Reconnecting With Long Lost Family

Courtesy of Pinterest.com

As I write, we’re experiencing our first snowfall of the season. Grab a cup of cocoa and enjoy reading blogs this weekend.

In late September my husband was contacted via Facebook by his first cousin who he had not seen in 50 years. We were not Facebook friends with this line so the message wasn’t expected. In August, after relocating, I wrote on Facebook explaining why we had suddenly pulled up roots in Florida and relocated to Indiana. Another cousin who is a Facebook friend told the cousin which is how my husband got the message. You know family, always playing telephone!

The cousin asked us to let her know when we had settled in our new home so we could come for a visit; the family lives about an hour and a half from us. We made that visit the first weekend in October which was timely, as the family was relocating to Florida for the winter the following week. We had lived in Florida for almost 50 years and never knew that they were coming down for 6 months each year for the past 13 years.

It certainly could be awkward to reconnect with someone you haven’t seen in years, even if there had been no falling out. In our case, we simply moved away from where the majority of the family lived and raised a family, working, and maintaining a home, life just got in the way of keeping up a long-distance relationship. When my husband’s parents were alive they would keep us updated on family events but since they passed we just lost the connections. By the time Facebook came to be, it had been over 10 years since we had any information on the extended lines.

Yes, Facebook and other social media are very good tools to keep in touch with relatives but I’m just not into it. I don’t enjoy learning vicariously about friends and family. I go on it maybe twice a year to catch up. I much prefer text, phone, and face-to-face contact, even if that means Zoom or another service. If you want to reconnect, a message on a social media site is a great way to do that, however. After the initial few messages going back and forth and the exchange of emails and/or phone numbers, someone needs to be brave and make the phone call.

The call doesn’t need to be long, in fact, it’s better if it’s not. After exchanging pleasantries, get down to basic updates, such as we are fine and love (fill in the blank). Being positive is a good way to begin. I’m not saying don’t share bad news. If you’ve just been given a terminal diagnosis and want to reconnect quickly, by all means, share that.

In my case, I asked what a good time for our visit would be and was told any time after 10 AM. I said 11:30 AM would work for us and so the meeting was set. We arrive a few minutes early. I knew that lunch would be prepared for us but I wanted to bring a little something. If you don’t know the family well enough bringing a gift could have been problematic. I decided on a box of chocolates made by a local company. Alcohol, flowers, a desert, or memorabilia that belonged to that line could all work.

Let the person you’re visiting take the lead in the initial hellos. Some families are huggers and others aren’t. Some may still need you to mask up. Whatever the host family requires makes you a good guest.

We started with a handshake and smile that evolved quickly into hugs. Then we got a tour of their beautiful home on a lake. My husband has spoken of this lake for our entire relationship but I’ve never been there. He spent his preschool summers there. It was where he first fell in love with a nameless older girl who was about age 6; he tried to catch a perch with his bare hands for her birthday present. He loved climbing up on a chair to play on an old pinball machine in the family-owned store. The beach house had an upstairs with mattresses strewn on the floor for the children and he loved hopping from one to the other. There was an older man who made funny faces when he thought; my husband imitates him to this day.

Like most visits as an adult, hubby was surprised the lake was as small as it was. It seemed like an ocean to him at age 3.

After the outside/inside house tour, we grabbed a plate and sat at the table for some eating and reminiscing. You can ask if anyone objects to the conversation being recorded or not. I did not record. I also did not take photos. You could also take notes. Since we are living nearby we agreed we’d meet in the spring when I returned to their area to research. Perhaps then I may record and photograph.

The family knows I’m a genealogist so it wasn’t surprising that the talk turned to ancestors early on. I had to laugh when a second cousin remarked that one of his cousins who were not present had done a fantastic amount of research. Yep, I agreed, I sent it to him.

I should have brought my laptop to have my tree readily available but I didn’t. I promised to send two of the second cousins’ info about the Civil War and various other lines we discussed. Keep your promise!

We also caught up on what everyone had done in the time since we last met. Photo albums were passed around.

We were in for a surprise as one of the second cousins was going to take us out on his pontoon for a ride around the lake. We learned that there had been three stores during my husband’s time there; his aunt owned the one he recalled. I asked how the family came to the lake and was informed that the first cousin’s uncle on an unrelated line to us had discovered a cottage there and decided it was a wonderful place in the 1950s to spend the summer, away from the heat and congestion of the Chicago area. Other families came to visit and as property became available, more families made purchases. I learned my father-in-law encouraged his sister, a widower with two young children, to purchase a cottage and then one of the stores. Both sides agreed to help her out which is how my husband came to spend his summers there.

My husband and his older male first cousin laughed at how my husband loved Alley Oops and being held high by the cousin so my husband could dive off him into the lake. Good times! By the time my husband was 6 the cottage and store had been sold. So, how did these first cousins have property there now?

We were told that for 15 years after the sale the family frequently recalled the wonderful times they had there and wanted the same experience for their young children. It took them a year but finally, a cabin came up for sale. They’ve owned a place on the lake since 1976; as other lots/cabins became available they made additional purchases so now they and two of their children have a summer place. The daughter of the aunt who originally bought there also owns a place, along with one of her children. But there was more. . .

As we toured the lake I learned that they hadn’t been aware that there was even more distant kin that was neighbors. Right before the pandemic, a neighbor was having a garage sale. The female first cousin went to check it out and somehow, the conversation turned to funny family names. She remarked that she didn’t think they could top her husband’s cousins’ names – Milnut and Elzine. The garage sale folks were stunned and replied that they, too, had cousins with those names. They also had a number of other cousins who owned cabins around the lake. I’d say, a quarter of the lake cabins are owned by two lines who had become united through a marriage in 1941. And none of them knew they were related until one cousin met another at a garage sale. Weird!

When we returned home I immediately checked to make sure I had the garage sale man’s name in my tree and I did so I was able to let all of them know how they are related. I also was able to explain how Milnut (really Milnett Rosinda Emelia) and Elzine (really Edna Gladie Elzene) were related to all of them.

By reconnecting with a known line, we were able to connect with three other lines that had been disconnected probably prior to the 1960s. It is indeed a small world and finding all of this family in one location was a pleasant surprise.

Now comes the hard part, staying in touch! Make it a point to reconnect every so often. You’ll be glad you did.

Family History Research – The Backstory of the Document

Clip of 1950 US Federal census

Like me, you were probably interested in exploring the 1950 US Federal census that was unveiled by NARA on April Fools Day. Finding my maternal grandparents, the joke was on me!

Above you can see under Charles and Theresa Bauer, their next-door neighbors, that my family wasn’t found at home by the enumerator. No surprise there since I knew my relatives so well. My mother was still living in the home and she and my grandfather were likely at work.

My grandmother had a weekday routine that never varied. Monday she would rise early and wash clothes in an old wringer Maytag and then hang them outside to dry. By the next census, she had an electric washer and dryer but never used them, preferring the wringer washer until she moved from the home in 1973. Tuesday was baking day. Wednesday was mending day. Thursday was grocery day. Friday was cleaning day until I got older and the task was turned over to me to do on Saturday mornings.

After Non was done with her “job” for the day she would begin cooking dinner. She had a gas stove with a well so whatever she made stayed warm until supper.

As soon as the food was done the rest of the day was hers to enjoy. Unless there was a snowstorm you wouldn’t find her at home. She loved to visit her many friends and shop till she dropped. Occasionally, she would have the “ladies” come over to her home to visit; I know that didn’t happen on 25 April 1950.

My husband knew my grandmother well and when I said, “Guess where Non was on the day of the 1950 census.” he replied, “Not home.” Yep, pretty much.

By looking at the page number I can gauge that my grandparents’ house was not one of the first stops for the enumerator that day. He likely came by after 11:00 AM that Tuesday. If he had come back by 4:30 PM someone would have been home.

Not surprising, my paternal grandmother was home that day and provided the enumerator with the information; my dad and grandfather were at work. She was likely reading when the enumerator stopped by. I’ll never know that for certain but I did know here routines. My husband’s grandparents seem to have been missed. Sigh.

Looks like many people were out and about the day the census was taken. If you find yourself in that situation, don’t despair. Look at the notation after “No one at home.” It refers you to another page (sheet) in that document. All I had to do was go to page 74 to find the information. Remember, the sheet number is in the upper right-hand corner of each page; it is NOT the image number. My image number happens to be 29 of 31. Here’s what I find:

1950 US Federal census – We’re Home!

Surprise, surprise – there is one person I hadn’t expected to find living in the household! Frank Trputec was a boarder. During the Great Depression, my family turned their old farmhouse into a boarding house to make ends meet. I had thought all the boarders had left by 1950 but apparently not.

I vaguely remember Mr. Trputec. I was told he bought my favorite stuffed animal, a spotted dog that would squeak when you pinched his tail, for my first Christmas. It’s the only stuffed animal I ever kept. I remember him coming to parties at my grandparent’s home when I was young. I can still visualize him sitting at the kitchen table next to my grandfather. He was a quiet, gentle, and kind man.

Mr. Trputec, however, was not a “cousin” as listed on the census. Well, not in the genealogical sense. In my family, everyone was considered a cousin. Sure, we’re all related so close friends and neighbors of my family were given the endearing titles of cousins. My grandmother’s closest lady friends were often called, Kuma, Croatian for Godmother. Except they hadn’t been officially deemed as Godmother for my grandparent’s four children by the Roman Catholic Church on any documents I’ve ever found. Likely, they were just good role models for the children growing up. My family really believed in “It Takes A Village.”

Mr. Truputec never married or had children so as he got up there in years, I can understand why he remained in my grandparent’s household. They kind of sort of adopted him. He became pseudo-family.

My point here is that any document we find does not tell the whole story. In 50 years a descendant will look at the 1950 census with a different perspective than I do because they had no intimate background knowledge of the individuals listed. They may wonder why no one was home and how Frank Trputec was related. If they discover he wasn’t related they may think my family was trying to hide that they were renting out a room. His relationship can easily be identified as “lodger” in the 1940 US federal census. In the intervening 10 year time period, he became “family.”

Keep this in mind when you are analyzing documents for the family members you do not know well. Do your future family a favor and write down your interpretation of documents you find for people you know well. There’s often a back story that is just as important as the “factual” documents you discover. Happy Hunting!

Genealogical Fence Mending

I’m not talking about farmers who must mend their fences regularly to insure their livestock and produce remains safe; I’m referring to the idiom regarding improving or repairing a relationship that has been damaged.

This week, I’ve had several situations that could be termed coincidence, synchronicity, or just considered odd. You be the judge.

The first occurred on Sunday when I was researching a pioneer family in my city for possible inclusion on an upcoming cemetery tour that my local historical society will be hosting in the fall. One of my town’s best sources is a work by Gertrude Stoughton who retired here and established the historical society. Her work is thorough and my only recommendation would have been to include footnotes as I often have difficulty tracing her information.

Above you’ll see a clip from a Google search I did to find the McElroy family who established the second drug store in town; their unnamed daughter in Stoughton’s book was purportedly the first female pharmacist in our location and probably the state of Florida.

I had searched for nearly 2 hours and was finding NOTHING about the McElroys; I located a Black family in the southern part of our county who operated a lab but the dates were way later than I was researching. I found a family of that name who once owned a pharmacy in Orlando and thought they may be related but that investigation turned up nothing. In desperation, I decided to just Google “Tarpon Springs” and “drug store.” Lo and behold up pops the clip above. Notice how McElroy is spelled? MCAROY. Hmmm. Clicking the snippet view gave me a completely different excerpt. I have a hard copy so I turned to the glossary to find a McAroy. None listed. Only one page for the McElroy’s. Somewhere, buried in that book was another sentence about the family I was researching. Skimming page after page I discovered it on page 29:

Clearly, McElroy is written and not McAroy. I went back to the online snippet and checked the copyright date of Stoughton’s book. Same as mine. There have been NO updates or newer editions with revisions.

So, tell me, how did the internet show me the correct spelling of the family I was searching when the source it was citing did not have the correct spelling anywhere in the book? Beats me!

Also on Sunday, I sent an email to an acquaintance regarding a lineage society application I had submitted 3 years ago but still had not received a resolution about. The genealogist I had been working with stopped communicating with me in July 2020, I assumed because of the pandemic. I asked my colleague to forward my request for a resolution to whoever was currently involved with that organization. The following day I received an email from the current genealogist. We wrote several exchanges and Tuesday evening, I decided to call him to make sure I was clear on the direction we were going. When I told him who I was on the phone call he replied, “Hi, cousin.” I was stunned. Sure enough, I’ve done a surname study of several family names and he is my cousin from a line I’ve never met in person. Odder still, he lived not far from me for the last 50 years but recently moved out of state 3 months ago. He moved to an area close to where we also own property and planned to visit this summer. We’ll be getting together then.

We had a wonderful conversation on many genealogical topics and he let me know about two Sons of the American Revolution applications he had done for Florida families. Florida wasn’t a colony in Colonial America and I really never thought much about its involvement in our Revolutionary War.

The following day, I was getting my hair trimmed and shared the coincidences with my stylist who is interested in history. He had to step away from me to take a phone call for a reschedule and when he returned he informed me that somehow, my appointment wasn’t scheduled for today but someone named Renee was supposed to have been there instead. He didn’t know a Renee. I told him I only knew one. Seconds later that Renee’s mom happened to walk into the shop. We laughed about the coincidence.

I had planned after my haircut to visit a local funeral home (as a genealogist, this makes sense, right?!) as I got a tip that the owner was a descendant of a man who local stories claim lynched several men locally during the Civil War. The problem is I have found records showing the man wasn’t even in this area at the time the purported lynching occurred.

The descendant wasn’t available so I left my card with the couple who was in the office. I told them why I wanted to speak with the owner. The woman informed me she was from a pioneering family in the county north of mine and the story I was interested in didn’t occur during the Civil War but during the Revolutionary War. I thought about the story my newly met cousin had told me about the previous evening. Weird.

Since I’ve had such an odd week I decided to just spill the next part. . . A woman who I met who is involved in a lineage society informed me that dead Rebel soldiers speak to her and one named Parker told her that he had been killed on Deserter’s Hill and was buried under a museum.

I will investigate any tip I get so I asked her if the dead man had told her if Parker was his first or last name. She didn’t know. I asked where the museum was located as there wasn’t one on the site. She didn’t know. So much for that hint.

The woman at the funeral home looked at her spouse and they stared at each other for a bit. Were they thinking I was a kook? I just let the quiet hang. She then said there were Parkers in the area and they were involved in the Civil War and they were buried in Anclote Cemetery. Wow. But that’s not all – one was buried in an unmarked grave that they later discovered happened to be under a sign for an RV company. Very odd.

I plan to be checking out this Parker family. But here’s the clincher of the ending.

I asked for both of their names. You probably already figured this out. Her name was Renee. I laughed. Asked her if she had an appointment at my salon today. She didn’t.

So now I know 2 Renees. I’d love to meet the woman who was supposed to have been having her hair cut at the same time as me with the same stylist. Maybe she doesn’t exist and it was a message for me that I should have gone to the funeral home first as that Renee wasn’t planning on staying much longer.  I’m glad we connected.

The connections we make as genealogists and the records we leave behind are important historical truths. An innocent man has been linked to crimes he never committed. A woman before her time was largely forgotten because of the misspelling of her name. My parent’s divorce has led me to not know my father’s family. In 48 hours this week, all of those fences were fixed because of a chain of weird occurrences.

Genealogists don’t think of themselves as fence menders but it is what we do, it’s who we are. And I sure appreciate a little help from the Universe to get over those fences!

Find-A-Grave Memorial Changes – A How-To Guide

Do you have Find-a-Grave memorials for close relatives? If so, you’d be wise to update your RELATIONSHIP. This is a new change to the site, now owned by Ancestry.com.

I’m not sure why this change was made but given how people have lost civility lately, I can only imagine what the folks at Find-A-Grave must be enduring by people who are demanding memorials be altered or reassigned. In grief, emotions are raw; I wouldn’t be surprised if the Find-A-Grave staff is besieged with requests for changes.

Whatever their reason for the change, I think it’s a good one. It doesn’t take much time to update your memorials and I’m going to give you two methods to update them.

  1. Go to any known memorial you have and start there, clicking spouse and children to update OR
  2. My preferred method so you don’t miss anyone: Hover over your name on the ribbon on the right side of the screen. Your choices are Profile – Account – My Memorials – Sign Out. Click “My Memorials” which will list all the memorials you will need to update with your relationship info.

Here’s how to update each memorial:

  1. Look at the picture above – Clicking the down error next to EDIT displays options; click “Edit Memorial.”
  2. If you DO NOT manage the Memorial it will not allow you to edit. Instead this is what you’ll see (SUGGEST EDITS)
  1. By clicking “SUGGEST EDITS” you CANNOT update the bio but under “Other,” you can suggest corrections or addtions to be made. Make sure after clicking the “+ Suggest other corrections” and add your input, you click “Save Suggestions.”
  2. If you created or had the memorial transferred to you, you will be able to make changes and add your relationship. After you have followed Step 2 above, scroll down to the bottom of the page. This is what you’ll see:
  1. Simply click in two of the boxes to update; the first is a Yes or No to the question Are you a close relative? The second click will be for you to include the relationship by answering “I am their . . .”
  2. When a selection is made, a check box is displayed that says “Show relationship in source information.” If you check it, it will show on the main page that the public sees what you have determined your relationship is to the memorial individual.

By leaving the box UNchecked, Find-A-Grave staff will be able to see the relationship but not the general public. I chose to uncheck but you do whatever you like. My memorials only show “Created by: Lori Samuelson.”

  1. Make sure you click “Save Changes” or you haven’t updated the memorial!

If you make an error, no worries, just go back in and follow the steps again. I purposely entered myself as a cousin when a relationship should have been niece to see what would happen. I just had to go back in and re-edit. I was easily able to change my relationship.

Here are some caveats:
I have my spouse and my memorial already listed because no one will be doing this for me after I’m deceased. There’s an option for me to select I’m my husband’s spouse/partner but none for me so I selected spouse/partner to myself. I can understand why Find-A-Grave didn’t include “self” as an option as they probably don’t have a lot of people who think ahead to do that.

Also, keep in mind that the relationships must be close – there is no option for a great grandparent, great uncle/aunt, or delineation between first, second, etc. cousins.

There is also no way for me to add that my relationship is through marriage. I suppose I could have my husband create an account and then I’d transfer management to him but we all know that’s not only a lot of extra work, I’d still be managing his sites so why bother with all that. Therefore, I made myself my in-laws child.

If you have many aunts and uncles, you will reach a limit on how many times you may select niece/nephew. Larger families I have no idea a solution you can use.

Join a Genealogy Interest Group

Nothing like joining an online group of people that share your passion for genealogy! With cold weather ahead, it’s a perfect time to put your head together virtually to help solve your brickwall.

Sure, it’s easy to do a Facebook search for genealogy groups but to save you time and find alternatives (because I know many of you are separating from Facebook), here’s a direct link to FamilySearch.org’s Wiki of all of FamilySearch’s groups – FamilySearch Genealogy Research Groups

To connect with a group on the FamilySearch.org website you must first log in. If you don’t have an account, click the “CREATE ACCOUNT” on the upper right corner of the screen.

A short intro video is supposed to be available but I couldn’t get it to come up. As an alternative, in the search box, type “FamilySearch community video” and a variety comes up to view.

Your options with FamilySearch are communities directly linked to FamilySearch, groups on Facebook and other groups that are independent.

I really wish I had known that when I was researching Barbados last summer – 5 different groups are mentioned and I would have loved to contact them with questions I had.

ReConnecting with Taboo Family

I had planned to not use Ancestry.com this week as I continue to update my RootsMagic synched tree but due to an unexpected family contact, that didn’t happen. I needed to go on to check a relationship and add information to an individual that I hadn’t researched before due to family silence.

If your family is like mine, you probably have encountered situations that lead to uncomfortable communication between relatives.  You might have had DNA results come back that show that someone isn’t biologically related.  There may have been a nasty divorce, hurt over a probate or a disagreement over opinions. The falling out may have even been as a result of criminal conduct.  Regardless of the cause, going forward can be difficult, especially if it has been years since the initial disconnect.

I was faced with establishing a reconnection this week and I’d like to share how I handled it in case you find yourself in my position. 

Here’s the background…back when I was in college I remember my future mother-in-law calling my now husband.  She was clearly upset as she relayed to him how an individual who had married into the family had been charged with several murders.  You read that right – more than 1 murder.  The final charge would be for 4 murders but there was a list of many more that would have occurred had the arrest not been made.  

Understandably, my husband’s mother was shocked, sad, confused and angry.  This was done by someone she trusted, knew for years and there had been no indications that the individual was this dangerous.  Since my husband and I were living far from the crime, we didn’t have access to news stories of the trial and subsequent conviction of two life sentences.  We didn’t know that 20 years after the conviction, the perpetrator would request that state supreme court to grant a new trial, that the original lawyer would have written a semi-fictional book about the case because it was so bizarre and that the lawyer’s son would feature the case in a podcast.  In other words, even though the crimes were committed nearly 50 years ago, it is still in the news in the area where they occurred.  Since we don’t live in that area we had no knowledge of any of this until this week.

I don’t know if my mother-in-law reached out to her blood relative to offer support during that difficult time.  It became a taboo subject on that side of the family so, when I began my online family tree in the 1990’s, I didn’t update that line.  Imagine my surprise this week when I received a message from a descendant of the murderer who was asking what my relationship to the family was.

Since this was not my relation, except through marriage, I immediately asked my husband how he wanted me to handle this – should I respond or not?  If it had been my family I would have messaged back as the writer was not responsible for a heinous crime and I would consider the person a victim, too.  But this wasn’t my family so I felt that I needed to hear what my husband would want.  His parents are long deceased but had they been alive, I would have checked with them also.  

My husband had no preference and told me he respected however I wanted to handle it as he knows I would be professional.  I chose to respond, clarify the relationship and offered to update my tree if I had wrong info or if there was additional information to add.  I got a response a few hours later thanking me for the information and informing me of a family member who was now deceased.  I responded with condolences.

Interestingly, that deceased family member had relocated from the area where the murders occurred and lived a little over an hour away from us for nearly 10 years but had not reached out to us.  Perhaps they were embarrassed by what had happened or hurt that we had not reached out to them in their time of need.  I will never know.  

Although not in this case, what I do know is that it can be difficult to re-establish a connection and sometimes severance is the best (and safest) option.  I suspect, with the difficulties of the past year, people are re-evaluating relationships and becoming more aware of their mortality.  As the world slowly begins to reopen, I wouldn’t be surprised if more relatives reunite.  This could be a wonderful time to move forward if that is in everyone’s best interest. Be forewarned – this could be happening to you soon.

All About Surname, aka One Name Studies

Several times a month, I’m contacted by someone who is interested in the findings of my surname studies.  If you haven’t embarked on a surname project or want more information on what a one name project is all about, today’s blog is for you.

A Surname or One-Name study is a research project recording ALL individuals with the same surname.  That differs from the intent of a typical genealogy project of identifying the parents of someone with a particular surname.  The results of a surname project may provide relationships but the main purpose is not to determine descendancy or pedigree. The purpose of a surname project is to identify everyone with the shared surname.

So you’re thinking, I can’t even identify my 3rd time great grandmother’s maiden name, why would I focus on researching unrelated people of one particular surname?  A surname study might help you discover relationships since, back in the day, people tended to marry distantly related family members or siblings frequently wed the neighbor’s siblings.  Embarking on a surname study to discover a maiden name would be a waste of time, though, as the results are hit or miss.

People begin surname studies for a variety of reasons.  My first surname study was identifying all the Leininger surname in the U.S.  My interest was because it is my maiden name and I didn’t know much about my father’s family.  In middle school, I discovered another Leininger family living in my community and I asked my mom how they were related to us.  Her reply, “They’re the rich ones.” clearly didn’t answer my question. When I pressed for more information she said my dad had asked them and a common ancestor could not be identified.  This was long before DNA.  Fast forward to relocating 1200 miles away and discovering another Leininger, this one a priest who was the spitting image of my father.  When my mother asked him about the relationship he had no interest in a discussion.  My surname project to record every Leininger in the US resulted from these two situations. If a connection was found, great, and if not, that was okay, too.  I was more interested in identifying everyone with this uncommon surname.

Before you begin, let’s review surnames.  Typically, surnames are derived from the family’s place of origin.  Although Kos is not a common surname in the U.S., it is well used in Croatia.  Kos translates into blackbird or crow.  Croatians call themselves “Cro’s.”  See the connection? 

Besides place of origin, surnames may also denote a historical occupation, like Smith or Baker, or historical title, like the [House of] Leiningen, a title for Princes of the Holy Roman Empire.

Sometimes they are derived from a location, such as Harbaugh. The family was thought to have originated in Denmark or Switzerland but most likely the name is derived from the German words, har for master and bach for brook as the original spelling was Harbach.  Their origin appears to be in a small village outside of Kaiserslautern and you guessed it, the farm was located alongside a stream.  My Hollin[g]shead family lived by the “head” of the hollin bushes. Hollin is middle English for holly.

Surnames are sometimes descriptive, such as Small or Shortt. That description might not hold true today as it once did!

Sometimes a surname will change with each generation.  The ancient Nordic practice of patronymics, adding “son” or “dotter” to the father’s first name resulted in each generation having a different surname.  Jon’s son, Carl,  had a last name of Jonson.  When Carl had a son, that son’s last name became Carlson. 

Keep in mind surnames evolve for other reasons, as well.  My maternal Kos became Koss because it looked more Anglocized.  Herbach became Harbaugh possibly because a teacher insisted that was the correct spelling, as the family story goes, or because the dialect changed once the family relocated. 

Sometimes a surname is made up, think Elton John whose given name was Reginald Kenneth Dwight.  I have two cousins who legally changed their surnames, one to make it more Anglicized and the other make it more ethnic. 

Children who were adopted also have a surname change. 

If you are thinking about beginning a surname project, UNCOMMON is the key to selection!  You would not do a surname project on a common surname hoping to find relationships.  Sure, all homo sapiens are related but trying to record every Johnson or Williams would be so time consuming you would never finish.

Once you’ve identified an uncommon surname you are interested in researching, do an internet search to see if others have already begun a surname study group.  If they have, you can join and begin sharing your acquired information. If there isn’t one, you can create one. With DNA now available, you can make many more connections than I could have when I did my studies in the early 2000’s. 

Did you know there is  a society called the Guild of One-Name Studies that has resources and education available? Their website has a surname index of their members’ surname studies.

Before I explain how I did my study – a word of caution!  A study group is different than simply Googling a surname.  A study group is composed of those interested in genealogy and research.  They differ from the many websites that offer questionable  information about surnames for a price.

I’m not suggesting to not do a simple internet query of a surname.  The information can provide you hints but be aware that the information may not be relevant.  Remember – correlation doesn’t equate with causation!  In the case of Harbaugh, Google states it is one of the oldest Anglo-Saxon names in Britain and was derived from herebeorg, an Old English word for a person who ran a lodging house.  It does not state that the word is probably older and derived from the Teutonic dweller at a shelter.  Perhaps the English line of Habaugh’s originated with the man named Harbo who purportedly accompanied William the Conqueror to Britain or an earlier Viking (in Scandinavian, baugh means poor).  None of that applies to the U.S. gateways of the surname I wished to research.  The majority came from the Palatinate region.  I have found one Harbaughs from Great Britain emigrating to the U.S.

Like Google, Wikipedia often lists names of unrelated individuals under a surname but beware of the name’s description which is often not cited.  Sure it’s interesting but not necessarily relevant or connected to your surname of interest.

When I decided to do my Leininger surname study I looked for surname projects but didn’t find any as the internet was still young.  I then took genealogy books I found that listed Leiningers and Harbaugh and entered that information into my tree.

All of the information is public in my Main Tree on Ancestry and MyHeritage.  You can add people without connecting them to others in your tree.  To do that, enter the name and information under anyone, then under “Facts” click “Edit” on the upper right.  Next click “Edit Relationships” and click the X next to the father and mother’s names.  You will now have the individual in your tree but not connected to anyone.  You will then research their line as you would your own.  If you find they are connect to your line, you will add them to wherever they belong by selecting “Select someone in your tree” option.  If you never find a connection, no worries!  They are still visible and you can easily find them by using the search feature.

To help identify what I call my “loose lines,” I maintain a table housed under Gallery of all the gateways with that surname. If I’m contacted by someone inquiring how we are related and I do not see a notation on the heading under the individual’s death (such as 3rd great-grandfather showing in the above picture), I know that the inquiry is regarding a loose line. 

Since completing my Leininger study, I’ve identified 27 Leininger/Lininger gateway individuals born between 1742-1830, who emigrated from the Palatine and settled in Pennsylvania or Ohio.  I am unable to connect them to my line.  DNA has shown that 3 of the gateways were distantly related to me but the key to discovering a common ancestor for probably all of these lines lies in Europe at least 500 years ago. 

Of the Harbaugh/Herbach/Hurbach study, I have 13 individuals I cannot determine a connection to my husband’s line. I have not reached out to descendants for DNA but perhaps will in the future.

Surname studies are an investment in time but the energy is worth it if you are interested in stretching your genealogy skills and leaving a legacy of research that provides a bigger picture of a family surname.   

Researching Step Sibs Unveils a Treasure Trove

Photo courtesy of Tut on Find-a-Grave

A few blogs ago I mentioned I needed to check out the sibling and step siblings of Margaret Ann Martz Searight Duer to try to discover why she relocated from Hardin, Ohio to Adams, Indiana.  I guessed that she had met my John Duer in Adams as he was a property owner in the same area as Margaret.  Turns out, there was much more involvement than I thought.

Since Margaret was the second wife of John, I had never researched her family since they are not related to me, or so it seemed.

Online trees showed Margaret was born to the first wife, Margarethae Himmelsbach, of George Peter Martz in Germany.  I have found a baptismal record for another child of the couple, Catharina, born 17 September 1830 in Rheinzabern, Pfalz, Bayern.  The child and the mother must have died shortly after as George married Elizabeth Goetz Martz, the wife of his deceased brother, John.  The second union produced eight children.  I never found a birth record for Margaret and determined her birthdate from her tombstone shown on Find-a-Grave.

Like Margaret and her first husband, George Washington Searight, “father” George and “step-mother” Elizabeth lived in Hardin, Ohio in 1850.  By 1860, some of the children were still residing with George and Elizabeth who had moved to Mercer County, Ohio. 

Interesting, I thought!  Perhaps John hadn’t met Margaret in Adams, Indiana but instead, in Mercer where he was found living with his first wife, Jane, in 1860.  Actually, they are 3 pages away in the census from where John and Jane lived.  Also living nearby, just two residences away, was daughter Maria Duer who had married Henry Kuhn, also an emigrant from Germany.  Perhaps John and Margaret met at a community event as Henry Kuhn was a leader of the German settlers in Mercer County. His wife, Maria, who was not German, even has an obituary in the German newsper.

Knowing that Margaret had family in Mercer helped me better understand why she was buried there and not in Indiana.  I still had no answer as to why Margaret purchased property in Indiana so I took the time to learn about her step siblings, thinking that perhaps, they lived in Adams County.

I decided to start with “step sister,” Hannah Lucinda and what a surprise I found!  Hannah died in Missouri before 1880 when the census shows her husband, Abraham Orr, residing with his brother, Thomas.  I was interested in learning more about Abraham because he was a property owner at one time in Trumbull County, Ohio, where my John Duer was born and where he first married.  In researching Abraham I discovered his mother was Anna Duer, sister to my John Duer.  Who knew these families were interrelated! It gets even better – After Hannah Lucinda died, her youngest children, Mary and Phillip Orr, are found living in the household of Phillip Martz, “step-brother” of Margaret in (drum roll, please) Mercer, Ohio.  So the Duers and Martz’s were connected prior to John’s marriage to Margaret.  No telling when or where they first met!

I hit pay dirt when I got to “step-brother,” Eli Martz.  He had a bio in amugbook from Mercer County, Ohio that, although not 100% accurate, provided me with background information about Margaret and her family. 

I thought it strange that Eli has two entries and the information is slightly different.  The first, names him Eli Martz, “the son of George P. and Elizabeth (Goetz) Martz.” P. 429.  I read this entry first.  When I finished the article I noticed the next article was for an Elisha Martz.  Hmm, who could he be? 

Elisha Martz was the “son of G. Peter and Elizabeth (Goetz) Martz.” p. 430. Yes, George P. is the same man as G. Peter.  Elizabeth Goetz Martz is the same mama.  At the very end of Elisha’s article the confusion is cleared – Eli and Elisha are brothers.  Why the parents would have named them so similarly I have no idea. 

Their stories have a few discrepancies which makes this very interesting!

Both stories state Margaret emigrated with her STEP-father and 3 of her step-brothers to Frederick Town, Maryland about 1830.  All of the online trees have Margaret’s father’s name wrong – it was not George Peter but George’s brother, John Martz.  George Peter was Margaret’s uncle who raised her after his brother died and George married the widow.  That explains why no record for Margaret’s birth has been found!

According to Eli’s article, the family arrived in 1830, however, the twins, Phillip and Caleb, were born in 1831 in Germany so that is not correct. Elisha’s article states they arrived in 1833.  That makes sense and would explain the longer than usual lapse in children’s births.  The couple seemed to have children annually in Germany but there is a longer gap between the twins (1831) and Eli in 1834.  Having twins and moving to start a new life in a new country would definitely have put a damper on having another child at the original rate. 

Margaret’s uncle was a shoemaker but decided he wanted to try farming so he relocated to Sandusky, Ohio after 3 years in Maryland, according to Eli, or 18 months, according to Elisha.  Really, what’s a year and a half?!.

Quickly deciding raising corn wasn’t for him, they packed up with the intent to return to Maryland.  On their journey they stopped at Wayne County, Ohio where they decided to stay for 14 years, per Eli, or until 1848, per Elisha. 

George bought land in the then wilds of Mercer County, Ohio but on the way in 1847 (Eli) or 1848 (Elisha), the family decided to stop in Hardin County, where they were found in the 1850 census.  Both agree in 1852, the family made their way to Mercer.  After his second wife died in 1876, says Eli, George relocated to Illinois where he died “about 1882.”  Elisha says George relocated to Illinois in 1864. He doesn’t say when George died. He does gush about what a great dad George was; Eli says nothing.  Hmmm.

This leads me to a big WHAT?  So, sons Eli/Elisha did not keep in close contact with Pop, as the year discrepancy is rather large of when George left Ohio not to mention they don’t know when their dad died.  Seems like this is a trend with the Duer siblings too, who never told their children their mother Jane’s name.  What is going on with these folks?

Since George’s wife, Elizabeth, was found living with Eli in 1870 and George is not found in any record after 1860, I’m thinking that both Eli and Elisha were somewhat accurate about George’s whereabouts. Eli would have known when his dad left the area because mom was in his household. Elisha might have remembered when his parents split households, probably in 1864.

The mug book names George’s 9 children, the eldest, being Margaret, “the widow of John Doer, who resides in Adams, county, Ind.” p. 429 or “Margaret, the widow of John Deuer, of Jay County, Indiana.” p. 430.  Yes, she was the widow but John wasn’t from Jay County  and I love the spelling of John’s last name!

The point, though, is I would have never located this had I not searched for more information on Margaret’s step siblings. 

The book goes on to note where every sibling resided and the only step-brother/cousin of Margaret that lived in Indiana was  Phillip.  However, he lived in Salem which is in southern Indiana, Adams is in northeast so Margaret clearly didn’t relocate to Adams because of Phillip’s move to that state. I’m thinking Margaret moved to Adams to be near John and away from ex wife Jane who most likely remained in Mercer. 

Now I’m intrigued as to why Uncle George (geez, I DO NOT need another Uncle George in the family) went to Illinois at an advanced age.  None of his children were residing there between 1864-1876. Supposedly, youngest daughter Hannah Lucinda died in Illinois per an online family tree but there is no citation. Her spouse was listed as a widow in Iowa in 1880 so possibly she died on the way to relocating west. Whether she stopped to visit her dad on the way, I don’t know.

George didn’t appear to keep in touch with any of his children as no one seems to know what became of him. The year of 1864 is interesting to me as that was likely when John and Margaret married.  The Civil War wasn’t over yet.  Maybe there was just too much drama for a man up in age and he decided to leave his wife for a new start.  I say that because Elisha mentions that George’s wife died in Mercer.  Eli/Elisha both agree it was in 1876.

The mysteries may continue, however, the beauty of the information in the mug book is priceless.  What a wonderful example of why it’s important to research the relatives, no matter how distant they may at first appear to be!  My tree is becoming gnarled.

Your Family and the Neighbors

Somehow – this did not get transferred from Blogger to my website on 27 Sep 2020 so here it is:

This is the second weekend that has been absolutely beautiful in my part of the world and I spent it putting in my fall garden. Yesterday, our new neighbors, who actually aren’t new, inquired as to what we were growing.  They plan on putting a raised bed garden in next weekend along our shared fence line.

So, how is a “new” neighbor not new?  Well, they lived one house north of their present location for two years and moved one house south in May when the former owner decided to move into a condo after his wife died the previous year.  The condo he moved into is next door to his deceased wife’s first husband.  They all remained good friends.  

The house that the “new” neighbors moved from was purchased by someone they knew from the New England state they formally lived in.  This new to me neighbor is their old friend.

Same thing happened to the house on the corner of our block – the person who built it decided to buy some property on a lake a few miles north where he could retire.  He sold it to a Midwest family.  They lived their for two years and decided to move to a home not far away with more amenities.  They sold the “old” house to a relative.

One of my adults kids bought a home two years ago that’s only 4 minutes from me (if I miss the light).  The insurance agent we recommended is the brother of someone who I used to eat lunch in high school with and who was a good friend of my husbands.  That high school is 1500 miles from where we all currently reside.

My own family flipped houses, too.  I have a nice brick bbq grill my husband and son built based on a memory of one of the house flips.  My grandparents decided their first home had become too large so they had a smaller house built a few miles away from the original home in Indiana in the early 1960’s.  One of the “extras” they selected was a brick bbq in the backyard.  Looking back on it now I find the choice amusing because they had no experience with outside grilling.  They used the grill only once, a Memorial Day weekend, when I was 5.  I distinctly remember it because the house their original home they sold to my uncle and his family the year before.  Being small, I have no memory of the family’s real estate transaction.  I do have some memories of visiting their prior home for holidays and regular visits.  I distinctly remember playing hide and seek with my cousins in the new house as I climbed into a window seat and fell asleep.  That caused the adults to hysterically run around looking for me.  The window seat became off limits to us after that. But back to the bbq grill…

The reason I remember the grill is because on that particular Memorial Day weekend my grandparents were giving a going away party to my uncle, recently divorced, who was going to move to Florida.  They had bought their old home back from him and this was the last family get together in their “new” home.  He was the only one in the family that knew how to light charcoal.  The problem was there was a downpour shortly after he lit the briquettes and they were quickly extinguished.  We ran into the house and since we were a large family in a small home, the women went to the kitchen to prepare the food on the stove and the rest of us were sent to the basement, which was pretty much empty.  The adults brought down some folding chairs and the kids sat on the bare concrete to eat our hot dogs.  

I share this story because 60 years ago my family, much like my neighbors, played musical households – selling to a family or friend and in our case, returning to the original home.  

Sure, family, friends and neighbors traveled in wagon trains, passenger ships and on barges to emigrate to a new community.  I hadn’t really thought much about that being a common custom continuing today until my back yard chat with those “new” “old” neighbors yesterday.  

In this ever changing world that requires almost daily adaptions, it’s nice to think that we still seek the comfort of our loved ones to rely on in our neighbors for support.

Church Records Provide a Hopeful Clue to the Bird Family

New Jersey, Marriage Records, 1670-1965, digital image; Ancestry.com:  accessed 11 Nov 2020, citing FamilySearch.org microfilm 000961018.

With Hurricane Eta descending on my area I decided to spend this rainy windy prelude to the storm searching for my mysterious Bird family.  All I know is that my paternal 4th great grandparents:

  • Hannah Byrd was born in New Jersey, possibly Monmouth, about 1775.  She married Thomas Duer about 1797.  The couple relocated about 1808 to Trumbull County, Ohio where she lived for the remainder of her life, dying in 1858 in Mahoning County, Ohio.  Mahoning had been split from Trumbull County. Hannah may or may not be the Hannah Dyer that married on 22 September 1831 in Jackson, Trumbull County, Ohio widower James Preston who lived on the land next to Thomas and Hannah’s. No divorce records have been found and Hannah returned to using Duer as her last name in the 1840 U.S. federal census. She was buried in Jackson Township Cemetery, North Jackson, Mahoning County, Ohio.
  • Spouse Thomas Duer was born about 1775 in New Jersey, possibly Sussex County.  He died, probably unexpectedly since he was intestate, on 29 November 1829 in Jackson Township, Trumbull County, Ohio and is buried in the Price Mills Cemetery in Pricetown, Trumbull County, Ohio.  The cemetery was not the closest to his residence at the time, however, it was known as a cemetery for those of the Presbyterian faith.

There certainly are a lot of “probably/possibly/maybe” in what I know!  Records are scant for the New Jersey area at the time of their birth, the start of the American Revolution.  
I have discovered many Berd/Bird/Burd,/Byrd families in New Jersey but never able to determine that any had a child named Hannah.  
Some researchers have surmised that Hannah was a Quaker, as there has been records found for permission for a Mary Duer to leave Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 1806, about the time my Hannah relocated to Ohio.  Except I have found no evidence that my Hannah was using the name Mary.  
There is also a record of a Hannah Byrd from Monmouth, New Jersey, recorded with a Joseph and Thomas in a Quaker index but there isn’t enough information to determine that was my Hannah.   
There are a sizeable number of Duers that were of the Quaker faith and as I learned this past summer, the Presbyterian and Quaker Duers were distant cousins that kept in contact with one another through the 1700’s in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  That leaves the possibility that Presbyterian Thomas Duer married Quaker Hannah Byrd.  
What I could never reconcile was when and where Hannah and Thomas met.  I have no records that Thomas was ever in Monmouth as I have no records that Hannah was ever in Sussex.  
On a side note, imagine researchers in the future looking back at our time period to try to figure out where their ancestors met – will there be records of dating aps available?!  Hmm, what a mess that will be.
Last month I decided to try to trace the path of the only Bird that was in Trumbull County, Ohio at the time that Hannah was alive to determine if there was any connection between the two of them.  
Benjamin Bird, born about 1872 in New Jersey and who died before 1860 in Ohio, was the one and only individual with a similar surname.  Possibly he was a younger brother or cousin of Hannah or maybe not related at all.  When I began to search for New Jersey records for him, however, I was pleasantly surprised to find the info I have posted in the picture above…Benjamin, along with an Elisha and Margaret Bird, were all married in Pleasant Groves, now Warren County, then Sussex County, New Jersey by a Presbyterian minister, the Reverend Joseph Campbell, in September and October of 1809. These flimsy findings may just lead me to Hannah’s parents.
Today, I’ll try to determine the relationship between Elisha, Margaret and Benjamin. Hoping that a Hannah shows up, too! I will likely not find further church records from Trumbull County as the circuit riding minister records for the time period are scant.   Perhaps there is a connection between them, not only in Sussex/Warren but also in Monmouth. I can’t wait to get started.