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.
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.
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.
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,
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
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.
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.
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.
I am pleased to announce that I have linked my Daniel Hollingshead to the Hollinshead family in the New Jersey Colony! If you’re a Genealogy At Heart follower, you’ve experienced (remotely) the twists and turns of this family saga, along with the intermarriages with the Duers, who have their own family drama. Upfront, I want to apologize for the length of this blog, please bear with me!
I’ve written frequently about the odd happenings that occur when I research these lines that I can’t explain. As blog follower Linda Shufflebean commented on Synchronocity and my Roots “I love Hank Jones’s Psychic Roots series – I’m even mentioned with my own weird experiences. I think the ancestors are up there pointing the way for us at times.” I so agree, Linda!
If you’re a new reader and have no idea what I’m talking about or you need a refresh, you can read some of the backstory here, here and here. The ancestors may be giving us a nudge from beyond but it’s up to us to take that tidbit and go with it. It’s also about connections in the here and now. Today, I want to give a shout out to some very special people who went above and beyond to answer my questions, give me suggestions or furnish a copy of a paper document that hasn’t been digitized. None of them had to do this, especially not during these difficult times.
I realize my requests were not important to anyone but me and a few descendants of the Hollingsheads. When the world is falling apart, finding a source in a locked archive is definitely a low priority. Regardless, the following folks stepped up and helped me and I am so very grateful for their positive character, work ethic and dedication. What I’ve learned from them can help every genealogist be better! The list is in alpha order by first name as they all are equally important:
BARB WALKER TERRONES, Ancestry.com Tree Owner Have you ever messaged someone about more info on Ancestry and never gotten a response? Duh, every genealogist has! Barb is not one of those people who never respond. In fact, Barb, who has a private tree, not only quickly responded she volunteered to help me find the missing Hollingshead Bible that Daniel brought with him when he left England about 1704. Barb would be my 7 times removed step cousin. Regardless of being that distant, Barb stopped her own research to help me and shared what she found. Barb, I thank you for your quick replies and I know we’re going to find that Bible someday. Please continue to keep me in the loop of what you discover as I’ll do the same.
BRYAN MULCAHY, Reference Librarian Ft. Myers Regional Library Nothing like needing to find a 300 year old will transcription that’s not online and was made out of the country. Even in normal times it’s a feat. The volume I needed was 140 miles from my home. Back in the day, I would have requested it be sent to my local library or perhaps I would have even made the drive because I love Ft. Myers but now, those options weren’t possible. I completed the form filler request Ask a Librarian and Bryan responded within two hours with a scan of what I needed. Bryan, you are awesome! Your information helped me trace extended family and led me to further documents that I would no way have known existed if I hadn’t uncovered the relationships that were mentioned in the will you provided. My deepest appreciation to you!
ELIZABETH PEARSON, British Genealogist I’ve attended lectures Liz has given locally a few times and have always been impressed with her wealth of knowledge. The area and locations I was researching are not in my comfort zone so I contacted Liz for direction. Liz gave me insight into British world view from the time period, reminded me of boundary changes, and provided me recommendations and direction. Liz, I cannot thank you enough for your help. Your insights helped me understand what I was discovering and your recommended methodology was what cracked the case! Tracking Daniel’s relatives was definitely the direction to go.
GAYLE MARTINSON, Reference Librarian, Wisconsin Historical Society Nothing like needing to review a collection of family information (circa 1800) from South Carolina that was donated to a historical society in Wisconsin when I could not possibly travel from Florida to review the information. Add that the organization was closed and that the automatic reply I received when I inquired about availability said it would be at least 12 weeks before I could get a response. I told myself, what’s 3 more months as the man I’m researching has been dead for nearly 300 years so patience, Lori, patience. I was so pleasantly surprised to receive an email from Gayle the next day asking for more information about my request. She placed me in the queue and was responsible for someone to go into a locked archive to look for a manuscript last cited in 1853. Unbelievable to me, not only was this accomplished, a scan of what I needed was emailed to me at 5:11 PM a few days after my request was made. In these difficult times, I am in awe of this librarian taking my request seriously and getting me answers to my questions so expediently. Gayle is a tremendous asset to her organization and I hope they realize how fortunate they are to have her on staff. Thanks, Gayle!
GUY GRANNUR, Archivist with the National Archives of Great Britain I have zero experience with the record sets in Guy’s archive. Guy was the presenter of the online class last month called Caribbean Connections and I couldn’t have been happier with his presentation that I needed. After his conclusion, he responded to questions via the chat box and he was most helpful. His expertise enabled me to find a connection on another site mentioned to show that a close relative of Daniel had gone to Barbados in 1690. Who knew?! Well, those that did know are all dead but because of that record I had my “Caribbean Connection.” Thanks, Guy, for your interesting and informative presentation.
HULYA TASCI-HART, Translator What can I say about a multi lingual educator who is so dedicated that she’ll stop what she’s doing to translate from English to German for me in seconds?! This smart workaholic took the time to clarify what I meant so that she could be as accurate as possible with the translation. Now I know you’re wondering, why would I need a German translation when I was researching England, Barbados and New Jersey. It appears that my Daniel served in the Battle of Blenheim in August 1704, along with his unnamed brothers. No records exist in the British Archives so I decided to see if there were any records left near Blenheim aka Blindheim, a Bavarian village where the battle was fought. I reached out to Hulya to translate my request and she came through as always. I so greatly appreciate Hulya, not only as a genealogist but as an educator.
JIM LYNCH, Caribbeanavenue.com I always seem to find what I need in a place my ancestor never lived and it has happened again! Jim Webster had used a resource he owns, the 1715 Barbados census, to help me pinpoint where my family was living on the island. I have been in search of that information for YEARS! I’ve reached out to many and no one ever told me that the information was published in a 1980 book. I had to have a copy! Jim Webster linked me to Jim Lynch who responded to a form filler I completed almost instantly. It was a Saturday and Jim mailed the book early Monday morning when the post office reopened. It’s probably stuck in customs but I’m eagerly anticipating its arrival. If you are doing Barbados research you must have this important work. All it takes is contacting Jim for a copy – he uses PayPal. Jim, thanks so much for answering my questions on a weekend and being so prompt in responding to my request. I’m impressed with your business ethics!
JIM WEBSTER of BajanThings.com If you’re researching Barbados this is a site you need to explore. I was confused when I found a sugar planter listed in 1680 and 1715 with a similar name to what I was researching and questioned if it had been mistranscribed. Jim responded in minutes to a contact form I filled out on the website. Seriously, who does that?! I’m so glad Jim does because he shared his knowledge and pointed me to where I could find a 1615 census of the island (none online!). Jim, because of you, I discovered that my Mary was being cared for by her aunt after her mother’s death and my Daniel was living separately with an 18 year old youth. I’m still trying to determine who that might be. Thank you so much for your dedication to Barbados history.
KAREN STOKES, South Carolina Historical Society What to do when you need to check a reference and it’s no where?! Beating your head on the desk is not the answer. Turning to Worldcat, I located a copy of Richard Yeardon’s History of the Circular Church in South Carolina. Why would I need that when my Daniel was never in South Carolina? Yeardon was a source for a bio on Daniel’s grandson, William, who was a Presbyterian minister in South Carolina after the Revolution, according to a William B. Sprague (1857). Sprague cited Yeardon so I needed to find where Yeardon got his info. A day after my request, Karen responded that she had looked through the book and no reference was given. In fact, there was no information about the family at all in the book. Karen, I greatly appreciate your checking the source and recommending that I look at another work by a different author, David Ramsay, who Yeardon extensively quoted. You were unaware that I had already reached out to another archive to check Ramsay’s notes. This speaks volumes about your knowledge of research process as you would have no way known what the other obscure sources were pointing toward. Kudos to you!
PAUL DAVIS, Collections and Research Assistant, Historical Society of Princeton I was looking for a reference made to confirm my Daniel was a pioneer in Princeton, New Jersey. Everything I had found at that point was for other areas. Although Paul couldn’t enter the locked society, he made great suggestions and provided links for me to check out. Thanks, Paul, I appreciate the direction you provided; you were very helpful.
TOM DREYER, NEHGS genealogist In Boston, during a pandemic, Tom found a book on a shelf in a closed archive and provided me the information I was seeking. Seriously, I am overwhelmed by this man’s dedication to a fellow genealogist. We discovered that I’m distantly related to his wife who is from the New York Duer family while I’m from the New Jersey Duer line. I love the reminder that we are all connected – we’re all family. Tom, next month when I get my first paycheck, I’m making a donation to your organization of which I am a member in your name. The document you supplied was vital as it was the missing link to connecting a newer and older source. Thank you!
TODD THULL, Ancestry.com Tree Owner Like Barb, Todd responded to a message I sent him about a document he had posted about his Hollinshead line. I was trying to locate a copy that I couldn’t find online. Todd responded quickly and lo and behold! it was online although the copy was incomplete. As could only happen with this family, the paragraph I needed was the last paragraph showing on the scanned book. I don’t even know how that’s possible! Thanks, Todd, for helping me link my line to yours. I will be sending you a copy of my paper so you can see how the Quaker Hollinsheads are related to the Church of England Hollingsheads. I couldn’t have made the connection without your wonderfully sourced online tree.
VICKIE URBAN, Ancestry.com Tree Owner I have consulted with Vickie over the years as we are Duer cousins and I greatly appreciate that she ALWAYS uses sources on her tree. She shares her findings and always responds to messages. Thanks, Cuz, you are most appreciated!
Last but not least, my wonderful family who puts up with my obsession. None of them have been bitten by the genealogy bug, yet they put up with me and in their own way, try to relate to my interest. My husband, bless him, even attempted to do some online research for me and help me decipher handwriting from the 1600s as I was transcribing. My son suggested I watch an episode of the Sarah Connor Chronicles that might help me with a research path. My daughter who listened attentively while I drone on about my findings. Both my kids risk their lives daily trying to put an end to this awful disease and make the world a better place. For them to care about my finding a christening record from 1686 is touching to me. Thanks guys, all my love!
Yep, it’s all about love and connections. In these crazy times I think it’s more important than ever to share some love so this week, thank someone who helped you with your research. They deserve the recognition and appreciation. Stay safe and happy hunting!
Last week I blogged about my strange experience looking for my Hollingshead family going from England to Barbados to Pennsylvania/New Jersey. I was desperately searching for a document to show proof that my ancestor, Daniel, was the individual in all of those locations. Some odd happening occurred – a dream, an undelivered email, an internet site popping up after the electricity had been turned off – put me back on track. Here’s what happened this week… Although the member of my local genealogy association that I had reached out to for help in connecting with a presenter’s email was returned as undeliverable, I used the same email address and reached the person I was seeking a few minutes later. She responded she was unavailable but when get back with me soon. I’ve signed up for a British seminar online that I found by “looking small” as instructed in my dream. It’s scheduled for Friday and I’m eagerly awaiting it. Being impatient, I had a hunch that the dream meant more than just the upcoming lecture. I don’t know why I did the following, but I did and I’m glad of that. I decided to check Ancestry.com hints for Daniel. I don’t use the hint option very often. I do sometimes if I’m starting a new search for a client but for my own tree, not so much. In case you aren’t aware, your Ancestry hints never really leave you. If you click “Ignore” that isn’t the same as delete – which isn’t an option. When you Ignore, it simply goes to the Hint section and is placed under that heading. The other categories are Undecided and Accepted. Accepted hints are all those that are showing in your Facts section, Undecided are those you can’t make up your mind about after you’ve reviewed it. In my Undecided section, I had about 15 hints and most were completely wrong – wrong locations (like Ohio and I was searching before there was even an Ohio territory), wrong time period (like the 1900’s and I needed 1600-1700’s), or wrong names (like Hollins). There were 2 interesting hints, however, that I clicked on and both were from a DNA relative I’ve corresponded with in the past. I trust her work and she always uses citations! The hints were notes she had taken from old texts she had found in her local library. Lucky lady, she lives close to an awesome research library.. I wanted to find the original books to check her notes so I did a Google book search (on Google, click the “Other” box and then click “Books” is the easiest to find and lo and behold, this is what I discovered:
Alfred Mathews. History of Wayne, Pike and Monroe Counties, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: R. T. Peck & Co,1886, p. 1156.
Even though this is exactly what I’m looking for regarding the route of immigration, there is no proof, other than that Stroud J. Hollinshead, a likely descendant, shared the info for his personal biographical sketch. Sigh! He even got some of the facts wrong. The second paragraph is a hot mess; How could Daniel, the first ancestor, be killed at the Battle of Blenheim and then hold public office in Sussex County, New Jersey? Quite a feat, I say. The date of birth is off by a few years. Didn’t mention the first wife, Ann Alexander, from whom I’m descended but does mention their child, Mary, as the daughter of the second wife, Thomasin. Mary married a Duer; according to this bio, so did Mary’s stepmom after the death of Daniel. Hmm, but something isn’t quite correct there, either. Thomasin was a female and the information states she married a Jane Deuer. I suspect they meant John as this would have been the early 1700’s. Then I found the following interesting story:
Rev. John C. Rankin, DD. The Presbyterian Church in Basking Ridge, NJ. Jersey City: John H. Lyon, 1872., p.7.
I knew Daniel was flipping property but I didn’t know that he had sold to a James Alexander of New York. That peaked my interest as his first wife was an Alexander and I’ve not been successful in locating her family. So I read up on James Alexander and Lord Stirling. The family liked to hide among other Alexander families in Ireland and France where they fled after picking the wrong political side in Scotland. Scholars haven’t been able to sort through all the stories the family told in the documentation they left behind of who was related to whom as the same individual’s tales changed from time to time. Then, there’s the whole timely topic of race relationships. Lord Stirling made his money partially from the slave trade while father James was alive and didn’t object. My Daniel, however, appeared to have not been in favor of slavery. He brought a slave family with him to New Jersey but it appears there was manumision. I told myself (no proof here!) that Daniel was empathetic as he was purportedly an indentured servant, though others felt this showed he was of the Quaker faith. Yet, as I learned more about James Alexander, I discovered that Daniel’s second wife Thomasin left several slaves to her children when she died so the couple may not have the same shared beliefs or, I’m completely wrong about Daniel. More research definitely needed. The Presbyterian Church reference provides another important clue. Some believe that Daniel was Quaker but I’ve found nothing to support that. He and his children were baptized in the Church of England in England and Barbados, Some of the Alexander land was later donated to the Presbyterian Church. That’s not surprising since James was a Scott and probably of that faith. Further reading informed me there were no Quakers in the the area when Daniel relocated there. If he had been a devout Quaker, he would have likely settled in Bucks County, Pennsylvania as the Duer’s initially did. This would explain why I’ve never found a Quaker record for Daniel. Although all of this is interesting to my research, the last weird occurrence happened while I was reading online. My husband and I share an office and he decided he was going to clean his workspace. He is a piler and I’m a filer – he has piles everywhere and I have everything sorted in a variety of devices (handing file folders, in/out baskets, file cabinets, tubs in folders, etc.). As I was deeply involved in an old text my husband said, “Is this yours?” He was holding a CD. I haven’t used CD’s in I don’t know how long so I shook my head no. “Should I toss it?” he asked. “What’s on it?” I replied. “The theme song of Pirates of the Caribbean.” I thought he was kidding me. “Yeah, right.” I said. “Seriously,” he replied. He thought I had recorded it to help me with my search. (Photo above – you can see it’s scratched so it’s not new.) Nope, wasn’t I but somewhere in the great beyond there’s a tech savvy spirit with a sense of humor who is helping me along. Keep it coming!
The sun is out and the weather is cool so I intend to get some fresh air and complete yard work before the next deluge descends.
Think shelter in place lessens your genealogical connections? Think again! This is an awesome article that reminds us we need to sometimes not only think out of the box to discover our heritage, we often don’t need to look far at all!
The Washington Post’s article – Amid the pandemic, a family learns their neighbors are their long-lost relatives will make you smile, remind you that your family stories are often close but not always 100% accurate and the coincidences that occur while sleuthing can just boggle the mind. My immediate family has gotten used to my striking up conversations with strangers and discovering our families often had a shared past but this story takes it to a new level. Enjoy!
Last week I blogged about obtaining school records to help identify parentage. This week I’m thinking in reverse; say I know the parents names but I don’t know the children’s names. Where to look if census records aren’t available? Try church records.
Now wait, before you stop reading because you don’t know if the family was affiliated with a church, I’m going to tell you some tricks to discover that information.
First look at the marriage license to see if there was a minister named. You might get lucky and the church address was also recorded. In that case, see if the church is still the same denomination and contact them.
If you aren’t able to identify a church, then take the minister’s name and try to identify his religious affiliation from the previous census. When researching a local family, I was able to look at the 1945 Florida State census to find the minister and his address. Using property records, I could tell the denomination of the church he was affiliated with then – it was Baptist. The marriage record from 1946 was in Tampa so it was probable that the family had married in that particular Baptist church. They had records and I was able to confirm the marriage occurred at that site and several children, named, were inducted in the Cradle Club.
This works, too, even if you’re looking for much older records for an elusive family. If this was in the time of circuit riders, do a Google search to see if the minister named on the marriage license denomination shows up, then identify where those records may have been kept. For example, I’m always interested in finding information about my Duer family living in what is now Ohio. I was able to determine they were Presbyterian (after leaving the Quaker denomination). I know where the circuit rider records are kept but they are not yet digitized or indexed so someday I’ll be visiting the repository to check them out.
I’ve blogged in the past about obtaining a transcription of a diary written by one of my husband’s 3rd great aunts (yes, I extend searches to distant family – you never know what you’ll find and it’s usually awesome). Mary Ann Eyster Johnson died in 1905 and descendant’s of her husband (they had no children) donated her diary to her rural church in St. Joseph County, Indiana. While researching Mary Ann’s sister, Sara, in the hopes of identifying all of their children, I located Mary Ann’s diary and happily found she had recorded all of Sara’s children’s birth dates and in most cases, times. This was long before birth certificates were available.
My recommendation is always check out church records and if possible, go in person and bring chocolate. It’s always worked for me!