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Sunday, November 30, 2014


I saw this movie on Friday at the theater.  Now, just making it to the theater was an accomplishment for me as I abhor the prices, audience behavior, etc.  I prefer to watch movies in the privacy of my own home.  But sometimes, I really want to see a movie before it comes out on DVD--thus, I made up my mind to go see this one.

And, I'm really glad I did.  It had amazing effects but an even more interesting story line.  I really enjoyed how the director blended the 'journey' that permeated the movie with the emotional connections between the main characters.  I don't want to give anything away but the ending is a real tearjerker.

Definitely go see this if you think you have any interest at all in the subject.  It won't disappoint.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Bethlehem Lutheran Church3

Not actually the church mentioned in the photos below but a landscape shot taken with the church behind me.  The eyes can see a long way in this part of Texas.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Bethlehem Lutheran Church

For the first time in months, the weather was cool in South Central Texas so I decided to go out and take some pictures this afternoon.  I took this one about 30 miles from my house in a "ghost town" called Quihi.  It's not really a ghost town because people do live in the vicinity but the population is much reduced from its heyday in the 19th century.  Anyway, this is the Bethlehem Lutheran Church founded in 1852 and still with a congregation.  I have some more from this area that I will post in a few days.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Eastern Kentucky2

This was interesting.  We took this picture at the head of Long Branch about three miles from where we left the main road.  I have no idea who painted the rock or the purpose behind it but said individual seemed to have talent.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Eastern Kentucky

Last week, I visited family in both West Virginia and Kentucky.  One of the highlights of the trip was driving up this narrow road into an area called "Long Branch" in Martin County, Kentucky.  I was particularly interested in locating this area because my genealogical research identifies this as the location of some of my ancestors in the 1800s.  More specifically, I was looking for members of the 'Ball' and 'Hensley' families.  Well, Long Branch is a hard place to find if you've never been there and we had to ask a few of the locals to make sure we were in the right place.  You may also notice that the picture isn't that great and this is because trees are everywhere making it difficult to see very far!  Anyway, we didn't acquire very much information on this trip but we did get some leads concerning a few cemeteries that we want to check out in the future whenever we can get our hands on a four-wheel drive.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

September Travels

I'll be visiting my family in KY/WV in September and hope to view several locations that have special resonance for me after studying my genealogy.  More specifically, I plan to explore an area where one branch of the Ball family from Virginia settled when they first moved to Eastern KY.  As I age, I become more and more fascinated with my origins and what my ancestors went through long ago.

Less than eight years till retirement and I'll move back to those mountains.  That will be my home base as I also hope to continue my overseas travels, too.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Migration Patterns

As I continue researching my genealogy, I am picking up on migration patterns into Appalachia that I was not aware of before.  In the past, I assumed the majority of migration into that area came from the Scotch-Irish who were seeking cheap land that was no longer available on the coast.  However, I now see it somewhat differently.  More likely than not, your average migrant went west because he was NOT the first son of a planter family in eastern Virginia and needed to strike out on his own to make his fortune.  You see, "primogeniture" was, by law or custom, still in effect in the colonies and required most of the inheritance to go to the eldest son.  An example of this in my lineage is the case of Moses Ball (1717-1792).  Even though he had several sons, he followed the custom and left most of his estate to the eldest one.  His other sons were left to fend for themselves and most coped with this by moving a little farther west in the Virginia colony.  My 4th great grandfather George Ball, the son of Moses, was one of these and died in Ewing, Virginia much farther west than where he was born.  His son, Moses III, moved on to Pike County, Kentucky dying there many years later. 

Another reason for the early migrations west was the practice of the new government in bestowing lands in those areas to Revolutionary War veterans as part of their pensions.  Time after time, I see this with my ancestors based on land grant records.  Ultimately, you had Scotch-Irish, Colonial English, and even German settlers moving into the western parts of the Virginia colony.  Those individuals led a tough life what with Indian raids and the harsh terrain and this required them to develop a level of savagery themselves just to survive it all.  I think this explains why outsiders to Appalachia view this area as being backwards and hostile whereas, the people are simply products of a difficult environment.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

My 'European' Heritage

Wow!  There were a lot of surprises from my genealogical research over the past month.  As mentioned in a previous post, my DNA results indicate more of a 'Continental Europe' influence than a 'British Isles' one.  This was initially confusing since every surname I've ever been aware of was British in nature.  The problem was that I hadn't yet gone back far enough in my research.  I have now researched six generations and found the following surnames in my ancestry:

Father's Branch


Krummholz (Anglicized to Crum)
Schmidt (Smith)
Ries (Reese)
Hermann (Harmon)


Auxier (actually, Alsatian so could also be considered German)


Van Vliet (Van Fleet)

Mother's Branch


Bader (Borders)


Tonnelier (Tunnell)
Brasseuir (Brashears)

As you can see, most of this influence comes from my father's lineage rather than my mother's.  This makes sense in a way because my largest concentration is 32% Europe West whereas, my mother's is 52% British.  I wish I could get my father's results to confirm this but he has an aversion to such tests!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Friday, May 9, 2014


A friend of mine, who's been living in Germany for the last 20 years or so, sent me this view from his hotel in Garmisch, Germany.  Wish I were there.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Henry Smith (1760-1830)

"" is an amazing resource for researching one's genealogy.  Using this tool, I continue to find interesting items in my own.  Just today, I discovered a lineage I suspected but for which I had no direct proof.  You see, my DNA results indicate more of a German/Scandinavian background with the following breakdown:

Europe West        32%
Great Britain       25%
Scandinavia         19%
Irish                    16%

Compared to my mother's results (with 52% Great Britain), I show a lot of Continental Europe even though almost all of the surnames in my ancestry are British in origin.  Initially, I assumed this was from the fact that many British people are actually descendants of Germanic (Anglo/Saxon/Jute) invaders of the British Isles 1,500 years ago and the test was simply reflecting this.  Also, there is an element of Scandinavian mixed in especially if one's ancestors lived in the north and east of England and Scotland during the "Danelaw" when Viking invaders ruled those parts of Britain.  So, I thought I had it all figured out until my latest discovery.

Here is the lineage (beginning with my paternal grandfather) that led to the individual 'Henry Smith' in the subject line:

Vernal E. McCoy, son of
Laura B. Moore, daughter of
James H. Moore, s/o
Mary A. Maynard, d/o
Martha Smith, d/o
Henry Smith (1760-1830) and Mary Honaker (1768-1826)

Now, when I saw the name 'Honaker,' I immediately suspected it was of German origin and was correct in that assumption.  However, I was very surprised when I saw that Henry Smith was actually born in the Hesse state of Germany with the given name of "Heinrich Schmidt!"  So, he must have anglicized his name when he came to America.  This starts to make my DNA results a little clearer.

Some more interesting facts about Henry and his wife:

*It is thought Henry Smith fought in the Revolutionary War on the side of the Continental Army.  I was skeptical of this at first as Hessian mercenaries were actively recruited to serve the British army during the war.  However, he did receive land in Pike County, Kentucky and moved there with his wife from Virginia after the war.  It was common practice for the government to award land in this area to its veterans and so, maybe he did fight on the side of the revolutionaries.

*Mary Honaker's given name was Maria Honecker and her parents were Hans Jacob Honecker and Maria Goetz.  Her father actually came from Hinwil, Switzerland and I have to do more research for her mother although she has an obviously German name.

More to come later . . .

*Note--I am not claiming these ancestors at the moment as further research has thrown some doubt on them.  I'll continue to study this to either confirm or deny their relationship to me.

Baby Birds!

The mother bird is sad because her chicks flew away.  This nest was adjacent to my mother's house.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

William Dalton (1666-1722)

I will discuss this ancestor next as 'Dalton' is my mother's maiden name.  Some records list William Dalton as being born in the Virginia colony and others show him as being born in Yorkshire, England.  I believe both are incorrect for the following reasons.  First of all, William's father, Tyrell Dalton, was born, grew up, and died in Cambridgeshire, England.  As a matter of fact, his tomb is located in the St. Vigor's church, Fulbourn in the same shire (county).  Since Tyrell never actually traveled to America, it's obvious that his son would not have been born there.  As for Yorkshire as a possible birth site, this speculation probably comes from reading about the origins of the Dalton family as being in Yorkshire.  The inscription on Tyrell's tomb indicates this origin as well but also makes clear that Tyrell never lived there.

I speculate that William came to the Virginia colony in the late 1600s but there is no way to document this since many of those records were lost during the Civil War.  It would make even more sense if he arrived sometime after his father's death in 1682 since he would not have had immediate family ties to bind him to England.  Tyrell Dalton was a justice of the peace in Cambridgeshire and was important enough to have been interned in the local church.  Therefore, I guess that William had some means to support his venture to America.  FYI, below is a picture of the tomb (and inscription in Latin) for Tyrell Dalton.

*Note--This lineage will need further research to confirm.


More on John McCoy

I have just a few more observations about this ancestor.  First of all, I am certain he is, in fact, an ancestor of mine as his arrival in America and subsequent line is well documented.  His grandson, William McCoy (1750-1835), was a Revolutionary War veteran and eventually moved to Pike County, Kentucky where he was granted a parcel of land.  He is thought to be the ancestor of all 'McCoys' in Eastern Kentucky and was my 5th great-grandfather.  I grew up in Martin County, Kentucky a former territory of Pike County.

Another observation concerning John McCoy is that he was a 'Jacobite' and initially left Scotland because of a failed rebellion to reinstall King James II on the throne.  I am curious about this because the MacKay clan was notoriously anti-Jacobite so John must have gone against clan policy in supporting the former king.  So, did he leave Scotland for fear of retaliation from the current government or did he flee because of possible clan retribution?  I would love to know more.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Genealogy Notes

I have become obsessed with my genealogy over the past few years and spend a lot of time researching it each week.  Although this is not a genealogy blog, I do want to put items of note on it as I discover them.  I thought one possibility might be putting the names (and whatever back story I might find) of the ancestors in each branch who actually crossed the pond.  After all, this would constitute amazing adventures which is, after all, the subject of this blog.  So, here goes.

I carry the surname of the first individual I will discuss.  His name was John McCoy (changed from MacKay) and he came to Maryland in approximately 1732 after spending roughly 15 years in Belfast.  He originally came from Sutherland County, Scotland in the north of the country.  I copied the following details from a site I found on the internet:

  • Name: John McCoy
  • Given Name: John
  • Surname: McCoy
  • Sex: M
  • Birth: 1690 in Sutherland Shire, Scotland
  • Death: 1762 in Washington Co., Maryland

  • Note: The McCoys were in Scotland until around 1700 a.d. at which time they migrated to Ireland. In the early 1700s, the McCoys started to migrate to America which was a British Colony. The earliest "known" McCoy is John, a Jacobite in Ireland. (It is believed his father was named Alexander) The Jacobites were loyal supporters of the Stuart King, James II. It is believed that John migrated to Ireland around 1716 after a failed rebellion in 1715 which was to return KingJames II to the English throne. John later migrated to America about 1732. Notes from McCoy History email, from Frank (bunkhouse...):  "John McCoy, son of Alexander McCoy, was born 1690 in Sutherland Shire,Scotland, and died 1762. He married unknown Martin. Migrated to Belfast, County Antrim, Ireland. Worked as a mercenary for English Lord Berresford. In 1732 emigrated from Belfast, Ireland. In 1737, received "Neglect" land grant in Charles County, Maryland, 150 acretract. Located today outside of Funkstown, Washington County, Maryland. 1820 -built a stone house, Funkstown, Washington County, Maryland."

    John purchased land in Prince George's County, Maryland, called "Neglect" on 11/09/1742. This was a 50-acre plot. On 08/17/1747, he purchased land in Charles County, Maryland, which was referred to as "Slatford's Roost Extension." He bought "Neglect" (129 acres) in Queen Anne County, on 12/01/1748, and on 08/17/1747, he bought "Slatford's Roost Extension (54 acres) in Charles County. John's brothers, James and Daniel, may have come from Ireland with him. He died in Washington County, Maryland, in 1762.

    Father: Alexander McCoy b: Abt 1665 in Sutherland Shire, Scotland
    Mother: Francis Katharine (Catherine) Sutherland b: 15 Apr 1765 in Sutherland, Scotland

    Marriage 1 UNKNOWN Martin
    • Married:
    • Change Date: 24 Apr 2004
    1. Archibald McCoy b: 12 Jul 1732 in Washington Co. MD
    2. David McCoy
    3. William McCoy
    4. Joel McCoy
    5. John McCoy

    Monday, April 28, 2014

    "Hidden America: Children of the Mountains"

    I found this video yesterday on YouTube and thought I would post the link.  It discusses the enduring poverty in Appalachia, more specifically, that in Eastern Kentucky.  I was very surprised to see that it included interviews from my home county and with some people I actually know.  Although the video 'narrated' the poverty well, neither Diane Sawyer (the lead on this project) nor 20/20 discussed the bigger issues of why the War on Poverty had failed so miserably.  Perhaps in a follow-up segment?  Anyway, here is the link:

    Sunday, April 13, 2014

    Old Churches

    I took this picture yesterday in Quihi, Texas.  These are two Lutheran churches in the middle of nowhere in South-Central Texas about 30 minutes West of San Antonio. 

    Sunday, April 6, 2014

    Nijmegen Four-Day March, 1984(6)

    Still in Nijmegen, this photo was of one of my best friends in the military.  We thought this was making a statement what with him being in the army.  I lost touch with him as with so many others I served with--remember, this was pre-internet days.

    Sunday, March 23, 2014

    Cute Kitty

    I found this guy terrorizing the birds in my backyard yesterday.  He didn't seem to be scared of anything including me!

    Saturday, March 15, 2014

    Taiwan Friends2

    Some more pictures of friends in front of a temple in Taipei.

    Sunday, March 9, 2014

    Taiwan Friends

    A picture of some of my colleagues in Taiwan right before I returned to the US.

    Sunday, March 2, 2014

    Notre Dame Campus

    Here I am standing in front of a monument on the Notre Dame campus in '87.  It's difficult to see but the Hesburgh Library is behind the monument.  I have better pictures of that building elsewhere on this blog.

    Saturday, March 1, 2014

    Another Golden Dome Picture

    Another picture taken from a lost roll of film.  This is of the Golden Dome/Administration building at Notre Dame in 1987 when I was a student there.  I can never get enough of this scene.

    Sunday, February 23, 2014

    Nijmegen Four-Day March, 1984 (5)

    Another picture from Nijmegen.  My army buddy and I are posing with a soldier from the Italian military.

    Friday, February 21, 2014

    Nijmegen Four-Day March, 1984 (4)

    This is a great picture!  A little Dutch girl came out to offer us some of her bread as we were marching by.  They really appreciated what we represented--a symbol of the allied troops that liberated their country from the Nazis.

    Monday, February 17, 2014

    DNA Screenshot

    Just thought I'd add this since I'm really getting into my genealogy. has a great DNA test that you can associate with others who have also submitted to it.  PS, click on the picture to get a better view.

    Nijmegen Four-Day March, 1984 (3)

    Here I am with some of my teammates in a pre-march poker game.  Had we known what we were in store for the next day, we might have tried to get more rest.

    Sunday, February 16, 2014

    Nijmegen Four-Day March, 1984 (2)

    Prior to the march, teams from various countries had a chance to socialize with other teams.  I believe this group was from Sweden (with the exception of me in the background).

    Saturday, February 15, 2014

    Nijmegen Four-Day March, 1984

    Last week, I found some Kodak disc negatives in an old box that I had forgotten about long ago.  I knew they were from the '80s but had no idea what type of pictures might be on them.  The first challenge was finding a photo shop that could scan them since this type of film went out of style in the late '80's.  Fortunately, I did find a shop but they warned me that doing this would be a bit expensive with no guarantee of the pictures' quality or even if they'd come out at all.  Well, I picked them up yesterday and the quality was relatively good.  The subject was also a pleasant surprise as these pictures were taken in 1984 in Nijmegen, Holland during the annual four-day march.  This event occurs in July of every year and both civilians and military teams participate.  As a matter of fact, my army team was chosen after six months of intensive training and being culled from an original group of about 150 to only 12 participants.  I never thought of myself as being in great physical shape but that wasn't what was needed for this event.  One only required mental endurance to finish the long marches in combat boots and uniform. 

    This picture was taken as we were loading our gear onto vehicles that would transport it to our base camp where we would start every day's march.  More coming tomorrow!

    Friday, February 14, 2014

    Taiwan Again

    A delicious snack after climbing Da-ken mountain near Taichung, Taiwan.

    Thursday, February 13, 2014

    More Photos On The Way

    I was digging through an old box the other day and found some Kodak disc negatives from the '80s.  They were given to me by a friend and included pictures of our army team marching in the Netherlands.  I believe he gave these to me after he had had them developed but I never got around to developing them myself.  Anyway, it took me a few days but I finally found a photo shop that could scan them and make copies for me (albeit a very expensive process).  I'm supposed to pick them up tomorrow so hopefully, they will turn out well.

    Saturday, February 8, 2014

    And The Final One From Carnival

    Here is the last one from Carnival '85 in Venice.  I especially like this picture because it shows a good view of the harbor and the Adriatic.

    Wednesday, February 5, 2014

    Venice, Italy 1985

    It's amazing what you can find in old boxes.  I was digging through one the other day and found this picture of two girls dressed up for Carnival in Venice, 1985.  I was visiting there from my home base in Augsburg, Germany during my time in the army.  Such pictures bring back great memories for me.

    Saturday, February 1, 2014

    Once A Warrior, Always A Warrior!

    On the top, Field Station Augsburg Germany in 1983 when I was 21 years old.

    On the bottom, just outside Kabul, Afghanistan in 2008 when I was 46.  I'm standing next to a downed MI-24 holding my 9mm.

    I'd like to go back but I'm afraid I'd never want to leave!

    Monday, January 13, 2014

    Sunday, January 12, 2014

    The Flu

    I have always prided myself on rarely, if ever, missing work even suffering various illnesses while still making it into my job.  Well, this week is hopefully an aberration.  Early Wednesday morning, an outside pipe burst and I had to stay home till someone came and fixed it.  While waiting, I noticed my throat was becoming scratchy which indicates an oncoming cold.  No problem, I thought.  I can easily endure a cold until the weekend.  By Friday morning though, I was at work wearing a coat in 70 degree temps and with chattering teeth!  I ultimately decided to leave work early in order to see the doctor.  What he eventually told me came as a big surprise.  He said I had the flu and a current temperature of 103.1!!!  He also told me the symptoms could have been worse had I not already had a flu shot.  Not only that but he ordered me not to return to work until Tuesday.  Of course, I could endure work tomorrow but will stay home for fear of infecting others if I returned too soon.

    Wednesday, January 1, 2014

    Happy New Year!!!

    What are my resolutions for this new year?  First, I must try to have a better attitude about my job and the nature of humanity.  The latter is made more difficult since someone stole a UPS-delivered package that was left at my front door.  I must also try to attend church more often; it will give me solace as I watch my country crumble due to political decisions made in Washington.  Finally, I must try to post more on this blog even if I'm not actively traveling at the moment.

    I wish the best for all in the coming year!