Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Genealogy Blog Party - Thankful

The theme for the Genealogy Blog Party this month is thankful. The genealogy resource I'm thankful for today is mailing lists. One of the things I love most about the genealogy community is how much we help each other out, how often random strangers will come upon a request for help, drop what they're doing, and jump in with both feet to help someone find the answers and info they're looking for. I see this all the time in the mailing lists I've been on. Here are some examples.

The DNA-Newbie mailing list is where I turned for help when I first got into genetic genealogy five years ago. I met awesome people like CeCe Moore who answered my questions, pointed me to books and other resources, and helped me understand what I was looking at with all these test results.

The Alsace-Lorraine mailing list helped me find one of the most amazing websites out there, with literally hundreds of years of documents of my German/French ancestors from this part of Europe. Below are some of the ancestors I was able to find with these records.


The German Bohemia mailing list has some of the nicest, most helpful people on the planet. They answered my questions, dug into social and political history to explain obscure words, and helped me decipher the difficult German script, an example of which is below.
 
 
The Quebec genealogy mailing list helped me identify where in Quebec my French-Canadians were from, and helped me learn to navigate the French-Canadian records on Ancestry and other sites. Their help was crucial in solving a DNA problem I had with my French-Canadian ancestors, and finding the info would have taken much, much more time without their help.
 
The German-Volhynia-Poland mailing list helped me find records of my Germans in Russia, which led to one of the biggest brick wall busts in my genealogy career so far. I never would have guessed to look in church records written in Polish, kept by the Russian government, to look for my German ancestors without their expertise.
 
 
I'm sure there are others, but those are the ones that come to mind right away. I am a firm believer in the power of mailing lists, so if you are stuck on a line or an ancestor, find a mailing list that covers your topic. There may be someone with the answers you need just waiting to help! 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Family History Month - post 20

A few years ago, I came across a site that had a series of pictures where families would try to recreate an old family photo. They were hilarious - photos of dads with babies on their lap became grandpas with their grown children sitting on them, grown men playing with rattles and binkies, etc. I wanted to try that with my siblings, and make a humorous gift for my mom for mother's day a few years ago.

First, the original photo:


It's a cute picture, taken over 30 years ago. For reference, I'm the buck-toothed boy on the top left. Now my sibs live a ways away, my sister in Seattle (not too far, only 30 miles) and my brother in Iowa while going through med school. But they were able to recreate their photos and send them to me, which led to the creation of this masterpiece:

 
 
When mom saw this picture, she laughed louder and longer than I have ever heard her laugh. It was so absolutely awesome. Hands down, this is in the top 3 of the best ideas I've ever had. 

Family History Month - post 19

This picture is from a few years ago. it was taken at my aunt's house while a bunch of us were gathered together for something (I can't recall what exactly).  The cool thing about this picture is these kids are all from the next generation of my family - my kids and my cousins' kids. I don't get to see my cousins often, so it's fun to see how our kids all play together when we do have a mini-reunion. 
 
 


I hope we can find ways to help them all keep in touch as they grow up.


Family History Month - post 18

My 18th post for Family History Month should have been made on the 18th, but as you've noticed, I'm running a little behind. October 18th is my son Levi's birthday. He would have been one year old last Wednesday.


So much has changed in the year since he was born. We got to experience the craziness of trying to do things with four little kids, carrying diaper bags for two kids in diapers, creating Halloween costumes for six people, all of it. And we loved it. Every minute of it.


That sweet little boy made everyone happier just by virtue of being there. No matter how tired or grumpy I was when he needed feeding or changing at 2am, when I saw his little face, all of that just melted away, and I was ready to do anything for that little boy.

 
 
At his funeral, I remember having this sense of peace, and comfort, and actually a feeling joy at being able to do something to commemorate my little boy, and being amazed at how many people there were. I loved having my family there, especially since Lisa's sister and mom flew in, as did my brother and his whole family. It was a feeling of love and togetherness that we sorely needed, and just reveled in while they were all there.
 
 
Since then, the outpouring of love and help and comfort we received was overwhelming. Friends, family, coworkers, and complete strangers stepped in to carry us through those days and weeks. It was very humbling to be the recipient of so much love and attention.

I can honestly say that in many ways I'm a different person than I was a year ago. My priorities have shifted, I cut out a lot of stuff in my life that wasn't making me happy, or helping me become who I wanted to be. The grief I felt is still there, but it's morphed into something different - I still miss my son more than I can say, but I have a deeper assurance that death is not the end of life, that there is more to come and I will be reunited with Levi again.

This experience has also shown me something I never expected to see - the unrelenting goodness in so many people. The people that still reach out, that leave small expressions or tokens of understanding and sympathy, that lend a hand to others despite their own heart-wrenching sorrows. This kind of stuff doesn't make into the news, but it should, because it just builds your soul to see and experience that kind of love from other people. Just knowing that there are so many good people out there is hugely comforting.


It has been amazing to see the impact of Levi's life in my life, the lives of my family, friends, the kind souls at the Tears Foundation, and many others. Even more amazing is that the ripples are still continuing - people are still reaching out, blessing others, helping others, because of him. If one little boy, who lived a total of 66 days, can have that kind of impact, imagine what all of us could do, all the lives we could touch and help and lift. I think I can make that my gift to Levi - taking what I felt when I was around him, and helping others feel it.

Family History Month - post 17

I posted earlier that I had two pictures of my 5th-great-grandfather, Lewis Parks Shute. I found that I actually have three. However, I think two of them are duplicates. The more I look at them, the more I think they are the same picture. The top one has actually been flipped horizontally, for easier comparison.
 
I've always wondered, did he do his hair that way on purpose, or was he making the best of what he had left?
 
 


Family History Month - post 16

On July 30, 2011, my cousin Jimmy Pushard passed away at his home. It was sudden and unexpected, especially since I had been chatting with him on Facebook just a few days before. I was shocked and saddened, as Jimmy was such a wonderful guy, so nice and friendly, always smiling. He'd even emailed me not long before he passed away, and asked me to do some family history research on his Pushard ancestors. It was the first time an extended family member (not a parent or grandparent) had ever asked me to look into their family history, and it was really neat to be able to find info for him and share it with him.


 
 
He loved being outdoors, and while most guys build their "mancave" in a basement or garage, his was an actual cave. His wife Danyl passed away back in the 90s, and their son is now married and raising the cutest little boy. I have no doubt Jimmy would be proud of his son and the family he is raising, and would have been the best grandpa to his grandson.
 
It's hard to believe it's been six years, it still feels like it was more recent than that. Of the more than 20 first cousins I have, Randi, Arianne, and Jimmy are the only ones that have passed away. I haven't lost any aunts, though I have lost one uncle, two grandparents and two great-grandparents. But to have lived almost 40 years, I'd say I've gotten off lucky that my losses only go that far.

Family History Month - post 15

This post is a special one, dedicated to two cousins of mine, two of a set of triplets, that I never got to meet. Their names are Randi Katherine Gibson, and Arianne Rose Gibson. They were born July 10, 1977 in Vancouver, Washington. Randi passed away the following day, and Arianne two days after her sister. I've known of them for many years, but today I went to see if I could find records of their brief lives. I found death records for both of them in Washington state, but also in Oregon state, which surprised me. I guess because Vancouver is so close to the Washington/Oregon border, it was recorded in both states. The records below are from the Oregon indexes.

 
 
Having lost a child myself, I can't imagine the pain of losing two little ones so soon after their birth. Luckily the third daughter survived to adulthood, as did the daughter who followed her. But I wanted to be sure that my cousins Randi and Arianne are not forgotten, and are remebered along with the other relatives that are waiting for us on the other side. Like someone said, history remembers the famous, genealogy remembers everyone. 

Family History Month - post 14

This is a picture of my grandpa's aunt Olga Joseph and her first husband, Gustav Haft. Gus, as he went by, was from the same area of Volhynia that Olga and her family were from, though they married in Canada before moving to the US. My grandpa says he could speak 7 languages, and was a really friendly guy. He could also play the fiddle like you couldn't believe, and would have parties in their home where they would roll up the carpet and dance until very late. Gus died in 1949, and Olga remarried to a guy named Mike McKeown (who also lost a spouse), but he died just shy of three years later.
 
 

Family History Month - post 13



This post is of one of two pictures I have of my 5th-great-grandfather, Lewis Parks Shute. This one is of him and his second wife, Lucinda Foote. They were married in 1856, and he died in 1869, so the picture would've been taken sometime in between those years. He is the ancestor furthest back in generations that I have any pictures of. For most of my other lines, if I have a photo of my 3rd-great-grandparents, I consider it lucky. So having a picture of someone born in 1811, I think is just amazing.
 
 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Family History Month - post 12

I thought for this post, I would post something a bit more unusual.


This isn't a photo of an ancestor, or their headstone, or a house they lived, or even the city they lived in. It's the A on the mountainside next to Anaconda, Montana as seen from the Mount Carmel Cemetery. You can see the A from the highway, but I thought the view from the cemetery gave a different perspective on it. Several of my ancestors are buried in that cemetery, including my great-grandmother Augusta (Joseph) (Staffan) Gibson, her father Samuel Joseph, Sam's son Elmer. I went to this cemetery during a family vacation to Montana back in 2009, and I brought my son with me, though he was just 3 at the time. The cemetery is actually really high up on a hill, and there are a few places where it drops pretty steeply. I remember having a very tight grip on my son's hand as we walked through the cemetery locating the graves of my family.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Family History Month - post 11

This census record is from the 1851 Canadian census. It's the earliest record I have so far of my 4th-great-grandfather, George D. McDonald. He's the one who died on December 23rd, that I wrote about a couple months ago. I've always thought it interesting that his surname is McDonald, yet he was apparently from England. I would love to track down a male-line descendant and have them take a Y-DNA test.


He and his wife Jane (nee Dobson) were both from England, but I think they married in Ontario, Canada. Need to find a marriage record to prove it though.

Family History Month - post 10

For this post, I wanted to throw it back a few centuries. This is the baptism record of my 7th-great-grandfather, Johannes Andersen Flantzaas. He was baptized on 14 November 1728 in Evanger, Voss parish, Hordaland, Norway. Flantzaas was the name of the farm they lived on, which was also spelled Flantsaas and Flansås.


The family moved to the Berstad farm, where Johannes' mother Marita was from, and his family stayed on that farm for the next four generations. His great-grandson, Sjur Johanneson Bergstad, moved his family to the US, and after 20-30 years, the family took on the name of the family farm as their surname - Bergstad.

Family History Month - post 9

For the ninth day of Family History Month, my bloggie gave to meeee...

A photograph of my awesomely long-named ancestor Johanna Maria Dorothea Elisabeth (Hildebrand) (Wilken) Kruger. According to the notation on the copy I received, it was taken about 1870, when Johanna would have been about 51.


She was the mother of 11 children, and outlived both of her husbands. She traveled halfway across the world and raised her family away from everything she knew growing up. I really think she was a tough lady, who endured a lot. It was her daughter, Mathilda, who had to deal with the fallout of her husband's dishonesty, and went through federal examination because of it. I think she got some of her strength from her mom.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Family History Month - post 8

For today's second post, it's another DNA-themed post. After my last one, I went to 23andMe to see what my mom and uncle's matching segments looked like. I would've gone to FTDNA, but I haven't unlocked their full results yet so that option's not available. I will unlock them all eventually, but I have other DNA projects to get done first. But back to my mom and her brother.

 

So there are three colors in the chart, representing three match levels:
Gray - no match
Purple - half-identical (meaning they share segments from one parent or the other)
Dark purple - completely identical (meaning they share segments from both parents)

I think I'm beginning to really see why siblings only share 50% of their DNA on average - the probability of sharing the exact same data from both parents all across all 23 segments is really low. My mom and her brother have a little over 3000 cM of half-identical segments, but only 1200 cM of fully identical segments. Chromosomes 18, 19, and 20 are almost all identical all the way across, but all the rest were only fully identical in bits and pieces.

Chromosomes 21, 22, and X all have no fully identical segments. With 21 and 22, that's due to the random recombination of DNA, so they could have had fully identical segments there, they just happened to not get them. With the X, they couldn't have any fully identical segments, as my mom has X DNA from both her mom and dad, while her brother only has X DNA from his mom.

So this was really interesting for me to see, and helped me see how DNA inheritance among siblings works. I've known in my head for so long how much siblings should share, but it's really eye opening to see it work in action.

Family History Month - post 7

Yesterday was absolutely nuts, so I didn't get a chance to post anything, so I'll post twice today. Today's first post is DNA-related, since I can't get enough time to work on my genetic genealogy as much as I'd like to.

I was curious to see how much DNA I shared with my maternal grandmother, in terms of what chromosomes and how much of each. I posted the percentages before, that I calculated using the free tool from Legacy Tree Genealogists. But now that I've uploaded my results to FTDNA, I wanted to do some further comparisons.


A few things surprised me. First, my grandma and I share no DNA on chromosome 3 at all. I thought I would share DNA on every chromosome with someone so closely related, but no. That means that anyone that matches my mom and I on chromosome 3 has to be related through my mom's dad's side. Very interesting.

Chromosomes 6, 13, 15, 18, and 21 are almost entirely from my grandma. I guess this was surprising as I didn't expect to have so many chromosomes entirely match. If anything, I expected more of a match on the X chromosome, but most of my X comes from my maternal grandpa. It'd be interesting to test my daughter (the only one of my kids to get an X from me) and see how she compares.

The most surprising thing is all of this orange represents only about 25% of my DNA. Now that I think of it, it really represents about 50% of my chromosomes, but only the ones I got from my mom. Maybe I'll compare my mom and my uncle and see what they look like.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Family History Month - post 6 - Carol Poole

I learned today that my maternal grandma's cousin Carol Poole passed away yesterday. Carol was the daughter of Elsie Craddock, one of my great-grandma Edna's sisters. I can't recall having met Carol in person (though I may have when I was younger), but we connected on Facebook several years ago. Since then, I've chatted with her many times about our shared ancestors. She was a huge supporter of my genealogy research business, and was my first paying customer. She encouraged me over and over again when I got down on myself, or doubted my research skills. She reminded me that God gave me the talent and desire to do this, and that with His help, I would be successful at it. Now, a year and a half later, I've been blessed with the opportunity to research my own clients, as well as those found by Legacy Tree Genealogists, and helped over a dozen different families learn more about their ancestry, including helping a recent client find and connect with her birth family. I'm going to miss sharing my Craddock discoveries with her, or reading her comments about my latest blog post.
 
She loved her family, and constantly created beautiful scrapbook pages for both her kids and grandkids, as well as for extended family. I have one of her creations hanging on the wall in my library, with baby pictures of my grandpa, my dad, me, and my oldest son. Below are some of the pages she made of herself with her kids and grandkids.
 
In my mind, she really exemplified these words from Shakespeare's Hamlet:
 
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel,
 
God be with you till we meet again, Carol.
 
 




Thursday, October 5, 2017

Family History Month - post 5

Today's second post is about Jacob Beilstein, my 3rd-great-grandfather. He was born in Hessen-Darmstadt, Germany in 1851, and came over to the US as a baby (though I'm not sure who with, as his father Georg Christian Beilstein died just a few months before he was born). He was raised by his older sister and brother-in-law, Maria and John Frederick Beilstein (the parents of Bertha Beilstein, whom I've written about before). He apprenticed as a butcher to his brother-in-law, and stayed with that vocation all his life. He moved around a lot - back and forth between Nebraska, Chicago, and Pennsylvania. He married Amelia Waechter and had two daughters with her, and supposedly three sons that all died in infancy, though I've yet to find any actual record of them. He supposedly died in Pennsylvania just shortly after the 1900 census was taken, but I've yet to find his death record. For having lived a relatively short life (passing away at 49) I'm glad that I have several photos of him.



Family History Month - post 4

I thought it might happen eventually, but time got away from me yesterday and I missed my daily post. So here's the first of two posts today.


This is a picture of my 2nd-great-grandparents, Lena Beilstein and Ernie Craddock. This is the only picture I have of the two of them together, even though they were married for more than 15 years. I've written many times about how hard Lena's life was, and Ernie didn't have an easy go of it either - his divorce from Lena, remarrying and then losing his second wife in a car accident, having to put his daughters in an orphanage because he couldn't provide for them adequately. But at least, here in this one photo, the two of them look reasonably happy. Life is like that I guess - lots of hard or uneventful times, interspersed with moments of joy and happiness. Like this picture, I want to focus on the good, not ignoring the bad or pretending it doesn't exist, but not letting it define my life and outlook.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Family History Month - post 3

Today's Family History Month post is about my great-great-grandfather, Charles Frederick Wagner. He was the son of Charles Wagner and Friedericka Wendt. He was born around 1870, though I'm not exactly sure where, due to a lot of discrepancies in the records he appears or is mentioned in. I can't recall the exact source, but I learned years ago that he went by the nickname "Ding" for some reason.

Charles Frederick Wagner in 1906


He spent some time in Chicago, and ended up in Mille Lacs County, Minnesota, where he met and married Eldora Shute on 14 April 1898. Charles and Eldora's first child, a son (reportedly named Dewey) was born 6 March 1899, and passed away 9 days later on 15 March 1899. Having buried a son myself, I can only imagine the heartbreak they went through. They went on to have five more children together, a girl named Gertrude, and four boys - Charles, Howard, Ralph, and Donald (who went by Bill).

Sometime after 1910, the family moved to Snohomish County, Washington. According to my grandma Blossom (Charles's granddaughter), he would disappear for days or even weeks at a time, then come back, and then disappear again. No one apparently knew where he went during these absences. It may have been these absences that led Eldora and Charles to divorce by 1920.

I don't know much about his life after the divorce. He sent postcards to his son Charles (whom he called Charlie) with unusual messages, like:

You would make a St. Pat, if you had a girl just like me - Dad

Rem[em]ber the Sea - See
hoping to See Sea - you aga[i]n - Seen  (Dad)

He spent his later years in a nursing home until he became really sick, at which point he called Gertrude (who was living with her family in California) and went to live with her until his death on 13 November 1934.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Family History Month - post 2

Today's post is about one of my most stubborn brick wall ancestors - my 3rd-great-grandmother Orlena Hazeltine Martin. She was born in Missouri around 1855 to a father from Tennessee and a mother from Virginia. I'm still working on determining who her parents were, and I have some leads, but nothing definitive yet.  (Most online family trees have her as the daughter of Lewis Martin and Deborah Ryester/Register, but I disproved that years ago by finding the death certificate of that Orlena, who died in Tennessee under her married name, Orlena Slaughter, in 1916.)

She married James Craddock on 20 February 1875 in Dent County, Missouri. They had four kids in Missouri, then moved to Montana for reasons unknown, where they had three more, including my ancestor Ernest Craddock. Orlena died shortly after the birth of her last child in 1899, which leads me to believe it was due to complications from the birth. Her passing happened a few years before death certificates were kept, so I don't have an official death record for her. Actually, I only have two records of her existence - the marriage record, and the 1880 census shortly after.

I've been in contact with relatives who believe they have identified a half brother, her mother, and step-father. I keep getting distracted before I can fully investigate these leads, but eventually I will get there! I would love to find out more about her.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Family History Month - post 1

In honor of October being Family History Month, I've decided to do something a little crazy - I'm going to try to post something related to my family history every single day this month! The posts will likely not be very long, as some days I have very little free time.

 
 
For today's post, I'm posting a photo of my McDonald ancestors. The man in the middle is George D. McDonald, my 3rd-great-grandfather. The woman on his right is his daughter Mary Ann McDonald. I don't know who the woman on the left is, unfortunately I don't have a better copy of this picture and no one has been able to identify her. George was born in Ontario in 1857 to George D. McDonald and Jane Dobson. He married Jennett McDonald (no relation, as far as I know) around 1881, and they had six kids together. They moved to the US in 1902, and he passed away in Fairview, Montana in 1941. He worked as a farmer, and I actually got my kids to change the words to Old McDonald, so now they sing "George McDonald had a farm, EIEIO." 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

And the award for longest name goes to...

When I first got started in genealogy almost 20 years ago, I did what a lot of people did - I went to online family trees, downloaded their contents wholesale, and incorporated them into my own tree. I discovered later what a bad idea this is - people can put ANYTHING in their tree, and if you don't source it carefully, you're left with a tree full of junk with no idea where it came from. I've done a lot of pruning over the years, and cleaned up and sourced what I've found, so I feel pretty good about almost everything in my files. There's still a few things that have bothered me though.

One of those has been the name of one of my 4th-great-grandmothers. The info I downloaded into my files gave her name as Johanna Maria Dorothea Elisabeth Hildebrand. Quite a mouthful! The only problem was, I couldn't find any documentation to back up any of those names except two: Johanna Hildebrand. This is why:

1857 marriage record to 2nd husband Henry Kruger - Ann Hildebrand
1860 census - Anna Kruger
1870 census - Hanna Kruger
1875 MN census - Anna Kreger
1880 census - Johannah Kruger
1885 MN census - Anna Wilken

Wilken (originally Wilck) was the surname of her first husband, Johann Jochim Friedrich Wilck. He died shortly after they got to America, which led to her remarriage to Henry. But in all these records, she is usually known as Anna, once Hanna, and once Johanna. The other three names aren't even hinted at with a middle initial. That led me to wonder - where did those names come from? Did someone find a Maria Hildebrand, or an Elisabeth Hildebrand, and assume it was the same person? Was it family lore? Or were they complete fabrications with no basis in reality? I never deleted the names, but I never fully trusted them either.

Then earlier this week, I was rummaging through my files and found that I had the names of Johann Jochim Wilck's grandparents, Johan Wilck and Anna Dorothea Borchert, but no dates or even a location for them. That got me wondering - could I find anything on them to at least round out some details on them? So I went digging.

It only took a few minutes before I found them. Ancestry has a really good database of German Lutheran records, and I found the marriage record for Johan and Anna in Ziegendof, Mecklenburg in 1790. Pretty awesome! That record led med me to the death record of Johan and Anna's son, Jochim Friedrich Wilck in 1842. Jochim Friedrich Wilck was the father my ancestor's first husband. After finding that record, I decided to search for Johanna and Johann's marriage. And I found it!

Johann and Johanna married on 10 February 1843, just 9 months after Johann's father passed away. But the most interesting part of the record is the name of the bride:


Her name is written Jungf. Joh. Mar. Dor. Elis. Hildebrand - Jungfrau (young woman) Johanna Maria Dorothea Elisabeth Hildebrand.

My jaw just hit the floor - I could not believe it! Her name really was five names long, and all the names I had been led to believe were hers, were there, in the right order. Just to confirm it, I found the birth records for Johann and Johanna's oldest two children, and her name is spelled the same way in both.

So, I guess the lesson is sometimes grabbing all your ancestry off the internet can give you a lot of incorrect info, but sometimes, the information turns out to be spot on correct. It's still best to verify everything you have, but don't be surprised if sometimes you find exactly what you were looking for, even if it seems totally implausible.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

An Unexpected Coincidence



I was going through some more record hints from MyHeritage the other day, and saw a hint for Eliza Robinson, wife of Alexander McDonald, my 3rd-great-granduncle (he was an older brother of my 3rd-great-grandfather, George D. McDonald). I checked it out, and it was indeed a census record I didn't yet have for the family. That got me interested on what else I might be missing about Alex's family,so I started digging around for more. I found more census records, a marriage record, and a new photo of a headstone (shown above) that covers four ancestors - George McDonald, his wife Jane Dobson, their son John, and his wife Margaret or Maggie. It was a pretty productive little bit of research.

Then tonight, I was following up and pulling a few more records, when I found something unexpected. I found the death record for my 4th-great-grandfather, George D. McDonald (same name as his son), who died in 1893. That much I knew (which is how I found the record), but the date surprised me: December 23rd.



That date has special meaning to me and my family, as it's the day my son Levi passed away last year. It's purely coincidental I know, but it's just remarkable to me that George and his 5th-great-grandson Levi both passed away on the same day exactly 123 years apart. The fact that they share that date kind of makes me want to visit his grave. It's 2500 miles away give or take, so not an easy trek to make, but I'd like to make it at some point.

I've made some big discoveries in my research, but this is one of those that just kind of go straight to your heart unexpectedly.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Genes Day Friday - My LivingDNA results are in!

When last I wrote about LivingDNA, I had just gotten the email saying testing had begun. At the time, they gave me an estimated completion date of September 13. Imagine my surprise when I checked my email this morning and saw that my results were ready! They have seriously overdelivered at every step of the process so far, so I've got high expectations for these results now.

So I logged in to see what they had to say. The Ancestry section has three options - Family Ancestry, Fatherline, and Motherline. Each section gives you a little tour of the info provided (though Fatherline tour said "motherline" instead of "fatherline" on each section, probably just a typo). The infographics were cool, easy to follow, and gave you the option to explore more. What I liked best is that both Fatherline and Motherline lead with the information you really want - your haplogroup (and subclade for Y-DNA). My mtDNA haplogroup is H, no surprise there. FTDNA's full sequence test listed the haplogroup as H3v-T16093C, so I wonder if LivingDNA did a full sequence test, or just lots of SNPs. FTDNA gave me a list of differences from both RSRS and rCRS values, and the list from LivingDNA only has one value in common with rCRS. So I'm guessing they did a SNP test rather than a full sequence, which is fine. They got the haplogroup right, so I'm not doubting their data, just wondering what their list of differences means in comparison with my FTDNA values. I'll have to look into this.

Looking at the Y-DNA info, once again they lead with the info you want first - haplogroup and subclade. They put me in haplogroup R-U106, subclade R-Z159. Back when I did my paternal grandfather's Y-DNA test at FTDNA in 2012, I had to purchase the Z159 SNP test, so to see that this SNP is included at LivingDNA is awesome. The coverage map for the Y-DNA is interesting, because it shows where in the world your haplogroup is predominantly from. For my haplogroup, the top country of origin is England. That matches what I've seen at FTDNA, where most of my grandpa's 12 marker matches are from England. Interestingly, Ireland isn't even on the list of countries my haplogroup is from. I'm sure there are U106 descendants in Ireland, but maybe the haplogroup shows up in less than 7% of the male population? That adds to my suspicion that my Gibsons were pretty recent transplants to Ireland and originally came from England or Scotland (Scotland shows up in the list at 15%, by the way).

Then there's the autosomal results, or Family Ancestry as they call it here. This part works kind of like 23andMe, where they have Complete, Standard, and Cautious levels Complete means they've assigned every percent of your DNA to areas where it's most similar to. Standard is their "best guess" level of assignment, with some areas still labeled "unassigned". Cautious is the level where they have the most certainty. The Great Britain and Ireland section of my Complete view down to the sub-regional level looks like this:


Most of these are areas I know very little about. I know Aberdeenshire is in Scotland, but for some reason, when I click on it, it highlights Ireland as well. But between these areas, I have ancestry from all of Ireland, most of England, and chunks of Scotland and Wales. Pretty awesome! I realize that this is the speculatory level, and not all of these areas may actually be in my family tree. So I took a look at the cautious level as well, and this is what I saw:



This is a lot more conservative in terms of pinpointing the areas of Great Britain my ancestors came from. But I still have most of England, all of Ireland, and chunks of Scotland and Wales highlighted. I'm very much excited by this! I took a class on English and Welsh family history at BYU, as well as one on Irish and Scottish family history. The history of all these countries is fascinating, and it looks like I might have ties to them all!

Some other interesting points from the ethnicity breakdowns:

On the cautious level, only my ancestry in Great Britain is identified by place - everything else is labeled European. When I first logged in, there was a notice or disclaimer that said basically "You're one of the first to take this test, and your results will be refined as we add more tests to our database." So hopefully as their database grows, the cautious level will become more certain for non-UK areas. Even though I took this test specifically with the intention of gaining more insight into my UK roots, I do hope that Europeans from other areas, especially France and Scandinavia, will test as well. I just like seeing the information get better in all areas basically.

Also, all three levels showed me as having 1.7% "Chuvashian-related ancestry." I have never heard of Chuvashia or Chuvashian before, so I had to look it up. According to Wikipedia, Chuvashia, or the Chuvash Republic, is part of Russia and home to the Chuvash people, a Turkic ethnic group. Apparently their history goes back to at least the 7th and 8th centuries AD. I'm thinking that my Joseph ancestors, who lived in Poland and Ukraine (or where those countries are now, anyways) are where my Chuvashian ancestors came into my family tree. None of my other branches were anywhere near there in the last couple hundred years.

One thing that really stands out - no French ancestry. I should have somewhere around 13% French ancestry, as my maternal grandmother is 1/2 French-Canadian. I don't know if they are lumping French and German together, but the standard level shows me as having 2.8% German ancestry, and 39.5% Scandinavian. Mathematically, I should have about 16% Scandinavian ancestry, and a LOT more German than 3%. I have German ancestry from all four grandparents - my paternal grandfather is half German, my paternal grandmother is somewhere between half and 3/4 German, my maternal grandmother was 1/4 German, and my maternal grandfather was 1/8 German. I know that gets watered down a little bit before it gets to me, but not to the extent of 3%. I'm curious to see how these numbers will adjust in the future as the database grows.

So that's my first glace at my LivingDNA test results. LOTS of information!! So much to take in. I really want to look more closely at the English ancestry, and go through my family tree and see where my likely English and Welsh ancestors are. Also, I thought there was going to be matching to cousins, but I don't see that option yet. Maybe that will be opened up later on. When they open that up, I hope they include a chromosome browser. I would love to see one that mixes both ethnicity and common segments, so I can see the DNA I share with someone AND what the projected ethnicity of that segment is. Wouldn't that be awesome?

All in all, I am totally satisfied that I took this test. $99 was a huge deal, and even the current discount price of $119 is more than reasonable for all this data. For a relatively new DNA testing company, these guys have really hit the ground running. Can't wait to see what refinements and improvements are in store.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Just when you think you know an ancestor...

I've written quite a few times about my 2nd-great-grandmother, Lena Beilstein. She led one of the most interesting, heart-wrenching lives I've ever heard about, past or present. There is just so much to her story, I don't know if I'll ever be able to put it all together into just one tale. Every time I think I've heard just about everything, I learn something more.

Case in point - I got a text from my grandma's cousin, saying she had come into contact with a new relative, and wanted to know whether I'd like my contact info passed on. I meant to write back and say sure, but I somehow ended up calling her instead. We ended up chatting on the phone for a half hour, it was awesome! She told me about her mom's time in the orphanage with my great-grandma Edna and their sisters, which I've also written about before. but then she told me about something new - that the state of Montana had records from the state orphan's home, and that you could obtain copies of these documents for only $25! She had her mom's record, and offered to send me a copy. I obviously said thank and yes please and every other polite phrase I could think of, and a week later, I had them.

What surprised me about the information I got from these records is that it's mostly about Lena, the mother of the four girls. To preface the impact this information had on me, let me share a picture of Lena's. I don't have a date on the picture, but she looks a bit older, like maybe late 40s or early 50s. That would put it the 1930s or 40s somewhere. One the back of the card is a hand-written note to her second daughter Hazel.


The note is very sad - she is writing to wish Hazel Merry Christmas, but says "maybe this will be the only way you can see me. Why, your not even allowed to write to me What's the reason[?]" I'd always wondered what it was that caused such a rift between Lena and her daughter Hazel. If this picture was taken between 1930 and 1940, Hazel would have been somewhere around 15-25 years old (probably closer to 15, based on the "not allowed" language). So what happened?

I learned some time ago Lena had separated from her husband and the father of all her daughters, Ernest Craddock, sometime before 1930. I didn't know when or anything about the circumstances, but there was a story in the family about Lena going to Oregon, and Ernie having to go there and bring her back, though I'd always thought that that had happened while they were married, and wasn't part of their divorce.

In going through the orphanage record, what I read cast new light on this story, and added elements I never would have dreamed were possible.  The first shock came when I read the answer to the query in the orphanage record as to why the child (in this case, Elsie Craddock) was being committed to state care:

It's one thing to know that Lena and Ernie divorced. It's another thing to read in Lena's daughter's orphanage record that Elsie and her sisters were abandoned by their mother, and their father was unable to care for his children properly. I can't imagine being a child and watching your own mother walk away from you and your siblings. Or being the father of those children, knowing that this was putting you in an impossible situation. The record also states that Ernie had to pay $15 per month per child to keep them in the orphanage. I'd always thought he'd basically been financially off the hook for them until he got back on his feet and was able to care for them, but that was not the case $15/month in 1926 equals about $200/month in today's money. That would be like me paying $800 every month for full time care for four children - something I could not afford to do, and pay all my expenses as well. I'm sure it wasn't any easier on him back then. I'm glad he stuck by his daughters though and kept those payments up so they could get the care they needed, even if it wasn't from him.

The next big surprise was that the record gave me a timeline for the dissolution of the Craddock family. Elsie was placed in the orphanage in January 1927, and at that time her parents had been separated for a year. Edna, their oldest daughter, was born in 1911, so they were together for about 15-16 years before Lena apparently decided she was done, and left. It further adds that Lena had Edna and Grace with her and had left for Portland, Oregon in October 1926, and that Hazel was in the orphanage (or "Home" as they called it) with Elsie. That's a complication I was not aware of - that Lena had taken two daughters with her when she left, leaving only two daughters in the orphanage. I know that the situation didn't stay that way for long, as the 1930 census has Edna living with her dad Ernie (she was 18 then), while Elsie, Grace, and Hazel were all still in the orphanage. Lena took Edna and Grace with her in 1926, but 4 years later, she was living without any of her children. Elsie's record doesn't say when Grace was placed in the orphanage, or whether Edna was there at all, so I'd likely have to order their records to find out details on their parts of the story.

The biggest shock and saddest part of all were next. First, the sad part. In the section "Institutional Family History' it lists some events that happened in and out of the home that affected Elsie, and the dates they occurred. The first note is from July 2nd, 1927, apparently from a Mrs. Hathaway, stating Ernie intended to take the children in the fall of that year. As already seen, that didn't happen - three of the girls were there in 1930, and Elsie's record states she was released in 1936 - 9 years after she was placed there. I can't imagine the heartbreak of those kids (or their father) wanting to be reunited year after year after year, and being disappointed again and again for almost a decade. Did they give up at some point, and just decide to wait to reach adulthood? That may have been what happened to Elsie - she was placed with her father on June 15, 1936, just five months before her 18th birthday.

But the shock was in the next note - it says Lena had left with a man named Russel Wright, a veteran of World War I, in a stolen car and was headed to Portland. Lena was picked up in Roseburg, Oregon (which is a long ways south of Portland, almost to Medford) and that she and Grace were being taken care of by Volunteers of America, while Edna was at the Sister's School. I found information about the Volunteers of America online, stating that they were like the Salvation Army but based in the US, kind of an "Americans helping Americans" program. I can't find anything on the "Sister's School"  yet except a reference to there being one out in eastern Oregon. Maybe there was a network of such schools, or something? I'll have to keep looking. Anyways, Lena and her children were "held as witness" in the case against Russel Wright. He was convicted, and Lena and her daughters were sent back to Butte, Montana, though Lena apparently expected to go right back to Portland.

I tried finding anything in newspapers on Russel Wright in Portland and Roseburg, hoping to find something to corroborate the story, and maybe fill in the gaps. So far, I haven't found anything. I don't have anything but his name and that he was a WWI vet, so that's not really enough to pinpoint who he was yet. Maybe Edna or Grace's records will have more, as they were actually with Lena and Russel on the trip to Oregon in the stolen car. I wonder what those daughters thought while on that trip - did they know the car was stolen? Were they coerced into silence? Were they told anything at all? I have no way of knowing, but it's scary to think what could have happened to them on that trip had things gone sour more than they did.

The final full entry in Elsie's record is from June 1927 and states that the children (Elsie and Hazel, undoubtedly, but maybe Edna and Grace too?) received a letter from Lena letting them know she had married again, and was now Mrs. J. White. That would be Jack White, who I found Lena living with in the 1930 census. That helps me place Lena and Jack's marriage a lot more precisely than I could have before. But the note also says Lena didn't want her daughters to tell their father that Lena had married again. It's almost like Lena was hiding from Ernie Craddock. But why? Did she owe child support, or was that even a thing in the 1920s? Did Ernie still think he could get his (ex)wife back? How did the girls feel about being asked to keep such information secret from their own father? I can only imagine it drove wedges between the girls and their parents - either they kept the secret from Ernie, which would have been really hard to do, as Ernie was the one supporting them financially in the orphanage; or they told him, and possibly felt like they were betraying their mother. I feel so sad for those poor kids being put in such a difficult situation, and I just wonder what Lena was thinking, and why she made the choices she did. I don't hate her, or think evil of her. It just makes me sad to think of where those choices led her family.

Photo of Lena on the front of her postcard to Hazel.

All in all, I think this orphanage record helps me see Lena in a new light, a completely different light than any other records I've found of her so far (and that takes some doing!). It helps me see possible reasons behind Lena's questions to Hazel on that photo postcard, and wonder if Hazel even wanted to write to her mother. I know Lena still had a relationship with her daughters and their grandchildren after they got out of the orphanage, as my mother and grandmother both knew Lena. I'll have to try to get the records of the other three daughters, and see if there are any more facets to Lena's story that I don't yet know. At this point, I have to give up the notion that I know Lena's story, and be ready for just about anything.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Genealogy Blog Party - Preserving My Research



My genealogy shelf is on the left. Protected by giant robots from Cybertron.

For this month's genealogy blog party, Elizabeth O'Neal asks how we as genealogists will preserve our family history research. This topic has been on my mind off and on over the years, as I don't want all the hours and months and years I've spent researching my family's history to be lost. But how do I pass it on in a way that's accessible to someone in the future?

I know for a lot of genealogists, one simple (if not easy) way to pass on the findings is by writing a book. I've thought about doing that since I first got into family history, but a couple things have stopped me:

1. Which lines would I write about? I want to write about all my ancestors, but any book that includes my paternal line would be of little interest to my paternal relatives, and vice versa.

2. A book of any considerable size would likely be put on a shelf and seldom, if ever, remembered. That's the exact opposite of what I'm trying to do - I want to make sure the stories and details of my ancestors' lives are remembered and passed down.

3. There's also the idea of "I'm not done yet, there's more to discover first." That's not really an excuse though, because genealogy is NEVER done, so waiting until you're at a stopping point is a self-defeating proposition.

So the book idea is on the shelf (pun intended) for now at least. I may do a series of mini-books or something down the road, maybe on Lulu publishing or something where people could just order one or two when they wanted. But I haven't even started anything like that, so that's not really an option yet.

Right now, my main method in preserving my research is this blog. I like it because it's free, it's easily accessible, and I can download a copy of it to my computer whenever I want. But that's only as good as Google, and like any other piece of technology, Google could theoretically go kaput at any time. Seems unlikely today, but remember, Yahoo! was the big dog at one point, and now they're lucky to get a seat at the tech table (from my perspective at least). So this is more of a temporary rather than a permanent solution.

I don't have a lot of paper records in my family history, though I do have a number of old photographs and other artifacts I've collected that I want to ensure stay preserved. My hope is that one of my kids or (eventual) grandkids will catch the bug at some point, and I'll just be able to pass them on to someone I can trust to take care of them. My kids are only 11, 8, and 3 at this point, so any deep scholarly inclinations have yet to manifest themselves. So that idea's on the table, but not super likely to be fulfilled anytime soon.

I have a ton of digital files, as almost my entire genealogy research history is digital. That amounts to somewhere around 50GB of data. That could still fit on a flash drive, so I could just make copies onto flash drives and pass them around to family members. I may do that at some point too, that's not a bad idea.

Overall though, my number one way of preserving my research is my Backblaze account. I went with Backblaze on the recommendation of Lisa Louise Cooke, and it's affordable and easily done (though it takes a good amount of time if you're a monster digital hoarder like me). I just need to ensure that someone or someones in my family has access to it in case anything happens to me.

I guess the long and short of it is, I don't have a full-fledged plan yet, just a couple of halfway thought through ideas of plans, and a couple backup plans. Sounds like I have some work to do.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Genes Day Friday - LivingDNA

While I was at Jamboree in Burbank a couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a class taught by David Nicholson and another fellow (Martin something? Sorry, he's not named in the schedule) of LivingDNA, a UK-based DNA testing company. I've tested myself and many other relatives at all the four major testing companies stateside, either directly or by raw data upload, but I've never really considered testing outside of the US. I've heard of LivingDNA, and I've seen others talk about their results, but I didn't really pay much attention as I never seriously considered testing there. But as they were at DNA Day, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to hear from them firsthand.

Three things really impressed me. First, these guys knew their stuff really well, and had a blast presenting it. They took us through the DNA testing process from swab to results, and even passed around some of the chips they use to read the DNA. I've never seen the chips in person, that was really interesting for me, and they explained how the chips attach to and read your DNA, which was also new info to me. And the presentation was hilarious! They made it so entertaining and fun, it was a blast.

Second, because LivingDNA is in the UK, they wanted to go beyond telling people they had ancestry from Britain. As David put it, "I don't need a DNA test to tell me I'm British." So their test actually helps people pinpoint where out of 19 or 20 different regions in the UK they have ancestors from. They base these reults on a testing base of thousands of people who have at least all 4 grandparents born in the area they are from. They also have thousands of other testees in other nations, so they also give ethnicity results from around the world. I have English, Scottish, and Irish ancestry, so this is all really interesting to me. Specifically I'd love more info about the Irish part of my family tree. If they can connect me to native Irish cousins still in the areas (or near them) where my ancestors are from...well that would be heaven!

Third, and this is what really caught my attention, they offer autosomal, Y-DNA and mtDNA results and matching. I don't remember if they do full mtDNA sequencing, or whether they do Y-DNA STRs or SNPs, so I'll have to go back and look that up. But the idea that they offer such comprehensive results from one test is astounding. I could do the same at FTDNA, but it would cost me upwards $500 - about $100 for the atDNA, $240 for the mtDNA, and $150-250 for the Y-DNA. I already have my maternal grandmother's mtDNA full sequence results, and for my Y-DNA I know I'm Z-159, but haven't tested for any SNPs further down than that. So I'm interested to see what LivingDNA comes back with, and how it will compare to those results.

So after the presentation, I decided to go buy the test. It's normally $159, but they had a Jamboree special price of $99, way too good to pass up. I completed it the next morning, and mailed it off. I was in such a hurry that morning, I didn't really get any pictures of the kit like I normally do. I figured it would take a while for the kit to be received, so I didn't really watch my email. Imagine my surprise when I got an email on Tuesday saying they had my kit! I figured they probably sold a lot of kits at Jamboree, not to mention all those that they sell day to day, so I wasn't anticipating the testing to start anytime soon. Once again, I was pleasantly surprised when they told me the testing began that same Friday - one week after I had mailed my kit off! So far I am very impressed with these guys and the speed at which they move. The only downer in the whole process so far has been the estimated completion date of my test results - the middle of September. I'm hoping they deliver the results sooner, but with three tests being run, I can understand if it takes some time.

In the mean time, I'm trying to take all the awesome info I got from Jamboree and start applying it to my own DNA and genealogy research, while also starting in on the Genealogy Gems Premium podcasts from Lisa Louise Cooke. So much to do, so little time. And I love it!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Why I'm a bad genealogist - Ingeborg Fadness family edition

Have you ever set out to document one side of your family that you didn't know much about, and make some amazing discoveries (which you sourced carefully in your files), but didn't write down right away what you did or how you did it? Unfortunately, I did exactly that with the family of my 3rd-great-grandmother, Ingeborg (Fadness) Olson. I'm going to try to reconstruct what I did, based on the information I put in my file, and the timestamps on the documents I found.

I do remember that I had documentation on Ingeborg (aka Ingebor, Ingebjor, etc), going back to 1880, when she'd have been about 24 years old. At that point, she had 4 kids, ages 8, 5, 3, and 8 months. Which means she must have started having kids when she was 15 or 16! Wow, times were different back then. I also knew from later censuses that she started going by (or was at least referred to as) Emma rather than Ingeborg. I didn't have anything that directly stated she was the daughter of Gullick Knudsen Fadness and Martha Helgesdatter Kjenes, as I'd found somewhere years ago (online? distant cousin? no idea now...). So I wanted to prove it. I found online that I could order her death certificate for only $9, which I did. The problem was, they only sent them out by snail mail, so I'd have to wait a week or two to get it. I couldn't wait that long to start digging into the problem, so I launched into Ancestry to see what I could find.

First off, I found a marriage record for Ingeborg's older brother Helge Fadness to Hanna Johannsdatter Bergstad. (These families intermarried a lot - Hanna was a sister of my ancestor Knute Bergstad, and Knute and Hanna were first cousins to Helge and Ingeborg, plus Knute married Ingeborg's daughter...like I said, lots of intermarriages). Helge's marriage record said he was born in "Vos" in Norway. I thought that could be Voss parish, Hordaland county, Norway, the same parish my Bergstad ancestors are from. So I went looking in the Voss parish emigration records on the Digitalarkivet website.

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And that's exactly where I found them. I found that Gullick, his wife Martha Helgesdatter, and their sons Knud and Helge (named after Gullick and Martha's respective fathers) immigrated to America in April 1854. This fit perfectly with what I had in my files for Ingeborg's family, as she was born in Wisconsin in January 1855. I also found another immigration record for this family from 6 years earlier, in 1848 (minus Helge, as he wasn't born yet). It seems the family intended to immigrate then, but changed their minds and stayed in Norway a few more years, and then left. It's really interesting to think that they had made up their minds to move to another country, and then for whatever reason, had to stick it out a few more years before leaving. I wonder what those years were like - were they anxious to move? Were they putting off a difficult decision because of cold feet? The answer is unknowable, but the fact that they vacillated on the decision makes them seem more human to me. It wasn't just a "pack up and go!" option for them - it was a tough choice, with consequences that would likely be permanent for all involved.
 
I kept looking for more info, and soon found Ingeborg's baptism record in the Lutheran church records in the US (though still written in Norwegian), confirming that she was born and baptized on 21 January 1855 in Wisconsin. Now that I had her exact birthdate, I just needed one thing to clinch the theory that this Ingeborg Fadness was the same as my Ingeborg Fadness - the death certificate of Ingeborg/Emma Olson.
 
Once the death certificate arrived, I compared it to what I had pieced together, and found what I needed. Ingeborg/Emma's birthdate was 21 January! The year was off (1851), but I've seen enough records where ages vary by more than that to know that this wasn't a deal breaker. Also, her father's name was listed as Gilbert Fadnes, easily an Anglicized version of Gullick Fadness.
 
Now I can finally say I have documented evidence that my Ingeborg Fadness was indeed the daughter of Gullick Knudsen Fadness and Martha Helgesdatter Kjenes. Now I can look them up in Norwegian records in Voss parish, and push the line back even further. And hopefully - I'll document it this time!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Surname Saturday - Just Shute Me

I was looking through my Rootsmagic file the other day, looking for a branch to go climb. I wound up in the Shutes, the family of my grandma Blossom's paternal grandmother. I wound up looking at the second family of my 5th-great-grandfather, Lewis Parks Shute. His first wife, Eliza Wright, died in the mid 1850s, and he remarried to a much younger woman (almost 20 years younger than he was!) named Lucinda Foote. They had three kids together, though according to a published family history, the first two passed away at ages 10 and 8. Lewis had already buried a wife and possibly several of his children, so losing two more must have been just heartbreaking. Saddest of all, Lewis himself died when his youngest son, Abraham Lincoln Shute, was only 4 or 5 years old.

I wanted to know more about Abraham, as I've always been intrigued by his name, so I started looking him up on Ancestry. One of the first documents that came up was a passport application. I've heard Lisa Louise Cooke talk about passport applications, and all the cool stuff you can get from them, so I was excited.


One of the cool things was seeing where he wanted to go. He requested a passport to visit India, Italy, Japan, China, Palestine (Israel), and Egypt. I thought I was the first missionary in my family to visit Japan, but it turns out, Abraham beat me by several decades! Pretty cool to think a relative of mine and I have something like that in common. One major difference though is his passport was for an "indefinite time" so he didn't know how long he'd be out. Makes me wonder when he came home.


Another cool thing is - pictures! You get a much better picture of his wife, Laura Belle Shute, than you do of him, though you can see him a little. The physical description of him says he was 5'10.5", high and slightly receding forehead, hazel eyes (like me!), medium straight nose, small mouth, receding chin (I never knew your chin could recede?), gray hair, medium complexion, oblong face, and his distinguishing mark was smallpox scars.

One intreresting thing really stood out. His name is written (well, typed) as A. Lincoln Shute. In the notes section, it says "First name is Abraham - but never written." He didn't like, or at least didn't use, his first name. It's rare that you get a glimpse of what your ancestors were like as actual people, and to see something like that, his own personal preference of his name, just really makes him more of a real person to me.



Another interesting thing is his half-sister, Mary Josephine Shute, wrote what looks to be an affidavit confirming his birthdate and place, and had it notarized even. Mary was about 13 years older than Abraham, so she was in a good position to know the facts personally and remember them. What struck me was the name she signed under - Mary Josephine Couse. My records showed she married a guy named Horace Tracy, not someone named Couse. So I went looking for more information on Mary and her family.

What I knew about Mary was that she was born in New York about 1852, and lived there until at least 1865 (when Abraham was born). By 1870, she was working as a teacher and living in Minnesota with Gilbert Sanford and his family, the brother-in-law of Mary's oldest brother (and my direct ancestor) Alexander Blood Shute. I found info on her marriage to Louis/Lewis Couse pretty quickly, as they were married for many years. She and Louis had already gotten married by 1880, so I started to wonder if I had the wrong spouse. When I found her death certificate, the informant was a Mr. R. H. Tracy, So there was a Tracy connection, and I wanted to find it.

I found some records for two Tracys, Roy and Alice, who said they were children of Horace Tracy and Mary Shute. But I couldn't find anything on Horace. What's more, the census records for Mary (now Mary Couse) had an Alice in the family, but no Roy. What was going on here? Then I found two records that helped put things together. One was a probate record for Horace Tracy who died in 1875 (in between the federal censuses) whose estate was administered by Alva Tracy (no relationship stated). The second was 1880 census for Alva Tracy, his wife Phebe, and his grandson - Roy H. Tracy. To double check, I went back to the 1870 census, and found Horace listed as one of the children. That's why I couldn't find him with Mary - they married after 1870, and he had died before 1875. That's a short marriage, not much time to leave records.

I still don't have a marriage record for Horace and Mary, though they apparently married in Minnesota and moved to Iowa, where Horace's family was living. They were married long enough to have two kids together, but Horace was gone by 1875. She married Lewis Couse just a month before the 1880 census was taken, and for some reason, her son Roy was sent to live with his paternal grandparents. Roy stayed a part of his family's life - he was a witness for his sister Alice's wedding, he named one of his daughters after his sister, and in her later years, his mother moved in with him until she passed away. So why would Roy not live with his mother? Louis had work as a carpenter and wagon maker, but maybe that didn't pay enough? He had two kids of his own, Eva and Willis, from a previous marriage when he married Mary, and maybe that played into it as well.

Whatever the cause for having Roy be raised by his grandparents, I'm glad it didn't cut him off from his family. He stayed close to his mom and his sister, and that's awesome. I'm glad Mary stayed involved in her kids' lives, that she didn't let the death of their father cause her to distance herself from them. I've seen firsthand how tragedy can bring a family together, and Mary seems to have drawn her family close to her, even though circumstances caused that she not raise one of her kids in her own home.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Joseph family brick wall - BUSTED!

About five years ago, I found the first Polish records of my Joseph ancestors in microfilms I ordered from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. I found some amazing information, and new ancestors. And then - I stopped. I ran out of time with the microfilms, and got busy with other things, and the next thing I knew, half a decade slipped by. I always meant to reorder those films, but never got around to it.

Then last year, I made contact with a DNA match who had ancestors from the same part of Poland my Josephs were from, and she had a great-grandmother who was a Joseph (Jozef in Polish)! I dug out my Polish records, dusted them off, and looked for info that matched what she had. There were three births I'd found on those microfilms that looked like they might be of relatives, but I didn't know how they connected, so I just kept them in a folder. Turns out all three of them were siblings to this DNA match's great-grandmother! So I knew her Josephs were as close in place and time to my Josephs as it was possible to get. Yet I still didn't see a connection telling me how they were related. My match said a relative of hers had some documents on this side of her family, and that she'd try to get copies of them to me.

Those copies arrived in my inbox last Saturday. And they solved everything. And started a WHOLE MESS of research and discovery on my Joseph side.

First off, the documents revealed that my match's great-grandmother was the daughter of Michael Jozef, and that Michael was the son of Krystyan Jozef and Eufrozyna Freder. Krystyan (or Christian in German) and Eufrozyna (or Euphrosine in German) are my 4th-great-grandparents!! Their son, Ludwig Heinrich Joseph, is the one who brought his Josephs out of Poland to Volhynia, and then to Canada. So Michael Jozef was Ludwig's younger brother!

I went back to those records from the microfilms, plus the records from my match, and started entering the data into my file. When I was done, I had over a dozen new people in my file! Plus it turns out my match is also descended from Samuel Brehm, who was my 2nd-great-grandfather Samuel Joseph's godfather. Makes me wonder if my Sam was named after hers. WILD!

Once the data was entered, I stepped back to look at the picture it painted. What I found is this:

Christian and Euphrosine Joseph had at least two sons, Ludwig Heinrich, and Michael. Michael and Ludwig married their spouses around the same time, and started having kids at the same time. Ludwig had two right away, Michael had three. There's a gap for both of them before they had any more children (at least I haven't been able to find any kids for those years) but they started having kids again in 1870-1871. Ludwig moved to Volhynia sometime after 1866, while Michael and his family stayed in Kepa Kikolska. Ludwig and his family eventually moved to Manitoba, Canada, while Michael and his descendants stayed in Poland. Michael died in 1908, just a couple years after the last of Ludwig's kids (my ancestor Samuel) left Europe and immigrated to Canada. The branch of Michael's family that my DNA match is part of stayed in Europe until her parents came to Canada in the 40s. By then, it seems likely that the two branches had lost track of each other, and neither family knew the other were in Canada, albeit in different provinces. The two lines lost communication with each other until last year, when the 2nd-great-granddaughter of Michael (my DNA match) and the 3rd-great-grandson of Ludwig (me) found each other through DNA testing - 150 years or so after Michael and Ludwig had parted ways. Wow!

But the coolest part? This was only the beginning of the discoveries.

The copies of the records I'd taken from the microfilms were terrible copies (the family history center I'd used didn't have a working digital camera at the time, so I'd used my cell phone to take a picture of the image on the microfilm reader). I'd gotten them translated, but the dates in the translations didn't match up with the data from my DNA match's records, so I posted my records to a genealogy translation group for additional insight. One of the volunteers there asked why I was posting such terrible copies when scans of the originals were available for free online. WHAT?????? I had no idea there WERE scans, let alone available online for free!

So I went to the link they gave me and started digging around. The website was all in Polish, and I speak and ready exactly no Polish at all. Thanks to Google Translate, I fumbled my way around until I'd kind of figured out how to find what I was looking for - better copies of the records I'd gotten off those microfilms. I found a perfect, full-color scan of Ludwig and Justine's marriage, plus one or two of the birth records for Michael's kids. Now that I had some idea of how to navigate things, I thought I'd try looking for something I've always wanted - Samuel Joseph's birth record. I didn't know if he was born in Poland or Volhynia, though I suspected Volhynia since that's what he'd said on the border crossing records when he moved back and forth between Canada and Montana. But just in case, I went looking for his birth record in Poland.

And I found it.


I know you likely can't read this any more than I can. But if you look on the 4th line up from the bottom, you'll see his name - Samuel. I started fist-pumping and happy-dancing all over the place!! Part of the reason is, I have for YEARS wanted something that definitively stated who Samuel's parents were. When I was in ProGen some years back, one of my practice projects was a paper on who Sam's parents were, and I had to lay out all the indirect evidence I had that pointed to and suggested and implicated that Sam was the son of Ludwig and Justine. But here it finally was, the proof in one sweet record. And from Poland at that!!

Having made this discovery, a new idea struck me. A crazy idea. If I'd found Samuel's birth record in this area, and I already had Ludwig's birth and marriage records, what if I went looking for the marriage of Ludwig's parents, Christian and Euphrosine? That could potentially give my all four of Ludwig's grandparents, plus the names of witnesses. Knowing that Ludwig was born in 1837, I went looking for marriages in Kepa Kikolska, the village Ludwig was born in. I found records for 1833, 1835, and 1836, the earliest marriage records available on the site. So I hoped they got married in 1836 and went digging.

And I found it.


Their record is on the left of the page. The amount of information on this one page is staggering. What I learned from it is this:

Christian Joseph was the son of Wilhelm Joseph and Elzbieta Tyka (probably Elisabetha in German. Tyka is an interesting name too - Michael Joseph's wife's name is Loise Dykau, and makes me wonder if Dykau and Tyka aren't variants of the same name). This is HUGE to me because Christian was born about 1814, and Eufrozyna was born around 1811. That means their parents were all born in the 1700s!! I never imagined I'd be able to take my Joseph line back that far!! By the time of his marriage to Eufrozyna, both of Christian's parents had passed away, and Christian himself, though he was only 22, was a widower. I can't imagine having been through that kind of and amount of loss at such a young age - both parents and a spouse. The information on Christian's wife was no less tragic. She was listed as Eufrozyna Sträubel, daughter of Krystyan Freder and Maryanna Fielandt. Eufrozyna's parents had also both passed away, and although she was only 25, she was a divorcee, though her first husband (guessing it was her first) had died by the time of her marriage to Christian. So both Christian and Eufrozyna had lost both parents and a spouse by their early 20s. Which means Ludwig and Michael never had a chance to know a single grandparent. I can't imagine that kind of world - I was born with three grandparents still living, and as I near my 40s, I still have two of them. Maybe all that loss is what brought them together. Hopefully they were able to strengthen each other and build a happy life together.

The other interesting thing that came out of the marriage record was that, since he was legally still a minor, Christian's marriage needed to be approved by a parent. As his parents were both deceased, a woman named Elżbieta Müller approved of the marriage. One translator said that Elzbieta was Christian's grandmother, the other couldn't read the word. If Elzbieta was his grandmother, I have to wonder whose mother was she - Wilhelm Joseph's or Elzbieta Tyka's? And why didn't she have the same surname as one of them? Did his grandmother also lose a husband and then remarry?

I tried finding death records for Christian and Eufrozyna's parents and former spouses, but death records before 1870 are not available, and may not even exist anymore. So all the questions I have about the rest of their family, who they were and what happened to them, may never be answerable. That's sad, because I really want to know the rest of their story.

One further wrinkle to the whole thing - in trying to find other marriage records for the Josephs, I did find one marriage for a guy named Krystyan Hilary Jozef to Eufrozyna Janke in 1835. At first I thought this was my Christian's first marraige, but it's not, because this Krystyan Hilary Jozef's parents were the late Hilary Jozef (the father) and Elzbieta Müller. Yes, the same name as my Christian's grandmother. Krystyan was born about 1816, only two years after my Christian. Could he be the younger brother of Christian's father Wilhelm? Was Hilary Jozef the father of my Wilhelm and Krystyan Hilary? 

At this point, I am just staggered and over the moon by all the information about the Josephs I've come across in the last several days. It looks like the Josephs were in the same area of Poland for at least three generations - Wilhelm, Christian, and Ludwig, maybe four if Hilary is Wilhelm's father. Christian and Eufrozyna both endured a lot of loss, yet hung on, married, and had at least two boys together. Their son Ludwig grew up to raise a large family and traveled thousands of miles with them, while their other son Michael raised a family of his own right where generations of his forebears had lived. Their families have seen much over the last 150 years, and are finally brought back into contact with each other. There's still a lot I want to know - more about the Ludwig's wife's family, and, whether it's possible to find more children and descendants of Wilhelm and Elzbieta. But I'm super grateful and excited about what I've found now, and look forward to sharing my discoveries with my relatives and fellow researchers.