Whilst researching his family history, MyHeritage.com user John P (Jack) Poynter, uncovered some astonishing facts about his family’s military past. The military seems to be a recurring theme for Jack and his family. His American mother and English father fell in love whilst his father was training for the RAF in Jacksonville, Florida, during World War II.
His mother later joined the Royal Women's Auxiliary Ambulance Corps and Jack himself became a data processor in the Corps in 1966. But the military gene went much further back. By researching his great-great-grandfather’s service in the Georgia Infantry ‘Twiggs Country Guards’ in the mid-1800s, Jack had set the wheels in motion for researching a whopping 525 family histories of other servicemen.
Read on to find out, in Jack’s own words, how he discovered he’s related to more than a quarter of the American Civil War servicemen in Twiggs County, Georgia.
My mother died in 1983. It was fourteen years before I opened the box of letters and pictures she had left me, and, coincidentally, the internet had just started to really pick up steam. Looking at the pictures, I attempted to put names with them; on some of them she had written names, on most, not. So I started trying to figure out who the people were, using internet resources, and that was how I got into family history.
Until a few years ago, I was mostly interested in close family relations and their antecedents. I had pushed my mother's family back to the Atlantic in Virginia in the 1600's, my father's to Brecknockshire in Wales. My wife's family is a little more complicated than mine, she is Scots-Irish through Roane's and Campbells, and Virginian through the Moore's and German through the Dominick family (though they are also Southern, having come in through South Carolina in the 1600's, and then through Georgia and Mississippi to Kansas and Missouri.)
My wife, by the way, has the lone token Yankee in the family: her gg-grandfather, Mark Moore, rode with the 6th Missouri Cavalry (Union Militia) during the War, although his antecedents were Virginian; they had moved North in the generation preceding the War. I comfort her with saying they probably forced him to join at gunpoint, and, I might mention, there is a real possibility that really happened.
In looking at my own family history, I noted that my gg-grandfather, Private John Barrett Everett, CSA, served with Company I of the Sixth Georgia Infantry, "Twiggs County Guards." In researching his service record, I then found that his four Bullard brothers-in-law, Ira, Henry, Charles, and Wiley, all served in that same unit. So I started looking to see who else I was related to in that unit, and found many. In order to do that, of course, I had to do the family histories of all 120+ men in that unit; and found that many had transferred to or from the other three WBTS companies recruited in Twiggs County. So, of course, I had to look at the families of the men in the other units also.
There are a total of 525 men, net, in the four Twiggs County units. Of those 525 men, the last time I did an analysis, (which was last October,) I found that I am related, at least by marriage, to 151 of them. I haven't found the connections to the rest, yet.
How did this happen, that I am related to so many people in those units? The answer, following analysis of the migration patterns of those families, is that most of them had been in more or less close association for up to200 years, and "propinquity," as Zelda Gilroy said to Dobie Gillis, "predicts matrimony." In any event, those families had been engaged in "stream migrations" all down through the long years, younger sons and landless members joining together from the same communities, East Anglian Puritans and Welsh Quakers from the toe of Virginia to North Carolina to middle Georgia, thousands of families, a few at a time, forming new communities in the new lands for mutual support.. Others came over during the Scots-Irish migrations of the 1700's into North Carolina and then into Georgia, still others from South Carolina, but still at least a hundred years of knowing each other.
The other part of the puzzle is Georgia Governor Joe Brown's conscription proclamation of 1862, which drafted all able-bodied men from 18 to 39, but which also allowed men to switch companies, as long as they could find are placement transfer. Many men at this time switched military units to be with other family members. Brothers, brothers-in-law, cousins, uncles and nephews, fathers and sons, all in the same units. When the American southeast went to war, it went as a family.
This military familial togetherness had immense community consequences.
My gg-grandfather's unit, the Sixth Georgia Infantry Regiment, part of Colquitt's Brigade, D H Hill's Division of the Army of Northern Virginia, took 80% casualties at Sharpsburg (Battle of Antietam Creek,) and as a consequence decimated the little town of Marion in Twiggs County, Georgia, my family wellspring, which never really recovered. My gg-grandfather survived that to fight on through Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Olustee, to eventually lose a leg at the Battle of the Crater, Petersburg, Virginia, in 1864. Of his four Bullard brothers-in-law, Wiley died of measles in 1862, and took his whole family with him; Charles was discharged disability in 1862 after taking a gunshot wound to the head during the Peninsula Campaign, and died at home; Henry died at Sharpsburg; and Ira died at the battle of Bentonville, NC, in 1865, just a few weeks before General Johnston surrendered, following Lee's surrender at Appomattox.
Others of my immediate family fought; ggg-uncle James Everett was Captain of the 12th Georgia, Company F,and fought with Jackson in the Valley. Ggg-uncle Josua Everett, 2nd Lieutenant of the 59th Georgia, Company F, Anderson's Brigade, died at Deep Bottom in 1864 in the Defense of Richmond. Another gg-grandfather, Private John G Knox, joined Company F of the 22nd Georgia, "Bartow Volunteers," in 1864, as soon as he came of age; survived the War. My fourth Georgia gg-grandfather, Private John B Phillips, first fought with Company G of the 27th Louisiana, was captured at the Fall of Vicksburg, 4 July 1863, was paroled 8 July 1863, then joined the 3rd Cavalry in October, under General Joe Wheeler.
Stories of this sort are very common in Georgia; all able-bodied men fought, and many died, for their country, as had their grandparents during the American Revolution.
For my personal situation, all this leads toward helping folks from middle Georgia find their ancestors, should they wish to join a heritage group, such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, or the Order of the Confederate Rose; or simply to find out what their ancestors did in the dim and distant long ago.
Here are Jack’s own recommendations to help beginners progress with their family history research:
- Keep chipping, you cannot do everything at once
- Get in touch with as many people as possible, through as many venues as possible, they will always be your greatest resource.
- Never, ever, assume that your ancestors spelled their surnames the same way as you do.
- Never, ever assume that your people only lived in one place; expand your search to surrounding areas, at least.
- If you think you have exhausted a resource, wait a while (might be a few years) and hit it again. Things change, sometimes on a daily basis.
- Actively look for new resources, Google everything, look at newspaper archives, family websites, write letters, make a nuisance of yourself, and help others when you can.
- Never, ever, get irritated with someone for asking you a question, that person will be your major resource in a few years, as they get into their research.
We thank Jack enormously for sharing his wonderful story with us. Jack…we salute you!
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