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!

Missing Tombstones


Photo courtesy of Cousin Becky, Find-a-grave

Last week I wrote about my awesome find locating the deed for one of John and Jane Duer’s children, Mary, in Mercer County, Ohio.  I mentioned that no one knows where John Duer was buried and that it is my guess he is buried next to his first wife, Jane.  

It is frustrating when we can’t find a burial location so before I get into why I believe that is where his body lies, I want to take a moment to list reasons of why someone may not have a tombstone.

1.  Lack of Money – many families, especially if a breadwinner died in his/her prime, would have certainly been impacted by the loss of income.  If it is between feeding the children and memorializing the dead, it is understandable that the living become a priority over the tombstone. 

2.  Family Dissension – unfortunately, as we all know too well, families don’t always get along.  In my own, I know of a brother and sister who lived only a few miles from one another but did not speak after the death of their mother due to a disagreement over the mother’s care in a nursing home in her last year of life.  The sister had no other living relatives when she unexpectedly passed except her brother and a few step-siblings that lived far away from her.  The sister’s friends reached out to the brother when she died, taking up a collection and paying for the cremation.  They wanted to know what to do with her ashes but the brother stated he didn’t care.  The brother emailed me two months after his sister’s death to inform me she had died.  He never told me about the ashes or the disagreement.  I sent my condolences via an online memorial site.  The friends saw my post and contacted me inquiring what I would like to do since I appeared to be the next closest relative to the brother.  I accepted the ashes.  I paid for the internment in the cemetery where the mother is buried as the friends stated that was the deceased’s wish.  I did not pay for a stone as I believe that would be out of line while the brother is still alive. Perhaps I will have a small stone placed there someday. But what happens if the brother outlives me?  Then there will most likely never be a stone.  If a researcher ever checked with the cemetery, the records will clearly show that I requested the internment and where the location was.  I do not own the rights to the deceased’s Find-a-grave or Billion Graves memorial so no information has been placed there.  Perhaps someday I will and then I will add the burial location.  Sadly, in the interim, no one seems to have been concerned where the cremains were interred.  

3.  There is NO Burial Site – Regarding cremains, the family may have scattered the ashes as requested by the deceased. Placing a tombstone in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico just isn’t an option!

4.  Deceased Requests No Memorial – The family may be keeping with the wishes of the deceased who wants the “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” to be literal.

5.Religious Preference – My example here is poor because I really don’t know if this was the case with my husband’s 4th great paternal grandfather, Wilson Williams (1754-1831).  He is buried next to his wife, Margaret Hicks Williams, in Christ Church Cemetery, Nassau New York.  She has a lovely stone.  He has zilch.  The family could afford a stone and there is no indication that there was family dissension.  Although his death location is not noted in the current church’s records, it was recorded in an old work of cemetery transcriptions by Josephine C. Frost in 1913.  (Thank you, Josephine!)  In what appears to be empty space next to Margaret was once  “a common field stone marked W.W.”  In a past blog, I wrote that Wilson was a member of the Dutch Reformed Church and a common burial practice was marking a grave with a field stone.  Over the years, the stone has been lost and for a time, so, too, was our knowledge of where Wilson was buried since the church cemetery records are no longer in the church at that site.  If not for the Frost transcription we would still be wondering.

6. The Missing – for those individuals that are no longer in touch with their family for any number of reasons, a falling out, an abduction, etc., the location of their burial is unknown so family cannot place a stone.  Some families do place a memorial to the deceased in a cemetery as evidenced by the many fallen soldiers interred overseas who have a memorial in their hometown.  

7. Avoid Remembering – deceased murderers often do not have a stone to ward off those who seek out the grave to disrespect it.  Being eternally unnamed and forgotten is a final punishment for heinous crimes committed.

8.  The Stone was Lost – tombstones sink, they fall over, they are vandalized or some idiot decides they would make great construction material and steals them.  My 4th great paternal grandfather, Thomas Duer’s stone had toppled over in a rural Ohio cemetery that had become abandoned.  A local genealogy group righted the stone and moved it to be in line with the other stones but its present location is not exactly where he was buried.  

9.  The Burial Site Relocated -My husband’s 2nd great maternal grandfather’s child, Lincoln Mordecai Harbaugh’s (1846-1847) was once interred in a cemetery adjacent to the family church in Waynesboro, Franklin, Pennsylvania.  The church sold the property long after he died and the family relocated to Indiana.  His remains are interred in a group burial site in Green Hill Cemetery after the new owners wanted to expand the building.  

10. Chaos Following an Emergency – In some parts of the world today, due to the pandemic, those who have died are being buried in mass graves.  This is not a new phenomena.  During an ongoing emergency the need to inter takes precedence over individual burials.  Whether the site will eventually be marked with a memorial may or may not occur.

Perhaps you can think of more reasons why tombstones might not be found. 

In the case of my John Duer (1801-1885), I can only point to examining further family dissension as the reason why he doesn’t seem to have a stone.  At the time of John’s death he had a second wife and 8 surviving children, 4 of whom were prosperous and have elaborate tombstones of their own (Maria, John B., Sarah Jane and James William).  John died in Jefferson Township, Adams County, Indiana where he was residing with wife Margaret Ann Martz Searight Duer.  He knew he was ill as he made a will in August 1884.  He did not name his prosperous children in the will or his daughter Mary Ann, possibly because they didn’t need the money or perhaps, because he was not on speaking terms with them.  Children Angeline, Charles and Lucinda were all named to receive John’s property, along with his wife.  I also know from the will that John requested “that my body be burried (sic) in a manner suitable with my condition in life.” John wasn’t well to do but he did own 80 acres that he farmed and had few debts at the time of his death.  A tombstone was not against his religious beliefs; he was raised Presbyterian as a child but there is no church membership found for him as an adult.  

Mary “Jane,” his first wife who died after his second marriage and a few months after he had a son with his new wife, is buried in Kessler Cemetery, Chattanooga, Mercer, Ohio.  The cemetery records are not complete and do not state who or when her plot was purchased.  The family owns a plot next to her that is sunken and may contain the body of John.  Family tales state he is buried in Kessler.  His second wife is also buried in Kessler but not close to Jane.  There are tombstones on both sides of Margaret’s gravesite so he is not buried next to her.  

No death certificate has been found for John, nor an obituary or church records that may shed light on where he was interred.

Perhaps John’s older children did not think he needed a marker as his name is on Jane’s stone.  It would have been awkward putting a stone next to Jane’s that said “John Duer, husband of Margaret.”  Perhaps the children decided to ignore the situation and leave his plot unmarked.  Since Jane died AFTER John’s remarriage, her stone’s inscription of “Wife of John Duer” holds a clue.  Perhaps she didn’t remarry as she believed that one only marries once.  Maybe she had no preference but her surviving children had the stone engraved as a way to voice their unacceptance of the second marriage.  

The only way I’ll ever know if someone is buried next to Jane is if ground penetrating radar is used and I’m not planning on doing that.  Even if someone was found to be buried there I wouldn’t know for sure it was John unless the body was exhumed.  So, I’ll have to leave this Duer mystery unsolved for now.  Sigh.

The Mysterious Byrd Family

Skipped blogging last weekend because I was consumed by work from my other job – lots of teaching units were cut in my district and I was tasked with making new schedules for students.  Planned on blogging yesterday and got attached by wasps so my hand is swollen and I’m typing with only one hand now so this will be short!

Did the Tombstone Cake work in helping me find new info on my brick wall ancestors?  Sort of!  I ended up selecting Hannah Byrd, one of my paternal 4th great grandmothers, who was born in New Jersey and died in Ohio.  

With all the way to spell Byrd – Bird – Burd – Berd, it’s always made the search difficult.  

My mistake was thinking that she was born in Sussex, New Jersey as that is where her husband’s family was from.  I decided to research the only other Bird that lived in Trumbull County, Ohio at the same time she did and discovered he was born in New Jersey but not Sussex.  Looks like his father was born in Sussex but moved shortly after marrying to southern New Jersey.  So I’ll be following the trail to see if I can connect the two as they are about the same age and could be siblings or cousins or not.  

Funny, though, I decided to randomly pick a Kindle free book for October and chose Spellbreaker, a fiction story about a young witch in London who does not cast spells but breaks them.  Sort of like a female Robin Hood who helps the peasant farmers when the Baron claims they never paid rent and have to repay.  Had to laugh as one of the main characters just happens to be from Barbados.  My goodness, those Hollingsheads just won’t let me move on!

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.

Hunting Down a Harbaugh


I was catching up on my reading last week when I came across an article in the May 2018 Smithsonian magazine mentioning a George Harbaugh, an oil magnate from Cleveland who was involved in an automobile accident with a streetcar in 1913. This led to an engineer, James Hoge, inventing traffic lights.

Now when you do genealogy for awhile and you’re reading for pleasure, surnames are certain to pop up from time to time and you just lose the drift of the story to think, “How is that person related to me?” or “Do I have that individual in my tree?” I have entered every Harbaugh that I’m aware of in my Main Tree on Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com so I decided to try to hunt down this George Harbaugh and attach the citation.

I thought this would be a quickie find but it took a few minutes longer than I anticipated. My first problem was that I have 132 George Harbaughs in my tree. I tried to eliminate by location and death dates but it was still a lot to go through.

Seeking a shortcut, I went to the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America site in an attempt to find the newspaper article the story mentioned. Couldn’t find it. And of course, they didn’t reference it in the magazine.

I could have checked other newspaper sites but I suspected the article didn’t have much more information I could use to identify George so I simply googled “George Harbaugh” oil Cleveland. Interesting, what came up was a pdf from the Cleveland Landmarks Commission of all of the demolished homes. Sure enough, there were 4 residences for Harbaughs and that gave me a clue. The first was for a A. G. Harbaugh. The home had been built in 1888 at 2022 E 89th Street. I guessed that the “G” might have been George and I had been looking for a first name George and not a middle name of George. George is a favored name with the Harbaughs and I should have remembered that many of them use their middle name as their first name. I have no idea why they do this. The family isn’t German, however, they did live among the Pennsylvania Germans for many years and maybe that’s where it started.

The 2nd Harbaugh on the pdf was George Harbaugh and his home had been built in 1898 at 2021 Cornell Road.

The 3rd Harbaugh was entered as Harbaugh Residence. Built in 1903, it was located at 11402 Bellflower.

The 4th residence was of most interest; it belonged to Charles Harbaugh who built it in 1904 at Euclid near Cornell.

I knew I was on to something as Euclid was the street where the accident occurred. I might be able to find a connection between Charles, the mystery George and A. G. Maybe that dinner party had been at Charles’ home!

Back to my list of people in my tree, I decided to check out A. G. first. Aaron George Harbaugh (1845-1897) was born in Ohio and died in Cleveland. He had 1 daughter, Malinda, and 3 sons, George Edward, Charles Reiber and Frederick. My mystery George was George Edward.

Born in Cleveland in 1871, he eventually moved to San Diego, California where he died in 1940. Which is why I didn’t quickly find him. I erroneously thought he would have remained in Ohio.

This fun little exercise reminded me of the importance of not making assumptions; I had wrongly excluded George Edward based on his death location.

It also reminded me of how impatient I often am waiting at traffic lights. I’ve often joked my favorite country in the world is Belize because UnbBelizably, they only use 3 of their 7 traffic lights and I’ve never had to wait at any of them.

So the next time you’re waiting for that light to change, think of my husband’s 5th cousin, 3 times removed. Because of George Edward Harbaugh’s lack of paying attention, the world’s a little safer (and slower) today.

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!

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!

Records Breadcrumb Trail May Lead to Wrong Conclusions

I’ve been researching my Duer line lately with the idea that I’ll write a Kinship Determination from where my line begins, with Maria Duer, my great great grandmother, to my gateway ancestor, Thomas Stone Duer.

I’ve blogged previously about the serendipitous events and detailed how history repeats itself (see Circular Migration Patterns-How History RepeatsItself, 30 May 2015). After discovering the connection, I’ve become more determined to learn about the Duer Family.

Maria left some wonderful records, however, they initially led me to a wrong conclusion.  Years ago, I had found her obituary through the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center Obituary Index[1] but I couldn’t decipher it as it was in German and used Gothic script.  Her daughter Emma’s death certificate stated Maria was born in Germany.[2]  The obit and the daughter’s death certificate led me to believe that Maria was of German descent.  By just looking at the surface, those two records reinforced what I already knew about my father’s long line of German ancestry; I had Leininger, Bollenbacher, Kuhn, Kable, and Kettering surnames sprinkled everywhere in my tree and all of them were German immigrants.  No surprise that Maria Duer would have also been German.  How wrong I was!

Maria was born in Mahoning, Ohio on 2 September 1833.[3]  Adam Kuhn, Maria’s son with whom she resided at the time of her death and who was the neighbor of his sister, Emma, had served as Emma’s death certificate informant.  It is understandable that Adam most likely identified himself with his father Henry Kuhn’s German heritage.  German born Henry Kuhn was a prosperous citizen in Mercer County, Ohio and maintained a close connection with others who had immigrated from Germany.  Henry and Maria had been married for 55 years so she, too, would have been known in the German community so her obituary in a German newspaper makes sense.  After having the obituary translated, I learned that it never stated she was German but it did mention her German born husband.  Daughter Emma died at age 50 after suffering long term physical abuse from her ex-husband of 25 years.  Adam likely recalled his father’s birth place instead of his mother’s when he provided Emma’s death certificate information.  In grief, he probably just made an error.

Census records, a second obituary in English, and a mug sheet entry all confirm Maria was born in Ohio and connect her to her parents, John and Mary Jane (Morrison) Duer.  Maria Duer was once a brickwall ancestor but no longer!  What a great lesson in making sure a reasonably exhaustive search was performed AND analysis of all the found records was done.

[1] “Maria Duer Kuhn,” obituary, Die Minter [Ohio] Post, 1 August 1913, page 1, col. 3.

[2] Ohio, Bureau of Vital Statistics, death certificate, “Emma Landfair,” number 12296 (stamped, 21 February 1914.

[3] 1850 U.S. census, Killbuck, Holmes County, Ohio, population schedule, page 245 (handwritten) dwelling 557, family 572, Maria Duer; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com:  accessed 16 October 2016); citing NARA microfilm publications M432_696.

1860 U.S. census, Liberty, Mercer County, Ohio, population schedule, page 141 (handwritten), dwelling 1008, family 1013, Henry and Maria Coon Jr.; Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com:  accessed 16 October 2016); citing NARA microfilm publications M653_1009.

1870 U.S. census, Liberty, Mercer County, Ohio, population schedule, page 15 (handwritten) dwelling 55, family 58, Maria Kuhn; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com:  accessed 16 October 2016); citing NARA microfilm publications M593.

1880 U.S. census, Liberty, Mercer County, Ohio, population schedule, page 7 (handwritten) dwelling 55, family 58, Maria Kuhn; Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com:  accessed 16 October 2016); citing FHL microfilm 1255048; citing NARA microfilm publications T9_1048.

1900 U.S. census, Liberty, Mercer, Ohio, population schedule, sheet 9 (handwritten) dwelling141, family176, Meriah Kuhn; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com:  accessed 16 October 2016); citing NARA with no further information provided.

1910 U.S. census, Liberty, Mercer County, Ohio, population schedule, sheet 9 (handwritten) dwelling 320, family 278, Miria Kuhn; digital image Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com:  accessed 16 October 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication T624_1214.

Ohio, Department of Health Division of Vital Statistics, death certificate, “Maria Kuhn,” state file number 41826, 22 July 1913.

“Marie Kuhn,” The Grim Reaper, The Celina [Ohio] Democrat, 25 July 1913, page 1, col. 4.

Compilers, A Portrait and Biographical Record of Mercer and Van Wert Counties, Ohio (Chicago,IL:  A. W. Bowen & Co., 1896) 400-401; digital image, Google Books (https://books.google.com:  accessed 16 October 2016).