Finding your family Bravehearts
Updated: Jun 14, 2022
Genealogy definitely was not a priority for me most of my life. My mother was from Illinois, my father from Ohio, and they ended up in Austin, Texas, where I was born, along with two sisters and three brothers. Our lives were busy trying to stay afloat, get an education, build a business or career, raise a family. Our focus was the future, with little time for the past. A common mistake of the young.
Bits and pieces of family memory were always somewhere in the back of my mind. As a young child visiting my mother’s family in rural southern Illinois in the late 1950s and early 1960s, I felt like the past was always right around the corner. Traces of bygone days still clung to the present in those places that many Americans today have never heard of: Cape Girardeau, Paducah, Murphysboro. I was born late in my mother’s life, so my grandparents were born in years that didn’t even seem possible to me: my grandmother in 1881 and my grandfather in 1879. The world they had known was already quickly vanishing in those early years when I visited them, and I lost them before I was a teenager.
In some of her writings that she left me, my mother remembered seeing Civil War veterans discussing (and arguing over) the war when she was a very young child. Her great grandfather, John Clough, served (and died young) as a Union Solider in the Civil War not far from where they all lived in southern Illinois. Over the years, I have learned about many ancestors who fought in the Civil War, almost all on the Union side, even those from Tennessee.
When I was discussing these Civil War ancestors with my oldest brother one day, he recalled our mother telling him long ago that our ancestors fought to establish this country in the Revolutionary War, and they had fought to save it in the Civil War. She told him to always remember that. And he did--but he never told anyone else in the family, nor did our mother!
So my brother and I decided that it was time to follow up on this little tidbit. There was really no family to ask–we were now considered the “elders” who were supposed to know everything. I turned to my seldom used Ancestry account along with a few other valuable internet genealogy sites to work on a family tree that had been gathering dust.
I had found most Civil War ancestors in my research, so the hunt began for Revolutionary War ancestors. An easy first step that I learned is to take each male in your family tree (yes, women served in the Revolutionary War also, but most are not in this database) who falls within the right period and search in the Genealogical Research System provided by the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution on its website at this link:
The DAR Genealogical Research System (GRS) is a free resource to aid general genealogical research and to assist with the DAR membership process. If the person is in the DAR database, someone else has proven her genealogical link to this ancestor and you can then proceed to determine if you are interested in membership (if you are a female) or continue with your research, having confirmed that your ancestor did serve in the Revolutionary War. (You can also purchase copies of some of the information that was provided to establish membership in the DAR.)
If you are interested in membership in the DAR, finding an ancestor in its database goes a long way in reaching that goal. The DAR adheres to an extremely strict genealogical standard of proof. Any woman 18 years or older--regardless of race, religion, or ethnic background--who can prove lineal descent from a patriot of the American Revolution, is eligible for membership. The DAR, founded in 1890, is a non-profit, non-political volunteer women's service organization dedicated to promoting patriotism, preserving American history, and securing America's future through better education for children. I highly encourage every woman who can prove this lineage to consider membership in one of our local chapters. I am a member of the Captain Molly Corbin chapter in Grapevine, Texas. The work that these women do in service to our community is simply outstanding.
After a few difficult starts, I found our Revolutionary War ancestor—the great grandfather of the John Clough who died in the Civil War. The Revolutionary War ancestor is also named John Clough. He was a private with the 3rd New Hampshire Regiment for three years, including seven months serving under General George Washington at Valley Forge. I call him our Braveheart, this young man who gave three years to the Continental Army, fighting for independence from the British and Freedom!!
His son Moses moved to Wisconsin, taking advantage of a federal land grant of 160 acres for his service in the War of 1812. Two of Moses’ sons, including my great great grandfather, John Clough, moved to Illinois from Wisconsin. Other Cloughs moved out west California, and the Pacific Northwest.
While researching for the Revolutionary War ancestor, I was stopped in my tracks by discovery of the John Clough Genealogical Society. What a find! The society is named for the first Clough in America, also named John, who arrived in Massachusetts in 1635 at the age of 22 and established a family that would spread out across this country. Through the Society’s genealogical research, I discovered that my grandmother was a twin. That was never in any family records that I had seen—birth certificates were not required in 1881, we did not live around her, and no one ever told us. The baby boy died within a month of his birth.
There are many genealogical societies that you can join, with or without membership in organizations like the DAR. The John Clough Genealogical Society is one for me. Another is the Society of the Descendants of Washington's Army at Valley Forge, since my Revolutionary War ancestor served there.
Perhaps because there just were not that many people in Colonial America and it was a relatively small geographic area, I have discovered that many of my family branches have a Revolutionary War soldier in that generation. I do not have all the required documentation for each of them—the DAR requires birth certificate, marriage certificate, and death certificate or equivalent documentation to prove the link between generations--but I have placed a note by their names on my family tree and continue my research. Not all their stories have happy endings. One died of smallpox (like hundreds of others) and was probably buried in a mass grave near Crown Point, N.Y. in 1776. I am hoping to be able to add to my DAR lineage my fifth great great grandfather, Joseph Davenport, Massachusetts; fifth great great grandfather, Ambrose Jones, North Carolina; and my fourth great great grandfathers Richard Llewellyn and Zacharias Broyles, Virginia.
As I researched and discovered these long-forgotten family ties, the emphasis changed for me.It was still about me and my family history, and ties to the past that I never imagined. But is also became equally about this country. Our ancestors gave us an amazing gift, the first modern constitutional western democracy. Whether it was the great thinkers and leaders or the farmers and tradesmen who formed the armies and fought the battles, we all owe them so much. No matter what your origins, where you came from or when you got here—or if your ancestors were here already—these were our Bravehearts who left us a wonderful legacy. It is up to each of us to preserve, protect, and defend it.
Please enjoy this U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps Anniversary "Tattoo" Performance.