The April 27 episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” on NBC featured actor Rob Lowe searching for information on maternal ancestor John Christopher East of Ohio, a man he had found in a list of Revolutionary War graves compiled by the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution.
So Lowe began his search at the NSDAR Library in the headquarters building at 1776 D St., NW, in Washington. As a 33-year member of the DAR, I would have been delighted to show Rob around the library but, alas, he didn’t ask.
Lowe, who starred on NBC’s “The West Wing,” has long been interested in Americana and U.S. politics, so he was hoping East would turn out to be a patriot in the Revolutionary War.
His initial hopes were dashed when a DAR staffer told him that the organization had “closed” East’s line for lack of proof that he served during the Revolution. Next Lowe went to the Library of Congress, where records showed that John Christopher East was actually Christophe Oest, a German Hessian who had fought for the British against George Washington’s troops at the Battle of Trenton, N.J.
Lowe went on to Marburg, Germany, where researchers helped him look through Hessian records. Eventually he found parish records showing Oest’s parents as Johan Oest and Leonore Noll, with information showing that Christophe was the youngest of several children. Since the oldest son would inherit property, prospects for the youngest child were not great. Christophe not only joined the Hessians, but was among the 15 percent of Hessians who decided to stay in the U.S. after the war.
While Lowe was in Germany, he received a mailing from a DAR staff member that the DAR had evaluated records in the Ohio town where Oest settled, and decided that the 1782 assessment he paid which went to cover costs of the Revolutionary War, in fact, fulfilled the requirement for proof of “patriotic service.”
So, John Christopher West is now a documented patriot of the Revolution. Furthermore, the mailing Lowe received included a letter from the National Society Sons of the American Revolution, inviting him to become a member. He was very pleased.
One of Lowe’s sons, who already is older than 18, also would be welcome to join the SAR. The younger son would qualify to join the National Society Children of the American Revolution, which recently held its national convention in Washington. The New England Regional Meeting for CAR will be held this summer in South Portland.
DAR records also were referenced on a recent episode of “Finding Your Roots” with Henry Louis Gates Jr., which airs at 8 p.m. Sundays on PBS. Actor Robert Downey Jr. found that an ancestor of his had joined the DAR on the service of Tobias Schucker of Pennsylvania.
So he, too, is eligible for the SAR.
For information on researching family history in Maine, see Genealogy Resources under Family Ties at bangordailynews.com/browse/family-ties. Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.