Friday, July 27, 2012

So how do people from the past affect noir mysteries?

Simple really. While researching genealogy and learning how people lived then, I get a glimpse into their personalities too.

It was clear to me that the William Wallace Morris was a brave and dedicated man. However, he also showed another side of his personality when I read and considered as many different aspects of his life that I could discover.

For example, he was married three times. His first wife died young without children. His second wife also died young, at least when compared to our standards of longevity. She had three children. His third wife outlived him and they had children too. The necessity of having children in the nineteenth century was powerful. Did he love his first wife best? Hard to say. I suspect from other thing I read that he loved his third best.

William worked as a city clerk. He could easily have run for political office and succeeded. He was a local hero. He was immensely popular, well-liked. Yet he seems to have deliberately stayed out of politics. Instead he wrote a biography on every City of Newark major. He was an educated man. He had terrific handwriting. Obviously, he enjoyed research and interviewing people about his subjects. I suspect he was like able, which is vastly different than popular. Probably charismatic, even charming.

The photographs I've seen showed me an attractive man who believed in grooming and dressing well. He was serious about his religion. His daughters seemed to have loved him as any father hopes to be loved.

Yet through it all, I could not help but getting a sense that he was also flawed income way he struggled to hide from others. Sure, losing his first wife at such a young age would wound any man, but I don't think it was that so much as something deeper. Perhaps until she died he was more aloof, a bit more chauvinistic. No man back then would dare reveal emotions the way men now, at least attempt to do (okay not all men, and maybe not most, but you know what I'm saying).

So William Wallace Morris, a boy and then man with the name of one of Scotland's greatest heroes and martyrs had that knowledge lurking in the background. His mother, herself a Wallace if Scotland must've taught him about his ancestor. How could that affect him when he was a boy? How about during those transitional teen years?

William had a grandfather who fought in the War of 1812, two great grandfathers who were Revolutionary War veterans. In some part of his mind he must've known he would need to follow in their footsteps or at least try to. History shaped the boy into manhood.

Yet, another part of him seemed to desire ordinariness. He wanted a family. He wanted his own business, and mostly, it seemed in the end, to fade into obscurity by taking a job as city clerk.

For me, all of the above is the answer it the question posed in the header.

Genealogy gave me a complete character definition. Perhaps did so better than my studying people at Wat-Mart (okay bad example) but you get the idea.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Lost and Forgotten, until now

A gift, or perhaps not, of genealogy, a hobby of mine, is discovering a person in ones family history who was a hero, or outstanding citizen in his or her time, but now are forgotten totally.

 That sounds exactly as bleak as it feels when I find one. Recently, while researching my New Jersey Morris family ancestors, I learned about two Civil War, or as they say down south, the war of northern aggression, soldiers who qualified. Both wore Union blue.

One was a field commissioned major, a big deal in any war. The other a private who for reasons unknown and unknowable was a hospital cook. Sounds safe doesn't it? The problem with such safety is that regimental hospitals in the Civil War were like very crude, bloody, and filthy MASH units. Not sure who wanted to eat after seeing what was done to the wounded once they reached the "safety" of a field hospital.

His name was Asher Morris Lee. Not related to the much more famous Confederate Lee. Asher was named for his maternal grandfather Asher Morris who was the son of Benjamin and married the daughter of a revolutionary war veteran named James Herbert of Middletown, New Jersey.

The field commissioned major was also a Morris descendent. His name was William Wallce Morris. His mother was a Wallace descended from the Wallace clan of Scotland we know from history or if not from a movie released some years ago. His great grandfather was Asher Morris' brother Joseph. Joseph was a War of 1812 veteran.

William had two great great grandfathers who fought in the revolution. So I suppose one might suggest that it was in his blood. William lived in the city of Newark, New Jersey and put together a company of volunteers to fight against those involved in the southern rebellion to save their slave economy.

William proved himself an outstanding leader as well as a courageous one. When President Lincoln rode through Newark, William was one of his personal escorts.

How could history forget a man whose obituary, after he died age 75 in an accident, filled several pages of the Newark newspapers? We'll, it has. Until now. Both men, and one Morris woman who was a battlefield nurse during that same war, I wrote about her on a different blog, were and to me, are heroes.

These are the truly important people who create, bleed for, die for, and give those who follow a country to live in that offers opportunity once cherished by people around the world. I don't just mean veterans, although they are certainly special, but every person who contributes to the common good. All heroes and worth remembering.

But it is a mystery to me that so many of us now alive and enjoying what their sacrifices provided do not give a damn, or not much of one, about their ancestors and what they did.

Do you? Why not share them?
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