Category Archives: Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge

The 11th Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge with Bill West

Bill West has invited us to join him for the 11th Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge. This is my third year participating, although my poem choices for the first two years related to my maternal side of the family tree, which is strongly colonial American with a dash of Danish, Swedish and Dutch.

For the past year and a half, I have spent a good amount of time gathering scholarly works about the history and culture of the Carpatho-Rusyn people, which makes up the other half of my family tree. Both of my paternal grandparents were Rusyns whose families lived in what today is Slovakia.

I’ve written a number of posts about my Rusyn heritage, so this year’s poem choice was written by Alexander Duchnovic, a 19th century priest who worked to further the Rusyn language, culture, history and patriotic feelings in his countrymen.

This poem was originally written as a hymn and today is the Rusyn anthem, although Rusyn villages are divided between Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine and Romania, along the northern and southern hills in the Carpathian Mountain range in central Europe.

I would love to learn to speak at least a bit of Rusyn, which has several variant dialects and is a Slavic language (but not Russian!).


Alexander Duchnovič
Source: Wikimedia Commons

I Was Rusyn
(Ja Rusyn Byl)

Translated into English:

I was, am and will remain Rusyn,
I was born a Rusyn,
My honorable lineage I will not forget,
And I shall remain its son;

My father and mother were Rusyn,
As are all my relatives,
My brothers and sisters are Rusyns,
And my large group of friends

My great and mighty people
Are united in peace,
And with renewed strength and spirit,
Are magnanimous to all others.

I first saw the light of this world
under the [Carpathian] Beskid range,
The first breath I drew was Rusyn,
And I was raised on Rusyn bread,
A Rusyn it was who cradled me.

When I opened my mouth for the first time,
I spoke Rusyn words,
And it was over Cyrillic letters
That sweat ran from my young brow.

Later I was educated as a Rusyn
And as such went out into the wide world;
But I did not forget
My own distinguished people.

And now who shows me the way?
Who nourishes me? Who uplifts me?
It is the Rusyn nation
Which upholds my respectability.

It is for you, my people,
I bow down to the living God.
Through sweat and hard work
I pay back my obligation

And give to you as much as I can
Accept as a gift and with sincerity
This little book
And its writer’s words

I will not forget to sacrifice this repentance
From the bottom of my heart
I will remain your devoted
Friend until I die.

Tenth Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge

Note: Each year, Bill West, who writes West in New England, issues the Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge.

Last year was my first year as a participant and I was able to uncover a fun children’s poem about the Miramichi area of New Brunswick, Canada. My entry for 2018 is an oldie, but goodie and definitely famous!

Part of the reason I think I am obsessed with genealogy is because I’ve always loved studying history. American History made its debut in my education  as part of my fifth grade curriculum. We even put on a play for the school in honor of the 130th anniversary of the birth of George Washington. Yes, I am definitely dating myself.

As a child, I always believed that everyone had a Pilgrim ancestor on the Mayflower and other family members who fought in the American Revolution and helped to found this country. This, in spite of being born in Passaic, New Jersey and growing up in a true melting pot of America.

Little did I know that I was a descendant of a Mayflower passenger, George Soule, and of six American patriots and just as many Loyalists!

An important part of the U.S history elementary school curriculum was studying (and sometimes having to memorize, although my class wasn’t subjected to that) the most famous poem of all about the opening shots fired in the American Revolution.

While I am not overly fond of most poetry, this one is definitely my favorite. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) wrote it on 19 April 1860, one day after the 85th anniversary of that famous ride.

Yes, I do know that there is the “real” story of his ride, but that doesn’t dim my enthusiasm or enjoyment of Wadsworth’s story.

There are many places online to find this poem. I used Poetry Foundation.

The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,—
One, if by land, and two, if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm.”
Then he said, “Good night!” and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.
Meanwhile, his friend, through alley and street,
Wanders and watches with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.
Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry-chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade, —
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town,
And the moonlight flowing over all.
Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night-encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel’s tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, “All is well!”
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay, —
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide, like a bridge of boats.
Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse’s side,
Now gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry-tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry’s height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns!
A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet:
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders, that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.
It was twelve by the village clock,
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer’s dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.
It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, blank and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.
It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadows brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket-ball.
You know the rest. In the books you have read,
How the British Regulars fired and fled, —
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farm-yard wall,
Chasing the red-coats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.
So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm, —
A cry of defiance and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo forevermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.
Paul Revere’s ride took him through several Middlesex County, Massachusetts towns – Medford, Lexington and Concord and also Charlestown, which is part of Boston.
In 1775, I had many ancestors living in colonial Massachusetts, some of whom might have heard the alarm being sounded. However, Samuel Scripture, my 6X great grandfather, answered the call to fight the British a few weeks later, in the Battle of Bunker Hill, which actually took place on Breed’s Hill.
Samuel Scripture was definitely a patriot and it seems there was no divided loyalties in that family. Two of Samuel’s son, Samuel Jr. and James (my 5X great grandfather) also proudly served as patriots during the war.
Samuel Scripture and James Scripture are two of the ancestors under whom I have membership in the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution.
Thank you, Bill, for hosting the 10th Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge. I’m already looking forward to next year!

The Ninth Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge

For the past eight years, Bill West at West in New England has hosted the Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge. I first came across it last year. Although I don’t remember what I was trying to find, I wasn’t very successful.

I decided that this year, for Challenge #9, I needed to work a bit harder or choose a family or location that has had poetry or a song composed about it.

No problem – My Loyalist James Astle left Schenectady, New York at the close of the American Revolution. He first landed on the Gaspe in Quebec, but eventually settled on the Miramichi River in Northumberland County, New Brunswick, Canada, where he died in 1815.

James lived in the parish of Ludlow, which later became Nelson.

I have been to New Brunswick, but not as far north as Northumberland County. It looks like the Miramichi River might have its challenges:

Source: Public Domain

However, it can look quite serene and quite beautiful, but definitely cold:

Source: Wikimedia Commons

It was here that James and his descendants lived for three generations, until my 3X great grandmother married and moved to Calais, Maine.

My family were farmers and fishermen on the river. I imagine that many days were spent navigating it. By the way, one important thing to know about the name of this river is that it is pronounced Mir – a – mi- SHEE with the accent on the SHEE, not Mir- a – ME – chee, with the accent on the ME.

When I looked for a poem about the Miramichi, I discovered one by an author I knew (I am a retired elementary and junior high school language arts teacher) – Robert Munsch. He is probably best known for his book Love You Forever, published in 1986.

I commented on how to pronounce the river name because of his poem, which is short, but to the point. Note that in the poem Miramichi is rhymed with peachy and preachy! Nonetheless, I love it and also love the fact that the class likely wrote to him and he was not only gracious enough to respond, he even wrote them a poem about their home. It was written in 2005 for Miss Anderson’s third grade class at Gretna Green Elementary School, located right in Miramichi.

Things are peachy
In Miramichi
Until the Winter Comes,
And freezes your nose
And also your toes
And maybe even your thumbs.
So why are they preachy
In Miramichi
About how it’s so nice?
Don’t they know
It’s 40 below
And everything’s turning to ice?
Well, something is there
That makes them not care
That winter’s really at home;
And since that is so
It’s where I will go
As soon as I finish this poem.

And I bet it is very cold there in the winter!