Katey Sagal joins TLC this Sunday evening, April 17, at 9/8c for an extremely interesting episode featuring the unique history of the pietist religions on the colonial frontier in Pennsylvania – in this case, the Amish.
You’ve probably figure out by now that I have a media relationship with TLC for these episodes, which means that I get to preview them in advance so that I have the opportunity to write about them, if I choose to do so.
I watched this episode twice. It’s the only episode I’ve ever watched more than once, but then again, it turns out there is a personal reason. I’m not going to share that with you just yet, but I will be writing about it and utilizing DNA results to prove or disprove….no…..I can’t say more. You’ll have to watch the episode and then read my follow-up article in a few days!
Katey Sagal was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of show business veterans: director Boris Sagal and child radio star, Sara Zwilling.
Losing both of her parents in her mid-twenties, Katey feels that she has no family to ask questions of. She would like to know about her mom’s time performing with the USO, and fill in the blanks on her mother’s paternal line, since she knows nothing beyond her grandfather, Daniel Zwilling.
Katey starts her journey in New York City, where her mom lived when she joined the USO. Katey meets with a military historian, who she hopes can shed some light on her mother’s experience with the USO during WWII. A 1944 newspaper article shows Katey’s mom, under the stage name Sara Macon, as a singer for a USO camp show called “Smooth Sailing,” which performed for wounded soldiers as part of the hospital circuit.
She discovers guidelines her mother had to follow at the hospitals, including:
“Do not mention anything about their wounds, sickness or condition, nor notice that they have lost a limb.”
Katey reacts to what her mom was exposed to at the young age of 18 and wonders more about her experience with the USO. She heads off to meet an actual member of the USO who was performing at the same time as Katey’s mother.
Katey sits down with Hilda “Tinker” Rautenberg, an absolutely lovely lady, and discovers that Tinker actually performed with her mother. Katey is overcome with emotion as she looks at old photos of her mom that she’s never seen before, and is touched to hear personal stories and meet someone who actually knew her.
I cannot tell you how profoundly I related to this. My mother was also a performer during this same timeframe, and several years ago when I was speaking (yes, about DNA) in Fort Wayne, Indiana, a lady approached me afterwards and told me that my mother was her dance instructor. She had recognized my mother’s pictures from the mitochondrial portion of the presentation. We had a lovely, albeit very emotional visit. At least, it was emotional for me. She shared heart-warming stories with me about my mother as a young woman and professional dancer that I had never heard before.
Armed with a sense of her mom’s early life touring and with a better understanding of the source of her mother’s life-long anti-war sentiments, Katey hopes to push further back on her line genealogically, starting with her mother’s father, Daniel Zwilling.
Katey asks a genealogist for help in researching her family and discovers that her 2 times great-grandfather Abraham Miller paid $300 to have someone else fight in the Civil War in his place. She finds he was buried in a cemetery in Iowa for Dunkards (Brethren), which is a pacifist religion similar to the Amish, and heads to Pennsylvania to investigate her ancestor’s family and faith.
In Pennsylvania, Katey finds that, in fact, generations of her family were peacemongers, and that she is connected to two well-known Amish families stretching back to early America.
She uncovers the harrowing story of her Amish 7 times great-grandfather Jacob Hochstetler, whose family was caught up in the tensions between Native Americans and the colony’s settlers. Katey learns that while under attack by the Native Americans, Jacob held true to his religious beliefs and refused to bear arms against his assailants; but his wife and two children were killed, and he and two other children were taken captive. This event became known as the Hochstetler Massacre.
Personal accounts reveal Jacob’s daring escape, and Katey discovers that both sons were adopted into Indian tribes and treated like family. Years later, the sons struggled to return to their old family and way of life. Katey finds that her ancestor’s brave and moving story has left such a mark on Amish history that it is written about in Amish schoolbooks.
Katey heads to her ancestors’ former homestead for a moment to reflect on Jacob and her family’s inspiring story.
When you watch Katey’s episode, make note of the Miller-Stutzman marriage and join me in a few days for “the rest of the story” and what DNA can do for you!
You want a hint?
Hmmm…if you read this article in my 52 Ancestors series, you’ll find both surnames…but that’s all I’m divulging for now. Stay tuned!