52 Ancestors,
in 52 Weeks
Week 13:
Nearly Forgotten

George Koontz, 1806-18??:
   Nearly Forgotten

When I research an ancestor who has very few identifiable records, I think how sad that they are lost to history, or nearly forgotten. I have many ancestors who fit this description. I take it as a challenge to tease out the details of the lives of these ancestors. In one case, I felt a particular desire to corroborate the existence of a nearly forgotten ancestor. My 3rd great grandfather, George Koontz, is an enigma, even his own children had forgotten him.

Son of George Koontz,
  James E. Koontz, 1840 – 1919

My 2nd great grandfather was James E. Koontz, 1840 – 1919. James was a Sergeant with the 3rd Tennessee Infantry (Union) for 3 years during the Civil War. He was a father to 9 children with his first wife, my 2nd great grandmother Mary Major 1840 – 1907, and 2 with his second wife. [1] It’s James’ death certificate that caused me to take a great interest in discovering whatever I could about his father George Koontz. [2]

James E Koontz DC close-up

The entry for birth details states, “He never new [sic] who his parents was. Was found and raised by Koontz.” The “informant” for the death certificate is not identified, so where did this detail about James’ birth come from and could it be true?

James E Koontz Family

The Paper Trail

Prior to finding James Koontz’s death record, I had found several records for the Koontz family. George Koontz (Koons) married Sally Ezell on February 26, 1837 in Knox County, TN. [3] In the 1850 census, I found 3 of George and Sally’s children living with her parents, Solomon and Mary Ezell, in Knox County, TN. [4] In the 1860 census, I found Sally (aka. Sarah) with her 5 children living in Anderson County, TN. [5]

I believe my George Koontz, the husband of Sally Ezell and the father of James E. Koontz, must have died prior to 1860 but after 1851 when the youngest child was born. Birth and death records were not required during this time period and I have found no grave, or other evidence of an exact date of death for George Koontz. However, I believe the census records are strong evidence that James E. Koontz knew his mother was Sally and that she married George Koontz and he was NOT a foundling. But could I find further evidence?

In 1860 the Koontz’s are neighbors of a George Koontz age 25 who I once thought was a son of my George Koontz from a previous marriage. I have now determined the parentage of this younger George Koontz, but it’s possible he was a nephew or cousin of my George Koontz.

The DNA Trail

I turned to my DNA matches at Ancestry DNA to find anyone with the surname Koontz in their published family trees. I found several people among my matches with James E. Koontz in their tree. Not surprising given the number of children my 2nd great grandfather had. AND, I found DNA matches who have siblings of James E. Koontz in their direct lineage. Although most of these matches have also made the same connection to George Koontz that I have, none have additional sources or have proved parents for George Koontz. I then looked for the Ezell surname among my DNA matches. Again, I found several. Good news, these matches include several who descend from siblings of Sally Ezell Koontz. So, at a minimum, James E. Koontz was definitely the son of Sally Ezell Koontz and NOT a foundling. This is consistent with the paper trail.

James E Koontz & Nelly
Koontz Family Tree

Further Research

But, how to prove James was the son of George Koontz. I do not know the father, or mother, or any of the siblings of George Koontz, how can I prove I descend from him. I looked for DNA matches with direct paternal descent with the surname Koontz, or similar. I have a few. Most of these Koontz, or similar, descendants trace their ancestry to men in North Carolina, in counties very close to eastern Tennessee. But, some are further afield in Pennsylvania. I, too, have ancestors named Kuntz from Pennsylvania on a different ancestral line, which could inflate the number of matches I have with the Koontz, or similar, surname. I will need to fill out family trees for each of these Koontz lineages to discover if any had a relative, hopefully, named George, in Knox County, TN circa 1840. Records for the first half of the 19th century in eastern Tennessee are few, and it possibly explains why George Koontz is nearly forgotten.

Conclusion

While I have yet to prove that George Koontz is definitively the father of James E. Koontz, I believe I have proven that James was NOT a foundling. So, why the remark on his death certificate? James’ cause of death was the result of surgery for an inguinal hernia. [2] It’s probable the informant was his second wife, Hanna Hutchinson Koontz, 1871-1950. [6] They had been married for 11 years, but perhaps she was unsure of James’ parentage. Although, typically parentage is recorded as ‘Unknown‘ rather than this odd detail about being a foundling. I may never discover the reason for this remark. But, this mystery will not keep me from researching the nearly forgotten George Koontz and, eventually, re-connecting him to his son James.

James E Koontz, death record

SOURCES:

  1. Profile for James E. Koontz, ‘Osborn‘ family tree, Ancestry.com; https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/13493206/person/46585636848/facts
  2. Entry for James E. Koontz, Ancestry.com. Tennessee, Death Records, 1908-1965 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Tennessee Death Records, 1908-1965. Nashville, Tennessee: Tennessee State Library and Archives. 12 Jul 1919
  3. Entry for George Koons, Ancestry.com. Tennessee, Marriage Records, 1780-2002 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008. Original data: Tennessee State Marriages, 1780-2002. Nashville, TN, USA: Tennessee State Library and Archives. Microfilm. 26 Feb 1837.
  4. Entry for James E. Koontz, Year: 1850; Census Place: Subdivision 15, Knox, Tennessee; Roll: 886; Page: 207A ; National Archives Microfilm Publication M432; Ancestry.com. 1850 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.
  5. Entry for James C. Koontz, Year: 1860; Census Place: Anderson, Tennessee; Roll: ; Page: 69; Image: 141; National Archives Microfilm Publication M653; Ancestry.com. 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2004.
  6. Profile for Hanna Hutchinson, ‘Osborn‘ family tree, Ancestry.com; https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/13493206/person/12581916680/facts
Remember Me and I Will Live

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Born Takeo Furukawa on 15 March 1883 in Tottori-Ken, Tokyo, Japan, little is documented of his early childhood. Family oral history stories say that the young Takeo experienced hunger, poverty and the loss of his family. Additionally, the stories tell of friendship, spiritual learning and scholarship.

David L. Osborne: His Indianapolis Homes

My great grandfather, David Louis Osborne, lived at over 20 addresses around Indianapolis between 1876 and 1942. I thought it would be interesting to see all the old buildings and homes where he lived in my hometown of Indianapolis.

The Marriage of David and Jennie Osborne

My great grandfather, David Louis Osborne (1848-1942), was a widower with two young sons in 1886 when he married Jennie Warbington (1857-1918) in Minneapolis on the 27th of May. I decided it was time to put sources to the story.

Do You See A Resemblance?

While working on a family photo project I decided it would be fun to compare side-by-side my father and his parents, at similar ages, to try and discover a family resemblance.

Probate of Jesse King 1868

Jesse King was born in Ohio (probably in the vicinity of Chillicothe) in 1805, he was a son of Philip King and Mary Leah Wright, both of Pennsylvania. Philip King was a farmer, he married Leah Wright in 1801 in Somerset, PA, they had six children, of whom Jesse was the third.

Letter from Sarah Tucker Lafary

A handwritten letter from Sarah Tucker Lafary to the then president of the United States, Grover Cleveland. It was her last appeal for a War of 1812 pension, sadly the pension was denied. The letter gives a glimpse of a woman who had no formal education, a poor farmers wife, then widow, mother of nine, she probably just wanted some independence through an income of her own.

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52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 3: Unusual Name
The surnames in my tree are typical of common western European names. However, the name that is unusual among these names is MY surname: LaFara.

Admiral Byrd: I’d Like to Meet…

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 4: I’d Like to Meet…
Richard E. Byrd, my sixth cousin, 3 times removed, was a famous aviator, in 1929 he flew to the South Pole. His story inspired me when I was young.

Luella Pressell: Surprise!

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 6: Surprise!
Just when you think you know everything about an ancestor, surprise! I thought I knew most everything about my paternal great grandfather David L. Osborne, 1848-1942.

Rumple Family Photo 1895

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 8: Family Photo
For all of us who are procrastinating about labeling photos I have one thing to say, “Be considerate of the genealogist of the future!” My maternal grandmother was very good about labeling old family photos, and there is one in particular I found very informative.

Conrad Rumple: Bachelor Uncle

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 10: Bachelor Uncle
My uncles are the marrying kind, sometimes more than once!
I had to go back four generations for a bachelor uncle, my great-great-great uncle Conrad Rumple, 1833-1911.
Conrad was an older brother to my great-great grandfather on my matrilineal line, William Rumple, 1839-1912.

George Lafary and Catherine Landon: Large Family

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 11: Large Family
My great-great grandparents, George Lafary and Catherine Landon, had a relatively small family, three of their six children survived to adulthood. However, they both came from large families of nine siblings and nearly all survived to marry and have children.

In The Paper

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 13: In The Paper
It’s fun to find articles in the paper mentioning one of my relatives. Mostly they are birth, marriage, divorce and death events. But, it’s the oddball articles in the papers I like the most.

Genealogy Brick Walls

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 14: Brick Wall
We all have a brick wall, that one ancestor who defies all research. I decided I would work at my brick walls by generation, I broke through the last of my 3rd great grandparent brick walls, now I am working on 4th great grandparents.

Catherine Landon: Out of Place

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 16: Out of Place
I realized I did not have a date of death for my great, great grandmother, Catherine Landon Lafary. A fresh search uncovered the date and much more. Out of place, but once discovered, everything fell into place.