Sunday, April 2, 2017

W. B. Rogers and the American Civil War- The Story Continues

The Steamer Merrimack
By the end of August, the 36th Massachusetts was as trained as they were ever going to be. A history of the 36th tells us that on September 2nd, they boarded train cars and left for Boston. The narrative tells us this:
"On the arrival of the regiment in Boston the line was again formed, and the Thirty-sixth, receiving a brilliant ovation from the citizens, marched through "Washington street, down State street to Battery wharf, where the steamer " Merrimac," a new and large ocean steamer, was in readiness to receive us. One-half of the steamer had been assigned to the Twentieth Maine, Colonel Adelbert Ames, and his regiment was already on board, having arrived from Portland earlier in the day.
In the crowded condition of the steamer there was, necessarily, some delay in getting the companies into the places to which they were assigned, and also in transferring the horses and baggage ; and it was not until late in the evening that the embarkation was accomplished ; then the steamer dropped out into the stream."
Now if the name "Merrimac" sounds familiar, this is not THAT ship. The Merrimac of great fame was scuttled in Virginia by Union forces, raised by the Confederacy, and plated to become the famed ship in the battle of the Ironclads. There were actually a couple of ships operating under that name at the time and our Merrimack (sic) was only one of them. Thanks to the guys over at the American Civil War Forums, I was able to track down some information on our steamer and the picture above which we believe is the right ship. It served to transport troops all through the Civil War, but came to a sad end in 1887 near Halifax, Nova Scotia when it wrecked in thick fog. Here are the basic facts for this ship, as found by my friends over at the Forum.
And Fortress Monroe or actually, Alexandria, Virginia was the very destination for W.B. and his Holden friends. Conditions on the ship, however, were pretty primitive.
This came from a previous newspaper report, but as you will see, W.B. and company shared their feelings. Keep in mind that I corrected only the basics for clarity. The spelling and grammar are all his.
Aug 14/62 Steamer Merrimac
Dear Wife
We started from Boston yesterday morning and we are on the broad Atlantic and no land in sight. I have been seasick and a great many were sick yesterday. We are crowded most to death. There is a …? Regiment on board which makes about 2500 men. I never experience this before saying he had nowhere to lay his head. I have had to lay on deck as best I could. There is fearful confusion and I hear nothing but oaths and vulgarity. There is nothing for me to enjoy but assurance that there is a friend in Heaven. It is a beautiful morning with no land in sight. We don’t know where we are bound. There are a great many rumors about our destination but I shall be glad to get released from this crowded craft. I feel thankful that I am well and in the hands of a just God who doeth things well. My mind dwells on those dear ones at home. I am thankful you are so far away from such scenes as I have witnessed since I left home. Those in their quiet country homes know but little what there is in this wicked world.  The members of our company seem like Brothers to me. It seems like going home to get with them as it is all the home I can claim at the present. I want to hear from you very much but cannot tell you where to direct your letters. I will write as soon as we get landed if …? And tell you all the news. Kiss the children for me and give my love to all.
From your loving Husband
W. B. Rogers
The regiment sharing the ship, according to the history I read, was the 20th Maine.

Steamer Merimack
Saturday Sept 6 /62
Dear Wife
We are sailing up the Potomac and have been confined on board this old craft since Tuesday night. We are packed in like a lot of hogs. I shall be glad to get ashore oncemore. I can be thankful that it is as well as it is.
I feel first rate. the scenery this morning is ….(?). we are continually passing vessels of different kinds and we can see plantations and huts which makes it very pleasant as we have been out of sight of land for two days and I haven’t heard much but profanity. Oh how can men be regardless of their accountability to God. If ever I felt to rejoice in Christ and pray for his grace to sustain me it has been for the last few days. Oh we know not how to realize the comforts of home until we are deprived of them. We expect we are going to land at Alexandria some time but we know not what is before us but there is a friend that will go with me if I put my trust is him and I can pray for those Dear ones at home.
Oh pray that I may see you once more. I am not homesick because I feel that I came here to discharge my duty and hope I shall have strength and courage to do it.
Tell Eugene that I often think of him. Kiss little Ned for me. Give my love to Joel and tell him I am looking on Old Virginia soil at this moment. Give my love to all relatives and friends.
I must leave off writing. there is so much confusion and crowding I cannot half write. I will write again as soon as we get located and tell you where to direct you letters. Yours Truly
                                                                                                W. B. Rogers
So here is the route taken, by the history of the regiment I found and by W.B.'s letters. They boarded the City of Norwich and landed in Washington on around September 7, 1862.
The route of the Merrimack
At the point they reached Washington, they were assigned to the command of General Burnside in the 9th Corps. Here the history skips around a lot from my account by W.B.. There was a great deal of marching in which they just barely escaped taking part in  the Battle of Antietam and the Battle of South Mountain.

They marched from Leesburg, Virginia, to Brookeville, Maryland and on to Unity, to Damascus, to New Market and then just beyond Frederick to Middletown where they camped briefly. 

From Middletown they made camp in Keedysville, Maryland. This is where we take up the last letter for this time from W.B..
Keedysville, Maryland      Sept 16/62

Dear Wife
I have just been looking at your and Eugene’s miniatures and am wondering how you are and what you are doing. Oh if I could spend this Sabbath with you and the little ones but I feel that God is watching over you. we don’t know how to prize God’s blessings until we are deprived of them. I hope I shall be more grateful to him and better discharge my duty to him. I hope you will never cease to pray for me. I never shall for you and pray that I may be permitted to return to you unharmed. My health has been very good ever since I left home. I never shall forget that morning when last I saw you and those Dear little ones. All is very uncertain in this world. If we live as we should we shall soon be at rest. (the rest of this letter seems to be lost)
The 36th had just done a tremendous amount of marching around, yet he doesn't mention it at all. Of course, we don't know what the missing part of the last letter held.
Now I'm wondering. Was that little "fairy album" of miniatures that I had and sent on to the cousins the album W. B. took to war? Eugene would have been 9 at this time and "little Ned", my great-grandfather, was less than a month old. It sounds like he "just" got to look on Ned before he marched off to war. He's been near two very big battles, but hasn't entered the battlefield yet. He sounds homesick, but making the best of his situation. This is what soldiers do. More to come....

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Fairy Forts and Leprechauns- The Cookes of Clooningan

Former home of Michael Cooke and family, Clooningan, Sligo, Ireland
     No, I haven't lost my mind. I have scored yet another find in my family history. You are looking at the house in which my grandmother, Catherine Marie Cooke was born in March 1878. It would have had different windows and a thatch roof, but this is the family home. How did I find this? Well, I joined a website called Ireland Reaching Out. I can highly recommend this site as I've had hits for both the Fitzgerald and Cooke sides of the family. The one that yielded this photo was from Ciaran, who, it turns out, is a rather close cousin still living in the area. More on all that later. He sent me a whole series of photos of the Cooke property including this one. This property was sold out of the family, but some of the surrounding land is still occupied and farmed by family.
     The photos that intrigued me were labeled as a "high circle" or "fairy fort" which still exists on the property. What is a fairy fort? Well, I had to find out. A ráth or fairy fort is the remains of a stone age or early Christian period ring fort which was built as a defensive enclosure.  A high clay bank was built up in a large ring, surrounded by a ditch and topped with a wooden stockade enclosing wood-framed dwellings. In western Ireland, where stone was more plentiful, the surround would be of stone as you see here.
Ringfort in Donegal
The ringfort on the Cooke property was most likely of the wooden variety. You often see pictures of the surviving trees or large hedges that surrounded them. Here's the view up the hill on the Cooke property where you can see the ring of trees.

And here's the view at the fairy fort itself.
You can see that a line of trees has been deliberately planted, but it's hard to tell much. I went to Google Earth to get a better look.

You can see the fairy fort at the tip of the red arrow and the Michael Cooke home just below it along the road to the right.
     The next part is where a strong dose of Irish imagination figures in. The Irish folklore holds that fairy forts were imbued with Druid magic and with the Tuatha Dé Danann and were entry points into the fairy world. (The Tuatha Dé Danann were the ancient pre-Celtic inhabitants of Ireland) Altering a ringfort in any way would bring terrible fortune on that person. (Even cutting the whitethorn brush around them) There are also numerous tales of supernatural experiences happening at these ringforts. Another story associated with a ringfort is that this is the place where a leprechaun hides his gold. Clearly my relatives never benefited from the help of a leprechaun!
     I'm not a big fan of the American celebration of St. Patrick's Day, but this tidbit seemed too good to pass up. Many American-born Irish know so little about true Irish culture or language or folklore.  I also realized just this morning that today would be my grandmother's birthday. She was born on March 4, 1878. So Happy Birthday Katie. I'm thinking of you.

Monday, February 13, 2017

My Civil War Ancestor- Winslow Brainard Rogers

     If you've read all my blogposts, then you know I have a Civil War ancestor who was one of the seeds of my interest in genealogy.  We had a bundle his actual letters home in the house when I was a child. I read what seemed, at the time, as very sad letters home and I  wondered about this man. Here's what I've been able to discover. Winslow Brainard Rogers, grew up in Holden, Massachusetts, a small town just outside of Worcester. He worked at various jobs, but most of the census material has him working in a boot factory in Holden. One Worcester town directory from a time before his marriage listed him as a "painter" and I assumed "house painter".
     But as I researched for this post I found an intriguing clue. First I found  a paragraph in a history of Worcester County.
This is a listing for W. B.'s son Eugene, Harrington Rogers, who became a sign painter and an artist. Notice the last line of the first paragraph, "instruction from his father, also an artist".Then, I found W. B.'s  profession in his muster papers listed as "painter". Where are those paintings now?
      No photographs survive of Winslow. The best I am able to do is his physical description in those same muster papers.  He had blue eyes, brown hair and dark complected and stood 5 foot 7 inches tall. He was 37 when he signed up.  Winslow reported to Camp Wool, which was located in Worcester. Camp Wool had been formed at the Worcester Agricultural Fairground near where Elm Street Park is now.
Worcester Agricultural Fairground
The camp was just to the west of the actual park, in an area that's now residential. Here's a description of the site from one of the Civil War commemorative sites:
"Initially the camp was know as Camp Lincoln, in honor of a Massachusetts governor. The first regiment to occupy the site was the 21st Massachusetts in July of 1861. It was soon followed by the 25th. After these regiments departed in August and October respectively, the camp was not used until the July 1862 call for additional three-year regiments. Renamed Camp Wool (for General John Wool) the  site was designated as the rendezvous for three-year regiments from western Massachusetts. Units trained here were the 21st, 25th, 34th, 36th, 49th, 51st and 57th regiments of infantry."
W. B. Rogers was mustered into the 36th Massachusetts infantry, Company G in August of 1862. He was a bugler. At first I wondered about this. The war was going badly at this point. He was already 37 years old. He had a wife, a son and a baby on the way. What made him want to put himself in harm's way?  As we work our way through his letters, you'll see that this was a man of some conviction.
I have left much of the spelling, capitalization and punctuation as is, except in instances where it might be required for clarity.

"Camp Wool- Aug 22
Dear wife. I take this oportunity to write a few lines. I am well and enjoy myself as well as I expected. My thoughts are on those Dear ones at home. Oh four features are fixed on my mind and will be as long as I have my sence. I am trying my best to get a furlough but do’nt much expect to get one. Calvin Hubbard came into Camp yesterday. I have got into a very good company. There are a good many Christians and we have prayers
every night and there are a few things to enjoy. Warren and Caleb have just come to our tent. I feel very anxious about you. How does Eugene do. Kiss him for me and give my love to all.
                                                                                    W. B. Rogers"
Warren would be Jonas Warren Rogers, his uncle. Not sure which Caleb this is, but possibly Jonathan Caleb Rogers,  a cousin.

"Camp Wool- Sunday Aug 24 /62
Dear Wife
            I take one more oportunity of writing a few lines as I had flatered myself that I should see you today. but I cannot get out of camp at present. but hope I shall some day this week. It is as quiet as could be expected. We don’t drill today. we have preching this afternoon. We had a prayer meeting in our tent last night. There are a good many fine men in this Regiment. They are very indignent because they cannot get a furlough. Elmira and Caleb were in camp yesterday and brought me a basket of provisions. Oh I long to see you. Write me a line as often as you can. Tell Eugene to come in and see me. Give my love to all friends. William Nichols came into camp yesterday. I took a little cold last night but I feel quite well except that. Give my love to Mother if you see her. Tell her I feel that I am doing my duty to my Country and to you all. God Bless you.
From your loving husband.
                                                                        W. B. Rogers"
OK, this is definitely Jonathan Caleb Rogers, who was married at this time to Winslow's sister Almira. He mentions his mother, Betsy Howe Rogers as well. Winslow's father, George, died when he was only 5. I found guardianship papers appointing  Jonas Warren Rogers. (Warren of the previous letter) He was raised by both Warren and his mother Betsy. 
      This letter gives you some idea of distances at the time. Holden, today is barely beyond the town limits of Worcester by car.  Yet, the going to see W. B. in camp wasn't possible, apparently, for Cassandria and Eugene. 
     This is the beginning of a series of posts for Winslow Brainard Rogers. I'll be sharing copies of the letters along with any other information I can find over the coming months. W.B. was not Sullivan Ballou of Ken Burns fame; his letters are not profound or poetic, but they give you some idea of one man's journey at a time which defined our history.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Catharine Fitzgerald...A Small Postscript

So I heard back from Frank Thompson and he wanted to clarify a few points from the previous post. First, the Ballinoe I found was one of several in County Cork. The actual scene of my family drama was closer to the previous locations. If you look at the map in the previous post and find the Cork airport, this is the area just south and west.
You can see Ballinhassig in the far lower left, Ballygarvan in the center and Monees, which Frank tells me is more commonly called Moneygurney. So they stayed in the same general area) He tells me that the locals would most likely have gone to the chapel in Ballygarvan. He enclosed a picture:
This is also where many of Frank's relatives attended. But Frank cautioned against the idea that baptisms and big weddings were going on in these places. This was an point in history where the religion of Ireland was the Church of Ireland. Here is Frank's explanation:
"However, neither weddings nor baptisms were normally held in the ‘chapel’ (as all Catholic churches were called, no matter how big).  For somewhat complicated reasons, they were normally held on ‘private’ premises, that is, in people’s houses, meeting halls, barns, or even pubs.  This was because, officially, weddings and baptisms were supposed to be held only in Church of Ireland (Protestant) churches, the only Church recognized by the state until 1869.  Of course, this was a joke, because no one really questioned the validity of a Catholic marriage, and it would not have been practical to force parents to have their children baptized in the ‘parish church’ (Protestant).  To avoid conflict with the letter of the Protestant law, therefore, the Catholic ‘chapel’ was used only for mass, not for any event that might have official or legal significance.  The parish priest constantly rode about his parish on horseback, marrying and baptizing along the way.  For each service, he collected a fixed fee.  And, just as important, he expected to get his ‘dinner’ at the houses of at least the better-off recipients of his services. "
I went back and reexamined the marriage record for Robert and Ellen and found this for the 7th April 1825.
Frank agrees that the Mary he found seems most likely to be Mary Catherine. He commented that the name Robert wasn't terribly common among Cork Catholics and of course I always figure the odds of finding exactly Robert Fitzgerald combined with Ellen Desmond within the span of years I give.
   Frank's suggestion is to next go after the valuation books at the National Archives of Ireland. Oh boy, more jurisdictions to navigate! As someone pointed out to me, it's like one of those giant jigsaws puzzled with pieces you almost have to pull from the ether. I enjoy the challenge.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Catharine Fitzgerald

     You may remember that finding this application for a marriage license was a major breakthrough for me. It has led me to Andrew's roots in Macroom, Cork, Ireland. I didn't have as much instant success with Catharine, however. I was pretty sure she was also from Cork. I also had a sneaking suspicion that Andrew and Catharine were cousins of some sort. There are a LOT of Desmonds on the parish registers for Macroom and some other Fitzgeralds. A straight up search, however, for Robert Fitzgerald and Ellen Desmond didn't give me much to work with. This is where the Ancestry message boards come in. I posted a brief message with the tiny bit I knew.  Very soon, I got back a query from Frank Thompson. Why was my information so sparse?  Where are my dates? Well, other than the American dates and this license, I have almost nothing on Catharine Fitzgerald.

     Bless his heart,  Frank went to work. Frank prefers to use the Irish Genealogy site to Ancestry or some of the other sites. We went back and forth for a few emails because Catharine didn't show up, although Robert and Ellen did. Frank, being much more organized than I am, came up with a very involved spreadsheet. Here is the portion showing Robert and Ellen and their children:

     The first entry would be their marriage, followed by the birth of five children: Julia, Ellen, Mary, John and Margaret. The number 12 indicates the Douglas-Killingly-Ballygarven parish registers. These can also be found at the Irish National Library site. You can see on the right the various places the family lived.

     Catharine always claimed a birthdate of 1832, but as we know, if she was illiterate she may not have known her birth date. Frank sent me an interesting quote that addresses this directly:
This quote comes from Alexander Irvine, from his book The Chimney Corner Revisted.
"My mother kept a mental record of the twelve births. None of us ever knew, or cared to know, when we were born. When I heard of anybody in the more fortunate class celebrating a birthday I considered it a foolish imitation of the Queen’s birthday, which rankled in our little minds with 25th December or 12th July. In manhood there were times when I had to prove I was born somewhere, somewhen, and then it was that I discovered that I also had a birthday. The clerk of the parish informed me"
     I wonder if Mary, born in July 1831 wasn't actually Mary Catharine. Parish registers didn't include middle names, but I know my Cook relatives all had middle names. So Mary Catharine seems completely possible. Also, I suspect that Catharine's first job in America was as a house servant. One too many Irish Marys in the house would give you an instant renaming.
     I did ask Frank about the gap between Mary and the later two children. He gave me a couple of ideas that might explain it. First, either Robert may have actually been Protestant or a former Protestant. Sometimes those families christened some of the family in one faith and some in another. (and sadly many of the Protestant records were the ones that burned) Barring that, there could have been a separation: dad went to where there was work and sent money home. Or there could have been numerous miscarriages, illness and other issues. I may never know if this is actually MY Catharine, but it seems likely. I did do a broader search of Ireland using Robert and Ellen. Cork is the only place they turned up together...at least from what's available online.
     Frank did a very detailed analysis of the "sponsor" names and found numerous connections between the Bennetts, the Buttimores and the Fitzgeralds and Desmonds. Almost certainly these are relatives. He said those names show up on the Macroom parish registers as well. So there's a future project.
Finally, St. Finbar's South in Cork seems to have been the last church. It the place of registry for of one of the christenings. So I took a look and found this:
     I like this very rustic stone church. Seems right to go with what I know about the the family. With some help from a new online friend, I've possibly unlocked a little more of the mystery of my Irish family.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

John J. Fitzgerald 1917-2000

No download or reproduction without express permission
Here's to John J Fitzgerald. Member of the "greatest generation", WWII veteran, 30 year employee of NASA in its most formative years and my dad. He would be 99 years old today.  We miss you, dad.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Small Bonuses of Family Genealogy

Blanche Lowell of Auburn, Maine
I receive messages here on the blog from time to time, but more often there are messages over at my Ancestry account. Sometimes, it's a cousin looking for family details, sometimes it's a total stranger. I got a message last week from someone I didn't recognize, and after some cautious back-and-forth I discovered a website and a mission I'd never heard of before.

Chris Hodge of Heirloom Archaeology likes to haunt junk stores and antique shops. Often, he discovers old family photo albums or other ephemera. He's made it his mission to return these, when possible, to the family members who might treasure them. That's where his email to me came in. He had found a photo album with roots in Lewiston, Maine. There are names in the list I recognize: Lowell, Newell, and Cummings all sounded familiar. It was the Lowell connection in my tree that Chris spotted. Sadly, these folks are pretty far off in the tree, so probably not the best home for the photos. Little Blanche Lowell is my 4th cousin 3 times removed. But Chris was gracious enough to share the images with me, so we all get to enjoy Blanche and her doggie friend.
For the cousins, this is how we are related:
Four steps down the tree and I'm 3 steps removed from Cora. That's how it works. I checked out Charlie Gorham Lowell and found that they lived around Auburn, Maine until the turn of the century. He was a farmer who married Maude Flora Randall. It appears that Maude didn't survive long, but their daughter Blanche did. Here's the picture Chris sent of Maude:
I can't find any trace of Maude after about 1885 when Blanche was born. Charlie and Blanche lived on Long Island, NY for a while and then in Manhattan where, as an adult, she was a house servant. The census lists her as divorced. Other trees have Charlie remarried later and back in Maine. I haven't been able to verify that. Chris also sent three other very cute pictures of Blanche which I enjoyed seeing.
All these photos seem to have been made at the same photographer's studio in Lewiston. So, it would appear they DID return to Maine periodically.
A.E. Nye Studios, Lisbon Street, Lewiston, Maine

She was certainly a cute and well-dressed young lady. I did determine that the photos Chris has are probably from somewhere in the immediate Lowell family. He lists Grace Lowell Young, who I found was Blanche's first cousin. One of the uncles or great uncles had a bunch of daughters, so I suspect the album came from a first or second cousin right in the area. 

If any of the names I've mentioned or the photos here seem familiar, follow the link I provided and contact Chris Hodge. He'd love to restore them to a family member. And what do I plan to do with the scans? Well, they'll go into my archive and on the tree, of course. But I have another plan in mind. My friend Stephanie Rubiano makes shadow boxes with old photos- she's especially clever with photos of Victorian children and their pets. Blanche's photo may or may not find a forever home, but as a piece of original artwork she can live on my wall. She'll remind me of the small bonuses of doing family genealogy.