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.

Doopgezinde

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 FamilySearch.org]

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.


Footnotes

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)

Copyright © 2016 Jana Shea.

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 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 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.


Footnotes

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)

Copyright © 2016 Jana Shea.

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

Leap day birthday

W and A Reuter

William and Araminta (nee Brown) Reuter, ca. 1925.

Being born on a leap day is so uncommon that I’ve only ever found one of my confirmed direct line ancestors to have been so.

Today would have been Araminta Rebecca “Mintie” Brown’s 140th birthday.

My great-great grandmother was born 29 Feb 1876 in Reedsville, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Samuel Sherfey and Sarah E. (maiden name unknown) Brown.

From the outset, Mintie did not have an easy life. Her mother died when she was just 17 months old. Her father remarried the following year, but Mintie lost her stepmother – the only mother she ever really knew – at the tender age of 14 in 1890. Rebecca (nee Stuter) Brown had been tragically thrown from a carriage when a horse took fright and suffered massive injuries that killed her many months after the accident.

The Brown family was tight-knit and Mintie shared a very close bond with both her full siblings, Jefferson and Savannah “Vannie” and half-siblings, Samuel DeForrest “Forry” and Teresa “Tet”.

Some years prior to her stepmother’s death, her father had switched professions from a lumberman to a hotel proprietor, operating the Duncan House in Milroy. He and the hotel were held in high regard by travelers near and far.

But being twice a widower must have been devastating.

As a teenager, Mintie may have spent some considerable time, perhaps even resided, at her paternal grandparents’ home after her stepmother died. At that time they had moved to Phoenixville in Chester County and it was almost certainly by visiting or living with them that she wound up meeting her husband, William Joseph Reuter.

William was from Philadelphia, but his father had moved the family to Kenilworth, Chester County by 1892. William tended bar at his father’s restaurant, the Astor House, a popular spot in center city Philadelphia.

Araminta married William in 1893, just two weeks after turning 17.

Her older sister, Vannie, married her husband in Phoenixville two years earlier, further strengthen the theory that the children went to stay with their grandparents for some time after Rebecca’s death.

How Mintie and Bill met isn’t exactly known, but the family legend goes that they fell for each other so madly that Bill abandoned his studies on the school ship, U.S.S. Saratoga, much to his father’s disappointment.

He may have been forced to quit his training when Araminta became pregnant soon after their wedding. She gave birth to the first of 14 children on Christmas day 1893. Sadly, meningitis would take the life of their son, Samuel Sherfey Reuter, before he reached three months of age.

They would lose four more children: Teresa, Albert, Samuel Brown, and Louis, plus third son, Frederick was mentally retarded.

Having so many children so closely together took its toll on Mintie’s health. So much so that she underwent an operation (for what, is not known) right on her kitchen table. It caused a small five-year gap in the succession of children.  But that break was large enough to Mintie that she often called the children born post-operation her second family.

Mintie and Bill both lost their fathers the same year – 1926 – and though Bill’s father died a somewhat wealthy man, his inheritance likely went towards the care of Frederick who later resided at the Elwyn Training School.

Diabetes would ravage Mintie by the time she reached her early 50s, causing her leg to be amputated. She was only 54 years old when she died on 10 January 1931.

 

What I learned from my autosomal DNA test


imageMy autosomal DNA test results are in.

Some scraping of my inner cheek promised to give insight on my ethnic background and a chance to find folks somehow related to me.

I wasn’t expecting any surprises or revelations about my ethnic makeup. I’ve long known it’s roughly divided in quarters: Irish, Jewish, German and British. Genealogy has helped me figure just how for the latter two quarters.

The 50 percent I inherited from my grandfathers is easy enough to determine.

My maternal grandfather was an immigrant Jew, born in what was then Russia’s Pale Settlement (now Belarus).

My paternal grandfather was 100 percent Irish-American, his father’s parents having immigrated from County Kerry, Ireland and his mother’s parents immigrants from Northern Ireland’s County Tyrone.

I also have about a quarter each German and British ancestry from my grandmothers. But because they both have lines that date back to Colonial America as well recent immigrant ancestors, plus a few mysteries thrown in the mix, figuring out the distribution entailed much more research.

So, I was quite surprised to see my admixture results from FamilyTreeDNA reporting my ethnic makeup as follows:  67 percent European (45 percent British Isles and 22 percent Scandinavian), 31 percent Ashkenazi Diaspora and 3 percent Middle Eastern.

I was puzzled the most by the extra Jewish ancestry… I mean, shouldn’t I have only inherited a quarter of my DNA from my maternal Grandpa?  Was there an extra Jew (or line of Jews) way back in the family tree?

And where the heck were my German ancestors, whose lines I have had the most success in tracing back along the paper trail?

For nearly weeks now I’ve tried to learn more about this testing I had submitted to on a whim and discovered things I wish I had a better understanding of before I took the plunge into this new frontier of genealogical inquiry. It’s been an expensive lesson in buyer beware.

A few of the things I’ve learned:

  • Admixure results are only speculative. This I was actually pretty well aware of, but still found somewhat surprising in just how so.
  • While we absolutely inherit 50 percent of our DNA from each parent and should receive roughly 25 percent from each grandparent, things don’t always divide so evenly with each subsequent generation beyond our parents. Furthermore, one’s chromosomes don’t always inherit so equally, even in the most immediate (parent-child) relationship.
  • Endogamy will completely mess with your match results. Of this, too, I was already vaguely aware, but not at all prepared for just how skewed matches become with even just a fraction of ancestry from an endogamous population.

So even though I inherited none of my Grandpa’s swarthy looks (alas!), I apparently received quite a bit of his DNA when recombination occurred. To clarify, it seems I received chunks of unrecombined chromosomes (more on that below).

And as for my German ancestors, I was prepared to see something like 20-odd percent “Continental European” or similar broadly defined Western European group, but in the end those Scandinavian results and perhaps even some in the British Isles category could easily represent those lines thanks to migration.

Now, going into this misadventure I fully anticipated having to do a bit of work in order to figure out how I relate to any matches. I was also aware that trying to bust brick walls five generations back would be a difficult task, perhaps even impossible for those mystery ancestors much further back on my family tree.

But here’s the thing… though I have quite a number of matches within a second to fourth cousin (not close, but less-distant) range, none of them appear to be truly in that range thanks to endogamy. And that leaves me only with matches of fifth to (much more common) distant cousin range – almost all of whom appear to relate through our shared Jewish ancestry.

One of the hopes I had for atDNA testing was to match with less-distant (second to third) cousins who are related to me through my Jewish and Irish lines, as they are the branches of my family tree for which I have the least information. Some of the reason for that is just the difficult nature of Jewish and Irish genealogical research, due to lack of records.

But some of it is because both of my grandfathers left the tight-knit ethnic and religious fold of their families in order to both marry who they loved and broaden their horizons. That meant relatives, traditions and (most) stories were lost within one generation.

I’ve successfully gone back to my great-great grandparents on those sides of my pedigree, so I figured I had a decent shot at making the right ancestral connections between matching cousins. I really, really hoped to match with a second (or third) cousin who was better connected, whose immediate family had remained in the fold.

There are some intriguing longer segment matches between me and quite a number of folks who also have Ashkenazi ancestry, but its mostly on only one or two chromosomes which indicates the relationship is much further back than FTDNA predicts and what can be proven by the few (oh, so few) who have uploaded their GEDCOM family tree.

Because of FTDNA founder Bennett Greenspan’s interest in creating a census of the Jewish people and call to action through the Avotaynu project, it’s little wonder why the vast majority of my less-distant cousin FTDNA matches are Jews.

I don’t see this as necessarily a problem…  I think it’s great that Greenspan is getting the word out about the importance of testing the eldest generation while they are still here. And hopefully, the more folks get on board then the greater chance I have to someday make a connection. This applies to every genealogical DNA testing company.

I imagine it’s kind of like early home pregnancy tests. My Mom enjoys telling me how she tested twice when newly pregnant and twice got a negative result. Then one day she found herself at the GYN’s office for what she thought was a simple yeast infection and surprise, surprise… she was already a few months along with me. So maybe as the technology and public interest progress, the results will improve?

Still, a part of me wonders if I would’ve had more matches through my non-Jewish family lines had I gone with Ancestry or even 23andMe.

To remedy that, I uploaded my raw results to Gedmatch. I honestly don’t know why more folks don’t do so – it’s free. Yet, I constantly see recommendations to test with all three top genealogical DNA testing companies rather than choosing just one, then sharing and connecting through Gedmatch.

I went with FamilyTreeDNA because their terms of service and privacy policy are the best and the company is top ranked among serious genealogists – ones who have a fully documented/sourced family trees, which is a necessity if you’re going to make use of your DNA matches. Unlike Ancestry (whose TOS are frightening), there is no subscription required. But the drawback is FTDNA has the smallest database of the three top genealogical DNA testing companies.

In hindsight, I wish I had understood a little more about how extremely unlikely it would be to have matches that could be substantiated by an existing paper (or digital) trail.

So, some part of me feels seriously let down, perhaps even a bit duped, by the growing geneatology trend.

One has to remember that, while there may be a sincere passion for genealogy (which I do not doubt), Greenspan, and even Henry Louis Gates, Jr. are in the genetic testing biz… so, they’re making money off us with every cheek swab (or vial o’ spit). This part of me feels so damned disappointed that I just want to shake it all off as expensive lesson learned and only stick with the traditional genealogy tools.

But another part is doggedly determined to get somewhere, make some good use of this potential tool, holding out hope that somehow, someday closer matches that can actually be proven will be made – even though that diminishes as older generations die off. I mean, had autosomal testing been around when my grandparents were still alive how different might the results and this post have been?

It’s weird to think that my Mom, uncle and aunt are the oldest living generation for my family now – even crazier to realize that my younger brother is now the oldest male in our paternal line. In my fantasies, I would love to be able to somehow convince several distant cousins to test (the remaining few of my grandparent’s generation, some whom I only know of via research and have never contacted), as if that’s the key to success. But honestly, chances for matches with others that could lead to significant break-throughs would still be so slim it hardly justifies the cost.

Was the experience worth it? If it had been $50 or less, I’d say perhaps it was worth the wager on poor odds for a momentary thrill. But at the $89 price (or higher, depending on testing company), my answer is no.

I hope others have had more fruitful outcomes with their own testing. And, yes, I still do hope that one day that I may change my mind and consider this a wise expenditure.

 

Finding love in Ancestry.com’s weekend freebie

imageICYMI: Ancestry.com is offering free access to some of their featured UK records through midnight on Monday.

Even though most of the records which could be helpful to my research are either not accessible for free or just plain not there at all, I did manage to find one particular gem: a memorial copy of the Quaker marriage certificate for my 8th-great grandparents, Hannah Cullimore and William Watson, who married 22 Mar 1710/1711 in Bristol, Gloucestershire, England.

I already had the date of their marriage from another source and was searching for a baptismal record for Hannah Cullimore when I came across the scanned certificate in Ancestry’s England & Wales, Quaker Birth, Marriage and Death Registers, 1578-1837.

It gives a good deal of information about the Quaker marriage process – first they announced their intentions to marry a month before they wed, next their intentions were published in the meetinghouse in case other Friends had just cause why they should not marry.

And then, the really romantic part…

In front of several fellow Friends, William and Hannah took each other by the hand and declared themselves as husband and wife, and ,while still holding hands, further promised to live together as husband and wife in love and faithfulness until death.

Screen Shot 2016-02-13 at 16.35.02

The memorial Quaker marriage certificate for William Watson and hanah Cullimore describes their intimate wedding. [image from Ancestry.com]

Such an awwwwwwwwsome find, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

I often wonder if my early ancestors were truly in love or if it was an arranged union (perhaps not so formal as if they were royals or from India, but more of a “he/she comes from a good family” or both families benefit kind of thing). Certainly there were likely many matches where being practical probably outweighed being enamored.

And how much input young women had back in the day on their prospective life partners depended quite a bit on their religion, culture and the times.

Early 18th-century Quakers held much more egalitarian beliefs than other religious groups of the same era.

This find is also Valentine’s Day perfect for another reason… a simple reminder, really, of the sanctity of my own marriage and its romantic start. After a week of domestic spats (exacerbated by lack of sleep from caring for a toddler sick with the stomach flu), it’s as if my ancestors knew I needed to reflect on this and shined a light from across the centuries.

My Dutch hubby and I had no intention of marrying – it wasn’t necessary to do so and be legally recognized as a couple in the Netherlands and neither one of us liked the idea of an officiant or institution to oversee our commitment to one another.

But I had always said that if I were to marry, it would have to happen in my home city, Philadelphia, where one can get wed under a Quaker marriage license, with no officiant nor church needed. I further said that if were it to happen, I wanted to married in front of the Robert Indiana Love sculpture in the city’s Love Park (officially, JFK Plaza).

So, on a visit to the States, my Dutchman proposed to me out of the blue and we exchanged promises of love hand-in-hand at sunrise in front of the Love sculpture. The wedding was witnessed by two friends who signed our Quaker marriage license.

As I write this, my husband is on photo-assignment in sub-freezing temperatures at Love Park (and wearing his wedding shirt!), capturing the final weekend of what is internationally known as a skateboarding mecca. For just a few days, a long standing ban on skateboarding in the park has been lifted. Afterwards, the park will undergo a major overhaul and the sculpture will be temporarily relocated.

But getting back to William and Hannah… the certificate is a great find because it also revealed new information that Hannah’s father, John Cullimore, was already deceased. And it confirmed something I had found out some time ago – that prior to marriage, William Watson was residing in Bucks County, Pennsylvania (as a groundskeeper of William Penn’s Pennsbury Manor). Hannah Cullimore is supposedly related by marriage to William Penn, but I have not yet learned how.  Hannah Callowhill Penn’s father, Thomas Callowhill signed as a witness to the marriage, but that’s not proof of any relationship.

Anyway, this weekend is a great one to take a moment to appreciate all the many forms of love in our lives that have taken us by the hand and to ruminate a bit on the multitude of romantic partnerships that ultimately brought us into existence. Happy V-Day!

 

 

Tuesday Tip: use Lord’s Supper registers as early census alternative

imageIf you have a German-American ancestor who was residing in colonial Philadelphia, it might be worthwhile to check the Lord’s Supper guest register for St. Michael and Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1755-1763.

It can be found online via Ancestry.com’s Pennsylvania and New Jersey Church and Town Records, 1708-1985.

What’s remarkable about this register is that it’s a mini-census record of personal data that might aid further research.  It is particularly useful in narrowing down the year of immigration.

In fact, one of the main reasons for documenting those who took the sacrament of Lord’s Supper was to provide evidence of such so that immigrants could be naturalized as citizens of British North America.

The Plantation Act of 1740 required Protestant immigrants living in the Colonies for at least seven years (and who had not left said Colonies for longer than two months) to produce court certificates that they had taken the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in a Protestant or Reformed church three months before taking the oath to become a citizen of Great Britain.

Besides names of single parishioners, the register also lists husbands and wives. Then in columns to the right of the names it contains the following information on each person:

  • how many years in America
  • how many children
  • age
  • miscellaneous notes

The miscellaneous notes, though sometimes difficult to read, generally give indication of residence. This can include a Philadelphia neighborhood like Kensington or Frankfurt (Frankford).

Considering that St. Michael and Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church was one of the first (and main) Lutheran churches for colonial Philadelphia’s sizable German-American population, this is a great resource for those with ancestors who were parishioners.

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In this 1761 register, Jacob Bender is listed as age 37 and wife, Dorothea is listed as having immigrated to Philadelphia 19 years prior, the mother of 7 children and age 32. [image detail from Ancestry.com]

A search under my Bender family progenitor revealed some interesting things.

The entries (dated 1761) for Jacob Bender and his wife correctly listed their ages and the number of children born to them at that time.  The information is also accurate in listing Dorothea Bender as having been in the country for 19 years.

Jacob, however, had no number entered in that particular column.

Could this omission mean (as I have long suspected) that Jacob Bender was born in America?

The miscellaneous notes indicate his residence being in the Germantown Borough, which could be another big clue.

Jacob Bender bought a considerable amount of land after this register was made in the western Northern Liberties township (today’s Allegheny West neighborhood).  However, I have not located any deeds prior to 1771, even though Jacob married and had children in Philadelphia decades earlier.

Where was he living? Apparently in Germantown.

Was it on inherited land or with other family?

I have long thought that if Jacob was born in America, he almost certainly was born in Germantown and connected to the earliest German settlement there.

There’s a family legend which claims that Jacob is the son of a Jacob Bender/Painter who immigrated in 1693 and settled in Pelham area of Germantown (today Mt. Airy).

Plus, he does not appear to have a connection with any other Bender/Painter families in Northern Liberties or of St. Michael & Zion Lutheran Church, except for one –  Johannes Painter/Penter (d. 1768) and his wife, Carolina, who were the sponsors of Jacob and Dorothea’s daughter, Carolina. I’ve found no other mention of this couple in St. Michael & Zion’s records, so I am still unsure of how they relate.

Furthermore, a search under Bender and Painter surnames in Persons Naturalized in the Province of Pennsylvania, 1740-1773 yielded no entries for Jacob Bender/Painter, although there is a “Johann Jacob Binder” who took the oath listed as having received the sacrament in 1761. But this appears to be the same Johann Jacob Binder also among the parishioners on the 1761 Lord’s Supper register who immigrated in 1750.

So, it would appear that Jacob Bender just may have been born (ca. 1724) in colonial Pennsylvania. Now if I could only find proof…

Copyright (c) 2016 by Jana Shea. All materials protected under the laws of copyright. Do not copy or reproduce without author’s permission.

Good read: NPR’s ‘DNA, Genealogy And The Search For Who We Are’

wintertree1A recently published NPR article ponders the connection between DNA and family history and appears to the be the first piece in what could be an intriguing ongoing series.

Writer Alva Noë makes the distinction between genetic, or DNA ancestors and pedigree ancestors, and touches on some important facts and thoughts to consider when it comes to utilizing consumer DNA testing as a tool for exploring one’s genealogy.

Particularly helpful, his article links to the University College London’s page on genetic ancestry testing, which has the most clear explanation of autosomal DNA testing I’ve thus far encountered.

But it’s the notion that with ancestry what’s most important is family, and that family is about relationships and not necessarily genetics, that resonates with me.

I am reminded of a quote introduced to me decades ago by my late Dad which reflected one of his core beliefs:
“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.” Richard Bach

And I think of my 20-month old son, who will never know either one of his biological grandfathers, but instead has formed a special bond with my stepdad – the man who will always be Grandpa to him.  Genes don’t tell the full story of family and sometimes we forget that in pursuit of our lineage.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Jana Shea. All materials protected under the laws of copyright. Do not copy or reproduce without author’s permission.

The Three Sarahs, part 3

downedtreeIllegitimacy often poses serious challenges to tracing one’s roots. This is the roadblock I face with the third of The Three Sarahs.

Sara Rebold/Sarah Raybold, wife of Godfrey a Bender, was born 6 Sept. 1765 in Germantown township, Philadelphia.

Her death date is listed in the church registers of St. Michael’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germantown. From the exact age in years, months and days recorded at her burial, I could easily calculate her birth date.

But finding a baptism record proved tricky.

I initially presumed that Sarah’s father was a Rebold/Raybold.

She shared a close relationship with her mother, Mary, who I learned was a young widow. It was only after finally figuring out to whom Mary had been wed did I realize that Sarah and her brother, George, were illegitimate children, born several years after Mary’s husband had died.

Still, I had a birth date to go by and the knowledge that the family was Lutheran and resided in Germantown at that time. That narrowed down the church to St Michael’s Evangelical Lutheran.

I had hoped to find a baptism with perhaps a notation of who the father was or at least a sponsor or two to further investigate for a possible connection.

No such luck in locating a baptism. What I found instead was a 1780 confirmation record which gave Sarah’s age, further proving the 1765 year correct. Her father was noted as being Jacob Rehbold.

Since that was the name of her mother’s late husband deceased some five years prior to Sarah’s birth, I dismissed the notation as an erroneous recording by a new pastor who was unfamiliar with the timeline. The new pastor probably only knew that Mary was a widow of Jacob Rebold who never remarried and made the assumption that he was the father.

No additional clues could be obtained from George’s 1774 baptism, which occurred 13 years after his birth. No parents nor sponsors are noted and there is also no mention of his illegitimate status. He was, however, listed as being age 15, which is incorrect and can be proven by the baptismal registers for Jacob and Mary Rebold’s two sons, who were born in 1758 and 1760 and died in infancy.

Then I came across some crazy scandal that played out in the newspapers of the time, involving Sarah’s mother and brother-in-law, Anthony Hubbard. The man with whom they had a public dispute accused Mary Rebold of having bore two illegitimate children by her stepson.

What the… what?!?

Jacob Rebold was indeed a widower with five  children when he married Mary. One of those children was his eldest son, Jacob.

Was this son Sarah’s (and George’s) father?

The elder Jacob Rebold left a will written in 1760, just two weeks before he died, which clearly states his son Jacob was not yet 21 years-old. Since he also wills his eldest (and already married) daughter to receive her share four years after his death, it would seem that the junior Jacob turned 21 in 1764.

Intriguingly, it also states a desire for his son and widow to keep the estate intact and raise the younger children together until the junior Jacob attains full age.

A recipe for illicit love?

The Rebold homestead was put up for sale in 1764, further indicating that is indeed the year the younger Jacob arrived at full age.

That would make him 21 when Sarah would have been conceived and 17 or 18 when George was. Their mother was 18 years older than her stepson. Kind of creepy, but not beyond the realm of possibility.

The junior Jacob Rebold later moved to the Southwark neighborhood, close to his full siblings and away from his step-family and half-sister.

So, I’m trying to figure out how to determine if this centuries old rumor is true and, if not, who then is Sarah’s father.

Her mother was fairly well-to-do and so she may not have been subject to any kind of bastardy trial, if such records exist.

George’s only son died young, so even if he and Sarah shared the same father there is no chance to trace the Y-DNA.

My next step will probably be to head to the Philadelphia City Archives to check the Court of Common Pleas appearance dockets and execution dockets to see if there is any record of case/action against Mary Rebold for having two children born out of wedlock.

It may be awhile before I can get an opportunity to do so.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Jana Shea. All materials protected under the laws of copyright. Do not copy or reproduce without author’s permission.

Tuesday Tip: online Irish parish registers

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I recently discovered an invaluable resource for researching Irish ancestors. I’m six months late to this party, but figured it was worthwhile to write about in case others have yet to come across this information goldmine.

Catholic Parish Registers at the NLI is the National Library of Ireland’s online collection of scanned baptisms and marriage registers from the majority of Catholic parishes in both Ireland and Northern Ireland, covering years up to 1880.

The best thing is that it’s free!

My paternal grandfather was 100 percent Irish-American, his father’s parents having immigrated from County Kerry, Ireland and his mother’s parents immigrants from Northern Ireland’s County Tyrone.

I’ve had great success in the past with finding parish records for my County Kerry ancestors through irishgenealogy.ie, but until last summer, when the NLI’s records went live, online parish records for County Tyrone were available only through subscription to rootsireland.ie.

To search for one’s ancestors on the NLI site, you must first enter the village, townland or parish into the search engine bar at the top right corner of the web page. That will bring up the collection of scanned registers for the relevant diocese.

Next comes the hard work of scouring the images for your ancestors’ names. There’s a great filter to help narrow things down by year and even by moth and year, if you happen to know that information.

Fair warning:   the handwriting is so faint for some of the records that they are nearly impossible to read.

The good news is that there are image enhancement tools to adjust contrast, brightness and even to inverse the image.

I’m quite impressed with the UI, too.

It’s a fantastic resource and I look forward to researching my County Tyrone kin…

Copyright (c) 2016 by Jana Shea. All materials protected under the laws of copyright. Do not copy or reproduce without author’s permission.