Categories
Unique Visitors
31,211
Total Page Views
503,011
View Teri Hjelmstad's profile on LinkedIn
 

 
Archives

Archive for the ‘Genealogy’ Category

Petter Toivain: Sexman

Sexman? What might that be?

I encountered this interesting profession as I powered through the Lampinen family tree shared by my Finnish cousins. A Toivain father-son pair of ancestors, both named Petter, worked as sexmen in the 17th century. Who employed them, and what did they do?

The word Sexman seemed more a Swedish word than Finnish one to me. When the Toivains lived and worked, Finland was part of Sweden. Many records during that time were kept in the Swedish language.

I plugged the word into Google Translate and searched for an English meaning from either Swedish or Finnish. No result. A sexman was a sexman in all three languages.

Next I turned to the Family Search wiki (https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Swedish_Genealogical_Word_List). They have word lists of genealogical terms, including occupations, for many languages. I tried the Swedish list first, and there I found it.

A sexman was the parish caretaker. My Finnish cousin then explained that the sexman’s obligations included seeing that the congregation members performed their religious duties, obeyed the Commandments, paid their tithes, and paid fines for any ecclesiastical offenses. The sexman also monitored parishioners for infectious diseases and transported ill members to the hospital. He held a key to the ark.

This must have been an important and powerful job in the state-mandated Lutheran Church of the time. Where did my ancestors serve?

The Toivain family lived in the tiny village of Kajoo, part of Juuka parish in Finnish Karelia. The present-day Juuka church is pictured above.

From the record, I cannot determine whether my ancestors had authority over the entire Juuka parish, or just Kajoo and its environs. My Finnish cousins have no more information to offer.

They did provide statistical information on the the Toivains who served as sexman:

  1. Petter Toivain, b. 18 Feb 1747 at Kajoo, d. 21 Apr 1809 at Kajoo. Married Anna Frantz 14 May 1765 at Nurmes.
  2. Petter Pettersson Toivain, b.21 Jun 1771 at Kajoo, d. 26 Jun 1818 at Kajoo. Married Anna Karjalainen, 25 May 1795, at Kajoo.

Clergymen Discovered

Religious affiliation provides an important genealogical clue to family ties. Parents bring up their children in the faith they practice. Church records for events like baptisms, marriages, and burials provide important dates and places in our ancestors’ lives.

Good records exist for some denominations, notably the Quakers. I have not found any Quakers in my family.

Another denomination with good records is the Lutherans. I was raised Lutheran. Church records for the state-mandated Lutheran church in our family’s old countries, Norway and Finland, can be found online now. Studying these has allowed me to extend my mom’s Nordic family tree back to the mid-1600’s.

My dad’s family has not been so easy. He grew up Presbyterian. His mother attended that church for as long as I knew her. Yet this connection has not been a good clue for genealogical purposes.

After much research, I have learned that she descended from Puritans in Massachusetts. Until they homesteaded in Nebraska, her family was Congregational for many generations.

With a lack of Congregational churches nearby, she and my grandfather took their kids to the Presbyterian Church. Some in his family had been Presbyterian while others were Baptist. I do not know how he was raised.

His father first married a Baptist. This great-grandfather lies buried in a Baptist cemetery alongside his first wife even though he had a Presbyterian funeral service. The second wife, my great-grandmother, attended neither church. She joined a Methodist congregation as a young woman and followed that tradition for the rest of her long life.

With Baptist, Congregational, Methodist, and Presbyterian ancestors, I have no simple denominational path to help me trace my dad’s family. Even if I could identify a denomination to track, it is notoriously difficult to locate their records, if they survive.

In modern times, many of my family members have fallen away from the churches they knew as children. My dad’s family bounced from church to church, if they went at all. My mom and her parents stopped going to the Lutheran churches.

Given this lack of strong affiliation today, I was surprised this week to discover pastors in my roots. All the clergy in my family date back to circa 1700:

  1. Georgius (d. 1672), Petrus (1630 – c.1691), and Jöran (1665-1722) Wallius/Wallin served as three generations of Lutheran pastors at Kittee in modern-day Finland’s North Karelia region.
  2. Lars Hallitius Bergman (1640-1688) was Jöran Wallin’s father-in-law. He served the Lutheran Church at Pielisjärvi, also in today’s North Karelia.
  3. Some sources say it was my ancestor Gershom Hall (d. 1732) who was called as minister in Chatham, Massachusetts in 1717. The name Gershom was a common one in the Hall line during colonial times. Without more research, I cannot say for certain that the Puritan minister Gershom Hall was the same man as my ancestor, but I hope he is.

As a churchgoer myself, I am glad to see that I have these people of faith in my heritage. The calling got lost somewhere along the way. I have found no more pastors in my family lines in the subsequent 200 years.

My family’s long-ago Finnish pastors were notable people in their time. They are named in the history books of Karelia. Someday I will have to relate their stories.

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.

 

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.