World War I—the “war to end all wars”—was ended by an armistice that took effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. One year later, on November 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson gave an address to the nation on what had come to be called Armistice Day in the U.S. and allied countries. In 1938, Armistice Day became a legal holiday, and in 1954 the day was renamed “Veterans Day” to honor all veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, not just those who served in World War I.
My family has a proud heritage of serving our country. My father Keith V. Black served in the Navy immediately before the Vietnam War. My paternal grandfather Vernon C. Black served in the Army in Europe during World War II. My maternal grandfather William E. Prettyman served in the Army Air Corps in the Pacific during World War II. And many, many more of my ancestors and relatives have served in the many wars our nation has engaged in over the past 400 years.
I present this list to honor their service and their memory.
A little over twenty-six years ago (December 12, 1993) I wrote a letter to my great-aunt Anelia (Shearer) Hayes asking her what she knew about her father Ray Shearer’s family history. Anelia was my grandfather Vernon’s sister. My grandfather was old enough to remember his father Ray Shearer leaving their family, and he went to lengths to distance himself from his birth father, including unofficially but permanently changing his last name to that of his mother’s second husband, Frank Black.
Vernon’s sister Anna Cornelia (she preferred “Anelia”) was born around or just after when her father left the family. Unlike her brother, she kept her father’s surname and she went on to develop a deep interest in family history. Anelia was the one who compiled the “Edell Family History” in 1991 and hosted the Edel/Edell family reunion.
Today’s post is about the response Anelia sent to my letter of twenty-six years ago. When I received her response, I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of new fascinating information she provided to me. To this day, the letter she wrote is still the sole source for many pieces of Shearer family history that might otherwise have been lost forever.
My father’s father’s father’s father was named Zygonyi Ray Shearer (sometimes spelled Zygonia Ray Shearer), and until today I’ve had no clear idea why he was named Zygonyi/Zygonia (for simplicity’s sake, I’ll refer to him from here on as “Ray,” which is what he went by as an adult).
Today, I came across this tidbit from a story (“Odd War Nicknames: Crack Regiments with High Sounding Adopted Titles—Some were won in battle”) that was published on page 12 of the August 19, 1897 edition of the Sterling Standard (Sterling, Illinois) and also on page 6 of the August 24, 1897 edition of the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio):
“Zagoni’s Battalion” of Missouri cavalry, also called “Fremont’s Bodyguard,” has been immortalized in song and story for its charge at Springfield.
In today’s post I’ll continue my recent theme of focusing on ancestors who were early immigrants to the future United States. I’ll be purposefully focusing on details of the immigrants’ lives before they arrived in the New World, and will address their activities once here in another post.
Stockdale Coddington was baptized on March 8, 1570, in Saint Mary the Virgin Church in the village of Bletchingley, in Surrey county, England. Thus we can surmise that he was born somewhere within Bletchingley Parish in late February or early March, 1570. Stockdale was the third-born child and eldest son of the four children born to James Quidington (1530–1606) and Joan Stockdale (ca. 1537–1612). Quidington was a common Surrey variant spelling of Coddington, along with Cuddington and Quedinton.
1570 was 449 years ago, which may be hard to conceptualize for non-historians. To help you visualize England in 1570, here are a few guideposts: Elizabeth I had been queen of England for a dozen years, Pope Pius V had just excommunicated Queen Elizabeth (on February 25, 1570), Thomas Tallis was a 65-year-old composer, and William Shakespeare was not yet six years old (not until about April, 1570). The King James Bible would not be published for another 41 years. It would be another 12 years until England tried to colonize the new world (unsuccessfully, at Roanoke from 1584 to 1589), and 37 years before England founded its first successful colony in the New World—Jamestown in 1607. The voyage of the Mayflower was still 50 years in the future.
Exactly one hundred years ago today, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, an armistice was signed with Germany to cease fighting the Great War. One year later, on November 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson declared that the day would be called Armistice Day, to honor those who fought in World War I. More than three decades later—after the “war to end war” gave way to World War II and then the Korean War—the holiday was renamed Veterans Day, and was intended as a day to honor all veterans of the U.S. armed forces.
In today’s post I’d like to honor all of my family members who served in defense of our country.
This is a revised version of a post I did five years ago. Since then, some family members have died, and I’ve discovered twenty-seven additional family members who served our country. Note that I have included only relatives who served the United States or the colonies that would eventually become the United States.
Today’s post is about a trio of documents that resulted from some archival research that my wife arranged for me as a present right before we became parents 3½ years ago. It’s taken that long for me to get back to this. I was looking for anything I could find on the life and death of my biological patrilineal great-grandfather, Zygonia Ray Shearer. What I got back from the Wayne County, Iowa, archivist was a brief unprovenienced obituary for Ray, and a set of three papers with a post-it note that read “Found among our guardianship papers.”
These papers tell a story of Zygonia’s childhood about six years after his father died suddenly and tragically by falling off of his house and bursting his abdomen open by landing on a stump. Zygonia wasn’t even 2½ years old when his father died, and he would have been about 8–9 years old when the following legal proceedings were recorded in 1903. His younger sister wasn’t even born when her father died; Mary Belle (Coddington) Shearer was just three months pregnant with Annetta when Gilbert Matthew Shearer died in 1897.
There are some legal concepts involved in these papers that I don’t pretend to fully understand, so for my readers who happen to be lawyers, please do let me know of any context that I may be missing. For instance, why would two minor children need a Guardian ad Litem if their mother was around to make decisions for them? Continue reading →
It seems odd to me that while I’m able to trace my family back on dozens of lines more than 400 years, my own patrilineal great-grandfather—my father’s father’s father—is nearly a complete mystery to me. I would normally begin an exploration of his life by saying that his name was Ray Shearer, but even that is a bit of a mystery. While many people called him Ray, more often than not, he referred to himself as Zyionyi Ray Shearer. As with many of my difficult-to-research ancestors, I keep setting aside his information, waiting for some hint or help to emerge, as they so often do.
And so it was with Ray. Just this past week I got an unexpected letter from my cousin Peggy, who’s a cousin on my Shearer side. Her great-grandmother was Ray Shearer’s mother—Mary Belle (Coddington) Shearer Stokes. Peggy’s grandmother was Ray’s younger half-sister, Zealia Faye Stokes, and Zealia apparently was very interested in preserving family stories and history, and she passed much of this on to Peggy.
Today’s post could not have been written without Peggy’s help. Thank you, Peggy! Continue reading →
My paternal great-grandfather Ray Shearer continues to prove a mystery. I’ve never seen a photo of him, and until today I’ve found only a single artifact associated with him: a letter he wrote to his son on July 2, 1932. Today I found three more objects associated with Ray, as well as an unidentified photo postcard that might be of Ray, his sister, and their mother.
The first postcard was postmarked December (25?), 1908, from ___dyville, Iowa (possibly Braddyville, Iowa), and was from Ray’s aunt Cynthia. Cynthia is Ray’s father’s older sister, Cynthia Anne Shearer Maxwell (1863–1926). Ray’s father died traumatically when Ray was less than 2½ years old, of injuries suffered from a fall off of a roof onto a stump.