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52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks no. 46—Rhoda Hall (1784-1850)

My ancestor Rhoda Hall was born to a father, Gershom Hall, who was a Revolutionary War soldier and a mother, Lucy Snow, who died young. Rhoda was born on March 12, 1784, in Massachusetts.

Rhoda had a couple of older siblings and several who were younger. She was probably pressed into duty to help care for them after her mother died in 1795 when Rhoda was eleven years old.

On June 2, 1805, Rhoda married a local saltmaker, Benjamin E. Dunbar, in Chatham, Massachusetts. She was 21 years old and he was twenty-eight. Rhoda and Benjamin had twelve children, including my ancestor Olive Hall Dunbar. They lived at Chatham until shortly after 1830.

By then the saltmaking business on Cape Cod was no longer profitable. The family left Cape Cod and moved away to Stow, Ohio. Why they chose this location remains unknown.

Benjamin died shortly after their arrival, leaving 47-year-old Rhoda a widow with most of her children still at home. Benjamin had provided for her, and the family had some land in Stow. They lived at the north end of town. Rhoda sent her children to school and served as the executor of Benjamin’s estate.

She remained in Stow for most of the remainder of her life. In 1850, when the U.S. census was taken, she was enumerated in her daughter Olive’s household in Mendon, Michigan. Perhaps she was visiting there.

According to Rhoda’s cemetery marker, she passed away that same year at the age of sixty-six. She was buried next to her husband in the Stow, Ohio cemetery.

Writing for “The Colorado Genealogist”

The latest issue of The Colorado Genealogist came out this week. The periodical’s Editor, Nancy Ratay, put together for this issue some articles on integrating DNA matches with traditional research. I felt privileged to contribute the account of my own discovery of a Colorado cousin through DNA testing.

As I have written before, a DNA match identified my previously unknown third cousin in Colorado. She actively pursues genealogy, too, so we had a great time swapping information this summer. She gave me permission to tell our story in the Colorado Genealogical Society’s quarterly publication.

In addition to the honor of being published in this periodical, I also had the chance to promote my own research. My article necessarily includes some of the names in my family tree. These names appear in the journal’s annual end-of-year index. This issue goes out to libraries and societies across the country. Perhaps someone searching for my surnames will see my ancestors’ names and contact me.

Access to The Colorado Genealogist is one of the perks of belonging to the Colorado Genealogical Society (CGS). Even if one does not have Colorado ancestors, belonging to the local society does so much for the genealogical community. CGS, which meets in Denver, began in 1924 and is still going strong. In addition to publishing the Quarterly, as they call it, they offer monthly genealogy training classes and an annual seminar. They purchase materials for the Denver Public Library’s genealogy collection, one of the largest west of the Mississippi River. They work to preserve, publish and index local records.

I am very happy this week that I could contribute to the efforts of this wonderful group. I have learned so much from their members and classes. Thanks to Nancy Ratay for pitching a theme idea that allowed me to share my experience and help her put out another great issue of the Quarterly.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, no. 45, Benjamin E. Dunbar (1776-1831)

This ancestor came into the world on December 1, 1776, just as the Revolutionary War was beginning. He was named after his father, Benjamin Dunbar (b. 1749). His mother was Hannah Hathaway. Young Benjamin was joined by a brother, Hosea, the next year. The family lived in Halifax, Massachusetts, but it did not remain intact for long. The father died when Benjamin and Hosea were just small boys.

We know nothing more of Benjamin’s young life. By the time he had reached his late 20’s, he had moved down the coast of Massachusetts to Chatham, on Cape Cod. There he married Rhoda Hall on June 2, 1805.

Benjamin became a saltmaker at Chatham. The British blockade during the Revolutionary War had made it impossible for the colonists to obtain salt, so they began experimenting making salt from seawater. Benjamin owned one of the numerous saltworks along the coast. Perhaps his operation looked like this replica found in the museum in Chatham:

During his years as a saltmaker, Benjamin and Rhoda raised their large family at Chatham:

  1. Safronay (b. 1806)
  2. Rhoday (b. 1807-bef. 1810)
  3. Daniel H. (b. 1809)
  4. Rhoda Ann (b. 1811)
  5. Benjamin S. (b. 1812)
  6. Moses (b.1814)
  7. Rebecca W. (1817-1873)
  8. Susannah H. (b. 1819)
  9. Hannah S. (b. 1821)
  10. Olive Hall (1823-1902), my ancestor
  11. Lucy Snow (b. 1827)
  12. Laura Ann (b. 1829)

During these years, America fought the British in the War of 1812. Benjamin did his part by serving in the Massachusetts militia. He was a private in Captain Hugh Nickerson’s Company of Infantry, Snow’s 2nd Regiment. They marched in the defense of Eastham from September 15-17, 1814. Benjamin earned wages as the rate of $8 per month, for a total of $.53. His other compensation included $.40 for rations, $.17 for private’s clothing, and $.03 for arms. For supplies he had a musket with iron rod, a bayonet, a scabbard and belt, 3 flints, 1 cartridge box, 24 cartridges with balls, a knapsack, and a blanket.

After the war, outside competition eventually ruined the salt trade for Cape Cod. Benjamin and his family stayed there through 1830 and then made the decision to move on.

They relocated to the interior of the country, settling in Stow, Portage County, Ohio. Unfortunately, Benjamin’s life was nearing its end. Before he could build a new life for himself and his family, he passed away at the age of 54 on September 11, 1831.

Benjamin E. Dunbar was buried in the Stow Cemetery, in Portage [now Summit] County, Ohio.

Ancestors, Community, and the Vote

After this week’s tumultuous election, I began to reflect on why I may have voted the way I did. I hope I objectively examined the issues and voted for those candidates who would best represent my views. Yet I cannot help but think that my upbringing and surroundings played a part in influencing my opinions.

How did my ancestors think, and what did I hear discussed at home as I grew up? Over years of genealogical research, I have assembled some information about the political leanings of my forbears:

  1. Caleb Reed (1818-1903), an Illinois farmer. According to the history of Coles County, he was a strong Whig although he never sought political office. The conservative Whig party (1833-1854) was organized by the politician Henry Clay in opposition to the Jacksonian Democrats, and they derided Jackson as “King Andrew”. Appealing to large landowners, the Whigs supported the supremacy of Congress over the President and favored economic protectionism. They opposed Jackson’s Indian removal policies. Many Whigs gravitated to the Republican Party after the demise of the Whig Party. I wonder whether Caleb voted for Republican Abraham Lincoln, a fellow resident of Illinois, in 1860 and 1864. Lincoln’s parents lived near Caleb in Coles County.
  2. John Carter (1790-1841), another Illinois farmer and neighbor of Caleb Reed. Originally from Tennessee, John had served in the War of 1812 under Andrew Jackson. I do not know how he felt about Jackson and his policies. Was John a Jackson Democrat?
  3. Bjarne Bentsen (1906-1986), a policeman, later an electrician, who grew up in Montana and lived in several western and Midwestern states. He professed strong support of the Democratic Party.
  4. Grace Riddle (1896-1976) and Martha Mattila (1906-1977). I find it amazing that when these women, my grandmothers, were born, women did not have the right to vote. That did not come until 1920. Even so, neither of them talked about politics, and I do not know if or how they voted.
  5. Joyce Bentsen (1929-2000), a schoolteacher from Minnesota. She never disclosed how she voted, but over the years she expressed admiration for Minnesota Democratic native sons Walter Mondale and Hubert “The Happy Warrior” Humphrey.
  6. My Dad, a petroleum landman. During my lifetime, he usually has expressed conservative views and leaned Republican, not surprising for an oilman. Yet he proudly cast his first vote in a Presidential election for Harry Truman in 1948. He told me that his mother kept a photograph of Democrat Franklin Roosevelt in their home.

These family members obviously did not agree about politics, so I received mixed messages at home. What about the influence of my community?

  1. I grew up in Wyoming, a politically conservative state. This week nearly 70% of their electorate voted for Donald Trump. Although Wyoming was the first state to grant women the right to vote, they did not do so for progressive reasons. Without women counted as citizens, Wyoming could not reach the requisite number of voters to qualify for statehood in 1890.
  2. Today I live in the purple state of Colorado where I have been for over 30 years. I reside between very-conservative Colorado Springs, and very-liberal Boulder (referred to by the locals as “The People’s Republic of Boulder”). Ironically, the Libertarian Party was founded in Boulder, so we have that influence as well.

These conflicting views around me all contribute to my political views. I hope I did a good job synthesizing them before I cast my vote this year.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks nos. 39-44—Unknown Ancestors

Six of my third great-grandparents remain unidentified. Four lurk in the shadows of history, nameless and faceless. Two others, I can name only as Mr. and Mrs. Riddle, and I know nothing more about them.

The four unknown subjects had a grandson who fathered my grandmother. Who was he, and who were his people?

As I have written many times on these pages, my grandmother arrived in the world in Palisade, Nebraska in August, 1896. When I quizzed her about it in the 1960’s, she stated she had no knowledge of her father’s identity. Information on her parentage did not come down through collateral family lines even though many cousins knew that her mom was an unwed mother. The father’s name has been a well-guarded secret for over 100 years.

No clues have come to light in all these years. Her father did not give her his name. Did he even know she existed? Before she married, Grandma sometimes went by her mother’s maiden name, Riddle, and sometimes she used the surname of the aunt who raised her, Evert.

Grandma’s maternal Riddle family, presents only slightly less of a challenge. Her grandfather, John Davis Riddle (1821-1896), reportedly was born in Pennsylvania to the elusive Mr. and Mrs. Riddle. The first record of John was when he (as John Davis, not John Davis Riddle) married Olla Dunbar in Summit County, Ohio in 1843. The couple shortly relocated to Mendon, Michigan where they lived out their lives. No Riddle descendant ever heard or recorded any information about John’s birth family. Who were his people?

Six unknown ancestors. How will I ever identify them? DNA testing might provide some answers, and I keep hoping for a promising match. Beyond that, the riddle of the Riddles will make an interesting research project one day.

A Plan to Create My Genealogical Legacy

I have done genealogical research for a long time, decades in fact. What will happen to all my work? Genealogists often discuss this issue.

In a perfect world, I would pass it on to another interested family member who would continue my work. In the real world, however, no one like that exists. My sons have little interest in their family tree, nor do my nieces and nephew. My cousins and their children do not pursue genealogy either.

That fact leaves me with a lifetime accumulation of family group sheets spanning many generations. It leaves me with a file cabinet full of documentation I have not scanned into digital form. It leaves me with hundreds of volumes of genealogical publications that fill many bookcases in my home office.

I do not want this work to go for naught. If family members do not want it, what can I do? I have thought about it over the years, and so far, I have developed something of a plan:

  1. I continually publish newly-discovered information and family relationships online at my Web Trees site. Source citations appear here. Anyone can re-trace my research steps without the physical copies of the documents. Someday I may digitize them and attach them to the online tree, as my husband/tech adviser has done with his. But for now, the paper copies serve only for my own quick reference use. Except for heirloom documents like my grandmother’s 8th grade diploma, they could be tossed.
  2. I think no one will maintain my website when I no longer can. For this reason, I have begun entering my family group sheets into the FamilySearch online tree. The information that has taken me a lifetime to collect can remain there, accessible to anyone, forever. If my family wants to throw away all my paper copies of this data, they can do it knowing the information will survive.
  3. I acquired much of my genealogy library from a cousin in a previous generation. Her father and my grandfather were brothers, so we did not share several of the maternal lines she actively researched. Consequently, many of the volumes she collected have no relevance to me. I can begin to weed these from my collection. To dispose of them, I can offer them to the genealogical collection at the Denver Public Library or pass them on to other researchers at my local genealogical societies. In the future, my family could dispose of the remaining core collection the same way.

That’s my plan. In a nutshell, I publish detailed information as I acquire it on my website, and I simultaneously build an online tree for posterity at FamilySearch. I spent October doing just that. FamilySearch now has all my information on my great-great grandfather Thomas Sherman and his family. I will write a character sketch of him for my family for Christmas this year.

I urge all genealogists to make provision for their own research materials. So much time, effort, and passion goes into documenting a family tree. Find a way to preserve your work.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks nos. 37 & 38, The Stanabaughs

I know nothing about my ancestors, Mr. and Mrs. Stanabaugh. I do not even know whether this is their real name. In fact, it probably isn’t. Why not, and where did we find it?

  1. The name comes from that provided on my great-grandmother’s death certificate in 1961. It lists the decedent’s mother’s name as Katherine Stanabaugh. This information was provided by my great-grandmother’s second-to-youngest child, almost a hundred years after the said Katherine Stanabaugh had passed away. Talk about second-hand information!
  2. I have a letter from my great-grandmother’s oldest child saying that the mother’s name was Katherine Stillenbaugh. This letter was written even later, in the 1980’s, when the writer was nearly 100 years old herself.
  3. German researchers advise us to check the German phone book for supposedly German surnames. If they do not appear there, the name has likely been garbled along the way. Neither name, Stanabaugh nor Stillenbaugh, appears in the German phone directory. These names do not appear on U.S. census records either.

If their name was not Stanabaugh or Stillenbaugh, what was it? I have so few clues:

  1. My great-grandmother said her mother came from Germany as a child. My great-grandmother was born in 1865 in Indiana, home to a large German population.
  2. Many Germans immigrated to America after civil unrest in Germany in 1848. A child coming over at that time would have been the right age to have a child of her own in 1865.
  3. My great-grandfather, Thomas Sherman, had German neighbors named Stilgenbauer when he lived in Indiana in the 1860’s. This name is tantalizingly close to Stanabaugh or Stillenbaugh.

I have not yet been able to fit my Katherine into any German family, let alone a Stilgenbauer family, in Indiana between 1848 and 1865. Mr. and Mrs. Stanabaugh would be the parents in this theoretical family, but so far they remain unidentified.

This unknown family represents a huge brick wall in my ancestry. Next year I will pull out all the pertinent information I have on these people, go over it again, and tackle the suggested research again. Will 2017 be the year I can add my German ancestors to my family tree?

Planning a Project for 2017

The life of our ancestor Katherine Stanabaugh remains a mystery to me and my family. We know so little about her, and we have found next to nothing of her life in any records.

Most of our information comes from family lore:

  1. Katherine immigrated from Germany when she was eight years old.
  2. Katherine married the blacksmith, Thomas Sherman, during the Civil War.
  3. Katherine’s only child, Anna Petronellia Sherman, was born at Indianapolis on 1 April 1865.
  4. Katherine passed away shortly after her daughter’s birth.
  5. Katherine was buried at Indianapolis.
  6. Katherine’s surname appears as Stillenbaugh in family papers, and as Stanabaugh on her daughter’s 1961 death certificate (a record created nearly a century after Katherine herself had died, by a grandson who never knew her).

I have been unable to corroborate any of this information. I cannot locate any Stillenbaugh or Stanabaugh families in 1860’s Indiana. I cannot locate a marriage record for Thomas and Katherine. I cannot locate a death record or grave for Katherine.

This weekend I attended a Palatines to America seminar where the special guest was Kent Robinson, the President of the organization. He resides in Indiana and kindly offered to look at this case. I am hoping he can offer some advice on records I have not thought to search.

Beyond that, my best course of action will be to create a research project using the FAN approach to genealogy. This acronym stands for the groups of people one must research (Friends, Associates, Neighbors) when the subject leaves little or no paper trail. A look into the lives of these people can often reveal details of the life of an ancestor. Circumstantial evidence gleaned from their records can help a genealogist build a case for placing the ancestor into the proper family.

Katherine will be my research project for 2017. She deserves more than a passing mention in our family history.

Plodding Along the Genealogy Trail

Genealogical research goes in fits and spurts. Some weeks I make good genealogical discoveries. Other weeks I work quietly on many small topics. During those times, the work moves ahead a little here and there, but nothing warrants a big announcement.

Although this week shaped up as more like the latter, I made progress nonetheless:

  1. The database continues to provide information on my extended Sherman family. I am gleaning a tremendous amount of information on our Glover cousins who lived in Moultrie County, Illinois.
  2. I had an article accepted for publication in the next issue of The Colorado Genealogist. In this article I tell the story of how a Colorado cousin and I discovered each other through DNA testing.
  3. On Saturday I will attend a seminar sponsored by the Colorado chapter of Palatines to America. Dr. Marianne S. Wokeck will speak on various aspects of German emigration to the United States.
  4. I read a book about another genealogist’s journey, The Stranger in My Genes by William Griffeth. He relates how DNA testing unexpectedly changed his life.

None of these things stands out on its own. Yet each advances my genealogical goals in some way. I moved ahead in my research, shared information by publishing, and made plans to further my genealogical education. Not a bad week’s work.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks no. 36—Rebecca Howe Day (1808-1876)

A search for the Day family in central Kentucky during the 1800’s reveals a large extended family, difficult to sort. My 3rd great-grandmother Rebecca was born into this clan on the 5th of June, 1808. She was named for her maternal grandmother, Rebecca Howe. Her parents were Daniel Day and Rhoda Hoskins. Young Rebecca actually was born in Tennessee, but the family soon moved on to Kentucky.

Rebecca’s father died when she was young, and she became the ward of her grandfather, John Day, a Revolutionary War veteran from Virginia. The family had settled in Morgan County when they reached Kentucky. There, Rebecca met a blacksmith, Daniel Sherman, and they decided to marry. The marriage took place on September 4, 1826 when Rebecca was eighteen years old.

Over the next years, Rebecca and Daniel traveled around central Kentucky and southern Ohio, wherever Daniel found work. Together they raised a large family of about ten children. By the time the Civil War broke out, they resided in Madison County, Kentucky.

At some point as the war progressed, they made the decision to move north. On April 29, 1863, they sold their small holding in Madison County. After that, Daniel disappears from the record. They may have relocated to Johnson County, Indiana where their eldest son, Anderson Sherman, lived.

By 1870, Rebecca, by then a widow, had moved again, following some of her children to Edgar County, Illinois. That year her household included her third son, John, and a granddaughter Anna Petronellia, the daughter of Rebecca’s second son, Thomas. Other Sherman children (Thomas Sherman, Evaline Sherman Alvey, and Jasper Sherman) lived in the same county.

Rebecca died in Edgar County on September 28, 1876. She was buried in the Swango Cemetery in Symmes Township although her grave is unmarked.

Much research remains to do on Rebecca and her birth family. Sources conflict on when and where her father died. Some family members claim her mother lived to be over 100 years old, although we have no proof of that. Some researchers claim Rebecca descended from the illustrious Howe family of Revolutionary War fame with connections to the English royal family.

Rebecca Howe Day will make a fascinating research subject when time permits.