Hmm, What to Do When You Can’t Find The Record You Seek

It’s been a slow genealogy week for me.  One of our computers is down and another is acting wonky – freezes and shuts itself off.  Since I’m still holed up at home this greatly impacts my genealogical research.

Last week I blogged about my 3rd great grandmother Jane Morrison Duer who was mostly forgotten by her children and I was seeking to discover why.  I suspected that discovering the divorce documents may shed light on this mystery.

Jane married John Duer in Trumbull County, Ohio on 29 Jul 1827.  The couple had 11 children together and relocated to Holmes County and later, Mercer County, Ohio.  They are last found together in the 1860 US Federal census with their youngest children residing in a residence two units away from their oldest surviving married daughter, Maria Duer Kuhn.  

John remarried widow Margaret Martz Searight in Mercer County on 11 December 1864.  John was raised a Presbyterian so there most likely is a divorce document somewhere. In other words, I doubt he was a polygamist.

I suspect he asked for the divorce because Jane’s tombstone in Kessler Cemetery records her as “wife of John Duer.”  But she wasn’t that at the time of her death, 10 July 1866.  

When the second wife died, her tombstone, also in Kessler Cemetery, records her as the “wife of John Duer.”  She actually was the widow of by the time of her death but she was also the widow of her first husband.  I suspect that her children purposely engraved the stone to reflect what was on Jane’s.

No tombstone has been found for John.  Family legend says he’s buried next to Jane, which is possible but unconfirmed because Kessler’s records are incomplete.  There is a sunken space next to Jane that likely is a burial but who is in that space is unknown.  Second wife is buried in another section of the cemetery and there are marked stones on both side of her so that is not where John lies.  

I was hoping to find the divorce document to get a better understanding of the circumstances.  I guessed that John asked for divorce; I reasoned Jane would not have wanted all eternity to be known as his wife if she had wanted out of the relationship.  She did not remarry so likely was not involved in another relationship.  

I did not think finding the divorce document would be difficult but is has proven to be.  In Mercer County, the Common Plea Court holds divorce records and they are not available online.  I wrote to the Clerk and was informed that a search was made between 1860-1866 and no divorce record was found.

I then thought that perhaps the divorce was granted in Adams County, Indiana where John had purchased property in June 1860 when he was still married to Jane and where he eventually resided.  He was shown with his second wife, their children, a child from her first marriage and two children from his first marriage in Adams in the 1870 census.  

In  March and May1863, John sued in Common Plea Court in Mercer for money owed him in the sale of property he had made in November 1862.  Jane was not mentioned in the court document so it’s likely that she was not on the deed.  

Why he remarried in Mercer and not Adams is another mystery.  

I reached out to Adams County this week and was informed yesterday they have no divorce record.

So, do I give up.  NOPE!  I did ask both Mercer and Adams County Clerks where I might look and neither answered that question.  My next step was to email a genealogist who lives in the Mercer area for recommendations.  

I’m looking forward to the reply.  

Forgotten Jane Morrison Duer

Courtesy of Cousin Becky on Find-a-Grave. Burial in Kessler Cemetery
Courtesy of Cousin Becky on Find-a-Grave. Burial also in Kessler Cemetery. John Duer was married to Margaret at the time of his first wife, Jane’s burial, in 1866.

Why was Jane Morrison Duer divorced from her husband John after about 37 years of marriage and eleven children together? Jane followed John from her native Trumbull County, Ohio to Killbuck Township, Holmes, Ohio and on to Mercer County, Ohio over their long years together. What would cause the relationship to end? I have a working hypothesis but no proof. This was a family most likely stressed by societal and personal crises.

Of the 11 children, 5 predeceased Jane. The couple’s first child, a female, died between 1830-1840. We only know of her existence from the 1830 census record’s tick mark that she was in the age group as being “under 5.” No grave has been discovered for her so she remains nameless.

The next child, William, was certified as insane at age 23 in Holmes County and sent to the Ohio Lunatic Asylum. There are only two other records found for William. In the first, he was listed in the 1860 U.S. Federal Census as an insane laborer, age 30, residing in the asylum in Columbus, Franklin, Ohio. That is correct but his birth in Germany is not. That’s interesting to note as his sister and several siblings did marry into the Kuhn family that were immigrants from Germany. Maria, William’s oldest surviving sister, had her birth place listed in error as Germany on her death record provided by her son. William and Maria most likely were born in Trumbull County, Ohio before the family relocated to Holmes County in the late 1930’s.

The second document is a notice in the newspaper, the Holmes County Farmer, on 14 March 1861 recommending that community members write to him and the 7 other “inmates.” I infer he must have been the longest committed as his name appears first. Although alphabetically his surname would be recorded first the others listed are not in alpha order. The article states that “some of these poor unfortunates are supposed to be incurable.” Most of his family had moved on to Mercer County, Ohio by the time the clip was published. No death date has ever been found for William so I suspect he died at the asylum. I am waiting for the organization that holds the records to reopen as they are closed due to the pandemic.

Next oldest son, Thomas Ayers, relocated to Winterset, Madison, Iowa by 1860, enlisted in the Civil War and died unmarried and likely childless of Febris Typhoides on 5 May 1862 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Daughter Maria wed Henry Kuhn and the couple lived two residences away from Jane and John in 1860. Henry enlisted in the Civil war, leaving Maria to raise their young children. During this time period, John and Jane divorced. Although no record has been found, John remarried in 1864, two years prior to Jane’s death. John relocated with his second wife to Adams County, Indiana where he had two deeds for land. Neither deed had then wife Jane’s name on them. When John died, Maria is not named in his will. Maria’s death certificate names both of her parents.

Son John B. had married first in 1860 but his wife Keziah died a few months after the marriage. He then married Carolina, one of the sibling of Maria’s husband, in 1863 and moved across the state line to farm in Adams County, Indiana. He seems to have had a falling out with his father as like Maria, he is not named in John’s will, even though he was residing in the same county as his father. Marriage records found do not name John B.’s parents. No death certificate for him as been located.

Mary Ann was found living with John and his second wife in 1870, however, she also was not named in his will. She may have had a falling out with her sister Maria as shortly after mother Jane’s death in July 1866, Mary Ann took Adam Kuhn, Maria’s brother-in-law, to court in Mercer County. Pregnant with Adam’s child, the unmarried couple could not agree on a financial settlement. Adam, in December 1866, was jailed by Jacob Baker, who married my 3rd great aunt, Caroline Bollenbacher, as Adam refused surety.

Sister Maria and her husband Henry was close to Adam as evidenced by their naming their son, born in February 1866, after him.

Mary Ann and Adam’s child must not have survived as there is no further court records of payment. He married an Elizabeth or Catharin Harper in Van Wert, Ohio 16 January 1868 and went on to have 5 daughters before dying at age 44, possibly due to injuries sustained during the Civil War when he fought in Union Company F, 99th Ohio Infantry.

Mary Ann married first, James Furman in 1875 who must have died shortly after the marriage as she married second John L. Ceraldo in 1879. John’s first wife had probably died as the child, Daniel, shown living with Mary Ann and John in 1880 would have been too old to have been theirs together. No record is ever found again of the boy who is presumed to have died. Mary died in 1909 in Michigan; her husband named John Duer as her father but her mother’s name was unknown. Although she had married after Jane’s death, why would she have not informed her husband in their 30 years of marriage what her mother’s name had been? Like Maria and John B., Mary Ann was not named in her father’s will.

Son Prosser remained in Holmes County, Ohio after the rest of the family relocated to Mercer County. He enlisted in the Civil War and died at Stones River, Tennessee on 2 January 1863. He did not marry or have any known children.

Daughter Sarah Jane married another sibling of Maria’s husband, Phillip, in 1870, four years after Jane had died. Sarah was also not named in her father’s will. Although she died in 1920, no death certificate or obituary has been found for her.

Son Mark Duer disappears from records after being found in 1850 with the family in Holmes, Ohio. He likely died there but no burial location has been found.

Son James William was found living with John and his second wife in Adams, Indiana in 1870 yet he, too, was not named in John’s will. When James wed in 1887 he named his mother as Sarah J. Marisum sic Morrison. James would have been 18 years old when his mother Mary J[ane] died. How did he not remember her name? Perhaps because she was called by her middle name and he thought of his sister Sarah and not Mary as having the first name as his mother. He spent the rest of his life living in Adams County where he was killed in a bike accident. He death certificate names his father as John but the mother was listed as unknown. It was completed by his son, Elra Leroy. Elra was born 6 years after his grandfather John had died. How did he remember John’s name but not the name of his grandmother Jane?

Youngest child, Angeline, was named in her father’s will. She is the only child of John and Jane’s to be named. She was living with him and his second wife in 1870. She married in 1874 and remained in Adams, Indiana until her death in 1933. Like her siblings, her father John is named on her death certificate. Her mother is recorded as Catharine, born in Ohio. The information was provided by Angeline’s daughter, Effie. Effie probably remembered her grandfather as she would have been 9 years old and living in the same area as him when he died. Where Effie came up with her grandmother’s name as Catherine is unknown as there is no Catherines in the family; her paternal grandmother’s name was Nancy.

Jane is buried in Kessler Cemetery and according to the trustees, the records are incomplete. They do not show who purchased the plot or if her husband John is buried next to her as family lore claims. There is a sunken area that appears to be burial next to Jane but records do not exist to state who is interred there. There is no tombstone. John’s second wife was buried in Kessler but in a different location. John is not buried on either side of his second wife. What is obvious is Jane’s tombstone that is boldly engraved “wife of John Duer” even though she wasn’t at the time of her death.

I suspect daughter Maria purchased the headstone as she was the only child still residing in Mercer County at the time of Jane’s death that had the means to afford it. Maria’s husband was a prosperous farmer and active in the community. In my opinion, Maria wanted the legitimacy of the first marriage noted for eternity.

It’s likely that Margaret’s children paid for her tombstone and wanted to show the world they, too, were legitimate so also engraved their mother as the wife of John.

The year 1866 must have been a tremendously difficult time for Maria. She had 5 children age 7 and under, her parents had recently divorced, her father remarried, her husband was away fighting for the Union in the Civil War, she has a brother that was committed to an insane asylum, 5 deceased siblings and her sister files a bastardly charge against her brother-in-law. What a mess!

But my underlying question is why did Jane and John’s children not hand down their mother’s name to their spouses/children?

Perhaps the state of the union, along with the loss of so many children caused Jane to suffer from the same melancholy as her son, William. John may have abandoned Jane for a new relationship with the widow who owned property close to his newly purchased land across the state lines in Indiana.

I believe Jane was forgotten by her adult children because it was too painful to remember those difficult times. They did not want to inform their children of their mother’s and brother’s mental state. No family member I have reached out to was aware of Williams insanity commitment. The family just didn’t speak about painful situations.

Last week I received a call from a clerk with the Mercer Ohio Common Plea Court. She had searched for a divorce record for John and Jane between 1860 and 1866. None was found. Perhaps John abandoned Jane and the paperwork was filed in Adams County, Indiana where I’ll be searching next. It’s possible that single document may help me better understand the straw that was the backbreaker of the relationship. The search continues!

The Caribbean Connection…An Update

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!

Stuck on Where to Find Family Records – Try This Underused Resource

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!

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!