Thursday, October 15, 2015

Battle Memory of WWII Vet, Gerald Norman

Gerald Norman's army portrait.  1940s
Gerald Norman was a Corporal in Battery B of the 282nd Field Artillery Battalion in World War II.  He was a military scout and sharpshooter, and during WWII, fought in: Northern France, Normandy, Rhineland, Ardennes, and Central Europe.  Under General Order 33 of the War Department (1945), he won the EAME (European African Middle Eastern) Campaign Medal with 5 Bronze Stars, as well as the American Defense Service Medal.  And, after serving approximately 21 months in Europe and a total of 4 years, 2 months in the army altogether, he was released from service on September 6, 1945.

Recently, we found a handwritten memory of one of the battles he fought in.  Though it was all folded up, and blurry and smudged around the edges, you can still read the majority, which has been scanned and reproduced for you here.  We punched the color up in Photoshop in an attempt to make out the more illegible words; with some it helped, with others, not so much.  Below the scan of the actual "story," is a typed-out version, with blank spaces for the words I couldn't quite make out.  Also, there is a (?) after words I am unsure about.

We have no idea if this story was written just after this battle occurred, or later when Gerald had returned home.  We don't know if there is, or was, anymore to it, as this is the only page we have found.  It is very short, but you can tell the experience left quite an impression on Gerald for him to have felt it necessary to preserve the memory in writing.

Gerald Norman's Memory of a WWII Battle.  (Click to enlarge)

In the wild melee men fought
with whatever weapons came to
hand.  At Consthum, C Battery of
the 687 F. A. fired at ___ ___
___ elevations until the
Germans were inside the range,
then grabbed rifles and Carbines
and jumped into foxholes to help
the infantry beat off the attacks.
Beat off 5 attacks.
As the Germans retreated, the
gunners leaped back to their
artillery and sent shells after them.
But the Germans came back.  Five
times the battery beat off attacks.
Not a man left his post for 48
hours.  They fired until the
regular ammunition was gone,
They fired anti-tank shells.  When
those were gone they fired
propaganda shells filled with
___.  Only when those were
___ did the infantry/artillery(?) fall back.
Men tackled jobs they never
had been trained for.

Now, I am no expert on WWII, so I had to do a bit of research to try and figure out what Gerald's note is all about.  Please, feel free to correct me if I get anything wrong, and I do suggest conducting your own research if this subject interests you.  Research says Consthum was a small village (it has since been incorporated into the newly created commune, Parc Hosingen) near Luxembourg, which is the capital city of the country with the same name.  It is one of the places that played an important role in the early days of the Battle of the Bulge, which was probably the biggest battle that occurred during the Ardennes Campaign of WWII.  Consthum was one of several towns along the road to Luxembourg City that the Americans needed to control, in order to make it more difficult for the Germans to make it Luxembourg, which was their main objective.  As the Germans advanced, there were battles in each of these villages.  You can read more about the 687th Field Artillery and their contributions to this particular campaign, here.

WWII Memorial in Consthum, Luxembourg.  Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Closeup of the center of the memorial.  Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I cannot imagine experiencing anything these men experienced, much less living to tell the tale.  When researching the regiment Gerald was in, I came across this passage written by Daniel Clayton, from War, Literature & the Arts, about interviews he conducted with Phil Antonelli, a veteran of the 282nd Field Artillery Battalion, the same one Gerald was in.  It pretty much says it all:

    Phil Antonelli enlisted in the Army shortly after graduating from high school in 1942.  He served with the 282nd Field Artillery Battalion attached to Patton's Third Army and fought in every campaign in northern Europe from the Battle of Normandy to the end of the war in Germany.  Phil also witnessed the atrocities at Ohdruf.  All his adult life, Antonelli suffered recurring nightmares of incoming artillery in a counter-battery exchange.  He'd grab his wife in the middle of the night and press her under the covers with him, crying out to "Get down.  Get down!!"  Phil wasn't diagnosed with PTSD until 2002, but it is likely that his case was a reactivation of the disorder that manifested itself on and off throughout his life, beginning shortly after the war ended. In talking about the German enemy, Phil told me on several occasions that he held nothing against the Germans; they were soldiers who did their duty (Clayton interviews with Phil Antonelli).

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Let's Talk DNA

Recently, my mother and I purchased an AncestryDNA kit for my grandmother, as part of her birthday celebration.  ...Okay, so it was more of a gift for me and my mother...  I admit it.

Anyway, we got the results back last month, and while there was nothing too surprising (my uncle has also taken one of Ancestry's DNA tests in the past, so we sort of new what to expect in my grandma's results), I thought it would be something interesting to discuss here, for anyone curious about exactly what these DNA tests are able to tell you about your ethnic heritage.

First of all, you will see an ethnicity estimate overview graph, like this:

Basic ethnicity estimate graph showing the major components of my grandmother's DNA

Now, this doesn't tell us a whole lot, but if you were someone who knew absolutely nothing about your ethnic make-up, then even the picture above would be pretty exciting, I would assume.  So, based on the graph above, we can see that my grandmother is mostly Native American, with a good percentage of her ethnicity coming from the Iberian Peninsula, a small portion being European Jewish, and trace amounts from 9 other regions.

When you click on "See full ethnicity estimate", you will be taken to another page which will further break down the information for you.  On this page, you'll see a map, which highlights all the regions on the globe where your specific genetic make-up originates from.

Map of the world indicating where my grandmother's DNA comes from

The portions above which are filled with color indicate higher percentages of DNA, and the ones which are merely circles indicate trace amounts of DNA.

To the left of this map, in your own DNA results, you will find that AncestryDNA has broken down that original ethnicity estimate graph, so that you are able to see more specifically where, all around the world, your own DNA comes from.  In the next image, you will see my grandmother's DNA breakdown.

Breakdown of the various ethnicities comprising my grandmother's DNA

When you click on each of the regions found in your AncestryDNA results, you will find that they are further broken down for you on the right-hand side of the page, located just above the map.

For instance, when we clicked on each region found in my grandmother's DNA, we found the specific countries, or areas that included in that particular region.  I've listed them for you below:

1.  Africa - 3%
breaks down to:
-  2% Senegal
-  <1% North Africa (which includes: Morocco, Western Sahara, Algeria, Libya)

2.  America - 51%
breaks down to:
-  51% Native American (which includes: North, Central, and South America)

3.  Asia - 2%
breaks down to:
-  1% Central Asia (which includes: Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, etc...)
-  <1% Eastern Asia (which includes: Russia, China, North and South Korea, Japan, Philippines, Singapore, etc...)

4.  Europe - 39%
breaks down to:
-  19% Iberian Peninsula (which includes: Spain and Portugal)
-  6% European Jewish (which includes: Poland, Russia, Hungary, Israel, etc...)
-  6% Italy/Greece
-  4% Great Britain (which includes: England, Scotland, Wales)
-  3% Scandinavia (which includes: Sweden, Norway, Denmark)
-  <1% Ireland (which includes: Ireland, Wales, Scotland)

5.  West Asia - 5%
breaks down to:
-  5% Middle East (which includes: Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, etc...) 
So, then to try and make sense of the results, we apply them to our knowledge of our family history...

I admit I am no expert on this subject, but based on research I have done, I believe I can explain where some of the African percentage comes from.  The Moors, who came from Africa, conquered and settled Spain in the 1100s, so I believe that may be where that small percentage of African DNA would come in.

As for the Native American DNA, doing our family history research, I’ve learned that we have several Mexican ancestors so, because Mexico is part of North America, I believe that is where that percentage of DNA is going to come in to play.  Because of the migration patterns of native tribes, it is currently too difficult to pinpoint EXACTLY where in North America, Central America, or South America my grandmother's DNA comes from using this test in particular, though other more extensive tests do exist.

That small percentage of Central Asian DNA may be explained in the same way as the African, because of the particular regions is encompasses.  There may have been Moors from this area, who eventually conquered Spain.  The less than 1% of Eastern Asia, I can’t explain as well.  Chalk that up to migration, I suppose.

Next, to try and explain the 39% European results:  Broken down according to family names, these percentages really make perfect sense.  The 19% Iberian Peninsula (which includes Spain) is explained VERY easily, since we know the family name, Zamora, comes from the region of Spain with the same name.  The 6% European Jewish is also pretty easily explained.  Having researched the name Zamora, I've read that the name was originally a Jewish name, which the Pope has declared as having been so.  The 6% Italy/Greece result, in my opinion, may serve as proof of the origins of our Delgado name, which, according to my research has both Spanish AND Italian origins.  The 4% Great Britain, 3% Scandinavia and less than 1% Irish results are all going to be tied together, in my opinion.  Having researched the name Donnell, I have learned that there is an argument amongst historians as to whether the name originated  in Ireland or Scotland.  With such a small percentage of Irish showing up in my grandmother's DNA results, I’m thinking it’s possible the name was originally Scottish.  It's also possible, though, that my grandmother's sisters could have simply inherited more of the Irish genes.  We won't know that, however, unless they were to take a DNA test.  The Scandinavian percentage should be able to be explained by the fact that the Vikings are the ones who conquered and settled in Great Britain (Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England) around the year 1066. 
Last of all, the percentage of West Asia DNA may possibly go back, once again, to the Moors who originally invaded and settled Spain.

And there you have it: My grandmother's AncestryDNA results broken down and explained to the best of my ability.  While there are other, more specific and altogether different DNA tests available, none of them are really going to be able to tell you exactly when a certain region's DNA was introduced into your family or by whom.  DNA goes back hundreds and thousands of years.  The best way to trace your family through history is by following a good old fashioned paper trail.  DNA results such as these will serve, simply to verify that the research you've done on your family is correct.

That being said, I really recommend everyone have one of these tests done.  It is invaluable to know where your ancestors came from and whose blood is running through your veins.  These tests also serve as a great reminder that we are all connected.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Who is Mary Jane Keeton?

Having a look at some of my family members' DNA results on today, turned up something new.  (This goes along with what I'm always saying about researching genealogy, there is new information constantly available.  If you're having trouble finding something, just take a break and try again after a while.  New information is constantly indexed and uploaded.)

Screen capture of AncestryDNA "potential new ancestor" listing.

Apparently, my uncle's DNA matches a few people's DNA who have this Mary Jane Keeton person in their family tree.  Now, it would make it easier to see which line this Mary Jane might belong to if she turned up in my aunt's (who shares only a father with my uncle; different mothers) DNA results or my grandmother's DNA results, but she hasn't.  That's the thing about DNA, everyone's is different, including siblings with the same parents and parents and their children.

Screen capture of Mary Jane Keeton's "Life Story" on AncestryDNA

So, what do we know about this Mary Jane Keeton?  Well, tells us she was born in 1849 in Kentucky.  The only person I can remember mentioning anything about Kentucky around this time frame is James Oscar Norman, who states on a couple of different Census records, that his parents were from Kentucky.  According to him though, J.O. was born in 1851 in Missouri.  Now, it could have been that this Mary Jane, being older was born in Kentucky, where her parents were from and then they all moved to Missouri, but it doesn't look like that is the case, as according to Ancestry, Mary Jane died in Kentucky in 1921.  Also, apparently Keeton is this woman's maiden name, so that removes most likelihood that the two may have been siblings.

So, who could she be?  She doesn't seem to fit in my Zamora family tree, so she must have come from the Norman line at some point.  Now, I don't know the names of my great-grandmother's paternal grandparents, so it's possible Mary Jane Keeton was my great-grandmother's grandmother.  My great-grandmother's father, Frank Thomas Lemons, however, lists his parents as having come from Tennessee.  But, Tennessee is close to Kentucky, so maybe he was just mistaken?  He was born in 1871, so Mary Jane Keeton would have been the right age to have been his mother.  Unfortunately, a quick search of the surnames Keeton and Lemons does not turn up any helpful results.

While it's likely we are related to this person in a way that I have not yet discovered, it is also possible that AncestryDNA has made a mistake with this probable ancestor.  Much more detective work is necessary.  If you happen to have this Mary Jane Keeton in your own family tree and can suggest a link, I would love to hear from you.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

New Year's Eve in San Antonio, TX, 1969

Today I'd like to share with you an old family video my mother found in a box of film that belonged to my grandmother, but which had never been processed.  Most of the film was empty (thankfully), but among the lot was this 8 mm film which contained a three minute movie of my mother, aunt, uncle, grandparents, great aunts and uncles, and great-grandparents!  Finding this kind of stuff, for me, is like striking gold.  Actually, it's even better than gold... it's priceless.

Now, judging by the size of all my relatives, we're guessing this video is from, about 1969.  As you can see, there are Christmas decorations up, so it's possible it's Christmas, 1969, but there is a kitchen scene in which my great-aunt Connie is serving the kids buñuelos, which is a fried dessert with cinnamon and sugar and served on New Year's as good luck for the coming year.  (Kind of like some people in the South traditionally eat black-eyed-peas for luck.)  Another scene that points to New Year's Eve, rather than Christmas, is the short outside scene.  On New Year's when my mother was little, the family would pop fireworks, etc.

Whatever the year, it's great to find old footage like this.  I only wish there was more out there like it!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

1900 Census for Juan and Fortunata Zamora - San Antonio, Texas

1900 Census for Juan Zamora - San Antonio, Texas

This Census for San Antonio, Texas from 1900 tells a lot about some of the members of the Delgado and Zamora families which can be found on this site.  First of all, we see Juan Zamora (spelled on this particular census "Samora") living, with his family, at 401 South Concho.

Samora, Juan - head
"    Fortunato - wife (note the misspelling of Fortunata's name)
"    Maria - daughter
"    Manuel - son
"    Julio - son
"    Santos - son
"    Feliberto - son
"    Encarnacion - son

We can see each of their race, sex, birth month and year as well as their age.  We can see that Juan and Fortuanta have been married 12 years by this time, which gives us an approximate marriage year of 1888.  We can see that Fortunata has had 7 children, but that only 6 of them are living.  We can see everyone is from Mexico, as well as their parents and that Juan and Fortunata came to the United States in 1899 and have therefore only been living in San Antonio for about a year.  He's working as a laborer, there is no job listed for Fortunata, which was common for the time, and the kids of school age are in school.  We can also see that none of them can read, write, or speak English.  Now, this could mean they couldn't read or write, period, but it could also mean that they could not read or write English.  We can also see that they rent their house.

Now, that could be the end of the information we are able to take from this particular document, but we must not overlook the other people who appear to be living at the same location.  Below Encarnacion's name are:

De la Cerda, Micaya - boarder - F - 66
Delgado, Francisca - servant - F - 22

If this was the first time we'd seen these names, we would probably be pretty confused as to why the Zamora family has taken in a 66-year-old woman to live with them.  Further research, however, tells us that, though the given name is mispelled, "Micaya" is in fact, Fortuanta's mother, Micaela Cerda (her maiden name) and Francisca Delgado is Fortunata's sister.  Why they are listed as a boarder and a servant are anyone's guess, but probably simply the census taker's doing.  If we scroll right, we can see that Micaela Cerda actually came over in 1897, so perhaps the Zamora family came in 1899 to join her.

Further inspection of this census reveals that two of Fortunata's siblings and their families are also living at the same location.

Delgado, Benito - head - M - 39
"    Francisca - wife - F - 35
"    Jose - son - M - 11
"    Gregoria - daughter - F -3
"    Covita - daughter (mispelled on this census, should be Jovita) - F - Not even 1 month old yet


Delgado, Francisco - head - M - 27
"    Francisca - wife - F - 27
"    Manuela - daughter - F - 2

We can see both of Fortuanta's brothers came over two years prior to the Zamora family, in 1897.  In fact, the code "PA" under the citizenship column means that Benito Delgado had already filed his first papers on the path to citizenship in the 3 years he had lived in the United States.  Like Juan and Fortunata, he could not speak English, but his son, Jose could.  We can also see that Benito and Fortunata's brother, Francisco, a tailor, could read, write, and speak English as well.

1909 Map of San Antonio, Texas

It should be mentioned that the area in which this family lived in 1900, which is just south of what is now the Historic Market Square, had a very large population of immigrants and was a very popular bohemian-type area at the turn of the century, full of artists, musicians, etc.  Note the occupations of others on this same street in the 1900 Census above: "Sculptor, Poet, Harness Maker, Stone Cutter, Barber, etc... all artisans.  Unfortunately, the more popular a place becomes, the more people that want to live in that place, and sometimes over-crowding results, which simply means there are too many people living in too small an area.  With over-crowding, crime sometimes follows, which is what began to happen to this area by the start of the new decade.  And, as mentioned in historical San Antonio Blue Books, the area around South Concho St and Matamoras St became known as a "red light district."  Luckily, if you find each of the above mentioned families in the 1910 Census, they have all moved away from the area, smartly deciding to move their children away from the situation.

By 1910, it appears Juan and Fortunata had already separated, and she had moved, with her children, north of the Market, onto North Laredo St, right where it bends at 707 North Laredo.  You can find the approximate location in the map above, as Interstate 10 now runs through the approximate area.  (Amazingly, I just found a picture of the actual house.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Ben Affleck Asked PBS TV Show to Hide his Slave-Owning Ancestor

Photo taken by Josh Jensen, courtesy of Creative Commons

By now we've probably all heard about how it was recently leaked that when doing the PBS show, "Finding Your Roots," Ben Affleck asked producers to hide his slave-owning ancestor.  If you're not familiar with the story I'm talking about, you can read about it here.  Now, I'm not going to beat around the bush - I think it was a creepy, shady move on Affleck's part and I think it was a bad decision on the part of PBS to cave to pressure from Hollywood and leave it out, if they had originally intended to include it.

First of all, if you're white in America, and trace your ancestry back far and widely enough, you are most likely going to discover you have someone in your family tree who owned a slave.  It sucks.  It's sad.  It's terrible.  But it did happen back then.  Hiding it, or trying to pretend that it didn't exist is a slap in the face to the memory of those who were slaves.  Philosopher George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" and I believe in that philosophy 100%.  Pretending something didn't happen, doesn't make it so.

You may not always find exactly what you're looking for when you decide to delve into family history research.  In fact, it has been my personal experience that you sometimes don't find what you're looking for at all.  But what you do find is history.  And learning from the new information that you discover about your family's history, both the good and the bad, and applying that knowledge to your own life makes you a more understanding, more complete person.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

William Mote and Mary Barnes, the Parents of Drury Mote?

I'm currently working on the Mote line of this family tree, so I can get it up on this site but, man, am I having some trouble.  The different spellings of the surname Mote in various census forms and other records don't help matters: Mote, Motes, Mate, and so on and so forth.  Then comes my ancestor's given name, which was Drury.  Or, was it Drewery?  Or, Drewy?  Or Davey?  It's enough to make you go crazy, let me tell you.

Then, I'm seeing on various family trees an entirely different set of parents listed for Drury Mote, than what I'm finding evidence of.  My research points to William Mote and Mary Barnes as the likely parents of Drury Mote.  So, where did those other parents' names come from?  Am I missing something?  Luckily, I found on this blog called DFW Family History, a reference to a Drury Mote, and once I read what they had to say, I was suddenly able to find the proof to back it up, in the form of censuses, etc.  So, now I know a bit more.  Not a lot, but a bit.  I still don't know where these mythical other parents that some people have listed as Drury's parents come from, but I guess as long as I'm confident with my own research, that's all that matters.

The moral of this story is that there is a lot more involved in researching your true ancestors than just typing their name into a historical search engine.  If you don't do the work, there is absolutely no telling who you could end up with.  There has to be records to back up all theories.  And never, ever rely on one website to give you all the information you need.