Pandemic Journal: Things I Never Thought I’d Do, But Here I Am

What week is this?

What day is this?

What day of the week is it?

What time is it?

Yes, we’ve all lost track of these kinds of things now because our days blend one into the next with no delineators like going to work on weekdays and doing other activities on weekends. Even if you don’t work in a different location, most of us have some sort of routine that has been disrupted by social isolating.

I hope you ARE isolating, because the sooner everyone actually does this, the sooner this pandemic will be over, the fewer people will die, and we can all resume our pre-Covid lives again.

I must say, these once-in-a-lifetime measures have wrought some quite unexpected challenges and in some cases, despite the circumstances, we just have to laugh.

A group of us crazy genealogists cooked up something quite unique and fun, so read on😊

But first, let’s get the deadly serious stuff out of the way. Trying to find a silver lining by no means suggests that the situation we find ourselves in isn’t the most serious threat to our lives in this generation, and probably in the past century.

First is Not Good

My Mom used to say that being first wasn’t always a good thing. I always had images of the road runner tricking the coyote into running off the edge of the cliff. We’ve sort of done just that.

On the website Worldometers, cases of Covid-19 are tracked, and a few days ago, the US became #1 in the world. You can see the breakdown here by country worldwide and by state here.

On March 26th, the US outpaced all of the other countries in the world with a record number of Covid-19 cases, and that’s just the confirmed positives. We haven’t tested nearly the number of people, or the percentage of the population that either China or Italy have.

Pandemic us first

The deaths are still somewhat comparatively low, thankfully, but we are no where near the peak while China and Italy are beyond that point. The numbers won’t be apples and apples until after we are beyond the peak as a country too.  Let’s hope they stay low, but I’m not optimistic.

I never, ever wanted the US to be #1 in quite this way. Like everyone else, I’m deeply concerned and anxiety is running at an all-time high for many people.

It’s important, after we take care of life-sustaining tasks to find something to take the edge off – preferably other than eating or drinking or we’ll emerge pickled and unable to get through the door when this is all over.

Have you done something quite unusual since this isolating began, other than inventorying your pantry and planning “blizzard meals” out of whatever ingredients you find?

Here are four things I never thought I’d do.

Signing My Will in a Drive Through

My husband and I had been working on creating wills and trusts since last fall. It’s a challenge with a blended family and we are trying to do our best to provide for each other as well as fairly to descendants.

We had intended to get this sewn up and signed before we left for down under at Christmas time, but our attorney was traveling. Then we were traveling. Upon our return, we were having back and forth discussions when the virus hit, quickly followed by social distancing and shutdowns. It became apparent that this situation was worse than anticipated and that we might need those documents sooner than later.

We are in the high-risk category, and here we sat with no wills or trusts. This meant that we would have no control over what happens to each other or how our assets would be distributed to our heirs. That’s clearly not what we want, which is why we were working on those documents in the first place.

Plus, you know how Murphy works – that’s like an invitation for disaster. Our best insurance of staying alive? Get those documents signed, somehow.

But how on earth could we get our wills and trust documents signed and notarized with two witnesses? That’s 5 people, one with a specialized skill, the notary, all of whom need to be in the same place at the same time when we are all supposed to be social distancing? Our attorney is in an office building that is closed, so that won’t work. Finding an online notary, although they do exist, was unsuccessful.

None of my friends are notaries and neither are the grocery stores which are open. I messaged a well-connected friend. He found a local bank branch that is notarizing documents through the drive-through window and they agreed to notarize our wills, so long as they did not have to attest that we were of sound mind, cause we obviously are not.😊

Pandemic will

Having not been out of the house in a couple of weeks, the drive to the bank was lovely although we stopped no place and talked to no one. Here we are in the drive though, signing as they watch, passing documents back and forth to the notary and witnesses, one by one, for half an hour, complete with hand sanitizer and wipes.

I know this is a somber time, and signing one’s will isn’t exactly joyful either – but the other-worldly irony of a couple signing wills and related documents in a bank drive-through during a pandemic stuck us as quite humorous. It struck the bank employees the same way, and dare I say, we had fun. They probably had a fun story to tell their family and we do too.

Of course, the (sealed) bag of chocolate we took them as a thank you for going way above and beyond didn’t hurt anything.

Pandemic picnic

Afterwards, to celebrate, we pulled into the parking lot behind the bank branch and enjoyed a picnic in the sunshine in our car.

We are livin’ large, I’m telling you!

The next day, when the US became #1 in the world in terms of positive Covid-19 cases, we were greatly relieved to have this task behind us, just in case.

Now we can focus on living, and keeping everyone else living too.

Making Face Masks

Over the years, we’ve done some really unusual things as a family, but making face masks is something I never even pondered.

Of course, the biggest problem is that the only family we can see right now is the other person who lives here, and the cats.

Normally, if I were making masks or other charity items, it would be with my quilt sisters, but you can’t really socially isolate and sew at the same table. Plus, there’s no reason to take a chance.

My husband has done something HE never thought he’s be doing either – ironing the ties for face masks. Before that, he was so bored he was cleaning…so ironing was actually a welcome break, well, up until the iron broke and drained water all over the ironing board and floor.

He magnanimously volunteered to go to the store for groceries AND a new iron. He’s rather shop then either clean or iron, so that worked out well.

There are several steps to making these masks that appear to be quite simple and shouldn’t take much time at all. The masks are deceptive taking roughly an hour each when you combine all the steps. I sure hope these get washed and reused, but regardless, they are saving lives and that’s all that matters.

Let me share with you the construction crew.

Pandemic mask front

First, you have to cut the mask face panel and sew the two sides together, supervised by Kitters, of course.

Pandemic chai

Mom, I think you forgot this pile over here. I’ll hold these others down for you.

Pandemic chai sleeping

This work is EXHAUSTING. Time for a nap.

Pandemic Kitters sewing

Chai needed to call in the reserves. Kitters, can you take over supervising mother, please?

Pandemic Chai pressing

Next, the masks must be pressed, either by an iron or in a pinch, a cat taking a bath sitting on the pile will do.

Pandemic kitters pillow

A pile of masks on the ironing board also makes a wonderful pillow.

Pandemic ties

Next, the ties are cut and stacked on the ironing board for pressing.

Pandemic ties kitters

The ties must be held down or they will jump off of the ironing board. Of course, the ties might be assisted in jumping off the ironing board by one of the other cats batting the ends of the ties, just saying’.

Pandemic masks

It’s amazing with all this “help” that I’ve gotten any masks at all finished. These 7 and more are being contributed to workers at the hospital where my daughter, her husband and another family member go to work every day regardless of the personal risk involved. The very least I can do is to try to keep them as safe as possible.

Later in the day, I got a very bad case of cabin fever though.

Garden Intrigue

I’ve stayed inside this house as long as I can, nearly a month with only two outings. Going to the grocery never looked so good.

It’s still cold in the north where I live, so being outside in the yard isn’t terribly attractive either.

For my mental health, and in the interest of marital harmony, I really need to go outside at least once a day, even if it is just walking around my yard looking for any hint of green. Yes, I’m literally watching the plants grow – an indication that spring, color and warmth will be here soon. I can’t wait until it’s warm enough to open the windows.

Come along, take a walk with me. There are hints of green now that the snow from a few days ago has melted. Maybe a few other goodies have surfaced too.

Pandemic plants

Look here…I think this might have just grown an eighth of an inch in the past hour or so. Maybe if I just walk around the house once more, new growth will appear. What do you think? Let’s take a lap and see what else we can find.

Pandemic 72

Wait!! What’s this? OMG! Why, I think this might be important. A hint perhaps? A “green leaf” of sorts – kind of like a chocolate trail, maybe. This is intense alright. What is this and where does this lead?

Hmmm, let’s keep walking.

Pandemic toblerone

Wow, this plant is trying to bloom. The very first one, and look what’s tucked in right alongside – Toblerone. Someone obviously didn’t want me to miss this. We must be in Switzerland now – the Swiss Alps perhaps?

Wow, this is a great journey!

Pandemic carmel

Indeed, some creature must be trying to tell me something or lure me someplace with chocolate? That’s not very difficult, actually. I already very nearly met my Maker once already thanks to chocolate.

Next, we find Ghirardelli milk chocolate staking out a beautiful green plant, waking up and yawning. This looks just succulent to me.

Pandemic Iceland

On to the northlands we find chocolate in Iceland as well. Mmm, volcanic and rich – my favorite.

Pandemic sea salt

Where to next? Crossing the sea, of course, with sea salt carmel. Yum…

How far will we sail until we hit land again?

Pandemic Kia Ora

Oh, oh, now we’ve gone “down under.” Indeed, Kia Ora to my New Zealand peeps.

Pandemic Godiva

Now we’re obviously in the mountains someplace. Hidden in the crags is a truffle, probably discovered by one of those truffle-loving pigs. Good thing it wasn’t a chocolate-loving pig. I’d be wrestling with that pig for sure.

Pandemic Hokey Pokey

What’s this? My eagle has brought me something magical called dark chocolate “Hokey-Pokey.” Makes me feel like dancing, “Put your left foot in, put your left foot out…“

It too came from “down under” as you can see in the background. I’ll take this magic any day!

Pandemic english

Dark chocolate in English Ivy. We must be in the British Isles now. Wow. This is some amazing chocolate trail!

Pandemic rabbit hole

Uh oh! Oh no. You know what that is don’t you?

The dreaded rabbit hole.

Should I?

Or shouldn’t I?

I’m a genealogist, I should know better than to go down a rabbit hole. Right?

But…but…there might be another clue down there…..or chocolate.

Where does it go?

What should I do?

What would you do?

Ok, let’s see what’s down that hole.

Pandemic basket

Hey look, we found the rabbit along with a lovely basket of goodies. Sometimes it pays to go down those rabbit holes.

Maybe watching the plants grow isn’t such a bad idea after all, and it just might be entertaining. Plus, there’s chocolate and “that’s what it’s all about.”

Speaking of entertaining, there’s one more thing I never thought I’d be doing, but here I am. “Performing,” in a variety type of entertainment show.

Saturday Night Virtual Entertainment Show

This last Saturday night, a group of obviously incredibly bored genealogists joined forces for 2 hours – virtually – to entertain each other and the members of the VGA who were available to tune in last minute.

Courtesy of Thomas MacEntee and coordinated by Katherine Wilson of the Virtual Genealogy Association (which you might be interested in joining), our “Virtual Entertainment Show” was performed live from around the world.

Indeed, this is what happens when genealogists are placed into isolation. We might be physically distant, but we’re not exactly isolated.

We’re not star-studded in the traditional sense, but everyone showed something we enjoy, generally not something genealogy related although some were, because genealogy weaves itself into the very fiber of our lives.

Several people showed skills and hobbies from the rest of their lives. You didn’t know genealogists had any “rest of their life” did you😊. Me either, but getting to know people better was one of the benefits of this show.

Dreamed up only a day in advance, this pop-up event was quite literally a variety show. There was origami from Germany, traditional Irish storytelling from Ireland, of course (where else), sign language, piano from England, the most amazing textile art created from discarded constitutional law books, amazing papercrafts, art jewelry in a number of formats, including turning old watches into small photo frames sporting family pictures that you can wear, wire molding, quilting, instrumental music, singing, comedy, dollhouse miniature making, rowing instruction and more, much more.

Each “performer” had 5 minutes and the participants thoroughly enjoyed themselves. I hope the attendees did too.

Pandemic origami

Here’s Marcel from Germany instructing us how to make an origami frog.

For my part, I showed a few quilts and useful quilted items like my quilted vest, purse and laptop sleeve. I had a great deal of help as I prepared the “studio” in advance. In fact, several of the performers had assistance, which made the event even that much more enjoyable.

Pandemic quilts

Thanks to Katherine, the VGA, Thomas and the rest of my genealogy peeps for pitching in to do something none of us ever imagined we’d be doing and providing a couple hours of blessed distraction.

Pandemic Journal

That does it for this edition of the Pandemic Journal. What have you done recently that you never thought you’d ever do?



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Isabel (circa 1753 – 1840/1850), Wife of Michael McDowell – 52 Ancestors #278

We’ve gathered quite a bit of information about Michael McDowell, here, here and here, but not so about his wife, Isabel. It appears that Isabel lived to be at least 87 years old and possibly as old as 97 years. That’s amazing, even today – but especially remarkable at a time when there were no antibiotics and childbirth carried the threat of death every year and a half for 20 or 25 years of a woman’s life.

Not to mention that Isabel appears to have crossed the mountains moving to a new home twice in her life, once when she was about 30 and again another quarter century later. Not an easy trip under the best of circumstances and the best of circumstances probably didn’t exist.

Isabel, spelled Isbell, is only mentioned one time – ever. If it was not for the deed that she signed with her husband, Michael, on February 16, 1793 in Wilkes County, North Carolina, selling their 75 acres of land on the Blackwater River in Franklin County, Virginia – we wouldn’t even know her name.

Michael McDowell Blackwater 1793 sale

Isbel signed with an X, three times, indicating that she could not read or write – and neither could Michael who signed with an X as well.

We don’t really know, positively, that Isbel, or Isabel, was Michael’s wife before or after that time.

We presume, and that’s a really dangerous word in genealogy, that Isabel was the mother of Michael’s children – including Mary McDowell, Michael’s daughter, born about 1785 in Wilkes County, 8 years before “Isbell” signed that deed.

We don’t find the name Isabel, by any spelling, among any of the children of Michael’s known children. But then again, we don’t know who all of Michael’s children were, nor do we know who all of his grandchildren were.

What we do know is that Michael was born about 1747, according to his Revolutionary War Pension application, and began having children when he lived in Bedford County, Virginia.

Who did Michael marry? We have no idea. Marriage records exist during that time in Bedford County, but Michael isn’t there. Of course, those records may be incomplete, but there’s no McDowell and no Isabel or Isbel.

Michael’s son, Edward was born possibly as early as 1773, but likely in either 1774 or 1775, which tells us that Isabel was probably born around 1753, assuming she was Michael’s only wife and the mother of all of his children.

When Edward was young, Isabel spent time alone in their cabin, without Michael at home. I hope she had other family members nearby.

Michael fought in the Revolutionary War in parts of 1777, 1778 and 1779. Michael reveals in his pension application that he initially marched to the lead mines and built a fort, taking at least 6 months, probably beginning about April 1777. After returning home, he was summoned again and “joined with some neighbors and friends with the citizens of the country calling themselves spies, to protect women and children from the skelping knife of the savage.”

Michael marched off to war at least 2 additional times, coming home in-between.

During the many months that Michael was gone, Isabel would have had to function alone on the frontier – not knowing if she would ever see her husband again.

It’s likely that Isabel was pregnant and probably had a second or perhaps even a third child during Michael’s 3 tours of duty. One of those children may have been their son, also named Michael, and other children may have not survived.

Whether Michael was present at home or not, life had to go on.

Isabel was responsible for cultivating the fields, planting seeds or tobacco plants, depending on what they were growing, tending animals and harvesting crops if necessary – not to mention taking care of toddlers. There was no “good time” for Michael to be gone – nor was Isabel ever safe.

Michael did eventually return home. Isabel must have been incredibly relieved. Finally, they could actually begin to plan their lives without the spectre of war constantly hanging over their heads.

On September 24, 1783, Michael bought 75 acres of land on the north side of the Blackwater River in Bedford County where they were living according to the tax list of 1782.

In 1783, Michael owned 2 horses and 4 cows, but in 1784, he was no longer on the tax list of Bedford County. We do find a Michael McDowell in Botetourt County, but then he’s gone from there too.

Michael is absent for a couple of years, but on February 4, 1786, Michael McDowell bought 161 acres of land from John Hall Sr. in Wilkes County, North Carolina characterized as “the plantation where Michael McDowell now lives.”

We know Michael was already living on this land at that time, but we don’t know how long he had been there.

Michael and Isabel didn’t sell their land in Virginia until 1793 from Wilkes County, when Isabel signed as his wife. Were they unsure about staying in Wilkes County? By the time they sold their Virginia land, they had been landowners in Wilkes County for at least 7 years and possibly as long as 9.

About Those Halls

I almost hate to say this, but I’ve wondered for some time if Isabel was a Hall. This is speculation, so please, please do NOT run over to your tree and add Hall as her surname.

It’s equally as likely that Michael married Isabel who was not a Hall in Bedford County, Virginia and was married to her for his entire life. Still, I feel compelled to at least look at Michael’s relationship with the Halls and the possibility that Isabel was, herself, a Hall.

Michael is heavily involved with the Hall family in Wilkes County. The Halls began entering land in 1778 on Mulberry Creek. Wilkes County Genealogy Society writes about the Hall family, here. WeRelate provides information about the family of Thomas Hall of Colonial Virginia, here.

Not only does Michael McDowell purchase land from the Halls, he fights with them as well.

No one fights as much as people who are related.

On January 24, 1786, Michael McDowell, along with Owen Hall posts a bastardy bond for William Profit who was charged with begetting a bastard child on Ann Hooper or Hoper. Both Michael and Owen signed with an X.

In November 1786, Michael is referred to in a deed between Owen and Robert Hall for 156 acres on Andrew Vannoy’s line, Mickel (sic) McDowell’s corner and the line between Hall and McDowell.” This confirms that they are neighbors.

In 1787 on the tax list, Michael has in his household 1 white male age 21-60, 2 males under 21 or over 60 and one white female. The man 21-60 would be Michael himself. There are only two children, both males?

  • If Edward was born in 1773, where are the children born between 1773 and 1787? That’s 15 years and only two surviving children? Isabel would have born in approximately 1753 or earlier if Edward was born in 1773.
  • If James McDowell who witnessed a deed in 1801 is the son of Michael and Isabel, he would have been born about 1779, so that would be the a second male.
  • Son John was born about 1782 or 1783, possibly in Virginia which would be a third male.
  • Son Michael witnesses a deed in 1799, so he would have been born before 1778, a fourth male.

According to these calculations, there should have been 4 sons living with Michael and Isabel in 1787. Where are the other boys?

In 1787, Michael is in court for a trespass case brought by the state. The same jury is ordered to hear Michael’s case as is hearing one between Owen Hall and John Hall Senior and wife, a “case for words” found in favor of Owen. The court then moved Michael’s case to the civil docket and finds him guilty as charged. Those cases seem to be connected.

Did the Hall family come from Bedford County, or an adjacent county? Where were they before Wilkes? There are Halls in Bedford County, but that certainly doesn’t mean they are the same Hall family.

However, in a letter dated 1782 from Henry Innes of Bedford County, Virginia to Ralph Smith of “The Pocket,” he says, “There is a large bull in this neighborhood which was formerly the property of Hezekiah Hall.” The 1782 Bedford County tax list includes both Owen and Hezekiah Hall as well as John Hall Jr. and Sr., two Williams and a Robert Hall. In 1773, we first discover Owen Hall on the Pittsylvania County, Virginia Tax list, so he appears to be about the same age as Michael McDowell.

That’s VERY interesting.

Michael McDowell’s’ father, also named Michael, spent time in Halifax County, adjacent Pittsylvania as well, but at least 20 years before Owen was found in Pittsylvania County.

It’s also possible that Michael was a widower when he moved to Wilkes County, or became a widower shortly thereafter?

By April 1785 in Wilkes County, Owen Hall was selling land to John Shephard on Mulberry Creek that runs with the lines of Owen Hall and Jesse Hall.

In 1790, Michael McDowell continued his involvement with Owen Hall when the state prosecuted Michael McDowell, Owen Hall and William Abshers who on July 20, 1790 “did beat, wound and ill treat Betty Wooten.”

Wow. I can’t help but wonder if they had been drinking. I also wonder what Isabel had to say to Michael. I sure hope she wasn’t on the receiving end of that kind of treatment.

Wooten Creek is a small creek feeding into Mulberry Creek near where the Hall, Absher, Vannoy and McDowell families lived, just south of Hall Mountain.

Isabel Hall Mountain.png

In the 1790 census, Owen Hall was Michael McDowell’s neighbor and probably about 40 years old. Robert Hall was Michael’s neighbor on the other side, probably about the same age. John, Jesse and William Hall live a few houses away.

Michael McDowell in the census has 1 male over 16, 4 males under 16 and 2 females. This tells us they have 4 sons and one daughter.

In July 1792, the court granted Michael McDowell permission to rebuild his mill. I wish they had told us what happened, but I’m guessing a fire. It would have had to be either fire, flood or tornado.

We know there was an arson in the neighborhood in 1789 when John Roberts burned the cabin of Braddock Harris and his wife Rachel Hickerson. The Hickerson family lived slightly south on Mulberry Creek. Arsons did happen, and it’s certainly possible. It seems the entire neighborhood was feuding during this timeframe, judging from the court cases.

On July 23, 1792, a deed was executed between Owen Hall and Robert Hall for 115 pounds, 156 acres adjacent Andrew Vannoy’s line, Michael McDowell’s corner, line between Hall and Michael McDowell including the land Owen Hall bought of John Hall Sr., witness Jacob McGrady, signed Owen X Hall, page 269.

I wish I knew if John Hall Sr. was Owen’s father, but there are no clues.

In February 1793, Michael McDowell and Isabel sold their land in Virginia. Perhaps they needed the money to pay bills given that their mill was out of commission. Or maybe they needed the funds to rebuild the mill. Note that today on Mulberry Creek, very near this location, we find Halls Mills.

In 1799, Michael sold his land to the local preacher, Jacob McGrady who lived just north of Hall Mountain and whose wife was Amiah, reportedly born about 1760 in Bedford County, Virginia, daughter of Owen Hall. Michael signed the deed but Isabel is glaringly absent. The property is located on Mulberry Creek, abuts Robert Hall’s line and is witnessed by Michael and Edward McDowell as well as Robert Hall. However, no mill is mentioned.

It’s difficult to deduce much about the relationship between the McDowell family and the Halls since they are clearly neighbors. Specifically, it looks like Michael is literally surrounded by Hall men.

Following that 1799 sale, Michael officially owned no land. How did the family earn a living? In 1799, Michael is shown with 200 acres but there are no deeds. Perhaps he was renting or we have an unrecorded deed.

In the 1800 census, Michael was 53 years old, Isabel is apparently still alive, even though her signature was absent on the 1799 deed, given that a female over age 45 is living in the household. Additionally, they have 2 males age 0-10, 1 female 10-16 and 2 females 0-10. It looks like the older sons have left the nest, but we don’t know where they are.

On November 23, 1805, a deed of conveyance occurs between Owen Hall, Russell Co., VA, and Robert Hall, 60 pounds for 156 acres, Andrew Vannoy line, Michael McDowell corner, marked line between Hall and McDowell, Witness William Abshire, Hezekiah Hall and James Quyth (?) Signed Owen Hall, page 287

Owen Hall moved north too, apparently.

December 5, 1805, a deed between Robert Hall and John Abshire, 150 pounds, 156 acres, Andrew Vannoy line, Michael McDowells corner marked line between said Hall and McDowell. Wit Jacob McGrady, William McGrady and Owen X McGrady. Signed Robert x Hall

Claiborne County, Tennessee

In 1809, Mary McDowell married William Harrell, the neighbor’s son. Harrell was spelled Harrold at the time and the family lived on Harrold Mountain, just to the east. Within the year, Michael, and presumably Isabel, along with most of their children left for Claiborne County, Tennessee. Mary McDowell and William Harrell moved with Michael too.

A younger Michael McDowell, presumably Michael’s son, stayed in Wilkes County, but the rest of the McDowell family left for the Powell River on the border of Claiborne County, Tennessee and Lee County, Virginia.

As Michael and Isabel packed up the wagon to set out over those mountains for Tennessee, Michael would have been 63 years of age and Isabel wasn’t far behind. Given that four children were born between 1790 and 1800, we can infer that Isabel would have had her last child about 1797 or 1798, suggesting she was born about 1754 which is in line with Edward McDowell having been born about 1773.

After arriving in Claiborne County, Michael McDowell settled on land named Slanting Misery. I’ve always wondered why they chose that land, because it truly was slanted and miserable, both. Or maybe it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. They were certainly used to mountains from living in Wilkes County, so maybe Slanting Misery simply felt like home.

Slanting misery panorama

The 1810 census is missing, but the 1810 tax list in Lee County, Virginia, on the Powell River, shows Michael and two of his sons.

Four year later, in 1814, Michael begins claiming and amassing land in Claiborne County, just across the border from Lee County, beside his son-in-law, William Harrell who was married to his daughter, Mary McDowell.

Sons John and William McDowell live beside and claim land adjacent Michael as well.

Unfortunately, the 1820 census is lost too, but in 1830, a female is living with Michael, age 70-80, so born 1750-1760. That surely looks like Isabel.

In 1840, a female age 80-90 is living with Mary and William Herrell and it appears that Michael may have been living with the rather unfriendly preacher, Nathan McDowell.

It’s worth noting that two McDowell males, Nathan S. McDowell and John P. McDowell, clearly with ties to Michael McDowell based on deeds transferred to them “for love” are probably too young to be children of Michael and Isabel. It’s possible that these males were grandchildren of Michael and Isabel, especially given that we don’t have a full accounting of their children.


In summary, the children attributed to Michael and Isabel are as follows:

  • Michael McDowell born between 1774-1778, either dead or gone from Wilkes County by 1820. (I’m confident of this relationship, but Michael is not confirmed as Michael’s son.)
  • Edward McDowell born possibly as early as 1773 or as late as 1780 (confirmed)
  • John McDowell born 1782 or 1783 (confirmed)
  • Mary McDowell born 1787 (confirmed)
  • Luke McDowell born circa 1792 (confirmed)
  • William McDowell born circa 1795 (confident, but not genetically confirmed)
  • Daughter born between 1790-1800 (no further information)
  • Daughter born between 1790-1800 (no further information)

Nathan and John P. McDowell are unlikely to be Isabel’s children, although it’s not impossible, given that Isabel was born about 1753 or possibly slightly earlier. If born in 1753, Isabel would have been 44 in 1797 and 49 in 1802.

There are two sons born between 1790 and 1800 as well – one of which could be Nathan.

Based on their transactions and activities, Nathan and John P. certainly appear to be related to the family in some fashion. I’m betting on grandsons, possibly through son Michael who stayed in North Carolina. A persistent rumor exists that the son, Michael McDowell, died on September 3, 1823 in Stokes County and is buried in Winston-Salem. A Billion Graves entry shows us a stone that says the Michael who died was in the 42nd year of his age, which would put his birth in 1781. I’m not convinced that this Michael is the Michael who was the son of Michael McDowell of Wilkes County, but it is a possibility..

  • Nathan S. McDowell born 1797 could be Isabel’s son or possibly a grandson or related in some other way. Nathan did not live close to Michael, roughly 20 miles away, and had no children, so this can never be proven genetically one way or another.
  • John P. McDowell born about 1802 is probably not Isabel’s son, especially since John born about 1782 is proven to be Michael’s son. John P. is probably a grandson or related in some other way.

Without documentation that doesn’t exist today, we’ll never know for sure.


Mary McDowell’s mitochondrial DNA is haplogroup U5b2b1a1, inherited directly from her mother’s matrilineal line. Of course, we’re presuming here that since Mary was born in 1785 in North Carolina that indeed she is the daughter of Isabel McDowell whose birth surname is unknown.

U5b2b1a1 is found mostly in the British Isles, although with some mutations, also in Scandinavia and central Europe.

Given that we first find Isabel in (probably) Bedford County, Virginia, it’s likely that she either descended from the Scotch-Irish population, Germanic settlers or from colonial English stock. We need more testers before we can draw any conclusions, although there are matches to a few families in this region in the right timeframe.

Isabel Mito map.png

We find Mary’s earliest known ancestor migration map matches scattered across the rather traditional migration path, so nothing unusual here.

Autosomal DNA

I was really hoping to find a smoking gun, or maybe a smoking Hall in my own DNA matches that might suggest that Isabel was a Hall.

I have neither ThruLines nor Theories of Family Relativity that suggest Halls, although Isabel is 6 generations back in my tree.

Looking to sift out more information, I used two wonderful tools which were both inconclusive.

First, I ran the Genetic Affairs cluster analysis along with tree reconstruction and didn’t find anything suggestive of a Hall connection. I was hoping for a fortuitous tree reconstruction, but it was not to be had unfortunately.

I then utilized’s service that obtains the direct line ancestors in the trees of my matches, and indeed I do have a significant number of DNA matches with Hall ancestors out of Wilkes County.

The problem, of course, is that the Hall family remained in Wilkes and were neighbors of my family members with the following surnames:

  • McDowell
  • Herrell/Harrold/Herrald
  • McNiel
  • Shepherd
  • Hickerson
  • Vannoy

It’s very likely that I share a different line with these people who have Hall in their trees. In fact, I do share multiple ancestors with two of the most promising matches. This what happens when everyone stays up on that mountain and marries their neighbors. Within a generation or two, everyone is related to everyone else, and the neighbors are marrying are their cousins because everyone is a cousin.

Unfortunately, what this means is that for autosomal testing, I would really need to find a group of people who descend from Hall ancestors from this same line BEFORE they migrated to Wilkes, and who don’t share a different line with me.

Colonial Virginia is a tough nut to crack in this type of situation, especially this far back in time. Isabel would have been born in the early 1750s and many Virginia counties have experienced record loss of one kind of another. Unfortunately, there is no recorded marriage for Michael McDowell, nor a will that leaves anything to Isabel or any Michael McDowell from a father-in-law – so we’re out of luck unless something turns up one day in a previously buried record.

Or of course, if the right person just happens to DNA test, that could turn the tide as well😊

Hope springs eternal.

If you descend from Michael McDowell and Isabel or the Hall line, please be sure you’re in all of the databases (Family Tree DNA, Ancestry, MyHeritage, GedMatch and 23andMe). It’s not just who you match, but who your matches also match. The power of the newer tools is found in groups of matches that descend from the same ancestral couple – and each vendor has unique matches and tools that other vendors don’t have.



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

Thank you so much.

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The Shared cM Project Version 4 Released

Version 4 of the Shared cM Project has been released, utilizing over 60,000 known relationship results submitted by genealogists. The Shared cM Project was begun in 2015 by Blaine Bettinger in order to crowd-source the actual number of shared centiMorgans, cMs, of variously related people who match each through autosomal DNA testing.

Obviously, in order to contribute to the Shared cM Project and participate, you must know how you are related to your matches. You can read about the earlier versions of the project, here.

The Shared cM Project has been very useful for genealogists attempting to determine potential relationships of unknown testers, in particular, because sometimes what we “expect” to see based on academic predictions and models isn’t actually what happens.

Of course, the flip side of that is that sometimes people who contribute relationships don’t understand or report relationships accurately; specifically relationships such as “half,” and “removed.” Nonetheless, with enough data, these reporting errors become statistical outliers. You can participate by contributing your known relationship data through the portal, here.

Blaine’s blog about the new V4 version is here and the full 56-page pdf paper about the results and methodology is here. If you want to understand how the project works, not only is this paper essential reading, it’s a wonderful educational source.


By far, the most common usage of The Shared cM Project results is the interactive tool created at DNAPainter by Jonny Perl.

V4 DNAPainter

The Shared cM Project tools are found under the Tools and WATO tab, here.

V4 DNAPainter shared

Click on Shared cM Tool when navigating from the main DNAPainter page.

V4 DNAPainter complete chart

You’ll see the updated V4 relationship chart, with the field to enter the amount of shared cMs between you and a match above the chart, shown partially above.

V4 DNAPainter result

Selecting a cM number at random, I entered 1300. The results show the probabilities of various relationships between two people who match at 1300 cMs.

V4 DNAPainter table

1300 shared cMs can be any of the relationships shown, above. The grey, faded background relationships are not candidates at 1300 cMs, according to V4 of the Shared cM Project.

V4 DNAPainter histogram

A new feature added by Jonny provides the ability to click on a relationship and view the histogram from The Shared cM Project showing the submitted relationship amounts. For aunt/uncle at 1300 cMs, 26 people reported that matching amount. The most common amount of shared DNA was 1800 for that relationship category.

You can read Jonny’s latest blog introducing these new features, here.

Thanks to all of the 60,000+ contributors, Blaine and Jonny who made this possible.



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

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Pandemic: For the Love of All That’s Holy – STAY HOME, and Sew a Mask

Everything that happened to China and Italy and now Spain and much of the rest of Europe is happening here too.

After we’re on the other side of the tsunami that is rushing over us, we can talk about how we got here and why, but right now, none of that is important. What IS critically important is what we do right now. Today – this hour!

Everyone knows about covering a cough, washing hands and to some extent, social distancing, but not everyone is taking social distancing seriously.

Whether they don’t believe the authorities are correct, think they are invincible or something else isn’t for me to say. What I am saying is one thing – this pandemic isn’t just coming, it’s here. There’s no discussion anymore about maybe. The only debate left now is how many will die.

Covid March Michigan

Here’s the chart for Michigan. The very first case was less than 2 weeks ago. Beginning on the 17th, the cases began increasing rapidly every day, and on the 18th, the first death. Southeast Michigan hospitals are already out of ventilators for patients and masks for staff.

The Michigan governor ordered:

  • Schools closed on March 13th
  • Restaurants and bars to close to the public, open only for takeout on March 16, along with restrictions of public gatherings
  • Shelter-in-place lockdown today, March 23rd

New York is ahead of Michigan in terms of infections and deaths, as are a few other states, but many are not. Don’t think it won’t arrive – it already has. Look here for the state by state cases.

There is no consistent survival directive for the entire US. Each state and sometimes each city or county is left to its own devices to decide what to do, and when.

However, you are in charge of you, and possibly of other people too – family members. Those you can’t control, you may be able to influence.

The most important thing you can do, and people’s lives depend on it is…

Covid stay home

Right now, there is nothing more important. If everyone simply stayed home for the next 2 or 3 weeks while the cases currently developing worked their way through the system, we’d see a downturn in 3 weeks.

If we don’t, the cases will continue rise and the outcome will be catastrophic, like we’re seeing in Italy right now.

Remember, you’re contagious for as long as 2 weeks before you actually exhibit symptoms. You may have a mild case of the illness and not know it – meaning you’re contagious for a lot longer than 2 weeks.

You will be touching doors and other public places during that time, unaware that you are infecting others.


Now that you know, you’re responsible for protecting yourself from becoming infected which means you’re also protecting others – your family, your neighbors, friends and the vulnerable population.

Everyone over 60 is considered vulnerable, but they aren’t the only ones. Many people have diseases or conditions you can’t see, like asthma or diabetes. If you risk being contaminated, you risk the health of everyone else too.

And you risk killing your own family members.

People Are Dying

In the past couple of days, this insidious virus has moved from the threatening to the deadly. I know people who have it. My friend’s nephew, a physician. Another friend’s neighbor died. This is just the beginning and there is still time to avoid the worst outcomes.

This virus is real, deadly and here.

The people who die and have already died will probably never know HOW they were exposed to the virus, because it was likely from someone else who didn’t know they were ill yet.

Illness and deaths today are reflective of what was happening 2-4 weeks ago – the day before that first case was reported in Michigan. All of these cases were percolating among the population at that time – deadly time bombs. We just didn’t know it.

Be a Hero

It’s never been easier to be a hero – because all you literally have to do is nothing. Sit on the couch.

Only go out when necessary, and then keep a distance of 6 feet. Practice pandemic hygiene.

We’ve limited our trips out to once a week, and only then if necessary. No, buying a newspaper or your child having a play-date is not necessary. Neither is buying a lottery ticket. Besides that, you’re much more likely to get exposed to Covid than win. 

Yes, working one of the essential jobs is necessary.

You may also be able to do things to help out.

Urgent Need – Masks!!

Project N95 was begun just 72 hours ago as an entirely volunteer effort to coordinate the need and delivery of N95 (covid) masks and other personal protective gear for our medical professionals. Click here to see what’s needed and where.

An army of sewers and quilters have taken up the mantle to provide masks to individuals who need masks, but not necessarily the Covid-19 masks, freeing up those masks for those who really do need them.

If you would like to help with a donation of material, time, money or sewing masks, please coordinate to be sure that the masks are being accepted by a facility near you. Also, note that elastic does not survive an autoclave. I’ve been using bias tape for the ties or t-shirt material which is stretchy and doesn’t fray.

Some institutions only accept specific patterns, so don’t start sewing with great intentions only to have your masks be rejected or thrown away.

Here’s a FaceBook group, COVID Mask Crafters, that is coordinating request, supplies, sewing and distribution efforts.

JoAnn Fabric in many locations is coordinating both requests and masks through their local stores. Some are even providing free kits for people willing to make the masks.

Covid masks

EQuilter has provided this information:

Dear Sewing Community,

Passing on this message:

There is a critical shortage of face masks for health professionals and first-responders.

We have been asked to mobilize our community to do what we do best: sew.

We are calling on you all now to share the “Keep Calm and Sew a Mask” campaign on all of your social media platforms.

There is a tremendous need for masks that tie at the top and the bottom, as seen above.

A large hospital uses hundreds of thousands of masks a week — so we need to move as quickly as we can.

To start making an impact, get your materials ready and click the link below:

Also see these crucial details offered by our friend Rachel Wallis:…/15Y2_5fFWuog_o4q3CjhpdfFC8LX…/edit

Many thanks to Andover Fabrics for sharing this today.

Providence Hospital is desperately asking for people who sew to join their “100 Million Masks” challenge.

Call your local hospital, EMTs, police and firefighters, doctors’ offices, senior living facilities, rehabilitation facilities or elder-care facilities. Masks are needed for so many people in our health care system, including janitorial staff.

Opportunities to Help

How else might you be able to help?

Local Businesses

Restaurants are still open for takeout in most places. Not only do people need to eat, but supporting restaurants reduces the economic impact at least to some extent. Business like GrubHub and delivery services are functioning in most places as well as grocery shopping and shipping services.

Many restaurants have implemented a curbside pickup and no-contact delivery.

Many times restaurant staff and gig-workers have few or no benefits like sick time, paid vacation or insurance and often depend heavily on tips. Be as generous and patient as you can be.

The Vulnerable

Call your neighbors, especially anyone who is a little older, lives alone or who is vulnerable. Ask if they need assistance with shopping or picking up medications. They may not know how to order online delivery or be comfortable doing do. You can pick up their groceries when you pick up your own and drop them off on their doorstep.

They may also be lonely and frightened, isolated from their family as well, and a friendly voice may be quite welcome.

What Else?

What else can you think of to do to help?

We are all in this together and we need to do what we can, individually.


I want to say a very special thank you to medical professionals – our doctors, nurses and first-responders along with all of the other people who make their jobs possible. People you don’t necessarily think about or see, but people who are at risk of contracting the virus by virtue of working in a hospital or medical setting. Everyone from receptionists to nurses aids to lab personnel to cooks in the hospital kitchens to cleaning staff.

Medical facilities simply cannot run without these people and we need them so desperately. They are risking their lives every single day right now to go to work and care for ill people.

Let’s all of us do our part by making sure we aren’t exposed, and exposing them, any more than possible – just stay home and practice your best couch potato, read a book, do some genealogy or sew a mask.

Please share this article.



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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

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Fun DNA Stuff

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US Census 2020 – It’s That Time!!!

The census is important to us as citizens and US residents for a variety of reasons.

  • First and foremost, how we are represented in the government is determined to some extent by population, so every person needs to be counted.
  • Secondly, government assistance to municipalities such as grants and programs not visible to the typical citizen are also predicated upon population. Here are some examples of important programs based on the census.
  • Third, of course is genealogy – but that’s for future generations. The census isn’t released for 72 years, and based on what I saw today, genealogists are going to be very disappointed in 2092.

The 2020 Census Form

I completed my 2020 census online today. I received a letter with a census ID code to sign on to to complete the census which took about 5 minutes.

This is super convenient for me, and much less prone to errors if someone actually completes and submits their own information. No lost mail, no transcription errors, no misspelled names by enumerators. However, not everyone has technology, although most do. What about the elderly and homeless?

The census information here and here indicates that at least 5 mailings will be made followed by an in-person enumerator visit. Hopefully, unlike was done with our ancestors, they won’t just ask the neighbors.

This census is quite unique, given the current pandemic situation. I have to wonder how the census might be affected in terms of timing, completion and accuracy.

census 2020 welcome

Nearly every question has a help or information button explaining the intent of the question along with example responses.

However, there are no instructions for enabling cookies. I would guess most people already have cookies enabled.

census 2020 login

After logging in, you’re asked to confirm that you’re answering the census for your specific address. The census is by address/household, not by person.

The next question made me laugh.

“On April 1, 2020…will you be living or staying at…address?”

Seriously, April Fool’s Day – in a pandemic???

The form is divided into two sections, household questions and personal questions.

Household Questions

The household questions revolve around who lives in the household, and how they are related to each other, or not.

Census 2020 questions

Questions are sparse indeed; name, phone and birth date.

No birthplace or parents’ names are requested, let alone the questions about where their parents were born and other information we’ve come to cherish. No income or occupation questions. Nothing other than whether the home is owned or rented, and if by someone living in the in the household

Adding a second person in the household was a bit confusing. Answer yes until you see all of the people listed in your household on the next page. It’s easy to go back and forward using the arrows. Don’t use the browser forward and back buttons.

Person Questions

Individual questions are provided for each person living in the residence.

census 2020 hispanic

I wonder why this is a complex question/answer with its own page, and the rest of the categories are not.

The next page allows you to fill in various categories labeled “race” and also has a free space area for typing things such as German, Dutch, Scottish, etc. I wonder what people who don’t know are entering, and how much ethnicity predictions provided by DNA testing companies are influencing these answers. A company that erroneously reports a high amount of Italian, for example, could cause an onslaught of people with Italian heritage on the census.

Next, relationship questions are asked.

census 2020 relationship

I must admit, I was surprised to see such an inclusive list. One additional option was “not related.”

Now’s a Good Time

While you’re in lockdown, self-isolation, or are social distancing, you might be bored out of your mind, so complete your census form. Who knows, maybe this will be the most complete census in history.



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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun DNA Stuff

  • Celebrate DNA – customized DNA themed t-shirts, bags and other items

Down Under: Christchurch, New Zealand – 52 Ancestors #277

This is the third article of a multi-part series about my trip to Australia and New Zealand. You can read about Australia, here, and Tasmania, here.

My Phone Becomes My Camera

I’ve received numerous questions about what camera I’m using. It’s my iPhone 11 Pro. I have a love-hate relationship with this phone.

For years, I’ve carried my phone plus a “real” 35 mm digital camera. I love the quality of the digital camera, but it has drawbacks.

  • No ability to upload directly to social media
  • Must upload to laptop or similar device
  • Heavy
  • Bulky
  • Not quick to take photo by the time you turn it on and get it ready

What I really want is a high-quality, small, lightweight camera with cellular and the convenience of my phone. If they can make one of those, I’m all in.

Wait, that’s almost my phone.

My iPhone needed to be replaced this past fall, so an iPhone 11 Pro was the way to go. The 11 Pro had 3 built in cameras – not one camera with a digital zoom which is not the same as a real SLR zoom.

Once I started using the 11 Pro, I never looked back.

However, it has downsides too:

  • No capability for telephoto and those types of lenses
  • Resolution not the quality of the 35 mm digital

However, a significant upside is that:

  • It’s not heavy
  • I’m carrying it anyway
  • Small footprint
  • Cellular and ability to upload directly onto social media
  • On screen editing

After this trip, I may never carry the 35 mm again, BUT, I’m very, very angry with Apple right now.

They just up and decided to invent a new file type – HEIC.

Never heard of it, right? Well, not only had I never heard of it, I didn’t realize I had 3400+ photos in that format. Apple made it the default file type in the 11 Pro. You may not care about this, because you can upload to Facebook and Instagram.

You’ll care a lot if you upload your photos on to a Windows PC and do anything, or try to do anything. If you’re a blogger, guess what – unsupported file type.

This means that you have to convert each file to .jpg format. There is no good way. You can read more here.

Now I have more than 3400 files of my own, plus Jim’s that I cannot use for my blog without an extra two steps for every single picture, nor can I drop them into a word document or share them with someone with an Android phone. Nothing NADA.


I feel like Apple is holding my pictures hostage, trying to make me stay within the Apple family of products. It won’t surprise you to discover that you can upload to a MAC without any apparent problem. I can’t vouch for that, because I haven’t tried. I do know that I’ve now invested 3 days in something I shouldn’t have had to do at all.

Had I any idea, I would either have used the 35mm, or I would have purchased the older iPhone 10, hoping that by the time I needed to upgrade the next time, Windows and WordPress (my blogging platform) will both have figured out how to deal with Apple’s frustrating HEIC file format.

I did discover after I returned home that you can change that option in your phone by accessing: Settings> Camera> Formats and changing it back to .jpg. Photos will take more space on your phone. Frankly, that’s the least of my concerns.

I did find free tools online such as Some tools convert your first couple photos for free, or individual conversions for free one by one, but I have 3400 to convert. I’m always at least somewhat suspicious of what “free tools” are doing, because there has to be some motivation for someone to do something – and there is a lot of motivation for people to find ways to creep into our computer systems. What better way than helping us salvage our photos from an intrusive file format that we don’t discover until it’s too late.

This is probably more than you ever wanted to know. Hopefully it can save someone from these same issues. Unfortunately, it was part of this experience.

New Zealand

The South Island is the larger of the two major islands that comprise New Zealand. The North Island is smaller but has a larger population today. The South Island was more heavily populated at one point due to a gold rush in the 1860s.

All of New Zealand was the land of the Māori people before European colonization. The Māori arrived from Polynesia sometime between 1250 and 1300, settling on the islands and developing a distinctive culture.

In 1840, the Māori agreed in the Treaty of Waitangi to British sovereignty.

Nearly all locations have an English name and an equivalent Māori name as well. In fact, New Zealand itself is called Aotearoa in Māori, translated as “land of the long white cloud.”.

European settlement of New Zealand began in 1823. Today, the Queen of England is still the monarch, with a Governor General appointed.

Wellington is the capital, although Auckland is the largest city. The Ross Dependency is New Zealand’s territorial claim in Antarctica where it operates the Scott Base research facility.

Christchurch island map.png

Our ship stopped first to visit Christchurch, then Wellington, Napier, Tauranga and finally, Auckland.

The Dogs Pole

The first thing I encountered after we docked in Lyttelton Harbour, the cruise ship gateway to Christchurch, is a mystery that has yet to be solved. Maybe one of my Kiwi followers can educate us all.

christchurch dogs pole.png

The Dogs Pole. Notice that the Dogs Pole is entirely fenced, so the dogs can’t possibly get to the dogs pole to do what dogs do on poles. It’s also plural, not possessive.

One of my New Zealand friends suggested it might be an acknowledgement of the Antarctic expeditions that begin here. You can read more about those here.

Here, in 1957 dogs are helping to unload the Endeavor after a mishap in Lyttleton Harbour

Or maybe it’s an inside joke meant to baffle tourists and make people scratch their heads.

Harbour Cruising

This day dawned cloudy and cold. The weather in Australia and New Zealand can vary by a season in a day. How is it possible to be 120 degrees in Australia at the same time it’s cold in neighboring New Zealand?

Christchurch catamaran.png

We set out on a catamaran for some serious whale, dolphin and penguin watching – or at least we hoped to.

christchurch harbour cruise.png

Sometimes on these types of adventures, you get really lucky, and sometimes you don’t.

Christchurch dolphin.png

That’s the dolphin. As in, the only dolphin.

Christchurch dolphin skin.png

This is as close as we got to a dolphin – on the boat.

Christchurch island.png

The scenery, however, was stunning.

Christchurch shoreline.png

My normal perch on these kinds of adventures is right up front. You can’t photograph what you can’t see.

It was so cold and extremely windy that I had to go in and out.

Christchurch harbour mountains.png

I had a sweatshirt with me, and a light windbreaker for rain – but nothing more. I don’t even want to admit this to you, but I bought a thinsulate jacket. Hard to believe it was 120 degrees just a couple days earlier and I had been sweating to death.

We’re calling that jacket a souvenir. I actually do really like it.

Christchurch caves.png

We were told that you can often see penguins and seals in these caves and rocky outcrops along the waterline, but we didn’t.

Christchurch caves 2.png

I look at caves partly submerged in water and wonder if there are human remains there from hundreds or even thousands of years ago, and if we could obtain their DNA.

Christchurch waterline cave.png

The whitewash is bird poo. Jim saw a couple of birds happily perching above one of the caves.

Christchurch birds.png

There they are!

Christchurch banks peninsula.png

This area is known as Banks Peninsula, but today was not our lucky day. Not even many birds.

So much for that.

Christchurch, New Zealand

You may recall that Christchurch was devastated by a violent earthquake in February of 2011, causing massive damage to the central portion of Christchurch. Aftershocks continued for months, with smaller quakes continuing to this day.

Not only did buildings fall and sustain structural damage, but the soil liquified in Christchurch.

One might expect that the damage from this quake would be repaired 9 year later, but that’s not the case, at least not uniformly. Most of the structures that need to be removed have been, but not all. Rebuilding in some areas has simply not occurred.

Christchurch street.png

The older timber buildings, like the ones painted blue, yellow and green fared better than either taller structures, or ones made of brick or stone.

christchurch cathedral.png

The Cathedral midtown is still in a state of disrepair and indecision.

christchurch rubble.png

At first, I thought these were gravestones, until I looked closer and realized it is the remains of a building, with a window in the wall for pedestrians.

christchurch basic.png

There are many, many simply vacant spaces – in a sort of timeless limbo.

christchurch church.png

Battles over what to preserve in its current state, tear down or restore continue.

christchurch church of the blessed sacrament

The Catholic church of the Blessed Sacrament waits on its verdict.

christchurch church fenced.png

The church is fenced off to protect the church, residents and visitors.

Christchurch church old.png

We can see how the basilica used to look.

Christchurch basilica.png

Parishioners of this church are already worshipping in another location, but the debate about whether to repair, restore or tear down this historic building continues. A decision was made in August 2019 by the Bishop to demolish the building, but not everyone is convinced that the decision is final.

christchurch mural.png

Murals grace the walls of many buildings. Parking lots sprung up where buildings used to be.

christchurch music mural.png

christchurch art.png

Like other cities, art is everyplace.

christchurch art numbers.png

Sometimes I wasn’t sure exactly what the art depicted.

christchurch art chairs.png

These chairs were painted white and roped off, so I’m presuming you’re not supposed to sit down.

christchurch construction barricade.png

This mural, which I think is actually a construction barricade, reminds me of a quilt pattern. Hmmm, maybe for my New Zealand quilt?

christchurch barriacade photos.png

Look closely. These triangles actually hold images of New Zealand.

christchurch graffiti art.png

If you watch carefully, you can see graffiti art in several places.

christchurch park.png

Parks abound.

christchurch bike.png

It felt just lovely to walk in the warmth and sunshine knowing how cold it was back home.

christchurch flowers.png

Let’s Go Punting!!!

Our plan for the afternoon is to go punting on the River Avon.

Don’t know what punting is? Neither did I.

Punting is an Edwardian activity wherein a person with a very large stick pushes you along in a boat on the River Avon. Think of gondolas in Vienna, but different.

It’s best if I just show you.

christchurch boat sheds.png

Adjacent the botanical gardens and museum, we walked to those green and white striped buildings in the distance where the boats are housed.

christchurch old photos.png

Christchurch residents and visitors have been punting for a long time.

christchurch jackets.png

The punters of yesteryear wore these jackets and hats, and so did ours today.

christchurch boats.png

Each boat has a punter standing at the rear.

christchurch happy punter.png

There is only one female punter.

christchurch punting.png

Thankfully, the temperature had warmed up after we left the coast and the sun came out.

christchurch female punter.png

It morphed into a glorious day.

christchurch punting selfie.png

Jim and I sat at the rear of our boat, just in front of our punter. Taking selfies of places where we’re having fun has become a bit of a ritual, along with the obligatory trip leaving and returning picture.

christchurch our punter.png

Our punter seemed to be having a great time too. His smile was infectious.

christchurch bridge.png

The punter had to duck as we slipped beneath the bridge.

christchurch water flowers.png

There are flowers everyplace along the water.

christchurch gardens.png

The botanical gardens line the river.

christchurch kayakers.png

Kayakers paddle among the flat-bottom punting boats.

christchurch white birds.png

Wildlife enjoys the sunshine too.

christchurch willow.png

Willow trees love water. Not sure if this is a willow, but it certainly looks similar.

christchurch trees.png

Trees overreach the water forming green archways.

christchurch ducks.png

The ducks enjoy napping along the waterway.

christchurch couple.png

Some things are universal.

christchurch boat sheds 2.png

Back at the boat sheds, we disembarked.

After our punting adventure, we still had an hour before catching the bus, so we decided to go for a walk.

christchurch trolley.png

The University of Canterbury campus was just across the street.

University of Canterbury

christchurch university of canterbury.png

The architecture here is very reminiscent of England.

christchurch sidewalk.png

I would have loved to sit in the sidewalk cafe, but it wasn’t open.

christchurch archway.png

This building reminds be a great deal of the University of Cambridge.

christchurch tower.png

The entryway leads to central common areas.

christchurch plaza.png

Students gather inside in the piazza.

christchurch construction.png

Construction repair from the earthquake 9 years ago.

christchurch art fence.png

Modern art intertwined with the classic buildings such as this wrought iron fence in front of the University of Canterbury at the market area.

christchurch canterbury building.png

The farmer’s market is parked in the lot reserved for the University during weekdays.

christchurch paua shell.jpg

We found Paua shell hair barrettes and a polished and sealed shell in the open-air shops surrounding the farmer’s market. I would like to have found Paua pearls, but they are rather rare and our time was limited. If you’d like to view stunning jewelry, just google “Paua pearls.”

We found Paua shells later on the beach, but you aren’t allowed to take those off of the cruise ship, so we couldn’t bring them home.

Headed Back to the Coastline

christchurch fields.png

New Zealand has been dry too, as you can see from the color of the foliage.

christchurch tunnel.png

Leaving Christchurch, a tunnel under the mountain connects the city with the coast.

christchurch shoreline in sun.png

The harbor is stunningly beautiful as we drive along the coast on the way back to the ship.

christchurch pilot harbour.png

Back in our cabin, we see the pilot boat approaching. Pilot boats carry captains who are specialists in navigating the local waters.

christchurch pilot boat.png

The local pilot assists the cruise ship’s Captain navigate the harbor. The pilot boat motors alongside until the ship passes the dangerous area.

Then, the pilot boat pulls up as close as possible to the water-level door, but not bumping the cruise liner, while the pilot waits for the perfect moment and jumps, yes jumps, from the open door to the deck of the pilot boat, even if it’s slippery and wet. One mis-judgement or misstep and the pilot is either possibly injured and miserably wet, or worse, crushed between the two boats. If that’s not the definition of nerve-wracking, I don’t know what is. First time I saw this, I couldn’t believe my eyes and my heart leaped into my throat.

Next port, Wellington.


Bob McLaren, Beloved Clan McLaren Genealogist Meets His Ancestors

McLaren Profile.jpg

Compliments of Scott Stewart, photographer.

Bob McLaren, Clan McLaren genealogist and founder of the McLaren DNA Project, was one of the most beloved people in the genealogy community. He tried hard to be a curmudgeon, but he mostly failed at that. His smile and laughing eyes gave him away.

McLaren solo 2

Photo, compliments of Janine Cloud.

Bob’s sense of humor was dry, the same way he liked his Glenmorangie 12, single malt scotch whiskey, neat. Yep, he could tell you all about that, and don’t even think of mentioning some heresy about Cardhu. Unless of course, you wished to debate for the evening. Bob had been known to leave establishments, as is more than once, for having NO acceptable scotch in house.

Bob was Scottish, and Scotch apparently, through and through – always wearing his McLaren plaid kilt and educating anyone who would listen – at genealogy events, conferences and bars around the world. Bob was the consumate ambassador in every sense of the word.

Bob joined his McLaren ancestors on March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, probably in protest of the danged Irish kidnapping a perfectly good Scotsman, Patrick, born Maewyn Succat in Scotland about the year 387, taking him to Ireland and turning him into a Saint. Waste of a perfectly good Scotsman in Bob’s book. Bob took his Scottish history seriously, very seriously, indeed. Just ask. Well, on second thought, no need to ask – he’d tell you one way or the other.

McLaren early

I remember the first time I ever saw Bob in person, from afar, at the 2004 Family Tree DNA Conference – wearing his kilt and dagger. Yes, dagger – known as Sgain-dubh in Gaelic, in his sock. At first, I was struck by his kilt, but then I couldn’t stop looking at his sock.

McLaren dagger

Courtesy of ISOGG, photo contributed by Candy Camprise.

Even when Bob had a cast on his leg, that sock and dagger were still very much present. After 9-11, he had to stop traveling while wearing his dagger. Airlines frowned on that for some reason.

McLaren talking

Courtesy ISOGG, photograph by Candy Camprise.

The never-failing commonality in all pictures of Bob is that he is always talking to someone, always educating, always sharing. Extremely outgoing with a “let’s get it done” attitude, Bob was passionate about every aspect of genealogy.

McLaren Jeremy

Photo courtesy Family Tree DNA.

Bob McLaren with Jeremy Balkin at the Family Tree DNA project administrators’ conference in 2013.

McLaren Kherlen.JPG

Photo compliments of Katherine Borges.

Bob, with Kherlen, volunteer project administrator for the Mongolian DNA Project at the 2014 conference reception.

Bob not only attended the conferences, he was a presenter from time to time as well.

Ever-present, we never thought about the day that Bob wouldn’t be with us. He seemed timeless. A tall man with a wizard-like beard, he seemed a bit like he was transplanted from another era. Maybe at first a little intimidating – at least before you got to know him and realized that his gruffness was mostly bluster. Underneath, Bob was a kind-hearted, gentle teddy-bear of a soul. Bob wasn’t trying to intimidate anyone, he just wanted to provoke you enough to get you to engage in an interesting conversation. I soon learned that two could play that game.

At one of the early FTDNA conferences, my husband and I had walked across the street from the hotel to a restaurant for dinner. I had seen Bob from a distance, but never actually met him. He was always talking to someone else!

He sat at a table near us, by himself. I walked over to his table and asked if he’d like to join us. A genealogist eating by themselves is a perfectly wasted opportunity. Of course, had Bob realized at that moment that I was a descendant of the dreaded Campbell clan, he might not have accepted that invitation.

I’m glad he did, because that dinner sparked a friendship that deepened over the years as the Family Tree DNA conferences became like family reunions – and Bob became family – to me and so many others too.

Bob was a man on a mission – genealogy and McLaren clan genealogy specifically. He didn’t so much love genetic genealogy for the genetics part of the equation, but for the fact that DNA could, did and would unravel the knots in genealogical mysteries. In particular, his goal was to document the various paternal branches of the McLaren clan through Y DNA mutations.

Bob also realized that collaboration was the only way to achieve this goal – hence his constant presence at various conferences, like NGS, RootsTech, FGS and others.

In order to interact with the maximum number of people and convince them of the benefits of DNA testing, Bob volunteered at the FamilyTreeDNA booth at many conferences – wearing his signature kilt of course. Everyone knew him, it seemed, and came by to say hello.

I don’t think Bob would ever admit it, but as he aged, it was a lot easier for him to sit in one place and let the conference walk by him rather than walk through the conference – especially large conferences like RootsTech in particular.

McLaren Rootstech 2015

RootsTech 2015, compliments of Family Tree DNA.

Just don’t make the mistake of telling Bob you were a Campbell, or even worse, a McGregor. He’d educate you on clan history right then and there.

McLaren table.jpg

Photo compliments Janine Cloud.

When an employee became ill at a conference, Bob along with Doug Miller, at right, volunteered and stepped in at the FTDNA booth at the FGS conference in 2011. That’s the kind of guy Bob was.

McLaren listening

Photo courtesy of Janine Cloud.

Bob was a wonderful listener, utilizing his decades of experience to dispense advice about genealogy research, clan history, trees, DNA testing, or pretty much anyone someone needed. He was a marvelous teacher.

Of course, Bob loved nothing more than to buddy with other genealogists, especially other Scottish men wearing kilts.

McLaren Moffitt

Photo courtesy of Robert Moffitt.

Here, posed with friend Roger Moffitt, Bob would call Roger “Laddie” and tell him he was a bad Scottsman when Roger failed to wear his kilt. Roger pays his respects to Bob, here, on his own Facebook page.

You may need to be Roger’s friend to see this and other Facebook postings about Bob.

McLaren dressed up.jpg

Photo courtesy of Scott Stewart.

I didn’t realize that there were casual and dress kilts and regalia, but Scott Stewart took this absolutely dashing photo of Bob “dressed up” for the 2009 NGS banquet standing beside fellow Scotsman, John Ralls.

Bob chastised Scott for not wearing his kilt too. No one escaped Bob’s encouragement😊

McLaren Beidler leiderhosen kilt

Photo courtesy James M. Beidler.

That Leiderhosen/kilt ad…well, here they are.

Bob and I were volunteers on various committees together, so I knew that he had become rather frail over the past couple of years. I was concerned about him last year at RootsTech and also at the NGS conference in May 2019 in St. Louis.

For a man who did not participate in social media and didn’t much care to have his picture taken, there are certainly a lot of photos out there that feature Bob and…well… everybody it seems.

That’s because Bob was quite kindhearted, despite what he would have you believe, and never denied anyone anything. Except maybe a McGregor.

In the 24 hours of so since the word of Bob’s passing crept out on social media, many people have shared such heartwarming stories about Bob. I’ve been smiling and laughing through my tears.

McLaren me

This photo was taken of me and Bob in February 2019 at RootsTech. I told Bob I loved his black leather purse, or bag, whatever it was. Acting quite offended, which I knew he wasn’t of course, he very quickly schooled me on the fact that it was NOT a purse and it WAS a sporran. Call it what you want, Bob😊

We had an absolutely lovely week at RootsTech, running into each other several times.

McLaren Benihana

Attendees tend to form groups that eat together. This particular evening, part of the MyHeritage team and the FTDNA team invited me along and we had dinner at Benihana. One person in the group had a birthday and the photographer took a photo of the group together. We teased the birthday person mercilessly – Bob goading him into drinking some birthday Glenmorangie 12 in celebration.

I asked Bob if Campbells were allowed Genmorangie 12. He said, “absolutely not” and that he would have to drink mine for me.

We gave this picture to the birthday person, and I discovered this morning that he placed it on his fridge where it remains today, as a memento of a lovely evening with friends.

What happy times we had, and how we need those memories desperately today.

McLaren Addy

Photo compliments of Jennifer Zinck.

For some reason, Bob was especially inspirational to young people, and they in turn were drawn to him. One person mentioned that he is a sort of father-figure for her, and now he’s gone. Someone else said that he reminds them of the grandfather they wish they had known.

Addie Zinck, above, with her friend, Franklin the spider, attended her first Family Tree DNA conference in 2018. She too is missing her friend, Bob, today. Addie, don’t worry, Bob’s still with you.

Community Memorials

McLaren Katherine.jpg

Katherine Borges, Director of ISOGG, has known Bob almost as long as I have. She too had a very special relationship with Bob and remembers him, here, on the ISOGG Facebook page with this commentary and poem:

I’ve know Bob since the first Family Tree DNA conference in 2004. I’ve been blessed to get to know him better over the years because he had a huge heart and a wonderfully dry sense of humor. I used to tease him that I was going to buy him some McGregor whisky and he’d pull his skean dhu on me in reply. 😆

God willing and the creek doesn’t rise, I will dress in full Scottish regalia at the FTDNA conference in November in memory of Bob. And we’ll toast the life of this wonderful man with a wee dram.

“An honest man here lies at rest,
The friend of man, the friend of truth,
The friend of age, and guide of youth:
Few hearts like his, with virtue warm’d,
Few heads with knowledge so inform’d;
If there’s another world, he lives in bliss;
If there is none, he made the best of this.”

– Robert Burns

Many people have replied to Katherine’s post with their own memories, so do take a look.

McLaren Borges Magellan

Photo courtesy Katherine Borges.

Bob with his fellow Scots, Linda Magellan and Katherine Borges, above. Looks to me like Bob, Linda and Katherine are plotting something!

McLaren Beidler Southard.jpg

Photo compliments of James M. Beidler.

Blaine Bettinger posted this photo, with Diahan Southard and James M. Beidler – and memorializes Bob here in the Genetic Genealogy Tips and Techniques group with this commentary:

In Memoriam. Robert “Bob” McLaren, who passed away yesterday, was a fixture of the Family Tree DNA booth at just about every conference. Bob was a project administrator, DNA expert, DNA educator, and all around incredibly nice person. Over the years he educated and assisted 1000s of people with all aspects of DNA. And I’ve rarely seen someone as proud of their heritage! He will be very much missed.

Be sure to read the many comments on this post too. Bob inspired so many.

It’s incredibly gut-wrenching when these iconic legends pass over.

The McLaren Quilt

This year, just before RootsTech, Bob became ill and was unable to travel. Based on what he said and the medical testing underway, we knew that he needed a care quilt.

Folks at Family Tree DNA and RootsTech that knew Bob signed blocks, although we were being quiet about his illness and his privacy.

McLaren quilt.png

I quickly ordered McLaren tartan fabric from a custom design/print shop. The signature blocks were overnighted to me from Utah and Texas after RootsTech and I pieced the top. The quilt was quickly quilted over a weekend with a Scottish thistle design, bound on Monday and overnighted, arriving the morning of Tuesday, the 17th.

Sadly, Bob never received his quilt. I spoke to Mrs. McLaren today, and she said that the quilt is now spread on the couch with the family admiring it and telling stories. That’s what Bob would have wanted anyway – although I am gravely regretful that I couldn’t somehow have gotten it there a day or two earlier. If it was humanly possible, I would have. I hope his “McLaren Quilt” will bring his family comfort, knowing how many loved Bob and reading their caring messages.

Several people have said to me, “Bob sees it now,” and I desperately hope they are right. I wish now that I had told him it was on the way, but I wanted it to be a surprise and I had absolutely no idea Bob would only be with us another 24 hours.

I am incredibly glad that I called Bob on Monday and spoke with him at length, explaining how he had inspired me, thanking him for being such a strong pillar and foundation in our community.

Bob was planning to be dismissed the next day and his wife was preparing for the same at home. Bob told me, among other things, that he hoped and indeed, planned, to be at the next Family Tree DNA conference in November 2020 in Houston. After that, he said, “it’s probably lights out.” By this time, Bob was aware of his diagnosis although he was optimistic and encouraged to think that he would attend one more conference. I had already spoken with his wife and was surprised to hear Bob planning for November, but make no mistake, if any human could have pulled that off, it indeed was Bob.

Sadly, that wasn’t in the cards, as Bob slipped away the next day with his family gathered round.

While I’m crushed, as are decades’ worth of friends and acquaintances in addition to his family, I’m incredibly grateful to have had Bob’s presence in my life. I’m glad I told him that, in so many words, and thanked him for being an inspiration to a whole generation, or two, of young people.

I know he’s no longer suffering, and knowing Bob, he’s still close by, silently encouraging us.

In fact, I strongly suspect that indeed he has seen the quilt – including my block that I signed, “Your Campbell Cousin.” I know he would have smiled, in spite of himself. I think he secretly forgave me for that Campbell thing long ago.

He’s probably quite amused that his funeral is on hold due to this virus, although I’m sure his family is not.

Update: Bob’s obituary and funeral information is here:

Bob McLaren’t funeral information is included in his obituary, here:!/Obituary

But I have news for Bob – it’s not lights out. Not at all. In fact, the illuminating light of Bob’s life will continue to shine for a very long time – through the generations by virtue of the thousands and thousands of people he helped, those he encouraged to DNA test who are one step closer to unraveling the mystery of their own ancestors and the young people who look up to him as a role model and (grand)father figure.

That’s one heck of a legacy, one we all can and should aspire to.

Rest in Peace, Bob McLaren, Sir. Well done.

I know you have flown to the McLaren homeland, Creag an Tuirc.

McLaren homeland

By User:JacobiteMacLaren, CC BY-SA 3.0,, Balquhidder from Creag an Tuirc, the gathering place of the Clan MacLaren

Condolences, Memorials and Family Contact

Bob’s funeral plans are on hold for now due to the pandemic.

Update: Obituary and funeral information:

Bob McLaren’t funeral information is included in his obituary, here:!/Obituary

Those who wish to share stories or pictures of Bob over the years may either comment on this article, send photos to me via e-mail at and I’ll post them in this section of the article along with a description and your comment, so long as I have permission from the people in the photo.

I told Bob’s family that they are welcome to use download and use any portion of this article for his service or any other purpose that brings them comfort.

To contact the family directly, send an email to Bob’s son, Sean at

To send cards, Bob’s address is given on the Clan McLaren website, here. I do not know if anyone will check Bob’s personal email again, so I would not suggest reaching out that way.

Contributed Memories

From Ally Woods in California:

Sir MacLaren will always bring a smile whenever I hear his name …

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam

McLarenn and Ally Woods.jpg

From Marie in New Zealand:

Scottish Gaelic

Caud ye the door laddie – snak it my loon
Breng o’er  a cher and Sett Doon man, Sett Doon
It’s ainly but richt that yer  Kinfolk shud courl
To gie ye advice Tae gang oot in this worl’


Close you the door laddie – snib it my loved one
Bring over a chair and Sit Down man, Sit Down
It’s only but right that your Kinfolk should care-at-all
To give you advice to go out in this World

My best to you Roberta –
On losing a fine friend who would have heard and kenned / known this from an early age.


Pandemic Journal: Sanity & Strategies to Keep It

Covid 19

Will we have any sanity left when this is over? And what does “over” mean in this context? “Over” isn’t going to be just escaping or surviving (hopefully) the virus, but also the resulting economic havoc that is being wrought every day that we are in lockdown.

We have no idea what to expect because we, none of us, has ever seen anything like this before. This is uncharted territory.

Mind you, I absolutely agree that these measures are necessary, and had we done it sooner, we might well have avoided what we are now facing in the next few weeks. A tsunami so different that none of us know exactly what to expect – other than it’s going to be bad, very bad. We need to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Yes, like everyone else, I’m frightened and anxious. It’s like the enemy that we can’t see but know is coming, stealthily, invisibly until it’s upon us and too late.

And then, of course, there are the people who don’t believe this pandemic is real – don’t understand that it’s up to all of us to avoid contamination so that we don’t infect others. It’s a matter of life and death.

If you know a doubter who needs convincing, or you’re uncertain yourself, here’s a lighthearted but very poignant  shortclip from the comedy Scrubs, 14 years ago, that shows with green the infection path and why this is so deadly. Take a look, here.

Fear and Anxiety

Everyone has their own personal reasons why they are afraid. In my case, two of my closest family members work in the medical field, at a major hospital where they and their housemate will certainly be exposed, and another close family member works in a public facing service role where he is as I type this.

Some family members have compromised heath which means they are more susceptible to death when, not if, they become infected. I’m hopeful that we can keep them safe long enough for the worst to be over, for the virus to mutate to a less deadly form, or a vaccine to be developed. Yes, we’re still allowed to hope.

One of my best friends along with a police officer was exposed to the virus this week in her role as a medical professional. Another friend played cards with a person who was later confirmed to have the virus. And then there are my friends in NYC and in the epicenter outside of Seattle.

This is just the beginning and today will look like the good old days soon.

As I said to someone yesterday, now when I tell someone that I love them, or goodbye, the gravity and importance of those words weighs heavy upon my heart.

Lockdown and Me

I’ve been trying to decide how to appropriately handle this situation and my blog.

I don’t want to seem unconcerned and glib by ignoring the situation that is changing the everyday life of every single person – immediately – as people transition to working at home with their home-working spouses and children not at school. Or, worse, transition to not having a job or income at all. That’s not a transition, it’s a bomb.

But then again, I don’t want to allow this to overtake my entire life either. I certainly hope there is a life worth living after Covid-19.

It seems to be that there has to be a balance of some sort – and I’m trying to find it. And I’m taking you along with me through my articles.

A Way Forward

I will from time to time run a “pressure relief valve” type of article. I’ll be sharing what I’m doing to try to retain what shreds of sanity I have left. Maybe asking for or sharing hints and tips. Kind of like we are just having coffee or tea and talking.

I don’t know what I’ll have to say in these articles, because I’ve never lived through anything this momentous before.

Life will go on, somehow – just differently, and sadly, probably without some of the people who are here now.

In addition to an occasional Pandemic article, I’ll also run my regular articles so that there is some semblance of normalcy – plus – you may have extra time now to work on your genealogy! There has to be a silver lining someplace, right?

There’s a section at the end of this article that you may enjoy with several goodies.

Working at Home

I don’t know how many of you have worked from home previously, but I’ve had a home office for years now and I love it.

Structure is important, especially in terms of making time for other family members, and other activities.

I should talk, because it’s literally 1:30 in the morning and I’m “working” by writing this article.

I would wager that you’ve already guessed that I really enjoy writing and that activity brings a level of composure to my life. I feel like I’m organizing things and helping others at the same time.

Writing helps me gather my thoughts and in terms of genealogy and genetics, to organize my research.

Make sure your work area is comfortable and that you get up and walk around at least once an hour. Go outside (just not around other people) and enjoy some sunshine. Exercise in some way.

Meter the Bad News

I’m to the point where I almost hate to open my eyes every morning because right now, there’s always bad news. Everyone needs an emotional break, so I’ve implemented a metering system.

I do check in the morning, because if I need to actually know or do something, I do not wish to be ignorant. Plus, I have those immediate family members in harms way, daily. For me, the anxiety of not knowing is worse than the anxiety of knowing the worst, but everyone is different.

I also read a chapter of an ongoing “book” that the Appalachian Storyteller author, Stephen Hollen, posts every single morning on his personal page on Facebook. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to this. He might be responsible for any sanity I have left in the end😊. I will actually grieve when this series is finished.

I check CNN but I do not check what I consider to be inflammatory news sources – ever. I’ve taken a “just the facts” approach.

I do check the headlines 2 or 3 times a day for “big news,” but that’s it. Big news today is the earthquake in Salt Lake City. I’m glad all of my friends there are checking in, shaken (literally) but OK.

If there is truly something critical, I will notice it on FaceBook which I also monitor periodically, but not constantly.

In the evening, I watch one particular program that provides a factual summary of the day’s important news.

In other words, I control the amount and timing of what I’m exposed to. Otherwise, I’d just be overwashed with constant negativity.


Everyone has their own “go to” activities that make them feel better. Self-medicating, hopefully in a healthy way. Mine are, in no particular order:

  • Genealogy
  • Genetic genealogy
  • Reading
  • Quilting
  • Writing (articles like this, 52 ancestor stories, etc.)

I have trouble concentrating on the first three items if something else is bothering me. I think genealogy requires too much analytical skill when I’m stressed and reading allows my mind to wander off. But quilting forces me to focus just enough that I can escape almost anything – maybe because it requires both body and mind.

I make care quilts for others which is a personal mission of sorts.

Bob quilt blurred.jpg

I shipped this one of those overnight on Monday and it arrived Tuesday morning to wrap the recipient in love. This is a signature quilt from this person’s dear friends, so I’ve blurred some of the blocks on purpose for privacy, but you can see the love nonetheless.

laptop sleeve.jpg

I also made a laptop sleeve and power supply bag over the last few days out of quilted scraps from my DNA vest. My laptop sleeve was a RootsTech casualty. This is much more “me” than a boring old black sleeve anyway and maybe with this ditty bag for the power supply, I won’t lose another one of those either. Fingers crossed.

Social Distancing

Social distancing is not new for me. Not only have I worked at home for a long time, but I’m not fond of stores and crowds. I’m perfectly happy staying at home and working on my genealogy or other projects most of the time.

In fact, several genealgists that I know are gleeful to be forced to stay at home and isolate. Do I ever understand that. A few others aren’t as pleased, because now their entire family is at home and they can’t get much genealogy done.

However, this is week 3 for me. Lots of people were ill at and following RootsTech, so I have pretty much stayed home and away from others since my return. I’ve been fine – no symptoms – but if I was going to get sick, I didn’t want to become typhoid Roberta.

I’ve never thought about social distancing much, at least not as as we now know it, until the past couple of weeks. Now as the restrictions tighten, of course every thought is measured against social distancing and what would be required, or risked. How to minimize exposure.

While we aren’t under a complete lockdown where I live, schools, restaurants and bars are closed and most people are working from home. The next step would be to “shelter in place” which I expect soon.

I’d rather do that than suffer the alternative.

Activities in Isolation

Today, my husband and I inventoried the pantry to see what we really have, and now long our food supply will last. Never did I imagine I’d ever be doing this, at least not for this reason. We discovered that we have 3 boxes of Rice-a-Roni and a whole lot of other things we had forgotten about. Who knew!!

We also have a couple cans of Spam that worked their way to the back corner. They are out of date, of course, but if we are hungry, we’re not going to care and we’d be grateful for food. Clearly, Spam would not be my first choice. I’m not sure who bought those cans or why, because I guarantee you – they weren’t on my shopping list.

We might just have a little contest to see who can come up with the most innovative creation – kind of like one of those cooking shows. Anyone for Spam-a-Roni?? Maybe fried Spam and gravy? Now that doesn’t sound too bad.

Based on what I’m seeing on Facebook, I’m thinking a whole lot of people are going to get to learn to cook “from scratch” over the next few weeks.

Having had so much luck with the pantry inventory, I suggested we start spring cleaning, which sent my husband scurrying into hibernation – self-isolating in his office. That’s OK, I really didn’t want to clean anyway.

Instead, I did a number of other things, including;

  • Worked on client’s Y DNA report (normal activity for me)
  • Published The Million Mito Project article (is that cool or what!!!)
  • Spoke with friend whose husband is gravely ill ☹ (not virus related, but very tough especially since his family can’t come to visit)
  • Petted the cats (which according to them I haven’t done in years)
  • Watched Blaine’s free webinar (still free today), LucidChart and Other Tools for Genetic Genealogy at Legacy Family Tree Webinars. I need to try MedBetterDNA.
  • Email, which is never-ending and increasing now because, hey, I needed to know how stores the American Girl Doll stores are handling the Covid-19 issue
  • Made 3 quilt blocks


Quilting – now we’re finally to the really fun stuff.

When the going gets rough, I quilt.

It was St. Patrick’s Day, and even though that somehow got lost in the hubbub, I decided to work on a green quilt block to share with my online Genea-Quilter peeps. I grabbed the block with green, thinking it was the St. Patty’s Day block.

Christmas cat block.jpg

I discovered it was Christmas instead. Guess that one’s done several months early.

Did I mention that I had help?

Kitters helping.jpg

Meet Kitters. She and her sister, Chai, steal my pins and deposit them in their food dish and in my husband’s shoes. Gifts of the highest order.

If you have pets, be sure you have enough food for them too and shower them with extra love and attention. You’ll both benefit.

This unfinished quilt project has been laying around for some time, so I decided to make another block.

St. Pat's quilt block.jpg

Yes, this one actually IS the St. Patty’s Day block.

Winter cat quilt block.jpg

And one more for good measure. We’re supposed to get more snow this weekend, so this is appropriate.

Helpful and Uplifting Links

Thank goodness for the internet – that’s all I can say. While we are distanced physically, we can still stay in touch with people – can still interact and share.

Music is incredibly uplifting and soothing. I suggest going to YouTube, enter the name of your favorite artist, and just listen. You can also create playlists there and on your phone or iPad as well. Music helps us vocalize or express what we can’t ourselves.

Here’s a list of inspirational and useful links for your enjoyment:

  • Here’s possibly my all-time favorite song (and performer) – Joseph Groban in You Raise Me Up. This pandemic has brought home just how much we truly are dependent on the actions of each other. We must raise each other up and protect each other, now, as never before. Please listen to this soul-moving beauty.
  • Celine Dion and Josh Groban, The Prayer – this one is for you! I often play this, close my eyes and just listen – but watch it the first time because the visuals are amazing too. Melts my heart.
  • Here’s “Ode to Joy” played by musicians in a neighborhood Spain under lockdown.
  • This pianist and jazz musician is my favorite “virus video,” both playing from separate balconies.
  • Applause from balconies in Spain as people expressed their gratitude for Spain’s doctors. Doctors, medical professionals and first responders are literally on the front line risking their lives.
  • My article, Fun Genealogy Activities for Trying Times
  • Judy Russell with some additional ideas in Opportunity Knocking.
  • Looking for beauty that combines nature, gardens, flowers and inspiration? Try my other blog, Victory Garden, Day by Day.
  • I’m not LDS nor encouraging or recommending any particular religion, but preparation for being without food for a year is part of the LDS scripture. You can see what is recommended for adults and children for a year, here, and about food storage, here.

Sharing is Caring

Now that I’ve shared all of the excitement at my house, what are you doing, both to prepare for what’s approaching and as a way to keep your sanity as you implement social distancing? How are you coping? Where are you finding peace and solace?

Sharing is caring – a coping mechanism, a way of making our burdens seem lighter because we’re not alone, even though we’re socially distanced, so please share. Your ideas and comments may help someone else.



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The Million Mito Project

I’m so pleased to introduce The Million Mito Project and to explain why you should join in the quest to trace the family tree of womankind. The Million Mito Project depends upon you!

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I was honored to announce The Million Mito Project at RootsTech on February 29, 2020. I’m sharing my slides with you here, along with the narrative.

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The Million Mito Project is a collaborative citizen science project to update the phylotree of womankind.

Team members include:

  • Miguel Vilar, Lead Scientist of the National Geographic Society’s Genographic Project
  • Paul Maier, Population Geneticist at FamilyTreeDNA
  • Goran Runfeldt, Head of Research and Development at FamilyTreeDNA
  • Roberta Estes, DNAeXplain, scientist, genetic genealogist, Genographic Project Affiliate Researcher

Genographic Project Public Participation Phase Ended

The Genographic Project was launched on April 13, 2005 as a 5-year non-profit citizen-science-fueled research project with testing performed by the lab at Family Tree DNA. Unimaginably successful, the Genographic Project celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2020. I can’t tell you what a wonderful opportunity it has been to be involved with the Genographic project from its inception, and to be a part of the next chapter in this legacy of humanity.

It’s important to note that the public participation phase of the Genographic Project came to an end in 2019, meaning that kits can no longer be purchased. The Genographic database will remain online through June 30, 2020, but will be shuttered down after that time.

If you do not retrieve your Genographic results, or transfer them elsewhere before June 30, 2020, they will no longer be available to you. You can read more, here.

Even though the public participation phase has come to an end, the scientific study continues. That’s the legacy of the Genographic Project, the gift that keeps on giving.

Why DNA?

Every human alive carries the mitochondrial DNA inherited from their direct matrilineal line – your mother, her mother, her mother on up the tree into the mists of history.

This means that the Million Mito Project is relevant for every human living today – and carries critical genealogical and historical information passed to us from our matrilineal ancestors. Mitochondrial DNA is the one way that every human alive can see beyond the confines of records and available genealogy by using the gift of DNA that our ancestors bestowed up us.

It was 67 years ago on February 28th, the day before my RootsTech presentation, that Watson and Crick “discovered” DNA at Cambridge University in the Cavendish Lab.

“Discovered” is in quotes because there remains significant controversy about the fact that their discovery was predicated upon the research of Rosalind Franklin, who died and never received proper credit for her co-discovery. So really, the discovery should be credited to Watson, Crick and Franklin.

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The slide above shows me standing in the doorway of the building in which this revolutionary discovery was made a few years before I was born. Ironically, it was DNA that drew me to England.

Y DNAwas the tool that allowed the US Speaks family to connect with the UK Speaks family in Lancashire through a man who had immigrated to New Zealand. Without Y DNA, the relevant deeply-buried records would not have been found, nor the genetic “glue” to tie records to people on three continents around the world, reuniting our widely-scattered family back in our ancestral homeland. Therein lies the amazing power of DNA.

Given my career choice, I absolutely had to visit the Cavendish Lab at Cambridge, a genetic “Mecca” of sorts, as well as the British Science Museum to see the infamous DNA model. This is where the DNA journey for all genetic genealogists began.

After their momentous discovery back in 1953, Watson and Crick walked the short distance to the Eagle Pub where they lunched regularly, shown above, at right, and excitedly announced to everyone within earshot that they had just discovered “the secret of life.”

Of course, 67 years ago, in the Eagle Pub, no one understood or cared.

We care, a lot, today. Beginning 20 years ago with the founding of FamilyTreeDNA, DNA fundamentally changed genealogy forever, allowing us to unravel mysteries that could never have been solved before.

Inseparable Technologies

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Today, genealogy, genetic genealogy which focuses on the DNA aspects of genealogy and science are all inseparably intertwined. Scientific discoveries feed the genealogy and tests taken by genealogists fuel the science. It’s an infinite loop of discovery, education and unraveling.

Many times, the pieces of genealogical information we so desperately seek simply aren’t available in existing records, but we can piece together relationships and clues using the three different kinds of DNA: mitochondrial, Y DNA and autosomal. Each type of DNA has specific characteristics and provides us with unique information not obtainable any other way.

3 Kinds of DNA Address 3 Unique Challenges

Million Mito 3 Types.png

Y DNA, inheritance path shown by the blue arrow above, is passed from father to son and therefore tracks back to a male’s direct patrilineal ancestors in their tree. The Y chromosome is only contributed to male children, who pass it on to their male children, not mixed with any DNA from the mother. Therefore, except for occasional mutations, Y DNA is identical from generation to generation.

The occasional mutations are what make it possible for us to use Y DNA and mitochondrial DNAas breadcrumbs, following them infinitely back into time, before records, and eventually, before written history by connecting those mutation breadcrumbs as dots.

Today, men test their Y DNA which follows the direct patrilineal line, which is the same as the surname line in western culture, although naming practices vary in different countries and parts of the world across time. Regardless, the Y DNAconnects male testers with their ancestors through their father’s, father’s, fathers’ line – in close relationships, meaning fathers and grandfathers, as well as distantly, into the history of clans and then before the advent of surnames.

In western cultures, men taking Y DNA tests expect at least some of their matches to carry the same or similar surnames, assuming other men from that line have also tested.

Only males can test for Y DNA, because only males carry a Y chromosome. Women need to ask their brothers, father, grandfather, uncles, etc. that represent the line they wish to test.

Mitochondrial DNA, inheritance path shown by the red arrows above, is passed from mothers to both sexes of their children, but only female children pass it on. Therefore, both men and women inherit their mitochondrial DNA from their mother’s direct matrilineal line. Men and women can both test for mitochondrial DNA, which reflects their mother’s, mother’s, mother’s mitochondrial DNA, on up the matrilineal line indefinitely.

In genealogical terms, mitochondrial DNA is perceived to be more difficult to use, so fewer people test, but I view mitochondrial DNA as exactly the opposite. Mitochondrial DNA represents an opportunity that cannot be afforded by other type of testing and isn’t any more difficult to use than autosomal.

The surname changes in each generation, but the DNA provides us with a rock-solid path to those common matrilineal ancestors, if people would simply test and upload their trees. Mitochondrial DNA has the potential to, and does OVERCOME the challenges surname changes in a way that no other tool can. The answers are written in our mitochondrial DNA along with the mitochondrial DNA of all of the people who descend from that female ancestor through all women to the current generation, which can be male or female.

When discouraging people from mitochondrial testing by telling them not to bother because it’s hard to use, the genealogical community actually perpetuates the problem. Here’s a wonderful series about how to understand and utilize mitochondrial DNA.

If EVERYONE would test their mitochondrial DNA, we would be breaking through brick walls at lightning speed. Mitochondrial DNA isn’t difficult because it’s harder to use, it’s difficult because not enough people have tested.

The surnames in autosomal lines are different from that of the tester too, yet genetic genealogists don’t hesitate for one second to take an autosomal test where they will need to build out trees to attempt to determine which line their matches connect through. The great news about mitochondrial DNA is that you already know which line  the connection is through – your matrilineal line.

Mitochondrial DNA and Y DNA provide laser-sighted focus on the history of one specific line, reaching deeply back in time with no admixture from the other parent. Autosomal DNA is broad, but not deep, because it is divided in half in each generation as it’s passed from parent to child.

I wrote a series of articles, here, about mitochondrial DNA with step-by-step instructions about how to use mitochondrial DNA successfully.

Autosomal DNA, the third kind of DNA testing is the Family Finder test at Family Tree DNA, or the  MyHeritageDNA, AncestryDNA and 23andMe tests which provide matches to people from all of our genealogical lines. In the graphic above, I’ve represented autosomal DNA by the broken green arrow, indicating that autosomal provides matches and links to some of the people who descend from common ancestors, but not all.

In each generation, autosomal DNA is divided in half, meaning that each person receives half of their mother’s and half of their father’s autosomal DNA. We match all of our first and second cousins, but only about 90% of our third cousins who descend from our common great-great-grandparents, in the green arrow generation. As we move further back in time generationally, we match fewer and fewer of the people who descend from common ancestors.

Therefore, I classify autosomal DNA as broad, meaning we match descendants from more than one line, but not deep, because it only positively reaches back 3 generations, often reaches back about 5 or 6 generations, but generally not more than 9 or 10 generations. The ONLY way to see back further in time than autosomal matching is Y and mitochondrial DNA.

Y and mitochondrial DNA is deep, meaning we each match only one line for each type of DNA, reaching very far back in time, but not broad. Therefore, in order to “collect” the Y and mitochondrial DNA of each of our ancestors, we need to find the appropriate cousins to test to provide us with that information.

What Can Y and Mitochondrial DNA Do for Us?

Fortunately, Y and mitochondrial DNA have the ability to help us with close relatives and matches as well as more distant history.

Y and mitochondrial DNA both have the ability to:

  • Assist us genealogically to connect in recent generations utilizing surnames, trees and geography
  • Facilitate identification of each lineage further back in time by utilizing full haplogroups
  • Provide us with the ability to view the geographic locations of the earliest known ancestors of our matches on our Matches Map at Family Tree DNA which can provide clues as to the identity of common ancestors
  • Document our ancestors’ migrations and locations where haplogroup clusters are found throughout the world
  • Identify the “ethnicity” of those ancestors by haplogroups that occur only in specific portions of the world (like the Americas), or unique populations (such as Jewish people.)
  • Granular personal haplogroup allowing testers to use the public Y tree and public mitochondrial tree.

Trees of Mankind and Womankind

Aside from our own personal genealogy, Y and mitochondrial DNA testing, tracking those mutations back in time, has scribed the history of the migration of mankind – and womankind – which means it tells us where our ancestors came from, and went.

Million Mito trees.png

On the map at left, the basic Y DNA haplogroups are shown expanding out of Africa, into the Middle East and then into Europe, Asia, the Pacific Islands and Americas. Think of haplogroups as large genetic clans, defined by mutations that group us together, and separate us apart as well.

Mitochondrial DNA haplogroups followed the same paths of course. Different locations in the world have specific haplogroups further broken down into sub-haplogroups associated with general geographic locations.

For example, Native American aboriginal people in North, Central and South America are defined by subsets of Y DNA haplogroups C and Q, and mitochondrial haplogroups A, B, C, D  and X.

It’s testing by many people, citizen scientists and genealogists, people just like you, that have allowed scientists to define these haplogroups and their migration paths across the world. We still continue to discover, define and refine that pathway today. We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. Our knowledge is ever-changing and expanding. There’s so much more to learn. That’s why we’ve launched The Million Mito Project.

Connecting the Dots Using Mutations

How do scientists, and genealogists, connect those dots from today’s testers to their ancestors?

Mutations, called SNPs, single nucleotide polymorphisms, occur at a specific point in time and the resulting variant (mutated value) is then passed to all of the descendants of the person in whose DNA they occurred.

These haplogroup-defining mutations accumulate over time to form twigs, then branches, then the haplotree backbone as we move further back in time. On the slide below:

  • Branches – green and magenta dots
  • Twigs – white, yellow and grey dots
  • Leaves – teal, violet (line 10) and black dots

Million Mito mutations.png

In this example, the progenitor is shown as a male, but the concept is the same for any mutation.

  • The progenitor has two sons, “Line 1” and Line 2.”
  • A magenta mutation occurred between the father and son in “Line 1”, and you can see that it’s passed to every descendant of “Line 1.”
  • A green mutation occurred between the father and son in “Line 2”, which is also passed to all of Line 2’s descendants.
  • “Line 3” had a white mutation, which was passed to his descendants.
  • “Line 6” had a grey mutation which was passed to his descendants, and so forth.

In real life, mutations generally don’t accrue this rapidly, but the compressed time in this illustration makes the generational inheritance of mutations easy to see.

In both Y and mitochondrial DNA, SNPs are what form branches of the tree. In our case, the progenitor would be the trunk, Line 1 and Line 2 would be major branches, and with each succeeding SNP generation, smaller branches and twigs being created. Multiply this mutation process over hundreds and thousands of years to construct the Y tree of mankind and the mitochondrial tree of womankind.

The Explosive Expansion of the Y DNA Tree

In the past decade, great strides have been made in fleshing out the Y DNA tree.

Million Mito Y tree.png

The key to this success has been thousands of men purchasing the Big Y test at Family Tree DNA with the hope of learning more about their paternal genealogy; first the Big Y, then the Big Y-500 and then in 2019 upgrading to the Big Y-700 with significantly increased capabilities.

Every tester can see their place on the Y block tree on their personal page, along with their matches.

Everyone, whether they have taken the Y DNA test or not can view any haplogroup’s location on the Family Tree DNA public Y DNA tree, here.

Mitochondrial DNA Tree

However, mitochondrial DNA has been neglected. The goal of the Million Mito Project is to change that.

Million Mito builds.png

In March 2017, FamilyTreeDNA updated to mitochondrial DNA Build 17 of the mitochondrial tree which included 5437 haplogroups extracted from just under 25,000 sequences. Family Tree DNA created an easily accessible public tree, here, complete with geographic locations for testers assigned to each haplogroup.

To date, the various mitochondrial builds have been created using GenBank submissions, but the majority of testers don’t upload their results to GenBank.

The Genographic Project and FamilyTreeDNA databases together hold more than half a million full sequence mitochondrial tests, far more than the 25,000 utilized for Build 17.

What is a Full Mitochondrial DNA Sequence?

Mitochondrial DNA is comprised of 16,569 locations in total. Initial DNA testing was expensive, so the mitochondria was divided into three regions for testing, analogous to a clock face:

Million Mito clock.png

  • HVR1 (hypervariable region 1) – think of this area as 5 till the hour until the hour (5 minutes)
  • HVR2 (hypervariable region 2) – think of this as the hour until 5 after the hour (5 minutes)
  • Coding region (CR) – think of this as the space between 5 after the hour to 5 till the hour (50 minutes)

All three regions together, meaning the entire clock face, is known as the full mitochondrial sequence, or FMS.

In order to obtain a complete haplogroup designation, one must test the entire mitochondrial sequence, all 16,569 locations. The full sequence is also necessary for maximum genealogical usefulness.

Tests like 23andMe and LivingDNA provide testers with a base haplogroup as part of an autosomal test by testing a subset of approximately 1200 mitochondrial locations known to define the upper branches of the mitochondrial haplotree. I wrote about the differences, using examples, here.

There is nothing wrong with those tests, as far as they go, but they aren’t useful except as an exclusion for genealogy. In other words, if you are estimated to be haplogroup J1c, you clearly aren’t related on that line to someone that’s H1a. You may or may not be related in hundreds or thousands of years to someone else who is estimated as haplogroup J1c. You need both a full haplogroup designation, which in my case is J1c2f, and matching to make that determination. You can only receive those features by testing your full mitochondrial sequence at FamilyTreeDNA.

For mitochondrial DNA to be relevant for genealogy, or science, every location must be tested and matched to other testers. To do otherwise is analogous to having only a few of the words in your ancestor’s will and attempting to draw conclusions from only a small portion of the available data.

Full sequence mitochondrial DNA tests benefit genealogy and science too. Better yet, mitochondrial DNA gives us something to work with when we’ve exhausted all records and we have nothing else available.

Million Mito benefits.png

Estimates today are that at least 30 million people have taken autosomal tests for genealogy, yet less than a million have taken a mitochondrial DNA test.

When autosomal testing was new, close matches were seldom found, but as the number of testers increased, it became common to find close matches of family members you didn’t realize were testing – or close relatives you don’t know. In other words, the usefulness of these tests is in direct proportion to the number of people who test.

Approximately 2% of autosomal testers have taken full mitochondrial sequence tests. Imagine how many brick walls would come crashing down if all testers, male and female, tested their mitochondrial DNA AND provided trees.

We have many examples of success stories today, even with limited testing. People discover that their ancestors were Native American, or not, Jewish, or not, African, or not. They discover their ancestor’s siblings along with breadcrumbs connecting records and people in two places as descendants of the same family.

You can read a few success stories here, here, here, here, here, here, and here – you get the idea, right?

Sometimes mitochondrial DNA is all we have when a woman’s surname is missing. But guess what – before you can be successful – you have to test. It pains me greatly to hear well-intentioned but misinformed people discouraging potential test takers.

Please add your own mitochondrial DNA success story to the comments at the end of this article so genealogists can see for themselves the power of mitochondrial DNA.


The Million Mito Project will benefit testers in the following ways:

  • Additional testers and matches
  • Adding to and refining the haplotree which results in providing more useful genealogical information between matches
  • Identification of and naming many new haplotree branches
  • Aging and dating of the branches of the mitochondrial haplotree, enabling groups of testers to estimate when their most recent common ancestor lived

Comparing my own results to those of my closest matches, and those of individuals within the projects I administer that have authorized me to view their full sequence results, I can see that many groups of people exist that share common mutations and likely qualify to become a sub-haplogroup.

As with the Y-DNA tree, FamilyTreeDNA and the Genographic Project are in the best position, collaboratively, to combine forces to rewrite the tree of womankind. Given that 25,000 samples resulted in 5,000 haplogroups previously, I can only imagine the impact of one million testers.

Will you be part of that million?


Here’s how you can participate.

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  • If you tested with the Genographic Project before November of 2016, you can transfer your results to FamilyTreeDNA, for free, by clicking here, then “Upload DNA Data,” then click on “Nat Geo’s Geno 2.0 DNA,” shown below.

Million Mito transfer.png

The Genographic version 1 and 2 results are partial, not full sequence, and after transferring you will be able to upgrade to the full sequence level.

  • If you tested with the Genographic Project after November 2016, your test was run in a different lab, on a different chip platform, and you cannot transfer your results to FamilyTreeDNA.
  • If you opted-in to anonymous research through the Genographic Project, your results will be included. If not, you can still participate by purchasing a full sequence test at FamilyTreeDNA and you’ll receive genealogical matching as well.
  • If you tested with Genographic after November 2016 and don’t know if you opted-in to research through the Genographic project, but you would like to, please contact Dr. Miguel Vilar at If you tested before November 2016, simply transfer your results to FamilyTreeDNA as described above.
  • If you tested directly at Family Tree DNA at the HVR1 or HVR2 level which is called the “Plus” test, you can upgrade to the full sequence level by signing on to your account and clicking on “Full” to upgrade.

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  • If you’ve tested at FamilyTreeDNA at the full sequence level, there’s nothing to purchase. You’re all set – and thank you!

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Million Mito Genographic Transfer and Participation Summary

I’ve created a grid to summarize the three Genographic test types and how each can participate in The Million Mito Project. None of the Genographic results will be available to testers or to transfer after June 30, 2020.

Genographic Test Type Date Participate in Million Mito Project? FTDNA Transfer available (before June 30, 2020) What Transfers? Upgrade Needed to Full Sequence?
Geno 1 2005-2015 Yes, via transfer Yes HVR1 values Yes
Geno 2 July 2012-Nov 2016 Yes, via transfer Yes Partial haplogroup SNPs only Yes
Geno 2 Next Generation Nov 2016-2019 (tested through Helix) Through Genograhic, only if opted- in to Genographic Research, otherwise test at Family Tree DNA No Transfer not available Order full sequence test from FTDNA to obtain matching and other benefits

Family Tree DNA Participation Summary

Test Type Participate in Million Mito Project? Upgrade Needed to Full Sequence?
HVR1, HVR2 Yes, need upgrade Yes
Full Mitochondrial Sequence (FMS) Yes No upgrade needed

Be One in a Million

Science needs you.

Your ancestors are waiting to be found.

Will you join us in the quest to advance science while solving the mystery of your ancestors by taking or upgrading to a full sequence mitochondrial DNA test?

Million Mito test.png

Become a part of history. Click here to test, upgrade or transfer your mitochondrial results, today!



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Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

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Sarah Rash (1748-1829), Church Founder and Grandmother of Nearly 100 – 52 Ancestors #276

While we have very few records about Sarah, directly, during her lifetime, we do know a substantial amount due to the Shepherd Bible that begins with her birth.

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Sarah’s Birth

The Bible says that Sarah Shepherd, formerly Sarah Rash, daughter of Joseph and Mary Rash was born in Spotsylvania County Virginia State 23rd of April, Annoque Domini 1748, and is now the espoused wife of Robert Shepherd, aforesaid.

Thank goodness the family recorded this information because I don’t think we would have ever made this discovery any other way.

We don’t have any information about Sarah’s life in Spotsylvania County before her marriage to Robert Shepperd by the parson of the church, James Mcrae on October 1st, 1765. “The church” at that time in America would be the Anglican church. Everybody was required to attend, on pain of being fined for one’s absence.

Sarah was only just over 17 years old when she married Robert who was an “older man” at the advanced age of 26. At least he would be able to provide for his forthcoming family.

The Bible record goes on to tell us that Joseph and Sarah had several children. Given their first child’s birth date, they set about beginning their family right away.

The following children were reported to have been born in Spotsylvania County.

  • Elizabeth Shepherd, born July 23, 1766
  • James Shepherd, born March 8, 1768
  • Ann Shepherd, born March 8, 1770
  • Possibly space for a child that died
  • Mary Shepherd, born January 17, 1773
  • Agnes Shepherd, born February 8, 1775

The Bible states that the following children were born on the Reddies River in Wilkes County, NC – but I suspect either the year or location of Rhoda’s birth is in error, given that the Bible also says, in 2 places, that they departed for Wilkes County in December 1777, fully 9 months after Rhoda was born.

  • Rhoda Shepherd, born March 23, 1777
  • John Shepherd born August 26, 1779
  • Sally Shepherd born February 27, 1782 (Also noted in different writing, Sarah written in above Sally, Wm Judd’s mother, died November 1858)*
  • Possibly space for one child that died
  • Fanny Shepherd, born February 13 ,1785
  • Rebekah Shepherd, born September 26, 1787

*Note that the Bible descended through the Judd family to the person who owned it in 1991.

It looks like Sarah buried two, maybe three babies. It’s obvious that only the children that survived were recorded in the Bible. What is less obvious is when the Bible was written, or by whom. I wish the Bible front pages had been included as well, because the date that the Bible was printed might lend understanding to the provenance of the Bible itself.

Neither Robert nor Sarah could write, based on the fact that they only signed with Xs, so it obviously was not them who made those Bible entries. We know that schools existed in Wilkes County, so it’s possible that this Bible was the Bible of one of their children, possibly Sarah who married William Judd. However, it’s also possible that the minister or someone else who could write made these entries. Ot’s also quite possible that this information was written into THIS Bible years after those births and Robert’s death occurred.


Robert Shepherd’s death is recorded, but Sarah’s is not, and neither are the deaths of any of the other children or grandchildren. Not even the two sons what we know died before their father’s death.

In the margins on the death page, we find the calculations for figuring the age at death of Robert. This strongly suggests that the 1817 entry was made at the time Robert died.

He was born in 1739 and died in 1817, so was just under 78 years of age.

Rash Shepherd death calc.png

Now that we know what was going on with the margin dates, what other clues can we find?

The calculation above Robert’s is for someone else who died in 1817 but was born in 1777. Was that Rhoda? Apparently not, given that she had children born after 1817. Who could that have been?

Rash margin.png

In the top margin are two additional calculations.

Sarah was born in 1748, and even though her death is not recorded in this Bible, I suspect strongly that she died in 1829 at age 81.

I’m confused by the calculation on the left, because no matter how I calculate this, it looks incorrect. My best guess is that someone was trying to “calculate how old Daddy would have been” when Sarah died.

We have no signatures of Sarah on deeds during Robert’s lifetime, nor other records, save one, so we have to infer what was happening in her life at that point based on what we know about Robert and their children.


In 1775, Sarah and Robert were celebrating their 10th anniversary with 5 children. An unwelcome intruder at their 10th anniversary was the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. What a frightening prospect. Perhaps after putting the kids to bed, they had time to sit beside the fire and talk about what the future might hold.

They needed to make important, life-altering decisions. Today we know they survived, but at that time, the future was uncertain and their family was young and vulnerable. One wrong decision or even a bad-luck turn of events and they might not survive, or they might lose their land or a million other bad things might happen during a war – an uprising no less – and the colonists were on the “mutinying” side. If the insurrection was “put down,” it had the potential to be quite violent and bloody. What was “right” and what was prudent?

The Revolutionary War was descending upon them. Times were uncertain. In July 1776, North Carolina would confiscate the King’s lands and make that land available to claim. Much land lay vacant in Wilkes County, just sitting there for the taking and building a cabin. Should they leave Virginia?

Virginia and North Carolina were both leading the way out of monarchy and into a democracy, forming a Bill of Rights. Yet, Robert and Sarah couldn’t be certain how this would unfold in the future. How would this chapter of history end? Which side would they be on? It was a gamble either way.

In November of 1775, Robert’s brother John Shepherd sold his land and the following November, in 1776, Robert Shepherd sold his land in Spotsylvania County.

The Bible tells us that the family removed from Spotsylvania County on December 7, 1777, 13 months later. I can’t help but wonder if they actually left in December 1776. Where would they have lived and how would they have earned a living for more than a year without land? They were certainly planning for this move for several months.

They set out in December, after the fall crops were harvested with the spring crops yet to be planted after their arrival in their new home. Sarah would probably have gone by the cemetery one last time to say a final goodbye to the child she most likely had and buried in the spring of 1772 in a now-forgotten place on the North Anna River, perhaps near a tract of land called Elk Neck, close to where her parents lived.

Sarah’s father, Joseph Rash died about 1767, so perhaps Sarah’s child would rest under the watchful eye of her father, buried side by side.

Rash Spotsylvania map.png

The North Anna River runs for almost 100 miles today, with present day Spotsylvania County being further north. At that time, Spotsylvania County was the western frontier and encompassed this entire area.

Rash North anna.png

This 1776 map shows the North Anna.

Regardless of whether they left in 1776 or 1777, as the Bible says, they set out for Wilkes County, North Carolina, probably in a slow wagon train with family members and neighbors. Had they selected Wilkes County as their destination before they left, and if so, how and why?

Reddies River

Sarah Rash and Robert Shepherd had settled on the Reddies River in Wilkes County, North Carolina by April 24, 1778 when Robert made a land entry for 200 acres of land near the ford of Reddis River bordering his brother, John’s line. George McNiel also accompanied the two brothers from Spotsylvania County. George McNiel either was or became a minister of the Baptist faith.

The Shepherd’s would build a meeting house on John’s land no later than 1783. The congregation met sometimes at Robert and Sarah’s house while a new meeting house was being built in 1797 and 1798. They then attended the new Reddies River Baptist Church until their deaths.

On the surface, Robert and Sarah’s lives appear to be fairly mundane and bucolic. They moved to the new frontier, claimed land, built a cabin, had children and lived happily ever after. Or that’s how it would seem on the surface. However, by reading the church minutes and filling in some blanks, that’s not exactly how life along the Reddies River unfolded.

Robert Shepherd and Sarah Rash had 10 known children, meaning 10 children who were recorded in the Bible. We don’t know if they had additional children who died at birth or very young and were not recorded, but it would seem so based on the birth dates and gaps between the known children.

As with mothers of that time and place, much of Sarah’s life was devoted to being pregnant, giving birth to and caring for her children – in addition of course to spinning, weaving cloth, making clothes, cooking, churning butter and pretty much anything else that needed to be done.

What do we know about Sarah’s children? Let’s look a brief summary of each child’s life to peek into Sarah’s activities.

Who Were Sarah’s Children

Elizabeth Shepherd, my ancestor and their first-born arrived on July 23, 1766, married William McNiel sometime prior to 1784 and died after 1830 in Claiborne County, Tennessee. Elizabeth and William moved from Wilkes County to Claiborne County about 1811. After their marriage, and before 1810 when they sold land on the Lewis Fork, they had moved to neighboring Ashe County which was formed in 1799. They are never found in the Reddies River Church minutes, which is a good indication that they had moved to Ashe County before 1798. In 1799, William McNiel received a land grant on the South Fork of the New River, so it’s safe to assume that Elizabeth and William had moved several miles west of Robert and Sarah’s homestead.

So Sarah’s firstborn child lived somewhat close, moved back and then removed far away where it’s unlikely that Sarah ever saw her or those grandchildren again.

James Shepherd, Sarah’s second-born child arrived on March 8, 1768 and died sometime between 1800 and 1810 without marrying. I have always wondered if this child had a disability of some sort. It’s unusual for a man in his 30s or 40s to never marry or purchase land.

It’s certain that James’ death weighted heavily on Sarah’s heart, especially if he was a child with special needs.

Nancy Ann Shepherd, their third child was born March 8, 1770, exactly two years to the day after her brother’s birth. Nancy married William McQueary in 1787 in Wilkes County and they are definitely found in the church minutes. William is shown in the census in Wilkes County in 1810, but not 1820. They moved to Pulaski County, Kentucky, apparently before 1820, where Nancy died on July 12 in either 1833 or 1835. The Reddies River church minutes shed a lot of light on their lives.

From reading the church minutes, as a mother, I can assure you that Sarah worried about Nancy.

It’s likely that a child was born to Robert and Sarah and died between daughters Nancy and Mary, probably in 1772. This would be the child that Sarah left behind when the family moved to Wilkes County, buried in a grave, probably near to her father. Leaving the grave of a child behind is difficult, even though that makes no logical sense. It may be a mother thing.

Mary, also known as Polly Shepherd, the fourth recorded child was born on January 17, 1773 and married James McNiel about 1790, brother to William McNiel who had married Mary’s eldest sister a few years earlier. They too moved to Ashe County initially, but in 1802, Mary’s father, Robert, sold land to the young couple. Mary and James were close to Mary’s parents, as Sarah requested that James administer Robert Shepherd’s estate at his death in 1817. I’m surprised that we don’t find Mary and James in the church minutes, but they are absent. I suspect that perhaps they lived closer to the Lewis Fork Church where George McNiel, James’ father, was the minister until George’s death in about 1805. Reddies River and Lewis Fork Church shared both a minister and a moderator for many years, so clearly they were closely affiliated as sister-churches.

Sarah was clearly very close to this couple. I wonder if this is why Robert sold them land, to entice them back to the Reddies River. Once back, they never left.

Agnes Shepherd, the fifth child was born on February 9, 1775 and married Thomas Irwin in 1791 or 1792. They had a dozen children and moved to Russell County, Kentucky in 1829 where he died in 1853 and Agnes in 1856. They too are found in the church records.

Since this couple didn’t remove until after Sarah’s presumed death, she would have been close to these grandkids.

Rhoda Shepherd was born sixth on March 23, 1777. There is some discrepancy about whether she was actually born in Virginia or North Carolina. She married John Judd and in 1827 or 1828 moved to Ohio where they become Mormon, then moved on to Wayne County, Indiana where John died in 1838. Rhoda moved on west, living on the DesMoines River in Iowa when her daughter Margaret married Eller Stoker in 1839. John Judd was very active in the Reddies River church, appointed as a Wilkes County Justice in 1816, and is regularly found in the court minutes.

Sarah would have been Rhoda and family regularly at church as well as in the community. It looks like Rhoda and John waited until Sarah’s death to move on.

John Shepherd, the seventh child was born on April 26, 1779 in Wilkes County. He married Mary Kilby on October 13, 1802, but probably died a few weeks later in December. In any case, his death occurred before Mary became pregnant. In January, Mary requested bond as John’s administrator. I surely wonder what befell John.

We don’t know what caused John’s death, but his untimely death right after his marriage when he had so much to live for has tragedy written all over it.

A child was likely born to Sarah Rash Shepherd and died in 1781. Was this the first grave in what would become the Deep Ford Hill cemetery?

Sarah, known as Sally Shepherd, the eighth recorded child, was born on August 27, 1782 in Wilkes County. She married William Judd about 1802, brother of John Judd who married her sister. In 1805, Robert Shepherd sold land to the young couple who eventually had 10 children. In 1829, they removed to Wayne County, Indiana, then to Madison County, Indiana, and on to Newtown, Sullivan County, Missouri where Sarah died in November 1858. The Shepherd Bible descended through this line.

It appears that Sarah lived with this couple for the last dozen years of her life.

It’s likely that another child was born to Sarah Rash Shepherd and died in 1784. Another tiny wooden casket. Another funeral.

Frances, known as Fanny Shepherd, Sarah’s ninth child, was born on February 13, 1785 and married Larkin Pumphrey about 1803. They had 9 children and removed to Pulaski County, Kentucky between 1814 and 1816. By 1830, the family was in Fayette County, Indiana with 7 children where I lose Frances’s trail. She and Larkin are found in the Reddies River church minutes.

Larkin had some challenges that are revealed in the church minutes as well, and I can assure you that Sarah worried about Fanny. She may even have had a “chat” with Larkin at some point.

Rebecca Shepherd, the eighth and last child was born on September 26, 1787 when Sarah was 39 years old. Rebecca married Amos Harmon in 1806, having 13 children. They moved to Richmond, Indiana between 1826 and 1831, then about 1835 on to Somonauk, DeKalb County, Illinois as one of the first settlers where Rebekah died in 1836.

Rebecca may have left Wilkes County before her mother’s death, or she may have postponed that decision until after Sarah passed over. It would have been very difficult for Sarah to say goodbye, forever, to yet another child as approached and then passed her 80th birthday.

It’s possible that additional children were born to Sarah after Rebecca and subsequently  died. In 1789, when the next child would have been born, Sarah would have been 41 and could have potentially had one or two more children.

The Reddies River Church

Robert and Sarah, along with some of their children are listed in 1798 among the founding members of the Reddies River Church. Note that Robert’s brother, John’s wife, was also named Sarah. Robert Shepherd and Sarah Rash did not own a slave in 1798, so Grace belonged to John and Sarah Shepherd.

Shepherd Reddies River 1798 charter membership

Two of Sarah’s daughters, both married to the McNiel brothers, were already living in what would become Ashe County by 1798 so they are obvously not founding members of the Reddies River Church.

Daugher Nancy McQueary and husband William McQueary are both listed as church members.

Daughter Agnes Irwin is listed too, but where is her husband, Thomas Irwin?

Sarah’s son, James Shepherd, is listed, but would perish soon after. I surely wish those church minutes would have recorded deaths.

Children, meaning those undersage, seems to be omitted.

The church minutes reflect the principles of their Baptist faith when founding this church along with the Shepherd family’s continued involvement with the fledgling church over the years. What we don’t know is why the group abandoned the Deep Ford Church, reportedly at the top of Deep Ford Hill, although I’m not at all convinced that it wasn’t at the bottom of that hill, at or near the actual “Deep Ford” of Reddies River, probably on John Shepherd’s land.

The congregation left both the building and the name behind. Did the church burn perhaps, or was it something else? If so, what?

Rash Principles.png

After this initial formation, Robert is next mentioned on December 1, 1800 when two members (not Robert) came forward to confess that they had drank too much. Not only that, but Lewis Fork Church where George McNiel was minister sent Reddis River a letter stating that no pastor should have to care for more than one church because the other churches were destitute for a pastor. Reddies River Church members would pray about this and look to the Lord for a Minister and Deacon.

By this point in time, George McNiel whose family had journeyed with the Shepherd family from Spotsylvania County was 80 or perhaps even slightly older. He was no young man to be preaching every Sunday in a different church and ridng horseback between them in all types of weather, in addition to being the County Register of Deeds.

Church on the first Saturday of January 1801 was to take place at Robert Shepherd’s, but “fell through” on account of bad weather. They met the first Saturday in February instead. Today, church services are typically held on Sunday and weekly, not monthly.

The transporation to and from church, based on the church location and their land, could have taken an entire day using a farm wagon pulled by the horses.

On April 18th, the church members again met at Robert Shepherd’s and “at a call meeting after divine service opend a door for admision and received Thos Irwin by expereance.”

This was daughter, Agnes’s husband, now brought into the fold. He wasn’t on the original list because he had not yet joined the church.

This does make me wonder if Robert had a home more substantial than the typical log cabin. Assuming that the church membership didn’t dwindle from the original 23, and people brought their children along, Robert and Sarah’s house would have had to be large enough to hold at least 50 people, if not substantially more. Or, perhaps they met in the barn – but surely not during the winter months. Those would have been short services, indeed.

In May of 1801, “brother Robert Shepherd’s sister Sarah Jinnings joined by letter,” which means she had been a member in good standing of another church.

This tells us that at least 3 of Robert’s siblings wound up in Wilkes County.

The same day, “Brother Thomas Irwin was baptised but Ben Darnald refused to be baptised.” Why would one “confess their sins” before the entire congregation, but then refuse baptism? This is a bit confusing. A great deal of pressure was likely leveraged against Ben.

The Darnell’s lived “up the mountain” near the Vannoy family. In 1787, Benjamin and Joseph Darnell, born in 1780 according to court records, orphans of John Darnell and Rachel Vannoy were bound to Andrew Vannoy to learn to farm.

In August 1801, it was stated in the church minutes that Brother John Judd would attend the association in the room of brother Robert Shepherd. I wonder why Robert couldn’t attend and where the association met.

On December 5th, the church met at Robert Shepherd’s house and “concluded it was necessary to have a stock laid up for the expense of the church and that brother Robert Shepherd and brother John Shepherd were to receive produce and turn it into money and keep the money in their hands until called for by the church.”

I have to laugh, because I clearly know what is meant, but I can’t help but imagine Robert magically “turning produce into money.” Other than paying the minister, I wonder why the church at that time needed money.

On February 6, 1802, church met at Robert Shepherd’s again, and the minutes reflect an ongoing close alliance with Lewis Fork Church.

In 1803, Larkin Pumphrey and his wife joined the church, but left permanently in 1814. Larkin of course was married to Fanny Shepherd in 1803 so they joined about the time they married. Joining a church as “man and wife” instead of as someone’s child who was “brought to church” was probably a rite of passage. Besides that, you got to be called, “Mrs. Pumphrey” or “Sister Pumphrey” instead of “just” Fanny Shepherd.

On January 3, 1803, the church appointed both Robert and John Shepherd to “sight Brother Larkin Pumphrey to come to meeting.” Larkin came forward at the next meeting and “gave satisfaction for some misconduct.” In 1811 he was again repremanded about “his fighting” which may be a clue about his issue in 1803.

This entry in January the same year that Larkin and Fanny married causes me to wonder if Robert and Sarah may have had some misgivings about this marriage.

Saturday, February 5th, 1803 was apparently quite the day.

Rash 1803.png

Two of Sarah’s son-in-laws were called to answer for their behavior – having rude company and allowing dancing in one’s house. IMAGINE!! This must have been scandalous!

Two church services later, on April 2, 1803, John Pumphrey was brought before the church for profane swearing. William McQuary and brother Robert Shepherd were nominated to “stand in the place of deacons,” giving them until next December to look for a deacon.

Also in April, Rhody and John Judd “tuck letters of dismission,” meaning they were joining a church elsewhere which can sometimes signal a move.

Did Sarah feel a bit like she was trying to herd cats, keeping her kids in line with the church’s view of how life was supposed to be led, and trying to keep her sons-in-law out of trouble too?

On July 2nd, Robert Shepherd was chosen to “stand in that place of a Deacon.”

In December 1803, William Judd (no mention of wife) petitioned for dismissal.

In February 1804, Larkin Pumphrey and Fanny “took letters” meaning they were leaving the church and moving their membership elsewhere.

This could well signal a rift in the family.

On July 1, 1804, Robert Shepherd along with Thomas Johnson and John McQueary were chosen as delegates to the association. Knowing the name of the association would give us insight into where Robert traveled and how long Sarah might have been tending the homeplace by herself.

Perhaps her children or sons-in-law looked in on her and helped when necessary.

In the book, History of North Carolina Baptists by George William Paschal, he states that Flat Rock Church assisted Deep Ford or Reddies River church with its constitution. In 1792, the Reddies River church was a member of the Yadkin Association which met at the “Deep Ford on Ready’s River, Wilkes County,” but by 1801 they were in the Mountain Association of which the author finds no mention. However, the Brushy Mountain Association is mentioned multiple times.

On Saturday, February 2, 1808, sister Phebe Shepherd, a member of Brier Creek Church confessed that she was not in fellowship this church nor could she take a seat with them. The church appointed Robert Shepherd and Brother Johnson to request her “to come to our next meeting and tell the cause…”

In March 1808, Rhody and John Judd joined the church again by letter.

Amos Harmon joined the church in 1808 as well, and left in 1830.

In June 1808 the church decided that the male members would pay 1.00 each to pay brother James Parson to “attend them onst a month yearly.” It’s odd, today, to think of a church only meeting 12 times per year.

On Saturday, January 1809, William McQueary was drinking to much again and was excluded. John Judd was made a deacon and Robert Shepherd “shall be the Elder of the church the church appointed him to be the man.” An elder is similar to a Deacon who can sometimes function as a pastor as well. Elders participate in the “presbytery” which denoted their ordination council.

In November 1808, Amos Harmon was appointed to “site” William McQuary to come to the next meeting. Apparently the church had requested William’s appearance and he had not complied. “A rumer was about has come forrod…allegation laid into the church against William McQuary for his drinking two much referred till next meeting.”

In February, 1809, “Robert Shepherd was chargd to the work of the Eldership.”

Rash 1809.png

The “Imposition of Hands” is more typically called the “laying on of hands” today, and it part of the ritual of ordination, the act of giving a blessing or healing. Does this mean that John Judd was something akin to a “lay minister?”

Agnes and Thomas Irwin had apparently left and came back, joining by letter in 1809.

This was a big day for the family. Were old rifts being healed or was this just normal expansion and shrinkage?

In March of 1810, Larkin Pumphrey was acknowledged into their Christian Fellowship.

In June of 1810, Nancy McQuary was sited to come to the next meeting to explain why she had not been attending monthly meetings. The next month, she came forward and gave satisfaction. Clearly, if she had simply been ill or pregnant, everyone would have already known that, so something else was going on. I wonder if this had something to do with William’s drinking. I surely hope she was not being abused.

In February 1811, Larkin Pumphrey came forward to talk to the church about his fighting. The next month, he was received into Christian fellowship. In August, he is summoned again but in September gave satisfaction for his fighting. It seems that Larkin had a chronic “fighting problem,” which maked me wonder if he had a chronic alcohol problem too.

In October of 1811, William Judd is vistiing the church at Old Fields on behalf of this church.

In November 1812, Agnes and Thomas Irwin received a letter and left the church but were back again in November of 1813.

On the second Saturday of December, Thomas Irwin was to “site” Amos Harmon, his wife’s sister’s husband to come to meeting “to answer to some things about his conduct at Muster,” but the church acquitted him.

This tells us, at least, that the men did attend muster. I wonder when that practice stopped.

In January 1813, a report was taken up against Amos Harmon and referred to next meeting, but in January 1814, “the affair of Amos Harmon taken up,” the church acquitted him. I wish they had told us more.

Sally Judd joined the church in September 1813 by baptism. She was about 31 years of age and the fact that she had not previously joined the church was probably weighing heavily on the minds of both of her parents.

In 1814, William Judd along with his brother John, Thomas Johnson and Amos Harmon were to determine if a member should be excluded or not.

In October 1815, Amos Harmon was excluded from the church, “concerning his loos way of living” but joined again by acknowledgement in August 1816. I surely would like to know what was considered “loose living” by this church at that time. It could have been allowing rude people to visit or dancing, or something much worse.

In June 1816, a rukus was caused by an allegation against Thomas Johnson by John Judd that Johnson had “moved his fence to stop up George Taylor’s pasway with a wagon.”

This smells very much of local high drama! You immediately know there’s a whole lot more to this story.

In August 1817, Thomas Irwin along with William and John Judd are called upon for a contribution of 25 cents each.

In October 1817, Thomas Irwin is once again to “site Amos Harmon to meeting to answer for some of his misconduct and different reports that is out in the world against him.” He was excluded from the church.

In November of 1817, “a reference from the last meeting was taken up concerning Amos Harmon and for refusing to hear the church and his disorderly way of living in many cases the church has excluded him from thee Christian fellowship.”

In March of 1818, the affair of Noah Vannoy was taken up and Thomas Irwin and John Judd were “to site him to come to our church meeting.”

In September of 1818, three members were sent to “investigate the matter at William Judd’s on Reddies River.” I would surely love to know what that “matter” was.

In 1821, some major issue involving Noah Vannoy and the Lewis Fork church needed to be unraveled, taking several months apparently. William and John Judd were both involved attempting to straighten this out. The Vannoy family lived in this area and intermarried with the McNiel family as well other neighbors.

The last mention of William Judd is in August 1825 when the church is indebted to him for covering the meeting house $1.20. John Judd on the same day was allocated money for the association.

In November 1827, John Judd came forward with acknowledgement for some misconduct but the chruch forgave him. Given his long unmarred active church involvement, I wonder if this was another man by the same name and not the husband of Rhoda Shepherd. In July of 1826, John was still a delegate attending meetings on behalf of the church. In June 1828, John is cited to church again for misconduct. I wonder what happened.

Sally Shepherd was married to William Judd, who became a deacon in February 1828, about a year before Sarah Rash Shepherd would have passed. It appears that she was living with this couple and they did wind up with the Shepherd Bible.

Rash 1829.png

John Judd was excluded in 1829 and his wife’s sister applies for letters of dismissal that same day. It sounds like drama of some sort occurred. It was about this time that Rhoda and John left for greener pastures in Ohio, then Indiana and Iowa where they converted to the Mormon faith along the way. There’s surely much more to this story too, especially considering his many years of active church service.

In December 1829, the matter of Amos Harmon was referred to the next meeting. At the following meeting in January 1830, the church “took up the reference of Amos Harmon and left as they found him.”

The notes show that Agness Irwin left the church in 1829.

In January 1830 Rebecca Harmon was “received by experience at an evening meeting at Aaron Churches.” She was also baptized.

On the second Saturday of March 1830, the church “dismissed Rebecca Harmon by letter.” A note of March 22nd says they dismissed Sally, Fanny and Rachel Harmon by letter.” This family too was headed north.

In October 1830, the church dismissed Fanny Judd by letter.

In November 1831, Fanny Judd returned her letter of dismissal.

In Feburary of 1837, Fanny Judd was dismissed by letter.

With this last entry, the half century of the Shepherd family’s involvement in the Deep Ford Church that transitioned to Reddies River Church drew silently to a close.

Robert and Sarah were long gone, and their children’s families, for the most part, had moved on too.

The Families

It seems that life on the Reddies River was anything but mundane. The church notes reveal the “sins” of various family members, at least according to the standards of the place and time in which they lived. It’s their various “falls from grace” that lend a face of humanity to these people who clearly struggled, just like people today.

I’ve attempted to document each of Sarah’s children and grandchildren, with the lines who carry Sarah Rash Shepherd’s mitochondrial DNA bolded. Sarah passed her mitochondrial DNA to both sexes of her children, but only daughter’s pass it on to future generations. You can read more about how DNA works, here.

If you are or know of an individual, male or female in the current generation, who descends from Sarah through all females, I have a free mitochondrial DNA testing scholarship waiting for you.

Sarah’s mitochondrial DNA can help us break through her brick wall. We have her mother’s name, but nothing more about her matrilineal ancestry.

The absolutely wonderful news is that Sarah had several daughters who each had several daughters, which increases the likelihood that someone who descends from Sarah Rash through all females to the current generation, which can be male, either has tested their mitochondrial DNA, or is willing to test.

Sarah’s Descendants

Sarah had an incredible number of descendants in just the first couple of generations. Some have slipped our grasp – perhaps their family line knows more.

Elizabeth Shepherd, Sarah’s oldest child born in 1766 was the first to marry. She tied the knot with a neighbor boy, William McNiel, the son of the preacher, George McNiel in either 1783 or perhaps early 1784, probably in the Deep Ford Meeting House. Elizabeth married at the same age her mother, Sarah had, 17 or 18. Reverend George McNiel, her father-in-law, likely officiated. The families were neighbors as well, so the entire valley probably attended.

Sarah became a grandmother in October of 1784 at the age of 36. Sarah had grandchildren older than her youngest children who weren’t born until 1785 and 1787.

However, 1784 may have been a sorrowful year for Sarah, because it looks like she buried another child of her own in February or March, probably in the now destroyed Deep Ford Hill Cemetery where these modular homes sit today.

Shepherd Deep Ford HIll Cemetery

By the time Sarah’s namesake granddaughter was born in October, Sarah was pregnant again with Fannie who would be born 4 months later. Perhaps Elizabeth was trying to make her mother feel better by naming her firstborn child, Sarah, after her grieving mother.

In the 1790 census, William McNiel, married to daughter Elizabeth Shepherd, lives 10 houses away from Robert and Sarah with 1 male over 16, 1 under 16 and 3 females.

Sometime before 1800, before the membership roster of the Reddies River Church was assembled in 1798, Elizabeth and William would move to neighboring Ashe County.

Elizabeth would bless her mother with 9 more living grandchildren, 10 in total, plus probably 2 more that died, added to the tiny graves in the family cemetery.

Elizabeth Shepherd and William McNiel moved to Claiborne County, Tennessee in about 1811 or 1812, so Sarah would never have known her grandchildren born after that time. That must have been one tearful goodbye, with Robert and Sarah watching their eldest pull away in a wagon, knowing they would never see her again.

Elizabeth wasn’t there to lay her father to rest 5 or 6 years later in 1817, nor her mother, probably in 1829. That sorrowful news would have arrived months later by letter.

Elizabeth died in Claiborne County sometime between 1830 and 1840, between age 64 and 74, perhaps not long after her mother’s death.

Elizabeth had 10 children including 4 daughters who lived to adulthood:

  • Sarah “Sallie” McNiel born August 26, 1784 married Joel Fairchild and died January 2, 1861 in Hancock County, TN. She had 5 children including:
    • Fannie Fairchild born about 1822, died about 1868
    • Elizabeth Fairchild born 1820-1825 who married Samuel McCullough, having daughters:
      • Sarah McCullough, born 1852
      • Elizabeth McCullough born 1864
      • Susan McCullough born in 1867
      • Cordia McCullough born in 1870
    • George McNiel born Sept. 21, 1786 in Wilkes County and died July 20, 1870 in Claiborne County, TN. He married Nancy Baker, having 10 children, then Matilda Yeary having 3 more children.
    • Lois McNiel born about 1786, married Elijah Vannoy and removed to Claiborne County, Tennessee about 1811 or 1812. She died in the 1830s, having had 10 children including daughters:
      • Permelia Vannoy born Feb. 21, 1810, married John Elijah Baker in 1838 and died in Washington County, Arkansas February 5, 1900. She had four known children, all daughters:
        • Luana or Luanda Baker born about 1836
        • Rachel Baker born about 1837, died March 25, 1925 in Springfield, Missouri. She married Larkin Brewer and had two daughters who died as children.
        • Sirena Baker born 1839 married Samuel P. Jones and died in 1862. She had daughters Mary Jones 1857-1913, Permelia Jones 1860-1907, Alice Jones, 1868-1945, Virginia Jones 1870-1831, Flora Jones 1875-1936, Leticia Jones born in 1877.
        • Nancy Jane Baker born in 1845.
      • Mary Vannoy born about 1815 married Isaac Gowin
      • Elizabeth Vannoy born about 1817 married Elisha Bishop, died after 1880 and had two known children, including one daughter:
        • Levina Ann Bishop (1843-1925) who appears to not have had children.
      • Nancy Vannoy born June 19, 1820 married George Loughmiller, died April 29, 1896 in Washington County, Arkansas. She had 8 children, including 6 daughters:
        • Mermelia Loughmiller 1839
        • Mary T. Loughmiller 1843-1946 married John H. Jones and had daughters Laura Myrtle Jones (1872-1930) and Permilia E. Jones born in 1876.
        • Elizabeth Loughmiller 1848
        • Sarah E. Loughmiller 1850
        • Martha “Marty” Loughmiller 1852
        • Lydia Loughmiller 1853 who may have died before 1870
      • Sarah “Sally” Elizabeth Vannoy born Oct. 17, 1821, married Joseph C. Adams and died October 14, 1892. They had 6 children, including 3 daughters:
        • Nancy Jane Adams (1849-1922) who married Franklin J. Skaggs and died in Huntsville, Arkansas. She had 9 children including three daughters, Ann Skaggs born in January 1875 married Thaddeus Brackston Jones and had daughter, Annie Jones born in 1908. Daughter Shadric C. Skaggs was born in December 1889 in Madison County, Arkansas. Daughter Lyda Mae Skaggs (1894-1969) married George Everett Clark.
        • Rebecca Elizabeth Adams born in 1853, married William Leroy Throckmartin Bee Boren. She had 9 children including three daughters. Julia Boren 1872-1945 married Randy Clinton Bolinger and had a daughter, Ruby Bolinger. Mary Lou Boren (1876-1950) married Andrew Jackson Hamilton and had daughters Elisa Hamilton, Cecil Hamilton and Gladys Hamilton. Laura Boren 1886-1990 married 4 times and may have had one daughter. Daughter Sally Ada Boren (1892-1978) married Earnest Welcome Hart and had two daughters, Lillie Hart and Irene Hart.
        • Margaret Ann Adams 1857-1923 married John Ward and died n Oregon. She had 9 children including two daughters, Mary Jane Ward born in 1881 and Sarah Emma Ward born in 1887 or 1888.
      • Angeline Vannoy born about 1825 married Sterling Nunn in 1949 and died before October of 1850, probably in childbirth.
      • Lucinda J. Vannoy was born March 15, 1828, married Col. Joseph Campbell in 1886 with a prenuptial contract and died April 2, 1919 in Washington County, Arkansas.
    • Niel S. McNiel born about 1792 in Wilkes County, died September 10, 1839 in Claiborne County and married Elly Ramsey. They had 3 children, two girls and a boy.
    • Mary McNiel born about 1792 in Wilkes County, married Robert Campbell in 1817 in Claiborne County, TN and died on August 10, 1874 in Bradley County, TN. She had at least one child, a son, but it’s unclear whether she had other children, although it’s certainly probable.
    • Nancy McNiel born March 22, 1794, married Alexander Campbell and died on November 30, 1839 near Sneedville, TN. She had three sons.
    • John McNiel born July 1, 1803, married Elizabeth Campbell, sister to Alexander and Robert, and died on October 8, 1883. They had 8 children.
    • Betty (probably Elizabeth) McNiel born 1800-1810 and may have married Andrew McClary.
    • Jesse McNiel born 1806, married Bettie Campbell and died in 1890 in Claiborne County.
    • William McNiel, Jr., born 1810-1815 married Nancy Gilbert.

James Shepherd is the next child in birth order, born in 1768 who should have married sometime around 1790, or after.

The 1790 census shows Robert Shepherd with a total of 2, 1 and 7, meaning 2 males over 16, 1 under 16, and 7 females. This tells us that James is still living and residing with his parents in 1790 at 22 years of age. Not terribly unusual

In 1798, a James Shepherd appears with Robert and Sarah on the list of Reddies River Church charter members. This James could potentially be Robert’s brother James, but I doubt that because there is no wife listed with James, and the only charter members are 20 or so neighbors who live very close by.

In the 1800 census, Robert reports 2 males 16-25, 1 male 45 and over, one female 10-15, 2 females 16-25 and one female 45 and over. This tells us that James is still living at home at 32 years of age and confirms that he was born between 1775 and 1784.

The 1810 census shows no children living at home. No James Shepherd shows up elsewhere, and no records referencing James are found, so it’s presumed that James died between 1800 and 1810, between the ages of 32 and 42. James is probably buried in the Deep Ford Cemetery too. Given that he never married, owned land or lived away from his parents, I can’t help but wonder if he was somehow disabled.

By 1790, another of Sarah’s daughters had also married.

Nancy Ann Shepherd, born in March 1770 married William McQueary on February 11, 1787, just a month before her 17th birthday. They lived in Wilkes County in 1800 and 1810, but then removed to Pulaski County Kentucky where she died July 12, 1833 or 1835, depending on which version of the story you believe.

Nancy had 12 children with William, including William McQueary Jr., shown below:

I have not documented Nancy’s children thoroughly, but according to the 1800 and 1810 census, it appears that she had at least 7 daughters and 3 sons, including:

  • John McQuery
  • Allen McQuery
  • Pleasant McQuery
  • Jesse McQuery
Rash William McQuery

William McQuery

  • William McQuery
  • Humphrey McQuery
  • Mary Polly McQueary 1789-1813 who may have married William Cash
  • Sarah McQueary 1802-1877
  • Rebecca McQueary 1804-1870
  • Nancy McQueary 1807-1852
  • Elizabeth Betty McQueary 1813-after 1870, married Wilson “Willis” Owens and had 9 children, including 5 daughters
    • Mary Owens born 1838
    • Paulina Jane Owens (1840-1866) married Mason Compton Miller
      • Emily J. Miller born 1864
    • Sarah Emily Owens, born 1841, married Edwin Shivel, had 4 daughters:
      • Catherine Shivel born 1862
      • Elizabeth Shivel born 1864
      • Emma Shivel born 1867
      • Manah Emily Shivel born 1869
    • Nancy Owens born Mar 23, 1843
    • Lucy Owens born July 31, 1853

Mary “Polly” Shepherd born in 1773 married James McNiel sometime around 1790. They lived in Ashe County for a while, but moving back to Reddies River where Robert Sheppard sold them land in 1802. Mary died June 7, 1869.

James NcNiel and Mary were clearly close to her parents, Sarah and Robert, as James was the administrator of Robert’s estate in 1817 when he passed away, at the request of Sarah.

Mary “Polly” Shepherd McNiel had 9 children beginning in about 1792, with the last one born in 1814. She probably buried 3 or 4 children, judging from their birth dates.

  • Larkin McNeil
  • John McNeill (1796-1877), married Rachel Eller and had 4 children, including at least one son.
  • Frances “Fanny” McNeil (1798-1856) married Simeon Eller in 1817 and then Isaac Brown in 1851. She had several children, with at least one daughter, America, and possibly more:
    • America Elizabeth Eller (1841-1903) married William Richard Whittington and had three daughters:
      • Nora Caroline Whittington (1864-1956)
      • Dora Whittington born in 1872
      • Almeda Whittington (1875-1938)
    • Mary Ann “Polly” Eller (1820-1894) married Allen A. “Squire” Whittington and had daughters:
      • Emily Caroline Whittington (1841-1910)
      • Nancy Elvira Whittington (1843-1931)
    • George McNeil
    • William McNeil
    • Oliver McNeil, born in 1805 and married Delilah Eller. They had 7 children.
    • Nancy McNeil (1812-1880) married Edward J. Dancy in 1836 and had at least 3 children:
      • Mary Dancy (1837-1893) married James Calvin McNiel and had 8 children including 2 daughters:
        • Eda Elizabeth McNiel (1865-1924)
        • Julia Emma (1869-1948)
      • James Dancy born1839
      • Amelia Dancy (1841-1861) married Joseph Nichols and had one daughter:
        • Anna Elizabeth Nichols (1861-1935) married Calvin Columbus Church and had at least one son
      • Rebecca McNeil (1813-1878) married John Humphrey Vannoy in 1833 and had 12 children, including 4 daughters:
        • Mary Ann Vannoy (1841-1888) married James Phillips and had 6 children including two daughters:
          • Laura Rebecca Phillips (1874-1955) married
          • Nancy Myrtle Phillips (1877-1911) married Joseph Franklin Blackburn and had daughters Loretta Blackburn, Ina Blackburn and Dollie M. Blackburn
        • Nancy Louisa Vannoy (1847-1929) married James Madison Eller and had 8 children including one daughter who survived and had children:
          • Rebecca Eller (1878- ) married Zollie Church and had 3 daughters, Estelle Irene Church (1901-1991), Beatrice Teresa Church 1904-1985), Florence Mae Church (1906-1992)
        • Carolina Vannoy (born 1851)
        • Frances Matilda Vannoy (1854-1925) married James Wilburn Hardin and had 9 children, but only 1 daughter who had daughters:
          • Hattie Mae Hardin (1875-1953) married George Maxner and had daughters, Kate Maxner, Lucille Maxner and Edith Maxner
        • Eli McNeil (1812-1881), married Fannie Eller, moved to Ashe County and had 10 children.

Agnes Shepherd born in 1775 married Thomas Irwin about 1791. She and Thomas had 12 children beginning with Elijah born in 1792 or 1793. In 1810, Thomas was granted land on the Reddies River. In 1829, they removed to Russell County, Kentucky where Agnes died on March 18, 1856.

  • Elijah Irwin (1792-1878) married Elizabeth Goodman and had 6 children.
  • Thomas P. Irwin
Rash Alley Irwin

Alley Irwin

  • Alley Irwin (1797-1879) married Larkin Shepherd her first cousin once removed, son of Robert’s brother, John Shepherd. Alley’s children might really have carried a “Shepherd” look. They had 11 children, including 5 daughters:
    • Lucinda Shepherd (1821-1867) married Nathan Weaver and had 3 children, including daughter:
      • Martha Weaver (1849-1894) married Lewis Dobson Williams and had daughters Lula Elizabeth Williams (1881-1929), Mary Frances Williams (1875-1958), Effie Clyde Williams (1886-1930) and Ruth Dell Williams (1892-1919). Martha had several female grandchildren.
    • Rebecca Shepherd (1824-1879) married Joshua T. Coffey and had 9 children, including 3 daughters who may have had female children.
      • Adeline Coffey born 1844 married Aldred Wyatt
      • Matilda Coffey born 1846 married Isham Patrick
      • Alice Coffey born 1852
    • Sarah Shepherd (1831-1862) married Rev. John Ennis Pierce and had 5 children including 2 daughters:
      • Martha Carolina Pierce (1853-1948) married Banjamin Azmon and had 4 daughters: Edith Azmon, Mary C. Azmon, Ellen Azmon and Julia Azmon
      • Mary Saphronia Pierce (1857-1928) married Leonard Bynum Church and had daughter Julie Church.
    • Martha Shepherd (1842, twin to Mary, died 1916) married John Edward Fouts (died 1862) with whom she had one son, and then George Washington Phillips with whom she had 4 children, including 4 daughters:
      • Elizabeth Phillips (1871-1952 married Cicero Nathan DeBord and had daughters Tena Ada Debord (1893-1968), Phoebe Ruth Debord (1895-1932), Mary Bertha Debord (1897-1983), Myrtle Debord born about 1905 married a Brown and lived in Darlington, MD.
    • Mary Shepherd (1842, twin to Martha, died 1908) married William Harrison Brown and had no children.

You can read more about Alley’s family, including photos of her children, here.

  • Squire Irwin moved to Russell County, KY.
  • Nancy Isabelle Irwin (1798-1857) married John Thomas Jennings in 1819 and died in Russell County, KY in 1857. They had 10 children including no daughters:
  • Andrew Irwin born about 1799 married Lucy Wyatt in 1828 and moved to Russell County, KY.
  • William Irwin born about 1800 and died before 1824.
  • Sally Irwin born about 1803, married John Shepherd in 1824 and died in 1831 in Wilkes County. John and the children moved to Kentucky in about 1829 according to Brodrick Shepherd, taking their 3 children:
    • Lynville Shepherd 1827-1880
    • Elizabeth Shepherd (1829-1860)
    • Nancy Shepherd born about 1831
  • Robert Irwin born about 1810 married Sally Lutteral in 1838 in Russell County, KY and in 1853, married Ann Vannoy. He died in 1872 in Russell County.
  • Larkin Irwin born about 1812 died in the 1840s leaving 4 small children in Russell County, KY.
Rash Franklin Irwin

Franklin Irwin

  • Franklin Irwin (above) born about 1814, married Elizabeth Spencer about 1840 in Russell County, KY. Brodrick Shepherd reports that he and 7 of 8 children moved to Indiana after the Civil War where he remarried to Mary Stewart.

Rhoda Shepherd born in 1777 married John Judd about 1790. In 1800, Robert Shepherd sold two pieces of land to John. Eventually, Rhoda and John moved to Centerville, Wayne County, Indiana in about 1829 and Rhoda died after 1839. They had 9 known children.

  • William Judd (1808-1881) married Malinda Jane Troxell
  • John Judd (1825-1889) married Jane Brown
  • Robert Allen Judd (1810-1896) married Hester Ann Burns
  • Sarah Judd (1813-1890) married Thomas Oler and had 8 children, including 3 daughters that survived to adulthood:
    • Margaret Oler (1840-1918) married Joseph Morrison and had 9 children including 4 daughters that lived to adulthood:
      • Sarah Alice Morrison (1866-1953)
      • Bertha May Morrison (1874-1952)
      • Caroline (Carrie) Athelia Morrison (1877-1963)
      • Essie Leona Morrison (1883-1961)
    • Martha Oler (1843-1911) married Peter Chenoweth and had 4 children including 2 daughters:
      • Sarah Olive Chenoweth (1865-1939)
      • Eva Chenoweth (1862-1923)
    • Lydia Ann Oler (1842-1895) married Rufus Williams and had one daughter:
      • Jennie W. Williams (1880-1977)
    • Thomas Judd (1815-1890) married Margaret Oler
    • Tabitha Judd (1803-1847) married David Eller and had 7 children, including 3 daughters:
      • Clarissa Eller (1829-1889) married William C Marion and had 7 children including 3 daughters who lived to adulthood:
        • Priscilla Marion (1850-1923) married Melville Whitmore and had 4 children, including daughters Viola Whitmore (1871-1934), Minnie Whitmore (1879-1954) and Clara Winifred Whitmore (1881-1966)
        • Collitta Marion (1855-1911) married Jacob Sirdoreus and had 9 children including daughters Bessie Maud Sirdoreus (1887-1979), Annie Mae Sirdoreus (1892-1974) and Cora Belle Sirdoreus (1895-1994)
        • Emma M. Marion (1863-1932) who married John Riley Sirdoreus and had 8 children including daughters Nora Sirdoreus (1878-1933), Rosa Sirdoreus born in 1880 and Edna Mae Sirdoreus (1893-1968)
      • Mary Eller (1820-1897) married Claiborne C. Tinsley and had 6 children, including daughter:
        • Mary Jane Tinsley (1847-1917) married James Allen Eller and had daughter Myrtle Lillian Eller born in 1885 who married John Pickerel and had daughter Verle Irene Pickerel (1884-1956)
      • Elizabeth Eller (1827-1897)
      • Martha Eller born in 1839
    • Mary Judd
Rash Margaret Judd

Margaret Judd

  • Margaret Judd (1822-1886) married Eller Stoker and had 8 children, including 6 daughters:
    • Orson Hyde Stoker (1843-1908)
    • David Allen Stoker (1844-1929)
    • Lavina Stoker (1846-1916) married William Spears and had three daughters:
      • Myrtle L. Spears (1878-1925) married Frank Wilson and had 9 children including daughters Gladys O. Wilson, Myrtle Wilson, Shirley W. Wilson, Crystle B. Wilson, Olive M. Wilson, Lynn B. Wilson, Ordie D, Wilson and Bernice B. Wilson
      • Eva S. Spears (1884-1969) married Charles P. Meadows and had a son
      • Cora Ethel Spears (1887-1960) married John William Meadows and had a son
    • Michael Eller Stoker (1849-1929)
    • Mary Elizabeth Stoker (1850-1936) was born and died in Pottattamie County, Iowa and married William Sheen. They had 3 daughters:
      • Elsie May Sheen (1887-1978)
      • Gestie Hezel Sheen (1889-1981)
      • Maude Lillie (1892-1972)
    • Margaret Calpernia Stoker (1854-1934) married Joseph George Spears and had 4 children, three of which were daughters:
      • Elva Spears (1972-1955)
      • Sarah Alice Spears (1874-1960)
      • Emily Caroline Spears (1877-1950)
    • Lucretia Stoker (1855-1914) married William Heileman and had two children, including one daughter:
      • Minnie Heileman born February 1880, married Louis B. Smith and had one son.
    • Melanda Stoker, reported to have died as a child
  • Elizabeth Judd (1817-1886) married Alvin Winegar and had 10 children including 6 daughters:
    • John Alvin Winegar (1838-1914)
    • Samuel Thomas Winegar (1840-1921)
    • Lucinda Winegar (1843-1844)
    • Alvin Judd Winegar (1846-1893)
    • Mary Winegar (1848-1848)
    • William Winegar (1849-1902)
    • Margaret Ann Winegar (1851-1906) married Peter Howell and had 8 children including 4 daughters:
      • Margaret Ann Howell (1871-1947) married Charles Henry Brown and had daughters Ruby Lilia Brown, Margaret Pearl Brown, Rosamond Mary Brown and Ethelyn Howell Brown.
      • May Howell born 1876
      • Mary Sterling Howell born (1879-1928) married Hugh Tierney
      • Sarah Howell (1881-1916) married Parley White and had two sons
    • Louisa Winegar (1853-1941) married Zadock C. Mitchell and had 8 children including 4 daughters
      • Florence Mitchell born in 1883
      • Mary Lavina Mitchell (1885-1978)
      • Ellis Mitchell born in 1888
      • Viola Mitchell (1892-1966)
    • Sarah Elizabeth Winegar (1856-1924) married Alexander Brown and had 4 sons

John Shepherd born in 1779 married Mary Kilby on October 13, 1802 at 23 years of age but died before January 31, 1803 when Mary requested bond as administrator. The had no children. On January 12, 1804, Mary married Jesse Vannoy. John was probably buried in the Deep Ford Cemetery as well.

There were two other John Shepherd’s living in Wilkes at the time, but John, Robert’s brother died in 1810, having been married to Sarah. Their son, John, married Sally Ervine in 1824.

John’s death must have been crushing for Robert and Sarah, to lose both of their sons within a few years, between 1800 and 1810. It’s unfortunate that his death date and cause was not recorded in the family Bible.

Sarah “Sally” Shepherd born in 1782 married about 1802 to William M. Judd, brother of John Judd who married her sister. In 1805, Robert Shepherd sold William 100 acres. Sarah and William had 10 children beginning in 1803. In 1829, they removed to Wayne County, Indiana, then to Madison County, then finally to Newtown, Sullivan County, Missouri where Sarah died in November 1858 and is buried in the Howard Cemetery. Sally appears to be the owner of the Shepherd Bible.

Sarah and John had 10 children:

  • Perry Judd (1803-1844)
  • John Judd born (1806-1840)
  • Jeremiah Judd (1808-1867)
  • James Judd (1811-1854)
  • Larkin Judd (1813-1856)
  • William Judd (1815-1911)
  • Andrew Jackson Judd (1818-1854)
  • Linville Judd (1821-1858) married Sarah Muse, then Mary Collier and had 5 children.
  • Mary Margaret Judd (September 25, 1823-1924) married Jesse Tucker and had 10 children who lived to adulthood, including 4 daughters:
    • William A. Tucker born 1838
    • Linville Tucker (1839-1922)
    • Ferril Tucker born 1841
    • Sarah Louise Tucker (1844-1905) married Joseph Lacount Brackett and had 10 children including daughters:
      • Annie Brackett (1861-1904)
      • Mary Amelia Brackett (1874-1943)
      • Sarah F. Brackett (1879-1947)
      • Albina Brackett (1882-1918)
    • Amelia Tucker (1846-1921) married James Milton Pigg and had 10 children, including 4 daughters who lived to adulthood;
      • Sarah Elizabeth Pigg (1867-1925)
      • Margaret Lorena Rene Pigg (1879-1960)
      • Elsie May Anne Pigg (1884-1975)
      • Minnie Cedalia Pigg (1887-1939)
    • Jeremiah Tucker (1848-1924)
    • Nancy W. Tucker (1851-1940) married Jesse Lewis Pigg and had 8 children including 4 daughters that lived to adulthood:
      • Mary Ann Pigg (1871-1949)
      • Charlotte Lottie Ellen Pigg (1876-1930)
      • Malecta Frances Pigg (1879-1968)
      • Ida Mariah Pigg (1883-1968)
    • Mary Ann “Polly” Tucker (1852-1936)
    • Jesse Tucker (1856-1933)
    • John William Tucker (1863-1919)
  • Sarah Elizabeth Judd (March 29, 1827-about 1883 Henry County, Indiana) married Eli Trueblood, no known children

Frances, “Fannie” Shepherd born in 1785 married Larkin Pumphrey about 1803. They had 9 children and they too removed to Pulaski County, Kentucky between 1814 and 1816, before Robert Shepherd died in 1817. By 1830, they were in Fayette County, Indiana and had 8 known children, including 3 daughters:

  • Eli Pumphrey born April 23, 1806 in Wilkes County and died May 18, 1882 in Decatur, Indiana.
  • Martha Pumphrey born 1808.
  • John A. Pumphrey born about 1812 in Wilkes County and died in 1872 in Tipton, Indiana.
  • Delphia Matilda Pumphrey born in 1814 in Wilkes County and married Samuel Smith in Union County, Indiana, having one son.
  • Jackson Pumphrey born about 1816 in Pulaski County, KY.
  • Sarah Pumphrey born about 1819 in Pulaski County, KY and died n 1891 in Decatur, Indiana. She married Samuel Milton Burney had had 9 children, which included 5 daughters:
    • Malinda J. Burney (1840-1917) married Barney Markle and had 3 children, including 2 daughters:
      • Almira Markel (1867-1932)
      • Maude Pearl Markle born in 1874
    • Ann Burney born about 1853
    • Inas Burney born about 1855
    • Famson Burney born about 1859
    • Mary Tamson Burney (1862-1943) married Edwin Austin Jackson and had 2 sons
  • Joseph M. Pumphrey born about 1821 in Pulaski County, Ky and died in 1866 in Tipton, Indiana.
  • Andrew J. Pumphrey born about 1828 in Pulaski County, KY and died in 1875 in Decatur, Indiana.

Rebekah Shepherd born in 1787 married Amos Harmon on June 2, 1806. They had 13 children, moving with them to Richmond, Wayne County, Indiana between 1826 and 1831, then about 1835 on to become one of only 2 or 3 early settlers in Somonauk, DeKalb County, Illinois where Rebekah died on September 22, 1836 and is buried in the Oak Ridge, Cemetery.

  • Sarah Harmon (1809-1881) married Conway Rhodes in 1833 and had three sons:
    • James Rhodes died as a baby
    • Anthony Rhodes born in 1836 married Anne.
    • John M. Rhodes born in 1838, married Sarah Price.
  • Rachel Harmon (1811-1899) married William Poplin in 1831 in Tazewell Co., Illinois. The is buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery near her mother. Rachel had 6 children:
    • Sarah Poplin (1832-1834)
    • Harriet Poplin (1836-1887), married Herbert C. Cotton and had two children, one of which was a daughter:
      • Eva Cotton
    • Mary A. Poplin (1838-1839)
    • Rebecca C. Poplin, born in 1840, married John V. Henry in 1865
    • Francis E. Poplin was born in 1842, married Charles V. Stevens in 1862 and had 2 children:
      • F. Stevens
      • Ida Stevens
    • Jesse F. Poplin born about 1845 died after 1910
  • Fanny Harmon (1812-1836) married William Alloway in 1831. She died in DeKalf County, Illinois and is buried in Somonauk, Illinois
  • John Harmon (1813-1837)
  • Anthony Harmon (1814-1892) married Elizabeth Wilcox and had 6 children
  • George Harmon was born about 1815
  • Mary Ann Harmon (1817-1897) married Major Dennis and had 4 children. She died in 1897 in St. Louis, Missouri.
    • Waitstill Dennis (1843-1906) married Joseph Baker and had 2 children, including one daughter
      • Mattie Baker born 1870
    • Shepherd Dennis (1844-1870)
    • Rebeca Dennis (1847-1911) married Charles S. Lewis in 1865, died in Joplin, MO and had one daughter who died unmarried
    • William Allison Dennis (1852-1913)
  • Amelia Elizabeth Harmon (1819-1905) married Michael Been Ward in DeKalb County, Illinois but moved to Walla Walla, Washington. Not only was Amelia a female county commissioner, something unheard of at that time, but as such she attended the 1885 World’s Fair. President Rutherford B. Hayes stayed with the family when visiting the area. She had one child:
    • Augusta Ward (1843-1920) who married Raymond R. Rees and had 4 children, including 3 daughters:
      • Eleanor Rees (1869-1880)
      • Elma L. Rees (1870-1939) and married Harry H. Turner
      • Lora A. Rees ((1875-1941) married Paul Compton.
    • Amos P. Harmon (1821-1897) married Mary, died in Amador County, CA and had 5 children.
    • Nancy Malinda Harmon married Daniel Beem in 1842 in DeKalb Co., Illinois and died in 1905 in Amador County, CA. They had 7 children:
      • Unknown
      • Unknown
      • Benjamin Beem
      • Elizabeth Beem married a Reed
      • Sarah M. Beem (1848-1850)
      • William Edward Been (1861-1891)
      • Isabella Beem (1864-1944)
    • David E. Harmon (1825-1902) married Mary Jane Norton and had 4 children:
      • Imogene Harmon born in 1865 in Ohio
      • May Harmon born in 1869 in Ohio
      • Charles Harmon died young
      • James A. Harmon
    • William Harmon (1826-1845)
    • James A. Harmon was born in 1831 in Richmond County, Indiana and died in 1910 in Shelby County, Iowa. He married twice and had both of his children by first wife, Miriam E. Hummell:
      • Alfred L. Harmon born in 1872 in Shelby County, Iowa
      • Henry E. Harmon born in 1873 in Shelby County

Cousin Brodrick Shepherd provides additional information about Sarah Rash Shepherd’s descendants, here.

After the Kids Left Home

Sarah’s children slowly left home. The census along with family histories helps to rebuild the progression of these families.

Child 1800 Census 1810 Census 1820 Census 1830 Census
Elizabeth Shepherd b 1766 married William McNiel c 1782 Ashe County, NC Wilkes County, NC Claiborne Co., TN Claiborne Co., TN
James Shepherd b 1789 Home Presumed dead Presumed dead Presumed dead
Nancy Ann Shepherd b 1770 married William McQueary 1787 Wilkes Wilkes Pulaski Co., KY Pulaski Co., KY
Mary Polly Shepherd b 1773 married James McNiel c 1790 Ashe County Wilkes Wilkes, 1 female over 45 which would be Mary herself Wilkes
Agnes Shepherd b 1775 married Thomas Irwin c 1791 Wilkes Missing on census, Wilkes land grant in 1810 Missing Russell Co., KY
Rhoda Shepherd b 1777 married John Judd c 1790 Wilkes Wilkes Wilkes, but no female over 45 Wayne Co., Indiana
John Shepherd b 1779 Home with parents Died 1803 Deceased Deceased
Sarah Shepherd b 1782 married William Judd c 1802 Home Wilkes Wilkes, female over 45, probably Sarah Rash Shepherd Wayne County, Indiana
Fannie Shepherd b 1785 married Larkin Pumphrey c 1803 Home Wilkes Pulaski Co., KY Pulaski Co., KY
Rebekah Shepherd b 1787 married Amos Harmon 1806 Home Wilkes Wilkes, no female over 45 Richmond, Wayne Co., Indiana

In 1790, only two of Sarah’s daughters had married, and they lived nearby. The census tells us that a total of 7 females lived in the Robert Shepherd household.

By 1800, both of Sarah’s sons would have been strapping young men and good help on the farm. Three of her daughters were still living at home too.

In 1803, as the children grew up and married, Sarah and Robert apparently needed additional help, so they took two orphan boys, William and John Adkins, who apparently would have turned 21 about 1809. In any case, they are not with Robert in the 1810 census. In 1809, about the time the boys would have turned 21 and been released from their indenture, Robert bought two slaves.

By 1810, the landscape had changed.

Slaves Rachel and Jerry, probably Rachel’s son, purchased in 1809, live with Sarah and Robert until after Robert’s death in 1817. I must say, the purchase of slaves saddened me, and I hope they were treated as family.

Both of Sarah’s sons were presumed dead. John, we know for sure died in 1803, but James simply disappears entirely between 1800 and 1810.

All of Sarah’s daughters are married. Elizabeth and William McNiel moved to neighboring Ashe County, but then moved back again as did Mary and James McNiel. By 1810, Sarah had a passel of grandkids running around, and her daughters all lived nearby. With 8 daughters married and each having children every couple years, that meant that a new baby arrived every 3 months or so in someone’s cabin.

Just as assuredly as the stork arrived, death visited too, and the family would make their way to the church and the cemetery with a small wooden box riding on the wagon. There were probably already several graves in a row by the time Robert joined them in 1817, and even more when Sarah was laid to rest about 1829.

In 1817, Robert crossed over that great divide without a will, meaning that legally, Sarah was entitled to one third of his property and assets as her widow’s share. If he had made a will, he could have left her more.

Sarah’s petition to the court after Robert’s death declining her right to administer his estate in favor of her son-in-law, James McNiel is the only actual documentary evidence of Sarah in Wilkes County, aside from her name on the 1798 Reddies River church list of founding members.

Rash Sally Shepherd signature.png

Sarah’s signature with an X confirms that she cannot read and write. We may not have her actual signature, but we have her mark, which was the signature she was able to make.

In the fall of 1817, enough food and supplies were laid out from Robert’s estate to provide for Sarah “and family” for a year, as was the custom, although the only family living with her, as far as we know, were the slaves, Rachel and Jerry.

Robert Sheperd estate widow allotment

In 1818, Robert’s estate, including the remaining 122 acres of land, Rachel and Jerry, was sold. There is no record of purchasers or the amount of the sale. At this point, Sarah would have had to live with one of her children.

In 1820, several of Elizabeth’s children had moved on to more promising locations. Both sons were dead, Elizabeth and William McNiel moved to Claiborne County, TN about 1811 or 1812, Nancy Ann and William McQuery were in Pulaski County, KY, as were Fannie and Larkin Pumphrey. I can’t find Agnes and Thomas Irwin in the census although one Thomas Irwin purchases land in 1819.

That leaves Rhoda and John Judd, Sarah and William Judd, Mary Polly and James McNiel along with Rebekah and Amos Harmon in Wilkes County in 1820.

Of those families, only Sarah and William Judd have an “extra” female over the age of 45 living with them in the 1820 census, so I suspect strongly that Sarah spent the last dozen years of her life living with her namesake daughter, Sarah, who went by the nickname of Sally. That’s also the family who passed the Shepherd Bible from generation to generation, so this makes sense.

Ironically, Sarah and William Judd left for Wayne County, Indiana in 1829 or 1830, before the census – right after the time I suspect that Sarah died.

Perhaps Sarah’s death is what freed them to go.

By 1830, the year after Sarah’s presumed death, based on the Bible margin calculations, another 3 of Sarah’s daughters and their families pulled up stakes and left, leaving only Mary Polly Shepherd and James McNiel in Wilkes County.

The rest of Sarah’s children would be strewn across 4 states and 6 counties, like dandelion seeds drifting on the wind.

Lots of Grandchildren

Of Sarah’s 10 living children, her two sons didn’t survive to give her grandchildren. The 8 daughters combined blessed Sarah with 84 known grandchildren, and probably at least another 10 or 11 that died young. With nearly 100 grandchildren, or maybe even more, I wonder if Sarah could remember their names or who belonged to which parent. Holidays and picnics must have been interesting – and huge!

I can’t help but wonder if everyone got along.

While some of these grandchildren were born after their respective mothers left Wilkes County, so would never have known their grandmother, Sarah, many were raised right there along the Reddies River, on land that originally belonged to Robert and Sarah. Sarah was able to watch those grandkids and their children run barefoot through the freshly plowed fields, just as she had watched her own children blossom and thrive in the fertile valley at the base of Deep Ford Hill.

I’d wager that Sarah sat with their smiling faces gathered around her by the fireplace on chilly evenings as she told them stories about Spotsylvania County and their wagon-train adventures, in the midst of the war with the Tories, on the way to their haven on the Reddies River, a place that became the Shepherd sanctuary high up in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

This three and a half mile stretch of road and river, from the Reddies River church to the Deep Ford Cemetery is where Sarah lived for half a century. She would have known every bend in the river and mountain ridge by heart.

Rash Wilkes aerial.png


  • Red star – Reddies River Church established in 1798
  • Blue star – known location of Robert Shepherd original land
  • Green star – approximate location of the Deep Ford of the Reddies River, owned by Robert’s brother, John Shepherd
  • Purple star – possible location of the Deep Ford Meeting House, although I suspect it may have been at the base of the Deep Ford Hill, near the green star in the cleared fields
  • Yellow star – Deep Ford Hill Cemetery, now destroyed

It was for life in this valley that Sarah and Robert had risked it all, pulling up stakes and moving hundreds of miles away from everything and everyone they had ever known.

Sarah’s husband, Robert, contributed a horse and feed to the Revolutionary War effort, and her oldest daughter’s husband, William McNiel fought at the Battle of Brandywine. By the time Sarah was telling those stories, 30 years and a world later, nestled in a snug cabin along the Reddies River, that had all happened “long ago” and were distant memories from a place “far, far, away.”

rash children

Many locations where Sarah’s children were found, in addtion to Wilkes County, the red star.

Another quarter century later, Sarah’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren would be scattered to the winds too, many moving north and westward with the rapidly advancing frontier line, and facing yet another war that would tear at the seams of a frayed nation.

Thankfully, Robert and Sarah had given them a firm foundation on which to build, both a country and their lives.



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