Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Don Quixote, The Goon Show
and Your Ancestors' Surnames

What, you might be wondering, does a classic Spanish novel and a 1950s British radio show have to do with the pursuit of genealogical pedigrees? It's simple: they both provided the zeitgeist inspiring the nickname of the Guild of One-Name Studies ("GOONS").

While one-name studies may seem as hopeless as tilting at windmills—and members are quite open about the seemingly sisyphean task of documenting everything there is to know about a particular surname—adherents to the pursuit of one-name studies approach their calling with a modest acquiescence to the craziness of it all. They are quite willing to hearken to the zany BBC comedy show in adopting that GOONS nickname, as if to convey the concept to their fellow Britons that they are indeed "crazy" for attempting their project.

While you or I might satisfy ourselves with pushing our pedigree chart back one or two more generations, members of the Guild of One-Name Studies want to know all there is to know about that one surname in their ancestry. When you think about it, "all" can encompass a phenomenal amount of data.

The Guild, itself, is a charitable organization founded in the United Kingdom in 1979, as an outgrowth of the British Federation of Family History Societies. Almost immediately, the Guild had two hundred members, and has grown from that inaugural body to over ten times that number, currently. Membership is open to anyone having an interest in one-name studies. While having its roots in Great Britain, the Guild now finds its scope—and thus, membership—to be international.

Members who have established one-name studies at the Guild endeavor to collect all occurrences of the surname on a worldwide basis. In exchange for all that voluntary hard work, membership, apparently, comes with an impressive list of benefits.

Articles on the Guild of One-Name Studies have found their way onto wikis at Wikipedia, FamilySearch, and ISOGG—not surprising, considering how many Y-DNA projects have been initiated by Guild members.

The Guild keeps a register of study surnames, which currently include two thousand studies of about eight thousand surnames and their variants. It's what can be found in that register that I'm most keen to learn. While I've already been alerted to the one-name study there for the Laws surname, I'm hoping to find a few more of my ancestors' names represented in the Guild's registry. We'll take a look at what is included there, tomorrow.

Above: "Norwegian Winter Landscape," 1890 pastel by Norwegian artist Frits Thaulow; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Focusing on One Surname at a Time

Some surnames seem to be so rare that it is virtually impossible to find any record of them at all. Then, having given up the chase, the surname seems to pop up everywhere—everywhere, that is, except for the very location in which you had hoped to find it.

That happened when I was researching my husband's Falvey line in Fort Wayne, Indiana. While it is not what you could consider a rare surname—Ancestry pegs the surname Falvey as having a distribution of up to thirty two families in each of twenty three states or territories in the U.S. by the time our Falvey ancestors settled in Indiana. At that time—1880—Massachusetts and New York had up to 190 Falvey families resident in each state, while the state our immigrant Falveys chose for their new home may have had only thirty others or less in the entire state claiming that same surname.

Yet, even though I couldn't find any Falvey relatives besides our immediate family in Fort Wayne, I did find some other Falveys living in the same city.

You can be sure that was a tantalizing discovery. Surely, I thought, these people had to be related to our Falveys. Why else would they have chosen to move straight to Fort Wayne from their point of entry into the country? But I could never find a connection.

Meanwhile, I learned a lot about the Falveys in Fort Wayne...

The same thing happened when I encountered what surely has to take the prize as the rarest of surnames in my pedigree: Aktabowski. After all, when researching that name back in the 1990s, I discovered Herby listed only one family with that surname—living in Warsaw—in the entire country of Poland. Talk about rare.

When I encountered the not-surprising result of very limited hits to my search through American records for that same surname, I couldn't resist the lure of finding others with that surname. What did it matter these other Aktabowskis were Chicago residents when I was looking for people living in New York City? They just had to be related, I reasoned. Anywhere I could find an Aktabowski, I followed the trail. As it happened, some did turn out to be relatives.

Hearing about the research pursuit known as One-Name Studies, I found it to be a concept with which I could definitely relate. I had already been doing that—admittedly, in the face of unyielding brick walls—so it seemed reasonable to realize that there might be a lot of people out there, curious about trying that same approach.

As it turns out, there are a lot of people out there, focused on researching a specific surname—not necessarily for sheer genealogical desperation, but out of a desire to spot broader trends or context about the surname's origin. Take the many Y-DNA projects, which in essence are based on surname studies, as an example. The major sponsor behind many of these projects, Family Tree DNA, now claims to have over nine thousand DNA projects they are hosting, many of which are classed as Y-DNA Surname Projects.

While DNA projects may be too high-tech for some researchers, the tried-and-true Family Association approach—and variants such as clans—also lend a hand to those who wish to study everything having to do with a specific surname. Cyndi's List, for one, contains an enormous listing of not only the many surname DNA projects, but a comprehensive guide to all family associations devoted to the study of a particular surname.

It may seem that this endeavor logically grew out of a curiosity similar to mine, when I was faced with the frustration of finding, say, any Aktabowskis—just not my Aktabowskis—but I have found the one-name approach has grown far beyond that happenstance into a much more organized approach, with the establishment, in the U.K., of the Guild of One-Name Studies.

Mainly because I want to familiarize myself more with the Guild's services, I'd like to take some time, tomorrow, to delve into just what the Guild of One-Name Studies actually accomplishes, courtesy of their many devoted members.


Above: "Night Train," 1899 painting by Norwegian artist Gustav Wentzel; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Wandering Into New Territory

In that wandering-about malaise, when confronted with indecision about the next research goal, it sometimes helps to branch out and explore new territory. While yes, I did spend some time last week deciding on my research goals for the new year, there is still time to gather some intel to equip me to tackle those goals better.

One area I'd like to know more about happens to be the very thing suggested in that same post, last week, on my goals. Haz, a reader in Scotland, mentioned in a comment that one of my surnames of interest—Laws—happens to be the focus of a One-Name Study. While that is good news—the specific item about the Laws surname—it introduces another point: while I've heard much, over the years, about the Guild of One-Name Studies, I've done little to inform myself of the organization and its offerings.

Now would be the time to change that. This week, I'd like to explore just what constitutes a one-name study, pull the curtain back—figuratively speaking, of course, reaching across an ocean to do so—and learn more about the Guild itself to see if there are any offerings of interest to me among their thousands of surname studies.

Furthermore, since the Guild began with a focus on surnames populating the British Isles and I, not having many roots from England and environs, would like to expand that search further out onto the continent, I'll need to sniff out possibilities of other family history associations focused on non-British surnames of interest from my roots. There are a lot of resources out there, but sometimes we are so keen on keeping our nose to the research trail that we forget to look up and around where we could discover other materials that might boost our progress even more.

Above: "Canal in Autumn," 1921 oil on canvas by French painter Henri Jourdain; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Holiday Season With a Melancholy Twinge

Despite the holiday cheer spread amply among family, friends and neighbors, I sometimes am reminded that not all is one hundred percent jollity. This time of year can bring a painful reminder of those no longer with us, and I always want to be sensitive to that, when I connect with certain friends.

In the midst of all the festive holiday greetings on our Facebook accounts, my husband ran across a sad note that an acquaintance of ours had "suddenly" passed away on Thanksgiving day. That served as this year's reminder that while we are collectively full of the season's good cheer, individually some of us are just not equipped to keep up this holiday pace.

November has its low spots for me, too. Perhaps news of our friend's passing on Thanksgiving day prompted me to remember. Almost to the day, four years ago, I lost a family member unexpectedly; if you've been with us here at A Family Tapestry for the last few years, perhaps you remember my mentioning that. And that wasn't the first of the November losses. This same relative's mother claimed that same month for her own exit—and how eerie it was in her absence, the following Christmas, to open presents tagged in her own handwriting and wrapped for us meticulously, long before anyone else had even turned their thoughts to Christmas shopping.

Today, there will be an empty spot at our church where our friend, now no longer with us, used to sit. I imagine the holiday didn't turn out quite the way his family had expected. I'm also quite sure next year's celebration will not be so easy, either, burdened with memories such as this.

Of course, memories are what we capitalize upon, as genealogists—but those are memories scrubbed of that painful aspect of too-nearness for comfort. Before we can get to the point of welcoming the sharing of those stories, there needs to be that circumspect deference until the comfort of remembering replaces the pain of recalling those who are now gone. Even years later, those feelings can sneak up on us, inserting that bittersweet note into the midst of the celebrations.

If you have just been through a Thanksgiving with that uneasy mix of memories, my thoughts are with you. Of course, I send wishes that those memories will gradually elide into a fuller sense of remembering your loved one for whom he or she was, sans the struggle of pain, and you can safely return to sharing that loved one's story with others.

Above: Snapshot of Marilyn Sowle and Earle Bean, shortly after their wedding in California in the early 1950s; from the family's private collection.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

A Town's History

There are skills a genealogist possesses that can sometimes be cross-applied to other research pursuits. Over this holiday weekend, on an online community built for neighbors to keep in touch with each other, the idea was hatched in our locale to gather stories of the history of our community.

Instantly, the conversation thread was alight with buzz over the idea. People love to see history unfolded before their eyes, apparently. Everyone wanted to share a story heard from their grandparents about people who once lived here, decades ago. Some talked about their families settling here one hundred years ago. Names that are now on our street signs were surnames of the long-gone neighbors these people were remembering.

The challenge to such a project is that our community is, well, just that: a community. We don't count as a city; we're not incorporated, and with the anti-growth attitude around here, we may never have the tax base to form our own geo-political place. We can't even call ourselves a town, since our state doesn't include such terminology in their lexicon. The county board of supervisors gives us a nod with the designation, Municipal Area. But don't indulge yourself with visions of urban settlement; we are definitely the hub of a rural area.

Still, there is a community cohesiveness to our little cluster of acre-and-a-half parcels. And a history to go along with it. Better yet, we are a collection of people who have stories to tell—and they really want to tell those stories!

It didn't take much thinking about this kernel of a project to realize the skills a genealogical researcher can bring to the table. Only because of the holiday rush did I resist the urge to start pulling up records on Thanksgiving day, itself—but I know I can, and can picture the tangible excitement that would result over it when this group of neighbors gathers together to discuss their concepts of how this idea can become reality.

When groups are in a formative stage, the notion that something important is in the making is somehow not yet grasped. Perhaps it is because everyone involved in turning the dream into reality is too busy to realize that, in that very action, they are concurrently unfurling history, as well. Journaling the process as progress is being made is sometimes only the purview of those with precocious insight. The prevailing thought is: we aren't doing anything exceptional; this is what any reasonable person would do, given the circumstances.

Yet, aren't we grateful when we realize—afterwards—that someone thought to capture the daily grind for future reminiscence?

Above: "The Farmers' Lunch," 1618 oil on canvas by Spanish artist Diego Velázquez; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Friday, November 25, 2016

To Shop? Or Not to Shop?

Out of all the Fridays in the year, for this particular Friday, that was never a question. I stay home, warm and toasty and out of the crowd's way. There will be other bargains out there tomorrow. Or the next day. Besides, I've never been driven by compelling market forces shrieking about last-chance sales or holiday commercialism.

There. Scrooge has spoken.

Meanwhile, I am shopping—but it is for an entirely different sort of purchase. I'm making up my wish list for whom I'd like to see participate in DNA testing to help figure out the mystery branches of two specific families. Mine. And my husband's.

In the midst of those extensive trees, I'd love to be able to add information to my father's paternal line—the man who claimed he was an adoptee...or jumped ship while it was in harbor in New York City...or, well, fill in the blanks with another incredible story he might have told my older relatives. At least, those were the ones he chose to tell anything to; he was sometimes reticent to divulge his story, as was his wife.

Then, too, I'd love to figure out connections to the Irish side of my husband's tree—his father's roots. I'd love to confirm where the Kelly line came from. Even more, I'd love to uncover the story of how John Stevens got here from County Mayo, Ireland—at least something about the man to match him up with siblings or parents back home.

Used to be, the advice regarding genetic genealogy was to test your oldest available relatives. That would be great advice if said relatives were still here to be tested. They're not.

Advice now—considering all the tools for "chromosome browsers" and "chromosome painting" from the different testing companies—is to test as many available relatives as possible. The "Lazarus project" from GEDmatch, for instance, can "resurrect" a likely scenario for genetic makeup of those now-gone ancestors, based on chromosome segments inherited by their various descendants.

So I need to put together a strategic wish list. And since holiday shopping is upon us, I'm anticipating some DNA test sales. At least one company—Family Tree DNA—has lowered the bar so much that it's removed the barrier to testing for a great many more people, with its current autosomal sale price of $59 per test (plus, for current customers, additional coupons to help with "bundles" combining that test with either the mtDNA or Y-DNA test). I wouldn't be surprised if their competitors followed suit with their own holiday sales prices—although I haven't yet found any such indication at AncestryDNA or 23andMe.

Testing at all three DNA companies—and learning how to utilize their readouts and analytic tools—was a prerequisite for attending the upcoming DNA Boot Camp class with CeCe Moore at Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, which I'll be headed to in late January. While I've already familiarized myself with two of the companies—FTDNA and AncestryDNA—and am starting to get up to speed with the third, I'm realizing how helpful it would be to have selected relatives join in the process by giving themselves the gift of a DNA test during this crazy sales season.

At least, none of us has to step outside and brave the Black Friday crowds to do so.

Above: "Scrooge's Third Visitor," British caricaturist John Leech's hand-colored etching in the original edition in 1843 of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Time—Finally—to be Thankful

After what has amounted to a contentious season of political wrangling, at long last, perhaps America can stop, take a deep breath, put it all momentarily behind us and settle in to enjoy a commonly-held tradition—Thanksgiving.

While it may not seem like Americans have much to be thankful for—after all, contentment doesn't sell much news, allow newcomers to unseat incumbents or change the status quo—a lot more of us do have some blessings for which we can express gratitude than it may seem.

It almost seems counter-cultural now to take even a moment to express gratitude for what we have—or, considering the upcoming holiday season, for what we've been given—but I hope you'll still be willing to partake of this American tradition on the one day set aside to focus on what's good about what we have. Somehow, I think the reprieve of such a moment might collectively do us all some good.

Above: "Going to Church," 1853 oil on canvas by American artist George Henry Durrie; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Yes, you read that right: Franksgiving*. A term coined for an event first occurring exactly seventy seven years ago today, it represented the political contention over a presidential decision made in the throes of economic turmoil. With a turkey and a sprig of holly thrown in for good measure.

The year was 1939. At the time—as had been done ever since Abraham Lincoln had decreed it would be so in 1863—the day known as Thanksgiving had been celebrated on the last Thursday in November. In 1939, however, November had five Thursdays, not four, meaning the celebration itself would occur on the last possible day of the month.

Considering it poor form to haul out the Christmas decorations before the actual celebration of Thanksgiving, America's merchants—still somewhat subdued at what had not yet become known as the tail end of the Great Depression—were concerned over the impact this would have on the holiday shopping season. Foreseeing yet another year of lackluster sales, the manager of the Retail Dry Goods Association mentioned this concern to the United States Secretary of Commerce, who apparently passed along the message to the President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And then-President Roosevelt decided—less than a month before the traditional event—to issue a declaration to change the date to the next-to-last Thursday, instead.

Everyone got the memo, alright. But not everyone was happy with the change. In countless ways which could not have been foreseen—at least, not without those tedious government studies that take aeons to analyze—special interest groups weighed in on the dilemma. College football, for one, had regulations which backed them into a corner with the change. Democrat Roosevelt's political opponents wasted no time in registering their complaints. States and municipalities stewed over when to allow a day off for their employees—and in the end, nearly half went with the new date, while almost as many chose to remain with the traditional date, thus prompting some to call the later event "Republican Thanksgiving." Three states decided to celebrate both days.

The new date was kept for the next year's Thanksgiving as well, despite the contention, prompting then-mayor of Atlantic City Thomas D. Taggart's snarky portmanteau dubbing the day "Franksgiving." Eventually, a joint resolution was drawn up in Congress, designating the "fourth Thursday" in November—rather than the last Thursday—as Thanksgiving Day, and was signed into law by President Roosevelt on November 26, 1941.

Bottom line? After all the furor over that displaced day of peace, the Commerce Department's survey results in 1941 showed no significant uptick in sales for all the angst over amending cut-short holiday shopping seasons.

Above: Thomas Nast's portrait of Santa Claus published in Harper's Weekly in 1881; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

*Note: if it hadn't been for a footnote in Bill Griffeth's book, "Stranger in My Genes," I would never have known about the kerfuffle that became known as Franksgiving. One of the benefits of making a practice of reading books is such delightful rabbit-trail discoveries as this tidbit of American history. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Gleaning Goals for 2017

It isn't too early to think about research goals for the New Year. After all, I just spent the last four days staring at the sore spots in the four pedigree charts of my daughter's four grandparents. That ought to be enough to prompt me to action. Let's see what can be gleaned from those four snapshots of current research progress.

For my maternal line, the obvious glaring omissions are my maternal grandfather's Boothe and Laws lines. To be able to push back the records just one more generation would be a glorious feat. Since I also have several X matches on my DNA results which I suspect align with that Boothe line, discovering one more generation's history might also yield me answers to several of my DNA match mysteries. And yet, I'm torn, knowing I have a possible trip to Florida in my near future, which would be the golden opportunity to sort out my McClellan line—something that may only be accomplished by going there in person, as online resources don't include the records I'm seeking.

For my mother-in-law's line, the goals are more clear. First, work on that supplemental line for D.A.R., providing entrance to membership for my husband's sisters and any of their daughters who are interested, too—and to Sons of the American Revolution, too, for any of my husband's nephews who might like to join. Then, I'll be reading up on issues of endogamy in relation to DNA testing, plus working on increasing membership in the Perry County, Ohio, DNA project.

My main challenge in 2017 for my father-in-law's Irish lines will be to park myself in front of the computer and trawl through the Catholic baptismal records for the three counties from which his lines originated in Ireland: counties Kerry, Limerick and Tipperary. This may be a tedious process. If I have any success, I may go from there to thumb through County Mayo, supposedly the origin of our Stevens surname—at least according to his immigration records. In the meantime, I'll be hoping for more DNA matches on that patrilineal side, for it's got me one hundred percent stumped at this time.

What can be said for my own father's line? It has me far beyond merely "stumped." I'm actually considering taking up Polish, if for nothing else than to know the phonics and how to pronounce those strangely marked letters. While American-based genealogical websites have been helpful for my searches for American roots, when it comes to looking up records from the 1800s for those in my paternal heritage, it may be better to look in collections developed by the Polish, themselves. In addition, I'm seriously considering searching for distant relatives who would be willing to do DNA testing. In this line for which I know so little, there is also—not surprisingly—a dearth of matches to my test and that of my brother.

There are so many directions pulling me. It's hard to settle on one course. Still, there is an entire year ahead of me, so I think it is safe to declare more than one goal for each family line.

Above: "On the Ice Rink," painting by Norwegian artist Axel Hjalmar Ender; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Busted Brick Wall Candidate #1

There are some parts of the pedigree chart that seem doomed to be left blank forever. Some secrets are not given up that easily. Barring discovery of my own personal time machine, I'm afraid my father's line may remain one of those instances. It certainly is our family's tree with the least entries already completed and proven.

Looking at the chart below, which shows just the level of second and third great grandparents, it is easy to see I've got my work cut out for me. The problem is: this is the same situation in which I've been stuck for the past several years.

Oh, I have made some progress, admittedly—like when I stumbled upon that website which revealed a free resource for transcriptions of Catholic marriage records for the old Prussian region then known as Posen. But the progress seemed to introduce breadth into my family tree, not depth; I could find more siblings for those second great grandparents, but not a single clue to bridge the gap into the previous generation.

Of course, it helped to also find some corrections to my records. Locating the actual marriage records allowed me to amend names gleaned from anguished memories reported at the point of completing death certificates, years later—yet another demonstration of how it's best to rely on records completed closest in time to the actual event, itself.

Looking at that empty pedigree chart, it's hard to decide which direction to take for a next step. My paternal grandfather's side is entirely blank—a mystery with absolutely no lead in sight. While I'd love to dig up the secret of his origin, I have no tools with which to even start.

My paternal grandmother's side—the parents of Sophie Laskowska from Żerków, Poland—would be a possible next step for research. This, however, comes with a caveat: that I'm willing to brave the tedium of constant translation from Polish to English as I work through websites not originally designed with my native tongue in mind. This is the constant reminder of the convenience of such utilities as Google Translate.

Once again, it may come down to the strategy of boosting my chances of identifying how my twenty two Polish-roots DNA matches are actually related to me. Before I can ever hope to figure out those second-to-fourth-cousin mysteries, I first need to figure out who my third great grandparents are. Right now, I'm one hundred percent in the dark about that.

Above: My emptiest pedigree chart belongs to my paternal line. This portion shows known second great grandparents in the left column.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Where Progress Needs to be Made

There is nothing so helpful, when stymied with a genealogical problem, as to diagram the situation. Thus, out have come the pedigree charts to visually represent the sore spots in my research progress.

Looking at the maternal lines I'm researching—both mine and my husband's—the visual representation seems to indicate a rosy state of research health, although I know there is much more to document in those family trees. When it comes to each of our paternal lines, though, the story is quite different.

Take my husband's father's line, for instance. While I can at least claim to know who each of his second great-grandparents were, that is one generation short of the progress I've made on the mothers' lines. Of course, both of those mothers sported ancestry that stretched back to the 1700s in America, making research a bit more streamlined, thanks to the abundance of accessible local records. For the two fathers' lines, I assure you that is not the case.

In my father-in-law's line, for instance, immigration from Ireland introduces the difficulties inherent in a Catholic heritage in a land ruled by Protestant England. It is not easy to locate records before the 1820s, yet several of my husband's second greats were born before that time. This is a problem.

Still, at year's end—what? You say it isn't even Thanksgiving; how can I mention the new year at such an early juncture? Easy: it will be here before you know it—this is a good time to take stock of progress (or lack thereof).

There are two main challenges involved in researching the Stevens and associated family lines. The first is the two-country immigration route; the Tully branch's emigration went through Canada before arriving in the United States—and then, in some cases, returned to western Canada.

The second challenge is that there are some branches of this family for whom I have no county of origin in Ireland, much less pinpointing the precise townlands from which they came. This includes the patrilineal Stevens line itself, along with the origin of Stephen Malloy, who may or may not have come from County Limerick.

Even for those lines for whom I already have a confirmed county of origin, I am having trouble locating any mention of the family in church records. Granted, there is now such an improved means of access to such resources as baptismal records, so it would likely produce some promising results if I were to revisit those records now. If such a repeat exercise yields the names of some parents, it would help me push beyond the roadblock preventing me from discovering fourteen of the sixteen third great grandparents on my husband's paternal side.

Of course, there is the hope that future DNA matches will help provide answers. I already have one connection on that list of mystery third great grandparents with whom I'm working. We haven't figured out the answer to our question yet, but at least we have the assurance that our mutual family lines are indeed related. The more that DNA testing companies reach out to customers in other lands, the more likely it will be that we see matches from our ancestral homelands. I have heard several people have experienced that result for their Irish roots, so there's hope that our Stevens line can do an end run around those paper trail road blocks, too.

Above: Where I'm stuck. It's easy to see my work is cut out for me in this segment of my husband's pedigree chart, showing his second great grandparents on the left, and the sole named couple on the right representing the only third great grandparents for whom we have any documentation at all.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Doubly Related

When we consider pedigree charts in our current times, we expect to see a graph branching with each preceding generation. Our two parents expand to four grandparents, then eight great grandparents. With a geometric sequence like that, by the time we reach back six generations or more, we start to see some serious number progressions.

Or do we? Some of those lines, at least in some families, don't branch quite as regularly as we presume in our modern times. For those families with colonial settlers in the 1700s, it is not so surprising to discover cousins marrying. Likewise for those Acadians, expelled from the eastern, formerly French colonies in by-then British-controlled Canada and settling, eventually, in Louisiana. For endogamous populations like the Ashkenazi Jews, this intermarriage is demonstrated multiple times over, through their generations-long history.

While it may not be an expected geographic location lending itself to typical endogamy, the small community where my mother-in-law was born had what I'd like to dub endogamy-lite. From 1818, the time of the early Catholic settlers who established the first Catholic church in Ohio, Perry County had been host to small enclaves of Catholic settlers, including the families from which my mother-in-law descended. Over the years, the names written on neighboring farm parcels in the county's plat maps became the same names taking their places in the family's pedigree chart. The small rural community soon became a place where everyone seemed to be related to everyone else.

Now that I've done the research on my mother-in-law's line, I can see evidence of that right away. Two Gordon half-brothers, for instance, turned out to be her parents' great grandfathers: one on her father's side, one on her mother's side. And her paternal grandmother's father turned out to be brother to her maternal grandmother's maternal grandfather, thanks to her Snider lines.

From the time of her high school years in New Lexington, students used to joke that, since they were all related, before a guy could ask a girl out on a date, he had to produce his family's pedigree chart. It would do no good to fall in love and then discover the couple was actually second cousins.

While my mother-in-law may have thought she had escaped repeating that dilemma by marrying an Air Force man from Chicago, it actually turned out that her beau was the cousin of a family living in town. Though I haven't yet explored that possibility, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that when Norma married Frank, she married a man who may have been remotely related to her own extended family.

I got so used to this scenario as I began tracing her family tree that it became easy to spot those surnames in fellow researchers' paperwork. Just reading a forum post that mentioned Perry County and surnames like Flowers, Metzger, Snider or Gordon told me that, with a quick question, I'd learn of a new third or fourth cousin—and off we'd go, comparing pedigree charts and filling in the missing details in each other's genealogies.

Once DNA testing entered the picture and my husband encountered some matches estimated to be between second and fourth cousin—but turned out to yield two related lines, each at the level of sixth or seventh cousin (and yes, we have the paper trail to go back that far)—that became my inspiration to start up a new group project at Family Tree DNA. Since everyone seemed to be joking about how everyone in Perry County is related, I wondered whether genetic genealogy would bear that out.

So now, while I'm reviewing each of our family lines needing more research attention, I'm considering what can be done with my mother-in-law's line. Of all the family lines I'm working on, hers is the most complete, mainly because the nature of the people settling that geographic area lent itself well to the pursuit of that family's genealogy.

Admittedly, I am missing the names of eighteen of my husband's fourth great grandparents—each of whom was born somewhere in Europe (I suspect either Switzerland or the region once known as Alsace-Lorraine). But rather than work on that aspect, I've been doing some "reverse" genealogy, following the lines of descent from each of my husband's third great grandparents. Believe me, I have a long way to go before that project is completed.

My to-do list for this part of the family's genealogical research is to just keep at it: wrap up that seemingly endless reverse genealogy project. In addition, I picked up some helpful suggestions for promoting the Perry County DNA group project at the conference last weekend, which I need to implement. Also on my to-do list for my mother-in-law's line is that long-languishing goal of proving a supplemental line on behalf of my daughter, opening up a patriot connection enabling my sisters-in-law to join Daughters of the American Revolution.

Sometimes, in the morass of multiple project requirements, it makes sense to see that things would get bogged down. That's where I've been with my mother-in-law's line. Getting something completed and crossed off the list would be just the prescription for re-energizing this research arena.

Above: Second and third great-grandparents on my husband's maternal pedigree line, showing work yet to be done on that family's history. (Note the three spellings—Snider, Snyder, and Schneider—belong to the same family's surname and were used, based on spellings in documents verifying details in each man's own circumstances.)

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Davis Dilemmas

Now that I've decided to take some time to assess where I'm stuck in my family history research, I'm reminded how difficult it can be to pursue the history of a common surname. I've heard groans from people when they realize their research is doomed to determine what happened to a Smith line or a Jones line. But it never occurred to me that a surname like Davis would present any such problems.

Until I tried my hand at my own.

Since I'll be reviewing each of four family trees to wrap up this week, I may as well start with the work on my maternal line. That, incidentally, puts me firmly in the midst of those who must research common surnames—a kind of separating-the-wheat-from-the-chaff exercise.

"Which Davis is mine" is not the only question I wrestle with. A step backwards in time with each subsequent generation introduces other surnames, of course, as my mother's patrilineal procession of Davises blends with the names of their brides. And that is my main pitfall in this line, right now.

For one thing, there is my maternal grandfather's mother's line. Martha Cassandra Boothe married William David Davis in Erwin, Tennessee, in 1885. I'm grateful that her maiden name was captured in history's records, unlike some of the women just one generation before her. Still, in that one generation prior to hers, it is her father's identity that is giving me grief. William Alexander Boothe, supposedly born in Nansemond County, Virginia, in 1812, has defied all attempts at being identified in local records.

In the type of pattern which seems more likely to expect for that era, Martha's husband's mother becomes the other puzzle in this family tree. I know her name was Sarah Catherine Laws and that she married Will Davis' father, Thomas Davis, in Washington County, Tennessee, in 1856. Census records show that she was born in nearby North Carolina, and her headstone declares that her year of birth was 1838. But try as I might, I haven't been able to identify any of her siblings or her parents, so I am stuck at her generation.

In fact, if I look at the pedigree chart for my mother's family, it is only fully completed up to the level of my second great grandparents. Out of sixteen possible third great grandparents, I'm missing four. That's one fourth of the lineup, a significant amount.

Where this comes into play is when I turn to autosomal DNA testing. With the Laws and Boothe lines a big question mark on my records, I often wonder if these are the blank lines whose other descendants are showing up as my DNA matches. After all, the closest matches I've gotten have been at the level of second to fourth cousin. And in some testing companies—Family Tree DNA, in particular—the truth lies somewhat to the far end of that range. That means, in order to align on the paper trail, both my potential match and I need to know our third great grandparents if we want to confirm just how we match. If those most recent common ancestors would be the parents of either William Alexander Boothe or Sarah Catherine Laws, up to this point, I've been out of luck.

Not that that is my only woe on my maternal line. It would be nice to extend lines even further on my mother's maternal side. But as far as DNA matching goes, I have adequate information to field any questions of fourth cousin relationship there. It's the Davis side that needs the work. I have a feeling if I could clear up those two main questions—parents on the Boothe line and the Laws line—I'd suddenly solve the logistics on how I connect with several matches in the queue at two different testing companies.

Above: Section of an 1895 map showing the now-non-existent Nansemond County in Virginia; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.  

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Taking My Own Advice

Sometimes, the trail vanishes, the breadcrumbs disappear, and it's hard to know what's the next best step to take. That's where I am right now in my family history quest: stymied by a roadblock on the Kelly trail, not at all mitigated by actually traveling to the Irish immigrant family's landing place in Lafayette, Indiana.

Yesterday, I decided to take my own advice from class, and review the latest genealogical event I attended—the weekend conference for group project administrators sponsored by Family Tree DNA.  What I really need to do, though, is apply that same advice to the bigger picture of where my research is stuck right now, and see if it will help move me forward in a productive way. So, as far as it applies to the current dilemma in my family history research, here are those questions once again:
  • What surprised you?
  • What turned out just as you expected?
  • What will you work on next?

And here are my answers, floundering about in a sea of indecision as to what approach to take next.

What surprised me about actually going to the place where Ann Kelly and her family once lived was seeing how a dedicated group of genealogy and local history enthusiasts can make documents so easily accessible to like-minded researchers. For a city of seventy thousand, Lafayette adequately plays host to researchers at the Frank Arganbright Genealogy Center—an impressive outlay of the Tippecanoe County Historical Association staffed, partially, by volunteers from the county's genealogical society. Considering the entire Tippecanoe County has one hundred thousand less inhabitants than the city in which I live, I'm quite envious of them; I wish that inspiration and motivation could rub off on folks here.

I hate to admit it, but what turned out as expected, on this research trip to Tippecanoe County, was that deep down feeling that I had just stumbled upon yet another nineteenth-century woman whose life events would be shrouded in history. Though I could find a name matching hers, and a document indicating the name of the man who married her, face it: unless I could find any further identifying details, this Ann Kelly could be the right one. Or the wrong one. There seems to be no way to discern any difference. And for women with such oft-used names, coupled with the invisibility of women in general during those times, it would have been a rare occurrence for it to turn out otherwise.

The big question for me, now, is what will be the next project. The trail for this Kelly family has petered out. Unless someone kindly makes local church records available, I have no recourse than to give up that particular search.

That doesn't mean, however, that there is no more work to be done in the four main family lines I've been researching: my paternal and maternal lines plus those of my husband. In order to bring the answer to that question to light, I decided to revisit each line's database and examine its current condition to see if there are any glaring gaps which could use a work-up.

Humor me as I take the next four days to review the status on each of these lines. Hopefully, in the process, a sense of direction will emerge and we can start the next week with a new focus.

Above: "Winter Landscape with a Fox," undated oil on canvas by Swedish artist Bruno Liljefors; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Taking my Cue From Lifelong Learning

One of the differences which delineates adult learners from schoolchildren might well be their reaction to winter breaks and summer vacations. Kids live for that break from the "drudgery" of learning; adults understand if they wish to keep their edge, they need to always keep learning.

I happen to instruct a particularly "young" set of mature learners. Keen on tackling learning challenges, they have signed up for a semester of beginning genealogy. This class, however, has one additional component: a hands-on opportunity for applied research in the local community college's computer lab. (The caveat in this ten session semester is that the class only features online genealogical resources which are free, not subscription-based.)

Yesterday was our last session for the fall semester. As I always do, in the closing hour, I asked each class member three questions about their experience starting out in genealogical research:
  • What surprised you?
  • What turned out just as you expected?
  • What will you work on next?

Since I'm at a turning point in this blog as well, I thought it would be applicable to use those same three questions here. After all, not only have I just returned home from a genetic genealogy conference—which left me mulling over thoughts about future applications and projects—but I've sputtered and floundered over my last research project and arrived at the conclusion that it would be best to set that one aside for a later date bringing (hopefully) additional information.

At this post-conference juncture, here are my answers to those three questions.

The most surprising part of the FTDNA conference was discovering how wide a spectrum of projects are hosted by such a large number of volunteer group project administrators—and how dedicated some of them have been, over the long haul, to both their project tasks and the concurrent learning curve they've had to mount. Pioneers in the application of DNA testing to genealogy, theirs has been a multifaceted effort, understanding not only genealogy but some of the science behind the tests—as well as legal and business considerations for interfacing with the company and its customers while promoting and growing their own specific project. This year represented the twelfth annual conference, and a good portion of those volunteers in attendance have been to every single one since the inaugural event in 2005.

There were several aspects of this year's event which turned out just as I had expected. The personnel, for one. I have been to enough DNA Days at the ISOGG-hosted annual event held in conjunction with Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree in Burbank each June to have met FTDNA President and CEO, Bennett Greenspan, and FTDNA's Chief Scientist, Michael Hammer. I've also heard presentations by them, as well as by staff members Janine Cloud and Jim Brewster, who were visible—and quite busy—all weekend long. The level of expertise visible in each presentation this weekend certainly met expectations adequately, as well as piquing my interest in delving deeper in several facets of group project management.

When it comes to planning what I will work on next, there are several items ripe for my to-do list. Encouraging more eligible participants to sign up for the Perry County, Ohio, project will be Job #1 on that list. While there were several suggestions made about this during the conference, now is the time to apply that elbow grease. And of course, that will take time to do. Behind the scenes, it will also require additional learning as I ply the group projects team with questions about best practices. In addition, since each day's conference proceedings were punctuated by a great networking opportunity over the hotel's delicious lunch, I have several follow-up contacts to make, both with other group project admins I met and with FTDNA staff liaisons who actively seek our input and ideas.

Now that I'm back home after that whirlwind trip to Houston (four thousand miles and fourteen hours of instruction in one weekend), I realize I've reached a second closing point, as well: I've exhausted the research topic of our Kelly family in Lafayette, Indiana, and need to move on to another branch of family history research. That, of course, requires another answer to the question, "What's next?" And unfortunately, that kind of question doesn't always provide an immediate answer.

Above: "Farmyard in Winter," 1858 oil on canvas by American artist, George Henry Durrie, whose winter landscapes often were selected to publish as lithographs by Currier and Ives; image courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Back to Those Mundane Tasks of Daily Life

The excitement—and sheer exhaustion—of cramming in two full days of learning at the Family Tree DNA conference are now over. It's back to reality for me. A four hour flight put Houston far behind me yesterday. Though I'm glad to be back in California-style sunshine, that means not only returning to routine tasks, but catching up on some missed duties, as well.

One of those duties is my twice-monthly recap on progress in building out my family trees and concurrently pursuing DNA matches. See? I told you: mundane.

So, humor me as I recap my progress since my last report at the close of October.

It will come as no surprise that, after our family's trip back to Chicago in late October, another trip east following so soon afterwards would disrupt the rhythm of regular genealogical research. When you're having fun, some work obviously has to be set aside.

As far as building out those family trees goes, the winner in the progress category was the tree for my mother-in-law's family, where there was a 104-name increase to total 8,915 in her tree. The next most eventful was my mother's tree, where I added fifty additional names, bringing hers to almost the same size: 8,925. As a spillover from our Stevens research trip to Chicago, my father-in-law's tree gained seven more entries to total 1,080 in the tree. And my own father's tree stayed at dead last with absolutely no additions and a pitiful total of 345. Someday, Poland, we'll figure a way to crack through those mystery records.

The encouraging thing, with holidays approaching (which always seems to mean holiday DNA test sales), is that there may be more robust matches in our future. For now, the increase in matches at AncestryDNA has slowed to a trickle. Eight more matches on my mother's side gives me a total of 403 matches. Only six more arrived for my husband's side, where he now has aggregated 177 matches.

Progress at FTDNA was slightly better. Fifteen matches came in for my husband, leaving him with a total of 929 matches through November 9, the last time his file was updated. On my side, nineteen new matches arrived, including one for my father's side, adding up to a cumulative 1,463 DNA matches in total.

Still on the horizon are results from a third testing company, 23andMe, where we are hoping to examine my husband's matches with his two cousins who have already tested there—and, of course, take a close look at any new matches which develop from this third field of inquiry.

Of course, with the new sales coupons coming out on Mondays at FTDNA through the holiday shopping season—likely to be followed by competing offers from the other testing companies—hopefully we'll see an uptick in matches as the increased volume moves its way through the production cycle.

While there's always hope for that perfect match that answers all our genealogical questions, in the meantime, the best approach is to get back to cranking out the research and diligently contacting those matches whose relationships seem most likely to yield confirmation via the tried-and-true paper trail.

In a nutshell: time to settle down at home and get back to work!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Returning Home, Bearing Gifts

Now that it has come to a close, it's been a fulfilling weekend. Not that I've spent the time traveling to favored vacation places like Colorado for a winter wonderland, or Florida for a last attempt at clinging to summer sunshine. I did spend the weekend traveling, but it wasn't exactly my idea of a dream getaway. It was a trip to Houston that captured my attention, and solely on account of an indoor activity: attending the Family Tree DNA conference put on for their volunteer group administrators.

I've already mentioned the speaker line-up in store for us this past weekend, and the featured speakers did not disappoint. Paired with those special topics were some new developments at the FTDNA website.

Following Michael Hammer's presentation on migration patterns in paleolithic and neolithic Europe and how recent discoveries may have turned our understanding of such on its head, CEO Bennett Greenspan had FTDNA staff dramatically (and figuratively) "flip the switch" to unveil a new readout for the "Family Finder" autosomal test on the FTDNA website. For those customers with European roots, you can now view a personalized breakdown of your heritage by clicking on the new label, "ancientOrigins." There, a brief explanation details the three categories of focus: hunter-gatherer, farmer, and metal age invader. A fourth category shows percentage of the individual's non-European heritage delineated by the Family Finder test.

Meanwhile, with the announcement of an upcoming change in the type of swab used to collect DNA samples, this holiday season's sales plans were launched, with yet another "flip of the switch," and are now live on the FTDNA website. Most encouraging is seeing the "Family Finder" (autosomal DNA) test price reduced to $59, making the test accessible to many more people—and, incidentally, helping boost match numbers for those who have previously tested. A weekly coupon offering (similar to last year's sale offering?) will bring additional savings to our email boxes.

Several other speakers provided practical tips and applications, suggestions for helpful resources, and other invaluable advice for neophyte project administrators like me. Apparently, I was in good company, for this year brought a record number of new project administrators to this annual Houston event. The networking was great, getting to meet FTDNA staff invaluable, and the event provided the big picture viewpoint I needed. I walked away—reluctantly, after lingering to chat afterwards—equipped with a substantial to-do list, faces to go with key names and the encouragement to keep in touch and provide feedback.

While there are numerous project managers who have been serving admirably in their volunteer capacity at FTDNA for years, the company welcomes ideas for new group projects and volunteers to start up those projects. With this year's many new attendees, it is evident that many more are catching the vision and developing new ways to explore the possibilities in genetic genealogy through this aspect of the company's offerings. Whether through surname projects, haplogroup projects or geographic projects such as my Perry County Ohio project, the group projects offerings at FTDNA are yet another opportunity to explore the many ways we connect in the human family.   

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Off the Shelf:
The Stranger in My Genes

While I have a backlog of books yet to read from my double-stacked bookshelves, I couldn't attend this weekend's conference without getting my own copy of CNBC news anchor Bill Griffeth's recent release, The Stranger in My Genes. After all, Bill Griffeth was one of the featured speakers at this weekend's twelfth annual International Conference on Genetic Genealogy hosted by Family Tree DNA. It would be the perfect plan if I could read the book on the flight to Houston.

Published this past September by the New England Historic Genealogical Society, the Griffeth memoir held out the promise of being a riveting tale—well, at least for genealogists.

Precise planner that I am, I finally got around to placing my book order at Amazon—where at least I have Amazon Prime—with that "just in time" delivery that the modern corporate system has spent the last few decades perfecting.

While the concept might have been exquisite, the execution was not. Thursday came, and no book. FedEx dropped by to make a routine delivery at noon. The UPS guy even drove by my door like clockwork at 12:30. My last hope drove into the sunset with our regular mail delivery at five.

No book.

Still, the website promised the book would be here by eight, so I held out for a last-minute rescue by the driver of some unmarked delivery van. Surely I'd have that volume to tuck into my carry-on for the flight to Houston. It would be the perfect prequel to hearing Bill Griffeth speak at the conference.

Suffice it to say I left for the airport without that expected delivery. Not that it mattered, but to make it even worse, the thing didn't show up the next day, either: holiday.

Meanwhile, by Friday evening, I and my traveling companion were signing in, two thousand miles from home, for early registration. What should be set out at the registration tables but several copies of the Griffeth book.

"Oh, are these for sale?" I asked, explaining my dilemma.

They weren't. Autographed, they were part of the registration bag of goodies for attendees. A complimentary copy for each of us. Thus leaving me in the odd position of being glad that a promised delivery didn't show up as expected.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Now Indexing:
Something Incredibly Easy

Call me a reluctant volunteer. I've been burnt before by failure to correctly decipher messy handwriting. I'm a sucker for being considered an "A" student, and checking my stats on that arbitration ratings page for indexing at sure hurts when the numbers slide. Truth be told, though, the numbers only slide when the records are impossible to read.

So what does a reluctant indexer do, the next time around? Go for the easy stuff. Natch.

This time around, the selection was for the U.S. Oklahoma World War II Draft Registrations from 1940 to 1945. While I'd otherwise have targeted a level of difficulty right in the middle of FamilySearch's 1 to 5 range, this time I chickened and opted for the easier level 2. Hectic week with travel and all, you know.

Right off, I vetted the collection by clicking the "view sample" button. I realize that option doesn't always work, but I can hope, can't I? Fortunately, hope sometimes does reap a payoff, and I got to see how easy the collection was. Well, at least the first card up in that collection. It was typewritten. I figured this would be a snap.

Not only did the collection turn out to be isolated to Oklahoma residents, but every man listed in the batch was named Robert Underwood. That may not seem like a problem until you realize the first step in the indexing process is to identify the quality of each record to be indexed. The program asks the indexer to signal whether the record is blank, illegible, not applicable to the collection or other such problems. And the program wants the indexer to also flag the duplicate copies.

Checking each page to make sure each Robert Underwood was not the same guy as the previous one kept me on my toes. At least I was treated to a tour of parental creativity as I realized the gamut of middle names thought to go well with that set of given name plus surname.

For once, I didn't run into any frustrating examples which didn't fall into the parameters addressed by the step by step instructions. I seem to have a knack for breaking the rule book—or finding the unpredictable scenarios—but this session went smoothly. If I had had the time to do so, I would gladly have gone back and done a second batch for this week's indexing. Perhaps, if the collection is still there for the taking—after all, the "U" batch I handled was dangerously close to the end of the alphabet—I'll dispatch a few more sets after I return home. I can safely say this was the easiest, least frustrating batch I've indexed in quite a while. A welcomed change of pace, for once!

Friday, November 11, 2016

While I Would Otherwise Have Been Sleeping . . .

If you know me, you know I am not a morning person. While I can feverishly—and happily—pursue my goals working on projects well into the night, the only reason I ever catch a glimpse of a sunrise is that I've stayed up all night. I don't do that very often.

Today, however, counts among the few days in which I've had (almost) a full night's sleep and managed to drag myself out of bed in the pre-dawn hours. In fact, I actually walked out my front door "around" four o'clock. And yes, that is in the morning.

The reason? I have this opportunity to attend a conference set up for a limited number of people interested in genetic genealogy, hosted by Family Tree DNA in Houston. The presentations are geared for FTDNA's project managers, of whom I'm just a fledgling. No matter how insignificant my contribution, though, I get to be included. And I'm totally jazzed.

There are a number of speakers featured in this weekend's proceedings. I'm looking forward to hearing each one of them. Two of them have presented at other genetic genealogy conferences I've attended—namely Michael F. Hammer of the Hammer Lab at the University of Arizona, and Miguel Vilar, the science manager at National Geographic's Genographic Project.

There are more speakers, of course. Prime among them is CNBC anchor Bill Griffeth, who authored the book I'll soon be discussing, The Stranger in My Genes. Familiar to those who read genealogy blogs is another speaker, Roberta Estes of DNA Explain, who also writes personalized DNA reports for FTDNA. Katherine Borges and Linda Magellan will be on hand from ISOGG and Barbara Rae-Venter from DNA Adoption.

Since I had to get up so early to catch my flight east to Houston, I toyed with the idea of just not bothering to sleep last night. But who am I kidding? I can't miss any sleep—I'm going in, eyes wide open for this two-day DNA marathon. I wouldn't want to miss even one moment of those proceedings.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Day Late, Document Short

Just when we've made our trip to Chicago and returned home again, what should pop up but a notice from genealogist Amy Johnson Crow's Twitter account—birdlike—tweeting the message that there is a new collection on the Archdiocese of Chicago cemetery records.

On the face of it, this is good news. While I do have some old records photocopied from visits to Chicago decades ago, sometimes those were obtained before I was savvy enough to know which questions were the right ones to ask—name of owner of plot, for instance, or who else was buried in that family plot. Besides that, I've since discovered more names connected to our various Chicago roots, names which need more verification than can sometimes be gleaned from those wonderful, volunteer-supplied entries on Find A Grave.

So I thought I'd take this newly-posted collection out for a spin.

My first test drive was on behalf of the very Kelly family from Lafayette, Indiana, about which I was struggling to get connections right. Some of James and Mary Kelly's children and grandchildren, like many young adults coming of age in an agricultural community, found Chicago to be just the close-by job magnet that one might have presumed. Some, unfortunately, may have found their early demise while living among those urban threats—everything from occupational hazards to tuberculosis. Some of them had their remains shipped back home to Indiana, where they were buried at Saint Mary's Cemetery in Lafayette. Others? Well...that question hasn't been answered entirely.

In my first attempt at seeing whether the missing pieces to that Kelly puzzle might be found in this collection, I didn't locate the Kellys I wanted, but I did see some promising details. In trying to figure out what happened to two of the sons of James' son Thomas—John and Thomas—along with their brother James, whom I knew died in Cook County, Illinois, in 1924, I ran across an entry for the younger James which I thought might be promising.

When I clicked through to the entry, itself, I noticed a statement in the right column indicating there was an image which could be viewed in this collection if I signed in to my account there. Pulling it up, I found it turned out to be a digitized copy of a card not only indicating the burial date for this James Kelly, but including name and date of another Kelly burial and providing the name of the plot's owner (a third Kelly whose name, coincidentally, happened to be John).

While I'm fairly certain these are not my Kellys, seeing that card prompted me to go through the collection and see what could be found for every other Chicago family member, both in this Kelly family and in all the other lines which fit within the date range for this collection (1864-1989).

Despite the promise of many results, as it turned out, not every family member whom I knew was buried in a Chicago Catholic cemetery had an entry in this collection. For that, I was quite disappointed. Here I thought I had found my digitized gold mine of Chicago burial documentation.

For instance, William Flanagan—bachelor uncle to my husband's great-grandmother and Irish renegade who, but for the discontinuation of the British punitive measure of transportation, would have found himself banished to Australia—had absolutely no mention of his monumental burial marker at Mount Olivet, despite its magnificent presence also being the very source of our discovery that he was from "Parish Ballygran, County Limerick." For this, I was disappointed, for I hoped to discover something more on the one other Flanagan burial in his plot which had me puzzled.

Several other family members also failed to appear in that collection, despite being loyal Catholics who died and were buried in Chicago.

Since we had managed to visit one family grave site during our trip to Chicago last month, I looked that one up in the collection. This was for John Tully and several of his family members, buried in Evanston at Calvary Cemetery. John's grave no longer has any marker, though we recall from another visit there nearly twenty years ago a badly-crumbling headstone indicating the place of his 1907 burial. Now, all that remains is a curious and sentimental cement cast marker for "Daisy," John and Catherine Tully's seven year old daughter. As for any information on this collection at FamilySearch, the card only showed John Tully's date of death, date of burial, age, and location of the plot. Makes me wish I could flip the card over and see if anything was noted on the back. And Daisy? No record, either under her nickname or for her legal name.

Surprised that what seemed to be such a promising resource for our Chicago-based family was turning out to miss so many individuals in their records, I turned to the FamilySearch wiki for this specific collection to see what notes were included. Sometimes, a collection at FamilySearch can have a promising title, but turn out to include a very limited set of records. That was not the case here, it turns out. Notes on the collection did provide a statement that the records were limited to Cook and Lake counties in Illinois, but that is exactly what I was seeking. Obviously, they were also limited to Catholic burials—once again applying to my search parameters.

Who knows why some online collections—especially those precisely fitting the details I'm seeking—don't include certain records. Perhaps more records will be added to this collection in the future. If not, I guess it's not really a loss to have to revert to the same search methods researchers have used for ages: connecting with the source of the records and finding a way to obtain a copy of the details we are seeking.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Morning After:
Post-Election Doldrums

In times like this, I wish ballots were more like multiple choice exams. After the boxes to check for Candidates A and B—and maybe even Candidate C—they need one more choice: "none of the above."

Taking a spin through social media offerings last night was depressing. A few tried to interject some levity, of course—like this tweet from a history professor advising, "Republicans: Save Your Country—Vote for Clinton."

Of course, opening up the article the tweet led to, one quickly realizes it refers to an entirely different Clinton from a far-removed election cycle. If only pulling up an article from the archives of a long-gone century could make it all better!

I am tempted to take a detour into the hiding places of times past. For those few ancestors in my family's lines who held—or at least ran for—public office, it would be interesting to see what the local journalists and newspaper editors chose to report about them. With today's online resources, it wouldn't be hard to locate such commentary. Maybe the local residents reading those editorials and election results had as much to grumble about, over their morning coffee, as we do in pulling up our election results on our laptops and tablets.

In perusing those newspaper archives of centuries past, we might also pick up the sense of political fiascos, corruption, cronyism and other woes that surely plagued those ancestors, as well. After all, I'm talking about researching a family who lived in New York City (my father's) and another one who spent generations in Chicago (my father-in-law's family). Surely they had their share of doubtful political decisions to complain about, as well. Perhaps as long as there are politicians, there will be plenty to complain about.

No matter which side you pinned your hopes on—or hoped to cast your vote against—your wake-up call this morning surely came with a cold grip of reality. I wish sage advice could include burying your head in your genealogical pursuits in hopes of making it all disappear. On the other hand, if history does repeat itself, perhaps our re-discovery of the lessons learned by our ancestors can provide a little bit more than merely genealogical enlightenment.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Doubly Related

Whenever people mention having relatives who were related in more ways than one, it seems the immediate reaction is one of disapproval. Cousins marrying cousins is a situation that does come with not only disapproval, but a certain risk of inbreeding.

And yet, when we trace back far enough in our trees—especially in those families with colonial roots or from endogamous populations—we may be more likely than we think to uncover close relationships.

I've certainly discovered such connections in both my mother-in-law's tree and my mother's tree. Both women came from families which have been in this country since at least the 1700s. And that makes sense. Think of it: with a limited population from which to choose suitable mates, a family was likely to tend toward known entities. Back in the 1700s, cousins marrying cousins wasn't a rare thing.

Fast forward to the 1900s. By then, second or third cousins marrying each other in a small farm community was still bound to happen.

Now, the question is: how do we represent that sort of double connection in the new family trees we post at Family Tree DNA? I mean, here I am, trying to update my records there, and I encounter a match for my husband estimated to be within the range of second to fourth cousin. As it turns out, this person connects with my husband in not one way but two. One of those ways calculates to be out to sixth cousin, once removed. The other way links to a set of most recent common ancestors who were the matches' sixth great grandparents—so, once again, a distant relationship, this time of seventh cousins.

So, what do you do with such calculations when you are doubly related? Does the second relationship add some sort of exponential afterburners? How do two familial relationships—one at sixth cousin once removed, the other at about seventh cousin—show up in our DNA matches as an estimated range of second to fourth cousin?

More importantly, how do we show these double relationships on FTDNA's charts? In their latest phase, customers may now link their matches' lines to their own tree—and then, with special clicks to verify the identity of said matches, confirm that mutual line of relationship.

But that routine can only be done once. Entering the second line of relationship will not allow the match to be confirmed in that tree. Apparently, you only get one chance to click on that special linking button.

So for now, with this first instance of double relationship that I've worked on in the updated FTDNA dashboard, I'll have to settle for this particular match being recorded solely as that solitary sixth-cousin-once-removed relationship and no more.

I'd think someone would want to examine just what happens to DNA test results when the subjects are related in more ways than one. Someone, that is, besides just me.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Reaping Some Teamwork
From That Family Visit

Our visit to Chicago at the end of last month became doubly sweet with a recent email from one of the cousins we saw during our travels. My husband actually turns out to have two cousins who enjoy doing genealogical research—and one who is keen on DNA testing. Trouble is, she had all her family test at the one company our family hasn't used: 23andMe.

However, she has been kind to let me take a peek at her results at 23andMe, so I could familiarize myself with the tools that company offers to analyze DNA results there. You know how it goes, though...too many things to do in too little time. Guess which opportunity got squandered for lack of time?

I knew that had to come to an abrupt stop, though, since I signed up to take the most recent week-long DNA offering at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy this coming January. One prerequisite for the class was to test at all three companies. Guess which one I hadn't yet tested at?

Since these cousins are from my husband's side of the family, the natural choice for victim volunteer to test at 23andMe was my husband. That way, at least we knew two matches which would show up in his results, for sure: the very ones who are now sharing in this genealogy journey with us.

Before we could arrange to get his results in, this past weekend I got an email from this cousin with a link and a breathless "you gotta look at this" message. Not knowing about the Kelly match I had been working on recently—the very one we had traveled to Lafayette, Indiana, to research during our visit to Chicago—she realized that that was the family name in her set of matches at 23andMe.

When the same names start popping up in our tests at different companies, it not only lends some confidence to the results, but sets us all a-buzz about the discoveries we're making. Together.

There's nothing like teamwork. With the advent of all these genealogical offerings that can be utilized online—I like to say, "In our comfy jammies, sipping a cup of hot chocolate, at midnight"—I'm afraid all of us genealogy aficionados are turning into hermits.

This bestows an air of solitary confinement soldiering on, as we labor over the tedium of piecing together our family trees. But that was not always so; genealogy used to have much more of a social aspect to it. Everything from the fact that we had to travel to public places to do our research (libraries and archives are admittedly quiet places, but they do have people in them) to the sharing that was done through queries via newsletters—or, later, online forums—we were connecting with other people as we worked through our research.

Now, it seems so easy to sink into that assumption that it all can be done single-handedly, through our computers, connecting only with the digitized documents that are the end proof of what we seek. What a refreshing deviation from that trend, when we discover fellow travelers on the same pedigree lines.

There may be some people who couldn't be happier than when they chug along in the quiet isolation of their own home's access to computer-delivered genealogical records. That, however, is not me. I thrive on gathering with fellow enthusiasts at society meetings and conferences, or traveling to an archival collection with a research friend.

But above all, it's the best when your own relatives want to join in the fun of discovering your family history.
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