Inside this Issue
Glimpse into the lives and passions of the diverse group of women who comprise today’s DAR membership.
Take a step inside the DAR Museum for a closer look at its fascinating collection.
Learn about the interesting historical articles from this issue.
To Come in Our Next Issue
Preview the exciting stories to be featured in the next issue of American Spirit.
A Genealogy Journey
By Lena Anthony
Photograph courtesy of Roceta Gonzales
Volume 149, Number 1, January/February 2015, Page 4
Roceta Gonzales always knew she had roots in America. As a child growing up in the Philippines, she often heard the story of her paternal great-grandfather, Colonel James Villard Heidt, an American officer fighting in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. He married Ms. Gonzales’ great-grandmother, but left the Philippines shortly after she gave birth to twins and never returned.
The story was hardly a source of pride for her family, but these days she’s grateful to know it, since the details have helped her unlock a rich ancestral past, with ties to the Revolutionary War and beyond.
In order to escape instability in the Philippines, Ms. Gonzales immigrated to the United States with her family when she was 8 years old. They settled in Los Angeles, and despite being the new kid, she remembers her fourth-grade teacher made the transition easier.
“She introduced me to the class in a way that celebrated my being a new student from another country,” says Ms. Gonzales, a member of Kate Waller Barrett Chapter, Alexandria, Va. “Instead of being teased and bullied, the children looked at me as sort of a celebrity. Years later, I realized what an incredible act she performed and how influential it was for my life.”
After moving to the Washington, D.C., area for her father’s work, curiosity about their American ancestor led Ms. Gonzales’ mother to the National Archives, where she was handed a box of his military records. “Inside the box was a manuscript of his ancestry traced all the way back to Colonial times,” Ms. Gonzales says.
But finding the manuscript was just the first step in the long process of validating it, and it took one of Ms. Gonzales’ cousins multiple trips to libraries across North America and Europe to do so. In the course of her research, the cousin attained membership with the Clan Munro USA, a Scottish genealogical heritage society. (President James Monroe was descended from the Clan Munro, whose members were located in the Scottish Highlands.) Ms. Gonzales, taking an interest in her cousin’s discoveries, joined the organization as well.
Ms. Gonzales since has joined the Georgia Salzburger Society and the DAR, of which she became a member in 2006.
In the process of applying for her DAR membership, Ms. Gonzales made another surprising discovery: Carobel Heidt, her great-great-aunt, the sister of her paternal great-grandfather, was a DAR member in the 1890s when the DAR was first formed. (“Her DAR number, 2898, was only four digits long and started with a two, which means she was probably one of the first 3,000 members of the Society,” she says.) She also discovered that her Patriot’s ancestors owned land in Fairfax County, Va., where she and her family moved in 1980.
“It gives me chills knowing that they lived here,” she says. “It’s like they called us home.”
While her various genealogy-based memberships are certainly a source of pride for Ms. Gonzales, belonging is about much more than that.
“I have realized that the real treasure in being able to join each genealogical society is the incredible ancestral journey that follows,” she says. “It’s like spending time with your grandparents and learning about their grandparents. Each society has given me a piece of the puzzle that is my family. It is a true self-discovery.”
Today, when she’s not furthering her knowledge of her family’s rich history, Ms. Gonzales works with her brother in his online retail business. In her spare time, she enjoys scrapbooking, which she says helped spark her initial interest in genealogy, and making handmade cards and origami sculptures. She is also doing research for her father’s autobiography, which will of course include a chapter on the family’s history.
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Photography courtesy of Rick McCleary
Volume 149, Number 1, January/February 2015, Page 5
Covered in Bohemian garnets and bearing an enameled shield with 13 stars, this small brooch owned by first DAR President General Caroline Scott Harrison and now part of the DAR Museum collection has much to say about identity. The pin dates to around the time her husband, Benjamin Harrison, was elected 23rd president of the United States in 1888. Garnet jewelry from Bohemia, a region in present-day Germany and the Czech Republic, was quite popular then.
By the last quarter of the 19th century, candidates’ wives were a visible part of presidential campaigning. Both Mrs. Harrison and Anna Morton, wife of Benjamin’s running mate Levi Morton, appeared on posters promoting their husbands’ ticket. It is not clear whether Mrs. Harrison wore the pin while campaigning, or if perhaps it was an item she acquired during her time in the White House. Clearly, it is a piece of jewelry meant to illustrate patriotic sentiment.
The pin is also an example of an item made for the American market by craftspeople in other nations, a practice that began well before the country was founded. The design closely resembles eagles used in heraldry over the centuries. Outstretched talons, the curved ends of the wings and particularly the three-part tail echoing a fleur de lis—not the traditional fanned tail feathers seen in depictions of American eagles—are found on many European coats of arms.
The shield on the pin is not the squared shape seen on the Great Seal of the United States but a spade-shaped à bouche shield, which contains a notch where a lance would rest. Thus, European artists used imagery familiar to them to create a brooch depicting an eagle with wings outstretched to represent the expansive American nation.
For more National Treasures, please visit the DAR Museum's Featured Objects.
Alexander Hamilton’s Controversial Vision of American Greatness by Courtney Peter
As the first Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton garnered praise for his successful fiscal policies as well as scorn for his divisive politics.
The Genesis of Lineage Societies in America by Lena Anthony
Lineage societies such as the DAR, S.A.R. and others were launched in the aftermath of the Civil War to honor the past and express patriotic fervor.
The Lessons of Immigration Museums by Sharon McDonnell
By sharing the stories of ancestors who made the perilous trip to American shores, immigration museums open up visitors to a greater understanding of their history and identity.
Black Kings and Governors of Early New England by Bill Hudgins
From the 1750s to around 1850, African-American slaves and freemen in some New England towns formed a kind of unofficial African-American government that operated in the shadow of the white power structure.
Spirited Adventures: Des Moines, Iowa by Jamie Roberts
First founded as a military post at the confluence of two rivers, the state capital of Iowa has become a thriving Midwest city as well as a hub for presidential politics.
Genealogy Sleuth: Tall Oaks from Little Acorns Grow by Maureen Taylor
The mid-19th century saw the emergence of family tree lithographs, beautiful representations of ancestral relationships.
Historic Homes: The Fairbanks House in Dedham, Mass. by Nancy Mann Jackson
Home to eight generations of one family, the Fairbanks House has retained much of its original structure despite being one of the oldest homes in North America.
Our Patriots: Indispensable Hand by Jeff Walter
Though he first served in the British army, the Irish-born Edward Hand later enlisted in the Continental Army and served with distinction.
Bookshelf reviews Band of Giants: The Amateur Soldiers Who Won America’s Independence by Jack Kelly
Plus: President General’s Message, Whatnot and Letters to the Editor
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To Come in March/April 2015, American Spirit’s Fifth Annual Salute to Women’s History Month
The Birth of Resistance: The Stamp Act Turns 250
The NSDAR’s Four Founders
Charting Family Migrations Through Quilt Patterns
Clementina Rind, Virginia’s Patriot Printer
The Founding of a Fashion Plate: Godey’s Ladies Book