One of the cardinal rules in genealogical research, is “Don’t ignore your cousins”. Too often family history researchers, especially newbies, tend to focus too much on their direct line during their research. Doing so can greatly decrease their chances of finding useful information that might help: knock down brick walls, find those missing pictures, get details on family they might otherwise never know.
Case in point.
It is very possible that I have found our mysterious Shepard progenitor. “How is this possible?”, you ask. Well I thank modern science and good old fashioned cousin searching.
Thanks to DNA we recently had a match between another Shepherd gentleman who is not a descendant of Hartley. This means that this Dr. John Shepherd and Grandfather are related very closely, genealogically speaking. But the question is, who is their common ancestor? Dr. John had in his research one generation further back than we did, to a John Shepherd born in New Jersey about 1783. Who was he in relation to Hartley? We didn’t know and further research hadn’t really turned up anything of use.
Cut to a different line. The Deem surname married into our Shepard line in West Virginia, there is a Deem Family site that I found last year, where I also found a picture purported to be of Susannah Smith Shepard, Hartley’s wife. On this site, Hartley and Susannah’s daughter, Sevilla, is listed because she married a gentleman by the name of Hiram Deem. Sevilla’s parents are listed, Hartley and Susannah, as are all four of her grandparents Henry Shepard and Huldah, and Joseph Smith and Catherine. I was curious how this person who put the information up on the Deem site knew who Hartley’s parents were, no one in our family had ever heard the names. When I tried to ask the poster where he got the information I received no response. So I gave up for a while.
Yesterday I had some time at work and decided to do a little Shepard research, as I do every couple of months. This time I decided to try the Henry and Huldah angle. Imagine my surprise when I got a hit. I had found a whole site uploaded by a Shepard descendant whose immigrant ancestor had started in Massachusetts. But in that data was a listing for Henry and Huldah Shepard along with his ancestors all the way back to merry old England. Not a mention of good ol’ Scotland.
Two items peaked my cautious interest in this site, after all this connection could be bogus. 1. There was mention of one generation where the children were split up due to the death of their father when they were very young. One child was sent to New Jersey – [hmmm – isn’t that where Dr. John’s ancestor was born?], the other was sent to Westfield, Massachusetts [our possible relations]. 2. Henry, while being born in Massachusetts, is said to have died in Ohio. I do know he was married in Ohio, I found a marriage notice for him and Huldah that was culled from the Marietta, Washington County, Ohio paper. Washington County is just below Monroe County, where Hartley is said to have been born.
So all in all very intriguing bits of information, that makes me smile in hopeful anticipation.
Of great interest, if true, is a link to the following site on Wikipedia: Gen. William Shepard this General, if a true connection, would be Hartley Shepard’s grandfather.
I have also found archival collections for this General Shepard at the Westfield Athenaeum Library. Unfortunately, we can’t get them to sent the collection here as we can with our Wisconsin Historical Society materials.
Yesterday I also finally made contact with Nick Deem, the gentleman who had the picture of Susannah Smith on his site along with the information on Hartley’s parents. According to Nick “The information and picture was handed down in my family. I am not sure which of my Mothers sisters or brothers had the picture. They have all passed on now.” But it seems that the information could very likely be correct, because there are no records in Ohio that can confirm this data and very little on Henry and Huldah to speak of, which makes it hard to imagine someone making the connection on a guess, or a whim.
So thanks to the help of cousins, we just might have found the break we were waiting for.
Now where is another Shepard cousin I can get some DNA from? More later…