Discovering Lost Family History

The parade ground at Fort Ticonderoga.

The parade ground at Fort Ticonderoga.

The first time I can recall the surname Barney, being part of my family’s line was when I read it in my Grandmother’s obituary in 1975. Barney was the maiden name of my grandmother’s mother. One reason was between the deaths of husbands and divorces my great and two times great-grandmothers went through five surnames. They were LeClair, Guyette, Barney, Douglas, and Bonnett. Of course in 1975 I knew little or none of this. Of these surnames, I have a direct lineage from the Guyette, Barney, and Bonnett line. Over the years, I have researched these lines and have added greatly to my family tree.

Here I am trying to look my best for the camera.

Here I am trying to look my best for the camera.

This week I was able to gather much new (to me) information on the Barney line. Thomas Barney, my fourth great grandfather, was a Captain in the Revolutionary War commanding 200 men from Vermont. In fact, his war records show that he was with the Green Mountain Boys when they took over Fort Ticonderoga from the British without firing a shot. Fort Ticonderoga overlooks Lake Champlain just before it empties into Lake George in New York State. Capturing Fort Ticonderoga is considered our first offensive action in the Revolutionary War. This deprived the British of the command of the waterways that could be used to send armies and supplies down from Canada. Also, all the cannons in the fort about 100 of them would be sent to General George Washington just outside of Boston. Thomas Barney was also to take part in the capture of Crown Point, the battle of Bennington and was present at the surrender of General Burgoyne at Saratoga, New York.

I clearly remember the effort it took to get this picture. For some reason it seemed very important to me. I have a little better understanding now.

I clearly remember the effort it took to get this picture. For some reason it seemed very important to me. I have a little better understanding now.

All this information and much more was not known to me in 1962 when my parents took me and my sister to see the fort. I was eleven at the time and even then loved to read about history. The pictures in this blog were taken on that trip. As I walked the fort, I had no idea what an important role my family had played here. Near the fort, I spotted this historic marker and felt compelled to take a picture of it. I was to learn later that I had ancestors who took part in this battle also. They included a first cousin a Captain Samuel Dakin, who was killed in this battle. He was part of a contingent of troops from Massachusetts who joined Major General James Abercrombie 15,000 man army. Unfortunately, Abercrombie’s leadership was not competent and, as a result, the English suffered a terrible defeat.

Thomas Barney was from my mother’s side of the family. Samuel Dakin from my father’s side. I have thought about that fact a few times. Here we were two hundred years later visiting the place that they fought and bled, completely unaware of this fact. All this family history lost in the preceding generations. When people ask why are you so interested in genealogy I can tell them about Fort Ticonderoga and its’ place in American history and its’ place in my family’s history. In so many ways so many times both are the same.

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33 Responses to Discovering Lost Family History

  1. I’ve just been sent some family details by a distant cousin – I love the way bits fall into place. We’re only farmers though, not Revolutionary War heroes.

    • chmjr2 says:

      Most of my family have been made up of farmers, coal miners, ship builders, and laborers. If fact some of those Revolutionary War heroes were just farmers who put aside the plow and picked up a weapon for a while. I also love the way the bits fall into place to tell a complete story.

  2. EmilyAnn Frances says:

    With all the resources available online we can all make up for lost time. I’m so happy this all came together for you. Also, in looking back there is something about the photos and the trip that seem to me as if the distant past was calling out to you even then. It just took time for the message to be received and your answer to that call to take place.

    • chmjr2 says:

      I agree about the call of the distant past. I truly believe that is one reason I do as much genealogy work as I have and still do. So much yet to discover.

  3. B. Wylie says:

    Lovely story and great pictures!

  4. Amy says:

    How amazing to be able trace your family back this far in the US!

    • chmjr2 says:

      Most of my wife’s and my family were here before 1700. It has made for some interesting discoveries.

      • Amy says:

        Wow, that is remarkable! My earliest US ancestors came here in the 1840s, and I think THAT’s early!

      • chmjr2 says:

        We have a few lines that of course came here more recently. I have just learned that I have a direct ancestor that came here from Ireland in 1849. But then my DNA test came back showing some Native American blood. I have no idea where that came from. Genealogy sure can take up your time.

  5. Oh Charles, how amazing that the young boy in you somehow knew! I find it incredible when we find this living history in our own families! Your post touched me. Thanks.

    • chmjr2 says:

      I can recall even today that it seemed very important that I take a picture of the historical marker, The fort itself was like magic to me and I remember the time there seemed to fly.

  6. KerryCan says:

    This is great! The affinity you felt for Fort Ti must be in your genetic structure!

    • chmjr2 says:

      It has to be somewhere and perhaps it is in our genetic structure. It does seem at times something guides me in my research. Or perhaps it is just an overload of caffeine and I should get more sleep. 🙂

  7. Jim McKeever says:

    Great stuff as usual, Charles … it must give you great satisfaction (and maybe a few chills) to learn of your family’s role in our nation’s history.

    • chmjr2 says:

      With much of my family and my wife’s here before 1700 we have had many connections to our nations history. While it does give me satisfaction at times it can make one feel very small.

  8. Sandi McGinnis says:

    History means a lot more when you can place your ancestors there! Enjoyed your blog, thanks for sharing.

    • chmjr2 says:

      I have always loved the study of history. However when you realize that your family had an active part in it history becomes more than a item to study but almost a real and living thing.

  9. Janet says:

    Wonderful to read your blog and the comments. My ancestors on both sides were here in New England from early on. And as you suggested in an earlier exchange, we think yours and mine trod common ground. Now after reading this entry, i’m ready to suggest they might have known each other in the Battle of Fort Ticondaroga. More on that as I continue my research.

  10. As always, fun to read about your discovery. It can be like a puzzle – when you find a piece that was hidden in the box that fits perfectly, its quite satisfying and exciting.

  11. gwconklin says:

    Great article that also brought back fond memories of my childhood visits to Fort Ticonderoga in the late 60’s with my parents. I know I have photos like that somewhere!

    • chmjr2 says:

      Thanks for reading and your comments. It is good we have fond memories of our childhood. I find myself thinking more about them. Must be old age. 🙂

  12. Lily Lau says:

    That’s always so interesting! I love to always catch up with my history, but it becomes so blurry when you go further and further back in time…

  13. Joyce says:

    Thank you for the visits to my blog site. I enjoyed reading your above genealogy history and account of your family. I am also a genealogy/history buff with over 30 yrs. of genealogy research on my paternal grandfather’s family from Russia. I believe our interest and knowledge in our family histories can help to mold and make us into strong patriotic advocates for our country’s foundation, and for those things we feel important in our lives as the family patriarchs and matriarchs.

  14. chmjr2 says:

    Thank you for your great comments. I agree with you about genealogy research. I feel it teaches us about our countries history and gives us a better understanding of the events of today.

  15. This, from your 2nd-to-last para: “As I walked the fort, I had no idea what an important role my family had played here. Near the fort, I spotted this historic marker and felt compelled to take a picture of it.” — Goosebump time! Your feeling compelled, with no knowledge of these forebears: souls of the past speaking to you. 😉

  16. refixico says:

    WoW!!!! What a great job that you did on an exciting part of American History .

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