From mystery to Maben: breaking down a genealogical brick wall

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

And when it comes to 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.

Today, genealogists have more tools at our disposal than ever before. But we need to have a concrete goal in order to best utilize this ever expanding toolbox.

Around this time last year I decided to set such a goal for utilizing DNA testing in my genealogical research. I focused my efforts on learning the identity of Sarah E., first wife of Samuel Sherfey Brown, by examining DNA matches and their family trees.

This concentration led to some interesting twists along the way, including helping two adoptees find their birth parents and ancestry (which I will write about someday).

But in the end – nearly one year after I had set my goal – I finally busted the biggest brick wall in my family tree!

Some history…

For over two decades, I have strived to find clues that could help identify Sarah, 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 Maben 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 Maben 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 they 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 Maben (plus Martin and others), looking for clues and sifting through possibilities using the process of elimination .

And then I added DNA testing to my genealogical toolbox.

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

Immediately, I began finding a lot of matches for 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.

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 3 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.

Then I found another person who posted a 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 FamilySearch.org]

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 was spelled Maglon.

The record was indeed very faint, but it definitely was written as Mayben (Maglon 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.

Of course, I want to close the case on this long time mystery. But in order to make this new found evidence even stronger, I need to both gather further documentation and 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).

I’ve since found other matches, mostly 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).
  • 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!


Footnotes

1.”Grave marker for Sarah E. Brown“, jpeg image, Find A Grave (Online: Ancestry.com 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)

COPYRIGHT (C) 2018 BY JANA SHEA. ALL MATERIALS PROTECTED UNDER THE LAWS OF COPYRIGHT. DO NOT COPY OR REPRODUCE WITHOUT AUTHOR’S PERMISSION.

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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!

COPYRIGHT (C) 2017 BY JANA SHEA. ALL MATERIALS PROTECTED UNDER THE LAWS OF COPYRIGHT. DO NOT COPY OR REPRODUCE WITHOUT AUTHOR’S PERMISSION.

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.


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 (C) 2016 BY JANA SHEA. ALL MATERIALS PROTECTED UNDER THE LAWS OF COPYRIGHT. DO NOT COPY OR REPRODUCE WITHOUT AUTHOR’S PERMISSION.

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

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.

 

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: 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.

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 16.34.53

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

photograph of downed tree limb blocking roadIllegitimacy 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.

Peter Reuter: The Dramatic Hall years

 

Wheatley Dramatic Hall

A sketch of the Dramatic Hall as it looked circa 1880. [detail from newspaper sketch, originally published in The North American, Philadelphia, May 1, 1904]

One of the more fascinating chapters of my third great-grandfather, Peter Reuter’s life involves his time running the Dramatic Hall at Fifth and Gaskill Sts. (511 S. Fifth St.) in Philadelphia.

Wheatley Dramatic Hall (so named for actor William Wheatley whose troupe, the Wheatley Dramatic Association took up residence at the theater in the 1860s) was a building with its own impressive and colorful history. Its name was shortened during the seven years Peter was in charge.

After a decade of running a saloon at 817 Filbert St., Peter relocated next door to the hall at 509 S. Fifth St. and initially ran his business solo. But by 1885, Peter formed a partnership with his friend, Frederick Autenrieth, a bookkeeper.

It was at this time that Peter also expanded the business to include running the Dramatic Hall and leased both properties from the German Catholic Literary Institute.

511 S. 5th map

Dramatic Hall was located on S. 5th St., next door to Peter Reuter’s saloon. [Map data (c) 2016 Google]

The saloon and hall were located on the northern edge of the city’s Queen Village neighborhood.

Now one of the toniest sections downtown, it was formerly the center of the city’s free black community and had a reputation for filthy streets, overcrowded conditions and lack of baths. By mid-19th century, Queen Village had become a hub for immigrants.

Peter and his family lived above the saloon, which, together with the hall, were smack in the middle of the Jewish quarter.

Dramatic Hall was a lively community gathering place for numerous groups such as Fifth ward political parties, the Anti-Poverty Society, the first Jewish Immigrant Association, a Hebrew Sunday School, fraternal lodges, trade unions and, of course, opera and theater companies.

Here, renown black actor R. Henri Strange performed numerous Shakespearean plays (notably Othello with an all-black cast, save for a white Iago) and honed his portrayal of Shylock before premiering The Merchant of Venice at the Academy of Music in 1890. By 1889, famed Yiddish theater actor and singer, Boris Thomashefsky formed his acting troupe, the Oriental Theatre Company, making the hall its headquarters.

The hall also saw drama of another kind in raucous meetings of anarchists, such as the Pioneers of Freedom. Things could easily get out of hand, as when a speech given by Max Staller allegedly incited a bloody riot at the hall during the Cloakmakers Strike of 1890, leading to several arrests.

No doubt, Peter mixed it up with many a colorful personality and built an extensive network of friends and associates. It was quite a different lifestyle than that found in his home village of Bundenbach, Prussia.

Colored Thespians Win

Peter Reuter was successfully sued by The Philadelphia Amateur Dramatic Association for breach of contract. [originally published 16 Oct 1888 in the Philadelphia Times]

However, 1888 saw a turbulent turn of events for his business. In January, the Dramatic Hall was put up for sale and five days later, Peter’s business partner (the namesake and godparent of his second son, Frederick) committed suicide.

By March, the hall had new owners, a Hungarian-Jewish congregation, Chevra Emunath Israel-Oheb.

It meant the hall’s days as a theater would soon end.

If these events weren’t stressful enough, Peter was sued for $1000 by the Philadelphia Amateur Dramatic Association for breach of contract in October. The case, which he lost (the verdict against him was for $124.35), made the newspapers.

HIgh rent 2

“Extortionate demands” in rent led Peter Reuter to move on to his next successful business venture (and residence). [originally published 15 Mar 1892 in the Philadelphia Times]

 

 

 

 

 

He continued to lease the hall until 1891, when it underwent renovations to convert the building into a synagogue.

Peter ran the saloon next door for another year before moving onto to his next venture. He publicly contended that the rent charged by the new owners forced him to move.

The change would lead to a new and more prosperous chapter in his life.

511 S. 5th current

Modern utilitarian townhouses have been built where the Wheatley Dramatic Hall once stood. [image data June 2014 (c) 2016 Google]

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 2

Sarah (Tuttle) Bender death certificate

Sarah (Tuttle) Bender’s death certificate contains erroneous information.

Continuing on about my brick walls, The Three Sarahs, let me introduce the next Sarah.

She has eluded me for years.

Sarah Tuttle, the wife of Philip Hess Bender, Sr., was born 7 Apr. 1831 in Pennsylvania, according to her death certificate and this date roughly matches her age given in census records.

She died in 1914, nearly a decade after Pennsylvania began requiring civil registration. So finding out the names of her folks should have been no problem, since parents’ names, if known, were recorded.

But, of course, it wasn’t as simple as that.

I already knew her maiden name was Tuttle from being listed as such on her children’s death certificates.

On her own death certificate, Sarah’s parents are listed as Chas. Bender and Sara Tutle, names provided by the undertaker, who acted as the informant.

Obviously, he got the information wrong.

My guess is that the undertaker handled the informant duties for the grieving family. Maybe they were asked for their grandfather’s name and confusedly gave the name of the paternal grandfather, Charles Bender. Perhaps the next question asked was, “Mother’s name?”, meaning Sarah’s mother but they confusedly thought he was asking for Sarah’s maiden name.

She and Philip H. Bender were married in late 1850 or early 1851, but exhaustive searches in Philadelphia church marriage registers of all denominations at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania have not yielded any record of their union.

This is likely because they married in the defunct First Presbyterian Church of Northern Liberties, whose records have been lost.

That might also explain why I’ve found little record of the few Tuttle families in Philadelphia – who primarily lived in the Northern Liberties and lower Kensington neighborhoods (Fishtown).

The only records I’ve found for those Tuttle households are city directories, early census records and early Philadelphia physician death returns.

As for early record of Sarah, it appears as though she was a domestic in the Joseph and Ann (née Hoffman) Armbruster family just prior to marrying Philip, according to the 1850 census.

Tuttle as a surname could be from a number of origins.

There is a fairly well documented Tuttle family line from New England, but I have not found a connection to any of those lines.

Tuttle, could be an Irish or even German surname – perhaps indicating that Sarah’s family were immigrants?

The Tuttle families in Philly have really left me with little to go on – lack of wills, deeds, church records – it’s so very frustrating.

The only other clue I have is that a 63 year-old Eliza Perkins was enumerated with Philip and Sarah’s family in the 1860 census. Was she a relative, boarder or a domestic?  Interestingly, 10 years earlier an Elizabeth Tuttle, born around the same time, was enumerated with 24-year old John Perkins. Is this the same woman? And, if so, how is she related to Sarah?  I have not been able to locate her death record, so she, too, remains a mystery.

Le sigh…

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