Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Heritage of Flowers

When, as a newlywed, I first interviewed my mother-in-law about recollections of her family history, she was certain I wouldn't have long to research before discovering that her family had "just gotten off the boat."

As it turned out, it took a journey back to the 1700s before I could even budge that family line out of her native Ohio. And then, we only moved the clan back to Pennsylvania. Hardly what I call "just getting off the boat."

My mother-in-law's patrilineal line, at current—and at least within our own extended family—has only one survivor who could qualify to take the Y-DNA test that would trace the Flowers line's "deep ancestry." Her immediate line has "daughtered out," leaving only her brother—the proud papa of three daughters—as sole candidate to answer the question of where this line originated.

Still, there is ample documentation to bring this line all the way back to the founding ancestor who—best I can tell—arrived in America in the mid 1700s. That's a long wait until finding the proverbial ancestor who "just got off the boat."

In the meantime, I've gathered lots of documentation on all the descendants of my mother-in-law's father, John Ambrose Flowers. And his father, Joseph E. Flowers. And his father, Simon Flowers. And his father, Joseph S. Flowers. And even then, I'd still be researching family living in Perry County, Ohio.

Why? Because they were some of the first families to have settled in the new state of Ohio in the early 1800s.

Before that point, the Flowers family had edged their way westward through the state of Pennsylvania. They likely arrived on the continent via the port at Philadelphia—but that is something I've yet to verify. All in good time.

Marrying into that Perry County, Ohio, Flowers line were women from surnames familiar to those in the area, for all were longstanding members of that tight-knit Catholic community. Complicating matters were details such as the spelling of some German-heritage names, such as Snider. Is it Snider? Or Snyder? Or Schneider? Any of the three, if you believe all the census enumerators.

Or perhaps all those Snider-sounding surnames were not part of the same extended family. There is that possibility, as we'll see tomorrow when I review the maternal side of my mother-in-law's family. While Snider married into my mother-in-law's paternal side of the family, I've run across some Sniders on her mother's side of the equation, as well.

Same goes for Gordon, another surname showing up in multiple places on that family tree.

In addition, there are some other surnames joining up with the Flowers line for which I've still not obtained the full story. These include Eckhardt, Rinehart, and Stine.

And Ambrose. Remember the man whose name started off this whole genealogy? John Ambrose Flowers? You may have thought Ambrose was simply an unusual middle name. Perhaps it was. But it also was a surname handed down through the family, as well, owing to two Ambrose sisters who married two of the Flowers brothers, back in Pennsylvania—another surname with a long family history to trace.

Families like these make genealogy simpler. They stayed together, predictably. When they moved—and that was rarely—they traveled in a large party. Though they are not as definable as such endogamous groups as the Acadians, they surely bear some of the same hallmarks. Living for generations in the same, rural, isolated communities, they surely ended up intermarrying over the generations. If I knew more about administering DNA projects, I think they would make a fascinating study.

In the meantime, it is family historians like me who benefit from such predictable tendencies as theirs.


  1. It's all "relative" (pardon the bad pun)... The ancestors she spoke of may have been "fresh off the boat" compared to some of the other branches of the family - you know, the ones that came on the Mayflower...

    1. That's a good point, Iggy. There's a lot that happened between my family's appearance in 1800s Ohio and the arrival of the Mayflower.

      Still...I don't think that was the boat my mother-in-law had in mind...

  2. Sometimes brothers spelled their names differently to confuse you even more:)

    1. I wouldn't put it past them ;)

      In the case of the Sniders, though, I think it is a toss up between census enumerators taking their liberties, and the morphing of a German-American surname during rough times for German-Americans.


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