Thursday, December 29, 2016

Estimating Birth Years for 14 Siblings

My last post was about Michael Kline of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, my 6th great grandfather, and a 1781 indenture which listed his 14 children. Finding estimated birth dates/years would be difficult since they were born in the mid-1700's and census records would not be of much help. So, how did I estimate the birth years for Michael's 14 children?

How I estimated the birth years for the 14 children of Michael and Dorothea Kline:
  • used the birth dates of the two children I knew: Frenia, who was born in 1748, and Michael, who was born in 1764
  • assumed Dorothea gave birth approximately every two years
  • assumed the children were listed in order on the 1781 indenture listed on an earlier post which appears to match the births of Frenia and Michael and the fact that last four children were listed as minors
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Deed Book X, page 413, "Dorothea Kline & Al to Nicholas Kline."

List of the fourteen children and their estimated birth years:
  • 1744 - George Kline
  • 1746 - Leonard Kline
  • 1748 - Frenia/Frances Kline m. Michael Quigley/Quiggle
  • 1750 - Catharina Kline m. George Wilt
  • 1752 - Magdalena Kline m. Adam Reist (or Treish?)
  • 1754 - Margaret Kline m. George Bowman
  • 1756 - Dorothea Kline m. John Bowman
  • 1758 - Barbara Kline m. George Giger
  • 1760 - Susanna Kline m. John Brown
  • 1761 -Nicholas Kline
  • 1763 - Daniel Kline
  • 1764 - Michael Kline
  • 1766 - Jacob Kline
  • 1768 - Gertraut (or Gertrude) Kline m. Herman Morrett
(I had to slightly adjust these dates to have Michael born in 1764, and not 1766 as the method would suggest.)


One of Ancestry's "shaky leaves" led me to a FindAGrave record for Gertraut "Gertrude" (Kline) who married Hartman Morrett according to other documents I received from the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society. The memorial is by a 4th great granddaughter of Gertraut and Hartman. She explains that, although the tombstones in this cemetery have all been removed, someone made a list of all who were buried there sometime in the past.

I had Gertraut's birth year calculated as 1768. Her birth year according to this FindAGrave record: 1768. In fact, it says Gertraut was born on March 10th, 1768 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and that she died on July 17th, 1836, in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania.

Although it is highly unlikely I have the correct birth year for each of these 14 children, I believe the example of Gertraut shows that my method worked pretty well. As I continue to research this family, these estimates will be useful.

Are we related? I'd love to talk to you! Please leave a comment or email me at

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

What Information Did the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society Find?

When I got home from Christmas yesterday, a package from the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society was waiting for me! Earlier this month, I posted about finding my Michael Kline family on an database called "Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Mennonite Vital Records, 1750-2014." Surprised to learn that I had Mennonite ancestors, I sent the society $70 for two hours of research.

After opening the large envelope, I eagerly read the cover letter to see what records they found. The end of the letter, however, surprised me. It said: "We have many genealogical cards of persons who were not Mennonite. The book by Ruth Kline Lee would indicate that Michael Kline was Lutheran since their children were baptized by Lutheran pastors."

My Kline family were NOT Mennonite after all!

But, the historical society's letterhead includes the following at the bottom of the page: "Preserving and popularizing Mennonite and Pennsylvania German heritage, history and faith for 50 years." Thankfully, the society has records about families with German ancestors, too. And, that is why they had quite a few documents about my Kline family.

Although I still have a lot to read, I was thrilled to see several documents that list Michael Kline's fourteen children: six sons and eight daughters. A 1781 indenture is found in the Lancaster County Deed Book X on pages 413 through 47. The first two paragraphs read:

This indenture made the sixteenth day of November in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred & eighty one. Between Dorothea Kline the widow relict & administratrix of all & singular the estate of Michael Kline late of Warwick township in the country of Lancaster & State of Pennsylvania deceased George Kline one of the sons of the said Michael Kline deceased & Christiana his wife) Leonard Kline another of the sons of the said Michael Kline deceased & Barbara his wife, Michael Quiggell & Frenia his wife (Late Frenia Kline of the daughters of the said Michael Kline deceased) George Wilt and Catharina his wife (Late Catharina  Kline, another of the daughters of the said Michael Kline deceased) Adam Reist & Magdalena his wife (Late Magdalena Kline, another of the daughters of the said Michael Kline deceased) George Bowman & Margaret his wife (late Margaret Kline, another of the daughters of the said Michael Kline deceased) John Bowman & Dorothea his wife (late Dorothea Kline, another of the daughters of the said Michael Kline deceased) George Giger & Barbara his wife (Late Barbara Kline, another of the daughters of the said Michael Kline deceased) John Brown & Susana his wife (late Susanna Kline, another of the daughters of the said Michael Kline deceased) of the one part, and Nicholas Kline (one of the sons of the said Michael Kline deceased) of the other part.

Whereas the said Michael Kline in his life-time & at the time of his death was seized of and in, inter alia [Latin for "among other things], several tracts of land situate in Warwick township county & State aforesaid and ordered his last will & testament to be wrote before he executed died intestate, leaving issues six sons and eight daughters including the parties, above mentioned, and Daniel Kline, Michael Kline & Jacob Kline sons & Gertraut [sic, but seen as Gertrude on other documents] another of the daughters of minor children of the deceased.

While I'd seen these 14 children listed before, it is wonderful to have actual evidence stating these are his children! As an added bonus, the spouses of all but one of the daughters are given, too!

Are you related to the Kline family? I'd love to talk! Please leave me a comment or email me at

Monday, December 26, 2016

We Wrote a Book (And It's Now Online!)

Last year, right before Thanksgiving, I held a copy of "our book" in my hands for the first time. Although other authors/cousins had been working on the book since the previous year, I became a contributing author of The Holthoefer Family History in June of 2016.

Between June and October, we spent countless hours researching, writing, rewriting, proofreading, and fact checking the pages of our book. Since we are spread across the country, we emailed sections of the book back and forth while we worked on them.

Robert J. Yagley, H. Holt, M. Aragon, P. Holthoefer, D. Leeds, Holthoefer
Family History: A Historic Guide to Discovering Your Past: From
Serkenrode, Westphalia, Germany to the Early Years in Detroit, Wayne
County, Michigan,

Led by Robert "Bob" Yagley, five cousins compiled this book about our Holthoefer ancestors. All five of us are descended from Johann Franz Holthoefer (1804-1870) and Maria Catharina Schulte (1807-1850 ) who lived in Serkenrode, Westphalia, Germany. Johann Franz and Maria Catharina had eight children, six of whom survived to adulthood and immigrated to America where they settled in Detroit.

Although the book also shares some details about their life in Serkenrode, it primarily follows the lives of the six children:

  • Franz Joseph Holthoefer (1830-1888) who married Katharina Mullenbach (1835-1906)
  • Maria Francisca "Frances" Holthoefer (1833-1907) who married Franz "Frank" Adam (1826-1902), my great, great grandparents
  • Casper Joseph Holthoefer (1835-1918) who married Amelia Keusch (1843-1932) and Magdalena Luche (1863-1923)
  • Marianna (Maria Anna) Holthoefer (1838-1911) who married Frank Xavier Petri (1827-1900)
  • Maria Elisabeth Holthoefer (1842-1905) who married Peter Keine (1840-1925)
  • Anna Maria Holthoefer (1846-1919) who married Anthony "Anton" Rolf (1838-1903)
Bob Yagley, with help from Ursula Buchholz, discovered our family came from Serkenrode. As a wonderful bonus, he also traced Frances Holthoefer's husband, my 2x great grandfather Frank Adam, back to nearby Olpe! 

Bob submitted our book to FamilySearch and it is now available online. Just click here to see our book, or go to FamilySearch "books" and search for Holthoefer.

Are you related to our family? I'd love to talk! Please leave a comment or email me at

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

How I Discovered the Origins of 6 of My German Immigrant Families

With a lot of help, I now know the German villages of six of my ancestral families. I "discovered" their origins in a variety of ways.

Map showing the origins of six of my "German" families created by Jon R Stewart, Sr.

In Order of Discovery:

March 2014
Kaechle/Köchle family, maternal side, immigrated from Grißheim, Baden, July 1851

Germany, Select Marriages, 1558-1929 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Germany, Marriages, 1558-1929. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013. 

This breakthrough came with Ancestry's "Germany, Select Marriages" index which showed that Thaddae Koechle married Katharina Kern on August 22nd, 1836, in a catholic church in Grissheim, Freiburg, Baden. I ordered FHL film #873353, and discovered many other records for both sides of the family going back to a baptism in 1616. An online site, Ortsfamilienbuch-Datenbank Grissheim, which had transcribed the church records proved invaluable as these old German records were very difficult to read.

May 2014
Karbach/Körbach family, maternal side, immigrated from Ediger, Rhineland-Palatinate, circa 1853

Anton Koerbach and Mary Reuter Marriage Certificate, attached to Anton Koerbach (1818-1886) on Hiltz Web Site on MyHeritage Family Trees, Charles Willke site manager, (accessed 20 December 2016).

Finding a marriage record for "Antonius Kehrbach" and Maria Anna Reuter on a distant cousin's My Heritage tree led to discovering the family had once lived in Ediger. It appears the church records for Ediger have only been micofilmed through the late 1700's, so I need to contact this church in writing and ask if they have additional records.

Nov 2015
Franceska Holthoefer, maternal side, immigrated from Serkenrode, Westphalia, September 1856

Five Holthoefer Siblings, circa 1900, Detroit, Michigan
(back row left to right) Franceska (Holthoefer) Adam, Caspar J. Holthoefer, Marianna (Holthoefer) Petri 
(front row left to right) Elisabeth (Holthoefer) Keine, Anna (Holthoefer) Rolf
(Photo courtesy of Mildred Hunt Collection, by Robert Yagley)

In March of 2015, a distant cousin, Robert "Bob" Yagley, contacted me with a correction to my Ancestry tree. In July of that year, he asked me to join him and three other cousins who were writing a book about our Holthoefer family. The cousins were descendants of Franceska's siblings who had also immigrated to America. Bob had traced our Holthoefer's back to Germany and kept their origin a secret until the book was published last November. It was exciting to see not only the information about where the family had come from, but to also see this photo of Franceska and four of her five siblings who had immigrated to America.

Nov 2015
Frank Adam, maternal side, immigrated from Olpe, Westphalia, circa 1845

Michigan, County Marriages, 1822-1940 (Lehi: Operations, Inc., 2016), online database, marriage record of Frank Adam and Francisca Holdhofer [Holthoefer], 4 November 1858, St. Mary's Church, Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, page 636 (accessed 20 December 2016).
Bob Yagley had also discovered the village of origin for Franceska Holthoefer's future husband, Frank Adam, my direct line. Located only about 30 km from Serkenrode, Frank's baptismal record was found in Olpe, Westphalia. [pg 343]

Oct 2016
Peters family, paternal side, immigrated from Bellin, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, July 1859

Evangelisch Kirche [Evangelical Church] Bellin, Kirchenbuch [Church Book], 1650-1873, page 154, item 10, taufen [baptism] of Friedchen Elise Johanna Peters; FamilySearch mircofilm #68993. Cropped. [See original post for the other page of this baptismal record.]

I only recently realized the Peters' family's Hamburg passenger list indicated they came from Bellin. Using Meyers Gazetteer to locate Bellin, I then ordered an FHL microfilm and found the baptismal record of the family's youngest child. Although the family moved around quite a bit, it appears they immigrated to America from Bellin.

Nov 2016
Werther family, paternal side, immigrated from Berka, Thuringia (or Schwarzburg-Sondershausen), May 1869

Although the Hamburg passenger list appeared to say Bergau or Bergan, I couldn't find an appropriate location in Meyers Gazetteer. But, then I realized my great aunt had actually written the church in Berka in the 1990's and had baptismal records from Berka!


There are many ways to trace your immigrant ancestors back to their country of origin. I believe I have now traced all of my ancestors who came over in the mid-1800's - these six from Germany plus the Eastwood family from England. While writing this post, I realized there is still a lot I need to do on several of these lines. I am currently awaiting several FHL microfilms, and I need to write to two churches!

Do we share common ancestors? Do you have any additional information on any of these families? I'd love to talk! Please leave a comment or email me at

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Finding ANOTHER Family's German Roots

I decided to see if I could trace another branch of my family back to Germany: the Werthers. They arrived in July of 1869 on the Carolina. Through, I have both their New York and Hamburg passenger lists. As I found out while researching my Peters immigrant family, the Hamburg passenger list gives information about the previous residence. In this case, it appears the family came from Bergan or Bergau in Sondershausen. [See middle columns.] Unfortunately, when I go to Meyers Gazeteer, there is not a place called Bergan or Bergau in Sondershausen.

"Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934," database, ( : accessed 10 December 2016), entry for Joh C Werther and family, line 60, aboard Caroline, Hamburg to New York, departed Hamburg 26 May 1869; citing microfilm K_1714.

I looked at the tree my great aunt gave me when I started genealogy, and she said the family was from Berka in Sondershausen. I do not know where she got that, but perhaps the information had been passed down in the family. I looked on Meyers Gazeteer for a Berka in Sondershausen, and it DOES exist. Berka is actually a village outside of Sondershausen.

Baptism transcription for Auguste Wilhelmine Friederike Werther born on 8 May 1861 in
Berka to Johann Günther Werther and Marie Dorothea Reinhardt. Paper in collection of
Beulah (Peters) Brewer now in possession of Jim Stewart of Kansas. 

Next, I decided to look through the documents and photos I had photographed at my uncle's house two years ago. Though I've looked through the documents many times, I haven't studied all of them. As I looked through them, I found 6 documents: a faded 3-page typed letter, a darker 2-page transcription of the letter with some words translated, and a document titled "Auszug aus dem Taufregister" which translates to "from the baptismal register." This last document was a transcription of the baptism of Auguste Wilhelmine Friederike Werther, the youngest daughter of our immigrant couple. And, the place of the baptism was the St. Viti Evangelical Lutheran Church in "Berka/Wipper!"

Image of St. Viti Evangelical Lutheran Church in Berka, Sondershausen, Schwarzburg-Sondershausen

So, now I know my Werther family came from Berka, a village outside of Sondershausen, Schwarzburg-Sondershausen in the present day state of Thuringia! The letter also included transcriptions of the baptismal records for two of the other children who were born in 1848 and 1855. With 7 known children born between 1847 and 1861, it is unclear why the other baptismal records were not found.

Unfortunately, it appears that the records microfilmed for St. Viti of Berka only went through 1846, though none of the children in this family were born until 1847! However, the years the parents were born are included. My next steps are to order those two microfilms, and to write the church to see if I can get actual copies of the baptism records for the Werther children. Hopefully, they'll find the records for the four children that were not found when my great aunt evidently wrote for these records! It's exciting to know where another branch of my German family once lived!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

My Mennonite Ancestors and the Revolutionary War

UPDATE: Records received from the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society show that my Kline family were NOT Mennonite after all. See "What Information..." post for more.

Mennonites are pacifists opposed to war and violence. So, I was surprised to find my Kline ancestors in a Mennonite database on On the card for the Michael and Dorothea Kline family, their third child is listed as Frenia [seen as Frances on other records]. She and her husband, Michael Quiggell [seen in other records as Quigley or Quiggle], are my fifth great grandparents. He fought in the American Revolution. I wonder what his pacifist in-laws thought of his service! And, I wonder if he was a Mennonite, too. If not, what did Frances' family think of their daughter marrying outside of their faith?

It is possible Frances' father, Michael Kline, also served in the Revolutionary War. Although DAR is now requiring future applicants to prove his service, there are 20 DAR members who have claimed him as a patriot through three of his children: Frenia/Frances, Nicholas, and Gertrude [seen on these cards as Gertraut].

Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Mennonite Vital Records, 1750-2014, card for Michael Kline family, card 1, front, (Provo, UT, Operations, Inc. : 2015), online database (accessed : 7 December 2016). 

Several years ago, I joined DAR, Daughters of the American Revolution, as a descendant of Michael Quigley. Previous DAR applications gave me the names of Frances' father: Michael Kline. These newly found cards also give the names of her mother and sibling and indicate the family was living in Warwick Township in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and were Mennonites.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Mennonite Vital Records, 1750-2014, card for Michael Kline family, card 1, back, (Provo, UT, Operations, Inc. : 2015), online database (accessed : 7 December 2016). 

The cards appear to list 14 children for Michael and Dorothea Kline. Many of the children also have their spouses listed. But, where did this information come from? Is it reliable? And what else can I find out about this family?

Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Mennonite Vital Records, 1750-2014, card for Michael Kline family, card 2, front,  (Provo, UT, Operations, Inc. : 2015), online database (accessed : 7 December 2016).

Thankfully, the last card lists several sources including some references to land records. And, the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society offers a genealogy "research by mail" service. Today I am sending in my request for two hours of research, and I'm hoping they have some great records that will reveal more about my Kline family!

Do we share common ancestors? Do you know more about the Kline or Quigley families? Or do you know more about Mennonite research and/or their role in the Revolutionary War? I'd love to talk! Please leave a comment or email me at

Monday, December 5, 2016

Uncle Ed & Uncle Charlie Coppenbarger in the News

My last post was about "Uncle Ed & Uncle Charlie Coppenbarger" and their vehicles: a Model T & a Harley Davidson motorcycle. Newspaper stories tell us a little more about these two uncles. 

Uncle Charlie in the News

Photo of "Uncle Charlie," his wife, Agnes (Seanor) Coppenbarger, and two of their children:
"Little Clay" and Orville. Photo used with permission from Teri Head.

In November of 1912, just a couple of years before this photo was taken, Charlie's youngest son died at the young age of 2. His name was Clay, but his headstone remembers him as "Little Clay." The newspaper said his "cause of death was a complication of diseases." [1] Charlie and his wife, Aggie, had also lost their first child as an infant. Their only child to survive into adulthood was the middle son, Orville Camdon Coppenbarger, who lived to be 94 years old. 

Uncle Ed in the News

A 1900 newspaper article tells about an accident involving 14-year-old Ed. At such a young age, this was his third runaway accident! The article reads as follows:

Edward Coppenburger [sic], a son of J. R. Coppenbarger, was seriously injured in a runaway accident last Monday eening [sic]. He was driving in a buggy at the time and ran into town, striking a hitching post near Berkey's store, throwing the young man out. During the mix up the young man's face struck a wheel and a number of his teeth were knocked out and his face badly bruised. This is the third runaway accident that the young man has been in recently and at each time he was driing [sic] the same horse. At one of the former times the young man's arm was broken besides other injuries. The accident of Monday was a evry [sic] unfortunate one, as it may result in the face of Mr. Coppenbarger being disfigured. [2]

This photo shows my great grandmother, Myrtle (Coppenbarger) Peters, and her brothers, "Uncle Charles" and "Uncle Ed." I didn't have Al or Jennings on my tree, but I've figured it out with some help from my Great Aunt Beulah's notes. Charles was married to a second wife, Nola, who had two sons from a previous marriage: Al and Jennings. Beulah's notes also said that they lived in Sweetwater, Texas, which is where I found them in the 1930 census.

People in Photograph
  • Al Carter - Nola's son from a previous marriage
  • Jennings Carter - Nola's son from a previous marriage
  • Nola (Hanes) (Carter) Coppenbarger- Charles' second wife
  • Charles Coppenbarger - "Uncle Charles" or Myrtle's brother
  • Myrtle (Coppenbarger) Peters - my great grandmother
  • Winnie (Stout) Coppenbarger - Ed's wife
  • Edna Coppenbarger - Ed & Winnie's daughter
  • Ed Coppenbarger - "Uncle Ed" or Myrtle's brother
Edna, the youngest in the photo, was born about 1924. She appears to be about 3 years old, so the photo was taken in approximately 1927.


[1] Died, Arkansas City Daily Traveler, Arkansas City, Kansas, 15 November 1912, page 1, column 5, digital image, (, accessed 1 December 2016.

[2] Edward Coppenburger, The Wichita Daily Eagle, Wichita, Kansas, 21 August 1900, page 6, column 6, digital image, (, accessed 5 April 2016. 

Whether you are related to the people in this article, have additional information, or have a question, I'd love to talk! Please leave a comment or email me at

Friday, December 2, 2016

Circa 1914 Harley Davidson Motorcycle

My dad recently sent me this photo of my grandmother's "Uncle Charlie & Uncle Ed Coppenbarger circa 1914." I love seeing the old photos of these two uncles, but I am particularly happy to see them posing with this old Model T and Harley Davidson, both of which are about 100 years old! I also love Uncle Charlie's riding outfit, and the way Uncle Ed is posed.

"Uncle Charles & Uncle Ed Coppenbarger circa 1914" from the Stewart Family Photo Collection
My dad did some research on these early Harley Davidsons. The 1914 to 1916 models looked very similar. He believes this bike had a gas headlight, which was an option. The Harley-Davidson museum site shares the following information:

Early bikes offered gas lamp headlights as optional accessories. These had an annoying tendency to catch fire or explode. (Talk about “burning up the road”!) Later models offered battery-powered lights that dimmed as the battery drained. 

In 1915, Harley-Davidson’s Model 11-J introduced an electrical system, uniting headlight, taillight, ignition, and horn. Its generator kept the lights bright all night. Touted as “the most powerful motorcycle lighting system” around, it vastly improved safety, letting riders see and be seen.

Charlie and Ed were brothers of my great grandmother, Myrtle Mae (Coppenbarger) Peters (1880-1970) who married Emil Wilhelm Peters (1877-1955). Charles "Charlie" Edgar Coppenbarger was born on August 9th, 1875, in Sumner County, Kansas making him about 40 years old in this photo. He died on March 30th, 1936, in nearby Cowley County, Kansas at the age of 60. Edward "Ed" Bennett Coppenbarger was born on April 19th, 1886 in Sumner County, Kansas making him about 30 years old in this photo. He died at the age of 53 on March 14th, 1940, and is buried in Cowley County, Kansas.

Are we related? I'd love to hear from you! Please leave a comment or email me at

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Disappointing Course Review: AGS: Beyond the Basics by NGS

NGS replaced their Home Study Course with a series of courses titled American Genealogical Studies. After successfully completing the prerequisites, AGS: The Basics and the frustrating AGS: Guide to Documentation and Source Citations, I recently started AGS: Beyond the Basics. (I reviewed the first two courses here and here.)

Free Clipart from Clipart Panda

The first of five modules is titled "Evidence Analysis" and covers the Genealogical Proof Standard along with sources, information, and evidence. Unfortunately, I feel this module has totally misunderstood several of these key concepts and is promoting very wrong ideas to genealogy students. I would not, at this time, recommend this course. 


There are three types of sources: original, derivative, and authored narrative. I thought the course did a good job of explaining these three types of records. The quiz only had one question I disagreed with: whether a family history was an original, derivative, or authored narrative. I said it was an authored narrative, but got the question wrong. What do you think?


There are also three types of information: primary (first-hand) information, secondary (second-hand) information, and undetermined knowledge in which we are not sure who is providing the information. Although the course notes do a good job of explaining the three types of sources, one of the quiz questions seems to imply that even first-hand knowledge becomes secondary if it is shared at a date far removed from the event. In this question, a man recorded his son's birth date in various books. In later books, the father started writing a different date of birth for his son. To get this question correct, you must say these later books contain "secondary information." However, even though this father must have been incorrect on one of the dates of birth he recorded, the information is still first-hand and is therefore primary information. As Elizabeth Shown Mills points out, "A time lapse might affect the quality of the recollection, but it does not alter the primary nature of the information."[1]


Evidence also has three types: direct, indirect, and negative. This is where I feel the teaching is just plain wrong. For those of you who don't know, or as a reminder, here are the basics of the three types of evidence as described in Tom Jones' book, Mastering Genealogical Proof:
  • "Direct evidence is an information item that answers a research question by itself."[2] But, Elizabeth Shown Mills adds that "it may not give us as complete an answer as we would like."[3]
  • "Indirect evidence is a set of two or more information items that suggest an answer to a research question only when they are combined."[4] In other words, the single piece of evidence doesn't answer the question by itself, but can be used with other pieces of evidence to answer the question.
  • "Negative evidence is the absence of information that answers a research questions."[5] Tom Jones' example is not finding an individual on a specific tax lists which suggests "the research subject was a minor, too old to pay taxes, deceased, or living elsewhere."[6]
Compare these answers to the Beyond the Basics course notes. For an example of indirect evidence, the course refers to a death certificate where the place of birth was stated as "Germany." The notes say: "This information is relevant to the research problem but it does not provide us with a specific town or location by itself. Therefore, this evidence is indirect evidence." [Italics added for emphasis.]

And yet, "Germany" does provide direct evidence as to where the person was born! Remember, Elizabeth Shown Mills said the answer given might not be "as complete an answer as we would like."[7] Places like "Kansas" or "Cowley County, Kansas" supply direct evidence to questions involving "where" something happened. Likewise, "1858" or the "summer of 1972" are also direct evidence for questions of "when" something occurred. If places and dates had to be exact, there would be very little direct evidence! In fact, even a census record stating a person was born in May 1858 would be considered indirect evidence. This is just wrong!

When I wrote the person in charge of course content about this question, she added that Germany wasn't even a unified country when this person was born in 1868. She asked, "did the informant know this or were they using the current geographical area?" She also stated that an employee of the clinic where this person died had filled out the form and suggested the employee might have just guessed the deceased was from Germany because of her name. Again, while this information is useful when analyzing the document, it has no bearing on whether or not the information is direct or indirect. The information provided answered the question as to where the deceased was born and is, therefore, direct evidence.

The course also fails, in my opinion, when discussing negative evidence. Using the same death certificate, the fact that "Unk." [unknown] was listed in the field for "mother's maiden name" was highlighted. This is one of two examples this course used for negative evidence. However, finding a document indicating the mother's name was unknown is not evidence at all! It doesn't point towards any answer. It does not give a clue to answer the research question! And, as the quiz questions reflect, this "lack of evidence" being called "negative evidence" continued throughout this module.

After reading this section, there is a quiz in which students read a letter and choose whether the letter provided direct, indirect, or negative evidence for certain questions. In any instance where the letter doesn't provide any information regarding that fact, you have to wrongly chose "negative evidence" to get the answer correct. 

The final quiz for this module is probably the worst part. There are a series of questions which each have four answers like "original source, secondary information, indirect evidence" or "original source, secondary information, direct evidence." However, since in particular the evidence concept is flawed in this course, you must purposefully choose the wrong answers to get the questions correct!

There were additional problems with this module including one quiz which was missing a question and one question which had two wrong answers and a blank answer. These were glitches in the system which I was told cannot be fixed unless someone points them out. When accessing my course, I can see that the "blank answer" question has been fixed, but the quiz with the missing question is still missing a question. Thankfully, the resulting score gives the student the point for this missing question.


While writing back and forth with the person in charge of course content, I explained how unhappy I was with this course and asked for a refund. I shared the problems I've shared in this post and more. In reply, I was referred to the website which clearly states: "All purchases of courses are final. No refunds or credits are available."


After having issues with the first two courses, which cost me $45 each, I spent $175 on this course. I am writing this review primarily for two reasons. First of all, I sincerely hope that NGS will correct the issues I've presented regarding this course. Secondly, I hope to save others the $175 it costs to enroll in this course which contains some misguided concepts that I believe will be damaging to students.

Do you agree with what I've written? Disagree? I'd love to hear from you! Also, I'd love to hear from anyone who has taken the online "Beyond the Basics" course and get their feedback. Please leave a comment or email me at

[1] Elizabeth Shown Mills, "QuickLesson 17: The Evidence Analysis Process Model," Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( [accessed 30 November 2016].

[2] Tom Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, VA: National Genealogical Society special publication, 2013), 14-15.

[3] Mills, "QuickLesson 17."

[4] Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof, 14-15. 

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Mills, "QuickLesson 17."

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Old Paintings from Old Family Portraits

I recently met a "new" Peters cousin through Ancestry and we have been sharing photos and other information. She sent me two paintings that her family believed were of William Peters (1850-1927) and his wife, Mahala McFarland (1859-1906). William was a son of Joachim Peters (1815-1894), the immigrant patriarch I've been sharing about recently.

Cousin's Painting Labeled William Peters,
son of Joachim Peters. Used with permission.

Cousin's Painting Labeled Mahala
(McFarland) Peters, William Peters' wife.
Used with permission.
When I saw the paintings, I thought they looked really familiar. My family has a photo of our Peters' immigrant couple, Jochim and Henriette (Bünger) Peters, which is shown below.

The two paintings and the photo looked incredibly similar! Even the hair styles and clothing looked a lot alike. I decided to look at the photos and paintings side by side:

Portrait and painting of Joachim Peters (1815-1894). Photo taken circa 1870.

Portrait and painting oHenriette (Bünger) Peters (1817-1874). Photo taken circa 1870.

I think it is obvious the paintings of the man and the woman were actually made from the photo. Both the dating of clothes (likely 1860's or 1870's) and the couple's age (probably in their 50's or 60's) indicate the couple is Joachim and Henriette Peters, and not William and Mahala Peters.

I love that two branches of the family have now, about 150 years after the fact, digitally brought together these images of our immigrant couple. And, I wonder if other families have seen old paintings which were known to have been made from an original photo? If so, please let me know! I am wondering how common this practice was!

Do we have common ancestors? If so, I'd love to talk! Please leave a comment or email me at

Monday, November 21, 2016

How I Traced My Immigrant Family to Germany

In October, I started telling the story of one of my immigrant families: the Peters. My purpose was to find additional details about this family and their immigration, but I ended up tracing them back to Germany! I also broke through a "brick wall" and found their parents, too! This post is a summary of that discovery with links to the posts I shared as I traced this immigrant family.

Custom Map Created by My Dad
At some point, I heard a lecture or podcast about finding your ancestor's ship arrival in a New York newspaper. And, that is where this journey started. I found a short blurb in The New York Times announcing the arrival of my ancestors' ship. The account listed several places their ship had passed, so I learned more about their passage by locating those places. My dad created a custom map showing those locations, and I learned more about their passage on the Steamship Bavaria.

My great aunt, who got me started in genealogy in 1998, had found a copy of the New York passenger list for our Peters family. But, in the past few years, I found their Hamburg Passenger list on As I discussed and compared these two lists I had my breakthrough: I realized that one of the children had listed the village of Bellin as his last residence!

My great aunt had always said the Peters family had come from Güstrow. By using Meyers Gazetteer online, I realized that the small village of Bellin was located near Güstrow. Thinking this was likely the village my family had come from, I ordered an FHL microfilm of church records for Bellin and waited.

Evangelisch Kirche [Evangelical Church] Bellin, Kirchenbuch [Church Book], 1650-1873, page 154, item 10, taufen [baptism] of Friedchen Elise Johanna Peters; FamilySearch mircofilm #68993.
[Page 1 of 2. Lists item number, birth date, baptism date, father's name and occupation, and mother's name.]
Evangelisch Kirche [Evangelical Church] Bellin, Kirchenbuch [Church Book], 1650-1873, page 155, item 10, taufen [baptism] of Friedchen Elise Johanna Peters; FamilySearch mircofilm #68993.
[Page 2 of 2. Lists child's name, 3 baptismal sponsors, and unknown.]
When the microfilm came in, I eagerly scrolled through it for baptism records of the six children. Though the first five children were not listed, I found the sixth child! And, with that record, I had found my Peters family in Germany! Finding the confirmation of the two oldest children on that same film gave me the clue I needed to find the family before they had moved to Bellin., Germany, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1519-1969 (Lehi: Operations, Inc., 2016), online database,marriage record of Joachim Carl Otto Peters and Henriette Maria Magdalena Bünger, 21, July 1843, Dobbertin, Mecklenburg, page 12, item 49. [Columns include month and day; banns; groom's name, occupation, and town; bride's name and town; groom's father's name, occupation, and town; bride's name, occupation, and town; whether either previously married; and priest's name.]
Back at home, I discovered the German Lutheran church records were online at! Using those records, I found the marriage record of my Peters immigrant couple, Joachim and Henriette Bünger Peters, which listed their hometowns and their father's names. The "brick wall" was falling down!

Using Joachim's father's occupation from the marriage record, I was able to find Joachim, two of his siblings, and his parents, Jacob and Hedwig, in the 1819 census. The record also listed Hedwig's maiden name: Borgward., Germany, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1519-1969 (Lehi: Operations, Inc., 2016), online database, baptism record of Hedwig Margaretha Johanna Borgward, 25 September 1785, Lübchin, Behren , page 90.
I didn't blog about it, but I was also able to find Hedwig's parents and siblings using baptism records contained in the German Lutheran records on Ancestry. Her parents were Eckhard Joachim Borgward and Anna Margaretha Ahrends., Germany, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1519-1969 (Lehi: Operations, Inc., 2016), online database, baptism record of Henriette Maria Magdalena Bürger, 09 July 1817, Dobbertin. [Columns list day of birth; day of baptism; father's name, occupation, and town; mother's name and town (of birth?); child's name; sponsors; and unknown.]
I had more trouble finding Henriette Bünger's parents. The key to my success? MyHeritage. Another member at MyHeritage had Henriette Bünger listed on their tree along with her parents and siblings. Using one of her siblings, I was able to find a baptismal record in the correct church and then scroll through the records until I found Henriette's baptism. I hadn't been able to find the family because the surname had been transcribed incorrectly.

What surprised me the most about this family was how much they moved around. When I found my Kaechle family's origins in Germany a few years ago, I discovered church records in the same church going back to the late 1500's! But, the Peters family moved every few years. Without the Lutheran church records available on Ancestry, I would not have been able to discover so much so quickly. It was an amazing experience!

There are still more records that need to be found. And, there are still some records I've found that need transcribed, translated, and/or analyzed. But, I am excited at what I was able to uncover about my family and their history. And, I hope my family members enjoyed these discoveries, too, and that others might have discovered something they can use in uncovering their own family history.

Are we related? I'd love to talk! Please leave a comment or email me at

Monday, November 14, 2016

Identifying Two Women in a Photo

Las week, my dad sent me this photo which was labeled "Cassie McCluskey and Linda Peters." He said the original was "so light you could hardly make out the figures of the two ladies. [He] had to push the contrast and darkness really hard to get an image, hence the jet black areas in some places (around Linda's eyes for instance)."

Cassie McCluskey and Luda Peters
Photo Labeled "Cassie McCluskey and Linda Peters"
but likely Cassie (McCluskey) Long and  Luda (Tibbetts) Peters
Although we are related to Peters, we do not have a Linda Peters - as either a maiden or married name - in our tree. And, as far as we know, we aren't related to the McCluskey family. So, who are these two women? Are they our relatives?

I started with Cassie McCluskey since it's a fairly uncommon name. In Ancestry, I went to "search" and then "all categories" and entered her name. Since our Peters family lived in Kansas, I entered that for location.

The top result was for a Cassie G. McCluskey in the 1895 Kansas state census living in Geulph, Sumner County, Kansas. This is the same area our Peters family lived! She was listed as having been born in Missouri about 1875.

I next went to a Facebook group that helps date photos. I got several replies, all of them saying the photo was dated in either the late 1890's or early 1900's. If Cassie, on the left, was born about 1875, she would have been about 25 years old in 1900. So, both the late 1890's and early 1900's make sense.

Tibbetts siblings photo
Photo of Luda (Tibbetts) Peters (far right) with four of her siblings. Notice both her height and smile. I believe she is the same person as the woman on the right in the other photo. (Photo shared by Teri Head.)
As I looked for a Linda Peters in my tree, I came across Luda (Tibbetts) Peters who was born in 1872 so she was about the same age as Cassie. Since the writing on the photo was so difficult to read, we are pretty much convinced this is a photo of Luda, not Linda.

If anyone is related to either Cassie (McCluskey) Long or Luda (Tibbetts) Peters, I'd love to talk! I'd also love to see more photos of both women to solidify the conclusion of the identities of these two women. (Please leave a comment or email me at

Monday, November 7, 2016

A Day of DNA with Diahan Southard

Diahan Southard, known as "Your DNA Guide," is a genetic genealogist who teaches through seminars and video training, publishes DNA quick guides, and provides consultation services. On Saturday, Diahan shared three presentations with the members and guests of the Houston Genealogical Forum (HGF).

Diahan Southard and Dana Leeds at Houston Genealogical Forum November 2016
Me and Diahan Southard at HGF - Nov 2016

Getting Started in Genetic Genealogy: A Beginner's Guide

During the first presentation, "Getting Started in Genetic Genealogy: A Beginner's Guide," Diahan talked about the three types of DNA tests - YDNA, mtDNA, and atDNA - and also the three main testing companies: Family Tree DNA, AncestryDNA, and 23andMe. She discussed the benefits and shortcomings of each type of test and talked about which tests she recommends you take and why. Genealogy Gems Premium Members have access to the video of this presentation from when Diahan presented it at RootsTech. Below is a short preview which shows Diahan's entertaining, yet informative, style.


5 Tips to Make Sense of Your DNA Testing

The second presentation was "5 Tips to Make Sense of Your DNA Testing." Two of the tips included using the results with what she calls The Ancestor Method and The Cousin Method. With the Ancestor Method, you start with a genealogical question about someone on your tree and try to use DNA matches to answer that question. With the Cousin Method, however, you start with a DNA match and try to determine how they are related. 

Diahan shared the approximate number of people who have been tested at each company, which I found suprising. While FTDNA has only tested about 750,000 and 23andMe has tested about 1.2 million, Ancestry is expected to reach 3 million people tested by the end of the year! So, if you can only afford to test at one place, Ancestry DNA is probably your best option.

If you haven't heard this lecture, or you'd like to watch it again, Diahan gave this talk with Genetic Genealogy Ireland and it is currently posted online for viewing!

The Combined Power of YDNA and Autosomal DNA: A Case Study

Diahan's final talk was "The Combined Power of YDNA and Autosomal DNA: A Case Study." In this talk, Diahan talked about expectations, results, and gave us a list of things "to do." 

Although many of us probably advise those we ask to take DNA tests that "surprises" are sometimes found, what should we do when we uncover one of these surprises? Diahan suggested asking each person you test before you test whether or not they would like to know about any unusual results. I think this is a terrific idea which could save a lot of time spent worrying about whether or not you should tell the person what you found!

My Interview with Diahan Southard

Lastly, as part of my role as Chairman of the Publicity Committee for HGF (Houston Genealogical Forum), I interview via email each of our upcoming presenters. You can read my interview with Diahan Southard at the HGF blog.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Tip: How To Translate the ENTIRE Webpage

After locating the church in Bellin, Germany, where my Peters family attended in the late 1850s, my dad found a website that appeared to have a dozen photos of this church. However, the writing was in German.

I often copy and paste entire paragraphs into Google Translate which, although it isn't an accurate translation, helps get me started. But, I've been reading "Trace Your German Roots Online" by James M. Beidler, and he had a tip about translating an entire webpage at one time!

It's really quite simple. Paste the URL for the website you are wanting translated directly into Google. After the website's URL will be the words "translate this page." Click on that and your entire page will be translated!

Kirche Bellin - the Bellin Church - from the German Wikipedia site
This particular site was wonderful! Not only were there lots of photos of my ancestor's 13th century church, there were also wonderful descriptions. The blog is written by a man who was traveling and stopped to take photos of this church in 2012. The priest showed him around and he shared his photos and stories. Although I've asked for permission to share photos from the "Kirche Bellin" website, I haven't heard back from him yet. But, I did find some photos on the Germany Wikipedia site.

A wall painting or mural at Kirche Bellin - the Bellin Church - from the German Wikipedia site

Above is a restored painting from the Middle Ages. If you enjoy art, enlarge this and take some time to study it. It is amazing! Though I don't know if I'd enjoy having this particular painting on the walls of my church!

My favorite story from the translation of the tourist was about the "plague window." The accompanying photo just showed a window that had been sealed. But, the author explained that, during the plague, people who were afflicted with the plague came to this window to "follow the worship" service. What an incredible story and piece of history!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Finding Wrongly Transcribed Surname in a German Record

I spent hours looking for the baptismal record of my great, great, great grandmother, Henriette Maria Magdalena Bünger. I believed she was born on July 15, 1817 in the present day state of Mecklenburg-Schwerin in Germany. I knew her father's name from her marriage record, Johann David Bünger, but I could NOT find her. I was trying every trick I knew. Then, I remembered MyHeritage and how it had helped me with another German family.

I went to the site and put in Henriette's name. Immediately, I found her on someone's tree! It not only had her parents full names and dates, but also listed seven siblings! And, it gave Henriette's place of birth: Dobbertin.

So, I went back to Ancestry, but I STILL could not find her baptismal record! So, I thought I'd look for one of her siblings. I found her oldest brother's birth, Theodor, who was born in 1813 in Dobbertin. From there, I scrolled through the pages until I got to July 1817 where Henriette should be listed. And, there she was!!!

Germany, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1519-1969 (Lehi: Operations, Inc., 2016), Evangelische Kirche Dobbertin, baptismal record of Henriette Maria Magdalena Bünger, born July 4, 1817, baptized July 9, 1817, digital image, ( accessed 1 November 2016).
So, why hadn't I been able to find her? Just like with records written in English, the family's surname had been wrongly transcribed! It listed their last name as Bürger instead of Bünger.

Now I have Henriette's exact date of birth and baptism! And, I know her mother's maiden name. I spent a few hours last night adding all of her siblings to my tree, too, and locating each of their baptismal records. I have also sent a message to the owner of this MyHeritage tree - a potential cousin who appears to be German - and hope to be able to share more information with him. It's exciting!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Tip: Use Occupations to Help Locate Census Records

In the U.S., most of my ancestors were farmers. But, my newly found German ancestors had a variety of occupations. As I tried to locate the birth family of my 3rd great grandfather, Joachim Peters, using his father's occupation as a "keyword" helped me find the correct family.

Mecklenburg-Schwerin, where the Peters family lived, did not take many censuses. In fact, the only ones I'm aware of are for the years 1704, 1751, 1819, 1867, 1890, and 1900. Since the family emigrated in 1859 and Joachim was born about 1815, the only useful census would be 1819. However, the 1867 census might be useful for finding other family members.

To search the 1819 census, I went to and went to "search" and then "card catalog." For "title" I used the words "1819" and "census." There were only two results, and one of those records was the Mecklenburg-Schwerin 1819 census.

From the couple's 1843 marriage record, I know that Joachim's father was named Jacob or Jakob. Since Joachim was born about 1815, I approximated Jacob's birth year as 1790..

In the search fields, I typed "Jacob" and "Peters" marking the surname as "exact & similar." I added a birth year of 1790 and clicked search. This search resulted in 566 results.

At this point is when I remembered Jacob was a cheese dairy owner which is "holländer" in German. So, I edited my search and added "holländer" to the keyword field and marked it "exact." Now, I had only 4 results. Of those, one of them had a son, Joachim, who was born in 1815 and was living in the correct area. Perfect!

Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Germany, Census, 1819 (Provo, Utah: Operations, Inc., 2007), Groß Bützin Township, Ritteramt Güstrow District, page 34, line 86, Jacob Peters household, digital image, ( : accessed 30 October 2016). 
Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Germany, Census, 1819 (Provo, Utah: Operations, Inc., 2007), Groß Bützin Township, Ritteramt Güstrow District, page 35, line 90, Carolina Peters of the Jacob Peters household, digital image, ( accessed 30 October 2016). 

I still need some of the words translated, but I was able to discover Joachim's mother's name, Hedwig Borgward, and two of his younger sister's names, Anna and Carolina, from this record. It also gives the year and place of birth for each member of the family. For the parents, it even gives the exact date of birth! 

Germany, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1519-1969 (Lehi: Operations, Inc., 2016), Evangelische Kirche Belitz, Belitz city, Belitz parish, baptismal record of Joachim Carl Otto Peters, born 27 Juni 1815, baptized 30 Juni 1815, digital image, ( accessed 31 October 2016).
After finding Joachim's mother's name, I was also able to locate Joachim's baptismal record! Unfortunately, it is quite smeared. I might order the microfilm and see if I can get a better copy. One item of interest is the list of sponsors! Two of them share the Borgward surname: Joachim Gustro Borgward and Jacob Otto Borgward. 

Do we share common ancestors? I'd love to talk! Please leave a comment or email me at

Color Clustering: Top 25 Fourth Cousins

For more on Color Clustering & DNA, please visit my new website at:  For another look at how Color Clustering works...