Search This Blog

Diadamia Hopkins Shepherd - The Clue in the Deed

Diadamia Shepherd

A diadem is a crown or sign of royalty. Diadamia (Hopkins) Shepherd is one of my g g grandmothers, and her origins were a bit of a mystery until I found a deed with a clue.

Deeds, especially in the early Americas, should not be overlooked for in them are found many clues. A deed not only gives you the physical location of an ancestor, the names of his neighbors and witnesses who were often family and when a property is sold, but it can also give you the name of his wife.

David Shepherd lived in Rutland County Vermont, and like most Americans he owned property. When a man sold his property his wife was interviewed and given the opportunity say that she had no objection to the sale of the land. This was important because, as his wife, she owned 1/3 interest, or dower rights, to any property her husband owned. Her giving her approval was necessary to clear the title to the land.

In the many land transactions of David, his wife Diadamia was interviewed and her name is recorded, so by looking at the land records I knew her first name, but nothing of her maiden name or her origins. My big clue came on one particular land sale. The deed mentions that -David and Diadamia Shepherd were selling land that she received 'as an heir of Wait Hopkins, late of Bennington Vermont.

At first I didn't know why she was an heir, she could have been a daughter, a niece or a granddaughter of Wait Hopkins, but now I had another name, Wait Hopkins, the fact that he was deceased, and a place to look, Bennington Vermont.

Wait Hopkins

Furthers research told me that Wait Hopkins, of Bennington Vermont, was one of the Green Mountain Boys, and was killed in the Revolutionary War. A check at the 1st Congregational Church in Bennington, which would have been the church in the area at this time gave more clues. Reverend Jedediah Dewey was the 1st minister of this 1st Church in Bennington. He was one of the 'Black Cloak Brigade' . These were ministers who supported the Revolution and who kept their congregations fired up with their pro-independence sermons.

The Church has, of course, a cemetery, records of members, and records of burials and baptisms.  One name on the lists of members was Wait Hopkins. In these church records found the baptism of Diadamia Hopkins  "baptized by her grandfather Reverend Jedediah Dewey at Bennington, Vermont on February 28, 1768", and the names of her parents Wait Hopkins and Mindwell Dewey.

There were many other records found in that little church among the baptisms, marriages and burials, and I found them as a result of a " clue in a deed".

Julie Hammons

Julie has been involved in Family History nearly all her life.  She lived in Arizona until about two years ago. While there she regularly researched at the Arizona State Archives, and the Mesa Regional Family History Center. She also wrote a genealogy column for the Verde Independent and taught genealogy research classes at conferences for the Northern Arizona Genealogy Society, the Sedona Genealogy Club and monthly classes at her local Family History Center.
She is member of The Association of  Professional Genealogists, serves on the Board of the Southern Utah Family History and Genealogy Group, where she is the newsletter editor. She also volunteers at the St. George Regional FHC where she is on the Training Team and teaches research classes. She has several genealogy related web pages and a blog The Lost Grandmother which focuses on finding those women in our lines who are often elusive.

Their Lifestyle Was a Clue

Charles Miller's Estate: The Clues
Charles Miller died in Henry Co, GA before 1 May 1837. That date was when his will was proved. My sister found his will and sent it to me to help her determine what his occupation was.

His will was straightforward, naming his children and their inheritance. What was mysterious was the inventory of his estate. Generally when I had read inventory lists from other probate records it was fairly easy to discern their occupation. Most were farmers, but you could usually tell if they planted grains or had cattle or if they were a lawyer or doctor, based on what was in their estate.

But Charles's inventory was different. He had the usual household goods--tables, chairs, dishes, beds, pots, etc. But the rest was what seemed like a hodge-podge of things.

He owned a flax wheel and reel, 2 spinning wheels, a loom, chisels and saws, jointers and plains [planes], moulding [sic] tools, a groove plain, augers, hammers, sheep shears, 3 head of cattle, 5 head of sheep, an ox cart, a horse, ten geese, a bee gum (a beehive contained in the hollow of a tree, usually a red gum tree) and a cooper's addz (a tool for making the staves for a wooden barrel) amongst other things.

  • Was he a cattleman?  Too few cattle.
  • Was he a sheepherder? ..Too few sheep.
  • There were 2 spinning wheels and a loom. One spinning wheel and the loom would have been sufficient for a household, but why 2?
  • Perhaps he was a cooper. He had a collection of woodworking tools and several barrels.
  • Perhaps he made the barrels for a distilling operation or for tobacco storage.
No one category stood out to help determine an occupation.

His estate had the equipment and live stock to produce beef, mutton, cowhide, wool, cloth, honey, barrels, perhaps tobacco or liquor, furniture or equipment made with wood and even though the inventory did not include pigs, he owned a sausage stuffer.

He was apparently educated as he owned books and a quill.

The Historical and Cultural Clues

The variety of items in estate were a clue to his lifestyle. While a few court records indicate that Charles may have been a carpenter, in reality he, like many of his kin and neighbors, engaged in a variety of enterprises to make a living. This lifestyle was a clue to his origins. Church records indicated that he was a member of the Presbyterian Church. When these cultural clues are added to the historical facts of his arrival in South Carolina, the conclusion was easy--He was part of a group that came to be known as "Scots-Irish."

Charles came with his parents and siblings on one of the infamous 5 ships of Rev William Martin. This was a Presbyterian congregation that arrived in 1772 in South Carolina from Antrim in Northern Ireland.

This congregation was part of a larger ethnic group in Ireland whose ancestors had immigrated from Lowland Scotland in the early 1600s. These Scots immigrants were part of the Ulster Plantation effort by James I of England (James Vi of Scotland) in 1609. James hoped that the Presbyterian Scots would provide a heavy protestant influence in Ireland and thus put an end to the Irish Catholic conflicts with England.

Originally this group called themselves "Irish." This was logical since most of their families had been in Ireland for 150 years. Later on in America, they would become known as "Scots-Irish" or "Scotch-Irish." In England and Ireland they are known as "Ulster Scots."

How These Historical and Cultural Clues Solved the Mystery of Charles's Inventory

In reading about the Scots-Irish, I learned that they were by and large the opposite of the German farmers. The Germans were known for keeping farms that were neat and tidy. The Scots-Irish were not so tidy. Their habit was to clear a small area--enough for a rough cabin and a small garden. They did not fence their property and let their animals run untended in the woods. They frequently did not even bother to clear the stumps of the trees they felled for logs for their cabins.

They had eclectic farming operations--a few cattle, a few sheep, a few hogs, geese, etc. They made liquor, raised a little tobacco, a few vegetables, spun thread from the wool of the sheep and sold a variety of goods to make a living. They liked their leisure time.

near Bull Run, Chester Co, SC, 1825

Charles's estate inventory was typical of a Scots-Irish farmer, with lots of different means for producing an income. Like most Scots-Irish of his time, he did not focus on one product or crop, he engaged in many small operations--thus the two spinning wheels, the barrels for holding tobacco and liquor and a small number of a variety of animals. In some records he is listed as a carpenter.

Knowing that Charles's family was part of the Scots-Irish immigration to America and learning that the Scots-Irish were a rowdy group that had haphazard farming methods, led my sister to look in civil and criminal court records, where we found numerous records of lawsuits and minor encounters with the law. Member's of Charles's family had sued, been sued, arrested and charged with a variety of misdemeanor crimes. While Charles, his wife and children appeared to be an upstanding citizen, many members of his family were not and in reviewing these civil and criminal court records, we were able to determine exact relationships within the family.

What I Learned

I learned that if you know the lifestyle of your ancestor, it can help you determine their origins and when and where they might have immigrated to America.

I learned that studying the culture can lead you to look for records that will help you sort out the family.

I learned that civil and criminal records generally state relationships of the parties involved as part of the facts collected about the case.

I learned that when there is an oddity in the facts surrounding your ancestor, such as the seeming odd nature of Charles' estate, that oddity should be pursued. It can lead to more information about the family.

I learned that 14 American Presidents have Scots-Irish origins.

I learned that the Scots-Irish educated both their boys and their girls.

I learned that the Scots-Irish influenced Appalachian and Southern culture in many ways. Music, moonshine, NASCAR, hunting, fishing and deep religious conviction are important in the South because of the Scots-Irish culture.

If you want to know more about the Scots-Irish check out these websites:

The Scotch-Irish in America, by Henry Jones Ford (Library of Ireland)

Recommended reading to learn more about the history and culture of the Scots-Irish.


Family Myths: Separating Fact From Fiction

The Story

Johann Heinrich Kaiser and Anna Katherine Schleicher/Sleiker immigrated to the United States when their daughter, Sophia Elizabeth Kaiser was three years old. Henri saved the money for the voyage and stored it in a box that was approximately 8" x 5" x 5" tall. The night before they were to sail, someone broke into their home and stole the box and with it the money for their passage. Henri borrowed the money the next day from a friend, they paid their passage and set sail for America.

Upon landing in New York, they immediately left for Ft. Smith, Arkansas where they both lived out the rest of their lives. They are both buried in Ft. Smith.

How I Used the Story

Sophie Elizabeth Kaiser, age 14
Confirmation, 1887

This is the story I heard dozens of times from my grandmother, my gr-aunt, my mother and my mother's cousins. So when I began researching my family history, I asked questions. The sad tale on this is that I knew my gr-grandmother, Sophia Elizabeth (Kaiser) Finney. If at 14, I had been interested in family history, I could have asked her these questions and gotten better answers.

Where did they live before coming to the United States?
What year was Sophia Elizabeth Kaiser born?
Where was Johann Heinrich "Henri" Kaiser born? 

Every time I asked the questions, my grandmother and her sister, my gr-aunt would get in an argument They all agreed on when their mother, Sophie Elizabeth Kaiser was born: 27 April 1873. But the "where" was another conversation.

Auntie Marie said that her mother was born in Russia. My grandmother said her mother was born in Germany that became a part of Russia and my mother added to the mix by stating that her grandmother told her that she was born in Poland. My mother also said that her grandmother [Sophie Elizabeth Kaiser] told her that she was born in the same place as her father.

I listened to all of them and drew this conclusion: that Sophie Elizabeth Kaiser and her father were born in that northern part of Germany that changed hands over time--that part that was sometimes Germany, sometimes Poland, sometimes Prussia and sometimes Russia.

I looked at maps and on lists of old German towns. I looked for Kaisers and Sleikers (because that was how my Grandmother had spelled her grandmother's name.) I could not find them.

In my recurring searches during 2010, I began to notice that just over the border from the Poland/Prussia/Germany area into Russia the last four letters on some of the town names ended in "naja." This was important because we have Henri Kaiser's confirmation certificate. He was baptized on 22 Mar 1860. This document is 151 years old. At some point, it was torn and someone taped the tear--right over the name of the town where Henri was born. But that town name ended in "naja." I began to suspect I had been looking in the wrong place.

Johann Heinrich "Henri"  Kaiser Confirmation Certificate
22 March 1822, Privalnaja, Russia

Just a few weeks after this, my sister happened to ask a friend of hers who is an immigrant from the Ukraine if she might know the name of the town on the confirmation certificate. When she saw the certificate, her friend recognized it right away as Privalnaja. Privalnaja was the Russian name for the town, but the Germans who settled there called it Warenberg.

Johann Henri Kaiser, Anna Katherine Schleicher/Sleiker and Sophie Elizabeth Kaiser were all Volga Germans.

Search for Volga Germans

My Error: Focusing on the Story, Instead of the Documents

If I had looked at my documents and not let the story interfere with my thinking, I might have found Privalnaja sooner and thus learned years before I did more about Henri and where he came from.

What did my documents say?

®  SS Lessing Passenger List, 27 Sep 1876: Henri Kaiser--from Russia
®  Henri Kaiser's Declaration of Intent--renounced allegiance to the Csar of Russia
®  1900 Carroll Co, Arkansas Census Henri Kaiser--born in Germany
®  1900 Carroll Co, Arkansas Census-Bettie [Sophie Elizabeth] Finney--born in Russia, both parents born in Russia
®  1910 Pope Co, Arkansas Census-Sophie E. Finney--born in Russ-German, both parents born in Russ-German
®  1920 Garfield Co, Oklahoma Census-Sophie E. Finney--born in Russia
®  1920 Major Co, Oklahoma Census-Myrtle [daughter of Bettie] Hammons, mother born in Russia
®  1930 Major Co, Oklahoma Census-Sophie E. Finney--born in Germany, both parents born in Germany. 

I had 6 documents stating that the Kaisers came from Russia. I had 2 documents stating that they came from Germany. Both of the latter 2 documents are censuses and the information could have been provided by anyone--even a neighbor.

Of the first 6, 4 are also census records and the information could have been provided by anyone. But the first two both say "Russia." These are also the documents closest to the time they immigrated, which are generally more accurate than information provided over time.

Instead of following the actual facts/data that I had, I made an assumption about what "Russia" meant on all of these documents.

Family stories are important. Most of the time they have some truth to them. But they are clues to our research. They should not drive our research in a quest to "prove" them.

What I Learned

I learned that family stories contain "kernels of truth," but are also subject to years of misinterpretation. Remember playing the "Gossip Game" when you were a kid. It's like that.

I learned that I should follow the documents first, then add in the family story.

I learned that the old joke was true--the one about the quarter. A man was under a street light looking for a quarter and a policeman stopped to ask him what he was doing. He replied, "I'm looking for a quarter." So the policeman began to help him look. After a while, the policeman said, "Are you sure you lost it here?" And the man replied, "No. I lost it over there, but the light is better here."

Sometimes we think the "light is better" in the stories.

If you have Volga German ancestors check out these websites:

There are also several Germans from Russia Societies:

Genealogy Tutorial
Author of Genealogy Cheat Sheets

Back to School Shopping

I Look Forward to the Back to School Sales

Late summer and the fall bring the "Back to School" ads and those sales offer a host of items I can't get any other time of the year. I love office supplies (it is officially an addiction.) And the fall ads allow me to shop for most of the supplies I will need for the year.

My Shopping Lists

Here is my usual shopping list:

Pens--archival safe
Pencils, Pencil lead & erasers--I prefer mechanical pencils
Notebook paper--to sketch out ideas and to make lists I don't need to save.
Printer paper--archival quality for printing out documents
Post-it notes and flags--for temporary bookmarks
Paper clips
Printer ink
Tape--archival safe
Labeling tape
Glue--archival safe
Correction tape or fluid
Sheet Protectors
Photo pages
Blank CDs
Blank DVDs
3-ring Binders
File Folders

Things I check out to see what the gadget deals are:

Desktop computer
Computer Monitors
USB drives (flash drives, thumb drives, whatever you want to call them)
Memory Cards that fit my camera
Cameras--still & video
External hard drives
Zippered Binders

Why Do I Need All This Stuff?

First: I am addicted to office supplies. I admit it. At the same time, I want to be sure I have what I need for my research and in the fall office supply items are at their best prices.

Second: I can find things I can't find any other time of the year, such as pencil cases. While you can get a pencil case anytime of the year, during the back to school sales, there is a better selection of styles, colors and materials. There are more choices of binders, briefcases and totes.

Third: I like to stay current with the technology. Many companies debut or feature new technologies during the back to school sales. I don't buy every year, but I can keep track of pricing and advances. My rule of thumb is to purchase a new desktop computer every 4-5 years. After that long, a computer is usually far behind the latest technologies and parts are starting to wear out.

I also want to know what the latest items are for cameras, USB flash drives, digital audio recorders, and external hard drives. I keep track of the pricing on these items so that when I am ready to purchase I will know what the best deal and the best technology at the time is. My motto is: "Get the most advanced technology that you can for the dollars you have to spend."

How Does This All Apply to Genealogy Research?

How I use these items makes my research more organized. By being more organized and having things ready to go, I can spend more time researching and less time running to the store to buy a new archival safe pen because the one I owned ran out off ink.

When I go to the library or take a road trip, I have "tool kits" that I carry with me so I have everything I need and I don't have to go shopping for a pad of paper for notes or a shovel for the cemetery. [And no, I am not digging up my ancestors, but I may have to move the dirt that has covered up their headstone.]

I have an "office kit." It is a pencil case that holds a pen, a mechanical pencil, lead and erasers, a drawing compass, a protractor, a 6" ruler, a couple of highlighters, a small pad of post-it notes, a single hole hole punch, a small package of paper clips, a magnifying glass, a small pack of post-it flags, a pair of kindergarten scissors, a pocket size stapler, a staple puller and a small box of staples. I even have a miniature copy holder in this "office supply kit in a pencil case."

I use a 3-ring zippered binder to carry a notepad, larger post-it notes, blank CDs, CDs with my gedcom on it, business cards, a 12-inch ruler and blank forms. I can give away a copy of my gedcom on a CD if I meet a fellow researcher interested in my tree.

I also carry a USB drive with my genealogy software and my tree on it. I have an empty one to store digital images that I may collect. I can also get a copy of someone else's gedcom. This is a strategy I always use at a family reunion.

Want to know more about all of the kits I use, click here.

What I Learned

I learned that if I have these kits always ready to go, I know I will have all the supplies I need to complete my research wherever I am.

I learned that since genealogy research can be costly, I can save some dollars by shopping for supplies once a year. In that way, I may only have to buy a few items during the year.

I learned that by having all of the supplies I need and my kits ready to go, I can spend my research trip time researching, rather than shopping.

Oh, and it feeds my desire for shopping for office supplies.

Share your strategies for having everything you need on your genealogy research trips.

Whether you are new to genealogy or experienced, check out these tutorials.

Genealogy Tutorial
Author of Genealogy Cheat Sheets