Nearly every year our bulletin editor has a writing contest for members of our genealogical society. I have entered some of the contests, but have never won the $100 gift certificate to a major genealogical bookseller.
This year's subject is An Ancestor I wish I could Talk To and Why. It would be easy to pick a brick wall ancestor, so one could ask the question to break the brick wall, but it probably would not be a very interesting article.
The ancestor I have picked is Robert Forsyth. He was the son of Robert Forsyth of Kentucky He married Mary Williams. Nothing very interesting yet, but before he married Mary Williams he was in the War of 1812 at age 18. General William Henry Harrison was asking for 3000 volunteers from Kentucky and young Robert was one of the Kentucky riflemen who volunteered. He was with Colonel Dudley's company which went to Fort Meigs. There in a battle with the British, 800 of Colonel Dudley's men defeated the British. Even though they were ordered to fall back after the defeat, they chased the British almost two miles into the forest, where the Indian allies of the British ambushed the riflemen and captured them. Many were killed by the Indians before and after the capture including Colonel Dudley. Only 175 of the Kentucky riflemen survived. Robert of course survived, and his account of the battle led to one of those that did not survive receiving a medal for bravery under fire.
Why is he important for me? Well since he was not married when he went off to war, if he had not survived I probably would not be here. After the war, he married Mary Williams and moved to a farm near Ursa, Illinois in the area set up for War of 1812 veterans. He had seven children and his second daughter (and fifth child) Margaret Josephine Forsyth, inherited the farm and also land in Missouri near Trenton in Grundy County. Margaret married Thomas Kelly and they had five children. Thomas was of the correct age for the Civil War, but he took his family across the plains to California in 1862. In 1865, they went to San Francisco to catch a ship to the country of Panama, crossed the isthmus, and sailed back to New York and then back to Ursa, Illinois. In the 1880s. They moved to the land Margaret inherited in Missouri where they both died.
Now for some questions I would ask of Robert. Why did you volunteer to fight in the War of 1812? What was the campaign like? Since you won the battle and were ordered to fall back, why did you and the others chase the British into the woods? What was it like to be a prisoner of war? Did you get to meet future president General William Henry Harrison? Why did you move to Illinois? Since you were such a brave soldier in the War of 1812, what do you think of your son-in-law going to California and missing the Civil War? Why did Margaret inherit the farm and land in Missouri? I know the answer to a couple of the questions, but not the rest of the questions.
Does your local genealogical society have a writing contest? Have you ever entered? Do you have an ancestor to whom you would like to talk? How about doing an article on an ancestor, you would like to talk to for our newsletter?