Featured image: John Wesley Andrew sitting on his porch in Geneva, Nebraska
I have decided to devote my research time each month to one direct line surname that exists in my five-generation pedigree. My surname for the month of November was Andrew. This is one of the few lines on my grandmother’s side that is actually fairly well-researched. This line goes back to a John Andrew, born 1660 in Maryland according to other online trees (although I haven’t verified the data myself yet), but more recent lines are in Indiana and Nebraska.
Individual focus: John Wesley Andrew
This month I focused solely on the family of John Wesley Andrew and Arvilla Marcia Zerba. I wanted to research him, his children, and his wife, but my time was limited and most of it was spent on John Wesley Andrew himself. There was a lot in my database that needed to be sorted, analyzed, and attached to his record.
John Wesley Andrew was a good man who lived a very long and full life. His death certificate and pension application both state that he was born on 8 April 1843 in Indiana. Land records indicate that his parents were living in Kosciusko County at the time, so that is probably where he was born.
John’s parents were Henry T. Andrew and Sarah Ditto. John was the oldest of seven children. They lived in Kosciusko County until John was about ten years old, at which time they moved to Grant County, Wisconsin. Soon afterwards, John’s father died on 23 April 1856. His mother was apparently in her first trimester of pregnancy with her seventh child when her husband died. She remarried a few years later to Elisha Ransom in 1858. John was fifteen.
John Wesley Andrew was eighteen years old when the Civil War began. The story of his experience in the war is one of the most incredible tales of perseverance in the face of hardship that I have ever heard. A record of his service was presented to his grandson, Vernon J. DeWitt, in 1925. My mother has a copy of it.
He joined up with Company H, 7th Regiment Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry on 26 August 1861. He got an infection in his eyes at the camp in Madison, Wisconsin, before the regiment even left for the front. In spite of his sore eyes, he never left his post and always reported for duty, except for a few days when he had a severe attack of the measles, which further infected his eyes, leaving his eyesight permanently impaired.
John Andrew’s regiment was one of three regiments in the Union Army that lost the most men in battle in the Civil War. John came very close to dying himself. In the Battle of South Mountain, Maryland, he was shot in both legs. The bullet went through his left thigh and into his right thigh, and took pieces of bone with it. He almost bled to death on the battlefield. Over the next two weeks he lost almost sixty pounds. He was transferred to a hospital in Washington, DC and then sent home on furlough. After recovering for several months, he returned to the front in time to participate in General Burnside’s “Mud March” campaign in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The plan was for the Union troops to cross the Rappahannock River and attack the Rebels on the other side. But soon after the men started marching towards the river, rain started pouring from the sky, causing to river’s water levels to rise. The men were stuck in the mud for two days before Burnside sent orders to cancel the campaign. It was under these conditions–cold, wet and exhausted, that John Andrew’s wound reopened, with a piece of leather and three pieces of bone coming out. He was sent back to a hospital in Philadelphia. (An excellent description of the “Mud March” is online in these three articles.)
His enlistment term expired, but despite his battle scars, John Andrew was still ready to fight. He reenlisted to Company H, 44th Wisconsin Infantry, where he was eventually promoted to Sergeant. He participated in the Battle of Nashville and was on duty there and in Paducah, Kentucky until the close of the war.
At the end of the war he was still only twenty-two years old. Three years later he married a woman named Arvilla Marcia Zerba. He was a farmer, like his father. He and Arvilla had two children in Wisconsin. One of them was my second-great grandmother, Lillian or Lillie Estella Andrew. In 1871, the family moved to Fillmore County, Nebraska. John Andrew lived there for the main part of his life, first on the family homestead and then in the City of Geneva.
In 1890, he was an enumerator for the Veteran’s Schedule of the 1890 Federal Census. This is unique because the main population schedule for the 1890 Census was destroyed, but the Veteran’s Schedule survived. I suppose he was probably an enumerator because he was already buddies with all the other veterans in the area, so it was easy for him to get the information out of them that was needed for the census.
John Andrew lived to see his five daughters and one son grow up and outlived four of them. He saw his grandchildren born and many of his great-grandchildren. He lived with his son, Ira Marvin Andrew, in Orchards, Washington, during the sunset of his life. He died on 11 August 1935. The Civil War Veteran was ninety-two years, four months, and three days old.
Future research ideas:
Create or join an Andrew DNA project. I had my mom’s DNA tested with AncestryDNA and I have uploaded the data to GEDmatch. I have matched a few other Andrew descendants on AncestryDNA and it would be nice to do some more serious DNA matching with this line. I still need to educate myself on the ins and outs of DNA and genealogy before I can figure out what to do with it in regard to the Andrews.
Gather all records I can find for the wife and children of John Wesley Andrew. I don’t think you can really understand someone’s life unless you research their entire family.
Trace the line backwards in time and verify information I have imported from other online trees.