Finding Alpheus Adams’ Mother : Part VII

In Part VI, we learned several of Reverend Ezra Adams’ children removed south from Ontario to Missouri, likely residing there between 1844–1851. But how could they have bumped into the Strains?

Let’s follow the Strain children now.

In Part IV, we concluded that Samuel Strain is probably the great-grandparent of, and Thomas McCartney Strain is likely the grandparent of Alpheus. But the DNA data does not provide certainty. One of Thomas’ siblings could possibly be the grandparent.

Samuel has 4 wives, and 22 children. 13 of these children were born before 1812, and could have children and grandchildren of their own we must consider as possible parents for Alpheus. We might never identify them all, making it pointless to even try to count them—easily over 100.

This is not looking promising; unfortunately, all we can do is dig in.

Hannah Strain is the oldest daughter of Samuel Strain, born in 1783, in Abbeville, South Carolina. We are told she served delicious red-eye gravy with her grits, and green eggs and ham breakfast (trust us).

She removes to Ohio with her family, and on 3 Mar 1801, she marries James Bradley Finley. James tells us in his own words of their marriage day, “my father-in-law, being unsatisfied with his daughter’s (Hannah) choice, did not even allow her to take her clothes, ….” Apparently this rift between father and daughter never heals; Samuel leaves Hannah out of his will, written in 1840.

Between 1843–1846, they live in Muskingum County, Ohio. They then live in Franklin County, Ohio, and Preble County, Ohio, through 1851.

Reverend James Bradley Finley, Methodist Episcopal Church.

James Bradley Finley is a circuit rider in the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC).

First child, no way! Excuse us, while we run out, and buy a lottery ticket.

Rev. James Bradley Finley, lion of the forest, is one of the most prominent of all circuit riders of this era [1][2]:

  • “A sympathetic defender of Indian rights, he was harshly critical of the federal government’s removal policy that ultimately forced the Wyandot nation to relocate in Kansas in 1843.”
  • At the 1844 General Conference of the MEC, he offered the resolution (“that Bishop Andrew desist from his episcopal duties until disentangling himself from slavery”)—approved 111 yeas, 69 nays—that led to the split of the Methodist Episcopal Church a year later, into North and South, 16 years prior to the American Civil War.
  • “He was instrumental in prison reform, including a library program and the separation of youthful offenders from older prisoners.”

From 1 May to 11 June 1844 (six weeks), the MEC General Conference assembled in New York City; its approximately 180 delegates included [1]:

  • James B. Finley, Ohio Conference
  • Jerome C. Berryman, Missouri Conference
  • Newton G. Berryman, Illinois Conference
  • William Case, Western Canada, Wesleyan Missionary Society (namesake of our William Case Adams)

We met Rev. Jerome C. Berryman in Part VI. We haven’t connected him with Rev. Newton G. Berryman, but they were both children in Kentucky between 1800–1810.

In the minutes of the General Conference, we also see references to other ministers in attendance, non-delegates that traveled to the conference with delegates. Six weeks in the big city; we can imagine the lobbying was intense to tag along.

Given what we have learned about these families through the MEC General and Annual conferences, each thoroughly documented in excruciating detail, it is clear the circuit riders were a single community spanning the United States and Canada. It is inconceivable Rev. Ezra Adams and son-in-law Rev. Thomas Hurlburt of the Adams line, and Rev. James Bradley Finley of the Strain line are total strangers. They at least know of each other through church records and correspondence. The record tells us there is certainly only two degrees-of-separation between them, via two chains:

  • Adams — Rev. William Case — Rev. James Bradley Finley & Hannah Strain
  • Adams — Rev. Jerome C. Berryman — Rev. James Bradley Finley & Hannah Strain

Rev. James Bradley Finley even details his journey north from Ohio to the border between the United States and Canada at Detroit, and into Upper Canada (later Ontario) in 1823. [3] Perhaps they met as early as then.

The DNA tests and their DNA matches available today do not allow us to point to a specific member of the Strain family, but do tell us that a Strain is probably the mother of Alpheus Adams. This is certainly not a satisfying end to our story.

There is no birth certificate or even a smoking gun in this story. After a long, four-year journey, we are left to theorize.

Our story now jumps from non-fiction to fiction, but grounded in all we have learned over the past four years. Again, there is no smoking gun.

Theory A

Rev. Thomas Hurlburt, upon learning of the approval of his request for relocation to the United States, contacts Rev. John Bradley Finley in early 1844. His correspondence provides news of the Canadian church, and the health of Rev. Ezra Adams and Rev. William Case. He also:

  • requests a copy of Finley’s book History of the Wyandott Mission at Upper Sandusky, Ohio, published in 1840, in order to learn of Finley’s experiences,
  • requests travel assistance for the Adams group,
  • and seeks a face-to-face meeting on the way south to learn more of the imminent split of the MEC in the United States, as Thomas would depart assigned to the MEC, but soon find himself in the MEC, South.

The side excursion to Zanesville, Ohio, is a short diversion on their journey from Ontario, to Missouri. It is clearly on the way.

The group is comprised of Rev. Thomas Hurlburt and his wife Elizabeth Adams, Henry Proctor Adams, and William Case Adams.

A child is born in early 1845, the Strain mother may or may not have died soon after, and Alpheus is sent to Canada to live with the Adams family. During his childhood, he is raised by his aunt Maria Jane Adams, and his uncle William Case Adams, living a distance away in Toronto, is perhaps viewed as a father figure. So Alpheus lists them as his parents when he marries.

Theory B

This is Theory A with a twist.

The divide within the MEC over slavery began decades before the 1844 General Conference. Four years earlier at the prior General Conference, the matter of then Rev. Andrew, later Bishop Andrew, had been considered, but he was not expelled. The split is expected, perhaps even planned, in the resolutions brought forward regarding slavery in 1844.

The Adams group travels from Ontario to New York, to observe the General Conference, on their way to Missouri. They are there for up to six weeks before traveling on to Missouri. Members of the extended family of Rev. James Bradley Finley also accompany him to New York.

Hopefully our journey to find Alpheus’ mother will inform future research into and appreciation for Alpheus’ family. We were not able to share the larger story of the times in which they lived. The who, when, and place, with a little DNA sprinkled in, has consumed seven posts.

There are a large number of records, histories, biographies and autobiographies concerning the circuit riders of the Methodist Episcopal Church. They enlighten us about life on the frontier of two vast countries as the wilderness closes in the mid-1800’s. And remind us of their struggles with major issues of the time—the interactions between settlers and Native Americans, and slavery in the United States. We did not anticipate this aspect of our four-year journey, but have been greatly enriched by it.

We reached our destination, but failed to meet Alpheus’ mother.

And yet, we did manage to meet her Strain family, and learn they fought side-by-side with our Knight branch to found a new nation. It has been a wonderful, surprising journey.

We have added several books to our Read More … page. Hopefully, you are inspired to read about our family’s circuit riders: Rev. Ezra Adams, Rev. Thomas Hurlburt, and Rev. James Bradley Finley.

Meanwhile, we will begin to plan another journey.


We have no evidence, record or otherwise, indicating Alpheus knew Henry Proctor Adams. It is interesting though that Henry removes from Grey County, Ontario, Canada, in 1880, to Bruce, Cavalier County, North Dakota, at about the same time that Alpheus and his wife Ellen Jane Hannah, along with many of the Hannah family, remove to Hannah, Cavalier County, North Dakota. Clearly, before Alpheus’ death, the family knows of his two half-brothers, siblings of Henry Proctor Adams.

Henry removing to Cavalier County, North Dakota, in 1880, first pointed us to the family of Rev. Ezra Adams, and began this journey.

John Strain (1730–1766) is probably 7th great-grandparent of MKS in the Watne branch.

Samuel Strain (1762–1845) and Hannah Watts (1762–1798) are probably 6th great-grandparents of MKS in the Watne branch.

Ezra Adams (1788) and Isa Proctor (1797–1832) are 5th great-grandparents of MKS in the Watne branch.

Henry Proctor Adams (1822–1882) is probably 4th great-grandfather of MKS in the Watne branch.

Alpheus Adams (1845-1910) is 3rd great-grandfather of MKS in the Watne branch.

[1] “Rev. James B. Finley,”
[2] Journals of the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Volume II, 1840, 1844 (New York: Carlton & Phillips, 1856).
[3] Rev. James B. Finley, Life Among the Indians; Or, Personal Reminiscences and Historical Incidents Illustrative of Indian Life and Character (Cincinnati: Methodist Book Concern, 1860).

Finding Alpheus Adams’ Mother : Part VI

Note: As we approach the end of our journey, note the increased use of levels of confidence in our statements—perhaps, possibly, likely, probably. [1]

We have identified Henry Proctor Adams as the probable father of Alpheus Adams, and Samuel Strain as a probable great-grandfather on Alpheus’ maternal side.

Let’s jump to 1844, maybe a year or two earlier, or later. The family of Henry’s father, Reverend Ezra Adams, lives in Ontario, Canada. The family of Samuel Strain lives in Montgomery County, Indiana—569 miles away. These families are living on the frontier of two different countries. Travel is difficult, expensive, and dangerous.

Despite learning much on this journey, we are lost. Where do we go now?

Let’s follow their children. But before we depart, let’s practice safe genealogy.

We need to beware of confirmation bias, the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories. In this case, we don’t know what to believe.

On the other hand, we need to listen to our gut, and our long-time friend Leroy Jethro Gibbs (see Gibbs’ Rule #39). Gibbs apparently knew William of Ockham and Occam’s razor.

Ok, climb on or climb aboard—you pick—horse, boat, or train?

In a prior post, we detailed the circuits assigned Rev. Ezra Adams over his long service, a roadmap needed to follow his family.

In 1828, the Methodist Episcopal work in Canada split from the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) in the United States, and in 1833 joined with the British Wesleyans. We only mention this because prior to 1833, Ezra traveled on occasion east from Ontario to New York for the Annual Conferences. After 1833, he attended Annual Conferences in Ontario.

In 1844, Ezra has five living children that are old enough to be Alpheus’ parent, or old enough to be traveling any distance on their own. Let’s start with the oldest.

Elizabeth Alimira Adams is the oldest daughter, born in 1816. In 1832, she married Rev. Thomas Hurlburt.

Thomas Hurlburt, missionary in the MEC in Upper Canada (now Ontario), began teaching Indians at Munceytown Mission, Middlesex County, Ontario, in 1829, before he was ordained. He was assigned there from 1829-34. He was also a linguist and philologist, assisting in the development of the spelling system for the Ojibwa language.

At the 31 Aug 1831 Annual Conference of the MEC, Ezra Adams was assigned as:

  • London District, Presiding Elder
  • Missionary to Munceytown Mission
  • Superintendent of Missions within the bounds of his District

Thomas’ brother, Rev. Asahel Hurlburt, was assigned the Thames circuit, in London District at that conference. These two brothers were missionaries reporting to Ezra after Aug 1831. So we know how Elizabeth and Thomas met. After their marriage, she would have traveled with Thomas to each new circuit.

In 1838, Thomas was assigned to the outpost of the Lake Superior Mission (later called Pic River), on the north shore of Lake Superior. Winters there were certainly brutal; we know they subsisted on a diet of largely fish, and death by starvation was common at the mission. Their work at the mission, called the Pic, is mentioned in the paper This Remote Field of Missionary Toil : Christianity at the Pic, Lake Superior to 1900.

Thomas and Elizabeth remained there until 1844, when he requested an assignment in a warmer location for the sake of Elizabeth’s health.

Thomas’ request is granted, and he is assigned to the newly organized Indian Mission Conference of the MEC in the United States. Organized in 1844, the conference covers a wide area bounded by Montana, the Rocky Mountains, Arkansas and Missouri, and Texas. Remember that in 1828, the United States and Canada churches split, so this would seem to be a unique assignment requiring the approval of the two separate churches.

We then find Thomas and Elizabeth in Oklahoma by mid-Oct 1844. How do we know?

Bishop Thomas A. Morris, General Superintendent of the District, traveled from the Missouri Annual Conference, held at the Centenary Church in St. Louis, Missouri, on 25 Sep 1844, to the first Indian Mission Conference held at Riley’s Chapel, Cherokee Nation, on 23 Oct 1844 . [2]

His travel by boat, horse, and carriage is documented including the weather—it snowed in Oklahoma. Along the way, missionaries joined the travelers from their circuits. Thomas Hurlburt joins the group by 14 Oct, apparently from nearby where he is missionary to the Chippewa tribe.

At the conference, Jerome C. Berryman is appointed as first Superintendent of Missions. Thomas is (re)appointed missionary to the Pottawatomie and Chippewa tribes.

We know that Thomas and Elizabeth remain in Missouri until some time after 10 Jul 1850 when he is listed as Preacher in the St. Louis Conference, Lexington District, Kickapoo Mission. They return to Ontario, Canada, before the end of 1851.

You are thinking, why so much detail? Patience. Our journey is about pick up speed.

Henry Proctor Adams is the 2nd child of Ezra Adams, born in 1822. Family histories and his obituary tell us that he accompanied his sister to Missouri. The details aren’t crisp, but he likely traveled with them in 1844, and likely remained there until 1851 as well.

William Case Adams is the 3rd child of Ezra Adams, born in 1823. Family histories tell us that he studied at Victoria College, in Coborg, Ontario, and from there (some time after 1841), he went to Highblue, Missouri, where he commenced the study of medicine with Dr. Berryman. William removed to Toronto in 1851 to study dentistry. 1851, there is that date again.

Dr. Berryman, Rev. Jerome C. Berryman—Gibbs’ Rule #39. We haven’t found a pin on the map yet for Highblue, Missouri, but High Blue still appears in the names of businesses in the same area.

Interesting note: Dr. William Case Adams was the first dentist to use nitrous oxide gas for anesthetic purposes in Canada.

While the family story says that William traveled to Missouri to study medicine, perhaps it is more correct to say he traveled with his sister Elizabeth and brother Henry to the Indian territory of Missouri (an adventure for a young college graduate), and there he studied medicine. It is clear they are in this place at this time as a direct result of the illness of Elizabeth and the assignment of Thomas. William certainly could have studied dentistry in a more hospitable place.

Maria Jane Adams is the 4th child of Ezra Adams, born in 1826. We have been unable to determine if she traveled to Missouri also. We have a possible record for her in the 1852 Census of Canada, she marries in 1853, and dies in 1855 from consumption. Born in 1826, we can not eliminate her as a sibling of interest.

Eliza Roxana Adams is the 5th child of Ezra Adams, born in 1828. She is 16 years old in 1844, and marries in 1847 in Ontario, Canada. She therefore likely did not travel with the group to Missouri.

We have been unable to find any of the Adams listed in United States Census records or other records during their time in Missouri, except for the records of the MEC for Thomas and Elizabeth. It appears they were not enumerated in the 1850 US Census. The MEC records provide an amazing amount of detail and color to their journey.

This is a good point to stop and remember that Alpheus’ marriage record lists his parents as William and Maria Adams, and his obituary says he was taken after birth to the home of an uncle at Owen Sound, Ontario.

If William and Maria Adams are William Case Adams and Maria Jane Adams, could they have both been his biological parents? The DNA matches to the Strains make this improbable. Perhaps Alpheus grew up in the homes of one or both of them, and then listed them as his parents on his marriage record.

So where are we now?

  • It is probable that three of Ezra’s five children of interest traveled from Ontario to Missouri sometime between 1844–1851. These three are Elizabeth, Henry, and William.
  • It is likely these three traveled to Missouri together, arriving before 14 Oct 1844 with Thomas.
  • It is likely these three returned to Ontario together, arriving after 10 Jul 1850 and before the end of 1851, based on Thomas’ return.
  • These three could have traveled back and forth one or more times, but this seems unlikely as the records are clear that Thomas was stationed with the MEC in the United States from 1844–1851, and they are a long, long way from home.
  • We do not know where Maria Jane Adams was during this time. It is possible she traveled with them also. It is possible she remained in Ontario.
  • It is likely Eliza Roxana Adams remained in Ontario; we have no record of her traveling to the Unites States separately.
  • In case you are wondering, Elizabeth, Eliza—it appears Elizabeth went by the name Betsey.

This journey is feeling like a ride through Wyoming. Will it ever end?

John Strain (1730–1766) is probably 7th great-grandparent of MKS in the Watne branch.

Samuel Strain (1762–1845) and Hannah Watts (1762–1798) are probably 6th great-grandparents of MKS in the Watne branch.

Ezra Adams (1788) and Isa Proctor (1797–1832) are 5th great-grandparents of MKS in the Watne branch.

Henry Proctor Adams (1822–1882) is probably 4th great-grandfather of MKS in the Watne branch.

Alpheus Adams (1845-1910) is 3rd great-grandfather of MKS in the Watne branch.

[1] Ken Spratlin, “Facts and Events—Levels of Confidence,” Random Thoughts in Thin Air, 11 Feb 2020.
[2] Sidney Henry Babcock and John Y. Bryce, History of Methodism in Oklahoma; Story of the Indian Mission Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, volume 1 (1935), p. 50-57.

Finding Alpheus Adams’ Mother : Part V

In Part V, we meet the family of John Strain, probable 2nd great-grandfather of Alpheus.

John Strain and his family emigrated from Ireland to Pennsylvania around 1750. That is 90 years before the Porters, Gallaghers, Hannahs, Virtues, and associated families (all the other families represented in the cluster diagrams) emigrated from Donegal, Ireland, to Ontario, Canada, in the 1840’s.

John had at least seven children including six sons (John Jr., David, William, Thomas, James, Samuel) and one daughter (Sarah).

Before 1762, John and his family removed from Pennsylvania. John’s son Samuel was born in 1762 in Augusta County, Virginia. We do not know if they settled there, or Samuel was born there while they journeyed south.

Before 1765, they settled in what is now Abbeville County, South Carolina. In 1765, the counties of Tryon and Mecklenburg, North Carolina, exercised some jurisdiction over this northern area of present-day South Carolina. In 1769, the area became part of Ninety-Six District, one of the seven original Judicial Districts of South Carolina.

The Strains resided in the Long Cane Settlement, which was near the Long Cane River and Little River. There they learned to love grits and say Y’all with a proper accent. It’s documented. Trust us.

The South
\ thə ‘sau’th\, noun

The place where …
1) Tea is sweet and accents are sweeter.
2) Summer starts in April.
3) Macaroni & Cheese is a vegetable.
4) Front porches are wide and words are long.
5) Pecan pie is a staple.
6) Y’all is the only proper noun.
7) Chicken is fried and biscuits come with gravy.
8) Everything is Darlin’.
9) Someone’s heart is always being blessed.

Unknown; displayed in the dining room of a member of the Spratlin family, in the South

[faint sound of author chuckling]

John passed away there in 1766, and is buried there.

The first major battle of the American Revolutionary War in the South was fought at a fort named Ninety Six in Ninety-Six District.

All six of John’s sons served in the war, but we don’t have all the details for each. Son James was killed in a battle at Thicketty Fort, South Carolina, in 1780, and son Thomas is said to have been killed in 1781.

Son William served as a lieutanant and captain in the Upper Ninety-Six District Regiment. Private James Watts served under him. Son Samuel Strain married Hannah Watts in 1782.

Ok, this is where things gets weird.

[sound of author chuckling louder]

Also serving in the Upper Ninety-Six District Regiment are Major Benjamin Tutt, who was Justice of the Peace in Ninety-Six District in 1776, and Ensign Gabriel Tutt.

In the Lower Ninety-Six District Regiment, we find more members of the Tutt family, and several members of the Martin and Key families.

Liberty flag, the standard of the South Carolina militia during the American Revolutionary War.

These families are living on the edge of South Carolina’s sparsely populated frontier, members of the families serving together for several years in two regiments of the South Carolina Patriot Militia. They must have known each other.

Tutt, Martin, Key; who are they?” you ask. You haven’t been reading our blog.

They are family.

They are members of our Knight branch. Major Benjamin Tutt is the 7th great-grandfather of MKS in the Knight branch. The Martins and Keys are in this branch as well.

Where is Ninety-Six District, South Carolina? Across the river from Georgia, where this author grew up.

At the end of the Revolutionary War, Ninety-Six District was on the western frontier of the United States. Large numbers of soldiers were awarded land grants, and headed farther west.

Son Samuel Strain and his family remained in South Carolina until the early 1800’s.

Before 1808, they removed to Highland County, Ohio. In 1833, Samuel applied for his Revolutionary War pension while residing in Ohio. He passed away on 29 Apr 1845, and is buried in Rocky Spring Cemetery in Highland County.

Samuel’s son Thomas McCartney Strain was born in Abbeville County, South Carolina. He also headed west with the family, but did not go immediately to Ohio.

We find Thomas McCartney Strain in:

  • Barren County, Kentucky, before 1810
  • North Carolina, before 1815
  • Fayette County, Ohio, before 1820
  • Highland County, Ohio, before 1823
  • Montgomery County, Indiana, about 1829
  • Boone County, Indiana, Feb 1860

The families of John Strain’s son David and daughter Sarah also removed west to Ohio and Indiana with their brother Samuel. John is also believed to have siblings who removed with him from Pennsylvania to South Carolina. And some of these families also then removed west to Ohio and Indiana at the same time as Samuel.

By 1844, we find too many Strains living in Ohio and Indiana to count.

From 1814 to 1871, Reverend Ezra Adams was a Methodist Episcopal circuit rider. In a prior post, we detailed his circuit assignments across Ontario, Canada.

In 1844, he is preacher in the Newmarket circuit, York County, Ontario, Canada West. Ezra’s son Henry Proctor Adams is living nearby, by today’s standards, in Halton County, Ontario.

It is 569 miles from Halton County, Ontario, to Montgomery County, Indiana. In 1844, it would have taken days or weeks to travel this distance. It would have involved boat travel across Lake Erie, or railway travel around Lake Erie.

We now know the Strain family, but we haven’t put the Adams and Strain families together in the same place at the same time. They are not even in the same country.

Will this mystery ever end?

Benjamin Tutt (1739–1790) and Maria Barbara Stalnaker (1743–1799) are 7th great-grandparents of MKS in the Knight branch.

John Strain (1730–1766) is probably 7th great-grandparent of MKS in the Watne branch.

Samuel Strain (1762–1845) and Hannah Watts (1762–1798) are probably 6th great-grandparents of MKS in the Watne branch.

Ezra Adams (1788) and Isa Proctor (1797–1832) are 5th great-grandparents of MKS in the Watne branch.

Henry Proctor Adams (1822–1882) is probably 4th great-grandfather of MKS in the Watne branch.

Alpheus Adams (1845-1910) is 3rd great-grandfather of MKS in the Watne branch.

Finding Alpheus Adams’ Mother : Part IV

In Part IV, we shift our focus to Alpheus’ maternal line.

In the prior post, we stated that Henry Proctor Adams is probably the father of Alpheus Adams. There is an off-chance that Henry is not his father, but then one of Henry’s brothers or sisters is Alpheus’ parent. If we need to, we will cross that bridge when we get there. For now, we’re looking for Alpheus’ mother.

So how do we find her? We have no documentary evidence for Alpheus prior to his marriage. We do have a range of possible birth years (1845–1847), but should acknowledge the possibility he was born a year or two earlier or later. We can try to find where Henry was during those years. But we still would not know Alpheus’ mother among all the people in those places.

Let’s find his mother’s family first, and then see if we can put anyone in the two families together in the same place at the same time. How do we do that?

By process of elimination. Can we find any DNA matches for Test A or Test B (first introduced in Part III) that we can not associate with our lines, which we know, except for the line above Andrew Porter. We are looking for distant cousins sharing an unknown most recent common ancestor (MRCA) that could be one of Alpheus’ maternal grandparents or great-grandparents. Much higher up the tree and this gets very hard, very fast. We’re working back to the mid-1700’s and beginning to run out of DNA to match with.

Directly below is a cluster diagram for Test A. These DNA matches share more than 30 cM of DNA with Test A, which should cover the range of relationships we are looking for without overwhelming us with more distant matches (sharing less DNA). We have been fairly successful determining the MRCA for most of these clusters. The MRCA for each cluster is labeled directly to its left or right. We did not label the tiny ones.

We have a large cluster of descendants of Alpheus Adams and his wife Ellen Jane Hannah in the upper portion of the diagram. Just below that we see a cluster for the Adams line above Henry Proctor Adams. Below that is the cluster that finally caught our attention.

Cluster diagram for Alpheus Adams granddaughter (Test A) in the Porter line.

Directly below is a clustering diagram for Test B.

There are a few more unknown clusters is this diagram, but the same potential cluster for Alpheus’ maternal line from the above diagram appears here as well.

Cluster diagram for Alpheus Adams granddaughter (Test B) in the Porter line.

You are thinking, why did this take so long? Well, we’re being kind. Test A has over 46,000 DNA matches, Test B has over 52,000. The above diagrams only show about 200 DNA matches, so you can find the cluster the very first time you look. Maybe the labels help a little also. We needed help.

We only recognized this cluster for what it is when we adopted a new clustering application called Shared Clustering. Using a process called Walking the Clusters Back, we were finally able to associate family lines with most of the clusters going back many generations. And Alpheus’ maternal cluster was left behind with no known family line.

Now that we’ve identified and labeled the cluster of interest, we add more and more of those almost 100,000 DNA matches. More DNA matches join this cluster. And with them, we find some lovely family trees, majestic redwoods, and we find a single family name in many of them—Strain.

Do we have enough DNA matches with the Strains to confirm the relationship, narrow down their trees, and find Alpheus’ mother? Let’s see what we have.

John Strain
Unknown Wife
> 3 <
Thomas Watts
Susannah Taylor
> 3 <
Johannes Swart
Elizabeth Nagel
> 1 <
Jacob Sphar
Catherine Smith
> 1 <
Samuel Strain
Hannah Watts
> 8 <
James Swart
Margaret Sphar
> 0 <
Thomas M. Strain
Phebe Swartz
> 10 <
Unknown Mother

One thing to keep in mind while reviewing the number of DNA matches is that Alpheus is probably the only child of Henry Proctor Adams and Alpheus’ mother. We are told she died when he was one year old; we will revisit this again later, but have seen no DNA evidence to the contrary.

Think of this as meaning we are having to go up the tree one additional generation to find shared DNA matches with the Strains, from 3rd cousins to 4th cousins, cutting the available shared DNA in half. Also, most families of this era had eight or so children. We are facing a significantly reduced pool of possible DNA matches in this case with only Alpheus connecting our tree and the Strain tree. The number of matches we did find, with known lineage, is compelling.

Without dragging you through all the details, and based solely on the DNA evidence, we have concluded:

  • John Strain is probably 2nd great-grandparent of Alpheus Adams on his maternal side.
  • Samuel Strain and Hannah Watts are probably his great-grandparents.
  • Thomas M. Strain and Phebe Swartz are likely his grandparents.

We think the levels of confidence assigned to each of these relationships, probably and likely, are appropriate. And yes, we are concluding this based only on the DNA matches. You are welcome to offer an alternative hypothesis, but you may want to wait for the documentary evidence before suggesting we bet on it.

So who are the Strains, where are they from, how did one of them meet Henry Proctor Adams, and which one? And why are we chuckling as we write Part V in our head?

We will discuss all of that, and wrap up this story in one or two more posts, if things go as planned.

One final note for Part IV. There are a significant number of AncestryDNA tests for descendants of Alpheus Adams, including for family that will read this. Some of them are also DNA matches with the Strains, and appear in the two diagrams above. We just don’t have direct access to their test kits to generate cluster diagrams for them. We can easily do that if they wish. Or we can help them get started using Shared Clustering. With it, we have now solved three long-standing brick walls in about one month.

John Strain (1730–1766) is probably 7th great-grandparent of MKS in the Watne branch.

Samuel Strain (1762–1845) and Hannah Watts (1762–1798) are probably 6th great-grandparents of MKS in the Watne branch.

Ezra Adams (1788) and Isa Proctor (1797–1832) are 5th great-grandparents of MKS in the Watne branch.

Henry Proctor Adams (1822–1882) is probably 4th great-grandfather of MKS in the Watne branch.

Alpheus Adams (1845-1910) is 3rd great-grandfather of MKS in the Watne branch.

Finding Alpheus Adams’ Mother : Part III

In Part III, we update our research for Alpheus’ paternal line.

From Part I, remember that in May 2017, we first identified Reverend Ezra Adams as the apparent (meaning presumptive) grandfather of Alpheus based on Census of Canada records and Alpheus’ obituary. And in Apr 2018, we confirmed that Alpheus is a member of the Rev. Ezra Adams line based on several DNA matches of Adams descendants with members of our Adams line.

Not a bad start for a beginning genealogist. But based on what we now know, the DNA evidence was thin (5 DNA matches, 2 of which were quite distant), and we should have said possibly. Likely would have been a stretch.

What have we learned in the past two years?

DNA research

10% of the US population has taken a genetic genealogy DNA test (as opposed to a medical-specific test), and the number continues to grow rapidly. While several members of one family may take a test, and no members of their nextdoor neighbors have, it is increasingly likely that a 2nd or 3rd cousin of the neighbors has. It is therefore increasingly likely that DNA tests exist for descendants of most of our ancestors back several generations. This varies greatly around the world based on one’s ethnicity, but should also be true for Canada.

To prove the paternal lineage of Alpheus, we need five things (at least):

  1. We have two DNA tests for descendants of Alpheus. Let’s call them Test A and Test B.
  2. We need DNA matches between Test A or Test B with distant cousins who are descendants of Alpheus’ Adams ancestors.
  3. We need the lineage for Test A or Test B (which we have) up to the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) shared with the DNA match.
  4. We need the MRCA lineage for the DNA match.
  5. The amount of DNA shared between Test A or Test B and the DNA match must be consistent with the relationship determined by the two lineages.

If the DNA match or someone else does not have their MRCA lineage and make it available to us, then we will have to build this line of their family tree for them.

Below is a table listing the number of DNA matches we have found (as of 2 Apr 2020) meeting the five criteria listed above. For each DNA match, we were able to establish their MRCA lineage; it is at least probably known.

The MRCA for these DNA matches are Alpheus’ Adams parent up to his 2nd great-grandparent).

Freegrace Adams
Anna Kent
> 4 <
Phinehas Rice
Lament Gilbert
> 1 <
Henry Proctor I
Sarah Butterfield
> 7 <
Samuel Ames
Sarah Ball
> 5 <
Eliphalet Adams
Patience Rice
> 6 <
Henry Proctor II
Elizabeth Ames
> 12 <
Ezra Adams
Isa Proctor
> 5 <
Henry P. Adams
3 Wives
> 7 <
Alpheus Adams

There are additional DNA matches through these MRCA, but their lineage is not known.

In two years, we have increased from 5 to 47 DNA matches with documented lineage. And we have at least one for each of Alpheus’ lines up through his 2nd great-grandparents.

We can now state, with a level of confidence this time, that Rev. Ezra Adams and Isa Proctor are certainly the grandparents of Alpheus Adams.

Do these DNA matches identify Alpheus’ Adams parent? No.

The 7 DNA matches we have associated with Henry Proctor Adams are descendants of Henry and his three known wives. We have not been able to find matches through descendants of these wives’ ancestors, so it does not appear any of the three wives are Alpheus’ mother.

Alternatively, the MRCA for these 7 DNA matches could be Ezra Adams and Isa Proctor, and Alpheus’ parent is one of Ezra’s nine other children. Of the ten children, only five, including Henry, were old enough at Alpheus’ birth to be his parent. It would be a lot of work to eliminate four of the five with DNA testing. And we have no reason to doubt Alpheus’ obituary identifying two half-brothers, both children of Henry Proctor Adams.

Documentary evidence

What about the documentary evidence of his birth and early life? His obituary says that he was born in Michigan, his mother died when he was a year old, and he was taken to Ontario to the home of an uncle. We do not know the origin for this information.

We have stalked each of the five children of Rev. Ezra Adams that could be Alpheus’ parent from his birth through his marriage, and in some cases further. We have searched records far and wide in the state of Michigan, and Ontario, Canada. We have also searched the records of several other places that we will discuss in future parts of this series. Thousands and thousands of records.

It is as if Alpheus was born on the morning of his marriage, already grown, age 22, and got married that afternoon. We have found no primary (eyewitness) documentary evidence that he existed prior to his marriage. We can only hypothesize that he was intentionally omitted from Census of Canada records or he was raised by someone other than an uncle in Ontario.

Let’s state that Henry Proctor Adams is probably the father of Alpheus Adams, and move on. Maybe what we learn about Alpheus’ maternal line will increase our confidence, or point to one of the other siblings.

Ezra Adams (1788) and Isa Proctor (1797–1832) are 5th great-grandparents of MKS in the Watne branch.

Henry Proctor Adams (1822–1882) is probably 4th great-grandfather of MKS in the Watne branch.

Alpheus Adams (1845-1910) is 3rd great-grandfather of MKS in the Watne branch.

Finding Alpheus Adams’ Mother : Part II

Part I introduced our search for Alpheus’ parents. In Part II, let’s review the few sources providing any leads to Alpheus’s birth and lineage.

From his obituary, we know that Alpheus passed early Sunday morning, 3 Apr 1910 at his Hillside Farm in Hannah, Cavalier County, North Dakota, of liver cancer, his health having declined over his last two or three years. From newspaper notices in Mar 1910 and Apr 1910, we know that he was confined to his bed for the last few weeks of his life.

Regarding his lineage, we are told:

He was born in the state of Michigan in December 1846. His mother died when he was but a year old, when he was taken into the home of an uncle at Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada. Here he grew up to young manhood and in 1867 was married to Ellen Jane, a daughter of the late Francis Hannah of this place.

Soon after this event the young couple settled near Manitowaning on Manitoulin Island [Ontario, Canada]. …

W. E. Adams of Hannah, and Geo. Adams of Crystal City, Man.[itoba] are half brothers of the deceased.

The funeral took place Monday afternoon. The service was conducted by Rev. Thos. Dyer, pastor of the M. E. church, who spoke words of comfort to these bereaved.

“Pioneer Departed, Alpheus Adams Passed to His Reward,” The Moon (Hannah, North Dakota), 8 Apr 1910, p. 1, col. 3.

We need to remember information contained in obituaries is usually provided by the family, often relating information they were told many years earlier. That information may or may not have been true when told, and the family’s memory may not be perfect.

The earliest sources we have for Alpheus are two records for his marriage. From the Ontario, Canada, County Marriage Registers, 1858–1869, we know that he married Jane Hannah on 12 Dec 1867 in Derby Township, Grey County. Listed in this record are:

  • Alpheus Adams, age 22, born in the United States
  • Jane Harnish [Hannah], age 20, born in Ireland
  • William Adams, father
  • Maria Adams, mother
  • Francis Harnish [Hannah], spouse’s father
  • Catherine Harnish [Hannah], spouse’s mother

A handwritten Matrimony Marriage License in the possession of a family member is more specific. They were married on that date in Owen Sound, Derby Township. John Brooks and Catherine Walker were witnesses. J. C. Tyler, Owen Sound, Methodist Minister, performed the ceremony.

We then have a variety of records, all issued after his marriage, and therefore dated more than 22 years after his birth. Some of these records list his year of birth, or age, and one lists his month and year of birth. As is usual in this era, the birthdate or implied year of birth from reported age is often not consistent between records. From these records, his birth year is between 1845 and 1847. The North Dakota Public Death Index, obviously recording his death in 1910, lists his birthdate as 15 Dec 1846.

No birth certificate. No census records for him prior to his marriage. That is it, not a lot to work with.

Let’s accomplish something today. Let’s dispense with his name. We have a single primary source, the 1881 Census of Canada, listing his name as James Adams.

The more than 30 other primary sources—including those for his marriage, US land patents, land patent maps, mortgages, his appointment as U. S. Postmaster of Hannah, newspaper articles mentioning him, his death, his obituary, and his probate—list him as Alpheus Adams.

Alpheus Adams land patent in Hannah, North Dakota; Section 33, SW1/4 (1890) and SE1/4 (1893).

In Part III, we will update our research for his paternal line.

Alpheus Adams (1845-1910) is 3rd great-grandfather of MKS in the Watne branch.

Finding Alpheus Adams’ Mother : Part I

When we started researching the Porter line of our family tree a little over four years ago, we encountered our first really big brickwall—the parents of Alpheus Adams, 3rd great-grandfather of MKS.

Alpheus Adams tablet, Hannah, North Dakota.

Back then, few researchers included parents for Alpheus in their on-line trees, those that did disagreed on his paternal line, and no one was willing to guess his maternal line. There were, and still are, few trees with sources attempting to prove his paternal line. Most trees we found clearly copied Alpheus’ paternal line from the same unsourced trees. [We did as well four years ago.]

There wasn’t even agreement as to his birth name—Alpheus Adams, James Adams, Alpheus James Adams, James Alpheus Adams.

In May 2017, we identified Reverend Ezra Adams as the apparent (meaning presumptive) grandfather of Alpheus based on members of this Adams family being in Grey County, Ontario, Canada, before Alpheus married Ellen Jane Hannah there in 1867, and the mention of two members of this family as Alpheus’ half-brothers in his obituary.

It was not until we began using genetic genealogy (DNA testing) that we were able to make any real progress. In Apr 2018, we confirmed that Alpheus is a member of the Rev. Ezra Adams line based on several DNA matches of Adams descendants with members of our Porter line.

Just to be clear, the parents of Alpheus Adams are not William McIntosh Adams and Hannah King, as shown in many on-line trees.

Today, of the approximately 100 family trees on containing Alpheus, we can only confirm about 10 have his correct paternal line. And his maternal line remains a mystery.

Four years, that is a long time. Admittedly, our genealogy skills were poor when we started. Only recently have we removed the training wheels. Only this year have we begun to source our research and adopt a standard for expressing our level of confidence in the facts and events we add to our family tree and family history.

Please accept our apology Alpheus.

Over the next several posts, we will update our research and reveal our latest discoveries.

And maybe, just maybe, we will find Alpheus’ mother.

Alpheus Adams (1845-1910) is 3rd great-grandfather of MKS in the Watne branch.

Photo Friday—Stella and Kate Hines

Stella and Kate Hines, from Hazel Porter’s photo album.

Stella Ludelia Hines and Mary Catherine (Kate) Hines are the daughters of David and Lydia Hines, and the granddaughters of George and Sarah Hinds.

This portrait is from the photo album of Hazel May Porter. The portrait was taken by Pioneer Studio of Blackduck, Minnesota, likely after 1902 as we will see. The handwritten notation on verso, presumably by Hazel, is:

Stella Hines
Aunt Kate Hines

Their brother David Wellington Hines married Catherine Barbara Adams, daughter of Alpheus James Adams and Ellen Jane Hannah.

About 1826, George, Sarah, and children emigrated from Suffolk, England, to East Gwillimbury, York County, Canada West. David and Lydia’s children were born in Simcoe County, Canada West. Canada West became Ontario, Canada, at Canadian Confederation on 1 Jul 1867.

Their family name is spelled Hindes or Hinds in English records. In Canada and the U.S., it is variously spelled Hindes, Hinds, or Hines, with Hines being more prevalent in later records.

Kate married her 1st cousin William M. Hines in 1890. William had earlier removed to the U.S. around 1883, and Kate did as well in 1889. They apparently were in North Dakota for some time, as their first child, Olive, was born there in Dec 1892. By 1900, William and Kate removed to Blackduck, Beltrami County, Minnesota.

Stella removed to Blackduck in 1902, and married Arthur B. Page in 1903.

While reviewing and updating our family tree for Stella and Kate, we ran across this second portrait on Stella and Kate clearly remembered their pose from the earlier portrait, but forgot their hats!

Stella and Kate Hines, from member pamelaasmith.

Stella Ludelia Hines (1881-1964) is sister-in-law of 3rd great-aunt of MKS in the Watne branch.

Mary Catherine Hines (1866-1952) is sister-in-law of 3rd great-aunt of MKS in the Watne branch.

[1] KMS Family Genealogy Digital Archive, Hannah Elva Lucille Porter Watne collection, Hazel Porter’s photo album (first photograph).
[2] member pamelaasmith (second photograph).

Facts and Events—Levels of Confidence

As our genealogy skills have developed, particularly over the last year, we are more often documenting our level of confidence in the facts and events we add to our family tree, or discuss in our posts here or in other documents we author.

There are many terms we could use to express our level of confidence, and many schemes to rank these terms relative to each other. No point in reinventing the wheel, though.

After purchasing a copy of Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence Explained [1], we chose to adopt the hierarchy of terms presented there in Section 1.6 Levels of Confidence.

Certainly: The author has no reasonable doubt about the assertion, based upon sound research and good evidence.

Probably: The author feels the assertion is more likely than not, based upon sound research and good evidence.

Likely: The author feels some evidence supports the assertion, but the assertion is far from proved.

Possibly: The author feels the odds weight at least slightly in favor of the assertion.

Apparently: The author has formed an impression or presumption, typically based upon common experience, but has not tested the matter.

Perhaps: The author suggests that an idea is plausible, although it remains to be tested.

Being more mathematically and visually inclined, here is how we tend to apply these terms in our own use.

We usually keep possibly and apparently to ourselves until we have done a little more research.

When we estimate an individual’s birth year, based on a parent’s, spouse’s, or child’s birth year, we indicate this with, for example, “Estimate based on her mother’s Birth.”

We assume the mother is 3 years younger than the father, and the mother is 22, 31, and 40 years old at the birth of their first, middle, and last child. These average ages were found in a reference that we unfortunately failed to record at the time. The reference though was for 1600–1900 America when the economy was largely agriculture-based.

And, if we copy something from someone else’s tree to preserve it until we have time to look at it, we now attach a source entitled “(copied from the internet; no source provided)”—copy these at your own risk!

[1] Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained, Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, Third Edition, Revised (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2017), 19-20.