Find Your Patriot, Part 2

For Part One, click here.

So, you have a relative that fought in the American Revolution and you want to know more… now what? Joining an organization, such as the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), is a lengthy and detail-oriented process. It takes patience and perseverance. Before beginning the process, I attended a research seminar hosted by the local chapter to learn about the specific requirements for applying. If you have any experience with records, the one consistent theme is that records do not consistently capture the same information. Some death records do not list birth-dates, birth records do not always list both parents, and worst-case scenario, many records can be lost, stolen or severely damaged.

As I mentioned in part 1, my grandmother provided me with a box of documents detailing the Bitely heritage. The materials she gave me was helpful for pointing my path forward, but it lacked the necessary vital records for completing the application. Luckily, each chapter has a registrar that guides you through finding the right resources and completing the paperwork accurately. The registrar in my chapter was a seasoned member of DAR and walked me step by step through the process. Together, we reviewed the documents from my box, made a family tree and contacted the Michigan vital records department for appropriate birth, death and marriage certificates for each generation between John and me. Thankfully, both New York and Michigan had the records I needed, in good condition and had the required information on them to meet DAR standards. If you hit a snag in the process, there’s an entire community of DAR women who are trained to help you through this. Reach out, we will help!


Here is a sample of the documents passed down to me in the family history box. This helped start the journey for learning more about my heritage.
Continue reading “Find Your Patriot, Part 2”

Finding Your Patriot

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes back guest historian Kate Bitely

Part 1

How much do you know about your great-great-great-great-great grandparents? Did your family pass on detailed stories of their past? Perhaps you took a DNA test like ‘23andMe,’ or maybe you know little if anything about your roots. Whatever the case may be, now is a great time to start the journey of learning about your familial past, as it might just lead you to an unexpected destination. For me, I grew up knowing my distant relative, John Biteley Sr., a New Yorker who come to the U.S. from Germany in the 1750’s. His American born son, John Biteley Jr., went on to serve as a patriot in the American Revolution. My grandfather, Ralph Bitely, always told us, “the Bitely’s were at Ticonderoga!”  In 2010, my grandfather passed away. A few years after his death, my grandmother gave me a box filled with documents that detail the history of the Bitelys. This box would be the start of my journey back to the 18th century.

As I dug through the box a few years ago, I recall being filled with excitement as I learned about my family. They were farmers, predominately grape farmers to be exact. (My love for wine is clearly hereditary). As I dug deeper, I found a more modern picture of the “Bitely Homestead,” the home of John Biteley Sr., located in Saratoga County, NY. It was first built before the war around 1770, was burned down by Gen. John Burgoyne in 1777 and was rebuilt in 1779. Nearby remains a family cemetery where many of my relatives remain. While I have not been for a visit yet, I hope to make a trip soon when conditions are safe to do so.

Photo of the “Bitely Homestead” in Moreau, NY rebuilt in 1779 after the British burned down the original structure in 1777 found inside the box from my grandmother.
Continue reading “Finding Your Patriot”

Benjamin Henry Latrobe: Architect of the Republic

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes guest historian Darien Ashley. A short bio follows this post.

The best architecture is that which reflects clearly the ideals and activities of the people which inhabit it. This is true for both private dwellings and public buildings. The objects of architecture serve as a lasting testament to identity. These objects, once created, continue to shape minds long after the architect is gone. A nation’s capital city is a site where man can establish glorious structures which convey a sense of who the people are, where they came from, and where they intend to go. The United States Capitol building is a prime example of a structure that continues to inform American identity long after its architects have passed. This article serves as an investigation of the life of one of the most important architects of not only the Capitol, but of the nation itself, Benjamin Henry Latrobe.

Guests to the United States Capitol building often get a shock from the fact that one of its primary architects, Benjamin Henry Latrobe, was an Englishman. Indeed, the man who designed the hallowed, old halls of Congress hailed from a Moravian religious settlement located on the outskirts of Leeds, England. However, Latrobe himself would have objected to the label “Englishman”. Indeed, throughout his life, Latrobe referred to the United States as “his” country and was quick to point out that his mother, Anna Margaretta Antes, was born and raised in Pennsylvania. Latrobe’s father, Benjamin Henry Latrobe Sr., met Anna after she had been sent to London to finish her education. Both of Latrobe’s parents held prominent positions within the Moravian ministry and raised their children to follow in their example.

Continue reading “Benjamin Henry Latrobe: Architect of the Republic”

Gaming Away Social Distancing. Deal or Duel: An Alexander Hamilton Card Game

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Game Box for Deal or Duel (Eric Sterner)

Among his many aphorisms, Ben Franklin reportedly said “games lubricate the body and the mind.”  Given the large number of quotes attributed to the sage, it is suspect.  But, his generation certainly understood games, both as a way of sharpening the mind and passing time in amicable company.  Franklin was fond of chess, but not above games of chance and gambling.  George and Martha Washington often played different card games with their guests.  George, of course, also made an occasional wager, particularly when traveling on business.  Even today, many parlors in restored colonial homes will contain a gaming table. Continue reading “Gaming Away Social Distancing. Deal or Duel: An Alexander Hamilton Card Game”

Beer Drinking in the 18th Century

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes back guest historian Vanessa Smiley

“Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” – Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack

Benjamin Franklin was one of many 18th century beer lovers.
(Benjamin Franklin by Joseph Siffred Duplessis, c. 1785)

During the 18th century, Colonial society held three common beliefs about beer drinking:

  1. Drinking beer was healthier than drinking water
  2. Beer and its ingredients were a healthy supplement to the entire family’s diet
  3. It was an accepted way to promote social discourse

A little different from today’s society, except for beer connoisseurs (such as the Emerging Revolutionary War folks), these beliefs were formed from the circumstances of the time.

Though a generation away from understanding the connection between boiling water and sanitation, most folks understood that water could make you deathly ill. And yet, ale and beer drinkers did not seem to have that same risk. They did not know it at the time, but the boiling process to make these alternative drinking options neutralized much of any tainted water’s ill effects. Therefore, many substituted beer, ale, and other alternatives such as hard cider over water, making these a major dietary staple in the colonies.

Continue reading “Beer Drinking in the 18th Century”