|Photo Source: Dyon Joël (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons|
I had spent the last 12 months recording and cleaning up citations on my husband's family tree. After I finished that last citation, I felt rather pleased with myself. After all, I had added almost 200 more people to that family tree as well as verified sources of information. I had also come across a number of interesting people, some of whom had been subjects of my blog posts.
Then, I stopped. I knew that I needed to do the same cleaning job with my family tree, but I just lacked the desire to get started. Nothing seemed to call me into exploring the past or heading in a particular direction with my family research.
Fortunately, a few days later, I received a e-mail message through Ancestry.com. It was from a distant cousin who had found the name of his GGGrandfather on my public member tree and had written to ask if I know the marriage date for these Great Great Grandparents. This turned out to be the nudge I needed to get back to my research.
I turned to my usual plan to starting research in both Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. FamilySearch had an excellent database of Iowa County Marriages, 1838-1934 through which I found the marriage date of the writer's GGGrandparents (and my GGGrand Uncle and Aunt) George W Smiley and Mary Ann Bedle / Beedle. They were married on 29 March 1860.
The writer mentioned that George W Smiley was buried at the Vicksburg National Cemetery. This suggested yet another family member who had died during the Civil War. The Vicksburg National Military Park "holds the remains of 17,000 Union Civil War soldiers ... 75% [of whom] are listed as unknowns".(1) Fortunately, George W Smiley was among those soldiers whose remains were identified.
|Interment Database, Vicksburg National Cemetery|
From his listing in the cemetery's database, I learned several things about George W Smiley. At the time of his death, George was a Corporal in Company A of the 23rd Iowa Infantry. He died 5 July 1863 and was later buried in Section B, space 2664. After years of following my husband's and my relatives through their time as Confederate soldiers, it took a second to realize that I obviously also had Union soldiers in my family. It also meant that George's wife Mary had been left a widow after having been married a little over three years.
I spend the next few hours lost in the 1800s, looking for Mary and information about her life after George's death. After a quick reply to the email writer with answers to his questions, I realized I had a direction for working in my family tree. Looking for Mary kept me moving back and forth between Iowa and Pennsylvania, in and out of contact with the Smiley family. It made me look for some new resources and return to some familiar ones. And, it looks as if there may be some stories to tell.
(1) Vicksburg National Military Park (http://www.nps.gov/vick/historyculture/cemhistory.htm : accessed 3 March 2014), "Cemetery History."