About Roberta Estes

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

William Tully Brown, USMC Navajo Code Talker, Passes Over

Veteran USMC William Tully Brown, Navajo Code Talker

Photo courtesy Vee F. Browne-Yellowhair.

USMC Veteran, William Tully Brown, Navajo Code Talker, wearing his uniform for the last time when he swabbed to provide his DNA for posterity. What a legacy this man leaves, literally from the beginning of his life to the very end.

William Passes Over

This isn’t the article I was supposed to be writing. 

My flight was booked for Wednesday, June 5th. On the afternoon of the 5th and the 6th, I was supposed to be meeting William Brown. Explaining his DNA results to him in a way that a 96-year-old man can understand and thanking him for his service. I was preparing a little booklet for William so he could show visitors.

I was looking forward to hearing the stories of this incredible man who made history.

William reminds me of my father and was born exactly 2 months before my mother. I referred to him as “Cheii,” or “Grandfather” in Navajo. In the Native culture where I was raised, Grandfather is an honorary way of addressing someone older and for whom you have great respect.

William was incredibly proud of his Navajo heritage as well as his service to his country as a Code Talker.

William passed over early this morning, “walking on” to the next world. You can read more about his passing, here. I honored William on Memorial Day with a special article, here.

My condolences to William’s family and especially his daughter, Vee, who has become my sister-of-heart.

The Code Talker Quilt

As we were arranging the trip to Arizona, I knew I needed to make William a quilt, and quickly. It had to be a very special quilt – fitting for a true American hero, one of very few who had received the Congressional medal of honor.

Code Talker Quilt

I was incredibly honored to be able to provide this gift of love and comfort to one so richly deserving. The person in the star part of the quilt is a Native American wearing a Congressional Medal of Honor. Could there be a more fitting image?

Thankfully, everything worked perfectly, and the quilt went together seamlessly (pardon the pun), albeit mostly in the middle of the night. My special friend, Pam, quilted it the next night, and the following day, the quilt was photographed, boxed and on its way. Record time!

Roberta Estes with Code Talker Quilt

As William’s quilt was winging its way to Arizona, his DNA was winging its way to the Family Tree DNA lab in Houston for advanced Y and mitochondrial DNA testing thanks to Vee.

My husband overnighted the quilt on Friday before Memorial Day when we realized that William might not live until my visit on the 5th. Plus, I wanted William to be able to enjoy the quilt for as long as possible, given that his time on earth was limited. But, ironically, the Memorial Day holiday interfered.

I was looking forward to taking a picture with William and the quilt this week. Sadly, that wasn’t to be.

The quilt will now be used by William’s family to honor him Thursday at his funeral.

Unfortunately, I cancelled my travel plans when William was so gravely ill, not wanting to be intrusive at a difficult and private time, so I won’t physically be there with them – only in spirit. His family was very generous with their invitation.

William’s Legacy

William left an incredible legacy, stretching over three quarters of a century. First, saving our Nation in our time of desperate need followed by his final act 74 years later being that of a humanitarian. Contributing his DNA to unknown generations in the future – connecting them through the threads of time. Vee said that he loved everyone, and it showed.

Veteran, patriot, hero, humanitarian.


Rest in Peace, William Tully Brown.

Semper fi

USMC Navajo Code Talker patch

Genographic Project Prepares to Shut Down Consumer Data Base

Today, on the National Geographic Society’s Genographic Project page, we find this announcement:

Genographic end

This is a sad day indeed.

  • Effective May 31, 2019, you can no longer purchase Genographic kits.
  • If you currently have an unsubmitted kit, you may still be able to submit it for processing. See this link for more information about your specific kit.
  • The Genographic website will be taken down December. 31, 2020. Your results will be available for viewing until then, but not after that date.
  • Data will be maintained internally by the Genographic project for scientific analysis, but will not be otherwise available to consumers. Miguel Vilar with the Genographic Project assures me that the underlying scientific research will continue.

Please Transfer Your DNA Results

The original Genographic project had two primary goals. The first being to obtain your own results, and the second being to participate in research.

If you are one of the 997,222 people in 140 countries around the world who tested, you may be able to transfer your results.

Depending on which version of the Genographic test you’ve taken, you can still preserve at least some of the benefit, for yourself and to scientific research.

Family Tree DNA Genographic transfer

Note that only Y and mitochondrial DNA results can be transferred, because that’s all that was tested. How much information can be transferred is a function of which level test you initially took, meaning the version 1 or version 2 test.

According to the Family Tree DNA Learning Center, people who transfer their results also qualify for a $39 Family Finder kit, which is the lowest price I’ve ever seen anyplace for an autosomal DNA test.

  • If you tested within the US in November 2016 or after, you tested on the Helix platform and your results cannot be transferred to Family Tree DNA.

If you have already tested your Y (males only) and mitochondrial DNA at Family Tree DNA, there is no need to transfer Genographic data. Family Tree DNA information will be more complete.

Salvage as Much as Possible

As a National Geographic Society Genographic Project Affiliate Researcher and long-time supporter, I’m utterly heartsick to see this day.

Please transfer what you can to salvage as much as possible. We already lost the Sorenson data base, Ancestry’s Y and mitochondrial DNA data base along with YSearch and MitoSearch. How much Y and mitochondrial DNA information, critical to genealogists and the history of humanity, has been lost forever?

Let’s not lose the Genographic Project information too. Please salvage as much as possible by transferring – and spread the word.

Please feel free to repost or preprint this article.



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Hiram Bauke Ferverda (1854-1925), Part 2: American Farmer– 52 Ancestors #240

My introduction to the Ferverda genealogy came in the form of a small blue booklet that my mother obtained at a family reunion. How I desperately wish I had attended that reunion, but I was preoccupied in the summer of 1978 with 2 small children – one that was a newborn.

With a beastly hot summer, a new baby and no air conditioning – my greatest wish was for sleep – not meeting new people and certainly not this thing called genealogy😊

The Blue Ferverda Booklet


In 1978, one of the Ferverda family members authored a small blue-covered book after visiting the Netherlands in 1977. I’m extremely grateful, because most of the photos and a lot of the original information about the Ferverda family came from their booklet. However, no place are the authors identified, so I don’t know who to thank.

From the Ferverda book:

Hiram and Eva were married March 10, 1876 by Rev. Bigler of Goshen Indiana. Their early married life was spent on farms near New Paris and Milford where all of their children were born except George, Donald and Margaret. They were born in Kosciusko County, Plain Twp.

In 1894 they bought a 160 acre farm 3 miles east of Leesburg, Indiana and lived there until the spring of 1908 when they moved into town. Hiram supervised the laying the brick streets in Leesburg. He became a director of People’s State Bank in 1908 and later became Vice President. Donald Ferverda was a director and cashier. In later years, Ray Ferverda became a director and Vice President of Peoples State Bank.

Ira was a rancher and later had a chicken hatchery. They lived in Wyoming for a time, then moved to Leesburg. He served in the Spanish American War.

Edith’s husband Tom (Dye) farmed and later worked with this son-in-law who was an undertaker and had a furniture store. They made their home in the Leesburg area.

Irvin was a farmer with a love for horses. He farmed in the Oswego community and moved to the home place after his parents moved into town.

John was in the hardware business and later became an auto salesman. He lived in Silver Lake all his married life.

Gertrude’s husband Lewis (Hartman) was a farmer and an experienced butcher. They lived on a rented farm until they bought 80 acres south of Oswego. Their last years were spent in Leesburg.

Chloe’s husband Rollie (Roland Robinson) was in the hardware and plumbing and heating business which he took over from his father. They lived in Leesburg.

Ray was a farmer who entered politics. He was a township trustee and then a county commissioner. They owned a farm in Van Buren Twp. near the New Salem Church.

Roscoe was a railroad man, station agent at Silver Lake where he lived. He had a love for baseball. He served in WWI.

Donald was cashier at the Leesburg bank. His future looked bright, but death took him when he was a young man. They owned a home in Leesburg. He was the third member of the family to serve in WWI.

Margaret’s husband Chet (Glant) was a railroad man for 37 years and they made their home in Warsaw, Indiana.

Hiram and Eva were faithful members of the New Salem Church of the Brethren, Milford, Indiana.

The blue Ferverda booklet was written by people who probably knew Hiram, and assuredly knew his children. The photos in the book refer to Hiram and Eva as their grandparents. Thankfully they recorded what they knew.

Hiram Immigrates from The Netherlands

In our first article, Hiram Bauke Ferverda (1854-1925), Part 1: The Baker’s Apprentice – 52 Ancestors #222, we met Hiram in the Netherlands.

We left Hiram Bauke Ferverda, as he was called in the US, setting sail as Harmen Bauke Ferwerda in 1868 at the age of 14. He had been apprenticed to a baker, his mother’s sister’s husband, Johannes Jousma in the tiny village of “Fiifhus” translated at 5 Houses.

Hiram Ferverda 5 Houses canal

Yes, there were literally 5 houses in this little picturesque village on a canal.

Hiram Ferverda 5 Houses Cheryl

Hiram returned from his apprenticeship in time to sail for America in August of 1868 with his father, Bauke Hendrick Ferverda, step-mother Minke, younger brother Hendrick Ferwerda, known as Henry Ferverda in the US, age 10, half-sisters Lysbeth age 4 and Geertje, apparently named after Hiram’s deceased mother, age 15 months. What a lovely gesture by Bauke’s second wife.

From the “History of Kosciusko County”

The second piece of published information that I found about Hiram came from the History of Kosciusko County, published in 1919.

Hiram B. Ferverda has been a resident of Kosciusko County a quarter of a century, grew up in Indiana from early boyhood and had many hardships and difficulties to contend with in his earlier days. Industry and a determined ambition have brought him an enviable station in life and among other interests he is now vice-president of the People’s Bank at Leesburg and owns some fine farming land in the county.

Mr. Ferverda was born in Holland, Sept. 21, 1854, son of Banks and Gertrude D. Young Ferverda. His parents were also natives of Holland, married there, and the mother died in Holland leaving two sons, Henry and Hiram B. The father was a man of excellent education and very talented as a musician and in other pursuits.  He taught music. After the death of his first wife he again married and had two daughters by the second wife. He brought his family to the US and located in Union Township of Elkhart County, Indiana where he spent the rest of his life. He was a member of the Lutheran Church in Holland.

Hiram B. Ferverda was 13 years old when his father came to Elkhart County. He had begun his education in his native country and finished in the public schools of Elkhart County. The family were poor and he lived at home and gave most of his wages earned by farm work to the support of the family until he was nearly 21 years old.

Mr. Ferverda married Evaline Miller who was born in Elkhart Co., Indiana, March 29, 1857, daughter of John D. and Margaret Lentz Miller. Her parents were both natives of America and her maternal grandparents were born in Germany.

After their marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Ferverda moved to a farm 4 miles west of New Paris, Indiana and 2 years later, in 1893, came to Kosciusko County and established their home on a farm near Oswego. Mr. Ferverda bought 160 acres and developed a splendid farm. He yet owns the farm, but since March 1909 has lived in Leesburg.

Mr. and Mrs. Ferverda have 11 children. Ira O. is a graduate of the common schools and was a student in the North Manchester College and beginning with the Spanish-American war saw 3 years of active service in the American army as a quartermaster sergeant. He now lives at Oswego. Edith E. is a graduate of the common schools and is the wife of Thomas Dye of Plain Township. Irvin G. is a farmer in Plain Township. John W. is a high school graduate and is engaged in the hardware business at Silver Lake, Indiana. Gertrude E. is a graduate of high school and the wife of Rollin V. Robinson. Ray E. a graduate of high school is a farmer in Van Buren Township. Roscoe H. is a graduate of high school and is now serving as a train dispatcher with the Southern Pacific Railroad. George likewise completed his education in high school and is in the army. Donald who attended school 12 years and in all that time never missed a day nor was tardy now is in the US service at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. Margaret is a high school student. The family are members of the Church of the Brethren and Mr. Ferverda is a republican. He was at one time captain of the local Horse Thief Detective Association, and in now an inspector of the streets of Leesburg.

What can we learn from this information?

First, not everything is accurate, including the spelling of Hiram’s father’s name. His mother’s name was “semi-translated” from Dutch to English. His parents names were Bauke Hendrick Ferwerda, known as Baker in the US, and Geertje Harmens de Jong. De Jong in Dutch means “younger” or “the younger.”

His brother, William, by his father’s second marriage was omitted which caused me to not search for him, for several years.

The years are “off” for Hiram’s early married life in Elkhart County.

I wish they had been more specific about the many hardships and difficulties Hiram had to contend with. It’s very interesting that he contributed his wages to the family from the time they arrived until he married.

I had no idea that Ira had attended Manchester College, an institution associated with the Brethren religion. Ironic that he attended that college and also served in the war. Brethren are opposed to warfare.

My grandfather John also attended the Normal School in Angola, Indiana, a college for teachers, and obtained his teaching certificate, but never taught.

The Horse Thief Detective Association was a local detective and law enforcement group of vigilantes formed about 1840. Many had an element of Masonic influence within the organization. During that time in Indiana, near Wingate, Indiana, horse stealing had become so rampant that folks had to completely give up the idea of farming. Arrests were nigh on nonexistant, so the men banded together to not only discover who was stealing the horses, but to apprehend them and put an end to it. They did, becoming relatively well respected, and also becoming investigators, police officers, judge, jury and executioner all in one – sometimes all in the same night or raid. Later in the early 1900s, they became heavily associated with the KKK. Some say they were infiltrated by the KKK, hastening their decline. In the early 1920s, this group met its demise with the downfall of one of their leaders who was convicted of the murder of a woman. They primarily operated throughout Indiana, but also to some extent in surrounding states.

In essence the Horse Thief Detective Association was a volunteer police force with state laws giving the group arrest powers. The HDTA could chase thieves across county and state lines where the local Sheriff and Marshall could not. The HDTA was organized into groups of about 50 men each and there were typically several groups in each county.

The mention of the KKK chills me to the bone. Hopefully that’s when Hiram left that organization. Written in 1919, this article says he had “at one time” been the local Captain, not that he currently was.

Note that the description of 4 miles west of New Paris doesn’t fit the location of either Eva’s nor Hiram’s parents land. Four miles would locate the couple about 1 mile into Union Township, directly west of New Paris.

Hiram Ferverda New Paris.png

The best we can say is that it was in this general location, probably someplace between their parents.

Hiram Ferverda parents.png

This had to be where they lived before they purchased land in 1890, because we know where the farm they bought was located.

Let’s walk Hiram through his life, with the assistance of newspapers. I found a huge treasure trove through my subscription at MyHeritage.

Bauke Purchases Land

There’s nothing between 1868 and 1870 aside from the fact that Bauke, Hiram’s father, bought land on December 7, 1868, in Union Township, Elkhart County, from the de Boer family, almost immediately upon arrival.

Bauke Ferwerda 1868 deed

That farm would stay in the family until the present day. You can read about the farm here.


The first census was taken about 18 months after Hiram’s arrival. Neither of the 2 boys, Hiram nor Henry, were living with their father and step-mother. Hiram was living a nearby, working on the farm, but brother Henry was missing from the census.

I checked several spellings of both first and last names of Harmen, Hiram, Ferwerda, Ferverda and Fervida, and the only one I found in 1870 was for our Hiram who was living a couple houses away from his father and step-mother, with the Simeon Smith family.

Hiram Ferverda 1870 census Click to view a larger image.

In 1870, the Ferverda family was living in Union Township, not far from New Paris, Indiana by the Postma’s and the Krulls, other families from the Netherlands. They were also neighbors with Ephriam Miller, and the Miller family was Brethren.

The Ferverda family was Brethren here in the states, with Hiram eventually marrying Eva Miller who was also Brethren. Eva would have been 13 in 1870 and might have thought Hiram was mighty cute! They probably saw each other at church and farm functions.

Where was Hiram’s brother, Henry? Why was neither boy living with Bauke and the rest of the family?

Henry was 3 years younger than Hiram, so 11 when they arrived. And neither boy spoke English, at least not upon arrival.

Henry & Hiram Ferverda

Hiram (Harmen Bauke) Ferverda (Ferwerda) at left, Henry (Hendrik) Ferverda at right, assuming the Ferverda booklet is labeled correctly.

From the Ferverda book, this is the only known photo of Hiram and his brother Henry (Hendrick). I can’t believe how much alike they look.

Henry’s sad story can be read here.


This 1874 plat map shows the land of Bauke Ferwerda in Union Township, Elkhart County.

Bauke Ferwerda 1874 map

Note the Miller influence across the road. Hiram’s eventual wife, Eva Miller, lived about three and a half miles up the road, current County Road 15.


By 1876, Hiram, now of age, applied to become a citizen.

Hiram Ferverda naturalization.jpg

According to Hiram’s Naturalization application found in Elkhart County, the family sailed for America on August 1, 1868 and arrived in September. Hiram applied for citizenship on October 4, 1876, age 21. His father applied on the 7th of the same month.

Ironically, Hiram never completed his citizenship process until during WWI, as reported by the local newspaper.

A Confusing Record

Of course, this information begs the question of this next record. How many Harmen Ferwerdas can there be immigrating from the Netherlands in 1868 or 1869? Did the family arrive by train in Chicago and connect to Indiana from there? It seems that the train would have traveled right through northern Indiana on the way to Chicago, so that doesn’t exactly make sense either.

Hiram Ferverda Chicago arrival.png

This record’s arrival location could simply be incorrect. We would need to see the original to know and it seems a rather moot point because we know where Hiram settled. This record did beg the question of whether he actually immigrated separately from the rest of his family, but the ship’s records, discovered by Yvette Hoitink in the Netherlands tell us otherwise.


Hiram Ferverda marriage.jpg

On March 7th, 1876 Hiram Ferverda obtained a license to marry Evaline Miller in Elkhart, Indiana. Two days later, on March 9, they were married by Andrew Bigler, a minister of the gospel. The couple must have been busy happily preparing!

Andrew Bigler was an elder in the Brethren Church in the 1870s and 1880s in Elkhart County.

Hiram Ferverda and Eva Miller early.jpg

Based on the caption of the photo from the Ferverda booklet, it’s obvious that the author was the Hiram’s grandchild.

The early married life of Hiram Ferverda and Eva Miller Ferverda was spent on farms near New Paris and Milford where all of their children were born except George, Donald and Margaret who were born in Plain Township in Kosciusko County, according to the Ferverda booklet.

At least part of this is confirmed by the locations given in their various children’s marriage applications where Ray, born in 1891 and Chloe born in 1886 were listed as having been born in Milford, and Roscoe is listed as having been born in Leesburg in 1893.

Try as I might, I cannot find this family in the 1880 census. By this time, Hiram and Eva would have had two children, Ira Otto born on November 2, 1877 and Edith born on August 27, 1879.

The next hints we find are in the local newspaper.

In the News

I found several articles that shed light on Hiram’s life in the states. I love old newspaper articles. They flesh out so much about our ancestor’s lives and the times in which they lived.

I searched for Hiram’s name, then Fervida, Ferwerda and Ferverda beginning in 1860 at MyHeritage.

My ancestor, Hiram’s son, John, was born in 1884 but where, exactly? I suspect, based on the fact that his siblings born in 1886 and 1891 were born near Milford in Elkhart County, John was too. However, the family did move in 1885, so John could have been born “4 miles west of” New Paris, the first location given for Hiram’s home in Elkhart County. New Paris was very close to Eva Miller’s father – and all of the locations didn’t mean the actual village, but in that vicinity.

On March 5, 1885, the Indianian Republican reported that “Wash Miller is moving west of Goshen. He intends to take his family Thursday. Hiram Fervida gets the farm Mr. Miller is leaving.”

What does the verb “gets” mean in this context?

Wash Miller was George Washington Miller, Eva’s brother, Hiram’s brother-in-law.

A friend, Ann, did me a wonderful favor a few weeks ago and checked the deeds for Elkhart County. There was no Ferverda (or similar spelling) deed at that time, and none from a Miller at any time.

There is an old plat map of Elkhart County in 1874, but I wasn’t able to find a property owned by either George Miller, Wash Miller or G. W. Miller in 1874. I’m assuming that Hiram and Eva probably lived not far from Eva’s parents, John David Miller and Elizabeth Lentz, or may had even lived with them.

Wash Miller could have been renting or “share farming” and Hiram Ferverda was probably doing the same.

Their Own Farm

In 1890, Hiram Ferverda did purchase a farm in Elkhart County, recorded on page 317 of the deed book.

Hiram Ferverda Elkhart deed index.pngHiram Ferverda Elkhart deed entry.pngHiram Ferverda Elkhart deed.png

Based on the deed description, I was able to find this land, first on the old plat map, then today using Google maps.

Hiram Ferverda Elkhart Co deed 1874 map

Jackson Twp – Elkhart Co. – Elkhart Co 1874 Jackson Twp section 22 w half of SE qtr 80 ac

In 1890, John would have been 7 years old. He would have played the games that boys played on this farm.

Hiram Ferverda Elkhart Co aerial.png


The field to the north is probably much the same. The house on the plat map is gone today of course. This area south of the road looks to be mined, possibly for sand.

Hiram Ferverda Elkhart Co aerial close.png


The house looks like it might have been about where the red star is in the closeup above.

John certainly wouldn’t recognize the property today. I wonder if a few hearty Daffodils still bloom in the springtime where the old homestead used to be. Daffodils and other perennials are a surefire hint for locating former houses. Women have always loved flowers it seems.

Three years later, in February 1893, Hiram sold this 80-acre farm and moved to Kosciusko County, the next county over.

Hiram Ferverda 1893 deed index.png

Hiram Ferverda 1893 Elkhart deed Click to view a larger image.

Kosciusko County, Indiana

In March 1893, just a few days after selling their farm in Elkhart County, Hiram and Eva bought a 160-acre farm near Oswego, Indiana, doubling the size of their land.

March 9, 1893 – Indianian-Republican and Warsaw Times – Real estate transfers: William D. Wood to Hiram B. Ferverda 160 acres Section 11 Plain Twp, $8,000

John would turn 11 the day after Christmas that year.

This 1914 map of Plain Township shows the location of Hiram’s farm. Hiram’s son, Irvin was living there in 1914, but Hiram still owned the property.

Hiram Ferverda 1914 Plain Twp map.png

Hiram Ferverda 1914 map close.png

You can see Hiram’s land in the upper right hand quadrant of section 11.

Google maps lets us look at the area today.

Hiram Ferverda Plain Twp aerial.png

This explains why John Ferverda went to Oswego Schools.

Hiram Ferverda Plain Twp aerial red.png

Their farm included the area, above in red, shown in a closeup below.

Hiram Ferverda Plain twp close.png

The upper right hand corner is wet and swampy, and the lower right hand corner may have actually touched or included the edge of Lake Tippecanoe. The bottom third of the property is still wooded.

The Surveyor’s office in Kosciusko County was exceedingly helpful, providing me with this image of the 1938 flyover from their GIS system which shows the house at that time to be west of a newer house today.

Hiram Ferverda 1938 Plain Twp flyover.png

The flyover image shows us where the original house stood, allowing me to find it on Google Maps today.

Hiram Ferverda 1938 Plain Twp flyover today.png

This looks to be the same house as in the flyover.

When I visited Kosciusko County in May of 2019, I thought perhaps this was a possibility, and took a photo, just in case. I’m so glad now that I did.

Hiram Ferverda Plain Twp house.jpg

I love to find and walk my ancestor’s land.

The white barn to the rear is probably not original. I don’t see it in the aerial, but this is the view that Hiram would have seen, minus the irrigation equipment, of course.

Hiram Ferverda Plain Twp land.jpg

This would have been Hiram’s view of his fields from the house.

Hiram Ferverda land.png

This is Hiram’s land at the southwest corner of the intersection of 700N and 300E. Looking across his property, toward the houses today. Hiram’s house is the one furthest to the left.

Hiram Ferverda land looking at houses.png

Hiram Ferverda land 2.png

The images above are from Google Maps Street View, but the ones below I took when I visited.

Hiram Ferverda land 3.jpg

Standing on 300, looking west across Hiram’s land.

Hiram Ferverda land rains.jpg

The rains had been torrential and the land everyplace was simply saturated. This view above is looking south across Hiram’s fields.

Hiram Ferverda land mud.jpg

While this entrance provided access for the farmer to the field, it was a sure and certain mud quagmire for me, so I pulled to the side of the road, off as far as possible, and turned on my flashers.

Hiram Ferverda land pipeline.jpg

You can see the back of Hiram’s old house in the distance, with the white barn to the rear.

There’s a pipeline of some sort on this land today. You can see part of it in front of the woods, and another part stood directly beside me as I took this picture, at the beginning of the planks.

Hiram Ferverda plank.jpg

A plank walkway had been constructed that headed towards the wetlands on the corner.

Hiram Ferverda skull.jpg

Is it safe to walk here? Am I trespassing, or is the walkway in the right-of-way or on an easement? I’m in the open, with my car and flashers, so I’ve decided to “ask forgiveness” if I need to. I grew up on a farm and most farmers are quite reasonable, especially if you explain why you are there.

Hiram Ferverda bulldozed.jpg

At the end of the plank walkway, several old trees had been bulldozed into a pile. I wonder if any of these trees lived when Hiram owned this land. From the aerial, it looks more wooded today than then.

Hiram Ferverda rocks.jpg

Hiram’s rocks. How I would have loved to take those home, but they are MUCH too big. I did find a couple smaller hand-sized rocks near the road to take and leave at his son John’s gravestone, as well as my mother’s the following day.

Hiram Ferverda creek.jpg

A tiny creek runs beneath the foliage and muck.

Hiram Ferverda bog.jpg

This corner land is very boggy.

Hiram Ferverda stump.jpg

But it surely is beautiful. I think that’s Skunk Cabbage which earned its name.

Hiram Ferverda wetlands.jpg

Rounding the corner onto 700, you can see the wet area from the other side.

Hiram Ferverda wetlands 2.jpg

You can hear the creek gurgling through the underbrush.

Hiram Ferverda 3.jpg

It was hard to tear myself away from the peacefulness here, especially knowing it has changed little since Hiram walked these lands himself.

Hiram Ferverda road.jpg

However, the sky was darkening again, even though it was the middle of the afternoon, and that’s AFTER lightening this photo, taken from the wetlands looking east on 700. The new house sits on the hill on the left, and Hiram’s home would be beyond this maybe a quarter mile. This was one of the gravel roads when Hiram maintained it.


Uh oh, I’m sinking. Time to leave. The rains are beginning again.

Hiram Ferverda land looking southwest.jpg

Hiram’s land looking southwest. I had to take one last look. Goodbyes are difficult.

Hiram Ferverda land south end.jpg

Hiram’s land appeared to continue south into the trees, about 30% of the depth of his property, into this forest. I wonder if it wasn’t cleared because it was simply too wet.

Hiram Ferverda land one last look.jpg

Looking back across the land, I see Hiram’s old house in the center that rang with the laughter of children for 15 years. I wonder if Hiram built this house or if it existed before he purchased the farm.

As I drive on south on 300, passing the corner of Hiram’s property closest to the lake, the streams feeding Lake Tippecanoe from Hiram’s and other properties are flooded.

Hiram Ferverda Lake Tippecanoe.jpg

Was this old tree here when Hiram lived, and when John assuredly played in these waters on his way to school perhaps? What stories it could tell!

The Lawsuit

Not long after Hiram purchased his farm, he was involved in a lawsuit, apparently having to do with the property he purchased. The print is difficult to read.

Sept. 28, 1893 – Indianian-Republican

Hiram Ferverda lawsuit.png

Life on the Farm

By the time that Hiram and Eva bought the farm in Plain Township near Oswego, they had 7 children with number 8 arriving on March 30, 1893, just days after they purchased the new farm. In fact, Roscoe may not have been born on the new farm, depending on when they actually took possession and if a house was already built. According to the blue Ferverda book, Roscoe was born in Elkhart County, but according to his own documents, he was born in Leesburg. It’s certainly possible that Eva, 9 months pregnant had no desire to move to the new farm 3 weeks before delivering her 8th child.

On April 1, 1893, Hiram’s sister, Melvinda would marry James Gibson. However, this might have been a bit of a scandal, since their first child would be born on November 7th, the same year.

Given that Eva had just given birth, it’s not likely that the family attended Melvinda’s wedding. Brethren weddings tended to occur in the home by the minister, with no celebration. Simplicity was a way of life.

The Oswego School

Hiram and Eva’s children attended the old school in Oswego. In April 2019, I visited the Kosciusko County, Indiana courthouse where the surveyor graciously provided me with a photo of the old schoolhouse.

Hiram Ferverda Oswego school.jpg

The schoolhouse is shown standing near the top of the photo – the tallest building in town at that time – and it would be now as well.

Ferverda Oswego students.jpg

My grandfather, John Ferverda, pictured in this photo, graduated from the Oswego school. In 1900, a class photo was taken that included 4 Ferverda children and later published in a yearbook. He probably graduated that year or a year later.

Ferverda Oswego

The building is long gone, replaced by a church today.

Hiram Ferverda Oswego school today.png

However, the surveyor was kind enough to show me on a contemporary map where the old building stood so I could visit.

I pulled into the parking lot of the church, located on the corner. The school probably sat partly where the church does today.

Hiram Ferverda Oswego school parking lot.jpg

The yard behind the church sported a few flowers, suggesting that at one time, this yard hosted a building of some sort, now only a memory.

Hiram Ferverda grape hyacinth.jpg

These grape hyacinth hardy perennials are probably left over from the old building. Today, they bloom alone in the middle of a yard, beside the church.

Hiram Ferverda grape hyacinth school.jpg

Looking at the field behind and beside the church. John played here or saw this very field as it was plowed and grew.

Hiram Ferverda schoolyard.jpg

One way or the other, John and his siblings spend many years on this exact spot, walking the mile and a half to and from school, in all types of weather – past that aged tree beside the flooded creek.

The school wasn’t terribly far from the Ferverda farm, but in the winter, it had to be a miserable walk.

Hiram Ferverda farm to school.png

Hiram’s farm in red, above, and the location of the school at the red dot, right lower area.


Around 1895, Hiram’s epileptic brother, Henry, who was also an alcoholic, would wind up in the poor house in Marion, Indiana. We know very little about Henry, other than he was never found living with the family after they immigrated to America – and we have no idea how he got to Marion, or the poor house. While I told as much of Henry’s story as I could, there is clearly a great deal that we’ll never know.

In 1895, Eva would deliver child number 9 and a year later, in 1896, Hiram and Eva’s older children would begin marrying.


Hiram Ferverda 1896 farm photo.jpgAccording to the information from the Ferverda book, this would be the farm near Leesburg. Hiram is holding the baby, and Eva is in the dark dress. My grandfather, John, was on the horse at far right.

On May 30, 1896, Hiram’s baby brother, William Fervida, married Fannie Whitehead who would die in 1910. Fannie Whitehead was collaterally related to Hiram’s wife, Eva Miller, through her mother’s first husband’s family.

William Fervida later married Maude Fulmer and who would give birth to the Fervida line who owns Bauke’s property today.

Just a few months later, Hiram’s first child would marry as well.

Aug. 6, 1896 – Northern Indianian – Marriage licenses – Thomas W. Dye and Edith Ferverda. Thomas Dye and Edith Ferverda were married Sunday. Our best wishes go with them.

Hiram’s daughter, Edith would have two children, Ruth Dye born in 1897 and Dewey Dye born in 1898.

Hiram and Eva weren’t finished having children themselves and would have two more children, Donald (1899) and Margaret (1902), after Edith’s children were born, so Donald and Margaret’s niece and nephew were older than they were.


On April 29th, Hiram’s sister, Melvinda’s son, Levi Gibson died at 10 months and 3 days of age. A day or so later, Hiram and family would have stood at the graveside in Union Center Cemetery, near Bauke Ferwerda’s home as the baby boy was buried.

Melvinda was also known as Malinda, Lijsbert, Elizabeth and Bettie by various spellings. It’s only through her birth, census and death information that we were able to verify that this was one and the same person.

We know that Hiram subscribed to the newspaper.

June 29, 1897 – Northern Indianian

Hiram Ferverda 1897 newspaper.png

Does this mean Hiram’s subscription was in arrears?

In October 1897, Hiram’s sister, Clara would marry Cletus Miller, Eva’s half first cousin. Clara and Cletus would set up housekeeping next door to Hiram’s father, Bauke and have 5 children; Minnie Miller, Noah Miller, Lucy Miller, Esther Miller and Clara Miller.

They’ve only been here less than one generation and the family is already intermarried!


On April 11, 1898, Hiram’s brother, Henry would pass away in Marion, Indiana of epilepsy. Hiram and his father, Bauke, were both notified, but the family elected to have Henry buried in Marion.

Something else was going on in the family at this time as well, but it’s difficult to tell exactly what. Eight days after Henry died, on April 19th, Hiram’s father, Bauke, sold his farm to Hiram’s half-brother, William. There was no mortgage or loans.

Fifteen months later, William sold the farm back to his mother, Minnie, Hiram’s step-mother. This arrangement allowed Minnie to own the farm without Bauke deeding it directly to her.

This also effectively shut Hiram, Bauke’s only living child from his first marriage, out of an inheritance since Minnie was not his mother. Minnie’s will in 1906 left everything except Bauke’s widower’s share to her biological children who then sold their portions to their brother William. For all we know, this may have been worked out in advance, but the unusual sequence of events does leave me wondering. It would have been a lot easier for Hiram to simply quitclaim his share if that was the agreement.


In July of 1899, 4 years and 1 day after their last child was born, Eva blessed Hiram with child number 10, Donald.

I did wonder if they lost a baby in 1897, based on the birth order. However, looking at the 1900 census, Eva reports that she birthed 10 children and 10 are living.

Aside from the new baby, it seems that the Ferverda family had a bit of excitement in 1899.

Assault and Battery

October 8, 1899 – Warsaw Daily Times – A large amount of business was conducted at Squire Young’s court Saturday. Ira Ferverda was before Squire Young last Saturday charged with assault and battery on the person of Vern Miller. The young man was found guilty and was fined $1 and costs, amounting to $13.15 which he paid.

This was also reported in the Warsaw Times – except the reverse:

A young man by the name of Verne Miller was before Squire Eiler last Saturday charged with assault and battery on the person of Ira Ferverda. The affidavit against young Miller was filed by Joel Wilkinson, marshal of Leesburg. The young man was found guilty and was fined $1 and costs, which amounted to $15 in all. Both parties reside northeast of this city.

It looks like both boys were fined and probably told to go home and straighten up.

On October 12th, Hiram’s sister, Melvinda, died leaving a husband, James Gibson and 3 children who would be raised by foster families and then other family members. Unfortunately, there is no record of Melvinda’s cause of death. Melvinda was buried in the Union Center Cemetery with the name of Malinda E. on her tombstone. Hiram’s father would eventually be buried at Union Center too.

According to the newspaper, Hiram was maintaining the roads in Plain Township, or at least the ones that bordered his property.

Nov. 16, 1899 – Northern Indianian – Allowances made by Kosciusko board of commissioners (includes) Hiram Ferverda, gravel roads work in Plain Twp., $7.50.

This would be the first of many such notices.

I think Hiram would be pleased that most of the roads are paved today.


Hiram Ferverda 1900 census Click to view a larger image.

The 1900 census provides confirmation of Hiram’s children that attended the Oswego School.

March 1, 1900 – Warsaw Daily Times – Chloe Ferverda has sore throat at this writing.

It must have been a slow news day as Chloe’s sore throat was also reported in The Daily Indianian. I wonder if these types of notices is how the newspapers maintained the interest of their readership – and subscribers.

When duplicate newspaper entries occur I have eliminated all but one. The local newspapers seemed to have a bit of rivalry. Often, the same event was reported in both – sometimes in the exact same words.

April 26, 1900 – Northern Indianian

Hiram Ferverda 1900 jury duty.png

I bet this made for an interesting story around the dinner table!

May 17, 1900 – Northern Indianian – Jurors April term paid: Hiram Ferverda

The Love Note

This note was found in Hiram’s Bible, given to him by Eva for his 46th birthday. Based on this, it appears that Eva and Hiram had their own Bibles, and I’d wager that the large “family” Bible, now in the possession of descendants, was just for home, meaning it was not portable and was not taken to church.

Hiram Ferverda 1900 note from Eva.jpg

Indeed, Hiram and Eva are together now, beyond the Golden Gate, along with all of their children and many of their grandchildren.

I wonder what happened to Hiram’s Bible.

Nov. 15, 1900 – Plain Township – entire Republican ticket elected – Road Supervisors – 1. Hiram Ferverda $9.20

It appears that 1900 was the year that Hiram began dabbling in politics.


On March 26, 1901, Hiram’s son, Ira enlisted in the military to serve in the Spanish American War.

This from the Army Register of Enlistments.

Hiram Ferverda 1901 Ira enlist.png

Ira was age 23 and a farmer, with blue eyes, light brown hair and a fair complexion. 5’10” tall, he was assigned to the 15th Cavalry, company F.

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Ira was discharged at the end of his service as a Sergeant with excellent service.

Hiram Ferverda 1901 Ira enlist 3.png

I believe Ira was the first Ferverda to serve in the military, bucking the norms of the Brethren religion.

There’s more to this story that we’ll discover in 1916!

Nov. 4, 1901 – Northern Indianian – George Curry and Miss Mary Leedy spent Wednesday evening with Hiram Ferverda and family.

Nov. 21, 1901 – Northern Indianian – Allowances of Kosciusko County board of commissioners (includes) Hiram Ferverda, $5.25 labor for maintaining gravel road.

Another entry, same date shows Hiram 5.25, Hiram .90, Irvin Ferverda 3.00 and 3.15.

I wonder how much time Hiram spent per dollar at that time. Maintaining gravel roads is hard physical labor.


Hiram and Eva’s final child, Margaret, was born January 12, 1902. Eva would be 45 years old 2 months later.

January 15, 1902 – Warsaw Daily Times – Hiram Ferverda and wife – girl.

Less than a month later, Eva’s father died.

February 11, 1902 – Warsaw Daily Times – Mrs. Hiram Ferverda was called to Nappanee Friday on account of the death of her father.

May 27, 1902 – Warsaw Daily Times – Delegate to Kosciusko County Republican convention – H. B. Ferverda from First Precinct, Plain Township

June 19, 1902 – Northern Indianian – Wind Accompanying Storm of Thursday Night Causes Damage North and East of Warsaw.

The article lists quite a bit of damage including a house blown off if its foundation and a tree split by lightening. Then, “windpumps on the Ferverda and White farms were blown down.”

Windpumps are another name for windmills that are used to pump water out of the ground.

October 23, 1902 – Northern Indianian – William Jones spent Sunday with Hiram Ferverda and family.

Nov. 13, 1902 – Warsaw Daily Times – George Curry and Mrs. Mary Leedy spent Wednesday evening with Hiram Ferverda and family.

It seem that Hiram and Eva were entertaining quite a bit.


January 7, 1903 – John Ferverda and Roy Huffman left for Angola Monday where they will attend school.

I wonder if John had tried farming to no avail. John would receive his teaching certificate but never teach, instead opting to become a station agent for the railroad.

Two years later, John was reported in school in Goshen, but by 1906 he was living in Carthage in Rush County where he would meet his future wife.

July 8, 1903 – Warsaw Daily Times – Mrs. Miller, an aged lady, died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Ferverda.

Just a year after Eva’s father died, her mother passed away as well and had been living with Hiram and Eva. Elizabeth Lentz Miller was 81 years old. Three generations had been living under the same roof, and 4 were probably often gathered when Hiram and Eva’s grandchildren were present.

July 29, 1903 – Warsaw Daily Times – Ben Hartman’s young people and William Parker and family were the guests of Hiram Ferverda and family on Sunday.

In September, Hiram’s daughter, Elizabeth Gertrude as written in her mother’s Bible, or Gertrude Elizabeth Ferverda as written by others, known as “Gertie,” married one of those Hartman young people.

Sept. 2, 1903 – Warsaw Daily Times – Marriage License for Lewis E. Hartman and G. Ferverda.

Lewis and Gertie would have Louisa Hartman, Earl Hartman, Merritt Hartman, Roberta Hartman and Raymond Hartman, and would then raise two of Louisa’s children as well.

Sept. 9, 1903 – Warsaw Daily Times – On petition of Charles B. Thompson for a road in Turkey Creek Township, Charles D. Beatty, Hiram B. Ferverda and Charles O. Gawthrop were appointed viewers to meet at Oswego Sept. 23.

Sept. 23, 1903 – Warsaw Daily Times – Thomas Dye and wife, Lewis Hartman, wife and two sisters spent Sunday with Hiram Ferverda and family.

October 7, 1903 – Warsaw Daily Times – Hiram Ferverda and wife and William Parker and family took dinner with Henry Lentz and family.

Henry Lentz was Eva’s first cousin, born in 1853. Henry’s wife was Mary Rebecca Parker.

Nov. 18, 1903 – Warsaw Daily Times – Ed Whitehead and wife, of (New) Paris, Anna Beagle, Tom Dye and family and Roy Huffman were the guests of Hiram Ferverda and family on Sunday.


January 27, 1904 – Warsaw Daily Times – Mrs. Hiram Ferverda was the guest of Mrs. Myer Hartman Saturday.

Feb. 17, 1904 – Warsaw Daily Times

Hiram Ferverda 1904 Irvin marries.png

Another child married!

Irve would have three children; Mira Ferverda, Rolland Ferverda and Hiram B. Ferverda.

Based on his draft description, Irve had brown hair and brown eyes.

March 9, 1904 – Warsaw Daily Times – Mrs. Edith Dye visited her parents, Hiram Ferverda and wife last Friday.

March 14, 1904 – Warsaw Daily Times – Hiram Ferverda was elected an alternate designate for the State Republican Senatorial convention committee from Plain Twp.

On March 31st, Hiram’s family was mentioned 3 times in the paper.

March 31, 1904 – Warsaw Daily Times – Mrs. Tom Dye and son Eldon spent Monday with her parents, Hiram Ferverda and wife.

Hiram Ferverda and wife were the guests of Thomas Dye and family one day last week.

Ira Ferverda who has for the past 3 years been serving in the army is again at home shaking hands with his many friends.

Ira had served in the Spanish American War, gaining no small amount of notoriety by saving the life of General Pershing. Ira broke his leg in the war, subsequently being declared disabled in June of 1918 due to a medical issue.

April 5, 1904 – Warsaw Daily Times – Lewis Hartman, wife and daughter, Ira Miller and family, of New Paris, Ben Hartman and family, Tom Dye and family, Irve Ferverda and wife, Roy Huffman, Parmelia Gawthrop, Mae Dye and Ira Ferverda spent Sunday with Hiram Ferverda and family.

Hiram and Eva had a houseful!

April 13, 1904 – Warsaw Daily Times – Hiram Ferverda, Ben Hartman, Will Parker, Augustus Neibert and Mrs. Mary Lentz are quite sick.

Sounds like something was “going around.”

April 20, 1904 – Warsaw Daily Times – Hiram Ferverda who has been very sick is improving.

May 5, 1904 – Warsaw Daily Times – Mrs. Tom Dye and children spent Monday with Hiram Ferverda and family.

June 2, 1904 – Warsaw Daily Times – Mrs. Dora Method and 2 children, of Milford, Lewis Hartman and wife, of New Paris, Hiram Ferverda and family, Mrs. Myra Hartman and family, spent Monday with Irve Ferverda and wife.

June 7, 1904 – Warsaw Daily Times – Delegate to the county Republican convention at Winona endorses Roosevelt administration. Hiram Ferverda was a delegate from the first precinct of Plain Township.

On June 29th, Ira Ferverda married Ada Pearl Frederickson. Ira and Ada had either 2 or 3 children, with only Dean living to adulthood. Mary Evelyn died in 1920 the same day she was born, and another child, Frederick is reported to have died as an infant.

July 6, 1904 – Warsaw Daily Times – Hiram Ferverda and wife are entertaining relatives from New Paris and Goshen.

The New Paris address tells us that the guests are Eva’s family.

July 7, 1904 – Warsaw Daily Times – Marriage license granted to Ira Ferverda and Pearl Fredrickson.

The paper was running a few days behind.

July 27, 1904 – Warsaw Daily Times – Under Oswego heading – Mrs. Hiram Ferverda was the guest of Mrs. Myer Hartman Saturday.

August 31, 1904 – Warsaw Daily Times – Mrs. Hiram Ferverda is visiting friends in Goshen.

September 7, 1904 – Warsaw Daily Times – Mrs. Hiram Ferverda has returned from a visit in New Paris and Goshen.

Mrs. Tom Dye and children spent Monday with Hiram Ferverda and family.

November 9, 1904 – Warsaw Daily Times – Mrs. Hiram Ferverda and two children and Ira Ferverda and wife visited Mrs. Tom Dye on Monday.

Tom Dye was married to their oldest daughter, Edith. Daughters are often referred to by Mrs. plus their husband’s names. At that time, it was a badge of honor of being married and called by your husband’s name.


Jan. 12, 1905 – Northern Indianian – Kosciusko commissioners allowed H. B. Ferverda $6 labor for gravel road.

January 26, 1905 – Northern Indianian – H. B. Ferverda allowed $18 for labor and grading the road

Feb. 2, 1905 – Northern Indianian – Marshal Dye and family of North Webster, J. W. Dye and wife of Ligonier, Hiram Ferverda and family, Thomas Dye and family, Effie Dorsey and Georgia Traster took dinner with Charles Dye and family on Sunday.

March 9, 1905 – Northern Indianian – Ditch notice see below

March 16, 1905 – Northern Indianian – In the matter of the Ditch Petition of Stephen V. Rosbrugh et al in Plain, Wayne and Harrison Townships, to dredge the Tippecanoe River. No 304. Notice is hereby given that the viewers appointed by the Kosciusko have filed their report and will report on April 4, 1905. The ditch affects the lands owned by (long list, including) Hiram B. Ferverda

July 27, 1905 – Northern Indianian – Hiram Ferverda and family; Charles Dye and family; Tom Dye and family; Irve Ferverda, wife and daughter, Myra, Lewis Hartman, wife and daughter, Louise, Winnie Dye and wife; Mr. Shadt and Miss McLaughen held a picnic west of Kalorama Sunday.

Kalorama seems to be on the back side of Lake Tippecanoe, so maybe a mile from where Hiram lived.

In the same paper:

Hiram Ferverda buggies.png

I love old newspapers! I wonder when Hiram purchased his first car. Now THAT would have been newsworthy! Oldsmobiles were mass produced beginning in 1901, but Model T’s not until 1908. Hiram probably didn’t have a “horseless carriage” until after that.

August 24, 1905 – Northern Indianian – Mrs. Hiram Ferverda spent Wednesday last with her son, Irve and wife.

Dec. 7, 1905 – Northern Indianian – Mrs. Tom Dye spent one day last week with her parents, Hiram Ferverda and wife.

October 12, 1905 – Northern Indianian – Irve Ferverda and wife took dinner with Hiram Ferverda and family on last Sunday.

October 19, 1905 – Northern Indianian – Hiram Ferverda and wife spent Sunday with Henry Lentz and wife.

Dec. 7, 1905 – Northern Indianian – Mrs. Tom Dye spent one day last week with her parents, Hiram Ferverda and wife.


Jan. 4, 1906 – The Northern Indianian – Tom Dye and family took Sunday dinner with Charles Dye and family. Irve Ferverda and wife were guests of their parents, Hiram Ferverda and wife.

June 5, 1906 – Warsaw Daily Times – Delegate to the county Republican Convention in Winona Lake – Largest Delegate Body in History of Party Assembled to Select County Ticket – Immense Auditorium is Filled to OverFlowing – Resolutions passed endorsing the administration of President Roosevelt, Governor Hanly, Senators Beveridge and Hemenway and the Work of the Indiana Delegation in Congress – Strong Expression in Favor of Modification of Present Drainage and Fish Laws is Also Embodied – (list of delegates include) Hiram Ferverda.

The verbiage reads that they “condemn the present fish law in its severity and ask the passage of such a law that will so benefit the common people that they will support and obey.”

This fish law, which can be read here, may be strangely relevant!

In essence, this unpopular law prohibits the use of seine, dip nets, gill nets or other kinds of nets, spear, gig or trap and the fine is not less than $5 nor more than $200 for each offense, to which jail time can be added. This does not apply to minnows or private ponds.

June 7, 1906 – Northern Indianian – Republican County Convention ticket is nominated – Plain Township, first precinct, Hiram Ferverda

Hiram’s son John was also a life-long Republican. Of course, the Republican and Democratic parties were both quite different in 1906 than they are now.

September 6, 1906 – Warsaw Daily Times – Mrs. Jane Pollick of Goshen is the guest of Hiram Ferverda and family.

In Elkhart County, Eva’s parents’ estate was finally being closed with their property being sold.

December 22, 1906 – Eva Ferveda (sic) and Hiram Ferveda (sic) her husband of Kosciusko County, Ira J. Miller and Rebecca his wife, Edward E Whitehead and Hattie E. his wife of Elkhart Co. to Calvin Cripe, sect 5 tw 35 – r 6 80 acres Book 114-375 for $3500


Feb. 7, 1907 – Hiram B. Ferverda allowed $7 for hauling tiles working on road.

The tiles would have been for ditching.

March 25, 1907 – Warsaw Daily Union – Hiram B. Fervida, Petit jury for the Circuit Court.

March 28, 1907 – Northern Indianian – Paper reports that a grand jury must be called at least once yearly and the following people’s names were drawn: Hiram Ferverda, petit jury, Plain Twp.

May 2, 1907 – Warsaw Union – Hiram Ferverda and family took Sunday dinner with Ira Ferverda and family.

Accusations and Drama!

June 5, 1907 – Northern Indianian

Hiram Ferverda 1907 railroad.pngHiram Ferverda 1907 railroad 2.png

June 7, 1907 – Warsaw Daily Union

Hiram Ferverda 1907 appraiser.png

June 12, 1907 – Warsaw Daily Union (paper cost 2 cents).

Hiram Ferverda 1907 conspiracy.png

How closely related was Eva Miller to William Miller? According to family history, William Crowell Miller (1857-1934) was married to Lydia Yoder and lived very close to Hiram Ferverda. William’s father was John J. Miller who married Elizabeth Crowell and John’s father was John B. Miller who married his cousin, Esther L. Miller. John B. was the son of Daniel Miller and Elizabeth Ulrich. Esther Miller was the daughter of Daniel’s brother, David.

Hiram Ferverda 1907 relationships.png

Eva’s grandfather was first cousins to both John B. Miller and Esther Miller, so Eva was double third cousins to William Crowell Miller. While they did share a family connection the fact that their fathers were both staunch members of the Brethren church might have done more to unite them than their shared ancestors. But then, everyone in that part of the county was related at about this same level.

Was Hiram prejudiced, or did he have an opinion based on his duties as an appraiser? Or were the allegations simply false? We will never know.

German Brethren Annual Meeting

For Hiram, the trip to California to the German Baptist Annual Meeting in Los Angeles must have been the trip of a lifetime – second only to his immigration journey. We don’t typically think of our ancestors in this time period taking long trips, but Hiram did.

Based on these newspaper dates, below and above, it’s hard to know exactly when this trip occurred, or how long Hiram was gone.

June 13, 1907

Hiram Ferverda 1907 California.png

Lordsburg, which is today more of a neighborhood, is located about 25 miles east of Lost Angeles, up against the mountains along the Foothills Freeway.

Hiram Ferverda 1907 foothills.png

I visited Los Angeles, taking my mother and my son, in 1981 or 1982. Never in our wildest dreams did we ever suspect that Mother’s grandfather had made the trip as well, assuredly via train. By 1876, with the introduction of a train called the Transcontinental Express, a trip from NYC to San Francisco took only three and a half days. Mom and I flew, something Hiram very probably never did.

After returning from his trip, Hiram settled back into daily life.

July 18, 1907 – Warsaw Union – H. B. Ferverda allowed $2 for being a juror

Oct. 31, 1907 – Warsaw Daily Times – The following persons licensed to hunt by the County Clerk: H. B. Ferverda

I wonder why the fact that Hiram was licensed to hunt was worthy of mention in 1907, but never before. Did he not hunt before? Hunting licenses were required in Indiana beginning in 1901.

A Big Change

1908 would bring big changes for Hiram and his family, in more ways than one.

My Brethren ancestor would move to Leesburg and become a Marshall. Yes, Marshall, with a capital M and a badge.

Hiram Ferverda Marshall.jpg

And that’s not all!

Join me for Hiram Ferverda: Part 3 in a few weeks.

MyHeritage Expands DNA Testing to Include (Optional) Health Information

Recently, I received news that MyHeritage is now offering a DNA test for genealogy that can also be utilized to obtain health information. I had some questions about the service and reached out to MyHeritage, so after I share their announcement, I’ll provide the information I received from MyHeritage.

The MyHeritage Health service is different from the services currently provided by either 23andMe or, individually, Promethease, by uploading your file.

MyHeritage Health and Ancestry.png

The text of the MyHeritage announcement e-mail follows below:

The new test provides comprehensive health reports that can empower future health and lifestyle choices. It is a superset of the current MyHeritage DNA test and includes its pillar features: a percentage breakdown of ethnic origins and matching to relatives through shared DNA. MyHeritage is now the only global consumer DNA company to offer an extensive health and ancestry product in dozens of languages. The two tests will be offered on our website side by side.

The new test provides health reports that show users their risk of developing or carrying genetic conditions. Reports include conditions where single genes contribute to the risk, such as hereditary breast cancer, late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and late-onset Parkinson’s disease; conditions associated with multiple genes, such as heart disease, and type 2 diabetes; and carrier status reports on conditions that can be passed down from a couple to their children, such as Tay-Sachs disease and cystic fibrosis.

Learn more about the MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry test by reading the press release and the blog post.

For an overview of the new test, you are invited to view the “About MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry Test” video. This video has a separate version for US users.

The MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry kit is available at the price of $199 + shipping on the MyHeritage DNA website. Users who have already purchased the genealogical (ancestry-only) MyHeritage DNA test can upgrade to receive health reports for $120. The new health kit is available globally except in a few countries that do not allow health-related consumer genetic testing.

Privacy is our top priority. All health data is protected by state-of-the-art encryption. Health report data is secured using additional password protection and is so secure that even MyHeritage employees cannot access it. MyHeritage has never licensed or sold user data, and has committed to never do so without explicit user consent. MyHeritage is the only consumer DNA company that has pledged to never sell data to insurance companies. It also applies a strict policy to prohibit the use of its DNA services by law enforcement agencies.

There’s more detail in the MyHeritage press release:

In total, MyHeritage’s Health+Ancestry test covers one of the most extensive ranges of conditions offered by an at-home DNA test: 11 Genetic Risk Reports, including a hereditary breast cancer (BRCA) report that tests 10 pathogenic variants; 3 Polygenic Risk Reports; and 15 Carrier Status Reports.

The World Health Organization identifies cardiovascular disease as the number one cause of death globally. This makes MyHeritage’s unique report for heart disease risk particularly beneficial. This report is based on a cutting-edge method called Polygenic Risk Score that examines hundreds, and in some cases thousands of variants across the entire genome.

In addition to heart disease, the Health+Ancestry product also includes a Polygenic Risk Score for type 2 diabetes, a condition that has significantly increased in prevalence in recent decades and now affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide and 40% of Americans within their lifetime. MyHeritage is also unique in providing a third Polygenic Risk Score for breast cancer, which delivers a risk assessment for breast cancer when none of the BRCA variants that MyHeritage tests for are found. MyHeritage is currently the only major home DNA testing company to offer Polygenic Risk Reports for multiple conditions, and more Polygenic Risk Reports will be added shortly after the product’s initial release. The three initial Polygenic Risk Reports support only populations with European ancestry, but the company has begun conducting research to allow the polygenic reports to cover a broader spectrum of populations in the future.

The list of conditions and genes reported can be found here.

The unique aspect of the MyHeritage Health test is that they include diseases or conditions that are polygenic, meaning that multiple locations on multiple genes are taken into consideration in combination to create the report.

From the MyHeritage blog, for people in the US:

In the United States, we work with an independent network of physicians called PWNHealth, which supervises this new service and provides clinical oversight.

As with our current genealogical DNA kit, activation is required to associate the kit with the individual who is taking the test. With the MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry kit, activation must be done by the user who took the DNA test and it includes an additional step: completing a personal and family health history questionnaire. This ensures that users receive the reports that are appropriate for them. In the United States, an independent physician will review each health history questionnaire, approve the processing of the test, and evaluate all health reports before they are released. When a report indicates an increased risk for a specific condition, the physician will further determine whether genetic counseling is advised. If genetic counseling is recommended, a phone or video consultation with a genetic counselor from PWNHealth is included at no additional cost.

In the United States, the physician oversight and genetic counseling is an important benefit of the MyHeritage DNA Ancestry + Health test. This ensures that users will not be on their own when interpreting the results, in cases where the results indicate increased risk and the physician considers genetic counseling to be essential. In other words, our test provides access to experts who can help people understand their results, which our major competitor does not provide.

I personally feel that the physician oversight and access to a counselor is extremely important. I greatly appreciate that the counselor is included free in cases that merit that level of attention.

Of course, having taken the 23andMe test and utilized Promethease, I’m curious what the MyHeritage information might reveal that wasn’t covered in either of those others. In particular, my father had heart disease and my sister died of a heart attack, so I’m particularly concerned about heart health.

Questions, Answers and Things to Note

  • If you transferred your DNA to MyHeritage from any vendor, you’ll need to test on the MyHeritage chip in order to receive the health reports.
  • The health part of the test is not available to residents of NY, NH and RI due to their state laws. Sorry folks.
  • If you tested your DNA at MyHeritage, you are eligible for an upgrade to the Health product for the price of $120 by signing on to your account here and clicking on the Health tab. If you do not see the $120 upgrade option, that means that you are not eligible for the upgrade because you either haven’t tested yet, or you transferred your DNA file from another vendor.

MyHeritage Health.png

  • To order a new DNA+Health test or upgrade, click here. Current subscribers after signing on will see the new Health tab beside the DNA tab.

MyHeritage DNA tab.png

  • If you order a DNA kit without ordering through the Health tab, you’ll receive an Ancestry only test, but you can still upgrade for the $120 later, so don’t worry.

Occasionally, you can save a few $$ by ordering the initial genealogy-only MyHeritage DNA kit on sale, like for the current price of $59, then wait until your results are back and order the upgrade for $120, for a total of $179 – representing a $20 savings over the $199 price for the Ancestry+Health kit. Now is a great time to order!

  • The upgrade or purchase of the Health test provides initial health information for the first year, but after year 1, if you want updated health information as it becomes available, a health subscription costs $99 per year.

MyHeritage Health subscription.png

I was confused about exactly what the $99 Health Subscription covers, so I asked MyHeritage if I already have a full subscription (which I do, love, and you can try for free), would I still need to purchase the $99 Health Subscription?

I received the following reply:

Yes, you would still need the $99 Health Subscription, if you wish to gain access to all new Genetic Risk and Carrier Status Reports as they are released, beyond those you will get in your initial health results. None of the current subscriptions negates the need for the additional Health subscription for receiving health updates.

However, the Health Subscription will also unlock the advanced MyHeritage DNA genealogical features (see https://blog.myheritage.com/2018/12/starting-today-new-dna-upload-policy/) such as AutoClusters and Theory of Family Relativity.

So, a non-genealogist who buys the new MyHeritage DNA Health+Ancestry kit and adds the health subscription will not need to buy another type of subscription to unlock the advanced MyHeritage DNA genealogical features.

What’s Next?

MyHeritage Kit.jpg

I literally have my new MyHeritage DNA kit in my hands (because I transferred by DNA from another vendor initially) and I’m getting ready to swab.

After I receive my results, I’ll write a comparison about my MyHeritage health results as compared to my 23andMe results.



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Honoring Veteran USMC William Tully Brown, Navajo Code Talker

Veteran USMC William Tully Brown, Navajo Code Talker

Veteran USMC William Tully Brown, 97-year-old Navajo Code Talker of North Cottonwood, Arizona, holding his DNA kit from Family Tree DNA after swabbing, photo courtesy Vee F. Browne-Yellowhair.

I can’t even begin to describe the honor I feel to be able to write a Memorial Day article honoring WWII USMC veteran, William Tully Brown, one of the few living Navajo Code Talkers.

I first became aware of William because he matches the Anzick Child in one of the DNA projects at Family Tree DNA that I administer. I reached out to his daughter Vee F. Browne-Yellowhair who has graciously facilitated communications with her father.

William is 100% Native American, Navajo, as confirmed by his autosomal DNA, family genealogy and tribal history.

If you’re wondering about how a Navajo man born on the Navajo reservation in Arizona might match the DNA of a child buried approximately 12,500 years ago in Montana, the answer is because they share a common ancestor very long ago from a highly endogamous population.

Neither Anzick Child nor William have any ancestors that weren’t Native American, so any DNA that they share must come from Native American ancestors. In other words, their DNA is identical by population.

The original group of individuals migrating across Beringia who would settle in the Americas, the ancestors of all of the Native people extending across North, Central and South America, is thought to have been very small. Of course, there were no humans living in the American continents at that time, so that founding population had no new DNA sources to introduce into the expanding population. All aboriginal people descended from the original group.

beringia map

By Erika Tamm et al – Tamm E, Kivisild T, Reidla M, Metspalu M, Smith DG, et al. (2007) Beringian Standstill and Spread of Native American Founders. PLoS ONE 2(9): e829. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000829. Also available from PubMed Central., CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16975303

It’s believed by some scientists that over time, additional migrations arrived from far Northeast Asia, in what is now Siberia, but that founding population in Asia is the same population that the original group left.

Today, we see fully Native people, including William, with ethnicity results that include North and Central America, Siberia and often, a small amount of East Asian, totaling 100%.

William’s DNA contributions are amazing, and we’ll cover them in a future article, but what I’d really like to do today is to honor his military service and incredible legacies. Yes, legacies, plural. When I think I couldn’t love and respect this man any more, he contributes selflessly again as he approaches the century mark. God Bless this man!

Let’s begin by talking about William’s incredible service with the Navajo Code Talkers.

The Navajo Code Talkers

Veteran USMC William Tully Brown, Navajo Code Talker WWII

William Tully Brown in a younger photo, courtesy Vee F. Browne-Yellowhair.

The Navajo Code Talkers, highly intelligent and incredibly brave men, were the heroes of WWII. The original group of Navajo Marines recruited specifically for their language skills to serve in the Pacific theater numbered 29 but had been expanded to more than 400 by the end of the war.

Only 7 Code Talkers are still alive today. William Tully Brown is 97 years old and is pictured at the beginning of this article in his Marine uniform, which he still loves, and above in a younger photo.

The great irony is that the Navajo had been forbidden as children to speak their Native language, practice their religion, arts or culture, raised often in boarding schools intended to assimilate them and rid them of their Native “ways.” It’s those same children, as men, who saved the very country that tried to “beat the Indian” out of them, teaching them to suffer in silence, according to now deceased Code Talker, Chester Nez.

We should all be incredibly grateful that the Navajo were so forgiving.

Navajo is a very complex language with many dialects, making it unintelligible to other language speakers. It was estimated that only about 30 non-Navajo individuals spoke or understood Navajo in 1942 – making it a wonderful choice for a secret code.

The Navajo language proved to be undecipherable, even by the best cryptographers, and remained so for decades. Meanwhile, the Code Talkers translated communications and tactical information to and from the Navajo language, utilizing radio, telephone and other communications on the front lines of the war. The work of the Code Talkers was essential to the Allied Victory of WWII, with Code Talkers being present at many important battles including Utah Beach and Iwo Jima.

At the Battle of Iwo Jima, Major Howard Connor, 5th Marine Division signal officer, had six Navajo code talkers working around the clock during the first two days of the battle. These six sent and received over 800 messages, all without error. Connor later stated, “Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.”

For many years, the humble Navajo men weren’t recognized, keeping their military secrets, even from their families. It wasn’t until 1968, a quarter century later, that the documents were declassified, resulting in recognition for the brave Code Talkers.

August 14th was designated as National Navajo Code Talkers Day in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan. In 2000, Bill Clinton signed a law which awarded gold medals of honor to the 29 men who developed the special Navajo military code, and silver congressional medals to all Code Talkers. You can view William Tully Brown’s name in the Congressional Record, here.

Their pride and loyalty remains unwavering.

You can read more about the Code Talkers here.

The Language of Our Ancestors

Veteran Code Talker, Kee Etsicitty said, ” We, the Navajo people, were very fortunate to contribute our language as a code for our country’s victory. For this, I strongly recommend we teach our children the language our ancestors were blessed with at the beginning of time. It is very sacred and represents the power of life.”

The Navajo language isn’t the only language and legacy that William Tully Brown will be remembered for. His DNA, yet another language, is a second selfless legacy that he leaves.

William Brown tested his DNA at Family Tree DNA which matches not only with the Anzick child, but with many other individuals who are Navajo or carry Native American DNA.

The Navajo history tells us that they migrated from the far north. Remnants of that journey remain in their oral legends. Archaeologists suggest that the migration from the northwest occurred around the year 1500.

The Navajo language roots confirms that connection.

Navajo is a Na Dene language, a derivative of Athabaskan which is also spoken in Alaska, in northwestern Canada, and along the North American Pacific rim.

Athabascan language map

CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=147052

This map shows the areas where the Na-Dene languages are spoken today.

The languages spoken in areas of the southwestern part of the US are referred to as Southern Athabaskan languages.

Therefore, it doesn’t come as a surprise that we find DNA matches to William Brown by several individuals whose ancestry is Native from and who still live in areas within the northern orange regions.

DNA is Forever

William Tully Brown’s legacy isn’t only in the Navajo code words he spoke in WWII, or his bravery, but also the code carried in his DNA that he has so generously contributed. William’s DNA has now been documented and will endure forever.

William’s genetic legacy reaches out to future generations, extending the connection to the ancestors through the threads of time, back to the Anzick child and forward for generations to come – drawing us all together.

Thank you Marine veteran William Tully Brown for your immense generosity, sacrifices and altruistic contribution of both life-saving and live-giving codes. How fitting that your heroism began 80 years ago with a war-winning language that would rescue both our country and democracy, as well as our Allies – and now, near your century mark, you are leaving a remarkable legacy by contributing your own genetic words, your DNA, for posterity.

Preserving our country then and our Native heritage now, uniting past, present and future. Gathering the generations together, lighting their way home.



Thank you to Vee F. Browne-Yellowhair, the daughter of USMC veteran William Tully Brown, Code Talker, for permission to write this article, her generosity, and for his photos.

Mitochondrial DNA: Part 2 – What Do Those Numbers Mean?

This is the second part in a series about mitochondrial DNA. The first article can be found here:

When people receive their results, generally the first thing they look at is matches, and the second thing is the actual results.

Mitochondrial personal page

You can click smaller images to enlarge.

We’re going to leave working with matches until after we discuss what the numbers on the Results page actually mean.

Fair warning – if you’re not interested in the “science stuff,” then this article probably isn’t for you. We’re going to talk about the different kinds of mutations and how they affect your results and matching. I promise to make the science fun and understandable.

However, it’s only fair to tell you that you don’t need to understand the nitty-gritty to make use of your results in some capacity. We will be covering how to use every tab on your mitochondrial DNA page, above, in future articles – but you may want to arm yourself with this information so you understand why tools, and matching, work the way they do. All matches and mismatches are not created equal!

The next article in the series will be “Mitochondrial DNA: Part 3 – Haplogroups Decoded” in which we’ll discuss how haplogroups are assigned, the differences between vendors, and how haplogroup results can be utilized for genealogy.

If you have your full sequence mitochondrial results from Family Tree DNA, it would be a good idea to sign on now, or to print out your results page so you can refer to your results while reading this article.


I’m using my own results in these examples.

When you click on the “Results” icon on your personal page, above, this is what you’ll see.

Mitochondrial results 1

Please click to enlarge image.

After you read the information about your haplogroup origin, your eyes will drift down to the numbers below, where they will stop, panic spreading throughout your body.

Never fear – your decoder ring is right here.

Where Did Those Numbers Come From?

The numbers you are seeing are the locations in your mitochondrial DNA where a mutation has occurred. Mutations, in this sense, are not bad things, so don’t let that word frighten you. In fact, mutations are what enables genetic genealogy to work.

Most of the 16,569 locations never change. Only the locations that have experienced a mutation are shown. Locations not listed have not experienced a mutation.

The number shown is the location, or address, in the mitochondrial DNA where a mutation has occurred.

However, there is more than one way to view your results.

Two Tabs – rCRS and RSRS

Mitochondrial RSRS tab

Please click to enlarge images.

You’ll notice that there are two tabs at the top of the page. RSRS values are showing initially.

rCRS and RSRS are abbreviations for “revised Cambridge Reference Sequence” and “Reconstructed Sapiens Reference Sequence.”

The CRS, Cambridge Reference Sequence was the reference model invented in 1981, at Cambridge University, when the first full sequencing of mitochondrial DNA was completed. Everyone has been compared to that anonymous individual ever since.

The problem is that the reference individual was a member of haplogroup H, not a haplogroup further back in time, closer to Mitochondrial Eve. Mitochondrial Eve was not the first woman to live, but the first woman to have a line of continuous descendants to present. You can read more about the concept of Mitochondrial Eve, here and about rCRS/RSRS here.

Using a haplogroup H person for a reference is kind of like comparing everyone to the middle of a book – the part that came later is no problem, but how do you correctly classify the changes that preceded the mutations that produced haplogroup H?

Think of mitochondrial DNA as a kind of biological timeline.

Mitochondrial Eve to rCRS.png

In this concept example, you can see that Mitochondrial Eve lived long ago and mutations, Xs, that formed haplogroups accrued until haplogroup H was born, and additional mutations continued to accrue over thousands of years.

Mitochondrial Eve to H and J.png

Haplogroup J, a different haplogroup, was born from one of mitochondrial Eve’s descendants with a string of their own mutations.

The exact same process occurred with every other haplogroup.

You can see a bare-bones tree in the image below, with H and J under different branches of R, at the bottom.

Mitochondrial bare bones tree.png

Using the rCRS model, the descendants of haplogroup J born today are being compared to the rCRS reference person who is a descendant of haplogroup H.

In reality, everyone should be being compared directly to Mitochondrial Eve, or at least someone much closer to the root of the mitochondrial phylotree than haplogroup H. However, when the CRS and then the revised CRS (rCRS) was created, scientists didn’t know as much as they do today.

In 2012, Dr. Doron Behar et al rewrote the mitochondrial DNA phylotree in the paper A “Copernican” Reassessment of the Human Mitochondrial DNA Tree from its Root by discerning what mitochondrial Eve’s DNA looked like by tracking the mutations backwards in time.

Then, the scientists redrew the tree and compared everyone to Mitochondrial Eve at the base of the tree. The RSRS view shows those mutations, which is why I have more mutations in the RSRS model than in the rCRS model where I’m compared with the haplogroup H person who is closer in time than Mitochondrial Eve. In other words, mutations that were considered “normal” for haplogroup J because haplogroup H carried them, are not considered mutations by both haplogroup J and H because they are both being compared to Mitochondrial Eve.

Today, some papers and individuals utilize the CRS version, and others utilize the RSRS version. People don’t adapt very well or quickly to change. Complicating this further, the older papers, published before 2012, would continue to reference rCRS values, so maintaining the rCRS in addition to the RSRS seemed prudent.

You can see the actual mtDNA haplotree here and I wrote about how to use it here.

Let’s look at the differences in the displays and why each is useful.

The Cambridge Reference Sequence

My rCRS results look a little different than the RSRS results.

Mitochondrial RSRS tab

You can click to enlarge images.

I have more mutations showing on the RSRS page, above, than in the rCRS page below, including only the information above the second row of black headers.

Mitochondrial rCRS page

Click to enlarge.

That’s because my RSRS results are being compared to Mitochondrial Eve, much further back in time. Compared to Mitochondrial Eve, I have a lot more mutations than I have being compared to a haplogroup H individual.

Let’s look at the most common example. Do you see my mutation at location 16519C?

Mitochondrial 16519.png

In essence, the rCRS person carried this mutation, which meant that it became “normal” and anyone who didn’t have the mutation shows with a mutation at this location.

Therefore, today, you’re very likely to have a mutation at location 16519C in the rCRS model.

In the RSRS results below, you can see that 16519C is missing from the HVR1 differences.

Mitochondrial DNA RSRS mutations.png

You can see that the other two mutations at locations 16069 and 16126 are still present, but so are several others not present in the rCRS model. This means that the mutations at locations 16129, 16187, 16189, 16223, 16230, 16278 and 16311 are all present in the rCRS model as “normal” so they weren’t reported in my results as mutations.

However, when compared to Mitochondrial Eve, the CRS individual AND me would both be reported with these mutations, because we are both being compared to Mitochondrial Eve.

Another difference is that at the bottom of the rCRS page you can see a list of mutations and their normal CRS value, along with your result.

Mitochondrial HVR1 rCRS mutations.png

For location 16069, the normal CRS value is C and your value is T.

Why don’t we have this handy chart for the RSRS?

We don’t need it, because the value of 16069C in the RSRS model is written with the normal letter preceding the location, and the mutated value after.

Mitochondrial nucleotides.png

You might have noticed that you see 4 different letters scattered through your results. Why is that?


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

  • T – Thymine
  • A – Adenine
  • C – Cytosine
  • G – Guanine

Looking at location 16069, above, we see that C is the normal value and T is the mutated value.

Let’s look at different kinds of mutations.

Transitions, Transversions and Reversions

DNA is normally paired in a particular way, Ts with As and Cs with Gs. You can read more about how that works here.

Sometimes the T-As and C-Gs flip positions, so T-C, for example. These are known as transitions. A mutation with a capital letter at the end of the location is a transition.

For example, C14352T indicates that the normal value in this location is C, but it has mutated to T. This is a transition and T will be capitalized. The first letter is always capitalized.

If you notice that one of your trailing letters in your RSRS results is a small letter instead of a capital, that means the mutation is a transversion instead of a transition. For example, C14352a.

Mitochondrial DNA transitions and transversions.png

You can read more about transitions and transversions here and here.

When looking at your RSRS results, your letter before the allele number is the normal state and the trailing noncapital letter is the transversion. With C14352a, C is the normal state, but the mutation caused the change to a, which is a small letter to indicate that it is a transversion.

Original Value

Typical Transition Pairing (large trailing letter)

Unusual Transversion Pairing (small trailing letter)


C a or g



c or t



a or g


c or t

An exclamation mark (!) at the end of a labeled position denotes a reversion to the ancestral or original state. This means that the location used to have a mutation, but it has reverted back to the “normal” state. Why does this matter? Because DNA is a timeline and you need to know the mutation history to fully understand the timeline.

The number of exclamation marks stands for the number of sequential reversions in the given position from the RSRS (e.g., C152T, T152C!, and C152T!!).

Mitochondrial DNA reversions.png

This means that the original nucleotide at that location was C, it changed to T, then back to C, then back to T again, indicated by the double reversion-!!. Yes, a double reversion is very, very rare.


Mitochondrial DNA insertions.png

Many people have mutations that appear with a decimal point. I have an insertion at location 315. The decimal point indicates that an insertion has occurred, and in this case, an extra nucleotide, a C, was inserted. Think of this as DNA cutting in line between two people with assigned parking spaces – locations 315 and 316. There’s no room for the cutter, so it’s labeled 315.1 plus the letter for the nucleotide that was inserted.

Sometimes you will see another insertion at the same location which would be noted at 315.2C or 315.2A if a different nucleotide was inserted.

Complex insertions are shown as 315.XC which means that there was an insertion of multiple nucleotides, C, in this case, of unknown length. So the number of Cs would be more than 1, but the number was not measurable so the unknown “X” was used.

Some locations, such as 309 and 315 are so unstable, mutating so often, that they are not included in matching.


Deletions occur when a piece of DNA is forever removed. Once deleted, DNA cannot regenerate at that position.

A deletion is indicated by either a “d” or a “-“ such as 522d or 522-.

Deletions at locations 522 and 523 are so common that they aren’t utilized in matching either.

Extra and Missing Mutations

On the RSRS tab, you’ll notice extra and missing mutations. These are mutations that vary from those normally found in people who carry your haplogroup. Missing and extra mutations are your own personal DNA filter that allow you to have genealogically meaningful matches.

Mitochondrial DNA extra and missing mutations.png

Extra mutations are mutations that you have, but most people in your haplogroup don’t.

Missing mutations are mutations that most people have, and you don’t.


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

What this means is that you have two versions of the DNA sequence showing in your mitochondrial DNA at that location. At a specific location, you show both of two separate nucleotides. Amounts detected of a second nucleotide over 20% are considered a heteroplasmy. Amounts below 20% are ignored. Generally, within a few generations, the mutation will resolve in one direction or the other – although I have seen some heteroplasmies that seem to be persistent for several generations.

Heteroplasmies are indicated in your results by a different letter at the end of the location, so for example, C16069Y where the Y would indicate that a heteroplasmy had been detected.

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

Mitochondrial DNA heteroplasmy.png

Heteroplasmy Matching

Technically, using the example of C16069Y, where Y tells us that both C and T was found, this location should match against anyone carrying the following values:

  • C (original value)
  • T (mutated value)
  • Y (letter indicating a heteroplasmy)

However, currently at Family Tree DNA, the heteroplasmy only counts as a match to the Y (specific heteroplasmy indicator) and the CRS value or C, but not the mutated value of T.

Genetic Distance

The difference in matching locations is called the genetic distance. I wrote about genetic distance in the article, Concepts – Genetic Distance which has lots of examples.

When you have unusual results, they can produce unexpected consequences. For example, if a heteroplasmy is found in the HVR 1 or 2 region, and a woman’s child doesn’t have a heteroplasmy, but does have the mutated value – the two individuals, mother and child, won’t be shown as a match at the HVR1/2 level because only exact matches are shown as matches at that level.

That can be pretty disconcerting.

If you notice something unusual in your results, and you match someone exactly, you know that they have the same anomaly. If you don’t match the person exactly, you might want to ask them if they have the same unusual result.

If you expect to match someone, and don’t, it doesn’t hurt to begin discussions by asking about their haplogroup. While they might be hesitant to share their exact results values with you, sharing their haplogroup shouldn’t be problematic. If you don’t share at least the same base haplogroup, you don’t need to talk further. You’re not related in a genealogically relevant timeframe on your matrilineal line.

If you do share the same haplogroup, then additional discussion is probably warranted about your differences in results. I generally ask about the unusual “extra and missing” mutations, beginning with “how many do you have?” and discussing from there.


I know there’s a lot to grasp here. Many people don’t really want to learn the details any more than I want to change my car’s oil.

I understand that completely which is why I provide both Quick Consults and Personalized DNA Reports for those who want information either quickly or as a report for either Y or mitochondrial DNA. Quick Consults allow up to an hour to answer a specific question, and Personalized DNA Reports provide you with a written document of 70-100 pages that explains your results and what they mean to you.

You can also call, e-mail or e-chat with the support department at Family Tree DNA which is free.

Next Article – Haplogroups

Your haplogroup, which we’ll discuss in the next article, can eliminate people as being related to you in the past hundreds to thousands of years, but you need the information held in all of your 16,569 locations to perform granular genealogical matching and to obtain all of the available information. In order to obtain all 16,569 locations, you need to order the mtFull Sequence test at Family Tree DNA.



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Thank you so much.

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GedMatch Implements Required Opt-In for Law Enforcement Matching

GedMatch has provided an autosomal suite of tools for genealogists that isn’t offered elsewhere for several years now. Their basic service is free but their advanced tools, known at Tier 1, are subscription. GedMatch is comprised of two individuals, Curtis Rogers and his partner. I know them both and have for years.

Every serious genealogist uses or has used GedMatch because it’s the only place that provides the unique blend of tools they offer. In addition to testing at or transferring to multiple vendors, GedMatch is an integral part of fishing in every pond.

However, GedMatch has been under fire for a year.

Law Enforcement Kit Matching

In April 2018, GedMatch made news, and eventually the New York Times, when the database was utilized to catch the Golden State Killer (GSK). I wrote about that here.

GedMatch felt that they were unable to stop the uploading of forensic kits, meaning kits created from evidence left at crime scenes, so they chose to embrace working with law enforcement to catch violent criminals and identify victims whose DNA is obtained from their remains.

How often does this really work?

In the fall of 2018, a paper titled Re-dentification of genomic data using long range familiar searches was published by Yaniv Erlich et al and stated:

“Here, we leveraged genomic data of 600,000 individuals tested with consumer genomics to investigate the power of such long-range familial searches. We project that half of the searches with European-descent individuals will result with a third cousin or closer match and will provide a search space small enough to permit re-identification using common demographic identifiers. Moreover, in the near future, virtually any European-descent US person could be implicated by this technique.”

This certainly gives law enforcement reason to believe that if they could upload evidence kits from violent crime scenes and victims, that they could be identified. The cases solved since that time have proven the paper’s statement to be accurate.

Legally, this is known as “probable cause” and would provide law enforcement with a valid reason to petition the court for a search warrant to order that forensic kits be allowed to be uploaded to identify murderers and rapists. It’s likely that they can be identified, which would justify the issuance of a search warrant.

A few months later, in January 2019, Family Tree DNA began allowing law enforcement to upload kits of murderers, rapists and cases of abduction in addition to deceased unidentified victims after screening and approval on a case by case basis. The Family Tree DNA Law Enforcement Guide is here and their Law Enforcement FAQ is here.

I don’t think a comprehensive list exists of the cases solved since GSK, but I know it’s in excess of 30. Not all solved cases have been revealed at this point.

The Kerfuffle

Within the genetic genealogy community, allowing law enforcement to upload DNA kits in order to identify the perpetrators of crimes and unidentified victims has caused an uproar, to put it mildly. Said another way, it has divided the community in half in an ugly way with both sides feeling they are on morally sound and superior ground.

Although surveys published in this academic article show that more than 90% of people are in favor, some of the genetic genealogy community influencers feel otherwise and specifically, that without every person in the data base giving individual consent for this type of matching, that law enforcement matching is unethical. Some are reasonable and will discuss the situation civilly, and others, not so much.

I disagree, in part, because other types of searches such as for biological parents that can have devastating consequences are viewed in another light entirely with many of these same people employed in the search for unknown parents. These searches using the exact same techniques and databases have resulted in destroyed families and murders.

In one case, Michael Lacopo’s mother murdered her father after Michael identified the father using DNA. You can read Michael’s story, here. There are also other very ugly incidents that I’m not at liberty to discuss.

Law enforcement searches for matches to identify criminals, on the other hand, lead to the apprehension of violent offenders.

I shared my opinion in the article, Things That Need To Be Said: Victims, Murder and Judgement.

Every time a new case is solved and hits the news, the outrage begins anew, culminating this past week when Curtis Rogers allowed law enforcement to utilize GedMatch for the identification of a person who broke into a church in Utah and assaulted the elderly 71 year old organist who was practicing in the church alone, strangling her from behind and leaving her for dead. You can read about the assault here.

Had the organist died, it would have been within the GedMatch guidelines, but because she did not, this was technically a breach of the GedMatch terms of service – although in one place their guidelines said “violent crimes” and from my perspective, there is no question that this event qualifies. Thank goodness the 17 year old perpetrator has been identified and is being dealt with before he actually does kill someone.

Regardless, this episode in addition to other recently solved cases culminated with a number of community “influencers” removing both GedMatch and Family Tree DNA from presentations and openly discouraging the use of both companies on Facebook, in blog articles and in other venues. In other words, a boycott and censure, effectively.

Some of the “influencers” have been repeatedly working with BuzzFeed, as in this Buzzfeed story about the Utah case, yet others called for a more balanced approach that would not destroy the resources, companies and community built over the last two decades. Shannon Christmas wrote a balanced article here as did Maurice Gleeson here.

What Happened?

Yesterday, GedMatch sent e-mails to law enforcement providers and a few others, stating that they were changing their terms of service. The contents of the e-mail have been posted on social media, but I’m not comfortable publishing the exact verbiage, other than to say that GedMatch has proceeded, both initially and now, with the best interests of everyone at heart.

Curtis Rogers is concerned that the extreme paralytic division and resulting polarization  is in essence threatening genetic genealogy as a whole.

Extrapolating from that, if the “influencers” manage to kill GedMatch and Family Tree DNA, not only will the community have lost incredibly important resources that are not and cannot be duplicated elsewhere, law enforcement will have lost extremely valuable resources for identifying both criminals and victims. In other words, everyone loses.

Therefore, GedMatch has implemented a new opt-in policy for law enforcement matching.

GedMatch’s New Opt-In Policy

Effective immediately, GedMatch has set all kits, of everyone in their database, to opt-out, meaning that now no kits at all can be used for matching by law enforcement unless users specifically opt-in. Here’s the GedMatch announcement on their webpage after you sign in.

GedMatch LE opt in change.png

This means that if you are at GedMatch, no kits in your account can now be utilized for law enforcement matching. This is clearly a devastating blow to law enforcement, in part because every database is biased towards whatever the default value is. People either don’t read or don’t bother to make changes. Many have abandoned their accounts or died.

GedMatch has already added an opt-in capability meaning that everyone will have to select “opt-in” to make their kit available for law enforcement matching.

The new GedMatch new Terms of Service are here.

Please Opt-In

We are much better as a society with the likes of John Miller, identified through GedMatch, who raped and murdered 7 year old April Tinsley put behind bars where he can’t damage anyone else. DNA identification has also provided closure to many families whose relatives have been missing for years, such as Audrey Lee Cook and Donna Prudhomme who were killed in the 1980s and whose remains were identified using the Family Tree DNA database.

I hope everyone will opt-in, and quickly, so we can rebuild the data base available to law enforcement for matching.

GedMatch LE opt out.png

Viewing the list of kits that I manage on GedMatch, you can see that my kit is listed with a red X through police BY DEFAULT, even though I never made that selection. Your default is “NO” as well.

Clicking on the pencil enables viewing and changing my profile.

Enable Law Enforcement Matching

Here are the steps necessary to enable law enforcement matching.

GedMatch profile.png

Update – note that I’m told that the options above, with LE and no LE have been positionally swapped – so please read, not just follow my pattern.

Notice my default status is “Public, no LE access.” LE means law enforcement.

GedMatch LE opt in.png

In order to change my status, I must BOTH click the radio button that says “Public, with LE access” AND click Change.

This is a 2-step process and if you forget to click change, you’ll think you enabled LE matching, but you didn’t.

Other options include:

  • “No public access” at all, which means that you cannot utilize the kit for matching
  • “Research” which means you can use the kit for matching, but no one else can see your results in their match list.

After the change, your kit should show the status as “Yes, opt-in LE access,” shown at left, below.

GedMatch opt in success.png

Please take the time to change your kits to “Public, with LE access” at GedMatch to enable matching to law enforcement kits to get the criminals off our streets and identify victims, providing closure to families.

Family Tree DNA

Please also upload your kits to Family Tree DNA for the same reason. At Family Tree DNA, currently if you are in the US you are opted in automatically, and if you are in an EU country you were opted-out automatically due to GDPR regulations. EU users since March 12th when the initial opt-out occurred should check their status. You can change either option after signing in by clicking on “Manage Personal Information,” then “Privacy and Sharing.”

The DNA file transfer and matching are both free. Here are instructions.



I receive a small contribution when you click on the link to one of the 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

Robert Vernon Estes (1931-1951): MIA, POW, Military Records – 52 Ancestors #239

When I first discovered that my father’s nephew, Robert Vernon Estes, was a prisoner of war in North Korea and died, probably of starvation, in their hands during his captivity, I was determined to discover as much as possible about Robert’s short life – and death. Maybe after all of these years more information would be available, although many of his records burned in the Records Center fire in St Louis in 1973.

I asked Twisted Twigs and Gnarled Branches to find and obtain as many of his military records as possible, from as many sources as possible.

I felt that this is the very least I could do for Robert, known as Bobby in the family, 68 years after he was robbed of life by an inhumane enemy.

Killed in warfare is one thing – but starvation is another. I just don’t understand how humans WITH food could deprive other starving humans – to the point of death. How could they not only observe that horrific suffering, but be responsible for inflicting it willfully upon the miserable and dying who were probably begging for any morsel of food?

That’s not war – it’s torture, pure and simple.

Bobby’s Records

The packet of information arrived in an e-mail from Twisted Twigs while I was speaking at a conference last week. I was almost afraid to open the document for fear of what might be inside, but I had to know.

The first record reveals the date that Bobby’s Missing in Action (MIA) status was communicated to his family. He became MIA and was taken prisoner on November 30th, 1950 but the family wasn’t notified until January 4th, 1951 using message “68.”

Robert Vernon Estes record 1

MyHeritage shows that Bobby was a truck driver.

Robert Vernon Estes record 2

I was hopeful that the MyHeritage yearbook collection would include Bobby’s photo, but neither Bobby nor his brother Charles is shown in any yearbook from their collection. I called the local Monon library as well, and while there are some years missing in the Monon yearbook collection, there are also years present where Bobby should have been included. Perhaps the Estes boys attended a different school system, or maybe they dropped out early to farm. In any case, sadly, there is no known photo of Bobby.

Joseph Dode Estes in WWI.jpg

The closest I can get is a photo of Joseph “Dode” Estes, Bobby’s father, taken during WWI. Bobby probably looked something like Joe.

Bobby was an Army Corporal, promoted during his captivity. His address was given as Route 1 in Monon, Indiana, which indicates that he lived in the country.

Robert Vernon Estes record 3.png

Bobby’s mother, Lucille Latta, had remarried to Harry Stockdale in 1941. She died at age 45 of a stroke on August 18, 1952 where her obituary states that Robert is MIA and had been since November 30, 1950.

Robert Vernon Estes record 4

Lucille was not notified in person that Bobby was missing, but by an impersonal letter, even after a several weeks delay.

Robert Vernon Estes record 5

Robert Vernon Estes record 6Robert Vernon Estes record 7Robert Vernon Estes record 8

My heart aches to think about Lucille opening this letter. Did she know as soon as she saw the envelope in the mailbox, standing on that country road that cold January day?

By the time the military sent the letter, Bobby had been missing for all of December and into January. By the time his mother received it, another week or so.

Did Lucille wonder why she hadn’t received any mail from Bobby, especially given the Christmas holiday? Or was mail so scarce from the front that no mail was normal?

Unbeknownst to the family, Bobby had probably been starving since his capture, was laboring in a mining camp, and may have already died by the time this letter reached his mother.

Did her mother’s sixth sense tell her that her son was in trouble and was being tortured?

All Lucille could do was wait half a world away.

Robert Vernon Estes record 9

By June, even though Lucille wasn’t aware, the military was requesting dental information which suggests that they had no information that he was alive. They probably had no information at all.


In June of 1952, Lucille was apparently very frustrated with the lack of response from the military and engaged her elected representatives for assistance.

Robert Vernon Estes record 10

Based on dates, letters seemed to have crossed in the mail.

Robert Vernon Estes record 11Robert Vernon Estes record 12

Lucille just wanted Bobby’s things, whatever remained with the military. He certainly couldn’t use them whether he was missing, dead or in captivity.

At this point, Lucille didn’t know if he had been captured or killed. What she did know was that he didn’t reappear after being considered MIA, so he wasn’t just lost, injured or displaced.

Robert Vernon Estes record 13Robert Vernon Estes record 14

Bobby’s personal items were going to come home. Lucille, as a mother, would have been hopeful that Bobby would return home too, eventually.

Robert Vernon Estes record 15Robert Vernon Estes record 16

The letter to Lucille’s Congressman was written by the Army a few days before the letter to her.

Robert Vernon Estes record 17Robert Vernon Estes record 18

“Period of anxiety.” That’s an incredible understatement.

Robert Vernon Estes record 19Robert Vernon Estes record 20


Robert Vernon Estes record 21

It’s interesting to note that Lucille’s Congressional inquiry did serve to expedite things.

Robert Vernon Estes record 22

Dirty towels and worn, torn socks. Lucille probably cherished them since they carried part of Bobby.

Apparently, these items had been sitting someplace since April.

Robert Vernon Estes record 23

The shipment inventory of effects is dated May 16, 1952.

Robert Vernon Estes record 24

These few items were sent to Bobby’s mother. The bottom items appear to have been sent in July, but the top 2 were sent in a second, later, shipment.

In October of 1952, the Army requested his dental information, again.

Robert Vernon Estes record 25

Lucille died in August 1952. When I made that discovery, I wondered if the stress of Bobby’s captivity in any way contributed to her early death of a stroke.

Bobby’s Bible and “misc brass” weren’t returned until after Lucille had passed away.

Robert Vernon Estes record 26Robert Vernon Estes record 27

Given that Lucille had died, Harry wrote to the military on her behalf.

Robert Vernon Estes record 28Robert Vernon Estes record 29Robert Vernon Estes record 30

Where’s Joseph “Dode” Estes?

Reading this letter from Harry, I realized that no-place in Bobby’s records is his father, Joseph “Dode” Estes either mentioned or communicated with. In fact, it’s Bobby’s step-father who wrote this letter, which leads me to wonder about the absence of Dode.

Where was Bobby’s father and why was he not involved at some level? One would think the military would communicate with a father before a step-father, although Harry married Lucille when Bobby was 10 years old.

The Estes family knew, at least eventually, that Bobby had died. Somehow, someplace, Joe had been told. I noticed in one of my father’s records that the authorities in Lafayette, Indiana in 1938 were asking my father if he had seen Joe. My father stated that he had not seen Joe since the previous Christmas at their mother’s house in Chicago.

This makes me wonder if Joe was in some sort of legal trouble.

Regardless, it tells us that by 1938, Joe was not in the area, assuming my father was truthful, which might not be a valid assumption.

Joe Estes 1940

This September 1940 newspaper clipping tells us that Lucille and Joe were getting divorced and had been separated for a decade. In fact, their separation date is in September 1930 and Bobby’s birth date is March 27, 1931, telling us that they separated when Lucille was 3 months pregnant. Joe may never have been involved much in Bobby’s life.

In 1926, Joe had been in trouble for stealing a car, although he wasn’t convicted because the prosecution’s witness failed to appear.

However, in February 1930, Joe was jailed due to intoxication.

Joe Estes 1930

The State Penal Farm isn’t the local jail, so this sentence must have been non-trivial, although we know he had been released by late June 1930 when Bobby was conceived.

On September 27, 1930, Joe went to jail once again for stealing chickens.

Joe Estes chicken thief

This date coincides with the separation date in Lucille’s divorce pleading. She had had enough, pregnant or not. Joe was still in jail, unless he accrued “good time,” when Bobby was born.

The daughter of Bobby’s brother, Charles, told me years ago that Charles remembered that, as a child, between the ages of 8-10, a group of men with guns came and took Joe away in a vehicle. If Charles’ memory is accurate, that would put this event between 1935 and 1937. The family was shrouded in secrets, and Charles, born in 1927, didn’t see Joe again until he was an adult and somehow found his father.

Aunt Margaret sent a photo of Joe in San Pedro, California in 1942.

Estes, Joe Dode 1942 Dan Pedro Ca..jpg

Joe’s location in 1950/51 is a mystery but Aunt Margaret’s letter says that prior to her mother’s death in 1955, she had been sending Joe money to help with his medical bills. He had reportedly been hit by a car in Indiana or near Chicago. My father thought Joe had died, either then or eventually, as did the rest of the family. Joe didn’t pass away until 1988 in Fairfield, Illinois.

Another of Margaret’s letters places Joe in Claiborne County, Tennessee in 1957.

“I also chewed him out in 57 when Ed and I visited Eppersons and Dode was working in the cain patch after telling me he was down and couldn’t get up. We went after him and when Aunt Corny Epperson told me Joe had come there splurging money received from his son’s death in the armed service – yet crying hard luck to me, I flipped my lid and really laid him out flat with a good lecture.”

Unfortunately, there are no records regarding payment of any funds related to Bobby’s death.


Robert Vernon Estes record 31Robert Vernon Estes record 32

Bobby’s Bible wasn’t returned until after Lucille died. $1.47 and a Bible – all the makings of an appropriately sad country song.

Robert Vernon Estes record 33

The Bible was worn from usage. I hope Bobby found solace and comfort there.

Robert Vernon Estes record 34

The months must have dragged on for Harry after Lucille’s death and the interminable waiting on word about Bobby’s whereabouts.

Hopefully, Bobby was just a prisoner of war and would be released or exchanged after the war ended. If Harry was a praying man, that would have been his daily prayer.

The Korean conflict ended in 1953. Other men who were missing and actually POWs were released, but still nothing about Bobby.


Then the inevitable…

Robert Vernon Estes record 35

Word had come that Bobby was dead, not informed by the Koreans diplomatically, but from a friend of another soldier who had direct knowledge of Bobby’s death. The soldier grapevine.

And then this entry in Bobby’s file.

Robert Vernon Estes record 36Another antiseptic letter. You’d think a personal visit would have been much more respectful to deliver this type of devastating news.

Robert Vernon Estes record 37Robert Vernon Estes record 38

Word came, albeit through the grapevine, that Bobby had died of dysentery and pneumonia. I have to wonder if this was secondary to starvation, or his body was unable to heal due to lack of food. We know that other men died of starvation in these camps days on either side of Bobby’s death.

Clearly, the North Koreans were not interested in the health and welfare of their captives – or even basic human decency.

The money that Joe was spending that he received from Bobby’s death was likely Bobby’s pay for the time that he was captured in November 1950 until he was declared dead in January 1954. Bobby’s pay would have been $83.20 per month, plus $8 for foreign duty pay as a private, and slightly more as a corporal. That promotion was actually posthumous.

Three years and a couple months pay was certainly a windfall to Bobby’s father, equivalent to about $30,500 today. One family member said Joe purchased a restaurant in Tazewell, Tennessee, but I found no documentation of that rumor.

This card in Bobby’s file documents the source of the determination that he had died.

Robert Vernon Estes record 39Robert Vernon Estes record 40Robert Vernon Estes record 41

“The Letter,” direct, to the point, short and final.

Robert Vernon Estes record 42Robert Vernon Estes record 43

Pneumonia – not starvation directly – although other men did starve at this camp during this time.

I wonder if the family actually accepted this letter as final. If one wanted to continue to hope, there is enough ambiguity with the notification being a friend of a friend that one could possibly refuse to abandon hope. Lucille was gone, Harry as a step-parent might have been more accepting, but I wonder about Bobby’s brother, Charles.

Robert Vernon Estes record 44Robert Vernon Estes record 45Robert Vernon Estes record 46

An identical letter was sent to Charles, Bobby’s brother, but nothing was sent to Bobby’s father. The military may have had no information about Joe. Joe was known to drink and was reported to have been hit by a car, incurring amnesia. Joe could also have been in jail someplace. The Estes men of Joe’s generation were not known for their good behavior.


January 1956 brought this letter.

Robert Vernon Estes record 47Robert Vernon Estes record 48Robert Vernon Estes record 49Robert Vernon Estes record 50


Such a final verdict.

Bobby was held in North Korea, not in the DMZ. The Koreans never tracked their prisoners, never informed anyone of their capture, and never kept records of their location, treatment, deaths or burials. Bobby may be in a mass grave someplace with the other men that died each day.

In short, the Koreans never had any intention of these men surviving to release.

Bobby’s remains would never leave Korean soil. He is literally buried at the feet of his tortuous captors.

The only saving grace is that Lucille had joined Bobby and she already knew. She no longer cared about bodies.

Mining Camps

I narrowed the possible POW camps based on the description of the camp where Bobby was held as a mining camp which helped immensely. I found the following candidates.

  • Pukchin Mining Camp – between Kunu-ri and Pyoktong – (aka. Death Valley Camp).
  • Suan Mining Camp – P’yong-yang
  • Koksan Mining Camp

Based on the location, near Kunu-ri where Bobby was captured, he was most likely at the Pukchin Camp, also known as the Death Valley Camp.

I wish Bobby’s records had said specifically where he was held and died. Surely Eugene Inman, the soldier who provided the death information, knew.

Eugene provided the following description of the Death Valley Camp in the book, American POWs in Korea, Sixteen Personal Accounts.

Robert Vernon Estes Death Valley Camp

Eugene Inman, POW

Eugene Inman was the soldier and fellow POW who informed the military that Bobby had died. Eugene and Bobby were in the same unit when they were captured.

Eugene Inman is honored as a veteran and former Korean POW on this page. I want to thank Mr. Inman, now deceased, for his sacrifices and for telling the story of his capture and subsequent POW experience – which is also Bobby’s story.

I am quoting the full portions of Eugene’s biography relevant to Bobby, below, because Bobby can’t tell his own story:

I served with the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, 9th Infantry Ret. I saw action in various parts of Korea from the Naktong River Line in last of July-Aug. 1950 as a member of an RCT plugging holes here and there under highly stressed and traumatic scenes until Chongchon River Line in November 1950.

The early activities in July were struggles to beat back probing and breakthrough efforts of the Koreans. Then my capture running the gauntlet at the pass in the Kunu-ri-Sunchon roadblock of the Kuni-ri area November 30, 1950, when the Chinese entered the conflict. Years of torment and abuse followed, thinking only of survival. Finally my freedom when I was repatriated at “Big Switch,” crossing “Freedom Bridge” Aug. 30, 1953.

The last week or so before capture was very difficult and dangerous. The extreme cold and confusion of the ambushes at roadblocks had cut us off from our own lines. At the time of capture we were separated from the main company, and my outfit was cut off by the enemy forces. Resultant conditions forced our surrender by ones, twos and small handfuls. Broken up into small groups we were to seek our own way out. We were out of ammunition and supplies, and the way to our lines was totally blocked. As the battle of Kunu-ri receded, there were many wounded and dead lying on all sides of us on the hillsides, on the road and in the ditches. The pass was blocked with all kinds of equipment, a mass of destroyed junk.

We were gathered up and placed into a holding area of animal sheds and vacant huts without any protection from the cold. The chill factor drove the cold deep into our bodies to the point that it was debilitating pain and restricted movement, thinking and reaction. The weather was at its worst, for the area was mountainous and it was bitter cold. The temperature was well below zero, in the 30- below-or-more area.

We lost all our warm clothing we had to the enemy who took off of us whatever they wanted. I was left with only light clothing, a field jacket being the heaviest article with a fatigue cap and a tattered scarf. I used the scarf, which was very long, to wrap around my face and neck covering all the exposed area I could. My breath caused a layer of ice to form from my jaw down to my waist. It acted somewhat as an insulator in the area it formed. There was no real protection from the extreme cold, even the equipment, rifles, machine guns, trucks, jeeps and most things with oil turned to glue in the punishing cold refusing to function.

We were forced to march under these frightening conditions for 15 or so days from sundown to sunup. We walked without food, and as we passed civilians they would stone us. Many of the stones found their mark and caused serious injuries. The police and home guard were especially brutal. The wounded and the exhausted among us began to suffer. It was unbelievable. If they fell out and could not go on they were indiscriminately shot, bayoneted, or clubbed to death. During the march we truly had no shelter from the elements, and food, as such was provided, only on irregular intervals of days. It consisted of cracked corn and sometimes was mixed with soybeans. This kind of food did two things to me on each intake; (1) a case of dysentery, fever, bowel discharge of mucus and blood. I was always thirsty, that never really stopped, (2) abdominal cramps and rectal pain. No time of the day or night freed one from the constant urge to purge oneself.

In what I believe was the month December in 1950 we arrived in a deserted mining town in the Pukchin area. The place was called “Death Valley.” We faced the inclement weather, lack of shelter, food, death, and the attempts to indoctrinate us, with “Marxism” given in small groups. It was here that various conditions of fear, beatings and death of many from lack of proper food, potable water and bowel discharge of mucus and blood increased. It took a large toll in lives.

The huts and animal shelters were made from mud, stones and thatched roofs. The room was made of dried mud and the floors were large flat rocks and mud. The rooms were extremely small and we were packed into them in such a manner as to have no room to rest. It seemed that every time a guard wanted to express his anger at the world in general and me in particular he would strike, shove or kick me in the same areas and I never seemed to completely heal. The favorite areas for the guards on the march and/or in the camps seemed to be the arms, shoulders, leg joints and back area.

These areas always seemed to be re-injured by the repeated hits and falls when carrying heavy wood products in the slippery ice and snow.

We left the “Valley” and marched to Camp Five at Pyoktong, arriving Dec 25,1950. I stayed there until Aug 12, 1952. The cold in the marches and food of poorest quality of whole kernel corn, sometimes mixed with soybeans, given every 24 to 72 hours didn’t help matters either. There was little change in food to corn and millet with a little rice on special days. But still men died of starvation.

Then the camp authorities added bean curd and seaweed, which helped those not too weak to make a recovery. Malnutrition was very ghastly in the period from Jan. 1951 to August 1952. I experienced profound changes in the condition of my body. My ankles and legs swelled, and the pain in time became acute. This “bone ache” pain was not in the swelling but seemed to center in the very bones that no rubbing or any other efforts could relieve.

This condition never seemed to let up. It acted up through the day and at night followed up by leg cramps. Then the work details began with long trips to carry wood back on my person over ice and snow causing many slips and falls causing much pain to my extremities. The pain drove me with the insanity of it, to argue and/or resist the camp authorities. It was at this time a guard knocked out some of my teeth when I failed to satisfy him. I was made to stand at the proper figure of attention in the cold and snow, without shoes until the guard was satisfied that I learned to be humble and obedient after knocking me around.

I could barely read these words, dreading each next one, because I knew that Bobby’s experience was even worse. He died. It would have been better, more humane, had Bobby been killed outright.

The Korean War Legacy Foundation provides additional information on the Korean War, including interviews with former POWs, here. I will tell you that I cannot watch these at this point. If any of you watch the videos, please tell me if by some remote possibility, Bobby is mentioned, which video, and where.

Honoring Corporal Robert Vernon Estes

The American Battle Monuments Commission maintains a page honoring each missing soldier in addition to operating and maintaining military cemeteries.

Robert Vernon Estes memorial page.png

Bobby’s page lists his service and military awards. I wonder if anyone in the family ever received those.

Robert Vernon Estes memorial.png

Family can print Memorial Certificates.

Robert Vernon Estes wall.jpg

Photo of Bobby’s name, along with others in “Court 4” of the missing.

I’m glad his service to his country is memorialized.


I believe I have all of Bobby’s extant records from the military now. Anything else will have to be accomplished using DNA on recovered remains, if we would be that fortunate.

More than 7,800 men were lost who remain unrecovered in North Korea. Eugene’s story explains why, given the conditions. Many POWs were probably not buried in “graves,” per se, but along roads and wherever was expeditious at the time to dispose of a body.

I’m still hopeful, in spite of seemingly insurmountable odds, that Bobby’s remains will be found, identified and brought home. He did reportedly die in a “camp,” although North Korea never acknowledged that soldiers were held at Pukchin, shown below. In an effort to conceal the site, bodies were removed from the camp known as “Death Valley” and were reburied or sealed up in nearly abandoned mine shafts.

Robert Vernon Estes Pukchin location

Bobby’s remains, such as they are, are probably someplace in this photo in North Korea, far, far from home.

Robert Vernon Estes North Korea Pukchin

Pukchin is located about 40 mountainous miles south of the North Korean border with China as the crow flies, in an inhospitable region. Access is only via roads following rivers and valleys.

I don’t carry Bobby’s mitochondrial DNA, typically used to identify the remains of soldiers, but I assuredly would match him autosomally if enough DNA could be recovered for that type of comparison.

I stand ready to claim Bobby, for whom I was named after the family was notified of his death.

Ready to welcome Bobby home and watch his flag covered coffin roll off of the airplane into a waiting Honor Guard.

Ready to thank Bobby for his service and ultimate sacrifice, as tardy and insignificant as that might be.

Ready to proudly stand at his grave site as Taps is played and Bobby is truly laid to rest, a hero, on American soil.

I will remain ready all the days of my life.

I still pray for the return of Corporal Robert Vernon Estes.

Robert Vernon Estes name wall.jpg

Mitochondrial DNA: Part 1 – Overview

This is Part 1 of a series about mitochondrial DNA, abbreviated as mtDNA, and how to use it successfully for genealogy.

What is Mitochondrial DNA and Why Do I Care?

Mitochondrial DNA.jpg

Mitochondrial DNA is different from nuclear, or autosomal, DNA. Nuclear DNA resides within the nucleus of a cell, while mitochondrial DNA resides outside the nucleus.

Mitochondrial DNA nucleus.png

Every cell has thousands of mitochondria while it only has one nucleus.

Mitochondrial DNA is a circular ring with 16,569 base pair locations. The biological purpose of mitochondria is to power the organism, converting chemical energy into a form that the cells can utilize.

Mitochondrial DNA is also different from autosomal DNA in how it is passed to offspring.

Inheritance Path

Mitochondrial DNA is unique because all people, males and females, inherit their mitochondrial DNA from their mothers, but only females pass it on to their children.

Y and mtDNA inheritance

The chart above illustrates which individuals in your tree inherit their mitochondrial DNA from whom.

Mitochondrial DNA inheritance.png

The daughter and son both inherit their mitochondrial DNA from their mother, who inherits hers from her mother, and so forth – on up the direct matrilineal line. You can read about the difference between matrilineal and maternal lines, here. In essence, maternal can be referring to anyone on your mother’s side of your tree, while matrilineal is your mother’s mother’s mother’s line ad infinitum.

However, every person in this tree carries mitochondrial DNA of specific ancestors.

Mitochondrial DNA inheritance 2.png

The red arrows show the inheritance path of mitochondrial DNA for individuals whose contributors are also in the tree.

The father of the children inherited his mitochondrial DNA from his magenta mother’s matrilineal line.

His father inherited his mitochondrial DNA from his lavender mother’s line.

The maternal grandfather in dark blue inherited his mitochondrial DNA from his red mother’s line.

Mitochondrial DNA inheritance 3.png

The gold arrows show that the contributors of these individuals are not shown on this tree, but they all inherited their mitochondrial DNA from their matrilineal lines as well.

When discussing mitochondrial DNA, we generally think in terms of ourselves, but the application of mitochondrial DNA to genealogy is as far reaching as all of our ancestors.

Each line has its own unique story for us to harvest – assuming we can find an appropriate candidate for testing or find someone who has already tested.

Why Mitochondrial DNA Works

Mitochondrial DNA is inherited from our matrilineal line directly, with no genetic contribution from any males. This inheritance path allows us to use mitochondrial DNA for matching to others reaching back generations as well as providing a way to view beyond the line-in-the-sand of surnames.

In other words, because mitochondrial DNA is not mixed with DNA from the fathers, it’s very nearly identical to our matrilineal ancestors’ mitochondrial DNA many generations ago.

In fact, by tracing a series of mutations, we can track our ancestor over time from mitochondrial Eve, born in Africa tens of thousands of years ago to where we are today.

Mutations Happen

If mutations never occurred, the mitochondrial DNA of all people would be identical and therefore not useful for us to use for genealogy or to peer back in time beyond the advent of surnames.

Mutations do occur, just not on any schedule. This means that it’s difficult to predict how long ago we shared a common ancestor with someone else based solely on mitochondrial DNA mutations.

There might be a mutation between us and our mother, or there might be no mutations for hundreds or even, potentially, thousands of years.

Part of the success of matching genealogically with mitochondrial DNA testing has to do with the regions tested.

Testing fewer locations results in matches that are much less relevant.

The Regions

Mitochondrial DNA is divided into 4 regions used for genealogy.

  • HVR1 – Hypervariable Region 1 – locations 16021-16569 (548 total locations)
  • HVR2 – Hypervariable Region 2 – locations 1-437 (437 locations)
  • HVR3 – Hypervariable Region 3 – locations 438-576 (138 locations)
  • Coding Region – the balance of the mitochondria (15,445 locations)

If you think of mitochondrial DNA as a clock face, the hypervariable regions span the time from approximately 11-1. The Coding Region is the balance.

Mitochondrial DNA loop.png

Family Tree DNA bundles the HVR3 region with the HVR2 region in their results. They test the entire D Loop, meaning a total of 1124 locations in their mtPlus product.

Matching at the HVR1 or HVR1 plus HVR2/3 levels alone can reach back thousands of years in time. I strongly encourage testers to test at the higher full sequence level with the mtFull product, allowing much more granular matching.

The HVR1, 2 and 3 regions are exactly as their name suggests – hypervariable – meaning that they mutate faster than the coding region.

The mtFull or full sequence test tests the entire mitochondria – all 16,569 locations.

Genealogists need a full sequence test in order to do two things:

  • Match with other testers reliably
  • Obtain a full haplogroup which acts as a periscope in time, allowing us to look much further back in time than autosomal and on one specific line. There’s no confusion as to which line the results came from with mitochondrial DNA.

If you’ve only taken the mtPlus test, don’t worry, you can sign on here and upgrade at any time to the mtFull.

Medical Information

The coding region carries most of the potentially medically relevant locations. Medical data is not provided in the results of the testing – only genealogically relevant information.

Family Tree DNA does provide for HVR1 and HVR2/3 results to be shown in projects that testers join, if testers so choose. Coding region results are never shared anyplace unless individual testers share them individually with each other.

I’m personally not concerned about this, but mitochondrial DNA testing has been occurring for 20+ years now and it was uncertain at that early date what medical information might be discovered in the coding region, so the decision to not share was made by Family Tree DNA at that time and remains in effect today.

Today, Family Tree DNA is the only vendor to test your full sequence mitochondrial DNA and provide matching. Therefore, all examples in this series utilize results and tools at Family Tree DNA.

So, what can people see of your actual results?

What Matches See

Mitochondrial DNA match view

You can click this image to enlarge.

People whom you match can see that you do match, but they can’t see any differences or mutations. They see the name you’ve entered, your earliest known ancestor and can send e-mail to you. Aside from that, they can’t see your results or mutations unless you’ve joined a project.

Within projects, participant names are never listed publicly. In other words, your matches can’t tell that it’s you unless they recognize your earliest known ancestor on the project list and you are the only person with that ancestor.

Don’t worry though, because only your HVR1 and HVR2 region results are listed in projects, as shown in the next section.

Benefits of Joining Projects

The great news is that even if you’ve just ordered your test and are waiting for results, you can research and join projects now.

Projects at Family Tree DNA provide testers with access to volunteer administrators to help as well as clustering users in projects that are meaningful to their research.

Mitochondrial DNA hap A project.png

The haplogroup A project is shown above with maternal earliest known ancestor (EKA) names as provided by testers.

Another important project feature is the project map function, allowing testers in a specific haplogroup to view the locations of the earliest known ancestors of other members of the same haplogroup – whether they match each other or not. Your ancestors traveled with theirs and descended from a common ancestor. Cool, huh!

Mitochondrial DNA hap A10 map.png

For example, here’s the haplogroup A10 cluster around Montreal. What’s the story associated with that distribution? Whatever it is, it’s probably important genealogically.

Mitochondrial DNA hap A5a1a1 map.png

Here’s haplogroup A5a1a1 in Japan.

Do you have clusters? You can see if you join relevant projects.

Another type of project to join is a geographical or interest group.

The Acadian AmerIndian Project welcomes descendants who have tested the Y, autosomal and/or mitochondrial DNA of the various Acadian families which includes French and English settlers along with First Nations indigenous ancestors.

Mitochondrial DNA Acadian Amerindian project.png

The map shows the distribution of the haplogroup A2f1a ancestors of various Acadian testers.

Mitochondrial DNA Acadian hap A2f1a map.png

Projects such as the Acadian AmerIndian Project facilitate genealogists discovering the haplogroup and information about their direct line ancestor without testing.

For example, if Anne Marie Rimbault, shown above, is my ancestor, by viewing and hopefully joining this project, I can harvest this information about my ancestor. I can’t personally test for her mitochondrial DNA myself, but thankfully, others who do descend matrilineally from Anne Marie have been generous enough to test and share.

Furthermore, I’ve contacted the tester through the project and gained a great cousin with LOTS of information.

Just think how useful mitochondrial DNA would be to genealogists if everyone tested!

Finding Projects to Join

I encourage all testers to join appropriate haplogroup projects. There may be more than one. For mitochondrial haplogroup J, there is only one project, but for those who carry haplogroup H, there is a haplogroup H project and many additional subgroup projects.

I also encourage you to browse the selections and join other interest projects. For example, there are projects such as Cumberland Gap which is regional, the American Indian project for people researching Native ancestry, in addition to your relevant haplogroup project(s).

When deciding which projects to join, don’t neglect your mitochondrial DNA. Your selection may be a huge benefit to someone else as well as to your own research.

How to Join Projects

Sign on to your personal page at Family Tree DNA and click on myProjects at the top, then on “Join A Project.”

mitochondrial dna project join.png

Next, you’ll see a list of projects in which your surname appears. These may or may not be relevant for you.

Mitochondrial project list

You can click to enlarge this image.

You can search by surname.

Mitochondrial project search.png

More importantly, you can browse in any number of sections.

Mitochondrial project browse.png

For mitochondrial DNA, I would suggest specifically mtDNA haplogroups, of course, along with mtDNA Geographical Projects, Dual Geographical Projects, and mtDNA lineage projects.

Surname projects are more challenging for mitochondrial DNA since the surname changes every generation.

When you find a project of interest, click to read the description written by the volunteer administrators to see if it’s a good fit for you, then click through to join.

Next Article in the Series

Of course, you’re probably wondering what all of those numbers in your results and shown in projects mean. The next article in about a week will address exactly that question.

Reference Articles

These articles may be of interest.

Mitochondrial DNA is often confused with X DNA, and they are not at all the same.

Mitochondrial DNA can quickly confirm or put to rest that Native American ancestor family story.

A great example of using mitochondrial DNA to break through a brick wall that would never have fallen otherwise!

If you haven’t yet tested, your can order your mtFull Sequence test today!



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Mother’s Day and the White Cross – 52 Ancestors #238

This Mother’s Day morning I woke up half way home from St. Louis. I had been speaking at the 2019 NGS Conference in St. Charles, Missouri and drove part way yesterday after my luncheon session.

The rain has been incessant not for hours, not days, but weeks. The rivers aren’t just swollen, they have crested and then crested their crests. Entire farms are underwater, half way up grain silos and barns.

Those farmers won’t recover.

I anticipated a difficult drive in the rain, which is why I stopped as dusk fell – outside Indianapolis last evening.

Indy is about an hour from where I grew up – and I was NOT driving through my hometown.

Mother’s Day is difficult enough without that on top of the fact that the only thing left there to visit is Mother’s grave. I made that stop on my way to St. Louis, taking Mom flowers and rocks from her ancestors’ land.

Barbara Ferverda grave 2019


I didn’t immediately remember that it was Mother’s Day when I woke up in my roadside hotel this morning but was quickly reminded at the first place I stopped for coffee. I needed coffee to stay awake in the four and a half hours of grey drizzle.

Of course, I immediately began thinking about mother. It IS Mother’s Day, after all.

Barbara Jean Ferverda high school photo 1940

Mom’s high school graduation photo in 1940. You’ll pardon me if I say that she was beautiful and reminds me so much of my daughter.

I pondered memories of the farm, my kids spending summers there with Mom – and when my son dropped his pop upside down in Mom’s purse. Such fun but all memories since she is gone.

Just over 4 hours to home, now.

The rain increased, the sun hiding forever. Boring grey windshield time.

I remembered earlier Mother’s Days; ones that mother celebrated with us.

Often, we drove to Fort Wayne or Auburn, Indiana, about 3 hours each way to meet Mom for lunch on Mother’s Day. We generally met at the Ponderosa in Auburn. Ponderosa had a buffet AND a senior discount. Never mind that Mom wasn’t paying – that’s where she wanted to go.

I also recalled the miserable Mother’s Day, also raining, that I loaded the last of the items from her apartment into a rental truck, a couple weeks after her death. I do believe that was literally the worst Mother’s Day I ever had. I tried not to think about that today – actively having to put those thoughts out of my mind as they snuck in from time to time.

I drove past State Road 18, the road that if I turned west would take me past the cemetery where Mom is buried and another 20 miles or so on down that road, to the farm that I loved so much. Such wonderful memories there.

Yes, State Road 18 had always been the road home – but not today. In fact, not for the past many years. My mind wandered down 18, reliving memories, regardless of whether I wanted it to or not.

Mother’s Day tribute songs were playing on the radio.

I decided that I needed a bathroom break near Auburn, but there are too many memories there, so I decided to bypass that exit and stop at the rest stop up the road.

As I drove past the Ponderosa at the Auburn exit, I noticed the sign on the building that said “Available.” The Ponderosa had closed – just one more thing that connects me to Mom gone.

I cried and pulled in at the rest area, needing a break and a walk. The rain wasn’t the only difficult part of this drive today.

State of Indiana seal

Inside the rest area was the seal of the State of Indiana, laid into the tile floor.

I smiled, realizing that I was literally driving through a lifetime of memories – from my birth to this very day.

On the road again, I remembered little things.

Like when I made my own clothes and Mom marked the hems while I stood on a kitchen chair. She would tell me to stand still. I don’t think those hems were ever straight!

Or when a date would arrive to pick me up – he had to come to the door and converse with my mother before we could leave. The date always looked incredibly uncomfortable. That just might have been the idea.

One certainly did NOT go outside and just get into the car. And if any young man would have had the bad judgement to honk the horn, I wasn’t going anyplace with him then or ever.

Thank goodness the boys all had more common sense than that.

I had to smile as I remember Mom shaking her finger and lecturing one young man about something as he repeated “Yes Ma’am” over and over. I don’t think he ever asked me out again. That too was probably the idea:)

I passed by tractors with their plows attached, abandoned in the fields, and I knew the farmers had started plowing and couldn’t go further. I also know what that means – they’re probably stuck, and stuck or not – they aren’t doing anything until the land has an opportunity to dry. Every day lost in the spring can’t be recovered and the farmers try not to show their worry or emotion – but you can hear it in their voices.

I crossed the state line into Michigan, glad to leave Indiana and her memories behind.

Just 2 and a half hours to go now.

Crossing the Line

No one tells you when your mother dies that you never “get over” the grief. No one explains that while you may be a mother yourself, and you cherish your own children recognizing Mother’s Day and spending time with you, that your smile is hiding the tears you shed earlier for your own mother.

No, it’s never over and it never ends.

I try very hard to salve the grief with the good memories, but good memories are gateways to the tears – because there are no new good memories.

I had to focus on the road construction and the rain. Maybe that was a good thing.

I passed Lansing where I moved when I left Indiana. Mom visited often and we set out on new adventures. She loved antique shops and there were lots to explore in Michigan.

Now, half an hour east of Lansing, the grey rain continued as did the construction. However, there seemed to be a problem.

The Cross

Across the median I noticed a car pulled over with its doors open as if someone exited hurriedly. I slowed, immediately thinking that someone might need help. I saw people in the median.

Glancing back and forth between the median and the road with the orange barrels, I caught a quick glimpse of the scene – now seared into my memory in those brief seconds.

First, I saw two dark grey shapes, silhouettes of people, along with bright colors, which confused me.

Then, I realized that one person was on their knees, on the ground in the rain, their back towards me, with the other person bent over them from the right, hand on their shoulder. What looked like flowers were on both sides of the person on the ground.


What is someone doing on their knees in the rain?

Was someone or something hurt?

Had someone been hit?

Was there also a car in the median someplace?

Did I need to call 911?

Did I need to stop and help?

I slowed, preparing to stop, when I saw it…

A white cross in front of the person on their knees.

A few months ago, there was a horrific accident in that stretch of highway involving many cars and semis which resulted in 3 fatalities.

That white cross was not there before.

Those people get to spend this Mother’s Day remembering – in the rain, in the median, on their knees, head bowed, in front of the white cross, planting colorful flowers.

They can’t take their mother flowers anymore.

Or, is the person kneeling the mother who is marking the location of her child’s death? Two young people died that terrible day.

I don’t have the answer, and it only matters to them. Grief is grief regardless.

I wished I could have taken a quick photo in the cold rain. Nothing could ever be more effective or poignant in promoting safe driving, but I would never have intruded into such a private space.

I realized in that soul searing moment that the sadness I carry about my mother’s death – and will for the rest of my life – can’t be compared to the agonizing grief these people must surely feel. In the median of an expressway, alone but at the same time, on public display.

Mother passed over at 83, she wasn’t ripped from me, from the prime of her life, in a horrific pileup accident that took nearly a day to clear.

I’m suddenly grateful for my flavor of grief.

I’m fortunate that I can grieve softly, and slowly, knowing that mother completed her life. Realizing that missing her and wanting more goodness is normal. I’m not grieving for what could have and should have been but that I was robbed of by someone else’s negligence. Her life was not cut short – it just wasn’t long enough for me.

Not everyone celebrates this or other holidays which surface painful memories, or sometimes lack of them. Those who cannot bear children or have lost children or parents tragically. I need to be more cognizant of this situation, my words and what silence might mean.

I hold those people in the median into the light along with all others who suffer in a river of unrelenting grief.