Thursday, February 12, 2015

DNA - Winning!

did Ancestry DNA in 2011 and it's never really helped me with anything. Well, it has shown me a few distant distant cousins that I can figure out our common ancestor(s). But, between incomplete trees (or no tree) plus no response to an emailed inquiry, it's been just "Meh." Either no one related has tested or there just aren't many cousins out there.

For a long time, there's been this guy, Ron W.,  that has been ranked a "Very High" match to me, but his tree is sparse and showed no common surnames. We communicated a little, but didn't have much to go on.

Last summer, I decided to dig around in his tree a bit looking at women missing surnames to see if I could figure them out and find something in common. Did one woman, but found nothing common. Did another named Mary Ann whose husband was Christopher Hocker. I found the undertaker's record for her adult daughter Martha and it showed Mary Ann's maiden name - Phillips!  The 1880 census said Mary Ann was born in PA and showed her parents as being born in England. I sent Ron the info and said "Maybe this is our link, I have Phillips born in England too," and left it at that.

A couple of weeks ago, practicing my "just keep looking - dumb luck happens" philosophy, I went on Genealogy Bank thinking about early 1800s marriages of Phillips family members in Philadelphia. Imagine my delight when I found a February, 1830 marriage of Mary Ann Phillips to Christopher Hocker and - get this - it said she was the daughter of William Phillips of Frankford. That was my 5X great-grandfather's name and residence! (The name Hocker didn't ring a bell so many months after I originally found it, and remember, back then I didn't even know about William, so even had I found it, it had little meaning.)

I searched other Ancestry trees for the Hockers and found a guy that listed Mary Ann's maiden name as Fritz. I wrote him a note asking where he got that. A few days later, he told me his wife had a shoebox of papers which may be where it came from.  He sent me a document of a court case where Mary Ann's grandchildren were fighting over property left them by her daughter, Martha, their aunt. (Still no bells were ringing.)

That same day, I decided to add Mary Ann to my Ancestry tree as an unconfirmed daughter of my William Phillips and see what popped up hint-wise. Her daughter's funeral record showed as a "hint," but no bells rang in my head yet. 

Later that night, I was perusing hints from other peoples' trees for her, and there was the tree from the guy who had just sent me the court document, not a surprise. But, right under him was Ron W's tree - DING DING DING!!  I couldn't believe my eyes!

With our close DNA match, that pretty much confirmed she is Richard's sister. I sent Ron the news and the court case - Ron's grandfather was the plaintiff of that case. 

It is an amazing document. It lists other bequests from Mary Ann and her daughter to the grandchildren - including "silver marked W.M.P.," most likely William M. Phillips. There are  some deeds listed as relevant to the case. I race to my computer to find and read them with my fingers crossed.

One deed of 1893 (Mary Ann's death year) starts out "William Phillips Sr. of Germantown after making his last will & testament dated November {illegible} Mary Ann Hocker {gibberish},"  then goes on later with "The said Mary Hocker (that's Mary Ann's oldest daughter) named in the will of William Phillips Sr aforesaid subsequently intermarried with Edw Williams and died intestate..." then it's illegible again. Holy Moley!

Wait...the Register of Wills said there was no file for him. Since the deed online is so hard to read, I called the City Archives to see if better copies can be made and they said it was possible. Hopefully that will lead me to the correct probate file.
I also looked back at the 1850 Census that I suspected was William, still wondering if it's him. Head of household was a wealthy woman named Mary A. Burt, then was an Eliza Burt. Next was William, an old lady Ann Doal, then a family named Hecker. OMG, not HECKER! The enumerator spelled it wrong or it was transcribed wrong.

It was actually Mary Ann HOCKER, with her 3 kids (her husband Christopher died in 1847). I could never locate the Burts or Heckers in the City Directories or 1860 Census. Now I know why! 

I still haven't found a link to the Burt women, but maybe in time.

This Phillips family has been quite a ride! (Read my last 2 posts for more background.) I've located and talked to 2 other cousins that share the Hopkins/Phillips family with me. Both are granddaughters of sisters of my great-grandmother Pauline Phillips Hopkins (married to James S. Caterson, Jr.). We are planning a spring get together.

One sent me this delightful photo of her grandmother Maggie Hopkins and her husband William Taylor ca 1915. We are not sure who the older woman is, but with the familiar way in which Maggie is leaning on her, my money is on it being her mother, Pauline Phillips who married Melvin Hopkins. She is my great-great grandmother.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Shot in the Dark

I've looked long and hard for the origin of the patriarch of my Phillips family in Philadelphia, Richard Phillips, born ca. 1796. I knew he was born in England, and came to this country fairly early in his life. I have a deed where he was given a house in exchange for a debt in 1823, and that really helped pin it down a little.

Over time, I have searched naturalization records, passenger lists, and other online resources but have yet to find anything definitive. 

One day, while digging around in his family tree, I noticed something interesting. Richard had named one of his sons William. William, in turn, had named one of his sons William. Richard's daughter, Mary Jane Carpenter, had given her son the name William Phillips Carpenter, who named one of his sons the same.

It dawns on me that this name William must have some significance in the Phillips family. The most logical explanation would be that perhaps Richard's father had that name.

I pop on over to Family Search, and go to the Philadelphia death records. I put in the search: William Phillips, born in England between 1765 and 1780. One result that pops up looks promising. So I click on the link to see the document and start reading. William Phillips, Sr., born in England, check; born in 1776, check; died in 1861, occupation tailor, buried Baptist Ground Frankford.  Could be...

As I get to the bottom of the certificate I notice the address where this William Phillips died, 581 Wharton Street. It looked familiar to me. So I quickly look at Richard's death certificate and lo and behold the addresses are the same! Richard died on March 7, 1861 and his father William died in the same house on May 28, 1861. (1861 was a bad year for  the Phillips men - Richard's son William died in November that year.)

I quickly went to Genealogy Bank to see if I could find a death notice in the newspaper. Coincidentally, another William Phillips died on May 23 in Philadelphia also. But I managed to find my William and as the article was loading I begged for something interesting. And I got it!

His death notice stated that he was a soldier in the War of 1812 and that his funeral would be at the residence of his late son Richard Phillips, and gave the address. It also said that he would be buried at Frankford.

I did the happy dance so familiar to us genealogists when we find something significant :-)

The next day I sent a letter to the Philadelphia Register of Wills to see if they had a file for William. A couple weeks later they said there was no record found. Darnit.

I now know that the name William Phillips is pretty popular during the early to mid-1800s in Philadelphia.  I have dug through all of the city directories for that timeframe and still haven't really definitively found him. I cannot find him in the 1860 census. I did locate what could be him in the 1850 census living with two families I couldn't tie to him, so I'm not sure.

I dug through a whole bunch of naturalizations with no luck. I also waded through the Philly index of deeds and came up empty.

The conclusions so far: William was here by 1814; Richard came here with or to join his father;  if there is a William, Sr. it stands to reason there is a William, Jr.; they may have been Baptist (Richard's daughter Caroline was married by a Baptist minister) and William had some ties to the Frankford area of Philadelphia as he was buried there.
I did get help from a Philadelphia genealogist to try to find more about this family, but the results have been lukewarm at best. It's a tough time period and at this point, everything is a fishing expedition. 

But that's not the end of this story. Technology assists in a breakthrough in my next post.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The 4 Rs of Genealogy

OK, I've been AWOL from this blog for a couple of years. I had a project that took over for about two years, so genealogy was sporadic. But I'M BAAAACK!!!

I've had a few cool discoveries in the past few months, so I will share them with you.

I run hot and cold on family research -- sometimes I'm so tired of not finding stuff that my drive wanes a bit. During those periods, I go to my Ancestry tree and track peripheral lines forward in time. I love seeing what happened to people, plus I love finding living cousins to share info with, so this helps to get me over my "bored" hump.

Other times, I'm ticked at my brick walls and that makes me go back and rethink, reanalyze, reassess and renew the search.

My Phillips family are real buggers. Everything happened in the difficult period of 1800-1850: before civil registration of vital records and before the census showed everyone in a household by name.

The patriarch, Richard, blessed me with a goldmine of a will written one day before he died in 1861. (Read about it HERE) His son that I descend from died in 1857, his wife died in 1865 (the same day as President Lincoln!), leaving their children to be raised by Richard's wife, their grandmother Margaret. Only one of Richard's children lived a long life.

Due to those early marriages, I don't know either woman's maiden name. Their religious affiliations look scattered about, so it ain't gonna be easy to find them!

So over the summer, while employing the four Rs, I decided to dig into the man that was co-executor of Richard's will with Margaret. John H. Kinsley is on the 1860 Census in Philadelphia as a 37 year old blacksmith living with what appears to be his mother. Not much help. Can't find him for sure in 1850 or 1870, so I head to Genealogy Bank to see what may be in the newspapers. This marriage announcement appears on May 30, 1847:

He was married to a Caroline B. Phillips! She would be of the correct age to be Richard's daughter. But, since she wasn't in Richard's will, nor mention of her children, that meant she hadn't lived until 1861.

(I did finally find them living together in the 1850 Census, close neighbors of Caroline's brother Charles and his wife, my 3X great grandparents.)

Between newspapers, death records and cemetery/funeral records, the sad tale unfolded. Their daughter Kate died at age 2 in March, 1853. A month earlier, John Jr. died at 9 months of age.

In April of 1855, Caroline gave birth to a baby girl named Caroline. Then the mother died on May 9th. Baby Caroline only lived until August 10th. This poor family!

John himself remarried and had two daughters. He died in 1903 at age 78. A lot of Ancestry trees have this John with a different first wife and a passel of kids. But the plot record at Oddfellows tells the real story. John was buried with his first wife and their three children (and his mother). We are certain it's the same man because his grown daughter Jennie is listed as holding the deed and ordering a grave marker when they were all moved to Lawnview in 1951.

Coincidentally, Caroline's sister named one of her daughters after her, before Caroline died. That Caroline had one child, named Caroline also, but they both died shortly after the baby was born.

Had I not gone digging for that executor, I never would have known Caroline B. Phillips even existed.

I have a whole section of my website devoted to this family, with documents attached HERE.

UPDATE: I found the little marker on their graves in the huge field at Lawnview, thanks to the wonderful groundskeeper. I was skeptical (you always hear about bodies not actually being moved where they say they are) but this place took their job very seriously. They said if there was no obvious remains at the original grave, they dug up the dirt and boxed it up for reburial here. That makes me happy!