My Adventure Through Our Family Tree Branches

For over 50 years my Dad researched both his and my Mom's family tree branches - and loved every minute of it! Trying to fulfill the promise I made him the last month of his life, I have spent the past four years continuing where he left off - finding out about all the many family members who came before us, from the many branches of our family trees. The histories will still be published as my Dad always wanted. But what he wanted most was to share the stories of the people who came before us - the places they lived, the cultures of the times, the families they created, and the circumstances - good and bad - that would one day lead to us, their descendants. These are the stories of my Mom's families. . . .

Surnames in this Blog


Saturday, April 7, 2012

THURSDAY'S TREASURE - Catholicism and Our Family's Faith

First, I need to acknowledge that I know this isn't Thursday. It's Friday, Good Friday in fact. But as I thought about my post for today, trying to recognize the importance of this day, I thought about one of our family's real treasures - our Catholic faith. All but two of my mother's ancestors came to America as Catholics and passed their religion down through their children, grandchildren and beyond. It's a faith and a religion that I, too, practice, that my children practice and one that my husband will become a member of tomorrow night, at the Easter Vigil Mass.

My Mother's Lineage
   + Susan Elizabeth Flemming (1909-1999)
             ++ Harry Clinton Flemming (1878-1955)
                   +++ Charles Clinton Flemming (1854-1932)*
                          ++++James Benjamin Flemming (1827-1907)**
                          ++++ Sarah Linza Jackson (1837-1902)**
                                  +++++ William Jackson (1800-1879)**
                                  +++++ Elizabeth (1802-1870)**
                   +++ Elizabeth Agnes McCaffrey (1858-1922)
                          ++++ Thomas Joseph McCaffrey (1832-1896)
                                  +++++ Thomas McCaffrey (1799-1890)
                                  +++++ Susan (1793-1769)
                          ++++ Charlotte Elizabeth McCluskey (1838-1917)
                                  +++++ Patrick McCluskey (1810-1855)
                                  +++++ Mary Ann (1805-1871)
          ++ Pearl Alphonsine Horst (1884-1961)
                   +++ Charles Frederick Horst (1856-1912)
                          ++++ Martin Horst (1830-1878)
                                  +++++ Johann Ekhard Horst (1802-1852)
                                  +++++ Elizabeth Martin (UNK-1844)
                          ++++ Apollonia Weinschenk (1829-1908)
                                  +++++ Matthew Weinschenk (UNK- b. 1842)
                                  +++++ Maria Barbara Biebel (1787-1842)
                   +++ Odalie Felice Fortier (1857-1920)
                          ++++ Jacques Omer Fortier (1813-1867)
                                  +++++ Jacques Omer Fortier (1792-1823)
                                  +++++ Charlotte Adele Chauvin deLery (1796-1834)
                           ++++ Augustine Melanie Laperle DeGruy (1822-1872)
                                  +++++ Jean Baptiste Valentin Dufouchard DeGruy (1751-1838)
                                  +++++ Melanie Gaudin (1786-1853)
+ John Huber O'Donnell (1905-1964)
          ++ John Martin O'Donnell (1865-1937)
                     +++ Patrick O'Donnell (1823-1911)
                           ++++ Richard O'Donnell (1787-1857)
                           ++++ Margaret (UNK)
                     +++ Bridget Kennedy (1838-1883)
                           ++++ James Kennedy (1818-UNK)
                           ++++ Mary Maguire (1833-1893)
         ++ Mary Huber (1873-1913)
                    +++ Philip Huber (1847-1901)
                           ++++ Georg Huber (1809-1900)
                                   +++++ Peter Huber (1772-1858)
                                   +++++ Katharina Busch (1787-1862)
                            ++++ Eva Katharina Fauth (1807-1885)
                                   +++++ Christian Fauth (1776-1828)
                                   +++++ Anna Catherina ( 1777-1852)
                   +++ Barbara Brunett (1852-1896)
                            ++++ John Michael Baptiste Brunett (1818-1863)
                                   +++++ Lucovici Brunett (1800-UNK)
                                   +++++ Catharina Schmidt (1800-1881)
                            ++++ Barbara Frisse (1822-1893)
                                   +++++ Joseph Frise (1796-1864)
                                   +++++ Marguerite Lang (1802-1868)

*Converted to Catholicism
All others Roman Catholic

As you can see, my ancestors on my mother's side are almost all Roman Catholics - in five generations there were at least 20 different families, out of twenty-two, that were practicing Catholics. Families came from France and Germany, from Ireland and Canada. They were baptized in the church, received the sacraments, were married in the Catholic Church and were buried in either Catholic cemeteries or the Catholic sections of the city cemeteries. They practiced their faith, raised their children as Catholics, and it has continued to pass through the generations. In several families I can track them up to eleven generations (but I had to stop because there are just so many, many families!).

The only families that were not Catholic were the Flemmings and the Jacksons. James Benjamin Flemming and his wife Sarah Linza Jackson (my 3x-great-grandparents) were Baptists. They were married in her hometown of Darlington, South Carolina in 1854 and moved to Rome, Georgia, before the start of the Civil War. They remained Baptists throughout their life as did all of their children but one. Their oldest son, Charles Clinton Flemming - my great-great-grandfather - changed the path of his family and their descendants when he converted to Catholicism.

The family story goes like this:
"Charles Flemming was apprenticed to a saddler in his early youth, later going out west where he became deathly ill. He was cared for at this time by a Catholic woman who gave him Cardinal Carroll's book, "Faith of Our Fathers". After reading it, he became a Catholic. After he recovered from his illness, he went back to Rome where he met Lizzie McCaffrey at church. They were married on April 9, 1877." [From "Family History" in 1993 Flemming Family Reunion booklet, written by William A. Powell, Jr.]
History of Catholicism in the United States
Catholicism arrived in what is now the United States during the earliest days of the European colonization of the Americas. The first Catholic missionaries were Spanish, having come with Christopher Columbus on his second voyage in 1493. French colonization came in the early 18th century, with the French establishing missions in the Louisiana Territory districts (including Alabama). The number of Catholics grew during the country's history, at first slowly in the early 19th century. In the mid-19th century an influx of Irish and German immigrants made Catholicism the largest religion in the United States. [Thanks again, Wikipedia]

It remains the largest single religious denomination in the United States, comprising about 22 percent of the population. Worldwide the United States has the fourth largest population of Catholics, with 77.7 million. Mississippi and Alabama have the smallest percentage of Catholics in their state at 6%.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Grider and Charles Horst III on Easter Sunday
ca. 1915    Birmingham, Alabama
This photo was taken about 1915 in front of the Horst's family home in Birmingham, Alabama. These are the children of Charles Frederick Horst, Jr. (1880-1964) and his wife Eliza Loy Dilworth (1883-1960). Frances Grider (born December 23, 1908) and her younger brother Charles Frederick III (born November 10, 1911) are dressed in their Easter finery, in typical clothing for the time. In 1915 Easter Sunday was on April 4th.

Close-up of Photograph
(note the bunny in the basket on the left)
When I first saw the photograph I was surprised by the Easter baskets next to the children, as well as the large Bunny in Grider's basket. I would have thought that baskets were more of a recent addition to our Easter traditions in our country, so I did a little research. I found out from various websites that it was common for Catholics who had been fasting during Lent, leading up to Easter, to bring their Easter meals in baskets on that Sunday to church for the food to be blessed by the parish priest. Germans coming to America are given credit for bringing that tradition with them as they arrived in our country in the 18th century.

Grider and Charles were the only children of Charles & Eliza. [They were highlighted in a post of a photo on July 6, 2011]. Grider never married, living to the age of 86. Charles III married Kathryn Olsofski (1917-1999); he died in 1984. The couple had no children. So there were no more descendants of Charles Horst, Jr., and my father got several of their family pictures after Grider died in 1995.

It's All RelativeCharles Horst, Jr., was the oldest child of Charles Frederick Horst (1856-1912) and Odalie Felice Fortier (1857-1920), my great-great-grandparents, and the older brother of my great-grandmother Pearl Alphonsine Horst Flemming (1884-1961). He was also the oldest grandchild of Martin Horst (1830-1878) and Apollonia Weinschenk (1929-1908); Martin and Apollonia are my great-great-great-grandparents. Grider and Charles are my 1st cousins, twice removed.

Monday, April 2, 2012

SUNDAY'S OBITUARY - James Benjamin Flemming (1889-1932), Birmingham, Alabama

James Benjamin Flemming

James Benjamin Flemming was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 27, 1889. He was the seventh of eleven children born to Charles Clinton Flemming (1854-1932) and Elizabeth Agnes McCaffrey (1858-1922), my great-great-great grandparents. He was named for his paternal grandfather James Benjamin Flemming (1827-1907). James had two older brothers, including my great-grandfather Harry Clinton Flemming (1878-1955), making James my great-great-uncle.

Statue of Mary Cahalan
Principal of Powell Elementary
Downtown Birmingham, Alabama

On June 15, 1910, James married Elizabeth Haney Cahalan (1891-1972) at St. Paul's Catholic Church. He was 20, she was just 18. Elizabeth was the daughter of William J Cahalan (1854-UNK), and the granddaughter of Michael Murray Cahalan (1830-1884), an immigrant of County Tipperary, Ireland, and Catherine Kenney (1837-1894), of County Limmerick. The first Catholic masses in Birmingham were said twice a month at his home, before St. Paul's Church was built. Elizabeth's aunt, Mary Ann Cahalan (1856-1906) was a school teacher in the new city, and became a highly respected principal at Powell Elementary School. She was so loved in the city that the children of Birmingham collected money to have a statue created of her by Guiseppi Moretti, the Italian scuptor who created the city's landmark - Vulcan. The statue of Mary Cahalan can be found in Linn Park, behind the Courthouse and the old library (now the Southern Research Library). After both her parents died, sometime before 1900, Elizabeth lived in the home of her uncle Redmond N. Wheeler (1863-1922), husband of her aunt Katherine Cahalan (1866-1930). Also living in the home were her late father's sister Mary, the school principal; his brother Michael Frank (1873-1928), a lawyer and future judge, and the 2nd boy born in the city of Birmingham; his sister Margaret (1867-1934) and her husband and children.

When James and Elizabeth married, their wedding was announced in the newspaper. After their honeymoon, according to the newspaper, the young couple moved in with her aunt and uncle Redmond and Katie Wheeler. According to the paper their wedding "in its simplicity simulated that of Mr. and Mrs. R.N. Wheeler, solemnized some years ago." They had the same singer and the same woman who played the music at the Wheeler's wedding to perform at their ceremony.

In 1911 the first of the couple's five children were born. Their children were Catherine Cahalan Flemming (b. July 4, 1911), Elizabeth Agnes Flemming (b. January 12, 1914), Charles Clinton Flemming (b. January 10, 1915), Redmond Wheeler Flemming (b. November 21, 1920), and Michael Francis "Frank" Flemming (b. May 4, 1924).

When James was first married he was working for his father Charlie at the family owned transfer business - a moving company known as "Charlie's Transfer". At the time of the 1910 Census James was "manager" at the transfer business and by the 1930 Census, he was "proprietor" of the business.
Family legend has it that Charlie had to close the business in the late 1920's and it was bought by James, changing its name to Flemming Transfer. This was a true family business. James' wife, daughter Catherine and all of his children would work at some time at the transfer company.

In February of 1932, James came down with pneumonia. He was sick with it for several dies, finally succumbing to it on March 3, 1932. He was just 42 years old. His wife Elizabeth had five young children to care for - Catherine, 21; Elizabeth, 18; Charles, 17; Wheeler, 12 and Frank, 7. He was buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Birmingham.

James' wife and children continued to run the transfer company, and it's still in operation today - owned and operated by James' descendants. Elizabeth lived forty additional years, to the age of eighty. She died on May 16, 1972. She is buried beside her husband of 21-years. She was survived by all five of her children and fourteen grandchildren.

Gravestone at Elmwood Cemetery