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By ANGELA WOODS
Carroll County is steeped with history: The original settlement of Port William (now Carrollton), for example, was founded back in the late 1700s – a few years after the American Revolution.
But some local residents have family histories that go back even further, with ancestors they know who actually fought in the war for independence from England.
Many are members of the Polly Hawkins Craig Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, an organiation founded about 100 years after the Revolution. All chapters are named for important local pioneers. Craig was a member of the Benjamin Craig family, one of the founding families of Port William.
Susan Hedges of Carrollton can trace her family tree back to patriot Henry Rollins, her great-great-great-great-great-grandfather. Rollins was born in County Antrim, Ireland, and moved to Pennsylvania. He served under Gen. George Washington in the Battle of Brandywine i n 1777. The father of seven children, he died at age 72, in Greensburg, Penn.
With help from her mother, Hedges undertook an arduous journey to find all the birth certificates, marriage licenses and other documents the DAR requires for proving her lineage to Rollins.
“We went in the dark, moldy backrooms of old courthouses and hunted for those records," said Hedges, who became a member of the local DAR chapter this past year. "It was quite an adventure.”
With the Internet and such family search Web sites as Ancestry.com, which requires a subscription, or FamilyHistory.org, a free site operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, many records needed for genealogists are a lot more accessible today, Hedges said. But, she still encourages anyone interested in shaking their family tree to “go to the library, look through family Bibles, talk to elders, listen to stories, and ask questions. You might find not only that you’re a descendant of an American Revolutionary patriot, but other interesting things as well.”
Mariam “Cookie” Louden said she had a cousin in DAR who had already done a lot of research into her family's history. When Louden became interested in joining DAR, she, too, set about gathering the required records.
“My great-great-great grandfather James Ball came from Dublin, Ireland, and fought with Washington at Valley Forge," she said. "He was wounded in war and received an $8 per month pension. His pension records were one thing that helped me verify my lineage.”
Louden said Ball lived in Virginia during the war. He enlisted in 1776 for three years, and also fought in the Battles of Germantown and Stony Point. He was wounded twice at Brandywine, but lived until March 17, 1830. He had 11 children, one a son who fought in the Battle of 1812.
The research does take a lot of hard work, but Louden said she believes it's worth it. “It’s very interesting as well," she said. "You feel like you really know [your ancestors] first hand by the time you get done.”
And, she said, membership in DAR gives her a different sense of pride in her heritage. “DAR makes me feel proud to be part of this country’s history. We wouldn’t be American citizens today if it weren’t for the Revolutionary War and its soldiers.”
Hedges agrees. “You feel you have been a part of your country since the beginning, and that you have family members that have sculpted the country.”
But DAR is more than just a club for geneaolgists. The local chapter presents annual awards to local students and contributes to national charities and events. One of its goals is to teach children about history and an appreciation for the past. "It’s important to try to get people abreast of what the country is, to help them know that we are part of something greater than what we are individually,” Louden said.
"The Daughters of the American Revolution is important in the respect that it supports young people in the community and tries to pass on our history and heritage,” said Nancy Jo Grobmyer, current regent of the local chapter. Grobmyer traced her ancestry back to patriot William Tandy Sr.
In April, the chapter chooses a "Good Citizen" from the graduating classes of the three local high schools, including Christian Academy of Carrollton. This past spring, the awards went to Jordan Wilson of Carroll County High School, Cassaundra Ogden of Gallatin County High School and Matthew Wright of CAC.
History of the DAR
Founded in 1890, the Daughters of the American Revolution National Society has its headquarters in Washington, D.C. It is a nonprofit, nonpolitical women's service organization dedicated to promoting patriotism, preserving American history, and securing America's future through better education for children, according to information on its Web site, www.dar.org.
The Polly Hawkins Craig chapter is one of 3,000 in all 50 states and D.C., and internationally. More than 850,000 women have joined DAR since it was founded. DAR’s motto is “God, Home, and Country.”
The Carroll County chapter was organized Feb. 28, 1948, at the home of Elizabeth Diuguid by Anna Virginia Parker. The chapter also included members from the Kentucky counties of Trimble, Gallatin, Jefferson and Carroll.
Though membership had declined for some years, Grobmyer said more women have been joining. The chapter now has 13 members from Carroll and Gallatin counties, and several more women are working on their paperwork to join, she said.
The club is open to any woman age 18 or older – regardless of race, religion, or ethnic background – who can prove direct descent from a patriot of the American Revolution. Documentation is required, including birth, marriage and death certificates. The organization's Web site provides a step-by-step guide to tracing your lineage, and you may also be able to find out if others have joined the organization under the same ancestor you are tracing.
For more information about the local group, contact Grobmyer, Hedges and Louden or any of its other members, who include Dale Anderson, Joanna Haymond, Sue Bogardus, Harold Brown Weldon and Kathryn Salyers. The group meets at noon at General Butler State Resort Park lodge on the third Tuesday of each month.
Angela Woods is a junior this year at Carroll County High School and is a free-lance writer for The News-Democrat.