This DNA stuff is awesome. And I still don’t really know what I’m doing.
When I set out to test myself and several family members, my main goal was to find something, anything, about John Costello’s family. That has not happened. Yet.
But my second goal was to solve my next closest brick wall. My third great grandfather. He was born in France and came to the US as a child. Until last week, everything we knew about his life was post marriage. My sister started working on this portion of our tree about 15 years ago. We have records, photos, and some anecdotal evidence from family members. But all of it is post marriage.
Children didn’t just immigrate from France in the 1850s alone, but we couldn’t find any travel records. We couldn’t find him on the census. He seemed to have just beamed himself over from France, Star Trek style.
To complicate things, the only people in the entire US with his same surname, spelled the same way, are all his descendants. So… made up last name? Did his parents die when he was young, after immigrating, leaving him an orphan? What was going on?
I hoped DNA would help with this brick wall.
And oh boy, did it ever deliver!
Last week I was combing through my matches that are in this general area of my tree. I remembered something Diahan Southard said in a recent webinar. She said that your best matches are the ones that you have no surnames in common with. Those trees just might point you to the surname you are missing.
Well, I have two matches in this general area of my tree that have no surnames in common with me. They are fairly close cousin matches. I looked at their trees and while we didn’t share any surnames, those two trees did have one surname in common with each other. It looked like their end of line people with this name were one generation apart. I did a little digging and figured out how their two end of line folks connected to each other.
That still didn’t tell me how that surname connected to me though. So I did some more digging. I pushed their trees back another generation and I’ll be darned if I didn’t just find the sister of my brick wall!
I kept going.
Using the information about my 3rd great grandpa and his sister, I FINALLY found a ship manifest for the whole family coming over from France. That led me to the state and federal census records that followed their arrival.
No wonder I couldn’t find them!
The spelling of their surname makes phonetic sense, but it is a variant I’ve never seen before and one I hadn’t thought to try. Add to that that my 3rd gg’s first name is wrong on one record and recorded as simply an initial on the other, and it makes total sense that he seemed to be hiding. He kinda was.
I found several more records – a second marriage for my 4th great grandpa (which lists his parents names! squeal of delight here), a land record for that same 4th great grandfather, records about both sisters of my previous brick wall 3rd great grandpa. It was exciting!
I couldn’t find some important records I was hoping would help me jump the pond, so I dove deep into the FamilySearch catalog and exhausted everything I could find there. Luckily for me, most of the relevant microfilm are already digitized and available to view from home.
I have more to do. Lots more to do. Which is why I intentionally left out names, and other specifics here. For now.
All of this exciting searching led me to a brand-new-to-me website and a whole different set of discoveries. This part of my tree is in Illinois. My sister has done most of this research. I’ve only helped with the pre-Illinois part in Québec. This means I really haven’t spent much time with Illinois records or Illinois research in general. All of my exciting, new discoveries sent me searching for Illinois newspapers. I tried all of my usual stuff. One of the “list” websites pointed me to the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections. What an awesome, free resource!
While I didn’t find what I was hoping to find, I did find a whole bunch of goodies about other members of my family in this general branch of my tree. In fact, I found so much that I had a genealogy first. I actually got bored processing all of my newspaper finds and had to take a break. The searching and finding wasn’t boring, but the downloading, saving, and cropping got boring after dozens of cool articles. 😉 Here are two articles that were particularly interesting.
This article comes from the St. Anne Record, 30 March 1906. Mr. and Mrs. Seth Moffit are my 2nd great grandparents. This article details their travel from Chicago to Saint Anne, and the funeral and burial of their son, Orrin Seth Maffit.
This article also comes from the St. Anne Record, 10 July 1919. It describes a minor car accident involving Nelson Brouillette, my 3rd great granduncle. What I love is all of the other names and connections this article describes. One that isn’t obvious is that Dr. Benjamin is Nelson’s son-in-law.
So. What is the point here?
First, DNA results are amazingly helpful to genealogy research. I LOVE genetic genealogy! If you haven’t dipped your toe in yet, join us. The water is fine. Mighty fine.
Second, if you have any Illinois ancestors, check out the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections. A fabulous – and FREE – resource.
Happy Tuesday, I hope you make a fantastic brick wall breakthrough very soon! It feels awesome.
42 thoughts on “DNA Happy Dance & A New-To-Me Resource”
I absolutely love reading your posts! They’re always interesting and you so often share wonderful resources. I’ve never listened to webinars on the website you shared. Boy, have I been missing out! Thank you!!!
You are welcome! And thank you!! I’m so glad you updated your profile so now I know that you are Katie. Nice to meet you Katie. 😉
Those webinars are awesome. They are free to watch if you register in time, and then they are free for (I think) ten days to watch after they are done live. But you can subscribe and watch everything in their database. It’s pretty reasonable. I hope you find a webinar that will help you. <3
Do you subscribe to it? I was considering trying a month to see how much I use it, but the year is so economical by comparison!
I don’t. I have a few friends who do and they love it. I just try to watch them while they are free when I can & I need to learn more about that topic. Maybe just watch the next free one to get an idea of what you think?
Katie, have you seen the reduced price going on right now? http://legacy.familytreewebinars.com/memberships-c11.php I think I may subscribe for that price!
I just did it today! So worth it! I almost messaged you about this this morning.
I’m glad you are happy with it! 🙂
By the way, I thought it was awesome that your post went up on the genetic genealogy facebook group. Congrats on that!
Thank you Katie!
Oh! I just did it and I added the coupon code thomas15 and it was only $21 and change.
OK, I am just too envious of the luck you are having with DNA! 🙂 I hope in a later post you can explain how you found these common ancestors without knowing surnames in common. I’ve just had NO luck with DNA even with a common surname because the trees don’t go back that far. HELP!
Oh Amy, I’m sorry you aren’t experiencing much luck with your matches. You are part of one of the most challenging groups. I know that you know that. I will plan a post with the nitty gritty, but probably not for a few months. I have an obnoxious troll on this branch of my family who causes issues in FamilySearch. I want to get all of my loose ends tied up before I share the details publicly. Once I have that done and I’ve updated everyone in FamilySearch accurately, then I will write a detailed post.
Are you part of the FB group Genetic Genealogy Tips & Techniques? It’s run by Blaine Bettinger. (I actually just looked and didn’t see you so I clicked add, I don’t know if that works for that group or not.) You might be able to get some good ideas from there. I would be happy to look at your matches and see if there are any patterns I can see. But of course, you would have to give me access to your account. I don’t know if you are comfortable with that. I also don’t know if I am any better at it than you are. 😉 I hope you are able to make some progress with your DNA. Do you read Roberta Estes’ blog? https://dna-explained.com/ I love it. I barely understand lots of it, but I love it. Really helpful.
Thanks, Amberly. I have read and studied a lot, and for several months I worked with three experts in science/math/genetics. I spent hundreds of hours. We got nowhere with my matches. I wrote to many, many people. Most didn’t answer, and those who did were unable to find any connections to my family. One of my “experts” was Leah LaPerle Larkin, who is in that group on Facebook and has her own genetic genealogy practice now. So for me, DNA has been a very expensive failed experiment. I still check new matches and respond to anyone who writes. But I don’t waste much time on it. 🙂 Thanks!
Also, thanks for volunteering to check my matches, but keep in mind that I have thousands including hundreds who come up as 2-3rd cousins! It’s like finding a needle in a haystack. And then the needle just turns out to be a rusty pin.
Oh bummer! Rusty pins are a lot less useful than shiny needles. I hope you get something helpful one of these days.
Oh Amy, what a disappointment to put so much into to with so little reward. I’m sorry! Part of my success is that I am working with several different family members data. That helps me understand my matches better because I can isolate my matches to certain branches of my tree based on who we match in common. I wonder if you tested some of your known cousins in certain branches if you could employ this same technique to help you?
I tested my brother, my mother, and several maternal cousins since my main brick walls are all on my mother’s side. I just sent a kit to one more cousin. Who knows…maybe this one will be the one that brings results?!
I hope so! <3
What a great start to your genetic genealogy ! I have French ancestors but thought I collected all of them in the USA. DNA results brought in descendants of two sisters of the ancestor- whose would have had different marital surnames- who settled in a different part of the country. Great Diahan Southard tip.
Thank you Magda! How exciting that you found more of your family with your DNA matches. It’s such a fabulous tool! Thank you for stopping by. 🙂
You are having great luck with your DNA research. I really should do more work with mine. Also thanks for the online newspaper source. I find them very handy.
Thank you Charles! I was really surprised by my discovery last week. In a super delightful way, of course. And you are welcome. I’m happy to share any resources I find helpful.
I simply love your excitement! I’ve got a third great-grandfather without siblings and parents who also just appears out of nowhere. Want to take a try? Seriously, like Amy, I want to know how you figured this out. The lack of attached or even available trees for matches on AncestryDNA is my biggest obstacle. Several I’ve written to turned out to really not know (adopted etc.) and others never reply.
Thank you Cathy! It was such an exciting discovery. This is what I wrote to Amy:
“I will plan a post with the nitty gritty, but probably not for a few months. I have an obnoxious troll on this branch of my family who causes issues in FamilySearch. I want to get all of my loose ends tied up before I share the details publicly. Once I have that done and I’ve updated everyone in FamilySearch accurately, then I will write a detailed post.
Are you part of the FB group Genetic Genealogy Tips & Techniques? It’s run by Blaine Bettinger. (I actually just looked and didn’t see you so I clicked add, I don’t know if that works for that group or not.) You might be able to get some good ideas from there. I would be happy to look at your matches and see if there are any patterns I can see. But of course, you would have to give me access to your account. I don’t know if you are comfortable with that. I also don’t know if I am any better at it than you are. 😉 I hope you are able to make some progress with your DNA. Do you read Roberta Estes’ blog? https://dna-explained.com/ I love it. I barely understand lots of it, but I love it. Really helpful.”
I really wouldn’t mind giving your results a look. But like I said to Amy, I don’t know that I am any better than you. I will add that part of my success is that I had several data points to use to help me. I have four sets of results I’m working with – mine, my mom’s, her brother’s, and their mother’s (my grandma). Plus, I have enough cousins in different parts of my tree who have tested that I was able to isolate my matches down to about 8 or so that are on this branch.
The more I am thinking about it, the more I think I just need to hurry up and finish my work on this line and update my tree and FS so I can write that detailed post. A lot of what I did felt like second nature to me, but it was quite detailed. I’ll try to do that as soon as I can. But, I’m getting my two boys ready for school – 10th grade and Kindergarten! – so it will still be a few weeks. 🙂
Oooh, kindergarten! How are you feeling about the daytime empty nest?
My daughter has a November birthday, so she won’t start kindergarten until next year.
Well, my oldest is 19 and my middle boy is 16. I have an 11 year gap so I’ve already had quiet time for several years before losing it. I know how wonderful it is, but I definitely wasn’t in a hurry with my littlest one. It’s been really joyful to “start over”. 😉
I can understand that. My boys (11 and 10) were 16 months apart, so I feel that I didn’t get to enjoy them as babies and toddlers as much as I did with my daughter. I was able to really focus on her and savor each moment, rather than rushing around after two tiny ones!
WOW. What a reply! I am in the Genetic Genealogy Tips & Techniques group as well as the GMP group and several others for DNA. A lot of questions that come up I’ve already figured out on my own or through reading. Like you I barely understand some of the things Roberta writes about but going back to old posts I am seeing that I’m understanding more and more.
I think 2018 is going to be my DNA year. I have one (sibling) test I manage on Ancestry and have it on FTDNA and Gedmatch where I also have a 1C1R’s test. I haven’t taken one myself due to my being in Luxembourg.
I take one day a week off of research and writing to go through new matches and “play around” with trying to find connections. That is not enough time as you know.
Thank you, Amberly.
Oh, I hadn’t even thought about you not being able to test! Is that based on Luxembourg law or some rules at the different companies?
I hope you are right about 2018! Good luck. I feel the same way – when I read things I’ve read before, they definitely make more sense so I am learning, but I’m not sure what I’m learning. 😂 It’s a whole other language.
I’m so happy when I hear of success in DNA testing! Congratulations! I’m a firm believer, and I agree it takes work. It also takes the person you match and contact, to get back to you. I’ve been doing the happy genealogy dance, too! A match I contacted, emailed me right back, and we have accomplished so much because of this. Keep up the great detective work!
Thanks for the Illinois newspaper link. I found my Ancestor’s 1911 death in this Cook County Coroner’s index. It is not listed anywhere else. http://www.ilsos.gov/isairad/cookinquestsrch.jsp.
You are welcome! Thanks for stopping by. I have used that website for the death records search, but I haven’t looked at the coroner’s index before. I wonder if I can find anything in it… I’ll check it out. Thank you! Do you have to order the doc from them or does FamilySearch have them on microfilm?
Yes, I ordered the 11×17 formatted report from the website. The Coroner’s index covered accidents that resulted in a death and I guess murders. Cook County Vital records told me they should have the death certificate on file but they could not find it.
Thank you for that info. I spent a few minutes searching for my surnames that were in Chicago, but I guess none of them had a coroner’s inquest. Bummer. 😉
That was a fascinating story! I have one question. You said near the beginning that you were ” combing through my matches that are in this general area of my tree.” How do you know what area of your tree your matches are in, if you haven’t found any common surnames yet?
Great question Holly! I have several sets of results I am using – mine, my mom’s, her brother’s, and their mother’s (my grandma). From there I have gone through my matches and looked at their trees and noted each one with the branch of the tree they match me on. So when I said I was combing through matches in this general area of my tree, I was looking at matches in common with known cousins who descend from this 3rd great grandpa. I would keep tweaking what I was looking at by going to the shared matches tab until I had refined the list down to a small number of cousins who match the known cousins in such a way that I knew they are also related to this 3rd great grandpa. I got my list down to 6 matches, including my mom, uncle, and grandma. One of the 6 is my grandma’s 1st cousin, the other two were the ones with no surnames in common with me. I looked at their two trees, found the only surname they had in common with each other and then went to work. Let me know if you have any questions about that. I do plan to write a follow-up post with the nitty gritty details once I have somewhat finished my research on this spot. Likely in the next few weeks.
Thank you for that reply. I just signed up for emails from your blog, so I won’t miss your follow-up.
You are welcome! 🙂
Congrats on your discoveries. Which DNA test did you use? Ancestry’s brought only 2 contacts that were worthwhile for me.
After reading this article, I researched the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collection and found my husbands relatives listed in over 200 times. There was one great article about his 3 xs remived great aunt passing and her grave was dug up 6 months later to be robbed of all her jewels! Appatently the family were quite the socialites and constantly mentioned in the newspapers for every time they went out of town or had visitors. It made this family come to life over 100 years later! Thank you so much for mentioning the resource.
You are welcome Kim!! I’m so glad my little tip was helpful for you. Thank you for letting me know. You just made my night. 🙂