Saturday, October 5, 2013

Do You Have Research Phases?

Are there certain times of year you are more drawn to researching your family tree?  Perhaps more in the mood or less in the mood to do your research?

I know I am interested in and passionate about genealogy year-round, but the different seasons bring different possibilities.

When the weather gets cool, it feels like the perfect time to stay indoors, research and write letters from the comfort of my own home. This is the time of year I tend to gather the most vital records by way of letter-writing and/or emailing town clerks.

Warmer weather means I'm more likely to make in-person visits to libraries, town halls, cemeteries, and more such places.

I also find my interest in researching family history is greater from roughly October through December. Perhaps it is the holiday season that inspires these feelings of wanting to feel a connection with ancestors. There is certainly an ancestral connection to Thanksgiving that makes this a particularly meaningful time of year for me to focus my efforts on research.

Copyright (c) 2013 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Your Family Tree: To Share or Not to Share?

My family tree has been available on Rootsweb since... oh gosh, I'm going to estimate 2002, in that range. That's my best guess, since I had my son in 2002, and that's when I quit working to stay home with him, thus giving me more free time to work on genealogy. 

It's been available for a long time, but I'm not sure it does any good any more, since I've also shared many of my brick walls and questions in forum postings and here on my blog. I've also gone through every single family line and shared it here, so I don't think all my research on my entire family needs to be available online any longer.

Of course, I do hope people look up names and connect with me to ask questions, but sometimes I received some rather silly questions off my Rootsweb tree. Sometimes people asked if I had any sources, when all my sources were available for anyone to read.  Sometimes people tried to append more data to the tree. If I wanted the data there, I would have added it myself - because my ancestors are mostly from New England, most of this is very easy to find. That was mildly frustrating, because I stated very clearly on the family tree that people could contact me directly.

But when I was having lunch with one of my associates in the Next Generation Genealogy Network another matter came up that had me mulling it over - people who take and use data for themselves, without crediting the original source. 

I do believe the genealogy community is extremely helpful, communicative, and generous. However, there are times when people overstep their bounds. Maybe they don't realize they are doing it. It's truly unfortunate when it happens.

Overall, I decided ten years of having the tree available was enough. I do believe it is easy for people to locate me in connection with any of my ancestors and I will, as always, gladly share information. I do think having family trees out there is great, but when it becomes just one of many, maybe it really doesn't help anyone anyway.

What do you think?

Copyright (c) 2013 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Humble Apologies...

Oh my goodness, I have not posted since April!  I certainly will start posting again this month, as I have much to share.

I do apologize, though.  Of course I had a baby in January and in June we moved from England back to the U.S. and are only now feeling "settled" in our new home.  Many of us are friends on Facebook, so you realize I've been quite busy.

A post is in the works, as are many exciting things in my own little world of genealogy.

Copyright (c) 2013 Wendy L. Callahan

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Family Tree DNA's Family Finder

Seven years ago, I had my mtDNA tested by Family Tree DNA.  I learned I was Haplogroup H and, well, that was about all.  Of course there were matches, but no one with whom I could connect.  My maternal ancestry dead ends with my Italian great-great-great grandparents, for whom I have very little information beyond names.  The odds of making a family connection with any of the matches are pretty slim, but I knew that going into the DNA testing - that mtDNA is your "deep ancestry". 

However, I was still fascinated to learn my haplogroup and excited to at least get the test done.

When Family Tree DNA announced their autosomal test, I waited and waited and waited to upgrade.  Also, with the busy-ness that is life, I simply forgot to order the upgrade. 

I finally ordered the upgrade today and I cannot wait to see the results.  What do I hope to get out of it?

First and foremost, I am looking forward to learning more about my ancestral make-up.  It would not surprise me to find it is mostly English - probably a good 50% or more.  Anything other than English, Irish, Scottish, and Italian will surprise me.

Second, I am hopeful that I will find cousins, particularly from my Murphy great-great-great grandparents.  My most mysterious brick wall is my great-great grandmother, Emma Anna Murphy.  If she had siblings, perhaps they have descendants who just happened to have their autosomal DNA tested too.  However, her parents are 6 generations back from me, and I realize the odds getting lucky - of someone from that side of the family having tested - are very, very slim.  So I'm not super optimistic about that. 

Still, I'm glad I ordered the upgraded and my results will be in the Family Finder database by the end of the month.  I can't wait to see the results.

Copyright (c) 2013 Wendy L. Callahan

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Wow!  Thank you so much for the blogiversary wishes.  I really didn't know it was my blogiversary until I saw the post on Geneabloggers.  So, again, thank you!  I truly enjoy following all of you too, and wish I had more time to focus on my research.  However, life has swung back in a direction I never planned to go again - having a baby - and I also need to concentrate on work, so family and work come first these days.

But I try to get in some time to work on genealogy.  I see myself picking up the pace again when my daughter is older, and my husband has completed his education and returned to work.  For now, I will do it when I can - maybe once a week.

Yesterday I blogged about how we approach the family tree - do we concentrate on one specific ancestor at a time, "climb" the tree one branch at a time, or tackle everybody and try to round up all we can on each person?

Of course, what you are looking for in each instance are resources that confirm names, dates, places, and more.

Most people start out with notes gathered through conversations with family members, particularly older family members. From there, we pursue vital records, censuses, newspaper articles, cemeteries, directories, court records, land records, pension records (my personal favorite), and so much more. 

Maintaining accurate records of the sources consulted, whether they yielded results or not, is important.  This is particularly useful when you are chasing a brick wall ancestor.  Knowing you researched Massachusetts Vital Records to 1850 several times, recording the different name spellings you used, and keeping track of the dates you searched the database will keep you from duplicating your efforts and wasting your time.  Also, keep track of the dates of conversations with family members, either by dating your notes or saving emails.  I keep printed copies of emails, as well as copy them to Word and save them in the relevant surname folder.

This is just basic research know-how for most genealogists, but a beginner might underestimate the usefulness of recording all resources searched - even those that yielded nothing.  Everything is worth noting.  Better safe than sorry, so go ahead and over-document those resources.

Copyright (c) 2013 Wendy L. Callahan

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Climbing My Family Tree

Everyone has different techniques when it comes to genealogical research. At the moment, with a 3-month-old baby and work, my technique is non-existent.  ;)

But all kidding aside, each of us has a different way of approaching research. Some of us have a combination of methods we use.

I'm not referring to using the internet or tracking down certain records, but how we actually decide to go about our research with regard to the family tree itself. I have 3 different approaches.

Tackling the Brick Wall

I think all of us do this. We focus on our brick wall ancestors and sometimes devote hours, days, weeks, even months and years to them. I have a few, most of whom are immigrant ancestors. When I work specifically on them, they are the sole focus of my research. However, I always take a break, so I can come back with fresh eyes a few times a year.

One Branch at a Time

Roughly 4 times a year, I climb my entire family tree, from me, up through each and every single ancestor. It leads me to those brick wall ancestors, to whom I devote extra time and energy, and to those loose ends...

Tying up Loose Ends

These are the people who just need the smallest amount of research to verify dates and places. Usually I find them in my Massachusetts ancestors in the 1600's. I'll admit, this is where I get lazy, and I need to do a better job of rounding out these entries in my family tree with complete information.   

This is how I work may way through my family.

Copyright (c) 2013 Wendy L. Callahan

Monday, February 11, 2013

What Do You *Do* With DNA Matches?

My first post since the birth of my newest descendant! Little Rowan is 5 weeks and 3 days old. Her brother, Gavin (age 10), adores her. Her father dotes on her, but has the flu right now, so the 3 of us are doing our best to avoid him! I'm sleeping on the couch with Rowan, and avoiding the bedroom, mostly to keep her from getting sick. Though I am nursing, so that means she is getting plenty of antibodies from me.

Life is normalizing for me. That is, I have a routine and plenty of energy, so I am able to resume many of my pre-baby activities. This includes genealogical research and blogging, so on with the show!


I have two DNA kits at Family Tree DNA.

The first is my mtDNA and I hope to upgrade to Family Finder this year. My mtDNA matches aren't really exciting, because we probably share ancestors hundreds, if not thousands, of years back. Still, you never know if that one elusive distant cousin with all the answers might show up... 

The second is my ex-husband's mtDNA and Y-DNA. His mtDNA shows some close matches.

But it's really the Y-DNA that interests me, mostly for my son.

I only have 5 generations of ancestors for my ex-husband on his paternal side. Only five Hawksley men accounted for in the records available.  When you get to the 6th generation, there is only "? Hawksley" and his wife, "Mary Goodwin" (whose parents are another mystery).

It is funny that we have the wife's name and details about her origins, siblings, and family in general (New Jersey, 6 siblings for whom I have names and descendants, her father was a loyalist named Goodwin, her mother's maiden name was Workman), but no information on her husband beyond "Hawksley, an Englishman".

So my ex's Y-DNA is particularly interesting to me. I know he would also be interested to know the origins of his family, since no one on his father's side really knows anything. 

Family Tree DNA shows me 6 matches, 5 of which are "12 of 12." That means there's about a 70% chance my ex shares a common ancestor within the last 12 generations with those folks.

However, the surnames are different, and that's interesting. I guess that means, somewhere along the line, there are half-brothers from the same father, but one of whom took on a different surname. Though I realize that is just one possibility.

Now, I wonder what I should do with those matches. Should I do contact those people who have given their contact information? Should I learn more about their family tree?

I thought Y-DNA was so much more straightforward to work with than mtDNA, in that surnames would match up, thus leading to answers if there were questions.

Instead, I have more questions, and the first one is:

Where do I go from here?

Copyright (c) 2013 Wendy L. Callahan

Monday, January 7, 2013

My Newest Descendant

Sending all of you belated wishes for a Happy New Year, along with apologies for the lack of posts.

On Friday, January 4, 2013 at 8:38 a.m., my daughter, Rowan Alice Callahan, entered the world.  She made her appearance at 7 lbs, 4 oz, and 20.5 inches long.

Even though I am writing a new chapter of my life, rest assured I will be back once we settle into our new routine!

Copyright (c) 2013 Wendy L. Callahan