Thursday, June 8, 2023

When Staring Isn't Impolite


It sometimes takes staring for a long time at a document's details before the facts actually sink in. Right now, I'm working on my mother-in-law's relationship to other DNA matches whose most recent common ancestor was Mathias Ambrose, a man who died about 1804. Let's just say finding documentation on the man, himself, has been challenging—let alone any records for the names of each of his children. Other than Mathias' will, I've come up with absolutely zero for supplemental documentation. But staring at the details long enough can sometimes can bring a family history story into focus.

Yet, incredibly enough, there are at least sixty seven DNA matches displayed at Ancestry's ThruLines connecting with my mother-in-law's proxy—her DNA-tested son. Of those sixty seven, fifteen of those matches reach back to siblings of her direct line ancestor, Mathias' daughter Elizabeth (other than the sibling whose marriage yielded double cousins for the next generation). The problem? Those fifteen are descended from the children of Mathias for whom I have absolutely no record other than their name in their father's will.

So, who is identified in these DNA matches? Ten matches lead back to Mathias' daughter Barbara, the one whose married name—Miller—is a surname claimed by so many others as to make the search even more challenging. Besides Barbara, four matches connect us with Mathias' namesake son, and one with the son he named Jacob.

Not having found any documentation for these other children, I pulled up the work of a long-time Ambrose researcher which has been posted online. There, I could check a footnoted paragraph about each of these children which provides somewhat of a guide to us. From that record, I clicked through to see what this researcher had found on Mathias' daughter Barbara, the one who had married a Miller.

Answer: not much. But in the process of looking, I noticed something I hadn't realized before. While Mathias had drawn up his will in Bedford County, Pennsylvania—and while he and his sons had their names show up in tax and census records there—Barbara was apparently born in Maryland.

In fact, a church record mentioned on that Ambrose website indicated Barbara was baptized on August 21, 1774, in a Lutheran and Reformed Church in a Maryland town called Thurmont.

Looking further, I noticed that older brother Jacob also had been born in Maryland. According to this website, Jacob was born there in 1767. Perhaps this was a clue worth looking into.

Lest anyone think Mathias Ambrose had caused his large family to endure a massive trek across the frontier, a mere look at a map will help dispel that notion. Ayr Township, the place where Mathias had lived at the turn of that century, while formerly in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, is now part of Fulton County. And the place now known as Thurmont is just over the state line in Maryland. In all, the trip between the two locations is just under sixty miles.

Whether that trip could easily be made during the late 1700s, I can't yet say. But that quick look at the maps tells me it was at least a possibility. And with that possibility comes the realization that, if I couldn't find records on Mathias' children in Bedford County, a smart place to look next would be to start staring at the records in the northern portion of Maryland's Frederick County, where Thurmont is located.

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