Tag: family tree

Veterans in the Harris Family

Happy Veterans Day! Today is a national holiday dedicated to thanking all those who have served our country, both in times of peace and in times of war. We are grateful for the men and women who have sacrificed and are currently sacrificing so much to protect us.

This includes members of Joel Chandler Harris’s family.

A number of Harris family members served in the military during their lifetime. Their family tree includes veterans of both WWI and WWII as well as veterans of the Navy, Army, and Marine Corps. Some were related by marriage while others were his direct descendants.

Harris’s second eldest son, Lucien, had a family line that was seems to have been particularly active in the armed services. Of his three sons, two became Navy fliers during WWI: Andrew Stewart (“Stewart”) and Joel Chandler Harris III (“Chandler”). In fact, while conducting our research for the Interactive Harris Family Tree, we were fortunate enough to discover both of their service cards (pictured above) via Ancestry.com.

Continuing this family trend, Lucien Jr. (the third of Lucien’s sons) had two sons who went on to join the military. The first, Lucien III, followed in his uncles’ footsteps and also joined the Navy Aviation unit, becoming a cadet at the Citadel in South Carolina when he was 19 years old. Lucien III also paid tribute to his family’s history by taking his oath of allegiance on December 9, 1942 – his great-grandfather’s birthday (pictured to the left in an article from The Atlanta Constitution acquired via Newspapers.com).

Lucien III’s brother, James Robin Harris also served. J. Robin Harris, a former state legislator for Georgia, was a WWII veteran. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and received four battle stars as well as a combat infantry badge for his service.

We spend a lot of time at The Wren’s Nest focusing on Joel Chandler Harris’s contributions. Specifically to history, culture, and literature. However, we are glad to be reminded during this research of his family’s other contributions. Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list of all the Harris family members who were/are veterans or of their accomplishments both in and out of the military. We salute their efforts to keep our country safe, even during historic conflicts like WWI and WWII.

And we thank all the veterans for their service.

Social Media in the 20th Century

Back in June, The Wren’s Nest launched the first phase of an interactive version of the Harris family tree. The second phase came at the end of July/early August and with it, my discovery of just how awesome Joel Chandler Harris’s daughter-in-law, Julia Collier Harris, was. The third phase of the Harris family tree interactive is now available and includes labels for 22 of the family’s members.

This was nearly double the number of labels from the previous two phases. In addition to the generous help of Harris’s descendants (Linda Harris and Annette Shakespeare), I quickly found myself up to my eyeballs in obituaries and wedding announcements – courtesy of memberships to Ancestry.com and Newspapers.com – trying to find out everything I could about each person. I also discovered something about 20th-century newspapers that I didn’t know was a trend:

“Social Items” and “Personals.”

Now, when I hear the term “personals,” I think about personal ads. The advertisements that were like a cross between Craiglist postings and online dating profiles. Basically, a place in the newspaper in which you either try to sell something or try to find a partner.

It also makes me think about the song, “Escape (The Pina Colada Song).”

But that’s not what these Personals and Social Items contained. Instead, I found announcements like these:

“Mr. and Mrs. Frank Rowsey, who have been residing at the Biltmore hotel, have returned to their home, The Brier [sic.] Patch, on Old Plantation road, for residence.”

“Mr. and Mrs. Joel Chandler Harris III will move to Montgomery, Ala., October 1, where they will make their future home.”

“Miss Burdeene Blechele, of Canton, O., and Misses Gretchen and Brownie Miller, of Lexington, KY, are visiting Misses Lillian and Mildred Harris.”

And there were plenty more examples over the course of many decades (you may notice these examples are from 1943, 1928, and 1900), mostly alerting readers to people’s movements or travels.

It seemed oddly familiar to me and for a little while I couldn’t figure out why. And then it hit me:

These are basically like modern day social media status updates. But in print media.

Evidently, people used to share when they were going on a trip, moving to a new city, or newly engaged in the newspaper the way we share the same news now on our Facebook or Twitter feeds.

I suspect that in sharing this “revelation,” my millennial age is showing. In retrospect, it almost feels silly that I didn’t know this existed or even considered how this type of information was shared before online social media or widespread phone use. But I guess I assumed it was done in a more intimate way; through personal letters or phone calls to specific people. Not as public announcements that anyone reading the newspaper could read.

I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Branching Out with an Interactive Harris Family Tree

When you visit The Wren’s Nest, you’re likely there because of Joel Chandler Harris. And it makes sense. He was a famous journalist and author during his time, rivaling Mark Twain in popularity. His books were basically international best sellers so it’s natural that his fans rallied together after his death to make his home a museum. Without him, who knows what would have become of The Wren’s Nest? For all we know, the house may have disappeared.

Yes, there’s no denying that Joel Chandler Harris is the reason The Wren’s Nest exists as a historic house museum today.

But he was not the only resident in the house. And he is certainly not the only Harris family member to have to have made a mark on the world. We wanted to highlight all of the Harris family members, not just Joel. So, with the help of a generous grant from Georgia Humanities, we are excited to announce the launch of the first phase of a new digital education tool: an interactive version of the Harris family tree!

As you can clearly see, the Harris family is quite extensive, so we’re launching the interactive in phases. In this first phase, you can find out more about Joel Chandler Harris’s immediate family – his wife and his nine children. Discover which children followed in their father’s footsteps and pursued a career in journalism; which child’s birth Harris considered to be a sign of good luck; and which child Harris dedicated a book to.

One thing I love about historic houses is that they are so intimate. They are literally a historical person’s home; where they sought refuge from the world and where they were just a husband or wife or a son or daughter. Creating this tool has brought the intimacy to a new level for me. I read through Harris’s letters to his family – which are incredibly well documented by the way! – seeing his personal communications. I also worked with his living descendants, Linda Harris and Annette Shakespeare, to gather as much information as possible from family stories and scrapbooks. I feel like I’ve gotten another window into the Harris family’s life.

I’m very grateful for Linda and Annette’s help and that they allowed me – and now all of us – into yet another intimate family space.

You can explore the family tree here!

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