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A Different Sort of Genealogy Project

New year, new project.

Last year I finished the research on the last of my second great-grandparents. This year I will begin working on third great-grandparents. I have 16 sets to choose from.

Since my maiden name is Reed, I will begin with those ancestors. I hope to learn more about Thomas Reed (1783-1852) and Ann Kirkham (1782-1869) this year.

Since the last time I visited this bunch, I have collected a lot of Reed material. I tossed it all in a stackable bin to wait until I am ready to analyze it. The paper pile reached several inches high. In addition to all this, one of my Reed cousins left her research to me. I have Reed file folders and notebooks from her to review, too.

Much of her material duplicates what I already have. I can discard those pages.

The rest I am sorting into generational piles. Working backwards, I will enter the information into my database until I reach Thomas and Ann. Then I can begin with new research.

This year’s project will not only give me a chance to learn more about earlier Reeds, but it will also purge a lot of paper from my office. A happy new year, indeed.

Happy New Year!

Best wishes to all for a prosperous and fulfilling year in 2023! Here’s hoping we all break down a brick wall or two.

The Genealogy Stacks Disappear

The stacks of work-in-progress and other paperwork to be filed have disappeared from the table in my office. It did not happen by magic. I spent December, as I do every year, cleaning it all up.

It takes some time. I scrutinize each page, discard some, and file the rest in neat folders. I made new ones for all the Lawless and Ryan ancestors I discovered this year.

This tidying leaves clean work surfaces available for me to mess up again in 2023. I have 8 inches or so of documents for my Reed line waiting for attention. My father’s cousin left behind notebooks full of Reed information, too.

The first step in the Reed project will be to review these documents and add the information to my database. When I have accomplished this, I will begin some fresh research on this line, starting with my third great-grandparents, Thomas Reed (1783-1852) and Ann Kirkham (1782-1869).

They were original settlers in Coles County, Illinois in 1829. They will be my focus next year.

This will be my first attempt to do a research project on ancestors born in the 18th century. This couple grew up during the early Federal period. Records I am accustomed to searching did not exist at that time, and I will need to practice some new research techniques. It promises to be an interesting challenge.

The office is ready and waiting for me to begin in January.

Yule 2023

As the winter solstice approaches on December 21, my husband/tech advisor and I are getting ready. We like to observe it every year.

We share Scandinavian heritage, and we enjoy imagining the old days when our ancestors must have celebrated the holiday in a big way. The pagans called it Yule. It was the go-to festival for the Vikings and the Germanic tribes.

They marked this shortest day of the year with animal sacrifices, toasts to the gods, Yule log fires, and lots of feasting. They decorated with evergreen wreaths, mistletoe, and holly.

At our house we recreate the holiday, but we tone it down a bit.

Our meal will be a delicious cod and bacon stew (a nod to my cod-fishing ancestors) washed down with mead. We will display a Yule log to bring good luck and keep away evil spirits. We may wear our Norwegian sweaters.

When the evening ends and we have had our fill, we can look forward to the return of the sun and the lengthening of days.




Support for Wreaths Across America

This year my husband/tech advisor and I donated to Wreaths Across America, an organization that conducts Christmas wreath-laying ceremonies to honor veterans at more than 3400 locations across the United States, at sea, and abroad. Through my DAR chapter, we sponsored several wreaths for the graves of our American heroes at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Colorado.

Several of my family members are buried there:

  1. Robert (1916-1976) and Alta (1921-2015) Kaessinger. He served in the US Navy as a Chief Boatswain’s Mate in World War II and Korea.
  2. Robert Lloyd Reed (1924-1986). Staff Sergeant Reed served in the Air Force during World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.
  3. William Richard Thomas (1927-1988). Staff Sergeant Thomas served in the Army in Vietnam.

Wreaths Across America will be at Fort Logan at 10:00 a.m. on December 17 to remember the fallen. Volunteers will lay the wreaths and say the name of each veteran aloud.

Turning the Page on the Ryans

A year and a half ago, DNA testing identified my great-grandfather’s Ryan family. I have worked since then to fill in his branch of my family tree.

This new-found great-grandfather was last year’s subject for the annual biographical sketch I circulate at Christmas time.

I continued my research on the family in 2022. This year I have written about the previous generation, my great-great grandparents Daniel Ryan (1829-1863) and Jane Lawless (1826-1853).

This research required me to learn about Irish history and record-keeping. I attended several seminars and webinars on Irish research.

The Lawless family proved simple to track. They immigrated together. The ship passenger list gave me the names of the entire family. That allowed me to locate them in County Louth, Ireland.

The Ryans presented a more difficult research task, and I still have not found a family for Daniel Ryan. DNA matches point to an origin in Tipperary or Limerick.

As I approach the end of 2022, I am writing what I know about Daniel and Jane. The research on them is far from complete, but now my time with them is ending.

With this couple, I have completed biographical sketches of all my 2nd great-grandparents. Next year I can move back to an earlier generation with a set of 3rd great-grandparents.

I am tired of wrestling with the Irish. I have a bin of unprocessed material for my Reed line, so I will leave the Ryans behind and tackle the Reeds next.

This will be my first time with the Reeds, my direct paternal line. Cousins have done the heavy lifting on researching them back to the early 1800’s. I am curious to see what I can find about them in before 1800, where my cousins hit a brick wall.

Thomas Reed (1783-1852) and Ann Kirkham (1782-1869), I am eager to meet you.

Church Records Hold the Keys

Most of our ancestors had church affiliations. The records of these religious bodies can give us family information that we cannot find anywhere else.

This weekend our Colorado Genealogical Society will offer a program entitled Faith of Our Fathers by Sylvia Tracy-Doolos to help us locate these records. I will tune in to see what new information I can learn about this type of research.

I have used church records in the past, when I can find them. They have provided me with information on several branches of my ancestors:

  1. The Lutheran Church was the state church of Norway, and all residents had contact with it in some way or another, even if they were dissenters (Catholics, Quakers, etc.). Norway has put their religious records online, free of charge, at Using this site, we have traced our Norwegian families back until church records began in Norway, shortly after the Reformation.
  2. As in Norway, the Lutheran Church was the state church of Finland. Family Search has digitized many of the Finnish church records. They were kept in two languages, Finnish and Swedish, because Finland was part of the Kingdom of Sweden from the 12th century until the Napoleonic Wars. I have struggled to decipher these records and was grateful to find a Finnish relative who had already done much of the work.
  3. Since I learned last year that I have an Irish Catholic great-grandfather, I have sought Catholic records for him and his family. I have had mixed results with access. In the United States, the Diocese of Springfield allowed Family Search to film their records, and they are easy to use. The nearby Diocese of Peoria restricts access and will not even do lookups—a disappointing dead end. My husband/tech advisor needed information on his German Catholic family from the Diocese of St. Louis, but for many years they would provide only a transcription. When we finally got our hands on the original record, we learned they had erred in the transcription, sending us on a fruitless search for a non-existent person.
  4. Ancestors in my other lines belonged variously to the Baptist, Congregational, and Methodist denominations. I learned this about them because they were buried in church cemeteries. With one exception, I have not found any other church records for these ancestors. The one Methodist record I located was a digitized record of my second great-grandfather Thomas Sherman’s marriage to Mary Scott in Edgar County, Illinois in the 1870s.

For those with German ancestors, one valuable source is Roger P. Minert’s German Immigrants in American Church Records series. I checked the volume for Indiana looking for the first marriage of Thomas Sherman, mentioned above. Family lore tells us he married a Stilgenbauer near Indianapolis during the Civil War, but I found no record of this marriage in either Minert’s book or the civil register.

The records for Protestant denominations can be tricky to locate, if they exist at all. They did not have central repositories. I wonder if Sylvia Tracy-Doolos will have any new insights to share on this type of research.

Call for Volunteers

Several local genealogy and heritage organizations have begun the nomination process for new leadership for the coming year.

Each time it seems harder to recruit Officer candidates. Often the same people end up just trading jobs in an effort to keep the clubs going.

The task seems even more difficult this year. After nearly three years of a pandemic when many of the meetings took place on Zoom, we all have a harder time meeting and getting to know people who might be willing to serve if asked.

Some examples:

  1. Palatines to America. The Denver chapter of this Germanic genealogy group needs a President and a Vice-President. The office of President has been vacant in 2022. The most recent seminar took place via Zoom with its limited opportunity for recruiting. I am on the nominating committee for this club, and I wonder how much success we will have in putting up good candidates when I know so few of the members, and we have no upcoming in-person events.
  2. Sons of Norway, Fjelldalen Lodge 6-162. The Lodge has a full complement of officers, but the Lodge leadership roster has contracted in recent years. Jobs have been combined or eliminated as fewer people have been willing to serve. This practice results in a smaller pool of people who might step into positions as committee chairmen or Officers in the future.
  3. WISE. This study group for the genealogy of Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and England needs either a President or a Vice-President. As a new member, I do not have a feel for how difficult recruiting is for this club. I hope a more seasoned member will step forward to be an Officer.

Membership in all these organizations has been rewarding for me over the years. I have met other members with similar interests and learned from their programs.

Running all these valuable meetings and seminars takes volunteers. Without them, our genealogy and heritage community will not have the rich opportunities for learning and fellowship it has had in the past. We all need to do our part.

More Continuing Education

Here in the Denver area, genealogy programs abound. This week offered me two:

  1. Megan Koepsell, President of the Colorado Genealogical Society, spoke to the Highlands Ranch Genealogical Society on Tuesday about how to search for Irish roots. Since I identified my most recent Irish ancestor last summer, I have been working to fill in his family tree. Megan gave me a good list of sources to try.
  2. Professor Neil Price, one of the leading authorities on Viking history, will present to the Swedish Genealogical Society of Colorado this weekend on research in this field. I am not Swedish, but the club has graciously opened this meeting to everyone with Scandinavian heritage.

Both these meetings offered hybrid options.

I opted for the Zoom call on the Irish program. I was disappointed that the organizers chose to mute the business portion of the meeting, which they conducted first. It left those of us online, including the speaker, twiddling our thumbs for 20 minutes or so of dead air. I would not recommend this approach going forward. First, as a member of the club, I would have liked to hear the business meeting. Second, if it is a problem to let those online hear the meeting, why not have the speaker go first and then let the online attendees leave when the business meeting begins? Or at least schedule the program to begin at a specific time?

For the Swedish meeting, I have registered to attend in person. I am still leery of Covid exposure, but this program will take place in a large, high-ceilinged venue where I know I can keep my distance from others.

It is great to live in an area where so many people work so hard to schedule numerous events for the genealogy community. Without all this continuing education, I would not have had the expertise to compile the large family trees I have.

Early American Migration Routes

This month I had the good fortune to participate in a webinar about migration trails in America. During the early years of our country, people followed established routes to settle new lands.

The webinar speaker, Ann G. Lawthers, told us about the push and pull factors that led to this massive migration. Then she discussed the migration trails the settlers often traveled.

My own family moved and resettled along with all the others. I have incomplete information about their travels, but I know this much:

  1. Carter and Templeton—My ancestor John Carter’s (1790-1841) family settled at Carter Station, Tennessee in the 1780’s. John Carter and his wife Mary Templeton (1792-1857) migrated to Kentucky and then to Coles County, Illinois.
  2. Day and Howe—John Day (1760-1837), born in Lunenburg County, Virginia, served in the Revolutionary War and eventually settled in Morgan County, Kentucky with his wife, Rebecca Howe.
  3. Dunbar and Hall—These New Englanders lived on Cape Cod until 1831 when they moved on to Summit County, Ohio.
  4. Kirkham—Robert Kirkham (1754-1819) was born in Virginia and served in the Revolutionary War at Boonesborough, Kentucky. From there, he moved on to Indiana.
  5. Lawless and Ryan—these Irish immigrants arrived on the east coast before 1850 and settled in Illinois.
  6. Reed and Carr—This family lived in Morris County, New Jersey during Colonial times but had relocated to Fayette County, Pennsylvania by the Revolutionary War. From there they settled in Kentucky, fanning out from there to Indiana, Illinois, and Texas.
  7. Sherman—Daniel Sherman, born somewhere in New York around 1800, had arrived in Morgan County, Kentucky by the 1820’s.
  8. Stilgenbauer—This Bavarian family was living in Bartholomew County, Indiana by the 1850’s.

While attending the webinar, I learned that William Dollarhide’s classic book Map Guide to American Migration Routes, 1725-1815 (1997) has been updated and expanded to a 2-volume set. I ordered it right away, and it arrived this week.

The first part covers Indian paths, Post Roads, and Wagon Roads in early colonial America. The second volume describes stagecoach, steamboat, canal, and railroad routes. Both are chock-full of maps.

My family likely used all these means of transportation. This set will be a valuable reference tool for me as I delve further back in time with my American family history.