Friday, August 11, 2017

A 245 Centimorgan Mystery: DNA Triangulation At Work

With my recent excitement over DNA discoveries (welcome to the family, new first cousin!), I've spent the past week or so sending my newest cousin photographs, family health information, and family history. I have more to send - how can one even explain all of this in mere weeks? But I want to give her space to process everything.

So as she's working on learning more about her newly-discovered biological family, I am turning my attention to the shared match I mentioned in my post about my new cousin.

As I said at the end of that post, this 245 cM match also matches my new cousin. My new cousin only matches me through a very specific line, which means my mystery match can only share one of two sets of great-great grandparents with me:

Edward Henry Blake and Ada Estella Gay

or

Erastus Bartlett Shaw and Emma Anna Murphy

I know this thanks to triangulating with my new first cousin match. My first cousin only shares my paternal grandmother, not my paternal grandfather. Why? Because my paternal grandmother had two marriages. She had two children from her first marriage (my oldest uncle and my aunt) and two children from her second marriage (my second uncle and my father). My new first cousin descends from my oldest uncle.

So since my 245 cM mystery match shares my first cousin as a match, I know it must be through an ancestor of our grandmother, Barbara Estella Shaw.

With a match of 245 cM, I know we're in the second cousin range. I've been in touch with this match and based on her age (she was born in 1947; I was born in 1974), I'd say we're looking at a once removed relationship in there.

It will help immensely when my father finally sends in his DNA test, but considering the closeness of the match, this would put her in first cousin territory with my dad. Maybe a first cousin, once removed.

That helps put this in perspective, but it's interesting to note that my grandmother only had 4 siblings and I'm only aware of 2 of them having children. I'm not saying there can't be surprises there, but that would mean this woman is (quite possibly) adopted and not aware of it.

So you can see it's rather tricky territory, as Judy Russell recently noted. (As a side note, I'm thrilled that Judy Russell is speaking at the Nebraska State Genealogical Society conference next year. Oh yes, I will be there!)

Since I'm not ready to pursue that idea just yet, the first thing I'm doing is backing up to my father's grandparents. This brings me to Harrison Clifford Shaw and Nina Gertrude Blake. I'm exploring the possibility that somewhere in my family is a mis-attributed parentage.

However, all I can do at this point is speculate. I am considering the mirror tree concept, but I do feel certain there's a mis-attributed parentage somewhere among our trees. Whether hers or mine, I won't know until I dig further.



Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, August 6, 2017

My Shaw Ancestors in Middleborough, Massachusetts

I love the town of Middleborough. Because I grew up in Bridgewater, I got to visit Middleborough very often as a child and young adult. That included going to the Middleborough Fair every year with my dad and sister and I have very fond memories of it.

My paternal grandmother was a Shaw, so she and her ancestors spent most of their lives in Middleborough and Carver. Here was see Grandma as a high school graduate:

Barbara Estella Shaw


My grandmother was the only surviving daughter of her family, so her parents doted on her. She also had three brothers who survived. Her twin died when he was only three.

Her father, Harrison Clifford Shaw, and grandfather, Erastus Bartlett Shaw, had a poultry and egg business:

Shaw Poultry Trucks


As I mentioned, Harrison and his wife, Nina, had seven children, including my grandmother. I believe this could be their first child, Herbert, pictured here:

Harrison Clifford Shaw and Nina Gertrude Blake

Harrison's father, Erastus, was a farmer. His obituary even referred to him as "the last of the old farmers."

Erastus was the son of Harrison Shaw and Adeline Bent. Unfortunately, I don't have photos any of them - just their death notices and relevant genealogical records. So I don't know much about their lives. Erastus was born in Carver, but spent his life in Middleborough.

Unfortunately, Erastus's parents died when he was quite young. Plymouth County Probate Court records show that his brother-in-law, Ebenezer A. Shaw, petitioned for guardianship. Erastus was then reared by his brother-in-law, Ebenezer, and sister, Sarah.

I can't imagine what losing his parents at a young age must have done to him, but it's good that he had older siblings willing to care for him. Erastus went on to be a success in his life with his business. He had two marriages - the first to Lucy Cora Maria Philips and the second to Emma Anna Murphy, my mysterious great-great grandmother.

With Lucy, Erastus had two daughters, one of whom survived to adulthood. With Emma, he had only my great-grandfather, Harrison Clifford Shaw.

I treasure the photos I have of the family and really wish I could find some of Erastus and Emma. Several of my Shaw cousins still live in Carver, Middleborough, and surrounding areas. I think the last time I saw them was 2006 or so. I guess I need to get home for a visit next year!





Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

And DNA Makes Six...

Or "In Which Wendy Receives a Most Unexpected DNA Match"


Once upon a time, there were five of us - Andy, Bryan, myself, April, and - five years later - Danielle:


And DNA Makes Six...
Bryan, Wendy (me), Andy & April

Five first cousins who got together for summer breaks and the occasional Christmas. 

And then DNA changed our world.

Initially, I took my DNA tests in hopes of breaking down a specific brick wall. I won't repeat Emma Anna Murphy's mystery here, as I've already shared it often. But she is my great-great grandmother, the one I've chased for almost 25 years.

Emma had only one child that we know of: my great-grandfather, Harrison Clifford Shaw, born 9 May 1889 in Middleborough, Massachusetts. Harrison married Nina Gertrude Blake on 28 January 1912 in Middleborough. Together they had 7 children, 4 of whom survived to adulthood:


1. Herbert Clifford Shaw (1912-1982) - no children

2. Inez Adelaide Shaw (1915-1915)

3. Alice M. Shaw (1916-1916)

4. Robert Henry Shaw (1918-1979) - three children

5. Kenneth Linwood Shaw (1921-2006) - three children

6. Barbara Estella Shaw (twin; 1923-2006) - four children

7. Laurence Bartlett Shaw (twin; 1923-1927)

Of course we know all of our first cousins, right? Most of us grow up around them. We certainly thought we knew ours, anyway. Just the five of us...

My grandmother Barbara was married twice and had four children. With her first husband, Dean Burleigh Jennings, she had:

1. Jon Bartlett Jennings (1945-1983) - no children

2. A daughter - mother of Andy, Bryan and Danielle

With her second husband, Vincent Allen Wood, she had:

3. Lawrence Allen Wood (1951-2001) - no children

4. A son - father of me and my sister

What came to me via DNA testing did not turn out to be a connection to an ancestor, but to the present.


A Surprising New Match


As of this week, I had been able to work every single close DNA match, except for one. I knew she didn't match my mother or any of my maternal relatives who tested, so I could narrow her down to a paternal relative. But our paper trails do not meet. So I set aside the mystery of the woman with whom I share 245 centimorgans on 15 segments for a while.


On Monday, I noticed eight new matches. My immediate assumption was that they would fall into the 4th cousin-to-distant range, but you never know. I skimmed over my first page of results, not expecting to see a fresh face.

But there she was - a fresh face we will call K.


Ancestry predicted a first cousin relationship based on 395 centimorgans shared over 19 segments.
My maternal first cousins match me at 904 and 759 centimorgans respectively, so I figured this was a second cousin match or a first cousin to one of my grandparents. But my Nana's (maternal grandmother) first cousins match me at 215 and 190 centimorgans each. Interesting.


First, I checked our shared matches and saw that she was not a maternal relative. Great. That narrowed things down, but also made it more difficult, because I had only one confirmed paternal relative to check her against. And she did not match him, which seemed to rule out the Wood side of my family.

But, interestingly enough, she was a match to my other close mystery match.


Hmm... Okay, then. I looked at her family tree, wondering if any of the five names she had listed in it were familiar.


"Interesting," I told myself. "Her father has the same name as my uncle. She must be a Wood after all."


My latest speculation about my other mystery match revolved around my paternal great-great grandparents on the Wood side, so it made sense. However, she doesn't match my known Wood DNA match either.


Naturally, I sent this new match - K - a message with the names of my grandparents and all four of my paternal great-grandparents - Wood, Wood (no, that's not a typo), Shaw, and Blake. I told her where they were from and asked if the names rang a bell.

Her response came swiftly:



I was born in 1969 to Jon Bartlett Wood "Woody" from Middleboro, MA. I know he went to BU and was in the Coast Guard and had 2 brothers and 1 sister. 
I was given up for adoption two months after my birth because my biological parents did not want to get married.
I was able to track down my biological mother, but because my biological father died in his early 20's I couldn't find much about his family.
Does that name sound familiar to you?

If you've ever had an experience like this, you can imagine how I felt as I tried to respond.


Uncle Jon? A daughter? My beloved uncle, whose untimely death when his ship - the SS Marine Electric - sank in 1983... Whose death shook us all... He had a daughter? A part of him still living in this world?


I probably came across as a crazy lady in my response to K:



OH MY GOD.

You're Uncle Jon's daughter? HE HAD KIDS? OH MY GOD. SERIOUSLY.

K... Oh, we should talk on the phone! My number is xxx-xxx-xxxx. I can tell you all about my Uncle Jon!

Yes, the dreaded all-caps. But I was absolutely shaking. I had to know how this was possible.


For a few minutes, I paced back and forth and cried tears of joy.


I was always open to this sort of surprise, as well as the possibility of a mis-attributed parentage somewhere in the past or present. Always open to unexpected babies and Maury-style "he was NOT the father" discoveries.


Open, but not prepared for the tidal wave of shock and joy to know there was someone totally unexpected out there. A close relative none of us had ever known about.


The phone rang and in a rush of joy and excitement, K and I exchanged our stories, punctuated by "oh my god" every so often.


This woman, only 5 years older than me, was my first cousin. There was no doubt about it.


After that, I enlisted my sister's help. First we had to inform our dad and our aunt. This was their dearly departed brother's child, after all. Then we had to give K a chance to see the father she had never known.


Emails flew back and forth as I provided most of the genealogical information and what few photos I had.


At the close of every email, I told K if she needed space, we would give her space. And if she wanted to know more, we would give her more. We were excited, but we weren't about to push an insta-family on her. I wanted to respect her journey as an adoptee discovering her biological father's family.


Likewise, she has shown the utmost respect for us as a family unit who always knew a very specific set of people. 


Fortunately, and as I predicted to K, the responses of our family were completely positive. My father told my sister he is not surprised - he always thought Uncle Jon had a child out there somewhere. My uncle (speaking for my aunt, as she has been dealing with health issues) affirmed that this is very exciting and said, "We embrace her." He said it was only a pity we didn't know sooner.


I spent Monday in a haze of joy. My arms wouldn't stop tingling. I don't know how I managed to write those initial emails. I didn't fall asleep until close to 2 a.m.

But it was so worth it.


Being genealogists, we often want to help others find information. I always hoped that someday I could help an adoptee along their journey, because I know what it's like not to grow up with at least one parent.

I just never thought that adoptee would turn out to be someone so closely related to me.


Once upon a time, there were the five of us - Andy, Bryan, myself, April, and Danielle.


But now there are six.



PostScript

Remember the mystery match who shares 245 centimorgans with me - the one I just can't connect to using a paper trail?

Because of K, I can rule out my dad's paternal ancestry which, interestingly enough, brings my focus on that match to only two likely sets of shared great-great grandparents: 


Edward Blake and Ada Gay or 

Erastus Shaw and - I bet you guessed it - Emma Murphy


I think it's safe to say that this story is To be continued...





Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Are We or Aren't We Haleys?

One of the first names that really fascinated me as an adolescent beginning my genealogy journey was Haley. I didn't know why, but the surname just intrigued me. Maybe because it was my mother's side of the family and I didn't really know much about it.

As I researched, I learned that we were descended from Edward Marshall Haley. Edward was born in Ireland, though we do not know the town/parish or county of origin. He emigrated to Plymouth, Massachusetts sometime before 1830 and married Clarissa Barrett there on 5 February 1830. Between 1831 and 1851, they had 12 children, 10 of whom lived to adulthood.

Two sons were lost in the Civil War, one daughter died as a young adult, and another son died in middle age after the hardships he suffered during the war.

My family descends from the youngest son, Benjamin, and his first wife, Emma Jane Bonney.

Or do we?

There is a potential question of paternity with regard to my Grandpa Haley. We already know his mother, Mildred Marian Burrell, had 7 children by at least 3 other men. From what we understand, they are:

Unknown father

1. Joseph (1919), given the surname of St. Onge

Joseph William St. Onge, married 1920

2. Mary (1920)
3. Gertrude (1921)
4. William (1924)
5. Frank (1925)

Herbert Benjamin Haley (1896-1963)
Herbert Benjamin Haley (1896-1963)
Herbert Benjamin Haley, marriage date unknown

6. Herbert (1926), Joseph St. Onge appears as his father on the birth certificate
7. Lorraine (1927)

Joseph left the family in 1925 and Herbert, as I understand it from another grandchild, came in and saved the day. He did many wonderful things for Mildred (aka Millie) and the children. But it was still a very, very rough childhood for Mildred's children.

My mother's brother submitted a Y-DNA test to Family Tree DNA several years ago, which included joining the Healy/Haley DNA project. However, we don't know of any other descendants of Edward Marshall Haley who have had their Y-DNA or atDNA tested.

I would love to say it's "safe" to assume Herbert is the father of my grandfather, but it's rarely safe to assume anything in genealogy. In this case, until a Y-DNA or atDNA match comes along that proves a connection, we remain tentative Haleys.




Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Thursday, July 20, 2017

My Genealogy Toolbox

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

This page is broken down into the following categories:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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







Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Friday, July 14, 2017

Working Through Ancestry DNA Matches

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

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

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

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

The Hint Leaf



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

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

No Tree & The Privacy Lock






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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

A Photo of a Probable Great-Great Grandmother

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blake Family July 4th Picnic - New England Genealogy | Wendy L. Callahan
From left to right: Pa Vaughan, Ma Vaughan, Ada Blake, Edward Blake; sitting in grass: Nina Blake, Sylvanus Vaughan; probably circa 1896 (Nina was born 1891, so she would be 5 here) because Sylvanus Vaughan, Sr. died in June of 1897. Oddly enough, Sylvanus, Jr. and Nina married half-siblings (both Shaws) and thus became sister-and-brother-in-law.

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

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



Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, July 2, 2017

A Health Family Tree

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

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

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

"A Health Family Tree" - New England Genealogy


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

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

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

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

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

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





Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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


Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

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

Irish

Scottish

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!


A BEGINNER'S BRIEF GUIDE TO USING DNA FOR GENEALOGY




Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan