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Busy Genealogy Time

This two-week period gives me the opportunity to brush up my research skills by participating in some excellent genealogical training. My local societies are offering several good choices for learning something new:

  1. Colorado Genealogical Society. On the 5th Saturday of March, Dr. Greg Liverman spoke on current happenings at all the DNA testing companies.
  2. Sleksforkningklubb. The Sons of Norway lodge hosts this Norwegian research group. Earlier this month my husband/tech advisor told us about migration patterns to, from, and within Norway through the centuries.
  3. Highlands Ranch Genealogical Society. At our regular monthly meeting we heard from professional genealogist Christine Cochran about the emerging field of forensic genealogy.
  4. Palatines to America. The Colorado chapter will host its 2021 Spring Seminar this weekend. Teresa Steinkamp McMillin, CG, will speak on four topics including German farm names, the German archives, German immigration waves, and a case study illustrating the use of indirect evidence.

Due to the pandemic, all these classes take place over Zoom. No need to leave the comfort of home to hear some top-notch presentations.

I take away some great ideas from these meetings every time. We have so much good information coming our way this time of year. I do not want to miss out on one bit.

The Side-lined Genealogist

This family historian was laid low by Covid-19 this week. No, not the virus. The vaccine.

I received my second dose of the Moderna shot on Monday. Within 12 hours, I had fever, headache, and fatigue.

The next day I slept most of the time and had no appetite.

The following day, I got out of bed but still had little energy. I ate sparingly and began to feel better as the day went on.

By the third day I seemed more like myself. I felt grateful to have experienced only vaccine side effects rather than the full-blown virus.

Covid-19 has taken so much from us over the past year. Perhaps the symptoms I experienced were a minimal price to pay for protection.

Today, I am back at the genealogy desk.

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.

I Join a Lineage Society

Success! After waiting since last July, I finally received word this week that my application to join the General Society of Mayflower Descendants has been approved.

My qualifying lineage runs from the adventurer Stephen Hopkins. He accompanied the Pilgrims on their journey in 1620. They hired him because he had previous New World experience.

To file this application, I did not need to document the first few generations of my ancestors who came after Stephen Hopkins. The 30-volume Mayflower Families Through Five Generations provides an authoritative family tree down to Hopkins’ descendant, and my ancestor, Thomas Snow (1735-1790).

I did need to prove my descent from Thomas through his daughter, Lucy (1760-1795). Because no other descendant of hers has ever applied to the Society, I could not piggyback on the application of someone else. There are a couple of long-ago applications from descendants of Lucy’s brother, Edward Snow, but they included no records that I could use for my application.

I had little difficulty collecting appropriate documentation for most of the generations between Thomas Snow and me. Wills, obituaries, or vital records spelled out the relationships between generations.

But there were two links that were more troublesome. I did not know whether the documentation I submitted would pass the review of the Society’s genealogists:

  1. Was Olive Hall (Dunbar) Riddle (1823-1902) the same person as Olive, daughter of Rhoda (Hall) Dunbar (1784-1850)? Olive’s father died when Olive was a child so his will did not include her married name. Olive’s mother did not leave a will. Olive’s obituary did not provide her mother’s name, and an obituary for Rhoda has not been found. Nor has a family Bible. To solve the problem, I collected land conveyances that mentioned Olive Dunbar inheriting and Olive Riddle selling the same parcel of Ohio land.
  2. Was Lucy (Snow) Hall the same person as Lucy, daughter of Thomas Snow? I could find no primary sources that provided this information. Instead, I crossed my fingers and submitted a page from the Hall family entry in the Encyclopedia of Massachusetts (1916) that claimed Lucy’s descent from Stephen Hopkins.

The Society genealogists deemed the land records and the published biographical information enough to establish the links I needed.

The next step will be to receive my membership numbers for the national organization and the Colorado chapter. This should take a week or so.

The Society will retain all the genealogical information I provided. Any of Lucy (Snow) Hall’s descendants can now use it to file applications of their own.

Furthermore, my work on this line will be preserved. When I cannot be certain that my own family will keep my research, submitting it to a lineage society will assure that it is not lost.

I am thrilled that my application was successful.

Virtual Genealogy Anyone?

At this time of year, we have many opportunities to further our genealogical education. The invitations keep rolling into my In Box.

Many of these conferences and seminars, like RootsTech ( and the NGS 2021 Family History Conference (, offer a wide range of topics.

Others focus on more specialized subjects. The Colorado Genealogical Society’s 2021 Seminar will feature Crista Cowan “The Barefoot Genealogist” speaking on using (

Those who seek classes to help them further their German research have a couple of good choices coming up:

  1. 2021 International German Genealogy Conference. With the theme of Researching Together Worldwide, this virtual conference will be held 17 July to 24 July. Registration is now open and can be completed at the following link: A special Early-Bird registration discount is possible until 31 March 2021. This conference will feature popular speakers Ute Brandenburg, Wolfgang Grams, Timo Kracke, Roger Minert, Judy Russell, Katherine Schober, Diahan Southard, and Michael Strauss covering an extensive variety of German genealogy topics.
  2. Colorado Palatines to America Spring Seminar. On April 9 & 10, Teresa Steinkamp McMillin will speak via Zoom. She will offer four sessions including The Voyages of Our German Ancestors, Understanding German Farm Names, Discover the Holdings of German Archives, and a case study using indirect evidence. Registration for this seminar is open at

I am registered for a couple of upcoming genealogy events that look interesting to me. I am looking forward to hearing some good speakers and collecting some new research ideas.

What about you? How much time do you have available? What will you choose?

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!