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Finding harmony across three generations as the daughter of a World War II C.O. married to a son of a World War II vet. Part III

June 16, 2013

Part III

As I mentioned in my last post, when my sister, brother, and I had our children, my father told his “war” stories of service in a mental hospital to his grandchildren, so they would know this faith and family history too. (I also tell more of Dad’s story in an earlier Another Way column here.)

Our oldest daughter Michelle has always been drawn to history, something her father and I both enjoy. I don’t know if it was all those hours watching the History Channel which my husband frequently had on, (back in the days when all programs were historical, unlike today), or her own compulsion to want to go to the historical (and challenging) College of William and Mary (alma mater of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson etc.) as early as fourth grade, because of its role in U.S. history.

Stuart Davis, Mary (Davis) Russell, Michelle Davis Sinclair pouring over family history.

My husband’s only living aunt, Mary Russell,
tells family stories to our oldest daughter, Michelle.

At William & Mary she had friends who were even more involved in the study of history and she became intrigued by trying to find out if anyone in her family (either side) ever “fought in the Revolutionary War.” She studied bits and pieces of our own records and information. Finally last year, for her birthday, we gave her a subscription to Ancestry.com. As a novelist (still in search of an agent and publisher) who strives for historical accuracy, she has honed her research skills and over the next months she spent a lot of time researching a number of branches of her own and her husband’s family histories.Mary Russell and Michelle Davis Sinclair

Interestingly, Michelle found her Revolutionary War veteran! Not on her father’s side with a long history of war veterans, but on my side of the family which included many, but certainly not all, pacifists. His name was Nathaniel Jefferies, Sr., my four-times great grandfather (on my grandmother’s side). Michelle wrote, “The tremendously sad thing I uncovered about him was that in 1777 he lost his father, his mother, his wife, and all six of his children, ages 10-18, to “camp fever” or typhus. That’s the very same winter as Valley Forge. Nathaniel may have survived the outbreak that took his entire family because he was with the Continental Army.” Irony of terrible ironies. He remarried around 1793, and my mother’s family descended from his second wife.

Family tree of Ruth Loucks Stauffer

Part of Michelle’s research showing family tree of
Ruth Loucks Stauffer, my maternal grandmother.

My daughter further speculated from information she read that the Jefferies were either Quaker or Quaker sympathizers, so his involvement may have been compulsory. Michelle wrote in an e-mail:

“But it’s kind of odd to imagine the Continental Army forcing a 44-year-old man to join up. Nathaniel would have been 44 in 1777, the year of Valley Forge. Still, he must have been a healthy man, he lived to be 90 years old. Another possibility is that he wasn’t in the army at the time of the outbreak, managed to survive, and having lost his entire family, joined the army thinking he had nothing else to live for. The only records I’ve found of him in the service is a ‘leave card’ from 1780, so I know he was part of the rolls by then, but I don’t know exactly when he joined.”

More of her study and findings can be found here. Her own journey in understanding pacifist teachings and history has continued by learning from people at Northern Virginia Mennonite Church near where she lives, (while continuing official membership at her home congregation, Trinity Presbyterian, an official “peacemaking” congregation of PCUSA).

So, I am descended in part from a Revolutionary War veteran who was likely Quaker. My dad “would have been a medic” if he had not felt he would have just been part of the whole “war machine” as he called it. My brother-in-law was a medic who was wounded who still bears the pain of that experience in multiple ways. (My own husband’s draft number never came up, but for many younger years I knew that if called, he probably would probably go.)

Our very different histories on the surface are not as far apart as they look. I’ve often said I’m liberal and open enough in my thinking to love a conservative. So I’m still trying to build bridges, find harmony, and looking for paths toward peace in many ways.

Would you marry someone with different beliefs? How different?

(See Part I here of this blog post and Part II here.)

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From → Faith, Family Life

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