Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Family Tree

After much effort and gnashing of teeth, I have finished the Holsenbeck and Gillham family tree, and it is now available for viewing on the 992 website.  Actually, the process could have been much worse:  following one person's ancestry back 12 generations will net 8,182 ancestors.  Luckily for me and my need for sleep, I haven't found all 16,364 of Mother Cile's and Pop's ancestors yet.  However, I have stumbled upon 539 of them and some of the findings have been fascinating.

As most everyone in the family has heard for generations, the Holsenbecks can trace their lineage back to Scotland and Ireland, which, as it turns out, is entirely true.  Only now, though, can we say with certainty exactly in what counties and towns the various arms of the family began.  Not surprisingly, there are also several lines which can be traced back to England and Germany as well.

Although the name Holsenbeck is clearly Germanic in origin, I have not been able to trace the line back any further than Pop's grandfather, Marshall Holsenbeck, whose only definitive data we have is that he died in 1813 in Columbia County, Georgia, outside of Augusta.  The mystery of the Holsenbecks was one that was pursued vigorously by Bryant Holsenbeck Moore, who thoroughly researched the name.  The hang of it all is that we can trace the Holsenbecks from Germany through New York and down to South Carolina, but we can't find the missing link (which seems to be the matter of one single generation) between those Holsenbecks and our Marshall.  I will devote some of my energy to solving this mystery, which may ultimately be cracked with the aid of the scores of newly digitized census records.

The line that we can, in fact, trace back uninterrupted to Germany is the Kisers, who were Mother Cile's father's people.  We can go back as far as Peter Kiser, who was born in 1732 and, at the age of two in 1734, boarded a ship in the Netherlands and sailed for Philadelphia.  This ship voyage was part of the larger Palatinate migration that took place at this time from the Kurpfalz (or Palatine Electorate, now called Rheinland-Pfalz).  It was result of a religious persecution, and the sea voyages were anything but pleasure cruises, as usually a quarter or more passengers would die en route.  Some of these Germans would later become the Pennsylvania Dutch, but our Peter Kiser and his family ultimately settled in what is now an area just east of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Those of you who descend from Frances Holsenbeck may be interested to know that several lines of the Gillham family made this same voyage to Philadelphia and did, in fact, become Pennsylvania Dutch.  These are the Schmidt (Smith) and Odenwelder families.

Other interesting finds, which I will talk about at length in subsequent posts, are that the Holsenbecks can trace their roots back to the Stirlings, one of the premier families in the annals of Scottish history, and the Gillhams descend from some of the original settlers of the island of Bermuda.

After you peruse the ancestor charts on the website, please make sure to have a look at the descendants charts as well.  I think I have gotten everything right on Frances Holsenbeck's chart, but I am sure there are some mistakes and omissions on the other two.  If you find anything wrong with the charts, please let me know!


  1. Hi Russell,
    I really am enjoying this whole project!! The ancestor charts are amazing! You've gotten us all the way over the 'pond' on several lines. Thanks.

  2. Your research is amazing! I had never seen my history go so far back. I like how the software works -once I figured it out. Now I think I need to go check out where some of those early Gillhams lived-Bermuda!