Wednesday, June 7, 2023

When the Most Recent is Distant


The power of DNA is that it can show some family connections even when we don't have the paperwork to prove the point. We've all seen how DNA has connected adoptees to birth parents, for instance, but what about those more distant relationships like the ones I'd be dealing with this month?

Mathias Ambrose might indeed be my mother-in-law's third great-grandfather, but when it comes to DNA tests, unfortunately my mother-in-law never tested. My only option was to test her children, which of course removes the connection by another generation. With the distance to the most recent common ancestor—that's Mathias Ambrose, in this case—yielding same-generation descendants at the range of fifth cousins, Ancestry's DNA test can detect the relationship in about thirty two percent of the time to show the genetic cousins. All the rest—the genealogical fifth cousins—would not have enough DNA material shared to detect the relationship.

There are, however, several Ambrose matches which show up at Ancestry DNA, one of the companies where my husband tested. Overall, according to Ancestry's ThruLines comparison, my husband has sixty seven DNA matches for whom Mathias Ambrose is a shared ancestor. Granted, the proof is in the trees, themselves—and hopefully those trees are well documented, a problem we've already begun to realize will be a challenge we all face.

Out of those sixty seven DNA matches, the great majority are from my husband's direct ancestor, Mathias' daughter Elizabeth (thirty five), followed by her sister Susannah (seventeen), the two sisters who married two Flowers brothers. Because those matches are descendants of double cousins, the estimated relationships showed far closer than they actually turned out to be on paper.

For the descendants of Mathias' other children, I was interested to see which ancestors were represented in this collection of matches. Furthermore, since I have very little information on those other children of Mathias Ambrose, I was wondering whether these DNA results might lead me to any welcomed discoveries. Tomorrow, we'll see what the DNA helped us see about this family constellation.

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

All I Wanted Was to See the Document


It's been a long search, trying to find appropriate documentation for the life of Mathias Ambrose, my mother-in-law's third great-grandfather. Sure, there are plenty of online resources talking about the basic details of his life. But documents to support those assertions? Can't find them.

All I wanted was to see the document when, in a moment of desperation, I followed an online search to Mathias Ambrose's entry at WikiTree. There, his date of death was given as 1808 in Bedford County, Pennsylvania.

The profile manager for that page is not alone in that assumption. One online resource still available on the old RootsWeb FreePages—but soon to be converted to a read-only collection—also provides that 1808 date. Granted, Pat Asher's Ambrose Genealogy collection on the FreePages site is heavily footnoted, but unfortunately for me, the book which was the source for that date of death—Ancestors and Descendants of Amos Ambrose and Mary Brough of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania—is nowhere to be found. Well, let me amend that: I can find the book at, but it is not accessible to the public. The reason? Copyright restrictions. Where am I to find a copy of a book written by someone born in 1911 at this point?

There are other options. Though I'll still hold out for documentation, I can take my cue from the subscriber who had posted a copy of Mathias Ambrose's will, dated in 1804. In a note accompanying the digitized copy, the subscriber mentioned the source of the document: Bedford County Historical Records. Whether that means the actual Bedford County Archives and Records Services, or possibly the Bedford County Historical Society, I've yet to discover. What I need to find is the follow-through: where are the legal documents following the presentation of that last will in court? I need to see whether the date for those documents was closer to 1808 or 1804.

Taking a cue from Pat Asher's own RootsWeb FreePages site, I can see I have other options for discovering more on this Ambrose family, such as researching leads from DNA testing. After all, there is actually an Ambrose DNA Project at Family Tree DNA. And I certainly have ThruLines results at to examine. While I'm poking and prodding, behind the scenes, to find resources for that missing documentation, we'll take some time to examine whether the DNA angle offers any clues.

Monday, June 5, 2023

Two Brides and Two Brothers


Though I can't yet be sure about the details concerning Mathias Ambrose, my mother-in-law's third great-grandfather, I can be much more confident about the information I've gathered about his daughter Elizabeth. Elizabeth Ambrose, taking her place in my mother-in-law's direct line of ancestors, was likely born in the same location where we last saw her father: Bedford County in Pennsylvania. However, at an as yet unknown date, Elizabeth became the bride of a man whose brother married Elizabeth's sister Susannah. Thus, my mother-in-law's ancestors became party to that relationship sometimes called double cousins.

The two brides—Elizabeth and Susannah—were married to Joseph and John Henry Flowers, two brothers who also were born in Pennsylvania. I have yet to locate documentation providing the date for either the wedding of Elizabeth and Joseph, or Susannah and John Henry, but some circumstantial evidence does lead to surmising those dates, as well as when the couples left Pennsylvania for property in Ohio.

Since the sisters' father mentioned them by their married names in his will, dated in 1804, it is safe to say their weddings occurred before 1804. Besides that, we can look to the births of the eldest children of each sibling.

Susannah, having married the eldest of the two Flowers brothers, may have been married first. The oldest of her children that I have on record, Mathias, was named after his maternal grandfather. His year of birth—in Pennsylvania—has been given as either 1802 or 1803. Still, it is possible that he was not Susannah's firstborn, thus her marriage could have occurred a few years earlier.

Likewise, I can't yet be sure of pinning Elizabeth's wedding date based on her oldest child's birth date. There may have been an older child I have yet to discover.

Two of Elizabeth's eldest children—John, born about 1804, and Joseph, born in 1811—in later years gave their place of birth as Pennsylvania, while some notes about the third-born child, Thomas, suggest he was born in Ohio. In an 1883 publication, History of Fairfield and Perry Counties, Ohio, a brief biographical sketch for Thomas Flowers gave his place of birth as Muskingum County, Ohio. While that book also stated Thomas' date of birth was in 1814, his headstone shows his date of birth as November 12, 1812. No matter which date is correct, though, we can assume his parents still were in Pennsylvania until that point.

I'm still attempting to find an online source for the two Flowers marriage records. While the FamilySearch wiki for Bedford County indicates there is a file for marriage records, for some reason, I have not been able to open that collection yet. Nor does it seem likely that we'll be as fortunate with grandchildren's biographical sketches naming their pioneer ancestor like we saw with our quest last month to discover more on Lyman Jackson. Still, revisiting some old notes saved from past explorations on this puzzle about Mathias Ambrose, I realize it wouldn't hurt to pull that material out for review once again.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

. . . And Then, We Wait


It's strawberry season where I live. That means frequent drives through the country to a special farm stand which sells the best strawberries you'd ever hope to top shortcake. On my way to pick up a fresh batch yesterday, I let my eyes rove over the passing greenery.

Along my route were cherry orchards and vineyards. For the cherries, just like the strawberries fields, there was plenty of hard work going on, for it is also harvest time for cherries. But the vineyards? Yes, the vineyards I passed are all green and vibrant, but don't expect to see any grapes yet. Nothing is happening in those fields yet. For those, we have to wait.

Just like the farmer knows the timing of a specific harvest, I couldn't help but think of "harvesting" my DNA results. It seemed like an eternity to wait for the test results to come back, after sending in my sample. And after that, I discovered it would be even longer before I received any usable matches.

Sometimes, in genealogy, we just have to wait.

Sometimes, things take time to process. That matching cousin somewhere out there delayed sending in the DNA test which held the very answers we were searching for. The man with the Y-DNA exact match or the woman whose mtDNA test would solve some research puzzles hasn't yet sprung for that pricey test. Or maybe our mystery cousin hasn't even begun to wonder about family connections because right now, life is too overwhelming.

Along with waiting, we remember: to check our results periodically for updates, to encourage key distant family members to also consider testing, to update our family tree with collateral lines and other useful details, to help others learn what their DNA is telling them. There really is plenty to do to help the wait time zoom by.

When the answer comes, it certainly makes the wait worthwhile—or at least a little less burdensome. Like the harvest which does eventually occur, we reap information that perhaps we've been seeking for years. And like harvest time, it sometimes keeps us on our toes when multiple successes show up simultaneously.

Discovering what DNA can do for our quest to find family can be an awe-inspiring experience, but it also can be filled with the frustration of waiting. When the wait drags on too uncomfortably for me, I like to remember that, even though those cherries and strawberries are coming in bucketloads right now, I'll eventually get some bounty with my grape harvest—when the time is right. In the meantime, I'll spend the waiting time trimming, weeding, fertilizing, and watering to care for my family tree harvest.

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Off the Shelf: The Power of Regret


Now that the weather is more hospitable to people who like to sit outside at their favorite coffee spot and read, I've been working my way through a volume I promised myself I'd begin nearly half a year ago.

If it weren't for one brief passage in the fourth chapter, I wouldn't have shared the book with you here, as it isn't really a genealogy book. My tendency to dive down rabbit holes held out, though. There is always a way to apply life situations to family history, and Daniel Pink's latest—The Power of Regret—provides such an instance.

Admittedly, though I've followed this author through several of his books, the title he chose for his newest offering does not seem compelling to me. I am not one to wallow in regret, at least not in the last few years. Perhaps the mellowing process of Time has made that a possibility for me.

However, I'm not one of those people trumpeting that "No Regrets" motto, either. I don't use "because I want to" as my justification for choices I've made—even the ones which turn out, in retrospect, to have been bad ones.

There are many people for whom regrets have found their address and come knocking insistently upon their door. Perhaps knowing that, Dan Pink not only selected that topic for his latest book, but assembled a team to conduct a scientific survey on the topic—the American Regret Project—with a follow up survey they dubbed "The World Regret Survey." Some of the responses from subjects of the study are shared—with appropriate permissions, of course—in the pages of this book. And it was one such example in the fourth chapter which resonated with me.

If I were to ask readers here, along the lines of Pink's study, what they might have regretted in life, I'm sure there would have been a wide gamut of responses. And since you likely wouldn't be here reading this unless you were interested in family history, I'm sure you can guess one regret heard often among our fellow avocational genealogists: the regret that we didn't spend more time with our closest ancestors, asking them all the questions we now realize we have about our family.

That, it turns out, was the regret shared in Daniel Pink's book in that fourth chapter I mentioned. A woman who, at the time the book was written, was not quite yet thirty remarked about her childhood,

I regret not taking advantage of spending time with my grandparents as a child. I resented their presence in my home and their desire to connect with me, and now I'd do anything to get that time back.

I can't count how many times I've heard a variation on that same comment, from fellow members of our local genealogical society, or from other researchers sharing in online forums. We just didn't think of the questions we now agonize over not asking.

Fortunately, this perceptive respondent discovered a way to grow past the regret. Though she regrets that she "didn't hear their stories"—something many of us miss about wasting our older relatives on our youth instead of on our more mellow years when we could appreciate what they had to offer—the realization of that loss now inspires her to "seek out more meaning [and] seek out more connection."

Life becomes value-added when she now mixes meaning into the equation. Describing the missed opportunity of getting to know her grandparents better as "the bitterness of the taste of regret," this survey respondent used that regret to inspire her to see meaning in future opportunities.

Many of us have been in that same position. Perhaps that is what drives us to delve into our family's history so thoroughly—an attempt to make up for the missed opportunities of our younger years. And maybe the efforts that regret has inspired will help preserve those family stories so that when the next generation realizes they share that same regret, our experience will have "paid it forward" to help fill in the gaps.


Friday, June 2, 2023

Moving Quickly From Known to Unknown


It may be fairly safe to say a rule of thumb in genealogy is to start with what you know, then move outward from known to unknown. Unfortunately, in the case of my mother-in-law's third great-grandfather, Mathias Ambrose, that trip from known to unknown may unravel rather quickly. There is not much to know about the man.

My main sources of documentation on this Mathias Ambrose consist of a tax document from 1798, and his will, drawn up in Dublin Township of Bedford County, Pennsylvania, in the fall of 1804, bringing to mind those wry sayings about death and taxes. With those two documents for my start, the details did lead me to his likely entry in the U.S. Census for 1800. But that's it.

Let's try our hand at reading that handwritten will, which thankfully was shared online by an subscriber—and downloaded to my computer so I could blow it up to a readable size.

The first thing I noticed was that Mathias' surname, as written in the will, looked more like Ambrosser than Ambrose. Two of his sons, John and Mathias, were also listed with their surname spelled this way, while later in the document, the son Mathias' surname was written as Ambross. Looking at the tax records, I could see that the name had been entered there as Ambroser. Further searches will need to consider all these variations as well.

Mathias' will names his wife, Barbara, and sons Jacob, John and Mathias, with the latter two designated as executors. While I'm thankful to have the detail of some daughters' married names, the handwriting introduces quite a bit of uncertainty. As best I can read it, his married daughters seem to include Margaret "Wallas"—which I wonder might be Wallace—Mary Mangel, Barbara Miller, and the two sisters who married two brothers: "Sussanah" and Elisabeth "Flower." In addition, another married sister has me totally stumped: is Catharina's married name Sands? Sando? Or Lands or Lando?

Besides the married daughters, mention was made of the two unmarried daughters: Magdalene "Ambrose" and Anna "Ambross." Besides them, Mathias was careful to attend to the needs of one minor, apparently a grandson, Jacob Mangel.

With that start—hey, at least there's a will—we are immediately launched into the unknown. Other than hoping to find tax or land records, there is nothing descriptive about the census records of that time period. And, given the number of daughters Mathias raised, I'm regretting the fact that women of that era were mostly invisible when it came to documentation.

For a next step, I'm torn between reviewing what can be found about the two migrating Ambrose daughters, Elizabeth and Susanna, and desperately pressing onward into the abyss. I am tempted, first, to get our bearings by re-acquainting ourselves with what can be found about the two Flowers brides before they left Pennsylvania for the new frontier of Ohio. After all, start with what you know, right? Perhaps in studying those two sisters once again, we can gain a lead to point us in the right direction.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Back to the 1700s — Again


Every now and then, I cycle back through research projects I had tackled—rather unsuccessfully—during previous years. This month will be one of those repeat projects.

For the last of three ancestors of my mother-in-law for this year's Twelve Most Wanted, our focus for June will be on her third great-grandfather, Matthias Ambrose. While a designation like third great-grandfather may seem so relatively close—at least to those of us keen on researching our family history—this is a man who lived in the late 1700s, dying sometime in 1804.

What I already know about Matthias is that he was the father of Elizabeth Ambrose, of my mother-in-law's direct line. Making research a bit more convenient—not to mention, giving me a handy nudge toward researching collateral lines—Elizabeth and her sister Susannah married two brothers, Joseph and John Henry Flowers. Together, these two daughters and their husbands moved from their home in Pennsylvania to what was then the frontier in central Ohio.

Elizabeth and Susannah were not the only children of Matthias Ambrose and his wife Maria Barbara Mathews. There were at least nine other children whom I can trace for further clues on this Ambrose family. That, we will likely do during this month, considering Matthias has yielded us sixty six DNA matches on his Thru-Lines listing at

Whether Matthias was always a resident of Bedford County, Pennsylvania—the place where his will was filed in 1804—I can't yet say. This, too, will be something to focus on during this month of research.

While I already know some details of Matthias Ambrose's life and family, there is much more to learn. Since we only have a month to uncover as many details as possible, we'll get a start on the discovery process tomorrow.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...