Sunday, February 22, 2015

Family History Adventures with Ash and Leah

I've known for several years that my 3rd-great-grandparents, Paul Groff and Susana (Garlinghouse) Groff were buried not too far from where I live, in Thurston County, Washington. For a long time, I was content to have pictures of their graves that I found on But earlier this week, I had an idea - I could take my family down to visit their graves, and on the way down, tell them Paul and Susana's story, to make finding their graves more meaningful. This weekend seemed the perfect time to do it - I wasn't busy, my wife had no plans, and the weather was supposed to be nice and sunny (a rare thing for western Washington in February). I told my wife of my plans, and she was fully supportive. It was gonna be great!

And then, life happened.

My wife got sick Friday night, and by Saturday morning, she was feeling no better. But she was still supportive of me taking the older kids on the adventure, as she called it. I felt bad she had to miss out, but I thought the three of us could still have a good experience, so after a quick stop at McDonald's for lunch, we were off.

I didn't tell the kids where we were going, and they were happy just to be going somewhere. I put on their music CD (a kids' music group called the Not-Its) until we were about 20 minutes away, when I told them I was going to tell them a story. I think it helped that I told them ahead of time that I'd play their music for part of the trip, and tell them a story for the rest of the trip down, so they knew it was coming.

I told them the story I was going to tell them was all true. It was about a man named Paul who was born in New York. He had a mom named Hannah, a little brother named Isaac, and a sister whose name I didn't know. He grew up and worked as a mason, making bricks and building bridges and buildings with them. He joined the Army and went all over the place - Mexico, Missouri, lots of far away places. While he was gone, his mom got sick and his little brother broke his leg. His mom wanted him to come home, but he couldn't because he was in the Army. So she wrote to the President of the United States asking him to let her son come home. But the President said no. So Paul stayed with the Army until he was allowed to go home.

When he went home, he took care of his mom and brother, and eventually he married a girl named Charlotte. They had a little girl named Sophronia, and everything seemed to be going well. But then Charlotte got sick and then died. He needed someone to take care of Sophronia while he went out and worked on his farm, so he married again. His second wife was a girl named Susana, and they had eight more kids (they actually had 10, I couldn't remember the actual number). Their kids all grew up and got married and moved away. Paul wanted to live near one of his kids, so he and Susana packed up and moved out to Washington to live near his first daughter Sophronia. Soon after they got to Washington, Paul's wife Susana got sick and died. So Paul lived with Sophronia and her family until he died in 1912.

Once I finished relating Paul's story (and they listened much better than I thought they would) I told them that Paul had a daughter named Mary, who had a daughter named Dora, who had a son named Charles, who had a daughter named Blossom. Then asked them if they knew anyone named Blossom. Leah said "Yeah, Grandma Blossom!" I said "that's right! This story was about Grandma Blossom's great-grandpa, Paul Groff!" The kids couldn't believe the story was about someone in their family. One of them asked me how I knew so much about Paul. I said "remember all those nights I spent doing genealogy? I was finding things that told me the stories of our family." They both said "ooooooh." It was a really cool moment.

Right as I finished the story, we got to the cemetery (talk about perfect timing!). As mentioned before, I had a picture of the graves thanks to, so I had some idea of what to look for. The cemetery was a lot bigger than I thought it was going to be, so we ended up hiking around most of it in big circles for close to a half hour. I showed the kids the picture, and they were really helpful in finding stones that looked like it. After a while, with the cold wind blowing in our faces for so long, the kids were getting pretty worn out of tromping around looking for a grave we couldn't find, when suddenly I spotted it. Well, them. There were two of them, one for Paul, one for Susana, right next to each other. One thing we noticed right away, and which had made the graves harder to find was the lack of the tree/bush right behind the graves, as is shown in the Findagrave picture. All that's left now is a little stump, which you can see poking out from behind Paul's stone on the left below.

Paul's stone is still in really good condition. The writing was nice and legible, and the designs on the top and bottom were pretty easily seen. Susana's stone has not weathered as well. The picture on her Findagrave memorial shows a bit more of the wording than I could see on the grave now. I could still read "Susana, wife of Groff" (the P. was no longer visible) and "born" and "died" but the dates weren't really legible. The top of the stone looked like it broke off at the anchor and was glued back on. Glad it's still standing though. 

On our way out, Leah found a stone with the name Asher on it. We stopped, and found a whole family plot, with a man named Asher, and an apparent grandson right next to him named Asher as well. The kids got a kick out of seeing someone with the same name as my son. We looked around the plot, and found there were four or five generations of this family all right next to each other. We talked about how cool it will be on resurrection day to have this whole family all together there.  I've noticed that family plots are a pretty rare thing in my family, so it was really neat to see a family all together like that. 

We had a fun time, and the trip back home was over before we knew it. The only thing that could have made it better would have been my wife and baby being there with us. We'll have to take another family history trip. Where should we go next time? 

My grandparents' DNA trails, Part IV - "Harris" mtDNA

Now we come to the last of my four grandparents' DNA trails, the mtDNA of my grandma Sally (Harris) Crawford. In case it wasn't clear last time, I put the surname for the mtDNA lines I trace in quotation marks because the last name changes with each generation. So, let's see where this DNA line leads us.

This line of DNA goes back to a lady named Margaret (last name unknown), born about 1830 or 1832 in Germany or France (she listed both in the census records, which makes me think it may have been Alsace-Lorraine, but at this point I don't know). She married John Georg Waechter in Ohio around 1853. Margaret's mtDNA came down to me through her granddaughter Philena Emily "Lena" Beilstein, Sally's grandmother, who I've written about many times before.

My grandma Sally has three kids, two girls and a boy (a nice inversion of the typical pattern of two boys and a girl). My aunt has four children, one girl and three boys. The boys can't pass on the mtDNA, but their sister can. So far, she has one child, a boy. So at this point, the mtDNA on that branch stops with my cousin.

My mom has three kids, with (you guessed it) two boys and a girl (I swear that pattern is engraved in our DNA, because that's exactly what I have too!). My brother and I can't pass on the mtDNA we carry, but my sister can. At this point, she doesn't have any kids. So like with my aunt's line, the mtDNA on my mom's line ends with my sister. So at this point, we don't have anyone among my grandma's descendants who can pass on her mtDNA.

I don't want to leave it at that though. So let's see if there's anyone else who can pass that mtDNA on. My grandma did have one sister, who had three kids (anyone want to guess the pattern? Kudos if you guessed two boys and a girl). The girl, my mom's cousin, has one child, a daughter. So far, she doesn't have any kids, so the mtDNA line on that branch ends with my 2nd cousin.

Ok, that didn't pan out either. My great-grandma, Sally's mom Edna Craddock, had three sisters. I have identified a couple of their grandchildren, but don't have any info on great- or great-great-grandchildren. Maybe I can pick the brains of a couple of Grandma Sally's cousins and try to fill in the gaps. I don't want to see my own line die out, but even if it does, odds are there are others out there of my more distant relatives carrying the torch for Margaret Waechter's line.

My grandparents' DNA trails, Part III - "Wagner" mtDNA

The next DNA trail I'm tracing is the path of my paternal grandmother, Blossom (Wagner) Gibson's mtDNA. I've traced this DNA back to Anna Kreutzer, my 6th-great-grandmother, who married my 6th-great-grandfather Georg Adam Salfer in Rosshaupt in the Bohemia region of the Austrian Empire in 1756. My grandma inherited it from her mother, Rosie Sitzman [Zitzmann], who married Charles Frederick Wagner.

Blossom had three daughters, one from her first marriage and two from her second. I know mtDNA is also passed on to male children, but as they can't pass it on to their kids, they are left out of this analysis. Her first daughter had three kids, one girl and two boys. The daughter, my cousin, had two children but both are boys, so they can't pass on the mtDNA. As it looks like they aren't having any more kids, the mtDNA on that branch ends with my cousin.

Blossom's second daughter had two kids, both daughters. The older daughter has three kids, one daughter and two boys. The younger daughter has one child, a daughter. So both of my cousins on that branch each have a daughter that can pass the mtDNA from my grandma on down to another generation.

Blossom's youngest daughter had three kids, one girl and two boys (noticing a pattern here?). The daughter, my cousin, has two kids, a boy and a girl, with a third on the way (so far gender is unknown). But my cousin's daughter gives us another candidate for passing on grandma's mtDNA to a new generation.

So between my two aunts that have girl grandchildren, there are three girls of the latest generation that could pass on grandma's mtDNA. Given that there are currently 18 kids of that generation, I'd say that having a full 1/6 of them be girls in the direct maternal line is pretty good. Hopefully they'll be able to keep Anna Kreutzer's DNA going to a new generation of descendants.

Friday, February 13, 2015

My grandparents' DNA trails, Part II - Bergstad Y-DNA

Next up on my DNA trails is the Y-DNA of my maternal grandfather, Roland John "Tom" Bergstad. He was the one grandparent I never got to meet, having died two years before I was born. He was the sixth of nine children of Jack Bergstad and Katherine Jane (Hammer) Bergstad (though Jack's first two children were from his first marriage to Mamie Wells). I haven't had much contact with the Bergstads, and online sources for North Dakota (where my Bergstads lived for a long time) are far and few between, so I don't know all the descendants of my grandfather's siblings. Thus I can't say for sure how many Bergstad men are out there from those lines. But I do know my grandfather's descendants pretty well.

Tom and Sally Bergstad had three children, two girls and a boy. They later divorced and remarried, but never had kids with any of their subsequent spouses, so that limits the Y-DNA carriers in my grandpa's line to his only son, my uncle.

My uncle has lived a very eventful life (at least what I know of it seems eventful). He is married with four kids, three sons and a daughter. None of  his sons have married and had kids yet, so at this point, that's where things stand. With three sons, I'd say there stands a pretty good chance of the Bergstad Y-DNA carrying forward to future generations.

Just out of curiosity, I looked my grandfather's siblings, to see what I do know of their male descendants. Again, my knowledge is spotty at best on some of these lines, so if anyone out there reading this knows these folks, by all means speak up! Here are the results, as I have them:

Clayton Bergstad - one son, who had one or two sons
Virgil Bergstad - two sons, one of which had a son
James Bergstad - no known descendants

So even if my uncle's boys for some reason didn't have any sons, there would be some second and third cousins out there who could carry the name forward. The Bergstads have been in this country since 1847, and it looks like they'll be here a while longer yet.

My grandparents' DNA trails, Part I - Gibson Y-DNA

This is something I've been wanting to explore for a while, and now that I'm finally less busy, I can do it! I wanted to track the Y-DNA of my grandfathers, and the mt-DNA of my grandmothers, and see what the odds are that they will continue to be passed to future generations, or whether that torch will fall to more distant relatives. Of course, as this discussion necessarily involves living people, I won't be using names or ages outside of my grandparents, just genders.

First up - my Gibson line's Y-DNA. This is the only one of the four in my little study that I can actually play a role in passing on, which is why I'm starting here. My grandpa, Fred Gibson, was the only child of his parents, Frederick John Gibson and Augusta L. (Joseph) (Staffen) Gibson. Both of his parents had other spouses, but neither had any children with those spouses. Fred married Rosemary Blossom (Wagner) Nelson (aka Blossom) in 1947, and had four children, two sons and two daughters (in addition to Blossom's daughter from a previous marriage). One of those sons was my dad, the other was my uncle. So he had two candidates to pass on the Y-DNA he received from his father.

My uncle had four children, all girls, two of whom died in infancy. Because girls don't carry the Y  chromosome, my uncle won't have anyone to pass on his Y chromosome. But he does have two awesome grandkids, so that branch of the Gibson line doesn't end with my cousins, fortunately.

My dad had two sons, my younger brother and me. My brother and his wife have one child, a son. My wife and I have three kids, two boys and a girl. Between my brother and me, we have three Gibson males, the most seen in one generation since my great-grandfather and his brothers. With three males (so far) to carry on the Gibson name, I think the odds are good that we'll get at least a few boys in the next generation. That's the hope, anyways.

When my wife and I were first married, my grandpa kept telling us in his funny, teasing way that we needed to have boys to keep the Gibson name going. When our second son was born, my wife told him "There, I've had two boys. I've done my job!" I'm proud of the Gibson name I bear, and I do hope that there will be more Gibson boys (and girls!) to keep the family name alive for generations to come.