Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Importance of Taking Another Look

This is one of those "preaching to the choir" messages. But hey. I'm a member of that choir, too. And look how this caught me by surprise.

It's no secret I've been inundated with DNA test results. Mostly, these are leads that lead...nowhere. But there have also been some sweet moments during this foray into the world of genetic genealogy. One of them was in standing back and watching my then-only exact match mtDNA partner go against all odds and find his birth parents, thanks to a combination of sheer persistence and genetic genealogy.

By virtue of our sharing an exact match on our mitochondrial DNA test, that means somewhere in our past, his mother's-mother's-mother's line becomes one and the same as my mother's-mother's-mother's line. Or something like that. Give or take a few dozen generations. Maybe even going back up to seven hundred years in the past.

We're hoping our nexus is a bit closer than that.

So we've decided to set out and see if we can find the connection. Once my mystery cousin discovered who his birth mother was, he worked with her to sketch a basic maternal family tree. And I set to wrestling with my own research challenges on my matrilineal line, too.

Right now, it seems we are at a stalemate. I suspect his will be one of those early American settler lines that may stretch all the way back to the Revolutionary War—perhaps even farther. Complicating matters is that, like many families in the early days of our country, his was a family which seemed to be constantly westward-moving, slipping from Tennessee to Kentucky to Missouri to Texas and beyond.

Here is where we are stuck on his line: with newlyweds William and Sarah Stinebaugh and their baby daughter Julina in the 1860 census in Dallas County, Missouri.

Where we are stuck, in particular, is with the possibility that William Stinebaugh and family may not have been in Dallas County, Missouri, for long. He and his wife, Sarah, may have gotten married somewhere else. And that is the problem: she may be the maiden, but I'm the one who is in distress. I can't very well trace a matrilineal line without securing the specific surname of that there maiden.

Just the other day, in frustration, I thought I'd pull out all the details on our discoveries to this point, review them and look for gaps. Or hints. Or anything a desperate mind could clutch and feel satisfied in calling it progress.

So I took a look at the bigger picture of that 1860 census page. Since the surname in question was Stinebaugh—definitely not a name anywhere in my maternal line—I wanted to see who else might be living nearby. After all, looking for a name like William—even if coupled with a surname as uncommon as Stinebaugh—could create problems. Besides, think of all the spelling permutations a census enumerator could come up with, given a name like that.

What I saw, when I looked around that census page, was another Stinebaugh. His name was Granville. That, in case you haven't noticed, would be a wonderful name to research. After all, how many Granville Stinebaughs do you know?

To test my theory with a quick and dirty experiment, I grabbed that name and ran to Rootsweb. Sure enough, a few people had posted their trees which included that name—including this one.

Oh, happy day: there actually was a Stinebaugh family which included siblings William and Granville. It was a family headed by Jacob and Nancy Cannon Stinebaugh, who once lived in Christian County, Kentucky. As it turns out, several of the Stinebaugh family had applied for and received land grants in Dallas County, Missouri—including William, whose paperwork was dated 1857.

This nice infusion of facts did little to answer my question about his young wife's maiden name, however.

I tried some other attempts, using tricks of the research trade to help me overcome that stalemate. Google searches for pockets of sequestered genealogical tidbits—flung online, '90s style, in various GenWeb and related sites—failed to lead me to any hidden parlor containing marriage records for this William and Sarah.

Next step: try looking at death certificates for the next generation. This step was beginning to frustrate me as well. One daughter's death certificate, I later found out, gave the mother's first name, followed by the initials "D. K."

"Doesn't Know"?

My mood was turning sour.

I kept plugging, going through one descendant after another. I've been down this road before, so I didn't expect much. I was mainly going through the motions because, well, that's what you're supposed to do, right? Double check all the steps along the way, to see if you missed anything.

I had. Oh, how I appreciate Find A Grave for bringing me to my senses. What happened was this: remember that child listed along with William and Sarah in the 1860 census? Baby Julina? Well, the next census enumeration in which I was able to find the family wasn't until 1880. A lot can happen in that time—witness the family's move to Cooke County, Texas—and because the family no longer included Julina, I had presumed she had died in childhood. I had traced the other Stinebaugh children through their childhood to adulthood—and then, all the way to their death records in hopes of finding a mention of their mother's maiden name—but I never went looking for adult records of Julina.

Find A Grave, on the other hand, has some wonderful volunteers who go beyond their call of duty, adding all sorts of additional material to those online records. The memorial for Sarah Stinebaugh, herself, happened to be cross-referenced with a married daughter named Julia.

Could that be Julina?

I won't get your hopes up falsely by dragging out this narrative. As it turned out, Julia likely was one and the same as Julina—thus gaining me an additional line in this Stinebaugh genealogy to trace—but hers was also the death certificate with the "Sarah D. K." entered for mother's maiden name.

Since I was in the mode of retracing my steps, though, I went back to that Find A Grave memorial for her mother, Sarah, to look at the other link provided: this time, for a daughter named Melvina. Born right after that 1860 census was taken, "Vina" eventually married, raised a family, and then moved to California to live near one of her daughters.

That is where, at her death in 1945, county bureaucrats duly noted her mother's maiden name and recorded it on the document publicly available for all to review.

The name? For once, I've escaped the curse of "Unknown." "D. K." is not "Doesn't Know." Well, I still don't know what the "D" stood for in Sarah's name, but I do know about the "K."

Her name was Kinslow.

And now I have a ticket to ride back to another generation and another place: Kentucky, the state where Sarah was born. Thankfully, also a state where other branches of my own maternal family tree had migrated in those early years of the 1800s. Perhaps, within a generation or two, my mystery cousin and I will find our nexus.


  1. Replies
    1. Just when you're looking in the opposite direction, thinking you're not seeing anything, blam-o! The stuff you're looking for comes running up and knocks you down from behind! So glad it happened, but...that was unexpected!

  2. I know for certain, absolutely without question, that I do not know any Granville Stinebaughs!


      Has an interesting "Note" - about gold fever.

    2. I am not surprised, Iggy. I'll bet there aren't too many out there by that or then.

      Thanks for passing on that link. I'd seen that story about the conch shell before. I think there are family notes online in a number of different places. There is also a book on the Cannon family which shares some stories.

      Too bad the person who added that tree to the website you referenced didn't know about the previous generations. I was hoping for another discovery!


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