August Miscellany: Reunion, Allied Families, and DNA

Robbins Bicentennial Reunion Update 

I have received a number of messages and emails about a possible 2022 Robbins Bicentennial Reunion in Decatur County, Indiana.  It’s wonderful to see the interest in this idea and I appreciate the offers to help.  While I don’t believe any of the people who contacted me are folks who actually live in Decatur County I’m going to continue to let the word spread and percolate and will come back to the project in the fall.  

Other Decatur County Surnames 

There are a lot of descendants of Jacob and Mary Robbins in Indiana, the United States, and around the world.  Focusing just on Decatur County descendants I wanted to list some of the “allied” families, that is, families who married into the Robbins family, no longer have the Robbins surname, and may or may not know of their Robbins ancestry.  There are likely Robbins descendants with these or other surnames in the county and some of you might recognize them.  

The list below is divided by the children of William, Absalom, Jacob, and James Robbins.  Besides those who moved out of state, a lot of family members moved next door to Bartholomew, Shelby, or Rush counties, or northwest to Indianapolis.  But this list, which is not complete, focuses solely on Decatur County. 

Children of William Robbins

Marmaduke:  House, Knarr, McCracken, Ralston, Scripture, Vanderbur

Elizabeth:  Owens

William:  Barnes, Evans, Kitchen, McCoy, Mendenhall, Mozingo, Pleak, Smiley, Smith, Stewart, Styers, Thornburg, Whipple, Wright 

Children of Absalom Robbins

Micajah:  Holcomb, Mozingo

Elizabeth:  Guthrie, Pavey

George:  Bower, Espy, Gannon, Giddings, Hood, Kutchback, Leisure, Meredith, Scripture, Shoemake, Stone, Voiles

Charity:  Allen, Jessup, Purvis, Skinner, Stout, Whipple 

Children of Jacob Robbins

William:  Harrison, Hartley, Miller, Spencer, Taylor 

Children of James Robbins

Matilda:  Terrell 

There are a lot of family members still in Greensburg and Decatur County but in compiling this list I was struck by how many families, especially since about 1940 or 1950, have left Decatur County.  Besides the neighboring counties mentioned above, and Indianapolis, many have moved on to Fayette, Boone, Scott, and other Indiana counties.  Much earlier in a time a very large group of descendants moved to Breckinridge County, Kentucky, while others moved on to Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, Colorado, California, and the Pacific Northwest.  I hope to discuss some of these families in future blog posts.

Ancestry to Remove 6-8 cM Matches Soon 

As they do every few years, Ancestry is making changes to DNA results.  If you are an Ancestry DNA customer you may have noticed that they periodically update and change your ethnicity estimates – sometimes the results seem reasonable and sometimes they seem way off.  It’s a continual effort to make the results more accurate.  Each DNA testing company does this. 

This time Ancestry is planning on removing any match you have where the centimorgans (cM) are less than 8.  Or I should say the segment is less than 8.  Because you could have a match at 10 cM on two segments.  That would likely go away because both segments would probably be under the 8 cM threshold. 

Now, I’m no expert in using DNA results, though I have tried to teach myself as much as possible.  If you want a good overview of Ancestry’s proposed changes (now postponed to the end of August due to push back from the genealogy community), I’d highly recommend you read the DNAeXplained blog written by Robert Estes.  In particular, her first post, which describes ways to preserve these smaller matches:  DNAeXplained.

DNAeXplained screen shot

 Ancestry will not delete these smaller matches if you have (1) exchanged messages through Ancestry with that individual; (2) assigned the match to a “group”; or (3) added a comment on that match. 

My method is to pull up the matches (and I also do this with my siblings’ DNA results that I manage on Ancestry) and then filter for “Common Ancestors.”  The “common ancestor” listed is not necessarily accurate, because the information is based on members trees, and trees are not always accurate.  I’ve run cross a few of those lately.  But out of all your thousands and thousands of matches, I’d rather spend my time on those who have trees – whether public or private – and that’s why I do a “Common Ancestors” filter. 

Common Anc cM sort DNA

 You will probably still have a lot of matches in this group.  You can filter further.  You will notice that you can enter a custom cM range.  I started with 6 cM.  Note that on the right hand side of the entry for each match you can assign them to a group.  These are color coded.  A while back I created a “group” for each of my great-grandparents surnames.  In most cases I can identify each match to that level and assign them to a group.  By clicking on each match I can add a comment too, such as how they descend from our common ancestor.  I’ve been doing that with all of my matches, but starting at the top end, with those who I share a lot of DNA with. 

With these small matches, of which there are many, I may not have time right now to look at each individual match with a “Common Ancestor,” especially with an Ancestry deadline approaching and me planning on being away for a couple weeks of socially distanced camping and hiking.

2nd screen shot

So as Roberta Estes suggested, I created a group called “Holding Group.”  I can go straight down the list of these matches (without opening each one up) and put each one in my “Holding Group”, so Ancestry won’t discard them, and I can review them later at my leisure.  After working the 6 and 7 cM matches, I move up to 8 cM, then 9, and so on until I’m confident that the matches will survive Ancestry’s upcoming purge. 

What am I finding in these small – 6 and 7 cM – matches?  Between myself and my siblings I’m finding DNA matches with almost every branch of the Robbins family – not only through every child of William and Absalom Robbins of Decatur County, but also through their brother James Robbins of Jennings County and their sisters Martha and Mary who married Chastains and lived in Washington and Scott counties. And, surprising to me, even more distant cousins who descend from brothers or cousins of our most distantly documented ancestor, Jacob Robbins.  And I’m finding matches with descendants of the siblings of Bethiah Vickrey (who married William Robbins) and Mary Ogle (who married Absalom Robbins), as I descend from both of those couples.  I might have not found any of these if I had ignored these smaller matches. 

So, if you’ve tested with Ancestry, and have the time and interest, I’d highly recommend preserving those small cM matches.

A Robbins Bicentennial in 2022?

Where have the centuries gone?  Did you know we are only two years away from the bicentennial of the Robbins family in Decatur County, Indiana?

In 1822 the Robbins family first came to Decatur County, Indiana.

In 1922 the Robbins family, and all related families, celebrated the first 100 years of the family being in that county.

In 2022 we could celebrate the family’s bicentennial in Decatur County.

Reunion 1

 

1822

The Robbins families, and in-laws, seem to have first arrived in the area of Decatur County in 1821.  By spring of 1822 (our “official” year of arrival), many of them had filed on land claims.  We have a narrative history of the Robbins family, written and read by William F. Robbins, at the 1922 reunion.  While not always accurate in the details, the gist of the document has proven more endurable.  W. F. Robbins described the arrival of the family in Decatur County, led by children of William Robbins, Sr.:

However, the [earlier] expedition was not entirely fruitless, for our ancestors saw something of what was to them at least the unexplored territory of Indiana.  After returning to their homes, they organized a hunting and trapping expedition and again entered the wilderness exploring along the streams and following them north towards their sources until they had penetrated as far north as the present site of Greensburg, and along Clifty to the present site of Milford.  This expedition killed the last of the beavers on the extensive beaver ponds in the vicinity of Alert and along Sandcreek and Clifty Creek.

Thus, it came about that when these hardy people decided to seek a home in what was then called the New Purchase, they were not entirely strangers to the locality in which they intended to make their future residence.

In August 1821 they came to Decatur County which had then been surveyed and named, and in which a government was being organized.  Having selected their locations they went to Brookville, Ind., where the Government Land Office was then located, and filed for entry.  John filed on eighty acres just north of where Mt. Pleasant Church is located, William took eighty acres east of Horace where John E. Robbins now (1922) lives.  Nathaniel filed for eighty acres of what has since been known as the Isaac Taylor farm.

Daniel Herrin came with them and filed for one-hundred and sixty acres between the last named locations in the spring of 1822.  At the same time Sarah Anderson took up land adjoining John E. Robbins.  These people were accompanied by a number of their kin.

If their father came with them, which is not unlikely, he undoubtedly settled as a squatter, as he did not take any entry until 1832 when he filed on the eighty acres adjoining that of his son Nathaniel on the west.  Soon after, all of William’s children came except Elizabeth Wadkins and settled near the location of their father.  Jacob and Marmaduke settled on what is known as the Jesse Styer’s farm now; Polly who had been married to John Kirkpatrick, on the farm known by that name; Docia, who married John Herrin, where Burks Chapel now is; and Abe Anderson who married Lottie settled on what is now known as the Levi Whipple farm.

The family of William’s brother Absalom soon followed:

The first of Absolem’s family to come was Nancy who had married her first cousin Nathaniel.  She was soon followed by her oldest sister Elizabeth who had married Philip Starks and they constructed their first cabin just across the road from the present residence of Orange Logan in Clay Twp.  About the same time came Absolem himself and located on the Alex Purvis place.  Next came Micajah who entered forty acres of what afterwards became the DeArmond farm.  Then came Mahala who married David May, also her brother Greenburg, and located in the same neighborhood but did not purchase land, and soon afterward moved on to Missouri.  About 1830-32 the rest of Absolem’s family arrived, John and Absolem the second, located on Sandcreek west of Pin Hook where they built a mill later known as Layton’s Mill.  There is still part of a dam visible by the mill-site but no mill by the dam-site!  George came, settling on forty acres west of the Whipple Bridge, on a hill, Charity, his sister who married James Hanks was a cousin of Abraham Lincoln.  (“A history of the Robbins families,” by W. F. Robbins, Greensburg Standard, 16 June 1922).

Jacob Robbins Jr., Nathaniel’s later partner in the trek to Oregon in 1852, was the first of Jacob Robbins’ children to move to Decatur County.  The elder Jacob appears to have lived in Scott County before finally moving north.  (The parents of William, Absalom, and Jacob, probably never lived in Indiana.  The last confirmed record of Jacob the eldest is in 1804 in Shelby County, Kentucky, when he gives permission for his daughter Margaret to marry.)

Reunion 2

1922

In June of 1922 there was a huge celebration just outside Greensburg at the Liberty Baptist Church, where the descendants of the original settlers gathered in one huge reunion.  The reunion also celebrated the recent birthday of James Gilman Robbins, grandson of William Sr.  A more recent historical article in the Greensburg Daily News (“Hard to find anyone but ‘robins’” by Pat Smith, Local Column, 12 Dec. 2018) provided some information about that reunion:

After the morning service, there was a “magnificent dinner” at noon that was spread in a huge tent on the lawn of the church. At least 500 persons attended the service, the dinner and the all-day family meeting.

Roy Kanouse, who had married into the Robbins family, presided and was said to have put a lot of “pep” and fun in to the service. Kanouse had a shoe store on the east side of the Courthouse Square and was well known for his humor. The ads he made up for his shoe store in the Daily News were said to be anticipated by readers because of his brand of humor.

The Floethlyn Orchestra was there. Many of you will remember Florine Tillson, who taught piano and played piano in that popular orchestra. She lived on N. Franklin Street in Greensburg.

The orchestra played several selections with Ethel Shellhorn Evans singing one of them. Gladys and Martha Robbins played a piano duet. Corrine Thurston and Marie Whipple sang a duet. Mr. and Mrs. Cliff Davis and son sang a selection, and the song “God Be With You Till We Meet Again” was sung by all those present.

William F. Robbins gave a history of the early Robbins pioneers that was full of reminiscences of the founding fathers of the family. He and his cousin, Will S. Robbins, agreed that the Robbins men had for a century stuck close to the farm and were regular dirt farmers. He said the first Robbins explored Decatur County before the county was settled, and when they came here in 1822 they knew the lay of the land and scattered from Westport to Greensburg so numerously that it was “ hard to find any other birds except robins.”

Family and friends came from Indianapolis, Michigan, Kokomo, Letts, Horace, Greensburg, Westport, Hartsville, Tipton, Burney, Hope, Chicago, New York City, Lebanon, Carthage, Franklin, Muncie, Milroy, Adams, and St. Paul.

Reunion 3

2022

In two years we will arrive at the 200th anniversary of the Robbins family in Decatur County, Indiana.  Should we have another reunion to celebrate?  What do we need to do to make this happen?  Who wants to be involved?  Do we have contacts in Greensburg and Decatur County who can help work on this?

There are a lot of things to consider but initially the two most important are:

  • is the interest great enough to warrant a bicentennial celebration?
  • do we have people who are willing to work on planning the event?

We would need to create a planning committee that would set to work determining a date and venue, deal with financial considerations, create a Facebook page or website about the reunion, get the word out to family members around the country, and more.  Remote meetings in today’s climate – whether online in a format like Zoom or through email and phone – would be quite easy to do.  Who’s with me?  Such an event only happens once every 100 years!

Kevin Mittge

(mittge@yahoo.com)

 

 

 

 

A Tale of Two Reunions

test-photo-with-border

Indiana

The red brick Liberty Church stood tall on the flat farmland near Greensburg, Indiana.  On a hot Sunday in June, 1922, one thousand people gathered to celebrate the first Robbins family reunion in the county, a special event, it being the centennial of the family being in Decatur County.  In 1822 the first Robbins family members settled in Decatur County.  James Gilman Robbins, the oldest in attendance at the reunion, celebrating his 94th birthday the day before, was born a few years after the first settlers arrived.

Among the reunion attendees was 88-year-old Harvey Robbins, who had left Decatur County as a 17-year-old in 1851, on the start of a year-long trek to Oregon.  This was his first visit back to his birthplace to visit family.  Now an elderly white-bearded man supported by a cane, Harvey was still an adventurer at heart and a noted raconteur, telling stories of crossing the plains, fighting Indians, and mining and freighting in the inland Northwest.

An elderly family historian, William Franklin Robbins, a double-cousin of Harvey, through his father’s (Robbins) and mother’s (Spilman) family lines, and not that different in appearance though fifteen years younger, read out a long history he had written of the Robbins family and their presence in Indiana.  He pointed out some of the surviving grandchildren of the original settlers, including the visiting Harvey.  He also told a humorous story to demonstrate the large number of family members in the county:

“A man traveling from Greensburg to Vernon on horseback about this time found a Robbins family at every house along the way.  So when he arrived at a blacksmith shop at the foot of the hill beyond Gaynorsville he addressed the smith as Mr. Robbins.  The owner of the shop, surprised, said, “You are mistaken, my name is Lucky.”  And the traveler rejoined with “You surely are Lucky not be a Robbins.”  It is said that the Mr. Lucky had married a Robbins.”

Oregon

Seven weeks later, and 1900 miles west, on another hot Sunday, there was a Robbins reunion of the western branch of the family.  A smaller but no less enthusiastic group gathered in the western woods at Molalla, Oregon. The elderly Harvey, possibly still in Indiana, or perhaps recovering from his long journey, was unable to attend.

His niece Ipha Robbins, another early family historian, wrote to a cousin who was unable to attend about the Oregon reunion, as well the sharing of the centennial story from Indiana:  “We had some pages of the Robbins history of a hundred years from Indiana with the group present at their anniversary in June last…They had 1000 present and 62 families of us represented.  It is a wonderful picture and a revelation to me.  I thought we were some bunch of the Jacob R. strain but Indiana far outnumbers us!”  There was a realization that there were still many family members outside Oregon, but even Ipha had no idea of the true extent of the family in 1922.

Time and Distance

These were two of many reunions, held across the nation and over decades to gather family together for remembrance and re-acquaintance.  Some were mentioned in newspaper articles and family reminiscences, but the reunions of 1922 were special, in memorializing the family’s residence in one place for a century.

In those hundred years a lot had happened to the Robbins family.  People were born, married, had children, and passed from the scene.  Successful farms and businesses were established in Decatur and surrounding counties, family members served in America’s wars and took part in political and religious life.  And, many family members left “home” and set out for parts near and far.  Some moved to other points in Indiana, some returned to Kentucky, where the family had been before Indiana, while others went west to Illinois, and Missouri, and Iowa.  Others joined the pre-Civil War rush to Kansas, and some made the long trek to the Pacific Northwest and California.  And some traveled further still, to foreign countries.

They all had their stories and this blog will share as many as possible.  Most will focus on those hundred years, 1822 to 1922, but some will stray earlier and some later, and they will cover great distances.  Stay tuned and keep reading!