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Kansas Settlers

The State of Kansas beckoned several of my relatives during the nineteenth century.

Long ago I learned that my dad’s paternal aunt Bertha Evaline Reed (1884-1981) was born in Harper County, Kansas. Her father Samuel Harvey Reed (1845-1928) possessed what the family referred to as “that Reed wanderlust”, and he had taken his new bride to Kansas shortly after they married in Illinois.

Only recently did I discover that some of my dad’s maternal family also settled in Kansas. Two of my grandmother’s great-aunts spent time in the Sunflower state:

  1. Susannah H. Dunbar (1819-1900), her husband Joel Cutting (1816-1886), and their son Dewitt (1840-1920) left Michigan and settled in Cloud County, Kansas in the early 1870’s. Joel had a sister living there. After Joel died, Susannah proved up their homestead before she and Dewitt moved back east to Akron, Ohio near the town where she had grown up.
  2. Laura Ann Dunbar (1829-1899) and her husband Hoxie Fuller (1826-1903) eventually followed the Cuttings to Cloud County sometime after 1880. They lived out their lives in the Miltonvale area and are buried there.

No descendants remain in Kansas today. The Reeds moved on to Missouri shortly after their daughter Bertha was born. The Cuttings also left the state. Although the Fullers remained in Kansas, they had no children.

I have not visited the spots in Kansas where my family lived. Perhaps one day I will stop to take a look at the rural communities that drew my family 150 years ago. Kansas is not so far from where I live in Colorado.

Times must have been hard in the states my people left behind. These folks were all in their 40’s and 50’s when they sought new opportunities in Kansas. Yet the Reeds and the Cuttings did not find a permanent home there. Kansas pulled them into a new life for a time, but it did not last forever for them.

The Dunbars: An Unexpectedly Small Family

If you were an early 19th-century couple with twelve children, how many grandchildren would you expect to have? In 1850, the average household had 6-9 children.

Would it have been reasonable, then, to anticipate around 60 grandchildren?

Not if you were my ancestors Rhoda Hall (1784-1850) and Benjamin E. Dunbar (1776-1831). Their family in Stow, Ohio imploded.

I have spent many hours this year tracing their children and grandchildren. The children fall into two groups: those with children and those without.

The Childless Dunbars

  1. Saphronia (1806-1849). She married George Tiffany in 1832 but they had no family. She left her entire estate to him.
  2. Rhoday (1807-bef. 1810). This daughter died in childhood.
  3. Daniel H. (1809-?). I am not sure Daniel belongs in this group. He disappears from the record after a land sale in 1843. No marriage or death records for him have been found.
  4. Benjamin S. (1812-aft. 1880). He married Lucy Jaquays in 1846, but they split after a short marriage and no children. He never married again.
  5. Moses W. (1814-1906). A mariner based in Cleveland, he married twice. He had no children with either wife, Mary Ann Sellers or Mary Jones.
  6. Lucy S. (1827-1899). She married her sister Saphronia’s widower, George Tiffany, in 1853. After his death in 1869, she married George Monk. Both marriages were childless. A niece, Lucy S. Sessions, was named after her.
  7. Laura A. (1829-1899). In 1852 she married Hoxie Fuller. They had no children, but her sister Olive named two children for the couple: Laura Ruamy Riddle and John Hoxey Riddle.

Dunbars with Children

  1. Rhoda A. (1811-1879). She married William Burnham in 1846. They had one son, Leander Burnham.
  2. Rebecca W. (1817-1873). She never married, but her brother Benjamin lived with her after he separated from his wife. Rebecca and Benjamin raised a child, Mahala Dunbar. I surmise that Mahala was Rebecca’s daughter.
  3. Susannah H. (1819-1900). She married Joel Cutting in 1838. This couple had three children, Dewitt, Mary Edna, and Clara.
  4. Hannah S. (1821-1890). After their marriage in 1843, Hannah and her husband, John Sessions, also had three children, Violetta, Samuel, and Lucy S.
  5. Olive H. (1823-1902). She and her husband, John Davis Riddle, were my ancestors, and they had the largest family with 8 children: Tamson, Theodocia, Isaac, Ethan, Laura, John, Seymour, and Olive Riddle.

Of the twelve children born to Rhoda and Benjamin Dunbar, then, only one (my great-great grandmother Olive) had an average mid-19th century size family. The Dunbars had just 16 grandchildren.

I cannot account for why the six siblings who reached adulthood and married would have had no children. Because this group included all three sons, the Dunbar name daughtered out.

Of those sixteen grandchildren, nearly half repeated the pattern of remaining childless: Leander Burnham, Mary Edna Cutting, Clara Cutting, Violetta Sessions, Lucy S. Sessions, Isaac Riddle, and Seymour Riddle. The number of Dunbar descendants remained small into the twentieth century. It grew somewhat once great-grandchildren began to arrive.

I have no explanation for this unusual family pattern. Most couples during this time period had many more children than the Dunbars did. Were there health problems? I will never know.

I am ready to move back a generation and investigate the family of the patriarch, Benjamin E. Dunbar. How many siblings did he have? Did they leave descendants? Or will I find another round of small and non-existent families?

Unraveling the Dunbar Migration

Last month I received an offer from the National Genealogical Society for a discount on some books that are printed on demand. I decided to order a couple. Both are reference books that I am hoping will be useful, and both seem quite readable.

I began the first one this week. History for Genealogists: Using Chronological Time Lines to Find and Understand Your Ancestors by Judy Jacobson discusses how to see your ancestors in their historical context. It provides numerous timelines for many types of historical events from military campaigns to diseases. It also offers timelines for geographical regions including all the American states and the countries of the world.

As I research my Dunbar ancestors, I plan to apply the concept behind this book in my effort to understand this family. The Dunbars settled in then-Portage County, Ohio in 1831 after the salt-making industry on Cape Cod declined.

There were 12 children, but one died young. A few of the others remained in Summit County, Ohio as adults (Sophronia Tiffany, Rhoda Ann Burnham, Rebecca W. Dunbar, and Hannah Sessions). Several moved on. Did historical events play a part in any of their moves?

Perhaps a study of the greater historical context of the time will tell me what prompted the relocations of the other siblings:

  1. Daniel H. Dunbar. This man disappears from the Ohio records after 1843, and he may have died. Or did he move away?
  2. Benjamin S. Dunbar. This brother married and promptly settled in Noble County, IN with his wife’s family. The marriage did not last long. Benjamin returned to Ohio to live in his sister Rebecca’s household.
  3. Captain Moses Whitney Dunbar. He became a mariner based in Cleveland and married twice. He had no children, and both wives probably pre-deceased him. In later life he moved across the country to Yreka, CA—to search for gold?
  4. Susannah Dunbar Cutting. The Cuttings lived all over the place—Ohio (several counties), Michigan, Kansas, back to Ohio. Why did they move around so much?
  5. Olive Dunbar Riddle. This woman was my ancestor. She and John Riddle remained in Ohio long enough to have two children. Then they sold everything and moved to Michigan. I do not know why they left Ohio or why they chose Michigan for their new home.
  6. Lucy Dunbar Tiffany Monk. Lucy first married her sister Sophronia’s widower, George Tiffany. George and Sophronia had remained in Ohio during their marriage (1832-1849). When Sophronia died, George went to California for the gold rush. Upon his return to Ohio, he married Lucy in 1853. They eventually relocated to Waukegan, Illinois. Other Tiffanys lived in the same vicinity, but I do not know whether they were related to George. If they were, the family relationship might provide the reason for their move.
  7. Laura Dunbar. I have found no record of Laura after 1850. If she married, I do not know whether she remained in Ohio or went elsewhere. Or did she pass away after she was enumerated on the 1850 census?

Looking at the timelines for the 1840’s-1860’s might give me some clues for why so many of these siblings left their family home in Summit County, Ohio. I can understand why some went to California in search of gold, but why did the others choose Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, or Kansas?

As we study American migration, we need to look for both the push and the pull. Many Americans were pushing westward during this time. What pushed so many of the Dunbars from Ohio?

What pulled them to their new residences? Is it unusual that they scattered rather than going as a group?

Perhaps the study of historical timelines can provide some clues.




Colorado Connections

Although I have lived most of my adult life in Colorado, I am not a native. One of my granddaughters is the only person in my immediate family who was born in the state.

Yet I have several ancestral ties to Colorado:

  1. My father grew up in Loveland. His mother relocated the family from Wyoming after my grandfather, Owen Herbert Reed (1896-1935), died in a truck accident near Brighton, CO. Grandma and Uncle Harold remained in Colorado. Aunt Hazel settled in the Boulder area after stints in Nebraska and Wyoming. Uncle Bob and my dad returned to Colorado to live out their final years.
  2. Dad’s second cousin, Cyril Dale Reed (1903-1982), raised his family in Denver and Wheat Ridge. His son Dean (1938-1986), who became a socialist singer known as the Red Elvis, is buried in Boulder’s Green Mountain Cemetery.
  3. Dad’s uncle, Thomas Aaron Reed (1894-1966), retired in Cañon City. One of his sons had settled near there after being stationed at Fort Carson during WWII.
  4. Dad’s uncle, Robert Morton Reed (1891-1967), took his first assignment as a railroad telegrapher in Denver. He was living there when he registered for the WWI draft in 1917. After his railroad career, he retired in Delta.
  5. Dad’s maternal grandmother had a cousin who left his family home in Ohio to settle in Colorado Springs. Samuel E. Sessions (ca. 1849-1907) married there in 1875 when Colorado was still a territory. His children were born in “the Springs” after Colorado became a state in 1876.

I do have some bona fide Colorado roots even though I was not born in the Centennial State. My grandmother arrived here in 1936, and other family members came here, too. Even though I cannot display a Colorado Native bumper sticker, my family has been here a long time.

A Mother for Mahala

Laura Riddle (1853-1933), my great-grandmother, had a cousin named Mahala Dunbar (1850-1939). We have long wondered who Mahala’s parents might have been.

When she was a child, Mahala appeared on two easy-to-find census records for Stow, Summit, County Ohio.

In both 1860 and 1870, the adults in the household were Benjamin S. Dunbar (1812-aft. 1880) and Rebecca Dunbar (1817-1873). These two were brother and sister. Which one was Mahala’s parent? Neither census record tells us family relationships. We do learn from these that Mahala was born in Ohio.

No other record uncovered so far has told us anything about Mahala’s parentage. Her obituary and her biography in the county history do not mention them. Neither Benjamin nor Rebecca left a will.

One tantalizing clue that remained to be searched was the 1850 census. The official enumeration date for that year was June 1, and children born after that day were not to be counted. Mahala was born on August 13. As expected, a search for her name produces no results.

Rebecca Dunbar lived in a Stow, Ohio household with only her younger sister Laura in 1850. The enumeration date recorded on the census record was September 10. Mahala would have been a month old by then. She was not recorded as a member of this household. Was this because the census taker strictly followed the guidelines and listed only people living there on June 1, or was it because she was not present the day the information was recorded?

What about Benjamin’s household? He had married Lucy Jaquays in Ohio in 1846. Perhaps they were Mahala’s parents, but I spent years searching the 1850 census for them with no luck. This week I tried again.

This time instead of looking for Benjamin, I did an Ancestry search for Lucy Jaquays. The hints list included an 1850 listing for the Norris Jaquays household in Noble County, Indiana. This place is a long way (220 miles) from Summit County, Ohio where I thought Benjamin had always lived. It turns out Norris Jaquays and his family were pioneers of Noble County, arriving there from Ohio in the late 1840’s.

And there were Benjamin and Lucy Dunbar in 1850, living in the household of the man I hypothesize was her father. Yet again, there was no Mahala. She would have been eleven days old when the census taker visited the Jaquays household on August 24. Again, were the rules being strictly followed, or was Mahala not there?

Even though Mahala was not counted on the census in 1850, locating this record makes me suspect that Benjamin and Lucy were not Mahala’s parents. They were living in northern Indiana just eleven days after Mahala was born in Ohio.

If they had been in Indiana on the June 1 census date, it seems unlikely they would have spent a week traveling back to Ohio for the birth of a baby in August. A baby of theirs would much more likely have been born in Indiana. Mahala consistently gave her birthplace as Ohio, and she grew up there. Benjamin returned there after his marriage to Lucy broke up.

I surmise that Mahala was born in Ohio to an unwed mother. Was she 33-year-old Rebecca or 21-yer-old Laura? Either way, Rebecca was the mother Mahala knew.

The baby arrived too late to be counted on the census that year. Still, she was likely present in the household, being cared for by her mother and her aunt, when the census taker came around.

The failure of Mahala’s biographical information to mention her parentage points to the same conclusion. Unwed parents were not something to advertise in the nineteenth century.

Mahala’s descendants have a photo of a woman labeled “Mother Dunbar”. I wonder if this was Rebecca.

Moses Dunbar Revealed

My second great grandmother Olive Riddle (1823-1902) was born a Dunbar. She had eleven siblings.

Some members of this family have proven easy to trace. Others, not so much.

I last worked on this group about twenty years ago. Oddly enough, the three sons in the family were harder to follow than the nine girls. I finally gave up on the men without knowing when or where any of them died.

This year, I resumed the research on the Dunbars. I have many more databases available to use in locating information on the elusive Dunbar brothers.

I focused on the middle brother, Moses Dunbar (1814-?), this week. His birth was registered at Chatham, MA, but I knew nothing of his whereabouts after that.

The family had relocated to Stow, Summit County, Ohio about 1831 when Moses would have been on the verge of manhood. Did he go with them? Or was he already settled and wanting to stay on Cape Cod? “Moses Dunbar” is a surprisingly common name to research without more to go on.

I assumed that our Moses eventually made his way to Ohio, either with his family or later, living at least until the 1840’s. A man his age resided in his mother’s household in 1840.

A few years later, his name appeared with his middle initial, “W”, in Ohio land documents when the family was resolving title issues to the land their father had purchased. This initial became an important clue in a new search for Moses.

Beginning with the U.S. census, I located a sailor named Moses W. Dunbar living in Cuyahoga County, just north of Summit County, after 1850. He married there, twice. I found Cleveland census records for him for both 1870 and 1880.

As I reviewed the Cuyahoga County records, Family Search did some helpful looking on my behalf. Their hints column suggested that I compare my Moses with Moses W. Dunbar of Siskiyou County, California. The same age as my Moses, the California man had registered there to vote in 1884.

Well, I never would have thought of that. Moses, the senior citizen, went to California?

A quick search of Find A Grave provides strong evidence that my Moses and the California Moses are a match. Moses Whitney Dunbar, who died in 1906 at the age of 93, is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in the old goldrush town of Yreka, CA. His cemetery marker is inscribed with the phrase, “Native of Chatham, Mass.”

This seems to be my guy. Thank you, Family Search!

Learning Genealogy on Zoom

This month the Colorado Genealogical Society (CGS) scheduled two helpful Zoom classes for anyone looking for some new research techniques:

  1. Last week Dina Carson spoke on getting the most from database research. Dina, a Coloradan who writes books for genealogists and local historians, provided many ideas for effective searches on Google and in genealogy databases.
  2. Coming up this weekend will be Shannon Green and her program on correlating evidence to further one’s research. Shannon is a trustee on the Board of Certification for Genealogists. Her program will help all of us do more professional work.

These Zoom meetings begin a half hour before the scheduled presentation time. We use this extra time to converse and ask one another genealogy-related questions. This social time helps us stay connected when we cannot meet in person.

CGS, unlike some other societies, makes these sessions and the monthly Society meetings free and open to anyone who cares to register. Carson’s class drew over 100 participants, one from as far away as North Carolina.

I like the friendly approach of accepting all comers instead of putting up paywalls. It seems to attract new members to CGS. Every newsletter I have received during the pandemic contains a list of people who have joined the organization recently.

I hear that CGS may continue with some Zoom meetings once our usual location, the Denver Public Library, reopens. Parking has become more of an issue in downtown Denver, and the public transportation schedule has been reduced. Many people like the convenience of being able to participate from home.

Of course, it takes work for our Board to provide these meetings and classes. I am so glad they do. I get a lot for the nominal membership dues I pay this organization.

I cannot wait to hear what Shannon Green can teach me on Saturday.

Daniel Dunbar Disappears

My second great-grandmother, Olive Hall (Dunbar) Riddle (1823-1902) had an older brother named Daniel H. Dunbar. We do not know what became of him.

His name appears in only a few records:

  1. His birth registration says he was born 8 Sep 1809 at Chatham, Massachusetts.
  2. On 12 Sep 1833, he and several siblings quitclaimed their interest in Chatham land owned by their late father, Benjamin E. Dunbar (1776-1831).
  3. On 8 May 1837, he conveyed an interest in inherited real estate in Stow, then-Portage County, Ohio.
  4. On 12 Apr 1843, he was mentioned as co-owner of Stow, Ohio land sold at Sheriff’s sale.

Did 22-year-old Daniel make the move to Ohio in 1831 with the rest of his family? Or did he remain behind in Massachusetts? Did he go elsewhere?

No male of Daniel’s age (31) resided in his mother’s Ohio household in 1840 nor has he been found in his own household that year. No marriage record for him has been found.

Census records for 1840, 1850, and 1860 list several men named Daniel Dunbar who were born about 1809 in Massachusetts, but none of these men fit our Daniel’s profile:

  1. Daniel Dunbar of West Bridgewater, MA. This Daniel’s parents were Daniel and Nicola Dunbar.
  2. Daniel Dunbar of Ware, MA. This Daniel was usually referred to as Daniel 2nd. He was the son of John Dunbar.
  3. Daniel Dunbar of Chardon, Geauga County, Ohio. This Daniel married Clarissa Brown at Palmer, MA in 1820. Our Daniel would have been only 11 years old at that time.
  4. Daniel Dunbar of Westley, Washington County, Ohio. This Daniel began paying Ohio taxes in 1822 when our Daniel was a 13-year-old living in Massachusetts.

Was Daniel still living in 1840 but not enumerated on the census? If he had already died, one wonders why he was mentioned in the 1843 Sheriff’s sale.

If his death did not occur before 1840, he surely must have died by 1850 when again he was not recorded on the census. No death information for Daniel has been found, and his burial is not recorded in the family plot in Stow.

What happened to Daniel H. Dunbar, son of Benjamin?



A Return to the Dunbar Family

This week I was able to dive into the research on my ancestor Benjamin E. Dunbar (1776-1831). Originally from Massachusetts, he and his family moved to Ohio shortly before his death.

The last time I looked at this family, over ten years ago, I did quite a bit of research on his children. His daughter Olive (1823-1902) was my second great-grandmother. He had eleven other children, but oddly I have had little success in locating descendants of any of them. I exchanged family photos with one woman who contacted me, but she did not know which of Benjamin’s children was her ancestor.

With no identifiable cousins available for swapping information, I have been on my own in tracing this family. They left few footprints.

I decided to begin the research on Benjamin by taking another look at his children, working down the list in birth order. The eldest was a daughter, Sophronia Dunbar (1805-1849). I know this about her:

  1. She was born at Chatham, MA on 29 July 1805.
  2. She married George Tiffany in Portage (now Summit) County, Ohio on 3 May 1832.
  3. Her husband served with Sophronia’s mother Rhoda as co-administrator of Benjamin Dunbar’s estate. They were accused of mismanaging it, and some of the property was sold at a Sheriff’s sale.
  4. Sophronia and George seem to have had no children. In 1840, a 5–10-year-old girl lived with them, but I suspect she was one of Sophronia’s younger sisters. A daughter that age was absent from Rhoda Dunbar’s household, two doors away.
  5. Sophronia may have known she was terminally ill. She executed a will in the spring of 1849 leaving everything to George. She died that same year.

And what happened to the widower, George Tiffany? He would have been about 45 years old when Sophronia died.

Another researcher surmises that he was the George Tiffany, gold miner, found on the 1850 census in California. Perhaps he did leave Ohio to seek his fortune after his wife passed away.

Later, we find him back in Ohio in 1853 when he married Sophronia’s sister Lucy Snow Dunbar (1827-?). They appear in the Summit County, Ohio records a couple of times in subsequent years when they sell interest in the Dunbar land.

After 1856, the couple disappears. I have not found them on the 1860 census. But I do have a couple of clues:

  1. A woman named Lucy Tiffany resided in Waukegan, IL in 1870. If this is our Lucy, perhaps George had passed away by then.
  2. There are two graves for men named George Tiffany in Waukegan, IL. One marker is badly eroded, and the death date could say either 1869 or 1889. This George is buried with a wife named Roxanna, so he may not have been the George who married the Dunbar sisters. The marker for the second George Tiffany appears to say he died in 1869, and no wife is buried under a shared marker. This may be our George Tiffany. More research is needed to verify that the George and Lucy of Waukegan are the couple I seek.

I have yet to look at the land deeds from George Tiffany that are recorded in Summit County. After I do that, I will see if I can find anything in Waukegan, IL that connects the family there with the one in Ohio. If so, I need to follow this Lucy’s trail to see how her life ended. I would like to know if she ever had children.

This inquiry may not reveal any more about Benjamin E. Dunbar, but any information I uncover can help me prepare a more complete family history. His children’s lives are part of his story.

New Year, Clean Office

In December I do not pursue much genealogy. Instead, I spend some time straightening up my office—sorting and filing stacks of papers, wiping down surfaces, shelving reference books. This helps me make a fresh start on a new research project in the new year.

This year I even have a new office chair. I had been admiring the active sitting chairs from QOR360 (, and I was thrilled to receive one for Christmas. It has an unstable seat with no armrests or lumbar support. The idea is to keep the body moving to improve posture, prevent back pain, strengthen the core, and improve whole-body health. It was developed by a trauma surgeon who developed back pain when he switched to a desk job.

So far, I like my new chair, and I am taking advantage of my newly-cleaned-up office. I plan to pursue two research projects through 2021 in this wonderful workspace:

  1. My subject for traditional, paper trail research will be the study I described last week of my third great-grandparents, Benjamin E. Dunbar (1776-1831) and Rhoda Hall (1784-1850).
  2. I continue to learn more about how to interpret DNA tests, and that will continue. I still hope to learn the identity of my dad’s maternal grandfather. I think that tools like cluster research and software like DNA Painter ( can help me with that, but the learning curve is steep for me. If I cannot crack this mystery on my own, I may look into hiring a genetic genealogist.

I have big plans for the genealogy year ahead. As always, I am eager to see what exciting family information I can uncover.