Monday, November 17, 2014

George Rutherfurd: Coming Home

This is the sixth post in a series about my great-grandfather, George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd.

George Rutherfurd

World War I was drawing to a close, but its biggest battle was still on the horizon.  George Rutherfurd and the other members of the 411th Telegraph Battalion were in eastern France setting up the communications network necessary to support the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.  Again, I'll quote from "Memories of the 411th Telegraph Battalion In the World War Here and 'Over There'" by C.H. Moore to illuminate George's experience.

On September 24th our Battalion began the construction of a ten wire lead from Bois Foucheres through Recicourt in a northwesterly direction to the edge of the Forest de Hesse, and by working every available minute of daylight, hauling and distributing material at night, had completed the lead to the edge of the forest which was just behind the German front lines during the night of the 25th.  (p. 107)

From there, the lines were extended to Avocourt.  All of this was accomplished on a very tight schedule and in challenging conditions.

The building of this lead across the old "no-man's land" north of Avocourt through the Forest de Montfaucon to the "water-hold" south of Montfaucon, constituted a task which tried our men to the very limit of physical endurance.  Performing the very hardest kind of work in lugging materials long distances over shell torn fields and woods heavy with mud and water, covered with almost continual rain, sleeping in recently evacuated German dugouts filthy with vermin and rats, living on scant food owing to difficulty in bringing up supplies, subject to scattering shell fire in the day time and air raids at night, these men accomplished results worth enough to be chronicled alongside of the many brilliant exploits further to the front in that long battle. (p. 107-108)

George was fortunate that his role as an officer kept him out of rat-filled trenches.  He often went ahead of other members of the Battalion, driven in a motorcycle sidecar, drawing out a route for the communications and relaying those plans back to the Battalion.  At night, he and his driver sought rooms in local villages and relied on townspeople to feed them.  Sometimes, they went through villages that had been reduced to rubble in battle.  In one of these towns, a church had been bombed.  George found a register of village marriages and births in the ruins, and took it with him so it would not be destroyed by the elements.  It took some years after the war ended to get it back to the village, but George managed to do so.  I like to think some French genealogists have been very happy to find that not all records from that area were destroyed in the war.

Telephone lines built by the 411th before and during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive

The Allied forces were victorious in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, and on November 11, 1918, Armistice was declared.  The members of the 411th were jubilant at the news.

A short time after the Armistice we were informed that the First Army headquarters was not going on into Germany and that after a few days work, completing work under way, we would be moved back into a rest area.  And shortly thereafter we started down the Meuse Valley to Verdun, the trip being made after dark.  We will never forget that trip; it was a bright moonlit night. The camp fires of troops resting for the night lighted up the landscape and completed the naturally beautiful picture.  It was the first time in over four years that the soldiers had had the privilege of fires at night and they were indulging it to the limit.  There was light aplenty without the moon, for on all sides the victory celebration was still in progress, and the shells and vari-colored flares lighted up the sky for miles and miles.  And everybody was happy; the old tenseness was gone; in its place was hilarious laughter and spontaneous raillery hurled at each other and passers-by. (p. 124)

Members of the 411th outside Verdun on November 20, 1919

The new headquarters for the 411th was established at Fravaux.  There, they settled into a camp life of drills and study, hoping they'd soon be sent home to America.  At Christmas, an elaborate dinner was served, followed by a musical performance, a film and a visit from Santa Claus.  The local villagers were invited and a good time was had by all.  In February 1919, the 411th was sent to a new headquarters at Montlouis, a small village just outside Tours, in the Loire Valley.  There, they worked to repair damaged telephone and telegraph lines in the area.  Finally, in March 1919, word came that the 411th was going home.

Some of the men of the 411th Telegraph Battalion

On April 10, 1919, the 411th Telegraph Battalion departed Brest, France on the U.S. Cruiser Charleston.  They arrived in Hoboken, New Jersey on April 21, 1919.  After an eight day stay at Camp Mills, they departed for California and arrived in San Francisco on May 5, 1919.  Nearly fifteen months after they had sailed to war, they were home.

George was about to meet his daughter for the first time.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

George Rutherfurd: War and Fatherhood

This is the fifth post in a series about my great-grandfather, George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd.

George Rutherfurd, third from the right with fellow members of the 411th Telegraph Battalion

In the summer of 1918, George Rutherfurd and his unit, the 411th Telegraph Battalion, headed to eastern France to support communications at the front.  In "Memories of the 411th Telegraph Battalion In the World War Here and 'Over There'" by C.H. Moore, the author describes how the 411th moved into Chateau-Thierry in early August, after the American Army had pushed back the Germans.

On August 9th Company E and Headquarters moved to Chateau-Thierry, and at once engaged in surveying and laying out contemplated toll line routes from Chateau-Thierry north to Fare-en-Tardenois and Coulonge.  Part of the plan involved using abandoned German pole lines in this territory and French lead along railroad from Chateau-Thierry to Armentieres.  However, just as this work was under way, orders were received to move entire Battalion to Neufchateau.  This move consumed two days and was part of the great troop movement to the Toul sector in preparation for the St. Mihiel offensive. (p. 91)

While George was working hard to support the troops at the front, his wife, Julia Barrett Rutherfurd, gave birth to their first and only child in Los Angeles.  After George left for the war, Julia had returned to Los Angeles to live with her mother, Nellie O'Hare Barrett.  It was there that George and Julia's daughter was born, on August 10, 1918.  The new mother named her baby Julia LaVerne Rutherfurd, and sent a telegram to the American Expeditionary Forces office in London informing George of the birth.  The message said simply, "Girl the tenth. All Okay. Julia Rutherfurd."  What a mix of emotions that telegram must have brought George.  Joy at the birth of a healthy child; sadness at being absent during an important time.  He kept that telegram, folded into his belongings, until his return home.  George would not meet his daughter, LaVerne, for another nine months.

George and all the men at the front were very busy during the late summer and fall of 1918.  In September, the American forces launched an attack on the Germans at St. Mihiel.  This battle "was one of the first United States solo offensives in World War I and the attack caught the Germans in the process of retreating. This meant that their artillery were out of place and the American attack proved more successful than expected. Their strong blow increased their stature in the eyes of the French and British forces..." (Wikipedia)

In his book, C.H. Moore describes being one of the first Americans to enter St. Mihiel on September 13th, as they prepared to begin construction of telephone lines through the town.  However, George refutes this version of events in a testy, handwritten paragraph in the margins of the book.  He says, "It happens that I was in command of the detachment at Rupt and was waiting in St. Mihiel when C.H. and his staff got around to visiting the area."  However, the reaction of the citizens of St. Mihiel to their American liberators is not up for debate.

The civilians who were left in the town were absolutely frantic with joy; yesterday they were prisoners; today they were free.  They told many tales of their long exile during German occupancy and were loud in the praise of the Americans, calling them their deliverers and saviours; the food which had been supplied by the American Relief associations had materially assisted them.  French flags long buried in the bottom of trunks and other undiscoverable places were already displayed in almost every window.  On the way out of the village the members of our advance party met General Pershing and his staff on the way into the newly freed town. (p. 97)

American soldiers leave St. Mihiel after the victory there. (Public Domain)

There was no time to rest on their laurels.  The war was spiraling towards a deadly conclusion, the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, and the 411th was soon moving into position to support American troops near Verdun.

The Meuse-Argonne Offensive... was a part of the final Allied offensive of World War I that stretched along the entire Western Front. It was fought from September 26, 1918, until the Armistice on November 11, a total of 47 days. The battle was the largest in United States military history, involving 1.2 million American soldiers, and was one of a series of Allied attacks known as the Hundred Days Offensive, which brought the war to an end. The Meuse-Argonne was the principal engagement of the American Expeditionary Forces during the First World War. (Wikipedia)

The end of the war was coming, but George and the men of the 411th were not aware that the Armistice would be so soon at hand.  They scrambled to set up the communications that the American Army would need at the front.

American switchboards were installed at many small headquarters, additional telephones installed, telegraph stations opened. It was also necessary to place telephone operators alongside the French operators to learn the location of the various lines, switchboards, etc.  The reader will please keep in mind that all this work had to be accomplished in eight or nine days, as the offensive was scheduled to start on Sept. 26th.  After whipping the lines of communication into shape, operating crews and maintenance crews were placed at the various headquarters and as much precaution taken as possible for everything to be in shape when the heavy load came. (p. 99)

To be continued...

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

George Rutherfurd: First Assignments in France

This is the fourth post in a series about my great-grandfather, George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd.

George Rutherfurd in France, 1918

After two months spent supervising quarantined soldiers at Camp Merritt, in New Jersey, George Rutherfurd rejoined the 411th Telegraph Battalion in France.  It was April of 1918.  The rest of his battalion had arrived in France a month earlier, landing at Brest and then, after a training period, continuing by train to the Loire Valley.  Company E set up their headquarters surrounding a large barn at St. Ettiene and Company D took over an old chateau at nearby Savenay.

Progress of the 411th across France, from Brest to Chateau-Thierry

Again, I will quote heavily from "Memories of the 411th Telegraph Battalion In the World War Here and 'Over There'" by C.H. Moore to describe the experience of the 411th in France.

During these first days in France we were fortunate in having time and opportunity to learn a great deal about our new friends - the French inhabitants.  Withal we found them a very hospitable, open-hearted, courteous, kindly people.  they were particularly gracious to us Americans and showed us every consideration.  Much has been written about the French and their peculiar customs, but it was the good fortune of our outfit to receive universally fine treatment during all of our stay in the A.E.F. (American Expeditionary Forces), and the writer believes that much of this was due from the fact that we made friendly contact with them in the very beginning.  More will be said about this angle of our experiences as our story progresses, but the writer is sure that each of us will always affectionately recall the kindliness, the gentleness, and the good natured spirit in which these simple home folks of the valley received us.  Bowed down with four years of the horrors and griefs of war, as they were, they had not lost faith and were embued with that spirit of service to their country, which eventually helped more than any other one thing to bring victory about. (p. 54-55)

The first military assignment given to the 411th was to build a wire from St. Nazaire to Nantes, a distance of thirty-nine miles.  This was the beginning of a system of communication which would enable the various military camps to pass messages to each other and would greatly improve the transfer of supplies and information.  While the 411th had brought some equipment with them, they found that they had to borrow shovels, saws and similar items from the French villagers to fully begin their work.  Battalion members got to work putting up telephone poles and stringing lines.  They drove through the countryside in motorcycles with sidecars, sometimes having to ask permission of residents to put up poles on their property.  By April, when George re-joined the battalion, this first line was being completed, and communication centralized in the headquarters at Tours.  The 411th moved on to their next assignment, which they were delighted to find would take them nearly to Paris.

As an officer, George's role was to decide where the lines of communication would be routed.  He did not do the actual work of putting up the poles.  He rode in the sidecar of a motorcycle, with a lower-ranking battalion member driving him, as they traversed French roads plotting out the location of telegraph lines.  My Grandma said that George was frequently ahead of the forward troops and stayed in local farmhouses at night. During this time he developed a life-long fondness for the long cooking soups that resided on the farmhouse stoves and were shared with him and his driver.

In late May of 1918, the 411th moved north, camping overnight at the famous cathedral city of Chartres, and then arriving at their new camp in Versailles, at Camp Satory.  As they waited for an official resumption of duties, the men took the opportunity to visit the palace at Versailles and take a trip into Paris, which appears to have thrilled them all.  However, C.H. Moore describes the battalion as restless to get to the front and feel closer to the war.  Being near Paris provided them a glimpse of the action, however.

At this time it was almost a nightly occurrence for the Hun bombing planes to make air raids over Paris and the surrounding suburbs.  A very elaborate system of signaling devices of all kinds had been installed for the purpose of advising the inhabitants as soon as the outlying observation posts detected the Germans coming over.

On this particular night of our first experience, the "alerte" was sounded about 11:30PM;  the sky was immediately lighted with a great many searchlights weaving their shafts of light back and forth across the heavens in search of the Hun planes.  The anti-aircraft guns opened fire and the sky was filled with bouquets of fire from the bursting shells.  (p. 76-77)

George and the other men of the 411th were tired from long days of work and long nights of air raids, but they'd been given a critical assignment.

The job which had been assigned to us in this locality was an extremely important one and had to be finished in the very shortest possible time.  It consisted in the building of a twenty-four wire lead from a junction with the British lines at a small place called Ham to La Belle Epine, just south of Paris, a distance of approximately thirty-three and one-third miles.

This job presented many difficulties in the way of strengthening the French lead, building through forests, over canals, cable work through a half-mile railroad tunnel, private right-of-ways over property owned by Royalty, transposition problems in connecting with a different system of the British and constant delays and annoyances in obtaining the necessary material which had to be hauled long distances by motor truck.  Everybody in the organization was working from daylight to dark, as orders had been received that the work absolutely had to be finished no later than June 30th. (p. 77-78)

Just as this work was completed, the 411th got the news they had been hoping for.  They were being sent closer to the front.  The Germans were trying to cross the Marne and begin an invasion of Paris, and the Army was engaged with them at Chateau-Thierry.  George and the 411th were being sent to nearby La Ferte to construct a line from there to Chateau-Thierry and support communications at the front.

To be continued...

Thursday, October 9, 2014

George Rutherfurd and the 411th Telegraph Battalion

George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd's journey to the battlefields of World War I with the other members of the 411th Telegraph Battalion was documented in "Memories of the 411th Telegraph Battalion In the World War Here and 'Over There'" by C.H. Moore.  As this is the best account of the 411th during World War I, I'd like to share some sections of the book that illuminate George's experience

The first chapters of the book describe the battalion's training period in Monterey, California.  The 411th was comprised of civilians from various telephone companies, and they needed a bit of whipping into shape.  Their days seem to have been devoted primarily to exercise and study, with a much-enjoyed hike through the nearby woods on Saturdays.  Here are some quotes regarding the 411th's training and their preparation for war.

The hour of reveille was 5:30 AM and we used to wonder as we stood in line rubbing our eyes and finishing dressing why it was that the Army persisted in doing calisthenics in the dark instead of waiting for daylight to come.  But, after all, those early mornings setting-up exercises in the crisp, foggy air of the early day, probably did more than anything else to harden us and get us ready for the strenuous work of the future. (p.21)

Telegraph classes were formed at this time and about 25 men from each Company were selected to take up the study of telegraphy.  These classes were separated into different sections, depending upon the ability of the men to receive 2, 8, 10 or 15 words per minute.  After having studied Morse Code for about one month and having become rather expert in the use of it, advice was received from the War Department that only Continental Code would be used.  This was rather a setback for the class, but they studied hard and it was not long before the sound of the Continental Code could be heard every morning from 10:30 to noon as if  a dispatcher's office was going at full tilt. (p. 23)

We were to experience many anxious days of waiting while in the Army, but the last two months at Monterey were absolutely the hardest and most tiresome days.  We felt that we had had enough training and were raring to go, especially as new bulletins began to pour in during the Fall of 1917, telling of the Americans' active participation in affairs on the other side of the Atlantic. (p. 29)
In this photo, my Grandma made note of George's location in the second picture from the top.
Monterey had, in the seven months' training period, become just like home to the men of the Battalion - married men had moved their families to live there; many men had married since coming, many more were on the point of proposing and all had made many friends. Preparations for departure were hastily made, tearful good-byes said and on January 18, 1918, the "411th" started on the first leg of their journey overseas. (p. 29-31)

George was one of those men who had married since beginning his training.  He and Julia Ellen Barrett were married in nearby Salinas on August 18, 1917.  They shared five months as newlyweds in Monterey before George shipped out to the war.

On January 18, 1918, the men of the 411th Telegraph Battalion boarded a train to San Francisco. They made a stop at the Ferry Building and then continued on to Fort Mason, on the waterfront, where they boarded the ship Great Northern.  However, they were startled to realize they'd also be transporting some unexpected cargo on their journey.

The next morning, a detail of three officers and ten soldiers boarded a large tug boat and went to Angel Island; little did the members of that detail realize the nature of the trip as no information had been issued concerning it.  Imagine their surprise upon arrival at Angel Island Dock to find four hundred thirty-five German alien prisoners of war.  All had looked forward to a most delightful ocean voyage through the Panama Canal, but here we were face to face with several hundred Germans who were to be guarded and convoyed to an Atlantic port.  All day was consumed in loading the Germans, searching their baggage for possible infernal machines, weapons, etc., and placing them in quarters aboard.  Anchor was lifted at five-thirty PM Thursday, January 24, 1918, and just as dusk was gathering, the ship poked her nose through Golden Gate out into the Pacific. (p. 32-33)

The Great Northern took the battalion and the German prisoners through the Panama Canal, where they lost one American soldier, Frank R. Emery, to illness.  They continued on to South Carolina, where they unloaded the Germans.  From there they sailed to Hoboken, New Jersey, and reported to Camp Merritt, where they prepared to journey on to France.  However, there was a setback.

The stay at Camp Merritt was occupied in refitting the organization with clothing and other necessary equipment for overseas duty.  Many inspections were necessary, and all were in constant dread of something happening to prevent our early departure.  There was an epidemic of contagious diseases, and a very alarming scare seized our Battalion when some thirty-five men were quarantined on account of contact with a suspected case of diphtheria.  Their confinement only lasted about forty-eight hours when it was decided they had not become infected.  All were happy again, as it was rumored we were to embark Monday, February 18th; and then when this rumor became an order, measles broke out in a barracks where two sections of Company E had been quartered.  They were quarantined and had to be left behind.  Lieutenant Geo. R. O. Rutherfurd was detailed to remain with them and proceed at the earliest possible date overseas. (p. 36)

George and the thirty-five sick men from his company would not join their fellow soldiers in France for two months, in April 1918. 

To be continued...

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

George Rutherfurd, Part 2

George Rutherfurd

Not long after moving to Los Angeles in 1913, at the age of seventeen, my great-grandfather George Rutherfurd accepted a job at Pacific Telephone and Telegraph.  This decision would change the course of his life several times.

In 1910, there were two telephone companies servicing Los Angeles, Pacific Telephone and Telegraph and Home Telephone and Telegraph Company. These companies merged in 1916 and became known as the Southern California Telephone Company.  George was a bright and ambitious young man.  While he hadn't had the benefit of a college education, he went above and beyond at the telephone company and moved up in the ranks rather quickly.  My grandmother, LaVerne Rutherfurd Smith, told me the following story about her father's work at the telephone company.

My father went to work at the telephone company and did a lot of extra studying about what made a telephone work.  He was once on a night shift and there was an emergency because the circuits weren't working for some reason, and he was able to go and fix it because he'd just read about it.  He was promoted quickly.  He was a general manager of a district that included Hollywood and the nearby area when he was thirty years old. 

The first two ways that the telephone company would change George's life became apparent early in George's career.  In his first years there, while working at the switchboard, he met his future wife, Julia Ellen Barrett.  Julia was working as a telephone operator when George met her.  They had much in common.  They were both the eldest of five children, working to help support fatherless families.  George adored Julia, whom he always called by both of her names, Julia Ellen.  They married in Salinas, California on August 18, 1917, shortly before George shipped out to fight in World War I.

Julia Ellen Barrett in 1917, while she and George Rutherfurd were dating.

The second way that George's choice of employment would impact his life became clear as the United States drew closer to entering World War I.  The United States Army convened a unit of telephone and telegraph operators, the 411th Telegraph Battalion.  This unit was created for a specific purpose: to lay cable in front of advancing troops in Europe and ensure that military units could effectively communicate.  While this was not a safe job, it was far safer than the assignments of most soldiers in this war.  World War I is known for its trench warfare and brutal battlefield conditions.  The official tally of American dead in World War I is 116,516.  It's very possible that George's life was spared due to an assignment that kept him out of the trenches and off the front lines.

One of George's fellow officers, C.H. Moore, wrote a wonderful book about the 411th, entitled "Memories of the 411th Telegraph Battalion In the World War Here and 'Over There.'"  At the beginning of the first chapter, he recollects how the battalion was formed.

Very shortly after war had been declared The Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company issued a Bulletin announcement that a Telegraph Battalion was to be organized, enrollment in which was to be composed entirely of employees.  The Bulletin also announced that The Telephone Company would pay to individuals accepted by the Government for service in the proposed Battalion the difference between their pay at the time of entering service and the government pay, for a period of at least one year.  Applications for enlistment were sent to all portions of the Company's territory, comprising the States of California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and part of Idaho.  The question as to "where to enlist" for men in the telephone and telegraph service was immediately answered by this plan, as it not only offered a field where the technical ability and knowledge of telephone and telegraph men could be best utilized in serving their country, but also presented the opportunity of becoming affiliated with an organization composed of men who had been trained to think along the same lines, thus at once establishing a bond of fellowship and comradeship.

George registered for the draft on June 5, 1917, two months after the war began.  An interesting detail can be found on his draft card.  It states that George had prior military experience, having served four years in the Wyoming National Guard, ranking as a first lieutenant.  George was only seventeen years old when he left Wyoming, which would have made him thirteen at the time of his enlistment.  Currently, you would have to be a high school senior to join the National Guard in Wyoming.  I'm unsure if the rules for enlistment were different in the early 1900s or if there is some other explanation for this assertion.

On April 6, 1917, the United States entered World War I. George joined the 411th Telegraph Battalion in Monterey, California on June 29, 1917 for training.   Julia moved to Monterey with George, and two months later they were married in nearby Salinas.

Just a small piece of a panoramic photo of the 411th Telegraph Battalion.  George is third from the left.

George and the other members of his battalion left San Francisco on January 24, 1918 on U.S. Steamship Great Northern and traveled via the Panama Canal to New York.  On February 18, 1918, they departed New York on U.S. Steamship Covington, bound for France.  George would be gone nearly a year and a half.

George headed to France.

To be continued...

Monday, September 8, 2014

George Rutherfurd

George Rutherfurd was my great-grandfather; the much-beloved father of my Grandma, LaVerne Rutherfurd Smith.  For the first two years of his life, his name was George Roscoe Griffin.  His parents were Anne "Annie" Amelia Dickson and John T. Griffin, and he was the only child of their very brief marriage.  George was born on January 23, 1895 in Douglas, Wyoming, months after his parents separated.  There is no indication that he ever met or communicated with his natural father, John T. Griffin, who lived in Detroit.  When his mother, Annie, married Malcolm Brakspear Oliver Rutherfurd in 1897, George was adopted by his step-father.  His legal name became George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd.*

George as a baby in 1895

George spent the first seventeen years of his life in Douglas, Wyoming.  His mother Annie's family had settled there just a few years before George's birth, when one of Annie's brothers took a job in the Douglas telegraph office.  His stepfather, Malcolm, had arrived in Douglas as a Scottish immigrant intent on owning a cattle ranch.  After Malcolm and Annie were married, they had four boys of their own: Malcolm Archibald Oliver Rutherfurd (b. 1898), Archibald Dickson Oliver Rutherfurd (b. 1899), Robert Leslie Oliver Rutherfurd (b. 1903) and Arthur William Oliver Rutherfurd (b. 1906).  Apparently, George got along well with his half-brothers, but my grandmother always said that he was gentler than his younger siblings; more interested in academic and artistic pursuits.

George and his brothers

The ranch where George was raised was a busy place, and George and his brothers were expected to earn their keep.  From his earliest days, George was riding horses, doing chores and working with the cattle.  However, he liked to sneak away and visit with his maternal grandmother, Mary Bellangee Dickson, who read him poetry and encouraged his interest in literature. 

Mary Bellangee Dickson with her grandsons, George (left) and Malcolm (right)

There is some indication that George may have disliked the strictness of the household in which he was raised.  My uncle Tom Smith said that George, known to him as "Pappy," spoke of being beaten regularly for childhood misbehavior.  He claimed that Malcolm would beat or whip all five boys, something he described as "being beaten on Saturday for all the things they did wrong during the week."  Whether this was corporal punishment typical of its time or rose to another level is unknown, but it seems George objected to it.  George also told his grandson Tom that Malcolm's strict Presbyterian teachings put him off religion for life.

George in 1905, at age ten

George told his grandson, Tom Smith, a tale about growing up on the ranch in Douglas.  One day, Malcolm and Annie were away from the ranch, and a fox approached the family's chicken pen.  When the fox jumped up on the fence to attack the chickens, George grabbed a rifle to defend them.  He knew he was not allowed to use the rifle, but he also knew that he had to save the chickens.  He killed the fox.  When his mother and stepfather arrived home, Malcolm congratulated George on the kill, but then punished him for using the rifle.

The Rutherfurd ranch in Douglas, Wyoming

Malcolm Rutherfurd died suddenly on April 12, 1913.  He had contracted pneumonia and was dead within days.  He was thirty-eight.  This unexpected loss had major consequences for Annie and the Rutherfurd boys.  Annie sold the ranch and took her children to Los Angeles.  The reason for this choice isn't entirely clear.  Annie's parents, George and Mary Dickson, and her sister, Elizabeth Dickson, had moved to Oregon at least three years before Malcolm's death.  The most likely scenario is that they had moved again, to Los Angeles, prior to 1913, and Annie was simply joining her family there.  Her parents and sister were soon reunited with Annie and the boys in Los Angeles and helped them settle into a new life.

Life on the ranch.  Malcolm Rutherfurd is second from the left in this photo.

This major life change occurred at a critical time in George's adolescence.  He was seventeen, on the verge of manhood.  Now, he was suddenly responsible for supporting his family.  He might never have had the opportunity to go to college had his stepfather lived, but once Malcolm died and the weight of responsibility became clear, that door was conclusively shut.  By all accounts, George was a very bright young man, one who would have loved academia and flourished at a university.  Beyond his passion for literature and poetry, George was fascinated by the sciences.  He had an endless curiosity for botany and geology.  He liked to paint and became interested in photography.  Arriving in Los Angeles, George set those interests aside to focus on earning a living.

At first, young George got work riding a horse in Western movies.  He'd grown up riding, so this was a natural fit for him. However, he soon became disenchanted with the treatment of the horses on set.  In those days, trip wires and prods were still being used to manipulate the animals, and George found it cruel.  Then, he took a job at Pacific Telegraph and Telephone.  He would remain there for the rest of his career.  This choice of employment had huge ramifications.  It would determine which branch of the armed services George entered during World War I, and it was the place where he would meet his wife.

To be continued...

* A note about the Oliver Rutherfurd surname:  In the 1700s, the Scottish Rutherfurd family found themselves with only a female heir.  That heir, Jane Rutherfurd, married William Oliver in 1771.  The surnames were then combined, so that the Rutherfurd name would live on, and both were given to all the children in this family for many generations.  While the surname is technically Oliver Rutherfurd, in modern times only Rutherfurd is used on legal documents.

Friday, August 29, 2014

DNA Testing and Unending Questions

I've been dipping my toe into the world of DNA testing for genealogy. Some months ago, the genealogy society I belong to hosted a wonderful evening with a DNA expert who presented compelling arguments as to how DNA testing can expand genealogical research and smash brick walls. I started doing some reading on my own and was intrigued. I ordered an Autosomal DNA test from

Autosomal DNA looks at both your paternal and maternal genetic material and is a good way to get an overview of your ethnicity.  It can also help you identify cousins who have a common ancestor within about the last 150 years.  After my Autosomal DNA results came in at Ancestry, I uploaded the raw data to Family Tree DNA to get their analysis.  The summary was mostly what I'd expected.

According to both companies, I am 100% European, with the vast majority of that being British Isles heritage.  This is correct, as my known ancestors are largely Irish, English and Scottish.

However, there were some surprises.  Neither company made significant mention of my Dutch and French ancestry.  My French ancestors left France in the late 1600s, during the exodus of the Huguenots, so with all the intermarriages since then, it simply may not register significantly on an Autosomal test that's looking at more recent history.  The big mystery to me is why my Dutch ancestry is not acknowledged.  My great-grandfather, George Beck (formerly Gerhardus Beukenkamp), emigrated from Amsterdam to America in the early 1900s.  His family was in The Netherlands for many generations prior to that time.  I am one-eighth Dutch.  The Ancestry test says I may have 2% Western European heritage, a percentage which doesn't seem to stack up with what I know about my family.  I understand that these tests have their quirks and are not 100% accurate, but I'm puzzled by this omission.

My great-grandfather, George Beck (formerly Beukenkamp)

Another question mark for me is that both tests claim I have some Eastern European ancestry.  Ancestry's results claim this is a trace amount, but Family Tree DNA indicates it could be as much as six percent.  I am baffled by this.  I can't find so much as a single Eastern European ancestor anywhere in my family tree.

However, both Ancestry and Family Tree DNA did immediately connect me with several second cousins that I already knew.  Through Ancestry, where I find it easier to look through family trees and see potential areas of connection with suspected cousins, I've also met a couple of people who appear to be linked to me through specific families.  We're having fun trying to identify the common ancestor.

My dad and me, 2004

Any questions that I might have had about my results pale in comparison to the eyebrows that were raised when my father received his DNA results.  I encouraged him to do a Y-DNA test on 67 markers through Family Tree DNA.  Y-DNA traces the patrilineal line.  The Y chromosome is passed down, unchanged, from father to son. Theoretically, this testing would connect my father with other men with his surname, Lacey.

A Y-DNA 67 marker match with another person gives you a 95% probability of having a common ancestor within the last 150-200 yrs.  We are confident of my father's line back to his second great-grandfather, Bartholomew "Bartley" Lacey, who was born in Rossadillisk, Ireland in the early 1800s.  Because this family comes from a small corner of Ireland, we were very excited to connect with other Laceys. 

My father's results match him with 24 people who are ranked as either 0: Very Tightly Related, 1: Tightly Related or 2: Related.  More information about exactly what those levels of relationship indicate can be found at Family Tree DNA.  Of those 24 matches, there is not one person with the surname Lacey.

The closest connection, the one person classified as Very Tightly Related, has the surname Elliott.  In fact, 15 of the 24 men on that list have the surname Elliott.  Elliott is not a surname that I know to be in my father's family tree at all.  Other surnames in this list of matches are Hall, Pryor and Glendenning.  None of these surnames appear in my father's family tree.  The ancestors of all these matches appear to be Scottish, some of whom seem to have gone to Northern Ireland and England.  None are truly Irish.  None are Laceys.


One thing to keep in mind is how small the pool of male Laceys is.  Bartley Lacey had three sons, only two of whom, Valentine and Mark, had male descendants of their own.  I believe there are a couple of living male Laceys from Valentine's line who are second great-grandchildren of Bartley.  Bartley's son Mark Lacey was my second great-grandfather.  He had six sons, three of whom were killed in the Cleggan Disaster before having sons of their own.  Of the remaining three, only my great-grandfather, Thomas Lacey, is known to have had children.  Following his line, this means that it's possible the only other direct male descendants of Bartley Lacey are my father and my two brothers, my father's cousin, Skip, my father's brother, Mike, and his son Matt, and now Matt's newborn son.  That's seven descendants, plus a few more out there from Valentine Lacey's line.  There simply aren't a lot of people who would be close Y-DNA matches for my father.

This still doesn't clear up the mystery of the Elliott matches, however.  I'm at a loss to explain them.  Thus far, DNA testing seems to have created many more questions than it has answered.