Yes, Ancestry is Glitchy Right Now – Here’s What TO and NOT TO DO

Public Service Announcement – Ancestry has been a bit glitchy for a few days/weeks and remains so. All vendors have issues from time to time, and it seems to be Ancestry’s turn right now. I wasn’t affected at first, but these tree-based problems seem to randomly come and go. So even if you’re not affected right now, you may be soon.

Here are tips on dealing with the reported issues, and perhaps more important, what NOT to do. Trying to fix things may just cause more problems.

What’s going on?

What’s Up With Ancestry?

A few days ago I signed on to Ancestry to discover that all of my tree branches beyond the first page displayed were “gone.” At that point in time, if I clicked on the right arrow, either no ancestors appeared, just those blank boxes to add parents, or in one case, one ancestor appeared with no parents.

This was uniform for all of my tree branches.

Needless to say, it struck panic into my genealogist’s heart. The saving grace is that indeed, no one but me has edit access to my tree – so I know positively that no one but me could delete anything.

Furthermore, I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that I had not deleted or broken the links of all of those ancestral lines. I don’t do “sleepwalk-genealogy” and if I did, I’d be much more likely to add someone😊

To try to quell the panic a bit, I used the Tree Search feature in the upper right-hand corner of the Tree page and yes, those “missing” ancestors were still in my tree file. They just weren’t showing correctly.

Technology Background

I spent years in technology and I learned two things:

  • Don’t panic and jump to conclusions
  • Sometimes things fix themselves, at least from the user’s perspective

After a couple of easy noninvasive steps, I decided to LEAVE THINGS ALONE and see what happened.

1-2-3 Things to Do

Here’s the 1-2-3 of things to do, in order.

  1. Sign out and back in.
  2. Try a different browser. If you are using a mobile app, use the computer and vice versa.
  3. Go away and check again later or tomorrow.

What Worked?

In this case, number three worked. The next day, everything was back to normal again with no residual damage.

Thankfully.

Had that not been the case, I would have started searching on social media for common issues and I would have called Ancestry’s support – no matter how much I don’t like doing that.

But there’s one thing I would NOT have done.

DO NOT

DO NOT start to repair things. If you start trying to reconnect people, when the underlying problem is actually resolved by Ancestry, Heaven only knows what a mess you’ll have with people double connected.

Twins and Duplicates

Another issue reported is that people are being duplicated in trees, including the tree owner/home person who finds that they have a twin with the same information.

Again, DO NOT start deleting and correcting.

What You CAN Do

Verify that indeed, only people you trust have edit access to your tree.

Under the name of the appropriate tree at upper left, select Tree Settings.

For another person to be able to either contribute to or edit your tree, you must specifically invite them to do so. Guests can only view your tree.

While Ancestry says that all invitees are editors, that’s not the case, as shown below when I clicked to invite someone.

As you can see, the default is “Guest,” but always verify after someone accepts your invitation.

Patience

Patience is difficult, but if you’re experiencing tree problems at Ancestry, just do something else for a few hours or a couple days.

Here are four great genetic genealogy activities you can do elsewhere that are productive.

  1. Download a copy of your DNA file from Ancestry and upload to MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA, or GedMatch to find additional matches. Instructions can be found here.
  2. At FamilyTreeDNA, upload your file and get matches for free. Check Family Finder, Y or mitochondrial DNA matches, or order a Big Y test or upgrade. The Father’s Day sale just started and you can sign on or order, here.
  3. At MyHeritage, if you don’t have a DNA test, upload free and get matches here. Check your DNA matches using their new Genetic Groups filter. I provided instructions, here. While you’re viewing your DNA matches, be sure to check for SmartMatches, record matches and other hints. If you’re not a records subscriber, you can subscribe with a 14-day free trial here.
  4. At 23andMe, testers are limited to 2000 matches unless you purchase an annual subscription – then you’re limited to about 5000 matches. However, 23and Me does not roll matches off your list that you’ve connected to, invited to connect, made a note about or messaged. (At least they never have and mine remain.) Go to the last page of your DNA Relatives list, which are your smallest segment matches, and start working backward to be sure you’ve initiated some type of communication that will prevent them from rolling off your match list.

These tasks aren’t just busywork. You have no idea what kind of a gold nugget you may discover.

You’ll have accomplished several things, enlarged your horizons and maybe, just maybe, by the time you’re done your tree at Ancestry will have righted itself again.

What fun things did you discover?

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I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

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What is a Heteroplasmy and Why Do I Care?

Most people have never heard of a heteroplasmy – but you might have one.

You Might Have a Heteroplasmy If…

…You have no exact matches at the full sequence mitochondrial DNA level.

A heteroplasmy is one of the first things I think of when someone tells me they have no exact full sequence matches but several that are a genetic distance of 1, meaning one mutation difference.

That phenomenon usually means the tester has a rare mutation that no one else has, at least no one who has tested their mitochondrial DNA (yet) – and that mutation just might be a heteroplasmy.

Heteroplasmies are generally (but not always) quite recent mutations. Actually, heteroplasmies are mutations caught in the act of mutating – kind of like an insect in genetic amber – frozen in time in your generation.

By Anders L. Damgaard – http://www.amber-inclusions.dk – Baltic-amber-beetle CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16792582

Let’s say you might have a heteroplasmy. Or maybe you want to see if you do. Even if YOU don’t have a heteroplasmy, other people’s heteroplasmies can and will affect matching.

Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about heteroplasmies but didn’t know to ask😊

Heteroplasmies are Fascinating

A heteroplasmy is actually quite interesting because it’s a genetic mutation in progress.

This means you have two versions of a DNA sequence showing in your mitochondrial DNA at a specific location.

Said another way, at a specific genetic location, you show both of two separate nucleotides. Amounts detected of a second nucleotide greater than 20% are considered a heteroplasmy. Amounts below 20% are ignored. Generally, within a few generations, the mutation will resolve in one direction or the other – although some heteroplasmies persist for several generations and can sometimes define family branches.

If you’d like to read more about mitochondrial DNA, I wrote a series of step-by-step articles and combined them into one resource page, here.

Show Me!

You can easily check to see if you have a heteroplasmy by signing on to your FamilyTreeDNA account. Hopefully, you’ve taken the full sequence test.

Today, new testers, thankfully, can only purchase full sequence tests, so HVR1 results don’t present quite the same challenges when combined with heteroplasmies as they used to. We’ll talk about that in a minute.

If you have only taken the HVR1 or HVR1+HVR2 “Plus” test, as opposed to the Full Sequence, you can upgrade by signing on here and clicking on the “Full” button on the Maternal Ancestry section of your personal page.

These buttons will be pink if you’ve taken that test already, and grey if you need to upgrade. If you have an account at FamilyTreeDNA, you can add a mitochondrial DNA test to that same account by clicking on “Add Ons and Upgrades” at the top of your personal page. You can order a test if you’re a new customer, here.

How Do I Know if I Have a Heteroplasmy?

Your mitochondrial DNA has a total of 16,569 locations that you can think of as addresses. If your DNA at those locations is normal, meaning no mutations, they won’t be listed in your results.

Mutations are shown in your mitochondrial DNA results by a different letter at the end of the location.

For example, here are my mutations for my HVR1 region. Each of these locations in the HVR1 region has a mutation.

For locations that are shown in your results, meaning those where you have a mutation, you’ll see, in order:

  • A letter, either T, A, C or G
  • The location number
  • A different letter, typically another one of T, A, C or G, but sometimes a small d

For the first mutation, C16069T, the location address is 16069, the normal value is C, the mutation that occurred is T.

Heteroplasmies are shown in your mitochondrial DNA results by letters other than T, A, C, G or d at the end of the location.

I don’t have any heteroplasmies, so I’m switching to the results of a cousin who has a heteroplasmic mutation at location T16362Y to use as an example. The trailing Y means they have a heteroplasmy at location 16362.

But first, what do those letters mean?

The Letters

The letters stand for the nucleotide bases that comprise DNA, as follows:

  • T – Thymine
  • A – Adenine
  • C – Cytosine
  • G – Guanine
  • d – a deletion has occurred. There is no nucleotide at this location.

For location T16362Y, the first letter, T, is the “normal” value found at this location. If a mutation has occurred, the second letter is the mutated value. Normally, this is one of the other nucleotides, A, C or G.

Any other letter after the location has a specific meaning; in this case, Y means that both a C and a T were found, per the chart below.

Note – if you have a small letter t, a, c or g, it’s not a heteroplasmy, and I wrote about small letters and what they mean in the article, Mitochondrial DNA Part 2: What Do Those Numbers Mean?

Check Your Results

On your FamilyTreeDNA personal page in the mtDNA section, click on the Mutations tab.

If you’ve taken the full sequence test, you’ll see Extra Mutations. You’re looking for any mutation that ends in any letter other than T, A, C, G or d.

If you haven’t taken the full sequence test, you don’t have “Extra” mutations listed, but you can still view your mutations for the HVR1 and HVR2 regions.

Look for any value that has any letter other than T, A, C, G or lower case d at the end of the location.

The Y tells us that this location is a heteroplasmy.

Heteroplasmy Matching

Ok, let’s look at a heteroplasmy mutation at location 16326. A heteroplasmy can occur at any mitochondrial location. I’ve selected this location because it occurs in the HVR1 region of the mitochondrial DNA, so even people who haven’t tested at the full sequence level will see results for this location. Plus, the location at which the heteroplasmy occurs affects matching in different ways.

Using the example of T16362Y, the Y tells us that both nucleotides C and T were found. This location should match against anyone carrying the following values in the same location:

  • Y (letter indicating a C/T heteroplasmy)
  • T (standard or normal value)
  • C (mutated value)

However, currently at Family Tree DNA, the heteroplasmy only counts as a match to anyone with a Y, the specific heteroplasmy indicator, and the “normal” value of T, but not the mutated value of C.

This table shows how heteroplasmies are counted at FamilyTreeDNA. For heteroplasmy T16362Y, based on the value your potential match has at this location, you either will or will not be considered a match at that location.

Scenario Other Person’s Value Your Result – T16362Y
1 T16362Y – heteroplasmy indicator Match to you at this location
2 T16362T – normal value, not a mutation Match to you at this location
3 T16362C – mutated value Not counted as match to you at this location
  • If your match has a value of Y, the heteroplasmic C/T value, they are counted as a match to you, so no problem.
  • If your match has a value of T, the normal value, this location won’t be shown on their mutation list at all. They WILL be counted as a match to you so there’s no issue.
  • If your match has a value of C, the mutated value, in my opinion they should also be counted as a match to you, but they aren’t today. The logic, I believe, was that the most likely value is the standard or normal value and that the mutated value is much less likely to be accurate. Regardless, I’ve requested this change and am hoping for a matching adjustment in a future release for heteroplasmies.

Heteroplasmies do affect matching at the different levels.

Viewing Your Matches

Mitochondrial DNA, for testing purposes, is broken into three regions, HVR1 (hyper-variable region 1), HVR2 and the Coding Region.

At FamilyTreeDNA, you can view your matches at each level. The matches are cumulative, meaning that the HVR2 level includes the HVR1 level information, and the Coding Region level includes the HVR1 and HVR2 regions. That highest level which includes all three regions shows information from your entire your entire full mitochondrial DNA sequence.

Heteroplasmy Effects on Matching

If you otherwise match someone exactly, but one of you has a heteroplasmy and the other person carries the mutated value, you will be counted as a mismatch of 1 at the full sequence level.

A mismatch has different effects when it occurs in the HVR1, HVR2 or Coding Regions, respectively.

GD is an abbreviation for Genetic Distance which is how mutations are counted. A GD of 1 means the two people have one mutation difference between them.

In the following chart, the effects of you having a nonmatch, heteroplasmic or otherwise, in each of the regions is shown at each level. The region in which the mismatch occurs is shown in the first column, at left, and the effect the mismatch has on matching in each region is shown in columns 2-4.

The red sections are not counted as matches.

Mismatch Occurs in this Region HVR1 Level Match to Someone Else HVR2 Level Match to Someone Else Coding Region Level Match to Someone Else
HVR1 region nonmatch GD of 1 means no match GD of 1 means no match GD of 1 is a match
HVR2 region nonmatch Does not affect HVR1 – so you are a match GD of 1 means no match GD of 1 is a match
Coding Region nonmatch Does not affect HVR1 – so you are a match Does not affect HVR2 – so you are a match GD of 1 is a match

For purposes of this discussion, we’re assuming our two people being compared in the chart above match exactly on every other location so matching is not otherwise affected.

  • If your heteroplasmic nonmatch occurs in the HVR1 region – in other words, scenario 3 – you’ll fall into the HVR1 nonmatch row. That means you won’t be shown as a match at the HVR1 or HVR1+HVR2 levels, but you WILL be shown as a full sequence match.
  • If your heteroplasmic nonmatch is in the HVR2 region of addresses, it won’t affect your HVR1 matches, but it will affect your HVR2 and Coding Region matches. This means you will be shown as HVR1 match, not an HVR2 match, but will be a full sequence match.
  • If your heteroplasmic nonmatch is in the Coding Region, it won’t affect your HVR1 or HVR2 matches, but it will affect your Coding Region matches. However, it won’t preclude matches and you’ll be shown as a match in all three regions.

To be very clear, I have no issue with these match thresholds. It’s important to understand how this works, and therefore why heteroplasmic (and other) mismatches in specific regions affect our matches in the way they do.

Why Aren’t Mismatches of 1 Counted as Matches in the HVR1 or HVR2 Regions?

The match threshold at FamilyTreeDNA for the HVR1 and the HVR1+HVR2 regions, both small regions of about 1000 locations each, is that only an exact match is considered a match. Therefore, a heteroplasmic nonmatch in this region can really be confusing and sometimes misleading, especially if either or BOTH people have NOT tested at the full sequence level.

These are the match thresholds in effect today.

HVR1 GD or # of Mutations Allowed for a Match HVR2 GD or # of Mutations Allowed for a Match Coding Region GD or # of Mutations Allowed for a Match
0 – no mutations allowed 0 – no mutations allowed 3 mutations allowed

If both people match on either the heteroplasmy identified (Y in our case) or one person has the normal value – all is fine. But if one person has a heteroplasmy and the other has the mutated value – then a mismatch occurs. This is really only problematic when:

  • The heteroplasmy mismatch is in the HVR1 region and both people have only tested at that level, causing the two people to not match at all.
  • The heteroplasmy mismatch occurs in combination with other mutations that, cumulatively, push the two people over the GD 3 full sequence matching threshold.

The second scenario happens rarely, but I have seen situations where people don’t match their mothers, aunts, siblings, or other close relatives because of multiple heteroplasmic mutations occurring in different people.

And yes, this is hen’s teeth rare – but it does occasionally happen.

So, what’s the bottom line about heteroplasmies?

Heteroplasmy Bottom Line

  1. You can suspect a heteroplasmy if you have full sequence matches, but no exact matches.
  2. If you have a heteroplasmy in the HVR1 region, understand that you may not have many or any matches in the HVR1 and HVR2 regions. The remedy is to test at the full sequence level and check matches there.
  3. If you have a heteroplasmy and don’t match someone you expect to match – reach out to them and ask about their value at that specific location. If that location isn’t listed for them in their results, then they have no mutation there and your heteroplasmy is NOT the cause of you not matching with them.
  4. If you don’t match someone you expect to match, reach out to them and ask if THEY have any heteroplasmies. The easiest way to ask is, “Do you have any mutations listed that end with anything other than T, A, C, G or d?” Feel free to link to this article so that they’ll know where to look, and why you’re asking.

Do you have any heteroplasmies?

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Books

Genealogy Research

Two Rudolf Muellers Born on the Same Day in the Same Year in the Same Place – What? – 52 Ancestors #335

Seriously – only me. This would only happen to me. And I thought three Michael Kirsch’s living in the same village were bad.

We’ve been following Rudolph Muller’s life where we found him as an adult in Grossheppach, Germany.

click to enlarge images

In the Grossheppach records, cousin Wolfram in his one-place study of Grossheppach had discovered information indicating that Rudolph was from Switzerland, and more specifically, Stein am Rhein.

Wolfram also discovered a notation that Margretha, Rudolph’s wife, was from Kanton Zurich.

They were naturalized in 1662 and became citizens of Grossheppach.

Of course, this left us with many questions and only breadcrumbs reaching back to Switzerland.

Questions

The information in the Grossheppach records was recorded many years later. As genealogists, we’re all familiar with official records that contain incorrect information. I can’t even begin to tell you how many rabbit holes I’ve been down with those.

So, was Rudolph and Margretha’s information correct? If so, what more can we discover? Canton Zurich is a big place. Why was there no more specific information?

Before we continue to unravel this unbelievable puzzle, I need to thank several people, without whom this would NEVER have been solved:

  • My cousin, Tom
  • My cousin, Pam
  • My cousin, Wolfram
  • My village cousin, Chris (I’ll explain about village cousins in a separate article.)
  • Henry, the Stein am Rhein historian

And for the record, only Wolfram is related on this particular line. I’m just blessed with knowledgeable and generous cousins.

I’ve tried to give appropriate credit where credit is due, but there were probably 100 emails flying back and forth, so if I’ve omitted or confused credit for something, I just apologize in advance. In some cases, two people found the same thing about the same time because they are just that good!

We also unraveled more information about Margretha, Rudolph’s wife during this same exchange, but that will have to wait.

In the beginning, it looked like there wasn’t much of a mystery.

Famous last words…

It Looks Like Tom Solved the Riddle

From Tom:

I found a baptism of a Rudolf Muller, son of Jacob Muller and Ursula Muller on 8 Feb 1629 in Stein am Rhein Evangelical Church.

Hot diggity Tom. Great find. Rudolph Muller was born on February 22, 1629. From the Grossheppach records, we thought he was born about 1630 so this fits perfectly.

I sent this on to cousin Wolfram who speaks German as his native language.

From Wolfram:

Where is the baptism from?

I can translate for you the 4th entry incl. headlines. It is clearly readable:

Getauffte Kinder, im Jahr  // baptized children in the year

    1. DC. XXIX. I/ 1629

Monat und tag deß empfangenen Tauffs. / Namen. / Vatter. / Mutter. / Tester. //  Month and day of the baptism / Names. / Father. / Mother. / Godfather(&-mother)

    1. / Febr. / Rudloph. / Jacob Müller. / Ursula Müller. / H. Benedict Gulding[er]: Ellisabeth Win(t)zin. // this I do not have to translate 😉 But what is clear, the surename of the mother Ursula was also Müller. So her Father was “Müller”.

So, if this is the baptism record of Stein am Rhein, then it looks really quite good! As long there are no other Rudolph Müller in this book, either before (then the parents have to be checked or a later record Rudolph Müller (1640 latest).

Yes, we surely do need to check for another baby by the same name, but what are the chances? Rudolph isn’t a terribly common name. Plus, it’s not even preceded by Johann, so it’s even more unique.

It does bother me a bit that in the Grossheppach records, he’s mentioned, at least in some cases, as Johann Rudolph Muller. But not much. Often men were called by their middle name throughout their life, and of course, Muller and Mueller were interchangeable. Johann s the official first name of probably 90% of the German babies born during this timeframe, so he would have been called by his middle name. Even if his first name wasn’t actually Johann, the people in Grossheppach might well have assumed that it was.

A Marriage

In the meantime, Tom unearthed more:

I found a 1616 marriage also for this person’s parents.

Jacob Muller from Turbenthal

Ursula Muller from Nussbaumen

7 July 1616 in Stein am Rhein

I’ve gathered the family group: Jacob Muller and Ursula Muller, their marriage and the baptisms of their children.  There is no further evidence that they stayed in Stein am Rhein.

Perhaps they all relocated to Germany.

If this is your crew, I will translate them for you.  Let me know what you think at your convenience.  Exciting though!

I’m was happy, basking in family discovered, and I would remain happy for a few hours, right up until I checked my email again.

Pam’s Discovery

Cousin Pam who studied overseas was searching at the same time and found a transcribed record in a German local family book about Stein am Rhein. Local historians often volunteer their time to create these documents. Bless their generosity is all I can say.

click to enlarge

Rudolf Mueller born on February 22, 1629. That’s wonderful, confirmed Tom’s work, and would save Tom from translating those children’s records.

But then, Pam found another record from the same place that looked promising.

Hans (short for Johann) Rudolf Mueller.

Wait? What?

This is not the same family that Tom found?

This Johann Rudolph Mueller was born and baptized on May 22, 1629, in Stein am Rhein to different parents.

OH NO.

We really do have two babies by nearly the same name, in the same place, born three months apart – just like Wolfram mentioned. Is he psychic?

How is this even possible?

Hiccup

I skipped the hiccup which made this situation even more confusing.

The original records that Pam found showed the two babies born on the same day, but attributed to different parents. It appeared to be an erroneous entry in the family book, but as it turned out, the error was in the baptism date, not the record itself.

Yes, there were actually two babies born with the same or very similar names to two Muller/Mueller families.

I’m only showing the correct records here because I don’t want to confuse anyone else.

Trust me, we were very confused and so was the historian, Henry, who had compiled the website. He was kind enough to go back and check the original records.

Of course, since Tom had found the marriage of the parents Jacob Mueller and Ursula Mueller, I made the logical deduction that was the correct entry, and the entry for George Mueller and Magdalena Schnewlin was in error.

Wolfram Finds the Second Baptism

As it turns out, there WERE two babies by the same name, baptized in the same place, and they were both in that original record on the same page in the church book. Wolfram spotted it.

O.K. This is now really difficult and I am not sure, if we can surely say who was our Ancestor Johann Rudolph because the other baptism is below in line 13. With the parents Jörg Müller and Magdalena. This is really a pity. Furthermore according to the online family book neither the one nor the other has married. So for a definition there would be a marriage-record needed or some documents of local authorities which shows who has moved (if something like this is available at all…)

Wolfram

Tom concurred. Finding the marriage document of Rudolph Mueller or Hans Rudolph Mueller or Muller to Margretha/ Margaretha whatever her last name was would be crucial to determine which baby was our Rudolph Muller. Or was either baby our baby?

Now, I’m doubting everything.

The Census

From Wolfram:

I can’t get this topic out of my head. I checked the online family book of Stein am Rhein again. Henry Straub, who created the book included sources for the data. And on the page of the one Hans Rudolph Müller who was born in May 1629 (father: Georg Müller) he noted a “Bevölkerungsverzeichnis” as a source for the baptism, which is basically a CENSUS. And not only one but three. As I read correctly they are from 1634, 1637 and 1640. This source has not been noted with the one which was born in February 1629 (father: Jakob Müller). That indicates for me, this second one was not alive anymore even there is a minor option, that this family has moved away after 1630. So the probability seems to be high, that the first-mentioned (born in May and father Georg Müller) is the Johann Rudoph Müller we are searching for.

I think it is worthwhile and I will get in contact with Henry, the Stein am Rhein historian, and ask about his opinion. And I think he will be happy to have another connection outside of Stein am Rhein.

Henry Digs Deeper and Hits Paydirt

Henry, the historian replied to my email asking about the dual entries showing both baby Rudolph’s born on the same day.

Dear Roberta,

It seems that I made a serious mistake: there is only one Hans Rudolf Mueller (Müller) born/baptized in Stein am Rhein May 22, 1629, to Georg (Jörg) Mueller and Magdalena.

So far I can not say what went wrong (and might never find out).

There were two Rudolf Müller born in 1629 one “Rudolf” bapt. February 22nd and the “Hans Rudolf” bapt. May 22nd. The error was that I made a wrong connection to the parents.

The family of Jakob Müller and Ursula Müller apparently left Stein am Rhein, they were not registered in the census of 1634.

The 1634 Census

Henry provided the census record information.

Important other sources for Stein am Rhein exist, a kind of early census, made from 1634 till 1702. Georg (Jörg) Müller, his wife and children (still alive and not yet married) were last recorded in 1643:

“Das Dorf (hamlet, village) Hemishoffen

Nr. 8 Jörg Müller H
Hans – dienend
Magdalena Schnewli
Christen  –  dienend
Rudolf –  dienend
Anna

«dienend» indicates that they were not living any longer in the household of their parents. With other words that their parents had only a small farm and could not feed a larger family. The following census (1650) only contains the recently wed Hans Müller, his wife Anna Fischer(in) and their child Margret (1 year old).

Oh, this is heartbreaking. I can’t help but wonder what happened to Rudolph’s parents and where he lived. Who raised those children? Where did they go?

There are no further records in Stein am Rhein concerning Jörg Müller and any of his 3 other children.

Emigration (or immigration) were not always a one-step move; if nothing important (birth, marriage, or death) happened, no records were made. Unfortunately shortly after the 30 years’ war (1618-1648) in many of the parishes in Germany records were not kept or the precision is missing. Sometimes also the new arrivals preferred not to reveal much about their past.

If you like to have copies of the original records, please let me know, I recorded many documents with a digital camera.

Henry

And, of course, all if this is happening as the Thirty Years War raged throughout Europe. It’s amazing that there WAS a 1643 census AND that it still exists, along with church records from that timeframe.

Hemishofen

Jorg, short for George, lived in house number 8 in Hemishoften, literally, right next door to Stein am Rhein on the Rhine River.

The old buildings in Hemishofen are well-preserved today.

Hemishoften was probably just a wide spot in the road paralleling the Rhine, then as now.

This little hamlet is too small to have its own church, so the people who lived there would have traveled the mile or so to the church in Stein am Rhein.

At that time, these properties would have been the “cheap seats,” in part because they were outside of the city walls where no protection was afforded the residents. Any marauding soldiers approaching on the Rhine would have made quick pickings of isolated farmers with no protection.

It stands to reason that if they were already poor, and something happened, Jorg and Magdalena would not be able to support their children. But is this the right family?

Or, was our Rudolph the son of Jacob and Ursula?

Jacob Muller and Ursula Muller’s Family

Tom made me laugh with his next comment.

The only “saving grace” if you can call it that, is that if you find nothing else, it will make another interesting story.  THIS IS REALITY GENEALOGY AT ITS BEST!

Is that ever an understatement. How do you tell a super confusing story without it being super confusing?

Tom was already on this, unraveling the threads.

I mentioned yesterday that I gathered all of the records for the family: Jacob Muller & Ursula Muller.

The baptism of Anna Muller in 1622 indicates that Jacob Muller was then living in Biberach. An important point.

The death of Rudolf Muller, son of Jacob Muller of Biberach on 24 May 1629 (the year labeled the Pest Year), solves your problem.

Your Rudolf would seem to be this family: Georg Muller & Magdalena Schnewlin

Indeed, Tom solved this puzzle. Given that Jacob’s son, Rudolph died in 1629, five days before our Rudolph was born back in Stein am Rhein – our Rudolph must be Johann Rudolph Mueller, the son of George Muller and Magdalena Schnewlin. The couple living in Hemishofen in 1643, without their children.

Stein am Rhein

Now that we’ve confirmed that our Rudolph was indeed born ar at least baptized in Stein am Rhein, let’s bask for a minute in the beauty of this village on the Rhine River, located on the border between Switzerland and Germany.

Rudolph would have walked these very streets and seen these exact buildings as he grew up.

According to Wikipedia, in or about 1007, Stein am Rhein was a sleepy fishing village on the Rhine River. However, it occupied a strategic location where major road and river routes intersected. Emperor Henry II moved St. George’s Abbey to this location and granted the abbots extensive rights over the village and its trade so that they could develop it commercially.

This endeavor was quite successful. During the Reformation, the abbey was taken over by Zurich. Today, the abbey, 3 churches, the castle, city walls, tower, and gate along with many historic buildings remain and are extremely well cared for.

By JoachimKohlerBremen – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54243437

By JoachimKohler-HB – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=87543300

Rudolph’s ancestors may have lived in this village someplace. It’s actually very unusual that they lived in the countryside, especially during the war. People were either merchants or farmers. German and Swiss farmers lived inside the city wall and tended their fields outside. The city walls provided protection from invaders.

To a poor peasant boy who probably seldom got to town, Stein am Rhein would have been a sophisticated city and full of magic. I can’t help but view this through the eyes of an awed child as he entered through the city gate, above.

By JoachimKohler-HB – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=87853275

The beautiful town hall.

By JoachimKohler-HB – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=87858781

These frescoes are original. Imagine what they looked like when Rudolph visited these shops.

By JoachimKohler-HB – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=87852766

By JoachimKohler-HB – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=87862549

I supposed it goes without saying that I desperately want to visit Stein am Rhein. Of course, I say that about all of the locations where my ancestors lived.

You can enjoy more photos, here.

By Hansueli Krapf – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7084348

The Rhine passes the quaint village of Stein am Rhein, providing lifeblood. But Rudolph wouldn’t have sailed away on the Rhine River. Instead, he would have struck out overland for Grossheppach and a new life.

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I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

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New Genetic Groups Filter at MyHeritage

Recently MyHeritage released a new DNA match filter option for Genetic Groups.

Genetic Groups are different from ethnicity. Ethnicity looks at world founder populations and determines which populations you might be connected to genetically.

Genetic Groups, which I introduced here, is also connected to geography, but in a much more genealogically relevant way. Genetic Groups combines two things:

  • People you match and
  • Who are found in common geographics or genetic groups according to their genealogy

A genetic group might be people from Pennsylvania, where an ethnicity might be Germanic, which falls under North and West European. These two things could be derived from the same ancestor(s).

click any image to enlarge

How does that work? Well, the Pennsylvania Dutch were Germans. The Scotch-Irish, (or Scots-Irish if you prefer) were from Scotland and immigrated to Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina. These Pennsylvania groups could be either or both. You get the idea.

This is exactly why you need to be able to filter your matches by Genetic Groups.

If you shift the genetic group confidence slider level to low, you’ll see all of your genetic groups. In my case, the two genetic groups in the Netherlands are of particular interest.

My mother’s grandfather immigrated from Friesland in the 1860s as a child, so I should have Dutch cousins at roughly the fourth cousin level.

Filters

MyHeritage already includes several filters which can be used in combination with each other.

They recently added Genetic Groups.

If you click the dropdown for “All Genetic Groups,” you’ll see the group you’re looking for. Click on the group.

I selected Friesland which is the area where my Ferverda family originated.

My 1,375 pages of matches is now reduced to 26 pages, and my top three matches, other than my mother, are three Ferverda cousins. Viewing shared matches will be illuminating.

I can focus that list of matches even further by adding other filters.

In this case, let’s try the location filter and select “Netherlands” which is the location where the tester currently lives.

Because I didn’t clear the original Friesland filter and added the Netherlands location, I have two filters applied to my DNA match list.

These two filters reduce my matches to 16 pages of people who very likely match me because of our shared Dutch ancestry. I can hardly wait to sort through these.

I could hone this list even further by filtering by, maybe, a shared location or a shared surname, or maybe only people with trees. Let’s see what that does.

Selecting the following filters, in addition to the two already in place above, reduced the pages of matches accordingly:

  • Has Theory of Family Relativity – 1 match
  • Has Smart Matches – 0 matches
  • Has shared surname – 5 pages of matches (some of these are VERY interesting!)
  • Has shared place – 13 pages
  • Has tree – 15 pages

Clearly, I’m going to check the Theory of Family Relativity first, because MyHeritage has already done the heavy lifting for me by identifying candidate common ancestors.

Next, I’ll work on shared surnames and then shared places.

It helps a great deal that I have my mother’s DNA at MyHeritage too, because I can immediately see if the match is valid or by chance. A valid match on this line will match me and Mom, both. Many will also triangulate with other testers which will help me further identify people who match me on my Dutch side.

Clearing Filters

Don’t forget to clear your filters when you’re done.

Any enabled filter will be shown in darker black, but it’s still awfully easy to forget you have filters enabled. Be sure to clear them before doing something else. The Clear Filters button is at far right.

Relatives

I’m fortunate enough that my mother tested before she passed away. I can verify that my Dutch matches match her as well, confirming that they are identical by descent, not just by chance. If you can, test your parents or upload their results if they have tested elsewhere.

But what if your parent or parents aren’t available to test?

Testing or uploading tests of siblings or known close relatives like aunts, uncles or cousins are extremely useful too. You can see if the people you discover through filtering match the family members you would expect.

You can order a MyHeritage DNA test here or upload a DNA file from another vendor, for free, here. To use the advanced tools, there’s a $29 unlock fee, but that’s less than a DNA test. Need download/upload instructions – look here..

Have fun!

What are you discovering?

_____________________________________________________________

Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Books

Genealogy Research

Jacob Dobkins and the Battle of Kings Mountain – 52 Ancestors #334

The temperature peaked someplace in the 90s on the Friday before Memorial Day in 2012, and the humidity was stifling. No one else, except one runner, was crazy enough to be hiking on Kings Mountain that day.

If Jacob Dobkins could fight for his life here, I could certainly hike in the heat.

I hiked the Kings Mountain National Military Park battlefield trail which the park service has conveniently marked with signs. There was also a cell phone audio tour where visitors call a phone number, enter the stop number, and a recording explains what happened there.

My ancestor, Jacob Dobkins, who we think was living in Virginia at that time served at Kings Mountain.

The decisive battle occurred on October 7, 1780, and amazingly, only lasted for a single hour. For some, though, it was a lifetime.

Jacob Dobkins

Jacob Dobkins was born in 1751 in Augusta County, Virginia to Captain John Dobkins and Elizabeth. I have not been able to confirm Elizabeth’s surname.

At Kings Mountain, Jacob would have been 29 years old, married to Dorcas Johnson for just over 5 years, and had 2 or 3 small children at home.

We don’t know a lot about his early life, other than he grew up and lived on the frontier.

In 1773, Jacob was found in Fincastle, Virginia on a delinquent tax list. It’s possible that he had moved on which is why his taxes were delinquent. However, Fincastle County, Virginia included a huge territory – land surrounding the Clinch River in what would become Tennessee, part of western Virginia, and what would become the state of Kentucky. Who knows where Jacob actually lived.

When Jacob Dobkins and Dorcas Johnson married on March 11, 1775, they lived in Shenandoah Co., Virginia.

Jacob’s Revolutionary War pension application says that in 1779 he enlisted in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. After the war, he appears on the 1783 tax lists in Virginia, then in the Shenandoah Co. Virginia census in 1790. He is living in Jefferson Co., Tennessee by 1792 when he sued John Sevier, also a veteran of Kings Mountain. John was at that time a member of the House of Representatives from North Carolina and would become the Governor of Tennessee in 1796.

Jacob bought land in Jefferson County, Tennessee in 1795, but by 1802 had purchased land in Claiborne County where he spent the rest of his life.

A humble man, Jacob never owned more than a log cabin – yet he and 1000 other men collectively changed the course of history.

Jacob passed away on March 4, 1833, an old man, with a Revolutionary War pension. Jacob’s pension application does not state that he was at Kings Mountain, but he is listed in Pat Alderson’s book, The Overmountain Men as has having served in that battle.

Unfortunately, there is no comprehensive roster.

The Over Mountain Men

There’s a difference between militia units and men who enlisted to serve in the Revolutionary War. It’s certainly possible to be both and it’s clear that some men who fought at the Battle of Kings Mountain were indeed enlisted.

A depiction of the gathering of militiamen at Sycamore Shoals prior to the Battle of Kings Mountain, from 1915.

Militia units were assembled locally to protect the homes and property of the community. Militia service was unpaid. Men provided their own gun and supplies and were obligated to show up and practice on the muster field where they lived.

Sometimes men from militia units did enlist in the war but being in the militia did not necessarily equate to military service. Militiamen stayed home unless there were extraordinary circumstances where they were called to action or unless they joined the military. Men who enlisted did not stay home, but they did visit from time to time.

By Brian Stansberry – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7033099

The Over Mountain Men gathered in several locations prior to departing for King’s Mountain where they would coalesce on October 7th.

Before my trip to the Kings Mountain Battlefield Park, I didn’t realize that militia units from different locations had stayed together and fought together during that conflict. That does make sense since those men had trained together and understood their commander well. If you’re wondering about your ancestor and Kings Mountain, look for evidence of other men from his community having fought there.

I also didn’t realize that the Over Mountain Men were primarily Scotch-Irish and that they had planned to stay neutral until Patrick Ferguson, the Loyalist/British commander, threatened to “come over the mountain and lay waste their land and homes to fire and sword.” Not only did Ferguson threaten the men directly, but their wives and children. That was a very, very poor choice.

Hence, Ferguson inadvertently gave birth to their name, in part because they did indeed come from “over the mountain,” west of the Appalachians, the colonial boundary.

As the ranger said, those mountain men were born fighters and they were angered into action. Especially since the battles of Buford, known as Buford’s Massacre, and Camden had been so horrid. The British slaughtered men on the battlefield under the flag of surrender.

As the Over Mountain Men charged up the side of Kings Mountain, they shouted Buford…the leader of the massacred men.

Never underestimate the power of enraged, determined people. Not only did they win the battle, decisively, but they turned the tide of the war and showed the British that they could and would win.

The Battle of Kings Mountain was a decisive inflection point in the Revolutionary War.

Patrick Ferguson’s “Advantage”

Patrick Ferguson was so confident of his superiority over those backwoodsmen that he isolated himself on the top of the mountain with no defensive plan. He simply planned to shoot the men as they crested the hill. He did shoot a few, but what he didn’t anticipate is the sheer number – almost 1000 – men who were charging like Indians, not like the regimented English soldiers in formation.

The Over Mountain Men swarmed Ferguson with no warning, from every place all at once.

Ferguson’s hilltop “advantage” soon became a problem, and then turned into a trap from which he and his men could not escape. The British and their Tory supporters fell, and even after they surrendered, many died at the hands of the Over Mountain Men in retribution for what they had done to Buford and at Camden.

Some Tory soldiers were killed on the battlefield and others were lynched for treason. Then, within a day, the mountain men dispersed, disappearing back into the silent hills from whence they came….never to be forgotten. Names included Campbell, McDowell, Edmondson, and others.

My ancestor’s brother, Nathaniel Vannoy from Wilkes County, North Carolina was present as was his sister’s husband, Col. Benjamin Cleveland, depicted below leading the Patriot militiamen back home after battle.

By Don Troiani – Allan Jones personal collection, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=93842148

Reverend George McNiel, the “elderly” minister, age 60 or so, another ancestor, accompanied the Wilkes County men as a volunteer chaplain. Sadly, his services were needed, although there is no comprehensive list of who died on either side.

Comparatively few fatalities occurred to the Over the Mountain Men, but many Tories died that day.

The Battlefield Path

The path today at Kings Mountain is paved and circles the actual battlefield which is on top of the mountain. Locations of interest are marked. The circular path is at the base of the hill.

Come along for a walk. Bring a cold drink – it’s hot😊

Glancing up the hill, above, and along the paved pathway, below.

The ranger told us that the land has been logged since the battle and the original forest was much more mature. The soldiers reported that they could see each other clearly through the trees, so the undergrowth is a function of regrowth.

Some of the area was craggy and remind me of the pictures of the Scottish highlands. Our Scotch-Irish ancestors probably felt very much at home. Many of the Highland rebels left Scotland after the 1745 Battle of Colladen Moor. These men and their sons were born fighters, ingrained in both their blood and culture.

Men were buried on Kings Mountain where they fell if they were actually “buried” at all. Anonymous fieldstones were marked with honoring plaques later, as we see below. Paths up and down the hillsides lead to the graves. Men were killed all over the hill, not just on top.

It’s hard to believe this beautiful, tranquil location was the site of such a monumental battle. Although, I can feel their presence in the silence.

Countless men lost their lives here and many more were wounded. It’s amazing that such a decisive battle was won by only 1000 or so backwoodsmen, virtually untrained, pitted against highly-trained soldiers and their backcountry brethren.

Nooks and crannies on the walkway hold stones marking fallen soldiers.

Today, on Memorial Day, we honor these men and their service. This is the Appalachian version of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier along with many more whose graves have been lost to time.

As I proceed around the mountain, the hillside becomes significantly steeper, and the woods deepen. These signs placed along the pathway were immensely helpful.

Can you imagine seeing red-coated men charging at you with bayonets?

The Patriots were longhunters, armed only with hunting rifles. Similar men had been slaughtered just weeks before. No one really expected this to be different.

The Over the Mountain Men charged the British three times and faced those bayonets. By the time bayonets were useful, the guns themselves were not.

Were they brave or foolhardy?

That third charge was successful.

The grave below is that of Major William Chronicle.

Rain

It rained the night before the battle. Wet leaves mute and absorb sound.

The Tories were confidently waiting but didn’t expect to be ambushed in silence. The Over Mountain Men had the advantage of understanding nature. They left their horses tied a mile away and approached on foot, like Indians. They fought the Indians on the frontier, but they had also learned from them. Very effectively, it seems.

Their final approach up the hill was with full-fledged war screams. The Tories found it every bit as disconcerting as did the Europeans when the Indians descended on them with war whoops.

Today, the only sound is the slightly babbling brook.

Up this hill they ran – shooting and shouting and whooping. “Buford,” they screamed with all their might.

Today, birds chirp. But on that day, the men from Virginia, North Carolina, and the area that would become Tennessee joined forces to survive the advance and crest the top of Kings Mountain. They fought their way up that hill, tree to tree. The bark was literally shot off the trees by the Loyalist’s guns.

Yes, into that horrific assault from above, the Over Mountain Men still continued to advance.

Would these men have ever dreamed that they turned the tide of the war and therefore the fledgling nation, tree by tree, as they inched up that hill? Today, the possibility for any 1000 people to have that kind of a profound effect seems nearly impossible, but it wasn’t then.

I’m sure those men never even pondered the idea that someday this would be an honored battlefield, or that their descendants would come here to honor them, their service and sacrifice, and to be with them in whatever small way we can be. That this place would one day be peaceful was incomprehensible on that October day.

Back then, there were no honored battlefields. Only bloody farmers’ fields where men were wounded and died. Honor and commemoration would come much, much later.

The Over Mountain Men were stubborn to a fault. They didn’t take orders well, if at all. Their commanders understood this – because they too were one of those men. Each man was instructed to be his own officer and do the best he could.

Family Against Family

Not everyone agreed that the colonies should become their own country. Some believed that revolting against England was wrong, for any number of reasons. Like during the Civil War that followed some 80 years later, the populace was divided.

The hardest part of this battle was probably that it turned family members against each other. In some cases, brother against brother. It’s told that one man, a Tory, was injured and asked his brother-in-law, a Patriot, for help. The reply he received was to ask his friends.

In many ways, this battle wasn’t really about sovereignty, it was about what Buford had done, under the truce flag, to the Patriots in two earlier battles. It was about Ferguson’s threat to destroy the homes, family, and farms of the formerly neutral men of Appalachia. It was about revenge and justice.

It was not a good day to be a Tory, or Ferguson.

Colonel William Campbell

Colonel William Campbell, from Augusta County, Virginia rallied the Over Mountain Men to return after they had begun to retreat and to charge the Tories once again.

He was known to the Loyalists as the “bloody tyrant of Washington County” due to his harsh treatment of Tories, but was a hero to the mountain men. He instructed them to, “Fight like Hell and shout like devils.” He was promoted to General in 1781, but died shortly after of a heart attack.

Somehow my Campbell line is related to his line, but I have been unable to identify exactly how. It’s certainly possible that my Charles Campbell was at Kings Mountain with his kinsman, Colonel William Campbell whose father’s name was also Charles Campbell.

I ponder this possibility as I walk. I can’t help but wonder how many of my ancestors fought, here, at Kings Mountain.

This tree has grown over a large rock. Was this rock a fieldstone serving to mark the grave of a quickly-buried soldier?

The previous photos were all taken at the base of the hill and slightly ascending.

Hilltop

Beginning here, the photos are from the top of the hill. This is where Ferguson and many of his men were killed. They thought that they could simply wait there for the Over the Mountain Men and pick them off with bayonets as they crested the hill. Their bayonets were “high” and did not have the effect they wanted. Bullets travel much further than bayonets and red-coated men made great targets.

On the top of the hill, which was cleared at the time, today stand two markers.

This monument is the Centennial Monument, built in 1880 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the battle.

This stone does not mark a grave, but honors Colonel Asbury Coward who planned the 100th Anniversary celebration and raised the money for the commemorative statue.

We are now looking down the hill. The mountain men charged up this hill, towards Ferguson’s soldiers and Tories waiting for them, about where I’m standing.

Who Was a Tory?

It was difficult to tell who was who, well, except for the English soldiers who wore those distinctive red coats. Ninety percent of the Loyalists, known as Tories, were friends and neighbors.

Emotions ran perilously high. Family members felt betrayed and couldn’t understand how their kinsmen could feel otherwise – strongly enough to want to kill them.

The Tory Oak in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, also known as the Cleveland Oak, was the tree in which Colonel Benjamin Cleveland hung at least 5 Tory traitors in 1779, three of whom had attempted to kidnap him.

Pretty much, a Tory was someone on top of the hill trying to kill you. Once there, it was almost impossible to tell the difference.

Is an unknown soldier buried under some of these rocks?  The dead had to be buried someplace here – their graves now lost to time.

The Tories and the English soldiers were pinned on top of the mountain. Some Loyalists attempted to either escape or switch sides, but I fear their lot had already been cast given that they had already shown their true allegiance. A “conversion” under duress is likely not genuine and the Over Mountain Men knew that.

But what would those men, on either side, have done if they discovered the person they were trying to kill was a family member or neighbor?

US Obelisk Monument

This beautiful white granite monument on the top of Kings Mountain is a smaller version of the Washington Monument.

Plaques on the sides list the commanders and known dead Americans. You can read documentation about the battle, here.

The plaques honor the fallen at Kings Mountain. I was so hoping for a complete roster of all the men who participated in this battle, but no such luck. Historians have been piecing this information together for years.

This beautiful white monument is located in the center of the top of the hill.

This nearby stone honors Colonel James Hawthorne who took command after another officer was wounded. However, this is one of the LEAST remarkable things about James Hawthorne. This man was made of steel and grit.

Ferguson’s Demise

Engraving depicting the death of British Major Patrick Ferguson who was shot from his horse, but he didn’t actually fall off entirely. With his foot still in the stirrup, he was dragged to the patriot side.

According to Patriot accounts, when a militiaman approached the Major for his surrender, Ferguson drew his pistol and shot the man. Probably not a good idea.

Other soldiers reacted in kind and 7 or 8 musket holes later, Ferguson was dead. Many, many men reported that they had fired the fatal shot. Militia accounts said his body was stripped of clothing and the men urinated on him before burial, near where he died. The militiamen hated this man who had wrought so much indignity and pain.

I don’t know who marked Ferguson’s grave, or when, but initially it was marked only by a pile of stones.

Major Patrick Ferguson isn’t very likable. He recruited Tories from among the residents of the Carolina backcountry and commanded several devastating Revolutionary War battles.

He’s not a hero by any measure, but we must give the devil his due. You can’t help but respect Ferguson. He embodies all that people love about the Scotch-Irish – the same traits that the Over the Mountain Men used to defeat him.

Ferguson was bullishly stubborn. His elbow was shattered in a previous battle by a musket ball, and he learned to ride with his other hand, write with it, fence with it, and used a silver whistle to command his men since he didn’t have the second hand he needed. He had to hold on to the reins with something. Obviously, that last stubborn shot he fired, surely knowing he would be killed immediately as a result, was fired with his one good hand.

Patrick was a one-armed commander in the Battle of Kings Mountain but never considered himself in any capacity disabled.

He was also a bit of a renegade, and the more established commanders basically abandoned him to face the Over the Mountain Men alone. Maybe they thought, “so much the better,” if Ferguson were killed, but little did they dream the magnitude of that victory would also mean their defeat.

There just seems to be some karmic justice lurking in that situation.

Ferguson famously traveled with two women, both named Virginia, leading to many untoward jokes about his ability to remember the right name in the heat of the moment, so to speak. One Virginia died on the mountain with him and was buried in the same grave.

One escaped, the Over the Mountain Men parting ranks to let her through. I can’t even begin to imagine how those women wound up on that hilltop.

Some reported that it was as Virginia escaped that she told them Ferguson was wearing a red and white plaid shirt. His men could easily distinguish him, but after that prize piece of information, so could the Over Mountain Men.

The location of Ferguson’s death is marked on the top of Kings Mountain.

Ferguson’s grave is nearby in a “can’t miss it” location right beside the path.

Marked with the original cairn and now a stone as well, it’s actually quite beautiful.

You know, the great irony is that Ferguson, born in Scotland, was probably related to at least some of these men.

The Over Mountain Men are Victorious

This stone, tucked away down a little path, commemorates the service of Colonel Frederick Hambright, a German born Patriot who urged his men to continue fighting after Ferguson famously claimed that “all the Rebels from hell” would be unable to drive him away.

Clearly, Ferguson was mistaken, as proven by Hambright and his men.

That Night

Imagine the night after the Battle of Kings Mountain.

Men of both sides would have been terribly on edge.

They would have been trying to rest, as best through could, among the moans and groans of the wounded. Men probably died during the night.

Neither side knew what the morning would bring, and both sides were afraid of each other. Other than the men in red coats, it was difficult to determine who was on which side.

The Tories/ Loyalists/Redcoats knew the Whigs/Patriots/Over Mountain Men would like nothing better than to hang them. The feeling was clearly mutual, based on past behavior at previous battles.

The Over Mountain Men knew that Loyalist reinforcements couldn’t be far behind.

Neither contingent could move under the cover of darkness.

I’d wager no sentry fell asleep that night – and neither did most of the other men.

Even burying the dead would have been risky.

The Tory/Loyalist Prisoners

It was reported that the militiamen had captured more than 700 Loyalists, be they English soldiers or Tory sympathizers. By the time they reached the Moravian settlement of Bethabara, near Winston-Salem, three weeks later, they had 300 prisoners, and by early December, only 130. A month later, they had 60. What happened to the missing men?

Some were likely hung. Some found a sympathetic ear among relatives or neighbors and were paroled or simply allowed to go home. Some could have been wounded and either left behind or died someplace. The Moravians reported that some escaped. More than 200 were reported to have been consigned into the Patriot militia but had since defected and rejoined the British to fight against the Patriots another day.

Returning Home

The British clearly hated these men who would not be subdued.

Hearty, brave, and having succeeded against all odds, the Carolina backwoodsmen and the Over Mountain Men returned to their homes, crossing the high mountain range through snow.

They would wait for the next volley from the British, prepared to meet them once again where they must. But the tide had turned, thanks to the incredible bravery of 1000 out-gunned, untrained, angry, Patriots.

The Battlefield Today

In order to protect the battlefield, it had to be purchased and then designated a National Historic Landmark. This occurred in 1930 when President Herbert Hoover, along with 70,000 people, visited Kings Mountain.

From the location above, marked by a rock, Hoover gave a speech that set the wheels in motion for the park today.

Hoover’s speech, above, marked the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Kings Mountain.

I can’t even begin to imagine 70,000 people gathered at Kings Mountain. Seventy times as many people as there were 150 years earlier on that same day.

Kings Mountain

This then is the story of Kings Mountain, a narrative not only of military victory but the tale of a vendetta “paid” as well.

After winning this battle, these mountain men, not soldiers, but fathers, husbands, and brothers turned around, returned home, and resumed their life on the frontier. It was fall – time to lay in meat for the winter and chop wood for the stove.

They needed to tell the wives and mothers of the men who would not be returning – those who remain on Kings Mountain. The community would help those widows and families survive.

This make-shift army of volunteer men changed the course of history and shaped this country in a way no others ever would, vanquishing their enemies who laid waste to their kinsmen under the flag of truce.

It’s ironic that we don’t even know the names of the men largely responsible for America becoming a democracy as opposed to continuing as subjects of the British crown.

Had the British and their Tory compatriots not angered these men into a boiling rage, who knows, we might live under the British flag yet today. That trajectory changed, thanks to the utter bravery and sheer stubbornness of a few hardy backwoodsmen, the Over Mountain Men, brandishing axes, knives, and hunting rifles in the face of soldiers with bayonets.

Jacob Dobkins was probably among those stalwart men. Perhaps your ancestor was too.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Books

Genealogy Research

Camstra Burials: Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way – 52 Ancestors #333

In last week’s article, The Camstra Trail, I was gifted with the beautiful miniature photo of Douwe Baukes Camstra and his wife and subsequently found the burial location of the couple, at least in general terms.

It’s interesting how publishing something like that opens the floodgates. Well, maybe not floodgates in this case, but definitely the faucet.

Three things happened.

  • Another photo of Douwe surfaced
  • We found the burial locations of Douwe Bauke Camstra who died in 1869
  • We found the burial location of his father, Bauke Douwe Camstra who died in 1866

Douwe’s Actual Burial Plot

As it turns out, I actually HAD more information about Douwe that had been previously provided by Yvette Hoitink. Of course, I made this discovery right AFTER I hit the publish button.

Yvette unearthed a letter written almost a century ago.

Ybeltje Camstra – a granddaughter of Douwe Bauke Camstra wrote in May 1923:

“My grandfather was somebody of fairly large mental gifts. He appears to have been a good mathematician, in that we had in our family an antique silver tobacco jar with an inscription, which read that this tobacco jar was given to him for important services, rendered to the City of Leeuwarden; these services were regarding calculations that he was required to do. This tobacco jar disappeared during the theft that took place in Maartensdijk around 1895, which is a shame.”

On 12 May 1846 the family Camstra settled in Leeuwarden. For years, the family lived in the house at the Grote Kerkstraat nr. 262. From this marriage were born six children, while the family Camstra-Kijlstra also took care to raise a niece Anna Elisabeth Camstra.

Also in the house lived Catharina Proost, school teacher, charged with teaching the children. Servant was Berbertje Koopal.

The couple Camstra-Kijlstra lies buried on the old Cemetery at the Spanjaardslaan in Leeuwarden, section 3, row 26, nr. 11.

There you have it. If I were Douwe’s direct descendant, I’d be placing a FindAGrave request for a photo – even if there is no marker and even if he’s currently sharing a grave with a few of his neighbors.

Yvette provided additional information about Douwe too.

After he married, Douwe B. Camstra was first head teacher in Drachten for several years, but was later appointed arrondissementsijker [district calibrator].

He was joint founder of the “Selskip foar Fryske Tael en Skrifekennisse [Society for Frisian language and writing knowledge]” and for many years was a member as “earste skriuwer [first writer]”. Douwe also wrote Frisian novellas, of which 12 were published in “Idu[…]” and “De Swanneblom.”

In regards to his appointment as district calibrator in Leeuwarden we find the following in the Resolutiën van Burgemeesteren der Stad Leeuwarden [Resolutions of the City Leeuwarden]:

28 February 1846 – Was read a resolution of the Provincial Executives of Friesland of 24 February 1846 nr. 29 regarding information about the transfer of district calibrator D.B. Camstra from Heerenveen to Leeuwarden, to replace the fired assistant calibrator G.M. Cahais, as well as determining the time for the calibration of the measures and weights, over 1846 and all the Cities and Municipalities of the province etc. This resolution has already had the required effect, so was decided to consider as notification.

By C messier – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51124679

Douwes Bauke Camstra would have been very familiar with “The Waag,” or weigh house in Leeuwarden where all types of goods were weighed, located on the canal center city, a few blocks from where Douwe was born.

Speaking of a Descendant

My cousin, a descendant of Douwe, dropped me a note immediately after he read last week’s article. He had been gifted with a copy of the same photo in 2013 along with another one of Douwe apparently taken a few years later.

Courtesy of cousin Glenn

Douwe looked to be a bit older and his black eye seemed to have healed. So my speculation that Douwe might have been blind was clearly wrong. Now I wonder if what we thought was a black eye was an artifact of very early photography.

These two photos provide secondary confirmation of the identity of this man.

Burial Location of Bauke Douwes Camstra (1779-1866) and Anna Elizabeth Jonker (1778-1856) 

I surmised in the article that since Douwe Bauke Camstra and his wife were buried in the Spanjaardslaan cemetery in 1869, that his parents were surely buried there too. That seemed reasonable, given that his father only died three years before Douwe and since there was no other cemetery in Leeuwarden following the 1827 edict that burials could no longer occur in churches and churchyards for sanitation reasons.

Then, I received this from Yvette:

About Bauke’s burial place, all the way back in 2013, I did a research report for you with the inventory of the estate of Bauke Douwes Camstra, created on 21 July 1866, after his death.

Among the estate was:

“Graves: Four graves at the churchyard in Goutum, the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh grave from the church in row 18, with the two grave stones, valued at fl. 20 Deducted for maintenance and prohibition to open the two graves in which the deceased will be buried within 20 years.”

So Bauke was buried in Goutum just south of Leeuwarden. I once had a McDonald’s picnic dinner there and sent you a photo.

Yvette to the rescue once again, and my bad for not rereading the Camstra reports. The great irony here is that I was very excited about receiving that picnic photo from Yvette at the time and remember it well.

Courtesy Yvette Hoitink

I even managed to find the photo on my computer.

Yvette continues:

They owned 4 graves on the churchyard in Goutum, a small hamlet just south of Leeuwarden. They owned graves 4, 5, 6 and 7 in row 18.

Of course, this begs the question of who was intended to be buried in the other two graves, and if anyone in the Camstra family actually was ever buried there. I also thought his wife predeceased Bauke. I need to do some more reading and digging. Actually, what I need to do is write their own individual ancestor articles where I review everything.

That has to be on the north side since the south side doesn’t have 18 rows. I made a guess that they started counting the rows from the tower and indicated the location of these graves on the Google Map.

Yvette even marked their grave locations.

Google Streetview drove by the churchyard as well, but the trees were so full of leaves you can hardly see anything.

The estate bill included a provision for maintenance of the graves of Bauke and Anna Elisabeth for 20 years, so that’s long gone by now as many graves are cleared in the Netherlands after 20 years, I do not think these graves are still there. There is a small chance that they still exist because this was an owned grave, not a rented grave.

The graves at the Goutum cemetery are listed at Graftombe but the Camstra grave is not among them so it was probably cleared.

You can see the area where they are/were buried from the street beside the church. They are near the rear of the church, just the other side of the trees.

Why Was Bauke Buried in Goutham?

OK, so my logic was sound, but it was also wrong.

It made perfect sense that Bauke was buried in the only cemetery in Leeuwarden when he died. It made sense, especially since his son was buried there three years later.

In fact, now I wonder why Douwe wasn’t buried in Goutum with Bauke.

Furthermore, why WAS Bauke buried in Goutum?

After all, Bauke was a deacon in the Grote of Jacobijnerkerk Dutch Reformed church in Leeuwarden, just down the street from his home. He didn’t attend church in Goutum.

The beautiful new Leeuwarden cemetery park was just across the bridge, outside the city wall, much closer than Goutum.

This doesn’t make sense, at least not at first glance.

The church in Goutum (Buorren 23) is just south of Leeuwarden, about 3 miles as the crow flies from Bauke’s home church. Bauke would certainly have been familiar with the churches surrounding Leeuwarden.

My bet, at this point, is that Bauke was NOT in favor of being buried in a grave outside of a churchyard. There were gravesites available at the church in Goutum, and Bauke took advantage of the opportunity to purchase four. I think this comes under the category of, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Bauke found a way to be buried in a churchyard, even if it wasn’t his home church or even inside the city of Leeuwarden. It didn’t matter. The churchyard in Goutum is where he rested until at least 1886 when his 20 years was up.

Were it not for the purchase noted in Bauke Douwe Camstra’s estate record, we would never have known.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Books

Genealogy Research

Be Sure Your DNA Tests Are Connected to Trees at MyHeritage

As I’ve been preparing for the free seminar, “Turning AutoClusters into Solutions at MyHeritage” on Monday, May 24th at 2 PM EDT (US), I realized something VERY important that I’d like to share with you – in advance.

By the way, to watch the presentation live, just click on the Facebook MyHeritage page, here a few minutes before 2. If you’re busy, MyHeritage will record the session and you can watch at your convenience.

Upload Family Tests

It’s always important to test family members, or upload DNA files to MyHeritage if they have already tested elsewhere. You can easily upload additional tests from other vendors to MyHeritage, here.

Need instructions for downloading from other vendors or uploading to MyHeritage? You can find step-by-step instructions, here.

One of your best clues will be who else your cluster members match. Known relatives are a huge clue!

I did all that, but I <ahem> neglected a really important step after the upload.

Connect the DNA Test to the Right Person in the Appropriate Tree

I have no idea how I managed to NOT do this, but I didn’t and I made this discovery while working on my clusters.

  • As I checked the DNA tests that I manage at MyHeritage, I realized that none of them had Theories of Family Relativity. Hmmm, that’s odd, because some of them are my close relatives, and I have Theories of Family Relativity. They should too, given that we are using the same tree.
  • Then, I verified that all of these tests were connected to my tree. Good, right?

Those two facts, together, didn’t make sense, so I investigated further and realized that somehow, I had managed to create a single entry for each person, disconnected from everyone else in my tree. That lone person is who the DNA kit was connected to, but not to anyone else in my tree.

How did I make that discovery?

More importantly, how can you check each of the tests that you manage to be sure they are connected appropriately?

Even if you’re SURE you’ve connected them, please check. I discovered that I had connected them, kind of. But not properly.

Let’s look at each step so you can check too.

Are Your Tests Connected?

Click to enlarge images

At the top of your account page, select Family Tree.

If you have uploaded multiple family trees, be sure to select the CORRECT family tree where the person should be connected.

If you are related to that person by blood, then connecting them to the proper place in YOUR family tree is best. If you are not related to them by blood, such as an in-law or spouse or someone else entirely, then you can either connect them to the proper place in your tree or upload a separate tree for them. For example, my spouse and I do not have children together, so there will never be anyone who shares both of our DNA or ancestors. I uploaded a separate tree for his family so his family can see tree members that are only relevant to him.

After you click on Family Tree, on the left side, you’ll see the tree name and down arrow. If you click on the down arrow, the active tree is displayed as orange, and the other trees you have uploaded are grey.

Be SURE the tree the person should be connected in is the active tree by clicking the appropriate tree.

Find the Person

At the far right-hand side of your tree page, type the name of the person whose test you’re managing, by the name listed on the test.

If the person is NOT connected to a family in your tree, you’ll see something like the view above that shows their name but no appropriate relationship. The item blurred out below Charlene’s name is the year she was born based on what was entered when the kit was uploaded.

If the person IS connected appropriately, you’ll see the correct relationship to you.

If your relative’s relationship is shown appropriately to you, next, click on that person’s name to be SURE you’ve connected the DNA kit to that person.

When you click on that person, you’ll see their name displayed in their position in the tree, along with the DNA symbol.

If you DON’T see a DNA symbol on their tree placard, this may mean you’re in the wrong tree. It definitely means there is no DNA kit attached to this person’s profile in this tree.

For example, my husband is in my tree and in his own tree, but his DNA is connected to him in his own tree, not “him” in my tree. His name in his tree has a DNA icon and his name in my tree does not. If I accidentally connected him to his name in my tree, he would have no genetic tree-based tools because his ancestors aren’t in my tree.

DNA Symbol But No Family

If you see a DNA symbol on their placard in the tree, but no parents or family members, you’ve probably done what I did. Poor Charlene was connected to her own card in my tree, but not the Charlene where she belonged. I had apparently created a quick placeholder for her and then forgot what I had done.

When I saw that Charlene had no family, the light bulb popped on and I immediately knew what had happened. Of course, that means you need to build your tree out to that cousin in order to connect them appropriately.

Connect Up

It’s easy to connect a DNA test kit to a profile in a tree.

Under DNA, click on “Manage DNA Kits.”

Click to enlarge images

You’ll see that the person has been assigned to a name. This is what threw me off, because they were connected to a name, but I had NOT connected that profile properly to her parents (and family) in the tree. I’m guessing I was in a hurry and figured I’d connect them properly later.

Again, be sure you’re displaying the appropriate tree before you complete this next step.

Click on the three little dots and you’ll see “Re-assign kit to a different person.” Click on that link.

Begin typing the name of the person whose DNA test kit you wish to attach to a profile.

You’ll see the right person, assuming you’ve added that person in your tree. Click on that person and then Save.

All done.

Easy peasy.

If the correct person isn’t in your tree yet, just build the tree from Charlene’s stand-alone profile to the proper ancestor.

Reap the Harvest!

Now, you’ll begin to reap ALL the rewards of having your relatives test. Their kits will receive matches, hints, Theories of Family Relativity and AutoClusters that you won’t, because they will match different people that you don’t.

You’ll be able to utilize their clusters from your side of their tree just as effectively as your own. In some cases, their tests will be more valuable than your own because they have DNA from your common ancestors that you didn’t inherit. This is especially true for people who are a generation or two closer to your common ancestor.

Whose tests can you upload, with permission of course?

Be sure those kits are properly connected.

See you all tomorrow on MyHeritage Facebook LIVE to learn about Turning AutoClusters into Solutions.

_____________________________________________________________

Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Books

Genealogy Research

The Camstra Trail: A Little Box with a Photo – 52 Ancestors #332

The day started out just like any other day, but THIS day would hold something very special.

Hi Roberta,

I’m writing you from the Netherlands. I don’t know where you live. Your name came up in my search for the offspring of Douwe Baukes Camstra. I think you are offspring of his sister Lijsbeth. I have a little box with a photo of Douwe and his wife Iebeltje Egberts Kijlstra taken on their silver wedding in 1856! I want to give it back to their relatives.

This is a picture of it:

Can you help me? Do you know other relatives? If not, you can have it. Do you want it?

Do I Want It?

Is the Pope Catholic?

Of COURSE I want it – assuming it’s my relative.

First, I had to scurry off and search my genealogy software. Was this, indeed my family member?

Could I possibly be this lucky?

Holding my breath…

Oh my gosh – this IS the brother of my ancestor! I didn’t know his middle name, and I have a different spelling for his wife’s name, but it’s definitely the same couple.

This is so exciting!!!

I asked Marga where she found this treasure.

The little box belongs to my mother, but she doesn’t know where it comes from. We don’t have any family in the north of the Netherlands. I put a picture of it on Facebook and it is many times shared, but no reactions at all. I found on the internet that there are not many people left in our country with the name Camstra…

In the box there is a little paper. It says: “Ybeltje Kielstra en Douwe Baukes Camstra beiden geboren +/- 1810 bij hun zilveren huwelijksfeest in 1862.” Which means: Ybeltje Kielstra and Douwe Baukes Camstra both born +/- 1810 at their silver weddings party in 1862.

The date 1862 is wrong because it was in 1856.

Marga took this scrap of information and began searching, trying to find if they were related to Douwe. She fleshed out his vital information, including his parents.

Marga had clearly done her homework. I just have to say this – it’s incredibly confusing when Bauke Douwe Camstra names his first and second sons both Douwe Bauke Camstra. The first son died, but I digress.

I replied to Marga, then I tried to wait patiently for her response.

The internet/Facebook somehow bollixed things up and my reply to Marga went AWOL. Even though I could see it from my end, Marga couldn’t.

Two days later, she queried, “You’re not interested?”

You’re Not Interested?

OMG YES I’M INTERESTED!!!!!!

Thankfully, Marga received this second message and posted the envelope.

Longest 3 weeks of my life.

What if it got lost in the international mail? The mail here in the US has been taking weeks to months for some items mailed in the same county – let alone from across the ocean.

Where was it?

Would it EVER arrive?

“Be patient,” I told myself, over and over.

I did not receive the patience gene.

One Cold February Day

Finally, one cold mid-February day, almost a month later, a small envelope arrived.

I mention the envelope was small for two reasons.

First, I laid it aside in the pile of junk mail because I was expecting something larger. Who wants to sort through junk mail when you’re impatiently waiting for something VERY precious?

Second, truthfully, I didn’t expect something THAT small. It’s miniature.

Did I mention that I adore miniatures???

The little box itself is about 2.5 by 3 inches and it’s less than half an inch thick. Maybe closer to a quarter inch.

When I was sorting through the mail later, I squealed with excitement, because there it was.

I opened the envelope carefully and saw a face that looked at least vaguely familiar. Was my ancestor a female version of him, minus the beard? They shared the same parents.

Lijsbeth Bauke Camstra married Hendrik Jans Ferwerda on February 19, 1829 in Leeuwarden. Hendrik was a school teacher and they lived their married life in Blija, about 13 miles (22 km) away, near the sea.

Their first child was Bauke Hendrick Ferwerda, born January 26, 1830. He married Geertje Harmens DeJong who passed away before Bauke remarried and the family immigrated to America, settling in Indiana.

Some siblings don’t look at all alike and others are dead-ringers for each other. Did my ancestor, Lijsbert Baukes Camstra, born March 13, 1806 look anything like her younger brother, Douwe Baukes Camstra, born on May 15th of the following year? If so, did she pass it on?

I don’t know. You can be the judge.

Douwe Bauke Camstra pictured beside his great-nephew, Hiram Bauke Ferverda, at right. Hiram was about 15 years older than Douwe in this photo and his hair is not grey. It looks like Douwe might have been blind in his left eye.

Douwe would be my great-great-great-great-uncle. I believe this is also the earliest photo of any family member.

The Camstra Home

Douwe and his sister Lijsbeth, both with the middle name of Bauke, Camstra were born in this home, in Leeuwarden.

Camstra home in 2014

Yvette Hoitink, Dutch genealogist extraordinaire, located this property for me in 2012. In fact, you can see my very first glimpse for yourself in this short YouTube video that Yvette recorded while walking down the street. You can hear the church bells ringing in the background.

I’ve since been to Leeuwarden myself, but there’s nothing like that first glimpse on the other side of what you believed to be an insurmountable brick wall.

Whoever would have guessed that another 9 years later, a Camstra family photo would surface in an unrelated family in the south of the Netherlands and make its way to me in America.

Of course, I had to find out more.

What Happened to Douwe Bauke Camstra?

Douwe died in Leeuwarden on August 20, 1869.

We don’t know where he lived, but it certainly could have been in the very house where he was born.

The clock tower and the gardens were at the end of the block, quite conveniently located. In fact, the Camstra home was convenient to pretty much everything in Leeuwarden.

The Camstra home was located at Grote Kerkstraat 33, shown below on Google maps today.

Tresoar, the present-day regional archives where Douwe’s father’s Pleasure Garden was located was just a couple blocks down this street in the direction we’re looking, and what turns out to be Douwe’s final resting place was across the moat ringing the old city.

Yvette also filmed the location of the Pleasure Gardens in this video.

Cemeteries

Cemeteries work differently in the Netherlands (and the rest of Europe) than they do in the US, even back then.  Real estate is at a premium, especially dry land. You really didn’t want to dig a hole and have it fill with water. Coffins aren’t supposed to splash.

People were buried on the terps, raised areas built for churches, then the plots were reused a few years later. How long? Well, that depends on the location and the circumstances. In many cases, family members shared grave spaces with other family members. If the grave was abandoned, then some years later, often roughly 20, someone else was buried in the same space.

If the original inhabitant hadn’t entirely returned to “dust” yet, no problem.

A small ossuary building allowed whatever remains remained to visit with their neighbors and continue their degradation stacked, respectfully, together. Most cemeteries in the Netherlands have an inobtrusive little building for just this purpose. No one thinks anything of it.

This little Ossuary is found in the church cemetery in Wolsum where Hiram Ferwerda lived for a few years.

Originally, the Leeuwarden cemetery would have been inside the fortified city walls, of course, beside that church tower in what is today the parking lot.

This map from 1612 shows the church and detached church tower at far left, although other records tell us that the decrepit church was demolished in 1595 or 1596. The “yard” surrounding the church would have been the cemetery.

It’s also worth noting that the Dutch Reformed Protestant church is shown at right, at the other end of “Grote Kerkstraat,” or Great Church Street.

This 1664 map shows the remains of the church, along with the churchyard in front of the bell tower. I can’t help but wonder if the little house at the base of the tower is either the caretaker’s home, or the ossuary, or both.

The red arrow points to the Camstra home. You found a church or a cemetery no matter which direction you walked. Churches, old or contemporaneous, at either end of the street.

By Ymblanter – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40571285

The Protestant church, already several hundred years old by that time was a couple blocks east of the Camstra home. There were burials inside the Protestant church, Grote of Jacobijnerkerk, in crypts and in the floor, but I find no record of external burials. Surely they existed. People had to be buried someplace and churchyards were where cemeteries were located. Only the wealthy were buried inside the church, in the floor. There is space around the church on the old maps. Precious space inside the city walls was never wasted.

A royal interdiction in 1827 put an end to the unhygienic burials in and beside churches. Communities had to seek more suitable locations to bury outside the cities. In Leeuwarden, the “new” cemetery at the Spanjaardslaan opened in 1833. Of course, it’s now called the “Old City Graveyard,” but it certainly wasn’t the oldest. The churchyards were far older.

The residents were reluctant to give up their churchyard burial practices, but a Dutch landscape gardener designed a beautiful cemetery that would function as a park in addition to being a cemetery. Located on the old dwelling mound, Fiswerd, once a monastery, the beautiful, quiet cemetery allows visitors, then and now, to leave the busy city behind.

Entering these gates, between the skulls on the top of the fence, the park doesn’t much resemble a cemetery as we perceive them today.

The peaceful essence that the landscaper had in mind to lure those Frisians away from their church graveyard can still be felt today.

Trees, grass, and landscaping are found everyplace.

But where is Douwe?

The cemetery was designed in 5 “departments.” The first was for the rich middle-class and nobles. Many graves had impressive monuments which remain today. Needless to say, those graves weren’t reused. The second department burials weren’t quite as dignified but still wealthy. The third area consisted of people we would probably consider middle class, but no nobles. The fences in this area are the most ornate though. Go figure.

The fourth area is the furthest from the entrance. Many people buried here could not afford stones, so they had a simple wooden cross, or perhaps a common, uninscribed stone for several burials. The fifth is the most recent and the cemetery is now closed to new burials.

You can feast your eyes on beautiful photos, here.

As you might gather, the Camstra family was relatively wealthy. Douwe and Lijsbeth’s father, Bauke Camstra owned that beautiful home, just a few doors from the ducal residence, as in Duke of Orange, now a museum. Plus Bauke owned another property AND the Pleasure Gardens.

I fully expected Douwe to have a memorial stone, perhaps a large one.

The known burials are searchable, here.

There are indeed four Camstra burials, but not Douwe☹

This was the ONLY cemetery in Leeuwarden at that time, so Douwe is assuredly, or was, buried here. Maybe in one of those unmarked, or shared, graves., although that seems odd, given what we know about the family.

Perhaps his grave is one that had a monument that, over time, sunk.

Perhaps Douwe was not as wealthy as his father.

Wait? What?

Wait….his father.

Was Douwe buried in the grave previously occupied by his father?

As it turns out, no, Bauke Douwes Camstra, his father, died on May 24, 1866, not quite three years before his son, which means he’s buried someplace here too. Bauke’s wife, Anna Elizabeth Jonker, Douwe and Lijsbeth’s mother died in 1856, so she’s nearby as well.

Bauke Douwes Camstra was unquestionably wealthy, so there is really no question that he was not buried in section 4 of the cemetery. I can’t help but wonder if, somehow, he obtained special dispensation to be buried in the old churchyard beside his Pleasure Garden. But then again, the Dutch are sticklers for rules and organization – so I’d bet not. If they let Bauke do that, then they’d have to let everyone do that. Besides that, Bauke worked, at least for a time, for the municipality.

Well, then, what about Douwe’s grandparents? Was he buried in their graves?

Nope, the last one of his 4 grandparents died in August of 1830, so they aren’t buried in this lovely park. They probably rest beneath the parking lot in front of the clock tower, today, or maybe in the churchyard of the Dutch Reformed church down the street.

My ancestor Lijsbert Baukes Camstra, probably carrying her son, Bauke Hendrick Ferwerda, about 9 months old, would have stood here too, with her parents and siblings as she buried her last grandparent. I was probably standing not only on their graves, but walking in their footsteps.

If they are buried at the protestant church a few blocks away, that’s OK, I visited there too.

Because the grandparents were the last generation of burials before the new cemetery was opened, they would never have been removed. They were, however, eventually bricked over if in fact they are buried in either location.

Good Heavens, I walked on them, probably ate fair food on top of them, without giving it even a thought. Because we don’t “reuse” cemeteries here, I should have, but never realized I was literally “visiting” their graves as I celebrated “Orange Day” when I visited the Netherlands.

Talk about oblivious. Also, talk about perfect. I hope they have a sense of humor!

My DNA is all over Leeuwarden, or maybe I should say in the earth surrounding the old churches and cemeteries in Leeuwarden.

Lighting the Way

We don’t know exactly where my ancestors Bauke Douwes Camstra (Dec. 28, 1779 – May 24, 1866) and his wife, Anna Elizabeth Jonker (Dec. 30, 1878 – 1856) are buried in this lovely cemetery park in Leeuwarden, but they are unquestionably there.

We can, however, trace their life’s path.

We can start at their home at the red arrow, walk west to the cemetery, now a parking lot (red star) in front of the clock and bell tower where they may have buried their parents. We can visit Bauke’s Pleasure Garden (red star), now the pristine City Gardens and Tresoar archives, and walk to the Durch Reformed church (red star) to the east of their home where they worshiped and Bauke Camstra was a deacon.

This church is where their lives were celebrated at their funerals.

Ironically, 152 years after Douwe Bauke Camstra died, in 1869, it was the “little box with a photo” that allowed me to find him, and his parents, in the beautiful old cemetery.

Come along for a stroll in this video and visit the final resting place of the Camstra family.

Update: I family note records that the Camstra-Kijlstra couple is buried in section 3, row 26, number 11 of the cemetery.

Thank You!

A huge thank you to Marga, her mother, and Yvette.

None of this could have happened without Yvette’s original discovery and subsequent research or Marga’s determination to return the photo to a family member, combined with her and her mother’s generosity.

Thank you! Thank you!

_____________________________________________________________

Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Books

Genealogy Research

FREE LIVE Presentation: Turning AutoClusters into Solutions at MyHeritage

You’re invited to join me for a FREE Facebook LIVE presentation on May 24th, at 2 PM EST.

We’ll be talking about tips and tricks to turn “AutoClusters into Solutions at MyHeritage.”

AutoClusters are a great tool and few of us are using them to their fullest potential. I know I wasn’t.

MyHeritage will be hosting this seminar on their Facebook page, LIVE.

I’ve done a few of these LIVE sessions before and they are SO MUCH FUN for everyone!!! They’re super popular too. We’ve had between 14,000 and 20,000 people view each one.

Want to Hear a Secret?

I’ve made three discoveries while preparing for this presentation – in the first cluster alone. I can barely stop. Who needs sleep anyway?

No, I’m really not kidding. My great-grandmother had a missing brother. We all assumed he died because we, today, couldn’t find hide nor hair of him.

Well, guess what – he’s not missing anymore. His descendants didn’t know where he came from, and we didn’t know where he went. It’s almost impossible to connect someone backward in time if you don’t have any geographic link at all.

AutoClusters ARE genetic links, from either end.

No Registration Required

You don’t need to sign up in advance. Just set a reminder and show up at the proper date and time. There’s enough “seating” for everyone, and no wait either. Can’t join us on May 24th at 2 PM EST? Don’t worry. MyHeritage records the sessions and you can watch them later.

Upload DNA Files Now!

I’m giving you this early heads-up so that you have time to upload your DNA file to MyHeritage, and the DNA of your close relatives whose tests you manage (with permission of course), if you haven’t yet done so. If you upload now, you’ll have access to all of the tools before the session.

Here’s what you need to do.

  1. Download your DNA file from either Ancestry, 23andMe, or FamilyTreeDNA. Step-by-step instructions for downloading your DNA file from each vendor can be found here.
  2. Upload your DNA file to MyHeritage. Step-by-step instructions for uploading to MyHeritage are found here.
  3. Upload or create a tree at MyHeritage or connect your relative’s DNA to their profile card in your existing tree.
  4. If you already have a fully paid data and records subscription plan at MyHeritage, you will receive all of the advanced tools, for free – including AutoClusters. You can try a free subscription if you don’t already have one, here.
  5. If you don’t have a data and records subscription plan, you’ll need to pay the $29 unlock for the advanced DNA tools, including AutoClusters, which is less expensive and quicker than testing again.

If you have close relatives who have tested elsewhere, you might want to ask them to transfer to MyHeritage as well. If they aren’t personally interested but will download their file, you can upload it and manage their DNA from your MyHeritage account.

You’ll find tools and matches at MyHeritage not available in other databases. MyHeritage is very popular in Europe. I’ve found some of my closest Dutch and German matches at MyHeritage, including in clusters.

Which is, of course, another reason to watch “Turning AutoClusters into Solutions at MyHeritage!”

Hope to see you there!

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Mother’s Day is Hard – 52 Ancestors #331

Mom at age 18.

Ok, I’m just going to admit it. Mother’s Day is hard for me. Really hard.

Wish I could just sleep all day and wake up on Monday after it’s all over hard.

And to be clear, my difficulty with this day has absolutely NOTHING to do with my children. Thankfully, they remember me and always do something nice.

My son and family gave me Dahlias for my garden, always a favorite, last weekend and I’ll see my daughter and her husband on Sunday.

I do really look forward to seeing my family, but underneath the smile I wear that day, the tears are brimming at the surface.

And when no one is looking, they spill over.

My family will never know, because I won’t tell them or say anything, to anyone. I try desperately to hide this, to conceal my tears until I am alone. I’m good at this, having perfected it for years now. I really don’t want anyone to ask, “What’s wrong?,” because, truthfully, I’d sound like an idiot saying “Mother’s Day.” And then, they would just feel bad too, and I certainly don’t want that, especially since they are going out of their way to make me happy on mother’s special day.

But that’s just it. It’s my mother’s special day too, and she isn’t where I can reach her.

Recently, however, more than one person has confided in me how difficult Mother’s Day is for them. And I suddenly realized – I’m not alone.

I have such conflicted, polar opposite, bittersweet feelings about Mother’s Day and I’ve felt like that was “wrong.” That I was somehow being ungrateful for my wonderful kids and my incredible mother.

In reality, it’s something else entirely.

If you’re one of my kindred spirits, you’ll understand immediately, and if you’re not, perhaps this will help you understand that beneath the smiles of mothers on Mother’s Day resides a grieving daughter.

Grief is always, always, intertwined with love.

Tied Up with Other Things

For me, Mother’s Day is tied up with other things too.

My Mom had a stroke in mid-April the year she died. I won’t go into detail, but the two weeks it took her to pass over were utter living hell.

I was called at work that morning – the call everyone dreads. I left immediately but was facing a significant drive.

When I arrived a few hours later, Mom had slipped into a coma. I had quickly packed a suitcase before leaving. I knew, from what my sister-in-law had told me that the situation was critical and I’d be staying.

When I arrived in Indiana, the trees were just beginning to bud and bloom.

Mom finally passed away on the last day of April, and we buried her a few days later.

The cherry trees, dogwoods, redbuds, and other flowering trees fully unfolded and bloomed in their full glory. They were stunningly beautiful those two weeks I stayed in Mom’s apartment, visiting the hospital every waking hour, holding her hand, talking to her, and waiting for her transition.

At least there was some beauty there during that extremely difficult time. I needed that nourishment for my soul. Thank God for my daughter who took time off work to come and be with me, at least for part of the time.

The day Mom passed away was cold, dark, stormy, and grey. It felt good to let the cold rain soak through my clothes into my skin, seep into my shoes and run across my face, mingling with my tears that wouldn’t stop. Part grief, part relief that it was finally over.

Rain, the crystalline tears of angels, watering the earth. Sustenance, bringing about life and beauty, even in the midst of death.

To everything, there is a season.

The day we buried Mom was a beautiful spring day. She was finally, finally at rest.

I remember waking up the morning of her funeral and realizing as I made my way out of sleep-fog what day it was. What a horrible sense of dread. I just needed to get through it – to somehow just place one foot in front of the other and survive that day. 

Coming home after the service, a few hundred miles further north, the trees were just beginning to bloom there.

It was kind of like Mom followed along because she knew I’d need beauty and as much comfort as I could find in the following days.

Stunning blossoming trees will forever be equated, in my mind, with Mom’s final springtime journey to meet our ancestors.

On Mother’s Day, that year, I rented a U-Haul, finished cleaning out Mom’s apartment,  closed the door for the last time, and brought my share of her things home.

Worst Mother’s Day ever.

At home, my daughter helped unload the truck. Had to be a miserable day for her too. At least we had each other, but we don’t talk about it.

It wasn’t until I lost my own mother that I understood my mother.

Looking Back

Mom lost her mother, suddenly, when she was 37, and then her father when she was 39. She had already been divorced, not by her own choosing, her fiancé killed in WWII, and then my father…well that’s another story entirely.

Let’s just say Mom’s life had been filled with heartache and tragedy. There she was, alone, without either parent, or a husband, raising me as a single Mom in a time when women just didn’t do such things, all before her 40th birthday. Her birthday, which happened between Christmas and New Year’s must have been miserable that year.

The deck was stacked against her in every conceivable way possible.

By all reckoning, Mom should not have “made it,” but she did. Not because of other people, for the most part, but in spite of everything.

That’s the woman who raised me. A tower of inspiration – but I just knew her as Mom. I never saw that until I was older and wiser. And maybe, just maybe, I began to see her in myself.

The Grieving Daughter

I never realized or understood that my mother was a grieving daughter.

How could I have missed this, you might wonder. Well, I wonder that too. Just like me, she never let on. Never told me how much those “days,” like Mother’s Day, her mother’s birthday, and her mother’s death day bothered her.

She kept it to herself…until one fateful day.

I could still just kick myself.

I don’t remember when this happened exactly, but Mom was in her 70s. As many other people do, I gauge when things occur by which house they happened in, or who was around at the time.

But first, before I tell you what happened, let’s step a bit further back in time for perspective, into the late 1980s and early 1900s.

Genealogy Adventures

Original bar in the former Kirsch house in the 1980s.

Mom, my daughter, and I spent many years traveling about during our genealogy adventures.

Mom wasn’t a genealogist, but she loved to go along and bask in the essence of the places where her ancestors lived. We talked about what our ancestors did in those locations, their lives, livelihood, and challenges.

Of course, it was the genealogy research and information that were the foundation of those stories, plus a few oral history tidbits passed down along the way.

Sometimes the information we unearthed was much juicier than the “official” stories.

Mom always gave everyone the benefit of the doubt. “Everyone is human,” she would say. Like when we discovered that her grandfather had neglected to get divorced from his first wife until after he married her grandmother, or that her great-grandfather had a none-too-complimentary story in his past too.

Kirsch House building about 2005.

Mom and I scouted out our ancestor’s homes and gravestones.

Mom visiting her great-grandparents, Jacob Kirsch and Barbara Drechsel in Riverview Cemetery, Aurora, Indiana.

We found their churches, and often baptismal and other dusty church records in leather-bound creaky books as well.

Mom in front of the Presbyterian Church in Rushville, Indiana.

We visited them all, on multi-generational trips that included my daughter, then in grade school. She didn’t enjoy those trips nearly as much as Mom and me, but she was always a good sport. I’d wager she feels differently about those trips now that she’s an adult and her grandmother has passed on.

Mom reflected in the window at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Aurora, Indiana.

Pictured here, reflected in the church window, Mom always wanted to go inside and pray where her ancestors worshiped. She knew that most of the important events in their lives took place in the church. Baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and funerals. Churches represented family and community.

Even today, I can see Mom sitting in the front pew in the silent, vacant Lutheran church in Aurora, Indiana, alone, head bowed, with the light streaming in through the stained-glass windows, splashed across her shoulders.

I didn’t cry at the time, but I surely do remembering it today.

Yes, Mother’s Day is hard.

I miss her.

Later Years

In Mom’s later years, after Dad died, she no longer went along on genealogy adventures. Truthfully, my life changed dramatically about that same time, and I no longer traveled either. I’m certainly glad we made those trips when we had the opportunity.

After Dad’s death, Mom’s focus was on her missionary work within the church, and her Avon route which was her way of visiting people, many shut-ins, and ministering to the needs of people who didn’t realize that’s what she was doing. Truth be told, that WAS her quietly-delivered mission.

Those “customers” thought she was coming to bring them an Avon book and see if they needed any Avon products. No one ever thought to ask why she returned again and again, like clockwork every other week, even when the answer was consistently no. Mom knew that most of those people could afford little.

Sometimes they would order something small. There’s no way Mom ever made any money driving to obtain the order and deliver the order on a 69-cent tube of Avon-brand chapstick. Not to mention she always gave those customers the “sale” price and a hefty discount. I saw her books after her death. Mom never made any money on Avon – period. In fact, she lost money every year. But making money wasn’t at all her purpose.

Mom always carried the same tan canvas bag, for years. The sides and handles were cracked and worn from the thousands of times she carried that bag with an Avon book and whatever she was delivering from her car into that particular house that day.

In reality, while she was the “Avon Lady,” Mom was bringing far more, including companionship and or perhaps the weekly tape recording of the church sermon for those who couldn’t attend. When the little country church didn’t have a recorder, she bought one, and tapes too. Then she bought tape players to leave with the people she visited so they could listen to those recorded sermons. All of that was from “the church” of course. I’m not sure anyone but me ever knew. The only reason I knew is because I had to teach her how to duplicate the tapes – one recorder and tape for each household. 😊

That canvas bag might also hold a dish she had cooked, sometimes frozen lunches for the week, groceries, medicine, clothes or whatever she thought they needed or could use. Mom always seemed to have “extra” of everything that she needed to get rid of, or at least that was her story to them.

She was checking on her “customers” without them having to feel awkward, asking if they needed anything picked up “on the way,” and notifying their family if something seemed “off.” She called each customer at least once every week, on the week she didn’t visit – and sometimes more often.

She knew about their families, illnesses, medical conditions, woes, and their joys too. She knew everyone’s child’s name, grandchildren, and every pet on the place, past, and present. She grieved with them when someone died and celebrated happy events. She was constantly attending funerals, weddings, and baby showers, often giving people rides

She was literally on the road or calling people every single day, in all weather, regardless of what else was happening.

Mom was responsible for saving more than one life.

And I can’t even guess how many animals she saved over the years.

Mom no longer had time to “waste” on genealogy. That would be left to me at some future date.

I realize now that Mom knew this was her “last chapter,” and she chose to write it as a legacy of service – until she literally physically could not continue anymore, at age 83.

Mom’s Avon career, after retiring as a bookkeeper, lasted a quarter-century and longer than any of us thought possible. Through a broken back, broken ribs, and pelvis broken in 3 places – in three separate accidents. The last time, she tripped over a picnic table and fell at an Avon picnic. Her biggest concern wasn’t her own health, but what her customers would do without her, and who would look after them. We didn’t think she would recover – but she did AND was back on the road in just a few weeks. Everyone, including the physicians, was dumbstruck.

She was nearly unstoppable and exceeded everyone’s expectations.

One of Mom’s customers took this picture of her final delivery at their house on her last day as an “Avon Lady,” less than a year before she crossed over. They gave it to me at her funeral.

Mom’s “retirement party,” while a celebration to many, was a bittersweet day indeed for her. She was oh-so-grateful, but she was also incredibly sad.

I was the one who sat with her in the car as she cried. She wiped her tears, freshened her Avon makeup (of course), put on Avon lipstick, stiffened her now-stooped back, and told me, “Alright, let’s go inside.”

No one ever knew how much she dreaded the next chapter.

Her Avon customers, family, and church friends honored her with a reception, a dinner, and incredibly thoughtful gifts.

Mom knew her life was changing, and she didn’t much care for the direction. She was also moving an hour away, close to my brother and his wife, as she was becoming increasingly frail and needed assistance. Her memory was also failing. We discovered later that she was having small strokes.

I had hoped Mom would come and live with me, but she was independent to the end and wanted to stay within driving distance of her home church and the people she had come to love so much.

Thankfully, I went home more often in those last few years and helped her as much as I could. At least, as much as she’d let me. Lord have Mercy, that tiny snip of a woman was stubborn!

It was during this time that I came to realize what had been happening her whole life.

The Obituary

When I drove home for the weekend, I often took my latest genealogy documents and finds along to share with her. We had long ago sifted through everything she had.

It was also during this time that she tested her DNA and I was able to share those results with her as well. Of course, compared to what we know today, those results back then seem quite primitive – but nonetheless, she was enthralled. In fact, Mom told me in her last few months that I should “do that,” meaning make DNA understandable and meaningful to people.

At the time, I dismissed her advice as a “mother thing.” Mothers have to say nice things about their kids, right?

During one of those trips, I took a folder I found at home holding several things that I think my great-aunt, my grandmother’s last living sibling, had sent me a few years earlier when she realized I was interested in genealogy.

Among those items, as Mom and I sorted them, was a newspaper clipping of her mother’s obituary.

I still remember that exchange so clearly, sitting at her kitchen table.

“Mom, look, there’s a picture of your parents in the choir on the church float.” I wondered if she had ever seen that before.

“And look here,” I continued, “it’s your Mom’s obituary.”

I had never seen my grandmother’s obituary before and had kind of assumed that because they lived in a tiny town, there wasn’t one. I never thought to ask, because surely, Mom would have saved a copy if there was one to be had. She certainly saved any variety of other things interleafed in the pages of the family Bible.

Mom was sitting across from me at the table and looked up.

I saw the tears well up in her eyes, before she even glanced at the papers I had spread across the table.

Then she reached for the yellowed obituary.

Like a dolt, I blurted out, “I’m so sorry, Mom. I didn’t realize that would upset you. I’m sure you’ve seen this before and I would have thought you would have been OK with this now.”

How could I have been so tone-deaf?

I didn’t mean it the way it came out, but exit my mouth it did.

What she said to me was a gift though and helps me so much today.

“Honey, you never get over your mother’s death. It’s never OK.”

She knew that one day, I would learn that first hand. So did I.

It’s Never OK

I didn’t expect her to “get over” her mother’s death, but she surely had seen that obituary before, right? And it couldn’t have taken her by surprise. It didn’t occur to me in that moment that maybe there was a reason WHY I had never seen that obituary. Why she didn’t have a copy.

I was truly mystified at her immediate reaction, going from pleasantly chatting and looking at photos to tears in about 3 seconds flat.

I asked, “I realize that Mom, but doesn’t it get easier with time?”

“No,” she said, “it doesn’t. Sometimes, in fact, it gets harder.”

My heart ached for her.

“Like when, Mom?”

“Like her birthday, and Christmas when no one is looking, especially late on Christmas Eve evening after everyone else goes to bed, and her death day. And on Mother’s Day.”

I had never really thought much about those, although I was certainly grieving my Dad’s death. It was fresher though, and her mother had passed away 40ish years before. It never occurred to me that it was still so raw for her.

But then again, I had never lost my mother. I had no point of reference.

Then I suddenly realized, all those years I had been making a big deal about Mother’s Day, she was silently grieving. She smiled at me as I gave her gifts, brought flowers, and did nice things, but wept when I wasn’t looking.

She was my mother, but she was also always the daughter whose mother was gone.

Mom, being held by her mother.

She stilled missed and grieved for her mother.

I hope my presence made Mother’s Day at least somewhat easier for her – although I did have to send flowers a few years when I couldn’t visit in person. Now I desperately wish I had. I know my brother and his family didn’t.

The church always had a Mother’s Day luncheon, but she came home to an empty house after Dad was gone if I wasn’t there.

Somehow though, her grief at her mother’s absence was disconnected from me – and from anything that I could have done. She simply grieved her mother at that same level – forever.

Grief is the price we pay for love. Love with no place left to go. No mother to go and see on Mother’s Day.

The greater the grief, the deeper the love.

After Mom’s Death

When my stepfather died in 1994, the man I loved as Dad, I planted a memorial tree for him – something that would go on living.

When I later moved to a new place, I planted a weeping pine tree for Dad there too. I also transplanted some of his ferns I had dug from the old farm place to plant in my new garden.

I love Dad’s ferns. They are happy here and have done quite well – peeking out already this spring.

Now, I’m digging those ferns for my kids so they’ll have some too. Pass the love on, and the ferns too.

I fully intended to plant a tree for Mom, but that simply didn’t happen, at least not intentionally. But something else did.

And it’s perfect.

The Little Tree That Could

Planting my perennial garden and the landscaping in my new home took a long time – in part because I did it myself to spread the cost and work across multiple years. Mom passed away while that was in progress.

A friend of mine worked at a plant store/nursery. They threw plants out that were dying and they couldn’t sell. They didn’t care if she took them home, so she sometimes salvaged something for me. Most of those did die, but some did not, and let’s just say I had a huge canvas to paint. I might have been a little over-exuberant in terms of the landscaping. 😊

One day, I came home to find this truly pathetic little tree leaning against the side of a too-big pot with only a little dirt sitting in my driveway. It was about 2 feet tall and consisted of about 2 branches and a few scraggly leaves. A Charlie Brown tree if there ever was one.

At the nursery, the tree’s original pot had fallen over, the dirt knocked away from the roots, and the roots dried out. In the garden community, this is known as “bare-rooting” and generally, once the plant’s bare roots are dry, the plant dies. Especially a tree.

So, this little tree was thrown on the trash heap, nearly dead. It was hopeless so no point in wasting time trying to save something that would die anyway. Even if it lived, it couldn’t be sold because it would be deformed and ugly. Trash heap.

Except, my friend noticed that a few leaves on a couple of branches were still alive and green a few days later, so she put the little tree into a pot, watered it with some fish water from the coy pond, and brought it over to me.

We agreed that it probably wouldn’t make it, and if it did, it was likely not to be very attractive, so I planted it on the perimeter of the property. If it died there, no problem. It was in the wildlife greenbelt area anyway.

I don’t remember exactly when this occurred, but it was about the time Mom passed away, maybe even that year. I did not, at that time, associate it with her passing.

Time Passes

That little tree survived. The next year, it had maybe two or three branches with a couple of blooms. I had forgotten about it, truthfully, and had no idea what kind of tree it was. It turned out to be some kind of crabapple, maybe.

The following year, it grew a little more.

The tree struggled and survived, reconstituted itself, then became beautiful, I couldn’t help but think of Mother each spring as it joyfully sprang to life – exactly when I was feeling blue.

A few years later, it was, amazingly, 3 or 4 feet tall and began to fill out. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for rescued anything, and this little tree was no exception. It had survived despite the odds.

Now, I would be crushed if my little tree died.

It blooms every spring when I need it most, as I pass the anniversary of my mother’s death and head into Mother’s Day.

Every year, the tree is a little larger and more beautiful.

Today

This is the 15th Mother’s Day that Mom’s been gone.

As I took my walk around the yard today, the little forlorn, forgotten, abandoned tree on the trash pile has blossomed stunningly. Don’t you think? Just like Mom did.

Other “landscape quality” trees in my yard have come and gone, but not this one. It’s a survivor, having grown substantially taller than me. It’s maybe 20 feet tall now, about half at tall as the pine growing behind it.

The little tree that could, and did, in spite of everything.

Mom’s legacy. This tree reminds me of her. In fact, it has come to represent her triumphs.

Mom’s tree.

Full Circle

Earlier today, I picked up two care quilts from my friend, Pam, who quilts the care quilts that I make.

Mom accompanies me on this journey.

She is with me in the late nights while I make the quilts. They are delivered for quilting in her now-repurposed Avon bag. Of course, Mom’s bag stays with Pam while she quilts the quilts. Then, Pam returns them to me in Mom’s bag, ready to be finished and sent to the intended recipient.

It’s a small thing, but Mom is with me and her legacy lives on in every care quilt.

Today, I took Mom’s bag and one of those care quilts with a somewhat helix-shaped fabric outside for a walk around the yard, to visit her tree. As Mother’s Day approaches and I move through my personal challenge of mid-April to mid-May, I seek beauty, solace, and peace outside.

God is in the garden and Mom is in the tree, the quilt, and the bag. Actually, Mom is in me too.

It just seemed appropriate, with Mom’s tree and Mom’s bag and the quilts that Mom’s legacy has inspired in multiple ways to take this picture to honor Mom on Mother’s Day.

The Message

I’ve really been struggling this spring, approaching Mother’s Day. A number of things have converged to make the situation more difficult than normal, including this past pandemic year and 7 Covid deaths in my family. That’s not counting my husband’s best friend, other friends and acquaintances, and their families. Yea, it’s been a rough year.

As I was trying to decide whether or not to actually publish this article, I found something remarkable. My husband had just removed an old TV to be recycled from an area that we haven’t used as a family room in more than 15 years.

As I walked back inside, I noticed something bright and yellow laying on the floor. I bent over to pick it up.

I have absolutely no idea where this came from. We never, ever had Christmas in that room or even in this house with Mom. Also, there is no tape on this tag, nor is it bent. It’s pristine and was never used.

Regardless, this little gift tag became unearthed from wherever it was and fell to the floor where I couldn’t help but find it. A message from Mom – in her own shaky handwriting.

I need more Kleenex.

Gratitude

I’m very grateful for so many things in addition to this Angel gift tag. Ironically, this little tag is a HUGE gift itself.

I’m incredibly grateful for Mom’s fortitude and her perseverance.

My God, that woman was strong.

I wrote about Mom this year on the day she passed over and posted it on my Facebook feed, although there are only a handful of people left who knew her. Maybe I was actually talking to myself, or her.

Mom has been gone 15 years today. How is that even possible?

Thinking about Mom, I realize that she instilled what I consider to be her good qualities in me, by example. I’m not sure, at all, that others or society considered them to be her good qualities.

She quietly swam upstream, trying at the same time not to get swamped or drown. She danced as a career, bought and owned her own home, raised a child as a single Mom, and in a quiet way, told society with their biased, restrictive norms about what women could and should do/not do to go to hell. Except, she wouldn’t have said Hell because it wasn’t ladylike.

She knew she really couldn’t rock the boat too much or she wouldn’t survive. Hence, her constant, and ironic, comment to me. “If you would just behave…”, which still makes me laugh.

No mom, I don’t, and won’t, and neither did you. Pushing the envelope is never comfortable.

Thanks, Mom, for your strength and bravery. Your example of quiet defiance. “And yet, she persisted.” I see you when I hear those words. Because you did, steadily, maybe in the hope that if you were quiet about it, you’d get less pushback. But you never stopped.

Guess what, Mom, you succeeded.

I miss you so much. You would be proud of the progress we have made. And we’re not done. Your legacy lives on.

It’s odd to be grateful to have loved so much as to grieve forever.

Love never dies. Neither does grief.

So, Mother’s Day is hard.

But in a very strange way, I wouldn’t want it not to be.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, and thank you, for everything.