The science in genealogy…

FamilyTreeDNA is currently having a big sale on its test upgrades, so I have bit the wallet and upgraded Dad’s sample to add the mtDNA Test for Myrtle’s maternal side and a FamilyFinder test which will show cousins and % of ethnicity.

Doing the Family Finder test for Grandfather Shepard showed us no American Indian ancestry,( as many family fables love to brag).

Will share the results as soon as I get them.


One of many…

A short post in honor of our many Revolutionary War ancestors. Below is a picture from William Shepard’s entry at Wikipedia, a painting in which he is included. Although at this time I am not sure which one is him.

Col. William Shepard was at the Battle of Trenton, N.J. with George Washington, and his likeness appears in the painting Capture of the Hessians at Trenton, by John Trumbull at the Yale Univ. Gallery of Art, Chapel St., New Haven. 

Drowning in Brooks…

Almyra Brooks

Okay, it was a bad pun. But when you have a surname like Brooks in your family you have to have a little fun with it.

I have been doing a lot of research on Almyra Brooks’ family. Why? Because she is one of those women’s lines that has been pushed to the side in other people’s research because it required a little too much effort to figure them out.

But not me. I am very persistent and tenacious when it comes to these kinds of puzzles, and I love a good challenge.

When I started this research all I knew about Almyra’s parents was mostly just their names and a few other details. So what have I been able to find out so far? Almyra’s father John, jr. was born in Albany, Albany County, New York a week after his father John, sr. died of illness in the Buffalo area of the state (after having joined the Army to fight in the ‘War of 1812’). John, jr.’s mother, Diana Smith Brooks (who was born in England), was left with five children to raise on her own. The eldest of those children was Peter, and he was not even her own. Peter was born during what I am quite sure was John’s first marriage. What’s that you say, John Brooks, sr. had a previous marriage? Oh yeah. And I am the one who figured it out.

The guardianship file for John Brooks, sr. indicates all the children along with their ages. Using a wonderful device called a calculator, I was able to figure out that Peter was born before Diana and John were married, a good indication that John was married previously to Diana. The guardianship case also named a Peter Brooks, Diana’s brother-in-law, as guardian. So not only do I now have the names of all the children of John, sr., I have a brother for him too.

While in Salt Lake City, I looked at a film of burial records of the Dutch Reformed Church in Albany on the off chance it might have something of interest for me. I found two intriguing records. One was ‘John Brooks’ child’ burial costs and the date of August 1802, the other one was an entry for ‘John Brooks’ wife’, burial costs and a date of October 1805. These entries were intriguing because of the dates, both of which were before John married Diana in 1807 which strongly suggested a connection. So I made note of the entries.

When I came home and started going through my research data, I looked over the above records and decided to check other online databases of the Reformed Dutch Church records. I found three very interesting entries in the marriage and baptismal records. The first was a marriage for a John Broocks to a Hannah Groesbeck in 1801. The second was the baptism of a daughter Elizabeth in 1802. The last and in my mind most convincing evidence that this marriage was my John, sr.’s first one, was a baptism for a Peter in 1804, the same year that the eldest son Peter was born.

Put together with what I already know, I am convinced that John’s first wife was Hannah, they had a daughter Elizabeth who died at a few months of age, and then had a son Peter. Hannah died about 10 months after Peter’s birth. John then married Diana. They named their first born Elizabeth after John’s first daughter.

So my next question is, who are the parents of John, sr. and Peter Brooks?

The best source would be the same Dutch Church records I looked at previously online. These records along with a website dedicated to the history of Albany have given me information that makes me lean towards the theory that John Brooks b1783-d1815, brother to Peter Brooks b1780-d1825 are both the sons of Peter Brooks and Frances Wendell. I know Peter and Frances had a child named Peter, as I found a baptismal record for one in 1780. John Brooks named his eldest Peter. John had a brother named Peter. (There are not a bountiful amount of Peter Brooks in the directories or census records.)

If indeed this connection is true, it has been indicated that Peter Brooks who married Francis Wendell in 1772, was the son of Jonathan Brooks and possibly Rebecca Tatten, (Jonathan’s will names his wife Elizabeth, so I am unclear about this information). Jonathan is considered the patriarch of the Brooks of early Albany.

There is still research to do on this line, but it is starting to look up. It is still unclear if the Brooks are of Dutch or English descent. But I am looking forward to finding out.

All about John…

No this is not a post about the John family. This is a post about John GEORGE.

In going about my research on the GEORGE family, (that would be in relation to Grandma Dick’s grandmother Rachel GEORGE), it appears that William GEORGE and his wife Margaret arrived in Tyler County, Virginia in the late 1700s to early 1800s. Don’t know exactly yet. They had at least 4 children, although I might have found a fifth – but that is another story. The only one of their children I could find no information on online was John GEORGE.

Now John is not a direct ancestor, but a 5g Uncle. Which doesn’t matter to me, because I research all my relatives, if possible, as I have mentioned in earlier posts. In this case it was just a matter of curiosity. What the heck happened to John? Why does no one have anything on him online?

So commenced my hunt.

My first major puzzle piece was a land record in Tyler County, and because John was selling land, his wife’s name had to be listed. Diadamia. What a lovely name. This was the first tidbit I had found of his wife.

The last major puzzle piece, that pretty much put the picture together, was another land record. This one was recorded in Tyler County, but it had been sent from Elkhart County, Indiana in 1838. Wow! Major news. So my next move was to check all the census records for Tyler County for the GEORGES and make a list of who was living there as early as I could find them. John has moved out of his parents home and was living with his wife by 1810, he was about 26-29 years of age. So according to the census’ and the above land record they stayed in the area until sometime between June of 1838 and September of 1839, which is when they moved to Indiana. This find was confirmed with census records in the area of Elkhart County.

John died by 1846. I know this because in searching the Indiana vital records online for information on the children, I found a record of his wife having married a Kinsey in 1846. Diadamia and her new husband are found together in 1850 in Elkhart, but by 1860 Diadamia had also died (confirmed by census records).

I know of at least 4 children for the couple: John, William, Elizabeth, and Cassandra. Elizabeth and Cassandra each had married in Virginia, the former to a Jacob Sailor, and the latter to a Lewis Pitts. They had traveled with their parents and their own families to the wilds of Indiana. Eventually, the Pitts family traveled on to Nebraska which is where Cassandra died. Elizabeth’s family stayed in Elkhart. I do not know what happened to John or William yet, and I might or might not pursue their whereabouts.

So I have pretty much solved the mystery of John GEORGE. I am sure there are more records in Indiana that could give me even more information on the family, but that can wait for another time. So many surnames so little….well you know.

Improvements in transcriptions… has a database on their site of Hamburg passenger lists. That would be those people leaving Germany from the port of Hamburg. Recently there has been an update to the database which includes an index of the records from 1850 to about 1890, I think, anyway is covers the dates I need. The great thing about this index is that it is the Archives in Germany that is doing it. Which means that the information from the transcription will be more accurate.

In my case, I was hoping to see a refinement of the entry for  Frederick William John and Henrietta Volk in the records. Which I did. The transcription confirmed that which I believed to be true, but wasn’t quite sure of, F W John and his wife Henrietta both indicated that they were born in Altraden, Posen, Prussia.

It’s not ground breaking news, but it makes me feel better about including the information in my own records. FW’s brother August did not have to give the same information when he emigrated in 1855, he only had to say where he was from, that could just mean where he last lived. We have that information.

At this time there are very few accessible records for Altraden for me to look at. I do keep checking up on Posen websites as there are a few indexing projects going on from church records, but it might be a while before we find anything, if ever.

What’s in a date?

Elza Shepard
Elza Shepard

Elza Shepard celebrated his 93rd birthday with big fanfare surrounded by friends and family. There was even a write up in the local paper about it.

The only problem is Elza was never 93 years old. He was born anywhere from 1845-1847 according to census records from 1860-1930. The most accurate census would be the 1860 one where his is living with his parents Hartley and Susannah Shepard and he is 13 years old. Most of the census records agree with the 1846-1847 time period.

His death record indicates he was born in 1841. Death records are notorious for having this kind of information wrong, especially the early ones where birth records don’t exist. I can say with great confidence that it is incorrect. Elza probably forgot when he was born and over time the date changed and was mis-remembered.

So in actual fact when Elza died he was no more than 88 years old. A great age to celebrate anyway.

More union soldiers, a wedding and a death…

I am back from my trip to Salt Lake City. Who would think that a weeks vacation could be that exhausting.

I spent many an hour looking bleary eyed at microfilm. All in an effort to find something new about our  ancestors. I am happy to say that I did find a tidbit or two.

Firstly, until just this last week I had no idea when Jennie/Jannett Smith Rosa Lavelley died. I did know it was after 1870 and before 1898 (according to her ex-husband, Abram Rosa’s, pension). But this week I found a quit claim deed filed in Berrien County, Michigan labeled ‘Jannett Rosa, by heirs’ to Michael Smith [her brother]. The incriminating bit of information in that index entry was the ‘by heirs’ part. The deed was filed in 1877. Okay, it didn’t give me the exact date of death, but now I know that Jennie died between 1870 and 1877, a much shorter date range. Who knows, maybe a bit of digging in my own backyard will turn up more on that issue, after all she lived in Oconto.

Secondly, the Buchanan family has been researched by others, but some of what they have put out there is wrong. I now know that Margaret and William Buchanan died in Jackson County, West Virginia. Margaret in 1883 and William in 1891. I found their death records online. Easy peasy. Well, after Margaret died, William must have been feeling a bit lonely because he married again in 1884 to an Emily Duke. How do I know this, land records. William and Emily are selling land together to family, etc. in Jackson County in the 1880s. It took me a while to realize that the name of his wife was Emily in the deeds as I am mostly just photographing records and looking at them later. I am glad I did though. Now I can add Emily to the records. I even confirmed the marriage by finding their certificate online.

Thirdly, After learning about Emily, I dug around on Ancestry to see if there was something I missed about William Buchanan in their online records. William is the first Shepard side ancestor I have found to have been an actual soldier in the Civil War. He joined the Union’s 17th Regiment, Company D, Infantry. He was only in the war for about a year, the same as F. W. John. He appears to have survived the war without any incidents. But, he didn’t live long enough to file a pension having died in 1891. Emily his wife died by 1900, as we know from the land records. When she died the land she inherited from William, had to pass on to his children: Jane, Ebenezer, Rebecca and Sarah.

All in all I have had affirmed in my mind the importance of land records in doing one’s research. It can lead you to finding all kinds of little gems.

This is the page from the 1890 Veteran’s Schedule showing William Buchanan.

Who knew…a johnny reb wanna-be

Well it finally happened, something so unexpected I almost hate to share. It looks like we have ourselves a little confederate wanna-be in our family tree.

Fold3 is a great website for researching military history, and like other sites of the same nature they are always adding new content. So I was checking into a lesser researched ancestor by the name of Dallas Lemasters. This gentleman is of French Huguenot descent and married Mary Headlee in 1834, in West Virginia. Their daughter Lydia married Thomas R. Stackpole.

When the Civil War started in 1861 Dallas was in his 50s, so a little too old to be joining the ranks of soldiers to fight for his cause. Instead he and his brother Septimus along with Septimus’ son Jasper decided to join a party of civilian guerillas, whose intent was to fight the enemy, that being the Union Army, on their own. Unfortunately, for them, they were captured by the Union and imprisoned at Camp Chase in Ohio. At the time of their parole hearing, several citizens in the area Jasper was from recommended that Jasper stay imprisoned as they considered him a very dangerous man. Dallas and Septimus were released on their own recognizance in November 21, 1862 after signing an oath to protect and preserve the Union.

So far I haven’t been able to find out anything more about this turn of events, but I will keep on working at it.

Camp Chase in Ohio, Civil War prison camp for Confederates.

Heading to Salt Lake City, Utah again…

The first week of June I will be heading my way southwest to Salt Lake City, Utah for another bout of mainlined research. I have been spending most of my weekends making my lists and checking them twice. The research this time will focus on two families, mainly the Brooks of Albany, New York and the Shepard lines of Westfield, Massachusetts. I am more interested in the Brooks, but I also don’t want to neglect those lines related to the Shepards in Westfield. There are quite a few, Dewey being one of the big ones.

I don’t know if we are related to Melvil Dewey the guy who invented the Dewey Decimal System, but we are related to the guy to created the Webster Dictionary, he is a distant cousin, our common ancestor being Governor John Webster of Connecticut.

Lots of interesting tidbits have been popping up in my research lately. Especially when checking into those old New England surnames on the Shaw side of the family.

Of special note are three surnames in our ancestry who were somehow involved in witch trials in Long Island and Connecticut in the 1600s. In one case our ancestral husband and wife were witnesses, the accused was found not guilty. In another case two of our ancestors were jurors in the same trial, they found the accused husband and wife guilty; they were sentenced to death. So we have a couple more ancestors who can be called murderers, all in a good cause of course.

Postmaster in the house…

The JOHN family has a few postmasters in its background. This position was due to two of our ancestors working with the rail system, Frederick William in Gillett and Victor Hugo in Wabeno and the surrounding area. Victor was in fact station agent in Wabeno for many years. just this week uploaded their postmaster appointment database with image and I decided to look for both of the above named gentlemen. The top image is FW John’s appointment and the bottom image is Victor Hugo’s (just click on the images to see a larger version). Here is a description of the collection from Ancestry:

This is a database of post office appointments stretching from 1832 until 1971. The records are mostly a register of people appointed to run post offices, but opening and closing of post offices, as well as Presidential appointments and Senate confirmations are included. The records primarily include name, appointment date, vacancy cause, vacancy date, post office location, state, county, and volume.

I looked for William A. Shepard in the database, but did not find him.