Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Never give up!

For the past 20 years, I have been searching for a special document.
It should have been a simple matter; I was just trying to finding a document that would link a person named Reason Spriggs to his son Elijah.

Alternatively, I was looking for some kind of written record that would link the name Elijah Spriggs to his father Reason.

Why did I want to find such a document?
Because Reason, born in 1766,  is my husband's great, great, great, great Grandfather.

I have found documentation proving that Elijah was Bernie's great, great, great Grandfather.  And I had found the documents linking between all the Spriggs from Reason (also spelled Reson, Rizen, and Rezen) back to 1630.

I just needed one tiny document and I would have proof of the entire family lineage.

Twice I had visited where Reason was known to have lived, (between 1800 and 1830 according to the US Census records), in Pendleton District, South Carolina.

I was looking for a will, a probate record...any of the documents that commonly  is used to prove a lineage.

For twenty years I have looked.

Two weeks ago...just by typing in the name Elijah Spriggs, I found a letter that has been filed away in the National Archives probably since 1813.

The letter, the cover is pictured above,  was addressed to the President of the United States.
(Note the address: Washington City, in Maryland.  It was not Washington DC, yet).

Above: The letter.

The letter had been digitally scanned into a search able data base not too long ago, which is why during my previous twenty years of searching I had never found the letter before, even though I had been in contact with the National Archives, looking for records on Elijah.

The letter above reads as follows:


After many struggles with my self between hope and despair, I at length took up my pen to lay open my grievances to who, to none more proper than he who holds the rein of government; who we should consider as father to our nation and friend to humanity.

Pray sir think it not presumption but only the tenderness of a father to a child causes me to act tho it be never so improper.

I have a son now in the utmost distress; in his twentieth year he went from me and privately married. I sent for him and his wife and was about to settle them when he enlisted for five years in the cavalry, being only eight month married he left a wife in the utmost distress.

Six month after; January last, I went to Savannah to see him. I was shocked and wounded at the sight he was (-owing -iety in a m-n?) nor naked not having received any clothing.

I divested myself of part of mine and gave him.

He informed me that if he had all the money in the United States he would give it freely to be...

discharged from the Army. This is to beg your influence as a friend to humanity to set at ease the afflicted minds of a distressed family by procuring the liberty of that unguarded youth.

His name is Elijah Sprigg, of the second Regiment of Cavalry under Stephen Proctor Capt.

I am your obedient servant,

Rezen Sprigg
April 2nd 1813

James Madison;

N.B. I live in the state of South Carolina
Pendelton District     R S

To say that I was FLOORED by this letter is an understatement.
This was proof, in his own handwritting, but also a sketch of heart of an ancestor.

Amazingly, there was a second letter!

Resin Sprigg
praying for the discharge of his son Elijah Sprigg a private in Capt. Proctor Troop.

April 2 1813

The Secretary of War

State of South Carolina Pendelton District.
July 20 1813
(This letter being written three months after his letter to the President).

As an obscure individual I apply to you as I have done before to the President of the U. S.  tho having my application treated with silent contempt by him.  I have a desire to know whether each on at the head of department will act in the same manner.

I have a son Elijah Sprigg on whom I have bestowed a liberal education. He being full of youthful folly absconded from me and privately was wed.

Immediately after I recalled him home and was about to settle him when he enlisted in the second regiment of the U. S Cavalry under Capt. Procter.

All this done before he was 21 years of age.  He has been more than twelve months in the Army.  He feels his own mortification and says he shall die if he has to continue in the Army. He enlisted for five years, if nothing else will do write to me and also his officers to discharge him and let me take his place.

I am 47 years old active and much better informed in tactics than he is.  I am willing to serve his time if your Honor will admit it.

I am with due submission your Honors humble servant   Rezen Sprigg

John Armstrong
Secretary of War.

The fact that Reason was willing to serve in his son's place, at age 47...amazing.

Tate felt that I should point out that the National Archives is in partnership with a group called Fold3, as well as Ancestry.Com, both of which are scanning in the handwritten documents of the Achives and indexing them so they can be found via a computer search.
Fold3 is a subscription data base; you may search it for any name related to military service without paying a fee, but to see the document you wil be charged a very reasonable amount.  I personally subscribed for a month's worth of access; the fee was $13.

Fourteen years ago I had written the National Archives for Elijah's War of 1812 service records.  I received a copy of  his enlistment paper and all the documentation of his service.

He was finally discharged in July 1817.

He did have to serve his full five years after all.

(It was a smile maker to realize that he returned to his wife in July of 1817 and in April of the following year, just nine months later, his only son James Joseph Spriggs was born.)

Perhaps you are wondering how I even knew Elijah was in the War of 1812?  Or how I knew his name in the first place?

Well, Elijah's son James Joseph later moved to Illinois.

James gave an interview which was published in a book, and during the interview he said he was born in South Carolina, Pendleton, and his father's name was Elijah and that his dad died in the Regular Army.

James Joseph Spriggs became the father of James F. Spriggs.

 James F. Spriggs was the grandfather of my father-in-law.  We knew the names for a first person account.

Because of the published interview, I knew Elijah was the father of James. I was just looking through the book for fun when I spotted this:

 A single line informed me that Elijah served in the War of 1812. 
Land was given to him for his service.

 I had found one other book which mentioned Elijah's name:

It contained rather sad news:

This book only had the abstracts of the articles from the Charleston Observer.   I later found the full article.  Elijah died from consumption, or what is now properly called tuberculosis.
He was but 36 years old.
His son...was barely nine years old at the time.

Having documentation of the lineage really means a lot to me.
You see...in less than two months from now, another name will be added to the family tree.
Bernie is Generation 11, our son Jeff is the twelfth generation.
Soon to be born Luke will be a 13th generation of Spriggs.

(And in case you are wondering...Spriggs is found spelled Sprig, Sprigg, Spigg and Spriggs over the years. The last "S" began to be commonly  used in the 1850's.)

Our family Pedigree Chart...the entire line up of 3rd great grandfather's is complete.

That is...the names of ALL of the great, great Grandfathers, on both side of our family have been documented.

All thirty two names.  (Yes, you have 8  great great grandmothers and 8 great great grandfathers...and most of them were born for me in the early to mid 1800s.  There are a lot of documents about people born during those years if you know where to look...)

I use a 15 generation Pedigree Chart...it is ragged and I am slowly recopying all the information onto a new chart.

This is just the front side!

Genealogy just keeps getting easier and easier as more and more documents are digitized.

Now is the best time EVER if you wish to look to find your family  history.


RoeH said...

This is so cool! I just love all this family history stuff and when we find something it is so much fun. So glad you found this. What a treasure. One thing I always learn is that there's not much difference in them in comparison to us. Same problems, same joys, same heartaches, same loves, same wants and desires..... It's amazing.

Vee said...

(I have tried and tried to find my paternal family history. I had to finally conclude that they crawled out from under a rock. My mother's family has been pretty easy and we really found the mother lode when someone else had done all the work for John's family even traveling to the sites of interest to include the family castle. John says the ancestors built some really bad stairs.)

Fascinating story! Very interesting letter. Makes you want to know more.

ellen b. said...

Amazing stuff for sure, Jill. Good for you for not giving up.

Vicki said...

That is amazing, Jill! I love your persistence!

If I send you everything I have (and I have a lot!), would you compile it and find the unconfirmed link? Heehee!

Lovella ♥ said...

OH Jill,
This is the most interesting post and I am so thrilled for you to have been given just reward for your twenty years of searching.
Never give up is right.
My uncle on my mom's side is said to be doing some investigating of our lineage... I wish I could say someone was doing the same for my Dad's. I wonder how much more difficult it is when an adoption is involved?

The story itself is so tender and the English so beautiful. I loved reading it.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Amazing to think you can trace your family back so many generations..what a wonderful legacy to pass on to your soon to be born grandson!

Sadly my maternal grandparents were from Eastern Europe and my paternal great grandparents were from Ireland and all traces of my ancestors end in Europe.

Sara said...

Having done a bit of family research myself, I know how AMAZING and WONDERFUL this find is! I'm so thrilled for you. And it is so special to have some personal thoughts and see the father's heart toward his son, and in his own handwriting. Wow.

a woman who is said...

That was fascinating. It is so exciting to finally get to the bottom of your search and find all the missing documents to prove what you thought all along. I joined ancestor.com and found as you were relating that the searching now was fairly an easy process. I have gotten to the end of our lineage on this continent, but now I need to go back to Italy, Ireland, France and England to get as far as you have. I have not heard of Fold3, it sounds like I should do some investigating down that line, especially with my husband's family who's root do go much further back in this country.

Wow I still can't believe the documents you found relating back to James Madison. What a sense of accomplishment you must feel.

Anonymous said...

Great work. Aren't Archives great?!
Now onto the Brosnans!!

Dawn said...

Thanks for sharing this. So interesting!
I am realizing I need to gather all the information for our children. I am the only one who would know the details.I have one uncle left from the older generation.
I did keep all the photos and info my mother had. Just need to write it down and do an album of the photos.
Looking forward to your announcement of Luke's arrival!

Julie said...

That is fascinating and sooo amazing that you were able to be so successful in your search. I'm surprised you didn't have a heart attach when your eyes first fell on that letter! And as you said, not just lineage facts but to have discovered the beat of the father's heart makes him so real.
I love it !!

Pondside said...

That was just fascinating.
My father has a stack of documents going back to the 1500s on paper and further back in oral history. As a child he remembers standing at his father's knee every Sunday to recite his lineage - I am Angus, son of Alexander, son of Angus, son of.....
Dad has passed the documentation on to me - it's a treasure!
Regarding the family christening gown - I will pass it to my daughter when she has her first child. It's the gown that my mother wore, and my grandmother, Lily, and her mother before her. It is silk, and in amazing condition - waiting in my cedar chest.

Frank's Girl said...

Wow! What a story!

Anneliese said...

Wow! This is so interesting! I am amazed as to what you could find and such dear letters to show the character, the love of a father for a son...I love the way they wrote with such respect.
I am a bit envious of the ability to find information of family that has lived in one country for so many generations. Just one little example of my lineage.... my granddaughter, my daughter, myself my mother and her mother.... were all born in a different country (US, Canada, Uruguay, Paraguay, Russia) and who knows before that? It is very interesting, no matter how it looks... every story is different.
Congratulations on your diligence and success!

Purrfect Haven said...

wow.. what an amazing true story and what feelings are stirred to read what he wrote and did. So interesting. You have inspired me to start what I have often talked of... my family tree. Helen, Darcy and Bingley xxx