Where my Ancestors were 100 years ago.

Mappy Monday
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.Randy Seaver in his blog, Genea-Musings suggested that we look at where our ancestors were 100 years ago. I thought I’d take a stab at it more from a location perspective. In October 1917, my ancestors were in Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Minnesota. Just “I” and “M” states. My paternal side are the “I” states; the Roberts were in Illinois and the Scotts were in Indiana. My maternal side are the “M” states; the Browns were in Minnesota and the Montrans (Barbers) were in Michigan, except for my grandmother, Madonna (Donna) who lived in Massachusetts for a short time.

Map of my Ancestor locations in 1917.
My Ancestor Locations in 1917.

Paternal Side:

My paternal grandfather, Bert Allen Roberts, was 14 years old. His father had died in 1908 and he was living with his mother, step-father, brother and two sisters. It isn’t clear if they were living in Turman, Sullivan County, Indiana (1910) or in Hutsonville, Crawford County, Illinois (1920), but I think they were still in Indiana.

Bert’s 71-year-old grandmother, Patience Ann (Marshall) (Dean) Roberts was living in Sesser, Barren Township, Franklin County, Illinois.

Bert’s 34-year-old mother, Clora Dell (Scott) (Roberts) Adams was married to Hosea Adams. It is unclear if they were still in Turman, Sullivan, Indiana, or if they had relocated to Hutsonville, Crawford County, Illinois in 1917.

Clora’s father, Samuel Vaden Scott, had remarried Lavina Allmend after the death of Amanda Jane Haley. The 57-year old was living in Goode Township, Franklin County, Illinois.

My paternal grandmother, Essie Pansy Barnes, was 14 years old. She was living on the farm near Turman, Sullivan County, Indiana.

Essie’s father, Joel Clinton Barnes, was 60 years old and living on a farm near Graysville, Turman Township, Sullivan County, Indiana.

Essie’s mother, Marada A. (Lister) Barnes, was 50 years old and living with Joen on the farm near Graysville, Turman Township, Sullivan County, Indiana.


Maternal side

My maternal grandfather, Clifford D Brown, later known as Richard Earl Durand and even later as Richard Earl Brown, (Grandpa Dick) was also 14 years-old. He lived with his family in Backus, Cass County, Minnesota.

Clifford/Richard’s father, Arthur Durwood Brown, was 48-years-old and living in Backus, Cass County, Minnesota.

Clifford/Richard’s mother, Mary Elizabeth (Manning) Brown, was 39-years-old and living with her husband, Arthur, in Backus.

My maternal grandmother, Madonna Mae Montran, (later known as Donna) was married to Thomas Valentine Rooney (her second marriage). (It does not appear that she ever took his surname.) They were probably living in Wrentham, Norfolk County, Massachusetts, although they may have located to New York City about that time.  Madonna’s father died before 1900 and I have been unsuccessful in determining his parents.

Madonna’s (Donna’s) mother, Ida Mae (Barber) (Montran) (Fisher) (Holdsworth) Knight was living with her 4th husband, Harvey Knight in Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan.

Ida’s mother, Sarah H (Blackhurst) Barber was also living in Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan. Her husband, Frank Barber, died earlier in 1917.


Thirteen of my direct ancestors were alive in September 1917. That is all four of my grandparents, six of my great-grandparents, and three of my 14 known great-great-grandparents.

Based upon their locations in 1917, I can say my father’s line came from Illinois and Indiana and my mother’s line came from Michigan and Minnesota.  I have a birthplace chart that shows where my ancestors were born that tells a somewhat different story. Grandpa Dick was born in North Dakota but was in Minnesota in 1917. Similarly, my great-grandmother, Mary (Manning) Brown, was born in Kentucky but was in Minnesota in 1917.

My life locations provide some of greatest location distances of anyone I know. I was born in Portland, Oregon; I hail from Minnesota, having lived there during most of my youth and over 35 years total. Over the years, I have lived in Oregon, Minnesota, Michigan, Colorado, Montana, California, Virginia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, West Virginia, Georgia, and Maine. Now, I live about 3,200 miles away from my birth location of Portland, Oregon, in Portland, Maine.

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OMG – Another Half-Sibling

Half-Siblings provide the proof

Brown, DNA
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.Thanks to autosomal DNA testing, I’ve learned who my biological father is. I have discovered and met some of my “new” half-siblings on my biological father’s side. I have also discovered that my wife has a previously unknown half-sister. Now, due to DNA testing, I’ve found that my mother has a previously unknown half-sister.

It began with an email from (I’ll call her) HC, who indicated that Ancestry DNA was saying that she and I were first or second cousins. The Ancestry match reported that she and I share 460cM of material.  A look at our trees showed no surnames in common. Ancestry allows you to view a match and see who also shares that match.  My half-sister, Glennis, was also a match and shares, even more, DNA (522 centimorgans) than I share with HC.  That proves that the match was on my maternal side as Glennis and I share a common mother.

Screen shot showing "HC" and author share 460 centimorgans of DNA.
HC & I share 460cM

Through an exchange of messages, I learned that HC’s mother was adopted, was born in May of 1938 in Texas, however, her mother was conceived in Minnesota. That narrowed things considerably.  My mom’s Montran/Barber line pretty much was from Michigan; my mom’s Brown/Manning line was from Minnesota. So, it was very likely that the match came from my mother’s father’s side of the family.  Luckily, my mother has a half-sister.  The bad news is that neither my mother or her half-sister, Barbara, tested with Ancestry.

No problem, GEDMatch to the rescue. Although both tested with another service, I had previously exported their data from the other system and imported the data into GEDMatch. If HC was a match with my mother and aunt Barbara, then the common ancestor had to be on their common father’s side. If the match was only with my mother and not my aunt Barbara, then the common ancestor had to be on her Montran side. I know very little about Montran line, so anything could be possible.

HC uploaded her data to GEDMatch and the results were amazing.  She shares over 1000 centimorgans of DNA with BOTH my mother and my aunt Barbara – Proof that the common line is on the Brown side. I like to use The DNA Geek’s chart to quickly see the potential relationships between individuals at a particular centimorgans level. The chart shows that 1000 cM is solidly in the range of Group C relatives. Relationships for Group C include First Cousin, Half Aunt-Uncle/Niece-Nephew, Great-Grand Parent/Child and Great Aunt-Uncle/Niece-Nephew.

Now that I know that the match is on the Brown line I can speculate.

Grandpa Dick
  • If Grandpa Dick is the father of HC’s mother, then HC would be the half-niece of my mother and Aunt Barbara.  That fits the amount of DNA Perfectly.
  • If one of Grandpa Dick’s brothers were the father of HC’s mother then, HC and my mother would be first cousins once removed and I would expect a DNA match of between 215 and 650.
  • Dick’s father died in 1928, so he can’t possibly be the father of HC’s mother, so that scenario isn’t possible.

Finally, I questioned was there is a locational opportunity for Grandpa Dick to be the father. HC’s mother was conceived while her mother was in Deerwood, MN about August of 1938. In 1937, my Grandpa Dick was living in Brainerd, Minnesota, about 18 miles from Deerwood.

I think that is enough to prove the relationship. However, I always like to go the extra mile if possible and prove it beyond the shadow of a doubt. HC’s mother is still alive and recently had her DNA tested. When the results come back, we can confirm this relationship. I expect that the autosomal DNA match with my mother and with Aunt Barbara will be in the 2000cM range – solidly in the half-sibling range.

Additional proof will come through a comparison of the X chromosome. Females have two X-chromosomes (males have an X and a Y).  One of the X chromosomes is from the mother and is recombinant, that is to say, it is a mix of the mother’s X.  The other X chromosome is a replica of the father’s X and is passed on without change.  If HC’s mother and my mother are half-siblings, I would expect to see their X-Chromosome to have a solid match like my mother and her half-sister Barbara have.

Screen Shot - X Chromosome Match of 2 half sisters
X Chromosome match of my mom & Aunt Barbara.


My mother and my Aunt Barbara have a here-to-for completely unknown half-sister. Amazing. I always heard that Grandpa Dick “liked the ladies.”  I guess he did. I now know of four daughters that he fathered, my mom, Aunt Barbara, Aunt Mary Lou, and newly found Aunt Phyllis. I wonder if there are more….


  • I do not typically use the full name of living individuals.
  • Of course, if any DNA specialists see anything incorrect with my reasoning above, please let me know via the contact form below.

Surname Saturday – Brown

Brown Surname Meaning

English, Scottish, and Irish: Generally a nickname referring to the color of the hair or complexion, Middle English br(o)un, from Old English brun or Old French brun. As an American family name, it has absorbed numerous surnames from other languages with the same meaning.[i] The name is from an old adjective meaning ‘brown dark red,’ Old English and OHG. [ii] Read More About This Surname


Although only ranked #202 in the world, the surname Brown is ranked #2 in Scotland and Canada, #3 in Australia, and #4 in England and the United States. In the United States, it is surpassed only by Smith, Johnson, and Williams in frequency.[iii]

In the 1840s, the Brown families in the United States were in every state but concentrated in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.[iv]

My Brown Ancestors

#96 – My earliest known Brown ancestor is my 4th great-grandfather, Odel Brown. I know virtually nothing about Odel other than he was probably born about 1773, he married a woman named Jane and had at least two children, David and my 3rd great-grandfather, Barney Brown.

#48 – Barney/Daney Brown was born in New Hampshire about 1814. He married a woman named Mary probably about 1840.[v] Barney and Mary had at least four children, William Henry, Myron O., Alice C., and David V. Brown. Barney/Daney Brown seems to have vanished from the records after 1860 and before 1870, so I believe he died before 1 June 1870.

#24 William Henry Brown (he apparently went by Henry) was born in 1842 in Michigan. I speculate that he married Marion Sanford in 1866.[vi] They had 11 children that I know of.

    1. Arthur Durwood Brown
    2. Nettie May Brown
    3. Charles Dean Brown
    4. Mary Brown
    5. Almond Brown
    6. Gerome Clifford Brown
    7. William Henry Brown
    8. Clyde Hewett Brown
    9. Frederick Brown
    10. Ada Brown
    11. Edward Warberton Brown

William Henry Brown appears to have died between 1885 and 1900.

Arthur Durwood Brown

#12 Arthur Durwood Brown was born about 1864 in Michigan. He married Mary Elizabeth Manning in 1891. Arthur and Mary had twelve children:

  1. Clarence Arthur Brown
  2. Clyde Leroy Brown
  3. Victoria Cecelia Brown
  4. Martin Brown
  5. Cora Elsie Brown
  6. Richard Earl Brown (Aka Clifford Durand Brown)
  7. Dorothy Brown
  8. Edward Lewis Brown
  9. Arthur Eugene Brown
  10. Charles William Brown
  11. Delores Sarah Brown
  12. Nettie Mae Viola Brown

Arthur Durwood Brown died on 27 Aug 1928 in Walker, Minnesota.

Richard Earl Brown always carried a hunting knife.
Photo: ca. 1953

#06 Richard Earl Brown was born 14 September 1903 as Clifford Durwood Brown. He had a daughter, my mother, with Madonna (Donna) Montran. He always wanted to marry Donna, but she said, “No.”

He changed his name to Richard Earl Durand and married Dorothy Amanda Wilhelm. Dick, as he was known, and Dorothy had two children. Living Durand and Mary Lou Durand. He married Cecelia Ann Squires in 1975.

Richard Earl Brown died 19 January 1990.

My Direct Brown Ancestors

    • #96 – Odel Brown (c. 1796-?)
    • #48 – Barney/Daney Brown (c.1814-c.1860)
    • #24 – William Henry Brown (1842-c.1895)
    • #12 – Arthur Durwood Brown (1864-1928)
    • #6 – Richard Earl Brown (aka Clifford Durwood Brown, aka Richard Earl Durand) (1903-1990)
    • #3 – My mother – (Now deceased)
    • #1 – Me – Generation

My known Brown relatives.

My records have 248 direct-line descendants of Barney/Daney Brown identified over nine generations, which is about 5% of my known Brown/Montran family tree. Looking at the Browns another way, I have 144 individuals with the surname of Brown in my Brown/Montran family tree, the most of any surname.


[i] Ancestry.com; Dictionary of American Family Names ©2013, Oxford University Press via http://www.ancestry.com/name-origin?surname=Brown

[ii] Web: Forebears – http://forebears.io/surnames/brown

[iii] Web: Wikipedia – List of most common surnames in North America

[iv] Ancestry.com; From the 1840 US Federal Census Date – http://www.ancestry.com/name-origin?surname=Brown

[v] William Henry Brown was born in 1842 and is believed to be the first child of Barney and Mary Brown. Assuming they did marry, that would estimate they married about 1840.

[vi]   Marian’s first child was born in 1867 when she was 20. I guesstimate she and Henry were married about a year earlier when she was 19.

Do you have a Brown ancestor?  Do you think that ancestor is one of mine?  If so, let’s prove it.  If you have tested with Ancestry, Family Tree, or 23 & Me, please contact me through the comments field below.  If you haven’t tested, I recommend you do so. Either FamilyTreeDNA or Ancestry.Com tests will easily show the genetic connection.

The meetings of Dick Brown – Donna, Dorothy, & Cecelia

The most fascinating stories in our family histories are often about how and where our ancestors met. These stories are often lost in just a couple generations. We, obviously, know where and when we met our spouses and often know when, how, and where our parents met. Knowing how our grandparents met is unusual, and knowing how our great grandparents met is rare — Our oral histories usually don’t go back that far. As such, it is really important to document how and where our ancestors met so their stories can pass down to future generations.

The story of my grandfather’s meeting of my grandmother and of his wives is elusive. I’ve put together what I have from oral history and some documents that I’ve found. I know something of two of the three stories and know nothing of the third.

As many of you know my grandmother, Donna, was in vaudeville. The story is that in 1929 and 1930 the vaudeville stage became increasingly difficult to find work. The depression was tough on live show business. My grandmother and her husband, Sammy Amsterdam decided to travel to Panama because the depression hadn’t really hit Panama yet and there was work there. We don’t know what work Sammy found while in Panama, but we know that Donna became a

Donna on Right, c. 1930

“Cabaret Girl” at the Fort Amador Beach Club in Panama. (See: Donna Cabaret Girl in Panama.html.) My grandfather was in the Army, stationed in Panama, (See: Road Trip Clifford Dick Brown. and met my grandmother while she was working at a club there. We don’t know if he knew that Donna was married at the time, but according to oral history, he fell in love with her at first sight. He told his best friend that he was “going to marry that girl.” We also don’t know if his attentions broke up the marriage between Donna and Sammy or if they were already estranged when Dick first saw Donna. We do know that when Donna and Sammy returned to the States, in March of 1930, they were estranged. The two show up on separate pages of the passenger list, both indicating that they paid their passage themselves. Donna indicated her home as in Detroit, at her mother’s address; Sammy indicated his home as in New York, at his mother’s address.

It appears that, sometime in 1931, Dick got out of the service and went to see Donna. Donna got pregnant. Sammy knew that the child could not have been his, but, according to oral history, he remained married to Donna long enough to “give the child a name” then quietly divorced her.

Dick wanted to marry Donna and bring her and her children to Minnesota. Donna, however, had moved to Chicago and was very connected to the nightclub scene there. She wasn’t about to give up the glamor and excitement of 1930s Chicago for the rural life of northern Minnesota. Dick apparently saw the life that Donna was providing his daughter (probably neglectful) and decided that his daughter would be better off with him. He took their daughter, without Donna’s permission, and went to Minnesota with her. Donna sic’d the police on him and he was arrested for child-napping. Luckily, the Lindbergh Law, which made kidnapping a federal offence, had a provision that excepted parents for their own minor children or things could have been a lot worse.

In any event, after a big whoop-de-doo, between the governors of Minnesota and Illinois regarding extradition, (See: Article) Dick went to prison (or jail) sometime after April 1935. He couldn’t have been there very long. (Note: Clifford Brown and Richard “Dick” Brown are the same person.)

Family oral history says that once Dick got out of prison, he went to see Donna one last time. He still loved her and wanted to marry her. She, once again, told him “NO.” After Donna’s rejection, Dick went to a bar/restaurant in Chicago. There, he met a young woman, Dorothy Louise Wilhelm. Her parents owned the place. They began to date, and in February 1936 Dick and Dorothy were married.

Dick and Dorothy divorced and Dick took care of his mother in the Pillager/Motley Minnesota area for many years. Dick married Cecelia Ann Squires in March of 1975 after his mother went into a nursing home. I have no knowledge of how or where he and Cecelia met. I would love to hear the story of their meeting if anyone knows it.

If you know anything of these stories that I have left out, please let me know and I’ll include it in an update.

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Donna – A “Cabaret Girl” in Panama.

We know that Grandpa Dick (Clifford/Richard Brown/Durand) was in the Army in the late 1920s and early 1930s and was stationed in Panama where he and Donna met. We don’t know exactly when Donna and her husband Sammy Amsterdam went to Panama, but we do know they left Panama and headed for the States in April of 1930. We are also fairly certain that they were estranged at the time. Donna and her three-year-old son, Russell, indicate their address was her mother’s in Detroit, while Sammy indicated that his address was his mother’s address in Brooklyn[i]. Family oral history has long held that Dick and Donna met in Panama and that Sammy and Donna split up because of Dick.
While I was researching Dick’s activity in Panama I encountered An American Legacy in Panama: a brief history of the Department of Defense installations and properties, the former Panama Canal Zone, Republic of Panama by Suzanne P Johnson; United States; Department of Defense; Legacy Resources Management Program; U.S. Army Garrison (Panama)[ii]. In An American Legacy… there is a photo of two “Cabaret Girls,” one of whom looks just like Donna. I talked with Russell and he agrees, it looks like Donna to him. The photo is also from the correct time and place that Donna would have been in Panama, and finally, it shows here in a bathing suit, something that Donna started being photographed in when she was seventeen. She also starred in several Bathing Suit Revues over the ensuing years (See Donna Montran).
Family oral history also says that when Dick saw Donna in Panama, he told an army buddy that he was, “going to marry that girl.” Dick and Donna never married but they did have a child in January 1932. In any event, I consider this another photo of Donna. When I have a chance to visit the National Archives, I’ll do some more searching and see what additional information they may have about the “Cabaret Girls” of Panama


[i] Ancestry.com, New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.Original data – Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls); Records of the U.S. Customs Service, R), iOS Application, Year: 1930; Arrival: Microfilm serial: T715; Microfilm roll: T715_4710; Line: 1; List number:.
[ii] University of Florida Digital Collections.