Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Finn Findings

It’s difficult to find Finnish relatives with the results of the Ancestry.com autosomal DNA test—at least, that’s what I claimed in an earlier post here. A cousin of mine read that post about my frustration with the roadblocks and arduous searches required. I don’t think cousin Bob—who’s done amazing work to extend our Hietanen family tree back several centuries—thought it could be quite as grim a situation as I made it out to be.

He e-mailed me to suggest a few strategies. I e-mailed him back with information from my Ancestry.com DNA match list. Bob worked on a couple names. He found the DNA match list cumbersome enough that he looked for online search tools to make it easier to find connections. He even began to develop some search tools of his own. Bob does computer programming, so that’s the sort of thing he can do.

Yet it wasn’t long before he came to a screeching halt. The Ancestry.com model of trying to find connections among DNA matches is so unwieldy as to be discouraging.

But by that time Bob and I both had our blood up to do some serious research.

Previously Bob had sent me links to online Finnish Church Records. These are the official records of births, marriages, deaths, and so on of the Finnish populace for several centuries. Because Finland had no civic entity assigned to gather the information for these records, the church recorded these life landmarks for the Finnish people.

I’d long been intimidated by the idea of Finnish Church Records. I can’t read Finnish. I know about half a dozen Finnish words—things such as sauna (and, yes, I pronounce it correctly—so that it sounds more like sow-na than saw-na). But throw kuulutettujen and muuttaneiden at me and I’m lost. Other family researchers have dug into the depths of the Finnish Church records. I’ve been content to leave the heavy lifting to them and grateful for what they share.

But Bob’s shared a lot of his research with me over the years. I didn’t want him to think I was just slacking off to let others take care of all the hard stuff.

So I looked at one of my DNA matches that had caught Bob’s attention. I’ll call that DNA match “Mitch.” “Mitch’s” family tree was clearly of Finnish descent on his mother’s side. Months ago I’d found the name Luoma on “Mitch’s” tree. I have Luomas on my tree. I’d made a note that Luoma might be the connection between me and “Mitch.” Now I started with the Luoma on “Mitch’s” tree and worked backward. I quickly came across the surname Stoor. Mitch’s Stoor ancestors lived in Kortesjärvi, Finland.

I knew I had one Stor ancestor from Kortesjärvi, Finland—Antti Stor, my great-great-great-grandfather.

I didn’t think the difference in the spelling of the last name—Stoor versus Stor—probably made any difference. In the end, it didn't; they're cognate spellings, along with Storr, and are interchangeable. There’s a lot of variation in the spelling of Finnish names from the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. I felt pretty confident that Stoor/Stor from Kortesjärvi was the key to my connection with “Mitch.”

I mentioned this to Bob, then dove headfirst into the Finnish Church Records online at the Finnish Family History Association (FFHA).

Navigating the records wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be. On the FFHA site, they’re divided geographically. So I looked up Kortesjärvi and was confronted with a list of Finnish words I couldn’t even pronounce, much less understand.

But Google translate exists for a reason.

I started blindly with the Church Communion records, simply because there were more of them than anything else. This turned out to be a fortuitous accident. The communion records list whole families—the first name and patronymic of father, mother, and children—along with the birth date of each family member. The families are grouped by surname/farm name. Until the twentieth century a Finnish farm name generally equaled a surname, especially in rural communities. So the communion records provided the exact type of information I needed in order to work my way back a generation at a time.

I began with the surname/farm name of Stoor/Stor in Kortesjärvi and soon found my great-great-great-grandfather Antti Stor, born December 10, 1835.

Of course, Antti’s name wasn’t recorded with that spelling. Sweden ruled Finland for a long time. Swedish became the official language of Finnish records. Finnish first names have Swedish versions. Finnish patronymics, based on first names, also have Swedish versions. Instead of Antti Matinpoika Stor, I found Anders Mattsson Stoor. His parents and siblings were listed with him.

One of the several Finnish communion records showing Anders (Antti) Stoor (fifth name, preceded by the word "Son"), born December 10, 1835. His father Matthias Gustafsson Stoor (first name) was born July 10, 1802, in—as noted in the third column—Palojärvi.

From there it wasn’t too difficult to go back another generation. But what was this? In an earlier communion record, Antti’s father, Matthias Gustafsson, born 1802, had the word Palojärvi following his birth date. He’d been born on the Palojärvi farm, not the Stor farm. I pushed back another generation, but the name Stor had completely disappeared from this line of descent.  Dead end.

Communion record for Gustav Johanisson Palojärvi (bottom name), born October 12, 1760, father of Matthias Gustafsson, with his parents, Johan Johanisson Winikainen Palojärvi (first name), born December 26, 1730, and Maria Matthiasdotter (second name), born May 12, 1729, and other family members. No sign of Stoor/Stor here.

So I went back to Matthias Gustafsson, born 1802. I figured that his wife, Maria Andersdotter, born 1801, must have been the Stor.

At the same time I was combing the communion records on the FFHA site, cousin Bob had been delving into the Finnish Church Records at the online HisKi project of the Genealogical Society of Finland. Bob was also trying to find the connection between me and “Mitch.” The HisKi project has fewer online Finnish Church Records than FFHA. But HisKi has some different records and best of all, the HisKi project has a search function in English.

Bob found that Matthias Gustafsson’s wife Maria Andersdotter, who hadn’t been a Stoor/Stor before marriage, had been a Försti. I dug around and pushed back a couple generations up the Försti tree. No Stoor/Stor appeared there. Another dead end.

I subsequently hit a few more dead ends looking for a Stoor/Stor connection between “Mitch’s” family tree and mine. Despite the Stoor/Stor dead ends, all this research Bob and I were doing was nevertheless productive. It filled in previously unknown branches of my family tree. All these people were my relatives, even though most of them weren't Stoor/Stors. And I was successfully navigating the Finnish Church Records.

I went back down the line to my great-great-grandfather, Matti Nikolai Stuuri (1861-1922), son of Antti Stor, who had immigrated to the USA from Finland in 1889. He’s the one who changed his surname Stor to Stuuri in his new country. The reason for the change is not apparent. The story I’ve received is that Stor was an unfamiliar last name and Stuuri was more comprehensible to the inhabitants of Fairport Harbor, Lake County, Ohio, because there was another Finnish immigrant family there named Tuuri. That seems like nonsense to me—Stor seems much simpler than Stuuri—but I wasn’t around at the time. Maybe it made sense then.

Anyway, Matti Nikolai Stuuri’s wife was Wilhelmina “Walpori” Erkkilä (1860-1925). Could she have brought the Stor name into the family? I pushed back through the Finnish Communion archives for two generations, tracing the Erkkilä/Erkilä name. No luck finding any reference to Stoor/Stor.

Communion record for Wilhelmina "Walpori" Johansdotter Erkilä (fourth name), born March 13, 1860, in Kauhava, with her parents and siblings.

Finally, the only branch I hadn’t explored was that of Antti Stor’s wife, Caisa Lena, whose last name before marriage was unknown to me. But I had her birth year, 1842. A HisKi search gave me her birth record, which had her parents’ names, which led me to their marriage and communion records. (Surprisingly, Caisa Lena’s surname before marriage had been Tuuri. Maybe this was part of the inspiration for her son’s change of name from Stor to Stuuri.)

Caisa Lena’s parents had lived on the Stor farm at one point. A lead! I couldn’t push her father’s line back any further. Her mother Elisabeth had been born on the Back farm, and Elisabeth’s father was also a Back. The only opening remaining for the Stoor/Stor name to come down was Elisabeth’s mother, Caisa Nilsdotter Storr, born 1783. Was Caisa Nilsdotter’s father a Stoor/Stor? According to her patronymic his name would have been Nils. But I couldn’t find a Nils Stoor/Stor in the Finnish Church Records.

Meanwhile, cousin Bob had been working on the Stoor names on my DNA match “Mitch’s” family tree. Bob had gotten back to Hans Mattsson Stoor (1707-1776). It seems Hans Mattsson had twenty-three children by two wives, leading Bob to dub him “the Stud.” I looked at Bob’s list of the Stud’s children. In general they were of the generation when Caisa Nilsdotter’s father would likely have been born. But no Nils appeared among the Stud’s children. Another dead end? It seemed so at first.

But among the Stud’s children appeared a Niclaus. By this time I was quite used to the varying spellings and cognates of Finnish first names. I hadn’t run across Nils and Niclaus as cognates, but a quick check of HisKi told me that they were.

That was the key.

I searched the Finnish Church Records for Niclaus Hansson Stoor/Stor and quickly found birth, marriage, and communion records clearly confirming that Niclaus “Nils” Hansson Stoor/Stor (born 1750) and Margeta Davidsdotter (last name unknown) were the parents of Catarina “Caisa” Nilsdotter Stor (born 1783). All the birth dates matched.

Bingo! Hans Mattsson “the Stud” Stoor is the common ancestor of both “Mitch” and me. He’s my seven times great-grandfather through his second wife, Maria Mattsdotter (last name unknown), born 1728. He’s also “Mitch’s” seven times great-grandfather, but through his first wife, Anna Carlsdotter (last name unknown).

Immediately I e-mailed Bob with the news and included screen caps of the relevant records. You can see three of those records below.

Communion record of 1756 for "the Stud," Hans Mattsson Stoor (first name), born May 19, 1707, with his second wife Maria Mattsdotter (second name), eldest son Eric Hansson (third name), daughter-in-law Walborg Mattsdotter (fourth name), and others of his twenty-three children, including his son Niclaus (here written Nicls) Hansson (seventh name), born April 20, 1750.

Communion record for Nils (Niclaus) Hansson Stoor (first name), born April 20, 1750, and his wife Margeta Davidsdotter (second name), no birth date.

Birth and christening record for Kaisa Nilsdotter Stoor, born September 4, 1783, daughter of Nils Hansson Stoor and Margeta Davidsdotter. This is a HisKi search result.

Although I’d finally put all the pieces together, I couldn’t have done it without Bob’s research and help. It took us over a week. I don’t know how many hours Bob spent on it, but I stayed up into the wee hours on more than one night deciphering digitized versions of centuries old script and following where they led me.

We achieved our goal. I found a lot of good info along the way and conquered my fear of the Finnish Church Records. But I’m not going to be tackling any similar intensive, time-sapping genealogical tasks again any time soon. That’s my intention, anyway.

Bob says the same thing.

But he’s already been gently nudging me to try a new search tool he’s devised.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Who's Who in the Shanower Family

This photo was taken at a Shanower Family Reunion at the home of my great-great-grandparents Benjamin Franklin Shanower (1845-1928) and Louisa "Lucy" Leifer Shanower (1856-1916). The photo was labeled Shanower Family Reunion, without date or individual identifications. Before I scanned this copy of the photo, another family researcher had sent me a photocopy of it labeled 1899. So I had a date for it.

But could I identify the people? I figured I wouldn't recognize too many of them. I thought I might find Benjamin Shanower and his immediate family, since I have other photos of them. Recognizing the hosts, Benjamin and Lucy Shanower, wasn't hard. And I picked most of Benjamin's children out of the crowd. But the appearances of a couple of those children raised red flags about the date of this photo.

Charles Chalmers Shanower Hinman (1877-1965), son of Benjamin Shanower and Benjamin's first wife Sophia King Shanower (1841-1877), appears in this photo, fifth from the left in the second row (the first row of adults). But as I detailed in an earlier post here, Charles was given up for adoption as a child and wasn't rediscovered by his birth family until late in 1900. Or so newspaper stories reported. Was it possible that those stories were inaccurate? Had Charles been rediscovered earlier, so that he could appear in an 1899 family photo? Complicating this question was the appearance of Charles's wife, Nellie Maude Salsbury Hinman (1873-1955). In the photo, she's sitting next to him, fourth from the left in the second row. I supposed it was possible that they'd attended the Shanower reunion together in 1899, before their marriage on December 12, 1900. But it seemed odd.

I also noticed Ralph Leo Shanower, the youngest of Benjamin and Lucy Shanower's children, who was born April 12, 1895. If this photo was from 1899, then Ralph would be four years old. But Ralph, who's standing on the right end in the back row, is obviously years older than four.

Ralph's apparent age answered the question about Charles and Nellie Hinman's presence. The year was certainly post-1900, the year Charles was rediscovered by his birth family and he married Nellie. This photo could not be from 1899.

So when is the photo from?

That question was easy to answer. I had a record of another Shanower Family Reunion at Benjamin and Lucy Shanower's home—on August 26, 1909. This location and date fit. Benjamin and Lucy are at center in the second row, the logical position for the hosts of the reunion. Ralph Shanower would be fourteen years old in 1909, and he looks about that age in the photo. And Charles and Nellie Hinman had been married for nearly nine years, so their attendance together at the reunion is perfectly reasonable.

The Published Report

Further confirmation of a 1909 date was provided by a published account of the 1909 Shanower Family Reunion, as follows:

The eleventh annual reunion of the Shanower family was held at the pleasant home of B. F. Shanower and wife of Claridon, Ohio, on the 26th day of August, 1909. At quite an early hour the friends began to arrive and before noon about 105 relatives were present, representing seven different states: Washington, Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Alabama.

The one surprising feature of the occasion was that for the first time in thirty years the eleven sons and daughters of B. F. Shanower and wife were together.

The forenoon was spent in visiting and making new acquaintances. At noon the dinner was served on long tables under a large tent and consisted of every thing good that heart could wish. Immediately after dinner the guests gathered on the lawn in front of the house and a picture of the group was taken by Photographer Strong of Chardon. The assembly was then called to order by Pres. Simon Kandel, and the audience joined in singing “America” after which the Sec., Miss Nettie Shanower, gave a report of the previous reunion. The Historian, Mrs. Lucy Shanower, gave a very carefully prepared report. A very amusing reading was rendered by Miss Jennie Shanower, a quartette sang an appropriate song. Rev. Cooper gave an interesting address which was enjoyed by all present.

The following officers were elected for the ensuing year: Pres., B. F. Shanower, Burton; Vice Pres., Amos Shanower, Wolcottville, Ind.; Sec., Miss Nettie Shanower, Burton; Treas., N. E. Shanower, Burton; Historian, Mrs. Lucy Shanower, Tontogany, O.

It was decided to hold the next reunion at the home of A. B. Shanower and wife, Tontogany, O., the last Thursday in August. Before the crowd dispersed all joined in singing, “God Be With You till We Meet Again,” and then the pleasant occasion was one to look back upon instead of forward to.

The weather-man was kind, Mr. and Mrs. Shanower did all in their power to make the day enjoyable, and one and all agreed that the day was well spent.
Ben's Kids

Confirmation that this photo is specifically from the 1909 reunion is the reference to the eleven children of Benjamin Shanower being together for the first time in thirty years. All except one of them, the eldest, William Benton Shanower, are in the reunion photo. Not all the "about 105" people at the reunion made it into the photo, which has 89 people.

Although William doesn't appear, I firmly believe he was present that day. Not only does the published account say all eleven of B. F. Shanower's children were there, but I have another photograph of all those children—including William—with Benjamin and Lucy. And most everyone in that other photo is wearing clothing that looks exactly the same as what they're wearing in the big reunion photo. Among the clothing differences are: a couple of the women wearing dark skirts in the reunion photo are wearing white skirts in the other, son Frank has donned a coat for the other photo, and Benjamin Shanower seems to have put on a dark tie in the other photo. But I believe both photos were taken about the same time, possibly the same day.

Here's the "other" photo:

The Benjamin Franklin Shanower family. Seated from left to right: Charles C. Shanower Hinman, Mary E. Shanower Hostetler, Benjamin F. Shanower, Lucy Leifer Shanower, Ralph L. Shanower, Bertha A. Shanower Pollock; standing from left to right: Jennie M. Shanower, David E. Shanower, Katherine O. Shanower Phillips, William B. Shanower, Ella M. Shanower Bower, George E. Shanower, and Benjamin F. Shanower, Jr.

Why isn't William in the reunion photo? I don't know. Maybe he arrived at the reunion too late to be in it.

The report mentions several other reunion attendees that I can't identify in the big reunion photo.

John Amos "Amos" Shanower (1855-1934) of Wolcottville, LaGrange County, Indiana, and Nathaniel E. Shanower (1853-1936) of Burton, Geauga County, Ohio, brother of Benjamin Shanower, and Nathaniel's daughter, Nettie Oleva Shanower (1881-1977), are referenced in the report, but I can't confidently identify them in the reunion photo, although I've made guesses about Nathaniel and Nettie.

The Lucy Shanower, Historian, of Tontogany, Ohio, referenced several times in the reunion report, isn't Lucy Shanower, wife of Benjamin, but instead Lucy Anne Whiteleather Shanower (1860-1942), wife of Ananias Benton Shanower (1857-1920). It's their home where the next Shanower Reunion, in 1910, was to be held. Their identities in the photo are firmly established, thanks to their granddaughter Velma Shanower Kirchner.

I don't think the Reverend Cooper mentioned in the report was a member of the family.

Locations Mentioned

Seven states of the USA are supposed to be represented by the people in the reunion photo: Washington, Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Alabama.

Naturally, many of the attendees were from Ohio, where the photo was taken.

A number of people at the reunion were from Indiana, among them Jennie M. Shanower (1875-1942) from Elkhart, daughter of Benjamin and first wife Sophia Shanower, and Amos Shanower from Wolcottville, mentioned in the report.

Mary Elizabeth Shanower Hostetler (1873-1951), daughter of Benjamin and first wife Sophia Shanower attended the reunion from her home in Birmingham, Alabama. She had three daughters by 1909, but I don't think they're in the photo. I think Mary's husband, Christian K. Hostetler (1865-1935), didn't attend the reunion either.

Charles and Nellie Hinman were the attendees from Saint Paul, Minnesota.

William Benton Shanower, eldest child of Benjamin and first wife Sophia Shanower, was the foreman of a stave mill on War Creek in Kentucky in 1913. He might have lived in Kentucky as early as 1909 and thus was the reunion attendee from Kentucky. A trip from Kentucky might have made him late to the reunion and that could be why he's not in the reunion photo. I can't find any other candidate to represent Kentucky.

I don't know who came from Michigan—maybe members of the Tyler branch descended from Zacharias T. Shanower, although I can't identify any of them in the photo. There are probably other candidates from Michigan.

I have no idea who came from Washington.

So Who's in the Reunion Photo?

Below, I've numbered the 89 people in the photo and divided them into five sections. A numbered list for each section of photo follows that section. I've assigned names to as many faces as I can.  The names without question marks are firm identifications. The names with question marks are guesses. Numbers without names are unidentified.

As usual, each image in this blog can be seen larger in a new window. Simply click on the image.

2. Jane M. “Jennie” Shanower
3. Mary Elizabeth Shanower Hostetler
4. Nellie Maude Salsbury Hinman
5. Charles Chalmers Shanower Hinman


40. Harvey Allen Shanower?
41. Lester Butler?

61. Karl William Shanower?
62. Ruth Alma Shanower Wallace?


6. Melissa Agnes Gerber Shanower
7. Ananias Benton Shanower (identified by Vel Shanower Kirchner)
8. Lucy Whiteleather Shanower (identified by Vel Shanower Kirchner)
9. Rebecca “Peggy” Shanower Kroehle (identified by Linda Davis Kress)

25. Mary Daisy Cecil Rueckert?
26. Simon Kandel (identified by Linda Davis Kress)
27. Amelia Kroehle Kandel (identified by Linda Davis Kress)

43. Ellen Shanower Smith?
44. John E. Smith?
47. Mary Ann Shanower Cecil? or Clara Shanower Butler?

64. George Edward Shanower
65. Lulu Hensinger Shanower?
67. Bertha Shanower Pollock


10. Benjamin Franklin Shanower
11. William Henry Phillips?
12. Lucy Leifer Shanower
13. Reuben Shanower?

28. Floyd Allen Phillips, Sr.?
29. Katherine Olephia “Katie” Shanower Phillips
30. Ruth Shanower Simpson?
31. Nathaniel E. Shanower
32. Anamary “Mary” Dahlem Shanower

48. Wilmer Curtis "Curt" Shanower?
49. David Elmer Shanower

70. Nettie Mae Dutton Shanower?
71. Benjamin Franklin “Frank” Shanower, Jr.
72. Burleigh J. "B.J." Shanower?


14. Lydia Karrer Shanower?
15. Nettie Oleva Shanower?



73. Ella M. Shanower Bower
74. Harry Edward "Ed" Shanower?
77. Lena May Shanower Town



58. Clarence David Shanower, Sr. (identified by Brian D. Shanower)

80. Ralph Leo Shanower

I believe the eldest person in the photo is #9, Rebecca "Peggy" Shanower Kroehle (1826-1912). She's the aunt of Benjamin F. Shanower and is seated next to him. In August 1909 great-great-great-great-Aunt Peggy was eighty-three years old and the only remaining member of the Shanower family from her generation. Thank you, cousin Linda Kress, for confirming her identity.

Insecure Identifications

I recognized Melissa A. Gerber Shanower, #6. Her great-grandson Brian Shanower recognized Melissa's son, his grandfather, Clarence D. Shanower, Sr., #58. So I assumed that Melissa's three other children also were in attendance. I assigned her eldest son, Harvey A. Shanower, as #40. You can read about Harvey's post-1909 adventures and compare a bad newspaper photo in a previous post here. Melissa's two youngest children, Karl and Ruth, I assigned as #61 and #62. Those are merely guesses.

I recognized Lena M. Shanower Town (1891-1996), #77. The written report mentions her father Nathaniel E. Shanower, as well as her sister Nettie Oleva Shanower twice. So I figured the rest of Lena's immediate family ought to be in the photo, too. Standing beside Lena, #76 looked like her brother Burleigh J. "B.J." Shanower (1889-1985) to me, except for those widespread ears. More recent photos of B.J. show ears flat against his head. So I guessed that #76 was a different brother of Lena, Harry Edward Shanower (1883-1969). On Lena's other side are two young men who look as though they could be twins. I figured they're Lena's remaining brothers Wilmer Curtis Shanower (1886-1977) and B.J. Identifying Lena's parents Nathaniel and Anna M. Dahlem Shanower (1857-1929) and sister Nettie is much more precarious. But I'm proposing tentatively that they're #13, #14, and #15. I could easily be wrong about all of Lena's immediate family. [UPDATE December 14, 2015: Except for Lena (whose identity I'm sure of) and Nettie, I've changed the identifications on these family members. Nathaniel and Anamary are now securely identified.]

Benjamin Franklin Shanower has a child on his lap, #11. I assume without foundation that it's a grandchild. His only grandchild about that age in 1909 was William Henry Phillips (1909-1929), so that's my tentative identification.

William Henry Phillips's mother, Katherine O. "Katie" Shanower Phillips (1886-1957), #29, is seated behind her father Benjamin. Beside her is #28, a man I've guessed to be her husband, Floyd A. Phillips, Sr. (1885-1960). There's a child, #30, on Katie's lap, but my guess that it's her niece Ruth Shanower Simpson (1905-1980), daughter of Benjamin F. "Frank" Shanower, Jr. (1881-1943), #71, and Nettie Mae Dutton Shanower (1883-1960), is tentative. So is my assignment of #70, the woman standing next to Frank, as Nettie Mae.

George Edward Shanower (1879-1955), #64, wasn't married yet in 1909 to Louise B. "Lulu" Hensinger Shanower (1888-1980), but I've guessed that #65, beside him, might be Lulu. There's a photo of a much older Lulu in this recent blog post, so compare for yourself.

As for assigning the name David C. Shanower (1852-1926) to #41, that's sort of a wild guess. David was a brother of Ananias B. Shanower, who's firmly identified. I thought maybe Ananias's siblings attended the reunion, too. But I can't be certain #41 is brother David.

All Help Appreciated

Several current family members identified people in the photo, as noted. I thank them for their help.

If anyone reading this can identify anyone else in the photo, please either leave a comment below or contact me. Sorry for the dirt on the image, but that's the condition the photo was in when I scanned it and I'm no professional photo-cleaner.

[UPDATE December 14, 2015: I've changed some identifications and added a few others.]

[UPDATE March 16, 2017: I've changed some identifications and added a couple.]

[UPDATE January 1, 2018: I've changed identifications of figures 13 and 14.]