29 June 2013

My Grandfather--Raymond Richard Doyle

"He wouldn't eat breakfast until he was shaved. He was so clean."
Grandma Emily Michaels

28 June 2013


What I think I'm like when I'm working

What I'm actually like

27 June 2013


When I find that ancestor from Canada, it’s like:

26 June 2013

Black Sheep, the Cat O' Nine Tails, and the Wire: The Shamed Life of Glenn E. Doyle

When doing family history, you learn to be grateful for your relatives despite many of their flaws. You learn to see with much more of a big picture perspective, and you realize that even a major mistake can seem so unimportant in hindsight.

But what happens when what someone did, or who they were, really was a big deal? What if they did something so wrong that the ones involved never forget it, even when they want to?

That, my friends, is the definition of what we often refer to in genealogy as a black sheep. 

One family member has a stigma against them, usually because of something they have done. It's a defense mechanism against public shame and familial embarrassment. In life, it is often accompanied by humiliation, ostracism, and broken family ties. In time what the person has done becomes a guarded family secret, which many try to take to their graves. Sometimes they succeed, which can create some significant challenges for us in doing genealogy.

Is it really important to uncover these secrets in genealogy? And if so, how do we go about do it?

I believe that there is something empowering in overcoming the stigmas in family secrets. I want to illustrate this through the example of one of my family members, Glenn E. Doyle.

Glenn Doyle was born in 1907 to Charles Miller Doyle and Birdie May Price. He was the oldest of 6 children. In his early life he appears on the census in both North Carolina and Virginia.

Glenn E. Doyle on the 1910 Census for Surry County, North Carolina

Glenn E. Doyle on the 1920 Census for Grayson County, Virginia

While he was still living in Grayson County, Virginia he met Pearl May Bartlett. I haven't found any marriage information for them yet, but they later moved to Cecil County, Maryland and had ten children. Among them was my grandfather, Raymond.

Glenn E. Doyle on the 1930 Census for Cecil County, Maryland

Glenn E. Doyle on the 1940 Census for Cecil County, Maryland

It would seem like an average family, as all of them do when you handle raw genealogical data. But it was only when I had my phone conversation with Mrs. T a couple weeks ago that I discovered the darker parts of Glenn Doyle's past.

Copy of The Midland Journal, December 20, 1940.

(Note the Christmas Message of good will towards men. That part is about to become really ironic)

I have lived in Cecil County all my life, and have never heard of this newspaper. I never would have known about it, except that Mrs. T mentioned that these events took place and I went searching on Google to find...

My ancestor was the last person in the state of Maryland to be sentenced to the whipping post--and Maryland and Delaware were the last two states to do away with that punishment. There is an error in the article because his daughter's name was Marie and his wife's name was Pearl. But Mrs. T informed me that Glenn received even more severe rejection from the community for what he had done to his wife and daughter. She mentioned that the Klan even retaliated against him, but I don't know how I would ever go about verifying something like that. I don't know that I would want to try.

As I read about whipping, I discovered what a gruesome punishment it was. It wasn't done with a plain whip with a single strand--like Zorro or Indiana Jones. They used something called the cat o' nine tails, which Wikipedia tells me looks something like this:

A punishment for whipping usually involved time in jail and up to 40 lashes. Glenn was sentenced to 60 days in prison and ten lashes. But if you think about how the whip in question has nine ends on it, it's more like 90 lashes. At the time this punishment was still viable, it was only affixed to incidences of domestic violence.

from the New York Times, January 13, 1895

It was a punishment which had not been seen in Cecil County for 40 years, and was never seen again after my great grandfather was sentenced. It was an infamous incident however, because news of it traveled far from the reachable limits of Maryland.

The Spokesman Review, December 17, 1940

Note that the above newspaper in Spokane, Washington was printed and distributed on the 17th of December--three days before the story appeared in Rising Sun, Maryland where my great grandparents were living. Sometimes I wonder if reporters think of the humiliation of the innocent before they spread such stories around. The Wire can be such an unforgiving scandalmonger.

For something as famous as this was, I never knew about it--but the emptiness it left behind was everywhere. The fact that my father and grandfather had no contact with the rest of their family meant we didn't either--no aunts, no uncles, no cousins, no family reunions, no holidays--nothing. It made my beginnings in genealogy challenging, but not impossible. What has been damaged more than anything else has been the family history.

Genealogy happens every times a census is taken, a probate is made, an estate is sold, any time something is written down for any reason. This continues uninterrupted, regardless of what we do. Family history is the culture and identity of a family--the teachings, the memories, the personal stories--all the things that come along with sharing time together as a family. Genealogy can never compensate for a lack of family history.

When someone is labelled as a black sheep, abandoned, and finally disgraced, many times the family is disbanded for the shame of it. Family members move away, refuse to come back, and time and distance make it nearly impossible to mend what was broken. Healing never happens, and the descendants are left without a history. Their history is lost--not because it wasn't written down, but because it never happened.

Because of this, I don't believe in labeling people as Black Sheep. To me it's a question of religious principle, because Christ didn't give me an option to choose who I would forgive and who I wouldn't. He didn't ask me to decide who was within His reach and who was too far gone. He will offer everyone a chance for redemption--a love He manifested for all mankind when he bore his own stripes. And God simply cannot use us to accomplish His purposes if too much of the problem is shrouded in secret.

As genealogists, we have the unique position to be able to mend these bonds because of what we know, and our willingness to know it. When it comes to dealing with family members who have a dark past, it is essential that we use what we discover to not only give our family an expanded past, but a brighter, triumphant future.

24 June 2013



Hear my voice blowing on the breeze,
Know your fate know your history,
As I am now you one day will be,
Face your past then face your destiny,

Now you may live a different place,
Brought up and lived a different way,
But if you have our blood in your veins,
Then you will know us, know home, know who you are.

Now here you are, standing next to me,
Come take my hand, and walk with me,
If you could feel the peace in our hills and glens,
You would know in swear with all begin
and you would know who I really am

23 June 2013

Honeymooning in History--Military Monday

I have been out of commission from posting and actively working on genealogy since I recently got married, but by no means have I been idle. Because my husband and I share a mutual love of genealogy, we decided to spend our honeymoon on the Civil War trails throughout western Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. We managed to see Antietam, Harper's Ferry, South Mountain, and Gettysburg.

Bloody Lane--Antietam National Battlefield

We visited Antietam National Battlefield, which was a special experience for me. I felt a much deeper connection to my ancestor Richard C. Keatts who fought there with the 57th Virginia Infantry for the Confederacy. Everywhere I looked, the place seemed so alive with the memory of him. He couldn't have seemed more real to me than if he had been walking there beside me. Looking back through my pictures, I almost expect to see him posing in a gray uniform.

I had only begun my Civil War research at this point, so I was only vaguely familiar with which of my ancestors fought in which battles. Not missing the opportunity, I asked a lovely older woman if there was any way to look up my ancestors by name or regiment to confirm it. She pulled out a book which lists which regiments fought in which places at Antietam, then kindly made copies of all the pages of the Confederate regiments from Virginia and North Carolina for me.

To pay it forward, I decided to post copies of those rosters here. They are available to view below.

Harper's Ferry, West Virginia

Harper's Ferry also proved a great opportunity in disguise because of a roster we found in one of the small museums. It was a list of all the regiments who had been stationed in Harper's Ferry during the Civil War.

North Carolina Confederate Units stationed in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia

Virginia Confederate Infantry Units stationed in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia

Virginia Confederate Cavalry and Artillery Units stationed in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia

My mother's family has been making trips to Harper's Ferry for the past 4 generations, and I never realized that one of our ancestors had been stationed there. One of my father's ancestors also spent time there, William E. Loveless of the 45th North Carolina Infantry.

I had done little research on Gettysburg before we made the journey there--but sometimes it isn't necessary. I could feel in my heart that my ancestors had been there. William E. Loveless especially stood out to me in my mind. As we approached the monument for North Carolina, I felt a deep sense of pride for my heritage.

We could have chosen to do a lot of things for our honeymoon. We also considered not having one and saving the money to buy a house. But in the end, the choice to make this journey together was the best we could have made. I didn't just find information going to these places--I got to know my family and my ancestors in a much more personal way. No amount of reading could have given me the experiences I had in these places.

I'm looking forward to a future full of many more experiences like these with my new husband. And the greatest gift of all is having someone by my side to share in it with me, who loves the history as much as I do...

...that, and the sword he bought with boyish delight in Gettysburg

20 June 2013

Obituary--Pearl May Bartlett

Obituary for Pearl May Bartlett Doyle
Published in the Cecil Whig, October 19,1966

Those who follow along on Twitter know that I just got married. This means that my life has been in total disarray for almost a month as I've been unpacking. But unpacking has been really exciting on some fronts--seeing things I forgot I had and now have the space and freedom to take out. And for my husband and I--both genealogy nerds--it has been a time of discovery and organization for all of our records.

I found this obituary shoved inside of a book inside of a box, which I'm pretty sure had been inside of another box every since I originally made the copy. It was an important find too. Even though I already have all of this information gathered and written into my family tree, I have one more piece of information I need to find a death date for Glenn E. Doyle. I've never found one, but at least now I know that as of October of 1966, he was still alive.

Sometimes the step in the right direction happen in the most unexpected ways. But getting organized is always key.