DNA Love and Your “Big 8” – Plus Valentine’s Day Sales!

We’re approaching Valentine’s Day, and I’m reminded just how much I love genetic genealogy. I already loved genealogy before the genetic portion emerged. Since DNA has been added to our toolbox, I’m head over heels.

I can’t even begin to count the number of breakthroughs I’ve had using DNA. On EVERY LINE.

In order to further my own genealogy, I’ve purchased countless (I don’t want to count, truthfully) kits and tests for other people. I don’t regret any single one of those dollars, because they all helped ME. Yes, even kits that didn’t match helped me.

Why? Because they might have matched. Some did match. Some provide haplogroup information for my ”Big 8” meaning for all of my 8 great-grandparents.

Click to enlarge

As you can see, I still need to find test candidates for two of my great-grandparents to complete the “Big 8.”

My now-deceased aunt tested for the Margaret Claxton/Clarkson line before mitochondrial full sequencing was commercially available. When I wanted to upgrade her test to full sequence and autosomal, I couldn’t because the archived DNA quality was too poor. Now, I need to find another testing candidate to discover her full haplogroup aside from the rather generic H. Lesson learned – now I just order the whole shebang out the gate!

A second mitochondrial test that I need is for Evaline Miller, my Brethren great-grandmother.

Do You Qualify For a Free Test?

Shameless plug – If you descend from any of the following women through all females to the current generation, where testers can be either males or females, I have a free mitochondrial AND autosomal test for YOU at Family Tree DNA. Happy Valentine’s Day!

  • Margaret Claxton (1851-1920) Hancock Co, TN
  • Elizabeth Speaks (1832-1907) Hancock Co., TN
  • Ann McKee (1804/5-1850/50) Washington Co., VA, Lee Co., VA
  • Elizabeth, wife of Andrew McKee (1766-1814) Washington Co., VA
  • Evaline Miller (1857-1939) Elkhart Co., Indiana
  • Margaret Elizabeth Lentz (1822-1903) Montgomery Co., Ohio, Elkhart Co., Indiana
  • Fredericka Reuhle (1788-1863) Beutelsbach, Germany, Montgomery Co., Ohio
  • Dorothea Katharina Wolfin (b 1755) Beutelsbach, Germany
  • Dorothea Keubach (1729-1790) Endersbach, Germany, Beutelsbach, Germany

Let’s say you want to do the same thing, find people who are candidates to test for specific lines.

Finding Test Candidates

How might you find these people? Trees of autosomal DNA matches are a good choice. I mine my DNA matches at all vendors to see who might match me in the direct line needed to carry the Y or mitochondrial DNA of the desired ancestor. If someone has already DNA tested, they at least understand the subject and you’re not introducing the topic of DNA testing from scratch.

The three main testing vendors (along with GedMatch) each have a variety of tools to help find candidates.

  • Ancestry: Green leaf hints DNA+Tree Matching
  • Family Tree DNA: Phased maternal and paternal “bucketed” match results, trees and in-common surnames
  • MyHeritage: DNA+Tree Matching called SmartMatching
  • GedMatch: Search all GEDCOMs and GEDCOM 1 to All

As luck would have it, all three vendors are having Valentine’s Day DNA Sales too.

Valentine Day Sales and Testing Strategy

Now is a great time to test and transfer your autosomal DNA results for maximum matching.

Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA is having their “Sprinkle Some DNA Love” sale where the Family Finder autosomal test is on sale for $59.

If you want the option of Y, mitochondrial and autosomal, Family Tree DNA is the vendor to select, as they are the only vendor performing Y and mitochondrial testing and matching. You can purchase the Family Finder test today and add any of the other tests, either now or later. $59 is the least expensive price of all the vendors this holiday and you can transfer to MyHeritage and GedMatch for free!

MyHeritage

MyHeritage is on sale for $69 (or $59 if you purchase 2.) You can transfer Family Tree DNA kits to MyHeritage and vice versa without losing any quality or matches because Family Tree DNA’s lab runs the tests for MyHeritage. In fact, this is a great approach because transfers are free and you can fish in both ponds. Both vendors have advanced tools. MyHeritage tends to have European testers not in other data bases, so whether your transfer or test, you’ll want to be there if you have European heritage.

The transfer is free to Family Tree DNA, but there is a charge to unlock their advanced tools, so the best testing strategy would be to test at Family Tree DNA (where the test is less expensive) and transfer to MyHeritage. Total cost – $59 at Family Tree DNA where the total cost of testing first at MyHeritage and transferring to FTDNA is $88 (or $78 each if you purchase 2 kits.)

Ancestry

Ancestry’s test is also on sale for $69. You can transfer the Ancestry results to Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage, but the Ancestry test only covers about 25% of the same test locations as either Family Tree DNA or MyHeritage. As a result, at Family Tree DNA, you only receive your closest 20-25% of your matches and at MyHeritage, they utilize imputation to compensate for the shortcoming. Ancestry’s matching data base is quite large and their tools, though not as comprehensive as elsewhere, are easy to use.

You cannot transfer any results TO Ancestry, so my recommendation if you’re going to test at Ancestry would be to also test at Family Tree DNA and transfer your results to MyHeritage.

Of course, all three of these tests provide the much-sought-after ethnicity estimates.

Testing (and Money Saving) Strategy

Of the four vendors who provide autosomal matching, the comparative costs during the Valentine’s Day sale are as follows:

  • If you’re only going to make one purchase, you can purchase a kit for $59 at Family Tree DNA, have it available for upgrades and transfer to both MyHeritage and GedMatch for free.
  • You can test at Ancestry and Family Tree DNA, both, and transfer to MyHeritage and GedMatch for a total cost of $128 and be swimming in all the best ponds!
  • If you’re an adoptee or seeking an unknown parent, you’ll want to test at 23andMe as well. Their Ancestry Service kit is on sale for $79 now, but 23andMe has dropped to a distant 4th in terms of genetic genealogy.

How about buying a genetic genealogy valentine bouquet for someone you love!

Click here to “sprinkle some DNA love” at Family Tree DNA.

Click here to purchase at or transfer files to MyHeritage.

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I Am A River – 52 Ancestors #182

The quilt, “I Am A River” was inspired by a dream during a very difficult period in my life in the 1990s. In fact, I refer to it as “the decade from hell.”

The “elevator pitch” summary from that decade includes the death of my sister along with the prolonged death of my step-father and my in-laws. However, the worst catastrophe was that my (former) husband had a massive stroke which did not kill him but severely disabled him both physically and mentally – meaning I was thrust literally in the blink of an eye into many roles for which I was either ill-prepared or entirely unprepared.

In the spirit of “anything that can go wrong, will,” the stroke occurred at the same time that my much-beloved step-father was dying. My mother was a basket case and so was I. Of course, all of this affected my children in different ways too, and none of it positively. The “decade from hell” doesn’t even begin to convey the magnitude of the swath of devastation.

There were many decisions that I had to make flying blind, with the future entirely unknown.

The Dream

In the dream, various people stood at the intersection of branches of a river where the river split into two divergent paths.  They reacted in different ways. One person kept looking back, regretting what had been left behind. One person crawled up on the rocks and tried very hard to avoid making any decision. Me, I craned my neck, peering as far as I could down both sides of the river, upstream and downstream, trying my best to discern the future to make an informed choice.

I felt the soul-searing anchor weight of knowing my decision affected the lives of others as much or perhaps even more than those decisions affected me. I might have a chance to recover.  Others would not if I made a poor choice.

Since it was a dream, I could have been all three people – dreams don’t have to make sense and I only remembered the essence, not the details, upon awakening. I also never forgot. The simple message of that dream haunted me.

Of course, in reality, we can’t see very far down the river or into the future anyway and even if we could, we’d never know what was hidden around the next bend. We have to make the best decision we can at the time and then simply hold on for the ride. Especially when your bucolic “Lazy River” ride has turned into a class V whitewater rapids, defined as:

Extremely difficult. Long and violent rapids that follow each other almost without interruption. River filled with obstructions. Big drops and violent currents. Extremely steep gradient. Even reconnoitering may be difficult. Rescue preparations mandatory.

Except – there is no rescue.

The dream represented different approaches to an uncertain and terrifying future – looking backwards and attempting to dwell in the high cliffs of the past, climbing out of the water onto the rock, trying to delay a decision, or trying to peer into the future.  It was impossible to simply having faith and go with the flow. “The flow,” in this case, was strewn with peril and death.

I am not that faithful “go with the flow” person. I worry. I fret. I stew. I worry some more. Especially when other people’s welfare is involved. I’m much more willing to roll the dice about my own.

The great irony in all of this is that when forced, I make a decision and simply march forward, one foot in front of the other.

I hear the poem, Invictus, and try my best to believe it. I repeat the phrases “bloody but unbowed” and “I am the captain of my soul” and attempt to convince myself I’m not afraid. Mostly, I simply refuse to acknowledge the shrill voice of fear.

It’s only when I have the luxury, or torture, of time to decide that I agonize over the “what-ifs.”

So here I am, standing in the middle of the river once again. I’ve come to believe we all stand in this river many times in our lives.

DNA

DNA has shaped both me and my life – indelibly. DNA literally created what I am in a biological sense and accounts in many ways for who I am in terms of my traits.

However, for the past 18 years, DNA has shaped me through genetic genealogy as well – allowing me to become acquainted with my ancestors in ways never before possible. To identify with them in a very personal way. It has taken me to places I never dreamed I could or would go – literally, figuratively and scientifically. A new frontier – the one within.

We have the capacity today to be closer to our ancestors through available records and DNA testing than ever before.  A new horizon has been reached – the threshold crossed.

So, it’s only natural that I would look backwards to my ancestors, perhaps hoping for some shred of advice or imparted wisdom as I stand once again on what seems like the continental divide.

What did my ancestors do when they had decisions to make? How did they make them? What were they thinking? Is there a guiding light there someplace?

I’d settle for a glimmer.

Were they wanderlusts or unwilling refugees? Some of both? Is that heritable? Did they bequeath it to me?

I picked up, moved across the country and changed my life when I was in my mid-20s. I was certainly not unafraid, but I was infinitely determined. My mother called it stubborn😊 I call it tenacious. A rose by any other name. I have no regrets.

Then, fate intervened again some 13 years later with my husband’s stroke. That was one horrific day – and only a beginning that shoved me unwillingly through a doorway from which there was no return.  A one-way portal.

More than a decade later, my life transformed again when I lost my mother. I also remarried. I didn’t anticipate or expect any of those changes back when I was making that first decision to move across the country with my small children in tow.

Sometimes you receive wonderful gifts of fate, opportunities, and sometimes you have to make lemonade out of lemons. Often, you think you’re doing one and you wind up doing the other. Gifts, lemons and lemonade all chained together in the garland of life. That, of course, is exactly why we worry and sit in the middle of that river.

The unknown. That damned terrifying unknown.

So, what would my ancestors do?

WWMAD?

Let’s take a look and see what wisdom the ancestors might impart, based on what we know about their life-altering decisions.

My mother always voiced this lament that made me laugh which made her cringe:

“If you would only just behave.”

This from the woman who danced in the 1930s into the 1940s – trailblazing for others to follow. Ironically, her decision to dance was more driven by the fact that she had no other skill with which to support herself, rather than a burning desire to perform.  What she wanted to be was a bookkeeper – but college money was for boys in the family, not girls. Girls danced.

If you’re going to dance, do it well enough to dance professionally.  That’s professionally as in stage and theater, not a strip club.  Turn lemons into lemonade.

Not to suggest I’m anything like my mother, but let’s just say this photo of me was taken after the genetic genealogy conference in Houston.

Ok. So. That “well behaved” thing is obviously never going to happen.

But where did it come from?

Grandmother, Edith Lore Ferverda and Great-Grandmother, Nora Kirsch Lore

On to my next ancestors, who, I might add, are in this motorcycle photo taken in the early 1900s when motorcycle riding was entirely verboten for women.  Not only is my grandmother, Edith, in this photo, so is her mother, Nora, (last two, at rear) and her sisters. In case anyone wants to know where I got that “not well-behaved” propensity, um, it might be here! If you’re counting, this is four generations of misbehavior in a row.  Genetic much?

My grandmother, Edith Barbara Lore, (rear of the motorcycle) used to tell my mother, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

She would know.

Edith didn’t follow her heart and never really forgave herself for the lost opportunity – coloring the way she reacted to her family for the rest of her life. At some level, she spent her life grieving the opportunity she never took. Perhaps she was sitting on that rock in the river, or attempting to peer downstream.

Regret is poison.

Had my grandmother gone to Colorado with “the cowboy,” let’s just say that my life would not be the same and my grandfather would have been someone entirely different. I wouldn’t be me.

Ironically, the name of the man who so convincingly stole my grandmother’s heart and took it west with him, whom she was afraid to follow, is entirely unknown. Just “the cowboy.”

Fear – so often the ruler or our life – and our decisions.

Had Edith made a different choice, my mother and I would be different people, raised in Colorado, not Indiana. A ripple through the pond of life that would reflect for eternity – so long as my grandmother’s descendants live.

I don’t want to live my life with regrets like my grandmother – but who’s to say she wouldn’t have regretted following her love to the wild west. It’s a possibility either way. Life’s like that.  No promises. Uncertain at best. Sitting in that rock in the river.

Father, William Sterling Estes

My father, William Sterling Estes, made so many outright bad decisions from anyone’s perspective that I often want to shake him and ask, “What the Hell were you thinking?”  Clearly, I’m not looking for any advice from him.  Just like you don’t go to the bar and ask the drunk guy who is broke for financial advice.

My father wasted no time even trying to look upstream.  He was caught up in the adrenaline of the minute, swimming directly into the rapids without even a life vest. He did however, appear to develop a skill in the backstroke, especially after being caught in a net!

The best I can hope for comes from the old adage, “at least he can serve as a bad example.”

Grandmother, Ollie Bolton

My father’s mother, Ollie Bolton – that poor woman. She certainly didn’t live the life she signed up for as a misty-eyed bride of 18 tender years.

I don’t know if she lived her own dreams, or her husband’s. Did she really want to leave Claiborne County, Tennessee and move to Springdale, Arkansas almost immediately after she was married where her first few children would be born? Was that trip full of just-married “I’ll follow you anywhere” starry-eyed love? I’d bet the journey back was VERY different.

Ollie moved back to Tennessee a decade later with a husband, William George Estes, who wasn’t fond of work and was very fond of alcohol. They are pictured together below, although she may haunt me for that.

Ollie wound up with a husband that wasn’t, who drank more than worked and had a roving eye as well as other body parts. In the next chapter of her life, after a child burned to death and living in yet a third state where she caught her husband cheating, Ollie found herself alone, struggling and parceling out her children. I don’t know how much was by choice or because she had only poor choices available at that point.

How I wish I could talk to Ollie and understand how she made those horribly difficult decisions – her thought process and the circumstances I’ll never fully understand that affected my father so profoundly.

Choices.

So often our choices really aren’t our own. Thrown into the water and forced to swim or drown.

Forced upon us by circumstances in which we find ourselves. No one wants to be that person who is living with their children, destitute, ill, dependent and vulnerable in their old age.

My greatest fear isn’t death, and never has been, but that scenario! That!

GG-Grandfather, John Y. Estes

I think about my great-great-grandfather, John Y. Estes, who served in the Civil War, on the side of the Confederacy. He was listed as a deserter, supposedly captured, then became a POW. Did he put up a struggle, or was being “captured” really surrender or seeking the Union soldiers? Was he even serving of his own volition, or was he forced, conscripted? What did he think about when deciding to “desert,” if that’s in fact what happened? Was he brave or cowardly?

Eventually, after being held as a POW, John was released north of the Ohio River near the end of the war. I expect they thought the walk back to Tennessee on an injured leg would kill him, but it didn’t. Limping only slows you down. Sometimes impairments are more in the eye of the beholder and a matter of attitude. Maybe that tenacious, stubborn gene perchance?  Did I get a dose from both sides?

After his return to Claiborne County, Tennessee, John immediately sold his household goods to his eldest son who was only age 17 at the time. A transaction that raises eyebrows and provides nothing but questions. He continued to live in the home with his wife, because at least two more children were subsequently born.

Some 15 years after the Civil War, John Y. Estes walked to Texas with a bum leg. Why did he make that choice? What was the draw? Did he and Ruthy, his wife, discuss that choice before he left? What was their intention?

Was the attraction the land available in Oklahoma and Texas, although he never owned any there and appeared to abandon his land in Tennessee to his wife? Was this a form of unofficial divorce? Did he return to his roots? He lived on Choctaw land although his life in Oklahoma is murky at best.

Was he excited about an opportunity, looking forward? Or was he running from something, like his Civil War service or a marriage gone bad? Was he at odds with his wife? What was his motivation? How did he weigh the odds? Did he actually decide to walk 1000 miles, or did he just walk the first mile, then the second, then the third…until he had walked 1000? Analogous to simply jumping into the water and finding your self far downstream into uncharted waters.

Not only did he walk to Texas once, but he walked back to Claiborne County, then back to Texas again. Yes, three walks of more than 1000 miles each. Apparently his walk from the north to the south after the Civil War of 300 or 400 miles that was supposed to kill him was only training.

John was no spring chicken either. In 1865 when he was released as a POW, he was 47 and by 1880 when he first walked to Texas, he was 62. I can’t even begin to fathom walking to Texas, and back, and back to Texas again, at that age AND on a bad leg – so bad that his grandchildren’s recollection of him is that he was short and fat with bushy eyebrows and that he limped with one leg shorter than the other.

What drives, or inspires, someone to undertake a journey like that, at the age when others retire, especially with his “handicap”? Whatever in this world would cause him to undertake that journey a second and third time? Whatever it was, it must have been extremely compelling. Something caused him to plunge into the water and then swim upstream three times.

Why? What was he thinking?

And why did this man not leave a journal?  Some hint? So exasperating.

GG-Grandmother Ruthy Dodson Estes

And what of John’s wife, Ruthy Dodson? Did she proclaim “good riddance” when he left? Did he walk back to Tennessee, hoping to convince her to return to Texas with him? Did she actually decide not to go, or did she never decide, thereby deciding by not deciding? Was she attempting to peer down the river?

The only hint is that she says she is divorced in the 1880 census – but there is no divorce on record at the courthouse. Was she just saving face, missing him, and angry that John had left forever?

What did she think as he walked away for the last time? Did he turn around and look back with one last glimmer of hope? Was she too angry, stubborn or afraid to go?

Was she regretting a decision, or relieved? By 1883, when her son George moved to Texas too, she could have gone by train. But still, she stayed in Tennessee.

Ruthy had rheumatoid arthritis. Perhaps her health was simply too poor to travel that distance. The family story says that she was disabled for 22 years and her son, Lazarus, had to carry her down the mountain from her cabin to his so she could live with he and his wife. Did Ruthy’s health prevent her from making the decision to relocate to Texas?

Or, God forbid, was Ruthy’s deteriorating health part of what drove John Y. Estes to walk to Texas after being married for 39 years? Subtracting 22 years from her death date tells us that she was severely disabled by 1881.  I really, really don’t want to think John simply, literally walked away from a wife who needed help. Escaping down that river.

GGG-Grandfather, John R. Estes

The father of John Y. Estes, John R. Estes who was born and raised in Halifax County, Virginia packed his young family up after his military service in the War of 1812 and probably joined a wagon caravan through the mountains to Claiborne County, Tennessee. He was a young man then, but surely he knew that he was saying goodbye to his mother, father and siblings and would never see them again? How did he do that? Was he under the delusion that he would return to visit? His mother died not long after he moved, but his father lived another 40 years. Did he look backward up on those river cliffs, longing for what he left behind – wishing to see his parents one last time?

And what about his wife, Nancy Ann Moore who would sit in her father’s church one last time hearing him preach? Did she get to vote or did she simply get dragged into the water along with John?

At least I get to vote. Which means, of course, I bear full responsibility for the outcome of that vote. Ying and yang.

GGGG-Grandfather, George Estes

John R.’s father, George Estes, was a Revolutionary soldier, served 3 terms, moved a family in 1781 to what would become Hawkins and Grainger Counties in eastern Tennessee, stayed a year or so, but then rode back to Halifax County where he spent the rest of his life.

George’s reverse path is really quite different, because no one ever “went back.” But George did! He rode his horse eastward, backtracking, even though he wasn’t married and there was no obvious compelling reason. What caused him to return? I’d love to know what he was thinking, as his decision is counter-intuitive, especially as compared to the other people following that same migration route westward.

Why?

What caused George to swim back upstream?

GGGGGGG-Grandfather, Abraham Estes

Abraham Estes, an orphan in Kent, England, married at age 25 in 1672 and buried his young wife before setting sail for America 9 or 10 months later. There’s no question that he was leaving heartbreak. He had nothing left to lose, and everything to gain. He didn’t care about what was down that river, because staying was so much more painful than leaving.

His decision, I understand, but others are much murkier.

Those Brave Souls

One brave soul, the founder of each family line in America had to make the decision to sell everything, pay for passage on a boat – or sell themselves as indentured servants – leave their homeland and head for the colonies. Of course, that assumes they weren’t convicts or slaves who had no choice at all. Sometimes slaves threw themselves into the sea, with full intention of drowning – because they believed death was better than what would follow. Perhaps they were right.

How did our ancestors make migration decisions? Were they made with excited optimism or with faces lined with worry about potential death. Did they really have choices? It’s one thing to decide for yourself, but what of the choice made for your wife and children – knowing that the old wives’ tale foretold that one child would die in each family for each sea crossing. Would you be willing to sacrifice a child to the watery grave – or did you think you would be the lucky unscathed family? Was their faith in whatever they perceived God or their religion to be such that they felt a child’s death was pre-ordained? Or, did they believe God would watch over them?

I’m afraid my rock-sitting in the middle of the river doesn’t do those brave ancestors justice. There was no question that they were never going home. There was no going back – no breadcrumbs. There were no phones. Letters were uncertain and best case, horribly slow.  Many never arrived at all. Whatever and whoever they left behind was unquestionably forever – and the future was obscured in the fog of an uncertain journey in a small leaky boat traversing a massive and often angry sea.

There was no guarantee they would survive the passage – and they clearly knew that. Yet, they made the decision to leave anyway.

I’d love to know how they reached that decision. Oh, to be a fly on the wall.

GGG-Grandfather, Jacob Lentz

The paternal Y-line DNA tells us that our Lentz line was found along the Volga River about 3500 years ago, one of very few men living today who match ancient burials there. They belong to the Yamnaya culture whose men decided in some way to “migrate” to what is today Germany.

We know, unquestionably that they left their homes, traveling thousands of miles, but why, and how was that decision made? Were they soldiers or did they arrive as settlers with families? Did they have any idea where they were going, or did they simply follow commands to travel west and attack villages as they went? Did they stay and settle, or just leave their DNA in the local population?

And then there was Yamnaya descendant, Jacob Lentz, the humble vine-dresser, too poor to marry his “wife,” causing their children to be born without the “benefit of marriage.”  In 1816 a famine and crop failure nearly starved the family, prompting them to leave Beutelsbach, Germany and set sail for the new world in the spring 1817 – only to become shipwrecked by a murderous sea captain, nearly starved for a second time, then becoming stranded in Norway. Jacob lost almost everything – except his wife and three of his children. One of his children perished. The wives’ tale fulfilled.

There’s far more that we don’t know than we do.

Brave – Jacob Lentz was an incredibly brave leader – finding his voice when compassion called, organizing the shipwrecked survivors into a cohesive group and finding passage, with no money, a second time. He and his family became indentured servants, but after serving their time, Jacob became a Brethren, moving once again cross country and acquiring land in Ohio. In spite of that horrific life chapter, Jacob certainly achieved his dream. But, there were costs, unspeakable literal life and death costs as he buried family members and friends at sea as they died of starvation. a fate impossible to even conceive of ahead of time.

Jacob must has been inconsolably wracked as he realized how others suffered and died because of his decision, including his own child.

Sometimes we drown in that river. Sometimes we watch others drown as a result of our decisions. Sometimes we wish we could drown.

How did Jacob balance the risk versus the potential reward?  Was his driving factor hunger and poverty? Was he desperate to marry his wife? How did he muster the courage to get on the SECOND ship to America, after his horrific experience on the first one? Was his driving desire desperation?

GGG-Grandmother, Fredericka Reuhle and her Parents

Jacob’s wife, Fredericka Reuhle, left Germany with her husband, children and parents on that ill-fated journey. She and her parents left some of her siblings behind. What a gut-wrenching goodbye that must have been. I know the famine and crop failure drove them to leave – but why did some choose to stay?

Fredericka’s parents were about age 60 at that time. We don’t know for sure that they survived, but they weren’t listed among the dead in Norway. Maybe they thought their days of decisions were over – only to make the most life-altering decision of their lifetime.

Did that decision lead to a new life or a slow death? Did they find themselves indentured as servants at age 60, or did they find only a watery grave at the end of their journey? Did they too drown in that proverbial river?

Some ancestors made an active decision to leave, or stay, but refugees from famine or war often had little choice. Convicts had none.

My ancestral lines include many religious refugees. The fighting between people of different religious (and political) views is as old as humanity itself. Some seeking religious tolerance.  Some left to escape religion entirely.

GGGGGG-Grandfather, Murtough McDowell

Murtough McDowell was a political refugee from Ireland who homesteaded in Maryland by 1722, before Baltimore even existed. He and his young wife were clearly seeking opportunities. It wasn’t possible to own land in Ireland at that time – not for poor Protestants anyway. Land wasn’t guaranteed in the colony of Maryland, but it was possible – and I’m sure it was that possibility along with almost constant warfare that drew him away from Kingsmoss outside of Belfast. I’d say he left with a smile on his face – right up until he waved goodbye to his parents if they were still living. He lived to realize his dream – with three land patents to his name. That river of life was kind to him, as best we know.

GGGGGG-Grandfather, Johann Michael Mueller

Johann Michael Mueller was probably a religious refugee – one of those reviled Pietists. The Germans were probably glad to see these folks move on – as the Swiss had been a generation or two before. No matter, America was the land of opportunity where religious freedom was tolerated if not encouraged in Pennsylvania. Michael Mueller/Miller immigrated with his half-brother, Jacob Stutzman – two young men probably full of life, seeking opportunity. The decision to leave was probably relatively easy for them, and they had each other for company. They literally dove into the water together.

Eventually, Johann Michael Miller’s descendants would marry those of Jacob Lentz on the prairieland frontier of northern Indiana, adjacent the Indian village.

Great-Grandparents, Curtis Benjamin Lore and Nora Kirsch

My mother’s grandfather, Curtis Benjamin Lore, above with wife Nora, was half Acadian. C. B. Lore, as he was called, made some questionable decisions. You know, like marrying a second woman before divorcing the first wife. Those pesky details.

However, unlike the decisions made by other ancestors, I very clearly understand HOW he made that decision – and it had to do with the shotgun of his soon-to-be father-in-law, Jacob Kirsch, who was a crack shot. Jacob, of course, didn’t know that the man who had gotten his daughter, Nora Kirsch, pregnant was still married to someone else – or I’m thinking that C. B. Lore wouldn’t have been afforded the option of marrying Nora – he would have been pushing up daisies instead. Jacob Kirsch had already lynched a man just two years earlier, so there would have been no doubt in C. B. Lore’s mind about what Jacob could and would do. That decision was probably easy.

One river branch was sure and certain death and the other was unknown.

GG-Grandfather Anthony Lore

C. B. Lore’s father, Anthony Lore or Lord, led something of a sketchy life and was rumored to be either a river trader or a pirate. The one thing we do know, for sure, is that at one point, after a terrible rift in his Acadian family caused by his mother renouncing the Catholic faith and becoming, gasp, Protestant, that Anthony simply picked up and left L’Acadie, south of Montreal. He followed Lake Champlain into Vermont where he met and married his non-Acadian, non-Catholic wife, Rachel Hill.

Why he made the choice to leave is evident. That religious split within the Lord family colored both sides of that family into future generations where the religious battle was fought over and over for generations. Not for Anthony – he simply left.

Anything downriver had to be better than staying.

The Acadians

The Acadians, staunch Catholics, began settling in Port Royal, Nova Scotia about 1603, before Jamestown was founded, but their new homeland wasn’t to be forever. In 1755, some 150 years later, they were forcibly evicted by the English. Originally arriving in Nova Scotia as Catholics seeking refuge, their choice to remain neutral in Canada to maintain peace had backfired. When deported, 6 generations after arrival, it was as refugees once again – stripped of everything, at the mercy of anyone and everyone – families scattered to the winds. The only choice they got to make was whether to try to find their family members, their way back to Canada or attempt to rebuild a life wherever the ship they were herded onto landed.

The Acadian people had both literally and figuratively been herded into the river water.

These brave people risked everything to find family again.  Untold numbers perished.  True grit.

The 1709ers

The 1709ers were another group of refugees who weren’t refugees to begin with but became refugees in 1709 as a result of their decision to leave Germany in search of the elusive dream – free land. Some of the flyers distributed in Germany espousing that alluring “fake news” still exist, encouraging people to travel to America to claim “free land” supposedly being provided by the Queen of England, so we know why these German families made this choice.

We know that the decision was probably made quickly and in an adrenalin-fueled haze – sometimes the decision point to actual departure accomplished within days. What they didn’t know or expect was that they would be stranded first in Rotterdam, then in England for a year or so, then on to America where that “free land” to which they convinced themselves they were entitled never materialized.

Their lives might have been better had they had heeded the colloquialism, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

It’s stories like this that cause me to overthink things today. Am I sure I have every piece of information I need to make the decision?  Is the info all valid?

The 1709ers are a great example of the decisions we fear making – a one-way street where the dream becomes a nightmare that won’t end and from which there is no recovery. Maybe these people were a little too anxious to plunge into that river.

Native Americans

And then, of course, my Native ancestors who are very nearly lost entirely to history in the “settling of America.” Genocide, pure and simple, using the excuse that they were pagans and in need of religious conversion.

There are only remnants of their blood running in my veins today. But their story, their history has never been stronger – even if I don’t know all of their names. Some have been resurrected through the DNA of their descendants. Even if it’s only their Y or mitochondrial DNA that introduces me to them – they are then positively identified as Native and we can honor their sacrifices. They had to make horrific decisions. Akin to “how would you like to die?” Not if, only how. They had no good options. Both sides of their river was filled with deadly, impassible, class VI rapids.

Sometimes, being nice to strangers really isn’t the answer. But, how do you know? Where do the concepts of humanity to others and self-preservation separate?

The River of Uncertainty

Decisions are frightening and difficult.  No hints as to the unknown future.  No peeking around the bend in the River of Uncertainty.

In the end, will we say that we could have missed the pain, but would have had to miss the dance – or will we, like the 1709ers, be irreparably damaged as a result of what was expected to be a choice full of smiles and opportunity. Will we drown in those rapids, nameless, like my Native ancestors? Will we wish we were dead instead, or die a burden to our children?

Or, will we be like the redeemed doubter, George Washington, who said in September 1776, writing to his cousin, after losing New York City to the British in the Revolutionary War, “If I were to wish the bitterest curse to an enemy on this side of the grave, I should put him in my stead with my feelings.” Then, uncertain, feeling inadequate and scared as hell, General Washington mustered the courage of his convictions and went on to win the war – and with it America’s freedom from England, irreversibly changing the course of history for the entire world.  Not to mention changing the life of every single American individually between then and now. He simply dove into the icy water, defying both fear and fate!

How does anyone know what’s down the river and around the bend? How can one best anticipate the future and make the decision with the least harmful outcome?

No one wants to become “that” burdensome ancestor who made a tragic decision.  We all want to be the success story – but none of my ancestors made the decisions they did knowing the outcome.

Therein lies the eternal human quandary. How to make the best choice.

Here I am, once again, having come full circle, in the middle of the river – left wondering what my ancestors would have done. The message I hear, strong and clear, is to consider carefully and then plunge with the courage of your convictions, embracing the opportunity, relishing the journey, and never looking back.

We are all the river and the river is life.

Journey

As you journey through life,
choose your destinations well,
but do not hurry there.

You will arrive soon enough.

Wander the back roads and forgotten paths,
keeping your destination in your heart,
like the fixed point of a compass.

Seek out new voices,
strange sights,
and ideas foreign to your own.

Such things are riches for the soul.

And if, upon arrival
you find that your destination
is not exactly as you had dreamed,
do not be disappointed.

Think of all you would have missed
but for the journey there,
and know that the true worth of your travels
is not where you come to be at journey’s end.

But in who you came to be along the way.

Roberta Estes

Anna Ursula Schlosser (1633-1701) and the Ides of March, 52 Ancestors #181

As we unraveled the story of Irene Charitas Schlosser and her parents, my friend Tom provided critical information that unlocked the name of Irene’s mother, Conrad Schlosser’s wife. I can’t thank Tom enough for his painstaking work and his infinite patience with me!

Conrad Schlosser’s wife is mentioned in a baptism. Her given names are Anna Ursula.

My heart lept into my throat. Another ancestor identified, at least partially.

Anna Ursula.  I rolled her name across my tongue and pronounced her as mine! And I as hers, of course.

Much of Anna Ursula’s life story comes to us through her husband and sometimes by inference. Just when I thought I knew something about Anna Ursula, I discovered in fact that I did not. I love/hate it when this happens!

Introducing Anna Ursula

I thought I knew that Anna Ursula’s life didn’t begin in Steinwenden, because I thought that she and Conrad immigrated as a family to the area about 1684 from Switzerland. At that time Anna Ursula would have been married to Conrad (Cunradt) Schlosser for between 25 and 30 years meaning that she would have spend half a century or so living in Switzerland.

Ummm….no.

After I published Conrad Schlosser’s story, new information came to light from a reader, Chris, who has sent me invaluable information, both before and since. I can’t thank Chris enough either! Between Chris and Tom, I have been truly blessed.

In particular, Chris found the following information in this article:

“Johann Jakob Hauser around 1660 constructor of the “moor mill” in Steinwenden. During the 30 years war, the region Steinwemden, including among others the villages Weltersbach and Steinwenden, was heavily depopulated. It is only in a tax list in 1671, that inhabitants are again listed, among them Johann Jakob Hauser, miller in Steinwenden. [compare the copy from 1800 of a not conserved original; copy printed in: “Weltersbach. Streifzüge durch die Ortsgeschichte”, a.a.O., page 19]. Around 1660, Johann Jakob Hauser and CONRAD SCHLOSSER rebuilt the moor mill. In the 1680s, the mill was owned by Johann Schenkel.”

Wow.  Just wow.

Of course, there are several tidbits of incredibly valuable information here.

First, if Conrad Schlosser was living in or near Steinwenden in 1660, the family clearly did not migrate from elsewhere in 1684.

Second, I need desperately to find the list of families in 1671, because it’s very likely that Anna Ursula’s family is among these people. Conrad would most likely have married a local girl and settled down nearby – which is where they are found in 1685, after the beginning of the church records in Steinwenden in 1684.

And yes, I have already tried to find the book in the library in Salt Lake City library. The German title of the book is Weltersbach: Streifzüge durch die Ortsgeschichte and WorldCat says it’s only available at a library in Munich and another in Frankfurt. Anyone local to either, have the book or know of a resource?

Steinwenden

We do know that Anna Ursula wasn’t born in Steinwenden, the village, in the location where it exists today, because that village and region was entirely depopulated during the 30 Years War, but she could have been born not terribly far distant.  We just don’t know, but we do know that her family had to be in the general vicinity for Anna Ursula to meet and marry Conrad Schlosser about 1660.

An original text in German written in 1980 titled “The History of Steinwenden” by Roland Paul, historian of the Palatine Region of Germany, provides information about the region. Translated and adapted for English by Dr. Claus Kirchner, Eric Dysinger, and Anne Dysinger, they state:

Researchers believe that the name Steinwenden can be traced back to the old Germanic word “winne” (as compared to the village name “Winden” in Southern Rhineland Palatine), which translates to “terrain with pastures.” Such large pastures always existed south of the village in between Steinwenden and Weltersbach, in the valley of the Moorsbach stream. The first part of Steinwenden (“Stein”) most likely refers to the remains of the original Roman estate, located between Wiesental, Bruehl and the present-day Roemerstrasse (i.e., Roman street). The village name of Steinwenden can therefore be explained as “pasture close to stones” (or stonehouse, or stonewalls).

You can see the Mohrbach in the aerial view today, beneath the village. Is that where the mill Conrad rebuilt was located?

The name Steinwenden dates to at least 1180 AD but the population living in Steinwenden after the 30 Years War would not have been the descendants of the first settlers because Steinwenden was completely abandoned during the 30 Years War and apparently until about 1660.  That’s likely why the mill was being rebuilt – people were once again beginning to settle in the region.

Quoting again:

Even 8 years after the Peace Treaty of Westphalia, our homeland was in a desolate state as reflected in a 1656 entry in the direct tax book number 12: “Nobody resides yet in the district of Steinwinden [most likely the complete aforementioned area]”. This was due to the fact that the former inhabitants who fled from their homes during the war did not return. The resettlement of the area started around 1660 with, among others, the Swiss immigrants playing a major role in the noteworthy reconstruction that began under difficult circumstances and lasted for decades. The reformed church books contain the names of some of the resettlers: Berny, Buechi (Bichy, Bihy), Brennermann, Freyvogel, Hunzinger, Koller, Kyburtz, Zinsmeister and many more. Immigrants from Germany also moved to the region.

Steinwenden in 1684 consisted once again of six families, totaling approximately 25 residents. More than one hundred years later, in 1791, this number had risen to 305.

This provides us with even more fascinating tidbits. We know that no one lived in Steinwenden in 1656.  We know based on church records that Conrad and Anna Ursula were there in 1685 and that Conrad was in the region in 1660, so it stands to reason that they were one of the six families mentioned in 1684. And I’d bet that they were related to the other 5 households.

We also know that in 1685, Anna Ursula’s daughter had already married one of the Swiss immigrants because they had a child baptized.

What We Do Know About Anna Ursula

We don’t know Anna Ursula’s maiden name, but we do know that her daughter was named for her so we need to be careful not to mistake the daughter for the mother (or vice versa) in the church records.

The mother, Anna Ursula Schlosser, a widow, died on March 15, 1701. According to her death record in the Steinwenden church register, she was born in 1633, during the 30 Years War.  It’s unlikely that she was born in Steinwenden since no one was living there in 1656 and the article states that the earlier residents did not return. It was in 1660 that the rebuilding began.

Burial: The 15th of March 1701, Anna Ursula, surviving widow of the late Cunradt Schlosser, 68 years old.

The church record above indicates that not only Anna Ursula died, but so did her daughter two weeks prior to Anna Ursula’s death, as did her 21 year old son a week later.

Steinwenden Church Records

The Steinwenden Reformed Church records begin in 1684. In those records, we find various records of Anna Ursula and her children.

The historical records tell us that in 1684, just before the Swiss arrived, the village only had 6 families with a total of 25 people. That’s not much, especially for a location that could clearly accommodate more, and had in the past.

I’d guess that in 1684 or 1685 when the Swiss began arriving, they probably had their pick of relatively good land, not to mention that all of the trades would be needed as the village grew. However, Conrad and Anna Ursula who had settled in that area 20+ years earlier surely had already laid claim to the best lands.

The first records for any of the known surnames associated with this family are found in the marriage on April 28, 1685 of Anna Maria Schlosser to Melchior Clemens.

The second record is found on June 5, 1685 when Johann Nicholas Muller, son of Irene Charitas Schlosser and Johann Michael Muller was born and died the next day. I wonder if that was the first burial in the churchyard for this family group. This tells us that Irene became pregnant in about September of 1684. We don’t know where or when they were married, although it’s very likely in the church local to Steinwenden – wherever that was at the time. We know that the Steinwenden church records begin in 1684. The church may have already been established, although with only 6 families, that seems unlikely.

We know that Johann Michael Mueller was born in 1755 in Zollikoffen, Canton Bern, Switzerland.  Between 1755 and 1785, we know that he married the daughter of Anna Ursula and Conrad Schlosser, but in which church is a mystery.  This tells us that the Muller/Mueller/Miller family was in the region by at least 1784.

Michael Muller’s Cousin

A 1689 record mentions that Jacob Ringeisen of Schweitz was “serving for his cousin Michael Muller.”

Records in Steinwenden for Jacob Ringeisen begin in 1686 for Hans Jacob, or simply Jacob Ringeisen and wife Susanna.

A death record is found for Jacob on June 1, 1691, stating he was born in 1654, but no location is given although his occupation is schreiner, a carpenter. I wonder if Jacob Ringeisen was born in Zollikoffen, given that he is listed as a cousin to Michael Muller.

We believe that Johann Michael Miller was born in Zollikoffen, Switzerland in 1655 based on a record in the Reformed (Calvinist) Church there. Zollikoffen is about 161 km from Geneva, the center of the Calvinist faith. Zollikoffen is about 400 km from Steinwenden, much of the way along the Rhine River. The Schlosser family in Steinwenden was Calvinist as well.

Graffschaft Felkenburg

I have often wondered if we compiled all of the earliest church records in Steinwenden and created a family tree that we would find that all of the Swiss families were related in some fashion. I would suspect that these families were interwoven long before they arrived in Steinwenden, and that they arrived as an interrelated family group. If we are ever able to find them in Switzerland, Jacob Ringeisen’s unusual name may be the key.

Hoping to find some clue about the location these immigrants came from, I asked my friend Tom to take a look. The only clue is the following entry in the church records:

28 April 1685 at Steinwenden were married Melchior Clemens, emigrant from Graffschaft Felkenburg with Anna Maria, legitimate daughter of Cunradt Schlosser, the same (place?).

Does “the same place” refer to Steinwenden or Graffschaft Felkenburg? Where was Graffschaft Felkenburg? It’s not locatable on a map today. If any reader has any idea about where to find this village, please let me know.

Chris provided me with yet another document: Fritz Braun, “Schweizer und andere Einwanderer sowie Auswanderer im ref. Kirchenbuch Steinwenden (1684-1780)”
In: Mitteilungen zur Wanderungsgeschichte der Pfälzer 1960, Folge 3/4, S. 17-32

This translates to “Swiss and other immigrants and emigrants in the reformed church book of Steinwenden (1684-1780).” Tom came to my rescue and found the actual document.

Conrad Schlosser isn’t found in this list of immigrants/emigrants. I was initially disappointed, but then again, this article only features families that moved in or moved out – not founder families. Therefore Conrad’s family is omitted, which makes me sad because if the area was entirely depopulated, we know he had to come from someplace – although I swear I do have some mystery ancestors who were born under rocks or brought by storks!

Now I’m wondering if we can infer the names of the “founder families” by comparing that 1671 tax list (assuming I can actually find a copy) and this list of immigrant/emigrant families and the families in the tax list but not in this document are the founder families.  Anna Ursula’s parents would be among those founder families.

This isn’t just back door research, it’s crawling through the upstairs window by shimmying up the trellis!

Recreating the Family

Anna Ursula, the mother, was born in 1633, someplace.

Given social marriage practices of the day, she probably married Conrad Schlosser about 1653 and her first child would have followed about 1654. Those would have been glorious days of young love, assuming that her first child or children lived.

Based on the evidence we have through the church records, it’s possible that her earliest children died, unless of course she married late, in about 1659 when she would have been 26.

Given that the Steinwenden church records don’t begin until 1684, this begs the question of where she and Conrad were married and where her children were baptized.

I’ve created a possible childbirth timeline, based on Anna Ursula’s known children and her birth year, assuming she married about age 20. Notice all the years where there are no children listed, implying deaths.

  • 1654
  • 1656
  • 1658
  • 1660? – Irene Charitas Schlosser born approximately 1660, married Johann Michael Mueller (first child born in Steinwenden in 1685)
  • 1661 – Anna Catharina (never married)
  • Before 1665 – Anna Maria (married Melchior Clemens in 1685)
  • 1664 – Carl Schlosser (began having children in 1701, died in 1731)
  • 1666
  • 1667
  • 1669
  • 1670
  • 1672
  • 1674
  • Probably about 1676 – Anna Ursula (the daughter) was confirmed in 1692 and married in 1696 to Johann Calman Hoffbauer.
  • 1678
  • 1680 – Johannes Peter buried July 21, 1691, age 11
  • 1680 – Johannes, buried March 22, 1701, age 21

There were no children born after 1680 when Anna Ursula would have been 47.  Of course, as luck would have it, the church records began 4 years later.

Certainly there were more children born to Anna Ursula – the question is only if any survived. That’s a lot of blank spots. There would have been even more children born, about a year apart instead of two years, if some of the babies died at birth. The list above presumes the children lived long enough to be weaned, meaning births occurred approximately every two years.

Clearly, Anna Ursula dealt with a lot of grief in her life. Since the only death records of Anna Ursula’s children in Steinwenden after 1684 are recorded, she probably buried at least 9 children before the records began. Not to mention her parents and probably siblings and their children too.

Let’s see what we know about Anna Ursula’s children that lived, in approximate age order.

Irena Charitas Schlosser and Michael Mueller Sr.

Irene Charitas Schlosser was married to Johann Michael Mueller (Sr.) probably sometime about 1684 or maybe early 1685 given that she was probably born sometime between 1660-1665, give or take a couple years.

The marriage of Irene Charitas is not recorded in Steinwenden, but the birth of children is duly recorded every couple years in the church records beginning in 1685.

Tragically, Irene only had one child that lived to adulthood unless Irene Charitas Schlosser Muller had a child or children before 1685 that lived, but for whom we find no records at all. Her known children are:

  • June 5, 1685 – Johann Nicholas Muller born and died the next day. Godparents: Hanns Georg Scheimocher; Nickel Stahl; Hans Georg ?, wife.
  • July 9, 1688 – Johann Abraham Muller born and died (within a few months – date illegible). Godparents: Abraham Wochner, tailor; Hans Bergter from Krotelbach; Mar. Magd., H. Hofmann’s wife.
  • April 30, 1687 – Samuel Muller born and died the same day, shortly after birth. Godparents: H Samuel Hoffman and his wife.
  • June 7, 1688 – Catherina Barbara born, died July 21, 1691. Godparents: Maria Catharina, wife of Jonas Schror ………..Samuel Lo.., the tailor
  • April 24, 1691 – Eva Catherine Muller born and died on June 29, 1691, 2 months old, just 5 days after the child above died. Godparents: Eva, wife of Hans Ulrich? Berny, Catharina, wife of Hans Georg Dreysinger; Kilian ?, Michael Frey.
  • October 5, 1692 – Johann Michael Mueller who died in the US in 1771, age 78 years. Godparents: Johann Michael Schuhmacher; Balthasar Jolage; Christina, wife of Hans Bergter (Bergtol) from Krodelbach (Krottelbach). Johann Michael Mueller’s eventual wife was a Berchtol.

Irene Charitas’ husband, Johann Michael Mueller, died on January 31, 1695.

The fate of Irene Charitas is uncertain. She may have died before Michael’s death, or she may not have. There is no church record reflecting her death. However, the widow of Johann Michael Mueller, by the name of Anna Loysa Regina married Jakob Stutzman in the Steinwenden church on September 29, 1695. This, of course, suggests that Irene Charitas died long enough before Johann Michael Mueller for him to remarry before his own death in January 1695. That means that Irene would have died between October 5, 1692 and January 31, 1595, so 2 years and a couple months gap. If this was the case, where is Irene Charitas’ death record or Johann Michael Mueller’s remarriage record? He clearly died in Steinwenden, so there is no reason to think he had moved.

Further complicating the matter, in later records pertaining to Johann Michael Mueller Jr., Jacob Stutzman’s wife is referenced as the mother of Johann Michael Mueller. We know when Johann MIchael Mueller was born, so he had to be the son of Irene Charitas. Needless to say, this is very confusing because the records contradict themselves.

There is evidence pointing in both directions, so for now, I’m going to leave the question of Irene Charitas’ death unresolved. We will visit this topic in the future in a separate article.

At Anna Ursula’s death, she had buried all but one of her daughters and all but one of Irene Charitas’ children. She had also buried her son-in-law and she may have buried Irene Charitas as well.

Anna Catherine Schlosser

Born in 1661, Anna Catharina Schlosser didn’t marry and died March 3, 1701, just two weeks before her mother.

Anna Maria Schlosser and Melchior Clemens

Based on church records, we know that Irene’s sister, Anna Maria Schlosser was married to Melchior Clemens on April 28, 1685 in Steinwenden. What goodies can we dig up about her?

The baptism of Johann Michael Clemens, son of Melchior Clemens & Anna Maria Schlosser is a very important family record, because Michael Muller is a godparent and it confirms the family connection a second time! (Thanks so much to my friend Tom for finding these images and translating the records.)

  • January 31, 1686 – Johann Michael, parents: Melchior Clemens & and Anna Maria from Steinwenden. Godparents: Hans Georg Schuhmacher; Michael Muller and Jacob Orsels wife.

While their first child was born and baptized in Steinwenden, the rest were not. Apparently Melchior was Catholic, because their subsequent children were baptized in a Catholic church. I wonder what kind of a scandal or family rift that caused!

The Thirty Years War that ended in 1648 was a bitterly fought and extremely devastating war that depopulated much of Germany, including Steinwenden. While the issues were not entirely religious, there was certainly a Catholic versus Protestant component.

I’m guessing, but I don’t know, that Anna Ursula was at the baptism of each of her grandchildren regardless of which church, Protestant or Catholic, they were baptized in.

The next two children were baptized in the Catholic Church in Glan-Munchweiler, about 7 miles from Steinwenden.

  • February 17, 1689 – baptized Joes (Joannes) Severinus, legitimate son of Melchioris Clemens & Anna Maria, his lawfully wed wife of Stenweiller. Godparents: Joes (Joannes) Valentinus Brenler; Severinus Clemens, both of Ramstein & Anna Catharina of Stenweiller.
  • August 26, 1691 – baptized Anna Appolonia, legitimate daughter of Melchioris Cleman & Anna Maria, his lawfully wed wife of Stenweiller. Godparents: Jacob Crentz & Anna Margreta both of Stenweiller.

Appolonia’s marriage was also recorded in this church in 1712:

On the 26th of May 1712, no impediments having been found, were married in the church before witnesses the honorable young man Joes (Joannes) Nicolaus Heller, legitimate son of the honorable Thomas Heller & Catharina his wife of Reweiler with the virgin, Anna Appolonia, legitimate daughter of the honorable Melchioris Clemens of Stenweiler.

The rest of the children were baptized in the Catholic Church in Ramstein, about 4 miles in the opposite direction from Steinwenden.

  • May 4, 1694 – the Sunday after Easter was baptized the legitimate son: Joannem Sepherinum Clement, born of the honorable parents: Melchiori Clement & Anna Maria. Godparents from Steinweiler: Sepherinus Clement of Ramstein and his wife, Anna Magdalena, both Catholics & the honorable young man, Carolus Schlosser, Calvinist of Steinweiler.

It’s very unusual to find a protestant acting as the godparent for a Catholic child.

Twenty-one years later, we find this child’s marriage record as well.

On the 22nd of January 1715 were married Severus Clemens of Steinwenden & Margareta Catharina Zinsmeisterin of the same Steinwenden.

  • December 3, 1697 – baptized Reginam Catharinam, legitimate daughter of the honorable married couple Melchioris Clemens, hunter & Anna Maria his wife. Godparents: Joes (Joannes) Jacobo Breull, young man & Regina Catharina Steurin, both of Ramstein.
  • September 29, 1700 – Baptized Anna Christina, legitimate daughter of Melchioris Clemens & Anna Maria, his lawfully wed wife. Godparents: Lady Anna Christina, famous nobleman and the famous Lord Ernesti Schmedding,?

We find Anna Christina’s marriage as well. These children were clearly raised Catholic.

On the 4th of November 1722 were married, Jacobus, legitimate son of the deceased Theodorici Wuest of Obermohr & Christina, legitimate daughter of the late Melchioris Clemens of Steinwenden.

It would normally be unusual that more of Anna Maria’s siblings did not stand up with her children when baptized, but given the religious split, the fact that there were any Protestant godparents at all is rather amazing. What does surprise me is that Anna Maria’s mother wasn’t a godparent, which suggests that the rift between mother and daughter might have been quite wide and deep after Anna Maria’s switch to Catholicism.

I do wonder what the occupation of hunter for Melchior entailed at that time.

On the first of July 1713 died Michael (Melchior) Clemens of Steinwenden and was buried in the cemetery there.

We don’t know how old Melchior was, but if he was about the same age as his wife, he would probably have been about 20 when he married in 1685, so 48-50 at his death. I wonder if his occupation had something to do with his demise.

I also wonder why Michael wasn’t buried in consecrated holy ground, given that he was Catholic. It was noted that he was buried in Steinwenden – and I’m presuming this would have been in the Protestant church cemetery. There was no Catholic church in Steinwenden at that time.

It appears that all 5 of Anna Maria’s children lived, the last being born just half a year or so before Anna Ursula’s death. I wonder what happened to Anna Maria after Melchior’s death. I found no further records.

Carl Schlosser

Born in October 1664, Hans Carl Schlosser, son of late Cunrad Schlosser, married Agnes Hunan in Steinwenden on January 27, 1701, just about 6 weeks before the deaths of his mother, sister and brother. Carl died on January 16, 1731, just 11 days short of his 30th anniversary, aged 66 years and about 3 months.

This is Anna Ursula’s only son who reached adulthood and had children. Carl married late in life, age 37, but at least Anna Ursula had the opportunity to see him married. Unless she was grievously ill, I’m sure she attended.

Unfortunately, Anna Ursula did not live long enough to greet any of Carl’s children:

  • December 18, 1701 – Anna Regina died immediately after baptism, Godparents: Hanss George Deysinger, Anna Christina, wife of Wilhelm Pfeiffer from Weltersbach, Regina, wife of Johann Nickkel Haffner from Limbach.
  • December 24, 1702 – Anna Margaretha Schlosser, was baptized quickly and died soon afterwards. Same Godparents as above.
  • July 29, 1705 – Anna Ursula, Godparents: Johann Wigant, legitimate son of Philipp Dulman, miller in Glan-Munchweiler, Anna Ursula legitimate daughter of the late Andreas Rabe of Stenweiler, Anna Elisabeth legitimate daughter of Wilhelm Pfeiffer of Weltersbach.

Now, of course, I’m wondering about whether or not Anna Ursula Rabe was named after our Anna Ursula, and if those two women are related in some fashion.

Finally, 4 years later, a child lived.

  • August 19, 1708 – Anna Catharina, Godparents: Catharina Barbara, daughter of Philipp Cullmann, miller in Munchweiler; Anna Apollonia, daughter of Melchior Kleemanns (Clemens) from Steinwenden; Wilhelm, legitimate son of Hanss Wilhelm Berny from Steinwenden.
  • March 17, 1711 – Maria Barbara, Godparents: Maria Lysbeth, wife of Simon Friess, smith in Steinwenden; Catharina Barbara, daughter of Philipp Cullmann, miller from Munchweiler; Theobald Lang from Steinwenden.
  • November 12, 1713 – Regina Catharina, Godparents: Margaretha Catharina, daughter of Jacob Zinssmeister from Steinwenden; Regina Elisabeth, Tobias; Johann Michel, legitimate son of Jacob Crentz from Steinwenden. This child died on October 8, 1724 at age 11.
  • November 26, 1716 – Johannes, Godparents: Johannes Schlecht, carpenter from Steinwenden; Samuel Kirch from Weltersbach; Maria Madl., wife of Bartel Deisinger from Steinwenden; Barbara, wife of Theobald Lang of Steinwenden. This child died on March 20, 1720 at age 4.
  • September 24, 1719 – Anna Margreth, Godparents: Anna Margreth, surviving widow of Michel Jung of Steinwenden; Andreas Zinssmeister, son of Jacob Zinssmeister of Steinwenden; Seibert Clemens of Steinwenden.

It appears that 4 of 8 children born lived, or at least we don’t find death records. That mortality rate was normal at the time, but it breaks my heart just to think about losing any children, let alone that many – half.

Anna Ursula Schlosser married to Johann Calman Hoffbauer

Anna Ursula (the daughter) was married on June 26, 1696 in Steinwenden.

  • March 17, 1697 – Baptism of Johan Carl, Parents: Calman/Culman Hoffbauer & Anna Ursula from Steinwenden. Godparents: Hanss Carl Schlosser; Eva Ersabeta Hoffbauerin, ?.

February 13, 1698, Johann Culman Hoffbauer, master shoemaker, age 26, was buried.

Anna Ursula wasn’t even married 2 years before she was left a young widow with a baby who would celebrate his first birthday without his father.

Hans Peter Schlosser

The burial record for Hans (probably Johann) Peter Schlosser on July 31, 1691, Anna Ursula’s son, tells us that he was age 11 at his death. He was one of Anna Ursula’s youngest children, if not the youngest, and would have been born about 1680.

With this child’s death, Anna Ursula may have lost her baby. However, based on the death records, if the years are accurate, Hans Peter and Johannes who died in 1701 the week after his mother may have been twins.

Living Children (When Anna Ursula Died)

Even though Anna Ursula clearly had more children than the records in Steinwenden indicate, it appears that only 7 lived long enough to be recorded in the Steinwenden church.  Of the surviving children, two died in 1701 in the same month as Anna Ursula.

  • Anna Ursula may have buried daughter Irene Charitas as well.
  • The fate of daughter, Anna Ursula, is unknown along with that of Irene Charitas.
  • At Anna Ursula’s death, only daughter Anna Maria is known positively to be alive.
  • Anna Ursula buried her son, Hans Peter, in 1691, three years before her husband’s death.
  • Anna Ursula’s son, Johannes died a week after she did.
  • I strongly suspect the death of her daughter, Anna Catharina, two weeks prior and her son, Johannes, a week later were somehow connected with the cause of Anna Ursula’s death.
  • Anna Ursula’s only other son, Carl, lived until 1731.

Chronology

I wanted to assemble a chronology of Anna Ursula’s life in Steinwenden. Based on the church records, we actually know what she was doing on certain days. I’ve tried to bracket similar events. Happy event rows are peach colored. Sad events are blue. As you can see, a great many are bracketed together with a birth and death following in short order. Yellow rows are the only grandchildren who lived. Of course, those are very happy events!

Putting these events in chronological order made me realize just how difficult and grief-filled Anna Ursula’s life was. The sad fact is that this was probably somewhat “normal” for the time.  Life was extremely difficult for our ancestors. Some days I’m amazed that against the odds, I exist at all.

Anna Ursula’s children are noted in green at the top in the white rows. At Anna Ursula’s death, only two children, in green, were living except for Johannes, at the bottom, who died a week later. At least she didn’t have to bury him. It’s unknown if the two daughters in teal were living at Anna Ursula’s death

Anna Ursula only lived for a total of 16 years after church records began chronicling her life.

In that time, she:

  • Buried her husband in 1694 (grey)
  • Buried her son in 1691 (red)
  • Buried her daughter in 1701 (red)
  • Possibly buried a second daughter between 1692 and 1695 (teal)
  • Buried 2 son-in laws (gold) in 1695 and 1698, seeing one if not two daughters widowed
  • Buried at least 5 grandchildren (light blue rows not otherwise marked)
  • Died perhaps knowing a second son would probably perish as well, which he did a week later (red)

Take a look at July of 1791. In 8 days Anna Ursula’s daughter lost two children, and Anna Ursula lost her own son two days later. Three deaths and burials in 10 days. That’s beyond brutal.

Looking at the death index for 1691, we don’t see an epidemic, so it appears that these three deaths were clustered in this family, and only this family. On June 1, 1691, 6 weeks before the 3 Schlosser deaths in 10 days, Johann Michael Mueller’s cousin, Hans Jacob Ringeysen, died as well at age 37. He may have been living near this extended family group.

During the 16 years in Steinwenden church records, Anna Ursula’s daughter, Irene Charitas buried at least 5 children plus her husband, leaving her, best case, with a 2 year, 3 month old child. Worst case, Anna Ursula’s daughter, Irene Charitas, had also died during that time.

While I’m sure that Anna Ursula was thrilled that her namesake daughter was married on June 26, 1696, and had a child on March 17, 1697, she would have been devastated when her daughter’s husband died 11 months later, leaving her youngest daughter a widow with a small child.

How would Anna Ursula have helped her widowed daughters, given that she was already a widow herself?

Perhaps she depended on her eldest son, Carl, who hadn’t yet married. At this point, in 1698 it’s entirely possible that the following people were living in one household together, simply trying to pool their resources and put food on the table:

  • Anna Ursula, then 65
  • Her oldest son, Carl, then about 35
  • Daughter Irene Charitas in her early 30s (if she was living) with son Johann Michael Muller, age 6
  • Daughter Anna Ursula in her 20s, a widow with an infant boy
  • Daughter Anna Catharina, about 37, having never married
  • Youngest son Johannes, about 18

I cannot imagine this was a happy family under the circumstances.

Anna Ursula’s dance with tragedy didn’t end in 1698 with her son-in-law’s death. She may have been estranged from her only other married daughter, Anna Maria.

Anna Ursula’s daughter, Anna Maria, became Catholic about 1689, which may have effectively left her dead to her mother. There is no way to know today, more than 300 years hence how icy that relationship became, or if it ever thawed. Anna Ursula did not name a daughter after her mother or a son after her father, nor did either parent stand up with her children as a godparent.

Estrangement is also a form of death, sometimes more painful because it is a choice.

What Happened in 1701?

Anna Ursula’s adult daughter, Anna Catharina, died twelve days before Anna Ursula’s death in 1701 and her son, Johannes, a week after her death. What killed these people?

Anna Ursula would have been 68 years old when she died, a long life for that time in history. Her daughter, age 40 and her son, only 21, also perished in that horrible March of 1701. Did that leave her daughter, Anna Ursula, widowed 4 years almost to the day before her mother’s death, again homeless with her child? Had daughter Anna Ursula remarried and moved on, or died? We simply don’t know.

Checking FamilySearch church records for deaths in Steinwenden in 1701, we don’t find many.

In total, there is one death in January and one on February 21st, 1701 but that woman was born in 1615 and was elderly.

Beware the ides of March.

The next 3 deaths in the church records are the Schlosser family members:

  • March 3, 1701 – Anna Catharina Schlosser born 1661, father Cunrad Schlosser
  • March 15, 1701 – Anna Ursula Schlosser born 1633, widow of Cunrad Schlosser
  • March 22, 1701 – Johannes Schlosser born 1680, father Cunrad Schlosser

Given that these three individuals all died in less than 3 weeks, but no one else in the village died during that time, I’d wager that we weren’t dealing with something like the flu, but instead with something fatal but localized. Dysentery is a virus and highly contagious. Typhoid is bacterial, but is also highly contagious and can be passed from person to person. Cholera is caused by water contaminated by fecal matter and is contagious as well, but perhaps not as highly so as Dysentery and Typhoid. Food poisoning has been suggested as another possibility.

Was this the same thing that struck a decade earlier, in July of 1791, killing three family members in 10 days then as well? I wonder if the church records for other time periods carry similar tales for other families. What was going on in Steinwenden?

I find it very strange that three people in the same household died in less than 3 weeks, including a young (presumably healthy) male age 21, but no other deaths occurred in the community. German farm villages were organized such that the houses were built against each other in the town, generally walls adjoining. Everyone used the same water supply and there was little space between neighbors.

This contemporary photo of Steinwenden, shows the way that houses were constructed at that time on the same street with the Protestant church, which would be located in the historic part of town.

In the above satellite view, the village isn’t terribly large, even today, and the cemetery may well be located behind the church. Note that the older buildings across the street to the right of the church, on the corner, are the same white side-by-side Raisch buildings as pictured above.

The undated photo above of historic Mutterstadt in the early 1900s, a village in the same region of Germany, shows the way that houses were traditionally constructed in villages. Side by side, with the farmers going outside the village to tend their fields each day. It would be very unusual for something contagious to strike only one family.

Were these deaths really just bad luck?  That’s difficult to believe.

The next death in the 1701 church records isn’t until August, and there are only two more for the entire year. The Schlosser family experienced 3/8th or nearly half of the deaths in the entire village that year in March.

Perhaps we don’t know the full story. This makes me wonder about other scenarios. What happened to this family in 1691 and 1701 that didn’t happen to any other family? Sadly, the church records stand stubbornly mute.

Regardless of the cause of death, it was a very difficult time for this family.

Still, I can’t help but wonder what actually happened. I surely wish the minister had recorded a cause of death. A few strokes of the pen would make all of the difference.

Anna Ursula’s Mitochondrial DNA

Anna Ursula’s mitochondrial DNA would be available to us today through her female children through a continuous line of females until the current generation, which can be male.

Did Anna Ursula have any female children that had female children?

Of all of the children born to Anna Ursula Schlosser, only daughter Anna Maria who married Melchior Clemens (Clements) had daughters that lived at least long enough to marry.

  • August 26, 1691 – Anna Appolonia Clemens, Godparents: Jacob Crentz & Anna Margreta both of Stenweiller. In the Catholic church of Glan-Munchweiler.

On May 26, 1712, Joes (Joannes) Nicolaus Heller, son of Thomas Heller and Catharina his wife of Reweiler, with the virgin, Anna Appolonia, daughter of Melchioris Clemens of Stenweiler.

  • December 3, 1697 – baptism of Reginam Catharinam Clemens, Godparents: Joes (Joannes) Jacobo Breull, young man & Regina Catharina Steurin, both of Ramstein. In the Catholic church in Ramstein.
  • September 29, 1700 – Anna Christina Clemens, Godparents: Lady Anna Christina, famous nobleman and the famous Lord Ernesti Schmedding, ?. In the Catholic church in Ramstein.

On November 4, 1722, Christina, daughter of the late Melchioris Clemens of Steinwenden married Jacobus Wuest of Obermohr in the Catholic church of Ramstein.

At least two of Anna Ursula’s granddaughters married, as noted above, increasing the chances of female descendants.

I find no records of these daughters, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Ancestry shows trees that spell Heller as Keller. Three daughters are shown, with daughter Anna Katharina Keller born in 1714 and dying in 1783. Perhaps someone connects.

We have three candidates for maternal lines to carry the mitochondrial DNA of Anna Ursula, and I have a DNA testing scholarship for anyone descended from these three daughters through all females to the current generation. In the current generation, males and females both can test because women contribute their mitochondrial DNA to all of their children, but only females pass it on. Therefore, male children carry their mother’s mitochondrial DNA – and that of their direct line female ancestors.

In Summary

It’s rather amazing how much we discovered about Anna Ursula Schlosser, despite not having any church baptismal records for her or her children. We’re quite fortunate to have Anna Ursula’s death record. Maybe some of Anna Ursula lives on today in the DNA of her descendants!

Quick Tip – Working With Match Notifications from Family Tree DNA

Have you ever wondered WHY you received yet another match notification e-mail from Family Tree DNA?  Do you have trouble finding the new match they are referring to?

When you receive a match notification from Family Tree DNA that you have new matches, it’s exciting, ESPECIALLY if you have a high resolution match.

However, sometimes match notifications can be confusing, so here are 4 quick tips for you to get the most out of those match notifications.

Of course, the first thing you want to do is to click on the blue “VIEW MY MATCHES” link to see who’s new in the genetic neighborhood.

However, you may not see a new match when you first view your page. Here are some reasons why and the resolution is super easy.

Tip 1 – Your Match May Show at Different Levels

Both mitochondrial and Y DNA matching occurs at different levels depending on two things:

  • The level that you have tested
  • The level at which the match occurred

This means that in the case of the notification above, I’m only going to find my match at the HVR1 or entry level results of my mitochondrial DNA.

However, when you click to sign in to your account through the e-mail message link, you AUTOMATICALLY see your highest level tested first.

This match is for my HVR1 level, but the first match screen I see upon signing in is full sequence results, so I won’t see my new match at this level.

Many people don’t think about the fact that they’re looking at their highest testing level, and the match may be at a lower testing level.

If your match matches you at the highest level, they are likely, but not guaranteed to match you at the lower levels too.

Whether you do or don’t match at lower levels depends on where the various mutations fall in the tested portion of your genome.

In other words, you could match at the full mitochondrial sequence level, but NOT at the HVR1 or HVR2 levels – and vice versa of course.

This is true for both mitochondrial and Y DNA which both test at various levels.

Tip 2 – Select Dropdowns to See Other Levels

You’ll notice the dropdown box, below.

Be sure to view your matches at the level that the e-mail indicates.  In my case, I need to switch to the HVR1 level.

Look, there’s my new match!  I can tell that the first person only tested at the HVR1 and HVR2 levels, and not at the full sequence level, so there is no possibility that I’ll match them at that level.

That is, unless they upgrade.

I’m going to contact my match and ask about their earliest known ancestor.  They didn’t provide that information, nor do they have a tree, so I’m going to suggest both.  If we find some commonality at that level, maybe they’ll become inspired to upgrade to the full mitochondrial level test and we can see if we continue to match there as well.

Men’s Y DNA results have different drop down match level options of course, but in essence the concept of matching at different levels is the same.

Tip 3 – Match Thresholds

Both Y and mitochondrial DNA have different matching criteria at various testing levels.

The mitochondrial DNA match threshold is shown below:

This explains why a match might show at a higher testing level, but not at a lower level. If you have one mutation and the mismatching piece of DNA occurs in the HVR1 mitochondrial region where one mismatch means you won’t be considered a match, you’ll match at the full sequence level but not at either the HVR1 or HVR2 levels.

Mismatches are shown as genetic distance on your matches page. In other words a genetic distance of 1 means you mismatch at 1 location at that testing level.  You can read about genetic distance here.

Y DNA match thresholds are shown in the table below:

For Y DNA, if your one mutation occurs in the first 12 markers, you won’t be shown as a match at that level (unless you are both in a common DNA project,) but you will be shown at higher match levels as a match.

Tip 4 – Changing Match Notifications

What, you don’t want so many match notifications?

You do have the ability to disable match notifications at any level, but be aware that DISABLING MATCH NOTIFICATIONS ALSO DISABLES MATCHING at that level. Therefore, I don’t recommend disabling match notifications beyond the HVR1 or 12 marker tests, and I personally don’t have any disabled. I do not want to miss that fateful match under any circumstances!

To change your notifications, click on the orange “Manage Personal Information” link below your profile picture on your personal page.

Then, click on “Match and E-Mail Settings” where you’ll see the following:

If you make changes, be sure to click the orange “Save” button, or it won’t.

Summary

When you receive a new match notification from Family Tree DNA, don’t forget to check each level for matching. Sorting by match date will show you which matches are the most recent.

Look for common ancestors, surnames (Y DNA) and locations.  Reach out to your matches and most of all, enjoy!

_____________________________________________________________________

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Leapfrogging: Should We Believe Our Elders? – 52 Ancestors #180

You might notice that weekends are normally when I publish my 52 ancestor stories – and this isn’t exactly a normal 52 Ancestors story – but it pertains. Trust me for a minute.

Halt the Presses

This is what happens when you THINK you have correct information for your ancestor – or any topic really – and for some reason, you discover that you don’t.

Generally, the reasons fall into three categories:

  • New information not previous available
  • Misinterpreted information, sometimes based on incomplete information
  • Incorrect information from “elders”

The reason the 52 Ancestors story I had planned for today isn’t publishing is a result of items 1 and 2.  Fortunately for genealogists today, records previously buried in dusty cellars and church books in tiny villages are now being imaged and indexed along with other information relevant to rebuilding our ancestor’s lives.

While it’s irritating to have written an entire article and THEN discover something new – it’s actually a VERY POSITIVE outcome, because the new information was a wonderful development as the result of their spouses’ article published last week.

So while I need to rewrite this week’s and the original article, I will write with gratitude!

The third situation, incorrect information from elders, is a bit more awkward – and yes, I’ve been tripped up with that one too.

Who Are The Elders Anyway?

In most every culture, the elders are those who have lived long enough to amass wisdom – or they are more focused on a particular subject.  In traditional societies, these might be healers, shamans or hunters.

Today, the genealogical elders might be individuals focused on genealogy, genetic genealogy specialists, or the people in our own family who are literally, older, who know more about our family because they knew their grandparents who passed away long before we were born.

Additionally, because we all begin as novices, book authors and people who already have trees online are perceived as “elders” in this sense, because they have more experience than the novice. This extends to other people on social media, whether they have any expertise at all.  It’s impossible for the novice to tell.

Uncle George – The Good Elder

Let me give you an example.

My father died when I was a child and his family lived in another state 500 miles distant.  I didn’t know any of his side of the family until as a young adult, I decided I wanted to find out if there were any living family members.  I literally called the telephone “operator” and told her to connect me to any Estes in Tazewell, Tennessee. I remember her asking, “But which one, there are several?”  I was excited!

The operator selected an Estes at random and a couple phone calls later, I was talking to Uncle George who everyone assured me knew all about the genealogy of the Estes family. Indeed, he was the family elder I needed to connect with. He told me he had known my grandfather, Will Estes. He refrained from telling me the juicy details. At that time, I didn’t even know there were juicy details about my grandfather. I would learn about those later from one of the crazy aunts.

A few months later, I went to visit Uncle George, who was not my uncle at all, but my first cousin once removed.  The term “Uncle” in that part of the country is a term of endearment showing respect and kinship with someone.

Uncle George was kind enough to share his recollections with me, along with photos, dates and burial locations.  He was the collector of such things, the family archivist.  It’s somehow ironic that Uncle George had no biological offspring, although he was very fond of his second wife’s children.

At this point in my life, I wasn’t a genealogist, or at least I didn’t realize I was.  It’s a sneaky addiction you know! A slippery slope and once you’re there, it’s too late to do anything about it.  If you are reading this article, you very clearly know whereof I speak😊

Leapfrog Knowledge

When I met Uncle George and his brother, Uncle Buster, both of whom I adored, Uncle George was in his 70s and we were separated by almost half a century.

That means that he was in every sense my elder and looked uncannily like my father – so much so that when he opened the door the day I met him for the first time – I stood on the step literally dumbstruck, seeing the ghost of my two decades deceased father.

Uncle George and me in the back of his pickup truck.

We sat on the couch during my visit, side by side as he pulled one note and photo after another out of “the box” and shared them with me, recounting the story of each one.  I was transported back in time.

He told me that he was quite young, but that he remembered standing at the graveside of his grandfather, my great-grandfather, Lazarus Estes when he was buried in 1918.  He asked, “Do you want me to take you there?”  Now remember, I wasn’t a genealogist yet – but I truly believe it’s right about here in the story that I was infected with this lifelong affliction.

I excitedly said yes, and off we went – to view a grave WITH NO HEADSTONE.

How many of your ancestors’ graves are unmarked? What would it be worth to you to go with someone who had stood at that grave when they were buried and knew exactly where it was located?

This is what I’m referring to as leapfrogging.  That happens when you find someone old enough that they have personal knowledge of incidents and people at least two and sometime three generations before your own available family memories.

In my case, I had no memories available to harvest, except for the Crazy Aunts who we’ll mention in a minute, because my father had died.  Finding Uncle George who had carefully taken notes was a godsend.

His personal knowledge was remarkable.  Of course, I wish desperately now I had asked more questions – so many more questions.

Uncle George is who told me about the cabin that burned, and with it, my father’s brother.  He planted the willow tree on the spot where that cabin once stood.  And where I later stood too, grieving a half century later for my grandparents and that poor child.

Uncle George knew both Lazarus Estes and Elizabeth Vannoy Estes, my great-grandparents.  Granted, they were old when he was young, but he could take me to where their cabin stood, show me where they dipped their water with a gourd from the stream and tell me about what his father told him as well.

Uncle George’s father, Charlie Tomas (yes, it’s really spelled that way) knew his parents of course, but he also knew his grandparents, in particular, his grandmother Ruthy Dodson Estes who died in 1903 when Charlie would have been 18.  It’s because Charlie shared this knowledge with Uncle George that we knew that she suffered terribly from rheumatoid arthritis and had to be carried from her cabin to Lazarus’ when she could no longer care for herself.  It’s through Charlie that we knew where Ruthy’s unmarked grave was located as well.

Ruthy’s husband, John Y. Estes didn’t die until 1895, but he left Tennessee for Texas before Charlie was born, so Charlie would never have known him.

This leapfrogging begins to break down here, but we’ve connected in some tangible way with George acquiring either first or second hand knowledge of people born in 1820.

Furthermore, Uncle George knew that his great-great-grandmother’s name was Nancy Ann Moore.  He was accurate.  How do I know?  Because I found their marriage license in Halifax County Virginia from 1811 some years later. Because Uncle George knew her name, I knew I had the right John Estes in Halifax County and that allowed me to search further and connect back in time to earlier generations – breaking through the brick wall of how my Estes line connected to the descendants of Abraham Estes.

Uncle George’s recorded notes leapfrogged back in time from the 1980s to 1811, an amazing 170 years!

What didn’t Uncle George know?

He didn’t know where the family came from in Virginia, but he unknowingly held the piece of information that allowed me to make that discovery.

He didn’t know where John R. Estes who had died in 1887 was buried, although he presumed it was in the family cemetery.  At least Uncle George TOLD me he was presuming.

This is the important distinction.

I didn’t know enough about genealogy at that point to understand what to ask.  He knew enough to tell me and thankfully, I heard him.

When interviewing elders, it’s important to discern what they know and how, as opposed to what they are inferring based on other knowledge, and it’s critical to record what they say verbatim.  By that time, I had finished college, so note-taking was second nature – thankfully. I find my notes from those conversations that include items I’d forgotten, and I know at the time I thought I’d never forget – but I did.

As I read back over my notes from my visits with Uncle George, I discovered that I had forgotten things that seemed unimportant at the time, but were valuable puzzle pieces later when I had a clue.

To the best of my knowledge, Uncle George never provided me with a piece of inaccurate information.  In some cases, he didn’t know all of the details, which I later discovered, but they never disproved what he had told me.

But then, there were the Crazy Aunts.

The Crazy Aunts

The crazy Aunts were elders too when I met them, about the same time.  They were my father’s sisters.

Uncle George didn’t forewarn me that the aunts were crazy. He didn’t tell me that they um, created or embellished stories with added drama, at will, it seems.

Now, I do have to admit, some of their stories did turn out to be true, and ALL OF THEM were quite interesting. Sometimes far more interesting than the truth.

Of particular interest to me was the “fact” that Elizabeth Vannoy was “half Cherokee through her mother and her brothers moved to Oklahoma and claimed head rights.”

That’s a lot of very specific information.

And guess what?

None of it was true.

I’ve tracked down every bit and disproven that entire statement, piece by piece, including genetically through Y DNA and mitochondrial haplogroups and ethnicity tests of descendants.  Elizabeth Vannoy was not half Cherokee.  Her family wasn’t even living in the right location, to begin with, and the evidence continues from there.

This isn’t the only instance of receiving incorrect information from the aunts.

However, Aunt Margaret did indeed provide me with family photos, none of which I had or would have had without her generosity.

This begs the question of whether Aunt Margaret was conveying something she was told or whether she was playing fast and free with the truth, or maybe conveying the story as she wanted it to be.

I don’t have the answer to that.

What I do know is that I believed it for a very long time.  I know that my father believed it too.

Verifying Elder’s Stories

Stories conveyed by the elders are absolutely invaluable.  However, we have to evaluate every piece of that information individually, divorcing ourselves from the emotions we hold for tellers.

Yes, we know that you love grandpa and you can’t conceive of grandpa every lying to you – but maybe grandpa didn’t tell a Pinocchio.  Maybe he told the truth as he believed it.  Maybe he only modified the facts a tidbit to protect someone – perhaps you.

For example, when I was young, there was a sign in front of our house that said “colored people not allowed.”  Colored meant me…because my father’s family was “dark” and my father firmly believed that he was indeed Indian, attending to Powwows held in secret at that time because they were illegal.

Was he partly Indian?  Yes, I do believe so, based on a variety of evidence.

Was his grandmother half Indian through her mother who was 100% Cherokee?  No, unquestionably not, including mitochondrial DNA evidence that shows her haplogroup as J1c2c! That European mitochondrial haplogroup alone proved unquestionably that her matrilineal line is not Native. Her father’s haplogroup I is also European.

Perhaps that tidbit conveyed by the crazy aunts substituted Native for African.  Perhaps their parents or grandparents, in the early 1900s were trying to explain why they were so dark and trying to protect their family from rampant “zero tolerance” discrimination.

We will never know today.  What I do know, and can prove is that the information provided by the aunts was inaccurate.  I cannot speak to the intention.

Talk, Record, Share, Correct

This brings me back to my commentary about my 52 Ancestors stories.  I need to correct two stories already in print and delay one that was scheduled to be published today – because I need to correct information based on newly discovered facts.

However, those facts would never have come my direction had I NOT published what I had, with sources and references.

I’ve heard a number of people say that they don’t share trees or stories because they aren’t “finished” or they are afraid of perpetuating bad information.  I share that concern, but imagine if Uncle George hadn’t shared what he knew with me.

That information would be gone today, forever irretrievable.

Here’s my advice.

  • Do your best.
  • Verify as much as possible.
  • Share your sources and your research path.
  • Document what you can and state clearly what you do not know, items that need followup or areas where you are suspicious, and why
  • Negative evidence is still evidence. For example, “I checked and John Doe is not in the marriage/death/court/deed/will/probate records in XYZ County between 1850 and 1900.”  That provides invaluable information, even though you didn’t find any documents.  It’s not at all the same as not having checked.
  • Correct the stories or narrative as soon as you discover either an error or something new.

We believe our elders because when we find them, they are more knowledgeable than we are.  They have the benefit of time and sometimes location and there is no reason for us to NOT believe them.  After all, they are the ones we are turning to.

Like everyone, elders, no matter how much we love and respect them, are human, and they convey what they were told.  We can’t go back in time and evaluate why their elders thought or said what they did.  We don’t know if someone assumed that an individual was buried someplace or knew it by standing at their graveside. And we don’t know if they got information from the equivalent of Uncle George or a Crazy Aunt.

We also don’t know what was omitted, or why.

For a long time, I believed that John Y. Estes must surely be buried in the Estes Cemetery too, between his parents, wife and deceased children.  It made perfect sense.  That is…until I discovered quite by accident that he left his family in Estes Holler in Claiborne County Tennessee, walked to Texas (twice) not long after his youngest child was born and was in fact buried in the Boren Cemetery the middle of a field in Montague County, Texas in 1895. Imagine my surprise making this discovery, which, by the way, I verified in person, taking the photo of his headstone myself in 2004.

None of the elders told me that really important tidbit. Could be because they didn’t “know,” but somehow I think it might have had more to do with the “d” word.  Divorce. Or maybe because he left his family. It could also have something to do with the fact that he fought for the confederacy in the Civil War while most of the neighbors and family fought for the north. Or maybe some combination of the two made him easy to forget.

The other glaring omission is that Joel Vannoy, father of Elizabeth Vannoy, who died in 1895 was institutionalized in an “insane asylum” for “preachin’, swearin’ and threatenin’ to fight.”  Lazarus transported him to the asylum in Knoxville, and everyone in “Estes Holler” which connected with “Vannoy Holler” was aware of the situation.  It was no secret at the time, as I later discovered. Uncle George’s father, Charlie clearly knew this, and knew Joel as well.  I surely wish Uncle George had told me.  He was a kind man and didn’t want to speak ill of anyone, alive or dead.

The Crazy Aunts would have told something that juicy in a heartbeat, so I’m going to presume they didn’t know! They weren’t raised in Estes Holler.

The truth is the truth, no matter how flattering or unflattering.  Our ancestors are unique individuals, warts and all.

We hold a sacred duty to the ancestors to tell their stories, the truth, verified where possible by DNA evidence, because now WE have become those leapfrogging elders.

Researching and Visiting Ireland

With my recent articles about Ireland, I’ve had lots of questions about visiting Ireland and researching Irish ancestors. Let’s talk about both!

Ireland is a wonderful place to visit. The people are genuinely friendly and outgoing, perhaps moreso than anyplace else in the world.

You can read about my adventures and share some of Ireland in the following articles:

Who Are The Irish?

The Irish are an ancient people with roots in the Neolithic hunter gatherer tribes who constructed the megalithic monuments more than 5000 years ago, followed by the Celts, Vikings, Normans and English. Today’s Irish are an amazing people with a wonderful sense of humor and unparalleled flexibility in the face of adversity. In other words, they are experts at making lemonade out of lemons. I suspect that’s what has at times made the unbearable, bearable, and ultimately insured their survival.

Let me give you an example.

I sat down on a tour bus for a short ride of about 10 minutes between two destinations.

A man traveling with a retiree’s club tour sat next to me, as all of the other seats were occupied.

Before sitting down, the man who I’d estimate to be on the far side of 4 score years, asked if he could sit beside me. I replied, “By all means, sit right down.”

He did and asked me if I was from the US. Laughing, I asked, “What was your first clue?” I obviously have a very distinct US accent.

We both laughed.

Then he looked at me, kind of sized me up, and asked, absolutely deadpan, “Will ye marry me?”

I could tell that this was just something he did and he was enjoying the shock value.

I told him that the ride was about 10 minutes and we could negotiate. He cheerfully said “OK!”

We started chatting about the location we had just visited and nothing in particular. In other words, the proposal was an ice-breaker and no serious negotiations were ensuing. (I was wearing a wedding band.)

Then, I asked him what women normally say when he proposes like that.

He looked at me and said, I his lovely Irish brogue, “Well, obviously no one has said yes yet or I wouldn’t still be askin’.”

I wish I could write in Irish brogue, which is what would be needed to truly convey this exchange.

I laughed till I cried. We parted friends. He has probably already forgotten about me, especially if someone has since taken him up on his proposal, but I’ll never quire forget him! After all, how many women get proposed to between Knowth and New Grange?

If you’re thinking he was the exception, he wasn’t – although granted, no one else proposed. However, many Irish extended themselves in the 10 days I visited and were exceptionally friendly and helpful at a level that many Americans would consider a borderline invasion of personal space.

For example, this is Edna, a lady that said hello in a pub during hurricane Ophelia and a few minutes later, we were best buddies.

This is simply consummate Ireland. In her words, “We do this all the time.”

Oh, and by the way, that’s a baby sized Guinness in my hand, just to see if I liked it.  I did, and thank you Edna! What a fun time we had in the middle of a hurricane.

Why Ireland?

Ireland has experienced significantly more migration and emigration than many other locations due to both religious conflicts and famine. When visiting the UCD Library, the curators of the Irish Folklore Project stated that there are far more Irish descendants scattered outside of Ireland than inside. In other words, the diaspora is larger than the homeland. I believe the diaspora is estimated to be about 70 million people with Irish roots, versus about 7 million current population by combining Ireland and Northern Ireland.

In my case, the Scots-Irish migrated to the US in early days, between 1717 and 1770, populating areas of Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina. The Appalachian Mountains probably felt much like home.

The Scots-Irish were only Irish for a little more than a hundred years. Before that, they were Scottish and were only transplanted to Ireland in the early 1600s, beginning about 1606 when the Protestant Scots were settled in what is now Northern Ireland, near Ulster.

Most families stayed for 4, maybe 5 generations before leaving again for better opportunities, beginning about 1717 and included an Irish famine that occurred between 1740-1741.

We know in Ireland that the Scots-Irish lived in what is now Northern Ireland, in the Ulster Plantations.

A second wave of emigration occurred during a second Irish famine that occurred between 1845-1852.

Finding Family

And now, for the bad news – many Irish genealogy records were destroyed in the bombing and subsequent fire in Dublin that destroyed almost all of the records held in the Irish Public Record Office in 1922, making research before that time challenging at best.

Therefore, DNA testing is likely to help Irish families and descendants more than most. DNA has the power to help piece together the past and overcome those missing records. The Irish, at least those interested in genealogy, aren’t nearly as reticent to test as continental Europeans. But then again, continental Europeans generally haven’t lost their records at quite the same level as the Irish.

If you’re one of those people who are lucky enough to discover the location of your family homeland in Ireland – or home road or farm, you may want to visit. Even if you can’t find the exact location, Ireland isn’t a large country, and you may be able to get close.

Other researchers visit to perform the actual research in various archival facilities.

Regardless, I have a few tips and hints for you about what to expect, what to do, what not to do, and more.

Driving

JUST DON’T!!! The Irish drive on the “wrong side” of the road and the rules are different. You’ll get yourself or someone else killed. Seriously, don’t…really! Need convincing? Look at this intersection. Any idea what you’re supposed to do?

Parking is extra and in many places, you simply can’t, so you’re MUCH BETTER to take a taxi or a bus in larger cities.

Hire a driver. I hired Brian O’Reilly and I can’t say enough good things about him – not only as a driver but as a tour guide.

I would hire Brian again in a heartbeat and I now count him among my friends. Brian works with a cooperative of several other private drivers and guides, so if Brian isn’t available himself, he will help you arrange transportation and guide service for your needs. He can also respond on relatively short notice. Brian O’Reilly’s e-mail is Brian.oreilly101@yahoo.ie. Tell him Roberta sent you and that I said “hello.”

Brian and I had a really great time and I learned so much about the Irish culture I would never have learned on a canned tour.

Hire a taxi, not a chauffeur, when hiring a driver. Why? Because taxis can use bus lanes while chauffeurs cannot. And yes, that makes a huge difference in terms of when you arrive, often by a factor of two in Dublin.

Taxis, in general, take forever to arrive to pick you up. Plan for extra time. They are often a half hour late due to traffic.

Public busses, especially in the morning and evening peak hours are often full, meaning you may not be able to board and will have to wait for the next bus. If you take public transportation, have exact change ready.

Bus schedules are merely suggestions. Be prepared to wait for up to half an hour, standing, in whatever weather is occurring.

Locations

Ireland is not handicapped accessible like we are used to in the US. Many if not most restrooms are either upstairs or downstairs in restaurants and few have elevators, called lifts. Many public buildings don’t have public restrooms and will send you across the street or down the block for a restroom.

Tipping

People that Americans would typically tip, such as servers in restaurants, are paid differently and they don’t expect a tip. Some people round up to the nearest Euro. Tipping is neither necessary or expected.

As an American, it’s very difficult for me not to tip.

Money

Ireland uses the Euro, but Northern Ireland uses the English sterling pound. And no, they don’t take each other’s money.

Not everyplace accepts credit cards. Some taxis do, but be prepared to pay an uplift of about 4% for the privilege. And the card reader doesn’t always work. Have cash available.

Almost no businesses accept American Express.

Notify your credit card companies that you will be traveling, and when. I have also put free alerts on my cards so that I know when they are being used.

Restaurants and Food

Most restaurants won’t split bills between people. That’s your problem.

Some restaurants add a fee for large parties. Large is defined by the restaurant and they may not tell you in advance.

Service EVERYPLACE is slow. Some excruciatingly slow. Plan on dinner taking literally all evening. It’s normal and part of the Irish experience.

Pub food is better than just about anyplace else.

Water served with meals is available if you ask, but doesn’t arrive automatically. It may or may not have ice.

Furthermore, ice is a precious commodity. In the hotel, only one ice machine was available for 6 floors and no ice bucket, just plastic cups stacked beside the ice dispenser.

Many restaurants, including pubs, don’t have mixed drinks, such as margaritas. They have well drinks, such as scotch and water, wine and beer. Want Kahlua? Nope, but everyone has Baileys Irish Cream – after all – it’s Ireland.

Guinness is the national beer. Drink Guinness, or at least try it. The locals say that you can ask for a couple drops of currant to sweeten the beer, but I liked it without. It tastes a bit roasty. When in Rome…or Ireland.

Carry-out is referred to as take-away. Not everyplace offers take-away.

In some parts of Europe, like the Netherlands, sharing food is frowned upon, but I didn’t notice anything like that in Ireland. Either that or they were too nice to tell me.

Bathrooms

Europeans do not use washcloths or facecloths. I purchased a pack at the dollar store at home and left them behind as I traveled. What else are you going to do with a wet washcloth?

There are often two flush buttons on the toilet. Generally, the small one is for little flushes and the larger one is when bigger flushing is needed. Yes, I had to ask Brian because it seemed that neither worked reliably.

And then sometimes, you find something like this.

If in doubt, just push buttons until you find one that achieves the desired effect.

Those funny things on the walls are towel warmers.

We could learn from the Irish!

Your appliances may turn on with a switch at the baseboard near the plug. Why? I have no idea, but plugs often don’t work if you don’t turn them on.

Rain

Rain is a fact of life in Ireland. It’s how the Emerald Isle stays Emerald. Be prepared. It may rain and be sunny 10 minutes later, or vice versa. Every. Single. Day.

Often, umbrellas are useless due to the wind. Mine turned inside out, making me look like some sort of confused ninja parachutist.

Geography

Ireland is an island and the lower 4/5th is the country of Ireland, also known as the Republic of Ireland.

Northern Ireland, created in 1921, although historically part of Ireland, is a different country today, ruled under the British monarchy and is part of the United Kingdom. There are no longer any border checkpoints between the two, but with Brexit, that might change. If you’re planning to travel between the two, be prepared in terms of currency and a passport.

Language

In Ireland, the official language is English, but many speak Gaelic. Because the English historically tried to exterminate the Gaelic language, when Ireland regained control of its own government, they included a clause in the constitution that everything in Ireland is offered in two languages – up to and including road and other signage.

However, their English is spoken with a very heavy Irish brogue which is both beautiful and frustrating. Like someone said, two people separated by a common language.

Pharmaceuticals

Medications like Dramamine and cold medicine, things we typically purchase over the counter are behind the counter at pharmacies in Europe, including Ireland. Pharmacies are typically not open past 5 PM and many not before sometime between 10 and noon.

Don’t assume you can pick up any medications at the convenience store, because you likely can’t. Not to mention, convenience stores are few and far between, so not convenient as we think of them. My hotel, even though expensive, did not have a shop – only two vending machines. Take what you might need, plus extra.

Hotels

Plugs in hotels are often not located conveniently to a nightstand, so either take a European conformant (based on the country you are visiting) extension cord or plan otherwise.

My hotel in Ireland did provide shampoo, but no conditioner and no washcloths. Take your own supplies, just in case.

Hotels rooms also do not generally include microwaves or refrigerators.

Expect to pay for parking at hotels.

Many hotels offer “Afternoon tea” or “High tea” which is an afternoon event that includes tea, biscuits (cookies) and small finger sandwiches. It’s an upper class social event, people often “dress,” and sit and talk. My hotel did not offer tea, the one across the street did, for 45 Euro. Another Dublin hotel at the upscale end charged 95 Euro. I think this is a case of if you need to ask how much, don’t go. I didn’t but I was told that I should have high tea at least once in my life.  Guess I’ll have to go back!

Here’s a link to more info about tea time.

No clock or alarm in the hotel room. My cell phone was probably more reliable anyway and I had to get up to turn the alarm off, since there were no plugs bedside.

Hotels and Climate Control

Most hotels and B&Bs don’t have air conditioning. Neither do other buildings including public buildings, so you’ll need to grin and bear it. It’s seldom beastly hot, but it can be very close and humid.

My hotel room had a lovely set of French doors and a balcony, permanently sealed shut. I also had two windows, only one of which would crank out about 2 inches. That’s not much to obtain any type of air movement within the room.

Heat in hotels, especially in older buildings is generally by radiator, not by thermostat, if heated at all. You will need to turn a knob on the radiator when entering the room to turn the heat on – and if you get too hot, there is no way to cool off. So be careful.

I stayed at the Clayton Ballsbridge, which I do NOT recommend for various reasons including consistently very poor service combined with an attitude that I was being unreasonable to expect decent service, like you know, clean cups, replenished tea, etc., daily, in my room that cost over $190 per night. Not to mention it took two and a half hours to get a bowl of stew in the restaurant.

Perhaps this is the down side to tipping being included in the price of the meal – little motivation for good service.

People staying in B&Bs were generally happier than people who stayed in hotels.

Electronics

You will need items that will plug in to 230 volt, 50 Hz power which have a different plug than in the US.

This is not necessarily just a converter issue, but a voltage compatibility issue. Check the voltage on your device.  In my case, a heating pad did not work using a converter, so I had to purchase one that would. Then I needed an extension cord, which I didn’t have. Plan accordingly.

You will need multiple converters so that you can charge your phone, etc. Here’s a page that discusses converters and sockets.

Plugs are often not placed conveniently.

Phones

OMG, the bane of my existence. Phones hate me, truly, and always have.

I can call Ireland from the US, but I cannot seem to call anyone in Ireland on my US cell phone while in Ireland, and I tried every combination I could think of and that anyone suggested. I suspect, but don’t know, that it had to do with a US phone being in Ireland, so it was confused by which type of country access code it needed. I could, however, message one person, thankfully. I never could manage to communicate with another.

Here’s my suggestion. Find someone in Ireland, maybe at the hotel front desk, that you can practice with. Once you figure out what you need to do on your phone to call them, it should work when dialing others in country too.

Beware of cell phone roaming and data charges. Understand how to turn off roaming by putting your phone in airplane mode. Before traveling, call or visit your phone carrier and understand what you can and cannot do with what kind of data without being charged. It’s extremely easy to run up a cell bill over $1000 and never realize what is happening. Case in point, your phone is always roaming to update Facebook and similar apps.

Mind you, I couldn’t make a bloody call, but the phone found ways to connect so that I’d be charged!

Tours

Unless you arrange for a private tour, which I did with Brian, tours generally leave from the downtown area at the beginning of the day, which means you’re going to encounter heavy rush hour traffic getting to the tour site. Allow adequate time, more than you think you’ll ever need, because the tour will leave without you otherwise.

Private tours cost more, especially for one person, but by the time you have 3 or 4 people or so, depending on the tour, the cumulative cost won’t be more and you’ll be much MUCH happier. Plus, a private tour can cater to your desires – like a coffee break, bathroom stop, a quilt shop along the way, or anything else of interest.

Seasons and Stores

Some businesses are seasonal – including restaurants. If you are not visiting in the high tourist season of June-August, I would strongly suggest calling ahead if you are planning on visiting a particular location.

Small businesses may or may not be open on a whim. Seriously. Always call.

Genealogy and Research Assistance

I asked these fine folks, shown here on a day trip in front of Carrickfergus Castle in Belfast, about their recommendations for Irish genealogical research:

  • Michelle Leonard, professional genealogist at Genes & Genealogy, out of Glasgow, Scotland (red hair, above)
  • Martin McDowell, professional genealogist (martin.mcdowell3@talktalk.net) as well as Development and Education Director with The North of Ireland Family History Society (right, above)
  • Dr. Maurice Gleeson, coordinator of Genetic Genealogy Ireland (left, above)

These people work with Irish records, as well as genetic genealogy every day, and they know what they are doing.

Martin recommends https://www.irishgenealogy.ie/en/ where both church and civil records can be found free of charge. He suggests that of the best pay sites for Irish records is http://www.rootsireland.ie/, though its accuracy depends on the quality of the transcription.

The North of Ireland Family History Society where Martin serves as the Education & Development Officer provides a website detailing their holdings: http://www.nifhs.org/, including a full PDF of everything in the library: http://www.nifhs.org/library-list/

Maurice mentions that the PRONI and GRONI sites are specifically Northern Ireland:

Michelle points out that irishgenealogy.ie has all of the Northern Ireland BMDs prior to January 1, 1922. She points out that if you’re searching for a marriage that took place in 1906, search for it on irishgenealogy.ie where you will get the image for free as opposed to on GRONI where it will cost you £2.50 for the same image.  On the other hand if you’re searching for a marriage that took place prior to 1882 in Northern Ireland you will find it on irishgenealogy.ie but there will be no image so it’s best to go to GRONI and pay the £2.50.

My personal experience is more limited, being only a consumer of Irish research, not a professional researcher. Having said that, I DON’T recommend the Ulster Historical Foundation. I completed their form and requested an initial assessment for 35 pounds sterling on July 4th, and I’m still waiting to hear back, today, many months later, after my trip to Ireland is complete. They could at least have told me they were too busy to accommodate my needs.

The web site says they are extremely busy and to expect a delay of 4-6 weeks, but never contacting the person requesting the research is unacceptable.  It’s a good thing I was able to find a private researcher (Martin McDowell) who was willing to take an “emergency” case at a late date. Unfortunately, my situation because “an emergency” because I waited for the Ulster Historical Foundation, expecting they would be able to assist my research. Thank you Martin McDowell for being my hero and Maurice Gleeson for helping me find Martin!

I do recommend the Irish Folklore Center as well as John Grenham’s blog and website.  To find where surnames are clustered in Ireland, a surname map which combines information from 1848 through the 1911 census is available here.

For genetic genealogy, I strongly suggest the videos produced at Genetic Genealogy Ireland which now form a library on the GGI YouTube channel, all for free. Also, the ISOGG Ireland page provides an extensive list of Ireland specific resources.

By the way, a big thank you to all of the volunteers, including the speakers, who work together to produce Genetic Genealogy Ireland. GGI is an all-volunteer effort, and without these people, and Maurice Gleeson coordinating the entire event, it wouldn’t happen!

You might want to attend the Belfast Genetic Genealogy Ireland Conference on February 17-18 sponsored by Family Tree DNA. You can read more here including the great lineup of 13 free sessions and speakers focused on genetic genealogy!

Safety

As big cities go, I felt safe in Dublin and Belfast, or as safe as I feel in any large city, although I was never in the Belfast city center. I felt a lot better having Brian with me, directing me and explaining what I should and should not do and where I shouldn’t go, and why.

Time

I intended to visit six locations:

  • Dublin
  • The Cliffs of Moher
  • Giant’s Causeway
  • Wicklow Mountains
  • Boyne Valley – Knowth, New Grange and Tara
  • Belfast

Partly due to the hurricane, and partly due to fatigue, I scrapped the Cliffs and Giant’s Causeway trips.

Those two trips are long, meaning 12 hour days and that doesn’t include dinner. They are difficult in the rain and when it stays dark later in the morning and gets dark early in the evening. Those trips, in addition to the 8 hour days for the other trips, were just too much, on back to back days.

If I had planned for an additional 3 or 4 days in Ireland, it would have given me the opportunity to rest between tours or see a few additional sights in Dublin on the down days.

Even with that consideration, the late fall is not the best time of year for visits to either the Giant’s Causeway or the Cliffs of Moher from Dublin.

Ireland is Wonderful

Go.

Enjoy.

Eat pub food.

Drink Guinness.

Connect with your roots!

If you need to test your DNA before you go, I recommend Family Tree DNA for Y (patrilineal for men) and mitochondrial (matrilineal for both genders) DNA testing, as well as Family Finder autosomal for cousin matching across all of your genealogy. If you would like to know more about these various types of tests, please read 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy.

In my case, I could not personally test for the Y DNA of my McDowell ancestor – so I found a McDowell male from my line to take that test. Were it not for his results that included a match to a man who knew exactly where the McDowell’s lived in Ireland, I would never have known where my McDowell line originated and been able to visit and traverse the road where they lived. So think in terms of testing appropriate relatives to unlock secrets about your ancestors!

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Female Viking Warrior Discovered Through DNA Testing

Hervor dying after the Battle of the Goths and Huns. A painting by Peter Nicolai Arbo, a Norwegian historical painter. Hervor dressed like a man, fought, killed and pillaged under her male surname Hjörvard.

Then the high-born lady saw them play the wounding game,

she resolved on a hard course and flung off her cloak;

she took a naked sword and fought for her kinsmen’s lives,

she was handy at fighting, wherever she aimed her blows.

The Greenlandic Poem of Atli (st. 49), The poetic Edda. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ancient DNA

I just love ancient DNA. Not only does it provide us a way to “view” long deceased individuals who we may be related to, one way or another (Y, mtDNA or autosomal), but it gives us a peephole into history as well.

Recently, a Viking warrior long presumed to be male has been positively identified as female through DNA analysis.

The paper titled A female Viking warrior confirmed by genomics by Hedenstiera-Jonson et al provides details.

Oral history tells us of female Viking warriors, but mostly, those stories have been dismissed as mythology. But guess what – they weren’t.

A Viking warrior grave excavated in Birka, Sweden in the 1970s was originally identified as a female. That finding was initially dismissed in light of the extensive warrior burial artifacts. The skeleton was presumed to be a warrior male due to extensive funerary objects indicating a high ranking individual. Similar female warrior burials have been dismissed as well by saying that the warrior artifacts might have been heirlooms and don’t identify the burial as a warrior.

The warrior burial has now been indeed proven to be a female using DNA analysis.

From the paper’s authors:

This type of reasoning takes away the agency of the buried female. As long as the sex is male, the weaponry in the grave not only belong to the interred but also reflects his status as warrior, whereas a female sex has raised doubts, not only regarding her ascribed role but also in her association to the grave goods.

A great deal can be told about skeletal remains through their bones – and certain traits indicate males or females. In 2014, a scientist again suggested that the bones of this burial suggested the warrior had been a female, but that commentary was met with significant skepticism because of the warrior’s high rank based on the grave goods. DNA was determined to be the only way to resolve the question. Thank goodness this avenue was pursued and was productive.

From their abstract:

The objective of this study has been to confirm the sex and the affinity of an individual buried in a well-furnished warrior grave (Bj 581) in the Viking Age town of Birka, Sweden. Previously, based on the material and historical records, the male sex has been associated with the gender of the warrior and such was the case with Bj 581. An earlier osteological classification of the individual as female was considered controversial in a historical and archaeological context. A genomic confirmation of the biological sex of the individual was considered necessary to solve the issue.

From their results:

The genomic results revealed the lack of a Y-chromosome and thus a female biological sex, and the mtDNA analyses support a single-individual origin of sampled elements. The genetic affinity is close to present-day North Europeans, and within Sweden to the southern and south-central region. Nevertheless, the Sr values are not conclusive as to whether she was of local or nonlocal origin.

And their discussion:

The identification of a female Viking warrior provides a unique insight into the Viking society, social constructions, and exceptions to the norm in the Viking time-period. The results call for caution against generalizations regarding social orders in past societies.

The paper further states that over 3,000 warrior graves are known, with approximately 1,100 excavated. I have to wonder how many of those graves might be females too.

The Birka warrior was confirmed to be a female by the absence of a Y chromosome, but her mitochondrial DNA can tell us even more.

Mitochondrial DNA

Her mitochondrial DNA is haplogroup T2b.

Dr. David Pike is the administrator of the haplogroup T mtDNA project and the mtDNA T2 project at Family Tree DNA. He notified me of these results and offered the following information:

The list of mtDNA mutations in the supplement (namely those obtained from a canine tooth) are actually quite thorough (see page 15 of the supplement). They include all of the mutations that lead up to and including mtDNA haplogroup T2b. And then they go on to include two more that do not yet fit into any currently-named subgroup of T2b. These are T5774C and C16354T.

People who are curious about their own mtDNA can determine their status at position 16354 by a simple HVR1 test at FTDNA, but position 5774 requires a full mtDNA sequence test.

Within the T projects for which I’m an administrator, there are a few people with T5774C with none that have both of these two mutations. At least not yet… it would be nice to encourage more people to do full mtDNA testing.

If you have tested at a company other than Family Tree DNA that provides you with only a haplogroup, and it’s T, T2 or T2b, you might want to consider the mitochondrial test at Family Tree DNA to obtain a more definitive haplogroup and your actual mutations. Someone, someplace, may well match this Viking warrior woman.

Who is She Most Like?

The report indicates that the Birka female warrior showed autosomal genetic affinity to the following present-day populations:

  • British Island of England and Scotland,
  • North Atlantic Islands of Iceland and the Orkneys
  • Scandinavian countries of Denmark and Norway
  • Baltic counties of Lithuania and Latvia
  • Sweden from the south-central and southern region

The warrior was more like northern Europeans than southern Europeans, which shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Your Mitochondrial DNA

Mitochondrial DNA holds so many secrets and provides testers with information you can’t possible discover about your ancestors any other way. Males and females can both test. If you haven’t taken the full sequence mitochondrional DNA test, please consider doing so.

Want to know what you might discover? Please read the articles, Mitochondrial DNA – Your Mom’s Story and Jasmine’s Journey of Discovery.

You can click here to order a the mtFull Sequence test or upgrade an existing test to the full sequence level.

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