Concepts – CentiMorgans, SNPs and Pickin’ Crab

In autosomal DNA testing, you’ll see the terms centiMorgans, represented as cMs and SNPs, which stands for single nucleotide polymorphism, combined.

These are two terms that are used to discuss thresholds and measurements of matching amounts of autosomal DNA segments.

These two terms, relative to autosomal DNA, are two parts of a whole, kind of like the left and right hand.

CentiMorgans are units of recombination used to measure genetic distance. You can read a scientific definition here.

For our conceptual purposes, think of centiMorgans as lines on a football field. They represent distance.

football fabric 2

SNPs are locations that are compared to each other to see if mutations have occurred.  Think of them as addresses on a street where an expected value occurs. If values at that address are different, then they don’t match.  If they are the same, then they do match.  For autosomal DNA matching, we look for long runs of SNPs to match between two people to confirm a common ancestor.

Think of SNPs as blades of grass growing between the lines on the football field.  In some areas, especially in my yard, there will be many fewer blades of grass between those lines than there would be on either a well-maintained football field, or maybe a manicured golf course.  You can think of the lighter green bands as sparse growth and darker green bands as dense growth.

If the distance between 2 marks on the football field is 5cM and there are 550 blades of grass growing there, you’ll be a match to another person if all of your blades of grass between those 2 lines match if the match threshold was 5cM and 500 SNPs.

So, for purposes of autosomal DNA, the combination of distance, centiMorgans, and the number of SNPs within that distance measurement determines if someone is considered a match to you. In other words, if the match is over the threshold as compared to your DNA, meaning the match is deemed to be relevant by the party setting the threshold.  Think of track and field hurdles.  To get to the end (match), you have to get over all of the hurdles!


By Ragnar Singsaas – Exxon Mobil ÅF Golden League Bislett Games 2008, CC BY 2.0,

For example, a threshold of 7 cM and 700 SNPs means that anyone who matches you OVER BOTH of these thresholds will be displayed as a match.  So centiMorgans and SNPs work together to assure valid matches.


These two numbers, cMs and SNPs, are used in conjunction with each other. Why?  Because the distribution of SNPs within cM boundaries is not uniform.  Some areas of the human genome have concentrations of SNPs, and some areas are known as “SNP deserts.”  So distance alone is not the only relevant factor.  How many blades of grass growing between the lines matters.

Each of the vendors selects a default threshold that they feel will give you the best mix of not too many false positives, meaning matches that are identical by chance, and not too many false negatives, meaning people who do actually match you genealogically that are eliminated by small amounts of matching DNA. Unfortunately, there is no line in the sand, so no matter where the vendor sets that threshold, you’re probably going to miss something in either or both directions.  It’s the nature of the beast.

Company Min cMs Min SNPs Comment
Family Tree DNA 7cM for any one segment + 20cM total 500 After the initial match, you can view down to 6 cM and 500 SNPs to people you match
23andMe 7cM 700
Ancestry 8cM after Timber and associated phasing routines Unknown Timber population based phasing removes matches they determine to be “too matchy” or population based
GedMatch User selectable – default is 7 User selectable – default is 700

2022 Update: MyHeritage began offering DNA testing and matching after this original article was published. Matches must have at least one 8 cM matching segment, but they show additional segments to 6 cM. There is no specified number of SNPs. Note that their imputation calculations sometimes cause the reported number of cM to be larger than for the same two people at other vendors.

As you might guess, there many opinions about the optimum threshold combinations to use – just about as many opinions as people!

These are important values, because the combined size of those matches to an individual allows you to roughly estimate the relationship range to the person you match.

As a general rule, the vendors do a relatively good job, with some exceptions that I’ve covered elsewhere and amount to beating a dead horse (Ancestry’s Timber, no chromosome browser). Of course, one of the big draws of GedMatch is that you can set your own cM and SNP matching thresholds.

Having said that, if you come from an endogamous population, you may want to raise your threshold to 10cM or even higher, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish

Effectively Using cMs and SNPs

Your personal goals have a lot to do with the thresholds you’ll want to select.

If you are new at genetic genealogy, you will first want to pursue your best matches, meaning the highest number of matching centiMorgans/SNPs, because they will be the low-hanging fruit and the easiest matches to connect genealogically. Said another way, you’ll match your closer relatives on bigger chunks of DNA, so concentrate on those first.  Successes are encouraging and rewarding!

Your match to a second cousin, for example, will have a significant amount of shared DNA, and second cousins share common great-grandparents – 2 of 8 people in that generation on your tree – so relatively easy to identify – as these things go.

The chart below shows the expected percentage of shared DNA in a given match pair, in this case, first and second cousins with a first-cousin-once-removed thrown in for good measure. Also shown is the expected amount of shared centiMorgans for the given relationship, the average amount of shared DNA from a crowd-sourced project titled The Shared cM Project by Blaine Bettinger, and the range of shared DNA found in that same project.

A pedigree chart of my family members fitting those categories is shown below, plus the actual amount of shared cMs of DNA to the right.

shared cM table

The chart below shows my DNA matches to my first-cousin-once-removed (1C1R), Cheryl.

Since we do match at Family Tree DNA above the match threshold, I can view all of my matching segments to Cheryl down to 1cM and 500 SNPs.

Cheryl chart

Just as a matter of interest, I’ve color coded the cM segments:

  • >10 cM = green
  • 7-10 cM = yellow
  • <7 = red

This means that if these were the largest matching segments, you would or would not be able to see them at the various thresholds of 7 and 10 cM.

If the matching threshold is at the default of 7cM, the green and yellow segments would be displayed.

If the matching threshold was set at 10, only the green cM segments are going to be shown.

At Family Tree DNA, you can select various threshold display options when using the chromosome browser tool, but not for initial matching. In other words, you have to match at their default threshold before you can see your smaller segments or alter your threshold display.

Some people want to see all of their DNA that matches, and some only want to see the large and compelling pieces, those green segments.  Neither choice is wrong, simply a matter of personal preference and individual goals.

The “large and compelling” part of that statement brings me back to why you’re participating in genetic genealogy in the first place, those individual goals.  The larger segments are going to lead to common ancestors who are generally easier to find and identify, unless you have an unidentified parent or a misattributed parental event.

You would never start with smaller segments in terms of matching, but that does not mean those smaller segments are never useful.  In fact, after you’ve managed to analyze all of your low hanging fruit, and you’re ready to research or concentrate on those ugly brick walls, groupings of those smaller segments in descendants may just be your lifesaver.

Surviving Phasing

However, now I’m curious. How many of those smaller segments do stand up to the test of parental phasing, meaning they match both me and my parent?  If my match (Cheryl) matches both me and my parent, then Cheryl does not match me by chance on that segment, so the match is genealogical in nature, the matching DNA proven to have descended to me from my mother.

Let’s see.

Cheryl Mom me chart

In order to phase my results with Cheryl against my mother, I copied Mother’s results into the same spreadsheet, above, color coding our rows so you can see them easier. “Cheryl matching Mom” rows are apricot and “Cheryl matching me” rows are yellow.

You can see that in some cases, like the first two rows, the two rows are identical which means I inherited all of Mom’s DNA in that segment and Cheryl inherited the same segment from her father, matching both Mom and me.

In other cases, I inherited part of Mom’s DNA on a particular segment.  I could also have inherited none of a particular segment.

In fact, of the 27 segments where I match Mom on any part of the segment, I match her on the entire segment 18 times, or 66.6% and on part of the segment 9 times, or 33.3%.

I left the color coding in the cM column the same as it was before, in my rows, to indicate small, medium and large segments. The small segments are red, which would be the most likely NOT to phase with my mother, in other words, the most likely to be Identical by Chance, not descent.  If Cheryl and I are Identical by Chance on these segments, it means that the reason I’m matching Cheryl is NOT because I inherited that chunk of DNA from mother. If Mom and I both match Cheryl, then Cheryl and I are Identical by Descent, meaning I inherited that piece of DNA from my mother, so the match is not because Cheryl’s DNA is randomly matching that of both of my parents.

In the spreadsheet below, I removed mother’s rows to eliminate clutter, but I color-coded mine. The rows that show red in the CHR and SNP columns BOTH are rows that did NOT phase with my mother, meaning these matches were indeed identical to Cheryl by chance.  The rows that are red ONLY in the cM column (and not in the CHR column) are small segments that DID phase with my mother, so those are identical by descent (IBD).

Cheryl Me phased chart

Here’s the interesting part.

  • All of the large segments, 10cM and over passed phasing. They are legitimate IBD matches.
  • One of 2 of the medium cM matches passed phasing.
  • Of the 15 smaller segments, ranging in size from 1.38 cM to 6.14 cM, more than half, 8, passed phasing. Seven did not. The smallest segment to pass phasing was 1.38 cM. I suspect that part of the reason that the smaller cM segments are passing phasing is that the SNP threshold is held steady at 500 SNPs. In another (unpublished) study, dropping the SNP threshold below 500 results in a dramatic increase in matches (roughly fourfold) and a very small percentage of those matches phase with parents.

Small Segments Guidelines

There has been a lot of spirited debate about the usage, or not, of small segments, so I’m going to provide some guidelines.  Let me preface this by saying that none of this is worth getting your knickers in a knot, so please don’t.  If you don’t want to include or utilize small segments, then just don’t.

  • What is and is not a small segment can vary depending on who you are talking to and the context of the conversation.
  • Small segments CAN and do survive parental phasing, as shown above.
  • Small segments CAN be triangulated to a particular ancestor. Triangulated in this sense means that this segment is found in the descendants of a group of people (3 or more) proven to descend from the same ancestor AND who all match each other on the same segment.
  • Not all small segments can be triangulated to a common ancestor.  But then again, the same can be said for larger segments too.  It’s more difficult and unlikely to be successful with smaller segments unless you are starting with a group of people who descend from a common ancestor and are looking for “ancestral DNA.”
  • Small segments, even after triangulation, can be found matching a different lineage. This is an indicator that while the descendants of the first group share this DNA segment from a specific ancestor, it may also be prevalent in a population in general, which would cause the same segment to show up matching in a second lineage from the same region as well. I have an example where my Acadian line also matches a different German line on a particular segment – which really isn’t surprising given the geography and history of Germany and France.
  • Small segments without the benefit of other tools such as parental phasing, triangulation and match groups are, at this time, a waste of time genealogically. This may not always be the case.
  • Never start with small segments.
  • Never draw conclusions from small segments alone, meaning without corroborating evidence.
  • Use small segments only in context of a combination of parental phasing, triangulation and match groups.
  • Just because you match a group of people, out of context, on a segment (small or otherwise) doesn’t mean that you share a common ancestor. The smaller the segment, the more likely it is to be either IBC or IBP. Situations where the DNA is exactly the same from both parents, meaning everyone has all As in that location, for example, are called runs of homozygosity and the smaller the segment, the more likely you are to encounter ROH segments which appear as phased matches.  Yes, another cruel joke of nature.

As a proof point relative to how deceptive small segment matching out of context can be, I ran my kit against my friend who is unquestionably 100% Jewish. I have no Jewish ancestry.  At 7cM/700 SNPs we have no matches, at 3cM/300SNPs we have 7 matching segments.

Me to Jewish match

However, matching this individual to my phased parents, none of these segments match both me and either one of my phased parent. Phased parent kits, at GEDMatch are kits reflecting the half of my parents DNA I received from that parent.  If you have one or both parents who have tested, you can create phased kits with instructions from this article.

Lowering the match threshold even further to 100 SNPs and 1cM, my Jewish friend and I match on a whopping 714 tiny matching segments, over 1100 cM total, but all very small pieces of DNA. Because of the absolute known 100% Jewish heritage of my friend, and my known non-Jewish heritage, these matches must be either IBC, identical by chance or perhaps some small segments of IBP, identical by population from a very long time ago when both of our ancestors lived in the Middle East, meaning thousands of years ago.  Bottom line, they are not genealogically relevant to either of us.  I repeated this same experiment with someone that is 100% Asian, with the same type of results.  You will match everyone at this threshold, including ancient DNA matches tens of thousands of years old.

The message here is that you can work from the “top down” with small segments, meaning in a known relationship situation like with my cousin and other relatives, but you cannot work from the bottom up with small segments as you have no way to differentiate the wheat from the chaff.

In the Crumley study, there are groups of small segments (greater than 3cM/300SNPs) that persist in multiple descendants of James Crumley, born in 1712.  In this case, because you can separate the wheat from the chaff with more than 50 participants, others who triangulate with those small segments and match the group of Crumley descendants may well share a common ancestor at some point in time, especially if they can phase with their parents on those segments to prove the match is not IBC.

  • Remember, your match on any segment to one person can be IBD, meaning you have identified the common ancestor, your match to another person on that same segment IBC, and yet to a third person, IBP where your match survives generational phasing, but you may never find the common ancestor due to the age of the segment or endogamy.
  • When utilizing small segments, I generally don’t drop the SNP threshold below 500, as the number of matches increases exponentially and the valid matches decrease proportionately as well. I’ll be publishing more on this shortly.
  • I do fully believe, within this set of cautionary criteria, that small segments can be useful. I also believe that small segments can be very easily misinterpreted. The use of matching segments has a lot to do with combining different pieces of evidence to build confidence in what the “match” is telling you. I wrote about the Autosomal DNA Matching Confidence Spectrum here.
  • Small segments should only be utilized after one has a good grasp of how genetic genealogy works and by utilizing the tools available to restrict those segments to genealogically descended DNA. In other words, small segments are for the advanced user. However, maintain those small segment groupings and triangulations in your spreadsheet, because when you have the level of experience needed to work with those small segments, they’ll be available for you to work with.  You may discover that most of your DNA triangulates by using large segments and you don’t need to utilize those small segments at all.
  • If you send me a list of matches from GedMatch with the cM set to 1 and the SNPs set to 100 and ask me what I think, I would simply to refer you to this article. But if I did reply, I would tell you that unless you have corroborating evidence, I think you’re wasting your time, but it’s your time and you’re welcome to do what you want with it. Life is about learning.
  • If you tell me you’ve drawn any conclusions from those types of matches (1cM and 100 SNPs), I’m going to be inconvincible without other tools such as genealogical proof,  parental phasing and triangulation groups that prove the segments to be valid to a specific ancestor for the people about whom you’re drawing conclusions. I might even suggest you look at the raw data in those segments to see if you’re dealing with runs of homozygosity.

Netting It Out

The net-net of this is that small segments can be useful, but it takes a lot more work because of the inherent questionable nature of small segment matches. This goes along with that old adage of “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”  Just be ready to roll up your shirt sleeves, because small segments are a lot more work!

Now having said all of that, I very much encourage continuing to triangulate your small segments and pay attention to them. You may notice patterns very relevant to your own genealogy, or you may learn that those patterns were somewhat deceptive – like IBD that turned into IBP.  Still useful and interesting, but perhaps not as originally intended.

Without continuing and ongoing research, we’ll never learn how to best utilize small segments nor develop the tools and techniques to sort the wheat from the chaff. Just be appropriately paranoid about conclusions based on small segments, especially small segments alone, and the smaller the segment, the more paranoid you should be!

There is a very big difference between working with small segments along with larger matching data and genealogy, which I encourage, and drawing conclusions based on small segment data alone and out of context, which I highly discourage.

Let’s hope that all of your matches come with large segments and matching ancestors in their trees!!!

Pickin’ Crab

You know, working with different cM levels and SNPs, especially as segments get smaller and more challenging, I’m reminded of “picking crab” at a good old North Carolina crab bake. You would never start out with a crab bake for breakfast.  You kind of have to work your way up to pickin’ crab – the same as small segments.  And you never pick crab alone. It’s a group activity, shared with friends and kin.  So is genetic genealogy.

You’ll need lessons, at first, in how to “pick crab” effectively. There’s a particular technique to it.  Friends teach friends.  You’ll find cousins you didn’t know you had, like Dawn in the brown shirt below, giving lessons to Anne.

Dawn lessons

A little practice and you’ll get it.

Just because it’s not easy doesn’t mean it’s not productive, especially when everyone works together!  And the results are “very good,” if you just have patience and work through the process.  If you decide that you “can’t pick crab,” then you’re right, you can’t pick crab, and you’ll just have to go hungry and miss out on all the fun!  Don’t let that happen.  Hint – sometimes the fun is in the pickin’!

Here’s hoping you can solve all of your brick walls with large cMs and large SNP counts, and if not, here’s hoping you enjoy “picking crab” with a group of friends and cousins and who will contribute to the ongoing research.

Pickin’ crab, or working on identifying difficult ancestors is always better when collaborating with others! Find cousins and fellow collaborators and enjoy!!! Genetic genealogy is not something you can do alone – it’s dependent on sharing.

crab pickin

Sometimes it’s as much about the friends and cousins you meet on the journey and the adventures along the way as it is about the answer at the end.



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Abigail “Nabby” Hall (1792-1874), Pioneer Settler in “Little Fort,” 52 Ancestors #117

Finding Nabby’s first name, at least her nickname, was easy, deceptively easy as it turns out.  Her nickname was recorded on her daughter’s birth record in 1815 in Bristol, Vermont.  However, at that time, we didn’t know for sure that it was a nickname, although I suspected.

Rachel Hill birth

Finding Nabby’s real name and her surname was anything but easy. What’s even worse is that I had a hunch about the surname, followed it, and was entirely wrong.  Yep, so I sent myself on a wild goose chase right down a rat hole.  Let me explain…

My ancestor, Curtis Benjamin Lore, known as “C.B.” Lore, was born in 1856 to Nabby’s daughter, Rachel Levina Hill Lore. He named a daughter by his second wife Curtis Lore, and he named a son by his first wife John Curtis Lore.  Given the repeat nature of this name in the family, and given that Curtis’s father was Antoine Lore, an Acadian Canadian with no Curtis in that line, my reasoning was that the name “Curtis” had to originate with Curtis’s mother, Rachel Hill, and given his attachment to a name he never used, it had to be a family name, perhaps Rachel’s mother’s surname.  Rachel’s mother was Nabby. This all made sense.

Given that I had checked all of the normal resources for Nabby (also spelled Naby) Hill’s surname, and had come up entirely empty handed, I figured that the search for Curtis families in Addison County, Vermont seemed reasonable. It was reasonable, it’s just that it was also wrong.  I still think it’s a family name, but it was not Nabby’s surname, as I later discovered.

On the other hand, a cousin, William, had a theory about Nabby’s surname, that I thought was very far-reaching – but as it turned out, he was right.  I’m just glad one of us was right, and truthfully, I didn’t care which one.  More about that later.

I did know a few more things about Nabby that helped track her family.

She was born in Connecticut, according to the 1850, 1860 and the 1870 census. That’s three confirmations of her birth in a state where she was not living, so mistaken ditto marks are not a factor.

We know from those same census records as well as her obituary that Nabby was born in the early 1790s. As it turns out, 1792.

This means that Nabby was probably not married to Joseph HIll before 1812 or so, and perhaps slightly later, and Rachel may have been her first child, or maybe her second.

We know that Nabby and Joseph Hill were still living in Addison County in 1831 when daughter Rachel married Antoine Lord/Lore who in the US became known as Anthony Lore.

Joseph Hill was shown in the 1820 census records living in Starksboro, VT with his wife, plus 1 young male and one young female under the age of 10. In addition, there is an unknown male age 16-26 who is too old to be the child of Joseph and Nabby.

By 1830, we have two additional Joseph Hills in Addison County of about the same age, so I reconstructed the various families, and by process of elimination of the other families, in 1830, Nabby had the following children according to the census:

  • Rachel Levina b 1814/1815
  • Female born 1821-1824
  • Lucia born 1827
  • Female born 1826-1830
  • Male born 1821-1824
  • Male born 1821-1824
  • Male born 1816-1820

Shifting this to a chronological view, and adding additional information, we have the following:

1814-1815 – Rachel Levina HIll

  • 1816-1820 – male child
  • 1821-1824 – female child
  • 1821-1824 – male child
  • 1821-1824 – male child
  • 1827 – Lucia P. Hill
  • 1826-1830 – female child
  • 1831 – ?
  • 1833 – ?
  • 1835 – ?
  • 1836-1837 – Rollin C. Hill

We also know from the 1850 census that Nabby had a son, Rollin, born in about 1837, so I’ve added him to the list above.

Given that Nabby had Rollin in about 1837, she very likely had other children between 1830 and 1837, probably 2 or 3.

I can’t find Nabby and Joseph in 1840, so by 1850, it’s likely that most of their children born before 1830 are on their own. Only Lucia and Rollin are living with them in the 1850 census.  This means that other than my ancestor Rachel, their other children remain “lost,” at least for now.  Perhaps several died, in particular, any children born after 1830 and before Rollin, given that they aren’t shown in the 1850 census, although some could have been 18 or 20 so technically old enough to be on their own.  I have tracked the parents for all Hill marriages pre-1850 in Lake County – and they don’t track to Joseph and Nabby Hill as parents.

The process of finding, identifying and tracking Nabby and Joseph was not trivial, and involved at least one “gift” of extremely good luck that sent me from Addison County, Vermont to Waukegan, Illinois, a leap I would never had otherwise made. I detailed this process and journey in Joseph Hill’s article.

At this point though, in my search for Nabby and the identity of her parents, I had data, but I still didn’t really know much about her and what her life was like. I still don’t even know the names of half of her children.  I know she had at least 8, probably more like 11, but I can only identify 3.

Let’s see if we can get to know Nabby a bit better.

Starksboro, Vermont

We know that Nabby was born in Connecticut, but we didn’t initially know where. Our first record of Nabby is found in Addison County, and we know from the town historian, Bertha Hanson that the Hill families lived in an area called Hillsboro, just to the east of the main village of Starksboro.

Often you can verify information like this via where early people with that surname are buried using Find-A-Grave and sometimes you can also find a cemetery associated with a particular surname. In this case, there were two cemeteries with Hill burials, both near Hillsboro, one named the Mason-Hill Cemetery.

First of all, Starksboro isn’t a village like I think of villages. Addison County is mountainous and the roads snake one at a time through the valleys that are passable.

The village of Starksboro where Nabby’s daughter Rachel was married is really only a location in a valley on the road where a few houses were built.  Bristol where Rachel was born is a little larger, but not a lot.  Where I grew up, we would have classified them as “wide spots in the road.”  The surrounding area that would normally be called a township elsewhere is still part of the “town” in Vermont, so the towns include a lot of undeveloped and originally unsettled land.

Here’s a satellite view of Bristol today. Bristol grew up on the banks of the New Haven River, harnessing river power for saw mills.

Bristol, VT

Route 116 connects Bristol with Starksboro. The Green Mountains lie to the east and farmland lies between Bristol and Lake Champlain about 15 miles to the west.

Bristol and Starksboro

I found a goldmine of old photos at the University of Vermont, among them this topographical map of Bristol and Starksboro. The history of Bristol tells us that it was settled mainly with families from Connecticut and among them we find Nabby’s father – after we figured out who he was of course.  By the year 1800, Nabby, then age 8, was living in Bristol among 97 families totaling 665 people.  Her own family consisted of 2 males under the age of 10, 4 females under the age of 10, plus her parents.  I bet that was one noisy household.

Bristol 1910 topo




Topographical map of Bristol done about 1910 showing all the streets in the village and town with locations of buildings existing at the time.

Road 116 is considered the border between Starksboro and Bristol, although it actually connects them.

Starksboro map

The picture below is of the actual village of Starksboro itself in 1950 or 1960 and as you can see, the village itself is very small. You can imagine how much smaller it was in the early 1800s. The Meeting House, with the cupola, built in 1840, in shown in the lower right area.

Starksboro 1950 aerial


1950 – 1960


The historic image shows a dirt road with electric lines traveling through town. Gardens are visible between houses and a school building (or church) in the lower, right corner of the photograph. There are more gardens, a barn, a silo, houses, a two-story industrial or commercial building (lumber mill?) and several stacks of lumber in the lower left corner. There is a church in the center of the photograph. There is a set of farm buildings and farm machinery just past the church. The landscape on the left side of the photograph has been cleared and is used for field crops and pastures. There are more farm buildings, houses, and gardens at the top of the image. It looks like summer. Esther Munroe Swift writes on 2005-4-12: Despite minor damage to this image, it is by far one of the best aerial views in the collection. Not only do the buildings show clearly, the terrain, trees and crop plantings also are clearly defined.

Hillsboro road

Thanks to cousin Rick Norton, we have a photo of Hillsboro Road, today, in a location where he says it’s in good condition as compared to the rest of the road.  Samuel Hill, a brother to Nabby’s husband Joseph, built a mill another mile and a half on up this road at Twin Bridges in about 1805.

Addison County was founded upon the lumber industry. People cut lumber, worked lumber and sold lumber.  There wasn’t much else you could do, because there was little flat area and it couldn’t be farmed until it was logged, if then.

Starksboro was first settled in 1787 and by 1800 there was a sawmill, 71 residences and 359 people, according to the census. Lumber was the big industry and probably the only industry for a very long time.

Starksboro lumber

There were several lumber mills in Starksboro and surrounding area. Starksboro had a shingle factory in 1840 which produced shingles from Hemlock. Nabby’s husband, Joseph listed himself in 1850 in Waukegan, Illinois as a shinglemaker.

According to the Town Report, Starksboro had 40 residents in 1791, about the time Nabby was born, and 1263 in 1840 by the time she and Joseph had already climbed into their wagon and set out for the wide open west. I guess the town must have gotten too crowded!  It’s not much larger today.  In 2010 the population was 1777 and 5.3 miles of road are paved, with 42 remaining unpaved.  Nabby would probably recognize it.

What did Starksboro look like? The camera was not in used until about the time of the Civil War, and not in wide use until the 1880s.  However, it doesn’t seem like Starksboro changed rapidly, so let’s see what we can find.

One of the old photos I found was the Hill farm. There were several Hill males that settled in this area, so this is most likely not Joseph’s farm, but we really don’t know, and it was assuredly the farm of a relative.

Starksboro Hill farm


1890 – 1950


A caption at the bottom of the historic image reads, “Elmwood Farm, Starksboro, VT — Hill and Miles Prop.” The image shows silos and barns near a farmhouse. A small stream passes through the lower, left corner of the image. There are scrap piles near the silos and a stonewall uphill of the scrap piles. There is a forested hill in the background of the image. Esther Munroe Swift writes on 2005-4-12: Hamilton Childs Gazetteer & Business Directory for Addison County c.1882 lists 19 members

Starksboro, Hill store on left

Cousin Rick tells us that this picture of Starksboro in 2012 includes an old store that was run by a Hill family member at one time, on the left.

I think Rick’s picture below looks like a Normal Rockwell type of painting.  Thank you to cousin John Burbank for photoshopping out the poles and wires.

Starksboro look toward village 116 and Hillsboro rd crop

Moving on down the road a bit to the south, Rick took this picture of Starksboro from the intersection of 116 and Hillsboro Road.  Nabby would have been very familiar with this land and with Lewis Creek, below.

Starksboro covered bridge




This black and white photograph depicts an elderly gentleman fishing in Lewis Creek just below a covered bridge. The covered bridge is set on a stone foundation. The man fishing is standing on a rock outcrop along the water. Both banks of the creek are grassy and dotted with deciduous trees. On either side of the frame, the edges of wooden framed buildings are visible.

Lewis Creek runs through Starksboro and alongside Hillsboro Road.

Hillsboro road looking at hill where Hills settled

Cousin Rick turned the corner and took a picture of the Hill hill overlooking Starksboro where the Hills first settled.  Say that 10 times fast.

I was putting myself in Nabby’s shoes, looking back at these black and white photos of yesteryear, trying to put myself in her place back in a black and white existence when she married, just over 200 years ago. I was happily browsing photos, when I got extremely lucky.  I noticed that a property was for sale on Brown Hill Road.  Yes, that’s the location of one of the Hill Cemeteries, in the area where the Hill family lived, so I had to google the location.

Here’s what the realtor has to say:

Highland Farm is the classic Vermont Hill Farm on 256 acres of ponds, streams, fields, woodlands and highlights some of the best views of the Green Mountains. Full-on views of Camels Hump and the Appalachian Gap with a swimming pond in the foreground, a 10,000 tap sugar bush, a mobile home and a separate apartment in the large Post and Beam barn. Highland Farm is the ideal in Vermont Hill Farm retreats.

  •     256 +/- Acres of Classic Vermont Hill Farm
  •     End-of-the-road privacy
  •     Full-on views of Camels Hump, the Green Mountains and the Appalachian Gap
  •     10,000 tap sugarbush (possibly more)
  •     Over 175 acres of managed woodlands and approximately 60 acres of open fields
  •     A nice combination of open, sloping southeasterly facing fields fenced for livestock
  •     Two swimming ponds, one with covered deck
  •     Post & Beam barn with a one bedroom apartment
  •     Two 4-bay storage barns and two ponds
  •     An active brook with waterfalls runs through the property

See more at:

So, let’s see what the countryside Nabby would have seen outside her window everyday looks like.

Mason Hill 13 Mason Hill 12 Mason HIll 11 Mason Hill 10 Mason Hill 9 Mason Hill 8 Mason Hill 7 Mason Hill 6 Mason Hill 5 Mason Hill 4 Mason Hill 3 Mason Hill 2 Mason Hill 1

I’m telling you what, I don’t want to buy the place, but I assuredly want to rent it for a couple of weeks.  I wonder if it’s vacant???

There are just no words to describe some levels of majesty and beauty. The only thing I can think of to say is “breathtaking.”

I truly look at this and wonder how one could ever leave. Then I remember the backbreaking physical work of the lumbermen, and perhaps that is why Nabby and Joseph left.  Maybe its remoteness only looks enticing today because it’s a quick car ride to town, to obtain food, and one doesn’t have to hunt the food, kill it, skin it, cook it, or go hungry.  Neighbors, and assistance, are a phone call away and not miles through deep snow.  Maybe flat land would have been preferable because it’s farmable and those beautiful mountains only represented obstacles and challenges to our ancestors.  Maybe by 1840, when Joseph would have been about 50 years old, he was old and tired and wasn’t able to do lumbering anymore.  Maybe he had hurt himself, or just worn himself out over the years.  Maybe the westward bug was catching.  Maybe they knew it was now or never, and decided it was now.

How Nabby must have cried as they left, leaving everything and everyone that she knew behind, including her aged father whom she knew she would never see again.

And what about Nabby’s children? By 1840, her children had been marrying since 1831.  How many living children did Nabby leave behind?  How many are buried in small unmarked graves in a clearing in one of the two Hill cemeteries?  Did she visit them all one last time?

We don’t know exactly when they left, but Rollin consistently gives his birth location as New York in 1836/1837 from 1860-1910, 5 different census enumerations. The only one that is different is the 1850 census, where his parents would have provided the information, and they say Rollin was born in Vermont.

Oswego, NY to Little Fort, Illinois

Nabby spent a few years in Oswego, New York after leaving Vermont and before moving on to Little Fort, Illinois, later renamed Waukegan.  Nabby’s obituary says they arrived in 1842, which seems likely to be accurate.  They arrived sometime before her daughter, Lucia, married Henry Weaver in Waukegan on November 8, 1844, which, ironically is the same day Joseph and Nabby purchased a lot in Little Fort.  There must have been some celebrating going on that day!  Everyone would have been happy!

We don’t know how Joseph and Nabby arrived in either Oswego or Little Fort, but there is at least a possibility that they took the Erie Canal, completed in 1825, and joiner canals at least as far as Lake Erie and from there steamers around Michigan to Little Fort, Illinois. That would have been the long way, but it might have been preferable to going by wagon.

The map below shows the canal system in New York and connecting the regions around lakes Ontario and Erie.

NY Erie Canal

It’s also possible that they took a steamer the entire distance from Oswego to Little Fort. On the other hand, perhaps they took water as far as Toledo and switched to wagon to cross across the top of Ohio and Indiana to Chicago where they rounded the southernmost tip of Lake Michigan.  I wish we knew and if they had a steamer trunk for their trip, I surely wish I had that today.  I can’t imagine packing all of my family’s worldly belongings in trunks or a wagon and heading west.  The only good news by that time would have been that Nabby wasn’t pregnant like so many pioneer women who bounced around in those old wagons.

I can’t imagine that Nabby was looking forward to this trip, or setting up housekeeping all over again at age 50 or so. I wonder if she was fearful or resigned, or maybe a different mix of emotions.

When Nabby and Joseph with however many children they had in tow arrived in Waukegan, it was named Little Fort, and it was little, about 150 people. I don’t know if that number included children or not, but if it did not, that’s still only 75 couples or roughly 75 houses.  It that number included children, there were maybe 15 or 20 households.

Little Fort was a trading post, initially with the Potawatomie Indians – in fact it was the Indians who originally lived where “Little Fort” was established until 1829 when they ceded the land. Little Fort remained a trading town however, first fur trading, then shipping products to Chicago and other locations.  Little Fort was growing rapidly, however, with many new settlers and by 1849 it boasted 2500 residents. Not being “little” anymore, it was renamed Waukegan, the Potawatomie word for “fort” or “trading post.”  So, ironically, Waukenan went from an English word to a Native word for the same thing signifying “progress.”

Nabby and Joseph purchased land in the original town of Little Fort in November 8, 1844, lot 2 on block 39 from Elmsley and Sarah Sunderlin recorded in Deed Book C page 233.

Joseph Hill Little Fort Deed

When I visited in 2009, I obtained a plat map of the City of Waukegan created in 1861. This has been an extremely useful tool, several times.

Little Fort 1861

My 1861 plat map saved me once again, because the original blocks were numbered. On the section of the map below, the original Little Fort is to the right of the dotted line, and block 39 is shown below with the red arrow.  You can see 38 above it and 40 below.  The left half, on the other side of the dotted line is an addition to “Little Fort” at a later time and numbered within that addition.  Of course, since the lot was lot 2 block 39 and sold to them by Sunderlin, now I’m wondering if Joseph and Nabby owned the second “half” of this lot in the Sunderlin addition on the left side of the dotted line.

Little Fort 1861 Lot 39

Today, this property would be on the south side of Lake Street between County and Genessee. I doubt that either of these homes are original to the 1840s.

Little Fort Lot 39 Lake Street

Below is the view today from the Belvidere side.

Little Fort Lot 39 Belvidere side

And the County Street side.

Little fort lot 39 County street side

I’m sure this block probably looks nothing like it looked initially.  I wonder if anything is original to that timeframe.

Little Fort block 39

Regardless of exactly where they lived on this block, it’s fun to see it in context with the rest of the area.

Little Fort block 39 larger

Their “block” is marked with the grey pin above. In essence they were about 2 blocks from the public square and a couple blocks from the waterfront, the perfect location for everything in the small 1840s trading post town.

This drawing of Little Fort isn’t wonderful, but it’s all we have of that timeframe.  Those are pretty substantial docks.

Little Fort, Illinois

Nabby and Joseph lived in this area the rest of their lives. We know very little about Nabby except through Joseph and the census, with only one exception.

In the fall of 1846, Joseph and Nabby took what I believe is a mortgage on this property. Perhaps they were building a house.  The document is in poor condition, but the County Registrar’s office has this transaction labeled as a mortgage, not a sale.  Truthfully, I don’t care what it is because it tells me that Nabby’s name is Abigail, something I had long suspected but never been able to prove.

Little Fort lot 39 mortgage

It also tells me one other thing, both Nabby and Joseph can write. These are not their actual signatures, they are versions “sealed” by the clerk, but the fact that Nabby’s doesn’t have an “X” with “her mark” tells me she knows how to write so, someplace, she had some education.

Little Fort Lot 39 mortgage 2

We’re fortunate that Nabby had an obituary when she died in 1874. Joseph, three years earlier in 1871 only had a death announcement.

Nabby HIll obit

I was still disappointed to discover that there was no birth name for Nabby, but now I know she was Methodist. Better yet, because of the 1861 map once again, I know where the Methodist Church was located.

Little Fort Methodist church

The First United Methodist Church stills stands there today, at the intersection of Martin Luther King, formerly Utica Street, and Clayton Street. Obviously this building has been expanded over the years, but this is where Nabby attended church.

Little Fort Methodist church today

If any of the old church remains, it’s likely this center section on the Clayton side, based on the map and the building itself.  The “Bazaar” banner hangs under the window in the old part of the church.

Little Fort Methodist church original

This Christmas Eve service inside the historic part of the church today is different, I’m sure than when Nabby attended, but this was the very same place she prayed and likely where her funeral was held, 142 years ago. I wonder if she sang in the choir.

Little Fort Methodist church inside

Nabby’s history gets a little fuzzy between the year of the mortgage in 1846 and her death. In 1850, the census shows Joseph and Nabby as owning $200 of property.  That’s less than some, more than others.  Interestingly enough, they live beside the “brewer” who owns $1000 worth of property, which was a lot by comparison.

1850 Waukegan census

The 1850s would have been a time of change for Nabby. Rollin, her last child at home married in about 1853 or 1854.  Nabby had already buried her daughter, Lucia’s, first child in 1846 when he was just a few days over 4 months old.  Lucia’s husband died on August 13, 1854 and just 2 months later, on October 12th, Lucia’s youngest son died as well.  Without a husband and with 3 children under the age of 6, you know that Nabby was surely quite involved with helping Lucia and her grandchildren.

Given that daughter Rachel was in Pennsylvania, Nabby would have been unaware of her trials and tribulations, unless she was kept informed by letter. Regardless, there was nothing Nabby could do to help Rachel, so far away.

The 1860 census shows Joseph and Nabby with no property, which begs the question of whether the census was incorrect or if they had somehow lost or sold their property – neither of which is reflected in the deeds.

Waukegan 1860 census

The 1870 census, if this is the right couple, shows them living about 35 miles away in neighboring Cook County, with Joseph at age 79 still working as a laborer.

1870 joseph hill

I could have found the wrong couple in 1870, as the surname is spelled unusually, but it seems unlikely to have two Joseph and Nabby’s of the same age with her being from Connecticut, living in Illinois. There is no sign of them in Waukegan in 1870.

Nabby was probably unaware of the Hell that daughter Rachel was living in Pennsylvania. Several of Rachel’s children died, along with her husband, Anthony Lore in the 1860s, followed by more children’s deaths and then her own between 1870 and 1880.  We don’t know if Rachel died before Nabby or after.

Joseph Hill died less than a year after the 1870 census, on March 16th, 1871 with the local paper saying he was 80 years and 6 months old, which would correlate exactly with age 79 in the census the year before.

I have to wonder, what happened to the land-owing American dream that Joseph and Nabby obviously held at one time. What happened to their property?  Where did Nabby live when she died?

The Lake County Historical Society has been extremely helpful. They have an 1874 City Directory that listed Mrs. L. W. Weaver, widow, who would be Lucia Weaver, Nabby’s daughter.  Her address was given as “living the south side of Julian, two doors east of Utica.”  Houses didn’t have numbers yet at that time.  It’s amazing that we’ve gone from houses without numbers in the 1870s to seeing the location “virtually” today, both by satellite and via Google Street View.

That location tidbit was all I needed and off I flew to Google Maps, the genealogists friend – except there were a couple minor snafus this time.

I knew where Julian Street was located, but Utica was on the south side of the city running parallel with Julian. Those two streets don’t, didn’t and never had intersected.  What was going on?

I referred back to my 1861 map of Waukegan, and sure enough, the street names have changed.  Some streets that used to be through streets aren’t any longer.

On the map below, you can see the area today on the left and that section from the 1861 map on the right. Utica has been changed to Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.

Little Fort Lucia street change

The location of Lucia Weaver’s house where Nabby lived her last few years is shown with the top red arrow in both.

Waukegan Lucia Weaver

On this enlarged version of this map (north is right), I can easily see the actual house location, which means I can then go to Google Maps and see if the house is still standing. We’re in luck, it is.  You can see all 5 houses in this photo on Julian between Martin Luther King (Utica) and County Street.

You might notice that this looks a bit different than the hand drawing. Hmmmm…..

Waukegan Lucia WEaver today

Is the second house then the second house from the right, today?

According to realtor records, discovered by googling, house number 315, the second house from the right, was built in 1901. House number 313 was, next door, was built in 1900.  The yellow house, 311, is also a possibility, but I could not determine when it was built.  However, looking at the 1861 map, I’m not all sure the yellow house is in the correct location on the lots, so while this IS the location, none of the houses may be original to the time when Nabby would have been living here with daughter Lucia.  I wonder if prior to 1900/1901 there was one house where there are now two, 313 and 315, today.

According to Peterson Funeral Home records, we know the following about Nabby’s death:

  • Age 82
  • Died of old age
  • Died Sept 30, 1874
  • Buried at Oakwood, nothing more listed
  • Book A Sept 30 1874

Nabby is buried in an unmarked grave in Section 23, Lot 10 of the Oakwood Cemetery, likely beside Joseph, probably beside the Weaver plot where Lucia, her husband Henry, and son Wallace are buried. The local Historical Society volunteer, Ann, was extremely helpful to me both before the visit and in terms of helping me find the graves.

Waukegan Oakwood

Volunteers are wonderful. What would we do without them and their giving spirit.  Ann met me at the cemetery to be sure I found the graves and brought me some historical goodies too…like Nabby’s obituary!

Oakwood Waukegan Ann and me

Stuck in the Mud

Now, it’s 2009. I’ve been searching for Nabby’s surname for years and I’ve overturned every rock I can think of to overturn.  There are just no records left, or at least I don’t think there are – and I’m stuck.  Seriously stuck, mired in the mud and never going to get out stuck.

I know all about that. I did it to a tractor once, Ok, twice…but that’s another story entirely.  After that, every time there was any mud anyplace near me my mother had to point it out – for years – actually for the rest of her life.

“Watch that mud over there.”

“Mom, it’s a mud puddle an inch deep on pavement in a parking lot.”

“Well, Ok, but I just wanted to be sure you saw it.”

Thank you so much mother:)

Desperation Sets In

I really didn’t think anyone knew Nabby’s surname, but then again, Nabby died in 1874, not so long ago that a descendant might not have a Bible, a paper, something. I was actually hoping for one of those unknown children to pop up with an obituary, a death certificate, a Bible, something to identify Nabby’s parents.

I set about to salt and pepper with breadcrumbs everyplace – rootsweb lists, boards, checking GenForum and last of all, as much as it pains me to say, I checked Ancestry for Nabby’s surname. Now, in my defense, I didn’t want to just adopt a surname and hook it on my tree, I was searching for information, hints, anything of use.

I did find something quite interesting. Here’s what I posted on the rootsweb lists:

“I recently found a tree at Ancestry, with no documents, that says that Nabby’s parents were Gershom Hall and Dorcas Richardson of Addison County, Vermont. I tried to contact the tree owner with no luck.  Does anyone have any information about the Hall family and if they had a daughter, Nabby (or Abigail) who married a Joseph Hill?  Did Gershom Hall have a will of any sort that might name his children?  Any help is gratefully appreciated.”

Truthfully, I didn’t think there was a snowball’s chance in hades that this was accurate, but it was the one and only lead I had.

William Wheeler, a cousin who descends from Lucia that I didn’t know previously, answered me and he said that he felt there was evidence to support this Hall connection, provided as follows:

  • Gershom Hall Jr. & Dorcas Richardson Hall have a daughter Nabby, born CT 10/7/1792; Mansfield, Tolland, CT records.
  • Gershom Hall, Jr. is in Bristol, VT 1799/1800; 1800 census as Gershom Noll, Bristol town records is a freeholder 9/5/1809, lived in Bristol through 1840 census.
  • Gershom’s son Edmund moved to Lake Co. IL in the 1840’s the same period as Joseph and Nabby.

The 1850 census does confirm an Edmund Hall born in 1791 in Connecticut , wife Hannah, living in Lake County, Illinois.

That’s good information, but nothing to draw conclusions from. It is, however, something to work with.

From the book, “The Halls of New England” by David B. Hall, 1883, on page 237, I found:

(Family 81.) Gershom Halls(5) Gershom(4), James(3), William(2), John(1) b. Sept. 6, 177O; m., May 9, 1791, Dorcas Richardson of Wellington, Conn. Residence Mansfield. Children were :

  1. Edmund, b. Sept. 6. 1791.
  2. Nabby, b. Oct. 7, 1792.
  3. Joel, b. Feb. 13, 1794.
  4. Orilla, b. Sept. 30, 1795.
  5. Polly b. Oct. 13, 1797.

Well, that’s a Nabby alright, with a brother Edmund, but is this our Nabby?

Then I discovered that Polly Hall, the daughter of Gershom married David Gates and had a son named Rollin Cone Gates. Ok, this is now too much coincidence, given that the name Rollin and Rollin C. repeats in Nabby’s children as well.

Not only that, but Polly’s first daughter’s name was Alvira, a name also found in Nabby’s daughter Rachel’s line.

I contacted the historical society in Addison County, Vermont and they were unable to find any burial, will, estate or other information for Gershom, although they did find one tidbit that made me quite sad, actually.

“Rachel, dau. of Gershon and Dorcas Hall died April 21, 1809, age 11.”

Rachel Hall would have been born in about 1798 and the 1800 census does support 4 daughters, instead of the three shown for Gershom above in the Hall book. Rachel would have been Nabby’s little sister, younger than Nabby by maybe 5 or 6 years or so.  In 1809, when Rachel died, Nabby would have been 17 and it probably broke her heart to bury her baby sister.  I can see her standing beside the grave and promising to Rachel that she would indeed live on, and then just 5 years later, in 1814, Nabby naming her first daughter Rachel Levina.

This information falls into the “preponderance of evidence category,” but it isn’t proof.  I turned to DNA.

Autosomal DNA

In order to obtain DNA+tree matches at, I needed to add Gershom Hall and Dorcas Richardson and as much of their Ancestry as is documented in the books I had found onto my Ancestry tree. If you are cringing a bit, so was I, because I hate to add anything speculative.  However, I needed to know if the DNA evidence also supports Nabby being the child of Gershom Hall and Dorcas Richardson and the only way to do that was to add Gershom and Dorcas to my tree.  In other words, I needed to know if my “ancestor trap” would provide any shakey leaf DNA matches.  It did, so Gershom and Dorcas are still branches on my tree.

Today I have 4 matches to the Gershom Hall line other than through Nabby – three through Gershom’s sister, Rachel’s line and one through Gershom’s other daughter Amelia Orilla. I have two additional matches through Gershom’s grandfather, James Hall and wife Mehitable.  I have yet another match through James’ parents William Hall and wife Hester Matthews.

Unfortunately, most of these folks have not uploaded their results to GedMatch, so I’ve been unable to triangulate, but I’m willing to call provisionally “safe” on this one with the non-DNA evidence backed up by 7 different DNA matches to multiple lines other than my own through the Hall family.  It’s still not proof.

Maybe someday I’ll get to triangulate and call this absolutely, positively, a home run.

Nabby’s Children and Mitochondrial DNA

While we are using autosomal DNA to confirm Nabby as a member of the Hall family, we can also utilize Nabby’s mitochondrial DNA to learn more about Nabby’s direct maternal line.

Mitochondrial DNA tells a story hundreds to thousands of years old, but of just one line, the direct matrilineall line. Women pass mitochondrial DNA directly to their children, but men don’t pass theirs on.  So anyone, male or female, descended from Nabby or her sisters through all females can test their mitochondrial DNA, which is the same mitochondrial DNA as Nabby carried.  From that, we can learn about Nabby’s ancient origins, before the advent of surnames.

We can still only identify 3 of Nabby’s children, although through those three children she had 28 or 29 grandchildren, several of whom, the ones in Pennsylvania, she probably never knew, and may not have known of:

  • Rachel Levina Hill, born in April 10, 1814 or 1815 in Bristol, Addison County, Vermont, married Anthony Lore October 13, 1831 in Starksboro, VT, moved to New York, then to Warren County, PA by 1850 where she died between 1870 and 1880. She had a total of 12 children that we know of, with daughters as follows:

Maria Lore born 1844 who married Elisha Stephen Farnham and had daughter Jennie Farnham who married a Goss and had one daughter Ethel Goss.

Mary or Minerva Lore (or both) may have married Henry Ward and had daughters Lillie Ward, Myrtle Ward, Daisy Ward and another daughter whose name is unknown

  • Rollin C. Hill born April 16, 1836, probably in Vermont, married Louisa Jane Wright about 1853, died December 24, 1918 during the flu epidemic in Waukegan, Illinois. He had 9 children who lived, of 11 born: Rollin Cullin (1869-1944), Alice May (1872-1953), Leroy Frank (1877-1923), Harry Wright (1855-1949), Charles Oliver (1873-947), Herbert B. (1872-1942), Joseph (1869-before 1880), Ellen Louisa (1857-1940), Cornelia (1865 and (1865-1937) Lewis (1860-before 1880).  Rollin’s children do not carry Nabby’s mitochondrial DNA since males do not pass mitochondrial DNA to their offspring.
  • Lucia P. Hill born October 27, 1827 in Addison County, Vermont, married Henry Weaver November 8, 1844 in Waukegan, Illinois. He died in 1854.  Lucia never remarried, worked as a seamstress and died on January 13, 1917 in Chicago, Illinois.  She is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in Waukegan.  Her children, based on the Bible pages shown below which are known as the “Weaver-Norton Bible,” in combination with census records, are Edwin Alonzo born and died in 1846, Wallace born in 1848 who lived and died in Waukegan, Sarah born in 1850, Adella “Della” born in 1852 and Charles Cullin born in 1853 and died two months after his father in 1854.  1854 was a terrible year for this family.

Lucia’s daughters who would carry her mitochondrial DNA are:

Sarah Prince Weaver born May 14, 1850 in Waukegon, Illinois, moved to Hunters, Stevens County, Oregon where she died on October 29, 1929.  Her second husband was William George Simpson who she married in 1872 in Michigan.  She had children Adolph born in 1872, Edward born in 1875 and died in 1877, Guy born 1879, died 1899, Gary born 1881, died 1884, and Lillie born in 1883. Lillie Simpson carries Sarah’s and Nabby’s mitochondrial DNA.  She married William Wheeler had a daughter Stella Wheeler who died in 1972 and daughter Claire Wheeler who died in 2003.  If Stella or Claire had children, they would also carry Nabby’s mitochondrial DNA.

Sarah Prince WEaver

Nabby’s granddaughter, Sarah Prince Weaver.

Adella “Della” N. Weaver born March 30, 1852, married Duncan Kier about 1880 and had daughter Edna A. Kier born in July of 1880.  Della moved to Independence, Missouri where she died in 1935.  Edna carries Nabby’s mitochondrial DNA as do her children.  If Edna had female children, anyone descended from those female children through females carries Nabby’s mitochondrial DNA too.

Lucia Hill Weaver Bible

Lucia Hill Weaver Bible 2

We do have an opportunity to test individuals who carry Nabby’s DNA today. I will provide a testing scholarship to anyone who descends from Nabby (or her sisters) through all females to the current generation where the individual can be male or female.

A special thank you to the Waukegan Historical Society volunteers, Beverly and Ann for going that special distance, both when I visited and after I left.

Furthermore, Google Maps has opened a huge door of opportunity for genealogists.  I hope you’ve seen some different ways to use this tool, especially in conjunction with old maps.

I could not have written this article without the help of cousins Rick Norton and John Burbank who provided Vermont information and cousin William Wheeler who researched and speculated correctly about Gershom Hall.  It’s because of the collaborative efforts of all of us that we know Nabby Hall Hill just a little bit better today and got to peek into her life through the magic of records and pictures, both old and new.

And Nabby, if you’d like to tell us who the rest of your children are, we’re all ears…



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Migration Pedigree Chart

J. Paul Hawthorne started a bit of a phenomenon, whether he meant to or not, earlier this week on Facebook, when he created a migration map of his own ancestors using Excel to reflect his pedigree chart.

You can view Paul’s chart here.

Wanting to do something similar, I created two separate charts, one for my mother’s side and one for my father’s side, one underneath the other. My father’s pedigree, from Appalachia, is on the top.

I’ve also included birth years in addition to the birth locations. I think that gives a time perspective to a very visible migration path.  It was also interesting to note the range of birth years in the oldest generation, from 1759 to 1823.

migration pedigree

On my father’s side, you can visibly see the westward migration from Virginia and North Carolina into Tennessee and eventually, in the 19-teens into Indiana as tenant farmers. Had that not happened, my parents would never had met.

My mother’s side is generally much more immediately European – although not exclusively so, as her Connecticut line reaches back to the Mayflower.

The cells labeled “New England” are my Acadian ancestors after the deportation and that is what subsequent church records show as their birth location.  Given the history of the people and location where they settled in Canada, they were likely born in Massachusetts, but we don’t know for sure.  Before that, they were from Canada, a mixture of French and Native American dating from the early 1600s.

We Americans really are a melting pot. My ancestors 5 generations ago were born in 8 different states (counting New England as Massachusetts) and different locations in three foreign countries.  The New England group subsequently moved TO a foreign country FROM the US, only to move back again a generation later and request citizenship.  That’s a bit unusual.

I’ve added percentages above the various columns. That is the approximate percentage of the DNA of the individual ancestors in that column that I carry.  If you look at the column furthest to the right, I carry 3.125% of each of those ancestors, on average.  When we think about autosomally matching other descendants of those ancestors who also carry perhaps 3.125%, it’s amazing that we match common segments at all, but we often do.

These percentages are also relevant to ethnicity. For example, my one English ancestor is a bit deceiving, because all of those Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina ancestors had to come from someplace.  As I work those lines backwards in time, I can place many of them in British Isles locations and confirm it with various kinds of DNA matching.  For example, my Campbell male cousins have Y DNA tested and we are confirmed matches to the Campbell Clan in Scotland, my Estes’s to the Kent, England Eastes line, and so forth.

In many cases, I know more than is displayed on these charts. For example, on my mother’s charts, I know that both the Maryland and Pennsylvania families are entirely German, so while their birth location was in the US, their heritage isn’t reflected here.

Just the same, if you’re looking at migration patterns and origins for more recent immigrants, this provides a fun way to take a look at your family history. It’s also a nice, visual way to engage children and young people in both history and family history.  If you look at migration patterns and begin to ask questions like why and what would have prompted that migration at that place and time in history, you’ve begun to engage in the same kinds of thoughts and decisions as those ancestors as they pondered moving on to the next destination.

What stories does your migration pedigree chart tell you about your family?



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Genealogy Research

Goodbye to a 30 Year Friend – PAF to RootsMagic

When I first installed PAF back in the 1980s on my old CPM machine, everyone at the local Family History Center was cautiously curious. I worked in the computer industry and they wanted to see how this new-fangled computer software thing worked.

I loved PAF. It allowed me to organize my information.  I probably didn’t use it exactly correctly, because I typed everything into the notes field which was, thankfully, of unlimited size.

I later discovered I should have been using source fields and such, but I’m not even sure there was a source field initially.

When the Mormon Church discontinued support for PAF in 2013, I was greatly saddened, not because the software had been free and I was now going to have to purchase software, but because I knew that software so well and was so comfortable using it. I didn’t want to have to take the time to evaluate and learn anything else.  To me, software is only a tool and the tool I had was fine.

So, I’ve used it for the past 2+ years unsupported, but I know full well that with the advent of new operating systems, one day it’s not going to work anymore and I surely don’t want to have a crisis and have to adapt on top of a crisis situation.  I knew it was better to be proactive.

Recently, I had a forced upgrade to Window 10 with the purchase of a new laptop, and I need my genealogy on my laptop. I mean, you never know when you’re going to need to refer to your genealogy!  If you think I’m kidding, I met one my closest cousins, Kathy, at a client site about 15 years ago (how can it have been that long???) completely by accident and yes, we compared our family trees on my laptop.  I just remember wondering if our unknown “cousinhood” was the reason we got along so well.  We went on to become and remain very close friends.

I evaluated several software packages, but it came down to two, Legacy and its competitor, RootsMagic.  I selected RootsMagic for a few reasons.

  1. I asked several people with large data bases if they had problems when they converted. Specifically, anyone with large notes files, if the entire notes file came over, or they lost data. The reviews were unanimously and overwhelmingly positive for RootsMagic, with data bases far larger than mine with its 37,000+ records.
  2. RootsMagic had everything that I wanted but without being overly complex, cluttered or busy.
  3. RootsMagic was intuitive to use.
  4. RootsMagic felt very PAFlike to me in terms of screen layout and functions, just PAF on steroids.
  5. RootsMagic offers a “RootsMagic for PAF Users Guide” which made me feel better.

paf bye

So, here’s my last look at PAF on my computer. I feel a bit guilty, like I’m abandoning an old friend or an old car that has served me so well for a very long time.

paf tombstone

I imported my file into RootsMagic which took an amazingly short time, so short that I was sure there was a problem. There wasn’t.  I checked notes, they were there.  Now obviously I can’t check all 37,000+ records individually, but some of the larger ones are there and intact – all of the records I checked were fine.

rootsmagic hello

Here’s my first look at the equivalent screen in Rootsmagic. I was very pleased to see that my all-caps first names for my direct line ancestors had come over as all-caps.

And guess what, the first I thing I see to do is something that has been bugging me forever. I discovered that my grandparents had a child that died, but when I added the child, PAF put them at the end of the list.  Yes, that could have been changed, but it wasn’t easy nor intuitive, so I never did.

rootsmagic rearrange children

Well, it’s easy and intuitive now and I fixed it with ‘move up’ and ‘move down’ arrows. Yes, I like this software already.  Little triangles pop up, discretely, if there is something you need to look at.  I clicked on the one for this child.

rootsmagic problem list

It told me I hadn’t added the sex for the child, and I hadn’t because I don’t know the sex of the child.  Thank goodness not many of my entries have problem lists, and the ones that do are short.

But hey, look, I’m already using two new features I didn’t have before.  I think I like RootsMagic.

Next, I printed RootsMagic for PAF Users which equates PAF functions to RootsMagic functions in the lingo of the PAF user, and went through this document step by step.

All in all, less than an hour and I’m up and running and feeling confident. I have changed the children’s birth orders in several families, edited a few things and now all I have to do is to keep myself from going back and looking at PAF, out of habit.  Goodbye really needs to be goodbye.  Goodbye old friend!



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Children’s Book About Irish King Inspired by DNA Research

Ireland Map

I wish history had been taught differently when I was a child.

History was dry and boring and consisted of rote memorization of dates of disconnected events.  At least, those events were entirely disconnected from me.  It would only be years later that I understood their relevance and that many of those events were NOT disconnected from me.  My ancestors took part in or many times suffered from those events.

Some of those events directly affect the me I’ve become – where I was born – which was predicated on which ancestors immigrated, and when.  All of the circumstances of today were built on the decisions of our ancestors in the past, and their decisions revolved around those dry and boring events, like war, pestilence and famine…for starters…that were anything but dry and boring if you were living through them.

I needed a different perspective, so I am very glad to see that Lance McNeill has written a children’s book about Niall of the Nine Hostages, a man who is also my ancestor.

Lance sent me the following press release:

DNA Discovery Inspires Fully Illustrated Children’s Book about Irish King, Niall of the Nine Hostages

Austin, Texas March 7, 2016:

Niall and the Stone of Destiny is the first ever fully-illustrated children’s book about the journey of renowned Celtic High King, Niall of the Nine Hostages.

Inspired by his Family Tree DNA test results linking him to Niall, author Lance MacNeill embarked upon months of research to uncover the legend of King Niall. Combining the historical evidence with Celtic mythology and a bit of MacNeill’s own imagination, Niall and the Stone of Destiny was conceived. The book will be available in both e-book and hardcover formats. You can reserve your copy of Niall and the Stone of Destiny now on Kickstarter.

Niall Stone of Destiny

For more than 1,500 years, the story of King Niall was thought to be pure Celtic mythology. According to legend, Niall was born in the late fourth century AD and reigned as the High King of Ireland until sometime in the early fifth century. In 2006, an article was published by a research team at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. Their research provided DNA evidence that a common lineage from the Irish Dynasty UÍ Néill, which translated literally means “descendants of Niall,” did in fact originate sometime during the fifth Century AD. They also estimate that nearly 3 million people worldwide are likely descended from Niall. Surnames commonly believed to be linked with the Niall’s family tree include the following: Donnelly, McLoughlin, McManus, Connor, Gormley, McMenamin, Flynn, O’Rourke, Devlin, Hynes, McCaul, McGovern, Molloy, O’Kane, Quinn, Cannon, Bradley, Egan, O’Reilly, Mc(Kee), Campbell, O’Gallagher, O’Boyle, O’Doherty, O’Donnell, O’Neill and MacNeill.

Niall Surnames

Figure 1: Surnames Commonly Believed to be Linked to Niall of the Nine Hostages

With this discovery, Niall is being propelled from the annals of folklore into the books of Irish history.

MacNeill says, “My hope is that this story captures the interest of the next young generation of Niall’s descendants and engages them in their Irish heritage and genealogy.” The book is great for all ages to enjoy, especially for children ages 6 – 10. To learn more, visit the book’s Facebook page or support the Kickstarter project.

Contact: Lance McNeill


As you can see, Lance’s book has been written, but not yet published. Lance sent me a sample page.

Niall page

Lance is funding the publication of this book through Kickstarter.

I have never worked with Kickstarter before, so I needed to know how it works before pledging funds. According to Kickstarter, the credit cards of the people who pledge are not charged until the funding goal is reached. If the project goal is not reached, then no one is charged.  If the funding goal is reached, then Lance will publish the book.

Here’s what Lance has to say about risks and challenges:

This isn’t my first rodeo. I authored and self-published the Comprehensive Crowdfunding Guide on two years ago, so I understand the process of editing, printing and self-publishing.

I’m also mitigating risk with a lean approach to this project. The story of Niall is really 3 times longer than this first book, but by breaking the story up into an iterative series, I can keep overall costs down and receive much needed feedback from early adopters. I’m aiming for a limited printing run of 200 books for this launch, a realistic and achievable goal. I’ve done the research on printing and shipping costs and have certainty that if the funding goal is reached, I will have sufficient funding to deliver as promised.

To learn more about me and the successful projects I’ve been a part of, please visit my LinkedIn profile:

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

There are various options, and the e-version is as little as $3. I would personally want the hardcover version for $20.  In my family, this would be an heirloom item because we are descendants of Niall of the 9 Hostages, along with a couple of million other cousins!

The Rest of the Story  

Now, for the rest of the story – I descend from the Reverend George McNiel from Wilkes County, NC. One of my cousins has tested to represent my McNiel line.  I checked my cousins results as I was writing this article, and guess who appears in his match list.  None other than Lance McNeill, previously unknown to me, but who I now know is my 6th cousin once removed, also descending from the good Reverend.  So, you can bet that I’ll be ordering one of these books for my granddaughters and one for myself too!  I hope he’ll autograph them!

The world gets smaller every day with DNA!



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Joseph Hill (1790-1871), The Second Joseph, ShingleMaker, 52 Ancestors #116

I was so thrilled when I discovered the birth record of Rachel Levina Hill in Bristol Township, Addison County, Vermont with her parent’s names, Joseph Hill and Naby.

Rachel Hill birth

How tough could the next generation be? The name wasn’t John Smith and this document gave both parents names.  Addison County wasn’t heavily populated.  This should be a slam dunk.


Little did I know.

When I started my search for Joseph Hill, my only real piece of data to go on was that Joseph and Nabby were married by 1814 or 1815 when Rachel Levina was born, and were still living in the same area in 1831 when she was married.

So, the 1830 census in Addison County, Vermont seemed like a good starting point.

1830 Census

In the 1830 census, we already have a challenge. There is a Joseph Hill in Bristol Township, a Josephus in Cornwall and two Josephs in Starksboro.

Four Joseph Hills??  Seriously.  In that small area.  How can that be?  Big groan!

Josephus doesn’t seem to fit, either by virtue of his name or location, so I tentatively eliminated him to focus on the three Josephs. All three Joseph’s are age 30-40 in 1830, which is very un-useful, and all the wives are 30-40 as well, so born between 1790 and 1800.  Really?  Really not helpful.

The best I could do was to begin to map the children of the various Josephs in documentation against the children noted on the census. Unfortunately, there would not be an exact fit.

Maybe we’ll have better luck with 1820.

1820 Census

In the 1820 census, we should find Joseph since we know that Rachel Levina was born in Bristol Township in 1815. Joseph Hill does not appear in Bristol Township where Rachel was born, but does appear in the Starksboro group of Hills living beside Ruby Hall, with:

  • one male under 10 (born 1810-1820,) probably a son
  • 1 male 16-26 (born 1794-1814) identity unknown, possibly a son
  • one male 26-45 (born 1775-1794,) Joseph Hill, unless he is the unknown person above
  • one female under 10 (born 1810-1820), has to be Rachel
  • 1 female 16-26 (born 1794-1814), has to be Nabby

Two people are engaged in agriculture.  This means that this Joseph was born between 1775-1794 and living in Starksboro in 1820. It also means that Rachel probably had a brother given the male under 10 and possibly a second brother given the male 16-26, although given Nabby’s age, she could not have a 16 year old child.

1810 Census

In the 1810 census, we find scattered Hill families, with a grouping in Starksboro: Samuel, John, William, Thomas, Latham? and Lemuel.  Joseph is not yet in the census by his own name, suggesting that he either didn’t live in Addison County yet or was not yet married and that one of these Hill men was probably his father or a close relative.

In 1810, Joseph would have been between 16 and 20 years old, depending on which birth year is accurate.  The only Starksboro Hill men in the census, below, who have a male of that age (ages 16-26, third column to the right of the names) or 10-16 (second column to the right of the names) were William, Samuel and Lemuel.  So Joseph is likely living in one of these households, who we later discover are his brothers.

1810 Addison County Vt census

1800 Census

The 1800 census becomes even more difficult. There are several groups of Hill men, one in Bristol Township and 4 in Starksboro.  Given that Joseph was born around 1790, his father, if here, would have been one of these men with a male child of around 10.  The only man in the Bristol/Starksboro group to have any male children of that approximate age is Samuel, but we later determine that Joseph is not Samuel’s son, but his brother.  In fact, all of the Starksboro men except John are brothers.

  • Lewis Hill, Bristol Twp, 1 male 16-25, 1 female under 10, 1 female 26-44
  • Thomas Hill, Starksboro, 1 male 16-25, no females
  • John Hill, Starksboro, 1 male 26-44, 1 female 16-25
  • Samuel Hill, Starksboro, 4 males under 10, 1 26-44, 1 females under 10, 2 26-44
  • William Hill, Starksboro, 1 male 26-44, no females
  • Ambrose Hill, Cornwall, 1 male 10-15, 1 male over 45, 1 female 10-15, one female over 45
  • Titus Hill, Cornwall, 2 males under 10, 2 10-15, 2 16-25, 2 over 45, 1 female under 10, 1 16-25, 1 26-44, 1 over 45
  • Moses Hill, Cornwell, 1 males under 10, 1 26-44, 1female 16-25
  • Elias Hill, Middlebury, 3 males under 10, 1 16-25, 1 26-44, 1 over 45, 1 female 26-44
  • Festus Hill, Middlebury, 1 male under 10, 1 16-25, 1 26-44, 1 female under 10, 1 26-44
  • Calvin Hill, Monkton, 3 males under 10, 1 10-15, 1 16-25, 1 26-44, 1 female under 10, 1 26-44
  • Billiom Hill, New Haven, 1 male over 45, 1 female over 45
  • Reuben Hill, (next door), New Haven, 1 male under 10, 1 10-15, 2 16-25, 1 26-44, 1 female under 10, 1 16-25

On the flip side, 1790 looks significantly easier, because most Hill men aren’t there yet. Perhaps the Hill migration from New Hampshire took place between 1790 and 1800.

1790 Addison Co., Vermont Census

  • Billius Hill, New Haven, 2 males over 16, 2 females under 16

The Blacksmith Ledger

I realize a blacksmith ledger is a really unusual resource, but this one is chocked full of interesting information, representative of that time and life in Vermont.

James Barton, a blacksmith from Ferrisburg Hollow, Addison County, Vermont which appears to be 7-11 miles from Starksboro, kept a ledger from 1828-1832.

James Barton’s descendant tells us the following about the ledger:

Kept by my great-great grandfather and brought to Crawford County, Pennsylvania about 1843, when the family settled in Beaver Township. Other account books may exist, but this was the only known one at the time I photocopied it for my own use in the 1970’s.  The current location of the original book is unknown.

Excerpt transcribed by
Judith Smith Magons
Wadsworth OH

I extracted all of the Hill information, with the hope that somehow I could tie something together. I also found it fascinating that this blacksmith wound up in Crawford County, PA, adjacent to Warren County, where Rachel Levina Hill and her husband Anthony Lore would find themselves in 1850.  Was there some connection or was the Warren County/Crawford County area simply a popular migration location from Vermont?

Blacksmith Ledger:

Page 1

July 14 1828      Richard Hill Dr to Shoeing                .34

Page 3

August 12 1828 Samuel Hill Dr to repairing

Single Waggon                                         8.00

15             Richard Hill Dr to mend chains                    .42

Wm Worth 2d to fix saddle trace

By C Hill                                                     .34

Page 5

August 27th 1828  Richard Hill Dr to Shoeing                           .25

Richard Hill Dr to Shoeing                           .50

30              Wm Hill 2d  To Shoeing                              .12

Page 6

Sept 9               Wm Hill 2d to Shoeing                                .25

Page 7

Sept 15th 1828 Thomas Hill Dr to repairing

Wm Worths Waggon                                1.00

20th            Thomas Hill To staple                                 .25

Thomas Hill to reparing wagon                    .75

Wm Hill 2d Dr to mending chains                 .19

Page 8

Sept 26, 1828     Wm Hill 2d Dr to Shoeing                            .13

Richard Hill Dr to Shoeing                         1.00

Do fixing whiffletree                                    .35

29th            Wm Hill 2d Dr to Shoeing                            .67

Oct 1st               Samel Bushnell Dr to Ironing

to horse wagon for John Hill

with extra bands                                     31.50

Do Irons for Box                                       1.50

Page 9

Pct 15th 1828     Richard Hill Dr tp Shoeing                           .60

Page 10

Oct 20 1828       Wm Hill 2d to Shoeing                                .25

Richard Hill to mend Chains                        .32

Do Apple Knife                                           .10

Page 11

Nov 1st 1828      Joseph Hill Dr to making 6 knives               .60

Page 13

November 5th 1828 John Hill 2d Dr to drawing

ox Shoe Iron on credit 60 lb 3 Cents          1.80

Page 14

Nov 12th             Joseph Hill Dr to Laying hatchet               1.00

Page 15

Nov 23 1828      Wm Hill 2d to Shoeing a horse                  1.06

Page 16

Dec 5th 1828      John Hill Dr to Shoeing                             1.17

16              Linal & John Hill Dr to mend chain               .10

Do Cart hook    lb

Page 17

Dec 17th 1828    Wm Hill 2d to horse shoeing                       .92

Do to Ironing a whiffletree                         1.00

Thomas Hill Dr to 6 butter rings                   .36

Richard Hill Dr to horses shod                   1.60

Page 18

January 1st 1829           Thomas Hill Dr to fixing __led Stamp          .25

Wm Hill 2d Dr to Shoeing                            .25

Page 20

January 19 1829                       Wm Hill 2d Dr to 25 nails        .13

Page 21

January 26 1829                       Jos Hill Dr to fix Steel gards          .13

W Hill Dr to a T on Sleigh                            .37

Page 22

January 20th 1829  Munson & Moon Dr to mending

Iron bar by Jos Hill                                    .25

Richard Hill to key for ax Staple                   . 6

Page 23

Feb 6th 1829      Jos Hill Dr to upset ax

and fix a Teakettle bail                                .32

10th            Richard Hill Shoeing 1 toed 3 Set                .54

Page 25

SS March 6 1829 Wm Hill 2d To 1 new Shoe Sett                 .34

9th              Due John Hill Dr to repair trap                     .12

Page 27

March 21st 1829 Wm Hill 2d to Shoeing 1 Set                       .13

23              Wm Hill 2d to mend Chain                          .15

Richard Hill Dr to mend Shovel                    . 8

Page 28

April 1 1829       Jos Hill Dr to baile one for Ellsworth            .53

(meaning bail five pail kettle, as done for another’s entry above)

Page 33

May 1st 1829      Richard Hill Dr to Setting one Shoe              .13

Page 34

May 10th 1829    Joseph Hill Dr to 6 Spikes                          . 9

Richard Hill Dr to a Clevey Bolt palent          .25

Wm & Joseph Hill Dr to mending Dung fork          .17

Wm Hill 2d Dr to Shoeing                            .13

Page 36

June 4th 1829     Joseph Hill Dr to Sharping 2 bars               .17

Do Sharp another bar                                 . 8

Page 38

July 15th 1829    Richard Hill self Dr to Shoeing

2 New 5 old ones                                      1.29

30              John Hill Dr to horse Shoeing                      .30

Lionel & John Hill Dr to

Ironing pari of Whiffletrees                        2.00

Thomas Hill Dr to 24 Spike                          .34

Page 42

Sept 21st 1829   Thomas Hill Dr 2 pair of hinges                  1.00

Do 2 hasps hooks staples                           .34

Do 65 Nails                                                .34

Page 44

January 1830     Richard Hill Dr to mend skimmer                 .25

Page 45

Jan 22 1830       L & John Hill 3d Dr Ironing Sley               18.00

Do Sley wood  $8

L & John Hill 3d to fifty nails                        .37

Page 46

18 Feb 1830      L & J Hill Dr to shoeing 1 new 3 set  .71      .71

Page 47

April 8 1830       Jonth Hill Dr to Bolt & Rivet for plow            .17

Page 48

April 1830          John Hill Dr to 6 bolts & nuts for plow          .75

Wm Hill Dr to 1 bolt & nut                           .13


  • “Dr” indicates “Debit”
  • “Do” indicates “Ditto”
  • “Cr” indicates “Credit”
  • “SS” indicates work done by Seaman S. Bushnell, a blacksmith working in Barton’s shop
  • “palent” unknown word
  • “self” indicates Richard did the work himself in Barton’s shop

Keep in mind, there were four Joseph Hills in Addison County in 1830, but even if this isn’t “our” Joseph, this record of the place and time is likely the same kinds of things any farmer in Addison County would have been doing.

Bertha Hanson

Bertha Hanson was a lifelong resident of Starksboro, Vermont, the local genealogist and historian. She was born in 1917 and seemed to be a history sponge.  While she clearly didn’t know Joseph Hill herself, she knew of him.  Unfortunately, Bertha died in 1994 without publishing her works.  If you’re groaning, so was I.  In fact, I’m still groaning because so very much information died with her or is scattered and inaccessible.

In 1998, a book titled “Bertha’s Book, A View of Starksboro’s History,” was published, but it was mostly her annual “town reports” from 1954-1994, which isn’t to diminish its value. It’s just such a small portion of her body of work.

However, various people who have been long-time genealogists seemed to be in possession of select pieces of her research. Obviously, she shared generously.  I was hopeful that I would be able to tie into something she had already done.

I was lucky enough to stumble across John Burbank, a genealogist living in Bristol, in Addison County, who was in possession of some of Bertha’s work on the Hill family. While the Hills weren’t her primary focus, she had still managed to amass enough information that I was able to begin putting together family groups and a timeline, thanks to information sent by John which was a combination of both his and her work.

Hill Family History

According to Bertha, Samuel Hill was the first Hill to settle in Addison County. She originally reported John Hill who settled in Starksboro to be his brother, then later corrected the relationship to be a “cousin of some sort.”

I have extracted this information from John Burbank’s information, much of which was from Bertha’s writings.  The John Hill, below, is the father of Samuel Hill and also of several other men who settled in the Hillsboro section of Starksboro in Addison County.  William, John, Lemuel, Thomas and the Second Joseph were all founders among the Hillsboro Hill families, although the Second Joseph moved westward.  Just wait until you hear about the Second Joseph!

JOHN HILL (#5) (Henry #3, William, William), b. 19 Feb 1737, d. 9 Oct 1804, m. 26 Nov 1761 Catherine, dau. of Capt. Samuel & Elizabeth (___) MITCHELL, b. 9 Oct 1738, bp 16 Aug 1743, d. 21 Jul 1827. The Mitchell’s were from Kittery, ME.

John and his father bought the farm in Barrington, NH and according to Barrington historians, John is the Captain John Hill who had a company at Seaney’s Island in the Revolutionary War.

Bertha (Brown) Hanson of Starksboro indicated in a note to John R. Burbank that she had located the old Hill farm in Barrington, NH:

“Large boulders wall the family cemetery which is at the top of a hill with fields sloping away from it on two sides. Two large, plain, unlettered stones mark the graves of John and Catherine.  The original house, located at the foot of the hill burned many years ago.”

Mrs. Hanson has also done considerable research in the history of Starksboro and has had printed vignettes appearing in the annual Starksboro Town Report for many years. One such from 1957:

“The section of Starksboro known as ‘Hillsboro’ originally included roughly the area between the Hannon farm now owned by the town and the corner above the Ireland school house. The first deed to property in this area was to Samuel Hill of Barrington, New Hampshire, on June 22, 1798.  This was to land near the former Hillsboro school house. The following year his brother, John purchased land near the twin bridges.  {Note: Bertha later indicated that this John was not Samuel’s brother, but probably a cousin of some sort.  Actually he was a second cousin.  When this vignette was published posthumously in 1998 as Bertha’s Book, A View of Starksboro’s History, the word brother was changed to cousin.]

This John Hill of Starksboro is not our Joseph’s father.  The father of our Joseph is John, who died in 1804 in Barrington, NH, John #5 above.

The Ryan, also known as the Hillsboro Cemetery is located “on Hillsboro Road just before reaching Twin Bridges in District #5.”

Hillsboro cemetery

This cemetery holds the graves of many Hill family members including Joseph Hill who died in 1853 and Lemuel and Sylvanus’s adopted children. There are many graves marked only with fieldstones.  The earliest stones seemed to have been placed in the 1840s.

Cem where Samuel Hill buried

Cousin Rick took a photo of Hillsboro Road leading to the cemetery, which he says is in good shape compared to other sections of this road.  Another mile or so beyond the cemetery is the location where Samuel Hill built his grist mill at Twin Bridges.

Hillsboro road

Bertha continues:

The exact date when the brothers (John and Samuel subsequently corrected to cousins) moved their families to Vermont is not clear. However, by the time the U. S. census for 1800 was taken, Samuel, his wife and their six children, John and his wife, and also two other brothers, William and Thomas, who later purchased land near-by, were living in Starksboro.  That year another brother, Lemuel, settled on the farm now known as the Morton Hill place.  The last of the family to locate in town was Francis who, in 1810, purchased land above the present location of the Ireland school house.

Hillsboro was isolated by its location from activities in other parts of town. As early as 1817, Rev. Bowles, an itinerant Baptist minister, began holding church services in the homes of families in that neighborhood.  In September, 1821, the Baptist church was organized with 17 members.  No church building was erected, however, until the present one was built at the village in 1868.

Changing social and economic conditions led many of the second generation to move away from the hill farms. Some went west, some went to other towns, others bought land in the valley.  By 1870 there was only one Hill family living in Hillsboro.  Many of our townspeople, however, number one or more of the Hill brothers among their ancestors.

John Hill (#5) made out his will on 12 Apr 1804 and on 6 Nov 1804, a month after his death, it was entered for probate (Roberta’s note – in Stafford County, NH, probate Volume 14, page 22 and 23,) with his son, Henry, appointed executor as John had ordained.  Henry accepted that trust and “gave bonds for the faithful performance of the same in the sum of $7000 with two sureties.”  The will is interesting and sheds some light on members of the family not otherwise widely known. John starts off by giving one dollar to his oldest living sons and daughters: Samuel, William, John, Lemuel, Thomas, Betsey, Polly, and Susannah.  Many of these were already in VT by the time John wrote his will.  Perhaps the provisions for these was what John had previously given the older boys when they reached maturity.

John’s eldest son, Joseph, was dead, but John still had at home two minor sons, Francis and another Joseph, and an unmarried daughter, whom he remembered as follows:

And I give to My Son Francis Hill three hundred and fifty dollars and one yoke of oxen and one cow when he is twenty one years old and he is to stay his time out and I give to my son Joseph Hill three hundred and fifty dollars and one yoke of oxen and one cow to be paid to him when is is twenty one years old and he is to stay and serve his time out and I give to my daughter Hannah Hill one cow and three sheep to be delivered to her at my desire and to be kept on the place summer and winter and for her to have their income of them, and for her to have the privilege of the back room with the fireplace, and wood to keep as much fire as is nesary while she remains single.”

By far the greatest benefits were bestowed on his wife and son, Henry, age 23, who evidently was running the farm:

I give to my beloved wife all my real estate and three cows and six sheep and half the swine; all the household frunery, the household furnitry is to be for her to dispose of as she shall think best and allso one half of the dwelling house to be for her use during the time that she remains my widow and after she seases to be my widow, I give to my beloved son Henry all my real estate and all my stock and all my farming tools and I appoint and ordain my beloved son Henry Hill my only executor or administrator.

To his grandchildren, James, John, and Catrine, who were probably the children of his deceased son, Joseph, he made the following provision:

And I give to my granson James Hill one hundred dollars to be paid in neat stock or money when he is twenty two years old and I give to my granson John Hill one hundred dollars to be paid in neat stock or money when he is twenty two years old and I give to my grand daughter Catrine Hill fifty dollars in neat stock or house furnitry to be paid when she is twenty two years old.

John’s Children:

  1. Joseph, b. 31 May 1763, d. 24 Sep. 1790, m. possibly Sarah, dau. of ___ & ___ (___) Caverly (this needs further research). He evidently is the Joseph listed on the NH 1790 census of Barrington having in his household 1 male age 16 or older including the head of household (that would be Joseph), 2 males under age 16 (James and John), and 2 females (probably his wife and a dau., Catrine). Joseph is probably buried in the Hill family cemetery on the old Hill farm in Barrington.
  2. Samuel, b. 10 Apr. 1765 Great Barrington, NH (moved to Addison Co., VT)
  3. William, b. 21 Jan. 1767 Barrington, NH (moved to Addison Co. VT)
  4. Elizabeth “Betsey”, b. 2 Feb. 1769 Barrington, NH, d. 17 Mar. 1856, m. 10/12 Feb 1791 Barrington, NH to Samuel Bunker, son of Dodavah & Martha (Smith) BUNKER. Betsey and Samuel settled in Huntington, VT. They were gr. gr. grandparents of Bertha (Brown) Hanson of Starksboro.
  5. Mary “Polly/Molly”, b. 16 Mar. 1771 Barrington, NH, d. 19 June 1859 Cabot VT of pleursy, m. Daniel Smith, son of ___ & ___ (___) Smith, b.___, d. 1 Jan 1828 Cabot VT. Mary and Daniel settled in Cabot VT supposedly because of the Hazen Road. He was said to be the owner of the largest tract of land in the town. They were among the founders of the Methodist Church there. Early meetings were at the “center of town” and to save shoes, the children carried theirs until they had crossed the brook near the meeting place. Their pew in church was the third from front on right hand aisle.
  6. John, b. 28 June 1773 Great Barrington, NH, d.___. As far as is known, he stayed in NH. His birth is the only one among all his siblings which can be verified by NH public records. For a long time he was confused with a second cousin, the John Hill who m. Laura Bushnell in Starksboro.
  7. Susannah, b. 7 May 1775 Great Barrington, NH, d. 12 Mar. 1848 Stratford, NH.
  8. Lemuel, b. 10 Apr 1777 Barrington, NH (moved to Addison Co., VT)
  9. Thomas, b. 31 Jul 1778 Barrington, NH (moved to Addison Co., VT)
  10. Henry, b. 29 Mar 1781 probably Barrington, NH. He inherited the farm in Barrington, NH. Bertha (Brown) Hanson said that a loose paper in the record book gave the following data: Henry Hill d. 7 Oct 1876, m. Anna, dau. of ___ & ___ (___) Young, b.___, d. 26 Sep. 1854.
  11. Hannah, b. 10 Apr. 1783 probably Barrington, NH
  12. Francis, b. 31 Mar 1785 Barrington, NH
  13. Joseph, b. 2 Sep. 1791 probably Barrington, NH (moved to Addison Co., VT, known in this article as The Second Joseph)

John Burbank adds that the date of 1787 for the birth of the second Joseph was found in the papers of Bertha (Brown) Hanson which would mean that his oldest brother, Joseph was still living. Why name another child Joseph when the first has not died? Bertha’s mother told her that it was common to leave a child unnamed for two or three years. If that were true in this instance, then the younger Joseph would have received his name after September 1790 when the first Joseph died. However, family records made in 1880 and preserved by descendants of Marinda Betsey Hill give the date of 1791 for the second Joseph’s birth.

The census subsequently shows dates of 1792 and 1793 for Joseph’s birth and his obituary indicates 1790.

Note that patriarch John Hill’s burial is likely in the Hill Farm Family Cemetery listed on FindAGrave. He never migrated to Vermont although at least five of his sons lived, at least for some time, in Addison County.

SAMUEL HILL (John #5, Henry, William, William), b. 10 Apr 1765 Great Barrington NH, d. 14 Dec 1843 Starksboro VT, m. 31 May 1791 Louden NH, his cousin, Sarah “Sally”, dau. of Lionel & Martha (Mitchell) WORTH, b. 23 Nov 1768 Louden NH, d. 26 Apr 1843 Starksboro VT. The Hill burial plot is in the Harry Hallock-Brown Hill Cem. in Starksboro. His tombstone reads: Far from affliction toil & care // The happy soul is fled // The breathless clay shall slumber here // among the silent dead.”  Her tombstone reads:  “Beneath this clod in peaceful sleep // Her mortal body lies // Surviving friends for her do weep // For virtue never dies.”

Brown Hill cem

Cousin Rick Norton tells us that marker above is not a gravestone for an individual, but a monument to the early Hill family members and looks like a tree with it’s limbs cut off.  He calls this the Hillsboro Road Cemetery.

Samuel Hill d 1843

The Brown Hill Cemetery is in a fairly remote location.

Brown hill cem map

Bertha Hanson in writing about the Hillsboro section of Starksboro which was quoted previously under John Hill #5, said of Samuel that “The first deed to property in this area was to Samuel Hill of Barrington, New Hampshire, on June 22, 1798, recorded in Sep.  This was to land near the former Hillsboro school house.”  To that same article was added the following:

According to tradition, Samuel moved his goods through the woods from New Hampshire on a hand sled. At the time he began clearing his land, the nearest neighbor was three miles away.  In 1805 he became the second man to represent Starksboro in the state legislature.

A similar account is also found in H. P. Smith, ed., History of Addison County Vermont, (D. Mason & Co., Syracuse NY, 1886), p. 632:

Samuel Hill, from Barnstead, N.H., moved his goods through the forest on a hand-sled in 1805, and located upon the farm now occupied by Patrick Leonard and the latter’s son-in-law, John Welch, in the locality now known as ‘Hillsboro.’ Here three miles from any human habitation, he cut the first stick of timber on that farm.  During his long life in Starksboro he held most of the town offices and was the first captain of the militia.  His son Richard reared a family of eleven children, ten of whom survive, their aggregate ages amounting to over 566 years.”

He lived in Starksboro for a while with no family. He owned and operated a saw mill at the “Twin Bridges” in Hillsboro.  The story is told that he worked for someone in the Starksboro village area (possibly a Mr. Bushnell) for a sheep which he carried home on his shoulders.

The Samuel Hill house which no longer exists was similar to the Lemuel Hill house being a large two story building with a central doorway opening into a small hall from which the stairs ascended to the second floor. The Thibault family when they lived in Hillsboro called this house in their neighborhood “the hotel.”  It was still standing in the 1920’s forlorn and empty.

Samuel was a man of strong and marked characteristics, and an earnest working in whatever effort was made to advance the interest of the town. In 1805 he became the second man to represent Starksboro in the state legislature.  Although Free Will Baptist Quarterly Meetings were held in his barn on occasion, Samuel & Sarah were faithful and earnest members of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Starksboro.  He was elected as Grand Juror 1808-9, selectman 1808-10.

An attempt to solidify the family was evidently made at one time as there is a monument of the Hill Reunion erected on top of the ledges going south on Route 116 from Starksboro village. The monument reads:

Hill Reunion – Organized in 1890 – The first settlement of Hills in Starksboro, Vermont, in 1805, in memory of and in honor to past, present, and future Hills and their kindred.

Hill Reunion

Photo by Don Shall

Rich Norton during his visit took a picture of the Hill hill overlooking Starksboro from Hillsboro Road where the Hill family members settled.

Hillsboro road looking at hill where Hills settled

John Burbank’s Hill Family Research

The following information was provided in various communications with John Burbank.

The Hill family is numerous in this area.  Starksboro, the next town north of Bristol on Rt. 116 has an area known as Hillsboro.  Of the numerous Hill’s in that town some have been connected but others have not.  Joseph is one of our unconnected branches and I don’t know any more about his family other than Rachel’s marriage date and the record that her mother was Naby.

John Hill’s sons moved from Barrington, New Hampshire to Addison County, Vermont.

The cemetery is now pretty much in the woods and not too far from my Dad’s farm going up over the mountain by foot or by a jeep road. The Mason Hill Cemetery is also located on a rather primitive hill road in another part of Starksboro. Joseph Hill II and his wife Sarah Mason are buried there.

Process of Elimination

Sometimes genealogy turns into sleuthing work, and that’s exactly what happened in “The Case of the Three Joseph Hills.”

We know that Joseph was in New Hampshire when his father died in 1804 and was age 10 or older, possibly as old as 17, but not yet 21. Some of Joseph’s brothers subsequently settled in Addison County, Vermont.  He likely came with one of his brothers sometime between 1804 and 1813 or 1814 when he was married.  He may have been living in Vermont in the 1810 census, but we don’t know.  Given his father’s verbiage in his will, “stay and serve his time out,” he may have stayed in New Hampshire until he obtained his inheritance, which means he would have come to Vermont between 1811 and 1814, about the time he married, given that what few records we do have indicate he was born between 1790 and 1793.

I set about to try and find Joseph.

First, I found all of the Joseph Hills in 1820 in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire and accounted for them in 1830, removing men who did not have a daughter in 1820 that was born circa 1815 (which would be the under 10 category in 1820). The one and only piece of information we knew about Joseph in 1820 is that he had at least one daughter who was 5 or 6 years old.

That leaves only two men found in the 1820 census as the candidate for Joseph Hill, father of Rachel. Those men were the Joseph living in Caladonia and the one in Starksboro, Vermont.  Caladonia is roughly 90 miles from Starksboro, and we know that in 1815 Rachel was born in Bristol, so this eliminates the Caladonia Joseph.  In 1820, our Joseph was in Starksboro, probably in the Hillsboro part of Starksboro.

In 1830 there was no Joseph in Caledonia and there were 3 in the Starksboro area, as compared with 1 in 1820, so they had to come from someplace.

The 3 Starksboro area Josephs as extracted from the Hill genealogy compiled by Bertha Hanson:

1. Joseph D. Hill – (William #8, John, Henry, William, William), b. c1793 Barnstead, NH, d. 2 Mar 1869 Lincoln, VT of fever, m. Sarah Mason, dau. of David & Jemima (French) Mason, b. c1800 VT, d. 20 Apr. 1841 Starksboro VT. Joseph and Sarah are buried in the Mason Hill Cem., Starksboro VT. He was a farmer and stone mason.

In 1850 census, this Joseph is living with William W. and his wife Mandana and his son Cyrus. He is age 56 and is reported to be born in Vermont.  His wife is apparently dead and his other children not in the household.

Utilizing Bertha’s information about his children, incorporated into the chart below, and the 1830 census records, I reconstructed his family.  In the 1830 census in Starksboro, he is listed as Joseph 2, probably indicating that is the younger of the two Starksboro Joseph’s.

Joseph D Hill family reconstruct 2

Joseph 1 is not Rachel’s father.  Rachel’s mother’s name is not Sarah.

Let’s look at the second man named Joseph Hill in Addison County, according to Bertha and John’s records:

2. Joseph Hill, Parents unknown, born 1790 Farmington, NH, d. 10 Nov 1853 Starksboro VT. m. 1 Apr 1817 Starksboro VT Catherine/Katherine Hill, dau. of Samuel & Sarah (Worth) Hill. She was b. 15 Apr 1796 Farmington NH, d. 13 Mar 1872 Starksboro VT. They were married by Samuel Hill, JP. They are buried in the Hillsboro Cem., row 2, Starksboro VT. Her name is spelled as Katherine on the gravestones of her children but as Catherine on her own.

Joseph Hill d 1853

Photo contributed by Rick Norton.

An obituary written by R. M. Minard in The Morning Star, a Freewill Baptist paper said:

In 1823 she gave her heart to the Saviour and united with the M. E. church and remained in it until 1844, when she left it and joined the F. B. church in this town and continued a worthy member of it until death. God gave her seven children, and in answer to her fervent prayer she saw them all converted and united with the church she loved so well.

The statement about seven children obviously must refer to those who made it to maturity.

Joseph and Catherine, his wife, were probably cousins but his line has not been established. Bertha (Brown) Hanson says that his picture leads her to believe that he was a fairly close relative to the other Starksboro Hill’s.

The following is a summary Bertha Hanson’s information plus the 1850 census information mapped to the 1830 census for this Joseph in Starksboro. There is a smudge for females “under 5” as if they weren’t sure they could count this child, plus they seem to be one short in that category if the birth dates we have are correct.

Joseph 1790 Family reconstruct

Joseph 2 is not Rachel’s father because Rachel’s mother’s name was not Katherine.

1840 and 1850 for Joseph 1 and 2

By 1840, the Joseph in Bristol Township is showing with 8 family members, probably Joseph 2, above.  The Joseph in Starksboro with 11 children living beside William, likely his father, is most probably Joseph 1.

In 1850, we also have two Joseph’s. One is clearly Joseph 2, living with wife Catherine with six of his children still living at home. He is noted as being born in New Hampshire, so we know this is one of the Joseph’s who arrived between the 1820 and 1830 census.

The other 1850 Joseph appears to be Joseph D., a stone mason born in 1793 because we find him living with his son William D. who had married a woman named Mandana.

This makes sense, because we know that by 1850, our third man named Joseph, below, has moved west.

Joseph 3, Known as “The Second Joseph”

Now for the confusing part.  The third Joseph in Addison County is nicknamed “The Second Joseph” because he was the second son named Joseph born to his parents.  Yes, I know it’s confusing, especially for the ancestor who was supposed to be easy!

3.  The Second Joseph (second Joseph, the son of John#5), b. 2 Sep. 1791 (Roberta’s note – or 1790, 1792 or 1793) probably in Barrington NH.

This is the strangest naming situation I think I’ve ever come across. John Hill (#5) had a son, Joseph, who was born in 1763 and who died Sept. 24, 1790.  He and his wife then name another son, possibly born before the death of the first Joseph in 1790, or about that time, Joseph.  It’s not terribly unusual for a couple to name a second child the same name as a child who died young, but I’ve never seen someone name their last child after their first child who lived to be 27 years old and had a family.

I began the identification of this Joseph by reconstructing the 1830 census.

In 1830 there are two other Joseph Hills living in Addison County. One is identified as living in Bristol Township who, based on census reconstruction, is my first choice, but neither the Bristol nor Starksboro families fit our information exactly.  Neither show a daughter as Rachel’s age of 15, so apparently Rachel was counted as age 14.  Neither shows a daughter in the 15-19 year old female column but both have a younger daughter in the age 10-14 column.

By process of elimination of Joseph 1 and Joseph 2, above, the family of Joseph 3 aka The Second Joseph, is accounted for as follows in 1830.

second Joseph family reconstructed

This family had 7 children, 3 boys and 4 girls, including Rachel.

Mrs. Hanson’s papers state concerning Joseph Hill, the younger, now also known as “The Second Joseph,” is “said to have settled in Waukegan, Ill. and died there.”

My first reaction when I saw that statement was that it certainly needs to be researched – by someone, not me. Then I wondered who said it!  My next reaction was that it was probably wrong.  But then I reconsidered, thinking that no one would pull the location of Waukegan, Illinois out of thin air, and it’s very specific.  It’s not like Waukegan was next door or even a name someone in Vermont would know.  Chicago, maybe, but Waukegan, not likely.

This Second Joseph seemed to be the best bet and only fit left for my Joseph especially since he just happened to be the only stone left unturned after the other two Joseph’s had been eliminated by virtue of their wives.  It slowly dawned on me that it was going to be me to do that research after all. I decided to take the “long shot” look in Waukegan, Illinois. I knew, just knew, I was going on a wild goose chase, but there were no local geese left to chase.

So off to Waukegan, I half-heartedly went, in the census.

What I found stunned me.

Lo and behold, I found Joseph Hill and his wife Nabby, the parents of Rachel Levina Hill, in Waukegon, Lake County, Illinois in the 1850 and 1860 census. I was simply dumbstruck.  This was the last thing I expected to find and the last place I expected to find them.

Thank you Bertha!

Joseph and Nabby’s youngest child was with them in 1850, Rollin C. Hill born April 16, 1836 in Vermont and died December 24, 1918 in Waukegan, Lake County, Illinois. In 1851 he married Louisa Jane Wright.

Joseph and Nabby Hill are not the parents of a Thomas E. Hill also found in Waukegan, Lake County, Illinois born in 1832 in Vermont. He was an author and his bio states that he was born in Bennington, Vermont.

I cannot find Joseph and Nabby in the 1840 census.

In 1850, Joseph and Nabby are in the city of Waukegan, Lake County, Illinois. He is a shingle maker and they own $200 worth of real estate.  He tells us he was born in New Hampshire in 1793.

1850 Waukegan census

In 1860, Joseph still lives in the same city and he is shown as a laborer with no property, born in 1792.

Waukegan 1860 census

But, is this our Joseph Hill, for sure?  It would seem unlikely that two Joseph Hills in Addison County, Vermont, out of 3, would have a wife named Nabby – and a family oral history of going to Waukegan, Illinois.  In fact, we know the wives names of the other Joseph Hills in Addison County, and their wives are not named Nabby, which is one of the pieces of information we utilized to eliminate them as “our” Joseph.

Rachel’s Father is Joseph 3, Known as The Second Joseph

So in summary, by process of elimination, Rachel is the daughter of Joseph number 3, above.  He was known as “The Second Joseph” and moved west sometime after 1836 but probably before 1840.  He was probably the Joseph in Bristol Township in 1830, although the Joseph in Starksboro and in Bristol Township had families who were very similarly constructed.  The Joseph of Starksboro had 4 sons and 3 daughters and the Joseph of Bristol had 3 sons and 4 daughters. There is very little difference in these families and it’s difficult to tell them apart in the 1830 census.  I also found it remarkable that Rachel’s middle name is Levina and Joseph of Starksboro’s eldest daughter’s name is Alvina.  This could be a family naming pattern.  I will watch for a female of a similar name upstream.

Regardless of who was who in 1830, Rachel’s father, Joseph, by process of elimination, had to have been the Joseph in 1820 living in Starksboro.

I have a feeling that if these families could have been further clarified, Bertha would probably have done so.

The Landscape

Starksboro farm

A farm garden in Starksboro, Vermont taking advantage of the rock outcroppings in the beautiful landscape.  Cousin Rick says the land here is very rocky and claylike, not good for farming.

Rick Norton took several photos during a visit in 2012.  In the photo below, he is looking north into Starksboro from Big Hollow Road.

Starksboro N from 116 and Big Hollow Road

Looking towards the village of Starksboro from Hillsboro Road and 116.

Starksboro look N toward village at 116 and Hillsboro rd

Rick says that in this view of Starksboro, the building on the left was once a store operated by the Hill family.

Starksboro, Hill store on left

Starksboro from the south.

Starksboro from south

Sylvanus Hill

I originally thought that Sylvanus Hill might have been the brother of Rachel Levina Hill.  That has been proven untrue.  Sylvanus is the son of Joseph 2 whose wife is Catherine Hill and whose father is unknown.  However, Sylvanus and his father are obviously related in some way to Second Joseph, son of John #5.

However, since I have photos of Sylvanus and his wife, and no photos of any other early Hill family members, I have included Sylvanus’ information here.  He and Second Joseph who moved to Waukegan, Illinois are definitely cousins, but to what degree is undetermined.  Based on what we do know, they are at least first cousins once removed or more distantly related.

Sylvanus Hill tree

The photos below are labeled Sylvanus Hill and Mrs. Sylvanus Hill. They were purchased at the Champlain Valley Antique Center.  Hopefully, their descendants will find these photos and they will find their way back home.

Sylvanus Hill and wife

I wonder if The Second Joseph looked anything like Sylvanus?

Starksboro, Vermont to Otsego, New York to Waukegan, Illinois

The next place to research was Waukegan, Illinois, where I ventured in July of 2009.  But the path to Waukegan was not direct for Joseph.

Their journey to Waukegan, based on information found in Illinois, began in about 1842, in Oswego, New York where they lived after leaving Vermont and before arriving in Illinois. The move from Vermont to Illinois apparently was done in segments and not all at once.

Starksboro to Waukegan

Joseph Hill and Nabby Hall were married sometime about 1814 most likely in Starksboro, Addison County, Vermont where Nabby’s parents, Gershom Hall and Dorcas Richardson lived.

Joseph and Nabby’s daughter, Rachel Levina Hill was born in Addison County, Vermont in April 1814 or 1815, depending on which record you believe.  Rachel married Anthony Lore in 1831 in Starksboro, Vermont.  Rachel and Anthony moved to New York by 1835, but we’re not sure where.  Perhaps they were with or near her parents, although her parents were still in Vermont in 1836 when their son Rollin was born.

We can presume that in 1831 when Rachel Hill married Anthony Lore, her parents were still living in Addison County, Vermont.

However, from 1831 until I found their obituary information, and that of their son, in Waukegan, Illinois in 2009, no one knew anything more about Joseph and Naby (also spelled Nabby, probably short for Abigail) Hill.  Their obituaries informed us about time spent in Oswego, New York.

Two hundred and fifty miles by wagon is not a comfortable trip.  Wagons tend to travel about 10 miles a day in hilly terrain.  That entire region between Starksboro and Oswego is hilly to mountainous.  It would have taken them roughly 25 days to travel from Starksboro, Vermont to Oswego, New York.  They might have lived there in the 1840 census, but although there are Hill families in Oswego, we don’t’ find Joseph, or at least not one that appears to be the correct age.  There are two Josephs back in Addison County, but they appear to be Joseph 1 and Joseph 2, so we don’t know where our Joseph 3, aka, The Second Joseph, was living in 1840. Maybe they were literally “on the wagon” rolling westward when the 1840 census was taken.

Oswego 1855

This old map from 1855 shows what Oswego, on the shores of Lake Ontario, looked like about the time that Joseph and Nabby lived there.

Oswego was an important military town in its early days. The British occupied the area during the early 1700’s and built Fort Oswego and later Fort Ontario. Fort Ontario is clearly visible on the left cliff of the map. In the mid-1800’s, Oswego quickly adapted to the current hydrotherapy movement and established the Oswego Water Cure health spa.  I have never thought of an ancestor as potentially connected with a spa or spa area of any sort.  I wonder if Joseph had any connection.

The steamer “Northerner” is featured in the foreground. It’s possible the next leg of Joseph’s journey was by steamer, but that would have been the “long way” around through all of the Great Lakes.  More likely, the next leg of his journey was by wagon as well.

If the trip from Vermont to New York was long, the one from New York to Waukegan was worse.  That second trip was about 725 miles and would have taken them about 72 days (more than 10 weeks), maybe slightly less if they made good time, or longer if they had trouble, like wagon wheels breaking or mud or other hazards.  Everything they owned would have been packed in that wagon, plus at least the two children that we know made the journey with them.  They likely had more children that we don’t know about, as indicated by the 1830 census.  They may also have left married children behind, never to see them again.

We can be sure they never saw Rachel again, as she died in Warren County, PA between 1870 and 1880, around the same time as her parents.  We don’t know if they said their goodbye’s to Rachel in New York in the mid-1840s as they left for Illinois or in Vermont in the early 1830s as she left for New York with her new husband.

Regardless, Rachel would have been someplace between 15 or 16 and 29 years old when Joseph and Nabby last saw a daughter that had a lot of life left before her – and who would desperately need her parents and family in years to come.  I wonder if they were notified of her death, or she of theirs, and if they wrote letters in the intervening years.

Both Nabby and Rollin’s obituaries in Waukegan give us more information, although neither gives us Nabby’s maiden name.  One tells us that they came to Waukegan in 1842 and the other says they arrived in 1845.  Their daughter, Lucia was married in Waukegan in November of 1844, so they assuredly lived there by that time and Lucia had time to meet an eligible young man, fall in love, and become engaged.  Of course, remembering back when I was a teenage girl, that could all have occurred within about 2 weeks.

Joseph and Nabby would have traveled west from Oswego which was located on Lake Ontario to Buffalo, New York, then circled South around Lake Erie, crossed from Lake Erie to Lake Michigan at about the Indiana/Michigan border, then rounded the tip of Lake Michigan until they reached Waukegan, which at that time was called Little Fort, Illinois.  In May of 1847, someone drew a picture of what Little Fort looked like. In 1849, Little Fort was renamed Waukegan.

Little Fort, Illinois

The population in Little Fort in 1844 was 150, 152 in 1845, 759 in 1846, 1237 in 1847 and 2025 in 1848.  They had a veritable population explosion in 3 years.  Whether Joseph and Naby arrived in 1842 or 1844, there weren’t many people in Little Fort at that time – so Lucia didn’t have a lot of bachelors to choose from.

One of Waukegan’s largest imports was shingles and shingle bolts.  Joseph Hill was a shingle maker, so this was probably a great opportunity for him and probably why they selected Waukegan, although I wonder how they even heard of such a small village in Illinois in the first place.

Wooden shingles were hand made to cover both roofs and the outsides of homes.  Joseph’s handiwork was probably installed on many of the homes that were built for the new residents descending on Little Fort.

wooden shingles

This 1840s building sports a wooden shingle roof.

Joseph and Naby were also recorded in the 1860 census, but Joseph was in his late 60s, nearing 70, by that time.  He was born between 1790 and 1793 in New Hampshire and Naby was born in 1792/1793 in Connecticut.  Joseph gives his age in the 1860 census as 68 years of age.  He has no real estate and no personal cash or anything of value.  He lists himself as a laborer, so at age 68, he is still working.

In the 1870 census, I found a Jo and Nabba Hilon in Hanover, Cook County, Illinois, age 77 and 79, respectively, he born in England and she born in Connecticut. Hanover is  about 35 miles from Waukegan.  I’m not positive this is them, but I hate to think of Joseph performing farm labor at age 79.

Joseph died in 1871, on March 16th.  Waukegan’s paper says he was 80 years and 6 months, which would put his birth in September of 1790 if that was accurate.  This month and year also answers one of the long-standing questions about The Second Joseph. His oldest brother, the first Joseph, died on September 24, 1790.  The Second Joseph was named in honor of his brother, Joseph, just recently deceased.  Now a part of me has to wonder if the two Joseph’s departed and arrived on the same day, hence, why The Second Joseph was named Joseph.  The elder Joseph did not have a son named Joseph.

An aha moment. This “naming” is no longer “strange” but makes sense, well, more sense anyway.

In 1871, there was no obituary as we think of them today, for Joseph, just a death announcement in the local paper.

The Waukegan Weekly Gazette published March 18, 1871 states that “Joseph Hill, of this city, age 80 years and 6 months, died on the 17th instant.”  Instant means this month.

Peterson Funeral Home

Waukegan had a funeral home by then, Peterson’s, which still exists in a wonderful grand old home. Their records indicate that Joseph was buried in Oakwood Cemetery, but no lot number is given.

Peterson Funeral home information:

Age 80
Died of old age.
March 16 1871
lived in Waukegan
buried at Oakwood, nothing more
Book A March 16 1871

Joseph’s daughter, Lucia lost her husband in 1854, before either of her parents died and after only a decade of marriage.

A cemetery lot had been purchased for the family in 1851 when the cemetery was first organized.  The lot had room for 8 graves, so it’s very likely that indeed Joseph and Naby are buried on the same lot with Lucia, her husband and at least two of their children.  The stone of one of the children is shown, below.

Cemetery Weaver

Based on what is known about the cemetery, the burials and the locations with no stones, it’s most likely that Joseph and Nabby are buried in this lovely patch of grass, below.

Cemetery Hill

Within sight, just a few feet away, Rollin is buried as well, having died in the 1918 flu epidemic.  He is buried with his wife who predeceased him in death on her family’s plot.

Cemetery Rollin

Naby died in 1874 and had been living with her daughter Lucia at the time of her death, according to her obituary. The 1871 City Directory even tells us where the daughter was living.  The house still stands.  Peterson’s Funeral Home again tells us she was buried in Oakwood, but no lot number unfortunately.

When you can’t find the location in the cemetery, just set up shop and check FindAGrave on the trunk of your car! Genealogists do whatever is necessary!

Cemetery findagrave

The cemetery is beautiful, overlooking Lake Michigan in the distance. Joseph spent his entire life, it seems, bordering one lake or another.  Rollin is buried in the clump of day lilies, below with the lake in the background.

Cemetery Lake Michigan

Rollin’s obituary tells us more though, as it tells us that Rollin was the last mail stage driver from Waukegan to Chicago.  We know that the train began running in 1855, so he would have no longer driven the stage back and forth to pick up mail.  After that, Rollin became a carpenter and lived most of his life across from the old Court House.  I’m sure he wanted to be right downtown, as the courthouse square was the center of activity in towns of yesteryear.  Everyone went to town to transact business and downtown was a lively bustling place.

Waukegan downtown

Rollin’s obituary also tells us that his first residence “in this vicinity was on a farm on the present site of Great Lakes.”

Great Lakes refers to the Naval Station built in 1906, and this could be where Joseph and Nabby first lived when they arrived. It’s about 3 miles south of present day Waukegan.

Great Lakes Center

For early settlers, this would have been a prime location because it’s located on a creek.

Great Lakes map

Mysteries Remain

While we’ve pieced as much of the life of Joseph together as we can, some mysteries still remain.  Did Joseph and Nabby have other children besides Rachel born in 1815 and Lucia and Rollen born in 1827 and 1836?  Assuredly they did. The census tells of at least 7 by 1830.  Surely some of those children survived.  Women tended to have children every 2 years or so during that timeframe, so we could assume that they had approximately 9 children, given that at least one was born after 1830.  We can probably also presume that not all of those children survived to adulthood.

Based on the 1830 census numbers and their known children, we know of 4 male children and 4 female children, and that’s assuming that only Rollin was born after the 1830 census, which is probably not a legitimate assumption. They could have had 2 or 3 additional children between 1830 and 1836.

In the 1860 census in Waukegan, we find 3 other male Hills who might be connected, although I’ve eliminated at least one of those.  However, there is a Thomas E. Hill who lived one door from Lucia who is a writing teacher who might very well be related, possibly a brother.  He was born in 1832 in Vermont, so is a promising candidate, although I’m unable to find him in the 1850 census.

On an 1861 map, his residence is draw at the corner of Hoyt and Julian. Hoyt is today North Street.  This small house looks to have been his and Lucia lived on one side or the other.

Julian at Hoyt

In the 1900 census, Lucia is shown at 315 Julian Street, so either she moved or the houses have been renumbered, because today the homes above are in the 500 block.

The rest of the Hill men in Waukegan in 1860 were born in New York, and while Joseph and Naby did live there, if indeed Rollen was born in Vermont, and was their youngest child, then it’s unlikely that they moved back and forth from VT to NY to VT to NY.  Moving was not simple.

It’s unlikely that Joseph or Naby Hill had a will.  Joseph had nothing of value in the 1860 census, and he probably didn’t acquire anything between 1860 and 1870 as he got older and could work less.  Naby lived with her daughter, Lucia, before her death in 1874 and likely had contributed anything she had to their household.

I know I checked on wills and probate before, although I do not have a specific note in my files, so I am re-verifying this information.  I have discovered while doing these ancestor articles that by revisiting and confirming my own information, I have found and corrected errors, and sometimes information that was not available before is available now.

Today, Waukegan is a thriving community made up of a harbor, port authority, beach, Abbott Labs and the Great Lakes Navel Training Station.  Although it is north of Chicago, and clearly a Chicago suburb, it has a flavor of its own and a redevelopment effort has revitalized much of the downtown area.

By Éovart Caçeir - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

By Éovart Caçeir – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

This lovely town was built with the labor of our ancestors, beginning back when it was Little Fort.  It’s nice that the cemetery is peaceful and overlooks the harbor.  Joseph and Naby Hill lived most of their lives, it seems, in close proximity to one of the Great Lakes.  It’s fitting that they spend eternity overlooking the shimmering blue waters of Lake Michigan as well.

Lake Michigan

Military Service

Trying to obtain additional information about the Joseph Hill from Vermont who served in the War of 1812 had been an exercise in frustration. I ordered his records from the National Archives in November of 2014, only to be informed they could not find his records.  However, on, records for a Joseph Hill from Vermont are listed thus with file number 55-34054 and the bounty land warrant as well.

Joseph Hill 1812

Of course, the question remains as to whether our Joseph Hill served in the war, or if it as one of the other Joseph Hills. Given that there is a Bounty Land warrant, when the War of 1812 file scanning is completed, I should be able to obtain this information.  The National Archives may not be able to find the file, but apparently Fold3 did.

Joseph Hill 1812 records

The Lake County, Illinois GenWeb site has a list of military pensioners, and Joseph is not among them, but then again, he may never have applied for a pension.

It’s also possible Joseph might have served out of New Hampshire, but I did not find any evidence for service there.  The one Joseph Hill who did serve from New Hampshire also requested a pension from there in 1878.

If he was born in September 1790, he would have been 22 years old and unmarried, ripe pickins in 1812.

One tidbit that may or may not be relevant is that this is the same unit in which Joseph’s wife’s brothers, Joel and Edmund Hall served.

DNA Matching

DNA suggestions that we actually do have the correct Hill family has come in two different forms.

At Ancestry, I have matches with descendants of Joseph Hill and his wife, Nabby. Unfortunately, they have not downloaded to GedMatch, so I can’t tell you how we match, which means I also can’t triangulate that DNA to others.  This comes in the category of “so close but so far away” or a new form of genealogical torture that should be probihited in the Geneva convention.

For a while at Ancestry, I was part of the Joseph Hill and Nabby Hall Circle too. I don’t know if I’m simply not a member anymore, or if the Circle has gone away entirely, but regardless, the Circle is gone from my page and has been for months.  Wonderful…now I have Circle anxiety.

However, I do match several other people who descend from Nabby Hall’s line as well as Joseph’s father’s line, and not just at Ancestry thankfully.

Between these various pieces of DNA and other evidence, I do feel confident we have identified the correct couple as the parents of Rachel Levina Hill – after tracking them from Starksboro, Vermont to Waukegan, Illinois, a place I would never have looked without the notes from Bertha Hanson’s work.

Sometimes, that one critical sentence is all that it takes, even post-humously. Thank you Bertha!!!



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Family Tree DNA and GedMatch Dustup

crystal ball

The Crystal Ball by John William Waterhouse

It’s really unfortunate that a “conversation” that should have been private has gone public, but it has and there is no closing the barn door after the cow has left.

Genetic genealogy, and genealogy, is a highly emotional topic. Many of us feel very strongly, myself included.  After all, it’s our ancestors, flesh and blood we’re talking about.

I know that many people look to my blog for direction and commentary on these matters, so I feel obligated to say something.

For those who are not aware, in the past few days, GedMatch has stopped accepting Family Tree DNA autosomal data file uploads.  Circumstances and timing of events beyond that are murky at best and involve a bit of a “he said – she said” type of situation.  So, I’m not going to fuel any flames by reposting anything because I can’t verify the timing or order since I was not online when it occurred.  If you are a GedMatch user, you can see their announcement and commentary, which is what sparked the public portion of this issue, after signing on to your account and you can see Family Tree DNA’s responses and commentary to GedMatch’s posting on their Facebook page.

In summary, Family Tree DNA became aware of a potential security issue relative to their customer information at GedMatch and reached out to GedMatch to resolve the issue.  From that point forward, what actually happened is unclear, is only known to the “people in the room” at the time and judging from the outcome, may well involve some confusion or misinterpretation.  In any event, the resolution did not occur and GedMatch posted that they were no longer accepting uploads from Family Tree DNA.  (For the record, I am not one of the “people in the room,” so I, like you, don’t know.)

Unfortunately, this announcement fueled rampant speculation and outrage online and does nothing to resolve the potential problem for people whose kits are already being utilized on GedMatch.

So, here’s what I can and can’t tell you, and why.

What I can tell you:

This is not an issue with an individual having or sharing their DNA files.  You can still download your autosomal DNA files from Family Tree DNA.  This is not about paternalism or someone telling you what you should or shouldn’t do.  This is not about the DNA itself.  This is about security and privacy.  Period.

What I can’t tell you:

Having worked in a technology industry for years, I cannot responsibly tell you “the problem,” at least not until it’s resolved, or why it’s a potential problem, because it would then become open season for people to attempt to exploit the potential problem. And yes, they would try, in a heartbeat – just because.  This is why neither GedMatch nor Family Tree DNA have elaborated on this part of the issue.  They are being responsible, but unfortunately, their intentional and responsible ambiguity is feeding rather wild speculation in the larger community – and none of it positive.

No Crystal Ball

No one has a crystal ball. What is perfectly fine one day may not be the next due to changes beyond any one individual or firm’s control.  What is completely secure under one circumstance may not be when you add another vendor or service into the mix.  It happens continually in our high-tech world and it’s not intentional or due to negligence on anyone’s part.  Sometimes issues or potential issues don’t become evident immediately.  When they do, it’s incumbent upon the involved parties to resolve the problem or potential problem.  Where there is more than one party involved, it makes the situation inherently more difficult and calls for cooperation, which is where we are today.

What To Do

The good thing about social media is that it makes communications immediate. The bad thing about social media is that it’s very easy for misinformation and speculation to run like wildfire and to quickly take on the context of fact, fuel everyone’s emotions, and for a mob mentality to take over.  Don’t believe me?  Just look at the political rhetoric and associated “spin” this year, regardless of your position.

Here’s the bottom line. No one really knows what is going on.  Even the parties on both sides really only know “their” side and there are two sides to every story.  For outsiders, which means all of us, to jump into the fray is like the distant family taking sides in a family squabble.  Almost everyone has the information wrong, or only part of the information, but everyone has a very strong opinion based on what they think they know.  Agendas come into play and it gets ugly, very ugly, very quickly, which is again, where we are today.  I have been utterly horrified at some of the vitriol I’ve seen online.

The people who have figured out the problem, and there are a few, generally technology professionals, are doing what they should do and keeping their mouths shut. Let me translate this – they are more concerned for our security and well-being than the perception of the online community that they were “right.”   To those people, from all of us, thank you for your professionalism.

The other bad thing about social media is that even when the problem goes away, the hard feelings generated by speculation and misinformation don’t. The damage done by jumping to early, incorrect conclusions and fueling vilifying social rhetoric may never be undone either.  Damaging, or attempting to damage either party socially or otherwise is not beneficial to a resolution and may actually hinder the resolution that we want to see.  This ultimately damages all of genetic genealogy.

What I’m saying is this: We can’t do anything to actively “help” but we can certainly negatively impact the situation.  We really don’t know what is going on, and as such, should not be speculating or arriving at premature conclusions.  Rampant speculation is not helpful, is inaccurate and has the potential to make the situation much worse.  As a community, we need to give these firms some time and space without fueling the emotional flames which may indeed make their negotiations or communications, or whatever needs to happen, more difficult.

So, in the vernacular of my parenting, I’m asking us all to calm down, take a deep breath and a personal timeout:)  Let’s find something else fun and productive to do for a few days and leave GedMatch and Family Tree DNA alone, relative to this topic.  They have both stated that they want to resolve this situation.  Both of the companies are listening to us, are well-intentioned and engaged, which is far more than we receive from other companies in this field.  What more can we ask at this point?

I have every confidence that both of these firms are committed to genetic genealogists and want to resolve this issue – and that they will, given some time and space out from under the microscope and spotlight.  I’m sure they understand how the community feels regarding this issue – so at this point there is no need to say any more unless the issue isn’t resolved.

In this same vein, I apologize to my sane and rational commenters, but the comments portion of this blog posting is closed. I do not want to add to the online rhetorical issue.  If you have something to say to either party, then send it, in a polite and civil manner that would not embarrass your grandmother, directly to the parties involved.

Update 3-19-2016 – A joint announcement from GedMatch and Family Tree DNA this afternoon:

Family Tree DNA and GEDmatch jointly announce that we are in serious conversations regarding issues that have resulted in GEDmatch discontinuing uploads of FTDNA data. Both companies recognize the importance of these talks to their customers and are committed to quickly resolve differences. We regret any inconvenience that may have been caused and assure our users that our primary focus and efforts are geared toward your benefit.



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A Fun DNA Experiment

Granddaughter DNA 2016

My granddaughter was fortunate enough to attend a special event at a local university over the weekend for middle school students.

One of their experiments was extracting DNA from mixed fruits.

Needless to say I’m extremely proud of this “chip off the old helix.”

You can do this experiment too, easily with just items you have at home in your kitchen. This wonderful video not only shows you how to do the experiment, the host explains what is happening.  Sooooo interesting – and easy.

Did you know that you can extract DNA from strawberries, bananas or kiwi fruit and can even extract your own DNA by swishing water in your mouth and using the same extraction process? Maybe you could do all three and compare the results!

Here are some additional references, questions, discussion items and tips for teachers:

Have fun!!!



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Closing Up Shop at 23andMe and the Trap

How could a DNA testing company be more unfriendly towards genealogists? I don’t know, but if you can think of something, I’m sure 23andMe will implement it.

23andMe has always been the “difficult” company to deal with, adding layers upon confusing layers of authorizations and requests to communicate and share DNA matching results, but the last few months, as far as I’m concerned have put lots of nails in their coffin.

Recently, the final nail went in.

The “upgrade,” and I use that term very loosely, began months ago at 23andMe amid something akin to a meltdown.  Four months later, nothing has improved.  None of the accounts that I manage have been transferred to the new format, communications have been nil and needless to say, any genealogical work has died on the vine for lack of water.

The transition that was supposed to be done by year end isn’t, and no word from 23andMe.

I’ve decided that with the other two testing companies, meaning Family Tree DNA and Ancestry, combined with GedMatch, that I really don’t need the hassles and frustrations inherent in 23andMe anymore.  This is, after all, supposed to be fun.

I signed on at 23andMe to clean up one of my accounts in preparation for deleting it.  The reason I was going to delete my kit is because you cannot opt out of their research entirely, and I didn’t want to simply abandon the kit at 23andMe, allowing their continued use but giving up on my end due to their decisions and business practices relative to genetic genealogy.

So, I signed in like normal, using the e-mail account that I used for this kit as my user ID and then my password.

23andme signin

Little did I know the trap 23andMe has set, but I soon found out.

I decided to check matches one last time and download the V2 data file.  I don’t ever expect to need this data, but just in case.  So I started by downloading the raw data.

In order to download a raw data file, first you have to find the option, hidden under the the drop downs, under your name, under “browse raw data.”

23andMe browse raw data

When you click on the download option, you then have to re-enter your password (hint, you could not be at this screen had you not already entered your password correctly) and then you also have to answer a secret question.

23andMe secret question

Apparently you need to be “extra protected” against yourself and downloading your own raw data.

But next comes the trap.

The Trap

Apparently 23andMe has implemented some sort of “internal timer” and if you haven’t signed in for awhile, they refuse to allow you access to your data, even AFTER you have signed in with the correct e-mail and password, then entered your password again, then entered your secret answer correctly. That’s 4 times you’ve authenticated that you are you – but that is apparently not good enough.

They insisted on sending an e-mail to my e-mail account to verify access. Well, I hate to tell you, but I abandoned that e-mail account long ago.  But there was no reason to change the login at 23andMe to something different because the person who initially took this test is no longer interested in the results and hasn’t been in quite some time.

23andMe confirm e-mail

So I clicked on “send the verification” because I had no choice, hoping that perhaps I could then go and recover the password for that old e-mail account and sign in to that old account just long enough to verify the password. No such luck.

23andme not receiving e-mail

So, the next day, I decided to sign in to 23andMe again to see if I could somehow figure out how to change the e-mail to my current e-mail, but now I’m effectively locked out of my own account until the verification comes back…which of course it never will because it was sent to the old e-mail address that I couldn’t recover.

I clicked on the option for “not receiving the confirmation e-mails.”

23andme reset e-mail

Great – it gave me the option of resetting the e-mail. I entered my current e-mail, which is the same e-mail for the rest of the accounts I manage and received this lovely error message.

23andMe e-mail in use

I can’t use my current e-mail because it’s already in use. It’s already in use because I manage other kits at 23andMe.  And around and around we go.

In order to overcome this obstacle 23andMe has put in the road, I would have to go to a service where I don’t have an e-mail account and create one just to let 23andMe send me a confirmation e-mail so that I can access my account. Really?

So, let me get this right. 23andMe still has the DNA, is still selling and using the DNA with impunity and will forever unless I delete this kit, but I can’t have account access after entering 4 different security challenges correctly plus a new valid e-mail account?  Seriously?  And they somehow think this is acceptable?

Well, all I can say is that it’s a good thing I was already closing up shop at 23andMe, because this is the very last nail in that coffin. They couldn’t make this experience more difficult or painful if they tried.

I absolutely refuse to let them win.  They are not going to gain unfettered permanent access to this DNA because they’ve made it too difficult for me to access.  This overly aggressive “security” is nothing more than a way to exclude legitimate access and retain what they really wanted in the first place, your DNA to utilize and sell.  If you can’t gain access, you can’t opt out of research, as much as one can opt out at 23andMe, and you can’t delete your kit.  This is somehow poetic injustice at its worst.  In other words, yes, it’s a very effective exclusionary trap.

So, I did in fact set up a new e-mail account, and I did confirm the e-mail address, and now I’ll set about deleting the account.  We’ll see how that goes.

Goodbye 23andMe, forever. My only regret is that I waited so long to leave – kind of like a bad marriage.



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Native American Haplogroup B2c Discovered in the Eastern US and Canada

Haplogroup B2 and subgroups are found among Native Americans and First Nations people in North, Central and South America.

However, occurrances of B2c, without a subgroup, are quite rare. In fact, outside of academic publications, I have only been able to find 4 individuals who are designed as haplogroup B2c that have been full sequence tested.  There are a few other candidates (at least two of which hail from the Chaco Canyon region,) but to confirm this haplogroup, one must test at the full sequence level at Family Tree DNA, the only testing company that tests the full mitochondria.

Haplogroup B2c

The second interesting part of this equation is that nearly all of haplogroup B2c with subgroups is found in the Southwest US or Mexico. However, three of the four instances of B2c (without subgroups) are NOT found in that region, but in the eastern US and Canada, as shown on the map above, where B2c (including subgroups) has never been previously found.

Individuals who will be designated as B2c at the full sequence level will be estimated as haplogroup B4’5 at the HVR1 or HVR1+HVR2 levels. The mutations that indicate B2c and other haplogroups downstream of B4’5 are found in the coding region, which is only tested by the full sequence test.

If you have only tested to the HVR1 or HVR2 level, and you match anyone with haplogroup B2c, please consider upgrading to the full sequence test. Your results could be both quite unique and very important to understanding the migration and settlement pattern of Native American ancestors.

I’ll be adding these findings to the haplogroup B2c group in the article, Native American Mitochondrial Haplogroups.

You can view more about haplogroup B2 at the Haplogroup B2 Project page here.



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