Happy Birthday, Cousin!

George_H._W._Bush,_President_of_the_United_States,_1989_official_portraitYesterday was the birthday of former president George Herbert Walker Bush.
And now I feel confident in saying, “Happy Birthday, Cousin!”

Coincidentally, the day before the former president’s birthday, a cousin posted the following to Facebook:

I wish I could call my cousin Mike Smith today to tell him what I learned via Internet last night. He would have been delighted to know that we are cousins (distant cousins) of two presidents – Bush I and Bush II. I don’t want any of my cousins dissing this relationship. We have a very diverse extended family, even among more closely related cousins, and I prize that diversity. It says something about the American experience. I love all my cousins for who they are, even when we disagree about politics, religion, or even the weather. And I hear that cousin Jeb is about to formally announce he is a candidate for President.

I’m including her post because I appreciate her preemptive admonition to all of us not to diss this relationship. :) Many of us are passionate about our politics, but we are not always of the same mind!

She asked me to figure out our relationship status to the presidents Bush. I already had our common ancestor in my tree and it was pretty easy to follow the genealogy report she found online and match it up with ours. I looked for a couple of other sources, and felt pretty confident. After all, genealogies of really important folks have usually been well vetted and documented. And, because our common ancestor is also well researched, it was just a matter of inputting the line that leads to the Bush family.

book cover Cornelis MelynHer request also prompted me to get out a book I have been meaning to read about our common ancestor – Cornelis Melyn. I read the genealogies of our two lines as reported in the back of the book and made comparisons to the genealogies found online, my research, and that of others in our family.

Now I’m reading the juicier stuff at the beginning of the book, where there is more information to flesh out a bit of the life of Cornelis and his family. Maybe I’ll follow up in the next few days with some bullet points of interest to my family members.

So how are we related? Ancestry.com calculates that George H. W. Bush is my 10th cousin 1x removed. George W. Bush and his siblings are my 11th cousins.

Here’s how my common linage traces to George W. Bush. Our lines meet in the middle of this list, Cornelis Melyn being our common ancestor. Sisters Cornelia (Bush line) and Mariken (my line) are our progenitors.

11. George Walker Bush – is your 11th cousin
10. George Herbert Walker Bush (10th cousin 1x removed)
father of George Walker Bush
9. Prescott Sheldon Bush – father of George Herbert Walker Bush
8. Flora Sheldon – mother of Prescott Sheldon Bush
7. Mary Elizabeth Butler – mother of Flora Sheldon
6. Courtland Philip Livingston Butler – father of Mary Elizabeth Butler
5. Judith Livingston – mother of Courtland Philip Livingston Butler
4. Gilbert James Livingston – father of Judith Livingston
3. James Livingston – father of Gilbert James Livingston
2. Cornelia Beekman (1693 – 1742) – mother of James Livingston
1. Joanna “Janneken” Loper (1650 – 1743) – mother of Cornelia Beekman
Cornelia Melyn (1628 – ) – mother of Joanna “Janneken” Loper
Cornelis Melyn (1600 – 1674) – father of Cornelia Melyn
Mariken “Maria” Melyn (1637 – 1694) – daughter of Cornelis Melyn
1. Cornelius Hatfield (1665 – 1718) – son of Mariken “Maria” Melyn
2. Rachel (or Mary) Hatfield (1703 – 1794) – daughter of Cornelius Hatfield
3. George Badgley (1726 – 1794) – son of Rachel (or Mary) Hatfield
4. John Badgley (1752 – 1793) – son of George Badgley
5. Hannah Badgley (1779 – ) – daughter of John Badgley
6. Samuel Force Embree (1806 – 1889) – son of Hannah Badgley
7. Charlotte Augusta Embree (1850 – 1924) – daughter of Samuel Force Embree
8. Myron David Webber (1874 – 1959) – son of Charlotte Augusta Embree
9. Abbie Elizabeth Webber (1900 – 1999) – daughter of Myron David Webber
10. My father – son of Abbie Elizabeth Webber
11. Me

I’ve never really understood how the whole removed cousins thing works, nor have I have I taken the time to try to understand it. Now I know that George W. and I are of the same generation – you can count them on the list above. His father is one generation removed from me.

Now I get it. Sort of.

I’ll still rely on my genealogy programs to figure it out for me, though. :)


The Fred Myron Webber Page

Well …. so much for blogging every day. It turned out to be more like one week. :( Let’s blame it on the time of the year, shall we?

I’ve been wanting to write more about my great-uncle Fred M. Webber but ran out of steam some time back. As I looked back at my previous posts about him, I decided to give him his own landing page. As I write other pieces about him, I’ll link them to his page.

I hope you will visit his page and get to know Uncle Fred along with me. His story is timely as our nation continues to struggle with issues of justice and civil rights.

BS Segregation Baltimore Miller Bros.jpg

Veterans Day Tribute to Orville Kessler

Kessler.Orvilleat St. Marks Venice

Orville Kessler at St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice, Italy

My cousin posted this wonderful picture of her dad, Orville Kessler, on Facebook this week. I had never seen it before and knew it was what I wanted to post today.

We don’t have a comprehensive understanding of my great-uncle Orville’s military service (yet!), but have pieced together the following:

Orville Kessler was inducted into the Army 21 May 1942 at Ft. Des Moines, Iowa and discharged 29 December 1945 at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. He served as a cook in the 310th Medical Battalion attached to the 85th Infantry Division.

Orville’s family supplied the following information:

* Orville signed up as a non-combatant because of his deeply held Christian conviction that it would be wrong to kill anyone.
* He talked very little about his experiences in the service.
* The picture of him standing by the fountain in Italy was found folded in a book after his death. None of his family had seen it before.
* Under battles and campaigns his discharge papers list Rome Arno (22 January 1944 – 9 September 1944), Northern Apennines (10 September 1944 – 4 April 1945), and Po Valley (5 April 1945 – 8 May 1945) – all in Italy.
* He was either in The Philippines or at the Suez Canal on his way to the Pacific Theater when the war ended. (More research needed!)


Shoulder Sleeve Insignia of the 85th Division

The 85th Army Division was known as the “Custer Division” and, although hard to see in the photograph, it looks like Orville has the Custer Division insignia on the sleeve of his shirt.

army_cook_pin_ww2I don’t see a pin on his uniform, but the motto on this WWII Cooks and Bakers pin is certainly true: No Army Marches Far Without The Cook.

As I said, we don’t have a lot of information about his service, but from the little research I did today, I picked up a few clues as to some of what he may have experienced.

Cook.Ft. Meade2234-Plaque_xHe probably attended an Army School for Cooks and Bakers. It would be interesting to know where he received his training. His family says that Orville was very good at baking pies and cookies and an expert at oatmeal. The plaque at right, from the Fort George Meade Museum in Maryland, gives a brief glimpse into the typical curriculum.

I found a short autobiography titled “A Cook’s Experiences in World War II,” written by Joseph A. “Buck” Craton, who was a cook in the U.S. 3rd Army, 65th Infantry Division, 869th Field Artillery Battalion, Headquarters Battery. We may not think of a cook as having much engagement in “warring,” but part of his story, which takes place in Germany, shows that we would be wrong in making that assumption:

This section is about me shooting down a plane. I’ll begin by describing how we operated in a large city. Our battalion consisted of headquarters (which I was in), four batteries of artillery, and one battery of anti-aircraft. Headquarters and anti-aircraft set up in the center of town, then each of the others set up on the corners. Our mess truck was equipped with a revolving 50 cal. machine gun mounted in the roof of the cab. If enemy planes attacked, no one would fire until they were in the circle of fire. One particular day I was alone with the mess truck and was serving coffee to our sergeant major. No one else was around. Suddenly there was a squadron of M.E. 109s overhead. Well, when all our batteries opened up they were so busy trying to get out of the circle of fire, I don’t remember their firing a shot. It was at this point the sergeant major told me to use our gun. I always liked to fire those things, so I jumped in the truck and picked out a target. When you fired a large machine gun you could see the tracers and know exactly how you were doing. No one else was firing at my plane. The sergeant yelled to me, “Lead it a little more.” You could see the tracers going into the tail of the plane. I took his advice and, lo, I got him! Smoke started streaming from the plane, and suddenly I got this feeling in the pit of my stomach. I thought, “God! I have just killed a man!” But suddenly I saw the canopy fly off and I saw a parachute open and I felt good again.

And one more story from a cook serving in the 85th Mountain Infantry Regiment in the Apennines (yes – we think Orville was there) – as told by and about Cpl. John Stone:

Stone was one of about a dozen cooks in the 85th Mountain Infantry Regiment who could set up a hasty field kitchen and, within 30 minutes, serve hundreds of Soldiers in feeding lines.

The cooks ensured Soldiers had their rations for the frontlines as the division forged ahead in the Apennines. Stone said the kitchen crew, which typically set up more than five miles back, dug a hole in the ground for a field oven and then stacked sandbags around it for the stoves.

“The meals were good, hearty, meat-and-potatoes type of meals with any vegetables that were available,” he said.

Stone said U.S. units often fed the Italians fighting on the Allied side. In turn, the partisans shared their spaghetti, pizza and lasagna, and U.S. Soldiers got to enjoy a taste of the surrounding countryside.

Stone, who got to stay in the mountain village homes of a few of the families, said the partisans were simple people, just like him, wanting to protect their families, their land and their way of life.

After major battles at Riva Ridge, Mount Belvedere and Mount Gorgolesco, Soldiers returned to base camp for food and much-needed rest.

“It was good to cook the Soldiers what they liked,” Stone said. “War’s a tough row to hoe. People who love each other and take care of each other help make it a great outfit.”

The division broke out of the mountains in April 1945. On the way to Po Valley and Lake Garda, Stone and his comrades marched through many booby-trapped areas. Bombs detonated in trees, under the snow and behind rocks.

The 85th Infantry Division saw a lot of combat, and as a part of the Medical Battalion, I am sure there were many sights and sounds that Uncle Orville may have been loathe to remember. I hope this post provides some insight as to what Orville’s military service may have been like and I look forward to our family doing additional research.

A photo gallery related to medical units in WWII.