Thursday, July 03, 2014

4th of July 2014~~ Remembering our soldiers of the past~~1898 "Buffalo Soldiers" 9th Cavalry

During this 4th of July 2014 weekend celebrations, take a few minutes to remember our Veterans.  In doing so,  however, we must also take a few moments to reflect on those in our own families who were in the military.  What were their lives like.  What experiences did they have; good or, bad?

If possible, find a tape recorder or a pen and paper and ask questions to a Veteran who may be attending your celebrations.  Don't be surprised, however, if they are shocked that someone is interested in they military adventures.  Imagine a Grandfather or, even a Great Grandfather talking for the first time of their time serving this great Nation of ours.  Hopefully, some may even have a few photographs to share.

When dealing with African American Veterans, especially in regards to our Wars prior to 1975, experiences were more negative then positive.  Segregation, abuse, hatred were often experienced by Black military personnel during their time in service.  Can you imagine serving your country, putting your life on the line, when you yourself did not have the open opportunity to enjoy all the freedoms that your country had to offer?   It happened. 

One of the wars where African Americans served in segregated units was during the Spanish American War. Ca.1898.  Many of the Blacks who volunteered to serve who lived in North Carolina, as in many other states as well, joined to show their community and National officials that they can serve with honor, dedication and commitment.   To show African Americans had the right, as of the White population, to have all freedoms that come to a freed man.

Below is an image of a post card given to me by a friend of mine.  Annie Fay knows of my work in preserving old all African American endangered cemeteries and finding "Forgotten " military Veterans.

If your Ancestor was a soldier in the 9th Cavalry in 1898 and served at Camp W. Koff, he may be in this photograph card.  

Post card depicting the 9th Cavalry Ca.1898
Camp W. Koff, Long Island, New York

Close up view of 9th Cavalry troops
Notice the trumpet and sword

There is always a "cool guy" in the crowd
Soldier with arm extended appears to have a cigar in his mouth
[Image is from a postcard that is copyrighted by Leib image archives, York, PA.  {Date unknown}]
Take time this 4th of July and thank a Veteran for their service. 
At the same time, try to learn a little bit of your family's heritage in regards to those in your family who served or, are now serving in the United States Armed Services.
Semper Fi !
Jack  Robinson
GySgt., U.S. Marine Corps, Retired/disabled

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Ensuring the name is correct is the first step in finding your Ancestors

I wrote a post on Face Book a few months back in regards to a possible African American WWII military Veteran.  The overall point that I was attempting to make at the time was for over five years I attempted to confirm William Montford of Jacksonville, North Carolina, served in the U.S. military ca. 1917, with little results. 

William Montford
Died in France, September 26, 1918

I discovered during my search through various WWI war records that there were not only combat deaths but, those caused by disease.  What sparked my interest in regards to the possibility of “rediscovering” and giving long overdue respect for William, as a “forgotten” military veteran, was an inscription on this man’s headstone within the Diggs Cemetery, “Died in France.”  His date of death was in 1918, a period of time when the United States was involved in the War-to-end-all-wars.

As mentioned, I have attempted to use various military, genealogy and individual research techniques to obtain validation if this William Montford was in fact a military soldier during WWI.  A common saying within historical and genealogic research is, “coming to a brick wall.”  Each time a restart of my search was conducted I, too, came to a brick wall.  No military records could be located.  The fire at the National Archives was a main factor.  To add to this challenge there were no genealogic discoveries.  Local residents could not remember an Ancestor who died in 1918.  An added note to this particular graveyard is that it is made up of multiple family cemeteries that were “relocated” to Diggs cemetery.

Recently, I was introduced to an official report, written ca.1919, of military deaths that occurred during WWI, “Soldiers of the Great War.”  This text was brought to my attention due to the help of some keen genealogy researchers I met through Internet social media.  The death report, with images of soldiers, is listed by state and each death was recorded.  Not only was combat deaths mentioned but, there were also illness and accidental deaths listed.  This is where I found my first tangible, “possible” connection to my quests.

Reported among the list of names of soldiers who died in France within Volume II of this book were the men who joined from North Carolina.  One surname was discovered who lived in Jacksonville, Onlsow County, North Carolina—William Munford.  I determined through census reports that there were Munford families living in Onslow County.  Records indicate ,however, there were no males that meet the age prerequisites for a William Munford to be serving in WWI.

William Munford
Jacksonville, (North Carolina)

Having correct information on a subject to conduct genealogy research is extremely vital.  If done haphazardly, a whole family tree may be distorted and contaminated from the roots to top branches.  Confirming and then re-confirming correct spelling of Given and Surnames is vital.

I am now closer to declaring William Munford, listed within the book “Soldiers of the Great War; Vol. II,” is in fact, William Montford buried within Diggs Cemetery with the headstone inscription—Died in France (1918). 

In time, hopefully, we can give this gentleman the recognition that was deserved, but not given in his lifetime, for a multitude of reason, and present to our next generation an opportunity to teach their next generation of our heritages.
Thank you for taking the time to reading this and other posts that I have written.

Here are links that will give you an idea of the work that I conduct in regards to finding our "Forgotten Veterans" and protecting our endangered cemeteries.


Books that I have written

Semper Fi !  

Remember our military Veterans.  Say hello and thanks to them the next time you see one.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Drive through the hog farm to get to the old African American cemetery

I was told seven years ago, last month, to do the following:

         "Drive off the main road; drive through the open field; drive  

          through the crop field; then, avoiding getting stuck on the
          muddy dirt path, drive in between the hog farm; avoiding the
          ruts in the road.  You will then come to a small cemetery on
          the left."

A) View of Brick Mill Cemetery January 2007

B) Looking from center of cemetery to tree line

C)  View of from far side of cemetery
During January and February of 2014, southeastern North Carolina had received not-less-then three harsh rainstorms along with some unseasonal heavy snow falls.  These weather conditions caused the dirt road to the cemetery to be extremely muddy and nearly impassable.  Sometime during the month of January, in between the bad weather conditions and while the dirt road was muddy, a burial took place within the Brick Mill Cemetery; which has been used continuously since ca.1900. 
As the cemetery's caretaker, I was not informed of the burial in January.  Contacting me is not required but, it would have been a courteous gesture of my work at this and other cemeteries. 
For instance, since over 40% of graves within this cemetery are unmarked, I could have assisted in "suggesting" where to place the newest grave.  During previous recent burials we were able to place family members with their Ancestors with little disturbance to the older graves. 

Another area where I could have been of assistance was to inform the grave diggers as to where to place any leftover dirt from the grave hole.  As the images below indicate, excess dirt was placed precariously next to an older grave.  In time, due to future weather conditions, this extra dirt, if not removed, will easily cover the older grave marker. 

In time, this excess dirt could cover this headstone

Newly placed grave with no markers.  I place an American flag near the front of the grave.  Animals have been known to carry flowers away from gravesites, leaving only a flat area with no indication of being a gravesite.

Also, notice how the newest grave is not properly marked; not even with a traditional "temporary" grave marker.  In time, hopefully, a headstone will be placed on this grave.   If not, however, it too will become one of the 40% of unmarked graves within the Brick Mill Cemetery.

I will close this post by showing the entrance to the historic Brick Mill Cemetery as it appears during the first week of February 2014.  Please note that since these images another heavier snow storm left the path with over seven inches of wet snow.  In time, this snow, as it melts, will cause the ground to be even softer and less passable.

Path in between the two major hog pens

Only route to the Brick Mill Cemetery.

Heavy duty truck that brought casket to newest grave site cause tremendous damage to the dirt path to the cemetery.  In the distance you can see the path continuing through the two primary hog pens.


Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Reasons For Sunken Grave Headstones

     One of the most challenging aspects in the preservation of old cemeteries is the need to identify "unmarked" graves.  The term unmarked refers to a grave where the headstone or, any other form of identification, is missing. 

       Sometimes, however, the marker is where it is suppose to be, except it can not be seen.  Broken, fallen or even, sunken may be the reason.  Another explaination, one less thought of, is the accumulation of debris, mulch and compost.

 Broken headstone base. 
Notice the broken metal rods that pertrude from the center of the stone. 
The grove is where the actual headstone rests.

    In the two images below, note the lettering at the base of each visible headstone.  The remaining writing is under the surface.  There are two main reasons for this:  The stone, due to soften ground from rain saturation, sank into the ground.  The second cause is much more reasonable. 

   When a cemetery is left unattended, in this case for over thirty years, fallen debris, leaves and other material accumulate around the stone.  Over time, these things decay and become mulch, also known as compost.  Each yearly amount of mulch adds onto the previous amount. 

  When cemetery preservation work is first started, many headstones appear to have sunken into the ground when in reality, the ground rises up and over the headstone.

Mulch accomulation around two headstones which hides scripture
and other vital information such as, birth and death dates.

     In the case of this particular cemetery there is not less then five inches of mulch laying on top of the "original" ground surface.   Other areas of this cemetery, based on the amount of foliage decay, there is in excess of twelve inches of mulch surrounding or, covering grave headstones. 

    Image a surface grave marker, the ones that lay flat on the ground.  Now, imagine having thirty or, more, years of  mulch debris, covering the grave.

   Cemetery preservation is not a quick process.   Time, research and getting your fingernails dirty is a vital part of the work.

Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to review this post.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

James H. Thompson; A Civil War Veteran?

Out-of-state family matters, over the last six months, had taken me away from my blog entries. 

I came across an interesting photograph, obtained from a family friend, during my most recent trip to Northern New York.  Below is an image that provides a humorous aspect of family genealogy.

James Harvey [Sic] Thompson, was twenty-one years old when the below image was taken of him, ca.1910.  Can anyone give a reason for his appearance?

Apparently, James was born on February 29, 1820.  To Genealogists who recognize this day of the month, it is easy to see why James appears much older then twenty-one. 

Doing family genealogy can be adventurous.  Learning unique aspects of family history can be fun for a researcher. 

How many of your family members share in James' birth date?  How were they listed on Census reports?

A question that needs to be answered:  Was James H. Thompson a Civil War Veteran?  Being Memorial Day weekend, it would be nice to find out that he was and to rediscover how he served his county.

To all Veterans out there, young and old, thank you for your dedication, sacrifices and commitment to protect our Freedoms.

Semper Fi !