THE UNFOLDING JOURNEY is a new blog written in association with Legacy Genealogy.

This blog is a blend of disciplines that reveal the rich texture of culture and history that surrounded your ancestors' lives, as well as your own. We will take you beyond just the names, dates, and places to give you the "back story" for the reasons your ancestors thought what they thought and did what they did. We invite you to also visit us at the Legacy Genealogy facebook page at http://facebook.com/legacygenealogy

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Who Created the Irish Potato Famine, God or the English?

In 1845, blight stuck the potato crop of Ireland. Potatoes were the mainstay of the Irish diet. At first the causes were only guessed at; some blamed railroad locomotive smoke while others thought it was toxic vapors from underground volcanoes. In fact it was a fungus travelling to Europe from Mexico. It infected potato crops across the continent but in Ireland the results were more devastating. Other diseases such as cholera, dysentery, typhus, and scurvy resulted due to weakened immunity among the people who were near starvation.
Historical research confirms that this serious situation was transformed into a human disaster by the social policies of the British government. Irish writer John Mitchel famously proclaimed “The Almighty, indeed, sent the potato blight, but the English created the Famine.”
How could this be? At that time the Irish Catholics (80% of the total population) were considered by the English Protestant-oriented government as an inferior race (or ethnic group). The Irish Catholics were prohibited from owning or leasing land, and voting or holding office; despite a few reforms around 1830. They were forced into almost an indentured servitude status. They were only allowed to rent very small plots of land. Potatoes were grown as they were the only crop abundant enough to feed the renter’s family. When the potato crop failed so completely, the Irish had no hope left.
The British lack of relief efforts worsened the situation. After 18 months of famine, the government set up “soup kitchens” and emergency work relief; but the aid was cancelled when a British banking crisis occurred in 1847. All during the famine, British landlords and merchants in Ireland continued to export food to England, which could have been used to reduce the suffering Irish.  Eventually the British government created a system of “work houses” where poor families could sleep and eat in close quarters. More than 2 ½ million Irish entered these overcrowded work houses. More than 200,000 died there.
Other countries offered aid to the starving Irish people. The Turks offered money directly to the Irish farmers to relieve the suffering, but Queen Victoria felt that it was an amount (which was greater than the British government provided) that would embarrass the crown and denied its use. The Turks did secretly ship boatloads of food to Ireland but it was too late to save a majority of the poor. Even some Native American Tribes, who had starved during their forced migration to Oklahoma a decade earlier, sent a little money to help the Irish.
Could the actions of the British government be considered “genocide” of the Irish Catholics? The 1948 United Nations’ definition of genocide requires that actions against a people must be “intended.” Many, especially the Irish, believe the British neglect represents the intention to eliminate Irish Catholics. This is debatable because the English Protestant land owners in Ireland needed the Irish peasants to farm the land to produce their income. But it does seem that the other conditions of the U.N. definition had been met.
As a result, 750,000 Irish died and two million emigrated elsewhere. But what comes around goes around. Today Ireland’s economy is booming. The 2010 Human Development Index ranks all U. N. member countries according to the level of human well being; Ireland is ranked #5 in the world, Britain is ranked #26. This spread is not a fluke and is estimated to continue for the next 20 years.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Civil War History of the 57th Indiana (#9 of 52)

Waiting for a battle that didn’t come; but suffering disease that did.
On Friday, the 2nd of May, our division commenced the movement toward Corinth. We advanced seven miles without meeting the enemy. A general engagement was confidently expected, and the regiment was under orders to be ready for action at a moment’s notice.
The country around Corinth was covered with very thick forests of oak timber, and had but few improvements. Heavy details for fatigue-duty were sent to the front, who then toiled under the burning sun, constructing corduroy roads over low, marshy ground. In some places double roadways were built, to facilitate the prompt movement of infantry and artillery at the same time.
It is now a standing order for the men to have three days cooked rations in haversacks, as we were liable to be called into action at any moment. Canteens were filled with water. Surgeons always accompanied us with a full supply of instruments for operating among the wounded.
All eyes were now turned in the direction of Corinth. The army, the people, in fact everybody expected that a desperate battle would be fought, and that its results would tell largely toward the future course of the war. But the country seemed to settle down upon the conclusion that Beauregard and his entire force were within the grasp of Halleck, that it would be impossible for him to get away, and that Halleck was waiting his own time to seize upon the coveted prize.       
Drinking the muddy waters of the swamps and marshes around Corinth, toiling and sweating beneath the broiling sun, we engaged in mock battles, fancying in our own minds that we would soon experience the reality. One by one, in quick succession, the men were stricken down by the camp malaria, and borne in silence to their graves. Hospitals were crowded, and steamers went north loaded with the suffering soldiery. The very air which more than 100,000 men daily and hourly drank in was mingled with the foul stench of an unhealthy atmosphere.
Time passed wearily along, and on the 17th of May our columns were again heading toward Corinth. Our division continued to advance until 8 o’clock p.m., when the lines were formed, and the troops then slept on their arms till morning. In our front was an immense cotton field, more than half a mile wide, and beyond there was a dense forest, extending to the rebel lines. When the works were completed, a camp was selected some two hundred yards in the rear of them. We were now under standing orders to wear our accoutrements day and night, and no man able for duty was permitted to be without them.
On the 28th, the troops were ordered into the works. Heavy cannonading commenced on the right, and the line advanced and drove the enemy from a position where our siege-guns, when mounted, could shell the rebel camps. During the next day there was an unusual quiet along the lines. Taking advantage of this our men continued to strengthen the new line. All night there was a constant whistling of railroad engines in Corinth, as though the enemy were removing troops or stores. When day dawned it revealed a dense cloud of smoke rising over the town, and soon after, heavy explosions were heard in quick succession. The enemy were destroying their workshops and magazines, and leaving the town.
That day the 57th received four months’ wages, the greater part of which was sent home by Rev. T. A. Goodwin, who accompanied the paymaster, and was especially designated to take home the money of Indiana soldiers.
On Saturday, the 31st, Wood’s division marched into town, which was almost deserted by the inhabitants, who left with the southern army. Large quantities of commissary stores remained, such as flour, salt, beef, molasses and peas.
(Northern Mississippi, May, 1862)
Excerpts taken from “Annals of the Fifty-Seventh Regiment, Indiana Volunteer Infantry: Marches, Battles, and Incidents of Army Life” written by Asbury L. Kerwood immediately after the war.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Do you know the story of Rebecca Rolfe?

You probably do, but you may not realize it. She was born about 1596 in what is now tidewater Virginia. Her given name was Matoaka but, in the tradition of many Algonquin tribes, she would receive several names. The one that seemed to stick was Pocahontas.
She was an inquisitive and mischievous child. She was loved by everyone in her village and even respected at a very young age. Pocahontas was just eight years old when the first English settlers arrived (1603) and built a small enclave on land belonging to a powerful chief named Powhatan, who was her father (the members of his tribe were also known as Powhatans).
For the next few years Pocahontas makes friends with the English whose culture she finds interesting. Also, because she is so well liked by both the Powhatans and the English, Pocahontas is able to act as an intermediary between the cultures to settle minor disagreements.
By 1607, the colonists assume control over more of the Powhatans’ land to plant their crops, largely tobacco, to be sent back to England. Tensions mount between the two groups to a degree that even Pocahontas cannot keep them from open warfare. She is still only 11 years old. During the course of the hostilities, the Virginia Colony’s Governor, Captain John Smith, is captured and held prisoner. The most famous legend that links Pocahontas with John Smith was her saving his life as he was about to be executed by Powhatan warriors on her father’s orders. She rushed in and took Smith’s head in her arms to protect him then pleaded with her father for his release, which was granted.
Most historians believe this event did not occur. Some even believe that, if anything, John Smith was being initiated into the Powhatan tribe as an honorary member. Chief Powhatan even referred to Smith as “his son.” Additionally, John Smith did not write about the alleged “rescue” until years later. Many believe that he probably exaggerated the story. He even used an almost identical story, set in different country, in another book. The other “Disney-ized” legend was that Pocahontas and John Smith were romantically involved. This is also believed to be untrue. Smith was 29, Pocahontas was 12.
Later in 1608, young Pocahontas was able to negotiate an exchange of prisoners between the Powhatans and the English which leads to a temporary uneasy peace. But the next year, war resumes. John Smith is seriously injured by an accidental gunpowder explosion and leaves for England. He never returns to Virginia. The Powhatans are later told that he had died.
By 1613, the hostilities continue. This time it is Pocahontas, age 17, who is taken prisoner by the English. Because she is so admired, they treat her very well. Even so, she remains a prisoner for ransom for almost a year. Chief Powhatan refuses to pay any ransom for his daughter. Pocahontas is hurt and angry that her father will not ransom her, and she tells him that she prefers to stay with the English.
While she is technically an English prisoner, Pocahontas studies their culture and religion. She decides to convert to Christianity and be baptized. She takes the biblical name Rebecca. The significance of Rebecca, in the Book of Genesis, was that she was the mother of both Jacob and Esau, and therefore the mother of two distinct peoples. Pocahontas may have felt that she too had loyalty to two peoples, Powhatan and English.
During her “imprisonment,” Pocahontas met a pious tobacco farmer named John Rolfe. They married in 1614, living on his plantation. She was 18 years old. Their union also created an atmosphere of peace between the Powhatans and the Colonists. The following year, their son Thomas was born.
In 1616, Rebecca (Pocahontas), John, and Thomas travelled to England. She was admired everywhere she went as a symbol of the “tamed savage” of the Americas and proof of the success of the Virginia Colony. English religious groups hoped her visit would help raise money to be used in converting more Indians to Christianity. Until modern day, Pocahontas was thought to be an Indian Princess but she was not, at least in a conventional sense. Inheritances in the Powhatan culture went to the siblings the chief first, then to the children of the chief’s sisters.
While she was in London, Pocahontas learned that John Smith was still alive and living nearby. She cordially met with him one more time; it had been seven years since their last meeting.
John Rolfe and Rebecca lived in a London suburb for some time. Then, while preparing to return to Virginia, Rebecca became seriously ill. Some believe she was a victim of small pox, for which Native Americans had little immunity. She dies at Gravesend, England, in March, 1617. She was only 22. A very short, but full, lifetime. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

America's Main Street: Route 66

This year we celebrate the 85th Birthday of a road that has been called “The Mother Road”, “Will Rogers Highway”, and “America’s Main Street.” It was born on November 11, 1926, in Springfield, Missouri, and was designated as U.S. Route 66. It ran for 2,448 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles, and included the states of Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. The longest single highway in the United States. More than just a road, Route 66 is a part of 20th Century American culture.
When the depression struck in the 1930’s and the Great Plains areas turned into the “Dust Bowl,” Route 66 was the major path the migrants took to a new life on the west coast. In his novel “The Grapes of Wrath,” John Steinbeck referred to it as The Mother Road. Later, Route 66 was called the “Will Rogers Highway.” The road ended its western stretch in Santa Monica, California, near Rogers’ ranch.
In 1928, two years after Route 66 was designated, publicity was generated for a cross country footrace called the “Bunion Derby” which followed the highway from Los Angeles to Chicago, then continued on other roads to New York City. Out of 199 runners, only 55 finished. It was won by Andy Payne, a Cherokee from Oklahoma, who covered the distance in 84 days. The race has continued off and on through 2004.
After World War II, Route 66 became the way vacationers saw the American west. It passed through the Painted Desert, Meteor Crater in Arizona, and near to the Grand Canyon. But just as popular with vacationers were the roadside attractions, many built in southwestern or art deco motifs. There were Indian curio shops, reptile farms, motels shaped as Tee-Pee’s, service stations, frozen custard stands, and some of the first fast food restaurants (the first McDonald’s in San Bernardino, CA).
“Route 66” was a very popular American TV series running from 1960 to 1964 starring Martin Milner and George Maharis. It was an anthology about two wanderers who would move from one town to another each week, interacting with new characters. The show was complemented by a very popular theme song that became a best seller. Many viewers vividly remember the red Corvette that the two used to travel the country. The only problem with that is that the program was broadcast in black and white. Red does not photograph well, so they used only blue, tan, and beige Corvettes. They never used a red one.
The beginning of the end for Route 66 came in the late 1950’s. With the Interstate Highway Act, President Eisenhower signed the document that would make the famous highway obsolete. The “66” went through many small towns in a meandering way. It was two lanes in places and had stop lights in others. The new U.S. Interstates would be more direct, wider, and safer. By the 1960’s most of Route 66 had been replaced. These new highways meant decline and death to the small towns along its path. Remember Disney’s “Cars” movie? Interstates 55, 44, 40, 15, 210, and 10 replaced the once seemingly endless Route 66.
The US Highway 66 Association has tried to continue the legend of the famous road but with limited success. Every year the Chicago Jazz Festival builds a stage on the actual pavement of old Route 66 (which is closed to traffic). Portions of the old highway in Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, and Arizona have been designated as National Scenic Byways under the name “Historic Route 66.”

Monday, March 26, 2012


When the National Socialist Workers’ Party (the Nazi Party) took control of Germany in the early 1930’s, they moved forward with their effort to create a biologically “pure” population.
One result was a policy called the “Law for the Prevention of Progeny with Hereditary Diseases.” It called for the sterilization of all persons who suffered diseases considered hereditary. These included retardation, depression, epilepsy, blindness, deafness, and alcoholism. The Law stated, “Whereas the hereditarily healthy families have for the most part adopted a policy of having only one or two children, countless numbers of inferiors and those suffering from hereditary conditions are reproducing unrestrainedly while their sick and asocial offspring burden the community.”
Forced sterilizations were launched in 1934 and an estimated 400,000 people were sterilized under this law. Most of the victims were diagnosed with feeble-mindedness (mental retardation) followed by schizophrenia and epilepsy. The primary methods were vasectomy and tubal ligation. A majority of the patients were pure “German” between 20 and 40 years old. The Law did not target racial or religious groups as such (e.g. Jews) but Gypsies and homosexuals, who were considered asocial, were included. Only the Catholic Church opposed the program while most Protestant Churches accepted or cooperated.
But this wasn’t the worst part. Forced sterilization was only the first step in the killing of the mentally ill and the handicapped. A “euthanasia” program followed shortly with the goal of exterminating from the Aryan race all people considered genetically defective, and a financial burden on the German society.
The Nazis, somewhat concerned with public reaction, never proposed a formal euthanasia law. Instead, they created a secret program called “Operation T4.” Under the premise of a survey, all public and church run nursing homes were required to complete questionnaires about the state of health, and capacity for work, for all adult patients in their care. The completed forms were surrendered to expert (Nazi) assessors to review. These authorities were expected to process a great number of forms very quickly. They would mark a red “+” for each person to be executed or a blue “ - “ for each person to be spared. All Jewish patients were automatically given the red “+” regardless of the seriousness of their illness.
People to be executed were collected and sent to killing centers across Germany. At first lethal injections were used but this was too slow. During 1940, the Nazis switched to carbon monoxide gas to increase their efficiency. Corpses were removed from the gas chambers, gold teeth extracted, and burned in crematoriums. Death certificates listed false causes of death. Letters of condolences were sent by the government to the relatives. That year over 70,000 mentally ill and handicapped people were executed.
The secrecy of Operation T4 rapidly evaporated. Obvious record falsification was discovered. Some religious and civic leaders protested the killings which pressured Hitler to discontinued Operation T4 in 1941.
The killing centers in Germany were disassembled and shipped to Poland. Where they were re-erected in extermination camps to expedite the “final solution.” The experience gained in the execution of the retarded and handicapped in Germany served the Nazis well in the later, more massive holocaust. The euthanasia of the handicapped did not end however. From 1941 to 1945 it existed out of the limelight and became decentralized. This new super-secret program was called “Code 14f13” and executed another 20,000 people. In total 250,000 retarded and handicapped patents were executed during the Nazi regime.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Hero is Found, then Lost, then Found Again

The patriot and legendary naval commander, John Paul Jones, died 219 years ago in 1792, but many Americans are not familiar with this important revolutionary figure. Born John Paul in Scotland in 1747, he apprenticed at sea at age 13, sailing to the Caribbean. When he was 26 he killed another sailor in self defense during a mutiny. He fled to Virginia and changed his name to John Jones, then later to John Paul Jones.
At the start of the Revolutionary War, he was commissioned in the Continental Navy. He was promoted to Captain at age 29. His war time achievements were extraordinary, continuously seeking out and attacking British ships while commanding a succession of American warships. He became a close associate of Washington, Jefferson, and especially Franklin, his mentor.
In 1778 Captain John Paul Jones decided to take the war to the British. His plan was to raid the coastal areas and take English nobles prisoner so that they could be used in exchanges for American prisoners. Previously, the British considered all captured American navy personnel and privateers as pirates, and refused to hand them over. Although the raids were unsuccessful, the British press branded Jones as an ape-like pirate. This strategy failed as many in the English working class saw Jones as a kind of “Robin Hood” - stealing from the upper class and giving to them. Captain Jones had returned some English fishermen he held and gave them new sails for their boats and some money.
One year later, Jones achieved his most famous victory off the coast of Scotland. He defeated the British ship Serapis in heavy combat. The Serapis was a 50-gun warship with a crew of almost 300. After pounding Jones’ ship, the Bonhomme Richard, the British Captain, Richard Pearson, called out to Jones, “Do you call for quarter?” (in other words are you prepared to give up and surrender your ship?). Jones was believed to have responded, “I have not yet begun to fight.” There is some question as to his actual words though. An eyewitness, Ensign Nathaniel Fanning, recalled Jones’ words to be, “Ay, ay, we’ll do that when we can fight no longer, but we shall see yours (their flag) down first!” While this version is a little wordier, there is no confusion about the meaning.
John Paul Jones maneuvered his smaller and now sinking Bonhomme Richard up next to the Serapis and had his crew lash it to the British ship. The American crew fought hand to hand and after three hours they overwhelmed the enemy. As Jones stepped onto to the deck of the Serapis to accept their surrender, the Bonhomme Richard sank beneath the waves. Many other victories were to come as the small Continental Navy fought against huge odds. America had found a new hero.
While visiting in Paris after the war, John Paul Jones was offered a position as an Admiral in the Russian Navy by Empress Catherine II. He served in the war against the Turkish Navy in the Black Sea from 1788 to 1790.
With his duty completed, Jones returned to Paris, nearly penniless and without prospects, living in obscurity. He died on July 18, 1792, at the age of 45 from a form of jaundice (interstitial nephritis). He was found lying face down on the bed of his small third floor apartment. He had written his will just hours before.
After the French were defeated by the British at Trafalgar, Napoleon is said to have remarked, “Had Jones lived to this day, France might have had an Admiral.”
A friend paid for Jones’ metal coffin. Then a small group accompanied his body to the Saint Louis Cemetery in Paris where Jones was buried in an unmarked grave. There was no service and no clergy presided. Later, the cemetery fell into disrepair. It became a place to dispose of dead animals and where gamblers met to bet on animal fights. For more than 100 years, the remains of John Paul Jones, the Navy’s first hero, remained in the unmarked grave.
In 1899, American Ambassador to France, Horace Porter, began his search for the forgotten grave of John Paul Jones. After six years of tireless work, he was able to locate the gravesite in 1905. Positive identification was possible because the body had been well preserved in that metal coffin. A squadron of American warships was dispatched to France by President Theodore Roosevelt to bring the hero’s body home.
On John Paul Jones’ 159th Birthday in 1906, before 12,000 mourners, his body was ceremoniously interred in a gold and marble crypt in the Chapel of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. The hero had been found, again.
The inscription on the marble floor in front of his sarcophagus reads,

"La Grippe": The Forgotten Predator

It came out of nowhere. Later it was thought to have originated in China in a rare genetic mutation of the common influenza virus. The name given to it was the “Spanish Flu” or “La Grippe” as it allegedly killed 8 million people in Spain in 1918. The Influenza Pandemic of 1918 became the most devastating epidemic in recorded history. More people died of the Spanish Flu in 12 months than died due to the Black Death Bubonic Plague in four years (1347-1351).
In 1918 the Great War (WWI) was winding down. Americans saw peace on the horizon. They were not prepared for what was about to happen. Small outbreaks of the Flu erupted here and there but they seemed benign, at first. It was strange that those infected most were between the ages of 20 and 40. Flu usually struck the very old and very young.
Before long people were struck down on their way to work, on the street, and died rapid deaths. Many died in just hours, most within only a few days. Physicians reported that their patients displayed common Flu like symptoms at first but that it rapidly developed into “the most viscous type of pneumonia that has ever been seen.” The medical profession was powerless to stop it. Some believed the epidemic was a form of biological weapon developed by the Germans as a last stand.
It covered the world, spread by human carriers along travel and trade routes. Returning soldiers then brought a second wave of death with them back to America in September. There were 200,000 deaths reported the following month. It was a complete public health disaster. Medical students were released early from school to be put into the field to try to contain the pandemic.
It was almost impossible to escape from the illness. President Woodrow Wilson suffered through it in early 1919. Public Health departments distributed masks to be worn in public, stores were prohibited from having sales, and funerals were limited to 15 minutes. Bodies piled up. There was a serious lack of medical personnel, medical supplies, and coffins.
Surprisingly, the Spanish Flu disappeared almost as fast as it had come on. It was largely forgotten by Americans during the following decades, until 2009. You can probably remember the scare we had just two years ago when the H1N1 virus was circulating. It was a mutation of the Spanish Flu from 90 years ago. We may have dodged a bullet in 2009, but how long will our luck hold?
The 1918 Spanish Flu by the numbers WORLDWIDE:

20% of the world’s population was infected.

30-50 million people worldwide died.

Twice as many people died of the Flu than were killed in WWI.

More died in a single year than in 4 years of the Black Death Plague.

The 1918 Spanish Flu by the numbers in AMERICA:

28% of all Americans were infected.

675,000 Americans died.

10 times more Americans died of the Flu than in WWI combat.

50% of U.S. military casualties in Europe were from the Flu.

43,000 American soldiers died.

12 year drop was seen in the average life expectancy in 1918 alone.

25 times higher mortality rate than in 1917.

(numbers are from the U.S. Archives and Stanford University)

“I had a little bird,
Its name was Enza,
I opened the window,
And in-flu-enza.”
(children’s rope skipping rhyme in 1918)