2014 Top Genetic Genealogy Happenings – A Baker’s Dozen +1

It’s that time again, to look over the year that has just passed and take stock of what has happened in the genetic genealogy world.  I wrote a review in both 2012 and 2013 as well.  Looking back, these momentous happenings seem quite “old hat” now.  For example, both www.GedMatch.com and www.DNAGedcom.com, once new, have become indispensable tools that we take for granted.  Please keep in mind that both of these tools (as well as others in the Tools section, below) depend on contributions, although GedMatch now has a tier 1 subscription offering for $10 per month as well.

So what was the big news in 2014?

Beyond the Tipping Point

Genetic genealogy has gone over the tipping point.  Genetic genealogy is now, unquestionably, mainstream and lots of people are taking part.  From the best I can figure, there are now approaching or have surpassed three million tests or test records, although certainly some of those are duplicates.

  • 500,000+ at 23andMe
  • 700,000+ at Ancestry
  • 700,000+ at Genographic

The organizations above represent “one-test” companies.  Family Tree DNA provides various kinds of genetic genealogy tests to the community and they have over 380,000 individuals with more than 700,000 test records.

In addition to the above mentioned mainstream firms, there are other companies that provide niche testing, often in addition to Family Tree DNA Y results.

In addition, there is what I would refer to as a secondary market for testing as well which certainly attracts people who are not necessarily genetic genealogists but who happen across their corporate information and decide the test looks interesting.  There is no way of knowing how many of those tests exist.

Additionally, there is still the Sorenson data base with Y and mtDNA tests which reportedly exceeded their 100,000 goal.

Spencer Wells spoke about the “viral spread threshold” in his talk in Houston at the International Genetic Genealogy Conference in October and terms 2013 as the year of infection.  I would certainly agree.

spencer near term

Autosomal Now the New Normal

Another change in the landscape is that now, autosomal DNA has become the “normal” test.  The big attraction to autosomal testing is that anyone can play and you get lots of matches.  Earlier in the year, one of my cousins was very disappointed in her brother’s Y DNA test because he only had a few matches, and couldn’t understand why anyone would test the Y instead of autosomal where you get lots and lots of matches.  Of course, she didn’t understand the difference in the tests or the goals of the tests – but I think as more and more people enter the playground – percentagewise – fewer and fewer do understand the differences.

Case in point is that someone contacted me about DNA and genealogy.  I asked them which tests they had taken and where and their answer was “the regular one.”  With a little more probing, I discovered that they took Ancestry’s autosomal test and had no clue there were any other types of tests available, what they could tell him about his ancestors or genetic history or that there were other vendors and pools to swim in as well.

A few years ago, we not only had to explain about DNA tests, but why the Y and mtDNA is important.  Today, we’ve come full circle in a sense – because now we don’t have to explain about DNA testing for genealogy in general but we still have to explain about those “unknown” tests, the Y and mtDNA.  One person recently asked me, “oh, are those new?”

Ancient DNA

This year has seen many ancient DNA specimens analyzed and sequenced at the full genomic level.

The year began with a paper titled, “When Populations Collide” which revealed that contemporary Europeans carry between 1-4% of Neanderthal DNA most often associated with hair and skin color, or keratin.  Africans, on the other hand, carry none or very little Neanderthal DNA.


A month later, a monumental paper was published that detailed the results of sequencing a 12,500 Clovis child, subsequently named Anzick or referred to as the Anzick Clovis child, in Montana.  That child is closely related to Native American people of today.


In June, another paper emerged where the authors had analyzed 8000 year old bones from the Fertile Crescent that shed light on the Neolithic area before the expansion from the Fertile Crescent into Europe.  These would be the farmers that assimilated with or replaced the hunter-gatherers already living in Europe.


Svante Paabo is the scientist who first sequenced the Neanderthal genome.  Here is a neanderthal mangreat interview and speech.  This man is so interesting.  If you have not read his book, “Neanderthal Man, In Search of Lost Genomes,” I strongly recommend it.


In the fall, yet another paper was released that contained extremely interesting information about the peopling and migration of humans across Europe and Asia.  This was just before Michael Hammer’s presentation at the Family Tree DNA conference, so I covered the paper along with Michael’s information about European ancestral populations in one article.  The take away messages from this are two-fold.  First, there was a previously undefined “ghost population” called Ancient North Eurasian (ANE) that is found in the northern portion of Asia that contributed to both Asian populations, including those that would become the Native Americans and European populations as well.  Secondarily, the people we thought were in Europe early may not have been, based on the ancient DNA remains we have to date.  Of course, that may change when more ancient DNA is fully sequenced which seems to be happening at an ever-increasing rate.


Lazaridis tree

Ancient DNA Available for Citizen Scientists

If I were to give a Citizen Scientist of the Year award, this year’s award would go unquestionably to Felix Chandrakumar for his work with the ancient genome files and making them accessible to the genetic genealogy world.  Felix obtained the full genome files from the scientists involved in full genome analysis of ancient remains, reduced the files to the SNPs utilized by the autosomal testing companies in the genetic genealogy community, and has made them available at GedMatch.


If this topic is of interest to you, I encourage you to visit his blog and read his many posts over the past several months.


The availability of these ancient results set off a sea of comparisons.  Many people with Native heritage matched Anzick’s file at some level, and many who are heavily Native American, particularly from Central and South America where there is less admixture match Anzick at what would statistically be considered within a genealogical timeframe.  Clearly, this isn’t possible, but it does speak to how endogamous populations affect DNA, even across thousands of years.


Because Anzick is matching so heavily with the Mexican, Central and South American populations, it gives us the opportunity to extract mitochondrial DNA haplogroups from the matches that either are or may be Native, if they have not been recorded before.


Needless to say, the matches of these ancient kits with contemporary people has left many people questioning how to interpret the results.  The answer is that we don’t really know yet, but there is a lot of study as well as speculation occurring.  In the citizen science community, this is how forward progress is made…eventually.



More ancient DNA samples for comparison:


A Siberian sample that also matches the Malta Child whose remains were analyzed in late 2013.


Felix has prepared a list of kits that he has processed, along with their GedMatch numbers and other relevant information, like gender, haplogroup(s), age and location of sample.


Furthermore, in a collaborative effort with Family Tree DNA, Felix formed an Ancient DNA project and uploaded the ancient autosomal files.  This is the first time that consumers can match with Ancient kits within the vendor’s data bases.


Recently, GedMatch added a composite Archaic DNA Match comparison tool where your kit number is compared against all of the ancient DNA kits available.  The output is a heat map showing which samples you match most closely.

gedmatch ancient heat map

Indeed, it has been a banner year for ancient DNA and making additional discoveries about DNA and our ancestors.  Thank you Felix.

Haplogroup Definition

That SNP tsunami that we discussed last year…well, it made landfall this year and it has been storming all year long…in a good way.  At least, ultimately, it will be a good thing.  If you asked the haplogroup administrators today about that, they would probably be too tired to answer – as they’ve been quite overwhelmed with results.

The Big Y testing has been fantastically successful.  This is not from a Family Tree DNA perspective, but from a genetic genealogy perspective.  Branches have been being added to and sawed off of the haplotree on a daily basis.  This forced the renaming of the haplogroups from the old traditional R1b1a2 to R-M269 in 2012.  While there was some whimpering then, it would be nothing like the outright wailing now that would be occurring as haplogroup named reached 20 or so digits.

Alice Fairhurst discussed the SNP tsunami at the DNA Conference in Houston in October and I’m sure that the pace hasn’t slowed any between now and then.  According to Alice, in early 2014, there were 4115 individual SNPs on the ISOGG Tree, and as of the conference, there were 14,238 SNPs, with the 2014 addition total at that time standing at 10,213.  That is over 1000 per month or about 35 per day, every day.

Yes, indeed, that is the definition of a tsunami.  Every one of those additions requires one of a number of volunteers, generally haplogroup project administrators to evaluate the various Big Y results, the SNPs and novel variants included, where they need to be inserted in the tree and if branches need to be rearranged.  In some cases, naming request for previously unknown SNPs also need to be submitted.  This is all done behind the scenes and it’s not trivial.

The project I’m closest to is the R1b L-21 project because my Estes males fall into that group.  We’ve tested several, and I’ll be writing an article as soon as the final test is back.

The tree has grown unbelievably in this past year just within the L21 group.  This project includes over 700 individuals who have taken the Big Y test and shared their results which has defined about 440 branches of the L21 tree.  Currently there are almost 800 kits available if you count the ones on order and the 20 or so from another vendor.

Here is the L21 tree in January of 2014

L21 Jan 2014 crop

Compare this with today’s tree, below.

L21 dec 2014

Michael Walsh, Richard Stevens, David Stedman need to be commended for their incredible work in the R-L21 project.  Other administrators are doing equivalent work in other haplogroup projects as well.  I big thank you to everyone.  We’d be lost without you!

One of the results of this onslaught of information is that there have been fewer and fewer academic papers about haplogroups in the past few years.  In essence, by the time a paper can make it through the peer review cycle and into publication, the data in the paper is often already outdated relative to the Y chromosome.  Recently a new paper was released about haplogroup C3*.  While the data is quite valid, the authors didn’t utilize the new SNP naming nomenclature.  Before writing about the topic, I had to translate into SNPese.  Fortunately, C3* has been relatively stable.


10th Annual International Conference on Genetic Genealogy

The Family Tree DNA International Conference on Genetic Genealogy for project administrators is always wonderful, but this year was special because it was the 10th annual.  And yes, it was my 10th year attending as well.  In all these years, I had never had a photo with both Max and Bennett.  Everyone is always so busy at the conferences.  Getting any 3 people, especially those two, in the same place at the same time takes something just short of a miracle.

roberta, max and bennett

Ten years ago, it was the first genetic genealogy conference ever held, and was the only place to obtain genetic genealogy education outside of the rootsweb genealogy DNA list, which is still in existence today.  Family Tree DNA always has a nice blend of sessions.  I always particularly appreciate the scientific sessions because those topics generally aren’t covered elsewhere.





Jennifer Zinck wrote great recaps of each session and the ISOGG meeting.




I thank Family Tree DNA for sponsoring all 10 conferences and continuing the tradition.  It’s really an amazing feat when you consider that 15 years ago, this industry didn’t exist at all and wouldn’t exist today if not for Max and Bennett.


Two educational venues offered classes for genetic genealogists and have made their presentations available either for free or very reasonably.  One of the problems with genetic genealogy is that the field is so fast moving that last year’s session, unless it’s the very basics, is probably out of date today.  That’s the good news and the bad news.



In addition, three books have been released in 2014.emily book

In January, Emily Aulicino released Genetic Genealogy, The Basics and Beyond.

richard hill book

In October, Richard Hill released “Guide to DNA Testing: How to Identify Ancestors, Confirm Relationships and Measure Ethnicity through DNA Testing.”

david dowell book

Most recently, David Dowell’s new book, NextGen Genealogy: The DNA Connection was released right after Thanksgiving.


Ancestor Reconstruction – Raising the Dead

This seems to be the year that genetic genealogists are beginning to reconstruct their ancestors (on paper, not in the flesh) based on the DNA that the ancestors passed on to various descendants.  Those segments are “gathered up” and reassembled in a virtual ancestor.

I utilized Kitty Cooper’s tool to do just that.


henry bolton probablyI know it doesn’t look like much yet but this is what I’ve been able to gather of Henry Bolton, my great-great-great-grandfather.

Kitty did it herself too.



Ancestry.com wrote a paper about the fact that they have figured out how to do this as well in a research environment.



GedMatch has created a tool called, appropriately, Lazarus that does the same thing, gathers up the DNA of your ancestor from their descendants and reassembles it into a DNA kit.

Blaine Bettinger has been working with and writing about his experiences with Lazarus.





Speaking of tools, we have some new tools that have been introduced this year as well.

Genome Mate is a desktop tool used to organize data collected by researching DNA comparsions and aids in identifying common ancestors.  I have not used this tool, but there are others who are quite satisfied.  It does require Microsoft Silverlight be installed on your desktop.

The Autosomal DNA Segment Analyzer is available through www.dnagedcom.com and is a tool that I have used and found very helpful.  It assists you by visually grouping your matches, by chromosome, and who you match in common with.

adsa cluster 1

Charting Companion from Progeny Software, another tool I use, allows you to colorize and print or create pdf files that includes X chromosome groupings.  This greatly facilitates seeing how the X is passed through your ancestors to you and your parents.

x fan

WikiTree is a free resource for genealogists to be able to sort through relationships involving pedigree charts.  In November, they announced Relationship Finder.

Probably the best example I can show of how WikiTree has utilized DNA is using the results of King Richard III.

wiki richard

By clicking on the DNA icon, you see the following:

wiki richard 2

And then Richard’s Y, mitochondrial and X chromosome paths.

wiki richard 3

Since Richard had no descendants, to see how descendants work, click on his mother, Cecily of York’s DNA descendants and you’re shown up to 10 generations.

wiki richard 4

While this isn’t terribly useful for Cecily of York who lived and died in the 1400s, it would be incredibly useful for finding mitochondrial descendants of my ancestor born in 1802 in Virginia.  I’d love to prove she is the daughter of a specific set of parents by comparing her DNA with that of a proven daughter of those parents!  Maybe I’ll see if I can find her parents at WikiTree.

Kitty Cooper’s blog talks about additional tools.  I have used Kitty’s Chromosome mapping tools as discussed in ancestor reconstruction.

Felix Chandrakumar has created a number of fun tools as well.  Take a look.  I have not used most of these tools, but there are several I’ll be playing with shortly.

Exits and Entrances

With very little fanfare, deCODEme discontinued their consumer testing and reminded people to download their date before year end.


I find this unfortunate because at one time, deCODEme seemed like a company full of promise for genetic genealogy.  They failed to take the rope and run.

On a sad note, Lucas Martin who founded DNA Tribes unexpectedly passed away in the fall.  DNA Tribes has been a long-time player in the ethnicity field of genetic genealogy.  I have often wondered if Lucas Martin was a pseudonym, as very little information about Lucas was available, even from Lucas himself.  Neither did I find an obituary.  Regardless, it’s sad to see someone with whom the community has worked for years pass away.  The website says that they expect to resume offering services in January 2015. I would be cautious about ordering until the structure of the new company is understood.


In the last month, a new offering has become available that may be trying to piggyback on the name and feel of DNA Tribes, but I’m very hesitant to provide a link until it can be determined if this is legitimate or bogus.  If it’s legitimate, I’ll be writing about it in the future.

However, the big news exit was Ancestry’s exit from the Y and mtDNA testing arena.  We suspected this would happen when they stopped selling kits, but we NEVER expected that they would destroy the existing data bases, especially since they maintain the Sorenson data base as part of their agreement when they obtained the Sorenson data.


The community is still hopeful that Ancestry may reverse that decision.

Ancestry – The Chromosome Browser War and DNA Circles

There has been an ongoing battle between Ancestry and the more seasoned or “hard-core” genetic genealogists for some time – actually for a long time.

The current and most long-standing issue is the lack of a chromosome browser, or any similar tools, that will allow genealogists to actually compare and confirm that their DNA match is genuine.  Ancestry maintains that we don’t need it, wouldn’t know how to use it, and that they have privacy concerns.

Other than their sessions and presentations, they had remained very quiet about this and not addressed it to the community as a whole, simply saying that they were building something better, a better mousetrap.

In the fall, Ancestry invited a small group of bloggers and educators to visit with them in an all-day meeting, which came to be called DNA Day.


In retrospect, I think that Ancestry perceived that they were going to have a huge public relations issue on their hands when they introduced their new feature called DNA Circles and in the process, people would lose approximately 80% of their current matches.  I think they were hopeful that if they could educate, or convince us, of the utility of their new phasing techniques and resulting DNA Circles feature that it would ease the pain of people’s loss in matches.

I am grateful that they reached out to the community.  Some very useful dialogue did occur between all participants.  However, to date, nothing more has happened nor have we received any additional updates after the release of Circles.

Time will tell.



DNA Circles 12-29-2014

DNA Circles, while interesting and somewhat useful, is certainly NOT a replacement for a chromosome browser, nor is it a better mousetrap.


In fact, the first thing you have to do when you find a DNA Circle that you have not verified utilizing raw data and/or chromosome browser tools from either 23andMe, Family Tree DNA or Gedmatch, is to talk your matches into transferring their DNA to Family Tree DNA or download to Gedmatch, or both.


I might add that the great irony of finding the Hickerson DNA Circle that led me to confirm that ancestry utilizing both Family Tree DNA and GedMatch is that today, when I checked at Ancestry, the Hickerson DNA Circle is no longer listed.  So, I guess I’ve been somehow pruned from the circle.  I wonder if that is the same as being voted off of the island.  So, word to the wise…check your circles often…they change and not always in the upwards direction.

The Seamy Side – Lies, Snake Oil Salesmen and Bullys

Unfortunately a seamy side, an underbelly that’s rather ugly has developed in and around the genetic genealogy industry.  I guess this was to be expected with the rapid acceptance and increasing popularity of DNA testing, but it’s still very unfortunate.

Some of this I expected, but I didn’t expect it to be so…well…blatant.

I don’t watch late night TV, but I’m sure there are now DNA diets and DNA dating and just about anything else that could be sold with the allure of DNA attached to the title.

I googled to see if this was true, and it is, although I’m not about to click on any of those links.

google dna dating

google dna diet

Unfortunately, within the ever-growing genetic genealogy community a rather large rift has developed over the past couple of years.  Obviously everyone can’t get along, but this goes beyond that.  When someone disagrees, a group actively “stalks” the person, trying to cost them their employment, saying hate filled and untrue things and even going so far as to create a Facebook page titled “Against<personname>.”  That page has now been removed, but the fact that a group in the community found it acceptable to create something like that, and their friends joined, is remarkable, to say the least.  That was accompanied by death threats.

Bullying behavior like this does not make others feel particularly safe in expressing their opinions either and is not conducive to free and open discussion. As one of the law enforcement officers said, relative to the events, “This is not about genealogy.  I don’t know what it is about, yet, probably money, but it’s not about genealogy.”

Another phenomenon is that DNA is now a hot topic and is obviously “selling.”  Just this week, this report was published, and it is, as best we can tell, entirely untrue.


There were several tip offs, like the city (Lanford) and county (Laurens County) is not in the state where it is attributed (it’s in SC not NC), and the name of the institution is incorrect (Johns Hopkins, not John Hopkins).  Additionally, if you google the name of the magazine, you’ll see that they specialize in tabloid “faux reporting.”  It also reads a lot like the King Richard genuine press release.


Earlier this year, there was a bogus institutional site created as well.

On one of the DNA forums that I frequent, people often post links to articles they find that are relevant to DNA.  There was an interesting article, which has now been removed, correlating DNA results with latitude and altitude.  I thought to myself, I’ve never heard of that…how interesting.   Here’s part of what the article said:

Researchers at Aberdeen College’s Havering Centre for Genetic Research have discovered an important connection between our DNA and where our ancestors used to live.

Tiny sequence variations in the human genome sometimes called Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) occur with varying frequency in our DNA.  These have been studied for decades to understand the major migrations of large human populations.  Now Aberdeen College’s Dr. Miko Laerton and a team of scientists have developed pioneering research that shows that these differences in our DNA also reveal a detailed map of where our own ancestors lived going back thousands of years.

Dr. Laerton explains:  “Certain DNA sequence variations have always been important signposts in our understanding of human evolution because their ages can be estimated.  We’ve known for years that they occur most frequently in certain regions [of DNA], and that some alleles are more common to certain geographic or ethnic groups, but we have never fully understood the underlying reasons.  What our team found is that the variations in an individual’s DNA correlate with the latitudes and altitudes where their ancestors were living at the time that those genetic variations occurred.  We’re still working towards a complete understanding, but the knowledge that sequence variations are connected to latitude and altitude is a huge breakthrough by itself because those are enough to pinpoint where our ancestors lived at critical moments in history.”

The story goes on, but at the bottom, the traditional link to the publication journal is found.

The full study by Dr. Laerton and her team was published in the September issue of the Journal of Genetic Science.

I thought to myself, that’s odd, I’ve never heard of any of these people or this journal, and then I clicked to find this.

Aberdeen College bogus site

About that time, Debbie Kennett, DNA watchdog of the UK, posted this:

April Fools Day appears to have arrived early! There is no such institution as Aberdeen College founded in 1394. The University of Aberdeen in Scotland was founded in 1495 and is divided into three colleges: http://www.abdn.ac.uk/about/colleges-schools-institutes/colleges-53.php

The picture on the masthead of the “Aberdeen College” website looks very much like a photo of Aberdeen University. This fake news item seems to be the only live page on the Aberdeen College website. If you click on any other links, including the link to the so-called “Journal of Genetic Science”, you get a message that the website is experienced “unusually high traffic”. There appears to be no such journal anyway.

We also realized that Dr. Laerton, reversed, is “not real.”

I still have no idea why someone would invest the time and effort into the fake website emulating the University of Aberdeen, but I’m absolutely positive that their motives were not beneficial to any of us.

What is the take-away of all of this?  Be aware, very aware, skeptical and vigilant.  Stick with the mainstream vendors unless you realize you’re experimenting.

King Richard

King Richard III

The much anticipated and long-awaited DNA results on the remains of King Richard III became available with a very unexpected twist.  While the science team feels that they have positively identified the remains as those of Richard, the Y DNA of Richard and another group of men supposed to have been descended from a common ancestor with Richard carry DNA that does not match.



Debbie Kennett wrote a great summary article.


More Alike than Different

One of the life lessons that genetic genealogy has held for me is that we are more closely related that we ever knew, to more people than we ever expected, and we are far more alike than different.  A recent paper recently published by 23andMe scientists documents that people’s ethnicity reflect the historic events that took place in the part of the country where their ancestors lived, such as slavery, the Trail of Tears and immigration from various worldwide locations.

23andMe European African map

From the 23andMe blog:

The study leverages samples of unprecedented size and precise estimates of ancestry to reveal the rate of ancestry mixing among American populations, and where it has occurred geographically:

  • All three groups – African Americans, European Americans and Latinos – have ancestry from Africa, Europe and the Americas.
  • Approximately 3.5 percent of European Americans have 1 percent or more African ancestry. Many of these European Americans who describe themselves as “white” may be unaware of their African ancestry since the African ancestor may be 5-10 generations in the past.
  • European Americans with African ancestry are found at much higher frequencies in southern states than in other parts of the US.

The ancestry proportions point to the different regional impacts of slavery, immigration, migration and colonization within the United States:

  • The highest levels of African ancestry among self-reported African Americans are found in southern states, especially South Carolina and Georgia.
  • One in every 20 African Americans carries Native American ancestry.
  • More than 14 percent of African Americans from Oklahoma carry at least 2 percent Native American ancestry, likely reflecting the Trail of Tears migration following the Indian Removal Act of 1830.
  • Among self-reported Latinos in the US, those from states in the southwest, especially from states bordering Mexico, have the highest levels of Native American ancestry.


23andMe provides a very nice summary of the graphics in the article at this link:


The academic article can be found here:



So what does 2015 hold? I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out. Hopefully, it holds more ancestors, whether discovered through plain old paper research, cousin DNA testing or virtually raised from the dead!

What would my wish list look like?

  • More ancient genomes sequenced, including ones from North and South America.
  • Ancestor reconstruction on a large scale.
  • The haplotree becoming fleshed out and stable.
  • Big Y sequencing combined with STR panels for enhanced genealogical research.
  • Improved ethnicity reporting.
  • Mitochondrial DNA search by ancestor for descendants who have tested.
  • More tools, always more tools….
  • More time to use the tools!

Here’s wishing you an ancestor filled 2015!



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Agnes Muncy (1803-after1880), A Grieved Mother, 52 Ancestors #52

Agnes Muncy was reportedly born on January 19, 1803 in Virginia, although I have not been able to confirm that date.  She was probably born in Lee County very near the border with Claiborne County,TN, probably on or near the Powell River, to Samuel Muncy and Anne “Nancy” Workman.

Agnes was married about 1819 or 1820 to Fairwix Claxton or Clarkson, probably in either Lee County, Virginia or Claiborne County, TN.  They lived in the part of Claiborne County that would become Hancock County in the mid-1840s.

Various members of the Muncy family owned land on the Lee County side of the Virginia/Tennessee border and many attended the Thompson Settlement Church in Lee County, Virginia where they would have met the residents living in the northern part of Claiborne County, Tennessee, living on the Powell River.  Church minutes begin in 1800, but the first Muncy’s joined in 1822. However, those records don’t include Agnes nor her husband.  Her parents records are found in church records beginning in 1833.  Agnes had to be living in the area in 1819 or 1820 in order to meet Fairwick.

Fairwix (Fairwick) Claxton and Agnes Muncy’s first child was born about 1820 with them having a total of 8 children that we are aware of.

  • James R., 1820-1845/50, unknown spouse, their 4 children living with Fairwick and Agnes in the 1850 census
  • Henry Avery, 1821-1864, married Nancy “Bessie” Manning, died in the Civil War
  • William “Billy,” born about 1822, died 1920, married Martha Walker, widow of Henry Claxton (son of James Lee Claxton and Sarah Cook,) married second to and Eliza J. Manning
  • Samuel, 1827-1876 married Elizabeth “Bettie” Speaks
  • Sarah “Sally,” 1829-1900 married Robert Shiflet
  • Nancy, 1831/33-before 1875 married John Wolfe
  • Rebecca, 1834-1923 married Calvin Wolfe
  • John, 1840-1863 never married, died in the Civil War

In the 1850 Hancock County, TN census, Fairwick and Agness are living with their 3 youngest children, their 4 grandchildren, the children of their deceased son James, and Agnes’s mother, Nancy Monsy, age 81, born in Virginia.  Their sons, William and Samuel live in adjacent homes, and Fairwick’s mother, Sarah Claxton, age 75, lives in the next house.  Truly a multi-generational family.

clarkson 1850 census

Amazingly enough, in the 1860 census, Nancy Muncy is still living with Fairwick and Agnes, now listed as age 99, and “feeble.”  Fairwick’s mother still lives next door as well.  This is a family with amazing longevity.

They all lived together on the land owned by Fairwick Claxton and his mother, Sarah Claxton, whose land adjoined Fairwick’s.

clarkson barnyard

The Rob Camp Church in Hancock County, TN was incorporated in 1845 from the mother church, Thompson Settlement, located across the border in Lee Co., VA, although there had been separate services in different locations for decades.

In October 185? – Agnes Clarkston was received into the congregation by letter, although it does not say what church the letter was from.  This means that she had already been baptized elsewhere and was a member in good standing.  Regardless of what church she had been attending, moving to Rob Camp made sense since it was located only a couple miles from where she and Fairwick lived – much closer than other churches that existed in that timeframe.  Her husband, Fairwick was received on February 17, 1851 by experience into the same church, which means he was baptized at that time.

According to the Rob Camp Church minutes, on the second Saturday of April, 1869, Rob Camp Church released the following people from their fellowship to form the Mount Zion Baptist Church.  On the third Saturday of May, the following list of brothers and sisters met to officially constitute the church which would be located on a parcel of land belonging to William Mannon.  Most of these people were related to each other in some fashion.

  • E.H. Clarkson (Fairwix’s nephew)
  • Mary Clarkson (Mary Martin, wife of E.H. Clarkson)
  • William Mannon
  • Elizabeth Mannon
  • Mary Muncy
  • Clarissa Hill
  • Sarah Shefley (Shiflet, daughter of Fairwick and Agnes)
  • Farwix Clarkson (husband to Agnes)
  • Agnes Clarkson (Agnes Muncy, wife to Fairwick)
  • Nancy Furry (Granddaughter of Fairwick and Agnes)
  • Elizabeth Clarkson (Elizabeth Speaks, wife to Samuel Clarkson, son of Fairwick and Agnes)
  • Margret Clarkson (granddaughter of Fairwick and Agnes through son Samuel)
  • William Bolton (son of Joseph Bolton)
  • James Bolton (son of Joseph Bolton)
  • John Grimes
  • Catherine Grimes
  • Joseph Bolton (this would be Joseph Preston Bolton Sr., the deacon whose son, Joseph “Dode” Bolton married Margret Clarkson)

One of the first things the new church did was to create a list of members and they all signed a very lengthy statement about the mission of the church.

Mt. Zion Church Covenants 1869 upon formation.

We the Baptist Church of Christ at Mount Zion, Hancock County, Tennessee being organized and constituting an independent body professing to believe and maintain the Christian faith of the general union to which we belong do covenant and agree to and with each other to live together in Christian love and fellowship endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bounds of peace and to submit ourselves to each other in church government to be ruled and guided by a gospel discipline according to the word of God and to contribute of our worldly goods when necessary to the decent support of the gospel and ordinances and to the relief of the poor and to attend our church meetings as often as providence may permit strictly adhering to the word of God and our rules of decorum, viz, our church meeting to begin and close with prayer.  A moderator and clerk to be chosen.  The clerk of our own body.  The moderator shall be at liberty to call on any other Brother to fill his place when necessary.  Every male member wishing to speak shall rise from his seat address the moderator and then speak strictly adhering to the subject matter under consideration d by ? means cast reflection on those who spoke before him.  No member of this church is permitted to address another member in any other appellation than of Brother neither is any member permitted to abruptly absent himself  in time of business without leave of the moderator.  When this church happens to be divided in sentiment on any matter of distress she shall be at liberty to call on any sister church or churches for help in testimony whereof we here unto set our names both males and females.

The Articles of Faith

  1. We believe in one only true and living God as He is revealed to us in the scripture viz: Father, Son and Holy Ghost
  2. We believe that the scripture of the old and new testament are the word of God and the only rule of all saving knowledge and obedience.
  3. We believe in the doctrine of election according to the foreknowledge of God the Father through sanctification of the spirit and belief of the truth.
  4. We believe in the doctrine of original sin.
  5. We believe in mans impotency to recover himself from the fallen state he is in by his own free will or ability.
  6. We believe that sinners are justified in the sight of God only by the imputed right of Jesus Christ.
  7. We believe that the electaccordin (sic) to the foreknowledge of God will be called connected regenerated and sanctified by the holy spirit.
  8. We believe the saints will persevere in grace and never finally fall away.
  9. We believe of a truth that God is no respecter of persons but in every nation he that fearith Him and worketh righteousness is accepted with Him.
  10. We believe in the revealed religion of Jesus Christ internally in the soul.
  11. We believe that Baptism and the Lords Supper are ordinances of Jesus Christ and that true believers are the only subjects of these ordinances and that the true mode of baptism is by immersion.
  12. We believe in the resurrection of the dead and a general judgement.
  13. We believe that the punishment of the wicked will be everlasting and that the joys of the righteous will be eternal.
  14. We believe that no minister has a right to the administration of the ordinances only such as are regularly called and comes under the impositions of hands by presbytery.

This Church shall be known by the name of Mount Zion – May 3, 1869

Constitution of Mount Zion Church Hancock County, TN of United Baptist.

  1. We do with mutual consent agree to embody ourselves together as a religious society to worship God and being a church congregation holding believers baptism by immersion our hole bodys once underwater. (sic)
  2. Final perseverance of the saints through grace and the resurrection of our bodys.
  3. Relieving the old and new testament to be the revealed will of God.
  4. Believing in a Christian Sabbath being a holy and heavenly institution.
  5. And not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some ??.
  6. And not expose the infirmities of our brethren to any without or within the community but in gospel order.
  7. And not neglect attending meetings.
  8. And not remove out of the bounds of the church without applying for a letter of dismission.
  9. To contribute of our worldly substance to decent support of church and ministry.
  10. Unto which with mutual consent and agreement we here unto set our hand.

Rules of Decorum

  1. Church shall be opened and closed with prayer.
  2. A moderator shall be chosen by the church.
  3. Only one member shall speak at a time who shall rise from his seat and address the moderator whit the appellation of Brother.
  4. The members thus speaking shall not be interrupted in his speech by any person except the moderator till he is done speaking.
  5. He shall strictly adhere to the subject and in no wise cast reflections on those who spoke before him so as to make remarkes on his margins? or imperfections but shall fully state he case and mater so as to convey his lite or meaning.
  6. No member shall abruptly brake off or absent himself from the church without liberty obtained.
  7. No member shall speak more than 3 times on one subject without liberty obtained from the church.
  8. No member shall have liberty of laughing or whispering in time of public worship.
  9. Members of the church shall address each other with the appellation Brother.
  10. The moderator shall not interrupt any one while speaking till he gives his views except he violates these rules of decorum.
  11. The names of the several members of this church shall be enrolled by the clerk
  12. The moderator shall be entitled to the liberty of speaking as other members provided his station be filed and he shall have no vote unless the church be equally divided.
  13. Any member knowingly and willingly shall brake any of the rules shall reproved by the church as she may think proper.
  14. This church shall be ruled a majority except in receiving and dismissing members which shall be unanimous so as not to infringe on the principles of the union.
  15. The church shall be at liberty to alter any article in these rules of decorum when two thirds of the members shall think proper.

This page is followed by an undated membership list that includes the following family names.

  • E. H. Clarkson, deacon.
  • Farwix Clarkson, deceased
  • Joseph B. Bolton
  • William Moncy, excluded
  • Solomon Mancy
  • Jane Bolton, dismissed
  • Margret (sic) Bolton, dismissed
  • Mary Clarkson
  • Nancy Furry
  • Margret Clarkson
  • Agness Clarkson
  • Elizabeth Clarkson

Another list includes:

  • Mary Clarkson, deceased
  • Margret Bolton, deceased
  • Agness Clarkson, deceased
  • Elizabeth Clarkson, dismissed

This tells us that Agnes died as a church member, so did not transfer her membership elsewhere.

According to later depositions, Agnes’s husband, Fairwick, became ill about 1867 and languished for 7 years before passing away on Wednesday morning, February 11, 1874, with Agnes at his side. It had been a brutal decade for Agnes, and it wasn’t going to get better.

After Fairwick’s death, a chancery suit was filed by his son, William, against Fairwick’s estate.  That suit managed to make its way to the Tennessee Supreme Court, which is the only reason we have those records today, including depositions.  The entire case is transcribed in the story of Fairwick’s life, but within that case, we hear Agnes’s voice in her deposition.  This is the only personal remnant of Agnes, other than the DNA that her descendants carry.

Deposition of Agnes Clarkson

July 15, 1876 – Wm Clarkson vs Samuel Clarkson et al – In the Chancery Court of Sneedville, Hancock Co., Tenn – Deposition of Agnes Clarkson, Nancy Ferry others with Nancy Snavely.

Taken by agreement on the 15th day of July at the house of Agnes Clarkson in the ?? and their attorney before H. F. Coleman a Justice of the Peace for Hancock County to be read as evidence on the trial of said case and behalf of the defendants.

The said witness Agnes Clarkson aged 74 years being duly sworn deposes as follows:

Question 1st by defendant.  What relationship are you to the parties of this said and are you the widow of Fairwic Clarkson dec’d?

Ans – I am the mother of William & Samuel Clarkson and the widow of Farwix Clarkson.

Question 2 by defendant – Were you with your late husband Fairwix Clarkson during his last sickness and up to the time of his death?

Ans – I was.

By same – What was the condition of his mind during his last sickness was he cognizant of his business and of sane and disposing mind?

Ans – He seemed like he was.  I never saw him out of his mind but one time a little and that was from the effect of medicine and that was but a few minutes.  His sister came in during the time and he knew her.

By same – Was the time you speak of being a little out of mind before or after the execution of (page 2) the deed by Fairwix Clarkson decd to defendants for the lands in controversy in this case?

Ans – It was before.

By same – Did you hear the decd Fairwix Clarkson say any thing about the disposition he had made of the lands in dispute in this case as what he intended to make of said land and at what time did you hear him talk about the matter?

Ans – I have years ago heard him talk about what disposition he intended to make of it.

By same – Please state what he said before to the disposition of said lands.

Ans – He and my self were alone and he said he wanted his business wound up that he intended to make three deeds one to Samuel Clarkson, one to Rebecca Wolf and one to Nancy Ferry (was then). I asked him what he intended to do with his other children and he said he would do by them as they had done by him they had left him in a bad condition and he had nothing for them.  I persuaded him to leave some land for them and he said I need not talk to him for he would not.

By same – Did Fairwix Clarkson decd say any thing to you about the matter after the deed was made to the lands in controversy and if so state what he said?

Ans – He did, he said he had his business as he wanted it that he had left Rebecca a little home on the other side of well hollow next Rhonda Shifletts and Samuel the old home place below the road and Nancy the west side of the well hollow this was on Sunday morning after the deeds were made.

(page 3) Cross Examination by complainant – Question – State if you can the day of the week and the day of the month that Fairwix Clarkson died.

Ans – He died on Wednesday morning the 11th day of February I think.

By the same – State whether or not Fairwick Clarkson sold them the lands mentioned in the pleadings or give it to them.

Ans – He sold the land to them.

By the same – At what time did he sell the lands to them and what did pay him for the land?

Ans – I cannot tell at what time he sold the land. They paid him in various ways there was a right smart of money paid, but I do not know who paid the money now nor do I recollect any thing else they paid him in particular.  They made him a crop every year and paid him the rent on there own crop besides.

By the same – State if any one besides your self heard the conversation that Farewick Clarkson had to you about what disposition he had made of his lands after the execution of the deeds.

Ans – Clementine Clarkson came in when he was talking to me and I think she heard the conversation.

Agnes X Clarkson – Her mark

Agnes Clarkson did not know how to sign her name, so she was also likely unable to read.  In fact, the 1880 census confirms that and also tells us that Agnes’s granddaughter, Nancy, then age 42, can’t read or write either, but Nancy’s daughter, Ann, age 15, can both read and write.  Agnes lived just one house away from her daughter-in-law Elizabeth Claxton, widow of her son Samuel.

1880 Clarkson census

Fairwick and Agnes raised their grandchildren, the children of their eldest son, James, after his death.  Their granddaughter, Nancy, probably lived on the land with them their entire life, and in their house with them from the time she was about 10 years old when her parents died.  According to the depositions, Nancy cared for Fairwix in his last years of sickness and he rewarded her with a house of her own and land.  She married James Snavely during the lawsuit after Fairwick’s death.  In 1880, we find Agnes, Nancy’s grandmother who raised her, living with James Snavely and Nancy Clarkson Furry Snavely with her daughter from her first marriage to a Furry male.  The daughter is listed as Ann J. Snaveley and the daughter of James Snaveley, which is incorrect, according to both the earlier census and the depositions.  Agnes Claxton, age 80, born in Virginia is listed as his mother-in-law when in actuality she is James Snaveley’s grandmother-in-law, according to the depositions.  This census created a huge amount of confusion for researchers for decades.  Agnes is very likely still living on her original land, just with the granddaughter.

There is no 1890 census, and by 1900 Agnes is gone.

Although Agnes Muncy Clarkson’s grave is unmarked, it is assuredly in the Clarkson/Claxton family cemetery as she lived on that land with Fairwix her entire life, and Fairwix’s grave is marked in that cemetery.  In the photo below, Agnes grave is likely beside Fairwix, whose stone is pictured with the broken corner.  There are two fieldstones beside him, one on the left and one on the right.

Fairwix stone at barn

I’d love to know more about Agnes Muncy through her mitochondrial DNA which is passed from mothers to all of their children, but only passed on by daughters

Agnes and Fairwick only had two daughters that had daughters to pass their mitochondrial DNA on down the line.

Sally (or Sarah born in 1829, died 1900) married Robert Shiflet and their female children were:

  • Elizabeth (1858-1936) who married William Lundy and had 5 daughters
  • Catherine b 1863 married Pleasant Powell, children unknown
  • Rhoda (1865-1954) married John Martin Burchfield and had 5 daughters
  • Agnes b 1869 married Tom Smith and had 3 daughters

Rebecca (183401923) married Calvin Wolfe and their female children were:

  • Nancy (1860-1924) married a Marcum
  • June or Jane E. (probably Elizabeth) b 1864
  • Agnes b 1869
  • Sasha b 1873
  • Easter C. b 1877

If you are male or female and descend from the women listed above, through all females to the current generation and have tested your mitochondrial DNA, please let me know.  If not, I have a scholarship for you for mitochondrial DNA testing.

We can learn about Agnes deep history, before surnames, thought mitochondrial DNA.  DNA gives us more chapters in the lives of our ancestors.

In Summary

We know that Agnes was a religious woman, was a founder of a church, and withstood a lot of pain in her lifetime.

We know nothing about her childhood, but we do know that births of her children were spaced in a way that suggests she lost four young children.

By 1845, she had lost her adult son, James, and his wife, and was raising his four children.  Furthermore, two of those children died, at least one, William, in service during the Civil War, and the second, John about that same time.

In addition, Agnes lost two of her own sons during that war, John and Henry, plus her son-in-law, John Wolfe.  Her granddaughter that she raised, Nancy Claxton Furry lost her husband about this time as well, although we don’t know the specifics.  Nancy Furry came back to live with Agnes and Fairwick with her infant daughter.

By the time Agnes’s husband, Fairwick, died in 1874, their daughter Nancy Wolfe had passed away too.

With Fairwick’s death, Agnes, then 72, would have lost 4 children as youngsters and 4 of her 8 adult children as well.  The Civil War was brutal to this family and those who did not pass away were dramatically affected.

A descendant of William Clarkson’s wife, Martha Walker, tells us the following information that he found in a chancery suite involving Edward Walker, the person who raised Martha, but likely not her father:

“One of the uncollectible debts was a loan from Edward Walker’s estate to Bill Clarkson made by Henry Walker, Edward’s original administrator, who was at this point dead for about 15 years.  A statement was made that Bill had lost all of his money during the war, was dirt poor, and didn’t stand a chance of ever repaying the debt. It doesn’t really say how or why, but it does suggest that he was a desperate man by the time that he sued over his own father’s estate.”

As I read the depositions of the various people included in the chancery suit filed by William Clarkson against his siblings, I could virtually hear the pain for Agnes Muncy Claxton.  Of the 4 children she had left in this world, 2 of the 4, Sarah Shiflet and William Claxton, were filing suit and testifying against the other two, Samuel Claxton and Rebecca Wolfe, accusing them of unduly influencing her husband, Fairwick, while attempting to gain part of his estate.  This lawsuit drug on for at least 6 years, first being tried locally, then in the Supreme Court in Memphis.  We don’t know if Agnes died before it was resolved or not.

Furthermore, Agnes’s son Samuel would die in the midst of the suit from the after-effects of his service in the Civil War as well, leaving only one child living near her and the other two at a distance and estranged.

For a woman who bore at least 8 children and probably 12, who would ever think she would wind up with only one child, Rebecca, plus her widowed daughter-in-law and grandchildren next door.  I’m sure this was not the life she imagined nor had in mind as a young bride in 1819.

I hope this woman truly can rest in peace, because she certainly deserves it and peace was not something that rested with her family in her lifetime – either by virtue of the Civil War and its aftermath nor the resulting family dynamics.

It’s bad enough, tragic, when something external, like a war, tears your family apart, but it’s living hell to watch the remainder of your family self-destruct before your eyes.  To the best of my knowledge, the Claxton family members never reconciled during their lifetimes.



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The Fur Family – 52 Ancestors #51

I’ve been behind all week long.  My 52 Ancestors article for this week isn’t written and it’s Sunday, the day I always post my article.  It’s not even started, and here is why….

Me and Ellie

Her name is Ellie and she is about 11 weeks old.  I never intended to have Ellie, and truth told, I’m “only” babysitting.

My daughter rescued Ellie on Wednesday evening and brought her straight to my house so we could assess the situation.  My kids grew up rescuing animals.  For years we were volunteers for the local Humane Society and a foster home for literally hundreds of animals, one or two (or a litter) at a time.  And yes, it goes without saying that a few of the most needy stayed.  We had quite the group of misfits that we loved dearly.

When my former husband had a massive stroke in the 1990s, my volunteer and foster days ended.  By then, my kids had already spent their childhood on countless rescue runs and endless days and nights of bottle feeding orphaned animals.  So, the “damage” was done and, I’m proud to say, my daughter seems to be a chip off of the old block!

Then why doesn’t said daughter have the puppy?  Great question.  Said daughter and her husband had plans to visit husband’s family, out of town, for Christmas.  Said daughter could not board this puppy who had never seen a vet in her life, and therefore had no shots, and therefore, the puppy got to come and stay with Grandma.

Suffice it to say that babysitting an 11 or 12 week old puppy who has had no structure to her life is much like babysitting an 18 month old child.  They are fully mobile and into everything, except the child wears diapers and, hopefully, doesn’t chew the furniture.  Still, as puppies go, Ellie is pretty good and smart as a whip.

Case in point – she already has Grandma and Grandpa pretty well trained.

Ellie and toys

Grandpa bought her several toys and treats and Grandma made her a puppy quilt.  She loves to lay on things and thankfully, doesn’t chew those…only furniture.

Ellie and quilt

Now, Ellie had never had a toy before so she is an EXTREMELY happy puppy and is very quickly learning what is hers and what is not.

What kind of dog is Ellie?  We don’t know.

When we adopted our animals in the past, we never knew what they were – just mutts or “looked like” a Beagle.

Today, however, you can DNA test your dog to find out what kind they are.  Ellie is supposed to be a boxer mix – and she loved, and I mean LOVED her bath, so maybe some water dog like lab too.  She also has the webbed feet.

I checked into the dog DNA testing by Wisdom, and I discovered that the reviews of doggie DNA testing are pretty much all over the map, just like the ethnicity testing of people.  In fact, surprisingly similar.  I would only have done this out of curiosity anyway, because truthfully, it doesn’t matter what Ellie is…she is a puppy who was in need and that was all that mattered.

And given how many dog chew toys she has enjoyed these past several days, I’m thinking that $79 is better spent on chew toys than on a DNA test!

Those Who Came Before

The last of our herd of misfit dogs crossed over the rainbow bridge just over a year ago now.  While I certainly miss having a dog (or two or three) on one hand, on the other, I certainly don’t miss certain aspects…like accompanying the dog outside.  It’s winter and there is snow.

And, I might add, the cats….oh, the cats….they are requesting an attorney.  They aren’t frightened, just very very VERY unhappy right now.

Ellie, on the other hand, keeps taking her toys and offering them to the cats and play bowing, inviting them in dog language to play.  The cats are having NONE of that and are insulted at the very idea.

Having Ellie here for a few days has brought back such bittersweet memories.

In many cases, we are actually closer to our fur family than to our human family.  I mean, think about it, your dog loves you unconditionally.  You are their life.

I slept with my dogs and now, the cats – at least the ones who deign to grace us with their presence.  I don’t sleep with most of my family.

But then, our fur family leaves us, all too soon.  Even if they come to us as puppies or kittens, their life expectancy is much shorter than ours.  And they leave huge, HUGE, holes in our heart.  I’ve long said that if there aren’t pets in Heaven, I simply don’t want to go.

My first official pet wasn’t even mine.  My brother had a dog named Rex.  He was a mutt of sorts, a reverse looking Dalmation that was black with white spots.  Being a toddler, I just loved Rex, and let’s just say that Rex did not share the same level of enthusiasm for me.  Rex would immobilize me by sitting on me.

Rex and Me

Then there was Timmy.

Me and Timmy crop

Timmy was a Chihuahua that my father had rescued someplace.  Timmy went just about everyplace with him.  I loved Timmy and claimed him for my own of course.  My parents were no longer married by this time, as my father was a bit of a “womanizer,” to put it mildly.

One time, I remember, in the middle of the night, the phone rang, followed by a short conversation.  Mom got me out of bed and told me to get dressed.  Now this was a GREAT adventure – on a secret mission – in the middle of the night.

Off we went.  I’m sure my mother was trying to figure out what to say to me and how.

It seems that my father had gotten himself arrested for driving under the influence.  He had fallen off the wagon, again, and gotten caught.  My Mom was not enamored with my father at this point in her life, especially after she found out about his “other family”…so why…you’re wondering…did she get up in the middle of the night?

Timmy…she went to get Timmy.  Timmy, you see, was in jail too and the jail he was about to go too would likely have been a death sentence.

So, much to my father’s chagrin, Mom bailed Timmy out and left my Dad sitting there in all of his much-deserved misery.  And rest assured, my mother was NOT a happy camper.

My first official pet, when I was about 10 or so, was Freckles.  Freckles was a fantail goldfish with freckles.  I begged and begged my mother to allow me to have a pet, but she said it was unfair to leave a pet in the house all day by themselves when she worked and I was in school.  So, a goldfish it was.  I loved Freckles and changed his water in his bowl faithfully every Saturday morning.  Freckles even let me pet him with my finger when I fed him.

When Freckles died, I had a funeral and buried Freckles in the garden. I’m sure the neighbors thought surely I had lost my mind, on my knees in the garden, digging a hole and crying.  They probably “had a word” with my mother.

My mother had a boyfriend, or a “friend” as they were called then, whose mother died in about 1968 or 1969, in the fall.  By then I was 12 or 13.  After his mother passed away, the three of us went to her house in the country to begin going through her things.  When we arrived, a small white kitten appeared out of noplace, obviously thin and in need.  It was late fall, and very cold – near Christmas.

We found something in his mother’s house to feed the famished kitten.  I knew, we all knew, that if we drove away, it was a death sentence for this creature.   I picked her up, held her frail shivering body close for warmth, and looked at mother.  There were no words of request, but in my heart, I was ready to take my first stand against my mother if I had to.  I was not leaving without that kitten.  I simply couldn’t.  My mother looked at me and Snowball, sighed, and said, “I can’t fight both of you.”  I didn’t realize until later that my mother’s real concern was money – vet bills and such.  Mother certainly didn’t want to leave Snowball either.

Snowball 1970 crop

Snowball 1970 - 2 crop

Snowball, shortened to Snowy, was a cherished part of our family for the next 18 years or so.  Well we cherished her.  She was pretty disdainful of us – unless she needed someone to escape to when taken to the vet.  Then she suddenly knew us.

She survived being an indoor-outdoor cat, a move to the farm when my Mom married (a different friend) a few years later and being integrated into a family with a dog.

I was fully an adult when Snowy passed over the rainbow bridge.  I don’t think she ever liked me as much as she did that day when she was rescued.  Cats are like that!  But she was my special friend and I surely loved her.

In 1970, I lived overseas for awhile.  When I came home, I ran into the house to see Snowball.  She ran right over to me, rubbed around my legs three times, chirped hello…and then stalked off, mad that I had been gone in the first place.  And that was as good as it ever got!

Living on the farm, there was always a dog or cat that needed help of some sort.  In addition, Dad was always bringing some other kind of creature in need to the house too.  A pig, something.  We helped them all as best we could.

After I began my own family, I rescued another dog who had been dumped.  This one had been hit, either before or after.  I opened my car door to her on the side of the road and she jumped in. She was one of the best friends one could ever have.  She was extremely close to me.  I don’t think dogs ever forget a kindness.


And tolerant, unbelievable what that dog tolerated.  The night she unexpectedly died, I was crying so hard when I called my mother that she thought either my son or my husband had died and she was trying to figure out where she needed to go – hospital, house, morgue, etc.

Thanks to my step-Dad, I began rescuing creatures in need as a part of life.  I really didn’t think anything about it.

One time, I had somehow obtained a litter of kittens without a mother that had to be bottle fed.  I worked in town which was a half hour drive each way, so I couldn’t come home to feed them mid-day.  Dad did the best he could.  One day, for some reason, I came home early to walk into the kitchen to see my father’s huge gnarly hands holding a so-fragile kitten with its tiny bottle.  It would have been so much easier for him just to dispose of the kittens, but the man had a heart of gold and would never have done that unless they were suffering.  That scene is forever burned in my mind when I think of why I love that man.

Time moved on and so did I.  College years and grad school and moving across the country.  Cats move easily, thankfully, and adapt pretty well to just about anyplace where they have food and a litter box.  They might not be happy, but then cats would never admit they were happy anyway!

After grad school, I became involved with the local Humane Society as part of their rescue group and as a foster home as well for orphaned and injured animals.

We were blessed with so many creatures that graced our lives – some for a short while as we found them their forever home and some, forever.  We surely made a difference in their lives, but they made a difference in ours too.

I’d be remiss here if I didn’t mention two incredible Siamese cats that graced our lives, each living about 20 years and spanning about 40 years between them, and both taking care of all of the other creatures in need that we drug in over the years.  The older cat even took care of an orphan goat and puppies, although she thought they were FILTHY and needed constant cat scrubbing.

Casey Jones would capture and hide the orphans when they cried, as it upset her.  And they all cried.  We had to go and find where she had hidden them.  She would be frantically washing them and trying to feed them.  We simply were deficient surrogate cat mothers.  Casey helped quilt too.  Casey, rescued from the pound because she refused to use a filthy litter box, took care of the older cat when she was too old and feeble to take care of herself.  She won my heart right there.  Casey tried to comfort me when the older cat passed within days of my sister’s death.  I still miss Casey.

Casey Jones

In the 1990s, we wound up with 4 misfit dogs, 3 Beagles and a Dalmatian who thought she was a Beagle.  Each of these dogs came from a terrible situation and all of them were not adoptable for various reasons, so they became ours.  All 4 were obedience trained to both voice and hand signals, and believe it or not, I could take all 4 of them out in the yard, at once, off leash, and they were perfectly well behaved.  I know that is particularly difficult to believe, especially with Beagles.

Missy, the Dalmatian, went deaf with age but we never knew it until we realized that she was only responding to the hand signals.

While we think of these dogs as rescue dogs, they also contributed greatly to the family in so many ways.

I was home alone with the kids one time, and a man I didn’t know knocked on the front screen door.  It was summertime, and that door wasn’t locked.  I was right inside in the kitchen.  I heard Missy growl in the living room.  She was watching him intently.  She had never growled at anyone.  Then he tried to open the door.  I say tried, because that dog was up and at the door in split second, all teeth and fangs.  Suddenly, he was trying to push the door closed to protect himself from 50 pounds of snarling dog.  Not to be defeated, Missy then tried to go through the screen.  I yelled at him….”You’d better run because I don’t know how long I can hold this dog and she’ll kill you.”  He ran like the wind and we never saw him again.  The police told us that there was a “gang” of people doing “kitchen robberies” although I shudder to think what he would have done if he was willing to walk right in with me standing there.  My door was forever locked after that.  Missy certainly earned her home.  Missy would also smile on command and loved corn on the cob.  She was also the local volunteer Fire Department mascot in parades, riding in the fire truck.


In the 1990s, I unexpectedly became single again and never expected to remarry, or even date, for that matter.  Let’s just say it would take a special person to understand that no, I cannot drive by anything and not help it, among other things.  I had known Jim for years in a professional and then a friendship setting, but I never really expected anything more.  Jim became a regular visitor and then, one day I walked in to find this.  I knew this relationship had possibilities.

Jim and dogs

Of course, I couldn’t believe he just let Bagel the Beagle lay ON the coffee table….and we had to have a chat about that.  Bagel ruled whatever part of the house you let her rule.

Which of course, brings us to Bagel the Beagle.  Some of the fur family leaves their pawprints indelibly on our hearts and Bagel was one of my very special friends.  She was a stray at the pound and her days were up, literally.  The gal who worked at the pound called me, at work, and told me that she had a pregnant Beagle and either she was to be sold to the research buyer that day, or euthanized – both a death sentence.  She begged me to take her, telling me how sweet this dog was and that if she were to take her home herself, “my ole man will beat me.”  How could I say no?

I made her a deal.  I would take the dog, but I couldn’t leave work and she would have to drop her at the vet for me and pick up the adoption money at the vet.  Then I called my vet and asked them to give her the money for the dog.  It goes without saying I knew the vet very well.  I think there is a wing of their building named after me.

By the time I got to the vet, after work, I had a pregnant beagle who my daughter named Bagel because she was so very pregnant that she looked like a Beagle in a bagel.  Her name didn’t matter, because she was only a foster dog and would get a forever home after the puppies were born and weaned.  Right????


Bagel the Beagle became ours.  She gave birth that night, cuddled up with my daughter in her sleeping bag on the floor.  My daughter was “camping” by the dog’s bed so she could come and get me if the dog had her puppies.  By morning, it was all over.  Bagel crawled in my daughter’s sleeping bag, had half a dozen puppies and my daughter slept through the entire thing.

By the time Bagel’s puppies were weaned and adopted, she had woven herself into our family and our hearts.  Plus, she had bitten me over a disagreement over a piece of meat she pushed a chair to the counter to steal.  That made her unplaceable.  Extremely smart, but the Humane Society could not place a dog known to have bitten.  So, Bagel became ours.  Maybe she was even smarter than I gave her credit for.  She never bit me again or even tried to.

Bagel lived for nearly 20 years.  She outlived all of the dogs who joined the family after she did.  She was irascible and stubborn to a fault and chewed whatever she could get away with chewing – including a piece of needlework I was working on.  I told her she used one of her lives that day.

Bagel was my special friend who would honk the horn in the car if I went into the convenience store and was gone for more than 2 minutes.  She would go on vacation with us and would “point” to other creatures in need.  Solely because of Bagel, we rescued orphan baby birds, a seagull and yes, a skunk.

For a long time, she was terrified of men and of rough dirt roads, telling me she had probably been an ill-used and abused hunting dog.

If you were “hers,” she would defend you to the death. She did not want unknown men to approach me or my daughter, ever.  And she “explained” that to two different men with bad judgment.

Bagel survived cancer, twice.  Bagel comforted me upon the loss of my father, husband and sister.  She was my constant companion.

She was a master of stealing the hamburger patty out of the hamburger without touching the bun at all – especially in a moving car.  I can’t tell you how many meatless sandwiches I ate.  Bagel claimed she had NO idea what happened to that hamburger.

Bagel camped and hiked with us and loved to go to the ice cream store.  One time she managed to shut herself in the pantry for the day and ate bites of almost everything – and all of some things.  We found her in a food coma when we got home that day – and she still didn’t want to come out of the pantry.  She hid under the shelf.  She spent the rest of her life trying to get shut in the pantry again.

Most of all, she loved to go to see my mother on the farm.  The farm has SO MANY good smells and nasty rotten smelly things to roll in.

After my former husband’s stroke, he was in a rehab facility for about 6 months.  With proper permissions and vet paperwork, dogs were allowed to visit family members.  Bagel went along most everyday and she went room to room, visiting every person in his wing of the building.  She was the hit of the day and everyone looked forward to her daily rounds.  One day, she disappeared from my husband’s room, and she was taking herself on her rounds.  When someone was dismissed, she would sit in their room and cry.  If someone was having a bad day, she would crawl up with them to comfort them.  One time I found her in bed with a patient.

Bagel slept with me every night for 20 years, sometimes after a bath, if we had been visiting the farm, which is more than I can say for any human, at least so far.

Bagel lived to be old, quite old, more than 20, but still left us all too soon.


But you know, I think Bagel has a hand in this Ellie thing.  You see, Ellie reminds me a little of Bagel.  She came to us in a world of hurt, but is loving and irascible, chews everything, doesn’t listen worth a darn and makes a loving pain of herself.  Yep – I think Bagel’s pawprints are all over this.

You know, they may need us, but we need them too.  Our lives are so greatly enriched by our fur family.  The gaping holes in our heart when they leave us reflect the great depth of our love for them.

Yep, I can’t wait till Ellie gets here to visit today.  Merry Christmas!



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Attitude of Gratitude, Mud, Pigs and Sheep


This the time of year, the holidays, that makes us all wax sentimental.  Hopefully, it causes each of us to take a few minutes to think about what we are grateful for.

Sometimes gratitude came come from odd places.  In some instances, having to deal with its polar opposite, someone who is difficult, toxic or just plain hateful makes us realize just how lucky we are in the rest of our dealings with people.  The fact that we can recognize them as such, and get out of Dodge, is a blessing as well.  And sometimes, I’m just so thankful I’m not one of them….

That’s the old saying about how one can always serve as a bad example.

My husband always says that he’s grateful for those people because they make him look so good by comparison.  Now that’s a fine example of making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear!

Of course, then there are those wonderful people, like newly discovered cousin Bill Hickerson.  I’ve been very lucky to meet so many wonderful cousins over the years and genealogy, especially genetic genealogy gives us the opportunity to meet even more.

I’ve spent some time thinking about exactly what I’m grateful for this year.


When you start losing them you really start to appreciate them at a whole different level.  The more you lose, the more you appreciate the ones that are left.  Judy Russell wrote about this recently too.  It’s the holidays – so we can’t help but think about those we hold close in our hearts, whether they are on this side or the other side now.

I have no parents, aunts, uncles or siblings left, so I’ve adopted a brother, John.  Of course, this is my second brother John so now when I talk about John, or my brother John, everyone asks which brother John.  Makes for wonderfully interesting conversations!  I mean, how many people have two brothers with the same name?

It’s sometimes difficult to be the last one standing…so I guess that gets me elected as the family story-teller, the documenter.  They may be gone, but it’s up to me to make them immortal.  And, well, because they are there and I am here…I can tell any stories I want.  smiley

Chuckle.  Tee hee…

Family of Choice

These are the people not stuck with me genetically, but who hang around by choice.  Perhaps because I left the area where my family lived, and I had few and now have no living siblings, I’ve formed an adoptive family.  We function just like other families, except no bickering.  These people are extra special because they love me anyway!!!  And they think coming over and playing in the mud together is fun.

mud buddies

NewFound and ReFound Cousins

Cousins – I didn’t grow up with any.  We and they were scattered to the winds.  I’ve remet some over the years and become particularly close to several.  We’re still scattered to the winds, but e-mail and electronic communication makes it much easier to stay in touch on a much more regular basis.  Cheryl, my cousin on my Mom’s side went to Holland with me in the spring.

orange cousins crop2

Need I say more?  We had SO much fun.

Daryl, my cousin on my Dad’s side has been my travel companion for years.  She was the one trapped in the cemetery with me by the bull.  Here we are wading in the creek at Cumberland Gap that fed the land owned by the Dodsons, our common ancestral line.  It was a blistering hot day, but we had a great time together.

double trouble

A group of cousins went back to England in 2013 to visit the Speak Family homeland.  Here, we are together in the church where it all began…so to speak, pardon the pun.

Speak Family at St Mary Whalley

I love my cousins.  And no, I don’t mean I’m fond of them, I love them.  You know who you are!!!

Mary Lancashire

Mary and I in Lancashire in the churchyard where it all began for our ancestor.  The infamous Pendle Hill, a local landmark, is in the background.

I’ve had such lovely adventures with my cousins.  They have so enriched my life and I am so grateful for them….and for genealogy, or I would never have found them.

People who Share Freely

I’m incredibly grateful for people who do good work and share freely.  Ok, who do sourced, good work and share freely.

For example, there is one Acadian researcher whose tree on Rootsweb I use as the “consummate reference.”  She could refuse to share because it represents years of her hard work, and it undoubtedly does, but because she does share, it’s much more likely that there is good information being copy/pasted than bad.  She has literally saved me years of research that I probably couldn’t have done with the language barrier involved.

Furthermore, it frees the rest of us to contribute in some other way instead of retreading the ground she has already dug up.  Thank you Karen Theroit!

Another example – over the years I’ve been gifted with pictures of several ancestors that I didn’t have, nor even knew existed, among them Samuel Claxton in his Civil War uniform, Joseph “Dode” Bolton and John David Miller, shown below.  All thanks to previously unknown cousins willing to share.

john david miller familyMy way of doing the same is my 52 Ancestor series on my blog.  I’m grateful to Amy Johnson Crow for this wonderful idea which continues in 2015.

People Who DNA Test, Upload their Tree and Answer Queries

It makes life so very much easier when a family tree is attached to the DNA results.  Bless these people.

People Who Indulge Me and Agree to DNA Test

…even though they aren’t nearly as interested as I am.  Bless these people too. The cousins so often make THE difference in autosomal matching because we each carry different segments of our common ancestor – along with a few of the same segments, of course.

People who Give

….to others, unselfishly.  Some people “give” to be in the spotlight – these aren’t the people I’m talking about. I’m referring to people have been unsung, and often unthanked, volunteers for years.  I’ll list a few for whom I’m particularly grateful (in alpha order).

  • Alice Fairhurst – ISOGG Y Tree Coordinator, for 9 years as the tree has avalanched
  • Denny Brubaker who has compiled the Claiborne County Pioneer Project by indexing and entering into genealogy software over 108,000 individuals from the 1930 census and before who were documented to have lived in Claiborne County, TN
  • Paul Le Blanc – an Acadian Museum Living Legend, founder and moderator of the Acadian Rootsweb list, my cousin over 100 ways and always willing to help
  • David Powell – Estes Family Archivist and Historian – has compiled and maintains Estes family site for all descendants for nearly 15 years
  • John Olsen and Curtis Rogers, creators of www.GedMatch.com
  • Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist, who writes an wonderful blog with a posting every single day

There are many more of these humble, selfless people in the genealogy community.  Thank you one and all.  Genealogy heroes, they serve as the best kind of example and inspiration.

Kind, Caring People with Integrity

For every jerk that we see, and unfortunately, they do stand out due to their jerkyness, there is an anonymous person who is quietly doing something caring and lovely for another being.

These are the people who stop to help the helpless; rescue a box of puppies, to save an injured duck who has been hit, to move turtles off the road or pulling someone out of a burning house or car.  It’s acts like these that are the true measure of character and integrity.

Integrity is what you do when no one else is looking and when there is no possibility that the person or thing that you’re helping can ever return any type of favor.

Here’s a picture of someone who put their car in the ditch to miss the turtle in the road….and managed to save the turtle too.

jeep in swamp

I’m extremely proud to call this person…my daughter.

Here’s a picture my daughter’s rescue this week, now named Ellie, which was, of course, not the slightest bit convenient the week before Christmas.  It may be a bit of an inconvenience for us, but it’s life-saving and life-altering for Ellie.  And there is nothing in the world like the unconditional love of a puppy!  I mean, who else can get so happy to see you they piddle all over the floor.


I’m equally as grateful for the services that my son provides to citizens daily.


I’m especially proud of my children, of course, but I’m extremely grateful for all of the people who make the world a better place for others.

Collaborators and Peers

Genealogy and genetic genealogy has brought so many wonderful people into my life in the form of new cousins, collaborators and peers.  I can think of so many and more just keep popping into mind.

In genetic genealogy, we have to work collaboratively or we’ll get no-place fast.  It’s a  team sport.


Where would we be without our friends and peers who we can work with and bounce things off of from time to time?  I started to make a list, but the list goes on and on and I’m afraid I’ll forget someone.  I’m just so very thankful to have such a long list.

I am particularly grateful for my DNA project co-administrators as well as other project admins.  It’s wonderful to have co-conspirators:)  The more than 8000 DNA projects wouldn’t be able to function without the volunteers administrators, and projects are incredibly valuable to genealogists.

Visionaries Among Us – Citizen Scientists

I am so very grateful to be alive at the right time and in the right place to be able to participate in the birthing of new science – genetic genealogy.  There isn’t a day that passes without learning something wonderful and new.

The entire genetic genealogy industry, and it is an industry today, was founded on  regular people, citizen scientists, noticing something and pursuing that information.

Thankfully, no one was hateful, berating or condescending to those early pioneers because they had the audacity to speak up and push the edge of the envelope, or we surely would not have seen the advances in genetic genealogy that have occurred in the past 15 years.

Bennett remarks

It 1999, the idea of testing the Y chromosome of 2 men to see if they matched was what prompted Bennett Greenspan to contact Dr. Michael Hammer at the University of Arizona.  This entire industry was founded on that relationship.  Michael wasn’t initially thrilled, but had he adopted a negative attitude about or towards Bennett, there would be no genetic genealogy industry today.  Giant oaks from tiny seedlings grow.  I am forever grateful to both of these men.  Bennett is shown above at the 2013 Conference and Michael, below at the 2014, tenth annual, International Conference on Genetic Genealogy sponsored by Family Tree DNA.

hammer 2014

Many of today’s genetic genealogists won’t have known Leo Little, but he was the genetic genealogist who noticed something was “different” about a group of STR marker results in 2002, and was ultimately responsible for the research that lead to the discovery of a SNP that separated a particular branch of the Y tree.  Today, with advent of next generation testing, we find new branches every day, but without Leo Little’s contribution of finding that first L SNP, we wouldn’t have the Y SNP sub-industry.  Fittingly, the L SNPS are named in honor of Leo and that first SNP discovered at Family Tree DNA was, appropriately, L1.

I remember the discussions about 5 years ago in the citizen scientist community about haplogroup R1b perhaps not being present in Paleolithic Europe?  Well, this year, at the Family Tree DNA conference, Michael Hammer presented evidence to that effect based on analysis of ancient remains, shown above.

Remember the days when it was stated that autosomal DNA would never be utilized in genetic genealogy?  Many won’t remember those days, because it has been the power of autosomal testing that has brought the majority of the testers to the party.  The 5th anniversary of the introduction of the first commercial autosomal DNA test was celebrated this past month.

I’m grateful for these visionary people who were brave enough to question the status quo and peer beyond the horizon.  I hope the genetic genealogy community fosters an open and supportive scientific incubator environment where people feel they can safely come forward with their observations which may in fact turn out to be important discoveries.

Ability to do for Others

This means that I’m healthy enough to do for others, so every time I make one of the care quilts, write a blog posting or do something else, I’m always grateful for that opportunity.

hemming quilt

I believe we are all enhanced and uplifted by giving.  My ways of contributing are through my care quilts, my DNA blog, by Native Heritage Project blog at www.nativeheritageproject.com and my Victory Garden blog at www.victorygardendaybyday.com, inspired by my adopted brother John.

I’m very grateful for those who support my endeavors in all kinds of ways from hemming a quilt to encouragement in a rough patch or fixing dinner.  There is very little in life that we can accomplish alone and it’s much more rewarding with companions.


ying yangYing and yang.  The ying is that it’s so much easier to have a conversation today, in many ways, which allows us access to online records and near-immediate answers – not to mention keeping up with family on Facebook and talking around the world on Skype.

The yang of course is that there is misinformation and social media brings with it its own version of unpleasantness.  Prior to the last decade or so, immediate online group access, like Facebook, wasn’t available. It’s new to our generation and will simply be normal to the next.

Social media has opened up a world of opportunities, some positive, some negative.  The positive aspects are that it’s easy to join groups of people with like interests, be they genetic genealogy or a specific ancestor or something entirely different, like quilting.

The flip side is that people aren’t always nice online and sometimes say things in a terribly negative way they might never do in person, although with some of these folks, I’m not at all sure that would make any difference.

The illusion of space between that person and their intended victim make it convenient to have a very visible online war where people tend to “show themselves in public” as my father would have put it.

When I see this happening I have to wonder if they have any idea how badly behaved they appear to others.  It’s difficult sometimes to retain a level of professional and personal decorum under those circumstances, but that brings me to my last item of gratitude…something I NEVER thought I’d say.

Mamma, prepare to roll over in your grave!

My UpBringing

My parents were not easy on me, nor was I an easy child to raise…not by a long shot.    What might be perceived as tenacity, resilience and commitment today was sheer utter unrelenting mis-focused stubbornness as a teen.  I prefer to think of it as “strong woman training wheels.”  I’m sure my mother had other names for it, and probably for me as well.


However, not to be out-stubborned by me (genetic perhaps?), my mother continued, whether I wanted to hear the messages or not…to reinforce the lessons I needed to learn.  Today, as I see people behaving poorly, I hear my mother’s voice saying things like this:

“It’s not so much what you say but how you say it.”

OMG, I cannot tell you how MANY times I rolled my eyes at this one.  But, I got it.  I didn’t want to get it…but somehow it soaked in in spite of my complete and utter resistance.  She must have said this hundreds if not thousands of times – and I can still hear her voice saying it to this day.  In fact, now I want to say it to other people!

My mother had this saying written on a piece of paper and taped to the mirror that we all shared in the bathroom – for years.  I wanted to rip it down because when I most needed to read it, seeing it irritated me greatly.

Here’s another of her famous sayings.

 “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Did everyone’s mother say this?  I thought she was an idiot.

And this one.  Can you see my eyes rolling????

“You will never have to regret being a lady.”


A lady?  Really?  I mean, seriously???  I didn’t own a dress and lived in blue jeans.  But that really wasn’t what she meant.  I never understood that one at the time.  But I surely do now.  Bullying isn’t something new nor reserved for children and teens and neither is unbecoming behavior – and I see it regularly online and in the comments to my blog postings that don’t get approved.  You would not believe some of those.  I’ve even considered doing a humorous article utilizing those, but they are just too awful.

And here’s a last bit of wisdom from Mom, which I also didn’t comprehend at the time.

“When someone is hateful towards you, it says nothing about you and everything about them.  Same goes for you when you’re hateful.”

You know, she always had to add that little zinger clincher type of thing at the end that was equivalent to “if the shoe fits”….darn her anyway.

And then she would smugly follow up by saying something like…

“If that makes you mad, then you obviously needed to hear it.”


My Mom was pretty “in your face” with her messages, often delivering them by pointing and shaking her index finger at you as she lectured.  My brother was so tall that he got ordered to sit down before he got his lecture so she could shake her finger directly at him instead of up in his general direction. When he got told to “sit down,” he knew he was in a heap-o-trouble.  But he unfailingly sat!  I giggled.  Then I got to sit too.

My step-Dad was more laid back and charismatic.  I was more inclined to hear what he had to say, because it was often mixed with humor and much more subtle.

He had two saying that I’ve used over and over as an adult, and that in spite of their farm flavor, hold true everyplace.  I particularly love this first one.

“Never mud wrestle with a pig. 
You can’t win. 
You get muddy.
The pig likes it.
The spectators can’t tell the difference.”

Some days I think this is my personal mantra.

And lastly, I’ll leave you with this one, except my Dad’s rendition was a little more, ahem, colorful:)

“Don’t be part of the herd.  The only thing sheep see is the south end of the other sheep going north.  If you don’t want to see a bunch of sheep butts, get out in front of the herd.”

I am so very, very thankful that my parents never raised me to be a sheep.  I’m sure they wished many times they hadn’t been quite so successful and that I hadn’t pushed the edges of the envelope quite so hard.

And yes, being a sheep would be much easier, I’m sure….but I’ll never know.  Therein lies the blessing and the curse.

So to my Mom and step-Dad, who for some ungodly reason signed on willingly, for their persistence and perseverance in the face of a defiant and ungrateful teen…..thank you.  THANK YOU.  And ……just so you know, somehow, in spite of myself, I heard you and I get it!!!

And I am really, REALLY, grateful.



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Haplogroup C3* – Previously Believed East Asian Haplogroup is Proven Native American

In a paper just released, “Insights into the origin of rare haplogroup C3* Y chromosomes in South America from high-density autosomal SNP genotyping,” by Mezzavilla et al, research shows that haplogroup C3* (M217, P44, Z1453), previously believed to be exclusively East Asian, is indeed, Native American.

Subgroup C-P39 (formerly C3b) was previously proven to be Native and is found primarily in the eastern US and Canada although it was also reported among the Na-Dene in the 2004 paper by Zegura et all titled “High-resolution SNPs and microsatellite haplotypes point to a single recent entry of Native American Y chromosomes into the Americas.”

The discovery of C3* as Native is great news, as it more fully defines the indigenous American Y chromosome landscape.  It also is encouraging in that several mitochondrial haplogroups, including variants of M, have also been found in Central and South America, also not previously found in North America and also only previously found in Asia, Polynesia and even as far away as Madagascar.  They too had to come from someplace and desperately need additional research of this type.  There is a great deal that we don’t know today that remains to be discovered.  As in the past, what is thought to be fact doesn’t always hold water under the weight of new discoveries – so it’s never wise to drive a stake too far in the ground in the emerging world of genetics.  It’s likely to get moved!

You can view the Y DNA projects for C-M217 here, C-P39 here, and the main C project here.  Please note that on the latest version of the ISOGG tree, M217, P44 and Z1453 are now listed as C2, not C3.  Also note that I added the SNP names in this article.  The Mezzavilla paper references the earlier C3 type naming convention which I have used in discussing their article to avoid confusion.

In the Messavilla study, fourteen individuals from the Kichwa and Waorani populations of South America were discovered to carry haplogroup C3*.  Most of the individuals within these populations carry variants of expected haplogroup Q, with the balance of 26% of the Kichwa samples and 7.5% of the Waorani samples carrying C3*.  MRCA estimates between the groups are estimated to be between 5.0-6.2 KYA, or years before present.

Other than one C3* individual in Alaska, C3* is unknown in the rest of the Native world including all of North American and the balance of Central and South America, but is common and widespread in East Asia.

In the paper, the authors state that:

We set out to test whether or not the haplogroup C3* Y chromosomes found at a mean frequency of 17% in two Ecuadorian populations could have been introduced by migration from East Asia, where this haplogroup is common. We considered recent admixture in the last few generations and, based on an archaeological link between the middle Jōmon culture in Japan and the Valdivia culture in Ecuador, a specific example of ancient admixture between Japan and Ecuador 6 Kya.

In a paper, written by Estrada et all, titled “Possible Transpacific Contact on the Cost of Ecuador”, Estrada states that the earliest pottery-producing culture on the coast of Ecuador, the Valdivia culture, shows many striking similarities in decoration and vessel shape to pottery of eastern Asia. In Japan, resemblances are closest to the Middle Jomon period. Both early Valdivia and Middle Jomon are dated between 2000 and 3000 B.C. A transpacific contact from Asia to Ecuador during this time is postulated.

This of course, opens the door for Asian haplogroups not found elsewhere to be found in Ecuador.

The introduction of the Mezzabilla paper states:

The consensus view of the peopling of the Americas, incorporating archaeological, linguistic and genetic evidence, proposes colonization by a small founder population from Northeast Asia via Beringia 15–20 Kya (thousand years ago), followed by one or two additional migrations also via Alaska, contributing only to the gene pools of North Americans, and little subsequent migration into the Americas south of the Arctic Circle before the voyages from Europe initiated by Columbus in 1492.

In the most detailed genetic analysis thus far, for example, Reich and colleagues identified three sources of Native American ancestry: a ‘First American’ stream contributing to all Native populations, a second stream contributing only to Eskimo-Aleut-speaking Arctic populations, and a third stream contributing only to a Na-Dene-speaking North American population.

Nevertheless, there is strong evidence for additional long-distance contacts between the Americas and other continents between these initial migrations and 1492. Norse explorers reached North America around 1000 CE and established a short-lived colony, documented in the Vinland Sagas and supported by archaeological excavations. The sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) was domesticated in South America (probably Peru), but combined genetic and historical analyses demonstrate that it was transported from South America to Polynesia before 1000–1100 CE. Some inhabitants of Easter Island (Rapa Nui) carry HLA alleles characteristic of South America, most readily explained by gene flow after the colonization of the island around 1200 CE but before European contact in 1722. In Brazil, two nineteenth-century Botocudo skulls carrying the mtDNA Polynesian motif have been reported, and a Pre-Columbian date for entry of this motif into the Americas discussed, although a more recent date was considered more likely. Thus South America was in two-way contact with other continental regions in prehistoric times, but there is currently no unequivocal evidence for outside gene flow into South America between the initial colonization by the ‘First American’ stream and European contact.

The researchers originally felt that the drift concept, which means that the line was simply lost to time in other American locations outside of Ecuador, was not likely because the populations of North and Central America have in general experienced less drift and retained more diversity than those in South America.

The paper abstract states:

The colonization of Americas is thought to have occurred 15–20 thousand years ago (Kya), with little or no subsequent migration into South America until the European expansions beginning 0.5 Kya. Recently, however, haplogroup C3* Y chromosomes were discovered in two nearby Native American populations from Ecuador. Since this haplogroup is otherwise nearly absent from the Americas but is common in East Asia, and an archaeological link between Ecuador and Japan is known from 6 Kya, an additional migration 6 Kya was suggested.

Here, we have generated high-density autosomal SNP genotypes from the Ecuadorian populations and compared them with genotypes from East Asia and elsewhere to evaluate three hypotheses: a recent migration from Japan, a single pulse of migration from Japan 6 Kya, and no migration after the First Americans.

First, using forward-time simulations and an appropriate demographic model, we investigated our power to detect both ancient and recent gene flow at different levels. Second, we analyzed 207,321 single nucleotide polymorphisms from 16 Ecuadorian individuals, comparing them with populations from the HGDP panel using descriptive and formal tests for admixture. Our simulations revealed good power to detect recent admixture, and that ≥5% admixture 6 Kya ago could be detected.

However, in the experimental data we saw no evidence of gene flow from Japan to Ecuador. In summary, we can exclude recent migration and probably admixture 6 Kya as the source of the C3* Y chromosomes in Ecuador, and thus suggest that they represent a rare founding lineage lost by drift elsewhere.

This graphic from the paper, shows the three hypothesis that were being tested, with recent admixture being ruled out entirely, and admixture 6000 years ago most likely being ruled out as well by utilizing autosomal DNA.

Mezzavilla Map crop

The conclusions from the paper states that:

Three different hypotheses to explain the presence of C3* Y chromosomes in Ecuador but not elsewhere in the Americas were tested: recent admixture, ancient admixture ∼6 Kya, or entry as a founder haplogroup 15–20 Kya with subsequent loss by drift elsewhere. We can convincingly exclude the recent admixture model, and find no support for the ancient admixture scenario, although cannot completely exclude it. Overall, our analyses support the hypothesis that C3* Y chromosomes were present in the “First American” ancestral population, and have been lost by drift from most modern populations except the Ecuadorians.

It will be interesting as additional people are tested and more ancient DNA is discovered and processed to see what other haplogroups will be found in Native people and remains that were previously thought to be exclusively Asian, or perhaps even African or European.

This discovery also begs a different sort of question that will eventually need to be answered.  Clearly, we classify the descendants of people who arrived with the original Beringian and subsequent wave migrants as Native American, Indigenous American or First Nations.  However, how would we classify these individuals if they had arrived 6000 years ago, or 2000 years ago – still before Columbus or significant European or African admixture – but not with the first wave of Asian founders?  If found today in South Americans, could they be taken as evidence of Native American heritage?  Clearly, in this context, yes – as opposed to African or European.  Would they still be considered only Asian or both Asian and Native American in certain contexts – as is now the case for haplogroup C3* (M217)?  This scenario could easily and probably will happen with other haplogroups as well.



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52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Round Two


Last year, Amy Johnson Crow started the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge.  I was very pleased to hear that she is continuing the challenge, with an optional weekly theme (for inspiration, if you need it,) in 2015.

I decided to give it a try for 2014, and I’m surely glad that I did.  I know, I know…like I really needed something else to do…with a weekly (self-imposed) deadline no less.

And I’m actually astounded to say that I actually haven’t missed any.  And for the record, getting stories 37 and 38 reversed does not count as missing a week:)

I actually enjoyed this exercise a lot.


One of the things I’ve been desperately needing to do is to gather together and organize what I have on each ancestor.  I’m a 35 years (plus) genealogist.  That means I have every kind of record possible…from old letters and scrapbooks from the early 1900s to hand written family groups sheets that I painstakingly completed when I began in the 1970s to digital records received yesterday…and everything in between.  I have file drawers and boxes and files on two computers and a laptop.  I’ve moved several times and never fully unpacked.  You get the drift.

For every ancestor I’ve written about, I pulled out the files, got out the folders filed away, reviewed the records for the county involved, went through files on the computer and old e–mails that are filed by genealogy surname.  I’m amazed what I found.  Not only did I have things I didn’t realize I had, or had forgotten that I had (how is that possible?) but almost none of my holdings were organized by ancestor or family in timeline order.  Add to that the history of what was happening historically or just in that ancestor’s county during their lifetime, and you go from having the chalky outline of an ancestor with their name and a date or two to a real profile – a story about their life with meat on the bones.

Of course, because this is a DNA blog, I’ve tried to write every article with at least some useful reference to DNA and how DNA relates to that individual, without repeating myself.  That was the real challenge, but it forced me to really evaluate different aspects of DNA.  This made me focus on the DNA of that individual, whatever piece of it I had found, and what story it really had to tell. In several cases, I’ve made some amazing discoveries based on DNA evidence, some of which was probably there all along but I didn’t notice.  Some, of course, needed work, but that’s fine.  Work, I can do.

Plus, let me tell you a secret.

fish hookThose articles…..they are bait.  Yep, bait.  Ancestor bait.  Cousin bait.  And they work.

Lastly, I truly, firmly believe in sharing our knowledge.  I think it’s the best way to avoid those horribly wrong copy/paste trees that breed like rabbits overnight when you’re not looking.  If you write about it, and blog, it’s searchable via internet search…and findable without any subscription….and it’s a story all in one place…not pieces and parts attached to a tree without context or connecting threads.

Elizabeth Shown Mills, if you’re reading this…stop here!

While I know I’ve been naughty and not used exactly correct citations in proper format, you will notice that every one of my articles does provide the source, even if it’s simply my notes from 20 or 25 years ago that said the document was found in XYZ County Deed book H, page 432 or perhaps a conversation with Uncle George, or whatever.  I wish I had started out doing everything perfectly, but I didn’t.  If I was lucky, I wrote something down – because, generally, I just knew I’d remember.  I was a lot younger then and a bit naïve.  In fact, back then, I don’t think “perfect” and genealogical standards had even been defined.  If they had, it was news to me.  Besides that, I didn’t start out to do “genealogy,” I just wanted to find out something about my father’s side of the family.  I remember when someone said, “oh, you’re a genealogist” and I thought to myself, “I am?”

While a very big part of me wanted to wait until I had gone back and perfected my records, truthfully, I know that is never going to happen.  Nada.  Wish it were, but it isn’t.  In part, because I simply can’t go back and recreate what has happened over 35 years.  If I have to choose between researching new ground or retreading old ground…I’m going to choose the new…every time.  I have no idea how long I’m going to live, but assuredly not long enough to ever “finish” my genealogy – and I want to get as much done as possible.

So, I made the decision to do the best I can with what I have, make it accurate, and interesting, and sometimes, just state what needs yet to be done.  I can’t do it all…and it’s more important to share what I have than to share nothing because I was waiting for that elusive day, someday, to make it perfect.  Someday is not a day on the calendar….and many times, someday never arrives.

Future researchers can, and I hope, will, improve on what I have.  As new records become available, maybe they’ll add comments or I’ll update the articles.

I also discovered that I have a lot more than I realized…and I’m not nearly done with my ancestors at 52.  I have all of my ancestors identified to the 5th generation with the exception of one…and I’m closing in fast on her.  That’s 62 right there, without counting any of the lines I have much further back in time.

So, count me in for Amy’s 2015 Challenge – except I’ll have to label mine 52 Ancestors #53 or some such confusing thing.

If you started last year, I hope you’ll continue as well.

If not, it’s a brand new year.  Here’s the link to Amy’s 2015 article with the optional themes by week – to inspire you if you want to use them…but you don’t have to.

Here’s how it works….you write a story and post it on your blog, including the words “52 Ancestors” in the title.  Subscribe to Amy’s blog.  Every Thursday, more or less, Amy posts a “summary article” and you simply, in the comments, post the surname, article title and link to your blog article.  Here’s this week’s week 50 recap.

I encourage you to go back and scan the comments section of all of Amy’s 52 Ancestor’s blogs, because you may find articles about your ancestors.  I did – two of them – and I was very surprised.  More than I ever expected and wonderful articles too.  Maybe one week when I’m really running out of time, I’ll just link to those articles for my entry.  Yes, I know that’s cheating.

In case you didn’t know, you can get a free blog at WordPress.  I love my WordPress blogs.  Support, when I’ve needed them (seldom), has been wonderful and painless.

In fact, just in case you didn’t know it, I have more interests other than DNA and genealogy.  I know, heresy, pure heresy…

Here are my other public blogs:

Things That Are Pink and Shouldn’t Be (this was my try-my-wings blog)
Native Heritage Project
Victory Garden Day by Day (inspirational)

It’s easy to blog.  Just try it.  And write about your ancestors!!!

Just do it!



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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Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Baby Boy Hacht – Born July 1944 – Dead, or Kidnapped and Alive Today??

A baby boy who was never named was born in July 1944, in Detroit, Michigan.  The family believes that he was kidnapped and another dead baby substituted for Baby Boy Hacht.  While at first this sounds improbable, if not incredulous, it isn’t.

That child, if still living, would be 70 today.  So, if you or a male family member was born in the summer of 1944, in or near Detroit, please consider this possibility as you read this article.  It’s also possible that if the child was part of a black market baby ring, the birth location could have been falsified, so any birth in late July 1944 should be considered.

What Happened?

John James Hacht & Jean Marie Mlasko were married on November 18, 1942 in  Michigan.
hacht wedding

In 1943, Jean became pregnant, and in the heat of the summer in 1944, on July 29th, their first child, a boy was born at Grace Hospital, a Catholic hospital, in Detroit.

This date is very important, as is the fact that the hospital was Catholic as this story unfolds.

I met Patti Hacht, the sister of Baby Boy Hacht, in 2009.  We worked on this mystery for some time, but have hit a dead end.  Patti’s living brother tested at Family Tree DNA for the Y DNA and Patti has tested at Family Tree DNA, 23andMe and at Ancestry for autosomal DNA.

I’ve asked Patti to tell this story in her own words.

On 29 July 1944 a first child was born to my parents – a son who never received a name other than Baby Boy Hacht (BBH.) BBH was born at Grace Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. My mom fed him for several days and then one day “medical personnel” came in and told her that her baby had died.

BBH had not been ill, and my dad’s sister worked at Grace Hospital. These three family members never believed BBH died. They always believed he was “switched” with another baby, one that really had died.  My mother did not see the baby after death, but my father did, and he never believed the dead child was his child.

When I first heard of BBH, I was in my mid-late 40’s. I was driving in the car with my mother one day as we were driving by White Chapel Cemetery, about a year before she died, and she casually said, “That’s where our first baby is buried,” then added, “but we never believed our baby died.”  I almost drove off the freeway!

First baby?


Didn’t die??


It took me 3 years to find BBH at White Chapel.  As it turns out, he was not buried there.  He was cremated there, but his cremains were sent back to the funeral director.

Having been a family researcher for over 30 years, I went to the Detroit Vital Records Department to get a Death Certificate for BBH. As I walked away from the counter, reading this new document, I saw that BBH was listed as “stillborn.”


That was impossible.

You can’t feed a stillborn baby for “several days.”

BBH Death

So I went back to the counter, hoping to find out what was going on with this “wrong” Death Certificate. The clerk suggested we look for a Birth Record.

Ten minutes later, we had that record, and it too stated that BBH was “stillborn.”  I later discovered that a stillborn baby never received a birth certificate at that time, only a death certificate.  In 2003, Michigan began issuing Certificates of Stillbirth in addition to death certificates.

BBH birth

On closer inspection, it was clear that the Certificate of Death had been heavily altered. Someone had taken what appeared to be a thin Scripto pen (which had not even been invented yet in 1944) and “wrote over” what had originally been written on the document. The written over date was “29”, the year was “44” and the time was “9:57 a.m.”

Additionally, except for the signatures, all of the other information for BBH was typed, except for the birth date and death information…almost like the death certificate was being pre-prepared.

BBH modification

I noticed another odd detail – BBH had been cremated. This was unheard of in this timeframe and was expressly prohibited by the Catholic church.  Grace was a Catholic hospital.  My parents were actively Catholic.  All of their children attended Catholic school.  White Chapel Cemetery, where the cremation occurred told me that they would have only cremated “maybe one person” a year in 1944, and never a newborn baby.

However, his certificate clearly states that BBH was cremated.

For several years I tried to find the funeral home, J. P. Miller on Van Dyke in Detroit. Apparently my parents never picked up BBH’s cremains, apparently because they believed he had been buried, and I wondered if I might find viable DNA in them.

After about four years, I talked with someone at the funeral home. It had been sold a couple times, and the man I spoke with was retiring the very day I had called. He said that any cremains that might have remained in the building would have been destroyed as the building had been abandoned for several years and the roof had collapsed, so the inside of the building was exposed to the elements for many years.

I wondered why my Catholic family would have cremated their child and why they never picked up the cremains or had them buried.  It makes sense only in the context that my parents never believed the dead child was their son and they sent the child’s remains who were substituted for their own child’s to be handled in the least expensive way possible.  They likely had no idea that the child’s cremains weren’t buried and were returned to the funeral home.  They never visited the grave because they never believed their child died.  Unfortunately, by the time all of the details unfolded, my parents had passed away and couldn’t be asked.

This was also a very difficult time for the family for other reasons as well.  My father’s mother was terminal with cancer and would die a couple of months later.  This young couple had their hands full.

For several years the family pondered over those “write overs” in BBH’s Certificate of Death. In April of 2006 we hired Speckin Forensic Laboratory in Okemos, Michigan to conduct a forensic exam on BBH’s original Death Certificate – we wanted to know what had been “written over.” Getting to the exam had been a lengthy process. I was appointed BBH’s Personal Representative in Probate Court, and we had to obtain a court order for the State of Michigan to allow the forensic exam.

The forensic exam showed three chemical erasures – someone used some sort of chemical to first try to “erase” what had originally been written. Then they just wrote right over those chemical erasures. The original writings were: Day, 31 July. (This had been overwritten to read “29” July); Time, 10:00 a.m. (This had been overwritten to read “9:57 a.m.) So the date was changed from 31 July to 29 July and the time was changed from 10 a.m. to 9:57 a.m.  The exam also clearly showed that the “overwritten” information was written with a different ink that the original writing.

Death Day Death Time
Original Entry July 31 10 AM
Overwritten Entry July 29 9:57 AM

It was the opinion of the examiner (who was a retired Michigan State Police Officer) that the Certificate of Death was probably altered to “match” BBH’s Certificate of Birth. There probably was a baby that died and for whatever reason, and this baby probably died on 31 July. Then BBH was “substituted” for this deceased baby, and records were created that would make BBH’s Certificate of Birth and Certificate of Death “match.”  If his birth and death date and time didn’t match, by three minutes, then he wasn’t “stillborn.”

speckin 1

speckin 2

The Detroit Legal News at that time published all the births in Wayne County. The males and females each had their own column, and the name and address of the mother was listed, along with the date of her child’s birth. I have compiled a list of about 200 male births in all of Wayne County from 27 July through 31 July. I believe one of these mothers took BBH home from the hospital and raised him as her own. She may have never known BBH was not her biological child.

I have been trying for years to narrow this list of 200+ names to ONLY babies born at Grace Hospital. All attempts to accomplish this have proved unsuccessful.  Hospital records reportedly “burned” several years ago.

St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on Parson’s Street in Detroit would have been the Church that handled emergency baptisms for babies born at Grace Hospital – babies that became ill and needed to be baptized immediately. The baby baptized would have been one of those babies on my list of 200+ names from the Detroit Legal News. St. Patrick’s records do not have a baptism for BBH or any of the other names on my list. I do not know if you had to be Catholic to deliver a baby at Grace Hospital. Perhaps the baby that really died was not born to Catholic parents, so there would not be a record of a Catholic baptism?  A stillborn baby is not baptized either.

We don’t know WHY Baby Boy Hacht was substituted for a deceased baby. Were the dead baby’s parents from an elite Detroit area family? A member of the Mob? Was it someone that hospital personnel was afraid to inform that their baby had died?  Were hospital personnel negligent with someone else’s baby and decided to switch the dead baby for BBH, thinking these were young parents and they could just have another baby the next year? Did BBH become part of a black market baby ring?  Why was the death certificate backdated to say that BBH was stillborn instead of having died 2 days later?

Or was there perhaps a widow whose husband had just been killed in WWII who  delivered a stillborn baby and doctors determined to “fix” the situation for a new widow? This last idea was nixed – as in 1944, the thinking was more “stiff upper lip” and people did not necessarily treat the bereaved gently.  The thinking of the day was to “get on with your life”, and giving a recent widow someone else’s baby didn’t mesh with that way of thinking.


If something wasn’t being covered up, then why were the dates and time changed, and why was a child who had lived for 2 days listed as stillborn?

Let’s take a look at scenarios of different possibilities.

  • One Time Baby Swap – The baby of another patient died or was stillborn on the 31st and BBH was swapped for that child. If this is the case, then the swap was unplanned and the mother was likely from the area. BBH’s paperwork was altered to reflect that he was the stillborn child, on the 29th, not on the 31st as originally recorded on his death certificate.
  • BBH Died of Natural Causes – If BBH simply died, the hospital would have completed a death certificate and not gone to the trouble to falsify his death certificate, claiming a still birth to match his birth certificate time and date.
  • BBH Died of an Accident by Hospital Staff – Let’s say someone on the hospital staff accidentally dropped the baby and the baby died. This might get sticky and making the death a stillbirth, which was much more common, would avoid any questions.
  • BBH Died of an Accident by His Parents – Let’s say one of his parents accidentally dropped the baby at the hospital and he died. In this case, the hospital would certainly not have been complicit in a coverup and would not have falsified the death certificate, nor claimed that the child was stillborn. There would have been a death certificate that reflected the actual death date and cause, and not a stillbirth.
  • BBH Was Part of a Larger Baby Market Ring – In this case, the couple who raised BBH as their own would not have necessarily been from the Detroit area. Young and naïve parents would have been the best targets as they would be less likely to ask questions and/or make waves. This would also have required the involvement of at least one doctor (to sign death certificates) and more likely several medical personnel including nurses. However, this would have been much more effective if the child was simply spirited away at birth and the parents told the child was dead, not after the parents having handled the child for “several days.” Given that BBH’s paternal aunt worked at that hospital, if there was something of this nature, you would think that over the years she would have at least heard rumblings, especially given that the family, including her, believed that BBH had been swapped for a dead child.

Either the One Time Baby Swap or the Accidental Death by Hospital Staff make the most sense.  If the BBH was swapped, as his parents and family believed, then he may be alive today.

It’s very possible that the parents who raised BBH had no idea what happened, and therefore, neither does BBH himself.

Babies Born in Detroit

I asked Patti to provide the various documents involved, as well as the names of the other families who were listed as having given birth in the Detroit area in the surrounding days.

It’s most likely that the baby that died passed away on July 31st and that BBH’s death certificate was amended on July 31st, as the original writing stated, to reflect that he was stillborn on July 29th instead.  Although, I certainly have to wonder if the doctor who signed as the attending physician didn’t think that the parents would have noticed at the discrepancy – especially since the child had been attended by his parents for part of the 29th, the 30th and the 31st until he “died.”  At that time, however, one simply did not question someone like a doctor.

Perhaps the amendment was actually done after the doctor signed the original death certificate, but that is unlikely, because a cause of death would have been completed by the doctor and there is no other cause of death listed other than stillborn, which was unquestionably not true.

In any event, this first list is the list of surnames of families whose children were born in Wayne County on July 31st.  The 31st is the most likely day for the baby who was stillborn to have been born since that is the original death certificate date on BBH’s death certificate.  There is no way to determine which of these babies were born at Grace Hospital.

Also, please keep in mind that this list is very likely incomplete – births of illegitimate children and children who died weren’t listed.  Others, such as famous or notorious people, may not have been listed either.  The hospital was very clearly in control of which births were submitted for publication, and which were not – and if there was something “funny” about the birth of BBH or the other child – or the parents were famous or infamous, that birth may not have been listed.  It’s also possible that the parents who wound up with BBH were not from Detroit.

  • Akin
  • Bailey
  • Bennett
  • Boytim
  • Brow
  • Bruce
  • Cappo
  • Craver
  • Davis
  • Dellamore
  • Dinneweth
  • Downes
  • DuBois
  • Elmasian
  • Faron
  • Fletcher
  • Flood
  • Gampel
  • Grandmaison
  • Harter
  • Hicks
  • Hill
  • Jones
  • Karas
  • Kekaha
  • Koblicz
  • Kraemer
  • Liss.
  • Mitchell
  • Nadolny
  • Pospeshil
  • Quiroz
  • Ready
  • Rotenberg
  • Rutzel
  • Shoemaker
  • Shoemaker
  • Smith
  • Stallings
  • Swartz
  • Thompson
  • William
  • Zimostrad

This second list includes the surnames of all of the babies born in Wayne County between July 27 and July 31, 1944 with the municipality as listed in the birth announcements in the newspaper.

7/30 Acker Detroit
7/30 Ackerman East Detroit
7/31 Akin Detroit
7/29 Anderson Detroit
7/29 Ash Detroit
7/31 Bailey Dearborn
7/27 Bartlett
7/28 Bawiee Detroit
7/27 Bazell Detroit
7/27 Beninati Detroit
7/31 Bennett Detroit
7/29 Bills Detroit
7/30 Blankenship Detroit
7/28 Bobo Detroit
7/27 Bombalski Detroit
7/30 Bond Detroit
7/28 Boorgois Gr. Pte Woods
7/28 Bourgeois Detroit
7/28 Bowman Detroit
7/29 Bowser Detroit
7/29 Boyce Detroit
7/29 Boyd Detroit
7/31 Boytim Centerline
7/29 Brantley Detroit
7/30 Brenner Detroit
7/27 Briggs Detroit
7/31 Brow Hazel Park
7/28 Brown Detroit
7/27 Brownlee Detroit
7/31 Bruce Detroit
7/30 Burchby Detroit
7/27 Burges Detroit
7/28 Burley Highland Park
7/30 Canfield Detroit
7/31 Cappo Dearborn
7/29 Carswell Detroit
7/27 Chobot Dearborn
7/28 Ciavone Detroit
7/27 Clifton Detroit
7/27 Coba Dearborn
7/29 Common Detroit
7/28 Cook Redford
7/27 Cooper Detroit
7/31 Craver Detroit
7/28 Crichton Detroit
7/29 Cromwell Grosse Pointe
7/27 Cummins Detroit
7/27 Davidson Detroit
7/28 Davio Detroit
7/31 Davis Detroit
7/31 Dellamore Detroit
7/28 Dennis Detroit
7/27 Deraedt Detroit
7/29 Dilda Detroit
7/31 Dinneweth Detroit
7/28 Donati Detroit
7/31 Downes Detroit
7/31 DuBois Detroit
7/27 Dunn Detroit
7/27 Earl Detroit
7/28 Ehrisman Detroit
7/28 Eldridge Ferndale
7/31 Elmasian Detroit
7/29 Engel Detroit
7/28 Ettinger Detroit
7/29 Fane Detroit
7/31 Faron Detroit
7/28 Fenstermacher Detroit
7/31 Fletcher Detroit
7/31 Flood Inkster
7/27 Fontana Detroit
7/29 Fung Yee Detroit
7/31 Gampel Detroit
7/29 Garrett Detroit
7/30 George Detroit
7/28 Glasnier Detroit
7/28 Gondos Detroit
7/31 Grandmaison Detroit
7/29 Greggie Birmingham
7/28 Griem Detroit
7/27 Gualdoni Detroit
7/30 Gunderson Detroit
7/29 Gurski Detroit
7/30 Hagerstrom Detroit
7/28 Harris Detroit
7/31 Harter Detroit
7/27 Haugh Detroit
7/27 Heiner Detroit
7/31 Hicks Detroit
7/28 Higgens Detroit
7/31 Hill North Carolina
7/30 Hillier Redford
7/27 Husak Detroit
7/28 Hussett Detroit
7/30 Ilby Plymouth
7/29 Jackson Detroit
7/30 Jackson Inkster
7/30 Jerimias Royal Oak
7/31 Jones Detroit
7/27 Jorden Detroit
7/30 Jozsa Detroit
7/28 July Van Dyke (??)
7/27 Kaczmarczyk Detroit
7/29 Kampa Detroit
7/31 Karas Detroit
7/30 Kaump Detroit
7/31 Kekaha Hazel Park
7/27 Kibler Detroit
7/27 Kilgore Highland Park
7/27 Kipp Royal Oak
7/31 Koblicz Detroit
7/27 Koerber Detroit
7/28 Kolongowski Detroit
7/31 Kraemer Detroit
7/27 Kuczenski Detroit
7/30 Kujawski Detroit
7/28 LaRose Detroit
7/28 Larsen Detroit
7/28 Leland Detroit
7/29 Lennert Detroit
7/29 Lightle Wyandotte
7/30 Lisiecki Hamtramak
7/31 Liss. Dearborn
7/30 Lovince Hamtramak
7/29 Lubs Allen Park
7/30 Lucey Grosse Pt. Park
7/27 Lupo Detroit
7/28 Malczyk Detroit
7/28 Maloney Detroit
7/29 Martin Detroit
7/30 Martin Detroit
7/30 Matley Detroit
7/30 Mattei Detroit
7/29 Mc Flgunn Detroit
7/28 Mc Millan Detroit
7/30 Meisner Detroit
7/27 Mitchell Detroit
7/28 Mitchell Grosse Pointe
7/29 Mitchell Ferndale
7/31 Mitchell Detroit
7/29 Moore Farmington
7/30 Moore Farmington
7/30 Morehead Inkster
7/27 Moses Detroit
7/31 Nadolny Allen Park
7/27 Neilson Detroit
7/30 Neu. Detroit
7/29 Noder Detroit
7/28 Nowakowski Detroit
7/27 Or Detroit
7/28 Pacult Detroit
7/29 Palmer Berkley
7/29 Parker Inkster
7/30 Parr Detroit
7/29 Peguese Detroit
7/29 Perri Dearborn
7/31 Pospeshil Detroit
7/30 Powell Detroit
7/27 Prange Detroit
7/31 Quiroz Detroit
7/27 Rabidue Detroit
7/30 Randolph Detroit
7/27 Ranin Detroit
7/31 Ready Detroit
7/29 Reiss Detroit
7/28 Rey Mt. Clemens
7/30 Rhodes Detroit
7/28 Richardson Detroit
7/27 Roberts Detroit
7/31 Rotenberg Detroit
7/28 Roush Detroit
7/31 Rutzel Detroit
7/30 Ryback Detroit
7/29 Rychlicki Detroit
7/29 Scafero Detroit
7/29 Schart Detroit
7/27 Schneider Detroit
7/30 Scott Detroit
7/28 Serling Detroit
7/29 Sevener Grosse Pt. Park
7/29 Shackney Detroit
7/27 Shipley Ferndale
7/31 Shoemaker Farmington
7/31 Shoemaker Detroit
7/28 Sievert Dearborn
7/29 Simm Detroit
7/27 Slavko Detroit
7/28 Smith Detroit
7/29 Smith Detroit
7/31 Smith Detroit
7/30 Springer Detroit
7/31 Stallings Detroit
7/27 Stanton Detroit
7/29 Stefanic Detroit
7/28 Steiner Detroit
7/29 Stepulla Hamtramak
7/27 Stoven Detroit
7/31 Swartz Detroit
7/28 Tekel Melvindale
7/27 Terhaar Detroit
7/31 Thompson Detroit
7/28 Towe Detroit
7/29 Tromburrini Detroit
7/28 Trouttchaud Dearborn
7/27 Turner Detroit
7/27 Vitagliano Detroit
7/27 Voss Detroit
7/27 Watkins Detroit
7/29 Watson Hazel Park
7/30 Wenban Detroit
7/29 Westland Detroit
7/27 Wheeler Detroit
7/29 Whitman Detroit
7/31 William Detroit
7/28 Williams Detroit
7/30 Williams Detroit
7/29 Winfrey Detroit
7/29 Winters Detroit
7/28 Wolfbauer East Detroit
7/29 Wright Pleasant Ridge
7/30 Wyka Detroit
7/27 Yeszin Detroit
7/28 Yokubison Detroit
7/27 Zielinski Detroit
7/31 Zimostrad Wayne
7/30 Zink Birmingham
7/27 Zoulets Royal Oak

For additional information, contact Patti Hacht at duncaha@gmail.com.  Patti does have additional information about each family from the birth announcements.

What Might Baby Boy Hacht Have Looked Like?

This first photo is of two of BBH’s siblings, as children.

Patti & Jimmy Hacht

This second photo is of the 4 Hacht siblings as adults.

Colleen, Mark (back) Jimmy & Patti Hacht


If you think you might be Baby Boy Hacht, or might know of someone who would be a candidate – please contact Patti Hacht at duncaha@gmail.com.  Patti does have additional information about these families, such as the mother’s first name and the addresses.

If you would like to DNA test first to see if you match Patti’s brother’s Y DNA or Patti’s family by autosomal DNA, please test at Family Tree DNA.

The Y chromosome is passed from father to son intact and is what makes males male.  BBH carries his father’s Y chromosome and BBH’s sons would carry his.

Autosomal DNA is contributed to a child from both parents.  The child receives half of the DNA of both of his parents.  You can read more about how DNA is used for genetic genealogy here.

The Y DNA of Baby Boy Hacht or a his male child or male grandchild through a son will match that of Patti’s brother.  The autosomal DNA of Baby Boy Hacht or his children or grandchildren of any gender will match with Patti and her family.

If you would like to DNA test, we recommend the 37 marker Y DNA test at Family Tree DNA for males and the Family Finder autosomal test for either gender

Here’s the link if you’re interested.



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The Gift…A Hickerson Cousin


Merry Christmas to Me.

Merry Christmas to Me.

Yep, I’m singing a fine little ditty today.

You see, I received a gift….a really special gift….all thanks to DNA and a cousin.

Well, actually the cousin IS the gift.

Let me explain.

I met a new cousin thanks to a DNA match between the Hickersons and the Vannoy brood.

Bill Hickerson matches one of our Vannoy cousins, and since we have been trying, for years, to prove (or disprove) that Sarah Hickerson and Daniel Vannoy were the parents of Elijah Vannoy, you’ll understand my excitement when I saw William Hickerson’s match to one of our Vannoy cousins…and subsequent excitement when more matches were discovered, confirming our Hickerson roots.

But this story was just beginning.

When I contacted Bill, he was very receptive and e-mailed me right away.

He and I exchanged pleasantries for a bit, and then got down to brass tacks.

  • Who are you?
  • How do you connect?
  • What do you have?
  • I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours.

Yep, that’s the reader’s digest version of conversations between genealogists, genetic and otherwise, researching the same lines.

Except, this time I didn’t have much in the treasure trove…and he had a lot…starting with his genealogy.

Bill is double descended from Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle, the parents of both Sarah Hickerson, my ancestor, and his ancestor, David Hickerson.

WooHooo….in DNA parlance this means that he got a double dose of Hickerson DNA and that he stands a better chance of passing some of it on than if he only had one dose.

Bill then asked if I was interested in old letters…he had some old letters and he would send them if he could find them.



Now, I’ve heard this before in the past and it often means the letters are never found, so I try not to get too excited.  But not in Bill’s case.  He found them the same day.

And if you’re wondering why I think this is so exciting, take a look at this paragraph….

hickerson letter

Then, when we were in the process of figuring out who has what, he mentioned that he has the marriage bond of Daniel Vannoy and Sarah Hickerson.




Oh Happy Day.

Not only that, but he found it as well.

Vannoy Hickerson marriage bond

Oh yea…..Bill is a keeper….that’s for sure.

I asked Bill if he has ever been back to Wilkes County, NC and if he knew where Charles’ land was located, as Charles sold it to his son David, Bill’s ancestor, before he died.

Next thing I knew, in my e-mail was Charles Hickerson’s land grant.

Charles Hickerson land grant 2

Can you see me doing the happy dance????

Snoopy happy dance

Not only is there a lot of joy in finding your ancestors, there is also a lot of joy in finding your cousins.  Cousins who are willing to share are a blessing.

When I asked Bill if I could write about this experience, using him as a “good example,” here was his reply.

“It’s important for us to encourage sharing family history information. It’s a nice way of giving back and honoring all the researchers of the past who’ve been so generous with their time and expertise.”

I can tell you, I really REALLY like my new cousin.  It’s such a breath of fresh air to find people with such good information and so very willing to share.

But then, it got even better yet, as if that was even possible… because Bill mentioned that his father might be willing to do the Family Finder test, which would put us one generation further back.

HIS FATHER.  Who hooo..


HIS FATHER…who has now agreed to DNA test.

I really, REALLY hope Bill is on Santa’s “good example” list, because he truly deserves to be.

I think Bill IS my Christmas present…along with the land grant and marriage bond!

Here’s hoping you get a wonderful new cousin for Christmas too!!!




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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Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Barbara Jean Ferverda (1922-2006), Mother’s Gifts that Keep on Giving, 52 Ancestors #50

Barbara Jean Ferverda

The holidays always make me think of my mother.  My father died when I was 7 years old in a car accident, so I was always close to my mother, although I believe I am probably singularly responsible for every grey hair on her head.  Most of them appeared in my teenage years!!!

Mom Blue Lick Well crop

In this picture, Mom and I discovered the Blue Lick well that her grandfather, Curtis Lore drilled in Aurora Indiana.  She is leaning on the pump.  We had some wonderful genealogy adventures, after I outgrew (and survived) being a teenager!

Without my father and his family’s cultural influence, all of my traditions and customs were formed by my mother, and therefore by her family.

My mother was born in northern Indiana in Amish country to Edith Barbara Lore and John Whitney Ferverda.

Mother’s father’s parents were Hiram Ferverda who was born in the Netherlands to Mennonite parents who converted to the Brethren faith upon arrival in the US and Evaline Louise Miller who was Brethren and descended from many generations of Brethren ancestors.  The Mennonite and Brethren are both Anabaptist faiths who believe that only adults can be Baptized when they are old enough to understand the scripture.  In that part of Indiana, the Brethren, Mennonite and Amish communities are intermixed to some extent, living in the same area.  These religions also tend to believe in pietism, non-violence, including not serving in the military.

Mother’s mother’s father was Curtis Benjamin Lore, the well-driller, the son of an Acadian father, Antoine Lore (Lord), and Rachel Hill, his wife of English heritage from Addison County, Vermont.  Rachel’s parents were Joseph Hill, son of John Hill and Catherine Mitchell who came from New Hampshire and Nabby, whose parents may have been Gershom Hall and Dorcas Richardson from Connecticut.

Mother’s mother’s mother was Nora Kirsch, a daughter of German immigrants, Jacob Kirsch and Barbara Dreschel, proprietors of the Kirsch House in Aurora, Indiana.

This mix of cultures is actually quite interesting.  Of the groups, three, the Brethren, Mennonite and Acadians are quite endogamous, meaning heavily intermarried.  Jacob Kirsch from the Mutterstadt and Fussgoenheim area of Germany is also very probably from an endogamous group, because there was no one to marry in these little villages except your cousins, and the church records are full of cousin marriages between the same families for generations.

It’s very rewarding to be able to read about a specific population or religious group, like the Brethren or Acadians, and understand about your ancestors.  Conversely, it’s absolutely maddening when working with DNA to match everyone else who descends from that same group.  Oh, the ying and yang of genealogy.

Mom 2 gen pedigree

The good news about the DNA is that I can generally match someone to at least my mother’s grandparent level pretty easily and there isn’t much ambiguity.

When I was growing up, I never thought about family traditions as being cultural or having a “source.”  Christmas was always Christmas and it was just the way it was and had always been.  Didn’t everyone celebrate Christmas the same way our family did, other than attending different churches???

In fact, it really wasn’t until after I had been a genealogist for a long time that I realized that our holiday traditions are very likely descended from our ancestors, perhaps slightly changed in each generation, and that we can learn something about our ancestors from those traditions.

In general, when you’re evaluating traditions, first look towards the mother’s family.  Historically, the mother is the homemaker, the cook and she will be passing on the recipes and traditions celebrated in her family.  Now, that doesn’t mean that some of Dad’s haven’t been incorporated too – especially if his family lived nearby.

In our family, Christmas Eve was the big family celebration day.  I remember Mom standing by the window in the kitchen over the sink anxiously watching the roads until the entire family was accounted for.  The weather wasn’t always wonderful and the worse the weather, the more pacing and looking out the window Mom did.

Everyone in the extended family arrived, generally with a side dish in hand, and the day was spent eating and visiting, with a gift exchange in the evening.  Often, when there were young kids, Santa would arrive, generally after dark, and asked the kids what they wanted, handing out sweet treats and admonishing them to be good.

Where might that tradition have come from?

As it turns out, Christmas Eve is the big celebration day in Germany.  Family arrives, food is eaten all day…sound familiar?  In addition, the Christmas Tree was secretly decorated by the mother – as it was in our household too.

Christmas Day was much quieter, with gifts only between the parents and children – although sometimes I wouldn’t exactly have called it quiet with paper ripping and excited squeals when the contents were revealed.  Indeed, it’s amazing how Santa always knew exactly what each child wanted, even things they forgot to tell him!

Of course, Santa came during the night on Christmas Eve and gifts from Santa awaited both naughty and good children on Christmas Day underneath the tree.  I know that’s true, because my brother always received gifts, in spite of himself.  Santa, by the name of “Kerstman” or “Christman Man” is a Dutch tradition.  The Germans have the tradition of the religious figure, Saint Nicholas, as well but by the late 1900s, Santa Claus had become quintessentially American.  In other words, I don’t think the Santa tradition was handed down in our family from any particular culture, but from how the American culture evolved as a whole.  After all, who doesn’t love a magical jolly good elf wearing a red suit that brings presents!

The Mennonites were much more practical, not utilizing wrapping paper for gifts and shying away from anything commercial or decorative or that might detract from the birth of Christ.  So, no Christmas tree, no paper, no decorations…nada.  But remember, my Mennonite family became Brethren in the 1800s. I bet their kids were thrilled!

The Brethren seemed to be more traditionally German.  They included candles and a five pointed star to symbolize the birth of Christ.  My Brethren family was probably very liberal for the Brethren faith.  I base that statement up on the fact that two of my grandfather’s brothers served in the military and his father held public office, a typical Brethren no-no because it required swearing an oath.  However, they were active church members and my grandfather’s father and his wife are both buried in the Brethren church cemetery.

Candles were a part of Christmas at home and at my grandmother’s.  A village scene which included a crèche or manger scene was set up on the top of the piano and candles were part of the display, as well as in windows.  The window candles were lit as dusk approached.  In later years, window candles were replaced with electrical candles in wreaths.  As candles became commercially available in shapes such as pine trees, reindeer and even Santa Claus, those types of candles were incorporated into the piano-top village scene, replacing the traditional candles.

My mother’s Brethren grandmother lived until 1939 when my mother was age 17, so Mom would assuredly have been exposed to whatever traditions took place in her family.  The Brethren typically did not celebrate Christmas or Thanksgiving elaborately, if at all, outside of religious services, gathering and eating, which was both the Brethren and Mennonite answer for every occasion.

As I looked for Acadian Christmas cultural traditions, everything I found involved food, and in particular, meat pies called tourtiere.  My family did not make these pies, but my mother made a similar dish with chicken instead of pork, but not specifically for the holidays.  However, I recognized another Acadian traditional item from our family holidays – Nun Farts.  Yep, Nun Farts, or in French, pets de soeurs.


Now, my grandmother would never have said that f word, so they were certainly not called that in my family.  In fact, I’m sure she just rolled over in her grave.  In our family, they were called something like Pettyswars.

However, I’d recognize them anyplace.  My mother modified them a bit by drizzling different concoctions over the top…maple syrup, powdered sugar icing or chocolate, my mother’s answer to everything.  I can’t find a recipe for these in Mom’s recipe box either, so I’m guessing this was handed down orally, or the recipe was lost.  I think she made these with scrap pie dough, so she didn’t need a recipe.  She just used whatever was handy.

The Acadian heritage was a generation further back in the family.  While this seems to be the only tradition I recognize, there may be a reason, aside from cultural attrition.  You see, Antoine Lore left his Acadian family in Canada in the early 1830s for a less volatile area…Vermont, where he married Rachel Hill who appears to have descended from early English colonists.

Antoine’s mother, Marie Lafaille had committed the heinous error in judgment, at least by Acadian standards, of becoming Protestant.  This conversion created a huge rift in the family, driving a wedge between her and her husband, Honore Lore, and dividing the children into two camps – Protestant and Catholic.  In fact, her husband would not attend her funeral and she was buried alone, not with the family in the Catholic cemetery, by the Methodist missionaries.  By that time, son Antoine had already left and had been married in Vermont to Rachel for 5 years.  To the best of my knowledge, he never embraced any religion.

Perhaps Rachel made these Christmas pastries for Antoine.  Perhaps they were one of his good memories, before the Big Divide.  Rachel died when her son Curtis was about 10 years old, so maybe this family recipe brought him comfort as well, reminding him of his mother.

One of the common themes among these cultures is the tradition of sweets and candy for children, before or at Christmas, and in Germany in particular, days were set aside for baking.

When I was young, my mother and I would begin making cookies and candy after Thanksgiving but before Christmas.  It was something we planned for and looked forward to.  We would make and decorate the cookies and give assortments for gifts in colorful Christmas tins.  I never thought of this as cultural, more as economic, but I now realize it was indeed the extension of a tradition from her childhood.  We used my grandmother’s cookie cutters and cookie press.

Christmas cookies

The assortment looked something like this, and I especially liked making the green Christmas trees and decorating them with garland made out of candy beads.

Recently, I was talking to my cousin, Cheryl, about Christmas customs when she was young.  Cheryl’s father and my mother’s father were brothers, and they lived across the street from each other most of their adult lives.

Cheryl shared with me that they too had their main celebration on Christmas Eve.  Cheryl and my mother shared the Dutch Mennonite and Brethren grandparents.

And then Cheryl mentioned the tradition of a pickle on the tree.  A pickle?  Really?  Hmmm…..maybe that explains why my grandmother had a pickle ornament.  But I had no idea why.

Catholic Supply of St. Louis, who sells pickle ornaments of course, tells us this, “In Old World Germany, the last decoration placed on the Christmas Tree was always a pickle…carefully hidden deep in the boughs. Legend has it that the observant child who found it on Christmas Day was blessed with a year of good fortune…and a special gift.”

Wiki, however, tells us a slightly different story.

This tradition is commonly believed by Americans to come from Germany and be referred to as a Weihnachtsgurke, but this is probably apocryphal. In fact, the tradition is largely unknown in Germany. It has been suggested that the origin of the Christmas pickle may have been developed for marketing purposes in the 1890s to coincide with the importation of glass Christmas tree decorations from Germany. Woolworths was the first company to import these types of decorations into the United States in 1890, and glass blown decorative vegetables were imported from France from 1892 onwards. Despite the evidence showing that the tradition did not originate in Germany, the concept of Christmas pickles has since been imported from the United States and they are now on sale in the country traditionally associated with it.

Whether it was originally a German tradition or not, it’s clearly a tradition in Cheryl’s line of the family now, although my grandmother’s pickle ornament has disappeared along the way.

pickle ornament

Now, truthfully, I had never though anything much about that pickle ornament.  My family was prone to hang just about anything on a Christmas tree, so a pickle didn’t really stand out.

For example, a green hippopotamus.  This is my bathtub toy from when I was a child, so Mom stuck it in the tree, and it’s still in the tree every year today.

green hippo

When the light bulbs burned out, my grandmother made ornaments out of them.

tree light ornament

In fact, I accidentally started a new tradition when I hung my children’s first baby shoes on the tree.  Now those children have hung their children’s shoes on their trees too.

baby shoe ornament

After Mom passed away, I realized that I was the only one left who knew anything at all about the stories surrounding the various Christmas ornaments.

One ornament, Baby New Year, still had the date of 1940 on his back in grease pencil.  Mom said they changed it every year – but since 1940 was the year she graduated from high school, I’m guessing it was Mom that changed the year and she got distracted and never did it again.

Baby New Year

I knew if I didn’t write these stories down that they would be lost forever, so I decided to create a memory book for my family.  I photographed all of the ornaments while putting them away one year.  I wrote what I knew about each ornament, put the stories along with their photo into a Word document, and gave both of my children a book of family ornaments for the following Christmas.  Hopefully, this will help preserve these memories and heritage.

Grandmother's ornament

This ornament isn’t extraordinarily beautiful, but it is in evidence on my grandmother’s tree in the 1950s, below – near the top at right.  See it?

Grandmother's tree

You can also see it on Mom’s tree from the 1970s – dead center front slightly left – forgive those horrid drapes but they were very stylish at the time.

Mother's tree

Here is the same ornament on my tree a few years ago, plus 3 or 4 more of grandmother’s in the picture.  Notice the cat???  That’s a family tradition too!  You can tell she had been playing with some of the decorations.

my tree

As I was looking through the ornaments, I found one that I made for Mom the year that she won Best of Show at the Indiana State Fair.  Now this was a REALLY big deal.  To enter the state fair, you had to win a special “State Fair” ribbon on the county level, then you could enter that item into the State Fair.  A reception was held the evening before the State Fair opened for all entrants so that you could come and see if you had won, or placed.  In the middle of the exhibition hall, for the full length of the building, was a row of tables, end to end, full of the desserts that were entered in the cooking categories.  They were served to the entrants.  What were you going to do with hundreds of cakes and pies, otherwise?

It was difficult for me to attend with Mom, because it was always on a weeknight and I lived out of state, but often, one of my children went with her.  In 1989, she won a Best of Show for her crocheting and I made her a Christmas ornament to celebrate.  What fun we had and what wonderful memories for me and for my children too…although I do admit I shed a lot of tears decorating the Christmas tree every year.

Best of Show ornament

Another year, I created a different heirloom gift for my children.  I took mother’s recipes from her recipe box and scanned them into a document.  Then, I wrote about my memories of that particular recipe.

Mom's recipe box

There are wonderful memories in that box.  My children used to go and visit my folks on the farm for a week at a time in the summer – generally in August when it was “fair time.”  They have memories of recopying recipes for my Mom at the kitchen table while she cooked, when she had soiled a recipe card, like this original gingerbread recipe.  Lots of good memories in those spots on the cards.  Mom often made gingerbread at Thanksgiving – with homemade whipped cream of course!

Mom had recopied this recipe, so I have the older one with the note about her mother, and the newer one – both obviously used!

gingerbread recipe

This gobbledygook recipe is served over angel food cake, but when you serve it, not ahead of time as an icing or it soaks in and makes the cake soggy.  This recipe was recopied when my daughter was in elementry school, but it’s one of her staples for carry-ins now that she is an adult.


Carmel popcorn balls is in my handwriting as a teen.

carmel popcorn balls

Ummm, yum…. popcorn balls – those were a Christmas tradition – from my step-Dad’s side of the family.  I remember Dad making popcorn for the balls in the popcorn popper on the stove, similar to this one. I have it someplace.

popcorn popper

Then, after he made the candy, he would grease his hands and use wax paper to handle the hop popcorn and hot candy and form it into balls.

beer bread recipe

Beer bread anyone?  This recipe, in Mom’s handwriting, is wonderful toasted with some butter and home made applesauce.  Mom made beer bread loaves, wrapped them in aluminum foil, put a red bow on the top and gave them for gifts.  She always had a couple of spare gifts like this put aside, just in case unexpected company arrived.  No one left empty-handed at Christmas.  You should have heard her, a Baptist church deacon, trying to justify why she was buying 2 or 3 six-packs of beer!

I can’t leave the topic of Christmas traditions without talking about Turtle Soup.  No, not with real turtle.  Mom always used to say, “Turtle Soup, well, it’s really mock-turtle soup.”  My grandmother used veal and then as veal turned into an ethical issue, Mom used some type of beef bones with meat.

The Turtle Soup tradition came to the US with one of mother’s German great-grandparents, Jacob Kirsch and Barbara Drechsel, from Germany.

Barbara Drechsel and Jacob Kirsch

Jacob and Barbara established the Kirsch House in Aurora, Indiana, on the Ohio River near Cincinnati.  The Kirsch House was located beside the train station just a couple blocks above the pier where the steam boats docked – a prime location not likely to flood but readily accessible to travelers.  The Kirsch House had a bar and facilities that would be similar to a bed and breakfast today.  The family lived there as well.  A beer and a bowl of turtle soup for dinner cost 10 cents.

Every Tuesday Barbara Drechsel Kirsch made (mock) turtle soup.  People in Aurora would order it in advance, and when the soup was finished, Barbara would ladle it into buckets.  The four Kirsch daughters, including mother’s grandmother, Nora, all born within a decade, would take their wagon, pulling it along the sidewalks, and deliver the buckets of soup to the residents.  When you finished your soup, you would return your bucket to the Kirsch House.

Nora’s daughter, Edith, my mother’s mother, went to live with her grandmother, Barbara, after Jacob’s death in 1917.  Edith was then a part of the turtle soup making process on Tuesdays.  That tradition lived as long as the Kirsch House, which closed in the 1920s when Barbara, then in her 70s, could no longer manage everything herself.

We’re fortunate to have a recipe for turtle soup on Kirsch House stationary.  Well, I’m using the word recipe loosely.  Clearly Barbara did not need a recipe or a reminder of any kind.  This document is reportedly in her handwriting but reads more like a stream of consciousness conversation than a recipe as we think of it.

I also have a turtle soup recipe written by my grandmother which was a bit different, and a third one written by my mother that is different yet.  I think each generation modified it a bit according to what they had available and perhaps to taste.  Like cultural traditions, recipes evolved too.

turtle soup 1

turtle soup 2

Notice that the letterhead says the proprietor is Mrs. B. Kirsch, so we know this was written after Jacob’s death in 1917.  It must have been unusual at that time to see a female listed as a proprietor.  A margin note says “Mawmaw’s recipe” at the top.  In my family, the grandmother was always called “Mawmaw” although that tradition has not extended to my grand-children’s generation, so I guess there will be no more Mawmaws in the family.  This recipe could have been written by Barbara, her daughter Nora or her daughter Edith who was staying with her after Jacob died.  I doubt that it was Edith because we have a different recipe, in different handwriting that was hers, and my brother who lived with Edith at one time verified her handwriting.  If it was written by Barbara or Nora, it suggests that the recipe probably came through Barbara’s family in Goppsmannbuhl, not the Kirsch family from Mutterstadt/Fussgoenheim.

Several years ago, I met a cousin, also descended from one of the Kirsch daughters.  She too had a super-secret copy of the turtle soup recipe which she absolutely would not share because it was a closely guarded family secret.  I explained to her that I didn’t need the recipe, but that I just wanted to see how it might differ from the 3 that I already had.  No dice.

Kirsch House Bar

In the 1980s, my mother and my daughter and I went to Aurora, Indiana to hopefully find the Kirsch House and connect with our heritage.  At that time, it was an Italian restaurant.  Miracle of miracles, the original bar installed by Jacob Kirsch was still there.  Jim and I stopped a few years ago, and the building is gravely deteriorated and the bar was gone.  I would have purchased that bar.  It would have looked great in my living room!

On the top of that bar, the current owners had decoupaged old postcards of Aurora, including one of the building in earlier days, at right, beside the train depot, at left.  Barbara Drechsel Kirsch always fed the hobos who rode the trains too, at the back door of the Kirsch House.

Kirsch House postcard

I’m so glad that the three of us made the trip to Aurora together.  There weren’t many.  Mom worked until she was 83 before she agreed to retire, and only then because of her health.  By then, it was too late to do much genealogy travel.

Making turtle soup became a Christmas tradition.  In my family, my uncle, Mom’s brother, loved turtle soup.  He too was raised on it as a special family treat.  My brother and I both loved it, as did Mom, but no one else really cared much for it. For one thing, it didn’t look terribly appealing.  I made it this week, and to me, this looks wonderful, but maybe not so much if you’re just looking at it for the first time.

Turtle soup bowl

From the time I was little, after my grandmother died, when I was 5, I remember Mom preparing to make turtle soup.  While Barbara Drechsel Kirsch made it weekly, we made it occasionally, and it was always a process.  This soup took 2 days to make.

First, you boiled the meat and the vegetables together for a few hours.  Then you removed the meat and boiled the vegetables to death.  The vegetables were then removed and thrown away.  That was day 1.  On day 2, the meat was ground in a meat grinder, along with hard boiled eggs, and added to the broth with browned flower, spices and wine.  Everything German has wine.  When the soup was finished, lemons were peeled and then sliced and the slices were floated on the top of the soup.

I inherited Mom’s meat grinder, which she inherited from her mother as well.  It looks something like this, except older, much older.  I still remember cranking the grinder.  We would bolt it to the table and one person would hold it steady while the other person cranked.  This is much easier described than done, I might add.  Four hands and not much space.

meat grinder

As a child, I got to help by browning the flower.  That was my special job.  Mom would pull a chair up to the stove and I would get to stir the flower in the cast iron skillet with a wooden spoon until it browned.  You had to stir all the time to keep it from sticking or burning.  I was SO HAPPY to get to do that, because it meant I was a big girl.  It was a hot job but I would never complain because that would mean I’d lose the privilege.

Because turtle soup was such a treat, Mom froze it and gave it as Christmas gifts to family members, right along with those tins of cookies or beer bread.  She also made summer sausage as gifts.  Nothing German about this family.

Mom made turtle soup up until her last year or two, and I helped her those years.  The kettle became too heavy for her to lift.  I have her kettle too.

I miss the turtle soup. I’ve never made it alone.  The memory always seemed too raw, but the turtle soup craving is just about to overtake the painful memories and this just might be the year.  I can freeze it and have lunches for months.  There is no one left to give it to as a gift.

Yes, I think I’ll make turtle soup for Christmas this year!  Maybe my grandkids will like it.

Update:  I made the turtle soup and it came out simply wonderful.  Mom would be proud. You can’t make a little bit of this recipe, so I’ll be freezing it and having it for lunches all winter!!  In a way, I’ll be having lunch with Mom.

Turtle soup pot 2

As I look at the holiday traditions, mostly the food, they are full of cultural memories and hidden information.

However, one of the very best gifts that my mother ever gave me was to agree to test her DNA.  Seldom a day goes by that I don’t silently thank her – and I’m not being facetious – I’m dead serious.

By having Mom’s and my DNA both, I can tell when someone matches me autosomally, immediately, onto which side of the family they fall. If they match me and Mom both, then obviously they are from her side.  From there, they often fall into the Acadian, Brethren or Dutch Mennonite groups.  So, in one fell swoop, I can often categorize my matches to three or 4 generations.  That’s a wonderful gift.

Not only that, but her DNA is going to keep on giving, to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

This Christmas, we’re starting another tradition.  We’re testing my grandchildren too – they’ll all be swabbing on Christmas Day – and thanks to Mom, we will have 4 generations of DNA to work with.  My grandchildren are going to grow up knowing about their culture, about traditions, about their ancestors, and yes, about their DNA.  Mom’s DNA and the information it provides will be available to her descendants into perpetuity.  Truly, the gift that keeps on giving – forever.

Thanks Mom.


Mom's stone



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Henry III, King of England, Fox in the Henhouse, 52 Ancestors #49

I had been so looking forward to the results of the DNA processing of King Richard the III.  Richard was killed in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 and was reportedly buried in the “choir of the church” at the Greyfriars friary in Leicester. The friary was dissolved in 1538, following the orders of King Henry VIII who ordered all monasteries destroyed.  The building was later destroyed, and over the years, the exact location of the cemetery was lost.  In 2012, the friary location was found again, quite by accident and remains believed to be King Richard III were discovered buried under the car park, or what is known as a parking lot in the US.

Richard had a very distinctive trait – scoliosis to the point where his right shoulder was higher than his left.  He was also described, at age 32, as a fine-boned hunchback with a withered arm and a limp.  This, in addition to his slim build and his battle injuries led investigators to believe, and later confirm through mitochondrial DNA matching, that it was indeed Richard.  At least they are 99% sure that it is Richard using archaeological, osteological and radiocarbon dating, in addition to DNA and good old genealogy.

Mitochondrial DNA testing was initially used to identify Richard the III by comparing his mitochondrial to that of current individuals matrilineally descended from his sister, Anne of York.  That DNA was rare, and matched exactly in one case, and with only one difference in a second descendant, so either the skeleton is Richard or another individual who is matrilineally related.  Fortunately, Richard’s mtDNA was quite unusual, with no other individuals matching in more than 26,000 other European sequences.  The scientists estimated that the chances of a random match were about 1 in 10,000.  The scientific team has utilized other evidence as well and feel certain that they have identified King Richard III himself.

King Richard III did not have any surviving descendants, so why was I so excited?

As it turns out, his Y DNA is representative of the Plantagenet family line which includes King Richard III’s great-great-great-great-grandfather, King Edward I, who is also my 19th great-grandfather, which would make King Richard III my 5th cousin, 16 times removed, I think.  Maybe.

According to a paper released this week by Turi King, et al, “Identification of the remains of King Richard III”, it seems that there is a bit of a fly in the ointment.  It’s no wonder this paper was in peer review forever.  The authors knew that when it was released, it would be the shot heard round the world.  For one thing, a tiny trivial matter, one of the possible outcomes could call into question the legitimacy of the current English monarchy.  Only a detail for an American, but I’m thinking this is probably important to many people in England, especially those who think they should be the ruling monarch, and in particular, to the ruling monarch herself.

I wonder if Dr. Turi King rang up the Queen in advance with the news.  I mean, what would you say to her???  How, exactly, would one begin that conversation?  “Um, Your Highness, um, I think there has been a fox in the henhouse…”

In order to confirm the Y DNA line of King Richard III, his Y DNA was compared to that of another descendant of King Edward III, the great-grandson of my ancestor, Edward I.  Edward III had two sons, Edmund, Duke of York from whom King Richard III descended and John of Gaunt, from whom the other Y DNA testers descend.  Five male descendants of Henry Somerset were tested for comparison.  Of those five, four matched each other, and one did not, indicating an NPE (nonparental event) or undocumented adoption in that line.  The pedigree chart provided in the paper, below, shows the line of descent for both the Y and mitochondrial DNA participants.

Richard III tree

Now, what we have is an uncertain situation.  We know that Richard’s mitochondrial DNA matches that of his sister’s descendants, Michael Ibsen and Wendy Duldig, shown at right, above.

We know that the Y DNA of Richard does not match with the Y DNA of the Somerset line.  We know that in the Somerset line, there were two illegitimate births, according to the paper, in the 13 generations between John of Gaunt and Henry Somerset, which were later legitimized.   The first illegitimate birth is John Beaufort, the oldest illegitimate child of John of Gaunt and his mistress, Katherine Swynford, who later became John’s third wife.  Katherine was previously married to a knight in the service of John of Gaunt, who is believed to have died, and was governess to John of Gaunt’s daughters.

The second illegitimate birth is Charles Somerset (1460-1526) who was the illegitimate son of Henry Beaufort and Joan Hill, about whom little is known.

The Somerset line proves to be downstream of haplogroup R1b-U152 (x L2, Z36, Z56, M160, M126 and Z192) with STR markers confirming their relationship to each other.  King Richard III’s haplogroup is G-P287.

Richard III haplotree

In this case, we don’t even need to scrutinize the STR markers, because the haplogroups don’t match, as you can see, above, in a haplotree provided in the paper.

The paper goes on to say that given a conservative false paternity rate of between 1 and 2% per generation, that there is a 16% probability of a false paternity in the number of generations separating King Richard III and the Somerset men.

What does this really mean?

According to the paper:

“One can speculate that a false-paternity event (or events) at some point(s) in this genealogy could be of key historical significance, particularly if it occurred in the five generations between John of Gaunt (1340–1399) and Richard III). A false-paternity between Edward III (1312–1377) and John would mean that John’s son, Henry IV (1367–1413), and Henry’s direct descendants (Henry V and Henry VI) would have had no legitimate claim to the crown. This would also hold true, indirectly, for the entire Tudor dynasty (Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I) since their claim to the crown also rested, in part, on their descent from John of Gaunt. The claim of the Tudor dynasty would also be brought into question if the false paternity occurred between John of Gaunt and his son, John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset. If the false paternity occurred in either of the three generations between Edward III and Richard, Duke of York, the father of Edward IV and Richard III, then neither of their claims to the crown would have been legitimate.”

While the known illegitimate births in the Somerset line lead us to look at those generations with scrutiny, the break in the Y chromosome inheritance could have happened in any generation, on either side of the tree.

According to the BBC article announcing the DNA results:

“Henry’s ancestor John of Gaunt was plagued by rumors of illegitimacy throughout his life, apparently prompted by the absence of Edward III at his birth. He was reportedly enraged by gossip suggesting he was the son of a Flemish butcher.

“Hypothetically speaking, if John of Gaunt wasn’t Edward III’s son, it would have meant that (his son) Henry IV had no legitimate claim to the throne, nor Henry V, nor Henry VI,” said Prof Schurer.”

So where does this leave us? I wonder if anyone has the name of that Flemish butcher????

Will the real Plantagenet, please stand up…or maybe be dug up.

What we need is a tie-breaker.  Although the paper did not state this explicitly, I’m sure that the scientists also knew that they needed a tie-breaker – a male that descends through all males from someone upstream of Edward III.  It appears that the Plantagenet line may well be a dead end, other than the Somerset line.  I’m sure, with all of the resources brought to bear by the authors of this paper, that if there was another Plantagenet Y DNA male to be found, they would have done so.

So, the bottom line is that we don’t know what the real Plantagenet Y DNA line looks like, short of exhuming one of the Plantagenet Kings.  They are mostly buried in Westminster Abbey in crypts. The Plantagenet line could be a subgroup of haplogroup R1b-U152. It could be haplogroup G.  And, it could be yet something else.  How?  There could have been a NPE in both lines.  I have seen it happen before.

Purely looking at the number of generations, meaning the number of opportunities for the genetic break to occur, there were 3 opportunities between King Richard the III and his great-great-grandfather, King Edward III, and there were 14 opportunities between Henry Somerset and King Edward III, so it’s more likely to have occurred in the Somerset line.

Richard III Y descent

But that is small comfort, because all it took was one event, and there clearly was one.  We don’t know which one, where.  In this case, probabilities don’t matter – only actualities matter.

Back to my ancestor, King Henry III, father of King Edward I….

Dear Grandpa King Henry III,

I was just writing to catch you up on the news.  This is your 20 times great-granddaughter….you do remember me…right?

I am sorry to report that there seems to have been a fox in the henhouse.  Yes, that would be the Plantagenet henhouse.  No, I don’t know when, or where.  We just have fox DNA.  Yes, we probably also have hen DNA, which would be your DNA, but you see, we can’t tell the difference between fox DNA and hen DNA.

By the way, would you mind trying that Houdini message thing and sending me a message about which DNA is fox and which is hen?

Thanks a million….

Your 20 times great-granddaughter

Even though we will probably never know what the Plantagenet DNA line looks like, we do know a lot about King Henry III, the father of King Edward I.  We also have some idea what King Henry himself looked like.  The effigy on his coffin in Westminster Abbey is shown below.

Henry IIi effigy

King Henry III was born on October 1, 1207 in Winchester Castle, shown below, the son of King John and Isabella of Angouleme, and died on November 16, 1272.  He was known as Henry of Winchester and was King of England, Lord of Ireland and Duke of Aquitaine from 1216 until his death.

Winchester Castle

He ascended the throne at age 9, on October 28th, 1216, at Gloucester Cathedral, and ruled under a guardian, council of 13 executors and the tutelage of his mother until he became of age.  He assumed formal control of the government in January 1227, although he didn’t turn 21 until the following year.  He ruled for a total of 56 years.  A 13th century depiction of his coronation is shown below.

Henry III coronation

Henry took the cross, declaring himself a crusader, which entitled him to special protections from Rome.  While Henry never did actually go on Crusade, he might well have joined the Seventh Crusade in 1248 had he not been engaged in such a negative rivalry with the King of France.  After Louis’s defeat at the Battle of Al Mansurah in 1250, Henry announced that he would be undertaking his own crusade to the Levant, but that Crusade never happened.  Henry was aging by that time, at 43. It would he Henry’s son, Edward, who would represent the family in the Crusades, leaving in 1270 for the Eighth Crusade.

Henry was also crowned a second time, after the first Baron’s War, on May 17, 1220, at Westminster Abbey, in an effort to affirm the authority of the King, and with the Pope’s blessing.  The medieval manuscript by Matthew Paris depicts the second coronation.

Henry III second coronation

While the first coronation was hurried after his father’s death and with, in essence, a borrowed crown from Queen Isabella, since the royal crown had been either lost or sold during the war, the second coronation used a new set of royal regalia.

Henry III great seal

Engravings of Henry’s great seal.

Eleanor of Provence

Henry married Eleanor of Provence, daughter of Raymond-Berengar, the Count of Provene and Beatrice of Savoy, whose sisters all married Kings as well.  Eleanor had never seen Henry before their marriage at Canterbury cathedral on January 14, 1236.  At the time of their marriage, she was age 12 and he was 28.  It was feared she was barren at first, but they went on to have 5 children, including Henry’s successor to the crown, Edward I.  Her first child was born when she was age 15.

Royal 14. B. VI, membrane 7

This medieval manuscript chronology from the early 1300s shows Henry III at the top, with his children left to right, the future King Edward I, Margaret, Beatrice, Edmund and Katherine.

In 1239 when Eleanor gave birth to their first child, Edward, named after Henry’s patron saint and ancestor, Edward the Confessor, Henry was overjoyed and held huge celebrations, giving lavishly to the Church and to the poor to encourage God to protect his young son.  Their first daughter, Margaret, named after Eleanor’s sister, followed in 1240, her birth also accompanied by celebrations and donations to the poor.

Eleanor accompanied Henry to Poitrou on a military campaign, and their third child, Beatrice, named after Eleanor’s mother, and born in Poitou, France in1242.

Henry III return from Poitou

This manuscript by Matthew Paris depicts Henry and Eleanor returning to England from Poitou in 1243.

Their fourth child, Edmund, arrived in 1245 and was named after the 9th-century saint.  Concerned about Eleanor’s health, Henry donated large amounts of money to the Church throughout the pregnancy. A third daughter, Katherine, was born in 1253 but soon fell ill, possibly the result of a degenerative disorder such as Rett syndrome, and was unable to speak. She died in 1257 and Henry was distraught.

Henry’s children spent most of their childhood at Windsor Castle and he appears to have been extremely close to his family, rarely spending extended periods apart from them.  King Henry III and Eleanor had the following children:

  1. Edward, eventually King Edward I, was born on June 17, 1239 and died on July 7, 1307. He married Eleanor of Castile in 1254 and Margaret of France in 1299.
  2. Margaret was born on September 29, 1240 and died on February 26, 1275, at age 35. She was the Queen of Scots and married King Alexander III, the King of Scotland at age 11. She had three children; Margaret born in 1261 who married King Eric II of Norway, Alexander born in 1264 who died at age 20 and David born in 1272 who died at age 9.
  3. Beatrice was born on June 25, 1242 and died on March 24, 1275 at the age of 33. She married John II, Duke of Brittany, a love match, and had 6 children. Two of her descendant females would marry kings.
  4. Edmund, known as Edmund Crouchback, was born on January 16, 1245 and died on June 5, 1296, at the age of 51. Crouchback reportedly refers to “crossed-back” and refers to his participation in the Ninth Crusade, although with King Richard III’s scoliosis, I have to wonder. He married Lady Aveline de Forz in 1269 at age 11. She died 4 years later, at age 15, possibly related to childbirth. He then married Blanche de Artois in 1276, in Paris, widow of Henri I, King of Navarre, with whom he had three sons, two of whom revolted against King Edward II.
  5. The story of Katherine is sad indeed. She was born either deaf or a deaf-mute at Westminster Palace on November 25, 1253 and died on Mary 3. 1257, before her 4th birthday. It was obvious at her birth, that in spite of her beauty, something was wrong. As she aged a bit, it also became evident that she was mentally challenged. Matthew Paris, chronicler of King Henry III, described her as “the most beautiful girl, but dumb and useless.” She was therefore not a political asset and was never betrothed. Her parents, however, loved her devotedly.

A few days after her christening, on the day of Saint Edward the Confessor’s death, January 5,1254, the King held a massive banquet, to which he invited all the nobility. The provisions for this banquet included “fourteen wild boars, twenty-four swans, one hundred and thirty-five rabbits, two hundred and fifty partridges, fifty hares, two hundred and fifty wild ducks, sixteen hundred and fifty fowls, thirty-six female geese and sixty-one thousand eggs”.

After Katherine’s death, both Henry and Eleanor were heartbroken.

Although the marriage of Henry III and Eleanor was clearly political in nature, Henry was kind and generous and they apparently came to love each other.  Henry, unusual as compared to other English Kings, had no illegitimate children.

Henry was reported to have a drooping eyelid and an occasional fierce temper, but was generally known to be “amiable, easy-going and sympathetic,” as reported by historian David Carpenter.

Henry III sketch

The sketch above is from Cassell’s History of England published in 1902 but it does not reflect a drooping eyelid.  The painting, below, from an unknown artist in 1620 is titled simply “Edward,” but it does depict the drooping eyelid.  King Edward I was the son of Henry III.  Now, if Richard III had only been reported with a droopy eyelid, we’d have another clue.  Interestingly enough, the National Portrait Gallery has a discussion about the “crooked eye group” of kings, the latest of which is Edward II.

Edward droopy eyelid

Henry III was known for his piety, celebrating mass at least once a day, holding lavish religious ceremonies and giving generously to charities.  He fed 500 paupers each day, fasted before the feast days of Edward the Confessor and may have washed the feet of lepers.  He was often moved to tears during religious ceremonies.  The King was particularly devoted to the figure of Edward the Confessor, whom he adopted as his patron saint.  Edward the Confessor was an early English King who lived a very pious life and who was also Henry III’s 6 times great-grandfather.

Henry reformed the system of silver coins in England in 1247, replacing the older Short Cross silver pennies with a new Long Cross design, shown below. Between 1243 and 1258, the King assembled two great hoards, or stockpiles, of gold. In 1257, Henry needed to spend the second of these hoards urgently and, rather than selling the gold quickly and depressing its value, Henry decided to introduce gold pennies into England, following the popular trend in Italy. The gold pennies resembled the gold coins issued by Edward the Confessor, but the overvalued currency attracted complaints from the City of London and was ultimately abandoned.

long cross pennies

In 1247, Henry was sent the “Relic of the Holy Blood” by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, said to contain some of the blood of Christ.  He carried the Relic through the streets of London from its storage location at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in a procession to Westminster Abbey, shown below, by Matthew Paris.  He then promoted the relic as a focus for pilgrimages, but it never became popular.

henry III carrying relic

Henry III’s reign in England was marked by multiple insurrections and allegations of ineffective government at best and improprieties at worst.

Henry started out at a disadvantage due to his age and of course, inexperience as a child.  The first problem happened before Henry was of age.

Taking advantage of the child-king, Louis VIII of France allied himself with Hugh de Lusignan and invaded first Poitou and then Gascony, lands held by the English monarchy. Henry III’s army in Poitou was under-resourced and lacked support from the French barons, many of whom had felt abandoned during the years of Henry’s minority and as a result, the province quickly fell. It became clear that Gascony would also fall unless reinforcements were sent from England.

In early 1225 a great council approved a tax of £40,000 to dispatch an army, which quickly retook Gascony. In exchange for agreeing to support Henry III, the English barons demanded that the King reissue the Magna Carta, originally issued by King John in 1215. Henry complied, declared that the charter was issued of his own “spontaneous and free will” and confirmed the new with the royal seal.  This gave the new Great Charter and the Charter of the Forest of 1225, shown below from the UK National Archives, much more authority than any previous versions. The barons anticipated that the King would act in accordance with these definitive charters, subject to the law and moderated by the advice of the nobility.

1225 great charter

Henry invaded France in 1230, in an attempt to reclaim family lands lost since the reign of King John, but his attempts were both unsuccessful and very expensive.  As you can see, most of the Plantagenet family holdings in France had been lost, except for Gascony.

Plantagenet land in France

The drawing below depicts Henry travelling to Brittany in 1230, by Matthew Paris.

Henry III to Brittany

The English people paid for military actions as well as Henry’s expensive lifestyle, carrying out major remodeling of royal properties, through increased taxes, which caused Henry, over time, to become very unpopular.

In 1258, a group of Barons seized power in a coup, reforming English government through a process called the Provisions of Oxford, which is regarded at England’s first constitution.  This document was the first to be published in English since the Norman Conquest 200 years previously. As a result, Henry ruled in conjunction with a council of 24 members, 12 selected by the crown and 12 by the barons.  Those 24 then selected 2 men to oversee decisions.  This certainly wasn’t what Henry wanted, but he had little choice at the time.

However, in 1261, Henry overthrew the Provisions of Oxford and the superceeding Provisions of Westminster, with assistance from the Pope in the form of a papal bull which started the second Baron’s War.  In 1264, Henry was defeated and taken prisoner at the battle of Lewes, but his oldest son, the eventual King Edward I, escaped from captivity and freed his father the following year.

This time, Henry won and was restored to power, initially reacted harshly, confiscating all of the land and titles of the revolting Barons.  In an effort to bring eventual peace, the Dictum of Kenilworth was issued to reconcile the rebels of the Baron’s War with the King.

Death of Simon de Montfort

Their rebel leader, Simon de Montfort, Henry’s brother-in-law who had married his sister, Eleanor, was now dead at the Battle of Evesham in 1265, shown above. The Dictum pardoned the revolting Barons and restored their previously confiscated lands to them, contingent on payment of penalties equal to their level of involvement in the rebellion, typically 5 times the value of the annual yield of the land.

The spirit of peace and reconciliation established by the Dictum of Kenilworth lasted for the remainder of Henry III’s reign and into the 1290s, although reconstruction was slow.  Henry died in 1272, succeeded by his son, Edward, who became King Edward I, who was on crusade in the Holy Lands at the time of his father’s death.

Although unpopular due to his spending habits, Henry invested significantly in many properties still enjoyed by people today, improving their defenses and adding facilities, including rebuilding Westminster Abbey and his favorite palatial complex by the same name in London.

Westminster complex

The Tower of London was extended to form a concentric fortress with extensive living quarters, although Henry primarily used the castle as a secure retreat in the event of war or civil strife.

Tower of London map

Tower of London as it appears today from the Thames.

Tower of London

Henry also kept a menagerie at the Tower, a tradition begun by his father, and his exotic specimens included an elephant, a leopard and a camel.

Henry III elephant

Henry was given an elephant, above, as a gift by King Louis IX of France.

Henry III visiting Louis IX France

King Henry III visiting Louis IX of France.

Winchester Castle great hall

Among other projects, Henry built the Great Hall of Winchester Castle, shown above.

Perhaps Henry’s legacy contribution is the creation of what would become the English Parliament.  The term “parliament” first appeared in the 1230s and 1240s to describe large gatherings of the royal court, and parliamentary gatherings were held periodically throughout Henry’s reign. They were used to agree to the raising of taxes which, in the 13th century, were single, one-off levies, typically on movable property, intended to supplement the King’s normal revenues for particular projects. During Henry’s reign, the counties began to send regular delegations to these parliaments, and came to represent a broader cross-section of the community than simply the major barons.

In Henry’s last years, he was increasingly ill. He continued to invest in Westminster Abbey, which became a replacement for the Angevin mausoleum at Fontevraud Abbey in Anjou, France,  In 1269 Henry oversaw a grand ceremony to rebury Edward the Confessor in a lavish new shrine, personally helping to carry the body to its new resting place in the rebuilt Westminster Abbey.  Edward the Confessor has built the original Westminster Abbey in 1065 which was demolished by Henry III to construct the new Westminster Abbey in its place.

In 1270, Henry’s son, Edward left on the Eighth Crusade and at one time, Henry voiced his intention to join Edward.  That never happened, and Henry III died at Westminster Palace on the evening of November 16, 1272.  Eleanor was probably at his side.

At his request, Henry was buried in Westminster Abbey in front of the church’s high altar, in the former resting place of Edward the Confessor. A few years later, work began on a grander tomb for King Henry III and in 1290, Edward moved his father’s body to its current location in Westminster Abbey.

Henry III crypt

See, it wouldn’t be difficult at all to access the remains of King Henry III…no digging involved!!!  For that matter, we could just skip to the beginning and start with the remains of Edward the Confessor.



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