Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Review of "Me and My Family Tree" by Joan Sweeney

As a mother with a preschooler and a teenager, one of my dreams is to get both of my children into genealogy. Alas, the teenager isn't interested. Maybe someday...

So for now I'm hoping to capitalize on the preschooler's curiosity and natural passion for learning by reading many books about family trees from the library. One book they did not have, but suggested, is Me and My Family Tree by Joan Sweeney.

I purchased it on Amazon and it is such a fun book. It makes it very easy for children to understand their relatives, by taking the family tree one generation and one (or two) family members at a time. it explains very simply that an aunt is your mother or father's sister, for example. Throughout the book, the main character puts together her own family tree as she explains it and then we see her finished tree at the end.

The last page has a family tree that children can add photos to, but I did not want to alter the book in any way. However after hearing the story, my daughter really wanted to create a family tree. So I guess that means my nefarious plan worked!

We went to the store for an 11 x 17 poster board, printed out photos of family members, drew a tree, and then added people one at a time:

We do have to add mine and my husband's fathers - we don't have digital photos of them, so I need to photocopy some older photographs of them at the library. But there you have it. My preschooler was excited to create a family tree after reading Me and My Family Tree, and has a better understanding of who everyone in it is.

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Thursday, June 8, 2017

DNA & Various Ethnicity Estimates

DNA Testing & Ethnicity Estimates
While I did not take DNA tests to get my ethnicity estimates or ancestral origins (I took them in hopes of deconstructing genealogical brick walls), it's still interesting to see how the different companies break them down for me.

Growing up, I would ask and the answer was always, "We're English." The end. That was just on my father's side, though. I knew nothing about my mother's side until I turned 18.

So when I started digging into the family history at that age, I realized my father's side wasn't simply "English." There was also a spot of Irish and Scottish in there. Same area of the world, but very different cultures, of course.

When I went to my maternal grandmother for information, I found out my ancestry was pretty similar on that side - English, with a smidge of Irish. But then I found out that my maternal great-grandmother was 100% Italian.

That was news to me and it was really neat to have a little something beyond that concentration of England, Ireland and Scotland. My Nana gave me something one of her aunts wrote up about the family and it explained that my great-grandmother's maiden name originated in France - not with her father, but either her father's parents or grandparents.

So if you broke it down in what I expected to be the largest proportions, I saw at as something like:

English - from both sides, definitely more than any of my other ethnicities combined

Italian - I quantified it as "1/8", but I'm sure it's less than that, given how DNA is passed down

French - perhaps, depending on how far back my great-great grandfather's surname came from France to Italy



That was just what I had in mind as greatest concentration to lowest, give or take. Other than the Italian ancestry, which was more "quantifiable" than the others, I never really assigned percentages to them.

Only now am I looking at the ethnic origins assigned to me by Family Tree DNA and my upload to MyHeritage, and curious about them. I'm waiting on Ancestry DNA results, which I don't expect to see until the end of July (test was received May 30).

The My Origins estimate from Family Tree DNA did not surprise me. It gave me 95% European broken down as follows:

British Isles - 67%

Southeast Europe - 20%

East Europe - 8%

The remaining 5% is trace amounts from the Middle East and Asia.

Family Tree DNA's "My Origins" map shows that British Isles encompasses England, Scotland and Ireland, of course. No surprise there.

Southeast Europe covers Italy and Greece. Another non-surprise given my confirmed Italian heritage.

East Europe, however? I can't make a connection there, so I'm guessing it's distant or on my Italian side, where I haven't made it beyond my 3rd great-grandparents' names.

Earlier this week, I uploaded my DNA to My Heritage. In fact, I finally bit the bullet and invested in both a My Heritage and Ancestry.com membership, despite trying to avoid paying for any website subscriptions. But the lure was powerful. ;)

So what did My Heritage give me as an Ethnicity Estimate? 100% Europe as follows:

North and West Europe - 83.9% further broken down as North and West European at 54.9% and English at 29%.

South Europe - 16.1% further broken down as Greece at 16.1%.

Hmm... methinks the Greek estimate is a tad off and needs to cross the Adriatic Sea to get to the proper country. However, the map shows that northern Italy, which is where my maternal great-great grandparents are from, is encompassed in their "North and West Europe" estimate. So that's pretty interesting. It may be that there's something to the Greek estimate lying, again, behind a brick wall somewhere.

As Randy Seaver explains at GeneaMusings, the difference in matching from company to company is:

...probably because they have different sub-regional groupings, and different reference groups (persons tested and assigned to each grouping), on which they are basing their estimates.

When we get these estimates from different countries, I think it's good to keep this in mind. They won't match exactly and that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's just because they do things differently.

I'm very curious now to see how Ancestry breaks down my ethnicity based on my DNA sample. They've already given an ethnic breakdown based upon my surname, but as it is my married name, it's inaccurate. And if it was my maiden name, it would be even more bland. :)

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Saturday, June 3, 2017

William W. Winsor & James G. Swan - "Almost Out of the World"

In 2010, I finally figured out that my 3x-great-grandfather, William W. Winsor, had gone to Washington State. He was one of the early settlers of Port Angeles and briefly served as lighthouse keeper at Tatooche/Tatoosh Island in 1860. The last mention I find of him is in 1867, when W. W. Winsor is mentioned in a court case in Jefferson County, Washington.

Lighthouse at Tatoosh Island
Lighthouse at Tatoosh Island.
Original photo: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1817383
I've found other mentions of him online and one commenter mentioned a book that mentions my grandfather, Almost Out of the World: Scenes from the Washington Territory by James G. Swan, published 1971 by the Washington State Historical Society. The book is a collection of San Francisco Evening Bulletin newspaper columns that detail Swan's time spent on the Strait of Juan de Fuca from 1859 to 1861.

Fortunately, I was able to get the book at my local library via inter-library loan from the University of Nebraska at Omaha's library. I thought it might be a brief mention, but the book said some colorful and interesting things about my great-great-great grandfather and I wanted to share them.

Sure enough, page 23 mentions the invitation by Capt. William W. Winsor to James G. Swan to accompany him in his schooner, the "J. K. Thorndike." My grandfather shows up on several more pages than I expected.

On page 24, I love that he gives a colorful bit of background about how William Winsor and Rufus Holmes knew each other since childhood (both being from Duxbury, Massachusetts), and are now old, grumpy captains. He gives a description of both men on page 25:

The two captains were gigantic specimens of the growth of Massachusetts Bay, being over six feet in height and every way large in proportion; and as the cabin of the little schooner was on a rather diminutive scale, it was surprising how these giants stowed themselves away.

Swan goes on to write that my grandfather was "gifted to the art of cooking," and details an argument between Rufus Holmes and William Winsor about what to name a particular bay - "Holmes' Hole" or "Winsor's Harbor."

The adventure continues until page 29. At that point in their journey, Rufus Holmes trips over his own dog and Captain Bill, as Swan calls my grandfather, makes light of it. He seems to have a bit of a dark sense of humor, because every time the dog causes problems for Rufus, my grandfather suggests simply pitching the dog overboard or does something in retaliation.

He also appears to be a humanitarian. I think my favorite quote from my grandfather in the book is this one: "I go in for humanity," said he, "and no man, black, white or red, shall go hungry while the dogs are fed."

Other shorter mentions follow on pages 70, 74, 91, 100, 117, 118, and 121.

While the book does not answer the question of what became of William (did he ever return to his wife and children in Duxbury, or let them continue to believe he was dead while living out his life in Washington?), it gave me interesting insight into him as a person: a good cook, cantankerous, boisterous, a bit salty in his humor, and tolerant of his fellow humans regardless of skin color, which I would consider a rare and admirable thing for someone born in 1811.

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The 'saga' of Lewis Wood's visit to Blue Hill Falls, Me.

Beginning on July 31, 1958, my great-grandfather, Lewis Wood, went to visit cousins in Blue Hill, Maine for two weeks. Two hundred years before that, our ancestor Joseph Wood, left Beverly Massachusetts to settle in what became the town of Blue Hill, Maine.

The Saga of Lewis Wood's Visit to Blue Hill, MaineHere is the "saga" of my great-grandfather and great-grandmother's visit with great-grandpa's cousins.

The 'saga' of Lewis Wood's visit to Blue Hill Falls, Me., after an absence of 42 years.

Lewis (and Ruth and David) arrived around noon, July 31 for a 2 weeks stay at The House on the Rock.

The weather was perfect during his stay. Days bright and fair, temperatures running between 55 and 72. Blueberries and raspberries - wild ones - were at their height, and quite plentiful. Fishing was very good. Flounders, tom-cods, cunners, and now and then a sculpin. Fairly good sized little new clams plentiful. Lobster obtainable - at reasonable prices. We enjoyed all of these good things, particularly the sea-food.

As we had no car, we were hampered somewhat in getting about, but we found we could walk - if we had to. The scenery is very beautiful in all directions. It was necessary to do considerable walking to pick out the best places for snap-shots - the variety making it hard to come to a decision now and then. Lewis, who is quite energetic, under-took 3 mile walks - to the 'Village', to South Bluehill, frequently. Generally he had good luck with his thumb.

One glorious day we spent at East Bluehill with the Long section of our Wood descent. Gerry Long, of Meridith, N.H., used his car as transportation. Picnic at "Curtis Cove"; a visit to the home of cousin Olive Wright, with an hour on the view of Bluehill Bay from a ledge in their front yard, being the feature. And a pleasant afternoon in the old home of Uncle Miles Long, and Aunt Cora, which is the summer headquarters for visiting Long's and their kin-folk.

One afternoon a 50 mile auto ride with Cousin Del Seavey was greatly enjoyed. We followed the shore line of Bluehill Bay, south, taking in Naskeag Point; Sedgwick, approaches to Deer Isle bridge, all the Brooklin's and Brooksville's. Catterpillar Hill, Walker Pond, Ridge Road to North Sedwick, where we stopped at Grandfather Benjamin S. Wood's grave and then back to the House on the Rock. We turned aside at North Sedgwick and drove a few miles to the present home of Irving S. Candage so that Lewis could renew his acquaintance. It was at Uncle Irving's home - at Blue Hill Falls - Lewis stopped in 1906.

To keep himself trim - and his waist-line within bounds - Lewis rebuilt the back steps to the House on the Rock; painted the 'trim' on the said House; lugged innumerable buckets of drinking water from the Hodgsden house; fixed up all the electrical apparatus that was defective; gathered vegetables from Susie's garden; listened to Wood genealogy; ate, drank(?) and slept.

Ruth, who improved so rapidly in health that it was marvelous, baked blueberry pies - two at a time - daily; made spice cake (with raisins) nearly as often, almost wore out the silver and dishes polishing them, and waited on all of us. (Mostly Lewis & David.)

David found buddies with row-boats, 'wheels' and rifles, who knew all the good (warm) bathing places in the Mill Pond and Cove, and was kept busy. He did his share of fishing, berrying, walking - and eating, also working in birch bark. (Also sleeping.)

We look for these Wood's again - well inside 42 years.


Unfortunately, I don't think any of Lewis and Ruth's children or grandchildren have made the trip back to Blue Hill, Maine, to visit our Long, Candage, and other cousins since then, and it has been well over 42 years since 1958. One day, I hope to see the House on the Rock for myself, being a Blue Hill Wood by paternal descent, and all. :)

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - The Other You

This week's Saturday night Genealogy Fun - brought to us by Randy Seaver - is "The Other You."

Randy says:

* Tell us about your "other" hobbies or interests outside of genealogy and family history research, writing, speaking, etc.  Be mindful of your family's privacy, though!

* Write a blog post of your own, respond with a comment to this post, or write a Facebook status post or a Google+ Stream post.

My other interests are:

*  Writing, though that goes without saying, because I write for a living. I quit my stressful job in marketing earlier this year to stay home and write full time, because writing was out-earning working for The Man. Out of the handful of pen names I use, one has a very loyal, devoted following and I am amazed that doing something I love not just supports my family, but also gives people warm fuzzies to the point that they send me fan mail to tell me how much they love the books I write. All I ever wanted to do was write things that made people smile. Mission accomplished.

* My kids. The 14-year-old boy is in full Teenager Mode these days, but even when he's rolling his eyes and huffing out sighs of annoyance, I still love him. The 4-year-old girl is quirky as heck. Like mother, like daughter, I guess!

* Reading, which doesn't happen as often as I would like. Mostly I read within the genres I write, but I like a fairly wide range of genres - memoirs, history, YA, spirituality/New Age, and other books.

* Gardening. It's an interesting challenge to see how self-sufficient we can be and home-grown veggies taste so much better than what we buy in the store. This year we expanded our garden from 16x16 to 20x20, and added a path and an archway.

2017 Garden in Progress

*  Gaming. We have a weekly Dungeons & Dragons game, a weekly Atomic Highway game, and I try to play more video games. I love Sims 3, Minecraft, Don't Starve, Don't Starve Together, and Starbound.

* My husband's cooking. I love that he does the majority of the cooking. He also handles most of the cleaning and child-rearing, since I'm still the sole breadwinner.

*  Nature. I love my back yard. We have a fishing pond with bass and other varieties in it. We get visits from a blue heron, red-tail hawks, Canadian geese, ducks, beavers, deer, and coyotes. It's so peaceful out here. I never thought I'd want to live in the Midwest or somewhere rural, unless it was back home in the Berkshires, but I'm quite content.

*  Working out and healthy eating. I love boxing to stay in shape. I also love P90X3, lifting weights, yoga, pilates, and dance. We're not perfectly healthy eaters, though. If you look in my desk, heck yes, I have a candy stash! The husband hides his Takis in the closet. The kids love treats, too.

I'm a real homebody, as you can see. My life pretty much revolves around work and genealogy, and I like it like that. In my old job, it felt like I had to always be "on" and I hated that. I'm an extrovert, but I don't want to always be out and about, going places and talking people up. I like to have the leisure and freedom to pick and choose what I do with my days.

I'd rather live my life like a lemonade commercial - slow-paced and easygoing. I know - 42 and already "retired." ;)

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Friday, May 26, 2017

A Beginner's Brief Guide to Using DNA for Genealogy

DNA is both an exciting frontier in genealogical research and a daunting one. The appeal of getting your "ethnicity breakdown" or finding genetic matches is exciting. It's also confusing. There's a lot of advice out there and some fantastic websites that give more in-depth explanations. But with all of that information coming at us, it can be a bit of an infoglut.

So here are some tips from my experiences thus far and links to posts that I think will help you figure out how DNA can help you.

1. Determine your goal & choose a test. 

It's important to first determine your reason for getting your DNA tested.

Do you want to:

  • Participate in a surname study?
  • Learn your "deep" heritage/ancestry?
  • Find out who your birth parents are?
  • Learn about potential health problems?
  • Break down a brick wall?

The answer(s) to these questions will determine which company is your best option to start.

For in-depth discussions of DNA and genetic genealogy, that aren't over one's head, I highly recommend the DNAeXplained blog. Roberta's post entitled Which DNA Test is Best? covers the question in detail.

2. Test with as many companies as you possibly can.

This is the first piece of advice many people offer and I agree with it. However, DNA testing can be expensive, so first consider your main goal and start there. You can always add additional tests later.

Here's my experience with both myself and family members, and different companies:

  • Surname study - we promote this option through the Bartlett Society. Why? Because like so many Mayflower, Little James and Anne passengers, the question of their origins remains. Testing the Y-DNA of men can help determine if and how they are related to other men of the same name. You can only do this with Y-DNA testing, available only through Family Tree DNA.
  • Deep heritage/ancestry - my maternal lineage is Italian and the furthest back I can go is my great-great grandmother, born in 1874. I was curious about going even deeper with that ethnicity, even if I am having issues going further back with traditional paper genealogy. So I had my mtDNA tested in 2006. The same as above applies - only Family Tree DNA offers mtDNA testing. You are unlikely to have "close" matches at this level of testing, however.
  • Adoption/birth parents - ah, this is a tricky one! I have no experience with this and in this case, I think gender plays a role. If you are male, then a Y-DNA test from Family Tree DNA can connect you to other males with the same Y-DNA. If you are female, mtDNA testing is less likely to help you locate immediate relatives, so your best bet is autosomal DNA testing. Roberta Estes recommends autosomal testing for all adoptees, so I recommend you go to her Which DNA Test is Best? post if adoption is your genealogical challenge.
  • Health - some people want to know if they are predisposed to develop certain health problems. One of my aunts tested herself and her adult children with 23andMe, which is considered the leading DNA company for people testing for medical reasons. You are less likely to meet people interested in genealogy here and whether or not you want to test for medical reasons is a very personal decision.
  • Break down a brick wall - this is why I added the Family Tree DNA Family Finder, which is an autosomal DNA test, in 2013. People have also been singing the praises of AncestryDNA, which offers an autosomal test only. I have been hesitant to try it, due to the fact that a subscription to the site is needed to unlock full features. However, I've finally given in and added that test too as of this weekend. Why? Because not everyone is using Family Tree DNA or uploading their matches to GEDMatch.com (more about that shortly).

So there are some of the potential goals you might have in mind and what the various companies have to offer. If you can test with two or three companies, that's great!

Again, check out Roberta's post for in-depth analysis of the different services available.

3. Fill in your profile, most distant ancestors & family tree completely.

Most of us take a DNA test for genealogical reasons, which means we want our matches to find us, right? So do yourself - and your matches - a huge favor and fill out all the information you can on your dashboard.

With Family Tree DNA, this means filling out:

  • Your Profile (let people know who you are!)
  • Surnames you are researching (if you upload a GEDCOM, FTDNA will populate this for you with every surname in it)
  • Family tree (you can upload a GEDCOM)
  • Earliest known ancestor (both paternal and maternal)
Family Tree DNA profile and surnames

Family Tree DNA earliest known ancestors

I'm still early in the process with Ancestry DNA, but I've uploaded my photo and GEDCOM, and linked myself in my family tree. This will allow my matches to try to determine where we connect.

4. Ask your parents to test.

I know this is not possible for everyone. Parents could be deceased or unwilling to test. It's also an additional expense. But once you've tested, it is worth it to add at least one parent if you can. Testing both is even more helpful.

If your parents have already passed away, or are unable or unwilling to test, try reaching out to aunts and/or uncles. Who you test will depend on your goals, of course. If you are using autosomal testing to break down brick walls, having one or both parents test is immensely helpful.

When my mother tested on Ancestry DNA, that left me wondering how I could connect her to me without doing the same thing. I finally decided to do the Ancestry DNA test, while she added her results to Family Tree DNA (free to upload results; $19 to unlock all tools/features).

This was more useful than I realized and I wish I'd asked her to do it sooner, because it transformed my Family Tree DNA matches view in a very small but exciting way:

Family Tree DNA Family Finder Matches with Maternal relatives

How cool is that? Those pink icons next to the profile pictures did not exist until my mother added her DNA results and my Paternal/Maternal tabs were unclickable until now. Now I can click the Maternal tab and see the matches she and I share!

This doesn't necessarily mean that everyone who lacks an icon matches my father or is a paternal relative. But it helps me narrow down my search results as, in my case, my initial intent is to work on a specific paternal brick wall.

Long-time readers know about my brick wall, great-great grandma Emma, on my father's side of the family. I hoped maybe, just maybe, a descendant of a sibling, aunt or uncle of hers would test and, like magic, we would connect. Well, it's not quite that easy.

5. Upload your results to GEDMatch, Mitosearch & YSearch.

Because not everyone tests with the same service, GEDMatch offers you the ability to upload your DNA results and match to others who tested with different companies. They also have several tools to help you understand your matches. I recommend reading 10 Tips for Making the Most of GEDMatch.com from Young & Savvy Genealogists for some insights on using the tools there.

Also, if you've had mtDNA tested, upload your results to Mitosearch. The same goes for Y-DNA results - share them to YSearch. It's just another way to widen your match pool.

Remember to save your login information and kit numbers (I recommend a secure password service, such as Dashlane for this). It can be really easy to forget about Mitosearch and YSearch, and not check them for a while. I think I check each of them once or twice a year. Still, I'm glad to have my information out there, especially in the case of my ex-husband. I am the group administrator of the Hawksley DNA project, so obviously I have a interest in his Y-DNA matches. 

So get those results out there and maximize your opportunities to meet cousins! 

Of course, not everyone uploads their results to GEDMatch, Mitosearch or YSearch, which brings us back to the idea of testing with as many DNA companies as you can, if possible. The reason I finally added the Ancestry DNA test was because I realized I could be missing out on a match that might hold the "key" to breaking down my brick wall. The fact that my mother has already tested there was an additional enticement for me to finally do it.

6. Realize that estimates are just, well, estimates.

The 2nd to 4th cousin estimate, for example, can be a tad misleading. You may find you have to work your way back several more generations to make a connection. However, both Family Tree DNA and GEDMatch offer tools that can help you with this.

At Family Tree DNA, check out the "In Common With" tool, the Matrix and Chromosome browser.

GEDMatch's tools are extensive and take time to master, but I think the 10 Tips for Making the Most of GEDMatch.com post can help you understand some of them. That said, you don't need to be super knowledgeable about DNA to make the most of the matches. I am still a paper genealogist through and through. I just so happen to use DNA as an additional tool that can augment my research.

I also recommend the post on Triangulation at the DNAeXplained blog. It delves deeper into the tools you can use to narrow down matches and how they might relate to you, based on other family members you've had tested (by they parents, aunts, uncles and/or cousins).

Of course, you still need to do your legwork to find common ancestors, but it can be fun and well worth the hunt:

For a better overall understanding of autosomal DNA, check out Demystifying Autosomal DNA Matching at DNAeXplained. This post also gets into the importance of using a spreadsheet to track your matches, those you've managed to find a common ancestor with, and understanding the difference if identical by descent, identical by chance, and identical by population.

DNA is a fantastic tool and by defining your goals/reasons for using it, you have a better chance of making it work for you. Alas, it does not automatically give us all the answers. Some of the information is complex and goes over our heads. I know folks who are diving deep, mapping chromosomes! I don't intend to go that far, but I'm still using DNA as part of my research with these tips and tools.

I hope this cuts down on the information overwhelm and helps you take the process step by step. I definitely recommend adding the DNAeXplained blog to your reader, as Roberta offers really neat tips, advice and explanations. Her posts are incredibly helpful and I often find myself keeping specific posts of hers open on my screen while working through my matches in another tab.

Keep in mind, I am not an expert! This is just based on what I've encountered in using DNA, so I really encourage you to read a blog by someone who is an expert. :)

Oh, and if you match me on Family Tree DNA or (in another couple of months) Ancestry DNA, email me. I love hearing from my matches!


Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Brick Walls: Step Back & Look Again

When we're immersed in the hunt to break down a brick wall, sometimes we can get overwhelmed and lose sight of the obvious. Sure, we're looking for the not-so-obvious, like that one newspaper article that helps fill in gaps between censuses or FAN club (friends, associates and neighbors) research that helps us find a missing sibling.

But sometimes we need to take a step back from a brick wall and go back to some "beginning" tactics.

1. Start with what you know and work your way back. 

Yes, this is the piece of genealogy advice we give to all beginners, but let's step back and approach our brick wall as if we're starting all over again, too.

What do I know about the brick wall I've been researching for 25 years, Emma Anna Murphy without even going into the research I've done on her?

Brick Walls: Step Back & Look Again - Wendy's first pedigree chart

Thanks to my parents filling out this information when I was born, I know she is my great-grandfather Harrison Clifford Shaw's mother. I know her maiden name. Thanks to conversations with my grandmother Barbara (Shaw) Wood before she passed away, I know Emma came from Nova Scotia, possibly Halifax.

2. Create a timeline. 

If you haven't already done this for your brick wall ancestor, step back and give it a try. If you're not sure how to format your timeline, you can check out some of the ideas from the April 21 #RogueGen Twitter chat. 

Why a timeline? Because it can help you better articulate your research goals for this particular person.
Whether you use a simple list format or spreadsheet, just start writing what you know in chronological order, working your way back. This overview takes you out of the standard person or family view in your family tree software, pedigree charts and family group sheets.

Here is my timeline for Emma (click,to expand it to full size):

Brick Walls: Step Back & Look Again - Emma Anna Murphy Timeline

3. Review what you have gathered.

Sometimes we overlook something in the records we already have.

In Emma's case, I have the original marriage register from the town of Middleborough, Massachusetts, her marriage certificate, her death certificate, and censuses from 1900 to 1940 all printed out. This also includes the birth, marriage and death records of her only child, as well as the administration of her estate, her obituary, a photograph of her headstone, two town directory entries and a newspaper article about an assault case in which she was the defendant.

One thing I didn't pay attention to initially, but noticed upon re-examination was that Emma stated in the 1930 census that she was age 16 at the time of her first marriage. That means her first marriage occurred around 1877 or so. That helped me narrow my search for her first husband. 

So pull everything out and review it to ensure you didn't miss anything.

4. Print everything and put it in a binder or folder.

Having a brick wall case file - that is, a binder dedicated to brick walls and current research, or folders for brick wall ancestors on whom research is ongoing - can help immensely. It's easier to flip pages than scroll through digital documents. It's also nice to have a physical file to carry with you when you do research on location.

5. But also put your digital files on a thumb drive, tablet and/or laptop.

If you have a mobile device you use for your research, having your digital files on that also ensures you've got them ready to go for genealogy road trips. 

6. Use your timeline to pinpoint questions and goals.

Now that you've reviewed and re-examined the records, look at your timeline. What are the gaps that need to be filled in? Work your way back from your ancestor's death to make a list of questions and research goals. In my great-great grandmother's case, my primary goals are:

a. Find out the name of her first husband, Mr. Re(a)gan, and their date and place of marriage;
b. Find out my great-great grandmother's date and place of birth.

Additional goals or questions to be answered are when and where Mr. Re(a)gan passed away or if they were divorced, if they had any children, and when my great-great grandmother emigrated to the U.S. from Canada.

Finding that marriage to Mr. Re(a)gan is pretty much my main objective right now, but the other goals are also written on my timeline and highlighted in yellow.

7. Get a second set of eyes on the problem.

Send your timeline to a friend and see if they have any ideas or recommendations. They can help you see where there might be other questions you could focus on or areas to direct your research.

Another idea is to swap brick walls with a friend. We all need to rest our minds. Otherwise, we keep banging our heads against the same brick wall, not even making a dent in it. So why not see if someone else wants to take a crack at it and offer to return the favor?

All of us have different subscriptions, different ways of researching or approaching a question, or running an online search. So swap timelines and your primary goals/questions with someone else. The new research problem will refresh you.

8. Put your ancestor's life in historical context.

Did they live during the American Revolution? The Civil War? The Great Depression? Historical events can have a significant impact on how our ancestors lived and moved. Correlating their life to these events can help us better understand what might have motivated certain moves, how they reared their children, and other decisions.

Also look at the circumstances surrounding their childhood and what you know of their adulthood. In the case of my great-great grandma, my current theory (based on recent findings) is that she was an illegitimate child. As a result, I think she might have created a certain "history" for herself to pass on to her grandchildren. For example, she showed one of my great-uncles pictures of ships and said she had wealthy ancestors who owned them and had a trade route from Nova Scotia to Boston.

Yet I find no evidence of this. That's not to say this isn't true. Perhaps it is, but the one link I've found so far to another potential family member completely turns these stories on their head and give me an illegitimate Emma born to a Murphy mother, not father.

9. Keep a research log or journal.

Use this to keep track of where you've researched so you don't return to the same books, documents, and newspapers again and again. Databases are often updated, so do log them, but make note of the date you checked them. If you return to them for another search, make note of it.

10. Look beyond the usual online searches.

Finally, after exhausting census records, vital records, databases, books, and newspapers, you might think an ancestor simply fell onto the face of the earth one day and that was that. Trust me, I know that feeling.

So try switching up your search techniques in databases. The break-through for me came when I searched for my great-great grandmother's parents' surnames, instead of my great-great grandmother directly. What did I find? Another woman with the same parents, also from Nova Scotia. Now, it remains to be seen if this is Emma's sister (I now believe it is her aunt), and I still need to learn what I can about Margaret Murphy, the woman whose parents have the same name as Emma's. But this has been the most useful find in 25 years of researching my great-great grandmother. 
Brick Walls: Step Back & Look Again - A Different Online Search

Don't forget local historical societies, tax records, DNA matches (I am currently in the process of triangulating mine thanks to one of my parents sharing their DNA data, so I can narrow the field of potential relationships on my Murphy side), and more. A Research Checklist can also help make sure you cover some of your bases from the start.

Oh, and treat yourself to something after a particularly intense research session. I don't care of it's a margarita, an iced latte, chocolate, binge-watching Netflix or buying a new genealogy book. When the going gets tough, try some self-care to keep from burning out.

I hope these 10 tips help you overcome the overwhelm and get your focus back. What is your favorite way to handle a frustrating brick wall?

Brick Walls - Step Back & Look Again

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Family Pets

Pets - Wendy and the snake
I wanted a snake. Didn't get a snake, but I wanted a snake!
The Ancestral Findings podcast did a fun episode recently about family pets and how meaningful they are in our lives, so I thought I would share a little bit about our family pets.

I don't remember much about my first three pets. When I was a baby and up until I was maybe three or four-years-old, we had one dog and two cats. I only remember them as Ziggy, the yellow lab, and Marble and Butterscotch, our cats. Marble was a dark tabby, I believe, and Butterscotch an orange one.

When I turned thirteen, that was the year my father decided we needed a cat. Shadow was a very sweet kitty, though she took more of a liking to my dad and sister than she did to me. However, in her last five years of life, she lived with me. Shadow lived to be seventeen and was a healthy cat until she simply got old. She was a beloved family pet.

Tremor - this picture of him is tattooed on my right arm.
It was 1995 when I met "my" cat. His name was Tremor and he was a beautiful white cat with black markings and a black tail. At the time when he was found in an alley way, he was just a little thing and nervous as heck. He settled in with me easily, though, and was very loyal throughout his life. He wasn't keen on other people, but he was my constant companion.

Tremor had a couple of accidental adventures I won't recount here, because they are not for the faint of heart. He lived until 2007, when he passed away at the age of twelve due to complications from a blood clot.

My black lab, Cody, had an active life too. He arrived a month later in 1995. Tremor wasn't ready for a dog in the apartment! But they ultimately became friends. Cody was a huge dog, perhaps part Great Dane. When we walked him along the streets of Brockton, people actually would cross the street in fear of him when they saw us coming.

But Cody was just a huge, loving baby. He never harmed another person or animal, though he didn't know his own strength. Usually he was the one walking me! He was also an escape artist, so tall that he could climb over a chain link fence without hesitation. He also passed away in 2007, age twelve.

Stormy came about a year later. She was with me from 1996 to 2013. She was extremely affectionate and easygoing. Stormy lived a much quieter life than Tremor and Cody, except for her health problems. She developed hyperthyroidism when she was eleven.

Bandit & Stormy
Stormy loving on Bandit.
Fortunately, a course of oral medication, followed by radiation eradicated it. But she had a recurrence in 2013. Since she was over seventeen years old and the quality of her life was in question, I brought her to the vet to say goodbye.

Bandit was my dog. We got her in 2000 or so. She was smart, smaller than Cody, and easier to handle. Like Stormy, she was a super affectionate pet. Her life was far more calm and uneventful.

I've lost many pets, but Tremor's death in March of 2007 was the hardest on me. I cried for a month. There was a huge hole in my heart that could only be filled with another male cat. He had to be special, though. So I went to the Dover, Delaware SPCA on Friday, April 13, 2007.

Shiva, destroyer of all he surveys.
And there he was - this tiny black, polydactyl kitten. Shiva came home with me that very day.

He's intelligent, but oh-so-lazy. He is also my only indoor-outdoor cat. I've had him since 2007, so he's already ten-years-old, but as menacing as ever. Oh yes, he's got the lean, muscular look of a panther. A teeny, tiny, semi-domesticated panther. He managed to whack his head once when shaking it vigorously and developed a hematoma in his ear. The vet drained and quilted the ear. Shiva has looked a bit like a scrappy alley cat ever since.

In 2011, I got my black-headed caique, Avery. We purchased him from a breeder in England. He hatched in February 2011 and came to live with us in May 2011. Avery is smart, sociable, and a bit of a strutting, spoiled brat. Caiques are known for being intelligent and playful, the "clowns of the bird world." It's hard to believe he is six-years-old now. He could live for up to another twenty-four years!

Kobold "derping" hard.
Cats are a recurring theme in my life. Even though I'm married to someone who is allergic to them, it doesn't matter - he loves cats too. So in 2011, we also got a cat in England. Her name is Kobold aka Derp Cat. She's... special.

We love Kobold. She's fluffy and sweet, though slightly skittish. She also licks glue and runs headfirst into windows and glass doors. One moment she might be standing on the floor and the next standing in a ceiling beam, snapping a housefly out of the air. We're not sure how she reconciles her stupidity with her agility, but she keeps us entertained!

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Favorite New Brunswick, Canada Genealogy Resources

I spend a great deal of time researching the genealogy of New Brunswick families. These families are mainly loyalist ancestors and I'm always looking for more resources, especially since these are brick wall ancestors.

Some of the sites I've found helpful when it comes to New Brunswick genealogy are:

Heritage Charlotte - this is a site that looks back on Charlotte County's history and includes links to cemeteries, censuses and more.

Marshland: Records of Life on the Tantramar - this virtual exhibition courtesy of Mount Allison University looks at life in the Tantramar area near Sackville, New Brunswick. 

New Brunswick Genealogical Society - the site for the society includes forums, families histories and their First Families Index. 

Provincial Archives of New Brunswick - this fantastic resource includes land records, vital records, newspaper statistics and much more. This is my first stop when researching families from New Brunswick. The newspaper index is especially wonderful.

Other pertinent sites include Ruby Cusack's, which has some hidden gems buried within if you take the time to dig.

You can also find all of these websites linked on my Genealogy Resources page for New Brunswick.

I'm always looking for more resources, especially for New Brunswick. Please share your favorites in the comments!

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Adoption Resources for New England

New England Genealogy: Adoption Resources for New England
In 2009 and 2012, I wrote about one of my distant cousins, Mary Haley, who disappeared from records after 1871. I learned that she was adopted and after stumbling upon her name change, was able to locate her marriage record and trace her at least until 1930.

While I located this information thanks to a Google search, finding name changes and adoptions doesn't always come so easily. If you have a family member who disappears at a young age and for whom you can't find a death record, a name change or adoption might be your answer. But where to begin?

After exhausting your search of census records, you might try:

1. Google

That ended up being the last step in my search for Mary Haley, but considering the power of the search engine it is well worth making it an early step. In my 2012 post, I shared that I found this resource, which is how I learned about Mary Haley's name change:

"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.

So try a Google search and see if you get a hit with the answer.

2. Town Reports

If you know both of a child's parents died when the child was young, try checking the town reports, as they often have interesting information about what became of the children. This includes pauper accounts, warnings out, coroner's inquests, and much more. You might find some useful nuggets about changes in families.

3. State Archives

Some state archives have adoption records available, but how open they are will depend upon state regulations. Some states have published reports of adoptions that are more than 100 years old, with more recent information restricted to specific parties. Adoptions could have fallen under probate records as well. State archives should be able to tell you where to find them for that specific state.

4. Birth, Marriage, Death & Probate Records

Even if someone was adopted and their name was changed, their biological parents' names might be listed on their marriage or death record. This is probably more likely if the person was older when the adoption or name change occurred.

As for a birth record, the original birth might exist and give the person's original name before adoption. For example, my uncle's grandmother was born Mary Caufield and her parents were both listed on her birth record, available from the town where she was born in New York. But she was adopted by people I believe were her uncle and aunt, Job Jenney and Anna Cassidy. So while her original birth record has her birth name and birth parents, she appears in the 1900 and 1910 censuses as Mary Jenney.

Adoptions and name changes were generally handled in probate court, so check probate indexes for the time period, as well.

5. Naming Clues

Sometimes a child's birth name is in their adopted name. In the case of Mary Caufield, her adoptive parents retained Caufield (sometimes incorrectly indexed as Carfield) as her middle name.

Adoptions can be tricky, but there are more records and clues than we might realize if we dig.

I'd love to know your experience with researching adoptions and what records you found that helped you along the way.

New England Genealogy: Adoption Resources for New England

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, April 30, 2017

5 Reasons to Attend Your Local Genealogy Conference

5 Reasons to Attend Your Local Genealogy Conference
Rootstech! NGS! FGS!

We've all heard of the big conferences and how wonderful they are for genealogists, but what about your local genealogical society conferences? If you haven't attended one yet, you might be surprised at what they have to offer.

1. Small vs. large

I love large events. I attend a particular fandom convention that is going on 6000+ attendees a year! But the sights, shows, and panels can get overwhelming. Getting through almost 10 rooms designated as the "Artist's Alley" and "Dealer's Den" is like navigating a maze. Sometimes there is too much going on and I just can't do everything I want to do, or decide which panel out of the twenty available all at the same time I would rather attend.

A smaller event might be more comfortable for you for a number of reasons. First, if you don't like large crowds, it could be less daunting.

Second, you're less likely to run into the "Five sessions that I want to attend all being held at the same time" dilemma.

But what if there are two sessions you would like to attend that are scheduled for the same time slot? If you choose one, odds are you have a better chance of getting some one-on-one discussion time with the person who led the other one, since you have less people to contend with. So maybe you can get any handouts or educational material from the session you did not have the opportunity to attend, or ask for any particular tips they shared in their presentation. Presenters are more accessible in a smaller conference setting.

The syllabus might also be more detailed than you expect and cover the topics within a session you don't attend, if you're stuck choosing between two at the same time.

2. Locally-focused sessions

The Nebraska State Genealogical Society's annual conference was last weekend and naturally the main focus of the conference was Nebraska genealogy. If you live elsewhere in the United States, but have ancestors from a particular area, "going home" to that state for their local genealogical society's conference may be more valuable to your research interests than larger conferences with broad appeal.

Topics will mostly likely focus on how to use certain local resources, as well as larger Federal resources pertinent to the state or geographical area. So if you need to pick and choose which conferences to attend, take a closer look at those local to where your ancestors lived. You might find it's both a better value and more focused content.

3. But the broad appeal is there too...

I am a New Englander who just happens to live in Nebraska. I have no North American ancestry outside of the New England states, North Carolina, Virginia, or Nova Scotia.

However, the Nebraska State Genealogical Society conference was still valuable to me because they offered broader topics on researching genealogy in general, learning how to find records for certain ethnicities, and using DNA as a research tool.

4. Additional benefits

Lunch was included both days of the Nebraska State Genealogical Society Conference. There were vendors, but not so many that it was overwhelming. The opportunity to win door prizes and raffles was also an unexpected and fun surprise.

I also met probable cousins with shared New England ancestry because the whole reason to attend a conference is to not just learn, but network. In fact, it was easier to meet those people, because I already knew from the syllabus who had New England connections and it was easy to track those people down just to introduce myself to them.

So even without having Nebraska roots, I learned a lot, met great people, and had a fantastic time.

And if, like me, you don't live near home/where your ancestors settled in America, then visiting a conference back in that locality could also turn into a research trip.

5. Inspiration

Reading blogs, watching webinars and livestreams of larger conferences, and more is great.

But there is something invigorating about being in a room full of people who are there with a shared interest and purpose. Even if you are hearing a speaker present something you thought you knew enough about, a new perspective can often get the wheels turning in your mind and help you see things in a new light.

Now that I'm home and full of fresh ideas from my local genealogy conference, I'm ready to delve back into the syllabus and the notes I took from the conference, and put some new ideas into practice.

New England Genealogy: 5 Reasons to Attend Your Local Genealogy Conference

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

5 Ways to Make Connections With DNA Matches

National DNA Day - #DNADay17
Happy National DNA Day!

I've been fascinated with DNA since the first tests were available to the general public. Back in 2006 I had my mtDNA (Haplogroup H for me) tested by Family Tree DNA. It was my first foray into using DNA for genealogical purposes. 

In the years that followed, I had my ex-husband tested with both his mtDNA (Haplogroup A, to our surprise) and Y-DNA (in hopes of finding his surname's origins). Then I added the Family Finder test to widen my results to autosomal DNA in 2013, excited to try it. Finally, I added the Family Finder to my ex-husband's testing just last week.

Of course, I am excited for the results. But there is one thing I have yet to really delve into with my own Family Finder matches.

How do I make connections with my DNA matches?

There are a few ways.

1. Filter your matches

  • Match Date - probably not very useful in making connections, but nice to know
  • Relationship Range - an estimate about how you are related, i.e. "2nd - 4th cousin"
  • Shared centiMorgans - the sum of autosomal DNA, measured in centiMorgans (cM), that you and yoru genetic match share
  • Longest Block - the longest segment of autosomal DNA, in centiMorgans (cM), shared by you and your genetic match
  • X-Match - displayed only if you and your genetic relative match on the X chromosome

With Family Tree DNA, you can filter the Family Finder/autosomal matches in a variety of ways, including by:
In your matches view, you can also see whether or not you've linked someone to your tree yet and the surnames listed on their profile.

So what does all of this mean? I'm going to simplify the heck out of it.

Relationship Range can be a good way to narrow down how you are connected to a particular match, but don't take it at face value. The one person I have been able to connect with and link to my family tree was listed as a "2nd cousin - 4th cousin." Together we proved we are 3rd cousins, 3 times removed. So keep in mind it's not a precise guess and best used as a loose guideline in figuring out the connection.

Shared centiMorgans and the longest block let you know just how much DNA you share with a person. Because the way DNA is handed down (randomly!) this, again, won't necessarily help you determine a shared ancestor, but it can give you an idea of how closely related you are.

My strongest match in this regard shows that we share 77 cMs and the longest block is 40. She is also an X-Match with me (more on that in a moment). Unfortunately, she has not shared surnames or a family tree, so I need to reach out to her and see if I can make contact to determine a relationship.

X-Match is about whether or not you share an X chromosome handed down by a female ancestor, but this doesn't mean you share an easy-to-figure-out maternal relationship. This post explains how to use the X-Match, but I find so many DNA posts are full of hard-to-understand lingo, that my eyes glaze over. Suffice it to say, understanding how an X-Match figures into your family tree will, like the shared centiMorgans, require some digging your part.

2. Chart your matches

Looking directly on the website can be a little frustrating, so try the option to download your matches into an Excel spreadsheet. It might make it easier to work from the spreadsheet side-by-side with your email or family tree, and to come up with your own system for notating who you've contacted, matches you've made an ancestral connection with, etc. I always like to note the date I emailed a person and any responses.

3. Enhance your charting when you make a connection

There are several templates out there such as this one that allow you to enter DNA information, so you can have a way to see those genetic connections visually.

4. Check every match out, person by person, and start emailing

This is best if you're delving into Y-DNA matches or autosomal/Family Finder matches. I don't recommend it for mtDNA matches. As we all know, mtDNA is "deeper" and any matches probably go back more generations than you can count.

Don't be discouraged if people don't email you back. It's like reaching out to the point-of-contact on many online family trees. Most won't write back. But some will, so it is worth trying, documenting your attempts to make contact and charting those you are able to identify on your family tree.

5. Make sure YOU are easy to find

If you have taken a DNA test, attach your family tree to it. You don't necessarily have to import an entire GEDCOM, but taking the time to enter at least 5 or more generations and basic information on ancestors makes it easier for matches to locate you.

Add several generations of surnames to your profile. Yes, this takes time, but usually the whole point of DNA testing is to see if there is some fantastic mystery relative who shares your genes and might hold some kind of special key to family secrets. So it's worth the time to maximize your profile for discoverability.

5 Ways to Make Connections With DNA Matches

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Review of Legacy Family Tree Software, Version 9

I've been using Legacy since the Best Buy in Dover, Delaware opened. I discovered Legacy Family Tree by accident when I was browsing the software in the store back in 2002 or 2003.

Prior to that, I used Generations and then Family Tree Maker. I wasn't keen on either of them, but they got the job done. So when I saw a 2-pack with Legacy 4.0 and scrapbooking software for far less than half the cost of updating my Family Tree Maker, I figured I would give it a try.

Ever since, I've been a big fan of Legacy. I stayed with 4.0 for a while, then went to 7.5, and now I've upgraded to 9.0 thanks to the features Randy Seaver listed in his post.

Since it was an upgrade, I got to pay the lower upgrade price. I also used the 15% off code offered by Thomas MacEntee.

Now, on to the software!

First, I like the family view better. It looks tidier to me. But this is my favorite part of that view:

Review of Legacy Family Tree Software, Version 9

How cool is that? Half-siblings and their other parent's name are listed right there! It's much easier to navigate to them now. It also has more room for siblings, so if you have more than 12 siblings, you don't have to scroll down to see them.

Second, how well does the Find-A-Grave integration work? Pretty darn well when I test it on someone I know has a Find-A-Grave listing. So I tried it someone I've never searched on Find-A-Grave, like Rhoda (Delano) Winsor:

Review of Legacy Family Tree Software, Version 9

I just clicked the Find-A-Grave button and voila!

Review of Legacy Family Tree Software, Version 9

So what about some of the other features listed in the upgrade? I was most interested in the Hinting, so I checked it out.

There's nothing explicitly listed as "Hinting" on the toolbars, Fortunately, Randy Seaver deconstructs how to turn on tips in this post at GeneaMusings. I checked and hinting was already enabled for MyHeritage. You can also add hinting for FamilySearch (requires your login), FindMyPast and GenealogyBank.

It took Legacy about 12 to 24 hours to generate hints for me, but when I opened the program the next day, there they were - a little orange circle with a number in it:

Review of Legacy Family Tree Software, Version 9

Just click the circle and a pop-up shows you where the hints were generated from:

Review of Legacy Family Tree Software, Version 9

Then you can click the blue box to be taken to the site and see the results. I found that the hints didn't improve anything for me thus far, but I'm glad to see these sites integrated with Legacy. You just never know what someone might put out there that you will miss. Legacy can pretty much search for relevant hits for you even as you sleep!

Those are just a few of the new features in Legacy 9.0. As always, Legacy continues to offer powerful software that doesn't break the bank. I'm sure I haven't even delved into all that it is capable of, but I hope to in the near future.

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan