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Archive for the ‘Riddle’ Category

A New Branch of the Tree

A genealogical discovery upended my research plan for the summer. This month a couple of DNA tests revealed the identity of my previously unknown great-grandfather.

Of course, I dropped everything else to do some research on him. He lived much of his life in the 20th century and left many records:

  1. U. S. census. I found him for every decennial, but his first appearance, in 1860, was not straightforward. He lived with his maternal grandfather that year and was listed with that surname, not his own.
  2. Newspapers. My ancestor homesteaded in Hayes County, Nebraska. The local papers have been digitized and are available on Newspapers.com. His name appears several times when he bought or sold land and engaged in political activities. He had on obituary which says nothing about my grandmother.
  3. Land records. This man long was a candidate for my great-grandfather because he had legal dealings with my great-grandmother, Laura Riddle (1853-1933). He served as a witness for her homestead application, and he bought land from her. He lived next door.
  4. FindAGrave.com. This website links my ancestor to other members of his family. This gives me a roadmap to follow in searching for primary sources about him and his parents.

My next step is to follow up on those clues and locate some original records. This week I submitted to the State of Nebraska an application for my ancestor’s 1925 death certificate. I hope it includes the names of his parents to confirm the information on posted on FindAGrave.

The newspaper carried a notice of petition for probate of his estate, so I will contact Hayes County for a copy of that file. As far as I know, he never acknowledged or supported my grandmother as his daughter, but I will not know for sure until I look at his probate case to see if it mentions her.

My ancestor had a homestead, and I need to request a copy of his file. Did my great-grandmother reciprocate by serving as a witness for him? Were women allowed to do that in the 1890’s?

All this leaves me with a big unanswered question. Should I contact my ancestor’s other descendants, the half cousins whose DNA we match? They may not know that we even exist. Have they looked at their match lists and wondered who we are and how we are related?

This out-of-wedlock event took place in 1895-96, a long time ago. Perhaps enough time has passed for the shock such news creates to be softened.

I would love to know whether my grandmother looked like her father’s family. I long to ask them for a copy of a photo of him if they have one. I was thrilled to find a portrait of my dad’s half-cousin posted on his FindAGrave site, and I thought I could see a family resemblance between him and some of my grandmother’s children.

My newly found ancestor holds the key to 12.5% of my heritage. Filling in this blank space on my family tree is so satisfying.

A Step Closer to the Mystery Man

The identity of my great-grandfather remains unknown. Grace Riddle Reed (1896-1976), “Grandma Grace”, was born to her single mother Laura Riddle (1853-1933) on a homestead near Palisade, Nebraska. Grandma claimed not to know who her father was, and if other family members did know, they weren’t talking.

Over the years I have scoured the Nebraska records looking for a clue to the man’s identity. The kind folks at the genealogy center in McCook finally counseled that my best hope is probably a DNA match.

As I have waited for that, I have assembled some evidence that might help when a match arrives, if it ever does:

  1. Laura acquired government land three times between 1885 and the early 1900’s. These transactions coincide with the time during which Grandma Grace was born. I have assembled the names of all the men who served as witnesses for Laura and to whom she sold land.
  2. I have created a map of the neighborhood where Laura lived in 1900 and located a census list of the names of the neighbors.
  3. I continue to analyze my Dad’s DNA matches. His ethnicity estimate includes quite a bit of Irish that I cannot account for in other family lines. One of Laura’s long-time neighbors and associates was an Irish widower, so I constructed a family tree for him, just in case.

Dad’s closest DNA match, other than members of the immediate family, is a Nebraska woman who was born about the same time he was. She was adopted from a foundling home and does not know her birth family. The DNA testing company surmises that she and Dad are second cousins.

Over the years, I have worked with her family trying to identify a common ancestor. We determined that he or she likely lived in the McCook, NE area. We tentatively eliminated the woman’s maternal line based on some bare-bones information from her birth certificate. This left us to focus paternal lines, perhaps my mystery man’s.

Last week the family contacted me again. They have a new DNA match, and they wanted to know if I recognized the surname. I did!

The Irish widower had grandchildren with that name.

After my initial excitement, I took stock of where we stand now. The purported second cousin has a DNA match to someone with the same surname as the Irish widower’s family. The location and timelines work out to support kinship with him. If we, too, are related to that same Irish family, the woman and Dad would be first cousins once removed, a similar degree of relationship as second cousin.

I checked Dad’s DNA match lists again and was disappointed that no one with the newly-identified surname appears there. I need to ask the woman’s family which testing company showed their new match.

Could it have been on Ancestry? We have no test results on file there. That company twice rejected Dad’s saliva sample.

I have not tested there. Maybe it is time I did. They are a bigger pond to fish. Perhaps members of the Irish widower’s family are in their database. The only problem is that I am another generation removed from our mystery ancestor and less likely to have a meaningful match.

Still, it is worth a try. If I, too, could show a DNA match with the family of my great-grandmother’s Irish friend, the mystery would be solved.

 

Mayflower Lineage Preserved

All year I worked to document my Mayflower lineage. I applied to the General Society of Mayflower Descendants.

As the year wound down, it became time to follow my usual custom and share my findings with my family members.

I wrote a little about what I had learned of the lives of our Mayflower ancestors Stephen, Constance, and Gyles/Giles Hopkins. Then I constructed a descendant report to give to everyone for Christmas.

I listed my paternal grandmother Grace Riddle Reed’s (1896-1976) direct line from the Hopkins passengers. She was the tenth generation of descent.

I doubt that my grandmother even knew she was a Mayflower descendant. Her cousins’ families seemed to be just as ignorant of their heritage. They never mentioned it during the years I collaborated on the Riddle family genealogy with them.

All of us were stymied in our hunt for the parentage of Grandma’s second great-grandmother, Lucy Snow. It was not until a little over a year ago when I saw Lucy’s Mayflower heritage posted on WikiTree that the door to her heritage blew open for me.

With Grandma’s lineage found and charted at last, my Christmas report continues with a list of all my grandmother’s descendants, at least the ones I know about. It ends with the 15th generation from the Mayflower passengers.

It was time to update this list of Grandma’s descendants. The previous list, The Reeds of Ashmore by Michael Hayden, was published over thirty years ago. People not even born when that book was compiled are now grown and have children of their own.

Now we know that those Reed family members who also descend from my grandmother are Mayflower descendants. I wish we had possessed that information 35 years ago when we were all contributing information for The Reeds of Ashmore.

I hope the documentation I am creating this year will preserve this identity for future generations.

The First Three Generations of a Mayflower Application

Lineage societies require exacting proof of generational links to a specific ancestor before they grant membership to an applicant. This week I began the process for the Mayflower Society. Right away I found that despite years of research, I do not have the exact documents they want.

This week I gathered papers for the most current three generations in my chain of descent, beginning with myself and my husband/tech advisor. Already I was missing several of the items they require:

  1. We have our marriage certificate but not the vital record from the state where we were married. I ordered a copy.
  2. I also have my parents’ marriage certificate, but again I do not have a copy of the vital record. I ordered one of those, too.
  3. The document I thought was my mother’s birth certificate is something else. It was issued by the Bureau of the Census and simply verifies that her birth was registered in Montana. I sent a request to Montana for her birth registration.
  4. For people living in 1900, the Society wants a copy of their U.S. census record for that year. I have it for my grandmother, Grace Riddle, but not for my grandfather Herbert Reed. I have never been able to locate him and his family on the 1900 census. They must have lived in Missouri where he was born in 1896 and his parents were divorced in 1904. Will the Society waive this requirement when I am not applying though my grandfather’s line? Or would either the divorce decree naming my grandfather as a minor child or the 1910 census be an adequate substitute?
  5. I do not have a birth record for my grandmother. She was born on a homestead in Nebraska before the state kept vital records. I do not know whether she was baptized. She never had a driver’s license or a passport. Will a combination of census records, her Social Security application, and her death certificate be sufficient to prove her birth date and place?

Encountering these stumbling blocks for 20th century ancestors makes me shudder to think what I will encounter in documenting earlier generations. I have four more to go before I link up to Thomas Snow and Hannah Lincoln, both proven descendants of Stephen Hopkins. Some of my documentation is pretty thin.

I wonder how many families can run a straightforward line of proofs from themselves back 7 or so generations to a proven Mayflower descendant. I must work with the historian of the Colorado branch of the Mayflower Society to gather enough evidence to complete my application.

Once I execute a preliminary application, I will have two years to submit the final one. It will be interesting to see what they say about all the evidence I have gathered. Will I be able to meet the additional demands I know they will make? This could be a long process.

The Onerous Application Process Begins

Since the 1980’s I have worked on my paternal grandmother’s lineage. Beginning with only her mother’s maiden name, Laura Riddle, I have traced her family back to the Mayflower. She never knew she had such a heritage.

I have collected 13 generations’ worth of material to document this line. This year, the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower voyage, I decided to submit it to the General Society of Mayflower Descendants to see if my descent from Mayflower passenger Stephen Hopkins passes muster.

I submitted a request for a lineage match in late April. I provided my list of names through the generations from Hopkins to myself. The Society’s review cost me $75, and they warned me it would take several weeks to receive a response. Their service involves searching the accepted lines of their members to see if and where I fit in.

This week I received a response. The first six generations, running from Stephen Hopkins down six generations to Thomas Snow and Hannah Lincoln, match the information already in their records. If I want to join, I must now submit documentation for my descent from this couple.

Only one other application in their files claims descent from Thomas and Hannah, through a son Edward. They surmise that he was a brother to my ancestor Lucy Snow, also a child of Thomas and Hannah. They offered to send me the Edward Snow lineage application so I can compare information.

They also forwarded my match inquiry to the historian for my local Colorado chapter of the Mayflower Society. She immediately sent me a welcome letter with instructions on how to complete a membership application. This will involve providing birth, marriage, and death proof for every generation between Thomas and Hannah Snow and myself, a total of seven generations.

I set to work on gathering and copying my documents right away. Then I found that my copier needed either repair or replacement. We decided to order a new one, and I am waiting for it to arrive. Copying any of my proof documents will have to wait a few days.

The Society has a lot of rules on what evidence of lineage they will accept. I do not know whether everything I have gathered will pass the test. I hope it does, but I am prepared to do some more searching for other items they may require.

If I am turned away because I cannot locate and provide sufficient evidence, of course I will be disappointed. Yet in my mind, I am satisfied that I have placed myself in the correct family tree. If Grandma had only known.

Can It Be?!

My paternal grandmother Grace Reed (1896-1976) claimed to know nothing of her own family. She did once give me her mother’s name, Laura Riddle (1853-1933). Beyond that, whenever I asked about her heritage, she would simply shake her head and claim ignorance. She had no siblings around who I could ask for more information.

After she died, I began to research her family in earnest. I learned that her maternal grandmother, Olive Hall (Dunbar) Riddle, was born in Barnstable County, Massachusetts in 1823. I was excited to learn that I have New England ancestors.

Two things came to mind. First, I now had the possibility of a Mayflower ancestor. Second, New Englanders are among the most-researched people on earth. Scholars have compiled lists of names of Mayflower descendants.

At the Denver Public Library, I located resources that included these names.

I found out that Grandma’s Dunbar ancestors descended from Robert Dunbar of Hingham, Massachusetts. He arrived in the colonies in 1653, too late for the Mayflower which arrived in 1620. He may have been a deported prisoner, captured during one of the Scottish uprisings.

The women who married into the Dunbar line had surnames like Cole, Garnet, and Hathaway. None of these names appeared on the Mayflower list.

What about the Hall line? Bangs, Bramhall, Burgess, and Snow women married into the Hall family. Again, the Mayflower list included none of these names.

Some of these ancestors are known to have arrived in the new world later, aboard the Anne in 1623. Edward Bangs and Nicholas Snow were among those passengers.

I went no further with my research. I did not look for surnames of the mothers of the women who had married into the Dunbar and Hall families. I put aside my New England project because I lived far away from there, and I had more recent Midwestern families to investigate. Years have gone by.

This week I was poking around in the WikiTree website where my mother’s Finnish cousins have posted so much of that family tree. I wondered whether I should begin adding my father’s line into this database.

I knew that if I went back far enough, someone else may have already done some of it. I began working backwards to see if I could get a match to a known ancestor. Some of my brick wall guys (Caleb Reed of Morris County, NJ and John Davis Riddle of Mendon, MI) were in there. No one has any more information on them than I do.

Then I found Grandma’s Massachusetts grandmother, Olive Hall Dunbar. Most of her family tree is on WikiTree.

Her maternal grandmother, our ancestor, was Lucy Snow (1760-1795), a name familiar to me. She was the first wife of Gershom Hall (1760-1844), one of my Revolutionary War ancestors. I had never done any research on Lucy’s family beyond learning that the Snows did not arrive on the Mayflower.

Yet there on WikiTree, beneath Lucy’s name, was this note:
Her Snow family lineage goes back to immigrant Nicholas Snow, and his wife, Constance (Hopkins) Snow, a passenger on the Mayflower in 1620.

Remember Nicholas? He was on the Anne, not the Mayflower. But his wife, Constance Hopkins, who was also my ancestor, made the Mayflower crossing.

Can it be true? Have I finally learned of a Mayflower ancestor?

Constance Hopkins and her father Stephen Hopkins were indeed passengers on the Mayflower. If the WikiTree contributor is correct that I am descended from Constance Hopkins, I do have a Mayflower family in my lineage. I have not verified Lucy Snow’s ancestry myself, but I do have good documentation for my descendancy from her.

When I did a cursory search to find more about the Hopkins family, I found even more astonishing information. They have a documented English lineage extending to the 1200’s in the county of Hampshire. What a heritage to stumble upon.

One of these days I will need to look at all this more closely. I should post it all into my database and connect us up in WikiTree. At long last, I hope I finally to have identified a Mayflower ancestor.

Adventures in DNA

Every week I log in to a couple of DNA testing websites to see whether I have any new matches. Recently, a few relatives on my dad’s side of the family have tested at these sites as well. Comparing their match lists with mine allows me to speculate on how my unfamiliar matches might be related to me.

I find this particularly interesting because several of my closest matches were adopted. I would like to know how we are related. Three people come to mind:

  1. A man in Florida matches my dad at the second cousin level. This man’s mother was adopted. As far as I know, no one in previous generations of Dad’s family lived in Florida, so I have no idea where this match fits into my family tree. He does not seem too interested in helping me puzzle this out.
  2. The same goes for a match in Montana. Again, this adopted woman does not want to correspond much although I have more to offer here. My dad had several family members who settled in Montana. Perhaps this woman is related through them. But without more information from her to go on, I cannot fit her into my tree, either.
  3. The final match, the closest one, is to a woman who was adopted from a foundling home near Lincoln, Nebraska in 1930. The third match and I have corresponded several times hoping to discover her parentage and how she is related to us.

She and I have made a little progress. When my second cousin on my father’s paternal side did a DNA test, she did not match my third match. This means the Nebraska baby does not belong to the Reed side of my dad’s family. Instead, she belongs to my grandmother’s family.

The third match’s family lived in the same area around McCook that my grandmother’s family did from 1885-1954. Only problem in placing the adopted baby into my family is that we do not know who Grandma’s father was. Without this information we do not know whether the baby is related through our known Riddle line or through my unknown great-grandfather’s line.

The match’s birth certificate provides the clue of a surname, probably her mother’s. I do not recognize this name as anyone related to me.

Two possibilities, then, come to mind. One of the baby’s parents may have been related to my unknown Nebraska great-grandfather. In that case, of course I do not recognize the surname on the baby’s birth record. Or perhaps the baby’s father was one of my known Riddle relatives.

Without more DNA testing, I think I will not find an answer. It would help to locate a Riddle descendant to see whether my third match also matches them. Doing this will be difficult because so many of us are double cousins, and their DNA would not help in sorting this out. We need a Riddle cousin whose family did not intermarry with the Reeds.

In the meantime, I will stay in touch with my DNA cousin in Nebraska. She would really like to identify her birth family, and I am her best evidence.

Saving the Year’s Work

The Family Search website (www.familysearch.org) hosts the world’s largest shared family tree. They pledge to retain this information in perpetuity.

Any genealogist can add to the site by uploading a personal family tree created in one of the numerous genealogy software programs for home computers. Anyone can enter or change data in the existing online tree.

This provides an ideal venue for preserving one’s genealogical research. A world-wide tree means that anyone, now or in the future, can find the family information preserved there. For many of us, this means we no longer feel the need to spend the time and expense of writing genealogical histories of our families. Just gather the information, enter it in Family Search, and the family tree appears for all to see.

Several years ago, I chose these means for preserving my own research. If no one in my immediate family cares to carry on my work, I know they probably will discard the documentation I have collected. They will get rid of my genealogy library. Perhaps they will keep the ancestry charts and family photos. No one outside my own family will see any of it.

But if I post these things on Family Search, the information I have collected will live on in a useful format. I devote time in December to updating my family tree there.

This year, it has taken more time than usual. I found some tangled-up ancestors in the tree.

For example, my great-grandparents John and Olive Riddle raised one of their grandsons, Adin Riddle. I found his data mixed in with that of John and Olive’s youngest son, Seymour. It took me awhile to separate the two men and to attach Adin to his mother Tamson Riddle, not Olive.

Other relatives had two entries or incomplete information online. I merged those profiles and I filled them in with additional dates and places. Of course, this works both ways. Some other researchers had attached facts that I had not known previously. I followed up on these by searching some primary sources.

By the end of the month, I hope to have the Riddle family sorted out online. I will have done my part to preserve their history on a site I know will endure.

Winter Cleanup

Every December, I assign myself the task of updating my family tree on Family Search with the new information I have discovered during the year. I began doing this several days ago.

I started with myself, the only living person I have posted on this tree. For privacy reasons, everyone else I have added over the years is deceased.

My information, my parents’ information, and my brother Jim’s looked good, so I went back another generation following my research line for the year. My paternal grandparents’ information looked good, too. I made sure the data on all six of their children includes birth, baptism, marriage, death, and burial as applicable.

I moved back in time again to the family of my great-grandmother, Laura Riddle. I found her linked only to her daughter (my grandmother). Yet I know she also had three sons with George Edmonds. I located the four of them in the Family Search database and linked them to my family. I have incomplete biographical information on George, but at least he now has a place in the Family Search tree.

After that, I moved back another generation to my research subjects for the year, my great-great grandparents John Davis Riddle and Olive Hall Dunbar. They had eight children. Their offspring are linked to their parents in the database, but many details of some of their lives were incomplete. For others, I found links to sources I had not explored.

It will take some time to work through all eight of these siblings on the Family Search tree. I will add information to what others have posted, and I can follow up on sources they have suggested. I can even contact the people who have posted interesting information to see if they are actively researching this line. In the past, I have learned so much from distant cousins.

Unfortunately, no one has added any information on the birth and parents of John Davis Riddle. Everyone else who is interested in this line must be stuck in the same place I am. In 2018, I was able to push back a few years into his life, but I had no breakthrough that would lead me to a previous generation.

The Family Search tree provides a great way for me to preserve my research. If my descendants do not want the database I have built, the notebooks I have kept, or the documents I have collected, I have a place I can keep the family tree. Family Search has pledged that they will not toss it out.

Census Work on the Riddle Family

The name of my ancestor John Davis Riddle (1821-1896) does not appear on any index to the 1840 U.S. census. He would have been nineteen years old when it was taken.

That census was the last one where the government did not require an every-name enumeration. The heads of household are listed by name; everyone else is represented by a tick mark. The tick marks are categorized by sex and age. Beginning in 1850, the government changed the census format to include the name of every person in the household. Consequently, the early census records are much less useful than those taken later.

There are several reasons why John’s name would not have appeared in 1840. If he was not the head of a household, he would have been lumped, unnamed, with other males 15-20. If he did head a household, the enumerator may have missed his home. An census indexer may have inadvertently skipped him or been unable to read his name accurately due to poor legibility on the record.

So how do I find him? For many years, I did not even try because I had no idea of his whereabouts that year.

Recently, however, I found 1836-38 tax listings for a man who may have been him in Portage Township, then-Portage County, Ohio. In 1843, My John then married a woman who lived in nearby Stow, Ohio.

There is a good chance that when the census was taken in 1840, John lived in the same place where he had paid taxes in the 1830’s and would marry in 1843. I am in the process of doing an every-name search for him in the 1840 census record for Portage Township. Did any family have a Davis or Riddle surname? How many families included males 15-20?

Some pages are easier to read than others because they have darker ink or better handwriting. So far, I have carefully read two pages and found no familiar surname. Already twenty households include males the same age as John. In only one of these is the man aged 15-20 named as the head of household, so that must have been rare at the time.

If I do not locate his family in Portage Township, I may expand my search to the surrounding area. The Genealogical Proof Standard requires me to do an exhaustive search. That means I should look at Portage Township and any other townships that surround the town of Stow, the home of his John’s bride. This may take awhile.