Identifying Ellena: challenging long-held assumptions about the Johnson and Bostwick families of Connecticut

img_3251It’s funny how a closer look at a document can cause ripples in an established family history.

Thomas Johnson, of New Haven Colony and, later, one of the original settlers of Newark, Province of East Jersey had a wife named Ellena who died just three days before he did.

There is no doubt about this, as she is buried with him in Newark and her 17th century grave marker still intact.

But who was Ellena?

According to many researchers and venerated published accounts, she is Ellen Bostick/Bostwick, the daughter of Arthur Bostick, an early settler of Stratford, Connecticut Colony.

However, as I looked into this family I began to have some doubt about whether Arthur Bostick’s daughter Ellen married Thomas Johnson – or even survived to adulthood.

So I was curious how this long-held assumption came to be. And if the tangled mess that is often the pedigree of New Haven Colony settlers be unraveled enough to reveal the truth.

Examining the marriage(s) of Thomas Johnson

New Haven Colony court records show that Thomas Johnson did indeed have a wife named Ellin at least through 20 January 1661.[1]

So what is known for certain is Thomas Johnson was married to a woman named Ellin in the years between 1650 and 1662… and was also married to a woman of the same name at the time of his death on 5 November 1694.

Could this be the same woman?

Casting some doubt on that is what appears to be a second marriage. New Haven church records show a marriage between Thomas Johnson Sr. and Frances (widow of Edward Hitchcock) in Sep 1663.[2]

Now, adding some real confusion to this fact is that Thomas had a cousin also named Thomas Johnson who was residing in New Haven at the time. So which Thomas Johnson was designated Sr. by the colony? [to keep their identities straight I’ll refer to them as Thomas (NJ) and Cousin Thomas throughout this paragraph]

Cousin Thomas is thought to have died a bachelor. But this is largely based on a letter written nearly 100 years after the event in question.[3]

In examining the will of his father, Robert Johnson, I believe there’s the possibility Cousin Thomas could be the younger man. Robert Johnson left Thomas 20£ “as ye other two, John and William, have had”.[4] This could indicate that the other two surviving sons of Robert Johnson were older and had already received some of their share of his estate when they married and left the parental home.

William is the only son of Robert Johnson whose estimated birth year is known, as he died 27 October 1702 at the age of 73 years.[5] That means William was born around 1629 and if Cousin Thomas was the youngest son, he could have been born sometime in the 1630s or later.

But Thomas (NJ) Johnson was born 1630/1631, according to his will [6], so determining who was the Sr. in 1663 is still very much a guessing game.

If Thomas (NJ) Johnson did indeed marry a third time to another Ellen it would have happened sometime after 1664.

An error in translation?

But did Thomas Johnson marry (either as first wife, third wife… or only wife) Ellen Bostick?

It appears that a key piece of evidence which supports the assumption that Thomas Johnson married Ellen Bostick is an Apr 1663 New Haven court record where Thomas Johnson claimed a debt on behalf of his “father in law Bausticke of Stratford”?[7]

Sure, at first glance this record suggests that Thomas Johnson did indeed marry Ellen, daughter of Arthur Bostick of Stratford.

But we’re talking about a legal document produced in the colonial era when the term father-in-law was often used interchangeably with stepfather.

This must be taken this into consideration.

Because there is the possibility that Arthur Bostick’s second wife – also named Ellen – was actually the widow, Ellen Johnson. This is based on a Nov 1677 nuncupative testament which devised a portion of her estate to the “wife of son Jonson of New Jersey”.[8]

So the 1663 court record may indicate that Arthur Bostick was not Thomas Johnson’s father-in-law, but rather his stepfather. Especially if Thomas married Frances Hitchcock in 1664.

There is, of course, also the likelihood that Thomas Johnson really was married to Ellen Bostick, daughter of Arthur of Stratford. Perhaps she was his first (or only) wife and through this marriage his widowed mother was introduced to the widower Arthur Bostick? Or perhaps she was his third wife, whom he met as result of his mother’s second marriage?

Sifting for clues

Another dubious claim put forth concerning the identity of Thomas Johnson’s wife is that she is  Ellen Harrison, daughter of Richard who married first to John Thompson and second to Thomas Johnson?[9] But after investigating this lead, I found it convincingly disproven.

And so… the mystery of Ellena remains.

At present, I feel the scant documentation signifies that Thomas Johnson was thrice married and that conceivably none of his wives were Ellen Bostick.  More evidence is needed to be sure.


1. Dexter, Franklin Bowditch, “Ancient Town Records, Volume 1”, Google Books (Online: Google, Inc., 2015), [Originally published: Dexter, Franklin Bowditch, “Ancient Town Records, Volume I, New Haven Town Records 1649-1662”, (New Haven: Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor Company, 1917), pp. 462-462, 466]

2. Salisbury, Edward Elbridge, “Family-Histories and Genealogies – Volume Second – Containing a Series of Genealogical and Biographical Monographs on the Families of Griswold, Wolcott, Pitkin, Ogden, Johnson and Diodati and Notes on the Families of De Wolf, Drake, Bond and Swayne, and Dunbar”, Internet Archive (Online: 2008), [Originally published: Salisbury, Edward Elbridge, “Family-Histories and Genealogies – Volume Second – Containing a Series of Genealogical and Biographical Monographs on the Families of 2Griswold, Wolcott, Pitkin, Ogden, Johnson and Diodati and Notes on the Families of De Wolf, Drake, Bond and Swayne, and Dunbar”, (Salisbury,1892), p. 310]

3. Salisbury, “Family-Histories and Genealogie” V. 2, p.293

4. Salisbury, “Family-Histories and Genealogie” V. 2, p. 286

5. Salisbury, “Family-Histories and Genealogie” V. 2,p. 293

6. Salisbury, “Family-Histories and Genealogie” V. 2, p. 308

7. Dexter, Franklin Bowditch, “Ancient Town Records, Volume II”, Google Books (Online: Google, Inc., 2015), [Originally published: Dexter, Franklin Bowditch, “Ancient Town Records, Volume II, New Haven Town Records 1662-1684”, (New Haven: Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor Company, 1919), p. 38]

8. Bostwick, Henry Anthon, “Genealogy of the Bostwick family in America : The descendants of Arthur Bostwick, of Stratford, Conn.”, Internet Archive (Online:, 2010), [Originally published: Bostwick, Henry Anthon, “Genealogy of the Bostwick family in America : The descendants of Arthur Bostwick, of Stratford, Conn.”, (Hudson, NY: Bryan Printing Company, 1901), pp. 36-41, 46]

9. Klett, Joseph R., “Genealogies of New Jersey Families: from the Genealogical magazine of New Jersey, Volume I, Families A-Z, pre-American notes on old New Netherland families”, Google Books (Online: Google, Inc., 2004-2018), [Original source: Klett, Joseph R., “Genealogies of New Jersey Families: from the Genealogical magazine of New Jersey, Volume I, Families A-Z, pre-American notes on old New Netherland families”, (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1996), p. 251]


Deconstructing Deborah: an examination of the Quaker Baynes of Bucks County, Pennsylvania

img_3454Death at sea. It sure makes for a compelling family origin story.

And the story of the ill-fated voyage of the Matthew Banes family from Lancashire, England to Pennsylvania in 1687 is true one that has been published in annals of history.

Matthew Banes, his wife Margaret and two of their four children, Thomas and Timothy, died en route to William Penn’s Quaker colony when disease broke out aboard their ship. Two children – a son, William, and a daughter, Eleanor – were the sole survivors and later taken in by families from the close-knit Quaker community in colonial Pennsylvania.

Somehow this tragic event has become part of the family lore of another Banes:  Deborah Baynes, wife of Thomas Ashton of Makefield, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

Fact becomes fable

Countless researchers believe Deborah to be the daughter of Matthew Banes (Banes has been spelled a variety of ways – Baines, Bains, Baynes, Bayns, Beans, Beanes) and wife, Margaret Hatton, Quakers from Goosnargh in Lancashire, England.

And they did indeed have a daughter named Deborah, born 1 March 1683.

But a baptismal record alone is not evidence enough to prove that their daughter is the same Deborah Baynes who came to Bucks County, Pennsylvania and married Thomas Ashton.

Something’s not right here

One fact that always gave me pause when examining this family’s history is that Deborah Banes, daughter of Matthew and Margaret, apparently did not sail with the rest of the family in 1687.

Why was that?

Did she travel to Pennsylvania separately from her immediate family (as many researchers believe she did)? Was she perhaps omitted in the records of the time? Or did she die in infancy in Lancashire?

More importantly, why have so many genealogists continued to populate family trees with an unsubstantiated relationship?

It is an incredible stretch of the imagination to think that a couple would leave their youngest child behind while they journeyed to a new land. Immigrant families, of course, did sometimes separate when crossing the ocean, but I’ve never seen record of a toddler traveling without at least one of the parents (usually Mom).

Who was Deborah?

Figuring out the truth about Deborah (Baynes) Ashton was met with many of the same challenges that come with researching female ancestors who lived during the 17th and 18th centuries, particularly in early colonial America.

What is known about her life is as follows:

She was born circa 1675 in England and came to Pennsylvania sometime before she married Thomas on 31 July 1701 at the Falls Monthly Meeting.[1] The couple had two daughters,  Mary, born 31 March 1702 and Ann, born 26 October 1703.[2]

Some researchers believe they also had a son, Isaac (see note below). However, unlike his siblings, Isaac’s birth was not recorded in the Falls MM registers.

Neither was Deborah’s early death, which happened circa 1705. Thomas Ashton remarried in 1710 and had at least eight more children with his second wife, Hannah Hough (or nine, if Isaac was born to Hannah instead of Deborah).

The proof is out there

The omission of Deborah from the emigration story had me convinced that her parents were not Matthew and Margaret (Hatton) Banes.

And I was able to find some interesting clues to her true origins in both the records of Middletown Monthly Meeting and in the will of a certain Gabriel Baynes.

The Meeting minutes show not only Deborah’s place of origin, but also when she arrived in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and the family members with whom she made the journey:

Middletown MM – 5th day, 1st mo, 1698 – Certificate for Gabriell Baynes and Anne Baynes his mother and sister Deborah Baynes from Monthly Meeting at Settle in Yorkshire, England.[3]

But the real proof that it is this Deborah who is – without any shred of doubt – the same woman who married Thomas Ashton, can be found in the 1727 will of Gabriel Baynes.

In his will, Gabriel Baynes names as his cousins Thomas and Deborah (Baynes) Ashton’s daughters, Ann (Ashton) Hillbourne and Mary (Ashton) Lee.  In the legal terminology of the colonial era, “cousin” often referred to nieces and nephews.

Gabriel Baynes’ will is a such a critical piece of evidence that I cannot believe no one has ever cited it before. And there are even more clues contained within, as Baynes also named two other siblings, Thomas Baynes and Agnes (Baynes) Wood:

GABRIEL BAINS of Falls Township, County of Bucks, Province of Pennsylvania, Yeoman.

To be buried in graveyard at plantation of neighbor Thos. Watson. £1 to said Thos. Watson, toward repairing fence around said graveyard.

Residue of personal estate equally divided between well beloved wife Ellin Bains and Son Bryan Bains. Son to have Plantation at 21, or marriage, whichever comes first.

If son dies without issue, estate divided into equal thirds (after wife’s decease) to Brother Thomas Bains, Sister Agnes Wood, and Cousin Ann Hilburn and Cousin Mary Lee’s 2 children, John and Deborah Lee.

Wife, Mark Watson, and Robert Sotcher, executors.
Wit: Nehemiah Blackshaw, John Sotcher, Jos. Kirkbride, Junr.

Written 19th day, 9th month, 1727. Proved February 12, 1727.[4]

  • (Note: Isaac Ashton (presumed son of Deborah Baynes) is not named as an heir of Gabriel Baynes.)

And so with just two records a family fable is rendered fiction, not fact.  Deborah (Baynes) Ashton clearly came to Pennsylvania from the Settle MM in Yorkshire, a decade after the fateful sea voyage that took the lives of Matthew Banes, his wife and two children. She came with a mother named Anne – who was still very much alive in 1698 – together with her brother, Gabriel.

Indirect proof of parentage

But further research was definitely needed to determine more of Deborah’s true origin story.

I began to look more closely at Deborah and Gabriel’s brother, Thomas, who also came to Pennsylvania.

Thomas Baynes, a yeoman in Middletown, Bucks County, died in 1743. He named his daughter, Ann and her husband, Daniel Doan, as executors and sole legatees in his will.[5]

The Middletown Monthly Meeting records show that Ann Baynes was born 8 Jun 1698 to Thomas Baynes and wife, Jennet[6] and married to Daniel Doane, Jr. on 1 January 1716.[7]

Deborah and Gabriel’s brother, Thomas, happens to be the same Thomas Baynes, son of Bryan of Wennington, who married Jennet Ward on 20 May 1694 at Settle MM. Gabriel, Deborah and Agnes’ names are all found on the certificate as witnesses.[8] (and Gabriel Baynes had a son named Bryan, apparently named for his paternal grandfather)

The certificate of removal for Thomas Baynes and his wife, dated 4 November 1696, gives further evidence that he was from Wennington, Lancashire “yet belonging to the Monthly Meeting of Settle”.[9]

Wennington is a village in Lancashire near the Yorkshire border. It lies within the Melling St. Wilfrid parish (which is a different place than Melling near Liverpool).

The parish register for Melling St. Wilfrid, contains the baptism entries for Gabriell, Thomas, Agnes Baynes and another sibling, James, plus the burial entries for James and an older sister, Tamar – all children of Bryan and Ann Baynes.[10]

Unfortunately, there appears to be a loss of records between 1671 and 1675.  This may explain why I have been unable to any record of Deborah’s birth.

But for absolute certain her parents’ names were Bryan and Ann Baynes from Wennington, Lancashire. No myth there.


1. Hinshaw, William Wade and Marshall, Thomas Worth, “Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy. Volume II”,(Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1969, 1991, 1994), p. 975

2. Humphrey, John T., “Pennsylvania Births, Bucks County, 1682-1800”, (Washington DC: Humphrey Publications, 1993), p. 7

3. “U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935”, digital image, (Online: Operations, Inc., 2014), [Original source: Middletown MM, Minutes, Marriages, Cert. of Removal, Condemnations, Births and Burials, 1682-1807, p. 6]

4. “Gabriel Bains’ Will”, digital image, FamilySearch (Online: Intellectual Reserve, Inc. 2018), [Original source: Bucks County (Pennsylvania), Register of Wills, “Wills 1713-1759, Vol. 1”, pp. 114-116]

5. “Wills: Abstracts: Book 2 : Bucks Co, PA 1739-1759”, USGenWeb Project (Online:, 1996-2016)

6. “U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935”, digital image, (Online: Operations, Inc., 2014), [Original source: Middletown MM Minutes, 1664-1807, p. 118]

7. “U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935”, digital image, (Online: Operations, Inc., 2014), [Original source: Middletown MM Marriages, 1700-1779, p. 41]

8. “England & Wales, Quaker Birth, Marriage, and Death Registers, 1578-1837”, digital image, (Online: Operations, Inc., 2013), [Original source: Yorkshire, Piece 1116: Monthly Meeting of Settle (1652-1775), p. 155]

9. “U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935”, digital image, (Online: Operations, Inc., 2014), [Original source: Middletown MM Minutes, 1664-1807, p. 154-155]

10. UK Genealogy Archives, [Original source: Briefly, Henry, transcriber, “The Registers of the Parish Church of Melling”, (Wigan:Strowger and Son at the Clarence Press, 1911), pp. 19, 21, 23, 26, 98, 118]



From mystery to Maben: breaking down a genealogical brick wall

img_1172It’s been said that setting goals turns the invisible into the visible.

With a brick wall ancestor, it often seems like one is chasing a ghost, hoping one day for identity to materialize. The pursuit can last years – decades, even.

This is the story of how setting a concrete goal enabled me  – nearly one year after I had set my goal – to finally busted one of the biggest brick walls in my family tree!

Some history…

For over two decades, I have strived to find clues that could help identify Sarah E., first wife of Samuel Sherfey Brown, who died at the young age of 25 in 1877. I knew her given name and middle initial, birth and death dates from her tombstone and death notice.[1][2] But nothing was known about her maiden name.

Two of her three children had not even a mother’s name listed on their death certificates (common, yet still blows my mind) and the third had the maiden name of a stepmother. Sarah’s husband, Samuel S. Brown , was widely known in the area they resided, but his obituary also yielded no information.

Because Samuel and Sarah likely married in 1870, I looked for the couple in the 1870 census. I found Samuel enumerated in his parents’ household. But where was Sarah?

The only “paper trail” clues I had for the longest time were as follows:

  • A marriage listed in a compilation of Mifflin Co., PA marriages, dated 24 March 1870, between a Samuel Brown of Huntingdon Co., PA and a Sarah Martin of Lewistown, Mifflin Co., PA. This fit the approximate date of marriage I had for them based on their first child’s birth year (given as 1869 and 1871, depending on the source).[3]
  • A random email sent to me a decade ago, shortly after I had made a Genforum post concerning Martin being a possible maiden name. In the email, the person (from Australia) said the correct maiden name was Mabin. But the writer offered no evidence nor further information – and never again replied to any emails I sent.  Since that message, I had long wondered if perhaps Martin was a misprint of Mabin in either the newspaper where the compiler got his info or a transcription error by the compiler himself.

I tried to find a family surnamed Mabin with a daughter named Sarah that would be the correct age to fit in the 1860 and 1870 federal census, but came up empty handed. I also tried under the surname Martin with no luck.

So, I tucked the name Mabin away in the back of my mind as a remote, but possible contender.

Not knowing Sarah’s maiden name, let alone her parents’ names nor where she resided, made for a laborious and difficult hunt. It was so frustrating because mid-19th century records for Mifflin and Huntingdon counties are scarce. Crazy scarce.

I wrote to the Mifflin County Historical Society, but staffers could only find the death notice.

I’d give up for some time, only to try again… and again… and again.

I made several fruitless searches of the census records for other Sarahs of the same approximate age in the Juniata Valley region. Either these women married others or wound up never marrying. Once in awhile, I would also do internet searches under the surname Mabin (plus Martin and others), looking for clues and sifting through possibilities using the process of elimination.

DNA clues

And then I added DNA testing to my genealogical toolbox.

I tested myself, my paternal aunt and three of my paternal grandmother’s maternal first cousins.

Immediately, I began finding a lot of matches for my grandmother’s maternal line, particularly on the Brown side – and began charting them on a spreadsheet. The other grandparent the cousins all have in common was a recent German immigrant to Philly and there have only been three matches total for that line (probably since DNA testing is not popular in Germany).

I began to notice that all the remaining matches that the cousins had in common seemed to have deeper colonial American ancestry – a great deal in the South, NJ/NY/New England and places in PA where I did not believe the Brown line originated – and many with British, Dutch and Mennonite origins. It wasn’t yet enough to see a definitive pattern or clue, but I sure was keeping my eyes open for something.

Next, my aunt and one of my grandmother’s cousins did a mtDNA test and that, too, indicated deeper colonial American ancestry originating in NJ/NY, either of British or Dutch origin.

Fishing in another pond

Fast forward to this month…

On a late night whim, I decided to make use of the free DNA data transfer offer at MyHeritage. And it has made all the difference. There really is something to be said about fishing in as many ponds as one can.

My grandmother’s three maternal first cousins (all whom are great-grandchildren of Sarah) all showed strong 2nd-4th cousin match in MyHeritage to the same man (Jim). When I looked at Jim’s family tree, I immediately noticed the Maben surname paired with Lewistown, Mifflin County, PA. 

No other branches of Jim’s family tree matched our family, save for this possible one: Maben. And when I looked into Jim’s Maben family further, I found that his ancestor had a sister named Sarah E., born in 1852.

I got goosebumps!

To calm myself down, I created a private mirror tree going back a few generations further on all of Jim’s lines just to be sure that there were no other branches that could possibly connect with our family.

Piecing together evidence

Then I found another person who posted a Mabin/Maben family tree on Ancestry with census records attached and that’s when I made a stunning breakthrough.

Screen Shot 2018-04-01 at 10.44.16

Finding evidence of my brick wall ancestor eluded me for decades because of a simple transcription error. [image via]

I discovered a HUGE transcription error for the 1860 census both on FamilySearch and Ancestry (and by NARA too, from way back when I first poured over records the old fashioned way – hunched over a microfilm reader):  Maben had been transcribed as Maglion.

The record was indeed very faint, but it definitely was written as Mayben (Maglion doesn’t even show as a Soundex match). And the family of David and Sarah Mayben indeed had a daughter Sarah E., born the exact year my ancestor was born, living in the area where she and her husband lived after they wed.[4]

Sarah was under my nose the whole time!

Interestingly, the census recorded her father and older brothers’ occupations as “wood chopper”. Sarah’s husband, Samuel, his father and brothers were also all employed in the lumber industry.

Proof via DNA triangulation 

Of course, I wanted to close the case on this long time mystery. But in order to make this new found evidence even stronger, I had to both gather more documentation to trace this family’s history back even further… and triangulate DNA matches.

Right away, I found two other strong matches on Gedmatch to my Grandmom’s cousins who are also strong matches with Jim. One is connected one generation further back on Sarah’s maternal line (Baumgardner) which married into her paternal Maben line. The other descends via the Maben line.

That Maben descendant, however, also is related to Jim on another branch of his family tree (same generation back as the Maben line). I see no connection to that line in my own family tree, but I suppose there’s always chance of a connection on that line further back in the genealogical time frame. (though I don’t think that the shared cMs would be as high as they are – even if some Pennsylvania-Dutch endogamy was part of the equation).

But I’ve since found other matches via Sarah’s maternal line (Baumgardner).  And because I’ve also traced back a few more generations, I’ve been able to triangulate the following:

  • on Chromosome 4, a triangulated match between my Grandmom’s cousin (Shirley), Jim and another Baumgardner descendant (decended via Sarah’s uncle Abram Baumgardner).
  • on Chromosome 5, a triangulated match between Grandmom’s cousin (Shirley) and two Baumgardner descendants (each descended from Sarah’s uncle Hiram Baumgardner) and another Baumgardner descendant one generation further back (Sarah’s great-uncle, Emanuel Baumgarnder).
  • on Chromosome 22, a triangulated match between Grandmom’s cousins (Lowell and Patti), Jim and another Maben descendant.

And while a mtDNA match would totally clinch it, I do believe I have enough triangulations to finally consider the identity of my most challenging brick wall ancestor to be DNA confirmed as Sarah E. Maben.

After more than 25 years, this cold case is finally closed!


1.”Grave marker for Sarah E. Brown“, jpeg image, Find A Grave (Online: Operations, Inc., 2012)

2.”Death notice for Sarah E. Brown“, jpeg image, Lewistown Gazette, Lewistown, Pennsylvania, USA, 5 September 1877.

3. McClenahen, Dan, “Marriages of Mifflin County, 1822-1885”, (Reedsville, PA: Dan McClenahen,1981), p. 56.

4.” “1860 United States Federal Census (Population Schedule)”, Armagh Township, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, USA, Dwelling, 219, Family 219, David Mayben household“,jpeg image, FamilySearch (Online: Intellectual Reserve, Inc., 2010)


DNA testing tips: getting the most out of your genetic genealogy

photograph of tree in early spring

DNA Day is here and many have been snapping up DNA test kits on sale this week at FamilyTreeDNA and Ancestry.

Most probably test because they want to learn what the test will tell about their ethnic makeup. But for serious genealogists and family historians, testing opens the doors to exciting yet often bewildering territory.

Here are my top three tips for getting the most out of testing your autosomal DNA:

  • Tip 1  Once your results are in, upload your raw data to Gedmatch.
    Gedmatch is a site that provides free DNA analysis tools and allows one
    to match with others across four major testing companies.
  • Tip 2  Test others in your family, starting with the oldest members.
  • Tip 3 Make concrete goals rather than end goals for exploring your genetic genealogy.

When I first took the DNA plunge and entered the confusing new realm of genetic genealogical research, I felt a bit had.

But I’ve learned a lot over the past year. And I’m beginning to reap something of value from a bit of swabbed saliva and inner cheek tissue.

I quickly realized that in order to reap more reward from my foray into genetic genealogy, I needed to do two things:  revise my goals and test others in my family.

My original goals consisted of vague hopes to connect with matches in the second to third cousin range on my Jewish and Irish lines. However, I soon discovered that endogamy makes this a Herculean task.

Instead, I decided to focus my efforts on my one of my nearest brick wall ancestors. By doing this I not only had a concrete goal, but was also able to formulate a genetic genealogy plan o’ action.

My brick wall ancestor, Sarah E. Brown, is my third great-grandmother on my paternal grandmother’s branch of my family tree, through her mother’s side. Her maiden name is unknown, as are her origins. As many researchers well know, locating 19th century records in central Pennsylvania is often impossible. For Sarah, the paper trail has been cold for two decades.

So, I am turning to DNA testing in hopes of locating other descendants of her family line.

Experts strongly recommend testing the oldest generation of one’s family for good reason. We inherit exactly half our autosomal DNA from each parent, but each successive generation passes on just half of that half.  Simply put, the oldest generation carries significantly more of one’s ancestors’ DNA. (For a more in-depth explanation, please read Roberta Estes’ excellent article on the subject.)

Unfortunately, my Dad and Grandmom died years ago. This meant I needed to find other older family members who would be willing to test.

Right away, I was able to recruit my Aunt Lisa (my Dad’s only sibling and the oldest living member of his side of the family).  That helped me figure out better which matches came from my paternal line.

A few months later, my Grandmom’s first cousin through her maternal side, Shirley, also agreed to test. Her DNA test has proved to be of enormous value.

Testing two other family members has enabled me to triangulate the matches we have in common. In a short time, this has led to a few connections with more distant (second and third) cousins that have been further verified through good old-fashioned paper trail genealogical research. It also led to one heck of a discovery.

Through those matches, I am slowly figuring out which triangulated segments relate to particular branches of our family.

My great-grandmother, Lulu (née Reuter) Bender, just happened to be the eldest daughter in a tight-knit family of 14 children. I am very fortunate that some of my Grandmom’s youngest cousins are still living.

This week, two more of her maternal first cousins – Patti and Lowell – have decided to test.

We all share some DNA passed down from my grandmother’s maternal grandparents: her grandfather was of 100 percent German ancestry from mid-19th century Catholic immigrants. Her grandmother was half Pennsylvania-Dutch (so again, German… only Protestant and dating back to colonial America).

The other half is the mystery we are all trying to solve.

Initially, I thought Patti’s mother was of 100 percent Italian ancestry and got excited thinking that if she tested and had any matches that were not of German or Italian ancestry, then it would be easy to identify which matches connect to our brick wall ancestor.

However, her mother turned out to be half Irish descent… so it turns out each cousin’s non-Reuter parent and my own great-grandfather all have British Isles ancestry.

Identifying matches descended from our shared mystery ancestor will be more challenging than I hoped. But through triangulating all three cousins, plus my aunt and myself AND then seeing if those matches triangulate (or not) with the verified distant cousins on the Pennsylvania-Dutch and German branches – maybe we can figure out the probable connections to Sarah.

Because even if she is of British ancestry, as I suspect, my thinking is that it is unlikely that any of us will share matches in the second to fifth cousin range who are of British Isles descent (unless endogamy again comes into play, which I suppose is possible).

What might prove quite useful is a comparison of X chromosome matches. Since Lowell is male, he only inherited an X chromosome from his mother, who was my great-grandmother’s youngest sister. Being female, Patti will have inherited her X chromosomes from both parents. However, Patti ‘s father was my great-grandmother’s brother – so if her X chromosome matches triangulate with Lowell’s (and the rest of us), those matches will assuredly be from our Brown line as her father would have only inherited the X chromosome from his mother.

I can hardly wait for the test results to come in…


myOrigins amended: FamilyTreeDNA’s latest admixture update

photograph of tree rootsFamilyTreeDNA just updated their myOrigins admixture mapping tool this week and my ethnic estimates have definitely changed.

When I initially tested, myOrigins broke down my ethnicity as follows:  31% Ashkenazi Jewish, 4% Middle East, 22% Scandinavian and 43% British Isles.

Those results initially had me puzzled.  But in the end, recombination, migration and the limitations of test populations make it unwise to put much stock in the accuracy of autosomal DNA admixture reports.

FTDNA’s update now has my ethnic makeup as being 30% Ashkenazi Jewish, 39% British Isles, 20% West and Central Europe, 5% Southern Europe, 4% Eastern Europe, trace results in Finland, Southeast Asia and South Central Africa.

This certainly aligns better to my extensively researched genealogy paper trail.

However, I’m not sure why I no longer show Middle East ancestry (since my Grandpa was a Levite that admixture result made sense).  And I really don’t know what to think about the trace results. Noise, perhaps?

I’m especially curious (and kind of excited) about the African trace result… I’ve read that it could indicate an ancestor with African heritage 7 generations back (5th great grandparent). It just so happens that I do have a few brick walls right at that generation on my maternal grandmother’s line.

Since my paternal aunt shows no such trace results, I am assuming that if this trace lineage is correct and not noise then it is from my mother’s side – specifically from her mother’s paternal line, in which colonial American ancestry predominates.

But even though I can’t seem to get further back than those brick wall ancestors, I do actually know a good deal of information about each of them and it still seems not just unlikely, but downright impossible that any of them were black. If they did have African lineage, it surely must have come from a few more generations back for them to be able to “pass” as white. Would that even show up as a trace amount?

I think the only way to know for sure is to convince my Mom to test.

Of course, there is the chance that this African ancestry could come from my Dad’s side, passed from him to me and recombination leaving my aunt with no trace.

There are two more recent brick wall ancestors on my paternal line who I know next to nothing about. Their origins are not merely uncertain (as are my maternal line brick walls), but unknown.

Unfortunately, my Dad is deceased.  My aunt is his only sibling.  If this trace lineage comes from his side of the family tree, then it absolutely would come from my paternal grandmother. Luckily, one of her first cousins tested, but she also showed no trace African heritage.

But my gut feeling is that this trace amount could actually be derived from my Jewish ancestors.  Or is just noise.


Secret scandal: truth hidden for generations exposed with DNA testing

photograph of snow-covered budding tree branches

Just wanted to share a recent stunning DNA test revelation.

First, I think it is important to note that this happened ONLY because both myself and my newly discovered cousin (Rick) uploaded our DNA test data (and those of the accounts we manage) to Gedmatch, a free DNA testing tools website that allows users to compare DNA results from four major DNA testing companies.

Rick and his father had tested through Ancestry and I had tested through FamilyTreeDNA (as did my aunt and my Grandmom’s first cousin) – without Gedmatch, we would not have learned what turned out to be a major revelation.

Rick’s father (Joseph) matched my Grandmom’s first cousin (Shirley) as a solid third cousin, and Rick matched as fourth cousin. My aunt and I also matched them and on the same chromosome segments, but one to two generations further back. So it was clear we are definitely related. And since the strongest match was through Cousin Shirley, it was clear that we connected through my Grandmom’s maternal line (half Pennsylvania Dutch dating back to colonial times, half recent German Catholic immigrants)

I figured it was a match on my Grandmom’s PA-Dutch line (Brown), but Rick noted that his father’s entire family were recent German immigrants and Catholic. This meant it was my Grandmom’s Reuter line.

Rick and I exchanged family trees.  We both had traced our lineage back enough to be able to find a common ancestor, but could not find anything.

Surnames did not match, nor did the regions in Germany from where our ancestors came.

But – and this is the second most important thing to note – I had shared a link to my ancestors on WikiTree. And it was in the biography I had written for my third great-grandfather where Rick found a vital clue to our connection.

He noted that my third great-grandfather, Peter Reuter, was enumerated with his third great-grandparents, Philip and Rosa Kemper in 1870.

Turns out, that Philip Kemper (who owned a bar) was enumerated not just once, but three times in 1870 – in June, July and November – Peter Reuter (a bartender) lived with him in June and July but was gone by November.

Furthermore, Philip Kemper was more than 30 years older than his bride, Rosa who just happened to be Peter’s age.

I think you might guess where this is heading…

Philip and Rosa were married a total of eight years before her early death and only ever had one child – a daughter, born 10 months after Peter Reuter was enumerated with the Kemper family.

So, it appears my ancestor likely had an affair with a married woman in his early 20s as a newly arrived immigrant.

Never thought DNA testing would unlock such a long-ago secret…

I find this discovery to be amazing not just because a clandestine relationship was finally exposed, but because the connection involved half-siblings.

Cousin Shirley is actually a half-second cousin to Joseph. Because they descend from half-siblings they match as third cousins.

My newly discovered cousin, Rick and I initially doubted anyone other than perhaps his third great-grandmother, Rosa (Kopponberg) Kemper knew that Peter Reuter was the biological father of her child.

Although… he was gone from the household soon after the conception, so who really knows for sure what went down and who knew what.

When Rick finally presented our findings to his father, however, Joseph shared that he had heard Peter’s name before. So there’s that.

As for Rick and his father, they have identified the correct biological family for their ancestor. And bonus: I have traced and sourced this family line and all its branches back into the 1600s for the past two decades, so they have all that info too.

There are warnings to heed when deciding to undergo DNA testing for genealogical purposes. Testing companies warn not to test unless prepared to accept potential unexpected outcomes that could shatter what you thought you knew to be true about your own family.

Obviously, these warnings are meant for surprise revelations concerning immediate relatives… finding out you have a half-sibling, thus learning of a parent’s infidelity, for example.  Or discovering a new cousin whose parent was the child your grandmother put up for adoption, as another such example.

These are tough truths for some to digest and can wreck havoc in certain families.

But what about generations further back?

This finding probably would have been devastating for all parties involved if it had come to light back then.  Today, it’s just a fascinatingly juicy detail that reveals more about a distant ancestor’s life.


mtDNA testing: a mother and child reunion?

No I would not give you false hope
On this strange and mournful day
But the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away…

Of all the DNA testing for genealogical purposes, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) tests are the least popular and for good reason.

Because mtDNA changes very slowly over time, it often determines only deep maternal ancestry from thousands of years ago. This was especially true of older tests (HRV1 and HRV2). However, full sequence mtDNA testing is now available which, if enough people were to make use of it, could be quite promising.

With full sequence mtDNA testing assuring a 50 percent chance of locating the common matrilineal ancestor within five generations and a 95 percent chance within 22 generations, it would seem making a connection could be possible.

So, I began to wonder… would a mtDNA test help in busting down a long-standing brick wall?

Because this mystery ancestor is on my paternal grandmother’s matrilineal line, my aunt generously agreed to upgrade her original autosomal DNA test (atDNA) to include testing her mitochondrial DNA.

Her haplogroup subclade was identified as H5h. Though haplogroup H is common in Western Europe and the Caucus region, this particular subclade appears to be rare (or at least not widely tested).

My aunt also has eight exact matches at 0 genetic distance.

Thus far, only four of the eight matches have shared their matrilineal line with me.

Of these, three also have brick walls (but at least have a maiden name) about two generations earlier than my own. These women are each from differing US states and the only thing in common is English/British derived surnames. It is obvious our shared ancestor is further back on the family tree.

The fourth match’s line goes back much further and I’ve already been able do a bit of quick research to take it back three more generations – to the earliest settlers of Elizabethtown, NJ in the 17th century. Again, British origins seem to be prevalent.

This match’s line goes back 11 generations, which roughly puts us at around a 70 percent chance of locating a common ancestor.

So far, I think this could be helpful in eliminating possibilities for my own brick wall ancestor. It seems that I can probably focus on families with a daughter named Sarah (b. 1852) in the region she married (Huntingdon/Mifflin Cos., PA) who seem to have British ancestry rather than Pennsylvania Dutch.

And if I can begin to figure out the “family segments” of my Grandmom’s maternal line, I just may be able to determine which autosomal DNA matches may be from my mystery Sarah’s line and see if there is any kind of connection with the mtDNA matches (surnames, regions, shared DNA).

Here’s hoping!


Piecing the puzzle: further examination of the Enloes family

img_5517After proving (with primary sources) the correct parents for the immigrants Hendrick and Peter Enloes, it was time to  investigate who they were and from where they came.

Very few people with the surname Enloos (and variations) can be found in the Amsterdam Stadsarchief and I felt certain that these folks were family members.

A sister, Geertruijd, was determined by her 1667 marriage record.[1] An older bride at age 44, her parents were noted as being already deceased. However, Willem Enloos’ second wife, Ijtje Sijmens stood in as sponsor, a role always filled by family. Geertruijd married Samuel Vercolje and I suspect there to be a stronger connection between the Enloos and Vercolje families than just their marriage alone. Her place of origin was noted as being Mulm, an old Dutch spelling of the German city Mülheim, which neighbors Duisburg.

Pieter, Jan and Willem were all silversmiths. Their father was a goldsmith. Back in their time those were guild professions that were closed to outsiders.  Meaning, it was kept in the family for generations and it’s very likely that their wives were daughters of goldsmiths/silversmiths.

In order for Antonij Enloos to be part of the goldsmith guild in Amsterdam, he had to become a Poorter – that is, he had to pay for his citizenship rights to live inside the gates of the city.

I found record of Antonij Enloos’ purchase of poorterschap and his taking oath in Amsterdam in 1643.[2] This helped establish when the family arrived.

Antonij’s place of origin was listed as Felbat on the poorterschaap record. It is most likely a old spelling/Dutch variation of the German city Velbert, which is also only a few kilometers away from Duisburg. 

This settled the Duisburg question. It was now apparent that the Enloos family originated in the Ruhr valley of northwestern Germany (now part of Nordrhein-Westfalen).

Piecing together the puzzle

A fellow Enloes researcher, Karen Abel, contacted me this summer after finding my WikiTree profiles for Hendrick Enloos (Enloes). She was pleased to see my research relied on Dutch sources.

We discussed how next to proceed. I had exhausted the Amsterdam archive records (or so I thought). Looking into Duisburg church records was the logical step, one I had longed to take but, in recent years, had no opportunity to do so.

As a LDS Family History Center volunteer, Karen generously offered to pick up the mantle and order microfilm church records for Duisburg.

Since Jan Enloos was baptized into the Evangelical Lutheran religion as an adult, it was a given that those church records could be excluded. Reformed Lutheran was the more prevalent denomination in the region and in Duisburg those records went back the furthest, covering the years the Enloos children would have been born.

Jan Enloos’s adult baptism weighed heavy on my mind. I was puzzled by why a person who was likely Protestant would have a second baptism.  In my two decades of genealogical research, I’d only ever come across such a thing when a Catholic had converted to a Protestant faith (and vice versa).

Was it a common practice to be baptized a second time if changing from one Protestant faith to another?

Or was it more likely that the Enloos family was Catholic?

It kept nagging at me… particularly when Karen’s search of Duisburg’s Reformed church records yielded not a trace of the Enloos family.

Jan Enloos’ children were baptized in the Evangelical Lutheran church and easily located in the Stadsarchief.  But what of his siblings’ children? There appeared to be no record of them in Amsterdam.

There was a period of 11 years between Pieter Enloos’ marriage and his immigration to Nieuw-Amstel in 1657. Many, if not all, of his children, including Abraham and Anthony, were likely born in this time span. So where were they baptized?

Something inside me felt I needed to hear out other possibilities. I turned to the WikiTree community … and it was suggested that perhaps the family was Anabaptist.

And sure enough, they were.

Anabaptist denominations do not believe in infant baptisms. Members are baptized into the faith as adults. In the case of Jan Enloos, by the time he reached adulthood he had decided to embrace a different religion.  This was not uncommon, particularly during the time period when he converted to Lutheranism.


As luck would have it, FamilySearch has Doopgezinde (Mennonite) records covering the years the Enloos family was residing in Amsterdam. Even better, there is an index deep within the scanned images.

I quickly found baptisms for Geertruijd and Pieter Enloos.[3] One of the sponsors for Geertruijd was Mattijs Verkolje – giving more evidence of a multi-generational connection to the Vercolje/Vercogne family.

But the best find was an Attestatie certificate (required when arriving from an outside city/congragation) for Antonij Enloos, dated 28 April 1643.[3]

Doopgezinde (Mennonite) Attestatie voor Anthonij Enloos

Antonij Enloos came to Amsterdam in 1643 from Wesel. [image via]

It further confirms the family’s arrival in Amsterdam as having occurred in 1643. It also noted that Antonij Enloos came from Wesel, yet another city in the Ruhr Valley and one with a significant Mennonite population.

I believe that Antonij Enloos was likely a journeyman goldsmith before coming to Amsterdam and perhaps that is why the family was in Velbert, Mülheim, Duisburg and Wesel.  They may have also been fleeing religious persecution.

He and wife, Gritie Livens, were deceased before son, Jan Enloos’ marriage in 1656, but burial records have yet to be found.  This may be because they likely died during one of the “plague years” when the Black Death ravaged the population in Amsterdam during the mid-17th century.

Three of their children Jan, Willem and Geertruijd remained in Amsterdam, but sons Pieter and Hendrick left for the Nieuw-Amstel colony in 1657.

End of the line?

Unfortunately, the trail has again run cold. It turns out that German Mennonites did not keep records in the Enloos’ day.

If silversmith guild records still exist and can be located, they likely could provide a wealth of information.

One interesting record that I am currently pursuing is a nearly indecipherable 1610 marriage record for Cecelia van Endloos and Samuel Vercogne in Amsterdam. Samuel, as it happens, was a silversmith.  And Cecelia was old enough to be Antonij’s sister and was from Essen – a city neighboring Duisburg.

Transcribing the record for potential clues and finding a connection may prove difficult, but I am, once again, determined.


1.”Banns Registers 1565-1811“, jpeg image, Stadsarchief Amsterdam (Online: Stadsarchief Amsterdam, 2008-2016)

2.”Poorters 1531-1652“, jpeg image, Stadsarchief Amsterdam (Online: Stadsarchief Amsterdam, 2008-2016)

3.”Netherlands, Noord-Holland Province, Church Records, 1523-1948, Doopsgezinde, Amsterdam, Lidmaten 1612-1673 Dopen, Trouwen 1625-1670 Index 1622-1668 Lidmaten 1668-1755“, jpeg image, FamilySearch (Online: Intellectual Reserve, Inc., 2010)


Shea, Jana , “Piecing the Puzzle: Further Investigation of the Enloes Family”, [blog post], Axehandles, 16 November 2016,

Myth buster: a close examination of the Enloes family

imageEvery genealogist has at least one encounter with an ubiquitous myth in their family tree. When fiction takes over hard fact, it can be surprising how readily the fabled details populate scores of pedigrees.

One such example of this involves Hendrick Enloes, an early (17th-century) settler of Baltimore County, Maryland.

Hendrick is believed to have initially immigrated to Nieuw-Amstel (now New Castle, Delaware) from Amsterdam together with his brother, Pieter Enloes in 1657. These two brothers are the progenitors of the Enloes/Enloe families of colonial Delaware and Maryland.

The myth

A long-standing belief held by numerous researchers and proliferated all over the internet is that the parents of Hendrick Enloes were Joris Kindlosson and Fijtgen Hendrix.

However, there has yet to be any evidence to support this claim.

I have no idea where the myth of Joris Kindlosson/Fijtgen Hendrix parentage originated. When I began researching this branch of my ancestry, I found the couple populated every Enloes family tree and/or history I came across. Some even included a marriage date in Amsterdam (and had the sons’ birth places as being also in A’dam), yet not one cited a source for this information.  

Reportedly, there is a marriage notation for the couple in the book, De huwelijksintekeningen van Schotse militairen in Nederland, 1574-1665. While possibly serving as proof the couple existed and married, it still offers no connection between the two and Hendrick Enloes or his siblings.

Complicating the matter is that the Enloes surname has several variations (Enloe, Inloes, Enlow in America – Enloos, Eenloos, Inlos, Einloos, etc. in the Netherlands), making Kindlosson as the original surname seem not too far a stretch.

Demonstrate or debunk?

Just over a decade ago, I grew determined to locate a source that proved the parents of the presumed Enloes brothers who came to New Netherlands whom I had often seen listed as Hendrick, Peter, Jan and, occasionally, Anthony.

The marriage record for Jan Enloos, proves the sibling relationship with Peter Enloes.

The marriage record for Jan Enloos, proves the sibling relationship with Peter Enloes.

I was living in the Amsterdam back then and as luck would have it, my apartment in De Pijp happened to be a few blocks away from the Stadsarchief Amsterdam (Amsterdam City Archives). So one day, I walked over there and managed to locate a marriage record for Jan Inlos. The record stated that Jan was from Duisburg and listed his brother, Pieter Inlos as a witness. 

With some limited help from an archivist there, I searched under numerous spelling variations, but could not find any marriage record for Joris Kindlosson or Fijtgen Hendrix. And no records of a baptism for Hendrick Enloes.  

Already the myth of the couple having been wed in Amsterdam was laid to rest. So, too, any notion of Hendrick or his brothers being born in Amsterdam.

But a proven familial relationship was finally established between the immigrant Peter Enloes and Jan Enloos. And a connection to Amsterdam was also confirmed, however now it appeared that the family may have originated in Duisburg.

But which Duisburg? The most obvious choice seemed Duisburg, Germany which back in the Enloos’ day was part of the Duchy of Cleves that was considered part of the United Provinces (Netherlands). But there is a small village in Noord Brabant (now Belgium) also named Duisburg.  And there is a Dutch town named Doesberg (in Gelderland) which was sometimes written as Dusburg.

Unfortunately, my research got sidelined for some years because of several life altering circumstances happening all in a row.

In that time, the Amsterdam City Archives had digitized many of their vast collections.

About two years ago, I picked up my research again and was thrilled to find even more records concerning Jan Enloos, Pieter Enloos, plus two other siblings, Willem and Geertruijd.

But the biggest, most exciting discovery was proof-positive identification of their parents. 

The proof

Using the archives’ search engine, I was easily able to find every possible variation of the Enloos surname which led to a key piece of evidence.

As mentioned above, before he left Amsterdam Pieter Enloos, a silversmith, was a witness to his brother, Jan Enloos’ marriage. Jan was an apprentice silversmith whose place of origin was listed as Duisburg and Pieter Enloos was clearly named as his brother in the 1656 record.[1]

Jan Enloos' adult baptism in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Amsterdam busted a long-standing myth.

Jan Enloos’ adult baptism in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Amsterdam busted a long-standing myth.

In 1663, this very same Jan Enloos was baptized as a 32-year old adult in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Amsterdam. His parents’ names were given as Antonij Enloos and Gritie Livens.[2]

To validate this information, I next turned to the Latter Day Saints (LDS) FamilySearch website where, recently, a ton of Dutch records have been digitalized and can be searched for free.

Turns out, Antonij Enloos was also named as Pieter Enloos’ father in his own civil marriage record and named as the father of Willem Enloos in the civil record of Willem’s first marriage. Both Pieter and Willem’s place of origin was given as Duisburg, further substantiating the relationship between them.[1][3]

So, though definitive proof that Hendrick Enloes was indeed Peter Enloes’ brother is still lacking, it is certain that the Pieter Enloos who came to Nieuw-Amstel in 1657 is Jan Enloos’ brother and the son of Antonij Enloos.

  • (NOTE: Proof of a blood relationship between Hendrick and Pieter is evident in land records pertaining to a tract of 100 acres of land on Back River in Baltimore County, acquired via the headright system by Pieter’s son, Abraham, that were later transferred to Hendrick. This same parcel, later named “Inloes Loyce” was sold by Hendrick Enloes to John Boaring in 1679.)

And… bust

It’s time to put to rest the myth of Joris Kindlossen and Fijtgen Hendrix, for once and for all.

Perhaps they once really walked the earth, but they are definitely not the parents of Pieter Enloos.

And since he is strongly suspected to be the brother of Pieter Enloos, it can confidently be concluded that Antonij Enloos and Gritie Livens are also the correct parents of Hendrick Enloes.

If you’re a fellow Enloes descendent, please consider updating your family tree with the information I’ve presented here (properly cited, please).

Of course, with this revelation comes a new investigation… just who were Antonij Enloos and Gritie Livens and from where did the Enloos family come.


1.”Banns Registers 1565-1811“, jpeg image, Stadsarchief Amsterdam (Online: Stadsarchief Amsterdam, 2008-2016)

2.”Doopregisters voor 1811“, jpeg image, Stadsarchief Amsterdam (Online: Stadsarchief Amsterdam, 2008-2016)

3.”Netherlands, Noord-Holland, Church Records, 1523-1948, Alle Gezindten, Amsterdam, Huwelijksaangiften 1642-1650“, jpeg image, FamilySearch (Online: Intellectual Reserve, Inc., 2010)


Shea, Jana , “Myth Busted:  A Close Investigation of the Enloes Family”, [blog post], Axehandles, 16 November 2016,<