What are the odds of this happening?

Yesterday I had one of those great “SMALL WORLD!” moments. I was doing some genealogical research, updating my database and checking for records pertaining to the family of Dad’s closest Y-DNA (paternal line) match, a fellow named Rick Lewis. I came upon the Find-a-Grave memorial for Rick’s mother, who had passed away in 2020, complete with her obituary. Surviving siblings included her brother Dale Kester and wife Rita.

These names jumped off the page at me–I recognized them immediately. In 1982, Dad had taken a genealogical road trip to western New York, visiting family history sites. No one was at home when he drove by the house and land of our ancestors, Caleb and Joanna Lewis in Farmersville, Cattaraugus County, but Dad wanted to make contact with the current residents. He was able to obtain their names from the county historian, and after his return home, he wrote a letter to them—their names were Dale and Rita Kester. They were living in the house Caleb built in the early 1820s!

Rita kindly responded to Dad’s letter and shared an aerial photo of the property as it had looked in 1962. It was an incredible connection for us at the time, but as genealogy contacts generally go, we only exchanged those couple of letters in 1982. Yesterday, I was able to quickly locate the letters in my “Caleb & Joanna Lewis” file (we always kept carbon copies of the ones we typed and mailed, as well as return correspondence). Another letter I had mailed to them about 10 years later was returned to sender, so they had apparently moved by that time.

Dale is Rick’s uncle on his mother’s side, so is not genetically related to the Lewis line, but still–what are the odds of accidentally stumbling upon this connection almost 40 years later? The uncle and aunt of Dad’s closest Y-DNA match LIVED in the home of Dad’s brick wall Y-DNA ancestor. Unbelievable!

You can’t make this stuff up.

Home of Caleb and Joanna Lewis, ca 1860s, with a subsequent owner standing out front.
Courtesy of Mildred Edmunds, Cattaraugus County Historian
Home of Caleb and Joanna Lewis as it appeared in 1993 when I was there on a trip with my husband, Pete.
Aerial photo of Caleb Lewis home, 1962, courtesy of Rita Kester.

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Mrs. Lewis and the High Schools

By Ralph Spencer Lewis, Sr.

Keya Paha County, Nebraska, is a cattle country. Probably less than one fourth of it is farmed because the soil is so sandy. It has a small population, no railroads and only a few small towns of which Springview, being the county seat, is the largest. In 1914 it probably had a population of 400 and has no more today. It is about 25 miles from the railroad towns of Bassett and Ainsworth.

Springview also had no high school, but they needed one, so during the winter of 1913-1914, a board of regents was appointed to get a school started. One of them was Mrs. Belle Spencer Lewis, who had taught grade school there for six years before she was married. With the help of the school board and the county superintendent, they planned a new building to be opened that fall. She had twins ready to enter high school, so she rented a house in Springview intending to move there with her four children in early September. Her husband, Stillman, would remain on the ranch, twenty miles away, and live with a family who worked for him. He objected to this move, saying that an eighth grade education was enough for any rancher, and also he needed his boys to work on the ranch until they were 21 as he had done for his father. But his time Belle had her way and insisted that the children would at least have a high school education.

Just a week before school was to open, however, Belle went shopping to Dallas, South Dakota. It was twenty miles north and an all-day trip with team and wagon. Dallas was on a railroad which was built when Tripp County was opened to settlement about 1908. It was a growing town as most of the land around it was farmed. By 1914 it had a high school which was held on the upper floor of a nice brick school building.

After doing her shopping, Belle visited her dentist, Dr. Duncan, who had his office over one of the stores. While he was filling a tooth for her, she told him of her planned move to Springview the following week. Now Dr. Duncan was a booster for Dallas and soon persuaded her to move to a railroad town with an established high school. So she soon returned and rented a house in Dallas. When school started, the four Lewis children enrolled. The twins, Ruth and Ralph, graduated in 1918, and Lillian and Howard a few years later. Stillman came up nearly every weekend and during the winter bought a hardware store and later added a farm implement business.

During the winter of 1914-1915, there was a very heavy snowfall and the wind kept the railroad cuts drifted full of snow so that the trains could not run for two weeks. One passenger train, coming west, was stalled in Bonesteel, four stations east of Dallas. On the train was Belle’s sister, Flora, who was on her way to visit us.

The railroad sent a rotary snow plow through to clear the cuts, and on a sunny Sunday afternoon, it came through Dallas. A mile west of town was a twenty-foot cut and the plow spent several hours cutting through. Most of the townspeople were out to watch. They crowded on a snowbank above the cut just back of the plow. Suddenly some of the bank gave way and several of the people plunged down onto the track. One of them was the dentist, Dr. Duncan. As he rolled down the bank, his neck was broken and he died instantly. This was the sad end of a fine man, who was responsible for the Lewis family moving to Dallas, South Dakota instead of Springview, Nebraska.

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The Smith Family Bible

It all started with the appearance of a message from someone named Brian who contacted me through Ancestry.com:

April 29, 2017

Phinney Bible with Family Name Information     

Leslie, I bought a Phinney Bible as an antique book. I found names in the Bible that I have traced to your website. I was looking at your family tree and it might be the case that these names and dates might be helpful to you. Let me know if you would like pics of the pages in the Bible this information came from.  

Michael S Smith born 8-23-1829 died age 67 December 19th

Married to Susan Walters

Hannah Smith died 12-6-1907

Two half brothers:

Benjamin J Smith died 11-28-1928 born 9-17-1864

William J Smith died 1-21-1938 born 2-10-1868

MS’s mom and dad John Smith born 9-5-1803 died 5-13-1878

Hannah Smith born 11-21-1799 died 2-28-1863 married 3-23-1823


April 30, 2017

Wow, Brian, thank you so much for taking the time to trace the Bible information to someone (like me!) who appreciates such priceless history! YES, I would LOVE to see photos of the Bible records. If I may be so bold, could you also take a picture of the bible itself, just for provenance?

This is spectacular!

Leslie Lewis, a Smith descendant (my ancestor Polly Smith was a sister of John Smith 1803-1878)

PS, for attachments, it might be best to use my regular email:


Thanks a million!


April 30, 2017


I will get the pics of the pages and a pic of the Bible to you later this evening.

Please do me a favor and let me know if the info I send you later this evening confirms that this is the John Smith in your family tree.

If it is, I would like to send you the Bible as a keepsake. It’s special to me for its age. But I am sure it would be even more meaningful to you if this is your family.



April 30, 2017


Here are the pics that I promised to send. Let me know what you are able to confirm.


April 30, 2017


Thank you SO MUCH for the photos. Yes, this is part of my Herkimer County, New York extended family. Michael Smith’s father, John is the brother of my 3x great-grandmother, Polly (Smith) Spencer. This branch of Smiths apparently “died out” as I have never found any living descendants.

You are very generous to offer to send me the Bible. If you are seriously willing to part with it, of course I would love it. But I would insist on reimbursing you for what you spent plus shipping costs. Where did you find it? Was it in an estate sale, antique store or on-line auction? I wonder what travels it has had since the Smiths possessed it. Do you live in Herkimer County?

Please let me know…. it is indeed a treasure.

With gratitude,



April 30, 2017


This is terrific news.  So here is the background on the Bible…not as exciting as you might think : )

I am LDS and I wanted to buy an antique Bible for display in my living room.  I purchased the book several years ago from an antique book seller.  He did not have any history of the book’s travels or ownership. 

I love the scriptures and a Phinney Bible just seemed like a great way feel the spirit of the Great Awakening period in the early days of our country.  The Bible is displayed on our coffee table and occasionally I thumb through it wondering whose cabins and homes it may have sat in.  When I found the names I wondered if I could find a living descendant.  My wife Angela and I both felt like the Bible should be in the hands of family members.  So I began my search.  I tried several times over the last two or three years.  Finally about a year ago I found your website.  I wanted to reach out but thought you might think it a little odd.  Recently, I really felt like I should reach out to you.  But then I could not find my notes.  Finally, I randomly remembered where I saved some of the census information I had found, which led me back to your website through Ancestry.com.

I feel like you should have the Bible as a gift from Angela and me. It looks like you have done a ton of genealogy work.  And we have long thought it would be cool for a family member related to the folks whose names appear in this copy of the Bible to have it as an heirloom.

We live in Fort Worth, Texas.  Angela’s family joined the LDS church when she was a young girl.  I have been a member all my life.  Family research is important to us and our faith as you may know.

Thank you for all of the research you are doing.  As a trade for the Bible I may ask help on some of my lines someday : )  They run into Mexico and then into Spain.

Send me your address and we will ship the Bible to you.  Who knows, maybe someday we will meet up.  We summer in Idaho and I have family on my mother’s side in Oregon.  They are originally from the Yakima, Washington area.

Kind regards,



April 30, 2017


You are so very sweet. Yes, genealogy has been very important to me, too. I have been researching my family and others for over 40 years. AND I have also been interested in the time of the Great Awakening. Although I am not LDS, my family has intersected with the Latter Day Saints in many ways. Some of my relatives out of New York went with Joseph Smith to Missouri and Illinois. My 4th great uncle, Moses Wade and two of his sons were with the Mormon Battalion and his daughter Minerva was one of William Hickman’s wives. There are some other connections too. For instance I lived in Yakima WA for a number of years!! That is where I met and married my husband Pete. Who were your family members who lived there? Perhaps I may have crossed paths with them?! I lived there from 1982 until 1994 and my parents lived there as well.

I would be thrilled to help you with your family lines… although I’m sure as an LDS member you are very well versed in all the research methods. My daughter-in-law also has roots that reach back into Mexico and Spain.

My family has recently gotten into the whole DNA thing… both my parents and my husband and I have tested, as well as several cousins. It is amazing how DNA can lead to clues on paths of research that had gone cold where the paper documentation had dried up.

Thank you again, Brian, and please give Angela my thanks and greetings.

Please let me know if you think of anything I can help you with on your genealogy. I would be honored to help out.




May 7, 2017


I made a little progress.  I got a box for the Bible and padding for protection.  Just was too busy to get any further but wanted you to know I haven’t forgotten you.




May 10, 2017

No worries, Brian. I’m still floating on a cloud thinking such a blessing as this can really happen out of the blue. You reinforce my belief that underneath it all, people are basically kind and caring.



May 14, 2017


Angela mailed the Bible to you on Friday.  Please let me know when you receive it.



May 14, 2017

Will do. Exciting!


May 15, 2017

The Bible just arrived! It’s beautiful. Later this evening I will have my husband take a picture of me holding it, and I will send it to you.

Thank you for your sweet note and your kindness in reaching out to find a family member who would cherish it.

With gratitude,


Leslie proudly displays the Smith Family Bible


May 15, 2017

Thanks so much for sharing the pic.  Enjoy!



December 31, 2017


I am driving to Portland this week and thought of you. Hope all is well. I bought another Phinney bible which is chuck full of a ton of family names from the 1800s.  What a treasure!

Happy New Year to you and your husband.



January 1, 2018

Thank you, Brian! So glad to hear you found another treasure!! I think of you every time I look at the Bible you so kindly shared with me and my family. I did a bunch of research on my Smith line after the occasion of receiving the Bible from you. Genealogy sure is addicting. So much fun, and gratifying to shine a light on the people who came before, what their lives were like, where and how they lived, etc.

Happy New Year to you and Angela, too. I wondered if you guys felt the effects of the hurricane last fall.



January 5, 2018


Sounds fascinating. We were not affected directly by the hurricane. I did go down to help clean up. It was overwhelming but like genealogy it’s a one person thing a time.

Had a great time in the northwest. Actually camped in the tree line of Mt Hood just to say I could survive a night in the cold and snow up there.  Hard to imagine those who came before us surviving such frigid temps and with nowhere near the gear we have at our disposal.



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DNA and our Stevens line

Just wanted to catch you up on what I’ve been up to lately with DNA.

I figured it was about time to find the parents of my 2x great grandmother, Constantia (Stephens) Conner. She was born in St Charles, Missouri in 1828, married Jacob Conner in Hancock County, Illinois in 1847, and died in Siskiyou County, California in 1899. Her parents have always been a mystery and her obituary doesn’t tell us much, other than that her mother died when Constantia was only three years old. At age eight, her father moved them to Hancock County, Illinois and left her to be raised by another couple. Perhaps her father may have moved away, died or remarried. So far we only know that Constantia was left in the care of William and Susan Spencer of Warsaw, Hancock County, Illinois.

I decided to dig into Mom’s match list on Ancestry, following our Conner cousins. I had to go down the list a ways because of course all of us who descend from Jacob and Constantia Conner are listed as fairly close relatives. We also have several cousins who connect a generation further back, descending from Jacob Conner’s siblings, so I had to ignore those as well, in order to isolate the non-Conner relatives on this branch of the family tree. There were BUNCHES of people who match our Conners but they do not have Conner lines in their trees.

First I noticed a large network developing around the surname Ellsworth. There were tons of them. Turns out they were LDS. Many had large families with descendants who have now had their DNA tested. Perhaps this large number of matches springs as well from the Mormon interest in genealogy. One ancestor of these Ellsworth cousins was Israel Ellsworth whose wife was Prudence Stevens. When she died, he married her sister, Lydia Stevens. As I fleshed out each of these trees and entered them into my Family Tree Maker, these Ellsworth/Stevens lines led back to Benjamin Stevens (1733-1803) and Hopestill Shaw (1735-1810) of Rutland County, Vermont.

Benjamin served in the Revolutionary War, so the DAR website had several lines of descent from him. Cousins by the dozens descend from this couple, and I fleshed out lines of descent from several of their children.

One thing assures me I’m on the right track: Constantia (Stephens) Conner’s enumeration in the 1880 census, the first census that lists birthplaces for the parents of each person, shows her father was born in Vermont.

Now I just need to find out which one of the Stevens/Stephens descendants was born in Vermont (probably around 1800) and ended up in Missouri, where Constantia was born. After he moved with her to Hancock County, Illinois (big Mormon area and perhaps his interest was in following that group as other lines of his family were doing), he either died or remarried and I haven’t found him. For years I was considering another Stephens in the area, but he was born in Germany and I have yet to find a DNA match with a descendant of this Stephens.

Interestingly, Mom has DNA matches who also descend from Benjamin Stevens’ brother, Roger Stevens, a Loyalist during the Revolutionary War, who moved to Ontario, Canada with his family. However, there are fewer matches through Roger, so I’m leaning toward Benjamin as my Stevens ancestor. More work to do!!

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Otto DNA Findings (Summary of a work in progress)

16 Dec 2018:

I’m just so excited I could BURST!! I have been working many hours and days over the past few months hoping to find a clue to our OTTO roots in my DNA matches, and sure enough, patience has paid off. Friday I discovered two matches that link back to James Otto and Sarah Dunn of Wayne County, NY. Then today I found another that goes back to James’ brother John Otto and his wife Judith Newcomb of Naples, Ontario County, NY. This is a good start to confirming we have the right family!

I am attaching the back story — hopefully that will explain where I came up with these names to begin with. When the paper trail fell short, I hoped that we could find some evidence of connection to other Ottos in our DNA matches. Long story short, using Ancestry DNA matches and the “shared matches” button, I was able to find a network of people who share common roots with many of us. Because we all inherit different segments of DNA, it’s hit-and-miss in terms of who you may or may not match. I still cannot verify that the parents of our newly reunited family are actually the Mathias and Elizabeth seen in some online trees… that is a tantalizing clue that needs further work. But I can say with confidence that our Mathias, Joseph and George are part of a larger family, including:

Mathias, b. ca 1767 (Mifflinville PA baptisms, then Angelica NY, then McKean Co PA)

John, b. 1769 (PA then Ontario Co NY)

James, b. 1771 (PA to Ontario Co NY to Michigan)

Margaret, b. 1773 (Ontario Co NY to Wayne Co NY)

Joseph, b. 1778 (Mifflinville marriage, Angelica census, then McKean Co PA)

Susanna, b. 1780 (Arcadia, Wayne Co NY)

George, b. 1783 (McKean Co PA)


By the way, Cousin, I meant to get back to you on my recent efforts to flesh out the various lines of Ottos. I am now convinced our line is not necessarily from the Moravians of Northampton County PA, although that group had some Josephs, Mathiases, etc. I went back to the idea that our bunch may have lived in New York as stated in one of the histories, prior to Joseph’s marriage to Mary Brown in Northumberland (now Columbia County) PA and Matthias baptizing his children there. I found a James and a John Otto living in Ontario County, New York in 1800 so I am working on those lines. Interestingly, one online source shows a Susannah Otto born 1780 in Northampton County to a Matthias Otto and wife Elizabeth. The James and John I just mentioned are shown as sons of Mathias and Elizabeth Russell. Hmmm. So I am trying to find documentation that goes beyond someone’s family lore to nail this down. The tantalizing thing is that if this John (b. 1769), James (b. 1771) and Susannah (b. 1780) were truly siblings, it makes it doubly interesting that Joseph Otto’s brother Mathias named his first three children Susanna (b. 1795), James (b. 1796) and John (b. 1798). Our three Otto brothers COULD be additional siblings in this family…. Don’t write it down just yet until we get proof, but I’m on the hunt. I can’t find any record of what became of Mathias and Elizabeth (Russell) Otto yet.


This whole quest for Otto information was renewed again recently as we have learned more about DNA. Dad took a DNA test through Family Tree DNA back in 2012 but it has only been the past couple of years that we knew enough about it to really start to glean the benefits.

Anyway, I hadn’t really done any work on our Otto ancestors in recent years so this brought it all to the forefront again. About 10 years ago, one of our cousins found a history book claiming that Mathias, Joseph and George Otto were indeed brothers and it detailed their journey from Angelica NY by boat up the river to Farmers Valley PA. At that time, this information led me to find Joseph and family in Angelica in the 1810 census while George and Mathias were already in McKean County PA.

More recently, in 2015, I was back in Washington DC to attend the DAR’s Continental Congress and took a side trip up to Pennsylvania to research the Ottos of Bethlehem and Nazareth, PA. They were Moravians and the records reveal many of the same names we find in our Otto family (like Mathias and Joseph). But I could never find a firm connection, although I enjoyed the hours I spent there in the Moravian Archives.

Now there is a lot more information online and it’s much easier to research than the “old days” when we had to write lots of letters and go to places in person. Another bunch of Ottos from Pennsylvania were those who descended from Bodo Otto of Revolutionary War fame. But I could still not find the connection.

After my recent connection with a new DNA cousin, I again got out my Otto notes and studied what we had. One history claims the Ottos came from New York so I decided to follow that possibility. I found a James Otto and a John Otto in Ontario Co, NY in the 1800 census. Following up with those names, I found them in online trees as being sons of Mathias Otto and Elizabeth Russell. Also found a Susanna Otto birth/baptism record as the daughter of Mathias and Elizabeth in Northampton Co, PA. A daughter of our Joseph Otto has a death certificate that shows Northampton Co PA as her father’s birthplace. A history on Ontario County mentions James Otto came from PA around 1796 and had a brother-in-law Adam Learn. I also found a marriage of Susanna Otto to William Stansell. So my current working theory is that this whole group *may* be siblings, and children of Mathias and Elizabeth Otto:

Mathias, b. ca 1767 (Mifflinville baptisms, then Angelica, then McKean Co PA)

John, b. 1769 (PA then Ontario Co NY)

James, b. 1771 (PA to Ontario Co NY to Michigan)

Margaret, b. 1773 (Ontario Co NY to Wayne Co NY)

Joseph, b. 1778 (Mifflinville marriage, Angelica census, then McKean Co PA)

Susanna, b. 1780 (Arcadia, Wayne Co NY)

George, b. 1783 (McKean Co PA)

Mathias named his first three children Susanna, James and John, which I find interesting.

John named one of his daughters Jemima (name of George’s wife).

Joseph, James and Susanna all named daughters Judith (name of John’s wife).

John named a son Joseph and a daughter Susannah.

John, James and Susanna all named a son George.

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The Continuing Mystery of Caleb Lewis….

by Leslie Lewis, 17 Nov 2019

After years of research, we may finally be getting closer to discovering the parents of Caleb Lewis (1790-1856). Caleb is my elusive 3rd great-grandfather who was born in Rhode Island and then settled in western New York State. I trace my family line back from my father Russ Lewis to his father Ralph Spencer Lewis to his father Stillman Otto Lewis to his father Ralph Lewis to his father Caleb Lewis.


In 2010, I wrote in a blog post about the records and resources we had consulted up to that point, and what we knew so far—although calling it a “nice paper trail” was a bit generous. In many ways, Caleb did not leave behind much of a paper trail at all, beyond the usual public records such as census enumerations. There were no family letters or narratives that spoke of his childhood, his parents or his family prior to his appearance in western New York State.

Caleb and Joanna (Wade) Lewis are buried in Farmersville Center Cemetery in Farmersville, Cattaraugus County, New York. Their tombstone indicates that Caleb died on May 9, 1856, age 66 years, 4 months and 3 days, suggesting a birthdate of January 6, 1790.

Caleb’s first appearance in the federal census is in Stafford, Genesee County, New York in 1820, showing him as head of household with tallies for his wife and first two children. We do not yet know when and where Caleb and Joanna first met, but they married on March 5, 1817, most likely in Genesee County, New York.

We know that Caleb purchased land in Cattaraugus County, New York, from the Holland Land Company in 1822 and that’s when the family settled in the Town of Farmersville. They lived out their lives there, farming and raising a family. Caleb appeared in Farmersville consistently in state and federal census records, in which his reported birthplace was Rhode Island.

Caleb’s last will and testament is on file at Cattaraugus County courthouse, with a list of heirs but no information on relatives beyond his wife and children.

An early resource for us was the Compendium of History, Reminiscence and Biography of Western Nebraska, which contained a brief biography of Caleb and Joanna’s son Ralph Lewis and a sketch of his “Clover Leaf Farm” in Keya Paha County, Nebraska, where he and his family had settled. His biography claimed that his father Caleb was “born in Rhode Island, and his family were all killed at the Wyoming massacre except his father and grandmother.” Extensive research into the Wyoming Valley massacre of 1778 has not yet led to information on the parents of Caleb Lewis.

One of our biggest “breaks” in researching this family was obtaining Bible record transcripts. It has been a custom for hundreds of years for a family to keep track of births, deaths and marriages by writing them into their Bibles in the blank pages provided for this use. When I first met cousin Kim Lewis-Novak in the year 2000, she gave me a copy of the Lewis family Bible record she had obtained from the Cattaraugus County Historian. Then a few years later I found another transcript of the family names and dates on file with the Daughters of the American Revolution as part of a member application. The 1958 transcript stated that the Bible was in possession of Mrs. Leon R. Adams and was from the original handwriting. Mrs. Leon R. Adams was Glendora (Swift) Adams, a great-granddaughter of Caleb and Joanna through their daughter Eliza Ann (Lewis) Badger. That Bible record gave us the birth, death and marriage dates of Caleb and Joanna Lewis, and the birthdates of their eleven children.

From the very beginning of our research into the family tree we have fleshed out all of the children in Caleb and Joanna’s family by following up on them through census records and whatever else we could find. This process is becoming easier and easier now that sites like Find-a-Grave let us see headstone inscriptions and Ancestry.com allows us to easily share family trees, documents and photographs.


Enter DNA. My dad, Russ Lewis, took a DNA test in 2012, both for his autosomal DNA (covers all ancestral lines) and for his Y-DNA. You may know from high school biology class that men determine the gender of their offspring because they pass along either an X or a Y chromosome at conception. When it’s an X-chromosome, the child will be female. When it’s a Y-chromosome, the child will be male. Females do not carry the Y-chromosome so only men can take a Y-DNA test. The interesting feature of Y-DNA is that it passes basically unchanged from father to son for many generations, although random changes or mutations can happen at any generation along the way. Two men who share Y-DNA share a common male ancestor who may be as near as their father or grandfather, or as distant as a great-grandfather three or four hundred years prior. Just how closely any two men are related is calculated by the number of marker differences between them. For the sake of the reader, I won’t go into more detail about the science of DNA other than to say it is a wonderful new tool for genealogists!

Dad’s Y-DNA test revealed that his closest matches are men who descend from John Lewis of Westerly, Rhode Island. John Lewis was born about 1630 and died around 1690. He settled in what later became Westerly and raised his family there. He and his wife had seven sons and a daughter. Only two of these seven sons are represented among Dad’s Y-DNA matches, and his two closest current-day relatives descend from the son Samuel Lewis (1671-1739).

Their line of descent goes like this:

John Lewis (1630-1690) + wife (name unknown)

Samuel Lewis (1671-1739) + Joanna Crandall

Jonathan Lewis (1690-1785) + Jane Lewis

Jonathan Lewis II (1719-1759) + Sarah Barber

Jonathan Lewis III (1752-1814) + Martha Bowdish

Jonathan III and Martha are the common ancestors shared by both of the men who match Dad most closely on his Y-DNA results. Knowing this allows us to focus our search on this line of the Lewis family. However, Jonathan and Martha’s family is well-documented in the Rhode Island vital records, and there is no son named Caleb. The son born in 1790 was named Jesse. So we must look back to the previous generation.

In Jonathan II and Sarah’s family, there were five sons who were married and having children in the years around our target date of 1790. Although the Rhode Island records do not reveal a son Caleb born in 1790, in two of the families there is enough room between the births of the previous child to one that might have come after a 1790 birth. But none is shown. Are the records complete for each family? Could there be one or more children missing from the records?

If you go back another generation, Jonathan I and Jane had five sons that we know of, and one of them was named Caleb (1721-1783). The five Lewis sons in Jonathan and Jane’s family were beyond raising families by 1790, but they could have had grandsons named Caleb. More work to do.

It’s promising. One of the things that keeps me hopeful is the tradition of naming patterns. Out of the many descendants of John Lewis of Westerly, Samuel’s line contains the most descendants named Caleb. People in those days named their children after other people in their immediate family.

Rhode Island vital records are extensive, but not necessarily definitive. So far we have yet to find paper records confirming a Lewis family with a son named Caleb born in 1790. Of course, Rhode Island is located next to Connecticut, and some lines of the family settled across the border. So far no Caleb Lewis born in 1790 appears in the Connecticut records. But the absence of such a record does not mean the birth did not happen.

What if the tombstone date or age is incorrect? Are we putting all our eggs into the 1790 basket?


Caleb and Joanna (Wade) Lewis had a son, Caleb Lewis, Jr., who married Elizabeth Ann Babcock in 1847, according to records of the Seventh-Day Baptist Church. The Babcock family had been long involved in this particular sect. As it turns out, so were the Lewises and many other families who intermarried in Rhode Island and then migrated westward, often together with extended family members, to parts of New York and beyond.

Surnames common to the Seventh Day Baptists included Lewis, Maxson, Burdick, Barber, Stillman, Ennis (or Enos), Mosher, Crandall, Clarke, Hubbard, Coon, Babcock, Lanphere, Kenyon and others. These families settled in Rhode Island because of the freedom to practice their religion in a colony that tolerated religious differences. The Seventh Day Baptists were an endogamous community (endogamy is the practice of marrying within a specific social group, caste, or ethnic group). As a result, many descendants today share ancestors with more than one of these surnames. As it turns out, many of my Dad’s autosomal DNA matches have multiple SDB surnames in their roots. Since they are so intertwined, it is difficult to find a common ancestral couple. More work to do here to sort it all out.


Seventh Day Baptists (SDBs) are a Baptist denomination which observes the Sabbath on the seventh-day of the week—Saturday—in accordance with the Biblical Sabbath of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8, Deuteronomy 5:12). The movement originated in mid-17th century England and spread within a few years to the British colonies in North America.

Stephen Mumford, a SDB from England, arrived in Rhode Island in 1665 and is mentioned as an advocate for seventh-day Sabbath in many records of the time. The first SDB church in America was at Newport, Rhode Island, established December 1671. In that month, two members of the First Baptist Church of Newport, pastored by John Clarke—namely, Samuel and Tacy Hubbard—withdrew from that church and joined with Mumford. Along with four others, they covenanted to meet together for worship, calling themselves Sabbatarian Baptists.

To be continued….

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My Search for Ella’s Conyer Ancestors

When I first became part of Pete’s family, I brought my interest in genealogy with me. I wanted to trace his family tree as well as my own. Harlan and Ella shared with me some clippings and documents and photos of their families to get me started. Harlan was particularly interested in finding out more about his mother’s Estes family, and Ella wanted to find out more about her father’s Conyer(s) family.

One of the first important clues for the Conyers search was what Ella showed me in her family Bible. This chart took her line back to her grandfather, Henry C. Conyer and although his wife’s name was missing, it did list the name of Henry’s brother, Irving, which would turn out to be important later.

My first task was to find Ella’s father Thomas Wesley Conyer in a census record as a child living in the home of his parents. Since Harlan and Ella both grew up in Florida, it was no surprise to find the Conyers family living in Manatee County in 1900. Henry’s birthdate and place were reported incorrectly in this record, and for some reason his wife’s name was left blank. Census records can be full of mistakes, but when you find who you are looking for, they do confirm that a family was in a certain place at a certain time.

The important thing was finding Thomas enumerated with his father H. C. Conyer and siblings Walter and Bessie. Having the Bible information was critical for proving this link.

Later, other records revealed the name of Henry’s wife, Jincy Anne Wood, whose three marriages produced the siblings and half-siblings listed in Ella’s Bible. Jincy first married William Harrison Hosford and had a daughter Laura. Her second husband was Joe Parrish, with whom she had Verda, Frank and Mary Jo Parrish. Her final marriage was to Henry C. Conyer, father of Walter, Thomas, Jessie and Bessie.

The next step was to find Henry as a child with his own parents in a census record, so that we could discover their names. In the 1860 census for Clarendon District, South Carolina, I found the Conyers family: Jno (John) and Ann, both 32, Sarah 8, Lucy 4, Henry 2, and Ervin 5 months old. This variation of Irving or Irvin was confirmation that I had the right family. All the family members were reported as born in South Carolina.

I also found John and Ann listed in Darlington County, South Carolina, ten years earlier in the 1850 census, newly married with no children. Their names were shown as John C. Conyers and Anna J. Conyers. In later census years, however, I could not find John and Anna Conyers. Some of the four children were enumerated in other households, which led me to believe that perhaps the parents had died sometime after the 1860 census. That’s when it hit me that perhaps the Conyers family had been caught up in the turbulence of the Civil War, and I sought out military records for John Conyers.

Lucky for us, many military records are now available online. It didn’t take long to locate John Conyers. He had enrolled at age 36 as a private in the Confederate army on June 24, 1861. The unit he joined at Ridgeville in Sumter County, South Carolina was Captain Alexander Colclough’s Company of the 2nd Regiment of South Carolina Volunteers. This unit subsequently became Company D of the 9th Regiment of SC Volunteers.

Sadly, John did not survive the war. He died at Culpeper Hospital in Virginia of typhoid and pneumonia in November of 1861.

John’s name appears on a monument of Confederate soldiers buried at Fairview Cemetery in Culpeper County, Virginia.

What had become of John’s widow, Anna? I wondered if she also had died during this time or whether she remarried and took a different name. Sometimes it’s hard to trace the women.

Meanwhile, Ella’s grandfather Henry C. Conyers, as a young man and without his parents, was enumerated in both 1870 and 1880 in the home of Harvey and Mary Locklear in Tabor, Crawford County, Georgia. In the 1870 record, one of his sisters was living there, too. In the 1880 census, Henry was listed as “nephew.” Was he the nephew of Harvey Locklear or of Harvey’s wife, Mary?

The name Locklear comes in many variations: Locklayer, Locklier, Locklair, Locklear. I started snooping around for that family. When Pete and I visited the archives in Manning, South Carolina on our 2013 road trip, we found lots of Conyers and Locklear records, but nothing that could definitely tie us to John and Ann.

My search stagnated at that point until the summer of 2017. I was taking a look through some of Pete’s genetic matches on the Family Tree DNA website and came across a fellow named Ken Player who had both Conyers and Locklears in his family tree. This perked my interest. I contacted him and while I waited for his response, I did some more digging.

I decided to look for military records out of South Carolina. I struck gold when I found a pension file for a War of 1812 veteran named Strann Conyers. He had married several times, and at an advanced age he married his fourth wife—a young girl of 16 named Mary Locklear.

Turns out they had a child together, which died at age 5. Shortly after that, young Mary left her husband and went with her sister to visit relatives in Manatee County, Florida. The affidavits in the file tell the tale of woe. While in Florida, Mary married another man and started a family with him there. When the old veteran Strann Conyers died, Mary left husband number two in Florida and returned to South Carolina to claim the widow’s pension under Conyers’ service. Fraud charges and a legal battle ensued, which provided records detailing all the family relationships and what took place—for 184 pages. Quite a story.

While I do not yet know how Strann Conyers is related to Ella’s line, after studying the records in the pension file, I was able to reconstruct the family of Mary Locklear. She was the daughter of Thomas and Sarah Locklear, whose children included Stephen, Anna, Harvey, Nelson, Irvin, Eliza, Andrew, Mary, Julia, Martha, Louisa and Elizabeth.

Mary’s sister Julia Locklear is the ancestor of Pete’s DNA match, Ken Player. Eliza was the sister who went along with Mary to Florida. Nelson Locklear was the brother they visited in Manatee County. Irvin Locklear was the brother for whom John and Anna Conyers likely named their younger son, and with whom Irvin Conyer was living at one point. Harvey was of course the person with whom Henry C. Conyers lived in 1870 and 1880. Harvey’s Civil War record indicates he was born in Sumter County, South Carolina. In the 1885 Florida State Census, Henry Conyer was living in Manatee County, Florida as were Harvey and Mary Locklear. Everything seems to indicate that John Conyers’ wife was Anna Locklear.

Here is the Thomas Locklear (Locklier) family enumerated in the 1850 census for the Sumter District of South Carolina, just a couple of months before Anna was enumerated as a newlywed with John Conyers.

I’m pretty excited about this discovery of Anna’s birth family, but that still doesn’t tell us where she ended up. So far I have found no cemetery record or subsequent marriage record for her. Someday a new clue will emerge. Perhaps by tracing each of Anna’s siblings we will find a tidbit that will crack the case. The fact that Anna was not involved in her sister’s court case over the pension fraud leads me to believe that she was indeed deceased by that time.

Many of the Conyers and Locklears of early South Carolina served in the Revolutionary War. There is also some evidence that the Locklears intermarried with the indigenous tribes in that area of South Carolina. Some branches of Locklears are listed as Free Persons of Color or in some cases as mixed race (mulatto) in the early census records. Perhaps Ella and her offspring have Indian heritage. So many more things to research!

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Setting the record straight – Daniel Wade’s three wives and the DAR records

I was so thrilled and excited to find out yesterday that the supplemental application I prepared for the DAR last year was vetted and approved by their genealogists! To correct the mistake of previous applicants, I had to gather proof documents and lay out my case. Supplementals generally take about ten months to go through the process, so it was great to finally find out yesterday that my argument passed muster! See my original cover letter below:

October 14, 2015

Office of the Registrar General, NSDAR
National Society Daughters of the American Revolution
1776 D Street NW
Washington, DC 20006-5303


Enclosed please find my supplemental application under the services of Daniel Wade, #A119673. Although I used the Build-an-App process to begin with, I need to highlight some new information that has come to light in recent years regarding the wives of Daniel Wade.

Prior applications were made using as a resource the Stuart C. Wade book, “The Wade Genealogy,” published in 1900. Unfortunately, as sometimes happens with family genealogy books, errors were made. In regards to Daniel Wade, page 245, only two of his three wives were shown: Elizabeth, who died 4 Dec 1758, and Temperance (no dates given). Temperance was actually his third wife. Wade’s second wife was Magdalena Whitehead. Nowhere does Stuart C. Wade mention the middle wife, Magdalena. As a result, most Wade researchers do not know of her and have posted Temperance as the mother of several of the Wade children, or have carelessly merged Magdalena and Temperance into one person, naming her Magdalena Temperance Whitehead Wade, which is incorrect.

Timothy Whitehead’s 1779 will (Essex Co, NJ) names his daughter Magdalena Wade and his son-in-law Daniel Wade. Daniel Wade’s 1793 will (Essex Co, NJ) gives the name of his wife Temperance.

In 2011, a Whitehead researcher named Travis Whitehead contacted me to inform me that Daniel Wade did indeed marry three times. Travis sent me the image of a page of David Whitehead’s diary listing the five children of Timothy Whitehead, along with their birth and death dates, including my Magdalena (Whitehead) Wade, who died in 1783.

Here is the timeline:

Daniel Wade first married Elizabeth (last name unknown), and they had children. She died in 1758. The Wade children born before 1758 belong to Elizabeth.

Daniel then married his second wife, Magdalena Whitehead, and they had children. Magdalena is mentioned in her father’s 1779 will. She died in 1783 according to her nephew’s diary. The Wade children born between Elizabeth’s death in 1758 and Magdalena’s death in 1783 belong to Magdalena. Daniel and Magdalena’s son Jacob Wade is my ancestor.

Daniel then married his third wife, Temperance (last name unknown), and names her in his will, dated 1793, the year he died. Most likely they did NOT have children together, as Temperance was at least 50 years old when they married sometime after 1783. Her age was figured from burial information: Temperance Wade was buried in the First Presbyterian Church Yard at Newark, Essex Co, NJ. The Genealogical Society of New Jersey file of cemetery records at Alexander Library (Rutgers) show her cemetery record as follows:

Temperance Wade, “the widow” died 5 Feb 1818, aged 86 years and 13 days.
Buried at First Presbyterian Church Yard, Essex NJ, sect. A, lot 58.

The cemetery at the First Presbyterian Church Yard in Newark is now paved over and the headstones no longer exist.

Thank you for allowing me to explain this new information which disagrees with prior applications in the GRS. Of course I am also including the proof documents referenced above.


Leslie Lewis


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Will the REAL Joseph Crouch please stand up?

This dispatch comes about due to a new Crouch cousin contacting me recently after seeing my info and photos on Find a Grave. She has been working on her branch of the Crouch family for several years and has gone into DNA testing in a big way, just like me and my family. She is hoping we can work together to trace these elusive Crouches back to find our common ancestors and beyond.

Since she wrote me a week ago I have been burning up the internet trying to push our line back before Joseph Crouch and Margaret McCall. I thought I had hit the jackpot the other day when I found Joseph’s pension file for service in the War of 1812 on Fold3.com. It contained 211 pages of wonderful information. I was so excited, I updated my Family Tree Maker (still using it, thanks to MacKiev’s 2014.1 version)!

But it turns out I was a little hasty.

Let me explain….
In the 1990s when I was corresponding with Glenn Crouch and Charles Lilly (both now deceased), I was told that our Joseph Crouch had married three times:

1) Margaret McCall (by whom he had his children) in 1804, Ross Co OH
2) Jerusha DeHart in 1829, Tippecanoe Co, IN
3) Margaret Latimer in 1855, Tippecanoe Co, IN

I’m sure many of you have this same information.

So all these years, I have assumed this information was correct. NOW, after spending several hours downloading and studying all the pages of this fascinating (and heartbreaking) pension file, I began to be suspicious that something was amiss.

First, the ages of pensioner Joseph Crouch as stated in the affidavits consistently pointed to a birth around 1798 or 1799. OUR Joseph Crouch, on the other hand, married Margaret McCall in 1804, indicating a birth year around 1780 to 1783 or so. Yet even the census records in 1850 and 1870 pointed to a birth around 1799 for pensioner Joseph Crouch.

Then, the pension file made many references to his “first wife” Jerusha DeHart and to the widow Margaret Latimer (Lattimore) applying for a pension after Joseph’s death, but never to Margaret McCall nor any of his (supposed) six or seven children.

Finally, I re-read Levi Crouch’s manuscript (oldest son of Montgomery McCall Crouch) and he said that he had never met his grandfather Joe Crouch, who had remained in Ohio all his life. Meanwhile, the pensioner Joseph Crouch recorded in the Fold3 pension file had moved back and forth between Indiana, Illinois and Iowa, and finally to Montgomery County, Indiana, where he died in 1878.

Obviously, we are looking at two different Joseph Crouches. To think that Pete and I travelled through Montgomery County, Indiana a few years ago and spent hours at the library and visiting cemeteries there to find out more about our Joseph, when this was the WRONG GUY!

I immediately notified our Crouch Family page on Facebook, and changed my Family Tree Maker AND my online tree at Ancestry.com. I had to separate out the facts about these two men named Joseph Crouch, and reattach the records to the appropriate individual.

I then snooped around a bit and saw a tree online that shows our Joseph as the UNCLE of the pensioner Joseph. This tree claims our Joseph’s second wife was named Eliza and they were living in Highland County, Ohio, the same county where our Joseph’s son, Montgomery McCall Crouch was born. Now to flesh out THAT family and search for confirmation that he is OUR Joseph.

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Harvey M. Dixon update

I wanted to check in with you again because it has been four months since I posted the Dixon/Lewis connection.

Here’s an update:

I wrote to three living descendants of Jacob/Harvey through his son George. Coincidentally, they all live in Washington State, like me. I have received a reply from one of them, and I am planning to send her more info soon.

More recently I have corresponded with the wife of a descendant of Harvey’s daughter Malinda Francis (Dixon) Fitzgerald. I found her through an ancestry tree showing her husband’s line going back to Harvey M. Dixon. She seemed surprised about it, but I think she’s convinced, as she has changed her tree to reflect the Lewis connection.

Another major breakthrough… I had earlier noticed that some trees online show a marriage of a Jacob Lewis to Susanna Austin in Pittsford, Monroe, New York in 1838. Supposedly they had two children, Allen and Martha Lewis. In searching for more information, I found that Susanna may have lived until 1903 (no record to back this up yet). Her parents, William and Rebecca (Doud) Austin, are buried in the Farmersville Center Cemetery, Cattaraugus County, New York!! YES, THE SAME CEMETERY where Jacob’s parents, CALEB AND JOANNA (Wade) LEWIS are buried! The Austin family were early settlers of Cattaraugus County, just like the Lewises.

Could our Jacob W. Lewis have abandoned his first family in New York, a wife Susanna and children Allen and Martha? Is that why he disappeared and ended up in Missouri/Iowa? Were Jacob and Susanna legally divorced, or did he just run out on her? And what became of Susanna?

I could not find any census records showing Susanna with her children in 1850 or beyond to verify the family unit. But something interesting surfaced. Another tree online showed a marriage of a Martha Dixon to a man named Elvin M. Dent, which may have taken place in Iowa. A little more digging…. drum roll….

I found Elvin and Martha Dent were living next door to Harvey M. Dixon and family in the 1860 census!! So his daughter by his first marriage ended up near her father in Hickory County, Missouri.

Boy, that 1860 census sure holds a lot of good information! Not only does it show Harvey M. Dixon and family with his brother Guy C. Lewis in the household, but right next door is Elvin and Martha Dent. Martha was age 18 in this census. Although there were no children shown in her household (only a brother of Elvin’s), again, online trees suggest a child, William Dent, was born about 1864. And they say Martha died about 1865.

Civil War records show that Elvin served in Company C, 40th Iowa Infantry. In fact, in June of 1863 he is shown as residing in Union Twp., Mahaska County, Iowa, age 30, born in Tennessee, married and a carpenter by trade. So Martha and Elvin obviously moved (back?) to Iowa along with her father and his family. Harvey M. Dixon enlisted in Company D, 33rd Iowa Infantry.

Now, in googling around, I have landed on some posts left over ten years ago that tell family stories* that when Elvin came back from the war, he found his wife Martha had taken off and left their baby Willie with his mother-in-law (Harvey’s widow Catherine Starnes Dixon). He took the baby with him and moved to Illinois to live with his half-brother James. Elvin was remarried in Arkansas in 1867 to Tabitha Morgan, a widow with four children of her own. William Dent was living with his father Elvin and family in the 1870 census, Barry County, Missouri, but disappears after that.

*These stories are supported by affidavits in Tabitha Dent’s widow’s pension application, which I so far have been unable to find. Have only heard of them second-hand so far.

What happened to William Dent? Did he reach adulthood? Marry? Have children?

And more unanswered questions… did Martha Lewis (AKA Dixon) Dent die or desert her family?

What ever happened to Susanna (Austin) Lewis and her son Allen Lewis?

The search continues!!! This is one interesting family!

I would LOVE to hear from anyone associated with the Dixons, Starnes or Dents.

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