Monday, December 19, 2011

They Came From Neponset: Oh, Those Irish

   Would you believe that it was only two years ago that I learned who my Irish great-grandparents were.  An Italian cousin added their names to the family tree he was working on.  No one ever talked about our Irish side.  No one had ever mentioned Florence McCarthy (great grandpa) and Catherine Sweeney McCarthy (great grandma) before.

   My grandmother, Rita McCarthy, was illegitimate.  It happens and it’s nothing that I’m ashamed of nearly 100 years later.  I’m sure it is part of why I knew nothing of my Irish connections.

   When I was in High School, my parents told me that I was related to a girl named Gillis.  They mentioned that it was through grandma’s side of the family but didn’t supply any details.  No surprises there.  Deb Gillis was in a number of my classes and I reintroduced myself as her cousin.  We jokingly called each other ‘cuz’ after that.

   30 years later, I arranged to meet with Deb’s mother, Jane McCarthy Gillis.  Jane is a wonderful woman and was able to tell much about her slice of the McCarthy family and contact info for other cousins.  What I remember most about my conversation with Jane was her question to me.  “What do you really want to know?”  Jane wanted to tell me about my grandmother but needed to know if I wanted to hear.  I was all ears.  She talked about what she had heard, that Rita was most likely the daughter of Helen (Helen was one of two daughters of Florence and Catherine).  That would make Florence and Catherine my gg-grandparents instead and Helen my great-grandmother.

   I used the information from Jane to find an obituary for Jean (Murphy) Martin, wife of Helen’s son John Martin.  A few years after my grandmother was born Helen married John Martin and had two children.  Her son John married Jean Murphy and they had 10 children.  The obituary had the names of the children and their towns.  I did a phonebook search and called around until I hit the jackpot.  The lucky winner was Beth (Martin) McDaid.

   I went to meet her and her family and was happily surprised to meet three of her siblings.  I brought photos and stories to share and they gave me a terrific photo of Helen.

 Helen and Rita

   In my opinion, there is a strong resemblance between Helen and Rita, which gives me confidence that they are mother and daughter.


   As I researched, I found that it was Catherine Sweeney McCarthy’s (gg-grandma now) side of the family that played a central role in the family connections.   Catherine ‘Kate’ Sweeney, daughter of Daniel and Ellen (Buckley) Sweeney, was as far as I know one of seven children.  Kate and three of her siblings emigrated from Ireland and lived in Neponset.  Julia Sweeney married John Galvin and lived in the same two-family with Florence and Catherine.  Bridget Sweeney married Timothy Neville and their grandchildren are still in touch with my uncle.  Patrick Sweeney married Florence Murray and their daughter Doris was Rita’s maid of honor at my grandparent’s wedding.

   Maybe someday I will learn Rita’s father’s surname.  For now, the name McCarthy is synonymous with my Irish heritage.  I needed to know more about Florence McCarthy.

   Florence’s death certificate lists his father as Timothy McCarthy with no mother info.   Through a series of records including the census, street directories and birth records, I found a Timothy McCarthy.  Sometimes Timothy lived with his daughter Ellen (McCarthy) Buckley and for a while, Ellen lived next door to gg-grandpa Florence.  It appeared to be more than a coincidence.  All I had to do was prove that Ellen and Florence were siblings and that particular Timothy was ggg-grandpa.  That Timothy did have a son Timothy (Thade) whose birthdate was close to Florence’s.  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find a record that listed my Florence as Timothy Florence or Florence Timothy.

   It didn’t help that for every record Florence listed a different birth year.  I finally tracked down Florence’s Naturalization records and found his real birthdate – April 8, 1856.  He has the same birthdate as my daughter.  Who has goosebumps now?  Armed with real birth info I was able to find Florence’s birth record in Kilmichael Parish, Co Cork, Ireland.  His parents are Timothy and Ellen ‘Nelly’ (Lynch) McCarthy.  Here is where the lightbulb finally goes on.  The Timothy McCarthy that I have been chasing around Neponset also has Timothy and Ellen (Lynch) McCarthy listed as parents on his death cert.  So Timothy and Florence aren’t father and son, they are brothers.  All the other facts that I have collected now fit nicely into place.

   What I have so far is that Timothy and Florence are two of eight children all born in Shrone, which conveniently I can’t find on a map anywhere in Kilmichael Parish.  The other siblings are Margaret, Joanna, Ellen, Julia, John and Con.  I’m fairly certain that sister Ellen married Patrick Neville and that their son Timothy married Bridget Sweeney, tying everything together again.

   My two big Irish research goals are to find Rita’s father and to visit the magical little village of Shrone sometime next year.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thriller Thursday: A Family History of Evil – Herman W Mudgett

   Herman Webster Mudgett (1861-1896) a.k.a. Dr. Henry Howard Holmes was one of the first documented American serial killers.  His crimes, possibly 200 murders, were documented at the time by William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers and more recently by Erik Larson in his best-selling book – The Devil in the White City.


   Herman was born in Gilmanton, NH to Levi Mudgett, an alcoholic, and Theodate Price, a devout Methodist.  The debate of whether Herman’s evil is the result of nature or nurture will no doubt continue.  The claim that Herman Mudgett was in fact Jack the Ripper is still to be proven.

   What’s known is that Herman had deep New England roots with connections to Gilmanton and Exeter, NH and Salisbury and Rowley, MA.  Names like Prescott, Scribner, Hilton, Dudley, Partridge, Coffin, Greenleaf and Batchelder decorate his family tree.  Ted Bundy was also born in New England.  Is there a genealogical connection between serial killers?

   I'm hoping the answer is definitively – no.  My children are cousins to Herman Mudgett through the Dudley and Coffin lines.  I probably shouldn’t be worried by the 1% of 1% of the shared DNA, unless it’s one of those genes that doesn’t get diluted over time.  Note to self: have the DNA of the kid with the shifty eyes tested.

My Mudgett connections:

Enoch Moore (1561-1615) & Catherine
Sarah Moore & Edmund Greenleaf
Judith Greenleaf & Tristram Coffin
Judith Coffin & John Sanborn
Judith Sanborn & Ebenezer Gove
Judith Gove & Jonathan Prescott
Jonathan Prescott & Rachel Clifford
Samuel Prescott & Anna Healey
Nancy Prescott & Scribner Mudgett
Levi Mudgett & Theodate Price
Herman Webster Mudgett (9th cousin 3 times removed)

Richard Fettiplace (1460-1511) & Elizabeth Bessiles (1465-1511)
Anne Fettiplace & Edward Purefoy
Mary Purefoy & Thomas Thorne
Susanna Thorne & Roger Dudley
Thomas Dudley & Dorothy Yorke
Samuel Dudley & Mary Byley
Mary Dudley & Samuel Hardy
Theophilus Hardy & Sarah Follett
Mary Hardy & Richard Smith
Sarah Smith & Edward S Mudgett
Samuel Mudgett & Mary Morrill
Scribner Mudgett & Nancy Prescott
Levi Mudgett & Theodate Price
Herman Webster Mudgett (12th cousin 5 times removed)

We are connected to the evil, the good, the common and the famous.  It doesn’t define who we are but it does spice up our dinner conversations.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Marketing Yourself: 21st Century Genealogy

   In October and November of this year I took a course at the Worcester Art Museum entitled Marketing Your Art with instructor/artist Andy Fish.  This was a great course and when I tell people about it I call the course Marketing Yourself.  The content that Andy provided could be used in any profession.  My wife Melissa is an artist and a writer, I have two college kids that will someday be artists and I occasionally talk about genealogy. That course will help us all.

   Since the course was given at the Art Museum, every student is asked to submit art work.  So for the current show (running until the end of Jan 2012) I created this piece showcasing some of my marketing.

   If you are in the Worcester area be sure to stop into the Museum to see the exhibit.

   As a 21st century genealogist we need to embrace all of the current and future social networks.  Get out there and blog, tweet, post and connect.  A fast and well connected social genealogy network increases the speed of knowledge.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Nearest Neighbor: Where to Look for Census Help

   Finding your ancestors on the census has gotten easier with the availability of indexes from Ancestry and FamilySearch.  Even so, indexes are not perfect.  Whether the transcription from the original census was wrong or the enumerator wrote it wrong you are in the same predicament, you can't find the record.  Sometimes all you need is help from the nearest neighbor.

   The nearest neighbor method works best when you know the address of the person you are looking for.  Perhaps you have two nonconsecutive census records with the same address or you have a City Directory record.  You could use the brute force method of looking at every line in that enumeration district.  I like to take advantage of the fact that the indexes can be faster.

   Look at the census records you do have.  Find a good neighbor.  A good neighbor might be one that owns the home.  They are likely to be in the same place for multiple decades.  If you plan to search forward in time look for a young, married neighbor. You need someone who will still be around in 10 years.  If you plan to search backward, look for someone older, old enough to have been the head of the household 10 years earlier.

   Search for that person in the index on the census you are missing.  If you find them, are they at the address you expected?  Find another neighbor if the first doesn’t pan out.  Once you have found the neighbor, look at the census image for your ancestor.  Expect to find their name illegible or spelled completely wrong.   Don’t forget that if the enumerator couldn’t get data for your person that day then the record could be on the last page as they went back to fill in the missing households.

   I have had situations where the person I was looking for was at address X in 1900 and address Y in 1920.  I used the nearest neighbor method and worked from both directions.

   What if I don’t have any census records at all?  If you are lucky, you may be able to find your family in a City Directory.  Jot down their address and look for someone else in the City Directory that lives on the same street or just around the corner. It is always good to plug the address you are looking for into Google maps to get a feel for the neighborhood.  Now use this newfound neighbor for your census search.

   This is by no means a sure fire method.  It can be faster than the brute force method, not that I haven’t resorted to that when needed.  The nearest neighbor method can be one more valuable tool in your toolbox.

   I’ve heard quite a few horror stories about transcription errors in the census.  Remember the index problems are not all transcription errors.  The enumerator could have written the name wrong or if they couldn’t contact your ancestor then it may have been the nearest neighbor who gave the wrong details to the enumerator in the first place.

   Good fences make good neighbors, but good neighbors solve brick walls.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mystery Cousins: Autosomal DNA Testing

   I recently received the results of my autosomal DNA test.  The test is part of a larger project that I am working on and not all the other samples have been tested yet.  So, I was happily surprised and confused to find that the results of my DNA matched other people.  I now have 28 fourth or fifth cousins I never knew I had.  These are 28 people with no obvious connections to me.  Not even a surname match.  My first thought was that these are 28 false positives.

Blarney Castle - McCarthy Built

   Everyone has 46 chromosomes, 23 from each parent.  Two of these chromosomes are the sex chromosomes, x and/or y.  The remaining 44 are the autosomal chromosomes.  When comparing the results, the larger the matching segments the closer the relation.  In October of this year, FTDNA announced that they had made changes to their matching algorithm to reduce false positives.  With that in hand, I will move forward with some confidence that these 28 people are my cousins.

   This creates 28 research projects.  Maybe it will be fewer depending on how many of the 28 want to collaborate.  We just have to find our common 4th great grandparent.  No problem, right?

   I should be able to weed out the false positives (if there are any) by getting back to the origins of these other folks.  My 4th great grandparents were either in Italy or Ireland and more specifically, outside of Naples or in the middle of County Cork.

   Some of these 28 ‘cousins’ have also included surnames.  There are quite a few Irish names and no Italian names listed.  This will help narrow the research work.

   I have 28 emails to send – wish me luck.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Migration Mapping: Eldred the Terrible

   Genetic genealogy has been very good at identifying distant origins and for making connections along paternal and maternal lines going back a half dozen centuries.  What seems to be missing is how we got from point A to point B.

'Eldridge' clan mapping

   At some distant place in time in every genealogy the surname becomes irrelevant.  The only way to go further back is to use DNA testing.  We have to rely on Clans and Tribes, genetically related groups of individuals, to get an understanding of our history.

   Pride in your historic nationality is wonderful and can tell you much about your family, but we are all descendants of nomads.  As nomads we belong to ancient cultures just as much as we belong to any one nationality.  To know what culture you are you need to know where your tribe was and when.

   When I had my DNA tested I learned that I was part of haplogroup G with origins in the Caucasus Mountains going back about 22,000 years.  I also learned that I had no close matches in the last few centuries.  That left me with very little to work with. So, I put on my analyst hat and developed a technique for plotting the migration path of my tribe at different periods in history.  I needed to answer how my people got from the Caucasus to a little village outside of Naples, Italy.

   I knew I had hit on something after my first mapping exercise.

'Maglio' clan mapping

   The individuals that I plotted lined up along the Rhine River and down the Apennines (with a few stragglers in Wales).  Successive maps, each going back further in time, showed a pattern along the Danube and around the Black Sea back to the Caucasus Mountains.  I now have my migration answers and a plausible correlation to the Etruscan metalworking culture.

   I have been using my technique to help my clients get a deeper understanding of their history and their culture.  For all of you with the surname Eldridge, Eldredge, Aldrich and variation, I have posted a sample report on my website - "The Genetic Genealogy of Eldridge"  

   I'd love to hear about other successes mapping genetic data across time.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Genealogy Addiction: Just Say Know

*Caution: This may be a parody

   If you’re worried about your own or a friend or family member’s genealogy research addiction, it’s important to know that help is available.  Learning about the nature of genealogy addiction - how it develops, what it looks like, and why it can have such a powerful hold - will give you a better understanding of the problem and how to best deal with it.

   People start genealogy for many different reasons. Many first try researching out of curiosity, to have a good time or because friends are doing it. Researching ancestors doesn’t automatically lead to addiction, and there is no specific level at which research moves from casual to chronic. It varies by individual.  No matter how often or how little you’re researching, if your genealogy is improving your life—at work, school, home, or in your relationships—you likely have an addiction.

Genealogy and the brain
  • Researching causes a surge in levels of dopamine in your brain, which trigger feelings of pleasure. Your brain remembers these feelings and wants them repeated.
  • These changes in your brain increase your ability to think clearly, make connections, and feel mentally stimulated.
  • The urge to research genealogy is so strong that your mind finds many ways to deny or rationalize the addiction. You may drastically underestimate the duration of research, how much it improves your life, and the number of ancestors remaining to be documented.

Common signs and symptoms
  • You’ve built up a research tolerance. You need to research more to experience the same effects you used to attain with smaller amounts.
  • You research genealogy to avoid or relieve withdrawal symptoms. If you go too long without genealogy, you experience symptoms such as restlessness, insomnia and anxiety. 
  • You’ve lost control over your genealogy time. You often research more than you planned, even though you told yourself you wouldn’t. You may want to stop researching, but you feel powerless against its attraction. 
  • Your life revolves around genealogy. You spend a lot of time thinking about genealogy, figuring out how to do more research, and recovering from weeklong conferences. 
  • You’ve abandoned activities you used to enjoy, such as reality TV, collecting garden gnomes, and root canals, because of your genealogy. 

Physical warning signs of genealogy research addiction
  • Bloodshot eyes, long periods in front of a computer screen. 
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns. Up all night researching. 
  • Signs of genealogy paraphernalia; old books, index cards and Flip-Pal scanners.

Behavioral signs of genealogy research addiction
  • Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies. 
  • Unexplained need for money for the latest software or DNA test. 
  • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors; wandering around attics and graveyards.
  • Repeated unexplained outings, often with a sense of urgency; “I have to go to the Archive.”

Psychological warning signs of genealogy research addiction
  • Unexplained change in personality or attitude. Increased optimism and sense of connectedness.
  • Sudden mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts about brick walls. 
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness after a breakthrough.  

Support is essential

   Don’t try to go it alone; it’s all too easy to get discouraged and rationalize “just one more” ancestor. Whether you choose to go to events, rely on webinars or take a self-directed learning approach, support is essential. Living with genealogy addiction is much easier when you have people you can lean on for encouragement, comfort, and guidance.

Coming to terms with genealogy addiction

   Remember, you’re not just helping yourself, but everyone around you.  You are uncovering history and adding meaning to the events of your ancestor’s lives.  You are creating a sense of how the world and its people are connected.  You are passing your legacy on to future generations.

Just say know.

Genealogy Addiction: Word Cloud

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Those Places Thursday: They Came From Neponset

   For those of you who may not be familiar with Neponset, it is a neighborhood in the southeast portion of Dorchester bounded by Tenean Beach, Port Norfolk and the Neponset River.  It is in Dorchester that my Italian grandfather met my Irish grandmother and the rest is history.

Vincent Maglio & Rita McCarthy

   Let's go back two generations to my gg-grandfather Florence McCarthy and yes, Florence was a fairly common man's name back then. In fact the last Irish Prince was a Florence McCarthy (1560–1640). My Florence emigrated from County Cork in 1887 with his wife Catherine Sweeney. By the 1900 Census Florence owned his own home. That's not bad for someone just off the boat 13 years earlier.

   On that census Florence is listed as an RR Laborer. My guess, considering that he lived 50 feet from the Old Colony railroad line, is that RR stood for railroad. Now I have the tune for "I've been working on the railroad" stuck in my head. When I think of a "laborer" at the turn of that century I think of someone digging ditches or shoveling coal and "no Irish need apply". I can't imagine that it would be easy to buy a house on a laborer's wage.

   I poured through the records to see if I could get a better understanding of Florence the laborer. On the 1910 Census he is also listed as a laborer, this time for the city. He died in 1915 at the age of 59, so, I won't find him in any other census. City Directories are a great resource. I've been able to figure out family units, find occupations, track movement year after year and sometimes get a death date. I started working back through time. In the 1899 City Directory he is listed as a "nailer". This information combined with the railroad laborer job conjures up images of sledgehammers and railroad spikes. No wonder Florence died young, his heart gave out just like John Henry. Exaggeration aside, Florence did die of acute endocarditis, an inflammation of the heart.

   I found a great series of maps at the Dorchester Antheneum. On the 1894 map for Neponset, Florence is shown owning land on Norwood St. By 1899 there is a two family house built on the property. I have one answer - Florence was making an extra income being a landlord.

   While on the Dorchester Antheneum site I stumbled upon a record for the S. S. Putnam Nail Company.

   The nail factory at Neponset manufactured horseshoe nails.  In the 1890's it produced 10 tons of nails per day and employed 400 workers.  This gives a whole new definition to the occupation of "nailer".  Work at the nail factory must have been good.  I was able to trace Florence and some his coworkers through the city directories as they moved from homes a few blocks from the factory to better neighborhoods and eventually their own homes.

   Somewhere between 1904 and 1910 the Putnam Nail Factory had gone out of business.  Could it have been that the introduction of the automobile in 1908 caused a decline in the need for horseshoe nails?  (Henry Ford installed his first assembly line on this day {Dec 1st} in 1913)

   In the 28 years that Florence McCarthy lived in the United States he became a citizen, raised 8 children, and built a great foundation for his family. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Are Your Ancestors Keeping Secrets From You?

   Earlier this month I posted - Elusive Civil War Ancestors.  This post will continue to look at William Albert Clark and his Civil War records, or lack of records.

   I like to treat genealogy like a science.  It does have that nice –logy suffix.  Since I’m treating it like a science I tend to create theories about the ancestors that I am studying.  Theories are great to have.  They help focus your research goals and give you a sense of accomplishment whether you prove or disprove them.

   In the case of William Albert Clark, my theory is that he must have served in the Civil War.  William was born in 1840 in West Cambridge (now Arlington) MA.  He and his father ran a harness making company. He was 21 when the war started and after the war ended, he got married.   He married a girl named Emma Read from Jersey City, NJ.  So, either he met her on the way to or from the war front or mail order brides came from New Jersey back then.

   I realize that neither of those two choices may be true.  The idea of William serving in the Civil War and passing through New Jersey where he meets his future wife does support my theory.  All I had to do was to find the proof.

   To date I have been fairly successful at finding the service records of those who served in the Civil War.  I did find William Albert’s draft record in 1863, but I haven’t been able to find any service or pension records.  Maybe it was time for a new theory.  Maybe William Albert was drafted but never served.

   I went to NARA in Waltham and asked where I could find information on war exemptions and it was suggested that I go to Arlington where William lived.  Arlington is about 10 minutes away so it wasn’t a problem.  I visited the Arlington Library and was told that the person I wanted to talk to wouldn’t be in until that afternoon.  I left a message.

   This was all serendipitous because it gave me time to visit the Clark house a mile down Mass Ave.  I wrote about that adventure here - Old Photo Reveals More Clues.  While I was at the old house, I crossed the street to the Fire Department and the adjoining War Memorial Park.  In support of my new theory, I couldn’t find William Albert in the rolls for serving in the War from Arlington.

   Later that afternoon I received a call from a very nice Arlington librarian.   She had gotten my message, done her own research and she told me the records I wanted were at NARA.  I smiled quietly to myself.  Her research did point me to the exact records I needed to ask for - The Civil War Letters of Exemption.  “Oh, by the way, they only have the surnames beginning with C.”  I said that should work out well and thanked her for her help.

   A week later, I visited NARA again to look at the Letters.  Unfortunately, the index should have stated that the surnames were not only limited to the letter C, but even more limited to names beginning with Cu.  Any of you Currys or Currans or Cunninghams out there might be in luck, I wasn’t.

   The folks at NARA suggested more avenues and I requested – Descriptions of Persons Drafted 1863-1864.  This wonderful old ledger listed men who were drafted and later exempted from service.  I found a couple of William Albert’s cohorts from the 1863 draft, but no William.

   This guy was really holding on to his secrets tightly.

   I wonder if there was a stigma associated with not serving.  Not serving didn’t seem to hurt Grover Cleveland or John D. Rockefeller.  They both paid someone to serve for them.  Whatever did happen to William Albert during the war years he didn’t share with his family.  I have read and reread the 100-year-old notes from his daughter-in-law, Mary (Cheney) Clark, and she mentions nothing to support either of my theories.

   The answers look like they will remain elusive for a while longer.

   My lack of success won’t deter me from acting like a scientist and creating new theories.  I know that science will shine a light on all those dark places, like secrets, and illuminate what they are and whether they are false or true.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Family Trading Cards: Displaying Your Genealogy

Get your Family Trading Cards.  Learn cool facts. See what your ancestors looked like.  Fun for the whole family. Collect them all!

I thought to myself, what would be better to teach my kids about their family history than to turn it into a game.

Kids love playing card games and I love talking about genealogy.  I created a game called BlackSheep.  The game consists of a deck of cards that represents six generations of direct line ancestors and their siblings.  Each card has a photo (if I had one), the family surname in large letters, birth and death info and a mini family tree.

I designed scoring hands that would help everyone understand relationships.  You would get 8 points if you played a son, father and grandfather or 16 points for a daughter, mother, grandmother and g-grandmother - those are called a Patriarchy or Matriarchy.  You could get 7 points for a child and both parents or 25 points for a child, both parents and all 4 grandparents - those hands are the Little Tree and Big Tree.  By now you get the picture.

I'd like to say that they loved playing the game.  I think I got a little too complex with the rules and the hands.  We did enjoy laying out all the cards on the table and arranging them into family units.  We talked about this uncle or that grandmother and all the places that our relatives came from.

So the game (for now) was a bust.  Sitting down with your kids and talking about family history - priceless.

Friday, November 25, 2011

11 - 11 - 11: Day 5 - Favorite New England Ancestors - Part I

In celebration of November 11th, 2011, 11-11-11, I will be writing all month long about my favorite things in groups of 11.

I actually have more than 11 favorites for this category so I will have two installments.

Here are the first set of 11 favorite New England Ancestors:

  • Edward Clark (1622-1710) & Dorcas Bosworth (1622-1681) - [Haverhill, MA]
    • The beginning of my wife's Clark line in America with Viking DNA
  • John Putnam (1580-1662) & Priscilla Gould (1585-1662) - [Salem, MA]
    • Infamous connection to the witch trials
  • John Hoar (1616-1704) & Alice Lisle (1624-1696) - [Concord, MA]
    • Gateway ancestor to royalty
  • William Lewis (1602-1671) & Amy Weld (1620-1673) - [Roxbury, MA]
  • Nathaniel Whiting (1609-1682) & Hannah Dwight (1625-1714) - [Dedham, MA]
  • Nathaniel Colburn (1615-1691) & Priscilla Clarke (1615-1692) - [Dedham, MA]
  • William Frothingham (1603-1651) & Anna (1607-1674) - [Charlestown, MA]
  • James Kidder (1626-1676) & Anna Moore (1630-1691) - [Billerica, MA]
  • Shadrach Thayer (1629-1678) & Deliverance Priest (1644-1723) - [Braintree, MA]
  • Henry Adams (1583-1646) & Edith Squire (1587-1672) - [Braintree, MA]
    • Connection to at least two presidents
  • Richard Sylvester (1605-1663) & Naomi Torrey (1614-1668) - [Scituate, MA]

Though none of these folks came over on the Mayflower, most of them were immigrants.  You could say that they came over on the "Second Boat".

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Anne McCaffrey (1926-2011) R.I.P.

   Anne McCaffrey was a wonderful storyteller.  I read a dozen of her books when I was in my twenties and still have them on my shelf 20 years later.  I was just talking to my son about The White Dragon this past weekend as he was about to play the latest Zelda video game.  In this incarnation of Zelda they start the story with a description of how Link forms a bond with a large bird that he can mount and fly.

   I always form a connection with the authors that I read.  Their words influence the person I am and will be.  Today I wanted to find a closer connection.

   Anne was born in Cambridge, Middlesex, MA - that makes her a local girl and one more thing for us to be proud of.  I was hoping with names like McCaffrey and McElroy that I could find some good Irish or Scottish leads, unfortunately not.  I did find that Anne's grandfather, George H. McCaffrey, was a Boston Police Officer.  My father was also a Police Officer.

   When in doubt I look for connections from my wife's side of the family.  She's related to everyone.  With a little research I found the Anne is my wife's 10th cousin once removed.  One line of Anne McCaffrey's ancestry leads back to Thomas Perkins and Phebe Gould.

Thomas Perkins (1622-1686) & Phebe Gould (1620-1686)
Martha Perkins & John Lamson
Samuel Lamson & Sarah Kimball
Edward Lamson & Martha Whipple
Daniel Lamson & Anne Chard
Martha Lamson & John S Perkins
John L Perkins & Hannah Bleasby
Irene S Perkins & George H McCaffrey
George H McCaffrey & Anna McElroy
Anne McCaffrey (1926-2011)

   This coming Thanksgiving break will be a good time for my son to put away the video games and pick up a good book written by his cousin Anne. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Our Mayflower Ancestor

This is a great time of year to post about Pilgrim ancestors.  So far I have found one on my wife's side.

Our connection is to Stephen Hopkins.  He wasn't really one of the pilgrims, he was considered one of "the Strangers", as he didn't belong to their congregation.

Mayflower Compact
Signing the Mayflower Compact

Stephen Hopkins (~1580-1644) & Mary
Constance Hopkins & Nicholas Snow
Stephen Snow & Susanna Deane
Hannah Snow & William Cole
Jane Cole & Thomas Gross
Hannah Gross & Samuel Small
Joshua Smalley & Keturah Hopkins (see continuation below)


Stephen Hopkins (~1580-1644) & Mary
Giles Hopkins & Catherine Whelden
Caleb Hopkins & Mary Williams
Thomas Hopkins & Deborah Bickford
Thomas Hopkins & Keturah Dyer
Keturah Hopkins & Joshua Smalley
Hannah Smalley & John Watts
Keturah Watts & Alexander Hathorn
Orris Hathorn & Lydia Hart
Belle Hathorn & Roy Clark (my wife's paternal grandparents)

Old Photo Reveals More Clues

   Last week I gave a presentation on who the unlabeled women are in this photo dated 1885.

   At the time, my theory was that the photo was taken at the home of William A. Clark in the backyard of 402 Mass Ave Arlington, MA.  I had no evidence to prove this.

   I had the unexpected opportunity to visit this house.  Since I hadn’t planned to be there I didn’t have the photo with me.  Luckily, I posted the photo to my blog the night before and pulled it up on my phone.

   I’ve always looked at this photo as if I’m looking into the yard, the fence behind separating adjoining yards.  Beyond this fence, there is a view of distinctive second floor windows on the neighbor’s house.

   I walked around the house and down Avon Place to where the backyard should have been.  A relatively new house had been built in the space.  I checked out the designs of the second floor windows of all the neighboring houses and thought it was foolish that those same windows might exist 125 years later.

   I walked around the block to see the fronts of these houses hoping that a renovation to the backs might be different and that the fronts still contained the old architecture.  None of the houses in the adjoining lots had those windows.  As I went back to my car, accepting the fact that either the neighborhood had changed or that the photo was taken somewhere else, I realized that I needed to change my perspective.

   I’ve always thought that the photo was shot looking into the yard.  What if it was shot looking out of the yard?  The simplest answer was to turn around.  There, on the house across the street, were the windows.



   I challenged my own assumptions and got the proof I needed to confirm the location of this old family photo.  As genealogists, we must be tenacious detectives.  Sometimes we have to shelve our brick wall cold cases.  As soon as new clues are presented, take out those bricks, get a new perspective and you are likely to catch a break.

New Clues: Word Cloud

Monday, November 21, 2011

11 - 11 - 11: Day 4 - Favorite Old Photos

In celebration of November 11th, 2011, 11-11-11, I will be writing all month long about my favorite things in groups of 11.

Here are 11 of my favorite old photos from my collection:

The marriage of Eliza Ovens to Ben Hallett - Wiltshire, UK 1864 

Hathorn family on the lawn - St George, Maine 1898 

Shahbazians together in America 

Krause siblings - Illinois 1886 

 Maglio family outing  ~1930

Maglio family portrait - 1917 

Krause family on the farm - Calhoun Co, Illinois 1921 

Three generations of Clark family - Arlington, Massachusetts 1885 

 Clarks and Reads - 1885

Schulz family and friends - St Louis, Missouri 1898

Four generation of German women - Albig, Merke, Schulz, Krause - St Louis, MO 1906

Next Up: Favorite New England Ancestors

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thank you, Southborough Public Library

  We had a great turn out last night at the Southborough Public Library for my presentation on "Who is Aunt Mary Soule?"

   We learned that there can be hidden tresures in your old unlabeled photos.  In our journey last night we found out that a woman who was label as Aunt Mary in an old family photo was actually my wife's 2nd great grandmother, Caroline (Matthews) Read, from Scotland.  Also, one of the unknown friends in the photo turned out to be the real Aunt Mary Soule, 2nd wife of the famous John Payson Soule.

   Thank you, Southborough Public Library for letting me give this presentation and to everyone who came and participated in the great discussion afterwards.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tonight in Southborough: Who is Aunt Mary Soule?

   I will be presenting, at the Southborough Genealogy Club monthly meeting, the process I went through to identify the real Aunt Mary Soule.  

Along the way I'll talk about:
  • Putting faces with names
  • Networking with cousins
  • Preserving family history
Please join us tonight, November 17, 2011. 7:00 PM at the Southborough Public Library.

11 - 11 - 11: Day 3 - Favorite Famous Cousins

In celebration of November 11th, 2011, 11-11-11, I will be writing all month long about my favorite things in groups of 11.

Eleven of my favorite famous cousins (actually my wife's cousins):
Next Up: Favorite Old Photos

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Who Is Aunt Mary Soule?: Identifying People In Old Photos

Aunt Mary Soule?

   Have you ever had an old photo that was unlabeled or mislabeled?  I've had dozens.  Join me when I present to the Southborough Genealogy Club the process I went through to identify the real Aunt Mary Soule.  

   I will be sharing tips on:
  • Estimating the age of the photo
  • Validating sources
  • Creating & testing theories
  • Developing a research plan
  • Finding corroborating evidence
Please join us this Thursday, November 17, 2011. 7:00 PM at the Southborough Public Library.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Displaying Your Genealogy: The Royal Wall Mosaic

   I’ve spent a number of years telling my children how they are related to the royal families of Europe.  I’ve rattled off famous names and talked about how far back in time each line goes.  I’ve told them that genetically there is a little bit of all these kings and queens in them.  Essentially, I got – “That’s nice Dad.”

   So, in order to get my children more interested in genealogy I needed to get more creative, more visual.  OK, I wouldn’t say that I got as crazy as Richard Dreyfuss sculpting Devils Tower out of mashed potato or Kevin Costner building a baseball diamond in a corn field.  At one point, I think I heard one of the kids say – “Mom, what’s Dad doing?”

   I started printing and cutting and pasting.  I began on a small corkboard, then moved up to a larger corkboard and realized that it still wasn’t enough space.  Then I laid claim to an entire wall in the cellar and the Royal Wall Mosaic was born.

   I printed every generation in a direct line so that the connections were clear.  I scoured the internet for images of as many royal ancestors as possible.  I displayed the royals across the wall from Brian Boru, King of Ireland, at the far left (representing the West) to Alexios Komnenos, Byzantine Emperor, at the far right.  In between were the kings and queens of Scotland, England, France, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Poland, Russia and Hungary.  I tied it all together with bright red adhesive lines connecting all the families.

   Now this had the intended effect.  For days, my kids would go to the cellar and look at the wall to check out the Who’s Who.  I would point at the middle and tell them, “See that guy there.  He sentenced Joan of Arc to death.” or “You know the story of Robin Hood and Prince John?  Well guess what, you are descended from John.”

   My children even started to show their friends.  One friend was quoted, “You have the coolest parents.”

   The point of my story is that your genealogy shouldn’t hide in a book or in a computer program.  Your genealogy wants to live large.  Print your family history as large as you can and paper a wall, sew it into a quilt or turn your ancestors into ornaments and hang them on a real tree.  All your hard work won’t matter if your history is covered with dust.

   Start working on your Mosaic.  If you build it, you never know who might come.

Royal Wall Mosaic: Word Cloud

Monday, November 14, 2011

11 - 11 - 11: Day 2 - Favorite International Towns of Origin

In celebration of November 11th, 2011, 11-11-11, I will be writing all month long about my favorite things in groups of 11.

Eleven of my favorite international towns of origin (and the surnames that originated there):

Next Up: Favorite Famous Cousins

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran Spotlight: Warren F Clark

Cpl. Warren F Clark in France with the 820th Airborne Engineer Aviation Battalion

   Warren Clark landed on the beach in Normandy early in the morning on day 2 of the invasion.  As a member of the 820th their role was to repair the airstrips in France to create an Advance Landing Ground.  By July, they had completed the repairs on the first 5000-foot runway in time for the landing of C-47 cargo planes.

   Warren at 91 has been a WWII Veteran, an artist, a teacher, an art director, a humanist, a genealogist, a wonderful father and grandfather.  As a veteran, he has taught me pride and honor.  As an artist, he has taught me the appreciation of visual design and fonts.  As a humanist, he has taught me respect for all life.  As a genealogist, he has taught me history and the connection to all humans.  As a father-in-law, in the absence of my own father, he has shown me love and how in turn to be a great father also.

   Warren, thank you for serving your country and being there for me.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

11 - 11 - 11: Day 1 - Favorite Genealogy Websites

In celebration of November 11th, 2011, 11-11-11, I will be writing about my favorite things in groups of 11.  I know that tomorrow is really 11-11-11, but I'm going to reserve tomorrow for a Veterans Day post.

Eleven of my favorite genealogy websites (in no particular order):

Next Up: Favorite International Towns of Origin

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Elusive Civil War Ancestors

   Since this is the sesquicentennial of the beginning of the Civil War, I have decided to “begin” to get serious about finding my children’s Civil War ancestors.  I’ll be easy on myself and make it a goal to be complete in four years in time for the anniversary of the end of the war.

William Albert Clark - ~1885

   I have already found a 3rd g-grand uncle, but that is not the same as a direct line family member.  I’m looking for two people.  The first is my wife’s great grandfather, William A. Clark, from Massachusetts.  I have a draft record, now I need some service records.  The second is my 3rd g-grandfather, Theodore Schulz, from Missouri.  I have nothing for Theodore.  That is why I’m off to NARA in Waltham.

  Wish me luck.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Andrew Aitken “Andy” Rooney (1919-2011) R.I.P.

 (Rene Perez / Associated Press)

   I wanted to write about Andy Rooney because I have always found him interesting in a curmudgeon sort of way.   I had intended to say something about his origins and maybe dig up a few interesting skeletons.  As soon as I started researching, the thing that hit me first was Andy’s middle name: Aitken.  Since Aitken is one of my family surnames, my article immediately changed directions.

   OK Andy, so how are you related to me?  Where did you come from?

   I have found that Wikipedia is a good informal source for biographical information and easily verifiable.  Andy was born in Albany on January 14, 1919 to Walter and Ellinor (Reynolds) Rooney.  If I’m lucky Aitken is either Walter’s or Ellinor’s mother’s maiden name.  The family shows up in both the 1920 and 1930 US Census for Albany.  Wikipedia information verified, check.

   The Census lists Walter as being born in Massachusetts and his parents are from England and Scotland.  More bells are going off now as Scotland is in the record.  The surname Aitken is uniquely Scottish.  I’m going to have to find Walter’s mother.  The Census lists Ellinor’s birth in New York and both her parent’s origins as England.  I can stop looking at her, at least for now.

   My next step is to find either Walter’s death or marriage record.  Based on the time period it would be easier to find an early 1900’s marriage record.  The marriage record I found had almost everything a genealogist could want.  Best of all the record had Walter’s parents listed as Charles and Annie (Aitken) Rooney.  There’s the Aitken connection I was looking for.   Just as a double check I found Walter’s 1900 US Census record with his family including Charles and Annie. 

   Walter and his older brothers were born in Massachusetts, so I searched for a Massachusetts marriage record for Charles and Annie next.  I found two.  One record was registered in Fitchburg and one was registered in Leominster.  Charles was from Goosige, England (at least that is the way it was transcribed).  I couldn’t find any reference to Goosige anywhere.  I took a closer look at the digital image of the marriage record and the second “g” looked more like a “y” – giving me Goosiye.  Other researchers have Charles from Keighley in Yorkshire.  Another search and I found Goose Eye, just outside of Keighley.

   Annie was listed from Edinburgh with parents Andrew and Nicholas.  I had to go back to the image again to see if there another transcription error.  Nope.  It really said Nicholas for the mother’s name on both the Fitchburg and Leominster records.  An IGI record and an 1851 Scottish Census record confirmed the spelling as Nicholas.

   The trail starts to get cold at this point. My Aitkens are from Dunbartonshire and Lanarkshire and Andy Rooney’s are from Midlothian.  Aitken means Adam, which would make it a very common and not necessarily related surname.

   I didn’t find any connections or skeletons but it is interesting that Andy Rooney started out in the newspaper business and his grandfather, Charles Rooney, managed a paper mill and his g-grandfather, Andrew Aitken, was a paper maker.  Looks like paper ran in his blood. 

Andy Rooney: Word Cloud

Monday, November 7, 2011

Bernice (Biggs) Bainton: Update #2

Bernice Biggs was a graduate of Dedham High School in Dedham, Massachusetts.  She graduated in 1914.  Does anybody know her or her family?  I'd like to give them this original photo.  If no one speaks up then I will have to research her and find her family.

Update #1:  Annie Bernice Biggs was born in the Belgian Congo in 1895.  She married Fred Sturgis Bainton in 1921 and had two daughters - Pauline and Phyllis Bainton.  Now I'm looking for the Bainton sisters.

Update #2:  Pauline Bainton became a nurse and then married Charles Bashaw in 1958.  I sent an email to a person that I believe is their son.

Waiting to hear back.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Connection Wheel: Displaying Your Genealogy

   I’m always looking for a new and interesting way to display genealogical information.  My father-in-law, an art professor and genealogist, was much the same way.  He would sketch linked family trees on six-foot scrolls of paper, each major family connected by a marriage.  I took his idea a few steps further and connected one end of the paper to the other – making a Connection Wheel.

   The letters ‘EKG’ at the heart of the diagram are the initials of my children.  One of my reasons for creating this Wheel was to get them interested in family history by showing them how they are connected.  Each spoke is their connection to a distant direct line ancestor.  Between the spokes are famous cousins that share at least two of those ancestors.  By default, adjacent cousins are also cousins to each other.

How to create your own Connection Wheel:

   First start with a deep genealogy, 10 to 12 generations works well.  I say this a bit tongue in cheek.  Not all of us have found 10 to 12 generations.  I know I haven’t on my own lines, but my children are lucky to have a mother with a great New England family history.

   I selected from my genealogy all of the immigrant ancestors.  These folks work well because they are also the ancestors of a large portion of the United States.  Next, if you haven’t already, research the ancestry of a bunch of famous people.  I have cousin connections for about 200 actors, writers, artists, presidents, and historical figures to choose from.  I narrowed the list by selecting only those cousins with at least two common ancestor links.  The next step is definitely trial and error.   Pick your favorite famous cousin to start.  Look at your narrowed list for all the cousins that are also cousins of your starting person.  Make an educated decision which one should be next either by knowing which ancestors are fairly common or perhaps to show some deeper connection like actors who have starred together or political rivals.  Continue the process of adding puzzle pieces until you have come full circle.  In my case, I have 11 famous cousins in the diagram.  Your diagram could have any number of connections.  Go wild.

   This is about creating engaging visual illustrations of your genealogy to help all generations appreciate their history.

   Try this at home and tell me about your Connection Wheels.