27 May 2013

In Memory of the Soldiers I Descend From

From the 1600’s until World War I, many of my grandfathers fought to establish this country or to fight for the freedom of others.  I am proud to descend from these men and wish to honor them on this Memorial Day.

King Philip’s War – June 1675 to April 1678

Stephen Hosmer of Connecticut and Massachusetts

Joseph Richardson of Massachusetts

Blaise Vinton of Massachusetts 

French and Indian War – 1754 to 1763

Samuel Colvin of Rhode Island

John Gay of Pennsylvania

Revolutionary War – April 1775 to Sept 1783

Peter Larrance of Virginia

Vincent Tapp of Virginia

Benjamin Sprake/Sprague of Massachusetts

Nicholas Sprake/Sprague of Massachusetts

David Dailey of New York

Thomas Joslin of Rhode Island

Jacob Stotts of Maryland

George Hitler of Pennsylvania

Abraham Vanhise of New Jersey

Peter Livengood of Pennsylvania but enlisted in Virginia

War of 1812 – June 1812 to February 1815

George Parker of Ohio

Benjamin Basye of Virginia

John Sprague of Ohio

Jacob Stotts of Ohio

Griffin Winstead of Virginia

William Winstead of Virginia

Joshua Thomas of Pennsylvania

Civil War - April 1861 to May 1865

David Ludington of Indiana, enlisted in Illinois under his friend Captain Buell

Joseph Hitler of Ohio

John Mason Lawrence of Virginia

World War I  -  July 1914 to November 1918

Glen David Watts of Indiana

World War II – September 1939 to September 1945

Especially in my thoughts today is my great uncle, Bob Watts of Indiana

02 May 2013

Thinking of My Grandmother, Marjorie May Watts, on the Anniversary of Her 93rd Birthday

Mom Mom and me at Wolf Lake, Hammond, IN

Ever since my grandmother, Marjorie Watts, passed away in June 2007, I feel like a part of my soul went with her.  Mom Mom, as I called her, was my mom's mother.  We were so close that she used to say we were joined at the hip.  She was the one person who I could always look to for wisdom, for comfort and to help me pick up the pieces of any situation.  When I became an adult, she looked to me for the same comfort and love.

For her memorial service, we were asked to write about our memories of her.  I'd like to share with you my thoughts that I wrote about for that service.

 Mom Mom come in Goldy O Beel

I guess it’s all my fault, really.  I called her Mom Mom (pronounced Mum Mum) not Grandma because as tiny tike, I could not say Grandma.  Somehow, Mom Mom stuck and it stuck to my cousins Jimmy, Pam and Dawn and down to all of our kids, too. 

“Mom Mom come in Goldy O Beel!”  Visits from Mom Mom in her sassy gold Oldsmobile were akin to Batman pulling up in the Batmobile to me.  There was always going to be some great adventure: whisking me off for a “just us 2 girls” weekend at her home in Chicago, driving to LaPorte to see Grandma Romine or Valparaiso to see Uncle Bob and Aunt Marie, picking apples or berries in the country…..no matter what we did, we were going to have the best time. 

Like any good Super Hero, Mom Mom had her Trusty Sidekick: Perky, that sweet half German Shepard/half Collie with one ear that just refused to stand up.  Perky had her own swimming pool in the yard and yes, Mom Mom trained her to poop in an old coffee can. (I STILL tell people that story).  Perky knew that when she and Mom Mom visited our house, a treat was in store for her.  We’d open the door to our black Volkswagen Beetle, crank open that sunroof and Perky would jump in, stick her head out the sunroof and we were off to Dairy Queen to get Perky a small ice cream cone. The sight of Mom Mom holding the cone with Perky licking away made everyone at the DQ laugh. 

The two of us were sneaky on those weekends I stayed in Chicago with her. Sometimes I thought Mom Mom’s goal in life was to get everything for me my mom said I couldn’t have. (We won’t even get into the Marge vs. Linda Pierced Ears War now).  Between shopping sprees on one of those Saturdays, we dropped by her place to drop off some packages then went off “sneaking” again.  When we got back, there was Perky, chewing and chewing and chewing and chewing and chewing some more. Then, we saw the living room floor: 10 packs of Wrigley Spearmint Gum all carefully chewed by a certain canine, wrappers and all.  

Visiting the Golden Gate Bridge.
Mom Mom presented me with so many firsts in my life:  my first kitten, Buster, my first trip on a jet to Oakland to see Uncle Art and Aunt Miko, my first swim in the Pacific Ocean and my first trip to Disneyland.  Disneyland.  Mom Mom was probably in her mid-40’s at the time and I was 5 but we both turned into pre-kindergarteners there…  laughing and soaking it all in.  Small World was our ride.  We couldn’t get enough of it. 

Mom Mom and my's viewpoint from the Small World boats at Disneyland
Living in Los Angeles, Disneyland is a place we frequent often.  Each time I’ve been on Small World, I become that 5 year old again with her Grandma.  There’s not been a time I ride it, that I don’t think of Mom Mom and how it felt to ride with her.  I try to hide it from my family but each time, tears fill my eyes.  I don’t think I’ll ride Small World again. I just want to keep the memory of riding it with my Super Hero.

26 April 2013

Like Father, Like Son

In the Like Father, Like Son Department, it seems the Watts men of my family had a penchant for breaking their arms.  After yesterday's post of Great Grandpa Watts breaking his arm cranking his car, I found this article about his son, my great uncle, Robert Thomas Watts, breaking his arm playing high school basketball.

From the Vidette Messenger, Valparaiso, Indiana, 26 February, 1938 -

Washington is Loser; Watts Breaks Arm

Misfortune struck Washington township's ill-fated b title team on the eve of the sectional again when Bob Watts, a reserve player, suffered a broken arm in the preliminary to the Washington=Merrillville game won by Merrillville at Washington last night 32-32.

Watts fell to the floor in a pile-up late in the first half of the pre-lim and a Merrillville player accidentally stepped on his arm, causing the break.  Merrillville won the game, 11-9.


25 April 2013

Grandpa Watts Had A Minor Accident

After reading this about my Great Grandfather, Glenn David Watts, I'm adding "Keyed Ignition" to my list of Technology I Am Grateful For:

From the Fort Wayne News and Sentinel, 22 January 1919 -

Minor Accidents in Northwest Indiana
Cromwell: Glenn Watts broke his arm while attempting to crank his automobile.

20 April 2013

Family Photo

I've written so much about my grandfather/Papa, Walter, in the last few weeks but I've been hard pressed to find a decent photo of him. The photos we have of him seem to be blurry or the color is terribly faded. Here's a picture that I love. It's a picture of my mom being held by her father, Walter, in 1942. She looks so cute and Papa looks so dapper.

16 April 2013

Conflicts On Descending From Slaveholders and Confederate Soldiers

Confederate Civil War Soldier, John M Lawrence's Parole
Identifying the father of my grandfather after all these years has been an exciting time.  It’s been so interesting to research brand new family lines. The Lawrences, Priests, O’Bannons, Tapps, etc., were early, founding residents of Virginia and through them, I’ve realized that I have Native American heritage.  Yet, researching these families has often left me feeling very conflicted.  You see, my newfound families were slaveholders.  I’ve yet to find any of my “new” ancestral families that did not own slaves. The thought of it is difficult to stomach.
Many of my friends are African American.  My son’s lifelong best friend is D*. His mother is from Japan and his father is African American. D* is like a second son to me and he calls me Mom. I wonder if my friends or D* would think differently of me knowing my ancestors owned slaves?  I know it was a very long time ago and I personally did not own another human being but I’m feeling this weird guilt by association.
During Spring Break, D* spent a lot of time at our house.  The boys were hanging out with me in the living room, watching a movie and goofing around.  I was doing some online research when I stumbled upon my 5th great grandfather, Bryan O’Bannon’s will.  Finding a will can be like finding a goldmine of information sometimes so I couldn’t wait to start combing through it. Immediately, I started seeing Bryan O’Bannon doling out slaves to his children and grandchildren just the same as he was doling out chairs and horses.
 From the will of Bryan O’Bannon, 4 September 1760:
To son, John O’Bannon – plantation whereon he now lives, 212 a. – Negro woman Judy, after death of son John and his wife, Sarah, sd. Negroe (if living) to granddaughter Sarah dau. of John – “the said Negroe Judy shall after my Decease be Totally Exempted from Labouring without Doors during her Natural Life”. Still and young unbroken horse.
I cringed.  Bryan O’Bannon not only willed Judy to his son but dictated that she be given to John’s daughter after their death if poor Judy was still alive?! In the next sentence he wills John a horse?! I could not possibly wrap my head around what I just read. Reading that will with D* across the room from me, I could feel myself turn red.  I felt bad and embarrassed and quickly shut down my laptop.
My 2nd great grandfather and Confederate Civil War Soldier, John Mason Lawrence, at age 91.
Another conflict is really just an extension of the slavery issue. I’ve done plenty of Civil War research on my great grandfathers and uncles but they were Union soldiers.  John Mason Lawrence, my second great grandfather, was a Confederate soldier.  In my mind, they were the ones fighting to keep their slaves, to keep people as private property.  Fighting to own another person is just foreign to me. While I don’t like the fact that John Mason Lawrence was a confederate soldier, I have tried to look at the situation through his eyes in order to be more accepting of him.  Fortunately, I have learned some things that ease my anxiety.
He was a part of the 43rd battalion Virginia Cavalry, better known as Mosby’s Rangers. The Union side called them “guerillas” so there has been much written about them and many artifacts from their skirmishes are around today.  Fortunately, John Mason Lawrence is very much a part of the documented Mosby’s Rangers’ history.  His pistol and gun horn are in a museum and there’s a picture of them on line. He attended most Civil War reunions. Since he lived to be almost 95 years old, my family is able to see John progress in age in the group photos taken of the men at the reunions. We can look at his photos as a young man and see features which are in our own faces. In his military file, there is an incredible photo of John from 1936 at age 91, watching a re-enactment at Manassas. He looks frail but behind that huge beard and hat, there’s great pride in his eyes.
I read a story passed on by John’s granddaughter. She said that the Union soldiers had ransacked John’s family farm when he was 16 or 17.  Immediately, John ran away from home to join Mosby’s Rangers.  His father, John Neville Lawrence, realizing he was gone, went out to search for him, brought him back home, made him pack up some provisions, and then allowed his son to return to Mosby’s Rangers. We all have family folklore that is so stretched that the subject seems heroic. This is one family story I want to keep as true.  If I think about the hurt and rage that John Mason Lawrence felt as he watched his home being torn apart, his reason for wanting to be a Confederate soldier makes me feel better.  I can’t bear to think of any other reason for John Mason Lawrence to be a soldier.


09 April 2013

Civil War Confederate Citizens Files Free on Fold3

Military records are can be a wealth of information on your ancestors. Unfortunately, not everyone you descend from were of age to enlist as a soldier in a war.  Many of my grandfathers were too old or to young to fight.  But, there are other wartime records which were kept that could help you in your research.  One example of this is the Confederate Citizen Files on Fold3.com. It's currently free on this mostly pay to use website. It's an excellent resource if your ancestor lived in the southern states and were not able to participate in the Civil War as a soldier.

The Confederate Citizen Files contain claims related to individuals and business which provided goods and services to the Confederate Government during the Civil War. These claims were later used by the US Government Adjutant General's Office to prove the disloyality of people after the war. The contents of each individual file varies.  One might discover where the person lived, goods he or she provided, if they could write, other family member's names and names of neighbors.  It's an excellent resource for finding out information on the females and non-soldier males in your family.