Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Welcome to the World

Congratulations to Brandon and Amber Helm at the birth of Brody Thomas Helm. Brody was born on December 21, 2011, just in time for Christmas!

Brody was 7 pounds, 7 ounces and 21 inches long. In addition to his parents, we also extend out congratulations to Brody's grandparents, Doc and Deb Green, and great-grandfather Don C. Bragg. 
 Our best wishes to Brandon and Amber's family. 

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Newest Member of Our Bragg Family

Thomas Augustus "Auggie" Bragg came into the world on November 1, 2011. He is the son of Chad and Koran, granddaughter of Charles and Rebecca and great-granddaughter of Don C. Bragg.  Auggie is also the little brother of Lochlyn Elizabeth. 

We are all thankful that Auggie and Koran are both doing well and wish them only the very best.

Friday, November 04, 2011

For Pete's Sake (A Review)

For a number of years I have been involved in researching the heritage of our family. Some sections have fallen into place without much effort (except in trying to verifying what is verifiable and removing, or at the very least qualifying the parts that may be more legend than fact).

When it came to the family tree of my paternal grandmother. Using a couple of documents my Dad gave to me as my starting point I was able to find establish the basic foundation upon which this search could be built. Grandma Bragg's maternal grandparents, the Munson family, came from a pretty distinguished family reaching back to the earliest period of American history. In the first few generations of Munson family in America, for example, we encountered Capt. Thomas Munson (1612-1685), Grandma Bragg's 7th great-grandfather, who was involved with the founding of a little college named Yale.

Grandma Bragg's paternal grandparents posed a more difficult proposal, mainly due to the fact that neither she nor any of her siblings had any idea who their grandparents were. All we did know is that they had settled near Linton, IN (Green County), where Cicero Gilbreath's father died while Cicero (Dad's grandfather) was just a boy. At first I thought the mystery was solved as nearly every lead too me back to the prestigious Gilbreath family that settled in and around Greensboro, NC.

Then I was contacted via e-mail by my first cousin one time removed, Elizabeth Esterholdt who likewise interested in our family history but whose own study raised questions regarding my conclusions. Upon closer examination, and correspondence with the sources I had relied upon in my research, I realized that she was in fact correct.

This put us right back to square. Occasionally Elizabeth would find a new lead for a possible connection, often helping to fill in very slowly the elusive information. The big break came with her a string of very significant discoveries:
1. That Ellen Hale Gilbreath was the mother of Cicero Gilbreath (Dad's grandfather).
2. The birth record for Cicero's younger brother, Arnie, showing his parents to be William and Ellen Gilbreath (Dad's maternal grandparents).
3. A  marriage record for William Gilbreath and "Eleanor" Hale for April 1,18?8 in Greene Co., Indiana.
4. Then she uncovered a source with the following information: "John Gilbreath" in Greene County, Indiana, born in 1810, married to Mary "Polly" Hoke in 1831, and father of two children, Cynthia A. and William H., who married Eleanor Hale in Greene County in 1858."

And just like that we were able to open a door leading up the Gilbreath family tree from Dad's father-in-law, Cicero Gilbreath, all the way back to Dad's fourth great-grandfather John Galbreath, who was born in Ireland and died on August 18, 1800.

That vital source Elizabeth discovered led us to the author, Gene Gilbreath, of Terra Haute, IN. Gene, Dad's third cousin, is the author of "For Pete's Sake: a sons reflects on his father's forty-seven year confinement with mental illness, seeking understanding, hope, and caring for our mentally ill." Not only did Gene provide us with an abundance of information on the Gilbreath family, he also provided us a copy of his book. I have just completed reading his book and wanted to share some thoughts with you regarding "For Pete's Sake."

Gene's book is the account of life in rural Indiana during the Great Depression and afterwards as this family struggled to cope with the illness of his father, Clarence Homer Gilbreath (1907-1995), known to family and friends as "Pete." Toward the end of WW II Pete came down with a bad case of the flu, which lead to inflammation of the lining of his brain. Gradually his plight led to his mental breakdown resulting in schizophrenia and nearly fifty years confinement ("28 years in Evansville State Hospital, Evansville, Indiana, and 19 more in two nursing homes," from Gene's website). Gene describes his father's plight as like unto that of Rip Van Winkle.

This work is of far greater value than a lens to look deeper into a segment of our family tree previously unknown, it is a fascinating account of coping with the unexpected hardships rocking a very real family and how they found the strength to survive its impact. It is the story of rebuilding a relationship after decades of interruption. It is a story of family strength and determination exhibited by Gene's mother. It also alerts the reader to the need of becoming aware of an all too frequently forgotten segment of society, the mentally ill.

I was impressed with a number of things in reading "For Pete's Sake." On page 80, for example, Gene compares the study of one's genealogy with the use of one's rear view mirror in driving down the road. While we must keep looking forward, it really helps to take that occasional glimpse to see what is behind you. Any generation will be enriched by simply taking the time to get to know the generations that have passed. It is not just listing names and dates, but to realize these were real people from whom we can continue to learn.

But this book is not primarily a record of family history. It is a study of the impact of mental illness on the afflicted individual and their family. Gene encourages family members and loved ones to become involved in the treatment prescribed for the patient. Family and friends need to also be involved in encouraging the patient. Gene write, "Specifically, we have asked that we develop a partnership in this healing and comforting process that includes the human rights of the patient and the full involvement of their families" (p. 228).

I heartily recommend Gene's book to anyone reading this blog. If you know someone, some family dealing with the mental health issues this book would make a wonderful and uplifting read. "For Pete's Sake" can be ordered through through Gene's website, and you might also enjoy visiting his blog, Filed and Forgotten (although the blog has not been updated lately).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Did You Know #40

Did you know that we had a relative that not only dreamed of becoming the President of the United States, but had a very legitimate chance of realizing that dream?

In the early years of our country James Israel Standifer moved among the legendary leaders of history. He was born in 1779 Virginia, the son of Israel Standifer and Susannah Heard and the grandson of James J. Standifer and Martha Watkins. The "Standifer" line can be traced back at least to John Standiford (1679-1720), the first in our line to have been born in America. According to an article written by Steven D. Byas (
Tennessee Historical Quarterly; Summer, 1991), the Standifer line is described as "an enterprising family with an avid interest in public affairs." *

A farming family, James Israel Standifer moved westward with his family to North Carolina and then on to Tennessee where they settled around Knoxville (frontier country in his day). In 1801 James married a young woman by the name of Martha, who just happened not only to be the daughter of William Standifer and Jemima Jones, and the granddaughter of James J. Standifer and Martha Watkins, but James' cousin. James and Martha (and indeed most families in those days) were not alone when it came to marriages between first cousins. Martha's siblings, Naomi and Isaac, were married to Israel M. Standifer (James Isreal's brother) and Elizabeth B. Standifer (the daughter of Luke, Martha's uncle). Although legal in that day, these marriages have led to much confusion as our generation seeks to unravel these families. This confusion is reflected in the inconsistent claims of various sources. With that in mind we will try to trace this family according to the best evidence I could find.

James Israel Standifer took up farming in Mount Airy, Tennessee, until he answered the call of his nation and marched  off to the War of 1812. Serving in the military James attained the rank of lieutenant colonel and participated in the famous Battle of New Orleans. Upon his return to eastern Tennessee, he turned his attention to politics. First he was elected state senator (1815-1821), and then he was sent to Washington D.C. where he represented Tennessee as a member of the U. S. House of Representatives (1823-1837). Standifer served alongside such notables as Sam Houston, James K. Polk, Andrew Jackson; Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun and David Crockett (he didn't really like to be called by the name "Davey").

One of the most interesting national issues of his day was the removal of the
Cherokee Indians from North Carolina/Tennessee area. Standifer first voted "yes" to President Jackson's proposal to relocate these Indians west of the Mississippi (just a little north of Cape Girardeau, where I live). However, the moment he realized that the Cherokee Indians would be removed by force, Standifer became a vocal opponent of the plan. Sadly, not even Standifer could prevent the infamous "Trail of Tears," the forced removal of these tribes.

Congressman Standifer was also intimately involved with the presidential election of 1836 as an opponent of Martin Van Buren. After this election
Standifer returned home to Mount Airy for a visit with his large family. When it came time for him to return to Washington, Congressman Standifer reportedly told his wife that "he might just run for president himself in 1840."  Then he set off on his horse and he never saw his family again. Stopping off at the home of a friend near Kingston, Tennessee, a man by the name of Colonel Joseph Byrd, Standifer "died, suddenly, on August 20, 1837." It was reported that Standifer died of pneumonia. That claim, however, did not seem to fit the official claim that his death was "sudden and unexpected" (most people who die of pneumonia do not die "unexpectedly"). Others insisted that Standifer was assassinated.

News of
Standifer's death shocked Washington. It was not just the surprising fact that Standifer had died, but they were troubled by the persisting mystery concerning his cause of death. Amid the flourishing rumors both Houses passed resolutions calling for thirty days of mourning in Standifer's memory. In the House of Representatives John Bell, who would later run for president against Abraham Lincoln, announced the news of Standifer's "sudden" passing. Bell said that Standifer was a man "remarkable for an equanimity of temper," and a man with a "reputation for honesty which he nobly earned, and continued to maintain by the most scrupulous regard for truth and justice in all his transactions, public and private." In the Senate future President James K. Polk commented about Standifer's "truthfulness, even in the midst of their deep political division."

So how is Congressman James Israel Standifer related to our family? He was Mom's fourth great-grand uncle (the brother of her fourth great-grandfather). Here are the details:

Israel Standifer and Susannah Heard
Cong. James Israel Standifer b.1779 Skelton Daniel Standifer b.1752

Archibald Standerfer Sr. b.1775

Franklin H. Standerfer b.1820

William Standerfer b.1841

Zacharious I. Standerfer b.1871

Mercedes Ruth Standerfer b.1872

Mary Jean Ethington Bragg b.1928

Since James married his first cousin, Mom was also related to Martha Standifer. She was Mom's first cousin 6 times removed:

James J. Standifer and Martha Watkins
William Standifer b.1757 Israel Standifer b.1740
Martha Standifer b. 1783 Skelton Daniel Standifer b.1752

Archibald Standerfer Sr. b.1775

Franklin H. Standerfer b.1820

William Standerfer b.1841

Zacharious I. Standerfer b.1871

Mercedes Ruth Standerfer b.1872

Mary Jean Ethington Bragg b.1928

* Note: like so many family names, the Standerfer family name takes on a wide variety of spellings. It would not be until James and Susannah's grandson, Archibald, that the spelling "Standerfer" enter our direct family lineage. But that is not so say that Archibald, or any of his ancestors would not occasionally be referred to by the name "Standerfer."


James Standifer, Sequatchie Valley Congressman
, Tennessee Historical Quarterly; Summer, 1991.
Rootsweb forums, Family of James M. Standerfer II 

Carol's Commentary - Adeline's Letter

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Mom

In Loving Memory
Mary Jean Bragg
January 15, 1928 – September 30, 2011

As we sat beside our Mom in the final days and hours of her earthly life, I noticed a single tear making its way down her cheek. Surrounded by those she had devoted her life to care for, and as we were reflecting on now distant memories of our lives together, there was no way of knowing if it was a tear of joy or of pain. She knew, but she could not tell us.

I caught that tear, and as I held it in my hand it struck me as to how many other tears she had shed without our awareness. The tears of joy of a child playing with her brothers and sisters in the Ethington home near Allenville. Or the tears that only her mother could sooth after she fell and skinned her knees. The happy tears of a redheaded teenage girl in love with a man she recently met, who had just returned from the War and with whom she would spend the remaining years of her life.

The painful tears of a mother giving birth to a newborn child, a scene repeated thirteen times over two decades. And it was our tears, as babies, that she soothed as she sang the beautiful hymn, “I come to the Garden alone … “, as a lullaby. There would come tears of sympathy to be shed over her own little boy or girl, as they struggled to cope with their own skinned knees, held tightly within her loving embrace. She would become thirteen different “Mom’s,” being to each of us what we individually needed.

She no doubt has shed many tears of sadness over the unwise choices of her children, our successes and our failures. There were the tears that nearly every parent knows, those we may associate with the old adage, "This will hurt me more than it will you." Perhaps tears of loneliness as she awaited a call that didn't come, or longing for a visit we never thought to make.

And countless must have been the tears shed over the worry and care on Bonnie's behalf. To the amazement of the doctors who last attended her, Bonnie’s life was extended over five decades, thanks primarily to Mom and Dad’s deep devotion and loving care.

There were tears of grief as death claimed, one by one, the lives of her own parents, brothers and sisters, and tears most of us can't begin to fathom, those of a parent coping with the death of her own children.  In our minds’ eye we can visualize Bonnie standing at the gates of heaven, calling to Bob and dancing with joy saying “Mom’s coming! Mom’s coming!”  What a joyful reunion that must be.  Dad has said that he prayed God would allow him to live to make sure Bonnie was cared for, and after she was gone that he might do the same for Mom.  His prayer was answered. It may just be that Mom did such great battle with death and dying because she shared that prayer of taking caring of him.

Over the years Mom and Dad built not just a "house" but a home we all enjoyed regardless of the physical house we may have been living at any particular time. And she knew the joyful tears of seeing her children leave the home to start a new life and build a new family of their own. These were soon soothed with the happy tears reserved for Grandparents (many times over), Great- Grandparents, and then Great-Great-Grandparents.

Throughout the years of her long life Mom would work alongside Dad in the field, the garden, and the home to provide for those who would grow to love them most. Like the woman honored in Proverbs chapter thirty-one, "Her husband has full confidence in her" as she, in return, would bring "him good, not harm, all the days of her life" (verse 11-12). How often did we see her exhausted from a long day's work offered "with eager hands" (verse 13), helping to provide whatever we needed, day or night (verse 15), feeding and clothing us with tireless energy (verses 16-19). Even after adulthood she continued to care for our needs, such as the care given to Charlie as he recovered from the wreck near Bethany.  She would, in various ways, do the same for each of us. Such devotion is captured in a chorus of the Randy Travis song Angels:
Are you telling me that you’ve never seen an angel?
Never felt the presence of one standing by?
No robe of white, no halo in sight
You’ve missed the most obvious thing
Man, are you blind, just look in your Mother’s eyes.

Throughout the years, and especially most recently, it became increasingly obvious just how proud Dad was to be her husband. In these past few days we have seen his incredible tenderness, protection and care for her, making sure that they could end their lives together with the same love in which they began it sixty-five years ago. It was a love strong enough to last all of their lives, and is passed along to each of us. But if time could be relived, we would undoubtedly seek to give her fewer occasions for the sad tears, and fill her life with joyful ones. While it is too late for that, it is not too late for us to resolve to do that for each other and for those we meet along life’s path.

Now Mom’s hands have ceased their work, her physical suffering has finally passed, and her eyes are no longer blurred by tears. Our lives, however, remain a testament of praise, "gateways" through which we continue to praise her (verse 31). And we thank God, who promises to wipe away all tears, for the many memories she leaves in her passing. We agree with Proverbs that "She is worth far more than rubies" (verse 10).

Mom’s tear did not linger long in my hand that day, but its resulting impression is indelible.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Did You Know # 39

Susan B. Anthony, raised in a Quaker family and a strong anti-slavery proponent, is best known for her long career as an advocate for the right of women to vote.

Born near Adams, Massachusetts on February 15, 1820. The family relocated to New York state where her father established a school, where Susan and her siblings received their formal education. When she was about 17 her father enrolled Deborah Moulson's Female Seminary in Philadelphia, in 1837. It was about this time that the Anthony family, like so many others, suffered a catastrophic economic loss in the Panic of 1837.

Later, Susan would go on to become a teacher herself at Eunice Kenyon's Friends' Seminary in New Rochelle, New York. But when her father entered the insurance business Susan relocated to the family farm near Rochester, NY.  It was here that Susan B. Anthony joined a woman's rights group, the Daughters of Temperance (1848). However, when she was not allowed to speak at an event in Albany, NY, because she was a woman, she left this group and formed her own group, the Woman's New York State Temperance Society.

As the Civil War approached much of her attention was directed toward anti-slavery rallies and after the war she, and many other like-minded people, was instrumental in the passing of the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution.

So, how is our family related to Susan B. Anthony? As the chart below demonstrates, Grandpa Bragg and Susan B. Anthony were 8th cousins 4 times removed. Their common relative was Henry and Agnes Butler Sherman. This couple was Susan B. Anthony's 7th great-grandparents and Grandpa Bragg's eleventh great-grandparents.

Henry and Agnes Butler Sherman
Henry Sherman b.1546
Edmund Sherman b.1548
Samuel Sherman b.1571
Edmund Sherman b.1572
Philip Sherman b.1610
Esther (or Hester) Sherman b.1606
Edmund Sherman b.1641
Esther Ward b.1623
David Sherman b.1680
Daniel Burr b.1660
Hannah Sherman b.1727
Elizabeth Burr b.1696
Hannah Lapham Nathaniel Hull b.1726
Daniel Anthony
Ezekiel Hull b.1765
Susan Brownell Anthony b.1820
Platt Hull b.1787

Ezekiel Hull b.1813

Rebecca L. Hull b.1841

Frank Martin Bragg b.1867

Orval Bishop Bragg b.1895

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Welcome to the World

Congratualtions to Nathan and Carissa Bragg on the birth of their son, Aaron David, on Friday, July 15, 2011. Aaron was born at 11:24 PM (EST) at Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC. He arrived just 36 minutes before his mother's birthday. But what a wonderful birthday present he was when his mother first held him in her arms just one minute after midnight.

Aaron weighed in at 7 pounds, 12 ounces and was 20 3/4 inches long. Baby, Mother, and Father are all doing well.

Aaron is the grandson of Dave and Ann Bragg (of Cape Girardeau, MO), nephew of Kari Bragg (of Warrensbrug, MO), and great-grandson of Don and Mary Bragg (of Sullivan, IL).

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Did You Know? #38

Peter Newport Bragg, Jr. and Dad (4th cousins 1 time removed) were both born in 1920 and both served our country during the dark days of WW II, one in the military and the other in a laboratory? But only one would survive that war.
John Bragg Sr & Mary Newport
Peter Newport Bragg b.1763Richard Bragg b.1762
Hosea Bragg b.1804Hugh Lewis Bragg b.1795
Walter Newport BraggWilliam Bragg b.1834
Peter Newport Bragg b.1887Frank Martin Bragg b.1867
Peter Newport Bragg b.1920Orval Bishop Bragg b.1895

Don Cicero Bragg b.1920

During WW II Peter N. Bragg, a civilian chemical engineer on the famous the Manhattan Project, worked in the Philadelphia Navy Yard at the Thermal Diffusion Unit [1]. On Sept. 2, 1944 a tragic accident occurred as Peter and his fellow researchers attempted to unclog a tube filled with high-pressure steam near a flow of "liquid uranium hexafluoride." [2] "Without warning, at 1:20 PM, there was a terrific explosion. As the tube shattered, the liquid uranium hexafluoride combined with the escaping steam and showered the two engineers with hydrofluoric acid, one of the most corrosive agents known."[3] Peter N. Bragg and a fellow researcher, Douglas Paul Meigs, were killed instantly. Five other workers were critically injured in the explosion.

As noted above, this same accident took the life of Douglas Paul Meigs. Meigs just happens to be the 4th cousins 3 times removed of the famous "Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army during and after the American Civil War," Gen. Montgomery Cunningham Meigs.[4] This family also has a somewhat convoluted connection with our Bragg family. [5]Gen. Meigs' 3rd cousins 1 time removed, Rebecca Meigs, was married to a man by the name of David Bragg. He was a 3rd cousin 1 time removed to James Bragg, whose wife, Orpha Munson, was our Dad's 3rd cousins 4 times removed. This is how the connection appears:

John Meigs and Sarah Wilcoxson
John (No. 11*) Meigs b.1670Capt. Janna Meigs b.1672Ebenezer Meigs b.1675
John Vincent Meigs b.1697Return Meigs b.1708Ebenezer Meigs b.1703
Dr. John Meigs b.1725Josiah Meigs b.1757Nathaniel Meigs b.1741
Dr. Phineas Meigs b.1760Dr. Charles Delucena Meigs b.1792Rebecca Meigs b.1773 [Wife of David Bragg (b. 1786)]
Charles Meigs b.1793Major Gen. Montgomery C.
Meigs b.1816
Ebenezer Bragg (b. 1810)
Benjamin Franklin Meigs b.1831

Charles Pembroke Meigs b.1882

Douglas Meigs b.1919

Note: the three individuals on line two of the chart above (John, Janna, and Ebenezer) are all brothers.

This would also make Ebenezer Bragg (b.1810, the oldest son of Rebecca Meigs and David Bragg) [6] the 4th cousin 3 times removed of Douglas Meigs (chart above) who died in the same accident that killed Peter Newport Bragg on Sept. 2, 1944 in the Philadelphia Navy Yard's Thermal Diffusion Unit.

This same Ebenezer Bragg (b. 04 Mar 1810) is also the 4th cousin 1 time removed of James L. Bragg b.1833 (first chart below), who is also our 4th cousin 4 times removed (second chart below).

Nicholas Bragge and Sara Langbrady
John Bragg b.1659Henry Bragg b.1659
Thomas Bragg b.1685Alexander Bragg b.1689
John Bragg b.1717Nicholas Bragg b.1732
Nathaniel Bragg b.1743James Bragg b.1784 [married Orpha Munson b.1793]
David Bragg (b. 1786) [married Rebecca Meigs b.1773]James L. Bragg b.1833
Ebenezer Bragg b. 1810

Samuel Munson & Martha (Mary) Farnes
Solomon Munson b.1688Waitstill Munson b.1697
Samuel Munson b.1717Samuel Munson b.1724
Samuel Munson Jr. b.1763Waitstill Munson b.1760
Isaac Munson b.1802Orpha Munson b.1793
Joel Munson b.1846James L. Bragg b.1833
Elvira Belle Munson b.1871
Gladys Gilbreath b.1898
Gladys Gilbreath b.1898
Don Cicero Bragg b.1920
[3] Ibid.
[5] District of Columbia Deaths, 1874-1959 for Douglas P Meigs
[6] Rebecca Meigs (b. 23 May 1787, d. 01 Sep 1847

1 Peter Newport Bragg Jr.
2 Douglas Paul Meigs

Monday, April 18, 2011

Kari Bragg, UCM Graduate Voice Recital

Over the weekend of April 17 Ann and I made our way to Warrensburg, MO to attend our daughter's Voice Recital. This is part of her requirements in completing her Masters Degree at UCM.

She did an amazing job. I am always so impressed with her talent, especially to sing classical and operatic music in foreign languages. I have uploaded video of her performance on her Facebook event page and also on my YouTube Channel. Their are five segments of recital videos on both sites, please feel free to check them out!


Friday, March 18, 2011

Did You Know? #37

The following answer was given on the popular game show "Jeopardy" a few months ago.
Can you identify the subject of the question? He was, by his own admission, [1] perhaps the most reluctant president in American history. The position he really was interested in was Supreme Court Chief Justice. In fact, when Theodore Roosevelt offered that position to this man, he was eager to accept it. His wife, however, wanted her husband to be President, and she got her way.

William Howard Taft, 27th U. S. President, is perhaps best known as the largest of all the American chief executives, at six feet two inches [2] and weighing in at 330 pounds. Due to his large girth, Taft had real struggles taking a bath, and on more than one occasion he became stuck in the White House bathtub and had be be physically extracted. Finally growing wearied of this humiliation, Taft had a larger tub installed into the White House. It was "seven feet long and nearly four feet wide, and could fit four more-normal-sized men." [3]

Taft was born on September 15, 1857 in Cincinnati, OH into a political family. His father,Alphonso Taft, served President U. S. Grant first as Secretary of War and then as Attorney General. William Howard Taft married Helen "Nellie" Herron and would go on to serve as Theodore Roosevelt's Secretary of War, where he played an important role in the construction of the Panama Canal.

He served only one term as president, 1909-1913. During his term as president two states joined the union, Arizona and New Mexico. [4] Taft also instituted the now traditional "seventh inning stretch." According to tradition, "Taft was attending a baseball game and stood up to stretch his legs during the 7th inning. Since the president stood up, so too did the crowd, creating the 7th inning stretch." [5] When he was nervous, Taft would munch on almonds, his favorite snack. "Taft was known to eat pounds of salted almonds in a sitting." [6]

Although he ran for a second term, his heart was not in it, and his chances were further injured by his friend, Theodore Roosevelt, who ran as a third party candidate. While his supporters may have grieved over his loss to Woodrow Wilson, no doubt Taft was relieved. Now he was free to pursue his real dream, which was realized when Warren G. Harding appointed him as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, a position no other American president ever occupied. [7] He held this position from 1921 to 1930. [8]

As was stated in the Jeopardy clue, William Howard Taft's son, Robert Alphonso Taft, and his grandson, Robert Taft, Jr., were both US Senator from Ohio. [9] Also, his great-grandson, Robert Alphonso "Bob" Taft I Governor of Ohio from 1999 to 2007 [10] But politics did not end there. They could have also added that William Howard Taft's grandfather, Peter Rawson Taft I (1785–1867), was a member of the Vermont legislature, his brother, Charles Phelps Taft I (1843–1929), was a U.S. representative (1895–1897). Two other of Taft's sons entered politics, William Howard Taft III was an ambassador to Ireland (1953-1957) [11] and Charles Phelps Taft II was the mayor of Cincinnati. [12] A grandson, William Howard Taft IV, was Deputy Secretary of Defense from 1984 to 1989. [13]

President William Howard Taft died on March 8, 1930 in Washington, D.C., and his body was interred at Arlington National Cemetery (John F. Kennedy is the only other president laid to rest there). [14] As the following chart will illustrate, President Taft and our great-grandfather, Frank Martin Bragg, were 9th cousins (making our father and Pres. Taft 9th cousins 2 times removed).

Edmund Sherman (b.1572) and Joan Makin
Grace Sherman b.1614{siblings}
Esther (or Hester) Sherman b. 1606
Hannah Livermore b.1633{1st cousins}
Esther Ward b. 1623
Grace Cooledge b.1665{2nd cousins}
Daniel Burr b. 1660
Josiah Bond b.1690{3rd cousins}
Elizabeth Burr b. 1696
Anna Bond b.1710{4th cousins}
Nathaniel Hull b. 1726
Susanna Trask b.1730{5th cousins}
Ezekiel Hull b. 1765
Susan Trask Holman{6th cousins}
Platt Hull b. 1787
Susan Holman Waters b.1760{7th cousins}
Ezekiel Hull b. 1813
Louisa Mana Torry b.1800{8th cousins}
Rebecca L. Hull b. 1841
President William Howard Taft b.1857{9th cousins}
Frank Martin Bragg b.1867

Orval Bishop Bragg b.1895

Don C. Bragg b.1920


[1]Rick Beyer, The Greatest Presidential Stories Never Told, Collins, New York, 2007, 130-31.
[3] Beyer, 131.
[7] William Howard Taft, Wikipedia;
[8] Concise Biography & Facts About President William Taft;
[9] Robert Taft, Wikipedia;
[10] Bob Taft, Wikipedia;
[11] William Howard Taft III, Wikipedia;
[12] Taft Family, Wikipedia;
[13] William Howard Taft IV, Wikipedia;

Friday, March 04, 2011

Did You Know? #36

When the final word is written on the entertainment industry in the 20th century, and the ultimate list of popular and talented actors, the subject of this post will most certainly grace one of that list's the top positions.
Audrey Kathleen Ruston was born on May 4, 1929 in Brussels, Belgium, the daughter of a prosperous English banker and a Dutch Baroness. Shortly after her birth, Audrey's father changed her name to Audrey Hepburn Kathleen Ruston, after finding the name "Hepburn" in his ancestry. She and her mother just happened to be on vacation in Holland when they were caught up in Hitler's invasion and occupation of that country. On the run, Audrey assumed the name of Edda Kathleen as they evaded the Nazi forces.

Those were difficult years for Audrey, but after WWII she became a model until spotted by a movie producer. That is when her career really took off with an amazing string of extremely popular movies - Roman Holiday (1953); Funny Face (1957); Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961); and My Fair Lady (1964). She won an Oscar (best actress) for her role in Roman Holiday, and was nominated for an Academy Award for her performances in Funny Face, Nun's Story, Wait Until Dark, and Breakfast at Tiffany's. She was named as People's magazine "50 most beautiful people in the world," Empire magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time," and, from 1988 to 1993 she was a special ambassador to the United Nations UNICEF fund.

Audrey Hepburn was married twice, made her final film in 1989 ( Always). She passed away on January 20, 1993 in Switzerland after battling colon cancer.

So, how is our family related to this amazing actress? To answer is to again take a journey back to royalty in the Old World. There we find that Audrey Hepburn and our father are 19th cousins 1 time removed. Here is the connection:

Richard "Copped Hat" Fitzalan (the 10th Earl of Arundel)
and Eleanor Plantagenet, Countess Of Arundel
Sir John Fitzalan, Lord Of Arundel (b.1348)

Alice Fitzalan Countess of Kent (b.1350)
Margaret Fitzalan (b.1370){1st cousins}Eleanor de Holland (b.1373)

Baron Thomas de Ros IIX (b.1406){2nd cousins}Alice De Montague, Countess Salisbury, (b.1405)
Richard de Ros
{3rd cousins}Alice Montagu Neville, Baroness FitzHugh (b.1431)
Mary de Ros (b.1478){4th cousins}Elizabeth FitzHugh (b.1465)
Margaret Capell (b.1500){5th cousins}Anna Catherine Vaux (b.1492)
Geoffrey Warde (b.1526){6th cousins}Sir Thomas Throckmorton (b.1512)
Thomas Warde (b.1548){7th cousins}Ann Throckmorton (b.1549)
Richard Ward (b.1575){8th cousins}Philippe Sheldon (b.1580)
Gov. Andrew Ward (b.1597){9th cousins}Ralph Sulyard (b.1612)
Esther Ward (b.1623){10th cousins}Thomas Sulyard (b.1660)
Daniel Burr (b.1660){11th cousins}Agnes Johanna Sulyard (b.1695)
Elizabeth Burr (b.1696){12th cousins}Pieter Anthony Godin (b.1725)
Nathaniel Hull (b.1726){13th cousins}Antoinette Charlotte Godin (b.1753)
Ezekiel Hull (b.1765){14th cousins}Cornelia Anna van Westreenen (b.1777)
Platt Hull (b.1787){15th cousins}Aamoud Jan de Beaufort (b.1797)
Ezekiel Hull (b.1813){16th cousins}Wilhelmina de Beaufort (b.1843)
Rebecca L. Hull (b.1841){17th cousins}Baron Aarnoud Jan Anne Aleid van Heemstra (b.1871)
Frank Martin Bragg
{18th cousins}Baroness Ellavan Heemstra (b.1900)
Orval Bishop Bragg (b.1895){19th cousins}Audrey Kathleen Hepburn (b.1929)
Don C. Bragg (b.1920)


Audrey Hepburn Biography, Elegant Woman,

Rootsweb, Anybody and Everybody,

Wikipedia, Audrey Hepburn,

The Internet Movie Database, Biography for Audrey Hepburn

Friday, February 18, 2011

It's a Boy

Congratulations to Nathan and Carissa, who just found out this morning that their family's new addition will be a BOY!! Can't wait until we get to meet our new grandson sometime after his birth in July of this year.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Newest Arrival

Congratulations to Chad and Koran on the newest addition to their family, Lochlyn Elizabeth Bragg, born on December 25, 2010. Both Chad and Koran are Chiropractic Doctors in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, where they have operated Tranquility Specific Chiropractic since September 2001.

Congratulations are also in order for the Grandparents, Charles and Rebecca Bragg and Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Gurcak, Great-Grandparents Don and Mary Bragg, and Aunt Amber.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Did You Know? #35

His name would rank high on nearly anyone's list of America's greatest poets. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born in Portland, Maine on February 27, 1807, the son of Stephen and Zilpah Wadsworth Longfellow. For Henry, formal education began at the very early age of three and quickly distinguished himself as a proficient student. Stephen's aspirations for his son to follow in his own footsteps by becoming a lawyer never came to fruition. Instead, upon his graduation from Bowdoin College Longfellow was employed by the college as a professor in modern languages, a position he filled after some time off for a European tour.

A few years later, in 1834, Longfellow accepted a position at Harvard, after yet another tour of Europe this time accompanied with his new bride (he married Mary Storer Potter in 1831). Sadly, the new Mrs. Longfellow did not survive the trip. Heartbroken, he returned to Cambridge, Massachusetts to begin his teaching duties at Harvard. It was here that he met his second wife, Frances Appleton. All this time he immersed himself into writing poetry. Among some of his most famous productions were "Song of Hiawatha," "The Courtship of Miles Standish."

In 1854 Henry resigned from the Harvard faculty to devote himself more fully to writing. Just a few years later, as the nation was just entering the horrors of civil war, Longfellow suffered the loss of his second wife (in 1861). Many honors came to Longfellow in his final years (he passed away on March 24, 1882). "Of all the suns of the New England morning," says Van Wyck Brooks, "he was the largest in his golden sweetness."

Our family is connected to that of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow by marriage. Dad's 3rd great-grand aunt Martha Hull (sister of his 3rd great-grandfather Platt Hull) married Joseph L. Longfellow, the second cousin 2 times removed of the great poet. The following charts illustrate the family connection.

Ezekiel Hull & Mary Denton
Platt Hull b.1787 Martha Hull b.1796 married ... Joseph L. Longfellow (see chart below)
Ezekiel Hull b.1813
Rebecca L. Hull b.1841
Frank Martin Bragg b.1867
Orval Bishop Bragg b.1895
Don C. Bragg b.1920

William Longfellow & Anne Sewall
William Longfellow b.1679 Stephen Longfellow b.1685
Jonathan Longfellow Stephen Longfellow b.1685
Joseph L. Longfellow (third wife was Martha Hull b.1796) Stephen Longfellow b.1723

Stephen Longfellow b.1750
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow b.1807

Maine Historical Society, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
American Poems, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Did You Know? #34

In reading M. William Phelps' biography of Nathan Hale, the patriot and Revolutionary War hero hung by the British for espionage. While most elementary school students should be familiar with the famed Hale, two important figures in the tragically short life of that patriot are certainly not household names, but have special connections with our family.

Just a few generations after his ancestor, Capt. Thomas Munson helped found New Haven, Connecticut and Yale University, Dr. Eneas Munson, a Yale graduate, would settle in New Haven where he would practice medicine for 66 years. [1]

Dr. Munson was known for "his wit and humor," but especially for having served as Nathan Hale's personal tutor prior to Nathan's entering Yale, along with his younger brother, Enoch, at the age of 14. [2] At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, Dr. Munson would serve as an medical assistant in the Continental army, being present at Yorktown as the War drew to a close in 1781.

Our ancestry is traced through Dad's maternal grandfather, as is outlined in the chart below, and was Dad's second cousin, six times removed.

Dr. Eneas Munson
Samuel Munson & Martha P. Bradley
Theophilus Munson b.1675Samuel Munson b.1669
Benjamin Munson b.1711Solomon Munson b.1688
Dr. Eneas Munson M.D. b.1734Samuel Munson b.1717

Samuel Munson,Jr. b.1763

Isaac Munson b.1802

Joel Munson b.1846

Gladys Gilbreath b.1898
Don Cicero Bragg b.1920

One of Nathan Hale's closest friends was a fellow Yale graduate, two years older than Hale, was William Hull (1753-1825). William was one of the last to plead with Nathan to reconsider his voluntary mission behind enemy lines, and also one of the last to marvel at his friend's patriotism and valor. Hull would also be recognized for his courage by George Washington and the Continental Congress.

William Hull would survive the Revolutionary War and, having passed the bar in 1775, practiced law in his wife's hometown of Newton,Massachusetts. He served as a judge and state senator until appointed as governor of Michigan Territory in 1805 by Pres. Thomas Jefferson.

Hull would again see military service during the War of 1812, serving as brigadier general. Through a series of miscommunication and missteps would surrender Fort Detroit on August 16, 1812. For this William faced a court-martial, receiving the death penalty for cowardice and neglect of duty, but then pardoned by Pres. James Madison (based on his past military valor).

Here is how we are related to General Hull:

Thomas Hull & Joane Peson
General William Hull

Richard Hull b.1599George Hull b.1590
Dr. John Hull b.1640Lieutenant Cornelius Hull b.1628
Capt. Joseph Hull b.1667Cornelius Hull b.1655
Joseph Hull b.1694 Nathaniel Hull b.1694
Joseph Hull b.1728 Nathaniel Hull b.1726
Major General William Hull b.1753 Ezekiel Hull b.1765
Julia Knox Hull (b.1799) Platt Hull b.1787
Joseph Wheeler (b.1836) Ezekiel Hull b.1813

Rebecca L. Hull b.1841
Frank Martin Bragg b.1867

Orval Bishop Bragg b.1895

Don Cicero Bragg b.1920

This would make Dad General Hull's 5th cousins 6 times removed.

One other interesting connection should be noted. As the chart above illustrates, Major General William Hull's daughter, Julia Knox Hull (b.1799) was also the mother of Confederate General Joseph Wheeler (b.1836). Wheeler, a West Point graduate (class of 1859), resigned his commission in April 1861 to enter the Confederate Army as a First Lieutenant of Artillery. It was in this capacity that he served at the battle of Shiloh, commanding the Cavalry under General Braxton Bragg. Both Bragg and Wheeler would work together in Kentucky (prior to Wheeler's promotion to Major General, CSA in January 1863), the Battle of Chickamauga, September 18-20, 1863, and Lookout Mountain. Wheeler slowly retreated before Union General William Techumseh Sherman as he "marched to the sea."

During the Civil War Wheeler was wounded three times and had sixteen horses shot from under him, earning him the name "Fightin' Joe" Wheeler. After the war he moved to New Orleans, and then returned to his beloved Alabama. After the Civil War Wheeler served in the United States Congress and lead troops during the Spanish-American War in 1898. He is one of "only two former Confederate generals to be buried in Arlington" National Cemetery overlooking Washington, D.C. There, Wheeler is buried alongside his oldest son, Joseph Wheeler, Jr., [3] who also enjoyed an honorable military career both as in instructor at West Point and in domestic and foreign service (including service under his father in the Spanish-American War). The younger Wheeler received the Silver Star with Oak Leaf cluster (for gallantry).

This would make Dad and Gen. Joseph Wheeler 7th cousins 4 times removed, and Joseph Wheeler, Jr. 8th cousins 3 times removed.

Gen. JosephWheeler



[2] Wikipedia, Nathan Hale

[3] Arlington National Cemetery