Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tombstone Tuesday: Michael McDaid

This is the grave of my 3rd great grandfather, Michael S. McDaid. This was taken long before I owned a digital camera. Michael was an interesting character, but with as much as I know about him, there is so much more I wish I knew.

He was born in Pennsylvania, but I've never found his parents. There were few McDaid families in Western Pennsylvania, but he could have been from the eastern part of the state where the name is a little more common. He was born sometime around 1809-1810, although I can't be sure. Every census gives an inconsistent age and even his pension applications after the Civil War gave ages that don't match a particular date of birth.

He married his wife, Jennet (or Janetta) McCoy, presumably before 1828 when his eldest daughter, Mary Jane, was born. He and Jennet went on to have 8 children, including my 2nd great-grandfather, Samuel S. McDaid. They moved around Greene and Washington Counties in Pennsylvania, finally seeming to settle down in West Finley Twp. However, the Civil War changed that.

Michael McDaid was about 50 years old when the war started. He and his son, William, went to Wheeling, West Virginia to enlist to fight for the Union. Michael served in Co. L of the 2nd WV Cavalry. According to his service records, though, he was away from duty quite a bit, often related to injuries that seemed to be caused by clumsiness or carelessness, although his age could have been a factor. One major injury was a dislocated shoulder caused by a rearing horse. There was some indication that he was AWOL for a time, but his excuse was that he had returned home to recuperate.

After the war, Michael never returned to live in West Finley, but instead went to live in Marshall County, WV, with a man named Jesse Gorbey. Mr. Gorbey might have been a relative -- perhaps a brother-in-law -- I've seen information that indicates that his wife's maiden name might have been "McDaid". Jennet McDaid continued to live on her own in West Finley. After the war, she filed for a pension based on the service of her son William who had died of Small Pox in Washington, DC, during the war. Her pension request included several affidavits signed by her neighbors and friends testifying to the fact that her husband had abandoned her! And yet, I have never found any indication that she and Michael were divorced. However, in 1879, Michael married Lucinda Martin in Marshall County. She was at least 25 years younger than he was, and Jennet was alive until at least 1883. The fact that Michael McDaid seemed to have been married to two women at the same time makes him interesting to me, but I know of one cousin who was upset when she found the same info I did in the pension records. She seemed sorry that she had done the research, and I don't even know if she's still doing genealogy.

Michael died in 1892, although there seems to be some confusion about exactly when. The date shown in his pension paperwork looks like February 10, 1892. However, a pension increase was approved in April 1892, and his file wasn't closed until December. It seems that Lucinda might have been a little shady. She remarried the next year to another Civil War pensioner. After he died, she applied for widow's pensions based on the service of both husbands, while indicating on each application that she had only been married to one veteran. Someone at the VA was on their toes and caught her deception. The files of her two husbands have been combined at the National Archives.

Luckily, since Michael was a veteran, his grave has been marked. He was buried at Shepherd Methodist Church in Adaline, WV. The stone only shows his name and service info, no birth or death date. I originally found a record of his burial on the website for Marshall County WV GenWeb . Also buried there was Mary Gorbey, wife of Jesse. The town is very isolated, and my husband and I had a little trouble finding it. That was in the days before Google Maps or GPS devices, but you can see it's location below. We were relieved when we located the churchyard.

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I think of Michael as one of my more interesting ancestors. In his pension file is a letter written in his own handwriting. One of my brothers-in-law does handwriting analysis. I had him look at that letter without telling him anything that I had learned about Michael McDaid. He told me that the handwriting indicated that the writer was a creative and intelligent person who bored easily and probably seemed irresponsible. He also mentioned that the handwriting indicated that Michael was a heavy drinker, but due to the age he was when the letter was written, he might also have had a minor stroke at some time. I have wondered how his abandonment of his family might have affected later generations.

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