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.

There could be other explanations for Lucinda being the head of household, but in this case, the simplest one is correct. Lucinda was the widow of Aaron Lake, which is proven by his probate, though just barely.

On the 11th of July, 1835, Lucinda Lake took out letters of administration for the estate of Aaron Lake, who had died on July 6th. Her bondsmen were John York and Eleazer Skinner. The estate was inventoried on July 18th by Angus McDonald New, Joshua Knapp and Joel Stewart. With the inventory is a list of "property taken by the widow at the appraisement". That single line in the probate file is the only proof that Lucinda was the widow, rather than the daughter, of Aaron Lake.