Finding an Unexpected Sister

It has been nearly five years since I have added to this blog. Lots of excuses. Life gets in the way. I didn’t want to write. I was uninspired. Bla bla bla. Anyway, I want to write again so let’s get to it.

I recently submitted my renewal application for Certified Genealogist® to the Board for Certification of Genealogists. This was the first time I had to prepare a work sample using the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS), as the requirement was added since the last time I renewed. In anticipation of this requirement, I began in-depth research to prove the parents of my great-great grandmother Deborah Mahala Tallman Cook. I have been extraordinarily interested in Deborah since I realized that she is in my direct line for mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). If I can’t get past Deborah, my mtDNA line ends with a brick wall. [An explanation of mtDNA can be found on Judy Russell, CG’s blog The Legal Genealogist.]

Deborah (aka Mahala) died 31 January 1908 in Monmouth Beach, Monmouth, NJ.

Deborah (aka Mahala) Cook died 31 January 1908 in Monmouth Beach, Monmouth, NJ. State of New Jersey, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Trenton, NJ.


Deborah Mahala Tallman was born approximately 17 December 1826 near Long Branch, Monmouth, NJ, according to her death certificate, above. She married Jesse V. Cook on 21 May 1848 in Monmouth County, NJ. As you can see, her parents are listed as Elias Tallman and Elizabeth Tallman. Elizabeth’s maiden name was most likely NOT Tallman. It was initially my plan to write the GPS proving the maiden name of Deborah’s mother. Other researchers over the years have said that her maiden name was either Ruth or Root. I have been unable, so far, to prove either name conclusively, but I’m still working on it.

Instead, I wrote the GPS proving the father of Elias Tallman was Christopher Tallman–a whole different discussion for a different day. While I was gathering all the sources I could on a recent trip to Salt Lake City, a colleague gave me a fruitful suggestion. She said that sometimes it’s worth searching the genealogies on, just to see what might pop up, realizing that the documentation is not always readily apparent in the genealogies found on that website.

While I’ve used the searches on website many, many times, I had not used the Genealogies search option before. The entries are based on the old LDS Ancestral File, Pedigree Resource File, International Genealogical Index, and Community Trees. I decided to give the search a try, using Deborah Tallman as the ancestor, putting in Elias Tallman as her father and Elizabeth as her mother. There were four hits, two submitted by one person and two submitted by another person. I checked the first two hits and came across a big surprise.

This footnote appears on page 25 of "Historical and Genealogical Miscellany of New York and New Jersey," Vol. 5, by John E. Stillwell.

This footnote appears on page 25 of Historical and Genealogical Miscellany of New York and New Jersey, Vol. 5, by John E. Stillwell.


For many years I had been operating under the assumption that Elias and Elizabeth Tallman had four children, based on the footnote above. The Genealogies search on revealed that Elias and Elizabeth possibly had five children. The new sibling contender? Minerva Tallman.


Minerva? Where did she come from and how had I missed her all these years? The only place I had ever come across Minerva, in relation to Elias and Elizabeth, was on Lesson learned–check the Genealogies search for additional clues, whether you need to or not.

I proceeded to try to track down Minerva using searches on,,, and The most useful discovery was Minerva’s obituary. She married Wilbur Squires before 1841 and had nine children. Minerva died 30 January 1906 in Coons, Saratoga, NY. I am awaiting her death certificate from Albany, NY. But I found her obituary on “Old Fulton NY Postcards,” listing her sole surviving sister, Mrs. Deborah Cook of Long Branch, NJ. My great-great grandmother.

From The Mechanicville Mercury, 3 February 1906, no page. Found on Old Fulton NY Postcards.


I’m not done with this quest, but I am thrilled to have discovered another sister for Deborah. I’m hoping that Minerva’s death certificate will list the maiden name of their mother, Elizabeth. The other siblings have been difficult to trace, or died before death certificates. Keep your fingers crossed that the informant for Minerva’s death certificate knew who her parents were. Until next time…

© 2016, Elizabeth Kelley Kerstens, CG. All rights reserved.

Leave a Reply