Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Are Descendants Necessary?

People often ask genealogists why we do what we do.

Most of us can give an answer that satisfies the question, such as, "I want to show my children where they came from" or "I want to put history in a more personal context for myself and my children."

However, is it really necessary to have children for a person to even care about genealogy?

I don't think so.

I am fortunate enough to have a son (about to turn 10) and a daughter on the way.  However, if I did not have children, I would be just as eager to pursue genealogy.

Most of us probably were turned on to family history at a young age, perhaps by a school project, a relative's stories, or an interest in history and knowing more about our origins.  In fact, I think an interest in history often overlaps with genealogy.  Goodness knows I find both fascinating, and the very few times I pick up a non-fiction book to read for pleasure, it is generally about history.

So why research family history if you do not have someone to pass the research on to someday?  Well, why does a teacher teach?  Why does a policeman or fireman go out there to save lives?  You may as well ask creative types - writers, artists, photographers, dancers, actors, singers - why they do what they do.

They do it for love, whether of the work or an ideal embodied in it.  Many of these endeavors also leaves a legacy, and I do not think having descendants is absolutely necessary for a person to leave a legacy.

Even if you do not have nieces and nephews, or cousins with children to pass this research on to, someone else out there might still find it fascinating.  If you are passionate, no endeavor is worthless.

Copyright (c) 2012 Wendy L. Callahan

Monday, October 29, 2012


First, I would like to apologize for the lack of posts. With the impending arrival of a new family member, preparing for him takes priority. I will try to post once a month, until I get settled and back into the swing of things, but I’m focused on accomplishing as much work as possible right now.

Second… Have you ever had a family member simply drop off the face of the earth? Perhaps you saw them in the 1870 and 1880 census, but lost them after that (or another) point.  You know what became of their elder siblings, if they had any, and you also know their parents died when they were quite young. You cannot locate a marriage or death record for this person, so where did they go?

I have very, very limited experience with adoption, and the one I managed to find was a happy accident. After combing through the censuses and Massachusetts Vital Records again and again for Mary Elizabeth Haley (b. 14 October 1860 in Plympton to John B. Haley and Mary Peterson), I finally Googled her name. As always, never underestimate the power of Google.  

Mary showed up in the following document:

"List of Persons Whose Names Have Been Changed in Massachusetts 1780-1892", Collated and Published by the Secretary of the Commonwealth under Authority of Chapter 191 of the Acts of the Year 1893. Reprinted by Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, 1972.
Once I read down the list and realized Mary was adopted by her maternal aunt and uncle, it changed my entire focus. I began searching for “Mary Thompson” and found 1889 her marriage to Sidney Smith Baker in Massachusetts Vital Records.

Each state has different adoption laws. Some make it quite easy to search and some make it more difficult. Sometimes, all it takes is a Google search to uncover old adoption documents or name change lists, such as in Mary’s case. Sometimes, a little more digging is required.

However, whenever I have a relative who seems to have fallen off the face of the earth, and the circumstances show their parents died while they were quite young, I often suspect adoption. It’s a subject that is tricky, because there is no universal/national system to account for adoptions. Beyond a very fortunate Google search, laws and resources must be narrowed down by state.
I think this is a topic that really needs and deserves more attention in the genealogical community, because adoptions and name changes probably account for a fair amount of our "brick walls."

Copyright (c) 2012 Wendy L. Callahan

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Family Food Traditions

Every Saturday night was beans-and-hot-dogs night. Whether we were at home with our dad or spending the night at our grandparents' home (just across town), that was the tradition.

It's a Massachusetts thing. 

My father would often include macaroni and cheese, and I liked to cut my hot dogs into pieces to mix in with the mac and cheese. Now, I do the same - hot dogs and beans, and usually a box of macaroni and cheese to go with it when my son is here. He just doesn't seem to have much of a taste for baked beans.  ;)

I'm very picky about the brand of baked beans we have. Only B&M will do. I've tried Bush's, and it just tastes too spicy. To me, there doesn't need to be any additional flavor. Just... baked beans.

What are your family food traditions?

Copyright (c) 2012 Wendy L. Callahan

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My Genealogy Address Book

While many people embrace electronic methods of organizing information, I'm very old-fashioned when it comes to certain things.

One of the most useful objects in my genealogical research is my address book.

This isn't my personal address book, but one specifically dedicated to addresses for town and city clerks, libraries, and distant cousins who also research.

Each entry has a name, address, telephone number, and pertinent notes.  I keep track of things such as fees and years of coverage for vital records at a town hall, hours for a library, or make note of the family a particular cousin is researching, or the genealogical society to which they are connected.

Of course, information changes quickly, and what was accurate last year may be outdated this year.  That is why I write everything in pencil.  Before I write to a town or city clerk, I Google the town's website to verify the mailing address.

Some town clerks have an email address available.  If I find one, I make use of that for my initial inquiry about a particular record and about fees.  After all, a town that charged $5.00 for a vital record last year might charge $7.00 this year.

I'm sure all the handheld electronic devices out there also offer templates for this sort of thing too.  I could probably use Microsoft Outlook on my laptop, but I'm so accustomed to referring to books, I would never, ever think to check my computer for the information.

So, for me, the old-fashioned spiral-bound address book dedicated to genealogy works.

Copyright (c) 2012 Wendy L. Callahan

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Year for Babies!

Because I'm the unofficial family genealogist, I keep track of the children my cousins have.  This is quite the year for babies!

My Aunt Gale counted 'em up and let me know that the baby I'm having in January will be my Nana Bartlett's 6th great-grandson, and her 10th great-grandchild.  One of my younger cousins is due within a month of me, in February, with the next great-granddaughter, and 11th great-grandchild.

Before us, another cousin - sister to the one who is expecting in February - had a daughter in June of this year.

It's interesting to look at the count of grandchildren on my maternal side (on my father's side, there are only 5 of us, yet we've given my grandparents a total of 8 great-grandchildren), because I'm one of the older children.  I'm #4 of the 10 grandchildren on my Nana's side by a matter of months (another cousin was born in September of 1974; I was born in December of 1974).

Naturally, you would think the 5 of us born in the 70's have already had our children.  In fact, 4 of us have.

#1 is a daughter and has 1 son

#2 is a daughter and has none... but is actively trying with her wife (obviously via medical means), so we're all very excited about the possibility!

#3 is #2's sister and has 1 daughter

#4 - that's me - has 1 son and now another son on the way.  I always thought I would only have 1, so he will be 10 years older than his brother.  That's the largest age gap between any siblings in this generation of my family.  However, there are far larger sibling age gaps in my generation, mostly due to the remarriages of my mother and uncle.

#5 - my sister - has 2 sons and 2 daughters (she also has an adorable stepson).  As you can see, my sister has contributed immensely to the family on both sides by having 4 children.

So there you have it - 5 of us, all girls, born from 1970 to 1977.  Then there were my mother's and uncle's remarriages, and the youngest of my Nana's 4 children got married.  So along came more children and, recently, great-grandchildren!

#6 has 1 son and 1 daughter (just born in June 2012).  It looks like she's done for now, what with 2 little ones in the house!

#7 is expecting a daughter

Those two sisters are also sisters to #2 and #3, and the only 80's babies in our family.

#8 is my little brother and he was born in 1990.  There's no way he's having children any time soon, but when he does, the little guy or girl will be a heartbreaker!

#9 is yet another daughter and she's in college right now

#10 is a son (not many boys, eh?), and graduates from high school in 2013

So there you have me and two cousins providing my Nana with 3 great-grandchildren (#9, #10 and #11) in just under 10 months, between June 2012 and February 2013.  We hope the cousin who is trying now will ultimately make an addition to the family as well!  There is definitely plenty of time for my little brother and much younger cousins to decide if they will launch families in the next several years.

Just sorting it out is confusing, which is why I'm glad I can just print a chart of my Nana's descendants from my Legacy program.  Goodness knows if anyone in my family would like a visual to sort out all of the names and dates, I'm ready to oblige!

Copyright (c) 2012 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Response from FBI

Yesterday I sat in the car and waited impatiently while my husband walked into the Post Office on base.  I had my fingers crossed and I was supposed to be thinking "Please let my maternity jeans be here", but the thought that popped into my head was "FBI, FBI, FBI..."

My husband walked back to the car holding the latest Family Tree Magazine, which is always a treat, and...

A letter from the FBI!

Alas, do not get too excited for me.  It was a letter informing me that they did not have any files or records on my great-grandmother's first husband, Joseph William St. Onge.

However, that is not a huge disappointment.  First of all, I'm thrilled at how quickly the FBI responded to my FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request.  From the time I sent it via email until the day I received the letter, it took less than 30 days.

Second, I'd like to call your attention to Sharn White's August 11, 2012 blog post, "N" for Negative Evidence.  As she reminds us, not finding something in our research is just as vital for helping us reach our conclusions, as finding something is.

A letter telling me the FBI does not have a file on Joseph does not mean I should toss it in the recycling bin and move on.  I should document the letter in my family tree database, file the letter away with other physical documents I have on Joseph St. Onge, and focus my attention elsewhere.

Since he supposedly went to New York, perhaps he was incarcerated there.  That means I should start learning more about the criminal justice system in that state, and find out if there's some sort of organization, board or other entity to which I can write for information.

While it can be disappointing to do your work, only to find nothing, negative evidence is part of the process of elimination.  In some instances it can help dispel family tales.  In others, it can help you redirect your research.

So don't let a lack of records get you down.  Note your research (i.e. "Researched all birth records for New Bedford, for 1880-1885"; did not find one on John Smith"), and forge ahead!

And if your research brings you to the FBI, keep in mind they were established in 1908, they do not keep a file on every citizen in the United States, they have very few records prior to the 1920's, and their Records Management Division is very efficient.  :)

Copyright (c) 2012 Wendy L. Callahan

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"How do I start?"

Genealogy is not just addictive, but contagious.  The two questions people ask me most often are "Will you help me find...?" and "How do I start working on my own genealogy?"

The first thing I tell people is to write down what they know about their family.  I usually direct them to Family Tree Magazine's free forms, and tell them the first one they should use is the Five-Generation Ancestor Chart.  I also explain that a Family Group Sheet will allow them to expand on the information about a particular couple, by giving them space to list all the children they had and more details than the Ancestor Chart.

The initial sites to which I direct them are, and Rootsweb for the family trees and message boards.  I also remind them never to underestimate the power of Google for searching for ancestors.  You never know what you might come up with when you put in a name and its variations, such as searching for "Last Name, First Name", or adding a town name or a date.  It is also a good idea to specifically search Google Books, since many older genealogies and histories are available there, free of charge.

I always add the caveat that online family trees are best utilized as a guideline, and the information found in them should be independently verified through one's own research.

When it comes to pay sites, I hesitate to recommend them at first.  I think FamilySearch, Rootsweb and Google have a lot to offer for free.  Many records have been transcribed and shared on USGenWeb (via Rootsweb) sites.  There are also sites such as the UKBMD, where you can find transcriptions of UK birth, marriage and death records after 1837, or Nova Scotia Vital Historical Statistics, which has civil registrations for 1864 to certain years (depending on missing records and certain limitations), and marriage bonds from 1763 to 1864.  I've struck gold on this website time and again.

Many people spring for a subscription to Ancestry, but I urge amateur genealogists to stay in touch with more experienced researchers (probably someone who interested you in genealogy in the first place), and learn more about the free resources first.  If you come back to me after you begin your initial search, and tell me you've hit a brick wall in Canada, for example, I will direct you to many other resources before suggesting

Also, I urge those interested in genealogy to take the time to check out GeneaBloggers for starters, and learn about some of the very popular blogs out there.  Some blogs focus on genealogy news, some on a particular area of research, some on technology and software, etc.  There is a very diverse genealogy blogging community, where we can all learn something new and useful.  A subscription to Family Tree Magazine is also very nice, if you prefer something you can carry with you and read anywhere you go.  I follow several blogs and read the magazine, however it's probably not entirely necessary to do both.  The magazine is a luxury I enjoy.

What are your favorite tips, sites and ideas for people starting out in genealogy research?

If you think it would make too lengthy a comment, why not blog about it and leave me a comment with a link to the post?  :)

Copyright (c) 2012 Wendy L. Callahan

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

FBI Follow-Up

The immediate response to my request to the FBI was a form email letting me know the request is being processed.  Once a FOI/PA (Freedom of Information/Privacy Act) request number is assigned, I can check the status of my request.

It would be so very cool if they had information on my great-grandmother's first husband, Joseph St. Onge!  I can think of a couple of cousins who would be very interested in knowing more about their great-grandfather and his supposed criminal past!

I will update you with regard to their response time and the outcome.  I'm sure that particular section or department of the FBI has more pressing FOI/PA matters to pursue and requests to answer; odds are genealogical requests have the lowest priority, so I doubt I will hear very quickly.

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

Thursday, July 19, 2012

North Carolina & Virginia Ancestors

As one works their way up my family tree, they will mostly find New England ancestors.  I grew up on the south shore of Massachusetts in Plymouth County, and so did the majority of my ancestors.  Though some of them were scattered throughout Massachusetts, naturally all lines converged in Plymouth County, where all 8 of my great-grandparents lived out their lives.

Many also found their way to and from Maine, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.  There were a few in New Hampshire. Some inevitably worked their way down from Nova Scotia into Maine and Massachusetts.  Even my very recent Irish and Italian immigrant ancestors chose Plymouth County, Massachusetts for their home.

So you can imagine me as a 12-year-old first piecing together the family tree, under the assumption that everyone in my family had always resided in New England (or Italy, Ireland or Nova Scotia), then having those assumptions blown away when I discovered one line had not.

In my 20's, I was intrigued by my great-great grandmother, Georgianna Winsor. She was born 6 February 1851 in Duxbury, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, daughter of William W. Winsor, who was one of the founders of Port Angeles, Washington. I explored my 3rd-great grandfather's life in depth in December of 2009 and again in March of 2010.

While what I dug up about him was fascinating, it still did not astound me as much as great-great grandma Georgianna's ancestry through William's mother, Martha Howett.

I never located a death certificate for William and have not found anything on him beyond 1866.  Therefore, I had no idea his mother was not from Massachusetts.  His birth record in Duxbury certainly did not indicate as much.

It was about 10 years ago when a generous Winsor cousin sent me a photocopy of pages 340 to 345 out of the History of the Town of Duxbury, Massachusetts, and a death certificate for Martha (Howett) Winsor that I realized my ancestry had an unexpected deviation from the mostly-New England history I knew so well.

After that contact, some online digging told me what I needed to know:

Martha Howett, along with her sisters Charlotte, Elizabeth, and Lydia each married a Winsor from Duxbury, and came to live in Massachusetts.  The girls' parents were Richard Howett and Lydia Sanderson of Tyrrell County, North Carolina.

Working my way back along the Howett and Sanderson families also brought me into Lower Norfolk County, Virginia, and Perquimans County, North Carolina - all very unexpected ancestral homes!

Often we think of New Englanders migrating out from the area, into New York state, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and beyond.  We often see patterns of westward expansion from New England.  We don't usually think about folks coming up to the area from the south!

There are still many questions about these particular ancestors, and this is my focus today: revisiting my North Carolina and Virginia ancestors.

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Requesting FBI Records

My son is with his father this summer, and while I miss him very much, I try to make the most of the quiet time in the house.  Sometimes the silence is rather oppressive (like yesterday - it was a lonely one) and sometimes it is perfect for working my way through a variety of to-do lists, whether they are related to writing, crafts (scrapbooking and cross-stitching are my craft hobbies) or genealogy.

A long time ago, I wrote about Joseph William St. Onge.  Joseph was my great-grandmother Mildred Marian Burrell's first husband.  I descend from Mildred through her second husband, Herbert Benjamin Haley.

Joseph is a figure of some mystery and speculation; I'd go so far as to say he's really a family legend, because the only absolute truths we know about him are these:

1.  He was born 30 August 1893 in Marlborough, Middlesex County, Massachusetts to Joseph and Mary Emily (Fortier) St. Onge.

2.  He was married 15 April 1915 in Rockland, Plymouth County, Massachusetts to Amanda Angelina Jean.

3.  He and Amanda were divorced 6 April 1920 in Brockton, Plymouth County, Massachusetts.

4.  He was married 17 April 1920 in Dover, Strafford County, New Hampshire to Mildred Marian Burrell.

5.  He and Mildred had at least 4 children.  Whether or not Joseph is the father of William St. Onge (who was adopted by George Perry of West Bridgewater) is debatable.

The family story is this:

Joseph was a rum-runner during prohibition.  His children saw him sometime in the 1940's and knew him as "Joe Brown" from New York.

Research has not turned up a Social Security Death Index record, so Joseph either died in prison, on the run, or before Social Security was enacted.  Alternatively, he applied under a completely different name.  I have not found a 1930 census record for him or a death record for him.  There was a Joseph St. Onge roughly the same age in the 1930 census in Utah, however I obtained that one's death record and it was not a match.

If Joseph was a criminal, and particularly if he was involved in any organized crime or rum-running, it's possible he had an FBI file.  Today I have written to the FBI to request a look-up for Joseph and his alias, "Joe Brown".  I gave them all the information I have, which seems like so very little to go on.

However, if they have anything whatsoever on him, it will be worth the effort.  If they do not, then I am back to square one: not knowing what happened to Joseph.

Requesting a file from the FBI is very straightforward and they lay out the process for you on their website.

You may make a request via mail, fax or e-mail.  They tell you what information to include in a request.

If the person's date of birth is less than 100 years ago, they require proof of death.

You can name the amount you are willing to pay for information, and the form letter specifies that you would like to be contacted if the fee exceeds that amount.  I erred on the side of an amount close to that which one would pay for a Civil War pension file.

I do not how timely they are in responding to requests, or what fees to expect if I am lucky and they actually have a file on Joseph.  However, I will definitely blog more about the process once they respond, whether they find a file or not.

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

An Apology & Essential Genealogical Advice

I must apologize for the dearth of posts.

Only 3 days after my last post, I found out I was pregnant.

It's been a very uncomfortable first trimester - nothing like when I was pregnant with my son!  My dear Gavin was an easy baby (well, until he was born - then it was a different story; but he's come a long way from being an infant who wanted to be held all the time, which is something I obliged, and is now such an adorable, almost-10-year-old boy.  People constantly remark on his compassion, consideration and good manners.  Let's hope they say the same about #2 when he or she is that age!).

This little one has certainly challenged me.

However, my energy has returned and any discomfort has finally abated as I enter the second trimester.  I can finally concentrate once more.

So while the newest Mayflower descendant and Callahan family member progresses toward his or her first encounter with this world, I am back to work with genealogy.

During my "I'm too tired to move" days, I managed to do some research for friends.  One friend in particular has quite a mystery about his family, but I don't think it's nearly as complicated as it initially seemed.  Once I started locating vital records, I found that whatever information he was given was simply incorrect.

Unfortunately, parents or grandparents can forget things sometimes, which leaves us with more questions than answers.  I think that's why the first thing I urge people to do, when they come to me for advice about how to research their family tree, is talk to family members.

In particular, I encourage them to speak to their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, great-aunts, great-uncles, and the cousins who fall under those particular generations.  I know my Nana's first cousins have shared some very interesting information that my Nana or others did not recall, or share with me.

These older generations are precious.  You may learn everything you need to know from one person, or you might get conflicting information from a few people that can help you narrow down some of your questions.

I'm really grateful that my great-great aunt, Espezzia, took the time to share her story.  It was 1991 and she, along with her sisters, Elsie and Lia (my great-Nana) put together a typed document of recollections about their parents and their childhood.  They were all nearly 90-years-old at the time, and the document itself is invaluable to the Galfre descendants.

Had anyone thought to ask Elsie, Lia, Espezzia, and their others sisters and brothers about their childhoods or their parents' lives in Italy?

I don't know, but I'm so glad these women took the initiative to put their thoughts on paper for future generations.

Likewise, I've "interviewed" my Nana, my grandfather, my grandmother, cousins of theirs, an aunt, and my father.  It's not just about adding names, dates and information to a family tree, but stepping back in time and putting yourself in their shoes.

Talk to the older generations in your family now - don't let the chance pass you by!

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

Friday, April 27, 2012

"Grandma/Grandpa Was Full-Blooded (Native American)"

Insert whichever tribe you like for "Native American."

This is something I hear often from people who don't know much about their heritage, other than what they've heard from other relatives.  An ancestor's appearance (dark skin, dark hair, dark eyes) is often the reason the rumor starts.

It seems like such a romanticized notion to be descended from a Native American, that I really hate to tell people, "I'm sorry, but I haven't found anything yet..."

Most of the time, the rumor is just that - an unsubstantiated, romanticized idea based on the ancestor's looks.

I would honestly be thrilled to research such a family story and find truth in it!

Goodness knows I was surprised to find that my son's 11th great-grandfather on his paternal grandmother's side was an Abenaki Chief.  We had no idea until the mtDNA test results for my then-husband came back.  But it was not a family rumor - just a complete surprise to all interested family members.  This is the one and only time I've ever found Native American ancestry, and it was not assumed: we arrived at the answer due to science.

I think there are Native American-ancestor rumors in just about every family.  We want to belong to the first people of this nation.  Alas, I have yet to be able to confirm rumors for anybody for whom I have done research.

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Only Names...

Sometimes you end up with names just floating around in your software (I use Legacy). They may be connected to other individuals, but have no details. I'm guilty of this - adding names of parents from marriage records, but not bothering with more detail than that if they are not my direct ancestors.

So today I'm on a mission to add details to those names. Even if the names are not useful to me, they could be useful to someone else, so I don't want to simply delete them.

There are also plenty of surname-less women in my program. I'm sure many of you have this problem too. Maiden names can be notoriously difficult to locate, and sometimes we just have to use what information we have. Still, I'm going through my file, person by person (over 10,500 people...), in hopes of adding detail to those who need it.

Do you have this problem as well?

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Research Habits: Music

When I'm cleaning, writing or researching, I tend to enjoy background music.

Music played while writing must complement the story, scene, overall emotions, etc.  So I tend to favor heavy metal or alternative rock when I'm writing.

Music for cleaning needs to be loud and energetic - usually pop or 80's music.

The music I like to listen to while I'm working on genealogy is more mellow than my cleaning or writing music.  I tend to choose classic rock, which is my favorite genre.  It's what I grew up listening to, and what I prefer to this day.  At the moment, I am working my way through some ancestors to the sound of the Steve Miller Band.  I also love some Bob Seger, David Bowie, or Stevie Nicks for research "noise".

Sometimes I will listen to folk or New Age music as well, but the classic rock reminds me of my dad and family in general, since it is a part of my childhood.

What about you?

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

1940 Census Finds

The National Archives were certainly overloaded yesterday, what with the release of the 1940 census.

Rather than search for ancestors, I found the one town that interested me most - Middleborough, Plymouth County, Massachusetts - and saved the page with the enumeration districts/census images to look at later.

This morning, while most of you were still sleeping, I began scrolling through the entire town of Middleborough.  The person I was most interested in locating was at the very end, and I knew this, but I also knew I would find other relatives if I took the time to look at the entire town.  With less than 275 pages, it really was not a bother.

I found three of my four grandparents, two of whom are still alive today.  Two of them lived with their parents.  The third lived with his grandparents - my great-great grandparents.  I found a few cousins whose names I recognized.  The town of Middleborough represents quite a bit of my family history and ancestry, so it was a good, not terribly overwhelming, start.

My fourth grandparent should be in Plympton, however they do not have that town marked off separately.  Odds are it was lumped in with another nearby, large town, such as Bridgewater or Plymouth.

For now, I will bide my time and wait for the indexing to be completed.  Since I am an indexer with the Family History Library, I will be contributing to the indexing effort for their site,

As for the person I most wanted to find, of course it was none other than my great-great grandmother, Emma Anna (Murphy) (Regan) Shaw.

As regular readers know, she is my *most* elusive brick wall ancestor.  Her life between her birth and 1888 is a huge mystery.  Recently, I believe I located her family in Manchester, Guysborough, Nova Scotia.  My feeling is that when she was born, her parents did not want the responsibility of an infant - not at the ages of 60 and 50.  I'm fairly certain this is why Emma was sent to live with another family in town. 

The 1940 census did not offer anything different by way of her birthplace (it said Maine, which I know is incorrect) or age (78 at the time; she passed away 5 years later, in 1945).

However, it did indicate that she had no education whatsoever.  Right there in the education column, where it asks how many years of school a person had completed, it gave me a big, fat ZERO for Emma.

She never went to school?  Why wouldn't her parents bother sending her to school?  There were schools in Nova Scotia in the 1870's and 1880's, yes?

Even my great-great grandpa Bartolomeo Galfre indicated that he had at least 3 years of school, which I imagine would have been back home in Italy.

So how did Emma miss out on an education?

The information is consistent with my theory that she was sent to live with another family and, well, maybe she just wasn't very well taken care of.  I think a bit about Anne of Green Gables.  Anne's story happens later in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, mind you, but she was not sent to school until she was almost 13-years-old, and living with the Cuthberts - a family that actually cared about her education.

So was this normal for orphans or children who were passed off to other families in eastern Canada - this lack of attention to their education?

It isn't big, but it is one more clue about my great-great grandmother's life - a life I want very much to understand.

Well, I think I'm going to spend the remainder of my afternoon updating my Emma timeline and folder!  I think my next goal is to find out what happened to her between 1871 (when she appears in the census in Nova Scotia) and 1888 (when she married my great-great grandfather Harrison Shaw).  There's a marriage somewhere in there.

At least the time I need to research now has been narrowed from 27 years to 17!  Yes, I would still love to find a baptismal certificate for her, but it's nice to know that the gap between her birth and her second marriage (the one that produced my great-grandfather) is narrowing.

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

5 Year Blogiversary?!

Between life and work, I have not had time to update this blog, let alone notice that it was my 5-year blogiversary!

You will certainly hear from me soon.  The rest of this week is devoted to my latest book release, which comes out on April 7.  However, I expect to find the time for research again very soon, and to share plenty of new information and ideas.

Thank you for sharing the journey with me over the past few years.  I promise, there is more to come.  :)

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

Monday, March 5, 2012

Origin Hunters: Y-DNA Webinar

I was very pleased to find the time in my busy day to watch Mike Maglio's webinar on Y-DNA.  

When I work on my surnames, I do check to see if there is a DNA project for the surname and if there are matches between the surname and folks in other places throughout the world.  However, I never thought of actually adding the DNA information to my Legacy file, other than in notes (such as with my two separate Bartlett lines: "Robert Bartlett DNA - no match with William Bartlett of Perquimmans County, NC DNA").  Since Mike uses Legacy, and I do as well, I learned about the DNA feature thanks to his webinar.

After watching his webinar, I will integrate DNA information in much greater detail in my file.  My goal is to tackle several surnames during my hour or so of daily research.  Thanks for this webinar, Mike!

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

Monday, February 6, 2012

Could I have Emma Anna Murphy's family, at last?

Last night I was working on some of my recent brick wall ancestors (I'm pretty sure the Italian ones will have to wait for an actual visit to Italy).  As the new and improved Family Search site continues to evolve, it leads me to new discoveries fairly often.  It is one of the sites I check periodically to see if maybe, just maybe, there is something new about an ancestor about whom I know nothing or very little.

Regular readers may recall the saga of my great-great grandmother, Emma Anna Murphy (first husband, Mr. Reagan, second husband, Erastus Bartlett Shaw).  To make a long story short, everything we have about Emma begins in 1888, when she married my great-great grandfather, Erastus, and ends in 1945, when she died. 

Censuses and records switch back and forth on whether she was born in Nova Scotia, Canada or Maine.  I've been convinced from the start that she was born in Nova Scotia for a few reasons.

First of all, had she been born in Maine, she would appear in some U.S. census before 1900 (either 1870 or 1880).

Second, the very earliest record we have on her is her marriage certificate in Middleborough, Massachusetts in 1888.  She would have given the information personally, and her place of birth is listed as Nova Scotia.  On the other records where her place of birth is listed (censuses from 1900 to 1930, her son Harrison's birth and death certificates, and her very own death certificate), Emma may not necessarily have given the information.

Geneablogger Barbara Poole very kindly pointed me to an 1871 Canadian census entry, which showed an Emma Murphy, age 10 (the correct age to be my great-great grandmother) living in Manchester, Guysborough, Nova Scotia, with the Flavin family.

After that, I asked myself why my grandmother and great-uncle remembered Emma as they did: a woman who told stories about coming from a wealthy shipping family.  Was she exaggerating?  Was she trying to make herself seem better than she was to impress people?  Had she been orphaned at an early age and made up these stories to give herself an exciting "family history" (heck, just to give herself a family)?

This last one was my theory for quite a few years.  It seemed to fit.  Since the province-wide keeping of Nova Scotia vital records begins just after Emma was born (she was born in 1861 and civil record-keeping began in 1864), I couldn't find a birth record for her.  I wasn't sure that Manchester or Guysborough were where she was born, so I wasn't quite ready to scour every single church in the area, seeking a baptismal record - not just yet.

Her father has an incredibly common name: Patrick John (or John Patrick) Murphy.  There's a needle-in-a-haystack scenario right there.

It was the mother in whom I had vested any other research hopes: Mary Frasher/Frasier/Frazier.

Last night I searched Family Search for a "Mary Frasher" and, to my shock, came up with a record for a Margaret Murphy, born about 1842 in Nova Scotia, and died 21 December 1890 in Boston, Massachusetts.  I looked at the death register on American Ancestors to confirm it: Margaret Murphy, born in Nova Scotia, daughter of Patrick Murphy and Mary Frazier, wife of William Murphy.

This seemed like a good possibility for an elder sister to Emma, since no siblings appeared in the 1871 census.  However I knew I couldn't get too excited, just because their parents share the same name.

I went back to the 1871 Canadian census (indexes for which are now on Family Search) and searched for Margaret Murphy.

There she was, in the *exact* same place as my Emma: Manchester, Guysborough (even down to the same district, 202) in Nova Scotia.  Also, Patrick was listed as born in Ireland, while Mary was listed as born in Nova Scotia... but of Scotch descent.  This also fits everything our family has been trying to piece together.

Margaret's parents, Patrick and Mary, were ages 70 and 58 respectively.

First of all, it clicked in my head that I'd been guesstimating Emma's parents as too young, by 20 to 30 years.  I thought parents of a child born in 1861, would have been born between 1830 and 1840 themselves.  Then I guessed that they would a have been married between 1850 and 1860.

It made sense that, if these were Emma's parents, they would have "given" her to another family.  What 60-year-old father and 48-year-old mother want an infant?  Emma was probably a huge surprise to them in 1861.

I have no proof yet that there is a connection, but I'm sure you can imagine what I will spend my day doing: researching Margaret's children (if any) through her marriage to William H. Murphy.

And I will try to locate death records for Patrick and Mary Murphy, though such records may not tell me much.  So my focus is more on the life of Margaret (Murphy) Murphy and church records from the area.

Is my theory sound?  Could this family fit?  How many families were there with a husband named Patrick Murphy and a wife named Mary Frazier from Manchester, Guysborough, Nova Scotia?

And why am I asking rhetorical questions, instead of drawing a chart at this very moment so I can start doing more research and taking more notes?

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

Friday, January 27, 2012

Bucket List Genea Meme

I saw this post by Heather Wilkinson Rojo at Nutfield Genealogy and decided to get in on the action.  Credit for this cool idea goes to Jill Ball, an Australian genealogy blogger at Geniaus. So, here goes:

The Bucket List GeneaMeme

The list should be annotated in the following manner:
Things you would like to do or find: Bold Type
Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type
You are encouraged to add extra comments after each item. 

1.                  The genealogy conference I would most like to attend is - I honestly have no idea!

2.                  The genealogy speaker I would most like to hear and see is Megan Smolenyak.

3.                  The geneablogger I would most like to meet in person is everybody I have befriended on Facebook.  We need to organize a party.  ;)

4.                  The genealogy writer I would most like to have dinner with is - Alas, no idea.

5.                  The genealogy lecture I would most like to present - and the talk I have actually given - is a basic "How To" for those who want to get started.  This is usually all it takes to get people impassioned about genealogy.

6.                  I would like to go on a genealogy cruise that visits northwestern Italy.

7.                  The photo I would most like to find is - my great-great grandmother, Emma Anna (Murphy) (Regan) Shaw.

8.                  The repository in a foreign land I would most like to visit is pretty much any in the Busca and Moneglia areas of Italy, where my great-great grandparents were born.

9.                  The place of worship I would most like to visit is – I haven't the vaguest idea...  However, since I have 2 more years left in England, I plan to visit a few to see what I can discover.  It's not a huge deal to me, but it's also not an opportunity that I will allow to pass me by.

10.              The cemetery I would most like to visit is - I can't think of one.  Thus far, I have visited all the cemeteries of interest to me.  However, when I discover where certain relatives are buried, I'm sure I will want to go there.  :)

11.              The ancestral town or village I would most like to visit is a tie between Busca and Moneglia, Italy.  Many of the towns in England are a given and I am plotting my research on a map. 

12.              The brick wall I most want to smash is Emma Anna (Murphy) (Regan) Shaw.  She has eluded us for so long!

13.              The piece of software I most want to buy - I can't think of one.  I love Legacy 7.5.

14.              The tech toy I want to purchase next is - none.  I'm not much of a tech person.

15.              The expensive book I would most like to buy is - the Great Migration Series by Robert Charles Anderson - all the volumes!

16.              The library I would most like to visit is - Salt Lake City, Family History Library

17.              The genealogy related book I would most like to write is - well, when I figure it out, I'll tell you.

18.              The genealogy blog I would most like to start would be about  - Hmm...  I think I'm good with this one.

19.              The journal article I would most like to write would be about - finding great-great grandma Emma, when it happens!

20.              The ancestor I most want to meet in the afterlife is - once more, great-great grandma Emma.  She can't hide forever.  ;)

Hop on over to the Geniaus blog and add your list to Jill's comments or, if you have your own blog, please join the meme and pass it on!

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

Monday, January 16, 2012

Bartlett Tid-Bit

One of the important things I do twice a year is prepare "The Bartlett Line." As the editor for the newsletter of the Society of Descendants of Robert Bartlett, I try to make sure the newsletter includes reports from the Society's officers, news about new discoveries (which one of our members, David T. Robertson, is very good about finding and sharing), and updates about the Bartlett DNA project.

Something I particularly enjoy is going back through the minutes of Society meetings of long ago.  When I took over the position of editor in 2007 (from the wonderful Robert L. Bartlett, who served as editor for 8 years), I understood that it would not be incredibly time-consuming, but that it would require a great deal of creativity.

After all, amazing new discoveries about our Bartlett ancestors are not made every day, and sometimes you have to find another perspective to keep things interesting.

Since I was voted in as editor at the 100th reunion - and what a lovely time we had a Plimoth Plantation during that weekend in 2008! - I decided that it was appropriate to include a little "100 Years Ago in Bartlett Society History..." column in the back of each newsletter.

It was very exciting for me to receive the History of the Society of Descendants of Robert Bartlet of Plymouth, Massachusetts, compiled and some portions written by Marian Longfellow, Historian of the Society, when I took on the position of editor.  Spanning the Society's history of meetings, officers and more from 1908 to 1913, I realized that these minutes and reports probably are not common knowledge.

A great example is this month's "100 Years Ago in Bartlett Society History..." column.  Many of the Society's members are probably aware of the 1660 fire-back that Joseph Bartlett (son of Robert Bartlett, who came over on the Ann) imported to Manomet, Massachusetts from England.  They probably know that it can be found in the Pilgrim Hall Museum.  However, the little tidbit I found tells us how it left Bartlett hands:

At the third annual reunion of the Society of the Descendants of Robert Bartlett on June 16, 1910, “The President called attention to an interesting relic exhibited by Mr. Ephraim D. Bartlett.  It was an iron fire-back, bearing the date 1660.  A little history concerning it may be of interest.

This fire-back was imported from England by Joseph Bartlett (2) son of Robert Bartlett (1) who came to Plymouth  in the ship Ann in 1623.  Joseph (2) married about 1660 and went to Manomet Ponds (now, 1880, South Plymouth) and there built a house and settled.  In 1680 Joseph (2) built another house at Manomet, and years later the original house came into possession of Charles Dana Bartlett (8) and Hosea C. Bartlett (8) sons of Charles Bartlett (7) who lived in the house about fifty years.  Years later Hosea C. Bartlett (8) tore down his half of the house and Charles Dana Bartlett (8) moved his half farther up the road, where it is still standing today (June 16, 1910).  In taking down the chimney, this fire-back was discovered and was sold in 1880 by Charles Dana Bartlett to A. M. Harrison, United States Coast Survey, and left by him to Miss Sarah Acsah Bartlett, of Plymouth, Mass.”

The fire-back is now in the Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth, Mass.  This was a very interesting tidbit to read out of the Society minutes, as Charles Dana Bartlett is my (the editor’s) 4th great-grandfather.
I had no idea that my 4th great-grandfather had lived in the original 1660 home so, in the course of my volunteerism for the Society, I also learned something of personal ancestral interest.

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan