In 1814 we took a little trip…

In 1959, Johnny Horton earned a number one hit on the Billboard Charts for the song The Battle of New Orleans.  Written by Jimmy Driftwood, it commemorates the victory of the United States over the British Army at the end of the War of 1812.1

Today, January 8, 2015, commemorates the 200th anniversary of the conclusion of the battle, fought from December 23, 1814 to January 8, 1815.  It was the last important battle of the War of 1812, occurring after the Treaty of Ghent was signed on December 24, 1814 (but before the treaty was ratified by both governments in February 1815).2

The Battle of New OrleansAll of this is to set the background of a song that played a significant role in my childhood.  When my father was overseas in the US Navy, he picked up several LPs, including Johnny Horton’s album. It was made from a semi-translucent red plastic, and probably was meant to last more that a few dozen plays. My family defied physics and played that album over and over and over again!

It was a favorite of ours, mostly because the tunes on the album were catchy, and some were slightly silly, and all were easy to remember the lyrics and sing along to (though no one really wants to listen to a Reilly sing). In some ways, this song was one of the theme songs of my life, and had a funny way of popping up again and again.

The first time the song showed up unexpectedly I was a junior in college at NYU, studying Journalism.  I was taking a class taught by Mitchell Stephens about the History of American Journalism.  We were discussing how news traveled during the War of 1812, and the popular belief that the Battle of New Orleans took place after the treaty was signed because the news had not reached the combatants in time to stop the battle.  Out of the blue, Professor Stephens asked if anyone was familiar with the song The Battle of New Orleans.  Without really thinking, I raised my hand, surprised at the question.  He then asked me to sing it!  I wasn’t about to embarrass myself by singing in front of the entire class, but I did recite the lyrics (see box).  I also offered to bring in my Johnny Horton CD to the next class to play the song for the class.  (Yes – I had bought a CD of the album once I had gone off to college.  It helped deal with the homesickness of being almost 3000 miles away from home.)

The second time the song caught me by surprise was the night I first introduced the man who was to become my husband to my family.  It was the summer before my senior year of college, and I brought him home for dinner at the end of the summer before I returned to college for my final year.  I don’t remember now how it came up in conversation, but all of a sudden my entire family simultaneously broke out singing the song, including my mom!  I remember thinking, “Oh my, he’s never going to want to go out with me again!”.  Fortunately, he’s a good sport, and thought it was funny, if a little weird.

To hear the song for yourself, view this YouTube video:

  1.  The Battle of New Orleans, Wikipedia:, Modified 18 Dec 2014, Accessed 5 Jan 2015. 
  2. Battle of New Orleans, Wikipedia:, Modified 2 Jan 2015, Accessed 5 Jan 2015. 

Happy Genealogy Day – What genealogy means to me

Nan and Pop

Nan and Pop

When I was 7 years old, my family moved away from my dad’s extended family.  As a result, we did not see them nearly as often as we used to and I didn’t develop the types of relationships with my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, and my cousins that I should otherwise have had with them.

Mammaw and Pappaw

Mammaw and Pappaw

On my mother’s side of the family, my mother was largely estranged from her parents, well mostly her mother.  They had a very difficult relationship and generally did not get along.  I can probably count the number of times I saw my maternal grandparents on two hands.  As a result, I feel like I have missed out on what I might have learned about our family history from them.

Genealogical research feels a fairly significant void in how I feel connected to my family.  Be seeking out information about my family, I’ve discovered things that have allowed me to feel connection to family going back for generations. My ancestors come alive in photographs, stories, diaries, and official records.  I learn of my 3rd great grandfather Michael Reilly who had his grandchildren living in his home with him after their father disappeared while riding a New York ferry.  I discover my 2nd great grandfather Louis F. Schillinger was a prolific architect, who designed many of the turn-of-the-century brownstones in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn.  I find my 3rd great grandfather James Jackson Johns fought for the 30th Georgia Infantry during the Civil War, and died a poor invalid in 1917 due to an illness he contracted during the war.  I found the gravestone for my great  grandparents Marion and Lela Douglas, confirming information about Marion when before I only had his name.  I’ve also made connections with distant cousins, with whom I share a common ancestor.  Genealogy has provided me a way to learn about and feel more connected to the rich history of my family.

Happy Genealogy Day!  And good luck to everyone in their own family history quest!


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Treasure Trove

My dining room table is covered with a trove of genealogical treasures.  My dad was back east this week visiting my grandfather.  While he was there, I got him to pick up a box family documents and photographs.  It filled a suitcase and my dad dropped it off at my house this afternoon.  I excited – like a child on Christmas morning excited.  I’ve already spent several hours tonight going through all the photographs and documents, sorting them into like piles.  I’ve located photographs of ancestors I know very little about – these photographs are the first inkling of any real information I have about them. 

I can’t wait to start really digging into the information and finding out new information about all my ancestors contained in all these documents.  I’m down right giddy – and intimidated by the sheer volume.

Avoiding “Pinball Genealogy” | Bridging the Past

Haven’t we all been there?  Avoiding “Pinball Genealogy” | Bridging the Past & The Pinball Approach to Genealogical Reasearch| DearMYRTLE

Both DearMYRTLE and Bridging the Past both offer apt descriptions of that craziness we encounter when we become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of genealogical data available to us.  I’m there now with my family history – to the extent that I’ve taken a break from following the links to more information, and am just trying to settle in with the resources I already have available to me.


Tough Ass B*tches

Touch Ass B*tchesI had lunch with my cousin yesterday, and we were talking about family.  I was telling her the story of Kate Dulk, who survived the Morro Castle disaster.  She made a comment that made me laugh:  “We’ve come from a line of tough ass b*tches.”