Thursday, 19 February 2015

Journeying Back to Your Ancestor's Time; My Person Journey

The process of journeying back to your ancestor's time has been the discussion in many videos lately, which brought me post this.

First I started at home.  I was wanting to know about the pictures I saw in my mother's picture box of men on horses that were obviously military, but I did not know who or where. I started by asking my mom about this. She said they were her father's, he served in the Spanish American War and her mother received a pension from that. She emphasized that he died when she was 2 months old, and so he did, which was why she didn't have any stories.
Picture owned by Fran Ellsworth 
My second step was looking for his military pension. I did not find it in the Spanish American War files.  I found their pension indexes mixed in with the Civil War indexes from the NARA T289. Pension applications for service in the US Army between 1861 and 1900, grouped according to the units in which the veterans served.   This discovery was on Fold3. I now knew that he was in Company B of the 38th Infantry Battalion.  I also had his muster in and muster out dates, as well as his death date. He enlisted September 11 1897 in the U.S. Army Volunteer Infantry and fought in the Philippine American War,
If you are wondering about your ancestor and the Spanish or Philippine Wars this site Spanish American War Vs Philippine American War is a great one to read.

On, I found him and his 2 brothers, Robert C Whitson, and Oscar Whitson on the 1900 US Federal Census at Battalion at Batangas, Philippine Islands, Military and Naval Forces in the same battalion., Online image, Year: 1900; Census Place: Batangas, Philippine Islands, Military and Naval Forces; Roll: 1841; Enumeration District: 0191; FHL microfilm: 1241841
My next move was to go to my favorite newspaper sites, , and Chronicling America to search the newspapers of that time to see what was being said.  Sad to say, the press was very negative about this war and coverage wasn't great, but the political cartoons were rampant. clipping Decatur Daily Republican
(Decatur, Illinois)
25 Apr 1898, Mon • Page 1

Chronicling America, The Houston daily post., May 31, 1902, MAILABLE EDITION
The worse article to read was about a battalion being charged with atrocities. I breathed a sigh of relief that my grandfather was not in that battalion.  His service summary card said service Honest and Faithful.  A description I would not mind to have. Finally I found an article that told of the end of the volunteer army. It described when they would come home, and the transports that would be involved.

I also used Google search where I also found the book Annual Report of the Secretary of War, Volume 1, Part 3 US Gov. 1901.  In there was the chart that gave the exact ship ‘Thyna’ that his battalion came home on, the date in port and the date they were discharged on which matched his pension card.   I then searched for the names of the transports which gave me the dates and places that they arrived in.
Someone (there wasn't a name) had transcribed two Oregonian Daily articles that included the arrival of the ship.

Two Big Transports Will Return to Portland From Manila.
“The United States transports Thyra and  Kintuck will both return to Portland
from Manila, and the former has already sailed for Portland with a company of
volunteers, which will be mustered out in San Francisco. The Thyra was turned over
to the Government in this city, and It is supposed that she Is coming back to Port,
land to be returned to her owners. Otherwise, she would probably go direct to
San Francisco with the troops. Just why the troops should not be mustered out In
Portland is a matter which is not easily explained, except that the San Francisco
pull is heavier than that of Portland. The Kintuck will probably bring a few
soldiers when she returns. She had excellent luck with her outward cargo of
horses and mules from Portland, losing but four animals on the voyage.”

THE SUNDAY OREGONIAN, PORTLAND, JUNE 30, 1901. ASTORIA:  June 29. Arrived at 8:50 A.M. and left up at 12:30 P. M.
 Norwegian steamer Thyra, from Manila. From San Francisco.
“The Norwegian steamship Thyra, which has been In the Government transport
service for several months, arrived at Astoria yesterday morning, and after a
short stay at quarantine, proceeded up the river. She brings 237 passengers,
nearly all, of them returning volunteer Infantrymen. The officers on board were
Captain D. F. Allen, Captain Ross A. Nichols, First Lieutenant A. J. Brown,
Second Lieutenant A. C. Davis, First Lieutenant S. Friedman and Captain W.
G. Fleischhauer. The present trip of the Thyra will be her last
 in the Government service, and she will probably drift back
into the merchant service.”

From this, I was able to see they had a long hard trip aboard a steamer.  They had to wait another
month before they were discharged to go home.  It was amazing to see they were transported to the upper North West of the United States to be able to get back to their homes.  The newspaper article said they still had to wait for their last 5 days of pay because of not being mustered out until 5 days after the expiration of the time the congress had set for the volunteer army.
I hope they got it. These men did not get a ticker tape parade or a pat on the back.

I know from my great uncle Ray Whitson, and from what my mother said, that my grandfather volunteered because he wanted to serve his country. During WWI, he couldn’t volunteer to go serve as a soldier, so he went and volunteered to drive a taxi at Fort Sill, Oklahoma to help the soldiers.  He apparently kept hitting his knee on the door. When his knee hurt enough, he went in to the doctors and they discovered he had cancer in his knee.  His service days were over. According to his Pension Index card, it was the 19th of June 1920 that they deemed him to be sufficiently handicapped to receive his military pension.  My grandmother, continued to receive this pension, thankfully, as a widow, It was a blessing because they had lost everything because of medical bills and she still had 6 children at home.

I close saying that I am grateful my grandfather was a man who stood for his country and desired to serve to help other’s be free.  He was a good man.  I made a scrapbook page to depict his military journey, from where he lived when he volunteered to where he returned to the United States.
Created utilizing facts found about his journey in newspapers, military records, Historical records of the time. by Fran Ellsworth
This was my journey. I love books on History such as Spanish-American war and battles in the Philippines that were written in the time period you are searching. The Internet Archive is a great source for all countries and wars. I also use Newspapers, and Military Records that give descriptions. All countries have their own newspapers that give their perspective of a war.  I even found articles written by other countries used by American newspaper companies.   By the time I was through, I felt I had had a moment to see what it was like for him, I am sure not his exact feelings but at least what the forces were that he was dealing with. 


  1. I love doing this. I have followed a World War I vet through the newspapers of his local town, from when he first appeared on the "draft" board list till his return after the war. Sure makes it real.

    Great post Fran.

    1. Thanks Carol. I have learned from you and my geneblogger friends.

  2. There was so much I enjoyed about your post- your research story, your presentation of the information and the original title, plus I learnt a lot about a conflict I was only vaguely aware of. I could see me adopting your approach for my great uncle who was killed on the Somme in the First World War. Thank you.

    1. Sue, Thank you for the compliment. I did the same research for my cousin regarding WWII to confirm or negate a story the had circulating in their family. It turned out to be a half truth. Great fun doing the research.

  3. Nice piece of research, I really like how you have used the news paper articles to put the story together

  4. Fran, I have two ancestors who seved in the Spanish American War. I found military records scarce so I will have to go back and not select a specific war. Thank you for that tip!

    1. You are welcome Schalene. It was a problematic war in many ways. ;-)

  5. Me too Kristin! I know you love Collages. I'm partial being a veteran on Soldier's Stories. This was great. With the Widow Pension and Photos and information on his travels. It was hard finding out my Grandfather's travels in WW2 as a "Colored Soldier" thankfully at his age of 88. He wanted to tell what happen. Today I'm grateful for that one on one talk. I know your Soldier is thankful you did this piece on his Service. Still trying to find info on G Troop 9thCav Buffalo Soldiers. War Records are all over the internet and not completely compiled in one place. Thanks for this piece, Fran!


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