52 Ancestors Week 2: Challenge

+23 votes

imageReady for Week 2 of the 52 Ancestors challenge?

This will work the same as last year. Each week there will be a prompt for which you'll find an ancestor or relative who matches that prompt and post about them in that week's thread. For examples, check out last year's challenge. See more details for 2019 here and check out the new sister challenge: 52 Photos.

Ready for the week two prompt?

It's ... CHALLENGE.  

From Amy:

What is genealogy without a little challenge? Two ways that you might interpret this prompt is to share an ancestor who was a challenge to find or an ancestor who faced his or her own challenges. 

Share below!

in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (1.7m points)
edited by Eowyn Walker
Can I use the Same ancestor this year that I used last year?  Cuz I don't remember who I used.

How do I add my 52 ancestors 2nd week post? Did it in week one but slept since then. Found it!!

The "Challenge" theme yielded this blog post: Week 2: Challenge - George W. Patrick, the elusive Great-Great-Grandfather

You may find his entry here: George W Patrick

Me too now!

Linn-1261, Matilda Linn Gray, is my great-grandmother.  She is a challenge to me as I have found so little about her.  She died in Arkansas before my mother was born.  Her husband went to live with his three daughters one at a time and shows up in the Census records in their homes.  The name Linn should not be that hard because there are not a lot of them.  I cannot find the maiden last name of her mother, Mahala __________ Gray.  This has been a challenge for me for several years.  The family was around Montgomery County, Indiana and built towns around the Walnut Township.  How do I find the family of Mahala?  The ones I have found died in an epidemic, but I do not know if they are the right ones.

My GG-grandmother has been a thorn in my side for years now. She is my greatest challenge. Even beating out her ancestor who remains parentless since I cannot locate the next generation back. Anyway, her name is Lucinda Shelton [Shelton-4148] and she was born in 1834 in North Carolina, moved to Kentucky and had 5 children. None of us cousins can locate a single marriage for her nor can be find her death or burial records. She remains to this day a challenge to us all who descend from her.
This was last year's 52 Ancestors.  For the current link (it's 'Favorite Photo') go here:


85 Answers

+8 votes
Best answer
My challenge is how to honor people who have been step parents, foster parents, or adoptive parents, without messing up the bio lineage.  I guess we can discuss it in the biography, so perhaps I have answered my own challenge in a way, but there may be more solutions.  

My maternal great grandmother was orphaned in the Civil War.  Her mother died when she was only a year old, and her father died in a prison camp in Corinth, MS.  My great uncle documented a letter that the  father wrote to her foster parents... "Please take care of my child"... They didn't formally adopt her because they received a pension for her due to her father's service, but I believe they were wonderful foster parents.  She didn't know she was "adopted" until she was 15 years old.
by Isara Argent G2G4 (4.6k points)
selected by Pam Dale
+23 votes

Over in Amy's group I talked about the challenge the Legault family had in Haverhill since the death of my 2x great-grandfather, Antoine Legault. The family split in every which way in Haverhill and somehow managed to stay together through all the difficulties and hardships. His wife, Lucy remarried and life went on. What was really hard to read about though was how Antoine and Lucy's youngest child, Oliver was born just months before his father died. 

Immigrants faced hard times and the Legaults were really no exception as Antoine worked in one of the mills of Haverhill. Haverhill was a mill town and as you can imagine the head honchos were all to eager to accept immigrants from every nation into the workforce.

Another challenge from a research standpoint is Domenica Gullo. I really want to crack this brick wall as it's been bugging me. My great-aunt has some DNA matches which go into this branch according to the Leeds Method. Problem is that the trees aren't really helpful. I really need help on that branch.

by Chris Ferraiolo G2G6 Pilot (401k points)
edited by Chris Ferraiolo
+26 votes
My Ager family is the challenge. Why is this the case? This is because my family came from Johnstown, Pennsylvania and there was a flood. My family cannot and may never be able to find Elijah Ager's final resting place because the cemetery it may have been was decimated by the famous flood of the town. More so the records were also lost and any that were found did not have his name in there at all. I will continue my hunt for him but the more research I do the more I feel his stone will never be found. Ager-152 is the profile number.

My second challenge: Campbell-2618 Samuel Campbell. Rumors surround this Campbell. Was his father killed is a religious related skirmish? How do we for sure connect him to the father he is linked with and let alone the son? Campbell's are hard to trace to begin with but this fella could possibly not even be a Campbell from the father as he came over with his mother and her brothers.
by Christine Preston G2G6 Mach 4 (43.0k points)
+29 votes

My maternal grandfather, Ambers Samons was raised by his mother and her husband, Harry Samons. All the sources say her husband is his father - and he has his surname. My grandmother, mother, and all my aunts on that side tell me that Harry was not Ambers' father and that Harry always treated him poorly because he wasn't his biological son. Further, my aunt says his biological father's name was Jack Branham.

Now this all happened in eastern Kentucky, up in the hills. There are several large Branham family's, and at least a couple of Jacks. I think I have it narrowed down to the right candidate via process of elimination. I've done DNA testing, and I have tons of matches with people with roots in that region, including several Branhams. The challenge is this: the old families in that region are highly inter-related and there are several ways I could be related to these people on both sides of my mother's family. 

Also, it's a bit awkward to message people saying - "Hey, I think your grandfather's brother cheated on his wife and knocked up my great-grandmother!" Especially if they can then point out that we're also related several other ways so our match isn't conclusive.

by Thomas Fuller G2G6 Mach 7 (79.1k points)

Not Ambers, but Ambrus

"Kentucky, Vital Record Indexes, 1911-1999," database, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QKH2-789H : 11 February 2018), Ambrus Branham, 1934; citing Birth, Floyd, Kentucky, United States, Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Frankfort.

Mother Fannie

Any help?

My goodness Marion! I think it must be him. The year and mother match. I never found that before. Goes to show how helpful it is to have a different person look for things. I "knew" my grandfather's went by the surname Samons and it never occurred to me to look for records of him as a Branham. Seem sobvious that I should have now.

The index doesn't include much information, I'm going to see if I can find an image somewhere.


edited to add: Ancestry's index of this record includes the whole DOB - it's the same a my grandfather's!
+20 votes
My challenge this year is to see if I can find a connection between my George family and my friends George family, both from Buckinghamshire, England.
by Marion Poole G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
Hi Marion, I've just fallen over the Buckinghamshire parish records are now on Find My Past if that helps
Thanks, all avenues worth investigating.
+23 votes

My "Challenge" ancestor is my 3x great grandmother Phebe Owen.  (Owen-6027)    It was a challenge to identify her.   Phebe died young before ever being recorded by name an a census record.    An out of the way notation on a cemetery census for her son finally helped to identify her.  Phebe's grave wasn't recorded itself in the  cemetery census but  there was a note on her son's entry that he was buried beside this individual.   With her name I was able to find her marriage record.      

by Brandi Morgan G2G6 Mach 1 (18.6k points)
+21 votes
My personal challenge has been finding some of female ancestor's parents. The one I want most is Ruby Foster Babcock (Foster-7755). I recently put up on her profile most of my research notes and I've been getting replies and moving forward, even if sometimes negatively.
by Judy Bramlage G2G6 Pilot (102k points)
+20 votes
The challenge I've chosen is a bit different in that it's self-inflicted. My family have (with very rare exceptions) stayed firmly on this side of the Atlantic, so I chose to adopt an ancestor - another Wilkins whose profile had been orphaned.  

And so I found Dollie Maye (Wilkins-16) and soon discovered she was also known as Dela. I also had my first experience of collaboration and as another member found a merge, so now working with three people’s information. I also learned loads about the American Censuses, what data is included and, compared to the UK, what records are and aren't available. The difference in the questions between the US 1910 and the English 1911 censuses say a lot about our social history – did you go to school, what is the colour of your skin vs how big is your home, are you an imbecile? Interestingly both ask the very personal, but very useful (for us) question, how many children have you had?

They say the past is a foreign country, well for me this is doubly so.
by Alison Wilkins G2G6 Mach 2 (29.7k points)
PS - challenge two

How do you get the link to the profile page in your answers? :)
Go to their profile page, copy the URL, edit your comment, and in that type their name, highlight it, click on the chain above (between the A in the black box and the scene in a clear box) in the URL section page the link from the profile. That's one way...another way is to just page the link into your answer.
thank you!

You are very welcome smiley

+23 votes

Unless you're just interested in the "fantasy' of a massive tree that takes all your lines back to Adam and Eve,wink you've had more than one challenge tracing your ancestors.

My current challenge is my grandmother, Louise Anne I have no idea what her LNAB was. I always thought it was Smith until a DNA test proved she was adopted. 

Besides the new challenge of discovering her birth parents, there was the challenge of "letting go" of the family branch that I presumed to be my ancestors and had researched for years. On top of everything else, they were Smiths which presented its own challenge. laugh She's still connected to them through the adopted child template, but I can't help feeling a bit bereft.

by Deb Durham G2G Astronaut (1.0m points)
+23 votes
My biggest challenge is my whole Serbian branch. Everything about my greatgrandparents is unknown area for me.

Not completely true: I know the birthyear of my greatgreatgrandfather, have it in a book about my granddad's birth town. But that's all I know. :(
by Jelena Eckstädt G2G6 Pilot (615k points)
+21 votes
My biggest challenge is and always has been the Shaules family. We run into a brick wall with my husband's g-g-grandfather https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Shawles-1. Fortunately, one of my husband's distant cousins has worked very hard on this for many years and may have found the hole in the wall. He found that the name had been changed from Chales/Chasles/Charles to Shaules around the early 1800s in Canada. Unfortunately, this cousin https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Dunne-385 died before he completed his work. Now my challenge will be to get access to his information (which appears to slowly be working out) and to get it all into wikitree. What a wonderful accomplishment that will be. And then what will I do for fun???
by Robin Shaules G2G6 Pilot (890k points)
+21 votes

The challenge of settling the western plains of the North America was sometimes too much to endure. 

On the 1900 United States Census, I found Fred Campbell, a cousin, residing in the North Dakota Hospital for the Insane at Stutsman, North Dakota.  What was a bit of a surprise, he wasn’t an inmate, but an employee with the occupation of fireman.  Apparently, a number of the employees lived on the grounds as the first 44 census entries on page one are the employees and their families separated from the rest of the census entries of this enumeration district.

The next page and the following six are also the hospital enumeration district and appear to be the inmates.  But they are not listed as such, instead as “son”, “daughter”, “wife”, “head of household” despite being all part of dwelling/family #1. They also have occupations listed which would appear to be what they did prior to entering the institution.

Curious to learn more, I discovered this in the Wikipedia entry for the North Dakota State Hospital:

“The North Dakota territorial legislature authorized a "hospital for the insane" in 1883. On May 1, 1885, the State Hospital opened, four years before North Dakota was granted statehood. Along with the University of North Dakota , it is the only institution in North Dakota to predate statehood. “   

Turns out there was a condition known as “Prairie Madness” that afflicted European settlers in the nineteenth century which helps explains why one of the first institutions in North Dakota was a mental hospital.  The conditions sound truly terrible for the inmates at times in this site where it is referred to as the Jamestown State Hospital.

My personal challenge is to add Fred, his grandmother and mother to Wikitree.

by Jill Perry G2G6 Mach 4 (41.0k points)
+15 votes
The link to this weeks challenge has not been added to the page where they are listed (only week one is there). Thankfully I found this thread :)
by T Counce G2G6 Mach 6 (63.2k points)
Where are you not seeing it? Thanks!
Eowyn, I think she means the Help pages.

You have the week 1 links for both the ancestor and the photo challenges

But you have not added the week 2 links to the help pages.



PS I like to read the posts for the ancestors challenge, even if I am not actually participating.  LOL

Yes on the help page Help:52 Ancestors. That was the page I bookmarked in case I didn't see a notification in my daily feed (which I didn't).

+16 votes

For week 2 I decided to go with a person who has been a particular challenge to find, the husband of my 4th cousin 5 times removed, Edwin Allen

I wrote about it in my blog, posted it to Facebook on my timeline, in the Allen Genealogy (Closed Group) on Facebook without the tags,  and it's auto posted into my Twitter account

by T Counce G2G6 Mach 6 (63.2k points)
+20 votes

The challenge in my father's ancestry has always been to trace families that were moving with or ahead of the frontier. Jurisdictions change, people move, and, in the case of William Robe, my 3rd great-grandfather, the surname may also have changed. https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Robe-52

I found many traces of William Robe (ca. 1719-1801) in the Monongalia County, Virginia area after 1773, presumably the date he first settled there.  Finding where he came from before that perplexed me for many years.  In those years (1970s to 1990s) I sought him in books and in correspondence and in microfilm records.  In my gut I believed that he came from southern Pennsylvania rather than Virginia, due to the migration patterns of the families his children married into and due to his staunch Presbyterianism. His reputed education and reported connection to the Blair family brought me to study the Fagg's Manor Classical Academy in Chester County, founded by the Rev. Samuel Blair for the education of Presbyterian ministers.

I had my late father and my brother take Y-DNA tests through Family Tree DNA, in about 2008.  They were tested on 37 markers.  I was then contacted by the Robb DNA Project. John Barrett Robb was studying all the Robb families in colonial Pennsylvania and found that the line of Robert Robb of Cumberland and Lycoming Counties, Pennsylvania, had an exact 37/37 match with the descendants of William Robe of Monongalia. This led me to a William Robb, Robert Robb's uncle, of London Grove Township whose son William executed his will in 1746.

Behind this brick wall I see another one.  The challenge now is to find out more about this William Robb and his children, and I don't know where to look and how to evaluate what I might find. He first appears in 1722 on a tax list in New Garden Township. I suspect that he arrived in America shortly before then.

by Margaret Summitt G2G6 Pilot (129k points)
edited by Margaret Summitt
As someone with many ancestors from Ohio, I can completely understand the frontier issue.  It's like the family appeared out of nowhere once they decided to head west.
+18 votes
A big challenge for me is the identity of my great great grandmother.  I only  have a marriage record from Missouri in 1871 that lists her name as E.E. Farmer (Farmer-3898)  I have searched quite a bit but nothing more on her yet.
by Caryl Ruckert G2G6 Pilot (190k points)
+15 votes

Maria Swift Hodges Pillsbury is my challenge ancestor in more ways than one. She was a single mother at age 23 and died at age 34. She has also been a brick wall that I have partially broken through.

In 1850, she is listed as Maria Hodges, age 23 years old and living with Sally Blake, age 73, Nancy Blake, age 52, and Sarah A. Hodges, age 1 in Bennington, Vermont.

According to a letter from her second husband, Isaac Pillsbury, to her granddaughter Olive Pillsbury Traver, Maria was married to Cyrus A. Hodges, the son of Rev. Cyrus Whitman Hodges  when Olive's mother, Sarah Adeline Hodges was born. Apparently, his parents must have been against the marriage for some unknown reason. I have not found any other record of the marriage and in 1850, Cyrus is living with his parents and older brother in Bristol, Vermont. He later moved to Troy, New York, married and had another daughter, Sarah Ella Hodges.

She has been a brick wall for many, with most people in the family (including me) believing her maiden name was Maria Blake. I was able to find Maria Pillsbury buried in the Kinsley Cemetery in Bennington. According to her death record, her father was Herman Swift and mother was Nancy Parker. My supposition at the moment is the Nancy Blake she was living with in 1850 is her mother who had remarried a Blake. Most likely the son of the Sally Blake in the same household.

I am still looking for more information on Herman Swift and Nancy Parker. I would also love to find additional documentation of the marriage  and divorce of Maria and Cyrus Hodges

by Emily Holmberg G2G6 Mach 9 (93.6k points)
+16 votes

My 4x great grandfather Thomas Morton (b. c1770) lived through a time of great challenge. He served on H.M. Medical Staff of the British Army during the Napoleonic Wars where he is listed as an apothecary.  He was working at Portchester Castle in Hampshire on the southern coast when my 3x great grandmother was born in 1807, and so would have been in the front lines of a potential invasion from Napoleon.  However, something happened and he was court-martialed for misappropriation of goods and dismissed from active service in 1809.  But he managed to rejoin the army in the same capacity and served in Portugal and Spain in 1812 during the Peninsular War and later received a pension.  I wonder whether he hid his previous court martial when he went to Spain or whether perhaps it had all been a misunderstanding. Unfortunately he died before the first English census (possibly in 1836), but his widow's entries (with reference to his rank) are in the 1841, 1851, and 1861 censuses.

A final challenge for me is that I still haven't confirmed Thomas Morton's parents, birth date, or death date (and so I should probably look further into some UK military sources).

by Geoffrey Crofton G2G6 (6.7k points)
+15 votes

The  ancestor that is the largest challenge to me is my 6G Grandfather Barnaby Dolman-203  I have been searching for him for about 5 years now. I found him through the births of his children. The only thing I found out about him was his marriage his 3 children and his death. There are no siblings or parents to be found. It is like he never existed before what I have found. There is nothing whatsoever. I had several  family members from England search for me. I used the services of two different professional genealogists. I have even asked some of the wonderful and knowledgeable members here at WikiTree. I have even entertained the idea that the family  moved to England from another country. Nothing. As if he never existed. There isn't even any information on any records that existed that may have been destroyed that pertains to Barnaby. I find more joy out of  searching for my family than anything else that I have tried.  But the challenge may be too great to find Barnaby Dolman. I just do not know what else to do anymore.

by Jerry Dolman G2G6 Pilot (166k points)
edited by Jerry Dolman
Dolman looks to me as a dutch name. I had a quick look and arund the same period as your ancestor there are people with that surname overhere. though Barnaby is not a dutch name. Don't know if you have looked to dutch ancestry?
There are many variants of the name Dolman. in England it was Doleman. I have not checked out the Dutch name. I have checked out England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany and according to my DNA I have ancestors in Finland.   The name Doleman was first seen in Yorkshire in the 1200's

The names that we researched are Dolman, Dollman, Doleman, Dolmen, D*hlman, Do*lman, Dole and Doll.

According to what I have read tonight, the Holland name is spelled  Dolman and is a protestant name. I know people and families change Denominations over time but because it said it is a Protestant name, it is worth a look into.

Barnaby appears to be an English name and I have searched the name in Great Britain, France and Spain.
First name(s) Barnaby
Last name Dollman
Death year -
Burial year 1774
Burial date 04 Feb 1774
Denomination Anglican
Place Keynsham
County Somerset
Country England
Document type Parish records
Page -
Archive Somerset Archives
Archive reference D/P/ KEYN 2/1/4
Event type Baptisms & burials
Year range 1751-1807
Record set Somerset Burial Index
Category Life Events (BDMs)
Subcategory Parish Burials
Collections from England, Great Britain
Thank you Marion. Do you have information on Barnaby's life? I have nothing pertaining to his birth. We have an estimated birth. We  need birth, parents or siblings. I have not seen any other profile on my tree that has been so elusive as Barnaby, There is nothing. Nothing! Thanks fr what you did.
Sorry Jerry, that’s all I found.
Marion, don't be sorry. You did well. It is appreciated. ::o)
+14 votes


My challenge is my grandfather, Bishop Marvin Smith, for several reasons.

  • People think he was a Bishop, but that is his real first name.
  • Mother's maiden name was Floyd
  • She marries James Smith in 1878
  • My grandfather was born in 1882
  • In 1893 My g-great grandmother marries Nathaniel Floyd.
  • In the 1900 census grandpa's name shows as Smith, is crossed out and then shows as Floyd.
  • Marries my grandmother in 1916.
  • Grandfather's last name is now shown as Smith in the 1930 Census.
  • At his death in 1966, a completely different family shows up - wife and children that my father and his 7 siblings is unaware of.

None of either family was aware of the other family.They are from Kentucky, and my grandfather moved to Illinois in 1940.

This is a challenge that I have been trying to solve for over 30 years. I have only been on WikiTree since May, 2018 and hope that 2019 will be the year that I solve this challenge.

by Cheryl Hess G2G Astronaut (1.5m points)
I know your pain, I have been going through a very similar challenge in trying to find information on my G-Grandfather Frank Martin. It has been a few and far between when I find any information.
Good Luck Dean in breaking through in 2019.

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