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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.

 

 

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 FindAGrave.com 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.

 

A Step-By-Step Plan for Finding Katherine

I am on the hunt for any information available on my 2nd great-grandmother. So far I have turned up almost nothing, but I am not discouraged yet. I am pursuing a research plan, step-by-step.

The search began at home with tales of family lore. My dad’s cousins and aunts told me that the elusive woman’s name was Katherine Stillenbaugh/Stanabaugh, and she immigrated from Germany when she was eight years old. She died at Indianapolis shortly after giving birth to my great-grandmother, Anna Petronellia Sherman, in 1865.

I have done an exhaustive search on Katherine’s reported husband, my second great-grandfather Thomas Sherman. I have had no luck connecting him to this alleged first wife or her family. He did live south of Indianapolis during the Civil War, so at least that much of the story matches.

Armed with these bits of information, I began my search for Katherine in earnest earlier this month. My steps:

  1. Thomas Sherman and his brother actually resided in Johnson County, Indiana, not Indianapolis, so I looked at the county histories for that location. I found no mention of the Sherman family or any German family with a name similar to the one I seek. I did not find an Indiana marriage record for my Thomas Sherman in the 1860’s.
  2. A search of the 1860 U.S. census for Johnson and surrounding counties turned up an extended German family named Stilgenbauer or Stillabower. This family name sounds promising, and I decided to do some research on them to find out whether anyone had a likely daughter named Katherine.
  3. On FindAGrave.com, I found memorials for many members of this Stilgenbauer family. Each contained links to the others. This family descends from three brothers (Jacob, Adam, and Johan Michael) who immigrated from Bavaria—a German state. Interestingly, these southern Germans seemed to be Lutheran, not Catholic. This information fits, too, because Thomas Sherman was Protestant, not Catholic, and it is unlikely he would have married into a Catholic family. Thank you to Mike E. Wirey who created all these memorials in 2007.
  4. I spent a considerable amount of time this week reviewing Wirey’s information and reconstructing the Stilgenbauer family relationships on a white board. Catherine seems to be a common name with them, but I did not spot a girl who fit the profile of my Katherine. They all either died quite young or had married names other than Sherman.

Still more digging remains to be done. The FindAGrave information is not a complete family tree. What will I do next?

  1. I can try to contact Mike E. Wirey to find out if he has any additional Stilgenbauer information, particularly on girls named Katherine.
  2. I can look at the 1860 U.S. census for Johnson and all the surrounding counties for more members of the Stilgenbauer family to see if I can find another Catherine who seems a better match for my ancestor.
  3. I can take a DNA test to find out if I am match for any Stilgenbauers or their descendants who might have taken a test.
  4. I know where Thomas Sherman lived in 1863, and I can reconstruct his neighborhood, looking for clues.
  5. I can work to identify pertinent records at the Johnson County Museum, the Johnson County Historical Society, and other repositories. Did Thomas Sherman associate with the Stilgenbauers, or did the families have associates in common? Thomas had a German sister-in-law named Mishler, so I know his family associated to some extent with their German neighbors.

This search promises to take a long time. I probably will never find a single piece of paper proving the identity of my ancestor. But I can pursue my research plan in the hopes of identifying a likely candidate and then building enough circumstantial evidence to prove a case.

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!

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks nos. 37 & 38, The Stanabaughs

I know nothing about my ancestors, Mr. and Mrs. Stanabaugh. I do not even know whether this is their real name. In fact, it probably isn’t. Why not, and where did we find it?

  1. The name comes from that provided on my great-grandmother’s death certificate in 1961. It lists the decedent’s mother’s name as Katherine Stanabaugh. This information was provided by my great-grandmother’s second-to-youngest child, almost a hundred years after the said Katherine Stanabaugh had passed away. Talk about second-hand information!
  2. I have a letter from my great-grandmother’s oldest child saying that the mother’s name was Katherine Stillenbaugh. This letter was written even later, in the 1980’s, when the writer was nearly 100 years old herself.
  3. German researchers advise us to check the German phone book for supposedly German surnames. If they do not appear there, the name has likely been garbled along the way. Neither name, Stanabaugh nor Stillenbaugh, appears in the German phone directory. These names do not appear on U.S. census records either.

If their name was not Stanabaugh or Stillenbaugh, what was it? I have so few clues:

  1. My great-grandmother said her mother came from Germany as a child. My great-grandmother was born in 1865 in Indiana, home to a large German population.
  2. Many Germans immigrated to America after civil unrest in Germany in 1848. A child coming over at that time would have been the right age to have a child of her own in 1865.
  3. My great-grandfather, Thomas Sherman, had German neighbors named Stilgenbauer when he lived in Indiana in the 1860’s. This name is tantalizingly close to Stanabaugh or Stillenbaugh.

I have not yet been able to fit my Katherine into any German family, let alone a Stilgenbauer family, in Indiana between 1848 and 1865. Mr. and Mrs. Stanabaugh would be the parents in this theoretical family, but so far they remain unidentified.

This unknown family represents a huge brick wall in my ancestry. Next year I will pull out all the pertinent information I have on these people, go over it again, and tackle the suggested research again. Will 2017 be the year I can add my German ancestors to my family tree?

Planning a Project for 2017

The life of our ancestor Katherine Stanabaugh remains a mystery to me and my family. We know so little about her, and we have found next to nothing of her life in any records.

Most of our information comes from family lore:

  1. Katherine immigrated from Germany when she was eight years old.
  2. Katherine married the blacksmith, Thomas Sherman, during the Civil War.
  3. Katherine’s only child, Anna Petronellia Sherman, was born at Indianapolis on 1 April 1865.
  4. Katherine passed away shortly after her daughter’s birth.
  5. Katherine was buried at Indianapolis.
  6. Katherine’s surname appears as Stillenbaugh in family papers, and as Stanabaugh on her daughter’s 1961 death certificate (a record created nearly a century after Katherine herself had died, by a grandson who never knew her).

I have been unable to corroborate any of this information. I cannot locate any Stillenbaugh or Stanabaugh families in 1860’s Indiana. I cannot locate a marriage record for Thomas and Katherine. I cannot locate a death record or grave for Katherine.

This weekend I attended a Palatines to America seminar where the special guest was Kent Robinson, the President of the organization. He resides in Indiana and kindly offered to look at this case. I am hoping he can offer some advice on records I have not thought to search.

Beyond that, my best course of action will be to create a research project using the FAN approach to genealogy. This acronym stands for the groups of people one must research (Friends, Associates, Neighbors) when the subject leaves little or no paper trail. A look into the lives of these people can often reveal details of the life of an ancestor. Circumstantial evidence gleaned from their records can help a genealogist build a case for placing the ancestor into the proper family.

Katherine will be my research project for 2017. She deserves more than a passing mention in our family history.

We’re Going to Germany

This month we began some serious preparation for an upcoming trip to Germany. Next year will be the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, and my church choir (http://www.blc-denver2.org/ministries/music/adult-choirs/chancel-choir/) has decided to mark the occasion by taking a tour. We will travel through the area associated with Martin Luther, the seminal theologian whose questioning of Roman Catholic dogma led to the breach of Christian denominations. During this tour, we plan to visit the historic sites associated with Luther and to perform in cities including Berlin, Leipzig, and Prague.

Because my husband/tech advisor has much German and Dutch heritage while I might have a little of the same, we plan to tack a few days onto this trip to explore the areas of our roots. So far we have done these things to get ready for this trip:

  1. My husband/tech advisor continues to document his German and Dutch lines (Dols, Flottemesch, Kirchner, Walz, Wohrman) as best as he can to identify villages we should visit.
  2. We booked a flight to Hamburg on Icelandair, and from there we will rent a car and drive through the areas of our origins.
  3. We paid our first installment for the choir tour.
  4. At my local library’s used book sale last weekend, I picked up a book on conversational German and a German/English dictionary.

Now I am raring to go. Next spring seems a long way away, but anticipation is half the fun. While we wait we have more time to work on our German genealogy and to study up on some key German phrases.

Tschüss!

We Bring Home a Genealogy Treasure

We had vacation time last week and took a trip to Wyoming to visit family around that state. We also spent a glorious day swimming in the hot springs at Thermopolis State Park. And off course, we stayed with my mother-in-law for part the week.

She used to pursue genealogy, trying to track her Walz and Flottemesch families back to their German and Dutch homelands. Over the years she accumulated several folders full of documents on these lines.

We borrowed the folders from her and brought them home to add her information to our genealogy database. This week my husband/tech advisor has worked to scan and preserve those records we did not already have. Being a tech guy, he enjoys the computer aspect of our genealogy work.

As he works through this task, he has compared his mother’s genealogical conclusions with his own. Sometimes they differ, and he also enjoys resolving the conflicts by reviewing all the evidence.

In this way, he makes sure that we update our website with the most accurate information we can find. We always try to abide by the Genealogical Proof Standard by doing a reasonably exhaustive search for information and explaining any discrepancies we find.

These Germanic lines often present a challenge. Working with the language, the Gothic script, and the name variations make German research notoriously difficult. My mother-in-law made it a little easier by collecting and saving so much information.

Seminars, Anyone?

Last weekend we went to the fall seminar put on by our local Palatines to America (PalAm) group. They host these twice a year, and I have regularly attended these learning opportunities.

I began going several years ago when the Palatines leadership made the decision to bring in nationally-known speakers for these seminars. They put on great, fun events with good attendance. They would meet in a local hotel, sell German research materials, serve a German lunch, and once a year would stay late for a German dinner. We all learned a lot from these wonderful speakers as we enjoyed our ethnic food and fellowship.

Things started to change a couple of years ago. The group could not find a hotel to take their business. Apparently a bunch of sober Germans does not provide the bar revenue a hotel can get for a wedding reception on a Saturday. The PalAm events moved to the Denver Public Library.

Of course we could not enjoy all our German cuisine at the library, so meals turned into an on-you-own affair. The library does not provide tables for attendees to use. We also have to pay to park while visiting the library. I have not enjoyed these events as much as I used to.

Now this year, the group engaged a little-known speaker. I signed up anyway because the seminar topics looked good. I am sorry to say, I came away disappointed. I prefer to have seminar topics discussed in some depth. This time around, everything sounded pretty dumbed down and repetitive to me. I have been at this genealogy game for a long time, and I wish this seminar had been advertised as appropriate primarily for beginners.

Will I go to the PalAm seminer next time? It depends. I still like the opportunity to see my genealogy friends, and the PalAm group always has an awesome book table at their seminars. But the fun is gone from this event, and there is no reason for me to go if the speaker gives just an entry-level presentation.

I have attended a lot of genealogy seminars over the years. I usually attend most of them in the Denver area in an effort to learn more and to support the local genealogy community. But I cannot afford to waste my time sitting through a presentation on things I already know. When the next seminar rolls around, I plan to be more discriminating in my decision on whether to attend. One size cannot fit all.

A Genealogy Summer

We filled our summer this year with several trips, and on each one we collected genealogical information. Now we must sort and analyze all of it. We keep copies of the documents and photos–paper for me and digital ones for my husband/tech advisor. We will put the data into our genealogical software, The Master Genealogist, over this month. Then we will upload the new information into the family trees on our website.

Here is where we went and what we brought home:

  1. Virginia. This was a sad trip for my 25-year-old nephew Tyler William Reed’s funeral. We brought home documentation of his death.
  2. Finland and Russia. The church records for my Finnish family are available online, so we did not visit any repositories to collect documents in country. Instead, we picked up Finnish history information at the National Museum (http://www.nba.fi/en/nationalmuseum), and we took photos of all the places in Finland and Russia where we knew my family lived. We did not visit cemeteries because graves in Finland are reused after a generation. There are none for my family members, most of whom immigrated around 1905.
  3. Minnesota. We tracked my husband/tech advisor’s family across the state, taking photos at many cemeteries. In addition to putting this information on our website, we will create memorials on Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com/). In Minnesota we also visited the Great River Regional Library in St. Cloud (http://www.griver.org/) and the state’s Historical Society Library in St. Paul (http://sites.mnhs.org/library/). There we snagged death certificates and obituaries for both our families. Our big find, though, was the name of our Walz ancestors’ village in Bavaria (Ratzstadt, Underfranken). The information turned up in a Stearns County history, in a biographical sketch for a collateral relative.
  4. Wisconsin. This was another family occasion, and we returned with information on my niece’s marriage.

We had a productive summer of research. Processing and following up on all the information we gathered should keep us busy until our next trip—to Virginia again next summer for a wedding.