“Sir, my name is Herndon Wederstrandt, I might be able to help you, please reply back if interested.”
However, one document that supported the notion of kinship was a page in Artimease’s Widows Pension Application. These applications were filed by widows of Civil War Veterans who believed themselves to be eligible for pension benefits. I ordered this pension file from the National Archives in Washington, DC in July of 2013. Below is a portion of a sworn affidavit from John Alexander, a former U.S. Colored Union Troop, who testified that he personally knew Artimease and her late husband, my 3rd great-grandfather, Thomas Benton. It specifically states that Alexander knew "Arthemise Wetherstrane by witch name she wore off her father..." As an original and primary source, this document was critical.
In July of 2013, while attending the Benton Family Reunion in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, James, my dad, my cousin, Tonya and I, arranged to meet Blake and his family for dinner. We had a great & memorable time! I mentioned to Blake that in December of 2010, I met a woman named Nancy Wederstrandt on Ancestry.com two months after I met James, but we never established who a possible common ancestor was. Blake explained that Nancy was his 2nd cousin, once removed with Herndon's dad being her second cousin. They never physically met, but do correspond with each other periodically. Their most recent common ancestor (MRCA) is Robert (Pronounced "RO-BEAR") Carroll Wederstrandt (b. 1858) and his wife, Ida Loula (Williams) Wederstrandt. Robert was the son of Robert Charles Wederstrandt (b. 1832) and grandson of John Blake Wederstrandt (b. 1808).
|The Wederstrandts: James Hill III (Far left), Tonya Castle (4th from left), Blake Wederstrandt (middle-rear), Amy Wederstrandt (2nd from right), Michael Willis (far right), Sanders Willis, Jr. (seated, front)|
- James & his mother, Gloria
- My grandfather's siblings, Edward Willis and Marguerite Vernell
- My dad and I
Unfortunately, Blake did not match any of us! We were all very disappointed, but we did not give up hope. It is important to remember that DNA inheritance is random and the further the MRCA, the harder it is to detect matching segments of DNA. I inherited approximately 50% of my dad's DNA and he inherited approximately 50% of his dad's DNA which means I inherited approximately 25% of my grandfather's DNA, 12.5% of my great-grandmother's DNA, and so forth. This potential common ancestor with Blake would be my 4th great-grandfather, so you can image how small the percentage is and the probability of detection. Yet, many descendants inherit different pieces of the same puzzle, so the only alternative course of action is to test more people--which brings me to Nancy because she was actually born a generation before Blake.
I'd lost touch with Nancy, but in January of 2015, she emailed me to share with me a 1910 census record she discovered listing a mulatto woman named "Martha Wederstrandt." I told her I was aware of the record and that Martha was, in fact, Hiawartha! I also let her know I met her cousin, Blake and was in constant communication with him. On August 2, 2015, Nancy pleasantly surprised me with an email stating she tested with AncestryDNA offered by Ancestry.com. Since the rest of us tested with a different company, the only way we could compare our results is by uploading our RAW data to a third-party website called GEDMatch.com that allows you to compare DNA information from 23andme.com, AncestryDNA and FTDNA. Nancy reported that GEDMatch results yielded a match with Blake--3.9 generations from the MRCA, Gloria--4.1 generations from the MRCA and James--4.6 generations from the MRCA.
We are indeed Wederstrandts!
The difference of 3.9 generations between Nancy and Blake makes sense because their MRCAs, Robert Carroll & Ida Wederstrandt, are 3 generations apart from Nancy and 4 generations from Blake. In Gloria's case, Artimease's unknown father is 4 generations apart from Gloria and Robert's father, Robert CHARLES Wederstrandt, is 4 generations from Nancy, thus, the numbers would suggest he is Artimease's father. It is plausible because she was born around 1853 and he was born around 1832, but could he be old enough to be Hiawartha's father? According to all available census records from 1870-1910, it was reported consistently that she was born between 1844-45. That would make Robert Charles a 12-13 year old father, however it must be noted that the 1900 census shows Hiawartha's mother, Antoinette King, born in 1831 in Louisiana making her a 13-14 year old mother. I found no other record of her existence prior to that.
In any case, the journey continues and another branch to explore. New answers have lead to more questions and more stones to be overturned. I look forward to it!