February is Black History and African American Heritage month.

by Cheryl Brown Abernathy

Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. Also known as African American History Month, the event grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating Black history. [https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/black-history-month]

If you Google it, there is a lot of information out there. February was chosen to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln, and Frederick Douglass. Abraham Lincoln, we know from our history classes that he was the author of the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves. Frederick Douglass was a former slave who became a prominent activist, author and public speaker and a leader in the abolitionist movement.

Do you know there were African American in the Revolutionary War? Both enslaved and free fought in the Continental Army and the First Rhode Island Regiment is the most famous regiment that included African Americans during the American Revolution. Some of the more famous ones include:

  • Crispus Attucks
  • Caesar Ferrit
  • Cato Smith
  • Peter Salem (Salem Middlesex)
  • Asaba (Grosvenor)
  • Titus Coburn
  • Salem Poor
  • Jude Hall
  • Prince Dunsick

Check out their stories on the National Park Service website – https://www.nps.gov/chyo/learn/historyculture/african-americans-in-the-revolutionary-war.htm.

There’s also information about Black Soldiers in the Revolutionary War on https://www.army.mil/article/97705/black_soldiers_in_the_revolutionary_war.

Forgotten Patriots – African American and American Indian Patriots in the Revolutionary War: A Guide to Service, Sources, and Studies identifies over 6,600 of African American and American Indians who contributed to the America’s Independence and is free to download – https://www.dar.org/library/forgotten-patriots/forgotten-patriots-book

A Google search of “African Americans in the Revolutionary War” turns up even more sites than the above two.

Not only did they fight in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War had those, whether enslaved, escaped or born free, fight to actively affect the outcome. From fighting on the bloody battlefield to espionage behind enemy lines; daring escapes to political maneuvering; saving wounded soldiers to teaching them how to read, there are six African Americans who fought to abolish slavery and discrimination.

  • Harriet Tubman
  • Alexander Augusta
  • Abraham Galloway
  • Frederick Douglass
  • Robert Smalls
  • Susie King Taylor

Learn more about them at: https://www.history.com/news/black-heroes-us-civil-war-tubman-douglass-augusta-smalls-galloway

African Americans have fought in every war since the Revolutionary. Some only in noncombative support roles. In most wars there was at least a unit or sometimes an entire division that was made up of African Americans. A search on the internet will provide plenty of references.

African American lineage if often difficult to follow back; however, it can be done. There are any number of resources available. A few include:

Weather and History

Cheryl Brown Abernathy

As I was thinking about what to write for this, a perfect topic came to mind, especially since we just went through a weather “event” this Christmas season. I know there are one or two significant storms that I will remember. One, is the flood that hit our area in July 1969. There was a loss of life and lots of property damage. If you lived in Wayne County at that time, you would remember it. It wasn’t just local though, other areas from Toledo though Wooster were affected.

Another time in the blizzards of 1977 and 1978. That was even more widespread than the 1969 storm. I was living in Spencer at that time. I don’t remember which year, 1977 or 1978, I went to work in Elyria that morning and almost didn’t make it home that afternoon, even though I left work early to go home. I got stuck about five miles from home and had to wait for a snowplow to come through AFTER the stuck cars were unstuck, mine being one of them. There were a number of us taking refuge in a little corner store. I think I was the first in line following the snowplow on into Spencer. Not a trip I’d care to repeat!

We know from our history lessons what that first winter was like for the Pilgrims. The same for George Washington and his troops at Valley Forge. History gives us a snapshot of various weather events throughout, but have you ever wondered what kind of storms your ancestors lived through? Whether it was a tornado, flooding or a blizzard, how did they survive it? Did they know it was coming? They didn’t have the sophisticated equipment that lets people know a storm may be coming and how bad it may be. It may have been their achy joints that gave them a hint.

One site I found was on the Ohio History Connection – “Severe Weather in Ohio” (https://ohiomemory.ohiohistory.org/timeline/severeweather.html):

Learn about more than 25 of the most extreme or most unusual weather events from Ohio’s history, from mysterious tidal waves and tornadoes causing local devastation and snowstorms to floods with statewide impact. This timeline is based on the Severe Weather in Ohio online exhibit created in 2006 in collaboration with numerous institutions across the state.

It takes you on a timeline from 1882 up through 2008. It covers tidal waves (didn’t know Ohio had tidal waves, did you?), floods, snowstorms, etc. There are photos to go along with a lot of the events. And that’s just in Ohio!

Maybe your ancestor wrote about the weather in his or her diary / journal. A lot of farmers made notes about the weather. I know my dad did in his diary. How about the newspapers of the day? They reported on the major storms that happened.

A “go to” place for various kinds of information is Cyndi’s List (www.cyndislist.com). That’s where I found out about the Ohio History Connection’s timeline. Another place to look is the National Weather Service (www.weather.gov). However, their records only go back to about 1890, give or take. If you can find copies of old almanacs, that may be another place.

What kind of weather events did your ancestors survive? What kind have you survived? Have you written about them for your descendants?

when genealogy really mattered

by Pam Blaha

Many of us make our family genealogy a priority.  We research using various websites, we look at documents in court houses and libraries, we talk with the oldest relatives we know and hope they have items they have been keeping to help us understand who we are.  We even take DNA tests to see from where we originated.  Maybe, someone years ago did a family genealogy, accurate or not, it helps us with a starting point.  But did you realize there was a time in history when genealogy was vital to the lives of certain families in order to maintain their status in the world?  Yes, there was a time when that was particularly important!           

I am reading a book by Simon Winder, entitled Danubia – a History of Hapsburg Europe.  In a section called “The Heir of Hector”, Winder claims that the most horrible job in the Court of Maximillian was that of the Court Genealogist.  This person was charged with tracing and proving that Maximillian was a descendant of Noah.  (I will let you figure out – why Noah.)  But Maximillian decided it might be better to descend from the Trojan hero- Hector.

Loosely based on “The Aeneid”, Hector had three sons.  At the same time that Aeneas was founding Rome, his brother Francio, was heading north into central Europe to settle on the River Main.  There he founded the City of the Franks, or as we know it, Frankfurt.  This gave Frankfurt equal standing with Rome.  The family tree then continued upward to Clovis, King of the Franks.  Clovis’ children eventually led the path to Maximillian of the Hapsburg family.

A document called “Priviledgium Maius” (signed by Julius Caesar and Nero, the title of Archduke for the Hapsburg ruler put him on an equal status with the “Electors of the Holy Roman Empire”.  Questioning this lineage was viewed as treason!  The Hapsburg Era began in the mid-sixteenth century and lasted until the end of World War I.  This was the time when Genealogy really meant something!

Why did your ancestors come to america?

Deb Kitko

In recent weeks, I have been thinking of our immigrant ancestors who came to this country to seek a better life. My great-grandmother came to America from Italy in 1916. The family story was that she was betrothed to a young man here in America. She came to fulfill her betrothal. She arrived safely, met her husband-to-be, and married shortly thereafter, being a bride at the young age of 16. Together, they had five children, all living to adulthood and having families of their own. Many of my other ancestral lines were here in America by the late 1700s and early 1800s. I have not researched them to their point of entry into our country. Some remain lost in Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia/West Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. So many ancestors…so little time!

Individuals and families left their home for a variety of reasons:

  • Statue Of Liberty National Monument (U.S. National Park Service)Religious and political persecution
  • Political unrest
  • To avoid mandated military service
  • Disease and famine
  • Poor crop output
  • Seek education or employment
  • Better economic opportunities
  • Land owner prospects
  • Alternative to prison or to escape trouble
  • Adventure
  • To join family, friends and/or meet a husband-to-be
  • Many other reasons

Some came with only the clothes on their back and a few coins in their pocket, traveling in cramped steerage quarters. Others experienced greater wealth and traveled as first and second class passengers. Regardless of their socioeconomic background, most of our ancestors followed the proper procedures for entering our country and becoming naturalized citizens if they so desired. They were listed on ship manifest lists (after 1820 in the US). They arrived through a variety of ports along the East and West Coast as well as the Gulf. Some found it more economical to sail into Canada and enter the U.S. through our northern border. At their point of entry, most immigrants were vetted. Some were turned away if they were not healthy or were considered a possible burden on society. However, most were able to gain entry ultimately.

Immigrants came seeking a better life for themselves and their descendants. They came willing to work hard. Many assimilated into the melting pot of the great U.S.A.  Some served in our military in exchange for land, the opportunity to settle on a homestead, or to shorten the naturalization process. Others brought essential skills to help build America and to help defend and settle the western frontier. Many immigrants experienced success in the “land of promise”. On the flip side, many immigrants discovered that the roads in the United States were not paved in gold. Life was difficult. Life was not fair. Many experienced religious and political persecution. Others experienced discrimination. However, through perseverance and hardship, they endured — many obtaining great self-achievements and notable positions and respect in the community. Many were able to pave the road for better lives for their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Many other ethnic groups had no need to migrate into the country. They were already here. As the fledgling United States expanded their territory, many individuals had little choice and accepted their destiny — sometimes with hostility and other times in a peaceful manner.

Take a moment and reflect: Why did your immigrant ancestors come to the United States? What kind of life did they have once they left the ship and stepped foot on this land? If you descend from indigenous peoples, what kind of life did your indigenous ancestors live? Remember, the indigenous people of colonial America and the United States were not considered U.S. citizens until 1924 and even then, many states did not recognize them as U.S. citizens until much later. If you have not researched the why or the how of your ancestors, this may be an interesting part of your family history that needs to be researched and recorded for future generations. If we do not know and understand our past; if we do not educate the present generation why our ancestors came to this great land; if we do not tell about the hardships our ancestors endured and/or escaped from, or about the freedom they so desperately sought; then history will repeat itself! And next time, there may not be a great country promising “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” to all.