Who were the Dlouhy twins?

I was recently given a picture of twins Barbara and Chris Dlouhy. This picture was discovered in a flea market by a benefactor who enjoys finding orphan photos and searching for a family home for them. The donor, Kate, found my exploratory tree on Ancestry with an extended Dlouhy family in the Chicago area and deemed our family to be likely relatives.

The picture

This picture of the young Dlouhy twins was photographed in the studio of J.B. Scholl on Halsted Street in Chicago. It is inscribed on the back with the note ‘Barbara & Christopher Dlouhy / Children of Fathers sister Barbara.’

Who were Barbara and Christopher’s family?

I have found some information about the Dlouhy twins and their family.

Barbara and Chris were children of John and Barbara Dlouhy of Chicago. Jan Dlouhy and Barbara Homolka were married in Cook County, Illinois on March 31, 1891.[1] Their children were

  • Barbara Dlouhy, born in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois on October 18, 1892.[2]
  • Chris Dlouhy, born in Chicago on October 18, 1892.[3] Identified variously in his early years as Christopher, Christian and Christ, he seems to have settled on Chris as an adult.
  • Elizabeth Dlouhy, born in Chicago on September 18, 1895.[4]
  • Frank Dlouhy, born in Chicago on January 13 or December 3, 1900.[5],[6]

John Dlouhy died in Chicago on September 26, 1906 at age 65. He had been born in Bohemia around 1841.[7] Barbara died in Chicago on September 28, 1940 at age 78, having been born in Bohemia on August 15, 1862.[8]

I have not yet been able to find John and Barbara’s family in the 1900 census. That enumeration taken as of June 1, 1900 would shed light on Frank’s date of birth. All four of John and Barbara’s children lived with their mother when the 1910 and 1920 census enumerations were taken.[9],[10] Chris and Frank lived with their mother Barbara in 1930 and 1940 as well.[11],[12] Neither of them appears ever to have married.

Barbara and Chris’s father John had been married previously to Frantiska (Frances) Novak, who had been born in Bohemia in 1837. Frances died in Chicago on October 21, 1890.[13] Their children were

  • Marie Dlouhy, born in Pennsylvania in August 1868.[14]
  • Joseph Dlouhy, born about 1871 in Pennsylvania.[15]
  • John Dlouhy, born about 1878 in Pennsylvania.[16]

John and Frances Dlouhy clearly lived in Pennsylvania for over a decade before moving to Chicago.

Barbara Dlouhy, 1892-1957

Barbara Dlouhy married Daniel Franklin Newbern on November 23, 1921.[17] Daniel and Barbara had a stillborn son in 1922, a now-deceased daughter in 1924, and a son born in 1930 who might still be living. Their family lived in the same dwellings as Barbara’s mother and brothers in 1930 and 1940. Daniel, a carpenter and World War I veteran, died in November 1943.[18] Barbara Newbern died January 24, 1957 in Chicago.[19]

Chris Dlouhy, 1892-1970

Chris Dlouhy served in France in World War I with a company of engineers.[20] He made a living after the war as a railroad electrician.[21],[22] Chris died in October 1970.[23] Chris was the last of his siblings to pass.

Elizabeth Dlouhy, 1895-1960

Elizabeth Dlouhy married Mathew Petrik in Chicago on October 9, 1920.[24] They had a son born in 1922 who is no longer living. Their family lived in the same house as Lizzie’s mother in 1930 and lived elsewhere in 1940.[25],[26] Mathew was a millwright for Western Electric. Elizabeth died November 1, 1960 in Chicago.[27] Mathew died December 11, 1970 in Chicago.[28]

Frank Dlouhy, 1900-1966

Frank Dlouhy appears in census enumerations as a general laborer. I have seen a single reference to Frank with a middle name, Xavier[29] An enlistment record from 1942 might be for him.[30] Frank died in Chicago on February 10, 1966 and was buried in Saint Adalbert Cemetery with other family members.[31]

Back to the picture

Who might have an interest in this picture? Barbara Newbern’s grandchildren would be good candidates. Are you out there?

Chris and Frank appear to have no direct descendants. Elizabeth Petrik’s grandchildren might be interested in this picture.

Descendants of John and Frantiska Dlouhy might potentially be interested in the picture. Their daughter Marie married Vaclav Dvorak in Chicago on April 8, 1890.[32] Vaclav and Marie (Mary) appear to have had at least four daughters and one son.

What about descendants of the twins’ cousin who inscribed the note on the back of the picture? I haven’t found identification of Barbara Homolka’s parents. I have found a potential brother, Joseph Homolka, whose family enumeration in Chicago for the 1900 census indicates that he and his wife Mary were in Illinois before the birth of their daughter Mary in October 1882.[33] Joseph’s wife Mary reportedly had seven children living in 1900, possibly including the former holder of this picture.

While my wife Dee’s mother Dorothy Van Zandt was born in Chicago to Joseph and Rose Dlouhy, I have not yet discovered a connection with the twins’ family.

Do you know anyone who would appreciate having this picture?

 

[1] “Illinois Marriages, 1815-1935,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:V2LR-ZRL : 29 December 2014), Jan Dlouhy and Barbara Homolka, 31 Mar 1891; Cook, Illinois; FHL microfilm 1,030,200.

[2] “Illinois, Cook County, Birth Certificates, 1871-1940,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N7MK-543 : 18 May 2016), Barbara Dlohey, 18 Oct 1892; Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United States, reference/certificate 3504a, Cook County Clerk, Cook County Courthouse, Chicago; FHL microfilm 1,287,931.

[3] “Illinois, Cook County, Birth Certificates, 1871-1940,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N7MK-54M : 18 May 2016), Christ Dlohey, 18 Oct 1892; Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United States, reference/certificate 3504, Cook County Clerk, Cook County Courthouse, Chicago; FHL microfilm 1,287,931.

[4] “Illinois, Cook County, Birth Certificates, 1871-1940,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NQTG-JM6 : 18 May 2016), Elizabeth Dloha, 18 Sep 1895; Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United States, reference/certificate 3786, Cook County Clerk, Cook County Courthouse, Chicago; FHL microfilm 1,287,982.

[5] “United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K68P-1MG : 12 December 2014), Frank Xavier Dlouhy, 1917-1918; citing Chicago City no 45, Illinois, United States, NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,503,825.

[6] “Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q2MX-8XH9 : 17 May 2016), Frank Dlouhy, 10 Feb 1966; citing Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United States, Cook County Courthouse, Chicago; FHL microfilm.

[7] “Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q237-H1W9 : 20 May 2016), John Dlouhy, 26 Sep 1906; citing Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United States, source reference 2923, Cook County Courthouse, Chicago; FHL microfilm 1,239,742.

[8] “Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q2M6-8YD3 : 17 May 2016), Barbara Dlouhy, 28 Sep 1940; citing Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United States, Cook County Courthouse, Chicago.

[9] “United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MKCD-PNL : accessed 4 January 2018), Barbara Lohie, Chicago Ward 9, Cook, Illinois, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 514, sheet 4B, family 81, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 250; FHL microfilm 1,374,263.

[10] “United States Census, 1920,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MJQ4-96P : accessed 4 January 2018), Barbara Dlanhy, Chicago Ward 20, Cook (Chicago), Illinois, United States; citing ED 1126, sheet 15A, line 37, family 350, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1992), roll 330; FHL microfilm 1,820,330.

[11] “United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XSGS-S3X : accessed 4 January 2018), Barbara Dlouhy, Chicago (Districts 0751-1000), Cook, Illinois, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 782, sheet 7A, line 14, family 87, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 450; FHL microfilm 2,340,185.

[12] “United States Census, 1940,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KWBF-8M3  : accessed 4 January 2018), Barbara Dlouky, Ward 21, Chicago, Chicago City, Cook, Illinois, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 103-1369, sheet 9A, line 8, family 238, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 – 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 963.

[13] “Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N7K2-YMC : 17 May 2016), Frances Dlouhy, 21 Oct 1890; Cook, Illinois, United States, source reference cn 2653, record number 37, Cook County Courthouse, Chicago; FHL microfilm 1,030,954.

[14] “United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MK8K-M9Q : accessed 3 January 2018), Marie Dworak in household of Vaclav G Dworak, Chicago Ward 34, Cook, Illinois, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 1485, sheet 16B, family 373, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 281; FHL microfilm 1,374,294.

[15] “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MW6C-R6W : 16 July 2017), Joseph Doluhy in household of John Doluhy, Allegheny, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district ED 16, sheet 421C, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 1087; FHL microfilm 1,255,087.

[16] “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MW6C-R64 : 16 July 2017), John Doluhy in household of John Doluhy, Allegheny, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district ED 16, sheet 421C, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 1087; FHL microfilm 1,255,087.

[17] “Cook County, Illinois Marriage Indexes, 1912-1942,” database with images, Ancestry.com (https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=2273&h=115059&ssrc=pt&tid=78781976&pid=420166407120&usePUB=true : accessed 4 January 2018), BRD Dlouhy, Barbara; citing Cook County Marriage Index Years 1914 Thru 1942, page 2303; Original data: Private donor.

[18] “U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Church Records, 1826-1945,” database with images, Ancestry.com (https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=60722&h=1317991&ssrc=pt&tid=73954690&pid=30354054103&usePUB=true : accessed 4 January 2018), Daniel F Newbern, burial; Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) Archives; Elk Grove Village, Illinois; Original data: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. ELCA, Birth, Marriage, Deaths. Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Chicago, Illinois.

[19] “Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVRN-C1MV : 17 May 2016), Barbara Newbern, 24 Jan 1957; Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United States, Cook County Courthouse, Chicago.

[20] “U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939,” database with images, Ancestry.com (https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=61174&h=8628628&ssrc=pt&tid=78781976&pid=420166408062&usePUB=true : accessed 5 January 2018), citing The National Archives at College Park; College Park, Maryland; Lists of Incoming Passengers, compiled 1917-1938; NAI Number: 6234465; Record Group Title: Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774-1985; Record Group Number: 92; Roll or Box Number: 264.

[21] “United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XSGS-S3F : accessed 5 January 2018), Christ Dlouhy in household of Barbara Dlouhy, Chicago (Districts 0751-1000), Cook, Illinois, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 782, sheet 7A, line 15, family 87, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 450; FHL microfilm 2,340,185.

[22] “United States Census, 1940,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KWBF-8MQ : accessed 5 January 2018), Chris Dlouky in household of Barbara Dlouky, Ward 21, Chicago, Chicago City, Cook, Illinois, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 103-1369, sheet 9A, line 9, family 238, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 – 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 963.

[23] “Illinois, Archdiocese of Chicago, Cemetery Records, 1864-1989,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q2HN-K2G7 : 31 October 2016), Christ Dlouhy, 12 Oct 1970; citing Niles, Cook, Illinois, United States, St. Adalbert, Archdiocese of Chicago; FHL microfilm 1,543,924.

[24] “Illinois, Cook County Marriages, 1871-1920,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N767-WNY : 26 December 2014), Matthew F. Petrik Jr. and Elizabeth Douby, 09 Oct 1920; citing Chicago, Cook, Illinois, 886514, Cook County Courthouse, Chicago; FHL microfilm 1,030,741.

[25] “United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XSGS-S3L : accessed 5 January 2018), Elizabeth Petrik in household of Matthew F Petrik Jr., Chicago (Districts 0751-1000), Cook, Illinois, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 782, sheet 7A, line 21, family 89, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 450; FHL microfilm 2,340,185.

[26] “United States Census, 1940,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K4MM-N8C : accessed 5 January 2018), Elizabeth Petrik in household of Ma* Petrik, Ward 38, Chicago, Chicago City, Cook, Illinois, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 103-2375, sheet 5B, line 74, family 131, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 – 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 997.

[27] “Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QV9N-R3W7 : 17 May 2016), Elizabeth Petrik, 01 Nov 1960; Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United States, Cook County Courthouse, Chicago.

[28] “Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q2MF-N6N4 : 17 May 2016), Mathew F Petrik, 11 Dec 1970; Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United States, Cook County Courthouse, Chicago.

[29] “United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K68P-1MG : 12 December 2014), Frank Xavier Dlouhy, 1917-1918; citing Chicago City no 45, Illinois, United States, NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,503,825.

[30] “United States World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K8Y5-4XP : 5 December 2014), Frank Dlouhy, enlisted 26 Sep 1942, Chicago, Illinois, United States; citing “Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, ca. 1938-1946,” database, The National Archives: Access to Archival Databases (AAD) (http://aad.archives.gov : National Archives and Records Administration, 2002); NARA NAID 126323, National Archives at College Park, Maryland.

[31] “Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q2MX-8XH9 : 17 May 2016), Frank Dlouhy, 10 Feb 1966; Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United States, Cook County Courthouse, Chicago.

[32] “Illinois, Cook County Marriages, 1871-1920,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N764-6H3 : 26 December 2014), Vaclav Dvorak and Mary Dlouhy, 08 Apr 1890; Chicago, Cook, Illinois, 150529, Cook County Courthouse, Chicago; FHL microfilm 1,030,189.

[33] “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MSSB-ZQ3 : accessed 6 January 2018), Joseph Homolka, Precinct 29 South Town Chicago city Ward 6, Cook, Illinois, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 166, sheet 14A, family 215, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,240,250.

 

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.

DNA again

It’s time for another look at DNA. I will attempt a brief and somewhat simplistic description of DNA in the following paragraphs, but you should not take this as a completely accurate definition. For a better description, this is a good place to start: http://dna-explained.com/2012/10/01/4-kinds-of-dna-for-genetic-genealogy/.

DNA gives each cell in our bodies instructions for its function (hair, eye, lung) and characteristics (brown, blue). Most of the DNA in each cell resides in 23 pairs of chromosomes. Chromosome 23 determines our genetic gender. We all get an X Chromosome 23 from our mother. If we get an X Chromosome 23 from our father, we have an XX pair and are female. If we get a Y from our father, we have an XY pair and are male.

Chromosomes 1-22 are called autosomes. Our autosomal DNA is inherited in equal proportions from each of our biological parents. Conversely, we only inherit half of each parent’s autosomal DNA, meaning that half of what they inherited from their parents is passed on to us and half is not. With the exception of some multiple births, each sibling receives a different mix of DNA segments from each parent.

A tiny percentage of our DNA, called mitochondrial DNA, is separate from our chromosomes. Whether sons or daughters, we all have it, but only daughters pass it on to their children.

Aside from our autosomal DNA being divvied up and passed out to children in different combinations with each generation, pieces of DNA are subject to minor changes from time to time through the generations. These mutations help us define different subfamilies in genetic genealogy and human history. Because Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA are less prone to change than autosomal DNA is, they provide a strong map for all-male and all-female ancestry.

So what kinds of tests are available for DNA?

  • Autosomal tests reveal DNA information from all of our ancestral lines, not just our all-female or all-male lines. DNA analysis tools for autosomal tests can show us, by comparing our DNA with the DNA of our matches, what segments of DNA came from different ancestors. The segments can be from Chromosomes 1-22 and I think also from X chromosomes in the Chromosome 23 pair. Autosomal DNA testing is generally useful for common ancestry within the last two centuries or so. DNA test results can be used hand-in-hand with traditional genealogical research to find or confirm what neither alone might be able to determine.
  • Mitochondrial DNA tests identify people who share common ancestors on their all-female lines, that is our mothers, their mothers, their mothers, and so on. Because mutations occur only rarely in mitochondrial DNA, these common ancestors might be hundreds or even thousands of years back.
  • Y-DNA tests identify people who share common ancestors on their all-male lines. Y-DNA mutations occur seldom enough that these common ancestors can be much further back in time than is likely with autosomal DNA matches.

At the beginning of this year Dee and I tested our DNA with 23andMe. Later in the spring Mom and Dad tested with 23andMe as well. I have previously talked a bit about some resulting discoveries and confirmations. Later in the year, Dee and I tested with AncestryDNA and recently with Family Tree DNA. Each of these companies offers something different.

  • 23andMe provides useful DNA tools and has a history of genetic health reports that the FDA suspended for a time but are again permitting.
  • Ancestry DNA doesn’t offer DNA analysis tools, but their DNA results are tied into family trees from a very large customer base.
  • Family Tree DNA provides DNA tools and offers additional DNA tests for all-male and all-female ancestry.

In general, mitochondrial and Y-DNA tests are more expensive than autosomal tests, but 23andMe recently doubled their price for autosomal testing in conjunction with the inclusion of health-related genetic reports.

New 23andMe home page
New 23andMe home page

With 23andMe’s renewed provision of genetic health reports, they have overhauled their website, consolidating and at least temporarily dropping some of their genealogy-related functions. I have been able to communicate with other testers who share DNA with me and my parents. Some of the DNA shared between one of my parents and other testers was not passed on to me but might well have been passed on to one or more of my siblings.

Top 23andMe matches for Ed Springsteen
Top 23andMe matches for Ed Springsteen

Dad’s family hasn’t had many close relatives test with 23andMe. One unknown tester shares enough DNA with Dad to be estimated as a first or second cousin. Dad has hundreds of other DNA matches, many of whose identities are known, but they all share less than 1% of their DNA with Dad. Nevertheless, comparing matching DNA segments with others who know something about their ancestry can provide clues for finding common ancestors.

Top 23andMe matches for Ron Springsteen
Top 23andMe matches for Ron Springsteen

Taking a look at my closest matches, you will notice a few McCalls near the top of the list. Janet McCall manages the testing profiles for several members of her family including two more not shown here. My Grandma Sovereign, born as Marie Fisher, was Betty (Abell) McCall’s first cousin. However, I never knew anything about the McCall family until we connected through 23andMe. Betty’s mother Grace (Dennis) Abell was Marie’s mother Idell’s youngest sister. Mom and Betty are about the same age, but Betty’s grandparents John Dennis and Rachel (Powell) Dennis were Mom’s great grandparents.

You might also notice that Dad’s closest DNA match appears in my list of matches but not all of the DNA shared between Dad and our anonymous cousin was passed to me. Dad shares 6.99% of his DNA with Mr. Anonymous in 17 segments. I received a 4.08% share of common DNA in 12 segments.

I have posted previously about Dad’s fifth cousin, found through 23andMe, who shares a small amount of DNA that came down the line to Dad through Staats Springsteen. That DNA was not passed on to me.

AncestryDNA for Ron Springsteen
AncestryDNA for Ron Springsteen

AncestryDNA provides tools to associate people with shared DNA. They don’t reveal the shared DNA segments but they do indicate how much is shared. AncestryDNA also maps the matching testers to their family trees in Ancestry, a definite genealogical benefit. They have also introduced DNA Circles, which shows clusters of people who share common DNA and suggest their common ancestor. I have been assigned to three DNA Circles so far, the John Samuel Dennis Circle, the Rachel Powell Circle, and the James Kidder Circle. The first two circles have four members and consist, of course, of the same members. The James Kidder Circle currently has ten members assigned to it.

AncestryDNA shared ancestor hint
AncestryDNA shared ancestor hint

AncestryDNA maps out the relationship between DNA matches when they can identify the connection based on our Ancestry family trees. I learned the identity of J.M. from one of his first cousins at a recent visitation for his aunt Merilyn Fisher.

Family Tree DNA dashboard
Family Tree DNA dashboard

Like 23andMe and AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA offers autosomal DNA testing that is useful in finding distant cousins who share DNA in any of our chromosomes. Family Tree DNA’s autosomal test is aptly called Family Finder, casting its net wide to find cousins. We found a second cousin from Dee’s Czech family in Family Finder who could then be identified as a recent tester with 23andMe.

In addition to autosomal tests, Family Tree DNA offers mitochondrial and Y-DNA tests. As indicated earlier, these tests are suitable for finding people who share female-line or male-line ancestry far back in history. Our results from these tests have just been reported in the last few days, so I don’t have a good handle on using the resulting information yet.

Dee and I have both been tested at an intermediate level for mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). She has 1000 matches at that level and I have 830. Again, these matches are people who almost certainly share common ancestors with us somewhere up our all-female ancestral lines. By contrast, autosomal DNA matches can be coincidental by virtue of repeated recombination of segments through the generations.

My Y-DNA results were quite surprising. I have only one match among those who have invested in Y-DNA testing:

Family Tree DNA Y-DNA matches
Family Tree DNA Y-DNA matches

Did you notice the next surprise? My sole Y-DNA match is not named Springsteen. Yet we come from the same male line. I imagine that Mr. DePew has been waiting for a Y-DNA match to show up and might be just as surprised as I was.

Family Tree DNA Y-DNA tip report
Family Tree DNA Y-DNA tip report

I am fairly sure that my paper trail for male-line ancestry is valid back at least to Staats Springsteen based on the small amount of DNA Dad apparently inherited from him, so I changed the base line for percentage calculation to five generations. With 93% chance of a common ancestor within twelve generations, that could reach back to a time before surnames were used in our male line. Dutch families on both sides of the Atlantic were commonly known by patronymics in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In my line, Symon Casparse was the son of Caspar Melcherse, who was the son of Melchior Casparse. The surname Springsteen was associated with these families in the new world, but not everyone in those times used a surname at all. Another obvious explanation is that someone in either my family or Mr. DePew’s might not have been the daddy. Nevertheless, we have a big fat question mark. I wish more Springsteen men, preferably in other lines, would have their Y-DNA tested.

This exploration of family history just keeps getting more interesting.

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.