The effect of political events and religious controversies on your ancestors

Berlin_1989,_Fall_der_Mauer,_Chute_du_mur_01

Photo credit: Raphaël Thiémard from Belgique (Wikimedia Commons)

Today is the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. This event led to expanded freedoms for millions of people in Eastern European countries that had been under Soviet Communist rule. Yet, embracing these freedoms did not come easily to many who had lived most of their lives under Communist rule. My sister served a mission for our church in Latvia in 2003-2005. She said that many of the older generation had lost hope, even though they had obtained their freedom in the early 1990s. They had lost the ability to make choices–even when offered choices—because they had been told all their lives where to work, what to eat and where to worship. When she first told me this several years ago, I was struck by how a government should yield such power over people that they could not change once that government was removed. This is perhaps an extreme example, but we know that political events and religious strife inevitable affected our ancestors–just as they affect us and our families today.

Let’s think about some political events that may have affected our ancestors. Changes in government are powerful political events. Think of England–going back and forth between staunch Protestants, at least one Catholic, and Protestants in name who leaned towards Catholicism, and for a few years, a Protectorate under Oliver Cromwell. Your ancestor’s fortunes could easily go from bad to good or vice versa depending on their political and religious leanings.

During the 1620s through late 1630s, thousands of Puritans came to Massachusetts to escape what they called the Popish religion of King James and King Charles and to worship as they wished. When the Civil War started and things were looking good for the Puritans the mass migration stopped and people remained in England, and many from the colonies returned to England. Migrating to a new continent with unfamiliar plants and animals, and recreating the culture they had known in England was a major undertaking.

Boundary changes, new laws, social policies, rebellions such as the Revolutionary War in the US, internal conflict that led to the US Civil War, and world wars are other examples that definitely affected our ancestors in one way or another.

Religious conflict is another source of external conditions that can wreak havoc on a family. Think of the witch trials (not just the Salem witch trials), the banishment of women and men such as Anne Hutchinson and William Rogers, and the many persecutions and wars that have been fought and continue to be fought in the name of religion.

While here in the US we celebrate our veterans on Tuesday and remember our many blessings later this month, spend some time thinking about your ancestors and how political and/or religious events positively or negatively impacted them. Please share here some of the events that you come up with.

 

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Description of who allegedly performed the Indian depredations

Going back to Levi and the Indian depredations. After discussing his losses, the deposition turned to who allegedly committed the thefts.

Levi responded that he knew it was Indians because he “trailed the cattle, found horse trakes and Indian tracks following the trail.” He said he knew they were Navajo for two reasons. First, a friendly Indian called Indian Frank warned him about the Navajos. Second, the tracks of the Navajos were long, slim and neat, while the tracks of other (unspecified tribes) of Indians were broad and short. He claimed the thefts occurred in January 1866.

Navajowithsilver1891

The questions then moved to why he had left his land. He claimed he was in fear of his life because 2 men had been killed and another wounded. Apparently the man who was wounded was in his group when they were leaving. Levi said between 6-12 Indians participated in the attack. Upon cross-examination, Levi used the word “emphatically” to emphasize how much he was in fear of losing his life, not just his property if he remained in Kanab.

Then the government asked if he had ever transferred the property to another, or either provoked or acted in revenge towards the Indians. Levi replied No.

When Levi returned six months later, most of the buildings were still standing. The government official clarified that he felt he was sustained the loss of the land because he felt that remaining there put in his life in danger, not because he was forcibly removed or the buildings were actually destroyed.

The US attorney then asked whether the land he was claiming was unsurveyed land belonging to the US government. Levi replied in the affirmative. Then it gets interesting. “Counsel for the government moves to strike out all testimony with regard to the injury of this land, buildings, corrals, and crops for the reason that it appears that the land belonged to the defendant [US government], that claimant was a squatter or trespasser upon said land, and that the defendant is not responsible for any loss he sustained.”

A blow to Levi who had purchased the land and built improvements, albeit perhaps illegally. It seems that he knew in the 1890s that it was US land. This has consequences when the final judgment of his claim is made.

Did you ancestors live through raids or attacks? Did they leave their property because they felt unsafe? I think it’s important to understand the other side of the story–the Native American viewpoint. I am still looking for sources, but trying to understand all sides when conflict is involved helps put the situation in historical context.

Information from the Indian depredations claims are from: Record Group123, Records of the United States Court of Claims, Indian Depredation Case File #9173, Levi Savage (this is how NARA referred to it when asking if I wanted a copy).

 

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Menstruation through the ages

We are taking a break from Levi Savage and instead will focus on an issue that is uniquely female. I recently came across a post in one of the Facebook history groups that I follow. The post asked how women in the medieval period dealt with menstruation since they didn’t have the sanitary products available today. This post raised all sorts of questions about beliefs in menstruation and led me to a couple of blog posts that describe it well:His story, her story & Rosalie’s Medieval Woman.

Up until the 20th century (in some cases), menstrual blood was considered poisonous. Under the humoral theory, menstruation was deemed necessary to get rid of excess humors. Without menstruation the humors would build up, with potentially disastrous health effects. Due to the poor diet in the medieval ages, menstruation did not always occur monthly. I showed in a research paper that, based on 2 books from the medieval period, the medical treatments to provoke the menses were very good, since it was such an important thing to take care of.

Even after the humoral theory fell out of favor in the 18th and 19th centuries, menstrual blood still retained a negative connotation through the early 20th centuries.

What did your female ancestors have to deal with re: menstruation? Not only did they have to deal with the inconveniences we know today (pain, leaks, etc.), they also had to deal with very negative connotations about something that is very natural.

 

 

Posted in Women's history | 2 Comments

Indian depredations: Levi’s description of what he lost

800px-Josie_Morris_Cabin

800px-George_Wood_House

Levi, along with some witnesses, came to the court house in St. George Utah on Jan 14, 1896 and responded to multiple questions in front of a notary. I don’t know what his property looked like, but I wonder if it looked like any of the pictures above.

He said that he lived in Kanab Utah during the fall of 1865 and until 1866 (when depredations were claimed to have occurred) and his occupations were farming and stock raising.

“I lost thirteen cows, they were excellent good cows, worth thirty dollars a piece, one calf, worth ten dollars, six yarling cattle woth eleven dollars a head and nine two year olds worth eighteen dollars a piece, one yoke of oxen worth fifty dollars a piece, nineteen young steers worth twenty eight dollars a head, also three head of horses, two horses at seventy five dollars each and one fine carriage and saddle horse worth two hundred dollars, also the possession of twenty acres of land with the improvements on it, a dwelling house, fencing, water right and the making of dams and ditches on it, and corrals, these were the improvements. they were worth six hundred dollars. I also lost thirty acres of land, the possession of it, with its improvements, worth seven hundred and twenty five dollars.”

He also mentions “the building of a fort with a house with two rooms in” which we valued at six hundred dollars, along with a “strong serviceable corral” valued at one hundred dollars.

After feeling threatened in their remote location and “to make ourselves more secure, we vacated the fort and joined the settlement in Long Valley, twenty miles distant; here I made other improvements, I lost the possession of land, five acres, the tilling of it, planting the crop corn and other grain, building material gathered and then left that part of the country and moved out to Toquerville, Washing County, under a strong guard, because of the danger of Indian depredations.”

There follows a series of questions about who was doing the depredating and the details of why he left, which will be covered next time.

Finishing up this post, I wonder about the building of a fort and other structures in what seems like such a short time. I re-read his son’s autobiography and he said they moved to Kanab in the fall of 1863 and his father purchased much of the land and improvements in July 1864 from other settlers. It turns out it wasn’t such a short amount of time after all, and many of the improvements had probably already been started, if not finished, when he bought the property in the summer of 1864 for $1000.

I do wonder where he obtained the $1000 needed to purchase the land and improvements from the other settlers. He was a day laborer, farmer, and dairyman throughout various parts of his life–none are occupations that give easy access to cash or allow accumulation of wealth. It is possible he owned land in Salt Lake and made enough money when he sold that land.

Fort_Utah_c1850

I also wonder how big the fort was. Above is a picture of Fort Utah (what would eventually become Utah) in 1850. I think the fort in Kanab was probably much smaller, but would love to find a picture or a description of what it would look like.

As usual, reading through this document has raised as many questions as it has answered.

What do you know about the land and buildings that were owned and/or built by your ancestors in the mid 1800s? Do you have an idea of what they looked like?

 

Information from the Indian depredations claims are from: Record Group123, Records of the United States Court of Claims, Indian Depredation Case File #9173, Levi Savage (this is how NARA referred to it when asking if I wanted a copy).

 

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Vacations

Bridging the Past is on vacation this week so won’t be posting other than to ask you to ponder the following questions:

What kind of vacations did your ancestors take (day trips became popular towards the end of the 19th century)?

Do trips to see extended family count as a vacation?

How do vacations today differ?

Have you written about your favorite family vacations?

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Writing family history narratives

I was recently asked to participate in a writers blog tour to showcase the blogs of writers from a variety of genres. I decided that the questions we were to answer as part of the tour were best featured on my personal blog, but it did inspire me to think about writing for this blog as well. We will be taking a short break from Levi Savage and Indian depredations claims to think about writing up our findings.

One relevant question from the blog tour is “Why do I write what I write?” From a genealogy/social history perspective, the answer to that question dictates how and what we will write. If it is to engage family members who may not be interested in genealogy, a narrative is a good choice. It is even better if pictures, memorabilia and relevant documents are included. And it is best if social history is included, including pictures of fashions of the time, pictures of the neighborhood, etc. if those can be found.

One of my friends epublished a book about her grandmother that was about 150 pages. She used digital scrapbooking software to create the book. Each page was split into two columns to help break up the text and to allow inclusion of pictures and documents. She included her grandmother’s personal history as well as family memories and stories as her text. She included census documents, pictures of her grandmother and her home and surroundings, and even a menu from the diner that her grandfather owned. It was chock full of information, but was fun to read and the pictures and documents were there for those who were interested.

What tools or techniques have you used when writing family history narratives?

Posted in Getting Started in Social History, Writing | 4 Comments

Indian depredations claims Part I

The National Archives in DC very quickly turned around my request for a copy of the file that Levi submitted with details about his Indian depredation claims. I first looked to see what he claimed and what he was awarded.

His original claims, and the documents presented to the court don’t exactly match, but they are close.

Claimed Levi’s Claimed value Court records
13 cows $30 each ($390) $450
1 calf $10 $10
6 yearling cattle $11 each ($66) $66
9 2 year olds $16 each ($144) $162
Yoke of oxen $50 each ($100) Not mentioned
19 young steers $28 each ($532) $532
2 horses $75 each ($150) $150
Carriage & saddle horse $200 $200
20 acres of land with improvements $600 $600
30 acres of land with improvements $725 $725
Fort with a house $600 $500
Corral $100 Not mentioned
Crops $300 $300
Total $3917 $3695

The petition includes a notarized deposition by Levi Savage and two witnesses, a response by somebody in the government or court system which concludes the entire petition is based on unsupported evidence and testimony (incompetent is a favorite word), and the final court judgment (a lower value for the lifestock, no award for any of the land, improvements or crops).

The deposition is several typed pages and goes into a fair amount of detail, which will be discussed in more depth in the next post.

Posted in daily life, Indian depredations | 2 Comments