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The Reeds Revisited

I have much-needed work to do on my direct paternal line, the Reeds. I keep putting it off as I spend time on other lineage lines where I have even less information than I have for the Reeds. Still, I would love to know where the Reeds originated before they came to America in colonial times.

This week a very distant Reed relative’s message appeared in my inbox. She wants to do more research on our mutual, deeper ancestry. I am thrilled.

Caleb Reed (1756-abt. 1835) was our most recent common ancestor. This cousin wants to carry the study back in time from him.

Caleb came from Morris County, New Jersey and settled in what is now Fayette County, Pennsylvania around the time of the Revolutionary War. His brother Joshua served in the war, and I have his RW pension file.

Sometime after the war, Caleb relocated his family to Shelby County, Kentucky. His grown children later decided to move on from there to different places.

His son Thomas Reed, my ancestor, went to Coles County, Illinois. A daughter, Abigail Shaw, moved to Texas with her family. Caleb himself went with his widowed daughter Rachel Elliott and her sons to Washington County, Indiana. The elderly Caleb lived there with Rachel until his death.

Genealogists find Caleb’s natal family in New Jersey to be a tangled-up mess, partly because there was more than one Reed family in Morris County. My Reed cousin wants to tackle the puzzle, and I wish her luck. I will help in any way I can.

She will begin by studying the Reed DNA. In our branch of the family, both my father and his first cousin carried the Reed surname and took Y-DNA tests before they died. Thankfully, they matched each other. We have this valuable information to work with.

The Reed surname project at FamilyTree DNA will help connect these two Reeds with others of the same line. My distant cousin is contacting as many matches as she can find.

I will keep in touch with her to see what information she can locate. I hope she is good at colonial research. The Reeds seem to love genealogy, and I am glad one is taking the lead to uncover more of our roots.

 

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.

 

 

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.

Adventures in DNA

Every week I log in to a couple of DNA testing websites to see whether I have any new matches. Recently, a few relatives on my dad’s side of the family have tested at these sites as well. Comparing their match lists with mine allows me to speculate on how my unfamiliar matches might be related to me.

I find this particularly interesting because several of my closest matches were adopted. I would like to know how we are related. Three people come to mind:

  1. A man in Florida matches my dad at the second cousin level. This man’s mother was adopted. As far as I know, no one in previous generations of Dad’s family lived in Florida, so I have no idea where this match fits into my family tree. He does not seem too interested in helping me puzzle this out.
  2. The same goes for a match in Montana. Again, this adopted woman does not want to correspond much although I have more to offer here. My dad had several family members who settled in Montana. Perhaps this woman is related through them. But without more information from her to go on, I cannot fit her into my tree, either.
  3. The final match, the closest one, is to a woman who was adopted from a foundling home near Lincoln, Nebraska in 1930. The third match and I have corresponded several times hoping to discover her parentage and how she is related to us.

She and I have made a little progress. When my second cousin on my father’s paternal side did a DNA test, she did not match my third match. This means the Nebraska baby does not belong to the Reed side of my dad’s family. Instead, she belongs to my grandmother’s family.

The third match’s family lived in the same area around McCook that my grandmother’s family did from 1885-1954. Only problem in placing the adopted baby into my family is that we do not know who Grandma’s father was. Without this information we do not know whether the baby is related through our known Riddle line or through my unknown great-grandfather’s line.

The match’s birth certificate provides the clue of a surname, probably her mother’s. I do not recognize this name as anyone related to me.

Two possibilities, then, come to mind. One of the baby’s parents may have been related to my unknown Nebraska great-grandfather. In that case, of course I do not recognize the surname on the baby’s birth record. Or perhaps the baby’s father was one of my known Riddle relatives.

Without more DNA testing, I think I will not find an answer. It would help to locate a Riddle descendant to see whether my third match also matches them. Doing this will be difficult because so many of us are double cousins, and their DNA would not help in sorting this out. We need a Riddle cousin whose family did not intermarry with the Reeds.

In the meantime, I will stay in touch with my DNA cousin in Nebraska. She would really like to identify her birth family, and I am her best evidence.

Probing My DNA Results

Recently I began combing through the family trees of my DNA matches looking to see if I could determine how I am related to these people. I have several brick wall ancestors, and a DNA match offers the possibility of breaking through one.

My first success was a connection to a descendant of the Stillabower family of Indiana. I have long suspected that my great-grandmother’s mother was a Stillabower. This match provides some evidence, especially since neither the other tester nor I recognized any other surnames in common.

This week I looked through my matches again for anyone who claimed a Riddle ancestor. My second great-grandfather, John Davis Riddle (1821-1896) was born somewhere in Pennsylvania, but I know nothing of his family. If I could find a Riddle match whose family also came from Pennsylvania, it might help my own research.

As I scrolled through my matches, one person who listed Riddles in his family tree seemed like a possibility. Further investigation, however, showed that his ancestors lived in the Carolinas, not Pennsylvania. Odd, then, that we should be a DNA match.

As I looked more closely at his family tree, I realized that our genealogical match probably is not from our Riddle lines at all. He has Carter and Templeton ancestors from Tennessee, and so do I. This common heritage is much more likely to be the reason for our DNA match.

Analyzing this match made me much more aware of how difficult it is to prove relationships with DNA testing and how careful one must be. Finding a common surname does not guarantee the DNA match is on that line. My matches and I must also match a third party who also descends from the suspected common ancestor. This is called triangulation. Once this occurs, one has a proven descent.

I will keep trying. As new matches are added, I will look for the surnames of all my mystery ancestors, Stillabower, Riddle, and Sherman. I will also search for close matches I do not recognize in the hopes that one may be from the family of my unidentified great-grandfather.

Sometimes there just is no paper trail to move us back in time. DNA testing can provide answers.