Many of us are proud of our individual heritages, but few take the time to go back and trace their roots over the past 150 years.
Patricia Goldsmith, an Edgewater Park resident, is one of the rare exceptions – she has become fascinated with a Danish immigrant ancestor who served in the Union army during the Civil War.
She and her family have spent a vast amount of time tracing the life and times of Lewis Gerhardt Goldsmith, also known as Lewis Lawson, a Danish immigrant who served a three-year hitch in the U.S. Navy shortly after the outbreak of the Civil War, and reenlisted into the U.S. Army cavalry under his second name just before peace was signed at Appomattox.
Goldsmith took the time to make sure that her great-grandfather got his just deserts, which included securing a full military burial and headstone, to be dedicated this May at Evergreen Cemetery in Brooklyn. Despite records indicating that Gerdhardt Goldsmith received a military pension, the aggressive Navy man and transatlantic sailor never was given the final resting place he deserved – a marked grave in a military cemetery.
“I took care of getting the headstone and arranging for reenacting the burial he would have had when he passed away in 1912,” Goldsmith said. “We are going to have a party at the unveiling of his new headstone in May. My family and I were able to research his life and time through the help of Ancestor.com.”
Goldsmith was able to amass a seven-page biography of her great-grandfather that included his exploits after the civil war as he sailed the Uncle Sam, an open sailboat, single-masted and gaffed-rigged, from Boston harbor to Denmark with the world’s top newspaper men following the expedition throughout the United States and from Europe via trans-Atlantic cable.
Goldsmith’s great-grandfather made the voyage with his wife, and got as far an England before his ship ran into trouble and the mission was aborted.
Goldsmith, who has been researching her great-grandfather with the help of her brother for the past year and a half, said she had always wondered about the Scandinavian man with a Jewish-sounding last name who had captured the attention of the world with his overseas exploits, and then went on to live the rest of his life quietly as an iron molder.
“I started this research with just a photograph and some tales about his life,” Goldsmith said. “I knew all about the Irish side of my family, but I didn’t know much about my Scandinavian ancestry.”