Category Archives: Ancestors

Before there was a U.S.S. Spangler

We recently learned of the U.S.S. Spangler reunion which will be starting on Monday October 25, 2010 in San Antonio, TX.

Prompted by a great visit from Kristine’s cousin Jeannie, both nieces of the Purple Heart recipient the ship was named for, we began reading through a large stack of Uncle Donald’s letters and clippings that were still in the possession of his only living sibling and my outstanding father-in-law, nonagenarian Robert Kent Spangler.

Amid the sorrow of losing so much promise so early, what fun it was! New discoveries led to other new discoveries.

For instance, we found a letter written on the Fourth of July 1943 to Mr. and Mrs. Martin and Myrtle Elizabeth (Blue) Spangler (Donald’s mother, Mrs. Spangler christened the U.S.S. Spangler).

It was from Miss Velma V. Vogelman of Baltimore, MD who knew Donald from his Naval Academy days. She had just learned of his death through LIFE magazine, and she was writing on the anniversary of a significant day.

“On July 4, 1940 he came to Baltimore and spent the day with me and my parents. This day I shall always remember as one of the happiest in my life. He spoke often of his home and parents and how he would have enjoyed spending that particular day with you in Albion, Ind.”

We had never heard of a mention of Uncle Donald in LIFE. So we used Google Books and quickly found it in print in the July 5, 1943 issue on page 21.

We’re looking forward to following up on other discoveries from the letters and clippings. What other interesting insights to history are waiting to be found?

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Filed under Ancestors, Ancestral History, Cousins, Family Forest National Treasure, Family Forest® Project, Fourth of July, Genealogy, history, Independence Day, Reunion, Uncategorized, USS Spangler, Veterans Day, Women's History Month, World War II

Texas Heroes and Google Books

I’d like to share a fascinating ancestral history gem I discovered at Google Books this week. 

It involves early Texas heroes, and the essence of it has now been digitally lineage-linked in the Family Forest® to a more recent national hero from Texas. Literally millions of people, including probably you (I know I am one of them), relate to this story through their own family ties. 

Audie Murphy was a national hero from Texas, the most decorated American soldier in World War II. His biography, No Name on the Bullet, mentions that his family tree included such men as one of his great-grandfathers, John Berry, but gives no identifying details about John Berry or what he did. So I turned to Google Books in search of answers.

I found more than I was hoping for. It was hidden in a book from 1900 by A. W. Sowell titled Early Settlers and Indian Fighters of Southwest Texas. 

Within a six-page section about John Berry’s wife (titled Mrs. Hannah Berry) are details about who he was, what he did, and in particular the noteworthy service he performed for Davy Crockett shortly before the Alamo. But it was a statement about his wife, also an ancestor of Audie Murphy, which caught my attention. 

While she was still alive, Grandma Berry is said to have had “seventy-four grandchildren that she knows of, and one hundred and twenty-four great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren.” 

We now know what the author A. W. Sowell could not know; a half century later, Grandma Berry would become an ancestor of at least one Hollywood actor, the most decorated American soldier in World War II. 

How many thousands (tens of thousands?) of living descendants might Grandma Berry have now, a full century after she finished her historically eventful and productive life in Texas at the age of 91? How many of her descendants do not yet know of their own family ties to her, the Alamo, and Audie Murphy?

The National Treasure Hunt begins in Texas. See for yourself.

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Filed under A People-Centered Approach To History®, Ancestors, Ancestral History, Ancestry, Audie Murphy, Family Forest National Treasure, Family Forest® Project, Family Trees, Genealogy, Google, history, Hollywood, National Treasure, Texas, World War II

Chelsea Clinton Family Forest Kinship

Being curious about Chelsea’s big wedding event this weekend, we wondered how many of her Family Forest relatives might be attending. So we ran a Family Forest kinship report to see who she is known to be related to so far, and we posted the celebrity-studded report at our website.

No surprise that the results include one US President and one US Senator, but the report also contains another US Senator, a US Secretary of the Treasury, a Canadian Prime Minister, and one member of the British Royal Family.

In addition there are one famous author, one famous economist, the Dionne quintuplets, two Grammy-winning singing stars and two other equally well-known performers, and a number of other Hollywood celebrities including two famous directors, one of the most famous Hollywood actresses today, three Oscar-winning actors, and a couple of other equally well-known actors.

We’re waiting to see how many of them attend the event at Astor Courts.

Best wishes to Chelsea on her special day.

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Filed under Ancestors, Ancestral History, Ancestry, Astor Courts, Chelsea Clinton, Family Forest, Genealogy, Hollywood, Uncategorized, wedding, White House

Independence Day 2010

The Fourth of July always triggers many fun memories from childhood and later years that I cherish.

Yet I can’t help but wonder how much better those memories might have been, and how much more I would have paid attention in school, if it hadn’t taken more than 40 years to discover that I am personally connected through generation-by-generation family ties to the original Fourth of July and the struggle for American independence.

My wish is that our future leaders experience this enriching discovery while they are still in school, that this knowledge is given to them early enough in their life to make a meaningful impact in their lives and the lives of their families.

That is why the American Revolution has continued to be one of the top five focus areas of Family Forest® growth during the last 15 years.

It is also why we say that the Family Forest® National Treasure Edition can connect more people through family ties to more of the people, places, and events in American history than any other digital resource, either online or offline.

Happy Fourth of July!

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Filed under American Revolution, Ancestors, Ancestry, Family Forest National Treasure, Fourth of July, Genealogy, Independence Day

Early Long Island Ancestors of Celebrities in the National Treasure

A friend of ours is going to be exploring Long Island for the first time, and he asked if there was anything he could do to help spread the word about the Family Forest® Project while he was there. Some of you may enjoy knowing what I found when I explored in the National Treasure Edition for early Long Island ancestors and some of their notable descendants. You can see Ancestors-at-a-glanceÔ for many of those descendants listed below.

Samuel Blakeman PIN 107577: Matthew Fox, Jodie Foster  

Richard Borden PIN 284620: Tennessee Williams, Marilyn Monroe, Lizzie Borden, Lana Turner, Willie Nelson, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Christopher Van Hollen, Jr.  

William Bowne PIN 26736: President Abraham Lincoln, Senator Gary Hart

Alan Breed PIN 290857: David Hyde Pierce, Paul Giamatti, Vice President Dick Cheney  

Ensign Thomas Cornell PIN 246157: President Jimmy Carter, President Richard Nixon, Senator Bob Graham, Richard Henry Dana, Kyra Sedgwick, Edie Sedgwick, Marilyn Monroe, Lizzie Borden, Bill Gates, Senator John Kerry, Betty Grable  

John Hand PIN 502015: Frank Lloyd Wright, Anne Baxter, Ron Howard, Julie Bowen  

Barnabas Horton PIN 46455: Senator John Kerry, Jane Wyman, Patrick and Don Swayze, William Holden  

Thomas Lawrence PIN 331577: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt  

Captain William Lawrence PIN 98130: Christopher Reeve  

Judge Matthias Nicholls PIN 129015: Michael Douglas, Governor William Weld  

Louris Jansen Op Dyke PIN 504326: Shirley Maclaine, Warren Beatty  

Thomas Sayre PIN 43327: Jane, Peter, and Bridget Fonda, John D. Rockefeller, Sr., Admiral Dennis Blair, Marjorie Merriweather Post, Dina Merrill, Winston Churchill, Howard Dean  

Captain John Seaman PIN 327807: Clint Eastwood  

Lawrence Southwick PIN 281365: Winston Churchill, President Richard Nixon 

Lieutenant Nicholas Stillwell PIN 257162: Orville Wright, Wilbur Wright, Howard Hughes, Sonny Whitney (financier of Gone with the Wind), Anderson Cooper  

Dr. John Stites PIN 267240: Howard Hughes  

Thomas Talmadge PIN 62628: Dwayne Shattuck, Ernest Hemingway, Mariel Hemingway, Archibald Cox  

Captain Thomas Tappin PIN 119700: Cole Porter  

John Thompson PIN 284749: Lee Remick 

William Thorne PIN 43859: Sonny Whitney, Anderson Cooper, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Senator John Kerry, Betty Grable  

Robert Titus PIN 307171: Senator John Kerry 

Thomas Tobey PIN 274652: Raquel and Tahnee Welch 

Edward Treadwell or Tredwell PIN 43924: Steve Forbes  

Henry Tuthill PIN 17075: President Jimmy Carter, Elvis 

Captain Jan Thomasse Van Dyke PIN 43769: Vice President Hobart, Garry Trudeau, Oliver Platt, Maude Adams, Molly Ringwald, Paris and Nicky Hilton 

William Washburne PIN 523573: Senator Bob Dole, Ron Howard, Kevin Bacon, Senator John Kerry, President Richard Nixon, Johnny Carson, Walter P. Chrysler, Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal, Edwin Hubble 

Hon. Edward Howell PIN 46500: Jane, Peter, and Bridget Fonda, Howard Dean, Dick Clark, J.P. Morgan, Governor John D. Rockefeller IV

Daniel Whitehead PIN 559319: Sonny Whitney, Anderson Cooper

Thomas Whitney PIN 328293: Norman Rockwell, Mike Huckabee, both Presidents Bush, Bill Gates

Robert Williams PIN 523617: Senator Bob Dole, Ron Howard, Kevin Bacon

Barnabas Wines, Jr. PIN 327229: Jane Wyman, Patrick and Don Swayze, President Gerald Ford

Joris/George Woolsey PIN 352095: Senator John Kerry, Bill Gates 

Peter Wright PIN 5134: Elvis, Howard Dean 

Are you surprised that Long Island’s early settlers fathered offspring who would leave their marks so deeply etched in America’s culture and our history? To us, it is not surprising at all. We have daily access to the world’s most interconnected family history research tool: the Family Forest National Treasure Edition which, incidentally, is available online as a download.  Also, some of your ancestors probably have celebrity descendants, and you may want to check our website for our hundreds of ancestral history eBook titles with prices starting as low as $5.95.

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Filed under Ancestors, Ancestral History, Family Forest National Treasure, Genealogy, Long Island, National Treasure

Virkus Clarification and Correction

Those of you who are unfamiliar with Virkus’ The Abridged Compendium of American Genealogy (later The Compendium of American Genealogy) should know what it is and what it isn’t, what’s wrong with it, and if there are any redeeming qualities.

In short, you should know the truth about it, and far more importantly, what’s been done to it recently since it was published more than a half century ago. 

This massive work in seven volumes, published over a decade and a half between the 1920’s and the 1940’s, maps out verbally an enormously large swath of generation-by-generation American family history over basically a three century period. 

Despite the potential ancestral history value that promises, and the fact that it is the one genealogy resource that can be found in most libraries, conventional wisdom these days says that it should be avoided like the plague. 

It has been known for a long time that it contains many errors, but I’ve never seen anyone quantify that statement. Is it 30% errors? 40%? 50%? The much lower answer may surprise you. 

But what if the correct answer was that it contains 50% errors? That would mean that one out of every two statements or dates is wrong. 

The glass-half-empty thinkers will say this massive genealogy resource is useless. The glass-half-full thinkers will say “Wow! Wouldn’t it be great if we knew which half of this massive genealogy resource is correct?” 

Highly respected genealogist Donald Lines Jacobus said about it “because of the high proportion of known errors, conscientious genealogists do not use statements in this work without verification.” 

“It is often a useful reference work for those who know how to use it properly” he went on to say. 

Suppose a conscientious person with Mensa-level intelligence spent 15 years digitally indexing, in lineage-linked format, the Virkus collection along with hundreds of other books and periodicals, filtering out annoying and confusing duplication, error checking each entry against everything else that had been previously entered, and connecting them to each other wherever appropriate? 

There’s no need to imagine the enormous upgrade in quality and usability that has already happened to Virkus’ massive work (as well as to hundreds of other books and periodicals, including many from NEHGS and NYGBR). Just explore for yourself in the National Treasure.

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Filed under Ancestors, Ancestral History, Compendium of American Genealogy, Family Forest National Treasure, Family Forest® Project, Genealogy, National Treasure

Civil War Hero to Receive Overdue Medal

Associated Press reported yesterday on an American heroism story that was 147 years in the making. It actually relates personally, literally, to many Americans. 

Alonzo Hereford Cushing has finally been approved to receive the Medal of Honor, 147 years after he fell in battle at Gettysburg. It’s been known for a long time that his actions were worthy of praise. 

Alonzo was the subject of a poem entitled “The Last Man At His Guns” that appeared in an 1895 book by Henry Stevenson Washburn called “The Vacant Chair and Other Poems.” 

I ran a Family Forest® kinship for Alonzo to see who he is known to be related to. There were over 37,000 people, including a very wide range of Americans, mostly everyday people, and some famous. 

They include President Abraham Lincoln (7C), Major-General John Sedgwick who was also at Gettysburg (6C), President U.S. Grant (6C2R), potential California governor Meg Whitman (6C3R), New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. (5C6R), Oscar-winning actress Jodie Foster (6C5R), baseball star Chase Utley (6C5R), Hollywood icon Raquel Welch (9C3R), astronaut Alan Shepard (6C4R), Admiral Dennis Blair (9C3R), Admiral George Dewey (7C2R), Vice President Aaron Burr (5C4R), both Presidents Bush (6C4R and 6C5R), President Grover Cleveland (6C), Vice President Charles Dawes (9C), President Millard Filmore (7C2R), President Gerald Ford (7C1R), President Herbert Hoover (6C3R), Orville and Wilbur Wright (6C2R), Admiral Richard Worsham Meade (6C), Samuel Holden Parsons who was a Major General in the American Revolution (Half 2C3R), other Revolutionary Generals Elisha Porter (3C5R) and Moses Porter (4C4R), and Civil War Generals Montgomery Cunningham Meigs (5C1R), Charles Edward Phelps (6C3R), Walter Cass Newberry (7C2R), Charles Jackson Paine (5C), Edward Porter Alexander (Half 5C), and William Tecumseh Sherman (6C1R). 

Kinship reports like these illustrate the fact that the Family Forest® can connect more families personally, through actual family ties, to more of the people, places, and events in American and Old World history than any other resource.

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Filed under Alonzo Hereford Cushing, Ancestors, Ancestral History, Civil War, Family Forest National Treasure, Genealogy, history, National Treasure