An amazing family discovery

Posted on February 5, 2011 by


Going to divert focus here for just a bit; the reason being a recent unique find pertaining to my ancestry. Before I spill the beans, I figure I better set the stage.

About 17 years ago, I started learning about another branch of my family tree… the McKinney and Quigley family lines. After growing up only knowing about my Virginia and Kentucky roots, it was definitely a change of pace, exploring a branch that stretched into the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, western Maryland, Pennsylvania, and even Delaware. One of the interesting aspects of this journey was finding a family tree book (History of the Families of McKinney-Brady-Quigley), published not long after the beginning of the 20th century. I perused the book online and learned some interesting stories. One of the best features of the book was the author’s interview with my third great grandmother, Catharine Ann “Kate” McKinney Moore.

I think many of us would like that opportunity… to go back and ask questions of our people… but, in the absence of that, an interview conducted by someone else… well, that’s still a pretty impressive find. Anyway… the best that I can figure, Belle McKinney Hayes Swope conducted the interview, probably between 1900 and 1904. As exciting as it is to find such an interview, the Moore family tree information that Belle included in the book isn’t exactly accurate. I can’t imagine that Kate gave the wrong names for both her husband and her children. Rather, I’m guessing that Belle wasn’t exactly accurate in her note-taking, and that she was more interested in what was in Kate’s past… specifically, in what Kate could tell her about Major Joseph McKinney. The passage in the book reads as follows:

After marriage he [Joseph] and his family lived at Shippensburg, Penna., and were members of the Middle Spring Presbyterian church. He was a merchant and a soldier from his youth. According to family tradition he rose to the rank of major during the War of 1812 and bore the title through life. His granddaughter, Mrs. Kate A. Moore, of Martinsburg, has his commission, which entitled him to the rank of captain in the U. S. Army, 1799, signed by John Adams, President. It reads as follows: “John Adams, President of the United States of America, know ye, that reposing special trust and confidence in the patriotism, valor, fidelity and abilities of Joseph McKinney, I have nominated and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, do appoint him a captain in the Tenth Regiment of Infantry, in the service of the United States, to take rank as such, from the tenth day of February, one thousand, seven hundred and ninety-nine. He is therefore carefully and diligently to discharge the duty of captain, by doing and per forming all manner of things thereunto belonging. And I do strictly charge and require all officers and soldiers under his command to be obedient to his orders as captain. And he is to observe and follow such orders and directions from time to time, as he shall receive from me, or the future President of the United States of America, or the general or other superior officers set over him, according to the rules and discipline of war. This commission to continue in force during the pleasure of the President of the United States for this time being.”

Obviously, the mention of this commission signed by President John Adams caught the greater part of my attention. What happened to the document, over the ages? If she had it between 1900 and 1904, I was betting that she had passed it on to one of her four children… the question was, “which one”? I know I didn’t have it, nor had I heard anything about it growing up. Kate grew quite feeble in her last years, and spent the last two years of her life in Shenandoah, Virginia, at my great-great grandfather’s (John Howard “Blinky” Moore) house until she died in June 1915. Where the document went, I didn’t have a clue.

Then, about a week and a half ago, and more than a decade since learning about the document, I received some queries from some distant cousins who were descended from my gg-grandfather’s brother, Cyrus Clifford Moore. In one of the email exchanges, one of my cousins mentioned… a document… that sounded very much like the one I had been wondering about for so long. In my response, I quoted the same passage as I quoted above, and… viola… the document in her possession was THE document.

So, last weekend, my cousins sought out the commission from the family paperwork and photographs that they have… and, in addition to some great scans of photographs and a number of documents, I received these photographs…

I can’t wait to see the original document in person, but, in the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing a high resolution replication that I can frame.

It’s an amazing document in its own right, but after reading about it so long ago and actually finding that it still exists… that’s a few notches above amazing.

In retrospect, I sincerely doubt that this connection between distant cousins could have happened without the power of the Web. In addition to the thrill of finding the commission, it’s also great to share information so easily because of the Internet… and help to fill the voids in family history.