Category Archives: Personal Family History/Research

My Journey into Autosomal DNA Testing

Until recently I was one of those people who did not think that autosomal DNA testing would bring much to the table in terms of advancing my own genealogy research. I have been researching for over 10 years and have built up my family tree through various traditional sources — both online and off-line. I have identified all my 3x great-grandparents by first and last/maiden names and all but 5 of my 4x great-grandparents. Granted, beyond that I have more holes and hit brick walls, but my thinking was that I would need to find a 5th, 6th or higher cousin with whom I share DNA and who is a lineal descendant of one of my unidentified ancestors in order to solve one of those brick walls. I thought the chance of that happening was pretty slim. But as the genetic genealogy buzz grew and more and more people were getting tested, I started to change my mind. Even if I was not able to break through a brick wall, maybe I would be able to find an elusive cousin who inherited the old family photographs or the family Bible. And so a couple of months ago I decided to get an autosomal DNA test.

Basically an autosomal DNA test is used to identify genetic cousins. Google can help you if you are looking for a detailed explanation of the mechanics. I chose to test with AncestryDNA because 1) they were having a sale [smile] and 2) I thought most AncestyDNA customers would be existing customers and as such would be more interested in finding cousins than in finding their deep ethnicity. (I must admit that based on the number of matches that I have with no tree, I was undoubtedly wrong on that account.) I was also thinking that I could upload my AncestryDNA results to FTDNA. This would enable me to take advantage of finding matches in their system as well, and I would only have to pay the transfer fee. I have not done this step yet, but I have not ruled it out. My current match results on Ancestry are pictured below.


At this point I should point out that when I made the decision to go with AncestryDNA I knew that a major downside was that they did not provide adequate DNA analysis tools – most notably a chromosome browser. They force you to rely only on member trees to work out your DNA matches. And while comparing trees is an important and necessary step in analyzing a match, not taking the next step and comparing chromosome data can lead to erroneous conclusions. (I already ran into this on the second group of “related” matches that I was working on.)

In order to look at the chromosome matches, AncestryDNA customers must upload their results to Gedmatch (or FTDNA). The Gedmatch website provides several useful tools. It operates on a “free-mium” model with certain tools being free to use while more advanced tools require a donation or subscription. An added benefit is that FTDNA and 23&Me customers can also upload their data, thus results from all three companies can be compared. I have only used Gedmatch a short while, but it has been incredibly useful and necessary. The major downside, of course, is that not all of your matches have uploaded their data to that site. So while Gedmatch is awesome, I still think the community needs to continue to try to convince Ancestry to provide it’s customers with the tools necessary to make informed and valid analyses.

The bottom line with all this is that I have already met and collaborated with cousins that I probably would not have found otherwise. I am glad that I joined the DNA band wagon — and I even convinced my Mom to join me!!!

Joshua Delaplane — Germantown to Berks

This is a follow up to my previous blog post about my Delaplaine/Dilliplane ancestors & information about them gleaned from church records. The focus of this post is my 5x great-grandfather Joshua Delaplane.

My ancestor Joshua Delaplaine was likely born in Germantown, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania circa 1707. His parents, James and Hannah, were prominent in the community and respected members of the Society of Friends (Quakers). Joshua and his siblings were educated at the Germantown Friends School and brought up as Quakers as well. On a side note, it is interesting that in his will, Joshua’s occupation is listed as weaver. According the the website, Germantown was known for producing high-quality linens with the textile industry in that town dating back to the original settlers.

The first church record that I have found for Joshua is an 30th day 11th month 1737 [30 January 1738] entry in the Abington, Pennsylvania Quaker monthly meeting records. It is a complaint against Joshua Delaplane “for marrying contrary to the Rules of the Society.” In other words, he married a woman who was not a Quaker. In the minutes of the meeting the following month he “made acknowledgement of his outgoing in marriage to the satisfaction of the Meeting.” So he appears to have made peace with the Quakers, and they have accepted his marriage so long as he follows Quaker doctrine moving forward. Unfortunately, these records do not name his wife nor do they provide any further information regarding her family or her religious affiliation.

The next church record that mentions Joshua is a December 28, 1751 group baptism record for his wife Maria and children Joshua (age 12), John (age 10), Joseph (age 7) and Hannah (age 1). The baptism is recorded at Augustus Lutheran Church in Trappe, (now Montgomery County), PA. At the time Maria was seriously ill and was said to be on her death bed. Her husband Joshua was described in the record as an English Quaker. Despite the dire nature of her health Maria apparently did recover and have at least two more children. The records of New Hanover Lutheran Church (in current day Gilbertsville, Montgomery County) have a March 9, 1753 baptism for a son James who was born January 16, 1753. And St. Joseph’s Hill Church in Pike Township, (now Berks County)  have an October 3, 1756 baptism for son Jeremiah who was born September 10, 1756.

St. Joseph's Hill Church photo

St, Joseph’s Hill Church, Pike Township, Berks, PA

The last set of church records mentioning Joshua (that I’ve found up to this point) are set of entries in the Exeter, (present day Berks County), Pennsylvania Monthly Meeting notes dated from 28th day 4th month 1757 [28 Jun 1757] to 31st day 8th month 1758 [31 Oct 1758]. According to these records, a certificate was sent from Abington Monthly Meeting transferring Joshua’s membership to Exeter Monthly Meeting. But Joshua never started attending meetings in Exeter. There were also accusations recorded in the Exeter Monthly Meeting notes stating that Joshua’s conduct was “reproachful,” that “he often used wild unseemly expressions,” and “that his children have lately been sprinkled by a priest.” (The sprinkling, of course, refers to the baptisms.) Joshua told the Exeter Friends who were sent to speak to him that “he knew of the Certificate’s being come, but that Abington Friends having used him ill in refusing him some assistance when his Family were much indisposed and in want” and that he “would not come to Meeting here until he had spoke with them.” He indicated that he may start coming to the Exeter meetings if he got some satisfaction from the Abington Friends. Apparently that never happened and testimony was read against him and he was officially disowned by the Quakers in 1758.

So what can we make of all this? Well, first, just a bit of general information about Quaker Meetings (as I understand it). There is a hierarchical organization to the Meetings with Preparatory Meetings feeding into Monthly Meetings, feeding into Quarterly Meetings, feeding into Yearly Meetings. At each level the geographic area becomes larger, with Preparatory Meetings being the most local. Monthly Meetings, however, is where most of the business is conducted and where membership certificates are held. If you move out of the jurisdiction of a monthly meeting, a certificate is sent to the monthly meeting that encompasses your new place of residence.

Going back to the marriage reference, it was in the Abington monthly meeting notes where that was mentioned. I have found several references that point to Germantown being part of the Abington Monthly Meeting. So it is conceivable that Joshua was still living in Germantown at his parents home when he married in late 1737 or early 1738.  Joshua’s wife is supposed to be Maria Shelar or Shela according to the Delaplanes of America book – but I have not found any sources to support that being her surname. Based on this record, it seems like the Germantown area would be the best place to look for her family.

It also seems logical that when Joshua says that the Abington Friends refused to assist him when his family was indisposed and in want, he could be referring to the time in late 1751, when his wife Maria was seriously ill and said to be on her death bed. This coincides with the group baptism of Maria and the children. Although Joshua himself was not baptized, he may have “permitted” his wife and children to receive the sacrament because of his disenchantment with the Quakers for not helping him during this time. This is purely speculation unless further records can be found. This could also be about the time the family moved out of Germantown, particularly with James being baptized at New Hanover Lutheran Church in 1753 and Jeremiah at Hill Church in Pike township three years later. The Quakers just may not have tried to transfer his certificate right away.  It is probably worth double checking the Abington Monthly Meeting notes to see if they contain any additional information.

I was actually thrilled to find this set of records. Joshua strikes me as a feisty man who was doing his best to support his wife. Maria apparently had no desire to become a Quaker, and Joshua was left to find a balance between his Quaker upbringing and her beliefs. He appears to have succeeded for a while. But then he perceived the Quakers abandoned him when he needed their support and that became the game changer for him.

7 Generation Family Tree

I am always looking for creative ways to share and display my family history research. Some of my favorites are scrapbook pages, photo books and ancestor photo jewelry. Last summer I was really inspired by the ornate Bechtel Family tree created by Franklin Bechtel Gilbert in the 1860s. (See blog post.) It was at that point that I knew I wanted to create a piece of family tree artwork for my family room wall.

Drawing on inspiration from the Bechtel tree as well as some of the beautiful family trees posted on pinterest, I designed a 6 generation tree in photoshop on a 20×16 canvas. I had it printed and framed and could not be more pleased. My Mom liked it so much that she wanted one as well. The one pictured below is hers. It is similar to mine except that hers is 7 generations. (The extra generation is for her grandchildren.) The ancestor names themselves are the branches.  My Mom and Dad are the represented by the tree trunk and their children and grandchildren are at the base. (Recent generations are blurred for privacy.)


I was so pleased with how these came out that I had to share. My next project is to create ancestor photo collages to hang on either side of the family tree. My family room is becoming my genealogy room!

My Dilliplane Ancestors Through the Lens of Church Records

Lately I’ve been delving into my early Dilliplane/Delaplaine roots, trying to understand what may have motivated the successive generations to move from New Amsterdam (Manhattan) to Germantown, Pennsylvania to the backwoods of what would eventually become Berks County, Pennsylvania. I feel like I am gaining some insight from church records.

First, a little background. My Dilliplane line in America starts with the immigrant Nicholas de la Pleine. He was a French Huguenot (a French Protestant) who left France due to religious persecution and sought refuge in the Netherlands. He didn’t stay there long as he arrived in New Amsterdam, New Netherland prior to 1 Sep 1658. That is the date he married Susanna Cresson. Their marriage was recorded at the Dutch Reformed Church in New Amsterdam.  In his marriage record he is described as being from Bersweer in Vanckryck while his wife Susanna was (originally) from Ryswyck.

Between 1662 and 1681 Nicholas and Susanna had ten children whose baptisms were recorded at the same Dutch Reformed Church.  My ancestor is James. Some say that he is the child born in 1666 and baptized with the name Jean. Others believe he is an eleventh child, an eldest son, born in 1660 — one whose baptism is for some reason not in the records of that church. I can understand both positions and am hoping that additional evidence will eventually be found to help resolve this.

Despite their  affiliation with the Dutch Reformed Church, the family was apparently strongly influenced by the Quakers. According to Wikipedia, Quakers arrived in New Amsterdam in 1657 – around the same time as Nicholas. Keeping in mind that the Dutch Reformed Church was state-sanctioned, Governor Peter Stuyvesant issued edicts against and meted out harsh punishments to the Quakers. There were, however, sympathetic Dutch colonists. By 1663 (just a year before New Netherland was surrendered to England), the Dutch West Indies Company, having been prevailed upon by a Quaker farmer named John Browne, reluctantly ruled that individuals were entitled to practice religious beliefs of their own choosing. Presumably the colonists continued to have religious freedom under English when they took power. I say this because for at least some of the Delaplaines the religion they chose was Quakerism.


The de la Plaine house in Germantown from the 1906 publication “Old Historic Germantown”

By the late 1600s my ancestor James (as well as several of his family) start showing up in Quaker Meeting records. Some of James’ siblings stayed in New York and show up in records there. James, however, removed to Germantown, Pennsylvania, where he became very prominent in the community. For a time he served as coroner and also as baliff. He also donated land for a market and, along with Herman von Bon, built a prison and stocks in 1704. (This latter information comes from William Penn and the Dutch Quaker Migration to Pennsylvania.)

What prompted James to move to Pennsylvania in the first place? Well, in 1681 William Penn gained ownership of land America from the King of England. Penn, himself a Quaker, strove to create an atmosphere of religious freedom and tolerance. He basically recruited colonists to populate his lands from among those who were religiously persecuted in Europe. By the late 1680s the community of Germantown (now part of Philadelphia, but then an outlying settlement about 2 hours distant) was an enclave of Dutch Quakers. James and these men would have been kindred spirits. This could explain his move from New York where the English were beginning to outnumber and overrun the original Dutch settlers.

Through Quaker records we know that James was likely in Germantown by 1686, which is when he donated 5 pounds to the Friends’ Meetinghouse. In 1692 he married a Quaker woman named Hannah Cock. Their marriage took place at the home of John Underhill on Long Island, which is where her family was from.  In those records he is described as being of Pennsylvania, late of New York and son of Nicola. We also know from Quakers records that the children of James and Hannah were educated at the Germantown Friends’ School.

One of those children was Joshua Delaplaine. I’ll pick up with his story in the next Delaplaine/Dilliplane blog post.

Finding the Ancestors of Levi Bectell

One of my long term research goals is to trace all the descendants of my immigrant ancestor Johan George Bechtel who settled near what is now Amity, Berks County, Pennsylvania. So when I was recently asked if Levi Bectell, who died in Utah in 1909, might connect back to my Pennsylvania Bechtels, I naturally wanted to learn more about this man and his ancestors. Here’s what I was able to find.

1898-utahLevi died Saturday, September 25, 1909 in Grantsville, Tooele County, Utah. He was a sheep herder and had been riding his horse to a nearby ranch for supplies when the horse bucked and threw him to the ground. He survived the initial fall and was transported to the town of Grantsville, but died before medical help arrived. This information comes from his obituary, which appeared in the Deseret Evening News on Wednesday, September 29th. It further goes on to say that he was between 60 and 70 years of age and left a wife and seven children.

There is a find-a-grave memorial for Levi which gives his birth year as 1836 and links him to 2 wives and 11 children. Of the 11 linked children on find-a-grave, 5 pre-deceased him. There is no photo of Levi’s grave, but there is one of a generic “Bectell” tombstone with no first names – such as one might find to identify a family plot.  (You may also note that, according to find-a-grave, Levi’s second wife was his step-daughter and that his marriage to her took place before the death of his first wife. My guess is that the dates and relationships are probably correct. His obituary implies that he was of the Mormon faith and given the time period he may have had concurrent wives.)

Using the family composition information provided on find-a-grave, Levi and his wives and children can be found in the censuses as follows: in 1870 they are in Grantsville, Utah, in 1880 in Grouse Creek, Utah, and in 1900 back in Grantsville. These enumerations no doubt represent Levi’s family despite spelling variations (Bectell in 1870 and 1880 and Bechtol in 1900), age variations for Levi (22 in 1870, 33 in 1880 and 63 in 1900) and inconsistencies the place of birth for him and his parents. In 1870 he claims to have been born in Missouri, but in 1880 and 1900 he claims he was born in Illinois. In 1880 he claims both his parents were born in Illinois, but in 1900 he says they were born in Pennsylvania.

So what’s up with all the conflicting and contradictory data? Well, the census data also shows that Levi could not read or write English. This goes a long way toward explaining the spelling variations of his surname. Furthermore, in a newspaper article which appeared in the The Salt Lake Herald on November 7, 1893, Levi said that he did not know his age. He also stated, “I left home when I was a little fellow, and I’ve been around here ever since. I had to walk here when I came — to drive cattle. This town was a good deal smaller then than it is now.” The same article states that Levi lived in the area for 27 years which puts his arrival in the Grantsville area around 1864.

So the challenge, of course, is to find Levi prior to the 1870 census and to attempt to identify his parents. The first step is a search of the 1860 and 1850 censuses, taking into account all the various spellings and misspellings of the surname as well as variations in the given name and/or the use of an initial only.  After evaluating the possibilities the most promising match seems to be the 1860 enumeration of Levi Bextell in Jennings, Crawford County, Indiana. He was aged 13 and born in Kentucky. His parents were John and Elizabeth, both also born in Kentucky. The siblings were Nancy, Elizabeth, Maria and Melinda – all younger.

There are a couple of reasons why this Levi is a promising match to the one who later shows up in Utah. First, the age of 13 corresponds pretty well with the ages given in 1870 and 1880, which were 22 and 33, respectively. And although by 1893 Levi claims to be unsure of his age and by 1900 has aged up to 63, I would tend to give more credence to the ages provided in the earlier censuses. If the age discrepancy truly is a result of him being confused as to his age, I can’t see him thinking he was 22 when he was really 32. I have a much easier time believing the confusion sets in later in life. Additionally,  we see the names Nancy, Elizabeth and Melinda repeated in the names of Levi’s daughters. And while Nancy and Elizabeth are fairly common, Melinda is a little less so – at least in my experience.

Going back to the 1850 census, the family of John, Elizabeth and Levi Bectel are in Jefferson County, Kentucky. Also in the household are 20 year old Squire Bectel and 18 year old Fielding Bectel – possible younger brothers of John or close relatives of some sort.

I spent a couple of days expanding upon this initial research, looking at additional databases on ancestry, familysearch and a couple of other sites. At this point I am fairly certain that the Levi Bectell who died in 1909 in Utah was born about 1846 in Kentucky and was the son of John Beghtol and Elizabeth Collins. As for the Pennsylvania connection, Levi’s grandfather, John Beghtol Sr. was born in Pennsylvania about 1785. While this John may tie into one of the Bechtel families in southern Pennsylvania, he does not appear to tie into my John George Bechtel line.

I have posted a tree on to capture the information I found on Levi, his family and various other related Beghtols with roots in Kentucky and Illinois. I will update it as I come across more information. If you are not a paid subscriber and are interested in this tree, let me know and I will send you an invite to access it.