View Teri Hjelmstad's profile on LinkedIn


Archive for the ‘Genealogy’ Category

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 Now my knowledge is quite outdated because we did not learn how to acquire and insert images for the slides.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.

Genealogy Goals for 2017

Happy New Year to everyone! Are we all ready to begin another exciting chapter of Reed/Bentsen family research? I know I am. I hope to accomplish a number of things in 2017:

  1. My German third great-grandmother, Katherine Stillenbaugh/Stanabaugh (d. abt. 1865), remains a mystery to me, and I would love to break through this brick wall. I have developed a research plan to see if I can find any clues about her. This week I began by reading through the published histories of Johnson County, Indiana where I suspect she lived. Unfortunately, I found nothing that shed any light on her. My next step will be to identify families in Johnson and surrounding counties with surnames similar to hers and reconstruct those family groups to see if I can identify a possible candidate for her family. Anyone missing a daughter Katherine/Catherine/Catharina who might belong to me?!
  2. Technically, I finished up my series 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks in 2016. One year did not allow me enough weeks to complete the stories of all my third great-grandparents. Notably, I did not get to my Finnish line (ha, ha). I intend to do a few more posts on this topic so that I have something written about that entire generation.
  3. I plan to take up the challenge presented by Family Search and do a series on 52 Stories. The project involves writing a post every week about my own life. Family Search provides a year’s worth of prompts to inspire good material for this. First up, Goals & Achievements. When I am finished, I will have a nice memoir that I can pass along to my descendants.
  4. Later this year I will take a fabulous trip to Germany and the Czech Republic. My Lutheran church choir will go on tour to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, and we will visit all the historic Luther sites. My maternal family has been Lutheran since the Reformation, so it means a lot to me to have the opportunity to explore my spiritual roots. My husband/tech advisor and I will tack a few days on to the trip to visit his ancestral villages in Germany and the Netherlands. If I could find out where my mystery ancestor originated in the German lands, perhaps I could visit her villages, too.
  5. I still have an unviewed box of material and several notebooks inherited from my Dad’s cousin awaiting curating. I would like to complete this project this year. Many of her materials concern her maternal line, which is not related to me. I would like to identify and donate these items to the Denver Public Library for the benefit of other genealogists.

These goals should keep me busy through the year. Wish me luck!

Finishing Up for 2016

I am closing out another research year. For the last twelve months I have researched the life of my blacksmith great-great grandfather, Thomas Sherman. I have learned about his life and written up my findings for distribution to my family. For wider dissemination of the information I have gathered, I have put all the names, dates, and places into the family tree on Family Search (

During the year I learned that Thomas, like many in the nineteenth century, moved around a bit, as evidenced by these life events:


  • Born 23 November 1841 in Ohio,
  • Grew to manhood in Kentucky, and learned the blacksmith trade from his father, Daniel Sherman,
  • Married his first wife, fathered his first child, and registered for the Civil War draft in Johnson County, Indiana,
  • Married twice more and fathered five more children in eastern Illinois,
  • Died 3 February 1912 at Charleston, Illinois.

A big mystery still not answered from my research this year is the identity of his first wife. Next year I plan to continue with the Sherman research in an effort to discover who she may have been. I do have a name and place to go on—Katherine Stillenbaugh/Stanabaugh of Indianapolis, Indiana. Family lore says she immigrated from Germany.

I would just love to place this woman, my great-great grandmother, into her birth family. I plan a trip to Germany in 2017, and it would be wonderful to know more about her by then.

Writing for “The Colorado Genealogist”

The latest issue of The Colorado Genealogist came out this week. The periodical’s Editor, Nancy Ratay, put together for this issue some articles on integrating DNA matches with traditional research. I felt privileged to contribute the account of my own discovery of a Colorado cousin through DNA testing.

As I have written before, a DNA match identified my previously unknown third cousin in Colorado. She actively pursues genealogy, too, so we had a great time swapping information this summer. She gave me permission to tell our story in the Colorado Genealogical Society’s quarterly publication.

In addition to the honor of being published in this periodical, I also had the chance to promote my own research. My article necessarily includes some of the names in my family tree. These names appear in the journal’s annual end-of-year index. This issue goes out to libraries and societies across the country. Perhaps someone searching for my surnames will see my ancestors’ names and contact me.

Access to The Colorado Genealogist is one of the perks of belonging to the Colorado Genealogical Society (CGS). Even if one does not have Colorado ancestors, belonging to the local society does so much for the genealogical community. CGS, which meets in Denver, began in 1924 and is still going strong. In addition to publishing the Quarterly, as they call it, they offer monthly genealogy training classes and an annual seminar. They purchase materials for the Denver Public Library’s genealogy collection, one of the largest west of the Mississippi River. They work to preserve, publish and index local records.

I am very happy this week that I could contribute to the efforts of this wonderful group. I have learned so much from their members and classes. Thanks to Nancy Ratay for pitching a theme idea that allowed me to share my experience and help her put out another great issue of the Quarterly.