Friday, April 15, 2011

99th anniversary of the Titanic disaster

When the IRS finalized April 15 as tax day in 1955, they may not have realized what an auspicious date they were choosing:  April 15 is the day Lincoln died in 1865, and the day the Titanic sunk in 1912 (and Gayle's mother Agnes Jensen died on this date in 1961).  Although we have no ancestral connections to the Titanic, this historical event has long fascinated our children.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

150th anniversary of the Civil War's beginning


George Henry Mendell
Since the Civil War began 150 years ago today, I want to reflect on how it impacted our ancestors and family personally.  We had one direct ancestor who was a Civil War soldier:  Wally's grandpa George Henry Mendell fought on the Union side, in an Ohio infantry unit, and was wounded in the knee at the Battle of Gettysburg.  He left a wife and young children behind during the three years he served in the army, and later claimed a government pension for his service.

at Manassas Battlefield, Virginia (1995)
Since most of our other ancestors were either in Utah or Europe during the Civil War, it only affected them incidentally.  However, coming from Denmark the Poulsens (Welch line, Mary Sorensen’s family) struggled with lice on the train previously used by Union soldiers.  The (Jensen line) Hunters arrived from Scotland to New York in the middle of a Civil War battle and the passengers had to be routed inland out of danger.  The (Wells line) Hegsteds heard of the Civil War victory while sailing from Denmark from another vessel and celebrated on deck, but arriving in America found the country in turmoil with the Union Amy being disbanded and Lincoln dead.  And the (Wells line) Heiners had a near miss: in 1859, Elder Karl G. Maeser visited Pennsylvania and prophesied of the coming Civil War, and so they came to Utah only a few years before the Battle of Gettysburg was fought near their former home.

Since I spent a summer during college digitizing Civil War pensions at the National Archives, this era is dear to my heart.  I even participated as a Civil War re-enactor at the 130th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Gettysburg.  Here's to union and peace!