Photography didn’t begin until the late 1820’s or early 1830’s.  A Frenchman by the name of Joseph Nicephore Niepce is generally credited with taking the first photo.  While I have many photos of family members, one of my favorite photos is not of an actual person, but instead of a simple military stone placed in his memory.

  • Michael France was my 4th great grandfather.  Born 6 October, 1776 in Frankin County, Virginia  to John France and Mary “Polly” McTier.   Michael France was born into the American colonies – a country that was in turmoil.
  • The United States of America wasn’t formed yet.
  • Nathan Hale had been executed a mere two weeks prior to Michael France’s birth.
  • George Washington had finally won his first battle victory in the War for Independence at The Battle of Harlem Heights.
  • The Marquis de Lafayette wouldn’t show up on the scene for another six weeks  to assist the fledgling rebels.

Michael’s father, John France, later served in the Virginia Line of the Continental Army from March 1781 until September 1783 during the American Revolution.  John was later awarded a pension of $76 per year beginning in 1818 when John France was 73 years old.  (U. S. Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications from 1899 to 1970 for Michael France)

Michael France Pvt. Ohio Mtd. Militia, War of 1812,  Oct 6, 1776 - Nov 1, 1867

Michael France Pvt. Captain Haines’ Ohio Mtd. Militia, War of 1812,
Oct 6, 1776 – Nov 1, 1867

Michael France married Rebecca Henry 5 February 1798 in Franklin County, Virginia.  They later  had eight children – four boys (Orville, John, Jesse, Thomas Henry A.) and four girls (Anna, Elizabeth, Susannah and Jennette).  Michael  was mustered into service of the Haines’ Ohio Mounted Militia in 1812, leaving Rebecca with eight small children to care for.

Michael France fought for Haines' Mtd. Militia in Ohio during the War of 1812.

Michael France fought for Haines’ Mtd. Militia in Ohio during the War of 1812.

In 1835, Michael and Rebecca moved to Illinois where they lived until their deaths. Michael died in 1867 at the age of 91 years old.  He had lived through the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and came to Illinois soon after the Black Hawk War. In his lifetime, he’d seen the Mexican War in 1846 to 1848,  the American Civil War and the beginning of the Indian Wars out west.

So what was the significance of the photo of the military stone for Michael France? To me it is a simple reminder of a sacrifice my ancestor made to develop this strong country.  It reminds also that John France served the new nation when Michael was only five years old.  Michael France served his country when six of his eight children were age 10 and younger. It reminds me of how much history passed his eyes during his lifetime.  It reminds me of the sacrifices of many military men during the many battles and wars America has fought.

It reminds me those sacrifices are honored with a simple stone – strong, graceful, unyielding to wind, water and time.  The photo reminds me I come from Patriot blood.

52 Ancestors Challenge – Luck of the Irish

I’ve always loved storytellers.  If you could weave a yarn, I could sit and listen. I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t interested in hearing stories about my family – truly.  Storytelling and genealogy go hand in hand and I learned from these stories of my family early on I was mostly of hardy English and German stock with a stray 2nd great grandfather and grandmother of French lineage.  (This might explain why I sometimes dream I’m speaking in French and even though I don’t know how, I seem to understand the conversations completely!)  I even have many, many ancestors I would deem as Colonials.  A great deal of my ancestors were born in the American Colonies prior to 1700.  I find that simply amazing.

My one shortfall, in my estimation, was that I never had found an Irish immigrant ancestor…never.   Americans with Irish ancestry ranked third in the population in 2011 behind 1) German ancestry and 2) African-American ancestry.  I had the German ancestry, but no Irish in my tree? Seemed statistically impossible.

Silly as it may seem, I felt alienated during St. Patrick’s Day.  Wearing green on that day was more a ploy of a 3rd grade girl to avoid being pinched by some boy in class.   I was a pretender to the throne of all things Irish. We didn’t celebrate German holidays. No St. Bertha of Bingen Day to offset St. Paddy’s Day. (Yes, there is a St. Bertha of Bingen.  Even though part of my family is from near Bingen, we can’t claim any ancestry to Bertha.)

Prospecting through two of my family lines earlier this winter brought the revelation that I am indeed of Irish descent!  Holy Four Leaf Clover!  Could it be?  There was the first two – John Sprowls of Enniskillen, Fermanagh, Ireland born in 1749 and his wife, appropriately named Elizabeth Love of Ireland.   Then Andrew Hendrick Logan of Ulster, Ireland born in 1707.  Rosanne Jane Murray born in Ireland in 1780, my 4th great grandmother, popped up soon after.   John Riley born in the 1760’s in Ireland came to the forefront.  FIVE different ancestors were of Irish descent…F I V E!

By the time you go back to your 6th great grandfather or grandmother, you have had 256 people contribute to your DNA.  If my calculations are correct, around 1/3 of 1% of your genetic material comes from any one of those people.  Not a large slice of the pie by any imagination, but finding FIVE Irish immigrants who contributed to my DNA means a lot.  It means that I can truly proclaim Happy St. Paddy’s Day this year and feel an ownership to the day.  It also means I may have a small sliver of the Luck of the Irish in me.

“Eiriin Go Brach” as they say in Gaelic.  So raise a glass of green beer to the Sprowls, the Loves, the Logans, the Murrays and Rileys on March 17. You’re never too old to find out you are Irish.