A Short Strand in a Long Line

My paternal grandmother’s family name is Hine. Discovery of “Descendants of Thomas Hine, Milford, Conn., 1640” will make Hine family research easy. 1 In 1976, I thought I could just attach my grandmother’s Hine ancestors to the descendants of Thomas Hine. Forty-four years later, connecting William Lathin Hine, my paternal second great grandfather, to the Thomas Hine line of descent remains a puzzle.

An 1878 Goodhue County, Minnesota, “brag book” includes a William Lathin Hine biographical sketch. The sketch, likely supplied by William, describes his travels through the territories of the old Northwest. “Born in Courtland county, N. Y., April 11, 1822; 1840 moved to Michigan; remained 18 months then moved to Indiana; thence, in 1844 to Wisconsin; thence, in 1858 to Cannon Falls, this county.” 2

The account of William’s arrival in Magnolia Township, Rock County, Wisconsin, in 1840 conflicts with his Goodhue County biographical sketch. “The first settlements made in [Magnolia Township] were in 1840, by J. N. Palmer, Joseph Prentice, Andrew Cotter, W. Adams, W. Fockler, Abram Fox, Jonathan Cook, Edmund Basy, Ambrose Moore, George McKenzie, Widow Hines and her son, William L. Hines, and Sanford P. Hammond.” 3

Sanford Hammond and Elizabeth Hine married in Kalamazoo County, Michigan, 6 March 1838. What is Elizabeth’s relationship to William, and to the “widow” Hine? In 1850, Malvina Hine was enumerated with the Sanford Hammond family. 4 Sanford and Elizabeth had no children. How is Malvina related to Elizabeth, William, and the “widow” Hine?

How can a family line stretching over 400 years be so closed? Perhaps my focus is too narrow. Casting a wider net, I built an unsourced Ancestry Hine family tree consisting of 1,863 members. To date, the tree has amassed 1,000 records and generated more than 2,400 people, photo, and story hints from which an additional 315 public tree hints filled with conflicting information have sprouted.

A Hine family member said he edits a Hine family tree for a cousin who is the family authority. In response to information I provided about my Hine ancestors, the “authority” said a fit with his Hine family was “impossible.” Not so fast, I thought.

A Hine descendant—7th great grandson of Thomas Hine—and I share a DNA distant cousin match suggesting I descend from the long line of the Thomas Hine family. My short strand in the Hine line “daughtered” out with my grandmother’s generation. Another brick wall. I have done all of the online and Family History Library work I can do. I think there is a trip to the old Northwest Territories, western New York, and Connecticut in my future.


  1. “Descendants of Thomas Hine, Milford, Conn[ecticut,] 1640[, a] genealogy, and history of the descendants of Thomas Hine of Milford, Conn[ecticut], 1639”. [C]ompiled by Hon. Robert C. Hine, Judge of the Municipal Court, St. Paul, Minn[esota, 1899].
  2. History of Goodhue County… (Red Wing, Minn.: Wood, Alley & Co., 1878) 632.
  3. The History of Rock County, Wisconsin… (Chicago: Western Historical Co., 1879) 516.
  4. “1850 United States Federal Census,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/8054/ : accessed 20 January 2020) > Wisconsin > Rock> Magnolia > Image 2, dwelling 791, family 791, Sanford P. Hammond household; NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 1005; FHL film no. 444,992.

A Favorite Photo

Minnie (Havens) Halderman, my maternal great grandmother, holds a firm grip on her place in my family tree: The Brickwall. Her photograph portrait in an oval fish-eye frame hung in my grandparent’s home. Handwritten numbers “1913” scratched on the back of the photograph suggest the year in which it was made. Emma, my maternal grandmother, Minnie’s daughter, died in 1940. When my grandfather died in 1967, his home was emptied of its contents and Minnie’s photograph came to me. It hangs in my house as it has hung in every house I’ve lived in since.

Minnie (Havens) Halderman

Not much is known of Minnie. Born in 1877, her place of birth changed with each census as did her age. In 1896, Minnie married Charles William Halderman in Tombstone, Cochise County, Arizona. They made their home in Bisbee, Cochise County, until 1920 when the family relocated to Tulare County, California.

Minnie’s photograph suggests secrecy. “Wouldn’t you like to know?” says the coy tilt of her head against the cupped fingers of her right hand. I study her photo and ponder what secrets she took to her grave. Enigmatic is a charitable description. In my family she is known as Minnie the Fibber. “That old lady couldn’t tell the truth if she had to,” Grandpa often exclaimed.

In 1952, she lived in a ramshackle old house in Washoe Valley, outside of Reno. The only indoor plumbing was a cold water tap at the kitchen sink which drained into a 5-gallon bucket. I bathed in a wash tub in the summer kitchen. To an eight-year old city boy, the outhouse was revolting. The house, a series of one-room cabins attached to form a “U,” was huge and as mysterious as Minnie. She tended a large vegetable garden and the contents of an equally large greenhouse. I watched in awe—also huge—as Minnie, with a few boards, a piece of rope, and an old tarp, threw together a lean-to tent against an outside wall of the house to give me a play space.

My 75-year old great grandmother had a 1935 Chevrolet coupe she called “Mae West.” Not quite 5-feet tall and barely able to see over the steering wheel, she held it with both hands, crushed the accelerator to the floorboard with her tiny foot, and whisked us into Reno or Carson City. In retrospect, breathtaking. To an 8-year old boy an amazing adventure.

Mystery, inscrutability, and perplexity notwithstanding, it is Minnie and the experiences she gave 8-year old me I recall each time I look at her in my favorite photograph.

California and a New Life

Minnie and Charles Halderman

Emma Mary Halderman, was nineteen years old, unmarried, and pregnant. Charles and Minnie understood what an out-of-wedlock birth meant for their daughter and her child. Shocked by Emma’s news, Charles and Minnie may have denied it could be possible. They may have been angry with Emma but would turn their anger upon themselves for what they perceived as their failure as parents. Confronting the fact of the child’s birth demanded action. And action would alter the course of the family’s life.

The months leading up to the child’s birth gave Charles and Minnie time to consider its effect. Their conversations at night in the privacy of their bedroom may have focused on what best suited Emma’s and the family’s welfare.

Charles may have admitted he did not know what to do. Minnie may have insisted they could not stay in Bisbee, that they needed to go somewhere else to begin a new life. A business owner, Charles would have objected, saying he could not just up and leave. At 48, it would be difficult to start over again. As a mother, Minnie may have felt obligated to do everything in her power to protect her daughter. Maybe she urged seeking help from family or friends living far from Bisbee.

A long standing custom, recording a child’s birth in a family Bible is often recognized by governments in establishing citizenship. Recording the baby’s birth as their child in the Halderman family Bible set Charles and Minnie’s plan in motion. The Bible record provided legitimacy. It protected Emma from the shame of bearing a child out of wedlock. With no other birth record, the child’s birth father did not exist.

Within weeks of the birth, the Haldermans prepared to move from Bisbee to Tulare County, California. To finance the move, the family may have sold its belongings, including the truck that was the source of Charles’ livelihood. Or, hoping to begin a new business venture, they may have packed the truck with all they owned and drove it to California.

The seven hundred fifty miles between Bisbee, Arizona and Tulare, California gave the Haldermans time and distance to fill out this new chapter in the family narrative, a narrative invented to shield an unwed daughter with a child as well as to protect the family from social stigma and embarrassment. In the new narrative the child would grow up with Minnie as her mother, Charles her father, Fred, Ben, and Clarence her brothers, and Emma, her big sister.