Monday, May 28, 2012

Remembering Lt. Leonard Edward Kepil

I've been blessed to not have lost family members to war in many years; however, my second cousin was not as lucky. Her father was killed, before her birth, in a plane crash in Egypt in the waning days of World War II. Their hometown newspaper covered his death extensively, even publishing a few lines he had written about the importance of hope. Thank you Lt. Kepil, for your service to this country.

A Genealogical Note

Leonard Kepil was a mystery in my family tree for many years. He and some of his family members changed the spelling of their name from Kvapil to Kepil sometime between 1930 and his military enlistment. I leave this note here as documentation for those who might search for his family in the future.

Digital layout with elements from Club Scrap Henna, Matrix and Gimme a Ring; Spangle Jangle by Debbie Knorr

Saturday, May 5, 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy, Week 18, Historical Books

One of my favorite types of historical book is the 19th-century county history book, or mug book. Some are indexed, some are not, but all are worth investigating. If you find one that contains a biography about your ancestor, the information gained can be invaluable. The subject of each biographical sketch generally provided the information himself, so the accuracy and truthfulness is variable. It is important to search the book for collateral relatives, as your ancestor may be discussed in the biography of a brother, grandson or son-in-law.

One of the books in my collection is the 1878 History of Morgan County, Illinois. This book is 768 unindexed pages, of which 300 pages contain biographies. 150 pages describe the history of Illinois and 40 pages contain abstracts of state laws. With multiple branches of my family passing through that state, this information may be of use beyond the Morgan County families. The remainder of the book discusses the formation of the county, towns, early settlers, organizations, military history, businesses and churches. 

This book has two biographies of great interest to me. My third great-grandfather had a short biography that lists his birth date and birth place and that of his wife, the names and birth dates of all their children, the death dates of their children who died, his father's name and, last but certainly not least, the names of each of his father's seven wives. My second great-grandfather did not have a biography in the book, but his older brother had one. This biography was similar in listing his parents and also includes the names of his brothers who served in the Union Army, along with the unit in which they served.

Portions of 19th century mug books are increasingly found online as the copyrights have expired. Indexes to the biographies are often found at the USGenWeb county pages. Sometimes there is a look-up volunteer who will transcribe a biography of interest.

A cousin found and shared a biography that is the best I've seen for my family's genealogical data. Imagine finding such a gem as follows for your family.

My ancestor, Clifford Cole, was the grandson of Rebecca Ann Maynard Alexander. Rebecca's oldest brother had a biography with these paragraphs (and more) published in 1891.

Milestones digital kit from Club Scrap, Tree from Scrapper's Guide


John Maynard
 ... He was born in the Old Dominion in 1823, and is a son of Evan and Judith (Ragland) Maynard, both of whom were born in Halifax County, of that State, the former's birth occurring March 3, 1793, and the latter's April 5, 1803, and their deaths in 1881 and February 16, 1874, respectively. Their marriage was celebrated July 13, 1820, and in 1847 they came to the State of Tennessee, where the father entered upon the practice of medicine, and he continued this occupation until his death, although he had previously been a farmer.
He and his wife were of French-English origin, and he was a soldier in the War of 1812. They were members of the Missionary Baptist Church, and became the parents of eleven children, nine of whom lived to be grown: Harriet (wife of Chris Adams), John, Judith F. (wife of Robert Hart. of Tennessee), Mary A. (wife of Bluford Alexander, a resident of this State), Stith, Patience (wife of Austin Simmons, a resident of Washington County, Ark.), Even (a resident of Missouri), Rebecca A. (wife of Jeff. Alexander, of Weakley County, [p.415] Tenn.) and Thomas (who is a resident of Randolph County). ...

What Did I Learn?

From this brief biography I have learned the names of the men that Rebecca's sisters married and that my great-great-grandfather went by the name of Jeff. More importantly, I've learned my 3rd-great-grandparent's names, birth dates, birth locations, marriage date, death dates, occupations, church affiliation, ethnic heritage, military service and migration year. Some of the items may not be accurate, but all are clues to my heritage.

Check out the mug books for the areas your ancestors lived. You may find some jewels.