This isn’t your father’s genealogy: The Internet and information technology make genealogy accessible and feasible for a much wider audience
By Steve Scroggins … featuring Hu Daughtry
As part of our Sesquicentennial series, we wanted to put together an informative piece on genealogy to inspire others to start their own family roots search. This first effort in the genealogy series includes some tips and advice on how to get started to document your own family tree.
As a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), I have some experience with my own genealogical search. Though always happy to share and advise, I knew I could do better service to readers by seeking out the insights of a more active and experienced genealogist.
As you’ll read below, Hu Daughtry reveals it’s not rocket science and it’s much easier to get started today that it was for our parents’ generation.
I thought that I had been fortunate to find five direct ancestors (four great-great grandfathers and one great-great-great) who were Confederate veterans (and many more gg-uncles).
As it happens, the counties where my parents’ families settled in recent generations were in counties (AL and GA) that happened to have active genealogical groups and online bulletin boards. I found a lot of the information online, with help from friendly searchers, without having to travel outside my home.
It all started with a photograph. My maternal grandmother’s sister gave me a photo from 1915 of the Theus family of Taylor County Georgia. That photo included my grandmother as a young toddler on her mother’s lap. My grandmother’s grandfather, Thomas B. Theus, is the gray-bearded elder seated in the center of the photo.
Armed with that knowledge, a trip to the local library found Joseph Crute’s Units of the Confederate States Army (for Georgia). I did a lookup of the units that originated in Taylor County and there in the muster roll for Company C of the 59th Georgia Infantry (the Arthur Greys of Taylor County) was a listing of seven Theus men. Were they brothers or cousins or what? I soon learned, with help from online resources, that they were all brothers. Of the seven Theus brothers who went to war, only three survived.
As southern families go, they were luckier than many. I read of five brothers in a neighboring county, all of whom died in the war. Given the local nature of company units for that war, it was very common to have multiple brothers and relatives in the same unit.
The author of the fictional WWII story of Saving Private Ryan was inspired by a monument to four New Hampshire brothers who died in the War to Prevent Southern Independence.
The second man from the left seated on the first row is my great-grandfather, Tom Barfield. His father, Jesse Bud Barfield, was also a Confederate veteran. Tom’s grandfather, Jesse M. Barfield, was a veteran of the Mexican war. Seated to Tom’s right is my great-grandmother Dora Theus Barfield with my grandmother in her lap.
They had been married ten years at the time of this photo and their fifth child would be born four years later. In 2005, the centennial anniversary of their marriage, I wrote an essay exploring some of the historical events at that time in history (1904-05).
In my experience, as well as Hu Daughtry and many others, finding that one has blood relatives who were directly involved in an historical event, such as a war, just naturally fires one’s interest in that time period and in history in general. If only more people had such interest and invested time seeking the truths of history.
“If you don’t know history, you don’t know anything. You’re a leaf that doesn’t know it’s part of a tree.” —-Michael Crichton
“A nation which does not remember what it was yesterday does not know where it is today…” –Gen. Robert E. Lee
As economist Ludwig von Mises wrote, “Historical knowledge is indispensable for those who want to build a better world.”
I think most readers would agree that a greater knowledge and understanding of history is essential to understanding what is happening in the world today.
Lacking interest in and awareness of History allows demagogues and manipulators traction and persuasion ability they shouldn’t have. It’s an acknowledged fact that the most recent generations see the subject of history as “boring” and not truly relevant in their lives.
Contrast them with Americans of generations before, most of whom considered history a favorite school subject. The question is, why the change? I attempted to answer that question in a March 2010 essay entitled Poisoning History: Guilt-tripping to Utopia.
“Seen in the light of anti-American self-loathing as promulgated and promoted by revisionists (e.g., James Loewen, Howard Zinn, et al), is it any wonder that several generations of Americans hold a more negative view of their country and its founders? Is it any wonder that many of these younger Americans view history as less relevant to their modern lives? Is it any wonder that many Americans are ignorant of the U.S. Constitution and the Founding Principles? If that widespread ignorance of our Constitution and Founding Principles doesn’t terrify you, it should.” —Steve Scroggins, from Poisoning History: Guilt-tripping to Utopia.
Clearly, genealogy or historical knowledge is not an end-all panacea. But ignorance of history, as the old saw goes, dooms us to repeat the mistakes that echo through human history.
Looking at a narrow band of time, American history for example, it becomes clear that one cannot fully understand a certain period without understanding the events in the decades immediately preceding that period… and on and on it goes until the beginning. History, like genealogy, is a lifelong pursuit. Greater understanding requires ongoing effort.
If you make the effort to get a good start, I’m willing to bet that you’ll be hooked. You might suspend your search during busy periods, but you’ll always be looking to fill in gaps and break through “brick walls” that are found in most family trees.
There are many online genealogy services (Daughtry mentions some below) and many versions of software to help with the search and the cataloging, organizing and sharing of data.
There are thousands of local genealogy websites with bulletin boards and query/discussion boards for certain counties. Odds are that some distant relative has already captured some of the information you’ll be looking for.
Whether you are looking for ancestors in the south, the north or elsewhere in America, the principles of Hu Daughtry’s advice below remains the same. For professionals who specialize in various countries of origin, you can find a directory of them at http://genealogypro.com/ As noted above, there’s a lot of satisfaction in doing the search yourself.
Upcoming in the genealogy series, we’ll explore utilization of advanced technologies such as DNA testing for genealogical purposes. Now, to our guest contributor.
I met Hu Daughtry a few years ago when he was a program speaker at my local Camp meeting of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
He was an informative and entertaining speaker and what I remember most was his collection of family photographs. He had a phenomenal number of old photographs of many of his ancestors and knew all their names and stories.
Daughtry is the author of the book, CONFEDERATE TALES OF CANDLER & CONNECTED COUNTIES. He resides in rural Candler County, Georgia and he is the commander of The Dixie Guards, Camp # 1942, Sons of Confederate Veterans based in Metter, Georgia.
He also serves as one of three recruiting and genealogy officers for the Georgia division of SCV who assists potential or interested members to locate a Confederate ancestor. Whether your ancestors were Confederate, or otherwise, the principles of starting the search remain the same (in the U.S.).
“FINDING YOUR CONFEDERATE ANCESTOR”
by Hu Daughtry
My maternal grandfather is largely responsible for my seemly-endless passion for history and genealogy; quite succinctly, he possessed the uncanny ability (it was definitely a gift from God) to bring the dead back to life—with the mere use of spoken words. For the privilege of sharing the first 26 years of my life with him, I shall always be more than grateful.
Although he never actually knew either of them, both of his grandfathers fought valiantly in That Unsuccessful Struggle For Southern Independence; one nearly lost a leg at a place called Second Manassas, while the other rode with Bedford Forrest at Chickamauga and actually made it to Joe Johnston’s late April surrender near Greensboro.
Hence, my interest in That Uncivil War of The 1860’s was quite unavoidable and was destined to overtake and devour me – sooner or later……
As I became older, I began to wonder and ponder more and more about my ancestors; who exactly were those dead relatives of mine who were directly responsible for my very existence on God’s Earth?
Before too much time had lapsed, it became blatantly obvious that the discipline of genealogy was much more addictive than any drug which I ever sold during my more than twenty years as a practicing pharmacist; that much, I am sure of…….
Approximately four years ago, I researched and wrote a book entitled: CONFEDERATE TALES OF CANDLER & CONNECTED COUNTIES; while working on this non-fictional literary endeavor, I began to learn the basic principles and skills of genealogical / historical research.
Looking back, it is readily apparent that this marked the beginning of my avocation as “a genealogist.”
Just months following the publication of my book, I began receiving calls and e-mails from individuals seeking to hire me to perform genealogy work; at the time of this writing, I spend between 25 and 30 hours per week “conducting genealogical and historical research for private clients.”
A couple of years ago, in a magnanimous effort to increase the membership of The Georgia Division of The Sons of Confederate Veterans, Georgia Division Adjutant Timothy Pilgrim created the appointed position(s) of “Genealogy / Recruiting Officers.” In short, I was appointed to fill one of these three positions and since that time, have identified Confederate Ancestors for more than 300 potential members.
Locating a “Confederate Ancestor” for a potential SCV (Sons of Confederate Veterans) compatriot is actually a simplistic process; I usually obtain some basic familial data from the interested party, then I begin the quest to “unearth at least one of his Rebel Relatives.”
As alluded to earlier, the first duty of a genealogy / recruiting officer is to locate a Confederate Ancestor for a male (twelve years of age or older) who wishes to enlist in this noble organization; once a suitable ancestor has been found, the next step is to place the future compatriot in the camp of his choosing.
In most cases, as common sense would certainly dictate, this is usually a camp which lies in close proximity to the potential member’s residence.
Quite laconically, whenever I am contacted by an individual who is interested in joining a camp in The Georgia Division of The Sons of Confederate Veterans, I make a conscious and obvious effort to perform the majority of the work – myself.
Unfortunately, the plethora of paperwork often associated with locating one’s Confederate Relative(s) is often perceived as overwhelming and even intimidating to a novice / neophyte genealogist; therefore, many potential members simply shy away from this largely-unfamiliar process and fail to enlist in The Sons of Confederate Veterans.
One of the primary objectives of a genealogy / recruiting officer is to prevent this aforementioned worst-case scenario from occurring.
Generally speaking, when contacted by an interested party, I simply ask this individual to supply me with the names of at least two direct ancestors (mother, father, grandfather, grandmother, etc.) who were alive in 1930; additionally, it is imperative that I learn the exact familial relationship of this ancestor to the interested party.
Furthermore, it is also advantageous to know the approximate year of birth of the relative, and the county / state in which he / she resided in 1930. The rationale behind the annum ‘1930’ is such that this represents the most current Federal Census Enumeration which is currently available to the public.
Once I have identified an ancestor or two whose names appear on The 1930 Census Report, I am able “to take it from there.” Summarily, I merely “back track to 1860 and begin the hunt for a potential Confederate Soldier.” Ancestry.com is a great on-line source for accessing Federal Census Records.
In The South, especially in Georgia, white males from 16 to 60 were called upon to defend their homeland against The Forces of Northern Aggression; hence, the adage “from the cradle to the grave” was certainly no exaggeration.
In a genealogical sense, the significance of this “well-documented assertion” simply means that if an individual possesses a white male antecedent who was between the ages of 16 and 60 (from 1861 — 1865), there is a distinct possibility that this particular ancestor served in The Conventional Confederate Army, A State Unit, or perhaps even a Home Guard Outfit. Fold3.com (formerly Footnote.com) contains the majority of The Compiled Military Service Records for most Confederate Units.
In addition to The Confederate Compiled Military Service Records, there are also Confederate Pension Applications which can be found on-line; for example, those for Georgia and Alabama are readily accessible on Ancestry.Com.
As mentioned previously, I am also available to do genealogy work for the general public;” during the course of my practice, I have assisted several clients in their successful quests to join The Daughters of The American Revolution, The Sons of The American Revolution, as well as The United Daughters of The Confederacy.
On the other hand, there are those who have joined The Sons of Confederate Veterans who wish to learn more of their family history; for example, I prepared a report for one client which contained definitive proof that he actually possessed 36 Civil War Ancestors (a couple wore Union Blue). In addition to “Confederate-Oriented
Research,” I have also done work for clients who descended not only from Union Soldiers, but from former slaves who served in The United States Colored Troops.
In recapitulation, it seems that more and more members of our 21st Century Society are rapidly developing an interest in their genealogical roots.
Fortunately, with the advent of modern technology, “tracing one’s family history” is much simpler today than it was in the days of our fathers and grandfathers; I, for one, feel that those of us who wish to learn as much as humanly possible of the lives and times of our progenitors, should make a tenacious effort to do so.
I have seen, on more than one occasion, individuals who find the subject of history to be “incredibly boring, literally transformed into “genealogy junkies” — practically overnight.
For clandestine, inexplicable reasons, the pages of history seem to suddenly “come alive” – when one learns that several members of his blood kindred were actively involved in a famous (or perhaps infamous) event such as a specific battle, conflict, war, etc.
Finally, in closing, I should like to challenge each and every reader of this article to make an effort to learn as much as possible about those who lurk silently within the hidden confines of the nooks and crannies of your family tree; the information that you find just might be “more than priceless……”
Hu Daughtry can be contacted by email at: [email protected] or by snailmail at — Hu Daughtry; Post Office Box 406; Metter,Georgia 30439
Note: As mentioned above, Hu Daughtry in one of three genealogy officers for the Georgia Division of SCV. The SCV.org website has a directory of genealogy officers for many other Divisions of the SCV as well as other genealogy resources: http://www.scv.org/genealogy.php