The signature of Johan Paulus Vogt

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Old Newspapers and Land Patents

I have discovered a couple of very cool websites today that I just couldn't keep secret (although I'm sure many of you out there know about these or have heard of them).

First off, I was curious about searching old newspapers to find more information on some ancestors, specifically the Early Virginia Vaughts.  I searched in Google for "early Pennsylvania newspapers" (trying to confirm a snippet quoted to me in the past about John Paul Vogt in Ben Franklin's newspaper of 1734).  What came up was a particular site entitled Historical Newspapers Online from the University of Pennsylvania.  This is a listing of searchable newspapers that have been completely, or partially put on the internet for your use.  It has newspapers from most if not all 50 states and is simply fantastic.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find anything in Pennsylvania, however, I did find The Virginia Gazette, courtsey of Colonial Williamsburg (if you have never visited this amazing piece of living American history, I urge you to do so, it's an experience you'll never forget and may even bring you closer to your ancestors by showing you the way they worked, lived and fought!).  It was fantastic! 

While a search for Vaught and Vogt didn't turn up much of anything, I decided to search on another line of research I'm currently working on: proof that Gasper Vaught (my direct line ancestor) and his brothers fought in Lord Dunmore's War of 1774-1775.  Family lore has it that Gasper (sometimes known as Casper) was part of Captain William Love's company of frontier militia that accompanied Lord Dunmore at the Battle of Point Pleasant.  There's a significant lack of information on this time period in our family history, so anything would be useful.  'Lo and behold, I found an entire article about the battle where Captain Love and his men were mentioned.  It had been scanned from the original newspaper in 1775 and posted online---remarkable!  I'll post some more just on this line of research later...

The next website I want to tell you about is from our US Government.  I was trying to find some patents for ancestors of ours in Indiana and stumbled across the Bureau of Land Management's record office.  They actually have millions of government issued land patents digitized and ready to view and save.  You can also order certified copies (for only $2 each!).  The system is very user friendly and easy to search.  I looked under Indiana, typed in Vaught and let it fly.  I was surprised to see my great-great-great-grandfather, George Washington Vaught and his brother, Andrew Jackson Vaught, listed as getting patents from the US Government in Indiana.  I quickly got a digitized copy of the official certificate in .pdf form. 

Once I get the actual document in the mail, I'll scan it and post it here!

Check out your ancestors on these sites and see what you can find!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Cherokee family legend: Spicey Jane Smith

Josephine Elizabeth Pinner in 1938.

My paternal grandmother's name was Josephine Elizabeth Pinner Vaught (1916-2002).  She was married to my grandfather, James Albert Vaught on the 5th of April, 1941.
 The Pinner family, at least my branch of it, were settlers of Florida before it became a state.  In fact, the first Pinners to move into the Sunshine State arrived in the late 1820s and served in the Indian Wars of the 1830s.  As the American army moved south into Florida pursuing the Seminoles, settlers followed---many of whom were soldiers who when they mustered out stayed in the new land.
 William Pinner (son of Arthur Pinner from South Carolina, who was in turn the son of the first Pinner I know of, another Arthur, also of South Carolina) moved with his young family to what is now Alachua County, Florida in the late 1820s.  He is listed on the Alachua County Census for 1820 but since his family didn't arrive until from South Carolina until a few years later, it is assumed he was merely laying claim to his future homestead.  By 1850, he had moved the Pinners to Putnam County.
 The 1860 Putnam County, Florida Agricultural Census shows William Pinner owned 180 acres of land, 45 acres of which were improved and 135 were unimproved.   The estimated value of his land was listed at $900 (the 1860 value).  His farm implements were valued at $60 and the value of livestock was $250.  In 1850, the U.S. dollar was worth 4 times what it is today.
William’s youngest son Arthur (born in 1825 in South Carolina) married an interesting woman named Spisa Jane Smith.  Family oral tradition has it that Spisa, also known as Spicey Jane Smith, was a full Blooded Cherokee Indian.  The only information I have on her is that she was born (supposedly) around 1824 on Cherokee lands in southwestern South Carolina.  She (again supposedly) died sometime after 1860 (she was listed on the Putnam County 1860 Census but there is nothing after that). 
Spisa/Spicey, as the story my grandmother told me goes, left her husband and family in 1838-1839 to travel the "Trail of Tears" with her people.  She was supposed to have had a "brood" of children she left behind...however, all my data points to the fact that her first child, Arthur A. Pinner (my grandmother’s grandfather) was born in 1843, well after the Trail of Tears.    Perhaps she traveled with relatives who had a lot of children?
My grandmother used to tell my sister and I when we were children that one of her ancestors was an Indian, but she always thought it was a Seminole.  The information I reported above was a combination of family legend I’ve gathered from other relatives and my grandmother (who swore up and down there was an Indian in her ancestry).
This is a fascinating brick wall I’ve encountered, but I’m not giving up.  Unfortunately, the usual first place to look for Indian ancestors are the various “Rolls” the US Government produced as a sort of Indian Census.  However, these rolls, I have come to understand, only cover Indians who were transferred to a reservation recognized by the United States and/or were granted land there as well.  Since everything I have points to the fact that Spisa/Spicey---if she did go west with the Cherokee at all---came back to Florida and her husband where she began having children and remained the rest of her days.
This is one “problem” I love coming back to, time after time.  There’s something that draws me to this story.  For one thing, many people (including my grandmother) have commented that my grandmother looked like she had Native American roots.  Is it true?  I have no idea.  But I’d like to find out, if nothing else than to justify my grandmother’s beliefs.  Only time will tell, but when I do find something, I’ll post it here!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Fathers Day

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there!

Like Mother’s Day, I can’t help but think about family history on Father’s Day.  I always take a moment to think about all the fathers in my family tree and reflect on everything they sacrificed and fought for over the centuries, to allow me and my immediate family to live the way we do. 

And each year I take the time to thank Mel Gibson.

I know what you’re thinking…whaaaaaaat?  Mel Gibson?  What does he have to do with Father’s Day?  Isn’t he some sort of a celebrity pariah now?

Swordfights!  Yeah!

Well, I have to thank him because he got me interested in my family history.  When I was a junior in high school, the epic movie Braveheart was released in 1995.  I went to see it with my father---what red blooded American teenager wouldn’t want to see a 3 hour swordfight??  I had never heard of William Wallace and had no idea what I was in for...but the previews I saw on TV looked cool!

That movie stirred something inside me that I never knew was there: a fascination with Scotland.  I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  In the months after I saw Braveheart, I went to the library at my school and checked out every book on Scotland I could get my hands on---folk tale anthologies, histories, textbooks, it didn’t matter.  If it was about Scotland, I was reading it.  The funny part was, I had no idea why.  It was like I was learning stuff that I should have known but didn’t, and didn’t even know why I should have known about.  It’s hard to explain.

Then on a family vacation to Florida later that year, I passed a bookstore that had a display in the window of Braveheart books---the novelization of the movie, based on the screen play written by Randall Wallace.  I couldn’t resist.  In the foreword, Mr. Wallace wrote about being on a trip of his own in Scotland, where he saw a statue of William Wallace (for those of you who don’t know---he’s the sort of the Scots version of George Washington) and got curious about whether he was related or not.

That one sentence literally changed my life.  I asked my dad about our last name---where did Vaught name come from?  He explained how he wasn’t sure, but he thought Germany.  He had done some genealogy research years back before I was born and found out some stuff from his grandparents and aunts and uncles, but then lost interest when his children were born.

When we got back home from that trip, the summer before I went off to college, I begged my father to pull out all his research and we spent a weekend pouring over everything.  It was all handwritten, black and white photocopies, and old photographs.  About 15 years of research stuffed into one large manila envelope.  My entire family history. 

When I got to college, I was introduced to the joys of a T1 internet connection in the dorms at the University of Delaware.  I got myself a family history computer program (Family Tree Maker) and the Internet opened up a whole new world of genealogy.  By the end of my first semester in college, I had more than doubled the size of our family tree, confirmed about 98% of the “family legends” my dad had recorded and was thoroughly hooked on Genealogy. 

That was 11 years ago.  I now have close to 9,700 people in my database and it’s still growing because now I’m really focusing on my mother’s family tree.  I know my place in the long chain of Vaughts, Tuckers, Snows, Denunes, Pinners, Wards, Cramers, Wells, Scotts and a host of other families.   If you’re reading this blog, then chances are either you fat-fingered the web address or you’re addicted to genealogy too.  And if you’re a fellow family historian, then likely you’ve had that “Eureka!” moment too, when the dark veil of ignorance was suddenly lifted from your eyes and you saw a path to your past clear as day for the first time, ever.  And it made you feel complete---like you belong. 

And you loved it.

In 2008 my wife and I took a belated honeymoon to Scotland and England.  While we were there, visiting the Isle of Skye, I had an experience that, while not exactly spiritual, came pretty close, genealogically speaking.  I’ll go into details when I do a post on my connection to the Denune family, but to make a long story short, on the Isle of Skye, a local woman informed me over tea that I “had the look of the Campbells down south”.   When I came home and did some more research, I located the Scottish homestead I was looking for: Dunoon, Scotland, deep in the heart of the lands held by Clan Campbell.  More on that later… 

Now that I am a father of two myself (I still can’t get used to that idea!), the ability to pass on the knowledge that my father and I have pulled out of the dark obscurity of time and into the light of present memory to my children is something precious to me.  So many people in this world go through life without that anchor to the past, without knowing who they really are or where they’re from.     

It still makes me smile (and my wife roll her eyes) to think that I owe it all to watching Mel Gibson strut around in a kilt with a big sword and speaking with a Scottish accent.  So this Father’s Day, once again I’ll thank my father, and his father and all the fathers before us for all that they did. 

And I’ll raise a wee dram to Mel and say Thank You for starting me on the path to my history.

Thanks Mel!!!

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Second Germanna Settlement and Their Vaught Neighbors

The Second Germanna Colony in Virginia had a large number of "escapees" from their original settlement after their indentured servitude to Governor Spotswood expired.  This group of Germans who had traveled across the Atlantic together and toiled together for years, on attaining freedom, picked up stakes and moved as a block towards the Robinson River.

Coincidentally, Deep Run, the little stream that our ancestor, John Paul Vaught settled along, is a tributary of the Robinson River.  Because of the location of the Hebron Lutheran Church (a few miles southwest of the Vaught homsetead and just on the eastern border of the new Germanna colonists), I knew the Vaughts and the Germanna settlers were in the same neighborhood, but the for the longest time, I hadn’t been able to figure out how they fit together.

When I discovered that John Paul Vaught's daughter Mary Catherine had married Christopher Moyer (son of Germanna colonists George and Barbara Moyer) I knew the connection was deeper than a shared faith and a shared church.

Then I discovered in my files a map drawn in 1940 by a man named D. R. Carpenter, to whom I will be forever grateful.  The map was in a small booklet, a facebook of sorts for a Germanna colony reunion in the middle part of the last century.  The Map was of the settlement of the Germanna “survivors” on the banks of the Robinson River in 1740.
This wonderful map had on it a few roads that were still in existence, namely Highway 29 and State Road 609.  These roads were also present in the maps I had of the Vaught lands at that time.  I found a third map online and using Photoshop, combined the three to extend the Carpenter map into my Vaught map.  I added color to outline better the Germanna and Vaught/Clements settlements, plus Deep Run and the Robinson River.  Presto change-o and we have a combined map of the Germanna and Vaught settlements in 1740, complete with modern roads for reference (should anyone want to visit today as I did in 1998).

Seeing all these families so close together really put things in perspective for me.  The Vaughts weren’t just out in the wilderness---they had neighbors, lots of them, and they were all German and likely from the same (or relatively close) areas back in the Old Country.  It suddenly made all the sense in the world that the Moyers and Vaughts would link their families through marriage---they were neighbors!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Second Vaught Homestead

By October of 1744, the Vaught family had split for the first time.  John Paul Vaught, his wife,  Mary Catherine, and his two sons had successfully moved from Orange County to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a distance of close to fifty  miles.  They had left behind their first homestead in the New World, and more importantly, their youngest daughter, Mary.  Mary was wed to Christopher Moyer, a descendant of the Germanna colonists, in the summer of 1744 before the big move.  She and her new husband had stayed in Orange County. 

Catherine Margaret, the eldest Vaught daughter and her husband Christian Clements, sold their land adjacent to the Vaught's and moved out west with their neighbors.  It was a common practice in the mid 1700s that when one neighbor moves, their friends and neighbors follow, sometimes having the effect of moving whole neighborhoods around the country.

The Vaughts and Clements moved to an area just southeast of Massanutten Mountain, outside present day Harrisonburg, VirginiaThe tract of land that John Paul Vaught had surveyed rolled south towards the wildly looping and swift flowing North River (itself a branch of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River), between two not insignificant ridges which in a way channeled the land into a valley that ran towards the river. 

The land today is farmland still, trees cleared about half a mile wide all the way down to the river.   As noted in the above satellite image of the original Vaught homestead, the tree lines appeared to match the boundary lines, even more than 200 years later.  If that is the case with the land near Massanutten Mountain, then any visitor can drive through our ancestors lands and imagine what it looked like in 1744 quite easily.  I should point out that there is no known map that I'm aware of that specifically shows the location of the Vaught homestead.  I've made my best guess on the information I have.  If anyone has a more exact map, I'd love to hear from you!

Aerial map showing the location John Paul Vaught's land in 1744, neighboring Hans Bumgardner to the south.  Due southwest about a mile is the North River.  A few miles northeast is Massanutten Mountain.  Note: Friedens Church Road and Faught's Road are in existence today and can be found on most maps.

This new land was important to the entire Colony of Virginia, not just our ancestors.  The local Indians, namely the Cherokee, were attempting to block the movement of English colonials further west.  As the 13 Colonies expanded in size and the number of inhabitants quickly outpaced the native population, resistance all along the frontier in the middle 18th century began to stiffen. 

As happened in Pennsylvania in the early part of the century, the Indians came to respect and befriend the German immigrants.  Where the predominantly English colonists of New England consistently broke promises and ignored treaties, the Germans of Pennsylvania kept their word.  Where there was war and strife between settlers and Indians in the north, there was relative peace, if not mutual respect between the Germans (both in Pennsylvania and Virginia) and the various Indian tribes.
It is no surprise then, that sometime in 1744, the Cherokee and Shawnee resistance to further encroachment by Europeans crumbled and was sealed with a treaty on the lands of a German immigrant.  That immigrant was our ancestor, John Paul Vaught.  A gathering occurred, most likely in the spring or summer of 1744 (John Paul Vaught would not likely move his family into harms way were on the frontier before a treaty was signed and we know the family was near Massanutten Mountain in October of 1744), where John Paul Vaught, Christian Clements and other Germaaun settlers---perhaps even a representative of the Governor----met with representatives of the Cherokee Nation to discuss terms for settlement of the area by the Germans.

The Germans had the experience of the Pennsylvania immigrants to their credit, with a history of relatively peaceful relations with northern cousins of the Cherokee in Virginia.   We do not know the details of the gathering, what was discussed or promised or traded.  All we know is that peace was brokered, the Cherokee retreated further west and south and the Cumberland Gap was opened to the white settlers for the first time in peace.  A great flood of migration into the Valley could now proceed unhindered by the threat of Indian raids.  This critical treaty was ratified at a small spring in northwest corner of John Paul Vaught's land.

Friedens Church

Soon after the treaty gathering, John Paul Vaught constructed a simple log house next to the fateful spring that so gently gurgled into a small creek.  This log house was thereafter used as a meeting house for the Germans of the area.  It became a church for the two dominant religious sects of the area: The Lutherans and the Congregationalists.  It was called Friedens Kirke, the Church of Peace (sometimes referred to as the Church of Friends).  It still stands on our ancestral land.

The graveyard behind the church

The church as it exists today is a brick building.  Sometime after the wooden chruch was built it burned down.  Our ancestors built it again and replaced it with a brick building.  Today, Friedens Church is comprised of the original 1762 structure, with additional wings to the southwest and northeast.  There is a graveyard that wraps around the back of the church, up the hill.  The oldest part of the graveyard is in the corner furthest from the church and has numerous German headstones,  but no Vaughts.

Treaty Springs as it is today, capped in concrete.

To the south, just across the parking lot from the church and within easy viewing from the front door is the spring where John Paul Vaught brokered peace with the Cherokee.  Today, it is encapsulated in a slab of unceremonious concrete and capped, but there is still the small creek called Faught's Run that trickles along the church property and runs the length of our ancestral homeland on its lazy way towards the North River.

Faught's Run
 An interesting aspect of this land is a result of what happened after John Paul Vaught died in 1761.  His family split again.  His elder son, Andrew, along with John Paul's wife, moved to what is now Wythe County, Virginia, far along the southwest tip of the state.  His younger son, Gasper, remained near Harrisonburg and eventually his name changed to Faught.  That is why, if you go there today, there are so many "Faught" markers.  There is Faught's Road, which I believe creates the southern boundary of John Paul's original patent.  There is also a small creek that runs from the Treaty Springs area down to the North River.  It is listed on the more detailed local maps as "Faught's Run" (terminology that many people would konw as a creek).  Faught's Road crosses Faught's Run.  It is possible that the run (creek) marked the western boundary of the Vaught's land, but I have not been able to view the original patents yet. 

Unfortunately, for John Paul Vaught, he would not live to see the peace he helped create open up the Western frontier to settlers.  At the age of 81, John Paul Vaught died in his home 10 miles southeast of what is today Harrisonburg, Virginia.  The year was 1761---the French and Indian War was already raging throughout the frontiers of the British colonies from Maine to Georgia.  Luckily for the Vaught's, most of the fighting was taking place well north of Virginia in Canada and New England.             

 We don't have records on the exact reason for John Paul Vaught's death, but in the 18th Century, living to the ripe age of 81 was remarkable, if not rare for life was harsh on the frontier of the colonies.  It can reasonably be assumed that he died a natural death, after having lived a remarkably productive and adventure-filled life.  Born in the Old World, he crossed an ocean, settled a New World, carved peace out of the wilderness and opened the path to the expansion of America.
When John Paul and his family moved to Augusta County, it was still considered part of Orange County.  When he died there, the county had been carved out as Augusta.  Today, Harrisonburg and the old plot of land that once belonged to John Paul are in Rockingham County, Virginia.

John Paul's estate sale and appraisal was dated 10 September, 1761.  Besides his sons Andrew and Casper (Gasper Faught), only one daughter, Catherine Margret (who married Christian Clements) is mentioned in the will.  It has been assumed in past decades that the other daughter, Mary Catherine, died prior to John Paul's will since she is not mentioned.  However, Mary Catherine did not die, but remained with her husband Christopher Moyer near the first Vaught homestead.  She and her husband were long time communicants at the Hebron Lutheran Church, which will be the subject of another post.           

The tragedy of death in the family is as much a traumatic event today as it was in 1761 and for the Vaught's in the Shenandoah Valley it was no different.  However the year 1761 was not without its share of joy and happiness, for John Paul's eldest son Andrew had his seventh and last son, Henry.  We do not know if John Paul Vaught was there to welcome his 24th grandchild into the world or not, but it is comforting to know that our ancestor did welcome at least 20 babies to his family before he died. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Protecting the Past

So I was thinking today how to preserve everything I have, the papers, the old Bible, the photos.  On my short list is to get some archival sleeves for my grandfather's WWII honorable discharge papers and old financial documents that belonged to my grandparents.

But beyond the obvious stuff like archival sleeves, acid-free archival boxes and paper, what else can we do to protect our precious family history documents and photos?

Here's what I do.  Perhaps it will help you or give you an idea.  What do you do?

  • Scan Photos and Documents: I have begun the painstaking process of scanning all the old family photos.  I'm in posession of three or four old-style photo albums (the ones with the sticky cardboard covered in resealable plastic film).  These albums are death to photos.  I have some pictures from the 1970s that look like they were processed in the 1870s.  The acid in the cardboard and glues used for years in most of the old-school albums just eat at your papers and photos.  If you have some stored like this, get them out now and put them in sleeved modern acid-free albums, available at most craft/hobby stores.  I have scanned the pictures onto my computer and filed them under a genealogy pictures photo, grouped by family.  It takes a long time, but I can sleep easier knowing that at least the digital version of the pictures will not degrade any further.  Plus it has the added benefit of being able to print off new pictures for display or everyday use without damaging the original. 

  • Transcribe photocopies: When my father and I took our family history research trip, I came across many records in courthouses such as wills, deeds and land grants pertaining to my ancestors across several states.  This was before the days of portable scanners and high quality digital cameras.  So I did the next best thing:  I brought lots of spare change and made photocopies of the original records so that I would have a copy.  Then, in my spare time, I can go back and transcribe the photocopies (see yesterday's post on the will of George Vaught) onto my computer.  It takes a while because the old language can be tricky, but you'll be glad you did---I found several bits of information pertaining to the land my family owned that I had missed by "speed reading" the document to get the facts when I first copied it in the courthouse.  If nothing else, transcribing photocopied documents gives you another backup.

  • Photographs: For objects, like my great-grandfather's Bible, given to him by his father in the late 1800s when he was born and passed down to each generation, I recommend taking detailed large digital photographs.  If your camera has large or extra-large file settings (sometimes called "high detail") use the biggest you have to capture images of the book, jewelry, dress, etc., from different angles.  I also like to print out a little card with information about the object, how I came to own it, who owned it before me, how old it is, etc., and place it in the photograph of the object in at least one angle so I'll have everything together.  For books, try to gently open the book and hold it there long enough to take pictures of important pages, such as the birth/death/marriage records in old family Bibles.  Do it right, do it detailed, and you won't have to worry about handling brittle books and jewelry in the future---just pull up the picture on your computer.  Then you can store the item in an archival box, etc., to preserve it for future generations.

  • External Hard Drive: Once you have scanned, transcribed or organized all your photos and documents on your comptuer, I highly recommend getting a spare external hard drive---they are incredibly inexpensive now, compared to just a few years ago.  You can get a dedicated genealogy backup drive for less than $150 that will hold hundreds of gigs of information.  As one who has listened to that advice before and not acted, trust's a good idea.  I had my old computer crash and lost everything---or would have if I hadn't had everything backed up on an external drive.  If you have a flood or a bad storm, tornado, or lightning strike your house or even simple burglary or a fire...the list goes on and on---you get the picture.  A backup hard drive is invaluable. 

  • CD/DVD Backups: At the very least (and before I got my back up hard drive) use CD backups.  Most computers sold today have a CD-ROM drive that doubles as a CD-R (or even better a DVD-R) drive, meaning you can create CDs/DVDs of information.  This is helpful, but for someone that has more than about 800 megabits worth of files and photos, you're going to need multiple CDs, cases to store them, etc.  The other downside to CDs is that while they may last a long time and be impervious to magnets (the bane of floppy disks of yesteryear) the drives that run them may not last.  It is a great storage media, but someday it will go the way of the floppy disk, that is to say, to the recycling plant (remember all those AOL disks you used to get in the mail?  When I was in college we used those things for all sorts of things...ah but that's another post.).  So a CD backup is great, but once I got my hard drive, I stopped making CDs and saved a lot of money (when you have a lot of stuff to back up, those CDs can get expensive over time!).  If you have the right software, burning a DVD of genealogy files or pictures will allow you to play the images or movies on any modern DVD player (which makes a great way to share photos on family vacations to far flung relatives...ah, the rebirth of the old slide show tradition!)

  • File Sharing: One of the cooler things about the internet is the concept of "the cloud" that is vogue right now.  Through some websites out there like Rootsweb (provided by, you can upload your family tree and notes to the internet for other researchers to see and to create a backup.  Should something happen to your computer, all you need do when it is repaired/replaced, is just sign on and download your information and you're back in business.  You can even go to any one of the numerous photo-sharing sites out there and upload your genealogy photos as well, then download them when you need to.  Which leads me to the next part of file sharing---sharing with relatives.  Make copies of everything you have, if it's convenient to put on, say, a CD or DVD, and mail it to your siblings and uncles and aunts and grandkids.  They may not appreciate it now (maybe they will!) but the information will not be lost if some catastrophe happens to your house, computer or files.  I recently did this at Christmas last year and it was quite gratifying to share all those old family photos (some that people hadn't seen in decades) and stories and documents, scanned onto a DVD.  And lets be honest, what's the point of doing all this research if we don't share the results with our family members---after all, aren't we trying to preserve everything for future generations?  I say spread the wealth---who knows, you may inspire a grandchild to take up the hobby and unknowingly "pass the torch" and protect your family history at the same time!

  • USB Flash Drives: Lastly, this inexpensive idea just occurred to me.  You can get a 4Gig USB drive at Best Buy for $20 or so any more.  Just plug it in, download your information and presto, another backup.  I like to keep mine where I keep the physical photos and documents so I know I have a backup at hand.  Can't get any simpler than that.  If you need to travel or get a new computer, just plug in the flash drive (also called "Thumb Drives" and you're in business.

  • Location, Location, Location: Something else to consider: don't keep all your eggs in one basket.  Don't store your originals in a closet along with the backups in the same place.  I like to spread things out----the originals are in a footlocker in a closet.  The backup hard drive is upstairs in a closet in the office.  The thumbdrive stays with the originals, but my backup DVDs are stored with our DVD collection.  If something happens to one part of the house (a flood, fire, or say water heater failure) at least all of my information won't be damaged or lost at once.  Granted, if the whole house is destroyed I'm in trouble---but!  I have copies of everything sent to my sister, father and uncle.  Plus I have my tree and lots of my notes online.  My motto is one redundant backup is good, two is better, three is best. 
So, there you have it, my methods of saving the past.  I'm interested to hear what you do, or what you think works or doesn't work of what I do.  Have you needed to use a backup to recover your info?  What happened and how did you get through the crisis?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

History of the Vaught name

What's in a name?  In my case, the name Vaught is not exactly the same name as my ancestors.   I'm working on a family history book and here's a bit of an excerpt:

The progenitor of my family was a man named Johan Paulus Vogt, who was born in 1680 in Frankfurt, Germany.  Vogt is identified today as German, yet it is also a common enough Swiss and Austrian name as well.  In fact, it is quite prevalent throughout northern Austria, as well as southern Germany and Switzerland. 

There is a German town called Vogt just east of Ravensburg near the Lake Konstance on the Swiss/German border.  The Heimatmuseum, deep in the Black Forest is the "Folk Heritage Museum" is also called the Vogtsbauernhof, or "the judge's farmhouse".

Despite being known for a German name, Vogt is actually the modern form of an ancient Roman occupational title that has similarities to a lawyer, judge, sheriff and military commander.  In a nutshell, the Vogt of a particular area was the enforcer of the ruler's will and laws, a supervisor of no mean rank. 

From The Dictionary of American Family Names (2003):

VOGT: German: occupational name for a bailiff, farm manager, or other person with supervisory authority, Middle High German voget, Late Latin vocatus, from Latin advocatus, past participle of advocare ‘to call upon (to help)’. The term originally denoted someone who appeared before a court on behalf of some party not permitted to make direct representations, often an ecclesiastical body which was not supposed to have any dealings with temporal authorities.

As the dying embers of the light that was once Rome faded into obscurity and the Dark Ages gripped Europe in a mailed fist, those who had been called upon to help or to enforce the local rulers will were known as the vocatus.  Over time they later were called the voget and finally they became the Vogt as the Dark Ages came to a reluctant end and the Middle Ages arrived.

In the 10th Century AD, the title of Vogt was solidified as the proctor of the church in civil affairs and presided over the chief court---usually a local nobleman such as a Baron.  Therefore we can assume that to hold the office of "Vogt" for the town or village one had to be a clergyman or a local judge or both.  This is entirely reasonable, as in the Middle Ages the most learned (and therefore qualified to be a judge of written laws) men to be found were found in the Church.

To read an excellent Medieval history of the Vogt name written by Eric William Vogt and posted on the Genforum message boards click here: Origins of the Vogt Name .  Mr. Vogt's information pertains mostly to the ecclesiastical side of the name history and it's connotations within late Medieval society, but it is fascinating reading nonetheless.

Johan Paulus Vogt brought his family (his wife Maria Katerina and his children Catharina Margaret, Maria Catharina, Johan Andreas, and Johan Gasper) in 1733 to Philadelphia and shortly thereafter he is listed in official documents as John Paul Vaught.  His wife and children recieved similar Anglicized names (Mary Katherine, Catherine Margaret, Mary Catherine, John Andrew and John Gasper).

So why go from Vogt to Vaught?  Imagine what an Englishman would hear when a German strolls up to a clerk's desk and registers his German, "v" is pronounced as an "f".  So Vogt is pronounced "fought".  The clerk likely spelled what he heard.  This is even more evident when the next generation is listed in documents.

John Paul Vaught died in 1761 at his home near Harrisonburg, Virginia.  Within a decade of his death, most of his famiy had moved south and west towards what is now known as Wythe County, Virginia.  His eldest son, Andrew, carried on the family name and spread it through southwest Virigina, and his sons carried it into Kentucky, Indiana and other parts west.  John Paul Vaught's youngest son, Gasper, stayed on the old homestead with his family.  He was known as Gasper Faught (no doubt another clerk bestowed a mistaken spelling on the family name and literally spelled it like he heard it).  To this day, there are numerous Faughts near Harrisonburg.  A small stream runs through John Paul Vaught's old land and is still known as Faught's Run.

I don't know if every Faught out there is a descendant of John Gasper Faught, but it is pretty interesting to think that one man who's last name was Vogt started so many Vaught and Faught families.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Will of George, son of Andrew Vaught

So I found a copy of the will of George Vaught (b. 1745- d. 1835) that I had discovered in 1998 on The Great Trek my father and I made across the country scoping out our ancestral stomping grounds.   That will be the subject of another post....but for now, here's a (finally) transcribed version of the original.  My wife adn I are in the process of moving to a different state on the other side of the country so my resources and time are a bit limited right now but I wanted to put something up!

A note about George's will---due to the spelling and education of the day, there are many, many words in the document that are odd-sounding to modern ears or outright mispelled (again by modern convention).  I have transcribed a photocopy of the original document exactly, including all the old-time phrases and mispellings.  I made a note in the middle, it is [in brackets].

In the name of God amen.  I George Vaught senior of the County of Wythe and Sate of Virginia being at this time weak in body but of sound mind and disposing memory and calling to mind the mortality of the body and knowing, that it is appointed for all men once to die do make this my last will and testament.

First it is my desire that all my just debts and funeral expences be paid by my executors out of my estate.

Secondly, it is my desire that my beloved wife Christianna do fully and completely possess and enjoy all my property or estates both real and personal during her natural life and after her decease the same to be disposed of in the manner hereafter directed.

And as to my sons David, John, Andrew, George, Peter, and Charles I think I already given them a sufficiency, it is my desire that each of them receive one dollar to be paid by my executors.

Also I think that my daughter Mary hath had a sufficiency.  I also desire that she receive one dollar to be paid by my executors.

As to my son Joseph I give and bequeath unto him the sum of thirty dollars to be paid [note: to him is written in above the line] by my executors.

And it is my desire that at the decease of my wife my two sons Abraham and Jefferson to have all my land and my mill with the exception of one acre of land and a saw mill site that I have given to my two sons Charles and Joseph.

And it is my desire that my two sons namely Abraham and Jefferson pay unto my two daughters namely, Elizabeth and Christianna each one hundred and eighty dollars.

And it is my desire that after the decease of me and my wife whatever property is left and not disposed of the same be equally divided among all my children.

And lastly I do hereby constitute and appoint my son Charles Vaught Executor of this my last will and Testament hereby making void all other former wills by me made Acknowledging this to be my last will and testament.

In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and affixed my seal this 13th day of March 1825.
Signed, Sealed, Published                                          George     C     Vaught 
and pronounced in presence of us
Ias. Finney
Roylal Hillirfrzi
Joseph Phillippe

Virginia.  At a Court for Wythe County at the Courthouse on Monday the 11 day of May 1835.  This the last will and testament of George Vaught Sen. Decd was presented in Court proved by the oaths of Christopher Phillipie and Joseph Phillipie subscribing witnesses thereto and ordered to be recorded.

And on the motion of Charles Vaught the executor named in said will who took the oath required by law.

And together with John Gannaway and Zachariah Mitchell his securities entered into and acknowledged a bond in the penalty of $400 conditioned as the law directs certificate is granted to him for obtaining probate of said will in due form.
                                                                                    John Mathews CC