Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Probate by any Other Name

Ancestry has apparently been selling their DNA tests beyond North America, as I've recently seen DNA matches who live in Sweden, Australia and the British Isles. This is a wonderful development for those of us with fairly recent ancestors who lived in other countries.

While messaging with a DNA match in Sweden, a gap in my tree jumped out at me. That gap reminded me of a series of posts where I described how a cousin paid for research in Sweden that was sloppily (or fraudulently) done. Four years ago, I recommended:
  • Never ignore evidence
  • Consider unusual sources for unusual problems
  • Even professionals get it wrong sometimes -- by accident or on purpose
  • When you pay for research, make sure to get lists and/or copies of sources

It was important to me to document the truth for cousins now and in the future who might see a copy of the bad research. This latest review leads me to a new recommendation for my cousins:
  • Throw away that research. It is good only for starting fires and lining bird cages.

One of the lines in this allied family ended at a woman named Brita Larsdotter who was born in 1772. Why did I not have a birth date, a birth parish or parents? The bad researcher had extended her line several generations. What was I missing?

Brita had married Olof Andersson, borne children and died at the young age of 39, all in the parish of Östra Vingåker in Södermanland. The parish records were a bit sparse and there was no indication that she had migrated in from a different parish. Hopefully she had been born in the parish. The first step was to research all girls named Brita who was born in that parish in 1772. If I couldn't identify her, I could search a couple of nearby parishes, but it would certainly not be practical to search the other 2500 parishes!

There were only two girls in the birth records who were named Brita and had a father named Lars. One had a middle name of Cathrina. The other had no middle name recorded. My Brita never appeared in any other record with a middle name. So I followed the other one -- the daughter of Lars Larsson.

Lars and his wife had several children. There was not much common geography between my Brita and the Larsson family. Nor did any of the Larsson children serve as godparents or witnesses at the christening of my Brita's children. When the Larsson family was visited by the minister in about 1790, Brita's name was crossed out with no indication why. Had she moved? Married? Died? If she was my Brita, the timing would have been right for her arrival at the place she met her husband.

I followed Lars Larsson until his death. The next step was to find Lars' probate, the bouppteckning, or estate inventory. It would list all his living children or other heirs. These records are available on ArkivDigital at this time. Unfortunately, finding the file within the bound books can take some time, as there are few indexes and the order is rather random. When I finally found the file, Brita was not listed. Since my Brita was alive at the time, this was the wrong family. The other Brita had indeed died.

It was time to start over and research Brita Cathrina. Her father, Lars Ekelman, was a discharged soldier who was 72 years old at the time of her birth. Her mother was a shocking 27. Lars died in 1776, a time for which few probate records survive. Brita's mother, Anna Ericsdotter, remarried in 1777, and had several children with her second husband. Those children did indeed serve as godparents or witnesses at the christening of my Brita's children. This was definitely the right Brita. Could the relationship be proven?

Returning to the bouppteckning records provided that proof. Brita's step-father's probate wasn't found, but Brita and her mother both had files. Brita died in 1812 and her file gave the name Brita Cajsa, a nickname for Cathrina. Her mother, Anna, died in 1815. Anna's probate mentioned four children whose rights would be protected by Olof Andersson, Brita's husband. That was concrete proof that Brita was the daughter of Anna Ericsdotter and Lars Ekelman.

Having found Brita's parents, they became the end-of-line ancestors, with the same challenges in the sparse records. However, the bouppteckning files had a very important clue. Both files mentioned a man named Anders Ericsson of Gribecken in the parish of Stora Malm.

Brita's mother being Anna Ericsdotter, it appeared that Anders was Anna's brother and Brita's uncle. Indeed that was the case. Following Anders to his birth parish of Björkvik was fruitful, resulting in finding yet another generation: Eric Ericsson and Kierstin Ericsdotter. The time and money spent to research the bouppteckning records were well worth it!

The paid researcher had followed and chosen Brita, the daughter of Lars Larsson. I doubt she considered Brita Cathrina, as she should have noticed the christening records supporting this choice. She obviously did not look at the bouppteckning files.

Be careful when hiring a researcher. Get the list of sources and review the work that was done. Don't ever accept a sloppy job.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Hidden DNA at Ancestry

A couple of months ago Ancestry made another change to their policies for managing DNA test results. It is a mix of both good and bad, depending on your perspective. You can choose to hide your test from your DNA matches. If you make that choice, you also can’t see your matches. If you have extreme privacy concerns, this change could be a blessing. However, you could also skip the test or choose to delete the test from Ancestry. So this change feels a bit ridiculous.

It seems a lot of people merely want their ethnicity results, but not matches. If they choose to hide their results, they will disappear from our match lists. That would help reduce the wasteland of useless results that we researchers must wade through.

However, sometimes even a match without a tree can help with a breakthrough. I’ve assisted a couple of adoptees who relate to tests I administer, with skeleton trees that are private. I recently received a nice thank you from such a researcher who identified her birth grandfather after I shared just a little information.

I also had a personal victory. Over a year ago Roberta asked on the DNAExplained blog about converting a New Ancestor Discovery into an actual ancestor. I was able to do that recently with the help of a treeless match. It did take a lot of lucky breaks.

I administer a test for a college student that I’ll call Missy. Her parents divorced when she was young and her father poisoned the relationship by casting doubt on Missy’s parentage. His French-Canadian Catholic family was not pleased with Missy's mother. Conversely, her mother’s family, including me, was incensed at his behavior.

I tested Missy simply as part of testing many family members. Ironically, her DNA is more heavily French-Canadian than her older sibling’s. She has 12 new ancestor discoveries — more than anyone else among my 11 family tests — and most of those discoveries are French-Canadian.

For several years I have been blocked at Missy’s living paternal grandmother. Let’s call her Grandma Case (as in case study). I knew her birth date and her maiden and married names, but could not identify her parents. I also needed to do this work without reaching out to other Case researchers.

One of Missy’s New Ancestor Discoveries has the Case surname and was born in the Montreal area in about 1799. This looked like a good hint, but I was not interested in spending the time to do a descendants study.

Missy has a close DNA match with no tree, but with 329 centimorgans shared across 14 DNA segments. Lucky break number one.

The man we’ll call Eddy Case used his real name when he registered his DNA test. Lucky break number two. I waited for a year to see if Eddy would provide a tree, but it didn’t appear. One day, when reviewing the new ancestor discoveries, I decided to see if it was possible to break through the brick wall with just the information I had.

A Google search on Eddy’s name turned up only four matches in the entire US. Lucky break number three. Too many matches would have put a quick stop to the research.

One of the four men lived in the right area of Michigan. He had been interviewed in a newspaper article, giving his age. Lucky break number four.

Eddy was born before the 1940 census. Lucky break number five.

Starting from the 1940 census, I quickly ran up his tree and arrived at the new ancestor discovery couple. All the work to this point would have been done for me if Eddy had posted a tree. So this part of the journey is not a show-stopper when working with a promising NAND.

The next step was to determine possible relationships between Grandma Case and Eddy Case. One of my considerations needed to be the fact that the French-Canadian community is endogamous, which can make the match stronger than it might otherwise be.

Blaine Bettinger at The Genetic Genealogist has researched how DNA match strength corresponds to relationships. He has posted a PDF with several handy charts at his website and he updates it periodically. He has clustered relationships by strength and provides tips about how to determine probable relationships. He also tracks endogamy in his collected information.

From the charts, I could see that the match between Eddy and Missy falls into clusters 4 or 5. Grandma Case could be a younger half-sister to Eddy, a first cousin, a niece, or some other relative within two generations.


The next step was to document Eddy’s siblings and cousins. Missy had no matches to anyone in Eddy’s mothers family,  but had a number of matches related via Eddy’s grandmother’s family. I decided to ignore the possibility that Eddy was a half-sibling to Grandma Case and focus instead on Eddy's first cousins.

Tracing Eddy’s aunts and uncles, I ran into a number of roadblocks but was able to eliminate most branches through obituaries or early deaths. Finally, when ready to give up with three open branches, I found an obituary on an obscure website that listed Grandma Case as a daughter of the deceased. Lucky break number six.

Grandma Case was indeed a younger first cousin to Eddy, making Missy a 1C2R to Eddy, which is a cluster 5 match.

Would I have eventually made the find without Eddy’s DNA match? The close match with a clear name and the wonderful relationship chart led me to the right branch. If Eddy chooses now to hide his DNA tests from his matches, someone else may not have the hint they need to make a discovery.

The entire project was completed in one weekend. That is fast in genealogy time! So thank you, Eddy Case, for your contribution.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Dear Santa -- My Ancestry Christmas List

Dear Ancestry

Dear Santa,

I really need some things from Ancestry. Would you help them out, please.

Give back the number of pages of DNA matches that I have. I'm not a fan of slot machines! It's just not fair to the newbies! I know I have a bazillion matches, but they have no clue.  Show Ancestry that a heart is as important as a wallet. I know, Santa, that's a tough one. Maybe their CEO needs a visit from a Christmas ghost.

Make the data content, data indexes and search parameters behave consistently. 5 record hits should not become zero or 5,000. Help Ancestry realize they are not the only game in town. I haven't seen those bugs at their competitors' sites.

Add a source quality feature and get real with it. In fact, stop counting a source of someone else's tree as a valid source. My Chancery Court case file is a far better source than their error-filled census, but Ancestry doesn't honor that official file because it isn't in their record sets. Help Ancestry see that they are not the only source of data -- merely a tool. Sourcing from John Doe's tree isn't a quality source and Ancestry needs to treat it with no more respect than it deserves.

Return the DNA matches that were lost to Timber. I want back my matches from the Church of the Brethren endogamous group. There were several good matches that are now lost.

A three-way privacy option on trees would be fabulous. It would be private, public, or shared only with DNA matches.

There are so many other ways that  you could help Ancestry improve, Santa. But here's the last and biggest wish -- a chromosome browser. Today I found a DNA match to three of my family tests that makes no sense. Those three areas don't intersect that I know of. It may forever remain a mystery. You know the answer, Santa, because you know us all. But we humans really need a chromosome browser.

Thank you, Santa. I'm counting on you!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Adoptions and Roots Magic Genealogy Reports

An orphan named Jacob sent me into the weeds this weekend while accepting a challenge on genealogy errors. Read a bit of Jacob's story as told to me by his son and think about where you would place him in the family tree.

My father was born about 1887 or 1888. He was orphaned at a very early age and existed as a waif on the streets of Dallas, Texas. Sometime in the early 1890's a rancher by the name of Lucas took him off the streets back to his ranch to raise.  It would have been Andrew Jackson Lucas ... Whether he was officially adopted or just brought in as a foster child I don't know. My father didn't know his name so he took the name Theodore Lucas.

He lived with the Lucases until their daughter [Nora] married Frank Allee [in 1896] and he then went to live at the Allee place. He stayed with them until in his mid to late teens, when he left... He also said he was called Jakey. At one time while he was living with the Allees he considered changing his name to Jake Allee.
- Fayette B. Lucas, 2000

Was Jacob a foster child of Andrew Jackson Lucas and Mary Elizabeth Houston or was he a foster child of Nora Bell Lucas and Abraham Frank Allee? There is no right answer. The choice I made was flagged as an error in Roots Magic when I took Randy Seaver's challenge for Saturday night genealogy fun: checking for errors by running a Genealogy Database Problem Report.

To respond to Randy's challenge, I imported my Family Tree Maker database into Roots Magic, as I highly value the Roots Magic reporting capabilities. I started with the same values he used, but changed them a bit as I had a number of girls who married as early as 13. Jacob was flagged as being born when his mother (Nora) was 12 and his father (Frank) was 14. I understand that this could be an error, even though he was a foster child. The idea is to look at the dates to be sure there isn't a typo or research error.

After marking some items as not an error, including Jacob's birth, there were 18 errors remaining to be reviewed for 6,299 people and 10,688 events. That's an error rate of 0.29% on people and 0.17% on events.

However, checking on Jacob's error did show me a gap in Roots Magic. In the two versions of Family Tree Maker that I use, there are options to create a report of people who are not biological children of one or both parents. Roots Magic does not seem to have any way to create such a report. I also could not find a way to make these relationship indicators print on a family group sheet in Roots Magic, while they can be selected in FTM. I spent hours looking for how to report on relationships, as my intent is to entirely switch to Roots Magic and away from the now-defunct FTM.

That missing information is a problem, as adoptions are scattered throughout my tree and step-parents abound. With the new focus on DNA, it's an important piece of information. The primary way to see the relationship is on the specific family page. The relationship for Jacob shows as foster, while the other children have a relationship of birth, meaning biological children.

When the child has a different relationship with each of the two parents, there are two words in the relationship column, one for father and one for mother.

The reporting features of Roots Magic still make it my favorite reporting program. There is a new version in the works and I have high hopes it will include options to include relationships on reports and forms.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Save the NANDS

New Ancestor Discoveries (NANDs) on the AncestryDNA site tend to sneak quietly onto the main page and, after hanging out a while, they sometimes disappear. NANDs can be descendants of ancestors, but they can serve as clues. If your tree is not deep enough, like some of mine, the NANDs can be actual ancestors.

Quite a few NANDs walked off the pages of my family members recently. Sadly, one NAND that I wanted to research disappeared. A few wandered off my own page and onto the pages of other family members.

Having lost a cherished NAND, I decided it was time to keep track of the NANDs. I've created a spreadsheet that includes just the key information, including who the NAND was given to. You may want to keep track of your own NANDs, saving that information in case they walk away.

Not everyone has NANDs, so I'll show you what one looks like. David Donald Dickey and his wife, Margaret S Hayes, may turn out to be very important to me. They appear to be from my Mother's Pennsylvania lines, possibly through her Lake family or her Kerr family. Fortunately that couple wandered over to another family member. Here's a look at how they appear on the main page and what you'll see if you click into a NAND.

A NAND is a composite of a number of trees and can be a bit of a mess if some of the trees are messy. But a clue is a clue.

Here's my simple spreadsheet.

Now I'm saving my NANDs. You might want to save yours.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Who's Your Daddy - Part Three

Have you ever examined a confusing census record and wished you could go back in time and travel with that census taker? Perhaps there are extra or missing family members. Ages, birthplaces or relationships could be missing or wrong. Even worse, maybe the family is entirely missing in the index or in the microfilm. You'll never know how the census taker got their information. Was it a child, a senile adult, a neighbor or even personal knowledge and assumption?

Additionally, the US census images that we see on microfilm or online are generally not copies of the original census book. There are copies which were hand-copied from the original. When the copies were made, mistakes and shortcuts may have crept in. The copy that was sent to the federal government is usually the one that was filmed. The original book may be in an archive or may have been destroyed. I once had my hands on an original 1880 census book while looking for a court case in the vault of a county courthouse. At the time, I had no idea it was different than the microfilm. I missed my opportunity to examine it.

The 1850 census of Cass County, Illinois, is so full of errors that I try to validate every single piece of information. This post continues looking at the assumed children of Lindsay Lake.

The Mystery Children with Lindsay Lake

The children in the household of Lindsay Lake in 1850 are listed as:
  • Precious Moore, 16 (niece)
  • Joseph Lake, 14
  • Aaron Lake, 10 (female, whoops)
  • Jane Lake, 8
The date on the page is December 12, 1850. Did the weather play a part in the errors?

Lindsay had married multiple times. His wives by 1850 were:
  • Milly Carter, married  August 28, 1834, Morgan County
  • Mary Kinman, married April 23, 1846, Brown County
  • Caroline Evans, married October 12, 1848, Brown County
  • Mrs. Doratha Hatfield, married December 24, 1850, Cass County 
It is possible that the children listed with the surname Lake should have been listed with a surname of Kinman or Evans. It is also possible that the names and ages of Lindsay's children were just scrambled.

An Amazing 1845 Census

A state census of Illinois was taken in 1845. There are only three counties for which copies survive, one of which is Cass County. This particular census was similar to the 1850 census, as the census taker wrote the initial(s) and surname of each person in the county, along with their age. The other two counties are similar to the 1840 census.

The 1845 Cass County census is a gem. However, you have to study it very carefully, as the females and males were listed on different pages. There were approximately 500 more males than females, so the page with Milly Lake is many pages away from Lindsay Lake. Only by reviewing names before and after can family groups be identified. The Lake and allied families lived along the border of Cass County and Morgan County, so families living in Morgan County, though neighbors, are not included.

The census was completed on October 25, 1845. Females were on left pages and males on right pages. Free white females end on image 65 at Ancestry. The last three images are free white males, non-whites and summary. Look at the top of each page for whether it contains males or females.

Family members can be found on these pages and images:

Lucinda _____ Lake Carter page 112 (image 55)  John? Carter page 116 (image 57)
Angeline Lake "Carter" page 112
Rebecca Lake Hardy page 112  N Hardy page 118 (image 58)
Precious York page 114  (image 56)  John York page 132 (image 65)
Milly Lake page 114  Lindsay Lake page 132

Summary on image 68
Males 2972, Females 2484, non-white 15, total 5471

The Lake family, as shown below, included the following names:
M Lake 25 (Milly)
C Lake 6 (Cynthiana born 1837?)
L Lake 35 (Lindsay)
A Lake 9 (Aaron born 1835)
J Lake 5 (John born 1840)
J Lake 3 (unknown boy)
T Lake 1 (unknown boy)

Comparing the Census Years

Matching the 1845 census to the 1850 census, it appears that the name Joseph (14) in 1850 should be Aaron, while the name Aaron (10, female) should be Cynthiana or John. Child Jane (8) doesn't fit, but could be John.

We need more clarity to sort out the children. The 1855 census is an old style census, so doesn't help. By 1860, the family had gone through many more changes. So let's go beyond the census to a very simple solution.

Probate and Guardianship Answer the Question

There is a guardianship in Cass County that absolutely names the children of Milly Carter. Every child in the 1850 census, if truly a Lake, would have been a child of Milly Carter Lake.

Milly's father, Thomas Carter, had died in 1849. Milly's children, his grandchildren, were among his heirs. Guardianship at that time was about assets, rather than children, so the children needed to have a guardian for the assets they would inherit from their grandfather. The guardianship states that the children "have an interest in an estate not derived from their father".

On March 18, 1850, Lindsay Lake became the legal guardian of the assets of Aaron Lake, Cynthia A Lake and John Lake. The other two children from the 1845 census were not included, so either had died or were not Milly and Lindsay's children. None of the mystery children from the 1850 census were named.

The bondsmen with Lindsay were James Pointer and Jonathan Lake. Jonathan Lake died a few months later and he will be examined in another post. Scaled-down images of the guardianship follow.

This ends the proof case for the children of Lindsay Lake: Aaron, Cynthiana and John were his only surviving children in 1850.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Who's Your Daddy - Part Two

Continuing with the theme of online family tree errors, the best defense is a good offense. Creating well-documented online family trees ourselves is our best defense against errors. This blog is one way to present more complex proof cases than can be done within the limits of the Ancestry trees.

My ancestor, Lindsay Lake of Morgan and Cass Counties, Illinois, has been named as the father of random Lake relatives. In the last post we looked at proving a negative -- who Lindsay's parents were not. This time I'll prove a positive -- the names of the seven children who were heirs of Lindsay Lake and the correct parentage of two women who were not his children.

Not Her Daddy

Two women who have been incorrectly named online as children of Lindsay are Precious Moore, born about 1836, and Ellen Lake, born about 1844.

Precious Moore was enumerated with Lindsay Lake in the 1850 census. Some researchers have assumed she was a married or widowed daughter of Lindsay. She was not. Precious was his ward and probably his niece. It requires only one piece of evidence to determine her parents -- her biography in a county history book. Her father's probate adds context. Her story is told in the blog post Precious Serendipity.

Ellen Lake truly baffles me. I'm not sure why she has been mistaken for a daughter of Lindsay. In the 1860 census of Brown County, Illinois, Ellen is living with her parents, Margaret Ann Long and Israel Lake. She married Richard M Williamson on June 23, 1861, in Cass County. Richard and Ellen acquired land near Lindsay Lake and lived next to several other members of the extended Lake family in Morgan County. The 1870 census shows quite a list of related people living around Lindsay, including the Williamsons.

Ellen Lake Williamson is mentioned in the obituary of her brother, William Harrison Lake. The obituary appeared in the Meredosia Budget on May 20, 1905, and not only states their parentage, but also ties together several branches of the Lake family.
While a small child he was brought by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Israel Lake, to the immediate vicinity of Meredosia ...
He is also survived by one brother, Jonathan Lake of Clayton, and probably one sister, Mrs. Ellen Williamson, is still living. H.L. Lake and Mrs. Lourissa J. Hale of Meredosia are first cousins of the deceased.
Ellen Lake Williamson and her siblings were first cousins to the children of Jesse Lake and Mary Polly Riddle -- children who were raised by Harrison Lord/Laird Lake. That family relationship was explored in the previous post in this series. The addition of this obituary helps to document the relationship of three brothers: Jesse Lake, Israel Lake and Harrison Lord/Laird Lake.

Solved in Chancery Court, not in Probate

Lindsay Lake had a will, but it was not well done. It listed bequests to his minor children, but not his adult children. That omission triggered a court fight among his heirs and generated many pages of Chancery Court records in Morgan County, Illinois. The pages are scrawled and hard to read. However, the heirs were definitively listed in the court filings. There were seven children and a widow, but no other heirs. These are the seven children of Lindsay Lake (1813-1876):

Aaron Lake, 1835-1909, married Sarah Elizabeth Bosseck (my line)
Cynthiana Lake, 1837-1906, married Nathaniel Bert Fanning
John Lindsay Lake, 1840-1896, married Elizabeth C Keller
Josephine Lake, 1861-, married Charles T Kessler
George B McClellan Lake, about 1864-
Isaac H Lake, 1866-1943, married Sarah Slater
Susan A Lake, about 1872-

Following are copies of a few key pages from the Chancery Court case file. As always, I'm happy to share full size copies of this file by email, if you leave a comment with your email address, which will remain private.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Who's Your Daddy - Part One

One of the challenges of online genealogy research is the amount of bad data you'll find in the trees of other researchers. You never make a mistake, right? I will certainly admit to my share of errors. Someone, maybe one of us, makes a mistake or an invalid assumption. That person's tree is copied and the error spreads to other trees. Reaching out to those people gives mixed results, from thank you to no response to a nasty response. Some trees are also abandoned and will never be corrected.

One of my favorite sayings is that the best defense is a good offense. Creating correct trees with ample documentation is the very best offense we have in the war on errors. And of course fixing our own errors is critical.

A few years ago I created a tree for an unknown, probably related, couple whose marriage record was often confused with that of my ancestors. Placing that mini-tree online has begun to bear fruit, as that couple is now being copied into other trees. Hopefully, with two marriage records now showing as hints, tree owners are considering both choices.

Lindsay Lake is one of the people in my tree that has both incorrect parents and incorrect children in online trees. Even in the master tree at Family Search, he has incorrect parentage. The frustrating thing about the error is that it is obvious via simple math.

It's also a case of negative evidence, rather than positive evidence, which is much harder to document with the Ancestry methods. I'll take you on a tour of the evidence as an elaboration for all my cousins.

How Old Were They?

Lindsay was born between 1805 and 1813 in Breckinridge County, Kentucky, and lived as an adult in Cass and Morgan Counties, Illinois. First let's examine census records.

  • Illinois state census of 1835: Linzey Lake, age 20-30 (1805-1815)
  • Illinois state census of 1845: L. Lake, age 35 (1810)
  • Illinois state census of 1855: Lindsay Lake, age 40-50 (1805-1815)
  • Illinois state census of 1865: Lindsey Lake, age 50-60 (1805-1815)
  • Federal census of 1840: Lindsey Lake (Lark), age 20-30 (1810-1820) 
  • Federal census of 1850 (many errors): Lindsey Lake, age 45 (1805) 
  • Federal census of 1860: Lindsey Lake, age 47 (1813) 
  • Federal census of 1870: Lindsay Lake, age 57 (1813) 

Lindsay Lake's tombstone says he died August 19, 1876, at the age of 63 years, 3 months, 12 days. That is very specific and computes to May 5, 1813. That is the date that I have chosen to use as his birthdate. From the census records, the most likely years are 1810-1813.

Not His Daddy

Lindsay Lake's incorrect parentage is listed as Harrison Lord Lake and Jane Branham. Harrison's name varies from Lord to Laird, with either that name or Harrison being used as his recorded name.

Looking at the marriage record, Harris Lake married Jane Branham on  January 27, 1822, in Perry County, Indiana. There is the first obvious clue that there is a problem. Lindsay was born at least 8 years before that marriage!

Could Lindsay possibly be a child of Harrison Lake by another wife? Harrison was in Hancock (formerly Breckinridge County), Kentucky for two census years, dying in 1848 in Illinois.

  • Federal census of 1830: Harrison Lord Lake, age 20-30 (1800-1810)
  • Federal census of 1840: Harrison L Lake, age 30-40 (1800-1810)

Even if Harrison was born in 1800, he would have been no more than 13 when Lindsay was born. No, he is in no way Lindsay's father. More likely he is an older brother or cousin.

It's so very easy to stop with the census, but there are many other records to explore. You know that stopping research at the census is a pet peeve of mine. Digging a bit further into the evidence for these men turns up more tidbits to piece together the family.

Harrison Paid Taxes

Kentucky tax rolls are a wonderful source  of information. Examining the tax lists for Breckinridge County and Hancock County show that Laird Lake was first taxed in Breckinridge County in 1821, as a man of 21 years of age, who was also taxed on one horse. This tax roll implies that his birth year was 1799-1800.

In 1826, he was taxed on 37.5 acres of land in the Sandy Branch watershed and in later years the land was listed as being in the Indian Creek watershed. In 1828, he also owned three horses. He was accumulating wealth.

Hancock County was created in 1829, and Harrison's land was part of the change. He was taxed in Hancock County in 1829 and thereafter. In the last year he was taxed in Kentucky, 1845, H.L. Lake held 80 acres in the Indian Creek watershed, valued at 500 dollars. He also had three children between 5 and 16, nine head of cattle and three horses. It is humorous that the tax list did not include whether there was a wife.


Two family biographies expand the story of Harrison Lake and his family. We find the following in the Portrait and Biographical Album of Morgan and Scott Counties, ILLs.,  (Chapman Brothers, Chicago, 1889).

The biography of Jesse Lake:

A native of Kentucky Mr. Lake was born in Hancock County, July 15, 1825, and is the son of Lord H. and Jane (Branham) Lake, the father a native of Pennsylvania and the mother of Virginia.
In 1845, when a young man of twenty years, Mr. Lake emigrated with his parents from Kentucky to Illinois and settled in Cass County, where the father died shortly afterward. Jesse remained with his mother until ready to establish a home of his own, and was married in Cass County, April 9, 1848, to Miss Harriet, daughter of Henry and Patsy (Brown) Phelps. Of this union there were born six children, only two of whom are living -- Isaac and Jesse, Jr. The deceased were Harrison, Henry, Martha and Lindsay.

Mr. Lake came to Morgan County in 1867, and settled upon his present farm where he has since lived.
The biography of Isaac Hale:

Mr. Hale was married in Kentucky, Jan. 9, 1845, to Miss Lurissa J. Lake, who was born in Perry, Ind., but was reared in Kentucky. She was the daughter of Jesse and Mary Lake.
Lurissa Lake is incorrectly presumed by many to be the daughter of Harrison Lord Lake, as he gave consent, as her father, for her marriage in Hancock County. Lurissa was probably Harrison's niece.

Notice that Jesse Lake (the younger) named a son Lindsay, implying a relationship to the subject of this blog post.


Who do you think was the administrator of Harrison L Lake's Cass County probate in 1848? It was Isaac Hale, his presumed nephew-in-law. Harrison's eldest son, Jesse, was only 23, while Isaac was 25. Lindsay was 35 years old, but was not the administrator, serving as further proof that he was not Harrison's son. Why Isaac Hale was the administrator is certainly a mystery.

County Atlas

According to the Atlas Map of Morgan County, Illinois, 1872, Lindsay Lake came to Morgan County, Illinois, from his birthplace of Breckinridge County, Kentucky, about 1828. That was 17 years before Harrison Lake migrated to join Lindsay and other relatives.

More Census and Probate

Returning to the math of this connection, Lindsay was between 15 and 18 years old when he came to Illinois. There are no men named Lake in the area in the 1830 census. Therefore he came as a hired hand or with a mother or sister who had a different last name. If you've been following the Lake story, you can guess who Lindsay probably lived with in 1830.

Reuben Moore, aged 30-39, had in his household two children under 5, plus one male aged 15-19 and one female aged 15-19. Reuben's wife, Elizabeth Lake, was aged 20-29. When Reuben Moore died in 1840, all the heirs in his probate were minors. Calculating ages indicates that the two oldest children in the household were not Elizabeth's children, but were probably her siblings, Lindsay Lake and Precious Lake.


Lurissa J Lake Hale's brother died in 1906, and had a lengthy obituary in the Meredosia Budget Newspaper - 12 July 1906 -- Vol. I No. 49, Front Page.

Harrison Laird Lake departed this life at the Soldiers Home hospital in Quincy, Ill., at 6:40 o’clock on Thursday evening, June 28, 1906, the immediate cause of his death being given as heart failure.

At the time of his demise, Mr. Lake was 75 years, 5 months, and 28 days old, having been born January 1, 1831 at Hawsville, Hancock County, Kentucky.
When but two years of age his mother was called from family and friends to the great beyond, leaving her two children, the subject of this sketch and the late Mrs. Lourissa J. Hale, then 11 years of age, to the tender care of a near relative, and two years later the father joined the mother on the other shore.

The two orphans continued their home with their relative until January 9, 1843, when the sister became the wife of the late Isaac Hale. 
It's interesting that Harrison Lord Lake (the elder) was called a "near relative", rather than an uncle. This phrase keeps the question open of the exact relationship between the various branches of the Lake family of Morgan and Cass Counties, Illinois.

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Precious Pension File

When all the evidence comes together to reveal family relationships, it's an exciting moment. Another Lake researcher finally was able to understand the connections in a document after my recent posts on two women named Precious. She shared with me the document, which is one that I had not seen.

As a quick recap, Precious Moore Weathers and her sister, Elizabeth Moore Muntman, were daughters of Elizabeth Lake Moore. After being orphaned as a toddler, Elizabeth was raised in the household of her (presumed) aunt, Precious Lake York.

Precious York filed for a military pension based on her husband's Civil War service. Wounded at the Battle of Shiloh, John York returned home to Morgan County, Illinois, where he died from his wounds.

There were few birth certificates in Illinois at the time of the Civil War, so the ages of pensioners and minor children needed to be proven via Bible records or through affidavits from neighbors. For elderly soldiers later in life, census lookups were even used to verify age.

Precious had several minor children and in her file is a fascinating affidavit. In July of 1880, a woman named as Lizzie Montman gave an affidavit that listed the names and birth dates of the children of John and Precious York, her aunt. She signed the affidavit as Elisabeth Muntman. The document was witnessed by her sister, Precious Weathers.

One of my theories had been that the 13-year-old Elizabeth in the York household in 1850 was actually Elizabeth Moore. The affidavit confirms there was no Elizabeth York; therefore, the theory holds.

Thank you to the researcher who shared this fascinating look at family members supporting one of their own.

The entire file and this complete document can be found on Fold3.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Ready, Fire, Aim: Ancestry Misses the Target

Ancestry announced a change to DNA test management late this past Thursday that angered many of their core customers. Effective immediately, only one DNA test can be activated from each Ancestry account. The blog posting where the announcement was made was followed by hundreds of frustrated comments. I share many of the concerns stated by others and won't repeat them here. Rather, let me tell you about my first cousin.

Ro was raised in the eastern US, while I was raised in the west. We've now switched coasts. I can count on two hands the number of times we've seen each other in person. We email and are friends on Facebook, but we're not close. Ro lives on a fixed income, but decided to take a DNA test with Ancestry. We got together last year and she explained something that had just not registered with me before: she was an orphan.

Her father had died when she was in grade school and her mother had placed the children in boarding schools. The family unit was irretrievably broken at that point. Ro and her mother had a tumultuous relationship, but were starting to mend it when tragedy struck. Traveling on icy and treacherous roads, the two were in a horrendous accident. Both were badly hurt. Her mother never fully recovered. She died after lingering and fighting for over two years.

Ro's mother and my father, siblings, were orphaned young. Likewise, both their maternal grandparents (our great-grandparents) had been orphaned. Ro and her siblings had also been orphaned in their 20s. They were the third generation of orphans in four generations. Like many adoptees and orphans, she was curious about her heritage.

Ro had a free Ancestry account under which she registered her DNA test. When her test popped up as a match to mine, I looked over her tree and suggested a couple of changes that would make our trees align. She was able to make simple changes, but did not have an easy way to add the many generations of ancestors that I shared with her. I had done some work on her father's family, also, so had plenty of data to share.

After trying a couple of ways to get my data into her tree, we gave up on doing it the right way and used the dirty way. Ro gave me the password to her Ancestry account. Today her tree has about 100 names more than the number she started with. I maintain (or don't maintain) her tree. If there are questions from other researchers, she sends them to me.

I also have elevated rights for her DNA test. When I first logged into AncestryDNA as Ro, I was appalled at how limited her account was. Having spent as much as $100 for the test, she could only see a few of her top matches. That seems blatantly unfair. Instead, I am the one who reviews her matches and writes notes for them.

Ro also asked for a favor. Could I find any newspaper coverage of that awful car accident? I looked at several newspaper websites, including (owned by Ancestry), to which I had a subscription at the time. I found some possible matches in that collection, but there was a problem. That particular newspaper was part of the "Publisher Extra" collection. Even with my paid subscription, I couldn't check out the articles without paying additional subscription fees.

In a previous post, I stated that Ancestry wants two things. This new policy shows they want three things:
  1. Your money for subscriptions
  2. Your genealogy data to grow their database
  3. Your DNA, with permission to use it for research
I'll stay with Ancestry for now, but I won't be buying any more DNA test kits from them. We'll all see what effects this policy will bring to the Ancestry landscape.

Two of my distant cousins who are reading this (I hope) might be able to find that newspaper coverage for Ro. One of you moved a couple of years ago from a state near me to a state where we have our shared roots. You are my best hope, as you now live near the accident site. The other cousin may have access to a full subscription through your FHC. If either of you are willing to try to help Ro learn more about her past, please email me.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

A Confusing Widow

One of the challenges in family history is a woman who is a widow, but looks like an unmarried woman. Not knowing she is a widow, it is easy to make incorrect assumptions and conclusions about her name and her parents and to climb the wrong tree.

With increasing emphasis on DNA matching, such incorrect trees will cause even more confusion and wrong conclusions. In this case (and no doubt many others), the DNA matching could be especially incorrect due to the intermarriages between allied families.

There is no way to entirely guard against the problem. The best defense is to gather every document you can find about the family and question any inconsistency. If you see an inconsistency, try to find other information to support or disprove your conclusion.

The Lake family of Morgan County, Illinois, has such a widow in the extended family. If you search online trees, you will find a woman named Lucinda Lake who married John C Carter on December 24, 1835, in Morgan County, Illinois. Unfortunately, the marriage license refers to her as Miss Lucinda Lake, perpetuating the myth that she was not a widow.

There is a strong clue; however, that she might be a widow. The 1835 Illinois state census shows Lucinda Lake, age 20-30, with two girls aged 0-10. Lucinda is listed next to Lindsey Lake in that census.