Unique Visitors
Total Page Views

"View Teri Hjelmstad's profile on LinkedIn">

Archive for the ‘Genealogy’ Category


This week I received word that my supplemental application to the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) has been accepted. It has taken almost two years.

All applications for membership go to the organization’s headquarters in Washington, D. C. Initial applications take priority and approvals come in a few weeks. The society wants new members. They know that dragging their feet when someone is interested in joining may discourage that person from continuing the process.

Submissions for additional lines of descent take longer to review. Only women who are already members send those in. The approval process for them takes a back seat to the initial applications, and that is why my supplemental took so long.

I joined the DAR in 2021 based on my paternal grandmother’s lineage from Gershom Hall of Massachusetts. He was a private in the militia serving on the coast of Cape Cod. Their mission was to guard the coastline and prevent a British invasion that never came. Because Gershom Hall was already in the DAR database with proven Revolutionary War service, the organization needed only to review my genealogical proof. I was accepted within a few weeks.

The next year, I filed a supplemental application for my paternal grandfather’s ancestor, Robert Kirkham. He was a Virginian who served at Boonesborough, Kentucky. This is the application that took so long to review and approve. Robert Kirkham was also in the database already, but my genealogical proof of descent from him went into the slower pipeline. It took 23 months to receive an answer.

The DAR knows this is a problem. Last week they announced that they have hired 5 additional genealogists to work on the backlog of supplemental applications.

Now I wonder whether I should send in another. I have already done the easiest ones for my family.

I am looking at two possibilities, but I do not know whether I can make a convincing case for either one:

  1. Levi Carter, Sr. Levi is a proven patriot in the DAR database. The Carters settled in east Tennessee during the Revolutionary War, and many of them, including Levi, Sr., served. But was he my ancestor? I can prove my descent from John Carter (1790-1841), but his parentage is unclear. He may have been a son or grandson of Levi, or perhaps they were related in some other way. Work remains to be done on this line.
  2. Caleb Reed. He lived in present-day Fayette County, Pennsylvania during the war, but I have no proof of military service for him. He is not in the DAR database. He did, however, pay taxes to support the war effort. That is enough for the DAR to recognize him as a patriot. Other family information for him is lacking, so I need to do some additional research to compile a complete application for him.

If I can pull together a convincing file on either of these men, I plan to submit another supplemental application this year. I wonder how long the approval process will be.

Seminar Season

Spring brings us genealogy seminars. I have scheduled myself to attend three:

  1. 2024 Nebraska State Genealogical Society Annual Conference. This will take place later this month in Columbus. The featured speaker will be Blaine Bettinger, the Genetic Genealogist. He will speak on various topics related to DNA. The conference will also include several breakout sessions of general interest.
  2. Colorado Palatines to America Spring Seminar. On May 4, Dana Palmer, a well-known genealogist in Germanic research circles, will cover four topics related to Germanic research. This will be an all-day event offered in a hybrid format.
  3. Colorado Genealogical Society. In lieu of a formal seminar this year, CGS will host a 100th anniversary celebration. James Jeffrey, retired genealogy librarian for the Denver Public Library, will be the keynote speaker at this catered event on May 18.

All three of these gatherings promise to be interesting and worth attending. They will provide useful information and offer opportunities to meet up with other genealogists. My calendar is getting full.

Easter, Old and New

As Easter approaches, I like to consider how the holiday has changed during my lifetime:

  • When I was a youngster in North Dakota, I used to accompany my mother to a downtown department store a few days before the holiday. There we would select a new dress, hat, gloves, and white shoes for me to wear on Easter. Many of the other girls in my neighborhood did the same thing with their mothers. Today, the downtown department stores are all gone, and no children wear hats and gloves to church. You do see a lot of spring dresses at Easter.
  • Easter Sunday church service was a big deal. Everybody went. In North Dakota with all its Scandinavian settlers, many attended the Lutheran Church. Nowadays, we smile about those people who are C&Es (Christmas and Easter worshippers only), but even their numbers seem to be dwindling. Many people today do not bother to attend church at all on Easter.
  • School was out on Good Friday and Easter Monday. This gave us time to travel to visit grandparents for the holiday if we liked. School calendars today have a spring break instead of marking the Easter holiday. Many districts deliberately avoid scheduling their break at Easter so as to avoid the appearance of favoring religion.
  • We never had Easter egg hunts. The Easter weather in the places I grew up was often too terrible to have an outdoor activity. Yet even had we lived in a balmy climate, I cannot envision my parents setting up an Easter egg hunt for us.
  • We did follow the tradition of the Easter rabbit and colored eggs. I followed this pattern with my own children. After they were grown, my husband and I stopped dyeing eggs, but we have continued the Easter baskets for ourselves. Today, they are typically filled with gourmet candy, and maybe Peeps for him.
  • I do not remember having flowers around at Eastertime. My mother and brothers had allergies, and we did not have plants in the house. Today, I always get an Easter lily.

We have made our plans for this year’s Easter celebration. For the first time in several years, I have a new dress. In accordance with modern fashion, I will not accessorize it with hat and gloves. We will attend church without our family because we all belong to different denominations.

The one thing that will provide some continuity with the past is our Easter meal. Family members will come to our house for dinner. As we have since I was a child, we will serve ham and potatoes with lots of side dishes. I am looking forward to it.

Happy Easter, everyone, in whatever way you celebrate.

Caleb Reed’s Revolutionary War Service

Caleb Reed (1756-abt. 1835) was my 4th great-grandfather in my direct paternal line. I would love to prove that he supported the Patriot cause in the Revolutionary War. Evidence has been elusive even though he was the right age to have volunteered for military service.

We know his brother Joshua (1757-1838) served. He was in the Virginia militia although the family lived in what is now Fayette County, PA. The border between Pennsylvania and Virginia was unsettled in 1776.

So far, no record of military service during the revolutionary years has been found for Caleb. This seems strange given his age and his subsequent service as a Captain in Kentucky militia when he was older. I will keep looking for a military record for him.

In the meantime, we know that people supported the cause in other ways. They may have sold supplies to the Army. Some took the Oath of Allegiance.

Last weekend I attended a Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) workshop for some assistance on finding proof of service for Caleb. The facilitator suggested that I use the Pennsylvania Supply Tax lists. People paid this tax to fund the Patriot Army. Perhaps Caleb paid this tax.

The source she gave me listed the 1783 Supply taxpayers only in Washington County, Pennsylvania. In 1783, Caleb Reed lived in Westmoreland County in an area that was carved out to become Fayette County later that year. I do not know whether the Supply Tax lists for Westmoreland County survive.

My next research task will be to find the Westmoreland County tax records. If Caleb’s name appears there, I will know that he supported the revolution in this way. I could add his name to the DAR’s list of recognized Patriots.


A Family for Mary

Mary/Polly Templeton (1792-1857) was an early 19th-century woman who moved through various states as they opened for settlement. We know her as a wife and mother, but not as a child. Her parentage and siblings remain unproven.

Her name first appears on a record in Greene County, Tennessee when she married John Carter on 9 Feb 1815. At least one child, Susan, was born there.

The young family moved on to Wayne County, Kentucky where several more children were born. No Kentucky record with Mary’s name on it has been found.

When settlers began moving into Coles County, Illinois, the Carters were among them. Mary’s name appears a few times in Illinois records. Her gravestone is inscribed with Pioneers of 1830 to honor her and John Carter. Prior to her death in 1857, Mary applied for a War of 1812 pension based on John’s service in that conflict.

None of these records offers any information about her birth family. The pension application tells us that her maiden name was Templeton. A family Bible page gives us her birthdate.

So who were her Templetons? Other researchers place her in different Templeton families:

  1. Robert Templeton. This man served in the Revolutionary War from South Carolina. Many in Greene County, TN where Mary resided in 1815 were from North Carolina, but this man lived further south. He could have migrated to Tennessee, but so far I have found no record of him there. The South Carolina man had daughters with some of the same names as Mary’s daughters, so it is tempting to say that she was one of this family. Evidence is needed to prove this claim.
  2. Absalom Templeton. This man married Susanna Carter in Greene County in 1799, seven years after Mary was born. Several researchers claim Mary was a child of this couple, but this does not seem likely to me.
  3. Joel Templeton. No one else has advanced this claim, but this is my own hypothesis. Several Templetons in addition to Mary were married in Greene County in the early years of Tennessee statehood. All the others were children from one family, that of Joel Templeton. Absalom married in 1799, Catharine in 1802, Jenny in 1802, and Rachel in 1809. It seems reasonable to me that the only other Templeton marrying there, Mary, was also a child of Joel Templeton.

With Absalom eliminated as a candidate for Mary’s father (unless he had an earlier marriage), I plan to collect some more information on the lives of Robert and Joel Templeton. Did either of them live in Greene County, Tennessee? Did either one have a daughter Mary who was born in 1792?

Templeton is not a common name. These people should be traceable. Greene County is the place to begin.

John Carter: Who Were His People?

John Carter (1790-1841) settled with his wife and family in Coles County, Illinois along with a host of other new settlers in 1830. The county history tells us that he was alone among his relatives to migrate there. Who were his siblings and parents, and where did they live?

Some information about his family comes from family lore:

  1. He was born in Greene County, Tennessee and served in the War of 1812.
  2. He was married in Greene County in 1815 to Mary (Polly) Templeton, and their first child, Susan, was born there.
  3. They migrated to Wayne County, Kentucky where the next seven children (Shelton, Nancy, Bailey, Thena, Janete/Jane, Joseph, and Elizabeth) were born between 1816-1829.
  4. The youngest daughter, Catherine, was born in Coles County in 1832.

The Coles County histories give us a little more information:

  1. John had some blacksmith skills. He served the Ashmore Township community in this capacity until a regular blacksmith arrived to set up shop. Where did John acquire these skills and the requisite equipment? Did he come from a family of blacksmiths?
  2. John migrated to Illinois from the Crab Orchard area of Kentucky. I do not know where that is, but it must have been familiar to 19th-century Illinois residents. I assume the region included Wayne County.

None of these sources offer any clues to John Carter’s natal family. The Carters were numerous in East Tennessee. How did he fit in with them?

I have begun the search for evidence:

  1. John’s wife Mary executed a declaration for a Bounty Land Claim based on John’s War of 1812 service in 1857, a few months before her death. My cousins had a copy of this affidavit, so I have ordered the file from the National Archives to see what additional information it may contain about John Carter and his family.
  2. I have located what I believe is his census record for 1820 in Wayne County. A couple of other Carter families also lived in the sparsely populated county. A Wayne County history written in 1900 includes a Carter family tree with the names of these early settlers on it. According to the county history, they were all related to one another and from Virginia, not Tennessee. John Carter is not named on this tree. Was he not included because he moved away after a few years? Was he an unrelated Carter?
  3. A Greene County, TN marriage record exists for John Carter and Polly Templeton. The record has no identifying information or names of family members.
  4. Online family trees include him, but they place him in different families. One even has him being born to a 10-year-old mother. These trees may offer a bit of a roadmap, but no one seems to have proven his true origin.

Adding to the confusion is the claim that John’s wife, Polly, also descended from the Carters through her mother. Several researchers claim that John and Polly had a common ancestor in the Revolutionary War soldier, Levi Carter, Sr.

I would love to prove this claim for either John or Polly, if not both. The search for relevant documents in Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee continues.

Meeting the Presidents

As President’s Day rolls around, I like to think of any connections my family might have to U. S. Presidents. Although I am not descended from any of them, we have crossed paths with a few men who reached this high office:

  1. Andrew Jackson. Our ancestor John Carter (1790-1841) was born in East Tennessee. He was drafted at Greensville to serve in Jackson’s campaign against the Creeks during the War of 1812.
  2. Abraham Lincoln. We have Lincoln ancestors, but I do not know our precise relationship to this President. His family and my Lincolns both lived in Hingham, MA during colonial times. His family and my Reeds were early settlers in Kentucky, and both families migrated to Indiana and Illinois. Lincoln’s father Thomas and my ancestors Thomas Reed and John Carter all settled in Coles County, Illinois around 1830. I do not know whether my Illinois family ever met the Lincolns.
  3. Dick Cheney. I know he was a Vice-President, not a President, but we have had several encounters with him. He is from our hometown of Casper, WY. He and my husband/tech advisor attended the same high school. My husband presented Cheney with PAC money for his first Congressional run in the 1980s. When our youngest son graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 2007, Cheney was there to speak and hand out diplomas.

We seldom find ourselves in the rarefied circles of Presidents. Those encounters will tend to stick in our memories. President’s Day prods us to remember those occasions.

People With Place Names

We come across interesting names as we do our genealogy. Parents name their children for all sorts of reasons. I have encountered a couple of people in my family tree who seem to have been named for someplace special to their families:

  1. Nevada Dorcas Walton (1857-1946). She was my great-grandfather’s cousin on his father’s side.
  2. Alice Missouri Carter (1861-1931). She was another of my great-grandfather’s cousins but on his mother’s side. Whether her legal name was Alice Missouri or Missouri Alice remains unclear. The name Alice is engraved on her cemetery marker. A county history and her father’s will refer to her as Missouri.

Both these women were born and lived their lives in Coles County, Illinois, the same place where my great-grandfather Samuel H. Reed (1845-1928) grew up. He must have known them even though he was over a decade older. I wonder whether he knew how they got their names.

The practice of naming people for places has continued in our own day. I think of people like Paris Hilton, Dakota Fanning, and Ireland Baldwin.

Some place names like Cody and Austin have become commonplace. Yet individuals bearing these names may not have been named intentionally for towns in Wyoming and Texas. Perhaps they are named after the people who inspired the place names, William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody and Stephen H. Austin, the father of Texas.

In my genealogical research, I have not run across people with place names in more recent generations. Even our cousins Nevada and Missouri did not follow this practice when naming their own children.

Much thought goes into the decision for a child’s name. A place name can be an unusual, meaningful choice for some parents.

A unique place name for a person’s name can distinguish a person. People tend to remember the names of persons with place names.

A New DNA Clue

Anna Petronellia Sherman (1865-1961) was my great-grandmother. She was always known by her middle name, Petronellia, or Pet for short.

This name was unknown in her Sherman family. Where did it come from? Her mother’s side?

We do not know who her mother was, but family lore tells us she was a German or Dutch immigrant named Katherine Stillenbaugh who settled in Indiana. They say she died not long after Petronellia was born. I have found no records to verify any of this.

We do have distant DNA matches to an extended German family named Stilgenbauer/Stillabower who lived south of Indianapolis at the time Petronellia was born. I keep working with the hypothesis that these are my people.

Then this week a DNA match at the 3rd-4th cousin level popped up on My Heritage. This match lives in the Netherlands.

I took a peek at his online tree and was astounded to find that many of the women through the generations were named Petronella. There was no Stillgenbauer surname on this tree. Yet the repetition of the forename makes me wonder if this is the origin of my great-grandmother’s name. We the Stilgenbauers related to these Dutch?

It will take some diligent DNA analysis to see how all these tantalizing clues fit together. Perhaps I can use some of the techniques I learned about at a DNA webinar earlier this month.

I would love to know more about Petronellia’s maternal roots. As more people take DNA tests and I become more proficient at the science, the picture will become clearer.



An Updated Approach to My DNA Research

Yesterday I listened to a webinar at on how to make DNA network graphs. The presenter was Diana Elder who, together with her daughter Nicole Dyer, runs the Family Locket website and podcast (

I have used the cluster tool on the My Heritage site to create cluster graphs, but Diana took this analysis a step further. She pointed us to other online tools that can reveal relationships between clusters. The idea is to use this data to break down genealogical brick walls.

She suggested using DNA Gedcom ( to upload a match list from Ancestry and create a spreadsheet of matches and shared matches. Then import the spreadsheet to online tools such as Rootsfinder (, Node XL (, or Gephi ( Use these sites to create charts and graphs that will assist in identifying matches on specific lines. The targeted matches can then provide insight for the family line in question.

All this computer work seems daunting to me, but help is available. Diana’s daughter Nicole has created several blog posts on Family Locket explaining how to do it all. The Family Search website also has instructional videos. Some of the sites, such as Node XL, offer online tutorials.

After discussing these tools, Diana offered a case study from her own family research. She was not able to answer her own question, but the tools did enable her to disprove some hypotheses for the parentage of her ancestor.

If I get desperate, I may try to learn how to do this for some of my mystery ancestors:

  1. John Carter (abt. 1790-1841). Online trees do not agree on who his Tennessee parents might be.
  2. Daniel Sherman (abt. 1800-abt. 1863). This Kentucky man seemed to drop into that state from nowhere. I would love to know who his people were.
  3. Katherine Stillgenbauer/Stillabower (dates unknown but living in Indiana in 1865). She came from Germany. Who were her parents?
  4. John Davis Riddle (1821-1896). Reportedly born in Pennsylvania, he was in Ohio by the 1840s and then in Michigan by 1850. Who was his family?

Putting in the time and effort to learn how to do more advanced DNA analysis does not attract me. But if it would mean solving even one of these mysteries, it might be worth it.