Thursday, January 31, 2013

Connecting the Family of JOHN VAN ARSDALE of Harrison County, Indiana, with the FENTON & VAN ARSDALE / VAN ARSDALEN Family of Bucks County Pennsylvania

You know, sometimes one photo really IS worth a thousand words!

I have been working steadily on documenting the family of my gg grandmother NANCY VAN ARSDALE for over a decade now. She was born March 31, 1828 Harrison Co IN, married ELI BRANSON FRAZIER, a Quaker, of Thorntown, Boone Co IN and Bangor, Marshall Co Iowa.

I started out with only a Van Arsdale family story / legend which indicated that NANCY’s father was born in Pennsylvania, and her mother was born in Virginia.  There were a lot of other details in the story: NANCY & two sisters HARRIET & MARGARET were the only survivors of a typhoid epidemic which wiped out the entire rest of their family;  they were subsequently raised by an “Aunt D” (actually it was the cholera epidemic of 1832, but the three girls were indeed the only survivors of their family and I did eventually find their “Aunt D” );  NANCY was bound out at a young age in Indiana to a “Squire Craven” (never found him); their grandfather was JACOB VAN ARSDALE  whose parents died on the ship coming over from Holland ( not true), and NANCY was born in Elizabethtown, Hardin Co KY (not true, their homestead was  near Corydon, Harrison Co IN, and according to records, they had no connection whatsoever to Elizabethtown KY). 

NANCY VAN ARSDALE was the daughter of SIMON VAN ARSDALE born about 1796 Bucks County Pennsylvania.  His wife was NANCY WALKER, who was born about 1795 in Rockbridge Co VA; they married on  Sept 21, 1814 at the Corydon courthouse in Harrison Co IN. NANCY WALKER’s family was living in New Washington, Clark Co IN, from which Harrison Co was formed.

Old Courthouse, Corydon, Harrison Co IN as it looks today
(photo 2011 by James Tartas)

Eventually a kind person sent me a photo of the original will of SIMON VAN ARSDALE, which was written May 3, 1828 Corydon, Harrison Co IN and signed by his father JOHN VAN ARSDALE.  The will was proved on May 5, 1828, so SIMON died very shortly after making his will. 

I recognized at once that  JOHN was SIMON's father because he was so much older than both SIMON VAN ARSDALE & JACOB VAN ARSDALE in the 1820 Harrison Co IN census.  They were all living adjacent to each other.  JOHN could not have been a brother. 

Which led me to start searching in Pennsylvania for JOHN or JAN VAN ARSDALE.  And it appeared that the only branch of the New Amsterdam/ New York VAN ARSDALE / VAN ARSDALEN family to settle in Pennsylvania was the family of SIMON JANSE VAN ARSDALEN & his wIfe JANNETJE “JANE” ROMEYN . He died in Southampton Bucks County Pennsylvania, in 1766, according to his will.  All of his children remained in Bucks County Pennsylvania.

His son SIMON SIMONSE VAN ARSDALE born April 18, 1726 married ELSJE KROESEN and lived in Southampton twp, Bucks County PA.  They had a son JOHN/JAN VAN ARSDALEN born Sept 14, 1766.

Here’s where my search began to get interesting.  Living in Bensalem, Bucks Co PA around the time of the Revolution was a young couple MATTHIAS FENTON & his wife RACHEL HARDINGRACHEL came from a Quaker family and was orphaned with her sister MARTHA HARDING  in 1768; neither of them married Quakers, or stayed with the Quaker church.  Unfortunately, according to Orphan Court records, both MATTHIAS & RACHEL (HARDING) FENTON  died in 1781, leaving four underage orphaned children: JOSEPH FENTON, THOMAS HARDING FENTON, MARY FENTON and MARTHA FENTON.

Three of these four orphaned children married children of SIMON SIMONSE VAN ARSDALE & ELSJE KROESEN in Bucks County PA.

JOSEPH FENTON married MARY VAN ARSDALEN  Sept 25, 1795 Bucks Co PA; he died 1822

THOMAS HARDING FENTON married ELIZABETH VAN ARSDALEN  no marriage date, but I did find records in Bucks Co PA Orphans’ Court proving this family. THOMAS died in 1815, and all his children were underage at the time.

**MARY FENTON married JOHN VAN ARSDALEN  Aug 17, 1795 Bucks Co PA; no record of them in Bucks Co PA after 1800 census.  The first Indiana record for JOHN is an 1810 territorial census.

(MARTHA FENTON married JOHN SMITH April 7, 1800 Bucks Co PA)

So how to prove that JOHN VAN ARSDALE & MARY FENTON were the parents of my ggg grandfather SIMON VAN ARSDALE who died 1828 in Harrison Co IN?  The circumstantial evidence began to pile up...

--JOHN VAN ARSDALE son of SIMON SIMONSE VAN ARSDALEN & ELSJE KROESEN seems to disappear after 1800 census in Bucks Co PA--although he is mentioned in his mother's 1810 will in Bucks Co PA.  I have yet to find the full text of that will. 

--I have ferreted out all the other descendants of SIMON JANSE VAN ARSDALEN & JANNETJE ROMEYN with the name “JOHN VAN ARSDALEN” living in Bucks Co PA during the time period in question and discounted them all, using census, wills & other sources, such as Bucks Co PA Orphans’ Court records.  None of the others of that name ever left Bucks Co PA.

--SIMON JANSE VAN ARSDALEN,  his son SIMON SIMONSE VAN ARSDALEN, MATTHIAS FENTON & DERRICK KROESEN  were all slave owners, according to tax records and their wills.  I believe this was fairly unusual for those of Dutch extraction, especially if they were members of the Dutch Reformed Church. Apparently few other branches of the VAN ARSDALEN family were slave owners.  

A punitive tax (supported by the Quakers ) was levied on slave owners in Bucks Co PA in 1782, and all slaves had to be registered.  Slavery was abolished completely in Pennsylvania by 1830.

The curious thing is this:  JOHN VAN ARSDALE, SIMON VAN ARSDALE & JACOB VAN ARSDALE of Harrison Co IN all owned slaves in the 1820 census.  It's impossible to know if they were the same slaves (or their descendants) who were named in the 1766 will of SIMON SIMONSE VAN ARSDALEN

So. The final clincher, the ultimate proof,  came to hand a few days ago.  While researching the extended FENTON family in Bucks Co PA, I came across a photo on of MARY ANN FENTON born 1804 who married ABRAHAM HOGELAND.  She was the daughter of THOMAS HARDING FENTON & ELIZABETH VAN ARSDALEN of Southampton twp, Bucks Co PA, and, if I’m correct,  was a double first cousin of SIMON VAN ARSDALE, father of my gg grandmother NANCY VAN ARSDALE.  When I compared the two photos side by side, and focused on the shape of their mouths & noses,  I nearly fainted!

Nancy Van Arsdale Frazier, photo taken 1890s

Mary Ann Fenton Hogeland, photo taken about 1860

For more information on these families, or to see my documentation, check out my public tree "Ancestors of Alonzo Cox Huber" on

The same tree is on  "Ancestors of Alonzo Cox Huber"

Have a great day!


© Betty Tartas  2013

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

23andMe for Newbies: Using 23andMe’s Ancestry Composition Tool

First, Choose "Ancestry Composition" from the menu left side of the 23andMe webpage.

When you first go to this page, you will see a round map illustration with a blue bar graph surrounding it, and a list of percentages on right hand side of page.  

At top of page, there are four pull-down menus:  one saying “Map View”, next saying “Global Resolution”, another with your name, and a fourth saying “Standard Resolution”.

If you check out the “Map View” menu first, you will see that there are three choices:  Map View, Split view, and Chromosome view.  

--Map view is the round map with bar graph, which you see when you first open the page.  It shows you exactly where on the map your ancestors came from.

--Split view is only for those who have had both parents tested; it will show which parent provided which ethnic ancestry. Since I don’t qualify for this feature, I can’t really comment on it.

--Chromosome view (my favorite) shows you a visual representation of 22 pairs of chromsomes plus two X chromsosomes if you are female and one X chromsome if you are male. 

This features shows you the location on each chromosome of your ethnic background, represented by different shades of blue.  For instance, in my case, I have Scandinavian ancestry (dark blue), located on one of the pairs of chromosome 1 and on one of the pairs of chromosome 5.  

This feature will eventually be incredibly helpful when comparing two individuals for genealogy.  For instance, if you have three people showing Native American ancestry on a certain location of chromosome 3, and you have Native American ancestry on that location and also match those individuals, then it’s likely that you all received the Native American ancestry from the same ancestor!  

At the moment, we only have a visual chromosomal representation from 23andMe.  I’m hoping in the future there will also be a numeric representation, or a way to show which of our Relative Finder contacts are matching on a particular segment in the Ancestry Composition view.

The second button called “Global Resolution”  also has three settings, Global Resolution, Regional Resolution and Sub Regional Resolution, the last one showing the most specific information on ethnic ancestry, as it is currently known.

The third button has your name on it.  It’s a pull-down menu that shows every one you  have shared DNA with on 23andMe, those who are in your Genome Sharing list (see menu, left side of page under “Sharing & Community”.

With this feature, it is possible to view the Ancestry Composition of any person who has accepted your invitation to share.

The fourth button “ Standard Estimate”  also has three settings:  Standard, Speculative & Conservative Estimate.   

If I look at the Chromosomal View, Sub Regional Resolution, and Standard Estimate, these are the percentages I get on the right hand side of the page:

99.8%  European

--Northern Europe

16.7% British & Irish
1.8% Scandinavian
0.7% French & German
69.1% Non Specific Northern European (in my case Dutch, Belgian, Swiss, Welsh, Scottish)

--Southern European

0.4% Italian
0.5% Non Specific Southern European (in my case possibly Romanian or Greek)

--10.6% Non Specific European

0.2% Unassigned

This seems to be fairly accurate, from my own genealogical research, but the percentages seem a bit off.  However, when I move to the Speculative Estimate, the percentages seem much more in line with my research:

100% European

--Northern European

48.8% British & Irish
10.2% French & German
4.5% Scandinavian
33.8% Non Specific Northern European (in my case Dutch, Belgian, Swiss, Welsh & Scottish)

--Southern European

1.3% Italian 
0.5% Non Specific Southern European (possibly Romanian or Greek)

less than 0.1% Ashkenazi (can’t explain that one)

0.6% Non Specific European.

Now why aren’t all European regional groups represented, such as Dutch & Scottish?  Partially it is because 23andMe is using information from it’s Ancestry Finder (under Ancestry Labs, menu left side of the webpage).  All populations are not yet represented, or there is not enough data to clearly delineate them.  I’m uncertain whether or not they use other sources, but I would guess that they would. That may be a question that could be posed on one of the forums on 23andMe.

Native American ancestry is clearly shown on 23andMe.  It you have any Native American DNA at all back five generations, it will clearly show up!

Have a great day!


© Betty Tartas  2013

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Tips for Newbies on 23andMe

NOTE in April 2013, 23andMe completely changed the format of their website, so much in this post is already redundant.  Betty T

Since so many friends & relatives have recently decided to get their DNA tested with 23andMe, I thought it might be time to go over a few tips to help make the experience a smooth one!

1)  MAKE SURE YOUR NAME IS ON YOUR PROFILE.  To access your profile, click on link "My Account" in the upper right hand of the webpage. It's a pull-down menu. Choose "My Profile".  The first item is your name. Do not remove your name.  You would not believe how many people remove their names, thinking that this might preserve their privacy in some way!  What it does instead is make you completely invisible to anyone else on 23andMe.  No one can find you, no one can invite you to share & compare DNA.  If you signed on to 23andMe for genealogical purposes, this is NOT what you want!!!

2) MAKE SURE YOUR NAME IS SEARCHABLE  Once you are on your profile page, and see your name as first item, look to the right hand side.  You will see a pull down menu that says either "Only my connections" or "All of 23andMe".   You should choose " All of 23andMe".  Some people may choose the first because they are  concerned about privacy issues, but remember, this is a private website, and the total number of 23andMe members right now is about 150,000 people who had to pay to join the website.  No one outside of the 23andMe community can access your profile information via the Internet.  

Choosing "only my connections" makes sense for underage children, disabled family members,  or people who are interested only in 23andMe's health results, and don't want to share for genealogy purposes.  

3) ADD SURNAMES & LOCATIONS WHERE YOUR ANCESTORS LIVED on the same profile page as above.  At the minimum, put in the surnames & locations of your grandparents.  If you have the time & inclination, put in the surnames & locations back to your gg grandparents--five generations.  Any information that you add will be helpful!   

However--it might be a good idea to leave off your full birthdate. 

4) BE SURE TO FILL OUT THE “WHERE ARE YOU FROM” SURVEY  This asks you for the birth locations of your parents & grandparents.  The information you provide helps 23andMe with their Ancestry Composition tool.

5) WHERE DO I FIND PEOPLE WHO SHARE MY DNA?   That would be on your Relative Finder, which you can find in the menu at the left hand side of the webpage.  It gives you a list of all the people whom you match on 23andMe. At the moment, I have over 1200 matches.  Only a few are close family members.  If you have Ashkenazi,  Colonial New England or Colonial Virginia roots, expect a lot of matches. 

You can invite your Relative Finder matches to share & compare DNA via the links on the right side of the Relative Finder webpage.  You will also see Public Matches, people who have opted to make their entire profile public on 23andMe (as I did).  You can invite them as well.

Another way to find people who share DNA is to use the search box at top left of the webpage.  If you are looking for a specific surname, the results will show all the people on 23andMe who either have that surname or have listed it in their surname list. You can click on their profile and invite them to share. 

6) MY RELATIVE FINDER MATCH ACCEPTED MY INVITATION!  HOW DO I COMPARE OUR DNA?  23andMe has two different tools for comparing DNA.  The quick & easy way to compare yourself with your Relative Finder matches is to use "Family Inheritance", which is in the menu at left side this page under Sharing & Community.

If you click on that link you will get a visual representation of 22 chromosomes plus X chromosome. Your name will be at the top on one side in a pull down menu, and there will be another pull down menu on the other side. There you can chose the name of the person you want to compare. If you actually share DNA with the person, there will be a light blue mark on at least one of the chromosomes--with close relatives there will be LOTS of blue marks! Very close relatives like parents or siblings will share both light blue marks (half identical) and dark blue marks (fully identical). Only identical twins will have all dark blue on every chromosome--showing that their DNA is fully identical!

For a more in-depth comparison, you can use “Family Inheritance Advanced”, which is included in “Ancestry Labs”,  under “My Ancestry” in the menu left side this page.

There you can also get a either a visual representation or a numeric representation of the chromosomal location where the DNA match occurs. To get the numeric representation, you have to click on the link that says "view in a table". 

The cool thing about “Family Inheritance Advanced” is that you can compare yourself to more than one person at a time.  This becomes important as you get more & more matches, or add close relatives. 


--23andMe tests only autosomal DNA, which is accurate back 5 generations. The matches can be from either the maternal or paternal side of your family.

--It is entirely possible to share ancestors with others and yet no DNA. This is especially true with 4th cousins--distant cousins.

--It is entirely possible for one sibling to share DNA with a Relative Finder match, and another sibling to share absolutely none!  Such is the random nature of DNA.

--Do not decline an invitation to share & compare DNA simply because the other person does not list any familiar surnames, or has a different haplogroup than you do. It is entirely possible that the person inviting you does not have a complete family tree (who does?) or that the match is through a collateral family line of which neither of you may be aware.  

Haplogroups are interesting only in an anthropological sense, and have little relevance to more recent genealogy.  The only exception to this is the Y-DNA haplogroups of males with the same surname.

Next post will be about using 23andMe’s Ancestry Composition tool.

Have a great day!


© Betty Tartas  2013

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Comparison of the Three Major DNA Testing Websites for Genealogy

I have tested with all three of these companies and offer my comparison and critique here:
Cost:  $99

What you get:   Ethnicity/Ancestry Composition Graph & map, and a list of matches from  within the ranks of Ancestry users based on your autosomal DNA.

Pros:  You get to see a lot of users’ online trees, from people with whom you share DNA.  Ancestry has a large amount of users, so you will get plenty of matches.

Cons:  The Ethnicity report was incorrect in my case, in comparison with the other two testing websites and my own documented research (several other people reporting this on other websites);  you do not get to see the exact chromosomal location of your matches;  you are not able to compare two matches with each other  or with another family member.  Also info on online trees can be inaccurate. 

Conclusion:  Results not nearly as sophisticated as the other two testing companies, and in my opinion, not worth the money.

Cost:  $99

What you get:   an autosomal test which reveals your mitochrondrial DNA haplogroup for females and/or your Y DNA haplogroup if you are a male; Health Risk results; a list of matches in your Relative Finder from within the ranks of 23andMe users;  an Ancestry Composition tool which shows both map & chromosomal location of your ethnicity (results based on current knowledge), 2 DNA comparison tools which allow you to see the exact location of match on chromosomes; Neanderthal DNA percentage tool;  and more.

Pros:  Gives your maternal  DNA haplogroup if female and both maternal/paternal if you are male; has DNA comparison tools which allow you to not only compare yourself to your matches, but to compare your matches with each other.  One of them allows up to four people to be compared.  Allows family members to be on the same profile (parents, siblings, etc); The new Ancestry Composition tool gives very detailed info on ethnicity, especially in the chromosomal view. Website is entirely searchable, so you can run searches on surnames or find relatives & friends who you know have been tested.  The company has vowed to keep the price low and increase the number of testees on the website.  Worldwide users, so you may get matches overseas.

Cons:  Health results are dubious sometimes because so little knowledge exists as to genetic causes of diseases; many people are only interested in the Health results and will decline or never respond to invitations to share; many people put absolutely no information on their profiles, not even a surname; many have no clue about their own family history;  23andMe’s new family tree tool is still not working properly; website can be confusing at first, and often requires explaining by longstanding members;  company has had a very wonky business model in the past, with poor record for customer service & dealing with complaints.

Conclusion:  The recent price drop and upgrades to the website have made it one of the more sophisticated and accessible testing companies.  The new Ancestry Composition tool seems to be the best & most accurate out there! 

Family Tree DNA
Cost:      Varies; $289 for “Family Finder” their basic autosomal test;   $89 to transfer results from 23andMe;   Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA tests have several levels, prices ranging from about $300--$600

What you get:   Depends on which test you take;  Family Finder autosomal gives ethnic composition (accurate), a list of matches from within the ranks of Family Tree DNA users, a DNA comparison tool which allows you to see the exact chromosomal location of the match;  and a tool which allows you to compare matches with other matches.

Y DNA and mitrochodrial tests also give you a list of matches, and the same tools, plus more.  A complete list of mutations  of your haplogroup is included.  The haplogroups on this website have been updated with the new RSRS comparison system, developed in 2012 by Dr Doron Behar, et al.

Pros:  Family Tree DNA is closely aligned with the scientific community and tends  to be very accurate;  users can donate their results for scientific research; website allows users to upload a family tree so that others can view; all the users are on this website because of an interest in genealogy; match results are searchable by surname; website hosts surname & Y DNA/ M DNA projects so that people can compare results. The ability to upload 23andMe’s results to Family Tree DNA is great--allows one to expand the number of matches to compare.

Cons:  Website can be confusing or difficult to navigate (they are working on this);  Y-DNA and mitochondrial results sometimes difficult to understand w/o further reading on the science behind the test; more expensive than the other testing sites; have to pay extra to find out haplogroups; many users never respond to queries or emails;  very small base of users in comparison to the other testing sites.  I have been contacted only once by a Family Tree DNA user.  Jim has never been contacted.

Conclusion:  definitely has it’s merits, but the price tag tends to put people off.

Have a great day!


© Betty Tartas  2013

Friday, January 11, 2013

A Friend of Friends Friday: African American Slaves Named in the 1839 Will of GROVES HOWARD Noxubee County, Mississippi

Note: "A Friend of Friends" was a password used on the Underground Railway

GROVES HOWARD was born Nov 5, 1775 in probably Virginia, and died May 21, 1831 in Noxubee Co Mississippi.  He lived for at least part of his adult life in Caswell Co NC.  He was the son of HENRY HOWARD who died Jan 26, 1796 Person Co NC (formed from Caswell) and PRISCILLA FARRAR who married 2nd) to Capt ADAMS SANDERS/SAUNDERS, who was a cousin of my ancestor JAMES SANDERS/SAUNDERS Sr who settled near Hillsborough in the area that would become Caswell & Person Co NC. 

GROVES HOWARD married LUCY MERIWETHER Dec 27 1802; she may have been his 2nd wife.

Page 22 Will Book 1, Noxubee County. Date of will 9 May 1839; filed . 
Being of feeble health and knowing the uncertainty of human life and wishing to settle up my affairs, I now proceed to make this my last will and testament. 
No. I - I give and bequeath unto my son THOMAS M. HOWARD the tract of land on which I reside & all the additions made to it from time to time, but with the provision that my wife shall hold her deserved (?) own right in the same umempared [sic] in any way by the above bequest.
No. 2 - I give and bequeath unto my two grandsons, N. W. (?) CHAMBERS and WILLIAM F. CHAMBERS, a Negro girt named USLEY.
No. 3 - I give and bequeath unto my beloved wife the following named Negros, being eleven in number. Viz, MARY, HENRY, SIMS, ESTER, JOHN, ADAIN, PATRICK, QUEEN, PAUL, GEORGE, and PAUL, the husband of MARY.
No. 4 - All the rest and residues of my estate I wish equally divided- between my children.
No. 5 - The equal portion of the above residue, which would go to my daughter NANCY HENRY GHOLSON who is now dead, I hereby will and bequeath unto her seven children to be equally divided among them.
No. 6 - I hereby appoint my sons FRANCIS M. HOWARD and ROBERT HOWARD my executors. In evidence that this my true and last Will I hereby set my and seal this ninth day of May in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty nine.

Witness: W.Q. Poindexter, W.F. Steward, James Glass. 

GROVES HOWARD's son ROBERT HOWARD who married SARAH HARVIE GILMER also owned many slaves in Noxubee County Mississippi; in 1840 census ROBERT is listed with 84 slaves;  in 1850 Noxubee Co MS slave census he owned 64 slaves;  he died 1859 in Holmes County Mississppi, and the census record shows that his estate, SARAH HOWARD executrix,  owned 64 salves in 1860.  Unfortunately I have not been able to obtain the names of those 64 slaves.

Happy New Year!  And have a great day!


© Betty Tartas  2013