In Honor of Veteran’s Day

Today, the world remembers the end of World War I. Although no veterans or civilians are with us to recall the atrocities, the record of their experiences lives on through letters, diaries and recordings. I am in possession of a collection of letters and wanted to mark the 100th anniversary by sharing one with you.

With the United States Congress declaring war on Germany on April 6, 1917, 2.8 million American men were soon to be drafted to serve in what was then called “The Great War.” Hoosier born George Bryant Harbaugh, a 22-year-old Deputy Sheriff with the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway in Gary, Lake County, Indiana, was sent to Camp Taylor, Kentucky for basic training. Army Private George left behind his sweetheart, Elsie Wilhelmina Johnson, a 21-year-old Mother’s Helper living in Miller, (now Gary), Indiana.

Elsie saved every letter and postcard received from George. Only 3 letters from Elsie to George survive. The following is a scan and transcript of the letter detailing his experiences when the Armistice was called on November (11) 11th at 11 AM:

ON ACTIVE SERVICE
WITH THE
AMERICAN RED CROSS
AMERICAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCE

NAME
Geo B Harbaugh D

Infantry
U.S. Army.
Dec. 16, 1918
Allerey, France

My Dearest Elsie.-

Your most welcome letter of Nov. 17 received about an hour ago and I can’t tell you how tickled I was to get it. I am expecting a lot more soon for the last one I got before this was dated Aug. 24 so I must have lots more somewhere. I expect though, that they are at Tours at the Central Office and I’ve notified them of where I am so maybe they will reach me after awhile

You ask when you may expect me back. That is hard to tell. We may leave here tomorrow and may be here a month yet. My Division the 28th , is in the Army of Occupation and is in Luxemburg I believe, but they say we can’t get back to our old companies anymore but are to go in Casual Companies and go home but just how soon, we don’t know. But I think I’ll be back before March and when I get to New York, I’ll send you a telegram about when you can expect me.

I’m sure anxious to get back and I’m sure we can be nicely settled in that little cottage of Ours before next winter. I’m glad you got the money all right as I didn’t get to see the chaplain after I gave it to him. You see, we got paid off one day and we went into battle in a couple of days. I didn’t know what might happen so I thought it best to send it to you. I’ve got 5 months’ pay here now and if I get it before coming back, I’ll send it to you as I don’t want to spend it over here. I wanted you to get something for your Xmas, though.

So, you are looking for a house for us, are you? ha. ha. The place below Gertie would be fine. I didn’t suppose you would tell Gertie our happy secret but my only regret is that you haven’t the ring, too. So Gertie was willing to have us for neighbors, was she? Tell her for me that when Bob and I get together there will be some stories to hear. I never heard where any of the other Miller boys were, but Bob was in the 26, or “Yankee Division”, from the New England states and the 28th was from Pa. We relieved the 26 Div. on July 25 and they went to St Mihael, then Argonne Forest so I never got a chance to see Bob. I hope he came through the war all right.

You speak of getting a letter from Ed Lemert. Yes, Dear, he’s an awful good friend of mine and is almost as much as a brother. I wrote to him quite often but I haven’t wrote for several weeks so guess I will write tonight. I expect lots of my letters get lost but there was times it was impossible to write for a week or two at a time. Conditions here are not what you folks imagine they are. I haven’t saw any real American Y.M.C.A. huts and as for a Y.M.C.A entertainment for the Infantry at least, is something unheard of. I believe there is a nice Y.M.C.A.in Paris but we aren’t allowed there.

I haven’t heard from Raymond Clemons since about Aug 1 and I believe I’ll have to write and see if he’s still alive. I’ll have to write to Mrs. Clemons, too, I guess. The 111th Regt. lost lots of men at Chateau Therrey. The Huns used liquid fire on them and that is horrible. We got gas, shells, grenades and machine gun fire but the 112th never got any liquid fires used on us. Did you ever get the letter I sent that had a little pressed pansy in? I picked it in the city of Fismes and the Germans were shelling it to beat the band. We had two companies of our regiment captured there but they sure did pile up the dead Huns before they were overpowered.

Guess you must have had a grand time Nov. 11 from the clippings you sent. We did here. They have a bulletin board and on Nov. 11 it read “At 4 P.M raise H-l and I guess they did. I was in bed yet then but we sure yelled 4 P.M here would be about 6 A.M. back there. Bells all over France rang and everybody was happy, believe me. I’ve only been here 7 months but that seems an awful long time but the other Allies have had 52 months of it so they sure was cause to rejoice.

Well, Pres. Wilson got a big reception when he came here and if it wouldn’t have been for the Yank soldiers. He would never have come to France for it would have all been Germany by now. But that will wait till I get back. I won’t tell you too much else; I can’t tell you anything new when I get back.

Well, I will have to close, Dearest, if I am to write another letter tonight so I’ll close hoping I may get more of your ever welcome letters real soon.

With Oceans of Love and Kisses and hoping I’m back with you by Feb. 22.

Your Own and Always,

George

Convalescent Camp
A.P.O. 785
G .Company

A.J. Bruggeman
(unreadable)

I am currently compiling the letters into an eBook with the working title, Thanks to the Yanks – World War I Letters from a Soldier Boy to his Sweetheart.

Hunting Down a Harbaugh


I was catching up on my reading last week when I came across an article in the May 2018 Smithsonian magazine mentioning a George Harbaugh, an oil magnate from Cleveland who was involved in an automobile accident with a streetcar in 1913. This led to an engineer, James Hoge, inventing traffic lights.

Now when you do genealogy for awhile and you’re reading for pleasure, surnames are certain to pop up from time to time and you just lose the drift of the story to think, “How is that person related to me?” or “Do I have that individual in my tree?” I have entered every Harbaugh that I’m aware of in my Main Tree on Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com so I decided to try to hunt down this George Harbaugh and attach the citation.

I thought this would be a quickie find but it took a few minutes longer than I anticipated. My first problem was that I have 132 George Harbaughs in my tree. I tried to eliminate by location and death dates but it was still a lot to go through.

Seeking a shortcut, I went to the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America site in an attempt to find the newspaper article the story mentioned. Couldn’t find it. And of course, they didn’t reference it in the magazine.

I could have checked other newspaper sites but I suspected the article didn’t have much more information I could use to identify George so I simply googled “George Harbaugh” oil Cleveland. Interesting, what came up was a pdf from the Cleveland Landmarks Commission of all of the demolished homes. Sure enough, there were 4 residences for Harbaughs and that gave me a clue. The first was for a A. G. Harbaugh. The home had been built in 1888 at 2022 E 89th Street. I guessed that the “G” might have been George and I had been looking for a first name George and not a middle name of George. George is a favored name with the Harbaughs and I should have remembered that many of them use their middle name as their first name. I have no idea why they do this. The family isn’t German, however, they did live among the Pennsylvania Germans for many years and maybe that’s where it started.

The 2nd Harbaugh on the pdf was George Harbaugh and his home had been built in 1898 at 2021 Cornell Road.

The 3rd Harbaugh was entered as Harbaugh Residence. Built in 1903, it was located at 11402 Bellflower.

The 4th residence was of most interest; it belonged to Charles Harbaugh who built it in 1904 at Euclid near Cornell.

I knew I was on to something as Euclid was the street where the accident occurred. I might be able to find a connection between Charles, the mystery George and A. G. Maybe that dinner party had been at Charles’ home!

Back to my list of people in my tree, I decided to check out A. G. first. Aaron George Harbaugh (1845-1897) was born in Ohio and died in Cleveland. He had 1 daughter, Malinda, and 3 sons, George Edward, Charles Reiber and Frederick. My mystery George was George Edward.

Born in Cleveland in 1871, he eventually moved to San Diego, California where he died in 1940. Which is why I didn’t quickly find him. I erroneously thought he would have remained in Ohio.

This fun little exercise reminded me of the importance of not making assumptions; I had wrongly excluded George Edward based on his death location.

It also reminded me of how impatient I often am waiting at traffic lights. I’ve often joked my favorite country in the world is Belize because UnbBelizably, they only use 3 of their 7 traffic lights and I’ve never had to wait at any of them.

So the next time you’re waiting for that light to change, think of my husband’s 5th cousin, 3 times removed. Because of George Edward Harbaugh’s lack of paying attention, the world’s a little safer (and slower) today.

A Little Bit of Truth in All of Those Passed Down Stories


I love family legends even if they are tall tales. Last week I trekked to New Mexico, where I have no family ties, and learned of a passed down legend that was quite interesting. While visiting the Oldest House in Santa Fe, I heard the story of two elderly Native Americans who once lived in the dwelling. Supposedly, they had made a love potion for a Spanish soldier, Juan Espinoza, and when it didn’t give him the results he had wanted as his love had married another, he returned to seek his money back. An argument ensued, he fell and was beheaded. The ancient wooden casket in the home supposedly contains his body; over the years a plaster cast was enclosed to represent his missing head.

The next evening, on a ghost tour, the guide told his version of the story. He believed the women were sisters and these witches had been threatened by the soldier. As the soldier attacked one of the women, the other took out a saber and sliced off his head. The women then dragged his body outside and left it. No one knows where the head went. The soldier’s ghost reportedly roams looking for his head. The sister’s punishment was to keep the coffin in their home.

Two days later I was in Taos at the Pueblo village and my tour guide there told the same tale with a slightly different twist. The two women were not elderly and were local healers specializing in matchmaking. The soldier was inpatient and violent when his request for a wife wasn’t fulfilled quickly. The townspeople misunderstood the situation; it was clearly self defense on the part of the sisters.

When I returned home I looked online and found many other versions of the tale. Some say Juan was shot in the leg by the women who later cut his head off. Others say he fell on his saber and cut his own head off.

And like the various versions, there’s no agreement on when the death occurred. According to the Taos guide, the event happened before the Pueblo Revolt of1680. Information at the house states that there was a dwelling on the premises for at least 800 years. The website states that there is no deed record but analysis of lumber used in the building construction was from 1740-1767.

Since none of us were there we will never know what really happened. Unfortunately, no records remain of the event so the passed down stories are the closest we’ll ever get.

If you have a tall tale passed down in your family, get as many versions as you can and record them . Then, search historical records to narrow down the “facts.” For example, it is most unlikely that the event in Santa Fe occurred before 1692. Why? The house was used during the Pueblo Revolt in 1680 to fire upon the Oldest Church across the street. The area was resettled after 1692. It would be unlikely that the Native Americans residing in the Santa Fe between 1680-1692 would leave the coffin in the home; that punishment by the Spanish would have been rid of quickly after they succeeded in retaking their ancestral land. This helps us narrow the story to between 1692-1836 when the area parted from Mexico. The house was remodeled many times over the years so there is no telling if the event occurred prior to the new beams being installed in the mid 18th century or after. I personally think the coffin was added by later owners who wanted an interesting tourist attraction. I find it hard to believe that the coffin would remain in the home after the Native American women’s death.

Next time I’ll blog about other genealogical gems I uncovered on my trip.

Curse the Thief the Medieval Way


When you were in school, did you ever have an assignment that required you to use a specific text in a library? As an undergrad in psychology, I often had to complete weekly required readings of journal articles. High tailing it to the library was never the issue for me; what was absolutely awful was discovering that the required reading was (gasp!) missing. And by missing I don’t mean that someone was using it, I mean that some mean, no good, very bad person had left the book on the shelf but ripped out the sought after article.

Complaining to the media specialist was fruitless. There staff was as limited then as today, there were no security cameras and few interlibrary loans. Complaining to the professor helped somewhat; he/she often had the needed matierial in their office so you could read it to complete the assignment but you had to sit under their watchful eye and that was nerve wracking.

What frustrated me the most about those experiences was that they were ongoing. The professors never addressed the class to let the self centered individual know that their behavior was abhorrent. The practice was so wide spread at my university that by my senior year the library changed policy and any required reading for our department was removed from the general shelves and held safely behind the reference desk. To view it, the student had to sign their life away and produce a valid photo id.

Today, this would no longer be an issue since most readings can be done electronically. So my unpleasant experiences may have been the end of that diabolical practice.

During the time this was occurring, I can admit that I cursed whoever the individual was that was behind the devious deed. My husband, an economics major, never had this happen to him so he empathized with me. Together, we created verbal curses of the absolutely worst thing that we thought should happen to the perpetrator. From our world perspective at the time, this included horrible happening in the then present, such as having their draft number called, and to the future, as we wished if they ever had children they would go missing. Yes, my coping skills at the time weren’t fully developed but it did help me get through the semesters.

With that background in mind, I was delighted to read a blog post written at Olive Tree Genealogy a few weeks ago about medieval book curses. At first, I thought the curses referred to black magic but that wasn’t the case. Instead, scribes often wrote curses warning individuals who were reading the text of dire consequences if they tore out a page or stole the book. I loved the idea! Granted, this would not have been a viable option for me as society is not quite so superstitious as it once was. Nonetheless, it would make someone think twice before they made a bad choice.

Here’s an example from a Bible scribed in 1172 with the transcription below:

“If anyone take away this book, let him die the death; let him be fried in a pan; let the falling sickness and fever seize him; let him be broken on the wheel, and hanged. Amen.”1

Since reading that blog story I’ve done some more research into the topic. Evidently, the practice was begun long before Medieval times; ancient Greek and Babylonian scribes had recorded threats of their own.

It is understandable why a curse threat was added as back in the day, it took months to hand copy a book. It was painstaking work and the text could be destroyed easily from spilled ink or getting to close to the candle flame.

If you’d like to read some more curses, visit:
Protecting Your Library the Medieval Way
Top 10 Medieval Book Curses
You Have Been Warned!
Chain, Chest, Curse: Combating Book Theft in Medieval Times
Medieval Copy Protection

and if you just have to keep your own library safe, Etsy has a set of 24 Medieval book plates you can stick in your own collections!
24 Medieval book plate curses you can stick in your own collections!

Hubby thinks we ought to put the practice to use today by adding them to our writing. He came up with:

He who forwards this article for others to see
I only ask that you quoth me
Thieves and pirates be forewarned
Your actions will be duly scorned
Copyright law is the real deal
Designed to address what others try to steal!

1 “Top 10 Medieval Book Curses,” Medievalists; digital image, (http://www.medievalists.net/: accessed 28 January 2017); citing Marc Drogan, Anathema! Medieval Scribes and the History of Book Curses, (New York: A. Schram, 1983).

Saturday Serendipity in Cycadia Cemetery

On a crisp sunny October morning, Hubby and I took a cemetery tour of Cycadia Cemetery in Tarpon Springs, Florida.  As one of the oldest cemeteries in the county, many figures of historical prominence in the area are buried there.  Eight historical re-enactors portrayed former residence who were important to the town’s development.

The first tour stop was for John C. “Greek” Maillis who had been born in Gary, Indiana in 1918. Hubby and I were, too and our grandparents lived there at the time.  I plan on researching Greek’s father as I’m guessing he worked for U.S. Steel as that was the big industry in town.  My grandfather, great grandfather and hubby’s grandfather were all employed there in 1918.  What a small world!

Although that was an interesting connection it was T the tour’s end that had the biggest chance encounter happened.

Our last stop was to learn about Irish born Captain Thomas Carey who came to Tarpon Springs with his family in the 1870’s and worked in the sponge industry.  His reenactor became misty eyed, lost character and said he had to step out of being Capt Carey for a moment to tell us what had happened in the previous tour group.  As the program entry by the Tarpon Springs Area Historical Society stated, Capt. Carey “…left a legacy of exceptional off-spring.”  Not only exceptional, they were numerous.  A woman in the group stated she was a descendant.  Then another group member stated she, too, was a descendant.   A few generations removed from Capt. Carey they shared which of his children they had descended from.  Most remarkable was that these cousins had never met before.  Nearly 75 years after the Captain’s death his descendants are reunited at his grave site.  There was a large turnout for the program and groups were formed by your arrival time.  What a coincidence that these individuals just happened to be placed in the same group.  Serendipity at its finest!

Photo courtesy of thefifthofnov on Find-a-Grave

Remembering the Past

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 12 July 2016.

I’m at NARA waiting for my military record pulls  so I’m taking  a break to blog.  Read an interesting article about a way that World War I soldiers participating in the Battle of the Sonne that began on 1 July 1916 were recently memorialized throughout Great Britain recently as reported in The Guardian.  Regarded as the largest battle of WWI, between 1 July and 18 November 1916, it was actually a number of battles in three phases.  Best said by Friedrich Steinbrecher, a German officer, “Somme.  The whole history of the world cannot contain a more ghastly word” casualties were high on all sides; estimates of 485,000 British and French and 630,000 German soldiers was made at the Chantilly Conference on 15 November 1916.  But the war continued….

Please read the moving way that these lost lives were memorialized.

Hoping to make it home tonight.  Can’t wait too share my latest research finds.

Righting History

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 26 June 2014

I’ve been following the interesting series of articles published by the New York Times and Washington Post regarding Georgetown University’s history of selling slaves to keep the school financially solvent.

Finding records in the old south is often difficult but for the former enslaved, it is even more so.  The links to the three articles below provide helpful hints on how to identify the paper trail:

272 Slaves were Sold to Save Georgetown.  What Does it Owe Their Descendants?

A Million Questions From Descendants of Slaves Sold to Aid Georgetown

Georgetown’s priests sold her Catholic ancestors.  Then she found out in an unexpected way.

Of course, the articles were not written to help newbie genealogists learn how to discover records of enslaved individuals.  Besides discussing reparations, they highlight the emotions that families experience when a discovery of unsavory findings from the past is brought to light and the journey the families face as they move forward with the knowledge gained.  As I’ve previously written, the process is similar to how one deals with grief and loss in the present.

The Georgetown slave story, however, adds another layer of acceptance; that of reconciliation with one’s religious convictions.  From a social science perspective, I find it fascinating how the descendants are processing the information that their current religion’s forefathers treated their kin, especially knowing that the Roman Catholic Church was at the forefront of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s.

I applaud the formation of the Georgetown Memory Foundation which as part of its mission, is to memorialize the event.  Remembering history is a wonderful way to make it right.

While the Georgetown University administration tries to identify ways to right a wrong they have overlooked another story from their past.  Father Patrick Francis Healy was the university’s 29th president tasked with its growth shortly after the Civil War.  He was quite successful and much beloved.  Fr. Healy’s ancestry makes his tenure even more remarkable then his legacy.  Born in Georgia to an Irish Roman Catholic father and a mulatto slave owned by his grandfather, Patrick Francis and his siblings were born into slavery.  Healy’s parents wanted their children to be educated which was illegal since they were slaves.  The family sent Patrick to a Quaker school in the north, however, he faced discrimination not for being a mulatto but for being Irish Catholic.  During this time, his grandfather and father continued to own slaves, another strike held against him by the Quaker school.  Patrick transferred to a Jesuit owned school in Massachusetts.  He joined the priesthood and went on to earn a Ph.D. in philosophy at a Catholic university in Belgium. He achieved this during the time his mother remained enslaved.

The interaction of race, creed and national origin have complicated our country’s history and continues to do so today.  As genealogists, it is wise for us to remember the complexities as we help those who have newly discovered information gain acceptance.

Mosquito Epidemics, Oh My!

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 12 Jun 2016.

After picking up all the soggy Spanish moss in my yard after Tropical Storm Colin I started thinking about mosquito epidemics.  Well, this was how my thought process ended up on disease caused by skeeters:

1.”I hate Spanish moss because it’s everywhere after a storm”

2. It can be useful.  The early settlers used it for comfort by stuffing their mattresses with it and if you’re lacking water in the woods, you can suck on the inside.”

“Chiggers – I hope there’s no chiggers in this stuff cause I’ve feeling itchy!”

“OMG, I just got bit and I hope it was a chigger and not a mosquito!”

All that rain has produced a bumper crop of mosquitoes in my area.  I tend to use natural products so I’ve been dowsing myself with Skin So Soft even though I hate the smell of it.

I don’t know if Zika is causing concern in your area like it is here; the Avon lady told me she completely sold out of Skin So Soft the week before my purchase.  Understandable, as even the state of Florida website has a post that would make anyone not want to live here:


“Mosquito-borne diseases found in Florida include West Nile virus disease, Eastern equine encephalitis, and St. Louis encephalitis. Many other mosquito-borne diseases are found in different parts of the world, and can be brought back to Florida if infected people or animals are bitten by mosquitoes while in Florida. Some examples of these diseases include chikungunya fever, dengue fever, malaria, yellow fever, and Rift Valley fever.”1  


Notice how Zika isn’t even mentioned.  With 15 reported cases in my county I think it should be included!  So that’s how my mind started thinking about epidemics back in the day.

What did people do  when there was no products to repel critters?  I decided to investigate…

When a major yellow fever epidemic hit Tampa in the 1880’s, a well meaning Jacksonville doctor recommended  that everyone leave town as he thought poor sanitation was the cause.  Calling the people of Tampa dirty caused a backlash in the press and his response below explains  his scientific rationale:

As to Yellow Fever - excerpt2

I guess the good doctor should have been more specific as to where those fleeing the epidemic should go as this shows how they were greeted in New York:

Print in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper about yellow fever

3

Man’s inhumanity to man; labeled refugees and turned away.  Hmm, how history repeats itself!

The state government had no idea how to contain the spread so they returned to what worked in the middle ages – burn the property of anyone infected:

4

The belief in fumigation lasted well into the 20th century.  A Leininger cousin of mine was the inventor of this device:

You read that right!  Dr. George Leininger Chemical Company of Chicago manufactured a Formaldehyde Generator to disinfect the sick room. I guess if the disease didn’t kill you, the chemicals would!  Seriously, my son the chemical engineer almost had a heart attack when I purchased this on E-bay.  I have no plans to use it. I just thought it fit perfectly in our den with our other family treasures.

Back to the Tampa epidemic – what I learned was that there was NOTHING available to the population to prevent the spread of the mosquito born disease.

Florida has always been swampy yet it was settled by Native Americans long before the Spanish arrived.  How did they repel the critters?

I found lots of theories but no proof.  Some say citronella was used but that is not native to Florida. Southern bayberry, paw paw,  bracken fern or cedar have been recommended but I find nothing to link them to Native Americans usage as an insect repellent.  Personally, I’m doubting that any of those plants were effective  as I have a side yard filled with bracken fern and the mosquitoes seem to be worse there in the shade than in the more open spaced parts of my yard.  We have cedars around, too, so that’s not helpful.  I’ve never seen a bayberry or paw paw.  My neighborhood is filled with old oaks so perhaps they grew here more than 150 years ago.

The Washington Post mentioned that burning sweet grass, which does grow throughout Florida, was effective.5    I don’t believe Native Americans walked around holding burning grass all day and night, though.

Some have suggested diet, while others say lung capacity discharging carbon dioxide differed.  I have no idea but I’d love to know the lost secret because this is going to be a long itchy summer!

My son built this handy dandy mosquito trap for us:

It won’t kill adult skeeters but it does kills the larva, if the standing water on the top is drained through the middle level (an old pillow case).  The water drips through the middle layer into the bucket, the larva die on the pillow case (or lizards and birds come and have a delightful treat).  The bucket water is then placed back into the top to start the process all over again.  Does it work?  Yes, if you faithfully drain.  No, if the weather is so awful outside that you can’t do it.  It also doesn’t kill mosquitoes that fly in from other areas, like the park that has standing water in low spots.  Going to keep using it though, as every little bit helps.

Now I’m going back to hunting ancestors and not skeeters.  That’s much safer.


1 http://www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/mosquito-borne-diseases/

2 John P. Wall “As to Yellow Fever” Florida Times-Union.

3. Frank Leslie,  “Refugees from areas with yellow fever are not allowed to leave the trains, for fear of spreading disease,”  Illustrated Newspaper, 8 September 1888,

4 Letter from J.J. Daniel, President, Jacksonville Auxiliary Sanitation Association to Dr. Porter, 17 October 1888.

5Wilborn P. Nobles III “Research confirms Native American use of Sweetgrass as a Bug Repellent” Washington Post, 18 Aug 2015.

My thanks to the Florida Memory Project where a lot of this information was found – you can read more records there regarding the Yellow Fever scare in Florida.