FREDERICK H HUNSTEAD (1856-1921) & NANCY ANNA MURPHY (1858 – 1926) – 52 Ancestors #2

Hunstead, Fred Dray

This 1909 picture-postcard, advertising the 53rd annual Van Wert County Fair shows Fred Hunstead, my maternal great grandfather. Fred was a drayman (teamster), driving for the C. C. Gleason Sons & Estes Company, wholesale fruit dealers in Van Wert.

The Gleasons were early settlers in Van Wert County, arriving from New York in 1837. The several branches of this family owned numerous businesses in the county. Fred was employed, making deliveries for one of these businesses, and my mother spoke very highly of the Gleason family, claiming that they always treated her grandparents, the Hunsteads, well, and that the family, with their many businesses, made sure Fred’s son-in-law (my grandfather), had enough carpenter work to keep his family together during the depression.

In the early 1900’s, picture-postcards like this one became very popular and were widely used for advertising purposes. And, it appears that then, as now, advertising made occasional exaggerated claims. The picture was taken at the Gleason fruit warehouse, located on the west side of North Washington Street in Van Wert, just north of the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks. The picture is from an original postcard in my personal collection.

The Van Wert County Fair, which this postcard advertises, was always a big deal in my small hometown of Van Wert. When I was a kid, the fair was billed as “the largest county fair in the United States.” It was always held over the Labor Day weekend, and would boast of attendance of more than 100,000 people. I know that on Labor Day, the crowd was shoulder to shoulder on the fairgrounds. It was truly the heart and soul of a rural community, for which many would spend the entire year preparing. There was something for everyone.

The fair was Americana on steroids. There were obviously the livestock shows; there was field crop judging; there were seemingly (to a boy more interested in other pursuits) miles of displays of handiwork, done by the women; 4-H and FFA displays; there was gospel singing; thrill shows; the carnival with its rides, arcade, and games of chance and sometimes even the bearded lady. And, there was food. Oh my God was there food! Fred’s wife Anna and Fred’s mother Catherine, even had a food tent at the fair. These two ladies were cooks at the Van Wert County Hospital, which was located across the street from the Hunstead home. But during the fair, they were entrepreneurs – setting up their tent outside the Art Hall, a prime piece of real estate at the Van Wert County Fair. They would arrive in the middle of the night to begin cooking for the day, and they wouldn’t go home until the last fair patron had been fed and left the fairgrounds.

Fred Hunstead was born in June 1856 on a farm in Liberty Township, Van Wert County, Ohio. His parents had both immigrated to America from Germany during the 1840’s. But, unfortunately, Fred’s father died before he was born. Both of Fred’s parents, Conrad Honstead and Catherine Emerling had been married before, and had older children from their first marriages. Conrad and Catherine were married on 11 April 1853, shortly after the death of Conrad’s first wife, Elizabeth Marbaugh and Catherine’s first husband George Gloset. Conrad’s and Catherine’s first child, Adam, was probably born in 1854. Adam and Fred were full brothers. Conrad died in late 1855, (his estate was filed for probate on 5 December 1855), and Fred was born in June 1856.

So, it seems that Fred’s mother, Catherine, was widowed for the second time in six years. Her first husband, George Gloset died about 1849, leaving her with three children, under the age of seven, to raise. She married Conrad Honstead in 1853, and he passed in 1855, leaving her with a one-year-old son, and Fred on the way. There were also Conrad’s five children from his first marriage, ranging in age from four to fourteen. In all, there were ten children, and little or no money or property to keep them. Shortly after Conrad’s death, Catherine deeded the Liberty Township farm back to the mortgage holder in satisfaction of the mortgage.

Death came easily in those days. Typically a widow would remarry relatively quickly, especially when she had small children. Partially, this was the result of the old English common law of coverture, which wasn’t fully repealed in Ohio until 1861. And partially it was because of the rigors and dangers of a woman trying to raise small children in a single-parent home on the frontier.

Single parenting was, in fact, very rare in those times. But that is how Fred and his bother Adam were raised. The closest thing they had to a father figure in the home was an elder half-brother. It does appear that at least Catherine’s oldest child, George Gloset, who would have been fourteen when Fred was born, remained close with the family throughout his life. But the older Honstead children all left Ohio and were living in Kansas by 1870.

So, what happened to this family after Conrad’s death? I have found few records that can give us much of a clue. But we have to know that they were in dire straits. Imagine a forty-year-old mother with ten children, broke (Catherine’s total inheritance from Conrad was $36.82), having lost her home, and with very few options to keep the family fed, housed and clothed. Two of the Honsted children, William and Daniel were living with Conrad and Mary Lampe in Union Township, Mercer County, Ohio in 1860. But, I have been unable to find the rest of the family in the 1860 census. We can assume that the older boys, fourteen-year-olds, George Gloset and John Honstead went to work to help support the family; maybe even twelve-year-old Christian Honstead. In 1870, Catherine’s daughter Mary Gloset was living with a neighbor as a domestic servant. Perhaps some of the other children were placed with neighbors or family. What we do know, is that by 1870 Catherine owned a ten-acre farm, where she lived with Adam and Fred, and with her son George Gloset and his wife, Lavina. And Catherine’s daughter, Mary was living nearby as a servant.

Hunstead, Fred & Anna

Fred married Nancy Anna Murphy on 22 May 1879. He was twenty-two and Anna had just turned twenty-one. They were quite the dashing young couple in this photograph, (also from my personal collection) which was probably taken near the time of their marriage. Apparently they took up housekeeping in the home that Fred’s mother had owned in 1870. According to the 1880 U.S. census, Fred was living in Ridge Township, Van Wert County, Ohio, with Anna and their first child, Ben. Fred was a listed as a farmer. Anna’s brother, Lewis Murphy, age 20 was also living with Fred and Anna, and he was a farmer as well. Fred owned no real property at this time, so it is unknown for whom they were farming.

Fred’s mother, Catherine, had owned this small farm in Ridge Township, just east of Van Wert, where they lived in 1870, but she sold it in 1871. With the proceeds of this sale, she bought a house on South Chestnut Street and moved into the city of Van Wert. But, it is in that old farm home, that Fred and Anna went to housekeeping in 1879.

In any event, either farming didn’t agree with Fred, or he was unable to make a go of it, because by 1900, the census listed him as a teamster, which is the only occupation I ever heard about him. It is not known when Fred and Anna left the and moved into Van Wert. In 1880, they were living on the small farm in Ridge Township. But, the birth record for my grandmother, Myrtle Hunstead, says that she was born in Van Wert in May 1881 (but the birth record also says she was a boy by the name of Michael). The birth records for Fred and Anna’s next four children, Sam, William, Estella and Jane, born from March 1883 through April 1891, say they were all born in Hoaglin Township. Hoaglin Township is where Anna’s parents, the Murphys, lived. It is northeast of Van wert. The remaining children, Hazel, Princess and Lavella, were all born in Van Wert. We do know that Anna purchased a home in Van Wert, using her inheritance from her father’s estate, in October 1904, and that Fred and Anna lived there for the remainder of their lives. That house was at 209 South Race Street, across from the old Van Wert County Hospital.

Below is another photograph from my personal collection. It is of the entire Hunstead family, and taken about 1910, around the same time as the first picture. They are identified as follows: Back Row (left to right) – Myrtle Hunstead Acheson, Ira Acheson, Belle Hunstead, William M. Hunstead, Samuel S. Hunstead, Princess Hunstead, Angelina Hinternish Hunstead, Benjamin F. Hunstead; Front Row (left to right) – Elizabeth Jane Hunstead, Carrie Hazel Hunstead, Fred Hunstead, Maurice Acheson, Nancy Anna Murphy Hunstead, Alvira Hunstead, Lavella Hunstead, Inez Hunstead, Estella Hunstead.

Hunstead Family

(c) Sumner Walters: 6 January 2018
#52 Ancestors

A Random Thought on DNA Testing

This is a subject that has been written about many times before, but it is something I think all of us involved in the DNA side of genealogy need to be thinking about.  I am the President of our local genealogy society, and I teach DNA/genetic genealogy through that organization.  Consequently, I get a substantial number of questions from those who have recently tested.  Typically, it goes something like this: “I just got my DNA results back and it says that I am 60% [Lower Slobbovian].  I know for a fact that all of my ancestors came from [Upper Slobbovia].  These tests are a ripoff!”

They don’t ask about matching; about centiMorgans; about triangulation of segments; or about third-party analysis tools.  Their primary interest seems only to be in their ethnicity “estimates.”  And this is from genealogists, mind you, not from the general public who are buying these kits hand over fist.

The problem is that the industry has chosen to use “ethnicity” as the face of DNA tests.  From television to the print media to the internet, we are all being told that all you have to do is plunk down $59, or $69, or $79, or $99, then spit in a tube [or swab], mail it in. and then they will tell you what your ethnic makeup is.

I’m a DNA junkie.  I’ve tested at every major lab (awaiting My Heritage results), and here are my results so far:

Ancestry: Western European – 70%  and British Isles – 28%

FTDNA: British Isles – 67%, Southeast Europe – 19%, and Scandinavian 14%

23&ME:  British Isles – 59%, Northwest Europe 34%, Southeast Europe 4%, and Scandinavian – 3%

Living DNA:  British Isles 98%, Southeast Europe 2%

Being a practitioner in the field, I understand several things, and I can correlate these results.  First, we know that the “science” behind ethnicity predictions is still in its infancy, and is far from settled.  Also, each testing company has its own proprietary algorithm for making these estimates.  We also know that we do not inherit an equal share of DNA from each ancestor, particularly the farther back we go.  And there are other factors bearing on these estimates that are too numerous to list in this short article.

Nonetheless, if I was one of the great unwashed mass, my reaction to the above numbers would be that its all a load of crap.

One of the speakers at I4GG last month (I think it was Blaine Bettinger) said we now have 10 million people, worldwide, who have DNA tested, and the prediction is that by this time next year we will have 20 million.  I know that not all of these people are interested in genealogy, but it is a great opportunity for our avocation to vastly expand is ranks.  However, I think this is a real storm cloud on the horizon.  If the testing companies don’t start treating ethnicity with a little less hype, and a lot more honesty, that it will be kind of like Dezi used to say: “Lucy, you gotta lotta ‘splaining to do.”

Sumner Walters: 5 January 2018

Who am I and What the Heck am I Doing?



I started to do genealogy many years ago; when I was twelve years old. A friend’s mother was active in the local D.A.R. chapter. This group wanted to start a chapter of C.A.R. (Children of the American Revolution), and I was enlisted as a likely suspect. With the able assistance of a nice old lady (probably younger than I am today), I completed an application, and was quickly accepted into membership on October 16, 1961 as member #90416. The weak documentation on the application that I was accepted on is not something I am proud of today.

For the next fifty years or so I dabbled in genealogy. I would go in fits and starts. I would work like crazy for a month or two, and then, overwhelmed, I would put it away for a year or two. In those days, I was more of an ancestor collector than a serious genealogist. You know the kind – somebody that accepts at face value any information anyone furnishes them, and keeps no source records, just keeps on building trees. My research methods could have been best described as “fortuitous.” When you aren’t looking for anything specific, anything you find can make for a successful day

In retirement, I determined to spend my time doing only those things that I enjoyed doing. Guess what? I was drawn back to genealogy. Only this time, it would be different. I would study the craft and learn the trade. My previous career, which is irrelevant except in this context, prepared me well to start over with my genealogy. I had learned how to properly and thoroughly research subjects; the importance of being completely accurate; and how to cogently write up the results. As I got back into genealogy, I discovered a passion that I had never had for it before. It’s no longer about building a tree back into the dark ages and connecting to some royal or otherwise notorious ancestor. It’s now about finding the lost souls and telling their stories to my children and grandchildren.

And when I discovered DNA, wow, my passion took on an entirely new dimension. I can only describe it as a genealogical epiphany. I came to understand that today I was physically comprised of tiny parts of many of these ancestors. They exist in my own genetic material, as surely as they existed in flesh and blood many years before me. The result: now I feel called to tell their life stories, the best that I can.

As I drove down this road of self-discovery (and believe me that road wasn’t always paved), I struggled with how I could preserve these stories for future generations. I read books and periodicals; I lived on the Internet, reading blogs and webpages. I considered blogging; however, I hold my work to a pretty high standard, and I wondered if I had anything to offer that someone else hadn’t already discussed better than I could.

I had my favorite bloggers: Blaine Bettinger, Kitty Cooper, Jim Bartlett, and then there was one blog that appealed to me like no other: Roberta Estes’ DNAExplained. Her posts on DNA subjects always seemed timely and contained the information that I would want to have posted. And, her “52 Ancestors” stories fascinated me. Not only were they interesting even though they weren’t about my family, I found her family and mine probably crossed paths more than once through the history of this country. She weaves history, genealogy, dna, and some guesswork into a beautiful tapestry of people and their real-life dramas. When she threw out the new 52 Ancestors challenge in her New Year’s blog post, she had me, hook, line, and sinker. Thank you, Roberta, this is the jump-start I needed.

How do we preserve these stories? Publishing is expensive. The Internet is transitory and will become, I am certain, a vast wastepile of crap one day. How do you attract those interested to your blog? Is it an: “if you build it they will come,” deal? There aren’t good answers. I guess, in the final analysis, these little stories will survive, if they are meant to survive, in much the same way that the tiny pieces of each ancestor of mine has survived in my DNA.

So, the die is cast. Here’s my brand new blog. Feel free to join me on this trip as I share the stories from the past that I have pieced together about my ancestors.  What can you lose?  They may be your ancestors too, or their neighbors or their friends.

(c) Sumner Walters:  2 January 2018