Dealing With Document Disappointments – My Duers Do It Again!

I have blogged extensively about my mysterious Duer family that I connect with DNAwise but can’t prove a firm document relationship between son Thomas, who died in 1829 and his purported father, John, who died in 1831.  Thomas’ family lived next to John in Trumbull County, Ohio but none of Thomas’ children were mentioned in John’s will.  John’s will only mentioned 1 grandchild and named all of his other living children.  The 1 grandchild was the son of his deceased daughter and was easily recognizable by his last name, Hazen.

I’ve theorized that none of Thomas’ children were named because Thomas had already been given an “inheritance” of land adjoining John’s.  I also thought John might have been slightly put off by Thomas’ widow, Hannah, quickly remarrying another neighbor who was a widower, James Preston.  That marriage didn’t seem to last as both Hannah and James can be found in 1840 living with their adult children.

The land that Thomas lived on remained with one of his son’s until the mid-1800’s when he sold it to what I believe would have been a cousin who had come to own John’s property.  Of course, there was nothing to show the connection between the two listed in the deed transaction so I can’t prove that relationship, either.

I’ve been told repeatedly to give up the search but I will admit I’m obsessed with this line.  So, every few months, I recheck to see if any new records are uploaded, a new DNA match can be found that might hold the key in their basement or attic, or a donation is made to an archive in the areas the family lived where someone drops off records that will be the proof I need.

Yes, I already have DNA proof.  There have been several descendants of John’s children who have tested and we all relate but I want a document!  Or do I?

Last month, I found 2 documents online that gave me promise.  I was hoping they would lead me to the smoking gun record; this is what I discovered posted on Ancestry with no citation:

Although I found this posting just two days after it was done, when I reached out to the poster, her response was she couldn’t remember where she found it and would get back with me.  I love her dearly because she wrote back the next day and said she found it from another Ancestry poster named John Shivers.  She though it came from Revolutionary War Patriots from Ohio.  She gave me a link to an archive in Ohio but they didn’t have it.

I found a John Shivers on Ancestry and emailed him but he hadn’t been online in over a year so I wasn’t hopeful I would get a response.  I wasn’t even sure he was the John Shivers that originally posted it as I couldn’t access the private tree.  

Then I reached out to a colleague in my locale who is a member of the Trumbull County Genealogical Society to see if he could check the membership roster and give me contact info for John Shivers.  There was no info but he sent me a new member who was interested in the Duers.  I emailed them but the email address wasn’t working.

I then searched Worldcat and Google for the title but only found a SAR pdf that wouldn’t open.  

Going to the national SAR website, I found no new info; the Ancestor # 150827 is the number assigned by that organization so I decided to reach out to the Mahoning County, Ohio Chapter hoping that they might have a file with the relationship I was seeking that wasn’t submitted to national.  

The local chapter’s website is under construction.  Their Facebook page has no contact info.  I reached out to a Trumbull County local who had given me info several years ago – she had tripped over Thomas’ fallen gravestone when she was conducting a cemetery clean up and loves to kid me that he almost killed her.  She found two email addresses for local SAR members.

I emailed both.  One never responded.  The other said he’s no longer in that area so isn’t a member but he kindly forwarded my query to the current president.  The president said the chapter reactivated 4 years ago and has no old files in their possession (who knows what happened to that stuff!?)  so he forwarded my email to the organization’s state genealogist.  That gentleman gave me the heartbreaking news – the real citation is from Roster of Revolutionary War soldiers buried in Ohio. Wilbur R. Branthoover, compiler. Veterans Affairs, Ohio. Reprinted by OHSDAR. 1929.

The SAR doesn’t even use it any longer because the info has been found to be incorrect.  That is true – my John Duer who is buried in Ohio served in New Jersey and not Pennsylvania, that was my John’s cousin also named John.  

So, another dead end here.  Then I found another posting that stated that Thomas had been in the War of 1812.  That was news to me as I had checked online and in the National Archives and could never find him involved in that conflict.  The posting had a citation (hurray!) and when I followed up this is what I found:

It was a John Duer and not Thomas that served.  Someone had misindexed and then hadn’t checked the original source.  And the John named to have served in the War of 1812 was my John’s grandson but not descended from Thomas.  You have to laugh at this – I discovered the mistake on November 2, 2019, 107 years to the day that this cousin John left the service.  

Yes, I’m deeply disappointed that the newly found leads led to nothing but I’m not giving up.  Several people have told me that I’m never going to find what I’m looking for but I don’t agree.  I’m thinking boots on the ground might be my next action.  Unfortunately, that will have to wait a while.  

In the meantime, I’m moving on to other lines.  Oh, Duers, why doth disappoint me so?

Another Duer Synchronicity


The universe has made some odd Duer connections for me lately and I just have to share!

For my new readers, I’ve been enamored with my Duer lines for the past several years after I received an out of the blue email from a Duer genealogist who informed me I had wrongly recorded the surname as Dure in my Ancestry.com tree. Edgar sent me an electronic version of his work which went back generations and within two weeks, he died. The good news was that he got the information out before he passed; the bad news was I could never ask him questions or collaborate on further research with him. The odd thing about that email was that it did not go through Ancestry but Edgar had somehow gotten my personal email. I never learned how he tracked me down. It also was received at a time I was extremely busy with family matters that strengthened the Duer connection.

The weirdest occurrence at the time I received the information was to discover one of my children had followed the same path as the Gateway ancestors. My child had spent a college term in Cambridge, England, decided to live in Grenada, West Indies upon graduation and then relocated to Morristown, New Jersey. Seriously, who follows that migration? Apparently, others in my family.

The Gateway ancestor, Thomas Duer, had married Mary Ann Hollingshead who had been born in the West Indies and with her father, relocated to Sussex County, New Jersey. Her parents were from Great Britain, as were Thomas’. My child was following the same immigration routes as her ancestors 250 years before. The problem was I only had 2 weeks to research as the dear child was once again relocating and I would have no reason (or place to stay for cheap) in Morristown. During breaks in the packing, I’d planned to visit the library which contained the oldest remaining records of the area. The night before my arrival, there was a gas explosion and the library was off limits. I was beyond disappointed. I did check out several other research facilities around the area but discovered nothing. (And yes, I did make a trip back later to visit the library when it reopened and I mined it for some small tidbits of info.)

Although researching in the Sussex County area had been disappointing I found another way to gather information. Edgar had not made his work public which I promptly did and that has opened the universe to many connections that have enabled me to put together the family’s dynamics over centuries. To me, it’s a very interesting family who never backed down from their beliefs which were way ahead of the society in which they lived. That character strength led to records, mainly court, which have been fascinating to read.

For the past 2 years I’ve been trying to connect Revolutionary War Patriot John Duer to his son, Thomas. Thomas died intestate before John so he wasn’t named in John’s will. Records from New Jersey are scant but last month I did find a document through FamilySearch.org that placed John, his wife, Susannah, and Thomas, all in the same place at the same time in Sussex. They had witnessed a will of a widow of the town’s physician. I learned that Susannah was illiterate, John had wonderful handwriting and Thomas, not so much. Thomas would have been 18, of legal age to testify in court that he had witnessed the widow’s wishes.

The record I wished to view was only available at a Family History Library so I trekked to one, accessed the microfilm, and promptly saved it to a thumb drive. I checked the thumb drive before I left the facility. All good. Until I got home and tried to open it. I can’t explain why but only half of the first page of the will was visible and it was the part that didn’t have the Duer signatures. The facility was now closed and wouldn’t reopen until the following week so I sought out another library location. My husband offered to go as it was quite a drive. We made it through a violent rain storm and I again found the record quickly (thanks to clearly writing the citation down) and triple checked that the document was saved intact. This time, I was successful. It seems I must work extra hard on this line to move forward!

I know from land records that the family relocated to what is now West Virginia/southern Ohio shortly after the will was written. I’m still trying to hunt down those deeds. I have found 2 clues to their existence but have been unable to locate the exact location. I decided to spend the summer working on that project.

I began by reading up on various companies that sold land during the late 18th century in the U.S. and track down where the land grant records were held. John is not listed in Bounty Land records held by the government so I decided to pursue private collections, such as the Ohio Company, whose records reside at Marietta College.

I got a beep on my phone that an email had come through so I checked as I was anticipating a response from Marietta College. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to have received 3 photos of the grave of Thomas. I had placed a request on Find-A-Grave and Billion Graves several years ago but no one picked it up, probably because the cemetery is so remote. The sender was a gentleman I had met once at a local to me genealogy meeting. In the twisted Duer way I discover information about the family, I had signed in and put my current area of research was Trumbull County. At the conclusion of the program about Cuban genealogy, the gentleman asked who I was. I waved and he said he wanted to have a word with me. After the meeting concluded he informed me that he was from Trumbull County, Ohio and he had never met anyone else in our area that was researching that location. We exchanged contact info and I asked him if he knew of anyone I could reach out to to obtain a picture of the gravestone. He said he would try his friend. I was not surprised when a week later he told me his friend had become ill and would not be able to visit the cemetery. So again, out of the blue, nearly two years after we met, the gentleman, also named Ed, remembered my request while visiting the area and surprised me with the photos.

I decided to share them with the only other person I had ever connected with who has Trumbull County roots – a former genealogy society member who still lives in that area but due to age, can no longer drive. I forwarded the pictures to her because when we first connected two years ago, she told me that Thomas had almost killed her. I was understandably confused since he died in 1829 and she was still alive but she went on to explain that she was doing a cemetery clean up and had tripped and fallen over his stone. She and other genealogy society members had righted and replaced it.

A few days went by and while I was outside speaking with the house painter I had hired, my cell rang. I excused myself as I saw the area code was from Trumbull County. Sure enough, it was the dear woman who had righted Thomas’ gravestone and we talked about my latest findings and where I was headed with the research. Hanging up, I explained to my painter how excited I was to receive the photos and to collaborate with someone so knowledgeable who lived in the area I was researching. The painter, who had gone to high school with one of my children, asked where I was researching. When I told him he laughed and informed me that his family had first emigrated from Greece to Trumbull County and he had spent the last 10 years living in the area as he still has family there who are bridge painters.

I was speechless. The universe was clearly making connections and the discovery was in my own backyard. Very weird! Even stranger, I had planned to visit Cuba for the first time 3 days later. I had only attended the local genealogy meeting where I met Ed because I wanted information in preparation for a trip to Cuba. We had had a tropical storm the previous day of that meeting and I debated whether I should drive across bridges to get there as the wind was still strong. At the end, the genealogy bug won and I made the trip. I’m so glad I did!

Patience is a virtue I have trouble possessing. Maybe that’s the lesson the universe is trying to teach me. The Duer seeds were planted a few years ago and the universe, in its own time, are maturing them and now I’m reaping the fruits. I can’t wait for the final harvest – that missing document that clearly shows that Thomas is the son of John. People have told me repeatedly I won’t find it but I believe it’s out there somewhere. The search continues.

DNA Has Changed My Habits…and not for the good, I’m afraid!


I just came to the realization that DNA has made me a lazy genealogist. Here’s why…

I have made public several trees that are quite large. The reason for their size is because I once did surname studies – I tried to link all of the Leiningers, Harbaughs, Duers, Kos[s]s, Landfairs and Kuhns in the U.S. from an identified gateway ancestor. I want contact from far flung relatives as I don’t know these folks personally and needing closer relatives input, I made the trees public.

Due to the many places I’ve placed the trees online, their size, and my weekly blog posts, I get over 500 comments weekly. Granted, many are spam, but quite a few are serious inquiries.

Before DNA, I would go to the tree mentioned, search for the name provided in the inquiry, review what citations I had and then respond.

Since DNA, I find myself instead responding with my own query – Have you had your DNA analyzed and if so, what provider did you use and what is your profile name?

Last evening, after sending the same question repeatedly, it hit me that this is a seriously lazy response to well meaning folks who’ve taken the time to contact me.

My intentions were never to be rude but I’m afraid that’s how it’s appearing. I’m not sure how I’d feel if I was the recipient and wasn’t into DNA. I queried colleagues in my local genealogical society and they think my response is acceptable but I’m not so sure. What do you think, readers?! Would you be offended if you emailed someone for more information and received a question in response?

Another Duer Synchronocity!

I’ve written before about the odd experiences I’ve had when I research my Duer line (to read – type Duer in the search box on my website GenealogyAtHeart.com). I just had another one…

Earlier this month, someone found my Duer info that I’ve posted in numerous places online – my website, Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com, FamilySearch.org, FindMyPast.com, and emailed me as he is a descendant of John P and Susannah Miller Duer. We’ve been exchanging emails and he has been in contact with another distant cousin who has had DNA tested through Ancestry.com. She compiled a very nice DNA chart of the descendants of John and Susannah.

On Friday, I received an email from a third distant cousin who is trying to find info on one of John’s sons, Joseph, who has been rather elusive. At the same time she was emailing me asking about additional info, I received the email from the first cousin with the chart made by another cousin who just happens to be descended from this Joseph.

My goodness, that’s just weird!

My descendants have tested through Ancestry (I did 23andMe), so I logged on and just found another distant cousin who recently tested. I emailed her to include on my interested in Duer research list.

It wouldn’t be seem much of a coincidence since I’ve written extensively about the Duers and I have so many public trees out there in internetland. What makes this odd is after close to 200 years, I get 2 emails from descendants who haven’t been aware of each other on the same afternoon. I just love how technology has enabled us all to reconnect!

MyHeritage SuperSearch Update


For a number of years, Ancestry.com has provided users with the ability to add their input regarding incorrect info on record indexes. Recently, MyHeritage has devised a similar feature that will allow for corrections of spellings or transcription errors.

Simply click “Suggest Alternatives” and add your info. You’ll need to type the first and last name of the individual to be corrected, use the drop down menu to select the reason and add your two cents in the comments. If you’re like me, your ancestor’s names were never recorded the same as some of them were doozy’s to spell – Leininger, Bollenbacher, and even short ones like Duer seem to have been problematic for those enumerators.

Here’s an additional tip – keep a list of all the many, varied and unusual surname spellings that you find as that could help you in the future when you’re stuck. I add them to an Excel spreadsheet with tabs for my preferred spelling of the surname and a column where I found the name spelled differently. Happy Hunting!

Amazing Info Found – The Net As a Beginning Tool

Life has returned to semi-normal after the recent hurricanes. By semi, I mean the county still hasn’t collected the debris, milk and gas aren’t available everywhere and several parks remain closed due to damage. When our power was out for several days, I limited my internet usage to conserve my cell phone battery. It wasn’t until I went to clean my spam filter for my website, Genealogyatheart, that I discovered a message from a distant cousin. He had discovered my site and our connection through our great grandfather by simply Googling the last name.
I replied to his comment and he included one of his nieces on our messages. Between the 3 of us, family puzzles began to be solved quickly. In the past week, I discovered that my paternal grandparents had hosted a small family reunion at their farm in the 1960’s. My parent’s divorce was finalized by that time so my mom knew nothing of the event. Without my cousins input, I wouldn’t have known about it, either.
That got my brain going about unidentified people on an old movie I had inherited from my father. Hubby and I have had all our 8 mm films and VHS tapes professionally saved to a DVD. (Side note: If you think your VHS tapes aren’t so old they need to be saved, think again. The oldest VHS tape from 1984 was fading away while some of the 1950 movies looked as good as new). The DVD contains still photos of some of the movies so hubby took those of the mystery people, along with another CD we had made of all the old family photos we had scanned years ago, and sent them off to both cousins for help in identifying these unknown folks.
We’re fairly certain that the picture above is of my grandmother, Lola, and her older brother, Stanley. Why? I have the photo and they have the photo. They are descended from Stanley and it was in their box of photos of his family. My step mother had placed all the old photos in one box so I was never sure who any of my unlabeled people were. Were they a Leininger, Landfair, Kuhn, Kable, Kettering, Bollenbacher, Adams or Duer? I had tried the old Google Picassa facial recognition feature and it helped somewhat but I didn’t have enough identified photos to have it match effectively.
These cousins sent me a few other photos electronically over the past week to see if it would help but Picassa is no longer supported by Google and it kept freezing so no answers there! I’m hopeful they’ll be able to match some of the photos on the CD to photos in their box so at least we can categorize by surname.
The cousin who initially contacted me stated their tale is that the family originated from Ireland and not Bavaria as my line recalled. I tend to believe them for several reasons. I’ve had another family member misidentified’s country of origin as Germany instead of being born in the U.S. Maria Duer Kuhn’s death certificate states she was born in Germany but she was born in Ohio. Her son was the informant. Her husband was the one born in Germany. It seems like my Great British ancestors assumed the German culture of those they married in Ohio. Additional support for their story is that my DNA has a much higher likelihood of Great Britain then it does of German. Further, Landfair is not a German surname. When I questioned that years ago I was told that it probably had been changed from Lamphere. Could be but no proof of that was ever discovered.
One of the cousins also has a copy of my great grandfather’s funeral program which she will send me. I’ve blogged about him previously – he’s the gentleman who “accidentally fell from a platform” and there was a followup investigation a few months after his death resulting in additional paperwork after the death certificate. The lesson there was make sure you get the complete records you request.
This gets me to the point of today’s blog – there remains A LOT of additional information about your ancestors out there – in attics, basements and the brains of the living who recall the unrecorded stories past down. The internet can help you get to those that hold the key you need but alone, the internet is not enough. Reach out to long lost family and you just might discover the info you seek. Happy Hunting!

Genealogical Kindness Needed

Seriously, folks, I’ve had my fill this week of dealing with difficult people. IMHO, life’s too short for bad manners.

I have a very large online public tree on several sites. The reason it’s large is because I’ve done surname studies over the last 20+ years for several lines with unique names – Duer, Harbaugh and Leininger. Taking the last family history book published, that would be 1947 for the Harbaughs and 1973 for the Leiningers, I’ve add all the info into the tree from those sources and then tried to prove the info was correct by adding additional citations. I then tried to update the original works going forward so that family could reconnect. The Duer information was unpublished; I received it from a family historian about 2010.

The gateway ancestor’s for all of these lines died in the 19th century or earlier so some of those included in the tree are far removed from my direct line. I don’t personally know these people. I made the tree public to help reconnect and aid in correcting any errors.

Three times this week I have heard from distant relatives and the comments/emails were rude. One woman told me my tree was confusing her. I offered to help but needed to know what was confusing about it. She said I had no pictures for a person she was interested in. Huh? I understand visual learning but really, you’re complaining because there was no picture.

Later that day, someone posted a comment that they were sure I was wrong about a gateway ancestor because they had their Y-DNA done. I responded to please share and I’d be happy to look further. No response. I wouldn’t have been concerned if the individual had emailed me privately but to post a comment and then not respond when someone is willing to check further is wrong.

That evening, I hit the trifecta when someone commented on another line that he was certain “you must have made this up.” I was taken aback. Did you not look at the citations? Did you not see my comment that mentioned I concurred with other researchers that it was possible two brothers were confused so I included both names as the possible father?

The old adage we can choose our friends but not our relatives applies here! That last comment ticked me off so much that I considered making my tree private. I haven’t done so because I think the good outweighs the few thoughtless individuals.

Thanks, dear readers, for reading my rant. Please help me spread genealogical kindness this week. It’s sorely needed.

I will be taking a much needed vacation so will not have a blog post until I return the end of July.

Genealogy Throw Back Idea That Worked!


I definitely went old school genealogy this week and like back in the day, it worked! I’m still heavily researching my Duer lines and after meeting someone from Trumbull County, Ohio at a local genealogy meeting a few months ago, decided I should join from afar, the Trumbull County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogy Society.

On Tuesday I received the first newsletter in the mail and I was listed on the first page, along with other new members. In the back of the newsletter was a list of surnames that members were researching. No one was looking for Byrds and Duers but there were several who were researching Morrisons.

Now Morrison is way too common of a last name so I wasn’t counting on finding much for John and Eleanor (Jackson) Morrison but leaving no stone unturned, promptly emailed two of the three individuals listed. I’m going to have to go really primitive with the third person – no email address was provided but there was an address and a snail mail letter has to be sent.

I received email responses within hours and both were researching the same line! Serendipitously, one individual lives very close to me and mentioned th
at she recognized my name as she has followed my online trees for some time. It definitely is a small world! The other individual was a descendant of my Jane Morrison’s sister, Nancy, and she provided me information I previously did not have. I was not aware that Nancy had remarried after her first husband’s death which explains why I did not have a death date for her.

I don’t often blindly send emails anymore so I’m really glad I used this approach. Give it a try!

Saturday Serendipity


I’ve blogged often about my mysterious Duer family who left scarce records behind. Last Saturday I attended a local genealogy workshop hosted by Thomas MacEntee. While he was in Chicago and we were in Florida, my serendipitous encounter happened regarding Trumbull County, Ohio.
About once a month since August, out of the blue, some small item shows up which gives me a clearer picture of the family. The first weird event occurred in August when I made a call to a reluctant Trumbull County Clerk asking for help in locating cemetery records. When she told me I wasn’t going to find anything she actually meant she wasn’t going to look, as access to the original books were restricted to the general public. I told her the connections I’ve made on this line and how family history has seemed to repeat (see my blog Circular Migration Patterns – How History Repeats Itself). She was hooked and agreed to try to find the cemetery records, though she warned me I might not hear back for weeks. I laughed and told her I bet she turns to the exact page I needed. Ten minutes later she called to say my prediction was correct and she was spooked! Unable to place the book on the copy machine which was down, the clerk used her smart phone to take pictures of the page and then texted them to me.
During the hurricanes in September, I tried to locate a deed from 1805. Another Trumbull County employee told me that they were no longer available. I told her a little about the family and within an hour, I was on the phone with a retired genealogist who used to be president of the local history society. When the employee had called her with the name I was searching, Thomas Duer, the genealogist said, “Oh, I must speak with this woman as Thomas almost killed me once.” She explained that his tombstone had toppled and she had tripped over it during a cemetery cleanup several years ago. She had a photo of the stone that I had been searching for but her computer died and she had no backup. With a large personal library, she looked up the Duers and Byrds in every resource she had. That’s when I discovered that Thomas’ family had been left out of his father John’s will.
In October, I discovered who was Hazen, who had been named in John’s will. I had tried to find a newspaper obituary the previous month for him but they weren’t available. By the end of October, they were. Turned out Hazen was a grandson of John’s, the son of one of John’s deceased daughters. As I pondered why one grandson was named and not others who were descended from deceased son Thomas, I hoped for another wonderful find.
That discovery arrived unexpectedly right before Thanksgiving when I checked an unsourced tree on MyHeritage. Thomas’ wife, Hannah, was named as the wife of John Preston. Using FamilySearch, I found the marriage record; the reason I had never found it before was because Hannah’s married last name, Duer, had been indexed as Dure. That was odd as I originally had the surname as Dure from information I had received from a second cousin in the 1990’s. I only discovered the Duer name in 2010 when a family researcher contacted me via email. I was never able to find out how he connected with me as he died a few weeks after we began corresponding. But back to Hannah, she and John Preston had married just a few months after her first husband’s father-in-law had died and she and her children had been left out of the will.
I didn’t research much in December due to the holidays. My last words to my husband as I left for the genealogy meeting last Saturday were in jest; I hoped I make another awesome Duer find. The workshop was on finding the living so I really didn’t expect it to be useful for my Duer’s as the family relocated by 1860.
I arrived early to the meeting because I knew traffic would be fierce with the college championship games being held in the city. The parking garage line was long and when I finally got up to the ticket machine, it was empty. There was a line of cars behind me so I couldn’t back out but I couldn’t go forward, either, as the gate was down. I got out of the car and told the woman behind me I’d call security. Like the old fashion game of telephone, the message was passed from car to car.
Soon security arrived with tickets but the machine had jammed and then the gate was stuck. By now, it was pouring down rain as a cold front was coming through. I considered going home. A few minutes later the gate was open and I had a parking space. Because of the strong wind, I decided to just run into the auditorium as the umbrella would have been useless.
Dripping wet, I signed in and found a seat as the attendees were having a discussion about their brick walls. I wasn’t really paying attention when I caught the words of the woman in front of me “where do I look for divorce records?” No one replied so I asked in what location. “Ohio,” she said. I asked if she had used the Wiki on FamilySearch as I had found divorce records in several Ohio counties through the Common Plea records. She thanked me and another attendee asked a question. I went back to looking at my emails on my phone when a gentleman came up to me and asked where I was researching in Ohio. I told him Trumbull and Mercer Counties for my Duers. He said, “I was born and raised in Trumbull County.” My heart started thumping. “Oh my goodness,” I thought, “I was just kidding this morning when I said I hoped to find some Duer info.” We exchanged email addresses and yes, he also has a personal library of Trumbull County information which he has graciously shared with me in the past week. He also volunteered to have a friend of his go to the cemetery and take a picture of Thomas’ grave as soon as the snow melts. I’m hoping that’s my March Miracle!
This gentleman also explained to me why most of the records are not available. Several years ago there was a sewage leak in the basement of the building where the records were housed and most were destroyed. I can add this disaster to my burned courthouses, gas explosions and ripped out pages!
So, on that blustery Saturday I discovered a living knowledgeable individual from the area I was researching at a workshop on finding living people. That turned out not to be one of the methods but it certainly worked for me!

Test Driving MyHeritage.com and Making an Amazing Find!

I had a free account with MyHeritage but I was never a subscriber until recently when a 50% discount offer was made for members of the National Genealogical Society.  I believe the discount is now offered for a limited time to everyone – check it out here.  I decided to give it a try and I immediately scaled a brick wall on my Duer line that I’ve recently been researching.  Here’s how I did it…

I downloaded my gedcom from Ancestry.com to my home computer and then uploaded to MyHeritage.  My tree is large so I received an email from MyHeritage once it had been loaded and was ready to go.  The following day I went on the site and it was easy to upload a site photo (I used my Genealogy At Heart logo that I keep jpg’d in Dropbox and my Google+ pic, added a blurb about what my research interests are and what I’m currently investigating.  I happened to write that my brick wall was to determine the link between John Duer and his purported son, Thomas.  Thomas died in 1829 intestate and John, in 1831, with a will that omitted Thomas, understandably since he was deceased, but did not include any of Thomas’ children.  That wouldn’t have been odd, however, John did include a grandson who lived out of the Trumbull County, Ohio area, who was the son of one of John’s deceased daughters.  Why include a grandson that lived in another state and not the grandchildren that lived next door?  Hmm.

I have researched probate, land and court records, cemetery records, tried to find Bible and church records, obituaries, collateral lines, biographies, area histories, and contacted area genealogical societies and libraries but found nothing. The census and tax lists just aren’t helpful since they do not show relationships that far back.

I put the research aside for a month but it’s been gnawing at me.  I originally made the connection of John and Thomas through the work of Edgar Duer Whitley, a gentleman who had found me on the internet 6 years ago from a Rootsweb posting I had made in the early 2000’s.  My tree proved lineage to Thomas but I couldn’t go farther back.  His tree showed lineage to Thomas’ son John who had a daughter, Maria, that I’m descended from. Edgar emailed me and kindly sent me an electronic copy of all his years of sleuthing.  He never had a citation, though, of how Thomas and John were related. Shortly after he emailed me he no longer responded to my emails.  He was quite up in age and I figured he was deceased.  Thus, I couldn’t know how he knew that Thomas was the son of John.

I would love to tell you that MyHeritage found the answer super quickly but that didn’t happen.  I actually didn’t receive any Record or Smart Matches from them.  I assume that’s because my uploaded tree is well sourced.

I decided to snoop around their Family Trees located under the Research category.  I entered birth and death location and death year info for Thomas Duer.  A number of trees popped up with displays similarly to Ancestry.com.  I clicked on the first one and didn’t find anything exciting.  The citations were all from Ancestry trees.  Ugh!

Then things got interesting – I clicked on Thomas’ wife Hannah as the tree owner had her listed as Hannah Preston.   I had her listed as Hannah Byrd.  When I went to Hannah’s page I discovered that she had remarried to a James Preston in September 1831 in Trumbull County, Ohio.  How had I missed that?  Interestingly, here’s how the marriage license is written:

 
“Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” database with images, Family Search (https://familysearch.org:  21 Nov 2016), Trumbull>Marriage licenses 1828-1839 vol 2>image 55 of 181; county courthouses, Ohio.

Notice the right side records Hannah’s surname as “Dewer” but in the body of the text as “Duer.”  The record is indexed by Dewer so I never found it.  The tree owner had found it because he was descended from James Preston.  Putting in “James Preston” in the FamilySearch.org search form would have brought it up.

How do I know that the Hannah Duer is the wife of Thomas.  There was only one other Hannah Duer living in the country in 1831 and she was 10 years old, residing in Pennsylvania.  My Hannah and James were both born in New Jersey in 1775.  James’ first wife died in 1829 in childbirth with twins shortly after Hannah’s husband, Thomas, died.  Both had young children in the home so it makes sense they would have blended their families.

I went back to Ancestry.com, Familysearch.org and Rootsweb’s World Connect Project, to see if other’s had this information.  Nope!  Only the one tree on MyHeritage.  For me, this was definitely worth the price.

It looks like the marriage didn’t last long which could explain why no one else has the information on their trees.  By 1840, James was living with the children from his first wife and Hannah was living with one of her children as the tick mark in the age category for a female most likely is for her.  That age tick mark is lacking on James’ record.  In 1850, the couple remained separated per the census records. Hannah’s tombstone notes her first husband’s name, Duer.  James lies next to his first wife.  It appears that this was a relationship that both sides wanted to forget.  This could also explain why Hannah’s first husband’s purported father, John, omitted her from his will written in 1830.  I’m now searching for a divorce record.  This story just gets more interesting with every find! I’m very happy to have found this information that quickly with MyHeritage’s site.  Once I’m done with my Duer’s I’ll be searching their site for other clues on additional lines.  Happy Hunting!