My Beginnings with AncestryDNA Circles: Part I

Note: This blog post will be corrected any known errors in fact are located or brought to my attention. Our discussion here is an attempt to be elementary in the explanation.

AncestryDNA finally gave me some of the infamous “circles” on my results page. The circles are an attempt to group together DNA submissions who appear to be a part of the same family group. The AncestryDNA Circles contain individuals who are DNA matches to each other (or to several others in the group) and who have shared ancestors in their trees indicating a relationship that is consistent with the estimated cousinship based upon their submitted DNA.

You have to match on some DNA with some of the people in the circle and you have to have shared ancestors in your tree. People who are DNA matches and do not have a “tree” will not appear in any circles.

I’m in eight circles as of this writing:

  • Christianna (DeMoss) Rampley (born in the early 1770s probably in Harford County, Maryland.
  • Hinrich Janssen Ufkes (born 1797 Ostfriesland, Germany) and the circle for his wife Trientje Eilts (Post) Ufkes (born 1803 Wiesens, Ostfriesland, Germany)
  • Riley Rampley (born 1835 Coshocton County, Ohio) and the circle for his wife Nancy Jane (Newman) Rampley (born 1846 Rush County, Indiana)
  • Johann Friederichs Hinrichs Ufkes (born 1838 Wiesens, Ostfriesland, Germany)
  • Johann Luken Jurgens Ehmen Goldenstein (born 1814 Wrisse, Ostfriesland, Germany and his wife Tjade Anna Focken (Tammen) Goldenstein (born 1824 Buhren, Ostfriesland, Germany)

AncestryDNA refers to the circles as being in “beta” and that my circles are in process. I’m assuming that is why I’m not in circles for the spouses of some of these ancestors. I’m also assuming that this is why I’m not appearing yet in circles for other ancestors that I know have other descendants in the AncestryDNA database with trees attached to their submissions.

The Circles are an attempt to help users of AncestryDNA discover relatives in their database by relieving them of some of the work of searching. It also allows them to find individuals who may be relatives and with whom they share no DNA. The further back the common ancestor the higher than probability that you share no DNA.

That’s what happened with one of the individuals in the Hinrich Jansen Ufkes Circle. As shown in the first illustration the first four people in the circle are a DNA match to me. The last person in the circle is not a DNA match to me. However that person matches several other people in the circle for Hinrich.


Two of my relatively close Ufkes cousins (also descends of Hinrich) are not in this circle. That’s because they have not submitted trees as a part of their AncestryDNA account. They do appear on my DNA matches as the three of us all descend from Fred Ufkes (born 1893) who is a grandson of Hinrich. Only including people with trees (which may change) does not seem to present any significant advantages to me at this point.

The last person in the circle is not a DNA match to me, but is a DNA match to me and others in the circle. We all have Hinrich in our trees.

At this point, I’m not certain how I personally will use the circles as the circles I’m in are not for any ancestor who has any, for lack of a better phrase, research challenges. I’ll be interested to see if I appear in circles for other ancestors–particularly ones who have been more difficult to research.

At this point, I’m also not certain how (from my standpoint) the circles are any different from searching submitted trees for matching ancestors–except that search process for those trees is automated and DNA matches are initially how people are connected. Admittedly AncestryDNA is referring to the circles as still being in beta.

Your experience with using the circles may vary. We will have a followup post explaining the matches in more detail. Names have been removed for privacy.



1890 US Veterans’ Schedule on is indicating that their “1890 Veterans Schedule” has been updated.

This census is only available for those states whose appear in an alphabetical of the US states beginning with Kentucky.

Since it is a census, it is organized by location. This can be helpful in certain research situations. Researchers who suspect their William Smith was in the Civil War and know where he was living in 1890 can learn his unit information from this census. Sometimes it can be difficult to find the “right” William Smith in pension and other service indexes with no other identifying information. This enumeration indicated that the William Smith living in Clark Township, [Chariton County, Missouri] was a corporal in Company H of the 18th Missouri Infantry. That information makes it easier to get the right William Smith in other Civil War finding aids that may not contain specific geographic information.

As evidenced by this illustration one should for dead soldiers in this census as well. Their widows are listed–with the name of the veteran to whom they were married.

Clark Township, Chariton County, Missouri, Special Schedules of the Eleventh Census (1890) Enumerating Union Veterans and Widows of Union Veterans of the Civil War; Series Number: M123; digital image–, 26 July 2017.

A Picture of Trientje (Behrens) Sartorius

I had forgotten this picture even existed.

The undated picture is of Trientje (Behrens) Sartorius who was born in Weene, Ostfriesland, Germany and died in 1926 in Quincy, Adams County, Illinois. Ulferts was her “middle” name in a sense. It was not a middle name in the way that people typically think of them. It actually was a patronym based on the name of her father, Ulfert Behrens.

Trientje came to the United States as a child with her parents, married Hinrich Sartorius, and raised her family on a farm near Golden, Adams County, Illinois. After their children were grown, she and Hinrich spent some time in Quincy after they retired, which is where she died. She and Hinrich are buried in Golden.

This picture is in the possession of one of Trientje’s numerous descendants. She and Hinrich had eleven children, nine of whom left descendants of their own. Trientje, later anclicized to Tena, was passed down as name to several of Trientje’s descendants, including my great-grandmother Trientje (Janssen) Ufkes. Trientje was named for her own grandmother, Trientje Ulferts (Claassen).

Trientje’s adult children died over quite time span–from 1913 until 1979. As a child I can remember my mother telling me that my great-grandmother still had an aunt living. At the time my great-grandmother seemed ancient (she was in her early eighties and I was not quite a teenager) and the thought she had an aunt by birth still living seemed nearly impossible to me. It wasn’t.

Records on the children of ancestors may contain information on their parents. The death of Trientje’s daughter over fifty years after her own death serves to remind us that those records may have been created half a century or more after our actual person of interest died. And those later records could contain significantly more detail.

And you should always reach out to your distant kinfolk. They may have pictures that you do not.


What to Do in Fort Wayne?

I was stymied about what families to work on during my trip to the Allen County Public Library in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, in August.

The library has a wonderful collection of print materials as well as microfilmed copies of National Archives records, microfilm copies of many city directories, and a scattering of microfilmed copies of local records for select areas of the United States (the library’s microtext catalog is online and provides specific information). The National Archives microfilm in the library’s possession has largely (completely?) been digitized and is available (entirely or partially) for a fee on and and for free on FamilySearch and Not all sites have all National Archives microfilm and not all digitized versions are indexed. 

The Allen County Public Library has also digitized a significant proportion of their print collection as well (their entire print material catalog is online and the print material that has been digitized can be viewed through their portal at coverage is national in scope, but does tend to emphasize United States areas east of the Mississippi as well as including a national collection of 20th century city directories. There are also non-US materials in their collection as well.

The digitization of the library’s books only includes those that are out of copyright. Generally speaking, books of that age tend to be county and town histories along with some family histories and some transcriptions of town records (especially in New England). Most twentieth century publications (including genealogical journals are not included).

What is helpful depends upon an individual’s research. It’s always difficult to answer a question about “will a library help me?” without knowing some details about what the person is trying to find. It’s important for a person to think about their research, what their problems are, what they are trying to learn something about, and what they already know.

That goes right back to preparation.

Most of the non-National Archives microfilm materials are not applicable to my research at this time or are areas that I’ve already completed my work on. It’s a great collection, but I don’t need it now.

That leaves books whose copyright has not expired as the digitized ones I can access at home. I realize that it’s great to see the book in person, hold it in your hands, etc. but as my time is limited I need to focus on materials I can’t easily get at home.

That leaves (generally speaking) print materials that have not been digitized–largely items whose copyright has not expired. A large section of the library, that still gives me options.

At this point it boils down to my personal ancestry and what I’ve researched fairly thoroughly and what I have not. Work on my maternal lines are out. Those families were post-1850 immigrants to the mid-western United States, are families I’ve worked on a fair amount already, and are generally not covered in genealogical journals or publications. Working on my two paternal great-grandfathers is pretty much out as well as one was the son of 1860-era Irish immigrants and the other was the grandson of German immigrants from the 1840 era.

That leaves my paternal great-grandmothers. Both of them descend from families who were in the United States before the American Revolution. One of them is the grand-daughter of an 1805 Vermont native whose ancestry is reasonably well determined back to a variety of English immigrants to Massachusetts beginning with the Plymouth settlers. That Vermont native married an Ontario native in the 1830s, but previous work on her ancestry suggests that answers to her parentage probably rests in original records from Ontario that are not in the Ft. Wayne’s library collection. Work on her family really isn’t going to be accomplished in print materials at the library.

Then I saw the blog post by Heather Wilkinson Rojo on the Maverick family of Dorchester, Massachusetts. It’s a family from which my 1805 Vermont native is known to descend. Heather mentions several Maverick family references in her posts which are books that I don’t have and which are ones I don’t have immediate access to. I will add those references to my list of books to locate while at the library and see if I can find additional online references to print materials which may also provide some clues about this family. I’m reasonably certain the Allen County Public Library has the items Heather references in her post and with some work I no doubt can find some other print references as well which I can copy while at the library.

Of course those copies will be for personal use only and any print material can contain errors. But it will give me a place to start.

But instead of spinning my wheels on families that are more difficult to locate in print materials, I’ll hopefully at least make some headway.


Gaps in My Immigrant Knowledge

I know I knew it at one point in time, but it can be easy to forget things for a variety of reasons.

I’m re-reading Sonya Salamon’s Prairie Patrimony: Family, Farming, and Community in the Midwest (Studies in Rural Culture) as a means of re-familiarizing myself with certain concepts for a variety of personal and professional reasons. Salamon studied four migrant groups into Illinois in the mid-19th century(*) and their approach to farming and land tenure. Those groups were:

  • German Yeoman–an Ostfriesen (Lutheran) settlement referred to as “Heartland.”
  • German Yeoman–a German Catholic settlement referred to as “St. Boniface.”
  • Yankee Entrepreneur–a Illinois settlement of American natives from across the United States who Salamon referred to as “Yankees.” She made her case for the use of that term in her book and in that context it makes perfect for several reasons including the fact that European immigrants often referred to all Americans as “English” because of the language they spoke–no matter what part of the US they were from. That settlement was referred to as Wheeler in her book.
  • A mixed German/Yankee settlement–referred to as Prairie Gem.

The book holds high personal interest for me because all my Illinois families arrived during the time period covered in Salamon’s book. All (except for one ggg-grandfather) were farmers.  Half my ancestors settled in a settlement like Heartland (and were Ostfriesen), and most of the rest fell into one of the other categories. The only exception was that my Germans were Lutheran and not Catholic. The distinctions in terms of farming are minimal.

Salamon’s discussion of the differences in how different members of different ethnic groups approached farm growth and inheritance resonated with me because it confirmed differences among my own families that I had noticed, but had never verbalized.

From a very large perspective, the Ostfriesen farmer typically settled in one spot and stayed put (or maybe moved once until he “settled.”) His general goal was to see that his children (either as farmers or as the wives of farmers) were established near him. The Yankee perspective was to send children out on their own and have them succeed and settle where they might. Ostfriesens (and the Germans) generally wanted their farm to pass to their children, Yankees were not as concerned about passing on the physical farm to their families and retaining it “in the family name.”

With any study generalizing human behavior it is important to remember that there will be exceptions. Not everyone behaves the same. Genealogists live in those exceptions. Despite this caveat, generalizations can help provide some perspective and it’s advantageous to know what the expectations of the peer group were even if our ancestor did not follow those expectations. Not following the expectations of the culture peer group can lead to tension.

In several of my Ostfriesen families who settled in Illinois, the farms purchased by the immigrant generations are still owned by descendants today. Some are operated by descendants and some are not. Farms my “Yankee” settled on in Illinois are no longer owned by descendants. Most left family ownership upon the death of the settler/owner or in some cases, one of their children.

How did your ancestors fit in to the expectations of their peers?

Have you read academic treatments of your ancestor’s social/ethnic group and has it given you some insight into their life and experience?

*-This post originally indicated Salamon’s study discussed the mid-18th century. That was incorrect. Her study of the 1800s would be the 19th century. Thanks to a reader who caught the error.

The Limits of a Life Estate

to my wife I give a life estate in all my real property and at my demise it is to go to my children thusly named…

A life estate given to a wife generally allows the wife the right to use the property, to receive income from the property, and to live on the property as long as she lives. She will have to maintain the property and pay the property taxes, but as long as she does that it is hers to do with as she sees fit (as long as she obeys the law). There may be some slight variations from one state to another, but that’s the essence of a life estate.

In certain times and places, a life estate in the real property protected the wife and her interest in the property. It could not be taken from her. If she married again, that husband could not obtain title to the property and perhaps sell it or encumber the title. In some cases a husband might have given his wife title to his real property as long as she lived or remained a widow. This was usually a way to prevent a subsequent husband from acquiring the property and potentially leaving the wife out in the cold.

It also protected the subsequent heirs.

They would have the property after their mother died. If the wife was given fee simple title to the property in a time and place where women could write wills and bequeath real property, she could will the property to whomever she chose–potentially disinheriting a child or all of them save one. Giving her a life estate prevented her from doing that. Giving her a life estate or “widowhood estate” when men held more property rights than women partially protected her as well. No system is perfect.

It is worth remembering that bequeathing a life estate to someone is not just done in a legal context. No act is done in solely a legal context. Acts are done in a family context as well and sometimes “family drama” is dictating what sorts of legal acts are done.

My ancestor bequeathed his wife a life estate in his real property in his will in Illinois in the 1870s. At her death it was to go to his children and to one grandchild (a daughter of a daughter who pre-deceased her father). These subsequent heirs are named specifically in his will. Within a few years of his death, one son had two of the legatees sign him quit claim deeds to the property in question. The same year those quit claim deeds were executed the mother signed a will giving all “her real estate” to this son.

It looks like he was preparing for her demise and his inheritance.

The will was thrown out by the probate judge after her death because she didn’t have a fee simple title to the property. She didn’t have the ability to bequeath it. I’ll never know what the father’s real reason was for giving his wife a life estate in his property instead of giving her a fee simple title (which he could have done in Illinois in 1877). Other men during that time period who pre-deceased their wives gave them outright title. But it’s possible he had an inkling of what would happen and wanted a way to prevent it.

There’s always a reason.


The Truth of the Newspaper

It is not always true because it is in print.

In  Fields, Fens and Felonies: Crime and Justice in Eighteenth-Century East Anglia (2016 Waterside Press, United Kingdom), Gregory Durston writes in his introduction that “newspapers were usually reasonably reliable when it came to reporting the basic facts of a case and its outcome…” (p. 17). He goes on to comment further that it was not uncommon for newspapers to use a few select words for certain types of crimes quite liberally when there were in fact a variety of specific words assigned to specific types of crimes.

As a result the newspaper may not have been entirely legally accurate.

Durston is discussing newspaper reporting of criminal cases in 18th century East Anglia, and one has to be careful extrapolating his statements to newspapers in general. However, it’s important to note that newspapers are not court records and should not be considered as their equivalent. The genealogist should use a newspaper reference to a court case as a means to learn that it exists–not as a completely accurate account of what took place in court.

There could be legal details that for a variety of reasons a newspaper decided not to print.

So when a newspaper says your relative was found guilty of a robbery in 1800, you probably should try and locate actual court records.Those records may use a different word to describe the crime and that word may have had a very specific meaning.

All of this is why one cites exactly what one has used. If a newspaper said a person was convicted of a robbery, then that newspaper should be cited so that you (or someone reading your information and citation) knows that you’ve not referenced the actual court record–just the newspaper was used. It may be that court records are not extant for the period of interest.

No matter.

Your citation should reference the newspaper and you should remember that, the newspaper may have got the essence of the story right but that there could be a few details that are askew.



Reasonably Exhaustive Searches are Taxing

I did not take the time to go and see Chas. Ensminger…who has been assessor as all he would know has been covered by the evidence more definite.

Welsh’s statement was made in his summary of the testimony and documentary evidence he had received in the Civil War widow’s pension claim of Nancy J. Rampley. He decided it was not worth his time to see the local township assessor because he apparently already had the same information from a more direct source at the county tax office.

There’s a nice tie-in between Welsh’s statement and the evaluation of genealogical evidence. Researchers should attempt to obtain the most reliable and most direct sources of information–not necessarily as many different repetitions of that they can get their hands on. Welsh’s report contained property tax information from county officials. The source of tax information and amounts paid does not get any more direct than that and the amounts were what the examiner was after. Ensminger’s testimony would not add to that information. It would also not really be a “different” source.

How often do we use “different” sources that are not really “different” at all? An obituary and a death certificate that provide the same place of birth are different documents, but they likely have the same original informant. In one sense they are not really “different” from the standpoint of analyzing information. Much like the township assessor was not different from the county tax office.

I guess we could say that the investigator had done a “reasonably exhaustive search” for the tax information.

Why was BJ8 omitted from the quote?

Editorial license is why. The quote looked simpler without the reference number included. BJ8 was the witness number assigned to Ensminger by the special examiner and has no impact on the quote. The ellipses were used to indicate that something had been removed from the quote.

Learn More About Exhaustive Search

Evidence Explained: Third Edition Revised will explain more about exhaustive search and citation. It will also include citation examples for tax records and Civil War pensions.

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