Tea With Sarah: Ancestors & Memorial Day Weekend

Good afternoon, it’s time for tea!

It’s Memorial Day Weekend… So today’s post is all about looking back and looking for ancestors in history. I am definitely looking forward to a busy weekend, but will also be taking a little time on Monday (actual Memorial Day) to remember the fallen from all eras of America’s fight for freedom. I hope you’ll take time to remember too.

If this was a real tea party, I think ice-tea is on the menu as the weather starts to get a little warmer. And sweet kettle corn – just because it sounds good and summery! 

Student: Do you know if you had any relatives who fought in the Civil War?

(Recently, a student sent me a list of questions related to classroom Civil War studies. We decided to include one of the questions here.)

I do not know if any direct ancestors fought as soldiers during the war; I think there may have been some cousins, but I’m still investigating that part of my family history. I do know that my great-great-great-great grandfather was Gustav Koerner. He came to America from Germany several decades prior to the Civil War, became an influential judge in Illinois, and was a personal friend of Abraham Lincoln. Koerner actually helped Lincoln get on the Republican Ticket in the 1860 election. If you want more information or a photograph, check out this history website.

What about you? Any Civil War ancestors?

Guest at a recent presentation: How can I find out about my Virginian ancestor’s Civil War unit?

I’ve actually heard this question a couple times. And – happily there are some wonderful resources to start looking for unit history. Here’s what I’ve found helpful beyond the “regular” genealogy research books:

  1. A Google search can turn-up some interesting starting points.
  2. For a Virginia Civil War unit, look for the H.E. Howard Virginia Regimental Series. Sometimes, you’ll find a volume for sale and many research libraries have them available for study. If you live in or visit Virginia, check the local libraries in both the Civil War and local history sections; the volumes for the local units are often on the shelf.
  3. Try searching the unit in library catalogs and see what comes up. There might even be a journal or other primary sources written by an ancestor or another comrade in the unit.

Extra hint: it’s good to know the unit, but try to find out which company an individual was in. This will make it easier to search by commanding officer’s name or for tracking an ancestor’s footsteps through battle reports. Especially if they were in the cavalry – like in one of my current pet projects!

Hiking Eagle’s Peak in 2017! Fun memories.

What are you doing for Memorial Day Weekend?

Working to get ready for Gazette665’s Civil War History Conference! 

But actually, I’ve scheduled some fun and family time too. Tentative plans aside from conference work include:

  • Binge watch a historical show I’ve been wanting to see
  • BBQ with the family
  • Play harp at church, a patriotic musical selection
  • Attending a picnic at church
  • Edit a manuscript
  • Maybe share a photo or two on social media?

Got any family plans or historical adventures planned?

That’s all for today. Thanks for the questions and leave a comment to add to the conversation.

Now, get to the beach. Play frisbee. Hike. Explore a historic site. And have a fabulous long weekend!

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

About Sarah Kay Bierle

I’m Sarah Kay Bierle, historian, editor, and historical fiction writer. When sharing history, I try to keep the facts interesting and understandable. History is about real people, real actions, real effects and it should inspire us today.
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