Category Archives: Other Travelers in Genealogy

Other Travelers Part 10 – Tracing the 1918 Flu Epidemic

(Part of an On-going Series – “Other Travelers”)

by Vicki Ruthe Hahn – SGS Stateline Genealogy Sorter

Have you gotten the flu this season?

Not the 24 hour stomach flu (which is bad enough), but the upper respiratory Influenza A or B?  Flu has hit this year especially hard, killing several children. But it is nothing close to the amount of deaths in the Pandemic of 1918.

Perhaps your ancestors were affected by that epidemic – one hundred years ago this year?  Whole families were wiped out.


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Let’s get some insight:


From Standford Children’s Health:

“What are the different types of influenza?

Influenza viruses are divided into three types designated as A, B, and C:

  • Influenza types A and B are responsible for epidemics of respiratory illness that occur almost every winter and often lead to increased rates of hospitalization and death. Public health efforts to control the impact of influenza focus on types A and B. One of the reasons the flu remains a problem is because the viruses actually change their structure regularly. This means that people are exposed to new types of the virus each year.
  • Influenza type C usually causes either a very mild respiratory illness or no symptoms at all. It does not cause epidemics and does not have the severe public health impact that influenza types A and B do….
  1. A person infected with an influenza virus develops antibodies against that virus.
  2. The virus changes.
  3. The “older” antibodies no longer recognizes the “newer” virus when the next flu season comes around.
  4. The person becomes infected again.

The older antibodies can, however, give some protection against getting the flu again. Currently, three different influenza viruses circulate worldwide: two type A viruses and one type B virus. Vaccines given each year to protect against the flu contain the influenza virus strain from each type that is expected to cause the flu that year.

What causes influenza?

An influenza virus is generally passed from person to person through the air. .. with infected person who sneezes or coughs. The virus can also live for a short time on objects …can get the flu virus by touching something that has been handled by someone infected with the virus and then touching his or her own mouth, nose, or eyes.

People are generally the most contagious with the flu 24 hours before they start having symptoms  (emphasis mine) and during the time they have the most symptoms. That’s why it is hard to prevent the spread of the flu, especially among children, because they do not always know they are sick while they are still spreading the disease. The risk of infecting others usually stops around the seventh day of the infection.”


See the source image

Most entertainments, churches, social clubs, libraries, movie houses, etc. were eventually shut down.  But they tried wearing masks for awhile!

Officials Wearing Gauze Masks

Milkmen(?) braving the Flu to deliver milk to stores, and to people’s homes

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The Flu Epidemic rapidly made many children orphans, dependent on the care of others.

Many families died of neglect or starvation, remaining isolated in their homes, afraid to come out for supplies or medical attention.  Some neighbors were afraid to enter the homes of those who were sick.  So many medical doctors were in the War, ill, or overwhelmed.  anyone with medical training was asked to help, and some communities recruited  volunteers to care for the sick.

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From Standford University, by Molly Billings, June, 1997 modified RDS February, 2005:

“The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed more people than the Great War, known today as World War I (WWI) … It has been cited as the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history. More people died of influenza in a single year than in four-years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague from 1347 to 1351. Known as “Spanish Flu” or “La Grippe” the influenza of 1918-1919 was a global disaster…

In the two years that this scourge ravaged the earth, a fifth of the world’s population was infected. The flu was most deadly for people ages 20 to 40. This pattern of morbidity was unusual for influenza which is usually a killer of the elderly and young children. It infected 28% of all Americans (Tice).

An estimated 675,000 Americans died of influenza during the pandemic, ten times as many as in the world war. Of the U.S. soldiers who died in Europe, half of them fell to the influenza virus and not to the enemy (Deseret News). An estimated 43,000 servicemen mobilized for WWI died of influenza (Crosby). 1918 would go down as unforgettable year of suffering and death and yet of peace…

The effect of the influenza epidemic was so severe that the average life span in the US was depressed by 10 years.   (Emphasis mine.)…

In 1918 children would skip rope to the rhyme (Crawford):


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History is reflected in children’s games, and in songs.

(“Ring-around-the Rosie” is NOT from the time of the Black Plaque!)

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The mandatory gauze masks were not always very effective.  There is the story of 4 women who wore masks while playing cards one evening.  By the next morning three of them were dead from Influenza.


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In an effort to boost the War effort, President Woodrow Wilson (and others) initially tried to ignore the pandemic, and suppress news about it.  How depressing that so many of those who survived the war, ended up dying of influenza.  Whole shiploads of military men were affected, some never making it to serve in the War.

The cause of most of the deaths in this pandemic was the secondary pneumonia.  There were no antibiotics.  Influenza frequently has secondary infections – strep throat, ear infections, Pink Eye, etc.  But this time it was more than that. (see explanation below.)

Be alert if you see several people in your ancestor’s family die suddenly, and within a few days of each other, especially if between September 1918 and about June 1919.  A death certificate may not mention flu/influenza, but pneumonia, etc. as cause of death.  Or there might not have been a police officer/medical person/undertaker/county recorder available to make any registration. (see explanation below.)  Some members of the family may have been buried in a mass grave with no records.

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The first wave of the 1918 pandemic occurred in the spring and was generally mild. The sick …experienced … typical flu symptoms….

However, a second, highly contagious wave of influenza appeared with a vengeance in the fall of that same year. Victims died within hours or days of developing symptoms, their skin turning blue and their lungs filling with fluid that caused them to suffocate….

Despite the fact that the 1918 flu wasn’t isolated to one place, it became known around the world as the Spanish flu, as Spain was hit hard by the disease and was not subject to the wartime news blackouts that affected other European countries. (Even Spain’s king, Alfonso XIII, reportedly contracted the flu.)

One unusual aspect of the 1918 flu was that it struck down many previously healthy, young people—a group normally resistant to this type of infectious illness—including a number of World War I servicemen…. Forty percent of the U.S. Navy was hit with the flu, while 36 percent of the Army became ill, and troops moving around the world in crowded ships and trains helped to spread the killer virus.

Although the death toll attributed to the Spanish flu is often estimated at 20 million to 50 million victims worldwide, other estimates run as high as 100 million victims. The exact numbers are impossible to know due to a lack of medical record-keeping in many places.

…Even President Woodrow Wilson reportedly contracted the flu in early 1919 while negotiating the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I.

When the 1918 flu hit, doctors and scientists were unsure what caused it or how to treat it. Unlike today, there were no effective vaccines or antivirals, drugs that treat the flu. (The first licensed flu vaccine appeared in America in the 1940s….)

Complicating matters was the fact that World War I had left parts of America with a shortage of physicians and other health workers. And of the available medical personnel in the U.S., many came down with the flu themselves.

Additionally, hospitals in some areas were so overloaded with flu patients that schools, private homes and other buildings had to be converted into makeshift hospitals, some of which were staffed by medical students.

Officials in some communities imposed quarantines, ordered citizens to wear masks and shut down public places, including schools, churches and theaters. People were advised to avoid shaking hands and to stay indoors, libraries put a halt on lending books and regulations were passed banning spitting… the Sanitary Code.”

The flu took a heavy human toll, wiping out entire families and leaving countless widows and orphans in its wake. Funeral parlors were overwhelmed and bodies piled up. Many people had to dig graves for their own family members.

The flu was also detrimental to the economy. In the United States, businesses were forced to shut down because so many employees were sick. Basic services such as mail delivery and garbage collection were hindered due to flu-stricken workers.

In some places there weren’t enough farm workers to harvest crops. Even state and local health departments closed for business, hampering efforts to chronicle the spread of the 1918 flu and provide the public with answers about it.

By the summer of 1919, the flu pandemic came to an end, as those that were infected either died or developed immunity.

Almost 90 years later, in 2008, researchers announced they’d discovered what made the 1918 flu so deadly: A group of three genes enabled the virus to weaken a victim’s bronchial tubes and lungs and clear the way for bacterial pneumonia.

Since 1918, there have been several other influenza pandemics, although none as deadly.”


The 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic was world wide:

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The ultimate “other Travelers” in this story are the viruses and bacteria that exploded throughout the world for those 15 months 1918 – 1919.

PBS has a very good “American Experience” documentary of the topic

Aired January 2, 2018

Influenza 1918


The American military in World War I and the influenza pandemic were closely connected. Influenza spread in The crowded conditions of military camps in the United States and in the trenches of the Western Front in Europe. The virus traveled with military personnel from camp to camp and across the Atlantic military transit ships.  September – November 1918, influenza and pneumonia sickened many in the military at the height of the American military involvement in the war.  This affected the war.

US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health

Public Health Rep. 2010; 125(Suppl 3): 82–91.


(read the entire article by clicking the links above.)

“…the virus traveled west and south, arriving at Camp Grant, Illinois, on Saturday, September 21, 1918, with 70 hospital admissions. “So sudden and appalling was the visitation that it required the greatest energy and cooperation of every officer, every man, and every nurse to meet the emergency,” wrote one observer.4 (p. 749) Hospital admissions rose to 194, then 370, then 492, to a high of 788 admissions on September 29. Hospital officials summoned all officers on leave, converted barracks to hospital wards, and by “extreme effort” expanded the hospital capacity from “10 occupied beds to a capacity of 4,102 beds in six days.”4 (p.751)

Influenza still overwhelmed every department. The hospital laboratory resorted to local civilian facilities to perform specimen tests. Camp ophthalmologists saw patients with conjunctivitis, an influenza complication, and ear, nose, and throat specialists saw those with other dangerous secondary infections. As individuals became seriously ill, camp officials sent out “danger” or “death” telegrams to families and loved ones, but soon they received so many return calls, telegrams, and visitors, they had to set up a separate hospital tent as an information bureau. Medical personnel were not immune. Eleven of the 81 medical officers fell ill, and three civilian and three Army nurses died. The epidemic even caused the Medical Department to drop its prohibition on black nurses so that Camp Grant called African American nurses to care for patients. The women had to wait, however, until separate, segregated accommodations could be constructed.”


National Archives: World War I Centennial

As the largest repository of American World War I records, the National Archives invites you to browse the wealth of records and information documenting the U.S. experience in this conflict, including photographs, documents, audiovisual recordings, educational resources, articles, blog posts, lectures, and events.

Veteran’s Service Records:




Other Travelers Part 9 – The Underground Railroad and Me; My Ancestor Thomas Campbell was an Abolitionist!

Other Travelers Part 9 –

The Underground Railroad and Me;

My Ancestor Thomas Campbell was an Abolitionist!

(Part of an On-going Series – “Other Travelers”)

by Vicki Ruthe Hahn – SGS Stateline Genealogy Sorter

June 29, 2017

Thomas Campbell


My paternal Grandmother Muriel Ruthe’s maternal Great Great Grandfather Thomas Campbell (1786 Pennsylvania – 1858 Morgan County, Ohio) was an abolitionist, i.e. “one who before the Civil War had agitated for the immediate, unconditional, and total abolition of slavery in the United States.”  The July  1787 “Ordinance of Freedom” for the Ohio Territory, Article 6 stated that there would be no slavery, but that slavery owners could claim their runaway slaves in Ohio.

From about 1820, Morgan County was part of the Underground Railroad.  In 1842, 16 slaves were escaping from Wood County, Virginia.  They stopped at a Station near James Coles on the river near McConnelsville.  They also hid in Jehu Coulson’s tobacco house, Issac Clendenin’s house, Joshua Wood’s house and, Esquire Lint’s office.  Their owners, Mr. Henderson, and O’Neil Summer of Virginia, offered a $3,000 reward for their capture.  They requested a search warrant.

Several men from the area stalled the owners by talking, and about 30 rode horses in opposite directions to confuse the pursuers, while the slaves escaped.  The owners, and their men, posted guards west of Deacon Wright’s, and at Campbell’s Mill to keep watch at the junction of two main roads. (Thomas Campbell and Henry Moore had an early mill on Island Run.)

The slaves were led on a branch route a short distance down from Island Run, then up to the head of Brush Creek, and then to thick brushwood near the mouth of the Moxahala River.  There they were met by an Underground Railroad Train Conductor from Putnam, and got away.

From 1842 – 1861 Morgan County assisted 285 “Negros” to gain freedom!   (I think Thomas Campbell, even though old and slower then at age 56, either rode with the other men to confuse the pursuers; convinced the owners to set a guard near his Mill because he knew a shortcut behind it for the slaves; or maybe led the slaves partway on the shortcut to continue to their freedom.   I am very proud of him.)  Who knew Ohio was such a hotbed of abolitionists?

This information is from Morgan County, Portraits and Biographical Sketches of Some of  It’s Pioneers and Prominent Men”, by Charles Robertson, M.D., revised and extended by the publishers, Chicago, L. H. Watkins and Co, 1886.  It took reading most of the book to glean the 2 historical references to my ancestor Thomas Campbell.  He was not prominent enough to pay for a separate biography.   I found the book at the Wisconsin Historical Society Library in Madison, WI.  It is time for another trip to Ohio and Pennsylvania, etc. via (WHS) Wisconsin next year.

Hint – read about the history of your ancestor’s places, and you may find them!  And photocopy, photograph, scan, or take neater handwritten notes than I did.  There may be some mistakes here, as I had very little time before the library closed, and about 400 pages to skim through.  I was so happy to find it, and love Historic County Histories.  Look here for the WHS catalog to see what else they have.


Other Travelers, Part 8 – Dogs Are Some of the Best People; And Me

Other Travelers, Part 8 – Dogs

Are Some of the Best People; And Me

by Vicki Ruthe Hahn, SGS Stateline Genealogy Sorter

Part of an On-going Series

March 7, 2017

 If you are lucky enough to have been “owned” by a dog, you will understand this Posting.  If not, you will still find some helpful genealogy hints.  The American Kennel Club has been doing “family histories” of registered purebred dogs for decades.  While I was saying goodbye to our sweet 13 3/4 year old “Georgie Corgi”, I (re)discovered her AKC certified pedigree papers.

Hint – Look at documents with open eyes to draw conclusions.  The paperwork showed that the official spelling is Corgi, not Corgie.  It also showed that the original owner had the same first name, and different last name than was on my sales receipt for Georgie.  The first person lived in Arkansas with Georgie (Georgie Lou Ana), and her mother (dam)Vicious Emily “Vice”  and father (sire) Charming Prince Louie, a year before I met them.  That indicates to me that the owner remarried (or took back her maiden name) and moved with her dogs to the farm near Beloit Wisconsin.

I got to meet Georgie’s last puppy before he was shipped off to his new California owners.

Hint – don’t get set on your ancestors being only in one place.  They could be residents in several states, as they move around.

Here are photos given to me of Georgie as a puppy.

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 2003 Georgie upside down

 She loved to be upside down; and high up – on the couch back, or the dining room table!

I was able to “Adopt” (buy) my Pembroke Welsh Corgi for a discounted price at 1  1/2 years old.  Don’t worry, Georgie was not a “puppy mill” dog, but one of a few well-loved dogs who lived on a farm, and part of a part-time hobby raising Corgis.  She was the owner’s favorite puppy and the best example of a Corgi that I have ever seen.  Georgie had her first litter of 3 puppies, but one died. Georgie had to have a c-section, be neutered, and could not be shown or bred anymore. 

 Her paperwork was  inside of a plastic sleeve covered with vaccination stickers. I pulled the papers out to uncover Georgie’s exact date of birth – May 11, 2003. I also had not noticed the rest of Georgie’s name, nor her dam’s and sire’s name until I looked again. Now I know where my dog got her spitfire spirit – ‘Vice”, besides being a Corgi. Hint – go back to the paperwork that you already have, to see new clues.

I got Georgie to keep my older Golden Retriever/Yellow Lab mutt Gentle Ben company.  He came on the trip, to approve.  My older children, grandchildren, and extended family also became very close to them, as both dogs were children-lovers, soft, and knew how to grin.  They came with their already fitting names, big grins, and bonded with their large human “pack”.

 I even found a photo of Georgie’s sire, and complete family pedigrees of her dam and sire.             Hint – look a little further; someone in your extended family may have already done a lot of the same family history that you are searching for.  It is worth reviewing so that you can verify the links.  Some may be wrong, but some may give you good clues.  You may just need to update and continue the pedigree charts. Hint –  Look for first name patterns to see family connections.  i.e. The middle name of children may be the Mother’s maiden name. 

Georgie pedigree

 Old photos of ancestors are priceless.  Hint – make contact with your extended relatives in other lines of the family to see what they might have to share.   I received some new old photos from a third cousin, found with DNA through  I had not even thought of that line of the family as cousins.

 2003 Charming Prince Louie

Here is a photo of Gentle Ben, also smiling.

 Gentle Ben smiling

Hint – My best clues for organizing and dating my older mixed up photographs have been – the ages of the family children, and the style of hair, clothes and eyeglasses; and which pets did we own when.  My Mom, Daisy, even remembered the name of the pet dog “Buster” that was in an 81 year photo of her as a child.  She also knew that dog did not come with them from the farm to town.  Older folks may be able to identify old photos by very old memories, even if they don’t remember current events so well.

I gave a children’s sermon once, showing the children that photo of “God” smiling.  I acted confused that God was not spelled “dog”.  Dogs are some of the best people because they “hound” us – never stop following, and looking over, us.  They are happy fur-folks who give us concentrated, un-conditional love for the short time that they “own” us. 

Dogs sure know how to enjoy life, rolling in the essences.  Their hearing is more acute than humans can comprehend – hence good watch dogs.  Their sense of smell is highly superior – Georgie could smell that Gentle Ben had cancer, well before I knew.  Dogs love to play for no reason.  Georgie (and Ben) continued to play, and please us, enjoying even their old age.

We could tell that Georgie was really slowing down the last couple of months.  She tried to continue taking shorter walks, but was breathing hard, even just to walk short distances.  Her favorite hobby was sleeping, when it used to be walking for miles.  We just kept praising and loving her. 

Hint – enjoy your elders, and spend lots of time with them.  Ask them to share their memories, and the stories of their lives and of your ancestors.  We never know when they will pass away.

The last couple of days, Georgie came to me and stared deeply into my eyes.  I have had her do so many times before.  She tried to do the Vulcan mind-meld – it was her way to tell me when she wanted to go out, or that her water dish was empty, or that she needed a rub and hug, or to tell me it was time to go to bed when I was addictively continuing to look for just one more genealogy hint on the computer. 

 But I have never had the intensity of her look like she “told” me then.  All other needs were met; she just wanted to give me extra loving, and be reassured. And now I know, Georgie was telling me that she knew she would be leaving soon; goodbye.  

 Georgie was considerate, and thinking of her humans, to the very end.  I found Georgie dead (of a heart attack?) the next morning on the plastic in front of her kennel, after she had “put me to bed”, and got up from her sleeping pillow by our bed .  Finding her has been harder on me than “putting down” Gentle Ben.  Gentle Ben had been more concerned about me crying, than of his own pain.  “Mom, it’s o.k.; are you alright?  I forgive you.”  Either way, it surprises me, and my husband, how hard it is to lose a pet.  But totally worth their keep.

 Dogs tell their love with their eyes, and I know that I am very special because Georgie and Gentle Ben told me so.  How very lucky we are to have that special confirmation from someone (human or fur baby).

Hint – this is one small reason that we “do” family history – to feel that connection to a part of ourselves, that is not ourself.  To have the grounding into who we are. 

So here is the genealogy joke: Whether we are “mutts” or “purebreds”, only means – is it more challenging ,or less, to track our ancestor’s journeys?

Other Travelers, Part 6 – Life writing From the Viewpoint of a Four Year Old, and Me


Other Travelers, Part 6 –

Life writing From the Viewpoint of a Four Year Old,

and Me

(Part of the Series- “Other Travelers”)

by Vicki Ruthe Hahn – SGS Stateline Genealogy Sorter 


This is my cute grandson, Nehemiah (Miah).  On the slide he said, “I’m resting my feet”.    I have just had the joyful privilege of visiting all of my children and grandchildren in the last 2 months.  They are each the best kind of people, and I am very proud of them, how smart they are, and who they are becoming. (The adults and the children.)  

However, this little guy is a corker. Miah is very verbal; even telling himself long, complex self-created stories as he is relaxing to take a nap or sleep at night. This is even more amazing as his speech was delayed until he got ear tubes.  

At age 2 he had maybe five words, one of which was his favorite toy.  He excitedly burst into my guest room (then), with a ball held over his head, a smile beaming his face, and told me a whole happy-dance story exclaimed with only one word, “BALLLLLLLLL”! 

Our Stateline Genealogy Club @ Beloit Public Library program on Friday, December 9, 2016 is “Writing Your Family History, How to Record the Stories of Your Ancestors for Posterity”, by Tom Hess.  I thought it would be fun to show you another example of how you can write your own family history, by letting Miah be the author, (with Grandma as the transcriber).  It is a wonder how he comes up with some of his ideas since, he is an Arizona preacher’s son, and his daily environment is kept safe from harmful influences.  

The Super Moon“, by Miah 

I got to view the super moon in Tucson with some of my Grandchildren. 

Nehemiah, age 4, testified to us the next day, that the moon was –  

Stupendous!!!!!!”  with lots of long drawn out exclamation and big waving hand

movements overhead. 

“God; Heh God“, by Miah 

My daughter, granddaughter, and I were in the house when we heard Miah shouting from the backyard at the top of his loud, melodiously husky voice, “God; heh God!  Can you hear me?  I want to go to heaven.”  Granddaughter Ava laughed in wonder at her surprising brother.  Later when he came in the house, he asked, “Mom, how do you talk to God?” 

“Hunting”, by Miah 

Upon awakening, Miah tells his Mom, “Mom, I need a hunting outfit today”.  When she asked why, he responded, “I’m going to hunt mountain lions today.  I need a knife too.”  Sister Ava and I went with him down their cul-de-sac with our twig “knives” to help Miah track and hunt a mountain lion.  He pointed for me, “I’m going to that mountain there to hunt mountain lions.”  (There are 3 ranges of mountains visible around Tucson, AZ with many mountains.)  We “tracked” a mountain lion in the wash for awhile, with Ava putting claw marks onto a “track”.  When we were done, Miah exclaimed, undeterred, “Tomorrow, I am going to walk to that mountain there to hunt a mountain lion.”  Later that evening, his Mom asked, “What are you going to do if you catch a mountain lion?  Miah responded, “I’m going to cut it, and take off its fur, and eat its meat.”  (At least he is a conscientious hunter.)  

“Not Your Song”, by Miah 

Miah loves to hear songs as he is getting ready to sleep.  I was singing songs to him.  As I started “Care Bears Lullaby”,  Miah interrupted indignantly, “That’s Mom’s song!”  I explained that she was my little girl, and that she learned it from me when I sang it to her as a child.  He had to think about that, because Mom is Mom, not someone’s child!  I also told him that all of my children learned the song, and that they were singing it to his cousins.  When I followed with, “White Coral Bells”, Miah satisfyingly cooed, “That’s Grandma’s song!” The previous visit, he had loved that song so much that I sang it repeatedly, and later recorded it for him on Facebook with “my garden path” and “lilies of the valley” at my house.  

Take the time to record the charming things that your little people say in their daily lives.  It can be the basis of great family recollections later.  You can even just write it in a notebook, on Facebook, or (like my son-in-law does) write a letter to your child for each birthday summarizing what they experienced and learned the previous year. 

We know that Miah will have an important use for words in his adult life.  It will be exciting to see what he ends up doing for a living.  I think that he should have his own BLOG at least, but I had fun letting him share mine. 

A Cemetery Civil War Veteran Mix up – Other Travelers Part 5


Vicki’s note – based on an October 5, 2016 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper article by Jim Stingl titled “Calvary Cemetery Civil War headstone finally gets it right”.  This is about Civil War veteran William John Sheehey, buried in Calvary Catholic Cemetery, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Other sources I used- United States war grave marker images from Bing online, and Wikipedia information about Calvary Cemetery, and G.A.R..

 A Cemetery Civil War Veteran Mix up

–  Other Travelers Part 5


(Part of the Series – “Other Travelers”)

 by Vicki Ruthe Hahn – SGS Stateline Genealogy Sorter

October 15, 2016

Civil War veteran William John Sheehey/Sheehy, from Missouri, was buried in 1890 at Calvary Catholic Cemetery, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


From Wikipedia –  “Calvary (Catholic) Cemetery  was consecrated on November 2, 1857, a tract of 55 acres, four miles west from the downtown area on Bluemound Road, the first road to be constructed by the Wisconsin Territory.

It was filled with the remains of the 10-acre “Old Cemetery,” which also contained the remains from Milwaukee’s first cemetery established in the First Ward. By 1880 Calvary had 10,307 recorded burials and an additional 20 acres were added.”


In the 1860s, plots on the south part of Calvary Cemetery were granted for the burial of 690 Catholic Civil War veterans who died at (now) Clement J Zablocki VA Medical Center, and from (now) Wood National Cemetery.  Sheehey/Sheehy (misspelled Shefhey on his stone) died in 1890 (per records) just before age 50.  He had been born in Ireland, and worked as a mechanic before serving with Union Army Company K, 1st Missouri, light artillery 1861 -1865.  We are not sure how he got to Wisconsin, but he died in the Soldiers Home in Milwaukee.

When Sheehey/Sheehy was buried,  his headstone was a rounded one for Union soldiers.

Per the Department for the Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration in Washington D.C., around the beginning of the 20th century, Confederate Veterans made a push for their headstones to be pointed to distinguish them from the headstones of Union veterans.  (There is a belief that they didn’t want any Union/northerners to be able to sit on their headstones.)  Some headstones of Union veterans from southern states got mistakenly sharpened to the pointed Confederate shape.

Missouri was a border state during the Civil War, and was very divided between Union and Confederate sympathizers.  There were Missouri soldiers and regiments in both armies.  Someone went through the Calvary Cemetery and wrongly decided Sheehey/Sheehy must have been Confederate because he was from a Missouri regiment.


The Sheehey/Sheehy headstone was then sharpened to a peak, and left that way for over 100 years, until a detailed survey of the cemetery was done lately.  The survey showed that there were no Confederate burials in Wood National Cemetery, including the veterans across highway 94 at Calvary Cemetery.

A Civil War re-enactor noticed the mistake for three soldier’s headstones.  Two Union headstones were provided in 2008, but it took until now, 6 years later,  for Mr. Sheehey/Sheehy’s headstone to be rounded – Unionizing him.   His headstone was taken to Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Illinois where it was rounded, then placed back on his grave in Wisconsin.

Pointed headstones for veterans who fought for the Confederate side would be unusual in a Wisconsin/northern cemetery, but not unique.  Burials of Prisoners of War, and those who died in battles far from home could place Confederate soldiers in northern cemeteries, and Union soldiers in southern cemeteries.  As well as that, by 1890, when Sheehey/Sheehy died, several folks would have moved around to different parts of the country for various reasons.

We see with Mr. Sheehey/Sheehy/Shefhey that we have not only a name mix up, but a location mix up and hence a confusion about which side he fought on.  Hint – do more research to find the full genealogical facts about your ancestors.

I do not know what the engraved shield on his headstone means, but it does not seem to be on Confederate veteran’s headstones.  The rounded/pointed top concept was not applied to all Civil War veteran headstones.


Here is a unusual headstone for a “Colored” Hospital Attendant.  Was he in the Union army or the Confederate?  Hint – be careful of making assumptions – we don’t think of African-Americans  serving as workers for the Confederate armies.  But, it looks like the Maltese cross symbol for the C.S.A. Confederate Southern Army is engraved on this pointed top headstone, so I would venture to say that he worked for the Confederate Army.



The Maltese cross symbol has C.S.A., which stands for the Confederate Southern Army and has the Confederate flag:



I always thought that G.A.R. Grand Army of the Republic meant any Union United States Veteran, but it was actually a fraternal organization:




“Grand Army of the Republic” (GAR) from Wikipedia

“The “Grand Army of the Republic” (GAR) was a fraternal organization composed of veterans of the Union Army (United States Army), Union Navy (U.S. Navy), Marines and the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service who served in the American Civil War for the Northern/Federal forces. Founded in 1866 in Decatur, Illinois, and growing to include hundreds of posts (local community units) across the nation, (predominately in the North, but also a few in the South and West), it was dissolved in 1956 when its last member, Albert Woolson (1850–1956) of Duluth, Minnesota, died. Linking men through their experience of the war, the G.A.R. became among the first organized advocacy groups in American politics, supporting voting rights for black veterans, promoting patriotic education, helping to make Memorial Day a national holiday, lobbying the United States Congress to establish regular veterans’ pensions, and supporting Republican political candidates. Its peak membership, at more than 490,000, was in 1890, a high point of various Civil War commemorative and monument dedication ceremonies. It was succeeded by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW).”


 I will include more information about the meanings of headstone symbols and art in other Posts, and on the BLOG’s homepage banner “Genealogy Links and Electronic Helps”  under “Military Ancestors (and Civil War Ancestors), and also under “Cemeteries, Tombstone, & Obituary  Sites”.



Below are images of some more grave markers that designate veterans for each of the United States wars.  The markers are not used interchangeably, but are unique to a specific war.  There is sometimes more than one designated type of marker for each conflict:


















I could only find these veteran grave markers for Desert Storm, Afghanistan, & Iraq wars.


Hopefully we can stop having to need these war veteran markers at some future, but they are a good way to help get clues on our ancestors who were in the military.






The Hawk Took It! – Other Travelers Part 4

The Hawk Took It! –

Other Travelers Part 4

(Part of the Series – “Other Travelers”)

by Vicki Ruthe Hahn – SGS Stateline Genealogy Sorter


Well this is a new one for me.

We know all of the usual hazards in preserving and maintaining family history paperwork and electronic records while searching for our genealogy.  How many different ways can we lose important historical resources?:

  • computer crash
  • flash drive defect/aging out
  • our older relatives losing memory
  • those that know passing away without sharing
  • the library/house/historical society/architectural site/religious site/courthouse was burned or flooded or got bombed or torn down
  • paperwork got lost
  • the handwriting or photographs faded away
  • family members that have it, won’t share
  • deleted or thrown away by someone who thought it was just old junk
  • the baby tore it
  • the dog ate it
  • the hawk grabbed it and flew to the top of the neighbor’s tree!!

And the last one really happened to our speaker today before she got to the Library.

Kim Caswell did a great presentation on “Funeral Practices of Our Ancestors“.

She had a full program based on years of research, all saved onto her USB flashdrive which was protected from the morning mist in a ziplock bag.  Kim also had it in another bag with a battery operated stuffed cat that “mewed” when you moved it.  This was going to be a joke gift for her sister at a quick coffee time before the program.

Kim put the bag onto the top of her truck, while she went back in to get her laptop.  Meanwhile, the neighborhood hawk hearing the “cat” mew as Kim put down the bag, swooped down to snatch the bag and flew to the top of the neighbor’s tree!!

True story.

As Kim said, “I can’t make this stuff up”.

So as you face your usual genealogy search challenges, remember this to get some perspective, and a little chuckle, that at least you did not have your research snatched by a hawk!

I can’t even believe that Kim’s presentation could have been more awesome.  Her back-up was very informative and seemed complete to us, and even had photos.  Kim is determined to get her bag out of the hawk nest when she can.

Good luck Kim, and thanks for being a good sport.  We have fun at the Stateline Genealogy Club @ Beloit Public Library!

Remember to always back-up, off-site of hawk snatching locations.






Other Travelers – Part 3 – “Into the Beautiful North”, Latinos’ Migration from Southern Countries to the United States, and Me

Other Travelers – Part 3 –  “Into the Beautiful North”, Latinos’ Migration from Southern Countries to the United States, and Me

(Part of the Series – “Other Travelers”)

by Vicki Ruthe Hahn – SGS Stateline Genealogy Sorter


September 15 – October 15, 2016 is a month dedicated to Latino History Month, and the NEA – BIG  READ Stateline:  “Into the Beautiful North”, by Luis Alberto Urrea.   (See you at the Latino Community Fair Saturday, September 17 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the Beloit High School; and at some of the BIG  READ events and Book Discussions below.)

As the Library “Public Services Librarian”, I do have some non-partisan insight into how the Latino population (and other immigrants) are affected by immigration to the United States, and how they fit into the Wisconsin population and way of life. I represent the Library at some Latino meetings and events.

They are just one of the more recent immigrant waves of movement to the United States from many countries.  My degree in anthropology (and history) gives me some insight into how the immigrant experience affected our ancestors.  We need to understand this, to understand our family histories.

I do some of the minor translating at the Library for Spanish-speaking patrons.  There are two other staff that speak Spanish fluently.  Several staff have started using Google Translate to communicate in any language.  The Library staff tries to meet the needs of whoever our major immigrants are, (as have public libraries for more than 100 years.)  We try to help every one of our patrons (no matter what their circumstances) with improving their –  literacy, getting jobs, medical and legal questions, readers advisory, help on computers, learning a language, improving their education and skills, etc.  Public Libraries are the foundation of democracy.

We have a significant Spanish language collection of books, as we have a collection of books in Vietnamese.  Some of our databases and policies are in Spanish also.  Beloit, Wisconsin  has an unofficial 25% Latino population.  Most of them are from Mexico, then Costa Rico, and other Central and South American countries.

The Latino people, that I have meet, have been congenial, family-oriented people who try very hard to fit within the expectations of their new community.  They resolve missing Library items/late fines immediately and don’t want to be a bother in any part of their lives.  I have met a doctor, dentist, college professors and graduates, as well as farm laborers and everything in between, who have immigrated to the United States trying to improve the lives of their families.

The idea of a free Public Library is not common in their home countries.  Libraries are limited to only few, and have books chained or restricted from use.  The language, U.S. professional certification, and sometimes illegal entry, restricts them from easily working in their jobs, or becoming citizens

The more stringent traffic laws in recent years have constricted their ability to go to even the events in the area that are meant to help them become citizens.  A 2005 state law passed to comply with the federal Real ID Act, required applicants for a driver’s license to submit proof of citizenship or legal resident status. Any illegal immigrant can be immediately sent to jail and deported if they are stopped for any traffic infringement (even a burned out car light) and have no Drivers License.  They are afraid to leave their homes.  Parents have even been deported while children are left abandoned once they get home from school.  It puts police in a dilemma.

Yet Wisconsin especially is dependent on immigrants for our agricultural economy.  I.E. In 2009, they accounted for about 40 percent of the state’s dairy labor force, up from just 5 percent a decade ago.  Our farm crops are harvested by many migration workers who come for harvest season only.  Some factories have large immigrant staff.

They have to drive to get to work.  One solution has been proposed to have limited-use distinctive licenses issued to them which could be used for driving only and not for other identification verification purposes.

As with previous immigrant movements, (our ancestors from Europe, Asia, etc.) the recent groups tend to stay together in one area, where they can understand each other (language), resist the prejudices of “natives”, and help each other.  Just as in the up-coming Posting –  Other Travelers –  part ?  – The AfricanAmerican Great Migration Up North ( An Above-ground Railroad Migration by Former Slaves, and Their Grandchildren), and Me.  I have been told that (just as in those previous times) the new “others” are denied being able to easily buy houses unless they go to individuals who will sell to them.  Often the houses are in need of much repair, which the new owners work on, while several generations live together to afford the house.

My family represents the more recent immigrations with the various experiences of:  my daughter-in-law from Honduras, (with a Master’s Degree), who met my son in college, a brother-in-law from Mexico, and a grandson from Ethiopia.  My birth family hosted college holiday visits for a Chinese student when I was young.

The men who have left the Mexican village in the Big Read book, “Into the Beautiful North”,  do not intend to migrate to the United States, but to travel to work there for awhile.  They want to send their pay home to improve the lives of their families in Mexico.

It reminds me of childhood friends I had – our neighbors (with 6 children) had moved up from Arkansas to rent a tiny little house, and work hard in the Rockford, Illinois factories for four (?) years.  They moved back down to their Arkansas farm to built a large nice new farmhouse.  The small log cabin that they had lived in, went to their older son and his wife who had stayed home to take care of the farm.  We saw it when we visited and helped them pick cucumbers in the hot Arkansas sun, with a mud creek cool-down swim afterward.


Beloit Public Library

This coming month the Stateline area has also dedicated to exploring and celebrating reading “one book, one community” with a Big Read grant.  The book is “Into the Beautiful North”, by Luis Alberto Urrea.  A committee of several organizations have been working hard to obtain the grant which funds the gift of a free book to anyone in the community, and the programs to discuss that book together.

Into the Beautiful North” Summary:

Nineteen-year-old Nayeli works at a taco shop in her Mexican village and dreams about her father, who journeyed to the US to find work. Recently, it has dawned on her that he isn’t the only man who has left town. In fact, there are almost no men in the village–they’ve all gone north. While watching The Magnificent Seven, Nayeli decides to go north herself and recruit seven men–her own “Siete Magníficos”–to repopulate her hometown and protect it from the bandidos who plan on taking it over. Filled with unforgettable characters and prose as radiant as the Sinaloan sun, INTO THE BEAUTIFUL NORTH is the story of an irresistible young woman’s quest to find herself on both sides of the fence.

NEA Big Read – Stateline

NEA Big Read

Follow The Big Read – Stateline!

Follow the NEA Big Read – Stateline on Facebook,

Find information about the book, the author, the historical context, discussion questions, and more on NEA Big Read’s page about “Into the Beautiful North.” Also available en español.


Check out the schedule of events!

See below. Event details also available on the Facebook page and our NEA Big Read page.


Into the Beautiful NorthRead the Book!

Free books in both English and Spanish are available at the Beloit Public Library, South Beloit Public Library, and Beloit College. Quantities limited.

eBooks and eAudiobooks available for checkout with your library card! Hoopla is available for Rock County library card holders.

Overdrive HooplaWisconsin's Digital Library




NEA Big Read - Stateline Complete Schedule

Other Travelers – Part 2 – Adopted Ancestors?

Other Travelers – Part 2 -Adopted Ancestors?

(Part of the Series- “Other Travelers”)

by Vicki Ruthe Hahn – SGS Stateline Genealogy Sorter


Here are some aids to help you in family history searching for yourself, or for your ancestors, that have been adopted:

Find out as much as you can about the family that adopted him/her.

They may be blood relatives, especially in a private adoption.  The grandmother may have adopted her own grandchild, or maybe it was an aunt, etc.

Find out all you can about the orphanages in the area.  Apply directly to the orphanage for the child’s paperwork.  His/her birth certificate, admission and exit papers may give you clues.

Also apply at the County where the birth took place for vital records.  You could also search the indexes there for the names of who was born on a certain date.  Some counties have indexes of birth/marriage/death records on-line on their government websites. and are updating new records daily.  It might be worth another look.

If their father is the mystery person, see if there are any known male descendants (cousins, siblings) that would get a y chromosome DNA test.  If the mother is the mystery person, have the oldest related male or female descendant get a mitochondrial (x chromosome) DNA test, as either male or female will have their mother’s x chromosome.  Females have their second x chromosome from their father, so a y chromosome test will not work for them.

If you or your older blood relative gets an Autosomal  DNA test, it will help with general ethnic heritage only.  Unless another unknown relative has also gotten that test, and sees your family tree on,, etc.  They may contact you with further information.

Many adoptions now are more open, with birth parents kept in knowledge (if not involved) in the child’s life.  But more adoptions are being done across the country, or even worldwide, now than in our ancestor’s times.  (Although consider that an immigrant family may adopt a relative from “back home”.)

I have two grandchildren that were adopted:

One was adopted locally as a baby within the same state, after several sets of birth mothers/parents interviewed my daughter and her husband.

Many United States adoptions now are similar to this, but may be from any state.  I have been told by another adopting mom that the birth mother/parents may be indecisive until very late in the process.  What a hard decision.  Much better than the 1950s (and before) era of stigmatized pregnant teen girls  having to hide away in a  special “home”, working to earn their keep until the baby was 6 weeks old.  Then the babies were suddenly whisked away without a chance for the mothers to say goodbye.  The birth mother (and birth father) were barred from learning anything about their baby/child after being left in an orphanage or adopted

My daughter got a phone call from the adoption agency with this request from the parents that chose them, “Do you still want to adopt this baby.  He is two days old, and ready to go.”  My daughter and her husband had to pick up diapers, bottles and formula on their way to the hospital, as they had asked to adopt infant to 3 years old.  The adoption is not a sure thing until the final moment and had taken over a year.  The birth parents have kept in touch somewhat, and the birth grandmother more.

They decided to adopt locally, while waiting (3+ years) for their international adoption to go thru the bureaucracy. The second child was adopted from Ethiopia as a three year old.  His birth father had had to give him up because of extreme poverty, after his mother died, and he couldn’t afford to support his second wife and their baby.  She had to go back to her family village.  Minor mining and farming did not bring enough money to survive.

The boy had been in a foster home (with a different dialect) and then in an orphanage with a third dialect before he came home with my daughter to learn English ( a fourth language).

She and her husband had gone to meet the boy, and she went to pick him up with a friend. She was lucky that an internationally traveling African man at the airport helped her talk with the boy, and taught her more key phrases than what she had been given. You only hear a slight accent now in his speech.

The Ethiopian adoption agency made sure that his birth father had the opportunity to say goodbye to him.  They also video-recorded the father telling about himself and his family for the boy to watch later.  It has transcriptions in the several languages/dialects so he can understand it.

My grandson is also lucky that he gets to visit one of his friends from the orphanage that was adopted within driving distance.

Both sons are doing wonderfully as part of a loving family of three other (birth) children.

Here are some helpful links to understand and search for adoptions:

International Soundex Reunion Registry ISRR       “”

Phone 1-88-886-ISRR (4777)

A Soundex helps you figure out a name that has many possible spellings.

Wisconsin Department of Children and Families   “”

Find out as much as you can about the adoption laws and customs of that historical period.

Google Translate APP –  to download from your smartphone app store.  You can say or spell words and it will translate verbally, and in writing from your choice of several languages.  This can help you in translating documents from the “old country” as well as facilitating communication with someone with another  language.

Pronunciator  “” , a language learning database on the Beloit Public Library homepage that is only available to BPL library card holders.


Other Travelers – Part 1 – Genealogy Psychic Abilities and Me. Do Folks with Psychic Abilities Have an Easier Time Doing Genealogy?

Other Travelers – Part 1 – Genealogy Psychic Abilities and Me

Do Folks with Psychic Abilities Have an Easier Time Doing Genealogy?

by Vicki Ruthe Hahn, SGS Stateline Genealogy Sorter

August 9, 2016

This is the first of several occasional Posts that I am writing with the overall theme of “Other Travelers“.  These Posts will be about several topics.  They will be interspersed  with another series of Posts, “Stateline Travelers“, in conjunction with specializing in Stateline Genealogy .  I write this Post with all due humility and respect to anyone (including some friends) that do have psychic abilities.  The question inspires my fun-loving side to imagine a Genealogy joke, but I relay this with all seriousness.

Do Folks with Psychic Abilities Have an Easier Time doing Genealogy?    This is a question that I have pondered, as I host the Halloween/psychic programs each year, and talk with folks that have psychic abilities.  Their extra-sensitive perceptions of life-forces in a location may give them a greater sense of the person and historic events that once had been.  I had wondered if it was more than the (“what’s the big deal”) of documenting of moving light globs, temperature changes, sounds, etc.

To get a definitive answer, I asked a friend recently to describe her experiences observing at 2 local historic public places, and with many spirits or entities.  I appreciate her sharing this with me and giving me permission to share it with you.  She has known this type of super-sensing her whole life, and was 5 or 6 year old before she realized that some of the “people” she saw and talked to were not there.  All of us have some 6th sense abilities, but there seems to be a range.  My range is in the low end, but I have some ability of premonition.

My friend’s abilities are so great that she has to put herself in a bubble, setting up a barrier to protect herself from the “spirits”, “lingerers” or those that want to tag along with her to her home – “attachments” or “hitchhikers”.  She considers the term “ghosts” to be too trite.  She explains that they are thrilled, “You can see me and hear me”.  We get lonely when we don’t talk to someone in awhile; how about for decades or hundreds of years?  They want to talk to her and get her attention.  She answers them, if no one else is around.  This is all done verbally, and not in her head, to protect herself.

She finds the children the hardest, as they don’t understand.  One example – she realized that the 4 or 5 year girl on the tour was rather transparent when she saw a stool through her. The child  tugged and held onto my friend’s shirt, and asked her, “Do you know where my Mom is; can you see her?”.  Older spirits request, “Would you tell my family…”.  She asks them, “What year were you born? What year is it now?”, and then has to tell them, “I’m sorry, you died 300 years ago; you don’t have any family left.”  They don’t have a good concept of time – “Gosh, why do things look so different?”, asked a person who died in the 1930s.

She can sense historic events, and can tell the personalities and time periods of spirits:

  • A public museum had a large room that had once been two rooms remodeled long ago by the historic family.  She told the docent, “I sense a barrier here, was there a wall?”  The startled docent blurted, “How could you know that?  We just got the report back from the architect this morning that shows the room was two.”
  • A man spirit showed up in each of several rooms of a historic place, sitting in his recliner reading a newspaper with the historic year headlined.
  • A young girl dressed in the expensive laced dress of a previous era, spoke in a cultured (rich child) voice.  The clothes worn by some may be hand-me-downs from  previous generations i.e. a wedding dress handed down 5 generations.  (Our Stateline Genealogy Club @ Beloit Public Library program on November 11, 2016 will be “Contemporary Fashion through the Decades – How to Identify Your Ancestors’ Timeline by What They Wore”, by Vicki Ruthe Hahn.)  It was funny to have my friend relay the same fashion hints about the spirits.

My friend has run into “bad sources”.  (Sorry – just thought about another genealogy joke – always document your sources so that anyone else can access the same information later. Don’t leave bad sources.  Would these sources be “interviews”?)  The bad entity was the father and was stuck in the area of the house where he did bad deeds.  The other entities in the house were the scared mother, and the clueless child.  Each were trapped in a separate area.  I asked my friend if she has helped spirits “go to the light” and break the connections.  She said that she has taught them to “stretch” – slowly through to other areas, and to disconnection.

She has found that some spirits are stuck; some don’t understand, some have unfinished business, and some choose to stay.  Some won’t leave until their goals have been met – i.e. until their family finds a certain document.  Some come down “from the clouds” (heaven) to check on their loved ones.  My friend asked them, “Can’t you see and hear them from up there.”  Their answer, “yes, but I wanted to come here to be close to them and watch over them.”  Another spirit came and went by will from the house where she died to the house that she had used to live in.  She had “adopted” the new family and watched over them, as she had really liked that house and yard.   It sounds like we do have guardian angels.

My friend has even experienced a visit from her old dog after he passed.  The second dog, having never gotten along with the old dog, decided to sit on the, now available, favored part of the couch.  The second dog yelped, leaped straight up in the air, and jumped off the couch growling at the couch.  When asked if he was there, the old dog moved the one long fringe on the afghan that had always caught it’s claw, and gave the special whine that he had used to go out. (“Because he can’t talk”.)

Specific genealogy uses?  An older man appeared to my friend over her kitchen table, smiled and exclaimed, “You know me”.  When my friend later found the photo of her great grandfather, she said in amazement , “I do know you.”  Her great grandfather appeared, smiled, patted her on the shoulder, and waved as he left.

(I am tagging this “Ancestor Migration”, and “Genealogy Research Brick Walls”, and that’s more genealogy jokes.  🙂

Again, I thank my friend for trusting me to write this and for allowing me a sense of humor.  What an amazing ability and life experience she has had. I have learned a lot from her.  And she is a good genealogist too, even with the extra challenge of “too much ” information from unique sources.