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Are We Related?: Belcher

November 13, 2023

Welcome to the second installment of my Are We Related series. You can view the first blog about the Herndon family here. In this series, I am looking at surnames in the IHS collection and determining if a shared surname in my own line has any known ties.

When I began working at the Indiana Historical Society nineteen years ago, my last name was Belcher. Though I did not have great fondness for it growing up, I could not help but notice it when I came across collections that included that surname or when we had patrons that shared it. One collection that has always stood out is that of William Forbes Belcher (SC 2353).

Belcher’s collection contains just two items, but the one that stands out the most is that of a typescript of a letter written to his sons. The letter, to be held by his wife, was to be saved until his sons were older should he not survive the war. Unfortunately, Belcher did not return from the war having been killed in Okinawa in 1945 with his body returning for burial in 1949. Belcher’s sons were very young, around 3 and 1, when their father was killed in action and merely 7 and 5 when his burial service occurred four years later.

Newspaper Clipping of Maj. William F. Belcher, 1949 with first paragraph of Belcher’s letter to his sons, 1945. Indianapolis Star, 24 March 1949 (cropped) and Indiana Historical Society, SC2353 (cropped)

Using a variety of family history tools, mostly through Ancestry Library edition, I was able to confirm that unless the connection is many, many, generations back, William Forbes Belcher and my family are NOT related. In looking at the image of Belcher and one I saw of his father, I note a very distinct cleft in their chin. This is not something common in my own line, and I see very few similarities with these men and the men in my direct line.

It was quite interesting to trace William Forbes Belcher, a man whose great-great grandfather, Christian Louis (or Lewis) Belcher first moved to Indiana, his son William Christian Belcher born in this state in 1865. My own family didn’t arrive in Indiana until the 1960s when my grandfather, a preacher, arrived in Northwest Indiana to shepherd a new flock. Interestingly, connections to the two Belcher families do lie in this vein as William Forbes Belcher’s father, Joseph Belcher, was also a religious leader, and the given name Lewis is found in both lines as well with my father sharing that name.

Amy Vedra

Amy Vedra is the director of reference services. She is currently reading her way through the Great American Reads list.

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