Categories
Unique Visitors
34,513
Total Page Views
507,371
View Teri Hjelmstad's profile on LinkedIn
 

 
Recent Comments
Archives

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 (qor360.com), 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 (https://dnapainter.com/) 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.

 

New Year, New Project

A new year will arrive in a few hours. With it will come the time for me to begin a new genealogy research project.

Each year I target an ancestor to learn more about. At the end of the year, I send my findings around to my extended family. Maybe someone will preserve what I have learned for their own descendants.

In 2021 I will try to find more information on my third great-grandfather, Benjamin E. Dunbar. He was a salt maker on Cape Cod for many years.

Benjamin is listed in the Dunbar family genealogy, The Descendants of Robert Dunbar of Hingham, Massachusetts by Ann Theopold Chaplin.

From this and other sources, I have already collected enough documentation relating to his life to create a short timeline:

    1776 Born in Halifax, Massachusetts

    1805 Married Rhoda Hall at Chatham, Massachusetts

    1814 Served in the War of 1812 as a private in the Massachusetts militia in the defense of Eastham

    1831 Died at Stow, Ohio

Benjamin Dunbar was just 55 when he died. He had recently sold his saltworks and relocated to Ohio. He left a widow and twelve children.

I have a few questions about his life that I would like to answer this year:

  1. Who was his mother? The Dunbar book says she was Hannah Hathaway, but online sources claim a different Hannah was his mother.
  2. Who were his siblings? The Dunbar book says he had a younger brother, Hosea Dunbar. Their father died when the boys were toddlers. Did Hannah re-marry? Did Benjamin have half-siblings?
  3. Did he leave any male line descendants? He had three sons, Daniel H., Benjamin S., and Moses. I have found no records on Daniel or Moses after 1843 when the Dunbar land in Ohio was partitioned. Benjamin S. lived until at least 1880 and is buried in an unmarked grave near his parents in Stow, but I know little about his life.
  4. Has anyone discovered Benjamin’s Dunbar roots in Scotland? When the Dunbar book was written in 1992, no birth family had been found for the patriarch Robert although family tradition claimed he was born in the 1630’s in Morayshire. Dunbar researchers at the time concluded that Robert had been taken prisoner at the Battle of Dunbar (1650) or the Battle of Worcestor (1651) and deported to the colonies. Is there any more recent scholarship on this man?

After a year of studying my Snow family in New England, I am ready to turn the page and look at a new family. I can apply much of what I learned in 2020 about New England research to this new project.

The Dunbars should provide an interesting subject. After all, my distant cousin the philosopher Henry David Thoreau belonged to this family. His mother was Cynthia Dunbar.

 

    

    

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.

Benjamin E. Dunbar, Mayflower Descendant?

Most people with Mayflower lineage are descended from more than one Pilgrim. Does my family? I have some clues to pursue.

This month I wrapped up my research into the Mayflower lineage of my ancestor, Lucy Snow Hall (1760-1795). I have documented her descent through both her father and her mother from Mayflower passenger Stephen Hopkins.

I still need to investigate the possibility that she had another Mayflower ancestor. In addition to Stephen Hopkins, her father Thomas Snow (1735-1790) may have counted William Brewster as his ancestor. The line would run through Thomas Snow’s paternal grandmother, Sarah Freeman.

I thought this was the only other Mayflower line I might have, and I do need to investigate this possibility.

Then earlier this week, a surprising hint of yet another Mayflower ancestor landed in my inbox. Family Search sent me a message claiming that my 3rd great-grandfather, Benjamin E. Dunbar (1774-1831) descends from Mayflower passenger Mary Chilton. Dunbar was Lucy Snow’s son-in-law having married her daughter Rhoda (1784-1850) in 1805.

I wonder about this proposed Mayflower line. The family tree posted on Family Search lists Dunbar’s Mayflower pedigree as running through his mother Hannah. They say she was Hannah Latham, daughter of Joseph Latham II.

My copy of the Dunbar family genealogy, the heavily-researched The Descendants of Robert Dunbar of Hingham, Massachusetts by Ann Theopold Chapin (1992), says Benjamin E. Dunbar was the son of Hannah Hathaway, not Hannah Latham.

Who was his mother, and what is his maternal heritage? I had already settled on Benjamin Dunbar as my research subject for 2021. A possible Mayflower line for him would make the research year all the more interesting.

Thanksgiving Stories

During these months of the Covid-19 virus, holiday celebrations differ from those in times gone by. As my husband/tech advisor and I enjoyed our Thanksgiving dinner at home this year, I thought about my grandmothers’ Thanksgiving stories. Their holidays were not as I would have expected.

 

Grace Riddle Reed (1896-1976)

My Dad’s mom descended from the Pilgrims. You would think Thanksgiving would be a big day for her. Yet she never spoke of preparing a Thanksgiving dinner. Nor did my dad remember celebrating the holiday in his childhood home. Perhaps they never did.

Grandma Grace grew up on a poor homestead in the Nebraska Sandhills. She raised her own kids as a widow during the Great Depression. Money was hard to come by, perhaps not to be spent on a lavish dinner.

Even if she could scrape together the necessary funds, she may not have bothered to put together a Thanksgiving meal. Grandma never cooked, leaving the task instead to Dad’s older brother Owen. His signature dishes were rhubarb and oatmeal, probably all they had available. Once he left home, Dad never ate either of those things again.

Under these circumstances, I believe Dad never had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner until he married my mom. Odd for a man with his ancestry.

And what about Grandma? I asked her one Christmas what she had eaten for Thanksgiving dinner that year. She vaguely replied, “Oh, some canned chicken noodle soup.”

 

Martha Mattila Bentsen (1906-1977)

My mom’s mother was the child of Finnish immigrants. They made every effort to leave their Finnish culture behind and to become as Americanized as they could.

They wholeheartedly embraced the Thanksgiving tradition as soon as they learned about it. The family held large Thanksgiving family gatherings. They learned to roast a turkey with all the trimmings.

Of course, these meals had a Finnish twist. There were several types of pickles—cucumbers and beets. There was a rutabaga casserole. There was Finnish bread.

After her parents died, Grandma Martha continued to host Thanksgiving dinners for family members. We joined her several times during my childhood. I always enjoyed these Finn-style Thanksgiving dinners, never knowing there was anything unusual about them.

 

As I look back, I realize that I developed my idea of a proper Thanksgiving celebration and meal from my experience with the holiday as celebrated by Finnish immigrants. My American ancestors contributed nothing to my understanding of the holiday because they did not participate in it.

You would think it would be the other way around. But in my family, the 11th-generation Americans did not celebrate Thanksgiving while the recent immigrants did.

 

On a Hunt to Sort the Ryans

This week I continued trying to find a connection to the Ryan family. Richard Ryan (abt. 1851-1925) lived near my Riddle family in Hayes County, Nebraska during the 1890’s. He signed my great-grandmother Laura Riddle’s homestead affidavit in 1892 and bought her land in 1902 when she left the area.

My grandmother was born on that homestead during that time in 1896. She never knew her father. I am trying to identify him using DNA clusters. The man I seek may have been a Ryan because everyone in one of my dad’s DNA clusters has distant Ryan ancestors. Was the neighbor Richard Ryan related to my grandmother?

I began this week by looking up the Ryan surname to see if its distribution in Ireland would give me any clues. To my dismay, I found it is among the 10 most common Irish surnames, and Ryans today live all over Ireland.

Research on the Ryan family will not be easy.

Undaunted, I jumped in and tried to find out more about these Ryan neighbors.

The household in 1900 included a father, Richard Ryan, and daughters Jennie Ryan Cable Geispert (1880-1961) and Mary Ryan (abt.1883-?).

I quickly lost Mary’s trail in subsequent years. I think she returned to her parents’ home state of Illinois to teach school. If she has descendants, I have not found them yet.

Jennie remained in Nebraska, and her family was easier to trace. I identified surnames for her descendants but did not find any of those names on our match lists at the DNA testing companies I have used—23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, My Heritage. Does this mean we do not match, or does it mean that none of Jennie’s family ever took a DNA test? No way to know.

With no luck tracing descendants, I looked next for Richard Ryan’s ancestors.

His mother was Jane Lawless (abt. 1829-abt. 1853). She immigrated from Ireland to Illinois with her family in May, 1849. She married and died young, when her only child Richard Ryan was just a boy. Richard had no siblings for me to trace.

Richard’s father was Daniel Ryan (abt. 1829-1863). He served in the Civil War and contracted a fatal disease while posted in New Orleans. He is buried in a military cemetery in Louisiana.

I have found nothing about Daniel Ryan’s ancestry. Again, the stumbling block is that all-too-common Ryan surname.

So where does that leave me? Our DNA matches have Ryan ancestors. My family lived near and interacted with a man named Richard Ryan. It is tempting to assume my grandmother’s father was a Ryan. But so far, nothing is linking up.