Lived in Virginia for 66 Years

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…now resides in the county of Bedford, and state of Virginia, and has resided there for the Space of 66 years past—and that previous thereto she resided in England…

So goes part of an affidavit Mary Welsh made on 4 December 1841 in Bedford County, Virginia.

Assuming sixty-six year time frame is correct, that would suggest she had resided in Bedford County since around 1775. It’s possible that what Mary really remembered is that she had lived in Bedford County since before the American Revolution. It’s even possible that is the question she was asked. Despite that, all we really know is what the document says.

But it goes on to say that before her arrival in Bedford County she had lived in England. There was speculation that Mary was native American. This statement seems to fly in the face of that belief. Mary’s husband, Dominick Welsh, died in 1813 and never received a pension himself. This document was actually not in her pension file at the National Archives and a review of that file does not provide any information about Mary’s origins. This document, from the Records of the Accounting Officers of the US Treasury) is undigitized and unmicrofilmed and only exists in paper form. Had it not been obtained I would not have discovered more information about Mary’s origins.

This record serves as a great reminder to locate not only what’s online but what is offline as well and to familiarize ourselves with all records–even the ones we don’t typically use.

Thanks to Jonathan at for locating this record at the National Archives for me. It’s a great find.


A Bride, A Divorce, A Lawsuit, and a War Baby

This 1922 account from the Nebraska State Journal contains more clues that one usually finds in newspaper articles.

Note: the man the article refers to as “Frand” Goldenstein was actually named Frank.

Some of the clues contained in this article:

  • divorce record for Frank Goldenstein
  • lawsuit initiated by Goldenstein against his wife’s parents
  • passport application if Goldenstein was citizen when he made the visit to Germany
  • adoption records (which may be closed)
  • passenger lists for the return trip with new wife and baby

That’s a lot of records.

Liz on our Facebook page mentioned that Frank probably had a connection to Germany if he went there for a bride. That’s true. It’s one clue I almost didn’t think to mention as I already knew Frank was a German native.

Note: this Frank Goldenstein was a first cousin of my great-grandmother, Tjode (Goldenstein) Habben.


Other Side of the Stone

There’s often more to a tombstone than just one side. This picture of the tombstone for my great-grandparents is slightly misleading, especially to someone unfamiliar with the family.

Mimka J. and Tjode Anna tombstone, Moss Ridge Cemetery, Carthage, Hancock County, Illinois. Photograph taken summer of 2004 by Michael John Neill

There is an apparent flag adjacent to the tombstone which appears to be next to Mimka’s side of the stone. Flags are usually placed on a grave to indicate military service and an unsuspecting user of the photograph may conclude that Mimka was in the military.

He was not.

His son Edward was. The stone is in the center of the Habben graves. Edward and his wife’s inscriptions are on the reverse side of the stone. The flag was placed on the grave to acknowledge Edward’s military service.

It is always a good idea to photograph the entire stone and remember that there could easily be something on the “other side.”

And don’t jump to conclusions.


AncestryDNA Class in Galesbug, Illinois, 19 October 2019

Carl Sandburg College’s Corporate and Leisure College will be hosting an all-day ” Beginning with Your Ancestry DNA Matches” with Michael John Neill on Saturday 19 October 2019 on the college’s main campus in Galesburg, Illinois (2400 Tom L. Wilson Blvd.). The sessions will run from 9:00 am until 3:30 pm.

This day-long session will discuss preparing for your Ancestry DNA test results, what matches mean and do not mean, why not every “blood relative” is a DNA match, strategies for sorting your matches, determining how matches are related (where possible), analyzing “shared matches,” determining connections of those who do not respond, and why you should try and figure out all your matches even if they aren’t on the family you really took the test to learn more about.

More information can be found on the college’s website in their Fall Corporate & Leisure Schedule.


You can register by phone between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm central time by calling the college at 309-345-3501 and paying with debit/credit card.


Gnashing of the Teeth

There’s been a great deal of talk about potential changes at Quite a bit of digital ink has been spilled. Unless you have an investment interest in or are involved in their management, there’s little (translation: nothing) you can actually do. That’s how it is with most companies. And unless you are employed by any impact on you will be minimal–after all the records they have are available elsewhere. They may be not available in digital format, but they do exist. Some of what you can do are things you should already be doing:

Yes I have a tree on, but it’s not the onlyplace I have it.
  • downloading the data and images you find to your own digital media;
  • backing up that data and those images to secure your access to them;
  • realizing that no company or organization lasts forever (A&P, Woolworth’s, GAR, etc.) and that a “tree” on is not a permanent storage solution;
  • double-checking data from those compiled “trees” you incorporated into your own (which you’ve hopefully stopped doing or never even did);

Actually what researchers need to do is to be actively involved in record preservation initiatives that do not involve in ways that and strive to preserve those records in ways that allow open access, are fiscally responsible, and work to preserve the integrity of the records and maximize their lifespan.

We can pontificate on why there may be changes at

  • how many DNA kits can you actually sell?
  • is their business model sustainable?
  • how many people are actually interested in their genealogy enough to continually shell out subscription fees?
  • how many DNA kits were sold as gifts to people who didn’t give one fig about where their family was from?

And there may not be changes. Or there may be.

Gnashing of teeth in frustration, contemplating what may happen, worrying about what will happen…that all takes time away from actual research. wasn’t around when I started my research in the early 1980s. Everton’s Genealogical Helper was the “big deal” at the time. Who has even heard of that magazine and publisher today?

And I’ll still be doing research whether is around or not. My genealogy isn’t about It’s about me.


Who Was Mary Hart Who Knew the Natural Children of James Orrey?

On what was probably a warm day in June of 1818 in what was probably Bedford County, Virginia, Mary Hart made out an affidavit before Thomas Logwood:

upwards of Twenty years ago […] James Orry made a will […] and Left his Land to Mary Parkers four Children (viz) Nancy Parker Aaron Parker Moses Parker & James Parker…

She probably never dreamed that two hundred years later someone would be reading her affidavit. There’s also a good chance that she could not even read it herself.

James Orrey’s will was never filed and apparently lost. His property escheated to the State of Virginia. The Parkers were attempting to recover it and Mary Hart’s affidavit was one item that was to be considered in lieu of the will and the failure to record it. Mary Hart is not the only person to make an affidavit for the Parkers and she’s not the only woman either.

Mary Welsh also makes out an affidavit in 1822 regarding the Parkers and their connection to James Orrey. She refers to them as the “natural children” of James Orrey, indicating that he was not married to their mother when they were born. What is not mentioned in her affidavit is that she was the mother of James Orrey’s children. She was the Mary Parker with whom James Orrey had four children. At least she was Mary Parker when she had children with James Orrey. She would later be Mary Welsh.

Mary Welsh’s giving an affidavit is pretty obvious. She was the mother of the Parkers and would have first-hand knowledge of their relationship to James Orrey. Her relationship was never stated in the affidavit. Mary Welsh also indicted that she was a subscribing witness to James’ will. Mary Hart’s affidavit contains that phrase, but it is struck out. It’s possible the phrase was struck from Mary Hart’s affidavit because it wasn’t relevant, but that seems highly unlikely since the phrase is contained in Mary Welsh’s affidavit and the inheritance is key to the Parkers’ attempt to recover the property of James Orrey from its escheatment to the State of Virginia. What’s more likely is that Mary Hart was not a witness to the Orrey will, but that she had first hand knowledge of the parentage of the Parker children.

The question: who is Mary Hart?

The other question is: how did she have that first hand knowledge?

The first question may take some work to discover. Information on women is not littered all over records in early 19th century Virginia. Census records only list heads of household–usually men. Even if Mary Hart is enumerated as a head of household, it may be difficult to determine if it’s the right Mary Hart. There’s always the possibility that her last name was some reasonable variation on Hart. The affidavit does not indicate where she lived in 1818. While it was probably in Bedford County, Virginia, or very near to it, there is nothing in the document that explicitly states she lived there. Since she had knowledge of the relationship between Orrey and the Parker children she likely lived near them at least during their births. Locating more about Mary Hart will require determining if she was single or married. If she was married, locating more about her will be easier done by locating information on her husband.

The question of “how she had first hand knowledge?” may sound a little creepy (or perhaps quite a bit creepy) and suggest that she was a local busybody who knew everyone’s business. That’s not the intent. If she knew Mary Parker was the mother of all of James Orrey’s children, how did she come to that knowledge? It is possible she had some familial connection to Orrey or to Parker.

Of course our research does not operate from the premise that Mary Hart is related and that we are trying to prove it. Our research operates from the desire to learn more about Mary Hart, knowing that she was associated with the Orrey-Parker families well enough to vouch for the parent-child connection.

A supplemental question: was there no man who could testify to this parent-child relationship? If there was he likely would have testified instead–given the realities of the time.

Mary Hart’s affidavit appears in the petition of Moses Parker, James Parker, John Parker, and Sarah Ramsey to the Virginia Legislature, 11 December 1822, all petitioners from Bedford County, Virginia, appearing in “Legislative Petitions Digital Collections” on the Library of Virginia Website (Richmond, Virginia) at

Viewed on the Library of Virginia website on 19 August 2019. Mary Hart’s affidavit is part of the Parker-Ramsey petition. Their request for relief was granted.


What Is In the Finding Aid

FamilySearch allows users to enter in fields in search boxes for those fields even if the information is not included in their database. Sometimes this is because the information was not in the record being indexed. Other times it is simply because the information was not captured when FamilySearch was indexing the information.

A case in point are the naturalization records from Illinois. For records from many counties, the county of the record was not captured. That’s the case with George Trautvetter’s naturalization from 1855 in Hancock County and others I have used as well from a variety of locations within Illinois. Some entries have locations more precise than the state attached to them. Others do not.

With names as unusual as this it really doesn’t matter. There are not many Trautvetters to filter through. Searching by a more precise location than the state does not matter. It does hinder my ability to search for John Johnson in the database when I cannot narrow my search by location.

Of course someone during the pre-1906 time period could go to any court and naturalize–not just the one in the county in which they lived. But I wish FamilySearch had included more geographic information in this database. It is contained in the actual record as the records used to create this finding aid were (mostly) county court records of naturalization.

To find John Johnson, whom I believe likely naturalized in either Hancock County (where lived) or possibly Adams County (near where he lived and where he had in-laws living), it’s probably best to search the old-fashioned way: use the actual record volumes (images in this case), see if the individual volumes are indexed, and go from there. There will be some wading to do (as I have to wade through all the Hancock County naturalization), but that’s a small amount of wading than going through all the search results for a John Johnson in this database without the ability to effectively search by location.

It’s always a good idea to search for a practice person and look at the results–see what information is included in the index and what is not. That’s a great way to know how to construct your searches and it’s a great way to know if you might just have to search the images the old fashioned way.

That’s what I’m doing for John Johnson.


Peter’s Bar and Grill in Warsaw, Illinois

This image comes from the estate of my Peter Bieger which was probated in Hancock County, Illinois, in the mid-1850s.

He had twenty gallons of cherry brandy, among a variety of other items, some of which are shown here. The inventory of his estate confirmed what had been suggested from other records: that Peter was a tavernkeeper. That’s a little too much booze to have on hand for the typical person.

I don’t have a direct statement that Peter ran a tavern and my references to his occupation always reference this inventory. He is not enumerated in the 1850 census that I can locate and the 1855 Illinois State Census does not provide any occupational information. Warsaw does not have any city directories that are extant for the time period and local newspapers make no mention of Peter’s tavern either. Those would have been good places to potentially find occupational information for someone during this time period.

I was fortunate that the inventory was even available. And I don’t know that his establishment was called “Peter’s Bar and Grill.”


Selling Liquor in Hancock County, Illinois

I copied the entire file during a recent trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City–The People of the State of Illinois vs. John M. Trautvetter.

There are not many details in the case file packet for the case which was based on events that took place in 1898-1899–I was hoping for page after page of detailed testimony and drama. It was not to be. The case was brought to the Hancock County, Illinois, County Court in 1899.

I need to follow up . In my haste to make digital copies, I broke one of my major rules of digital scanning from LDS microfilm–scanning the “title” page of the reel. I wish I had done that here. At least I did scan the cover sheet from the packet of papers. The judge did not sign the part of the packet indicating there was probable cause. It looks like I’ll have to do more searching to see just what happened in this case.


Henry Fecht’s “1863 Immigration” on FamilySearch

Looking at the original is always advised because indexes are occasionally incorrect and (because they are finding aids not transcriptions) sometimes incomplete. That’s old news for most genealogists who have been researching for a while. It’s also something that’s clear in the record entry in “Illinois, County Naturalization Records, 1800-1998” at FamilySearch for a Henry Fecht who “immigrated” in 1863.

A look at the actual record indicates that is not correct. Henry did not immigrate in 1863. The record image (Fecht’s naturalization from Madison County, Illinois) indicates that he declared his intention to naturalize in September of 1860 in Madison County and completed his naturalization there in April of 1863. That’s the year of his naturalization, not his immigration.

Henry’s witness on his naturalization is a man named Joseph Gottlob. All we know about Gottlob from the record is that he was a United States citizen over the age of twenty-one. That was the legal requirement to vouch for someone completing their naturalization process. FamilySearch does not index names of witnesses on naturalizations–their index is not an every name index. It’s only an index to the individuals who naturalized.

FamilySearch now allows for the “editing” of name transcriptions. I wish they did that for other data from the record as well.

A quick search indicates that this Henry Fecht is not the only entry in this database where a naturalization year has been confused with an immigration year.