Archive for the ‘genealogy’ Category

My cousin recently mentioned to me that she has no full siblings, only halfs (halves?). That got me to thinking about things that we all take for granted and never think about.

My mother’s mother had six children, five of whom lived to adulthood. (Grandma lost a three-year-old in the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.) Of those five, three of them had only one child each. One had two, each from a different marriage. I have to wonder if there would have been any more from the first marriage had it not ended in divorce. But if there’d been no divorce, I wouldn’t have this cousin who is like a younger sister to me.

The fifth child was my mother. If she and Dad hadn’t adopted my brother, I, too, would have been an only child. Fourteen years after my birth, my mother had my sister. She and I are the only ones in the family with a full sibling.

Have you ever counted your cousins? On Dad’s side, I have ten first cousins including two who were adopted by my uncle. On Mom’s side, I have five first cousins. I know all of them, having grown up with my maternal cousins and visiting the paternal ones many times over the years.

My Dad had thirty four first cousins, twenty one from his Mother’s side and thirteen from his Dad’s. I think he may have known all of them, but I don’t think they were all local to him growing up, so some of them he might not have been as close to as the others. Some of them lived in Seattle, but they came and visited once or twice. Some lived in Illinois, which wasn’t terribly far, and it’s a good bet that they were able to come for holidays or family functions.

My Mother had forty seven first cousins, but per her cousin and family history book writer, Glenda Pagan Hibdon, there are a few I haven’t been able to document. If they died young, there wouldn’t have been any records, so I have to take her word for them. Twenty eight of them were from her Mother’s side and nineteen from her Dad’s. I think Mom knew most all of these cousins. Or at least she knew of them. A few were in Texas and Michigan/Indiana, I believe, and if they didn’t come visit Jonesboro, they were certainly talked about so Mom would have recognized their names.

These stats probably don’t interest anyone but me, but I wanted to document my ramblings in case I want to refer to them again in the future.

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I discovered the name discrepancy a couple of years ago. Since then, I’ve been searching. Searching for Elizabeth, searching for Julia. No marriages for an Elizabeth Hunt. No Julia Hunts on a census. Incredibly frustrating.

But I did find one thing: there was an Elizabeth Hunt, the right age, in Georgia in 1870. She was in the household of a Mary Surratt, born Georgia, several Harper children, born Arkansas, a Surratt child, born Arkansas, Elizabeth, born Georgia and 10 year old Martha Hunt, born Arkansas. (And before you say anything, this was NOT the Mary Surratt who was hanged in Baltimore as a Civil War spy.)

This census record does not generate any record hints on Ancestry. Nothing that links these people to previous censuses. Nothing that would tell me anything about them. I came up with a hypothesis about them, however: Mary and Elizabeth were sisters, Mary was first married to Mr. Harper, had those children, then married Mr. Surratt and had that one child. Elizabeth was the mother of Martha, according to my made-up story. I know literally nothing about Elizabeth Cox Hunt. I found one 1860 census, with a David Cox and Elizabeth Cox, right age, born Georgia. They had two little boys. But they were in Hot Spring county which is quite a ways from Cross county. It seemed unlikely. Because she was about 34-35 years old when she married John/Jehu, I figured she had to have been married to Cox as opposed to it being her maiden name. Because of that, I concluded this family¬†had nothing to do with my family. After all, Martha was too old to have been John/Jehu’s child unless she was born out of wedlock and it took him all those years to marry her mother.

So I’d put it down and come back to it later. Finally, a breakthrough of sorts: There is a Jehu Hunt, the right age, the wrong birthplace, on the 1870 Mortality Schedule in Fayetteville, Fayette county, Georgia who died in June 1869 of smallpox. The people on the mortality schedules are cross-referenced to their families on the corresponding population schedules and he is linked to the household of Mary Surratt, those Harper and Surratt children, Elizabeth and Martha Hunt.

Could it be? How could it be? Fayetteville, Georgia is a long way from Cross county, Arkansas. The only details here that match are Jehu Hunt, the right age and Elizabeth Hunt, the right age.

So I put it down and came back from time to time to try and find out more about Mary, her children, Elizabeth and Martha.

Yesterday, everything fell into place. Sometimes that darn Ancestry search engine will show you records it hadn’t shown you before, using the same search terms.

I found Mary on the 1850 census with her husband John HOPPER and oldest daughter, Nancy. They lived in Smith Township, St. Francis county, Arkansas. Where John/Jehu would live and buy land nearby in 1858. I found Mary and John HOPPER again in the same place in 1860. In their household was her presumed (by me) sister, Elizabeth Dearing and her daughter Martha J. Dearing. Mary’s daughter Elizabeth’s death certificate states her mother’s maiden name was Dearing.

I have come up with another hypothesis: Martha was born out of wedlock. She was Julia. John/Jehu gave her his name to give her legitimacy.

I went on to find Mary’s children in census/marriage/death and burial records. I found her grandchildren’s records. I couldn’t stop finding records. Except for Martha/Julia. And Elizabeth. ūüôā

Being mindful of confirmation bias, I have another made-up story: John/Jehu, Elizabeth and Martha/Julia went to Georgia to visit her sister and possibly other family. For whatever reason. Maybe a health emergency. Maybe a death in the family. Farmers didn’t just up and go on vacation back then. John/Jehu contracted smallpox while there and died. Because his property and estate had to be probated in Arkansas, it took her some time to travel there from Georgia and that’s why she didn’t appear at the probate court until January.

My next steps are to track down living descendants of Mary. Find out if the family name was Hopper or Harper. The records have been about even for both spellings. See if they know what happened to Elizabeth. And Martha/Julia. Find out if they know where Jehu is buried. See if I can figure out if he was my GGGF Hunt. I’m not related to any of them, so DNA won’t help.

I’d like to put the finishing touches on his story.


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GGGF Hunt probably died before the end of June 1870. He is not to be found on the 1870 census in Cross county, Arkansas which was enumerated as of July 1, 1870 . But neither is his wife, Elizabeth. Was she dead, too? Actually, he probably died before the end of June, 1869 as he is not found on the Mortality Schedule of the 1870 census (deaths recorded from 7/1/1869-6/30/1870) for Cross county.

I took it a step further and went looking for a will and/or probate records.

And I found them.

The documentation is not as complete as I would expect, but at least enough of it survives (thank you so much Familysearch for microfilming the will books). The probate court of Cross county, Arkansas convened a few times a year, from what I can tell. The records are in two separate book filmings.

On page 547 of probate volume A, we find, dated 1/4/1870 (look at that date) :

“Est of Jahue Hunt, decd, vesting order. (take note of that name, it is spelled that way on all the documents) Now on this day comes Mrs. Hunt into court and presents the court here her appraise bill of Personal Property–to wit: 1 cow and calf $30.00, 1 heifer $18.00, 1 yoke cattle $75.00. The right to which said property is hereby vested absolutely in the widow.” I don’t know what this means but it looks to me like she is claiming these items from the estate (maybe she brought them to the marriage) and the court agreed. This is the last we hear of Mrs. Hunt. If she died before the 1870 census was taken a few months after this, I haven’t found a record of it. She was only about 35 years old at this time, she could easily have remarried, but I have not found a record. This seems more logical to me than her death, but anything is possible.

On page 59 of administration and guardian and bonds letters volume A in Cross county, we find the first entry in the matter of Jahue Hunt who died intestate. “Letters of Administration to B. Rolison in the Jahue Hunt Est.” Britton Rolison was the local county assessor. On 2/10/1870, Mr. Rolison was appointed to administer the estate. It doesn’t use the word “executor,” but that was his appointment, from what I can tell. It doesn’t say when Jahue died, but we know it was before 1/4/1870.

On page 106 of the same book, we find Mr. Rolison, Thomas G. Stanley and J.J. Carnes putting up bond to administer the estate. This is also dated 2/10/1870. But this is all that I find. At the very least, I would expect to find an inventory and a settlement. There is another book of settlements from 1866-1911 (volume D) but I didn’t find the Jahue Hunt estate in it. These films are not indexed and it could be that I just missed them. I will go through them again.

But one thing I did find that was unexpected and surprising:

On page 610 of probate volume A, dated “January term, 1871:”

“C.S. Hunt pet[ition] for Guar[dianship] of Julia Hunt

Now on this day the petition of C.S. Hunt, heretofore filed praying for letters of guardianship, which petition for want of bond is not granted.”

Wait, what? Who was Julia Hunt and how old was she? Did GGGF Hunt and Elizabeth have a child together? Glenda’s book doesn’t mention Julia, but it also doesn’t mention the 1868 marriage to Elizabeth Cox.

So the mystery deepens. If Elizabeth was still living, and if Julia was her child, where were they in 1870?

The answer may be in Part III. To be continued…


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If the only things you know about my 2x great-grandfather Hunt come from Glenda Pagan Hibdon’s book,¬†The Pagan, Hunt and Sanderson Genealogies, you might think he could have been related to the founder of Huntsville, Alabama if you didn’t read it very closely. Glenda (my mother’s first cousin) talks about the possibility, but she does not state this to be a fact.

She makes other claims that aren’t sourced, such as the notion that because she couldn’t find them in the 1870 census (she was looking in the wrong county), they must have gone back to Tennessee (the supposed location of GGGF and GGGM Hunt’s marriage) and that her grandfather (my great-grandfather) C.S. Hunt married his first wife, Nancy Huggins, there. This must have been a family story, because I haven’t been able to find a marriage in any state for C.S. and Nancy. They had 3 children together who were born in Tennessee according to Glenda, but nearly every census they appear on says they were born in Arkansas. There was a Huggins family living in the same county in Arkansas who had a daughter named Nancy who was the same age as C.S.’s first wife. She was married to a Mr. Robison first, having 3 children with him, and the oldest son was born in Arkansas. So the story about Tennessee doesn’t add up for me.

She gives details about John Hunt Sr., the supposed founder of Huntsville, stating that one of his sons, David, married Elizabeth Larkin. She refers to GGGF Hunt as John Hunt II, stating he named one of his sons Larkin (which is true) and that makes this a definite connection but one she couldn’t prove. But then she goes on to show an unknown generation between John Hunt Sr. and John Hunt II with no way to connect the two. So her story should have started with GGGF Hunt, instead he’s Generation 3.

You might also think his name was John. I know I did. He is listed by name on the 1850 census in DeKalb county, Alabama and on the 1860 census in St. Francis county, Arkansas.



He got married in 1868 to Elizabeth Cox. Again, he is listed as John.


So if you stopped there in your research, you’d come away with the satisfaction of knowing his name was John.

But let’s take it a step further. GGGF Hunt applied to purchase land in Cross county, Arkansas in 1857. His land patent was indexed by the Bureau of Land Management as:

Ok then, his name was John.

But if you find the purchase receipts and other documents related to that land sale you find this, dated 1861:

“I have carefully compared the within certificate with the original application in file in my office and have corrected the first name “Jehu” so as to agree with the application-instead of “John.”

Wait, what?

Sure enough, on that land patent, originally dated 1858, you can see that the name (in 5 places) was changed from John to Jehu and the date and other details changed to 1861. I wonder what brought that about? This was the first I heard that maybe I was wrong about his name.

So I took it another step further and found his 1866, 1868 and 1869 tax records for that land. While they don’t answer the question about his name, they do give me his middle initial, H.

So what do I do about this apparent name discrepancy? It’s true that GGGF Hunt named a son Jehu and he also had a grandson named Jehu. Could these be clues to the right name?

To be continued…


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I heard this statement on a tech podcast and I was struck by how relevant it is to a genealogical problem I have.

In the grand scheme of things, if I can’t solve this it wouldn’t be the end of the world, since it involves one of my grandmother’s great-uncles, not one of my direct ancestors. But the fact that I’ve been looking at this puzzle for years without resolution really bugs me.

My Grandma Hoff’s grandfather, Andrew Schmieder, born in Germany, had a number of siblings. For the longest time, I was only aware that one brother had also come to the U.S., Ferdinand.

Andrew was the 3rd born, Ferdinand was the youngest of 11, 9 of whom lived to adulthood. I don’t know if Andrew and Ferdinand came to America together or separately, I have not found them on a passenger list. Andrew was married in Grant County, Wisconsin in 1854. Ferdinand married too, but I don’t have a date. I think it likely the marriage occurred in the U.S.

Ferdinand and Maria Elizabeth Keller Schmieder had no children. He must have been fond of his nieces and nephews though, because he was very generous to them in his will which was probated in 1886/1887. His probate file was a goldmine of Schmieder family information for me, as he gave bequests to family members in Germany, naming the town he came from (Kappel) and also in the U.S. I was able to obtain church records from Germany detailing my family there. I was doing the genealogical happy dance!

He mentioned in his will that he was predeceased by his brother Anton who died in Cincinnati, Ohio. That’s all it said. He gave bequests to Anton’s children, Katy, Josephine and Xavier, who were over 21 years of age and lived in Cincinnati. And those were my only clues to track down any living descendants.

And track them I did. But there was an unexpected spelling change and I can’t be 100% sure I found the right Anton. The man I found and the family I traced spells their name “Schmidter,” pronounced “Schmitter.” Although to be fair, the 1850 Census spells this man’s name that way, but in 1860 it’s spelled “Smither.” My Dad always pronounced “Schmieder” as “Smeeder,” so if I try and imagine it with a thick German accent, maybe just maybe I could hear it as Schmitter if I wasn’t familiar with it. But I’m not sure how it morphed into Schmidter. And also to be fair, the Schmidter spelling wasn’t just made up, I’ve found the name in other census records for other families. If I couldn’t find anyone else with the spelling I’d feel sure I had the right guy.

And the family doesn’t know who their Anton’s family was or where exactly he came from in Germany. So they don’t have any information to contradict what I have, but they can’t confirm any of it, either.

I sat down and made a chart of the strong but circumstantial evidence to support my hypothesis that Anton Schmidter of Cincinnati, Ohio was the same person as Anton Schmieder of Kappel, Baden, Germany. (The screenshot is rather small, try the link if you need it larger.)

anton vs anton screenshot

anton schmieder vs anton schmidter circumstantial evidence comparison 11.02.18

So where do I go from here? DNA!

I tested my Dad at Ancestry back in 2016. One of the Schmidter descendants also tested at Ancestry.

They do not match.

I keep searching Dad’s match list for names in the Schmidter family tree and there are none, nada, zip, zilch.

What does this mean? There are a few possibilities:

  1. The obvious: my hypothesis is wrong
  2. Dad and descendant would be 3rd cousins twice removed (3C2R) if related. Due to the way autosomal DNA works, there’s a 50/50 chance on average they’d shared enough DNA to show up as a match.
  3. Family members of descendant have not tested

And this brings me to the title of this post: Absence of Evidence is not Evidence of Absence.

I’m not ready to give up yet. I still have work to do. Descendant says he has uploaded to Gedmatch. I need to get his number and look at his shared matches, see if he matches other Schmieder cousins who have tested. I need to persuade descendant to upload to MyHeritage. I put Dad’s test data there, but I have not identified any Schmieder matches there yet. MH has the reputation of having more European testers than Ancestry, so would have another pool of potential matches. (If we can’t match in the US maybe we can match in Germany.) I need to persuade other Schmieder cousins on Ancestry to also upload to MH. I need to pull out those German church records and make sure I didn’t overlook a death date for Anton Schmieder. If I don’t see one, I need to go back to the holder of those records and see if they have a death date listed somewhere else.

Update: I have looked at descendant’s Gedmatch data, there is no match to Dad and his match list doesn’t include any names I’m familiar with. If any of his family members have tested somewhere, it doesn’t look like they have uploaded to Gedmatch.

I looked at the church record for Anton and there is no death date. This tells me that Anton Schmieder did not live locally when he died and news of his death did not reach the priest back home. But that in itself is proof of nothing.


It’s time to just let this sit and revisit the match lists once a year. It’s likely to be one of those mysteries without a tidy conclusion. ūüė¶


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Scanning continued

Woohoo! One box of paper files scanned and emptied, papers recycled. Only 3 boxes to go.


In a lot of cases, I’m looking at source documents I haven’t seen in 20 years. The scanning process slows down because I’m checking for Findagrave memorials that didn’t exist back then, or I’m inputting the text of obituaries that I didn’t input at the time. Or, I’m finding Findagrave memorials for people I didn’t know have died recently, so I’m checking Genealogybank for their obituaries. My TMG* workflow has evolved over the years, not to mention the sourcing limitations I was under in the early years of PAF.** If I’m ever going to get my family lines output, I want my source citations cleaned up.


*The Master Genealogist

**Personal Ancestral File


robin siggy-dumb3


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Filing vs. Scanning

I’ve been absent from the blog for several months because I’ve been immersed in a genealogical/clerical project of massive proportions.

I’ve been researching our families since about 1989. A genealogy hobby or vocation can really bring out your inner “hoarder” just by virtue of the fact that you have to document your sources. You’ll more than likely encounter records that you think might be your person of interest, but you can’t tell for sure. I don’t know about you, but I print out and save all that stuff, for further research.

Over the years, my collection of documentation grew. When I moved to Richmond 20 years ago, I had two file boxes. Now I have five. My filing system back then was to create a file folder for each marriage that had documentation. If the marriage produced children who didn’t live to adulthood, those documents stayed in that folder. If the children had their own marriages, they got new folders and their documents went into it. If the children reached adulthood but never married, they got their own folder. It worked well for a long time. (Obviously, I didn’t make folders until I had something to file in them.)

But this system just wasn’t sustainable. I looked at those five file boxes and I imagined them expanding to 8 or 10. Yikes! And the stack of filing I needed to do reached at least 2.5 feet. I wish I’d taken the photo when it was at its highest, but I’ve indicated about where it was and I’m not exaggerating.


And on top of all this filing, I also had piles of papers and more folders sitting on the floor around this, my sewing room, of research in progress. Another unsustainable/unscalable system. I had a folder for each ancestral surname, which was better than nothing, but if you’ve done genealogical research before, you know that the number of direct ancestors increases exponentially with each generation.

In the olden days, a researcher probably relied on 5-drawer office filing cabinets. I would have easily run out of room for those. As it was, my husband shared this space with me as his office when the kids were still living at home. After they left, I quickly pushed him into one of the spare bedrooms and took over.

So I needed a solution and quick! I decided the only sane system for me was to digitize everything and recycle the paper documents. But I needed to make another decision: where to house the scans and how to find stuff later. A blogpost by Dick Eastman gave me my answer. He told about a hardware/software bundle and I bought it. It still took me a long time to decide between the Paperless software and Evernote.

I chose Evernote. I am not going to go into an in-depth review of this product, it’s been around long enough that you’ve probably at least heard of it, if not already familiar with it.

With the Fujitsu Scan Snap 1300i, I can scan directly to Evernote as a PDF document, or to Evernote or local folder on my MacBook Air as a jpeg. I use PDFs for documents, jpegs for photos. The scanner isn’t the fastest in the world, especially when I set it to convert the PDFs to searchable text. I get about 4 pages per minute that way. I also have it set for duplex scanning, meaning it will scan the front and back of the paper at the same time. If the back is blank, it discards it. That’s quite a time-saver! I also have it set to name each file with a date and time stamp. I can go back and rename them later, but not having to worry about it during scanning is also a huge time-saver!

Evernote allows you to set up notebooks to house your documents (aka notes). I have one called Inbox, which is where almost all my documents go straight from the scanner. If I have a gigantic stack of papers that would all go in the same notebook, I can set that one as the default, and the scanner targets it. Once the documents are scanned, I go through them one-by-one, tag them with the who-what-where and move them to a notebook I called Genealogy, which is just a big dump of documents that I’m finished with. I decided that rather than create tags with names, I’d use tags with the people’s ID numbers from my genealogy software, The Master Genealogist (that’s the “who”). If I want, I can rename the note with the person’s name. But with so many duplicate names in my family tree, I figured it would be hard to differentiate one from the other in a tag. But the ID numbers are unique and there’s always the searchable text! I also tag the type of document (the “what”), and the “where.” I haven’t been as good to tag the “where” as I probably should, but I can always go back and add tags later. And I decided against¬†using¬†date tags. I also tag each document with the surnames of the closest ancestors that I have in common¬†with the subject of the document. For example, if the nearest closest ancestor pair that we share is my grandparents (it doesn’t matter if that pair are their grandparents too or any other generation) then I tag that document with “Hoff” and “Schmieder.” This is probably the hardest thing for me to describe, but it works for me.

The only thing about Evernote that I would put on a wishlist, is the ability to nest notebooks at least one more layer deep. I had to come up with a system for all that research-in-progress. So I created what Evernote calls a “stack” and named¬†it Ongoing Research. Then I created a surname notebook for each of my ancestors and put those documents where they belong. It would be great if I could have one more level of notebooks in the hierarchy that I could name for specific people, just to organize the surname notebooks a little better. I suppose had I thought it out, I could have lots of surname stacks at the highest¬†level and then put the specific person’s notebook below that. Something to think about for future.

I’ve been scanning for the last 6-9 months. I have over 6,700 notes and I should mention that I do pay for Evernote so that I have additional storage with them. All the piles of paper on the floor are gone. That pile of filing is gone. All I have left are the file folders in those 5 boxes plus another file of correspondence. I figure I should be done by Christmas.


robin siggy chalk



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I’ve been working on the family histories since 1989. I never went into this with a plan. Honestly, I started it¬†because we bought our first PC and I was looking for something to use it for, you know, to justify the expense. I had seen an article about the LDS church’s genealogy software that you could buy for $35 (Personal Ancestral File for DOS) and that seemed like a fun thing to play with. And I never looked back.

But I’m not getting any younger and it’s time to think seriously about my legacy. What do I want to leave behind? I’ve always said I wanted to publish my research, but in looking at what I’ve accomplished, I realize that I am one of those “name collectors,” so reviled by many in the genealogical community. They say that doesn’t make me a family historian, that I’m not writing the story of my ancestors’ lives, just documenting branches on a tree. Well, I’m not ashamed of my work. I have laid the pathway for others to write the stories. Of course, all my work (and all anyone’s work) needs to be verified. I try not to jump to conclusions, but sometimes when faced with fact discrepancies, you go with your gut and write down what you’ve found, how it conflicts and which fact you think is the correct one. Just think how much time I will have saved someone if they don’t have to build the trees from scratch, they can look at my work and verify or discount.

On my father’s side, my goals have always been to discover where the immigrant ancestors came from. I don’t care to go any farther back in time than that. I’m not looking for a link to royalty or Charlemagne. And I’ve done that with our HOFF, SCHMIEDER, SCHMITZ and WEBER¬†lines. A cousin found the birthplace of our BACHMANN¬†line, so I make no claim to that. GRIMM¬†and WELTER have so far eluded me.

On my mother’s side, all lines can probably be traced to colonial-era immigration. Some of these families have been researched by other cousins and I’ve been verifying their work as much as I can. What fun it would be to be reincarnated as a young person, to be given another lifetime to research where the older me had to leave off. The next few generations will see an explosion of data and records digitized and put online and they’ll be able to find things that for now are hidden away in courthouse basements, libraries, rotting old newspapers, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly feel blessed that I’m living in a time where so much is already available to me online as I’m able to afford to pay for it, as opposed to those who’ve gone before me and had to resort to recording data on index cards and ¬†travel to faraway places to visit those basements, libraries and cemeteries. I hope and pray that the politicians who are so intent on locking up our vital records will relent and laws will change to a more open atmosphere. If not, it will be several more generations before anyone can access them.

So now I need to set some goals, doable goals. Yes, I want to keep working away on the GRIMMs¬†and WELTERs. On my husband’s side, I want to be able to confirm that he is a direct descendant of John and Priscilla ALDEN¬†of the Mayflower. Because that makes my children and grandchildren direct descendants also. I “inherited” a lineage from John’s grandmother but it only has a handwritten list of names, no notes, no sources. I don’t know who wrote the list or when (just that it was prior to 1980). Gram was long gone when I started this quest and¬†John’s mother told me about the list but she didn’t know what happened to it, she was afraid it was tucked into a book that she put in her mother’s¬†casket. Well, great! A few years ago, after John’s mother died, my sister-in-law found that paper in her garage as she was cleaning out stuff after her husband (John’s brother) died. The list was exactly the same as what I had come up with in my independent research and my heart soared that it could be right. ¬†I want our kids and grandkids¬†to know for sure, one way or the other.

I want to visit where the KASPAR¬†family came from in what was 19th¬†century’s Austria, today’s Poland (the area surrounding Nowy Sacz). I’ve been to the HOFF¬†and SCHMIEDER¬†birthplaces ¬†in Germany (Thuine, Neidersachsen and Kappel-Niederschach, Baden respectively) and I want¬†to visit¬†where the WEBERs¬†came from in Rhineland (√údersdorf). After I find those GRIMMs (likely in the neighborhood of Neuh√ľtten, Bavaria) and WELTERs (either Luxembourg, France or Germany), I want to go to those places, too.

And I want to put all this stuff in print, some way, some how. It’ll do no one any good if it’s buried on my computer. I have a plan for putting it online but that’s down the road a bit. My database could use some cleanup first.

So I feel good that I have made this list of goals and my next step is to get organized.

Heaven help me, I just bought a portable scanner (ScanSnap S1300i) and a database program called Paperless. I’ve been thinking for years how I can get all my piles of paper that are on the floor digitized in my lifetime. I’ve bought several scanners through the years and the ScanSnap seems to be the most usable for this project. It scans 2-sided and can handle¬†multiple pages in one feed. I don’t have to use Paperless if I don’t want to but for genealogy stuff, it seems the most practical. I was playing with the scanner this weekend and I was able to scan directly to Evernote, although each document went to the Miscellaneous notebook. If there’s a way to direct a scan to the proper notebook, somebody please let me know. It’s easy to change it in Evernote, but that is one more step.

Next steps (per the Mayflower Descendants group on Facebook): contact the Virginia chapter of the Mayflower Society and get their guidance on this documentation journey. I looked into Society membership years and years ago and they were working on documenting the Alden’s first 5 generations. I’m told this is done now, so I should only have to connect our lines to theirs.




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If you have no interest in genealogy or family history, do yourself a favor and skip this post. It’s long.

Working on our family research is a big part of my life, so I can’t call this blog “allthingsrobin” without talking about it from time to time. Today’s story recounts a¬†local Richmond woman who was my husband’s 3rd cousin once removed (don’t understand all that relationship stuff?¬†Just Google it, there are a number of explanations on the internet).

When we moved to Richmond it was a job transfer only, we had no idea there had ever been any family living here. I was gifted with a photocopy of some family information that had been written down by another relative, long deceased, by one of my mother-in-law’s cousins . That paper said that William R. ETTENGER, a brother of my husband’s¬†great-grandmother, Julia ETTENGER HESS, had lived in Richmond. The ETTENGER family originated in Philadelphia, so far as I’ve been able to determine, so a relative in Richmond was pretty exciting.

William ETTENGER lived in Richmond from 1850 to his death in 1895. He was part owner of several different companies here, most notably ETTENGER & EDMONDS, who manufactured steam fire engines. I’ve read several historic newspaper accounts of this company and they even went to St. Petersburg, Russia to sell their products. One article said that they supplied Richmond’s first steam fire engine. He and his family lived on E. Broad St. which is in a neighborhood called Church Hill (because it’s hilly and the famous St. John’s Church is there). The modest house is still there. The company was located at 19th and Franklin which is in Shockoe Bottom. I’m not sure if the building is still there. An 1870 article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch talked about a great flood of the James River and the company was listed as one whose building(s) were flooded and sustained damage. The company apparently also was a foundry that produced armaments during the Civil War.

Researching William and his descendants several years ago led me to one of his great-great-grandsons who lives (or did at the time) not far from us and his two daughters went to high school with my daughter. ¬†Cue more excitement. I’d never lived near anyone I was researching before.

But the subject of this story is one of William’s great-granddaughters, Beulah ETTENGER COBBS. Born in 1918 in Lawrenceville, Brunswick County, Virginia (between South Hill and Emporia, near the North Carolina line), Beulah¬†was the daughter of Laura Belle ETTENGER, who was the daughter of Joseph Harry ETTENGER, who was the son of William and Mary ETTENGER. I was noodling around in the historical newspapers on GenealogyBank.com ¬†this weekend (you need a paid subscription for this) and found several society articles about Beulah. She attended what is today Longwood College in Farmville (I think it was a teacher’s college then), visited her grandparents in Lawrenceville several times, got engaged to a local minister, had several bridal showers and then married Howard Clinton COBBS in 1942.

What struck me was that in so many of these articles, her mother was mentioned but never her father. And Beulah was always called ETTENGER. According to the 1920 census, Laura Belle was married, living with her parents and her daughter, but no husband. She was listed as an ETTENGER and so was Beulah. In 1930 and 1940 Laura Belle was listed as divorced. I got to wondering if she had actually really married; back in those days an out-of-wedlock baby would have been shameful so it would have been easy to tell the census taker she was married or divorced. There were probably a lot of tongue-waggers in their small town. One with a secret had to be careful.

But as I did more research on Beulah, I found that she died in January of 2013 at the age of 94. I found her obituary online at the Harrisonburg (VA) Daily News-Record. She and Howard had two sons, one of whom lives in my old stomping grounds out in California. But what caught my eye was the notation in the article that Beulah was the daughter of Laura Belle ETTENGER-CALLAHAN. No mention of a father. This was the first time I’d seen Laura Belle with a different name, had she remarried?

This is where I could give you a “long story short” explanation, but I won’t. I looked all over ancestry.com (subscription service) for Laura Belle Callahan and came up with nothing. And here’s your lesson for today, don’t limit yourself to¬†just searching through Ancestry and Familysearch: I Googled Laura Belle’s name and up popped an entry from an index at the website of the Library of Virginia. A 1921 chancery court record from Mecklenburg County VA that listed Eddie L. Callahan as the plaintiff and Laura Belle Callahan as the defendant. Of the other names mentioned in the record, one was ETTENGER. Bingo! I found Eddie in the 1920 census, listed as single, living with his parents and siblings. Remember, Laura Belle was listed as married that year. Interesting. This gave more credence to my theory of the out-of-wedlock baby. But I needed a record of the purported marriage, or a divorce.¬†Virginia’s vital records are not very open, so I didn’t think I’d be able to get either one of those, if they¬†existed.

I work within walking distance of the Library of Virginia, so I went over there on my lunch hour today. I found the chancery record, the original paperwork from 1921, not even on microfilm. I didn’t know what to expect but I was hoping it was a divorce. And it was. Yippee! Included in the file was Eddie’s deposition, their 1917 marriage certificate and the testimonies of 2 character witnesses for Eddie. There was nothing from Laura Belle’s side of the story.

According to Eddie, he was working out in the fields on his parents’ farm when a car pulled up to the house and Laura Belle and her mother got out. Laura Belle went in, got out a suitcase and started packing. Eddie was apparently blind-sided; he asked her why she was leaving and she didn’t answer him, except to say that she was going back to live with her parents. This was in May of 1918, she was already pregnant with Beulah (he knew that) but only later heard through the grapevine that a baby had been born. He never got to see his daughter, who was referred to in the documentation as Beulah Callahan. He asked the court to release him from the marriage and any commitment for child support. Apparently both were granted.

According to Eddie and his character witnesses, he was a model husband. I wish Laura Belle’s deposition, if there was one, had¬†been included to explain her abandonment of Eddie as he described it. But I can take away from this that there must have been something about Eddie or the marital situation she found herself in that made her want to get out after only 6 months, take back her maiden name and give it to her daughter. I wonder if Beulah ever got to meet her father. Obviously her children must have known about him because of the notation in her obituary. A little more research on Eddie shows that he remarried and had several children.

From Beulah’s obituary and the news articles when she was young, I think I would have liked her a lot (she was Presbyterian, after all LOL). There is a picture on her findagrave memorial:¬†http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=103174984. She looks like a nice lady.

#Ettenger #Callahan #Mecklenburg #Boydton #Brunswick #Lawrenceville #Virginia #EttengerandEdmonds


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You’ll want to skip this post if you’re not a WEBER or a KOELLER or a SALZMANN or a SCHMIEDER from the Grant County, Wisconsin area.

Sorry to post like this, but I was gifted with these old family photos and I need an easy way to get the word out to family members to help identify these unlabeled photos and hopefully find a better home for them.

Several years ago, I received these photos in the mail (unexpectedly) from a family member in Cuba City, Wisconsin. They were given to her by another family member. Several are labeled (Ed & Elsie MOLDOVAN KOELLER, Frank & Adelaide FITZGERALD SCHMIEDER, Henry & Mary WEBER KOELLER wedding portrait, Henry KOELLER (single), Joe & Emilia FISCHER WEBER wedding portrait, Joe WEBER (single), Charles & Millie SALZMANN LOEFFELHOLZ wedding portrait, Mary WEBER KOELLER (single), Matt & Maggie SCHMIEDER WEBER (2 poses),  but many are not:




4: I think this is one of my grandma Alma SCHMIEDER HOFF’s siblings, he or she looks like a SCHMIEDER











Koeller bunch



16: Matt WEBER?


If you can positively identify any of these people, please post in the comments here. It would be helpful to see another photo of the same person to help confirm the identity.


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