Searching for Kate Keck’s Origins

My interest in family history began in the early 1960s when my friend Eric started researching his family tree. I talked with family members and outlined as much as I could learn about our ancestors based on their personal knowledge. That was enough to kindle my long-term interest, but my investigation lay mostly dormant for years while I was in high school, college, and serving in the army.

Majoring in History at Michigan State University, I learned a great deal about the depth of understanding and documentary examination that support the superficial facts of high school history classes. This gave far greater depth to my latent interest in family history and taught me to read the evidence of our past analytically.

What does this have to do with Kate Keck? This is mostly a backdrop to my interest in family history and does not pertain directly to my search for Kate’s life and origins. If you’ll bear with me, though, we’ll get around to Kate soon.

Harold Springsteen, Kate Keck, and Agnes Springsteen
Harold Springsteen, Kate Keck, and Agnes Springsteen

Harold Springsteen, Kate Keck, and Agnes Springsteen (back)

Early in my family history exploration, probably after my great-grandmother Agnes Springsteen’s death in 1963, I was given a few old family papers and pictures. These were primarily from my great-grandfather L. D. Springsteen’s family. I was aware that Great-Grandma Springsteen’s family had come from somewhere in Germany. I knew that her parents were George Keck and Katherine Kurtz, but that was about all I knew.

While I was in the army, Dee and I lived in Germany for two years. My service provided an exposure to German history and culture that I would not otherwise have been able to dream of experiencing. When Dee returned to the United States near the end of my service in the spring of 1974, our son was on the way. Our family was taking on an entirely new meaning. We could not have guessed, however, that we were leaving our future daughter-in-law behind in Germany.

While Dee and I lived near extended family in the late 1970s and early 80s, I was given much more family material from the elder generations. Among the materials I received were scrapbooks that had belonged to Great-Grandma Springsteen. She had collected newspaper clippings about relatives, friends, and acquaintances around Dewitt and Lansing, Michigan. One of these was an article about her mother’s life on the occasion of her 86th birthday.

Katherine Keck's Life Reads Like Romance
Katherine Keck’s Life Reads Like Romance

The article heading declared Katherine Keck’s Life Reads Like Romance. The article reported that Kate was born as Katherine Kurtz on January 19, 1837 in Hesse, Dravenstadt, Germany. Now we knew where she was born, right? Wouldn’t it have been nice to know that when we lived in Germany?

Based on our experience in Germany, Dravenstadt sounded like a typical small-town name. We were familiar with the countryside being dotted with small farming communities every few kilometers down nearly every road. Hesse is one of the modern states of Germany, and has existed in many political forms and alliances for centuries.

Over the years I looked occasionally for Dravenstadt in various atlases and maps, but to no avail. As information became available online, I asked on public forums if anyone could locate Dravenstadt, but no one was familiar with it. Finally, it dawned on me that I might have fallen victim to the article writer’s misinterpretation of an unfamiliar place name heard through heavily accented English. Kate might have informed the writer that she had been born in Hesse-Darmstadt, one of the Hessian states in the nineteenth century. Thus, there would be no Dravenstadt to find.

Are we left clueless? The article mentioned a brother in Holt. If I could find him, maybe I could learn something from his family.

The population schedules for the 1860, 1870, and 1880 United States Federal Censuses reveal a Kurtz family in the neighborhood of Holt, Delhi Township, Ingham County. Henry Kurtz and his wife Elizabeth were reported to have been born in Hessen, Germany in the early 1820s, making Henry a potential candidate to be Kate’s older brother.

An index card for the naturalization of a Henry Kurtz in New York, New York on 2 May 1859 indicates that his former allegiance was to the Grand Duke of Hesse Darmstadt. Is this the same Henry Kurtz? Unfortunately, the index card did not report the dates of birth or immigration. The card may be viewed here on FamilySearch. Henry and Elizabeth’s sons Charles, Henry, and John appear to have been born in New York around 1854, 1856, and 1859, respectively, which is consistent with naturalization in New York in 1859. Could Henry’s witness George Reihart lead me to information that would clarify whether this is Henry Kurtz of Holt? The naturalization papers that are indexed here would almost certainly provide more information.

I still have work to do to discover Kate Keck’s origins, but I know more than I did. Meanwhile, the hunt goes on.

Revisiting the American Civil War—Thomas Green

Thomas M. Green, 1830-1910

Thomas Green served as a private in Company C of the 13th Michigan Infantry. He enlisted in North Plains Township, Ionia County, Michigan on 29 February 1864 and mustered in at Corunna. Service records state that he was 34 years old at the time of enlistment and that he had been born in Wyoming County, New York.

Thomas Green's Enlistment at North Plains
Thomas Green’s Enlistment at North Plains

Thomas Green was wounded at the Battle of Bentonville in North Carolina and mustered out of service on 6 June 1865.


Service Cards for Thomas M. Green, April-June 1865
Service Cards for Thomas M. Green, April-June 1865

Thomas Green is buried with his first wife, Amanda R. Brown, in the Forest Hill Cemetery, Stanton, Michigan. They were my great-great grandparents.

Thomas M. Green military marker
Thomas M. Green military marker

About these documents and pictures:

  • The picture of Thomas Green was taken from a portrait of Thomas and his wife Amanda at the residence of Burgess Case in Titus, Michigan.
  • The enlistment paper and service cards are from copies of Thomas Green’s service records obtained from the National Archives and Records Administration.
  • The photo of the military marker in the Forest Hill Cemetery in Stanton was taken by Ron Springsteen.

Thomas Green’s Service

The 13th Michigan Infantry regiment was organized at Kalamazoo on January 17, 1862. In January 1864, those who reenlisted in the regiment returned to Kalamazoo on furlough. The regiment returned to Chattanooga on April 20 with many new recruits, including Thomas M. Green.

As noted in the regimental history of the 13th Michigan Infantry, the regiment worked on construction of military hospitals and participated in pursuit of General Nathan Bedford Forest before joining General William Tecumseh Sherman’s march through northern Georgia to the sea. After the surrender of Savannah, Sherman’s army moved north through the Carolinas, engaging in battle with General Joseph Johnston’s army at Bentonville, North Carolina on March 19, 1865. This was the last substantial battle for Sherman’s army before the end of the war. The 13th Michigan Infantry sustained heavy losses, including an injury that removed Thomas Green from active duty with his unit. His brigade continued with Sherman to capture Goldsboro and occupy Raleigh before Sherman’s meeting with Johnston at Bennett Place in Durham to accept the largest surrender of Confederate forces at the end of the Civil War.

Thomas Green was admitted to Foster General Hospital in New Bern, North Carolina on April 5 with a gunshot wound. He was transferred to DeCamp General Hospital on David’s Island in New York Harbor on April 12. He was discharged from the army at David’s Island on June 6, 1865.

13th Michigan Infantry

This summary and service record of the 13th Michigan Infantry is found in the Regimental Histories on page 1287 of A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion. The unit summary indicates the federal army components to which the regiment was attached during the Civil War. The service record outlines the regiment’s deployment in the campaigns of the war.

Organized at Kalamazoo, Mich., and mustered In January 17, 1862. Left State for Nashville, Tenn., February 12. Attached to 15th Brigade, 4th Division, Army of the Ohio, to March, 1862. 20th Brigade, 6th Division, Army of the Ohio, to September, 1862. 20th Brigade, 6th Division, 2nd Corps, Army of the Ohio, to November, 1862. 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, Left Wing 14th Army Corps, Army of the Cumberland, to January, 1863. 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, 21st Army Corps, to April, 1863. 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 21st Army Corps, to October, 1863. 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, 4th Army Corps, Army of the Cumberland, to November, 1863. Engineer Brigade, Dept. of the Cumberland, to October, 1864. 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, 14th Army Corps, Army of the Cumberland, to July, 1865.

SERVICE.— March from Nashville, Tenn., to Savannah, Tenn., to reinforce Army of the Tennessee, March 29-April 7, 1862. Battle of Shiloh April 7. Advance on and siege of Corinth, Miss., April 29-May 30. Pursuit to Booneville June 1-12. Buell’s operations In Northern Alabama and Middle Tennessee on line of the Memphis & Charleston Railroad June to August. Duty at Stevenson, Ala., July 18 to August 31, building forts and stockades and guarding the railroad. March to Louisville, Ky., in pursuit of Bragg August 31-September 26. Pursuit of Bragg to Wild Cat. Ky., October 1- 16. Nelson’s Cross Roads October 18. March to Nashville, Tenn., October 22-November 7. Duty at Nashville, Tenn., till December 26. Advance on Murfreesboro December 26-30. Battle of Stone’s River December 30- 31, 1862, and January 1-3, 1863. Duty at Murfreesboro till June. Middle Tennessee or Tullahoma Campaign June 23-July 7. At Hillsboro, Tenn., till August 16. Passage of the Cumberland Mountains and Tennessee River and Chickamauga (Ga.) Campaign August 16-September 22. Expedition from Tracy City to Tennessee River August 22-24 (Detachment). Occupation of Chattanooga September 9. Lee and Gordon’s Mills September 17-18. Battle of Chickamauga, Ga., September 19-20. Siege of Chattanooga September 24-November 23. Chattanooga-Ringgold Campaign November 23-27. Battles of Chattanooga November 23-25. Stationed on the Chickamauga; engaged in picket duty and cutting timber for warehouses in Chattanooga till February 17, 1864. Engineer duty at Chattanooga and stationed at Lookout Mountain constructing military hospitals till September, 1864. Relieved from Engineer duty and pursuit of Forest into Northern Alabama September 25-October 17. Joined Sherman’s army at Kingston, Ga., November 7. March to the sea November 15- December 10. Skirmishes at Dalton, Ga., November 30 and December 5 (Detachments). Siege of Savannah December 10-21. Campaign of the Carolinas January to April, 1865. Averysboro, N. C, March 16. Battle of Bentonville March 19-21. Occupation of Goldsboro March 24. Advance on Raleigh April 10-14. Occupation of Raleigh April 14. Bennett’s House April 26. Surrender of Johnston and his army. March to Washington, D. C, via Richmond, Va., April 29-May 19. Grand Review May 24. Moved to Louisville, Ky., June 9-15. Mustered out July 25, 1865.

Regiment lost during services 4 Officers and 68 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 2 Officers and 314 Enlisted men by disease. Total 388.


Revisiting the American Civil War—Charles Kidder

Charles Homer Kidder, 1831-1903

Charles Kidder served in the 8th Illinois Cavalry from 12 September 1861 to 17 July 1865. According to A Genealogy of the Kidder Family, by Morgan Hewitt Stafford, Charles Kidder’s father James was the fourth successive generation of James Kidders descended from immigrant ancestor Ensign James Kidder, who appeared in the colony of Massachusetts Bay in 1649.

Charles Kidder
Charles Kidder

The pictures of C.H. Kidder were scanned from copies of the originals. The copies were provided by Lorna Gheen of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. At the time that Lorna made the copies, the originals were held by her father John Gheen, who has since died. They were previously in the possession of Ella Kidder Grow, Charles’ daughter. Charles Kidder was Lorna’s and my great-great grandfather, making us third cousins.

Charles Kidder's discharge certificate
Charles Kidder’s discharge certificate

The image of Charles Kidder’s discharge certificate was scanned from a copy provided by Lorna Gheen.

Charles Kidder's death certificate
Charles Kidder’s death certificate

Charles Kidder’s death certificate was scanned from a copy provided by Lorna Gheen. A digital copy is available from SeekingMichigan.

Charles is reported to have been born in Wyoming County, New York, on 24 October 1831. He died in Sheridan, Michigan on 26 July 1903, and is buried in the Sheridan Cemetery.

Charles and Louise Kidder's graves
Charles and Louise Kidder’s graves
Chas. H. Kidder military marker, Sheridan Cemetery
Chas. H. Kidder military marker, Sheridan Cemetery


 8th Illinois Cavalry

The following regimental summary and service record of the 8th Illinois Cavalry is found on pages 1026-27 of A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion.

Organized at St. Charles, Ills., and mustered in September 18, 1861. Moved to Washington, D. C, October 13-17. At Meridian Hill till December 17 and at Alexandria, Va., till March, 1862. Attached to Sumner’s Division, Army of the Potomac, December, 1861, to March, 1862. Cavalry 2nd Army Corps, Army of the Potomac, to May, 1862. Stoneman’s Light Brigade to June, 1862. Averill’s Cavalry Brigade, 5th Army Corps, to July, 1862. 2nd Brigade, Stoneman’s Cavalry Division, Army of the Potomac, to September, 1862. 1st Brigade, Pleasanton’s Cavalry Division, Army of the Potomac, till February, 1863. 1st Brigade, 1st Division Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac, to April, 1864. 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division Cavalry Corps, Army Potomac, to June, 1864 (Detachment). Regiment Unattached Defences of Washington, D. C., 22nd Army Corps, to November, 1864. 1st Separate Brigade, 22nd Army Corps, Department of Washington, to July, 1865.

SERVICE.— Advance on Manassas, Va., March 10-19, 1862. Reconnoissance to Gainesville March 20. Operations on the Orange and Alexandria R. R. March 28-29. Warrenton Junction March 28. Bealeton Station March 28. Rappahannock Station March 29. Reconnoissance to the Rappahannock April 2. Moved to the Peninsula, Virginia, April 23-May 1. Near Williamsburg May 4. Battle of Williamsburg May 5. Mechanicsvllle May 23- 24. Battle of Fair Oaks, Seven Pines, May 31-June 1. Seven days before Richmond June 25-JuIy 1. Ashland June 26 (Detachment). Mechanicsvllle, Atlee’s Station and near Hanover Court House, June 26. Hundley’s Corners June 26-27. Garnett’s Farm and Gaines’ Mill June 27. Despatch Station June 28 (Cos. “E,” “K”). Savage Station June 29. White Oak Swamp and Glendale June 30. Malvern Hill July 1. Reconnoissance from Harrison’s Landing July 4. At Harrison’s Landing till August 16. Malvern Hill July 5. Expedition to Malvern Hill July 20-22. Malvern Hill August 5. Movement to Fortress Monroe, thence to Alexandria August 16-23. Falls Church September 3-4. Poolesville, Md., September 7-8. Barnesville September 9. Monocacy Church and Nolansville September 9. Middletown September 10. Sugar Loaf Mountain September 11-12. Frederick September 12. Middletown September 13. Catoctln Mountain September 13. South Mountain September 14. Boonesborough September 15. Antletam September 16-17. Shephardstown Ford September 19. Reconnoissance from Sharpsburg to Shepardstown, W. Va., October 1. Martinsburg October 1. Pursuit of Stuart into Pennsylvania October 9-12. Mouth of Monocacy October 12. Sharpsburg and Hagerstown Pike October 16-17. Purcellsville and near Upperville October 29 (Detachment). Snickersville October 31. Philomont November 1-2. Upperville November 2-3. Union November 3. Barber’s Cross Roads, Chester Gap and Markham November 5-6. Sperryville November 7. Little Washington November 8. Markham Station and Barber’s Cross Roads November 10. Battle of Fredericksburg, Va., December 12-16. Turner’s Mills January 30, 1863. Operations in Westmoreland and Richmond Counties February 10-16. Near Dumfries March 15 and 29. Zoar Church March 30. Chancellorsvllle Campaign April 27-May 8. Stoneman’s Raid April 29-May 8. Rapidan Station May 1. Warrenton May 6. Lancaster May 20-21. Clendennin’s Raid below Fredericksburg May 20-28. Brandy Station and Beverly Ford June 9. Aldie June 17. Goose Creek June 18. Upperville June 21. Battle of Gettysburg, Pa., July 1-3. Williamsport July 6-7. Funkstown, Md., July 8. Boonesborough July 8. Chester Gap and Benevola or Beaver Creek, July 9. At and near Funkstown, Md., July 10-13. Falling Waters July 15. Chester Gap July 21-22. Lovettsville July 22. Kelly’s Ford July 31-August 1. Near Culpeper August 1-3. Brandy Station August 4. Weaversville August 2[7]. Brandy Station September 8. Raccoon Ford and Stevensburg September 10-11. Culpeper and Pony Mountain September 13, Reconnoissance across the Rapidan September 21-23. Liberty Mills September 21. Jack’s Shop, Madison Court House, September 22. Mitchell’s Ford October 7. Bristoe Campaign October 9-22. Culpeper October 9. Raccoon Ford October 10. Morton’s Ford October 10. Stevensburg, near Kelly’s Ford and Brandy Station, October 11. Fleetwood or Brandy Station October 12. Oak Hill October 15. Madison Court House October 16. Hazel River October 17. Bealeton October 27. Near Catlett’s Station October 30. Advance to line of the Rappahannock November 7-8. Warrenton or Sulphur Springs, Jeffersonton and Hazel River November 8. Mine Run Campaign November 26-December 2. Parker’s Store November 29. Jennings’ Farm, near Ely’s Ford, December 1. Reconnoissance to Madison Court House January 31, 1864 (Detachment). Veterans on furlough January to March, 1864. Camp at Giesboro Point till May. Patrol duty at Washington, D. C, and scout duty at Fairfax, Va., till April, 1865, having numerous engagements with Mosby’s guerrillas and the Black Horse Cavalry. A detachment with Army of the Potomac and participated in the Rapidan Campaign May-June, 1864. Craig’s Meeting House, Va., May 5. Todd’s Tavern May 5-6. Alsop’s Farm May 8. Guinea Station May 18. Salem Church and Pole Cat Creek May 27. Cold Harbor June 1-12. Point of Rocks, Md., July 5. Noland’s Ferry July 5. Middletown and Solomon’s Gap July 7. Frederick July 7. Frederick July 8 (Detachment). Battle of Monocacy July 9. Rockville and Urbana July 9. Near Fort Stevens, D. C, July 11. Along northern defences of Washington, D. C, July 11-12. Rockville July 13. Cockeyville July 18. Phllomont July 20. Snickersville July 21. Monocacy Junction July 30. Near Piedmont October 9. Near Rectortown October 10. White Plains October 11. Upperville October 28 (Detachment). Operations at Snicker’s Gap October 28-29 (Detachment). Manassas Junction November 11. Fairfax Station November 26. Scout from Fairfax Court House to Hopewell Gap December 26-27. Scout from Fairfax Court House to Brentsville February 6-7, 1865, and to Aldie and Middleburg February 15-16 (Co. “B”). Operations about Warrenton, Bealeton Station, Sulphur Springs and Centrevllle March 3-8. Duty about Washington, D. C, till July. Ordered to St. Louis, Mo., thence to Chicago, Ill., and mustered out July 17, 1865. Regiment lost during service 7 Officers and 68 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 1 Officer and 174 Enlisted men by disease. Total 250.

Revisiting the American Civil War—John Dennis

John Samuel Dennis, 1844-1926

John Dennis served as a private in Company C of the 111th Ohio Infantry regiment. He enlisted in Mill Creek Township, Williams County, Ohio, on 14 August 1862 at the age of 18 and mustered in with his company at Camp Toledo, Ohio, on 5 September.

After a period of illness at Danville, Kentucky during September and October 1862 John Dennis remained on duty for the remainder of the war. He mustered out with his company at Salisbury, North Carolina, on 27 June 1865.

John Dennis grave
John Dennis grave

John Dennis died in 1926 and was buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery in Morenci, Michigan. The photo of John Dennis’s grave was taken by Ron Springsteen.

The picture of John Dennis was taken from a photo posted by Kim Borshay for a public tree at Anyone with access to Ancestry can view the tree.

111th Ohio Infantry

The following regimental summary and service record of the 111th Ohio Infantry is found on page 1544 of A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion.

Organized at Toledo, Ohio, and mustered in September 5, 1862. Moved to Covington, Ky., September 12. Attached to 38th Brigade, 12th Division, Army of the Ohio, September to November, 1862. District of Western Kentucky, Dept. of the Ohio, to May, 1863. 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, 23rd Army Corps, Army of the Ohio, to August, 1863. 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, 23rd Army Corps, Army of the Ohio, to February, 1865, and Dept. of North Carolina to June, 1865.

SERVICE—Duty at Covington, Ky., September 13-25, 1862. Reconnoissance to Crittenden September 18-20. Moved to Louisville, Ky., September 25. Pursuit of Bragg to Crab Orchard, Ky., October 1-15. Moved to Bowling Green, Ky., October 16, and duty there guarding railroad to Nashville, Tenn., till May 29, 1863. Skirmish at Negro Head Cut, near Woodburn’s, April 27. Moved to Glasgow, Ky., May 29, and duty there till June 18. Pursuit of Morgan June 18-July 26. Burnside’s Campaign in East Tennessee August 16-October 17. At Loudoun, Tenn., September 4 to November 14. Knoxville Campaign November 4-December 23. Action at Ruff’s Ferry November 14. Near Loudon and Lenoir November 15. Campbell’s Station November 16. Siege of Knoxville November 17-December 5. Pursuit of Longstreet to Blain’s Cross Roads December 5-16. Operations about Dandridge January 16-17, 1864. Expedition to Flat Creek February 1. Near Knoxville February 13. At Mossy Creek till April 26. Atlanta (Ga.) Campaign May 1 to September 8. Demonstrations on Rocky Faced Ridge and Dalton May 8-13. Battle of Resaca May 14-15. Advance on Dallas May 18-25. Operations on line of Pumpkin Vine Creek and battles about Dallas, New Hope Church and Allatoona Hills May 25-June 5. Ackworth June 2. Operations about Marietta and against Kenesaw Mountain June 10-July 2. Lost Mountain June 15-17. Muddy Creek June 17. Noyes Creek June 19. Kolb’s Farm June 22. Assault on Kenesaw June 27. Nickajack Creek July 2-5. Chattahoochie River July 5-17. Decatur July 19. Howard House July 20. Siege of Atlanta July 22-August 25. Utoy Creek August 5-7. Flank movement on Jonesboro August 25-30. Battle of Jonesboro August 31-September 1. Lovejoy Station September 2-6. At Decatur September 8 to October 4. Operations against Hood in North Georgia and North Alabama October 4-26. At Johnsonville till November 20. Nashville Campaign November-December. Columbia, Duck River, November 24-27. Columbia Ford November 28-29. Battle of Franklin November 30. Battle of Nashville December 15-16. Pursuit of Hood to the Tennessee River December 17-28. At Clifton, Tenn., till January 7, 1865. Movement to Washington, D. C, thence to Fort Fisher, N. C, January 7-February 9. Operations against Hoke February 11-14. Fort Anderson February 18-19. Town Creek February 19-20. Capture of Wilmington February 22. Campaign of the Carolinas March 1-April 26. Advance on Goldsboro March 6-21. Occupation of Goldsboro March 21. Advance on Raleigh April 10-14. Occupation of Raleigh April 14. Bennett’s House April 26. Surrender of Johnston and his army. Duty at Salisbury, N. C., till June. Mustered out June 27, 1865. Regiment lost during service 2 Officers and 52 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 3 Officers and 158 Enlisted men by disease. Total 215.

Revisiting the Civil War

We are in the final days of the American Civil War sesquicentennial, marking one of the most defining trials in our nation’s history. The beginning of the end for Confederate forces came with Lee’s well-known surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House. These events are recounted on the Fold3 Blog.

At the outset of the Civil War in early 1861, both sides thought they would achieve victory within three months. The reality of war over the next four years produced as many casualties as all other American conflicts combined. The Civil War nearly tore our nation apart, and changed it fundamentally in many ways.

Our impressions of events such as the American Revolution and the American Civil War are inevitably shaped by our perspective. As the character Caulfield pointed out in the comic strip Frazz, the difference between a revolution and a civil war is primarily a matter of who won. Our popular notion of history paints the rebels in the American Revolution as the good guys, while the rebels in the American Civil War are sometimes viewed with less esteem. History tends to be written by the victors and, not surprisingly, takes their point of view. The conflict that we remember as the Civil War was known in the past as the War of the Rebellion or the War Between the States. It preserved a United States of America that would become a leader among the nations of the world and a standard for principles that we are still challenged to uphold.

The federal election of 1860 called Abraham Lincoln to be the sixteenth President of the United States. Lincoln’s election as the head of a strictly Northern anti-slavery party was viewed in the South as a grave threat to their right of self-determination. Before Lincoln took the oath of office on March 4, 1861, southern states had seceded from the Union, formed the Confederate States of America, and inaugurated Jefferson Davis as their President.

Many Americans have ancestors who served in the Civil War. Residents of both the United States and the Confederate States were nearly all affected by the conflict, whether they lived near battlefields or experienced loss and change from a distance. I have identified three great-great grandfathers who served, John Samuel Dennis, Thomas M. Green, and Charles Homer Kidder. Many brothers, cousins, and in-laws also wore a uniform during the Civil War.

In the summer of 1860, census enumerators recorded my direct ancestors who would become soldiers as follows:

  • John Dennis was a listed as a 15-year-old farmhand in Mill Creek Township, Williams County, Ohio.
  • Thomas Green was listed as a 36-year-old farmer with a wife and child in Bushnell Township, Montcalm County, Michigan.
  • Charles Kidder was listed as a 28-year-old day laborer with a wife and two children in Reading Township, Hillsdale County, Michigan.

They could not have had any idea how much their lives would change in the next few years.

Charles Homer Kidder
Charles Homer Kidder

Charles Kidder enlisted in the 8th Illinois Cavalry at Batavia, Illinois in September 1861. His service in the Army of the Potomac included the Battles of Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. In November 1863 he was detached to a battery of federal artillery. He reenlisted to return to his old unit and was reported as a deserter by the federal unit. He was reprimanded by a court martial and granted a furlough to visit his dying wife Ellen. He was mustered out with the 8th Illinois Cavalry at Benton Barracks, St. Louis, Missouri in July 1865.

John Samuel Dennis
John Samuel Dennis

John Dennis enlisted in the 111th Ohio Infantry in Mill Creek Township, Williams County, Ohio in August 1862. As part of the Army of the Ohio, his regiment was involved in the Siege of Knoxville and the Battles of Kennesaw Mountain and Nashville. He was part of Sherman’s army at the occupation of Raleigh and at Joseph Johnston’s surrender in April 1865. He was mustered out with his regiment at Salisbury, North Carolina in June 1865.

Thomas M. Green
Thomas M. Green

Thomas Green enlisted in the 13th Michigan Infantry in North Plains Township, Ionia County, Michigan in February 1864. He served with his regiment in Sherman’s march to the sea and the occupation of Savannah. He was wounded in action at the Battle of Bentonville, North Carolina in March 1865 and transferred to hospitals in New Bern, North Carolina and New York Harbor in April. He was mustered out from the hospital on David’s Island, New York in June 1865.

The nation and people that emerged from the American Civil War were fundamentally changed from their prewar condition and view of themselves. Immediate crises were resolved but underlying divisions and unresolved problems lingered for generations and are still not entirely healed. The crucible of civil war ultimately strengthened our moral fiber, our system of government, and our economic development. This experience was the watershed in our identity first as Americans rather than as citizens of our states.

John Dennis, Thomas Green, and Charles Kidder survived the war and fostered families that led to our existence today. They all lived in Michigan at the end of their days:

  • John Dennis died in Morenci, Hillsdale County in 1926. He is buried in Morenci with his first wife, my great-great grandmother Rachel (Powell) Dennis.
  • Thomas Green died in Greenville, Montcalm County in 1910. He is buried in Stanton with his first wife, my great-great grandmother Amanda (Brown) Green.
  • Charles Kidder died in Sheridan, Montcalm County in 1903. He is buried in Sheridan with his second wife, my great-great grandmother Laura Louise (Davis) Kidder.

As the days of Civil War remembrance draw to a close, we should be mindful of the personal impacts of that great conflict.

Bill, Babe, and Abe

Back in Dad’s carving days, he created a relief carving of his dad, Aden Springsteen, with his dad’s team of horses. Bill and Babe were used on the farm during the Great Depression when the family tractor was on blocks. Aden was referred to as Honest Abe by friends of Dad’s brother Donovan “Mick” Springsteen who were called to accounts by Aden for wanting to discard a too-quickly-shot pheasant that turned out to be a hen. Aden’s admonition was something along the lines of “if you shot it you can carry it.” Dad modeled the carving from a picture taken on the family farm just south of Sheridan.

2015 HeART Prize Entries
2015 HeART Prize Entries

Dad’s carving moved out of his apartment into the hallway at Green Acres during their community art show, HeART Prize 2015. As usual, there were many creative and masterful pieces of art in this year’s show. Bill, Babe, and Abe made a good showing. Dad has quite a few smaller carvings in his apartment that have been admired by residents, but I think he was somewhat surprised and pleased by the recognition he received for Bill, Babe, and Abe.

2015 HeART Prize Winners
2015 HeART Prize Winners

A few years ago I recorded a conversation with Dad about Bill, Babe, and Abe. Dad mentioned his brother Mick and his sister Lorna as well as Mick’s wife Helen. Dad’s Aunt Maude was my Grandma Olsen’s brother Charlie’s widow. Dad’s mom was born Goldy Verda  Case, but was always called Verda. After Aden Springsteen’s death in 1941 Verda married Fred Olsen, who was the grandfather I knew.

Here is the recording of my conversation with Dad.

DNA and Genealogy

This post is a revision of an entry posted on January 31, 2015, in my blog on the former Our Heritage site.

I have explored genealogy and family history through traditional research for decades, but I am new to the application of DNA to that quest. I finally made the leap to DNA as a research tool after reading Michael D. Lacopo’s blog, Hoosier Daddy? His long-running search for his mother’s biological parents and their ancestry makes for very interesting and instructive reading. If you have time and are in no hurry, I encourage following this story from his first post in February 2014, Beginnings. As a professional genealogist, he is well-versed in traditional research. As a veterinarian with a natural interest in science, his understanding and application of DNA is a good example of its value in genealogical research.

My wife Dee and I recently sent DNA sample kits to 23andMe for autosomal testing. Her ancestry appears to be 99.9% European with .1% unassigned. Coming from a predominantly Czech family, she does have more variety than we might have anticipated, including Southern European, British/Irish, and Scandinavian ancestry. My ancestry is 99.4% European, mostly Northern European with nearly 40% from the British Isles. Given that my family has been in the American melting pot longer than Dee’s, in some cases back to early colonial times, I was somewhat surprised by this British concentration.

DNA haplogroups are significant distinct divisions of the human race. My all-female maternal line is in a predominantly European haplogroup that originated in the Near East. My all-male paternal line is in a haplogroup from Northeastern Africa that expanded across Northern Africa and Southern Europe after the last ice age. That haplogroup is still predominantly in Northern Africa.

My first reaction on seeing my paternal haplogroup and also noting that 0.3% of my overall ancestry is Sub-Saharan African was that my paternal line was far more interesting than I had thought. As I examined my DNA results more carefully, I realized that my initial interpretation was incorrect. Nevertheless, although my distant paternal line is not Sub-Saharan African, it is also not Northern European. Given that the Springsteen ancestors from whom I think I descend came from the northern Netherlands, I was surprised at this ancestral origin. I’ll be interested in learning whether other Springsteens are in the same paternal haplogroup and, if not, where our genetic ancestry diverged.

Another curiosity in my DNA analysis is that while 0.1% of my DNA is Yakut, from far northeastern Asia, none of my DNA is classified as Native American. Evidence of rumored native ancestry might still reside in the DNA of close relatives, but I didn’t inherit any of it.

To gain a little understanding of genetic genealogy, I viewed a few brief videos entitled Genetics 101. These videos and others are available on the 23andMe Home page. To learn more about using DNA in genealogical research, I also subscribed to a blog entitled DNAeXplained. This blog demonstrates how to use DNA tools from Family Tree DNA to augment traditional genealogical research. The Genetic Genealogist is another informative blog to which I have subscribed. I have much to learn.

I have already been in contact with several newly-discovered relatives through 23andMe, including one who recommended DNAeXplained. Some of these newly-found cousins and I have been able to identify our common ancestors. Others require more information to be able to make that connection.

One thing seems clear: DNA tools yield much more information when results from several related people are correlated. 23andMe’s DNA chromosome browser provides specific comparisons that can shed light on mysteries from traditional research.

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I can see great potential in complementing traditional documentary research with DNA analysis to learn more about our ancestors and others who share those progenitors.

Thomas Green at the Battle of Bentonville

One hundred fifty years ago today, March 20, the left wing of General William T. Sherman’s army was in the midst of a three-day confrontation with General Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederate forces at the Battle of Bentonville in North Carolina. This was their last major conflict before Johnston’s surrender to Sherman at Durham Station.

In the late afternoon of the previous day, Johnston had mounted a determined attack against the Union forces. The 13th Michigan Infantry, on the left flank of the Union’s front lines, had sustained significant losses in the resulting setback. Private Thomas M. Green of Company C was one of those casualties.

Thomas Green would not be admitted to Foster General Hospital at New Bern until April 5, more than two weeks later. He would be transferred from there to to De Camp General Hospital on David’s Island in New York Harbor on April 16. He would not be on duty with his regiment when Johnston surrendered the largest body of Confederate forces at the end of the war.

What would Thomas Green have been feeling and thinking as the confrontation at Bentonville continued and he lay wounded? He was presumably being treated near the field of battle for the gunshot wound that had removed him from action. We don’t have any letters or journals that might offer insight into his experience that day.

Service Cards for Thomas M. Green, April-June 1865

Time for a change

Welcome to the reformation of Our Heritage. The website had been rather badly neglected and depended on site editing tools that are no longer supported, so it is time for a change.

Our Heritage will now be centered around an interactive blog that should make sharing easier and more natural. I hope that you enjoy our walk in history.

I will be reposting some of the material from the old website as well as posting new information. Please join me in this journey.