Categories
View Teri Hjelmstad's profile on LinkedIn
 

 
Archives

Archive for the ‘Genealogy’ Category

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.

Taking the Plunge On A DNA Test

The genealogical proof standard has always obliged us to do an exhaustive search for every ancestor. In the past decade, DNA testing has become widely available as a research tool to use in addition to older research methods. Today an exhaustive search means using DNA testing as part of a proof, and many genealogists have tested their DNA.

Although I know this, I still have not completed a DNA test myself. For privacy reasons, I have been reluctant to do so. I have worried about putting my results out there somewhere and about who might have access to this information. Would I open myself to discrimination if my test fell into the wrong hands? Could someone subpoena my results and use them against me in court?

After attending several seminars on DNA testing, it has now become clear to me that I would risk very little if I took a DNA test for genealogical purposes. In fact, I might learn a little more about my family.

I do have some puzzles in my heritage that a DNA test might help me solve:

  1. I have an unknown great-grandfather, a man who contributed 1/8 of my DNA. Having autosomal results on file with a DNA testing company could help me locate his family and identify him.
  2. The same goes for my mysterious German great-great grandmother, who contributed an additional 1/16 of my DNA.
  3. I am curious about my maternal line, reportedly from Finland but whose members resided awfully close to Russia. Is my maternal line truly Finnish, or do we have some Russian? A mitochondrial test could help me find relatives whose ancestors stayed behind when my Finnish great-grandmother Ada Alina Lampinen immigrated to America in 1905.

I have spent years trying to locate information on my unidentified ancestors with no success. DNA testing may be my only hope of ever discovering who they might be. Consequently, my desire to resolve these questions has finally overcome my inhibitions and convinced me to take a DNA test.

This week, FamilyTreeDNA has a sale on test kits. For a $70 savings, I just ordered an autosomal test and a mitochondrial test. Will I find answers to any of my questions after I submit my test results?

Travel Goes Awry

This week we have seen much press and social media coverage of an incident aboard a United Airlines plane in Chicago. Like so many others around the world, I have watched in horrified fascination as the story unfolded—viewing the video, listening to news reports, and following the Twitter commentary. Late-night talk show hosts roasted the airline. We have many witty Americans who suggested numerous new slogans for United Airlines (see #UnitedAirlinesNewMottos).

Apparently, the man on the plane committed the sin of quietly boarding the plane with his valid ticket and then taking his assigned seat. Suddenly, the airline decided they wanted that spot for a non-revenue flyer, leaving no room for the man who thought he was on his way home. The crew ordered him off. When he refused to comply because he needed to get home, they brought in law enforcement to compel the unarmed, elderly man to leave. These reinforcements quickly bloodied the man, knocked out his teeth, and rendered him unconscious. Then the thugs security officers proceeded to drag him down the aisle and out of the plane. He ended up in the hospital for three days. The airline called this incident a re-accommodation, saying they had asked nicely for so-called volunteers first.

As the week progressed, I was surprised to learn that many airlines follow the same procedure of boarding ticket holders only to turn around and force them off the plane before departure. Numerous people have come forward in recent days to tell stories of how they, too, have been checked in, security screened, and settled in their seats only to be randomly selected to leave the plane. One man said he had been threatened with handcuffs. I saw videos of other passengers crying and pleading to stay on the aircraft so they could get to weddings, funerals, graduations, etc. on time. Airline staff always turned a deaf ear. It reminds me of the Shirley Jackson short story, The Lottery, where townspeople stone to death a randomly-selected neighbor.

A couple of questions have come to my mind after the United incident:

  1. Why did United think this type of extreme action was necessary in this case? The plane was meant to fly to Louisville, a 4-hour drive from Chicago. When United could not lure anyone to give up a seat on the flight, why not secure other means of travel for the crew instead of inconveniencing their paying passengers? Several options occurred to me, including a flight on another airline, a limousine or rental car, or a private plane. After the delays on the flight in question, the crew would have arrived in Louisville at about the same time.
  2. Why is airport security getting involved in situations where the airlines have intentionally provoked passengers entrusted to their care? These are not situations where an individual has come aboard and then become violent or posed a threat to anyone. Perhaps the airlines would find a better way to meet their own needs if they had to hire their own bouncers for disagreements they instigate.

And a final question: What does all this have to do with genealogy?

Well, genealogists must travel sometimes for research purposes or to attend conferences. Now, in addition to worrying about TSA intrusions on the ground, flight delays for weather or mechanical reasons, and normal fear of flying, we must sit apprehensively in our assigned seats while dreading what the crew might do to us before the plane actually takes off. We must wonder, will I be the one told either to leave or to risk getting beaten up and sent to jail? Will I have to watch it happen to someone else?

Because air travel was already so unpleasant, I have not flown in three years. This year, however, I decided to make a trip to Germany to see some family villages and to go on tour with my choir. The timing of the United incident, just weeks before my own trip, has really raised my stress level over my travel plans. I can only hope that flying overseas on a customer-friendly foreign carrier will help me avoid an abusive situation. I am not frightened enough to cancel my trip, but I know it will take a great incentive for me to ever schedule another one, especially on a domestic flight. I would rather drive or take the train.

#ShameOnUnited

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.

Genealogy Projects in The Works

My genealogy world seems to speed up in the spring. I have several events ahead that get in the way of doing much research these days:

  1. My husband/tech advisor and I will offer a presentation to our Norwegian study group next month. In a program called The Push and the Pull, we plan to discuss why people left Norway and why they settled where they did in the United States.
  2. We have two great genealogy seminars coming up in the Denver area. David Allen Lambert of the New England Historic Genealogical Society will speak to the Colorado Genealogical Society in April. Dr. Fritz Juengling, a German consultant at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, will address the Colorado Chapter of the Palatines to America in May. A new neighbor of mine who is interested in genealogy will attend these seminars with me.
  3. My most ambitious trip this year will be a choir tour through the Reformation sites in Germany and the Czech Republic. My family has been Lutheran since the 1500’s, so I am eager to find my spiritual roots. We will add a few days to the choir tour to visit my husband/tech advisor’s ancestral villages in Germany. In order to get ready for this trip, I am spending much of my free time singing instead of doing genealogy.

Once I have completed the planning for these events, I will get back to my day-to-day research tasks. I cannot believe we are almost through the first quarter of the year, and I am nowhere near finished with all to searching I want to do for this’s year’s project on my elusive German ancestors.

 

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.

 

 

PowerPoint—A Genealogy Tool

Every once in a while I must take some time for computer training. The time will arrive again this weekend when our local Sons of Norway genealogy study group meets.

This Saturday our leader wants to provide PowerPoint training for everyone. She hopes that familiarity with this software will encourage more people to step up to create entertaining programs for both the genealogy group and the Sons of Norway Lodge meetings.

I must confess that I am as guilty as anyone in avoiding proficiency with PowerPoint. Oh, I have had PowerPoint training in the past. I got through the training class at work about 10 years ago but never used it again. Now my knowledge is quite outdated because we did not learn how to acquire and insert images for the slides. I know how to create pages with text only.

Nowadays, the slides for an interesting presentation need illustrations. The very idea of finding and inserting these seems overwhelming to me. If I take my own photos, I will have to figure out how to transfer them to my PC and then put them in folders which I will never remember how to locate later. If I use someone else’s images, I will need to worry about acquiring the appropriate copyright permission. No wonder I do not volunteer to create PowerPoint presentations.

Other people’s testimonials do not encourage me to try it. One professional genealogist I know had done many, many valuable training classes over the years. She quit when PowerPoint became the standard of delivery. Even my son, a very tech-savvy Army officer, says he wishes PowerPoint had never been invented. His superiors want a PowerPoint for everything, and it takes up so much of my son’s time to prepare each one.

My husband/tech advisor has offered to teach the upcoming PowerPoint class for the Sons of Norway. He seems to have little trouble with it and readily volunteers to use it for speaking engagements. Perhaps he can give all of us some insight into how to create a presentation with good-looking slides.

Once armed with some ability to put together a few interesting PowerPoint slides, I might step up and provide a program or two for the Sons of Norway. I do not mind speaking to a group, and I have a lot of knowledge I could share. Perhaps others like me could do the same. I am glad our leader has this idea for encouraging us.

A Seemingly Dead End with Katherine

Again I spent the week searching for my mysterious German ancestor Katherine Stillenbaugh/Stansbaugh, and again I found almost nothing. Katherine’s daughter was reportedly born at Edinburg, Johnson County, Indiana in April 1865 so I tried a few different sources for that location:

  1. A close review of a 1913 history of Johnson County revealed no mention of a Stillenbaugh or Stansbaugh family in the county. I also looked for similar sounding German names like Stilgenbauer and Stillabower, but I found none of those, either.
  2. I searched the 1860 U.S. census for Johnson County for any girl named Katherine/Catherine who was born between 1830-1850. The only unmarried Catherine was Cath McLane, born 1840, living in Clark. This does not seem a likely match.
  3. I searched Bartholomew, Brown, Johnson and Shelby counties for single girls named Katherine/Catherine who were born in Germany between 1830-1850. There were none in Brown, Johnson, and Shelby Counties. In Bartholomew, I found five: Catherine Ball, Catherine Mench, Catherine Strawbeck, Catherine Vogelpohl, and Catherine Woerner. I could follow up on these girls to locate their marriage records. This would tell me the names of their spouses. Anyone not married by 1865 would be a candidate for the woman who married my 2nd great-grandfather.

After finding nothing probative in these searches, I broadened my census search terms to look nationwide for single girls named Katherine/Catherine Stil* or Stan* born 1830-1850 in Germany. This search turned up three women:

  1. Catherine Stilgebauer, born in Ohio in 1837, living in 1860 in Bucks Twp., Tuscarawas Co., OH with husband Jacob and daughter Sophia. Wrong marital status, wrong birthplace.
  2. Catherine Stansbaugh, born in Baden in 1846, living in 1860 Bethlehem, Stark County Co., OH with parents John and Margaret. An alternative surname of Steberger for this person has been added on Ancestry.com. I should search for more information on this woman. Did she move to Indiana? Was her true name Stansbaugh (wouldn’t that be great?) or Steberger?
  3. Catherine Stillbower, born in 1830 in Germany, living in 1850 in Perry Twp., Stark Co., OH in the Henry Shike household. She did not appear under the same surname in 1860, so she probably had married by then.

None of this gives me much to go on. With no marriage record, no certain census record, and no grave for my Katherine, my only hope will be either to uncover something in a record created by one of the as-yet-unidentified male relatives in her life or to find a DNA match to a German family. I have a lot of records left to search.