Wednesday, July 02, 2008

My 5th great-grandfather . . .

. . . Stephen Wood, was a militiaman during the American Revolution. He was a private in the 6th company, Upper Battalion, Montgomery County Maryland Militia. I discovered this from an old pack of papers I received from my great-grandmother. Her father, my great-great-grandfather, developed a family tree in the early 1900's. I still have those old, yellow typewritten pages. With a little detective work, I obtained a copy of his baptism record from the Maryland archives. He's listed at the bottom left corner, along with Ninian Riley, his brother-in-law.

Other pages had records of actions taken by the church. I found a couple of entries very interesting:

"Also was agreed that Brother John Baker should be sensurd (illegible) from information that he has accustomd himself to gaming & so has incurd our displeasure."

"Also was agreed that Brother (illegible) Talbert be sensured for drinking to excess until the Lord shall give him repentance."

Stern folks, eh?

Although I had records of where Stephen was born, where he moved over the years, and concerning his death in Green County, IL in 1835, I learned that his tombstone had disappeared from the family plot. Unfortunately, the family plot is now on a privately owned farm, and has fallen into general disrepair.

Believing that a family member - especially a soldier - should have a proper grave marker, I turned to the U. S. Bureau of Veterans Affairs. According to law, any documented American soldier from any war is entitled to a government headstone (if he has no other), or a medallion to be attached to his private headstone - free of charge.

As with any government bureaucracy, red tape abounds. After filling out all of the required forms and providing the proper proof of service, I waited . . . and waited . . . and waited.

Finally, I called Veterans Affairs, and contacted a very nice, but rather . . . ummm . . . dense, I guess lady. The conversation went something like this, after I asked about the status:

Her: We have your application, but we need a little more information.

Me: I will give you anything you need, but I would like to make sure we receive the headstone.

Her: We need his Social Security number.

Me: (a bit taken aback) Pardon me?

Her: You know, a Social Security Number.

Me: Ma'am, Social Security started in 1935. He died 100 years before.

Her: Well then, can you give me his Army serial number?

Me: (Holding back a heavy sigh) Ma'am, he died in 1835. The Army didn't start issuing serial numbers until 1918.

Her: Oh, I didn't know that. I'll send the application on, then.

This is the headstone I received. It's now set in a cemetery in Carrollton, Greene County, Illinois, in a section with other Revolutionary War soldiers.

Requiecet in pace, g.g.g.g.g.grandfather.