Infidelity or Second Marriage?

I heard a story recently which occurred on my father’s side of the family which happened in the late 1800s with my 2nd great grandfather and grandmother: Selestine & Isabelle (Fischer) Horney.  It is a story of infidelity… or is it?

The story, as I heard it from my Aunt Helen, goes something like this…

My grandfather had an uncle that no one seemed to know where his grave was located. But my grandfather knew, and he showed my Aunt Helen.  It was totally separate from the rest of the family.  He seemed to be the black sheep of the family.

It seems that Selestine came to the United States before his wife; and when she later arrived, brought with her an infant son born in Germany. The child was younger than the time span when Selestine and Isabelle were last together. It turns out that this grand uncle, named Marcel, although the son of Isabelle Fischer was NOT the son of Selestine.

Selestine remained married to Isabelle and gave the boy his last name. He promised, however, that Marcel would receive no other inheritance.

So… there you have it!  But… does it fit the documentation?

So let’s look at when Selestine came to America…

It turns out that he was born in February 1855/1856 in Alsace, France and he came to New Orleans on the ship John Merrick with his father, Nicolas, in January 1860.  From there his family moved to Goliad, TX where they lived for 30 years. Sometime in the early 1900s the family moved to Emory, TX where he died in June 1929.

Now for a quick summary of Isabella’s journey to America…

Isabella was born in 1867 in Alsace, France and was still living in France in 1872. Now I haven’t yet found a passenger list with Isabella nor her family when they immigrated to America. However, depending on which U.S. Federal Census you believe, she immigrated between 1887 and 1890.  The 1887 date is too early as you’ll see when we talk about her son’s birth in Europe. The earliest census  of 1910 (to me would be more accurate since it documents the information closer in time to the actual event) has her immigrating in 1889. The next year she married Selestine. She moved with her husband to Emory, TX and died in March 1948.

Both are buries in Dunbar Cemetery in Emory, Rains, Texas, USA.

The Child in Question… Marcel

The bulk of the documentation found (Federal Census, WWII Draft Registration, Death Certificate) has Marcel being born in Jan 1888 in Germany. However, his WWI Draft Registration has him born in Jan 1889 in France. During the 1910 Federal Census, Marcel indicated he immigrated to the U.S. in 1890…  (you have to love the inconsistencies of peoples’ memories).  Regardless, I expect he, as an infant, came over with his mother.

Marcel and his wife’s tombstone just a few feet away from his parents.

An analysis of the dates…

Let’s look at the timeline:

  • 1856              Selestine was born
  • 1860              Selestine comes to America (about age 4).
  • 1867              Isabelle was born
  • 1888-1889    Marcel was born
  • 1889-1890    Isabelle and Marcel come to America (about age 21 and 1 respectively)
  • 1890              Selestine & Isabelle marry (about age 34 and 21 respectively)

I see no opportunity for infidelity in this situation since they were not yet married when Marcel was born.  A history of the early Fischer family by Norma Lee Lauderdale simply states that Selestine and Isabelle had six children (Marcel is one of the six) and then goes on to say “Marcel born in Germany (before she married Selestine).”

So it is obvious that Marcel is NOT the biological son of Selestine since he and Isabelle hadn’t even met yet.  What isn’t clear is the circumstances of Marcel’s birth.  Was it casual sex or, heaven forbid, rape? Was she previously married? We don’t know and likely never will.

Back to the initial story

Did Isabelle cheat on Selestine?  No.

Did Marcel get Selestine’s last name?  Yes.

Did he get nothing else?  I don’t know as I haven’t yet looked into the probate records.

Was he ostracized or kept from the rest of the family?  I don’t think so since his grave is right there with all the other Horneys.

Moral of the Story

I love the stories I hear from my relatives concerning ancestors…  there’s usually some truth in everything they say.  Sometimes it even matches up with the documentation.

But you can’t just rely on people’s memories when doing genealogical research!




Cliff Collins – WW2 Merchant Marine (Part 2)

photo-collinscliffordIt’s been over two years since I blogged about my grandfather’s merchant marine history and the stories as his sons knew it. Mostly I’ve been waiting until I was able to make it to San Francisco to be able to view some records for the ships that he was stationed on.  Today I made that trip!  Today begins the “rest of the story” as Paul Harvey used to say.

Now the stories heard and retold will have some basis of truth proven or disproven.  And some of the stories remembered are grandpa stretching the truth – he was known to be a good story teller!

Before I get to that… where is this information coming from?  The short answer – the National Archives and Records Administration – specifically records found at the National Archives at San Francisco, CA which has the original log books for the ships we know my grandfather to be stationed aboard and the training records from the Merchant Marine training center.  A couple years ago the researchers at the National Archives sent me grandpa’s training service record. Today I made the trip to view the original log books of his three known ships:

It is suspected that he was on another ship; but, without knowing the name, to find proof about this would require reading every ship’s log books. To say the least, that’d be difficult.

So, what have I found?

Training Records

Starting with his training records… It appears that he started enrolling in the Merchant Marines on March 18, 1944 which took a couple weeks to complete.  Apparently, this required his current employer to release him from their employment which they did.

Clifford Collins Released for Maritime Service
Clifford Collins Released for Maritime Service

One thing family researchers need to be aware of is that we might find information that could be embarrassing or surprising. Other than grandpa being good at telling tall tales, I didn’t find anything negative in my research.  I did, however, find some interesting facts that were unknown to me:

  • He didn’t graduate from high school; he completed two years.
  • He had a “color vision defect.”
  • Smoked about 15 cigarettes a day.

He was assigned to the U.S. Maritime Service Training School for Apprentice Seaman training in Avalon, CA about April 5, 1944. Then, on May 11, 1944 he was transferred to the US Maritime Graduate Station in San Francisco, CA as a Stewards Mate 2nd Class. (This is interesting since his background was in construction he was made a steward!) He was then transferred to his first duty on May 15, 1944 to the MV White Shoals (a sea-going tug).

Each ship was required to keep a log book.

Official Logbooks (which should not be confused with narrative-account logs) were required for all foreign voyages mandated by legislation enacted in 1872, and were occasionally filed for coastal voyages when a birth or death occurred during the voyage. These logbooks were submitted to the newly-created Office of Shipping Commissioners.

Much of the rest of the following information comes from these log books or war diaries that I’ve found on

MV White Shoals

MV White Shoals Log Book
MV White Shoals Log Book

It didn’t take long; but grandpa went to sea pretty quickly. He was stationed aboard the sea going tug MV White Shoals as a messman (cook) on the voyage from San Francisco between May 18 and August 8, 1944.

The White Shoals was part of a three-ship convoy that left the area on 18 May 1944 as noted in Northern California Western Sea Frontier war diary. The other two ships were another tug and the USS Vega (AK-17).

This was also recorded in Vega’s war diary of May 18, 1944 which indicates that the White Shoals was towing the USS Flint.  There is no indication of what the USS Flint actually is. I expect it was the name of a barge or floating drydock. [EDIT: After further research, I found the USS Alkes’ war diary indicates the Flint was a concrete barge.] It makes no sense for them to be towing a ship that could make its own way. The convoy arrived in Eniwetok Atoll, Marshall Islands on June 16, 1944.

While at Eniwetok, the tug went through at least one general alarm due to enemy aircraft in the area. This occurred July 4. At some point, they travelled to Kwajalein.

Commander Service Squadron Ten’s war diary has the Shoals towing a barge YF-786 departing Kwajalein on July 10 and headed for Eniwetok Atoll with an ETA of July 13. They actually arrived July 15th.

From there the Shoals headed to Honolulu and arrived there on July 30th. Based upon the ship’s log book – they returned to San Francisco on August 8, 1944.

The White Shoals took part in a larger convoy starting August 21st pulling parts of the floating drydock.  This corresponds to our family’s understanding of what grandpa did.  However… based upon the CINCPAC’s war diary, the White Shoals was still enroute to the Manus Islands on August 31 and, according to the Manus Island Admiralty’s war diary, they didn’t arrive until October 4th.  Another fact is that a letter written to him in August 1944 from my grandmother was returned due to him not being aboard.

SS Guatemala Victory

SS Guatemala Victory Log Book
SS Guatemala Victory Log Book

At this point I seriously doubt grandpa was on the White Shoals while it was towing the dry dock. His name is on the roster of the SS Guatemala Victory starting on September 6th. On October 8, grandpa’s ship was part of a convoy designated as Task Unit 16.8.12 with three escorts (the escort commander was on the USS Sederstrom DE-31) and eleven ships being escorted. They arrived at Eniwetok Islands on October 17.

On October 19 they started out as Task Unit 16.14.2. This time they were headed to Ulithi Island. They were escorted by three destroyer escorts. The convoy commander was on grandpa’s ship.

This ship, it seems, decided to put grandpa’s skills to work.  Instead of keeping him on as a steward, they made him the ship’s carpenter! This means that he likely had something to do with the necessary repairs of his ship when the LCT-999 put a small hole into the side of the Guatemala Victory when they were coming alongside sometime in November.

Another close call in November of 1944 occurred when a Japanese midget submarine sunk the USS Mississinewa (an oiler) while in the Ulithi harbor – the SAME harbor that the Guatemala Victory was in.

There are a lot of holes in the dates that I have for this ship. There isn’t much available, that I’ve found, on the specifics of where this ship went or what it carried while in the western Pacific Ocean.

This voyage ended on December 11, 1944. Unfortunately, I have no indication what grandpa might have been doing or where he may have gone for several months.  My next piece of official paperwork trail starts May 4, 1945 on the SS. Bernardo Higgins. However, I also have a letter written from grandpa to grandma in January 1945 that indicates he was still on the Guatemala Victory.  Guess I need to contact the people at the NARA again.

SS Bernardo O’Higgins

SS Bernardo O'Higgins Log Book
SS Bernardo O’Higgins Log Book

This ship’s master was a bit more verbose (or had a lot more things happening) so he had two volumes of logs: Volume 1 and Volume 2. Unfortunately, I have a difficult time finding anything concerning the Bernardo O’Higgins in the war diaries.

This voyage started on May 4, 1945 and Cliff Collins was placed as a carpenter on this ship as well.

This next story is interesting in that it is the basis of one of grandpa’s stories which isn’t quite the truth! Three weeks after departing San Francisco (on June 15, 1945 at 1330) grandpa “got a steel splinter in his eye while drilling a hole in a steel deck with an electric drill.”  It didn’t get better by the next day but nothing could be seen in his eye.  On June 18th he was sent ashore at Tacloban, Leyte, Philippine Islands where a splinter was removed and the eye treated. He was seen again in Manila on June 24, June 30, and July 5 at the 80th General Hospital. His vision had become impaired by a scar encroaching on his pupil. A medical report, however, stated his vision was improving satisfactorily. What we all thought was that his ship hit a mine and that’s how the metal got into his eye.  That’s not how I read the log however 😊.

Another story we heard was that he was on a ship who was hit by another ship which sliced off the bow of this ship that he was on!  Here’s the story in the log [items in bracket are my comments]…

9/5/45 – 1134 While vessel was at anchor off San Francisco due to intense fog she was rammed by the S.S. Burbank Victory. The ship’s bell of the S.S. Bernardo O’Higgins was being rung continually due to the condition of the weather. The ramming vessel hit this vessel along the starboard side causing #1 life raft to be torn from rack, #1 lifeboat torn off, #2 life boat severely punctured, bulwark & hull plating completely torn from after end of #1 hatch extending forward to carpenter’s shop [this was grandpa’s shop] and from main deck to tween[?] deck level. The colliding vessel with Captain Lauraas[?] as master was traveling at an excessive speed under the prevailing conditions of the weather giving her no chance to stop to avoid an accident within the limited range of visibility. Immediately after the collision bilges were sounded and found to be dry, whereupon the master of this vessel deemed the vessel to be safe but not seaworthy.

Although scary I’m sure – not the doom and gloom from my grandfather’s story!

So what’s next?  Maybe I’ll put all of this together and send it in to get grandpa a DD-214 which means he’d be eligible to receive a military marker for his service in the merchant marines!  Heh – dealing with the Department of Defense, Coast Guard and the Veteran’s Administration – won’t that be fun!





What Am I?

Or… Where do I come from?

One of the reasons people take DNA tests is to figure out their genetic history. They want to prove their connection to a certain place, race, or ethnicity.

Lately, I’ve seen commercials where people were surprised they had Native American ancestry… or they thought they were from one region and their DNA says they’re from another… In my family, we’ve always been told that we had some Cherokee blood… but none is indicated in my DNA (maybe it’s too diluted by generations to be seen).

Now I’m just wondering how accurate all of this “science” is…

I just got an email from MyHeritage that provided me their interpretation of my ethnicity:

Ethnicity Data from MyHeritage


What’s interesting, however, is that my earlier report from Ancestry is a quite different:

Ethnicity Data from Ancestry


So now I’m confused!  Am I European? Or English? Looking at this table, there is a huge difference in my percentages…

  Ancestry MyHeritage
West Europe 44 20
Ireland 32 16
Great Britain 9 49
Iberian 7 15
Other 2

When you get right down to it, however, there are no real surprises to me except the “Iberian” connection.  Through my genealogical research, I knew most of my ancestry came from the United Kingdom (Ireland & England) and much came from Germany/France.  The only odd thing that I can’t really find is the “Iberian” connection.

But, as both companies will tell you, these numbers are only estimates based on statistics.  So there is enough slop in the forumlae so that you can’t determine accurately what your genetics tell you – at least not yet.

Maybe in the future, there will be a breakthrough.  For now, these systems are more like guesstimates!  From all of this information, I’m putting down my “Iberian” connection down to the built in slop (fudge factors) in the science.

Genealogical Research is Fun!

Well… has really helped the masses find family and research their ancestors. And now that AncestryDNA is available, more people are jumping on the bandwagon as it were. And, since its “DNA” it has to be true. Unfortunately, many of these people are missing one major aspect: verification.

As a technical writing instructor at our local community college, I try to teach people to think logically and question everything.  Somehow, I think this same skill set needs to be taught to new genealogists as well. All data should be verified!


One example is my 4th great-grandfather Isaac Shannon (I’ve mentioned him in a previous blog concerning his slave ownership). My AncestryDNA found a 4th-6th cousin of mine with Isaac Shannon also being this person’s 4th great-grandfather.  This is a cool feature in that I can sometimes find new or missing information from other peoples’ research which saves me a LOT of time.  Unfortunately, that is the problem with many people.  They save the time; but don’t check the facts.

Here’s the basic facts of Isaac’s life as reported by many people using Ancestry: He was born about 1799 in Kentucky. He likely married Jemimah Black in about 1821 in Texas. And then he died during or after 1863 in either Texas (major consensus) or Illinois.

So how true is any of that? 

Well, I believe the birth information is likely true.  He (or someone who knew him at his residence) reported to the census takers in the Federal Census of 1850 and the 1860 Federal Census that he was born in Kentucky.  Also the reported age was 51 and 61 years old respectively both of which point to his birth being in 1799.  And I do believe the census information I’ve found corresponds to the correct Isaac Shannon (there were a few that I’ve found so far).

This Isaac Shannon was living in the expected county and state and was married to a person with the expected first name.  Does this make the information absolutely true? Not necessarily – there could have been multiple Isaac Shannons each married to a woman named Jamimah all living in the same county in Arkansas!  But that’s not very likely. So the information is as accurate as we can make it since they didn’t have birth certificates back then and no known Bible exists with the information in it.

The marriage information is less guaranteed in my opinion. The information comes from a “… unique collection of records … extracted from a variety of sources including family group sheets and electronic databases.” This means that the source is from unverifiable information. Not only that, but Isaac was born in Kentucky, and Jemimah was born in one of the Carolinas about 1804.  Everything I have found has them living in Arkansas from at least 1821 (via tax records) to 1863.  It’s possible, but I don’t see them both travelling from their birth states to Texas – find each other – get married – and then move to Arkansas in the same year.  You gotta remember – any travelling would have been in horse drawn carts or the like. So, is the date accurate? Could be; but I’ve found no real proof.  Is the location accurate? Who knows – I sure don’t.

Finally, the death of Isaac has two different locations and years.  A prevailing number of Ancestry trees has him dying in Texas in 1865. Others have him dying in Illinois in 1863.  The first is interesting in that the sources used to show that he died in 1865 in Texas are other peoples’ Ancestry trees – which is to say – there is no proof.

The second death date was actually fun to disprove.  If you search Ancestry for “Isaac Shannon” you will find all sorts of information.  And, if you go to (a military records resource) and do the same search you will find even more information.  I’ve found a minimum of three that were living during the Civil War era: a 60 year old man living in Arkansas, an 18 year old man in Texas, and a dead Union soldier with orphaned children in Indiana (who is clearly not my ancestor).

First off… there IS an Isaac Shannon that died of unknown causes as a prisoner of war at Camp Butler, Illinois in February 23, 1863 after being captured a month earlier.  However, if someone were to ask questions – one of them might be “Why did an Arkansan join the Confederate Army in Texas?” Another question might be “Why is a 62 year old joining the Texas Cavalry?”

So I did a little more digging at (which is a subscription service).  If we look at the 25th Texas Cavalry Isaac Shannon, we find out he was 18 years old when he joined (see the picture above)! He actually joined an infantry regiment that was later transformed into the cavalry regiment. This is obviously not my 60 year old Arkansan 4th great-grandfather.

A little more research shows that my Isaac Shannon signed a Bond of Obedience in Washington County, Arkansas on 5 February 1863 which states that he is, has been, and will be obedient to the United States government.

So… did MY Isaac Shannon die in a prisoner of war camp in Illinois? I’m pretty sure the answer is “No.”  However, one word of mouth story has reached me that he and his family did move to Texas for the duration of the war.  If that is the case, then it must have happened after he signed the Bond of Obedience in Arkansas.

So when and where did he die?  Well, the 1870 Federal Census has a J. Shannon (Jemimah?) living with a W. H. and Sarah Shannon (which just so happens to match William Henry – Isaac’s and Jemimah’s son’s initials) back living in Arkansas. There is no sign of Isaac Shannon in this census.  So maybe the word of mouth fact of them moving to Texas to wait out the rest of the Civil War and the unproven statements that he died in Texas about 1865 are true?  I honestly don’t know – but it’s a place to start searching for old newspapers, tombstones, and the like.

And that is what genealogical research is about…


Ancestry DNA

It’s been a long time coming (I’ve been planning on submitting my DNA to Ancestry for quite a while now but kept spending my money on other useless stuff); but I’ve finally ordered and received my DNA kit from Why? Because I’m a genealogy and technogeek.


One real reason is that I wanted to see where the family comes from (as far as the DNA reports). My research, so far, goes back to the mid-1700s and the only countries outside of the United States that I’ve found direct ancestors to have come from is Ireland, Scotland, Germany, and France (specifically the Alsace-Lorraine region).  Check out a previous post in my blog to learn more about this Alsace-Lorraine discussion.

Another reason is that is able to match up my DNA with other peoples’ DNA that indicate we are related somehow.  This can help us find new information concerning our family tree.

There are concerns that people have and/or are warned about.  Ancestry, and the other private companies, have been approached by law enforcement to get DNA results for specific individuals. So, if you plan on committing a crime AND leaving DNA behind – you best not give away your DNA samples.  For me, however, the government already has my DNA from my time in the military (easier for them to identify my remains even if I left no fingerprints or dental behind). So… I’m busted anyway if I leave a random hair behind at a crime scene.  Guess I’ll have to go out of my way to not commit any crimes.

Another concern is that the private DNA companies might sell or give away our DNA data to other companie (like the insurance folks). The concern is that if the insurance company finds out your genetically susceptible to some disease, they won’t insure you or they’ll charge you a higher premium.Currently, Ancestry’s privacy policy says that they won’t. And, if you do allow them to, when they provide your DNA results to 3rd parties they will de-identify you. The 3rd party will get your results but won’t be able to know where they came from. Even if all this changes, it still won’t bother me. My insurance is already paid for for my life.  Unless the government fails, I’m covered.

So, I opened it up and found all the pieces…

AncestryDNA Kit Exposed

And, I was a little shocked to see how much saliva I was going to have to supply.  It looked like a LOT.  But then I noticed that the tube was already mostly filled.  Turns out I needed to provide about 1/4 teaspoon worth. Everything underneath the activation code label is filled; so it wasn’t too hard to fill it up.

AncestryDNA Sample Tube

Now all I have to do is wait 6-8 weeks for them to analyze the sample!  Once they do that, I’ll write another blog to let you know how it went.

If you would like to order a kit to check out what your DNA says about your genealogy or ethnic background… use this link (you’ll get the kit cheaper at $89 and I get a $10 gift card). Typically, the non-sale price of the kit is $99, I got it on sale (which ends today) for $79.  And there is a $10 shipping fee; but I found a free shipping coupon code on

On the Oregon Trail

Part of the “fun” that I have with genealogy is learning more about our family’s and our country’s history.  The more I delve into our family, the more I want to learn about what they endured and/or thrived through.  Recently, I found a note that one set of my 4th great grandparents (on my mother’s side) headed west on the Oregon Trail! So, I thought I’d share what I found.

First the family…  Much of what I found was first reported by Gordon S. on the Find A Grave website for this family. I then went on to find additional and/or source information from the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management.

John Christian Emrich was born and baptised in the Spring of 1797 in Carroll County, Maryland to John and Elisabeth (Lorisch) Emrick (also spelled Emerick) who, it is believed, were of German descent. He later was known simply as Christian Emrick. Within a few years of the turn of the century, about 1804, the family moved to Columbiana County, Ohio. After John’s death in 1821, Elisabeth moved to Germantown, Pennsylvania where she died about 1845.

Christian married his wife whose name was either Catherine Weems or, as her daughter claimed, Mariah Catherine Venning in September 1818 in Ohio. Little is known of her ancestry at this time. They later moved to Illinois and a few years after that to Missouri.  I can’t help but wonder if they just wanted to get away from civilization!  The further west the country expanded, the farther west they moved.  You can view their travels on this map.


For whatever reason, they decided to travel the not quite 2200 miles from Missouri to the Oregon area. Remember, it did not even become an official territory of the United States until August 1848 and wouldn’t become a state until 1859.  This trip was expected to take between 4 and 6 months!

It seems that a major worry of the emigrants was attacks by the indians; but this was actually a rare occurance and, it is believed,  that the attacks that did occur were usually just white bandits. The American Indians were actually helpful to those that were in need.

The other major worry was cholera.  It is estimated that, of the 300,000-500,000 people that went to Oregon, 6-10% died due to disease. That is what happened to my 4th great grandmother.

However, she didn’t die of cholera; it is suspected that she died of Mountain Fever which is a catch all term for a variety of potential diseases. The NPS source states, “The diseases that fit these symptoms are: Rocky Mountain spotted fever, typhus, typhoid fever and scarlet fever.” She died a little over half way along the trail near Bear River in Wyoming (somewhere near the southwest corner of present day Wyoming) in 1848. She would have been about 47 years old.


Christian kept on after this tragedy. Ultimately he made it to Washington County, Oregon. Later, he obtained land near his son, Solomon, near Oregon City, Oregon. He died in 1851 just three years after making the trip to Oregon.  US, Indexed Early Land Ownership and Township Plats, 1785-1898 - Christian EMRICK

His daughter, my 3rd great grandmother, Sarah did not go to Oregon. By the time her parents and brother headed up the Oregon Trail she was on her second of three marriages. And, as it turned out, the 2nd marriage is the one that ultimately led to me!

Skeletons in the Closet

I have known for a long time that most of my family (on both sides) came from the south. Most of them fought for the Confederate Army.  And I sort of took a perverse pleasure in that I came from a stock of rebels. And, I’ve always been proud, in some sort of way, that those relatives never actually owned slaves – at least so far as I’ve found.

Back in the Summer of 2015 Ben Affleck caused a bit of a crisis in the TV show “Finding Your Roots” when they found an ancestor of his was a slave owner. He tried to get the show (or at least the information about the slave owning ancestors) suppressed. At the time I thought that this was a bit silly. I mean, why worry about what your ancestor did?  What they did doesn’t describe who you are, does it?

Mr. Affleck isn’t the only one with this problem. I watched another documentary that discussed some of the issues of the relatives of Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler not too long ago and felt bad for those relatives! Their entire lives seemingly defined by what their infamous relations did.

1850 Federal Census - Slave Schedule

Recently, while working on my direct ancestors, I found some slave owners in my history in the 1850 Federal Census – Slave Schedules. On my dad’s side of the family, my 4th great grandfather (my father’s mother’s father’s mother’s mother’s father) Samuel S. Porter owned nine slaves. My 5th great grandfather on my mom’s side (my mother’s father’s mother’s father’s father’s mother’s father) William Black Jr. owned six slaves. I also found William Black’s son-in-law and my 4th great grandfather Isaac Shannon also owned eight slaves in 1860.

When I found this information, I didn’t know how to feel. Elated that I found new information as a genealogist and let down that I couldn’t be “proud” I had no slave owner ancestors.  And then these conflicting emotions hit me while I was talking about genealogy with someone at work. This someone, oh by the way, is of mixed race (half white & half African-American).  It wasn’t until after the discussion (where, yes, I did mention these slave owners) I started wondering if I put my foot into my mouth somehow.  To me, this was a historical and research discussion. But that was not likely how these things are thought about by others!

I wonder what happened to these slaves.  I know that William Black died before the Civil War. So, I can hope that his will freed them. I’ll need to travel to the county where he died and find the probate records. I couldn’t find Samuel Porter in the Slave Schedules for Porter in 1860, so I can hope he set them free.  And Isaac Shannon moved from his home in Arkansas to Texas during the middle of the Civil War (to get away from it); not sure how convenient it would have been to travel with slaves at the time – so I can hope that he set them free first. But that’s unlikely.

So… the fact that these three families were slave owners is important; but it isn’t all there is to these peoples’ lives.

William Black, for example, was a Captain of 1st Company in Major H. Rennick’s Mounted Battalion of  Kentucky Volunteers under Gen. Andrew Jackson during the Creek War of 1812 as can be seen by these sources:

Samuel Porter seemed to be a contrarian politically speaking and ended up owning about 600 acres of land. He was a devoted Baptist and an “old-line Whig” in politics.

Isaac Shannon is currently lost to me. I can’t find where or when he died. I do know that his wife and family moved back to Arkansas after the war.

Anyway… our family has the spectre of being descended from Confederates and slave owners. Does that have a bearing on who we are? Or how we act? I don’t think so; but then I don’t come from ancestors who were the slaves!

Von Flaugh – Shotgun Accident

While randomly researching names in the online newspaper archives (when I had a subscription to I found some interesting stories.  This is one of those stories…  [heh – that reminds me of the start of the old TV series Dragnet].

It turns out that weapon accidents are nothing new.  I found my great-grandfather, Von Flaugh, (my mother’s mother’s father) had an accident with a shotgun that, apparently, messed him up pretty badly.

Before we get into the details, let’s look at some basics.

Von Flaugh

Von was…

  • born in March 1889 in Pagosa Springs, CO
  • lived in Pagosa Springs until 1905 when he moved to La Plata, NM
  • lived in La Plata, Aztec, and Flora Vista until 1935 when he moved to Ignacio, CO
  • died in Ignacio in September 1936

This map shows you these locations and, something I find interesting, is that he lived his entire life within 70 miles (as the crow flies) of where he was born.

Some other items of note; Von…

  • married Lucy Jeanette Johnson in March 1912
  • had my grandmother, Margaret Etta Flaugh, in January 1913
  • wounded himself in November 1913
  • had my great uncle Herbert Flaugh in May 1914
  • registered for the draft in June 1917

I bring these up because the timing of the accident is fortuitous. The accident happened after his wedding and subsequent birth of my grandmother – without whom I would not be here to write this blog!!

So, here’s the story I’ve been leading up to… this info is pretty much straight from the December 7, 1913 issue of the Albuquerque Morning Journal newspaper with a shorter version of the incident in this reproduction of an article from the December 5, 1913 issue of the Farmington Enterprise newspaper. The date on the reproduction is incorrect stating this happened in 1918; I’ve personally viewed a microfiche copy of the actual 1913 paper and found it.

At the time Von and his wife (and his parents) were living in La Plata, NM while her parents were living about 15 miles away near Aztec, NM. And, while Lucy was visiting her parents, Von went hunting rabbits [heh – now I’m thinking of Elmer Fudd].  After a while, he decided to head back to the house. Fortunately (?) he saw someone riding a wagon from Bloomfield to Aztec and asked to catch a ride (most people didn’t own automobiles back then).

He got up into the wagon and placed the shotgun on the floorboard butt down between his legs. Unfortunately, the floorboards shifted and the shotgun slid down between the boards allowing the hammer to strike and fire the weapon!

The entire shot went into his leg (tearing off an 8 inch chunk) and then entered his groin!

He was taken to Farmington General Hospital (a good 20 miles away or so) where he stayed for at least two weeks.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find when he was discharged.

He survived for another 23 years with this wound; but still died at the young age of 47 years old. By all accounts, when he died it was from complications associated with this accident. My Uncle Bob (a doctor no less and the grandson of Von) tells me that it could have been an embolic stroke or an infection that ultimately caused Von’s death.

If this happened today, he would have likely been at the hospital and in surgery within the hour via our local Air Care helicopter.  Back then… not so timely.

Twenty miles in a buggy? Ouch. Even if if they did have an automobile nearby it would have likely been a Ford Model T which could get up to 40-45mph. Now drive that Model T about 20 miles over dirt roads! I’m not sure which would be worse.  Once you get to the hospital, you’re looking at him getting medical care from doctors that have never heard of a World War (World War One won’t start for another six months or so).

So, once again, I find a story that basically tells me that I shouldn’t complain about my life when it goes nuts! The people in my past have had it much harder.  I can only wonder if our descendants (well, I have none, but my niece’s descendants) will think the same thing about us.




And you think YOU have it bad…?

William Cannon Johnson was born in 1849 in Carroll or Winston County, Mississippi. Lydia Jeanette Carver (also known as Lydia Junnette Carver) was born in 1852 in Winona which is part of Montgomery County, Mississippi. They were married in 1871 or 1872 in Grenada County, Mississippi. These are my 2nd great grandfather and grandmother (they are my mother’s mother’s mother’s parents).

Oh, for people that knew Aunt Ethel (Ethel McCoy Johnson Utton), this is her dad.

They had twelve children born between them starting in 1872 and going until 1895! Unfortunately, seven had passed away by 1915 (and five of those in a 22 day span)!

Yes, you read that correctly. Five of their children died between September 10th and October 2nd of 1891. All of these died due to complications from Typhoid fever due to moving to a new homestead with a contaminated well.

Their two oldest children, both girls, died at ages 18 and 17 in September. Then within two days of each other the three other children died at ages 9, 7, and 5.

These are the stories I think about when I start to throw a pity party for myself.  I will never have it as bad as they lived it!

You can check out the basic stats I have of their family here.

And you can check out a copy of the 1915 obituary for William Johnson here.  

Fischers and Horneys Come to America

A lot of times the sources used while researching the family history are confusing and/or have a lot of errors. Or it could be that I’m just ignorant of what was going on at the time and the source information is accurate, but it just doesn’t make sense without some crucial bit of knowledge. Sometimes you have to delve into the history of the times just to figure out what is going on with your ancestors.

One good example of this is the birthplaces of my Fischer and Horney ancestors (on my dad’s dad’s side of the family).  One great great great grandfather, Eustache Fischer, came to America around 1889 while my other 3rd great grandfather, Nicolas Horney, came in 1860. Both of their families ended up in Goliad County, Texas. The families MAY have known each other before they came to America because Nicolas was married to a Fischer in 1849; but this is conjecture at this point.

The interesting thing to note about many of these men’s children is that the place where they report their birth country changes over the various census dates. And this is confusing if you’re trying to keep accurate information.

Every 10 years the US government holds a census where it keeps track of the country’s population with a few questions asked of every person in the country at the time.  Two questions consistently asked is when and where you are born.

Selestine Horney (Eustache’s son) eventually married Isabelle Fischer (Nicolas’ daughter) about 1890 in Goliad County, Texas.  But let’s figure out where they were born (the information here was taken from the various censuses):

Census Selestine Isabelle
1870 France Moved to USA in late 1880s.
1880 France
1900 Germany Germany
1910 Germany France
1920 France France
1930 Died in 1929. France
1940 France

The records for the 1890 were destroyed in a fire; so there is no information for that census.

Now you’d think people would know where they were born; so why is this so confusing?  It also gets a little weird when you look at other aspects of the questions asked and answered in some of the censuses.

The 1920 census asks where each person was born and what their mother (original) language was spoken at home. The response for Isabelle and Selestine (his name is misspelled in the census): Born in France, Speak German!! Now what the heck are we supposed to make out of that?

Eventually I came across a form for Isabelle called the “Alsace-Lorraine, France Citizenship Declarations (Optants), 1872”.  I had to do some reading on to figure out what this was about; but, before we get into that, we need a little bit of history.

This Alsace-Lorraine region had been under frequent contention between Germany and France.  As an article at states, France wanted the Alsace-Lorraine area because it was geographically a part of France. Germany, on the other hand, said it should be part of that country since most of the inhabitants spoke German!   Ahhh – so that’s where the French birth location with German as the mother tongue came from for Isabelle and Selestine.

It turns out that, following the Franco-Prussian War (Jul 1870 – May 1871), the Alsace-Lorraine region of land was transferred from France to Germany.  And it was part of Germany until the end of the First World War when it was ceded back to France in 1918. So, from 1870 and before and 1920 and later this was France while during the 1880-1910 census this area was German.

This whole thing must have been confusing to the census takers who likely weren’t well versed in the history of the area; and, to make matters worse, they were getting answers from German speakers that said they were from France.

Now, back to the Citizenship Declarations (Optants) form.  If people were in the area after “ownership” of the Alsace-Lorraine region was transferred from France to Germany, they had to change their citizenship from French to German. They could declare that they would maintain their French citizenship which would then be published in bulletins. If they chose to remain French, they had to immigrate to France (many of them immigrated to American instead).

So, two siblings could have been born in the same house – yet be from two different countries. In 1870 they would have been born in France; in 1872 they would have been born in Germany.

After all of that you might be thinking – wow – good thing that doesn’t happen in the good ole US of A.  Wrong!  It does.  In the early days, state borders and county borders changed!  This is not as drastic; but if you’re doing research and know that your ancestor was born in one county – but you go look him up at the county courthouse – you might not find him.