Saturday, October 12, 2013

SLCC Genealogy Course: Post #8 - Grandpa Had Blue Eyes!

This week class assignment for my genealogy course at the Salt Lake Community College, was to work with vital records.  We had some reading and videos to watch online. Then we needed to enter into our research log all the vital records collections on FamilySearch that we could search online. Along with the vital records we needed to search the Social Security Death Index and Military Records.

We only needed to search these records for one person in our database, record our result on the Research Log and hand it in.  I decided I would work at my grandfathers on both sides of the family. My family is from New York and there were few vital records on FamilySearch that I could look at. Oh, there are some listed but the county and time frames are just not available that I need. My paternal grandfather, Marshall Harris, is my youngest grandfather and I was able to find his World War II draft registration. There was no image but I could use the index. I was also able to find him on the Social Security Death Index.

My maternal grandfather, John Henry Weatherwax, Jr., is much older. I actually found his World War I draft registration card, with an image. I never knew this grandfather, he died when my mother was 14 years old. Very few pictures of him have survived, since most were destroyed in a house fire a long time ago. The couple of photos in my possession are all black and white.

On the front side of the WWI Draft Registration Card I saw his signature for the very first time. It was a new sensation for me. I could find nothing familiar in his hand writing since I had never seen it before. I was thinking it would look like my mom's but they are nothing a like. Seeing his signature on that card gave me an odd connection to him. He was real and he really signed this. It made me wish I could hold the actual card in my hand.

When I flipped the draft card over I was greeted with his physical description. He was of medium height and medium build. My photo's showed he was thin, but none let me judge his full stature. Then I saw it noted that he had blue eyes and light brown hair. What a shock. My mother and all her siblings had dark brown hair and dark brown eyes. I had just assumed her father would too. Since my photos of my grandfather are black and white I wasn't able to tell his true coloring. The hair did look light but I assumed he was gray since he was older in them.

I just can't tell you how many times it just keeps popping into my head "Grandpa had blue eyes." I have sat and marveled on that fact. I don't understand why but I just feel closer to him just seeing how he signed his name and knowing what color his eyes and hair where.

I've wondered how he felt about the possibility of going to war?  He was 35 years old and had a wife and 6 children at the time, plus a farm to run. He lied about his age and made himself 2 years older. He must have thought it would make him less eligible to be drafted, even though they were taking men up to the age 45 at the time. I guess it all worked in his favor because I have no knowledge that he was ever actually drafted.

I do believe my heart has been turned to this grandfather by this whole experience.

See ya tomorrow, for tomorrow is always another genealogy day.


Cherie Gardner Rawlings said...

My grandma Helen's grandma Harriet told her someone in the family had to find James Berry. (He is the grandpa that Harriet couldn't find.) James was relatively easy to find once I walked into the court house in Bibb co, AL in 1977. But his father Hugh Berry has been a 35 year odessy since then. But this April I had a miracle. I found him almost at the port of entry: A Philadelphia newspaper offering a 10 pound reward for a runaway indentured servant who entered this country in the fall of 1772: An Irishman and a blacksmith who is 'remarkable small' and looks a lot younger than his twenty-five years. His clothes are described in detail including a 'Russian Shirt', worsted stockings, and a half worn hat. He was "redeemed" by John Scott of Lancaster county since he had a wife already there. (Did she come first?). Preston Berry who placed the ad even knew he would be headed for "New Virginia". Sure enough he is in Abingdon, Washington county, VA in 1776 making all the nails for the first courthouse to be built there. He will also make all the nails for the first courthouses in Washington and Sullivan counties, TN. I will only find the given name of his wife, Elizabeth, after he is dead when she is made guardian of their nine children in Greene county, TN. His Land Grant on the French Broad also will only come to his widow. At age ten his son Hugh is apprenticed to learn the Saddlery trade from a Samuel Jack. Samuel is married to a Mary and names a daughter Polly Berry Jack. Other than this his name will only appear on a land entry, warrant, and survey (with different land descriptions--so he sold the first one he had to buy up another one); and twice on a petitions asking North Carolina to help protect them from Indian raids. Worth S Ray in his book 'TN Cousins' is the only source that tells me that in 1785 a Hugh Berry stuck his head above a fort and was killed by an Indian arrow. (Is he mine?) Probably since I only find one other Hugh Berry (other than his son) in that country that early and the other was too young at the time and settles in VA near Abingdon. Besides he lived--mine did not. In 1806 his widow and sons will sell his land (now a part of Jefferson county, TN). What happens to her after that is still a mystery. Some indication that her maiden name could be Wilson. So few facts. Did he serve at King's Mountain or in any of the Indian raids? Why does he not sign the multiple petitions for or against the formation of what we now call 'The State of Franklin'? If he died in 1785 that could be one reason. A Hugh Berry appears on a 1788 tax list along with a Mrs. Elizabeth Berry (his wife or widow?). The disappearance of the early county records and records for the state of Franklin could be why it is 1789 before his children are assigned a guardian. Yet, for all the questions how lucky I am that newspapers are now coming online. What a day we live in! While I knew indentured servants ran away only to have a reward on their head with the promise of Jail; who knew I would actually have such an ancestor or that a copy of the advertisement would survive. Writing this has jogged my memory; I now remember finding a North Carolia record paying the sheriff for housing and feeding a Hugh Barry in the Salisbury Jail. I will need to trace that down before I jump the pond to Ireland. Yes, Renee, tomorrow will always be another genealogy day. Cherie Gardner Rawlings

Ann said...

Maybe you can find the WW II Draft card image of your grandfather at ? I love your story!

Renee Zamora said...

Looks like Warren and Washington Co., NY images have not been waypointed yet. Give it time and I'm sure they will appear.

Jana Iverson Last said...


It really is so wonderful to read the descriptions of our ancestors on documents.

I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

Have a great weekend!