dad was. But by Dad’s own admission, he was a slacker. It wasn’t for lack of opportunity. Look at things strictly in material terms, and Dad set the Farquhar line back a couple of generations.

But Dad gave me opportunities. Wherever we lived, he got me into a good school. When circumstances found us living in a town that didn’t have a good high school, Dad moved us out before I turned 14, so that my sister and I could go to good high schools. And Dad saw to it that we would be able to go to college.

My sons aren’t old enough to go to school yet, but they live in a good school district. And I did what I had to do in order to ensure they would have a choice between several good preschools, to get them a good foundation. I don’t know if either of them will be reading at age 3 like I was, but I’m going to make sure they have that chance.

I may have to make some personal sacrifices in order for them to have what they need. But for what Dad spent getting me a good high school education, he could have been driving Lincolns instead of those Dodge pickup trucks he drove. (And this was before pickup trucks became status symbols. Dad didn’t want his patients thinking they were paying for him to have an extravagant lifestyle.)

So I don’t have any problem brown-bagging my lunch, driving an older car, or using an older computer so my sons can go to good preschools. And given the choice between a smaller house in a great school district and a bigger house in a bad district, I’ll keep what I already have, so they can go to good schools.

What they make of it is up to them. But never let it be said that I didn’t get them the opportunity.

Striking royalty.

It wasn’t what I set out to do, and it definitely wasn’t what I expected to do. But genealogical breakthroughs rarely are either, it seems.

My mother and I have now collected more than 9,000 relatives in our genealogy. Needless to say, you literally need a computer to keep track of all of that. There are three families I feel the greatest affinity for. Two of them are Scottish, and Highlander families at that.Both of those families are pretty much dead ends. I can trace one of them back to Scotland and go back a generation or so. I can find plenty of people with the name, but can’t prove relation, mostly because the church that contained most of the birth and baptism records burned in the 1780s.

The Farquhars are tougher. I have an idea when the patriarch of my family was born. Of course I know he was a member of Clan Farquharson. I know he was born in Aberdeen, possibly as early as 1714 and possibly as late as 1729. I found an Adam Farquhar in Aberdeen–with parents even!–during the right time frame, but the death dates didn’t match up. I don’t believe there were more than a dozen or so Farquhar families in Aberdeen in the early 1700s, based on the books I can find, but, once again, without parents’ names, I can’t prove relation to any of them.

So the holy grail–tracing my roots directly back to Farquhar Shaw, patriarch of Clan Farquharson–remains elusive. For now at least.

My search for clues about Adam Farquhar’s identity led me to his second wife, Elizabeth Andrews. I suddenly realized I’d never researched her at all. I researched Adam’s first wife, because it was an interesting story. His father in law disapproved of the marriage, apparently because Adam wasn’t a Quaker, and disowned her. But besides that, one of the descendants of Adam Farquhar and Hannah Gaskill married Walter Percy Chrysler. So I chased those stories, even though they were outside my main bloodline.

Soon after Hannah Gaskill died, Adam married Elizabeth Andrews, daughter of a Quaker minister and missionary. I found the Andrews family had been in the United States since the first half of the 17th century, and the line lost steam at Edward Andrews, born in Barbados in 1618. Pretty impressive.

But Samuel Andrews, a carpenter and shipwright who settled in New Jersey, married Mary Wright in 1663. Mary Wright’s parents emigrated from England, and the Wright family happens to be very well documented. Normally, when a line gets to be a certain age, you start expecting dead ends. The Wright line itself was, but the mothers’ lines just kept on going, and usually with precise dates. Not "about 1630" like I’m used to seeing. I’m talking "18 October 1476."

And once I got into the 14th and 15th centuries, I started seeing titles and French names. I started to get suspicious. I got especially suspicious when I searched Google for more information on some of these people and found they had Wikipedia entries.

Last night I stopped for the night at John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster. Skimming his Wikipedia entry, I saw he fathered a king. Literally. Henry IV, King of England, was John of Gaunt’s son.

I shouldn’t have stopped. I learned today that John of Gaunt’s father was King Edward III of England–one of England’s most successful kings, known for a number of things, among which was war with Scotland.

War with Scotland? ARGH! What was my full-blooded Scot great great great great great grandfather thinking?

I’m sure the bigger question to most people is how a middle-class guy from Missouri who spent five years of his childhood in Farmington–Farmington!–could be related to a king. Directly.

Think about it. The genealogies of commoners burned, so they were lost. I’m sure I have ancestors who lived in the 1300s who were potato farmers with no money, but I have no idea who they were.

The royal genealogies were preserved. And somewhere down the line, the royalty with the least chance of ascending to the throne had to marry someone, and if there wasn’t any royal blood left to marry, they had to marry commoners. Wealthy commoners, hopefully. But commoners nevertheless. But as the generations wore on, the chances of those descendants marrying royalty lessened. Some couldn’t even get land, so they emigrated to the colonies.

Most genealogists believe that every modern European is related to Charlemagne. And if you have English blood that emigrated in the 1600s, I’ll say there’s a very good chance you’re related to William the Conqueror. Both of my parents are.

I haven’t traced Henry III back to William the Conqueror and Charlemagne yet. Yes, the two of them were related. That’s just a matter of time.

I’d frankly be more excited about tracing one of my Scottish families all the way back to the founder of the respective clan, but I’ve just hit the genealogical equivalent of a home run. A World Series-winning home run, perhaps.

I’ll take it, and wait for technology to help me get those holy grails. Perhaps DNA testing will help. The option is on the table.

Why study genealogy?

Mom made one of those rare but very valuable genealogical finds recently: A cache of information about a family line that’s more complete than what we had. It seems like the longer you do this, the less often it happens, but the more you appreciate it.

It got me thinking about why these kinds of finds are exciting. Indeed, to a non-genealogist, it probably seems weird.First, there is a religious element to it. I’m not one who believes there’s anything I can do for my dead relatives–they’re either in a better place now or they’re not. But the Bible does say to honor your father and your mother, and that’s the only commandment that comes with a promise: That it may go well with you, and you may live long on the earth.

Recovering and preserving your family history is one way you can honor your parents. So that’s a motivation.

About 10 years ago, when I was dissatisfied with where my life had gone, I was reading a book that encouraged you to write down what you remember about your parents and grandparents. That book argued that if you understood them, you would understand yourself better. I’ve seen myself make the same mistakes Dad made in his professional career, or at least start walking down the same roads he did. Recognizing the potential to make those mistakes hasn’t completely prevented them, but I do move around less than Dad did–and Dad worked in an era when people did tend to spend entire careers in one place, as opposed to my era, when virtually all workers are regarded as mercenaries and people start to wonder what’s wrong with you if you stay more than five years in one place.

The more I study genealogy, the more merit I think there is in that. When I read about my ancestors, I see I have some of the same traits as people who lived a century or more ago, who I never met. I can’t sit down and talk with my great great grandfather, Andrew Davis McQueen, about his philosophy about debt and money, but to my great great grandson, our stories would look very similar. I don’t hide money as creatively as he did, but banks are more closely regulated now–they have to be more honest now than they were then.

I find it ironic that the same career choices the Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory said I should consider are the careers that tend to run in my family lines. But maybe it’s not ironic. Those traits came from somewhere.

You can tell from looking at me that I’m a Farquhar, both from the way I look and the way I act. But there’s plenty of Kimrey and McQueen in me too. And now that I’m fresh from reading about the Tope line, that explains where some of my other tendencies might have come from.

But there’s one other thing that motivates me to study genealogy.

There generally are only two things that kill Farquhar males, and those two things are heart attack and stroke. Heart attacks are a more recent phenomenon, but get into the early 20th century, and virtually every Farquhar male whose cause of death is recorded says the same thing: apoplexy. In today’s language, stroke.

Because I study genealogy, I know how long most of them lived and how they died. Because of that, I live with the belief that I have a choice: I can be watching myself right now and take precautions knowing that I’m prone to those two things and I can share that information with my doctor, or my life can be more than half over now.

I can choose life. And if the other Farquhars are like Dad, they’d be glad I did.

I don’t know what interest, if any, future generations will have in my family history. I have no idea whatsoever what information they’ll be able to glean from it that we can’t now. But I do think it’s fairly certain there will be someone who will want it.

I’ve lost some of my zest for pursuing information. I’m sure that will return because I’ve seen it come and go before. But so far I’ve proven to be pretty good at preserving that information. And that’s probably about as important.

Odd genealogy fact of the day: Bush and Kerry are cousins

Yes, George W. Bush and John Kerry are cousins. Ninth cousins twice removed, but still cousins.They’re also both related to Dracula.

Bush and Cheney are also related, as are Bush and Colin Powell. I also have a long list of other cousins.

Something else you may not have known, which is on that long list: The only two father-son combinations to be president were John and John Quincy Adams, followed by George H. W. and George W. Bush. That’s pretty widely known. But what you may not have known is the Bushes are distantly related to the Adamses (5th cousins), which makes them as closely related as Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt.

Visiting the house where my ancestors grew up

I went to a family reunion this past weekend. You typically need rosters at my family’s family reunions, because my grandmother had 13 brothers and sisters. I don’t know why, but before I got into genealogy, I just couldn’t keep everyone straight.

Now that I know how people are connected to one another, it’s somehow easier to keep it straight.

At the end of the day, my aunt drove me out to the house where my grandmother grew up.Along the way, she told me my great grandfather, Tom Kimrey, didn’t buy a car until after World War II, when he bought a surplus jeep. She said she didn’t know if he ever learned how to drive it, although several of his daughters did. We pulled onto Kimrey Lane and drove all the way to the end. It was cool to see a street named after one of my ancestors, even if it was on the edge of a booming metropolis of 74.

The house was a humble affair. It’s a four-room house, with a kitchen, living room and two bedrooms. The living room doubled as the master bedroom. There was no running water. The house had a tin roof and tarpaper on the sides. A brick pattern was etched into the tarpaper. My aunt showed me where the pot-bellied stove used to be, and where my great grandmother Sallie Groves’ pump organ used to sit.

The whole house was probably smaller than my kitchen and my study put together. And Tom and Sallie raised 13 kids in it. (One died very young.)

I guess standards of living have changed a bit over the course of four generations.

At any rate, seeing that old house gave me some idea of why my grandmother and great aunts and uncles were the way they were about some things. Sharing a bedroom with six other people changes your perspective about things, I guess.

Useful online Genealogy databases

I found some useful links today. It’s from a genealogy blog that copied verbatim one of my entries from a few months ago (but with attribution, at least), so turnabout is fair play.

For links to online passenger lists, see this entry in the Genealogy Blog. Looking through it, I see names of ships I know I’ve seen before but I can’t remember when.The genealogy software I use now lists anniversaries, so to keep my tree somewhat managable, when I don’t have a branch that I’m actively chasing down (or other stuff going on that keeps me from this stuff), I check the anniversaries. Since I have nearly 2,400 names in my tree, rarely a day goes by that isn’t the anniversary of something.

For instance, today was the anniversary of my great-great grandmother’s death. There’s a lot of controversy about her. I believe her name probably was Julianne Breeden or Julianne Breeding. My grandmother’s living brothers and sisters insist her last name was Breeden. It may very well have been, and it could be a transcription error in census records.

At any rate, researching people on anniversaries makes it much less daunting. At times I’ve found myself rushing to enter as many names as possible, which meant I didn’t record much in the way of dates or other details that I need now. If I tell myself I’m only going to check a handful of people, I’m much more likely to enter everything I can find. And if I record all the dates, then that means I will probably see that record three times a year–on the anniversaries of birth, death, and marriage.

So my records end up being a lot more complete and accurate. Sometimes I find typos and I fix them. Sometimes I just document sources. (Sources are important, but a lot of people, sadly, neglect them.)

And you know what? My tree still grows. By following a person’s branch forward and backward a couple of generations on his or her anniversary, I almost always find a couple more names I didn’t have before. I think I entered 10 names yesterday and today.

That sounds wimpy compared to those first few days when I probably entered several hundred names per day. But this is a much more sustainable rate of growth.

In honor of Charlemagne\’s birthday…

I have posted my genealogy, including Charlemagne, online.

As for why a Scot is making a big deal about Charlemagne’s birthday, well, I’m descended from him. But I guess I could have said I did this to celebrate Walter Percy Chrysler‘s birthday. Or William Austin, but you probably haven’t heard of him.Actually I’m just being silly. I’ve had this running since this past weekend, but this is the first time I’ve gotten around to mentioning it.

You can view anything that happened prior to 100 years ago without a password. Stuff newer than that is protected, in order to protect privacy and protect my relatives from identity theft. As dead people’s birthdays come up, I may open their records, but I’m not going to sift through 2,300+ records all at once looking for people who have died since 1904 to open them up.

I used a program called GeneWeb, which comes with Debian but is available for other Linux distributions, Mac OS X, and Windows. It’s a nice package. In some ways it’s clunkier than Family Tree Maker, but for some things, like entering entire families, it’s much nicer and faster. There’s always a trade-off with software like this.

It’s a nice tool for online collaboration. Now my mom and aunt can enter information too, and all our stuff will be in sync, which has always been a major problem for us.

I don’t recommend leaving a package like this open to the world for modification just because a lot of people with nothing better to do like to vandalize public websites. (That’s why this site requires registration these days.)

Anyway, feel free to look around and play with it. I’m going to go back and finish entering the names of Charlemagne’s children.

Beware the -ing

For some reason, both of my grandmothers’ genealogies have always been somewhat of a dead end. It took me about 30 seconds to trace my grandfathers back into the 1600s, but I could only go back a couple of generations on my grandmothers.
I had a breakthrough on my mom’s mom today. I had punched her grandfather’s name, Samuel L. Groves, into a genealogy search engine. My family had always accepted his wife’s name as Julie or Julia Breeden. I’d never been able to trace beyond her.

Today I noticed a couple of entries with a Samuel L. Groves, born in 1839, married to a Julia Breeding.

At first I dismissed it. Then I thought about it. Breeden. Breeding. Breedin’.

Breedin’. Then I thought about how my living relatives on that side of the family talk.

Breedin’ it is.

Breakthrough. The Breeding family left all sorts of traces of itself hanging around. Next thing I know, I’ve traced my grandmother’s line back to Baron Hans Jost Heydt, the first settler of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Another part of the line went back to Massachusetts in the 1600s. No Mayflower passengers, but they were in the area by the 1630s.

That part of the family had someone named Wallen in it. In that same tree, that woman’s father’s last name was listed as Walling.

Soundex is my friend.