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Archive for the ‘Genealogy’ Category

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 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.

A Genealogical Spring Ahead

We have unseasonably warm weather in the Denver area right now. It feels like spring. When that season finally arrives on the calendar, I have some exciting genealogy activities planned:

  1. On April 1, my husband/tech advisor and I will present a Sons of Norway program on the reasons for Norwegian emigration to America.
  2. On April 8, I will attend the annual Colorado Genealogical Society seminar. David Allen Lambert of the New England Historic Genealogical Society will discuss various aspects of New England research. My dad’s Bangs, Burgess, Dunbar, Hall, Hathaway, and Snow families lived in Massachusetts during colonial times, so I am hoping to pick up some tips for researching these lines.
  3. On May 6, Dr. Fritz Juengling, a German research consultant at the Salt Lake Family History Library, will speak at the Palatines To America seminar. I am devoting my research time this year to identifying my German ancestors, if any, and I hope to get some ideas for moving forward on this.
  4. My church choir will tour the Land of Luther in Germany this year as part of our celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. I come from a Lutheran family on my maternal side, and the opportunity to see the Luther sites fulfills a lifelong dream of mine. As a bonus, my husband/tech advisor and I will leave a few days early and visit his family villages in western Germany.

Each of these events offers the chance for me to pursue my genealogical education. With this varied mix of experiences, I hope to get some insights into many aspects of my heritage—Norwegian, German, and English. If I am truly fortunate, these opportunities will translate into a spring forward with in my research.

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.



A Surprising Opportunity

Occasionally an opportunity to volunteer for a short commitment comes along. One of these came my way a couple of weeks ago.

I had gone to lunch in January with a group of other members of the Colorado Genealogical Society (CGS). We went to a Chinese place to celebrate the new Year of the Rooster. The group had a great time talking about genealogical things as we bonded over Chinese food. Afterwards, I went home to resume my solitary genealogical pursuits.

The next day I received a request from the person who had sat next to me at lunch. Would I help judge this year’s CGS writing contest? What? Someone thinks I know enough about writing to judge a contest?

I have never done anything like that before. I am not a professional writer. Yet I have done a lot of writing, both in law school and at work and occasionally for magazines, including the quarterly journal that CGS publishes. I also write this blog. Perhaps these credentials counted enough for what they needed. By serving as a judge, I could benefit personally, too. Judging the contest would give me a chance to stretch myself into something new while simultaneously assisting the Society. I accepted immediately.

Shortly, I received the contest rules and writing guidelines, blind electronic copies of nineteen submissions, and the contact information for two other judges. We began our task by corresponding a bit to settle on a judging process.

After I had read all the contest entries, I selected my favorites. The other judges did the same. Then we met at Denver Public Library to compare notes.

Luckily, we easily agreed on the contest results. We then submitted our decision to the person who had recruited me originally. Because several of the submissions have a Colorado connection, they will go on to be considered for publication in the CGS Quarterly magazine if the author so desires.

Serving as a contest judge was a wonderful experience. I felt I did something worthwhile, and I truly enjoyed reading the stories written by those who took the time to enter the contest. We have some good genealogists out there.

Kudos to CGS for running this contest. It accomplished so many things. It encouraged nineteen people to write about their families. It solicited some good content for our CGS publication. And it gave me the chance to learn a new skill.


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 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.


How About a DNA Test?

This month I find myself learning more about DNA and genealogy and trying to decide whether to take a DNA test.

Twice this month I have had the opportunity to hear a good speaker on this topic, Deena Coutant of DigiDeena Consulting ( She presented sessions on the basics of DNA testing to both our local Highlands Ranch Genealogical Association and our Norwegian genealogy study group at the Sons of Norway. When she speaks, she even brings along DNA test kits in case her listeners want to test their DNA on the spot.

I also recently acquired the new book in the National Genealogical Society’s Special Topics Series, Genetic Genealogy in Practice by Blaine T. Bettinger and Debbie Parker Wayne. Going through this workbook should give me a better education on how I could apply DNA test results in my own genealogical research.

Over the years I have been reluctant, for privacy reason, to take a DNA test for genealogy. But as Deena points out, DNA results have now become an essential piece of evidence for conducting the exhaustive research demanded to prove a case. So I am thinking about it.

I can identify three situations where a DNA test could provide some benefit in my research:

  1. I have an unknown great-grandfather. My grandmother Grace Riddle Reed was born to Laura Riddle in 1896 at Palisade, Nebraska. Twelve and a half percent of my DNA comes from Grace’s father, and I would like to know who he was.
  2. My family says that one of my great-great grandmothers was Katherine Stillenbaugh/Stanabaugh, mother of Anna Petronellia Sherman, born near Indianapolis in 1865. I have never found any record of this woman, and 6.25% of my DNA comes from her. I would like to identify her and her family.
  3. My direct maternal line comes from eastern Finland. I believe these people were Karelians who lived around Lake Ladoga. An mtDNA test would satisfy my curiosity about my maternal deep ancestry.

Should I take the test? The one I would want (autosomal + mtDNA) costs quite a bit. If I do it, I would then need to devote the time necessary to communicate with those who match my DNA. This translates into overcoming my reluctance to give up my privacy as well as committing a good deal of money and time.

I need to make a decision on whether I want to use this means to move ahead in the quest to identify my mysterious ancestors.