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Closing Out Another Year

Each year I spend ten months on genealogical research. I choose an ancestor as my annual project. Then I learn everything I can about him or her. At year’s end, I assemble the information and mail it around to relatives.

I began with more recent ancestors and worked backwards over the years. I have completed character sketches and photo collections for seven of my great-grandparents and their parents. This year I turned to the generation of my 3rd great-grandparents.

I spent most of this year working on Finnish lines, those ancestors of my 2nd great-grandparents Matti Lampinen (1835-1894) and Anna Miettinen (1832-?). Recently-discovered cousins in Finland who also descend from this couple have posted this family tree on the WikiTree website. Now I have most of it in my database, too.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will complete the data entry. The information consists of only the usual names, dates, and places. The family stories we all want to learn have not been preserved on WikiTree, and my family did not save them.

Finnish records available to me can shed no additional light on the lives of these ancestors. I have only church records to look at—birth/marriage/death lists and communion books that list family groups.

I cannot write any interesting character sketches from these basic facts. I will not send around a family story this year.

In its place I can create a massive family tree poster that reaches back into the late 17th century. I can also reproduce photos of family members who remained in Finland when my great-grandmother Ada Alina Lampinen (1879-1948) emigrated to America.

When the calendar turns to November, I will begin creating this year’s family history gift. It will go out with my Christmas cards in December.

Can It Be?!

My paternal grandmother Grace Reed (1896-1976) claimed to know nothing of her own family. She did once give me her mother’s name, Laura Riddle (1853-1933). Beyond that, whenever I asked about her heritage, she would simply shake her head and claim ignorance. She had no siblings around who I could ask for more information.

After she died, I began to research her family in earnest. I learned that her maternal grandmother, Olive Hall (Dunbar) Riddle, was born in Barnstable County, Massachusetts in 1823. I was excited to learn that I have New England ancestors.

Two things came to mind. First, I now had the possibility of a Mayflower ancestor. Second, New Englanders are among the most-researched people on earth. Scholars have compiled lists of names of Mayflower descendants.

At the Denver Public Library, I located resources that included these names.

I found out that Grandma’s Dunbar ancestors descended from Robert Dunbar of Hingham, Massachusetts. He arrived in the colonies in 1653, too late for the Mayflower which arrived in 1620. He may have been a deported prisoner, captured during one of the Scottish uprisings.

The women who married into the Dunbar line had surnames like Cole, Garnet, and Hathaway. None of these names appeared on the Mayflower list.

What about the Hall line? Bangs, Bramhall, Burgess, and Snow women married into the Hall family. Again, the Mayflower list included none of these names.

Some of these ancestors are known to have arrived in the new world later, aboard the Anne in 1623. Edward Bangs and Nicholas Snow were among those passengers.

I went no further with my research. I did not look for surnames of the mothers of the women who had married into the Dunbar and Hall families. I put aside my New England project because I lived far away from there, and I had more recent Midwestern families to investigate. Years have gone by.

This week I was poking around in the WikiTree website where my mother’s Finnish cousins have posted so much of that family tree. I wondered whether I should begin adding my father’s line into this database.

I knew that if I went back far enough, someone else may have already done some of it. I began working backwards to see if I could get a match to a known ancestor. Some of my brick wall guys (Caleb Reed of Morris County, NJ and John Davis Riddle of Mendon, MI) were in there. No one has any more information on them than I do.

Then I found Grandma’s Massachusetts grandmother, Olive Hall Dunbar. Most of her family tree is on WikiTree.

Her maternal grandmother, our ancestor, was Lucy Snow (1760-1795), a name familiar to me. She was the first wife of Gershom Hall (1760-1844), one of my Revolutionary War ancestors. I had never done any research on Lucy’s family beyond learning that the Snows did not arrive on the Mayflower.

Yet there on WikiTree, beneath Lucy’s name, was this note:
Her Snow family lineage goes back to immigrant Nicholas Snow, and his wife, Constance (Hopkins) Snow, a passenger on the Mayflower in 1620.

Remember Nicholas? He was on the Anne, not the Mayflower. But his wife, Constance Hopkins, who was also my ancestor, made the Mayflower crossing.

Can it be true? Have I finally learned of a Mayflower ancestor?

Constance Hopkins and her father Stephen Hopkins were indeed passengers on the Mayflower. If the WikiTree contributor is correct that I am descended from Constance Hopkins, I do have a Mayflower family in my lineage. I have not verified Lucy Snow’s ancestry myself, but I do have good documentation for my descendancy from her.

When I did a cursory search to find more about the Hopkins family, I found even more astonishing information. They have a documented English lineage extending to the 1200’s in the county of Hampshire. What a heritage to stumble upon.

One of these days I will need to look at all this more closely. I should post it all into my database and connect us up in WikiTree. At long last, I hope I finally to have identified a Mayflower ancestor.

Leaving the Lampinens for Now

One of my goals as a genealogist is to put my family tree out there to record it for posterity and to make it available to cousins seeking to find their roots. For several weeks I have worked on posting Finnish ancestors to my website.

A third cousin in Finland has done a tremendous amount of research on our common Lampinen line. We both descend from Matti Henricsson Lampinen (1835-1894) and Anna Miettinen (1832-abt. 1910). My cousin descends from the couple’s daughter Hendrika (1862-1928), and I descend from their daughter Ada Alina (1879-1948). Ada was my great-grandmother.

I have now added Matti Lampinen’s ancestors, as far as we know them, to my online family tree. Some lines extend back to the 1650’s. You can view them on my website (www.norsky.net under the Reed/Bentsen link), or you can look at my cousin’s Lampinen tree on WikiTree (www.wikitree.com).

Next I will turn to the Miettinen ancestors and get them posted.

Following this family’s trail fulfills a lifelong ambition for me. Years ago, when I began my genealogical research in earnest, I started with the Finns. I was so curious about them. Yet I gave up after documenting my Finnish-American ancestors. Doing foreign research was beyond my capability and resources at the time.

Now, with online records and connections to Finnish cousins, the project has become doable for me. I am loving the process of getting to know this family and sharing it with everyone.

Finnish Forbears Discovered

I have a lot of Lampinen relatives, a family I learned about only a year ago. Last fall, a missing person locator hired by a distant cousin in Finland put me in touch with descendants of Hendrika Lampinen Andelin (1862-1928), an older sister of my great grandmother, Ada Alina Lampinen (1879-1948). I visited two of these cousins when I was in Helsinki in June.

Our shared Lampinen surname in Finnish has to do with living near a pond. The Lampinens lived around a large body of water, Lake Pielinen, the eastern Finland area known as Karelia.

My great-grandmother left there in 1905 to come to America as a young bride. Although she had several older siblings, none of them emigrated to the United States. Ada’s daughter, who was my grandmother, always said she knew nothing of her Lampinen family. The Finnish and American branches of the family lost touch with one another when the older generation died.

One of my new-found cousins has posted a large Lampinen family tree on the WikiTree website (wikitree.com). She has done a tremendous amount of research. The tree extends 6 generations back from my ancestor Ada. The earliest ones lived during the mid-1700’s.

Because of my Finnish cousin’s work, an ancestry tree for 12.5% of my heritage has fallen into my lap. This researcher has ready access to many sources I do not have, and she has posted all of those citations on the WikiTree website.

I have spent many days this summer combing through her work to learn about our common Lampinen forebears. As far back as records extend, they lived in villages surrounding Lake Pielinen.

All must have been Finnish with no intermarriages to Swedes, Lapps, or Russians. My DNA test comes up 26% Finnish, a heritage I received from Ada and my Finnish great-grandfather Alexander Mattila (1878-1945).

It would have taken me a lifetime of research to build the Lampinen family tree found on WikiTree. Now, thanks to this cousin, I need not do it. I trust that this native Finn has been accurate and thorough in compiling our shared tree. It has been great fun to study it.

Finally, I have learned the names of those who comprise such a significant portion of my heritage. Not only do I have Lampinen ancestors, but I also have the names of women who married Lampinen men. The tree includes Heinonens, Horttanianens, Kärkäinens, Louhelains, Miettinens, Parkkinens, Ruottins, Turuins, and many more. My cousins and I carry genes from all of them, and now we know who they are.

Genealogy Fun

My direct maternal line comes from Finland. Or does it?

I knew my Finnish grandmother, but she was born in Minnesota and had no personal knowledge of Finland. My immigrant great-grandparents died before I was born. No family member who had lived in Finland ever visited us. I knew nothing of my family’s life in Finland.

I did not even know where in Finland my family had lived until I began doing genealogy. I found that we come from Karelia, in eastern Finland.

This area borders Russia, and I began to wonder whether I have any Russian heritage. I decided to take a DNA test at FamilyTreeDNA to see whether I really am one quarter Finn.

The autosomal test came back as my family said it should: 26% Finnish. I surmise that the only Russian relatives I have are cousins descending from those who married into my Finnish line.

As part of my DNA test, I asked them to check my mitochondrial DNA. That would test my direct maternal line stretching back many generations. I learned that I belong to haplogroup H, widespread in Europe with about 40% of the population. I am part of subgroup 4, often found in the Iberian peninsula, the Maghreb (northwest Africa), Finland, Britain, and Ireland.

What should I do with this information? Mitochondrial DNA does not offer much help for my genealogical research unless I want to compare results with others who share my maternal ancestry (Mattila<Lampinen<Miettinen<Toivain).

Perhaps that is why FamilyTreeDNA offers a fun spin on mtDNA results. You can make a video about your maternal line.

I made my video today. Starring me, it provides an overview of mtDNA and how it is passed on. The video tells me that I share the H haplogroup with Queen Victoria whose mother was German. I wonder how many generations back the Queen and I would have to go to find a common ancestor. Somewhere along the way, one daughter must have headed to Germany while another went to Finland.

The video on FamilyTree DNA provides a fun respite from the tedium of analyzing DNA results. We all need some comic relief now and then.

 

 

23andMe Sheds Light on a Family Mystery

My quest to identify my German great-great grandmother never ends. If I am not actively working on the project, it still simmers in the back of my mind.

We inherited such brief information about this woman. My great-aunt (the German woman’s granddaughter) told me in the 1980’s that her grandmother’s name was Katherine Stillenbaugh. She came to America when she was eight years old, and she died at Indianapolis shortly after giving birth in 1865 to her only child, my great-grandmother.

My great-uncle, the informant on his mother’s death certificate in 1961, gave the name of his grandmother as Katherine Stanabaugh.

Both these records date from a century after my second great-grandmother lived. People who never knew her, people with little formal education, created these records.

What is the truth? Who was she? More importantly, who were her people?

Through years of work with the U.S. census and Indiana records, I made a little progress. I learned that there are few, if any, Stillenbaugh or Stanabaugh families in Germany or the US. The one or two I found have no connection to Indiana or a Civil War era woman named Katherine.

I learned that Germans usually spell the female name with a “C” instead of a “K”, as in Catherine, Catharine, or Catherina.

I learned that when you cannot find information about early American women, the standard advice is to follow the men in their lives because the men created more records. My second great-grandfather’s name was Thomas Sherman, a blacksmith from Kentucky.

Sometime during the early 1860’s, he and other siblings resettled in Indiana, south of Indianapolis. When I looked at the names of their neighbors, a found a large German clan named Stilgenbauer, a name some of them Anglicized to Stillabower. The name struck me as so similar to the names I had been researching.

I hypothesized that my Katherine belongs to this German family. Various branches of this group had daughters named Catherine. Is one of them mine?

None appeared to fit the bill exactly. Some seem too old, others too young. Some of the right age were born in America, not Germany. I could find no record of any of them marrying someone named Sherman. It seemed I would never find an answer.

Then DNA testing came along. My father and I submitted our samples, and I began combing the databases looking for matches to Stilgenbauer/Stillabower descendants. Several months ago, I found one, and his family was from Indiana. He works as a genealogy librarian, but he could not identify my Katherine.

This week I uncovered another match to an Indiana Stillabower. With two DNA matches who match each other and us, I am feeling pretty confident that I have found my kin.

Indiana county histories tell me that all the Stilgenbauer/Stillabower descendants claim a common ancestor, Georg Valentin Stilgenbauer (1773-1845) from Bavaria. He must be my ancestor, too.

But where do I fit in? Georg had three sons who settled in Indiana. Jacob (1796-1865), Adam (1801-1863), and Johan Michael (1804-1881) all settled in Brown County.

Jacob’s son, Johan Nicholas (1823-1905), spelled his name as Stillabower. He eventually moved on to the northern edge of Bartholomew County. My great-grandmother was born in April, 1865 just a few miles north of there in Edinburg, Johnson County. Was she Nicholas’ granddaughter? Nicholas did have a daughter named Catherine who was 18 years old in 1865.

But this Catherine did not die in 1865. Instead, she married a man named Long that same year and lived to have a family with him.

So the story still does not match up, but I am getting closer. It may take better scientific skills than I possess to interpret the DNA results that continue to come in. Nevertheless, I hope to resolve this puzzle someday. My great-grandmother’s maternal grandfather was likely one of the Stilgenbauer brothers who settled in Brown County, Indiana.

 

 

A High and a Low

Genealogists continually collect information for their family trees. Some of it makes us happy, some does not. I received a bit of both this week.

 

Whoo Hoo! More Ancestors!

A distant cousin of Norwegian descent contacted me this week to ask about sharing family stories. Of course, I am always delighted to do this. She gave me the link to her family website in return.

I found our shared family tree on her site (http://www.kinstories.com/johnson-kin.html). We both descend from Martha Karoline Dorthea Hansdatter (1841-1900) who lived her life in Norway. My new cousin’s family descends from Martha’s grandson, Helmer Johnson. My line comes through Martha’s youngest daughter, Sofie Sivertsdatter. Both Helmer and his aunt Sofie immigrated to America in the early 1900’s. Sofie sponsored Helmer, who arrived later than she did.

Over the years the two branches of this family lost touch with one another.

Now I have learned that my new cousin has posted online several generations of Martha’s family, back to the early 1700’s. She has done a tremendous amount of research, and I am glad she has made it available for the rest of us. She has done good genealogical work, sourcing all her information.

 

A Terrible Accident

We received word earlier this week of a tragic death in our family. Justin Robbins (abt. 1980-2019) died all too soon of an accidental gunshot wound. He leaves behind his two young daughters, my husband/tech advisor’s great-nieces.

I always feel a pang when I must enter a death into my genealogy database. A senseless event like this feels even worse. RIP, Justin.

Another Round of House Cleaning

My mother-in-law turned 89 years old this week. She lives in assisted living in another state. We took a long weekend to visit her.

Our trip had two purposes. Of course, we wanted to celebrate her birthday, but we also have the issue of the family home to face.

My father-in-law built that house himself in the 1950’s. It holds tremendous sentimental value for his children and grandchildren. We all had so many good times there. Two summers ago, nearly forty of us gathered in the yard to view a total eclipse of the sun.

Yet even though we all have such fond memories, no one wants to live there. The family must sell.

Local relatives have spent many hours sifting through their mom’s belongings, deciding what to keep, what to donate, and what to discard. They work to make repairs to the home and yard to ready the property for sale. We try to lend a hand whenever we visit.

We put in several hours’ work on this project during our recent trip. My husband/tech advisor and his brother stood in the sun behind the shed sorting their father’s spare lumber and metal. Indoors, I located and organized family papers and photographs. I also weeded out the cookbooks and sewing boxes. My sister-in-law cleaned out the food and scrubbed cupboards. A third sibling will tend to the furniture during her next visit.

We, the genealogists, boxed up the documents and photos and brought them home. We will scan them to make copies for everyone.

Despite the hours we put in over the weekend, much remains to be done, especially in the outbuildings. Next time we visit, we will go out there again to see how we can help.

A Chance To Use My Christmas Gift

Last December my husband/tech advisor gave me a wonderful Christmas gift—a membership in the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), sometimes known as HisGen. He assumed, correctly, that I would like this gift because I have numerous New England ancestors.

So far this year I have enjoyed reading the publications I have received from NEHGS. These include the magazine American Ancestors and the journal The
Register. Both come packed with information of genealogical interest.

Members also have online access to the databases the Society offers. I have spent most of my time this year working on my Nordic ancestors, so I have not used these databases much yet. I would like to find time to dig into them to search for more information on my New England lines.

In addition to its publications and website, NEHGS provides yet another opportunity for me to learn about my American ancestors. They offer webinars. I have now registered for my first one.

This afternoon I will log in for Top 10 Published Resources for Early New England Research. I think I already know what some of these resources might be, but I cannot tick off a list of ten. A webinar pointing me to sources I should use will help me formulate a research plan when I am ready to tackle my New England lines.

So who are these colonial ancestors of mine? They belong to my paternal grandmother, Grace (Riddle) Reed (1896-1976):

  • Her grandmother, Olive Hall (Dunbar) Riddle (1823-1902), was the New Englander. Olive was born at Chatham, MA to Benjamin E. Dunbar (1776-1831) and Rhoda Hall (1784-aft 1850).
  • Benjamin E. Dunbar descended from Robert Dunbar (1630-1696) of Hingham, MA. Surnames of women who married into this Dunbar line include Hathaway, Cole, and Garnet.
  • Rhoda Hall descended from John Hall (abt. 1611-1696) who settled on Cape Cod. Other surnames in this line include Snow, Burgess, Bramhall, and Bangs.

My wonderful Christmas gift provides me with so many ways to learn more about my New England roots. All of those I have mentioned can be used from home. There is one more option. The Society maintains a wonderful library in Boston. Perhaps I will take a trip to use it someday.

My Finnish DNA Results

Last week I wrote about discovering a close Finnish relative found via a DNA match on FamilyTreeDNA. My new third cousin and I have corresponded this week and plan a phone call soon.

This connection will help me fill in my American family tree with descendants of our common Mattila family. But what else can this DNA match do?

I realized this week that it can help me categorize all my other, more distant, Finnish DNA matches. Many of the Finns have taken DNA tests, and I have lots of matches with Finnish surnames.

FamilyTreeDNA allows me to sort my matches relative to a known match. I can select my new, close match and then run a report listing all the other matches I have in common with the selected match. Then I can run another report of matches not in common with the selected match.

This technique will yield two results. Because my new cousin is a Mattila descendant, the first list will give me the DNA matches belonging to my great-grandfather Alexander Mattila’s family. The second list will show the matches for my great-grandmother Ada Alina Lampinen’s family.

This will save me a ton of work in analyzing my FamilyTreeDNA results. With the lists at my fingertips, I will know at a glance the family line for each Finnish match.

It took me awhile to realize I could do this even though the technique is so obvious. Most of my prior work with DNA has been on my dad’s side of the family. The process does not work so easily there because he has so many double cousins. Most of his DNA matches are related to him in two ways.

With these Finns I have a different story. When I decide to contact any of these matches, already I will know the surnames we have in common. No need to spend time trying to find how we are connected.

My biggest problem will be deciding who to contact first. I have at least 30 predicted 2nd-4th Finnish cousins who have taken DNA tests. When I submitted my DNA sample, I never anticipated finding so many of my mom’s relatives in Finland.