An idea—whence “Zygonyi”?

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.

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The rains have come and I am back

Dear patient reader,

I feel I owe you an explanation for why I suddenly stop writing on this blog last April and am now back again. I thought this would be a banner year for family history research, gearing up for the 400th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower next year and getting a chance to pay attention to other lines of my family that have been neglected of late due to my focus on my Mayflower lineage.

Instead of imagining the lives of generations of my immigrant ancestors risking a dangerous overseas passage to the New World, however, I found myself staring down the very real risk of having my own house succumb to the waters.

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Genealogical resolutions for 2019

With 2018 now behind us, and with the optimism that comes with the arrival of another new year, it’s time to think about my genealogical resolutions. How did I do on last year’s resolutions? What lessons did I learn? What are my goals for the new year?

One year ago, I made two genealogical resolutions for 2018:

  1. Write more blog posts here on Blackenedroots.
  2. Join a hereditary society or two—most likely the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) and the General Society of Mayflower Descendants (Mayflower Society).

Let’s see how I did.

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Personal history prompts, part 1 (leisure)

If your experience is anything like mine, it can be frustratingly hard to get your family members to start sharing personal details about themselves, their parents, or their grandparents. Sometimes it’s because they don’t want to talk about themselves, or perhaps they figure you’ve already heard and know the stories and they don’t want to bore you by repeating something you may have last heard decades ago.

I’m starting to think that more often, it’s because I’m not asking the right questions—that I’m not asking questions that are specific enough to trigger old memories. So in this series of posts, I’ll be bringing together some ideas for lines of questioning when interviewing relatives.

In the following examples, I’ll be pretending to ask an older relative about their deceased parent. While I use the pronoun “he” in the following questions, they apply equally well to both parents. I’m figuring there will be several lines of questioning (on leisure, religion, politics, personality, family, religion/spirituality, work, education, childhood, young adulthood, dating and marriage, the military, and so on), with the questions for any one of these lines being covered in one or more sessions of an hour or more each. Continue reading

Genealogical resolutions for 2018

With the start of a new year, I thought I’d lay out my genealogical plans for 2018:

  1. Write more blog posts here on Blackenedroots. Having an energetic toddler has been more of a challenge to my genealogical pursuits over the past three and a half years than I had imagined it would be. With Arwen’s third birthday now behind us, I feel (or at least I hope) that we’ve turned a new page and that I may be able to get more research and writing time in. This last month has been a test of that feeling/hope, and I found I was able to write more posts in the last month of 2017 than I did in all of 2016 or 2015. So here’s to a continued renaissance at Blackenedroots in 2018!
  2. Join a hereditary society or two—most likely the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) and the General Society of Mayflower Descendants (Mayflower Society). My cousin Linda asked for help with an SAR application she was filling out this past fall, and I realized I didn’t really have a good grasp of what was needed. I thought tracing one’s line back to an ancestor who was a member would be sufficient—not so, it turns out. If your ancestors joined SAR or DAR more than about 35 years ago, you pretty much have to redo all the work done by your ancestor, as the societies usually returned all supporting documentation to the applicant, without making a file copy for themselves. With the 400th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower coming up in 2020, and the 250th anniversary of the nation coming a few years later in 2026, this seems like a great time to get this done. To benefit both sides of my family, I’ll probably be going with Benjamin Woodruff on my mother’s side for SAR, and John Alden on my father’s side for the Mayflower Society.

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Happy Father’s Day!

I’d like to wish my father and all fathers in our family a happy Father’s Day. You’re the role models, the teachers, the coaches, the soldiers, the providers, the protectors, the scout leaders, the tinkerers, the tree house builders, and the bad joke tellers that have allowed us—your children, grandchildren, and other descendants—to discover and become who we are.

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My 100th blog post and my 100-year touchstone

100In a little under a year, I’ve reached a milestone on this blog with this, my 100th post. To you, dear reader, I’d like to say thank you for reading, commenting, sharing, helping, and inspiring me. Family history may sometimes seem like a solo pursuit, but at its core, it’s a cooperative affair. Family history is about our history, and we all have a role to play in ensuring that this history survives. Think of the heirlooms and old family photos you might have in your house. You would not have those had someone else not taken at least some care to help preserve and protect them. I am utterly grateful to my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and beyond for making sure that some of our family’s history survived long enough to make its way to my hands and eyes.

Just as those who have gone before us helped preserve history for us, so must we help preserve history for the future. The more we try, the more history will be preserved; the less we try, the more history will be lost. History is not just a collection of facts and artifacts that survives on its own and can be counted on to always be there. If we don’t take an active role in nurturing and protecting our history, it will be slowly be lost.

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Dust and Memories

The interior timber frame of an abandoned barnWhile I was thinking of what to call this new site, one name that kept coming to me was Dust and Memories.  One of the goals of this site is to document the history of those family members who came before me.  I consider this to be an almost sacred duty of the family historian, because if no one in a family takes the time to document these histories with writings, images, and tangible artifacts, a family’s historical legacy all too quickly becomes dust and fading memories. Continue reading