Thursday, July 20, 2017

My Genealogy Toolbox

The "genealogy toolbox" is the big thing these days and, yes, I have one. To keep it neat and tidy, I keep everything on my Genealogy Resources page.

This page is broken down into the following categories:

Genealogy Podcasts - I've blogged about podcasts before. They are the best anything ever! I almost miss having a work commute (but I do love working for myself), so I squeeze in listening to podcasts whenever I can. This is every night for an hour before bed and whenever I'm doing housework.

Of course, I listen to a variety, but my toolbox specifically features genealogy podcasts.

Look-Ups - This is my personal library of books, mainly about Mayflower ancestors, other New England families, and Loyalists, and I am always happy to do look-ups for people.

New England - These resources include general ones, as well as those I return to again and again for Massachusetts, Maine, and Connecticut.

Canada - This is the source of the family mysteries I'm pursuing these days, which means I have general resources, as well as sites for Nova Scotia and New Brunswick here.

Of course, there are many tools and resources for DNA and genetic genealogy too.

I've also included links for researching African American ancestors as I work on my brother-in-law's family and general genealogy links. Unfortunately, I only have two at this time. And while I've found that you can use the usual records (vital statistics, censuses, directories, newspapers, Google books, etc.) to research African American ancestors, I would love to find more resources to share.

Finally, there is a list of general genealogy sites that most of us are aware of, but might be useful to the absolute beginner.

I hope these links are useful to you and I'm always looking for more to add to these categories for genealogical research.

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Friday, July 14, 2017

Working Through Ancestry DNA Matches

After having my mtDNA tested with Family Tree DNA in 2006 and adding the Family Finder in 2013, I thought I was done. Although I uploaded the results to GEDMATCH, I've never taken the time to master their tools or understand their system.

This year, I decided to "get serious" about working through my Family Tree DNA matches and finally also gave in to the Big, Bad

As much as I am not a fan of their prices, I couldn't ignore the fact that they have more than 4 million users in their DNA database OR that my mother, Nana, and two of my Nana's first cousins have tested there. Knowing I could use those existing results as part of the triangulation process helped me decide to go for it. And, yes, Ancestry managed to woo me into the world subscription, so I could get Canadian and British records. *shakes fist just a bit*

That said, I'm more pleased with the DNA service than I expected. Working your way through matches is simplified in a way. How is that?

The Hint Leaf

That little green leaf is your friend. It says, "Why yes, we've found that you and this match share an ancestor."

So my first step in working through my matches has been to look at the ones with leaves, note who our shared ancestors are, and then star the person so I know I've already looked at them. I'm sure people have different ways of organizing their match information and this is, currently, mine.

No Tree & The Privacy Lock

Oh dear. These are a little trickier. However, No Family Tree is a tad deceiving because, in some instances, there is a family tree. The person taking or managing the test just hasn't linked it to a user. So it's worth it to click these matches and see if there's an unlinked family tree.

Of course, those matches with a lock have made their family tree private. Depending on how close a match they are, which other matches you share them with, or how you're working your way through matches, you may or may not find it worth your while to contact them.

Most frustrating to me are the ones who have a hint leaf, showing me a shared ancestor is identified based on our match. It's like a tantalizing carrot held just out of reach by that layer of privacy the user has chosen to add.

In that case, I send a message that asks them a very specific question:

"Would you mind letting me know who our shared ancestor(s) is/are, just so I can make note of it?"

And then I tell them my specific goal with regard to my DNA test:

"I'm looking to connect with descendants of a very specific shared, brick wall ancestor and first trying to eliminate everyone on my match list with a leaf by their name."

That way, they know I'm not out to do anything nefarious. I'm just using process of elimination as my first step in working through my DNA matches.

Next step: triangulating those matches closest to the brick wall ancestor, since I would like to narrow down my focus to that ancestor and her spouses.

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

A Photo of a Probable Great-Great Grandmother

Last year, my uncle sent me a family album and many wonderful loose photographs of the Shaw side of the family. These were mostly of my grandmother and her brothers, and their parents, Harrison Clifford Shaw and Nina Gertrude Blake.

One photo in particular, however, stood out to me. I thought maybe, just maybe it was one of my great-great grandmothers, either Emma (Murphy) (Regan) Shaw or Ada (Gay) Blake.

But then I dismissed that idea, because I was told it was probably "auntie" Madeline Wiley, a woman who served the family for several years. So I put the album away without really thinking about it.

The photo came back to mind recently, though, so I decided to look at it again. First I looked at the album and appreciated the fact that my uncle chose to send it to me. It had photos from my great-grandma Nina (Blake) Shaw's album, such as:

Shaw Family Photos - New England Genealogy | Wendy L. Callahan
Lawrence and Barbara Shaw (my grandmother and her twin brother, who died in 1927 at the age of 3 1/2)

Shaw Family Photos - New England Genealogy | Wendy L. Callahan
Nina Gertrude (Blake) Shaw (my great-grandmother)

Shaw Family Photos - New England Genealogy | Wendy L. Callahan
Nina and Harrison Shaw, with their first child, Herbert (my great-grandparents and great-uncle)
Beautiful, aren't they? And sad.

Nina had 7 children, only 4 of whom lived to adulthood. Two of the babies she lost were daughters, Inez and Alice. And then there was the untimely loss of my grandmother's own twin brother when he was only 3-years-old.

There was also a photo of "auntie" Madeline Wiley:

Shaw Family Photos - New England Genealogy | Wendy L. Callahan
"Auntie" Madeline Wiley

At first, I compared her to the photo I think is Emma or Ada and wondered if I was wrong. After all, both women have the same tan complexion and fairly similar facial features.

Shaw Family Photos - New England Genealogy | Wendy L. Callahan
Madeline Wiley side-by-side with ???

But then I remembered Madeline was quite a bit younger than both Ada and Emma. How much younger? I had never really researched Madeline, but I knew she was born in the 1800s in Massachusetts.

So I had to answer the question of whether or not the two women above are the same. A simple age comparison tells me they definitely are not.

Madeline was born in 1896 in Massachusetts. Both Ada and Emma were born in 1861 (give or take for Emma). Looking at the photo below, I also see my grandmother Barbara in the background, probably somewhere between ages 4 and 6. It makes sense that the woman in the foreground is her grandmother.

Which grandmother, though? Both of Barbara's grandmothers - Ada and Emma - were alive when she was born. They were both born in 1861. Ada lived until 1940 and Emma lived until 1945.

Of course, I truly hoped it would be Emma. All we know about Emma from family descriptions is she was very tall and skinny. This woman is certainly tall, but I wouldn't call her skinny.

If my grandmother Barbara was approximately 4 to 6-years-old in the photograph below, that means it was roughly 1927 to 1929. The woman in this photo is wearing black and I wonder if she's in mourning. It makes sense that someone born in 1861 would still observe older traditions of mourning.

If that is the case, it makes far more sense that the photo below is Ada (Gay) Blake, because her husband, Edward Blake, died in 1927 in Middleborough.

Shaw Family Photos - New England Genealogy | Wendy L. Callahan
The woman I believe is Ada (Gay) Blake (my great-great grandmother)
The only other photo I have of Ada (Gay) Blake is the one of the July 4th picnic approximately 100+ years ago. That photo is, unfortunately, very blurry:

Blake Family July 4th Picnic - New England Genealogy | Wendy L. Callahan
From left to right: Pa Vaughan, Ma Vaughan, Ada Blake, Edward Blake; sitting in grass: Nina Blake, Sylvanus Vaughan; perhaps circa 1898 (Nina was born 1891 and looks about 7 to 9; Sylvanus was 21 and married the following summer; oddly enough, Sylvanus and Nina married half-siblings and thus became sister-and-brother-in-law)

As you can see, Ada's face is washed out in the lighting, but it seems very reasonable to conclude that the photo of the older woman is her circa 1928. Also, because these photos all came from Nina Blake's photo album, it is more likely she would have a photo of her mother (who lived next door in 1930) than of her mother-in-law, Emma.

Of course, I really want this photo to be the mysterious Emma, but I appreciate it nonetheless. How many people are fortunate enough to have photographs of their family 100 years ago?

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, July 2, 2017

A Health Family Tree

One aspect of genealogy I tend not to think about often is how we can use the information gathered from our research to put together a health family tree.

I didn't really consider it until I connected with my mother and learned she was diagnosed with breast cancer. At that time, I only had limited information on my father's side of the family. But as my knowledge of family history grew, I decided to create a "Health Family Tree" and instead of names, I wrote medical conditions on a pedigree chart.

This is a very useful tool to keep in my medical file, as well as to pass on to cousins, siblings and children:

"A Health Family Tree" - New England Genealogy

With it, I can see potential patterns that I might want to watch out for as far as my own health. For example, in addition to my mother being diagnosed with breast cancer, I know she's had a maternal aunt and two maternal cousins also diagnosed with breast and/or cervical cancer. If I look back at their paternal great-grandmother, I see that she died of breast cancer in 1930. This is useful for my doctor, because that means she can make appropriate recommendations for my health based upon my family history.

If I update this to put my daughter on the first line as "self," this chart would show that both her maternal and paternal grandmothers have been diagnosed with (and survived) breast cancer. So this could become a very important chart in my daughter's life as she enters adolescence and adulthood.

On my father's side, you can see that Type II diabetes is a concern, and my aunt was born with Type I diabetes.

I did leave out certain health concerns on this example for the sake of privacy, like the age at which my parents were diagnosed with cancer. I have also left out sensitive matters, such as alcoholism and mental health issues some of my family members and ancestors have dealt with, like bi-polar disorder and depression. But it's important to include those as well, to ensure you have a complete health history to hand to your doctor and children.

While I'm not interested in testing my DNA with 23andMe, I do like having my family's health history laid out on a pedigree chart, so doctors can see how this medical puzzle fits together.

Have you created a pedigree chart showing your health/medical family tree?

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

"My Family Tree & Me" by Dusan Petricic - Another Cool Genealogy Book for Kids!

After sharing my thoughts this month on why LGBT Pride Month is important, I was very pleasantly surprised to come across My Family Tree & Me by Dusan Petricic.

I've been taking book after book out of the my local library in an effort to teach my 4-year-old about families and genealogy. My Family Tree & Me is set up in a nifty way:

When I read it starting at the front, I didn't realize it flipped around to be read from the back as well. So that was really neat! You read from the front to the middle to see the father's side and then from the back to the middle to see the mother's side.

I also love how the tree showed so much diversity. I didn't expect it at first.

The father's side is pretty much full of white redheads, which isn't the most exciting thing in the world. But then when I saw the mother's side, I was glad her family is Chinese. Something else that caught my eye, however, was the center illustration showing the entire family.

Because in addition to the mother being Chinese, it was nice to see that her sister's husband is African-American and her brother is portrayed with his partner/husband.

Genealogy and family tree books for kids tends to be white-washed and hetero, so it's really nice to see a departure from this. I appreciate this portrayal of a modern family, which helps reinforce the fact that I'm trying to teach my daughter that her choice of spouse does not have to be white or male. It should be someone she loves.

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan