Tombstone Tuesday – June 28, 2022 – Barbara Kinnaman Whelchel

Barbara Kinnaman Whelchel

Barbara Kinnaman was born on February 3, 1826 in Montomery County, Ohio. She was the daughter of Walter and Barbara (Williard) Kinnaman. Walter and Barbara had nine children; Hiram (1809), Samuel (1810), Susannah (1813), Margaret (1818), Solomon (1818), Henry (1820), Andrew (1822), Hannah (1824), Barbara (1826)..

In the 1850 Federal Census for Green Township, Madison County, Indiana, Barbary is 23 years old and remains with her parents. Also living with them appears to be a widowed relative, Edmund who is with several children , John, Henry, Lucinda and Susan. Edmund, John and Henry were born in Indiana and Lucinda and Susan were born in Missouri. I am guessing that it is a son of Walter and Barbara Kinnaman but I can not be certain. It’s an investigation for another time.

Barbara married Mayberry Whelchel some time after the 1850 census and before the 1855 birth of their daughter. In the 1860 Federal Census, Barbary Whelchel and her husband Mayberry live in Green Township, Madison County, Indiana with their five year old daughter, Martha (1855). In the 1870 Federal Census, Barbary and her husband, Mayberry remain in Indiana and they have two children; Martha and John (1861).

In the 1880 Federal Census, Mayberry and Barbary are listed in Madison County with their nineteen year old son, John.

One hundred thirty six years ago on June 28, 1886, Barbara Whelchel died in Indiana. She is buried in Helms Cemetery, Hamilton County, Indiana.

Helms Cemetery, Hamilton County, Indiana.

Rest in peace, Barbara!

Love, Jan

Barbara Kinnaman Whelchel is the aunt of the wife of my third Great Uncle.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 17of 2022 -Document – Examining the Last Will and Testament of Frederick Overly

While researching this week for my Tombstone Tuesday Blog, I came across and pretty awesome document about my 4X Great Uncle, Frederick Overly. It was his Last Will and Testament, all 42 pages of it. Frederick made a good life for himself and his family. He became a prominent citizen of Hopetown, in Ross County, Ohio. His will was very detailed and ironically legible. Maybe that is why I found it so fascinating.

On page one of the file, the principal responsible agents were declared. His son, John Overly, is the executor. He son, George Overly and Jacob Cryder are declared Securities. ( I’ll have to figure out what this role is.) It is revealed that that Frederick had $1700 dollars in cash and $ 3500 in Bonds (honestly I did not know there were Bonds back in 1844. The Appraisers are Lewis W. Sifford, George Haynes, and Michael Cryder. The next page is a declaration page where the appraisers swear under oath that they will make a fair and honest appraisal of the Frederick Overly Estate.

In the next four pages, the appraisers list a complete inventory of Frederick’s belongings. They record one hundred and thirty-nine lines with multiples of many of the items. This inventory included wagons, horses cows and farm equipment.

In the next four pages, are records which detailed loans that Frederick had with other people at the time of the writing of his will and notes to explain these loans. Frederick had outstanding loans to six individuals at the time of his death. The first one was for $25 which George Redman and Daniel Higgins. It was partially paid $11 in 1844, and $7 in 1845 and the rest was forgiven at some point because court document states that nothing is owed. The next loan was was to his nephew, Adam Overly, (son of his brother Casper) most of which had already been repaid but $10.75 remained. Samuel Wheel owed him $10.00. Loans to Benjamin Kinnaman and Jacob Hines appear to have been forgiven with no explanation. Jacob Hines is the brother-in-law of Frederick, brother to Mary Ann. The remaining loan was to John Little for a land purchase for $75 due to be repaid a year after Frederick’s death.

After the first eight pages and in the inventory pages, it was reported that he had Fourteen hundred and seventy-nine dollars in silver, one hundred and thirteen dollars in gold and seven dollars in banks bills. He also had ninety five dollars that was owed to him by other people. Adding all that up and it comes to about $1700 in cash. In today’s dollars that would be equivalent to $61,000 in cash.

The next four pages list the sale of Frederick’s personal items and who bought them. I found this interesting for several reasons. First of all everyone took part in the sale including the family members and his widow Mary Ann Overly. They all purchased the items that they wanted. The second reason why this fascinated me was that for each sale, the buyers names were recorded. It was a Who’s Who of Hopetown, Ohio in 1848 or at least those families who live close by Frederick and Mary Ann Overly. It is fascinating for a genealogist. This sale information was recorded with the court on the 5th of July, 1848. After the sale, Fredericks estate is valued at $1990.19.

The next section of the will pertains to Frederick’ s property. In the first document of this section, the appraiser’s state to the Court that “ the widow is not intending to keep the house we allow her cash instead of other property to the amount of one hundred dollars for her support for one year from the death of deceased. “ It is sign June 1, 1848. I can only assume that the plan was for her to go live with either a son or daughter for the remainder of her life. I am surprised that she would receive only one hundred dollars.

The remaining pages deal with the acreage which Frederick owned. He owns 456 acres of land in Springfield Township, 158 acres in Green Township, 396 acres in Harrison Township and 160 acres in Colorain Township for a total of 1072 acres of land as of April 1848 when his will was written.

George gets 196 of 276 acres of land Springfield Township, Section Five. Eighty of those acres are excluded to be given to John who also receives 180 a acres which were currently being farmed by Martin Overly, Frederick’s brother. He instructed John and George that they must have a road built between the two adjoining parcels with a connection to Chillicothe Road. His daughter, Elizabeth (Tharp), received 158 acres in Green Township, the SE corner of section Thirty-three. His daughter, Polly, received 160 acres of land in Harrison Township the SW Corner of section Nine. Margaret received 240 acres of land in Harrison Township adjacent to Polly’s land. Margaret’s is located in NE corner of section number Eight and the east half of the NW section of Twenty. He instructs Margaret and Polly to build a road between their adjoining parcels to connect to Aldelpia Road. His daughter, Susanna Jennings, one hundred sixty acres in Colerain township NE Corner in section twenty.

His land was divided among his children and came with very specific instructions. The land was to be kept in the family until all of his children had passed away and until all of his grandchildren had reach the age of maturity, 21 one years old.

The remaining pages are receipts that were turned into the estate for duties rendered as they pertained to settling the estate.

They paid eight dollars for his wooden casket and fourteen dollars for taxes for the property given to Elizabeth Overly Tharp.

I found this a fascinating read and decided that it would make a good blog post about “Documents” for the Week 17 of 2022 blog. I have looked at many wills during my research but nothing as well documented as this or as legible.

Happy Hunting,


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Sisters

“Della and her sister”

I knew almost from the start of my research that the lady on the right in this photo was my GGGrandmother. She always looked the same. The lady with the scowl. I knew that she was my Grandparent because we had so many photos of her. There was the one with Alvin Smith holding the baby and Della Sparks, one with Dora Jackson, Ruth and Ruth’s baby seated outside, pictures of her seated with all of her children and their families standing behind her. The list goes on… I thought I knew her name. My Grandmother Lillian wrote on the back of this photo “Della and her sister”. I later learned that her maiden name was Denney. I searched and searched but did not find a Della Denney. Eventually I discovered an Oella Denney. Oh could that be her? Sure enough it was. Now mind you these people are from my Smith line. Grandma Lillian was just trying to identify and document these pictures for her husband because it was the right thing to do. My Grandfather, Everett, (her husband) was the grandchild of this woman. She died when he was 21 years old so surely he would have known what her name was. She named a daughter Della. Maybe Grandma Lillian just assumed her name was Della. It doesn’t matter now. So for now we just know the lady with the scowl is Oella Denney Smith. She always looked like that I am told.

For years I wondered who this other woman was, the one on the left who seems to have a slight grin! My only clue was a note from Grandma Lillian on the back of the photo. It said Della’s sister. Remember that the name Della is wrong! I circulated this photo with all of the Denney researchers I had been in contact with in hopes that someone would be able to match this photo with a Denney woman in their family. None of the researchers seemed to know who she was.

The more I looked at the photo, I decided that these two could not be sisters. They did not look at all alike. I know that all sisters do not look alike but there are always some similarities and these two had none. One had a permanent scowl but the other had a bright face! Maybe she is squinting but I did not want to think that was it! She has a smile! How could the lady with the scowl and the lady with the smile be sisters…. In my mind it just can not be. Yet this woman was very much apart of the lives of these relatives of mine. She was at the Baptisms, the picnics and all the family gatherings even after Oella has died. So who is she? SO I kept looking at her and wondering where she belonged.

“Smith’s from Fort Wayne”

I would find clues and sometimes not realize that they were clues. Oella was married to James W Smith. He died in 1913. When his brother, Joseph, died in 1923, I found the death record for him in Chicago. His remains were brought back to Fort Wayne, Indiana for burial. I found his obit in the Fort Wayne News paper and in his Obit there was a mention of a sister, Mrs. Ralhman. I could not find a Ralhman in Fort Wayne. For years I searched for Rahlman, Ralhmen, Ralman, Rehlman, Relman and every version I could think of but no one was found. James and Joseph did have sisters. All of the sisters which were older than them, had died long ago. The sister named Susan was younger than the brothers but I knew nothing about her. I wondered if this could be her and who had she married? They also had a sister Martha She was the youngest sibling, could it be her? I would later find that Martha had married Henry Hauss. They settle in the neighboring county of Huntington where she would die at the age of 21, in 1877. So it is not her. Who could she be?

So I started to search for a woman born between the years of 1850 and 1853 whose first name was Susan or Susannah. Eventually I would add the criteria of a surname (married name) beginning with “r”. After a few weeks of searching, there she was Susannah Rehnen. Could this be her? It would take some time but eventually I would obtain Obits for Susannah, her son Bernard, his son Parnell and Parnell’s son, James who died in Larkspur California in 1994. I did a search on a website called and much to my surprise there was a B. Rehnen who was listed in Larkspur, California. I have used this tool several other time successfully to find children who are still living who had been listed in their parent’s obits. Usually I write down the name, address and phone with a note about who I think they are and add the information to my research files. After finding several items that lead me to draw the same conclusion, I would write a generic note explaining who I was and that I am looking to confirm family history information. I provide them with them with information that I am trying to resolve and how they can contact me. Sometimes they do get back to me and sometimes they do not. Not everyone is as interested in their families past as I am.

I had been looking at this photo and getting to know this woman for years. I just had to know who she was. She was another lost relative who spoke to me every time I looked at her. She was just begging me to find her. This process of elimination had been so slow that I took a bold step. I picked up the phone one Sunday afternoon and I called the phone number listed for B. Rehnen in Larkspur, California.

A sweet elderly woman answered the phone. I explained to her who I was and how I thought I was related while she quietly listened. Eventually she broke her silence and said, “well you know, you are not actually related to me, it was my husband that you were related to and he has been dead for some time. ” Then she went on to tell me that his sister still lives in the Fort Wayne area and that I should call her, Susan Katherine Brown.

After talking to Susan Katherine Brown, I was able to identify this sweet woman as Susannah M (Smith) Rehnen (pronounced Wren like the bird…as she explained), Susan Brown’s Great, Great Grandmother. Susan Brown is named after Susannah M Smith Rehnen. Susan Brown shared several other wonderful photo’s of Susan Rehnen and I was able to supply her with a few that she had never seen.

Susan M Smith Rehnen – 1853-1933

It would be a day that I would solve another one of the “Needles in my Haystack”. The “clue” on the photo would have helped me if it had said “James W. Smith’s sister, Susan” or even “Della’s sister-in-law”. Then again that would have made it too easy and I would not have learned so much about this part of my “Haystack”!

I am happily hunting through my haystack!


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 10 – Worship

The families living near Nine Mile, Indiana are prospering. They are settling on the land, growing crops and growing families. Among these families is James and Susannah (Overly) Smith, John Miller and Hannah (Smith) Miller, Thomas and Emeline (Asher) Overly, Gabriel and Anna Miller, Charles and Sarah (Dilley) Miller, Benjamin and Letishia (Robinson) Davis have all have moved from Darke County, Ohio to Nine Mile.

James and Susannah have had three children since settling in Nine Mile, Indiana. They are Joseph (1847), John Francis (1849) and Susan M (1852). In 1851, James and Susannah’s daughter Margaret became the 2nd wife of Benjamin Davis, after the death of his first wife Letishia. Their 2nd daughter Mary Ann married Jonathan Kimble in 1853. Several of the children of John and Hannah Miller’s children have married and began their families too. Charles married to Sarah Dilley and they have 2 children, George and Hannah Jane. Gabriel had married Anna in Ohio prior to leaving for Indiana and Catherine married John W. Maddux. Growing families need a church to assist them in raising their children.

Nine Mile Untied Methodist Church

The following article is taken from the historical records from the Nine Mile United Methodist Church which has a flourish congregation to this day.

James Smith was one of sixteen founding member of the United Brethren Evangelical Church in Nine Mile, Indiana in 1853. The church is presently known as Nine Mile United Methodist Church. Interesting details emerge about James Smith and other founding members in a historical overview written for the churches 100th anniversary which reads as follows:

“THE HISTORY OF THE NINE MILE Evangelical U. B. CHURCH” This church was organized at the home of John Miller by Rev. Casey with 16 charter members. Daniel and Lucy Ann Buskirk, sold one acre of ground for $ 10.00 to the trustees of the United Brethren Church, who were Gabriel Miller, Benjamin C. Davis, James Smith, Thomas Overly and Charles Miller, on January 3, 1853. For a period of five years, the meetings were held at the home of the John and Hannah Miller and at the homes of other church members, but in 1859, they erected a log church on the present grounds in section 7, Pleasant Township.”

Rev. P. Landen was then the pastor and dedicated the church. The membership continued to increase but the little log church was still their place of worship until 1868. In that year a frame building was erected. The new place of worship was called “Liberty Chapel”. For a few years the church had been served through the Ossian circuit, but in 1869 it was changed to the Zanesville circuit.

In 1879 the 27th annual session of the Auglaize Conference, of which this church was a member, was held at the Liberty Chapel Church. In 1891 Liberty was again placed in the Ossian Circuit which included Ossian, Bethel, Zanesville, Prairie Grove and Liberty Chapel It remained with Ossian until 1906 when it was changed back to the Zanesville circuit along with Bethel.

As it would turn out, our Smith family would play an important role in the beginning of this church.  All the families listed in the historical document are related to our Smith’s, some are inlaws, some are adult children, some are siblings.  

It is a wonderful church.  My husband and I visited it in 2003 on the 150th Anniversary.  I am sure that the congregation must have thought I was nuts because I had tears rolling down my face for most of the service.  I was very moved to be able to sit in a church which had such a rich connection to my family history.  Later the congregation would learn that I was the 3 X Great Granddaughter of James Smith, one of the 16 founding members of the Nine Mile United Methodist Church. My Grandfather, Rev. Everett A. Smith, himself a Methodist Minister, would have been proud to have known that his family, our family, played such a large role in this church.

Our Smith family members still go to the Harbor Beach United Methodist Church and Lowell United Methodist Church today. Worship has been an important part of our family heritage.

Happy Hunting,


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 8 of 2022- Courting

Many years ago when I first received the box of photos, bibles and papers from my Mom which belonged to Everett and Lillian Smith, I found many interesting things that they had saved thru the years. This was one of the first items I found. It was a Valentine sent to Lillian from Everett. She received it eleven days before her nineteen birthday.

Lillian had lived most of her life in Flint with her Grandmother, Mary Florence. Lillian’s Mother died when Lillian was just short of nine years old. On a sunny but cold February morning, Mae Losee, hauled a basket of wet laundry to the clothes line with the intention of hanging them out to dry. After some time, Lillian realized that her Mother had not returned to the house so she went to investigate. Lillian found Mae slumped over the basket of wet clothes. She had died. On that day in 1914, her whole life changed in an instant.

Lillian and her younger siblings left Clio, Michigan to live with Mae’s mother, Mary Florence in her boarding house in Flint. Five years earlier, Mary Florence had lost her husband when he suddenly died. She left their thriving florist business in Clio to her daughter, Mae and her husband, George Losee, to run and bought a large house in Flint where she would run a boarding house. With no husband to support her, fifty-four year old Mary Florence would have to find a way to support herself. In 1914, the automotive industry was just getting a stronghold in the Flint Business Community. Mary Florence hoped that these workers would need housing, Her business flourished and she rarely had an empty room. A short five years later she gathered her daughter’s young children and brought them to the boarding house too. Lillian’s older brother Lester, who was eleven, remained with his father on the farm and lent a hand in the fields and in the florist shop.

Everett, meanwhile, was living in rural Wells County, Indiana with his parents, Alvin and Cora Smith and his younger brother, James Frederick. Alvin worked for a Dairy distributing milk to customers and local grocery stores with a small delivery wagon. Sometime around 1918, Alvin and Cora made the decision to move to Michigan. With the Auto Industry growing at a rapid rate, there were many new job opportunities. They decided as a family to go to Flint to see if Alvin could secure employment in one of the new factories. They pack up all their belonging including Alvin’s wagon and their single cow on a rail car and headed north.

The Smith Cow – 1918

Cora and Everett heading north driving an automobile while Alvin and James Fredrick made their way north in the rail car with all the family belongings. The wagon and the cow were brought as an insurance policy just in case Alvin could not immediately secure employment. Alvin stated to his wife, “In case this automotive stuff does not pan out !” Well, needless to say, it did pan out, Alvin got a job and so did his brother who came a few weeks later. They bought a single “lot’ on Term Street in Burton and built one house by 1920 and by 1922 they purchased a second lot and built another house. These Smith Families who were just getting by in Indiana were now prospering in Flint.

Some time in the fall of 1922, in the town of Burton, a local church held a Tent Revival Meeting which brought young people from all over Flint to Burton. Seventeen year old Lillian, her Sunday School class and her best friend, Bessie Calkins, were so excited to go.

Lillian and her Sunday School Class

Nineteen year old, Everett, and his fifteen year old brother, James Fredrick decided to go too. They were the “new kids on the block” and what better way to meet new friends? Being their Granddaughter and not knowing them as teenagers, it is hard for me to think of either of them as “boy crazy” or “girl crazy” but it is highly likely that was the common draw for each of them to attend the event that day. And they were indeed on a collision course to meet.

Everett A Smith – 1922

After that day and in the months that followed, they used every church event that they could to be together. Mary Florence felt it was safe for Lillian to see Everett if it was at a church event. It became obvious that Everett and Lillian were becoming a bit more than friends. Eventually Mary Florence, allowed Everett to come around to see Lillian more and more.

On Lillian’s nineteen birthday, February 25, 1923, her best friend Bessie Caulkins hosted a Birthday party for her and it turned into an engagement party when Everett proposed. It maybe that Bessie knew that Everett would proposed, I don’t know that .

A very happy Lillian V. Losee and Everett A. Smith – February 25, 1923

They were married on August 28, 1923 by Joel B. Gass. Their love endured 55 years until Everett died in 1978.

Happy Hunting,


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week Five of 2022 – Branching Out

I have many families in my tree who migrated from east to west and sometimes times back again. Today, I am going to talk about the Leet / Leete family because they are a great example of how families “branched out” as they left their homeland to the “New World” and continued that westward movement after their arrival. There were many reasons that families chose to move. Most often it was in search of a better life for their family. The “New World “ brought new opportunities and lots of open land. Most of these settlers came from countries where land was scarce and the likelihood of them ever becoming land owners was slim to none. The westward movement continued as more and more people came to the colonies. After America won it’s independence, the trend continued as the size of the country grew wider and wider. More and more territories of land were acquired which expanded America’s boundaries. So let’s talk a bit about the earliest Leete families in England that are known.

Leete Family Crest

Thomas Leete of Ockington, Cambridgeshire, England married Maria Slade of Rushton Northamptonshire, the daughter of Edward Slade. Thomas and Maria had four children, two sons and two daughters. Both of their sons were named John. That makes it confusing, I am glad they were nobleman or we would never have been able to figure it out. Each John was distinguished by their place of residence, John of Dodington was the oldest and John of Islington was younger. The daughters were named Jane and Rebecca.

John Leete (the Elder) of Dodington, as he was known, married Anna Shute. She was the daughter of Robert Shute who was one of the justices in the King’s Court. John and Anna had two sons , William and John. Our Leete family in America descends from William Leete who was born in 1612/1613 in Dodington, Huntingshire, England.

William Leete came to America with the Rev. Whitfield Company. He was one of the signers of the Plantation Covenant which was drafted and signed while still aboard the ship before it’s arrival to New Haven on July 10, 1639 . As a group, they decided on settling in the area which would later be known as Guilford, Connecticut if they could negotiate a deal to purchase the land from the native Indians. William Leete and six other men from the ship approached the native Indians to purchase the land and a deal was struck. Mr Leete was soon called upon to fill many public offices as the colonist formed their local government. He served as a Deputy to the Court until 1650. He became Deputy Governor of the colony of Connecticut in 1658 and was elected Governor of the the state of Connecticut when the state was formed. He held the office until he died in 1683.

Governor William Leete’s grave site

William and his wife, Anne Payne had nine children ; John (1839), Andrew (1843), William, Abigail, Caleb (1651), Gratiana (1653), Peregrine (1658), Joshua (1659), Anna (Anna). The Leete family grew exponentially in the colonies. Many of the children of William and Anne had eight to ten children.

Our family descends thru their son Andrew and his wife, Elizabeth Jordan. They had six children; William (1671), Caleb, (1673) Samuel (1677), Dorothy (1680), Abigail (1683) and Mercy(1688). Their son, William married Hannah Stone and they had seven children; Ann (1700), Elizabeth (1702), Margery (1705), Roland (1708), William (1711), Jordan (1720), Solomon (1722).

The first three to four generations of the Leete family members remained in the Guilford Connecticut area. Roland Leete married Mercy Dudley. This couple had eleven children; Timothy (1739), Ruth(1740), Anah(1742), Sarah, (1744-1751), John (1746), Asahel (1747-1751), Hannah (1749), Sarah (1751), Abner (1753-1776), Asahel (1755), Miles (1757) and Rachel. Most of the Leete men and the husbands of the Leete daughters were active participants in the Revolutionary War.

At this fourth generation the Leete / Leet family members began to migrate to other areas in the colonies. Asahel married Polly Nott and they left Connecticut and moved to Tinmouth, Vermont.

Asahel and Polly had eight children; Jonathan (1775), Abner (1779-86), Noah (1784), Thomas (1787), Epaphras (1789), Samantha (1790), Ruth (1790), Polly (1791).

Jonathan married Deborah Hendryx in New York. They are found in the 1810 Federal Census in Caneadea, Allegany, New York near her father, Nathaniel Hendryx. Jonathan served in the War of 1812 in the New York Militia along with two of his brothers, Epaphras and Thomas. It is at this time when I start to find the Leete name as Leet. One by one each of the brothers migrates to the state of New York. Epaphras Leet and his family stayed in Lockport, Niagara County, New York. Thomas and Noah Leet shows up in Henrietta, Monroe County, New York in the 1820 Federal Census. Shortly after the 1830 Census, three of the brothers, Jonathan, Thomas and Noah, relocate to Michigan. Jonathan is found in the Michigan territory in 1833. Thomas is first found in Washtenaw County, Michigan in 1834 but moves to Clinton County by the 1840 Federal Census. Thomas remains in Clinton County for the rest of his life. Noah remains in Oakland County Michigan the rest of his life.

Jonathan has two children born while he was living in Oakland County, Michigan, William (1831) and Polly (1834). By the time of the 1840 Federal Census, he and most of his children have moved on to Wabash County, Illinois. Jonathan’s father-in-law, Nathaniel Hendryx and his son Abraham, had moved to Wabash County, Illinois prior to the 1830 Federal Census. It is the birth of these two children in Michigan that helped me to resolve the puzzle of how my 3X Great Grandmother, Nancy Leet came to Michigan. In the brief time that Jonathan and his family lived in Oakland County, Michigan, their daughter Nancy met and married Valentine Boyer. She remained in Michigan when most of her family moved west to Wabash County, Illinois. Eventually Victor Leet, Nancy’s older brother moved back to Oakland County, Michigan after spending a few short years in Illinois.

The Leete /Leet family “branched out” from Connecticut to Vermont to New York to Michigan to Illinois.

Happy Hunting,


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 4 of 2022 – Curious

The word “Curious” is an adjective meaning “Eager to learn something new and/or strange; unusual”. Not a single day goes by that I don’t get wrapped up in the curious pursuit of finding out something about one of my ancestors. On Monday and Tuesday, I am usually chasing after my weekly “ Tombstone Tuesday” ancestor. Often in the research phase of that pursuit I will find some unexpected fact that will spark my curiosity and off I’ll go on a tangent trying to verify my latest find. Genealogists are a curious group of people. You never would have started your research if you were not curious. The rest of the week is usually spent looking for clues that I may have stumbled on along the way.

I started my search rather casually. I bought my husband a Windows based software called “ Family Tree Maker “ in 1995 after he had been using a DOS based program to collect his data. His research was vary manual and long before came along. I installed the software for him and decided I should open a Smith file for me and just put the people in that I know. I started out with about 100 people and it has grown to nearly 9000. That’s how my pursuit in genealogy curiosity got started.

My Smith ancestors have been my most elusive. They have all the common name of James, Joseph, William, John, Charles and Henry for the men and Margaret, Sara Elizabeth, Mary Ann , Martha and Susanna for the woman. Thankfully there was a Branson and a Kisiah thrown in there too! They were helpful. Every one of them has spawned a curiosity fueled research adventure deep into to the depths of databases full of dusty old records with chicken scratched handwriting. When the latest adventure ensues, I am often lost for hours in the depths of data. My husband often goes off to bed saying, “see you in a couple of hours!” and my reply is “no…I’ll just be a few minutes more!” The reality is several hours later I’ll crawl out of the database hopefully with a morsel of data that can accurately be placed in the family puzzle.

I had great hopes for DNA testing. (I still do) I tested myself and my brother in 2010 shortly after Ancestry offered DNA testing. It was an almost $600.00 investment to examine 48 YDNA marker and my maternal dna markers.! I had great hopes. I watched the database as it blossomed thru the years and to my shock and dismay there was not a single Smith match! How could this be? Of all the Smith’s in the US not a single one matched us? (No they just had not tested yet.) There were Musgroves, Stephensens, Adams….and many other surnames but not one Smith. All of this early data is no longer available due to Ancestry’s decision to standardize on autosomal DNA markers, two years after I did my tests in 2012. It was their determination that offering a single type of test would be a better fit for the majority of the public. The early test allowed you to pick between 12, 24, 48 and 64 marker test as well as YDNA tests which specifically trace male DNA which is passed down unchanged from one generation to the next or Maternal DNA which is a large stew of DNA from all the woman and men in your family. . With each test the accuracy of you data would increase when more markers were examined.

So after eight years of protesting Ancestry’s decisions and millions of DNA tests later , I redid our DNA test so that we were once again apart of the massive database that has. Several third and fourth cousins from my Smith line who I had found thru general research have tested and show up as matches. As of today, I have hundreds of connections with relatives through this data for many branches of my family tree. BUT my Smith line is still very elusive. I have a few and I keep looking for new ones. I also have several hundred that I simply can not identify the line of my family that connects us. This presents just one more opportunity for me to regularly chase my curiosity.

Happy Hunting,


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week Three of 2022 – Favorite Photo

One Favorite Photo? How can I pick just one? I can’t. My Genealogy journey started with a dusty old box of photo’s that my Grandmother had. She was sorting thru their things after they had moved to a much smaller apartment in a retirement home. She was trying to get Grandpa Everett to help her and it just wasn’t working. There were many old picture in the box that were from the Smith side of the family that were not identified. She had no way of knowing who some of these people were and it was important to her that we knew who these people were when they were eventually no longer with us.

One summer day when they were visiting us at our house, Grandma brought the box of Photos. “It was one more thing to take to Harold and Leah’s for safe keeping”, she decided. Grandpa would have time on his hands and she was just going to make him do this. As I was attempting to head out the door to hangout with my friends, she nabbed me. I was 13 years old and the last thing I wanted to do was to go thru this box of photos with her but how do you tell your Grandma , “NO!”

For the next hour or two, I sat at the picnic table with Grandma Lillian and Grandpa Everett and we sorted through old photos. The Photo’s were of people from a long time ago. They were of Grandpa’s Dad and Mother, their parents, his Uncles, Aunts and assorted cousins. Grandma made it almost like a game. Grandma would show Grandpa the photo like a flash card and he would tell us who it was. It was my job to write the name on the back of the photo. So I wrote the names that I heard; McGoogan, Wert, Sparks, Meeks, Crites, Jackson, Smith and Denney. I wrote them on the back of the photos in my 13 year old hand writing. Some were misspelled but I was in a hurry, too busy to ask, “How do you spell that?” I had better things to do, you know! These photo’s were invaluable thirty years later when I started my Genealogy Journey! SO today I’m going to show you a few of my favorites…Some are Grandpa Everett’s photo’s and some are Grandma Lillian’s.

Look into her eyes. This little girl is my Grandmother, Lillian. The same one who made me help her with the pictures. At this time in her life, she had just lost her mother a year or so before. She is likely eleven. Now she lives with her Grandmother, Mary Florence Boyer, with two of her four siblings. Her Grandmother owns and operates a boarding house in Flint, Michigan. It is the very early days of the Automotive Industry. Auto workers are flooding to the plants that are springing up in Flint looking for jobs. Mary Florence’s boarding house was a busy enterprise. Lillian’s other two siblings, brothers, Lester and Wallace, live with their father and help on the farm when they are not in school. I wondered for years why she and her sister, Florence, were raised by Mary Florence after her mother died. I learned that fathers were not allowed to raise adolescent daughters unless they had remarried and the new wife lived in the home. Lillian looks like a sweet, sad young girl who is trying on a new fashion statement with her headbanded long hair, beaded necklace and the broach that is holding her shirt closed. I can not help but smile when I look at this sweet picture.

This is Nellie Best Losee (1860-1930). She was my Grandmother’s Grandmother! (My 2X Great Grandmother) She was married to Newton Losee in 1877. The Best Family came from Ontario, Canada and many of her siblings and their families came to Michigan too.

This is a small tin type photo of Newton Losee (1856-1913) as a very young man. He looks like a teenager. There is no date or any information about it. He was my Grandmother’s, Grandfather and my 2X Great Grandfather. The husband of Nellie Best. This is one of several tin type photo that Grandma had in her box.

I wish I could make this photo clearer. It is of Edwin Losee and Julie Ann Payne Losee. Newton Losee’s parents. This was also a tin type photo from the box of photos. They are my 3X Great Grandparents. They came to rural Genesee County, Michigan from Genesee County, New York. All the previous photos are from the Maternal side of my father’s family.

Next up are John Henry and Amanda McGoogan Crites. This couple spoke to me thru this photo. They have from the first time time I saw it. What a lovely old couple! It took me a long time to find where they were buried and eventually when I found their unmarked grave I put a tombstone on it. I have written quite a lot about them. They are my 2X Great Grandparents on the paternal side of my father’s family. She was a fabulous gardener and he was a hard working farmer. I found their home in Uniondale, Indiana in 2017. It was actually her home. She bought it after her parents died with the money they left her. It was a fairly unusual real estate transaction for the time period. Amanda and John had lived on John’s father’s farm and worked the farm for many years. She must have gotten tired of it and wanted to move to town. The latest owner of her house showed me her signature on the deed. They welcomed me into the house and shivers rattled through out my body as tears ran down my face. There is so much I could say here but there is not enough room in this blog.

James W Smith Family

This is the James W Smith Family. James W. and Oella Smith are the couple seated in the center of the photo. They are my 2X Great Grandparents. James W. served in the Civil War as did several of his brothers. This is the only picture that we have of him. We have several of Oella who outlived him by nearly twenty years. In all of her pictures, she has a stern look with no evidence of a smile at all. My Great Grandmother, Cora Crites Smith, is seated left of James holding her son, James Fredrick and my Grandfather, Everett is seated on the ground in front of her with the bow tie. Cora’s husband, Alvin O. Smith (my Great Grandfather) is standing behind her. It is believed that this was taken on the day that James Fredrick was baptized. We have estimated that this photo taken about 1909 based on who is in the photo and who is not and the ages the children.

Standing Left to Right; William Harvey Jackson, Alvin Oliver Smith, William Sparks, Della Smith Sparks, Oscar Jackson, William Homer Wert, William Frampton Smith, Francis Willard Smith, Arena May Straley Smith

2nd Row Seated L to R: Ruth Jackson standing next to Dora Belle Smith Jackson, Cora Crites Smith, James W. Smith, Oella Denney Smith, Dessie Heckman Smith, holding Virgil Smith

1st Row Seated L to R; James Frank Wert, Lulu Etta Wert, Alvin A Sparks, Everett A Smith, Virgil J. Sparks, Talmage Sparks, Nora Sparks, and the last girl in the photo is Arena’s sister Ethel Straley.

Etta Clare Smith Wert

Look into her eyes. They implored me to find her! This is Etta Clair Smith. She was born in 1882 and with the loss of the 1890 Federal Census due to a fire in Washington DC, she became an nearly invisible daughter of James and Oella Smith. She married William Homer Wert in 1903 and died in 1905 while giving birth to her daughter, Lulu Etta Wert. (The little girl seated on the ground next to her brother on the far left of the first row in the James W Smith Family Photo) I had this picture identified as Etta Wert and a photo of her husband, Homer Wert, from the box of photos that Grandma had. But I had no idea how they were connected to our family. One day a fellow researcher posted a newspaper article on the internet. Both Etta Smith and Francis Smith are identified in the Splinter School photo. The light bulb came on and I went looking for Etta’s picture…Sure enough that is who she is!

So now you know why I can not say that I have one favorite photo. I have many and they have all played a very important role in my genealogy research. I am lucky that my Grandmother Lillian felt so passionate about the family photos! I have a handful of photo’s that are not identified. I keep them because I believe one day I’ll find that relative who can identify them.

Happy Hunting,


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 2 of 2022 – Favorite Find

For me this is difficult because I have quite a number of “favorite finds”. I will start my very first favorite find in the early years of my research. When I was a child I asked my Grandfather, Everett Smith, where he grew up and he said “Roanoke, Indiana.” So logically when I started my research for my Smith Ancestors, I started looking in Roanoke. He had a picture of his High School and it was indeed in Roanoke.

I spent six months or more researching and they all came up as dead ends. It just did not make since. Little did I know that they were hiding all of 8.6 miles away in another county. They lived in Nine Mile, Indiana which is located in Allen County, Indiana. When you are researching “Smith’s” , 8.6 miles away in a different county is like being a world away! Roanoke was a good size community in Huntington County compared to Nine Mile which was a crossroad farm community with a couple of churches.

When I began my research I was living in Illinois. Every fall I would take a few days off from work and go visit my Grandchildren who were living in Michigan. On this day I decided to take a more rural route to Michigan by way of a side trip to the Fort Wayne area. I took a US Highway 30 through northern Indiana from the southeast suburbs of Chicago to Fort Wayne. The fall leaves were beautiful. The sun was shining and I traveled the whole distance with the window rolled down absorbing every second of the fall ride. My first stop was at the Methodist church at Nine Mile, Indiana. I had found records which indicated that my Smith Family had likely lived nearby and that the father, James and some of the children maybe buried in the cemetery at this church.

I found a section of the cemetery in the northwest corner which seemed to have the oldest stones. There was a pile of broken stone pieces stacked on a base. When I moved them, I was thrilled to discover that they were the Smith stones I was searching for.

Broken stone of James and Susannah Smith, Kisiah, Charles and Barberry in the cemetery located in Nine Mile Indiana next to the United Methodist Church of Nine Mile.

I would learn later that all these pieces are actually one stone. The church burial records which I would later obtain from a cemetery trustee would show that James, Charles, Kisiah and a baby name Barberry are all buried in this plot and listed on this stone. Susannah is also on the stone but the church has no record of her being buried here.

I later had the stone fixed

Mary Ann , wife of Jonathan Kimble and daughter Susanna

The remaining Smiths’ buried in the Nine Mile Cemetery are in the plot to the south of the broken stone. I noticed the stone that day but I did not record it. I noticed it because the stone looks like it is growing out of a tree. I thought to myself, “what a shame” that a tree has grown in that woman’s grave. I took a picture of it and read the name on the stone but thought nothing of it. After returning home and obtaining burial records from the trustee of the cemetery, I realized that Mary Ann Kimble and her daughter Susanna, who are buried in this grave are the daughter and granddaughter of James and Susannah Smith.

I had been wandering this cemetery for nearly two hours now and I needed to get back on the road again to get to Michigan for my visit with my Grandchildren. I decided I would stop again on my way home and see if I could find out anything more.

When I returned from Michigan after my visit, I had the better part of an afternoon to see what I could find out about my these people who seemed to be related to me. After arriving at Nine Miles again, I knocked on the door of the the house directly across the street from the church. I hoped that it was the parsonage but now days you just can not be sure. I hoped that maybe I could talk to the minister about church records. It was a nice brick home much like the homes that my Grandparents had lived in while Grandpa Everett was a minister. The brick looked like the same as the bricks the church had been built with.

A lovely middle aged woman answered the door. She was dressed in a nice pair of dress slacks with a very pretty blouse. I explained who I was and what had brought me to Nine Mile Indiana. The reaction on her face showed a bit of surprise followed by a large warm smile. She offered her hand to me in a warm welcome. We chatted about the church a bit but she did not know much about its history. At this point in my search I could not be certain if this was my family or not. I had hoped the find out that the church had lots of old records and they would be able to answer all my questions! For a Family historian this is the equivalent of hitting the lottery!

She was a very nice lady and as it turned out she was the minister. It brought a smile to my face. Oh much had changed since the days that Grandpa Everett was a minister. In their day, Grandma Lillian would have been answering the door. She would have had a dress on with her apron wrapped around her waist careful to wipe her hands before opening the door and inviting you in. The parsonage door was always open to visitors.

My sensed that she was on her way out the door when she answered the doorbell and that turned out to be true. She was headed to the hospital to visit with a church member. She asked if I wanted to see the church. “I’ll unlock it for you and when I return in an hour or so I’ll close it up then.” I told her that would be wonderful. We walked across the street chatting about the church and the quaint cemetery which surrounds it. She unlocked the door and opened it for me. Inviting me in, she said “enjoy your visit and I hope you find what you are looking for.” “I’ll be back in an hour or so to lock up”, she said. I went into the church and she walked back to the parsonage getting in her car and driving away. I thought to myself that it is a shame that we must lock our church doors these days. In Grandpa’s day, the church was always open. You never knew when someone would need to have a few minutes with God.

The church looked very much like the churches of my childhood. In the vestibule there were stairs leading up to the sanctuary or down to what I imagines were Sunday school rooms and a nursery. As I walked into the sanctuary, my thoughts turn to Grandpa Everett, wondering if he had ever been here. Could this have been his church? As I sat in the back of the church in the pew, I took in the beauty of this sanctuary. It is arrange much like a Theater, the pews fanned out with the focal point being the alter. It was not large but very warm and inviting.

I sat there in the peace and stillness of this beautiful church, with God, Grandpa Everett and other family members who I had not met yet but was certain that I would meet them soon. I was disappointed to find out that there were no Church records to speak of. “Oh we have a dusty old box in the corner of the Office downstairs which might have a few things in it” the minister had stated, “but probably nothing that will help you much.”

I decided that a trip to the wash room downstairs would be necessary before I got back in the car and headed to Chicago. The basement was dark. They had a nice fellowship hall, a kitchen, a nursery and restrooms. When I came out of the rest room, I was thinking about the church as I walked toward the stair way to leave. To the right of the stairway hanging on the wall, was a quilt. I was at first startled but soon intrigued by it. It become the most exciting find for me in my family history search in my early years of research. It was my winning lottery ticket!

Crazy Quilt made by the Ladies Aid Society in 1906

I snapped on the lights so I could see it better. This quilt was made by the Ladies Aid Society in 1906. It was a turn of the century Crazy Quilt block design. On each of the pieces of fabric, a family member embroidered a name of each family member who belonged to this church. In 1906, my Grandfather and his parents still lived in the area at that time. I was certain that there would be family members names on this quilt, if the man named James Smith who is buried in the cemetery was indeed my 3 times Great Grandfather.. So I quickly took a picture of the quilt as a whole and each of the blocks thinking that I could have family members on this quilt. There were so many names and I did not have time to write them all down. I had no idea when I would get back her again.

I returned home to Chicago and spent the next few weeks (after work) trying to transcribe the names correctly from the embroidered names on each block into a spreadsheet. Then I spent some time researching the names in an effort to verify them. There are 313 names of church members in the Nine Mile United Methodist Church in 1906 listed on this quilt. This is a Genealogist’s Winning Lottery Ticket. My Great Grandparents and my Grandfather were not among the families listed but several cousin were..

One Quilt block

I have not looked at these names for a while. Now that there is so much more data available online and I am retired, I need to resurrect this project and work on it ! This was part of the reason that I started Blogging when I did. It has been a long time since I have looked at these families. This was the first of my many favorite finds! Oh I might add that my other hobby is quilting!

Happy Hunting,


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 1 of 2022 – Foundations

Steeple Ashton in Wilshire, England

When I saw the word “Foundations” as the prompt for the first week of January, it did not take me long to decide what to write about but the question was who? As Genealogist, we are always looking for our foundations. We are looking for those people who came before us to create this ever evolving family that we belong to.

This week I was casually looking at DNA matched on Ancestry when I came along a Silverthorn connection. In the Ancestry Thruline, I had a potential 5th Great Grandparent, George Silverthorn. At the 5th Great Grandparent level, you have a foundation of 128 Grandmothers and Grandfathers or 64 sets of Grandparents. So far in Ancestry, at this level in my tree, I have 83 of the 128 Grandparents identified and DNA matches associated with these grandparents. They are not all verified but Ancestry has found data to indicate that these people could be a part of my foundation!

This week with the Silverthorn couple I decided to work on verifying them. My first known Silverthorn was Dorothy Emeline Silverthorn who was born in Ontario in 1834. She married John Landon Best in 1851 in Ontario. They are my 3rd Great Grandparents. Dorothy’s parents, my 4th Great Grandparents are William Silverthorn (1793) and Anna White (1809). They were married in Bayham, Ontario. William’s parents are George Silverthorn (1760) and Anna Morgan (1763). They lived in New Jersey and married there but later left with George’s parents and other members of his family for Canada when it became obvious that the Revolutionary War was going to break out. They were Loyalist. George and Anna are my 5th Grandparents. I have a lot of Canadian Loyalist in my foundation!

My 6th Great Grandparents are Thomas Silverthorn (1717) and Johannah Newman (1718). Thomas was born in Amesbury, Wiltshire, England in 1717. They had ten children. That is a lot of Silverthorn families to look at this week. My 7th Great Grandparents are Oliver Silverthorne (1686) and Mary Champion de Crespigny (1688). This couple had three sons, George, Thomas and William. Oliver and his three sons were the first Silverthorne Family to come to America in the early 1700’s. They came with 97 other Quaker families and settled in Hunterdon County, New Jersey. The family name seemed to change from Silverthorne to Silverthorn at about the time they emigrated.

My 8th Great Grandparents are Oliver Silverthorne (1655) and Margaret Mist (1661). Oliver was born in Netheravon, Wiltshire, England in July of 1686. This family is documented in the United Kingdom for six more generations to my 14th Great Grandparents, John William Silverthorne who was born in 1450 and his wife Aussie who was born in 1460. All generations of this British Silverthorne family were known to come from Ashton, Wilshire, England. There was a Silverthorne Family Association who has thoroughly documented this family in England and documented some of the Silverthorn Family in America. It has since disbanded but their website is still visible on the internet. The UK Findagrave site has very accurate and complete data on this family also. I have spent several days comparing it. Steeple Ashton is the Anglican parish where the Silverthorne family records can all be found. The cemetery is where generations the Silverthorne families are buried.

I would say that 14 generations is a pretty firm foundation for the Silverthorne / Silverthorn family!

Happy Hunting, Jan