Y DNA: Step-by-Step Big Y Analysis

Many males take the Big Y-700 test offered by FamilyTreeDNA, so named because testers receive the most granular haplogroup SNP results in addition to 700+ included STR marker results. If you’re not familiar with those terms, you might enjoy the article, STRs vs SNPs, Multiple DNA Personalities.

The Big Y test gives testers the best of both, along with contributing to the building of the Y phylotree. You can read about the additions to the Y tree via the Big Y, plus how it helped my own Estes project, here.

Some men order this test of their own volition, some at the request of a family member, and some in response to project administrators who are studying a specific topic – like a particular surname.

The Big Y-700 test is the most complete Y DNA test offered, testing millions of locations on the Y chromosome to reveal mutations, some unique and never before discovered, many of which are useful to genealogists. The Big Y-700 includes the traditional Y DNA STR marker testing along with SNP results that define haplogroups. Translated, both types of test results are compared to other men for genealogy, which is the primary goal of DNA testing.

Being a female, I often recruit males in my family surname lines and sponsor testing. My McNiel line, historic haplogroup R-M222, has been particularly frustrating both genealogically as well as genetically after hitting a brick wall in the 1700s. My McNeill cousin agreed to take a Big Y test, and this analysis walks through the process of understanding what those results are revealing.

After my McNeill cousin’s Big Y results came back from the lab, I spent a significant amount of time turning over every leaf to extract as much information as possible, both from the Big Y-700 DNA test itself and as part of a broader set of intertwined genetic information and genealogical evidence.

I invite you along on this journey as I explain the questions we hoped to answer and then evaluate Big Y DNA results along with other information to shed light on those quandaries.

I will warn you, this article is long because it’s a step-by-step instruction manual for you to follow when interpreting your own Big Y results. I’d suggest you simply read this article the first time to get a feel for the landscape, before working through the process with your own results. There’s so much available that most people leave laying on the table because they don’t understand how to extract the full potential of these test results.

If you’d like to read more about the Big Y-700 test, the FamilyTreeDNA white paper is here, and I wrote about the Big Y-700 when it was introduced, here.

You can read an overview of Y DNA, here, and Y DNA: The Dictionary of DNA, here.

Ok, get yourself a cuppa joe, settle in, and let’s go!

George and Thomas McNiel – Who Were They?

George and Thomas McNiel appear together in Spotsylvania County, Virginia records. Y DNA results, in combination with early records, suggest that these two men were brothers.

I wrote about discovering that Thomas McNeil’s descendant had taken a Y DNA test and matched George’s descendants, here, and about my ancestor George McNiel, here.

McNiel family history in Wilkes County, NC, recorded in a letter written in 1898 by George McNiel’s grandson tells us that George McNiel, born about 1720, came from Scotland with his two brothers, John and Thomas. Elsewhere, it was reported that the McNiel brothers sailed from Glasgow, Scotland and that George had been educated at the University of Edinburgh for the Presbyterian ministry but had a change of religious conviction during the voyage. As a result, a theological tiff developed that split the brothers.

George, eventually, if not immediately, became a Baptist preacher. His origins remain uncertain.

The brothers reportedly arrived about 1750 in Maryland, although I have no confirmation. By 1754, Thomas McNeil appeared in the Spotsylvania County, VA records with a male being apprenticed to him as a tailor. In 1757, in Spotsylvania County, the first record of George McNeil showed James Pey being apprenticed to learn the occupation of tailor.

If George and Thomas were indeed tailors, that’s not generally a country occupation and would imply that they both apprenticed as such when they were growing up, wherever that was.

Thomas McNeil is recorded in one Spotsylvania deed as being from King and Queen County, VA. If this is the case, and George and Thomas McNiel lived in King and Queen, at least for a time, this would explain the lack of early records, as King and Queen is a thrice-burned county. If there was a third brother, John, I find no record of him.

My now-deceased cousin, George McNiel, initially tested for the McNiel Y DNA and also functioned for decades as the family historian. George, along with his wife, inventoried the many cemeteries of Wilkes County, NC.

George believed through oral history that the family descended from the McNiel’s of Barra.

McNiel Big Y Kisumul

George had this lovely framed print of Kisimul Castle, seat of the McNiel Clan on the Isle of Barra, proudly displayed on his wall.

That myth was dispelled with the initial DNA testing when our line did not match the Barra line, as can be seen in the MacNeil DNA project, much to George’s disappointment. As George himself said, the McNiel history is both mysterious and contradictory. Amen to that, George!

McNiel Big Y Niall 9 Hostages

However, in place of that history, we were instead awarded the Niall of the 9 Hostages badge, created many years ago based on a 12 marker STR result profile. Additionally, the McNiel DNA was assigned to haplogroup R-M222. Of course, today’s that’s a far upstream haplogroup, but 15+ years ago, we had only a fraction of the testing or knowledge that we do today.

The name McNeil, McNiel, or however you spell it, resembles Niall, so on the surface, this made at least some sense. George was encouraged by the new information, even though he still grieved the loss of Kisimul Castle.

Of course, this also caused us to wonder about the story stating our line had originated in Scotland because Niall of the 9 Hostages lived in Ireland.

Niall of the 9 Hostages

Niall of the 9 Hostages was reportedly a High King of Ireland sometime between the 6th and 10th centuries. However, actual historical records place him living someplace in the mid-late 300s to early 400s, with his death reported in different sources as occurring before 382 and alternatively about 411. The Annals of the Four Masters dates his reign to 379-405, and Foras Feasa ar Eirinn says from 368-395. Activities of his sons are reported between 379 and 405.

In other words, Niall lived in Ireland about 1500-1600 years ago, give or take.

Migration

Generally, migration was primarily from Scotland to Ireland, not the reverse, at least as far as we know in recorded history. Many Scottish families settled in the Ulster Plantation beginning in 1606 in what is now Northern Ireland. The Scots-Irish immigration to the states had begun by 1718. Many Protestant Scottish families immigrated from Ireland carrying the traditional “Mc” names and Presbyterian religion, clearly indicating their Scottish heritage. The Irish were traditionally Catholic. George could have been one of these immigrants.

We have unresolved conflicts between the following pieces of McNeil history:

  • Descended from McNeil’s of Barra – disproved through original Y DNA testing.
  • Immigrated from Glasgow, Scotland, and schooled in the Presbyterian religion in Edinburgh.
  • Descended from the Ui Neill dynasty, an Irish royal family dominating the northern half of Ireland from the 6th to 10th centuries.

Of course, it’s possible that our McNiel/McNeil line could have been descended from the Ui Neill dynasty AND also lived in Scotland before immigrating.

It’s also possible that they immigrated from Ireland, not Scotland.

And finally, it’s possible that the McNeil surname and M222 descent are not related and those two things are independent and happenstance.

A New Y DNA Tester

Since cousin George is, sadly, deceased, we needed a new male Y DNA tester to represent our McNiel line. Fortunately, one such cousin graciously agreed to take the Big Y-700 test so that we might, hopefully, answer numerous questions:

  • Does the McNiel line have a unique haplogroup, and if so, what does it tell us?
  • Does our McNiel line descend from Ireland or Scotland?
  • Where are our closest geographic clusters?
  • What can we tell by tracing our haplogroup back in time?
  • Do any other men match the McNiel haplogroup, and what do we know about their history?
  • Does the Y DNA align with any specific clans, clan history, or prehistory contributing to clans?

With DNA, you don’t know what you don’t know until you test.

Welcome – New Haplogroup

I was excited to see my McNeill cousin’s results arrive. He had graciously allowed me access, so I eagerly took a look.

He had been assigned to haplogroup R-BY18350.

McNiel Big Y branch

Initially, I saw that indeed, six men matched my McNeill cousin, assigned to the same haplogroup. Those surnames were:

  • Scott
  • McCollum
  • Glass
  • McMichael
  • Murphy
  • Campbell

Notice that I said, “were.” That’s right, because shortly after the results were returned, based on markers called private variants, Family Tree DNA assigned a new haplogroup to my McNeill cousin.

Drum roll please!!!

Haplogroup R-BY18332

McNiel Big Y BY18332

Additionally, my cousin’s Big Y test resulted in several branches being split, shown on the Block Tree below.

McNIel Big Y block tree

How cool is this!

This Block Tree graphic shows, visually, that our McNiel line is closest to McCollum and Campbell testers, and is a brother clade to those branches showing to the left and right of our new R-BY18332. It’s worth noting that BY25938 is an equivalent SNP to BY18332, at least today. In the future, perhaps another tester will test, allowing those two branches to be further subdivided.

Furthermore, after the new branches were added, Cousin McNeill has no more Private Variants, which are unnamed SNPs. There were all utilized in naming additional tree branches!

I wrote about the Big Y Block Tree here.

Niall (Or Whoever) Was Prolific

The first thing that became immediately obvious was how successful our progenitor was.

McNiel Big Y M222 project

click to enlarge

In the MacNeil DNA project, 38 men with various surname spellings descend from M222. There are more in the database who haven’t joined the MacNeil project.

Whoever originally carried SNP R-M222, someplace between 2400 and 5900 years ago, according to the block tree, either had many sons who had sons, or his descendants did. One thing is for sure, his line certainly is in no jeopardy of dying out today.

The Haplogroup R-M222 DNA Project, which studies this particular haplogroup, reads like a who’s who of Irish surnames.

Big Y Match Results

Big Y matches must have no more than 30 SNP differences total, including private variants and named SNPs combined. Named SNPs function as haplogroup names. In other words, Cousin McNeill’s terminal SNP, meaning the SNP furthest down on the tree, R-BY18332, is also his haplogroup name.

Private variants are mutations that have occurred in the line being tested, but not yet in other lines. Occurrences of private variants in multiple testers allow the Private Variant to be named and placed on the haplotree.

Of course, Family Tree DNA offers two types of Y DNA testing, STR testing which is the traditional 12, 25, 37, 67 and 111 marker testing panels, and the Big Y-700 test which provides testers with:

  • All 111 STR markers used for matching and comparison
  • Another 589+ STR markers only available through the Big Y test increasing the total STR markers tested from 111 to minimally 700
  • A scan of the Y chromosome, looking for new and known SNPs and STR mutations

Of course, these tests keep on giving, both with matching and in the case of the Big Y – continued haplogroup discovery and refinement in the future as more testers test. The Big Y is an investment as a test that keeps on giving, not just a one-time purchase.

I wrote about the Big Y-700 when it was introduced here and a bit later here.

Let’s see what the results tell us. We’ll start by taking a look at the matches, the first place that most testers begin.

Mcniel Big Y STR menu

Regular Y DNA STR matching shows the results for the STR results through 111 markers. The Big Y section, below, provides results for the Big Y SNPs, Big Y matches and additional STR results above 111 markers.

McNiel Big Y menu

Let’s take a look.

STR and SNP Testing

Of Cousin McNeil’s matches, 2 Big Y testers and several STR testers carry some variant of the Neal, Neel, McNiel, McNeil, O’Neil, etc. surnames by many spellings.

While STR matching is focused primarily on a genealogical timeframe, meaning current to roughly 500-800 years in the past, SNP testing reaches much further back in time.

  • STR matching reaches approximately 500-800 years.
  • Big Y matching reaches approximately 1500 years.
  • SNPs and haplogroups reach back infinitely, and can be tracked historically beyond the genealogical timeframe, shedding light on our ancestors’ migration paths, helping to answer the age-old question of “where did we come from.”

These STR and Big Y time estimates are based on a maximum number of mutations for testers to be considered matches paired with known genealogy.

Big Y results consider two men a match if they have 30 or fewer total SNP differences. Using NGS (next generation sequencing) scan technology, the targeted regions of the Y chromosome are scanned multiple times, although not all regions are equally useful.

Individually tested SNPs are still occasionally available in some cases, but individual SNP testing has generally been eclipsed by the greatly more efficient enriched technology utilized with Big Y testing.

Think of SNP testing as walking up to a specific location and taking a look, while NGS scan technology is a drone flying over the entire region 30-50 times looking multiple times to be sure they see the more distant target accurately.

Multiple scans acquiring the same read in the same location, shown below in the Big Y browser tool by the pink mutations at the red arrow, confirm that NGS sequencing is quite reliable.

McNiel Big Y browser

These two types of tests, STR panels 12-111 and the SNP-based Big Y, are meant to be utilized in combination with each other.

STR markers tend to mutate faster and are less reliable, experiencing frustrating back mutations. SNPs very rarely experience this level of instability. Some regions of the Y chromosome are messier or more complicated than others, causing problems with interpreting reads reliably.

For purposes of clarity, the string of pink A reads above is “not messy,” and “A” is very clearly a mutation because all ~39 scanned reads report the same value of “A,” and according to the legend, all of those scans are high quality. Multiple combined reads of A and G, for example, in the same location, would be tough to call accurately and would be considered unreliable.

You can see examples of a few scattered pink misreads, above.

The two different kinds of tests produce results for overlapping timeframes – with STR mutations generally sifting through closer relationships and SNPs reaching back further in time.

Many more men have taken the Y DNA STR tests over the last 20 years. The Big Y tests have only been available for the past handful of years.

STR testing produces the following matches for my McNiel cousin:

STR Level STR Matches STR Matches Who Took the Big Y % STR Who Took Big Y STR Matches Who Also Match on the Big Y
12 5988 796 13 52
25 6660 725 11 57
37 878 94 11 12
67 1225 252 21 23
111 4 2 50 1

Typically, one would expect that all STR matches that took the Big Y would match on the Big Y, since STR results suggest relationships closer in time, but that’s not the case.

  • Many STR testers who have taken the Big Y seem to be just slightly too distant to be considered a Big Y match using SNPs, which flies in the face of conventional wisdom.
  • However, this could easily be a function of the fact that STRs mutate both backward and forwards and may have simply “happened” to have mutated to a common value – which suggests a closer relationship than actually exists.
  • It could also be that the SNP matching threshold needs to be raised since the enhanced and enriched Big Y-700 technology now finds more mutations than the older Big Y-500. I would like to see SNP matching expanded to 40 from 30 because it seems that clan connections may be being missed. Thirty may have been a great threshold before the more sensitive Big Y-700 test revealed more mutations, which means that people hit that 30 threshold before they did with previous tests.
  • Between the combination of STRs and SNPs mutating at the same time, some Big Y matches are pushed just out of range.

In a nutshell, the correlation I expected to find in terms of matching between STR and Big Y testing is not what I found. Let’s take a look at what we discovered.

It’s worth noting that the analysis is easier if you are working together with at least your closest matches or have access via projects to at least some of their results. You can see common STR values to 111 in projects, such as surname projects. Project administrators can view more if project members have allowed access.

Unexpected Discoveries and Gotchas

While I did expect STR matches to also match on the Big Y, I don’t expect the Big Y matches to necessarily match on the STR tests. After all, the Big Y is testing for more deep-rooted history.

Only one of the McNiel Big Y matches also matches at all levels of STR testing. That’s not surprising since Big Y matching reaches further back in time than STR testing, and indeed, not all STR testers have taken a Big Y test.

Of my McNeill cousin’s closest Big Y matches, we find the following relative to STR matching.

Surname Ancestral Location Big Y Variant/SNP Difference STR Match Level
Scott 1565 in Buccleuch, Selkirkshire, Scotland 20 12, 25, 37, 67
McCollum Not listed 21 67 only
Glass 1618 in Banbridge, County Down, Ireland 23 12, 25, 67
McMichael 1720 County Antrim, Ireland 28 67 only
Murphy Not listed 29 12, 25, 37, 67
Campbell Scotland 30 12, 25, 37, 67, 111

It’s ironic that the man who matches on all STR levels has the most variants, 30 – so many that with 1 more, he would not have been considered a Big Y match at all.

Only the Campbell man matches on all STR panels. Unfortunately, this Campbell male does not match the Clan Campbell line, so that momentary clan connection theory is immediately put to rest.

Block Tree Matches – What They Do, and Don’t, Mean

Note that a Carnes male, the other person who matches my McNeill cousin at 111 STR markers and has taken a Big Y test does not match at the Big Y level. His haplogroup BY69003 is located several branches up the tree, with our common ancestor, R-S588, having lived about 2000 years ago. Interestingly, we do match other R-S588 men.

This is an example where the total number of SNP mutations is greater than 30 for these 2 men (McNeill and Carnes), but not for my McNeill cousin compared with other men on the same S588 branch.

McNiel Big Y BY69003

By searching for Carnes on the block tree, I can view my cousin’s match to Mr. Carnes, even though they don’t match on the Big Y. STR matches who have taken the Big Y test, even if they don’t match at the Big Y level, are shown on the Block Tree on their branch.

By clicking on the haplogroup name, R-BY69003, above, I can then see three categories of information about the matches at that haplogroup level, below.

McNiel Big Y STR differences

click to enlarge

By selecting “Matches,” I can see results under the column, “Big Y.” This does NOT mean that the tester matches either Mr. Carnes or Mr. Riker on the Big Y, but is telling me that there are 14 differences out of 615 STR markers above 111 markers for Mr. Carnes, and 8 of 389 for Mr. Riker.

In other words, this Big Y column is providing STR information, not indicating a Big Y match. You can’t tell one way or another if someone shown on the Block Tree is shown there because they are a Big Y match or because they are an STR match that shares the same haplogroup.

As a cautionary note, your STR matches that have taken the Big Y ARE shown on the block tree, which is a good thing. Just don’t assume that means they are Big Y matches.

The 30 SNP threshold precludes some matches.

My research indicates that the people who match on STRs and carry the same haplogroup, but don’t match at the Big Y level, are every bit as relevant as those who do match on the Big Y.

McNIel Big Y block tree menu

If you’re not vigilant when viewing the block tree, you’ll make the assumption that you match all of the people showing on the Block Tree on the Big Y test since Block Tree appears under the Big Y tools. You have to check Big Y matches specifically to see if you match people shown on the Block Tree. You don’t necessarily match all of them on the Big Y test, and vice versa, of course.

You match Block Tree inhabitants either:

  • On the Big Y, but not the STR panels
  • On the Big Y AND at least one level of STRs between 12 and 111, inclusive
  • On STRs to someone who has taken the Big Y test, but whom you do not match on the Big Y test

Big Y-500 or Big Y-700?

McNiel Big Y STR differences

click to enlarge

Looking at the number of STR markers on the matches page of the Block Tree for BY69003, above, or on the STR Matches page is the only way to determine whether or not your match took the Big Y-700 or the Big Y-500 test.

If you add 111 to the Big Y SNP number of 615 for Mr. Carnes, the total equals 726, which is more than 700, so you know he took the Big Y-700.

If you add 111 to 389 for Mr. Riker, you get 500, which is less than 700, so you know that he took the Big Y-500 and not the Big Y-700.

There are still a very small number of men in the database who did not upgrade to 111 when they ordered their original Big Y test, but generally, this calculation methodology will work. Today, all Big Y tests are upgraded to 111 markers if they have not already tested at that level.

Why does Big Y-500 vs Big Y-700 matter? The enriched chemistry behind the testing technology improved significantly with the Big Y-700 test, enhancing Y-DNA results. I was an avowed skeptic until I saw the results myself after upgrading men in the Estes DNA project. In other words, if Big Y-500 testers upgrade, they will probably have more SNPs in common.

You may want to contact your closest Big Y-500 matches and ask if they will consider upgrading to the Big Y-700 test. For example, if we had close McNiel or similar surname matches, I would do exactly that.

Matching Both the Big Y and STRs – No Single Source

There is no single place or option to view whether or not you match someone BOTH on the Big Y AND STR markers. You can see both match categories individually, of course, but not together.

You can determine if your STR matches took the Big Y, below, and their haplogroup, which is quite useful, but you can’t tell if you match them at the Big Y level on this page.

McNiel Big Y STR match Big Y

click to enlarge

Selecting “Display Only Matches With Big Y” means displaying matches to men who took the Big Y test, not necessarily men you match on the Big Y. Mr. Conley, in the example above, does not match my McNeill cousin on the Big Y but does match him at 12 and 25 STR markers.

I hope FTDNA will add three display options:

  • Select only men that match on the Big Y in the STR panel
  • Add an option for Big Y on the advanced matches page
  • Indicate men who also match on STRs on the Big Y match page

It was cumbersome and frustrating to have to view all of the matches multiple times to compile various pieces of information in a separate spreadsheet.

No Big Y Match Download

There is also no option to download your Big Y matches. With a few matches, this doesn’t matter, but with 119 matches, or more, it does. As more people test, everyone will have more matches. That’s what we all want!

What you can do, however, is to download your STR matches from your match page at levels 12-111 individually, then combine them into one spreadsheet. (It would be nice to be able to download them all at once.)

McNiel Big Y csv

You can then add your Big Y matches manually to the STR spreadsheet, or you can simply create a separate Big Y spreadsheet. That’s what I chose to do after downloading my cousin’s 14,737 rows of STR matches. I told you that R-M222 was prolific! I wasn’t kidding.

This high number of STR matches also perfectly illustrates why the Big Y SNP results were so critical in establishing the backbone relationship structure. Using the two tools together is indispensable.

An additional benefit to downloading STR results is that you can sort the STR spreadsheet columns in surname order. This facilitates easily spotting all spelling variations of McNiel, including words like Niel, Neal and such that might be relevant but that you might not notice otherwise.

Creating a Big Y Spreadsheet

My McNiel cousin has 119 Big Y-700 matches.

I built a spreadsheet with the following columns facilitating sorting in a number of ways, with definitions as follows:

McNiel Big Y spreadsheet

click to enlarge

  • First Name
  • Last Name – You will want to search matches on your personal page at Family Tree DNA by this surname later, so be sure if there is a hyphenated name to enter it completely.
  • Haplogroup – You’ll want to sort by this field.
  • Convergent – A field you’ll complete when doing your analysis. Convergence is the common haplogroup in the tree shared by you and your match. In the case of the green matches above, which are color-coded on my spreadsheet to indicate the closest matches with my McNiel cousin, the convergent haplogroup is BY18350.
  • Common Tree Gen – This column is the generations on the Block Tree shown to this common haplogroup. In the example above, it’s between 9 and 14 SNP generations. I’ll show you where to gather this information.
  • Geographic Location – Can be garnered from 4 sources. No color in that cell indicates that this information came from the Earliest Known Ancestor (EKA) field in the STR matches. Blue indicates that I opened the tree and pulled the location information from that source. Orange means that someone else by the same surname whom the tester also Y DNA matches shows this location. I am very cautious when assigning orange, and it’s risky because it may not be accurate. A fourth source is to use Ancestry, MyHeritage, or another genealogical resource to identify a location if an individual provides genealogical information but no location in the EKA field. Utilizing genealogy databases is only possible if enough information is provided to make a unique identification. John Smith 1700-1750 won’t do it, but Seamus McDougal (1750-1810) married to Nelly Anderson might just work.
  • STR Match – Tells me if the Big Y match also matches on STR markers, and if so, which ones. Only the first 111 markers are used for matching. No STR match generally means the match is further back in time, but there are no hard and fast rules.
  • Big Y Match – My original goal was to combine this information with the STR match spreadsheet. If you don’t wish to combine the two, then you don’t need this column.
  • Tree – An easy way for me to keep track of which matches do and do not have a tree. Please upload or create a tree.

You can also add a spreadsheet column for comments or contact information.

McNiel Big Y profile

You will also want to click your match’s name to display their profile card, paying particular attention to the “About Me” information where people sometimes enter genealogical information. Also, scan the Ancestral Surnames where the match may enter a location for a specific surname.

Private Variants

I added additional spreadsheet columns, not shown above, for Private Variant analysis. That level of analysis is beyond what most people are interested in doing, so I’m only briefly discussing this aspect. You may want to read along, so you at least understand what you are looking at.

Clicking on Private Variants in your Big Y Results shows your variants, or mutations, that are unnamed as SNPs. When they are named, they become SNPs and are placed on the haplotree.

The reference or “normal” state for the DNA allele at that location is shown as the “Reference,” and “Genotype” is the result of the tester. Reference results are not shown for each tester, because the majority are the same. Only mutations are shown.

McNiel Big Y private variants

There are 5 Private Variants, total, for my cousin. I’ve obscured the actual variant numbers and instead typed in 111111 and 222222 for the first two as examples.

McNiel Big Y nonmatching variants

In our example, there are 6 Big Y matches, with matches one and five having the non-matching variants shown above.

Non-matching variants mean that the match, Mr. Scott, in example 1, does NOT match the tester (my cousin) on those variants.

  • If the tester (you) has no mutation, you won’t have a Private Variant shown on your Private Variant page.
  • If the tester does have a Private Variant shown, and that variant shows ON their matches list of non-matching variants, it means the match does NOT match the tester, and either has the normal reference value or a different mutation. Explained another way, if you have a mutation, and that variant is listed on your match list of Non-Matching Variants, your match does NOT match you and does NOT have the same mutation.
  • If the match does NOT have the Private Variant on their list, that means the match DOES match the tester, and they both have the same mutation, making this Private Variant a candidate to be named as a new SNP.
  • If you don’t have a Private Variant listed, but it shows in the Non-Matching Variants of your match, that means you have the reference or normal value, and they have a mutation.

In example #1, above, the tester has a mutation at variant 111111, and 111111 is shown as a Non-Matching Variant to Mr. Scott, so Mr. Scott does NOT match the tester. Mr. Scott also does NOT match the tester at locations 222222 and 444444.

In example #5, 111111 is NOT shown on the Non-Matching Variant list, so Mr. Treacy DOES match the tester.

I have a terrible time wrapping my head around the double negatives, so it’s critical that I make charts.

On the chart below, I’ve listed the tester’s private variants in an individual column each, so 111111, 222222, etc.

For each match, I’ve copy and pasted their Non-Matching Variants in a column to the right of the tester’s variants, in the lavender region. In this example, I’ve typed the example variants into separate columns for each tester so you can see the difference. Remember, a non-matching variant means they do NOT match the tester’s mutation.

McNiel private variants spreadsheet

On my normal spreadsheet where the non-matching variants don’t have individuals columns, I then search for the first variant, 111111. If the variant does appear in the list, it means that match #1 does NOT have the mutation, so I DON’T put an X in the box for match #1 under 111111.

In the example above, the only match that does NOT have 111111 on their list of Non-Matching Variants is #5, so an X IS placed in that corresponding cell. I’ve highlighted that column in yellow to indicate this is a candidate for a new SNP.

You can see that no one else has the variant, 222222, so it truly is totally private. It’s not highlighted in yellow because it’s not a candidate to be a new SNP.

Everyone shares mutation 333333, so it’s a great candidate to become a new SNP, as is 555555.

Match #6 shares the mutation at 444444, but no one else does.

This is a manual illustration of an automated process that occurs at Family Tree DNA. After Big Y matches are returned, automated software creates private variant lists of potential new haplogroups that are then reviewed internally where SNPs are evaluated, named, and placed on the tree if appropriate.

If you follow this process and discover matches, you probably don’t need to do anything, as the automated review process will likely catch up within a few days to weeks.

Big Y Matches

In the case of the McNiel line, it was exciting to discover several private variants, mutations that were not yet named SNPs, found in several matches that were candidates to be named as SNPs and placed on the Y haplotree.

Sure enough, a few days later, my McNeill cousin had a new haplogroup assignment.

Most people have at least one Private Variant, locations in which they do NOT match another tester. When several people have these same mutations, and they are high-quality reads, the Private Variant qualifies to be added to the haplotree as a SNP, a task performed at FamilyTreeDNA by Michael Sager.

If you ever have the opportunity to hear Michael speak, please do so. You can watch Michael’s presentation at Genetic Genealogy Ireland (GGI) titled “The Tree of Mankind,” on YouTube, here, compliments of Maurice Gleeson who coordinates GGI. Maurice has also written about the Gleeson Y DNA project analysis, here.

As a result of Cousin McNeill’s test, six new SNPs have been added to the Y haplotree, the tree of mankind. You can see our new haplogroup for our branch, BY18332, with an equivalent SNP, BY25938, along with three sibling branches to the left and right on the tree.

McNiel Big Y block tree 4 branch

Big Y testing not only answers genealogical questions, it advances science by building out the tree of mankind too.

The surname of the men who share the same haplogroup, R-BY18332, meaning the named SNP furthest down the tree, are McCollum and Campbell. Not what I expected. I expected to find a McNeil who does match on at least some STR markers. This is exactly why the Big Y is so critical to define the tree structure, then use STR matches to flesh it out.

Taking the Big Y-700 test provided granularity between 6 matches, shown above, who were all initially assigned to the same branch of the tree, BY18350, but were subsequently divided into 4 separate branches. My McNiel cousin is no longer equally as distant from all 6 men. We now know that our McNiel line is genetically closer on the Y chromosome to Campbell and McCollum and further distant from Murphy, Scott, McMichael, and Glass.

Not All SNP Matches are STR Matches

Not all SNP matches are also STR matches. Some relationships are too far back in time. However, in this case, while each person on the BY18350 branches matches at some STR level, only the Campbell individual matches at all STR levels.

Remember that variants (mutations) are accumulating down both respective branches of the tree at the same time, meaning one per roughly every 100 years (if 100 is the average number we want to use) for both testers. A total of 30 variants or mutations difference, an average of 15 on each branch of the tree (McNiel and their match) would suggest a common ancestor about 1500 years ago, so each Big Y match should have a common ancestor 1500 years ago or closer. At least on average, in theory.

The Big Y test match threshold is 30 variants, so if there were any more mismatches with the Campbell male, they would not have been a Big Y match, even though they have the exact same haplogroup.

Having the same haplogroup means that their terminal SNP is identical, the SNP furthest down the tree today, at least until someone matches one of them on their Private Variants (if any remain unnamed) and a new terminal SNP is assigned to one or both of them.

Mutations, and when they happen, are truly a roll of the dice. This is why viewing all of your Big Y Block Tree matches is critical, even if they don’t show on your Big Y match list. One more variant and Campbell would have not been shown as a match, yet he is actually quite close, on the same branch, and matches on all STR panels as well.

SNPs Establish the Backbone Structure

I always view the block tree first to provide a branching tree structure, then incorporate STR matches into the equation. Both can equally as important to genealogy, but haplogroup assignment is the most accurate tool, regardless of whether the two individuals match on the Big Y test, especially if the haplogroups are relatively close.

Let’s work with the Block Tree.

The Block Tree

McNIel Big Y block tree menu

Clicking on the link to the Block Tree in the Big Y results immediately displays the tester’s branch on the tree, below.

McNiel Big Y block tree descent

click to enlarge

On the left side are SNP generation markers. Keep in mind that approximate SNP generations are marked every 5 generations. The most recent generations are based on the number of private variants that have not yet been assigned as branches on the tree. It’s possible that when they are assigned that they will be placed upstream someplace, meaning that placement will reduce the number of early branches and perhaps increase the number of older branches.

The common haplogroup of all of the branches shown here with the upper red arrow is R-BY3344, about 15 SNP generations ago. If you’re using 100 years per SNP generation, that’s about 1500 years. If you’re using 80 years, then 1200 years ago. Some people use even fewer years for calculations.

If some of the private variants in the closer branches disappear, then the common ancestral branch may shift to closer in time.

This tree will always be approximate because some branches can never be detected. They have disappeared entirely over time when no males exist to reproduce.

Conversely, subclades have been born since a common ancestor clade whose descendants haven’t yet tested. As more people test, more clades will be discovered.

Therefore, most recent common ancestor (MRCA) haplogroup ages can only be estimated, based on who has tested and what we know today. The tree branches also vary depending on whether testers have taken the Big Y-500 or the more sensitive Big Y-700, which detects more variants. The Y haplotree is a combination of both.

Big Y-500 results will not be as granular and potentially do not position test-takers as far down the tree as Big Y-700 results would if they upgraded. You’ll need to factor that into your analysis if you’re drawing genealogical conclusions based on these results, especially close results.

You’ll note that the direct path of descent is shown above with arrows from BY3344 through the first blue box with 5 equivalent SNPS, to the next white box, our branch, with two equivalent SNPs. Our McNeil ancestor, the McCollum tester, and the Campell tester have no unresolved private variants between them, which suggests they are probably closer in time than 10 generations back. You can see that the SNP generations are pushed “up” by the neighbor variants.

Because of the fact that private variants don’t occur on a clock cycle and occur in individual lines at an unsteady rate, we must use averages.

That means that when we look further “up” the tree, clicking generation by generation on the up arrow above BY3344, the SNP generations on the left side “adjust” based on what is beneath, and unseen at that level.

The Block Tree Adjusts

Note, in the example above, BY3344 is at SNP generation 15.

Next, I clicked one generation upstream, to R-S668.

McNiel Big Y block tree S668

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You can see that S668 is about 21 SNP generations upstream, and now BY3344 is listed as 20 generations, not 15. You can see our branch, BY3344, but you can no longer see subclades or our matches below that branch in this view.

You can, however, see two matches that descend through S668, brother branches to BY3344, red arrows at far right.

Clicking on the up arrow one more time shows us haplogroup S673, below, and the child branches. The three child branches on which the tester has matches are shown with red arrows.

McNiel Big Y S673

click to enlarge

You’ll immediately notice that now S668 is shown at 19 SNP generations, not 20, and S673 is shown at 20. This SNP generation difference between views is a function of dealing with aggregated and averaged private variants on combined lines and causes the SNP generations to shift. This is also why I always say “about.”

As you continue to click up the tree, the shifting SNP generations continue, reminding us that we can’t truly see back in time. We can only achieve approximations, but those approximations improve as more people test, and more SNPs are named and placed in their proper places on the phylotree.

I love the Block Tree, although I wish I could see further side-to-side, allowing me to view all of the matches on one expanded tree so I can easily see their relationships to the tester, and each other.

Countries and Origins

In addition to displaying shared averaged autosomal origins of testers on a particular branch, if they have taken the Family Finder test and opted-in to sharing origins (ethnicity) results, you can also view the countries indicated by testers on that branch along with downstream branches of the tree.

McNiel Big Y countries

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For example, the Countries tab for S673 is shown above. I can see matches on this branch with no downstream haplogroup currently assigned, as well as cumulative results from downstream branches.

Still, I need to be able to view this information in a more linear format.

The Block Tree and spreadsheet information beautifully augment the haplotree, so let’s take a look.

The Haplotree

On your Y DNA results page, click on the “Haplotree and SNPs” link.

McNIel Big Y haplotree menu

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The Y haplotree will be displayed in pedigree style, quite familiar to genealogists. The SNP legend will be shown at the top of the display. In some cases, “presumed positive” results occur where coverage is lacking, back mutations or read errors are encountered. Presumed positive is based on positive SNPs further down the tree. In other words, that yellow SNP below must read positive or downstream ones wouldn’t.

McNIel Big Y pedigree descent

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The tester’s branch is shown with the grey bar. To the right of the haplogroup-defining SNP are listed the branch and equivalent SNP names. At far right, we see the total equivalent SNPs along with three dots that display the Country Report. I wish the haplotree also showed my matches, or at least my matching surnames, allowing me to click through. It doesn’t, so I have to return to the Big Y page or STR Matches page, or both.

I’ve starred each branch through which my McNiell cousin descends. Sibling branches are shown in grey. As you’ll recall from the Block Tree, we do have matches on those sibling branches, shown side by side with our branch.

The small numbers to the right of the haplogroup names indicate the number of downstream branches. BY18350 has three, all displayed. But looking upstream a bit, we see that DF97 has 135 downstream branches. We also have matches on several of those branches. To show those branches, simply click on the haplogroup.

The challenge for me, with 119 McNeill matches, is that I want to see a combination of the block tree, my spreadsheet information, and the haplotree. The block tree shows the names, my spreadsheet tells me on which branches to look for those matches. Many aren’t easily visible on the block tree because they are downstream on sibling branches.

Here’s where you can find and view different pieces of information.

Data and Sources STR Matches Page Big Y Matches Page Block Tree Haplogroups & SNPs Page
STR matches Yes No, but would like to see who matches at which STR levels If they have taken Big Y test, but doesn’t mean they match on Big Y matching No
SNP matches *1 Shows if STR match has common haplogroup, but not if tester matches on Big Y No, but would like to see who matches at which STR level Big Y matches and STR matches that aren’t Big Y matches are both shown No, but need this feature – see combined haplotree/ block tree
Other Haplogroup Branch Residents Yes, both estimated and tested No, use block tree or click through to profile card, would like to see haplogroup listed for Big Y matches Yes, both Big Y and STR tested, not estimated. Cannot tell if person is Big Y match or STR match, or both. No individuals, but would like that as part of countries report, see combined haplotree/block tree
Fully Expanded Phylotree No No Would like ability to see all branches with whom any Big Y or STR match resides at one time, even if it requires scrolling Yes, but no match information. Matches report could be added like on Block Tree.
Averaged Ethnicities if Have FF Test No No Yes, by haplogroup branch No
Countries Matches map STR only No, need Big Y matches map Yes Yes
Earliest Known Ancestor Yes No, but can click through to profile card No No
Customer Trees Yes No, need this link No No
Profile Card Yes, click through Yes, click through Yes, click through No match info on this page
Downloadable data By STR panel only, would like complete download with 1 click, also if Big Y or FF match Not available at all No No
Path to common haplogroup No No, but would like to see matches haplogroup and convergent haplogroup displayed No, would like the path to convergent haplogroup displayed as an option No, see combined match-block -haplotree in next section

*1 – the best way to see the haplogroup of a Big Y match is to click on their name to view their profile card since haplogroup is not displayed on the Big Y match page. If you happen to also match on STRs, their haplogroup is shown there as well. You can also search for their name using the block tree search function to view their haplogroup.

Necessity being the mother of invention, I created a combined match/block tree/haplotree.

And I really, REALLY hope Family Tree DNA implements something like this because, trust me, this was NOT fun! However, now that it’s done, it is extremely useful. With fewer matches, it should be a breeze.

Here are the steps to create the combined reference tree.

Combo Match/Block/Haplotree

I used Snagit to grab screenshots of the various portions of the haplotree and typed the surnames of the matches in the location of our common convergent haplogroup, taken from the spreadsheet. I also added the SNP generations in red for that haplogroup, at far left, to get some idea of when that common ancestor occurred.

McNIel Big Y combo tree

click to enlarge

This is, in essence, the end-goal of this exercise. There are a few steps to gather data.

Following the path of two matches (the tester and a specific match) you can find their common haplogroup. If your match is shown on the block tree in the same view with your branch, it’s easy to see your common convergent parent haplogroup. If you can’t see the common haplogroup, it’s takes a few extra steps by clicking up the block tree, as illustrated in an earlier section.

We need the ability to click on a match and have a tree display showing both paths to the common haplogroup.

McNiel Big Y convergent

I simulated this functionality in a spreadsheet with my McNiel cousin, a Riley match, and an Ocain match whose terminal SNP is the convergent SNP (M222) between Riley and McNiel. Of course, I’d also like to be able to click to see everyone on one chart on their appropriate branches.

Combining this information onto the haplotree, in the first image, below, M222, 4 men match my McNeill cousin – 2 who show M222 as their terminal SNP, and 2 downstream of M222 on a divergent branch that isn’t our direct branch. In other words, M222 is the convergence point for all 4 men plus my McNeill cousin.

McNiel Big Y M222 haplotree

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In the graphic below, you can see that M222 has a very large number of equivalent SNPs, which will likely become downstream haplogroups at some point in the future. However, today, these equivalent SNPs push M222 from 25 generations to 59. We’ll discuss how this meshes with known history in a minute.

McNiel Big Y M222 block tree

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Two men, Ocain and Ransom, who have both taken the Big Y, whose terminal SNP is M222, match my McNiel cousin. If their common ancestor was actually 59 generations in the past, it’s very, very unlikely that they would match at all given the 30 mutation threshold.

On my reconstructed Match/Block/Haplotree, I included the estimated SNP generations as well. We are starting with the most distant haplogroups and working our way forward in time with the graphics, below.

Make no mistake, there are thousands more men who descend from M222 that have tested, but all of those men except 4 have more than 30 mutations total, so they are not shown as Big Y matches, and they are not shown individually on the Block Tree because they neither match on the Big Y or STR tests. However, there is a way to view information for non-matching men who test positive for M222.

McNiel Big Y M222 countries

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Looking at the Block Tree for M222, many STR match men took a SNP test only to confirm M222, so they would be shown positive for the M222 SNP on STR results and, therefore, in the detailed view of M222 on the Block tree.

Haplogroup information about men who took the M222 test and whom the tester doesn’t match at all are shown here as well in the country and branch totals for R-M222. Their names aren’t displayed because they don’t match the tester on either type of Y DNA test.

Back to constructing my combined tree, I’ve left S658 in both images, above and below, as an overlap placeholder, as we move further down, or towards current, on the haplotree.

McNiel Big Y combo tree center

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Note that BY18350, above, is also an overlap connecting below.

You’ll recall that as a result of the Big Y test, BY18350 was split and now has three child branches plus one person whose terminal SNP is BY18350. All of the men shown below were on one branch until Big Y results revealed that BY18350 needed to be split, with multiple new haplogroups added to the tree.

McNiel Big Y combo tree current

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Using this combination of tools, it’s straightforward for me to see now that our McNiel line is closest to the Campbell tester from Scotland according to the Big Y test + STRs.

Equal according to the Big Y test, but slightly more distant, according to STR matching, is McCollum. The next closest would be sibling branches. Then in the parent group of the other three, BY18350, we find Glass from Scotland.

In BY18350 and subgroups, we find several Scotland locations and one Northern Ireland, which was likely from Scotland initially, given the surname and Ulster Plantation era.

The next upstream parent haplogroup is BY3344, which looks to be weighted towards ancestors from Scotland, shown on the country card, below.

McNiel Big Y BY3344

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This suggests that the origins of the McNiel line was, perhaps, in Scotland, but it doesn’t tell us whether or not George and presumably, Thomas, immigrated from Ireland or Scotland.

This combined tree, with SNPs, surnames from Big Y matches, along with Country information, allows me to see who is really more closely related and who is further away.

What I didn’t do, and probably should, is to add in all of the STR matches who have taken the Big Y test, shown on their convergent branch – but that’s just beyond the scope of time I’m willing to invest, at least for now, given that hundreds of STR matches have taken the Big Y test, and the work of building the combined tree is all manual today.

For those reading this article without access to the Y phylogenetic tree, there’s a public version of the Y and mitochondrial phylotrees available, here.

What About Those McNiels?

No other known McNiel descendants from either Thomas or George have taken the Big Y test, so I didn’t expect any to match, but I am interested in other men by similar surnames. Does ANY other McNiel have a Big Y match?

As it turns out, there are two, plus one STR match who took a Big Y test, but is not a Big Y match.

However, as you can see on the combined match/block/haplotree, above, the closest other Big Y-matching McNeil male is found at about 19 SNP generations, or roughly 1900 years ago. Even if you remove some of the variants in the lower generations that are based on an average number of individual variants, you’re still about 1200 years in the past. It’s extremely doubtful that any surname would survive in both lines from the year 800 or so.

That McNeil tester’s ancestor was born in 1747 in Tranent, Scotland.

The second Big Y-matching person is an O’Neil, a few branches further up in the tree.

The convergent SNP of the two branches, meaning O’Neil and McNeill are at approximately the 21 generation level. The O’Neil man’s Neill ancestor is found in 1843 in Cookestown, County Tyrone, Ireland.

McNiel Big Y convergent McNeil lines

I created a spreadsheet showing convergent lines:

  • The McNeill man with haplogroup A4697 (ancestor Tranent, Scotland) is clearly closest genetically.
  • O’Neill BY91591, who is brother clades with Neel and Neal, all Irish, is another Big Y match.
  • The McNeill man with haplogroup FT91182 is an STR match, but not a Big Y match.

The convergent haplogroup of all of these men is DF105 at about the 22 SNP generation marker.

STRs

Let’s turn back to STR tests, with results that produce matches closer in time.

Searching my STR download spreadsheet for similar surnames, I discovered several surname matches, mining the Earliest Known Ancestor information, profiles and trees produced data as follows:

Ancestor STR Match Level Location
George Charles Neil 12, 25, match on Big Y A4697 1747-1814 Tranent, Scotland
Hugh McNeil 25 (tested at 67) Born 1800 Country Antrim, Northern Ireland
Duncan McNeill 12 (tested at 111) Married 1789, Argyllshire, Scotland
William McNeill 12, 25 (tested at 37) Blackbraes, Stirlingshire, Scotland
William McNiel 25 (tested at 67) Born 1832 Scotland
Patrick McNiel 25 (tested at 111) Trien East, County Roscommon, Ireland
Daniel McNeill 25 (tested at 67) Born 1764 Londonderry, Northern Ireland
McNeil 12 (tested at 67) 1800 Ireland
McNeill (2 matches) 25 (tested Big Y-  SNP FT91182) 1810, Antrim, Northern Ireland
Neal 25 – (tested Big Y, SNP BY146184) Antrim, Northern Ireland
Neel (2 matches) 67 (tested at 111, and Big Y) 1750 Ireland, Northern Ireland

Our best clue that includes a Big Y and STR match is a descendant of George Charles Neil born in Tranent, Scotland, in 1747.

Perhaps our second-best clue comes in the form of a 111 marker match to a descendant of one Thomas McNeil who appears in records as early as 1753 and died in 1761 In Rombout Precinct, Dutchess County, NY where his son John was born. This line and another match at a lower level both reportedly track back to early New Hampshire in the 1600s.

The MacNeil DNA Project tells us the following:

Participant 106370 descends from Isaiah McNeil b. 14 May 1786 Schaghticoke, Rensselaer Co. NY and d. 28 Aug 1855 Poughkeepsie, Dutchess Co., NY, who married Alida VanSchoonhoven.

Isaiah’s parents were John McNeal, baptized 21 Jun 1761 Rombout, Dutchess Co., NY, d. 15 Feb 1820 Stillwater, Saratoga Co., NY and Helena Van De Bogart.

John’s parents were Thomas McNeal, b.c. 1725, d. 14 Aug 1761 NY and Rachel Haff.

Thomas’s parents were John McNeal Jr., b. around 1700, d. 1762 Wallkill, Orange Co., NY (now Ulster Co. formed 1683) and Martha Borland.

John’s parents were John McNeal Sr. and ? From. It appears that John Sr. and his family were this participant’s first generation of Americans.

Searching this line on Ancestry, I discovered additional information that, if accurate, may be relevant. This lineage, if correct, and it may not be, possibly reaching back to Edinburgh, Scotland. While the information gathered from Ancestry trees is certainly not compelling in and of itself, it provides a place to begin research.

Unfortunately, based on matches shown on the MacNeil DNA Project public page, STR marker mutations for kits 30279, B78471 and 417040 when compared to others don’t aid in clustering or indicating which men might be related to this group more closely than others using line-marker mutations.

Matches Map

Let’s take a look at what the STR Matches Map tells us.

McNiel Big Y matches map menu

This 67 marker Matches Map shows the locations of the earliest known ancestors of STR matches who have entered location information.

McNiel Big Y matches mapMcNiel Big Y matches map legend

My McNeill cousin’s closest matches are scattered with no clear cluster pattern.

Unfortunately, there is no corresponding map for Big Y matches.

SNP Map

The SNP map provided under the Y DNA results allows testers to view the locations where specific haplogroups are found.

McNiel Big Y SNP map

The SNP map marks an area where at least two or more people have claimed their most distant known ancestor to be. The cluster size is the maximum amount of miles between people that is allowed in order for a marker indicating a cluster at a location to appear. So for example, the sample size is at least 2 people who have tested, and listed their most distant known ancestor, the cluster is the radius those two people can be found in. So, if you have 10 red dots, that means in 1000 miles there are 10 clusters of at least two people for that particular SNP. Note that these locations do NOT include people who have tested positive for downstream locations, although it does include people who have taken individual SNP tests.

Working my way from the McNiel haplogroup backward in time on the SNP map, neither BY18332 nor BY18350 have enough people who’ve tested, or they didn’t provide a location.

Moving to the next haplogroup up the tree, two clusters are formed for BY3344, shown below.

McNIel Big Y BY3344 map

S668, below.

McNiel Big Y S668 map

It’s interesting that one cluster includes Glasgow.

S673, below.

McNiel Big Y S673 map

DF85, below:

McNiel Big Y DF85 map

DF105 below:

McNiel BIg Y DF105 map

M222, below:

McNiel Big Y M222 map

For R-M222, I’ve cropped the locations beyond Ireland and Scotland. Clearly, RM222 is the most prevalent in Ireland, followed by Scotland. Wherever M222 originated, it has saturated Ireland and spread widely in Scotland as well.

R-M222

R-M222, the SNP initially thought to indicate Niall of the 9 Hostages, occurred roughly 25-59 SNP generations in the past. If this age is even remotely accurate, averaging by 80 years per generation often utilized for Big Y results, produces an age of 2000 – 4720 years. I find it extremely difficult to believe any semblance of a surname survived that long. Even if you reduce the time in the past to the historical narrative, roughly the year 400, 1600 years, I still have a difficult time believing the McNiel surname is a result of being a descendant of Niall of the 9 Hostages directly, although oral history does have staying power, especially in a clan setting where clan membership confers an advantage.

Surname or not, clearly, our line along with the others whom we match on the Big Y do descend from a prolific common ancestor. It’s very unlikely that the mutation occurred in Niall’s generation, and much more likely that other men carried M222 and shared a common ancestor with Niall at some point in the distant past.

McNiel Conclusion – Is There One?

If I had two McNiel wishes, they would be:

  • Finding records someplace in Virginia that connect George and presumably brothers Thomas and John to their parents.
  • A McNiel male from wherever our McNiel line originated becoming inspired to Y DNA test. Finding a male from the homeland might point the way to records in which I could potentially find baptismal records for George about 1720 and Thomas about 1724, along with possibly John, if he existed.

I remain hopeful for a McNiel from Edinburgh, or perhaps Glasgow.

I feel reasonably confident that our line originated genetically in Scotland. That likely precludes Niall of the 9 Hostages as a direct ancestor, but perhaps not. Certainly, one of his descendants could have crossed the channel to Scotland. Or, perhaps, our common ancestor is further back in time. Based on the maps, it’s clear that M222 saturates Ireland and is found widely in Scotland as well.

A great deal depends on the actual age of M222 and where it originated. Certainly, Niall had ancestors too, and the Ui Neill dynasty reaches further back, genetically, than their recorded history in Ireland. Given the density of M222 and spread, it’s very likely that M222 did, in fact, originate in Ireland or, alternatively, very early in Scotland and proliferated in Ireland.

If the Ui Neill dynasty was represented in the persona of the High King, Niall of the 9 Hostages, 1600 years ago, his M222 ancestors were clearly inhabiting Ireland earlier.

We may not be descended from Niall personally, but we are assuredly related to him, sharing a common ancestor sometime back in the prehistory of Ireland and Scotland. That man would sire most of the Irish men today and clearly, many Scots as well.

Our ancestors, whoever they were, were indeed in Ireland millennia ago. R-M222, our ancestor, was the ancestor of the Ui Neill dynasty and of our own Reverend George McNiel.

Our ancestors may have been at Knowth and New Grange, and yes, perhaps even at Tara.

Tara Niall mound in sun

Someplace in the mists of history, one man made a different choice, perhaps paddling across the channel, never to return, resulting in M222 descendants being found in Scotland. His descendants include our McNeil ancestors, who still slumber someplace, awaiting discovery.

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Margaretha Bechtold (1646-1726), Born During the 30 Years War – 52 Ancestors #285

Margaretha’s marriage record in Heiningen, Germany provided us with the names of her parents which led us to her birth record.

Margaretha Bechtold birth

On May 1, 1646, Margaretha was born in Ebersbach, Germany to Christoph Bechtold  and Margaretha Ziegeler.

Christoph’s name was also spelled Bechtoldt when twins, Maria and Margaretha were baptized in 1640, Christophorus Bachtoldt in the baptism of Leonhardus in 1642, and Bechteles when Jacobus was baptized in 1644.

Margaretha was born in 1646, two years before the end of the 30 Years War, a time of massive heartache and depopulation in this part of Germany. Neighbor villages were sacked in 1634, with many villagers being massacred, leading to a population drop to 20% of pre-war levels. By the time Margaretha was born, the war had raged for 28 years, an entire generation, and villagers probably wondered if they would ever be safe.

Yet, life went on. People married and babies were born. According to church records, there were a total of 25 baptisms in 1646, suggesting a reproductive population of about 50 families.

Growing up, Margaretha would have heard the first-person stories about the war that shaped the lives of her parents and grandparents, literally changing the course of history in every village in Wurttemberg. Those weren’t stories passed down, but actual memories of experiences lived.

Ebersbach is a small village on the River Fils. Margaretha’s father was the village baker. We know little about her parents, other than her father was dead by July 28, 1671, when Margaretha married Michael Haag nine miles down the road, in Heiningen.

Haag Michael marriage

Marriage: Friday, the 28th of July 1671

Michael Hag, legitimate son of Hanss Hag, Koss, & Catharina Bäur(in) and Margaretha, legitimate daughter of Christoph Bechtold deceased baker in Ebersbach and Margaretha Ziegeler. Bride pregnant.

A Family of Bakers

Michael Haag was a baker too, and that fact may indeed hold clues about how he and Margaretha met and their courtship – especially given that they lived in different villages that were 9 miles distant.

Although not where she was born or where her family lived, Heiningen would have felt quite familiar to Margaretha. The villages were about the same size. The local church in Ebersbach looked eerily similar to the church in Heiningen and was likely built around the same time, in the 1200s. By the time Margaretha married in the Lutheran church in Heiningen, that church was already 400 years old, or maybe even older.

Margaretha was already comfortable with baking, growing up as a baker’s daughter – she became a baker’s wife at the age of 25. She likely helped Michael as much as she could, between taking care of their children who began arriving shortly.

Heiningen was recovering from the 30 Years War too. At the beginning of the war, the population was about 1000, and at the end, 200. Diseases including typhoid and dysentery were rampant which becomes evident in the death records, as are deaths from emaciation.

Given a total population of 200, roughly, and an average household size of perhaps 5, the total number of families probably wasn’t more than 40 or maybe 50.

Children

Margaretha and Michael had 8 children, all born and baptized in Heiningen over the next 20 years.

  1. Catharina Haag, born September 18, 1671; married Michael Sattler on January 26, 1692, in Heiningen; died September 20, 1745, in Heiningen. Catharina had three children, two sons that reached adulthood and one daughter who died of typhus in 1710, just before her 18th birthday. Margaretha would have known these children, and attended the funeral of Magdalena when she was 64 years old.
  2. Michael Haag, born September 3, 1673; married Barbara Widmann on  February 2, 1723, in Heiningen; died April 4, 1745, in Heiningen of decrepit senility. He was a baker by occupation and had 3 children, one who was born in 1727, but no further information is available. Generally that means the child died. One child was born and died in 1733 and a daughter, Anna Catharina lived to adulthood. These children were all born after Margaretha’s death, so she wouldn’t have known them. I do wonder if the records are complete, because it’s odd that this young couple didn’t have children for the first 4 years of their marriage.
  3. Margaretha Haag, born July 21, 1677; married Ulrich Traub on November 3, 1705, in Heiningen; died May 29, 1724 of typhoid fever and dysentery when her mother was 78 years old. It must have been extremely difficult on elderly Margaretha to bury her adult daughter. That’s not how the cycle of life is supposed to work. Margaretha had 6 children, but left 4 living, the eldest being 18. She had 3 sons and 1 daughter who lived to adulthood. Two daughters died, one in 1717 of dysentery at the age of 2, and one born in 1720 with no further information. Margareta Traub, the daughter who lived, married Georg Haag and had one daughter who lived to adulthood, had children and passed Margaretha Bechtold’s mitochondrial DNA on to future generations. Margaretha would have known all 6 of these grandchildren and buried two of them.
  4. Johann Georg Haag, born April 22, 1682; married Anna Hofschneider on February 2, 1706, in Heiningen; died June 4, 1762, in Heiningen of “weakness of old age.” His occupation was a baker. Johann George had 8 children, 4 of whom lived to adulthood. One daughter was born in 1797 with no further information and one in 1716, one died in 1715 at one year of age and a son died in 1722, just a year old. Margaretha would have known all of these children as well and buried the last 3 in her 70s.
  5. Anna Haag, born December 15, 1684; died July 4, 1685, when Margaretha was 39. Twin births are very unusual, and either twin surviving is even more so. Unfortunately, this twin died a few months later. It’s interesting that Margaretha’s mother also had twins that died.
  6. Maria Haag, born December 15, 1684 when her mother was 38 and died the next day, December 16, 1684. This must have been a miserable Christmas with one twin gone and the other struggling. Twins are often born prematurely and underweight.
  7. Jacob Haag, born June 26, 1687; married Margareta Stolz on May 12, 1711, in Heiningen; died January 17, 1755, in Heiningen of fever and stroke(?). He had 6 children, all born before Margaretha’s death, and 4 of whom lived to adulthood. A daughter was born in 1713 with no further information and a son the following year who died in 1715 wen Margaretha would have been 69 years old.
  8. Anna Maria Haag, born March 4, 1691; married Peter Horn on November 15, 1712, in Heiningen; died December 15, 1768, in Heiningen. She had 5 children, 4 of whom lived to adulthood. One daughter, born in 1718 has no further information. Three daughters married and had children, 2 having daughters who survived to pass on their mitochondrial DNA to future generations. Margaretha would have known all of these children. Her namesake granddaughter Margareta married Lorenz Widmann and Anne Marie Horn married Johann Georg Kummel, both having daughters who had children whose descendants might carry Margaretha Bechtold’s mitochondrial DNA today.

Mitochondrial DNA

Margaretha’s mitochondrial DNA is carried by anyone, male or female in the current generation, descended from Margaretha through all females. Her mitochondrial DNA can give us a view into the past to understand more about her ancestors, where they came from, and when.

The females whose names are bolded, above, had daughters who produced daughters – candidates for having descendants who carry Margaretha’s mitochondrial DNA. You can read more about that, here.

I have a DNA testing scholarship for anyone descending directly from Margaretha through all females. I’d love to hear from you.

Funerals – So Many Funerals

By the time Margaretha passed on, she had borne 8 children, 6 of whom graced her with 31 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. One of her great-grandchildren died in 1725, but the other lived and Margaretha likely enjoyed that baby, born in 1723, and named for her.

Margaretha buried her husband, the twin girls, and then her daughter Margaretha in 1724 who died of dysentery at the age of 47. It’s likely that Margaretha helped raise her name-sake daughter’s children after her daughter’s death. Margaretha also buried 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Life was tough and grief was always nearby. I expect there were always freshly dug graves in the churchyard. Looking at just the recorded deaths for 1712, and I suspect that not all babies/childrens deaths were entered into the books, there were 22 burials. Given that the entire village knew each other well and were probably related, the entire village population would have attended every funeral, one every couple of weeks.

Then, it was Margaretha’s turn. Margaretha (Bechtold) Haag died on the 27th of June 1726, in Heiningen.

Margaretha Bechtold death

Burial: the 27th of June 1726 died between 5 and 6 a.m. of a preceding half stroke, Margaretha, legitimate wife of Michael Haag aka Coß, baker and oldest judge here and was buried on the feast of Peter & Paul.  Age 80 years. Offering?

I’m not sure what a half stroke is, exactly. Perhaps she was only half paralyzed? Regardless, it’s well known today that people who have experienced one stroke are at risk for complications and additional strokes. Reaching the age of 80 was a remarkable feat in a time of tainted water, minimal medical care, and no antibiotics.

After her death, Margaretha’s body would have been taken to the sacristy in the church after being washed, dressed, and prepared for her funeral.

Margaretha Bechtold sacristy

After the funeral service, her body would have been carried out the door in the sacristy, directly into the churchyard for burial.

A chameleon guards the doorway lintel. The pastor tells us:

During church tours, we declare the small creature to be a chameleon, which traditionally symbolizes change, the change of life transitions: being born, growing up, learning to think, becoming an adult, building trust, also in one’s own abilities. Taking responsibility for doing and not doing. Accepting change, dealing with illness, decrepitude and death. This is sometimes exhausting. The chameleon admonishes to accept change and to keep the ability to change alive.

A hidden ossuary beneath the sacristy, sealed long in the past and only rediscovered in the 1990s, may indeed have been the final resting place of Margaretha’s bones some years later.

Margaretha’s funeral was on the Feast Day of Peter and Paul.

Feast of Peter and Paul

Margaretha Bechtold Peter and Paul

This painting from 1564 shows Jesus being resurrected, surrounded by Peter and Paul, two of his apostles, and two angels.

The Feast of Peter and Paul, Christian martyrs, is always celebrated on June 29th, that date either being the date of their deaths or the translation of their relics. Relics in this sense generally meant a venerated body part and translation means the relic was moved from one location to another.

Some traditions hold that they were both martyred on June 29 in 67 AD, but others state that it was on that day in 258 that their remains were moved to the catacombs.

For centuries, the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul was treated as a Holy Day equal to Christmas or Easter. Three masses were celebrated, one for St. Peter, one for St. Paul, and one for the Apostles.

It’s unclear exactly how the Lutheran Church in Heiningen would have celebrated this Holy Feast Day in 1726, but someplace during this feast day, Margaretha’s funeral was held. A sermon was preached and an offering taken.

I would expect that the scriptures typically used on this feast day, telling the story of Peter’s imprisonment and rescue, here, and Christ’s instructions to go and preach before ascending into Heaven, here, were woven into Margaretha’s service.

Then, Margaretha joined her family members someplace outside in the churchyard.

Margaretha Bechtold Heiningen church south side

The sacristy on the south side of the church is the extended portion of the building, at right, behind the flowering tree.

Margaertha Bechtold Heiningen church north side

Burials surrounded the church, on both the north and south sides. The north side is marked by the tower, at far right, the top hidden behind the tree.

No graves remain in the churchyard today, having been removed many years ago. Given that an ossuary is speculated to be buried beneath the sacristy, the parishoners likely removed bones from older graves to make room for new burials for hundreds of years. In other words, the ossuary practice is nothing new in Europe and extended into antiquity.

Three stones in the churchyard, one from the 1600s, are all that is left to remind us of those early burials.

Margaretha Bechtold churchyard

Margaretha was buried here, someplace between the church and the surrounding wall. Remnants of her bones, long ago turned to dust, still remain in this churchyard.

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Michael Haag (1649-1727), Village Baker and Judge – 52 Ancestors #284

Michael Haag was born on January 4, 1649, in Heiningen, Germany, the 6th of 7 children born to his parents, but probably only the third child to live.

Haag Michael birth

Michael’s birth record reads:

Baptism: 4 January 1649
Child: Michael (+ 1727 the 10th of April)
Parents: Hanss Haga (Haag) aka Koß & Catharina
Godparents: Michael Fischer & Maria ?

Michael married at the age of 22 years and 6 months, in the midst of the summer in his home church. Hopefully, the church was cool inside the stone walls on July 28, 1671, when Michael wed Margaretha Bechtold, 3 years his elder, daughter of Christoph Bechtold and Margaretha Ziegler of Ebersbach.

The location is somewhat unusual because marriages usually occur in the home church of the bride.

Haag Ebersbach

Ebersbach is about 9 miles through the German countryside from Heiningen.

Haag Michael marriage

Marriage: Friday, the 28th of July 1671

Michael Hag, legitimate son of Hanss Hag, Koss, & Catharina Bäur(in) and Margaretha, legitimate daughter of Christoph Bechtold deceased baker in Ebersbach and Margaretha Ziegeler. Bride pregnant.

Hmmm, perhaps that last statement had something to do with why they were married in his church, instead of hers. However, it’s not like her pregnancy would have been a secret.

Margaretha wasn’t just a couple months pregnant, she delivered their first child less than 2 months after the wedding. Why did they wait so long to marry? Clearly, Margaretha, along with her family, had to have known for several months. She was 25 years old by then.

While it’s noted that the bride was pregnant, ultimately, that mattered little given that Michael was clearly respected within the Heiningen community, serving as a judge for many years.

Given that Margaretha’s father was a deceased baker, and Michael was noted as a baker in Heiningen, I wonder if Michael and Margaretha met when he visited her father. Perhaps Michael apprenticed with her father. I’m sure there’s more to this story that we’ll never know.

Apprentices lived with the family, which would undoubtedly give the young couple ample opportunity to get to know one another. While 9 miles isn’t far, especially not today, a flat mile takes an average person about 20 minutes to walk. That’s 3 hours each way unless one hitched a ride on a wagon. Not convenient for courting, that’s for sure.

Michael and Margaretha went on to have 8 children over the next two decades, including one set of twins that died – the first twin, Maria, the day following their birth, and the second twin, Anna, a little over 6 months later.

Michael Haag’s family register is preserved in the church book, below.

Haag Michael register 2Haag Michael register

Thanks to Chris and Tom for obtaining and translating these various church documents. I can almost reach out through time and touch them.

The Heiningen Heritage book, here, provides us with additional information as well.

Haag Michael family history

Michael’s Sons and Y DNA

Michael and Margaretha had 3 sons. If those sons had sons who continued the Haag male line to present, Haag men can take the Y DNA test which provides insight into Michael’s patrilineal line. Where did the Haag family originate before they adopted the Haag surname? Y DNA can answer that question after church records go stonily silent.

  • Michael’s eldest son, also Michael Haag, a baker, was born in 1673 in Heiningen and died there in 1745. He married Barbara Widmann and had 2 sons, one who died shortly after birth, and Michael (the third) born in 1727 in Heiningen, but of whom nothing more is known.
  • Johann Georg Haag, my ancestor and also a baker, was born in 1682 and died in 1762 in Heiningen. He married Anna Hofschneider and had only one surviving son, Johann Georg, born in 1718, who had one son that might have survived.
  • Jacob Haag was born in 1687 and died in 1755, both in Heiningen. He married Margareta Stolz and had two sons, Johann George and Michael, who lived to marry and have children.

If you are a male who carries the Haag surname patrilineally and descends from this family, I have a Y DNA testing scholarship for you. I’d love to hear from you.

Michael was Buried on Good Friday

Michael Haag lived to be 78 years old, outliving Margaretha by just under 10 months.

Michael died on April 9, 1727, in Heiningen, the same village where he was born, married, and baked during his lifetime.

Haag Michael burial

Burial: the 10th of April 1727, Michael Haag Coß from a stroke and was buried on Good Friday, when he had reached his 79th year and had been in respectable service for forty years; offering at his funeral.

There must be some significance to, “offering at his funeral.” Was this unusual, or special. Was this for the family or the church, in particular, relative to Good Friday? If an offering was normally taken, it probably wouldn’t have been mentioned, so I have to wonder why this was worth recording, remarkable in some way.

Death from strokes have been reported in many members of this family line. I wonder if there was an underlying issue or if Michael had heart disease or another ailment.

This record reveals a very interesting tidbit.

Koss or Cos

Michael’s father, Johannes, is noted as “Kos” several times in his own records:

Hanss Haga aka Koß as well as Hanss Haga, the smith’s son called Koss

Now, in his death record, we see that Michael himself is referred to as Coß as well. Is this Michael’s nickname, called after his father?

Tom and Chris, a Native German speaker, are uncertain what “Kos” means, although it seems to be a nickname or alternate name of some sort. Tom suggested perhaps a farm name, and Chris mentioned that a certain type of peasant farmer is known as a “kossat,” but that term is found more in eastern Germany, not in this region.

The location of the word “Koss” and “Cos” in the records is always positioned after the surname, which may be a second hint, although I don’t know what it’s hinting at.

Regardless of what Kos means, it tickles me to know that I’m seeing Michael’s nickname, and one that was his father’s as well. It must have been quite affectionately bestowed, bonding the two generations together, and likely brought Michael comfort and peace after his father’s death in 1678 when Michael was 29 years old. Cos likely brought a smile to his lips, after it stopped bringing a tear to his eye.

Village Life

German towns were generally arranged with farmhouses clustered into small villages that were often walled, or the houses themselves formed village walls in order to protect the residents who then walked into the fields. Farms in Germany were different than farms in the US, which were (and are) widely scattered.

The old portion of the village is the central squared area above, bordered by Hauptstrasse and Kirchstrasse, an area that includes portions of the old wall surrounding the church.

You can see photos of Heiningen, here, including the old wall and buildings dating from the time when Michael would have lived.

Even today, Heiningen isn’t large, although modern homes are built on the land that was once fields, between the old village center with its ancient market fountain and the local water source, a creek only a few hundred feet away. Michael and Margaretha likely made that trip to the stream, or to the central well, thousands and thousands of times. A baker can’t bake without water, and Michael would have baked every single day.

It’s certainly possible that Michael lived on the farm or in the house that his parents originally lived in as well, which might confer the “house name” along with the property. When Michael married, his father was called Koss, and when Michael died, he was referred to as Cos.

I wonder if other people in Heiningen were known by nicknames that might reflect their house or farm or something else. For that name to be recorded in the official church records, Cos must somehow have been a defining name, as either a nickname or perhaps even as an alternate surname. Perhaps Koss differentiated this Haag family from another, unrelated, family. I find neither Koss, Cos nor anything similar among the surnames listed in Heiningen.

I wonder if Michael’s 40 years of “respectable service” mentioned in the church death entry means that’s how long he served as a judge in the community. Forty years would date back to 1687, when Michael would have been 37 years old and had at least 6 children, with the 7th arriving that June.

By 1687, Michael would have been well-established within the community. Margaretha’s death entry mentioned that Michael was a baker and “oldest judge.”

A Good Friday Funeral

Haag Michael Good Friday

Michael was buried on Good Friday, known then as Holy Friday, the liturgical date commemorating Christ’s Crucifixion.

Generally, Lutheran churches, draped in black paraments, undertake a three hours devotion of some sort, from noon to 3, the time during which Christ suffered before death.

The Eucharist was received, and church services were often accentuated by special music such as St. Matthew Passion, written by Johann Sebastian Bach and first performed on Good Friday in 1727, the year Michael died. You can view the nearly 3-hour classical music performance by the Bach Society, here.

We learn more about Good Friday in the Lutheran Church, as follows:

In Lutheran tradition from the 16th to the 20th century, Good Friday was the most important religious holiday, and abstention from all worldly works was expected. During that time, Lutheranism had no restrictions on the celebration of the Eucharist on Good Friday; on the contrary, it was a prime day on which to receive the Eucharist.

The Good Friday liturgy appointed in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, the worship book of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, specifies a liturgy similar to the revised Roman Catholic liturgy. A rite for adoration of the crucified Christ includes the optional singing of the Solemn Reproaches in an updated and revised translation which eliminates some of the anti-Jewish overtones in previous versions. Many Lutheran churches have Good Friday services, such as the Three Hours’ Agony centered on the remembrance of the “Seven Last Words,” sayings of Jesus assembled from the four gospels, while others hold a liturgy that places an emphasis on the triumph of the cross, and a singular biblical account of the Passion narrative from the Gospel of John.

More recently, Lutheran liturgical practice has recaptured Good Friday as part of the larger sweep of the great Three Days: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Vigil of Easter. The Three Days remain one liturgy which celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus. As part of the liturgy of the Three Days, Lutherans generally fast from the Eucharist on Good Friday. Rather, it is celebrated in remembrance of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday and at the Vigil of Easter.

One practice among Lutheran churches is to celebrate a Tenebrae service on Good Friday, typically conducted in candlelight and consisting of a collection of passion accounts from the four gospels.

Haag Michael tenebrae

By Bhuck – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6469502

Fifteen candles on a Tenebrae hearse at the Mainz Cathedral, where the candles are extinguished one by one during the course of the service.

Haag Michael candles

During the Lutheran Tenebrae service, there is a gradual dimming of the lights and extinguishing of the candles as the service progresses. Toward the end of the service, the central Christ candle, if present, is removed from the sanctuary.

A concluding Strepitus, or loud noise, typically made by slamming shut the Bible, is made, symbolizing the earthquake that took place, and the agony of creation, at the death of Christ.

Haag Michael church program

The front cover of a Lutheran Church Good Friday bulletin explains that extinguishing the candles represents abandonment and loneliness.

Along with observing a general Lenten fast, many Lutherans emphasize the importance of Good Friday as a day of fasting within the calendar. A Handbook for the Discipline of Lent recommends the Lutheran guideline to “Fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday with only one simple meal during the day, usually without meat.”

Candles

Candles seem to be an ever-present important theme in the life of the Haag family in Heiningen. Michael’s son, Hans, born in 1682, married Anna Hofschneider on February 2, 1706, the feast of Candlemas. During that celebration, candles to be used throughout the year for families and the church would be blessed.

The candles lit and extinguished on Good Friday, during the traditional church service, as well as for Michael’s funeral, would assuredly have been blessed that previous February at Candlemas. I wonder how the priest or minister tied Michael’s life and funeral service a sermon to Good Friday. Surely, he must have.

I wonder if Michael was buried in the churchyard before or after the Good Friday service?

I wonder if the funeral attendees, all of the village residents, were quite serene, in the spirit of both Michael and Christ’s deaths, or if they celebrated Michael’s life by eating hot cross buns sometime after 3 PM.

Personally, I’m voting for the latter.

Hot Cross Buns

Haag Michael hot cross buns

Given that Michael was a baker and taking into account my love for all things yeast (Michael would approve) – I have to include hot cross buns in Michael’s story.

For all I know, hot cross buns might have been baked in Germany when Michael was the village baker. Hot cross buns are certainly popular today, and an abundance of recipes are available, all making me hungry.

Hot cross buns, with a cross marked on top, are buns eaten on Good Friday at the end of Lent. They are sometimes made with fruit and spice, signifying the spices used to embalm Christ. In traditionally Christian countries, plain unleavened bread with no dairy products is eaten during Lent, to midday Good Friday. It’s no wonder these raised yeast buns are so widely enjoyed.

English folklore includes many protective superstitions surrounding hot cross buns. One theory is that the buns began in the 1300s at St. Albans Church in London, but no one really knows.

There is mention of hot cross buns being for sale for Good Friday by a London street crier in Poor Robin’s Almanac in 1733 and rules about when those scrumptious buns could and could not be sold dated to the 16th century. Seriously, bun regulations. They must have been absolutely wonderful to require rules.

Indeed, a tradition this wonderful would have migrated throughout Europe before long.

Somehow, it would only have been fitting for Michael Haag, Koss, the baker, to have his life celebrated at his funeral with warm and wonderful hot cross buns.

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

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Blanche of Castile, Queen of France (1188-1252), An Astute Matriarch – 52 Ancestors #283

You know, I think I like homeschooling.

Earlier this week, my daughter-in-law asked me if we descend from Blanche of Castile, because my 11-year-old granddaughter, Miss Sylvia, was working on a Medieval history assignment.

Yes, Sylvia, as a matter of fact, we are!

Of course, knowing she is descended from Blanche made the assignment much more personal and interesting.

Blanche relationship calculator.png

Blanche, also known as Blanca, is Sylvia’s 25th great-grandmother. Sylvia is also related to Blanche in multiple ways as well.

Of course, a 25th great grandmother means that Blanche is 27 generations back in Sylvia’s tree. That’s hard to imagine, but the good news is that once you connect with your “gateway ancestor,” royal pedigrees branching upstream of those gateway ancestors are well researched and publicly available for the compiling. Wikitree has a gateway ancestor list here, an Ancestry search here, and Geni, here.

Estes chart final Louis VIII

I had this beautiful pedigree chart created years ago. While this abbreviated pedigree doesn’t actually show Blanche herself, you can see the tiny black box around King Louis VIII, Blanche’s husband. As it turns out, Blanche ruled longer and had a more enduring effect on history that King Louis.

I’m not sure how Miss Sylvia selected Blanche for her report, but I can see Blanche’s likeness in Princess Sylvia.

sylvia princess

Meet Blanche

Blanche pedigree.png

Blanche was born on March 4th, 1188 in variously named castles located in Palencia and Valencia, Castile, to Alfonso VIII, King of Castile, and Eleanor Plantagenet of England. Truth be told, I don’t think anyone knows exactly where she was born, other than Castile.

Blanche Sagunto Castle.jpg

This fortified Sagunto Castle complex in Valencia, drawn in 1563, would be a good candidate for where a queen might bear a child, safe from invaders and protected.

Just like Sylvia, Blanche was born a princess.

Blanche San Francisco.jpg

The San Francisco Church in Palencia was built in the 1200s, possible in Blanche’s lifetime, and certainly reflecting the architectural styles that she would have found familiar.

Blanche manuscrpt.jpg

Blanche’s likeness is recorded in a stunningly beautiful illuminated manuscript created in Paris between 1227 and 1234.

The woman depicted in the manuscript may actually have been created to resemble Blanche, at least somewhat. Blanche’s husband, King Louis, died in 1226 and this manuscript, begun in 1227, may have been created to honor Blanche. Note that she appears beside a much younger monarch, likely her son, only a boy of age 13 in 1227, but the King nonetheless.

These illuminated pages, in residence at the Morgan Library and Museum, are bound in a brown, stamped leather case from about 1500, lettered: The Apocalypse: Illuminated Manuscript – 13th Century.

The provenance of these illuminated pages is listed as:

Executed in France, ca. 1227-1234 for Blanche of Castille and her son St. Louis, possibly as a gift to the Cathedral of Toledo, where the main portion of the manuscript now is; M.240 was removed from the Toledo portion by ca. 1400; binding dates from ca. 1500.

Blanche ruled the kingdom beginning in 1226, as regent, a noble who rules on behalf of the rightful monarch who cannot due to their age, absence, or other incapacity. In 1226, Blanche ruled on behalf of her son who was crowned as king at age 12 upon the death of his father.

This image, probably of Blanche, is part of a larger painting on the upper half of a manuscript page.

Blanche and Louis IX.png

Crowned queen, possibly Blanche of Castile, veiled in white, wearing vair-lined mantle, seated on throne of foliate type, raises hands toward crowned king, possibly Louis IX of France, beardless, holding bird surmounting fleur-de-lis scepter in right hand and round object, possibly seal matrix, in left hand, seated on throne.

Blanche’s husband, King Louis VIII, of France, died in 1226 when their son, Louis IX, the heir apparent, was but 12 years old. Blanche had him crowned as king within a month of Louis’s death, forced reluctant barons to swear allegiance, served as regent of the kingdom, ruling during her son’s minority, and exerting significant influence throughout her life. At the age of 38, Blanche was ruling the kingdom and would continue to do so for the next decade.

Blanche was no hands-off monarch. She raised an army, orchestrated surprise attacks, riding into battle herself shortly after her husband’s death, leading the army, literally. Blanche gathered wood to help keep her soldiers warm, building immense loyalty among the men. She was no ordinary woman, made of unflinching mettle, pardon the pun.

She simply figured out how to do what needed to be done, and did it.

The Life of an Astute Matriarch

Miss Sylvia’s titled her report about Blanche for Mrs. Peterson’s class, The Life of an Astute Matriarch.

Let’s let Sylvia tell Blanche’s story, with minor edits, hotlinks, and a couple of strategically placed comments by grandma.

“The question is not who’s going to let me, it’s who’s going to stop me,” – Marie Curie.

Yep, indeed, there’s certainly a lot of Blanche’s character in Sylvia!

Queen Blanche of Castile was honorably descended from a knowledgeable and regal European family. Blanche was headstrong, and religious. Blanche had an impenetrable bond with her husband, Louis VIII, and her son, Louis IX. One example is when Blanche died, her son was devastated. This Queen of Castile, continued controlling, capably till the day that she died.

Queen Blanche of Castile, who was born March 3, 1188, was born into Spanish, French, and English royalty. Bearing great responsibility, Blanche was the pious daughter of King Alphonso VIII of Castile and Princess Eleanor Plantagenet of England. Incredibly, her grandfather was (King) Henry II of England and her grandmother was the lovely Eleanor of Aquitaine. Also, her great-uncle was King John I of England. Because she was smart and strong willed, her grandmother favored Blanche over her older sister to be the future Queen of France. Around 11-12 years-old, Blanche was betrothed to Louis VIII of France, when he was 12-13 years-old. That was extremely young!

Don’t get any ideas, Sylvia!!!

After Blanche was unexpectantly affianced, her grandmother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, visited Spain and swept her away to France to meet her future husband. Remarkably, after a short betrothal, Blanche married Louis. This marriage was arranged by King John I of England, although Blanche would cherish her husband. Their marriage set in place a truce between England and France over land.

Blanche of Castile endured heart ailments after many years of ruling as regent. Because she was committed, she continued presiding over the court, while her son the King was imprisoned in the Holy Land.

In November of 1252, while her son was still in the Holy Land, on her way to the Abbey of the Lys, she suffered a heart attack. Tragically, when she returned to the Palace of the Louvre, she died, leaving her dutiful son to rule. Mourning the loss of his mother, King Louis IX did not speak for two days. While Blanche was buried at Maubuisson Abbey, which she intelligently helped create, her heart was taken to the Abbey of the Lys. She never saw her son.

Queen Blanche of Castile, who was married very young, was a wise and respected queen. Blanche and her husband, King Louis VIII, adored one another and had an immensely happy life together. Together, they maintained a truce between England and France, and they had thirteen children, five of who survived.

Blanche co-ruled with one of these children, Louis IX, future king of France. When Queen Blanche died her son was heartbroken. He was despondent. He was bitter. He was left to rule alone. He reacted this way because they ruled collaboratively together for most of Blanche’s reign.

Queen Blanche was a proud and dedicated matriarch of her family and kingdom.

Indeed, Sylvia, she was, and is an ancestor we can be mighty proud of.

What do you think, Sylvia? Would you be ready to rule a kingdom at age 12? King Louis IX learned how to rule from his strong mother, Queen Blanche who, herself, had married at the same age he became king.

Arranged Marriages

Arranged marriages in the Middle Ages were the norm, especially in Royal families. Children were married to spouses where political arrangements conferred benefits to the various royal families and kingdoms involved. For example, King John of England signed a treaty ceding the fiefs of Issoudun and Gracay along with other lands in exchange for his niece becoming the Queen of France.

Louis VIII and Blanche were married when she was 12 and he was 13 years old, On May 23, 1200. Their first child was born a few years later, in 1205, but died shortly thereafter.

While their marriage may have been happier than most arranged marriages of the time, Blanche suffered the grief of losing 7 of her 13 children, and not all as babies.

Coronation

Louis and Blanche wouldn’t become king and queen until they were 36 and 35, respectively.

Blanche Cathedral Reims

Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Reims, By Johan Bakker, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38255047

King Louis VIII and Queen Blanche’s coronation was held on August 6, 1223, in the cathedral in Reims, above, as depicted in the painting below.

Blanche coronation Reims

Coronation of Louis VIII and Blanche of Castile at Reims in 1223, a miniature illuminated manuscript from the Grandes Chroniques de France, painted in the 1450s (Bibliothèque nationale)

Children

Blanche’s five surviving children read like a who’s who of Catholic Sainthood and European nobility.

Blanche Louis IX.jpg

  • Louis IX, King of France, 1214-1270, an extremely devout Catholic. Canonized in 1297 as Saint Louis, his feast day is celebrated on August 25th. Above, shown in the same illuminated manuscript as his mother. Louis IX sponsored France in both the disastrous 7th and 8th Crusades.  Louis had 13 children, 4 of whom died as infants or children, before Blanche’s death.

Blanche son Robert of Artois.jpg

  • Robert I “The Good”, Count of Artois, 1216-1250, one of the Knights Templar who died in the 7th Crusade in Al Mansurah, Egypt is also our ancestor. He had two children, both of whom lived to adulthood.

Blanche son Alphonse of Poiters.jpg

  • Alphonse, Count of Poitiers, 1220-1271, shown above, far left, taking an oath as Count of Toulouse. He served as regent of France after his mother’s death until his brother returned from the 7th Crusade. He took part in the 7th Crusade and died in the 8th. He had no heirs.
Blanche daughter Isabella

By © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3609986

  • Saint Isabelle, 1225-1270, whose statue is shown above, was two when her father died. She eventually founded a nunnery and although never actually becoming a nun, devoted her entire life to God, refusing to marry even after being betrothed. She was beatified in 1521 and canonized in 1696, her feast day celebrated February 26th.

Given that Isabelle never married nor had children, the mitochondrial DNA of Blanche of Castile did not descend to present-day through Blanche or any of her sisters.

Blanche son Charles of Naples.jpg

  • Charles of Naples, King of Sicily, also known as Charles of Anjou, 1226/27-1285. Charles may have been born after his father’s death in November of 1226 and was the first Capet to be named for Charlemagne, his 13th great-grandfather. Given that his mother was busy ruling the kingdom, as regent, he was primarily raised in the houses of his brothers. An unusual mixture, Charles was a politician, a strategist, a warrior, a King as well as an accomplished poet. Charles had 6 children, all of whom lived beyond Blanche’s death.

In total, Blanche had 21 grandchildren, 17 of whom outlived her.

1226

Think, for just a minute, about Blanch in November of 1226 when Louis VIII died a miserable death of dysentery.

Blanche turned 38 years old that March. She and Louis had celebrated their 26th wedding anniversary in May.

She had born 12 children and was pregnant for her 13th.

  • Blanche’s first child, Blanche, her namesake, was born in 1205 and died soon after. Blanche herself was only 17.
  • Philip was born on September 9, 1209, betrothed in 1215, as was the custom, and died before July 1218, not even 9 years old.
  • Alphonse and John were twins who were born and died on January 26, 1213.
  • Louis IX was born on April 25, 1214, and was the first of Blanche’s children to live past childhood. The eldest, he would succeed his father as king and was 12 when his father died.
  • Robert was born on September 25, 1216, and he too lived to adulthood.
  • Philip was born on February 20, 1218, and died in 1220, a toddler.
  • John was born on July 21, 1219, was betrothed in 1227 but died in 1232 at age 13, before his marriage. John would have been 7 years old when his father died in 1226.
  • Alphonse was born on November 11, 1220, and died in 1271. He married but had no children.
  • Philip Dagobert was born on February 20, 1222, and died in 1232. He would have been 4 years old when his father died.
  • Isabelle born in March 1224 would have been two and a half when her father died. She lived to adulthood but never married.
  • Etienne was born near the end of 1225 and died in early 1227, not long after Louis VIII died. I wonder if she died of dysentery too.
  • Charles was born in 1226 or 1227. Based on Etienne’s birth at the end of 1225, it’s likely that Charles was born about 18 months later, so perhaps in the first few months of 1227.

In November 1226, Blanche had buried 5 children, had a 12-year-old, a 10-year-old, a 7-year-old, a 6-year-old, a 4-year-old, a two and a half-year-old, a 1-year-old and was pregnant. Her husband was deathly ill with highly infectious dysentery, and others in the court probably were too. Etienne, the baby, may have died of the same disease not long after Louis.

Within a month of Louis’s death and funeral, Blanche made immediate arrangements to have her oldest child crowned king in order to avoid a dangerous lapse of power into which others with aspirations of control would attempt to insert themselves. Very shortly thereafter, Blanche buried baby Etienne and gave birth to Charles.

That would have broken any normal woman. Blanche, however, persevered.

Regent

Blanche twice ruled France as a regent. The first time, beginning in 1226 when King Louis VIII died and her son, Louis IX, was too young to rule the kingdom. Blanche ruled a second time in 1248 when King Louis IX set out on the 7th Crusade, against his mother’s wishes. Perhaps more accurately stated, Blanche was dead set against that endeavor. Was she politically savvy, or did she possess a mother’s intuition that things would go disastrously wrong?

Blanche ruled until her death in 1252, with Louis IX not hearing of his mother’s death until in the spring of 1253 after his release from captivity, along with his brothers.

Suffice it to say that Blanche did not die in peace.

One letter from Blanche still exists, penned in 1240 to her subjects, as follows.

Blanche, by the grace of God queen of France, to her beloved citizens and the whole community of Béziers, greetings and love.

That you bear sincere faith towards our [beloved] son the king and have done so in the past and will do so in the future, as we understand from the tenor of your letters and because our beloved, G. des Ormes, seneschal of Carcassonne much extols you, we thank you for your fidelity, in whose constancy we have hope and faith. We ask and request that you so persevere in the constancy of said fidelity and act so faithfully and virilely and give counsel and help to the people of that king our [beloved] son that you deserve to have our help and favor and his.

Enacted at Chateauneuf, A.D.1240, in the month of October.

Burial

In 1236 Blanche funded and founded the Abbaye de Maubuisson, which is where she was buried 16 years later.

Blanche tomb.jpg

This drawing of Blanche’s tomb is found in the Louvre, in Paris.

Blanche’s marble sarcophagus is held, today, in the St. Denis Cathedral in Paris.

The Maubuisson Abbey was decommissioned in 1786 by Louis XVI after the French Revolution, claiming that it had lost its religious function, consigning the abbey commissioned by his 16 times great-grandmother, along with her resting place, to ruin.

Blanche abbey de maubuisson.jpg

Soon, the abbey was used as a military hospital, then a stone quarry and part of a textile mill in the 1800s before being abandoned altogether. I wonder if those people during those years had any idea that a queen rested among them, or if they would have cared if they did. Perhaps by then, her tomb had been destroyed and her bones returned to dust.

Excavations in 1907 unearthed many precious objects that disappeared without a trace, leading to speculation that Blanche’s royally appointed grave had been discovered, and looted.

In 1947, the abbey was classified as a historical monument and in the 1980s, additional archaeological excavations were undertaken. Today, the abbey houses a Centre of Contemporary Arts and a project incubator lab devoted to architectural heritage, contemporary works, and natural history.

As was the custom of the time, Blanche’s heart was removed and sent to the royal abbey Notre-Dame du Lys, founded in 1244 by Louis IX and Blanche, and also now lying in a state of ruin, having been looted and destroyed during the French Revolution. Still, these ruins are somberly beautiful, and I can envision Blanche walking peacefully here.

Blanche and Sylvia

As Sylvia said, Blanche was indeed an astute matriarch, excelling on her own merits, despite being born to wealth and privilege. Blanche’s life was anything but easy and her immense responsibility weighed heavily on her heart.

I’m so pleased that Sylvia is interested in history and that our family has royal ancestors for her to research. I would have been a lot more interested in history in school had I realized that it was actually relevant to me.

Not only are our royal ancestors’ lives interesting, but they were also recorded and have been extensively researched, making the details of their lives available to us today. We gain a peek into their lives behind the veil of time and perspective into the history of the time in which they lived, a history which they helped shape.

Who were they?

Are we anything like them today?

We probably carry little or no “royal blood” in our veins descended from Blanche today, but then again, you never know. Royalty intermarried a great deal, perhaps providing us with multiple “doses.” Even if we didn’t inherit their DNA, and that’s not necessarily an assumption I’m entirely willing to make – because let’s face it – we had to obtain our DNA from SOME ancient ancestors, we might inherit some characteristics passed down culturally, generation to generation, through the ages.

I see several of Blanche’s best characteristics in Sylvia. Not only that, but I think they even look a bit alike.

I’ve been saving the absolute best for last. In addition to researching a medieval individual, Sylvia was also to dress like that person would have dressed.

Blanche Princess Sylvia.jpg

Behold, our very own Princess Sylvia, 25th great-granddaughter of Blanche of Castile, Queen of France.

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Johann Georg Haag (1682-1762), Baker – 52 Ancestors #281

As we move back in time in the records, I find more and more than people are listed in the church records by their diminutive names, not their official baptismal names. For example, Johannes Georg Haag is listed as Hanss Jerg, and even Haag is spelled in different ways. Haga and Hag being the most common.

My two friends, Tom and Chris have helped me immensely with my German families, Tom going so far as to write draft articles. Bless that man is all I can say. I could not do this without them.

Tom begins by explaining why he likes a particular German website.

Before going any further, I just have to say what a remarkable website genealogienetz.de is!  You can search for your surname of interest and hopefully find information that is perhaps not easily found in other websites. It is truly a go-to website for finding your German ancestors! Thanks to all who contribute to this website for the mutual benefit of others!  See below the beginning search page: http://meta.genealogy.net/

Tom and Chris both prefer Archion.de for obtaining German church records. Often they find the original records there. Of course, being German-language-challenged, I can’t use Archion. After locating the record, they search Ancestry so I can utilize the records. After they kindly translate for me, I can attach the records appropriately to my tree.

Below, you’ll find a family register for Hans Jerg Haag.

Haag register 1.pngHaag register 2.pngHaag register 3.png

Born in Heiningen

Our Hanss Jerg Haag, or more properly, Johann Georg Haag, was born in Heiningen (O.A. Göppingen), Württemberg, Germany on April 22, 1682 to Michael Hag and Margarethe Bechtold.

Haag 1682 baptism.jpg

Baptism: 22 April 1682

Child: Johann Georg

Parents: Michael Hag, occupation ? & Margaretha Bechtold(in).

Godparents: Joh(ann) Christoph Wolf? & Jacobina Traub(in)

Of course, I always wonder if the godparents are related, and how.

Tom cautions:

As you will note, the pages have degraded with time but for the most part the data can be culled, thankfully.

Because of this degradation with time, oftentimes the transcriptions are mis-transcribed.

Therefore, use the indices with caution and strive to manually search for your person of interest. He/she may easily be overlooked otherwise.

And that’s from Tom, who knows what he’s doing.

Haag Hoffschneider 1706 marriage.jpg

I also want to illustrate the difference that two copies of the same document can make. The above document is Hans George Haag’s marriage document from Ancestry and is the same as the one below, from Archion.de.

Haag Hoffschneider 1706 marriage 2.png

You can easily see why Tom and Chris both prefer Archion. The bad news is that Archion appears to be very restrictive about sharing documents since they charge by downloaded document.

Hanss Jerg Haag married Anna Hoffschneider on the Feast of the Purification, February 2, 1706, in Heiningen.

Hanss Jerg, son of Michael Haag(en), juror and baker here and Anna, daughter of Michael Hoffschneider, Sr., citizen from here.

I love the fact that through Hanss’s marriage record, we discover the occupation of his father – a baker. Hanss would become a baker too. What better way to apprentice organically while growing up than to spend time with your father.

Hanss and Anna were married on the Feast of the Purification, also known as Candlemas, a Christian Holy Day commemorating the presentation of Jesus at the Temple. In keeping with tradition, the young couple would have presented their candles at church to be blessed, then used them for the rest of the year.

Haag Candlemas.jpg

Children and a DNA Candidate

Hanss and Anna had a total of 8 children, but two died as infants. Six survived to marry.

Only two children were sons, and only one son lived to have children himself.

  • Johann Georg Haag, born September 13, 1718 in Heiningen; married Anna Catharina Frasch on 15 September 1744 in Heiningen. She died July 28, 1772 in Heiningen. Johann Georg married (2) Margaretha Schurr on June 29, 1773 in Heiningen. She was born December 11, 1740; and died March 22, 1806 in Heiningen. Johann Georg continued in the Haag family tradition of being a baker by profession. Johann George had 4 children, with two surviving to adulthood. His one surviving son was:
    • Johann Gottlieb Haag born May 2, 1774 and married in 1812 to Regina Barbara Linderich in Goppingen. They had 3 children, including one male who died in 1782 at 18 months of age from bloody dysentery.

Unfortunately, Hanss Y DNA line died out in this generation with no surviving males. However, if a Haag male descends from any of Johann Georg Haag’s brothers or other Haag male relatives to the current generation through all Haag male ancestors, they too would carry the Haag Y DNA signature.

I have a Y DNA testing scholarship for any male who descends through all males from a Haag male from this line. Just leave a comment or contact me. I’d love to hear from you. We can learn more about the Haag line’s past from Y DNA which provides us with a periscope view of the direct male line since the Y DNA is never mixed with any DNA from the wives.

Passing Over

Hanss lived to be an elderly man. I wonder how long he continued baking. Did he ever slow down or retire? Did his son gradually take over the business?

Haag 1762 death.png

Death: 4 June 1762 in the evening at 7 p.m. died Hanss Jerg Haag, Sr., baker, buried on the Feast of Trinity Sunday at the age of 80 years and 6 weeks.

Hanss died on Friday evening and was buried less than 2 days later. I’m guessing that his burial was immediately following the church services on Sunday while everyone was still at church. In June, one wouldn’t want to have waited very long.

I’m actually surprised that he wasn’t buried on Saturday. Maybe they waited for his family to arrive from neighbor hamlets, or perhaps everyone was coming to church anyway. Who doesn’t love the local baker in a village of a few hundred people? Everyone knew Hanss and was likely related in one way or another, so his funeral would have involved the entire populace anyway.

Hanss official cause of death is listed as “old age.” Eighty years was an amazing life span at that time. His wife, Anna outlived him by a year and a half. She was 83 at her death.

I have this vision of a wrinkled but smiling elderly German couple sitting around the hearth, with the smell of baking bread wafting through the air, of course, discussing whatever. Simply enjoying each other’s company.

A few months earlier, they celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary. I wonder if they were the oldest couple in the village.

St. Michael’s Church

Haag St. Michael's gate.jpg

The entrance to Michael’s Church is now as it was then, through a gate in the defensive wall surrounding the church and churchyard, which assuredly protected the graves of her parishoners.

It is through this gate that Hans’s casket would have been carried into the church before the service, then carried into the churchyard for burial. This time, the trip through the gate, inside the wall, was one way.

The original cross was hung inside this church in 1398. The carved crucifix and the octagonal baptismal font are original too – likely the exact same baptismal basin used to baptize Hanss George in front of the altar 80 years and 6 weeks earlier.

Haag St. Michael's church Heiningen.jpg

Hans probably joined his parents, grandparents and relatives, reaching back into time immemorial in the churchyard, barely visible today beside the church building.

Trinity Sunday

Given that everyone in the village would have attended Hanss’ funeral, I’m guessing the funeral was either held in conjunction with the Sunday services, or immediately after.

What was happening on the Feast of Trinity Sunday?

Trinity Sunday is the first Sunday after Pentecost and celebrates the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, meaning God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost.

Haag Trinity fresco.jpg

This fresco by Luca Rosetti da Orta, painted in 1738-1739 in the St. Gaudenzio Church at Ivrea (Torino) illustrates the concept, as does this later painting in the late 1800s, below, by Max Furst.

Haag Trinity painting.jpg

Bach composed several cantatas for Trinity Sunday in the early 1700s, of which four still exist. You can hear them here, here, here and here.

Just close your eyes and listen. Allow the music to transport you back to the day of Hans Jerg Haag’s funeral and the beautiful music that would have filled the church to celebrate a long life well-lived.

Perhaps after Hans’s funeral, the village gathered for a meal to celebrate his life, complete of course with fresh baked German breads.

German bread

By 3268zauber – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4298187

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

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Katharina Haag (1716 – 1791), Six Week Headache – 52 Ancestors #280

Katharina (also spelled Catharina) Haag was baptized on April 25, 1716, in the Evangelical Protestant church in the small village of Heiningen, Germany, the daughter of Johann Georg (Hanss Jerg) Haag and Anna Hofschneider.

The Heiningen church records provide us with the baptism date. Generally, the birth would have occurred shortly before, perhaps a day or two.

Haag Katharina birth.png

The first three columns give us the baptism date, the child’s name, which, unusually, had no middle name, along with her parents’ names:

The 25th April, Catharina, Hanss Jerg Haag, baker and Anna, wife.

A lovely tidbit is that Catharina’s father was a baker. I’d wager that her home always smelled terrific as she was growing up. Perhaps she helped deliver fresh bread each morning to the residents in Heiningen as the sun rose over the nearby orchards, fields, and hills.

Haag Heiningen.jpg

The final column in the baptismal record shows that Catharina’s Godparents were Johannes Leyrer, innkeeper, and butcher; Elisabetha, legitimate wife of Jacob Kauderer, citizen and weaver. Often Godparents were relatives. In this small village, it’s likely that everyone was related to everyone else.

Catharina was confirmed in 1732 at the age of 16, as reported in the Heiningen local heritage book.

Haag book.png

Eleven years later, at the age of 27, on November 12, 1743, in her home parish of Heiningen, Katharina married Johann Jakob Lenz, a former military man from a village about 20 miles distant. Jakob’s first wife had died a few months earlier, in January, and their only child perished in the September prior.

Haag, Katharina marriage.png

Catharina and Jacob’s marriage took place in Heiningen, probably in the bride’s home church, shown in the painting with the steeple towering over the village. The church, of course, was the center of everything.

The marriage record tells us quite a bit:

Jacob Lenz, vinedresser in Beutelsbach, widower and Catharina, legitimate, unmarried daughter of Hanss Jerg Haag(en), citizen and baker here. 12 November 1743, the 22nd Sunday past Trinity.

Given that they were married on a Sunday, I wonder if the ceremony took place during the church service, or immediately after, perhaps. Did the entire congregation simply stay, and was there a meal for everyone in celebration?

Jacob was in the military as a grenadier until 1742 when he ”bought himself out,” not long after he married. Unfortunately, his child died in September 1742, followed by his first wife in January of 1743. Until this marriage record with Catharina, it was unclear what Jacob was doing for a living after the military.

Not surprisingly, Jakob returned home and resumed what appears to be the family, as well as the primary village occupation, that of a vinedresser. He had probably been raised tending the grapevines that produced grapes for wine every fall since he was a young tyke. Grapes were the main agricultural product of the hillsides of this region, and one way or another, every person participated in raising, trimming and harvesting the grapes, and wine production.

Jakob Lenz’s occupation was tied to the land, and specifically to the vineyards lining the hills around Beutelsbach – so it made sense that the newlywed couple established their home in Beutelsbach where Jacob could earn a living and support his soon-to-be family.

Katherina had never been married before, could read, and had always lived with her parents, according to local historian, Martin Goll’s notes from Beutelsbach, here.

Interestingly, an additional note reveals that Katharina, “in her single years, she was suffering from a headache for 6 weeks.”

This causes me to wonder about closed head injuries or strokes, as well as either meningitis, meningismus, or encephalitis – all diseases or injuries which would cause a severe protracted headache that would eventually resolve.

This headache was evidently memorable enough to be recorded in church notes regarding Katharina. This was clearly not trivial, and by the act of being written into the church notes, with a few strokes, “defined her” forever, as compared to other people. It’s one of the few personal things we know about her today.

Katharina departed Heiningen, and her family, at the time of her marriage, moving to Beutelsbach where she and Johann Jakob Lenz lived for the duration of their lives, sheltered beneath the vineyards which you can glimpse here and here.

Haag Beutelsbach vineyards.png

A Google search of “Beutelsbach vineyards” shows these beautiful photos of the vineyards, many taken in the fall as the leaves turn, all tended and manicured meticulously by hand. It’s among these sculpted hills that Katharina spent almost a half-century of her life and raised her children.

The newlyweds probably celebrated Christmas in their new home, where their first child was born in the middle of the next summer, on July 30, 1744.

Katharina may have had the opportunity to see her parents, siblings, and their families from time to time, but a distance of 20 miles at that time was nontrivial. Nothing like today where 20 miles is just a quick half-hour drive.

The ancient path from Beutelsbach to Heiningen meandered through the hills. The contemporary road crosses the hills, but it’s unclear whether this road was vintage. In other words, the distance between Beutelsbach and Heiningen could have been longer and more circuitous when Katharina was making that trip.

Had she ever visited Beutelsbach before she moved there with her new husband?

Haag Heiningen satellite.png

Four years younger than Johann Jakob, Katharina died at 75 years of age on May 21, 1791, in Beutelsbach, two years before Johann Jacob would pass. Her cause of death translates as “legacy of nature,” which I believe means something akin to old age.

Children

Katharina Haag and Johann Jakob Lenz had only four children, but collectively, they graced her with 30 grandchildren.

  1. Anna Lenz was born July 30, 1744, and died on January 31, 1810, both in Beutelsbach. Notes indicate that Anna “has been trained here and raised. Served a few years. Cause of death: inflammatory fever.”

Anna Lenz married Johann Jakob Birkenmayer on April 19, 1774, in Beutelsbach and had 8 children, including four daughters:

  • Maria Barbara Birkenmayer born in 1775
  • Anna Maria Birkenmayer 1777-1834
  • Catharina Birkenmayer 1779-1785
  • Magdalena Birkenmayer 1781-1867 (died in Schorndorf) and married Johann David Valentin Eisenberger.
  1. Johann Georg Lenz was born on September 27, 1745, and died on June 3, 1834, both in Beutelsbach. He married Anna Maria Birkenmayer (Birkenmaier) on September 22, 1772, in Beutelsbach and had four children, including Katharina and Johann Georg, the only two that lived to adulthood. His son, Johann Georg, died at age 25, but daughter Katharina married Joseph Lenz, her second cousin. Notes for Johann Georg Lenz state that he can read and write. He always lived with his parents and died of old age at age 89.

I can’t help but wonder if Johann George’s wife was the sibling of Anna Lenz’s husband, Johann Jakob Birkenmayer.

Haag Johann Georg 1745.png

This family register from the Beutelsbach church, above, shows Johann George Lentz and his wife, Anna Maria Birkenmaier.

  1. Jakob Lenz, my ancestor, was born on February 1, 1748, died on July 2, 1821, in Beutelsbach and married Maria Margaretha Gribler or Grubler on November 3, 1772, in Beutelsbach. They had 9 children, three of whom died as babies.
  2. Georg Friedrich Lenz was born on January 13, 1750, in Beutelsbach, married Christina Koch (died 1803) on April 16, 1776, and had 9 children. Notes for Georg Friedrich reveal that he was raised in Beutelsbach, and his occupation was a vinedresser, the same as his father, spending his life working in the vineyards. He married second to Anna Maria Kreiger on February 2, 1807, but had no children by this marriage.

Katharina had her last child in 1750, at age 34. This, in and of itself, is rather unusual. Most women had children for another 6-10 years until they were minimally 40. There are no children born to this couple and buried during this time.

Mitochondrial DNA

The descendants of Katharina’s daughter Anna Lentz through all females to the current generation (which can be males), are the only candidates to carry Katharina Haag’s mitochondrial DNA. Anna’s daughters are noted above.

Mitochondrial DNA is passed from mothers to both sexes of their children, but only females pass it on. Mitochondrial DNA, unlike autosomal DNA, is not halved in each generation, nor is it mixed with the DNA of the father. Mitochondrial DNA provides us with a glimpse far back in time – reaching back to Katharina’s mother’s mother’s mother’s direct line – and on back into the distant past.

If you descend from Katharina through all females to the current generation, I have a mitochondrial DNA testing scholarship for you. Just leave a comment or get in touch with me.

Who knows what discoveries await!

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun DNA Stuff

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

Pandemic Journal: The Influence of the Great Depression and How It’s Saving Us Right Now

The metamorphosis is now complete. I swear, I’ve now officially become my mother.

Mom doesn’t just “come out of my mouth” on occasion. No, I’ve become her – well except that I’ll never fit into her literal clothes. In spite of the fact that fudge was mother’s favorite food and she believed religiously in first, second and third dessert, she was rail thin. How is this fair?

My mother was a child of the “Great Depression,” except the only thing “great” about the Depression was its decade-long duration. Beginning with a stock market plummet in October of 1929, drought followed in 1930 throughout the agricultural heartland of America. Investors lost everything, jobs disappeared, farms were repossessed, banks failed and closed and people were terrified, with reason.

Depression migrant woman.jpg

This iconic 1936 photo taken by Dorothea Lange titled Migrant Mother shows a destitute pea picker in California. Florence Owens Thompson, age 32, mother of 7, hungry, dirty and not knowing where their next meal would come from represented the greatest fear that haunted all Americans. For many, it wasn’t just a fear, it was all too real.

The economic downturn which became the Depression began in the US, eventually encircling the globe. The Depression didn’t ease until the late 1930s and then was promptly followed by WWII which ushered in a slew of deprivations of its own including rationing.

1943 rationing poster

Mother was born in 1922 in a crossroads town in northern Indiana. She was all of 7 years old when the Depression hit. She, of course, couldn’t and wouldn’t understand all of the underpinnings. What she was acutely aware of was that her father lost the hardware business, her mother’s job, such as it was, was the only thing that stood between her family and abject poverty. Income was critically affected, almost non-existent, without enough for even essentials. Mom’s maternal grandmother, Eva Miller Ferverda, loaned her son, John Ferverda, money and forgave the debt upon her death in 1939.

To make matters worse, mother was critically in during that time with Rheumatic Fever. Her father and grandmother cared for her while her mother worked. There was just no other choice.

Money was tight, very tight – but unlike so many others, they did not lose their home, thanks primarily to Mom’s paternal grandmother. Mom and her parents didn’t live on a farm, but on the very edge of a small town, not even large enough for a stop light. The town stretched a couple blocks in either direction from the main crossroads of two state highways. Businesses consisted of my grandfather’s hardware store, before that business closed, and the Ford dealership which sold both vehicles and tractors. Mom’s father, John Ferverda, worked there after he lost the hardware store, until there were no sales so no need for a salesman.

I don’t think mother realized how much the Depression influenced her childhood and formed many of her personality traits. In turn, she passed them on to me – although I’ve struggled to break some of those ingrained habits for years. This past month, or really just the past couple of weeks, they’ve come roaring back with a vengeance – apparently having been lurking just below the surface.

Some of these “quirky behaviors” are actually quite useful. Others make me smile with nearly-forgotten memories. Perhaps you carry some of these hidden depression-era traits too.

Before Recycling Was a Thing

In the 1930s, there wasn’t “disposable” anything. Throwing something away was simply wasteful, heresy, and it was never, ever done – not until its original purpose and a few repurposed lives had been completed and there was literally, nothing left at all that was salvageable. Then, and only then, could it be thrown away. By then, “it” was unrecognizable.

Let’s take bread wrappers, for example – the disposable plastic bread bags that we take for granted today, throwing them away without even thinking, although I always have a twinge of guilt. That never happened at my house when I was growing up. We routinely saved plastic bread bags and reused them for storage.

When we had too many, Mom would crochet them into a rug to pad the floor standing at the kitchen sink or the ironing board. One year, Mom even found a pattern to crochet a Christmas wreath from bread bags. I kid you not.

This recycling before that word was even invented was normal in our house.

We seldom got new clothes. Most of our clothes were hand-me-downs from either someone directly or a second-hand store of some sort. Being gifted with new old clothes was wonderful and nothing to be ashamed of! After we initially acquired the clothes, they were “taken in” or “let out” to fit a child as they grew or were passed to another child in the family. The sign of a great piece of clothing was a HUGE SEAM ALLOWANCE.

When grocery items began to be sold in glass jars, those were never thrown away either. Jars sufficed for everything. In fact, I still have a glass jar upstairs with “old silverware” in it that belonged to Mom, and perhaps to her mother too. You never threw anything away because not only was it wasteful and irresponsible, you truly never knew when you or someone else would need that item. During the Depression, and after, you simply found a way to make do with what you had.

During that time, chickens, wild berry bushes and a large vegetable garden saved the family. Mother cleaned the chickens that were butchered and sold. She was paid a nickel for each clean chicken. For the entire rest of her life, she pretty much hated chicken, except for fried chicken, and she utterly despised cleaning the chicken. I think she viewed them as her murdered friends and not a commodity food source. I inherited that soft-hearted worldview too.

However, during the Depression, you ate whatever you were fortunate enough to have. Period. There was no expectation that you would actually LIKE what was served – that was a benefit. Today when I see kids refusing to eat something, I think to myself, “you have never truly been hungry.” That’s the blessing of course, as is having food at all.

At home, after clothes could no longer be salvaged and made into anything else, they were deposited into the “rag bag,” a coarse brown bag fashioned from rough upholstery material salvaged from an old couch. The rag bag hung on a hook on a door in the closet that led to the attic. Rags were quite useful – for cleaning, for turbans around your hair from time to time – and also to crochet into rugs. Yes, Mom made just about everything into rugs. It was the last salvage of the nearly unsalvageable.

If there was any cotton fabric in the rag bag that wasn’t entirely threadbare and had any color left in the fibers at all, it was a candidate to be used in a quilt. You could always tell the quilts from wealthier, meaning not poor, families because their quilts were actually planned with matching fabrics. Not ours. We had scrap quilts, made by patching things together, which I always loved and continue to love to this day. Scrap quilts are a storybook of history and we always talked about the “life story” of the piece of fabric we were sewing – the pieces of clothing the fabric used to be, who wore it, how it wound up in the rag bag and so forth. Some of those fabrics were decades and literally generations old. How I wish I had written those stories down – but they didn’t seem remarkable at the time. Everyone had a rag bag. We were just making small talk, after all.

Handkerchief quilt.jpg

This quilt, made originally during the Depression by my great-grandmother, Nora Kirsch, used on my grandmother and then mother’s bed, has been patched now using my grandmother’s handkerchiefs. It had literal holes, but the thought of cutting that quilt traumatized my kids, so like my ancestors, I found a way to preserve it, one more time. By the time one of my granddaughters inherits it, such as it is, it will be connected through 6 generations over more than a century.

Depression Culture

The Depression wasn’t just a defining event, it formed the culture in which my mother grew up. Frugality was ingrained by some combination of fear and guilt-induced obligation.

Eventually, I inherited the rag bag and used the items in that bag, along with the rag rugs, the bread bag Christmas wreath which eventually deteriorated and fell apart, along with decades worth of glass jars and things too “good” to throw away or pass on to someone else just yet. Of course, part of the “problem” was that as the economy improved, the need to obtain hand-me-down items from someone else to “set up housekeeping” was greatly diminished. Looking back, I’m not convinced that was a good thing, because I still have items from my mother and grandmother’s houses gifted to me when I moved to my first apartment. They aren’t “used,” simply accepted as second rate undesirables, but were and are cherished treasures infused with memories of a time, place and people long gone now.

You can take the child out of the Depression, but you can never take the Depression out of the child.

Those behaviors become generational. If you are the child of someone who lived through the Depression, I’m sure you have stories of your own just like these.

And just like me, those legendary stories might all have come rushing back during these past couple of weeks.

I used to think to myself when Mom did one of her “Depression Era” things that I understood. While I understood the genesis of the behavior, never until these past few weeks did I understand the fear that accompanied the scarcity and subsequent rationing that occurred during WWII.

The Depression hit Mom’s family with the same suddenness that the pandemic has struck our generation. We don’t know, as they didn’t know, what’s coming. How bad is bad? What businesses will be left? What will happen to all of those people? Can we hold on? For how long? How will we eat?

And what about toilet paper?

Toilet Paper

Toilet paper at that time consisted of the Sears catalog located strategically in the outhouse. I’m beginning to size up the different kinds of junk mail for “texture.” Obviously, something glossy isn’t good and neither is stiff and crunchy. Thank goodness I saved those old phone books – they look just about right! Mother would be proud!

Just 14 weeks ago, when this pandemic was still an illness in China that no one had heard about anyplace else in the world, my husband and I were leaving for a trip to Australia and New Zealand in the midst of their searing heat and bush fires. We purchased and took 4 boxes of face masks with us to protect ourselves from the smoke. We opened one box and put a couple of masks in our backpacks, but we never used any of them. I wanted to bring the masks home, because I am my mother’s daughter and we might need them someday.

However, I had purchased fabric and my bag was both full and heavy. My husband convinced me to leave the masks in the cabin. I told myself that the crew might need them to protect themselves from the bush fire smoke. I certainly hope someone got some use out of them and they didn’t just get thrown away. It pains me to even think about that – especially NOW that I desperately want those face masks.

Do you know how valuable 4 boxes of face masks would be? Not just monetarily, but for the medical professionals and others. It’s amazing now how valuable TP and face masks have become. We would have been RICH!

Mom’s vindicated. I’m vindicated. My husband is wearing a cloth mask instead of a stylish blue paper mask that we left behind😊 – and hopefully a crew member someplace is safer for those masks.

Ironically, I’m not sweating TP, because as a result of being raised by a Depression Era mother, I have years worth of lone socks that, in a pinch, will suffice as TP sock-mits. Just wipe and deposit in the washing machine. And NO, you cannot JUST THROW THEM AWAY, because you have no idea how long you might need them.

Before saying “ewwww” too loudly, remember when we used cloth diapers on babies because pampers didn’t yet exist? We washed those diapers every day and thought nothing of it.

I’ve also stopped using paper towels because who knows how long they will be manufactured. We might need paper towels for TP, you know, before we break out those orphan socks that I knew, just knew, I’d find a use for eventually if I just kept them long enough.

Soon enough, lone stray socks will be just as valuable as TP. Find yours now wherever they’ve been congregating for years, waiting for their new purpose in life redeployed as TP sock-warriors.

It’s All a Matter of Perspective

I’ve been sorting through things in the closets and put several items with rips in a bag in the laundry room already, but I’m trying NOT to call it a rag bag. I may last another day or two before I give in on that one.

Of course, jeans with rips are quite popular right now, so I’m wearing those again and am now quite the fashionista:) I even patched one of the jeans, strategically, with matching fabric from a face mask. A coordinated pandemic outfit! Everyone is going to want one!

Not only that, but I’ve sewn phone pockets onto my PJs and leggings. I’m referring to them as holsters for face-mask sewing warriors instead of PJ pockets. It’s all in perspective and marketing, right???

Phone Holster.jpg

Mother and grandmother would BOTH be so proud, I’m telling you.

But that’s not all…

Food

Another thing that has changed immensely in the last month is food.

Everyone likes to eat. My grandmother worked first for a chicken hatchery and then for the welfare office. In both cases, unlike other women of her era, she was not “at home” to cook, so she relied heavily on meals she would either make in advance or quickly in the evening.

I’m not quite sure why my grandfather didn’t cook when he wasn’t working during the Depression, but he didn’t and neither did my uncle. Back then, cooking was probably considered woman’s work. Mom began cooking as soon as she could reach the stove even though she was the youngest family member.

All things considered, it’s no wonder my grandmother was perpetually exasperated. Her husband lost the hardware store through no fault of his own, they were in debt, he next lost a sales job at the Ford dealership. She worked to support the entire family, AND performed all of the traditional “woman’s work” too.

No wonder she was chronically unhappy. While it wasn’t anyone’s “fault,” per se, it was still a fact that these unfortunate events had happened and for a decade, followed by a war, there was no way out except for sheer perseverance. That economic situation lasted for 15 or 16 years in total, almost a full generation – by which time my mother was grown, married and my brother had been born.

depression cookbook.jpg

One of the favorite things that churchwomen did to liven up mealtime and to raise money for the church and charities was to publish a church cookbook.

Depression cookbook church.jpg

True to form, the Methodist Church where my grandparents lived published a book in 1953 or 1954, and my grandmother is represented.

Depression fudge.jpg

I think I might have found the source of my Mom’s favorite fudge!

Unlike the other women who contributed their “best recipe,” probably determined by how quickly it disappeared at pot-lucks or funeral lunches at the church – my grandmother’s recipe was how to make something called “Master Mix.”

Depression master mix

click recipe pages to enlarge

Think of this as an early form of Bisquick which you made up in advance, dry, and used it as the base to make several dishes such as cookies, dumplings, pudding, griddle cakes and waffles.

Depression master mix 2.jpg

All of a sudden, we too are suddenly stuck at home, without necessarily ready access to a grocery store – and if we can visit, they may likely be out of a large number of items.

We’re consigned to a type of “food challenge” which could reasonably be called Pandemic Cooking. You use whatever you have available, forgotten in the far corners of your pantry, and find some way to create something that results in an edible dish.

Everyone is getting quite creative.

I though it would be interesting to take a look at that cookbook published before I was born to see what my grandmother contributed. Hey, maybe something looks good. That cookbook was published before the days of exact measurements, which lends itself very well to “make do” cooking.

Next, I checked Mom’s recipe box where I knew goodies lurked.

Mom’s Recipe Box

Like all women of Mom’s generation, she had a recipe box that was a virtual goldmine of wonderful comfort-food with many recipes, finally committed to cards, that had been passed down for generations. Most of the time, Mom didn’t even have to look at the recipe when making our favorite dishes. Both of us knew that fudge recipe by heart, I guarantee.

There are references throughout my mother’s recipe box to a “pinch of” something and instructions to work the dough “until it feels right.” I learned to cook this way and always have – much to Jim’s chagrin.

“How much of that did you put in?”

“I don’t know, enough but not too much. Till it looks right.”

Yep, I’m my mother’s daughter alright.

The transition to mother’s double seems to be complete, because I pulled a spaghetti sauce jar out of the trash earlier this week and washed it, thinking “we might need this.” You never know what might happen and how long the ramifications of the pandemic might last. Who knows, spaghetti jars might be just as valuable for barter as TP one day.

The good news is that there’s only one bread bag in the house right now, and it’s holding bread. At least presently. Plus, I can’t crochet. There’s that. Don’t ask how I know, but you can’t use bread bags in quilts. (If you figure out how, please, just don’t tell me – OK?!)

I am however, jealously saving even the smallest scraps of fabric from making protective facial masks for medical workers because I might need those remnants for a scrap quilt.

Now, if I can just find the lids to all of the orphan Tupperware, or is that too much to ask?

Throwback Cooking and You!

You’re probably finding yourself in the process of attempting to cook with whatever you have on hand too. You may discover items in the back of the pantry that are older than your children.

Mom, like her mother, worked her entire life – so her recipe box also contained a plethora of yummy recipes, many of which were also quick. Most of Mom’s recipes, however, cater to her sweet tooth. It wasn’t until I was digitizing and creating an index that I realized that the recipes for chocolate and sweets far, far outnumbered everything else – put together.

Don’t believe me – check it out for yourself by clicking on the link below to download a cookbook of sorts that I created from Mom’s Recipe Box. Please download and enjoy.

Mother’s Recipe Box

A few years ago, for a family Christmas gift, I scanned the recipes in Mom’s recipe box. Perhaps you’ll find some new recipes to try, or a dish that perhaps you’ll recognize from a long-ago church carry-in.

If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll find some comfort food from your childhood that you’ve forgotten about and you’ll have almost everything to make it!

Or, try Mom’s fudge!

Let me know if you find something fun here, or share a story.

By the time we exit out the other side of this pandemic, we’ll be cooking like our mothers and grandmothers, using whatever is on hand, not following any recipe exactly and “seasoning to taste.” 😊

Maybe this is a good time to scan your family recipes and document your memories. Seeing your ancestor’s handwriting and connecting with them as they survived trying times might just help you feel better.

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

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

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

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

Michael McDowell Blackwater 1793 sale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Those Halls

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

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

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

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

No one fights as much as people who are related.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s VERY interesting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isabel Hall Mountain.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Owen Hall moved north too, apparently.

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

Claiborne County, Tennessee

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

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

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

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

Slanting misery panorama

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

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

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

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

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

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

Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DNA

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

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

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

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

Autosomal DNA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope springs eternal.

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

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

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

My Phone Becomes My Camera

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

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

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

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

Wait, that’s almost my phone.

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

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

However, it has downsides too:

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

However, a significant upside is that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I HATE THIS!

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

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

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

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

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

New Zealand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dogs Pole

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

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

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

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

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

Harbour Cruising

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

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

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

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

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

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The scenery, however, was stunning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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There they are!

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

So much for that.

Christchurch, New Zealand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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We can see how the basilica used to look.

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

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

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Like other cities, art is everyplace.

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

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

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

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

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

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Parks abound.

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

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Let’s Go Punting!!!

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

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

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

It’s best if I just show you.

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

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

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

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Each boat has a punter standing at the rear.

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There is only one female punter.

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

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It morphed into a glorious day.

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

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

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

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There are flowers everyplace along the water.

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The botanical gardens line the river.

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Kayakers paddle among the flat-bottom punting boats.

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Wildlife enjoys the sunshine too.

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

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Trees overreach the water forming green archways.

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The ducks enjoy napping along the waterway.

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Some things are universal.

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Back at the boat sheds, we disembarked.

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

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The University of Canterbury campus was just across the street.

University of Canterbury

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The architecture here is very reminiscent of England.

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

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

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The entryway leads to central common areas.

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Students gather inside in the piazza.

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Construction repair from the earthquake 9 years ago.

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

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

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

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

Headed Back to the Coastline

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next port, Wellington.

 

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

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

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Sarah’s Birth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deaths

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

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

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

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

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

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In the top margin are two additional calculations.

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

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

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

Moving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This 1776 map shows the North Anna.

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

Reddies River

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who Were Sarah’s Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Reddies River Church

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

Shepherd Reddies River 1798 charter membership

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

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

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

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

Children, meaning those undersage, seems to be omitted.

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

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

Rash Principles.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rash 1803.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This could well signal a rift in the family.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rash 1809.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rash 1829.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Families

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah’s Descendants

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

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

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

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

Shepherd Deep Ford HIll Cemetery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

William McQuery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alley Irwin

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

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

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

Franklin Irwin

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

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

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

Margaret Judd

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah and John had 10 children:

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

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

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

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

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

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

After the Kids Left Home

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

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

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

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

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

By 1810, the landscape had changed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rash Sally Shepherd signature.png

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

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

Robert Sheperd estate widow allotment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lots of Grandchildren

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

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

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

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

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

Rash Wilkes aerial.png

Legend:

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

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

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

rash children

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

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

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

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