Saturday, August 28, 2010

Miriam and Aune Reini c.1927

Courtesy Viola Petersen
This is a sepia-toned studio proof of my grandmother Aune (on right) and her beloved sister Miriam. I'm not sure of the year. Although they look to be older, I believe they are only teenagers. It was taken sometime between 1926 and 1936. Aune lived to be almost 96 years old, Miriam died at 26 years of age in 1936.

Surname Saturday: "B" for Best

Since I am not aware of any "B" surnames in my direct line,  I have decided to write a short post about Francis Elizabeth Moore Best, my great grandfather Willard Calvin Moore's sister.
Francis was born in March 1873 in Tuscola County, Michigan to Calvin and Mary (Armstrong) Moore. On February 7, 1891, she married John Albert Best and had Helen (1892), James (1893), William (1895), Ada (1897), Laura (1901), Alvah (1904), Claud (1906) and Celia (1909).
The last time I can find her is in the 1910 Federal Census in Logan, Ogemaw, Michigan, living with her large family. Shortly after that, a descendant of one of her older children tells me that Francis took her baby daughter Celia and left the family. Apparently, they never heard from her again. I find this very surprising considering Francis' own mother died when she was a very little girl, so she knew what it felt like to grow up without a mother. It seems a strange choice to inflict upon one's own children. It makes me wonder if "leaving" was not of her own accord and, possibly, something sinister befell her.
I have searched for clues to her whereabouts many times and have found nothing. I have scoured the 1920 Federal Census looking for anyone with the first name Francis or Elizabeth with an eleven year old daughter. Every one of the women I found could be accounted for in 1910 or before. Where could she have gone? Did she completely change both of their names? Why would she do that in a time when a person could "disappear" with relative ease?  If she was running away from something, then why didn't she go to my great grandfather, who was already estranged from the family, for help?  Why didn't she ever contact her other children, even later in life?
I fear there is more to this story and it isn't good.
I can't help but question what really happened to Francis and Celia. I hope Celia grew up and lived a full life. I hope she and her mother were together and well. However, finding no trace or hint of them makes me doubt it. Hopefully, someday, one of Celia's descendants will prove me wrong when they Google her name and find me.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Four Generations, A Narrow Window of Opportunity - c.1934

A Narrow Window of Opportunity
L to R: Fred Moore (1908-1997), Jennie Cole Purdy Phelps (1864-1950), Yvonne Moore (1934-   ), Blanche Purdy Moore (1888-1935)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday: Calamity Jennie

"Mamma" Jennie Cole Kint Purdy Phelps (1864-1950)
Because I wrote about Jennie yesterday, I have been thinking about her difficult life.  So, I decided to continue and tell more of her story today.  (Some of the following is supported by documents, while some has come down through family letters and stories and still needs corroborating evidence.)

As mentioned in yesterday's post, Jennie grew up without a father. Sadly, throughout her long life, she was forced to endure many more losses of the men to whom she was closest.
On January 5, 1882, Jennie married Sylvester Kint in Buchanan, Iowa and moved to Huron, South Dakota.  She quickly became pregnant with her first child, Pearl May. Heartbreakingly, the young father-to-be drank bad water while out hunting and died in 1883 before his daughter was born, making Jennie a widow at 19. Just like Jennie, Pearl was a little girl without a father. History appears to have further repeated itself when Pearl was, apparently, left behind to be raised by her paternal grandparents. Since we don't have the 1890 Federal Census, it is difficult to know for sure, but it seems that Pearl stayed in South Dakota, while her mother moved to Minnesota. Judging by what transpired later, it may have been the best place for the young Pearl.

Jennie, Courtesy Patty Wilson
Next, Jennie married Jonathan E. Purdy on May 7, 1885 in Hubbard, Minnesota. They had three children - Daniel Edward "Eddie" (b.1886) , Blanche (b.1888- my great grandmother) and Jonathan Clifford "Cliff" (b.1892). Calamity then struck again. According to a family letter, Jonathan had a cold in early January 1893. Jennie, eager to care for her husband, grabbed the tonic from the cupboard and gave it to him. Tragically, the "tonic" was actually horse liniment, which ate away the lining of his stomach from the inside. As one can imagine, he died an excruciating death a few days later on January 14, leaving Jennie alone, once again, to care for their young children.

At some point around 1895, Jennie married again to a horse trainer (hmmm...?) named William Phelps and moved to Devil's Lake, North Dakota, where her daughter Hazel was born on April 9, 1896. They must not have stayed there long because their daughter Gladys was born back in Minnesota on April 27, 1898 and the blended family was enumerated in Hubbard, Minnesota in the 1900 Federal Census. It is unclear exactly what happened next, but the family says that William was not kind to Jennie's older children and went so far as to break Eddie's arm.  Apparently, at this, Jennie ordered him out of the house and away from the family. She then took her children (except Pearl) and moved to Washington State in 1904, where she lived the rest of her life.

Unhappily, fate had two more painful blows to deal to my great great grandmother.  On May 17, 1907, her oldest son Daniel Edward Purdy dropped dead of a heart attack at only 20 years old. Then years later, shockingly, on August 18, 1935, Jennie's daughter Blanche Purdy Moore was run down by a speeding car in Seattle.

Jennie and a descendant
The years took their toll and after a very long and challenging life, Jennie died at the age of 86 on November 24, 1950. She is buried next to her daughter Gladys Phelps Roberts at the Evergreen Washelli Cemetery in Seattle, remembered with the word "Mamma" on her marker. Jennie has definitely left a legacy behind. Today, a number of her descendants are fascinated by her and her remarkable life, investing countless hours in the hope of knowing her better.

Jennie, Courtesy Patty Wilson

Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday Madness: Family Myths

Jennie Cole Kint Purdy Phelps
Many years ago, my grandfather told me two very interesting things about his grandmother Jennie. One, she could remember the day that President Lincoln was assassinated and two, she lost her father very young when he died in a Confederate Prison Camp. As usual, these family stories don't quite hold up.

Jennie was born on April 14, 1864, exactly one year before Abraham Lincoln was shot. Remember? I doubt it.

As far as her father, the story goes that when Jennie was only six weeks old, he was working on the roof and was conscripted into the Union Army when the troops passed by their house. Allegedly, he died in a Confederate prison camp shortly after that. While still very young, Jennie was sent to live with her maternal grandparents Asa and Mary (Eastman) Cole because her mother's new husband didn't like having her around.

When I first started researching my family, this was one of the first things that I tackled: Who was Jennie's dad?

Unfortunately, I found more questions than answers. For one thing, why was Jennie's surname her mother's maiden name? Why didn't she seem to have any contact with her father's family? Where is her mother's "first" marriage record? Why was her mother listed as "Amanda Cole" on her "second" marriage record? Why is there no record of a pension application for herself or her mother? Jennie lived a very long time (1950) and had six children, so why didn't anyone seem to have the slightest idea what her father's name was?

For most of you, I think the answer is pretty clear.  Jennie was, in all likelihood, illegitimate and that "romantic" story was made up to protect her and/or her mother and family. Who knows, Jennie, herself, may have even believed it.

Nevertheless, she still had to have a father, right?

I have a nice big empty hole in my family tree that I would very much like to fill in. However, I don't have much to go on. According to the 1860 Federal Census, Jennie's mother Amanda Cole was living in Peninsula, Grand Traverse, Michigan working as a domestic for an Avery family. She was about 19 years old then. Jennie could have been fathered by someone in that household, but that is more than three years before her conception. It is difficult, if not downright impossible, to determine if she was living/working there for that long.

On May 8, 1866, Amanda married John Ira Grandy in Kane County, Illinois. I have never been able to find Jennie's birth record (of course!), but she was said to have been born in Illinois, so Amanda may have been there by 1864. Jennie was just two when her mother married Mr. Grandy, so, at least, the story of her being sent to live with her grandparents makes sense. As further confirmation of this part of the story, she is found living with the Asa and Mary Cole in the 1870 Federal Census in Wisconsin.

Almost ten years have passed and I am no closer to finding out who Jennie's father was, however, I have learned to be skeptical of family stories. As a researcher, it is very important to realize that many of these stories are nothing more than folklore and fables. If we are lucky, they just might have a gleaming kernel of truth that can lead us to the answers we are seeking. Then again, I have discovered that, sometimes, only our DNA will whisper the secrets of our ancestors.

**Read more about Jennie here.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

My Sentimental Sunday

No blogging for me today. This is my Sentimental Sunday:

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Ruth Ann Stolebarger (Stoalabarger), 1893

My great great grandmother Ruth Ann Stolebarger Travis
Every time I look at this photo, I wonder...

Here is what I know:
Ruth Ann Stolebarger Travis was sixty-one when this photo was taken in 1893. She was born on June 3, 1832 in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania and was a redhead.
The first trace I find of her family is in Union, Huntingdon County, PA in the 1830 Federal Census, though her eldest brother Ephraim is said to have been born there in 1823. Ruth's other siblings were Thomas (1825), Almira (1842) and Martha (1843).
In 1843, Ruth moved with her parents and siblings to Jefferson County, Iowa.  Her father John Stoalabarger passed away soon thereafter and her mother married Samuel Berry in 1846 and had one more son, William (1849).
Ruth Ann married Abraham Travis on March 20, 1852 in Fairfield, Iowa. On May 6, 1852, the newlyweds moved to Sidney, Iowa and, by all accounts, lived a wonderful life there as one of the town's pioneer families. Ruth Ann was extraordinarily lucky in that all twelve of her children lived into adulthood and none predeceased her.
To the town's great sadness, she passed away on June 23, 1901 at the age of 69. Her obituary stated that her funeral was so well attended that townspeople were forced to stand outside in the hot street, straining to hear the eulogy.

There is a lot of mystery surrounding Ruth Ann's parents. Her father John is said to have been born in the Upper Rhine area of Germany c.1800, but, to my knowledge, no one has ever found any documentation of this. Additionally, her mother Sarah's maiden name is unknown.
One of the biggest problems in researching this family is the name "Stolebarger." It is a very difficult name that was spelled differently on virtually every record. The most common spelling seems to be Stoalabarger, but I have also seen it as Stolebarger, Stolabarger, Stulebarger, Stuhlberger, Stuleberger, Stulabarger, Stella Barger and more!  Furthermore, I have not been able to find a record of anyone with a similar name on any passenger records at all! I sometimes theorize that the name was originally something more traditionally German, like Stahlberger. Unfortunately, that hasn't led me anywhere either.

For now, I am just very happy to have such a good photo of her from so long ago.

Surname Saturday: Where to start? "A" for Allen

Since I just started this new genealogy blog, but not my genealogical research - it is difficult to know with which surname to start! There are so many that I have invested inordinate amounts of time investigating, making them very close to my heart. It is tough to choose just one!

I think I will start at the beginning - Allen. On this line, I am very fortunate to have been preceded by two excellent genealogists, my dad's cousins Louise Casey Ware (1938-1995) and Charlotte Casey (1942-1996). They both passed away too young, but left behind a plethora of notes. Louise's sons tell me that the sisters were "obsessed" with genealogy. Hmmmm...? Somehow, that sounds a little bit familiar...

On to the Allens:
George Henry Allen (1880-1965)
My great grandfather George Henry Allen was born in Gypsy Village, Melbourne, Australia on April 28, 1880, to English parents. His mother died when he was only eight years old. Reportedly, his father George Allen (1851-1913) marched him down to the docks when he was about fifteen because he was fighting with his step-mother (who was also his first cousin).  For the next ten years, he sailed the world, until finally settling in San Francisco after meeting and marrying my great grandmother Fredrikka Herstad (1871-1953) in 1906.
George and Fredrikka (Herstad) Allen

George's father arrived in Australia on Feb 16, 1873 on the "John Rennie" with his brother Charles. The rest of the family soon followed on the "Atrato". They were from the village of Stinchcombe, near Cheltenham, England and the family had lived in the Gloucestershire area for generations before setting sail for Australia. There are two family stories in regard to this departure. One is that Queen Victoria (for whom one of the Allens served as green grocer) had given the family land in Australia and the other is that there was some sort of disagreement over an inheritance, causing ill feelings and precipitating the move. I think the second is the more likely of the two, but I have yet to see any documentation of either. Possibly, I will find that there is a bit of truth in both. Thus far, I have only done limited research in England and Australia. Hopefully, it will prove to be very interesting once I dig into this, seemingly, colorful family.
Home of the Allens, built 1750 -Stinchcombe, England
I do know that George Henry's great grandfather was Isaac Allen (b. 20 January 1788), a butcher from Gloucestershire. According to Louise's notes, his parents were Henry and Mary (Gillins) Allen, b.c.1760. That is probably as far as I can get on this line until I finally give in and sign up for Ancestry World Edition. Just writing this post has reminded me how much more research there is to do!
Garden view of Allen residence in Stinchcombe

I received a package a couple of weeks ago from Louise's son with a lot of great surprises. I will write about that soon.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Follow Friday: Google Your Ancestors

I have become a real fan of Google for my genealogy research. With more and more information being digitized and put online every day, it is amazing what you can find! Google's mission is to make information easily accessible to all of us. As a researcher that is music to my ears!

One Google search of my great grandparents' names led me to an interview done by the Issaquah Historical Society with my mom's first cousin that she hadn't seen or spoken to in almost 60 years. Since then we have enjoyed a mutually beneficial and thoroughly enjoyable collaboration, enabling us both to learn more about our Reini family. I have provided much of the research and she has provided photos, documents and, best of all, flesh-and-blood first-hand stories of my great grandparents who raised her. We even went to visit her this spring and the cousins were reunited after all of these years.

Many of my searches end up at Google Books. In my experience, there are already a number of historical publication on early counties and their founding families. In these, I have found all kinds of interesting tidbits on many of my ancestors that help to fill out lives that would otherwise be just names and dates on a page. Google Books has the goal to digitize ALL the books in the world, which on August 5th they estimated to be approximately 130 Million. So, keep checking back. You never know what might pop up!

Quite often in my Googling, I find others who are researching the same families that I am. It seems that many of the researchers with the best documented genealogies do not put their work on, but they DO put it on Rootsweb. In contrast to the sites behind a pay wall, Rootsweb appears to be fully indexed by Googlebots, thus included in your Google search results. The Rootsweb WorldConnect Project is just FULL of well documented trees with extensive source material.  It is especially refreshing to be able to contact the researchers directly via their listed email addresses.

I love to use Google Maps to get a better understanding of where my ancestors lived and migrated, as well as how far away they lived from "suspected" relatives. When you Google a place name, usually a Google map will come up at the top of the page. After clicking on it, there is an option to choose "Directions." From there you can plot exactly how many miles it is from one of those small towns we so often come across in our research to another area of interest.

Google Translate is a big help when I am researching records in other countries or trying to read a letter written by one of my immigrant ancestors.

Just tonight I saw that Roots Television has a new video on using Google News archives for genealogy. I think I will have to check that out too!

I could go on and on about the genealogy applications of Google. Heck, I'm even using Google's free services to publish this blog.  If you haven't tried Googling yet, give it a whirl. You might be surprised what you learn!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday: Great Aunt Gladys' photo albums

Gladys' siblings c.1898
My great great grandmother Jennie Cole Kint Purdy Phelps (1864-1950) had six children by three different husbands. (That's a story for another day!)  Gladys Phelps (1898-1986) was her youngest and my great grandmother Blanche Purdy was third. Gladys did not have children. As a result, when she died in 1986, her possessions were passed on to her nieces and nephews, including a number of photo albums. My father's sister inherited them, mostly intact, with just a few mysterious shadows of photos removed by other family members. She held on to them until recently when she decided that, as the family historian, I should have them. As you can imagine, this decision has brought me great pleasure!
I have treated all of her photos with great care. Unfortunately, I was forced to carefully disassemble the albums that she so lovingly arranged because they were affixed with old glue and had already suffered some damage. I scanned each page to capture the arrangement in case it had some special meaning that would give clues to the mostly unidentified photos. Among the many photos of the gargantuan flowers Gladys grew in her garden and bus trips to Vegas were some real family gems.
Included in the albums were many photos of my great grandmother, but the one pictured the most was their brother Clifford Purdy. He and his wife Martha were also childless, so the gift of the album gave me an excellent opportunity to memorialize the lives of those, without descendants, who might otherwise not have been remembered. In fact, a faded newspaper clipping obituary contained in one of the albums gave me just enough clues to trace Martha's interesting life and family.
These albums enabled me to know Gladys and her siblings to a much greater degree. I just wish I had a collection like this for each of my family members/ancestors. Ironically, Gladys herself may have stood in the way of me learning much more about her mother Jennie's family and Jennie's second husband, Jonathan E. Purdy, my great great grandfather, of whom I have never seen a photo.  Reportedly, when Jennie died in 1950, Gladys donated to the Salvation Army boxes full of tintypes from Jennie's long life. What I wouldn't give to have inherited those too!
Gladys 6 yrs, 1904
Gladys 15 yrs, 1913
Gladys&George Roberts 1922
Gladys&George Roberts 1980

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

(Not So) Wordless Wednesday: My great grandmother Blanche Purdy's first wedding photo

Blanche Purdy, 15 and Frank Rhodes, 26
February 22, 1903 - Hubbard, Minnesota

It turns out that my great grandmother Blanche Purdy was married (and divorced) before she met my great grandfather Willard Calvin Moore. On the day this photo was taken, Blanche and Frank Rhodes were married in Hubbard, Minnesota. The amazing part is that I would never have seen this photo, nor would anyone else in my family, if it weren't for and a little old-fashioned sleuthing. With a hunch and some hope and the help of, I followed Frank's family line in every direction that I could. As luck would have it, Frank's sister Ellena Belle Rhodes Warren (1892-1998) lived until one month before her 106th birthday, greatly increasing the likelihood that her keepsakes might still exist! I was able to connect with her son through Ancestry's Member Connect and asked him if he, by chance, had any photos of Frank. He explained that his mother had left quite a few photos, but since most were unidentified he planned on donating them when he got around to it. He promised to take a look for me. Imagine my surprise when he wrote back to say that he had located Frank and Blanche's original wedding photo! Unbelievably, he offered to send it to me, along with a picture of Frank. True to his word, the original photos arrived a few days later.

Frank Abbott Rhodes (1876-1938)

As a tribute to this dear woman Ellena, who allowed me a glimpse of the timid-child-bride face of my great grandmother, I post this beautiful studio shot of her beloved older brother that she cherished all of her long life and that her son so generously shared with me.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday: Three Proctor Babies

Everett and Aune (Reini) Proctor c.1930
My grandmother Aune Reini fell in love with my grandfather Everett Proctor the moment she laid eyes on him. In her 95 years she often repeated this sentiment, "Everett was the most beautiful man I had ever seen!" They met at a dance (which was one of her favorite activities) when Aune was only 15 and Everett was 24, and after a whirlwind romance were married on May 5, 1927. Shortly thereafter, Aune delivered Everett's much hoped for son, named for his father Daniel. Everett was a real "man's man" who had grown up with three brothers and looked forward to doing all of the boy things with his sons like baseball, golf, building and fishing. Unfortunately, Aune had trouble carrying her pregnancies to term and delivered all five of her children prematurely, which resulted in three of them dying before she could take them home from the hospital. Daniel was one of them. One by one, Everett had to arrange the infants' burials while Aune recovered in the hospital. One was a baby girl that Aune often mentioned was "so beautiful and just perfect looking with long dark curls," but had premature lungs and only survived for a few hours. All three of the young couple's beloved babies are buried near their father at Greenwood Memorial Park in Renton, Washington.

As one can imagine, this caused great sadness to both of the young parents. It was so difficult that it became almost impossible to express joy at a new pregnancy. Lucky for us, their daughters Jean and Janis (my mother) were able to overcome their premature starts and grew into relatively healthy children. Even with these early hardships, Aune and Everett were able to leave a significant legacy. At the time of Aune's death, she had 9 grandchildren, 13 great grandchildren and 2 great, great grandchildren.

This spring we took a trip up to Washington with my mother and visited the many family graves in Greenwood Memorial Park, including her baby siblings. Three little lives that never even had a chance.

Baby Boy Proctor, 1927
Baby Girl Proctor, 1931
Baby Girl Proctor, 1936

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday Madness: Samuel Lampkin Moore Proctor wouldn't let me sleep until I got it right!

I have been studying my family history for about eight years now and have worked extensively on all branches of my tree, focusing intensely on many individuals in that time. I have previously never had any of the serendipitous or intuitive experiences that Hank Jones describes in his Psychic Roots books. However, several months ago, I was going through a letter that my late Great Aunt Cleo wrote about our family history and transcribing the details into my online family tree (which is set as viewable to the public). I entered many detailed stories about various relatives on her side of the family (Proctor, Travis, Hewitt, Campbell). As a side note, she mentioned that her great uncle, Samuel Lampkin Moore Proctor, had served as a Chaplain and fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Somewhere in the middle of entering LOTS of information on other relatives, I entered a one line comment on his profile along these lines, and continued on without much thought. (Samuel is not in my direct line and since he appears on many family trees I assumed he had been thoroughly researched, so I didn't pay that much attention to him.)
Late that night, I finally closed down the computer and went to bed. All night long, over and over, I was awakened with, "SAMUEL LAMPKIN MOORE PROCTOR" screaming in my head. Not one time did any other relative that I had worked on that night enter my head. Just repeatedly and urgently, Mr. S.L.M. Proctor! I thought maybe it was that his middle names could solve the mystery of his mother Mary's parentage. [At the time we knew her maiden name was Moore, but not her parentage. I have since solved this puzzle.] So, I finally gave up on sleeping. Exhausted and delirious, I got up and started searching on the names "Lampkin," "Moore" and 'Proctor."  Immediately, a new record popped up on Ancestry that I had never seen before and none of the other Samuel L.M. Proctor researchers had on their trees (none even had a date of death). It was "Headstones Provided for Deceased 
Union Civil War Veterans" (emphasis mine) with his date of death. I immediately changed the notation on his profile to indicate that he fought for the Union, not the Confederacy! I imagine any soldier who fought for the Union would be HORRIFIED to be remembered as a Confederate! He must have been so incensed by what I had written on a publicly viewable forum, that he kept after me until I changed it, lest ANYONE think he was a Confederate! 
Since I was up, I continued to do genealogy research, intending to work on my great great grandfather (his brother, Ephraim). Unexpectedly, that entire day and night, all kinds of records popped up about Samuel all over the Internet! On, someone had just taken a picture of his burial marker two weeks earlier (he died in 1892)! On early Illinois history sites, I found his name over and over again in the places that my direct relatives were living. Ephraim, my great great grandfather, wasn't even mentioned once even though I know he ran a business, raised a family and lived in the area for many years. Somewhat coincidentally, I did find Samuel working with other unrelated direct relatives of mine on roads, school boards and such. Throughout the long day, I ended up documenting much of Samuel's life with random little tidbits, including his children's details and information on his grandchildren. The person who had made the initial memorial for him on Findagrave even transferred it to me immediately and I wrote a detailed bio about him, emphasizing the fact that he fought on the UNION side of the Civil War. 

That night after I finally shut down the computer, I slept very soundly with NO interruptions!
I know that many would say this is all just a coincidence, but to me it is quite clear what happened. One might ask, why would I be the one he "harassed" when he has so many direct descendants interested in him? I think the answer is the misinformation I had posted. So, maybe that's the way to get the attention of the ones we seek! :-)

Friday, August 13, 2010

My elusive great (great, great) grandfather Asa Travis

Sometimes people ask me what sparked my interest in genealogy. The only thing that comes to mind is something that happened when I was only about six years old. At the end of 1975, Julia M. Travis published her book All in the Family about the descendants of my third great grandfather Asa Travis. Each family who was mentioned in the book received a copy, including ours. I was fascinated by it, but it disappeared shortly after we received it when a cousin borrowed it and didn't return it. I never forgot about it.

In this book, Julia stated that Asa was born in Wales. From that time on, the search began. I am told that for 35 years, genealogists have been trying to discover the true origins of Asa Travis. Nobody yet knows where or when he was born. The Wales reference seems to have come from a census in which his youngest son Nicodemus states that he was born in Wales. There is nothing else to support this belief.  Nicodemus was very young when Asa died, so he may not have known much about his father. One excellent Travis researcher believes that he may have, actually, been referring to West Wales, Pennsylvania - a town that was created by a Travis family after the Revolutionary War.

In 1796, an Asa Travis (who very well may be our Asa) came with Nathaniel Massie to set up the town of Chillicothe, Ohio. However, nothing is definitively known about our Asa's early life before he first shows up in Adams County, Ohio on June 15, 1800 when he married a Sophia Howard. Next, Asa is recorded in Ross County, Ohio marrying my third great grandmother Susannah Roderick on April 9, 1807.  In 1810, the Federal Census shows Asa in Pike County, Ohio where he stayed until 1830 when he moved to Tippecanoe, Indiana. Only a few years later Asa died there, leaving lots of children and quite a mystery for those who came later.

For a couple years now, I have left Asa alone, sitting in my tree with empty branches above him, but I have never stopped thinking about this adventurous man whose genes I, most certainly, carry. Over the last few years, I have become progressively more involved in Ancestry DNA testing and increasingly determined to solve the mystery of Asa's origins using his paternal line Travis DNA.  After reading success story after success story of Y-Chromosome DNA testing triumphing over long-standing brickwalls, I finally decided now was the time to revisit the mystery of Asa.

Since 1929 when my great grandmother Millie Travis Proctor died, none of my family have carried the Travis surname, so I needed to look elsewhere for the required Travis Y-DNA. Fortunately, my most prolific Travis research collaborator is married to my third cousin who does indeed carry this Travis Y-Chromosome passed down to him through the generations from our Asa. As luck would have it, he agreed to be tested through the Travis DNA Project at FTDNA.

When we received his results last week, we were thrilled to see that he matches three other Travis testees from families to whom we previously had no knowledge of relatedness. One of those families has a long pedigree back to Garrett Travis, known as the "Dutchman," b.c.1633 from Westchester County, New York. While we have yet to establish a documented connection to Garrett, this discovery has breathed new life into this 35-year-long search and given us a hint as to where to look further for our Asa Travis and his long-lost family.

[Disclosure - My company StudioINTV has an existing production agreement with FTDNA that has no bearing on the opinions I express. I receive no other compensation in relation to any of the companies or products referenced in my blog.] 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My Tangled Vine - The Stories of my Ancestors

So often when I make a new discovery, break down a brick wall or solve a puzzle in my genealogical pursuits, I want to share that success and how I was able to arrive there. This blog will be the place that I will chronicle my research and tell the stories of my ancestors.

I have almost ten years of these stories to tell, so, at times, I may reflect back on past puzzles and successes. Many of my ancestors have left a lasting impression on me as their stories have unraveled and evolved over time. Some have seemingly wanted to be known, gently leading me to their discovery, while others have done their best to hide from me. In either case, persistence and creativity pays off and a few may be turning in their graves at what I have uncovered about their lives lived so long ago. Contrary to what many believe, things really haven't changed all that much. The more I learn about my ancestors, the more I realize people are people - whether they carry an iPhone or rode in a covered wagon. We face many of the same challenges and find joy in many of the same things.

Regardless of what is discovered, genealogy does bring families together. This I know and have experienced first hand. Because of this research, I am in touch with cousins all over the world, most of whom I would never even have known existed and a few that I should have known, but didn't. Even those family members not directly involved in genealogy benefit, as illustrated by my mother recently attending a mini-reunion with her first cousins, some of whom she hadn't seen in almost sixty years. This visit was only made possible because of my research-driven communication with her extended family members. It was very clearly a joyful day for all in attendance (including me!).

Genealogy gives many of us a real, unshakable sense of who we are and how we came to be. It is amazing to reflect on the many chance happenings that, ultimately, resulted in our existence - how any one of us could so easily not have been born. When I become closely acquainted with the lives of my ancestors, I gain immense respect for many of them and great appreciation for the challenges they faced, and survived. Those times weren't easy, these times are not always easy, but, be assured, family will go on. And as long as it does, there will be people like us who wonder where we came from and look to the stories of our ancestors for answers.