Sunday, December 22, 2013

Strange Paths to the American Civil War

The search for our relatives can take us to places that are strange and unusual, places that we never thought we would go.  I have embarked on such a journey trying to find the brother of my paternal ggg grandfather.

Samuel Halls Senior seemed normal enough at first.  His greatest mystery was that of who his wife was, and when they married.  Nothing out of the usual for someone who married about160 years ago.  But in my search for who his wife was I also started looking for wills and obituaries, for both him and his brothers.  I found the wills of his brothers, but I still have not found Sam's will.  I found the obituary of Sam's brothers, and I found the obituary of Sam too.

Finding the obituary solved one mystery, maybe, the maiden name of his wife, which was Godbolt.  Sadly, it opened the door to still greater mysteries about Sam.  In his obituary there was a line, During the Civil War, in the United States, he went there and reported the incidents to the British Government.

This was a revelation.  There was nothing to indicate that Sam had ever been involved with the military in any way, or with the government, either in Canada or in England.  The only connection that I could find between Sam and the military was that his nephew's wife's brother (Henry Borbridge) was a Captain in the 6th Hussars down in St Thomas, in Elgin county, Ontario.  Sam and his nephew (Samuel Pollard Halls) both lived in Elimville at the time of the Civil War.

Regardless of what I could, or can, find about Sam' connection to the military, where else could I look?  So began my search for British observers of the American Civil War, and it quickly became apparent that it could be a long search.

Brtish Officers posed for photo, summer 1862
So what have I found? Many pictures of observers from various countries, including the British Empire.  This one, taken by James F. Gibson during the Peninsular Campaign in 1862.  It is titled Yorktown, Va., vicinity. English Officers at Camp Winfield Scott.

Only three of the individuals have been identified.  Charles Fletcher,seated on the far right, and Edward Neville, seated third from the right.  S.L. Arny is standing on the far right.  You can find it at the Library of Congress.

Fletcher, Neville, and Arny, among others, can also be see in the following picture.  This one is titled Prince De Joinville and Friends, at Camp Winfield Scott, Near Yorktown, May 1862.

A group of foreign observers with Union General van Vliet
Edward Neville is standing with his hand on Edward Fletcher's shoulder.  Who are the others?
The names given with the photo information are on the Library of Congress website.  Hopefully I have everyone on the right place.

The order appears to be, from left to right, standing, T. Anderson Esq., Lt Col Neville, Major A.J. Pearson, Comte de Paris (Philippe d'Orleans), G. Sheffield.

Seated on camp stools, left to right, are Lt Col Fletcher, Prince de Joinville (Francois d'Orleans), Gen Stewart van Vliet.

Seated on the ground, left to right S.L. Arny, Duc de Chartres (Robert d'Orleans)

So where does this leave me?  Reading to increase my knowledge of the Civil War, both modern analyses and source materials written at the time. Looking up pictures of General McClellan's staff, among others.  Eventually visiting the Library and Archives of Canada to see what they might have.

And who knows.  Maybe the writer of the obit got it wrong, and Sam was was a soldier.  Or maybe Sam was never there.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Shaking the Roots of the Tree

I received, out of the blue, an email from Danny Hall, a genealogist based in Salt Lake City, that questioned the first generation in my family tree, Halls From Devon to North America.  The reasoning and evidence he presented makes a compelling case as to why the current root individuals Thomas Halls and Margaret Tawton, should be replaced with John Halls and Mary Nelson.  The change is both major and minor.  Minor due to the fact that it is easy enough to adjust a tree when the first two individuals are being changed, major because it means a number of people who were not previously in the my tree will be added and tracked.

There is also the possibility that John and Thomas Halls were brothers.  They both lived in Meeth, and they married within two years of each other.  What I need now is to get more parish registers over a longer date range, and apprentice registers wouldn't hurt either to both solidify the relationships  and find more relations.

I have not made the changes yet, but I expect that I will make them in the next few weeks once things have settled.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Devon Headstone Links

It's been rather a while since I put anything up, so I thought I should get on with it.

I have found a few useful links of headstones in Devon
  • Devon Headstones - an alphabetical list of individuals and the inscriptions of the photographed headstones.  Pictures can be ordered by contacting the site owner here.
  • Of the Parish, a collection of photographs of from the City of Plymouth.  Headstone details and small, watermarked images are available online, but prints can be purchased too.
  • The Gravestone Photographic Resources project, specifically the section on Devon.
  • Tollhouse Allan's Devon Gravestone Set on Flickr, with about 100 pictures, but in no particular order.
Billion Graves does not appear to have any photos from Devon, and FindaGrave has no way to sort graves by county.

Finally, searches for phrases like "Devon Headstone/Tombstone/Gravestone..." will turn up large numbers of sites with small sets of photos that are of interest to the researcher who put them up.  Don't forget to search by placename as well.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Barlands House

I was out surfing the web, looking to see if anyone had posted family pictures or something of interest from the Merton to Dolton area of Devon.  Imagine my surprise to see that Barland House is for sale!  Barland House was the residence of William and his son Samuel Halls for a period of at least ten years between 1891 and 1901.  I never thought I would have the chance to see pictures of the interior.  The asking price is just shy of 800,000 pounds.  If you would like to see the listing it is at Zoopla, a real estate sales site.

This photo was taken sometime prior to 1930.  Note the contrast to the modern photo taken sometime in the past year.

As you can see the sunroom has been remodeled over the years and now extends past the window on its left.  In addition the lawn has undergone extensive infill/regrading and the steps to the lower lawn have been removed.  Finally, there seems to have been an extension or addition at the right of the house.

The front hall seems to have preserved much of the original woodwork of the bannister going up to the second floor.

All in all a very nice looking place.  A pity I don't have a spare 800,000 pounds about to buy it.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Obituary of Samuel Halls Junior

Today I was treated to a random act of genealogical kindness.  I opened up my Gmail this morning and found the obituary of Samuel Halls Junior from the April 3, 1930, edition of the Crystal Lake Herald.  It was sent to me by the president of the Crystal Lake Historical Society.  I am very grateful to Diana Kenney for her thoughtfulness.

The obituary quotes the Randall family in Crystal Lake as saying of Sam that, "To know him intimately was to love him" which I find a rather curious turn of phrase.  To me it indicates that Sam had a difficult public personality (Reserved? Prickly? Arrogant?...) but it covered a heart of gold.

It also confirmed a things I had suspected, but did not answer other questions I have.  It confirmed my suspicion that Sam liked horses and states that, "He was a particularly fine judge of horses and was especially fond of thoroughbred racers and trotters."

Sadly, it make no mention of the mysterious "Becky", the woman named as his wife on his death certificate. See this post for details of Sam's shenanigans with the women.

Small Victories

Sorry for the long silence since my last post.  I started full time as a college instructor in August of 2012, and the work load was just nasty this past fall/winter.  Next fall/winter should be much better, so more frequent posts.  The post you are about to read was started back in October of 2012.

James Reginald HallsA few days ago I found a picture of James Reginald Halls.  He was the only child of Philip Thomas Halls and Agnes Wood, and a grandchild of James Halls of Merton, Devon, and latterly of Elimville, Ontario.

Reg, as he was called, worked at a factory producing war equipment for the Allies in the small town of Whitby, Ontario.  I found the picture in the factory newspaper, The Commando, which has been digitized and placed online by the Pickering Ajax Digital Archive (PADA).

In another issue of The Commando I found a note of condolence to Reg and his wife Mary on the death of their daughter, Marilyn Phyllis Halls.  She was only 17.

It seems appropriate to finish this post on VE Day, the day we remember the Allied victory over the Nazis, which Reg, along with millions of others throughout the world, helped to bring about.  Theirs was a great victory.