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.