29 March 2016

My Ancestral Birthplace Chart - Quite a Patchwork

Last week it was all the rage by my fellow Geneabloggers to create color-coded ancestral birthplace charts.  I finally got around to doing mine.  What I noticed primarily are two things --

First, mine is a lot less uniformed and more colorful than most everyone else's.  As someone who prizes roots, I don't think that is a good thing.  My ancestors it seems were always moving.  Other bloggers noted that anomalies in colors/places on a chart might be caused by a person not living where they were born.  But that is not my case at all.  My family was indeed on the move out of state with almost every generation.

Second, it is now very easy to see how I could move back here to Illinois and discover deep roots from both sides of my family.  That would not be possible anywhere else within the illustrated generations except in Pennsylvania, and even then it would be on a much smaller scale.

I still consider Nebraska my ancestral home although I have never lived there, I have so many Walker relatives who still do. I imagine if my mother's family had come straight from Kansas to California, my affection would be just as strong for Kansas.

My father and both his parents called Nebraska home.  My mom's mother called Kansas as home, my mom's father said the same of Arizona, and my mom considered California home.

Top State Relationships to Me
100% California
100% Nebraska
75% Illinois
62.5% Kansas
50% Arizona
all others below fifty percent

Very interesting and enjoyable exercise.  I hope ideas for similar exercises come forward.

Copyright © 2016 by Kevin W. Walker

24 March 2016

CDV of Josiah McKee (1844-1920)

Professionally cleaned up CDV of my 3xg-uncle Josiah McKee.  Brother of my 3xg-grandmother Mariam (McKee) Hall, on my mother's maternal side.

Josiah served as a private in Co. C, of the 33rd Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment, mustering in 1861 and mustering out in 1865.  He is part of my strange relationship with the 33rd Illinois, where I had two ancestral relatives of my mother serving in Co. C, and two ancestors of my father serving in Co. A.  A hundred years later my mother from Arizona and my father from Nebraska would meet in California, marry and conceive me.  No way they could have known.

Anyway, I have a lot more reporting to come on this interesting individual.

Thank you to my friend Christopher Evey who inherited from his ancestor this picture and still more of others of boys from Co. C.  He shared this with me and gave me permission to share it with you.  He is researching his ancestor John Leys who also served in Co. C.  If you want to contact him you can find him on Facebook or drop me a note and I will pass it along. 

Copyright © 2016 by Kevin W. Walker

21 March 2016

Amanuensis Monday: Transcription of the Chesley Family Civil War Letter

Side one.  Click to enlarge.

Side two.  Click to enlarge.

Apologies, but this is sort of a reprint of a previous entry into this blog.  The chief difference is I now have photo-copies of the letter to share with my readers.  As of two weeks ago, this letter now resides in the manuscripts collection at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, in Springfield, Illinois.

The letter is from my great-great-grandfather Charles H. Chesley to his wife Phoebe.

Here is the letter by letter transcription, all mistakes in spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. belong to my g-g-grandfather:

K Co. 8th Ill. Cav
Benton Barracks St. Louis Mo
June 28th, 1865 
Dear Phebe,
I received your letter of the 18th last night while in bed and was truly glad to hear from home once more.  We left Fairfax Station on the morning of the 19th.  I was taken quite ill at Fairfax Courthouse but after remaining a short time I went on to Washington where I overtook the regiment.  That evening we got on the cars of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, laid over one day at Cumberland and then came to Parkersburgh, West Virginia.  There we took Steam Boat and landed at Lawrenceburgh, Indiana on the 25th where we again got on the cars, passed through the States of Indiana and Illinois and landed here yesterday evening and here we are in Missouri.  How long we will stay or where we will go next I do not know, we hear a great many yarns in reference to our destination.  Some tell us we are going to Texas, some say we go to Kansas.  I think we will go to Illinois, but how soon I do not know.  I cannot believe we will remain here any great length of time.  I see nothing fixing up here to remain, another thing we are not getting any soft bread, no cooking utensils or other conveniences for staying any length of time.  I ought to have told you that my sickness was only temporary.  I had a friend who stayed with me and I soon recovered, and had quite a pleasant trip considering the inconveniences we had to contend with, having no opportunity to cook.  Only at Cumberland where we did a little cooking, and the Sanitary Commission gave us coffee.  When we landed at Lawrenceburgh the citizens very kindly invited us to dinner at there houses & had they known we were coming they would have given us a jublie dinner.  It is the first, last and only town we passed through where we were treated like white folks or where the people seemed to appreciate the services of the soldiers.  We are encamped on the most beautiful place I have been in since I enlisted.  Very level, all the Barracks painted white.  I think the grounds contain about 40 acres, probably more.  There are a great many troops here, and as far as I can learn they are all homeward bound, except the Missouri troops and the Regulars, this makes me believe we will not remain here any length of time.  We have very beautiful weather, not very hot, yesterday was quite cool with a little rain.  I am at present in very good health but somewhat tired after our long trip of twelve hundred miles.  Yesterday evening after we got into our Barracks one of Co. D was shot by the accidental discharge of a Carbine through the carelessness of another of the same Co.  He lived about 15 minutes but never spoke or showed any indication of being conscious of what was passing around him.  If you write soon direct your letters to me at Benton Barracks St. Louis Missouri instead of Washington.  When we leave here I will write to you immediately on stopping at the next place.  Having nothing more of importance to write, and hoping you are in good health, accept the love of your devoted Husband. 
C. H. Chesley
K Co. 8th Ill Cav

Copyright © 2016 by Kevin W. Walker

19 March 2016


I was researching the soldier named Luke Dickerman, Co. A, 33rd Illinois Infantry Regiment, Civil War, mentioned in the previous article on this blog. He lied about his age and mustered in at only sixteen years of age. He mustered in as a Private and mustered out as a Sergeant. 

He served under my 2xg-uncle Harvey James Dutton, who mustered in as a Sergeant and was promoted all the way to Captain before mustering out. 

I just discovered Luke Dickerman named his first born male child "Harvey James Dickerman." 


Copyright © 2016 by Kevin W. Walker

One Good (Genealogy) Deed Deserves Another

Regimental History of the 33rd Illinois Infantry, published 1902.
I have said it a thousand times and I will say it a thousand more, this blog pays me back.  Distant cousins or even complete strangers, for one reason or another Googling an ancestor's name find me, and out of the selfless generosity of their hearts they offer to share original documents, photographs, research, and heirlooms with me.  It just makes sense when the opportunity arrives that I make an effort to pay it forward.

As regular readers here know I have deep ties to the 33rd Illinois Infantry Regiment from the Civil War.  My 2xg-grandfather died under its banner, his brother in law, my 2xg-uncle rose from sergeant to Captain in its service, both these men behind my father.  Yet ironically, I also had two 2xg-uncles behind my mother also serving in the 33rd Illinois!  Who would have known?!  My mom from Arizona and my dad from Nebraska, met in California to marry and conceive me.  But they each had ancestors serving at the same time under these same Illinois regimental colors.  But I digress.

So it just made sense if I could get my hands on a copy of the published regimental history I should do so.  For the 33rd Illinois that book is History of the Thirty-Third Regiment Illinois Veteran Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War, 22nd August, 1861, to 7th December, 1865, by Virgil Way and Isaac Elliott, published 1902 in Gibson City, Ill by The [Regimental] Association.  I was truly blessed.  This book is over 290 pages, loaded with pictures, rosters, personal accounts of regimental actions, and official accounts of the regiment.  My ancestors are cited repeatedly, and one, the Captain, even contributed a chapter on the history of the company under his command.

Title page. Remember to click to enlarge. 
With the book being out of copyright, digital copies were easy to come by online, Internet Archive had one, Google Books, Hahti Trust, and even the State of Illinois website.  But this was important enough to me I wanted to buy a hard copy.  The problem is the darn hard copies are apparently in demand, and the lowest price I could find anywhere was $175.  I had nothing but time so settled in and waited for a good deal to appear.  Finally a copy appeared on eBay and the seller was asking the going price of $175.  So I decided to low ball him an offer and surprisingly, he took it!  I was elated!

When the book arrived it had an envelope glued to the inside:

And inside the envelope was a card:

Luke Dickerman served in Company A of the 33rd Illinois alongside both my 2xg-grandfather and his brother in law, my 2xg-uncle the Captain.  But the uniqueness of this does not stop there.  First off, the guy lied about his age to get in and was only sixteen years old.  Second, he rose to the rank of sergeant!  Third he was a primary source for the regimental history, an a few of his personal exploits are recorded.

And now I have one of his presentation copies of the book??  Hmm.

I want the book, okay?   If not this copy, then a different one.  I made the decision I would try to track down a descendant of Luke Diskerman or J.H. Dickerman, preferably direct, to give the card and envelope to, and offer to sell the whole book to them at the replacement value (or for a replacement if they could do better).

I Googled for someone qualifying, but I had little luck.  I sent private messages to individuals on Ancestry.Com weeks ago, and still have not heard a reply.  If after some time I strike out, I always have the option of making the offer to an indirect descendant.

In the meantime with this article I set the wheels in motion by asking my blog to lure a Dickerman descendant to me.  So go to work my little blog, do your job.  But instead of giving to me, it is time for me to give away.  I have nothing but time.

Copyright © 2016 by Kevin W. Walker

14 March 2016

Amanuensis Monday: Another Eyewitness Account of Civil War Railroad Accident that Killed Henry M. Walker, Sr.

(Click to Enlarge.)
The following is my transcription of a copy of a transcription of a letter appearing in the folder -- Edward H. and Duncan G. Ingraham letters, 1856-1865 (bulk 1861-1865) by Ingraham, Edward H. (Edward Henry), b. 1832 -- at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois.
Algiers     March 3, 1865 
Dear Anna,
     I received your last kind letter yesterday just after the occurrence of our railroad accident.  I may as well give you an account of it.  It was as fatal to our regiment as a sharp battle might have been.  We had received orders to report to Gen. A.J. Smith at the "Battle Ground" eight miles below new Orleans, and the morning train from Brashear City had gathered up all the companies of the regiment along the railroad except one.  Some are inclined to blame the engineer, but the officers have looked into the matter and think it to have been purely accidental. A horse and a mule were on the track before the engine. The engineer slackened speed, we came to a dry place in the swamp and the two animals left the track, whereat he put on steam again but just as we were fairly started the horse suddenly returned to the track and was run over.  The engine and the first car remained on the track; the next eight cars were thrown into a pile, five of them broken up.  It was a long train and about half a dozen cars in the rear were uninjured.  Eight men of the regiment were killed instantly, two of them ground to pieces.  Five more have since died and several I fear are mortally injured.  About 60 are disabled, most of them only temporarily.  I think our regiment will be delayed and probably we cannot go on the expedition at all.  I went over to New Orleans last night to see the wounded put away in the hospital.  The box car in which most of Co. B was riding was swung around off the track and partly capsized.  All were jarred and more or less sprained but only hurt serious enough to be sent to the hospital.  The statistics I have given you are not quite certain.  You will see the most correct account of it in the Chicago Tribune, Springfield Journal, and Bloomington Pantagraph.
     I hope Philander will not be compelled to leave home.  He is one of the sort most needed at home, I wish I could have some of those cowardly fugitives drafted.  If he should enlist, do you think he will come to the 33rd?  He could find better opening probably but we should like to see him here very much.  I will write again in a week or two.  Excuse such hasting writing.  We are in the Algiers depot expecting momentarily an order to move. 
Love to all from brother, Ned 
Direct New Orleans, La.
Our Col. (Lippincott) has been promoted this morning to Brig. Gen.
We continue to see some agreement and disagreement between the accounts of this event.  Almost always the numbers agree.  But there are differences if it was a mule and a horse or just a horse, and there are differences about which cars flipped.  Because this is a next day account and it is an eyewitness not newspaper reporter, I am inclined to give this the greatest weight as a source.  Other eyewitness accounts we have found were done from memory.

One new thing this account gives us is that it happened at a dry place in the swamp.  This could aid in identifying the actual location.

Copyright © 2016 by Kevin W. Walker

08 March 2016

No Love Left for Libraries?

My son and I just returned from a trip to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois.  We drove down there to donate the Chesley family Civil War letter to their archives, and to spend some time doing family history research.

The ALPL is arguably the preeminent research library for subjects relating to the history of the state of Illinois, the Civil War, and of course President Lincoln.  It's specialties are the hard to find publications and unique one of a kind manuscripts.  They are considered the official archive of Illinois Civil War letters, diaries, and correspondence.

The first thing I noticed is how empty it was.  In this big beautiful library with all it has to offer the researcher, there was my son, me, and another couple.  That was all.  You might say, "But Kevin, this was during the day on a weekday!  Surely it is busier nights and weekends?"  They are CLOSED nights and weekends.  Your only chance to patronize this library is Monday through Friday, 9am to 4:30pm.

Granted, because of state government budget problems, it is currently being operated by a skeleton staff, almost all pulling double duty.  I am told that there are tens of thousands of items that are still on paper index cards that need to be added to the digital catalog.  And as far as in the future scanning and digitizing the collection?  The staff snickers.  They love this place as much as we do and would love to see it happen.  But right now it is so unrealistic it doesn't even register on the scale as a dream.

Then one has to contemplate, even if the ALPL did have the money and the staff to do the library right, where are the patrons?

By contrast, right next door to the ALPL is of course the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum.  On this Monday morning it is fully staffed, and busy with patrons.  I suppose we might take solace that there is still a segment of our society that wants to frequent museums.  Then again, this is Lincoln's museum, and the official one.  I am not sure this is a fair barometer of how loved are museums in this society.

"Love."  Interesting choice of adjectives.  Appreciated.  Wanted.  Cared for.  What about libraries?  Libraries with extra special unique things to offer?

At the ALPL my son and I scoured hundreds of Civil War letters and diaries written by the men who served with our ancestors, hoping to discover something new.  One folder contained what seemed to be a hundred letters by a soldier to and from his parents, sister, and brother.  As I read these letters I got to know this family intimately.  I got to understand the individuals, and feel what they feel.  Then suddenly the soldier enters a hospital for an illness and dies.  I paused.  It hit me.  I was stunned.  I was sad.  I was hurt.  In the next letter the brother, who was also serving, writes his parents he is coming home.  A few years pass and the family begins writing letters trying to locate where their son is buried?  Those letters and the letters in reply, are also included in the folder.  No answers.  No discoveries.  No solutions.  I wanted to cry.  I mourned.  I felt it.

Society loves the movies, especially loves its television, and some even love good books.  There are still reasons to love libraries too.

Copyright © 2016 by Kevin W. Walker