What is in a Name?

A name is the first thing in life most of us receive that stays with us forever. Often times it has been a carefully selected after hours of deliberation by at least one parent and sometimes even larger groups of relatives. Siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents all have suggestions when a new baby is born.

Genealogists get the rare opportunity to see how deep some names go in our families by looking at the broader family landscape. For instance, I have a cousin that is my Grandmother’s namesake. In the bigger picture, however her name is a much older family name. My Grandmother is her own Grandmother’s namesake. The earliest Sarah in that naming streak was born in 1861 and the latest in 1997, 136 years apart.


I am a namesake for my mother’s paternal aunt, Carrie Jamison. She was the wife of my Grandfather’s half-brother. She lived in West Virginia where my Grandfather’s family lived in a rural mountain community and I only had a few opportunities to meet her as a young child. She passed away at the age of 76. I was 9 years old at the time. Despite the fact that Aunt Carrie and I shared no actual genetic material the fact that she gave me her name has made her a topic of research interest for me.


Carrie was an interesting research project before I even looked for a single record. The few stories told about her typically present more questions than answers. Her early history seemed shrouded in mystery and shadowed heavily by whispered “scandal” even while I was a child. All these years later, she still presents many unanswered questions.

Origins Unknown

Carrie was born to Lula Lawson on 7 February 1912. Lula was a nineteen-year-old woman, recently divorced, living in Prince, Fayette County, West Virginia at the time of Carrie’s birth. Carrie was Lula’s first and only known child. The birth was more than a year after Lula’s separation from her previous spouse, David Brantley, and prior to her marriage to her second husband, Burk Adkins, by more than two years. Carrie’s biological father is currently unknown.

Chasing Records

carrie jamison bo critchley

Carrie with a nephew (Bo) est late 1940’s

Census records show Carrie, using the last name of Adkins, living with her mother and stepfather in 1920. She was living in Fayette County, West Virginia. Her stepfather worked on the railroad.

The census record for 1930 still eludes me but by 1940, she was again in the household of her mother and stepfather in Fayette County, West Virginia and she is claiming a marital status of divorced. A marriage license registered in Raleigh County, West Virginia in 1935 records her marriage to a cousin on her mother’s side, Fred Lawson.



Myth Meets Research

The 1940 census entry seems like a good time to broach the topic of whispered scandal. When I was growing up it was common knowledge that Aunt Carrie had been married before our Uncle and that she had children. According to family stories, Aunt Carrie’s own mother had assisted in her losing custody of her children. The details of the situation so long ago are murky.

The 1940 census shows Carrie living with Burk and Lula, a divorced woman at the time. She shows no children living in the household. I located a death record for a Vern L Lawson, son of Fred Lawson and Carrie Atkins, who was born 2 February 1934 in Fayette County, West Virginia. Vern died in Los Angeles, California on 29 April 1993. I am still seeking Vern’s location on the 1940 census. I hope to learn what family raised him and to identify the names of more of Carrie’s children if they are in the home with their brother. I believe she had at least one daughter and two sons.

Rumor has it she managed to reunite with at least one of her children but I am unsure who the child was and when in life they reconnected. By all accounts, the loss of her children was something that caused her heartache until her death and she collected dolls to help fill the void.

Carrie and Steward

I do not know at what age Carrie met my Grandfather’s half-brother, James Steward Jamison. I can only wonder if the fact that both of them grew up raised by a stepfather was one thing that drew them together. Whatever the case may be they were together as early as the late 1940’s and in 1973 they officially married in Alleghany, Virginia. The two never had children together. They are buried side by side in the P.A. Shuck Cemetery in Fayette County, West Virginia.

carrie and steward headstone from fag judy

Headstone of Steward and Carrie Jamison in PA Shuck Cemetery Photo Credit of FAG contributed by Judy







Leming J. Eckler: After the War

The Aftermath

Leming J. Eckler received his discharge from the United States Army on 12 June 1865 at Camp Chase, Ohio. It had been nearly a year to the day since his capture at Trevilian Station. He was just a few months short of completing his entire three-year enlistment.

Back home in Michigan Leming reunited with his family. He continued his trade as a blacksmith. On 4 July 1867, the couple welcomed their second son together, my great-Great Grandfather, Nelson Eckler. At the time of the 1870 census, the family is living together in Oakland County, Michigan.

As time progressed, Leming J. Eckler seems to have had a rough time adjusting. By 1880 Leming and his wife Harriet were divorced and his life seems to have been plagued with marital and money problems. He remarried several times and at least one more marriage ended in divorce. He was suspected of trying to orchestrate an insurance fraud scheme in 1884 that wound up landing him in jail.


lj eckler detroit free press

Detroit Free Press 18 Sept 1884


Leming J. Eckler died on 21 February 1915 in Tuscola County, Michigan. He was married at least five times during his lifetime. He is buried in the Almer Township Cemetery in Caro, Michigan.


Photo Credit Ellinda FAG


Back: A March to Freedom


Leming J. Eckler: March to Freedom

Camp Asylum and Salisbury Prison

Leming J. Eckler left Camp Sumter for Columbia, South Carolina on 2 February 1865. His time at Camp Asylum would be short lived. Sherman’s Union forces were blazing their way across the south and rumors had him marching into Columbia soon.

The Confederate forces protecting Camp Asylum evacuated the prisoners, sending them first to Salisbury prison camp at Charlotte and then onto Wilmington, North Carolina as Sherman continued his march across the south. Sherman sacked Columbia on 17 February 1865; three days after the last of the Union prisoners evacuated from the prison camp there.


POW Exchanges Resumed

leming exchange

On the same day that Sherman sacked Columbia, the Union and Confederate governments announced a POW exchange. Over five thousand Union prisoners left Salisbury for Wilmington, North Carolina for the next three weeks. On 2 March 1865, the prisoners from Salisbury were exchanged at Wilmington, North Carolina including Leming J. Eckler. The prisoners left Wilmington and were transported by ship to Annapolis, Maryland for processing and medical treatment.


According to the New York Times article published on Tuesday 7 March 1865 Leming J. Eckler was one of 500 men to arrive on the steamer Gen. Lyon from Wilmington, North Carolina on the previous Sunday. He was one of three thousand Union prisoners exchanged as the war drew to its conclusion.

Next: After the War

Back: Camp Sumter POW

Leming J. Eckler: Camp Sumter POW

Camp Sumter

As brutal and deadly as battle can be Leming J. Eckler had just begun to experience the depths of hell on earth war can bring. As a prisoner of war, he found himself at Camp Sumter in Georgia.


More commonly known today as Andersonville Prison, Camp Sumter opened in April 1864. By the time Leming J. Eckler arrived in late June 1864, it had already become an overcrowded pit of death and misery. The site housed over twenty thousand Union prisoners by the end of June 1864, over thirty thousand a month later. August of 1864 saw the camp at its peak population with over thirty-two thousand Union prisoners packed into the twenty-six acre stockade.

Hell on Earth

In all forty-five thousand Union prisoners passed through the gates at Camp Sumter. The death rates were astronomical as disease and malnutrition ran through the overcrowded and deplorable conditions. The death rate was so high they used mass trench graves to bury the bodies. In the fourteen months of operation, nearly thirteen thousand, a death rate of twenty-eight percent, died at Camp Sumter.

“As we entered the place, a spectacle met our eyes that almost froze our blood with horror, and made our hearts fail within us. Before us were forms that had once been active and erect;—stalwart men, now nothing but mere walking skeletons, covered with filth and vermin. Many of our men, in the heat and intensity of their feeling, exclaimed with earnestness. “Can this be hell?” “God protect us!” and all thought that he alone could bring them out alive from so terrible a place. In the center of the whole was a swamp, occupying about three or four acres of the narrowed limits, and a part of this marshy place had been used by the prisoners as a sink, and excrement covered the ground, the scent arising from which was suffocating. The ground allotted to our ninety was near the edge of this plague-spot, and how we were to live through the warm summer weather in the midst of such fearful surroundings, was more than we cared to think of just then.” – Robert H. Kellogg, sergeant major in the 16th Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, described his entry as a prisoner into the prison camp, May 2, 1864

Leming J. Eckler would spend over seven months in Camp Sumter during the worst of the disease and overcrowding. Records show that at least one time during his time as a POW at the Camp he received treatment for scorbutus, a term of the day for scurvy, which killed many of the prisoners at Camp Sumter. Leming J. Eckler managed to survive and on 2 February 1865 and was sent to Columbia, South Carolina and was held at Camp Asylum, an equally deadly Confederate prison camp.

Next: March to Freedom

Back: Custer’s First Last Stand

Leming J. Eckler: From Custer’s Brigade to Camp Sumter and Beyond

Growing up my paternal Grandmother was one of the few people who indulged my interest in family history without hesitation. She had a box of old family photographs and documents in her basement that on frequent occasions she would dig out and we would pour through them as she answered any questions that popped into my young mind. I wish I had taken more time to question her while she was alive. As an adult, I have spent countless hours trying to recall every tiny detail of so many conversations from long ago. I scour old records and try to find documents that help me piece together the missing details of the stories I vaguely remember from childhood. Each story I manage to recall I am certain there are three I have lost to the sands of time. She had some fascinating tales.


Loree Ashley Fulkerson with her parents on her wedding day Sarah Eckler Ashley and Myron Ashley

In all the tales my Grandmother told me, I do not ever remember hearing about Leming J Eckler. It is possible she did not about him; he died before she was born. It is also possible that Leming J. Eckler, or L.J. as he was known was a tormented enough figure that he descendants didn’t care to talk about him much. Whatever the reason, she never told me about L.J. Eckler and it was many years after her death before I followed the document trail to his story. L.J. Eckler was her mother’s, Sarah Eckler Ashley, paternal Grandfather through her father Nelson Eckler.

A Call to Duty

L.J. Eckler was a young blacksmith living in Michigan at the start of the American Civil War. He was married, his wife Harriet, was a decade older than he was and she had three children from an earlier marriage. The 1860 census show the family living in Oakland County, Michigan and two of Harriet’s children from an earlier marriage are in the household. On 9 December 1861, Leming became a father with the birth of his biological son Gilbert Eckler.

On 2 September 1862, he enlisted for 3 years in the Union Army. He mustered in for service on 11 October 1862 and was assigned to Company G of the 6th Michigan Calvary, a part of the legendary Michigan Brigade led by Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer. The Michigan Brigade gained fame at the battle of Gettysburg and participated in every major battle campaign of the Army of the Potomac from Gettysburg in July 1863 to Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House in April 1865. Eckler would serve as a blacksmith for the brigade until the battle of Trevilian Station, Virginia on 11 June 1864.

In The Army

General Custer earned his reputation for daring bordering on reckless long before the ill-fated Last Stand that cost him and his men their lives in the American west. Custer earned his reputation for rushing headlong into the face of danger while serving in the Union Army.  Custer’s Brigade of Wolverines could be found charging into mounted melees in the center of the battlefield to the charge of “Come on, you Wolverines!” as the flamboyant General led the charge forward. It earned him great battlefield victories when it worked and caused great battlefield casualties when it failed.


Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer By unattributed – Library of Congress, Public Domain,

The Custer Brigade was one of the elite Calvary units of the Union Army under their young leader. At the battle of Haw’s Shop 28 May 1864 the wooded terrain forced his brigade to dismount and line up for battle like infantry. Custer inspired his men by staying on his horse as he led them forward waving his hat in full view of the enemy while his brigade band played Yankee Doodle. During the heavy rifle and artillery fire 41 Union cavalrymen and Custer’s horse fell. Still the daring young General and his Wolverines fought battle after battle, day after day, with the same reckless abandon for personal safety.

Leming J. Eckler – Custer’s First Last Stand

Leming J. Eckler: Custer’s First Last Stand

Battle of Trevilian Station

On 11 June 1864, the Union and the Confederate forces met up again at the Trevilian Station. The Michigan Brigade under General Custer managed to capture Trevilian Station, unguarded and occupied by Confederate General Wade Hampton’s trains. The Michiganders captured 800 prisoners and 90 wagons including food, ammunition, and 1,500 horses. The daring move resulted in great bounty but quickly resulted in Custer’s men surrounded on three sides by enemy forces. freemaps  trevillian station day 1.jpg

Map of the first day of the Battle of Trevilian Station of the American Civil War, drawn in Adobe Illustrator CS5 by Hal Jespersen. Graphic source file is available at

Custer’s brigade, under heavy enemy fire from three sides, were rapidly in danger of losing all they had gained as they wound up separated from the rest of the Union forces by the Confederates. The situation grew dire as the Michigan men continued to fall. When the flag bearer fell injured, Custer removed the flag and stuffed it in his coat so it would not be lost in the foray. The men were in danger of being overrun, much of their war bounty lost, many of their own men dead or injured, and now some of their own wagons and men captured by enemy forces.

Sheridan to the Rescue

Finally, Sheridan was able to come to the rescue of Custer. The Confederate forces were driven back and Sheridan and Custer ended the day with the Union forces in charge of Trevilian Station. The battle toll was heavy. Custer’s brigade counted 361 battle casualties that first day. The forces met again in the same area for a second day of fighting on June 12, 1864.

The Heavy Toll of Battle

The battle of Trevilian Station was the bloodiest and largest all-cavalry battle of the Civil War. Both sides took heavy losses. Union Forces had 102 killed, 470 wounded, and 435 captured. Of those losses Custer’s brigade lost 11 men killed, 51 injured, and 299 captured. Leming J. Eckler was one of the 299 men captured during the fighting.

Next: Camp Sumter

Back: Leming J. Eckler

Snippets From The Korean War

Elden Finley Shuck

I have been sharing military related history about my Grandfather, a Korean War veteran, in the lead up to Veteran’s Day. In his collection of photographs and documents, he had several certificates that dated to his time in the service.

The Domain of the Golden Dragon is an unofficial Navy award. It is awarded when the receiver crosses the International Date Line. During the Korean War, the troops were transported by ship to the distant battlefield. One of the few stories he mentioned during our rare discussions of his time in the service was watching a volcano erupt as they went by on the ship.


My Grandfather completed his Army training at Fort Meade, Maryland. He was a member of the Quartermaster Corps and served as a cook. As a child, I loved when Grandpa would invade Grandma’s kitchen and make his “S.O.S” recipe from his time in the service.


While the brothers were all serving in Korea they had the opportunity to all get together while in the combat zone. This article announcing the event made the local paper in Fayette County, West Virginia in October 1953.

3 shuck bros in korea

My Grandfather always had an interesting sense of humor. This “memo” he wrote regarding employees who refused to fall over after they were dead.

pg1 memomemo pg 2

I wish I had taken more opportunity to ask him so many questions now that he has been gone for several years. If you have aging veterans in your life consider taking a moment to see if they are willing to discuss their time in service.


Looking Back: The Korean War In Photographs

Growing up my Grandfather was one of the influential people in my life. I knew he had been in the Army but he never cared much to discuss his time served during the Korean War.

He always told us he was “just a cook” and played off the fact that he enlisted to calm his fretting Mother after his brother decided to join. In all 3 Shuck brothers would serve at the same time in the Korean War.



The Shuck Brothers Head to Korea

These are some random photos from his collection.





Honoring Veterans

Start a New Project This Month

November is one of the all-star months when it comes to opportunities to preserve and share family history. Veteran’s Day gets everyone thinking about service members and the conflicts they may have served in while protecting our nation. As Veteran’s Day passes, we transition into Thanksgiving preparations and family gatherings where we try to remember to be thankful. On the heels of Family History Month in October, now is a great time to work on preserving family history for the next generations.

Veteran’s Day is Saturday November 11, 2017. The holiday will be rife with opportunities to research military records at discounted rates. Ancestry, Find My Past, Fold3 and countless other sites will likely have specials this weekend.

More than an opportunity to get free access to some records, Veteran’s day is a great chance to focus on preserving our veteran’s history for future generations.

Did you know?

On 12 July 1973, a fire ravaged the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St Louis, Missouri. The fire destroyed 16-18 million Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF). An estimated 80% of Army records for personnel discharged between 1912 and 1960 are gone. The Air Force lost records for 75% of personnel discharged between 1947 and 1964. The loss was catastrophic; most of the records lost had no duplicates.

As time passes, we lose more and more of our Veterans who served in early wars. At this point every WWI veteran known to be living in the world has officially died, the last one on 4 Feb 2012 at age 110. Of the 16 million Americans who served in WWII, only approximately 550,000 are still living today. As seniors in their 80’s and 90’s these great veterans are dying at a rate of 362 every day. Coming fast behind the decline of the WWII veteran’s are the 5.7 million American Korean War vets of which 2.25 million are still living. With each passing day, we lose more and more of these generations.

Do You Know a WWII Veteran?

Each of us can play a part in preserving the heritage and history of these earlier generations. has announced that they are working to capture the stories of as many of the last living half a million WWII service members as possible. Ancestry is inviting everyone to interview any WWII veterans willing to tell their story, record the interview, and upload it to the free searchable database they are creating. If you know a WWII veteran consider checking out the new project and adding their story to the database.



Was Grandma a Nazi?

Tracing a Legacy

Genealogy for me is more than just hunting up vital records and putting together a list of names and dates to show the passing generations of a family. It is something spiritual, a labor of love, often for people who came and went long before I existed. Eternal life to me is defined by how the world remembers you long after you are gone. That is our legacy.

Not everyone leaves a good legacy but we all leave a legacy. It is not dictated by wealth or power, both the poor and the emperors of the world leave a legacy. Genealogy is about discovering the forgotten legacy of people who can no longer tell their own story.

I am the storyteller. I breathe life back into names that exist only on records and cold stones in cemeteries. I give them eternal life by preserving those legacies no matter how simple. Sometimes it is a struggle to reconcile personal feelings with the obligation to tell the story of our ancestors as it is told by historic proof. That relative you liked as a child may later be revealed to be a convicted criminal in earlier life. The drunk uncle you disliked as a child may have once saved kids from a burning building when he was younger. As a genealogist, I feel it is my obligation to tell the story as the records tell it to me and when information conflicts with what I want to think of that person, I force myself to face that bias head on.


My Great Grandparents

I write often about my Great Grandmother Lillie Mae Weatherspoon. She was probably my favorite female elder growing up and my house contains several items that she owned or made during her long lifetime. For me she was that rock. The person that I always felt I could run to for a safe place.

I was aware that not everyone thoughts she was as great as I did. She would often refuse to tell me too much about her early life with statements that “if anyone knew all the things she had done no one would like her.” We never had large family functions on my paternal side of the family and it was the world’s worst kept secret that my grandmother and my great grandmother did not like each other

In all my childhood years, I am not aware of one memory of both my grandmother and her mother in law in the same place at the same time. They both spent a lot of time with me growing up. Neither ever talked bad about the other in my presence. I was always aware of that quiet dislike between them lurking beneath the surface of my life. None of that mattered to me. I cannot fathom anything that would change the way I fell about the part she played in my life. The person she was to me as a child vanquished any skeletons that danced in her closet.

She has been gone a long time. I still miss her often and when I miss her, I delve into a world of records and work on preserving the legacy she left behind even the ugly parts. I started out with more missing links than I did concrete facts because of her hesitation to share information.

Grandma’s Skeleton in the Bottom of a Jewelry Box

Often the documents I do find confirm the scant facts she shared while expanding on a complicated life she tried to leave behind. Last year I discussed some of her early family life in my blog about the strange tale in Ripley County. Since that blog I have also managed to discover that when she married her second husband she used and alias…no doubt to hide the fact that she had failed to secure a divorce from her first husband. In her defense, her first husband was abusive and she did eventually get divorced. The details of her early life slowly reveal themselves over time and research and not one single thing has altered my perception of her legacy. However, she has presented me with my first heirloom conundrum.

When she died, she left her estate to the church and the church allowed family members to go through the house to collect sentimental items. I collected many items from her house that day. Plants, nick-knacks, old glassware, handmade afghans, and one old wooden jewelry box full of costume jewelry that looked like a pirate’s chest were all carefully selected not for monetary value but because they reminded me of her.

After the rawness of her loss passed, I finally went through some of those items in that old jewelry box. Buried under piles of beaded necklaces and clip-on earrings was an odd tarnished coin type medallion I had never seen before. The language was not in English but it was not hard to recognize the names on the medallion. Of all the things I have discovered in my research, of all the things I have learned about the history she wanted to forget that medallion has caused me the most distress.

I have no clue how my great grandmother came to be in possession of a piece of early Hitler memorabilia. Her husband at the time did not serve in WW2; he worked in the automobile factories in Flint, Michigan during that period. Her only child, a son, was not old enough for the military when the war ended.

Germany was on the other side of the world from Michigan. What did this medallion mean? She was never overtly racist from my recollection. I never heard anyone express anti Jewish sentiments in my family. Was my beloved Grandma Hon a closet Nazi sympathizer?

She has been gone for decades. I was a new Mom when she passed; today I am a grandmother in my own right. I have moved that medallion, buried in the bottom of a jewelry box out of sight but always in the back of my mind, from house to house and state to state. It felt wrong to get rid of it and buried in that box I could at least refrain from explaining it to others.

Still it haunted me. For all her flaws she may have had, this just did not ring true to her character. I have spent countless hours of my life wondering about that medallion.

Another Page out of History

Fast forward to today. I still have that medallion buried in a jewelry box. I came across it just the other day. While the pitter-patter of my own grandchild’s feet ring though my house. His father is from a Jewish family. I do not want him to wonder the same things I had to contemplate about my own beloved grandmother. More than that, it renewed my search for how my Grandmother came into possession of that dreaded heirloom.

In a moment of what some might call strange serendipity I discovered a blog about POW camps in Michigan during WWII. Indeed, it was a “gift basket from Michigan” as the url of the blog proclaimed. I grew up in Michigan. Michigan history is a major source of pride for locals and even small town communities get in on the local historic pride with annual festivals. Yet somehow, I had no clue the state once housed thousands of German POW’s during WWII.

It seemed more plausible that my Great Grandparents may have known someone who worked at a POW camp than it did that they were closet Nazi sympathizers. I decided to dig further to see if there may have been one located near where they lived. 30 miles from their home on Niagara Street in Flint to what is the present day Owosso Speedway was Camp Owosso. Camp Owosso housed hundreds of German POW’s.

I do not have definitive proof that my Great Grandmother was not a closet Nazi Sympathizer but it seems even less likely in the face of this new evidence. The proximity of the POW camp seems too much to dismiss. She was much closer to Owosso than she was to Germany…or even knowing German to understand what the medallion was commemorating. Discovering this odd chapter of local history added a new more rational reason behind the medallion.

I still do not know the story behind this medallion. I likely never will but now I have a story to put with it about how my home state, so far removed from the battlefields of Europe, served such a major role in the war effort.

By The Numbers:

  • Michigan had 32 POW camps by the end of WW2
  • An estimated 8000 German POWs were in Michigan by the end of 1945
  • The last camp closed in June 1946.
  • The POWs filled the shortages in local workforces while American men fought overseas.



All Things Michigan The German POW camps of Michigan During WWII