Military Monday – Veteran’s Day Family Roll Call

November 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Ancestors

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

I have never served in the military. But on this Veteran’s Day, I’m proud to honor ancestors and family members who have given service in this country since the earliest days of the American colonies. They fought for land, political power, freedom and sometimes just sheer survival.

Although I might not have agreed with their methods and strategies, the ongoing commitment of people in my  family, ultimately contributed to the freedoms I enjoy today, including being able to sit down and rant away every now and then on this blog.

So here’s my family’s military roll call. Mind you – this is a list in progress as part of my ongoing genealogy research. Thank you for your service, one and all –

King Phillip’s War

Joseph Petty, Massachusetts

French & Indian War

Edward Lee, Pennsylvania

John Petty, Massachusetts

Revolutionary War

Join or Die - A political cartoon by Benjamin Franklin

Join or Die – A political cartoon by Benjamin Franklin

Edward Lee, Pennsylvania

William Hood, Pennsylvania

Abel Scribner, New York

Abel Scribner Jr., New York

Reuben Frissel, Massachusetts

David Page, Massachusetts

John Cunnabell, Massachusetts

Samuel Cunnabell, Massachusetts

John Petty, Massachusetts

Joseph Petty, Massachusetts

Thomas Crafts, Sr., Massachusetts (Patriotic Service for helping with the Boston Tea Party)

John Hatley, Jr.,  North Carolina

War of 1812

William Hood, Pennsylvania

 Civil War

Andrew Coover Hood, Pennsylvania

 Korean War

Frederick Dickinson

Uncle Fred Dickinson

Uncle Freddie

 Recent Years

My cousins – Okpara Kelly, currently in the United States Navy; Susan Bates Hippen, Retired Command Master Chief in the United States Navy; and Navy veterans Yusan Beck, Liz Myers and Jose Arrango.

Happy Veteran’s Day to all of you who have bravely served our country and God Bless.

Sentimental Sunday: Remembering My Genealogy Professor

June 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Ancestors

My great aunt Clara was my maternal grandmother’s younger sister. She was born on December 1, 1894 in Cleveland, Ohio to my great grandparents, Prince Albert and Jennie Hood Weaver. Aunt Clara and Grandmother had a brother and sadly, 3 other sisters who didn’t survive childhood.

Aunt Clara was a “pistol” – outspoken and her own person in a time when women were struggling to even have the right to vote. Depending on who is telling the story, she was married 5 times although by the time I came along, I don’t remember any of the husbands being in the picture.

I would see Aunt Clara every summer through my childhood when we took our annual trip to visit my mother’s family in Cleveland. Every day, Aunt Clara would drive over in her big black car even though she was in her seventies by then. We kids would peek through the curtains as she marched very purposefully up the front walk to hold court with her grand nieces and nephews – always with her pearls on. It was a command performance that none of us dared miss.

As I reflect back on this time, I realize I missed a lot of opportunity to ask Aunt Clara about our history. But as fate would have it, I got the chance to make up for lost time some years later when I made New Year’s resolution in 1976 to start tracing my roots.

Aunt Clara was then the oldest member of my family so I reached out to her first. She was thrilled beyond belief! Even though she didn’t actually say this, I got the distinct impression Aunt Clara was thinking:

It’s about damn time!!

Over the next 8 months, we had the most amazing time together – phone calls and letters where Aunt Clara taught me as diligently as any of the college professors I ever had. And I was like a sponge. I soaked up all the facts and family stories about our mixed race family and used it to do further genealogy research.

But in September of that year, things turned upside down. Aunt Clara had a fall. I’m not sure how it happened but I got the call that she was in the hospital with a broken hip, but doing OK. Apparently she was even flirting with the ER doctor, something that made me giggle because it was so “classic” Aunt Clara. A few days later, though, she took a turn for the worst and passed away on September 19, 1976. I was devastated.

A few months after Aunt Clara died, I made the connection to our ancestor William Hood, a patriot in the Revolutionary War. She would have be thrilled beyond belief with this discovery. Through the 35+ years since then, the original research Aunt Clara started me on in Pennsylvania has branched out into Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut and Maine and “across the pond” to Germany, England and Scotland. Although I can’t share my discoveries with her, I always have the feeling Aunt Clara’s  looking over my shoulder – smiling in approval.

My Surprise Revolutionary War Ancestor

September 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Ancestors

fort freeland 600px

At the time I started researching my family back in 1976, my goals were simple – find all my great grandparents. Of course, I was hoping their information would lead me back yet another and that would have been the icing on the cake. But after only a few months of family history research, I was staring at the name of  William Hood, my 4th great grandfather. He is still one of the biggest surprises in all my years of doing Black genealogy.

William Hood was a White man born about 1757 in Ireland who immigrated to Pennsylvania before the American Revolution. By the time the war began, history finds William living on the frontier in Northumberland County near the western branch of the Susquehanna River.

This area was extremely volatile during the Revolutionary War because it was the farthest edge of the frontier where there were frequent attacks on the colonists by the British army, American loyalists and Native American tribes aligned with the British. Beyond this point, there was no colonial government and no protection. It was truly the wild, wild west.

There were several small forts in this area, most notably Fort Freeland. In late June, 1779 after repeated attacks by the British, a number of colonial families moved from their homes to live behind the walls of Fort Freeland.

Although there were rumblings of a pending attack, the colonists were completely unprepared when more than 300 British soldiers and supporters stormed the fort early on the morning of July 28, 1779. With all the able-bodied men already off to war, there were only 21 boys and old men to defend the fort. Seeing the hopelessness of their situation, the colonists soon negotiated a surrender.

News of the attack — but not the surrender – spread to a nearby fort and a relief party including my ancestor William Hood rushed to defend Fort Freeland. The battle that followed was one of the bloodiest of the American Revolution and pivotal because the fall of Fort Freeland left the colonial American frontier defenseless.

Although many people died that day, William Hood lived to tell about the battle in his own words which were written down many years later in support of the pension application of a fellow soldier’s widow. I found this record at the National Archives and discovered other first-hand accounts of the battle of Fort Freeland in records at the Northumberland County (PA) Historical Society.

William went on to marry Rebecca Lee. Her father, Sergeant Edward Lee was another of my Revolutionary War ancestors but more about him another time. My 4th great grandparents moved to Erie County, Pennsylvania where they settled in the little town of Waterford.  I have visited the house they built in 1810 and the cemetery where they are both buried. William Hood died in 1840. Here’s the burial record:

William Hood Burial Record

Finding my patriot ancestor, William Hood led to my applying for membership in the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). In 1977, I became DAR’s first African American member – an amazing conclusion to a genealogy research project that seemed relatively simple in the beginning. It was an important lesson to me as a genealogist: always be prepared for the unexpected – and the extreme!