I was initially excited to watch the PBS Documentary, American Masters: Decoding Watson. That excitement quickly transformed into something else.
The Skinny and the Scandal Continue reading
Steps up to microphone at the podium, alone, on stage (in this case, a blog article.)
The press corps is gathered (readers) and the lights are bright, white hot and glaring. (Who turned the heat up anyway?)
“Ahem.” <clears throat>
From offstage someplace, “We’re live in 4, 3, 2, 1…”
“I’d like to take this opportunity to update the birth announcement of Andreas Kirsch with new and improved parents.”
Cough. Choke. Sputter.
Every genealogists nightmare, right?
Who is Andreas Kirsch?
As new records become available, of course genealogists want copies, and that sometimes means that we have to revisit previous conclusions based on earlier information. All genealogists know that a new piece of information can turn a previous conclusion up-side-down – or at least complicate things or cast serious doubt.
No one wants to be wrong, but I’m oh so grateful when someone finds something new or that was previously unknown or missed and points it out to me. I do admit, I always have a “well, drat” moment, but I really think these are teachable events for myself and others as well. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
I wrote about Andreas Kirsch of Fussgoenheim, Germany and in that article, I had stated that I could not find his actual baptismal record, but we did have his purported birth date from other indexed records.
Church records in Fussgoenheim, such as marriage records of Andreas’ children showed that Andreas was indeed the father of our immigrant, Philip Jacob Kirsch and his sister, Anna Margaretha Kirsch who married Johann Martin Koehler who immigrated as well. In Anna Magaretha’s 1821 marriage record, it states that she is the daughter of “the deceased Andreas Kirsch and his surviving wife Elisabeth Koehler, present and consenting.” Of course, this not only tells us who her parents are, but that her father has died and her mother is still living.
Later, Philip Jacob Kirsch’s own marriage record provided his parents’ names:
Philip Jacob Kirsch, the legitimate unmarried son of the deceased couple, Andreas Kirsch and Margaretha Koehler and Katharina Barbara Lemerth, the legitimate unmarried daughter of the deceased local citizen Jacob Lemmerth and his surviving wife Gertrude Steiger, both of protestant religion.
We’re home free, right? Yes, as far as who the parents of Philip Jacob Kirsch are, but maybe not relative to the identity of Andreas’s parents. We really do need that missing baptismal record.
My introduction to my German friend Chris was when he pointed out that additional records had become available and there was more than one Andreas Kirsch in Fussgoenheim. Not only that, but the Andreas born in 1772 might not actually be an Andreas at all!
Who was this Chris guy I’d never heard of before anyway? Was he right? Were there really two Kirsch men whose records were intermingled? I didn’t want to believe that. I didn’t even want to consider that. Do you know how many ancestors I’d have to chop off my tree if the wrong man was attached?
And yes, you’ve guessed it, I had identified the “wrong” Kirsch birth record back in the 1980s when my translator was reading and translating these records page by page. Many Fussgoenheim records are missing, and not all remaining records had been microfilmed at that time. Many had been terribly water damaged or torn and the microfilm image quality itself was poor. These factors combined prove very challenging and cause errors to occur.
Chris discovered the mistake and had the misfortune of getting to tell me. I took it pretty well, all things considered. Chris is such a nice person, but I was upset because I’d fallen in love with those families that I fully believed were mine over the past 30 years. But Chris’s information was compelling, and there was simply no ignoring his research – no consigning it to the sidelines. It was in-your-face front and center and had to be dealt with.
I was very unhappy – but not with Chris. With myself. With the genealogical “condition” in general which of course periodically includes discoveries of errors past, and with the bad fortune of the combination of missing/damaged and confusing records.
It’s like I had written my ancestors obituary some 198 years after his death with the wrong parents and now, I had to somehow straighten it out and correct the error.
Crumb! Crumb! Crumb!
Chris Unravels the Mess
I’m providing Chris’s commentary here to illustrate his meticulous (successful) search methodology. Please note that Chris was working from much better record copies obtained from Archion.de, but Archion doesn’t allow their images to be published. The one image I’ve included is from the original Fussgoenheim church book obtained many years ago from the Family History Center.
From Chris (edited slightly for readability and clarity):
For some reason today, I thought back about your post on the Kirsch family from Fussgoenheim. So, being the curious person I am, I went back to the records, with some surprise to wait for me. I think you will like it!
First, I went back to your post:
I planned to have a look at the baptism record of your Andreas Kirsch on 10 August 1772. I found a baptism record for a Kirsch relative at the right date, but it was not an Andreas, but a Johannes that was baptized this day! The parents of this Johannes, however, were the ones you have listed in your article as the parents of Andreas; Johann Valentin Kirsch and Anna Margaretha Kirsch.
I was a bit puzzled, why a child named “Johann Andreas” or even only “Andreas” later on should not be written as such in the baptism entry. As you point out yourself in your article, Johann was such a common name at this time, that I thought they definitely would have written the second name “Andreas” as well. So I went on.
Further down in your article you mentioned that “your” Andreas Kirsch was buried in 1819. So I checked the burial entry.
“Am 20. May starb und am 22. ejusdem ward begraben der hiesige Bürger Andreas Kirsch, Ehemann von Margaretha Elisabetha Köhler, in einem Alter von 45 J., 3 Mon. und 14 Tag.”
My translation: “On the 20th of May died and on the 22nd of the same month was buried the local citizen Andreas Kirsch, husband of Margaretha Elisabetha Köhler, at age 45 years, 3 months and 14 days.”
Again, the listed wife of this Andreas Kirsch is the one you note in your post as well, but if you calculate back from the death date 20 May 1819 with the age at death, you do not end up in 1772, but rather on 6 February 1774.
So, again I went back to the baptism records and find one on this very day for an Andreas Kirsch. Please note that the parents (in the first column) are not the ones you have in your post, but an Elias Kirsch and his wife and Anna Elisabetha. The second column notes the child`s name Andreas, the third column the witnesses Andreas Kirsch and Maria Katharina, third column: birth date 6 February 1774, fourth column date of baptism 8 February.
In summary, I think that your cousin Walter was right to link the Johannes Kirsch born in 1772 with a wife Maria Catharina Koob, while you were right linking the Andreas Kirsch born in 1774 with the wife Margaretha Elisabetha Köhler.
However, these men, Johannes and Andreas, were not one and the same. I had selected the wrong one as my ancestor, mistaking Johannes for Andreas. No, I really don’t know how, but it happened.
Andreas’ wife is confirmed as Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler but his father, based on Andreas’ death record, followed by Chris finding Andreas’ actual baptismal record, shown above, was Elias Kirsch, wife Anna Elisabetha who had no birth surname listed.
Who was Andreas’ mother?
Identifying Andreas’ Mother
My friend and cousin Tom discovered more about Andreas’ mother. Her name wasn’t exactly Anna Elisabetha.
As translated by Tom:
Baptism: 17 June 1731
Parents: Joh. Theobald KOOB and his wife, Maria Catharina, a daughter was baptized and named:
Godparents: Johann Andreas Kirsch & Anna Elisabeth, widow of the late mayor (village elder), Koob.
Fussgönheim Evangelical Church Records
Susanna Elisabetha had been shortened to Anna Elisabetha during her lifetime.
Now I’m paranoid. Are we sure this is the right person?
Tom found more records that suggest strongly that yes, indeed, it was. The records of Elias Kirsch and his wife baptizing their children hold clues in terms of who the godparents were, especially the record where Emanual Koob is noted as the mother’s brother.
Translated by Tom:
Elias KIRSCH and wife, Anna Elisabetha
A son was born, baptized and named: Emanuel
The Godparents: the mother’s brother, Emanuel Koob and wife, Maria Elisabetha
Born: 23rd of April 1763 Baptized: the 26th of the same – Entry No. 50
1766 Elias KIRSCH and wife, Susanna Elisabetha
A son was baptized and named: Georg Henrich
Godparents: Georg Henrich Koob, the juror and wife, Anna Margaretha
Born: 12th of March 1766 Baptized: the 16th of the same – Entry 73
1772 Elias KIRSCH and wife, Anna Elisabetha
A daughter was baptized and named: Maria Catharina
Godparents: Johann Theobald Koob, the juror and wife, Maria Catharina
Born: the 30th of September 1772 Baptized: the 30th of the same
Clearly, Elias and Anna Elisabetha were very close to the Koob family members.
Sawed Off Branch
It was painful, but I did it – sawed that rotten branch right off the tree and grafted the correct information. The grafting felt therapeutic after the removal.
Andreas Kirsch was born on February 6, 1774 and baptized two days later in Fussgoenheim to Elias Kirsch (1733-1804) and Susanna Elisabetha Koob (born June 1731). It feels good (now) to know I have the right ancestor. Andreas died on May 20, 1819, also in Fussgoenheim, but I don’t have a death date for Susanna.
I removed the erroneous conclusions from the first Andreas Kirsch article and will post a link to this article there as well.
A huge thank you and debt of gratitude to both Chris and Tom. I’m sure Andreas’ is resting easier now that he’s connected to the right parents.
I’m doing that happy dance today – leaping for joy – and am I EVER glad I’ve sponsored so many mitochondrial DNA tests. Today, I’m incredibly thankful for one particular DNA test.
Think mitochondrial DNA doesn’t work or isn’t effective for genealogy?
Often, when people ask on social media if they should test mitochondrial DNA, there is a chorus of Negative Nellie’s chanting, “No, don’t bother with that test, mitochondrial DNA is useless.” That’s terribly discouraging, depriving people of knowledge they can’t obtain any other way.
When people heed that advice, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When people don’t test and don’t provide genealogical information that would go along with a mitochondrial DNA test, mitochondrial DNA is much less useful than it could be if people actually tested their full sequence mitochondrial DNA at Family Tree DNA, not just for their haplogroup at 23andMe or Living DNA. There’s a huge difference.
Family Tree DNA tests the full mitochondria and provides matching to other testers which is critical for genealogical purposes. In fact, Elizabeth Shown Mills wrote about using this exact same technique here.
And by the way, this is not an isolated outlier case either. In fact, mitochondrial DNA from this same line was used previously to prove who Phoebe Crumley’s mother was.
If people hadn’t tested, then these walls would not have fallen. Every person who doesn’t take a mitochondrial DNA test is depriving themselves, and others, of critical historical information and clues.
It’s all about CLUES and sometimes that big brick-wall-breaking boulder falls into your lap out of the blue one day.
Today was that day!
Phoebe’s Family Found
I’ll be writing a more detailed article about my ancestor, Phoebe, shortly, but for now, I’d like to share exactly how mitochondrial DNA broke through this brick wall that I truly believed was permanent. I’ll walk you through the various steps so you can follow the same path. Do you have female ancestors without families in your tree? Start thinking about the possibilities!
DNA Pedigree Chart
Let’s start with my DNA Pedigree Chart.
I know many people look at my DNA Pedigree Chart and think it’s a bit over the edge, but identifying the family of Jotham Brown’s wife, Phoebe, would absolutely NOT have been possible without this valuable tool and the fact that I’ve been “collecting” my ancestors’ DNA.
As you can see, any time I find the opportunity to test either the Y DNA line, or the mitochondrial line of any of my ancestors, I do. I’ve been quite successful in that quest over the years thanks to many cousins.
The brick wall that fell is an ancestor of Elizabeth Vannoy and her mother, Phoebe Crumley, shown on my DNA Pedigree Chart, boxed in red, with their haplogroup, J1c2c.
A Proxy Tester
Elizabeth Vannoy, being my great-grandmother on my father’s side, doesn’t’ share her mitochondrial DNA with me, so I had to find a proxy tester.
My cousin Debbie knew another cousin, David, whose mother was Lucy, granddaughter of Elizabeth Vannoy. David agreed to test, back in…are you ready for this…2006. Yes, almost 13 years ago. Sometimes DNA is a waiting game.
At that time, the family rumor was that Elizabeth Vannoy was “Cherokee.” Yea, I know, everyone with ancestors who lived east of the Mississippi has that same rumor – but the best way to actually find out if this is true is to test the relevant family line members’ Y and mitochondrial DNA. Native American haplogroups are definitive and haplogroup J1c2c is unquestionably not Native, so that myth was immediately put to death. (You can read about Native American haplogroups here.)
However, Elizabeth’ Vannoy’s mitochondrial DNA has patiently remained in the Family Tree DNA database, accumulating matches. Truthfully, I’ve been focused elsewhere, and since we had a brick wall with Jotham Brown’s wife, Phoebe (c1750-c1803), which had not yielded to traditional genealogy research, I had moved on and checked cousin David’s matches from time to time to see if anything interesting had turned up.
I thought there was nothing new…but there was! However, it would take my cousins to serve as a catalyst.
On New Year’s Eve of 2016, I received an e-mail from a previously unknown cousin, Rita, who was also descended from Jotham Brown and Phoebe. Rita was born a Brown and over the next two years, not only tested her Brown line’s Y DNA which matched Jotham Brown’s line, but also connected her family via paper trail once she knew where to look. She’s a wonderful researcher.
Another researcher who lives in Greene County, Tennessee has doggedly researched the Brown, Crumley, Cooper and associated Johnson lines. It was rumored and pretty much believed for years, because of the very close family associations and migration routes that Phoebe was Zopher Johnson’s daughter. I worked through this mountain of information in late 2015, reaching the conclusion that I really didn’t think Phoebe was Zopher’s daughter, but since there were no known daughters and Zopher’s wife’s surname was unknown, there was no way of finding matrilineal descendants to test. That door was slammed shut. I thought permanently.
However, Stevie had previously recruited two men from the proven Jotham Brown line to Y DNA test who matched a third Brown man whose line descended from the Long Island, Sylvanus Brown family. Wow, Long Island is a long way from Greene County, TN. Adding to the evidence, our Jotham Brown named one of his sons Sylvanus, a rather unusual name.
This revelation allowed us to track the Brown line forward in time from the Sylvanus on Long Island, providing significant pieces of evidence that Jotham indeed descended from this line.
At that point, we all congratulated ourselves on at least finding an earlier location to work with and went on about solving other mysteries.
I think Rita must be on vacation between Christmas and New Years every year, because I heard from her again on December 28th this year. It took me a few days to reply, due to the Holiday Crud being gifted to me, but am I EVER glad that I did.
Rita, it seems, has spent the last several months sifting through records and looking for migration patterns of families from Long Island. Can you say “desperate genealogist.” I’m not going to steal her thunder, because this part of the journey is hers and hers alone, but suffice it to say she wrote me with a theory.
Joseph Cole was found in Botetourt County, VA along with many of the families that eventually settled in Frederick County, VA and then migrated on together to Greene County, TN. In other words, she’s using the Elizabeth Shown Mills FAN (friends and neighbors) concept to spread the net wider and look for people that might be somehow connected. I took this same approach in Halifax County, VA several years ago with my Estes line very successfully.
Rita discovered that Joseph’s father John Cole also migrated from Long Island through New Jersey into Virginia and settled with this same group. Hmmm, Long Island, same place as Sylvanus Brown. Interesting…
John Cole, it turns out, had a daughter Phebe, who married a Jotham Bart, according to a Presbyterian church book in New Jersey where they settled for a short time in their migration journey. The church records referenced are transcribed, not original.
Jotham Brown, who is known to connect to the Brown family found on Long Island, is found migrating with this same group, and Rita wondered if indeed, Jotham Bart was really Jotham Brown and Phoebe was actually the daughter of John Cole and wife, Mary Mercy Kent.
Still being in the grips of the Holiday Crud, I asked Rita if John Cole and his wife had any proven daughters who would be candidates to have descendants mitochondrial DNA test.
While Rita was searching for daughters of Mary Mercy Kent and John Cole, I had sufficiently escaped the grim reaper to check cousin David’s mitochondrial DNA matches, just on the off chance that some useful gem of information was buried there.
David has 16 full sequence matches, of which 7 are exact matches, meaning a genetic distance of 0, a perfect match. Keep in mind that a perfect match can still be hundreds of years in the past, but it can also be much closer in time. Just because it can be further in the past doesn’t mean that it is. You match your mother, her sisters and their children, and that’s clearly very recent.
What was waiting was shocking. Holy chimloda!
The Earliest Known Ancestor of one of David’s exact matches is Lydia Cole, born in 1781 in Virginia and died in 1864 in Ohio. The tester, Pete (not his real name,) had a tree. Thank you, thank you!!
Pete was stuck at Lydia Cole, obviously, but his tree provided me with Lydia’s husband’s name.
Oh, and by the way, guess what our Phoebe, born about 1750, named her daughter? Yep, Lydia.
Should I have noticed this hint sooner and dug deeper. Yes, I surely should have – Pete’s test was taken in 2012 so this information was there waiting for 6 years.
Is Lydia Cole too good to be true? Perhaps. Is she related? Of course the first thing good genealogists do is try to poke holes in the story. Better me than someone else. Let’s see what we can find.
Desperate to find out more about Lydia Cole, I checked Ancestry’s trees, understanding just how flakey these can be. Regardless, they are great clues and some are well sourced. Other people’s trees are at least a place to start looking.
There was Lydia with her father, John Cole and Mary Mercy Kent, the exact same couple Rita had hypothesized as Phoebe’s parents!
Lydia’s marriage was sourced and sure enough she married William Powell Simmons in Frederick County, VA in 1801, where Jotham Brown and Phoebe, his wife lived. It appears, according to Rita, that John Cole and his entire family settled there.
What a nice little bow on this package – at least for now. Am I done? Heck no…this journey is just beginning. You know how genealogy works – when you solve one mystery, you just add two more! Plus, there’s that little issue of verification, finding the relevant documents, etc. I know, details, right?
Is it possible that Lydia Cole isn’t really Phoebe’s sister? Yes, it’s possible. There is a roughly 30 year birth difference – although we all know how fluid these early dates can be.
DNA alone this far in the past can’t prove anything without additional evidence. It’s theoretically possible that Lydia’s mother was another close relative of Phoebe’s mother, somehow – explaining why Lydia and Phoebe would match so closely on such rare mitochondrial DNA. It’s possible, but not terribly likely.
Preliminary autosomal research also shows connections to the Cole family through other descendants of John Cole – so the evidence is mounting.
There’s a lot more research to do – verifying records, discovering more about Phoebe and John Cole and Mary Mercy Kent. I think Rita is already in the car on the way to Virginia😊
We can now follow Phoebe’s family’s migration from Long Island through New Jersey to Virginia. We now know the identity, pending confirmation, of both of Phoebe’s parents and can track those lines back in time. We know roughly when and where Phoebe was born. We can put the Brown and Cole families in the same place and time on Long Island.
All, thanks to mitochondrial DNA tests at Family Tree DNA confirming Rita’s hypothesis.
What a glorious day!!!
What Can Mitochondrial DNA Do For You?
Mitochondrial DNA is anything but useless. If you’re thinking, “yes, but David only had 16 matches total, and the only possible useful ones were the 7 exact matches because the rest are too far back,” – you’d be mistaken.
One of David’s matches is a distance of 2, meaning two mutations, and that’s the match that confirmed that Clarissa Marinda Crumley was the sister of our Phoebe Crumley, proving that Lydia Brown was indeed Phoebe’s mother, NOT Elizabeth Johnson who apparently married a different William Crumley just a few months before Phoebe’s birth. I wrote about unraveling that mystery here.
If you haven’t mitochondrial DNA tested, what critical information are you missing? You don’t know what you don’t know. If everyone would test, just think how many brick walls would fall.
If you haven’t tested, please do so today. Here’s a summary of what you can learn – as if you needed any more encouragement after Phoebe’s story.
I want to thank my cousins and wonderful collaborators, Debbie, Rita, Stevie and in particular, David for testing – along with Pete, Lydia Cole’s descendant.
Sometimes it does take a village! Test those cousins.
I receive a small contribution when you click on the link to one of the vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay, but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.
Thank you so much.
It’s always interesting to look at the most popular articles at DNA-Explained at the end of each year. Out of millions of page views, these are the Top 10 in 2018, with the * indicating articles that were in the 2017 Top 10 list as well. If you missed some, now’s a good time to catch up or to share with friends.
*Proving Native American Ancestry Using DNA
*Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages
*Which DNA Test is Best?
Ancestral DNA Percentages – How Much of Them is in You?
*Ethnicity Testing – A Conundrum
*How Much Indian Do I Have in Me?
Autosomal DNA Transfers – Which Companies Accept Which Tests?
Concepts – Percentage of Ancestors’ DNA
X Marks the Spot
*Mythbusting – Women, Fathers and DNA
Spread the Word – What You Can do to Help!
The purpose of writing articles is to educate people who have taken genetic genealogy tests along with providing motivation for potential testers.
With more and more companies performing tests, and record numbers of people testing – there’s a lot of confusion and misinformation out there.
You can help by spreading the word.
If you see a question and know that I wrote about that topic, you can enter key words into the search box at the top of any blog page to find the article.
You can always share the links to articles on social media, with friends and at genealogy meetings. If you want to share the actual text of the article in more than a summary fashion or relatively short excerpts (with attribution), as in a reprint, please check with me first – but as for links – please share away. You don’t need to ask first. Sharing is the purpose of writing these articles.
Educating others with credible information helps all of us have a better experience.
What Would You Like in 2019?
To some extent, I maintain a list of articles that I’d like to write at any given point in time. My candidate list always seems to be longer than the time I have, but I do try to prioritize the topics based on, in no particular order:
So, given that criteria, what topics would you like to see me cover in 2019? I’m also open to suggestions during the year as well. In fact, this article is in response to a reader’s “wish.”
Please post your suggestions in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!