#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Power

As soon as I saw this week’s prompt for Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors Challenge, I thought of my first cousin twice removed Ary Joseph Johansen. I recalled that Ary worked for the electric company in Texas. I was soon reminded that he was not the only member of his family to choose a career in the utility business.

Ary was born in Pensacola Escambia County, Florida on December 18th, 1907. His parents were Charles Johansen and Hattie Hahn. He appears to be named after his grandmother, Ary Hahn.

The 1910 Census records Ary living with his parents and brothers Charles and Edward on South C Street near West Pine Street. His father, it says, ran a store.

When the U.S. joined the Great War, Herman Edward Johansen registered, listing his occupation as oiler at the Pensacola Electric Company. Charles’ registration gives his occupation as Chief Clerk at Pensacola Electric.

Brothers Charles F. and Herman Edward Johansen were both working at Pensacola Electric Company when they registered for the draft during the Great War.

In 1920, the family had moved to South E Street, still near Pine Street. (I went back and looked again at the handwriting on the previous census, to make sure I hadn’t misread an E there, but it still looked like a C.) Charles and Hattie are both listed as running a grocery store. Brother Herman Edward was listed as an operator at the electric plant. Ary would still have been in school. I haven’t found Charles the younger on the 1920 Census.

I do have a hint of where Charles may have been in 1920. His obituary published in the Tampa Times on May 1st, 1947, said that in 1925 Charles left Tampa, where he was assistant treasurer of the Tampa Electric Company, to become treasurer of the Houston, Texas, Power and Light Company. When he died, he was treasurer of the Atlanta Gas Light Company.

The 1930 Census shows Ary J. Johansen living in Beaumont, Texas, and working at the electric plant.

In 1930, Herman Edward is listed as working as a stationary engineer at the power plant in Escambia County. Ary, it seems, has followed his oldest brother to Texas; he’s listed as a lodger in Beaumont, Jefferson County, Texas, working as a bookkeeper at the electric plant.

The 1940 Census, lists Edward Johansen as an operator for Gulf Power. Charles, as mentioned in the aforementioned obituary, was working as a treasurer for the Gas and Light Company. Ary is back in Jefferson County, Texas, after some time in Grimes County, Texas, around 1935, and he is listed as working as a cashier at a utility company.

Electricity came to Pensacola in 1888; the first power company served just 20 customers. The Johansen family would have seen the use of electricity – and the need for employees – increase exponentially as the children grew up. Charles and Ary may have gotten some of their bookkeeping skills while helping out in the family store. Sadly, Charles and Ary’s died young, but Herman Edward lived to 76 years old, and according to his obituary, he was a retired civil service worker.

I never heard anything about our Johansen relatives until I started researching the family history. I was delighted to hear from one of Ary’s grandchildren, who found me through WikiTree. It’s strange how, in just a couple of generations, families can lose track of each other. The power of online trees, DNA, and other 21st century tools are helping to bring us back together.

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My Gator Family

I was only 16 when I graduated from high school, and I ended up doing all four years at schools close to home: two years at Pensacola Junior College (now Pensacola State) and two years at the University of West Florida. Before there was a University of West Florida, my maternal grandparents attended the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Hoyt & Willie Cook at Lake Wauburg during a stay in Gainesville for college.

Hoyt and Willie (Stevens) Cook were teachers. As I recall being told, Willie took some classes early on at Florida State College for Women (now Florida State), and both Hoyt and Willie took extension courses (usually over a weekend) throughout their teaching careers. They also built up a lot of credits by attending summer school in Gainesville.

When their children – my mom, Zenova, and the boys, Aldis and Howitt – were young, sometimes Willie’s mother, Molly Pittman Stevens, would go with them to help out. My mom spoke of playing Monopoly by their own rules and the games could last for days. Sometimes relatives would come visit.

In order to graduate, they had to attend a full year on campus, so in 1955 they headed to Gainesville. My mom had graduated from high school the year before, so they made her go along. She says if they had let her stay in Pensacola and continue going to PJC, she would have earned her associates degree, but she had to transfer, and in 1956, she got married, and she never finished college.

All that’s set-up to this: I was scanning Mam-ma’s photo albums, and I found this:

Ticket booklet for the 1955 University of Florida football season

It’s a ticket booklet for the 1955 football season. The first eight tickets are torn out. Pap-pa has signed the book, and it has a physical description. I have no way of knowing if he attended all eight of those games; it’s entirely possible that he drove up with the team or rode with someone else, or he could have just discarded the tickets. I don’t know why he wouldn’t have attended the last three games. Two regular season games were out of town, but there’s also a ticket good for a Freshman game (the ticket says “if one is played on Florida Field” so perhaps there wasn’t one).

Pap-pa enjoyed sports. He played and sometimes coached various teams. He also enjoyed being with a group of people, talking and having a good time. Mam-ma was more likely to stay home and study. She used to complain that he’d fall asleep in class and still get a better grade than she would! They both graduated in Spring 1956 with their Bachelor of Arts in Education.

Zenova Cook in Gainesville – 1954. This is a grey dress with a two-tone skirt. Willie Cook ordered this for Zenova from an ad in American Girl magazine. It’s signed “Love, Zenova” because she sent it to my dad.
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#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Unusual Source

This week’s prompt in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge is “Unusual Source.”

Medical Report

The most unusual source I’ve ever used for genealogy has to be a report on the 1853 Yellow Fever outbreak. I wrote a thorough post about it in 2016, before I was aware of the challenge. I found this source by doing a Google search for Daniel McKenzie, the man who I believed was my great-great-great grandmother’s father (it turns out he was her stepfather).

Title page of the "Report of the Sanitary Commission of New Orleans on the epidemic yellow fever of 1853: published by authority of the City Council of New Orleans" (U.S. National Library of Medicine)
“Report of the Sanitary Commission of New Orleans on the epidemic yellow fever of 1853: published by authority of the City Council of New Orleans” (US National Library of Medicine)

This is my favorite “unusual source” because it described where 3xG Grandmother Arminta was living, gave me a little insight into her personality, and provided amazing clues about her biological father (it didn’t name him, but I believe I now know who his parents were). I hope you will click through the link above and read the full post about everything that medical report contained.

Organizational History

Google also led me to some interesting information on my second cousin twice removed, Ed E. Reid. I knew the Reid family was in Conecuh County, Alabama, for several generations and could still be there now, so I went to Google and tried “Reid Conecuh.” That search brought up “Reid State Technical College” in Conecuh County. I wrote last year about how I determined that the school was named after my cousin. In that case, the unusual sources were an administrator at the college and an online history of the Alabama League of Cities, which Cousin Ed helped create.


I found two patents attributed to my great-great grandfather, William F. Hahn, listed on a genealogy site, probably Ancestry, but at first I wasn’t convinced that he was the inventor. There was at least one other William Hahn in Escambia County around the same time. Quite a while after first seeing those patents, I took a closer look and realized they definitely belonged to my ancestor. William’s son-in-law Charles Johansen witnessed the patent. These are the only documents I’ve found that include William’s middle name Fredrich, although he used the middle initial on his naturalization document.

My takeaway from all this is that you should never leave a stone unturned when looking for genealogical information. Use search engines and look for any reference to your ancestors. Use combinations of names and places. When you find something different, always look at it carefully, because there may be some information useful to your genealogical research, and it will also add a little to your knowledge of what went on during the “dash” between birth and death.

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#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Valentine

I looked for an ancestor who was born on February 14th or married on Valentine’s Day, and I came up blank, so I’ll just spend this week’s post telling you about a couple that I know very little about.

John R. Ryals and Lottie Hale are my 3rd great-grandparents on my mom’s side. Their daughter Loucinda Ryals married John Cook of Marion County Georgia, and their son Arthur Thomas Cook married Dollie Allison, and their son Dewey Hoyt Cook is my maternal grandfather.

Photo said to be John R. Ryals from Pate-Moss Private Tree on MyHeritage
Photo said to be John R. Ryals (Pate-Moss Tree, MyHeritage)

According to the 1850 Census, John R. Ryals was born around 1812 in South Carolina. His wife, indexed as Lola in that census, was born in Georgia in about 1813. They were living in Marion County, Georgia, with four children. The oldest was Sarah, age 13. Next came Thomas, age 8; Mary, 4; and William, 3. They’re all listed as being born in Georgia. John’s occupation is listed as farmer.

Looking at that record, I wondered at the big gap between Sarah and Thomas. Was Lottie or John ill? Were they separated for some reason? Did children born in that period die of illness or injury?

The 1860 Census finds the family still living in Marion County, Georgia, with their last name recorded here as Royals. John’s age remains consistent with a birth year of around 1812. Lottie is a bit younger now, with an estimated birth year of 1818. Sarah, Thomas, Mary, and William are still living at home, but something has changed; Thomas, Mary, and William are now given a birthplace of Alabama. Sarah is still listed as being born in Georgia. The younger children are all given a birthplace of Georgia; they are Malissa age 10; Jeremiah, 7; Lucinda [sic], 5; and Elisabeth, 1. John is listed as a farmer and Lotty [sic] as a domestic. They also have living with them 72-year-old Martha Hale, identified as a domestic; she’s believed to be Lottie’s mother.

The 1870 Census lists John B. and Lota Ryals living in Pine Knot, Chattahoochee, Georgia. John’s age is given as 62, which would put his birth year back to 1808. His wife is younger still, with an estimated birth year of 1820. Sarah, William, Melissa, James, Lucinda, and Elizabeth, are living at home, and all the children’s place of birth is again Georgia. Now there’s another Elizabeth Ryals listed in the household, age 36, and below her are two children – Georgia, age 11; and John age 2. It’s unclear what become of Mary – if she married or died.

Records show Thomas married Elizabeth Taff in 1863, and on FamilySearch Georgia is listed as their child, but her birth year is listed as 1860. Baby John is attached on FamilySearch as the child of John and Lottie.

The last time John and Lottie appear in a U.S. Census is 1880. They are still living in Chattahoochee County, and John’s occupation is still listed as Farmer. His birth year is estimated at 1813. Lottie’s birth year is estimated at 1820. They still have several children living at home: Sarah, William, James, Elizabeth, John – identified as son of the head of household – and two new children, also identified as a son and daughter, Thomas, age 5; and Susan, age 1. It seems unlikely that Lottie had two children after the age of 55 (or older, if earlier censuses are correct). Perhaps they’re adopted, or maybe they’re really grandchildren.

No parents have been identified for John R. Ryals. Lottie’s father is listed as Thomas Hale and her mother is believed to be the aforementioned Martha.

Hopefully, someday, we’ll be able to take this family back a generation or two.

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#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: In the Kitchen

The first person I thought of when I saw this week’s prompt was my grandmother, Malzie Elizabeth Silcox Hahn. She was my dad’s mother and an amazing cook.

Now, I’m not talking about gourmet cooking. It was ordinary food, but she had a special touch with it. Holidays were extra special when we got to visit Grandma and Papa Hahn. The table would be laden with Southern traditional food – Turkey, potato salad (she’d make some without onions for me and one of my uncles who didn’t like onions either), Fordhook lima beans, and cornbread, just to name a few items. And the desserts! Banana pudding (my dad’s favorite). Mississippi Mud Cake (my favorite). Boy, I miss those days.

Malzie Silcox Hahn

Malzie was born on June 19, 1919 to Dave Silcox and Annie Olive Givens. It was always said she was born in Gateswood, Baldwin County, Alabama, but I found one Alabama birth record that says she was born in Muscogee, Escambia County, Florida. (“Alabama, County Birth Registers, 1881-1930,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:WXTY-LBZM : 12 December 2019))

She married my grandfather, Charles Theodore Hahn, on Christmas Eve, 1933. When she was just 14 and a half years old. My dad came along on December 2, 1934. In all, they had five sons and two daughters.

Malzie was a working woman; she spent 27 years in the bag plant at St. Regis Paper Mill in Cantonment, Escambia County, Florida. I’m not sure when she started working at St. Regis; on the 1945 Census, she is listed as a housewife.

I remember once I was visiting when one of my relatives, I think a second cousin, was getting married. Grandma was helping with the food, and I got put to work, icing a layered sandwich with Neufchâtel cheese. It was the first time I had ever heard of that kind of cheese, and I thought it was so good. Plus, the sandwich that looked like a cake was a new one on me as well.

Malzie Hahn at work at St. Regis Paper Mill
Malzie Silcox Hahn at Work

Occasionally, I will make her Mississippi Mud Cake. She got the recipe, so I’m told, from a Bell’s Best Cookbook. My mom copied it from the book onto an index card, and then mom copied it out for me when I moved away. Making it reminds me of Grandma, and makes the eating of it that much sweeter, too.

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#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Favorite Photo

Last year when the prompt was “favorite photo” I chose one from my family. This time, I’m showing a favorite photo from my husband’s family. It’s one of the pictures in the collection of my mother-in-law, Shirley Raney Lindsey. I took my scanner when we went over for Christmas in 2019, and while the rest of the family visited, I scanned.

This is one of my favorites. A man and a woman with a basket of pretzels and rolls at an outdoor venue in Germany. I am not sure who these people are, but I would love to eat one of their pretzels.

These two look ready to pass out or sell pretzels and other baked goods at an outdoor dining area, possibly a Bier Garten, perhaps for Oktoberfest. The woman could be Helen Schiesl’s mother, Theresa Brummer.

Shirley’s mother Helen Schiesl was born in München (or Munich), Germany, in 1892. Her parents, so I’m told, were Norbert Schiesl and Theresa Brummer. In 1907, when Helen was just 15 years old, she sailed for America on the steamship Pretoria. According to passenger records, she would be staying with her Aunt Ursula Hartfeld in Orange, New Jersey.

I found Ursula Brummer Hardfeld, whose father was Mathias Brummer (his wife was Ursula Kros Brummer), but I’m not sure of the relationship. Ursula Brummer Hardfield was born in 1872. If Mathias was her mother’s brother, Ursula would be her cousin. Since her aunt was also an Ursula, perhaps she was just a little confused. Or maybe Mathias was Helen’s much older brother, in which case she would be Ursula Hardfeld’s aunt. I don’t know how Helen’s English was, or if the person filling out the paperwork spoke German. It’s unfortunate that I can’t connect these two parts of the family tree, but hopefully someday I’ll figure out how that branch fits in.

I think the woman in the pretzel photo may be Theresa Brummer (pictured below in a photo colorized using the tool at MyHeritage), but it could also be a family member with a strong resemblance. What do you think? Please leave a note in the comments.

My second favorite photo from that day of scanning is this one, labeled by Shirley as Mom’s Grandfather. I colorized this one at MyHeritage as well. Doesn’t he look distinguished? I have so many questions, though. I can’t quite make out his lapel pin. I feel like it would tell me something about him if I could just tell what it was. He’s holding a picture of a woman. Was this his wife? I wish he had tilted it a bit more towards the camera, so we could get a better look.

Helen Schiesl’s Grandfather

Here’s another photo that may offer a clue to his identity. Is this the same man, Helen’s grandfather? And is the woman Helen’s mother, Theresa? That could indicate that he is her Brummer grandfather. But, could the man pictured here be his son, Theresa’s husband, Norbert Schiesl? Or could the adults be Theresa’s parents, and perhaps she’s the young girl? I can’t even make out the writing well enough to transcribe it. I assume they’re names, but just three out of the five people pictured.

It would be nice to identify everyone and determine what happened to them all. Perhaps someday, hopefully within my lifetime, someone will find these photos who has well labeled copies in their possession. Then, the mystery will be solved!

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#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Namesake

Welcome to week three of Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge. The prompt is “namesake” and I started thinking about three generations of women named Elizabeth.

Mary Elizabeth “Mollie” Pittman Stevens

My great-grandmother was Mary Elizabeth Pittman Stevens, known – as many Marys (Maries?) were in those days – as Mollie. She was born, according to the notation in her Bible, on November 16th, 1882. My grandmother, her daughter Willie Stevens Cook, wrote in the guest book for Mollie’s funeral that she was born in Bay Minette, Baldwin County, Alabama.

Mollie’s parents were Isaac Pittman and Mosella Elizabeth Thompson. According to a handwritten note found in Mollie’s Bible, Mosella Elizabeth was born March 7th, 1865. The 1870 U.S. Census lists Betty Thompson living with her parents Orry (Origen) and Elizabeth Thompson in Escambia County, Florida. Her birthplace is listed as Alabama, while the birthplace of her sister Mary, age 2, is given as Florida. Origen and Elizabeth are listed in the 1860 U.S. Census as living in Baldwin County, and I believe that’s where Mosella Elizabeth was born.

It’s hard to say who Mary Elizabeth was named after. Isaac Pittman’s mother was Elizabeth Ward; I’ve never found a reference to a middle name. Mosella Elizabeth’s mother was Elizabeth Lawrence Rikard, according to the record left in a Thompson family Bible. It’s not clear who Origen’s mother was; his father was reportedly married to an Annie Odom and a Judy Johnson, but helpful records have not yet been found. Mosella Elizabeth had the aforementioned younger sister named Mary, which could have been the inspiration for Mollie’s first name.

Elizabeth Lawrence Rikard’s mother is less of a mystery but still an enigma. I have four records for her. An 1849 marriage record from Baldwin County, Alabama, shows Mrs. Dotia Rikard marrying Jacob Thompson, who’s believed to be Origen’s older brother or half brother. The 1850 U.S. Census for Baldwin County lists Doshia P. Thompson in the household of Jacob Thompson with five Rikard children, including Elizabeth, and the couple’s new baby Adaline Thompson. Ten years later, the U.S. Census for Baldwin County records Jacob and Docia Thompson living with three “Rickard” children and four Thompson children. Newlyweds Origen and Elizabeth are living right next door with their baby son Origen. In the 1870 U.S. Census, we find Theodosia Thompson living in Escambia County, Florida, with one Samuel “Raccord” and two of her Thompson children.

We have clues – Theodosia’s middle name could start with a P or perhaps it’s the first letter of her maiden name. And then there’s Elizabeth Lawrence Rikard; maybe Lawrence is her mother’s maiden name, or it could be the given name of Elizabeth’s father or grandfather. Since I haven’t figure out who Elizabeth’s father is or who Theodosia’s parents were, it’s anybody’s guess.

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#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Family Legend

My Pap-pa, Hoyt Cook (my mother’s father) used to tell us stories about when he was a little Indian boy. These were tall tales about how he crossed the river by using alligators as stepping stones and killed three turkeys and a bear with one arrow. He also told us his mother was part Indian (that’s what we said back in the 1970s, instead of Native American).

I would swear that when I was talking to him about it once, and I asked him if his mother was part Creek, that he told me it was Cree, not Creek. I looked it up in my trusty Book of Knowledge encyclopedia, which informed me the Cree were in Canada, far from Georgia, where my great-grandmother, Dolly Allison Cook, was born.

Hiram, Ruby, Hurley, Bonnie, and Hoyt Cook.
Hiram, Ruby, Hurley, Bonnie, and Hoyt Cook.

Decades later, my great-aunt Bonnie Holland, about a year before she passed, said that their mother was part Creek, and that’s what my mom said she’d always heard growing up.

Our Cook-Allison family genealogist Pat Lowe has never found any documentary evidence of Native Americans in our family tree. DNA testing shows a very small percentage – one might say a smidge – of indigenous characteristics.

Going back to the family legend, my mother pointed to some of the family members’ straight black hair as “evidence” of Native American heritage.

Then there’s the story that they had to leave Georgia and go to Oklahoma. Growing up, I always imagined my forefathers marching along the Trail of Tears.

Dorcas Elizabeth "Dollie" Allison Cook
Portrait of Dorcas Elizabeth “Dollie” Allison Cook

Not so much.

They didn’t leave Georgia until around 1903 or 1904, about 60 years after the enforced relocation of Native tribes. From Pat Lowe, who interviewed many of the older generation before they passed, they went by train and were involved in a train wreck. Dolly Allison’s mother, Delila Bruce, died of injuries from that train wreck. One or two young children followed her to the grave soon after, and her husband, S. John Allison, basically died of a broken heart. The remaining children shortly packed up and moved back to Georgia.

Perhaps someday I’ll find the ancestor who gave me my little smidge of Native American DNA. Until then, I will remember the tall tales and the true stories of my Cook-Allison family.

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#52Ancestors: Beginnings

A new year always suggests a fresh start, even though in many ways we are just continuing on the path that we started days or weeks or months or years before.

“Beginnings” is the prompt for week one of Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge, 2021.

Her prompts are intentionally designed to allow for multiple interpretations. If you do any family history research, or are simply interested in preserving some of your own memories for future generations, do considering joining in. You don’t have to publish on a blog, as I’ve been doing for the past year. You can save your notes in a computer file. Write them longhand in a notebook. Type an email and distribute to children, grandchildren, siblings, cousins – and let them decide how to preserve them. Getting started is the key.

Many of my ancestors made a fresh start or two. My great-great grandfather William Fredrich Hahn came to the United States from Germany when he was around 13 years old. Approximately six years later, he moved from wherever he lived before to Escambia County, Florida. Records are scarce, so I don’t know what led him to make those moves. He had some success in Escambia County, though. He married my great-great-grandmother Ary Loper, and they had five children. He received two patents on his inventions, though I don’t think they made him any money, or at least not enough to be noteworthy.

William F. Hahn’s grandson Theodore Hahn married Maggie Cooper. Her Cooper ancestors moved from South Carolina to Georgia, and then a few years later to Alabama, when it was still a new state. It wasn’t exactly uncharted territory; they settled in Baldwin County, which had been explored by Spanish and French colonists more than a hundred years before Alabama became a state. It must have been equally exciting and terrifying to head into the unknown.

My great-great-great-great grandfather on my mom’s side, George Cook, got a fresh start after the War of 1812. Born in South Carolina, he got married and settled in Georgia. I’m still trying to figure out who his parents were, and what became of all his children.

I certainly hope to learn more about all these branches of my family this year, and I’m working on my husband’s family tree as well. When it comes to research, every day is a new beginning and a chance to add a little more information to book of our families’ origins.

For me, this post is the beginning of 52 more weeks of exploring and sharing family stories, histories, and records.

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#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Resolution

This final week of 2020, genealogist Amy Johnson Crow is using her 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge to challenge her followers to think ahead. She asked, “Are you thinking about research goals for next year? Who or what are you wanting to find?”

I would like to find my third great-grandfather, the paramour of Frances Cook of Marian County, Alabama. The story passed down is that Frances’ eight children, born between 1857 and 1874, all have the same father.

My cousin Pat Lowe, who’s been researching the family for decades, was given a possible name. DNA matches to that family tend to go back to a female, so I’ve stopped looking for evidence to support that claim, and now I’m just looking for any cousins who don’t fit into what we know about the rest of the family.

The best tool I have is my great-aunt Bonnie Cook Holland’s DNA. The mystery man is her great-grandfather. I found a second cousin and was able to get just enough information from the account manager to begin my research. I’ve traced the family back to Georgia, and one branch is from an area close to where Frances lived. It’s tantalizing, but I have a lot more work to do.

Family tree showing George Cook and his wife Rebecca Jane Johnson, their daughter Frances, and her children: William Thomas Cook, John Cook, Nancy Georgianna Cook, George W. Cook, Catherine Cook, Masouria Cook, Melissa Cook, and Fannie Cook.

I have other brick walls, too, more than I’ll list here. These are the ones I particularly would love to solve.

Frances’ parents, George Cook and Rebecca Jane Johnson – who were their parents.

Great-great grandfather on my maternal grandmother’s side William A. Stephens (or Stevens) – who were his parents?

Great-great grandfather on my dad’s side William Fredrich Hahn – who were his parents and was he really born in Berlin?

5x great grandfather Henry Stephens on my dad’s side – who was his son, who I believe was my 4x great grandfather, and who were his parents?

On my mom’s side, my 4x great grandmother was Theodosia P. something. First husband’s last name was Rickard or Rikard. Perhaps her maiden name starts with P. Perhaps her maiden name is Lawrence; records from another cousin show my 3x great grandmother’s name is Elizabeth Lawrence Rikard.

Beyond continuing my research, I resolve to do more to scan old photos and documents, label them in metadata, and share them on FamilySearch and elsewhere, including this blog, and I resolve to write about my family every week by continuing to take part in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge.

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