The teaser for the Katey Sagal episode says that she will make an unexpected discovery about her mother and then take a deep dive into that side of her family tree. She will find brave relatives who stood by their beliefs even when their own lives were threatened.
The intro then tells us that Katey Sagal is a charismatic actress who began her performance career as a back-up singer. It was not long before she was launched into the spotlight due to her role in 1987 as Peg Bundy on Married with Children (which I watched, but oh, those characters were mean). Since then she has had nonstop success with appearances in more than 30 television shows. Her most recent series, and where most people watching WDYTYA probably recognize her from nowadays, is the FX program Sons of Anarchy, for which she won a Golden Globe award. She lives with her husband, writer/director Kurt Sutter, and three children.
Katey tells us that she was born in Hollywood. Her parents were part of the leftie Hollywood community, against the Vietnam War and that type of thing. Her father, Boris Sagal, was a TV director. Her mother was born in Lombard, Illinois but lived most of her life in the South. Her mother was a singer who started performing at the age of 11 on a radio program. Her birth name was Sara Zwilling, but she used the stage name Sara Macon. She was known as the Singing Sweetheart of Cherokee County (South Carolina, to be specific). (And she appears in the Internet Broadway Database!)
Sara moved to New York for her career. During World War II she sang in USO shows. After she married, she gave up her career to be a stay-at-home mother. She put her creative life on the shelf, and Sagal thinks it's one of the reasons Sara was so supportive of Sagal's own desire to be a singer. Sara really advocated for her.
Sara died when Sagal was only 19 years old. Sagal's father, Boris, lost his life five years later. Sagal has questions about her family but no parents left to ask. She doesn't want that to happen to her own children; she wants them to know where they came from. She wants to learn about her mother's singing career and about her years in the USO, but she has no living relatives. She hopes this journey will change that. She's decided to start in New York, where her mother lived when she joined the USO (or, more accurately, she was told by the producers that's where she would be starting).
Sagal goes to the New York Public Library, where she meets Kara Dixon Vuic, an Associate Professor of History at Texas Christian University. (Now there's an uncommon name. Where does the name Vuic hail from? Slavic? Has it been modified from something else?) Vuic barely opens her mouth before there's a cut to the narrator (this editor actually has an active union card and gets paid for this?).
The narrator tells us a little about the USO (United Service Organizations, Inc.). It was started by six civilian nonprofit organizations in 1941 and was created to help boost the morale of military servicemen serving during World War II. As many as 7,000 performers appeared in live shows at home and abroad during the war.
When we return to the talking head . . . ahem, expert whom the producers took the time to hire for the program, she suggests to Sagal that they look for information about Sara in the Billy Rose Theatre Division at the library. A lot of USO archival material is housed at the library. Vuic tells Sagal to start with newspapers. The Palm Springs Desert Sun of November 3, 1944 (available free online at the California Digital Newspaper Collection) appears to have had a section dedicated to the USO. Across the top of the page is "With the Boys in the Service." At the bottom of the page, an article titled "USO Camp Show" mentions Sara Macon, Sagal's mother.
November 3, 1944,
The cast included Sid Marlo, phonograph pantomimist, Hart and Bynes [sic], comedy jugglers, Mary Beth, vocalist, The Swingtette, four young lovely singers of jivy tunes, Rudy Miller and Nikki Chandler, magic act, Sara Macon, singer, Wayne Sander, pianist and Pat Lane, comedian who M. C.'d the show.
Hart and Dynes, juggling comedians, have been at it ten years now playing New England clubs and theaters over and over. A super-song salesman, Mary Beth, has numerous nightclub audiences applauding for more of her sweet and smooth tunes. During the past five years, she has appeared at Club Ball, Philadelphia; Club Charles, Baltimore; Latin Quarter, Hit Hat and 5100 Clubs, all in Chicago, and the El Morocco, Montreal.
Servicemen at the Stage Door Canteen found nothing dull about Sid Marlo's act, whether he was acting as M. C., comedian or pantomimist. Pantomime with records is his most popular feature.
In her not yet 18 years pretty Sara Macon has crowded more excitement and accomplishment than most women have in a lifetime. At the age of 12 she was singing on her own radio program in Spartenburtg [sic], giving the entire 14-minute entertainment, three times a week. She stayed there two years. Then she came to New York and NBC hired her after her first audition for two of their prorams [sic].
After reading the article, Vuic shows Sagal a handbook with instructions that the USO performers had to follow. Sagal reads parts of a section titled "Data for Artists (Cont'd)."
1 - Do not mention anything about their wounds, sickness, or condition, nor notice that they have lost a limb. Talk to them as you would to a friend or a healthy stranger. If they mention their sickness, listen attentively, and gradually try and get into another subject.
2 - Try to avoid controversial subjects, such as strikes, unions, how much money is being made by civilians from this war, and r—
3 - Try and get into neutral subjects such as:
[Sections a, b, c, and d were not shown on screen at all.]
e. The marvelous education programs the U.S. Armed Forces Institute (USAIF) at Madison, Wisconsin, offers them through correspondence, available to all servicemen.
— attempting to arrive at a subject of interest to both of you.
4 - Do not sympathize with him as he does not want sympathy, and his morale is high.
5 - Do not ask about his COMBAT experiences or how he got wounded, because they usually want to forget.
6 - Do not tell him he will get well quickly for he does not like to be kidded.
7 - Do not ask to see the sickest boys, for they are all sick.
In conclusion, you are wanted and needed. Appreciation will run high.
If you want to see the complete information, the two pages are online here and here.
It obviously was an intense experience, and Sara would have grown up fast. Vuic then reveals that she (really, the producers) found an 87-year-old former USO performer who will be able to talk to Sagal about her mother's experiences. As Sagal leaves the library and goes to meet the performer, she says she hopes that the person knew her mother.
At P. J. Clarke's (I believe it's the one at Lincoln Square), Hilda "Tinker" Rautenberg is waiting for Sagal. She has a photo album from her time performing with the USO. As Sagal pages through it, she comes across a photo with five girls and recognizes her mother as one of them. She starts crying, because she has never known anyone who knew her mother. Rautenberg tells her she and the other girls were four green college kids. Sagal asks if all the girls hung out together, and Rautenberg says they even helped push pianos around in hospital wings. They were doing their duty for the country during the war.
Rautenberg explains that Sara was already a professional and that the other four girls looked up to her. She taught them a lot and helped them grow, and they had a good time together. To be initiated into the club, you had to smoke a cigar, which makes Sagal laugh. Then Rautenberg says that Sara was half actress and that she used to do one song (which happens to be from Oklahoma!):
- I'm just a girl who cain't say no
- I'm in a terrible fix
- I always say, "Come on, let's go!"
- Just when I oughta say nix
Sagal loves hearing that her mother was happy. She remembers her mother singing the song from Oklahoma!. Sara had ended up as the rebellious one in her somewhat conservative Southern family. Now Sagal wants to know more about her mother's family; currently she knows almost nothing beyond the fact that her father's name was Daniel Zwilling.
Still in New York, Sagal next goes to the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society, where she meets professional genealogist Vonnie Zullo (whom we have seen previously with Kelly Clarkson, Chris O'Donnell, and Cynthia Nixon Zullo explains that there has been an explosion of research online and that Ancestry has made it easy to do (um, what about FamilySearch, Find My Past, and MyHeritage? better yet, how does Zullo feel about being a shill?). She suggests that a good place to start is looking in birth, marriage, and death (BMD) records. (Well, I would probably start with the census.) She has Sagal go to the BMD page on Ancestry and enter Daniel Zwilling in Illinois, where he lived. The record they latch onto is Zwilling's entry on FindAGrave (second-hand information, anyone?). It seems to be the right person, because the transcribed obituary on the page includes Sara Sagal as a surviving child. The page lists Zwilling's parents as Daniel Zwilling and Alda Miller. Zullo points out that knowing the mother's maiden name is key to opening research on that side of the family.
Sagal decides, "Now I'm curious. I want to find more about her." (So much for the Zwilling side of the family.) Zullo says they should find her on the census to learn more about her. Zwilling's page says that she was born in 1866, so now Zullo has Sagal use the Ancestry census search page for Alda B. Miller born in 1866. No need to look for Daniel as a child with his family, of course, just trust what's online. And searching with a middle initial is not recommended, because it appears very inconsistently on censuses, but the results are already known, so go ahead and throw it in! And yes, results come up for the 1870 and 1880 censuses in State Center, Iowa. They look at both censuses and find Alda with parents Abraham and Elizabeth Miller, and Abraham's parents Jacob and Rebecca Miller, all of them born in Pennsylvania. Now that she knows their names, Sagal wants to dig deeper and find out who her ancestors were, and whether she might have inherited any of their traits.
|United States 1870 Census, State Center, Marshall County, Iowa, July 20, 1870, page 2, lines 9–15|
|United States 1880 Census, State Centre Township, Marshall County, Iowa, June 1, 1880,|
page 11 (written)/206C (printed), lines 35–44
Sagal searches for Abraham H. Miller born 1842 in Pennsylvania and lived in Ohio in draft records (here we go with the middle initial again). They know he lived in Ohio at some point because that's where Alda was born. And Abraham H. Miller shows up in the U.S. Civil War draft registrations in Chester Township, Wayne County, Ohio. The page shows that he was 21 years old, born in Pennsylvania, and "furnished [a] substitute." (In the image below, his is the last name on the list.) Sagal misinterprets this, thinking that Miller took the place of another man, but Zullo explains the notation means that Miller paid someone else to take his place. This was a legal alternative to serving in the military. The obvious question, of course, is why would Miller do that?
At this point the program cut to a commercial. When it returned, the narrator said that Sagal had just learned the "shocking revelation" that her ancestor had paid for a substitute to fight in the Civil War. I thought that was a little out of line. It was perfectly legal to do so. The attempt to make it a huge, dramatic item was overblown, unnecessary, and tasteless.
In a classic WDYTYA non sequitur, Zullo then suggests that to help find the answer to that question Sagal should look on Newspapers.com, where they "might" be able to find an obituary for Miller. That means, of course, an obituary is available, and indeed the search finds it.
|State Center (Iowa) Enterprise, December 4, 1903, page 4|
Based on this, Zullo tells Sagal that to learn more about her family she should see Zullo's colleague in Pennsylvania, where Miller was born. All the obituary has is that Miller was born in Somerset County. Doesn't sound like much to go on, does it?
As she leaves the building, Sagal says it would be awesome if Miller was a peace activist. She is, and her mother was also. Maybe it's something in their genes.
The next leg of Sagal's journey takes her to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania State Archives. Philip Otterness, a professor of 18th-century migration at Warren Wilson College, tells Sagal that by using early censuses, wills, land deeds, and family records he was able to construct a family tree for her. The one he produces is on an oversize piece of paper, but not the fancy calligraphed scroll we're used to seeing. Not all of it was shown on screen long enough to see what was written, so I filled in the few gaps with data from other sources.
The tree begins at the bottom with Catherine "Katey" Sagal with no birthday. Her parents were Boris Sagal, born October 18, 1923 in Ekaterinoslav, Ukrainian SSR, died May 22, 1981 in Portland, Oregon; and Sara Elizabeth Zwilling, born December 15, 1927 in Geneva, Illinois, died September 1, 1975 in Los Angeles, California. Sara's parents were Daniel F. Zwilling, Jr., born March 27, 1895 in State Center, Iowa, died October 5, 1968 in Lombard, Illinois; and Virginia Lee Thompson, September 7, 1895 in Citronelle, Alabama, died May 10, 1987 in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Zwilling's parents were Daniel F. Zwilling, Sr., born October 18, 1844 in Ohio, died June 19, 1918 in Citronelle, Alabama; and Alda B. Miller, born December 23, 1866 in Pittsburg Junction, Ohio, died June 11, 1895 in State Center, Iowa. Alda's parents were Abraham H. Miller, born April 17, 1842 in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, died December 18, 1903 in Melbourne, Iowa; and Elizabeth Fleming, born December 21, 1841 in Pennsylvania, died May 11, 1891 in State Center, Iowa. Abraham's parents were Jacob A. Miller, born October 4, 1812 in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, died January 23, 1890 in Melbourne, Iowa; and Rebecca Horner, born March 20, 1815 in Pennsylvania, died April 16, 1891 in State Center, Iowa. Jacob's parents were Abraham Miller, born June 15, 1780 in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, died September 4, 1849 in Somerset County; and Maria Sayler, born December 12, 1780 in Pennsylvania, died November 15, 1846 in Somerset County. This Abraham's parents were Peter Miller, born 1756 in Berks County, Pennsylvania, died November 1, 1818 in Somerset County, Pennsylvania; and Mary Stutzman, born 1756 in Berks County, died March 13, 1838 in Somerset County. Mary's parents were Christian Stutzman, born about 1732 in Berks County, Pennsylvania, died before November 17, 1770 in Berks County; and Barbara Hochstetler, born about 1732, died before 1787 in Berks County. The final generation shown is Barbara's parents, Jacob Hochstetler, born about 1712, died before 1776 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and an unnamed mother.
Sagal starts near the bottom and works her way up. When she hits Jacob Miller, Otterness points out that he and his father were born in Somerset County, Pennsylvania (so was Abraham H. Miller, by the way), a center of Amish settlements. From the family records he has seen, the family appears to have been Amish. Sagal is amused and says, "I'm gonna get a buggy." Then she admits she doesn't know anything about the Amish and asks Otterness to tell her about them. He says they are similar to the German Baptist Brethren.
The narrator steps in to say that the Amish religion was founded in Switzerland in 1693. Three primary tenets were adult baptism, pacifism, and strict separation of church and state. These ideas were considered radical at the time, and the Amish refusal to join the military challenged the established authorities in Europe. The Amish were persecuted because they wouldn't fight.
Returning to the family tree, Otterness points out that the name Stutzman, as in Sagal's 5x-great-grandmother, is definitely an Amish name, as is Hochstetler, the name of Sagal's 7x-great-grandfather, Jacob Hochstetler. Otterness then says that at the archives there is a relevant record. Sagal reads the top of the page: "List of Men's Names Imported in the Charming Nancy November 9, 1738." She asks what a "Charming Nancy" is and is told it was the name of a ship. She looks down the list of names and finds Jacob Hostedler but apparently has no trouble recognizing that spelling as an alternative for Hochstetler (after an appropriate cue, I'm sure). Otterness explains that Hochstetler was her first ancestor to immigrate to America. This particular ship went to Philadelphia and was during the first couple of years that the Amish came to North America.
Sagal wonders why they came to Pennsylvania. Otterness says that European records show that there was lots of propaganda about Pennsylvania and that is was promoted a land of milk and honey. It gave the Amith an opportunity to live in an environment where they could practice their religion openly, without persecution.
Sagal says she wants to learn more about her Hochstetler ancestor, including how to pronounce his name correctly, as she stumbles over it a couple of times. Otterness tells her she should go to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, where Tim Shannon will be happy to tell her more.
Leaving the archives, Sagal is still amused about learning she might be Amish, which she never thought about previously. She says she'll buy a buggy and a bonnet.
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania is in Philadelphia. Inside, Tim Shannon, a professor of history at Gettysburg College, is ready for Sagal. He starts out by telling Sagal that people who study Pennsylvania history know the name Hochstetler well; he is not an obscure person. He then brings out a bound volume of the Pennsylvania Journal and Weekly Advertiser newspaper. He has Sagal page through the Thursday, October 6, 1757 issue (I can find only 1757 one issue of the newspaper online, that from May) and then instructs her to read a small item in the left column of one page:
From Reading we have Advice, that last Wednesday the Enemy burnt the House of one Hochsteller, and killed Hochstelle's Wife and a Young Man, and Himself, and three of his Children are missing.
Sagal pronounces the name as Hochsteller both times, even though the name is spelled two different ways. She seems to have no problem understanding that it's referring to Hochstetler. In addition to being horrified at what the story says, she asks Shannon who the enemy was and is surprised to learn it was Indians.
The narrator elaborates that Jacob and his fellow Amish were considered British subjects after settling in the North American colonies. There had been relative peace with the Indians until 1754, when tensions between Great Britain and France erupted into the Seven Years War, or French and Indian War. Many Indian tribes sided with the French because they hoped to recover land that had been taken by the British. Indians began making attacks against settlements on the British frontier, which included where the Hochstetler family was living.
Focusing on the fact that Hochstetler and three of his children were missing, Sagal asks if they escaped. Shannon says it was possible, or they might have been taken captive. The good news is that the British Army in the 1750's keep good records, and he has a military document for Sagal to look at. The document is "Intelligence given by John Hochstetler." Sagal asks if that's still Jacob, and Shannon says that John could be an English translation of Jacob. (No, not really. They're two different names. But I have found references online that indicate Hochstetler's name was Johann Jakob Hochstetler, and they might have been using the English-language equivalent of Johann.) Sagal does not read the entire deposition on screen; you can read a massaged transcription here.
Intelligence given by John Hochstetler [a Swiss by] Nation wich was settled in Bergs County [Berner] Town Ship, near Kauffmans Cr was taken by the Enemy Indians the 12th October 1757 and arriving at Shamokin 5th May 1758.
Question: By What and how many Indians was you taken?
Answer: By the Delaware and Shawanese, 15 in the whole
Question: What became of you affter that?
Answer: [After 3 days travel Est south Est,] I was brought to Buxotons Creek where it emptys in the Ohio [the Allegheny River] and we came to an Indian castle [which lys] upon the corner of it, there I was kept Prisoner all that time.
Question: How do you escapd from there[, how long and in what maner do you was coming, and where did you arrive?]
Answer: I got the liberty for hunting, one morning Wery soon I took my Gun finding Bark Canoe on the River wherein I Crossd it, traveling Est for 6 Days from there I arrivd at the source of the west Branch, there I march for 4 Days further till I was sure of it there I took several blok's tying them together till I got a flott, there I flotted myself Down the River for five Days where I did arrive at Shamokin, living all the time upon Grass, I passd in the Whole for 15 Days.
So Jacob was abducted October 12, 1757 and arrived at Shamokin, a British fort, on May 5, 1758, a total of seven months. His deposition was taken by Colonel Henry Bouquet. Jacob's children are not mentioned at all.
The narrator tells us that more than 1,600 white captives were taken by the Indians during the war. The French did not require them to be turned over. Captives were often given to Indian families which had lost family members themselves. The family had the choice of killing a captive or adopting him. Young captives were often adopted because they could assimilate more easily to Indian culture.
Jacob's children would have been valuable captives. Going by the deposition, he probably didn't know whether they were dead or alive.
Sagal says she really wants to find out more about her ancestors. Shannon says she needs to go to Berks County and talk to people who might have more information from oral tradition (i.e., there are no actual documents).
As she leaves the archives, Sagal is impressed by the amazing story of Amish resilience.
Driving through Reading, Pennsylvania, in Berks County, Sagal says she is going to learn more about the Hochstetlers in the place where they settled. At the Reading Public Library she meets Dr. Ervin Stutzman, the Executive Director of the Mennonite Church USA. Sagal remembers the name Stutzman from the family tree she saw and tells him, "I think we're related." He confirms this and says, "We're seventh cousins." Sagal is amazed because she doesn't know many relatives and gets a little teary.
Stutzman has some passages marked in a book that he brings out for Sagal to read. It is Descendants of Jacob Hochstetler by the Rev. Harvey Hostetler, D.D. (originally published in 1912, but apparently it's had some revisions and updates since then). The passages read come from pages 29, 30, 34, 36, and 37 in the scanned book to which I've linked. Sagal reads parts here and there.
Sagal starts by reading from "The Massacre" (pages 29–30).
Dr. Stutzman emphasizes how important nonviolence is in the Amish faith. You can give your life, but it is never permissible to take another's, even to save your own. He adds that it was unusual for Indians to attack settlers, but this was during the war.
The next paragraph Sagal reads from is "The House Set Afire" and "Murder" (page 30). She does not read the list of people who were in the house, which includes Barbara Stutzman, who is likely Sagal's 6x-great-grandmother.
Jacob Junior and an unnamed daughter (none of the women seem to be named in this) were killed and scalped. Jacob Senior's (unnamed) wife was stabbed with a butcher knife and scalped. Joseph, Christian, and another (unnamed) daughter were thre three children mentioned in the newspaper article who were taken by the Indians. Joseph was adopted by the Indians (page 34):
Christian wad adopted by an older Indian and treated as a son (page 36):
Stutzman and Sagal don't discuss the fact that the Indian who adopted Christian died soon afterward. Stutzman does talk about how it was common for many of the captives to develop loving relationships with their captors.
The war ended in February 1763. The two boys had been with the Indians all that time. (And along with not remembering names for the daughters, we apparently lost track of the one who was taken captive. I haven't read through the complete Hochstetler descendants book, so I don't know if she's mentioned in there.) In the fall of 1764, Colonel Bouquet signed a treaty with the Indians that required the release of all British subjects, about 200 people by that point. Joseph and Christian were probably in that group. They had no choice but to return to their prior home. Sagal reads from the section about Christian's return (page 37).
Christian and many more of the former captives were reluctant to go back. Some had to be handcuffed and forced to stay with their white families. Sagal does not read from "His Conversion", but I included it here because it mentions that Christian converted to the Tunker Church. Tunker is a variation of Dunkard; Christian converted to the German Baptist Brethren. It's possible other members of the family did also, which might explain why Abraham H. Miller was buried in the Dunkard cemetery.
Stutzman tells Sagal to imagine Jacob's situation — he's a father who had lost his son; the son returns but wants to go back. What would she way in that situation? Sagal says that as a mother, you don't have control after a certain point. She wonders, however, whether Jacob remarried and had more children. She is happy to hear that he did, as she wanted him to be happy. In fact, Stutzman says that Jacob has hundreds of thousands of descendants alive today. Sagal looks overwhelmed to think that she has so many relatives.
Stutzman says that the Amish particularly value stories of people who were nonviolent in difficult situations. Jacob's old homestead is an important site now. The original buildings are gone, but a memorial plaque has been placed there. It isn't far, and Sagal says she would like to go.
The belief in nonviolence is what strikes Sagal the most. Jacob absolutely would not kill another person. She can understand his faith, but it's far easier said than done. She doesn't know if she wouldn't defend her children to the death.
The plaque is on a brick structure. At first I thought it might have been a chimney that survived from the house, but after reading more of the book than was done in the program, I'm inclined toward the bake oven mentioned in "The Massacre." The plaque reads, "ERECTED BY THE HOCHSTETLER DESCENDANTS IN MEMORY OF OUR FOREFATHERS WHO PERISHED HERE BY INDIAN MASSACRE SEPT. 19, 1757."
Sagal is very emotional at the end and is obviously holding back tears. She is glad she comes from a family with strong convictions. Learning all of this has made her miss her mother, who has been gone a long time. Being a mother has been her most amazing experience, and she understands her own mother better now. Her mother grew up quickly but gave her power to stand up for what she wanted.
Sagal ends by saying that she comes from resilient people, from survivors, and from people who stood up for what they believed in. She feels that describes her also.
Of all things, I had a couple of fashion questions with this episode. I could not figure out why Sagal was wearing a glove on only her left hand for about the first half of the show. And I noticed that when she visited Dr. Stutzman she was wearing a plain black dress. I wonder if that was in deference to his faith.