War and Its Impact on Your Virginia Ancestors

You and I can learn much from recent studies on the impact of war on Virginia families.  Recall,  I read the footnotes first and I suggest  you do the same.  Here is where the author of the study lists the sources used and documents the specific facts and conclusions that are made.  Consider these two studies:

  1. Take Care of the Living:  Reconstructing Confederate Veteran Families in Virginia, by Jeffrey W. McClurken.  Charlottesville:  University of Virginia Press, 2009.  Who supports the family when the soldier is away at war?  Who provides for the veteran if he cannot support himself and his family by working?  Many veterans were crippled and maimed in battle or  lost limbs from infection while recuperating in unclean surroundings after the battle was over.  When he returned home, he was unable to work.  The source notes McClurken gives you in this very important study is worth the cost of the book.  Add it to your 2010 Virginia reading list.
  2. Effects of the French and Indian War on Civilian Life in the Frontier Counties of Virginia, 1754-1763, by Chester Raymond Young, Cumberland College, Williamsburg KY, 20 Feb 1969.   This study was reprinted in 2009, in a slightly different format by the Virginia Genealogical Society, 1900 Byrd Ave, Suite 104, Richmond VA 23230.  It can be ordered through their website http://www.vgs.org.  Young updated, corrected, and added to Louis Knott Koontz dissertation, Johns Hopkins University “The Virginia Frontier, 1754-1763.”  As Young puts it:  “County records were exploited in an effort to extract new ore from old mines.”   What I found especially interesting were Young’s descriptions of the sources and their contents on such subjects as labor impressment, refugee migration and relocation, orphanhood, civilian county court cases with relationships to military service , who and how military operations often depended on a local supply base for which residents could later claim reimbursement, and what Indian depredations actually occurred as compared with local reports of what happened.  Frontier counties include Albemarle, Augusta,  Bedford, Culpeper, Fairfax, Frederick, Halifax, Hampshire, Orange,  and Prince William. 

Most of the settlers in the Virginia back country were Scotch-Irish, German, or English.  In addition there were some representatives of other European national groups–Dutch, Welsh, French, Irish, Swiss, Swedish, Norwegian, and Scottish (other than those who had come to North America via the Ulster counties of Northern Ireland).  In Frederick County and in the northeastern corner of Augusta County, Germans were the predominant national group.  They had come mostly from nearby Pennsylvania, with a scattering from Maryland, New Jersey, and New York.  Others had come directly from Germany to Virginia.  Hardly any other national group except Germans settled the extensive region comprised of the valleys of the North and South Forks of the Shenandoah and their tributaries.  Scotch-Irish emigrants from Pennsylvania were found in small numbers along the Back and Opequon Creeks and the North Mountain in Frederick County.  It was in Augusta County, however that these Ulster Scots found their home in Virginia.  From the region around Staunton southward and southwestward was the domain of  the Scotch-Irish.  Beverley Manor and Borden’s Great Tract were occupied principally by this national group and were early known as the “Irish Tract” or the “Irish settlements.”  Some English were located in the Augusta areas which were dominated by the Ulster Scots and in Frederick County east of Winchester and north of Strasburg.  For the most part national groups were identified with religious denominations.  The Scotch-Irish and the Scots were Presbyterians; the Germans were Lutherans, German Reformed (Calvinists), Mennonites, and Dunkers; and the English were Anglicans and Quakers.  A scattering of Baptists was not confined to one nationality. (pp. 11-12)

Young cites sources for each of these generalizations–and I will have much more to say about them in future posts.  For starters, I recommend that you also add this title to your 2010 reading list.  Then we can examine, not only the standard studies he quotes, we can also examine the Muster Rolls of the Virginia Regiment, found in the George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, Ser 4, IV.  Here is the source of the national groups, identified by surname.  Your favorite Virginia genealogist, Arlene Eakle  http://arleneeakle.com

PS  My favorite pastime?  Finding a quite corner in a library or bookstore to explore books, old and new, on Virginia.  They as loaded with insights and source suggestions!  Try it out.


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