Catching Up With Cousins

I was going through Flipboard on my iPad looking for news that wasn’t going to piss me off, again, when I ran across this very cool article. The headline caught my eye immediately. Alvy is a cousin of ours on the Riggs side of the family. I even have the Riggs genealogy book he published, signed by him too.

I knew some of his story from a few years ago when he first contacted me while doing his own genealogy research. So, was quite interested in reading more. Enjoy an interesting life — https://www.wired.com/story/pixar-animation-alvy-ray-smith-pixel/

Is This Why I Couldn’t Find Peter?

John Brooks, (who died as a soldier of the War of 1812), and his first wife Hannah Grosbroek had two children together before she died. The eldest, a daughter, died as an infant, but Peter, their youngest, lived long enough to be raised by his step-mother Dinah.

Poor Peter had it a bit tougher than his half-siblings because both of his biological parents had died by the time he was 12, while they still had their mother Dinah. To top it off by the time he was about 13 or 14 he was being raised by two step-parents, as Dinah had married her second husband Robert Little.

Until this last week have not been able to find anything on Peter Brooks beyond his father’s guardianship papers in 1815. Then I saw this intriguing record at ancestry.com.

(if no image is seen be sure to download the file from the link)

This document, that you see reference to above, is a prison discharge record for Auburn Prison, and in this discharge record is listed a Peter Brooks, born about 1803, in Albany, New York. All of that data matches the Peter Brooks I have been looking for these past few years. But is it him?

According to this record Peter was in prison for 7 years for breaking gaol [jail]. Which also means that he had been in jail longer than those 7 years, because he had to have been in jail to have broken out. He was released in 1829 at the age of 25. If he served the whole sentence, that means he was in prison when he was 18, and possibly earlier. If this is indeed the same Peter who is a grand half-uncle of mine, then it is no wonder I have been unable to find him. And him being so elusive to me before makes a good case to this being the Peter I have been looking for.

What I have to do next is see if the Albany Archives have any court records that might inform me as to the reason for Peter’s incarceration in the first place. Hopefully, I will also be able to confirm that he is the right Peter.


Auburn Prison where Peter was incarcerated, is in Auburn, NY, and opened in 1817. It was built with the intention of using a congregate system. The inmates worked and ate together during the day, but went into isolation at night. The work they were expected to do consisted of hard labor working on bridges, ditches, quarries, and other difficult and tedious tasks. They also had to make items like barrels, buckets, clothes, shoes, boots, tools and saddles. These were sold at a profit making the Auburn system the first to wade into the prison manufacturing industry a trend that continues to this day.

Floggings, though outlawed as a sentence, became the primary means of discipline. This soon became known as the Auburn Prison System, which owes many of it’s attributes, such as better food and health care and an increased emphasis on rehabilitation, to the Pennsylvania system. [Yes, because everyone knows a good flogging fixes everything.]

Silence was the over-riding theme of the Auburn system. John D. Cray, a deputy warden at the Auburn Prison, said silence took away the prisoner’s ‘sense of self’, which made them more obedient, and prevented them from corrupting each other. Thus the prisoners did everything without talking. They also wore a uniform of white with broad horizontal stripes. When they moved anywhere as a group, they had to walk in lockstep with their hands grabbing the side of the prisoner in front, and their elbows at their sides covering the hands of the prisoner behind. If one stumbled, many would fall and, of course, later be flogged.

This was Peter’s life for 7 years.

Unfortunately, after this ‘released from prison’ record, I have again been unable to find Peter Brooks in any records. Maybe he was a repeat offender. I guess it is off to the court records in Albany, New York.

Fred Uses Harsh Language

In my recent research looking for Hamm or Amundson descendants in Minnesota, I unexpectedly came across this interesting take on the Fred and Carrie desertion case.

I have written about this incident before, and even thought I was done writing about it, but then I found this article reporting on the same court case, but in a different paper. Well, I couldn’t just let it sit there. Ignored.

When I read the first sentence in the article I burst out in shocked laughter. Then it was “WTF dude?” I actually had to look up ’round head’, and found that it is derogatory American slang for an immigrant from northern Europe, particularly a Swede. I was appalled by my great grandfather’s rudeness and prejudice. He must have been a real treat to live with, starting with his balking at taking care of his wife’s first child with another man, and then this choice language.

I am glad that Fred divorced her, he sounds like he would have been a misery to live with ’til death’. And, no doubt, all the while would have been chasing after every available skirt he could find.

As far as I am aware, he never did find that “Irish Molly”.

More Isserstedts

Our Ancestry ThruLines tree for Isserstedt, (I removed more recent names from the chart).

I can hear the question now — “Why, or what, am I looking at?” Well, this is the tree that showed up in Dad’s Isserstedt ThruLines recently. And this ThruLine is telling me that we have a DNA match with a descendant of Fredrick Isserstedt’s Uncle Johann Christian Isserstedt (I know his name because I did a little research). This Johann Christian had a daughter Johanna, she married Heinrich Ernst Koch and so the line continues through their son Karl all the way down to our present DNA match.

Here is Johanna’s marriage as noted in the church record:

Number 21 in the list is Johanna Maria Dorthea Isserstedt’s marriage record to Heinrich Ernst Koch. It lists her father Johann Christian Isserstedt and her mother, Elizabeth Moltzer.

For me this is cool, because it might help with finessing the Isserstedt line with German church records that have been digitized, and are available to research at Ancestry, and the Family History Library.

This is also a useful match, because if I can find out their chromosome location it will tell me which part of our Isserstedt/Sachs line is the Isserstedt segment.

Even all that aside, it is kinda cool that we are getting matches with some of our recent German immigrant lines. (We also have matches with folks whose ancestors were from Schwabsburg, but their lines are the Nehrboss and Knoblochs.)

So much fun is happening with our DNA matches. It’s hard to keep up.

In other DNA news, I finally heard back from our Hamman match. To review, I sent an email to the one and only match with our cousin’s HAMM yDNA at FamilyTreeDNA, and finally, after re-sending my email three times over the last year and a half, heard back. I received a very friendly email from a nephew of the tester. He provided a history of their line with a tree. But, at this time we can not connect the two.

There is a connection, but we don’t know where yet.

I asked if he would be able to get his uncle’s yDNA results bumped up to 111 markers (currently it is only 25). There is a 2 marker difference right now, if this marker difference increases with more markers tested, that means that the connection is likely a bit further back in time. But, if the difference remains at 2 or 3, then we are looking at a more recent connection. Fingers crossed.

Enoch And Esther, Confirmed

I have been obsessed lately with my DNA research, probably because I can’t currently do much in the way of records research, except for what’s available online due to the pandemic, (which contrary to popular belief is not over!) So, in order to feel that I haven’t abandoned genealogy completely, I am focusing on the DNA end of things.

This obsession has also led me to try and learn as much as I can about how to analyze one’s data. Because I will admit, all those charts, lists and matches can get overwhelming! If nothing else, I have learned one thing for sure – focus. Pick one particular problem, or ancestor, and focus on analyzing only data related to that particular answer. Don’t get distracted by all the other pretty little lights.

As I have posted previously here, and here, with the addition of my parents DNA to Ancestry.com, two research puzzles were almost solved, we just have to find the actual records now to suss out exact data.

Now for some more good news! I can also say that DNA has confirmed our connection to Enoch Shepard and Esther Dewey, Hartley Shepard’s grandparents. We have DNA matches with several descendants of children of Enoch and Esther: Luther, Calvin, and Anna – all siblings of Huldah, mother of Hartley.

In the chart above you can see the 5 matches that we have with descendants of Enoch and Esther’s other children.

This is great news, because we have no documents that connect these Shepards to ours other than a yDNA test with 5 markers off on this Shepard line, which made me very nervous about connecting us to the Massachusetts line. But now we have more DNA connecting us. Which makes me breathe a sigh of relief.

In a nutshell this means that the word of mouth story of Hartley’s parents being Henry and Huldah Shepard, was not just a story. This also confirms that General William Shepard of Westfield, Massachusetts was indeed our ancestor. So, yes we can brag about it in full confidence now.

Here is a source mentioning the children of Enoch and Esther: “Colonel Enoch Shepherd, wife and nine Children, Enoch, Daniel, Luther, Calvin, Esther, Anna, Rhoda, Lorana, and Huldah.”

History of Washington County: Residents at Campus Martius – Marietta and at “The Point” – in and Near Fort Harmer during the Whole or Part of the period of the Indian Wars between 1790–1795
Here is Hartley’s tree in a beautiful fan shape. There is quite a bit of cousin marrying cousin in Hartley’s family, up to and including his son Elza marrying his 2nd cousin, Jane Buchanan.

This also means that I will be posting more about this line in the future than I have previously. Having more confidence in the connection to the Westfield Shepards makes me feel much better about researching and sharing this line with family.

Peeking Over Brick Walls

A few months ago I asked my parents if they would do another DNA test, only this time through Ancestry.com. Currently I have their DNA data at MyHeritage, FTDNA, LivingDNA, and GEDMatch, (I think that is all of them) But, of course, greedy Ancestry (what a bunch of wankers) doesn’t allow you to upload results from other companies, so I have to test everyone all over again just for this site. This also means that those relatives who donated in the past, and have since died, are out of luck.

My main reason for doing this was to see if the Irish DNA my Dad carries would show up as from a particular part of Ireland, but also, we would most likely find lots of different matches because so many people get suckered into Ancestry’s universe and don’t use the other DNA sites.

Thankfully they both said yes and the results arrived a week or two ago.

First, to get it out of the way: my Dad’s Irish DNA is too small an amount to even show up (guess I will have to try my sister). My Mother has Irish too, in fact more than my Dad, but I still have no idea where in Ireland these ancestors came from as both didn’t have enough DNA from this ethnicity to sort it out. Bummer.

Now the good stuff. I have to say that the Thrulines and DNA matches have really been exciting.

  1. Our Cross and Warner connection has been reaffirmed with several matches with siblings of our ancestors.
  2. My Norwegian ancestry is 100% correct. Damn I am good!
  3. And Mary Baker/Weekley can stop wavering as she appears to be a Weekley.

A little background on Mary. I talked about her a little bit in a previous post, but the nitty gritty is this. Elzy George and Mary Baker likely were married1 in December 1825. They posted their marriage bonds in November and December. These are the parents of Rachel George who married Ezra Hays, who are then the parents of my great grandmother Rachel, aka Dick. In this bond it clearly states her name as Mary Baker:

But then several of her children’s death records started showing up with their mother’s surname being stated at Weekley. And the confusion commenced.

One of my theories at the time was it was possible that she married a Baker who died very shortly afterward and then married Elzy George. Or she was a Baker. No one in the genealogy circles had developed any theories, at least that I know of. Research into the matter didn’t really clear it up either. I could find no record that connected Mary specifically to either surname other than this marriage bond.

But now we have DNA, and DNA says she was a Weekley:

ThruLines as defined by Ancestry.com: ThruLines uses Ancestry trees to suggest how SJ may be related to their DNA matches through common ancestors.

Now this match does not mean that Mary is a daughter of Thomas, it is merely being suggested because we match all these other Weekleys who appear to be children of Thomas. The DNA only tells us that we match these Weekleys, not HOW we match them. ThruLines are suggestions, that could be correct. It is also possible that Thomas had a sibling who is Mary’s parent.

At Ancestry Thomas shows up in SJ’s list of ThruLines as:

Here is Thomas Weekley and his wife Mary Jones (Polly is a nickname for Mary).

The dotted line around his square means potential ancestor, which is also indicated on the square. If there is no line then that means you have that person in your tree, and we will all assume that it is the correct ancestor. Below is the ThruLines from the top when you first go into your results, scrolling down will bring you to each generation that they have ThruLines for, some of which will also be potential ancestors.

Of course now that we have more of a nudge to the Weekley line, I will have to be more vigilant in researching the Weekley family in Tyler County, West Virginia. She is connected somehow. Maybe she is illegitimate!


  1. Elzy George and Polly/Mary Baker marriage bonds, November 30, 1825 and December 1, 1825. Tyler County, [West] Virginia. Test. Absalom George and John Baker, son of Evan, William George and Deborah George.

A Trip Across The Pond

Some years back my grandparents took a trip to England and Scotland for 14 days. They did a lot of site-seeing, and I guess, gramps wanted to talk to someone about the Scottish origins of our Shepards. (At the time we didn’t know that the Shepards are actually English. DNA.)

Grandmother kept a little journal of their trip, which I found recently while going through their papers. I loved finding it, because my husband and I do the same thing when we go on trips, it must be in my genes. In fact I created a book of our first visit to Hawaii together, as it was a 5 year anniversary vacation. It included photos, little mementos (scanned), and our journal entries, then I had it printed by Apple’s photo book company. It looks pretty spiffy, if I say so myself.

So, anytime I run across these types of items my heart sings. Admittedly, it might be the only one she kept. The year is not indicated on the journal, but I know we have letters that talk about them going on the trip. I believe it occurred sometime in the 70s-80s.

I scanned the whole journal and am putting it here for anyone to enjoy. It is not a novel, the entries are pretty short, they talk mostly about the foods they ate, arrivals, departures, but there is a little bit of commentary. The file can be downloaded, it is a .pdf, or just read it here in my blog. Enjoy!

Fashion Envy?

I have been going through my grandparents papers recently, reorganizing, seeing what needs scanning, throwing away, etc. When I ran across this great newspaper clipping about my mom! She looks gorgeous in this pic too.

She was attending Bliss College in Lewiston, Maine at the time. The picture was taken in the winter of either 1960 or 1961.

Window shopping in Lewiston, Maine.

Bliss College in Lewiston, Maine; opened 1897, closed 1972; records held: Maine Department of Education, 23 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333. Songe, Alice H.  American Universities and Colleges: A Dictionary of Name Changes. 1978.

Cowboys and Indians

These days the headline is not very PC. But I thought I would share anyway because one of my cousins is in this article, James Nevitt. He is my grandmother’s nephew through her sister Evelyn Shaw who married Bob Nevitt. (So, maybe a 1st cousin twice removed, to me?)

There is no date on the article, so, speculating from the date of their marriage and birth of James soon thereafter, early 1940s is when, the place is in Ohio.

I think I am a bit jealous, my dream job was to be an archeologist, and they didn’t even have to try! (I think all the schooling I would need put me off pursuing it though.)

DNA Strikes Again

Thank goodness I have had more family than just myself DNA tested.

My sister and I were recently having a discussion regarding our Irish DNA percentages. I knew that I didn’t have much of any, but I wasn’t sure about her’s. Today I decided to check into the matter. The answer is, none to speak of. So both my sister and I inherited miniscule to none of our Irish DNA. That answered that question. [Update: Oooops. Wrong…my sister actually has a good percentage of Irish, they updated the charts.]

But while I was there, I decided to check through her matches and looked at any trees that were available (one of my pet peeves with folks who get their DNA tested is few to none have any kind of decent tree online, which makes their match of no use to us who are trying to find DNA connections to surnames!!!). Anyway, one of her matches that did have a tree included the surname WARNER. Hmmm, that rang a loud bell in my brain. In fact I think my adrenaline started pumping. Further investigation on this WARNER line in his tree showed a Daniel WARNER married to Ann PEMBER, and this match’s ancestor was their son Thomas who was born in 1756 in Tolland, Connecticut. BINGO! Full on rush going on now.

Screen capture of my sister’s match’s tree from FamilyTreeDNA. Daniel WARNER and Anne PEMBER are right there in black and white.

This one little DNA match has broken down one of my brick walls! And inside I am so jumping up and down with great excitement and joy. The best news I have had all year! (Well, other than being able to get my vaccine.)

I made sure to look over his tree with more diligence, but the WARNER surname is the only commonality between us that I was able to find. So, this means that Zerviah WARNER, wife of Joseph CROSS, and daughter of the same Daniel WARNER and Ann PEMBER in our matches’ tree, was indeed our ancestress. No question about it. Which also means that we descend from Joseph Cross, her husband. (We have their marriage record and we know that when he died, she was still married to him.) Unless she had an affair we don’t know about. I’ll assume she didn’t.

Previous to this DNA find, the only connection we were unable to make was that of Zerviah and Joseph CROSS’s possible daughter Clarissa CROSS, (who married Garret ROSA), to this couple. DNA has sorted it out for us.

I am still doing that happy dance inside my head every time I think about it! Thank you many times over to my family for donating their DNA to help in me my obsession, because if they hadn’t, I would have missed this connection. You see, I have no DNA that matches this person, but my sister did.