My father was born 110 years ago
today—or maybe yesterday. He was born at home. It was late at
night. Nobody was looking at the clock. Those on the scene decided
to call it the 24th. There was no birth certificate—no
need for one at the time. It only became a problem some time in the
60's when he needed a birth certificate to apply for a passport. He
had to find a couple of witnesses to attest to the fact that he was
born when and where he said he was.
Had my father had a birth certificate
in 1904, it would have shown that he was named Charles Carrol
Hays—after his grandfather. (Yes, the Civil War grandfather of the
captured flag story.) My grandmother Hannah wanted her son to have his father's name: Thaddeus Stevens Hays. But my
grandfather was having none of it. Having suffered with that name throughout his life, he was
adamant. He would not saddle his son with such a name. But a few
months later he died suddenly, and his widow renamed their son with
the name she'd wanted in the first place. She was reported to have said that she missed
having a Thad around the house. And so it was that my father became
Thaddeus Stevens Hays.
I had an exciting genealogy
breakthrough recently. Out of the blue, someone emailed me who had
seen something I had posted on a message board so long ago that I had
completely forgotten about it. The message I had posted was that I
was searching for the father of my Swedish grandfather, John Albert
Ahl (pictured at left). There was no trace of John's father at all/Ahl.
John's mother's name was Johanna Blade
Ahl and I didn't have much information on her either, but at least I
knew her birth and death dates. She was born in Sweden but by the
time her son was born in 1860, she had moved to the US and was living
in Illinois. I began to entertain the thought that maybe there was
no father. Well, at least no husband. Maybe Johanna had gotten in
the family way and had come to America by herself to put the scandal
behind her—to raise her child where he would be free from stigma.
Maybe in her new life she identified herself as a widow. That seemed
plausible until a few months ago when I found that John had a younger
sister, Ida Ahl. So back to being stymied. Where was their father?
In my message board post I had listed all
the names associated with mother Johanna. On her birth record she is
identified as Johanna Sofia and her father's name was Samuel
Samuelsson. So where did the name
Blade come from? In Sweden, sometimes when a man went into the
military he took a different last name. When there were several
Anders Anderssons or Ole Olssons or Samuel Samuelssons in the same
company, these military names helped to distinguish one from another.
Often the military name was short and was a noun. When I looked up
Blade (blad) I found that it means 'leaf' or 'blade'—the latter
quite fitting for a military name, I'd say. Some men kept their
military name when they returned to civilian life, while others went
back to their patronymic name. So I included Blade as a possible
name for Johanna. But it was the Samuelsson that evidently caught
the eye of the respondent to my post. She sent me the startling news
that Johanna Samuelsson had married a man named Johan Peter
Persson....wait for it....AHL!!
Ta da! The missing Persson is found
and Johanna is no longer a fallen woman. She is now a respectably
married mother of two children bearing their father's name Ahl—which,
by the way, means 'alder'. Perhaps another military name? Stay