Thursday, August 22, 2013

WDYTYA--Chris O'Donnell and A Visit to My Dad's Birthplace

WDYTYA--Chris O'Donnell

This week's edition of WDYTYA, the fifth in the eight part series, featured the ancestry of Chris O'Donnell.  As I watched the program I couldn't help but think about the amount of research it must have taken to find a celebrity with such a rich American heritage and the significant amount of documentation to back it up.


Chris is a 14th generation American and the program took us back to his 4th great grandfather, George McNeir.  Prior to that he learned about the background of his great great grandfather Michael McEnnis who was in the Mexican-American War.  The episode took us through several archives and museums including St. Louis Historical Museum, The National Archives in Washington D.C., The Smithsonian, Maryland Archives in Annapolis, and finally Baltimore.  In every location were many documents including Muster Rolls, requests for discharge, personal writings, census records, photographs and city directory entries. One of the more amazing was the sabre of Michael McEnnis that had been donated to the Smithsonian along with the letter from Michael offering the donation.  

I found it interesting the inconsistencies among the repositories of the various artifacts and papers.  For instance, Chris was required to wear gloves to handle the sword; but not to handle some of the 100 plus year old papers.  He even questioned whether he should have gloves on for the papers and the researcher said, "No".

As usual the program saved the highlight for the end, when Chris learned that his g4grandfather, George McNeir was probably directing a battery of guns at Ft. McNair against the British ships when Francis Scott Key wrote the National Anthem.

It may have just been my perception; but it seemed like Chris provided a lot more narrative about the events and accompanying history as they unfolded than previous celebrities in this series.  I enjoyed the episode very much and thought Chris did an excellent job.
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My Dad's Birth Place--A Visit

In 1999 when I retired from my last job with Lockheed Martin Corporation, we planned a trip from the Washington D.C. area across country to San Diego.  Along the way I had contacted relatives who lived in locations where my father, his parents, great grand parents  and g2grandparents had lived.  The second of those stops was in Carthage, Missouri where my father was born and where his parents and grandparents had lived.  My point of contact was Raymond Ritchhart, a 2nd cousin whom I discovered through the Carthage yellow pages. 

Raymond Ritchhart (2nd cousin), Dorothy Rees (2nd cousin), myself, Bernice Ritchhart Chapman (1st cousin once removed), Paul Ritchhart (Raymond's brother & 2nd cousin)
Raymond invited his brother, Paul, his cousin, Dorothy and his Aunt Bernice to join us in a trip to the local cemetery and to a lunch which my wife and I hosted.  I found it very interesting that Bernice referred to my grandfather, as Uncle Lon.  His given name was Alonzo; but I had never heard him referred to as Lon.   Dorothy passed away in 2004 at the age of 80 and Bernice passed away in 2006 at the age of 95.  As far as I know both Raymond and Paul are still alive.

They were all very nice people and obviously enjoyed meeting their relatives, Joanne and I.  Fasken cemetery was very typical for many small farm community towns, it was in a rural area surrounded by farms.  

Our hosts Raymond and Marnie Ritchhart


Fasken Cemetery Carthage, Missouri

The cemetery was very well maintained and it looked like they weren't lacking for rain.

Fortunately we were accompanied by people who knew the cemetery, as they took us right to the headstones of our g2grandparents and others in the family. 
Wesley & Mary Ritchhart, G2Grandparents

Alvin & May Ritchhart, my Grand Uncle

Unfortunately, at the time I didn't think to have them show us where our g2grandparents had lived.  A couple years later on the now defunct website, "Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness" I posted a request to have a photo of the home at the address I obtained from census data and the below photo was returned to me prior to the end of the day!

Wesley & Mary's Home in Carthage, MO

Prior to retiring, Wesley was a farmer and veterinarian and they lived outside the city; but they moved to this home when he retired.  Interestingly, he learned to be a vet when he was in the Union Army Cavalry during the Civil War.

It was fun visiting with relatives we had never met, especially when you knew the feeling was mutual!