Sunday, March 26, 2017

#16 Genealogy Brick Walls - Smashing Through!

One of the best things to happen, in my opinion, to an amateur genealogist or family history hobbyist, is the crashing down of a family history brick wall. My husband and I just experienced this with his paternal great-grandfather, John Ryan.  What a day!

As I thought about how we kept missing the critical puzzle piece, it occurred to me that I had ignored some of the very learnings I have gathered over the past 10 years building our family trees:  (a) don’t necessarily believe a date on a document and use that to filter other sources, (b) while you should be somewhat critical of family stories, don’t fully ignore them in your search, and (c) take advantage of DNA testing as much as possible to help guide the way.

My father-in-law, Walter Ryan, who just recently passed away, had mentioned years ago, that he heard that there may be German ancestry on his side as he heard the Ryan last name was once Rhine (assuming it was German). We tried a few searches on that name, but with nothing else to help determine a fit or not, it led us nowhere. And, with some of the searches too broad, we relied on the one birth year information that we had from the 1900 census to further direct us (turns out it was 10 years off!).  With a birth location of “Ohio” and a name of John Ryan, it pulled way too many people…using John Rhine did not help much.  

Then we provided my father-in-law with an DNA test for Christmas and sent it in within the first 2 weeks of the new year.  Unfortunately, my father-in-law passed away before the results came back...results we would have loved to share with him. However, what they provided was a 2nd cousin link to a man whose last name was Rhine.  The lights started blinking and sirens started going off in our heads.  Within an hour of searching and cross-referencing, we broke through our brick wall...we found John William Ryan as John William Rhine in Guernsey, Ohio.  

John William Ryan (Rhine), photo taken Los Angeles.

From that DNA flag and the matching family trees, we discovered that he named his first and second sons after his father and brothers (John Elmer and Thomas)…found a common occupation (construction)…connected Los Angeles as the city he moved to after he left Ohio in his father’s will…and found a picture of his youngest sister (Cinda) that had a striking similarity to John.  The few bits of information that we had on John all started to fit into place.
John Wm Ryan was part of a construction team - new information we learned was that his father, Thomas Elijah Rhine,  worked in the same field.  From another online post, we found the following, "After the days of the Civil War, Thomas followed the vocation of a blacksmith and was generally known throughout the country as a "man of remarkable physical strength". He also made violins and was involved with the construction of the courthouse in Cambridge, Ohio."

So, what we found is that John William Rhine, born in June 1857 (not June 1867!), was the oldest son of Thomas Elijah Rhine and Lucinda Francis (Clary) Rhine. He was born in Guernsey County (likely Millwood) and following his birth were 8 siblings!  So, now we have a whole bunch of relatives in Ohio we knew nothing about.  

A little sad that Walter passed away before we could share that news, but then I reflected & then realized that he was met by his relatives as soon as he arrived at the pearly gates, finding out before us anyway. 

Link to Thomas Elijah Rhine Biography