My Family History and Ancestry

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Thank you for stopping by. This web site is a portal to the family history research that I have done and been involved with. Like most genealogists, I started out to focus on my own family, then extended that study to do research on specific families. And then began activities to support others in their research. You will find here a database of our families.

Like the proverbial cobbler's children my personal research often takes a back seat to serious, extended research on three surname groups: Stedman, Davidson, and Lisle. For these families I have been documenting more than just my own direct family interest, but also I have developed research that extends that to a wider community. I have been administering email lists, message boards, and DNA studies relating to these surnames.

This web site is my attempt to link my various family lines together on the web so the different research databases can have a comon index and also to link my extended research studies so there is a single point where they can be accessed from. Please feel free to explore. Questions and comments are always appreciated. It will take a little while to get everything together so please watch it grow. Visit often.

My Story


It is interesting in our modern age, when so much of the culture is about today and the future, that the study of family history and genealogy has never been more popular. For years, genealogy has been one of the major reasons that people got a computer for their homes. For me, genealogy started long before computers were ever thought of as a tool for family historians.

Back in the 1950s, when I was about ten or eleven years old, I started to ask my Dad, Herbert Allen Lisle, about our family history. He is now the patriarch of our family. He shared with me some notes about our Lisle family that he had about our ancestor John Lisle who came to America before the Revolutionary War and was one of the original settlers of Columbus, Ohio.

Many Lisles have stayed in and around Columbus for over 200 years. My cousin Fritz Milligan practices law there and is also a great family historian; we get together often to swap tales. Our common ancestor is my great-grandfather Dr. John Mac Lisle. He fought in the Civil War and then became one of three brothers who became doctors in and around Columbus in the late 19th century. He married Evangeline Gates, introducing our family to the Wigton and Wallace families. General Lew Wallace visited the family and claimed to be related, but I have never been able to prove that.

My Dad's father Thomas Gates Lisle did not stay in the family business and become a doctor. Instead, he went South sometime before 1910 to start a business. Somewhere in his travels he met Artemesia Davidson who became my grandmother. They married in Houston in 1910, and my uncle Thomas Davidson Lisle was born near Birmingham, Alabama in 1911.

Back to the story: As my Dad's parents had already passed away, he wrote his mother's sister, my great aunt Winnie, and asked her for some history of his mother's Davidson family. I still treasure the short family history that she typed up back in 1958; it has been my road map to a Davidson family that came to America in the 1730s from Ireland and were among the first residents of what is now Iredell County, North Carolina. The Revolutionary War General William Lee Davidson was part of the family. Further research showed me that as the family migrated from North Carolina to Tennessee to Texas that families that they married into gave me several ancestors who were among the Austin 300 original Anglo settlers of Texas. In addition, another group were early German settlers in Texas and among the family was the last surviving Texas Confederate soldier - William Persky.

Now that the bug really had me, I spent some time with my mother's parents who lived near us in Pelham Manor, New York. My grandmother told me of her parents Jordan Korp and Charlotte Nielson who came from Sweden to in the 1870s and met and married and raised a family in Worcester, Massachusetts then moved to McKeesport, Pennsylvania at the turn of the century to find better work in the steel mills there. She told me of her sisters and brothers and their families.

I will always remember my grandfather Ernest Lake Ridsdale and his thick Yorkshire accent. He came to America from Saltburn-by-the-Sea as a young man in the early 1900s for a visit and then came back about 1909 and stayed for good. I never learned why he came. As far I as have learned, no other members of his family came to America. A nephew of his whom I met years later told me there was a family rumor of a lost love. He found his way to Pittsburgh where he worked for Andrew Mellon, met and married my grandmother and raised my mother.

So, before I was in high school, I had a lot of notes on my family history, but not a lot of facts. I find it very fortunate that I had the opportunity to learn while I was young while the older generation was still alive. As might be expected, life and career and family intruded on learning much more about the family for many years.

When I married Carolyn Miethe, I married into several more families. My wife's father's family was German - Miethe and Ochs - and her mother's family were Nova Scotian - Steadman and MacMaster. At some point, I sat down with Carolyn's mother, and she filled me in on her family so I now had a blueprint.

My career has always been involved with computers and software. For one of my jobs in the 1980s, I had to travel to England a lot and used the opportunity to connect with one of my mother's Ridsdale cousins and over the course of many visits got to see where my grandfather was born and lived.

About 1984 I got my first genealogy software program - I believe it was Family Roots from Quinsept for the Mac. I started to organize all of the random notes that I had accumulated into an organized form. Being the somewhat methodical sort, I started to realize how I really only had an anecdotal understanding of the family history. A friend Steve Kahler had actually published a genealogy of his family, and he taught me the basics of genealogical research and introduced me to the NEHGS - New England Historical and Genealogical Society. I started to read census microfilms at the local NARA facility and LDS microfilms and started to put some substance on the blueprints I had aquired. I moved my data to a PC using Brother's Keeper software.

In the mid 1990s, I started to get a lot more serious. I felt the software I was using was not cutting it. I saw two trends developing - Data on CDs and Data on the Internet - and I wanted the software package that I was using to be able to take advantage of them. After some research, I moved my data to Family Tree Maker. It was a good decision at the time, and most of the people I was sharing data with were also using it.

Searching the Web, I came across two discoveries that changed the course of my research. I had spent years, on and off, on Lisle research and had never found a clue to the ancestry of my immigrant ancestor John Lisle. I must tell you that was a bit discouraging -- it was like I was just standing in place polishing an apple, never taking a bite.

The first discovery I made was a genealogy posted on the web that mentioned some people named in my Aunt Winnie's paper. I had never really looked at the Davidsons "because it was already done", and it was a Southern family and the NEHGS resources for Southern families was not strong. But finding this small clue got me to research that family more intensely. I quickly discovered that my Aunt's information was leading me to a brick wall. The family that I found had been extensively researched, yet my family whom I was told were cousins did not fit in. About three years later a great woman from Texas emailed me with the solution. But, by then, I was hooked on documenting every descendant of that famous Davidson family.

The second discovery was similar. My mother-in-law had all sorts of anecdotes about her Steadman family from Nova Scotia. I happened across a census transcription from Nova Scotia that included her grandfather Robert Steadman, the earliest of her line that she knew about. I made an inquiry on one of the Nova Scotia email lists to see if anyone had more information. A fine gentleman wrote back telling me that all of the Steadmans in Nova Scotia were descended from a Capt. John Stedman who came to Nova Scotia about 1760 from Rhode Island! After the French and Indian War, the British kicked the Acadians out of Nova Scotia (they went to Louisiana and became the Cajuns...) and decided to have British from the rapidly filling up New England colonies settle the area. Capt. John Stedman was one of these planters. Now, when we visited my mother-in-law, I was able to tell her stories about her family that she had no idea about. I also had my first New England family to research. My Stedman database is now over 60,000 names, and I am still plucking the low hanging fruit.

As a technologist, I am always looking for better ways to do work. I became dissatisfied with Family Tree Maker, and a few years ago I discovered that Legacy. I know that Professional Genealogists feel that publishing needs to be done in books and research journals. I viewed family histories as too multi-dimensional to easily fit into the confines of books. Of course, the hypertext world of the World Wide Web is an ideal venue for publishing family histories. So I decided that I would publish on the Web. My first tool was the software that was the pre-cursor to the WorldConnect project on RootsWeb.com. As good as that is, I kept looking for something better. This past year I have chosen the TNG program and most of the databases you see here are using that package.

Lastly, I had been following the results from Genetic Genealogy - DNA studies. I have come to believe that this new horizon is a means of solving several long standing problems. And I got DNA studies started for the Stedman and Davidson surnames. They are already answering questions that have been argued about for decades.

And in conclusion...


This site has been a long time coming. I always have the pull of "do research" vs. "write it up". And, of course, every so often I have to work or actually have a life. But I now have a vision for how to tell the story. So my focus now is going to be to tell the story.

But Our story is not complete. If you can add to the story or correct our mistakes or just have questions or comments about what you see, please feel free to contact me. I look forward to hearing from you.

John Bulmer Lisle
Nashua, New Hampshire
November 2005

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