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.


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.  

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