Until now. I decided to work on some closer DNA matches that I hadn't been able to identify before. I randomly picked one from my mom's side who had several shared matches with people confirmed from my Mills branch. This match, we'll call him 11B, had a small family tree added, enough that I could build on it. Although that is supposed to be ThruLines' job, it doesn't always catch everything. I started digging and before long, I found that 11B's 2nd great grandmother was Orannah Sherwood b. 1841 in New York.
I instantly thought she could be a sister of my Emma Elizabeth Sherwood. Right surname, born only about 3 years apart in the same state. Plus, I know this DNA match 11B is somehow connected to my Mills branch and Emma Sherwood married William Henry Mills. But I tried not to get my hopes up too high, because Sherwood is a common name, and lots of people lived in New York in the late 1830s/early 1840s. 11B could be connected to my Mills branch in some other undiscovered way entirely. More research was needed, so I researched the other branches of 11B's tree and found no other connection to my tree, let alone to my Mills branch.
I then found Orannah, fortunately not a super common given name, in NY in the 1850 census and guess what? She had a sister named Emily E Sherwood b. abt. 1837.
|The 1850 census showing the Sherwood family with Emily/Emma|
Things are looking much more promising. Granted, Emily was supposedly born in Indiana according to the 1850 census, not New York, but that could be wrong. Or it could be right and she never knew it. Her older sister Louisa also seems to have been born in Indiana in 1835, and then her younger brother Homer was born back in NY in 1839, so the family could have been in Indiana for only a few years and Emily/Emma may not have remembered it and just assumed since she grew up in NY that that's where she was born. It's strange for us today with all our documentation to think that someone didn't actually know where they were truly born, but it happened a lot in history.
Another smaller piece of evidence is the fact that the 1850 census tells us Emily's father, Nathan, was born in New York, which is consistent with later records of Emma saying her father was born in New York too. Unfortunately, it's not as consistent with her mother, which later records say she was born in either New York or New Jersey, while the 1850 census for Annis O, the presumed mother of Emily, says she was born in Vermont.
Here's the craziest bit, though, and is a real testament to why you shouldn't just outright dismiss family stories. Once upon a time, my grandmother was doing genealogy research and left behind a wealth of information, though rarely cited her sources. Much of what she wrote down was word-of-mouth info from cousins she tracked down and wrote to. In her handwritten info, she claimed that William Henry Mills (Emma Sherwood's husband) had a sister named Belinda who married a man with the surname Beals. Turns out, William did have a sister named Blendena, which was obviously misremembered as Belinda, but her only married name was Church, not Beals. None of William's other sisters or relatives married anyone named Beals either, so I was really scratching my head over where this name came from and considering that maybe it was totally fictitious, even though about 90% of my grandmother's info I've proven to be accurate, and the remaining 10% has turned out to hold some kernel of truth, with only some of the details being wrong.
Well, guess who did have a sister whose married name was Beals? Emily Sherwood! Her older sister Louisa married Silvanus Beals in 1855 in Indiana. And note how this is the same sister who was supposedly born in Indiana? The family probably had some kind of connection to Indiana.
I even managed to explain how Emma and Louisa wound up marrying in different states in the same year. Louisa's husband, Silvanus Beals, apparently was living in the same county that Emma married William Henry Mills in, Wyandot County, Ohio. That links Silvanus, and therefore potentially also Louisa, to the same place Emma was married. Additionally, Silvanus' obituary says he worked for a railroad company as a young men, the same industry that William Henry Mills spent his life in. Perhaps they worked together before they met their wives, maybe Louisa introduced Emma to William through her fiance or vice versa. There clearly appears to be a connection there.
The evidence is starting to really pile up, but is it all just a coincidence? How could I know for sure this was the right family, given the slight difference in the given name, Emma vs Emily, and the difference in her birth place as well as her mother's birth place?
Firstly, I started researching Emily, not Emma, as though she was a different person. If I could find her on later records as having married someone else, not William Henry Mills, or never married at all, that would disprove the theory that they were the same person. I didn't find anything like that, but of course that doesn't confirm they were the same person, it only means that's still a possibility.
I also found Emily in the FamilySearch tree as Emma, which is apparently coming from a book "Descendants to the eight generation of Thomas Sherwood (1586-1655) of Fairfield, Connecticut Vol 2" which was published in 1985, so it's obviously very much a secondary source (and really doesn't contain much info), but it certainly suggests Emily's name could have actually been Emma. It's not a stretch.
But what I really wanted was to find more DNA matches descended from this family. I was hesitant to put this family into my tree because it meant putting a lot of speculative data in my tree, but I did it because I wanted to see if ThruLines would find more descendants. And after a few days, the matches came rolling in! 7 so far, and they will only continue to grow as my tree grows. Unfortunately, this family has been a little difficult to research, so it's been a struggle, but worth it.
|ThruLines showing 5 out of 7 DNA matches from the Sherwood family so far|
It appears that Nathan probably died sometime in between 1853 and 1855, and Annis in either 1854 or 1855, because their last child was born 27 Mar 1854. As a result, the children were split up and scattered, sent to live with other families. In 1855, we know that Lousia got married in Indiana, and Emily/Emma, assuming they are the same person, was married in Wyandot County, Ohio. They may have been living with family in those areas. Also in 1855, Oreannah was sent to live with the family of her future husband, Charles C Baxter. Their brother, Homer, was an apprentice living with a seemingly unrelated family in a different part of NY on the 1855 NY State census. Another brother, Dwight, was adopted by another member of the Baxter family, who was fortunately neighbors with the ones who took Oreannah in, so at least these siblings got to be near one another. The youngest brother, Frank, was actually born in March 1854 and adopted as an infant by Franics Postel and Sarah Baxter (Sarah being the sister of Oreanna's husband, yet another connection to the Baxter family) before the 1855 NY census, supporting the theory that Nathan and Annis died around that time.
I am still working on researching the other children, but I'm having difficulty and I think it's because they were all split up after their parent's deaths. If I'm having difficulty researching them, others probably are as well, and indeed, when I look for these people in other trees, there are usually dead ends. If no one has these people well researched in their trees, ThruLines doesn't have much to follow. So it's not necessarily because I'm on the wrong path, there's just no established path yet for ThruLines to pick up on, which is kind of exciting to be working on something no one else has done much work on yet. Of course, the downside to that is how difficult it is.
Additionally, when I look at my Shared Matches with the confirmed matches descended from Nathan and Annis, I find most of them don't have any tree added at all, and among those that do, most of them are tiny. Another hindrance of ThruLines. All I can do is build my own tree as much as possible down descendant lines and see if they eventually link up with more trees. For now, this is an excellent start, and I'm thrilled to finally have found Emma's family!