Saturday, January 13, 2018

52 Ancestors - Favorite Photo: July 4th

This photo has resided on my blog for almost 11 years now, so it's familiar to long-time followers:

52 Ancestors - Favorite Photo: July 4th -
July 4th

I was 12 the first time I saw this photo and it, in addition to wanting to know more about where I came from, started me on the road to researching my family history.

My grandmother, Barbara (Shaw) Wood, had it in a crumbling old wallet/folio that held several documents about our Blake ancestors. Touching original photos and paperwork, including Civil War documents, transported my young mind to another time and place, and I knew I had to learn even more about these people.

When I reached adulthood, my grandmother allowed me to keep the wallet and the precious documents. I have the original photo, as well as a couple of copies.

The back of the photo says "July 4 Picnic" and lists the people pictured. From left to right, they are:

Pa Vaughan, Ma Vaughan, Aunt Ada, and Uncle Ed. On the ground are Nina Gertrude Blake and Horace.

This photo was probably taken in Middleborough, Massachusetts, where my paternal grandparents are from.

The little girl, Nina, is my great-grandmother. Ada Estella Gay and Edward Henry Blake are her parents, my great-great grandparents. Nina was born in 1891. Judging from this photo, perhaps she's about 8 or 9-years-old, so I place the photo circa July 4, 1900. That means her mother, Ada, was pregnant with the only other child she would have - a son named Erwin, who would be born in October of that year.

Ada was born in 1861 and Edward was born in 1856, so they look the appropriate ages for this to be about 1900.

I am not sure who Pa and Ma Vaughan are. They could be Alvan Vaughan (born about 1839) and Lizzie C. Dunham (born about 1847), who had a son named Horace A. Vaughan (born 1877). The Horace on the lawn looks like a young man in his 20s, so this might be the right family.

The Blake and Vaughan families also connect to the Shaw family. Sylvanus F. Vaughan was the husband of Bessie Bartlett Shaw. Bessie is the half-sister of my great-grandfather Harrison Clifford Shaw, who married Nina in 1912.

I wonder who referred to Ada and Edward as "Aunt Ada" and "Uncle Ed," and the older couple as "Pa Vaughan" and "Ma Vaughan." 

Certainly not any of Edward's nieces and nephews, all of whom lived in Norfolk County. And not Ada's nieces and nephews, who spent their lives in Worcester County. It would probably be a child or grandchild of "Pa and Ma Vaughan," so they might have referred to Ada and Edward as aunt/uncle as a sign of affection, not an actual familial relationship.

It appears, however, that Horace did not have any children. Nor did he have siblings who lived to adulthood. So the person who labeled this photograph and their connection to the family remains a little mystery.

Copyright (c) 2018 Wendy L. Callahan

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Emma Anna Murphy - An Illegitimate Child?

Nova Scotia - Emma Anna Murphy Mystery -
Since I've decided to spend this year focused on Emma Anna Murphy as the research project of 2018, I thought I would share the information I've gathered thus far. This goes beyond what I already know and delves into a possible family. This is still a work in progress.

Over the past 10 years, I've shared the frustration I've felt about my great-great grandmother, Emma Anna Murphy who married a man named Mr. Re(a)gan sometime between 1877 and 1888, and then married my great-great grandfather, Erastus Bartlett Shaw, in Middleborough on 17 November 1888.

Much of Emma's known life is full of inconsistencies. From her 1888 marriage to my great-great grandfather, which produced one child (my great-grandpa Harrison Clifford Shaw) until her death in Taunton, Massachusetts on 14 March 1945 and even beyond, everything reported on or about Emma is full of conflicting information.

In my last post, we jumped in our way-back machine to review the timeline of Emma's life. For more visual people, this table shows the conflicting information on her place of birth:

1888 Marriage
1889 Son’s birth
1900 U.S. Cens.
1910 U.S. Cens.
1920 U.S. Cens.
1930 U.S. Cens.
1940 U.S. Cens.
1945 Death & obit
1970 Son’s death
Nova Scotia






The official record "closest" to Emma's past is the marriage register in Middleborough, Massachusetts for her marriage to Erastus B. Shaw. The original handwritten register indicates that her maiden name is Murphy. It was the second marriage for both parties. Emma gives her birth as 25 years old, her birthplace as Nova Scotia, her father's name as Patrick Murphy and her mother's name as Mary. This puts her birth year around 1863, while her death record puts it around 1861.

A Nova Scotia Emma

After searching the 1880 and 1870 censuses in both Maine and Massachusetts time and again, as well as the 1881 Canadian census, and turning up empty-handed, Barbara Poole commented on one of my previous posts many years ago, saying she found an Emma Murphy in the 1871 census in Manchester, Guysborough, Nova Scotia. I've examined that census entry many times since. Emma is, indeed, the right age to be "mine" - about 10 years old.

However, this Emma was living with Johannah and Nicholas Flavin. Now, I already conclusively ruled out the Emma Murphy found in the 1881 census in Ward 1, Halifax City, Nova Scotia, because that Emma married and remained in Nova Scotia for the rest of her life.

As for my Emma? Well...

A Guysborough Murphy Family

I found a Patrick and Mary Murphy family in Manchester, Guysborough, Nova Scotia in the 1871 census as well. However that still didn't tell me that the Emma living with the Flavins was their child or my Emma. Still, she was a "maybe" and the only potential maybe I had between 1860 and 1888.

One day I dug deeper on Family Search and ran a search for anyone with a father named Patrick Murphy and a mother named Mary Frasher, Frasier, or Frazier, this being the surname of Emma's mother according to Emma's death record and obituary. I didn't actually expect to find anything in this search.

But I did.

A Potential Sister

I found the death record of Margaret Murphy in Boston, Massachusetts, December 21, 1890. Her parents' names were listed as Patrick Murphy and Mary Frazier, her husband's name as William Murphy.

Naturally I clicked it out of curiosity. Death registers weren't always perfectly detailed, of course. I figured at best, it might say Margaret was born in Nova Scotia or Canada, but not give me a town. I was right, but it turned out the death register listed her place of birth as Nova Scotia, so there was a possible connection.

It felt too good to be true. Could this be Emma's sister? A much older sister, considering Margaret was born about 1842, but a sister nonetheless?

A Family Comes Together

The next place I checked were the records of St. Ann's parish, a Catholic church in Guysborough, Nova Scotia. I have no idea if Emma was Catholic, because she attended First Congregational Church in Middleborough (aka The Church on the Green) with my great-great grandfather, where they are now buried. Still, it was the only set of early baptisms, marriages and deaths available for the county.

There I found a baptism for Margaret, daughter of Patrick:

24 Apr 1844 baptism Margaret Murphy,
age [blank], sex [blank], father: Patrick Murphy, mother: wife [blank], sponsors: Laurence Marah & Mrs. Laurence Marah; clergyman: R. J. Meighan PP. Scan: 002_01_X1_0023; pg 33, item no. [blank].

I also found it interesting that her sponsors were the Marahs, because I noticed that Nicholas Flavin's wife, Johannah, was a Marr/Marra/Marah herself. There were also baptisms for other children of Patrick Murphy, as well as marriages, which I began to put together in chronological order.

As I worked my way to the 1860s, wondering if I might find an Emma, I found the most tantalizing clue yet.

An Unexpected Baptism

Well, if there was an Emma Murphy living with the Flavin family in 1871 in Manchester, surely I would find a baptism for her around 1861-1863, right? After all, she was born. She existed. So I poked around the St. Ann's baptisms for those years and found an Emma. Only one, in fact, and this is what I read:

4 Jul 1863 baptism Emma Ann Wallace,
age [blank], sex [blank], father: Francis Wallace, mother: Eliza Murphy, sponsors: Laurence Shea & Julia Tobin; clergyman: Thomas Sears, PP. Notes: Illegitimate. Baptised by Rev. Edmond Doyle. Scan: 002_01_X1_0080; pg 145, item no. [blank].

Hmm... Alright then. This Emma Ann is the right age to be my Emma Anna Murphy... only it's her mother who is a Murphy, not her father. And who was Eliza Murphy?

Well, as it turns out, Patrick and Mary Ann, parents of Margaret, also had a daughter named Elizabeth in 1838:

10 Apr 1838 baptism, Elisabeth Murphy,
age [blank], sex [blank], father Patrick Murphy, mother Mary Anne Lowery;
sponsors: Thomas Henesey & Mary Whelan; clergyman Simon Lawlor.
Scan: 001_01_X1_0119 pg. 241 item no. 20

A woman born in 1838 was certainly old enough to give birth to baby in 1863 or before. Elisabeth/Eliza would be 25 in 1863. But there was another sticking point: Mary Ann, wife of Patrick, was a Lowery/Lowry, not a Frasher/Fraser/Frazier:

Patrick Murphy & Mary Lowry
10 Feb 1835 marriage:
[groom] Patrick Murphy, parents: [blank];
[bride] Mary Lowry, parents: [blank];
witnesses: Roger Purcel, Micl. Delahunty & Bridget Doheny; clergyman James Grant.
Notes: [The year is probably 1835; "five" is clearly visible with something else under it. The record above is dated 1834; the one below is undated; then the following record is dated 1835.]
Scan: 001_01_X1_0143 pg. 290 item no. 3

Still, I persevered. Patrick's death record supported Margaret's death record in Boston, which stated he was born in Ireland, not to mention the occasional record on Emma's life that says the same thing:

Patrick Murphy, age 80 yrs,
burial date [blank] 1873, death date 24 Sep 1873, parents: [blank], spouse: [blank]; clergyman: M. Tompkins, P.P. Notes: Native of Wexford Ireland. Scan: 002_01_X1_0199, pg. 9, item no. [blank]

And Mary's death record, well, it doesn't tell me much of anything except this:

Mary Murphy, age 76 yrs,
burial date [blank] 1882, death date 23 Mar 1882, parents: [blank], spouse: Patrick Murphy; clergyman: M. Tompkins, P.P. Notes: Of Reserve. Native of South Shore Guysboro. Scan: 002_01_X1_0170, pg. 306A, item no. [blank]

At this point, I know I'm still making a huge leap in assuming two things:

1. This is the Patrick Murphy and Mary Ann couple I'm looking for and

2. That Emma Anna Murphy is not actually their daughter, but their granddaughter, illegitimate through their daughter Elizabeth.

Of course I had to step back and reassess this, so I gathered more information.

A Potential Family Tree

First, I found out Patrick and Mary Ann had two sons as well - Laurence and James. This interests me, because my great-grandfather Harrison (son of Emma and Erastus) had a son named Laurence.

My grandmother (Barbara, Laurence's twin and Emma's granddaughter) named her second son Lawrence in honor of her twin brother, who died as a toddler.

According to Patrick Murphy's official death record at Nova Scotia Vital Statistics, his father's name was Laurence.

Fine, we've got a bunch of Laurences. So?

So I pursued the sons and found a death record for James Murphy:

Name James F. Murphy
Event Type Marriage
Event Date 25 Oct 1882
Event Place , Gloucester, Massachusetts, United States
Gender Male
Age 22
Birth Year (Estimated) 1860
Birthplace Nova Scotia
Father's Name Patrick
Mother's Name Mary Lowrie
Spouse's Name Annie Fitzpatrick
Spouse's Gender Female
Spouse's Age 19
Spouse's Birth Year (Estimated) 1863
Spouse's Father's Name Patrick
Spouse's Mother's Name Agnes A.Hearch

Again, I see the mother's name is listed as Lowrie, not Frasher. Still. this family seems to be coming together. This confirms that this James Murphy is "mine" because, apparently, I've adopted this family as a hypothesis, at the very least. Poor James lost his life on the schooner Virginia Dare:

14. Sch. Virginia Dare 89.41 tons, built in Essex in 1883, owned by Pool, Gardner & Co., lost with all on board in the Christmas or New Year's Eve gale on a Grand Bank halibut trip. Loss $9500, insurance $6120 on vessel and $1700 on outfits by the Gloucester Mutual Fishing Insurance Co. She had a crew of fourteen men, all natives of the British Provinces, for some years engaged in fishing from this port, as follows:
"Fabian Nolan, master left widow and three children in this city, native of Chepstow, P. E. I.
Elijah Nolan, brother of master, native of Chepstow, P. E. I. , single.
Daniel McDonald, of P. E. I., single.
Daniel McKinnon, of P. E. I., single.
Angus McKinnon, single.
Daniel McMaster, of Queensfield, C. B., single.
Leverett Tinker, Campobello, N. B., single.
Michael McLean, P. E. I., single.
William Roper, Sydney, C. B., single.
Stephen Steward, Lunenburg, N. S., single.
Joseph McDonald, Chepstow, P. E. I., single.
Frederick O. Spinney, cook, Argyle, N. S., single.
James Murphy, of Guysborough, N. S., left a widow and one child in this city.James Murphy, a native of Straits of Canso, N. S., left a widow in this city."
I went on to find James Murphy's child, John Joseph Murphy, born 30 May 1886 in Gloucester, Massachusetts. John had at least 2 children himself: Harold James (1908-1917) and Gerald J. (1910-1980).

Gerald's obituary told me he also had a sister, Geralyn. I am currently pursuing her family, trying to determine if she has living descendants as part of trying to figure out if Emma Ann Wallace is actually my Emma Anna Murphy.

A Habit of Illegitimate Births

Since I have no further information on Eliza - no marriage or death date yet - and nothing on Francis Wallace, either, I looked at Margaret and found what I thought could be an illegitimate child for her:

11 Apr 1862 baptism Eliza Mc Eachern,
age [blank], female, father: Louchlan Mc Eachern, mother: Margaret Murphy, sponsors: Angus Gillis & Mrs. Ruth Lawlor; clergyman: Thomas Sears, PP. Notes: Father is from Judique C. Breton, mother: from Salmon River. Illegitimate. Scan: 002_01_X1_0075; pg 134, item no. [blank].

Interesting. This is before 1871, when Margaret is found with her family in the 1871 census in Manchester, Guysborough, Nova Scotia.

I looked further into this particular Eliza and saw that she used her mother's name, Murphy, and married Charles McAlister in Guysborough in 1889. She had at least 2 sons with him, both baptized at St. Ann's.

This is where the wheels really started turning, because if Eliza was the illegitimate daughter of Margaret and her father's name was known but she used her mother's maiden name of Murphy, I started to also wonder about Emma Ann Wallace.

After all, if Emma Ann Wallace is the daughter of Eliza (the elder one), and Eliza's sister, Margaret had an illegitimate daughter who used her surname instead of the paternal surname...

You see where I'm going with this conclusion that Emma Ann Wallace, daughter of Eliza/beth Murphy may then be my Emma Anna Murphy.

A Theory

Thus, this would not make Emma the daughter of Patrick and Mary Ann Murphy, but rather their granddaughter.

But there is still the sticky point about Mary Ann's last name. When Mary Ann married Patrick Murphy, her surname was Lowery. So why is it listed as Frasher or Frazier in Emma and Margaret's death records, but as Lowrie in James's? Is it the wrong family entirely?

I don't think so. In fact, here's what I think:

1. Mary Ann Lowrie/Lowery was married previously sometime after 1827 (when a Mary Fraser witnessed a marriage at St. Ann's), and Lowrie/Lowery is not her maiden name, but actually her first married name. If she was 76 when she died in 1882, that puts her year of birth around 1806. She was 29 when she married Patrick Murphy, so she certainly could have been on her second marriage.

2. Emma Ann Wallace is her granddaughter and was sent to live with the Flavins because she is illegitimate. I notice Eliza Murphy (the younger) never lived with her mother, Margaret, after her birth either. Emma, however, did use her mother's surname - Murphy - rather than her actual father's name.

3. Emma went to Maine and/or Massachusetts sometime between October 4, 1879 (when she sponsored a baptism at St. Ann's as Emma Murphy) and 1881 (when she does not appear in the Canadian census). I think she managed to travel after the U.S. 1880 census enumeration, but before the 1881 Canadian census enumeration.

4. Her marriage to Mr. Reagan is still out there somewhere, still estimated to have occurred when Emma was 16 (per the 1910 census, so sometime in 1879 or 1880). Perhaps she was married in Maine, where there is more of a gap in records.

5. The stories she told her grandchildren about her family "owning ships" and being a wealthy trading family might have been fabricated to cover up the fact that was, in actuality, an illegitimate child. After all, the 1940 census shows that Emma received zero years of education. Why is that? Children received an education in the 1860s and 1870s, didn't then? Then why didn't she?

DNA is still an important factor here, especially as I have other name/descendant possibilities to compare to! The fact also remains that locating the record of Emma's first marriage is the next baby step in this process, possibly the next inevitable record that will lead me closer to her origins.

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Saturday, January 6, 2018

52 Ancestors - Start: Emma Anna (Murphy) (Reagan) Shaw

Whether you call her Emma or Annie or E. Anna - I call her great-great grandma Emma - she's my first ancestor for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks in 2018.

Ever since I began this blog on March 26, 2007, I've talked about one ancestor more than any others: my great-great grandma Emma Anna Murphy. After 25 years of research, it's fair to say she's not merely a brick wall, but a lifelong research project. One of two I now recognize as such.

I wish I had a photo of Emma, but the one that supposedly exists is not in my possession. She was part of my start in genealogy. I "met" Emma when I was a teenager and my father gave me the little checkbook register-like "Health Record" he and my mother filled out when I was a baby, up until the time I was about 1-year-old.

Health Record of Wendy L Callahan - 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks -

When I began my genealogy in earnest, I found that Emma was the only person on whom I couldn't make any progress. That seemed odd, given how "close" she was to me, generationally. As the years have gone on, I've gone from frustration to wondering if her story isn't as cut-and-dry as it first appears.

Initially, she looks like an easy enough ancestor to reckon with: born about 1863 in Nova Scotia, parents John Murphy and Mary Ann Frasher, first husband was a Reagan, and second husband was my great-great grandfather, Erastus Bartlett Shaw.

Only, once I started researching her, she didn't turn out to be so easy after all. I found nothing of her prior to her 1888 marriage - nothing in censuses or records. Gosh. With her marriage and death record, and the birth, marriage, and death record of her one child, she should have been easy enough to figure out, right? Ha. Wrong.

Emma's Timeline

Using a timeline as a tool has allowed me to see where I have questions. Working backwards chronologically, it starts off pretty straightforward, with the death of Emma's one and only (known) child, my great-grandfather:

February 28, 1970 - Death Record of Harrison Clifford Shaw lists his parents as Erastus B. Shaw and Annie Emma Murphy, with her place of birth as Nova Scotia

October 2, 1951 - First & Final Accounting of Estate of Emma A. Shaw at Plymouth County Probate Court. 

May 4, 1945 - Petition for Administration of Estate of Emma A. Shaw at Plymouth County Probate Court.

March 17, 1945 - Obituary of Emma A. Shaw in the Taunton Daily Gazette. In part, it stated: She was born in Portland, Me., the daughter of John P. and Mary A. (Frasher) Murphy. She spent most of her life in Middleboro.

March 14, 1945 - Death Record of Emma A. Shaw at Taunton State Hospital, age 84 and 1 month, giving a possible birthdate of February 14, 1861. Birthplace listed as Portland, Maine. Parents listed as John P. Murphy (birthplace, England) and Mary A. Frasher (birthplace, Scotland).

April 25, 1940 - U.S. Census lists her as Emma A. Shaw, age 78 (born about 1862), birthplace Maine, highest grade completed 0.

April 2, 1933 - Death Record of Erastus B. Shaw at Taunton State Hospital.

April 3, 1930 - U.S. Census lists her as Emma A. Shaw, age 67 (born about 1863), age at first marriage 16 (about 1879), birthplace Maine, parents born in Canada.

1928 & 1929 - Middleborough Directory, Emma A. Shaw is listed with her husband, Erastus.

February 16, 1920 - U.S. Census lists her as Emma A. Shaw, age 57 (born about 1863), birthplace Maine, birthplace of parents Canada.

October 7, 1910 - Middleborough Gazette article on page 1 about Emma charged with assault on Alfred Hennessey, a neighboring farmer on Plymouth Street.

May 13, 1910 - U.S. Census lists her as Annie E. Shaw, age 45 (born about 1865), 2nd marriage, 2 children born, 1 living, birthplace Massachusetts, parents birthplace Massachusetts. 

1905 & 1909 - Deeds in which Emma and Erastus are the grantors of land in Plymouth County.

June 9, 1900 - U.S. Census lists her as E. Anna Shaw, age 38 (born about 1862), 1 child born & living, birthplace Maine, father's birthplace England, mother's birthplace Scotland.

1897 & 1899 - Middleborough Directory, Mrs. E. B. Shaw has a variety store on Plymouth Street.

1890 & 1896 - Deeds in which Emma and Erastus are the grantees of land in Plymouth County.

May 9, 1889 - Birth Record of Harrison Clifford Shaw, son of Erastus B. Shaw and Emma A. Reagion. Her birthplace is given as Maine.

November 17, 1888 - Marriage Record of Emma A. Regan, maiden name Murphy, and Erastus Bartlett Shaw. Second marriage for them both. Emma's age is 25, birthplace Nova Scotia, parents Patrick and Mary.

August 1888 - Unless Harrison was premature, this is when he would have been conceived. I have no questions about his paternity. Shaw paternity is confirmed through DNA testing. This places Emma in Middleborough or at least the area at this time.

Circa 1877-1882 (possibly 1879) - Emma's first marriage? I'm giving myself a range of years here, but usually widen this range even more when searching for her first marriage.

Circa 1860-1865 (possibly February 14, 1861) - Emma's birth? Once again, I give myself a wide range of dates, because I don't take it for granted that the age listed on her death record is exact for calculating her date of birth.

Things to address

1. Two children born, one living. No record of another Shaw child has been found. I've tried to locate a Reagan birth to no avail at this time. This could simply be an error in the 1910 census, of course.

2. Place of birth. There is no birth record for an Emma or Anna Murphy born to parents John or Patrick and Mary Frasher (Frazier/Fraser) in Massachusetts. The City Clerk of Portland, Maine has no birth record, either. This leaves Nova Scotia and I've found one birth there that may or may not be Emma.

The birth found in Nova Scotia fits, but changes the dynamic of Emma's paternity.

3. First marriage. No record of a marriage of Emma by either the Murphy surname or the possible other surname found in Massachusetts. Maine has fewer online records, but I have not found it there, either. The same goes for Nova Scotia.

Since we don't have a first name for Mr. Reagan (Regan/Reagion), we don't have much to go on. However, if I could find a death record for him that lists an Emma as the wife, that might help.

4. Life before August 1888, in general. Where was Emma? Was she in Massachusetts, Maine or Nova Scotia? There is no entry for her in the 1880 U.S. or 1881 Canadian censuses. Was she born and possibly married in Nova Scotia, but then traveling to the U.S. after the 1880 census had taken place, yet before the 1881 census?

I have also never found a record of her in the 1870 U.S. Census. Many years ago, Barbara Poole found an 1871 Census entry in Nova Scotia that could very well be my Emma. However, if it is, what I've determined from that point changes things. It makes Patrick John/John Patrick and Mary her maternal grandparents, if she is the "right" Emma.

Where do I go from here?

1. I have DNA tests at Family Tree DNA and Ancestry DNA, as well as results uploaded to GEDMatch and MyHeritage in hopes of finding someone who descends from the same Murphy family and, possibly, the family that I've theorized may be Emma's paternal family.

I've had my father tested, because he's "closer" to Emma, genetically, as her great-grandson, so I prioritize his matches over mine. My sister and a half-first cousin who is descended from my grandmother, but not my grandfather, have also tested. Having dad's niece allows me to narrow down my focus to their shared matches, thus "weeding out" dad's paternal matches.

Of course, because DNA recombination is random, this doesn't mean matches my father and cousin don't share aren't my father's maternal matches. So all of his matches bear scrutiny. But my cousin gives me a good basis for comparison and match sorting.

2. I need to continue seeking out descendants of the Murphy family, as well as the paternal family I believe she is connected to from Nova Scotia, in hopes of specifically testing them, if necessary.

3. Try a new angle on the family stories about Emma's store. My grandmother said her grandma Emma had a grocery store in Cambridge. Well, the only one I've ever found is in Middleborough. I've looked at directory listings for Cambridge, Boston, Dorchester, and other towns in the area and struck out at this point. 

If she did live up there and have a store, it was probably with her first husband. Maybe she had leftover inventory that allowed her to open the shop in Middleborough, once she married Erastus. There must be some record, though if Emma didn't own the actual property up in Cambridge/Boston/Dorchester, then there might not be much of anything. Still, it might be worth it for me to look at property records.

4. A research buddy looking to swap "problems" would be very welcome!

Copyright (c) 2018 Wendy L. Callahan

Monday, January 1, 2018

2017 DNA Round-Up

2017 DNA Round-Up - www.newenglandgenealogy.netI took my first DNA test in 2006 and have been fascinated by the science for so long, that it's exciting to see it considered an important tool in "reasonably exhaustive research" for genealogy. After starting with Family Tree DNA and uploading results to GEDMatch for myself and my ex-husband, I decided to delve further into DNA testing.

In an effort to work on various brick walls, I took the plunge and tried Ancestry DNA in 2017. It's interesting to me to see the various, current stats from them!


Goal - using DNA to work on my Emma Anna Murphy brick wall, among others.

Fourth Cousins or Closer - 704

Shared Ancestor Hints - 267

Starred Matches - 272 (people I've marked and noted as knowing how we're related)

DNA Circles - 11

Ethnicity - 6 regions (all of which I don't take as perfectly accurate, but a potential guideline; I've found that averaging it with my results at other providers is useful)


Goal - Emma Anna Murphy is dad's great-grandmother. As he's closer to her genetically, I wanted to ensure I had his DNA tested. My mother, maternal grandmother, maternal uncle, two maternal first cousins, and one paternal first cousin have all tested on their own.

Dad also has a brick wall on his maternal side, so once he completes the FTDNA test I sent him, I hope to upgrade it to both Y-DNA and mtDNA in 2018.

Fourth Cousins or Closer - 467

Shared Ancestor Hints - 339

Starred Matches - 305

DNA Circles - 5

Ethnicity - 4 regions


Goal - brick walls! My husband has mostly recent immigrant ancestors and DNA via my husband's first cousin, once removed (his father's first cousin) has already proven a connection back to the family's Callahans in Ireland, where they've lived for hundreds of years. So that's pretty nifty!

Fourth cousins or closer - 248

Shared ancestor hints - 36

Starred matches - 32

Ethnicity - 7 regions


Goal - Figure out who Mr. Hawksley, father of John Goodwin Hawksley, is and where he was from, and work through Goodwin loyalist ancestor brick wall.

Fourth cousins or closer - 1000+

Shared ancestor hints - 376

Starred matches - 356

DNA Circles - 26

Ethnicity - 8 regions

All kits are on GEDMatch and MyHeritage, and I'm giving DNA.Land a try for myself, especially since they are doing the breast cancer study. If I can contribute in some way to medical science, then that is a plus.

I keep separate spreadsheets for each kit, and each spreadsheet has tabs for close matches, Ancestry, FTDNA, GedMatch, MyHeritage, and ethnicity comparisons. At this time, I do not incorporate matches below 30 centimorgans into my spreadsheets, though I do consider those between 20 and 30 in my overall research.

Finally, I create a 6 generation fan chart for each person whose DNA kit I manage, and I mark each ancestor confirmed by DNA. That gives me a visual so I can see at a glance who remains unconfirmed. I can use this, along with shared matches and my paper trails to narrow down how one of us might be related to mystery matches.

In 2017, DNA gave me a strong possibility for breaking through one brick wall, so I hope to see it come to fruition in 2018.

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Genealogy in 2017 & Plans for 2018

Last night, I dreamed my husband's DNA results showed up as him having 31 different ethnicities. 😂

Naturally, his DNA results were in when I woke up this morning (because that's how my dreams work). So I thought I'd write a little round-up of 2017's genealogical progress.

This was the year of really delving into DNA. I know - I haven't stopped yapping about it. Even this morning after my husband's results came in and I said, "I promise to stop geeking out, now," he simply looked at me and said, "You've only just begun."


But I'll start with the most fun I had this year.

The NSGS Conference

I went to my first genealogy conference! It only took twenty-five years. I had such a good time at the Nebraska State Genealogical Society Conference and I am wicked excited to attend again in 2018 with my good friend (and amazing independent historian), Kassie Nelson.

When I lived back home on the east coast, I used to go to the local Family History Library regularly and that was such a great way to talk about people about genealogy, while researching. I missed that aspect of community when I lived overseas and then settled in Nebraska, so this is my new must-attend event every year (in addition to the geek cons I attend!).

Genealogy Books

I also added to my genealogy library in 2017. The titles I purchased this year include:

The Stranger in My Genes: A Memoir by Bill Griffeth (interesting!)

The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing & Genetic Genealogy by Blaine Bettinger (my favorite genealogy book of the year)

Genetic Genealogy in Practice by Blaine Bettinger & Debbie Wayne Parker (fantastic follow-up)

Guide to Finding a Loyalist Ancestor in Upper Canada by Lorine McGinnis Schulze (very useful, no-nonsense guide)

The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide by James M. Beidler (because of hubby)

Trace Your German Roots Online by James M. Beidler (because of hubby)

The Family Tree Italian Genealogy Guide by Melanie D. Holtz (for me)

The Family Tree Irish Genealogy Guide by Claire Santry (for us both!)


On to the topic I can't stop talking about this year. Today I was looking at how many tests I've administered and the various results.

In 2006, I took my first DNA test for mtDNA with Family Tree DNA. In 2013, I added the Family Finder. In 2010, I started my ex-husband off with the Y-DNA and mtDNA tests at Family Tree DNA. Both our results have been on GEDMatch for a few years.

This year, I took the Ancestry DNA test. For my ex-husband, I added the Family Finder and expanded his Y-DNA test. I also sent him an Ancestry DNA test.

I sent my father an Ancestry DNA test, followed by a Family Tree DNA test. Finally, I had my husband take an Ancestry test.

In 2018, I hope my father does the FTDNA cheek swab, because I would like to upgrade it for Y-DNA and mtDNA. His maternal line ends in a brick wall.

I also hope to have my husband take the FTDNA Family Finder test in 2018, so I can upgrade it in the future.

Alas, no brick walls were demolished in 2017. Will DNA help with that? I hope so. It's certainly a useful tool for confirming relationships and expanding knowledge of the family!

My 2018 goals are to:

1. Continue working on said brick walls and

2. Find a research buddy. I would like someone with whom I can exchange problems to give and receive a fresh perspective. Are you that person? 😉

Looking forward to reading about everyone else's genealogical goals for the new year!

Genealogy in 2017 & Plans for 2018 -

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan