About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.

Anna Catharina Koob (1674/5 – 1735), The Mayor’s Wife – 52 Ancestors #302

The missing and incomplete church records in Fussgoenheim, Germany have cost genealogists so dearly. Among the losses are the surnames of many wives. Anna Catharina’s married name was Koob, but we don’t know her birth surname. I’ve love to somehow fill in this blank one day, but it doesn’t look promising.

Anna Catharina was born about 1675, less than 30 years after the end of the Thirty Years’ War which devastated the Palatinate. We don’t know specifically what happened in Fussgoenheim during this time, but we do know that the neighbor village of Mutterstadt was entirely destroyed and depopulated – so it stands to reason that Fussgoenheim and her families suffered the same fate.

Of course, this means that families sought safety wherever they could find it – and the population would have mixed significantly during that time. Anna Catharina’s ancestors could have lived in this area for generations, or, been newcomers altogether when returning, displaced from their original home by the war.

Winfried Seelinger, the local archivist in the neighboring village of Dannstadt tells us that all of this region was entirely depopulated, with the first few families moving back about 1650. Not many returned, as in only a handful of families, and then, very slowly. After establishing themselves in Bad Durkheim, Frankenthal, and Speyer during the war, no one was in much of a hurry to return to ruined fields, overgrown after 30 years, and no remaining homes, barns, churches, or any form of society. There was literally nothing left. Going home meant starting over and leaving behind whatever you had built in the last three decades. People who were young couple at the beginning of the war, and survived, were old by the end.

We can only piece Anna Catharina’s life together from a few sparse records.

All church records before 1726 are missing and records thereafter are sporadic, at best, due to multiple causes – some known and some unknown. The church itself wasn’t rebuilt until between 1726 and 1733. In 1717, the local villagers were attempting to record the old customs and division of land based on the memories of the elders. Anna Catharina may or may not have been from or married in Fussgoenheim.

Anna Catharina’s Birth

Fortunately, we know the approximate year of Anna Catharina’s birth, because her death record provides that information.

Koob Anna Catharina 1735 burial.png

Burial: the 20th of April 1735 in the afternoon between 3 and 4 p.m. died, the widow of the mayor, Anna Catharina Kob(in), aged 60 years.  Funeral Text …..

If she hadn’t had her birthday yet in 1735, she would turn 61 later in the year, and therefore would have been born in 1674.

My friend, Tom, who did the translation for me had a difficult time deciphering the funeral text word or emplem, but we believe it’s Psalms 23, 24 and 73.

Anna Catharina’s Protestant Heritage

We know that Anna Catharina and her family were Lutheran Protestants. During the 30 Years’ War, Catholic forces had overrun the Palatinate, the lands east of the Rhine River. Protestants would have clung dearly, probably desperately, to their faith – because that’s literally all they had. For that faith, they had sacrificed everything, including many lives.

Koob 30 years war atrocities

This extremely graphic drawing, titled “Les grandes Miseres de la guere,” translates as “The Great Miseries of the War,” illustrates the type of retribution that was exacted on the Palatinate residents, and in particular, those reviled Protestants.

Therefore, religion to our ancestors wasn’t a matter of something they did on Sunday – it was near and dear to their hearts, something their ancestors had been suffering and persecuted for since the Reformation in 1534.

We know that there are two tombstones in the churchyard from around 1600, reputed to the first Lutheran pastor and his wife in Fussgoenheim. This tells us that the population was Protestant in the 1500s and that the church was rebuilt between 1726 and 1733 in the same location where it originally stood.

Anna Catharina’s Funeral

Given that Anna Catherina’s parents and grandparents had assuredly been displaced and suffered greatly during the war – no one in the Palatinate escaped suffering – one might expect her funeral text to reflect both suffering and Divine comfort. Let’s see if that’s the case.

Let us travel back in time and sit in the church with Anna Catharina’s family that spring April day and listen to what the minister had to say…

Psalm 23, 24 & 73, King James Version

23: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

24: The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

2 For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.

3 Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place?

4 He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.

5 He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

6 This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob. Selah.

7 Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.

8 Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.

9 Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.

10 Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.

73: Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.

2 But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped.

3 For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

4 For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm.

5 They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men.

6 Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment.

7 Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish.

8 They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily.

9 They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth.

10 Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them.

11 And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High?

12 Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.

13 Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency.

14 For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.

15 If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children.

16 When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me;

17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.

18 Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction.

19 How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors.

20 As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image.

21 Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins.

22 So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.

23 Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand.

24 Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.

25 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.

26 My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

27 For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee.

28 But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works.

I feel compelled to add an “Amen,” a relict of my many years sitting in a pew myself.

I don’t know if the Reverend would have used the entirety of all three psalms, especially given their combined length.

The verbiage of Psalm 23 takes me back to my childhood, Sunday School and the after-school Good News Club where we memorized the psalm and colored pictures of shepherds.

I wonder if there is a special message in Psalm 73 in that she suffered specifically in some way. Did this harken back to the residual pain from the Thirty Years’ War? That was surely not erased in one or two generations. Neither the personal pain of death and loss, nor the displacement and emotional torture of witnessing the horrors. Assuredly, every grandparent told those stories to their grandchildren – assuming they survived to tell the tale. If they didn’t, others surely did.

Funerals are for the living, those who remain and sit uncomfortably on those wooden benches, listening alternately to the minister and the birds chirping their springtime songs outside. I hope Anna Catharina’s family found comfort here, looking to the heavens before they buried Anna Catharina beside her husband and perhaps some of her children and grandchildren in the churchyard.

When Anna Catharina was buried, the church had been newly built, or rebuilt, before 1733. However, the churchyard was hundreds of years old.

I originally presumed that Anna Catharina would have spent most of her life worshipping in the old church before whatever happened to it, happened. I had assumed that the church was rebuilt after the Thirty Years War and that it had perhaps burned, needing to be rebuild in the 1730s. Now, I’m not at all sure it was ever rebuilt, but even if it had been, more military incursions occurred in the later 1600s.

Most likely, there was no church on that site for more than a century, not until a year or so before Anna Catharina was buried. Fussgoenheim citizens were probably proud as punch of their new church which still stands today.

The Church

Kirsch Fussgoenheim church

The Protestant parish church – Lutherkirche – is first documented at its current location in 1253. Of course, at that time, it would have been Catholic.

The current building dates back to between 1726 and 1733, just before Anna Catharina’s death, while the tower and the redesigned facade were built in 1842. The origins of the Protestant parish are believed to go back to 1553 with the earliest remaining graves reaching back to just after 1600.

Anna Catharina may have been buried in a cemetery full of ancestors and family members stretching back some 500 years, reaching into the mists of time – before the memory of anyone living when she died. That’s almost twice as far removed in time from her as she is today from me.

Or, her family may have been from elsewhere entirely. We know that the Koob family had returned to Fussgoenheim by about the time that Anna Catharina would have married, so it’s possible that her family either moved back to where they originated or decided to settle in Fussgoenheim after the war.

Fusgoenheim history tells us that in 1700, the entire village consisted of 150-200 residents, which would equate to 30-40 homes, assuming 5 family members in each home. Of course, if there were more residents in each house, then there would have been fewer homes.

I’m wagering that Anna Catharina’s family lived in one of those houses along the main street of town.

Children

We know that Anna Catharina had four children, and likely more, but we don’t have information about her children who didn’t marry. If she, like most German mothers in the late 1600s and early 1700s, lost babies at or shortly after birth, those records would have been among the missing church records before 1726.

If we assume that Anna Catharina was married when she was 21 or 22 to Johann Dietrich Koob, that would suggest that the marriage took place about 1696 or 1697, possibly in Fussgoenheim. That means they began welcoming children about 1697 or 1698.

Anna Catharina and Johann Dietrich Koob could have had a child or two, or perhaps 3, prior to the birth of their first documented child.

First Known Child

Their first child for whom we have a marriage record was my ancestor, Johann Theobald Koob who was married on February 21, 1730 in Fussgoenheim, placing his birth around 1705, roughly.

Marriage: 21 Feb 1730
Joh. Theobald Coob from here with Maria Catharina Kirch(in) were married.

Both Anna Catharina and her husband would have celebrated this wedding with their son. Both would have known the neighbor girl, Maria Catharina Kirsch as well – assuredly since her birth. One or both of them might well have been related to her too.

Sixteen months after Johann Theobald Koob was married, in June of 1731, Anna Catharina’s first granddaughter, Susanna Elisabetha was born, and in May 1733, grandson Emanual joined his sister.

Just a month before Anna Catharina’s second grandchild was born to her son, her daughter was married.

Second Child

On April 21, 1733, daughter Maria Catharina Koob, noted as the daughter of Dietrich Koob, married Johann Mathaus Saaler.

Joh. Mathaus Saaler, legitimate son of the honorable, Christoph Saaler, member of the court in Weissenheim am Sand with Martha Catharina, legitimate daughter of the honorable Herr Dietric Koob, mayor here, were married.

The couple married in the bride’s home church, but Anna Catharina would have shed tears as her daughter packed her trunk and departed for Weissenheim am Sand, a little over 5 miles up the road, but not close enough to see her daughter daily anymore, or to see the hoped-for grandchildren either.

This would have been considered a good marriage for Maria Catharina Koob – married to the son of a court member. There would be food in her household.

I don’t know if Maria Catharina had children before her mother passed away 2 years, less one day, later. Truthfully, I don’t know if Maria Catharina had children at all. I don’t find any records, but we know that early records are incomplete and rife with mistranscribed names.

I fervently hope that Anna Catharina did not have to bury her adult daughter.

Maria Catharina was Anna Catharina’s only known daughter. If Maria Catharina didn’t have any daughters, who themselves had a line of contiguous daughters, continuing through daughters to the current generation where the offspring can be male – we will have lost Anna Catharina’s mitochondrial DNA.

Mitochondrial DNA is passed from females to both sexes of their children, but only female children pass it on. Anna Catharina’s mitochondrial DNA would provide us with information about who she is related to and where she came from, before Fussgoenheim. If you descend from daughter, Maria Catherine Koob who married Christoph Saaler (sometimes spelled Sahler), I’d love to hear from you. If you descend through all females to the current generation, which can be male, I have a DNA testing scholarship for you.

Third Child

The Fussgoenheim church records state that on January 14, 1731, a son of Johann Georg Spanier and his wife, a child named Johann Simon, was baptized. The godparents were “the son of Mr. Dietrick Koob, local mayor, and Anna Margaretha, Johann Martin Renner’s daughter from here.”

Given that we know Dieter Koob was mayor at this time and had a son named Johann Simon, after whom the child was named, we know the godfather was Johann Simon Koob who was subsequently married in 1735, so probably born about 1712.

Marriage: the 22nd of November 1735 were married the unmarried Simon Kob, legitimate son of the late Dieterich Kob, former mayor with the young lady, Margaretha Renner, legitimate daughter of the honorable Martin Renner, local citizen.  Married after the wedding homily: Gen 2 18.

Apparently, the marriage was not performed until after the Reverend had preached from the Bible, as follows.

Also, the Lord God said, it is not good that the man should be himself alone: I will make him a help mate.

Johann Dieter Koob, the groom’s father, had gone on to his reward in September the year before, and Anna Catharina had joined him as well that April 20th, just 7 months and 2 days before her son’s wedding.

I wonder if Simon regretted not marrying sooner, before his parents both passed – or perhaps he had not been courting Margaretha that long.

Fourth Child

In 1736, Anna Catharina’s 4th surviving child, Georg Henrich Koob, was married.

Marriage: the 17th of January 1736 were married in the local church, the honorable young bachelor, Georg Henrich Kob, legitimate son of the late Dieter Kob(in), mayor of the exalted free county Hallberg with Anna Margaretha Kirsch(in), legitimate daughter of the late Wilhelm Kirsch, former member of the court. The wedding homily was 1 Timothy…….?

I do wonder if the “exalted free county Hallberg” was tongue in cheek, considering the horrid battle the townspeople were waging with the Hallberg family during this time.

Two of Anna Catharina’s sons, Johann Theobald Koob and Georg Henrich Koob married Kirsch sisters, daughters of Johann Wilhelm Kirsch and Anna Maria Borstler.

Was George Henrich Koob who married in 1736 Anna Catharina’s youngest child? A 1736 marriage would suggest his birth in about 1714.

A Fifth Child is Discovered

If Anna Catharina and Johann Dietrich Koob had children until she was 42 or 43, this would suggest their final child would have been born about 1722, 8 years after Georg Henrich Koob and just a few years before the church records began in 1726.

There are no more marriage records found for children of Anna Catharina. That silence speaks volumes. A child would have been born about 1716, 1718, 1720, and 1722. Those deaths would have been in addition to 2 or 3 children who were likely born after their marriage and prior to Johann Theobald. Although earlier children could potentially have married before the church records began in 1726. Still, we would expect to find baptisms of their children, and there are none, or at least none that have been discovered, translated, and recorded.

Fussgoenheim historian Walter Schnebel died in 2018. I have been fortunate enough recently to obtain his Koob family records and find one additional child listed.

Johann Nikolaus Koob was baptized in 1733 which would suggest his birth about 1720 or so. Unfortunately, there are no further records for this person, so we have no idea if he lived to adulthood, and if so, what happened to him.

As best we can tell, Anna Catharina had 4 children who survived to marry and someplace between 4 and 7 who did not. It’s little wonder that her funeral service spoke to suffering.

Who Really Was Anna Catharina?

I wish we knew who Anna Catharina was. Her parents were likely from one of the local families, at least they were local after the Thirty Years’ War. Who knows about before.

Conversely, Anna Catharina could have lived and married elsewhere, moving to Fussgoenheim with her husband after they married. Judging from other records, that seemed to happen a lot during that timeframe. Families had been jumbled.

Fussgoenheim was closely connected to Mutterstadt, Weissenheim am Sand and Bad Durkheim. Families from these cities and villages seemed to have intermingled and intermarried regularly.

If her family was from Fussgoenheim’s original families, her parents could well have been related, the families intermarrying in the same village for generations. That would also have meant that Anna Catharina might have been related to her husband as well, a very common occurrence in small German villages of that time. Everyone was, literally, related to everyone else. In that way, the Thirty Years’ War was probably beneficial – mixing new DNA in the gene pool.

Fussgoenheim History

Fussgoenheim history, translated using Deepl, tells us the following:

According to the findings, Fußgönheim is an old settlement of the Celts and Romans. It was first mentioned in 770/771 in the Lorsch Codex (it is controversial whether it is Fußgönheim or Reingönheim) and 893 in the quality list of the Abbey Prüm. For the place name there are two interpretations:”Gönheim (home of Gino) at the foot of the slope” and “Gönheimam Vuezgraben (Fuchsbach).” In 1993 Fußgönheim celebrated its 1100th anniversary.

From 900 to 1100 it was property of the Salian imperial family. Through sale and inheritance it came into the possession of the families Falkenstein and Leiningen. From 1300 to 1729 it was divided into an upper and lower village. On September 14, 1728 Jakob Tilmann von Hallberg became feudal lord and then owner of the entire village. The Hallbergs resided in Fußgönheim for about 60 years. In 1741, the so-called “Hallberg Castle” as well as the contained in the complex Catholic Church of St. James Major was completed.

In 1729, Freiherr von Hallberg carried out the field survey and the district was divided into new ways. The Freiherr had taken possession of the fields which had become ownerless through the survey. The then judges of the place, Schimbeneau, Herberich, Schuster, Theobald Koob and Schultheiß Kirsch refused to sign the land register created by Hallberg and were therefore expelled in 1744.

This iconic episode in Fussgoenheim history wherein the land was “resurveyed and divided,” in order to deprive the citizens of roughly two-thirds of their rightful land began before Anna Catharina’s death. It may have sorely affected both her life and that of her husband, Dieter, in their final years. Perhaps this is the suffering, in addition to the deaths of several children, referred to by her funeral passage.

Maybe it was for the best that Anna Catharina passed away in 1735, before the worst of that episode which began when her son was jailed in 1743, before expulsion a few weeks later. By then, Anna Catharina would have been 69 and expelled right along with the rest of the family. In 1753, when the family was allowed to return, she would have been 78, assuming that she wouldn’t have died in exile.

No, probably best that she was spared all of that.

The Map

The land that had belonged to Johann Dietrich Koob would have been inherited by his sons. In 1743, a map shows two pieces of land, both owned by Johann Theobald Koob. It’s possible that Johann Theobald had purchased one piece of land from his brother or brothers after the death of Anna Catharina in 1735 – or perhaps he inherited both.

Kirsch 1743 Fussgoenheim under village

However, the 2 pieces of land shown belonging to Johann Theobald are located in the north part of the village, called the unter or under village. Johann Dietrich Koob was mayor of the oberdorf, or over village, which was the south portion. I assumed the opposite, but my friend Christoph explained that this has to do with elevation, not location.

Kirsch 1743 Fussgoenheim over village

The 1743 map showed no Koob property in the south portion of the village, yet we know that’s the portion of the village where Dieter and Anna Catharina lived, where he was mayor.

The 1753 Fussgoenheim village accounting, if we could locate the original document, would likely tell us about the relationships of people and their hereditary land. Walter Schnebel apparently did have that document before his death.

Based on history of the village and the 1743 map, which is the redrawn Hallberg map after the survey – apparently the one that the village elders including Johann Theobald Koob refused to sign – we are left to understand that Johann Dieter Koob’s land was south of the Protestant church. This land was NOT drawn on the map with his name, nor any other Koob family member which leads me to the conclusion that Johann Dieter Koob’s land was some of the confiscated land. This would have been land that Hallberg claimed was abandoned after redrawing the boundaries and roads, separating some fields from their houses.

It would appear that Hallberg was attempting to confiscate land in that part of town, perhaps to build his castle on a large contiguous section – given that the southeast corner of Fussgoenheim is entirely “vacant,” according to the Hallberg map.

And that’s exactly where Hallberg built his castle, Catholic church and gardens. This must have left a chronically bitter taste in the mouths of the residents – every time they passed by this building.

Koob Hallberg castle.jpg

No wonder the residents were angry – furious enough to risk what little they had left by refusing to sign that 1743 survey and standing up to Hallberg.

Widows were shown on the map in 1743. We know that Anna Catharina would have remained on Dieter’s land after his death, and in 1735, after she died, it would have then become the property of another Koob male family member – one of their surviving sons.

We don’t see any Koob names, nor really, any of the traditional Fussgoenheim surnames except one Kirsch immediately south of the Lutheran church.

This draws us to the conclusion that the battle that Dieter Koob fought and lost in death, then that Anna Catharina lost in death, and Johann Theobald was evicted fighting for was the war to save their land, their home and probably, given the length of time these families had lived in this village, land that has been rightfully theirs for time immemorial.

In other words, they suffered for it during the Thirty Years War, reclaimed it after when everything was burned to the scortched earth, rebuilt, only to have it confiscated by Hallberg a generation later to build his castle.

Koob aerial Hallberg castle

The land belonging to Johann Dieter Koob and Anna Catharina was likely one of the farms, shown above, perhaps even where the Castle itself was built. After all, the Mayor would probably have lived on one of the prime pieces of land. We know the Koob family returned relatively early after the Thirty Years’ War, so they likely either reclaimed their old land, or claimed good land that was never reclaimed.

The Koob family may have had more to lose than other families. Regardless, we know that they owned land in the south half of the village at one time, and it’s not reflected in 1743 as being owne by any Koob. Dieter and Anna Catharina both spend their sunset years and died waging war, attempting to save what was theirs.

We may not know her surname, but we do know who Anna Catharina was. A woman in a family of warriors.

Koob Fussgoenheim sign.jpg

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Pandemic Journal: Mud-wrestling with Pigs and a Pandemic Rainbow

Pandemic pig.jpg

My Hoosier step-father used to have a slew of wonderful sayings, but one of his favorites was:

Never mud-wrestle with a pig. You can’t win. You get dirty. The pig enjoys it and the spectators can’t tell the difference.

We used to call this time of year “the dog days of summer” but right now, I’m calling it the “mud-wrestling season.” Pretty much everyone is miserable one way or another. I’m afraid this will extend throughout 2020. I don’t know, but that certainly looks like a possibility.

I started the Pandemic Journal series of articles for a couple of reasons. Initially, to inform, then to discuss in the context of what our ancestors went through. I expected the Covid experience to be relatively short-lived, a couple of months that seemed like years, and these journal articles to be short-lived as well. I thought we would all isolate and wear masks and get this monster under control. But that’s unfortunately very clearly not what has happened.

And now, school in person in a few days? Oy!

Pandemic Fatigue

pandemic fatigue

The sheer magnitude of this monster Covid-storm that has overwashed us, combined with the length of time and some degree of hopelessness has combined to create what I’m referring to as pandemic fatigue. I don’t know if that’s a real word or not, but it should be.

Not only are we actually physically exhausted because of the constant emotional upheaval of pandemic+politics, the second of which I’m not going to touch on at all, but we’re tired of being at home. We are grieving our “former lives,” not to mention all of life’s stressors that still occur but may be exacerbated by job loss, income loss, insurance loss, and of course, the virus itself.

It’s like normal life is still trying to take place under the unrelenting cloud of Covid. For example, people are marrying, graduating from school, having babies, and dying.

My cat is dying too, slowly, making our family extremely sad. Layers of grief on layers of grief. Still, we distance, trying to clutch as much of pre-pandemic life as possible while staying safe. For example, when the time comes, probably in a few days, we won’t be able to be with our beloved Phoenix when she crosses the rainbow bridge, assisted by our kind vet. There’s no need to expose him or us, no matter how much we want to be in the room with her. I can’t help but think of all of the Covid victims dying alone too, and their families.

Some people aren’t continuing to distance and are paying a hefty price. Many are taking chances that really aren’t necessary.

My methodology for making these decisions is really simple. What’s the worst that can happen?

  • If I wear and mask or stay home when I didn’t need to, nothing truly bad happens. Am I happy? No. Am I at risk? No. Am I risking anyone else’s health? No.
  • If I don’t mask and distance and get Covid, I can spread it to friends and family, I can die, kill others, or live with horrid debility and/or incur massive bills. We still don’t understand the extent of what this virus does to human bodies or long-term effects. My friend went to the ER for Covid symptoms, tested positive, was not admitted, went home only to receive a 12K medical bill a month later. The Covid test itself was free, but the rest was not. She had already lost her job and has no insurance. How is she supposed to pay that bill?

For me, the decision pretty much makes itself. The gray area is introduced when defining “necessary” and that line-in-the-sand is different for everyone, or at least different in every state with so many disparate and inconsistent levels of “rules” about what can and cannot be done.

Not to mention, “can” and “should” are vastly different things.

pandemic garden.jpg

Thankfully, I can go outside and sit on the deck and walk around my yard, but those aren’t options for everyone.

However, it’s still difficult for me, sitting by myself, seeing photos of places I’d like to be and people I’d like to see – but I can’t. Especially if they are seeing each other and I’m the odd man out. I can’t help but think, “just this once,” but that’s exactly how this disease is spread. You only get to be wrong once.

pandemic wildflower garden

Try not to think about what you’re missing. Try to be positive. Take a deep breath. Try not to cry, again. Here, have another garden picture.

My situation is better than a lot of people who don’t have a deck to sit on or a yard to walk in. They live in multi-generational households where they can’t distance or in apartment buildings. Some people are exposed because their family members are essential workers.

Some people are exposed because they are cautiously optimistic and venture out when they probably shouldn’t. Some have simply thrown caution to the wind. In a pandemic, everyone’s decisions affect everyone else. Six degrees of separation on steroids.

For some time, people on social media were saying that they didn’t even know anyone who had contracted Covid, so it didn’t exist where they lived or was being exaggerated. I don’t really hear that much anymore. I have cousins who have died. One is in intensive care as I type this. Close friends have it and others have had it. Yet another friend’s mother died. One of the places I obtained carry-out is now closed due to an employee testing positive this week. It’s killing people in the nursing homes here as well. There’s no doubt, it’s every single place in America now. No one is safe or exempt.

By now, Covid has directly affected almost everyone, and I’m not referring to financially through shutdowns and job loss which some would argue were political in nature. (I’m not touching that topic either.) I’m referring to the virus itself.

And anyone who is looking clearly understands what’s coming. Our only prayer is if by some miracle everyone magically starts to wear masks and stay home. And indeed, I mean everyone, because only “some” people wearing masks didn’t work before and is why we are where we are right now – with an epidemic spiraling out of control.

And yes, a vaccine, IF it works, and IF it arrives by year-end will help immensely, but we all have to survive that long. Many won’t. We’re at 153,314 deaths from Covid today and most models have us hitting 200K within a month. I’m afraid to look at the projection by year-end.

Oh yea, and because pandemic stress wasn’t enough, we’re now having pandemic+politics+hurricanes too. In Florida of all places, already a Covid hotspot, with Hurricane Isaias projected to make landfall today with high tides making things even worse there and up the east coast over the next few days. Batten down the hatches.

2020 promises to be the year we all want to forget.

The Common Thread

There is one common thread in all of this though – and that is that everyone is super stressed. If you just thought to yourself, “that’s an understatement,” you’re right.

pandemic contrails.jpg

We are all looking up at the contrails of planes in the sky and thinking about what we aren’t doing that we want to do. Where we were planning to go, but now can’t. Activities we want to do or events we want to attend, but can’t. Who we long to see, but can’t. Who has died and we’ll never see again. We can’t even attend funerals.

There’s a lot of loss, for sure.

I’m hoping that I can do some of these things in the after-time, and that there will be an after-time. Some days, gratitude to be alive and hope for the future is all we have.

As a result, people have more time for social media, are commenting more, and are “less nice.” Yes, I know that’s an understatement too. Everyone seems to have their knickers in a knot just now.

“Less nice” often translates into hurtful commentary to or about others, when no comments would suffice. When a “negativity leader” emerges, more people pile on. Of course, that just raises the stress level of everyone involved, especially the person being bullied. Adrenaline and stress hormones flood bodies, causing people who feel they are under attack to have a “flight or fight” response – and in an electronic world, that means either disengage and go for a walk or “fight” online as a keyboard warrior.

No one wins and the exchange is simply ugly and hurtful. Have another flower picture.

Pandemic phlox

Take a deep breath and count to 10. Have some lilies.

pandemic lily.jpg

Now we’re at the point where my Dad’s mud-wrestling with a pig commentary comes into play.

Seriously, no one is going to even consider anyone’s point of view because they are too busy “talking and typing,” to listen, even if they had once been inclined. And that’s assuming there isn’t any other agenda or issue in the mix. Yea, more flowers…

pandemic red lily

Maintaining an Even Keel

When people are stressed, especially for a long period of time, like pandemic fatigue, it seems to bring out either the worst or the best in people. It also dramatically affects mental health. Here are some thoughts and ideas, aside from flower pictures, that you may find helpful. I try to think of these when I see people reacting, and when I consider my health and behavior as well.

  • People who already suffer from depression or other mental health issues may need to have their medications adjusted.
  • People who never previously suffered from depression may be suffering from it now. Here’s a list of symptoms to watch for. If this might apply to you, make sure to exercise, get enough sunshine and disengage from triggers, like social media if that’s affecting you negatively.
  • People who had borderline mental health issues pre-pandemic may have crossed over the edge due to any number of stressors and need medical assistance now. You may be viewing the results of that on social media, or seeing it in the behavior of family members.
  • Doomscrolling. I didn’t even know this was a “thing,” but apparently it is, related to the consumption of news which is almost entirely negative (what news isn’t negative today,) and I’m guilty of it to some extent. You can read about doomscrolling and its effects, especially during the pandemic, here.
  • To address doomscrolling and negativity, I’ve done a number of things:
    1. Unfriended or unfollowed people who bring pain or unpleasantness into my life. Unfortunately, there have been more than I would have anticipated and some that were shocking. I will discuss any topic. I will not tolerate attacks, disrespect, condescension, or hatefulness, directed toward me or others. If there’s any good news to this part of the equation, it’s that the pandemic has unmasked many people for their real selves, many of whom I’ve found very disheartening and disappointing. That discovery adds another level of grief, but their removal from my social media feed removes the chronic negativity issue.
    2. Focusing on people who are positive by nature. That does not mean they are Pollyannas, irresponsible, or unconcerned about the pandemic, but it does mean they are not pushing conspiracy theories or constant negativity by default. I don’t mind seeing some negative things, because that is our reality right now, but I also want to see pictures of your kids, your cats, your lunch, a flower, your family tree, your new t-shirt, your Amazon order, something, anything that feels “normal.”
    3. Find ways to support others, to the best of my ability. You already know I made masks, and have a few more to make over the weekend. I also make care quilts, but right now, there is no way to make them fast enough. I’ve also been making quilts to keep for myself, because they make me feel good, and right now, I’m important too.
    4. I do feel that as a responsible adult, I need to stay current with what is occurring. However, I’ve located a couple of non-inflammatory daily summary sources and I have specific times of the day that I check social media.
  • I’m limiting my work time because my “default” is to work more and more and sit in front of my computer longer and longer each day. Unfortunately, at this point, I can never catch up, so that just makes things worse. I receive hundreds of emails every day, many asking questions that the sender thinks will “only take a minute,” which is a compliment, but nonetheless incorrect. (I do offer Quick Consults, here.)
  • People with addiction issues are relapsing. Addiction doesn’t only mean alcohol or drugs but includes other compulsive self-medicating comfort disorders. Eating comes to mind, but there are many more. Counselors and support groups are available online – just google. Is buying quilt fabric an addictive behavior? Asking for a friend😊
  • People with mental health issues are really struggling, and they are not always who you think they might be. When you observe someone acting hateful or awful towards someone else, it’s one of a few things – an active choice meaning their real personality is showing through, a really bad day (that excuse doesn’t work for repeated incidents) or a mental health issue. Regardless of which it is, you don’t need to engage with or tolerate their behavior. Some days my mantra is “just keep on scrolling.”
  • Sometimes when people are silent, it’s not because they can’t or don’t want to “defend themselves.” It’s because they’ve chosen to be kind and not act hatefully or hurtfully. Attempting to hurt someone else is never beneficial and “winning” in that manner doesn’t make someone a good person or a winner. I always remember who behaved that way. Silence does not equate to “losing.” Losing one’s composure publicly is rarely a good thing.
  • Develop a self-imposed embargo policy. When I’m angry, my personal rule is that I don’t reply for 24 hours. If I’m still angry, it’s 48 hours. By then, it seldom matters. This has saved me a lot of grief over the years and probably a lot of embarrassment too. An embargo doesn’t mean I’m silent to my family or close friends, it just means publicly.
  • People don’t have to engage in every fight they’re invited to. There’s no requirement to take the bait. Generally, bait is a sure-fire sign of danger. Ask any fish!
  • Each of us chooses how to behave, both on and offline. Choose to be kind, or silent. You never have to regret that choice.
  • Sometimes, kindness is simply keeping my mouth shut. Having said that, I do feel from time to time that I have a moral imperative to speak truth to power, understanding that it will likely cause me to become a target. Still, I always say what I have to say respectfully. I will not engage in the “nasty girls” game. There is a fundamental difference between a difference of opinion, a movement for change and a war. If people choose to target me after I speak truthfully, so be it – it’s probably a sign of effectiveness. Still, it takes courage to speak, knowing what will likely be forthcoming. I’m grateful to people like John Lewis, John McCain, William Tully Brown and Rosa Parks for their courage and inspiration. One day I’ll write about attending Rosa’s funeral visitation. John and Rosa peacefully spoke, stood their ground and have inspired me repeatedly over the years, especially when I’m frightened. If or when we are attacked, we can always choose to be kind and be silent, taking into consideration the situation. Silence is sometimes more powerful than words. Sometimes it’s the other way around. Words, however, can cut like a knife, so choose wisely. People are already hurting.
  • On the bright side, when speaking truth-to-power, you immediately discover who your friends are and who are fair-weather acquaintances of convenience. That holds true as well for when bad things happen in your life and you need help. Those who step-up are gold! The rest weren’t really your friends and culled themselves. Be grateful.
  • I always weigh my behavior based on how I would feel if a potential employer or my granddaughters as adults saw what I said. Am I being my best self? How would I feel if one of my granddaughters posted what I was about to say? How would I counsel them?

In other words, never mud-wrestle with a pig. You can’t win. You get dirty. The pig enjoys it. The spectators can’t tell the difference.

Besides that, if I do perish in this pandemic, I don’t want to be remembered for being hateful. I may not be able to control this pandemic, or what others say or do, but I surely can control the substance of my own legacy.

Pandemic Rainbow

When will the Pandemic Journal series end?

Truthfully, I don’t know. This might be the last article in the series, because this seems to have become a way of life, not a temporary glitch.

Of course, by now, I thought I would have already written the “victory” “we’re free again and it’s over” article. I thought I’d be going to genealogy conferences and quilt retreats, but I’m not and everything this fall and much of winter has already canceled or simply wasn’t scheduled.

I don’t know if or when this plague will ever end. As we enter into the days of diminishing light, the fall and winter in the northern hemisphere, I expect the pandemic to worsen, along with its associated challenges.

I don’t want to write negative articles or those that only serve to depress already depressed people.

One positive aspect that I’m seeing is that some people’s obsession is genealogy and with more time, they are really focusing on uncovering those ancestors. This is one kind of addictive behavior I heartily endorse!! I’ve been the recent beneficiary and I’ve been able to gift others as well.

I hope that you think about the life and times of your ancestors, the situations they encountered, the decisions they made, and how plagues and pestilences influenced, affected or ended their lives. Perhaps fear of a viral enemy that seems to be overpowering us sheds light on their lives before the days of modern medical care.

Now you can understand the ever-tightening fingers of fear that clutched their hearts as the Bubonic Plague, also known as the Black Death because of what it did to the bodies of its victims, engulfed their world. Ironic, isn’t it, that Plague doctors wore masks then, thinking that the beak filled with aromatics would filter out the offending disease particles present in “bad air.”

Today, we know masks work and greatly improve the chances of staying well, yet not everyone wears them.

pandemic plague doctor

I hope your ancestors bring you comfort, in their presence or their absence that causes you to have to search for them. Perhaps we can think of this grey and difficult time, retrospectively, after the storm has passed and the sun sets on this chapter of our lives as the time of great genealogy breakthroughs. Perhaps our ancestors will serve as a pandemic rainbow.

pandemic rainbow.jpg

Partial double rainbow beneath storm clouds with the sunset reflecting off of the clouds, taken from the center of the labyrinth.

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Ancestry Match Purge Update

I’m covering four things in this article today:

  • Genetic currency and why it matters
  • Reasons for Ancestry’s purge
  • Ancestry’s updated plans
  • What’s next?

Why is Focusing on Ancestry Critical Right Now?

It’s much easier to save something that exists than to create something new in the software world.

Think of your car. It’s a lot easier for a car company to keep the same model year to year than to create a new model with the inherent design, engineering, and associated costs.

Yes, other DNA vendors could and should improve too, but right now, only Ancestry is taking something valuable away from genealogists. Regardless of what we want other companies, or Ancestry, to develop, providing feedback regarding Ancestry’s impending purge of our 6-8 cM matches is critical now, before the deletion occurs and is irreversible.

Some genealogists either don’t care or don’t specifically want to preserve smaller matches. That’s fine and they can simply ignore their smaller matches. Smaller matches DON’T HURT ANYONE. If you don’t like them, just ignore them.

Why would anyone be vehemently opposed to something that is agreed to be useful and valuable about 50% of the time? It has been widely accepted for years that 7 cM matches are valid about half of the time. Science tells us the same thing.

MMB stats by cM 2

Philip Gammon, a statistician, worked with sets of phased data to produce output indicating the rates of valid and invalid matches, meaning when the child matches someone and so does the parent. His numbers indicate that 6 and 7 cM matches were valid 66% and 58% of the time, respectively.

I worked with parent/child trios whose tests I control to determine the accuracy of matches phased to parents.

Ancestry phased matches accuracy.png

Working with parentally phased data, meaning when both parents have tested, a match matches either the mother or father in addition to the tester, the results indicated that matches between 6 and 6.99 cM were valid 30% of the time. Matches between 7 and 7.99 cm were valid 46% of the time. These percentages are smaller than Philips, but these groups are nonendogamous and Philip’s work included endogamous trios.

Parental phasing is the first step in confirming that a match is valid, regardless of the size. The smaller the size of the match, the more additional information is needed. We’re genealogists, we can do that!

shared cm quick reference

I created this combined quick reference chart from an analysis article I wrote based on the results of multiple resources and various testing companies. Note that we begin to see no matching at 3rd cousins, so we would also see 3rd cousins who match between 6-8 cM and those matches will be removed with the purge.

Clearly, smaller matches aren’t valid all of the time, but they certainly aren’t invalid all of the time either. Like any other record we use, they need to be critically evaluated.

Why would anyone care that other people want to use these tools for research?

If you type the name John Smith into a census search – you’re obviously looking for one specific John Smith. There are thousands. No one is advocating deleting the entire census collection because researchers are going to have to utilize some analytical skills to determine which specific John Smith is the ancestor for which they are searching.

Frankly, it’s no one’s business other than the researcher themselves, BUT, the researcher MUST HAVE THE RECORDS AVAILABLE to them in order to perform the analysis.

That’s the difference. Ancestry is deleting the DNA information between 6 and 8 cM leading to our ancestors and if they don’t reevaluate their decision now, once the data is gone, so is our opportunity to use it – forever.

Ancestry more tools

Don’t burn the house down because it needs to be cleaned.

Ancestry’s White Paper

Ancestry published a new matching white paper describing what they are doing, and why.

Ancestry white paper.png

Here’s the link directly, or you can access it at the top of your DNA Matches page.

Ancestry factor

This excerpt from page 13 is critical in understanding the motivation behind this purge.

Individuals on the initial July 13th call with Ancestry reported that as many as 2/3rds of people’s matches will be removed during the purge.

Since that time, my blog commenters and people who have emailed me directly are telling me that they will lose “more than 50%” of their matches. The numbers vary, but one person said it was well over 70% for her.

Unless you’ve previously used one of the download tools that have now been discontinued due to the cease-and-desist orders issued by Ancestry, to the best of my knowledge, you have no way of determining in advance how many of your matches fall in the 6-8 cM category and how many you will lose.

I’ve recorded how many total matches I have, but until the purge occurs, there’s no way to know how many of those I’ll lose. In other words, there’s no way for me to quantify my loss or complaint in advance.

Technology Costs Money

In technology terms, let me explain what this means to Ancestry.

Companies have to pay for data storage costs and processing one way or another.

The first way is by purchasing their own hardware, storage and processing equipment, which means as more people test, and more data needs to be stored and processed (matching), the company needs to spend more money for additional equipment.

If the firm doesn’t use their own hardware and the services are cloud-based, they still pay for storage by the amount of space and processing by the minute.

Your DNA kit was a one time purchase, mean a one-time revenue source for Ancestry, but the processor load of matching and storing match lists goes on forever. The only additional revenue source for your DNA, for Ancestry, if is you opted in for medical research or if you purchased a subscription that you would not have otherwise purchased.

It might also be worth noting here that Ancestry laid off 6% of its workforce, 100 people, in February, following in the footsteps of 23andMe, reported here, and that was before the economic downturn that all companies are experiencing now due to the ramifications of Covid.

I’m not surprised that Ancestry continues to seek cost-cutting measures and I am not criticizing them for doing so. I simply hope they will find methods where the burden isn’t directly born by their DNA customers.

The Definition of Small Segment Keeps Increasing

Initially, AncestryDNA included 5 cM matches. Those disappeared in 2016 when Timber arrived. At that point, Ancestry reported that academic (not parental) phasing plus Timber made matches more reliable, so 6 cM matches were supposed to be more reliable at Ancestry than unphased 6 cM or larger matches elsewhere. No one complained about 6 and 7 cM segment matches at that time or discarded them out-of-hand as unreliable, although people who work in this field have always cautioned testers to accumulate layers of evidence in their search.

Many researchers never get to those lower matches because they have many matches at higher levels. Matches are easy to ignore if you’re not interested.

Currently, matches in the 6 and 7 cM range are now being referred to as “small segments,” stated by some that they should never be used because they might be identical by chance and not identical by descent. The term “small segments” used to be reserved for segments below the matching threshold of the testing vendors which used to be 5 cM at Ancestry. The definition of “small segment” has crept up now to include 6 and 7 cM matches. Will it continue to creep upwards as it becomes advantageous? When will 8, 9, 10 cM matches, go away?

One of the justifications for ignoring or deleting smaller segments is that they are “far back in time,” but Ancestry’s documentation about 6 cM matches shows that 21% of the time, a 6 cM match is some flavor of 2nd, 3rd or 4th cousin. That’s hardly far back in time.

Ancestry 6 cm relationship.png

Unknown, Previously Unidentified Ancestors

The need to identify ancestors who are unknown, meaning not just unknown to you – but truly not identified through prior research by anyone eventually affects all genealogists.

Researchers often encounter this situation when they have females with no surnames or when they are researching ancestors with no records at all.

My closet brick walls begin in the 6th generation, all females, born in the 1760s and died in the 1800s. Their descendants in my generation would be 5th cousins to me. That’s where my search for truly unknown ancestors begins.

Other people experience brick walls much closer to them in time.

The Good News – People Are Looking

There’s actually a silver lining to Ancestry’s announced purge – people are looking and evaluating these smaller matches now that the matches are in jeopardy of being removed.

Maybe Ancestry’s threat to remove these matches was a genius marketing ploy to encourage us to use them (wink, wink.) Let’s hope so and Ancestry retains those matches and continues to provide their customers with matches at this level.

Numerous people have stated that they are finding patterns in multiple matches, especially if they manage multiple kits for various family members. Because of the 20 cM shared match threshold limit at Ancestry, testers may not see other family members on their shared match list, but looking at their other family members’ actual match list – those smaller matches are sometimes there. Researchers are finding matches between 6-8 cM that match multiple family members. Finding those matches is the beginning of analysis.

Let me explain that a different way. I’m looking at my shared matches with person A. I see no shared matches below 20 cM because that’s Ancestry’s shared match display limit.

However, person A’s sibling, person B, also matches me below 20 cM, but I can’t see that shared match with person A because my shared match with person B is below 20 cM. However, checking my match list for person B’s name shows that they are a match to me. However, there is no way to know that I match person B in common with person A.

Then, checking another family member, like an aunt, for example, I see that person A and person B both match her as well, probably also on segments below 20 cM so she can’t see them on her shared match list either, nor can I see either of those matches, person A or person B on my shared match list with my aunt.

Reaching out to matches below 20 cM and asking if they have other family members you can check, by name, to see if they are on your match list is important. Many people don’t realize shared matches below 20 cM aren’t shown at Ancestry.

I know that, but sometimes I tend to forget that when viewing shared matches and have to remind myself.

Are You a Researcher Who Could Benefit from Smaller Segment Matches?

What types of researchers are finding interesting matches that they are pursuing and finding promising leads or beneficial connections? Truthfully, I hadn’t thought of several of these. Here’s what people have reported recently.

  • People with Irish ancestry before the 1920 records fire.
  • African Americans hoping to identify their ancestors and connect with descendants
  • People tracking matches to locations, such as specific villages in Europe.
  • People tracking US colonial records where their brick walls occur.
  • People seeking unknown ancestors in locations where records have burned.
  • Native American researchers seeking connections before the adoption of European surnames, often in the late 1800s.
  • Acadian matches from before the 1755 “Grand Derangement” when the Acadians were forcibly evicted from Nova Scotia
  • New Mexico and Southwest US connections to early Spanish families
  • Hawaiian researchers’ connections to Native Hawaiians

The keyword here is “pursuing.”

No single match should be taken as proof of anything, certainly not at this level. Cumulative evidence is another matter.

DNA evidence is just like every other type of evidence. We research and build upon what we find. Sometimes we discard what we’ve found when we find it to be invalid. We learn how to evaluate the evidence we discover. DNA isn’t any different. But we must have that evidence before we can evaluate it.

I wrote about that in Ancestors: What Constitutes Proof?

Genealogy Goals

What you’re trying to accomplish with DNA testing will determine whether or not smaller segments are important to you. One size does not fit all – pardon the pun. Your goals may also change over time. Mine certainly have as I moved from confirming existing line to attempting to break down brick walls that no one has the answer to today.

Researchers have different goals for DNA testing in conjunction with genealogy. Working with smaller segments isn’t for everyone.

Many people who only want to confirm known ancestors and have no idea why or how smaller segment matches might be valuable to themselves, now or eventually, or to others. Adoptees looking for their biological parents don’t need or want those small segment matches  In general, smaller matches, unless they have a tree posted with a shared ancestor, require more work and are typically used by more experienced genealogists.

Let’s take a look at the various categories of research, which might explain why someone you’re talking to might have a different opinion about matches between 6-8 cM, or might be ambivalent.

Research Type or Interest Applicable DNA Research/Comments
Ethnicity and populations Ethnicity and population reports are available at all 4 major vendors, plus sometimes additional tools. People who test for ethnicity may not be interested in traditional genealogy or DNA matching.
Adoption or unknown parent searches or other close relative searches (grandparents, etc.) People searching for close family members focus on close matches beginning with their highest matches, then tree matching, not generally more distant matches. I wrote about that here.
Confirming known ancestors already in your tree Confirmation occurs by matching to (and triangulating with) multiple other testers who share common identified ancestors. Tools like Theories of Family Relativity (MyHeritage) and ThruLines (Ancestry, but no triangulation) automate this process as does Phased Family Matching (FTDNA), in addition to some third party tools.
Discovering previously unknown ancestors that someone else has already researched DNA matching and advanced tools such as ThruLines (Ancestry) and Theories of Family Relativity (MyHeritage), but these tools require that someone already has identified these ancestors and placed them in their tree.
Discovering unidentified and previously unknown ancestors, meaning those where records don’t exist, are not previously researched/documented and are not already in someone’s tree. Every generation back in time increases the number of brick walls that genealogists hit. A researcher born in 1980 is likely to be 4th cousins to someone born from a common ancestor in 1850. Some 3rd and 4th cousins won’t DNA match at all, some will match on larger segments and some will only match on smaller segments (6-8 cM). The number of people who match and the segment size (generally) decreases in every generation as the DNA is divided.

If you’re thinking to yourself that you have ancestors that are entirely brick-walled – then you’re a candidate to utilize matches between 6-8 cM. Remember, roughly half of those matches are valid, and yes, there are evidentiary tools and methods of evaluation.

If you’re not back to brick-walled ancestors in your research yet today, eventually you will progress beyond available paper records and will find yourself in need of DNA. If the only DNA that you carry from those ancestors are segments between 6 and 8 cM, and they’re gone – you’re entirely out of luck. Just like when the Irish Records office burned in Dublin in 1922.

Ancestry Irish records office fire.jpg

Doesn’t that picture just hurt your heart, understanding the magnitude of the history that is burning?

DNA is the Currency of Our Ancestors

I’ve been searching for how to describe the situation people with brick walls, no surnames, and no written history face.

Think of your ancestors’ DNA as genetic currency.

You have large bills that represent what you received from your parents. As you move further back in time, those bills become 20s, then 10s and 5s. Finally $1 bills. Then, change.

The problem is that some people know which bill, meaning what ancestor that change came from, because they can track it directly backward in time, bill to bill, and ancestor to ancestor. Their change is all stacked in nice neat ancestor piles because they have the records to connect them to other descendants that know that ancestor is theirs too.

Ancestry coins

Other people who don’t have the benefit of that knowledge just have a bag of change all mixed together. They don’t’ know where those coins came from, and the coins, or smaller DNA segments, themselves, MUST point the way to the identification of their ancestors.

Ancestry coins pile.jpg

While their pile of change is messy, there are tools for researchers to sort through the coins and organize – identifying which coins came from which ancestors. Tools like shared matches, clustering, and more.

If you take their coins away, researches who have hit brick walls, which we all eventually do, have no genetic currency to work with.

Franklin Smith, an African American genealogist at the Clayton Library in Houston shares his experiences on Dana Leeds’ blog, here.

Ancestry Delayed the Purge for a Month

Ancestry’s decision to purge matches of 6-8 cM is critically important for brick-walled genealogists because, in part, of the sheer magnitude of their database.

Let’s say, for example, that we need to find a minimum of 10 people descending from this same couple through different children before we’re comfortable that this connection is valid.

If we can find 10 people at Ancestry, in a smaller database, we may only be able to find a few – certainly not nearly 10. If that database doesn’t provide matches to 6 cM either or has an arbitrary match cutoff, we may not be able to see those matches elsewhere either. Furthermore, not everyone tests elsewhere or transfers their DNA file. That’s exactly why it’s so critical to keep the Ancestry matches.

The combination of the 6-8 cM segment matches, more likely to be accurate because of phasing and Timber, and the large number of testers at Ancestry provides us with an increased opportunity to be successful.

Ancestry has not communicated with me directly, but I was provided with this posting from the Ancestry Facebook page wherein the “author” with the Ancestry logo by their name states that they are delaying the purge for a month, until the beginning of September. That’s good news, but clearly not enough news.

Ancestry posting

Please note that Ancestry:

  • Has delayed the purge until “late August”
  • Has clarified that starred matches (in the groups) are saved
  • Is beginning, soon, to show decimals so you don’t have to save all 8 cM matches in order to be sure you save all 7 cM matches due to Ancestry’s rounding up.

Earlier today, the “Learn More” link at the top of the DNA matches page has been updated with the following information, which confirms the Facebook posting.

Ancestry FAQ

I am hopeful that Ancestry is still evaluating its overall decision and instead of a mass purge, will provide more effective tools for their customers to utilize.

I can think of several, but the first approach would be that if a match does not phase with parents, assuming both have tested, it should be removed, regardless of the size.

Providing genealogists with analysis tools, similar to the now-banned third-party tools, would be a wonderful addition. Just un-banning those tools is really all we need.

Allow genealogists to flag some matches for deletion which we have determined are not valid would be beneficial. Similar to “ignoring” incorrect records hints.

Provide Feedback to Ancestry

Ancestry provided roughly a month’s grace period to allow users frantically struggling to save their relevant 6-8 cM matches some relief. I provided preservation strategies and instructions for how to prevent matches from being deleted, here.

This temporary reprieve doesn’t address 6-8 cM matches that exist today and aren’t saved, nor future 6-8 cM matches.

Please continue to provide polite feedback to Ancestry.

Feedback channels include the following:

  • Email Ancestry support at ancestrysupport@ancestry.com.
  • You can initiate an online “chat” here.
  • Call ancestry support at 1-899-958-9124 although people have been reporting obtaining offshore call-centers and problems understanding representatives. You also may need to ask for a supervisor.
  • Ancestry corporate headquarters phone number on the website is listed as 801-705-7000.
  • You can’t post directly on Ancestry’s Facebook page, but you can comment on posts and you can message them.
  • Ancestry’s Twitter feed is here.

Someone pointed out that the chromosome browser petitions initiated a few years ago went exactly no place, but like I mentioned previously, it’s a lot easier to keep something that exists than it is to build something new. I’m still hopeful that our voices will make a difference this time!

If you’d like to sign petitions, at least three have been created:

What’s Next

I’ve had requests to review what methods and tools available at each testing vendor to assist genealogists who need to search for unknown, undiscovered, previously unresearched ancestors. That’s a great idea!

After Ancestry completes whatever they decide to do and things settle down a bit, I will write a series of articles about how to utilize the various tools offered by each vendor that can be utilized by brick-walled researchers – along with suggestions for improvements every vendor can make to improve our chances of success.

Eventually, all genealogists will move beyond ethnicity or confirming documented ancestors into the realm of the unknown where we need every piece of genetic currency that we can find – along with advanced analysis tools to help us sort the wheat from the chaff and assign names of ancestors to those DNA segments.

The best thing Ancestry can do for us, right now, is to NOT delete those matches. The best thing you can do is to share your opinion with Ancestry.

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

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Genealogy Research

Rare African Y DNA Haplogroup A00 Sprouts New Branches

In 2012, the great-grandson of Albert Perry, a man born into slavery in South Carolina, tested his Y DNA and the result was the groundbreaking discovery of haplogroup A00, a very ancient branch of the Y tree found in Africa.

The results were announced at the Family Tree DNA Conference in 2012 and published the following year.

Early Y DNA tree dating was imprecise at best. As the tree expands and additional branches are added, our understanding of the Y tree structure, the movement of peoples, and the evolution of branches is enhanced.

In 2015, two Mbo people from Cameroon tested as described in the paper by Karmin et al.

A00 tree.png

Click to enlarge

Those men added branch A-YP2683 to the tree.

In 2018, a paper by D’Atanasio et al sequenced 104 living males including a man from Cameroon which added branch A-L1149.

In 2020, the paper by Lipson et all found an ancient branch of A00 subsequently named A-L1087 that was added above A00, dating from between 3,000 and 8,000 years ago and believed to have been found among the remains of Bantu-speakers. Of course, that doesn’t tell us when A-L1087 occurred, but it does tell us that it occurred sometime before they were born.

How do you like the little skull indicating ancient DNA, as compared to the flags indicating the location of the earliest known ancestor of present-day testers? I’m very pleased to see ancient DNA results being incorporated into the tree.

A00 Lipson

What About Albert Perry’s Great-Grandson’s Y DNA?

The Y DNA of Albert Perry’s great-grandson had never been NGS sequenced with either the Big Y-500 or the current Big Y-700. NGS technology for Y DNA wasn’t yet available at the time. Is there more information to be gleaned from his DNA?

Recently, Albert Perry’s great-grandson’s DNA was upgraded to the Big Y-700, and two other descendants of Albert Perry tested at the Big Y-700 level as well.

The original 2012 tester, Albert Perry’s great-grandson, added branch A-L1100, and Albert’s great-great and great-great-great-grandsons split his branch once again by adding branch A-FT272432.

The haplogroup A Y DNA tree shows the new tree structure.

Looking at the Block Tree at FamilyTreeDNA, Albert Perry’s descendants are shown, along with the ancient sample at the far right.

A00 Perry block tree.png

Click to enlarge

Because so few men have tested and fallen into this line, the dark blue equivalent SNPs reach far back in time. As more men test, these will eventually be broken into individual branches.

The men who carry these important SNPs and their branching information will either be men from Africa or the diaspora.

I would like to thank the Perry family for their continuing contributions to science.

_____________________________________________________________

Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Henry Bolton, the Victualler & Sarah Corry/Curry; Their Ancestors and Life in Medieval London – 52 Ancestors #294-301

I met my cousin Pam Bolton some years ago. She and I both descend from our common ancestors, Henry Bolton and his second wife, Nancy Mann. Pam proved to be an ace genealogist, learned to work with DNA and has made inroads using both types of tools.

Together, we administer the Bolton DNA Project at Family Tree DNA which we invite all Boltons of any line and all descendants to join. Our search endeavors using both DNA and records don’t end with that project.

Using diligent research, Pam made headway identifying the parents and neighborhood of Henry and his brother, Conrad, on the waterfront in historic London before their “kidnapping” and immigration in 1775 where they were promptly sold into indentured servitude to pay for the passage they didn’t choose.

We kept hoping for a Y DNA match to a Bolton in England, but so far, that hasn’t happened. There is an Irish match at 25 of 37 markers whose ancestor was born in 1625 spelled Bolton and a Boldan from Germany born in 1813, so maybe there is some truth to early family legends. Neither have upgraded to the Big Y test which would further refine the connection and identify how long ago the lines diverged. Both could be reflective of either happenstance surname matches or even movement, in the case of Germany, since the 1700s.

Research was then at a standstill for a few years until Pam hired Anthony, a professional genealogist in London. Feet on the ground combined with someone who knows the ropes makes an absolutely huge difference.

Pam was kind enough to share her research with me, so that I, in turn, can share it with you. Above all, we want the information about Henry, Conrad and their ancestors to be accurate, or at least as accurate as we can make it. Anthony’s work eliminates a lot of possibilities, and provides likely scenarios, but there is no smoking gun, no absolute proof. We need to be clear about that. There is, however, substantial evidence.

If you have questions, including about Anthony’s contact information, suggestions, or more information, please feel free to contact us by either commenting on this article or emailing Pam who is spearheading this research at rudywoofs@yahoo.com.

I want to say a big, huge, thank you to Pam. You’re amazing!!!

Legends

Pam was fortunate to have heard the family legends. Not only through her direct line, but through the families she contacted over the years during her research who gladly shared their stories. She found similarities in many.

Legend told us that Henry’s father, also named Henry, had owned some sort of shop along the Thames River near or on London Bridge.

London Bridge 1616

London Bridge, with houses built on it, 1616.

Another tradition was that Henry’s mother was named Sarah and there was therefore one girl so-named in every generation in her honor.

The story of the boys being lured onto the ship, which turned out to be the Culvert, on the Thames River and kidnapped in order to be sold to pay their passage descended through both her family and mine through different sons of Henry.

Yet a different version of the story involved a wicked step-mother that wished to be rid of them.

Add to that a different legend of a shipwreck in which Henry and Conrad’s parents both died.

Rumors persisted in some families that Bolton was either Dutch or German.

My family told the story of a German “valentine” from Henry’s sweetheart in “the old country” that he kept in a Bible. Of course, the area where they lived in London was a neighborhood of immigrants, and early English secretarial script could have been mistaken for another language. I certainly can’t read it.

Henry supposedly had with him a card from a Methodist church or school where he studied, but no one that I know of has ever seen that document, nor the reported valentine. Henry could definitely write though, because he signed several documents in his lifetime. Someplace along the way, he obtained some education.

I wrote about Pam’s findings in the article, Henry and Conrad Bolton, 240th Immigration Anniversary, along with the questions her newly-found information raised.

Pam had found a marriage bond between a Henry Bolton and Sarah Corry in 1754 where he is noted as a widower. The couple married at St. Botolph Aldgate, northeast of St. Katherines by the Tower church and neighborhood, a working-class, poor, immigrant, riverfront area within sight of London Bridge.

Not long after, baptisms for children including Henry and a son, Conrath were recorded in nearby churches. Were these baptisms for our Henry and Conrad, even if the dates did not align perfectly with the ages the boys had claimed to be upon arrival in 1775?

Bolton emigrants.png

The ship’s captain could have inflated their ages, hoping to get more money when he auctioned them for their 7 years of indentured servitude.

While the name Henry was fairly common, the name Conrath Ditirnick Bolton, born to one Henry and Sarah was very distinct. However, this record shows Conrath born in 1765, so only 10 years old, not 16, when they were kidnapped.

Bolton ConrathSimilarly, the births for baby Henry Bolton didn’t align with him being 15 in 1775 either.

It seemed like there might have been multiple couples by the name of Henry and Sarah Bolton living in London and having children at the same time. I know, what are the chances?

Pam found one Henry Bolton, a victualler, living in Ship Alley. Widower Henry Bolton, a victualler married Sarah Corry in 1754.

London Bolton map

To make matters even more confusing, Pam found an 1806 will for a Henry Bolton who mentioned a wife, Sarah with minor children, Sarah and Henry William.

Was this the same Henry? The same Sarah or the same Henry and a second wife named Sarah? Or neither? What was going on? We needed help.

Introducing Anthony

Pam found professional genealogist, Anthony. Almost all of this information is taken from Anthony’s report, lightly edited, with a few comments and some additions such as maps and pictures provided by me. I have added churches and cemeteries where our ancestors and their children were either baptized, lived or buried, and structures from their neighborhoods like a city gate that would have been familiar to them on a daily basis. This allows me, and you, to walk in their footsteps, at least a little bit, from afar both in terms of time, more than 250 years ago and far away.

Anthony’s report starts here:

The first step was to check the baptism of ‘Conrath Ditrick Bolten/Bolton’ on 24 February 1765 in the original parish register of the Collegiate Church of St Katherine by the Tower in the City of London.

We found:

Conrath Ditirnick Botten [or Bolten, or Botlen, if it is badly written] [son] of Henry & Sarah – 6 [days old], was baptized on 24 February 1765

We searched for, but could not find, a record of an infant burial or a later burial for Conrath or Conrad Bolten/Bolton – a promising piece of circumstantial evidence that he survived to go to America, as you had hoped.

1709er-st-katherines

St Katherine by the Tower church no longer exists today, torn down to build docks.

Marriages

We then searched for marriages between the parents, Henry Bolten (or variants) and Sarah, in the period 1740-1765 in the London area. We found two possibilities:

Clandestine Marriage Westminster, London [by Mr Deneveu]

11 February 1752
Henry Boulton Stockings Maker of St Leonard Shoreditch Widr & Sarah Bates of St Lukes Mdsex Wid.

The second marriage took place at St. Botolph Aldgate.

Bolton Aldgate church.jpg

St. Botolph Aldgate church today.

Bolton St Botolph churchyard.png

The churchyard of St. Botolph Aldgate, shown above.

St Botolph Aldgate London

Date of Marriage: 26 Sep 1754

Hen Bolten of the parish of St George Middlesex Widr and Sarah Corry of this parish Spr married in this church by licence this twenty sixth Day of September in the year One Thousand Seven Hundred and fifty four. Sarah appears to have signed in the place of the witnesses who were Wm Barnell and Mary X Denton her mark

Henry Bolton 1754 marriage 2

Note that we have both Henry Bolton and Sarah Corry’s signature on this document.

As this stated that the marriage was by licence we searched for and found the document in question in the records of the Bishop of London:

Henry Bolton 1754 marriage

He have Henry’s signature on this document as well.

Henry Bolton of the Parish of St George in the County of Middlesex Victualler and [blank]
25 September 1754
the above bounden Henry Bolton a widower and Sarah Corry spinster

This, to be clear, was the licence which allowed the couple to marry.

St. George is also known as St. George in the East, shown here in 1870.

Bolton St. George map.png

By Doc77can – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31418742

Bolton Stepney map

By Doc77can – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40290848

St. George in the East is beside the Tower.

Births and Baptisms

We then searched for children baptized to couples called Henry and Sarah Bolton (or variants) in London in the period 1740-1790:

Bolton Shoreditch.png

Several baptisms were in St. Leonard Shoreditch. Not terribly far, but also not in the neighborhood of St. Katherine by the Tower. St. Katherine was where the docks are today, and the iconic Tower of London is at left, beside the Tower Bridge.

Bolton tower of london

This painting is from the late 1500s and shows the Old London Bridge in the background, probably much as it looked when Henry and his ancestors lived there.

Bolton tower 1737.jpg

This 1737 engraving depicts the Tower of London from the waters of the Thames which were always busy, a river of commerce.

St Leonard, Shoreditch, Middlesex
Baptism date: 12 July 1752
Henry son of Henry & Sarah Bolton of Dunkirk Court. Born the 10th & Baptized ye
12th Inst

St Leonard Shoreditch, Middlesex
Baptism date: 9 December 1753
John S[on of] Henry & Sarah Boulton Dunker Court Born Decr 9th Baptized same day.

St Leonard, Shoreditch, Middlesex
Baptism date: 1 October 1755
Rachel D[aughter] Henry & Sarah Boulton Dunker Court Born Sepr 26th Baptized 1st instant.

The next group of baptisms took place to a Henry Bolton and Sarah who lived in Ship Alley.

Ship Alley no longer exists in its original form today, but you can still find the location by looking at the layouts of the streets.

London Ship Alley

Here’s a view of the entrance to Ship Alley from Wellclose Square in 1898.

London ship alley from wellclose.jpg

This article includes a photo of the same area today, including this tree.

The next baptisms occurred to the Henry and Sarah who lived in Ship Alley, located exactly where this red arrow is located today. Ship Alley was only 300 feet long or so and is long gone.

Bolton Ship Alley

Alleys at that time were small, often rather putrid narrow passageways where houses and people were packed like sardines. Think tenements. Remember that human sewage and horse manure covered the dirt streets and alleys which were sandwiched anyplace possible. Dirt streets turned to mud when it rained. Everything drained into the Thames River and stunk to high heavens. Personal hygiene was virtually non-existent as we know it today. Ship Alley was just a couple blocks from the riverfront.

The baptisms took place in St. George in the East Church.

Bolton St George East church.jpg

St. George in the East was located literally 100 feet away from Ship’s Alley.

St Katherine at the Tower was near Thomas More Square today, where the docks and marina are located.

Bolton St George East map

St George in the East, Middlesex
Baptism date: 14 July 1755
Henry James of Henry Bolton Victualr by Sarah – Ship All (3 D[ays] O[ld])

Bolton 1755 birth.png

This child seems to have gone early to his grave:

St George in the East, Middlesex
Baptism date: 21 Sep 1756
John of Henry Bolton Victualr by Sarah Ship All. 9 D[ays] O[ld]

Bolton 1756 birth

This baby died less than 6 months later.

St George in the East, Middlesex
Burial date: 4 March 1757

Bolton St George Churchyard.png

Baby John would have been buried here in the churchyard of St. George in the East, probably with no marker, or perhaps a wooden cross.

Henry James Bolten (burial) of Ship Alley

Bolton 1757 birth

Now, back to Shoreditch for the next baptism.

St Leonard, Shoreditch, Middlesex
Baptism date: 17 June 1757
Jane D[aughter of] Henry & Sarah Bolton Dunker Court Born 17 June and baptiz’d same day

And another two baptisms at St George in the East.

St George in the East, Middlesex
Baptism date: 23 May 1760
George of Henry Bolton Victualler by Sarah  Ship Al.   12 D[ays] O[ld]

Bolton 1760 birth.jpg

St George in the East, Middlesex
Baptism date: 8 August 1762
Henry Frederick of Henry Bolton Victualler  Ship Alley  7 D[ays] O[ld]

Bolton 1762 birth

Two Couples, Two Henrys

So, there were clearly two couples. Each Henry and Sarah had a son Henry. Not only that, but the Henry and Sarah who lived in Ship Alley had two sons named Henry, one named Henry James who died, and one named Henry Frederick born in 1762 which would have made him 13 in 1775.

The Shoreditch Henry was baptized in 1752, so could not have been 15 in 1775, (he would have been 23) and is unlikely to have been mistaken thus. But the St George in the East Henry was born in 1762, so might have pretended to be 15 (instead of 13), and of course only three years separate his baptism from Conrath’s.

These children are confusing, so let’s put them, all born to a Henry and Sarah Bolton, in a chart. Clearly, given the birth dates these children cannot be born to one couple, and the different locations indicate which children were born to which couple. I wonder if the two couples knew that there was another couple living not far away with the same names. I also wonder if the two Henry Boltons were related.

Child’s Name Baptism Location Date Residence Father Occupation
Henry St. Leonard, Shoreditch, Middlesex July 12, 1752 (born the 10th) Dunkirk Court
John St. Leonard, Shoreditch, Middlesex Dec. 9, 1753, born same day Dunker Court
Rachel St. Leonard, Shoreditch, Middlesex Oct 1., 1755, born Sept. 25th Dunker Court
Henry James St. George in the East, Middlesex July 14, 1755, born the 11th, apparently died Ship Alley Victualler
John St. George in the East, Middlesex Sept 21, 1756, born the 12th, Buried March 4, 1757 Ship Alley Victualler
Jane St. Leonard, Shoreditch, Middlesex June 17, 1757, born same day Dunker Court
George St. George in the East, Middlesex May 23, 1760 Ship Alley Victualler
Henry Frederick St. George in the East, Middlesex Aug. 8, 1762, born August 1 Ship Alley
Conrath Ditrick Collegiate Church of St. Katherine by the Tower Feb. 24, 1765, born Feb. 18

I bolded the St. George in the East baptisms, along with Conrath’s, as they appear to be “our” Henry and Sarah.

This also fits the family legends, father names Henry, mother named Sarah, lived by London Bridge and was engaged in some sort of business.

Deaths and Burials

We then searched for burials for the father(s) Henry Bolton/Bolten/Boulton between 1757 and 1810 in London area, looking for adults, discarding any born after 1738 (which seemed reasonable, as both Henry marriages above were for widowers) and we noted:

St Sepulchre, Holborn, London
Burial date: 6 Oct 1784
Henry Boulton, Chick Mx Workhouse  48 yrs

St Luke, Chelsea, Middlesex
Burial date: 12 Apr 1779
Henry Bolton

St Giles in the Fields, London
Burial date: 20 Jan 1762
Henry Bolton, Barn[–]ge Street

St Mary’s Lewisham, Kent
Burial date: 21 May 1762
Henry Boulton

None of these shows any obvious connection to the Henrys in whom we are interested.

Wills

We now searched for possible wills for our two possible Henrys, the stocking maker of Shoreditch and the victualler of St George in the East, in the Bank of England Wills Extracts, 1717-1845; the Archdeaconry Court of London Wills Index, 1700-1807; the Surrey & South London Wills & Probate Index, 1470-1856 and the Prerogative Court of Canterbury will index 1750-1800.

In the Prerogative Court of Canterbury we noted Henry Boulton ‘late of London but now of the Island of Antigua, merchant’, written on 3 September 1767, and proved in 1769. He mentioned only his wife, ‘Sarah Boulton, now of Kendal, Westmorland’ and his friends Richard Bush and Walter Wilson of London, merchants and John Shepherd of Antigua, merchant. The fact that this Henry had a wife Sarah is interesting, but he was listed here as a merchant, and this does not tie in very well  at all with the two families we have been following, so appears to be a red herring.

There was also a P.C.C. will for Henry Bolton of Lincolnshire, with no obvious links at all to London. In the Consistory Court of London, we found a will for Henry Bolton of Staines, Middlesex, victualler, proved in 1806. This is in fact the same one whose Inland Revenue abstract Pam had found. We wondered if this was the man from St George in the East, who had moved to the opposite end of the county (but still on the Thames), so we examined it. He had a wife Sarah –but only two children Sarah and Henry William, both under 21, and therefore not matching the family from St George in the East at all.

The majority of the East End falls under the Commissary Court of London, and we do not have access to these will at present due to the lockdown: the search could be made later, in the hope (it could only ever be a hope) that a will for this man could be found, and that some mention would be made in it of sons Henry and Conrath/Condery (etc). However, it would likely be quite a costly search, and the chances of success are low: there is , equally, the distinct possibility that, if a will was found for him and his sons Henry and Conrath had gone abroad, he would simply omit them from his will altogether and leave his estate to family in this country.

Unfortunately, wills were entirely unproductive and not helpful. However, if Henry Bolton, the victualler had a will, I’d LOVE to know what was in it.

Victualler

What is a victualler?

A victualler is traditionally a person who supplies food, beverages and other provisions for the crew of a vessel at sea.

Wow, just wow. This might well explain what Henry and Conrad were doing on the docks in the first place. Perhaps they were running errands for their father, taking food to a ship getting ready to depart. It also explains why Henry Bolton lived in a place called Ship Alley.

A victualler can also be a person that is a landlord of a public house or sells food and alcohol – or both. Perhaps a favorite place of sailors, glad to be ashore.

Bolton ships alley thames

Remember Pam’s family legend about Henry Bolton’s father having something to do with a shop near London Bridge? Look how close both Tower Bridge (built in 1886, so not existing then) and London Bridge are to Ship’s Alley. The ship wharves then were near where they are today, just along the banks of the Thames, not in the marina at St Katherine which didn’t exist at that time.

1746 London Map

The docks at St. Katherines on the Thames were the location in this 1746 map from which Henry and Conrad set sail.

London Bridge

A few years ago, I took this photo, standing at St. Katherine where the ships would have docked, looking at the Tower Bridge with London Bridge in the distance. This view on the water of the Thames may have been the last that Henry and Conrad ever saw of England as they looked back at London Bridge, and their home, as they sailed down the Thames for the sea.

London Bridge pano

Ok, What About a First Marriage?

Henry of St George in the East remained the favourite candidate. We knew that he was a widower when he married Sarah Corry in 1754, so now we looked for a first marriage for him, and found only one likely marriage that Pam had originally noticed, at the Collegiate Church of St Katherine by the Tower, City of London:

17 December 1752
Henry Bolten bach[elor] to Elizabeth Taylor spin[ster]

Bolton 1752 Taylor marriage.png

That is a nice fit, and of course it was at this same church that Conrath Ditrick Bolton was baptised in 1765. The marriage turns out to have been by a rather uninformative licence, issued by the Peculiar of St Katherine by the Tower:

Bolton Taylor license

However, the accompanying marriage, dated 17 December 1752, allegation shows that ‘Henry Botten’ (sic) was of ‘St George in the East, Victualler and Bachelor aged Thirty years’ (and she was 26). That was immensely helpful and helps confirm that this is the right person.

Note that spelling at the time was not standardized.

Bolton 1752 marriage return.jpg

This starts to tie the threads together very well. A search for any children to this first marriage revealed, at St George in the East, Middlesex:

1 October 1753 [baptised] Martha of Henry Bolten victuallr by Eliz. Ship All[ey]

Bolton 1753 birth

Eliz: Bolton, Ship All[ey], [buried] 21 June 1754

Bolton Elizabeth death.png

This convincingly shows Henry’s first marriage, the baptism of a daughter, and the burial of his first wife, probably as a result of childbirth. His first marriage was in the same church as the baptism of what we think was his final child, Conrad, in 1765, and this makes it more likely than ever that his son Henry Frederick Bolton, born and baptised in 1762, was your Henry.

It’s unlikely that Elizabeth died in childbirth, given that her baby was only 8 months old at the time. It’s very unlikely that she would have become immediately pregnant and had a child 8 months later, although she could have miscarried early. The most common causes of death during this time in London for adults were consumption, cough, fever which would be typhus and typhoid, measles and smallpox.

The cemetery that was at one time located by St. George in the East Church is now a garden, with the remaining stones relocated to form a barrier wall.

Bolton St George East Cemetery

There are no Bolton stones and only a couple remain from that early. This cemetery clearly held hundreds or thousands of burials over the centuries. The crypt above dates to the 1700s and was there when Henry would have baptized his daughter, then buried his wife and likely his daughter as well.

In 1752 when Henry married, his life looked bright. Ten months later, they welcomed a baby girl. Only another eight months later, Henry would bury his beloved wife. Left with an 8 month old baby, assuming the baby was still alive, what was Henry to do? How could he nurse a child? His life, bathed in grief, no longer looked rosy. We know that burial records are incomplete, but it’s likely that Henry’s daughter died too.

Regardless, Henry married three months and 5 days later to Sarah Corry. Maybe baby Martha hadn’t died after all, at least not when Henry remarried.

Did Henry, the Son, Remain in England?

We wanted now to make sure that this Henry Frederick Bolton could not be found remaining in England. Our searches, taking into account variant spellings, have not revealed any likely fate for him in England. That does not prove anything in itself, but had we found a clear sight of him after 1775, we could have said for sure that the theory was wrong – and that is not the case.

In the course of our research we found a Land Tax record in the name of Hen: Boulton, of St Katharine by the Tower dated 1765, paying 28s rent and with real estate worth £4-13-4.

Bolton 1765 tax.jpg

Henry, the father, also paid land tax there in 1764 and 1766. It is interesting that he does not appear here earlier on (though that may be a limitation of the records, which could be investigated); perhaps he had come by this property by right of his late, first wife (and perhaps on behalf of his daughter Martha) sometime around 1762/4, hence his move here.

As Henry’s last likely location was in St Katherine by the Tower in 1765, we made a search for a burial for him there in the period 1766-1800, but we could not find him. Using indexes covering many of the local burials did not result in a positive find either, so his fate remains unknown.

Baptism for Henry Bolton, the Victualler

We now sought a baptism for Henry the victualler, based on his alleged age of 30 in 1752, which suggested a birth in about 1721/2. One aim here was to see if his mother’s maiden name had been Ditrick or similar.

We found possible baptisms in the London area as follows:

St Botolph without Aldersgate, City of London
17 November 1720
Henry Boulton son of John & Elizh. Boulton

Bolton St Botolph church

The view below, from Postman Park which was the former churchyard where burials would have occurred.

Bolton Botolph postman park former churchyard.jpg

The baptism at St. Botolph without Aldergate is the closest location to where we know Henry who married Sarah Corry lived.

Bolton St Botolph map.png

The second baptism occurred at Wandsworth, Surry, not close.

1725 – 12 September baptized at Wandsworth, Surrey, Henry son of John Bolton

Both these baptisms are, at this stage, from transcripts. The 1720 baptism was likely, as ages at that stage could always be stated inaccurately, and the location was not too far from where our Henry lived.

A search for the parents’ marriage revealed:

St Paul’s Cathedral, City of London
John Boulton of St Botolph Aldersgate and Elizabeth Goaring of St Giles, Cripplegate spinster were married by a licence in thy Cathedral Church ye 3rd day of November 1713 [etc]

Bolton 1713 Goaring marriage

This plan for the floor paving at St. Paul’s Cathedral hails from 1709-1710, so they might well have been married on the new floor in 1713. Would the bride have walked up the long aisle, or would the minister have married they quietly in a private ceremony?

Bolton floor plan.jpg

Frankly, I’m stunned that they married in a Cathedral. Why did they select St. Paul’s? Is there a backstory to this? Could just anyone be married in this huge iconic structure?

Bolton St Pauls cathedral

By Ablakok – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=58117537

This view of St. Pauls Cathedral on Lord Mayor’s Day in 1746 shows what the Thames and Cathedral would have looked like not long after John Bolton and Elizabeth Goaring were married there.

Bolton St Paul nave looking to choir

The nave, looking towards the choir.

Bolton St Pauls map.png

St. Giles Cripplegate, where Elizabeth Goaring lived, wasn’t far from the Cathedral. I can’t help but wonder how this couple met.

Bolton Cripplegate

The St. Giles without Cripplegate church was outside the city gate called Cripplegate, shown above in 1650.

Bolton St. Giles church.png

St Giles without Cripplegate. “Without” means outside the city gate.

Bolton Cripplegate churchyard.png

The Cripplegate churchyard about 1830 which also included a “poor ground” where both poor and plague victims were buried, often in mass graves. Earlier, lepers begged by the city gate.

We also searched for possible siblings of the 1720 Henry in the period 1713-1733, without success. Just outside the period, though, we noted:

St George in the East, Middlesex
John S John Bolton Vict. by Bolton, Plow Alley was baptized on 10 June 1739 (18 days old)

Bolton 1739 birth

That is unlikely to be the couple who married back in 1713, but as a victualler in St George in the East this John could well have been another son of theirs.

I was unable to find Plow Alley today, but I’d love to know where it was located. It may have been one of those tiny nameless pathways we see on the maps. Given the St George of the East location, it’s undoubtedly near Ship Alley. These men would have assuredly known each other and may have been brothers. John too was a victualler.

Baptism for Sarah Corry

We repeated the same exercise for Sarah Corry, the likely mother of our pair, Henry and Conrath, to see if she had a Ditrick mother. In the period 1736-1700 in London, the best we could find was:

St Mary Whitechapel, Middlesex
Sarah Curry, dr of Thomas (Curry) & Monika in Buckle Street, poor was baptized on 16 July 1729

Bolton 1729 Curry baptism.jpg

The date and location fit well with what we know of Sarah, so this could be the correct baptism.

St. Mary Whitechapel no longer exists.

Bolton Whitechapel

The remnant footprint of the church can be seen today in Altab Ali Park.

Today, you can see the footprint of the church in what was the churchyard from a satellite view.

Bolton Mary Whitechapel aerial

Some burials were at the church, but an additional burial ground is now beneath the playground of the Davenant Schools.

In 1633, behind the burial yards, “filthie cottages” and alley extended for almost half a mile beyond Whitechapel Church into “the common field.” Fields like this were often used for plague and other mass burials. It’s worth noting that Sarah’s family is labeled as poor, so I wonder if her family lived in one of those “filthie cottages.”

Bolton Whitechapel map.png

Whitechapel is located just north of the area where Henry Bolton is found.

Bolton Buckle Street map

Buckle Street, about 200 feet long, still exists today.

A Clandestine Marriage!

A search for the marriage of Thomas and Monika Curry, Sarah’s parents revealed that ‘Thomas Corry per[ri]wigmaker & Monika Demazares of ye parish of Stepney’ were married on 6 February 1724 by Mr. Evans, one of the ministers at the time performing clandestine marriages in London.

Bolton Corry Demazares 1724 marriage.png

A clandestine marriage? Wow!

According to wiki:

“Clandestine” marriages were those that had an element of secrecy to them: perhaps they took place away from a home parish, and without either banns or marriage licence.

It is often asserted, mistakenly, that under English law of this period a marriage could be recognized as valid if each spouse had simply expressed (to each other) an unconditional consent to their marriage. While, with few local exceptions, earlier Christian marriages across Europe were by mutual consent, declaration of intention to marry and upon the subsequent physical union of the parties, in 1563 the Council of Trent, twenty-fourth session, required that a valid marriage must be performed by a priest before two witnesses. By the 18th century, the earlier form of consent-based marriages (“common-law marriages” in modern terms) were the exception. Nearly all marriages in England, including the “irregular” and “clandestine” ones, were performed by ordained clergy.

The Marriage Duty Act 1695 put an end to irregular marriages at parochial churches by penalizing clergymen who married couples without banns or licence. By a legal quirk, however, clergymen operating in the Fleet could not effectively be proceeded against, and the clandestine marriage business there carried on. In the 1740s, over half of all London weddings were taking place in the environs of the Fleet Prison. The majority of Fleet marriages were for honest purposes, when couples simply wanted to get married quickly or at low cost.

Was this marriage clandestine because one party was a Huguenot or a class difference, the parents didn’t consent, or the bride was underage? Was something else in play, and if so, what? Or maybe they just wanted to get married without any muss or fuss, quickly and cheaply.

Apparently this clandestine marriage made it into the official records, as opposed to many that did not. Mr. Evans records appear to have been from Fleet Prison or nearby.

It’s interesting to note that one of John Evans marriages was for a “boy about 18 years of age and the bride about 65.” I did not find Thomas Corry and Monika Demarazes in the Fleet records themselves, so Mr. Evans either married them elsewhere or their records are not in this set.

Bolton Fleet prison

It appears that Thomas and Monika may have married at or near the Fleet Prison. Not exactly your typical wedding destination. Maybe this was equivalent to an elopement of that timeframe.

Bolton Fleet building.jpg

Reportedly, many of the Fleet marriages were performed in the houses or shops nearby.

Periwigs

So Thomas Corry was a periwigmaker. What were periwigs and what did they look like?

Bolton periwigs

This print is titled “Five Orders of Periwigs” dated 1761.

Wig is the shortened form of periwig, which Wikipedia described thus:

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the use of wigs fell into disuse in the West for a thousand years until they were revived in the 16th century as a means of compensating for hair loss or improving one’s personal appearance. They also served a practical purpose: the unhygienic conditions of the time meant that hair attracted head lice, a problem that could be much reduced if natural hair were shaved and replaced with a more easily de-loused artificial hairpiece. Fur hoods were also used in a similar preventive fashion.

Perukes or periwigs for men were introduced into the English-speaking world with other French styles when Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, following a lengthy exile in France. These wigs were shoulder-length or longer, imitating the long hair that had become fashionable among men since the 1620s. Their use soon became popular in the English court. The London diarist Samuel Pepys recorded the day in 1665 that a barber had shaved his head and that he tried on his new periwig for the first time, but in a year of plague he was uneasy about wearing it:

3rd September 1665: Up, and put on my coloured silk suit, very fine, and my new periwig, bought a good while since, but darst not wear it because the plague was in Westminster when I bought it. And it is a wonder what will be the fashion after the plague is done as to periwigs, for nobody will dare to buy any haire for fear of the infection? That it had been cut off the heads of people dead of the plague.

Wigs were not without other drawbacks, as Pepys noted on March 27, 1663:

I did go to the Swan; and there sent for Jervas my old periwig-maker and he did bring me a periwig; but it was full of nits, so as I was troubled to see it (it being his old fault) and did send him to make it clean.

With wigs virtually obligatory garb for men with social rank, wigmakers gained considerable prestige. A wigmakers’ guild was established in France in 1665, a development soon copied elsewhere in Europe. Their job was a skilled one as 17th century wigs were extraordinarily elaborate, covering the back and shoulders and flowing down the chest; not surprisingly, they were also extremely heavy and often uncomfortable to wear. Such wigs were expensive to produce. The best examples were made from natural human hair. The hair of horses and goats was often used as a cheaper alternative

Wigsmade by Thomas Corry in the 1700s would have worn by the aristocratic, probably not the wigmakers themselves.

Bolton periwigs portrait.jpg

It’s interesting that Stepney, where both bride and groom appear to have lived, wasn’t really part of London at this time. They would have had to make their way to town, several miles.

Bolton Stepney 1792

You can see the farming village of Stepney, surrounded by fields. Whitechapel borders Stepney Green and the road at the end of town is noted in this 1792 map.

Bolton fleet map.png

In Stepney, St. Dunstan’s church was built in the year 952 and is known as the “Mother Church of the East End.” This is likely the church where Thomas’s family attended. I wonder if Monika’s family lived here or elsewhere. I’d wager that they lived in the Huguenot area, not in Stepney.

Bolton Stepney church

The nursery rhyme memorializes St. Dunstan’s church in the veribage:

“When will that be? Say the bells of Stepney,” those bells cast in neighboring Whitechapel Bell Foundry.

Bolton Stepney churchyard.png

The Stepney churchyard where church parishioners are buried.

Historically, St Dunstans was long associated with the sea, registering British maritime births, marriages and deaths. They were also responsible for mitigating the poverty of the people in the area. Almshouses built in 1695 provided housing for retired sailors. This area was reached in ships sailing up the Thames before they reached London proper.

Bolton Stepney map 2

Of course, today, Stepney is simply a portion of London.

According to Anthony:

That is a likely fit, and this couple were very likely your ancestors. Further research may later prove it. But for now, it was a pity that Monika’s surname had not been Ditrick, as this would have helped to tie things together nicely.

But Ditirnick Had to Come from Someplace?

Finally in this round, we made a search for that curious combination of names, ‘Conrath Ditirnick’, and were most interested to find a burial as follows:

Whitechapel, Middlesex

Conrad Detrick was buried on 12 June 1766, aged 60.

We found a will for this man in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, of the same year date named Conrad Dieterick, in the PCC.

He was of St Mary Whitechapel and did not state an occupation. He mentioned his wife Mary and daughter Ann Kopilt. The will was written on 5 May 1764, before witnesses Solomon de Meza and Isaac de Meza, and was proved on 17 June 1766.

A search for his marriage, in case his wife was, say, a Bolton, revealed a marriage bond marriage bond from the Bishop of London for ‘Conrad Diderick of the Parish of Saint Matthew Bethnall Green … Sugar Baker, and [name not filled in] dated 11 April 1755. Further down it gives Conrad Diderick as a bachelor and names his soon-to-be spouse as Mary Copdeild, widow.

The associated marriage allegation, dated 11 April 1755, says that Conrad was ’30 years & upwards’  – and considerably upwards, in this case, but that is not unusual.

There is a likely remarriage for Conrad’s widow Mary Dieterick, widow, to John Asteroth at St Katherine by the Tower, City of London on 28 February 1767. That places the family convincingly in the very parish in which your ‘Conrath’ was baptised in 1765.

We have not found a baptism for Conrad Detrick, but there is a burial:

St John’s, Wapping, Middlesex
[died of] fever, Conrade Diederick, rode macher, Neighingale L[ane], buried 25 June 1738

That is likely the burial of the father of the 1706-1766 Conrad.

These results suggest strongly that, despite the garbled spellings, ‘Conrath Ditrick’ Bolton, who was baptised at St Katherine by the Tower in 1765, was named after Conrad Ditrick (or similar), an East End sugar baker who died the year after he was baptised, and his widow then remarried in St Katherine by the Tower in 1767. Conrad’s will was witnessed by Jews, but he seems to have been German or Dutch (and Christian) so he was presumably part of the east End immigrant community of the time, just like the witnesses, and probably just like Monika Demazares, who we think was probably Conrad Ditrick Bolton’s maternal grandmother. There may have been a blood connection and further research might reveal this – or the families may simply have been very friendly.

This very interesting article about Ship Alley includes a map of the numerous “sugar houses” in this area in the 1800s, including one just a few feet away, on the square at the end of Ship Alley.

Of course, Conrade Diederick, road maker, might be related to either Henry Bolton or Sarah Curry/Corry. Perhaps the next round of research will shed light on this question.

Pam Makes a Final Discovery

After Pam received Anthony’s research report, she went to work herself and found the baptism of Monique Demazure, a Protestant French Huguenot in London, in 1705, the daughter of Guillam, a barber, and his wife, Marie who were both Huguenots.

Bolton Demazure.pngBolton Monique Demazure 1705

Barbers at that time performed different tasks than barbers today.

Bolton barber.png

Barbers in the 1600s and 1700s didn’t just cut hair and shave people, but also performed bloodlettings, popular and believed beneficial in that era, cuppings, tooth extractions and amputations. If that just made you cringe, me too.

At that time, physicians didn’t perform much surgery. If it had to do with cutting and blades, you went to the barber. Barbers marched with soldiers into war.

Bolton bloodletting.jpg

I have to tell you, this bloodletting equipment makes me feel, well, creepy, for lack of a better word, and a big queezy. Apparently I’m not the only one.

Bolton patient

By Heikenwaelder – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=77861556

This patient looks none too happy. Im amazed that they didn’t die of blood poisoning, or maybe they did.

Come to think of it, it’s also amazing that the barber didn’t contract whatever was ailing his patients.

Huguenots

It’s likely that Guillam and Monique were either Huguenot immigrants to London or children of immigrants.

In 1550, in England, King Edward VI signed a charter granting freedom of worship to Protestant foreigners from France, Wallonia and the Netherlands. French Huguenots began to worship at the St. Anthony of Threadneedle Street church after 1560. The primary Huguenot rebellions accompanied by the French massacres of the Huguenots began in earnest in 1562 and lasted until 1598.

Beginning in 1681, 40,000 to 50,000 Huguenot refugees settled in England, although 8,000-10,000 had arrived prior to 1681.

Bolton Threadneedle.png

The church on Threadneedle Street conducted services according to the reformed Calvinist churches on the European continent.

Bolton Threadneedle Fleet.png

Collections were taken and funds created to assist the poor refugees who arrived with little or nothing. Fortunately, most Huguenots were skilled with a craft or trade that afforded them a living after getting settled in.

Bolton Huguenot church Threadneedle

The French Protestant church has been twice destroyed, once in the great fire of 1666 and again in the 1893. Today, the pastors still speak French in this church.

Bolton Threadneedle Fleet.png

It appears that the earliest Huguenot church was actually located in what is now 8 and 9 Soho Gardens.

St. Anne’s Court in Soho in the early 1900s, just a couple blocks away from the original location of the Huguenot church.

London 6 front - Copy

Unbeknownst to me, I visited Carnaby Street in the Soho area of London, now just called Soho, in 1970 – just a few blocks away from where my Huguenot ancestors lived for at least two generations. They would have walked the streets I walked, but I had no idea at the time.

Born in the “Hospital”

I found an additional record of Monique Demazure, registered as a male, clearly an error, baptized on March 25, 1704. This would have been the old style years. This baptism took place in the Chapel of the Hospital, Spitalfields, Middlesex, England, religion; Walloon and French Protestant.

Bolton Monique baptism

Spitalfield Life tells us that a hospital then didn’t mean what a hospital means today.

“Hospital: The church owned premises near Grey Eagle and Black Eagle Streets, Spitalfields, commonly known as “l’Hopital”, in fact the site of “les maisons des poures hommes et fammes” (FCL, MS 51, 4 June 1665) which were essentially homes for old people. The land on which stood the “Hospital” buildings was used for the site of a second church in 1687, “1’Eglise de l’Hopital”. One of the quartiers was also known as “l’Hopital”. Consequently the word in this context may mean one of three things, the homes, the quartier, or (from 1687) the church; the context normally makes it plain which is meant.”

The best-known church was “L’Eglise Protestant” in Threadneedle St in the City of London, it dealt with the first wave of refugees by building an annexe, “L’Eglise de l’Hôpital,” in Brick Lane on the corner of Fournier St. This opened in 1743, sixty years after a temporary wooden shack was first built there (1683,)

A “hospital” in that timeframe was more of a refuge for travelers or refugees, such as the order of the Knights Hospitaller.

Therefore, based on this information, it appears that Monique was born in a wooden shack on the corner of Brick Lane and Fournier Street, probably home to several poor refugee families.

Here’s a wonderful article about the Huguenots of Spitalfields in which we learn that many were weavers, textile or silk workers.

Today, the Brick Lane Mosque occupies the brick building build in 1743 that replaced the wooden shack where Monique was born.

Bolton Brick Lane mosque.jpg

By Bobulous – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=84470828

After being a Protestant Chapel, this building became a Jewish Synagogue, then a Mosque in the 1970s. Waves of immigrants.

Given that Monique was baptized in 1705, her mother could have been born anytime between 1660 and 1685, probably in France. If not, then this family would have been first-generation immigrants. Perhaps death or other records can be found that will provide a connection back to a location in France, and to their parents who may have immigrated with them – assuming they survived the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre in 1572 and the next 100 years in exile. Nope, records are probably very unlikely.

Bolton Huguenot

Once the massacres began in France, preservation and eventually, escape was the only thing on the minds of the Huguenots. I shudder to think about the scars on the people who survived to remember.

After 100+ years of persecution, the Huguenots were probably just relieved to be out, and alive. Most had likely lost beloved family members across many generations. Those scars assuredly ran deep and influenced their descendants for generations to come.

I’m sorry that none of their stories descend to us today. Perhaps they were too horrible to recount.

Where Are We?

Anthony tells us that at the end of this round of research, the evidence is as presented, but reminds us that there is little certainty. Likely connections are revealed, but not proof. Hopefully proof will be forthcoming in the next report in a few months, but I’d settle for a preponderance of evidence where more than 50% of the evidence points towards a specific conclusion, and nothing eliminates the possibility.

I normally don’t combine multiple ancestors into one article, but since this information is heavily suggestive but not confirmed, I have combined all of this research, for now. Anthony and Pam’s work flows together cohesively, which I felt was the best way to provide information for the following probable ancestors, in summary:

  • Henry Frederick Bolton, ancestor #45, the child born August 1, 1762 to Henry Bolton and Sarah Corry, kidnapped in 1775 and sold into indentured servitude in Maryland. It must have been devastating for the brothers, Henry and Conrad, to be separated from their parents at such a young age. I wonder if their parents ever knew what happened to them, if they were able to at least write a letter to let them know. Henry was just 13 and Conrad 10.
  • Conderith Dieterich Bolton, Henry’s brother, born February 18, 1765, kidnapped in 1775.
  • Henry Bolton, the father, a victualler, ancestor #294 – born November 17, 1729 to John Bolton and Elizabeth Goaring, died sometime after 1765/1766. Married Sarah Corry September 26, 1754 as his second wife. Had 6 children, 5 with Sarah and a daughter with his first wife, Elizabeth Taylor. These records confirm the truth of several family legends and dispell others.
  • Sarah Corry, the mother, ancestor #295 – born July 19, 1729, daughter of Thomas Curry and Monika Demazores, died after 1765. Had 5 children; 2 were kidnapped, 2 died, 1 may have still been living at age 15 when Henry and Conrad were kidnapped. Otherwise, Sarah was left with no children. Regardless, she would have been heartbroken when Henry and Conrad failed to return home.
  • John Bolton, ancestor #296, and Elizabeth Goaring, ancestor #297, parents of Henry Bolton, married on November 3, 1713. Deaths, parents and additional children unknown.
  • Thomas Curry, ancestor #298, born before 1705, father to Sarah Corry. Married on February 6, 1724 to Monique Demazares, parents and death unknown.
  • Monique Demazares, ancestor #299, mother to Sarah Curry, born March 25, 1704/1705 to Guillam and Marie Demazares. Monique/Monika married in 1724 to Thomas Curry and died unknown.
  • Guillam Demazares, ancestor #300, Huguenot born before 1685, probably in France, married Marie, ancestor #310, whose surname is unknown, sometime before 1704/1705. They were the parents of Minique Demazares. Marie could have been anyplace from about 20 to 45 when Monique was born, so Marie’s birth year could range from 1660 to 1685.

The lives of these ancestors have provided us with a fascinating glimpse into historic, immigrant London at the end of the Medieval period and the beginning of the Renaissance. For out ancestors, little about court life affected them. Their lives were center around food, survival and clearly, churches.

My Visit

Not knowing that Henry Bolton, his family and ancestors had lived in London’s east end, in particular so close to St. Katherine by the Tower, I visited this area in 2016 because by other ancestors, also impoverished refugees, several German Protestant 1709ers, lived in the equivalent of a squalid tent-city at St. Katherine’s.

Henry Bolton the child wouldn’t have yet been alive then, but his father, John Bolton lived just a few blocks away in St Botolph Aldergate and would have been quite aware of these pathetic new arrivals lodged down by the waterfront. You can read about that visit, and see pictures, here.

I realized I was walking in my ancestors footsteps, meaning the 1709ers who eventually set sail for the colonies. What I didn’t know was that the dust of my ancestors for generations was strewn throughout this land, and those ancestors had trod exactly where I stood. Perhaps their spirits were welcoming me back that day. I wish I had known then what I know now. So close, but so far away.

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Identifying Unknown African American Lineages Using DNA

My article asking Ancestry to reconsider purging 6-8 cM matches due to the effects on African American genealogy raised questions about how one could identify a lineage for an African American (or anyone really) who has no knowledge of their tree beyond a certain point in time.

That’s actually a really good question, so let me explain by using examples from my own family that illustrate how the science and matching techniques work together.

African American DNA isn’t any different than other DNA. What is different is that African Americans have absolutely no records, no surname and no context before emancipation in the 1860s and the first census in 1870. Many, and especially new researchers, have no idea where to look and without records, DNA is their only way to make connections back in time.

Unfortunately, this is also the threshold in time where the DNA of ancestors prior to 1870 is now chopped into segments the size of 6-8 cM.

Accidental Discovery

This week, while I was working on evaluating my smaller segment matches at Ancestry, I noticed that one was to an African American man, based on his profile picture, with whom I shared 7 cM.

AA Frank.png

I clicked on the match and then on Shared Matches. Even though this match is only 7cM, Shared Matches of 20 cM or above will show. The only shared matches that won’t show are shared matches below 20 cM, because they are presumed to be further back in time than 4 generations. I do wish Ancestry would show all shared matches.

We had 12 shared matches, ranging from 20 to 57 cM. some that I had previously identified as descending from the same couple.

I thought I recognized two or three of these people as having tested at other vendors.

I reached out to my match, we’ll call him Frank. He said that his mother, aunt and another relative had all tested at Ancestry too. I told Frank that I didn’t see their names in our Shared Matches, when I realized that could be because I shared less than 20 cM with them.

Sure enough, when I searched for the surname of the testers in question, they are all 4 on my match list.

AA Frank's family

Based on who we match in common at Ancestry, I *thought* I knew which ancestral couple we share in common. We all only match on one segment, but I can’t tell if it’s the same segment of course without a chromosome brower. And I can’t tell if these people also match each other at Ancestry on a common segment, although I would certainly presume so since he told me that they are closely related.

I asked Frank to transfer their results to either FamilyTreeDNA or MyHeritage, the other two vendors that accept transfers, where we can obtain segment information. Frank and two of his relatives transferred from Ancestry to FamilyTreeDNA where I’ve tested many family members over the years.

When I can identify a common ancestor with a match at any vendor that provides segment information, I paint those segments at DNAPainter.

Indeed, I did match Frank and his family members on the same segment, as do many of my cousins who are confirmed to have descended from a common ancestor.

The graphic below from DNAPainter shows all of my matches to this segment from all vendors identified to the purple couple.

AA Frank paint.png

I went to DNAPainter and painted these three smaller segment matches from Frank and his relatives, assigning them to the same ancestral couple. As you can see, they fit right in.

Can you tell which three of the people above are these three new cousins that I matched initially on 7 and 8 cM at Ancestry? No, of course not, because this is the exact same segment where I match all of my other cousins who are all assigned to the purple couple.

Given that these matches shown in purple are all descended from a specific line, my three newly-found cousins match them and must be related to that line in some way.

This match isn’t identical by chance, because their segment phases within their family, through Frank’s mother and another close relative.

We all share the same DNA, it’s phased in Frank’s family through three generations, so the conclusion must be that we share a common ancestor. This is an example of classic triangulation with many proof points.

Frank and his relatives then searched for the surname in question and found more people in their match lists from this same couple. They just didn’t know where to look before, but now they do.

If we accept that shared DNA between all of the purple people who are identified as descendants of the same ancestors share that ancestral couple’s lineage because they share the same DNA segments, and because they all match each other, then we must also accept that our three new cousins share the same genealogical line, because they share the same DNA as the previously proven cousins.

Now, of course, we need to work on geography and proximity, meaning figuring out exactly how our new cousins might descend from this line. We can also work on identifying matches to the wives lines’, if the wives are known, which may help place the most recent common ancestor. It’s also possible that we match because of an ancestor upstream of the purple couple.

In this case, there is no male in our match list that is descended from the appropriate surname line, so Y DNA testing is not an option. They are currently looking to see if they can find a qualifying male to test.

However, in another case, from some months back, we were able to identify an appropriately descended male.

The Smith Case

In this case, Smith is the fictitious biological surname. The tester, we’ll call him Joe, was an African American male who didn’t know who his family was before emancipation.

Joe and I initially discovered several random, mostly relatively small, common autosomal DNA matches that are part of an identified triangulation group. This was enough to identify the family in general and provide us with a working theory about who might have been his ancestor, but we needed more information.

Eventually, Joe found a male that descended from his ancestor who we’ll call Harold, a male emancipated when slavery ended. That man Y DNA tested, and indeed, his Y DNA matches my Smith family paternal line exactly.

Several of my proven Smith ancestor’s known relatives’ autosomal DNA matches the DNA of Harold’s family. Joe asked several family members from various children of Harold to test, and they too match various Smith descendants on many of the exact same segments of DNA.

AA Smith paint

I don’t match all of Joe’s relatives, but I do match some. On this common smaller segment of 7.7 cM, Joe’s family is painted in green and purple. My oldest progenitor, the Smith Father is painted in blue. Descendant generation matches are painted in other colors. However, since I now know that the blue portion is progenitor Smith, all of these segments can be tracked back to him on that side of the family – along with the segments carried by Joes family members who descend from multiple children of his progenitor. In reality, we now know that all these segments are actually blue – because it’s the exact same DNA.

That’s not all. There’s more evidence.

My Smith ancestor owned a female slave, and there were only two males of the right age that could have impregnated the mother of Harold who was emancipated. His mother had died before emancipation. The male child, Harold, listed as a mulatto was found in the 1870 census living in the household of the widow of father Smith. Did she, or did she not know that Harold was either her deceased husband’s son or her grandson?

In this Smith case, we have several pieces of evidence:

  • Some paper-trail records including the census and Harold’s death certificate listing his mother carrying the Smith surname. However, it was not uncommon for slaves to be identified by their master’s surnames as an identifier of ownership, not of marriage or descent. Harold’s father was listed as unknown, also not uncommon.
  • Geography – we know where both families lived which was both remote and mountainous.
  • Opportunity – two Smith males of an age to father a child, the Smith father and son, and no other Smith males.
  • Y DNA exact match of Harold’s descendant to the Smith family males at 111 markers.
  • Autosomal DNA evidence on a triangulated segment in an identified triangulation group to me, shown above, and other triangulated segments to other Smith family members.
  • Triangulated DNA in my family of people that descend from father Smith
  • Triangulated segments of DNA in Joe’s family that descend from multiple children, tracking those segments back to Harold, eliminating the possibility that they are identical by chance in the current generation

The smaller segment DNA evidence led us here. How much evidence do we need to draw at least a preliminary conclusion that Joe is a cousin? And, given that Joe’s family’s DNA matches the Smith family DNA exactly, and in descendants of multiple children in both lines, what other possible explanation is there? Add to that the Y DNA evidence.

Can I tell Joe whether Harold’s father was the Smith father or the Smith son? If Joe and his family autosomally match the ancestors of the Smith widow, then Joe’s ancestor is (probably) the child of the Smith son. So far, they don’t, so it’s most likely that the Smith father is our common ancestor, not the Smith son.

Joe then added Harold as a child of my Smith ancestor on Ancestry, using Harold’s biological surname, Smith, in an attempt to cause a ThruLine to form. Of course, had Joe used a different surname, one that Harold adopted at emancipation, assuming it was different from Smith, the ThruLine would not have formed. Another challenge for African American researchers or anyone whose biological surname is not the same as their surname used.

When I checked my ThruLines this week, I found three people descended from our common ancestor, Joe plus two more family members that I didn’t know had tested at Ancestry.

AA Smith match.png

These matches are now safely “saved” and won’t disappear when the purge occurs in early August, but the two 6 cM matches would clearly have disappeared otherwise and the 8 cM segment at Ancestry was a 7.7 segment at the other testing company, so it would likely have disappeared too. Ancestry rounds.

Joe’s segment match to me was the key to being able to reconnect our families initially. Without this critical clue, we would never have been able to reunite our family. Yes, we are a family. We’ve met and had a reunion. We’ve shared meals. I am watching his beautiful children grown up. And we would never have found each other without DNA.

All thanks to those segments between 6 and 8 cM that some opine aren’t real and aren’t relevant.

Some matches aren’t relevant which is why we need more evidence than one match, but some are very valid and therein lies the gold.

pexels-photo-1371168

Those matches are the gateway to research – clues to be evaluated just like any other clue. All evidence must be evaluated, genetic or otherwise.

We don’t discard census records out of hand because they might not be our ancestor without evaluating the evidence presented. DNA matches that stand a 50% chance of being accurate (at 7 cMs) and not false positive shouldn’t be categorically dismissed either.

A starving person doesn’t discard a basket of produce because only half of it is edible. Yet, that’s what’s about to happen.

African American Testing

African Americans who test have a blank slate, with no surnames, to work with before emancipation. Segment matches, and often segments between 6 and 8 cM because the passage of time has whittled them to this size, are the clues that allow African American researchers to begin reassembling their ancestral family.

In many cases, genealogists more fortunate don’t need smaller segment matches to piece together our family puzzles, but those working with little or no information on any line before 1870 need every clue they can get. The rest of us can simply ignore what we don’t want – but they can’t recover something taken from them.

Had it not been for that 8 cM match with Joe (actually 7.7 at the other vendor), I wouldn’t have found those cousins, and I wouldn’t have been able to figure out the line through which we are related. Without my work with known family, it’s very unlikely that Joe and his family would have been able to figure this out with no context. For them, it was a needle in the haystack. For me, I had already identified those ancestors and assigned relevant DNA segments to those ancestors. For me, there were records outside of DNA and DNA only confirmed my genealogy. For them, DNA is all they have – just a genetic  prayer.

These are just two examples of how DNA connections reassemble families for African Americans specifically and other researchers whose more distant family members are unknown.

Please Share

Feel free to share your experiences in the comments.

Please also share this and my original article with your genealogy friends and organizations. This topic is not welcome in some places. We don’t have long, so it’s up to you to spread the word.

Plea to Ancestry – Rethink Match Purge Due to Deleterious Effect on African American Genealogists

I’m still hopeful that Ancestry will reconsider. It benefits them, and us, to do so.

Ancestry’s email is ancestrysupport@ancestry.com and phone is 1-800-958-9124.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun DNA Stuff

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

MyHeritage Users Being Targeted with Phishing Emails – Other Vendors May Be Next – Instructions to Protect Yourself

hack fraud.png

An email containing an image, shown below, saying MyHeritage V2 ethnicity estimates are available is being sent from a fraudulent email account, info@myheritaqe.com (with a q instead of a g), encouraging users to click to review their matches.

hack q

This email was not sent by MyHeritage and is fraudulent. DO NOT CLICK. Delete.

hack mh fraud email.png

MyHeritage users are receiving emails from a fake account with the subject “Ethnicity Estimate V2” which attempts to lure users into signing into a fake website set up to look like the legitimate MyHeritage website. The fake website has a similar domain name, except with a q instead of a g, and has stolen the MyHeritage main website picture to look legitimate.

Please read the MyHeritage article, here. To be very clear, MyHeritage has NOT been breached, but bad actors have harvested emails, probably from the GEDmatch security breach, which I wrote about here, and are using them to try to target MyHeritage users.

Word of warning – any other vendor’s customers may be targeted too. Be very very leary right now of any emails.

What Happened?

It appears that email addresses retrieved from the GEDmatch breach either are or may be being used to target users. Be sure if you are going to renew a subscription that you are on the legitimate website, by verifying that the website name in your browser line shows the MyHeritage name accurately and not misspelled in any way.

hack web

Note the g instead of a q – this is the legitimate MyHeritage website.

To date, there are no reports of MyHeritage users who did NOT upload to GEDmatch from MyHeritage receiving targeted emails, but that may simply be a matter of time.

Other Vendors

There are also no reports of GEDmatch customers who uploaded files from other vendors being targeted, but that may be coming. Stay vigilant.

Protect Yourself

Always, always check the sender information and look for words that are similar but not accurate. Examples might be 23amdMe instead of 23andMe, or Ancesty instead of Ancestry or FamlyTreeDNA instead of FamilyTreeDNA. You get the idea. These are just examples that your brain “fixes” for you – which is what hackers are counting on.

Here are some ways to protect yourself:

  • At MyHeritage turn on two-factor authentication. Their article includes instructions.
  • When looking at emails, always truly LOOK AT and evaluate the sender.

These are examples of legitimate emails.

hack email ftdna.png

I can see that this website name is accurate.

hack email mh

I can see that MyHeritage is spelled correctly here, and it matches all of the other Smart Match notifications I’ve received.

hack ancestry.png

This is the address my Ancestry notifications come from, spelled correctly.

hack 23andme

And at 23andMe.

Please note that a normal email doesn’t guarantee that the email is legitimate, as addresses can and are spoofed regularly. However, an odd email guarantees that it’s NOT legit.

Protection on a Phone

On my phone mail, I click on the sender’s ID a couple of times until it finally displays in this format. I retrieved this email out of my spam folder, someone wanting me to click on a link. Yea, right.

Clearly, this person is not Chondell Campbell.

Hack chondell.jpg

I don’t know a Chondell Campbell, but even if I did, email addresses are hijacked all the time. I would never, ever click on any link that I can’t clearly see, nor from someone if I wasn’t expecting the information.

Call me paranoid but I’m also safe.

Change Your Password

Just to be safe, you may want to change your passwords occasionally. Don’t use the same password on multiple sites. If you already have, change them now.

Always pick a very irritating long secure strong password. You may want to use a tool like LastPass. Some people use song lyrics.

I’ve noticed a real uptick in bad-actors and emails with phishing attempts in the past few weeks/months. Increase your suspicion level from yellow to full-on red right now.

hack stop light

Don’t Click

Don’t click until you are sure, on emails, on messages, on social media or on any website. Not EVER!

We Will Get Through This

I know this is disheartening on top of pandemic and politics and whatever else is going on in your life. Keep heart. We’ll get through this.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun DNA Stuff

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

GEDmatch Security Breach

7-21-2020 Update: Please note that information retrieved from the GEDmatch breach may be being used to send phishing emails intending to lure users into signing into a fake website set up to look like MyHeritage, but is not. If you receive an email that seems suspicious or has the title “Ethnicity Estimate v2,” do not click. Do delete that email. Please read the MyHeritage article, here. To be very clear, MyHeritage has NOT been breached, but bad actors have harvested emails and are using them to try to lure targeted MyHeritage users.

Original article:

I always hate to have to report security breaches within the genealogy community, but GEDmatch not only experienced a breach over the weekend, they are still down while the situation is under investigation.

In a nutshell, for about 3 hours on Sunday, July 19th, all of the accounts, including law enforcement kits, were available in match lists for everyone. Also, kits that had been opted out of law enforcement matching were apparently, based on screen shots of their security settings taken by users who signed on during that time, also available to law enforcement in match lists.

Here are the three announcements on their Facebook page in order of posting.

The first one was posted on July 19 at 6:09 PM.

Gedmatch breach 4

The update was posted on Monday, July 20th. GEDmatch was up for part of the day, but is now down again and will be for some time.

Gedmatch breach 3.png

GEDmatch is now down again.

GEdmatch breach 2

GEDmatch needs to stay down until an independent security firm verifies that the site is secure.

Thoughts

First, I’m concerned about the breach itself and if anything was compromised internally. GEDmatch (Verogen) has been transparent about this, and I have every reason to think they will continue as information becomes available.

Second, I hope Verogen, who now owns GEDmatch, is working with a professional security firm to conduct a security audit. I provided technology consulting for many years in the municipal government sector and I always encouraged my customers to engage with security professionals that challenge websites by having good hackers attempt to break in. This provides the website owner with the opportunity of discovering weaknesses and vulnerabilities before they are exploited by either opportunists or bad guys.

Third, any company that deals with our DNA, our private information and/or or credit card and financial information has an imperative to protect our data by protecting their website at the highest levels possible. And yes, this is a specialty area in technology and expensive. (Take note everyone who wonders why things can’t just be free.)

Fourth, working with law enforcement and handling law enforcement kits means that my third thought should be multiplied several times. GEDmatch’s responsibility is increased and customers, both individual and law enforcement agencies, must be able to have confidence that the company handling their data is both responsible and technically savvy enough to protect their website, and by implication, their customers’ data.

Fifth, while GEDmatch is not the first company, nor the first genealogy company to suffer a breach, this is more serious because data was actually exposed to people who were not supposed to see it, not just hacked from behind. Most hackers try to cover their tracks so companies don’t know they were hacked, if at all, until much later. The fact that this was so public suggests that the perpetrator or perpetrators were trying to harm GEDmatch, probably because of their work with law enforcement, although we won’t know until the investigation is complete. Of course, some people do things like this simply “because they can.” The goal of this hack initially does not appear to be theft of data, but of public exposure.

The Future

I’m not making any decision about the future until after I see what happens. As a consumer, all I can say right now is “we’ll see.” I would like to see an independent security firm audit and would feel much more comfortable if I know that has happened and any issues have been satisfactorily remediated.

I’ll also add that I feel incredibly badly for any company that has to deal with hacked sites and situations like this, especially when the goal seems to be to inflict harm, and the tactic will surely succeed at some level.

_____________________________________________________________

Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun DNA Stuff

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

Plea to Ancestry – Rethink Match Purge Due to Deleterious Effect on African American Genealogists

I know this article is not going to be popular with some people and probably not with Ancestry, but this is something I absolutely must say. Those of us in the position of influencers with a public voice bear responsibility for doing such.

Let me also add that if you are of European heritage and you think this topic doesn’t apply to you – if you have any unidentified ancestors – it does. Don’t discount and skip over. Please read. Our voices need to be heard in unison.

Ancestry Lewis.jpg

The Bottom Line

Here’s the bottom line. Ancestry’s planned purge of smaller segments, 6-8 cM, is the exact place that African Americans (and mixed Native Americans too) find their ancestral connections. This community has few other options.

I’m sure, given the Ancestry blog post by Margo Georgiadis, Ancestry’s President and CEO on June 3rd that this detrimental effect is not understood nor intentional.

Ancestry Margo

Margo goes on to say, “At Ancestry, our products seek to democratize access to everyone’s family story and to bring people together.”

Yet, this planned match purge at the beginning of August does exactly the opposite. The outpouring of anguish from African American researchers has been palpable as they’ve described repeatedly how they use these segments to identify their genetic ancestors.

Additionally, my own experiences with discovering several African American cousins over the past few days as I’ve been working to preserve these smaller segment matches has been pronounced. I can even tell them which family they connect through. A gift them simply cannot receive in any other way – other than genetic connections

These two factors, combined, the community outcry and my own recent experiences are what have led me to write this article. In other words, I simply can’t NOT write it.

I trust and have faith that Ancestry will rethink their decision and utilize this opportunity for good and take positive action. Accordingly, I’ve provided suggestions for how Ancestry can make changes that will allow people on both sides of this equation, meaning those who want to keep those smaller segment matches and those glad to be rid of them, to benefit – and how to do this before it’s too late.

I don’t know if Ancestry has African American genealogists who are both passionate and active, or mixed-race genealogists, on their management decision-making team or in their influencer group, but they should.

I don’t think Ancestry realizes the impact of what they are doing. African American research is different. Here’s why.

African American History and Genetic Genealogy

Slavery ended in the US in the 1860s. Formerly enslaved persons who had no agency and control over their own lives or bodies then adopted surnames.

We find them in the 1870 census carrying a surname of unknown origin. Some adopted their former owner’s surname, some adopted others. Generally today, their descendants don’t know why or how their surnames came to be.

Almost all descendants of freed slaves are admixed today, a combination of African, European and sometimes Native Americans who were enslaved alongside Africans.

Closer DNA matches reflect known and unknown family in the 3 or 4 generations since 1870, generally falling in the 2nd to 4th cousin range, depending on the ages of the people at the time of emancipation and also the distance between births in subsequent generations.

Ancestry freed ancestors.png

The three red generations are the potential testers today. The cM values, the amount of potential matching DNA at those relationship levels are taken from DNAPainter, here, which is an interactive representation of Blaine Bettinger’s Shared cM Project.

Assuming we’re not dealing with an adoption or unknown parent situation, most people either know or can fairly easily piece together their family through first or second cousins.

You can see that it’s not until we get to the third and fourth cousin level that genealogists potentially encounter small segment matches. However, at that level, the average match is still significantly above the Ancestry purge threshold of 6-8 cM. In other words, we might lose some of those matches, but the closer the match, the higher the probability that we will match them (at all) and that we will match them above the purge threshold.

Looking again at the DNAPainter charts, we see that it’s not until we move further out in terms of relationships that the average drops to those lower ranges.

Ancestry DNAPainter

Here’s the challenge – relationships that occurred before the time of emancipation are only going to be reflected in relationships more distant than fourth cousins – and that is the exact range where smaller segment matches can and do come into play most often.

The more distant the relationship, the smaller the average amount of shared DNA, which means the more likely you are ONLY to be able to identify the relationship through repeated matching of other people who share that same ancestor.

Let me give you an example. If you match repeatedly to a group of people who descend from Thomas Dodson in colonial Virginia, through multiple children, especially on the same segment, you need to focus on the Dodson family in your research. If you’re a male and your Y DNA matches the Dodson line closely, that’s a huge hint. This holds for any researcher, especially for females without surnames, but it applies to all ancestral lines for African American researchers.

If an African American researcher is trying to identify their genetic ancestors, that likely includes ancestors of European origin. Yes, this is an uncomfortable topic, but it’s the unvarnished truth.

Full stop.

How Can African Americans Identify European Ancestors?

While enslaved people did not have surnames from the beginning of their history on these shores until emancipation, European families did. Male lines carried the same surname generation to generation, and female surnames changes in a predictable pattern, allowing genealogists to track them backward in time (hopefully.)

Given that African American researchers are literally “flying blind,” attempting to identify people with whom to reconnect, with no knowledge of which families or surnames, they must be able to use both DNA matches and the combined ancestral trees of their matches in order to make meaningful connections.

For more information on how this is accomplished, please read the articles here and here.

Tool or Method How it Works Available at Ancestry?
Y DNA for males Identifies the direct paternal line by surnames and also the haplogroup provides information as to the ancestral source such as European, African, Asian or Native American. No, only available at FamilyTreeDNA.
Mitochondrial DNA Identifies the direct matrilineal line. The haplogroup shows the ancestral source such as European, Native American, Asian or African. You can read about the different kinds of DNA, here. No, only available at FamilyTreeDNA
Clustering Identifies people all matching the tester and also matching to each other. No, available through Genetic Affairs and DNAGedcom before Ancestry issued a cease and desist letter to them in June.
Genetic Trees Tools to combine the trees of your matches to each other to identify common ancestors of your matches. You do not need a known tree for this to work. No, available at Genetic Affairs before Ancestry issued a cease and desist letter to them.
Downloading Match Information Including the direct ancestors for your matches. No, Ancestry does not allow this, and tools like Pedigree Thief and DNAGedcom that did provide this functionality were served with cease-and-desist orders.
Painting Segments Painting segments at DNAPainter allows the tester to identify the ancestral source of their segments. Multiple matches to people with the same ancestor indicates descent from that line. This is how I identify which line my matches are related to me through – and how I can tell my African American cousins how they are related and which family they descend from. No. Ancestry does not provide segment location information, so painting is not possible with Ancestry matches unless both people transfer to companies that provide matching segment information and a chromosome browser (MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA)
ThruLines at Ancestry Matches your tree to same ancestor in other people’s trees. ThruLines is available to all testers, but the tester MUST have a tree and some connection to an ancestor in their tree before this works. Potential ancestors are sometimes suggested predicated on people already in the tester’s tree connected to ancestors in their matches trees. For ThruLines to work, a connection must be in someone’s tree so a connection can be made. There are no tree links for pre-emancipation owned families. Those connections must be made by DNA.
DNA Matching Matching shows who you match genetically. Testers must validate that the match is identical by descent and not identical by chance by identifying the segment’s ancestry and confirming through either a parental match or matching to multiple cousins descending from the same ancestor at that same location. Segments of 7 cM have about a 50-50 chance of being legitimate and not false matches. Of course, that means that 50% are valid and tools can be utilized to determine which matches are and are not valid. All matches are hints, one way or another. You can read more, here. Ancestry performs matching, but does not provide segment information. Testers can, however, look for multiple matches with the same ancestors in their trees. Automated tools such as Genetic Affairs cannot be used, so this needs to be done one match at a time. The removal of smaller segment matches will remove many false matches, but will also remove many valid matches and with them, the possibility of using those matches to identify genetic ancestors several generations ago, before 1870.
Shared Matching Shows tester the people who match in common with them and another match. Ancestry only shows shared matches of “fourth cousins and closer,” meaning only 20 cM and above. This immediately eliminates many if not most relevant shared matches from before emancipation – along with any possibility of recovering that information.

The Perfect, or Imperfect, Storm

As you can see from the chart above, African American genealogists are caught in the perfect, or imperfect, storm. Many tools are not available at Ancestry at all, and some that were have been served with cease-and-desist letters.

The segments this community most desperately needs to make family connections are the very ones most in jeopardy of being removed. They need the ability to look at those matches, not just alone, but in conjunction with people they match in clusters, plus trees of those clustered matches to identify their common ancestors.

Ancestry has the largest database but provides very few tools to benefit people who are searching for unknown ancestors, especially before 1850 – meaning people who don’t have surnames to work with.

Of course, this doesn’t just apply to African American researchers, but any genealogist who is searching for women whose surnames they don’t know. This also applies to people with unknown parentage that occurred a few generations back in time.

However, the difference is that African American genealogists don’t have ANY surnames to begin with. They literally hit their brick wall at 1870 and need automated tools to breach those walls. Removing their smaller segment matches literally removes the only tool they have to work with – the small scraps and tidbits available to them.

Yes, false matches will be removed, but all of their valid matches in that range will be removed too – nullifying any possibility of discovery.

A Plan Forward

You’ve probably figured out by now that I’m no longer invited to the Ancestry group calls. I’m fine with that because I’m not in any way constrained by embargoes or expectations. I only mention this for those of you who wonder why I’m saying this now, publicly, and why I didn’t say it earlier, privately, to Ancestry. I would have, had the opportunity arisen.

That said, I want to focus on finding a way forward.

Some options are clearly off the table. I’m sure Ancestry is not going to add Y or mitochondrial DNA testing, since they did that once and destroyed that database, along with the Sorenson database later. I’m equally as sure that they are not going to provide segment location information or a chromosome browser. I know that horse is dead, but still, chromosome browser…

My goal is to identify some changes Ancestry can make quickly that will result in a win-win for all researchers. It goes without saying that if researchers are happy, they buy more kits, and eventually, Ancestry will be happier too.

Right now, there are a lot, LOT, of unhappy researchers, but not everyone. So what can we do to make everyone happier?

Immediate Solutions

  • Remove the cease and desist orders from the third-party tools like Genetic Affairs, DNAGedcom, Pedigree Thief and other third-party tools that researchers use for clustering, automated tree construction, downloading and managing matches.

This action could be implemented immediately and will provide HUGE benefits for the African American research community along with anyone who is searching for ancestors with no surnames. Who among us doesn’t have those?

  • Instead of purging small segment matches, implement a setting where people can define the threshold where they no longer see matches. The match would still appear to the other person. If I don’t want to see matches under 8 cM, I can select that level. If someone else wants to see all matches to 6 cM, they simply do nothing and see everything.
  • Continue to provide new matches to the 6 cM level. In other words, don’t just preserve what’s there today, but continue to provide this match level to genealogists.
  • Add shared matches under 20 cM so that genealogists know they do form clusters with multiple matches.

Longer-Term Solutions

  • Partner with companies like Genetic Affairs and DNAgedcom, tools that provided not just match data, but automated solutions. These wouldn’t have been so popular if they weren’t so effective.
  • Implement some form of genetic networks, like clustering. Alternatively, form alliances with and embrace the tools that already exist.

The Message Customers Hear

By serving the third-parts tools that serious genealogists used daily with cease-and-desist orders, then deleting many of our matches that can be especially useful when combined with automated tools, the message to genealogists is that our needs aren’t important and aren’t being heard.

For African American genealogists, these tools and smaller matches are the breadcrumbs, the final breadcrumb trail when there is nothing else at all that has the potential to connect them with their ancestors and connect us all together.

Let me say this again – many African Americans have nothing else.

To remove these small matches, rays of hope, is nothing short of immeasurably cruel, and should I say it, just one more instance of institutionalized racism, perpetrated without thinking. One more example of things the African American community cannot have today because of what happened to them and their ancestors in their past.

Plea

I will close this plea to Ancestry with another quote from Margaret Georgiadis from Ancestry’s blog.

Ancestry Margo 2.png

Businesses don’t get to claim commitment when convenient and then act otherwise. I hope this article has helped Ancestry to see a different perspective that they had not previously understood. Everyone makes mistakes and has to learn, companies included.

Ancestry, this ball’s in your court.

Feedback to Ancestry

I encourage you to provide feedback to Ancestry, immediately, before it’s too late.

You can do this by any or all of the following methods:

Ancestry support

Ancestry BLM.png

Speak out on social media, in groups where you are a member, or anyplace else that you can. Let’s find a solution, quickly, before it’s too late in another 10 days or so.

As John Lewis said, #goodtrouble.

Make a difference.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun DNA Stuff

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

Johann Dietrich Koob (c 1670 -1734), Courageous Mayor of Fussgoenheim – 52 Ancestors #293

We don’t know exactly when Johann Theobald Koob was born, but we think it was about 1670, most likely in or near Fussgoenheim, Germany. This means he probably married sometime between 1695 and 1700.

My friend Christoph purchased a book about the history of Fussgoenheim. In this book, we discover that Johann Dietrich Koob was Mayor of Fussgoenheim in 1730.

Koob Mayor 1480.jpg

Interestingly, another Koob family member, Hand Nikel Kob (Johann Nicolaus Koob) was the mayor in 1701. This man was surely related to Johann Dietrich, although the relationship is uncertain.

Even more interesting, perhaps, is that in 1528 Lorenz Kob was mayor. Koob is often spelled Kob and Coob. In 1480 Debalt Kalbe was mayor. Is Kalbe another form of Koob? I’m guessing yes, but there’s no way to know.

What we can discern from these records is that the Koob family was living in this village for at least 200 years by the time that Johann Dieterich arrived on the scene, if not longer. This is stroke of unbelievable luck, because this area was entirely depopulated and abandoned during the Thirty Years’ War from about 1618 to 1648, with few of the original residents returning to their former homes – assuming they survived. The fact that we can place the surname, which I’m presuming means the same family, in Fussgoenheim before that war is an amazing stroke of fortune.

In 1700, the entire village consisted of 150-200 residents, or 30-40 houses, so the village had never been large – just group of German farmhouses clustered together. If we extrapolate that the population doubled in each generation, then the population in 1650, after the war, would have been maybe 7-10 families.  After families returned, it still wasn’t smooth sailing because there were two more invasions by French soldiers in 1674 and beginning in 1688 that took a heavy toll.

Two hundred years equates to about 8 generations. This means that these early Koob men living in Fussgoenheim in the 1500s were Catholics, given that the Reformation occurred in 1534. The Protestant Lutheran church in Fussgoenheim existed by 1600 and was probably the original Catholic church building. The current church was rebuilt in the late 1720s or early 1730s, sometime before 1733.

Fussgoenheim church records don’t exist before 1726. Aside from this list of mayors, the little we do know about Johann Dietrich Koob’s life comes from the records having to do with his children.

Four Children

We know that Johann Dieterich Koob (or Kob), Dieter as he was called, had at least 4 children, all born before the church records begin. He probably had more. We have to surmise their birth order and approximate ages based on their marriages.

  • Johann Theobald Koob was married on February 21, 1730 to Maria Catharina Kirsch.
  • Maria Catharina Koob married Johann Matthaus Sahler (or Saller) in Fussgoenheim on April 21, 1733.
  • Johann Simon Koob married next. The actual translation is important.

Marriage: the 22nd of November 1735 were married the unmarried Simon Kob, legitimate son of the late Dieterich Kob, former mayor with the young lady, Margaretha Renner, legitimate daughter of the honorable Martin Renner, local citizen.  Married after the wedding homily: Gen 2 18.

This marriage records tells us that Johann Dieterich Koob has died, but he was apparently still living in 1733 when Maria Catharina married.

Three years before, the Fussgoenheim church records state that:

January 14, 1731, a son of Johann Georg Spanier and his wife, child named Johann Simon, was baptized and the godparents were the son of Mr. Dietrick Koob, local mayor and Anna Margaretha, Johann Martin Renner’s daughter from here.

This record doesn’t indicate “late.”

  • George Heinrich Koob, the fourth child, was married in 1736.

Marriage: the 17th of January 1736 were married in the local church, he honorable young bachelor, Georg Henrich Kob, legitimate son of the late Dieter Kob(in), mayor of the exalted free county Hallberg with Anna Margaretha Kirsch(in), legitimate daughter of the late Wilhelm Kirsch, former member of the court.  The wedding homily was 1 Timothy…….?

Anna Margareta Kirsch was the sister of Maria Catharina Kirsch who married George Henrich’s brother in 1730.

It’s from these records that we discern that “Dieter” was a mayor, and roughly when he died. It’s sad that he was only able to be present for his older two childrens’ marriages.

I’m glad to see that Dieter had three sons because that means there’s a possibility that a Koob male exists today – descended directly from Johann Dietrich and carrying the Koob surname and associated Y chromosome. Y DNA is passed from father to son. By testing the Y chromosome, we can look even further back in time to determine where the Koob line may have come from – before Fussgoenheim. If you’re a Koob male from this line, I have a Y DNA testing scholarship for you. Just leave a comment or give me a shout.

Gone too Soon

Dieter’s burial record is recorded in the Fussgoenheim church books.

Koob Johann Dieter death

Burial: 21 November 1734 midday between noon and 1 p.m. died Herr Johann Dieterich Kob former mayor here and was buried on the 23rd of the same (month). Funeral Text: 2 Cos. V ? 1…

This record reveals that he died on November 21st and was buried on November 23rd. His time of death is noted as after noon. That day was a Sunday. Unfortunately, the record doesn’t give his age, but the burial record of his wife, a few months later, gives hers.

Burial: the 20th of April 1735 in the afternoon between 3 and 4 p.m. died, the widow of the mayor, Anna Catharina Kob(in), aged 60 years.  Funeral Tex …..

Anna Catharina was only 60, so born about 1675. She may have been a little younger than Johann Dietrich Koob, but probably not a lot. He apparently died when he was about 60-65 as well.

Funeral Sermon Invokes Courage

Fussgoenheim distance.jpg

I love it when the reverend records the funeral text. This allows me to read what was said, and with a bit of imagination, to close my eyes and see what might have transpired that cool fall day in the Lutheran church that smelled of fresh-hewn wood, sporting a new white steeple, nestled in the little village of Fussgoenheim, beneath the mountains, in Germany.

2 Corinthians 5:1,6-10

We have an everlasting home in heaven.

2 Corinthians 5:1,6-10

A Reading from the Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthians.

We know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a Dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven. So we are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord. Therefore, we aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.

This passage speaks of courage.

Courage

Dieter was mayor of Fussgoenheim in 1730. We don’t know when he became Mayor. Most of the information we find about occupations are from various church records where that information is sometimes, and sometimes not, included, almost as an afterthought.

We know that in 1701, he wasn’t Mayor, but Hans Nikel Koob was. Johann Dieter Koob was a young man in 1701, most likely just married.

Born about 1670, his childhood would have been filled with memories of invading French troops and devastation. He probably lived through the destruction of their home, possibly more than once.

While the Thirty Years’ War ended before he was born, there was more devastation in store for the families who lived in this area.

In 1674, this area was again ravaged by Louis VIV’s armies.

In 1688, the French King sent nearly 50,000 men with instructions “that the Palatinate should be made a desert.” His commander gave the half million residents 3 days notice that they must leave their homes, causing thousands to die of cold and hunger. Many who survived became beggars on the streets of other European cities. Again France devastated the area.

During the War of the Grand Alliance from 1689-1697, the French troops under Louis XIV, ravaged the Palatinate, again.

In 1707, another French army did the same. By now, every castle on the Rhine had been destroyed. The French occupied the Palatinate for a year, sending anything of value back to the coffers of King Louis XIV.

This would have either broken Dieter, or strengthened him with incredible resolve – and yes – courage. His trials were not yet over. In fact, one might say, they were just beginning.

In 1728, Jakob Tilman von Hallberg initially obtained half of the village through noble inheritance becoming the feudal lord. Then, on September 14, 1728, he acquired the entire village.

In 1729, Hallberg began a resurvey of the land, ostensibly in order to understand the relationship of the residents to each other, and how taxes were to be charged. Some land was privately owned, but most was not. However, the “resurvey” whittled the privately owned land via inheritance down to approximately one third of the originally sized farms by redividing property and building new roads. This left some fields disconnected from their owner’s property, and Hallberg then considered them abandoned and confiscated them for himself.

The history of the village of Fussgoenheim tells us that according to the land survey, the district of Fußgönheim comprised at that time 2,869 3/4 acres of land, 95 % of which were in the possession of clergymen or of certain masters or were communal property. Only 146 3/4 acres were owned by private persons. According to the renovation protocol, Hallberg had 386 acres of land as his own property. This would be the so-called “abandoned property” confiscated by him.

The village population was probably about the same as it had been in 1700, so about 30-40 homes total.

Private owners averaged about 15 acres each, but the resurvey shrank their farms to 4.67 acres, on average.

I don’t know how the villagers and Dieter felt about Hallberg in 1728, but surely in 1729 when it was noticed that he was “cheating” by having shortened the measure of the rod he was using to resurvey the properties, concern followed by unrest would have built gradually among men’s conversations at the local tavern or after church, then burst open like a seed pod in summer.

The situation grew increasingly difficult.

Another dispute arose over the community’s sheep pasture, the lease of which had brought the community an annual income of 100 gulden. Hallberg claimed the pasture for himself in a letter of feudal title dated July 30, 1728. The residents, on the other hand, referred to their “old rights.” The dispute ended in 1733 with a compromise: Hallberg got the sheep pasture under the condition that not too many sheep graze on it.

Another accusation against Hallberg was that he had transferred the tithe income of middle-class farms. In Fußgönheim there were three bourgeois courts which had a share of the tithe income.

Hallberg withdrew this income on the grounds that the owners refused to contribute to the costs of building the Lutheran Church.

The lucrative “Weinschank,” i.e. the right to run a wine tavern, was auctioned by Hallberg for 120 gulden annually; before that it was free.

Hallberg also introduced a new levy of 15 Malcer oats to be paid annually to his magistrate.

In the face of massive resistance from the community, Hallberg had the village siezed for two months by a corporal and six men. When the inhabitants refused to pay 71 guldens every 114 days for their accommodation, he had 7 cattle, 1 cow, clothes, guns, and household goods taken away without further ado and auctioned them off in Worms.

Later documentation accuses the next Mayor, Johann Michael Kirsch of instigating riots and civil unrest. In 1743, the village jurors refused to sign the resurvey and Dieter’s son, Johann Theobald Koob, among them, was expelled from the village from 1744 to 1753.

It took courage to stand up against the lord. It was a battle that peasants, even comparatively wealthy farmers, as compared to serfs, probably couldn’t win.

Given that Dieter would have been about 60 in 1730, and died 4 years later, I can’t help but wonder if the stress of the David vs Goliath war with Hallberg contributed to an untimely death. I also wonder about worse.

Courage, indeed. These times tested his mettle at a level we can’t even imagine today. Confiscation of land was no idle threat, with the memory of 4 separate events that resulted in horrific devastation to the residents from 1618 through 1798 fresh in everyone’s minds. There was no question that the threat of losing everything was all too real. Yet, these brave German men persisted in the face of unwinnable odds.

Dieter died in the midst of this battle, but his son, Johann Theobald continued the fight. Against all odds, the Koob family was allowed to return to Fussgoenheim, triumphant, in 1753, although we don’t know what happened to Dieter’s original land. His battle had not been in vain. I’d wager his son, Theobald, visited his grave to have a celebatory glass of wine.

The Future

Life would change dramatically for Dieter’s descendants after at least a few decades of relative peace. In 1792, the feudal government disintegrated and a new form of government emerged with the French once again in charge until 1816 when this part of Germany was freed from the French. At that time, Andreas Koob, Dieter’s great-grandson, became the first mayor of Fussgoenheim in 18 years and German would once again become the official language.

Koob mayor 2.jpg

More Koob men would follow in Dieter’s footsteps as Mayor of Fussgoenheim. He apparently started a tradition.

Not the End

While Johann Dietrich Koob is the earliest Koob ancestor that I can currently document in Fussgoenheim, he was neither the end, nor the beginning.

We know positively that generations preceded him in Fussgoenheim. Based on the baptismal record for his son’s child, it’s unlikely that Johann Nicholas Koob, an earlier mayor, was Dieter’s father, but we can’t rule that out at this point entirely. However, it’s possible that Mayor Koob was raising Dieter if something had happened to his parents amidst the preceding warfare.

It’s likely that Lorenz Kob, Mayor in 1528 was our ancestor too. He was assuredly a relative, even if not a direct ancestor.

It’s probable that Debalt Kalbe was really Koob in 1480 as well.

The Koob legacy in Fussgoenheim and this part of Germany reaches back hundreds of years in time.

It also reaches forward in time. Three Koob men, all his descendants, would follow in Dieter’s footsteps as Mayor, one immediately after the French occupation, shepherding the citizens through that difficult time into a new era.

  • Andreas Koob was the first mayor after the French occupation ended in 1816.
  • Johann Dieterich Koob was Mayor from 1830 to 1834, Dieter’s namesake great-grandson.
  • Jakob Koob III, Mayor 1900-1909, built the current town hall, the Rathaus in German, that still stands on the main corner of Fussgoenheim.

Koob Rathaus.jpg

We are fortunate to have a photo of Jakob, the Mayor who took office in 1909.

Koob, Jakob mayor 1909

We have no way of knowing, of course, what Johann Dieter Koob looked like, but with the generations of intermarriage and gene-sharing within the small community, it wouldn’t be a huge stretch to look at Jakob Koob III, the Mayor in 1909, and surmise that he at least resembled his Koob ancestors somewhat.

Jacob Koob IIII was Dieter’s 4 times great-grandson and married Anna Margaretha Koob.

Do we see the shadow of Johann Dietrich Koob when looking at Jacob III or Anna Margaretha?

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