Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Because we Can:
Chasing the Bright and Shiny


With searchable digitized documents from the past two centuries ready to appear before our eyes at the mere click of a mouse, is it any wonder the avocational genealogist becomes plagued with what we call Bright Shiny Objects?

My latest genealogical realization is that questions beget questions. Having discovered that, in the frontier Pennsylvania county where my mother-in-law's ancestor Mathias Ambrose drew up his will in 1804, there resided yet another Ambrose man, you know I couldn't just let that fact rest in peace. I had to chase that Bright Shiny Object.

It didn't take me too long to discover that "Frederick" Ambrose—or Ambross or Ambrosia, as various tax records rendered his surname—might actually have been named, in that traditional German manner, Johann Frederich Ambrose.

Far more interesting than that detail was the discovery that Frederick Ambrose had been in the vicinity of Bedford County, Pennsylvania, since at least 1790, when he showed up on the census there.

Of course, the question that evolved from all this information was, "Could Frederick Ambrose have been related to Mathias Ambrose?" After all, what brought Mathias to Bedford County before he drew up his will there in 1804? Could he have moved with family? Or was this just a coincidence?

Finding Frederick Ambrose's memorial on Find A Grave inspired another question. The photo of his headstone happened to include a very specific marker, designating a veteran of the American Revolutionary War. That meant another chase after the Bright and Shiny, paying off when I found his entry at the website of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

While I was in the vicinity, you know I couldn't just stop at one search. Still wondering whether—and how—Frederick might have been connected to Mathias, I checked to see whether there were any Patriot entries for Mathias. 

There was this one possibility...

Containing sparse details for a man by the name of Mathias Ambrose in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, who just happened to have a wife with the same name as the one indicated on our Mathias' will, it certainly appeared to be a promising possibility in my opinion. Still, it didn't provide any answers to my question about that other Ambrose man in Bedford County—especially if the D.A.R. entry for Frederick mentioned him as having been in Westmoreland County, not Bedford.

That little detail, as it turned out upon closer examination, was the location of his death. The D.A.R. file indicated that his residence had also been in Bedford County.

With a little online searching, it was possible to find genealogical assertions that Mathias and Frederick were brothers—a most reasonable explanation for their residential proximity. Still, I have more questions lingering. Why, for instance, can I find records for Frederick in Bedford County, but not that many for Mathias? Was Frederick the pioneer trailblazer, and Mathias the one who followed, much later, in his brother's footsteps?

The wonder of the Internet and the search engines which coax it into divulging its contents mean we can pry into the farthest reaches of this cyber-universe for answers. While the major genealogical websites might not carry all the digitized documents which provide the answers we seek in this particular research problem, there are many other pockets of information there to be found, whether provided by regional agencies or by genealogy angels. There is much to glean as we follow the trail of the Bright Shiny, seeking answers.

There was, however, yet another venue to be pursued. Unlike those documents of centuries ago, written by hand on now-crumbling paper, there is another catalog of details to be accessed: the record stored in our own genes. Though the number of generations between Mathias Ambrose and our current generation may be many, it is not beyond the reach of DNA probabilities.

One last stop on this route to the Bright Shiny was to visit the Thru-Lines listings for my husband's DNA test at While the amount of genetic material held in common with the matches sharing the Ambrose ancestry border on the minimum side of the acceptable range, there are several solid connections available within that group for us to evaluate. 

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