Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Bring It Forward

Are you content with finding your ancestors, or do you also want to find your distant cousins? Does this serve any useful purpose?

How far I’m willing to go in pursuit of long-lost cousins has a lot to do with how far back the connection goes and how many people actually express interest in the information.

For instance, I’m an absolute fanatic about tracking every last Dobson relative, from our roots in Yorkshire, England, to remote, one-cousin-standing locations like the Philippines. I’ve spent countless hours and silly sums of money following every possible lead. And I know I’ll eventually pour that same energy into my mother’s line, the Swaines from Nantucket, Massachusetts.

On the plus side, I’ve connected with living Dobson relatives (we operate under as the Dobson Family History Group) in Yorkshire and even have a handful of photos of some of my more colorful looking kin from 100 years ago or more. Besides, every new connection holds the possibility of opening new doors to the past and solving the longstanding mystery surrounding the origins of my earliest known Dobson ancestor.

That’s not to say I’ll only put this much effort in my two main lines. Recent developments have me digging up everything I’ve collected thus far on the ancestry of my mother’s maternal grandmother, Frances Jane (Ryter) Spears. Her German roots reach back to the 1750s in a little place called Hesselbach in the province of Wittgenstein (now part of Germany).

17mm dug example of a
60th Regiment of Foot button
Valentin and Anna Elisabeth Reuter had two sons: Jacob, born in 1751, and Johann Henrich, born in 1754. The younger son joined the 60th Regiment around the start of the American Revolution to fight on the King’s behalf and settled in Nova Scotia (Canada) at war’s end. A single letter written to family back home in 1783 survived and was reproduced in a German article by one of Jacob's descendants, Pastor Ulrich Weiss of Siegen (sadly, it seems he passed away in June 2011).

Johann Henrich’s descendants took the name Ryter--with a few variations such as Ryder and Riter--but the family name has all but vanished here in recent years. Most of Johann Henrich's descendants, you see, turned out to be women.

As for brother Jacob, I've recently discovered a single line of descent on I haven't connected with any living cousins on that line yet, but I can't help but wonder what new insights they might be able to share once I do.


  1. Love the blog. I too am very interested in family history. I recently found out the name of the town in Germany that the first Craver came from. Thank you for letting me read your blog.

  2. Hi, I am related to the Dobsons through William Dobson, I love reading your blog and learning new things as I have recently been searching like crazy for any information I can find of my ancestors..thanks! If you would like to contact me to exchange information that would be great. email: