Sunday, December 4, 2016

In a Cave in Germany

I wish this was the cave I was visiting
I haven't posted in some time, but that doesn't mean nothing has been happening genealogy-wise lately.

I have been in a cave in Wurttemberg. Not an actual cave, but I've been in my basement research cave, after a MAJOR breakthrough this summer.

Reality also struck with both highs and lows in my family over the past few months. My younger son won the Illinois high school state cross country title and signed for a wonderful college scholarship. My older son's cross country team was second in the NAIA college championship and he's on track for another semester on the Dean's List. The lows came by way of my father's death, my maternal grandmother's death, and one of my son's coach's death. It was a very emotional fall.

Genealogy is my "touchstone," the one thing that keeps my brain functioning and me tethered to some sort of reality.

On with the show.

My grandmother that recently passed provided my German ancestry. Her mother was full Prussian (I know that's not an ethnicity but it's where her people lived for hundreds of years) and her Hummel father was mostly German by way of southwest Germany near Stuttgart. I have a copy of the family's church record from Michigan where they finally settled giving clues to their German villages. But I was very uncertain how to search for records. I contacted fellow genealogist Barbara Schmidt (@BarbFFm on Twitter) and she helped me get an idea of the village and Lutheran parish system. After that, I took a chance and ordered some FamilySearch microfilms for the area and crossed my fingers. It worked.

Having some sense of the Hummel family already, I started working with my great-great-great-grandmother's Ebinger line, which I knew only by the two children who emigrated to America. Fortunately, my microfilm guesses were correct as I found both of their births in the Dafern parish records. Then with lots of scrolling, it was off to the races. Suddenly, I had a huge German family!

Johann Lorenz Hummel (1843-1901)
Christina Karolina Ebinger (1849-1895)

At home, I tried finding more records at Ancestry. Amazingly, not only did I find records, but I found the same digitized microfilm records as the ones I had ordered. And thus, I have scarcely left my computer in the evenings because I keep. finding. people.

Some of the interesting things I have encountered (your mileage my vary):

  • the vital records are pristine, accurate, and cross-referenceable by date/age and parents/father
  • you definitely need creative database skills
  • surnames are underlined about 99% of the time
  • Jerg of the 1600's became Georg of the 1700's
  • Johannes is not the same as Johann, but Hans and Johann are usually interchangeable
  • you "hope" for an illegitimate birth because the pastor went out of his way to describe the circumstances of the birth, then "hope" the father acknowledged the child
  • learn to read upside down because that's how many illegitimate births were noted!
  • in the 1730's, there was a sudden use of astrological symbols in the birth records
  • the records are a "moveable feast" because all the births may be in one parish but the marriages in the neighboring parish
  • and so much more!

I am (proudly) at the name-collecting stage. This has been a fascinating few months of work. Here is my database if you'd like to check for common ancestors. 

Come find me in Germany (in my mind)!

* German diacriticals and spellings omitted here because...American keyboard ;)

© 2016 Sally Knudsen

Photo credit: By Enzyklofant (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Mad Dash to Mad Town

While taking breaks from my DNA matching, I am doing my best to shore up some of my family lines that are a little neglected. One is my maternal grandfather's COUNTRYMAN line.

My earliest known ancestors were Peter Countryman (read about his probate here) and his wife, Matilda AMES. Peter and Matilda had seven known children, and possibly eight, when they both died in their 40's from causes I have yet to discover. The family were early settlers of Ingham County, Michigan, around 1834.

I have a lot of speculative information about Peter's ancestry from the help of many excellent Countryman researchers, but Matilda and her Ames family had continued to be a mystery. One of my distant cousins hoped we could find a connection to the famous Ames brothers, Oakes and Oliver, who were instrumental in the expansion of the transcontinental railroad - and the scandals that followed. Alas, we are not.

I would check Google and Google Books every once in a while to see if any clues popped up. Earlier this year, this did:

Google Books snippet view

Ingham County, Michigan! This was a real lead! But darn that snippet view. No matter what combination of names I searched for, I could not get farther. No way was I going to attempt to guess who her parents and family might be. I then used WorldCat to locate the book as no print copies appeared to be available for purchase. WorldCat showed six copies in the United States. The closest was at the State of Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison.

So I went.

I have been though Madison but never stopped, so I decided this would be a me-cation or day-cation or genea-cation, or, you know, one day alone! Madison is just over a two hour drive from my house. In addition to the Society library, my destinations included the University of Wisconsin campus and the shores of Lake Mendota.

State of Wisconsin Historical Society

The building is a library, archives and research center. The Society has occupied the building since 1900. The staff was very helpful in directing me to my book's location on the 6th floor. The building had those wonderful old book smells and creaky door sounds.

Here is the book:

Descendants of William Ames of Braintree, Massachusetts
by Ann Theopold Chaplin, CG
published 2004

It is very possible that this book has never even been touched before. I pulled it out of the stack and it looks like it came fresh from the printer. It was a traditional descendancy, so I first located Matilda's family, then went forward and backward noting my particular lines. I took the book to the public scanner, and after a few minutes of scanning, printing and $2.87, I had my information. (Yes, I copied the source citations and cover matter, 'natch).

I drove around the UW campus, picked up some lunch, and sat along Lake Mendota and enjoyed the beautiful day.

along Picnic Point, looking toward the capitol dome

Native American burial mounds along Picnic Point

wild daisies along the trail

Wisconsin state capitol building

Then it was back to Illinois, home of corn and soybeans...and wind.

I haven't yet entered my new information into my family tree program yet. I have read through it a couple of times. And a huge shout out to Ms. Chaplin for the book - your efforts have not been in vain.

I am savoring the moment - both of my new-found ancestors and my day away.

© 2016 Sally Knudsen

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Presidential Announcement

President Grover Cleveland
Much of my genealogy lately has revolved around my DNA matches. Sometimes, though, I need a break. That's when I head back to traditional research. And I freely admit, most of my traditional research comes via the internet.

I have many of my lines researched 200 years or more back in time. But no matter how much information I have, I always want more. Always! I also review some of those "dormant" families and see what might be new, or new to me, on the interwebs. One method is through online digitized books. It is pretty amazing how many old family genealogies and town histories have been digitized. Searching Google Books and the Hathi Trust usually yields something good.

Take the case of my search on the TENNY or TENNEY family of New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. There is a Tenney family history book I've located that mentions my great-great-great-grandmother Amelia Tenney (1838-1891). I have confirmed using other sources that this is indeed my family. The Tenney book goes back several generations, to Thomas Tenney (c1615-1699) of Yorkshire, England and Rowley, Massachusetts, and includes descendants and many in-laws when known.

A little farther along Amelia Tenney's direct line, I came across Lucretia CLEVELAND. Hmm. There can't be too many Cleveland families in the 1700's. Some web searching about President Grover Cleveland yields his line and ancestry - and it ends the same as mine! Our first common American ancestor is Moses Cleveland, who came to Massachusetts in 1634 from Suffolk County, England. Another of Moses' descendants, also called Moses but using the spelling Cleaveland, was a famous surveyor and the founder of...Cleveland!

Here is each of our lines:

Using this chart from ISOGG, I traced each of our paths to Moses Cleveland. Moses was Grover's 4th great-grandfather and he is my 10th great-grandfather. That makes Grover and me 5th cousins 6 times removed, or 5C6R. 

I can call him Grover because he is my cousin after all ;)

For a Midwestern girl who comes from farmers and miners, I'm not quibbling about the degree of cousinship. I'm related to a President!

PhotographThe Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. "Grover Cleveland and his Cabinet." The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

© 2016 Sally Knudsen

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Birthplace Pedigree, or WOW, Did My Ancestors Travel!

Of course, I had to jump on the bandwagon in creating a birthplace pedigree chart! For "extra credit," I went to six generations, only because all of my lines migrated so much!

Here's the picture:

Thanks to Cheri at Carolina Girl Genealogy for posting this on Facebook and to those who made the template!

© 2016 Sally Knudsen

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Circle of Life

Last week I had the opportunity to wander around the University of Chicago, one of the preeminent universities in the US.

Henry Crown Fieldhouse

Let's back up first. 

I have written in the past about my grandfather Dallas Spencer. My grandfather was born on his family's farm outside Lansing, Ingham, Michigan. It was the same farm his great-grandparents first settled on in 1867.

After his education at the Agricultural College of Michigan (now Michigan State University), he served in the Navy in World War II, both in the US and in Japan. Eventually, he took an engineering position at the Department of Energy's new Argonne Laboratory in suburban Chicago. Argonne was founded in 1946 by several of the participants in the first successful nuclear chain reaction under the Stagg Football Field at the University of Chicago. Here is some great history about Argonne.

While my grandfather was not 'under the field' for that moment in scientific history, he was later presented with a small token to commemorate it:

memento inherited by this author

Fast forward to February 2016.

Readers of my blog may remember that I have sons who run competitively. My college son was racing in a meet... at the University of Chicago. And it happened to be a glorious, 50 degree February day in Chicago. So I went with dual purposes: watch my son and his team compete, and visit the University.

my son :)

modern sculpture noting the location

plaque commemorating the exact location of the nuclear reaction

beautiful Chicago skyline, south of the Loop

Sometimes genealogy and history are just genealogy and history. But sometimes they can show us a connection, a window, a way to observe the bigger world around us. 

My grandfather went from a boy on a farm to a seaman in Japan to an engineer for the Department of Energy. He circled the world. In following my sons as they circle their prized track oval, I can make connections and create context to the places I visit and the things I have learned about my ancestors. Watching my son reach for his goals gave me an opportunity to remember my grandfather and how his choices reflect why I am here today.

The Circle of Life.

© 2016 Sally Knudsen

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Vet Your Sources, Please!

I am not Ancestry's biggest fan.

I love the record sets. Love. Them.

I do not like a lot of the other "tools" they have, especially the DNA tools.

I recently checked out a DNA Circle that suddenly has 7 connections. Well, the seven include my two tests, the four tests of one other contributor, and one test to a person who Ancestry doesn't show as matching to my tests directly.

[Confidential to Ancestry: give us segment data and/or a chromosome browser, so I can determine how I really do match these connections. Please and thanks.]

The other group of tests are descendants of a common ancestor I'll call Jacob. I have lots of good data on Jacob, including his Will, pension file and census records. I have no definitive parents or birthplace for Jacob - another brick wall ancestor.

This new DNA Circle member does!

I viewed the Timeline that Ancestry can create from my connection's tree and found this:

So "Jacob" was born in England, six years later his mother died in New York, he then went back to England (assuming he came to the colonies with his parents!) to marry and have a first child, sail back to the colonies and have three more children in two years in three different counties covering two states, bury his wife a year later in yet another county and state, and then move some more. 

I need a map.

The "sources" for the children's information include - only - a minimum of 12 other Ancestry trees. There are no sources given for the English records. 

Maybe, maybe, maybe this is true but I am too skeptical. I will keep searching for Jacob's parents.

Examine your timelines and vet your sources before you get my hopes up again!

© 2016 Sally Knudsen