Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What's in a name?

I am fascinated with certain people in my family. First and foremost is George Washington Huff. The name about says it all. If I had the guts, my daughter should have been named Abigail Adams Barresi. But I don't. So she's isn't. But George Washington Huff's parents had the reverence to name their son after the first President. At one point I found another George W. Huff who had a brother Ulysses Huff. I was hoping the brothers were George Washington Huff and Ulysses Grant Huff. It didn't really matter in the long run because Ulysses's brother was not my George W.

The other reason I'm fascinated by George W. Huff, is his untimely death at the age of 41, which I wrote about here, as well as his interesting childhood and lifelong service in the U.S. Army. Here is a map of his enlistments I put together.

George W. Huff was born 8 Mar 1861 in Morris, Illinois to William Huff (1825-1862/3) and Levina Foulk (1843-?.) Levina was William's second wife and she was only 18 when she had George W., while William was 41. William's first wife, Delilah Smith died in 1860 after having two children of her own, William Hough/Huff (1843-1921) and Sarah J. Huff (1848-?.) George W.'s father served in the Civil War, where he reportedly died in 1862 or 1863, leaving Levina a widow at 20 years old and George W. fatherless at about 1 yr old. Levina would remarry Charles G. Hartfield and move with George W. to Yalobusha, Mississippi by 1870. I haven't found Levina's death record yet, but she was widowed and living in Austin, TX in 1901.

By 1878, George W. had enlisted in the U.S. Army. His lifelong career took him from South Carolina to Kansas, California, Omaha, and New York. I imagine him at Fort Omaha in the early 1880s witnessing or possibly taking part in the last years of the Indian Wars. I imagine him at the Presidio in San Francisco in 1893 acting as the first "Park Ranger" patrolling the Sierra Nevadas. I imagine him at Fort Riley in Kansas, walking the same grounds that Custer and the Buffalo Soldiers had walked only years before.

What did he see? What did he do? I know he was in the artillery, but was he ever in battle? Was he simply a guard at all of these camps? My aunt even heard that he was a tailor in the Army. Though I haven't seen any records of this does it mean he wasn't? I believe it is my job to find out these answers as best I can before the answers are gone forever.

I can trace the Huff family back to Edmund Huff in 1747 in Pennsylvania and I can trace the Foulk/Foulke family even further, to Johann Jacob Volck in 1649 in Heppenheim, Germany. Although it is great to be able to trace one's family back centuries to foreign lands, genealogy is is more about discovering who our relatives are; finding our family's stories. And the fun part is knowing that they all have a story to tell.

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