Friday, December 8, 2017

Photographic Treasures from a "New" Cousin

Thanks to DNA, I discovered a "new" cousin. Well, not exactly new, because I knew she existed. However, I had no idea a particular first cousin, twice removed on my father's paternal side was still living. After all, dad's father, and almost all of his great-aunts and great-uncles (except for one) have passed away.

So what were the odds of my paternal grandfather's first cousin still being alive?

Well, one of her four children tested with Ancestry and we were a match. I reached out to him just to introduce myself, because I already knew how we were related based on our family trees. The name was familiar to me and I asked about his parents.

Imagine my surprise when his mother - my grandpa's first cousin - was the person who emailed me! This dear woman is 91-years-old and we have emailed steadily for a few months now, which has been absolutely delightful.

I learned that even though she has four children (my dad's second cousins, all in their sixties, like him), none of them have children. So what did this lovely first cousin, twice removed do recently?

Knowing how passionate I am about genealogy and how keen I am to learn more about the people in our family, particularly those in my great and great-great grandparents generations, she sent me an envelope full of wonderful photographs. Originals for me to keep.

Here are some of the treasures I received from her:

John William Wood: Photographic Treasures from a "New" Cousin - New England Genealogy
Great-great grandpa, John WIlliam Wood (1874-1928), about 21-years-old here, circa 1895.

John William Wood: Photographic Treasures from a "New" Cousin - New England Genealogy
Great-great grandpa John William Wood, circa 1928. Born in Manchester, England, married Lulu Lyman in 1897 in Willimantic, Connecticut. Died of Hodgkin;s Disease in Willimantic, Connecticut.

Lulu Gertrude Lyman: Photographic Treasures from a "New" Cousin - New England Genealogy
Great-great grandma, Lulu Gertrude Lyman (1874-1963), about 16 here, circa 1890.

Lulu Gertrude Lyman: Photographic Treasures from a "New" Cousin - New England Genealogy
Great-great grandma, Lulu Gertrude Lyman, full body shot, circa 1890. Born in Mansfield, Connecticut. Her second husband was just after her money! Died in Plympton, Massachusetts, cared for my her daughter, my great-grandma.

William Chapman Lyman: Photographic Treasures from a "New" Cousin - New England Genealogy
William Chapman Lyman (1840-1920), father of Lulu, in his G. A. R. hat and medals. He served during the Civil War from 1863-1865, when he received a disability discharge. Born in Bolton, Connecticut and died in Willimantic, Connecticut. 
She also sent several photographs of Wood aunts and uncles, such wonderful things to have. I shared them with my sister, who discovered a love of genealogy this year, and added those I kept to my family album.

DNA has turned up some unexpected and fantastic connections this year. I am looking forward to what the growing databases and new cousin connections may bring in 2018!

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Working With DNA Matches

DNA is a fantastic tool that has really exploded in popularity lately. For those just delving into DNA testing, you might wonder what to do next when you receive your results. Here's what I do and a couple of caveats.

The first is to remember that DNA results may open a can of worms! I think Judy Russell has written some marvelous posts on this (but doesn't she always write marvelous posts?), and they are well worth reading.

I am still working on my 245 centimorgan mystery match and, alas, not getting anywhere. I hope one of these days, she will resume responding to me but, for now, I'm letting sleeping dogs lie. DNA can turn up unexpected relationships that not everyone is ready to deal with at the time. As eager as we are to solve mysteries, some folks may need time to process what they learn.

The other caveat is your mileage may vary. DNA won't give you all the answers, but it's a fantastic tool to add to existing traditional research methods. It cannot take the place of those methods as Blaine Bettinger emphasizes time and again.

So, without further ado, here are some tips on working through your matches.

1.  Start a spreadsheet.

It can be Excel or a similar program or a Google Sheet - whatever you prefer and are comfortable using. But start a spreadsheet to maintain your matches' information.

Also, set a limit on how many centimorgans you're going to stop at on the spreadsheet. I stop at 30 centimorgans. This isn't to say that matches at 29 or less aren't worth pursuing, but rather that your will spend days, maybe even weeks, transcribing your matches into the spreadsheet! For matches with smaller centimorgans that I'm actively working with, I keep separate notes relevant to the specific ancestor(s) being discussed or researched.

Family Tree DNA allows you to download all matches into a spreadsheet, so that makes an excellent starting point. After that, you can add tabs for other services you've used or uploaded to.

Here is what mine looks like (with personal information redacted, of course):

The tabs for MyHeritage and GEDMatch are fairly similar, as far as details, so I didn't share every single tab. You certainly get the idea as far as how I organize information and then use color coding.

2. Begin with who you know.

If 2nd cousin Mary and Uncle Fred tested, and they are matches on whatever testing company you've used, make note of the relationship. Your known relatives are going to make triangulation so much easier.

3.  Work through Shared Ancestor Hints.

If you used Ancestry to test, consider the Shared Ancestor Hints (the green leaf that shakes at you) the low-hanging fruit. The same goes for MyHeritage DNA, which shows a shared ancestor on the Review page of a match, if you both have a family tree available with the common ancestor in it.

I like to mark my known relatives, the one easiest to pinpoint, and the Shared Ancestor Hints with the yellow star on Ancestry. If the tree is private, I send a nice message explaining that we have a shared ancestor, but I can't see it because their tree is private (which I certainly respect). I ask if they would mind letting me know the ancestor(s) and the calculated relationship, as I am focused on a very specific ancestor and anyone who might be connected to that particular person.

Like any online communication, it's about 50-50. Some people answer, some don't. Those who respond are generally nice. I've only had one response I would consider snarky.

4. Document proven lines with a visual chart.

This is really useful in helping illustrate questionable lineages. I simply create a 6-generation fan chart in Legacy and then add a red asterisk to each person proven by DNA matches. What I mean by proven is that I've found at least 3 or more people who descend from the same ancestor, who share DNA with me.

I'm a visual person, so this allows me to see where the "gaps" are as far as DNA. Of course, this doesn't mean I'm not descended from the people not yet proven by DNA. It may mean other descendants haven't tested yet. Or it may mean I need to rethink what I know about my family. ;)

Here's my chart as it currently stands with living people redacted:

As you can see, every ancestor is marked proven, except for a handful of immigrant ancestors and my Benson ancestor.

5. Reach out.

After all that typing, reviewing Shared Ancestor Hints, and organizing your spreadsheet, I bet you're tired, right? Sorry, no sleep for you! Now it's time to reach out to the closest matches - the ones in that 90+ centimorgan range - and find out how you're related.

Trust me when I say you're going to find it far easier to determine how you're related to these folks than to the ones who share fewer centimorgans than you. Working through close matches and getting to know your 2nd and 3rd cousins will do a few things.

Besides expanding your knowledge of your close DNA matches a.k.a newfound cousins, it will give you people with whom you can triangulate when working on more distant matches. Having several known connections on both your maternal and paternal sides will make the job of reaching whatever goal you set when choosing to test your DNA just a little bit easier.

Plus, who knows? You might find that these cousins are as passionate about genealogy as you are, live nearby, or share some awesome traits with you!

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Maximize Genealogical Subscriptions

We put a considerable investment of time and money into genealogy. It's important to make the most of your subscriptions, especially if you find them expensive or even cost prohibitive, and think you probably won't be able to renew. Here are some ideas:

1. Download every document relevant to your family. 

That's a lot of work, I know, but it might be for the best. As much as I would love to maintain my Ancestry World subscription, it's expensive and my income fluctuates from month to month. So when it comes time to renew, that might just be something I don't keep. When I come across pertinent records from Canada and England, I make sure to download them to my computer, so I always have access.

2. Focus only on the paid sites for as long as your subscription lasts.

We can get so much for free elsewhere, but if the records you want/need are behind a paywall, then put your time and energy into researching only on that site until the subscription lapses.

3. Before subscribing, make a list of the items you think you'll find on the site.

We often discover information free online or for a more reasonable price by getting it directly from the source (i.e. a birth, marriage, or death record from a town hall). Be sure you need access to that site for what you need before investing in the subscription.

4. Don't just research for yourself.

You might get more out of the site if you are also research for a spouse, partner, in-law, cousin, aunt, uncle, or other family member. I know I have family members interested in genealogy who don't have the same time for it or interest level as I do. So I happily work on their ancestry as well, while I'm at it.

5. Consider the amount of time you spend on the site.

If you find you're spending more time on the website than you thought, it might be worth continuing to invest in it. In fact, when you look at what you spend overall in a year on genealogy, it may be a relatively small percentage compared to other expenditures. If you feel any regret at cancelling a subscription, maybe it's a good idea to hold onto it.

If, however, you find all the site has to offer are repetitive records that already confirm the work you've done by traditional means, it makes perfect sense not to waste your money.

6. Set goals and have a research plan.

Finally, keep in mind there is no magic online solution to most genealogical mysteries. So many records remain offline and not digitized. You can often find what you're looking for with a well-defined goal, and a detailed research plan. This could keep you from sinking hundreds of dollars into sites that promise to find your ancestors, only to turn up the same information you already know or have rejected in the past.

Sometimes, the time spent in a library, cranking through a microfilm, is going to be far more worthwhile than what a night at home searching a subscription site might yield.

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Monday, October 9, 2017

Genealogy Humor: Persistence

Genealogy Humor: Persistence
Great-Grandpa, Harrison Shaw, is not amused.
If there's one thing we can get caught up in as genealogists, it's the excitement of the hunt. And when a new clue comes our way, very little revs are engines the way that possibility does.

In my work trying to determine how my 245 centimorgan (dad's 393 centimorgan) match is related to me, I have sent her many emails. After a few, I started to wonder if something else might be coming through my words... something like what really goes through my mind when I am trying to be diplomatic. 

Here is a handy-dandy translation guide for those of us who send emails and those who might be receiving them and wondering - or perhaps catching onto! - what we're were really thinking:

Email number 1: "I see you have Irish in your ethnicity estimate. Out of curiosity which side of your family is Irish?"

Translation: "I have an idea of how we're related, but I'm still trying to figure it out."

Email number 2: "Have any of your cousins also had their DNA tested or would they be willing to?"

Translation: "Throw me a bone here. I can't figure out how we're related and I don't want to tell you that I think your great-grandfather was actually the illegitimate child of my great-great-grandmother."

Email number 3: "Would you be willing to upload your results to GEDMatch? This would be a great way to further examine the chromosomes we share."

Translation: "I'm not psycho or obsessed, I swear!"

So what are the subtle or not-so-subtle ways you have reached out to a DNA match or other person who might hold the key to certain genealogical answers you seek?

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Saturday, September 30, 2017

My 19th Century Immigrant Ancestors

Over the decades, of course I've found plenty of information regarding my Mayflower, Anne and Great Migration immigrant ancestors. But mysteries remain when it comes to my 19th century immigrant ancestors, especially those from Ireland. I thought I would take a look and start working up timelines on my ancestors who immigrated to the United States between 1800 and 1900.

I'll start with the most recent ones and work my way back.


Bartolomeo Giovanni Michele Galfre and his wife, Ernesta Maddalena Bergamasco, emigrated separately from Italy to the United States.

Great-great grandpa Galfre was born 22 January 1869 in San Beningo, Torino, Italy. His brother's descendants, my cousins, now live in Busca, Cuneo. Bartolomeo immigrated in 1897 via Ellis Island.

Great-great grandma Ernesta was born 12 May 1875, possibly in Moneglia. They were married in 1894 and lived in San Remo at first. She followed Grandpa Galfre to the U.S. around 1899 or so. They settled in Middleborough, Massachusetts.

We know quite a bit about their lives, though Ernesta's family still remains a little bit of a mystery for us.


My 19th Century Immigrant Ancestors
SS Germanic
Thomas Wood and Sarah Ann Gray are my third great-grandparents. Thomas was born about 1845 in the Ancoats district of Manchester, England. He was baptized in 1851 in St. Philip's.

Sarah Ann Gray was born in 1848 in Manchester, and she and Thomas were married 18 July 1869, per the marriage record from the General Register Office.

It seems Thomas and Sarah had fairly normal lives in England. I'm not sure what brought them to Connecticut on the Germanic in 1878, along with my great-great grandfather John (born 1874) and their two daughters. But it looks like they continued to have nice, normal, uneventful lives in the U.S. Tracing distant cousins through English records has been fairly easy.


Here are my troublesome recent immigrant ancestors - the ones for whom I have not been able to find an exact place (parish, village, town, city, or county) of birth. While the dates of birth and first appearance in U.S. records for my husband's Callahan ancestors make it quite apparent that they probably immigrated during the time of the famine, my Irish ancestors are harder to pinpoint.

My third great-grandparents, James Cassidy and Mary Ann Livingston, were married 4 May 1869 in Brockton (formerly North Bridgewater), Massachusetts. They lived in Brockton until their deaths in 1901 (James) and 1886 (Mary Ann).

Of course, both James and Mary Ann must have emigrated from Ireland before 1869, but it looks like it was sometime after 1860, since they do not appear in that census.

James was born about 1839 and Mary Ann was born about 1844. The potato blight struck in 1845 and lasted until 1855, so somehow James and Mary Ann managed to make it through it. What brought them to the U.S. after the fact, between 1860 and 1869? Was their family poor or actually doing fine there?

The only thing I know for certain about James and Mary Ann is that they were Catholic. I've done some collateral research on their children, and I have James and Mary Ann's parents' names, but I have yet to get beyond that. Naturally, I wonder what brought them to the U.S. On the upside, Cassidy and Livingston are not among the most common names in Ireland. So this might make figuring out their origins slightly easier. I will have to apply the FAN Club principle to really figure this out, though.

Finally, I have my 4th great-grandfather, Edward Marshall Haley. Edward was born 8 September 1810. While his death record says Dublin, I have yet to confirm that, so I don't take it for granted.

According to a letter written by one of his great-great grandchildren, he was a Protestant from Northern Ireland and went to college in Dublin. Even though he was Protestant, I still checked the rolls of Trinity College, since they were freely available, to ensure he was not a student there.

Per the letter, at one point Edward took the money his family sent him and used it to emigrate to the U.S. I don't know how old he was or when he left Ireland, but I do know he was married in Plymouth, Massachusetts by 5 February 1830 to Clarissa Barrett. They remained in Plympton from 1850 until sometime after 1880, and died in Middleborough.

While I've researched every single one of Edward's 12 children and all their descendants, that has not yielded additional information. Edward's death record gives his parents as Thomas and Mary, but that is all. I do not know if Edward had siblings or any other family members or connections to Ireland in his community in Massachusetts.

A Question of Paternity

These Irish ancestors are on my mother's side of the family, though no Irish shows up in hers or her brother's ethnicity estimates. Why is that, especially considering my father shows a solid 19% Irish in his ethnicity estimate from his great grandmother (good ol' Emma Anna Murphy) and possibly from his great-great grandmother, Sarah Ann Gray (her parents may have been Irish)?

Well, my mother's father's paternity is... iffy. Grandpa Haley's father may or may not have been Herbert Haley.

Of course, we should take DNA test ethnicity estimates with a grain of salt, but I find it interesting that my mother's estimates don't show any Irish whatsoever for her supposed great-great grandparents (James Cassidy and Mary Ann Livingston), at least.

This is one of the reasons we - my mother, maternal uncle (haplogroup R-M269), and their children - have taken DNA tests: to see if we can prove or disprove and then determine my maternal grandfather's parentage.

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan