Friday, March 6, 2015

John Smith (1778-1860) and Jane Wain (1778-1863) | Thirsk, Yorkshire, England

Taking a break from unpacking our household belongings to blog a little about family history.  Always a great excuse for a diversion!  We just completed a transatlantic move from Sicily to Yorktown, Virginia...and I'm so happy to be back HOME.

This weekend, FindMyPast is offering FREE access (thanks for the heads-up, Kathy!).  While I wasn't sure exactly what I would find, I'm happy to report my research break definitely proved fruitful.

Here is a snippet of a marriage record from the parish records in Thirsk, Yorkshire (North Riding), England from 1799...including my 4th great-grandparents, John SMITH and Jane WAIN:

Yorkshire: Bishop's Transcripts of Marriages.  Thirsk, North Riding, Yorkshire, England.  Borthwick Institute for Archives.  Accessed via

While a little difficult to read, here's a transcription of the record:

John Smith, bachelor, and Jane Wain, spinster, both in this parish, were married in this church by banns on November 27th.

John and Jane eventually left England and settled in Deaborn County, Indiana.  I previously wrote about this exciting couple in THIS POST. An entire website is devoted to tracing the history of their children and grandchildren -

Happy hunting!  Now I'm off to hang a few pictures!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Yeager & Luden Saga | Another Clue...

Deed of Sale from Amos B. Yeager to Jacob Luden, 1855 (filed 2 April 1855), Berks County, Pennsylvania, Deed Grantor 1752-1926, page 2. Recorder of Deeds Office, City of Reading, Pennsylvania. <>

In my two previous posts, HERE and HERE, I outlined an intriguing family mystery from my mother's maternal line - specifically involving the LUDEN and YEAGER families of Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania.  Nutshelll summary: I have lingering paternity questions about my 3rd great-grandfather, who was born just before my 4th great-grandmother and grandfather divorced.  Until I started working on our family history, I was unaware that my 4th g-grandmother had been previously married (with two children, no less); quite a bombshell discovery.  Autosomal DNA testing is casting some doubt on my 3rd great-grandfather's paternity.  A very complicated mystery indeed!

Just last week, I spent time digging through the Berks County, Pennsylvania Recorder of Deeds online search tool.  While the results provided are indexed records (typed summaries of the actual record), it is possible to contact the office for actual copies.  Low and behold, I found a very fascinating nugget of information!

Remember in my last article that I gave a timeline for my 4th great-grandparents' divorce.  Here's a recap:

  • April 21, 1856 - Amos Bright Yeager (1808-1889) files for divorce from Sarah (Musser) Yeager (later, Luden).
  • April 22, 1856 - Sarah Musser Yeager served papers.
  • September 30, 1857 - Interrogations completed and filed.
  • June 7, 1858 - Case closed - plaintiff (Amos Yeager) pays court fees.
*My 3rd great-grandfather, Edward Musser Luden (1854-1920) is born on 9 November, 1854*

SO - let's look at the image above from the Register of Deeds.  In April of 1855, Amos Yeager sells his N 5th Street, Reading, PA home to Jacob Luden.  At this point, I am not sure exactly where he and his wife, Sarah, live until he eventually files for divorce the following year; I cannot find a record of another mortgage to determine whether or not he purchased another home.  Ironically, when Sarah and Amos divorce, she ends up living in the N 5th Street home with her new husband - Jacob Luden - and their children, including my 3rd great-grandfather.  As I mentioned in a previous post, Amos Yeager moves to the Mishler Hotel with his two children, Frederick Musser Yeager and Susan Ann Yeager.

Interesting twist, yes?

From my conversations with another researcher in Berks County, I understand that Amos Yeager sued Jacob Luden in conjunction with the divorce case whose timeline I noted above.  A separate filing. 

You'll also see on the image above that Amos sold another property to a Conrad Beidler in a Deed of Assignment in 1855 (recorded March 1856).  From what I can tell, a deed of assignment usually occurs when a person in debt (Amos Yeager, I believe) assigns a property to another party in lieu of filing for bankruptcy.  Could it be that he had some sort of underlying financial problems at the time or leading up to the divorce?

Questions, questions!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Part II: DNA vs. Documentation

Portrait of Edward Musser Luden,:

McAtee, William.  The Members of the Legislature of Pennsylvania and Heads of Departments: Session of 1895.  Harrisburg, PA: J.H. McFarland Company, Mount Pleasant Printery.  1895.  11 February 2015

Portrait of Frederick Musser Yeager:

Yeager, James Martin (1857-).  A Brief History of the Yeager, Buffington, Creighton, Jacobs, Lemon, Hoffman, and Woodside Families and Their Collateral Kindred of Pennsylvania.  Lewistown, PA.  11 February 2015

Yesterday, I started the slow, winding description of one of the largest mysteries in my family tree.  It’s one of those continuing stories over which I have continued to mull over, setting it down for a month or two only to pick it back up again to ascertain whether or not I missed a detail here, a document there.

A few developments recently (I’m referring to these developments as my giant “elephant in the room”) have given me pause…and lead me to put pen and paper together to allow my jumble of thoughts to spill out onto the paper for posterity’s sake.  And sanity’s sake, because I can only mull over so much at a time!


  • Man meets woman, man marries woman.
  • Husband and wife have two children.
  • Wife meets another man, carries on extramarital relationship.
  • Another child born…followed almost 2 years later by another (*this is my maternal 3rd g-grandfather).  Wife leads husband to believe that the first of these two children (a girl) is his.  Girl is baptized with husband’s last name.  The second child born (presumably out of wedlock…though this part is the crux of my debate) is not baptized until 7 years later, with the boyfriend (now new-husband’s) last name.
  • Husband figures out game, files legal action against boyfriend.
  • Divorce follows, but not before yet another child is born.
  • Wife loses custody of eldest two children; husband takes said children and moves out of family home.
  • Boyfriend moves in; marries woman.  By an act of the State Legislature of Pennsylvania, the three children born (apparently fathered by boyfriend/new husband) are made legitimate (“legitimated” in legalese) and full heirs to his estate. 
  • Three more children born – one of them to include a boy who would eventually pioneer an entire candy empire out of his home kitchen as a teenager.
  • Boyfriend/new husband dies less than 5 years later, ironically the same month in which his 6th child is born.
  • Wife raises five children (one passed away at a young age); leads a life completely separate from her first two children from previous marriage -even though they live just minutes apart.  Ex-husband parents these children on his own and never remarries.
  • Wife’s will specifically entitles her two children from the 1st marriage to $1 each; the remainder of her rather large estate and personal belongings are given to her 5 remaining children…the ones she states are specifically “born” of her 2nd husband (now deceased).  Two of these five children are executors of her will. 
  • Got that?  Test later.
So much!  Makes my brain hurt.  Of course, here’s where I add that in order to create the timeline above, I amassed a large collection of US Census records, death records, wills, baptismal records, legal records, naturalization records, and on and on and on.  Several emails with local historical libraries, aging historians, etc.  Hours spent combing through newspaper articles.  All documentation saved in my library of personal papers.  If you want to see something in particular, please ask!  I’ll gladly scan, email, whatever you need.
BACK to the issue at hand – the lovely, nudging, elephant.

What exactly IS this proverbial elephant?  DNA evidence casting a nagging, somewhat annoyingly dark cloud over the nice, neat family tree I completed listing the parents of my 3rd great-grandfather, Edward Musser Luden (1854-1920) as the following:

  • Sarah (Musser) (Yeager – 1st marriage) LUDEN (1822-1896); born in Reamstown, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania to parents William Musser (1790-1847) and Elizabeth Sweitzer (1796-1838).
  • Jacob Luden (1824-1864); according to naturalization documents, born in Cleves, Kingdom of Prussia.  Parents’ names unknown.  Traveled from Antwerp, Belgium to the port of New York and arrived on 11 August 1849.
    • *Side note here.  I have examined all ship manifests from 11 August 1849, days, and weeks prior.  Not a single “Jacob Luden” to be found.  It’s possible he had another name…and I will probably never know.   A little squirrely if you ask me!  I have an 1850 US Census record from City of Reading, Berks County, PA listing his as a boarder in a hotel – under the name of G. Luden, Prussia.  In 1860, he tells census takers that he is Prussian.  After his death, his family lists his birth location in all census listings as “Holland”.  Growing up, I was under the impression from oral tradition that I was part “Dutch”.  It turns out that he was not, in fact, Dutch; he may have lived in Holland for a few years prior to arriving in the US, but when he was asked personally about his birthplace he always indicated “Prussia”.  A good lesson for all families to CHECK THEIR SOURCES and never believe family history is 100% accurate until you have the documentation to support all claims.  My two cents.

About two years ago, my mother and I both completed autosomal DNA testing through AncestryDNA.  In a nutshell, autosomal testing presents information gleaned from both sides of your family tree –unlike yDNA (male only, surname lineage research) and mitochondrial DNA (inherited from the maternal line only).  In addition to calculating your ethnicity using their in-house algorithm (all testing companies are a little different in this respect), you also receive weekly updates as other people test and start to match your DNA in some way.  These “cousin matches” are presented in a variety of ranges: parent, 1st-2nd cousin, 3rd cousin, 4th-6th cousins, and 5th-8th cousins.  First cousins share a grandparent, 2nd cousins a great-grandparent, and so on.  If a “match” has connected their DNA data with their family tree, you might also receive a notice that the database has found an actual common ancestor (this is really great – assuming their tree is correct!).  If you receive a cousin match notice, and their family tree profile is “public”, you can scan the tree yourself to identify a match or even reach out to that person via messages to shake out the tree.  Here’s what I typically see when I log in:

You’ll see “28 Shared Ancestor Hints” – and this refers to people who match my genetic data AND my actual family tree…and the database identifies a shared ancestor.

There is also a way to filter your cousin matches by surname or birth location.  Over the months, out of curiosity, I started searching for surnames belonging to the 1st husband’s side of the family in this particular family saga – the family of Amos Bright Yeager (1808-1889).  Surnames such as Bright, Baum, Yeager, even Hunter – a translation from the original German “Jaeger”.  All names used by Amos’ relatives within a few generations.  Would you know…I started getting hits?  I started noticing that several of my cousin matches (at least 10 for each surname) shared similar family members with Amos Bright Yeager?  Reminder: my 3rd great-grandfather was born when his mother was still married to Amos Yeager.  They were still living together.  She had already tried to pass of his older sister as her husband’s daughter, a story that was later recanted.  While my relative was a toddler, Amos filed for divorce.  Makes a person start to wonder.

Looking at my tree, the only way I could have these sorts of matches with the first husband’s family were if he and his wife were somehow cousins.  I have worked out Sarah (Musser) (Yeager) Luden’s family tree for several generations, and this seems to be impossibility.  There is no other way that these several matches can connect to my tree in any other family line.

I have Yeager matches, my mother has Yeager matches.  We have Baum matches (Amos’ grandmother’s maiden name).  We have Bright matches (his mother’s maiden name).  This is getting interesting.

When I search both of our DNA matches by surname for “Luden” or a variety of spellings of the name, I find a sum total of…ZERO.  Nada.  Cleves, Prussia?  Nothing.  It would help if I knew more about Jacob Luden’s extended family – in his meager defense.  But that’s being generous, really.

In my actual family tree, I have the parents of my 3rd great-grandfather, Edward M. Luden, listed as Sarah Musser and Jacob Luden.  All paper documentation points to this arrangement.  Biographies written about him – as well as his candy-coated brother William H. Luden – say as much.  BUT – the DNA is starting to chip away at this story, if I’m to believe it.  What to believe?  Will this elephant ever stop bothering me??
On Monday, I did something drastic.  I changed my privacy settings on my online family tree in to “private” to prevent people from copying my work.  I moved Jacob Luden over, and I put Amos Yeager in his place as the father of my  3rd GG.  

Y’all.  Guess what happened.

When I logged into my DNA matches yesterday, the database had figured out that I have at least TWO new DNA matches with an identifiable common ancestor.  FOUR in my mother’s data.  The database estimates that we share DNA in common with several people who are direct descendants of Amos B. Yeager’s grandparents and one great-grandparent.  Actual matching relatives in our trees.  What the what?!?

So.  What to do.  Looking back to my seriously mysterious 4th great-grandmother and her web of personal relationships, I have to wonder a few things about my 3rd great-grandfather’s paternity.
…she either:

A)     Knew that her child, my 3rd GG, was her husband’s son, but since she was also engaged in a relationship with another man, she didn’t want to upset both and kept the secret to herself.
B)      Was confused about her child’s paternity and decided to say he belonged to her boyfriend
C)      Didn’t know and truly believed the child to be her boyfriend’s son.

With her husband filing for divorce due to adultery, she was going to lose her oldest two children from the marriage.  She had another 3 year old daughter (by Jacob Luden?) and a 1 ½-2 year old son (my relative).  Plus, she was pregnant with a third.  If she admitted that the middle child – her toddler – was not the biological child of her boyfriend, Jacob Luden, I presume she would have lost parental rights.  I hate to play the “if it were me” game…but I personally feel it would have been devastating to do anything to lose custody of my small baby.  Maybe this is what happened.  I have absolutely no idea.

Here I am in 2015, and the DNA evidence is blowing holes in family stories.  Who is Edward M. Luden’s father?  For all intents and purposes, it’s Jacob Luden.  At least by way of memory and emotion.  But, who is his biological father?  I don’t know.  All I can say is that the DNA evidence is casting enough doubt that I can’t confidently say one way or another.  Honestly?  I think it is Amos Yeager.  But – with that revelation, how do I feel about his entire family line – a line I have always viewed with some distance (a “not my people” attitude).  Are they ours?  Can we claim them?  I just don’t know.

What I DO know is that somewhere in Reading, Pennsylvania – between the years of 1856 and 1896 – there were two pre-teen children living with their father, without their mother.  Their mother moved on, lived a separate life…a life fully documented in the Reading Eagle newspaper.  Parties, a huge extended family of children and grandchildren.  Frederick M. Yeager served heroically in the Civil War; his sister, Susan Yeager married Evan Mischler and they operated his family’s hotel business.  Did they see their mother while shopping?  Mourn her?  Disown her?  I would love to know.  There is no mention of them in the newspaper articles referring to her large birthday celebrations hosted by Luden children…no mention of them in her obituary.  No mention of them in my own family’s oral history…in fact I stumbled upon Frederick, Susan, and their father Amos Yeager while searching for Sarah Musser Luden’s will and her whereabouts in 1850.  A completely fortuitous accident.  

What’s next.  A yDNA test would love this mystery once-and-for all, but sadly, the only male child of my 3rd GG died unmarried and childless in 1946.  He would have been the key.  Testing his yDNA in comparison with a male descendent of Fred Yeager.

Maybe I’ll reach out via message boards to identify living, direct relatives of Frederick M. Yeager or his sister, Susan Yeager Mischler…to see if either have done DNA testing.  Also, to see if any have personal knowledge of the family history.

If you are still reading…thank you :).  What a story!  I’m not sure if it is bringing me closer to understanding how to balance DNA results and paper documentation – but at least the truth is there, somewhere, for us to tease out.  A challenge to all to dig, discover, and don’t make assumptions just because a story has been told for generations – publicly or privately!


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Lingering Questions...

 There is a huge, genealogical elephant in my living room.  Every so often, he nudges me with his trunk, he asks for fresh water, and bats his long eyelashes at me in hopes that I will scratch behind his giant elephant ears.

My theory about family history research is that nothing is as cut and dry as it seems at first.  Dig a little deeper – search a few newspaper archives – and you’ll either make your particular research question a) more complicated, or b) exceptionally clear in a way you never expected.

By the time I actually his “POST” on this article, I will most likely have re-written it several times.  This elephant is giant.  HUGE.  Effecting the way an entire branch of my family will view its identity – even its surnames.  I’m putting on kid gloves.  But most importantly – I want to outline for my extended family and my future family exactly how I arrived at my present hypothesis.  I feel deeply convicted that the truth is most important, and simply pushing the glaring evidence to the side or turning a blind eye really is no way to share and spread the truth.  It’s like embracing a half-truth, because the full truth is just too different from what we were lead to believe all along.  And that’s not my style. Sensitivity and empathy are key, because this is a touchy subject.

OK.  Ready to address this elephant?  He’s staring at me full-on!

About three years ago, when I first started exploring genealogy and my own family tree, I stumbled upon a huge brick wall.  One of those impossible-to-solve research questions.  Naturally, I channeled my frustration into further research, reaching out to local historians, libraries, anyone who could help me answer my burning questions.  I swore, while trying to prep for this article, that I had posted on this blog a while back about this particular family unit – the Jacob Luden and Sarah (Musser) Luden family  - previously, but it looks like I did so on my now-deleted family blog.  Here’s the twisted/turning tale of my fourth great-grandparents…

Sarah Ann Musser (1822-1896) marries a man named Amos Bright Yeager (1808-1889) in 1838 in her hometown of Reamstown, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, at the age of 16.  Sarah and Amos have two children together:

US Federal Census 1850, Reading, North West Ward, Berks County, Pennsylvania

Source: Year: 1850; Census Place: Reading North West Ward, Berks, Pennsylvania; Roll: M432_752; Page: 245A; Image: 491

Notice Amos Yeager’s profession: “Confectioner”.  This is the only point in which I note that his employment is in the candy business; after his time serving in the Civil War, he works in various trades to include photography, in the shop of his son Frederick M. Yeager.   

Now, here is where life becomes extremely complicated for the Yeager household.  At some point between 1850 (presumably) and 1853, Sarah (Musser) Yeager strikes up an extramarital relationship with a man named Jacob Luden (1824-1864).  Luden is a jeweler whose business is located on the same block in Reading, Pa.  

In 1853, Sarah (Musser) Yeager gives birth to daughter Caroline Mary.  I have hard copies of Caroline’s baptismal record at the First Universalist Church of Reading, Pennsylvania.  Her name is listed as “Caroline Mary Yeager”.

In November of 1854, she gives birth to my 3rd great-grandfather, Edward Musser Luden.  I also have copies of his baptismal record, which didn’t take place until July of 1860 – six years later – at the First Universalist Church, Reading.  Notice the last name?  Luden.
Subsequent children born to Sarah (Musser) were: 

·         Alburtis Musser Luden (1857-1864)
·         Sally Ann Luden (1861-?)
·         Jacob Charles Luden (1864-1926)

Here’s where I’ll give you the Cliff’s Notes version to spare you a little time.
Here’s an snippet of Sarah (Musser) (Yeager) Luden in 1860:

Source: Year: 1860; Census Place: Reading, North West Ward, Berks, Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1077; Page: 1106; Image: 248; Family History Library Film: 805077

Here is Amos Bright Yeager, living in the Mischler Hotel in Reading, PA along with children Fred and Susan in1860:
Source: Year: 1860; Census Place: Reading, North West Ward, Berks, Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1077; Page: 1104; Image: 246; Family History Library Film: 805077

Living just blocks apart!  Separate lives.  Mother in one home with new husband and children, ex-husband in another home (a hotel, no less) with their children from the 1st marriage.

I obtained documents from the Prothonotary office in Berks County, Pennsylvania detailing a few of the legalities of the separation and subsequent divorce of Sarah (Musser) and Amos Bright Yeager.  Arrest warrants were issued in 1856 for Jacob Luden (I believe this was pretty typical of a situation in which an extra-marital affair occurred), depositions filed (or misfiled, since this is the “meat” of the mystery that I would love to see…and unfortunately the documents have gone missing and the Prothonotary can’t locate them), legal fees paid, and case closed in 1858.  Looking at the timeline, this means that the initial complaint wagered by Amos Yeager didn’t occur until two years after the birth of my 3rd great-grandfather, Edward Musser Luden.

So, a vortex of time between 1853 and 1856.  Two children born.  Divorce filed.  One additional child born (Alburtis Luden) to Sarah Musser, and presumably, Jacob Luden. 

Now comes another interesting document focusing on this complicated love triangle.

A document essentially making Caroline, Edward, and Alburtis Musser, legal heirs to Jacob Luden – as if they had been born “in lawful wedlock”

I mentioned that Caroline Mary was baptized in 1853 at the First Universalist Church of Reading as “Caroline Mary Yeager”.  So, husband #1 was under the impression that Caroline was his daughter.  Then, things dramatically changed.

I just wonder…what did Amos B. Yeager think when Edward Musser was born – my 3rd great grandfather?  Did he believe the child was his?  Did he know about his wife’s indiscretions?  What about the birth of Alburtis in 1857?

It’s easy to forge that this was 1855…not 2015.  In Reading, Pennsylvania, not New York City.  I need to verify family law specifics at the time, but typically there was a waiting period of at least 5 years – if divorce was even allowed.  This was a progressive issue for a non-progressive era, for sure.

To cap off my treasure trove of Luden/Yeager/Musser documents, I have to include a clipping from Sarah (Musser) Yeager’s will : 

Source: "Pennsylvania, Probate Records, 1683-1994." Images. FamilySearch. : accessed 2015. County courthouses, Pennsylvania.  Berks County, PA.

“I give and  bequeath unto my two children, being the children of my former husband, Amos Yeager, to each of said two children the sum of one dollar, which shall be their full share coming to them out of my estate. 
I give and bequeath all the rest and residue of my property, real personal, and mixed unto my five other children, being the children of my deceased husband Jacob Luden, to them or the survivor or survivors of them their heirs and offsigns forever to be divided between them share and share alike…”

Frederick Musser Yeager and Susan (Yeager) Mischler: $1 each.

Caroline, Edward, Alburtis (deceased), William (Luden Candy millionaire), Sally, Jacob: the remainder of her estate.

Seems a little harsh?

If I could time travel – I would visit this family.  I would ask the tough questions and demand the tough answers.

What does this mean for my research now?  Should I take my 4th great-grandmother at her word and believe that her son, Edward Musser Luden, is in fact a son of Jacob Luden and not her first husband, Amos Yeager?  That’s what the probate records and family history support. 
When should I rely on DNA testing to negate the truth purported in legal documents and oral history?
THIS, my friends and family, is the huge elephant in the room.

Next up: What, pray, does the DNA say?  

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Military History and a New Resource from

Every so often, I browse through the new searchable resources available on  The majority of my research these days is done on the local level, or using free sites such as, Castle Garden (for immigrants arriving in New York before 1890), newspaper archive sites such as and, and for military information.  I still pay pay a monthly subscription (begrudgingly!) to Ancestry because of my DNA testing and results; also, I occasionally use the local search features by state or county. 

This week, I noticed a GREAT new resource for anyone with veteran ancestors who served in the US Navy - "Registers of Patients at Naval Hospitals from 1812-1934".  My husband is the one in our household with family members who served in the US Navy (he's doing his job to keep that tradition alive!).  Since our surname - Melvey - is very uncommon, I always start there when searching a new database.  Never know what you might discover!

A while back, I wrote a Memorial Day post about Ernest Melvey, my husband's paternal great-uncle.  While not a direct ancestor (I usually focus my research on directs only), we were both captivated by his story of survival from WWI.  According to a news article published in the Aberdeen American in South Dakota (1 January 1919), Melvey's ship - the USS Westover - was blown out of the water en route to Europe by a German submarine.  Eleven of the ninety-three crew members were killed.  The remaining crew managed to swim their way to three freed rescue boats, including the captain, who brilliantly tossed his officer's coat for a seaman's uniform.  When a group of Germans approached the rescue boats "demanding surrender of the captain", the crew "told the [Germans] he had been killed when the torpedo struck" (Aberdeen American, 1 January 1919). 

After four days of floating in open water, the survivors were rescued by a French fisherman and brought to Brest, France.  Ernest Melvey sustained a hip injury in the accident and spent some time in the Naval Hospital 5 in Brest.  Using the new database on, I located his entry in the hospital register:
9 October 1818

22 November 1918
30 November 1918
 What a neat snippet of history to add to the news stories about his ordeal!  According to other news articles I located, his parents - Paul's great grandparents Nels N. Melvey and Ingeborg (Johannesdatter) Melvey - did not hear about their son's accident until weeks after it occurred.  I can only imagine their shock and worry. 

Very thankful for these digital resources that enable us to add a little color to our research!