Concepts – Identical by…Descent, State, Population and Chance

In genetic genealogy, what does it mean when someone says they are “identical by” sometime…and what are those various somethings?

In autosomal DNA, where your DNA on chromosomes 1-22 (and sometimes X) is compared to other people for matches of a size that indicates a genealogical relationship, you can actually match people in different ways, for different reasons.

But first, let’s make one thing perfectly clear. There is only one way to obtain your autosomal DNA – and that’s through your parents, 50% from each parent.  However, how much of their (and your) ancestor’s DNA you receive is not necessarily half of what they received from that ancestor.

If you receive ANY DNA from that ancestor, it MUST BE through your parents. There is no other way to inherit DNA.

Period.

No. Other. Way.

If you would like to read the Concepts article about inheritance and matching, click here. If you don’t understand autosomal DNA inheritance and matching concepts, you won’t be able to understand the rest of this article.

Identical by Descent (IBD)

When you match someone because you share DNA from a common ancestor, that is called Identical by Descent, or IBD. That’s what you want.  That’s a good thing, genealogically speaking.

Let’s take a look at how an IBD segment of DNA works. In the graphic below, the strand location is in the first column.  The next two pink columns are the two strands that your mother carries, one from her Mom and one from her Dad – and the values in each location from each parent.  Columns 4 and 5 are the two blue strands of DNA carried by your Dad, one from his Mom and one from his Dad.  The final two columns are what you inherited from both your mother and your father.  In this case, we made it easy and you simply inherited one of each of their strands entirely.  Yes, that does happen in some cases for a particular chromosome segment, but not all of the time.  Conceptually, for this example, it doesn’t matter.

Identical 1

Your Inheritance

In this example, you inherited strand 1 from your Mom, all As and strand 2 from Dad, all Gs. Your match, shown in the graphic below, matches you on all As, so also matches your mother.  This phenomenon is called parental phasing, which means we know it’s a legitimate match because the person matches both you and one of your parents.

For purposes of this conceptual discussion you must match on all 10 locations for this to be considered a matching segment. So in this case, your matching threshold is “10 locations.”

Identical 2

Your Match Matches You and Your Mother’s DNA – Identical by Descent

Now, understand that while I’ve shown “You” with your strands color coded so you can see who you received which pieces of DNA from – that’s not how your DNA really looks. There is no color coding in nature.  I’ve added color coding to make understanding these concepts easier.

This is how you and your parents DNA really look:

Identical 3

Notice that in your parents, their parent’s strands are mixed back and forth, so you really can’t tell which DNA came from whom.  It’s the same for you too.

What the matching software has to do is to look for a common letter between you and your match.

So, at location 1, you inherited an A and a G from your parents. Your match has an A and a T, so you and your match share a common A.  If you look at all of your matches locations, they share a common A with you on all of those locations.  It just so happens you received that A from your mother – but without your Mom to compare to – you have no way to know which parent that particular DNA value came from.  So, the best matching software can do is to tell you that indeed, you do match – on 10 locations in a row – so this is considered a match and will be reported as such on your match list.

Why you match is another matter altogether.

And, ahem….there is another way to match someone, aside from receiving ancestral DNA from your parents. I know, this is a bad joke isn’t it.  Yes, it is, but it’s real.

So, to summarize, there is no other way to obtain your DNA except 50% from one parent and 50% from the other.

However there are two ways to match someone:

  • Identical by Descent, IBD, meaning you match someone because you share the same DNA segment that you received from an ancestor through a parent, as shown above.
  • Identical by Chance, IBC, meaning that you match someone, but randomly – not by inheritance.  How the heck can that happen?

Let’s look at how that can happen.

Identical by Chance (IBC)

Because you receive a strand of DNA from each of your parents, but that DNA is all intermixed in you, you can possibly match someone else by virtue of the fact that they aren’t actually matching your ancestral DNA segment inherited from an ancestor, but by chance they are matching DNA that bounces back and forth between your parents’ DNA.

Identical 4

Your Match Matches Neither of your Parents’ Strands of DNA – Identical by Chance

In this example, you can see the that you inherited the same strands from your parents as in example 1 above, but your match is now matching you, not on your mother’s strand 1, all As, but on a combination of A from your mother and G from your father. Therefore, they don’t match either of your parents on this segment, because they are matching you by chance and not because you share a strand of DNA that you received from a common ancestor on this segment with your match.

This is easy to discern because while they match you, they won’t match either of your parents on that segment, because the match is not on an ancestral DNA segment, passed down from an ancestor. Using parental phasing, you compare your matches to your parents to see which “side” they fall on.  If they fall on neither parents’ side, then they are IBC or identical by chance.

Identical 5

Identical By Chance Identified Through Parental Phasing

In this example, you can see that you match all of these people. By using parental phasing, you can tell that you are identical by descent (IBD) to everyone except John, who matches neither of your parents, so your match to John is identical by chance (IBC).  We will talk more in an upcoming article about Parental Phasing.

If you don’t have your parents to compare to, and you match multiple people on the same segment, there should be 2 groups of people who all match each other on that segment – one group from your Mom’s side and one from your Dad’s side – even if you can’t identify your common ancestor. If there are people who don’t fit into either of those two groups, because they don’t match those group members, then the misfits are identical by chance.

Even if your parents are unavailable, this is a situation where testing other relatives helps, and the closer the better, because those relatives will also fall into those match groups and will help identify which group is from which side of your family, and which ancestral line.

In the example below, using the same people from the phased parent example above, we no longer have our parents to compare to, but we do have an aunt, Mom’s sister, and an uncle, Dad’s brother. By comparing those who match us to our close relatives – if everyone in the match group matches each other, then we know they are IBD and the come from Mom’s side of the family or Dad’s side of the family.

Identical 6

Identical By Chance Identified Through Close Family Match Groups

In general matching, meaning not on specific segments, just on your match list, if John and I match, but John doesn’t match mother’s sister, it could mean that John matches me on a different segment that my aunt didn’t inherit from my grandparents but that my mother did. So the match could be valid, even though he doesn’t match my aunt.

However, moving to the segment matching level, shown above, we can differentiate, at least for that segment.  This is yet another example of why segment analysis tools are so critically important.

If we only had one matching group, the green above, we would not be able to say that John was IBC on this segment, because John might be matching me on Dad’s side.

But in this case, we have proof points on both sides of this same segment, with two match groups, green from Mom and blue from Dad.  Mom’s side has a match group of 4+me (including her sister) who all match each other on this same segment, indicating that they all descend through my mother’s side of my tree.  On Dad’s side, we have his brother and two other people who match each other and me on those same segments.

Since John matches no one in either match group on either side, his match to me on this segment must be IBC.  You can read more about match groups and confidence here.

Identical by chance segments tend to be smaller segments, because the chances of matching more locations in a row by chance diminish as the number of locations increases.

Ok, so now you’ve got this – the two ways to match. Identical by descent (IBD) and identical by chance (IBC,) nature’s cruel joke.

So, what the heck are identical by state (IBS) and identical by population (IBP).

Good questions.

Identical by State (IBS)

Identical by state is really an archaic term now, but you’ll likely still run into it from time to time. Understand that genetic genealogy is still a really new field of discovery.  Initially, terms weren’t defined very well and have since evolved.  IBD was used to mean a match where you could find a common ancestral line.  IBS, or identical by state, was often used when one could not find the ancestral line.  What this implied was that the match was not genealogical in nature.  But that often wasn’t true.  Just because we can’t determine who the common ancestor is, doesn’t mean that common ancestor doesn’t exist.  After we have more matches, we may well figure out the common ancestor at a later time.

What are some reasons we might not be able to figure out who our common ancestor is?

  • There’s a NPE or undocumented adoption in one line or the other.
  • The pedigree chart of one or both people doesn’t go back far enough in time.
  • The pedigree chart of one or both people is incorrect.
  • Not enough people have tested to connect the dots between the DNA. For example, we may share a common surname, Dodson, but be unable to actually pinpoint which Dodson line/ancestor we share.
  • The match is identical by population (IBP) and not in a genealogical timeframe. We see this most often in highly endogamous populations.
  • The match is identical by chance (IBC) and there is no common ancestor.

The tendency in the past has been to assume that if you can’t find the ancestor, then the problem MUST be that the match is Identical by State. But the problem is that identical by state includes two categories that are mutually exclusive; Identical by Chance and Identical by Population.

Identical by chance means there is no common ancestor, as we illustrated above.

Identical by Population means there IS a common ancestor, and you did receive your DNA from that ancestor, but you may not be able to figure out who it was because it’s too far back in time and many people from that same population base share that DNA segment.

So, today, we don’t say IBS anymore, we say either IBD and if it’s not IBD then it’s either IBC or IBP, but not IBS. If someone says IBS, you need to ask and see if you can determine whether they mean, IBC or IBP, or if they are trying to say something else like “I can’t identify the common ancestor so it must be IBS.”

Identical by Population (IBP)

Identical by population means that a large portion of a population group shares a particular segment of DNA. Some people feel IBP segments are not useful and want all of these segments to be stripped away by population (or academic) based phasing software.

In some cases, if an individual is 100% Jewish, for example, they will have many IBP segments from within the highly endogamous Jewish population. They don’t have any other ancestral DNA segments from ancestors who aren’t Jewish to contrast against in their DNA, so their IBP segments are not useful to them, and are in fact, just in the opposite.  There are too many IBP segments and they are in the way – often referred to as “noise” because they are not genealogically useful, even though they are descended from an ancestor (IBD).  So, yes, IBP is a subset of IBD.

However, for someone who has the following genealogy, these same population based endogamous segments can be extremely useful and informative.

Identical 7

In this conceptual pedigree chart, the Jewish person married a non-Jewish person with deep colonial American ancestry. Their child “Colonial Jew” married someone who was mixed “Irish Asian.”  The person at the bottom, “me,” is not themselves endogamous but has several widely variant lines in their heritage including endogamous lines.

If I’m lucky enough to have an African population segment, that tells me very clearly which genealogical line that match is probably from. But if those IBP segments are removed, they can’t inform me in this situation.

Same with Jewish, or Asian, or Native American.

Let’s see how this might work in real matching.

Let’s say your mother’s A value is only found in African populations, and it’s found in very high proportions in African populations and much less frequently anyplace else in the world, except for where Africans settled.

Identical 8

Identical By Population Example Where Mother’s A Equals African

A few match outcomes are possible:

  1. You match with someone and you can discern a common ancestor or at least an ancestral line because you have only one African genealogical line – an ancestor in your mother’s line, like in the pedigree chart above.
  2. You match with someone and you cannot discern a common ancestor because many or all of your lines are African, similar to the Jewish example.
  3. You match with someone and you identify a common ancestor, but later a second genealogical line matches on that same segment because the segment is so common in the African population. This means you could have received that actual DNA segment from either ancestral line.
  4. Some DNA testing company runs academic or population based phasing software against your DNA and removes that segment entirely because they’ve decided that it occurs too frequently in a population to be useful. In this case, you won’t match that person at all.
  5. Some DNA testing company runs academic or population based phasing software against your DNA and removes that segment entirely because they’ve decided that particular segment in your results is “too matchy” so it must therefore be “invalid” and population based. This is often referred to as a “pile-up” and means that you have proportionally more matches on that segment than you do on other segments. If your “pile-up” segments are removed in this case, again, you won’t match at all. This is exactly what happened to my Acadian matches when Ancestry implemented their Timber phasing software, which removes pile-ups.

The graph below was provided to me at Ancestry DNA Day as an example of my own “pile-up” areas in my genome.

genome pileups

Ancestry with their Timber routine uses population phasing and removes your areas they deem “too matchy”? This helps Jewish and other heavily endogamous people by removing truly population based matches that are spurious and the contributing ancestor impossible to discern.  An endogamous individual could achieve much of the same effect by utilizing a higher matching threshold for their own matches, although that’s not an option at Ancestry.

However, for those of us who are not entirely endogamous, but who may have endogamous lines or lines from different parts of the world, population based phasing removes valuable informational segments and therefore, prevents valuable matches. When Ancestry ran Timber against my results, I lost all but one of my Acadian matches.  Yes, Acadians are heavily endogamous, but in my case, that line accounts for 1 of my 16 great-great-grandparents.  Believe me, if I had a tool to put all of my autosomal matches in one of 16 buckets, I would think it was a wonderful day!!!

16 gggrandparents

Because of endogamy, I actually carried MORE Acadian DNA that I would otherwise carry from a non-endogamous population – so yes, I am very matchy to my Acadian cousins, especially on smaller segments – or I was until Ancestry stripped all of that way.  Thankfully, I still have all of my matches at Family Tree DNA.

Why is endogamous DNA more matchy? Because endogamous populations only have the founders’ DNA and they just keep passing the same founder DNA around and around.

Ironically, another word for this kind of phasing is called “excess IBD” phasing. This means that “someone” decides unilaterally how much matching one “should” have and just chops the rest off at that threshold.  Clearly, that threshold for a fully Jewish person and me would be very different – and one size absolutely does NOT fit all.

I want to show you one more example of what population based phasing does. It chops the heart out of segments that would otherwise match.

People whose parents also test should match their parents on exactly 22 segments, one for each chromosome – because each child is a 100% match to their parents. If there is a read error or two (or three), then let’s say they could have as many as 25 matches, because some chromosomes are chopped in two because of a technical issue.  It occasionally happens.

At Ancestry, we’re seeing 80 to 120 matches for each parent/child pair, which means Timber is removing 58 to roughly 100 legitimate segments that you received from your parent.  One individual reported that they match one parent on 150 different segments, meaning that Ancestry removed 128 segments they decided are “too matchy” but are very clearly ancestral, or IBD, because all of your DNA must match your parents DNA on the strand they gave you.  However because of Timber’s removal of “too matchy” segments, the person no longer matches their parent on that removed segment – or on any of those 58 to 128 removed segments.  And remember, there is only one way to receive your DNA, so all of your DNA must match that of your parents.  You have no invalid matches to your parents DNA.  You can read more here.

Here’s a visual of what IBP phased matching does to you. Recall in our example that you need 10 contiguous matching locations to be considered a match.  I’m showing 20 locations in this example.

Identical 9

Normal Matching – No Population or Academic Phasing

In this first example, the DNA you inherited from your mother is a combination of T and A, where A=African. Notice that only part of what you inherited from your mother is the A this time.

In normal matching without IBP phasing, above, the matching threshold is still 10, but you match your match on a segment that totals 20 locations or units. Now it’s up to you to see if you can identify your common ancestor.

In the IBP phased example, below, your African DNA is removed as a result of population based phasing software. Your African DNA used to be where the red spot with no values is showing in the You 1 column.  Therefore, you still match on the Ts, but you only have a contiguous run of 7 Ts, then the 7 As phasing deleted, then 6 more matching Ts.  The problem is, of course, that instead of a nice matching segment of 20 units, above, you now have no match at all because you don’t have 10 matching locations in a row.  Of course, the same IBP phasing would apply to your mother, so your match would not match your mother either, which means that a valid parentally phased match is not reported.

Identical 10

Population Based Phased Matching Example Removing African

What’s worse, you’ll never have that opportunity to see if you can find your common ancestor, because you and your match will never be reported as a match. This is a lost opportunity.  In the first “normal matching” example, you may never BE able to find that common ancestor, but you have the opportunity to try.  In the second IBP phased matching example, you certainly won’t ever find your common ancestor because you’re not shown as a match.  When population based or academic phasing is involved, you’ll never know what you are missing.

This chopping phenomenon is not a rare occurrence with population based phasing. In fact, if you divide 100 removed segments by 22 chromosomes, there are approximately 4 artificial “chops” taken out of every one of your 22 chromosomes with each parent at Ancestry, and in some cases, more.  The person who now matches their parent on 150 segments has an average of 5.8 artifical phasing induced chops in each chromosome.  When Ancestry implemented Timber, many people lost between 80% and 90% of their total matches.  Mine went from 13,100 to 3,350, a loss of about 75%.  At least some of those were valid and we had identified common ancestral lines.

So, identical by population (IBP) doesn’t necessarily mean bad, unless you’re entirely endogamous. If you’re entirely endogamous, then IBP means challenging and can generally be overcome by looking at larger matching segments, which are less likely to be either IBP or IBC.

Identical by population can be very useful in someone not entirely endogamous in that it preserves ancestral DNA in a given population. In people who carry a combination of different endogamous lines, such as Jewish and Acadian, this phenomenon can actually be very useful, because it increases your chances of matching other individuals from that ancestral line – and being able to assign them appropriately.

Identical by What?

So, in summary, you are either identical because you received DNA from a common ancestor (IBD) or identical by chance (IBC) because nature is playing a mean joke on you and you match, literally, by chance because your match’s DNA is zigzagging back and forth between your parents’ DNA.  And by the way, you can match someone IBD on one segment and the same person IBC or IBP on others.

If you match someone but that person does not also match either of your parents, then it’s an IBC, identical by chance, match. Measuring a match against both yourself and your parents to determine if the match is IBC or IBD is called parental phasing.  We will have a Concepts article shortly about Parental Phasing, so stay tuned.

If you don’t have parents to match against, your matches on any segment should cleanly cluster into two matching groups where you match them and your matches also match each other on that same segment. One group for your mother’s side and one group for your father’s side.  Those who match you but don’t fall into one group or the other are identical by chance, like John in our example.  Of course, you won’t be able to sort these out until you have several matches on that segment.  This is also why testing all available upstream family members is so useful.

If you’re not IBC, you’re IBD meaning that you and your match received that DNA segment from a common ancestor, whether or not you can identify that ancestor.

Identical by population (IBP) is a type or subset of identical by descent (IBD) where many people from that same population group carry the same DNA segment. This is seen in its most pronounced fashion in heavily endogamous populations such as Ashkenazi Jews.

If you are from a highly endogamous population, you will have many IBP matches, generally on smaller segments that have been chopped up over time, and you will want to use a higher matching threshold, perhaps up to 10cM, for genealogical matching, or higher.

If you have endogamous lines in your tree, but are not entirely endogamous, IBP segments may actually be beneficial because you may be able to attribute matches to a specific line, even if not the specific ancestor in that line.

The smaller the segment, the more likely it is to be less useful to you, whether IBD or IBP – but that isn’t to say all small segments should be disregarded because they are assumed to be either IBC or not useful. That’s not the case.  Some are IBD and all IBD segments have the potential to be very useful.  Kitty Cooper just recently reported another wonderful success story using a 6cM triangulated segment.

If you’re highly endogamous, or only looking only for the low hanging fruit, which is more likely to be immediately rewarding, then work with only larger segment matches. They are less likely to be IBC or IBP and more likely to yield results more quickly.  I always begin with the largest matching segments, because not only are they easier to assign to an ancestor, but those matching people may also have smaller matching segments that I can tentatively (pending triangulation) attribute to that specific ancestor as well.

Here’s a handy-dandy cheat sheet if you’re having trouble remembering “Identical by What.”

Identical by Chart

Understand that working with genetic genealogy and autosomal DNA is much like panning for gold. You may get lucky and find a large nugget or two smiling at you from on top the pile, but the majority of your rewards will be as a result of hard work sifting and panning and accumulating those small golden flakes that aren’t immediately obvious and useful.  Cumulatively, they may well hold your family secrets and the keys to locks long ago frozen shut.

Here’s hoping all your matches are IBD!!!!!

Anthony Lore (1805-1862/1867), River Trader or Pirate?, 52 Ancestors #114

Anthony Lore, or more accurately Antoine Lore, who was actually baptized Antoine Lord was one of the toughest genealogical nuts I’ve ever had to crack. Of course, it didn’t help any that he also moved from one country to another, neither of his names was accurate after he arrived, and he left no bread crumbs for me.  In fact, I’m of the mind that  Anthony may have very specifically tried NOT to leave any breadcrumbs while he was alive, and he did a damned fine job, I must say.

I know this probably sounds corny, but I’m going to say it anyway. Sometimes ancestors want to be found, and sometimes they don’t.  I know that sounds ridiculous, but in the case of Anthony, had it not been for several, not just one, but a series of events that were extremely unlikely to happen individually, let alone in series, I would never have found him, nor verified that the Antoine Lord baptized in the Catholic church records in Canada was one and the same Anthony Lore in Warren County, PA half a century later.

I could not have done this without synchronicity, sheer and utter stubbornness, err, I mean perseverance, DNA…and a lot of help from several people who just happened to pop up at the exact right time – including Santa Clause.  I’m serious.  In the flesh.  Just wait…you’ll see.

As brick walls go, this was probably the largest brick wall to ever fall, because Antoine was the gateway ancestor to my Acadian line, but of course, I had no idea before the wall fell. Antoine was the last full blooded Acadian in my line.  And as my cousin Paul says, if you’re related to one Acadian, you’re related to all Acadians.  Finding Antoine opened up a whole new world for me, historically and genealogically as well.  To put this discovery in perspective, with the help of others, I now have identified more than 100 ancestors of Antoine Lore.

Now the sad part. My mother never knew.  She was Antoine’s great-granddaughter.  Mom passed away just a couple years before the big breakthrough.  I like to think she had a hand in this discovery since she and I spent a nontrivial amount of time out beating the bushes for ancestors together.  So I don’t really know if she knows or not, or if she helped from the other side or not, but I tell myself she did.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Benjamin

Anthony didn’t start out, in my world, to be Anthony. His son, Curtis Benjamin Lore told the family that his father’s name was Benjamin Lore.  That’s also what his wife put on Curtis’s death certificate.  So of course, given that Curtis’s daughter told me that Curtis’s father’s name was Benjamin, which agreed with his Curtis’s death certificate, I set off looking for Benjamin Lore.

Guess what. I looked for years.  I didn’t find him.  That’s because he didn’t exist.

Curtis’s daughter, my “Aunt Eloise” who was actually my great-aunt, thought Curtis’s mother’s name might have been Elvira or Elvina. Eloise knew of two siblings, a sister that died and a brother, “Uncle Lawn.”  The only other thing she knew, aside from Benjamin’s name, which was wrong of course, was that Curtis’s father had died young, drowned in the Allegheny River.  Following Benjamin’s death, the family was desperately poor.  The mother and sister subsequently died as well, and Curtis was on his own from about the age of 10 or 12.  That was all she knew, or at least all she ever told.  She was an incredibly positive person, even in the face of adversity, and she didn’t much care to discuss anything negative.

Have you ever talked to someone about a topic where there was no need for them to be uncomfortable, but they clearly were? That’s how Eloise was about Benjamin Lore.  I could never figure this out.  There was no one left to ask but her, as her entire generation had gone on to the other side.  So it’s not like I had any other options.

Finally, one day, the source of her discomfort was revealed. It seems that Benjamin Lore was a river pirate, and he drown as a result of that “occupation.”  She didn’t go so far as to say he died in the act of pirating, but that was certainly the inference.  That little river pirate issue was certainly the family scandal and secret – and knowing how guarded the family was about “premature” births of babies after weddings, those paled by comparison to her discomfort over this scandalous pirate information.  Holy cow!!!

I should have taken that information and run with it while she was alive, but I had two small children, worked full time and was earning a master’s degree on top of everything else. So, that information languished in a folder for more than a decade.  Ok, so a lot more than a decade.

When I got that folder out again and blew the dust off, after Eloise’s death, here’s what I had to work with. Curtis Benjamin Lore was born in 1860 or 1861 in Pennsylvania to Benjamin Lore whose wife’s name might have been Elvira or Elvina.  Benjamin was a river pirate who drowned when Curtis was about 10 or 12, so about 1870 to 1872.  Curtis also had a younger sister and a brother, “Uncle Lawn.”  Curtis had come to Indiana in the 1880s as a well driller and met Nora Kirsch while drilling for gas wells near Aurora, Indiana.

Given this information, I should be able to find Benjamin Lore in 1860 and 1870 in Pennsylvania in the census, but that wasn’t the case because Benjamin didn’t exist.

Finding the Family

There was no single aha moment. I was looking for that smoking gun, but there never was one.  There were a lot of pieces of suggestive evidence but nothing that either individually or together let me draw any conclusion, at least not until that final DNA testing.  Thank Heavens for DNA testing, my mother’s willingness to take every available test while she was alive, and cousin Denny.

However, before the days of DNA testing, I did what all genealogists do – I began with the census.

Knowing, or thinking I knew that Curtis Benjamin, known as C. B. Lore, was born in 1860 or 1861 in Pennsylvania, I checked in the 1870 census – on microfilm, not on Ancestry like today.  So, I had to order those index and census rolls in to the local Family History Center or go to a major library that might have them on site.  I still have those index card printouts in my files.  If you’re shuddering, you too are a long-time genealogist.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, just say a little prayer of thanks:)

1870 census Warren co

The 1870 Warren Co., Pennsylvania census shows us that Curtis Lore, age 14 is a farm hand in Columbus Township, born in PA – living with the George Morrison family, his wife and 19 year old son.

Finding Curtis Lore on his own at age 14 reinforces the story that Eloise told about his father having died young and the kids “raising themselves” but there are a couple flies in this ointment. First, Curtis was supposed to have been born in 1860 or 61 and this Curtis was born in 1856.  Second, if Curtis was born in 1860 or 1861, and his father died when he was 10 or 12, he probably would not have been dead by June of 1870, although it’s possible.  Things that make you go hmmmm….

On another page, we find Curtis’s mother, but at that time, I couldn’t connect those dots and didn’t know it was his mother.

Lore, RL age 54 – female born Vermont, keeping house
Margaret 12 b Pa

R.L. and Margaret are on census page, 25, living with the Elisha Farnham family.  Elisha Farnham is age 54 and a farmer.

I remember thinking at that time that if RL was Curtis’s mother, he would surely have been living with her. More hmmm….

Then I moved back to the 1860 census, not expecting to find “my” Curtis who was born in 1860 or 1861, but one never knows. He could have been a baby, less than a year old.

The 1860 census shows the Lore family living in Spring Creek Township. They don’t own any real estate, but they do have $75 in personal assets.  This is not a wealthy family, but they seem to be holding their own.

1860 census Warren Co

However, there is Curtis, born in 1856, which matches exactly with the Curtis in 1870, but since my Curtis was born in 1860 or 1861, I still had my doubts that this was the right family. The birth year was wrong, the father and mother’s names were both wrong.  Just too much was wrong.

In the 1900 census in Indiana, Curtis’s father is reported as being born in France and his mother in New York. So nothing was matching, except the name Curtis.  The problem was that he was the only Curtis Lore in Pennsylvania.

I looked back to the 1850 census, knowing Curtis wouldn’t be there, but hoping to gain some perspective on this family.

The 1850 census is below. As late as 1848 this family was living in New York.

1850 Warren co census

Questions are introduced by this census. Was Franklin really the child listed as Nathaniel in 1850?  Two of their daughters died between 1850 and 1860.  That must have been heartbreaking.  Five more children were born, including Curtis, clearly before 1860 or 1861.  Although their other children’s names and ages are not consistent, Curtis’s name and age are both confirmed in the 1870 and 1880 census.

Are there really 2 sets of twins, or two sets of children born within 12 months of each other?

Note that in the 1850, Anthony cannot read and write. I suspect this is reading and writing English, as their boarder. Francis Brewer, also cannot read and write and he too is French.

Is Francis Brewer a relative, or has he simply found a family to live with who speaks French and with whom he can communicate?  Brewer is not a French name?

So many questions and no answers.

Was this the right family? Was this Curtis the same Curtis that came to Indiana in the 1880s?  How could I ever tell?

I moved forward to the 1880 census, hoping to learn more. What I learned about Curtis was shocking.  In fact, it pretty well convinced me I had the wrong Curtis.

1880 Warren Co census

In 1880, Curtis Lore, now age 24, is married to a Mary and has 2 children. When I found this, I was very nearly positive this was NOT our Curtis, because our Curtis had never been married before, plus the little age discrepancy and parental names issues.

I was within a hair’s breadth of throwing in the towel on Curtis of Warren County – but the problem was that I had no other Curtis to research, so I just held onto a tiny shred of hope. I know this sounds hokey too, but something told me not to give up.

Out of other options, I resorted to scattering genealogical breadcrumbs on various Rootsweb and GenForum lists and message boards to see if anyone anyplace knew anything useful.

Denny Lore and Warren County

In 2003, the first of several breakthrough’s happened when I met Denny Lore, who just happened to have grown up in Warren County, PA.

One of Denny’s friends happened to read the Warren County rootsweb list and noticed the Lore surname. A few days later, at his class reunion, he saw Denny and mentioned that coincidence.  Denny was interested and followed up, contacting me and asking me what information I was looking for.  Little did I know at the time, but this “chance encounter” would be one of the lynchpins in this search.

Denny had some wonderful pieces of information, but nothing compelling enough that either of us could confirm we were working with the same family.  We were so close it seemed, but no cigar.

Denny and I researched together, passed information back and forth and talked on the phone for hours – but despite our best efforts – we could not connect those elusive dots. Just like everything else about this family – tantalizingly close, but out of reach.  I just know our ancestors were sitting someplace watching us and have a jolly laugh!

In 2004, I decided it was time to visit Warren County, full well knowing it could have been a wasted trip genealogically – but I would meet Denny and that would be fun.

Unbeknownst to me, the Warren County courthouse was in the midst of a remodel and let’s just say no one was happy about anything. The staff wasn’t happy that we were there asking questions and wanting to see records.  I wasn’t happy because I had just driven hundreds of miles and wasn’t about to be turned away.  Denny, who, by the way, has been Warren County’s Santa Clause for decades now, just wanted everyone to be happy.  In retrospect, had he worn the suit, our quest might have been easier.  I mean, who in their right mind is going to tell Santa “no”?

Denny Santa

Based on the 1850 and 1860 census, we knew that Anthony was born in Canada between 1806 and 1810, so I knew to look for immigration papers and an application for citizenship. The staff tried to tell me those papers were unavailable and I’d have to come back later.  Denny was trying to convince the “nice lady” that we needed to see the records now – I was asking someone else for help while Denny bent her ear trying to reason with the unreasonable.

I think it took two supervisors and a lot of arm twisting (me) and sweet talking (Santa,) but between us, we finally got access to those records. They assured me there would be no records and I was wasting my (and their) time, but alas there were records. Thankfully.

Anthony applied in Warren County on June 2, 1862 for citizenship. The brief entry in the book says “In the matter of Anthony Lore, a native of Canada, declaration of Anthony Lore of his intention to become a citizen of the United States filed and certificate given.”  It gave his birth as 1806 in Canada.  He would have been eligible to become a citizen on June 2, 1867, but he never returned to complete that task.  And of course, the 1867 form would have contained a lot more information.

In his citizenship application, Anthony Lore stated that he was born in 1806 in Canada. We had suspected this, as his native language on a census was listed as French, but in a later census, the native language of the parents was switched.  However, Anthony did not say where he was born in Canada, and Canada is a very large place.  He had apparently died before his 5 year waiting period expired, so the second set of papers was never filed.  At least we now had a bracket for his death date which just happens to be dead center on top of the Civil War.  Is that relevant?  I don’t know, but it’s an interesting coincidence.

Given that Anthony had been in the US since at least 1835, why did he wait until 1862 to apply for citizenship? Was there something prompting him in 1862 or deterring him previously?

By the 1880 census, R.L. (Rachel Lavina) is no longer listed, so she has passed away, and Curtis’s “younger sister” that died may well have been Margaret, age 12. Let’s take a look at the family of Anthony and Rachel and see if we can rebuild their family using various census and other records.

Anthony Lore children*Maria is age 24 and married to Stephen Farnham in 1870 with son Henry, age 3.
**Mary is age 31 and married to Henry Ward who works in a tannery.

Alonzo isn’t shown in any census with Anthony or Rachel, but there is enough other evidence to add him as a child, given that Anthony died between the 1860 and 1870 census, and the family was terribly scattered in 1870. If nothing else, writing this article has caused me to reevaluate the evidence and realize one of Anthony’s children was missing.

C.B. Lore’s obituary said that he was survived by 4 brothers and said nothing about sisters. Of course, obituaries can be very wrong.  We know that William, Franklin, Adin and Solomon are living in 1909.  We don’t know about Alonzo.  If Henry Ward’s wife is Mary or Minerva Lore, she died in 1921.  So perhaps we should say that in 1909, at least 4 of Curtis’ siblings were living, and those 4 were brothers.

Stuck

We now have Anthony in Pennsylvania, but we don’t know where he came from, aside from Canada. Furthermore, we still have no record at all connecting Curtis Lore of Warren County to Curtis Benjamin Lore in Indiana.  That is, until we found the divorce records of Mary Bills Lore and Curtis Lore.

In those records, it doesn’t say that Curtis went to Indiana, but it does say that he left his wife and family in June of 1886, abandoning them, and Mary was divorcing Curtis in November 1887. Curtis Lore of Indiana got Nora Kirsch pregnant in November of 1887 and married her in January of 1888, before the divorce from Mary Bills was final.  Of course, the fact that  Nora’s father, Jacob, was a crack shot and had been involved with a lynching about 18 months earlier might have influenced that decision.  But were those two Curtis’s one and the same?

At this point, I was stuck. Really stuck.  How do you bridge a gap like that?

Adding to this mystery, we had been unable to discover Anthony’s wife’s last name, but the census indicated she was born in Vermont. I didn’t want to spend too much time on his wife before I knew if this was the right family.

Small hints would appear, but lead no place. In an old box in his aunt’s attic, Denny found Canadian coins and paper money drawn on a bank in Montreal.  That was very interesting because research revealed that Canadian banks began issuing notes that could be redeemed for coins in 1817 – in particular the Bank of Montreal.  In the 1830s, large numbers of banks were doing this.  The note Denny found was for the Bank of Montreal, which suggested we should look in that direction.

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However, Canadian research proved very difficult for me and I was unable to find anything useful.  Ancestry.com, for all the strength it has in American records was, at that time, pitifully silent on Canadian records.

Another important clue was a researcher who provided the last name for Anthony Lore’s wife, Hill, and my subsequent discovery of a birth record for her in upstate Vermont near the Canadian border, if it was the same person. That helped substantially and at least gave me a “path” but once, again, tantalizing tidbits but no confirmation.  I kept wanting to scream, “Where’s the meat?”

Other research avenues were pursued unsuccessfully, until I was at a complete loss. This line after nearly 30 years of genealogical research stood as my largest challenge and the line I had made the least progress with by several generations.  I had not been able to get even as far back as 1800 and I still didn’t know if the Warren County Lore line was mine.  At that point, I clearly had not seen Curtis Lore’s obituary where it stated he was born in Warren County.

Y DNA

In 2004, Denny Lore submitted a DNA sample hoping we would match other Lore males. He did not, although at that time, there were few Lore males who had tested.  He also did not match anyone else by any other surname.

That’s not the case today. Denny matches two Lore/Lord men and two by other individuals who carry another surname as well, but it took several years of patient (or impatient) waiting for that to happen.

Life Moved On

While this research was at a standstill, life moved on. Mother, sadly, passed away in April of 2006. I had remarried, moved, and the economy forced unanticipated changes.

In the early summer of 2007, I established the Lost Colony DNA projects and along with others, The Lost Colony Research Group which was and is a loosely knit group of individuals with an interest in the history and genealogy of Eastern North Carolina, specifically with the goal of determining whether or not Sir Walter Raleigh’s Lost Colonists who had been stranded on Roanoke Island survived. To facilitate collaboration of our research, we set up a newsgroup so we can share information and visit.  Not only did we share Lost Colony related information we also got a bit chatty from time to time.

One day, a gentleman mentioned, in passing, his research along the Canadian-Vermont border. That is the area where my Lore research had been so unfruitful.  He suggested a resource I had never found, a woman, Marlene Simmons, with a very large data base of records she has extracted and compiled for nearly 30 years.

I contacted Marlene and indeed, she did have an Antoine Lore birth record. My heart nearly stopped.  How many years had it been now with no new information and no hope?

Blairfindie

I cautiously optimistic that we had broken the 30 year wall. Marlene sells her services and of course waits for checks to clear, so I mailed my check and prepared to wait for 2-3 weeks.  Every day that I waited, I felt increasingly hopeful and confident.  I felt sure she would reply by e-mail, but instead a letter arrived, just like the old days.  Indeed, there were several Lore and Lord records in her data base of an extended family in the area between Montreal and the Vermont border, and the names were the right names, BUT, it was a generation too late – those births occurring in the 1840s and 1850s.  The neighbors probably heard my screams of anguish.

However, I knew this had to be the right family because the names like Antoine, Solomon and Francois (Franklin) are so unusual and repeated in that family and they were the names of the sons of our Anthony Lore. More research was in order, and I tried diligently.  French and old scripted handwriting are both severe deterrents, aside from the fact that the records are organized differently than they are here and many are missing.  Can you sense my mounting level of frustration?

I discovered that there was an 1825 census, but unlike the states, the census districts are separate from the counties, and both the census districts and the county names have changed names many times between now and then. I could not figure out what census to search, and none of them were online or had been transcribed, so I would have to order original microfilm again.  Finally, I decided to ask Marlene which census I should order.  She also mentioned that she had burial records for two Lore families so I asked about that information as well as it would provide an important clue to where they lived.  People aren’t buried far from where they lived.

Another check left in an envelope, and the days waiting seemed interminable, but at least this time Marlene replied via e-mail, saying that she did in fact have a Lore family in Blairfindie in the 1825 census. Blairfindie.  What an unusual word.

What is Blairfindie?

Where is Blairfindie?

Googling very quickly told me that the location is a historical location and extinct today, but it also showed me where it was and it is in the middle of an area called l’Acadie which is where the church records for Antoine Lore in the 1850s (a generation too late) are located. So now I have a location.  I also discovered that the protestant church in Grande Ligne, l’Acadie where Antoine was born in the 1850s was only established in 1838 when Methodist missionaries arrived.  Before that everyone was Catholic.

An old Catholic Church exists called Ste Marguerite de Blairfindie, established in 1768. There’s that word again.  Further research shows that this was the only Catholic church in this very sparsely inhabited area until after the year 1800, and, tells us that this church served the French Acadian families that streamed into the area about 1768.  They were refuges from the forced relocation and extermination of the Acadians called the Dispersion or “Le Grand Derangement” which occurred in 1755 by the English in Port Royal, Acadia.  Many of these exiles were sent to various locations in the US, and the group that founded L’Acadie in 1768 found themselves deported to Massachusetts in 1755.

Marlene had indicated that there were several other families of French extraction that were allied with the Lore family, including one named Commeau.  This was determined through the earliest records which begin for the Lore family in the early 1800s, as determined by their marriage and death records in the protestant church. As Marlene said, the records are sketchy, and she had not transcribed the Catholic Church records.  She suggested I look in the Catholic records for earlier births.  Those records were available online, but unreadable due to language and handwriting barriers, but I would overcome those shortly.

Googling further using combinations of words, Blairfindie, the church name, Acadian, Lore, Lord and Commeau brought me to the Acadian.org history and genealogy research site. They have census records from as early as 1686 from Port Royal, the original Acadian colony established on the east coast of New France (Canada) in 1604, predating both Jamestown and Plymouth.  So, a quick check for Commeau and the records are full of this name.  And then, entering the name of Lore and Lord into the search engine and holding my breath.  YES, Yes, yes.  There was Lore, and Lord and L’Or and Lor and Laure, all pronounced the same way.  And even better yet, Julien Lore, the first Lore/Lord immigrant, is listed in the census, born in 1653, married to Charlotte Anne Girouard, with their 4 children, living with her mother, Jeanne Aucoin, widow of Francois Girouard.

OMG. Could it be?  Is this the beginning of our Lore family?  This Lord family is  Acadian, part of a small group of founders of the nation called Canada today.

I marvel at the synchronicity here and wonder if there is really such a thing a coincidence. How the Lost Colony led me to Marlene who led me to L’Acadie that led me to  Blairfindie which led me to Acadia where I found Julien Lord.  It’s amazing how one word, just one word, unlocked the gate to solve the 30 year old mystery in my family.  Blairfindie.  Amazing.

Indeed, the power of one word.

Perseverence.

The Real McCoy

St Marguerite de Blairfindie

Above, St. Marguerite de Blairfindie from the book, Histoire de L’Acadie, Provence de Quebec, published in 1908.

In the Catholic church records, we find that Antoine Lord, born March 24, 1805, is the son of Honore Lord and Marie Lafaille and was baptized at St. Marguerite de Blairfindie, above.

His actual baptism record is shown below.  What, you can’t read that?  Well, neither could I.  Thank goodness for genealogy friends.

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The baptismal record for Antoine is on the top of the second page.

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Baptismal act of Antoine Lord.

Le vingt cinq mars mil huit cent cinq, par nous pretre soussigné, a été baptisé Antoine, né hier du legitime mariage d’Honoré Lord, menuisier, et de Marie Lafay de cette paroisse.  Le parrain a été Antoine Crotteau et la marraine Rosalie Guerin, qui ont déclaré ne savoir signer.  Le père a signé avec nous.

s/Honoré Lore
s/R.P. Lancto, Ptre.

Translation:

The 25th of March 1805, we the undersigned have baptized Antoine, born yesterday of the legitimate marriage of Honoré Lord, joiner, and of Marie Lafay of this parish.  The godfather was Antoine Crotteau and godmother was Rosalie Guerin, who (both) declared they did not know how to write.  The father has signed with us.

s/ Honoré Lore (sic)
s/ R. P. (Rev. Père) Lancto, Priest

St Marguerite de Blairfindie and cem

But is this our Anthony?

Rootsweb Fishing

I’ve used Rootsweb message boards and lists extensively over the years. The great thing about Rootsweb and GenForum for that matter as well is that they are searchable and were designed to archive discussions.  Today, they also appear in Google search results, so if you’re looking for “Anthony Lore of Warren County, Pennsylvania” and he appears in any Rootsweb forum, you can find him.

In this case, I not only used the surname forums, but the location forums too, so I would use the Lore and Lord groups for Anthony, along with Warren County, PA and anyplace else I could think of that might be relevant.

One forum that would become particularly useful, later, would be the Acadian group, although as I write this, the rootsweb lists are hopefully only temporarily inoperable. The archives of this list do appear to be available.

I didn’t know anything about the Blairfindie family, and I was constrained by a language issue, and a surname issue. It was time once again for breadcrumbs.

I posted a query including the information that I had about Anthony Lore/Antoine Lord and hoped that someone, someplace had some research that would tie into this family. Perhaps the Antoine Lord in Blairfindie wasn’t the correct Antoine Lore/Lord.  There could be more.  One Antoine Lore or Lord, someplace, had been born about 1806 and had come from Canada to the US.

Before too long, I received a wonderful message from a Sylvain Lord in Canada. Little did I know he had researched the Lord family for decades, in essence, conducting a “one name” study.  Sylvain said:

In my records, I have a Antoine Lord born and baptized March 24, 1805. Antoine was the 13th child of Honore Lord and Marie Lafaille from l’Acadie (parish Ste-Marguerite-de-Blairfindie); Honore and Marie had 17 children. That Antoine is my closest match to what you’ve described. The ascendance of Antoine is as follows: Antoine -> Honore -> Honore -> Jacques -> Julien. I have all the details about his siblings and ancestor up to Julien Laure dit Lamontagne born in France about 1654. I am the author of the book “La descendance de Julien Laure dit Lamontagne”. If you need more information I will be glad to provide it to you.

Finding Sylvain, or Sylvain finding me, was a jackpot!

This information seemed reasonable, but still, I needed something to connect the Blairfindie family with Anthony Lore who was found near Starksboro, Addison County, Vermont in 1831.

L’Acadie, where Antoine Lore was baptized was located about 90 miles North of Starkesboro along the highway today that borders Lake Champlain all the way from L’Acadie on the Richlieu River in Quebec which is the headwater for Lake Champlain to Addison County. At that time, the lake would have been the highway.

Lacadie to starksboro

This was a dream come true, except for one tiny little tidbit. While Sylvain spoke impeccable English, his book was written in French.  The good news was that Sylvain was willing to translate critical sections for me and I still retained some minimal memory of French class taken a life-time ago.  Had I know how important French was going to be, I would have paid more attention!

I suspect that the Antoine born to Honore is indeed the correct one, but I’d surely like to make that connection for sure in some way. Does the Antoine born to Honore and Marie disappear from that area?  Maybe there is a notation in the church books. I asked Sylvain.

Sylvain said that Antoine Lord/Lore disappeared from the Catholic records in L’Acadie when he was about 20 years old, which would have been about 1826 or so.

Sylvain checked the Catholic church records, looking for Antoine and perhaps Rachel, but if they had not married Catholic, they would not have been allowed to witness baptisms or other events in the Catholic Church. Bless his heart, Sylvain adopted this “finding Antoine” project as his personal mission.  He wanted to complete his records, and I wanted to find Antoine.

Sylvain wrote:

This week, I spent a few minutes checking for witnesses in the records of Grande-Ligne (Baptist church of l’Acadie). Unfortunately, the minister did not indicate any witness or godparents. I did not have the time to check the catholic records; I will next week. While looking at the Grande-Ligne records, I noticed that Antoine’s siblings moved quite a lot; they were once in Vermont, New York and Quebec. It seems that they always came back to Grande-Ligne for church events.

If there is a part of you wondering how an Acadian Catholic family turned protestant, I assure you, there is one whale of a story behind that door, but it will have to wait for the article about Antoine’s mother, Marie Lafaille.  Stay tuned.

DNA

Sylvain descended from Julian Lore, one of the founding Acadian settlers who arrived in Port Royal sometime before his marriage there in 1675.

If our Anthony Lore line was indeed Antoine Lord born in 1805, then we too descended from Julian, but through another son.

The good news is that if Denny’s Y DNA and Sylvain’s Y DNA matched, it confirmed that the common Y DNA marker values held by both Denny and Sylvain indeed did come from Julien. So not only were we descended from a common ancestor, but there had been no adoptions in the lines between Julien and either Sylvain or Denny.

Julien to Denny and Sylvain

Even though Denny and Sylvain were 7th cousins, Y DNA, unlike autosomal doesn’t “wash out” with time.  Sometimes mutations do occur and accumulate, but within 8 generations, the two men should still match satisfactorily.  Besides that, Denny’s marker values were rare, as in very rare, and we still had no matches to anyone.  Today, Denny only has 4 matches total at 12 markers, and two of those are to Lore/Lord men – and the other two are to another French family.

Sylvain agreed to test, and I excitedly had a kit sent to him. A few weeks later, we confirmed that at 12 markers, Denny and Sylvain’s DNA matches exactly.  Denny finally had a match, and our ancestor was confirmed to have the same Y DNA as Sylvain’s ancestor – Julien Lor/Lord/Laure, the Acadian founder.  Why just 12 markers?  because Denny’s DNA is so rare that a match would be evident and there was no need to test more markers out the gate.

Given all of these pieces of evidence, the opportunity for the common ancestor to be anyone but Julien Lord was remote, and given that Sylvain had spent years tracking down all of the Lore and Lord descendants he could find, along with their lines, the likelihood of there being another Antoine Lore born in 1805 or 1806 in Canada, who disappeared from the records but did not die, and who appeared in America about the time the man from Canada disappeared, is extremely remote.  Sylvain didn’t know of any other candidates.

Still, I wanted to know for sure, plus we still had that pesky little issue of whether or not my Curtis was the same Curtis as the Warren County Curtis. This paternal identity issue seems to run in the family doesn’t it!

Autosomal DNA

About this time, autosomal DNA testing became available, and even though Mother had passed away, her DNA was archived at Family Tree DNA, and she was one generation closer to Antoine than me, meaning she would carry more of his DNA. I had mother and Denny’s DNA both upgraded to the Family Finder test.  I wanted to see how closely Denny and mother matched, if at all, and if the size match properly indicated the expected “cousin level.”

Denny Mom pedigree

If Mom and Denny were second cousins once removed. They could be expected to share at least some autosomal DNA.

concept generational match

According to Family Tree DNA, 90% of third cousins share DNA and more than 99% of second cousins, so Mom and Denny would be extremely likely to share autosomal DNA if their common ancestor was Anthony found in Warren County. Indeed, if their common ancestor was not Anthony, here were no other Lore men in Warren County and no other Curtis males that I could find – so there was no OTHER way for Mom and Denny to legitimately match at the 2nd or 3rd cousin level.  If they were more distantly related, then the chances of them sharing measurable DNA were dramatically reduced.

The ISOGG wiki focused on autosomal statistics reflects that second cousins once removed could be expected to share about 106.25 centiMorgans of DNA, on average, although there is a significant range in actuality. Second cousins share approximately 212.50 cM and third cousins, 53.13.  So, let’s see how Mom and Denny did.

Sure enough, Mom is Denny’s closet match and they share a total of 198.39 centiMorgans of DNA, so well above the 106 expected and nearly to the 212 cM of full third cousins. That’s fine, because in matching, more is always better and reduces doubt!

Denny Mom match 2

This does in fact confirm that our Curtis Benjamin Lore is one and the same as the Curtis found in the 1860, 1870 and 1880 records in Warren County, PA before leaving for the gas fields of Indiana where he met and married his second wife, from whom my line descends. Curtis was the son of Anthony, whose other son was Solomon, from whom Denny descends.

This part of the equation is now proven, or as well proven as it would be until some years later when additional people from the Lore line would test and match both Denny and Mom.

It would be this same autosomal matching process that would also prove that Anthony Lore in Warren County is one and the same as Antoine Lore in l’Acadie. Thank goodness for those wonderfully large Catholic families who have many descendants to test today!

From finding Anthony, and confirming that Curtis in Indiana was most likely the Curtis in Warren County, in about 2004, until final proof via autosomal DNA of Anthony’s connection to his family in l’Acadie took all of a dozen years. Unfortunately, sometimes all you can do is wait for the right person to test!

So now that we’ve confirmed that Anthony left l’Acadie and wound up in Vermont, let’s take a look at what we know about him after L’Acadie and before Warren County in 1850.

Vermont and New York

We don’t know what brought Antoine Lord to Vermont where he became Anthony Lore. However, the Richelieu River runs right through the center of L’Acadie, widening as it flows southward and after crossing the border between the US and Canada, becomes Lake Champlain which divides New York from Addison County, Vermont.

Rachel Levina Hill’s family is well-documented in Addison County, but the only record of Anthony Lore I’ve ever found in Addison County is his marriage record in Starksboro, Addison County, Vermont on October 13, 1831 to Rachel Levina Hill. Rachel would have been 16 and a half years old, and Antoine was 26.

Given their first child in the 1850 census was born in 1835, it looks to me like they lost their first two, if not 3, children.

By 1835, they had left Addison County and were living someplace in New York, where the 1850 census tells us their oldest child was born.

Anthony and Rachel lived in New York someplace, possibly Chautauqua County until at least 1848, but they were in Warren County, Pennsylvania by the 1850 census.

lacadie to spring creek

I have not been able to locate this family in New York, in spite of having read the Chautauqua County 1840 census in its entirety page by page, although I suspect they were probably in or near Chautauqua County which borders Warren County, PA on the North and also borders Lake Erie and includes the town of Jamestown, often associated with this family. It’s only about 20 miles from Blue Eye, PA to Jamestown, NY.  Rugged terrain, water and forest continues to be a recurring theme in this family and the areas where we repeatedly find them, so this would be an area that fits that description.

For all intents and purposes, the 19 years between Anthony and Rachel’s marriage in 1831 and their re-emergence in the 1850 census in Warren County are lost to us, with the exception of a few hints along the way.

We know that all of the children born to Rachel and Anthony before 1850, beginning with William born in December of 1835, were born in New York State, although I have been unable to confirm a location.

Perhaps part of the reason they were transparent was because Antoine Lord aka Anthony Lore did not want to be found.

Was Antoine Lore a Pirate?

The rivers provided easy and accessible transportation. They were the highways before highways.  Indians used them, settlers used them, traders used them, pirates used them.

Were it not for Aunt Eloise’s recanting what her father told her about his father, we would never have known the river pirate story. However, other family lines also had stories of Anthony drowning, but the circumstances were always different.

Eloise didn’t even know C.B.’s father by his correct name. She called him “Old Benjamin.” It seems, retrospectively, there was always something shady about the situation but neither Eloise nor I knew that at the time. Eloise has been on the “other side” now for 20 years. I wonder if she is amused as I write this.

According to what Eloise had been told, C.B.’s father, Anthony aka Benjamin was an “Indian Trader” on the Allegheny river and drown. After discussing this for a while, Eloise fessed up that C.B.’s father was really a “river pirate.”  I had never heard of river pirates, but later research revealed the fact that river pirates on the Allegheny River did exist in that timeframe.  That much of the story was accurate.

Eloise clearly thought that the river pirate part of the story qualified as the “black sheep” story in the family, so why would she, or her father, make up something that was obviously portrayed and perceived as negative?

Those river pirates weren’t pirates in the traditional sense with a patch over one eye, a sword and a peg leg, but were bootleggers and traders – not really a “profession” one could be proud of, at least not in this context.  They flew under the radar, as tavern keepers had to be licensed to sell liquor in a fixed location.  The “traders” produced their own liquor, had no permanent location, as their business was from their boats providing their illicit wares to rafts and the bored men on those rafts traveling the Allegheny. The traders would wait by the sides of the river, hidden in alcoves and when they saw a raft approaching, they would row out to “meet” the rafts as they drifted downriver.  Whether they conducted illegitimate business in a legitimate way, or coerced the men on the rafts to part with their money in whatever means necessary is open to speculation.  Hence, perhaps, the term “pirate.”

In the article, ‘River Pirates-Old Time Tales of Warren County,” we hear the following:

In the years when Warren County’s great green forests of pine were crashing to the woodsman’s axe and logs and planks were being borne away on the river, to the expanding markets of the south and west in endless processions of gliding rafts; in the years when rafts were running on every rise and “following the river” was a regular trade with hundreds of hard-fisted, leather-booted men who liked their whiskey straight, and plenty of it; there were abroad on the waters of the Allegheny, “river pirates”, pioneer bootleggers, who moved from place to place in rowboats and sold liquor, both good and bad to the raftsmen.

Goodness knows there was no particular need for any man to deal with bootleggers in the earlier days. Whiskey, brandy, rum, gin and wine were sold in grocery stores as well as in saloons and no man with the money to buy a quart, need go thirsty long. But the “river pirates” as they were called knew their raftsmen well. They knew the three day trip down the river from Warren County to Pittsburgh was often tedious and provocative of deep and insistent thirst. Also they may have realized that to bring the market to the consumer is to stimulate trade, and in addition may have understood enough of human nature, to know that an added tang is attached to indulgence in illicit things, be they stolen fruits, kisses or illegal whiskey.

The nearer the raftsmen approached Pittsburgh the more numerous were the river pirates. They would row out from some obscure landing in their skiff, make fast to the raft, come aboard and offer their wares to the crew. If there was any money among the men, the river pirates usually made a sale. Sometimes when they couldn’t sell their bottled goods for money they traded for something or other.

Based on Antoine’s connection to the Richelieu River and Lake Champlain, and the mixed race Acadians, I have often wondered if Antoine began by being a “voyageur” in Canada, one who traded with the Indians. Voyageurs were often of mixed heritage. Antoine may simply have transported his known occupation to a new location and slightly different circumstances. Research shows the history of Lake Champlain is also replete with pirates and smuggling.

When Antoine died, he was no inexperienced youth. According to Eloise’s story, Anthony was murdered, and it apparently wasn’t under good circumstances, as that was just another chapter to the dark side of the story she wished she didn’t have to tell. Eloise seemed to be embarrassed that he WAS a pirate and additionally embarrassed that he was murdered being a pirate. There seemed to be no redemption for Anthony, who she knew as Benjamin.

Perhaps Eloise felt that way because Curtis felt that way. Maybe there is more to this story that we don’t and never will know.

And maybe there is another side to the story. Eloise was Curtis’s youngest child. She was 6 when he died, so much of what she remembered was probably repeated to her by her mother or sisters.

Mildred was 4 years older than Eloise, born in 1899, so she was 10 and a half when her father died. Mildred also used to ride along with Curtis Lore as he made his rounds in his buggy checking on his horses, wells and other projects.

A few years ago, I met Mildred’s granddaughter who told me the following, as told to her by Mildred:

“Curtis Lore’s father drown on a raft on the river, possibly the Ohio River. He was a tradesman and traded off of the raft. He was trading with the Indians and he was drown and never found. His raft was found capsized. After that, Curt’s mother died.”

This tidbit calls several things into question. First, I don’t think there were any organized Indians left to trade with on the Allegheny in the 1860s, but the word trader may have been equated with Indian trader. Most of the river trade seemed to be focused towards wood and other wares in Pittsburg.  Or, perhaps, Anthony has previously been an Indian trader, a Voyageur.

Second, the fact that she used the word “raft” may be an important clue. A man on a raft would not have been a pirate, but he would have been a trader. Pirates used swift moving canoes, not rafts meant to accommodate both people and loads for several days. You can see various photos of log rafts here including one from the Allegheny River in 1885. Rafts were reported to be very dangerous because they were extremely difficult to steer.  And I expect that got even more tricky with whiskey added to the mix. I read one man’s comment to the effect that the oceans were much safer than the rivers from the perspective of a rafter.

log raft

Log rafts near Clearfield, PA, photos from Lycoming County Museum.

log raft 2

The fact that she said “raft” and not “boat” suggests to me that this term is likely a historic term used by Curtis, because raft is not a term one would normally associate with either a trader, a pirate or a river – in that context. Raft implies floating downriver, which is exactly what the traders did.  It was a three day “float” from Warren County to Pittsburg.

Eventually I would find three additional descendant lines of Anthony Lore’s family. All three lines would share a “death by drowning” story, but the circumstances were different in each version.  One would have him die at sea, one murdered while returning to or from France for his inheritance, Mildred’s version of drowning while trading on the river, but with no mention of being a pirate, and finally, our family line’s pirate version where he was either murdered or drown, or both.  The fact that my grandmother never told this story in any form to my mother causes me to suspect the worst.

Knowing what we know now, we can discount that “going back to France for his inheritance” story, because Anthony’s Acadian ancestor’s had been in Canada (and deported from Canada to the US, then back to Canada) since the mid-1600s, so no French inheritance for Anthony.  That ship sailed 200 years before, pardon the pun.

Maybe Anthony was going back to Canada for his inheritance, on Lake Champlain. That doesn’t work either, because Anthony’s father and mother had died in 1834 and 1836, respectively, so any inheritance would have been disbursed long before 1862/1867.

Maybe he went to get Rachel’s inheritance? Nope. Her parents were still living and had moved to Illinois, and her grandparents were long dead, so we’ve just struck out entirely on the inheritance story from every reasonable angle.

One thing seems certain, Anthony probably did drown. That part is consistent.  All stories involved water and travel.  Two included murder.  Eloise and Mildred both said his body was never found.  Perhaps that is where the murder theory arose. Perhaps he simply drown. Perhaps his raft flipped over. Or, perhaps he was indeed robbed and murdered, his raft found adrift and upsidedown.  A flipped raft would be the perfect cover for a murder.  No one would give it a second thought.

Allegheny bend

When I visited Warren County, Pennsylvania, I fully expected to find this family having lived on or near the Allegheny River, above, the county’s only major water thoroughfare.  This was not the case.  The Lore family lived in a very remote area of the county near a small stream, Spring Creek and a slightly larger waterway, Brokenstraw Creek that Curtis could have floated down to the Allegheny. All streams in that area do eventually empty into the Allegheny, so this does not preclude the raft story, but it certainly wasn’t what I expected.  Or, maybe Anthony kept his family safely away from the river and pirates. Back in that secluded area would have been a good place to distill liquor.

Eloise went on to say that after C.B.’s father’s death, when he was young, that C.B. and the other children “pretty much raised themselves.” There was one sister apparently, and the story says that both the mother and sister died.  The impression I had from this story was that they died under very dire circumstances, were desperately poor, and  on the doorstep of starvation, if not across that threshold.  This may indeed have been true.  Records found later do indicate that Rachel, C.B.’s mother and younger sister indeed did have to live with another family after Anthony’s death.

Certainly Anthony’s death had a devastating effect on his family, and in particular, on Curtis who was hired out as a farm hand by the age of 14. Apparently Anthony had died when Curtis was 10 or 12, so he could have been hired out already in 1870 for several years. Not much of a childhood.

Anthony’s son, A.D. Lore had a daughter, Georgia, who wrote a letter – quoting in part: “My Grandmother and Grandfather died when their family was young and they [the children] were raised by relatives. They [the children] seemed to be strangers to each other.”

A. D. Lore would have been 4 years older than Curtis, according to the census.

Anthony Lore’s Children

Much of what we know about Anthony actually does come from his children. Thankfully, Denny Lore had rescued his Uncle Stanley’s genealogy from sure and certain destruction, literally from the curb after his death.

Uncle Stanley who also descended from Anthony’s son, Solomon, documented this family by using existing family records. Stanley was born in 1911 and died in 1998, so his research was completed post 1930.  Instead of doing “research” like I was doing, Stanley was documenting what he knew.  The challenge for Denny and I was to connect the dots between the two methodologies and see if these were indeed the same family.

We began with Uncle Stanley’s records, added what I had accumulated about Curtis Lore, and began to build from there.

Anthony’s Widow, Rachel and Daughter, Marilla

In 1870, Rachel is keeping house for the Farnham family with her daughter, Margt., age 12. Marie, Rachel’s older daughter, is age 25 and married to Stephen Farnham.  Sadly, we find nothing more about Margaret or her pet name, Marilla.  With as much sadness as Rachel has already endured, it would be very sad to think this youngest daughter died too, but that too would be right in line with the oral history, that CB’s mother and sister both died.

Let’s take a look at what we know about each of Anthony and Rachel’s children.

Curtis Lore

In 1870, Curtis at 14 is hired out as a farm hand. His very interesting story can be found here.

William Henry Lore

We know William Henry Lore, the eldest, survived because we find him in many records including his obituary.

In 1863, his descendant Hugh Lavery find his Civil War draft card in Saybrook-Ashtabula, Ohio, but by 1866, he was back in Warren County, PA where he paid tax as a 3rd class peddler, working along the Allegheny River with one horse or mule.  This makes me wonder if he learned the “trading” trade from working with his father.  Hugh wrote about William here.

William had his first child in 1865 in Ohio and his second in 1866 in Pennsylvania.

William  would go on to marry a total of 4 times and have at least 14 children.  Among them we find the names of Ben, Frank or Francis, Lavina and Evaline.  He died in 1914 in Petrolia in Butler County, Pa.

Uncle Stan’s records are somewhat vague about William. He clearly did not have a lot of information on him directly.  The information on that page seems to be a mixture of William (01) Lore’s children and their children and descendants.  It’s very difficult to tell the difference.  Before presenting Stan’s information, I’ve included census and other information from various sources in hopes of clarifying Stan’s information.  William (01) refers to William son of Anthony and Rachel.  William (02) refers to his son William.

We eventually know from the census and obituaries that William was married a total of 4 times, and he had children by each one of his wives. We don’t really know what happened to the children of his first wife.

William (01) Lore married Eliza Mary Davis who was born in April 1847 in New York. Her parents were Ezra and Eunice Davis.  William and Eliza had 4 children:

  • Eunice Lavine (Vine) born Oct 1865, died Sept. 6, 1945 in Corry, Erie Co, Pa., was married to James R. Apps in 1882 and married second Eli Bender.
  • Eveline Lore born 1866
  • Betsy Lore born 1869 (probably real name Elizabeth)
  • Alice Oliva Lore born July 5, 1870, died Mary 23, 1913 in Union City, Erie, Pa. She married Andrew Henry in about 1888 and married secondly to Henry Perry in 1893.

We never do find either Evaline or Betsy. However, in the Warren Co. Historical Society, we found a very interesting letter dated October 1987 from a Mary P. Lavery, 7 Paris Avenue, Corinth, NY 12822, inquiring as to the birth, marriage or death certificate in Warren County prior to 1906 for Evaline and Betsy Lore who she thought might possibly have been in the asylum in Conewago Township and who were possibly involved in the murder of a caretaker or caretakers in the asylum.

Mary also mentions in her letter that there is a William J.H. Lore in the asylum in the 1910 census but she does not think he is related. I looked at this record as well, and there is no family slot for this person, and I’m not sure his name is Lore.  We can probably dismiss him, at least for now – although with this family, you never really know for sure.

Given what Uncle Stan’s sheet tells us, if we are reading it correctly, it seems that the 4 daughters of William all married, so if Mrs. Lavery was looking for them by the last name of Lore, she would never have found them.

In 1870 I don’t find William, but we do find his wife and children living with her parents in Corry, Erie Co, Pa.

  • Ezra Davis, 56
  • Eunice 53
  • Alice 15
  • Samuel 13
  • Alonzo 12
  • Betsy 10
  • Eliza Lore 23
  • Louisa 6
  • Eveline 3
  • Betsy 1

In 1880, William is listed in Butler Co. as a widower with 3 children as follows:

  • William Lore, age 36, boarder, widower
  • George age 8 (born 1872)*
  • William (02) age 6 (born 1874)*
  • Frank age 4 (born 1876) – seems to be John and or Joseph Francis Lore found later.*

We also find Eliza in Waterford in Erie Co, Pa as follows in 1880:

  • Eliza Lore 33
  • Eunice 15
  • Evaline 14
  • Betsy 11
  • Alice 9

*Indicates that the child is mentioned in William’s obituary.

William and Eliza appear to be divorced, judging from the births, between 1871 (Alice’s birth) and 1872 (George’s birth). No grass grew under William’s feet.  William apparently remarried and his wife who is unknown subsequently died.

In 1910, William H. Lore is listed in Butler Co. in the census as born in 1840. W. H. (probably William H.) Lore is born in 1875, John Lore* is born 1878, and George W. is born in 1875.  Given the above census info, are John and Frank the same person, or was there a 2 year old child missing from William in 1880?

William Henry Lore died on May 22, 1914 in Petrolia, PA.

William lore obit

Homer and Mary, mentioned in the obituary, are not listed in any census document. William Henry apparently had a total of 14 children.  Even though they are not mentioned, several children from his earlier marriages were living at the time of his death.

William’s wives and children were:

  • Mary Eliza Davis born in 1847, married before 1865 and divorced after 1870 – 4 children: Eunice Lavina, Evaline, Betsy and Alice Oliva
  • Rachel Salmon born about 1840 in Ireland or England, died before 1880 – 4 children: William Henry, George W., Joseph Francis “Frank”, John Francis
  • unknown spouse, died, had 3 children between 1881 and 1888: Lillian, Gordon, Ben
  • Sarah Zimmerman born 1870, married 1898, died 1931 – 3 children: Samuel, Mary Homer

William Henry Lore is buried in the Bear Creek Cemetery in Petrolia, Butler County, PA without a stone, according to family members.

In a very confusing turn of events, a descendant provided this Record of Veteran Burial provided by the State of Pennsylvania in the 1940s for one Frank Lore who served for 3 years in the same Unit as William Henry Lore’s brother Frank aka Franklin aka Francis Lore who unquestionably died in Wisconsin.  The burial record for this Frank Lore is in the Bear Creek Cemetery, with no marker.  This causes me to wonder if they is some confusion of identity, or if multiple people were using the name Frank Lore.  This family is assuredly confusing.

Frank Lore PA Civil War Burial

Maria Lore

Maria was born June 27, 1846, died in 1892 and is buried in the Spring Creek Cemetery, probably near her mother and other family members. She was married on August 8, 1862 to Steven Farnham 1844-1935.  They had the following children:

  • Henry Anthony born 1861, died 1916, had at least 2 sons.
  • Jennie Mae born 1873, married first a Goss and then a Moore and is widowed again by 1930.
  • Frank Arnold born April 1, 1873 and died Oct. 12, 1948, buried in Spring Creek, married Emma Mable Brundage
  • Jessie b 1884 married about 1802 to a Bassett, a widow in 1930 in Boylan, Skamania, Washington.
  • Charlie b 1882, in 1930 in Columbus Twp. in Warren Co with wife Minnie and no children. Died 1955.

The historical society card file shows that Maria was born 1846 and died in 1892. It also shows that Elisha S. Farnham, her husband, was born in 1844 and died in 1935.  He served in Company C – 16th Pa. in the Civil War.  This is the same unit where Franklin Lore served.

The Spring Creek Cemetery transcription in Warren Co. Pa shows several Farnham graves, but I was unable to find them when I visited. The list is in alphabetical order and it does not say if these graves are together.  Graves are as follows:

  • Alton Farnham, 1883-1884 (with Elisha and Maria)
  • Elisha S. Farnham 1844-1930 Co C 16th Pa Cav. G.A.R.
  • Frank A. Farnham 1874-1948 (next to Maria Z. Farnham)
  • Maria Farnham 1846-1892 Wife of Elisha S
  • Marie Z. Farnham 1907-1908

Rachel may be buried with or near Maria, her daughter, and Elisha.

Tunis, Nathaniel, Francis (the female) and Mary Lore

We find nothing more about these three. They probably died as children.  I do wonder if Tunis was a nickname for Antoine Jr.?

Adin or A.D. Lore

Given the oral history of the Indiana Curtis family involving an “Uncle Lon” or “Uncle Lawn,” and knowing that Curtis (CB) had a brother A.D., noted in one census as Adin, could Adin be Alonzo D. Lore?  This is certainly possible, but I believe that’s not the case, because in at least one census, they are both listed separately..

Uncle Stanley shows that A.D. Lore married Sophia B. Morley, daughter of Alonza Morley and Polly Hopkins. He shows one daughter:

  • Maria Lore born about 1878. She is also known as Mina apparently. She marries Charles Griffits (Griffis).

Stan’s records show (parenthesis mine):

A.D. Lore – deceased (born in 1852 according to 1860 census)
Mrs. “ – Albion, Pa (Erie Co.)
A girl
Mrs. Charles Griffits (is this the girl or is this another person?)

In the 1930 census, we show Sophia Lore, 76, born 1854, married in 1877, born in PA, parents in NY. She was living in the town of Albion in Erie Co., Pa. on Cherry St.  She is widowed and was first married at age 23.

In 1880 we find in Conneaut Twp of Erie Co., Pa:

  • D. Lore, 28, (so born 1852), farmer, born Pa, father born Canada, mother born Maine
  • Sophia 27 born Pa, parents NY
  • Mina 2, her and parents born Pa

A.D. Lore died in 1913, still married to Sophia, so A.D. Lore is not Alonzo Lore.

Denny sent a copy of Georgia R. Lore’s marriage application on October 14, 1922 where she gives her parents’ names as A. D. Lore and Sophia. Father is deceased but was born in Spring Creek, PA.

A.D. Lore’s letters of estate administration were filed in Erie County, PA on November 17, 1913 listing his death date as October 30, 1913 in Albion, PA. Sophia is his wife, Mina Griffis is his daughter who lives in Albion, Gertrude Prussia is his daughter who lived in Springboro and Georgia Lore is his daughter who lives in Albion.  He apparently worked in the oil fields because he has drilling tools and carpenter tools, and that was pretty much it.

According to Sylvia Lore’s estate papers in 1938, Georgia married a Heath and lives in Albion.

Alonzo Lore

I originally believed that A.D. Lore and Alonzo were one and the same person, but they aren’t.

Based on what Aunt Eloise said, “Uncle Lawn” came to visit his brother, Curtis Lore, one time in Indiana. Eloise’s sisters, Edith and Mildred, quite the mischievous pranksters, put a pin in the horsehair soft so that “Uncle Lon” would sit on it, and he did.  He got up, enraged, told Curtis that his girls were awful, and stormed out, never to return.

So, Curtis did have a brother “Lon” or “Lawn.”

We know this event had to happen between 1895, or so, and 1903. Curtis was the youngest of those two sisters, born in 1891.  Eloise, who was born in 1903, said the incident occurred before she was born.

In 1880 we find Alonzo Lore, age 18 so born in 1861 or 1862, a laborer born in PA, father born in Canada, mother in Canada, living with the Wilson Wells family in Spring Township, district 11, Crawford County.

This Alonzo could well be Rachel’s last child, although if these dates are correct, she would have been 47 when he was born.

The name Alonzo Lore is interesting. It is a very unusual combination.  Other Alonzo Lore’s include:

  • 1860 Alonzo Lore age 5 born 1855 in NJ, living in Downe, Cumberland NJ
  • 1870 Alonzo 14 born 1855 living in Ward 8 Dist 24 Philadelphia Pa
  • 1880 A.D. Lore born 1852, farmer, married to Sophia, father born Canada and mother born in Maine (this is CB’s brother)
  • 1880 Alonzo 19 born 1861 living in Spring, Crawford Pa, born Pa, parents Canada (ironic that both men’s father’s are born in Canada)
  • 1900 Alonzo Lore born 1855 in Indiana (could be last name of Love), parents born KY
  • 1910 Alonzo Lore age 52 born 1857 in NJ, living in 15-WD, Philadelphia Pa, wife Marie 48, daughter May
  • Social Security Death Index – Alonzo C. Lore born Mar. 12, 1888, issued in Pa, last resided in Upper Darby, Delaware, Pennsylvania, died January 1974, SS181-22-1865. WWII draft registration says he was born in Dividing Creek, NJ.

Ancestry.com lists Joseph C. Lore b 1831 in Cumberland Co NJ as the father of Alonzo F. Lore born in 1856 in NJ. Source is given as the Glouchester Co. Historical Soc. in Woodbury NJ, Vol. 1 page 64 in the James, John and Thomas Sheppard book.  His wife’s name was Cornelia Sheppard, born Dec. 3, 1833 in Cumberland Co NJ.  Provided by rwilson154@prodigy.net in July 2004.

The Alonzo Lore in Crawford Co. in 1880 is a mystery, but the other Alonzo in NJ is accounted for.

We find a Mary Lore divorcing Alonzo Lore Feb. 3, 1898 in Warren Co. in the following court record:

Book 59-49 – Mary Lore libellant vs Alonzo Lore respondent.

  • 3, 1898 – Subpoena filed and returned unable to find respondent
  • Feb 8th – Alonzo is served in Warren Borough.
  • April 9, 1898 – Libellant bill of particulars filed. I hunted for this document in court house when I visited during the court house remodeling in 2004. They were to find and mail when the remodel was done, but subsequently “forgot” and then refused.
  • April 11, 1898 Case heard and respondent not appearing.
  • April 12, 1898 Respondent files answer.
  • April 13 1898 Divorce granted.
  • 1901 and 1903 fees finally paid

It looks like Alonzo may have done basically the same thing that Curtis did. He was born in 1861 or 1862, hired out as a laborer and lived on his own or with others after his father’s death between 1862 and 1867.  In 1870, he isn’t living with Rachel and I can’t find him in the census.  He married and divorced in Crawford and Warren County, PA, respectively, as did his brother Curtis.  We don’t know where he lived or anything about him beyond that, except that he was alive between roughly 1895 and 1905 and he didn’t much care for his brother’s misbehaved daughters!  If Curtis Lore’s obituary is correct, and may well not be, Alonzo may have been dead by 1909 when Curtis died.

Solomon Jehiel Lore

Solomon Jehile Lore was born in 1854 in Blue Eye, Warren County, Pennsylvania. This is Uncle Stanley and Denny Lore’s ancestor.  Solomon married Candace “Virginia” Cummings between 1880 and 1882.  The Cummings family was a neighbor to the Lore family.  Solomon died in 1914 in Erie, Pa.  Denny found remnants and fragments of this family in the attic of his aunt.  Among other things, he found a coin that had been drilled and worn on a chain, possibly as a good luck token in the Civil War, although we have not found records that Solomon served.  Denny also found Canadian money, in particular, a bank note from Montreal.  This helped us focus upon an area between Montreal and Vermont where Anthony’s wife, Rachel, was born.  Anthony and Rachel married in Starksboro, Vermont in 1831.

Solomon had two children:

  • Blanche Lore born in 1881, married Ray Killian and died after 1947 (1 child)
  • Albert Lore born in 1883, married Merle Irvin(e) and died in 1959 (2 children)

Solomon died on January 31, 1914 in the hospital in Erie, PA.

Maggie/Minerva Lore married Henry Ward

At the historical society, Denny and I found an index entry for Minerva Ward, an adult, baptized at Spring Creek, Sept. 23, 1883, from the Garland Methodist Church Records. She would have been 35 years old.

If this is the same Minerva, she did in fact survive childhood. Where was she in the 1860 census?  By 1870 she was apparently married and by 1880 we find the following in Spring Creek District 274 in Warren Co. PA.

  • Henry Ward 35 works in tannery (born 1845)
  • Minerva 31 born Pa father born France mother born New York
  • Ernest 10 born in Michigan at school
  • Seillie M (female) 6 at school born Pa
  • Franklin J 5 born Pa
  • Stephen A 2 born Pa

The 1900 we find in Fayette County, Pa., Henry married to Viola for 9 years with sons Joseph and Howard 19 and 14. Perhaps these are Minerva’s children before she died.  We find Henry in 1920 in Warren Co, age 75 married to Viola J. age 61.  If this is the correct Henry Ward, Minerva died between 1886 and 1891.

In the death records, we find Maggie Ward, age 32-10-8, died October 18, 1893 of a bowel inflammatory in Sugar Grove on Hazeltine Rd., buried on Stilson Hill. So Maggie was born about 1860, while Mary and Minerva were born in 1848, so this is not likely to be the same person. Maggie’s parents were not listed on her death certificate but her gravestone on FindAGrave says Maggie Waters, wife of G. U. Ward, so this eliminates this Maggie.

Records from Minerva’s descendants on Ancestry.com show that Mary or Minerva, wife of Henry Ward, was indeed a Lore, daughter of Anthony and Rachel, and that Mary died in 1921. One tree shows that Henry was first married to Minerva and then to Mary.  Of course, there is no source information and I take Ancestry trees with a very big grain of salt.  Unfortunately, there is no gravestone for either Mary or Minerva Ward.  Fortunately, this isn’t my direct line.  If anyone ever really needs to know, an autosomal DNA test to see if they match the Lore cousins would solve the mystery.

It seems apparent that there were twins, Mary and Minerva, born in 1848, since they both appears in the 1850 census. Both are missing in 1860, but one may have survived to marry Henry Ward.

Franklin (Francis) “Frank” Lore

Franklin survives as well, and lived an extremely interesting life.

Both Franklin’s descendant, Don Lore, now deceased, and Stanley Lore’s records contain a very old photo of a man. Don Lore’s family says that it is the father of Franklin Lore and shows his name as Joseph.  Denny has him as “the progenitor,” but with no name.  Denny could have received the photo from the Wisconsin line.

After speaking with Don over the phone, he told me that he had taken the photo out of its original frame and the photo had the name of a studio in Coudersport. Given that piece of information, I am beginning to suspect that this photo is actually of Francis (Frank) and not his father.  I suspect this because this man looks to me to be between 40 and 50 and that is the age that Francis would have been in about 1880 when he married Loretta Butler in Coudersport, Pa.  For this photo to have been taken of Anthony, given his birth about 1806, the photo would have been taken between 1846/1856 which may be somewhat early for this quality of a photo and we have no record of Anthony being in Coudersport, Pa., although that isn’t to say he couldn’t have been there.  That is very early for a portrait which had become very popular by the 1880s, with studios popping up.

We know that Anthony died between 1862-1867 when the camera was not yet widely in use, in fact not in use much at all before the Civil War. Of course, we also know that Franklin Lore, aka Francis Lore left Pennsylvania between 1881 and 1883, so if this is his photo, taken in Coudersport, he would have been about 40 years old, or perhaps he came back to visit.

Franklin Lore

Regardless, this is allegedly either Franklin Lore or his father Anthony Lore. If this is Franklin, he probably looks similar to his father, Anthony, and this is as close as we will ever get to seeing Anthony.

Franklin served in the Civil War as a logger and surveyor. He enlisted in the US Cavalry on Aug. 16, 1862 and was honorably discharged September 6, 1865 in Erie Co., Pa.

According to the census, Francis was born in 1845. Stan’s records show nothing except his name, probably because he left the area.

The following photo of Francis “Frank” Lore below was contributed by Jane Funcheon,

Frank Lore

The records of Don Lore show that Francis was called Frank, born Dec. 5, 1843 in Jamestown, Chautauqua, NY. He died January 17, 1913 in Iron River, Bayfield, Wisconsin and is buried in the Iron River City Cemetery.

The Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center very kindly provided me with information from their index that says “Francis Lore was found dead in the woods on January 19, 1913” along with a note that there was a long article about him.

The ”long article” below, printed in the Iron River, Wisconsin Newspaper on January 23, 1913:

Francis Lore

Francis Lore, whose sudden death occurred Friday night in his hunting camp in this town, was my old time friend and associate for more than 22 years. For the last 15 years we have traveled with our crew over hill and dale, through swamps and mire, and hewed our way through windfalls and jungles: we have endured the scorching sun of summer and faced the biting winds of 30 degrees below in the winter.  We have met in the wilderness, the fiercest storms of summer and winter.  We have located and established logging railroads, town and country highways and government lines in every direction from the Brule River to the Chequamegon Bay, and from the bold shores of Lake Superior to the Sawyer County line; there are few miles in this territory that we have not traveled over together.  Francis Lore was an honest man.  A minister in Superior East end directed me to him, and told me he would use me right.  I came to Francis when I was looking for a homestead, and he did not show me the wrong land, or tell me that there were three million feet of timber when there was only two.  He has collected my money and always turned it over to me to the cent.  No timber baron could bribe him to run a crooked line, to take in timber that did not belong to the baron.  He was reliable and faithful and a tried and true friend to me.  Francis possessed a wonderful mind, the retina of which took in every detail of the object and every minute occurrence connected with it, and that picture never faded.  Fifteen years later, he would recall every detail as though it happened on the day previous.  He was one of the best witnesses that ever took the witness stand.  Every detail would be told just as it occurred, convincing everyone that he was telling the whole truth.  He had his faults – but who has not.

Last Wednesday, he took his last walk into the wilderness he always loved so well. His legs that had carried him so many thousand miles, refused to carry him further, so he went to that Beautiful Isle of Somewhere.  I shall miss him so much. – Winfield E. Tripp

Francis was married April 19, 1879 in Jamestown (Coudersport according to Jane Funcheon) to Loretta Hanna Butler, known as “Etta”. She was born in July 9, 1859 in Coudersport, Pa. and died Feb. 17, 1923 in Baudette, Lake of the Woods, Minnesota. She was brought back and buried beside Francis in Iron Mountain.

Jane indicates that Loretta was the first white woman to take up an abode in or near the present village of Iron River, Wisconsin. She and her husband began the first year of their marriage in her home state of PA before they moved west and settled in Merril, Wisconsin for a year before moving again to Superior, Wisconsin.  They came to Iron River in 1883 where they built a shanty and filed a claim on it.  A portion of today’s present Iron River Village is built on that claim.

Don Lore (now deceased) indicated that there is a museum that has a family Bible on the site, but the Bible belonged to one of Francis’ children and it contains nothing that is genealogically of note.

Both Frances Lore and his wife are buried in the Iron River City Cemetery.

Their children are:

  • Frederick Ancil (Ansel) Lore born Oct. 11, 1881 in Butler, Butler Co Pa, (Jane Funcheon indicated born in Coudersport) died July 31, 1972 in Kelly Lake, St. Louis, MN and was buried in Nashwauk, Itasca, MN He married Anna Olson Dec. 15, 1905.
  • Ella Lavina Lore born June 11, 1885 in Superior, Douglas, Wisconsin, died Apr. 17, 1935 and was married to James Luther Deeth Jan 31, 1905 in Iron River, Bayfield, Wisc.

February 1905 Marriages from the Iron Mountain Newspaper James Deeth, stepson of ________Fargo, to Ellen Lore, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Frank Lore, in Duluth, before Feb. 16

Ellen Lore Deeth 2

James Luther Deeth and Ella Lavina Lore (daughter of Franklin Lore, granddaughter of Anthony Lore,) photos contributed by Jane Funcheon and Don Lore.

Deeth stones

  • Charles George Lore born July 30, 1888 in Iron River, died Jan 26, 1952 in Red Oak, Iowa and is buried in Pine Lawn Cemetery on Long Island, NY and was married to Josephine Marie Delaney, “Jo”, June 23, 1919. His delayed birth certificate issues in 1940 lists his father’s place of birth as York, PA and his mother’s as Germantown, PA.
  • Frances Jeanette Lore born Feb. 5, 1894 in Iron River, died Jan. 13, 1962 in Lansing Michigan and was married to John William Huntoon, “Jack”, Dec. 14, 1911 in Ashland Wisconsin and subsequently divorced and remarried. Her delayed birth certificate issues in 1940 lists her father’s birth location as NY State and her mother’s as Pennsylvania.
  • Estelle Loretta Lore born May 21, 1896 in Iron River, died June 20, 1973 in Lansing, Michigan and was married to Clifton Smith “Deke” April 28, 1936 in Lansing Michigan.

I searched for this family in 1880 and could not find them.

The 1895 Wisconsin state census lists “Soldiers of other states in Wisconsin” and includes an entry for Francis Lore, Private, Company C, Regiment 16, from Pennsylvania now in Iron River.

A very odd twist to this family is that for some reason Franklin Lore inherits land in Warren County, PA from a William M. Jackson in 1893, nearly 15 years after Franklin left Warren County and ten years after he left for Wisconsin. It is 50 acres of land listed on a plat map found in Warren County as Jackson’s estate.  This further pinpoints where the Lore’s lived, as this property borders the Farnham and Cummings properties which helps us triangulate where the Lore family lived.  Two of Anthony Lore’s children married into these families.  William Jackson had no heirs, and despite repeated efforts, I have been unable to discover the reason for the inheritance.

Of note, A.D.’s daughter said that after Anthony and Rachel died, “relatives” raised the children. I never saw any signs of “relatives” but perhaps this is a hint as to who some of those relatives might have been.  Clearly, someone took those kids in and they were not kept as a group.

Two of the Lore children bought and sold land in Spring Creek Township and the section numbers, 314 and 318 are given. Today, this into the old farmhouse at the end of Jackson Hill Road, and the property just beyond that as well, on Punkey Hollow Road.

Jackson Hill road map

At the point that the road ends today, it abruptly turns to the right and becomes Punkey Hollow Road and there is an old abandoned farm on the left side of the road, right at the bend.  This is lot 314.

End of Jackson Hill road

You can see where at one time there was a fork in the road and another branch went to the left at the junction where the road turns to the right. That road to the left went to the Cummings land.  Solomon Lore married a Cummings.  The Farnham’s lived just past the Cummings where there are no roads today.  One of the Lore daughters, Maria, married a Farnham, and Rachel was living with the Farnhams after Anthony’s death.  Given that the daughters married men from this geography, and two of the boys owned land here, this is where the family lived, possibly on the 50 acres that Franklin inherited.

Jackson plat map

On the map above, the house shown on section 314 that says “HR Jackson” may well be the house shown below. Today, the dotted line road above the “314” and below the “W. Jackson 50 A Est.” that I’ve highlighted is the turnout shown in the photos below.

The next photo shows the turnoff that led back to the Farnham and Cummings properties in the plat map and probably as well to where the Lore family lived.

Jackson turnout

The photograph above is the cut away from the “road” today which is just north of the abandoned farmhouse which looks to have at one time led to the Cummings and Farnham properties which included the Lore area and the associated families, according to the plat maps of the late 1800s. This would have been the “road” to their land.  Perhaps the Lore family actually lived on the 50 acres that Franklin inherited.  I wonder if he (or he and his father) cleared it for Mr. Jackson in return for allowing the family to live there.  Note that on the map there is no house on the Jackson property.

The area cleared for the abandoned farm is shown below.

Jackson farm satellite

Today this road is clearly abandoned, and the area is rife with bears and very isolated, not affording cell phone coverage. Even with a Jeep, it was very muddy and I was not of the mind to challenge my mortality.

Jackson Farm satellite 2

There is no driveway back there today so this house is very likely gone. Notice on the plat map above there is no road to the Farnham house, even then.  This area is extremely remote and rugged and today as is seen on the following current atlas, the area is now State Game Land.  The satellite views show just how rugged this area remains.

The “Big Farm” noted with an X is a very old, very large production farm that was known for many years to employ many young men. This farm is no longer in production, but it is a very good candidate for where C.B. Lore was working in the 1870 census.

The cemetery where the Farnham’s are buried and were Rachel Levina Lore is most likely buried in an unmarked grave is located on Cemetery Road across from where the “ce” in cemetery is placed on the map. If is a relatively large cemetery and impossible to miss.

Spring Creek map

This photo was taken in the cemetery closest to where our Lore ancestors lived – on Cemetery road. I was unable to find the stones that were supposed to be there – those of the Farnham family that Rachel Lore lived with after Anthony’s death, but I had to wonder if this group of 3 were the unmarked graves of Anthony’s wife and maybe two children.  Anthony from all stories drowned someplace so he would not have been buried if the body was not recovered.

Spring Creek cemetery

The map below shows the cemetery at the red balloon at top, and the location of the abandoned farm near where they lived at the bottom.

Spring Creek Cem to Jackson Hill

Satellite view of the same area.

Spring creek cem satellite

By the way, those little cleared postage stamp squares between Jackson Hill Road and Brokenstraw Creek are not farms, they are oil pumping and storage facilities.

The Cemetery was on the paved road before one turned left onto Jackson Hill road, which was and is still dirt, or mud, shown in the next photo.

The following photo is “the long road,” Jackson Hill Road. Was this named for Mr. Jackson whose land Franklin Lore inherited?  This area is so remote that as the road petered to a 2 track then worse, I actually turned my Jeep around for fear of getting stuck, having no cell reception and fear of being a snack for the local bears if I had to walk the miles to a paved road.  When I say this area is remote, it’s the head of the Allegheny National Forest and several other wilderness areas as well.  I was not yet ready to follow Anthony to the great beyond, a victim of the relentless Allegheny natural forces.

Jackson Hill road view

This is the house at the end of Jackson Hill road where the road turns to trail. I believe our ancestors lived just north-east (left) of this point.

Jackson Hill farm

Was this near where they lived, or actually where they lived?

Jackson Hill clearing

Directly across the road from the abandoned farm house is another piece of cleared property which was clearly used at one point for farming.

Jackson Hill field

Above, a picture of an area on the South side of Jackson Hill road that could have been owned by the Lore family, according to the plat maps. Even if this isn’t it exactly, it’s very similar.

Jackson Hill oil

Given the Lore family’s long history of oil speculation, I don’t know if it’s relevant or not that today we find this oil storage tank on land that could have been owned by the Lore family. That would somehow be fitting as several of Anthony’s sons and grandchildren were workers in the oil field business.

Sweet Taste of Success

Given that we began with several strikes against us, it’s amazing that we ever found Benjamin Lore, aka Anthony Lore aka Antoine Lord. His name wasn’t Benjamin or Lore.  The only other thing we knew about him was that his son Curtis aka C. B. was from Pennsylvania and born in 1860 or 1861, except that birth year was wrong too by 5 years.  Not only is it amazing that we found either Curtis or Anthony, but that we’ve now proven that this is the right family, our family, and that Anthony Lore of Warren County, PA in 1850 is the same Anthony Lore as found in Addison County, Vermont in 1831 is the same Antoine Lord born and baptized in L’Acadie in Quebec in 1805.

Fortunately, we had multiple records that indicated Anthony was born in Canada, although records, even multiple records, can sometimes still be wrong. Still, Canada is a big place.

Denny’s Canadian money, found in his aunt’s attic, provided clues as to a potential location in Canada, pointing us towards the Montreal area. A drilled coin, found in the same box, looking to have been worn around someone’s neck on a chain begs so very many questions. We know at least one of Anthony’s sons, Franklin, fought in the Civil War.  Did he wear the coin around his neck as a good luck charm, as has been suggested by family members?  Or did that coin belong to Solomon, in whose descendants possession it was found?

Ultimately, finding and proving Benjamin/Anthony/Antoine Lore/Lord of Warren County, PA was the same man found in Addison County Vermont marrying Rachel Hill who was the same man born in Blairfindie was the most difficult part of the challenge. I don’t think we could have done this without DNA testing.  We waited for years to find the right people to prove the family tie via DNA testing.  If there is a lesson to be learned here it’s that your DNA is fishing for you 24X7X265, so never give up.

This was a case where we needed both Y DNA to confirm that actual paternal line and autosomal DNA to prove our branch of that paternal family line. Fortunately, Family Tree DNA offers both tests and we took full advantage of them, including DNA archived by my mother before her death. I can’t thank Family Tree DNA enough for their free archival services.  Having her results has made a world of difference.

I am forever grateful to Sylvain Lord as well as my cousin Denny Lore, both for their individual research and assistance, and for agreeing to DNA test. DNA is the gift that keeps on giving, and it was through their combined participation that we have been able to prove the connection to Julien Lor/Lord.  In fact, just this week, we’ve had another amazing breakthrough on the Lore/Lord line, but that story will have to wait for a future article!

Anthony, or Antoine

Of course, I’d love to know what Anthony looked like. We have only two photos of his children.  The photo below, at right is definitely Anthony’s son Curtis Benjamin Lore, and at left probably Francis aka Franklin or Frank Lore.  I say probably, because both Denny and the family in Wisconsin have this labeled as “the Progenitor” and Franklin’s father, respectively, so there is a possibility this photo is Anthony himself, not his son Franklin.  The Wisconsin family has the name as “Joseph.”  Well, Anthony was Benjamin in Indiana so maybe he is Joseph in Wisconsin.  Stranger things have happened in this family!

Franklin and CB Lore

As I look at these two photos, the family resemblance escapes me. We know positively the photo of Curtis is Curtis, and we know that he is Anthony’s son, but we don’t know if the photo at left is misidentified, although it is from Coudersport where Franklin aka Francis Lore married in 1879.  Given how far we’ve come identifying Antoine, it’s somehow fitting that the only possible photo remains a mystery – and all for lack of someone writing on the back.

Reflections

As I reflect upon Anthony or Antoine, I wonder whether he was truly a river pirate. I can’t imagine why a family would concoct a story that brought them shame, so I tend to believe the story, or at least I believe that Eloise believed it to be true.  I might feel differently if Eloise was bragging or boasting when she told the story, or thought it was “cool,” but she clearly wished she didn’t have to convey that information.

On the other hand, the information from Curtis’s other child, Mildred suggests that he might not have been a pirate, but might have instead been a trader.

So now we have a quandary.  Was he a good guy or a bad guy?

Information from all sources suggests that he died on the river. Perhaps he tussled with river pirates, and lost.  In other words, as a rafter, he could have been a victim of pirates. Perhaps his raft hit something and capsized.  Perhaps he was a river pirate.  I wish there was a way to know.

Was Antoine a “voyageur” before moving to Warren County? Did he love the river? Was it in his blood?  Was he tied to the water and the woods? Was he a woodsman like his son Francis?  Was his Native heritage speaking to him?

Did Antoine make his own moonshine? Did he feed his family off of the land, in true pioneer spirit?  How else would one make a living in an uncleared area?

Was Anthony an opportunist, making an honest living off the river as a highway, a moonshiner making a relatively honest living off of thirsty rafters who welcomed his wares, or was he an evil man, a pirate, taking unfair advantage of others?

Was he simply doing what he needed to do to feed his family, or did he enjoy the pirating lifestyle?

Why did none of his 7 children who had children name one of his 47 grandchildren after him, with the exception of Maria Farnham who gave one of her children Anthony for a middle name?  Four of them named a child after their mother.

We really know so very little about Anthony, the man, and we understand even less.

Anthony’s sons were certainly attracted and tied to an adventurous lifestyle. Were they following in his footsteps or did they perhaps suffer from a lack of parenting and direction after their parents died?  Three of his sons were divorced, a very uncommon occurrance for that timeframe.

Franklin, Anthony’s second oldest child was himself a woodsman, living on the frontier, one of the first whites to settle in northern Wisconsin. Did he learn these skills from Anthony?  If not, how could he have learned them to the degree that they were a second sense, second nature?  Who would have or could have taught him?

Acadians were staunch Catholics, but Anthony clearly was not, although he was raised in the church. Did he actively leave the faith, or did he simply drift away, down the river, so to speak?  His wife’s family was protestant, but there is no evidence at all of any religious affiliation until a couple of generations later with Minerva’s adult baptism.  Was religious estrangement a function of Anthony’s belief system or simply reflective of the extremely rugged and remote lands where he lived?  Or maybe a result of his “career” choice?  Anthony’s son, William Henry, felt very negatively towards Catholics and warned his children to stay away from the Catholic church.  He felt Catholic churches were involved in some type of conspiracy.  Was that a reflection of Anthony’s feelings, or were they simply William’s own opinions?

I do know one thing, I can never look at the Allegheny River again without thinking about Anthony and wondering about his life…and death. The Allegheny River, below, near where Brokenstraw Creek empties into the river is likely where Anthony would have connected up with the Allegheny as he drifted downriver from his home back in the rugged mountain country off of Jackson Hill Road.   Brokenstraw Creek was literally in Anthony’s back yard, the riverman’s highway.  The Allegheny itself serves as Anthony’s grave marker.

Allegheny near brokenstraw

Rest in peace, Anthony. We found you.  You’re not lost anymore and you’ll never be lost again.

Curtis Benjamin Lore (1856-1909), Devilishly Handsome Rogue, 52 Ancestors #113

Will the real Curtis Benjamin Lore please stand up?????

How I wish it were that simple. What his story lacks in simplicity, it more than makes up for in mystery – some of which we’ve never unraveled, and never will.

Curtis Benjamin, known as C.B. Lore, was the dark and dreamy mystery man, the elusive, unavailable, field hardened, working man….the kind of man that attracts women like moths to the flame. C.B. was a survivor, an entrepreneur, successful, adaptable, an expert in his field and respected – so one side of the story goes.

The other side suggests he was a fast talker, the slippery sort, not reliable and not truthful about his past, or present – in essence, a rogue.

One thing is for sure. He survived one way or another on his own, from the time he was a child, for 20 years by the time he met Nora Kirsch, the young woman who would become his wife…well, one of them anyway.

C.B. was very probably a ladies man. And Nora was young, very beautiful and living right there at the Kirsch House.  The attraction between them was probably magnetic.

Nora’s heart likely skipped a beat at the end of each day as the men from the oilfields would knock off work and come in to the bar for a beer, some food and in his case, probably a room as well. C.B. probably lived at the Kirsch House while he worked in the area.  After discovering Nora, I’m positive that he did. He probably spent evenings in the parlor, or helping out to be with Nora.  And when the chill of autumn set in in 1887, he put his arms around Nora to keep her warm.

Kirsch house 1990s

In 1990, 103 years later, his granddaughter, and great-great-granddaughter stand by that very bar that C.B. Lore frequented in the Kirsch House.  Can you see him, there beside them, leaning on the bar, smoking a fine cigar?

C.B. Lore was a manly man, a hearty outdoorsman who worked in the rough oil and gas fields. The census in Indiana says he was born in 1860 or 1861, but the 1860 census in Warren County, Pennsylvania shows us that he was born in 1856.

In 1887 when he came to Indiana from Pennsylvania, he was 31 years old, a roughneck, strong, worldly and extremely handsome.  Did I mention that he was handsome???

Nora Kirsch was 21 and had little experience with men.  It’s no wonder that he subtracted a few years from his age, reducing the 10 year divide between their ages to a less questionable 5 years.  I don’t know whether Nora ever knew the truth or not, but C.B.’s redesigned birth year stayed with him for the duration of his life, in the census and on his tombstone.

What was C.B. Lore, born in Pennsylvania, doing at the Kirsch House in Aurora, Indiana? Well, it’s a long story.  Get a cup of coffee or tea and some chocolate, a I’ll tell you the story of our mystery man.  Yea, you’re going to need chocolate for this one!  In fact, just bring the whole box!  That’s what my mother did when she found out…ate chocolate.  To quote her, “What else is there to do?”  Yep, you’re gonna need lots of chocolate!

Born in Pennsylvania

Curtis Benjamin Lore was born on April 17, 1856 in Blue Eye, Warren County, Pennsylvania to Antoine “Anthony” Lore and Rachel Levina Hill. Anthony and Rachel had moved to this area from New York a decade or so before.

Blue Eye is a remote area, fairly heavily forested and mountainous. There really isn’t a town of Blue Eye, it’s an “area” on or off of Blue Eye Road which intersects with the small town of Spring Creek, PA.  Only the locals call it “Blue Eye,” and no one knows how it got its name.

Blue Eye PA

This photo contributed by Betty Rhodes shows Spring Creek in 1903.

Spring Creek PA 1903

The area probably didn’t look a lot different when C. B. Lore lived there.

1870 census Warren co

Looking at the 1870 census, we discover a couple of very interesting items. Two things, actually.

First, much to my surprise, Curtis is hired out as a farm hand.  At age 14.  Where was his family?

The second surprise is that Curtis is not age 9, born in 1861, as was reflected in his documentation in Indiana, but age 14, born in 1856. So he wasn’t born in 1861 as the family said?  Well, maybe.  Let’s take a look at the 1860 census and see what we find there.

1860 census Warren Co

Sure enough, the 1860 census for Spring Creek Township in Warren County, PA shows Curtis with his parents, age 4. That pretty well cinches the 1856 birth year.

But where is the rest of his family in 1870?

Curtis’s mother is living with the Farnham family. His sister Margaret, age 12, who would have been listed as Marilla in 1860, is living with that family as well, but otherwise, none of the family is to be found in Warren County.  Based on Curtis’s father’s application for citizenship, we know that he applied in 1862 and never returned to claim his citizenship in 1868, so he died sometime between those dates.

Maria Lore, Curtis’s oldest sister married Elisha Stephen Farnham in 1862, but she is missing in 1860. Most of the older children had either married, moved away, or died.  The 1860s was an utterly brutal decade for this family, aside from the Civil War.

Have a piece of chocolate.

Aunt Eloise’s Stories

Nora Kirsch and C.B. Lore would marry in 1888 and have 4 girls, Edith (1888), Curtis (1891), Mildred (1899) and Eloise (1903). Edith Barbara Lore was my grandmother and she died in 1960 when I was a child.

However, I remember Aunt Eloise well. She was 15 years younger than my grandmother.  After my grandmother died, Eloise, who had no children of her own, “took over” the role of grandmother, as best she could.  Mother was close to Eloise and even though Eloise lived in Lockport, New York and we lived in Indiana, we visited with her as often as we could.  I remember how thrilled Mother would be when letters from Eloise arrived!

Eloise worked for a company that produced plastics and every Christmas we would receive a wonderful “Santa” box filled with gifts and plastic items that were slightly flawed, just enough that they weren’t saleable. That was before the days of outlet stores.  For us, it was like winning the lottery.  How we looked forward to those boxes and carefully rationed the contents, trying not to use them up too fast.  Eloise always included a box of chocolate too.

It would be Eloise who would provide the clues to begin the process of unlocking the secrets of C.B. Lore. According to the other daughters, Eloise was his favorite.  She was also the baby of the family.  Eloise and her sister Mildred would accompany C.B. in his buggy as he made his rounds, checking on his projects and horses, and the girls would listen to his stories.

Buggy ride

Eloise was only 6 years old when C.B. Lore died of tuberculosis, which must have been devastating for both of them. Perhaps because of his illness which incapacitated him, then killed him, he may have talked more and shared more with her and the other girls when he was bedfast than he would otherwise have done.

Eloise provided quite a bit of verbal history.

She told us that C.B. had a brother they called “Uncle Lawn” (my spelling, not hers, she told me verbally) but that she didn’t know his real name. Eloise tells the story about when “Uncle Lawn” visited in Rushville when Edith and Curtis were young.  Those two sisters were quite the mischief makers and were best friends.

Eloise said, “Edith and Curtis, always devils, put a pin in the horsehair sofa so he would sit on it.”  He did. The mischievous girls of course though this was hilariously funny.  “Uncle Lawn” was enraged and told C.B. Lore that his girls were awful and stormed out, never to return.  That event had to have happened between about 1895 and 1903, given that Curtis was born in 1891 and Eloise said that event occurred before she was born in 1903.  C.B. Lore doted on his daughters and I doubt he cared what “Uncle Lawn” thought.

Eloise said C.B.’s parents’ names were Benjamin (later proved to be Anthony) and Alvira or Alvina (later proved to be Rachel Levina), and that they both had immigrated when they were 5 or 6 and that “the first Kaiser Wilhelm had signed their immigration papers.”

The first Kaiser Wilhelm reigned from 1861-1888 in Germany and Curtis Benjamin Lore was born in Pennsylvania in 1856, so this made no sense, but then, Eloise didn’t feel the need to question what she had been told.  Later research proved this to be incorrect, but one has to wonder at the genesis of the story.  Was Eloise confused, was this a different family line, or did C.B. make it up to cover some uncomfortable or sinister truth?  It seems a very odd and detailed fact to be simply “created.”

Eloise wasn’t as quick to talk about the darker story of C.B.’s father’s death, but eventually she relented. Remember, she didn’t even know C.B.’s father by his correct name.

C.B.’s father, Anthony aka Benjamin, it seems, was an “Indian Trader” on the Allegheny river and drown. After discussing this for a while, Eloise confessed that C.B.’s father was really a “river pirate.”  I was quite shocked to have a pirate in the family and questioned the existence of pirates on rivers within the US.  Unfortunately, Eloise had or gave no details, but I would find information later to flesh out this story and would discover that yes, there were in fact river pirates on the Allegheny River in that timeframe.  Who knew?

Those river pirates weren’t pirates in the traditional sense, but were bootleggers and traders – not really a “profession” one could be proud of, at least not in this context.  They flew under the radar, as tavern keepers had to be licensed to sell liquor.  So the “traders” provided their illicit wares to rafts and the bored men on those rafts traveling the Allegheny by rowing from the sides of the river, hidden in the alcoves, out to meet the rafts as they drifted downriver.  However, it’s possible that Anthony began by being a “voyageur” in Canada, one who traded with the Indians. He may simply have transported his known occupation to a new location and slightly different circumstances.

Have another piece of chocolate.

Voyageur

However, Anthony’s story becomes more sinister, because he drowned and as Eloise talked more, and began speaking in hushed tones, I discovered that Anthony was perhaps murdered. Now, this wasn’t a murder where the family was righteously indignant, but one that seemed to carry some unspoken shame.

I guess engendering sympathy for a pirate’s demise, especially if he was “pirating” at the time of his death, was probably somewhat more difficult than for the local minister’s death.

For me, this new pirate edition was an absolutely enthralling story and I longed desperately to know more.  I’ve discovered over the years that how “good” and juicy a story turns out to be is approximately equivalent to the effort someone expends to hide the truth!  Even C.B. Lore, with his own rather checkered past didn’t want to tell the truth about his father and even went so far as to mis-state his parents’ names.  So, this story must have been a doosey!

Eventually we would find three additional lines of Anthony Lore’s family. All 3 lines would share a “death by drowning” story, but the circumstances were different in each version.  One would have him die at sea, one murdered while returning to or from France for his inheritance, another one on the river, but with no mention of being a pirate, and finally, our family line’s pirate version where he was either murdered or drown.

One thing seems certain, he probably did drown. That part is consistent.  All stories involved water and travel.  Two included murder.  Eloise said his body was never found.  Perhaps that is where the murder theory arose.  Or, perhaps it is true.

Allegheny

When I visited Warren County, Pennsylvania, I fully expected to find this family having lived on or near the Allegheny River, above, the county’s only major water thoroughfare.  This was not the case.  The Lore family lived in a very remote area of the county near a small stream, Spring Creek. All streams in that area do eventually empty into the Allegheny, so that does not preclude this story, but it certainly casts doubt upon it relative to earning a living on the river.  Or, maybe Anthony kept his family safely away from the river and pirates.

Trying to find Benjamin Lore in Warren County was indeed a red herring in this search, because the man did not exist. I surely spent a lot of time looking for Benjamin, based on C.B. Lore’s death certificate and family oral history.

C.B.’s father’s name is Anthony, or actually Antoine in French, but in the US, his name was always Americanized to Anthony.

Did C.B. intentionally disguise his father’s name, changing it to Benjamin? Did Nora believe C.B.’s father’s name was Benjamin, or was she just upset when providing his death certificate information?  Death certificate information, provided not by the deceased, but by a distraught family member, is often notoriously incorrect.  However, given that C.B.’s daughters said that their grandfather’s name was Benjamin, I suspect that Nora wasn’t confused and the family had been told that his name was Benjamin, not Anthony or Antoine.  But why?

Perhaps the river pirate stories were true and C.B. did not wish to divulge the true name of his father. Whatever the reason, his father’s name was incorrectly recorded on his death certificate, and his mother’s name was not recorded at all.  That information sent me on a very long and very wild goose chase.

As it would turn out, very little of what the Indiana family thought they knew about C.B. Lore in Pennsylvania was true.

Eloise went on to say that after C.B.’s father’s death, when C.B. was young, that he and the other children “pretty much raised themselves.” There was one sister apparently, and the story says that both the mother and sister died.  The impression I had from this story was that they died under very dire circumstances, were desperately poor, living on the doorstep of starvation.  This may indeed have been true.  Records found later do indicate that Rachel, C.B.’s mother, and youngest sister indeed did have to live with another family after Anthony’s death.  There are also no gravestones for any family member, another sign of abject poverty.

When I visited Warren County, PA, I had hoped to find at least a newspaper article telling about Anthony’s death and maybe C.B.’s mother’s death too, but there are no such articles in the papers that remain and have been indexed.

When the search for C.B. Lore’s heritage first began, more than 30 years ago, there was no internet and few compiled resources. What genealogy was to be done had to be done in person, or at the Allen County Public Library which had a superb collection of records.

However, the Lore brick wall would not fall until 3 decades after it reared its ugly head….sadly, after Mother’s passing…..and then with only the happenstance lynchpin of one word…….Blairfindie…..but I’m getting far ahead of myself. Let’s visit Warren County Pennsylvania and see what we find there.

It’s time for another piece of chocolate.  A really good one!

Curtis Lore in Blue Eye, Warren County, Pennsylvania

As any good genealogist does, I left a series of bread crumbs years ago hoping that someone someday would find them and the information they have and the information I have would click like puzzle pieces for both of us.

In September of 2003, a very unusual series of events occurred that began with someone reading my internet Rootsweb posting, then attending a class reunion in Warren County, PA, with Denny Lore and thinking to mention it. That comment at the reunion would lead to Denny and I meeting online. I was thrilled to receive Denny’s e-mail, as it was the first solid lead I had had in many years on this family.

We clicked immediately, like long lost family.  This seemed too good to be true, and Denny and I felt like we had decades of catching up to do.  It was the beginning of a wonderful friendship that endures to this day and some very productive research.  At first, in spite of how well we got along, Denny and I weren’t at all sure we were related.

Denny and I had very different information. He had rescued his Uncle Stanley’s genealogy from sure and certain destruction, literally from the curb after his death. I knew immediately when Denny told me that story that I liked him immensely and we were cut from the same cloth.

We didn’t know it at the time, but Uncle Stanley and Denny are both descended from Solomon, the son of Anthony and Rachel Lore. C.B. was Solomon’s brother.

Uncle Stanley documented this family by using existing family records. Stanley was born in 1911 and died in 1998, so his research was completed post 1930, entirely before the days of internet access and when one had to visit a major library to access microfilm census records.  Fortunately for me, he knew most of these people and didn’t need to find them in old dusty records, so the information he provided was invaluable and not available elsewhere.

My research had been done almost entirely by remote access methodology, except for trips to the Allen County Public Library and my trip with Mother to Rushville in the 1990s which wasn’t terribly productive aside from finding the graves of C.B. and Nora Kirsch Lore and that red herring death certificate.  I was working backwards in time. Stanley was documenting what he knew.  The challenge for Denny and I was to connect the dots between the two methodologies and see if these were indeed the same family.

Before we look at Uncle Stanley’s records, let’s see how we determined that Warren County, Pa. was indeed the place to begin.

C.B. Lore’s death certificate lists his birth place as Pennsylvania.

We know he was married in 1888, and the 1890 census was destroyed, so we first find him and his family in the 1900 census in Rushville, Indiana.

In 1900 they were renting a home and C.B. lists himself as a machinist, 4 months unemployed. They were fairly well to do, as they had two live-in servants.

Rushville 1900 census

Nora had borne three children and all were living. Curtis’s father’s place of birth is given as France, his mother’s as New York, his as Pennsylvania.  As it turns out, this is one third accurate.  C.B.’s father was born in Canada and he was Acadian.  C.B.’s mother was born in Vermont and C.B. was born in Pennsylvania.  Often, wives provided information to the census taker, so this could well have been second hand information and not deemed terribly important.  However, this record in combination with his death certificate sent me looking in Pennsylvania for Curtis.  Thankfully, that much was right.

By 1910, C.B. was dead, so we have no further census records for him.

Based on the 1870 Warren County, PA census, where Curtis is recorded as being age 14, he should be found in the 1880 census being age 24.

In 1880, C.B. Lore (indexed as Lare at Ancestry) is found in Pennsylvania, but not exactly as we might expect to find him.

1880 Warren Co census

The 1880 census shows in Warren Co PA:

  • Curtis age 24, a laborer, born PA and father born PA and mother born in England, with his wife, Mary E, 20 and their children:
  • Maud, 2, and
  • Hebert 2/12th.

This family is living in Enterprise, PA in the far southwest corner of Warren County.

Because my Curtis had never been married, I discounted this record for quite some time as being the “wrong” Curtis, but it turns out to be the “right” Curtis after all. It seems Curtis had been married, with children, something the Indiana family never knew.

More chocolate.

The Courthouse

I decided it was time to visit Warren County and meet my cousin, Denny.

Research at the local court house in Warren, Pennsylvania would give us a different perspective of Curtis’s life.  But first, we had a challenge of a different kind.

Denny and I visited the courthouse in 2004 amidst a massive renovation.  Books weren’t where they were normally stored, and staff was not terribly interested in accommodating those pesky genealogists who want access to old records, which in this case, were stored in the furthest and most inconvenient rooms and in the heights of the attic that could only be accessed by several sets of stairs that wound upwards inside a turret.  If you were one bit claustrophobic or afraid of heights or leary of a winding circular staircase with no railing snaking up the inside of a turret with increasingly small triangle wedge shaped steps, you were sunk.  Never let a little issue like that come between me and genealogy…

Warren Co PA courthouse

Of course, it was August with no air conditioning. I bet those old records are still there deteriorating because no one wanted to carry them back down those dangerous stairs.  And there was no organization of course, just crates and boxes of records all stacked together on shelves and on the floor amid layers of dust. It was amazing we found anything at all, and it wasn’t without a battle with the staff.

Ok, just eat the rest of the box of chocolate.

Lunatics, Alcoholics and Divorcees

In one dusty old book that I peered into out of utter frustration and mild curiosity, as I had never seen one before entitled “Lunatics, Alcoholics and Divorcees,” I received the shock of my life. There were Mary Lore and Curtis Lore.  Seriously, in the lunatics book?  What were they doing in here?  Were they crazy?  Alcoholics?  Divorcees?  Were divorcees considered crazy or depraved?  Talk about social stigma!  OMG!!!!

This is not exactly the book where you want to find your ancestors.  But you know, if it’s them, there’s going to be a good story, one way or another.  If it’s them.  Maybe it’s not them???  Maybe it’s not the right Curtis.  Maybe.

Extremely excited, I copied down the numbers, as this was only an index book, and took my results to the staff. The staff was equally as unhappy as I was excited, because the papers I sought were upstairs in the attic, in that turret, and they tried every excuse possible to avoid taking me there.  Also in this book was a second Lore divorce, a man who might have been C.B.’s brother, Alonzo, but those records were not able to be found, and the staff later refused to try again to locate them.  I’m telling you, those old records were all abandoned in that attic.

I begged. I whined.  I made noise about working with local government and FOIA.  They finally relented – I’m sure only to shut me up and because to comply with a freedom of information act (FOIA) request, they would have had to haul those books downstairs to copy.  It was easier to just take me upstairs to look – which was the exact outcome I was hoping for.

We climbed the stairs, one flight at a time, each flight getting increasingly smaller, and hotter.  Each step creaked and complained under our weight.  Rivulets of sweat ran down my back under my clothes.  I didn’t care.  The woman with me did.  I told her we would get out of there more quickly if she helped me look. I HAD to see those papers.  HAD to.

We found the book, then the box with the docket papers, even though she tried to tell me they no longer existed.  I saw the packet, tied with a string.  Lore vs Lore.  I opened the packet and a century’s worth of dust fell to the floor.  The old paper was very fragile.  My hands were sweaty and shaking.  There were no archival gloves to be had.  I opened the packet very carefully and began to read.

Heavy with oppressive heat, the room was entirely silent, except for the sound of us sweating and an occasional rustle of paper as I turned a page, simply not believing what I was seeing.  I had to read it again.  I wanted to take it downstairs to copy, but according to the woman, I wasn’t taking it anyplace because she wasn’t bringing it back upstairs.

Curtis was married in the 1880 census with 2 children. In 1887, we find that his wife, Mary, has retained an attorney and filed for divorce on Nov. 16th.  It was granted April 5th, 1888, 4 months after he had married the pregnant Nora Kirsch in Aurora, Indiana.  Damn those pesky details anyway!

Chocolate.  More chocolate!

Where Was Curtis Benjamin Lore?

The papers say that Curtis Lore was verbally read the filing the next day, on November 17, 1887, so we know that Curtis was at least in Pennsylvania for some time at that point, specifically on November 17th.

Nov. 17, 1887 – served the within subpoena in divorce on within named Curtis Lore by reading to him the contents of the within writ and also by giving to him a true and attested copy thereof and informing him of its contents.

This was almost exactly the time that Nora was becoming pregnant, judging from Edith’s birth date.  In my mind, this cast some significant doubt about whether or not this really was the same Curtis Lore.  Was this another red herring?  The worse of all bad genealogy jokes?

The truth being, I didn’t want MY Curtis Lore to be a bigamist – to be married to two different women at the same time. I also didn’t want MY Curtis to be the kind of man that abandoned a wife and four children.  Or a liar.  I wanted my Curtis Lore to be an upstanding gentleman, roughneck knight in shining armor, sweeping Nora off her feet – not a cheating husband.  I wanted him to be the renaissance man his daughters believed him to be.  He wasn’t.

The copy of the decree states that Mary Lore and Curtis Lore were married in Centerville, Crawford Co, PA on June 17, 1876 and until June 1886 Mary had “cohabited with him as his wife and it was owned and acknowledged as such by him and so deemed and reputed by all their neighbors and acquaintances: and although by the laws of God as well as by their mutual vows and faith plighted to each other they were reciprocally bound to that constancy and uniform regard which ought to be inseparate from the marriage state; yet so it is that Curtis Lore in violation of said laws and his vows aforesaid has willfully and maliciously deserted the libellant and absented himself from her habitation without reasonable cause for more than one year last past.” The “one year last past” comment would support his time spent in Indiana in the oil and gas fields.

Mary signed this compliant. They had been married 10 years when he left.  “Happy Anniversary Honey – I’m leaving.”  It was either the best anniversary gift Mary ever had, or the worst.  Keep this month and year in mind, June 1886, because there is even yet MORE to this story!

Divorces were different in 1870 than they are today. There was no such thing as a “no fault” divorce where people just agree to disagree and go their separate ways.  Someone had to be wrong, and worse yet, bad, very bad.  If they weren’t bad, they had to be made to look bad.  Adultery, physical abuse or abandonment had to be involved.  Clearly, Curtis did leave Mary, although we don’t know if it was meant to be just an oil drilling trip that became indefinite, then permanent – or if he meant to leave her permanently.  We don’t know if he sent money back home for his family, or not.  We just don’t know.

I hoped to find their marriage license, but checking the Crawford Co. genealogy web site they state that marriage licenses were not required until 1885 except for 2 years in the mid-1850s. Darn.  What luck.  They also said that sometimes there would be a newspaper announcement.  The web site states that these newspapers are indexed at the Crawford Co. Historical society.  Mary had married Curtis when she was 16 and her parents would have had to consent.  I wonder if Mary and Curtis lost their first child.

In June 1876, Curtis would have been age 20 years and 2 months, assuming his birth year was actually 1856.

This is what the courthouse would have looked like in 1877. It was probably in this building where the divorce accusations were “read to” Curtis.  He was probably relieved, knowing that he was going back to Aurora – although he clearly did not know that Nora was pregnant.  That information probably greeted him on his return.

Warren Co courthouse 1877

Further records combined with Uncle Stanley’s information reveals that before their divorce in 1887/1888, Curtis Lore and Mary Bills Lore had 4 children:

  • Maud Lore born in 1878, married in 1911 to Victor Hendrickson and had one son, Roger.
  • Herbert Judson Lore born Nov 23, 1879 in Enterprise, Warren Co., PA, married in 1900/1901 to Ina Mae Bills, died Aug 5, 1968 in Titusville, Crawford Co. PA. Herbert had 4 children, Ronald, May, Guinevere and Harold.
  • John Curtis Lore born January 20, 1881 in Pennsylvania.
  • Sid Lore – probably the child listed in the 1900 census with mother Mary Gilliland as Seldon B. Lore, born in June of 1886.  I’m guessing that B. might have stood for Benjamin.

Given Seldon’s birth month and year, C.B. Lore left Mary that same month, leaving her either 9 months pregnant or with a newborn child, plus 3 children under 8. So either he was the king of all cads, or he didn’t believe the child was his.  However, that’s not mentioned in the divorce proceedings and it would have been very significant.  This situation is not looking good for C.B. Lore’s sense of integrity.  Mary remarried in 1888 as well, but in the 1900 census Seldon is listed as her husband’s step-son with the Lore last name, so clearly represented as C.B.’s child.

The 1880 census shows Maud and Hebert (Herbert?). Uncle Stanley shows both of them, Maud listed as Maud Lore Henderson Marshall Rainer (or Rasner), the last two names being handwritten later.  Uncle Stanley gives no location for where Maud lives, but shows Hebert in Pleasantville, PA. Stanley also shows a J. E. Lore in Jefferson, Ohio and then a Sid with no further info.  Sid could possibly be by a second wife, although his name appears above the words “second wife”, but the wife’s name is not indicated nor is any further info about Sid.  Maybe Sid died.  Or maybe, God forbid, there really is yet another wife and another child named Sid.

MORE FRIGGING CHOCOLATE!!!!!!

In the 1900 census we find that Curtis’s first wife, Mary, remarried in 1888 to Allen Gilliland, and is living in a household in Warren County that includes her Lore children.

In 1904, both a Seldon and a John Lore are living in Oil City, PA as a laborer and an electrician, respectively, according to the city directory.

Mary’s son, John Curtis Lore, was later found residing in Radical, Lee County, Kentucky, a very spartan, remote, mountainous area. John’s WWI draft registration card in 1918 shows he was born in 1881, has blue eyes, brown hair, is tall and of medium build.  He lists his occupation as a driller, so he has apparently followed his father into the oil fields.  His mother, Mrs. A. W. Gilliland, living in Crewe, VA is given as his nearest relative.

The name Curtis seems to repeat and must surely be a family name of some sort, likely through the Hill family of Vermont.  Curtis Benjamin Lore names his daughter Curtis as well.

Apparently, sometime between about 1910, the year after C.B. Lore died, and 1916, the year Nora remarried and left Rushville, John Lore went to find his father, Curtis.

The Illegitimate Son Story

Aunt Eloise told me “the illegitimate son” story, as did Mother. When my grandfather, John Ferverda was courting my grandmother, Edith Lore, or shortly after they were married, and they were in the home of her mother, Nora Kirsch Lore, in Rushville, Indiana, they received an unexpected visitor.  I initially had the impression that this was before C.B. died, but it may have been after, based on later conversations.  John and Edith were married in November 1908 and Edith’s father, C.B. Lore died a year later on Thanksgiving Day, 1909.

In any event sometime within a couple years of this time, one day, a young man “from Kentucky” came and knocked on the door.  Nora answered the door and he told her that he was the son of C.B. Lore and he was looking for him.  The family did not know C.B. had been married previously, so it was presumed that this son must have been illegitimate.  Unfortunately, the question of “what happened next?” must remain unanswered, because the story ends with just this tantalizing tidbit and the fact that Nora invited the young man inside and told him that he was too late.

We’re assuming here that this son was John, but truthfully, it could have been Herbert, Seldon or Sid, whether those are one or two people, or possibly, yet another son. For some reason, Eloise though this son was from Kentucky, fathered when C. B. Lore was tending to race horses in Kentucky.  John was from Kentucky, but clearly fathered in Pennsylvania before C.B. came to Indiana.

Perhaps Nora knew the truth, if not initially, then eventually, that C.B. had been married before and had 4 children from that marriage.  Perhaps the visit from C.B.’s son was as enlightening for Nora as for the son.  Maybe C.B. never told Nora exactly when he got divorced, but did confess the marriage and the children. Maybe he never told her anything at all.  Given the circumstances, perhaps C.B. would have preferred to allow Nora to think he had an illegitimate child rather than for her to know he was already married at the time he married her.  That would have been a betrayal of the first degree on many levels – giving a second wife legitimate grounds for divorce.

But I don’t think Nora wanted to divorce C.B. I think he was indeed probably the only man she ever loved.  She was buried beside him, so one way or another, they continue to be together, regardless of his indiscretions.

The Marriage

Given that Nora’s father, Jacob Kirsch, had been involved with lynching a man in August 1886, just 17 month before Curtis married Nora in January 1888 – I’m thinking that maybe Curtis decided that a marriage, regardless of the circumstances was preferable to the business end of the shotgun owned by a man with an obvious temper and a willingness to execute on that temper, pardon the pun.  Curtis also had to know that Jacob was a crack shot.  A decade later, at more than 50 years of age, with a glass eye, Jacob would win a tri-state shooting competition.  Jacob Kirsch was a non-trivial force to be reckoned with.  C.B. Lore, being a veteran of the rough and tumble oil fields would have recognized that immediately.

There is very little that will get a man riled up quicker than someone getting his daughter pregnant.  Well, unless it’s a married man with a family getting his daughter pregnant.  Where I grew up, that would have been viewed as an experienced worldly man “taking advantage” of Nora’s innocence and naivety.  Clearly, Jacob could not have known about the marriage to Mary and the four children or Curtis would already have been dead – and it would have been considered justifiable homicide.

Lore Kirsch Marriage

On January 18th, Jacob Kirsch signed for the marriage of Nora Kirsch and Curtis B. Lore.  I’m betting this was not a joyful trip to the courthouse.  They were married later that same day!  I’d almost wager a bet that Jacob found out earlier that day, or maybe the evening before and was waiting on the courthouse steps when they opened on the 18th.  I wonder if he had the shotgun with him.  I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall that day.

Someone knew at least a little in advance, because Eloise had a copy of their wedding invitation.

Nora Kirsch wedding invitation

Based on what little we know, Curtis left Pennsylvania in June 1886, the same month his wife Mary gave birth to a son, Seldon. We know for sure he was in Aurora, Indiana in November of 1887 when Nora got pregnant, and we also know he was in Pennsylvania on November 17th, 1887 because his divorce warrant was filed and “read to him” at that time.  Maybe he went back to Pennsylvania to “take care of business” so he and Nora could marry, not realizing of course that Nora had just gotten pregnant.

Using a reverse conception calculator, if the resulting daughter, Edith, was born at exactly full term, Nora became pregnant between November 3rd and November 8th.  So we know where Curtis was then too.

Curtis Lore Wedding

One thing is for sure, based on this wedding picture, Curtis is one handsome rogue.

Is Edith Curtis’s Child?

So, now the delicate question of paternity raises its head.  Not the paternity of Mary’s child, but the paternity of Nora’s child.

Given how close these dates are in terms of where Curtis was in November of 1887, is Edith really Curtis’s daughter?  I’m sure when that thought ran through my head, Nora probably rolled over in her grave a couple of times and then wanted to sit up and slap me.

But I couldn’t help wondering. Call it the cynic in me…plus…I really don’t want to do a lot of genealogy work on a line that isn’t mine, especially thinking it is mine.

Thankfully, cousin Denny agreed to test his DNA, initially for the Y chromosome, but then later when autosomal testing was available, for the Family Finder autosomal test as well. Denny, if you remember, descends from the brother of Curtis Benjamin Lore, so if my mother matches Denny appropriately, then the question of paternity for Edith is resolved.

Denny and my mother match on several segments, as shown below.

Denny Mom chromosome browser

The chromosome browser information at Family Tree DNA, above, is also available as a match table, below.

Denny Mom match

Based on this amount of DNA, Denny was estimated to be mother’s 2nd cousin.

Denny Mom pedigree

Mother and Denny are actually 2nd cousins once removed.

Furthermore, both of them match additional cousins on the Lore side, one additional through Solomon, one through Curtis’s son (by Mary), Herbert, and one through Curtis’s sister Marie.

I was curious how much of Curtis’s DNA I had inherited, and how much of Curtis’s DNA my child had inherited, so I compared Cousin Denny with all three of us.

Denny Mom Me child chromosome browser

In the above chromosome painting, I am orange, mother is blue and my child is green. You can clearly see some segments where Mom had DNA that matches Denny, but I don’t.  Chromosome 12 has a fairly large segment that I did not inherit.  On the other hand, look at chromosomes 1 and 2 where most of the large segments are passed between generations.

Chromosome 16 is another great example where I received almost all of Mother’s, but my child only received about half of that segment.

And yes, some small segments hold up quite well with this type of parental matching, which is called parental phasing because you can clearly see which parental side of your family this DNA came from.

I color coded this spreadsheet with the same colors as the chromosome browser, above.  Match groups are in the bracketed red boxes.

Looking at this matching group on chromosome 2, we have a classic example.

Denny mom me child chr 2

On chromosome 2, Denny matches mother on the largest segment, 22.46 cM and 3766 SNPs.  I inherited part, but not all of, of that segment from Mom, 19.58 cM and 3482 SNPs, and my child inherited the entire amount of that segment from me.  The table below shows all of the matching segments between Denny, mother, me and my child.

Denny mom me child matches

You can easily see which of these matches are valid, meaning which survive parental phasing. Identical by chance matches won’t match your parents as well as you.

There are also several segments where Denny matches only Mom, meaning that segment was not passed to me.  That too is normal.

I’ve sorted this next spreadsheet by match type so it’s easier to see which of these matches falls into what category.

Denny mom me match sort

The IBC or identical by chance are not valid matches because they don’t match through the generations, meaning up through my mother to Denny. The only way I can receive Curtis Lore’s DNA is through my mother, so for Denny’s match to me to be valid, he must also match my mother on that same segment.  You can read more about matching and what it means here.

The matches to my mother only may be valid or identical by chance. There is no way to tell for sure without tests from additional people who descend from the Lore line.  The larger match at 10cM is the most likely to be valid, but certainly some of the others may be too.

The match groups are comprised of at least me and mother, which means that Denny matches both of us, so the DNA is not matching by chance bouncing between two parents. Match groups that include only me and mother to Denny have the *.

Some match groups include my child as well, so that child has also inherited at least some of Curtis Benjamin Lore’s DNA.

Some of you are going to wonder why I didn’t label these as triangulation groups. They are, technically.  The definition of a triangulation group is three (or more) individuals whose DNA matches and who descend from a common ancestor. However, when three are individuals who are very closely related, I tend to count them as “one” group and not 3 people in the triangulation group.  Therefore, I’d be most comfortable calling these triangulation groups if we had Denny, plus my family group, plus a third person descended from the Lore line, preferably through yet another child.

But back to the question at hand, yes, Edith was unquestionably Curtis’s child, as proven by DNA matching, and so was Herbert.

Sorry, Nora, for doubting there for a minute! Your virtue is redeemed even if mine isn’t for doubting.

The Blue Lick Well

What brought C.B. Lore to Aurora, Indiana? He was a well driller and came to Indiana to drill for gas wells, but that wasn’t what he discovered.

BLue Lick Well

The Blue Lick Well was discovered in 1888 by Curtis Benjamin Lore, who, along with others in his crew, accidentally discovered the mineral well while drilling for gas.

Here’s Mom leaning on that very well when we visited around 1990. She was thrilled that we could find that location and the well still existed.

Mom Blue Lick Well crop

At that time it was covered under a shelter behind a building, allowing access to the water.

Blue Lick Well Mom

The above photo shows Mom at the well as it appeared in the 1990s. In 2008, it was being used as a car-port.

Today, the shelter appears to be taped off.

Blue Lick well today

The Blue Lick well is located on 350 north of Exporting on the south bank of Hogan Creek, on the left side of 350/Importing.

Blue Lick well map

In the pictures above and below, the gray balloon marks the location.

Blue Lick well satellite

The Kirsch House was just over the bridge beside the depot at 2nd and Exporting Streets.  At the bottom of the photo, right beside the white box, the Kirsch House is the light grey roof beside the red roof which is the train depot.

Indianapolis and Rushville

We know that shortly after their marriage in January of 1888, Nora and C.B. Lore moved to Rushville, Indiana, but we don’t know what attracted them to that location.

We also didn’t know that they lived in the Indianapolis area for at least a little while, between Aurora and Rushville, until my grandmother accidentaly found her birth certificate in Marion County. Until then, she thought she had been born in Rushville – the year after she was actually born.  The discrepancy was explained away by something about an insurance policy.  Even the family Bible had been “amended.”  Goodness, the webs we weave…

Adding two and two, it appears that Nora and C.B. left Aurora before their first child was born, possibly to disguise the fact that Nora was already pregnant when they were married, moving to Indianapolis where Nora was born. C.B. Lore seemed to be something of a drifter of sorts, following one thing and then another.  Maybe an opportunist or entrepreneur would be a more embracing and positive word.

C.B. and Nora lived in Rushville for all of their married life, except for that short stint in Indianapolis. Unfortunately, their married life wouldn’t last all that long, just 21 years.

Lore collage

C.B. Lore and Nora Kirsch Lore had 4 daughters (above):

  • Edith Barbara Lore, born August 2, 1888 in Indianapolis, married John Ferverda in 1908 and died in Rochester, Indiana on January 4, 1960. Edith had two children, Barbara Jean and Harold Lore Ferverda. Edith’s best friend was her sister, Curtis.
  • Curtis Lore, born in March of 1891, presumably in Rushville, died on February 9, 1912 after contracting tuberculosis taking care of C.B. Lore who died of that disease in 1909. Curtis never married.
  • Mildred Elvira Lore, born April 8, 1899 in Rushville, married Claude Martin in 1920 and died in Houston, Texas on May 30, 1987. She had two children, James and Jerry Martin. Mildred’s best friend was her sister, Eloise.  I suspect Mildred’s middle name was “in honor of” C.B.’s mother, except her name was Rachel Levina, not Elvira, although the Indiana family clearly thought it was Elvira.
  • Eloise Lore, born October 8, 1903, married Warren Cook in 1929 and after his death, married “a younger man,” Al Rutland in the 1970s. Eloise died June 5, 1996 in Leesburg, Florida. She stayed active, playing golf into her 90s until she became blind, which curtailed her activities significantly.  Macular degeneration is hereditary and my mother had that disease as well, so I suspect it was inherited from either C.B. or Nora.  Eloise never had children.

Nora and C.B. went back and forth visiting Aurora from time to time. The girls, one of whom was my grandmother, Edith, and another being my Aunt Eloise who I knew well, had many wonderful memories of the Kirsch House – a glorious place bigger than life to those children.  Mildred said that she and Edith spent the two years that C.B. was so desperately ill living with their grandmother Barbara Drechsel Kirsch at the Kirsch House in Aurora.  This may well have saves their lives, because their sister, Curtis, who remained at home contracted TB and died.

This photo of C.B. Lore was taken in Aurora.

CB Lore Martin Kirsch

C.B. Lore is to the right and Martin Kirsch, Nora’s brother, is on the left. The photo is undated, but it has to be between 1886 and 1909 when C.B. died.  He looks to be a younger man, about 30 or so, so my guess would be this was taken in the late 1880s or maybe early 1890s.  The modern “safety bicycle” was invented in 1887 and by 1890, everyone was riding the more modern bicycles in what was known as the bicycle craze.  So this photo above were probably taken before 1890 and possibly before 1887.

The only other photo we have of C.B. Lore is this family photo taken about 1907 or 1908 based on the fact that the young child is Eloise who was born in 1903 and looks to be about 4 in the photo. The photo was taken before C.B. became desperately ill and died in November 1909.

Jacob Kirsch family photo crop

Left to right, I can identify people as follows:

  • Seated left – one of Nora’s Kirsch sisters – possibly Carrie.
  • Standing male left behind chair – C. B. Lore – which places this photo before November 1909 when he died
  • Seated in chair in front of CB Lore in white dress, his wife – Nora Kirsch Lore
  • Male with bow tie standing beside CB Lore – probably Nora’s brother Edward Kirsch
  • Male standing beside him with no tie – probably Nora’s brother Martin Kirsch
  • Woman standing in rear row – Nora’s Kirsch sister, possibly Lula.
  • Standing right rear – Jacob Kirsch, Nora’s father – the man with the shotgun.
  • Front adult beside Nora – Nora’s Kirsch sister, possibly Ida.
  • Child beside Nora –Eloise born 1903
  • Adult woman, seated, with black skirt – Barbara Drechsel Kirsch, Nora’s mother
  • Young woman beside Barbara to her left with large white bow – probably Curtis Lore, C. B. and Nora’s daughter

What Did C.B. Lore Do, Exactly?

Let’s just say that I wish I had asked Aunt Eloise a lot more questions, and earlier, when her memory had not yet begun to fade.

We know that C.B. Lore worked the oil fields, which is how and why he came to Indiana.

He was listed in the 1900 census as a machinist.

The family said he had race horses in Kentucky too, and he went to check on them regularly.  According to Mildred’s granddaughter, C.B., called Curt by Nora, kept a sulky and horse at the Jones farm.  Mr. Jones had a livery stable and race horses.

C.B. also obtained contracts with the city of Rushville to do some sort of contracting or construction work. When he became ill, he apparently was bidding on something, with the hopes of being able to obtain the contract and do the work. Nora, being concerned about being left with a contract and obligations she could not fulfill, went to the “powers that be” quietly and explained that he was much more gravely ill than he wanted to admit, and asked them not to award the contract to C.B.

Another hint we have comes in the way of a death notice published in the Shelbyville Democrat November 27th, 1909 where he was referenced as a contractor..

Curtis Lore funeral

Thank goodness for small town obituaries.

CB Lore Obit 3

This obituary gives is the date they moved to Rushville, 1893, so it appears that Curtis who was born in 1891 was likely born elsewhere, perhaps Marion County where Edith was born.  Eloise had mentioned that they thought he contracted TB in Kentucky looking after his race horses, and this obituary confirms what she said.  Note that Curtis’ children from his first marriage are not mentioned, although we have no idea if Nora knew anything about that first marriage or his children.

Based on these obituaries, Curtis’s last year must have been pretty miserable.  I wonder how the family lived.

CB Lore obit 4

These obituaries confirm that indeed, Nora did think that Curtis’s father’s name was Benjamin, and that she did believe his birth year was 1861.  The past piece of evidence in that vein is this note found by Eloise in Nora’s Bible where Nora was doing some kind of calculations in 1890 and clearly thinks that Curt is 30 years old.

Nora Bible note

I must admit, this obituary is the first I had ever heard of a “sprinkling wagon,” so I had to research “sprinkling wagon.”  A sprinkling wagon sprinkled the streets of a city, likely to keep the dust down, I’m guessing.  In the picture below, you can see the water at the rear of the wagon.

sprinkling wagon

Rushville, Indiana

In the 1910 census, a year after C. B. Lore died, Nora and the girls were living at 324 W. First Street in Rushville which is, today, the state highway through town.

Nora sold fabric and such, after C. B.’s death, so this would have been a perfect location for her business, being the main drag through town.

Nora Wabash house

I don’t know if Nora lived in this location when C.B. Lore was alive, but I suspect that Nora would not have moved unless she was forced to.  Deed records don’t indicate that they ever owned property.

Trying to unravel the lives of Nora Kirsch and C.B. Lore, Mom and I visited Rushville in the late 1980s or 1990.

Mom and I found find the Graham School that the Lore girls would have attended, which was located a couple of blocks from their house, which was on Main Street according to the census.  The school was abandoned in the 1990s, but when the girls would have gone to school, it would have been a bustling place full of youthful voices.

Rushville school

I can see the Lore daughters walking up this sidewalk, perhaps holding hands and swinging them back and forth on a lovely, warm spring day.

Rushville school crop

This is the First Presbyterian Church in Rushville where Nora and C.B. were members.  This would also have been the church wee C.B.’s funeral took place on the Sunday afternoon after Thanksgiving in 1909, as well as daughter Curtis’s funeral in 1912.

First Presbuterian Rushville

This is embarrassing, but I can’t recall exactly what Mother and I discovered about the church. I obviously didn’t take adequate notes and deceived myself with “of course, I’ll remember this.”  Mom’s gone and I can’t ask her.  I can’t recall if they simply attended this church, if C.B. Lore helped to construct this church, or both.  Whatever the connection, Mom was very excited to find their church.  In Aurora they were Lutheran.  Here they were Presbyterian.  By the time their daughter Edith would move to Silver Lake, the family would become Methodist.  Mom would become Baptist.  Our German ancestors would be appalled.  I heard a minister once refer to the “church of opportunity” and this seems to be the case.  My family was flexible and bloomed in whatever accepting church was planted nearby!

Rushville church

I’m so glad I took some photos that included Mom. I cherish these trips we took together more than ever today.

Mom church Rushville

A final hint relative to C.B.’s social status is this excerpt from the Centennial History of Rush Co. (1921), and it gives us only one tidbit:

The Rushville Social Club, the leading organization of its sort in the city and recognized as one of the most substantial clubs in this section of Indiana, came into being at a meeting called for the evening of March 13, 1896 when a number of the leading men of Rushville got together to talk over the plan of organizing a club which would provide a home where friends could meet in a social manner and where the wives and families of members also might find entertainment. The project was favored and an organization at once effected.  Claude Cambern was elected first president of the Social Club and the other initial members were……Curt B. Lore.  (List of other individuals omitted.)

The Cemetery

Judging from the photos in Mother’s box, her visit with me was not the first time she visited Rushville. She apparently visited with her mother at least twice, once about 1940 and then again after Nora’s death in 1949.  She knew the location of the cemetery, but we had a difficult time finding the tombstones.

The photos below were taken by C.B. Lore’s headstone when Mom was probably 28 or 29.

Mom Rushville 1940s

The grave looks fairly new in this photo, and this is Nora’s burial, so I suspect that Mom’s visit was shortly after Nora’s September 1949 death, perhaps in the late fall of 1949 or the spring of 1950.

The Payne family crypt is located in front of the stones, so getting a good photo is difficult. However, it makes a great landmark when trying to find the stones.

Lore graves Rushville

Lore graves Rushville2

The 3 Lore family members in a row. Note no grass on Nora’s grave.

Rushville Payne memorial

The Lore headstones are to the left in the photo above taken in 1990.

Nora Kirsch Lore stone

When we visited in the 1990s, we found the three family stones together.  Given the short distance between the stones and the Payne building, I wondered how a coffin could fit there.  It wasn’t until I saw the photos from the 1940s that I realized they are buried behind the stones.

Nora stone with CB and Curtis

Curtis Lore stone

Daughter Curtis Lore, above and father Curtis Benjamin Lore, below.

CB Lore stone

C.B. Lore’s Spirit

It’s difficult to discern or understand from a distance why our ancestors might have done what they did, or their intentions. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, Curtis’s marriage with Mary may have unraveled and neither wanted to continue.  Maybe he stayed as long as he could or as long as either of them wanted.  Maybe Mary wanted out as much or more than he did.

The flip side of the coin would be that Curtis was a scoundrel, cheating on his wife, abandoning his family both physically and financially at the worst time possible – the month Mary had their 4th child which also marked their 10th anniversary.

I don’t know if either end of this spectrum is truth, or if the truth lies someplace in the middle.  Or perhaps C.B. made a mistake, or two, in judgment.  Who hasn’t.  Perhaps he learned from his mistakes.

My mother’s reaction to this was somehow very appropriate.  “There’s nothing to be done now.  It is what it is.  It was a long time ago.  We weren’t there and don’t know.  He wasn’t all bad.  Here, have some chocolate.”  What she didn’t say is that without him having made the choices he did, bad or good, neither she nor I would be here today.

One thing is for certain, C.B. Lore took the road less traveled and it brought him to Indiana where he married Nora Kirsch and had my grandmother.  None of his daughters through Nora had an unkind word to say about him.  He pretty much walked on water, as far as they were concerned.  A very different perception than the man I found in the records.  It took a lot to convince me that those two men were one and the same person, but they are.  I knew it and eventually, DNA proved it.

I do know that C.B.’s family life as a child was ripped apart with his father’s death, leaving the children to literally fend for themselves. Some died.  The family came to depend on the charity of others and by the age of 14, C.B. Lore was living on his own and working as a farm laborer.  From what Eloise said, he had been on his own since he was someplace between 10 and 12, which would place C.B.’s father’s death at between 1866-1868, within the bracket of 1862 when we know he was alive and 1868 when we know he was dead.  I could not help but notice that C.B. Lore did not name one of his 8 known children after his father.  Perhaps there is yet more to that story that shaped C.B. in ways we’ll never understand.  I ache for that poor boy child, all alone.

C.B. Lore made something of himself. Yes, he may have been a farm laborer when other boys his age were in school learning, a hard-scrabble oil field roughneck type of guy and perhaps a cad as far as his first family was concerned – but he worked his way up and took the opportunities that presented themselves.  He started with nothing and wound up a leader in his community.  He was an entrepreneur in his day, unafraid of what the future held.  The future couldn’t have been any more frightening than facing the world completely alone as a child.

C.B. was a bit of a gambler too, judging from his behavior and his love of race horses. Had he not contracted tuberculosis, that family could well have wound up being quite wealthy.  Judging from the fact that they had two servants in 1900, they seemed to be well on their way.  But fate is a mean mistress.  Curtis died when he was only 52 years old, or 48 years of age if you asked his wife.  He had a lot of life left to live – and he was deprived of seeing the daughters he loved so desperately grow up.  Karma perhaps?

It would have killed C.B. to know that the disease he had also took the life of his namesake daughter, Curtis, two years and three months after his death.  She contracted tuberculosis caring for her father.

I like to think that a bit of the good side of C.B. Lore’s irrepressible spirit came to me via my mother and grandmother. They too were status-quo-challenging rebels in their own way and time.

Edith Lore, C.B.’s daughter, my grandmother, left home, went to live at the Kirsch house and attended business school in Cincinnati. Finally, someone talked some sense into that girl and she settled down and got married, like women were supposed to do, a decision she was never at peace with and always regretted in many ways – not that she didn’t love my grandfather.  However, her business school training was the only thing that saved the family during the depression when my grandfather lost his business.  She had a job.  He didn’t and there were no jobs to be found.

Mother also did many things that women just didn’t do. For example, she moved to Chicago and was a professional ballet and tap dancer – coming out of an extremely conservative and religious region in Indiana with one Brethren parent.  She also committed the “sin of divorce” when she caught her husband cheating. Those were both outrageous scandals of magnanimous proportions.  Several years later, Mom bought a house as a single woman too – completely confounding the bank in 1960 with the audacity of her mortgage application and her refusal to obtain a co-signer.  She got the mortgage too, after a battle, and eventually paid it in full!

Much to my mother’s chagrin, I too followed suit in many ways. I mean, really, what else did she expect?  Being well-behaved for the sake of conformance does NOT run in our family.  It might be easier and more socially acceptable to be blindly compliant, but that just doesn’t happen.

In high school, when denied a seat in an advanced placement class, for those students on their way to college, because they “weren’t going to waste a seat on a girl who is just going to get married and have babies anyway,” I petitioned the school board, with absolutely no adult support – and yes, I did obtain that seat. I also graduated from college, with multiple degrees, in fields women didn’t enter at that time.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, believe me.  I don’t think you can ever stop being a rebel, when necessary.  It’s in the blood.  Dare I suggest the genes perhaps?  Maybe a combination of old Jacob Kirsch and C.B. Lore?

I like to think that all of this wasn’t just being “arnry,” difficult and unduly rebellious, but that C. B. Lore’s adventurous and resilient spirit was shining through, guiding our way, silently spurring us on to confront and change that what needed changing.  Perhaps we are his legacy.

Based on this photo of “well behaved women,” which are C.B. Lore’s wife and three surviving daughters, including my grandmother Edith, on the rear – Mother and I came by this honestly!

lore sisters motorcycle

Ethnicity Testing – A Conundrum

Ethnicity results from DNA testing.  Fascinating.  Intriguing.  Frustrating.  Exciting.  Fun. Challenging.  Mysterious.  Enlightening.  And sometimes wrong.  These descriptions all fit.  Welcome to your personal conundrum!  The riddle of you!  If you’d like to understand why your ethnicity results might not have been what you expected, read on!

Today, about 50% of the people taking autosomal DNA tests purchase them for the ethnicity results. Ironically, that’s the least reliable aspect of DNA testing – but apparently somebody’s ad campaigns have been very effective.  After all, humans are curious creatures and inquiring minds want to know.  Who am I anyway?

I think a lot of people who aren’t necessarily interested in genealogy per se are interested in discovering their ethnic mix – and maybe for some it will be a doorway to more traditional genealogy because it will fan the flame of curiosity.

Given the increase in testing for ethnicity alone, I’m seeing a huge increase in people who are both confused by and disappointed in their results. And of course, there are a few who are thrilled, trading their lederhosen for a kilt because of their new discovery.  To put it gently, they might be a little premature in their celebration.

A lot of whether you’re happy or unhappy has to do with why you tested, your experience level and your expectations.

So, for all of you who could write an e-mail similar to this one that I received – this article is for you:

“I received my ethnicity results and I’m surprised and confused. I’m half German yet my ethnicity shows I’m from the British Isles and Scandinavia.  Then I tested my parents and their results don’t even resemble mine, nor are they accurate.  I should be roughly half of what they are, and based on the ethnicity report, it looks like I’m totally unrelated.  I realize my ethnicity is not just a matter of dividing my parents results by half, but we’re not even in the same countries.  How can I be from where they aren’t? How can I have significantly more, almost double, the Scandinavian DNA that they do combined?  And yes, I match them autosomally as a child so there is no question of paternity.”

Do not, and I repeat, DO NOT, trade in your lederhosen for a kilt just yet.

lederhosen kilt

Lederhosen – By The original uploader was Aquajazz at German Wikipedia – Transferred from de.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY-SA 2.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2746036 Kilt – By Jongleur100 – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7917180

This technology is not really ripe yet for that level of confidence except perhaps at the continent level and for people with Jewish heritage.

  1. In determining majority ethnicity at the continent level, these tests are quite accurate, but then you can determine the same thing by looking in the mirror.  I’m primarily of European heritage.  I can see that easily and don’t need a DNA test for that information.
  2. When comparing between continental ethnicity, meaning sorting African from European from Asian from Native American, these tests are relatively accurate, meaning there is sometimes a little bit of overlap, but not much.  I’m between 4 and 5% Native American and African – which I can’t see in the mirror – but some of these tests can.
  3. When dealing with intra-continent ethnicity – meaning Europe in particular, comparing one country or region to another, these tests are not reliable and in some cases, appear to be outright wrong. The exception here is Ashkenazi Jewish results which are generally quite accurate, especially at higher levels.

There are times when you seem to have too much of a particular ethnicity, and times when you seem to have too little.

Aside from the obvious adoption, misattributed parent or the oral history simply being wrong, the next question is why.

Ok, Why?

So glad you asked!

Part of why has to do with actual population mixing. Think about the history of Europe.  In fact, let’s just look at Germany.  Wiki provides a nice summary timeline.  Take a look, because you’ll see that the overarching theme is warfare and instability.  The borders changed, the rulers changed, invasions happened, and most importantly, the population changed.

Let’s just look at one event. The Thirty Years War (1618-1648) devastated the population, wiped out large portions of the countryside entirely, to the point that after its conclusion, parts of Germany were entirely depopulated for years.  The rulers invited people from other parts of Europe to come, settle and farm.  And they did just that.  Hear those words, other parts of Europe.

My ancestors found in the later 1600s along the Rhine near Speyer and Mannheim were some of those settlers, from Switzerland. Where were they from before Switzerland, before records?  We don’t know and we wouldn’t even know that much were it not for the early church records.

So, who are the Germans?

Who or where is the reference population that you would use to represent Germans?

If you match against a “German” population today, what does that mean, exactly? Who are you really matching?

Now think about who settled the British Isles.

Where did those people come from and who were they?

Well, the Anglo-Saxon people were comprised of Germanic tribes, the Angles and the Saxons.  Is it any wonder that if your heritage is German you’re going to be matching some people from the British Isles and vice versa?

Anglo-Saxons weren’t the only people who settled in the British Isles. There were Vikings from Scandinavia and the Normans from France who were themselves “Norsemen” aka from the same stock as the Vikings.

See the swirl and the admixture? Is there any wonder that European intracontinental admixture is so confusing and perplexing today?

Reference Populations

The second challenge is obtaining valid and adequate reference populations.

Each company that offers ethnicity tests assembles a group of reference populations against which they compare your results to put you into a bucket or buckets.

Except, it’s not quite that easy.

When comparing highly disparate populations, meaning those whose common ancestor was tens of thousands of years ago, you can find significant differences in their DNA. Think the four major continental areas here – Africa, Europe, Asia, the Americas.

Major, unquestionable differences are much easier to discern and interpret.

However, within population groups, think Europe here, it is much more difficult.

To begin with, we don’t have much (if any) ancient DNA to compare to. So we don’t know what the Germanic, French, Norwegian, Scottish or Italian populations looked like in, let’s say, the year 1000.

We don’t know what they looked like in the year 500, or 2000BC either and based on what we do know about warfare and the movement of people within Europe, those populations in the same location could genetically look entirely different at different points in history. Think before and after The 30 Years War.

population admixture

By User:MapMaster – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1234669

As an example, consider the population of Hungary and the Slavic portion of Germany before and after the Mongol invasion of Europe in the 13th century and Hun invasions that occurred between the 1st and 5th centuries.  The invaders DNA didn’t go away, it became part of the local population and we find it in descendants today.  But how do we know it’s Hunnic and not “German,” whatever German used to be, or Hungarian, or Norse?

That’s what we do know.

Now, think about how much we don’t know. There is no reason to believe the admixture and intermixing of populations on any other continent that was inhabited was any different.  People will be people.  They have wars, they migrate, they fight with each other and they produce offspring.

We are one big mixing bowl.

Software

A third challenge faced in determining ethnicity is how to calculate and interpret matching.

Population based matching is what is known as “best fit.”  This means that with few exceptions, such as some D9S919 values (Native American), the Duffy Null Allele (African) and Neanderthal not being found in African populations, all of the DNA sequences used for ethnicity matching are found in almost all populations worldwide, just at differing frequencies.

So assigning a specific “ethnicity” to you is a matter of finding the best fit – in other words which population you match at the highest frequency for the combined segments being measured.

Let’s say that the company you’re using has 50 people from each “grouping” that they are using for buckets.

A bucket is something you’ll be assigned to. Buckets sometimes resemble modern-day countries, but most often the testing companies try to be less boundary aligned and more population group aligned – like British Isles, or Eastern European, for example.

Ethnic regions

How does one decide which “country” goes where? That’s up to the company involved.  As a consumer, you need to read what the company publishes about their reference populations and their bucket assignment methodology.

ethnic country

For example, one company groups the Czech Republic and Poland in with Western Europe and another groups them primarily with Eastern Europe but partly in Western Europe and a third puts Poland in Eastern Europe and doesn’t say where they group The Czech Republic. None of these are inherently right are wrong – just understand that they are different and you’re not necessarily comparing apples to apples.

Two Strands of DNA

In the past, we’ve discussed the fact that you have two strands of DNA and they don’t come with a Mom side, a Dad side, no zipper and no instructions that tell you which is Mom’s and which is Dad’s.  Not fair – but it’s what we have to work with.

When you match someone because your DNA is zigzagging back and forth between Mom’s and Dad’s DNA sides, that’s called identical by chance.

It’s certainly possible that the same thing can happen in population genetics – where two strands when combined “look like” and match to a population reference sample, by chance.

pop ref 3

In the example above, you can see that you received all As from Mom and all Cs from Dad, and the reference population matches the As and Cs by zigzagging back and forth between your parents.  In this case, your DNA would match that particular reference population, but your parents would not.  The matching is technically accurate, it’s just that the results aren’t relevant because you match by chance and not because you have an ancestor from that reference population.

Finding The Right Bucket

Our DNA, as humans, is more than 99.% the same.  The differences are where mutations have occurred that allow population groups and individuals to look different from one another and other minor differences.  Understanding the degree of similarity makes the concept of “race” a bit outdated.

For genetic genealogy, it’s those differences we seek, both on a population level for ethnicity testing and on a personal level for identifying our ancestors based on who else our autosomal DNA matches who also has those same ancestors.

Let’s look at those differences that have occurred within population groups.

Let’s say that one particular sequence of your DNA is found in the following “bucket” groups in the following percentages:

  • Germany – 50%
  • British Isles – 25%
  • Scandinavian – 10%

What do you do with that? It’s the same DNA segment found in all of the populations.  As a company, do you assume German because it’s where the largest reference population is found?

And who are the Germans anyway?

Does all German DNA look alike? We already know the answer to that.

Are multiple ancestors contributing German ancestry from long ago, or are they German today or just a generation or two back in time?

And do you put this person in just the German bucket, or in the other buckets too, just at lower frequencies.  After all, buckets are cumulative in terms of figuring out your ethnicity.

If there isn’t a reference population, then the software of course can’t match to that population and moves to find the “next best fit.”  Keep in mind too that some of these reference populations are very small and may not represent the range of genetic diversity found within the entire region they represent.

If your ancestors are Hungarian today, they may find themselves in a bucket entirely unrelated to Hungary if a Hungarian reference population isn’t available AND/OR if a reference population is available but it’s not relevant to your ancestry from your part of Hungary.

If you’d like a contemporary example to equate to this, just think of a major American city today and the ethnic neighborhoods. In Detroit, if someone went to the ethnic Polish neighborhood and took 50 samples, would that be reflective of all of Detroit?  How about the Italian neighborhood?  The German neighborhood?  You get the drift.  None of those are reflective of Detroit, or of Michigan or even of the US.  And if you don’t KNOW that you have a biased sample, the only “matches” you’ll receive are Polish matches and you’ll have no way to understand the results in context.

Furthermore, that ethnic neighborhood 50 or 100 years earlier or later in time might not be comprised of that ethnic group at all.

Based on this example, you might be trading in your lederhosen for a pierogi or a Paczki, which are both wonderful, but entirely irrelevant to you.

paczki

Real Life Examples

Probably the best example I can think of to illustrate this phenomenon is that at least a portion of the Germanic population and the Native American population both originated in a common population in central northern Asia.  That Asiatic population migrated both to Europe to the west and eventually, to the Americas via an eastern route through Beringia.  Today, as a result of that common population foundation, some Germanic people show trace amounts of “Native American” DNA.  Is it actually from a Native American?  Clearly not, based on the fact that these people nor their ancestors have ever set foot in the Americas nor are they coastal.  However, the common genetic “signature” remains today and is occasionally detected in Germanic and eastern European people.

If you’re saying, “no, not possible,” remember for a minute that everyone in Europe carries some Neanderthal DNA from a population believed to be “extinct” now for between 25,000 and 40,000 years, depending on whose estimates you use and how you measure “extinct.”  Neanderthal aren’t extinct, they have evolved into us.  They assimilated, whether by choice or force is unknown, but the fact remains that they did because they are a forever part of Europeans, most Asians and yes, Native Americans today.

Back to You

So how can you judge the relevance or accuracy of this information aside from looking in the mirror?

Because I have been a genealogist for decades now, I have an extensive pedigree chart that I can use to judge the ethnicity predictions relatively accurately. I created an “expected” set of percentages here and then compared them to my real results from the testing companies.  This paper details the process I used.  You can easily do the same thing.

Part of how happy or unhappy you will be is based on your goals and expectations for ethnicity testing. If you want a definitive black and white, 100% accurate answer, you’re probably going to be unhappy, or you’ll be happy only because you don’t know enough about the topic to know you should be unhappy.  If you test with only one company, accept their results as gospel and go merrily on your way, you’ll never know that had you tested elsewhere, you’d probably have received a somewhat different answer.

If you’re scratching your head, wondering which one is right, join the party.  Perhaps, except for obvious outliers, they are all right.

If you know your pedigree pretty well and you’re testing for general interest, then you’ll be fine because you have a measuring stick against which to evaluate the results.

I found it fun to test with all 4 vendors, meaning Family Tree DNA, 23andMe and Ancestry along with the Genographic project and compare their results.

In my case, I was specifically interesting in ascertaining minority admixture and determining which line or lines it descended from. This means both Native American and African.

You can do this too and then download your results to www.gedmatch.com and utilize their admixture utilities.

GedMatch admix menu

At GedMatch, there are several versions of various contributed admixture/ethnicity tools for you to use. The authors of these tools have in essence done the same thing the testing companies have done – compiled reference populations of their choosing and compare your results in a specific manner as determined by the software written by that author.  They all vary.  They are free.  Your mileage can and will vary too!

By comparing the results, you can clearly see the effects of including or omitting specific populations. You’ll come away wondering how they could all be measuring the same you, but it’s an incredibly eye-opening experience.

The Exceptions and Minority Ancestry

You know, there is always an exception to every rule and this is no exception to the exception rule. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

By and large, the majority continental ancestry will be the most accurate, but it’s the minority ancestry many testers are seeking.  That which we cannot see in the mirror and may be obscured in written records as well, if any records existed at all.

Let me say very clearly that when you are looking for minority ancestry, the lack of that ancestry appearing in these tests does NOT prove that it doesn’t exist. You can’t prove a negative.  It may mean that it’s just too far back in time to show, or that the DNA in that bucket has “washed out” of your line, or that we just don’t recognize enough of that kind of DNA today because we need a larger reference population.  These tests will improve with time and all 3 major vendors update the results of those who tested with them when they have new releases of their ethnicity software.

Think about it – who is 100% Native American today that we can use as a reference population?  Are Native people from North and South American the same genetically?  And let’s not forget the tribes in the US do not view DNA testing favorably.  To say we have challenges understanding the genetic makeup and migrations of the Native population is an understatement – yet those are the answers so many people seek.

Aside from obtaining more reference samples, what are the challenges?

There are two factors at play.

Recombination – the “Washing Out” Factor

First, your DNA is divided in half with every generation, meaning that you will, on the average, inherit roughly half of the DNA of your ancestors.  Now in reality, half is an average and it doesn’t always work that way.  You may inherit an entire segment of an ancestor’s DNA, or none at all, instead of half.

I’ve graphed the “washing out factor” below and you can see that within a few generations, if you have only one Native or African ancestor, their DNA is found in such small percentages, assuming a 50% inheritance or recombination rate, that it won’t be found above 1% which is the threshold used by most testing companies.

Wash out factor 2

Therefore, the ethnicity of any ancestor born 7 generations ago, or before about 1780 may not be detectable.  This is why the testing companies say these tests are effective to about the rough threshold of 5 or 6 generations.  In reality, there is no line in the sand.  If you have received more than 50% of that ancestor’s DNA, or a particularly large segment, it may be detectable at further distances.  If you received less, it may be undetectable at closer distances.  It’s the roll of the DNA dice in every generation between them and you.  This is also why it’s important to test parents and other family members – they may well have received DNA that you didn’t that helps to illuminate your ancestry.

Recombination – Population Admixture – the “Keeping In” Factor

The second factor at play here is population admixture which works exactly the opposite of the “washing out” factor. It’s the “keeping in” factor.  While recombination, the “washing out” factor, removes DNA in every generation, the population admixture “keeping in” factor makes sure that ancestral DNA stays in the mix. So yes, those two natural factors are kind of working at cross purposes and you can rest assured that both are at play in your DNA at some level.  Kind of a mean trick of nature isn’t it!

The population admixture factor, known as IBP, or identical by population, happens when identical DNA is found in an entire or a large population segment – which is exactly what ethnicity software is looking for – but the problem is that when you’re measuring the expected amount of DNA in your pedigree chart, you have no idea how to allow for endogamy and population based admixture from the past.

Endogamy IBP

This example shows that both Mom and Dad have the exact same DNA, because at these locations, that’s what this endogamous population carries.  Therefore the child carries this DNA too, because there isn’t any other DNA to inherit.  The ethnicity software looks for this matching string and equates it to this particular population.

Like Neanderthal DNA, population based admixture doesn’t really divide or wash out, because it’s found in the majority of that particular population and as long as that population is marrying within itself, those segments are preserved forever and just get passed around and around – because it’s the same DNA segment and most of the population carries it.

This is why Ashkenazi Jewish people have so many autosomal matches – they all descend from a common founding population and did not marry outside of the Jewish community.  This is also why a few contemporary living people with Native American heritage match the ancient Anzick Child at levels we would expect to see in genealogically related people within a few generations.

Small amounts of admixture, especially unexpected admixture, should be taken with a grain of salt. It could be noise or in the case of someone with both Native American and Germanic or Eastern European heritage, “Native American” could actually be Germanic in terms of who you inherited that segment from.

Have unexpected small percentages of Middle Eastern ethnic results?  Remember, the Mesolithic and Neolithic farmer expansion arrived in Europe from the Middle East some 7,000 – 12,000 years ago.  If Europeans and Asians can carry Neanderthal DNA from 25,000-45,000 years ago, there is no reason why you couldn’t match a Middle Eastern population in small amounts from 3,000, 7,000 or 12,000 years ago for the same historic reasons.

The Middle East is the supreme continental mixing bowl as well, the only location worldwide where historically we see Asian, European and African DNA intermixed in the same location.

Best stated, we just don’t know why you might carry small amounts of unexplained regional ethnic DNA.  There are several possibilities that include an inadequate population reference base, an inadequate understanding of population migration, quirks in matching software, identical segments by chance, noise, or real ancient or more modern DNA from a population group of your ancestors.

Using Minority Admixture to Your Advantage

Having said that, in my case and in the cases of others who have been willing to do the work, you can sometimes track specific admixture to specific ancestors using a combination of ethnicity testing and triangulation.

You cannot do this at Ancestry because they don’t give you ANY segment information.

Family Tree DNA and 23andMe both provide you with segment information, but not for ethnicity ranges without utilizing additional tools.

The easiest approach, by far, is to download your autosomal results to GedMatch and utilize their tools to determine the segment ranges of your minority admixture segments, then utilize that information to see which of your matches on that segment also have the same minority admixture on that same chromosome segment.

I wrote a several-part series detailing how I did this, called The Autosomal Me.

Let me sum the process up thus. I expected my largest Native segments to be on my father’s side.  They weren’t.  In fact, they were from my mother’s Acadian lines, probably because endogamy maintained (“kept in”) those Native segments in that population group for generations.  Thank you endogamy, aka, IBP, identical by population.

I made this discovery by discerning that my specifically identified Native segments matched my mother’s segments, also identified as Native, in exactly the same location, so I had obviously received those Native segments from her. Continuing to compare those segments and looking at GedMatch to see which of our cousins also had a match (to us) in that region pointed me to which ancestral line the Native segment had descended from.  Mitochondrial and Y DNA testing of those Acadian lines confirmed the Native ancestors.

That’s A Lot of Work!!!

Yes, it was, but well, well worth it.

This would be a good time to mention that I couldn’t have proven those connections without the cooperation of several cousins who agreed to test along with cousins I found because they tested, combined with the Mothers of Acadia and the AmerIndian Ancestry out of Acadia projects hosted by Family Tree DNA and the tools at GedMatch.  I am forever grateful to all those people because without the sharing and cooperation that occurs, we couldn’t do genetic genealogy at all.

If you want to be amused and perhaps trade your lederhosen for a kilt, then you can just take ethnicity results at face value.  If you’re reading this article, I’m guessing you’re already questioning “face value” or have noticed “discrepancies.”

Ethnicity results do make good cocktail party conversation, especially if you’re wearing either lederhosen or a kilt.  I’m thinking you could even wear lederhosen under your kilt……

If you want to be a bit more of an educated consumer, you can compare your known genealogy to ethnicity results to judge for yourself how close to reality they might be. However, you can never really know the effects of early population movements – except you can pretty well say that if you have 25% Scandinavian – you had better have a Scandinavian grandparent.  3% Scandinavian is another matter entirely.

If you’re saying to yourself, “this is part interpretive art and part science,” you’d be right.

If you want to take a really deep dive, and you carry significantly mixed ethnicity, such that it’s quite distinct from your other ancestry – meaning the four continents once again, you can work a little harder to track your ethnic segments back in time. So, if you have a European grandparent, an Asian grandparent, an African grandparent and a Native American grandparent – not only do you have an amazing and rich genealogy – you are the most lucky genetic genealogist I know, because you’ll pretty well know if your ethnicity results are accurate and your matches will easily fall into the correct family lines!

For some of us, utilizing the results of ethnicity testing for minority admixture combined with other tools is the only prayer we will ever have of finding our non-European ancestors.  If you fall into this group, that is an extremely powerful and compelling statement and represents the holy grail of both genealogy and genetic genealogy.

Let’s Talk About Scandinavia

We’ve talked about minority admixture and cases when we have too little DNA or unexpected small segments of DNA, but sometimes we have what appears to be too much.  Often, that happens in Scandinavia, although far more often with one company than the other two.  However, in my case, we have the perfect example of an unsolvable mystery introduced by ethnicity testing and of course, it involves Scandinavia.

23andMe, Ancestry and Family Tree DNA show me at 8%, 10% and 12% Scandinavian, respectively, which is simply mystifying. That’s a lot to be “just noise.”  That amount is in the great-grandparent or third generation range at 12.5%, but I don’t have anyone that qualifies, anyplace in my pedigree chart, as far back as I can go.  I have all of my ancestors identified and three-quarters (yellow) confirmed via DNA through the 6th generation, shown below.

The unconfirmed groups (uncolored) are genealogically confirmed via church and other records, just not genetically confirmed.  They are Dutch and German, respectively, and people in those countries have not embraced genetic genealogy to the degree Americans have.

Genetically confirmed means that through triangulation, I know that I match other descendants of these ancestors on common segments.  In other words, on the yellow ancestors, here is no possibility of misattributed parentage or an adoption in that line between me and that ancestor.

Six gen both

Barbara Mehlheimer, my mitochondrial line, does have Scandinavian mitochondrial DNA matches, but even if she were 100% Scandinavian, which she isn’t because I have her birth record in Germany, that would only account for approximately 3.12% of my DNA, not 8-12%.

In order for me to carry 8-12% Scandinavian legitimately from an ancestral line, four of these ancestors would need to be 100% Scandinavian to contribute 12.5% to me today assuming a 50% recombination rate, and my mother’s percentage of Scandinavian should be about twice mine, or 24%.

My mother is only in one of the testing company data bases, because she passed away before autosomal DNA testing was widely available.  I was fortunate that her DNA had been archived at Family Tree DNA and was available for a Family Finder upgrade.

Mom’s Scandinavian results are 7%, or 8% if you add in Finland and Northern Siberia.  Clearly not twice mine, in fact, it’s less. If I received half of hers, that would be roughly 4%, leaving 8% of mine unaccounted for.  If I didn’t receive all of my “Scandinavian” from her, then the balance would have had to come from my father whose Estes side of the tree is Appalachian/Colonial American.  Even less likely that he would have carried 16% Scandinavian, assuming again, that I inherited half.  Even if I inherited all 8% of Mom’s, that still leaves me 4% short and means my father would have had approximately 8%, which is still between the great and great-great-grandfather level.  By that time, his ancestors had been in America for generations and none were Scandinavian.  Clearly, something else is going on.  Is there a Scandinavian line in the woodpile someplace?  If so, which lines are the likely candidates?

In mother’s Ferverda/Camstra/deJong/Houtsma line, which is not DNA confirmed, we have several additional generations of records procured by a professional genealogist in the Netherlands from Leeuwarden, so we know where these ancestors originated and lived for generations, and it wasn’t Scandinavia.

The Kirsch/Lemmert line also reaches back in church records several generations in Mutterstadt and Fussgoenheim, Germany.  The Drechsel line reaches back several generations in Wirbenz, Germany and the Mehlheimer line reaches back one more generation in Speichersdorf before ending in an unmarried mother giving birth and not listing the father.  Aha, you say…there he is…that rogue Scandinavian.  And yes, it could be, but in that generation, he would account for only 1.56% of my DNA, not 8-12%.

So, what can we conclude about this conundrum.

  • The Scandinavian results are NOT a function of specific Scandinavian genealogical ancestors – meaning ones in the tree who would individually contribute that level of Scandinavian heritage.  There is no Scandinavian great-grandpa or Scandinavian heritage at all, in any line, tracking back more than 6 generations.  The first “available” spot with an unknown ancestor for a Scandinavian is in the 7th generation where they would contribute 1.56% of my DNA and 3.12% of mothers.
  • The Scandinavian results could be a function of a huge amount of population intermixing in several lines, but 8-12% is an awfully high number to attribute to unknown population admixture from many generations ago.
  • The Scandinavian results could be a function of a problematic reference population being utilized by multiple companies.
  • The Scandinavian results could be identical by chance matching, possibly in addition to population admixture in ancient lines.
  • The Scandinavian results could be a function of something we don’t yet understand.
  • The Scandinavian results could be a combination of several of the above.

It’s a mystery.  It may be unraveled as the tools improve and as an industry, additional population reference samples become available or better understood.  Or, it may never be unraveled.  But one thing is for sure, it is very, very interesting!  However, I’m not trading lederhosen for anything based on this.

The Companies

I wrote a comparison of the testing companies when they introduced their second generation tools.  Not a lot has changed.  Hopefully we will see a third software generation soon.

I do recommend selecting between the main three testing companies plus National Geographic’s Genographic 2.0 products if you’re going to test for ethnicity.  Stay safe.  There are less than ethical people and companies out there looking to take advantage of people’s curiosity to learn about their heritage.

Today, 23andMe is double the price of either Family Tree DNA or Ancestry and they are having other issues as well.  However, they do sometimes pick up the smallest amounts of minority admixture.

Ancestry continues to have “a Scandinavian problem” where many/most of their clients have a significant amount (some as high as the 30% range) of Scandinavian ancestry assigned to them that is not reflected by other testing companies or tools, or the tester’s known heritage – and is apparently incorrect.

However, Ancestry did pick up my minority Ancestry of both Native and African. How much credibility should I give that in light of the known Scandinavian issue?  In other words, if they can’t get 30% right, how could they ever get 4 or 5% right?

Remember what I said about companies doing pretty well on a comparative continental basis but sorting through ethnicity within a continent being much more difficult. This is the perfect example.  Ancestry also is not alone in reporting small amounts of my minority admixture.  The other companies do as well, although their amounts and descriptions don’t match each other exactly.

However, I can download any or all three of these raw data files to GedMatch and utilize their various ethnicity, triangulation and chromosome by chromosome comparison utilities. Both Family Tree DNA and Ancestry test more SNP locations than does 23andMe, and cost half as much, if you’re planning to test in order to upload your raw data file to GedMatch.

If you are considering ordering from either 23andMe or Ancestry, be sure you understand their privacy policy before ordering.

In Summary

I hate to steal Judy Russell’s line, but she’s right – it’s not soup yet if ethnicity testing is the only tool you’re going to use and if you’re expecting answers, not estimates.  View today’s ethnicity results from any of the major testing companies as interesting, because that’s what they are, unless you have a very specific research agenda, know what you are doing and plan to take a deeper dive.

I’m not discouraging anyone from ethnicity testing. I think it’s fun and for me, it was extremely informative.  But at the same time, it’s important to set expectations accurately to avoid disappointment, anxiety, misinformation or over-reliance on the results.

You can’t just discount these results because you don’t like them, and neither can you simply accept them.

If you think your grandfather was 100% Native America and you have no Native American heritage on the ethnicity test, the problem is likely not the test or the reference populations.  You should have 25% and carry zero.  The problem is likely that the oral history is incorrect.  There is virtually no one, and certainly not in the Eastern tribes, who was not admixed by two generations ago.  It’s also possible that he is not your grandfather.  View ethnicity results as a call to action to set forth and verify or refute their accuracy, especially if they vary dramatically from what you expected.  If it’s the truth you seek, this is your personal doorway to Delphi.

Just don’t trade in your lederhosen, or anything else just yet based on ethnicity results alone, because this technology it still in it’s infancy, especially within Europe.  I mean, after all, it’s embarrassing to have to go and try to retrieve your lederhosen from the pawn shop.  They’re going to laugh at you.

I find it ironic that Y DNA and mtDNA, much less popular, can be very, very specific and yield definitive answers about individual ancestors, reaching far beyond the 5th or 6th generation – yet the broad brush ethnicity painting which is much less reliable is much more popular.  This is due, in part, I’m sure, to the fact that everyone can take the ethnicity tests, which represent all lines.  You aren’t limited to testing one or two of your own lines and you don’t need to understand anything about genetic genealogy or how it works.  All you have to do is spit or swab and wait for results.

You can take a look at how Y and mtDNA testing versus autosomal tests work here.  Maybe Y or mitochondrial should be next on your list, as they reach much further back in time on specific lines, and you can use these results to create a DNA pedigree chart that tells you very specifically about the ancestry of those particular lines.

Ethnicity testing is like any other tool – it’s just one of many available to you.  You’ll need to gather different kinds of DNA and other evidence from various sources and assemble the pieces of your ancestral story like a big puzzle.  Ethnicity testing isn’t the end, it’s the beginning.  There is so much more!

My real hope is that ethnicity testing will kindle the fires and that some of the folks that enter the genetic genealogy space via ethnicity testing will be become both curious and encouraged and will continue to pursue other aspects of genealogy and genetic genealogy.  Maybe they will ask the question of “who” in their tree wore kilts or lederhosen and catch the genealogy bug.  Maybe they will find out more about grandpa’s Native American heritage, or lack thereof.  Maybe they will meet a match that has more information than they do and who will help them.  After all, ALL of genetic genealogy is founded upon sharing – matches, trees and information.  The more the merrier!

So, if you tested for ethnicity and would like to learn more, come on in, the water’s fine and we welcome both lederhosen and kilts, whatever you’re wearing today!  Jump right in!!!

Barbara Drechsel (1848-1930), The Kirsch House, Turtle Soup and Lace, 52 Ancestors #110

Barbara Drechsel’s story begins with a mystery. Who is this beautiful young woman?  Is it Barbara?

Let this be a lesson – write on the back of every photograph you own, preferably in pencil – but do it one way or the other. Crayon would be better than nothing.  Oh, and then don’t stack the pictures together either so the writing on the back of one leaches or rubs off on to the one below it.  It just kills me seeing unidentified photos that I know are someone’s ancestors, someone’s family members – and especially when they are mine!

mystery photo probably Nora

This unidentified female in the Kirsch family documents was originally believed to be Barbara Drechsel as a teen, based on comparisons to other photos that are identified as Barbara, like the ones below. Of course, we don’t know what Barbara’s sisters looked like.  However, there was a fly in this ointment.  Barbara Drechsel was born in 1848, so she would have been a teen in the 1860s, smack dab in the middle of the Civil War and before the camera was really in use.

Given that information, this is more likely to be a photograph that was taken about the same time as the known ones of Barbara Drechsel, below, and is likely one of Barbara’s daughters. Her oldest daughter, Nora, would have been about 14 or 15 at this time, and this person looks to be about that age and resembles Nora, so perhaps we have a photo of Nora here.  Nora’s next younger sister was born in 1871, so would only have been about 10, and this young lady looks to be older than 10.

I know Barbara is my relative, so I might be a tiche biased, but I think she is a beautiful woman. I wonder if her hair was naturally curly or if this was artificial for the photos.  Photography at that time was very much a “dress up” affair.

Barbara Drechsel

This photo was unlabeled, but based on the photo below where the clothes are the same, it is Barbara Drechsel Kirsch.

Barbara Drechsel 2

This photo is labeled Barbara Drechsel Kirsch. I found this necklace, now broken, in Mom’s jewelry box after she passed away.  The photo frame says Brownell’s formerly Kelly’s Photo Gallery No. 196 W. 5th St, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Research on Fold3.com in the Cincinnati City Directory tells me that Kelly, a photographer, did business at that location from 1876-1880 and Brownell, another photographer, took over at that location in 1881, so this was probably from the 1881-1882 timeframe. Brownell would not have had the “formerly Kelly’s” tag for long especially since Kelly was only in business since 1876.  So, this photo of Barbara was from when she was about 33 or 34 years old.

Let’s Meet Barbara

Barbara Drechsel was born on October 8, 1848 in Goppmansbuhl, Germany to George Drechsel and Barbara Mehlheimer. She was the oldest of their 6 children, two of whom would be born in Germany before they immigrated to the US.

wirbenz church

Barbara was baptized in the protestant church in Wirbenz, above, the closest village, on October 22, 1851. She was also christened in June 1857, according to the Aurora church records. Her godmother in Germany was Barbara Krauss of Windischenlaiback, likely a relative and possibly a sister, aunt or other relative to one of her parents, probably her mother, since Barbara’s mother was, well, ahem, not married to Barbara’s father.  However, it was not because her parents were uncommitted to each other.  In fact, that couldn’t have been further from the truth.

The records pertaining to Barbara and her parents were exceedingly difficult to obtain. Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I was fortunate enough to find a retired Reverend in that area who was interested and willing to drive from little village to little village and look through the old church books.  Because he was a Reverend, the churches would allow him access not otherwise granted, and he knew what to look for and transcribe.  Plus, he still read Latin, because the German of that time was interspersed with Latin and written in German script. If I recall correctly, Reverend Grieninger was in his 80s or 90s at that time, but his many years of working with the churches gave him a wonderful perspective of what life was like in Germany especially pertaining to records during the time that Barbara’s parents would have been living there, and leaving there.  He was also a very kind man and very non-judgmental.

George Drechsel’s emigration papers say they left from Bremen, his age was 29, and they arrived in Baltimore July 24, 1852 on the ship, “The Harvest.” Barbara wasn’t quite four years old.  She probably had no memory of the trip or of Germany.  Her earliest memories would have been of Aurora, Indiana.

We don’t know how the family traveled from Baltimore to Aurora, nor why they selected Aurora, but they did. They arrived sometime before the end of 1852, because George Drechsel applied for citizenship January 7, 1853 in Dearborn County, Indiana.  His citizenship application would have covered his wife and two children as well.  Barbara’s parents, George Drechsel and Barbara Mehlheimer were married three days later, a right we take for granted here, but a luxury they were not allowed in Germany.

Sometime after their arrival the name was changed to Drexler, which was probably the English phonetic pronunciation. It is also misspelled in other ways such as Drechsler and Drexel making it very difficult to find family members in records.

The Family Home

When Mom and I visited in the early 1990s, we found what we believed was the location where the Drechsel family lived according to the deeds we found and an 1875 map.

We discovered that Georg Drechsel had several entries in the Grantee and Grantor Deed Indexes 1826-1982.

Drechsel, Georg – (from) Riedel, Christian book 11 page 597, Nov. 1, 1856, Aurora lot 254. Note that Christian Riedel is the same person who witnessed for Georg’s naturalization.  I was hopeful of finding Christian in the census, but had no such luck.

George Drecksel to Louise Giegoldt Book 47 page 411, March 12, 1891, lot 254 the north half.

George Drecksel to Barbara Kirsch, book 66 page 19, lot 254 the East half lot 254, Dec. 15, 1905.

Except, there was a fly in the ointment. The 1875 map I was using was a black and white copy of an original.  I thought I could read it, then and now, but fate played a really cruel trick on me.

Mom and I went and found these properties in 1990. They have been “mine” ever since, until tonight when Jenny Awad from the Dearborn County Historical Society sent me a color scan of the original map.  I looked at it, realized it wasn’t the original map, but a better one with additional landmarks noted, and immediately thought, “wow, how clear.”

Then, I looked at the lot numbers and thought something looked odd.  Yep, you’ve probably guessed it by now.  Mom and I had the wrong lot number.  For 25 years now, I’ve been coveting the WRONG property.  But it does make the 1900 census confusion go away.  The reason George Drechsel lives on 4th Street in 1900 is because his lot IS on 4th Street and his house IS on 4th Street – and HAS BEEN on 4th Street ever since he bought it in 1856.  So all those lovely photos of the wrong houses….bye bye.

Oh, and yes, I get to go back and “fix” a couple of other articles too. Well, all I can say is better late than never, but am I ever, ever mad at myself.

So, here’s the really good “new” map where I can see the lot numbers clearly.

1875 Aurora Map color

The map above, from 1875, shows the Drechsel House on the Aurora map.

George Drechsel owned lot 254, on 4th Street between Bridge and Exporting.  It was a block away from the barrel factory where he probably worked.  He was a cooper.

If the original house still stands, it’s this house, at 510 4th street today.

510 4th Street Aurora

The Church

Drechsel St. John

The 1885 Dearborn Co. History for the City of Aurora says that George Drexler was a founder of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church. “The church was formed in 1856 by a small number of settlers who were convinced that it was a necessity, as well as their Christian duty, to assemble on the Lord’s Day for divine worship.”

In May 1878, after renting a church from the Baptists, they began to build their own church on Mechanic Street, pictured above.  According to the local history, the church members made a procession out of leaving their old church and “moving into” the new one.  I of course don’t know what the procession actually looked like, but I view it probably as somewhat of a pious and somber parade with maybe everyone carrying a Bible, a hymnal and a candle.

It was a short walk from the Drechsel home to the new church, located at present day 222 Mechanic Street. The Drechsel family likely walked this path every Sunday together.

Drechsel to church map

In 1992, Mom and I visited Aurora, including the church of course, and took photos.

Every now and again you take a photo that is far more profound than anticipated. I feel like Mom is reaching across the generations in this photo.

Mom church window

The stained glass windows appeared to be original, and mother though they were beautiful. We took several photos, including the one above that shows the reflection of mother pointing to the windows.  Now she too has gone to join her ancestors who lived and worshiped here, and we are left with only the reflections of their lives on earth.

Religion played an important part in the lives of the German immigrants. Most of the German families were Protestant, but a few were Catholic.  Churches delivered their sermons in German until the advent of the First World War.  Eloise, Barbara’s granddaughter, remembers hearing German spoken at the Kirsch House, but she recalls that the adult children of Jacob and Barbara Kirsch told them that they needed to speak English, not German, when WWI broke out, and they “never spoke German again.”  They were afraid that people in America would think they were not loyal.

The Jacob and Barbara Drechsel Kirsch family attended the church that Barbara’s parents helped to found, as did their children who were educated in St. John’s Lutheran School held in the church. Free schools did not exist in Aurora at that time, so everyone who educated their children paid tuition in some location for their children to attend school.  Mother and I perused the records when we visited and found several “interesting” records that conflicted with dates in the family Bible – mostly marriage dates or birth dates that appeared in the Bible to have been “arranged” so that births occurred more than 9 months after marriages.  So much for the family Bible being the most accurate source available.

Aurora St. John Church

The side of the Lutheran church in 1992 and the front entryway, below. Note this window says 1874 where the history book says this church was completed in 1878.  Maybe it was begun in 1874 and not finished until 1878.

Jacob Kirsch st John Aurora

Babbit

The 1860 census shows us that George Drexler, age 37 is a laborer in Aurora. He doesn’t have much of a personal estate, and it doesn’t show him owning property, although the deed records show differently.

Drechsel 1860 census Aurora

Perhaps the most interesting piece of information on this census is Barbara’s name, or nickname – Babbit. What a sweet name.

Married Life

Barbara Drechsel married Jacob Kirsch on May 27, 1866. He hadn’t been back from the Civil War long. I wonder if they courted before he left.  Did she write him letters while he was gone?  Their marriage probably wasn’t planned for long, because their first child arrived on Christmas Eve of that same year.  Many of these marriages that were originally a bit hurried lasted for a lifetime.  Theirs did.

By the time the census was taken in 1870, Barbara Drechsel and Jacob Kirsch had three children, Nora 3, Martin 2 and three month old Edward. Jacob is listed as being a cooper, probably working for the cooperage houses in Aurora – maybe the one behind the property that would one day become the Kirsch House.  They did not own a home, but they did live in Aurora.

Barbara and Jacob bought a house (or a lot and then built a house) in 1871, just down the road from the Drechsel home. They spent the first several years of married life in this location.  This life-event must have been a huge achievement for the young couple – to purchase and own their own home.  The land was described thus:  Dearborn County a certain lot or parcel of land known and designated as lot number six in David H. Walker’s sub-division of out lot number 49 in the City of Aurora, Dearborn Co., Indiana.

Jacob Kirsch Aurora map crop 3

That location is shown by the lowest red arrow, the Drechsel home at the middle red arrow, and the location of the Kirsch House which Jacob and Barbara would purchase in 1875 at the upper red arrow.

Jacob and Barbara didn’t live in Walker’s subdivision long, because by August of 1875, they bought the French House from James and Ellen French, renamed it the Kirsch House, of course, and moved on up the street to town, right beside the depot.

Thus would begin the legacy of the Kirsch House, an Aurora and family institution that stood as a landmark beside the train depot for the next 46 years, nearly half a century. Oh my, the stories those walls could tell if they could only talk!

The Kirsch House Legacy

In the 1880 census, Jacob is shown as a saloon keeper and having a boarding house. In fact, they have 3 boarders and Barbara’s sister, Mary Drexler, age 17, is living with them as a servant.

Barbara is “keeping house.”  Indeed, she is – and what an understatement.  Barbara has her husband, 6 children between the ages of 4 and 13, her sister who I’m sure is there to help, plus three boarders that live there – and that’s not counting overnight lodgers that come and go.  In addition, they maintain a pub and restaurant and you can rest assured it’s not Jacob who is cooking and washing dishes.

1880 census Aurora

Prior to Jacob and Barbara’s purchase in 1875, the establishment was called the French House. An ad in the 1876 business directory shows Jacob Kirsch as the proprietor, still gives the name as the French House and says, “The house is pleasantly situated near the railroad depot and will be found the most desirable place in the city of Aurora at which to stop.  Good wines, liquors and cigars.”

Kirsch House 2008

When I was able to tour the building in 2008, I recall that it seemed quite large.  There were several hotel type rooms in the annex area that reached towards the rear of the property, visible at left below.  I seem to recall that there were about 20.  The family sleeping area seemed to be on the second story above the front area, parallel with Second Street, as seen above.  All of the rooms on the second level were very small, as was the hallway and the only access to the upper level was the stairway in the parlor.

The public spaces, including the pub (accessed through the door at left, above), dining area (behind the pub) and parlor (accessed through the door at right, above) were located in the front part of the building on ground level, facing the street.  In the photo below, second street is to the right and Mom is standing in the parking lot of the depot.  The annex area where the boarders would have slept was in the extended area to the left.

Jacob Kirsch House side

This photo shows the property from the rear.  The private garden would have been the area that is growing in weeds today.  Mother said it was bricked in at the time and the well was located there.

Jacob Kirsch house rear

Surprisingly, even though the building spans 3 or 4 city lots, it is only about 2100 square feet.  That’s not a lot of space for the public spaces, the family area and the boarders areas.  I doubt the family had a lot of privacy and I suspect everyone shared a bathroom, such as it was at the time.

Not only was the Kirsch House a landmark establishment in Aurora, it was the hub of Kirsch family activity for nearly half a century. Memories of the Kirsch House, references to it and stories about it filled the 1900s and live into the 21st century, firmly planting the Kirsch House as an icon of the Kirsch family shortly after their immigration and representing the Kirsch family version of the realization of the American dream.  It seemed larger than life, especially to a child hearing all of those interesting stories from a time and mythical place “long ago.”

Mom and I found the original Kirsch House in 1992 when it was still being used as a restaurant. We were lucky enough to discover the bar that was there when Jacob and Barbara were proprietors still graced the front room of the building where the pub part of the building was located.

Jacob Kirsch bar

The Kirsch House was located beside the depot on Second Street. This allowed them the opportunity to provide service to any hungry or thirsty travelers departing or arriving on the train, and they were only a couple of blocks from the Ohio River where passengers arriving by steamer would disembark as well.  Because of the proximity to the train depot, the hobos would come to the back door of the Kirsch House and Barbara would feed them all.  The Kirsch’s were looked upon, according to Eloise, as elite shop and property owners.  Photos above and below were from our late 1980s or early 1990s visit.

Jacob Kirsch house by depot

Laminated onto the top of the bar in Aurora, we found original postcards, shown below, featuring the depot and the Kirsch House next door.

Jacob Kirsch house and depot

The Kirsch house at that time had a roof covering the sidewalk.  In 1992, the sidewalk roof, which I think they referred to as a portico, was gone.

Kirsch House postcard

It’s difficult to imagine the Kirsch house in its heyday, although having seen that bar, I can close my eyes and give it a pretty good shot!  Just look at those swinging saloon doors!  I doubt that the Kirsch girls were allowed in the pub area.

Unfortunately, over the past quarter century, the Kirsch House property has continued to deteriorate. The bar was removed and in essence ”disappeared” among legal wrangling.  The City owned the property for a while, but just today, literally, Jenny Awad with the Historical Society notified me that the property had been donated to an organization called Indiana Landmarks that is refurbishing the property and will put it on the market this spring, giving it in essence, another life as the gateway building to the City of Aurora, beside the historic depot, now functioning as the library annex.

Interestingly enough, during WWII, the former Kirsch House building served as a repository for the caskets of soldiers awaiting family.  That made sense, given that it was located beside the depot.  I wonder if they put each casket in a private room so that the family could have some privacy when they came to claim their loved one.  Finally, in the 1950s, when train travel declined and the trains from Cincinnati to St. Louis ceased operation, the establishment fell onto hard times. Hopefully this facelift will give it a new life.

It seems that the Kirsch House as an establish has always been quite unique in unexpected ways.

Barbara was an unusual woman in her own right too. She owned the Kirsch house, outright, free and clear, beginning in 1887.  Indeed something very unusual happened.  Jacob conveyed the Kirsch House to his wife Barbara Kirsch.  Now that’s something that just didn’t happen – ever.  Mom and I knew this was “odd” when we found that deed, we just didn’t know why.

In the 1960s, my mother, with down-payment money from her parent’s estate in hand and a job she had held for years, still couldn’t obtain a mortgage without a co-signer. Women simply did not own property as a “femme sole”, meaning a woman not subordinate to a husband, even some 80 years later – let alone owning land as a married woman but without your husband.  And to make things even stranger, Jacob conveyed the property to Barbara.  And no, they did not get divorced.  What was going on?  Women just simply did not own property under these circumstances.  But Barbara did.

But then again, men generally didn’t lynch people either. That’s right, Jacob was embroiled in a legal suit filed by the widow of a man who murdered another man, but was then immediately lynched by a mob, of which Jacob was apparently a member, perhaps a ringleader.  Apparently, in order to protect the Kirsch House, Jacob conveyed the property to Barbara and it remained in her name until she sold it in 1921, 35 years later, three years after Jacob’s death.

However, the years between 1885 and 1920 were simply brutal. One strange occurrence after another beset this family.  In 1886, when Jacob was involved with the lynching, Barbara was 38 years old and had six young children, all 6 born within a decade.  Then, Barbara had no more, even though her last child was born in 1876 when she was only 28 years old.  How would Barbara ever have raised those children and maintained the Kirsch House without Jacob, had he gone to prison for murder?  Why did Barbara have no more children?

By the 1870s, contraception was available, albeit underground due to the intolerant “Comstock Act” which made the trade of or mailing of anything to prevent contraception, to procure an abortion or any contraceptive information illegal. Some states went so far as to pass laws preventing contraception.  In any event, condoms were still sold as “rubber goods” and cervical caps as “womb supporters.”  I don’t know what Barbara did or how, but it was effective because she was evidently done having children.

Given the work load Barbara had with the Kirsch house, meaning the daily housework, laundry for family and guests and all of the daily cooking for the restaurant portion of the Kirsch House, in addition to taking care of and looking after her children, it’s possible that Barbara was simply, literally and figuratively, “too tired.”

Barbara maintained this pace for almost 50 years. Had her husband gone to prison in 1886, she would somehow have carried on.  When her brother-in-law, disabled by the Civil War, came to live with them, she simply carried on.  When her 80 year old mother-in-law came to live with them in August of 1887, Barbara carried on.  I’m sure Barbara cared for her mother-in-law in the final 18 months that she lived at the Kirsch house, before her death on February 1, 1889.

When Barbara’s daughters began marrying in 1888, some leaving, and some adding another family member, she carried on.  I think Barbara just got up every day and put one foot in front of the other, treading that oh-so familiar path from one end of the day from dawn to dusk, up and down the stairs a million times…and carried on regardless of what life deposited on her doorstep.

Kirsch house staircase

One thing we do know about Barbara, and that’s what she did every Tuesday at the Kirsch House.

Turtle Soup aka Mock Turtle Soup

In fine German tradition, one could purchase a mug of beer and a bowl of turtle soup at the Kirsch House for ten cents.  You could probably pull a stool up to the bar and engage in some fine conversation to go along with it too, along with a cigar.

Barbara Drechsel Kirsch made turtle soup every Tuesday, and she took orders for home delivery.  Buckets of soup were delivered by the young Kirsch daughters using a wagon, up and down the streets of Aurora, probably to other German families.  Perhaps this was the first form of take-out and delivery.

The original recipe for Barbara’s Turtle Soup is below, probably in the handwriting of Nora Kirsch Lore. Note the Kirsch House stationery and the note that says Mama’s recipe. Also, the word Kirsch on the second page still retains a bit of high German script.  Nora was educated at the German Lutheran Church School, so that would not be unexpected.  The second image is the back of the page.  The third image is the Turtle Soup recipe again, this time in the handwriting of Edith Lore Ferverda, and noted as her Grandmother’s recipe. Notice the changes and modernization of the recipe.

Given the location in Germany so near to the Rhine River, I have always wondered if the recipe came from Germany with this family, and they simply substituted veal for turtle because turtle was not readily available here. This is probably not be the case, because in Germany, Mockturtlesuppe, mock turtle soup, is a staple. Clearly, at some historical time, a real turtle was involved.  Turtle populations though cannot recover quickly when a breeding adult is killed, so it’s possible that mock turtle soup has been without turtle for hundreds of years, hence the name.  Mom always called it mock turtle soup, which I assumed was to preventatively eliminate the “ewww” that would have resulted if someone got focused on the turtle part.  I didn’t realize that “mock” was actually part of the original German name of the soup.

Although I assumed that this recipe descended originally from the Kirsch family because of their proximity to the Rhine River in Germany, it may have instead originated in the Drechsel family. It was Barbara Drechsel Kirsch who made the soup at the Kirsch house.

Mother made this soup once a year, generally in the winter at or near Christmas-time. One either loved this soup or hated it.  My brother and I both loved it, as did mother, but I suspect this heritage recipe will die with me, as neither his children nor mine care for it and it takes a long afternoon  to make.

As a child of about 5, I have vivid memories of standing on a chair in front of the stove with a wooden spoon stirring the flour in the cast iron skillet as it browned.  Unbrowned flour will not work, and the flour was easy to scorch, so browning the flour was a VERY important job, especially if you were five.

Kirsch House stationery turtle soup

Kirsch House turtle soup 2

Kirsch house turtle soup 3

I still make this family recipe today, and of course, I’ve modernized the process even more.

meat grinder

Instead of the old bolt-on-the-table meat grinder, which took two people to operate, today I use a food processor – and I feel guilty, like I’m cheating, every time. However, I still stand and brown the flower in Mom’s cast iron skillet.  What memories that brings back.

Turtle soup pot 2

There is no way to make a small batch of turtle soup, so making it once each year and freezing portions for lunches is always a memorable way to spend a Sunday, and a bright spot every time I have lunch and think of the generations of my ancestors who enjoyed this same lunch, every Tuesday at the Kirsch House. I may not be sitting at the bar, visiting with Barbara and Jacob, but I’m with them just the same.

Turtle soup bowl

I’ve modernized the recipe once again, and I hope that one of you will continue this wonderful family recipe.  If your family was German, try it and see what you think of this legacy heritage dish.

Now the contemporary version of Barbara Kirsch’s Turtle Soup:

  • 1 veal or beef shank (knee down, bone in) – have butcher slice into several pieces
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 large onion
  • 5 large carrots
  • 1 32 oz bottle of V8
  • 1 8 oz bottle of catsup
  • 5 or 6 hard boiled eggs
  • 6 cloves
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 or 2 lemons peeled and sliced thin
  • 4 or 4.5 cups of flour
  • 1/2 cup of good sherry

Also, the amounts of anything don’t have to be exact. I think this was made when they put in what they had, if you know what I mean.

Instructions:

  1. Place shank, chunked onion, carrots, and celery in a large soup kettle, and cover with water. Add cloves and bay leaves.
  2. I put the bay leaves and cloves in a little muslin baggie that I tie with a string and just throw it away afterwards. I don’t like the spices to stay in the soup.  If the bay leaves are whole, it’s less of a problem.
  3. Cook under medium heat until tender (about 2 hours or so – maybe 3)
  4. Remove meat from bone and set aside to cool, return bones back to pot, and continue to cook for at least another hour, or more, until you’ve extracted all the possible flavor out of the vegetables and bones. The vegetables should pretty much just be mush.
  5. Let cool. Strain broth removing vegetables and spices.  You will throw away what you strain out.
  6. Put the broth back on the stove. Add V8 juice, catsup, and sherry.
  7. Grind meat and hard boiled eggs (I used a food processor, it works great).
  8. Add meat and eggs to broth.
  9. Brown about 4 cups of flour over low to medium heat in a cast iron skillet until light toasty brown. Sift into warm soup, stirring to mix thoroughly.  I have my helper shake it slowly through a colander while I stir to keep it from clumping.
  10. Cut rind off of lemon and slice lemon into slices. Add to soup and heat thoroughly.  The lemon really does add something to the soup, but I don’t eat the lemon slices.  I just push them aside in the bowl if I’m served one.
  11. Taste and finish seasoning with salt if desired.
  12. Enjoy and think of the Kirsch House or your own German ancestors.

Apparently Barbara maintained the Kirsch House for a few years before she sold it after Jacob’s death. Jacob died in 1917 and the above stationery with the recipe is preprinted for the 1920s.  B. Kirsch is listed as proprietor.  She was 72 years old in 1920 when this stationery was printed. She was one ambitious lady and in none of her pictures does she look any worse for the wear.  In fact, she looks like an incredibly well put-together Victorian lady.

Jacob Kirsch and Barbara Drechsel

This photo shows Barbara Drechsel and Jacob Kirsch. It was probably taken the same day as the one below, as Barbara is wearing the same clothes.

We can date the photo somewhat by the age of Eloise who is in the photo and looks to be about 3 or 4 years old, so the photo must have been taken about 1906 or 1907 but before 1909 when C. B. Lore died and after 1905 when Philip Kirsch died, or he would have been included in the picture.  Barbara would have been 59 or 60.

Jacob Kirsch family photo crop

This is the only photo where all of the Kirsch children appear to be present with their parents.  Left to right, I can identify people as follows:

  • Seated left – one of the Kirsch sisters – possibly Carrie.
  • Standing male left behind chair – CB Lore – which places this photo before November 1909
  • Seated in chair in front of CB Lore in white dress, his wife – Nora Kirsch Lore
  • Male with bow tie standing beside CB Lore – probably Edward Kirsch
  • Male standing beside him with no tie – probably Martin Kirsch
  • Woman standing in rear row – Kirsch sister, possibly Lula.
  • Standing right rear – Jacob Kirsch.
  • Front adult beside Nora – Kirsch sister, possibly Ida.
  • Child beside Nora – Mildred or Eloise Lore, probably Eloise
  • Adult woman, seated, with black skirt – Barbara Drechsel Kirsch
  • Young woman beside Barbara to her left with large white bow – probably Curtis Lore, Nora’s daughter

The Decade(s) from Hell

I didn’t know Barbara personally. My mother knew her as a young child.  Barbara died when Mom was 8.  Mom said that Barbara encouraged her to come and sit on the porch swing beside her, but she was afraid which made Barbara sad.

My grandmother clearly knew Barbara well as she had lived at the Kirsch House as a late teenager.  Barbara seemed to be a woman who simply handled whatever she needed to at the moment and rolled exceedingly well with any punches.  She had a lot of experience.  She was dealt far more than her share of work and grief in her lifetime, and the years of her life beginning about 1905 had to be just living hell.  If she thought 1886 and 1887 were difficult, those were just training wheels.

Barbara’s brother-in-law, Philip Jacob Kirsch, who had lived with them since Jacob’s mother’s death in 1889 died on September 5, 1905. From his will and other family oral history, Barbara and her family were very close to Philip who had lived with them for about 15 years.  Barbara ran a boarding house, so it probably mattered little who was occupying a room.  She had to do the same amount of work regardless.  The difficult part was that Philip was ill and Barbara likely administered whatever medical and palliative care was available to him.  His intestinal problems that developed during the Civil War plagued him for the rest of his life and caused him a great deal of pain and suffering.  Philip’s mother, then Barbara cared for him.  He clearly knew he was very ill because he made a will in July 1905, leaving what little he had to his siblings and their children and saying very kind and grateful words about Jacob and Barbara.

“The balance that is left after all my legal debts are paid, this includes all of which is left, I want my dear brother Jacob Kirsch to have this being for the kind treatment which has always been given me by him and all of his family.”

Four months after Philip’s death, Barbara’s mother died on the third day of January 1906. Her official cause of death was listed as “cardiac arthmia” (probably cardiac arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat), but given that she was born in 1823,  at 79 years of age, “old age” played a large part, I’m sure. However, that doesn’t make losing your mother any easier.  Not at all.  Losing your mother is losing your mother.  Losing parents is a natural progression of life, and you can take at least some comfort in that they had a long life, a good life and that they had the opportunity to live a full life.  But none of that makes burying your mother less painful.

However, losing her mother presented Barbara with the problem of what to do with her father, George, who was the same age as her mother and either was or was becoming senile. Perhaps Barbara’s sister, Lou, helped.  Lou’s husband had died in 1901 and she lived next door to her parents with her two daughters.  George had sold Lou half of the lot in 1891 and they had built a house next door.  In the photo below, George’s house is on the right and Lou’s is on the left.

510 4th Street both houses

Nora’s daughter, Edith, lived at the Kirsch House about this time. She would have graduated from high school in Rushville about 1906 and she attended business school in Cincinnati while living at the Kirsch House – taking the train back and forth to commute.  I don’t know long Edith lived with her grandmother at the Kirsch House, but Edith married John Ferverda in Rushville in November of 1908, so she was back in Rushville by then. Learning that Edith spent this time under Barbara’s tutelage perhaps explains a lot about Edith’s independent spirit that was frustrated by the social restrictions placed on women of her generation, especially in the highly conservative Brethren/Mennonite/Amish community of northern Indiana.

The other, unspoken reason that Edith may have gone to live at the Kirsch House was to help Barbara with her father or to perhaps help with duties at the Kirsch House so Barbara could attend to her father.

Barbara’s father died two years and a month after his wife, so in February 1908, Barbara found herself once again standing in the Riverview cemetery beside the Ohio River in the dead of winter, burying a parent. Barbara probably expected this at some level, even though I’m sure she dreaded it terribly.  What she could not have expected was what was lurking in the shadows.

On October 23rd, Barbara’s niece, Nettie Giegoldt died of tuberculosis, the same disease that took her father in 1901.  Nettie was one of Louisa’s two daughters.  Louisa had been living beside George before he died, married to Theodore Bosse in May after her father’s death, then was stricken by her daughter’s death in October.  But seven days later, something even more unthinkable happened.

Three of Barbara’s daughters had married; Nora in 1888 to C. B. Lore, Lou in 1899 to Charles “Todd” Fiske and Caroline in 1902 to Joseph Wymond. Barbara’s two sons had married and moved away.  Daughter Ida was living at home, unmarried.

Lou’s husband, Todd Fiske lost his job as a civil engineer and depression set in. Lou and Todd moved back to the Kirsch House.  On October 31, 1908, a Saturday night, Halloween night, Todd stepped outside behind the Kirsch House in the garden, took a gun and ended his life with a gunshot to the head.  On Saturday night, the Kirsch House would have been full of guests.  Were they hosting a Halloween party?  Did the guests hear the gunshot?  Did they think it was an act, just part of the festivities?  Did Barbara know in her heart what had happened before she got there?  Was Lou at home?  Did she see him in that condition?  Who found him in the garden?  Todd’s death had to be something that haunted everyone involved for the rest of their lives.  And poor Todd, to be so heartbroken and despondent to end any opportunity for the future.  His anguish must have been awful.  I can only imagine the chaos and heartache in the Kirsch House.  As a mother, it’s bad enough to suffer through something yourself, but it’s even worse to witness your child’s suffering and be able to do nothing about it.

It was about this same time that Barbara’s eldest daughter, Nora, would have come home to have a talk with her mother too.

Nora’s husband, C. B. Lore contracted tuberculosis. He died on the 24th November of 1909, the day before Thanksgiving and just a year and a month after Todd’s untimely death.  I don’t know if the family would have been thankful that C. B. was no longer suffering or grieving his death, or both.  I am under the impression that he was seriously ill for at least a couple of years before his death.  Finances were difficult.  I don’t know how they survived.  I know Nora began to do alterations and sewing for people.

Google tells me that 50% of untreated TB patients die within 5 years. Nora and the girls took care of C.B. at their home in Rushville.  So, during this time when Todd was out of work and subsequently killed himself, Barbara also knew that her other daughter’s husband was dying as well, that Nora was suffering trying to care for him, and there was nothing she could do to help that daughter either.

But there was even worse news waiting. I told you it was the decade from hell.

Barbara’s daughter, Carrie, had married Joseph Wymond in 1902, the son of a wealthy Aurora family. However, in 1910, Joseph too reportedly killed himself… before syphilis could take him, at least the newspaper tells us the story of his despondency over being ill and his suicide.  Of course, the newspaper said nothing about syphilis.  Yes, syphilis.  Yes, incurable.  Yes, Carrie had it too and yes, it would eventually kill her as well.  In spite of what the newspaper said, Joseph’s death certificate says that he died in the Wabash Valley Sanatorium, in Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, Indiana, of Bright’s disease…the exact same thing that Carrie’s death certificate would say 16 years later.  Perhaps Joseph’s family had friends at the newspaper?

We don’t know if Barbara knew about Carrie’s situation in 1908 or 1909. If not, she would surely learn of it sometime before July 3rd, 1910 when Joseph Wymond supposedly shot himself in the chest and the coroner determined it was suicide due to despondency over his illness.  It’s odd that a coroner’s report says one thing and his death certificate says something entirely different.  If Joseph did shoot himself, I don’t know if what he did was cowardly or brave.  I do know that he was not living with his wife at the time, and Carrie was living with her parents at the Kirsch House – so clearly Carrie knew and understood how he had contracted the disease.

That may sound like an odd comment, but I knew someone in the 1970s whose husband “gave” them a similar gift and the physicians even then were less than frank, instead asking questions like, “Have you been with someone other than your husband?”  “No.”  “Well, then…..”

That was the end of the conversation with absolutely no explanation of what “well then” meant or that the diagnoses was indeed something that could only be sexually transmitted.  People were and are extremely uncomfortable with these topics.  In the Kirsch family, what “really” killed Carrie was a topic reserved for only the closest family members and then only when adults and only conveyed in muffled whispers of modesty and embarrassment.

That must have been some conversation between Joseph and Carrie.  “Well honey, I have syphilis and guess what, so do you!  Yes, we’re going to die, but we’ll still be together.”  Disbelief, betrayal and shock must have followed.  Poor Carrie.  I wonder how long she waited before telling her mother and sisters and I wonder if anyone ever told her father.  Being the proprietor of a bar it’s unlikely that Jacob was in the dark.

How do you tell your mother that your handsome husband from the “right side of town,” from the upstanding family, whom you trusted and promised to love for better or worse…has given you syphilis? In the Victorian era, how do you even talk to your mother about a sexually transmitted disease?  Because if you have an STD, it means you had S part of STD.  OMG!   However, at some point, you have to say something.  Your mother is neither blind, deaf nor stupid – and Aurora was a small town with an active grapevine.  You know syphilis is a death sentence, a slow, horrible, torturous, death sentence.  And you know the day you tell your mother you are laying a burden on her heart that can and will never be removed.  Not to mention that your father, who lynched a man in 1886, might just go and kill said husband when he finds out.

Wymond’s 1910 obituary suggests that he had been ill for about 3 years. If that is correct, then Carrie probably had that talk with her mother sometime between 1907 and 1910.  So Barbara knew what Carrie was facing, but she didn’t know how soon or when.  Barbara didn’t know if she would live long enough to care for Carrie, or if she would be able.  All Barbara knew was that her child was going to suffer horribly and eventually die through no fault of her own, and due to the betrayal of the man she trusted to be faithful…and wasn’t.  I think Wymond is lucky Barbara didn’t kill him.

Based on what we know, Nora would have known C.B. was in trouble maybe as early as 1905, Carrie knew about Joseph’s disease about 1907 and Lou’s husband lost his job and killed himself in 1908. Those things, combined with her parent’s deaths surely made Barbara’s heart very, very heavy.

But that wasn’t all. Nora’s daughter, Curtis, had contracted tuberculosis caring for her father.  They surely knew this for several years before Curtis died, so while Barbara was dealing with Carrie’s situation, not to mention Todd’s death and that of C.B. Lore, she also knew that her granddaughter would succumb too.  In the one photo of Nora during this timeframe, she looks like a walking zombie.  I’m glad there aren’t more.

They tried everything to save Curtis, including remedies that were extremely painful to Nora, like having Curtis live on the front porch in the winter cold, with the belief that the cold air would cure tuberculosis. Nora was desperate and I believe she would have tried anything.  Fate was not to smile on the family, and Curtis died on February 12, 1912, at age 21, 2 years and 2 months after her father, leaving Nora and the rest of her daughters utterly devastated.  My grandmother, Edith, said that when Curtis died, she lost her best friend.

Nora blamed herself for Curtis’s death, unnecessarily.  Curtis wanted to go to the Southwest, either Arizona or New Mexico with her boyfriend’s family for “better air” when she was sick and her mother didn’t want her to go.  Nora wanted Curtis to be where she could help her.  In retrospect, Nora felt she should have let Curtis go because she might have been cured and lived.  In reality, at that time, nothing could have saved her, except antibiotics which had not yet been discovered.

Ironic that the same antibiotics that would have saved Carrie and her good-for-nothing husband would also have saved C.B. Lore and Curtis.

By 1912, Barbara, now 64 years old was living with 2 widowed daughters who had no children, meaning there would be no one to care for them in their old age. Not long thereafter, Carrie would move to Indianapolis until after Jacob’s death in 1917.  Syphilis is known to behave as if it has remitted, outward symptoms abating, while in reality it is wreaking havoc and destroying your internal organs.

Barbara’s third widowed daughter, Nora, was struggling to make ends meet in Rushville, Indiana by being a seamstress while taking care of her daughter who was critically, then terminally, ill. The amazing thing is that Nora did not contract tuberculosis herself, despite caring for two family members who died of the disease over a period of several years, maybe as long as a decade.

This strain of tuberculosis was not done with the family however. Nora’s daughter, Edith, married John Ferverda in 1908, before C.B. Lore passed away.  John caught TB, but it lay dormant in his lungs until the late 1950s when it reactivated, causing him to have to be admitted to a tuberculosis sanitarium.  Tuberculosis did not kill him, because liver cancer claimed him first.  Mom and I had to have chest x-rays for years afterwards to check for TB.

In 1913, the Ohio River flooded, twice, once in January and once in April, flooding Aurora so badly that it was called “the greatest disaster of modern times.”  The water was to the roof of the train depot next door, which was about the second story of the Kirsch House.

In 1916, Jacob Kirsch became ill. He had stomach cancer, according to his obituary.  He lived about a year and died on July 23, 1917.  Barbara assuredly cared for Jacob during his illness.

While all of these things were going on in Barbara’s life she still continued, every day, to do what needed to be done for and at the Kirsch House. After all, that was her living too and she had a lot of people to support.

Barbara had endured an incredible amount in a relatively short time. Deaths are terrible, but they are also an end where healing begins.  Carrie’s sickness could only end in death and the suffering on that path was daily and unremitting.  Yet, it was Carrie who moved back home to help her mother after Jacob’s death.

In the winter of 1917/1918, the Ohio flooded and caused ice dams to form and break, again flooding Aurora. What else could go wrong for Barbara?

I’m sure there were bright spots too. In 1915 and 1922, Edith Lore Ferverda would give Barbara two great-grandchildren, but unless Edith visited Barbara from Silver Lake, in northern Indiana, Barbara was in no situation to leave the Kirsch House and visit Edith.

Son Edward had 4 children, two of whom died shortly after birth in 1891 and 1896, but the other two born in 1892 and 1899 lived. He had moved away by 1910.

Martin had two children as well, in 1889 and 1892 but had moved away by 1900.

Barbara didn’t get to spend much time with her grandchildren.

In many ways, selling the Kirsch House in 1921, although I’m sure Barbara hated to do it, was liberating for her. She could go someplace.  She could stay someplace.  She was no longer tied to sheets and toilets and cooking for other people every minute of every day of every week of the year.  I hope she enjoyed her new-found freedom.

Now, the absolutely amazing thing is that when you look at this photo, below, of Barbara, at right, and Nora, at left, you would never, ever imagine the level of grief and devastation both women had survived.

Nora 4 gen 1922

A four generation picture with Barbara Drechsel Kirsch (far right), Nora Kirsch Lore (far left), Mildred Lore Martin (center) and Jim Martin, infant, born in 1922.

This picture would have been taken about a year after Barbara sold the Kirsch House. She may have been 73 years old at the time, but she does not look haggard or worn out after being an innkeeper for half of a century.  Innkeeper in this case I’m sure means cook, maid, washer-woman and not just for her family, but for however many people were staying at the Kirsch House, 7 days a week, 365 days a years, every single day of every single year.  And given that the Kirsch House catered to traveling men by advertising fine wines and liquors, you know that Barbara got to clean up after way more than her share of overly-inebriated customers.

After selling the Kirsch House in 1921, Barbara and Carrie reportedly moved to Indianapolis, although I could find no record of them living there. It is inconceivable to me that Barbara left Aurora after all those years. What I did find was a record of Barbara purchasing property in Aurora, at the corner of 4th and Exporting, lot number 247, right across the street from where she grew up.

1875 Aurora Map color

Today, this property is 516 4th Street, according to Google maps..

516 4th Street front

Mother said the property where Barbara lived with Carrie was described as “the house on the hill” and this house certainly fits that description.

516 4th Street side

516 4th Street rear

It’s interesting that we also have proof that this house is original, through the photograph taken in 1883 that included just the side of this house, but we can see enough to tell that the doors and windows are in the same location – so this is the original house that Barbara and Carrie lived in for a few years.

1883 Aurora flood family properties

The top right arrow off to the side of the picture is pointing to Third Street. The arrows below third street is pointing to Fourth Street, which is the first street running parallel with the bottom of the photo, closest to us.  The arrow on the corner of 4th Street and Exporting is the house that Barbara Drechsel Kirsch, George’s daughter, would purchase in 1921 when she sold the Kirsch House.

The top left arrow is pointing to the train depot, and the right arrow at the top is pointing to the Kirsch House, which fronts Second Street, further away. You can see its portico over the sidewalk appearing below the white front of the building.

There was no one left in Aurora to help Barbara as she aged and she eventually moved to where her family was.  But that situation may not have been exactly as it appeared outwardly either, meaning that at least initially, it wasn’t about someone caring for Barbara.

Barbara had another problem, a heartbreaking, gut-wrenching problem. Her daughter, Carrie, was getting worse and Carrie’s illness was likely part of Barbara’s decision to sell the Kirsch House when she did.

If there was any way Barbara could have cared for Carrie at home, she would have.  Between 1921 and 1924, Carrie deteriorated badly. In early 1924, Carrie was institutionalized from the effects of syphilis and finally died one very long 2 years, 5 months and 3 days later, on July 24, 1926 in the Institute for the Insane, in Madison, Indiana, about 45 miles from Aurora.  The neurological effects of Syphilis cause insanity and seizures and then it destroys your organs.

Fortunately for Barbara, and Carrie, there was train service from Aurora to North Vernon, and then from North Vernon to Madison.  Barbara could have visited Carrie easily, although every visit must have been heartbreaking in its own right.

I can’t even begin to imagine Barbara’s pain watching Carrie endure this for roughly 20 years, growing increasingly ill as the disease progressed, or how much she much she must have disliked the man who visited this horrible fate upon her daughter. Dislike is probably not nearly a strong enough word.

I can’t imagine why she actually allowed Carrie to be buried by Wymond in the Riverview Cemetery, especially when there were spaces available in the Kirsch plot. In other words, it probably wasn’t a matter of money, although we’ll never know.

Wabash, Indiana

Barbara lived the final chapter of her life in Wabash, Indiana with daughter Nora.  She probably moved there after Carrie’s death in 1926.

In 1929 when Barbara applied for Jacob’s Civil War pension, she lived at 279 E. Main (shown below) in Wabash. Eloise said Barbara had no money and they applied for the pension as a final way to try to help her.  I suspect that Barbara may have used the money from the Kirsch house sale to pay for Carrie’s stay in the institution where she died.  As a final insult, her widow’s pension application was denied, as they could not find Jacob’s service record. No problem, I found it, some 87 years later, far too late, of course, to help Barbara, but not too late to vindicate her honor and his service.  I’ve got your back, Barbara!

Barbara Wabash 1929

Barbara went to Wabash, of all places, because her daughter, Nora lived there. Nora remarried after the death of C.B. Lore to a man who was a superintendent in manufacturing plants.  Nora and her husband lived in Chicago in 1920, but by 1930 Nora was living with her mother in Wabash.  Nora and her husband didn’t legally divorce, but they also didn’t live together, so it’s likely that Barbara joined her daughter whose children were raised and gone.  I hope those two women enriched each other’s lives.  I hope that after all of the pain and suffering, that these were good years of peaceful, relaxing companionship, joy and warming rays of sunshine.  Truly the golden years.  If anyone ever earned them, Barbara did.

In the 1930 census, taken April 11th, Nora McCormick is listed as renting property at 123 Sinclair in Wabash, 63 years old, no occupation, with her mother, Barbara, age 83 who arrived in in the US 1849 and is naturalized.  The census doesn’t say whether it’s east or west Sinclair and I can’t tell from other clues.  That area looks similar to the area above and is only a few blocks away.  They apparently moved between 1929 and 1930.

Barbara Joins the Family at Riverview

Barbara died on June 12, 1930 in Wabash, Indiana. Her cause of death at the Wabash Health Department is listed as cerebral hemorrhage and intestated (interstitial) nephritis, also known as acute kidney failure.  In other words, she either had kidney failure and then had a stroke and died, or she had a stroke and lingered until kidney failure finished her off.  I hope the stroke simply took Barbara quickly, in her sleep, with no pain.  Barbara’s body was returned to Aurora for burial.

Surprisingly, my mother had never been to visit Barbara’s grave, at least not that she remembered. My grandmother, Edith, tended to protect Mother from things like death and funerals under the premise that she was too young to understand.

Mother and I found the Kirsch stone in Riverview Cemetery shared by Barbara Drechsel and Jacob Kirsch.

Jacob Kirsch stone

Here, mother stands beside Jacob and Barbara, or at least as close as one can get on this side of the great divide!

Jacob Kirsch stone with mother

Several of Barbara’s children and their husbands are buried on the same plot. Charles “Todd” Fiske and Lou Kirsch Fiske Wellesley, Ida Kirsch Galbreath with her husband William J. Galbreath and Barbara’s son, Edward Kirsch.  Carrie is buried in the same cemetery beside Joseph Wymond, a location that mystifies me and causes me to ask all kinds of questions, for which there are no answers.

Barbara’s parents are buried nearby in the same cemetery as well.

DNA

It’s somewhat ironic that I’m normally begging for mitochondrial DNA lines, but in this case, I carry that line myself, so that test was easy. If you think for one minute that mitochondrial DNA isn’t interesting or useful, read about what we discovered here.

mito line

What isn’t easy is finding anyone else descended from this line to test autosomally. I can’t believe that no one has tested to date, but they apparently haven’t, or I’m incredibly unlucky and don’t match them.  We do have matches from C.B. Lore’s line.  If you descend from the Kirsch, Drechsel or Koehler lines from either Dearborn or Ripley County, Indiana, or the home locations in Germany for these family lines, please consider taking an autosomal Family Finder test at Family Tree DNA.

The Needlework

No discussion of the Kirsch women would be complete without mentioning their absolutely stunning needlework. Barbara Drechsel Kirsch was a lacemaker, and her daughters likely learned the craft from the time they were young, at home as well as in the German schools.

I have no idea how Barbara got all the tasks done she had to do, let alone have time for needlework of any kind. Aside from mock turtle soup, and the Kirsch House, Barbara Drechsel’s legacy was her handwork.  Perhaps it was her sanity.  Of course, at that time, handwork was not considered “anything special,” it was just one of the many things women were supposed to learn how to do.

Drechsel lace collar

Above, a beautiful lace collar. At that time, collars were detachable so that you could preserve the piece of lace and reuse it after the underlying dress was no longer usable.  This was also a good way to change your wardrobe, creating something “new.”

Drechsel lace handkerchief

In our family, every woman who marries receives a beautiful lace handkerchief to carry at her wedding. I guess this is our own family version of “something old, something new.”  It includes and incorporates our ancestors as well in that special day.  I don’t know whether the handkerchiefs will run out or the descendants will run out first.  The one above is mine and was later mounted and framed.

Drechsel lace collar2

In 1994, mother and I were asked to create an exhibit for the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana that included both the needlework and a genealogical aspect of the history of the family.  Mother was particularly thrilled as so much of her family and her own personal history centered in and near Fort Wayne, about half an hour from where she grew up.

We titled the exhibit “Six Generations of Hoosier Needlewomen” and included works from Barbara Drechsel Kirsch, her daughters and their descendants.

Drechsel lace collar 3

In addition to Barbara’s beautiful lacework, her daughter, Nora’s Climbing Vine quilt was featured in the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. Unfortunately, we have no photographs of it at the fair, but Mother told the story of their visit to the fair to see Nora’s quilt.  Nora had entered the quilt in the local Sears competition, then it went to the regional and then the state competitions, finally winning and going to the World’s Fair, being exhibited in the Sears Pavilion.

climbing vine quilt

Here’s a close up of Nora’s Climbing Vine quilt. This work is all hand appliqué with fine hand quilting.

The depression was in full swing, and money was scarce. The family could not afford to go for an overnight to Chicago, so they got up very early and left from Silver Lake with Nora and the entire family.  They drove to the World’s Fair, took their food and picnicked, and the entire family saw the quilt hanging in its splendor in the exhibition hall.  Then they drove the entire way back home, arriving in the middle of the night.  All in all, the trip was about 24 hours in duration.

Sadly, Barbara missed this momentous event by just three years, but she was surely involved with Nora’s quilting while the two of them lived together in Wabash. I’m sure as Nora bumped along that road in the darkness of the night on the way to and from Chicago, she wished her mother could be along to share that day.  For an Indiana woman, a quilt at the World’s Fair was about as much validation and infamy as one could ever hope to achieve.  Barbara would have been so proud of her daughter and somehow, I know she was with them!

Mother would visit Nora, her grandmother, in “the little house” in Wabash, after Barbara’s death and she told about how Nora had a quilt frame that was lowered from the ceiling so that people could sit around it and quilt in the middle of the living room. When finished for the day, the quilt frame was just pulleyed up towards the ceiling and life went on just like in any normal room.  You know that Barbara and Nora spent many hours around that frame in the 1920s.  Those must have been peaceful, beautiful years for those women, a few years of calm after decades of storm.

The photo below is from the Six Generations exhibit and it shows my lace in a tray, center, Mom’s crocheted afghan and baby booties, rear, a table runner made by the Kirsch sisters that mother displayed on the piano under the beer stein and some lace in the far right corner.

When I first began making lace, many years ago, I didn’t realize that Barbara Drechsel had been a lacemaker too, nor that lacemaking was all but a deceased art. Neither my mother nor grandmother made lace, nor quilted for that matter, so I have to wonder about genetics.  I’d be happy as a clam to find a quilting gene!

6 gen Hoosier Needlewomen case

The quilt below is called Picket Fence. Mom also referred to it as Flower Garden.  I always particularly liked this quilt, as it reminds me of the perfect family that everyone wants, and doesn’t exist anyplace.  But the beauty within our family is nurtured and grows within the white picket fence.  That is both prophetic and appropriate for the Kirsch family, especially the sisters.

This quilt is dated 1931. The fence is hand pieced, the flowers are appliquéd and the entire quilt is hand quilted with small, fine stitches.  Perhaps Nora finished this quilt to ease the grief of her mother’s passing.  These quilts took months if not years to create.

Picket fence quilt

The yellow and white quilt below reminds me of sunshine. This nine patch and snowball block quilt was never used.  Before Eloise passed away, she sent this to Mother, along with some other needlework and quilted family items.  This quilt was made in 1927 or 1928, before Barbara’s passing.

Given that Barbara didn’t pass away until 1930, I’d wager that Barbara quilted on these and if she didn’t quilt on them, she surely sat with Nora and visited as Nora quilted. Mom and I did the same thing, some 50, 60 and 70 years later.  I so wish there could have been a time for us all to quilt together.

Nora's snowball quilt

All of these quilts are hand quilted and considering the timeframe, I’d say they are also hand pieced.

The crazy quilt in the photo below was made at least in part by Barbara Drechsel Kirsch’s daughter, Carrie Kirsch, who embroidered her name and “age 11.” The quilt is shown hanging on Mom’s quilt rack adjacent Mom’s climbing vine afghan she made in honor of Nora’s award winning World’s Fair Climbing Vine quilt.  Carrie Kirsch was 11 in 1884, so this quilt is more than 130 years old.  Unfortunately, the quilt is now in very poor condition.  To me, when I look at this cheerful quilt, it speaks to me of happier times at the Kirsch House before the tsunami of devastation rolled over the family.

Kirsch crazy quilt

This quilt would have been made at the Kirsch House, probably out of scraps left over after making their clothing. Barbara surely put a few stitches in this quilt with her daughters and may have taught them how to do the embroidery work found on several of the blocks.  I can see the four Kirsch sisters and their Mom, Barbara Drechsel sitting in the parlor at the Kirsch House after all of the dishes were done in the evening, the quilt spread between them, as they all worked on some part and chatted and laughed.  Maybe they confided in each other as well and talked over any problems too.  That’s what we do today.  We’ve certainly solved all the world problems around the quilt frame!

This last quilt is actually one of my favorites because of how it spans six generations of our family and all of the “character” it has accumulated over the decades.

Handkerchief quilt

Nora made this quilt. It was probably one that Barbara witnessed or was involved with.  The heyday of Nora’s quiltmaking seemed to be in the 1920s and very early 1930s which makes sense given that her children were grown, her husbands out of the picture and her mother lived with her.  Of course, the part of the quilt that Nora would have made is the blue drunkard’s path, the original part of the quilt.

Edith, Nora’s daughter, my grandmother, owned this quilt and she used it on the beds.  I remember it.  Mom said that this quilt came to them because no one else wanted it because it was utilitarian and not showy and beautiful like the show-stopping applique quilts.  So we really used it.  Every day.  When my kids when to visit my parents when they were little, they cuddled up in this quilt.

Mom washed it, in a washing machine, which, in retrospect, she should not have done, and the fabric began to deteriorate.  Eventually, there were several rather large holes in the quilt, and Mom gave it to me to make bears or salvage what could be salvaged in some way.  I brought it home and laid it out to cut for bears.  My daughter came into the room and asked what I was doing with “Mawmaw’s quilt.”  I told her and she was heartbroken, started sobbing, and blurted out between sobs, “You can’t cut up Mawmaw’s quilt.”  So much for bears.  Thankfully, I hadn’t cut yet.  Little did my daughter know that it wasn’t Mawmaw’s quilt, but it was Mawmaw’s Mawmaw’s quilt.

At a loss as to what to do, I went and found the box of handkerchiefs, accumulated by the Drechsel/Kirsch/Lore/Ferverda women and combined into a single box over the years. We don’t carry “hankies” anymore, so we no longer crochet edges on them, embroider them or purchase them for souvenirs or gifts anymore either.  But those women did.  So, my daughter and I selected handkerchiefs that were in decent shape that we thought were probably owned and used by these women.  Some had been washed so many times they looked as old as the quilt.  I used the handkerchiefs to construct “patches” and the Kirsch family women’s handkerchief’s saved the life of Nora’s quilt.  Karmic indeed. Yes, I still have the quilt today, of course and someday, so will my daughter.

Quilts wrap you in a blanket of love but the process of quilting, and apparently repairing quilts too, is bonding like no other. That bond is never broken or compromised, not across years or generations.  If anything, it is solidified by surviving heartache together, and the deeper the heartache, the firmer the bond – creating a legacy that even survives death.  Barbara lives on.

barbara drechsel cropped

What is a DNA Scholarship and How Do I Get One?

I mention DNA scholarships from time to time in my 52 Ancestor articles and sometimes in conjunction with other projects as well.

What, exactly, is a DNA scholarship? Who gets one?  How and why?

First, let’s talk a bit about the basics of how DNA works, because understanding that is fundamental to understanding why we have DNA scholarships in the first place, who qualifies and why. Not everyone has the DNA they need for testing specific genealogical lines – and scholarships are a way to obtain that information from others.  I think of it as a testing incentive to someone who is already interested at some level.

Every person can test their DNA, but each person carries a unique and very important type of DNA from just one or two very specific ancestors.

DNA for Genealogy – Y and Mitochondrial

There are three kinds of DNA we can use for genealogy.

Mitochondrial DNA, carried by both males and females, is your mother’s mother’s mother’s line all the way up your tree until you run out of direct line mothers.

Y DNA, which only males carry, is inherited from the father’s father’s father’s direct paternal line which typically follows the surname.

The pedigree chart path of both Y (blue) and mitochondrial DNA (red) is shown on the pedigree chart below

Y and mito

You’ve probably noticed that the brother, or males, carry both blue Y DNA and red mitochondrial DNA, but the sister, or females, carry only red mitochondrial DNA.

Sisters, or females, pass mitochondrial DNA on to their offspring, but males don’t.

So, males can test for Y and mitochondrial DNA and females can only test for mitochondrial DNA. In either case, the mitochondrial DNA reflects the oldest direct matrilineal ancestor in that line.

Most (but not all) of the DNA scholarships that I offer are for Y and mitochondrial DNA lineages and Family Tree DNA is the only company that offers these types of genealogical tests.

Autosomal DNA

The third kind of DNA for genetic genealogy is autosomal DNA which allows testing for all of your ancestral lines and provides matching to others who carry the same DNA. The trick is, of course, that you have to look at your common genealogy to figure out why your DNA matches, meaning which ancestor you share.  Sometimes that quest is successful, and sometimes it isn’t.

Autosomal path

The reason autosomal DNA matching works is because you and the person you match have inherited a piece of the same DNA from a common ancestor. In the above chart, the DNA of the ancestors is colored blue, yellow, green, etc.  When you match someone else with a common segment, your goal is to determine which ancestor it came from.

Your autosomal DNA segments from any given ancestor become smaller and smaller over time with each generation, until eventually, they either become so small they don’t show up as matches, or you lose them altogether as more and more generations accrue between you and that ancestor. Ancestral DNA is “diluted” in a sense in every generation when the offspring receives half of each parent’s DNA.  The chances of carrying a particular distant ancestor’s DNA become less in each generation.

However, the Y and mitochondrial DNA are never diluted, because they are never admixed with the DNA of the other parent. They are passed intact, and therefore they provide a periscope back into the very distant past, but ONLY for that particular line.  In many cases, the haplogroup, or “clan” tells you a great deal about that ancestor, such as where they were from ancestrally.  There are African, Native American, Asian, Jewish and European haplogroups, and yes of course there is some overlap between some of those, but we have advanced tools to deal with that too.

Combining Autosomal DNA with Y and Mitochondrial

If you can discover the Y and mitochondrial DNA haplogroup of each of the ancestors on your tree, you can tell a great deal about them that may well have washed out in the autosomal DNA. For example, in the colored graph above, let’s say that the blue male line is unquestionably Native American and carries a distinctive Native American Y haplogroup, C-P39.

Using this example, if the blue male great-grandfather is 100% Native, which is very unlikely today, the “son’s” and “daughter’s” autosomal DNA would reflect something like 12.5% Native heritage.

However, if the blue great grandfather was himself only one eighth Native, he would have carried roughly 6.25% total Native autosomal DNA and his children would carry roughly 3.25%. The father in this chart would carry roughly 1.63% Native autosomal DNA and the children in the chart, only .81 or less than 1%, an amount which is generally not recognizable on autosomal ethnicity tests today.  It’s also possible that the Native autosomal DNA has “washed out” entirely by this time.

The good news is that the Y DNA is still 100% Native. So even though Native heritage may not be detectable today in the autosomal tests, it’s 100% confirmed in the Y DNA test for that line.  This makes Y DNA a very powerful tool.  Mitochondrial DNA works the very same way on the matrilineal line – it never gets diluted either.

But, what if your Native ancestor is not in either the Y (blue) or mitochondrial (red) lines that you can directly test for?  What if your Native ancestor is in the yellow, green, pink, grey, gold or aqua lines.  You won’t know what the DNA of those direct Y or mitochondrial lines tells you until you find someone appropriately descended from those lines to test.

DNA Beggars

You’ve now become a DNA beggar – begging for people who do descend from those lines through Y or mitochondrial DNA to test. If you’re a female, it can become immediately evident if you have no male siblings and your father is deceased.  In this case, you can’t test your Y DNA directly (because you don’t have a Y chromosome,) but you desperately need those results to flesh out your genealogy.

The good news is that this same information is important to other people too and they DO carry the Y or mitochondrial DNA of the lineage you need.

I call this process creating your DNA pedigree chart.  Here’s an example of mine with haplogroups, where known.

DNA Pedigree

The good news is that sometimes people from those lineages have already tested and you may be able to find them through either surname projects, Ysearch or Mitosearch. When I can’t find someone who has already tested, I try various methods to recruit a suitable candidate and sweeten the pie by offering a DNA scholarship.

DNA Scholarships

Given that you want other people to test their DNA to provide information for your common ancestor – the best way to obtain that is to offer to pay for the test. Hence, the DNA scholarship.  Some people don’t feel comfortable if I say I’m paying for a test.  Sometimes, in surname and haplogroup projects, people join forces to pay for tests for someone with a particular lineage.  Regardless of who pays, or how, the result is that a DNA scholarship is available for someone of a particular lineage.

Looking for a DNA Scholarship?

You’d actually be surprised how many scholarships, or free DNA tests, are available. The ISOGG Wiki holds a list under the title of “Free DNA Tests” at this link.

The scholarships I offer, listed below, are for one person, and when someone has taken that one test, the scholarship is no longer available. I’ll update this list as I add scholarships and as they are (hopefully) redeemed.

Mitochondrial DNA Testing Scholarship for anyone who descends through any from the following people (or their female siblings) through all females only. In the current generation, meaning you, males can test so long as there are only females between the male and the ancestor.

Y DNA Testing Scholarship for any male who descends from the following people through all males, meaning you carry the surname today:

  • Berchtol, Hans (1641/53-1711) Konken/Krottelbach, Germany, wife Anna Christina or Hans Simon Berchtol/Bechtel, wife Catherine, living in Steinwenden, Germany in the same timeframe
  • Bonnevie, Jacque dit “Beaumont” (c1660 Paris -1783 Port Royal, Acadia)
  • Combs, John (c1705-1762) Amelia County, VA or brother George Combs (b 1701/05-c1765) lived in Charlotte County, VA
  • Dorfler, Johann George (1732-1790), Speichersdorf and Wirbenz, Germany, married Anna Magdalena Buntzman, Johann Dorfler (1699-1779) Wirbenz married Anna Gerlin, Johann Dorfler (born c 1660) Wirbenz married Barbara Ehl
  • Drechsel, George (1823-1908), born in Speichersdorf, Germany, died Aurora, Indiana in 1908, married Barbara Mehlheimer, son John Edward Drexler lived in Cincinnati married to Lizzie Theisinger
  • Kirsch, Jacob (1841 Mutterstadt, Germany -1917 Aurora, Indiana) married to Barbara Drechsel, Philipp Jacob Kirsch (1806 Mutterstadt, Germany -1880 Ripley County, Indiana) married to Katharina Barbara Lemmert, Andreas Kirsch (1772-1819 Fussgoenheim, Germany) married Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler, Johann Valentin Kirsch (1744 Fussgoenheim – 1792 Carlberg, Germany) married Anna Margaretha Kirsch, Johann Wilheim Kirsch (b 1706 Fussgoenheim) married Maria Catharina Spanier, Johann Martin Kirsch (c1680 Fussgoenheim – 1741) married Anna Elisabetha Borstler, Johann Jacob Kirsch (c1660-Fussgoenheim-c1723) married Maria Catharina surname unknown, Jerg Kirsch (born c1630-died Fussgoenheim, Germany)
  • Mann, John (1725 Ulster, Ireland-1774 Botetourt Co., VA) married Frances Carpenter
  • Martin, Thomas (b 1577 Ringwould, Kent), father William Martin (died 1614)
  • Mercer, Edward (c1704-1763) married Ann, lived in Frederick County, VA
  • Woodrow/Woodward, Matthew born about 1550 probably Northborne, Kent

Genealogy and Ethnicity DNA Testing – 3 Legitimate Companies

Big 3 logos

As with any industry that has become popular, especially quickly, there are the front runner companies, and then there is an entire cadre of what I am going to call “third tier” companies that spring up and are trying to play off of the success of the front runners and the naivety of the consuming public. I’m going to avoid the use of the words snake oil here, because some of them aren’t quite that bad, but others clearly are.  You get the drift, I’m sure.  There is a very big gulf, as in a chasm, between the three front-runners, Family Tree DNA, Ancestry and 23andMe, whose recognizable logos you see above and the rest of the pack.

Recently, we’ve seen a huge raft of people finding these “third tier” companies, purchasing their products thinking they’re getting something they aren’t, often due to what I would call corporate weasel-wording and snazzy ads, and then being unhappy with their purchase. Unfortunately, often the purchasers don’t understand that they’ve in essence “been had.”  This type of behavior tarnishes the entire genetic genealogy industry.

So, if you find a test on LivingSocial or a Groupon coupon that “looks familiar” it may by the AncestrybyDNA test that people mistakenly purchase instead of the AncestryDNA kit sold by Ancestry.com.  They think they are getting a great deal on the AncestryDNA test.  They aren’t.  It’s not the same thing at all.  AncestrybyDNA is an old, inaccurate, ineffective test called DNAPrint that has been rebranded to be sold to the unsuspecting.  Don’t buy this Groupon item.

There are other useless tests too, probably too many to mention by name, plus I really don’t want to give them any publicity, even inadvertently.

I also want to be clear that I’m only talking about genetic genealogy and ethnicity testing, not about medical DNA testing or traditional paternity testing, although some of the labs that offer paternity testing services also offer the less than forthright tests, in fact, those very two mentioned above.  I’m also not talking about add-on services like GedMatch and DNAGedcom which don’t provide DNA testing and do provide much valued services within the genetic genealogy community.  I’m also not talking about the Genographic project testing which does provide great information but is not in essence a genetic genealogy test in the sense that you can’t compare your results with others.  You can, however, transfer your results from the Genographic project to Family Tree DNA where you can compare with others.

Twisting the Truth

One of the biggest areas ripe for harvesting by sheisters are the thousands of people who descend, or think they descend from, or might descend from Native Americans. It’s a very common question.

If you find a company that says they will tell you what Indian tribe you descend from, and believe me, they’re out there, just know that you really can’t do that today with just a DNA test.  If you could identify a tribe that quickly and easily, these three leading companies would be doing just that – it would be a booming consumer product.  “Identifying my tribe” is probably my most frequently asked question and a highly sought after piece of information, so I’m not surprised that companies have picked up on that aspect of genetic genealogy to exploit.  I wrote about proving Native heritage and what it takes to identify your tribe here and here.  If that’s how they’re trying to hook you, you’re either going to be massively disappointed in your results, or the results are going to be less than forthright and truthful.

Yes, the DNA truth can be twisted and I see these “twisted results” routinely that people have paid a lot of money to receive and desperately want to believe.

Let me just give you one very brief example of DNA “fact” twisting. Person one claims (“self-identifies” in the vernacular), with no research or proof, that their maternal grandma is Cherokee, a very common family story.  Their mitochondrial haplogroup is H3, clearly, unquestionably European and not Native.  You test and share haplogroup H3 with person one.  I’ve seen companies that then claim you descend from the same “Cherokee line” as person one with haplogroup H3 and therefore you too are magically Cherokee because you match someone in their data base that is “Cherokee.” Congratulations!  I guess all Europeans who carry haplogroup H3 are also Cherokee, using that same logic.  Won’t they be surprised!

This H3=Cherokee analogy is obviously incorrect and inaccurate in several different ways, but suffice it to say that, as a hopeful consumer, you are now very happy that you are now “proven” to be Cherokee and you have no idea or understanding that it’s all predicated on one person’s “self-identification” that allows the less-than-ethical company to then equate all other H3 people to a “Cherokee lineage.” The problem is that you aren’t either proven Native nor Cherokee on your direct matrilineal line. And you’ve been snookered.  But you’re obliviously happy.

What a shameful way to exploit Native people and their descendants, not to mention the consuming public.

Unfortunately, there are lots of ways to twist the truth, intentionally or inadvertently.  If you’re looking for direction on this topic, there is a FaceBook group called Native American Ancestry Explorer: DNA, Genetics, Genealogy and Anthropology that I would recommend.

In genetic genealogy, meaning for both genealogy and ethnicity, there are three companies that are the frontrunners, by any measure, and then there are the rest, many of whom misrepresent their wares and what they can legitimately tell you. Or they tell you, and you have no idea if what they say is accurate or their own version of “truth” from their own “private research” and data bases, i.e., H3=Cherokee.

The Big 3

So, here are the Big 3 testing companies, in my preference order.

  1. Family Tree DNA
  2. Ancestry
  3. 23andMe

Not only are these the Big 3, they are the only three that give you the value for your money as represented, plus the ability to compare your results to others.

Family Tree DNA is the only company to provide mitochondrial and Y DNA testing and matching.

All three of these companies provide autosomal tests and provide you:

  • Ethnicity estimates
  • Autosomal DNA Results (downloadable)
  • Autosomal DNA Matching to others in their data base
  • Different tools at each company that vary in quality and completeness

If it’s not one of these three companies, don’t buy, JUST DON’T.

You can debate all day about which of these three companies is the best for you (or maybe all three), but that is what the debate SHOULD be about, not whether to use one of these companies versus some third tier company.

I’m am not going to do a review of these companies in this article. Suffice it to say that my 2015 review holds relatively well EXCEPT that 23andMe is still going through something of a corporate meltdown with their genetic genealogy product which has caused me to take them off of my recommended list other than for adoptees who should test with all three vendors due to their data base matching.  Also, if you’re trying to make a decision in relation to the Big 3 companies and testing, you might want to read these two articles, here and here, as well.

I will do a 2016 review after 23andMe finishes their transition so we know how the genealogy aspect of their new services will work.

Personally, I think that everyone interested in genetic genealogy should test their mitochondrial DNA (males and females both,) and Y DNA (males only) at Family Tree DNA and their autosomal DNA (males and females both) at both Ancestry and Family Tree DNA. Family Tree DNA offers a $39 transfer from Ancestry, so you can put together a nice testing package and reap all of the benefits.  Here’s a basic article about the different kinds of DNA testing, what they cover and how, based on your family tree.

Bottom Line

So, here’s the bottom line – as heated as the debate gets sometimes within the genetic genealogy community about which of the three vendors, Family Tree DNA, Ancestry or 23andMe, is best, that really IS the question to debate.  The question should NEVER be whether to use a third tier company for genetic genealogy or ethnicity instead of one of these three.

So spread the word and hopefully none of our genealogy friends or well-meaning spouses or family members purchasing gifts with the very best of intentions will get sucked in. Stick with the Big 3.