This month in history

I have begun a new style of Friday postings.   Each will take someone in our family tree and place them within historical events occurring during the month!  I hope you enjoy them.


Christmas 1970s

I don’t know an exact date for this picture – sometime in the 1970s is the best I can do.  If there were grandchildren in the picture I could make a better guess.  I just know this is a great photo of my mom and dad.  They loved opening up their house to anyone who wanted to visit, especially at Christmas.  If you haven’t looked at it in a few years, please revisit “A Fortenberry Christmas” from the blogroll and take a stroll down memory lane with a wonderful group of people.

December 20, 1862

On that date, Burrel Taylor Fortenberry was transferred from Mississippi State Troops to Confederate Service.  He was 42 years old and would not make his next Christmas.   He most likely spent Christmas of 1862 at home with his family because his official date of transfer to Wingfield’s 3 Cavalry (Louisiana Partisan Rangers) is given as January 9, 1863.  He would be a prisoner of war in July and dead two months later.  To learn more, see “Port Hudson and the Civil War.”

December 7, 1941

As everyone in the family already knows, Adrian Fortenberry celebrated his 23 birthday on the USS Helena docked in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii.  When his ship was hit by a shallow torpedo during the Japanese attack, he was wounded and sent to the hospital.  In February of 1942, the Navy gave him leave to visit his family.  The photo shown here appeared in the local Atlanta paper.   To know more about his experiences at Pearl Harbor, please read (reread) “Navy 6 – Pearl Harbor.”



Nellie Mae Simmons

November 28, 1891 – May 27, 1974

Mae Simmons Fortenberry, otherwise known as Granny, was born on the 28th, which this year was Thanksgiving Day.  In the 1960s, her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren celebrated her birthday at our huge Thanksgiving gathering.    It is appropriate that this happened as she is our reason we descend from four Mayflower ancestors and many other Puritans who came later.  To know more about just a few of these ancestors, please read (reread) the blogrolls Our Pilgrim Connections Part 1, Our Pilgrim Connections Part 2, and the Whelden Family Part 1.  Hope everyone had a wonderful 2019 Thanksgiving!

USS Melville, November 1942

In August of 1942, Adrian Fortenberry was transferred to the USS Melville.  It was a destroyer tender which meant it was a general repair ship.  Adrian was placed on board as the expert on fire control systems.  His task was to troubleshoot and repair any problems with the guns and all the equipment used in firing them.  At the time of Adrian’s assignment, the Melville was based in Hafnarfjordur, Iceland.   After three months of convoluted transfers to join his ship, he finally arrived in Iceland and entered the records of the Melville on 21 November 1942.  After only six days in Iceland, the Melville set sail for New York – back to when he started three months before!  To learn more about why the USA was in Iceland in the first place, see the blogroll article  “Navy 8.”

November 10, 1910

On November 10, 1910, Grandpa Ferman Fortenberry was on board the USS Tennessee when it left Charleston, S.C. for Colon, Panama.  The purpose of the trip was to take President Taft to the Panama Canal for an inspection.   This was the first time a president left the United States while in office.  Above is a page from Ferman’s Navy Log that mentions this event.  In case you cannot read his writing, it says:

“The trip from Charleston, S.C. to Colon Panama was a full speed run to carry President Taft there give him four days there and make it back with him in twelve days from the time leaving.  So he could get back and look after some business.

Gee –

He had to be at White house for business, coaled ship at Porto Bello and had swimming parties.  Was fine.”

It would be another four years before the Canal opened.  The website, World Digital Library has a video that was taken and includes some images of the USS Tennessee and her sailors.  Though I cannot identify any as Ferman, it is interesting to watch!  The link is below.  You might also be interested in reading the blog article written about Ferman’s time in the Navy.  please see the blogroll article Ferman Fortenberry – Navy Years.


November 11, 1620

This image is a copy published to mark the 350th anniversary of the signing of the Mayflower Compact.  This coming Monday will mark the 400th anniversary!  It was an amazing document that three of our relatives signed.  Maybe further research will discover more!    Two are our direct many times great grandfathers signed – Francis Cooke and James Chilton.  We have another direct ancestor named John Winslow who came in 1621.  His brother, Edward Winslow signed the Mayflower Compact and was governor of Plymouth Colony three times.


November 9, 1913

Wedding of Eva Jaroszewska and Stanley Piekarski

In September of 1913, my grandmother, Pelagia Jaroszewska left Poland for the United States (scroll below to a post from several weeks ago).   She was leaving the care of her grandparents [Franciszka (Jablonska) and Jakob Cybulski] to join her mother and sister already here.   Less than 8 weeks later, she would be in her sister’s wedding party.  Eva and Stanley can be seen in the middle of the first row.  My grandmother stands between them in the row behind.  It is always fascinating to see photos like this.  The wedding finery is amazing considering that these Polish men were very poor.   All came from very small, poor villages in Poland and usually farmed land belonging to others.  Once moving to an urban area like Brooklyn (where the wedding took place), they were forced to take jobs as unskilled laborers.  Without their generation’s willingness to immigrate, I would not be sitting here writing about it! 

John Martin Covington

6 October 1864

Not all sad stories from the time of the Civil War are related to the war.  My 2X great grandfather, John Covington died on the date shown above but his death was not directly related to the war as one might assume.  He died of consumption (tuberculosis) at a time when a treatment was unknown.    Because he was the local druggist and would have been helping sick people, it is likely that is how he contracted it.  There are no known images of him or his wife, Mary Jane Washburn.  Since she was born in Vermont, she was not a “born and bred” Southern girl.  After the war she filed a claim against the Federal Government.  Quite a lot of information is contained within a 52 page document under Civil War records of Southern, Disallowed and Barred Claims.    In this document she states that her husband died after having consumption for three and a half years, which would coincide with the beginning of the war.  She was left with five children under 10 years old!  To learn more about Mary Jane and her life experiences including trying to protect her home and family during a Union raid in the fall of 1864, please take a look on the right at the blogroll “Mary Jane Washburn-Heartbreaking Civil War Experiences.”  The person you see here is his daughter, Elizabeth Covington Simmons who would have been two and a half years old when her father died.


Phineas Upham

1635 – 1676

Lieutenant Phineas Upham was born about 1635 in Weymouth, Massachusetts about the time his family immigrated to New England.  He was the son of John and Elizabeth (Slade) Upham.  I am related to him by way of my Grandmother, Nellie Mae Simmons.  Above is a copy of his signature from an old document.  As was the custom of the time, he signed his name as “Phynehas Uphame.”  Next is an image of his marker (not the original) found at Bell Rock Cemetery in Malden, Massachusetts.   Phineas did not live a long life but it was eventful.  When the peace between the Native Americans and the colonists broke down, Phineas was called to serve as a soldier.  The war that developed was referred to as “King Philip’s War.”  The name derives from a nickname given to a Wampanoag Indian leader named Metacom.   This war came close to wiping out the English settlers which would have changed the course of history and I probably would not be sitting here writing about it.  Though historians do not know the exact cause or date of Phineas’s death, it has been determined that he died “sometime” before 12 October 1676.  To learn more about this war please see the Wiki article,r


Baptism of John Fulkenburgh

19 October 1740

Though the name has a strange spelling, this was the way it was spelled on the Tinkling Spring Presbyterian baptismal record for John Falkenburg 279 years ago.  His father’s name was Jacob but his mother’s name was not given.   John is my 4X great grandfather who was born during the short time (about 10 years) that our ancestors lived in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.   As a small child, he moved from there with all the Falkenburgs to the Carolinas.  My research does not indicate that any of our relatives died in Virginia.  The photo below is of a headstone in the Tinkling Spring Cemetery and shows how old the markers are!  Notice that the tree that has grown up in the cemetery has encompassed the headstone.  I had never seen this before.  To know more about their time in the Shandoah Valley and why their stay was so short, please read from the blogroll – Falkenburgs of the Shenandoah Valley.


Two Hundred and Ten Years Ago

On Wednesday 11th October 1809, the Georgia Governor’s office ordered that a passport be issued to Willis Simmons that would allow him and fellow travelers to pass through the Indian Territory between the State of Georgia and the Mississippi Territory.  It is hard today to imagine needing a passport to travel through Alabama in order to get to Mississippi!  This move for his family was not a simple thing to accomplish.  To learn how he accomplished this move to Mississippi, please choose “Simmons Family to Mississippi.”  

One Hundred and Six Years Ago

According to her Polish birth record, my grandmother Pelagia (Pauline) Brydida Jaroszewska was born in Kowalewo, Poland on March 7, 1898.  On September 20, 1913, she and a friend from a nearby village got on a ship in Rotterdam and sailed to America.  On the official Ellis Island record, she said her age was 18 when she was really only 15.  In order to travel without a relative, she was supposed to be 18 – so that is what she said.  She was going to America to live with her mother, Antonina Cybulska Jaroszewska, who had come previously in an attempt to find her husband.  Pauline had been living with her grandparents, Jakob and Franciszka (Jablonska) Cybulski who had gotten too old to take care of her.  They sent her to her mother who was living in Brooklyn, New York.  The photo above is the earliest photo of Pauline after arriving in America.  It is thought to have been taken in conjunction with her sister’s wedding which occurred in November of 1913.

A Special Trip

In September of 2014, John and I experienced an amazing trip to Poland.  The image here is of Grandfather Raymond Wierzbicki’s small church in the town of Lachowo in Eastern Poland.  This structure was the exact same one where he was christened and attended until he came to America in 1909.   He was 17 years old and had $5.00.   I very much regret not taking the time to talk to him more – he would have had some amazing stories about a life so very different from what his daughter and grandchildren experienced.


  Hulon Kennedy

About 1957, at the age of 27, Hulon Kennedy of the New Hope Community in Lawrenceville, Georgia began working for F. E. Fortenberry and Sons of Clarkston, Georgia.  Before this, he was splitting his time working on the family farm, carrying mail, and as a carpenter.  Soon several of his relatives and friends in the New Hope Community also joined the Fortenberrys.   With Hulon’s expertise in construction and the rapid expansion of home building in DeKalb County, he was soon asked to become a construction superintendent.   He quickly became a well respected and integral part of the company.  The work ethics and character of people like Hulon helped make the company what it was.   I know my dad, Adrian Fortenberry, thought the world of him!  The two pins above belong to Hulon and were given to him for his service.  The one of the left was for 10 years and is the logo originally used by the company.   The one of the right, thought to be from either the 20th or 25th year of service shows a logo used several years later.  Notice the diamond!  To learn more about F. E. Fortenberry and Sons, please see the blogroll article.

Thank you Shelia Kennedy Fortenberry for sharing your Dad’s pins!


September 14, 1863

On September 14, 1863, Burrell Taylor Fortenberry died of “exposure in war.”  That comment was a note written in his grandson, Ferman Esco Fortenberry’s Navy Log.  Burrell was paroled after Port Hudson surrendered to the Union forces after the longest siege on American soil.  His exact cause of death is unknown.  He was released to return home on July 9, 1863 and died two months later.  They must have been two long, agonizing months.  The photo above, probably taken the same year he died, shows a man with eyes that reflect some horrible memories.  To read about his experiences in the Civil War, please read the article on the right called “Port Hudson and the Civil War.”

August 14, 1935

On this date, an act was established by our country to tax workers in order to provide “social insurance”  to pay workers in their old age.  The entire process was a result of the extreme deprivations felt by the American people (especially the elderly) during the Great Depression.  The tax would begin to be taken from workers checks starting in January of 1937.  The law required that all employers collect data about their employees.  Below is the form filled out by my grandfather, Raymond Werbicki.  Since he signed his paperwork on December 7, 1936, he was in the very first group to be enrolled.   This is not a document one would have in their possession.    In my research about Raymond, I was trying to locate some of the Brooklyn companies he worked for so I contacted Social Security and was able to receive a copy of his enrollment.   Since the company name was not given, I researched the businesses at  that location and even the names of his employers to no avail.  It is still an interesting bit of family history!

Finally, life can be joyous again!

On 27 August 1945, Adrian Fortenberry was released from a much, much longer stint in the US Navy than originally planned.   His official date of enlistment was 18 December 1937 which meant that his four year enlistment was to end on 18 December 1941.  Obviously, the events of 7 December 1941 prevented that, especially since he was a fire controlman who could troubleshoot problems with Naval guns.  He reenlisted on 17 December 1941 while still recovering from wounds he received when his ship docked in Pearl Harbor was attacked on 7 December!  Though he never said anything, I bet that day in August was a memory he cherished.

Canolia Ann Elizabeth Simmons

Canolia Simmons was born on August 12, 1857 and was the daughter of James Jackson and Sarah (Brewer) Simmons.  When she was two years old, her parents and one brother died of typhoid fever.  They contracted the fever while helping neighbors.  After her parents death, Canolia and her infant sister Mary LuElla lived with their uncle and aunt, Richard and Ann (Brewer) Smith.  Canolia later married Willam Jackson Fortenberry and was the mother of 6 boys and 6 girls!

World War II and the South Atlantic

From February 2, 1943 until September 25, 1943, Adrian Fortenberry was stationed at Recife, Brazil (code name Base Fox).  Brazil declared war on the Axis powers on August 22, 1942 and Adrian was among the American forces sent to support their efforts to keep the Atlantic Ocean clear of German ships.  The United States provided ships, planes, and personnel to help.   While there, Adrian was stationed on the USS Melville, which was classified as a destroyer tender.  A tender has the supplies and personnel to repair almost anything on ships.  Because Adrian was a fire controlman trained to repair and maintain all equipment related to the guns, he would have been in high demand.  This photo shows an obviously physically and mentally exhausted person who had not seen his wife or family for many, many months.   

Burrell Taylor Fortenberry

On August 9, 1862, my 2X great grandfather joined Quinn’s State Troops to protect his home state of Mississippi.  At the age of 42, he left a wife and five sons at home in Pike County not knowing he would live only one more year.  To know more about his Confederate service please choose “Port Hudson and the Civil War” from the blogroll on the right.  It is one of the many sad stories of the war.  When looking at his photo (probably taken when he joined the service) I see features inherited by both my dad and brother.

Gasua Chapman Fortenberry

Gasua was born 16 July 1805 in Lancaster County, South Carolina.  He was the oldest of 10 children of William Jasper and Violette (Kennington) Fortenberry.  His unusual name resulted in an unusual nickname – Gazie.   He was a well educated and religious man.  As a member of the Silver Creek Baptist Church, he was a recognized leader serving as church clerk for 20 years and many times as a delegate to the Pearl River Baptist Association.  Uncle Gazie’s younger brother, Burrell Taylor Fortenberry, is my 2X great grandfather.  This photo is of a tintype taken sometime in the 1850s.


July, 1945

After having some surgery at St. Albans Navy Hospital in July of 1945, Daddy was on leave for a few days (July 26 – August 9) and spent it with Momma and baby Raymond in Brooklyn.  The note on the back of the photo said it was taken in July of 1945 at McCarren Park which was only half a mile from where the Werbicki family lived.   When Germany surrendered on May 7, a feeling of hope must have permeated America and Wanda and Adrian were probably thinking they would soon be able to begin their lives as a real family.  While he was on leave, the bombs were dropped on Japan.  What joy they must have felt to realize that their time apart would soon be over.   

Summer meant fun at the Lake!

Growing up, July meant fun at Lake Lanier.  Our Polish grandparents would come for a couple of weeks in July and the fishing would get intense.  Terry is holding a stringer of small catfish, Linda is just grinning, Grandpa Werbicki is holding a lot of carp, and Barbara is wishing she could keep her very blonde hair the rest of her life (ha!).  This was the ONLY two weeks we ever brought carp home.  They are not a fish Southerners eat and Daddy hated them because they ate the eggs of the fish he wanted to catch and eat (bream, crappie, bass).  In Poland, carp baked with tomatoes, onions, and celery were a traditional dish.  I couldn’t stand to smell it cooking much less eat it!



David Austin Cross

David, brother-in-law and friend, passed away on Tuesday, June 25, 2019.  He will be greatly missed by his family and friends.  He always had a smile and kind words for everyone.  His wife, my sister Regina, cannot fathom a life without him but she will not enter this part of her life alone.  She is blessed with a large family of children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and 5 siblings – all who will be there for her through thick and thin.  We know he is gone from our sight, but he will forever be in our hearts.  (Photo: David and Regina just before making the decision to elope!)


Happy Birthday!

We have another sibling with a June birthday!  Terry (Teresa Ann Fortenberry) was the fourth out of the six of us.  Our parents taught us to appreciate and love nature but I believe that Terry has a special understanding and love of the natural world beyond the average person.  In this photo, taken while she was swimming in Lake Lanier many years ago, you can almost feel her joy of being a part of the natural world!  Happy Birthday!

June Icebergs!

After joining the Navy in 1937 and completing all his land-based training, Adrian Fortenberry was assigned to the USS Arkansas for his midshipman cruise.  The ship spent three months traveling around the northeastern coast of the United States and Canada.  On the back of this picture, Adrian wrote “Iceberg off shore, Halifax, N.S. taken from USS Arkansas  June 1939.”  Evidently, icebergs are fairly rare around Nova Scotia in June.  Adrian told his son, Raymond, that the only time he was ever seasick while in the Navy was when he was in the crow’s nest watching for icebergs.

Since he was on the Arkansas, the ship in the picture must have been another training ship cruising the eastern seaboard with the them.  The small, dark objects are boats from the ships checking out the icebergs.  The one object on the right that looks like a horse head is also a small boat with sunlight shining on the left side.


Happy Birthday Barbara


It is now official.  Our “baby sister” has joined her siblings in being identified by the government as being old.  But don’t worry Barbara, you will always be our little sister.  The twinkle in your eyes hasn’t changed!


May, 2019

John and I decided to take a long anniversary trip.  As you might expect, half of the time John will be doing photography stuff and the other half of the time I will be doing genealogy.  Our first stop was Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey where I needed to drop off some research to the local historical society.  This is where my (our) ancestor, Hendrick Jacobs Falkenburg lived the final years of his life.  He was born in the 1640s and was a well known Indian interpreter.  In this picture I am walking on the shore of one of the islands he received from the Lenape people.  Of course, I am picking up rocks, not shells!  The beach is covered in white quartz pebbles and I collected bunches to bring home.


Decoration Day – May 31, 1937

This poor quality photo was taken on Decoration Day which was first established to remember Civil War soldiers.  By the time of World War I, the holiday became known as Memorial Day and honored all soldiers who died in battle.  I don’t know who took this photo.  Wanda would have been 16 years old and probably modeling one of her dress designs (she went to a “Needle Trade” high school).  Not only does her dress have flowers all over it but she is standing with flowers all around her.  So typical of her!  In two years, she would meet a sailor, Adrian Woodrow Fortenberry, who was temporarily stationed at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and her life would be changed forever.  

Happy Mother’s Day

Like everyone else, my thoughts turned to my mom on Mother’s Day.  My siblings and I had a special mom.  She taught us to love nature, be independent, and to think for ourselves.  She was a true Renaissance woman who was interested in just about everything and was one of the most intelligent people I have ever known.  Like many children, it was only as adults that we came to realize just how special she was.  Wanda Maria Werbicki Fortenberry, thanks for being such a great mom – wish I had told you more often than I did!


May 16, 1020

On May 16, 1920, my Polish grandparents were married at Our Lady of Consolation Catholic Church in Brooklyn, New York.  His name was Raymond Kasper Wierzbicki and her name was Pelagia Brygida Jaroszewska.  Raymond was 28 years old and Pelagia (Pauline) was 22.  Both emigrated from Poland from different locations so they did not know each other until they met in Brooklyn.  Most likely, they met through her brother-in-law Stanley Piekarski (husband of her older sister, Eva).   Stanley and Raymond were from the same area of Poland (Lachowo) and once in the United States continued their friendship.   

Early May, 1910

Ferman Hits the High Seas


After crossing the equator in April, the USS Tennessee continued south heading for the Atlantic Ocean by way of the Strait of Magellan.  Why that route?  The Panama Canal would not open until August of 1914.  On May 1, 1910, The USS Tennessee left Punta Arenas, Chile to continue around the southern tip of South America to Uruguay.  This would have been at the beginning of winter for that area of the world.  Take a look at the top photo to imagine how high the waves were to completely go over the bow!   The forward gun is almost in the water.  Probably lots of seasick sailors on board!


Ferman Crosses the Equator

14 April 1910

Naval Historical Center Photo – Caption:  King Neptune’s party during Equator crossing ceremonies in 1910.

No, Ferman Fortenberry is not in this photo but he was on board!  Ferman Fortenberry joined the Navy in August of 1909.  His first major voyage must have been incredible!   He and the USS Tennessee (armored cruiser) were on their way from Bremerton, Washington to Hampton Roads, Virginia.  This meant a trip down the west coast of South America, through the Strait of Magellan, and up the East Coast of South America.  According to Ferman’s Navy Log, on the morning of 14 April 1910 at 11:30 the USS Tennessee crossed the equator somewhere in the Pacific Ocean in line with Equador.  This has always been a big deal for sailors.  On this crossing, Ferman would have been designated a “pollywog” since it was his first crossing.  It is doubtful that he enjoyed it as the event was similar to an extremely brutal fraternity hazing.  To learn more about his time in the Navy, please read (or reread) the blogroll article “Ferman Fortenberry – Navy Years.”


Franciszka Jabłońska

The old lady in the photo above is my great, great grandmother Franciszka Jabłońska Cybulska.  She is holding my grandmother, Pelagia Bregetta Jaroszewska.  Since my grandmother was born in 1898, the photo would have been taken about 1900.  Franciszka was baptized on 12 April 1847 at the parish church in Rościszewo.  Instead of being presented for baptism by the father as was usual, she was presented by a midwife.  No father is listed; in fact, her mother is identified as not married.  What is interesting is that she is called “a servant girl in the manor.”  That conjers up several possibilities as to who the father was – another servant, a son of the manor, Prussian soldiers coming through the area during the 1846 Greater Poland Uprising?   The answer is long forgotten in time! 

Adrian and Wanda Fortenberry

As can been seen on this headstone, Momma and Daddy both died in April.  Notice the orchid between their names placed there in honor of their love of orchids.  I remember April being a special month for them.  It was a time when most of their flowers in the yard were blooming, especially the azaleas.  People in Clarkston would drive by the house just to see the yard in all its glory. It was a showplace!  The other reason they loved April was because Easter usually fell in April.  We always had a huge family gathering with an amazing array of delicious food.  Easter lunch was known for including ham and Polish potato salad!  Afterwards, if the weather cooperated, we would retire to the back yard just to talk and be together.  Their children and grandchildren cherish the memories and would love to turn back the clock for just one more Easter Sunday together!

California – April 1942

This photo of Mom sewing something on Daddy’s Navy uniform has a poignant side story.  It was taken in April of 1942.  After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Daddy’s ship, the USS Helena was in San Francisco, CA for four months being repaired (January – April, 1942).  While the ship was being repaired, Daddy went home to visit his family.  In a photo taken in early February in Clarkston, Georgia, Mom was obviously pregnant.  After Daddy returned to California, they learned that the ship would be in port for repairs for a while longer so Mom made a cross country trip in April to spend time with him.  From what Mom told her daughters, she lost a baby boy before our brother, Raymond was born in March of 1945.  Over the years I have inadvertently determined that this baby was to have been born in late April to early May of 1942.   Since this photo was taken in April of 1942, we know she would not have done a cross county trip just a few weeks from delivery and she does not appear to be in a final month of pregnancy.  Mom must have lost the baby between the two photos – sometime in February or March.  As a family historian, it is somewhat disconcerting to discover facts about your parents’ lives that they never discussed much – but there are six of us who are very glad they were able to get past their first loss and wanted more children!  

Mary Caroline Magee

Mary Caroline Magee was born on March 25, 1829 in Marion County, Mississippi and died on January 31, 1819.  On December 4, 1845 she married George Washington Simmons, son of Willis and Jane (Goslin) Simmons.  They lived near Willis Simmons in the area known as Simmonsville.  Mary Caroline was the daughter of Fleet and Rebecca (Pigott) Magee.   Mary Caroline is my great, great grandmother.  There is an interesting story about the Magee family found in a lot of places online.  Some people believe that the family is somehow connected to Rob Roy MacGregor (born about 1671) of the Scottish Highlands.  He was a leading Jacobite rebel whose life was made popular in the film “Rob Roy” starring Liam Neeson.   (It is a really good movie if you have never seen it!)  Due to his notoriety, his relatives had to change their surname when coming to the colonies.  This is one of those cases where I would need to see some documented proof but it makes for a really interesting story!!  

March 22, 1621

Let’s look at an important event that occurred on this date just two years short of 400 years ago.  Francis Cooke, our Mayflower ancestor, along with the rest of the struggling Plymouth settlers, had their first ever group meeting with Massasoit, chief of the local Wampanoags, to develop a mutually beneficial defense pact.   Though never a man of great importance, Cooke would nonetheless been present for the meeting.  Massasoit brought with him an impressive group of about 60 warriors.  Massasoit and Edward Winslow are depicted sitting on a mat sharing a “peace pipe.”  During their first three months on land (December, 1620 to March 1621) the Pilgrims lost almost half (45 of 102) of their people to sickness and starvation.  With so few settlers remaining, the entire settlement could have easily been destroyed that day!   I am here today because Francis Cooke and his family made it through those lean and dangerous times!

Elizabeth Jane Covington Simmons

Last week the post was about Mary Jane Washburn who married John Martin Covington.  Today we will look at their daughter Elizabeth who would be my great grandmother.  Elizabeth Covington was born on 16 March 1862 and was only 2 years old when her father died of tuberculosis.  On 7 April 1881 at the age of 19, she married William Eli Simmons, son of George Washington Simmons and his wife, Mary Caroline Magee.  Isn’t she a a pretty grandma!

Mary Jane Washburn Covington

Mary Jane Washburn (my 2X great grandmother) was born on 17 March 1826 in Putney, Vermont.  She later moved to Mississippi where she met and married her first husband, Hugh Magee.  He did not live long and in 1856 she married John Martin Covington who was born in Kentucky.  John died of tuberculosis 9 October 1864 leaving Mary Jane with five children under seven years old.   The very next month, Union troops came up from Baton Rouge and took everything they could from her home – including the curtains!!  There is a 52 page document filed in 1872 wherein Mary Jane is asking for restitution from the Federal government for the events that occurred on that day.  In it there is a listing of everything taken by the troops!  This document is at the National Archives under “Southern Claims Commission – Southern Claims Barred and Disallowed.”  They obviously did not believe what she said.  My guess is that the commission was not really planning to give restitution to any Southerns!  It makes for very interesting reading.  This blog contains the story of these events written by Terry.  Please check it out under blogroll “Mary Jane Washburn – Heartbreaking Civil War Experiences.”

William Jackson Fortenberry

His grandsons, including my dad, called him “Grandpa Jack” and loved him dearly.   That would make him my great grandfather!  He was the son of Burrell Taylor and Eliza Jane (Ellzey) Fortenberry and was was married to Canolia Ann Elizabeth Simmons.  According to my dad who was 9 years old at the time, Grandpa Jack died at the age of 74 on Saturday, March 3, 1928 in the front bedroom of their home in Osyka.   The event must have made a huge impression on my dad because he remembered the event vividly.  Most photos are posed at studios or special events so it is rare to find this type of candid.  I love this one of Grandpa Jack with his two white mules getting ready to work the fields.  My guess would be that this photo was taken approximately 100 years ago.

Hollis Horton Fortenberry

Hollis Horton Fortenberry was born on February 12, 1825 in Pike County, Mississippi.   He was the 9th of 10 children born to William Jasper and Violette (Kennington) Fortenberry.  Not much is known about his life and as far as I know this photo is the only image of him.  He died on October 24, 1867 and is buried at the Hollis H. Fortenberry Cemetery on State Line Road in Pike County.    In a Fortenberry history written in 1942 by George Kellie Fortenberry, he states that “Uncle Hollis contracted Yellow Fever from a bale of cotton baggage sent to Osyka, Miss., – from New Orleans, La. and died soon after and was buried on a hillside 300 yards west of the old house by the road south side.”  I doubt the cotton had much to do with his death since yellow fever is viral disease from an infected mosquito.  When he died, he left his wife, Louisa Margany James, with 11 children from 2 to 17. She was probably very grateful for all her extended family living nearby!

February 14

Thinking about Valentine’s Day today I started thinking of inspirational couples I have known.  I decided there could be no doubt as to who would win the prize.  Without question it would be my parents, Adrian and Wanda Fortenberry.  Considering that they were both born in this country, their lives growing up were so different.  Daddy was from a Southern Baptist rural community with an extended family encompassing multiple counties and spoke only English.  Mom was from an urban Brooklyn community of Polish immigrants and therefore Polish Catholic.  She did not learn English until she was six and going to public school.  Her immediate and extended family was small.  Growing up I always assumed that everyone had parents like mine!  Never once did I ever hear them argue or be angry with each other.  But as one of their six children, every one of us gave them plenty of opportunities to be angry with us.  

February 7, 1842

On February 7, 1842, William Jasper Fortenberry passed away.  His date of death was recorded in a small bible owned by his oldest son, Gasua Chapman Fortenberry.  This small bible (title page below) was published in 1829.   The brown ink was most likely homemade by Gasua.  William was born in Lancaster County, South Carolina about 1776 and was the child of John (born 1740 in Virginia) and Hannah (Eubanks) Fortenberry.  He was a veteran of the War of 1812.  A few years after John died in 1815, William moved to the new state of Mississippi.   William and his wife, Violette Kennington, have many, many descendants!

Brazil during World War II

On January 31, 1943, Adrian was on board the USS Helena as it crossed the equator at 44°10’ west on the way to Brazil.  The ship docked at Rio de Janeiro on February 2.  Adrian would be in Brazil from February 2 until September 25, 1943.  Why?  Brazil was the only Ally during World War II to provide troops and Navy support.  Our guys were down there to help support Brazil and other areas of South America to keep Germany from taking them.  I don’t know much about his time there, but he kept this Brazilian dollar.  To read more about his time there, please read (reread) Navy 9 – 1943.




Wanda Maria Wierzbicka

Today (January 24) would have been Mom’s 98th birthday.  Wish I could drop in and ask her all the questions I never asked her when I had the chance!  She was the oldest child of Raymond Kacper Wierzbicki and Pelagia Bregeta Jaroszewska.  (Note:  If you are female, the ending i on a surname becomes an a.)  The photo above was taken in 1930.  I think it was at Wanda’s First Communion, though not being Catholic, I am not completely sure. 

When Mom’s parents would spend a couple of weeks with us each summer, I always enjoyed hearing how they pronounced her name using the Polish pronunciation.  While in Poland a few years ago, I learned the correct pronunciation of her last name too.   Sound it out this way – 

Wanda – Von  dah               Wierzbicki – Vertz  beet  skah

Americanized:  Werbicki  is very different – Were bick ee


A Southern boy in the Southern hemisphere

On January 22, 1940, Adrian Fortenberry’s ship, the USS Helena CL 50, traveled up the Rio de la Plata (River of Silver) on their way to Buenos Aires.  This was his first trip to the southern hemisphere.  You can find Adrian pretty easily – far left man holding the rail, next to the post, with his cap at his usually jaunty angle!  The Helena was a new ship on its shakedown cruise and the Navy sent them to South America as a way of telling the world we were building up our Navy in case we entered the war.    To read more about this cruise, please read (reread) Navy 2 – USS Helena Shakedown Cruise from the Blogroll on the right.

January 8, 1920

On January 8, 1920, Raymond Werbicki (Wierzbicki) was enumerated on the Federal Census as boarding with Mary Gagolewski, a widow born in Poland.  He is listed as being 28 years old.  The information on his line tells the following:  male, white, 28 years old, single, immigrated in 1908 (incorrect 1909) naturalized citizen, 1918.  John Sadowski, just below him was Raymond’s second cousin.  A few months later (May 16, 1920), Sadowski would be a witness at my grandparents’ wedding.  Ignatz (Ignacy) Calak later married John Sadowski’s sister Wiktoria Sadowska so she too was Raymond’s second cousin.  They all came from the same area of Poland east of Kolno.  Some of the family names connected together in Poland and New York include Werbicki, Sadowski, Calak, Zdunczyk, and Piekarski.

Franciszka Jabłońska

My 3X great grandmother, Franciszka Jabłońska, was born on January 8, 1812 in the small village in Poland called Rzeszotary-Stara Wieś in the district of Rościszewo.  Below is a translation of the church record.

No 59. Stara Wies Rzeszotary. In the year one thousand eight hundred twelve on the ninth day of January at three o’clock in the afternoon. Before Us, Father Wojciech Dmochowski, performing the duties of the Civil Registrar in the district of Rosciszewo, in the county of Mlawa, in the province of Plock. A peasant Franciszek Jablonski appeared, thirty one years old, a laborer, residing in Stara Wies; and he presented to us two twins, one male and one female, who were born in his house number twelve on the eighth day of the current month and year at noon, stating that they were begotten by him and Marianna nèe Malicka, thirty years old, his wife; and that it is his wish to confer on them the names Franciszek and Franciszka. After making the above statement and showing us the children, in the presence of peasants Melchior Kaparzynski, thirty one years old and Jan Kaminski, fifty years old, both neighbor farmers residing in Stara Wies, this birth record was read to the declarants and it was signed by Us because the Father and the others are unable to write. Father Wojciech Dmochowski, Pastor of Rosciszewo parish, performing the duties of the Civil Registrar

It is amazing how much information was recorded about births!  This record is interesting for many reasons.  Franciszka had a twin brother named Franciszek; the parents were peasants; their mother was Marianna Malicka who was 30 years old; and the parents were unable to write their names in the church register.  The twins were christened on January 9, one day (27 hours) after their birth.  This was unusual since parents usually waited a few days.  Evidently the baby boy was not doing well as he died not long afterwards. Franciszek and Marianna had 11 children between 1807 and 1824.  In addition to the twins born in 1812, Marianna had triplets in 1821 – two girls and 1 boy.  Only one of the girls lived beyond the first year.   Of the 11 children, only 5 lived beyond a year.  It is impossible today to understand what this couple must have experienced trying to provide for their children!  I am here today because Franciszka Jabłońska did make it to adulthood!

Have a wonderful “Sylwester!”

This post will seem a little strange!  In the Polish language, a W is pronounced like a V, so this name would be pronounced as Sylvester.  The interesting thing is how the word is translated from Polish to English.  In Polish it is not only a man’s name but “New Year’s Eve!”  I discovered this while working on his famiy records and typing various Polish phrases into Google Translate.

His name was Sywester Cybulski and he was my 3X great grandfather.  He was born in 1814 to Felix and Antonina (Lawendowska) Cybulski and died in 1868.  I know you cannot read it, but below is his death record from his parish church in Drobin, Poland.  His name is in several places, but is easiest to see on the fourth line from the bottom.

The family line would be:

Sylwester and Joanna (Staniszewska) Cybulski

Jacob and Franciszeka (Jablonska) Cybulski 

Jan and Antonina (Cybulska) Jaroszewski

Pelagia (Jaroszewska) and Raymond Wierzbicki

Wanda (Wierzbicka) and Adrian Fortenberry


Christmas preparations early 1980s

Mom is in her kitchen putting some final touches on something we would soon be eating.  According to the clock on the wall it is about 5 pm.  Soon we would all arrive with more food and gifts to share.  I love this photo because you can see the lights of the Christmas tree through the door to the den.  All her grandchildren will remember her beautiful rose designs she added to her cabinets.  They went all the way around the kitchen.  On the other wall were yellow roses.   Take a walk through Christmases past by rereading the blog posts “A Fortenberry Christmas” and “Christmas Eve Polish Style.”  Merry Christmas everyone!

Then and Now!

As mentioned last week, we honored our Dad’s 100th birthday last Saturday.  He would have enjoyed it immensely as we celebrated having such a fantastic father.  An absolutely wonderful time was had by all, including our spouses who sat through many reminisces and stories.  In fact, some were shared for the first time!  I promised a photo of us at our gathering, so here it is!   The one below was taken just a few (60?) years before.  Can you match the old person to the young one?  Of course, Raymond is the easy one!

A Special Birthday Party

Adrian Woodrow Fortenberry was born on December 7, 1918.  He would have been 100 years old today.  I think that calls for a celebration.  With that in mind, all his children (and their spouses) will be gathering for a posthumous 100th birthday party on Saturday, December 8, 2018.  I can just imagine the big grin on his face!  We are having some of his favorite foods including barbecue, coleslaw, and homemade CHOCOLATE PIE.  We are sorry we couldn’t include all his grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great, great grandchildren but we would have had to rent a party facility to hold everyone.  Please take a moment to think of some of your fondest memories of such a wonderful man.


Willis James Fortenberry

Willis James was the son of William Jasper Fortenberry and Violette Kennington Fortenberry.  He was born November 28, 1829 in Pike County Mississippi and was “our” Burrell’s younger brother.  In 1863, he was ordained to preach by New Zion Baptist Church (Tylertown, Mississippi) and in September of 1864, he became their minister.  He served 41 years and during this time he affected many people’s lives.  He baptized almost 2000 people, ordained twelve ministers, and conducted over 500 funeral services.  Pretty impressive work.  He and his wife are buried in the same cemetery with his father – the Old Pittman Cemetery in Walthall County.  Below is a tintype photo taken during or right after the Civil War.  I am sure that is his Bible under his right hand!

Francis Cooke

It seems I cannot get past a Thanksgiving without mentioning our Pilgrim ancestor, Francis Cooke.  On November 21, 1620 (November 11, 1620 on his calendar), Francis Cooke, with 40 other men, signed the Mayflower Compact.  It was an important document because it was the first “democratic” agreement by a group of settlers choosing to be self-governed by a person of their choice.  Though half the men who signed the document died during the first winter, Cooke and his family survived, providing America with thousands of descendants today – of which I am  one.  Others better known than me include:  presidents – F.D. Roosevelt, George Bush and son; artist – Grandma Moses; author – Orson Welles; and actor – Richard Gere.  Plans are already underway for a 400 year celebration in 2020.  I hope to be there, care to join me?

November 17, 1705

On November 17, 1705, my 6X great grandfather (son of Hendrick Jacobs Falkenburg, Indian interpreter) was in court to file a petition to continue as the Bohemia River ferryman in Cecil County, Maryland.  Notice the two different ways his last name is spelled – once with an ff and twice with a V.  To read/reread the story of his life as a ferryman, please see “Henry Falkenburg” in the blogroll on the right.  Below is a transcript of this amazing document located at the Historical Society of Cecil County. Locating this document was one of my most memorable genealogical discoveries!  Henry later moved his family to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and then to the Carolinas.  HE IS the direct ancestor for all the Fortenberry, Falkenberry, and Falconberry families originating in the south before the Revolutionary War.

“Read Henry Valekenborgh Peticon Vizt To ye Worshipfll Justices of Cecill

County ~ The peticon of Henry Valekenborgh Sheweth ~

That ye petr  hath kept ye fferry over Bohemia River this yeare

last past therefore desires allowance for ye same

The wch Peticon being read by ye court heard – Maturely Considered it

it was thereupon Ordered that ye sd Henry ffalekenborgh be allowed ~

Two thousand five hundred pounds of tob [tobacco] in ye leavy according to Sd


November 18, 1679

My 7X great grandfather was a man named Hendrick Jacobs Falkenburg (born about 1640).  He was a well known Indian interpreter in the New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania area 100 years before the Revolutionary War.  On the date above (on the current calendar style), he was visited by emissaries from an unusual religious sect called the Labadists.  The visitors were looking for land to purchase to settle what today we would probably consider a commune.  They stopped and spent the night at his cabin on Burlington Island located in the Delaware River between New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  They wrote quite a bit about the visit in a journal they kept about their travels.  Please follow this link to a Wikipedia page about Falkenburg  to read more.  (Note:  Not all the info on Wikipedia is correct.  Terry and I are working on editing the article to make it more accurate.)  The photo above was taken by John from the Pennsylvania side and is of a northern portion of Burlington Island today.


October 25



The picture on the left shows Wanda Maria Werbicki Fortenberry (at bottom) and her sister Regina Barbara Joan Werbicki.  “Aunt Reggie” as we called her was born October 25, 1924.  The image on the right is Regina Maria Fortenberry Cross who was born on October 25, 1946.  As we learned later in life, Aunt Reggie named all six of us siblings.  Consequently, my sister, Reggie gets her first name from Aunt Reggie (since they share a birthday) and her middle name from our Mom’s middle name – Maria.  Aunt Reggie has two middle names.  Her first middle name (Barbara) came from her dad’s mom, Barbara Dombrowska.  Because it was tradition that Polish Catholic girls had a saint’s middle name she was also named after Joan of Arc.   Our youngest sibling got the other two of Aunt Reggie’s names making her Barbara Joan Fortenberry!  By the way, I used these two pictures because I love the hairstyles on the two Reggies!

October 19, 1740

On this date, John Fulkenburgh (my 4X great grandfather) was baptized by Rev. Craig, minister of the Tinkling Spring Presbyterian Church in the Shenandoah Valley.  His father was recorded as Jacob Fulkenburgh and his mother’s name was not given.  Because the church was not constructed until 1742, we know the baptism took place when the minister was traveling through the area where the Falkenburgs were living.  John’s baptismal record is the only one known for any of our family during the 10 years they lived in the area.  Though the original church is no longer there, the spring still flows and the cemetery is quite ancient.  Notice the tree growth around the old headstone.  There is no record of any of our family being buried there but it is a very interesting place.


October 6 – 11, 1809

On October 6, 1809, Willis Simmons (my 3X great grandfather) along with two other men requested a passport to travel through the Creek Indian Nation to the Mississippi Territory.  The document above showing signatures of men willing to vouch for their character is housed in the Georgia State Archives.    Five days later, the Governor’s Office issued the actual passport they carried with them on their journey.  It is hard today to imagine deciding to make a move that required walking over 500 miles with your family and important possessions through Creek Indian Territory with no house waiting at the other end!   Willis and Jane would have been in their mid 20s and traveling with two or three small children!   Read more about this adventure by choosing “Simmons family to Mississippi” from the blogroll on the right.

October 2, 1956

Ferman Esco Fortenberry had five brothers and six sisters.  His older brother, Andrew Jackson Fortenberry died on October 2, 1956 at the age of 77.  The photo above, taken in the early 1920s, is one of my favorite old candid shots!  Daddy has labeled the photo with an arrow pointing to “Uncle Andrew and Joe.”  Joe, Daddy’s first cousin, is the little boy in front of his dad.  Andrew Fortenberry was a well respected doctor in southern Mississippi and nearby areas of Louisiana.  Daddy told us a story of his Uncle Andrew coming to Ferman’s home to remove Daddy’s tonsils.  The operation was done on the kitchen table!  It took me a while to understand the photo but upon close inspection you can see their clothes are wet and one man is holding a very large catfish.  They had been participating in a well known fishing activity called “noodling.”  This is a process of catching fish with your hands and has always been popular in the south.  The other people in the photo are not identified.  

September 29, 1913

On this date, my grandmother,  Pelagia Brygida Jaroszewka arrived at Ellis Island, New York from Osiek Piaseczny, Poland.   “Bachie,” as her grandchildren called her, gave her age as 18 though she was actually 15 1/2 years old.  It was illegal for people under 18 to travel without parents.  She was traveling with a girl from a nearby village who also added a few years to her age.  Bachie had been living in Poland with her grandparents because her mother had gone to America in 1907 to try to locate her husband.  In 1913, the family in Poland got word that Bachie’s sister, Eva, who was already in America was getting married in the fall.  Because of the failing health of the grandparents, they sent Bachie to the states to be with her older sister and mother.  The photo below was probably taken about the time of Eva’s wedding in November of 1913.    Bachie is seated and Eva is standing.  To read more, choose “Wanda’s mother – Bachie” from the blogroll.



September 18, 1939

Division F on USS Helena about 1940. Photo from internet album of McClelland on

Daddy (Adrian) was part of the crew of the U.S.S. Helena (CL 50 Light Cruiser) from its commissioning on September 18, 1939 until August 31, 1942 when he was assigned to the U.S.S. Melville.  The photo above shows Division F which was composed of the gunnery and fire control crews.  (Everyone having to do with the guns on board the ship)  Adrian is on the far right between the second and third rows.  His good friend, George Yellak, is just behind him in row three.

September 10, 1947

On September 10, 1847, Robert L. Simmons was born.  He served in the Civil War as a teenage!  By the time he died in 1939, daily life had changed considerably.  In 1930, he wrote a short autobiography called “Memories of a Long Life” that is absolutely fascinating.  The following is a quote from page 43.  “In my early life people walked.   Grandmother Simmons rode a pony to Silver Creek Church and my uncles walked.  That was about 10 miles.  After the Civil War, buggies came.  it was said people lived on wheels.  And then the automobile came.  it was said you never had to go anywhere, just start and you were there.  And now we have the airplane and will soon all be flying.”  

The relationships within rural areas of the past often were convoluted.  Robert was married to Sarah Louise Fortenberry.  She was the daughter of Calvin and Narcissa (Simmons) Fortenberry.  Though Sarah’s mother was a Simmons and her husband, Robert, was a Simmons, they were not related.  Narcissa was from the “Silver Creek Simmons family” and Robert was from the “Bala Chitto Simmons family.  But that means Sarah and Robert’s children were blood kin to both Simmons lines!  The photo below shows Sarah and Robert Simmons was probably taken in the 1920s as Sarah died in late 1928.

September 5, 1830

It seems that Burrell Fortenberry and his wife, Eliza Jane Ellzey had a lot going on during these summer months.  Here is another entry about this couple!  Eliza Jane was born on September 5, 1830 in Pike County, Mississippi.  My date of birth comes from an Ellzey Family Bible.   Eliza Jane was the daughter of John Shaffer and Elizabeth (Coney) Ellzey.

(Sorry, I just realized it is still August on Friday!)

August 9, 1862

Two weeks ago, we celebrated the marriage of Burrell Fortenberry to Eliza Jane Ellzey.  Today’s post is about a less positive event.  On Saturday, June 9, 1862, Burrell joined Quinn’s 2nd Mississippi State Troops.  Generally, the state troops were made up of the older and younger men in an area.  Burrell would have turned 42 that year.  Only one year later, Burrell would be trapped within the confines of Port Hudson on starvation rations.   On July 9, 1863, he would be paroled as a prisoner of war and due to his poor health, he went home to Pike County, Mississippi where he died on September 14, 1863.  For more information, see “Port Hudson and the Civil War” in the blogroll on the right.

August, 1939

Adrian’s first extended time on a ship

This pillowcase is a memento of Adrian’s “midshipmen’s cruise.”  After joining the Navy in December of 1937 and his initial training, he was assigned to the U.S.S. Arkansas.  Midshipmen’s cruises were to test new sailors to see how they did aboard for extended periods.  They left port on June 2, 1939 and returned August 30, 1939.  Among the ports listed above, it is interesting to note that they included a visit to the New York Worlds Fair!  This stop probably occurred toward the end of the cruise as a treat for the men.  The theme of the event is even included – “The World of Tomorrow”  The ship would have docked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  According to his Navy records, this would have been his first time to the area.  Since he and Wanda married on November 19, 1939, it is VERY possible they met in August of 1939!  For more about Adrian’s first experiences in the Navy, see Navy 1 on the blogroll on the right.

August 15, 1850

On Thursday, August 15, 1850, Eliza Jane Ellzey and Burrell Taylor Fortenberry were married.  Eliza Jane was the daughter of John Shaffer and Elizabeth (Coney) Ellzey.  Burrell was the son of William Jasper and Violette (Kennington) Fortenberry.  At the time of their marriage, Burrel was about 30 (born sometime in 1820) and Eliza Jane was one month away from her 20th birthday (September 5).  For the times, an age difference of ten years for a first marriage was unusual.  Who knows, maybe Burrell was wanting for her to grow up – she was certainly a pretty lady!  As mentioned a few weeks ago, Burrell died when Eliza Jane has just turned 33.  She never remarried and raised their five sons herself.  

August 6, 1780

In South Carolina, the Revolutionary War was actually a civil war.  It is amazing to read about the animosity and cruelties between the Patriots (pro Revolution) and Tories (pro British).  Our Fortenberry direct line was living in Lancaster County, South Carolina which is on the central part of the border between South and North Carolina.  Near where they lived was a British fort at Camden that kept the area in constant turmoil.  On August 6, 1780, a battle was fought near Hanging Rock Creek about 10 miles from where our family lived.  My 4 great grandfather’s (John Faulkenberry) brother, David, was with the militia under Thomas Sumter at the Battle of Hanging Rock.   In 1832, he applied for a Revolutionary War pension because he was never paid anything for his war service.   In his application for financial aid, David’s son Jacob stated “He is a cripple in both hands, which applicant (David) has a recollection was produced at his own house by the tories, on account of his attachment to the Whigs, by cutting him to pieces with their swords.  He was also wounded by a ball at the same time, which is now in his arm.”  He got a pension of $33.33 per YEAR.  Based upon the way the war was fought in South Carolina, David probably knew his attackers.  To read David’s entire application, please follow this link: David Faulkenberry  and to learn more about the Battle of Hanging Rock see  Hanging Rock

The photo below shows one of the many examples as to why the area is called “Hanging Rock.”  The area is maintained by the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism and is an interesting place to visit.  The rock behind me looks like it could roll at any moment!  

Antonia Cybulska Jaroszweska

On July 27, 1907 (111 years ago), my great grandmother, Antonia Jaroszewska arrived at Ellis Island, New York.  She was 34 years old and came to America to try to locate her husband, Jan Jaroszewski, who had come looking for work.  It had been many months since she had last heard from him, so she left her three daughters with her mother, Franciszska Jablonski Cybulski.  According to the passenger list, Antonia was 4’9″ tall – a giant of a woman!  My Mom remembered her as being small, slim, and very energetic – and no, she never located her husband.  There were two rumors – he either died in a mine explosion in Pennsylvania or disappeared into the sunset with another woman!  The mystery has never been solved!.  At 93 years old, she decided she did not want to die in America and traveled back to Poland to live her final years with one daughter that remained in Poland.  The photo below was taken in 1954 at the marriage of her grandson, Felix Wierzbicki.

Attendants at a Wedding

During the same shore leave as discussed last week, while in California in July of 1941, Adrian and Wanda Fortenberry were the only attendants at the wedding of George Yellak and Sophie Bronikowska.  Sophie traveled with Wanda to California (against Sophie’s parents’ wishes) to marry Adrian’s fellow shipmate on the Helena.  This event occurred on July 23, 1941 and is included within the article “Navy 5 – 1941 Shore Leave in California.”  With most of Europe affected by the events with Germany, one wonders what they may have thought about the future.  Left to right:  Adrian, Wanda, George, and Sophie at the Army – Navy Club, Long Beach, California.

Young Love

Between July 15 and August 12, 1941, Adrian had shore leave from the USS Helena.  Due to the extended time, Wanda traveled across country (from Brooklyn, NY) to be with him.  It had been 10 months since they had last seen each other and they had only been married for 20 months.  When they parted this time, the Helena would head back to a second tour at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and would be there for the Japanese attack on December 7.  They would not see each other again for 6 months.  This photo was taken at Long Beach, California.  Adrian was 22 years old and Wanda was 20 – so incredibly young!   To read (reread) more of this story, please see “Navy 5 – 1941 Shore Leave in California.”

July, 1863

On July 9, 1863, Burrell Taylor Fortenberry (my 2X great grandfather) was captured at the fall of the siege of Port Hudson.  He was paroled July 12/13 and because he was ill, he went home to Pike County, Mississippi.  Within two months, according to his grandson’s Navy log, he died of “exposure in war” – probably from a disease he caught from eating rats and other inedible things! To get an idea of some of his experiences, please read (or reread) Port Hudson and the Civil War.  He was 43 years old, left a young wife and five sons.

Unusual 1866 Tax List

I recently found some interesting 1866 Mississippi IRS tax records.  As a reminder, the Civil War is only one year in the past.  The south was in very bad shape – lots of men dead and families had very few possessions not sold for food or taken by Union foraging groups.  During the tax year of 1866, the US government went from house to house to collect money.  I guess most Southerners had little or no income to be taxed, so specific possessions were taxed!  If you had a piano, buggy, or a watch you were taxed $1.00.  If you had a profession other than farming, you were levied a special tax.  For instance, physicians and lawyers were taxed $10.00 just for their occupations.  Kind of crazy if you ask me!  The men who are listed represent a very small portion of the population as few people had anything of value that made it through the war.  Not one single Fortenberry (and there were many) possessed even a watch to be taxed.  George Washington Simmons (my great, great grandfather) was taxed for having a buggy that made it through the war!

Explanation of data:  Simmons, GW (George Washington); Osyka (closest town to where he was living in Pike County); 1 Buggy (means an open vehicle as opposed to a carriage which is enclosed and taxed at $2.00); code 262 (indicating a buggy) and the last column is the amount taxed.   To see a copy of a very old photo of George Washington Simmons and his wife, Mary Caroline Magee, scroll down a few weeks.

Ferman Esco Fortenberry

June 18  1886 – June 9, 1952

Ferman has appeared on previous postings.  Since he is my grandpa, I like to pass down to later generations some of the stories about him.  Tomorrow I will be posting the story of his moving to Georgia in 1939 and the development of an amazing company he and his sons founded – F. E. Fortenberry & Sons, Inc.  If I do not write about these events now, the following generations will never know about their ancestors’ accomplishments.

A New Supposition

June 28, 1776

Genealogists often try to figure out things that have no definitive answer.  That is what I am doing today.  I believe I have figured out why my 3X great grandfather was named William Jasper Fortenberry.  Note:  Our best guess as to his year of birth is thought to be about 1776.  Before my explanation of how he may have been named, we must look at how William named his own children.  The U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management has records showing early land acquisitions in Pike County, Mississippi.  Because the records often show a middle name, we know that William used surnames for his sons’ middle names.  The ones recorded for several of Williams sons’ includes: Gasua “Chapman” Fortinberry, Burrell “Taylor” Fortinberry, and Hollis “Horton” Fortinberry.  Another document tells us he had a son named Calvin “Kennington” Fortinberry – all surnames from the Lancaster County, South Carolina area where William Jasper Fortenberry was born.  In fact, Kennington was the maiden name of William’s wife, Violette.  

Where am I going with this?  Last week, while reading a book about Francis Marion, I came across information about a Southern Revolutionary War hero named William Jasper.  I think it is possible that William’s father, Revolutionary War patriot John Fortenberry, named his son after this man!  William Jasper’s heroic deed occurred on June 28, 1776.   He quickly became well know across the state!  If William was named in honor of this man’s efforts, this would mean he was born in the second half of 1776.  To learn more William Jasper’s life, please see this Wikipedia page:

William Jasper Fortenberry’s grave is located at the Fortenberry-Pittman Cemetery in Walthall County, Mississippi.  A marker was placed on his grave in 1902.  This photo was taken in 1976.  The clasped hands are a Victorian symbol which often represented an earthly farewell or a heavenly welcome.  Sadly, if you visit the site today, this marker is gone but his War of 1812 marker remains.

June, 1943

By June of 1943, Adrian (Daddy) had been in Recife, Brazil for four months.  During this point in World War II, he had been assigned to the USS Melville, a destroyer tender.  This was a ship that would dock near destroyers (and other types of ships) to make repairs.  Because of Adrian’s extensive training as a fire controlman, his job was to be sure all parts of the guns were functioning properly.  This photo was taken while in Recife and shows a careworn sailor who was probably wishing to go home!

Incorporation Papers

On June 6, 1955, F. E. Fortenberry & Sons became a corporation.  The incorporation papers were filed under the three oldest brothers’ names:  Victor E. Fortenberry, F. Elmo Fortenberry, and Adrian W. Fortenberry.  Although their father had died 3 years before, they chose to kept the original name of the company in honor of their father, Ferman Esco Fortenberry.   It was a “closed company” as it was run by six brothers, all with equal voting power.  The other three brothers were, in order of birth, W. Jackson Fortenberry, Donald C. Fortenberry, and H. Clyde Fortenberry.  I located this document at the DeKalb County Courthouse while researching for an extensive article I will be posting in about three weeks!

Since it is Memorial Day

Memorial Day was established to remember those who died serving our country.  Today, take a moment to remember Alvie C. Fortenberry.  He was on the USS Arizona when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  He was only 20 years old.  As it often the case, those who die in war are often very young men leaving no descendants to remember them.  His name is on the top of column four.  As you probably know, my Dad Adrian was also at Pearl Harbor when the attack occurred.  How is Alvie related to me?  Adrian and Alvie were third cousins.  Though his remains are still under the waves in Hawaii, Alvie has a marker at New Zion Church, Walthall County, Mississippi.  

Graduation Day 1937

With all the graduations going on now, I decided to look back at a particular one – my Dad’s!   Rural schools let out early so that children could help with planting crops and other farming chores.  As it turns out, he graduated on April 21, 1937 but I decided to use it anyway.  On that date he graduated from Progress High School in Pike County, Mississippi in a graduating class of 28.  He was related to 15 of his classmates!  According to his Navy enlistment papers, he played basketball in high school – a fact no one in the family ever knew.  The photo below shows Dad standing with his third cousin and classmate Dalton Wilson.  This photo with several others leads me to believe that it was taken at their graduation.  At this point, Dad had no idea that his future held so many life changing events that would lead him far from his rural farming childhood.   Some of those events included traveling to foreign places around the world while spending 8 years in the Navy, living through the attack on Pearl Harbor on his birthday in 1941, meeting and marrying a woman very different from any girl he had even known (Polish Roman Catholic from Brooklyn, NY), settling in Georgia and forming a successful business with his father and brothers, and having six wonderful children.  He was a quiet, soft spoken, kindhearted man whose children and grandchildren still miss him.

A Tough Five Days in May, 1910

On May 1, 1910, grandpa Ferman Esco Fortenberry left Punta Arenas, Chile on board the USS Tennessee ARC 10 (Armored Cruiser) to navigate around Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America.  They were on their way to Montevideo, Uruguay but first made port on May 5 at Maldonado, Uruguay.  Between May 1 and 5th, they had five miserable days battling the unpredictable violence of weather and sea conditions.  Evidently their trip was unusually awful as the waves continually washed over the front of the ship.  The Naval History Center even has a photo of from this trip!  Other photos include an image of Ferman in his Navy training cap and one of the USS Tennessee in calm water.  Please notice the height of the bow of the ship and imagine waves big enough to put the bow under water!  Probably every single sailor was seasick on this crossing!


George Washington Simmons

This photo of a serious looking couple, both with hands on their Bibles, is a copy of a copy of an old tintype taken about the time of the Civil War.  Let me introduce you to George Washington Simmons and his wife, Mary Caroline Magee.  Today, we will take a look at him because he was born on May 1, 1820.  He was the 7th of 8 children of Willis Simmons, our Mississippi Territory pioneer.  The location of his birth was, appropriately enough, Simmonsville which was named after his father.    He and his wife belonged to the Silver Creek Baptist Church in Pike County, Mississippi, where his father was a founding member.   In fact, all members of Willis’s family line are referred to as “the Silver Creek Simmons family” to distinguish us from another Simmons family in the area.  They are not related to us and are called the “Bala Chitto Simmons family.” 

According to the 1860 census, G.W. Simmons was relatively affluent, owning about 3000 acres and having a personal tax evaluation of $35,000.  Pretty impressive for the times!  To help you fit him into the family:  G.W. Simmons had 12 children, among them William Eli Simmons.  William Eli Simmons also had 12 children, among them Nellie Mae Simmons.  Granny Mae Simmons Fortenberry had 6 sons, among them Adrian Fortenberry, my Dad!  That would make G.W. Simmons my 2X great grandpa.  Looking at the number of children born each generation, I must have a whole lot of cousins just following this one line!

Miss Atlanta

In April of 1960, our family had our own celebrity.  Everett and Jane’s oldest daughter, Eleanor Mae Fortenberry was crowned Miss Atlanta of 1960.  Because she is an incredible vocalist, her talent entry was a soprano solo called “One Kiss” from the Broadway musical The New Moon.  The whole Fortenberry clan was proud to have her talents recognized. (Article from page 1, Decatur DeKalb News, April 28, 1960.)

This Month and Year in History!

Last week, on April 11, 2018, a team lead by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen located and identified the wreck of the U.S.S. Helena.  She was located in 2821 feet below the surface of the New Georgia Sound in the Solomon Islands.  Daddy (Adrian) was part of the crew of the Helena from its commissioning on September 18, 1939 until August 31, 1942 when he was assigned to the U.S.S. Melville.  He developed many close friends on the ship and sadly quite a few died during the war.  The Helena was sunk during the battle at Kula Gulf on July 6, 1943.  Thankfully, Adrian was not on board!  To learn more, read some of the five articles on the blogroll listed under “Navy USS Helena …”

Some online reading:

April 53 Years Ago

As most of you know, my parents (Adrian and Wanda) loved flowers, especially Mom.  Her self taught knowledge about horticulture was extensive enough that she could have taught graduate level classes!  The photo above of April azaleas was taken in 1965 in our front yard on Norman Road in Clarkston, Georgia.  I love this photo because it shows Daddy taking a moment in his very busy life to contemplate a small part of the beauty he and Mom created.  The moral of the photo  – “remember to take quiet moments to enjoy the beauty of life wherever you find it.”

To learn more, please take a look at two blogroll articles:  Orchids and Flowers Part 1.

April 3, 1909

One hundred and nine years ago, my grandfather Raimund Kacper Wierzbicki got on a ship named the Badenia to travel to a new life.  He left home soon after his 17th birthday and arrived at Ellis Island on April 3, 1909 with a total of $5.00!  Like many young men of his generation, with the help of his relatives (in his case his mother Barbara) he left home to keep from being forced into the Russian Army when he turned 18.  He never saw his mother again.  The Russians were so brutal to the Polish that any who did return home after many years of service were broken and changed men.  Raymond left a very rural area of Poland and spent the remainder of his life working menial jobs in Brooklyn, New York while living in low rent row houses that contained several families.

His grandchildren knew him as an extremely quiet, introspective man who did not often smile or talk above a whisper.  Although he spoke English well (better than our grandmother), it was with a heavy accent.  Anytime I hear a Slavic accent today, I think of him and my grandmother. The photo above of Wanda and her dad was taken in 1942.

I regret never having asked him about his life in Poland.  It is sad that when we finally are old enough to want to know about our family’s past, the people you want to talk to are gone.   I wish I could tell him I have been to his village and church and am proud to be 50% Polish!  Read more about this story by choosing “Ellis Island and the Wierzbickis” from the Blogroll.                                                   

Easter 35 Years Ago

Easter is just around the corner.  This year, the holiday will be celebrated on April 1.    The photo shown here was taken April 3, 1983 – 35 years ago!  I would imagine there are quite a few people in this photo who would find it hard to believe it was that long ago.  Obviously it was hard to get everyone with a happy face or good pose with so many children impatient to eat chocolate.  Happy Easter and Spring everyone!  It looks like we may finally be finished with our cold weather.

Antonina Cybulska

Antonina Cybulska was my great grandmother (Me – Wanda Wierzbicka Fortenberry – Pelagia Jaroszewska Wierzbicka – Antonina Cybulska Jaroszewska).  She was born on March 14, 1873 in the very small village of Druchowo.  Her father, Jakub Cybulski was listed as a servant and her mother was Franciszka Jablonska.  Although she was born in central Poland, her birth certificate is in Russian.  Why?  During the 1840s to 1860’s, Poland was trying to break away from Russian control.  Several Polish uprisings resulted in an attempt by Russia to eradicate the Polish culture.  Beginning in 1868, they were not allowed to speak Polish in public, print newspapers in Polish, or even record documents in their native language.  Below is a copy of Antonina’s birth certificate and it is clearly not written in Polish as that language uses the same alphabet as English.  Below the Russian document is a translation.  At the bottom is a photo of Antonina taken in 1954; she was about 4’8″.  



This happened in Koziebrody on the second/fourteenth of March in the year one thousand eight hundred seventy three at ten o’clock in the morning. Jakub Cybulski appeared, twenty five years old, a servant residing in Druchowo, in the presence of Maciej Goryszewski, fifty years old, a peasant, and Antoni Kuzniewski, seventy years old, a peasant, both residing in Druchowo; and he showed us a female child, stating that she was born in Druchowo today at one o’clock in the morning, to his lawful wife Franciszka nèe Jablonska, twenty three years old. At the holy christening performed today by me, the Pastor, this child was given the name Antonina, and her godparents were the above mentioned Maciej Goryszewski and Marianna Jankowska. This record was read to the declarant and witnesses and because they are illiterate, it was signed by Us only.

Civil Registrar, Pastor of Koziebrody parish [Fr. Kwiatkowski]

Jacob Folkenburry

“15th Mar. 1747 ~ Jacob Folkenburry. 100. Bla. on the So Side of Pedee River being the place where he now lives .  .”  This 271 year old document located in the South Carolina Archives shows my 5X grandfather receiving 100 acres in Bladen County, North Carolina on the south side of the PeeDee River.  He was already living on the land which means he had been there long enough to make “improvements” to prove his intention of staying in the area.   He would have been there at least a year or two.   Since it has been determined that the Falkenburgs left the Shenandoah Valley area in late 1745 or early 1746, this date fits perfectly.  In 1750, Anson County, North Carolina was formed from the western part of Bladen.  Anson County histories list the Falkenburgs as one of the first 100 families to live there.  Jacob was born about 1708 in Cecil County, Maryland where his father, Henry, operated the local ferry across the Bohemia River.  For information on his father Henry, please see the blogroll article “Henry Falkenburg.”

Calvin Kennington Fortenberry

March 19 to April 8, 1863

While my direct ancestor, Burrel Taylor Fortenberry was serving in the Confederate cavalry involved at the Siege of Port Hudson in the spring and summer of 1863, his 56 year old brother, Calvin, was involved with partisan support efforts.  The record above is from a series of “Confederate citizen files.”  It shows that Calvin was hauling goods over the roads between two railroad terminals at Osyka, Mississippi and Clinton, Louisiana.  This was one of the few ways Confederates could get supplies to the starving men at Port Hudson.  

The first column gives a date of April 8, 1863.  For services of one wagon and driver hauling stores from Osyka Miss to Clinton La from March 19 to April 8    20 days @ 750 –    He received $150 (surely Confederate money).  He was paid at Osyka, Mississippi the 27th day of April, 1863 and his signature is visible.   One wonders if Calvin crossed paths with many of the Union foragers in the area! (An interesting side note:  My dad, Adrian Fortenberry’s place of birth was Osyka!)  Learn more about Burrel’s life during the war by choosing “Port Hudson and the Civil War” from the blogroll on the right!

Pelagia Bregeta Jaroszewska

Pelagia (Pauline) Jaroszewska was born March 10, 1898 at Kowalewo which is a village in the administrative district of Gmina Drobin, within Płock County, Masovian Voivodeship, in east-central Poland.  After immigrating to the US, she met and married Raymond Wierzbicki.  They had four children:  Wanda (my mom), Regina, Raymond, and Felix.  When she visited us from Brooklyn, New York, her grandchildren often had difficulty understanding her.  Having lived her adult life within a Polish area in Brooklyn, she rarely was required to speak English.   As you can see from the photo below, she was very short.  Her record from her immigration through Ellis Island in 1913 gave her height as 4’10” but I think she was shorter than that.  Mom was 5’3″ and she looks tall next to her.  This photo was taken July 12, 1969 just before getting in the car to drive to the Frist Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia for my wedding!

William Jasper Fortenberry

William Fortenberry is my 3X great grandfather.  He was born in Lancaster County, South Carolina about 1776 to John and Hannah (Eubanks) Fortenberry.  He married Violette Kennington, daughter of John Kennington.  William’s father died about 1815.  In 1819, he traveled with his family, including his mother Hannah, to the newly formed state of Mississippi.  Six of William and Violette’s six children were born in South Carolina and four in Mississippi.  William died on February 7, 1842 and was buried in the Fortenberry-Pittman Cemetery in Walthall County.  A stone was put on his grave in 1902.  This marker has since disappeared.   You will also notice from one picture to the other that the cemetery has been paved to help with upkeep.  The marker is very interesting because it was obviously hand carved.  Notice that “Carolina” had to be hyphenated. 

February 3, 1743

A document “signed” 275 years ago by Jacob ffalkenburg, my 5X grandfather and his brother John, shows the importance of roads in recently settled areas of the Shenandoah Valley.  This Orange County, Virginia road petition was a request by 33 men from the area today encompassed within Shenandoah County to the Virginia colonial courts to provide funds to make the road passable for wagons.  “May it please your honours that wee the subscribers do humbly petition … for a Wagon Road to be made from John ffunks Mill to Benja Allens Mill, the Road which is ….very Difficult for a wagon to go…”  If you would like to read more about the Falkenburgs during this time, please take a look at the blogroll article called The Falkenburgs of the Shenandoah Valley.”

Note: Jacob’s name is on several petitions and none of the signatures look alike.  In all probability, he could not read or write which was common for the time period.  Today, the location of Benjamin Allen’s Mill is the town of Mt. Jackson.  The road they were requesting would become part of the Great Wagon Road, still in evidence today as Highway 11.  In Shenandoah County, it is called the Old Valley Pike.

Canolia Simmons Fortenberry

Canolia Ann Elizabeth Simmons, daughter of James Jackson and Sarah (Brewer) Simmons was the wife of William Jackson Fortenberry, known to his grandchildren as “Grandpa Jack.”  Canolia passed away on February 7, 1925 at the age of 67.  Canolia and Jack had a large family of 6 boys and 6 girls, all but one daughter making it through all the childhood illnesses of the times.  In the studio photo of Canolia, notice the beautiful cameo pin she is wearing.  She seems to have been an elegant woman!  I included the second photo of her grave after her funeral.  I know it is strange to do so, but in all my years of doing family research, it is the only photo I have ever seen of someone’s recent grave.  She is buried at Silver Springs Church in Pike County, Mississippi where she and Jack were charter members.

Hollis Horton Fortenberry

Hollis was the son of William and Violette (Kennington) Fortenberry, brother of Alfred discussed previously.  Hollis Horton Fortenberry was named after a friend of his father’s back in Lancaster County, South Carolina whose name was, of course, Hollis Horton.  Our Hollis was born in Pike County, Mississippi on February 12, 1825.  He and his wife, Louisa Margany James had 11 known children (6 boys and 5 girls).  According to George Kellie Fortenberry, an early chronicler of Fortenberry history, Hollis caught yellow fever and died October 24, 1867.  His death at 42 years had to have devastated his wife who then had 11 children between 17 and 2 to raise alone.  The photo above is a copy of a tintype that belonged to his oldest brother, Gasua Chapman Fortenberry.  He was buried on hillside 300 yards west of his house that is today known as the Fortenberry Cemetery.

Rajmund Kacper Wierzbicki

Grandpa Werbicki always gave his birth date as January 29, 1892.  When the Russian Army came through his area around 1905, they transcribed the birth records for all male children so they could return to the village later and force them to join their army.  Since  his Polish Catholic church at Lachowo  no longer has their birth record books (thought to have been lost or stolen many years ago) we only have the information recorded by the Russians.  On that record, his date is recorded as February 7.  In either case, we know he was born in a very small village called Rydzewo-Świątki which is located just south of the church at Lachowo.  He was a very quiet man, but I wish I had asked him questions about his life in Poland.  Photo above taken with daughter, Wanda about 1942.

Alfred Fortenberry

Alfred Fortenberry was born in Pike County, Mississippi on January 26, 1823 and was the son of William Jasper Fortenberry and his wife, Violette Kennington.  He was the brother of Burrel Taylor Fortenberry,  my 2X great grandfather.  That would make him my 3 great uncle.  Alfred married Aderine Falk in 1848 and had eight children.  He died March 2, 1861 at the age of 38, one month after the birth of his eighth child.  Sadly, very little is known about his life.  A story carried down through his family says that during his short life, Alfred read the bible 33 times.  This image is a copy of a badly degraded tintype taken before his death in 1861.  

January 24, 1921

My mom, Wanda Maria Wierzbicki was born at her parents’ home in one of the Polish neighborhoods of Brooklyn, New York.  Her parents (Raymond Kasper Wierzbicki and Pelagia Bregitta Jaroszewska) were Ellis Island immigrants from Poland.  This 1930 photo of her was taken in conjunction with her confirmation at Our Lady of Consolation, their local Polish Catholic Church.  Even today, they conduct sermons in Polish.   She was nine years old when the photo was made.  She was a true Renaissance woman and was one of the most intelligent people I have ever known.   I wish I could have taken her with me to Poland when I met some of our Polish relatives.   Sure do miss you!     (Read more about her life on the blog article on the right called “Wanda’s childhood.”)

January 5, 1942

While docked as seen here, repairs were made to the Helena to close the hole caused by a Japanese shallow torpedo hit.  Fortunately for the crew (including Adrian Fortenberry), extensive repairs could not be made in Hawaii so they had to go back to California.  On January 5, 1942 (exactly 76 years ago today), the Helena left Hawaii to return to Mare Island, California to make the repairs necessary to return to service.  The ship had to slowly make its way across the Pacific Ocean with only half its usual engine power.   Although he never returned to Hawaii, his experiences, both good and bad remained a part of his psyche the rest of his life.  

%d bloggers like this: