Parentless

Week 5: #52 Ancestors – Branching Out

By Eilene Lyon

The genealogical aspect of family history involves sprouting branches on the family tree by adding another generation of ancestors. My tree has robust limbs, at least back to 4th great-grandparents on nearly every line, and much further than that on most.

The Putterer’s tree appears a bit scrawny in comparison. When looking at the pedigree chart, you can see that six of his 2nd great-grandparents do not have circles around the arrows that would expand to earlier generations. My efforts to find parents for these—two men and four women—is going nowhere fast.

Circles on the right-hand arrows indicate that there are more branches beyond these 2nd great-grandparents. Click to enlarge. (Ancestry.com)

I do have possible parents for Mary Beyer, but the evidence so far is circumstantial and I’m hesitant to add them to the tree. I can’t even positively ascertain the spelling of her maiden name. Two of her children’s death certificates give the Beyer spelling. Variants are Byer and Beyerer. Her possible parents are Anton and Anna B. Beyer(er). All three, and other people named Beyer, are buried in Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church Cemetery in Zelienople, Butler County, Pennsylvania.

What is confusing about tying Mary to Anton and Anna B. (Barbara?) is the 1850 census. Mary was already married to Thomas Chambers and is listed with him and six children on page 4 of the Zelienople enumeration. On page 8, taken the same day by the same census taker, lists “Anton Beyerer” with presumed wife “Barbara Beyerer” and, with the same age and birthplace as Mary Chambers, “Mary Ann Beyerer.” It seems implausible that the census taker would erroneously count Mary a second time in one day, and by her maiden name, but who knows?

What isn’t surprising is that of the six who lack parents on the tree, Mary was the only one born in the United States. The other five all immigrated from Europe. Complicating matters, they all came as adults.

Mary’s husband, Thomas Chambers (hardly an uncommon name), was born in England about 1802. All we really know of him comes from the 1850 census, as he passed away in 1856. Though Mary was just 39 years old at the time, she never remarried.

Hannah Mueller (aka Miller) was born in Germany, and thanks to census records we know she came from Bavaria and arrived in the U.S. in 1850. Age 20, she lived with a family of unrelated Germans in Bureau County, Illinois, that census year. She married Henry Bower (ancestral spelling: Bauer) the following year. Accessing Illinois marriage records is challenging at best, and I have no idea if parents would be named.

The Bower family about 1907. Back row: Edward, Lorenzo (Lou), Martin, and Elizabeth Chambers (The Putterer’s great-grandmother). Front row: Emma, Hannah (Mueller), Henry, and Margaret Reeder. Click to enlarge. (Shared by mobeez on Ancestry.com)

Charles G. Wulff and his wife, Anna, apparently married in Germany and had at least one child there before coming to America. A child’s birth record and Charles’s death notice in the newspaper pinpoint his home village of (Little) Berlin, near Lübeck in Schleswig-Holstein. Anna, whose last name is variously spelled as Bruhn, Berhn, Bouhn, and Bruns, was said to be from Oldenburg in her obituary, which is quite a ways from Lübeck. Without even knowing her proper maiden name, she may remain a mystery.

Last on the list is Esther Forsythe, mother of Arthur Gee, whom we met recently. She immigrated from Scotland in 1856, per the 1900 census, and married widower, William Gee. As we saw, they later divorced. Because she was 27 years old when she came to America, and married a couple years later, there’s very little evidence of her origins. It’s possible that Forsythe may not even be her maiden name.

Until I can find immigration and/or naturalization records for these people, I shall probably be unable to sprout these branches on the Lyon family tree.

What drives a genealogist to utter distraction? Those empty boxes!! (Ancestry.com)

Feature image: The Bower family about 1880. Back row: Emma, Margaret, Elizabeth, and Lorenzo (Lou). Front row: Martin, Henry, Hannah (Mueller), Elias (Albert), and Edward. (Shared by mobeez on Ancestry.com)

37 thoughts on “Parentless

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  1. On Mary, I have one thought. I have seen on a number of census records double entries for some people. I don’t have much experience with the 1850 census since almost all my ancestors came to the US after 1850, but on later census records, I’ve seen double entries. Sometimes it’s because there’s a gap in time between the enumerations, and a child has moved/married in between. Sometimes it’s because a person was staying at one place but lived elsewhere. Sometimes the person doesn’t understand and gives a list of all family members whether they are living in the home at that time or not. So it could be the same Mary….but you’d need some other corroboration to be sure.

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    1. I have also seen a lot of double entries, but usually not on the same day by the same census taker. It certainly could be that the parents were confused about who to include and the census taker didn’t realize she didn’t live in the household, but I don’t think they included all their children. They probably are her parents, and I don’t see any other candidates. I’d sure like to find something stronger to connect them, though.

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    1. That’s quite true. Before I began really looking, I couldn’t have told you where my grandparents were born, or who their siblings and parents were. Beyond that was just a big blank, really. Fortunately, I did start looking and have met many wonderful relatives as a result, greatly enriching my life experience.

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  2. I agree with Liz. My sister and I were trying to remember who was who in some old family photos, and already we were struggling with my grandparents siblings children and great grandparents siblings. We have one large group photo of a picnic, possibly 1890 to early 1900’s by the clothing, there must be 20 people in the photo and we know they are my maternal grandmothers family but we don’t know who each of them are.

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    1. Isn’t it a shame no one thought to identify all those people in writing somewhere? I hope I do a better job with the photos entrusted to my care. If all those people are a family group, you may be eventually able to discern who is who. And there might be other copies in circulation that did get labeled. I discovered that some photos my mom’s cousin had, labeled as my great-great-grandparents were mislabeled. But other people had copies and so I learned they were really my 3rd greats.

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      1. That’s exactly what my sister and I have been trying to do is identify who is who in all the old snaps. We know for certain it is my maternal grandmother’s family. The resemblance is uncanny. Perhaps some of my cousins might possibly have a copy. Thanks for the suggestion of checking for other copies.

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  3. I find it so interesting that some lines of my family are well rooted in a community with lot of sources where others are not. I’m sure everyone who researches their families encounter the same thing. Here’s to a year of research success for both of us.

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    1. When one line peters out, there’s always another to take up for a while. And eventually something comes to light that helps rekindle the old pursuits. As more German records get digitized, I find myself going back several generations at a time, for example. Best wishes for your research this year, too, Tonya!

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  4. There’s a mystery around every turn for you.

    Unrelated but interesting, I recently saw someone on IG who instead of using a family tree approach, was using a circle with herself in the middle and each generation written on rings emanating out from her. It was compelling in its own way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. With all the continual indexing and digitizing going on, I have no doubt new clues will come to light (without me having to search a gazillion unindexed images). I wish I could find time to do some volunteer transcriptions. I did manage to help with the 1940 census, but haven’t done any since. I’m super grateful for those who do the work so we can all benefit.

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  5. I feel your pain with the alternate spellings, especially those of German origin. My husbands mother’s family were Giers, from Germany. The alternate spelling s are Geier, Guyer, Geyer, Gier, and even Geer. There might even be more, but it sure does complicate things, doesn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, your husband might be related to Richard Geer?! Haha. I have a lot of anglicized German names on my tree. It does complicate things when siblings decide on different spellings and different from the parents, too.

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  6. Interesting how formal the pictures seem to be as the participants often seem a little stiff and without a smile, but you can be thankful that so many formal family portraits were done to aid in your research. It makes you wonder if these families took advantage of portrait photographers who used to travel from town to town with their photo gear as a livelihood.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sure some portraits were done by traveling photographers, and some towns had resident ones. The long exposure times tended to result in serious looks. Formal portraits are nice for seeing a whole family. They don’t tall as much of a story as something less formal, such as an outdoor shot showing a property/house, animals and people.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s interesting that there could be a resident photographer even back then – thank goodness for them. In school I remember learning about Mathew Brady documenting the Civil War in his sepia-toned photographs.

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