Thomas and Amanda Green, part 1

My previous post about native American ancestry featured a framed portrait of Amanda and Thomas Green. Amanda was one of the reputed carriers of native ancestry in our family. Thomas and Amanda were the parents of Dad’s Grandma Case, born Cynthia Loretta Green. The framed portrait undoubtedly hung in the home of Edwin and Loretta Case and remained in that house as successive generations of Cases made it their home. Ed and Loretta’s youngest child Theodore Harry “Pete” Case and his wife Pearl lived there for decades in my younger years. Pete and Pearl’s son Burgess lived there until his death in 2010. I took the photo of Thomas and Amanda’s portrait on Burg’s living room wall when I visited him with Dad, my uncles Mick (Donovan) and Hud (Harold), and my cousin Rodney in January 2005.

Burgess Case, last custodian of the Greens' portrait in the Case home
Burgess Case, last custodian of the Greens’ portrait in the Case home

Harold Springsteen’s family is now the custodian of the Greens’ portrait. If I remember correctly,  Hud’s son-in-law Steve Fish did some restorative work on the frame. Steve has asked me more than once for information about the people in the portrait, so I will explore that question here.

As an aside, my brother Ed married Wendy Butler back in 1971 shortly before Dee and I were married. Ed and Wendy’s family have been particularly close to Mike (Hud’s son) and Betty Springsteen’s family. They invested together in a primitive cabin, the Old Berry Homestead, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Mike’s sister Sue is one of Wendy’s closest friends. Sue married a fellow named Steve Fish, so Wendy’s friend is her aunt cousin Sue. Ed and Wendy’s daughters are related to Sue and Steve’s sons on both sides of their family. Over the years there has been a lot of campfire guitar music in all of these families. When Wendy’s dad Jim Butler died recently, a recording of one of Jim’s favorite songs was played before his service: “I’m My Own Grandpa”. It seemed somehow appropriate.

Hey, I can tell a story like a Springsteen. Let me give you some background on an incident that happened last week. Back in the primeval mists of time … but I wouldn’t want to digress, would I? Returning to Jim’s brother-in-law Steve’s question: who were Thomas and Amanda Green?

Thomas Green's enlistment
Thomas Green’s enlistment

Thomas M Green was apparently born in Genesee County, New York on November 17, 1830. His enlistment papers dated February 29, 1864 state that he was born in Wyoming County, New York, but Wyoming County wasn’t created from part of Genesee County until 1841. His enlistment papers also state that he was 34 years of age, which is not consistent with other records. The 1900 US Census states that he was born in November 1830, and Thomas’s death certificate found at SeekingMichigan.org gives his date of birth as November 17, 1830. Elizabeth Green, Thomas’s second wife, identified Thomas’s father as Thomas Green and did not know who his mother was.

Thomas Green’s parents were identified as E. Green and Cynthia Ames in Montcalm County marriage registrations for 1907, found on FamilySearch.org. Other researchers have identified Thomas’s father as Esac or Esick, but I haven’t yet found evidence to support that claim. I have found census enumerations for an Esick Green, Isaac Greens, and E Greens in western New York, so one of them might be Thomas’s father.

Thomas and Amanda were easily found in US Census records from 1860 onward, but where was Thomas before 1860? Census records prior to 1850 list only the head of household by name, so I needed to look for Thomas in the 1850 census. Searching on Ancestry.com, I found a potential listing for our Thomas Green in Holland, Erie County, New York, just west of Wyoming County. The Daniel Dodge Jr household included a Thomas Green, 19, born in New York. Other household members were Daniel Dodge Jr, 77, born in Massachusetts, Seyntta Dodge, 45, born in Vermont, and Amos Dodge, 10 or 16, born in New York. Might this Thomas have been more than a boarder? Family relationships weren’t recorded in US census enumerations until 1880. Could Seyntta Dodge be Cynthia Ames? Searching in the 1860 US Census on Ancestry, I found Cynthia Dodge, 54, born in Vermont and Amos Dodge, 19, born in New York living in North Plains Township, Ionia County, Michigan. It appears that Thomas Green and Amos Dodge were half-brothers, sons of Cynthia Ames. Thomas’s grandson Avey Case would later marry Amos’s granddaughter Gladys Teed. Avey and Gladys were second cousins before they were husband and wife.

Amanda’s early history is also unclear. Amanda’s death certificate states that she was born February 5, 1838 in Ohio. Thomas, the informant for personal information, gave Amanda’s father’s name as James Brown but he apparently had no knowledge of her mother. Family legend suggests that Amanda’s mother might have been native American, but DNA evidence does not support that speculation.

Obituary, Amanda Green, 1906
Obituary, Amanda Green, 1906

An obituary for Amanda Green, probably published in either the Stanton Weekly Clipper or the Montcalm Herald, provides a few clues of her early life. The obituary states that she was born in Medina, Ohio, perhaps referring to the county rather than to the city within the county. It further reports that Amanda moved to Michigan with her parents around 1840. The obituary states that Thomas and Amanda, married in 1855, were the parents of seven children, with a son and four daughters still living.

Who were Thomas and Amanda’s seven children? That, too, is not entirely clear. We can follow their family household in the population schedules of federal census enumerations:

  1. Julia M Green, 13, born in Michigan
  2. George R Green, 11, born in Ohio
  3. Cynthia L Green, 7, born in Michigan
  4. Emma M Green, 2, born in Michigan
  5. Rowena Green, 6 months, born in Michigan

We haven’t accounted for seven children. Perhaps two were stillborn or died in infancy. Are these five Amanda’s survivors? Where was Julia in 1860? Stay tuned for a further look at Thomas and Amanda Green’s family.

Who are the Indians in your family?

When I was young I would occasionally hear my elders mention Grandma Olsen’s Indian ancestors. It was asserted that Grandma’s mother Loretta Case showed Indian characteristics and that Loretta was an excellent hunter. Loretta’s mother Amanda Green was presumed to be part Indian. I think that Grandma Olsen might have acknowledged that family belief at one time, but she disputed it when I interviewed her in 1981. See my reposting of that interview: From the archives—Recollections of Verda Olsen.

Here’s a bit of family context:

Goldy V Case birth record notes, circa 1980
Goldy V Case birth record notes, circa 1980
Verda and Aden Springsteen with John, Ed, Lorna, Loretta, Madge, Harold and Donovan
Verda and Aden Springsteen with John, Edwin, Lorna, Loretta, Madge, Harold and Donovan
  • Grandma Olsen was born to Edwin and Loretta Case near the now-vanished community of Titus in Sheridan Township, Mecosta County, Michigan on October 15, 1899. Her birth registration in the office of the Mecosta County Clerk records her name as Goldy V Case. She was known most of her life as Verda, and gave her name as Verda G. Olsen when I knew her. Verda married Aden Loyal Springsteen on her 19th birthday, October 18, 1928. Marriage registers record the place of marriage as Remus, but it might have been at the family home nearby in Titus. Aden and Verda’s oldest child, John, died in 1934 after a farm accident. My father, Edwin Springsteen, is the fourth of seven children in their family. Aden died on March 6, 1941 in the Carson City hospital. His death was the result of injuries sustained as a passenger in a car-train accident in Stanton. Verda married Fred O. Olsen on July 22, 1945 in Sheridan, Montcalm County, Michigan. Grandpa Olsen died on January 19, 1975 in Clearwater Florida. Grandma died on July 27, 1984 at the United Memorial Hospital in Greenville, Michigan.
Frank, Avey, Elsie, Loretta, Pete, Ed, Charlie, Verda, and John Case
Back row: Frank and Avey Case; middle row: Elsie, Loretta, Theodore, Edwin and Charles Case; front row: Verda and John Case
  • Cynthia Loretta Green was born to Thomas and Amanda Green on October 6, 1860 or 1861 in North Plains Township, Ionia County, Michigan. She married John Wesley Criss on February 28, 1877 in New Haven Township, Gratiot County. Their daughter Stella died in 1881. Wesley and Loretta were divorced by decree of the Montcalm County Circuit Court on March 7, 1883. Loretta married Edwin Case sometime in 1883. Verda was the sixth of their seven children. Loretta died on March 19, 1930 in Sheridan Township, Mecosta County. Edwin Case died on November 23, 1935 in Sheridan Township. Their home in Titus was later the home of their youngest son Theodore “Pete” Case and his wife Pearl (Buxton) Case. After their death it was the home of Pete and Pearl’s son Burgess, who died in 2010. Fortunately, the framed portrait of Thomas and Amanda Green was removed from the the old Case home sometime before the house burned in 2011.
Portrait of Thomas and Amanda Green
Portrait of Amanda and Thomas Green
Thomas and Amanda Green
Thomas and Amanda Green
Obituary, Amanda Green, 1906
Obituary, Amanda Green, 1906
  • Amanda R. Brown was born to James Brown and an unknown mother on February 5, 1838 in Medina County, Ohio. Amanda was presumably married to John Rene Clark, the father of their son and daughter who were born in the late 1850s. Contrary to the statement in her obituary, she probably married Thomas M. Green around 1860, before the birth of their first child, Cynthia Loretta Green. Amanda died in Stanton, Montcalm County, Michigan on April 19, 1906. Thomas married Elizabeth Maria Whiteman on July 5, 1907 in Greenville, Montcalm County. He died in Greenville on December 30, 1910.

Does Amanda look to you like a daughter of native American ancestry? Neither my father nor I exhibit any DNA markers commonly associated with native American populations. If Amanda were half native-American, Dad would probably have inherited some of that DNA.

Sharp Cemetery, Anna Springsteen inscription
Sharp Cemetery, Anna Springsteen inscription

The other suspected native in our family tree is Anna, wife of Staats Springsteen. Anna was born about 1770 of unknown parentage. She died on February 22, 1861, presumably at home with her son-in-law and daughter Robert and Debby Chambers in Deerfield Township, Livingston County, Michigan. Staats served in Butler’s Rangers under the British North American Indian Department during the American Revolution. Staats was not of native American ancestry, but he fought alongside Indians during the war and was reported to know at least one native dialect. As a Loyalist, he was granted land in Upper Canada, now part of Ontario, after the war. Descendants of his older brother Caspar Springsteen, also a veteran of Butler’s Rangers, have heard of claims that Staats’s wife was native. A notation on one of the land petitions filed by Staats asserted that his children might be illegitimate, which could be explained by an unsanctioned marriage to a native woman. See Staats and Anna Springsteen—So Many Questions for more about this subject.

As we know, people were native to our continent long before it was called America. In the United States we refer to these people as Native Americans. In Canada, they are called First Nations. There was a time in our country’s history when people were ashamed to be known as descendants of what were then politely called Indians. Many native ancestors and their associated family heritage were intentionally lost in the mists of time. In more recent times it has become somewhat fashionable to claim native ancestry based on vague family tradition. Cherokee ancestry seems to be particularly popular. How many people who claim native ancestry have any understanding of native culture and heritage?

Do you have Native American or First Nations ancestry? You might, but don’t just take family tradition at face value. As with all family research, you should look for solid evidence.

DNA relatives

2015 was the year that DNA testing opened new windows on my family history research. Dee and I did autosomal testing with the three primary testing companies here in the United States. These tests produced long lists of prospective cousins who presumably share ancestors in common with us. Those potential cousins might have information that we don’t have about our ancestors. Coordinated research of shared DNA and traditional genealogy can reveal ancestry that we weren’t aware of.

DNA Relatives on 23andMe

Sometimes things aren’t as they appear. A DNA match might be a false call as a relative. Our chromosomes are comprised of DNA segments from different branches of our family trees with no signs marking their boundaries. A mixture of the DNA from both of our parents might match part of a segment from a single ancestor on someone else’s chromosome, giving the appearance of shared DNA from a single common ancestor. This is fairly common for small matching DNA segments. This DNA is identical by chance (IBC), not identical by descent (IBD) from a common ancestor. You might also see IBC segments referred to as identical by state (IBS). Many prospective DNA relatives who share very small segments of DNA with us are not in fact our relatives.

On the other hand, the fact that you don’t share DNA with another tester doesn’t mean that you are not distantly related. Our cells contain 22 pairs of autosomal chromosomes, one of each pair from each parent. For example, we have a pair of Chromosome 1s, one from our father and one from our mother. The single Chromosome 1 that we received from our mother was created by recombining the DNA from the pair of Chromosome 1s she received from her parents. The recombined Chromosome 1 might have been created by taking some DNA from the Chromosome 1 she got from her father, then crossing over to take the next portion of DNA from the Chromosome 1 she got from her mother, then crossing back over again in similar fashion. This process of recombination passes on only half of the DNA from each parent and might not pass on entire segments of DNA from some ancestors. Over the generations, many distant ancestors drop out of our genetic composition entirely.

DNA Comparison on 23andMe

 

How, then, do our lists of potential DNA relatives and our knowledge of direct ancestors from genealogical research correspond to each other?

  • DNA segments shared with distant DNA relatives, when combined with knowledge of our family lines, can reveal or confirm common ancestors and break through brick walls.
  • Many apparent DNA relatives who share only small segments of DNA with us are not in fact related to us.
  • Known distant ancestors’ DNA might not have been passed down to us or to other testers who might in fact share those ancestors.
  • Sometimes DNA testing indicates unknown branches in our family trees. Nevertheless, established family heritage is an important part of who we are. DNA testing combined with traditional research can aid in finding our ancestry.

I encourage traditional genealogists to add DNA testing to their arsenal of research tools. Unless you are just interested in a direct lineage, DNA testing is likely to expand your family knowledge considerably. When you separate the wheat from the chaff, those DNA relatives can be good connections.