Cathrine Foster Phenice circa 1910
Have I done it?! I think I have. The pieces all seem to add up. I am very excited about it, since members of the family have been trying to find evidence of Cathrine Foster Phenice’s family for at least the last 50 years. DNA was helpful in this case, but so was time spent looking. Let me see if I can explain it for those who are interested.
My mother’s name was Betty Lou Bucklin Landry. Her mother was Myrtle Phenice Bucklin. Grandma’s father was Harry Clifton Phenice. His parents were Samuel Charles Phenice (witness to the Lincoln Assassination) and Cathrine Jane Foster (died as a result of terrible burns). We knew some of the ancestry of Samuel, but not of Kate. The one thing we knew for certain was that she was born in 1848 in Mercer County, Pennsylvania.
I wanted to find out more, so I decided to use my newest tool for researching. I did a search on newspapers.com for Phenice and Kansas. I had already done a search for Phenice and Nebraska. I found some interesting items, but nothing led me in the direction of Kate’s Foster family. I had to be open to the chance that her last name was not originally Foster. It’s possible she could have been married before or possibly adopted. There was rumor that the Foster name came about because she had grown up in a foster family. If that had been the case, the title of this post would be “Finding Cathrine’s Foster Family” and it isn’t. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
My search for Phenice and Kansas came up with one particularly juicy morsel. It reads, “Mr. W. E. Phenice, of Trenton, Nebraska, who has been at Perry, Okla., is visiting at Chalk Mound at present. Mr. Phenice is a nephew of A. E. Millison.” (The Eskridge Tribune Star and Eskridge Independent, August 30, 1894)
I know who W. E. Phenice is. Samuel and Kate had an older son named William Emory (b. 1871) and they homesteaded in Trenton, Nebraska, from 1886 to 1889. So that part fits just right. But neither Samuel nor Kate had a sibling by the name of A. E. Millison, because that’s the only way he could be a nephew.
I didn’t really think about it much and then went to look at one of the sites that I have my DNA matches. And can you guess what I found? I found a DNA match with the last name Millison. It really stood out since I had just seen this newspaper article with the same surname identified as a relative. So I had to check it out a little. I looked to see who else in the family was a DNA match to this Millison person. My mom and both of her siblings matched him at the same point on Chromosome 9. None of their first cousins were a match, but one of their second cousins were. And…drumroll, please…it was our cousin Mona Q. who also descends from Samuel and Kate Phenice. And it wasn’t just any other random DNA matching segment, it was the same exact spot on Chromosome 9.
So I sent off a note to that DNA match to ask what he knows about the Millison name. I was also wondering how he might be connected to this A. E. Millison. And if he did know who he was, was either he or his wife from somewhere around Mercer County, Pennsylvania.
After I sent the note, I looked him up on 23andMe, which is where he tested. On his profile he showed that his great grandparents lived in Council Grove, Kansas, which is the same area as Chalk Mound. So he looked like he was from the same family. Then I found an obituary for a Uba Millison at newspapers.com. There was no information in that article, but the name is so unusual that I figured I could search for it on Find A Grave. It worked! I found Alexander E. Millison who died in Wabaunsee, Kansas, which is where William Emery Phenice lived in 1895. But more importantly, I found out that A. E. Millison was born in Mercer County, Pennsylvania, the same place that Cathrine Foster was born.
Of course A. E. Millison was married to someone and she could have been born in Mercer County, too. Kate and Samuel were both born there. Amazingly enough, I heard back right away from my Millison DNA match. That’s practically unheard of. He was able to provide a few quick links for some family information. I was able to determine that A. E. Millison was married to Phoebe Cummings who had been born in Quebec. So the common DNA came through A. E. Millison. The name is also spelled Milliron and Milleson. The family originated in Germany.
I did some research on the family and wasn’t able to find a connection to Kate right away. A. E. did have a daughter named Orra, which is the middle name of Kate’s daughter Emma (Mona’s grandmother). He also had sisters by the name of Catherine and Susannah, both of which are family names in the Phenice line. But the Catherine that was his sister had a well-documented family that did not match our Cathrine. Where was the connection?
1850 Census record from Venango, Pennsylvania. The first complete household shows Moore, Ann Magdelene, James, Emory, Catharine, and Thos Foster.
I found another tree that had the Millison family documented on it. I thought I would try a different approach. I searched for the last name Foster to see if that was in the tree. Sure enough it was. And there it was – a Catherine Foster born in 1848. I went to check out her page and saw that her mother was listed as Anne Magdeleen Milliron, born in Mercer County, Pennsylvania. She was the sister to A. E. Millison. There was a brother of Cathrine with the name of Emery, another name to tie it all together.
When I saw that her father’s name was listed as Morris Foster, I thought it looked familiar. In the beginning of 2018 I had come across a Census record from Venango, Pennsylvania, in 1850. There was a two-year-old daughter in the household named Catharine. She had a brother named Emory, a mom named Ann Magdelene, and a father named Moore Foster. I had saved this but was never able to find any other information on this household.
Maybe if I had been searching for Morris Foster I would have had better luck. The other problem is that Morris Foster died in 1852. Ann Magdelene soon married George Rihel and the first of their nine children together was born in 1854. So little Kate Foster grew up in a household of Rihels after that point. She was a Foster child, but in name only.
Catherine Foster in the Rihel household in 1860
So the relationship to A. E. Millison stated in the article was slightly inaccurate. Kate was his niece (not his sister) and William Emory Phenice was his grand nephew. They must have had a close family connection for them to visit like they did. Yet that article was instrumental in making a great connection. I am going to have to pay close attention to those old newspaper blurbs about family visiting family because you never know what little morsel of information can lead to a great discovery.
And a great discovery it is. For Kate’s father’s side, I only have his name so far. But for Anne Magdeleen, she is the first of four generations found. The family was in Pennsylvania for a long time. Most of them were from Germany, and one of our ancestors was born on the voyage to the US. Another was a Revolutionary War soldier who died in the Battle of the Wabash at the age of 36.
Now that I’ve updated my family tree with these new names, I’ve been able to identify many DNA matches who also have these names. I had suspected that they were connections through Cathrine Foster and now I have enough information to make the connection.
Now that I have walked my way through all of this information, I’m starting to believe it a bit more.
Cathrine Jane Foster Phenice family tree