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This Week’s Genealogy Happenings

Sometimes I cannot spend a week focused on just one genealogy activity. Too much goes on around me.

  1. A new distant cousin recently contacted me. She has taken a DNA test with Ancestry. I have not tested with that company, but one of my second cousins has. They were a match. The new cousin asked the second cousin for information on our common Sherman line. Not having much about it to offer, my second cousin referred the new cousin to me. I learned that the new cousin is descended from my Thomas Sherman’s (1841-1912) younger brother, John. Our common brick wall ancestor is the father, Daniel Sherman (abt. 1800-?). I am very excited to have a collaborator for this Sherman research, and I hope we can make some progress together on the Sherman line.
  2. Information from the new cousin equipped me to fill in the descendance of John Sherman. He had been the most difficult of the Sherman brothers for me to trace because he moved around a lot and had such a common name. The new cousin sent me his 1943 obituary, and that opened the door to locating information on his children and grandchildren. I have barely begun the process of putting it all into my database.
  3. Genealogists need and enjoy some social time. Once a month, members of the Colorado Genealogical Society (CGS) meet for lunch. Yesterday we gathered at a new American Indian restaurant. As we ate delicious Indian tacos and shredded bison, we swapped research tales and talked about upcoming training opportunities.
  4. I continue to take time to read the periodicals put out by CGS and the National Genealogical Society (NGS). I often get research ideas from these publications. The most recent NGS magazine has a good article by Michael Lacopo on how to find religious newspapers and use them for research on 19th and 20th century ancestors. I hope to follow through with some of his suggestions to find information on the Shermans and others.

As this week ends and a new one begins, I plan to get back on task. I continue to work on contacting DNA matches at FamilyTreeDNA and 23andMe. Wouldn’t it be great if I could find a male Sherman match who would take a Y DNA test? That would move us ahead in finding the origins of Daniel Sherman.

A Key Sparks a Conversation

A few days ago, my young granddaughters made a discovery when they visited my house. They found my blacksmith’s iron key. They wanted to know what it was and why I had it.

Their curiosity presented me with a teachable moment and an opportunity to tell them a little about their family history. I explained that they come from a long line of blacksmiths in the Sherman branch of their family tree. My key reminds me of that although it does not unlock anything that I own. It serves as a paperweight.

I have not had it very long. Knowing my family history, my husband/tech advisor gave me the key and several richly-illustrated children’s books about blacksmiths for Christmas last year. Now I was happy to share some information about blacksmithing with the girls.

I explained that the key they found is a replica of antique keys once made by blacksmiths. They were amazed that common household items like farm tools, pots, locks, and keys used to be made, one at a time, by village blacksmiths, including their ancestors. As we discussed the role of a blacksmith in the community, they were relieved that today they have the luxury of visiting a dentist instead of needing the blacksmith to pull a bad tooth with the same tool he used to remove nails from a horse’s hoof.

The girls liked the photos of blacksmiths hammering hot metal at the anvil while wearing heat-resistant leather aprons. They learned new words like forge and smithy and bellows. One of girls recalled visiting a working blacksmith shop at the Littleton [CO] Historical Museum. Now the other granddaughter wants to see it, too.

Not bad for a spur-of-the-moment history lesson.

A New Insight For a Brick Wall Ancestor

My third great-grandfather, Daniel Sherman, seemingly dropped out of the sky into Kentucky in the 1820’s. I know nothing about his life before then. His place and date of birth, family members, and reason for settling in Kentucky all elude me.

He showed up in Morgan County, KY in the mid-1820’s. There he married Rebecca Howe Day on 4 September 1826. After that, his name appears regularly in the Kentucky records until 1863. That April, he and Rebecca sold a small plot of land, and Daniel disappeared from the record as mysteriously as he entered it.

U. S. census records for 1850 and 1860 tell me that Daniel was a blacksmith born around 1800 in either New York or Vermont. Why a guy from that region would relocate to Kentucky always puzzled me. Migration from the far north to the south does not match the usual migration patterns I have seen.

The other day, I mentioned this question to a fellow genealogist who has New York ancestors herself. She came up with a possible explanation. She reminded me that Kentucky is horse racing country, and that industry needs blacksmiths. Could that be why Daniel Sherman went to Kentucky?

My friend got quite interested in this line of inquiry and followed up by contacting the historical society in the last county where my ancestor lived—Madison County, KY. The President of the Society, Tom Black, replied with the following information:

All of Kentucky had lots of horses through the 19th century. Locally, most of them were work horses which also needed a blacksmith’s attention so he could have potentially been servicing them. We had no race horses of note that I am aware of and no local farms that had more than a handful. However, show horses have been a Madison County staple for a long time, and we have seen a great number that were competitive and a few that became champions. All that said, he would have been a busy man if working locally.

Perhaps Daniel followed an opportunity when he headed south. If he became a busy man working as a Kentucky blacksmith, he was fortunate to have four sons. They all learned the blacksmith trade and became working blacksmiths themselves. Some of Daniel’s grandsons followed that profession, too, until it faded away after World War I. Horse country provided them all with a means to make a living.

Historic Newspapers Come Up Short

My ancestors Thomas Sherman and Katherine Whoever-She-Is lived south of Indianapolis around the time of the Civil War. At least I think they did. He registered for the Civil War draft at Nineveh, Johnson County, Indiana in 1863, but that is the only mention of him in that location. I would like to find more.

This week I combed all the Indiana historic newspaper databases I could find searching for Thomas’ name:

  1. Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/) has nothing for the 1860’s Nineveh area.
  2. Hoosier State Chronicles (https://newspapers.library.in.gov/) has several newspapers from Johnson and nearby Bartholomew County, but few issues from the 1860’s survive. I found no mention of Thomas or any of his family.
  3. Library of Congress Chronicling America (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/) has no newspapers from the Nineveh area during the 1860’s.

Thomas and Katherine seem to have been very obscure people who resided in a sparsely-populated area. He lived in Indiana between census years, and I have not found a likely candidate for her on the 1860 census. His name did not appear on the Johnson County land ownership plat for 1866-7. I have spent another week searching for them only to turn up nothing.

Not to be discouraged, I still have more to do before I can claim to have made an exhaustive search for these people. Slowly I am working my way through my research checklist. I still need to search church records and tax lists. These records present more of a challenge to locate, so I looked in other places first. Surely my ancestors left behind more than a Civil War draft registration.

A Plat as a Census Substitute

My mysterious German ancestor lived in Indiana during the Civil War. I believe she had already immigrated to the U. S. by 1860, but I have not located her on the 1860 census. By the time of the 1870 census, she had died. In between these years, she purportedly married my great-great grandfather and bore a daughter.

Verifying this information presents a real challenge. How I wish Indiana had taken a state census in 1865. This couple’s daughter, my great-grandmother Anna Petronellia Sherman, was born in April that year. This little family would have been listed on a state census. Research on my German ancestor would have taken a step ahead.

But Indiana did not take a census that year, and I have found very few records from that decade. This week I looked at one of them, an 1866 plat of Johnson County, Indiana. The Sherman family lived there for a time. The map serves as a substitute of sorts for the absence of a mid-decade census.

I ordered this map from the Family History Library in Salt Lake, and it came on two microfiche. The map had separate sections for each incorporated area in the county as well as a broader map showing all the landowners in the rural areas. The writing was faint, and it appeared in different orientations throughout the maps. This made it hard to view on a microfiche reader.

I spent upwards of two hours looking at this plat to see if I could locate any familiar names:

  • Anna Petronellia Sherman, was born at Edinburg in 1865. The plat showed the layout of this town and identified local businesses, but it did not place names on individual residences. I found no clue of where, or if, any Shermans still lived there in 1866.
  • My great-great grandfather, Thomas Sherman, and his older brother Anderson registered for the Civil War draft at Nineveh in 1863. The plat for Nineveh did label individual residences, but again I found no mention of a Sherman family in 1866.
  • My great-great grandmother is identified in family records as Katherine Stillenbaugh/Stanabaugh. I continue to work under the hypothesis that she was part of the extended Stilgenbauer/Stillabower clan of German immigrants who lived south of Indianapolis. There was a “Stigenbauer” residence next door to the Post Office in Nineveh in 1866. This puts the Shermans and the German family in the same county at about the same time.
  • I found no mention of any Sherman or Stilgenbauer landowners on the farms in the county. For the Shermans this was not a surprise. They were blacksmiths and owned little, if any, farmland over the years.

After examining these plats, I have little new information. I do have a better understanding of the neighborhoods my ancestors frequented. I took down the names of all the householders in Nineveh because some of these people would have been acquaintances of my family members. Their records may mention my own family.

My local family history center received the Johnson County plat microfiche on extended loan, so I can view them again if I uncover other information about my families. I still wish Indiana had taken a census listing all heads of household in the mid-1860’s, but these plats provide something of a census substitute.

Centenarians in the Family

We have some longevity in our family. My own father will reach the age of ninety this year, and several of his cousins lived into their nineties, too. One claimed she would be the first Reed to live to the age of 100, but she did not make it. Maybe my father will claim that accomplishment.

Some of his more distant relatives have lived even longer than that. I know of two well-documented cases of women in our family who passed the century mark:

  1. Maggie Sherman Hendricks (1872-1976). Maggie was my dad’s first cousin, twice removed, on his father’s side. The daughter of Anderson Sherman and Sarah Jane Prewitt, she was born in Indiana. She died at age 104 and is buried in the Greenlawn Cemetery in Franklin, Indiana. The family story says that Anderson Sherman’s maternal grandmother, who was my dad’s third great-grandmother, lived to be 111 years old. Perhaps Maggie (and my dad!) received some good genes from her.
  2. Lula Mae Riddle Ferris (1893-1999). Lula Mae was a Michigan farm wife and my dad’s first cousin, once removed, on his mother’s side. Her parents were Ethan Henry Riddle and Sophronia McClish. The maternal line for both Ethan Riddle and my dad comes from New England stock which is known for longevity. When Ethan’s daughter Lula Mae passed away at the age of 105, she had come close to living in three different centuries. She is buried in Leonidas Cemetery in St. Joseph County, Michigan.

I wonder whether these people were glad to live that long. My dad does not seem to get much enjoyment out of life any more, and he is still many years younger than these cousins lived to be. With the infirmities of extreme old age, one must give up many of the things one once enjoyed. That is why the adage says we all want to live longer, but we do not want to grow old. I would agree with that.

Katherine, Still MIA

Despite several hours’ work, I have made no real progress in my search for my elusive German ancestor, Katherine Stillenbaugh/Staninbaugh. I have been unable to find any evidence supporting the hypothesis that she belonged to the Stilgenbauer/Stillabower clan that lived south of Indianapolis, IN in the 1860’s:

  • Using census records and county histories, I constructed family trees for the three immigrant patriarchs who lived in that area: Jacob (1796-1865), Adam (1801-1863), and Johan Michael (1804-1881). Although I found several daughters and granddaughters, some named Catherine, none of these girls seem to fit the profile of my ancestor. Either they were born in the U.S. instead of Germany, died in childhood, or married someone other than my Thomas Sherman.
  • I combed through the online databases for the Allen County Public Library, the Indiana Historical Society, the Indiana State Archives, and the Indiana State Library. I found almost no mention of either the Sherman family or the Stilgenbauer/Stillabower family.
  • I reviewed the Family Search catalog for Johnson County, Indiana (where the Shermans lived and Katherine’s daughter was born in 1865) to determine whether they hold any records I might find helpful. The Johnson County courthouse burned in 1874, so many records were lost. They do not have much that I have not already analyzed.

Where do I go from here? I have a few steps in mind:

  • Family Search does have a microfiche copy of an 1866 land ownership map for Johnson County. I could order that to help re-create the Sherman’s neighborhood at that time. People came and went between census years, and the map might hold additional names to search.
  • One of Thomas Sherman’s sisters married Stephen Dyke, and this family remained in Johnson County after most of the other Shermans had moved on to Illinois and Missouri. I have done little research on the Dykes. Perhaps the records of these relatives hold a clue to my Thomas and his first wife.
  • The Stilgenbauer/Stillabower families lived primarily in Brown and Bartholomew Counties, both adjacent to Johnson County. I can do more research in the records of those counties.
  • I have not yet looked at land and probate records. I have not found an online source, and perhaps these records were destroyed in courthouse fires. I need to investigate this research avenue.
  • DNA testing could provide a connection to the Stilgebauer/Stillabower line. I need to review our matches for this possibility.

In the meantime, Katherine remains a brick wall ancestor.

 

 

Combing the Indiana Records

The hunt for information about my 2nd great-grandmother, Katherine Stillenbaugh, continues. To make any progress I must follow a disciplined research plan.

I start with the only fact I know about her. She lived in Indiana in 1865. There she bore a daughter, my great-grandmother Anna Petronellia Sherman, in April of that year. The family always reported that Anna Petronellia was born at Indianapolis and Katherine died there, but Anna P.’s 1885 Kansas census record gives her birthplace as Edinburg, Indiana. This town lies 20-30 miles south of Indianapolis in Johnson County near the intersection of three counties—Bartholomew, Johnson, and Shelby.

With Indiana as a starting point, I began my research by identifying what Indiana records might exist and where they might be housed. During a visit to the Denver Public Library a couple of weeks ago, I consulted the National Genealogical Society’s Research in The States guide for Indiana. It provides many research options.

I decided to begin with online offerings at the major state repositories. These include the following:

  • Allen County Public Library,
  • Indiana Historical Society,
  • Indiana State Archives,
  • Indiana State Library,
  • Several academic libraries.

Over the last two weeks I began visiting the websites for these institutions. I found little useful information on the Allen County site, and I learned that the Indiana Historical Society has no online databases.

The Indiana State Archives offers a digital archive. There I found some military records and commitment papers for the Stilgenbauer family but nothing for the Shermans. I continue to work under the hypothesis that because of the similarity of names, the Stilgenbauers might be my Katherine’s family, so I collected their information. Unfortunately, nothing here offered any evidence of a connection to my ancestor.

The Indiana State Library has several digitized genealogical resources, and I looked first at Bartholomew County, for no other reason than it is first alphabetically on the list of the three counties of interest. The library holdings included county histories from 1888 and 1904—long after my ancestor died and her daughter had moved on to Illinois and beyond. Neither volume mentioned the Sherman family at all nor did they contain any relevant information about the Stilgenbauer family. The third book was The People’s Guide, an 1874 county directory that serves as a census substitute in the absence of a state census.

The People’s Guide tells me that Nicholas Stillabower, born in 1823 in Germany, lived seven miles west of Taylorsville (about 5 miles south of Edinburg). He had settled there in 1851. He was a Democrat and a Lutheran. From earlier research, I know that Nicholas did have a daughter Catherine who was born in 1847, the right age to be my Katherine. Unfortunately, this Catherine married someone named Long and lived until 1883. The only way she could be my ancestor is if the story of Katherine’s death in childbirth is wrong. Instead, the death story would have been concocted after she and the baby’s father had separated. Before going down this road in my research, I plan to continue the search for my Katherine elsewhere. Still, it is a possibility to keep in mind.

My next step will be to continue my research at the Indiana State Library by moving on to Johnson County. This takes a tremendous amount of time, but I must search every source available. Doing it from home certainly takes much less time and money than making a trip to Indiana to do it. I may need to go there eventually, but much remains for me to do from Colorado first.

 

 

An Expanded Search

Despite some diligent research, my attempt to identify my German 2nd great-grandmother, Katherine Stillenbaugh, has gone nowhere this week. I need to broaden the search.

Family lore tells me that this woman immigrated at the age of 8, gave birth to my great-grandmother, Anna Petronellia Sherman, at Indianapolis in 1865, and died shortly thereafter. I have not found a marriage record for her. With no birth and death records kept that early in Indiana, I must use other means to pinpoint this little family of Thomas, Katherine, and Anna P. Sherman. An Indiana census record would have been nice.

As far as I know, Indiana did not conduct a census in 1865 so I am out of luck for that year. Because Katherine had died by the time of the 1870 U. S. census, her name would not appear there. Indeed, by 1870 little Anna Petronellia lived with her paternal grandmother, Rebecca Sherman, in Illinois.

That leaves me looking back before the Civil War to the 1860 U. S. census. Did Katherine live in Indiana in 1860? No family named Stillenbaugh lived there, or anywhere else, for that matter. Stillenbaugh must be a corruption of her family’s true German name.

I discovered a clue to what it might have been by following the movements of the husband, Thomas Sherman. In 1860, he was a single man living in his parents’ household in Kentucky, not Indiana. However, his older brother Anderson did live in Indiana by then, in Hamblen Township, Brown County, just south of Indianapolis. And Anderson was surrounded by German neighbors named Stillabower.

Were these my Katherine’s people? None of the six families had a daughter Katherine/Catharine in 1860 although Michael P. had an 8-year-old Mary C. Family information found on FindAGrave.com tells me that these families, all related, included three immigrant brothers, Jacob, Adam, and Michael, and three of their sons, Michael C., Michael P., and John. The FindAGrave site also tells me that the Stillabower family had many more members than just these. In fact, the original German name was Stilgenbauer, and they were Lutherans from Bavaria. Some settled first in Ohio and later moved on to Indiana.

Looking beyond the 1860 census, I know that by 1863, Anderson Sherman had moved out of Brown County and into neighboring Johnson County, also just south of Indianapolis. Thomas lived there, too. Another younger Jacob Stillgenbauer lived nearby. Unfortunately, in 1860 he did not have a daughter named Katherine/Catherine either, but he did have a 10-year-old girl named Caroline. Caroline? Catharine? It is a possibility, but she would have been just 15 in 1865. I cannot presume that she was my girl. Still, her later whereabouts are worth a look.

And that is where my search ended this week.

Armed with the information uncovered so far, I plan to do some more investigation of this German Stilgenbauer family, both elsewhere in Indiana and in other states where family members may have resided before landing in Indiana. The Civil War disrupted people’s lives, and folks moved around during those years. My Katherine could have lived anywhere in 1860.

I also hope to learn whether any Lutheran church records for the 1860’s Indianapolis area survive. I have found no county marriage record for Thomas and Katherine in Indiana. If the Stilgenbauers were Lutheran, perhaps this couple married in the Lutheran church even though Thomas probably was not Lutheran himself. He did not seem averse to a church wedding because a Methodist minister officiated at his second marriage to Mary Scott in 1872.

My other research possibility is to look for Stilgenbauers on the 1850 U.S. census. The difficulty with this is that I do not know what year Katherine was born or what year she immigrated. A young woman married to a 23-year-old man (Thomas) by 1865 was likely born in the 1840’s. My family says Katherine left Germany at the age of eight, so perhaps she was in America by 1850. From the FindAGrave information I cannot tell with any precision when the Brown County Stillabowers immigrated. The older Adam was said to have come over in 1836, while Jacob’s son Adam was born in Germany in 1838. If this was my family, other relatives, including mine, may have followed in the 1840’s and 1850’s.

This leaves me with so many people to sort through. The time-consuming search for my Katherine continues. Stay tuned.

 

A Step-By-Step Plan for Finding Katherine

I am on the hunt for any information available on my 2nd great-grandmother. So far I have turned up almost nothing, but I am not discouraged yet. I am pursuing a research plan, step-by-step.

The search began at home with tales of family lore. My dad’s cousins and aunts told me that the elusive woman’s name was Katherine Stillenbaugh/Stanabaugh, and she immigrated from Germany when she was eight years old. She died at Indianapolis shortly after giving birth to my great-grandmother, Anna Petronellia Sherman, in 1865.

I have done an exhaustive search on Katherine’s reported husband, my second great-grandfather Thomas Sherman. I have had no luck connecting him to this alleged first wife or her family. He did live south of Indianapolis during the Civil War, so at least that much of the story matches.

Armed with these bits of information, I began my search for Katherine in earnest earlier this month. My steps:

  1. Thomas Sherman and his brother actually resided in Johnson County, Indiana, not Indianapolis, so I looked at the county histories for that location. I found no mention of the Sherman family or any German family with a name similar to the one I seek. I did not find an Indiana marriage record for my Thomas Sherman in the 1860’s.
  2. A search of the 1860 U.S. census for Johnson and surrounding counties turned up an extended German family named Stilgenbauer or Stillabower. This family name sounds promising, and I decided to do some research on them to find out whether anyone had a likely daughter named Katherine.
  3. On FindAGrave.com, I found memorials for many members of this Stilgenbauer family. Each contained links to the others. This family descends from three brothers (Jacob, Adam, and Johan Michael) who immigrated from Bavaria—a German state. Interestingly, these southern Germans seemed to be Lutheran, not Catholic. This information fits, too, because Thomas Sherman was Protestant, not Catholic, and it is unlikely he would have married into a Catholic family. Thank you to Mike E. Wirey who created all these memorials in 2007.
  4. I spent a considerable amount of time this week reviewing Wirey’s information and reconstructing the Stilgenbauer family relationships on a white board. Catherine seems to be a common name with them, but I did not spot a girl who fit the profile of my Katherine. They all either died quite young or had married names other than Sherman.

Still more digging remains to be done. The FindAGrave information is not a complete family tree. What will I do next?

  1. I can try to contact Mike E. Wirey to find out if he has any additional Stilgenbauer information, particularly on girls named Katherine.
  2. I can look at the 1860 U.S. census for Johnson and all the surrounding counties for more members of the Stilgenbauer family to see if I can find another Catherine who seems a better match for my ancestor.
  3. I can take a DNA test to find out if I am match for any Stilgenbauers or their descendants who might have taken a test.
  4. I know where Thomas Sherman lived in 1863, and I can reconstruct his neighborhood, looking for clues.
  5. I can work to identify pertinent records at the Johnson County Museum, the Johnson County Historical Society, and other repositories. Did Thomas Sherman associate with the Stilgenbauers, or did the families have associates in common? Thomas had a German sister-in-law named Mishler, so I know his family associated to some extent with their German neighbors.

This search promises to take a long time. I probably will never find a single piece of paper proving the identity of my ancestor. But I can pursue my research plan in the hopes of identifying a likely candidate and then building enough circumstantial evidence to prove a case.