The Yankey "Fortune Letters" by Barbara H. Mahoney

Dear Yankie/Yankey Family Members January 17, 2007

Subject: The Yankey “Fortune” Letters by Barbara Halladay Mahoney, July 2006

This paper is being published on the website as written by Barbara H. Mahoney. The document has been the in the research stage for many years with contributions from numerous family members but we must offer a very special thank you to two people for making this information available, Ruth Gregory (RBG, deceased 1993) and Barbara Mahoney (BHM). Many hours of work, gathering information, crosschecking of records, writing and editing, were required to complete this publication. Other Yankey descendants provided actual copies of the Fortune Letters, not limited to but including Richard Miller, Gene Rae Shores, Martha Lankford and Mona Aldrich. The initials after these names will appear in the text of the publication, indicating that the contributing source of that text. Both Barbara Mahoney and Ruth Gregory trace their family roots to Michael Yankey, born 1775 in Virginia.

Barbara H. Mahoney and Ruth Gregory added extensive family history and genealogy to accompany the Fortune Letters, without their explanations and family research these letters, by themselves, would be much more difficult to comprehend. The letters contain much speculation, assumptions and personal opinions that required validation by Barbara and Ruth. Many Family History errors are contained in these letters. The authors of the Fortune Letters were doing the best they could with the information available to them, errors resulted and inaccurate statements were written. Cross-references by Ruth and Barbara have corrected many of those errors but this does not mean the entire publication is error free. Use the information carefully. We expect you, the readers, to provide added information about the people mentioned in these letters. Do not hesitate to provide us with additions and/or corrections to the Fortune Letters or the related genealogy, please send only validated information with source references.

Barbara H. Mahoney does not have email access but will provide commentary to questions if supplied with a self addressed and posted return envelope.

Many initials were used in the letters to identify family members, this being the writer’s attempt to shorten the writing labor but for today’s readers this technique can be troublesome. W.H.Y is William Henry Yankie, J.M.Y is James Minor Yankie, J.S.Y. is Joseph Samuel Yankey, W.R.Y. is William Riley Yankey, N.A.Y. is Noah Alpheus Yankey, Dr. J.W.Yankey of Sylvia, Kansas (first and middle name unknown). F.A.Y may be Felix A. Yankey.

Regards, Gerald W. Yankie
605 Overlook Road
Simi Valley CA 9065

Barbara H. Mahoney
805-965-0682 3100 Perryman Way
Sacramento, CA 95820

The Yankey "Fortune Letters" by Barbara H. Mahoney

Waiting within the YANKEY - YANKEE - YANKIE family "legends" is “a fortune in Germany", or so it was claimed in the early 1900s. WILLIAM H. YANKIE, a descendant of JACOB YANKEE and MARY SHRUM, seems to have been the catalyst behind the "search for all the heirs of the first Michael Yankey." Ultimately, the time period not clear, the "search" involved many from different branches of this large German-American family. Some even changed the spelling of their name to the YANKIE form, as they thought that was the original Germanic spelling.

The entire story of the "fortune" is not known. However, through a collection of old letters (copies) generously provided by various YANKEY - YANKEE - YANKIE descendants, it is possible to recreate some of it. It is likely there was much more correspondence, as well as "visiting", by various YANKEY - YANKEE - YANKIES as the "search" went on.

The Basis of the "Fortune"

It seems WILLIAM H. YANKEE (who changed the spelling to YANKIE) saw, or heard of, a newspaper advertisement which states those with the surname "YANKIE' possibly had a "fortune waiting in Germany". [It must be noted, the wording of said advertisement is not known to me -BHM]. The quoted material came from old letters, along with the possibility of as much as millions of dollars "waiting in Germany".

Was this true? It is, of course, possible. Americans do inherit "legacies" from other countries. However, the longer the family "roots" are in America, the less likely American family members would inherit property in the "home" land. By circa 1900, the YANKEY - YANKEE - YANKIE family was in America for at least 125 years, possibly longer.

Was the "fortune" fraudulent, a "scam"? Many of the "fortunes" in other lands, or even in other states were strictly schemes to separate the credulous from their money. Mrs. MARY HARTER, an eminent genealogist in the Virginia - West Virginia area of Rockingham and Pendleton counties, answered my questions about the "scams" by stating they were known to have begun as early as the 1880s, perhaps before. I have read of the "scams" in several general history books. One stated such advertisements appeared in German language newspapers in St. Louis, MO. At times letters were sent to people of the selected surnames. A "fortune" from Germany is mentioned in a SITES genealogy publication. In 1885, a GEORGE NAZELROD of Louisburg, MO, was mentioned in The Buffalo Reflex [a MO newspaper, 7 May 1885 ed.] as having been " receipt of a letter from Germany, in which the pleasing intelligence is conveyed that he is one among a number of heirs of a legacy of $12,885,000." Both the SITES and NAZELRODS families were allied with the YANKEYS in Virginia. As Mrs. Harter stated in correspondence: "At least [the scams] got the family members writing and talking to each other". Others visited known relatives, sometimes over long distances.

KATE FRALEY FITTER recalls her grandmother, ELIZABETH ANN YANKEY WELCH, had a visit from "her uncles or brothers" when the family lived in Mitchell Co. TX (ca. 1909-12). "Grandmother was supposed to get some money. I don't think she ever got it." ROSE VONTANNA YANKEY, daughter of JOSEPH SAMUEL YANKEY, wrote in a letter to LEWIS YANKEY, in the 1970s, "a woman named CONRAD and her daughter came to visit us while they were all looking for the fortune from Germany." It is interesting to note some came forward with information on the "fortune" in their correspondence, others never mentioned why they wanted genealogical data.

Genealogical Materials in the Fortune Letters

The various letters hold valid genealogical information. However, the old letters also contain erroneous data with confused generations, names and places. Unfortunately, some of the letters have been used as the basis of genealogical research, without checking against census reports or county records. Some who used the old letters as the basis of their research compounded the confusion by not identifying their sources. Others used only one census report, that of 1810 Pendleton County, Virginia (now West Virginia). This census contains an age error for both MICHAEL YANKEY and his wife MAGDALENE HOTTINGER. [Census read on microfilm-BHM]

Beginning in the early 1960s, researchers who relied primarily on the old letters for their data began depositing the YANKEY-YANKEE-YANKIE material in various genealogical and historical archives, including the Latter Day Saints Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Such material (sources unnamed) also circulated to various researchers, and has appeared in a number of genealogical publications and on the internet. This is a typical problem when family information is published without adequate research.

The Surname Spelling

Some, including WILIAM H. YANKIE, did change the surname spelling because of the "fortune". Perhaps believing they had a better "claim" on the said "fortune" with the spelling thought to be the "German" spelling. Others changed the spelling earlier, as with the Ohio line of JONATHAN YANKEY-YANKIE. His family bible shows an earlier spelling of YANKIE. It is said, and possible, some of the YANKEES changed the spelling to YANKEY because of the Civil War. However, YANKEY, YANKIE and YANKEE are found on many records, this is likely related to how the clerk or recorder spelled the name.

As for the "German" spelling, it is known the surname began with “J” in German. As proof, MICHAEL YANKEY spelled his name in German script on documents recorded in Rockingham Co. VA. Although the spelling of the name cannot be certain, his signature clearly begins with a “J” in German script. In Germanic languages “J” is pronounced much as “Y” is in English.

The Legend Of The "Three Michaels"

There were too many MICHAELs in the Virginia stories. Sometimes numbered as MICHAEL I, II, or III, this thinking has been passed around by many people, likely emanating from the "fortune" letters. The error was compounded when the term “17th century” was used to mean the 1700s, rather than the correct 18th century. Others, reading the 17th century comment correctly as the 1600s, assumed the "first Michael" was in America by the late 1600s. Others thought "MICHAEL I" never left Germany". This document correctly identifies MICHAEL YANKEY b. ca 1775 in Virginia as the son of JOHN YANKEY. Alternately, as seen in some letters, descendants of JACOB YANKEY, b. ca 1773 in Virginia, have erroneously stated that JACOB’s father was also named JACOB instead of correctly identifying his father as JOHN YANKEY.

"Slabtown" or "Sealtown" Virginia

It has been widely circulated that a MICHAEL YANKEY "landed at" or" lived and died at" Slabtown, VA. Some of the material states "he moved" to Rockingham Co. VA, while other data states MICHAEL II or even III, moved on to Rockingham Co., VA.

LEWIS YANKEY wrote in his large notebook, in reference to "Slabtown or Sealtown", that he obtained this information from RICHARD MILLER ca 1972. [MILLER also sent me this information ca 1980- BHM] GENA RAE SHORES, also sent me the "Slabtown" data, stating that the town was hard to find, and located in Lancaster Co., VA. I searched a Colonial America area atlas, and did not find Slabtown. However, Mrs. LUCILLE WILLIAMS, of the Mary Ball Memorial Museum and Library, Lancaster, VA, kindly sent me the following information. "Slabtown is inland about five miles from the landing at Mulenbeck, on the Carrotomay River, which runs into the Rappahannock, and then into Chesapeake Bay." Mrs. Williams reported no JAENCKE-YANKEY records found in this area, and so concluded, as I had, that it was an unlikely place for a German-speaking immigrant to arrive in America.

The Harrisonburg-Rockingham County Historical Society staff did not know the name "Slabtown". A Virginia genealogist stated Harrisonburg was once "nicknamed" " Rock Town". "Graveltown" or "Gravestown" in Shenandoah Co. VA is named in some of the letters. [I did find a reference to Graveltown Cemetery in a VA cemetery book-BHM]

"The Three Brothers"

 This is a very common genealogical family "legend" found in many lines. It is often stated in this way: "Three brothers got off the ship and went three different ways". The "three brothers" reference appears in some of the letters. It is probable that three YANKEY brothers were born in the 1770s in Virginia, but unlikely they “got off a ship”.


JOHN YANKEY, deceased, was named as father of JACOB age 10, and MICHAEL, age 8, in Shenandoah Co., VA court records, dated 25 December 1783. In the same record is ANDREW YANKEY, age 8. Not named as a son of JOHN in the court record, likely an omission, either by court recorder or by the genealogist employed by RUTH GREGORY to read the records. The three boys were being assigned guardians, “bound out”, a term meaning placed with a foster family. JOHN YANKEY's date of death is not yet known. However, this court record clearly identifies JOHN YANKEY as the father of the two (or three) boys.

The YANKEY family was in the southern Shenandoah Co. or northern Rockingham Co., Virginia area by August 1775. JACOB YANKEY and ANDREW YANKEY were baptized that month in Rader's Church, Timberville, Rockingham Co., VA. [Timberville is close to the Rockingham and Shenandoah Co. line-BHM]. MICHAEL YANKEY was not recorded as baptized on this date. [There is a possibility of an error in church records or inaccurately read in published compilations, not original records-BHM]. Some researchers thought JACOB and ANDREW were twins, but this was proved incorrect by the 1783 court records. MICHAEL and ANDREW were both listed age 8, Dec.1783. That does not mean they were twins. No other records have been found on ANDREW YANKEY, and his name is not well known to YANKEY descendants, however, we see the name ANDREW given to descendents of both JACOB and MICHAEL YANKEY. [RBG and I speculated that ANDREW YANKEY died in childhood - BHM].

We are also aware of an ANDREAS (ANDREW) JAENCKE who arrived in the Port of New York on the Moravian Church ship “Irene” on June 22, 1750 with the Henry Jorde Colony destined for the Moravian Colony near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The ship “Irene” carried colonists from Zeyst, Netherlands with a stop at Dover, England, departing for New York on May 11, 1750. Research is ongoing to investigate a connection between ANDREW JAENCKE and JOHN YANKEY.

JACOB YANKEY (son of JOHN), b. ca 1773 (court recorded age 10 in 1783), the proven son of JOHN YANKEY, owned land in Rockingham Co., VA, and married MARY SHRUM [Schram in German] in the same county. She is the daughter of DAVID SHRUM. [JACOB may have had an earlier marriage. Some state he was married to CHRISTINE NEEDMORE, or NEDMORE. However, a CHRISTIAN NEDMORE signed as bondsman for JACOB YANKEY in Rockingham Co., and some may have misread the marriage bond-BMH]. JACOB did have a daughter, BARBARA, born before his marriage to MARY SHRUM. BARBARA is identified as "daughir" in JACOB'S bible, but year of her birth unreadable on torn section. [Census reports b. ca 1794-BHM]

Some of JACOB'S children were born in VA. About 1803, he moved his family to KENTUCKY, and there built a stone house on Wilson's Creek. During the Civil War (after JACOB'S death) part of the battle of Perryville, KY took place on some of the old YANKEY property. Stones from the old JACOB YANKEY house were used in the foundation of the Perryville Battlefield Museum. [From MARTHA LANKFORD, a descendant-BHM]

JACOB YANKEY has many descendants who stayed in Kentucky, some moving on to other states. Two of JACOB and MARY'S sons, JACOB Jr. and SAMUEL, both married in KY, moved on to Missouri.

JACOB Jr. lived in Pettis Co. MO, had a large family, and was a Union supporter during the Civil War. WILLIAM HENRY YANKIE, who started the "Fortune" search was a descendant of this family.

SAMUEL YANKEY lived in Jackson Co., MO. He was a farmer and wagon maker near Lone Jack. He owned one or two slaves prior to the Civil War. As far as is known, his family supported the Confederacy during the Civil War. Part of the family was removed from this area with other Confederate sympathizers because of the dissent and raids in the area. Most of SAMUEL'S descendants lived in Missouri, some in Kansas.

MICHAEL YANKEY (son of JOHN) b. ca 1775, VA, died before Feb. 1835 in Pendleton Co. (W) VA. The proven son of JOHN YANKEY, he married MAGDALENE HOTTINGER, daughter of CONRAD HOTTINGER in Rockingham Co. VA in 1792. They owned property in Rockingham Co. until about 1808-1810, when they moved to Pendleton Co. (now WVA), living on top of the Shenandoah Mt. in the northeastern part of the county.

MICHAEL and Magdalene had four sons, (named in letters of JAMES MINOR YANKIE). These sons are:

JACOB (MICHAEL, JOHN) b. 1794, VA, married JUDITH RIGGLEMAN and lived in Rockingham Co. VA. JACOB and JUDITH had numerous children. Four of their sons moved on: JONATHAN WESLEY, OH, MO, IL; JAMES MICHAEL, TN; JOSEPH SAMUEL, OH, IN, TX; and NOAH ALPHEUS YANKEY, MO, IA. JOSEPH SAMUEL was a correspondent of JAMES MINOR YANKIE, as were two of JONATHAN WESLEY'S sons, JOSEPH SAMUEL of Rockwood, IL, and WILLIAM RILEY of Haines, OR.

MICHAEL Jr. (MICHAEL, JOHN) b. 1796, VA, married REBECCA FEEZLE-FREASLE in Pendleton Co (W) VA, and moved to Adams Co., OH, died March 12, 1879, buried Locust Grove, OH. Two sons, ANTHONY WARREN YANKEY and ANDREW JACKSON YANKEY.

WILLIAM (MICHAEL, JOHN) b. ca 1800, VA, moved on briefly [family story] to Ohio, then to Mississippi ca 1840, where he twice married, and had many descendants, some of them moving on to Texas and other places. [There is a circulated erroneous report that this WILLIAM died in the Revolutionary War. The war ended a generation before WILLIAM was born-BHM]


There are some differences in the "letters" on the names of the daughters of MICHAEL YANKEY and MAGDALENE HOTTINGER, which accounted for some researchers listing more "daughters" than existed. The facts are that LYDIA married [1812] FREDERICK NESSLERODT, JR [various spellings]; CATHERINE, married WILLIAM CARRIER; MARY (Polly) married JOHN WRATCHFORD; PHOEBE, married AARON HALTERMAN; MALINDA, married WILLIAM RADCLIFF [also RATLIFF]; CENIA [ASENITH], married JOHN HARTER, and 'BETSEY ANN" [ELIZABETH], married GEORGE HARRIS. [See 1912 letter]. In another letter [1924], there are changes, "BETSY ANN" HARRIS, omitted, LYDIA miss-named as DOVE, MALINDA'S surname as SMITH, and JENNIE HOTTINGER added.

There is some proof of all of the above being daughters of MICHAEL, b 1775, with the exception of JENNIE HOTTINGER. [Note: RBG and I both believe JENNIE HOTTINGER was a confusion, perhaps a "courtesy" title "aunt" to some YANKEYS-BHM]. LEWIS YANKEY stated a JUDAH was a daughter of MICHAEL YANKEY. However, no one of that name has been found in that generation, and the name does not appear in J.M.Y.'S letters.

The Confused Generations

In various letters it is obvious that JACOB YANKEY, b. 1773, and moved to Kentucky, has been confused with JACOB YANKEY, b. 1794, who was the son of MICHAEL YANKEY, b. ca 1775. Plus, thinking the lines were headed by "MICHAELS I, II, III, a generation was erroneously added, listing sons named MICHAEL, JACOB, WILLIAM, "died in the Revolutionary War", and Jonas, "went to Indiana" or "went to Indiana and was never heard from again."

In the opinion of RUTH GREGORY and myself [BHM], the four names reflected the four sons of MICHAEL YANKEY, b. ca 1775, VA, those being JACOB, MICHAEL, WILLIAM, and JONATHAN...with JACOB remaining in VA, MICHAEL and JONATHAN moving to Adams Co., OH and WILIAM to Yazoo Co., MS.

The Yankey Who "died in the Revolutionary War"

Said to be WILLIAM, of the generation that includes "JONAS", some have confused with WILLIAM, b. ca 1800, son of MICHAEL, b. ca 1775, and who moved to MS. It is possible that JOHN YANKEY, deceased by 1783 may have died in the Revolutionary War. However, no proof has been found of a YANKEY-JAENCKE, (other spellings) who served in that war. [I hired a genealogist to search Rev. War records in the National Archives under various spellings. None was found, however, it is known Rev. War records are incomplete - BHM]

"Jonas" who "went to Indiana"

With the confused generation, "Jonas" is probably JONATHAN, who moved to Adams Co. Ohio. [RBG agreed with me on this assessment - BHM]

The Letters

The few "fortune" letters in my possession [copies] are dated from 1911 to 1924, with most written by JAMES MINOR YANKIE, of Ohio and Los Angeles, CA. Some are copies of original letters, others copied by unknown persons, all typed. The first letter (below) seems to sum up the "search". Of the few letters I have, this is the latest date, Nov. 2, 1924. -BHM

Copy of the letter from JAMES M. YANKIE to ASHTON SWISSHELM, Cairo, Illinois, dated 2 Nov 1924, Los Angeles, California [provided by MARTHA LANKFORD, KY]:

My Dear Nephew,
It seems that sometime in the 17th [sic] century, Michael Yankie or Yankee or Yankey (but correct spelling is kie, W. H. Yankie of Denver, Colorado and Joplin, Mo, was so well satisfied of this that he had the court change his spelling from key to kie while we were working on the legacy) came from Germany and settled at a place called Slabtown, Va. Whether he was married when he came or afterwards or who his wife was is not known, but he had four sons, Michael, Jonas, William and Jacob. It is said that Jonas went to what is now Indiana at an early day and was never heard of any more, suppose the Indians or someone else killed him. William was killed in the Revolutionary War. Michael moved to Rockingham County, Va. and raised a family of 11 children 4 boys and 7 girls. My father, Jonathan, Uncle Mike, Uncle Jacob and Uncle William were the boys and then there was another Jacob Yankie, but whether he was a brother to my grandfather we were not able to establish it to a certainty and he had many descendants. [This was Jacob, b. ca 1773, son of John, moved to KY - BHM]. The girls were my Aunts, Cenia, Harter, Katie, Carrie, [sic] Polly Wratchford, Phoebe Hartmena, [sic]Malinda Smith, Lydia Dove, and Jennie Hottinger. All these raised big families so there are many descendants whose names are not Yankie. [Note: punctuation, commas, after names Cenia and Katie, led some to believe there were also daughters Haster or Hester and Carrie - BHM]
My father came to Ohio about 1830 and Uncle Mike came about the same time. Father married Sarah Armstrong, a sister to Pete Armstrong's father, and you probably know they had 7 children, Jefferson, John M., Mahala Jane, Milton, Joseph T., Sara Angeline and Mysel [sic] James M.
Uncle Jake Yankie married and settled in Perryville, KY about 1804 and raised a large family. [This is generation confusion. Jacob, b. VA ca 1773 is the brother to Michael, b. VA 1775. Jonathan's brother Jacob, son of Michael, was b. ca 1794, and lived in VA- BHM]. Uncle William married and moved to Mississippi and raised a family.
In my search I found Yankies every where almost; every state in the Union, Cuba, Phillipine [sic] Islands, etc. all walks of life, farmers, manufacturers, teachers, preachers, lawyers, judges, writers, legislators and so on. One thing I found in the eastern northern states they were descendants of the Virginia branch, but when they go farther west, Ill., Wis, Colorado, Texas and the Pacific Coast states they were mixed; some of the Kentucky ones go north and some of theVirginia ones go south.
There are or were, two sisters, old maids, in Lexington, Ky., have a millinery store. One is Sallie, she did the writing and she is a smart woman. [Descendants of JACOB b. ca 1773 - BHM] There are lots of them in Ky. I think there are one or two in Louisville, lots of them in Miss. [descendants of WILLIAM, b. ca 1800 - BHM], and Tenn. [descendants of MICHAEL, b ca 1775 - BHM]
It was interesting work but took lots of writing and I suspect this will be all you want of it for this and maybe a little more. If you have any further questions and will let me know I suspect I can answer them.
[Typed signature, James M. Yankie.

In my opinion this was typed from a copy of his original letter - BHM]

Copy of letter from JAMES M. YANKIE to Mr. J. S. Yankey, Rickford, [sic], Ill. [JOSEPH SAMUEL YANKEY, Jonathan Wesley, Jacob, b. ca 1794, Michael, John] dated Nov. 3, 1911. On letterhead, Cloverdale Land and Farming Company, Suite 225 Merchants Trust Bldg., Los Angeles, California. James M. Yankie, Secretary andTreasurer. [Copy provided by Mona Aldrich]:

Dear Sir:
I have your address from Dr. J.W. YANKEY of Sylvia Kan., he also enclosed me a letter from you evidently written in answer to questions from him. I am JAMES MINOR YANKIE, a son of JONATHAN YANKIE of Adams County, Ohio. Are you the JOE YANKEY that came there to visit us when I was a small boy and you were just a grown young man? A man by the name of JOSEPH YANKIE came there ane [sic] as I had a brother Joe we called the visitor Virginia Joe to distinguish and he was there some time, seems to be a year or more. I have recently undertaken to gather some data relative to the history of the yankee, key, kie family and that is the reason you had the letter of inquiry from Dr. Yankey.
In your letter to the doctor you give the names of some of the Yankeys you know and no doubt it seems very plain to you but I do not just get the right run of it. I am enclosing a list of the names as I understand you to mean and I would like to ask you to correct it if I have it wrong and also to work your brain a little and see if you can't fish up a little more recolection [sic] of some of the Yankeys. I will have to ask every mothers son of us to help all he can if we are to get any thing like a connected history of the family. If we ever get it in shape of course every one will have a copy of it in full. I have agreed to arrange it in proper form if we can get enough connected data to really amount to any thing. Since I began on it I have heard that the German Government has a large fortune belonging to the family; I had not heard that before but if it is true and we establish our right to it I don't suppose any of us will object to receiving his share of it. If you are the man who came to my fathers, that I have in mind you will remember me as I was a little black headed boy, I must have been ten or twelve years old. I have an idea my father was a brother to your grandfather. Was not your grandfather JACOB YANKEY (which in this investigation we call JACOB II, as I think my grandfather’s name was JACOB also. [It appears that James Minor Yankie did not know the name of his grandfather, who in fact, was Michael Yankey b. VA ca 1775-GWY]
I will not worry you any further this time and hope to hear from you soon. And I will sign myself Your cousin, JAMES M. YANKIE [written signature]

NOTE: Dr. J.W. YANKEY, KS, son of JAMES M. YANKEY, TN (Jacob b. 1794, Michael, b 1775, John). JOSEPH SAMUEL YANKEY, IL, son of JONATHAN WESLEY YANKEY, (Jacob b. 1794, Michael, John). The J.S. or "Virginia Joe" mentioned in letter above was JOSEPH SAMUEL, (Jacob b 1794, Michael, John), uncle to the J.S. YANKEY of Rockford, IL. There is confusion on the JACOBS in this letter. The list of names not included here, as there are many errors in line. (file copy)

Copy (same letterhead as above) Jan 3, 1912, to J.S.YANKEY, Rockwood, IL.:

My Dear Cousin,
I have just received your interesting letter and note all you say. As I understand it now your father was Jonathan Wesley and he was a son of Jonathan Wesley who was a son of Jacob second who was a son of Jacob first and was my grandfather. That would make my grandfather your great, great grandfather. That does not seem possible to me.
[This sentence obviously shows much confusion - BHM], When did your father move to Ohio? What part of Ohio? How long did you live in Ohio? Did you ever heart of any other Yankies in Ohio?
I do not find any Jonathan Wesley Yankie among the children given as the children of jacob yankie [sic] second or jacob yankie [sic] third. I'll tell you, my dear cousin, we are not making much headway and I think the reason is because our information is too much piece meal when I get tese [sic] reports here I can't tell which is which, there are so many of the same name, that is so many Jacobs, so many Josephs so many Michaels and so on. Now would you be kind enough to give me the history of your father, the history of your grandfather, the history of your great grandfather and so on back as far as you can go. I am sorry to trouble you so much but if we can get that legacy we will all be reapid [sic]. And I am sure it will not make any of you put on your study cap any more than it does me. I have written the American Consul at Berlin Germany and I may get started at that end. Trusting that you and family are well and wishing you a happy New Year I am very sincerely, your cousin, [signed] JAMES M. YANKIE.

There is a postscript: “622 Grosse Building (I have moved)”

[NOTE: Again we see confusion about the various JACOBs-BHM]
Copy of letter, (on same letter head as shown above), dated Jan. 25th, 1912, from JAMES M. YANKIE to J.S. YANKIE [sic], Rockwood, Ill. [Copy from Mona Aldrich]-

My Dear Cousin,
I have your fine interesting letter and I have you placed exactly now, I am getting more information right along and while there is a great deal more to learn still, it is more encouraging. I have got the address of some of the HARTER family and have letter from one of the daughters and she corroborates what had been stated by some of the others and made some new statements. I wrote to your uncle at Vernon, Tex., but the letter came back marked, "uncalled for", but the same day I had a letter from him saying he had my address from you and I have sent my first letter back to him and wrote him another. He is the same man who came to our house in Ohio, all right. I would like to get a full list of your father’s brothers. Your father was a first cousin of mine, he was a son of my uncle Jacob, father’s brother. Do you think your brother would remember any thing that may have escaped your memory? It is only by getting a little here and a little there that we will get this pieced out. What relation are you to F.A. YANKIE [sic] of Criders Va.? What relation to Dr. J.W. YANKIE [sic] of Sylvia, Kan.? What relation to W.H. YANKIE of Joplin, Mo.? What relation to Miss SALLIE B. YANKIE [sic] of Lexington, Ky.? Please give details so that a third party can trace relationship. I am glad to know you are trying to get all the information you can and hope you will continue till we can get the address of more of the older ones. There must be a regiment of the descendants of my aunts whose names are not yankie [sic], and some of them could doubtless give some valueable [sic] information. Do you know any way to get the address of some of the NESSELRODS, CARRIERS, HALTERMANS, RATLIFFS, or HARRISS [sic]. It seems to me there ought to [be] a family record among some of them and it might open up a mine of information. If WILLIAM CARRIER, who you say was in Ind., could be found, he ought to know many things, he lived in Va. until he had a family. His wife was a YANKIE [sic], his cousin, what relation was she to you? How is it that F.A. Ys. mothers name was EMILIA YANKIE [sic]? I don't understand how his mothers name could be YANIE [sic] before she was married.
I think I can say that it is well established (several times I have had to change conclusions when I received different information but I believe this is pretty certain), that your great, great grandfather, who was my great grand father, come to this country from Germany, a great many years ago, that his name was Michael, that he was a man of family at the time, that two of his sons names were Michael and Jacob (at present I have no record of any otheres [sic] of his sons or daughter). That he settled at a place called Gravertown in Shenandoah Co., Va., there he raised a family consisting of 5 boys and 7 girls, that the girls names were Liddie, who married Amos Nesselrodt; Catherine, who married Wm. Crrier [sic]; Polly, who married Jackson Wratchford; Betseyann, who married George Harris; Phoebe, who married Aaron Halterman; Malinda, who married Wm. Ratliff and Cenia, who married John Harter, that the boys names were Jacob (he was your grandfather), who married Judith Riggleman and raised family and lived and died in Va.; Michael, third, who went to Ky., and afterward to Ohio, where he married (I don't know who he married) and raised a family and lived and died in Ohio; Jonathan, who moved to Ohio, married Sarah Armstrong, raised a family and lived and died in Ohio; William, who went to Miss., presumably before he married and married in Miss.; Jonas, who went to Ind. (don't know if he ever married [sic]. Now you see that accounts for all of them but it does not account for all these Jacobs that married Christine Needmom and Mary Schrum and raised families and one of them went to Ky. and raised a family and lived and died there. It is evident that they must be the other branch of the family, either descendants of your great, great uncle Jacob, who was [typed over words, may be about] my great uncle, or some of his brothers, if he had any. I think this will encourage you to some extent as you see we are making some progress even if it is slow.
I trust you are well and prosperous and that I may hear further from you soon.
Sincerely your cousin, [signed] James M. Yankie.

NOTE: In reference to F.A. Yankey of VA, the son of Amelia YANKEY, he was born before her marriage. (Amelia, Jacob b. 1794, Michael, John) Also note, in his letter J.M.Y. believes there were 5 sons of MICHAEL YANKEY, he has included JONAS in this generation, as well as his own father, JONATHAN. However, he did name MICHAEL as his grandfather and correctly living in Rockingham Co. The daughters are correctly named with the exception that LYDIA, named here as "Liddie" married Frederick NESSELRODT.
It is interesting that J.M.Y. states his father, JONATHAN "lived and died" in Ohio. All records show that JONATHAN YANKIE died in MO. This is likely a miss statement, however, one must wonder if J.M.Y. had been out of touch with his Ohio relatives.

The JACOBS are still confused. J.M.Y. has the grandfather of J.S. YANKEY of Rockwood, IL correct in this letter, however, still confuses the JACOB, who married MARY SCHRUM in VA, moved to KY. The CHRISTINE NEDMORE who signed JACOB and MARY'S marriage bond in Rockingham Co. VA. The WILLIAM CARRIER referred to is Wm. CARRIER Jr., who was the son of WM. CARRIER and CATHERINE YANKEY. Wm. CARRIER Jr. married his first cousin, SARAH YANKEY, daughter of JACOB, b. 1794. By the time this was letter written in 1912, this CARRIER family had left Indiana, moved on to Missouri.

Copy [from Mona Aldrich] letter to J.S. YANKIE [sic], Rockwood, IL. (letterhead as above) from JAMES MINOR YANKIE, dated Jan 30, 1912.

My Dear Cousin,
I have you letter of 21st, and glad to hear from you again. Yes, I knew LIB HARTER. She married a Mr. ROBERT BALENTINE. Do you have her address?
SAUL CARRIER married a Mrs. STONESTREET who was a widow and had several children, JOHN, ANDREW, NEWTON, SUSAN and REBECCA, that I knew and I think this was all for I was pretty well acquainted with them and though I was quite young my memory is good. They were all Mrs. STONESTREET'S children and really no kin to us. They never had any children after she and SAUL were married.
I have not yet heard from your uncle JOE but guess I will soon. I note your remarks about cold weather. Why don't you come to our state where we have fresh strawberries evaer [sic] month in the year where the flowers bloom all the time, where we know we will never be bothered to think how the weather is going to be, where we know we will not be caught in a bad wind storm or cyclone, where we know we will not have any electric storm, never have to suffer with the cold or heat, wind snow, ice, sleet or any of those things, where they say a man cak [sic] take an acre and make a living on it. Come out and see us and see how you like this kind of country. I am just incorporating a company to farm for a profit and incidentally sell the land; it is right in line with my business and I have fully investigated it and I am thoroughly convinced that it will be profitable for everyone connected with it. What is your business now, are you a farmer or a merchant or a manufacturer?
Trusting that you and family are well, I am very truly,
Your cousin, [signed] JAMES M. YANKIE

NOTE: LIB HARTER, a descendant of ASENITH/CENIA YANKEY and her husband, JOHN HARTER, who moved from VA to OH, and lived in Adams or Highland Co. SAUL CARRIER not placed, possibly SOLOMON. There were several related CARRIER lines that moved on to OH from VA-BHM

Copy [from M.A.] letter dated Mar 28, 1912, same letterhead, to J.S. YANKIE, Rockwood, IL from JAMES MINOR YANKIE.

My Dear Cousin,
Yours of 17th to hand and note all you say. I have nothing new to report as to the matter in hand. Yes, I have had some letters from your uncle at Electra, Tex. And got some information that way.
I thought that I had told you about my family; my family consists of a wife and one daughter who is now 21 years of age, she and I took a trip to the top of Mt. Wilson last Sat. and Sun. went up Sat and back Sun. It is a tramp of 8 miles up a steep mountain trail from the end of the car line, so you see it was quite a trip but we stood it al right and saw the snow up there and at night you can see the lights in Los Angeles 17 miles away glimmering like an ocean of fire and you can see the lights in many smaller places. There is a good hotel up there so we had a comfortable night and felt that we were repaid for the hard climb.
I wish you would write to W.H.Y. [WILLIAM H. YANKIE] and ask him to tell you how far along they got in this matter when they were working on it before and if he knows which paper the advertisement was in and if he had any way of getting in touch with the above information now.
If you would write to J.Y. Yankie, Assistant Foreman, Armour Stock Yards, C/o Armour Stock Yards, Chicago, Ill., you may get some valueable [sic] information, and also August Yankie, Waukegan, Ill., Norman Yankie, Sweet Sorings [Springs?] Mo. and John Yankie, Titusville, Pa.
You will excuse a short letter as I have quite a good deal on hand today.
Sincerely your cousin, [signed] James M. Yankie.

NOTE: With the probable exception of NORMAN YANKIE, the names listed above were not found to be descendants of JOHN YANKEY deceased by 1783) by either RUTH GREGORY or myself. There are other YANKEY lines in various states. -[BHM].

Copy, [from M.A.], handwritten letter, printed letterhead, D&Y Land Co., W.H. Yankie, Manager, P.O. Box 290, Joplin, Mo. Dated Feb 29, 1912

J.S. YANKIE, Rockwood, Ill:

Dear Cousin,
Yours of 24th inst Rec. Now I think I understand our family correctly; only as to your grandfather.
Where was he Born & Raised & what would be his age now if alive. My grandfather was born in Germany & I understand near Berlin. How old is your Uncle Jo [sic] of Electra, Tex. I wrote him at that address - but so far no reply. My father raised 12 children, 9 boys and 3 daughters; all are now dead but 3 bros; one of Sedalia, MO B.F. & Jacob A. of Eagle Mills, Ark., and MY Selfe [sic]. Denver Colo is My Home & has been for 30 years. If you will give me your Grand Fathers birthplace & age; I think I will have that Branch of Our Relatives well in hand.
With Very Kind Regards for your Selfe [sic] & family, I am sincerarly [sic] your Cousin, [signed] W.H. YANKIE.

NOTE: WILLIAM H. YANKIE was the son of JACOB YANKEE, Jr. (Jacob b ca 1773, John). It is likely JACOB, b. 1773, was born in VA, not Germany. The YANKEYs were in VA by August 1775. JOSEPH SAMUEL YANKEY (Jonathan W., Michael, John) of Rockwood, IL died in a railroad accident. JAMES M. YANKIE, is now in correspondence with J.S.Y's brother, WILLIAM RILEY YANKEY of Haines, OR. Since MONA ALDRICH, a descendant of W.R.Y., had letters written to J.S.Y., it is likely W.R.Y. took over the correspondence regarding the "fortune" for that branch of the family. -BHM.

Copy (from Mona Aldrich) letter, on letterhead, JAMES M. YANKIE, Real Estate, AgriculturalLands, Coachella and Imperial Valleys A Specialty. 622-623 GrosseBuilding, Los Angeles, [lists phone Home F 5389] dated Jan 8th 1914, to Mr. W.R. Yankey, Haines, OR:

Dear Sir:
I have your nice interesting letter of recent date and have read it with much interest.
I will answer the question you ask: My fathers name was Jonathan and he lived and I was born in Ohio. I never saw my grandfather. His name was Michael and he lived and died in Virginia. My grand [sic] father was born in Germany and came to this country with his father whose name was also Michael when he was a boy or a young man, many years ago. I have been working on this legacy matter for about three years and have written many hundreds of letters in that time to all parts of this country and many to Germany. It has been a prodigious work and had I known what discouragements [sic] and difficulties I would encounter, it is likely I would not have begun it. But since I have begun and have done all the work I have, I do not think I will stop now until we either get the legacy if there is one or else ascertain that we can not get it.
From the tone of your letter, it would seem that you have not heard of the legacy. There is little to tell about it. About three years ago through curiosity or sentiment, I undertook to look up the genealogy on the yankies [sic]. I soon found that most of them thought we had a legacy in Germany and they jumped at the conclusion that I was trying to get information to the end that we might substantiate our title to it. But the fact was I had never heard of the legacy before. However, I got interested and went to work in earnest to see what could be done about it and as I say have done much work and had all sorts of obstacles and discouragements [sic] to overcome and I don't [sic] see that we are very far along in the business yet. From the best information I can get, it seems that some years ago W.H. Yankie of Joplin, Mo. and some others saw an advertisement in the newspapers wanting the address of the yankie [sic] Brothers that left Germany many years ago and settled in Va. They worked on it sometime in a way, though I had never known it and they went so far as to have a lawyer go to Germany and he reported that the legacy was there in the hands of the German government but that they would not pay it our [sic...out?] because the name in this country was spelled in three different ways. I hardly see how they expected to get the legacy for I do not believe they hunted up the heirs and they should know that the German Government would not pay the money to them until they were satisfied they had all the claimants. But any way, they dropped the matter and nothing has been done on it in years until I got into the game. Why they stopped I have never been able to learn for you must know I had never seen a Yankie outside of our immediate family, although I had been in all parts of the country and I had no idea there were so many of the name. Now these people who did the first work are of a different branch of the family from what I am. At present I do not know to which branch you belong. I have a very good history of the family in this country, all clear enough, except for a matter of a Jacob Y. who went to Ky. from Va. in 1804. There were three Jacobs about that time and I am not positive which one of them he was, but it does not matter particularly as it is certain that we are all of the same family originally. I believe you are a son of either J.S.Y. of Rockwood, Ill, who was killed by a train on the 29th day of last Nov. or else you are a son of N.A.Y. of Ink, Arkansas. If either of these surmises are correct you are of the same branch of the family as I am. N.A.Y. [Noah Alpheus Yankey?-GWY] is my first cousin and J.S.Y., my second cousin.
One of my greatest troubles is to get the correct address of the descendants, they will say a man lives in Mo. or that he lives near Hawesville or they don't give his initials or something is lacking and I have many letters returned to me on account of wrong or inadequate address and it is quite discouraging at times because I have so much to write any way and then when it comes back it makes one feel like a good deal was wasted. Another trouble is to get assistance from those interested, they wait too long to answer or do not answer at all and sometimes start in for a month or two and are very enthusiastic and you would think they were going to be of great help and the first thing you know they are done and you don't hear from them any more at all. What we need now more than any thing else is to get into communication with a Yankie in Germany. If you want to help and have time to make out a list of 100 towns and cities in Germany and send them to me, I will distribute them so as to avoid duplicating and have the post masters and mayrs [mayors] written to and see if we can not find a Y. in Germany. I had a man in Ohio promised to do so, that is he promised to make out a list of 500 but he has been sick and has not got it done so I am asking several to make out a list of 100, maybe they think I might do it all myself but I am working about 16 hours a day as it is trying to do something at this and keep up my other wrok [sic] too and then I am behind. Some of them fail to give the address of the descendants whose names are no [sic] Yankie, but the descendants of the aunts are just as important as the others. If there are any questions, do not hesitate to ask; I shall be glad to answer so far as I can.
In reference to the farming deal I am satisfied it is the greatest chance any of us ever had if we will all combine and throw suspicion and doubt to the winds and all pull together, we can undoubtedly all make a lot of money. I trust you will give the farming matter serious thought and make any inquiry that you can think of. I do not want to miss one, want all to take some shares in it, we have about enough subscribed now to go ahead if it was cash but that so far it is all installment payments and we will have to wait awhile before we can incorporate.
Would you mind telling me your age and how much of a family you have and their ages? I am enclosing a blank for addresses that I would like to ask you to fill out. My family consists of a wife and a daughter. My daughter is now 23 and we all live happily together in our own home.
Sincerely yours, [signed] James M. Yankie.

Note: Reading the above letter, I have made the assumption that W.R. Yankie had heard of the "fortune" from his brother, J.S. Yankey, deceased by date of the above letter, or has letters to J.S.Y from J.M.Y. in his possession. The above letter seems to be first contact from J.M.Y. in answer to correspondence from W.R.Y. The "land deal" mentioned was probably mentioned in letters to J.S.Y.

There is an additional copy of the letter from J.M.Y to W.R.Y dated Feb21, 1914 which contains no family data, but espouses the opportunities of buying California real estate. (in files).

[The J.M. Y. letter to his nephew, ASHTON SWISSHELM, dated 1924, the first included above, sums up his "findings"-BHM]

Letter from W.H. YANKIE, headed D. &Y. Land Co., Joplin, MO, dated 26 Jan 1914 to W.R. YANKEY, Haines, OR, hand-written, on letterhead stationery. [Copy from Mona Aldrich]

Dear Cousin,
Yours of no date Recd, If you are a Son of either Michael or Jonathan you are a cousin.
If you was [sic] born 1856 you Should be able to give me some important information about the Older Ones of the Yankie family. Who was your father & who was your grandfather; and where did they live.
Do you know anything about the Michael Yankie who Settled in the Miama [sic] Valley Ohio, Cousin James M. Yankie & I are looking up the Heirs of the three Brothers who came to the U.S. from Germany & they settled first in Va in 1795 or 96. My Grandfather Jacob was one of the three brothers who moved from VA to Perryville KY where he Settled, & raised a large family and died there. The Yankie Heirs have $336,000,000.00 due them and their government advertised for the Heirs. Anything you can tell me of the older ones; Please do So. Give first names & where they lived, also where are their children now. Please to Wright plane [sic] & with a pen; as I file all letters away for further referance [sic].
Your Cousin WH Yankie.

There is a post script added by the letterhead, "I am 73 years old & and want the address of the ?????? [Un-readable because written on edge of copy-BHM] & families. Please help J.M. & I, write soon and give all the names of the Y family you can & oblige. Y.”

NOTE: As previously mentioned W.H. Yankey/Yankie is the one who was said to have seen (or heard of) the advertisement. In the letter above he has YANKEYs in VA later than they were. By the three brothers, he probably knew of JACOB, who was his grandfather and moved to KY; MICHAEL, who stayed in VA, and likely ANDREW...of whom we have no record after childhood. However, they were not the immigrants-BHM.

There is one more letter widely circulated by various YYY researchers. It was included in the undocumented "Yankee Genealogy" manuscript. Martha Lankford of KY also sent me a copy.

The letter repeats nearly all the genealogical errors that have been included so often in YYY material. I have abstracted from this lengthy letter but have left in much of the descriptive material on W.H.YANKIE, as well as all mention of the "fortune". I have also inserted my notes [BHM] where there are very obvious errors. Also, note the address, "Huston", Texas, I do not know if this is a town, or a typographic error of "Houston".

Printed Heading: Yankie Lumber Company Manufacturers, Phone 740, P.O. Box 392, Harriman, Tennessee. Addressed to Mr. BOB YANKEE, Huston, Texas from JAMES LAVERNE YANKIE, dated Dec. 4, 1961:

Dear Bob:
It was a pleasant surprise to get your letter today. I hope the attached will give you some idea about the Yankees. The spelling of Yankee is what they all used until about 1910 when Uncle Will, Grandpa Yankie and my father had our name legally changed to Yankie. This was all at the insistence of Uncle Will as he had proof that the Yankie spelling was the correct way to translate the German spelling. This was about the time he was doing all the work on trying to prove that the fortune in Germany belonged to the descendants of the #1 Yankie.

[NOTE: JONATHAN YANKEY/YANKIE (Michael, John), b VA, lived OH, used the spelling YANKIE in family bible much earlier than 1910. Uncle Will mentioned was WILLIAM H. YANKIE, (Jacob, Jr. Jacob, John), of MO and CO. There is also some genealogical material included in this section on the KY YANKEES. Some of it confused. BHM]

I think that Uncle Will died in 1917 and at that time he knew where almost every legal heir of the first Michael Yankee was living. Uncle Will had actually arranged for his passage to Germany when the war broke out in 1914 [WWI before U.S. involvement-BHM]. He believed firmly that he had everything all set and would soon have something over 100 million dollars back over here to get to legal heirs. He was advised before we entered the war [1917] that the German Government had confiscated all the estate and think this brought on his death ahead of time. He had been extremely wealthy at 2 or 3 different times in his life but was in poor circumstances at the time of his death. [There is a considerable amount of biographical data on WILLIAM H. YANKIE here, with confusing dates and places, This letter contains undocumented genealogical data, on some of the Kentucky and Missouri YANKEY/YANKEE/YANKIES-BHM]
The letter is signed "Vern", J.L. YANKIE [JAMES LA VERN YANKIE-BHM]

In Conclusion: It is likely there were other "fortune" letters. We would like to add to the file of these letters and would appreciate receiving any such letters. Some data has been passed around that the YANKEYs owned a bank in Berlin, other data that they were from Heidelberg. No supporting documentation has ever been included. Copies of the above letters are in files.

Barbara Halladay Mahoney (BHM)
3100 Perryman Way
Sacramento, CA 95820

July 2006

Edited for Publication by:
Gerald and Linda Yankie
1169 Harbor Hills Drive
Santa Barbara, CA 93109

January 2007