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A Different Summer

Most of the genealogy clubs take a break for the summer. Most years, I can get a lot of research done during that time. Not this year.

We will take a long trip soon that requires considerable preparation time. I also need to create a digital scrapbook for my DAR chapter. This eats into genealogy time.

My granddaughter offered to help me with the scrapbook. She came over for two afternoons, but that was not nearly enough time to create the book.

Now she is away at camp. I am trying to recall what I have learned from her to create additional pages. I am very slow.

I hope to finish more of it before I leave on vacation. Once we are all back home, perhaps my granddaughter can come over again to edit my work and make it look better.

She has some artistic talent while I do not. She also served on her school yearbook staff where she learned a trick or two about these things.

Meanwhile, no genealogy research is getting done this month.


The Hunt for Revolutionary War Ancestors

My search for another Revolutionary War ancestor continues. So far, I have documented two: Gershom Hall, Private, Massachusetts militia; and Robert Kirkham, Private, Virginia militia who served at Boonesborough, KY. The other candidates in my family lines are much tougher to prove:

  1. Dunbar. Benjamin Dunbar (1749-bef. 1779) was perhaps living during the early years of the War. His name is not on the DAR patriot list, and I do not know whether this Massachusetts man contributed to the independence effort in some way. The Dunbar family history has few details about him.
  2. Reed. Caleb Reed (1756-abt. 1835) was the right age to enlist during the war. His brother Joshua did, and Joshua’s name appears on the DAR roster of known patriot ancestors. Caleb’s name does not. I have not found a record of military service for him prior to his move from Pennsylvania to Kentucky well after the Revolution. There he served as a Captain in the Kentucky militia. Did he serve the Revolutionary cause in some other way? Perhaps selling supplies to the troops or taking the oath of allegiance? The hunt for evidence continues.
  3. Carter. Family lore tells me that John Carter (1790-1841) was the grandson of Levi Carter, Sr. whose name appears on the DAR patriot list. So far, I have found no evidence to prove John’s parentage. Other researchers disagree on whether John is descended from Levi or some other Carter. This was a numerous family in east Tennessee when John was born.
  4. Templeton. John Carter’s wife was Mary/Polly Templeton (1792-1857). Her parentage, too, is uncertain. Some claim she was also a grandchild of Levi Carter, Sr. through her mother Susanna and Absalom Templeton, but that lineage would mean she was born 7 years before her parents’ marriage. I think that is unlikely. Others claim her father was Robert Templeton. A South Carolina man by that name appears on the DAR patriot list. He did have a daughter Mary, but there is good evidence that she was not the woman who married John Carter.

My search to document all these claims has begun with reviewing what others have already done. I have collected many family group sheets; read family and county histories; and reviewed the online family trees at Ancestry, Family Search, and My Heritage.

Nothing solid has turned up. Now I must formulate a research plan to dig for primary evidence that might lead me to another elusive Revolutionary War ancestor.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Reeds and the Kentucky Census

Two generations of my Reed family lived in Shelby (now Spencer) County, Kentucky after the Revolutionary War. They left footprints in the county records, but census records have been more difficult to find.

For starters, the U. S. census records for Kentucky in 1790 and 1800 are missing. The British destroyed the 1790 Kentucky schedules during the War of 1812. The 1800 schedules were lost.

A census substitute for the 1790 census exists in the form of the 1792 tax list for the county. Caleb Reed’s name appears there. He was taxed for land on the Elk Creek watershed. His son Thomas was still a child then.


The first year for which a Shelby County census record is available is 1810. Both Caleb and Thomas had households in the county that year. They appear next to each other on the census sheet.

The male aged 26-45 in Thomas’ household is likely him. There is a female the same age, probably his wife Ann. There are also two boys under 10. We know of only one, Robertson, who was born before 1810. The other boy may have been an additional son who died young and whose name has been lost to us.

Caleb’s household cannot be fully explained with the information we have. He must have been the male over 45 years old. A female the same age resides in the household, too. She may have been his wife, Rebecca whose death date we do not know. Caleb remarried a few years later, in 1816.

There are numerous young people in Caleb’s household. The 1810 census does not provide their names. A male 16-26 could have been his son Caleb C. Reed whose birth year we do not know. A younger male aged 10-16 may have been his son John Reed, born in 1794.

A female 10-16 may have been his daughter Elizabeth who was 13 years old, born in 1797.

That leaves a female 16-26 and four younger children. Who were they?

Two of Caleb’s daughters, Rachel and Abigail, had been widowed by 1810. Abigail was 25 that year, but she had no children with her first husband. If she was the female 16-26, who were the children?

Rachel was 29 that year. Was her age misattributed? She may have been living with her father in 1810, but her children do not fit the enumeration in Caleb’s household. She had 3 children, not four. Her two sons and a daughter all would have been under 10 that year. The census record lists an additional girl under 10. Three of these could have been the known children of Rachel, but who was the fourth girl? Did Rachel have another daughter who died?


This is the last census year in which Caleb and Thomas lived in Kentucky. By 1830, Caleb had moved to join his daughter Rachel’s household in Indiana, and Thomas had migrated to Illinois.

In Thomas’ household, we again find too many children. The girls under 10 would have been his daughters Eliza and Jane. There were also four boys, but we know of only two—Robertson born in 1808 and Caleb born in 1818. Did this family lose 2 sons, or were these other relatives?

Caleb’s 1820 listing was difficult to find. It took an every name search of Shelby County because he was indexed with the surname Rua instead of Reed.

Again, he had a large household. He had married the widow Elizabeth Van Dyke in 1816. They both appear in the household along with three young people under 25. These younger household members would not be Rachel’s family as she had moved to Indiana by 1820 and was enumerated there. Caleb’s other children were married and had their own households by then. Were the unidentified people part of the new wife Elizabeth’s family?

In addition to the unnamed people on the free white persons schedule, Caleb’s household included a slave schedule for the first time. Elizabeth, the widow of a plantation owner, brought these people along to her marriage with Caleb. They may have remained with her Van Dyke children after she had died several years later and Caleb went to Indiana.

These early census records require some close analysis because they do not name everyone in the household. The tick marks after the listing for the head of household present tantalizing clues to the genealogist.

For the Reeds, we are left with several questions. Who were the extra boys in Thomas’ household? Who were the unknown people in Caleb’s? We can only guess. Many people who died during those years in Kentucky were buried on their family farms, and records for them do not survive.

A complete genealogical research plan requires supplementing these early census records with other sources.


A Class in Irish Research

Yesterday I had the good fortune to listen in while Paul Milner, specialist in British genealogy, taught a Legacy webinar on Irish Immigration to North America.

I learned that the Irish came over in waves. My ancestors were in a couple of them. The Reeds and Kirkhams, I think, arrived sometime in the 1700’s. I do not know where they lived in Ireland or exactly when they arrived. They were here before the American Revolution, and Robert Kirkham served at Boonesborough during the war.

My Lawless and Ryan forebears came over during the Irish potato famine in the late 1840’s. The Lawless group has been easy to track. They left County Louth in 1849 and settled first in Peoria, Illinois.

The immigrant Daniel Ryan has been harder to follow. He was born around 1829 somewhere in Ireland.

I have tried to follow Mr. Milner’s advice and exhaust American records before attempting to jump the pond searching for Daniel. Documentation so far has been sparse:

  1. The Find A Grave website has a memorial for Daniel Ryan. He died in 1863 and is buried at the military cemetery in New Orleans.
  2. Daniel’s widow Bridget applied for a Civil War pension. The unit information led me to records of Daniel’s places and dates of enlistment and mustering in.
  3. This pension application also generated a thick file of family papers. It told me that Daniel had married twice—first to my 2nd great-grandmother Jane Lawless, and subsequently to Bridget. Each wife had one child.
  4. Information in the file pointed me to the Catholic Church records for Bridget’s home in the vicinity of Springfield, Illinois. Those Diocese records are available on Ancestry. I found the 1854 marriage record for Daniel and Bridget, the 1855 baptism record for their son James, and Bridget’s death record from 1896. The marriage record tells me that Daniel’s parents were Edmund Ryan and May Junk.
  5. The pension file also led me to the 1851 Peoria County marriage record for Daniel and Jane.

So that is what I have for Daniel: a FindAGrave memorial, a Civil War enlistment and pension file, two marriage records, and a son’s baptism record.

Other research avenues have led to dead ends:

  1. U. S. census records. I have not located Daniel on any census. With such a common name and little identifying material, he is hard to differentiate.
  2. Catholic parish records. Daniel’s dealings with my 2nd great-grandmother and their son took place in Peoria. That Catholic diocese does not open its records to the public, and they will not do lookups. The local parish church kept no copies of records.
  3. Immigration records. How many people named Daniel Ryan came to America during the potato famine? A lot! So far there is no way to know which Daniel is mine.
  4. Family trees on Ancestry and Family Search. No one has posted a tree that includes my Daniel Ryan.

I still have some clues to pursue:

  1. DNA. The ethnicity estimates on the testing sites get better and better. They pinpoint my dad’s Irish DNA to Limerick and Tipperary. That is where many of his Irish DNA matches live today. Daniel may have come from one of these counties. I learned from Mr. Milner that the eviction rate in Tipperary was particularly high.
  2. DNA, again. Every so often I run a DNA cluster report looking for Ryan family matches. I am working to build ancestor trees for these people to see if I can identify a birth family for Daniel.
  3. Ryan relatives in America. Daniel Ryan first appears in the American records when he married Jane Lawless at Peoria in 1851. Their son was baptized at the Kickapoo church the next year. Other Ryan families lived at Kickapoo during that time, and perhaps they were Daniel’s relatives. Mr. Milner told us that new immigrants usually joined their relatives. I can build trees for these other Ryans to see where Daniel might fit.

The webinar helped me think of additional ways to approach the research problem of Daniel Ryan’s origins. I try to tune into these specialized webinars whenever I can. I always learn something.

The Lawless Family of Peoria

We have some Lawless ancestors. Not that they were lawbreakers, but that was their name. These Irish immigrants settled in Peoria, Illinois, that quintessential American city.

My group arrived in New York in 1849 and was enumerated in Peoria in 1850. Three other Lawless families already lived there.

Were my people related to the others? It is tempting to assume so, but so far I have not been able to discern a kinship.

My family, as listed on the census record, almost matches their passenger arrival list (one daughter died in the interim):

  1. Thomas Lawless     46
  2. Margaret        50 on the ship record, 25 on the census
  3. Jane            21
  4. Peter            18
  5. Catherine        16 (died in 1849)
  6. James            16
  7. Bridget            15
  8. Rose            10
  9. Thomas            8
  10. Patrick            6
  11. Betsy            4
  12. Michael            3
  13. John            1/12

The other Lawless families were headed by men I believe to be father and sons:

  1. James Lawless        51
  2. Margaret        48
  3. John            21
  4. Jane            17
  5. Ellen            12


  6. Thomas Lawless    32
  7. Margaret        24
  8. Ann            2
  9. Elizabeth        0
  10. Thomas O’Brien        21


  11. Patrick            30
  12. Sarah            25
  13. Joan            7
  14. Thomas            4
  15. Jno            0

Except for Patrick’s family, the Lawlesses lived quite close to one another in Peoria in dwellings 1968, 1969, and 1971. The Thomas Lawless who arrived in the U.S. in 1849 must have headed to Peoria to join the other Lawless families there.

Were Thomas (46) and James (51) brothers? With an age difference of just 5 years, this seems possible. I have yet to find any documentation naming the parents of either man.

Public family trees name various parents for James, who immigrated as a young man in 1828. One tree suggests different parents for Thomas although no one seems to have done much research on him.

Much work remains to decipher this family relationship. Not only will I need to study unfamiliar Irish records, but the duplication of names presents an additional challenge. Did you notice that these four families have four males named Thomas? And that nearly every wife is named Margaret? Other names are repeated, too—Jane, Elizabeth/Betsy, James, John, Patrick.

This seems a messy bunch to sort out, and I will be satisfied when I have it all untangled.

Irish Jane

Now that the new year has begun, a new research project beckons.

For the first time, I will attempt to document the lives of some of my Irish ancestors. First up, Jane Lawless (d. 1853).

I learned Jane’s name from my great-grandfather’s marriage license. She was his mother. Further investigation reveals her marriage to Daniel Ryan at Peoria, IL in 1851. Daniel’s Civil War pension file confirms this and gives me the year of her death.

Jane’s name, if she is indeed the same person, appears on only one U. S. census record, 1850. At that time, she lived in the Peoria household of the man I presume was her father, Thomas Lawless, along with several other children. As we know, the 1850 census does not spell out family relationships, so I need some other evidence that Thomas was the father of Jane.

I located an 1849 ship passenger list from Ireland showing a Lawless family that looks much like the one on the 1850 census. Jane and several other children sailed on the Home with Thomas Lawless, but again no family relationships are specified.

Find A Grave records for Thomas and some of the other members of his household tell me the family originated in County Louth, Ireland. That County has a baptism record for Jane Lawless, born to Thomas Lawless and Bridget Hamill in 1826.

Is Jane, daughter of Thomas and Bridget, the same Jane who sailed to America in 1849, and the same Jane who married Daniel Ryan in 1851? A birth year conflict remains to be resolved. The baptized baby Jane was born in 1826. The ship passenger Jane was 20 years old in 1849 with an implied birth year of 1829. The young woman on the census was 21, again with an implied birth year of 1829.

I need some more information about Jane before I can make the claim that all these records refer to the same person. I have found no death information for Jane other than a mention in her husband’s pension application file. She died long before the state of Illinois began keeping death records. I plan to check whether there are any county-level records. Jane has no FindAGrave memorial, so I need to look for a church death record and a burial record for her. One of these could provide more information about her.

The Thomas Lawless I believe to be my Jane’s father outlived her. Perhaps he left a will that mentioned her son. That would link the generations together.

Thomas passed away in LaSalle County, Illinois in 1870. Family Search has the LaSalle county probate records digitized, but they are locked. Earlier this week I submitted a lookup request to find out whether Thomas Lawless had an estate that was probated.

Once I have exhausted these research ideas for Jane, my next step will be to document the lives of all the people I believe to be Thomas’ children and Jane’s siblings. One of them may have left behind more clues that can knit this family together better.

Before I take off and try to do research on a family in County Louth, I want to make sure I have the right one.


Thanksgiving Plans Change

We thought this year would be different.

We have two grown sons and their families who live nearby, and we anticipated spending Thanksgiving with some of them.

Then a couple of people developed coughs earlier this week. Covid tests came back positive.

We are thankful that all the unwell seem to be recovering at home without complications.

But the Thanksgiving family gathering has had to be cancelled. Each nuclear family will eat the festive meal separately.

Those of us who can do so will meet for a Zoom call with the extended family in the afternoon. We did this last year when no one could meet in person. Now again this year it is the only option for the locals to visit one another.

Despite the change in plans, my husband/tech advisor and I will enjoy the holiday. Zooming with the relatives and eating a delicious turkey dinner together does not sound so bad.

At least I am not trying to fly anywhere.



Benjamin Dunbar of Halifax, MA

The Dunbar family in Massachusetts was my ancestral line. The last head of my family to live there was Benjamin E. Dunbar (1776-1831). I have documented his adult life, and now I want to know more about his birth family.

Ann Theopold Chaplin, in The Descendants of Robert Dunbar of Hingham, Massachusetts (1992), gives us the bare outline. His father, also named Benjamin, was born in 1749, and he died before 1779. His son and namesake Benjamin probably had no memory of him. There was one other child, a younger brother named Hosea. The mother was named Hannah. This family lived at Halifax.

I have learned that Hosea eventually moved to Vermont where he married Rachel White. They settled first in upstate New York and then went on to Lenawee County, Michigan.

In the meantime, my ancestor Benjamin E. Dunbar had gone to Cape Cod where he married Rhoda Hall and set up a saltworks. Shortly before he died, he moved his family to Summit County, Ohio. His widow and three of his daughters (Susannah Cutting, Olive Riddle, and Laura Fuller) later settled three counties away from Hosea’s family in St. Joseph County, Michigan.

None of this sheds any light on the life of the senior Benjamin Dunbar of Halifax.

Chaplin’s book tells us that he was married twice, and Hannah was the second wife. The first was Ruth Pratt whom he married 4 March 1772 at Halifax. I decided to begin my quest for details about Benjamin Dunbar by searching for information about her.

This week I was unable to identify her in any other Massachusetts records although an online search turned up four possibilities:

  1. Ruth Pratt born 24 November 1740 at Bridgewater to David and Ann Pratt. This Ruth probably was the same Ruth who married Obadiah Bates on 27 May 1762 at Bridgewater.
  2. Ruth Pratt born 13 May 1742 at Middleboro to Phineas and Sarah Pratt. This Ruth married John Rickard on 24 May 1764.
  3. Ruth Prat born 1 October 1745 at Plymouth to William Prat and Mary Young. The family tree posted on for this family says they relocated to North Carolina while Ruth was still a child.
  4. Ruth Pratt b. 1752 at East Bridgewater, d. Dec. 1775 at Halifax. Several family trees on Ancestry claim this is the woman who married Benjamin E. Dunbar, but none provide any sources. Still, these dates are new information not provided in Chaplin’s book, and this Ruth matches the person I seek.

I think I can rule out the first three women as the wife of my Benjamin. Perhaps I can find some corroborating evidence in the Bridgewater and Halifax records showing that Ruth #4 was Benjamin’s first wife. I do not want to take the word of an unsourced, online family tree.

Finding information about women, particularly during Colonial times, presents a challenge. I may not be able to find anything more about Ruth Pratt. Yet a thorough research on Benjamin requires that I look at all the people in his life.

Hosea Dunbar, a FAN of Benjamin E. Dunbar

Hosea Dunbar (1777-1849) was my ancestor Benjamin E. Dunbar’s younger brother. I have been filling out a Family Group Sheet for Hosea in the hopes of learning more about the greater Dunbar family. Good genealogical research practices tell us to search for members of an ancestor’s FAN club, meaning their family, associates, and neighbors.

Our Dunbar family history, Robert Dunbar of Hingham, Massachusetts by Ann Theopold Chaplin (1992), gave me some of Hosea’s basic information, but it is incomplete and somewhat inaccurate. This genealogy told me that Hosea’s family migrated from Vermont to New York and then on to Michigan. provides the death information for Hosea, his wife Rachel, and all but one of their children. It also names the children’s spouses.

More can be done on this family. Hosea was married in Vermont and some of the children were born there. I should be able to find a Vermont marriage record and birth registrations for them.

I may also be able to locate marriage records for any children married in Michigan, although the older ones may have married in New York. I have heard that New York research is difficult, so that may be a dead end.

The family eventually settled in Lenawee County, Michigan, arriving by 1840. There ought to be a county history, and perhaps the Dunbars are mentioned therein. If I am lucky, I can find one online.

All this means that I have more to do on Hosea’s family before I move on to other Dunbar family members and associates. My research subject for this year is my own ancestor, Benjamin E. Dunbar (1776-1831). To fully understand his life, I must first finish learning about his FAN Hosea.