Category Archives: history

$100 Million Legacy Released a Century Later

There was an interesting story this week about one of the most unusual wills in American history. It appears that about a century ago, one of the richest men in America must have been very upset with his immediate family.

Hon. Wellington R. Burt, a large timber baron in Michigan, died in 1919 and left his fortune to his family. Nothing unusual about that. But one condition stipulated in the will brought this large legacy into the news in 2011.

Wellington Burt’s fortune was not to be distributed to his family heirs until 21 years after all of his grandchildren who were living in 1919 had died. That condition has just been met, and the $100 to $110 million legacy is about to be released.

You may be surprised to see who has family ties to this history book event. Within the 25,000 plus relatives in the Family Forest kinship report (see question number ten) of Hon. Wellington R. Burt are a number of instantly recognizable names.

Some of the other wealthy Americans are Wall Street icon Warren Buffett (7C3R), AOL founder Steve Case (6C3R), Mrs. King Ranch Henrietta Maria Morse Chamberlain (7C), firearms manufacturer Colonel Samuel Colt (7C), department store heir Marshall Field V (6C3R), Wall Street legend JP Morgan (7C1R), and eBay executive Meg Whitman (7C3R).

Some of the entertainers are Humphrey Bogart (8C1R), Spring Byington (6C2R), Agatha Christie (6C2R), Cindy Crawford (8C4R), Bruce and Laura Dern (8C2R & 8C3R), Jane and Peter Fonda (6C3R), Matthew Fox (6C5R), Dorothy and Lillian Gish (6C4R), Ernest Hemingway (8C2R), Dennis Hopper (6C5R), Tom Mix (6C2R), Anthony Perkins (6C3R), Robert Redford (6C5R), Christopher Reeve (5C4R), Tim Robbins (6C5R), Pat Robertson (7C4R), Tennessee Williams (6C2R), and Jonathan Winters (6C4R).

And some of the politicians are both Presidents Bush (7C2R & 7C3R), Rep. Ed Case (6C3R), Sir Winston Churchill (6C2R), President Grover Cleveland (6C1R), Vice President Charles Curtis (6C1R), Vice President Charles Gates Dawes (7C2R), President Gerald Ford (6C3R), President Richard Nixon (8C3R), Governor Sarah Palin (6C5R), President Franklin Pierce (5C1R), Vice President Nelson Rockefeller (6C3R), Governor Mitt Romney (5C4R), and President William Howard Taft (8C1R).

I am a 7C4R of Hon. Wellington R. Burt, and the Family Forest® is a People-Centered Approach To History®.

Leave a comment

Filed under A People-Centered Approach To History®, Ancestors, Ancestral History, Descendants, Family Forest, Family Forest National Treasure, Family History, Genealogy, Hollywood, Legacy, Uncategorized, Wellington R. Burt

The Kindness of Strangers

A new Family Forest® customer wrote “Actually, I had no idea about that. Thank you so much! That’s fabulous! Most of my information is from census records and marriage records, which, as you know, are quite impersonal. I will definitely have to check out that book.” 

Elizabeth was writing about a story our ancestral history tour guide service discovered about one of her own ancestors. 

With two of his brothers and their father, young Samuel Boyd was in a skirmish in South Carolina in the American Revolution. He was left for dead after a musket ball passed through his temple and took out his right eye. An old colored woman found him and took care of him until he was able to get away. 

He did not have any children at the time, but after surviving a shot to the head, he went on to become an early pioneer settler in Kentucky and father of a large family of children who became the ancestors of many living people today. 

What if that kind old colored woman had not befriended Samuel at that critical time? Would his descendants have never been born? Or would they have been born as someone else? 

While we’ll never know the answer to that, we do know something else for certain. History pivots on small events, including the kindness of a stranger. 

The story about Samuel’s pivotal Revolutionary event and his ensuing full life begins on page 121 in the 1892 Autobiography and Sermons of Elder Elijah Martindale by Belle Stanford.

1 Comment

Filed under Ancestors, Ancestral History, Family Forest National Treasure, Family Forest® Project, Genealogy, history

It is Well with My Soul

Last Sunday we were treated to a captivating organ recital at church by our organist and choir director, Dwight Beacham. Before he played “It is Well with My Soul” he told us the poignant story behind the hymn.

Horatio Gates Spafford was a prominent lawyer in Chicago, IL who had suffered devastating losses as a prelude to writing this popular hymn. Two years after his family had lost all of their possessions in a fire in 1871, he was planning to take his wife and four young daughters, aged two to eleven, aboard the steamer “Ville de Havre” to visit Europe.

He was unable to leave with them and expected to catch up with them soon. Before he could, he received news of the sinking of the “Ville de Havre” in which 287 people perished. The terse telegram message from his wife Anna said only “Saved alone.”

Horatio wrote “It is Well with My Soul” while at sea passing over the site of that tragedy on his way to reach his wife.

So I came home and quickly discovered that Horatio Gates Spafford was not yet in the Family Forest and that I needed to do some research to connect him in (no one gets into the Family Forest until they are connected by birth, marriage or occassionally adoption to someone who is already in).

Before I found Horatio I found his father, also named Horatio Gates Spafford. He was mentioned in a book of letters written by Thomas Jefferson, who held Horatio, Sr. in high regard.

Last night I ran a Family Forest kinship report for Horatio the hymnist. It was relatively short as far as these reports go, 60 pages versus the normally 6,000 plus pages for anyone who has been connected into the royal channel, and I was expecting to see only a couple of recognizible names.

Instead, I found the person associated with the term “And You Were There,” Walter Cronkite (6C3R), playwright Tennesse Williams (also 6C3R), and seven US Presidents. They were President Arthur (6C), both Presidents Bush (6C4R and 6C5R), President Ford (6C4R), President Cleveland (husband of a 6C2R), President Garfield (6C1R), and President Hoover (4C4R).

I wonder if any of those presidents knew of their family ties to those four little girls who lost their lives to bring this hymn to so many people?

I wonder how many everyday people know of their family ties to this hymn and the story behind it?


Filed under Ancestral History, Family Forest, Family Forest National Treasure, Family Forest® Project, Genealogy, history, Horatio Gates Spafford, Spafford, Ville de Havre

Journey Back to Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941

Let us never forget what happened on this day 69 years ago at Pearl Harbor. Some of us can only remember it from the history books, the stories we have heard of heroes, and the movies we have seen. For some of our parents and grandparents, it is still a very vivid memory that changed their lives.

Now with the grand opening dedication of the new Pearl Harbor Visitors Center on the 69th Anniversary of the attack, this December 7th 2010 we have another way of honoring these men and women. We can visit there, take a journey back in time with the latest in digital technology, and reflect on what happened on that day in history. 

If you plan to attend here is a listing of the events: 

Watch Pearl Harbor the movie and see how it relates to you. 

Volunteer at the New Visitors center at:

Discover a captivating book about individual World War II soldiers and their stories at Everytown USA

1 Comment

Filed under A People-Centered Approach To History®, Pearl Harbor, World War II

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?


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

The Power of Goal Setting Proven by a US Senator

Long before Napoleon Hill wrote “Think and Grow Rich” at least one person was actually demonstrating the power of goal setting.

Often when announces some discovery they have just made, I look in the Family Forest® and find that we already have most or more of that same information already networked. This time we were lacking Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.

So while searching for any ancestral history that links to Ann Coulter, I found an 1893 book titled Creoles of St. Louis.

The book starts with a young girl, Marie Therese Bourgeois, who was “Left an orphan at a tender age, was placed under the care of the Ursuline Nuns at New Orleans, La., where she married, in 1749, Rene Auguste Chouteau, a native of Bearn, France. He came to New Orleans in early youth and engaged in business, and at the time of his death was possessed of considerable means.”

Before I found out who the author was talking about, I ran into the following passage on page 118 about one of that young orphan girl’s descendants.

Upon his leaving home he left the following document with his mother: “St. Genevieve, Mo., Jan. 16, 1832. On this day I left home, under charge of Mr. William Shannon, an old friend of my father, to go to Kaskaskia to study law in the office of Judge Pope. My education is very limited, but with hard study I may overcome it; I am determined to try and my intention is to return to my native State to practice law if I can qualify myself, and while doing so to become U. S. Senator from my native State, and to work for this until I am sixty years of age. I will pray to God to give me the resolution to persevere in this intention. I have communicated this to my mother and given her this paper to keep, so help me God.” In January, 1873, he was elected U.S. Senator from Missouri, and in the April following he was sixty years of age.

That determined young man who actualized his goal was US Senator Louis Vital Bogy.

Leave a comment

Filed under Ancestral History, education, Family, Family Forest, Family Forest National Treasure, Family Forest® Project, Genealogy, Goal Setting, history, US Senator

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.


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