A Case of Caleb Georges

Names often run in families. In my Grandma Olsen’s family, the name Caleb George is a prime example. Within the scope of my current knowledge, this name originated in the family of my great-great-great grandparents Jonathan and Esther Case, although there were at least two Caleb Case households enumerated in New York state in 1840.

Edwin and Loretta Case's family. Back row: Frank and Avey; middle row: Elsie, Loretta, Theodore, Edwin and Charles; front row: Verda and John
Edwin and Loretta Case’s family. Back row: Frank and Avey; middle row: Elsie, Loretta, Theodore, Edwin and Charles; front row: Verda and John

Grandma Olsen, by the way, was born Goldy Verda Case. Like her mother and others in her family, she was called by her middle name. Verda married Aden Springsteen in 1918. After Aden died in 1941, Grandma married Fred Olsen in 1945, and was known henceforth as Verda G. Olsen.

In 1851 Jonathan and Esther Case lived with their family in East Oxford Township, Oxford County, Canada West, in the British Province of Canada. Jonathan’s presumed younger brother William Case and his wife Sarah Ann lived nearby. Jonathan and William Case were both farmers, living in log homes. Jonathan, William, and Sarah (Ogden) Case had all been born in New York state. Esther/Ester (David) Case had been born in Vermont. Based on the birth locations of sons and daughters reported in the 1851 Census of East Oxford Township, Jonathan and Esther apparently moved west to what was then Upper Canada about 1836, followed by William and Sarah around 1842.

Cases in Oriel Pioneer Cemetery
Cases in Oriel Pioneer Cemetery, Oxford County

Among the members of Jonathan and Esther’s household in 1851 were my great-great grandfather Joshua and his younger brother Caleb George Case. I don’t know if Caleb George was the first of that name in his extended family, but as we shall see he wouldn’t be the last.

Those unfamiliar with Canadian history should understand that there was no country of Canada until 1867. Before 1763, eastern North America consisted of New France, the British colonies that would rebel in 1776, and the Spanish colony of Florida. After the Seven Years War, known in the United States as the French and Indian War, New France became part of the British Empire. This new domain was split into the provinces of Nova Scotia, in the east, and Quebec, which extended through the Great Lakes region to the Mississippi River. With the migration of British Loyalists across the northern frontier of the new United States, Quebec was divided in 1791 into the predominantly French province of Lower Canada and the mostly English province of Upper Canada. Upper and lower referred not to north and south but to location along the St. Lawrence River valley. Upper Canada was along the upper reaches of the St. Lawrence River, along the Niagara and Detroit Rivers, and on the northern shores of Lakes Ontario and Erie. The Canadas (Lower and Upper) were combined in 1841 into the unified Province of Canada. When the nation of Canada was formed in 1867 from the British colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Canada, Oxford County became part of the new Canadian Province of Ontario.

Caleb George Case, 1838-1910

Jonathan and Esther Case’s son Caleb George was born in East Oxford Township on 1 April 1838. On 10 June 1860 Caleb married Emily Spencer, whose family had been neighbors in 1851.

In the 1861 Census of Oxford County, Caleb was listed living with his parents in East Oxford Township and also with Emily who was living with her parents in neighboring North Norwich Township. Caleb was identified as a farmer in both households.

The 1870 United States Federal Census of Lapeer County, Michigan found Caleb and Emily with their family in the community of North Branch, Michigan. He was recorded as a hotel keeper and as a citizen of the United States. Caleb and Emily’s household included their children:

  • Eunice, age 9, born in Canada
  • Charles, age 7, born in Canada
  • Ester, age 5, born in Michigan
  • Caleb G., age 3, born in Michigan

This indicates that Caleb and Emily apparently moved west to Michigan around 1864. Additional household members were:

  • Frank Weed, a hotel clerk, born in Maine
  • Phineas White, an attorney at law, born in Michigan
  • David Frodd, a hotel worker, born in Scotland
  • Emily Case, a hotel waiter, born in Canada
  • Emily Kennedy, a hotel waiter, born in Canada
  • Roger McTaggart, a house carpenter, born in Canada
  • Samuel West, a barber, born in Virginia

The hotel waiter Emily Case looks like a potential relative. In fact, she was Caleb’s younger sister, a daughter of Jonathan and Esther Case. Emily Kennedy might also have been a relative, given that Kennedys were granted the original land patent for the lot where William Case lived in East Oxford.

In 1880 Caleb and Emily Case were next door to William and Sarah Kennedy in Burlington Township, Lapeer County. Both men were identified as farmers. Sarah Kennedy, a daughter of Jonathan and Esther Case, was Caleb’s older sister. Caleb and Emily’s household included their children Ester, Caleb, and Albert as well as a servant named Stephen Bull who would marry Ester in July of 1880.

In 1900 the elder Caleb was living in the village of Vassar in Tuscola County, Michigan. He was recorded in the census as a divorced bartender. Emily was living in the village of Clifford, Burlington Township, Lapeer County. She was listed as a widow in the household of her son-in-law and daughter Thomas and Elma McLaughlin. Emily was recorded as having been the mother of five children, four of whom were still living. Caleb and Emily’s son Charles had in fact died in 1873.

Caleb and Emily were remarried in Clifford, Tuscola County on 8 October 1906.

Emily Spencer Case died of a pelvic abscess on 26 September 1907 in Dayton Township, Tuscola County. Personal information provided for her death record stated that she had first been married at the age of 17 and that she had been the parent of six children, three of whom were still living. Ester Bull had died in 1905.

Caleb George Case died of pneumonia on 19 February 1910 while visiting his son in Dayton Township, Tuscola County. His sister Emily Frances Catto reported that Caleb’s parents were Johnathan Case and Ester David. Caleb’s and Emily’s mortal remains were laid to rest in the West Burlington Cemetery near Silverwood, Lapeer County, Michigan.

Caleb George Case, 1867-1910

Caleb and Emily Case’s son Caleb George was born 31 May 1867 in Burlington Township, Lapeer County, Michigan. As already noted, he was living with his parents in Lapeer County, Michigan in 1870 and 1880. Caleb married Phebe Helen Smith in Lapeer on 1 October 1890. Phebe’s parents, like Caleb’s, had been born in Canada.

In 1900 Caleb and Phebe were living in Koylton Township, Tuscola County, which borders Burlington Township, Lapeer County. Caleb was recorded as a farmer. Their household included four children:

  • Wilma, born in September 1891
  • Beatrice, born in March 1894
  • Charles, born in July 1896
  • Helen, born in April 1900

Helen died on 6 August 1900.

Caleb died of pneumonia in Dayton Township, Tuscola County on 21 February 1910, two days after his father. He was buried in the West Burlington Cemetery.

Phebe was recorded in the 1910 census living as a widow in Dayton Township. She was reported as the mother of six children, five still living:

  • Wilma, age 18
  • Beatrice, age 15
  • Charley, age 12
  • Newell, age 4
  • Emily, age 1

Phebe lived in Detroit in 1920 with Charles, Newell, and Emily in her household. She was reported as having no occupation, but she had taken in two female teachers and a housekeeper as lodgers. Her daughter and son-in-law Wilma and Jasper Dawson were recorded as a separate household in the same dwelling. Jasper, who had been born in Canada and had lived in Tuscola County, was an auditor for the post office. Phebe’s daughter Beatrice had married Earl Feller and subsequently died after a miscarriage in 1916.

Phebe was living with her son Charles in Detroit at the time of the 1920 and 1940 census enumerations. In 1940 grandson Charles Dawson was living with them. His mother Wilma had died in 1921 when he was just over a year old.

Phebe died in Saginaw, Michigan on 1 May 1950. I don’t know where her remains were laid to rest.

Caleb George Kennedy, 1857-1920

Jonathan and Esther Case’s daughter Sarah Ann and her husband William H Kennedy had six daughters and two sons of which I am aware. Caleb George, their third child and first son, was the first born in Michigan. He and his younger siblings were probably all born in Lapeer County. Apparently known as George from an early age, he was born 24 December 1857.

In 1860 George Kennedy lived on a farm in Burlington Township, Lapeer County with his parents and sisters Francis, Isabell, and Layette. A Spencer family whose children had been born in Canada West lived nearby.

In 1870, apparently still living on the same farm, sisters Cornelia, Sarah, and Ester had been added to the household. Sister Francis was working as a domestic servant in a household near other Kennedys in Burlington Township. William and Sarah Kennedy’s last child, William, was born in 1873.

George married Mary Blue in Marathon Township, Lapeer County on 17 August 1879. When the 1880 census was taken, George and Mary had moved to the northwestern lower peninsula of Michigan. They were living in the household of her brother and sister-in-law Mark and Lottie Blue in Liberty Township, Wexford County. George and Mark were both farmers.

The 1890 census having been almost entirely destroyed, we next find George and Mary enumerated in neighboring Cedar Creek Township, Wexford County in 1900. George was identified as a farmer. Mary was reported as having given birth to five children, all still living. They were listed in George and Mary’s household:

  • Dawn, a teacher, born in October 1880
  • Elsie, married for two years with no children, born in August 1882
  • Sadie, born in May 1884
  • Rodney, born in June 1889
  • Mary, born in November 1897

Elsie’s husband was not in George and Mary’s household.

In 1910 George and Elsie were living in the village of Manton, Cedar Creek Township with daughter Mary and a boarder who worked in a stave mill. George was working as a night watchman for the village.

In 1920 George and Mary were living in Onaway, Presque Isle County, Michigan with their son-in-law and daughter Edward and Elsie McManus and granddaughter Tilda. Edward and George as well as a boarder were reported as laborers in a rim plant.

George died in Manton on 20 November 1920 of cirrhosis of the liver. He was buried in Fairview Cemetery, Manton.

Mary married William B. Traver on 13 April 1926 at Columbiaville, Lapeer County. He died 29 August 1929 in Lapeer. William and Mary apparently lived at Columbiaville at the time of his death.

In 1930 Mary Traver lived with 19-year-old daughter Berneta in Marathon Township, Lapeer County. Berneta was presumably William’s daughter.

Mary died of empyema of the gall bladder at Mercy Hospital in Cadillac, Wexford County on 1 July 1934. She was buried in Fairview Cemetery with her first husband Caleb George Kennedy.

Caleb George Case, 1885-1950

Caleb George “Cap” Case. Photo provided by Tom Demrick

Jonathan and Esther Case’s son William Henry Case and his wife Amy Ogden Case apparently had nine daughters and four sons. Their youngest child, Caleb George Case, was born 7 May 1885 in South Norwich, Oxford County, Ontario. He was known among his siblings as Cap.

I have not yet found William and Amy Case’s family in the 1891 census of Ontario, but in 1901 they were living in the city of London, Middlesex County, west of Oxford County. Their household members were:

  • William H. Case, born 9 May 1835 in England, immigrated to Canada in 1838
  • Amy, born 22 August 1840 in New Brunswick
  • Matilda, born 20 July 1872 in Ontario
  • Ada Anna, born 20 December 1875 in Ontario
  • Ella May, born 23 July 1877 in Ontario
  • Anna, born 9 May 1880 in Ontario
  • Alfred Leroy, born 20 March 1881 in Ontario
  • Caleb George, born 7 May 1885 in Ontario

William was in fact born in New York state and, as previously noted, probably arrived in Upper Canada in 1836 with older siblings Sarah Ann and Joshua.

Caleb was known in adulthood as George C. Case and might have been called George at an early age. He married Selma Fick in Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan on 27 April 1909. In 1910 George and Selma were enumerated in Detroit. George was an assembler at a plumbing supply business. He was reported to have been naturalized after arrival in the United States in 1902.

In 1920 George was a retail grocery manager living with his sister Ella Demrick and her children in Royal Oak, Oakland County. He was reported to have immigrated in 1900 and to have been naturalized in 1912. We have seen that his family was still in Canada in 1901 so we know that he didn’t move to Michigan until later. George was also reported as divorced. In fact, Selma was granted a divorce from George on 1 March 1920. The divorce records indicate that George and Selma had no children. Selma was recorded in the 1920 census living in Detroit, working as an office clerk.

I don’t know where George was in 1930. The 1940 census found him in Lansing, Ingham County, Michigan with wife Marie. He was working as a salesman in retail electrical work. Marie informed the census enumerator that George had completed the fifth grade of school and that she had completed the fourth.

George died on 1 November 1950 in Lansing. Marie followed him in 1959. They were interred in the Evergreen Cemetery in Lansing. I have found no record of children, but don’t know that there were none.

Avey C G Case, 1886-1918

Avey C G Case, from a family portrait held by several members of the Edwin Case family
Avey C G Case, from a family portrait held by several members of the Edwin Case family

Jonathan and Esther Case’s son Joshua and his wife Sarah Chamberlin Case had six children of which I am aware, including my great-grandfather Edwin Case. After Sarah’s death, Joshua married Sarah Fisher and had three more children. Edwin Case moved west to Michigan at a young age, where he later met and married my great-grandmother Cynthia Loretta Green. Their oldest child, Avey C G Case, was born 8 January 1886 in New Haven Township, Gratiot County, Michigan. Avey’s middle initials were a nod to the name Caleb George.

In 1900 Avey was living with his parents and younger siblings in Sheridan Township, Mecosta County. His father Edwin was listed as an alien, having arrived in the United States in 1873. His mother was recorded as having been the mother of six children, all still living. This was true for her marriage with Edwin Case, but she had lost a two-year-old daughter from her first marriage. Edwin was working as a farmer. Their children were recorded as follows:

  • Ava, born in January 1886
  • Frank, born in December 1887
  • Elsie, born in July 1891
  • Charles, born in December 1893
  • John, born in March 1895
  • Goldie, born in November 1899

Birthdates given for Frank, Charles, and Goldie do not appear to be correct.

In 1910 Avey was living and working on the farm of Fred and Vinnie Teed in Bloomer Township, Montcalm County. Vinnie’s father Amos Dodge was a half-brother of Loretta Case’s father Thomas Green.

Avey married Gladys Addie Teed, Fred and Vinnie’s daughter, on 6 December 1911 in Big Rapids, Mecosta County. This is apparently an example of kissin’ cousins.

When Avey registered for the draft in September 1918 he was a store keeper. According to his sister Verda, my grandmother, this store was in the crossroads community of Titus in Sheridan Township. Avey died two months later on the 11th of December from pneumonia after being weakened by influenza, a victim of the 1918 flu epidemic.

By 1920 Gladys had moved back to Montcalm County, living next to her parents in Butternut, Bloomer Township with her four daughters:

  • Lura, age 6
  • Loree, age 6
  • Marie, age 3
  • Naomi, age 2

Gladys was working in 1920 as a dressmaker. She apparently lived in Butternut until her death in 1964. Naomi June died at the age of ten in 1927.

Caleb George Case, 1924-1995

Edwin and Loretta Case’s son Charles Edwin Case, born 15 February 1894, married Susannah Maude Gunckle on 1 October 1909 in Lake City, Missaukee County, Michigan. They had a divorce case pending in Isabella County on 24 January 1914. Apparently this was finalized at some point. They were remarried 2 January 1918 in Stanton, Montcalm County. Charles enlisted in the army on 14 August 1918, serving in the ambulance service in France. He was discharged 24 May 1919.

Charles and Maude had three sons and two daughters. Caleb George Case, their third child, was born 12 February 1924. He was informally called Josh from an early age but was commonly referred to as C G.

C G was living in 1930 with his parents in Orleans Township, Ionia County, Michigan. His father Charles was working as a machinist in the highway industry. Charles and Maude’s children were listed as follows:

  • Charles Jr., age 9
  • Orval G., age 7
  • G., age 6
  • Rachel J., age 3
  • Delilia, age 1

Charles’s brother Theodore was also living with them, working as a factory laborer.

Charles died of coronary thrombosis in the village of Sheridan, Montcalm County on 7 January, 1936. My father, Edwin Springsteen, recalls that Charlie died while working at his brother John Case’s garage in Sheridan. John opened the Oldsmobile dealership in Sheridan that was owned and operated for decades by Jake Beardslee and his son Denny.

In 1940, C G was living with his mother and three siblings in the city of Ionia, where Maude was working as a house keeper in a prison. Orval, Rachel, and Delilah were listed in the household as well as C G.

C G enlisted in the armed forces of the United States at Kalamazoo, Michigan on 27 March 1943. I don’t know what branch of military service he was assigned to, where he served, or for how long. Dad recalls that C G met his future wife while serving in the South. C G lived in South Carolina after World War II. At some point he married his wife as Mary Lee Case. C G had at least one child, Caleb George Case, Jr. I would certainly welcome more information about this part of our family.

Dad thinks the only time he saw C G after the war was while travelling between my parents’ winter home in Florida and their summer home in Michigan. I recall that this occurred while my family was living in Raleigh, North Carolina, which would have been between 1989 and C G’s death. Dad remembers his cousin C G as being “quite a mechanic.” I understand that assessment as a real compliment from a man who was a skilled craftsman of carpentry in his working days.

C G died 21 February 1995 in Marion, Marion County, South Carolina. His grave is in the Mount Hope Cemetery, Florence, South Carolina.

Caleb George Case, 1954-1969

All I know about C G’s son Caleb George Case is from his memorial record on Find A Grave. He was born 5 July 1954, died 2 May 1969, and was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, Florence, South Carolina.

A heritage of names

Our names might mean as much or more to our parents as they do to us. Sometimes they are given to us to honor a particular person. Sometimes they appeal to a parent’s interests or inventiveness. In the past, naming patterns were often predictable, with first- and second-born sons and daughters named after grandparents. Sometimes we are given a traditional family name to carry on. Invoking the name of a person of authority can convey power. What, then, is in a name? As with so many things, we need to dig a bit to gain better understanding and appreciation.

Maternal kin

When we think of family lines our surname ancestry is often the first thing that comes to mind. Our initial interest in genealogy and the broader topic of family history is likely to be curiosity about our father’s male ancestors. We might then expand our interest to explore our mother’s male ancestors and, more broadly, each of our grandparents and the families they grew up in. But what about our chain of maternal ancestors? They might not get the attention they deserve because they don’t typically carry a surname from generation to generation. In fact, that is one of the factors that makes our discovery of their identities and lives a greater challenge.

Finding our maternal ancestors

We don’t have to delve back many generations in our ancestry to find a mother referred to as Mrs. John Smith. If we are in fact dealing with such a common name, sorting out the right John Smith from others of the same name can be quite a challenge. But Mrs. John Smith, or even Mrs. Clyde Fisher can present a whole new level of difficulty. If we don’t know from personal family acquaintance that Clyde’s wife’s name was Idell we need to find records, letters, pictures, or something else that relates them as husband and wife and provides her given name. Further research might be required to learn that her given name was actually Florence Idell. We still might not have discovered that her surname at birth was Dennis. If a woman was married more than once we encounter further challenges in finding evidence of her life.

A corollary puzzle comes when we try to find married daughters. Why would we bother with that? Well, they were an integral part of their family, important in the lives of our direct ancestors. We might want to identify their descendants who show up as DNA testing matches. But even for strictly genealogical research, finding the families of our ancestors’ brothers and sisters can lead to information about their parents. A sister’s death certificate might reveal their mother’s maiden name. Although this is secondary information in regard to proving her name, it is a vital clue in the search for her identity before marriage.

DNA and our family lines

Most of the DNA in each of our cells resides in 23 pairs of chromosomes. Autosomal DNA, in Chromosomes 1-22, shapes personal characteristics aside from gender. Our autosomal DNA comes in segments that have been passed to us from any of our ancestral lines. By contrast, Y DNA (for males only) comes only from our all-male line of fathers.

X and Y chromosomes, which are paired on Chromosome 23, determine our gender. Mothers always provide an X chromosome to their children. If the father also provides an X chromosome, the child’s gender is female. If the father provides a Y chromosome, the child is genetically male. Most of us understand that Y DNA is passed down from fathers to sons. Because that DNA seldom changes in its passage through generations, it provides a very good map for common male-line ancestry among men.

So then, X DNA maps our all-female line, right? Well, no. Females receive an X chromosome from each parent, not just from their mother. My X chromosomes are a mix of the X chromosomes that Mom received from her mother and her father. Mom’s father’s X chromosomes came from his mother, but Mom’s mother’s X chromosomes are a mix of the X chromosomes she received from her mother and father. X DNA comes from a subset of our family lines, never from father to son.

A small portion of the DNA in our cells is in mitochondria, not in chromosomes. Mitochondrial DNA is passed by a mother to each of her children, male and female. Fathers do not pass on their mitochondrial DNA. Thus our mitochondrial DNA comes only from our all-female line of mothers. I received my mitochondrial DNA from Mom, but my son and daughter received theirs from my wife Dee, their mother.

Rachel Powell Dennis’s family

Marie Kidder, Idell Fisher, Rachel Dennis and Lois Kidder
Marie Kidder, Idell Fisher, Rachel Dennis and Lois Kidder

Lois Kidder, Marie Fisher, Idell Dennis and Rachel Powell are the most recent in my line of maternal ancestors. Rachel’s mother Amy Clifton and Amy’s mother Ann Borton extend that known lineage two more generations. I’ve seen a tree on Ancestry that identifies Ann’s mother as Sarah Peacock, Sarah’s mother as Susannah Ballinger, and Susannah’s mother as Mary Elizabeth Elkington in colonial New Jersey but I haven’t attempted yet to verify that information.

Rachel Powell was born in Mill Creek Township, Williams County, Ohio on March 11, 1854. She was the daughter of Joseph Powell and Amy Clifton, who were born and married in Gloucester County, New Jersey, near Philadelphia. Rachel’s parents were married at Gloucester Point, now in Camden County, New Jersey, on November 4, 1840. Rachel was apparently the seventh child of Joseph and Amy Powell.

Rachel’s mother Amy died on March 5, 1854 shortly after Rachel’s birth. Newly-met cousins of mine have seen information suggesting that Rachel might have been nursed by a Borton cousin. Rachel’s father Joseph Powell married Louisa Goss about 1855 so Rachel would have been raised by Joseph and Louisa, who had eight children born of their marriage.

Rachel’s husband John Dennis was one of my Civil War veteran ancestors. He served in the 111th Ohio Infantry regiment. I remember my granduncle Waldo Fisher, Marie Fisher’s younger brother, telling me when I was a teenager about John “Bull” Dennis’s valor as a soldier. I think the only bull was Waldo’s. Mom’s memory of her great-grandmother Rachel Dennis was her gruff assertion that “kids are goats!” Rachel apparently didn’t think it appropriate to call children kids.

Rachel married John Samuel Dennis on October 13, 1872 in Ransom Township, Hillsdale County, Michigan. Their marriage produced nine children:

  1. Joseph Clinton Dennis was born on July 20, 1873 in Michigan. He died in Morenci, Lenawee County, Michigan on November 2, 1897.
  2. Mary Amy Dennis was born on December 24, 1875 in Ransom Township, Hillsdale County, Michigan. She married William Silas Bailey on December 25, 1897 in Morenci, Lenawee County, Michigan. Will and Amy had a son and a daughter. Amy died on June 15, 1968 in or near Morenci, Lenawee County, Michigan.
  3. Hannah Dennis was born on October 13, 1878 in Hillsdale County, Michigan. She married Kelso George Blackford in Hillsdale, Hillsdale County, Michigan on October 28, 1908. I’m guessing that her sister Idell didn’t attend the wedding because Idell gave birth to my grandmother, Marie Fisher that same day. Kelly and Hannah had four sons and two daughters. Hannah died on June 26, 1951 in either Marion, Hancock County, Ohio or Knox County, Ohio.
  4. Charlotte Dennis was born on November 25, 1880 in Ransom Township, Hillsdale County, Michigan. She married Olla Leroy Moyer on April 29, 1903 in Sandusky County, Ohio. Ollie and Lottie had five sons and four daughters. Lottie died on September 16, 1978 at Spring Arbor, Jackson County, Michigan.
  5. Clara May Dennis was born on April 19, 1883 in Ransom Township, Hillsdale County, Michigan. She married Charles Lesley Schoonover on September 30, 1899 at Morenci, Lenawee County, Michigan. Charles and Clara had three sons and a daughter. Clara died in 1957, probably in Colorado where she lived in 1940 and where she was buried.
  6. Florence Idell Dennis, my great-grandmother, was born on December 23, 1885 in Ransom Township, Hillsdale County, Michigan. She married Clyde Myron Fisher on December 23, 1903 in Jasper Township, Lenawee County, Michigan. Clyde and Idell had three sons and two daughters. Idell died December 1, 1934 in Lansing, Ingham County, Michigan.
  7. Anna Lucille Dennis was born on March 31, 1888 or 1889 in Ransom Township, Hillsdale County, Michigan. She died on August 3, 1953 in Findlay, Hancock County, Ohio.
  8. Arthur John Dennis was born on September 12, 1891 in Michigan. He married Josie Charlotte Wilkinson on October 7, 1914 in Stillwater, Montana. Arthur and Josie had one son and two daughters. A. J., as he was apparently known, died on October 9, 1957 in Twin Falls, Twin Falls County, Idaho.
  9. Grace Ellen Dennis, whose name might have been Ellen Grace, was born on April 16, 1894 in Michigan. She married Charles Dewey Abell on June 22, 1914 in Monroe, Monroe County, Michigan. Charles and Grace had six sons and one daughter. Grace died on July 1, 1988 in Findlay, Hancock County, Ohio.

Rachel Dennis’s daughters passed her mitochondrial DNA to their children and on through their daughters’ daughters.

Rachel Dennis and her daughters—Back row: Hannah Blackford, Amy Bailey, Idell Fisher; Front tow: Lottie Moyer, Grace Abell, Rachel Dennis, Anna Dennis, Clara Schoonover
Rachel Dennis and her daughters—Back row: Hannah Blackford, Amy Bailey, Idell Fisher; Front tow: Lottie Moyer, Grace Abell, Rachel Dennis, Anna Dennis, Clara Schoonover

John and Rachel Dennis divorced on June 21, 1915 and had apparently lived apart for some time. Rachel Dennis, of Hillsdale, Michigan, was ordained as a Minister of the Gospel by the Assembly of God at The Gospel School in Findlay, Ohio on June 16, 1930. Rachel died on April 11, 1937 in Medina Township, Lenawee County, Michigan.

Meeting new cousins

Lois, Diane, Dee and Janet
Lois, Diane, Dee and Janet

Mom, Dee and I recently met maternal family cousins that I learned of after testing DNA with 23andMe. Almost as soon as my results were posted, Janet McCall contacted me to share DNA segment information and to ask about family lines. We quickly found our common ancestry in John and Rachel Dennis. Janet and her sister Diane, who are very interested in family history and genealogy, came out of their way to see us. Their visit was a real blessing for Mom, Dee and me.

Idell Dennis was Mom’s grandmother and Grace Dennis was Diane and Janet’s grandmother. Because Janet’s and Diane’s mother and Mom’s mother were first cousins, Mom is their second cousin. Janet and Diane are my second cousins once removed. While they were here, we shared some of the information we have about our ancestors. Mom enjoyed showing Diane and Janet a quilt that was made by Amy Dennis Bailey, Idell’s and Grace’s oldest sister.

An Amy Bailey quilt and an article about another
An Amy Bailey quilt and an article about another

What about our common DNA with Diane and Janet? Not only do Mom and I share quite a bit of our autosomal DNA with the McCalls, we carry the same mitochondrial DNA, passed down through Ann Borton, Amy Clifton, and Rachel Powell. That DNA represents an unbroken line of female ancestors reaching far back in time. My siblings have that same mitochondrial DNA, as does my sister’s niece.

Dee’s maternal ancestry

For a number of reasons, my wife’s ancestors are harder to track down than many of mine. Her maternal line is, of course, a bit of a challenge. When I met Dee her close family consisted of her mother and her grandmother living in eastern European ethnic suburbs of Chicago. Dee’s grandmother grew up in a household where Czech was spoken.

Dee’s mother, Dorothy Lorraine Dlouhy, was born on December 30, 1922 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. She married Louis Peter Van Zandt on October 16, 1943 in Cicero, Cook County, Illinois. Louis and Dorothy had one child, Dedra Van Zandt. Dee’s parents divorced on Jan 4, 1960 in Cook County, Illinois. Dorothy died on August 22, 2012 in Greenville, Montcalm County, Michigan.

Dorothy’s mother, Rose Karel, was born on April 3, 1902 in Chicago. She married Joseph Dlouhy on December 3, 1921 at her parents’ home in Chicago. Dorothy was their only child. Rose died on August 28, 1996 in Cicero.

Arrival records, New York; microfilm M237, 1820-1897; roll 432; lines 13 and 14; list number 1476. Image from Ancestry.com.
Arrival records, New York; microfilm M237, 1820-1897; roll 432; lines 13 and 14; list number 1476. Image from Ancestry.com.

Rose’s mother, Frantiska Macak, was apparently born around 1860 in Bohemia, which was then part of the Austrian Empire. One of Frances’s granddaughters, Marie Bouquet Cook, recorded her place of birth as Praha (Prague) on a family chart she drew in the late 1970s. Frances married Anton Karel in 1880, probably shortly before they sailed for America.

Anton and Frances had at least seven sons and five daughters:

  1. James Karel was born around 1881 and died young.
  2. Louis Karel was born on September 10, 1884 in Illinois. Louis married Julia O’Connor on June 28, 1905 in Cook County, Illinois. Louis and Julia had one son, who died young, and one daughter. Louis died on January 7, 1931 in Cook County, Illinois.
  3. Mary Karel was born on March 8, 1885 in Illinois. Mollie, as she was known, married John Edward Bouquet on August 27, 1908 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. John and Mollie had one son and two daughters. Mollie died on December 16, 1980 in Homewood, Cook County, Illinois.
  4. Ruzena Karel was born on January 4, 1887 and died young.
  5. Anna Karel was born on September 28, 1888 in Illinois. Anna married Antonin Vyzral on August 27, 1910 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. Antonin and Anna had two sons and two daughters. Anna married George Edward Metzger on March 28, 1941 in Rochester, Fulton County, Indiana. Anna died on October 29, 1976 in Rochester.
  6. Anton Karel was born on August 16, 1890 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. He died on October 13, 1895 in Cook County, Illinois.
  7. Emily Karel was born on March 26, 1892 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. Emma, as she was known, married George Edward Metzger on February 29, 1932 in Fulton County, Indiana. Emma died on September 25, 1941 in Richland Township, Fulton County, Indiana.
  8. Edward Karel was born on March 29, 1894 in Cook County, Illinois. He married Jane Scott about 1927. Edward died in 1959 and was buried in Dekorra, Columbia County, Wisconsin.
  9. Frank Karel was born on August 16, 1895 in Cook County, Illinois. He married Anna Kubal on December 14, 1914 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. Frank and Anna had three sons. Frank died on October 18, 1932 in Proviso Township, Cook County, Illinois.
  10. Anton Karel was born on November 21, 1898 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. He married Julia Vetrovec on July 11, 1923 in Cook County, Illinois, Tony and Julia had one son. Tony married Genevieve Tanner on September 16, 1964 in Itasca County, Minnesota. Tony died on October 27, 1987 at Deer River, Itasca County, Minnesota.
  11. Rose Karel was born on April 3, 1902 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. She married Joseph Dlouhy on Dec 3, 1921 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. Joe and Rose had one daughter. Rose died on August 28, 1996 in Cicero, Cook County, Illinois.
  12. James Karel was born about 1904 in Illinois. He married Mildred Riedl on September 14, 1943 in Cook County, Illinois. James and Mildred had one daughter. James, or Uncle Jimmy as I remember him, died on April 15, 1988 in Fairfax, Virginia.

Frances Karel died on May 9, 1943, which was Mother’s Day. Frances’s son Edward, who provided personal information for his mother’s death certificate, reported her date of birth as October 28, 1868. While I remember some family talk of a fuss about Anton leaving the old country with the family servant, this would have made Frances barely twelve years old on arrival in New York on November 12, 1880. Rose told me that she thought her mother had worked for her father’s parents.

Frantiska Karel, Dorothy Dlouhy and Rose Dlouhy
Frantiska Karel, Dorothy Dlouhy and Rose Dlouhy

The mitochondrial DNA that Frantiska Macak inherited from her unknown line of mothers has been passed in my family through Rose Karel and Dorothy Dlouhy to my wife Dee and our son and daughter who carry it today.

Family heritage

Our heritage is given to us in genetic blueprints and in the rich experience of history from the many branches of our family trees. Yet there is something unique about our all-male and all-female lineages. Our mothers in every family line have given birth to each new generation. They have cared for and shaped their children and passed on their own inheritance of life as they knew how. We are indebted to them, perhaps uniquely in our unbroken female connection to time beyond memory.

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.

Families—handle with care

In our families we might not always get along with each other, but for most of us our families are our home. Whether received by birth, adoption, or marriage, our families are people we share a great deal with in everyday life, in accomplishment, and in trial. Family experiences are often felt for generations. Yet, even with such an impact, we all too easily take them for granted.

Marie and Coyne Kidder
Marie and Coyne Kidder

My Mom, Lois Springsteen, lost her father, Coyne Kidder, to  tuberculosis when she was six years old. My Dad, Ed Springsteen, was sixteen when his father, Aden Springsteen, died from injuries sustained as a passenger in a car-train accident. I have heard Mom say many times that she and Dad earnestly hoped in their early years together to both live to see their children reach adulthood.

Lois and Ed Springsteen, 1947
Lois and Ed Springsteen, 1947

I have seen undocumented claims that both of Staats Springsteen’s parents died before he was five years old. If that is true, it must have had a significant impact on him. Who raised him? Johannes and Maria Seger, who were witnesses for Staats’s baptism on January 5, 1755, might have assumed that responsibility. They were presumably Staats’s mother Maria’s brother Johannes and his wife Maria Bradt Seger. Staats was associated with Segers/Sagers and Bradts during and after the American Revolution. Were Staats and his brothers and sisters split up?

Verda and Aden Springsteen with John, Ed, Lorna, Loretta, Madge, Harold and Donovan
Verda and Aden Springsteen with John, Ed, Lorna, Loretta, Madge, Harold and Donovan

Heartache also comes with the loss of sons and daughters, whether as children or adults. Mom never knew her two older sisters. Coyne and Marie Kidder lost daughters Phyllis Marie  and Betty Lou as infants before Mom was born.  Dad’s oldest brother Johnnie died at age 14 as the result of a farm accident. My brother Eddie died in a car accident in 1997, leaving his young daughters and wife without their truly lovable and devoted father and husband, and bringing sadness to Mom and Dad even though they had lived to see their children grown. Our extended family has experienced early death for too many loved ones.

Ron and Dee Springsteen, 1971
Ron and Dee Springsteen, 1971

When I met and married Dedra Van Zandt, I gained her small immediate family—Dee, her mother Dorothy Van Zandt, and her grandmother Rose Dlouhy. Dee’s father Louis Van Zandt had not been part of her life for many years. Dee was raised an only child of an only child in a predominantly Czech suburb of Chicago. Dee’s aunts and uncles were actually her mother’s cousins. Her extended maternal family gathered for Thanksgiving or Christmas meals featuring food from their Bohemian heritage. When I came into the picture during our college years, I was introduced to family experience and food that were new to this country boy.

The impacts of the Great Depression do not need to be explained to the older generations still with us today. Dad’s family lived on a farm in Fairplain Township just south of Sheridan, Michigan, my hometown. Aden Springsteen farmed with a team of horses, not a tractor. He fed the horses hay produced on the farm. Aden had a car, but it was put on blocks during the Depression because it was too costly to run. Still, they had food on the table and were able to barter with merchants in town.

Rose Karel and Joseph Dlouhy, 1921
Rose Karel and Joseph Dlouhy, 1921

Dee’s grandfather Joseph Dlouhy, a carpenter and contractor, reached a point during the Depression when there was no work of any kind to be found. Dee’s Grandma Dlouhy was able to get work as a tester in a perfume factory, but it was very hard to make ends meet. Dee’s Mom remembered being sent down the street to get two apples from the store for a pie but being sent home with one apple because their credit was already thin. They had a small garden on their lot that helped feed them. Nevertheless, when Dee’s grandmother appeared outdoors after one long winter, her neighbors didn’t recognize her due to the pronounced effects of malnutrition. Their life might have been even more difficult had they not chosen to limit their family to one child after growing up in large families.

The world changed for Mom’s, Dad’s, and Dee’s Mom’s families after the Depression and the Second World War.

Marie Kidder married Harold Sovereign in 1935. They gave Mom a brother and sister, Don and Nancy. Following Aden’s death, Verda Springsteen sold the farm, moved to Lansing for a few years, then moved back to Fairplain Township when she married Fred Olsen in 1945. Even though both of my parents had lost their fathers, I had grandfathers from the day I was born.

Joe Dlouhy found plenty of work in the post-war housing boom. Hard work, Rose’s careful management of resources, and Joe’s genuine concern for others in need marked their fulfillment as first-generation Americans. Joe doted on his granddaughter. I wish I had met him. He died after a heart attack in 1966, a year before I met Dee. Rose lived for another thirty years, looking after her family with great care.

Dee’s father Louis Van Zandt’s family has been a challenge to discover. I never met him and didn’t know much about his family. I did know that Louis experienced significant family instability as a child. The ‘Grandma and Grandpa Van’ that Dee knew as a girl were actually her father’s aunt and uncle. Dee’s Mom informed me that sometime during the Depression years Louis’s father Richard Van Zandt left Louis’s mother Emma with six children and no means of support. The children were placed in an orphanage. At some point the three oldest children were taken in by Richard’s older brother Louis Van Zandt and his wife Lena, who had no children of their own. Dee’s father Louis, along with his brother Richard and his sister Evelyn, were raised to adulthood by Louis and Lena. Dee thinks that one of the younger sisters, Jeanette, Dorothy, or Elizabeth, was eventually adopted.

How did Dee’s father’s childhood experience influence his life? Dee remembers a family story about teaching children not to trust anyone, even family members. After a contentious divorce, Louis remarried and had another daughter and a son. Hopefully the rest of his journey in this life brought a greater sense of assurance and trust.

Dorothy Van Zandt
Dorothy Van Zandt

Dee’s Mom saw Louis’s father Richard Van Zandt just once. Louis had taken her to a baseball game, probably at Wrigley Field. As Louis was leading her to their seats, he spotted his father, turned abruptly, and they left the ball park.

How did Louis’s father Richard Van Zandt get started in life? His 1917 draft registration card stated that he was born in Brussels, Belgium on October 14, 1890. It also reported that he was a Belgian citizen and that he was working as a teamster for the Lashaw Teaming Company in Chicago. The earliest record I have found that is definitely for Richard is a Cook County index entry for his marriage to Emma Robash (Hrobar) on September 23, 1916.

I found some clues to Richard Van Zandt’s earlier life by tracking his siblings. I discovered Louis (Dee’s ‘Grandpa Van’), Charles, and Emma Van Zandt, but not Richard, in the 1900 US Federal Census. They were listed at the ages of 22, 18, and 16 as boarders in the household of Alfred and Mary Verest of Chicago, who had younger children of their own. Other records identify them as Alfonse and Marie Verest. Who and where were the Van Zandts’ parents, and what had happened to them? Who were the Verests, and why were the Van Zandts living with them? Were the Van Zandts related to the Verests?

Alfred Verest household, 1900 census
Alfred Verest household, 1900 census

Searching online for earlier records of Van Zandts or Vanzandts in Chicago, I found records for Willie Van Zandt, who was born on July 19, 1892 and died less than two months later on September 9. His parents were reported as Louis Van Zandt and Monica Meert. Louis was reported to be 40 years old and Monica 29 when Willie was born. Further investigation revealed that Louis Van Zandt, born in Belgium in 1852, had died on February 3, 1892 before Willie was born. I remember seeing information somewhere indicating that Louis Van Zandt had arrived in Chicago only a short time before his death. Monica had lost her husband, then given birth to a son only to lose him.

Was there a connection between Louis and Monica Van Zandt and the young Van Zandts found in the Verest household? Emma Van Zandt, sister of Louis, Charles, and Richard, married Fred Wille in 1906. Emma Wille’s death index record in 1922 identifies her parents as Louis Van Zandt and Frances Annaert, both born in Belgium. Were Monica Meert and Frances Annaert the same person? Whoever reported Emma Wille’s death might never have known her mother. In the Verest family, Marie’s death certificate reports her father’s name as Maart. Further evidence is needed, but it seems likely that Monica Meert Van Zandt and Marie Maart Verest were sisters.

If Louis and Monica were Richard Van Zandt’s parents, he would have been just fifteen months old when his father died. Richard might have remained with his mother Monica Van Zandt when his siblings Louis, Charles, and Emma were taken in by the Verests, but what happened to her after the events of 1892? I couldn’t find a record of either remarriage or death.

Since I started working on this message, DNA testing has finally begun to shed some light on Dee’s paternal ancestry. Although Ancestry.com doesn’t provide tools for analysis and comparison of DNA segments shared with other people, they have revealed distant cousins with ancestors I had not yet discovered.

Shared surnames, AncestryDNA match

One DNA-identified cousin, Ronald Barrett, is descended from Jeanette Van Zandt, born in Belgium in 1881. Jeanette is shown in the Barrett family tree as the daughter of Bruno Van Hecke and an unknown mother. Armed with this information, I found records revealing that Monica Van Zands married Bruno Van Hecke on April 16, 1893 in Chicago.

The 1900 census listed five children in the Bruno and Monica Van Nack household. All are surnamed Van Nack, but the oldest three were identified as Bruno’s step-children. Jennie (Jeanette), age 20, Josephine, age 15, and Charles, age 11, all born in Belgium, were apparently children of Louis and Monica Van Zandt. Where was Dee’s grandfather Richard? Was Charles, born in October 1888, our missing Richard? An 1899 ship passenger list shows Monica Van Hecke returning from Belgium with Karl, age 8, Marie, age 4, and Frank, age 2. Charles, Richard, and Karl might be the same person.

Bruno Van Nack household, 1900 census
Bruno Van Nack household, 1900 census

The Cook County death index reports that Monica Van Hacke died on January 14, 1901, when Richard Van Zandt was still a youth. Dee’s father Louis’s family appears to have endured considerable upheaval through several generations.

Family exploration is not just about the past. I learned this summer that Dee’s father’s sister-in-law Rosalie Van Zandt had passed on earlier this year. In the course of learning more about Rosalie’s family, I found and contacted Dee’s first cousin Dick who she hasn’t seen since she was a young girl. Dick’s response was encouraging for Dee because her relationship with her father and separation from his family had been difficult.

Main Street, Scottsville
Main Street, Scottsville

Dee and I recently took a research trip to the Rochester, New York area. My third-great grandparents Jacob and Margaret Smith Springsteen met there after their parents’ families moved to Scottsville. We were pleased to meet several very helpful and kind people during our stay in Scottsville. Barbara Chapman, Historian for the Town of Wheatland, put in extra time and effort to find and share material and to guide us through a historic house in Scottsville that has been restored by the Wheatland Historical Association.

Elaine, Chris, Sue, and Ralph
Elaine, Chris, Sue, and Ralph

Barbara Chapman also put us in touch with Elaine Massena, a niece of Frank Van Rensselaer Phelps. Frank extensively researched the Smith and Springsteen families of Scottsville back in the 1960s and 70s. I had received a copy of Frank’s research report in the early 1970s and had exchanged information with him in 1981.  Frank died in 2010, but Elaine has all of his research files and has generously shared more information with me. John and Nancy Smith were Elaine’s fourth great grandparents and mine as well, making us fifth cousins. Elaine and her family welcomed us into their home for dinner and produced a small cake with candles when they learned it was our anniversary. They were a joy to meet and claim as cousins.

How does our family history influence family relationships? Do we need healing from hidden scars? The actions and beliefs of our ancestors might still be with us, whether rejected or embraced. Our forebears were people dealing with life in their times and circumstances as best they could, just as we are today. Learning about their lives sheds light on the stream of family experience that has much to do with who we are. We are people with personal responsibility to our own families and communities in our own time. While I will not preach from this platform, I will openly claim my Christian faith. I pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to be a help and not a hindrance to our family.

We should be mindful of the past so we can benefit from family lessons, seek healing from unfinished trials, and carry on the gifts our families have given us. We didn’t come to our lives in a vacuum. If we care for our loved ones with compassion helped by some understanding of where we came from, our families can be a good home.

Staats and Anna Springsteen—So Many Questions

My four-times-great grandparents Staats and Anna Springsteen were people of no apparent public consequence, yet they left bits and pieces of evidence of their lives that continue to perplex me. While the very existence of this evidence is somewhat remarkable for apparently illiterate frontier farmers, it raises questions that have proven difficult to answer. Questions like ‘Am I really a Springsteen?’

Where did Staats and Anna come from?

Staats Springsteen was the son of Symeon (Simon) Springsteen and Maria Seger. Staats was probably born in late 1754, as he was christened in the First Dutch Reformed Church in Albany, New York on January 5, 1755. Maria’s brother Johannes Seger and his wife were sponsors for Staats Springsteen’s christening. Staats was apparently named after another of Maria’s brothers:

  • Adriaan Seger, son of Staats Seger and Susanna Bradt, was christened on the same day as Staats Springsteen.
  • Ten years earlier in 1745, Staats and Susanna Seger were sponsors for the christening of Staats Springsteen’s oldest brother Caspar.

1755 Christening Record for Staats Springsteen

1755 Christening Record for Staats Springsteen

Anna Springsteen’s ancestry, on the other hand, is still a mystery. I have seen indications that she might have been born in Pennsylvania or New York, but I have no substantive information about her place of birth or her parents. There have been suggestions from various sources, including descendants of Staats’ brother Caspar, that Anna might have been a native North American, but I have seen no evidence to support it.

Why was Staats a Loyalist?

Perhaps a more appropriate question would be ‘Why were so many relatives and neighbors  loyal to the Crown?’ Staats’ brother Caspar, as well as various Segers, Bradts, Slingerlands and others supported the Loyalist cause. This might have been due to a desire to maintain trade and peace with the native nations who sided with the British, in part to contain the encroachment of settlers on their land. Albany was a key center in the native trade.

During the American Revolution, Staats served in John Butler’s Provincial Corps of Rangers. Unlike most of the provincial corps, Butler’s Rangers fell under the jurisdiction of the British Indian Department. Many of their operations involved native warriors. Staats was among a company of men who were able to speak at least one native language. In his book The Burning of the Valleys, Gavin Watt describes an incident at Ballstown in which Staats was instrumental in saving the scalp and probably the life of George Scott, for whom Staats had been a hired hand. It is quite possible that Staats interacted with natives before the war, and that might have influenced his loyalty.

Why did Staats have problems securing land in Upper Canada?

After the Treaty of Paris, Loyalists, particularly former militiamen, were encouraged to settle along the British frontier with the United States. Butler’s Rangers were settled on the Niagara peninsula. As a veteran, Staats received land in Stamford Township near the Niagara Escarpment.

Before land boards were set up to formalize the administration of land grants, certificates were issued for plots of land. These certificates weren’t always clearly defined. Staats apparently lost one certificate, and a land board administrator lost another. Staats at least partially developed another piece of land near Long Point without bothering to request a grant beforehand.

There is considerable evidence that Staats didn’t exercise much care for formalities. This tendency affected not only his own affairs but those of his brother Caspar, who asked in an 1807 petition ‘that his name may be inserted on the Roll of UE [Unity of Empire] Loyalists, which has been omitted thro negligence of your petitioner Brother Staats Springsteen.’ See the second page of this petition at the Library and Archives Canada web site: Upper Canada Land Petitions (1763-1865), Microform c-2809, page 805.

Staats was engaged in a series of land petitions for many years. Confusion over lot entitlements led to several appeals seeking relief from the encroachment of neighbors. Staats didn’t help his cause when his case was presented to the land board. A 1795 petition to John Graves Simcoe, Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, asked for Simcoe’s influence to overcome ‘a spirit of animosity against your petitioner’ due to ‘your Petitioner having unguardedly suffered some expressions to fall from him which gave undesigned offense to two Gentlemen of the said Board.’ Undesigned? Really? See the second page of this petition at Upper Canada Land Petitions (1763-1865), Microform c-2806, page 882.

What is this business about illegitimate children?

In 1797 Staats submitted a petition for ‘What Quantity of Family Land your Honors thinks Meet for my Wife and two Children.’  A notation on the petition states ‘It appears that the [petitioner’s children] are illegitimate.’ See the second page of this petition at Upper Canada Land Petitions (1763-1865), Microform c-2807, page 25.

What does this mean? Was my three-times-great grandfatherJacob Springsteen’s father not Staats? Various United States censuses suggest that Jacob was born about 1794, which might make him one of the two children referenced in this 1797 petition. On the other hand, Staats was listed on a UE list in 1786 with a wife and two children. Who were they?

There are a number of plausible explanations for the notation of illegitimate children:

  • Staats might not have been their father.
  • Staats and Anna might not have been married. Given his service and life on the frontier during and after the American Revolution, coupled with his apparent casual regard for formalities, this might well be possible.
  • Staats and Anna might have been married, but not in a recognized union. Lord Hartwicke’s Act of 1753 might have viewed their marriage outside the Anglican Church as clandestine and any children of that marriage as illegitimate. If speculation that Anna might have been at least partially of native ancestry were true, an unrecognized marriage would be quite likely. As a soldier in Butler’s Rangers, such a relationship would have been a reasonable possibility.
  • Staats might have been falsely accused of having illegitimate children. He had personally offended members of the land board, and had crossed people during the war who were later influential in Upper Canada. Staats was apparently quite successful in recruiting men for Butler’s Rangers, and didn’t mind taking advantage of any opportunity. Mary Beacock Fryer relates an incident in her book John Walden Meyers: Loyalist Spy where Staats and his friend John Stoner appropriated some recruits bound for another corps while holding their recruiter as a spy. This action was protested to Frederick Haldimand and came to the attention of other leaders who were either disadvantaged or not put in good light.

Some of the potential explanations of illegitimacy are countered by other information:

  • The cemetery marker for Anna Springsteen describes her as ‘Wife of Staats Springsteen.’ This might indicate that Staats and Anna were legally married, but not with certainty.
  • In Staats’ will, written in 1825, he left land ‘to son Jacob.’ This indicates clearly, but again doesn’t prove, that Staats was Jacob’s father.
  • Recent DNA testing reveals that my father, Ed Springsteen, shares a segment of DNA with another tester named Brett who lives in Manitoba. Brett has Loyalist ancestors who descend from Gerrit and Maritje Seger of Albany, New York. Staats’ mother Maria Seger was their daughter. Brett believes that Maritje’s mother was Barbara Springsteen, daughter of Caspar Springsteen and Geesje Jans. Caspar and Geesje were Staats’ father Symeon’s great grandparents, meaning that Symeon and Maria would have been second cousins. Staats might then have received the shared DNA from either Maria or Symeon. Either way, unless Brett and Dad share another common ancestor in a separate line, Dad could only have received the DNA he shares with Brett from Staats. Staats must then be Jacob’s father. Even if he weren’t, I would still come from generations of Springsteens, but this genetic link is interesting to note.
Ed and Brett's Shared DNA
Ed and Brett’s Shared DNA

Dad’s DNA test results also shed light on another question: Do we have native North American ancestors? If we do, their DNA didn’t make it down the generations to us. In addition to rumors that Anna Springsteen might have been native, Dad’s maternal grandmother Loretta Green, who married Edwin Case, was thought to have recent native ancestry. While it is somewhat plausible that native DNA from Anna Springsteen might have completely fallen out of our genetic composition over the generations, it is unlikely that DNA from Amanda Brown, Loretta’s mother and a prime suspect, would not have survived a few generations.

Why did Staats and Anna return to the United States?

Staats was finally granted clear title to his Stamford Township land in 1808 after long years of dispute with neighbors and authorities. As early as 1795 he stated in a petition that he would be willing to relinquish his land to another claimant if he would compensate Staats for his improvements. See the third page of this petition at Upper Canada Land Petitions (1763-1865), Microform c-2806, page 884.

It appears that Staats was ready to make a clean break and get a fresh start. Moving to another country would serve that purpose. The Genesee country held strong attraction to many on both sides of the Revolutionary conflict who had seen that area during the war. If I never find any concrete evidence that explains Staats’ motivation for moving to western New York, this explanation at least seems plausible. It still leaves me wondering.

Why did Staats and Anna separate?

In 1980 I mailed a letter to the Clerk of Monroe County, New York asking about records pertaining to Staats Springsteen, John Smith, Staats’ son Jacob, and Jacob’s son John. The clerk’s office forwarded my letter to a local researcher, William Flint, who sent me a reply with cursory information and a description of his fees for further research. Mr. Flint noted two newspaper references from 1824 and 1825 that certainly pique one’s interest:

  • Springstun, Mrs. Anna: Runs away from husband; Rochester Telegraph, May 8, 1824, 3-4
  • Springstein, Staats: Operation upon his blind eye by Dr. George B. Taylor successfully restores sight; Monroe Republican, October 25, 1825, 3-3

My wife Dee has a ready explanation for this: Anna left the old fart while he couldn’t see her going.

Dee and I spent an unfortunately short period of time in the Rochester Public Library in 2006 looking for these articles on microfilm. We didn’t find either one before we had to leave. We’re overdue for another crack at it. The index cards for these two references, which Mr. Flint apparently cited, are now available online at the library’s web site: Index to Newspapers Published in Rochester, New York, 1818-1897. Staats died in 1826, making no mention of Anna in his will made the previous year.

Was Staats difficult to live with? Sketchy accounts suggest that he didn’t always make life particularly easy for himself or those close to him. If I find the newspaper article or notice of Anna’s departure, will it provide any clues of her reason for leaving?

Why no compensation for the laundry?

Staats signed his mark to a last will and testament on July 5, 1825, before the operation on his eye. His will raises many questions. It bequeathed:

  • ‘to son Jacob Springstean two hundred acres of land, by him already received and to him heretofore Deeded by me.’ Was this the land that Jacob farmed in Wheatland, Monroe County, or was it land in Upper Canada? While the former seems most likely, I have not discovered any record in Monroe County land registrations.
  • ‘to my son David Springstean five Dollars.’
  • ‘to my younges Daughter Lana Ann Sackner ten Dollars.’
  • ‘the sum of Ten Dollars to my Daughter Polly Sackner.’
  • ‘to each of the Children of Abraham Blood by my Daughter Jenny Blood, five Dollars to be paid in Goods, by my Executors, out of some Merchants store.’ Why did Staats bypass Jane (Jenny) with this bequest? Unless Jane had an older child of which I am not aware, she was nearing delivery of her first-born child, Sarah Ann, at the time this will was made. Was Jane involved in her mother Anna’s departure?
  • ‘to my Daughter Deborah Chambers I give one hundred Dollars, on condition, that she furnishes my son John Springstean with suitable meat, dring, clothing lodging and washing, from the time of my decease until he is sixteen years, of age, for all of which she is to be paid by my Executors, a reasonable compensation by the week, but for his washing she is to have no compensation whatever other than the legacy above given.’ My wife Dee wonders if the other children at school teasingly called him ‘Stinky John.’
  • ‘all the rest residue and remainder of my property of whatever name or nature to my son John Springstean to be paid over to him by my said Executors on the day he shall arrive to the age of twenty one years.’

Staats named Philip Garbutt, a prominent citizen, and Robert Chambers, Deborah’s husband, as his executors. Staats authorized these men ‘to superintend the education of my son John until sixteen years of age at which time, it is my will that he should be bound by them to some mechanical trade of their choosing.’ John was a stone mason by trade in later years.

Staats Springsteen's will, page 1
Staats Springsteen’s will, page 1
Staats Springsteen's will, page 2
Staats Springsteen’s will, page 2

Where were Staats and Anna buried?

I have not yet found any record of Staats’ burial, but I think it likely that he was buried in or near Scottsville in the Town of Wheatland, Monroe County, New York. I have checked some cemetery lists for Wheatland without finding any mention of Staats but further examination might yet find him. Jacob Springsteen’s father-in-law John Smith is buried in the Oatka Cemetery in Scottsville, but I haven’t found Staats there.  Perhaps Staats was buried on Jacob’s farm. For that matter, maybe Jacob was buried there.

After Staats’ death, Anna probably remained in the area until her family relocated to southeastern Michigan. The 1840 United States Federal Census for the Town of Wheatland, Monroe County, New York lists an Ann Springsteen as head of household in a residence with one female aged in her seventies and one female in her nineties. Could this have been Anna with her mother? In 1850 and 1860 Anna is listed in the household of Robert and Debby Chambers in Deerfield Township, Livingston County, Michigan. Anna was apparently buried in the Sharp (Deerfield Center) Cemetery with Robert and Debby. I need to check the cemetery sexton’s records for information about burials. In addition to Robert and Debby,  Jane’s and Lana Ann’s families are also buried in the Sharp Cemetery.

What then?

Genealogy has been described as perhaps the only undertaking where every problem solved results in two more. Discovering Anna Springsteen leaves us wondering who her parents were. Given my interest in family history, not just lineage, questions proliferate. Our ancestors lived in extended families and communities, in the context of broader history. That’s what makes all of this so interesting.

In difficulties and in blessings, we should appreciate and care for our families.

And keep asking questions.


Searching for Kate Keck’s Origins

My interest in family history began in the early 1960s when my friend Eric started researching his family tree. I talked with family members and outlined as much as I could learn about our ancestors based on their personal knowledge. That was enough to kindle my long-term interest, but my investigation lay mostly dormant for years while I was in high school, college, and serving in the army.

Majoring in History at Michigan State University, I learned a great deal about the depth of understanding and documentary examination that support the superficial facts of high school history classes. This gave far greater depth to my latent interest in family history and taught me to read the evidence of our past analytically.

What does this have to do with Kate Keck? This is mostly a backdrop to my interest in family history and does not pertain directly to my search for Kate’s life and origins. If you’ll bear with me, though, we’ll get around to Kate soon.

Harold Springsteen, Kate Keck, and Agnes Springsteen
Harold Springsteen, Kate Keck, and Agnes Springsteen

Harold Springsteen, Kate Keck, and Agnes Springsteen (back)

Early in my family history exploration, probably after my great-grandmother Agnes Springsteen’s death in 1963, I was given a few old family papers and pictures. These were primarily from my great-grandfather L. D. Springsteen’s family. I was aware that Great-Grandma Springsteen’s family had come from somewhere in Germany. I knew that her parents were George Keck and Katherine Kurtz, but that was about all I knew.

While I was in the army, Dee and I lived in Germany for two years. My service provided an exposure to German history and culture that I would not otherwise have been able to dream of experiencing. When Dee returned to the United States near the end of my service in the spring of 1974, our son was on the way. Our family was taking on an entirely new meaning. We could not have guessed, however, that we were leaving our future daughter-in-law behind in Germany.

While Dee and I lived near extended family in the late 1970s and early 80s, I was given much more family material from the elder generations. Among the materials I received were scrapbooks that had belonged to Great-Grandma Springsteen. She had collected newspaper clippings about relatives, friends, and acquaintances around Dewitt and Lansing, Michigan. One of these was an article about her mother’s life on the occasion of her 86th birthday.

Katherine Keck's Life Reads Like Romance
Katherine Keck’s Life Reads Like Romance

The article heading declared Katherine Keck’s Life Reads Like Romance. The article reported that Kate was born as Katherine Kurtz on January 19, 1837 in Hesse, Dravenstadt, Germany. Now we knew where she was born, right? Wouldn’t it have been nice to know that when we lived in Germany?

Based on our experience in Germany, Dravenstadt sounded like a typical small-town name. We were familiar with the countryside being dotted with small farming communities every few kilometers down nearly every road. Hesse is one of the modern states of Germany, and has existed in many political forms and alliances for centuries.

Over the years I looked occasionally for Dravenstadt in various atlases and maps, but to no avail. As information became available online, I asked on public forums if anyone could locate Dravenstadt, but no one was familiar with it. Finally, it dawned on me that I might have fallen victim to the article writer’s misinterpretation of an unfamiliar place name heard through heavily accented English. Kate might have informed the writer that she had been born in Hesse-Darmstadt, one of the Hessian states in the nineteenth century. Thus, there would be no Dravenstadt to find.

Are we left clueless? The article mentioned a brother in Holt. If I could find him, maybe I could learn something from his family.

The population schedules for the 1860, 1870, and 1880 United States Federal Censuses reveal a Kurtz family in the neighborhood of Holt, Delhi Township, Ingham County. Henry Kurtz and his wife Elizabeth were reported to have been born in Hessen, Germany in the early 1820s, making Henry a potential candidate to be Kate’s older brother.

An index card for the naturalization of a Henry Kurtz in New York, New York on 2 May 1859 indicates that his former allegiance was to the Grand Duke of Hesse Darmstadt. Is this the same Henry Kurtz? Unfortunately, the index card did not report the dates of birth or immigration. The card may be viewed here on FamilySearch. Henry and Elizabeth’s sons Charles, Henry, and John appear to have been born in New York around 1854, 1856, and 1859, respectively, which is consistent with naturalization in New York in 1859. Could Henry’s witness George Reihart lead me to information that would clarify whether this is Henry Kurtz of Holt? The naturalization papers that are indexed here would almost certainly provide more information.

I still have work to do to discover Kate Keck’s origins, but I know more than I did. Meanwhile, the hunt goes on.

DNA and Genealogy

This post is a revision of an entry posted on January 31, 2015, in my blog on the former Our Heritage site.

I have explored genealogy and family history through traditional research for decades, but I am new to the application of DNA to that quest. I finally made the leap to DNA as a research tool after reading Michael D. Lacopo’s blog, Hoosier Daddy? His long-running search for his mother’s biological parents and their ancestry makes for very interesting and instructive reading. If you have time and are in no hurry, I encourage following this story from his first post in February 2014, Beginnings. As a professional genealogist, he is well-versed in traditional research. As a veterinarian with a natural interest in science, his understanding and application of DNA is a good example of its value in genealogical research.

My wife Dee and I recently sent DNA sample kits to 23andMe for autosomal testing. Her ancestry appears to be 99.9% European with .1% unassigned. Coming from a predominantly Czech family, she does have more variety than we might have anticipated, including Southern European, British/Irish, and Scandinavian ancestry. My ancestry is 99.4% European, mostly Northern European with nearly 40% from the British Isles. Given that my family has been in the American melting pot longer than Dee’s, in some cases back to early colonial times, I was somewhat surprised by this British concentration.

DNA haplogroups are significant distinct divisions of the human race. My all-female maternal line is in a predominantly European haplogroup that originated in the Near East. My all-male paternal line is in a haplogroup from Northeastern Africa that expanded across Northern Africa and Southern Europe after the last ice age. That haplogroup is still predominantly in Northern Africa.

My first reaction on seeing my paternal haplogroup and also noting that 0.3% of my overall ancestry is Sub-Saharan African was that my paternal line was far more interesting than I had thought. As I examined my DNA results more carefully, I realized that my initial interpretation was incorrect. Nevertheless, although my distant paternal line is not Sub-Saharan African, it is also not Northern European. Given that the Springsteen ancestors from whom I think I descend came from the northern Netherlands, I was surprised at this ancestral origin. I’ll be interested in learning whether other Springsteens are in the same paternal haplogroup and, if not, where our genetic ancestry diverged.

Another curiosity in my DNA analysis is that while 0.1% of my DNA is Yakut, from far northeastern Asia, none of my DNA is classified as Native American. Evidence of rumored native ancestry might still reside in the DNA of close relatives, but I didn’t inherit any of it.

To gain a little understanding of genetic genealogy, I viewed a few brief videos entitled Genetics 101. These videos and others are available on the 23andMe Home page. To learn more about using DNA in genealogical research, I also subscribed to a blog entitled DNAeXplained. This blog demonstrates how to use DNA tools from Family Tree DNA to augment traditional genealogical research. The Genetic Genealogist is another informative blog to which I have subscribed. I have much to learn.

I have already been in contact with several newly-discovered relatives through 23andMe, including one who recommended DNAeXplained. Some of these newly-found cousins and I have been able to identify our common ancestors. Others require more information to be able to make that connection.

One thing seems clear: DNA tools yield much more information when results from several related people are correlated. 23andMe’s DNA chromosome browser provides specific comparisons that can shed light on mysteries from traditional research.

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 5.03.16 PM

I can see great potential in complementing traditional documentary research with DNA analysis to learn more about our ancestors and others who share those progenitors.