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 © 2016 Jana Shea.

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

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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.

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.

Tuesday Tip: online Irish parish registers

photograph of silhouetted winter trees

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.

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.

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 DNA plunge

I’ve always been a bit curious about geneatology – using DNA to trace family lines.

When the technology first appeared to be gaining some traction, I was living in the Netherlands an ocean away from my family and pretty damn broke to boot. It seemed an indulgence for another day.

Especially since back then Y-DNA was the hot new thing in genealogy and I am female.

Sure, I’m curious as to what Y-DNA could reveal about my most ancient male ancestors. But my real interest in DNA testing is in its use as a tool to bust brick walls in my own research.

Y-DNA testing was super spendy then and so was mitochondrial DNA testing (still are).

Autosomal DNA testing wasn’t available then and I only recently gained an understanding of what it is and why it is best to test the oldest generation.

Sadly, I learned that too late to test my Grandmom.

When the holidays came around this time, I had an urge to nab one of the discount offers out there. I did some research on the top three companies offering DNA testing for genealogical purposes and decided to take the plunge with FamilyTreeDNA.

I’ve tested myself and I hope also to get my Mom to test as well.

My hope is that I’m not too distant from at least two brick wall paternal ancestors for some kind of break-through revelation. I hope for the same on my maternal Jewish line.

I am also mildly curious about what the results will conclude about my ethnic makeup, though I’m not expecting any surprises there.

Waiting for the test to arrive and now the even longer build up for the results has me feeling a bit like a kid anticipating Christmas. It’s kind of like the excitement in visiting Santa to tell him your wishes then having to wait a few weeks to see what he brings!

In the meantime, I’ve been reading a lot of DNA-related stories and news items and I have to admit I’m seriously fascinated by the subject.

I’m particularly interested to know what effect endogamy will have on my DNA results, considering its prevalence in my family tree.

Time will tell…

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 1

square photograph of three tall evergreen treesLike every genealogist, I have my share of so-called brick wall ancestors. Ones for whom a paper trail is scant or missing.

On my paternal grandmother’s side there are three such ancestors, each with the given name Sarah.

The origins for two of “The Three Sarahs” have long been a mystery with very few clues and even fewer records to assist in figuring out their background. The third Sarah was an illegitimate birth, with no record of  who her father may have been.

This post concerns the Sarah for whom I have the least amount of information.

Sarah E. (maiden name unknown) was first wife of Samuel S. Brown, a lumberman and, later, proprietor of the Duncan House in Milroy, Mifflin Co., PA. She died at a young age, after bearing three children.

According to her grave marker in Milroy’s Woodlawn Cemetery, Sarah was born 12 Aug. 1852 and died 26 Aug. 1877.[1]

This closely matches an all too brief death notice found in the Lewistown Gazette newspaper which gives the death date as 27 Aug. 1877 and Sarah’s age as 25 years and 16 days.[2]

Her maiden name was missing from the death certificates of her two daughters and erroneously listed as Studer on that of her son.[3]

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 11.35.18

My GGG-Grandmother, Sarah E. Brown’s maiden name is unknown.

I say erroneously because Studer was the maiden name of Samuel S. Brown’s second wife, Rebecca.

The error is understandable considering that the children were quite young when Sarah died. Rebecca was probably the maternal figure they best remembered, especially since she was also the mother of their two half-siblings and Studer was likely a name heard while growing up as being connected to the family.

Still, it is a clue regarding a potential maiden name… so I had to check out whether there was connection. After all, it wouldn’t be unusual to find a widower remarried to his deceased wife’s sister.

However, my research thus far has disproven connection to the Jacob and Theresa (Miller) Studer family, parents of Rebecca. Census records of 1860 and 1870 show no daughter named Sarah, though there is an intriguing gap of several years between Rebecca and the next oldest child – a gap that would be a perfect fit for Sarah’s age.

So… what else is known about the mysterious Sarah E. besides her birth and death dates?

It is highly probable that Sarah was of Pennsylvanian Dutch ancestry like her husband. That’s not a given though. Based on some of his siblings’ marriages, it would appear theirs was the first generation to wed spouses from different ethnic backgrounds.

She was also likely from Huntingdon Co., PA, but possibly from a neighboring county, like Mifflin, where she and Samuel moved after marriage.

Unfortunately, records from the 19th century are hard to come by in this region.

The LDS Family History Library catalog has very few church records for Huntingdon Co., and none for Lutheran or Brethren denominations, which would be the first place to check for a marriage register.

The wedding would have occurred circa 1870.

First-born child, son Jefferson William Brown was born in Aug. 1869, according to his death certificate – which would indicate a marriage likely in late 1868. But Sarah would have only been 16 in 1868, which seems a bit young. And I’m inclined to believe Jefferson was born a year or so later, as he is listed as being born in 1871 in most census records.

The only substantial clue found thus far is a marriage notation for a Sarah Martin and Samuel Brown in a compilation of Mifflin County marriages. Originally published in the Lewistown Gazette, the marriage occurred 24 March 1870. Sarah Martin was noted as being from Lewistown and Samuel Brown from Huntingdon County.[4]

It sure seems like a good fit, but whether this couple is indeed my Sarah and Samuel remains to be proven.

I cannot find this couple anywhere in the 1870 or subsequent census records. My Samuel Brown was enumerated in his parents’ household (Huntingdon County) in July 1870, a few months after when this wedding would have taken place. It’s possible Sarah was also residing there but omitted in error…

There is also no Sarah Martin in Lewistown in 1870, nor in 1860.

My paternal aunt is the only direct-line maternal descendent of Sarah among my close relatives. I’ve been contemplating whether a mtDNA study would be of any help in tracking Sarah’s origins…

Or would an autosomal DNA test be more helpful?


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.”Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-19440“, jpeg image, Ancestry.com (Online: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. 2014)

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

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

This week’s discovery

I have been in the process of writing my first ancestor profile all week. I’m a first-time mama to a very busy toddler and a freelance journalist, so time to compose comes in bite-sized chunks of a few minutes here and there.

But it was a discovery of a newspaper article containing some bit of scandal that has really caused the delay.   Because such a find, of course, always leads to more research.

I was double-checking a name of a saloon/restaurant my ancestor ran at the turn-of-last-century when I came across (via Google search) this clipping from an article in the Times of Philadelphia from 13 Oct 1888:

Times of Philadelphia article

I was able to find a second article which noted that my ancestor, Peter Reuter, lost the case.  Both of these articles have led to a fascinating discovery of another aspect of his life and times.

Besides finding previously unknown facts about my ancestor’s livelihood, I am understanding more about the neighborhood he and his young family resided in at that time and more about a long forgotten history of Philadelphia’s immigrant neighborhoods and the city’s theater culture.

The digging continues…

Copyright (c) 2015 by Jana Shea. All materials protected under the laws of copyright. Do not copy or reproduce without author’s permission.