The History In Your Family Tree:
Unlocking The Connections

History In Your Family Tree - With time and diligent research you will find that your family tree is firmly rooted in history - not just because of a time frame like the Revolution or the Civil War but also in the actual history of the country itself!

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Have you ever wondered why you find yourself completely at ease to live in a particular place?

You are overcome with the feeling that "this feels like home!"  I am not talking about a house.  I am referring to a geographical location.

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As someone keenly interested in genealogy and the research of our family trees, finding a connection to history is like winning the lottery.  Don't overlook the mountains of family related information you can discover in a site like this one!

Discovering DNA level connections to geographical locations you call home and have called home in the past is like being the sole winner in a mega millions drawing!

Case in point, just today, I just received an invite from a person in Germany to help identify who our common ancestor might be.  Germany was home for 9 years.

As a student of history, what could be more exciting?

How To Find The History In Your Family Tree

In April of 2011, the citizens of Virginia and Prince William County began a four year commemoration of the Civil War Sesquicentennial.

With every planned event, we honored the veterans of the war between the states.

The opening salvo was heard at Fort Sumter on April 12th, 1861 but the war became a reality when the opposing armies met for the first time in Manassas on July 12th of 1861 - just a few miles from where I live today.

From Henry House Hill in Manassas, Virginia, to the fortifications along Neabsco Creek, Bacon Race and crossing the Occoquan, the Potomac Blockade, the Battle of Bull Run (the First Manassas), the Second Bull Run, Bristoe Station and Hopewell Gap in the farthest corner of the county - these are just a few of the local historical sites which take their place in the Civil War's timeline.

history in the family tree -letters homeFrom Petersburg - A Letter Home

A Connection In The Shenandoah!

While not situated in Prince William County, the Battle of Cedar Creek, in the Shenandoah Valley campaign, is another historical site that comes to mind when I think of the Civil War in Virginia and the Civil War Sesquicentennial.

It also has a connection to finding history in our family tree.

Just as we were drawn to Henry Hill, we were also drawn to Cedar Creek through various Civil War related living history activities and events.  Its location in the Shenandoah always made for a favorite day trip destination.   

Only much later did we find that our Robert, the younger, took part in the battle.

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Civil War Sesquicentennial

In Prince William County, we are literally walking in the footsteps of history.

We've traced our family history back to the original thirteen states on one side of the Atlantic, and well into the early 15th century on the other side of the Atlantic. Now, it is irrevocably tied to Prince William County in more ways than one.

It goes without saying that we extremely proud of our diverse family heritage and roots, but it is equally stupendous to be surrounded by so much history, some of it directly tied to our family - right here in Woodbridge, in Prince William County and in the northern neck of Virginia.

I often wondered if there was a reason why we ultimately settled Prince William County rather than anywhere else in the greater Washington DC area.

Connecting The Dots

With a little research, we've discovered the one small fact, the "history in the family tree" that wraps it all together with a neat bow.

Study your personal history. It is amazing how everything is tied together, as if to reinforce the fact that it is indeed a "small world" and that we all belong to one large family.

All it takes is a photo, a few words scribbled on a crumpled piece of paper or an unusual document that makes no sense until one day when a single word opens an entire new chapter in your family history.

Such a chapter opened up for us just today when we connected all the dots to find another verifiable link to historical facts.

history in the family tree - sitting around the campfire

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With a little research, we've discovered an interesting fact! We have come back to our roots in Virginia and more precisely - in Prince William county.

Little did we know when we started out family history search that it would lead us right back to within a few miles of the location the family called home.

Just know that in Prince William County, we are literally walking in the footsteps of history. It is very likely that there is history in your family tree if you are a native of Prince William County and this area of Northern Virginia.

We are not natives - simply long time residents but we discovered our historical connection to this county and Virginia!

Historian and author David McCullough has a wonderful outlook on history. It comes shining through in the documentary "American Experience", a PBS show hosted by McCullough.

Reading The Letters Home

On the occasion of the Sesquicentennial, we found it appropriate to share one particular letter written by a relative during the Civil War.

Addressed to James N., a great-uncle back home in Pennsylvania, the letter pictured below begins this way...

Headquarters, 4th Brigade, 1st Division, 2nd Corps
Camp near Petersburg, VA, August the 4th 1864

Dear James,

I again have the leisure of writing to you a few lines in answer to your most kind and welcome letter which came to hand last evening.

I hardly know what to write. We had a small fight a day or two ago but it didn't amount to very much. We captured quite a number of prisoners and four pieces of artillery and the ninth corps also had a fight one or two ago ...

Aldous Huxley could not have been more concise about finding history in your family when he exclaimed that "The charm of history and its enigmatic lesson consist in the fact that, from age to age, nothing changes and yet everything is completely different."

In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, and the bridge to our future - Alex Haley

Documented Records Brought To Light

From research to date, our Civil War veterans who fought as close in as Manassas and as far as Chicaumauga include:

  • Francis, who volunteered in 1861 at age 61, Cavalry, and was wounded at Chicaumauga.
  • Robert, age 35, who was drafted in 1863 when his father Francis returned home.
  • Robert, age 20, who volunteered in 1861, joined the 53rd Regiment and saw service in the defense of Washington and Alexandria till March, 1862.
  • Hugh, Infantry - Army of the Potomac, who advanced on Manassas on March 10-15, and whose service in the Union Army, for some time, closely followed that of Robert. Hugh was later ordered to the Peninsula around March 28. Although most of the Regiment was captured April 20, those who were not captured served as garrison at Roanoke Island till June, 1865 and mustered out at New Berne June 25, 1865.

Dig, dig, dig into your ancestry. Even the smallest clues can develop into an incredible discovery.  If we found some, you can too.  There is history in your familty tree.

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