Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christian Drager - Shoemaker

Christian Drager, my father's great grandfather, was born in Angerm√ľnde, a town in the province of Brandenburg in Germany. It is in the far east of the country being about 10 miles from the Polish border and about 45 miles from Berlin. When Christian was about 7 years old, he immigrated to the United States in 1867 with his parents, Charles Friederich Drager and Dorothea Louisa Streble, and five siblings: John, Charles, Marie Louise, August and Ferdinand.

By the 1870 U.S. Federal Census, the Drager family had settled in Casco, St. Clair County, Michigan, a small farming community about 40 miles northeast of Detroit. At this time, Christian was about 10 years old and was listed as "At School" under his occupation, but he and his siblings most certainly helped on the family farm.

By 1880, Christian was living in Armada, Macomb County, Michigan, a town about 16 miles to the northwest of Casco. He was a boarder with the James R. Dryer family. Mr. Dryer owned a boot and shoe store and Christian was working in the shoe store. Whether he was an apprentice at that point is not clear. Because he was nearly 20, he had probably either ended or was coming close to ending his apprenticeship.

1880 U.S. Federal Census showing Christian Drager working as a
shoemaker in Armada, Michigan.

Around 1883, Christian married Emma Amelia Hourtienne of Macomb County, Michigan. He and Emma had three children: Albert, Edward and Elsie. Christian and his family eventually moved to Detroit and by 1890, Christian was working for L.N. Valpey & Co., a prominent shoemaker in Detroit (Family lore tells that he made shoes specifically for handicapped people, but I haven't located any information at this point verifying this information).

1894 Advertisement for L.N. Valpey & Co. in Detroit, Michigan.
Note that the company does not extend credit in order to offer
customers better prices.

In May 1895, Christian married Mary Jasper and they had one child, Hildegard Clara Drager. He and his family made their home at 782 St. Aubin Street, where they shared their home with Herman and Helen Hamel. The Hamels made confections. In the 1896 Detroit Directory, Christian is listed as making confections, as well as being a shoemaker. It is possible that the Hamels learned confection-making from Christian and then took over the confection-making business as their own, because by the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, the Hamels are listed as confection makers, while Christian is listed as a shoemaker.

Success eventually came to Christian and by 1910, he and Mary had moved to 1585 Medbury Avenue, a home which they owned free, without mortgage. During this time, Christian also improved his standing in the community, becoming proprietor of a shoe shop.

By the time Christian reached age 60, he and Mary had moved back to Macomb County, Michigan and purchased a farm, again which they owned free, without mortgage. After retiring from shoemaking, Christian sold produce to the local market. Christian and Mary lived on the farm for a little over 10 years and Christian died of kidney complications on 10 Feb 1928.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Ancestor Approved Award

I received this award from Alice Keesey Mecoy, who has a wonderful blog about her great-great-great grandfather, John Brown, the famous abolitionist, as well as other members of the Brown family. Her blog can be seen here:

The award comes with homework : “list ten things I have learned about any of  my ancestors that has surprised, humbled, or enlightened me and to pass the award along to ten other blog writers whom I  feel are doing their ancestors proud.”

Many of these discoveries I have mentioned in the blog already, but for the sake of completing the "homework," I will mention them again.

1. Walter Rockey, Sr. served the United States in World War I. His service was never spoken about and it was by pure coincidence of research and seeing his grave for myself that I discovered the brave and heroic duty he completed for his country.
2. My husband's family, which ended up in Texas for several generations, is originally from Delaware.
3. I am amazed at how often proximity versus attraction/affection affected who our ancestors married.
4. My father's grandfather, William Russell Shaw, from Detroit, Michigan, disappears after the 1930 census - I can't wait for April 1, 2012.
5. I am thankful for thorough attention to detail in the obituaries of my family. Many brickwalls have been crumbled by a few key words in a final memorial.
6. Families didn't move as much as we think. My mother's family is all from Williams County, Ohio for several generations. It makes research so much easier (sometimes).
7. I am amazed at how little people know about their families. I am disappointed if a family line "dead-ends" in the 1800's; a co-worker of mine doesn't even know his grandparents' names.
8. Variations in name-spelling is one of the devilish parts of my research. The name "Rockey" could be: Rockey, Rocky, Roche, Rache, Rake...
9. I am humbled at the courage and resilence our ancestors possessed. I think it would be difficult to move too far from my family, yet our ancestors crossed oceans and left families thousands of miles behind. I know I will see my family again and can talk to them daily, but our ancestors left knowing they would never meet their families ever again.
10. Researching my family tree has helped me realize how I fit into the American experience. My family has played a major role in virtually every major period in American history - from the Salem Witch Trials to the immigration movement of the 1800's to Civil War.

Ten Blogs Making Ancestors Proud
The Educated Graveyard Rabbit - Sheri Fenley
The We Tree Genealogy Blog - Amy Coffin
A Linguist's Guide to Genealogy - Andrew Simpson
Creative Gene - Jasia

Graveyard Rabbit of Sandusky Bay - Dorene
Stueben County Indiana: Through The Years - Steuben County Public Library
Williams County, Ohio Genealogy - Pamela Pattison Lash
Gravestoned - pugbug
A Rootdigger
Genealogy Roots Blog - Joe Beine

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

South Carolina - 1931

Della Cora Hawkins and her son, George Douglas
Atkins in Spartanburg County, South Carolina,

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Confederate Tombstones

Many men joined the Army soon after the outbreak of the Civil War. Four such brothers were John Stone and Tabitha Fletcher's sons: Thomas Alexander Stone (my husband's great-great-great grandfather), John Harmon Stone, James Fletcher Stone, and Samuel Miller Stone.

All four brothers fought for the Confederacy in Virginia, serving in Company D, 28th Virginia Infantry; J.D. Smith's Company, Virginia Light Artillery; Company I, 34th Regiment, Virginia Infantry, and Capt. Turner's Company, Virginia Light Artillery.

Two of the brothers have military tombstones: John Harmon and James Fletcher.

The iron crosses in front of the each tombstone are Daughter of the Confederacy grave markers. It is a symbol of the Southern Cross of Honor, which was a military decoration meant to honor the soldiers for their brave service in the armed forces of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. It was formally approved by the Congress of the Confederates States on October 13, 1862, and was originally intended to be on par with the Union Army's Medal of Honor.

Monday, November 29, 2010

William Rogers - Union Soldier

William Rogers, my great-great-great grandfather on my mother's side, served in the U.S. Army during the Civil War. He enlisted as a Private on 24 Aug 1861 and was place in Company K of the 11th Michigan Infantry.

During William's enlistment, the main duty of the 11th Michigan Infantry consisted of guard duty along the Louisville & Nashville Railroad (also referred to as the L&N; the L&N spanned the Union and Confederate lines and served both sides as the war fronts changed). The soldiers were marched to Bardstown, Kentucky, about 50 miles southeast of Louisville.

William received a disability discharge on 03 Jun 1862, having served a total of less than 10 months. According to the Record of service of Michigan volunteers in the Civil War, 1861-1865, of the 1,323 men enlisted in the 11th Infantry, 265 (or 20%) were discharged due to disabilty or disease.

All of the documentation available during a cursory search on, indicated that William's only service was with the 11th Michigan Infantry. However, when reviewing his record in the Civil War Pension Index available on, I discovered that he had additional service under Company H of the 28th Michigan Infantry.

William re-enlisted as a private on 08 Aug 1864 and was promoted to Second Lieutenant on 26 Aug 1864. As a Second Lieutenant, William would have been third in command of a company and may have had his own platoon to command, as well. During his second stint with the Union Army, he saw much action, including the Battle of Nashville, fighting the Confederate forces of Gen. John Bell Hood. It was one of the largest Union victories of the war.

The Civil War officially ended on 09 Apr 1865 when Lee surrendered to Grant and William Rogers resigned his post soon thereafter on 08 Jun 1865.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Wonderful Thanksgiving From Our Family To Yours

The Crawford family enjoying an evening meal together.
Hillsdale County, Michigan, ca. 1950.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Atkins-Hawkins Tombstone

Tombstones can be a genealogical gold-mine. They may provide the only concrete evidence of a person's birth and death date. They often tell us what relationships the deceased had; we have all seen tombstones inscribed with "Mother" or "Husband." If the relative appears to be a "dead-end" in your tree, these few words can help propel us further into our research as we may not have ever known that the ancestor was even married or ever had children.

Even though relationships and vital dates are often provided on tombstones, a woman's maiden name is often not provided. If our ancestors didn't get married in the legal sense (and we know it happened more than we like to believe), and was from a relatively ordinary, poor farm family, a woman's maiden name may never be discovered.

I am fortunate enough to have a couple of grandmothers in our family (one on my side, one on my husband's) who are exceptional at providing dates and names in photographs. I obtained this photograph from my husband's grandmother. It is of her grandparents' tombstone. Besides providing the actual birth and death dates of each individual, it also states her grandmother's maiden name. This kind of addition may not necessarily provide definitive proof of the wife's maiden name, but it provides a clue and may be the very detail needed to continue with the family research.

Thomas Milton Atkins and Della Hawkins Atkins final resting place in
Motlow Creek Baptist Church Cemetery in Campobello, South Carolina

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Hevrons in the Asiatic Pacific Theater of World War II - Part I

If you were to ask the average American what the most important date of World War II was, chances are you would be presented with December 7, 1941, or Pearl Harbor Day. In just 16 days, we will remember the 69th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day, that day that would "live in infamy," according to FDR, and one which catapulted the United States into World War II.

With that single event, the United States was changed forever. When the Empire of Japan attacked the Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, it awakened a industrial monster that responded with every resource available. Men went to war and women went to the workplace. The United States and the Soviet Union, allies in war, became enemies afterwards and established over 40 years of animosity towards each other. The United Nations was founded and the baby boomers were born. The conservation movement, known today as the "green movement", began with the children of the 1940s conducting salvage drives of everything from cooking fat to steel cans, in an effort to "do their part".

Members of the Hevron family responded too, as did many of other families, by enlisting in the U.S. Military to fight the Axis of Evil and restore honor to the United States. One such Hevron war hero was James David Hevron, my husband's second cousin, twice removed.

James David Hevron was born in 1920 in Arkansas and moved to Dallas, Texas a few years later, where he enlisted in the U.S. Navy on 11 Aug 1941, almost four months before Pearl Harbor. I have not located any record as to why he enlisted; maybe he wanted to see the world, or maybe he wanted to do anything except follow in his father's footsteps as a washing machine salesman. One thing is for sure: if he was looking for a primo spot, stationed on some tropical island, enjoying the breeze off of the ocean, he got more than he bargained for because James David Hevron's first assignment was on a small naval base in Hawaii - the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor.

James was assigned to the U.S.S. Medusa, a repair ship, as a Yeoman 3rd class. Although Yeomen perform administrative tasks, there is no doubt that on December 7, he played some part in helping defend the ship from Japanese attack.

Muster roll for the Quarter Ending December 31, 1941 for the U.S.S. Medusa.
James David's information is about half-way down the list, showing
enlistment date, serial number,  and rank.

On the day of the attack, the crew of the Medusa shot down two Japanese Aichi D3A1 dive bomber planes, potentially reducing some of the damage seen that day. Since its primary purpose was as a repair ship, she saw most of the action after the attack, providing pumps to the damaged seaplane tender Curtiss, machine gun ammunition to the grounded battleship Nevada and assisting in efforts to rescue men trapped in the hull of the capsized anti-aircraft training ship Utah.1

U.S.S. Medusa at Pearl Harbor in February 1942.

James continued serving with the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor through March 1943. In April of 1943, the Medusa left Pearl Harbor, sailing through much of the South Pacific and was finally decommissioned in 1946. At this point, it is unknown when James was discharged from the U.S. Navy. James died in Irving, Texas in 1967.

It is a great honor to have a member of the Hevron family serve our nation at one of the most pivotal points in United State history.

On the next Military Monday, I will feature Homer Lewis Hevron, who served in the U.S. Army during World War II.

1. Cressman, Robert J. "Historic Fleets: Fixer and Fighter." Naval History, August 2008, pp. 12–13.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ancestral Morsels

As the holidays rapidly approach, we turn towards foods that give us a sense of the familiar, of something that reminds us of home. Unfortunately, many of the recipes that remind us of our younger days are lost. We remember Grandma making washboard cookies, but we have no idea how to make them and the results of an internet search don't seem quite right.

Well, in an effort to recreate some of what has been lost, I am including a couple of cherished family recipes. Try these for your next family gathering and they may become some of your favorites all over again!

Old Fashioned Vinegar Rolls
Recipe of Ollie Mae Nelson, my husband's great-grandmother on his father's side

3/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tbsp. baking powder
4 tsp. cinnamon                                                           
5 tbsp. butter                                                              
3/4 cup milk
2 cups sifted flour
1-1/2 cups water
1-1/4 cups sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup shortening
heavy cream

Combine vinegar, water, 1 cup of sugar and 2 tsp. cinnamon. Stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, mix and sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in shortening; stir in milk with fork to form a soft dough. Roll out into the shape of a rectangle about 1/4" thick. Combine remaining sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the surface of the dough. Dot with 2 tbsp. butter. Roll up like a jelly roll. Cut crosswise into slice about 1-1/4" thick. Place close together, cut side up, in a deep baking dish. Dot with remaining butter. Pour hot vinegar mixture over all. Bake at 375° for 30 - 40 minutes. Serve hot with heavy cream. Yields 8 servings.

Salmon Croquettes
Recipe of Esther "Ethel" Lucille Crawford, my great-grandmother on my mother's side (and one of my mom's favorites!)

1 cup mashed potatoes
1 egg
1 can salmon
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup cracker crumbs
Salt and pepper

Mash all ingredients together. Roll mixture into balls and fry in deep fat. Drain on a paper towel and keep warm until ready to serve.

Dotsy Mae's Dressing
Recipe of Dotsy Mae Ray, my husband's grandmother.

4 slices dry toast
2-9" pans of cornbread
1 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 eggs
2 chicken boullion cubes, diluted in 1 cup hot water
1/4 cup butter
1 can cream of mushroom soup
Salt, pepper and sage to tasts

Prepare cornbread and toast the day before. Break all bread up in a large bowl and add celery, onion, butter and eggs. Mix and add bouillon and soup. Mix again, then add seasonings to taste. Mixture should be very moist. If needed, add more bouillon mixture or a little more soup. Pour into long casserole dish and bake at 350° degrees for 30 minutes or until lightly brown.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Publishing is in my blood

I have a photograph of my great-great-grandfather, on my mother's side, Lester M. Rogers, in front of a printing press. It is a great photograph, clearly showing him alongside the latest in printing technology. I had seen this photograph hundreds of times, and I knew Lester once owned a newspaper, but that was really all I knew. I had to find out more.

Lester M. Rogers, was a publisher in Camden, Michigan. His newspaper was called The Camden Advance and it is still in existence today, although it was re-named The Farmers' Advance (in fact, my great-aunt, Phyllis Rogers, also worked for the newspaper). According to the American Newspaper Directory, Volume 32, Issue 3, The Camden Advance was published on Saturdays and consisted of eight pages. The annual subscription was $1.00 and had a circulation of "JKL" (the JKL rating indicates that the average issue of the paper does not exceed a thousand copies).

Publishing in the Rogers family began in 1891, when Lester, his brother, Fred and their father, William Rogers, founded the Hustler newspaper in Reading, Michigan (not to be associated with the publication later made famous by Larry Flynt).  When Fred Rogers was a teenager (ca. 1885), he worked in the office of the Reading Telephone, a newspaper that began publishing ca. 1879. It was there that he learned the trade of printing.

It is interesting to note that in 1900, Reading and Camden had a combined population of less than 2,000 people, however between both the towns, there were 3 newspapers being published on a weekly basis.

The Rogers family continued being involved in the newspaper publishing industry until 1963, when Lester Rogers passed away.

1.  accessed  19  Nov 2010.
2. Geo. P. Rowell & Co., Publishers. American Newspaper Directory, Volume 32, Issue 3. Printer's Ink Press: New York, 1900. Note: JKL rating indicates that the average issue of the paper does not exceed a thousand copies, which is the advertiser's unit of value.
3. Moore, Charles. History of Michigan, Volume III.  The Lewis Publishing Company: Chicago, 1915.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Family Photographs are a Treasure Chest

When a loved one dies, many people's thoughts turn to possessions: "I wonder what I'll get in the will?" "I should try to get a hold of those dishes before someone else takes them", etc. I've always thought, though, that the very best treasure you could inherit from your family are photographs.

I went onto eBay a couple of months ago and was able to locate, with relatively little problem, several heirlooms similar to ones my parent currently own, including dishes, clocks and furniture. But you know, I didn't find one family photograph. Now, that's not to say that you can't purchase photographs from estate sales or on-line auctions sites. You can. However, you will have a difficult time finding a photograph of your great-grandmother or third cousin, once removed. Barring some miraculous discovery, you will only be able to see photographs like that from other family members.

Through my work on-line and through networking with other distant family members, I have been able to find photographs of relatives we never even knew existed. And the best part, for me, is when you can see a family resemblence. It seems that the relative in the photograph is speaking to me, despite oceans of time dividing us. I feel an immediate connection to that person, although we have never met.

I have included in this post some of the photographs I have found either on-line, or through networking with other family members. Look for family resemblences. I know you will find them.

My husband's great-grandfather on his father's side, Homer Otto Hevron.
L to R (front row) Homer Otto, Ollie Mae Nelson, Wilma Clarice Hevron,
Margie Lee Hevron, ???, Aston Earl Hevron
L to R (back row) ???, Homer Lewis Hevron

Rufus Edward Spradlin, my husband's great-grand uncle
on his mother's side. Rufus was born in Virginia in 1878
and died in California in 1955.

Louisa Simpson, my husband's great-great-grandmother
on his father's side. She was born in Arkansas in 1840
and died in Texas in 1900.

Mary Fannie Emma Spradlin, my husband's grand-aunt
on his mother's side, and her husband Price Allen St. Clair.
Mary was born in Virginia in 1871 and died in Texas in 1942.

Massey Capps Atkins and Harriet Ann Pigler family. Massey is my husband's
great-great-grand uncle on his father's side. This photograph was taken in
Spartanburg County, South Carolina.

Jan Mathijs Hamer was my father's great-great-grandfather.
He was born in the Netherlands in 1849 and immigrated
to the U.S. when he was 16. He died in North Dakota in

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hildegard Drager circa 1914

My great-grandmother on my father's side looking lovely in a hat with plume.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Daniel Dillard, War of 1812 Veteran

Today I want to take an opportunity to display cemeteries and gravesites of importance to our families. The first tombstone I have selected is that of Daniel Dillard, my husband's 4th great-grandfather on his mother's side.

Daniel Dillard, comes from a family with a proud history of military service. His father, Osborne Dillard, served in the Revolutionary War with the 4th Regiment, Williams Company, under the command of Colonel Thomas Polk for the North Carolina Continental Line. Daniel was a Private in the United States Army during the War of 1812. He served in the 3rd Regiment (Copeland's), William Hodge's Company, of the West Tennessee Militia.

Daniel was born 15 Apr 1786 in Chatham County, North Carolina. He died 06 May 1875 in Smith County, Tennessee. Daniel's resting place is located in Dillard Cemetery, in Ferguson Hollow, near Chestnut Mound, Smith County, Tennessee. Chestnut Mound is an unincorporated area about 50 miles east of Nashville.

What is particularly striking about Daniel's final resting place is that the cemetery is now on private land, and is in need of maintenance and care. However, even though the cemetery is in disrepair, the local VFW was able to procure a new tombstone for Daniel. It is a wonderful thing that even though 135 years have passed since Daniel passed away, we continue to honor soldiers in remote areas with tombstones befitting their position as defenders of the nation.

This is Daniel's new tombstone, provided by the local VFW.

Dillard Cemetery, near Chestnut Mound Cemetery. It is currently
abandoned and on private land. The owner has requested that
if anyone is interested, they are welcome to maintain the cemetery.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Walter Rockey's World War I Service

When visiting northern Indiana for a funeral earlier this year, I decided to take the opportunity to visit some cemeteries and get photographs of some tombstone missing from my collection. One such tombstone belonged to a great-grandfather on my mother's side, Walter William Rockey, and was located in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, in Metz, Indiana. I knew very little about Walter as he passed away before I was born and unfortunately, not much was ever said about him. Still, because such a close familial connection existed, I wanted to find out more.

When I finally made it to the cemetery, and located his grave, imagine my surprise when I saw a military marker next to his grave. I came home with a new purpose: to discover how Walter served the United States.

I was pleasantly surprised when I found out the answer. According to The Official Roster of Ohio Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the World War, 1917-18 located on, Walter enlisted in the U.S. Army on 22 Jul 1918. He was assigned to Company D 334 Infantry on 09 Oct 1918 and was transferred to Company A 16th Infantry as a Discharge Private, First Class on 05 Jan 1919. Walter was finally promoted to Corporal on 09 Mar 1919. He served at St. Mihiel, as well as Meuse-Argonne American Expeditionary Forces 02 Sep 1918 to 13 Aug 1919. He was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army on 17 Aug 1919.
Not knowing too much about World War I, I had to do a little bit more digging to find out what those dates and places meant. I discovered that the Meuse-Argonne offensive, was the biggest operation and victory of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I. The Meuse-Argonne battle was the largest frontline commitment of troops by the U.S. Army in World War I, and also its deadliest. At the end, over 117,000 U.S. soldiers were killed.

Imagine the strength and bravery he must have possessed to live through a year in the trenches. One particularly interesting bit of information I found was that the purpose of the Meuse-Argonne offensive was to eventually push back the German army past the city of Metz, where the Germans had heavily fortified forts. Consider the irony: Walter was a man of German ancestry, who would eventually be buried in the town of Metz in Indiana. Yet here he was fighting the Germans and heading towards the city of Metz in Germany.

When Walter returned to the United States, he resumed his life as a farmer in a very small, rural area of the country and raised a family with his wife, Doris. When I discovered all that he had done for our country, and that he returned to a relatively simple life, I felt honored to have someone like Walter in my family.

Walter Rockey's family. His parents, William Dietrich Rockey and Caroline Wilhemina
Hoch are seated in the front row. In the back row, are his sister Gertrude Katharina,
Walter William (the subject of this essay), and his brother Henry Dietrich.

Sharing My Research

For the past several years, I have been researching our family tree. I have discovered many interesting facts and hope to share many of these findings with you. While I would like to eventually write all the stories down and create a complete family history, I know that it may take many, many years to finish. In the mean time, let me share some of what I have discovered with you on this site.

I hope to post often and will follow a trend that many "geneabloggers" follow: Military Mondays, Tombstone Tuesdays, Wordless Wednesdays, Treasure Chest Thursdays and so on. I believe you will be amazed at how fantastic your family really is and that this may inspire you to find out even more. Happy reading!