52 Ancestors Week 1: Fresh Start

+27 votes

52 Photos and 52 Ancestors sharing bacgesTime for the first 52 Ancestors challenge of 2020!

Please share with us a profile of an ancestor or relative who matches this week's theme:

Fresh Start

Share below!

Participants who share every week can earn badges. If this is your first time participating and you don't have the participation badge, or if you pass a milestone (13 in 13, 26 in 26, 52 in 52) let us know hereClick here for more about the challenge. 

in The Tree House by Eowyn Langholf G2G Astronaut (1.5m points)
So are you making any images for the 2020 challenges Eowyn?

Images that we can place on our profiles?
yahoo!  Thanks Eowyn!
Eowyn, I still need the badge for 2019 for the 52 Ancestors.  Thank you, Cheryl

This is my first ever 52 Ancestors filing.  I thought I would start with my maternal grandfather, https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Kerkhoff-16    Johnston “Jack” Kerkhoff.  He was a reporter and columnist for the Detroit Free Press and then a NYC newspapers from the 1920’s through the 1950’s.  He was also a novelist, writing books on Aaron Burr, Alfred Dryfeus and his own emotional breakdown where he was able to get a fresh start on his life.  A couple of playrights are now putting his book, How Thin The Veil, 1956., in play form.  Maybe it will help others get a good restart.


Hello Lynn, Jack's emotional complexity may also be responsible for his artistic abilities. In the last few decades this topic has been well explored by scholars and writers supporting this thesis. There was an excellent piece about this in The New Yorker a few years back I wish I'd saved so I could share it with you.
Yes...the family understands this very well.  Others have suffered the same fate..not quite so severe as Jack.  Thank goodness for modern medicine and antidepressants for some of them.  Jack didn’t have that benefit.  However, with modern medicine, the creativity gets lost.  It is an hereditary in one line of my mothers family.
This is my fist time to participate in anything on WikiTree.  I am VERY unsure about all of this, but also excited.
How do I post my info here in these challenges?

67 Answers

+20 votes

My great great grandfather Thomas Adams Stephens was born and raised in Plymouth, Devon, England. He married Ellen Bickham and they had 4 children. But Ellen died in 1900, and Thomas needed a mother for his children.

He married Maria Marshall Harley in 1901 just after that years census. In 1905 the family decided to make a FRESH START by moving to New Zealand.

Thomas and Maria had 5 children together - so he had a total of 9 children, that I know of, so far.  I am descended from Fernleigh Stephens, the youngest child from his first marriage.
by Robynne Lozier G2G6 Pilot (703k points)
PS Eowyn, Do I get the 2020 52 Ancestors Participation badge?

Pretty please? I know you are busy!!
+26 votes

My grand aunt Nora Long certainly made a fresh start.Nora left the family western Oklahoma farm and hitchhiked to Kansas City and danced in Vaudeville Shows. She lived with us during 1965-66, and I loved hearing about her career. This is a 1929 program with her on the cover.

by Alexis Nelson G2G6 Pilot (138k points)
Did you inherit that or find it?  Amazing!
It was in my grand aunt Ruth’s scrapbook book along with the photo of Nora that shows this is her on the cover. I left the scrapbook with my family that likely threw everything away. The one thing I remember that was in the scrapbook book were two badges that my great grandfather wore to land run reunions that said “I made the run”. I sure wish I had taken one, because it would have been treasured. Thank you SJ for your nice comment.
Your aunt was adorable Alexis thank You for sharing
Thank you Susan for your sweet comment. I loved her so very much; she had an amazing qualities of kindness and understanding.
+13 votes
I am posting for 52 Ancestors on one of my blogs this year and will post my link here when I have published. This is my first week as I did not participate in 2019.
by Hilary Gadsby G2G6 Mach 7 (74.2k points)
+19 votes

I didn’t make it past 6 last year but I’m gamely going to try to at least get to 13 this year. Helen Brown Greenlees, https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Brown-74955 my 2nd cousin 3x removed left Scotland in tears with her children.  Her husband was meant to go with her but the law had caught up with him. Bad crops and high taxes had put him in debt. 

When she arrived in New York low and behold her husband was at the dock waiting for her. He had escaped and taken a faster ship. They went on to Illinois to found the Scottish Settlement in Argyle. https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Space:Scottish_Immigrant_Settlement_in_Winnebago_Illinois

by Joelle Colville-Hanson G2G6 Mach 7 (71k points)
What a wonderful story!
+19 votes

My first 52 posting. Mine is less savoury character but an interesting side story. Back in 2016 I got an email via Ancestry from a young lady in NZ who was trying to find information about her great grandfather Frederick Joseph Hale. Ancestry kept hinting at a connection with Frederick Padwick in my Ancestry tree; exactly how Ancestry detected this is still unclear to me. Padwick married my 2nd great aunt and had two daughters with her. Said Mr. Hale arrived in NZ aboard a dredge about 1919 and changed his name to Hall. "He also told her [my correspondent's grandmother and his daughter] that he was from County Cork, Ireland (although he had an English accent) but there would be no record of his birth because the registry was blown up?, he said had a brother Augustus who was sunk during the war, another brother who was snippered in the trenches and a mother named Caroline." Most of this was complete fabrication. Ancestry has his Army records, and the medical report includes a description of his very distinctive tattoos. His daughter remembered them which clinched the identification. He left his wife and daughters in England, and married in NZ.

by Chris Hampson G2G6 Pilot (101k points)
Rough breaks but I do love it when some sleuthing closes the case!
+17 votes


My maternal grandfather has two fresh starts. First he left England for a fresh start in the United States, and later, after several years of farming, had a second fresh start when he went to seminary and became a Baptist minister.

by Richard Rosenberger G2G6 (6.6k points)
Hurrah for him...  my husband is a minister as well.
+20 votes

I ordered up an Autosomal DNA test kit for my father and in doing so, I've been able to "look back" another generation.  He has far more matches than I do and I've been able to get closer to breaking the brick wall on our Baty family patriarch.

And in about 1 hour I discovered that my 5th great grandfather John Leffel is a Revolutionary War patriot ancestor.  I had known that John's father Baltazar Leffel (my 6x great-grandfather) was recognized as a RW patriot ancestor but I did not know about John.  I added John to my profile (he's the 14th Revolutionary War ancestor I've documented to date) and then looked again at Baltazar's profile.

This fresh start allowed helped me to discover that Baltazar's parents and his grandfathers were also documented; I subsequently created profiles for them.  I was able to see the original German birth certificates with my own eyes.

A fresh start indeed!

by SJ Baty G2G6 Pilot (767k points)
Wow! SJ if I had your ancestors I would need a DAR pin with strip magnets on the back.
+22 votes

This will be my first time participating.  Perhaps I'll make it to 52!  


My 2nd great grandfather, Carl Johan Göthe, came to the United States from Sweden in 1865 for a fresh start, becoming Charles John Goethe.  He lived briefly in Illinois, then Missouri before coming to his final home, Kansas.  He married Vendla Sophia Johnson (Johansdotter when she left Sweden) in 1870 and they had six children.  Daughter Laura Elvira is my great-grandmother and who I'm named for.  

He was one of my major brick walls until I joined Wikitree and the truly amazing people of the Sweden project taught me how to use Swedish records and helped me find his wife.

by Laurie Miller G2G5 (5.8k points)
Welcome aboard Laurie, we hope you make all 52!  Glad to hear that you were able to break the brick wall on your fresh start ancestor!
+17 votes

Math. Science. History. Unraveling the mystery. It all restarted with a big bang: https://allroadhaverhill.blogspot.com/2020/01/52-ancestors-week-1-fresh-start.html

How I restarted my genealogical adventure. Thanks go out to several Wikipeeps! 

by Chris Ferraiolo G2G6 Pilot (285k points)
Great post Chris.

I see you have a Coppola ancestor... You've probably been asked this before - but are you related to Nicolas Cage's family?
Thanks! I am probably not. Would be cool, though. Alas Coppola is a very common last name.
+16 votes

My first 52 posting , I would like to receive the 52 Ancestors badge for 2020. 


My fresh start is my grandmother who moved with her parents and sisters to Los angeles, Califorina before 1925. They got there by train as her father at this time was working for the railroad.

by Jennifer Robins G2G6 Mach 2 (25.4k points)
edited by Jennifer Robins
+16 votes

I am happy to start this challenge again.  Fresh start.  The life of my great great grandfather Perry Lewis Showalter  included one fresh start after another.  He was born in Roanoke, Virginia in 1848, migrated to Illinois by 1850 on to Kansas before he finally settled in California by 1893. 

by Caryl Ruckert G2G6 Pilot (179k points)
+17 votes

I was inspired to write this biography for my great-great-grandfather Charles Theriault.  https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Theriault-1050

Charles Theriault was born in L'Isle-Verte, Québec in 1837.  He left his home parish to work in the forestry industry in Madawaska County in New Brunswick and married his wife Sophie Emery in St-François, New Brunswick in 1863.  They baptized children in that parish until 1869, but their daughter Marie Hattie was born in  Fort Kent, Maine in 1871.  It is difficult to determine exactly when the family started living in Fort Kent.  The 1900 US Census reports that Charles arrived in the US in 1870

Charles' older brother François moved to Caribou, Maine in 1870 and Charles eventually joined him there.  The family was in Caribou in 1880 and the youngest son Ulysses was born there in 1884.  Charles and Sophie were still residing in Caribou in 1900, but without any of their children.  

They ultimately joined their youngest son Ulysses who had moved to Wallagrass, Maine at the turn of the century.  His wife Sophie died in their son's home in 1906 and Charles passed away there in 1925.  His life was a chain of moves and fresh starts.

by Robert Daigle G2G4 (4.2k points)
+16 votes


Asa Harriman, my three-time 6th GGF, was a remarkable man. He was born on March 5, 1737 to Stephen and Patience (Roberts) Harriman--their seventh child and fourth son. was born in Haverhill, March 5, 1737. Prior to the Revolutionary War  he was a member of that famous band of Indian fighters called "Roger's Rangers. He had 5 sons by first wife Elizabeth Todd. " 1764, Asa Harriman and his family were "warned out" of Plaistow, New Hampshire, after having resided there about eight weeks. Warning away was a practice enforced by towns to prevent the immigration of persons considered undesirable in some way--such as indigence, criminality, differing political or religious opinions. 

In Jan 1762, a petition had been signed by about three hundred and fifty persons, one of whom was Asa Harriman, asking the general court of Mass. that six townships be laid out on the Penobscot river (in Maine) for settlers. This petiton was approved March 2, 1762.  In the spring of 1768, probably, he moved to Bucksport, Maine, where he got a new start. In 1775 he is mentioned as one of the twenty families of the town. 

Asa made the most of his fresh start. He served as a lieutenant In the Penobscot Expedition, which covered the attack and defeat at Castine, Maine ( Capt. Ebenezer Buck's company of Volunteers, Col. Josiah Brewer's regiment, Gen. Lovell's brigade). Son Asa Jr, by his first wife also enlisted as a private in the same company. 

 After the war he was a lumber surveyor. He fathered another 4 sons by second wife Abial Goodell Perkins. He was described as a tall, powerful man, straight as an arrow and of pleasing manner. He died in Prospect, Nov. 29, 1823. He is buried on private land just west of Fort Knox in Bucksport, Maine. From the bluffs overlooking the Penobscot River (near his grave) one can almost see the property across the Penobscot River, where my 5th GGF, William Lawrence is buried...


William Lawrence came as a British soldier. He fell in love with the United States and apparently a woman named Lydia, and rebuilt a life here. His grave is on private property within walking distance of my mother's house. 

The Bangor Whig of Feb. 10, 1845 has the following obituary: "In Bucksport, 3d, Mr. William Lawrence, a native of Scotland, aged 97. Mr. L. was orderly sergeant in the Royal Artillery and came to this country with the British Army some time before the rupture with Great Britain. He was in the skirmishes of Lexington and Concord, at Bunker Hill and most of the important battles of the Revolution; he was afterwards stationed at Bagaduce, (now Castine) and on the declaration of peace, after receiving an honorable discharge, came to this place, where he has ever since resided. His reminiscences of the past, and particularly the thrilling scenes of the Revolution, were so remarkably vivid, as ever to give to his narrative an interest that is seldom surpassed." Sergeant Lawrence left a journal of the siege of Castine, which is re-printed in Wheeler's History, and also an orderly book."

by S Mercer G2G6 Mach 1 (13.9k points)
edited by S Mercer
I've come across Asa Harriman in early Maine research. It's nice to see him 'in' Wikitree too. :-)
Such an interesting biography of a life well lived...  looks to me like a portion of his life was one of sacrifice and service to his country - honorable indeed.
+10 votes
My maternal grandfather immigrated to the US just before WWI and first worked in manufacturing, then in retailing, and finally became a retired farmer.
by David Hughey G2G6 Pilot (721k points)
+17 votes

Can you get two fresh starts I wonder?  My father's cousin Herbert Ingram gave it a try.

His first fresh start was emigration from County Fermanagh, Ireland to Ontario, Canada in 1913.  With the outbreak of war, he signed up for the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1914 and saw active service in France.

Herbert returned to Canada after the war, working in the automotive industry for a forerunner of General Motors.

After more than twenty years in Canada, Herbert wanted another fresh start, so returned in the mid 1930s to where he had been brought up in Northern Ireland.  He worked as the local postmaster, married a young widow who herself had lived in different parts of the world, and had three children.

Week 51 of 52 for me, I hope to get my badge next time!

by Linda Hawkes G2G6 Mach 3 (33.9k points)
edited by Linda Hawkes
+15 votes

(This is my first post in the "52 Ancestors" challenge.)

My great x3 uncle Enoch Albertson M Penn (1824-1899) had many fresh starts.

First, he was indentured to learn shoemaking, and the indenture was transferred to William Dye, whom Enoch did not like. So he made a fresh start by running away and changing his name to 'Enoch Albertson'. Amusingly, a few years earlier Dye had offered a reward of $10 for the return of an indentured apprentice, but he didn't offer anything for Enoch's return.

Second, Enoch enlisted in company G of the 179th Pennsylvania infantry on 8 November 1862. He deserted on 24 November 1862. On 28 November 1862, he made a fresh start by marrying, although he was already married and had a wife in Philadelphia. (He lived with his second wife for the rest of his life.)

Third, he went into business in Philadelphia brokering substitutes, that is, people who would serve instead of someone who had been drafted. He was caught on 13 January 1865, and got a third fresh start, being assigned to company K of the 119th Pennsylvania. He served with them until they were mustered out, on 19 June 1865.

Fourth, although he was initially a shoemaker ('cordwainer'), at some point, he made a fresh start by changing occupation to carpentry, which he did for the rest of his life.

Unfortunately, his remarriage harmed both his wives--when his first wife applied for a pension, she said she was entirely dependent on the person she had been living with for decades, and his second wife never received a pension, because they weren't legally married.

by Harry Ide G2G6 Mach 1 (14.3k points)
edited by Harry Ide
+13 votes

I'm going to give both challenges a try this year. On January 2 all things still seem possible, right?

The family story is that my great-grandfather John J. McWilliams was born on board the ship coming from Ireland to the United States. It doesn't get much fresher than that! Unfortunately I haven't been able to confirm the story yet--another challenge for 2020.

by Richard Heritage G2G6 Mach 1 (19.6k points)
+12 votes

 My ancestral families were all Fresh Starters and arrived in Northern California between 1850 and 1858 except for my maternal grandfather, Stanislav Hakl, who arrived from Russia in 1909. His "fresh start" here in America included marrying my grandmother and taking on her (at the time) 9 children ages 2 to 20! They then added 2 of their own. Here are most of them about 1937 with some spouses and grandchildren and my grandmothers first husband Frank! I however am NOT a fresh starter in the 52 Ancestors Challenge as I am on week 24!

by Lyn Sara Gulbransen G2G6 Mach 2 (21.7k points)

Assuming you are 24 in 24, just two more weeks and you can get a 26 in 26 badge smiley

Love this photo and the way each person is identified. yes

+11 votes

Henry Maffett was my 5th great-grandfather. The spelling of his LNAB is uncertain; he is undoubtedly related to the Moffat family in the south of Scotland, where he was born in 1740, but all his descendants, as far as I know, spell the last name Maffett. He came to America for a fresh start, we don't know exactly when or why. He was a younger son. He may also have had trouble with the law, or he may have been seeking religious freedom. He may have passed through Northern Ireland on the way to Loudoun County, VA, but we never found a record of that. The earliest record of him in Virginia is 1773. My great uncle [[Maffett-44 | Everett Maffett]] researched and wrote a book about him and his descendants, which in many ways is the reason I'm interested in genealogy today.

He married twice: Margaret Blackburn with whom he had two sons and two daughters (she may have died in childbirth with my ancestor, William, the younger son) and Margaret Brent, who had three daughters.

His son William moved to Ohio and settled there, and William's descendants mostly stayed there for the next 5 generations.

Thank you for this challenge. I look forward to sharing stories about my ancestors!

by Katherine Chapman G2G4 (4.4k points)
+9 votes
I would like to receive the 52 Ancestors badge for 2020.

Last year I made a post every week with a different ancestral surname.  This year I feel more free to choose from profiles I have written who may or may not be relatives.

Someone who definitely made a number of fresh starts was Private Mortimer S. Fassett https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Fassett-152.  Mortimer is buried in the Mukilteo Pioneer Cemetery in Mukilteo, Washington, being one of the oldest burials (ca. 1873).  Not much was known of him until I discovered that:

He left a wife and small child in Vermont to come out to California around 1858.  Perhaps he was lured to the Sierras by the news of a gold rush; by that time, however, the gold rush was old news.  

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Mortimer was recruited into Company D of the 4th California Infantry.  Perhaps he thought he would go back East into battle.  Instead, he was sent to Fort Yamhill in Polk County, Oregon.  Here the boredom and arbitrary orders of lieutenants led Fassett and sixteen others to simply refuse to drill.  They demanded courts-martial to allow their grievances to be heard.  Before his case came up, however, Mortimer Fassett deserted. He may have fled to Canada for a time.

He made another fresh start on Whidbey Island, where he is found in the 1870 Census laboring on a farm for a woman named Philula Bradley.  

Mortimer, and apparently Philula also, are buried in the Pioneer Cemetery in Mukilteo, across Possession Sound from Whidbey Island.
by Margaret Summitt G2G6 Mach 7 (77.1k points)

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