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



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 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:
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