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Your Story: Siblings Reunited

As children, my sister and I (now in our 60s) were told that our father had come to this country through a marriage with an American woman. They lived in New York and had a son. That’s all we knew. Our parents divorced when I was six and my sister was four and somewhere along the way I was told that our brother had been adopted by his new father and his last name was no longer Fischel. End of story…or so I thought.

I’ve always been interested in family history. When I began delving into my family’s history, though, I concentrated on my maternal side as I grew up with little interest in my father or his side of my story. After all, I didn’t know my older brother’s first or last name, his mother’s name, his adopted name, etc., so why even bother searching?

I created my tree on under my husband’s account (Thomas Redfern) and dabbled in adding information until I retired a year ago. Then, I seriously began entering information and photographs.

Last November, my husband received an email through from David Zubatsky, a genealogist in Pennsylvania who believed his friend, Jack Fischel, could be related to me. David provided Jack’s contact information as well as a detailed history. I was quite impressed with what I read and at 7:30 in the morning I called my sister to read her the email.

Her reaction - “What do you think this means?” was how I felt, too. I called Jack and left a voice mail. He called me back and asked if we could talk that evening. In the meantime, I emailed him a photo of my father with a very beautiful woman asking if he knew who she was.

When I answered the phone that evening Jack said, “Well, Sis, the photo clinches it. That woman is my mother and that picture is on my living room shelf.”  Wow! My brother had found me at last.

Jack and my sister Marsha and I chatted over the phone for a few days. We “met” Jack and our new sister-in-law, Julie, for the first time via Skype the following Sunday.

Thanksgiving was close at hand and on Thanksgiving eve my children and grandchildren met their new Uncle and Aunt via Skype, and I met my new niece, her husband and my new grandniece and nephew.

On June 19, 2012 my sister and I flew to Landisville, Pennsylvania to meet our brother and his family in person. We spent three glorious days with Jack and Julie, met our nephew Josh, our niece Corrie and her family, and our new hero—David Zubatsky. 

Thank you for helping us find each other. This meeting would never have happened without this site. Now, we talk weekly, visit via Skype, and email on a regular basis. We plan to see each other again as soon as possible.

I am attaching a few photos of us at our meeting. I am the one Jack is pointing to in the photo Jack and Me.

Most sincerely,

Rebecca Elliot

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A Father Finds His Long Lost Daughter

timothy and adelia stokin

For the past decade I have been researching my father’s side of the family, and knew particularly little about my 4th great-grandfather, Timothy Stokin, and his family. 

The first break-through in our research came with finding Timothy and his family in Greenfield, Pennsylvania, in 1850. By 1860, they had moved to Merton, Wisconsin. Through those censuses we learned about Timothy and Adelia’s children who are not direct relatives of ours. We also learned that by 1880, the Stokins had settled in Pepin, Wisconsin.

The story of the Stokins gets more interesting at this point. In 1875, The New York Times ran a story about how Timothy and his wife were reunited with a daughter who was abducted as an infant while the family was living in Waukesha. Taken by a previous suitor, the daughter, Fannie, was taken to St. Louis where she was raised. Thanks to a ship captain on the Mississippi River, she ultimately ended up in the Durand and Menominee area in Wisconsin where a neighbor thought she bore an uncanny resemblance to the Stokins. In August 1875, the family was reunited after nearly 20 years. 

Since finding this story through, we have been able to learn more about Timothy’s service in the Civil War, and the death of one of their sons early in the war.

More importantly, we have reconnected with a number of relatives through who have been able to share stories of what life was like for the Stokins in the late 1800s—including the fact that they worked the docks in Durand and Pepin Wisconsin and often took in new immigrants into their home because of their ability to speak German. We have a number of handwritten family histories about the Stokins, as a result. 

Thanks to a more recent connection, we also now have the portrait below. According to another article found on we were able to determine that this photo is a style called crayon portraits. In this case, we have an original photo, so know that this was created in a studio based on that original. It is a similar style to about a half a dozen other portraits of relatives who lived in Wisconsin around the same time. 

Tim Krause

Your Story: 50 Year Old Mystery Solved

In 1962 when I was twelve years old I found an old photo album in an antique shop while traveling with my mother and father from Ohio to New Hampshire during a summer vacation. As my parents had always instilled the love of photography and history, I was drawn to and fell in love with this leather-bound treasure.  I am grateful that my parents admired my interest and allowed me to purchase this antique family album, so long ago. The original archivist, Sarah Bugbee Yates, had labeled the photos very well (an act that I appreciate even more today than I did when I was twelve). There are thirty individuals, photographed between the years of 1861 -1878 within in this gem.  

Entrusted with this one of a kind cache, I used to daydream that someday I would be able to present these photographs to a descendant, who would hold them dear, but I was never quite sure as a child how I would go about doing this. So I kept the leather album safe from harm and would peruse it every now and then wondering about the stories behind the pictures.  I always decided when moving or going through my possessions not to let it go—not just yet. 

Over the past year and half I have been using to document my own families’ genealogies and have been impressed with the opportunities to share photos and information with others. This week while on vacation, I took a break and began scanning and entering the photos from this album.  

I created a tree on with the information in the album and in records I found. I found it fascinating to follow this family back in time as they had moved across the country from Connecticut to New York, Ohio, California, Alaska, and even South America.  Their ancestors arrived prior to the Revolutionary War and their migration across the country is an amazing tribute to the American spirit.  It is no wonder with all of the mobility that this album was “lost” from the family. 

It appears that the photo album was created and kept by Sarah Bugbee (Mrs. Lucia H. Yates), who was born in 1804 and died in 1884.  Her photo is on page three of the album next to a photo labeled: Lucia Halen Yates, who I discovered on was born in 1804 and died in 1862. Sarah is pictured all in black and interestingly is holding a frame that contains perhaps the photo of her husband who passed during the time period of the Civil War on 13 March 1862.  I am still curious as to the circumstances of his death—a story that perhaps can unfold through further research.   Sarah, who lived twenty years after the death of her husband, must have treasured his memory and those of her loved ones.  She undoubtedly was able to hold them close to her heart in this small, leather-bound, clasped album.  

It was my wish as a twelve year old and remains so now, after saving this album for fifty years, to find the families of those pictured so they might be cherished by their descendants, near and far. I remembering being in a quandary when I was young, as to how I would choose who would be given the album, if I was ever able to locate the families, a task that was also beyond my comprehension.  

With the wonders of the internet and the technology provided by, I realized that my childhood wish could come true.  I, thanks to your service, do not have to decide who amongst the extensive list of relatives would receive the album.  It is now dispersed for members to view.  They will be able to so easily add these 150 year old photos to their own family archives.

I have waited fifty years to see if the family members who use are able to locate the photos I posted and in turn be grateful to Sarah Yates for her superb documentation and love of family. Tonight it finally happened thanks to your “Recent Member Connect” service.  A member from Fort Worth, wrote a message to me that reads as follows:  

"Thank you for the photographs you uploaded. There are several members of my family that you located in the book. What a great find, and again I appreciate your efforts to place them on Ancestry so that history may be passed down!"  

My Childhood wish has come true! Thank you for giving us the technology to virtually take this album to the rightful descendants. From the information from the tree I created, I hope to travel to Darien Center, N.Y. in the near future to donate the album to their historical society or special collections library.  As an educator, I believe that knowledge is of great value, but the willingness and ability to share it with others is priceless.   


Jennifer Cauffield

Your Story: Mystery, Intrigue and Our 2 Millionth Subscriber

First thing Yvonne Ochletree did with her subscription to was search for her father. Then she turned to the real family mystery – and discovered a record of her grandmother’s never-discussed childhood.

“I was lying awake one night and put on a show called Coast to Coast and they had a commercial on for I heard I could go on for two weeks to try it,” says Yvonne. “There had always been this mystery as to who my grandmother’s father was. And I thought maybe I should find out.” 

So between the commercial and a nudge from her daughter, Yvonne figured she had nothing to lose. She gave the site a whirl.

That move gave Yvonne her own mark in the family history world, too – it made her the 2 millionth subscriber to And she quickly started finding answers.

“I’m very lucky,” Yvonne says. But it’s more than luck – Yvonne adds to her success with research savvy and a curiosity that dates back to when she was 17 and paid a visit to her grandmother in England. 

“I said, ‘Look, Granny, I never really knew who your dad was. You mentioned your mom but you never really talked about your dad.’” But Yvonne’s grandmother offered up no secrets. She kept mum.

That silence just fueled the fire. “I had to keep pursuing it,” says Yvonne, who knew that her grandmother was born out of wedlock. So years later, she finally dug in on “Long story short, I started finding out things. I have not found out who [my great-grandfather] is, but I’m coming pretty close to it.”

So far, Yvonne has uncovered an impressive record trail for her grandmother – she has names, places and dates and is using them all to discover more. Plus, there’s an intriguing side note: Yvonne learned in a census record that her great-grandmother was working as a servant in the home of a wealthy couple. Could her grandmother’s father be a fellow servant? Or maybe the homeowner himself?

Yvonne has also connected with other members, sending notes and receiving information in return. She searches the site and uses Hints, which she likens to the yellow brick road, to help build her tree. “I tap on all of them and they open up,” she says. 

And she’s made a personal connection between her own life today and her grandmother’s: “[My grandmother] was a teacher and an artist, just like me.” Which, of course, leads Yvonne to another question: “Where did the money come so that my grandmother could go to a very nice school?” 

Suffice it to say, Yvonne isn’t stopping anytime soon. “I’m nosy and I’m relentless. I am going to find more. And I will get to the bottom of this.”

Andy Griffith’s Legacy

My heart fell this morning when I heard the news that the beloved actor, Andy Griffith, had passed. Through the cold Chicago winters, and hot summers as well, my sisters and I would park in front of the TV when the The Andy Griffith Show would come on. Decades later, I remember telling my daughter to turn off the TV to get to sleep for school as she begged for one more half hour because Andy was on. I usually gave her that half hour.

The Andy Griffith Show had a kind of timeless humor. For a brief time we are transported to that little town in North Carolina, where the characters welcome us to a simpler time. We can be guaranteed a few laughs and the world rights itself in a half hour. Is it any wonder we’re still drawn to it? The series incorporated many of Andy Griffith’s memories of his home town of Mount Airy, North Carolina. That’s where we find Andy living with his parents, Carl and Geneva Griffith in the 1930 and 1940 U.S. federal censuses.

Like his character, he came from humble roots. His father worked in a furniture factory, as a laborer in 1930 and band saw operator in 1940. His salary of $850 per year was enough that the family owned their home at 197 Haymore Street in Mount Airy.

By 1940, Andy’s six years in school had already eclipsed the education levels of both of his parents, and he would go on to finish high school in Mount Airy. Five days before his eighteenth birthday, on 2 June 1944, he registered for the World War II draft.

Having just graduated from high school at the time of the draft, he doesn’t have a job at the time, but soon he was off to college where he was active in music and drama. His yearbook shows he was president of the Men’s Glee Club in 1947 at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

He was also a member of the musical fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha at UNC.

His education and talent in music, comedy and drama paid dividends that will benefit generations to come. Andy Griffith made us feel like he was our next door neighbor and we could sit down with him and forget about the troubles in the world. His legacy is the smile that comes to our lips we recall a more innocent time – a time when humor was less about shock value and more about uplifting our spirits.

1940 Census Indexes for Six More States—CO, OH, PA, TN, VT, and VA

This week launched 1940 census indexes for six more states—Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia.  Who are you looking for and what stories will you discover? Here are some well-known names that we’ve run across.

Tina Turner
While the unincorporated town of Nutbush doesn’t really have “city limits” as the name of the famous Tina Turner song might imply, it’s nonetheless where we find her in 1940 listed as Anna Bullocks, age 5/12.  (You can find Nutbush in Civil District 11 on this enumeration map.) 

Jack Nicklaus
Only three months old in April of 1940, the “Golden Bear” was more likely to have been playing with Teddy bears than golf clubs, but we found the future golf pro, Jack Nicklaus living with his parents, Louis “Charlie” Nicklaus and Helen, in Columbus, Ohio. 

Arnold Palmer
Jack Nicklaus’ rival, Arnold Palmer, was probably already getting golf tips from his dad, Milfred “Deacon” Palmer, whose occupation is listed in 1940 as “pro green[s] keeper” in a country club.

Shirley MacLaine and Warren Beatty
The only roles  brother and sister Shirley [MacLaine] and [Henry] Warren Beaty were prepping for in 1940 were those of kindergartner and preschooler. They probably got a lot of help from dad, whose occupation was that of “principal-teacher” in a public school.

Bill Cosby
In 1940, Bill Cosby is living with his parents and younger brother, James, and lodgers Ernest and Bertha Fletcher. Ernest is probably his uncle, Ernie Fletcher, who he refers to in his book I Am what I Ate— and I’m Frightened!!! And Other Digressions from the Doctor of Comedy. The North Philadelphia neighborhood where he’s living would in later years become the backdrop for the stories that were featured on his hit series Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.

Grace Kelly
In 1940, years before becoming an award-winning actress and Princess of Monaco, ten-year old Grace Kelly was living in Philadelphia with her father, John “Jack” Kelly, owner of a construction business, mother Margaret, two sisters and a brother. Florence Merkel, personal secretary, is living in the household as well. Princess Grace returned to Philadelphia in 1966 to attend Florence’s funeral. (Want to learn more about the Kelly’s? Grace’s dad was chosen to answer the supplemental questions at the bottom of the schedule.)

Doris Day
Although only sixteen at the time of the 1940 census, Doris Kappelhoff’s mother gave her age in the census as eighteen. By this time Doris had begun singing professionally on the radio and in local bands, although her occupation in the census is listed simply as “new worker.” She’s living in Cincinnati, Ohio with her mother, Alma and brother, Paul. 

Phil Donahue
The future talk show host and media mogul’s 1940 census record shows the five-year-old Phil Donahue living with his parents in Cleveland, Ohio, where his father, Phillip, is working as a furniture salesman, earning $2,200 per year.

Paul Newman
We found Paul L. Newman living with his brother and parents, Arthur and Theresa in Shaker Heights, Ohio (a suburb of Cleveland), where he was attending Shaker Heights High School at the time. A few years later he was serving in the Pacific theater of World War II and in 1945 was serving as an Aviation Radioman, Third Class aboard the USS Hollandia about 500 miles from Japan when the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

Tim Conway
An avid horseracing fan, comedian Thomas [Tim] Conway may have come about his love of horses at an early age. In the 1940 census, his father’s occupation is listed as “horseman, country estate.”

See who you can find in the 1940 Census