Have You Ever Mourned Someone You Didn’t Know?
by Angela Breidenbach
Genealogy fascinates me. The discoveries, history, heroism of people forging a future against all reason that they should survive. Some didn’t.
October 12, 1777 my 4X great grandfather died in the American Revolution. Until a short time ago, no one in my family had any idea what happened to Thomas Nelson, Jr. of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. (No, not that famous guy who signed the Declaration of Independence. He was from Virginia and reasonably wealthy.) My ancestor was a simple farmer from Pennsylvania, and fought alongside his father (Thomas, Sr.) and my 5X great grandfather, uncle (John), and possibly a second uncle (Andrew).
I’ve been searching for records for a long time. I found the October 1777 muster roll through the National Archives, and realized it was him! My heart dropped at “Died Oct. 12th” scrawled in the margin. Tears welled. But where were Thomas Sr., John, and Andrew? Back I went, searching month by month. Then I found the notes. Thomas Nelson, Sr. had died as a recently promoted sergeant only a few weeks before his son. John Nelson died earlier in the spring of 1777 as a Captain. My heart squeezed tight. Three men in the same family—my family—died within 5 months of one another. I felt like I’d been punched at the same time as a thrill ran through me. It seems Andrew survived the war!
A private, a sergeant, and a captain fought side-by-side and must have mourned deeply as they lost one another on the battlefields. I’m overjoyed to find a trace of those heroic men. I mourn their loss from across the centuries. They left this world, but a part of them remains in the generations that followed. I can’t wait to talk to these amazing ancestors in heaven one day. How awesome that hope exists because Jesus gave His life so that we all may be in heaven one day!
Writing “His Indentured Bride” in the Captive Brides Romance Collection gave me a chance to mix personal genealogy and professional research for this story. I’m not finished with that research . . . there’s likely several more stories yet to come. I still hope to find their arrival in Pennsylvania and trace my ancestral line (with proof) before next fall when I go to Scotland. I hope to stand in the footprints of my Scottish ancestors and learn why they came to America. Won’t that be a good story?
Whose footprints would you like to stand in?
Angela Breidenbach is the author of 15 books including “His Indentured Bride” in the Captive Brides Romance Collection from Barbour Publishing. She’s just started her second year of genealogical studies toward a three-year program with specialties in English and Scottish Records, Methodology, and Lecturer credentials in the works. She’s a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution through her ancestor John Milligan and hopes to help qualify at least five more patriots. http://AngelaBreidenbach