Welcome to my genealogy blog. Ancestors I Wish I Knew is a combination of genealogical information and stories about individuals in my family tree. The focus is on those from my Cochrane, Eitelbach, Merrett, Minarcik and Richards lines and their descendants.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

#38--John Wesley Hannah --Civil War Veteran, Serving in Illinois

Since Veterans’ Day was last week, I thought I would blog about one of my veteran ancestors—John Wesley Hannah.  I knew that my great grandfather, John Wesley Hannah (1838-1899) had fought in the Civil War.  So when I wanted to know more about what he did and where he went, I did two things:  I got his records from the National Archive and also began to research the history of his units.  There is an incredible about of information on the Civil War on the internet, but I primarily used Ancestry.com and the sites that focused on units on Illinois that I found on the internet.   By putting the sources of information together, I have some idea of where he and his company were, and what he was doing.  So my blog focuses on John Wesley in the Civil War.  Because I have a great deal of information about John and his service, I plan on using two to three postings to cover it.

But first, a little background information.  John Wesley Hannah was born in Prairie Township, Edgar County, Illinois, near the current town of Chrisman on February 9, 1838.  He was the youngest son of John M. and Charity (Mears) Hannah.  In about 1830 his parents moved to Edgar County from Brown County, Ohio.  In 1850, he was living with his two older brothers (George Newell and Oliver) and three sisters (Albertine , Mary Sayres, and Catherine), his mother having died in 1842, when he was four years old.  His three sisters, Elizabeth, Sarah Ann, and Nancy, had married and were living in Edgar County.  In 1860, John was living with his father, his sister, Albertine and his niece, Charity Conrey, whose parents had died .    His sister, Mary Sayres,  had also died.   It is presumed that as a child John helped on his father’s farm, attended school in Prairie Township, and then school in Bloomington, Illinois.  According to the 1860 Census, John was a student of medicine. 

Abraham Lincolcn
On April 15, 1861, President Lincoln issued a proclamation asking each state to raise their militia to defeat the states that were trying to succeed from the United States.   Therefore, Governor Yates convened the Illinois legislature to organizing the militia.  Since it was believed that the war was not going to last too long, men were asked to enlist for a period of 3 months.

 John W. Hannah joined the 12th Infantry Illinois at Paris, Illinois for a term of 3 months on April 18, 1861.  He was mustered in at Springfield, Illinois on May 2, 1861.  At the time of his enlistment, he was described as 5 feet 8 ½ inches tall with dark hair and grey eyes.  His occupation was a farmer.  

Ship at Warf at Cairo
The 12th was moved to Cairo, Illinois where it performed garrison duties until the soldiers were mustered out on August 1, 1861. I thought Cairo was a strange place to spend three months as a soldier, but I found that the city sits where that the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers converge.  Controlling that spot mean that whoever held it would be able to control traffic, and hence move troops and supplies, on the river.  On August 1, 1861, John mustered out and returned to Edgar County.  For his service, John received $13.00 per month.

To be continued next week--

Thursday, November 6, 2014

#37--Michael Metcalf--Have a seat

Time for a little some thing different—a piece of furniture.  Several  years ago, I was in Dedham, Massachusetts at the Dedham Historical Society, where I was able to see the Metcalf chair.  Michael Metcalf, the owner of the chair,  was my 8th great grandfather.  I thought it was a pretty impressive and attractive antique chair.  However, when I searched for information about it, I learned a great deal more. According to The American Promise (2012), the carvings on the back of the chair are like those on a gravestone—wings symbolizing the soul’s ascent into heaven, Michael Metcalf’s initials and the date.  In addition, there is a storage compartment under the seat of the chair, presumably for the storage of books and the sides of the chair are solid, which makes the chair warmer than if the sides were open.  Something that would be important in New England winters.

So just who was Michael Metcalf?  A little online research gave me a great deal of information about him.  He was born in Tatterford, England about 1590.  In 1616 he married Sarah Elwyn and together they had  11 children.  Michael was a successful  dormix (damask cloth)  weaver, employing over 100 people.  More importantly, he was a Puritan and was persecuted for his beliefs by Bishop Wren, who took away his property  and charged him with treason.

In his own words:

"To all the true professors of Christ’s Gospel within the city of Norwich:

. . . I was persecuted in the land of my father’s sepulchres, for not bowing at the name of Jesus, and observing other ceremonies in religion, forced upon me, at the instance of Bishop Wren, of Norwich, and his chancellor Dr. Corbet, whose violent measures troubled me in the Bishop’s Court, and returned me into the High Commissioner’s Court. Suffering many times for the cause of religion, I was forced, for the sake of the liberty of my conscience, to flee from my wife and children, to go into New England; taking ship for the voyage at London, the 17th of Sepr 1636; being by tempests tossed up and down the seas till the Christmas following, then veering about to Plymouth in Old England, in which time I met with many sore afflictions."

"Leaving the ship, I went down to Yarmouth, in Norfolk county, whence I shipped myself and family, to come to New England; sailed 15th April, 1637, and arrived three days before midsummer, with my wife, nine children and a servant."

"…my enemies conspired against me to take my life, and, sometimes, to avoid their hands, my wife did hide me in the roof of the house, covering me over with straw."

Michael Metcalf and his family made their home in Dedham, Massachusetts.  He signed the Dedham Covenant, was made a freeman, and was elected a selectman.  Between 1656 and 1661, he was the town school teachers.  Michael Metcalf died on December 1664.

If I were able to talk to Michael Metcalf, I would have several questions for him.  Who made the chair?  Where did you get it and how much did you pay for it?  I also would like to know what he kept in the compartment of the chair and if they were books, which books they were.  I also would like to know his experiences as a teacher in Dedham.

The American Promise, Volume A: A History of the United States: To 1800
 By James L. Roark, Michael P. Johnson, Patricia Cline Cohen, Sarah Stage, Susan M. Hartmann

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

#36--Charles Minarcik--Fighting with General Custer or Not?

Several years ago I found a picture of my great grandfather, Charles Minarcik, in an old photo album.  He was in his army uniform and I had heard that he had fought with General Custer.  I found that puzzling as I thought that Custer and all his soldiers died in the Battle of the Little Big Horn.   Searching for information about him using Ancestry and Google, I I cleared up the confusions over his service in the army.  So today, he is the focus of my blog.

One of the problems of having an unusual name is that is can be spelled in several ways as I blogged about (Joseph Minarzick—How Do You Spell that Name).  Fortunately Charles had better luck in getting his last name spelled fairly consistently and that made my life easier.

In the 1870 census Charles is listed as living in Manhanttan, New York, the oldest son of Joseph Minarzick and Regina Wendel along with their 8 other children.  By the 1880 census, Charles is listed as the head of the family, which consisted of him and 4 of his younger siblings.  Their grandparents—the Wendels-- were living in the same building.  Presumably both his parents died, although I can find no record of their deaths, and his other siblings either died or married.  On May 15, 1872, Charles enlisted in the2nd Regiment Calvary for 5 years.   I think that is a strange choice for someone who lived in New York City, and makes me wonder how and when he learned to ride a horse.

According to the news article about his death, while in the army, he was involved in the first survey of Yellowstone Park.  That park is one of my favorite national parks and I am delighted that he had a part in its exploration.   Charles was also involved in engagements with the Sioux Indians and Cheyenne Indians under General George Crook.  However, Charles did not fight with General Custer at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.  Rather he was in the company of soldiers who were to join Custer’s forces.  However, they were delayed and unfortunately, when they arrived at the Little Big Horn, they found that Custer and his men had been killed.
Their only task was to bury the dead.  Charles was promoted to a first sergeant and received a metal for distinguished service.

After his enlistment in the army ended, Charles returned to New York, where he worked as a furniture carver.  In 1883, he married Elizabeth Lang and with her had four children:  Christina, Edward, Charles, and Regina.  Charles died in 1923 and is buried in Evergreens Cemetery in Queens, New York.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

#35--Chester Ingersoll Richards and William Fisher Richards--Where Did You Get Those Middle Names?

This week I am focusing my blog on something I found interesting about two of my great uncles:  Chester Ingersoll Richards and William Fisher Richards.  I wondered about  their middle names.  As far as I knew, we had no close relatives with those names.  I wondered where those names came from.

To help me figure out what was going on. I decided to research middle names and their history.  From what I read, middles names were not used in the United States until after the Revolutionary War.   At that point wealthy families began to give their children middle names.  By the time of the Civil War, middle names were common.

Parents pick middles names for their children in a variety of different ways.  Some use a family name like the mother’s maiden name or the names of the father and mother’s parents.  Others use a name that they like, but would not make a good first name.  Another choice is to pick the first or last name of an individual they would like to honor.

So what about my two uncles and their middle names?  Two of my blog entries shed some light on where those names came from.  While working on the blog about my grandmother’s wedding (#17—Gertrude Richards—Saying I Do?), I found the announcement in the newspaper and among the guests were several Fishers—“Mr. and Mrs. Irving Fisher, Dr. Fisher, Mr. and Mrs. Nathaniel Fisher.”  With a little more research, I found that the Richards and Fishers were cousins and that they were both in the same business—shoes.    Hence William Richards’s middle name came from a relative, and one that coincidently, was in the same business.

I really stumbled upon the source of Chester Richards middle name.  I was working on my entry about my great grandfather, Abiathar Richards and his shoe business (i#29  Abiathar Richards --Do You Have a Glass Slipper?), when I found an article that talked about his very early years in the shoe business.  It appears that J. D. Ingersoll was one of the first people he worked for in the shoe business and I assume that Chester’s middle name was chosen to honor him.

So it appears that William’s middle name came from a relative, and William’s from a business associate.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

#34--John Richards—Continuing a Family Tradition of Service

Last week, I blogged about Edward Richards, one of my emigrant ancestors, who came to Massachusetts in 1632.  This week I thought I would continue that line and blog about his oldest son, John, who was born to Edward Richards and Susanna Hunting on May 1, 1641.  On August 1, 1672 at the age of 31, he married Mary Colburn, daughter of Nathaniel and Priscilla (Clark) Colburn.  John and Mary had five children:  John, Jr., born July 20, 1673; Mary, born June 23, 1675; Deborah, born, Jun 1, 1679, Joanna, born, 1681; and Hannah, born March 3, 1684.  Mary Colburn, died on December 17, 1685.  John then married Mary Fuller, and they had Samuel, born January 1686.

John became a freeman on May 31 and was active in the Dedham community.
He was appointed to view fences.  Since his father was also a viewer of fence, I was interested in finding out exactly what this job involved.  After a quick search of the web, I learned that fence viewer is one of the oldest appointed positions in New England.  The viewer’s job was to make sure that fences were maintained properly and to settle disputes over property lines when a person believed that his neighbor’s fence was on his property.  John was also elected constable and collected taxes from the town’s property owners.  John and his brother, Nathaniel, lent the town money.  According to the Dedham Town Records, Vol. IV, p.190 “A bill is given to Deacon Aldis of ten shillings of jams Sharp constable in may to pay part of five pouds which was Borrowed of John and Nath Richards.”

New England towns had an interesting way of dealing with young single men to ensure that they behaved appropriately and did not cause any trouble—the town required that they live with established and respected families.  On two occasions young men were sent to live with John and his family.

John died on December 21, 1688 at the age of 48.  His wife was appointed the administratrix of his estate which was valued at €327.  I tried to find out how much that would be worth in today’s dollars and several web sites, including one from Colonial Williamsburg, indicated that given the complexities of economics today and in colonial times, such a value would be meaningless.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

#33--Edward Richards--Making a Good Life in a New Land

One of my previous blogs (#23—Edward and Nathaniel Richards—Brothers or Not) focused on Edward Richards, my emigrant ancestor and whether or not he and Nathaniel Richards were brothers. This week I thought I would blog about Edward Richards and his life in Dedham, Massachusetts.  Compared to his ancestors in England, it has been much easier to gather information about this Edward.  The records of Dedham are excellent--it appears that all the town meetings were recorded as were births and deaths.  They make for interesting reading, which gives you a real feel for life in Dedham in the 1600's as the town established itself.

Edward came to Massachusetts in 1632.  He married Susan Hunting, sister of Elder John Hunting on September 10, 1638.  They had five children:  Mary, born September 29, 1639; John, born July 1, 1641; Dorcas, born September 24, 1643; Nathaniel, born November 25, 1648; and Sary (Sarah);  born January 25, 1648/49.

Edward moved to Dedham in 1636 and was the 62nd signed of the Dedham covenant.  In 1640, he was admitted to the church, and a year later took the freeman’s oath.  Susan Hunting Richards was admitted to the church in 1644.

Edward was granted Thomas Feakes town lot and later bought Thomas Hastings lot.  In Dedham, land was granted based on the number of people in the family and the value of the head of the family’s estate.  Edward received land on 14 separate occasions.  Typically he was granted more land than the vast majority of other residents of Dedham.  In addition, Edward Richards also bought “Mr. Cook’s Farm,” on which he built Broad Oaks, which remained in the Richards’s family until 1838.  Given his purchase of Broad Oaks and the number of land grants he received, Edward was one of the larger land holders in Dedham.

Like all the inhabitants of Dedham, Edward was required to donate several days a month to work for the community.  He was assigned to maintain fences, survey land, mend bridges and set out meadows.  Edward seems to have been a well-respected member of the community.  He served nine terms as selectman.  He was appointed constable, viewer of fences, and deputized to represent the town in determining the boundary lines between Dedham and Medfield and between Dedham and Roxbury.  In addition, he and Timothy Dwight were deputized to go to Boston and to represent the town in their dispute with the Natick Indians.

Edward died on May 25, 1684 shortly after making his will but before signing it.  Susan Hunting died several months after her husband on September 7, 1684.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

#32 Edward Richards of Yaverland--Had Any Strange Dreams Lately?

Last week my blog was about German Richards, the earliest ancestor I can identify in my Richards line.  This week I decided to continue that line and blog about  one of his descendents.  The problems with documentation continue, and I have continued to rely on the same three sources for documentation as I used last week.

 I decided to focus on Edward Richards, one of Germain and Alyc (Rice) Richards’s sons, who is my 10th great uncle.  Edward was born about 1568 and lived at Yaverland, which was purchased by his father.  According to the Visitation of Hampshire, Edward married Bridget Mitchell and with her had three sons:    Sir John Richards of Yaverland;  German Richards of Portsmouth; and Edward.  Edward Richards, Sr.  was High Sherriff of Southampton in 1606.

Sir John Oglander relates the following incident in his notebook under the heading “A Strange Illness:”

"Old Mr, Richards of Yaverland, having been long sick, fell into a trance, in which he continued 2 days and nights without speaking or taking any sustenance.  They all expected every hour when he would depart out of this world.  Doctor Lewkenor, his physician, left him as a dead man, came to me told me he was past hope of recovering.   Three of his children, with divers others to the number 0f 10 persons, continued in his chamber, expecting when it would please God to call him, and they put all things in order for his burial, for he had been long sick before he fell into the trance.  But , at the end of the 2 nights and days, he awakened and roused himself up in his bed.  They demanded of him how he did.  He replied “Reasonable well,” “ and told them that he had either seen a vision or one had told him, being in the trance, of divers things:  amongst other things, that he should recover out of this, his long sickness, and should live , (he being then aged three scores  years) and see all those in the buried before him, which fell out accordingly.  His 2 sons, John and German, were the last:  German died at Portsmouth  suddenly, being well and dead in 2 days.  Sir John died some 3 months after, and the old man some 6 months after.  Althogh I give small credit to dreams, yet thus it fell out unhappily."

As usual, I would have some questions for Edward.  I would like to know what else he saw in his vision and if he was surprised when his two sons died as predicted or did he expect that to happen.  I would like to know if he had other children, and if so what were their names.