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Yes, I read lots of non-fiction, not as much recently as I would like. Mostly early American History, but I have another (of many) interes...

Sunday, March 2, 2008

I finally found the error!

Colonel William Gilham West Point Cadet class of 1840, graduated 5th in his class right in front of William T. Sherman (who graduated 6th and was also offered a comminssion in the confederate army that he turned down)

It is my firm belief that Historians and Genealogist should, in order to tell truthful history, actually respect and listen to one another. I have found many errors in historical based non-fiction by historians who did not bother to dig into the genealogy of their subjects, thus spreading either misinformation or incomplete information.

Two examples: I was in a book store, about a year ago, previewing new non-fiction history books when I can across a new book (unfortunately I cannot remember the title or I would be writing the publisher immediately) which stated Albert Gallatin fought in the French Revolution receiving a permanent scar on his face. Well...being very well versed in Gallatin's history, which anyone can look up, it took me quite by surprise to hear of his service at a time when he was deeply embedded in Pennsylvania politics. Gallatin arrived in America in 1780 during the American Revolution, traveled to Machias, Maine for one season, taught French at Harvard for a short time, then moved on to Western Pennsylvania to start a Swiss community with his friend Badollet. Gallatin then became involved with state, then national politics rising to Secretary of the Treasury under Thomas Jefferson. Several daguerreotypes and paintings exist on Gallatin and I dare any one to find a large scar on his face, yet place him fighting as a commander in the French Revolution.

There is an extensive biography (one of many published in the 19th century when Gallatin's name was very well known throughout U.S. History) by Henry Adams. In this hard to find, close to 700 page, biography you will find where this author mentioned above erroneously lifted his information about Jean de Gallatin, who did indeed serve as 2nd in command of a regiment in the service of Louis XVI. Jean did suffer a large scar on his face while dueling with the Baron dePappenheim. Jean is NOT Albert Gallatin. Oh...and this information is on page one of the Adams biography, which must have been as much as this, so called historian read about Gallatin, who was just a passing subject on his sojourn into the depths of yet, ANOTHER, book on Thomas Jefferson. The text in question is on page 3 or 4 of this book on Jefferson. The author read the first page of the Galatin biography which is the Gallatin genealogy. Without scrutiny assumed Jean de Gallatin was our Albert Gallatin.

Second...a Civil War historian , Eric J. Mink gives a lecture in 2000 that was posted on the web at

In this lecture Mr. Mink says that Gilham was born in Vincennes, Indiana in 1818, states that little is known about his personal life, yet goes on to describe his family history as "His father's family came from Virginia and it was with the Old Dominion that he would make his mark."

What about Gilham's mothers side? Had this historian bothered to look into his genealogy he would have find out that Gilham's maternal grandfather was the one who got him into West Point, helped educate William and was an advocate against slavery, wrote the major portion of the one article in the Indiana state constitution that made Indiana the first state to assume responsibility for educating its citizens by public schools irregardless of economic background. He could have found such a compelling story in the fact that Gilham's mothers side of the family never spoke to Colonel Gilham again because of his involvement fighting for the South. How Gilham tried after the Civil War to reunite with this side of his family only to be shut out forever. (I will deal more in depth with this fascinating man in future posts).

My point being, Historians and Genealogist can service history much better working together. Genealogy is hugely influential in our historical past. Many Genealogist are just as guilty being so absorbed in their own family findings that they miss historical significance of time and place. Where was your ancestor in 1824 through 1825? I have several ancestors who met face to face with the Marque de Lafayette on his pilgrimage through this country during this time. I have ancestors who end up in early state beginnings of Ohio, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma just to name a few. That is just the fact, but the more fascinating story is to find them in these territories before statehood, then leaving upon major settlement, only to show up in the next great territory. Some of these ancestors where face to face with Bat Masterson and Bill Tilghman (Tilghman is a family connection). The wild west!

I hope to work on this relationship with my genealogical and historical research being equally significant. Through this method we give life to our ancestors and see how history affected their lives and how their lives affected history. Washington, Jefferson, Adams, etc.. could not have done it on their own. Let's find out about the other hero's of our past who may be even more fascinating!
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