thegenealogygirl


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Courage To Seek the Man Who Left

 

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Vince, December 1956

I have one living biological grandparent.

Vince.

That is all I have ever called him.  I didn’t decide to call him that, my Mom, her Mom, and her siblings did.  I don’t know when they decided to do that.  I’m sure they must have called him Dad at one point.  But for my entire lifetime, he has been Vince.

As a young child, I was completely unaware of his existence.  I’m not sure when that changed.  But when I was 16 years old I met Vince for the first time.

Meeting wasn’t his idea or mine.  It wasn’t even my Mom’s idea.  It was Uncle Dan & Aunt Barbara’s idea.

They tricked him.

His mother had been in a nursing home for many years.  Dan & Barbara were daily visitors.  But there came a point when they knew she didn’t have much time left.  Dan insisted that Vince come and see his mother.  It took some persistence, but finally, Vince and his wife Dena planned a trip to Spokane from California.  Dan also insisted on taking Vince & Dena out to dinner one night while they were in Washington.  What Vince did not know is that Dan & Barbara called my Mom and her siblings and told them that Vince wanted to see them all.  They set up a family dinner at my Uncle’s home.  The evening of the family dinner, all of us minus one cousin were gathered at my Uncle’s home.  Dan & Barbara had Vince & Dena in the car and as they approached, Dan explained what was actually happening.  Vince was shocked but had no graceful way out, and so for the first time in many, many years, Vince was with all of his children at the same time.

As a 16-year-old who had been shielded from basically all of the feelings of my Mom and her siblings towards Vince, I did not view this as an important moment.  The only part of that evening I can recall in detail was the only moment I spoke with Vince.  I had been playing the piano.  As I finished and stood, there was Vince sitting in a chair near the piano.  He said to me, “What is your name?”  I answered and he asked, “And who is your parent?”  I answered and felt more than a little bit of annoyance that he had no idea who I was.  That was it.  I answered and walked out of the room.

That was the entire extent of my experience with Vince, my grandfather, during my growing up years.

When I married my husband, my Mom insisted that we send Vince & Dena an announcement.  I was ambivalent but complied.  Vince & Dena sent me a gift.  It was a precious moments figurine of a couple on their wedding day.  I was not softened.

Almost ten years later I was copying VHS tapes of our family movies of that year for each of our grandparents.  It was our Christmas gift.  As I started the last tape I realized that I had another grandparent.  It struck me that even though I viewed him as simply ‘Vince’, my mother’s biological father, I was 1/4th – him.  And I didn’t know a thing about him.  I made one more copy and sent that along with a handwritten letter explaining my a-ha moment and the fact that I knew nothing about him and I wanted to.  I gave him my address, phone number, and email address along with the letter and 2 hour VHS of my children.  That Christmas we were out of town visiting family.  When we returned, there was a voicemail from Vince.

I bet I listened to that voicemail at least 20 times.  I had reached out and asked for contact but I was nervous to call him back.  Before I had worked up the courage to do so, he called again.  I had caller id and knew it was him.  I answered.

We talked.  He shared that this has been hard for him – I never did clarify what was hard, my reaching out, or the separation from his children.  He went on to share that the divorce had been hard.  Seeing his children after the divorce had been hard – not the seeing them part, but the returning them part.  Apparently, my Grandma made that moment very uncomfortable for everyone.  There was a lot of strife.  He slowly saw them less and less.  His family was not happy about the divorce.  But they were even more unhappy about his remarriage to Dena.  They felt it was shameful that he married his sister’s divorced next door neighbor and worried what people would think.  Vince was feeling pushed away by everyone.  He got a job offer out of state and took it.

He ran away.

I can’t really blame the guy.  He was young.  Divorce was taboo.  My Grandma was a fighter.  His family was embarrassed.  He ran away from his problems and created a new life.

He told me that he thought it would be better for his kids if he quietly stepped out of their life.  What he said next was so sad.  “I hoped that when they were old enough they would look me up.  They never did.”

My letter and VHS opened old wounds.  But it wasn’t all bad.  We talked a few times on the phone.  I learned a bit about him.  He showed interest in me and my children.

And then my entire world imploded.  I didn’t have the energy necessary to feed this newly formed relationship with Vince.  I allowed it to wither away to a Christmas Card relationship.  I didn’t know how to explain my sudden disappearance to him.  So I didn’t.  I sent Christmas Cards and other items of interest.  He sent Christmas Cards as well.  When my oldest graduated from High School, Vince sent a card and money order.  My son thought I was crazy when I photographed his signature on the money order.  But I had never seen his full signature before.  And likely wouldn’t again.

Then sometime last year I decided I really wanted Vince to take a DNA test for me.  I printed a very large fanchart for him.  He was in the center.  His mother’s lines look pretty good, but his father’s line is completely blank.  I also printed my fanchart so he could see a comparison.  I once again handwrote a letter asking if he would take a DNA test for me.  I told him I would purchase it and send it to him.  I mailed my package and waited.  My Grandma asked me over and over again if he had agreed.  It seemed like she was going to call him and give him an earful if he hadn’t and that seemed like a bad idea.  It was only a few months later that my Grandma passed away.

I started thinking more and more about Vince.  He was my only living biological grandparent.  (Biological is an important distinction here because my Grandpa is very much alive.)  I hadn’t spoken to him in years.  I had only met him once.  I felt this strong sense of urgency that I needed to see him and talk to him as an adult.

I mentioned what I was thinking to my Auntie V.  She said, “Well, if you want to do that you better do it soon.  I hear his health isn’t very good.”

I decided I needed to do it.  What I couldn’t decide was if I should show up at his door unannounced or call ahead.  Finally, I decided to call Aunt Barbara and ask her opinion.  She thought I better call first.  She said, “He’s not mean, he’s just absent.”  She told me he would not make an appointment and then not be there (like his sister once did).

So I called.  No answer.  I left a message.  I explained that I would be passing through and wondered if I could stop in for a brief visit.  I told him I would call him back the next day.  I did just that.  He didn’t answer.  I proceeded to call him back and got a busy signal.  I called 21 times that day and only heard that annoying busy signal.  I decided to quit trying to call.  Showing up seemed best.

 

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Me, still hopeful about collecting some DNA from Vince on the day we set out.

 

So last week, during Spring Break, I loaded my family up and we drove to the middle of California and stayed in a hotel in Vince’s town.  The next morning we got up, packed the car and drove toward his home.  Until we encountered the locked gate around his community.

I can’t adequately express what I felt as we sat in our car staring at that gate.  I was so close!  I had two DNA tests in my purse.  I had a million questions.  His house was mere feet from where I sat and I could not get to it.

Several cars came and drove through.  I toyed with the idea of just following the next car.  But I wasn’t sure what would happen.

I called Vince, again.  He didn’t answer.  Again.

We sat there.

And then a nice woman turned the corner of the sidewalk and was about to enter the neighborhood on foot.  My husband got out of the car and talked to her.  He explained that my grandfather lived behind the gate and we were trying to get in.  She asked his name.  After my husband’s reply she said, “Oh Vince, I know Vince.  He is such a great guy!”  I was already weirded out by my husband calling him my grandfather, but her response was even more difficult to reconcile.  She said that she probably shouldn’t tell us this but if we went around to the front and typed in a specific code we could enter the neighborhood.  So we did.

As we pulled up to Vince & Dena’s home, Vince was outside getting the mail.  I hopped right out of my car and walked up to him.  With a million complicated feelings going on inside of me, I offered my hand and said, “I’m Amberly”.  He was quietly shocked.  His ignoring me hadn’t worked.  But as Aunt Barbara said, “He’s not mean, he’s just absent.”  And so he let me and my family in.

For the first time in my life, I had a face to face conversation with my grandfather.  A real conversation.  Not just the exchange of a few words.  And for the first and second time in my life, I hugged my grandfather.  We weren’t good at it.  But we hugged, twice.

We also talked.  I didn’t tell him, but I recorded our hour-long visit.  He shared a few stories.  Answered a few questions.  Showed me a few family treasures.  And he took a picture with me and my children.

He would not take a DNA test for me.  He wouldn’t even talk about it really.  I could sense that it wasn’t worth pushing and so I let my long-sought dream slip through my fingers and I focused on what he would give me – a bit of his time, bits of information.

It was a really nice visit.  Vince is very quiet.  Very gentle.  Very organized and orderly and clearly likes things to be neat and calm and peaceful.  As I sat there I had to really concentrate to see that man I knew from old photographs.  But he was there.  His dark eyes were intently focused on me as we spoke.  I knew with absolute certainty that there was no way he and my Grandma could have made their marriage work.  They could not be more different.  I also felt a sense that he and Dena had very carefully constructed their world to protect them from past hurts.  And here I was opening old wounds.  But he let me.

It took a lot of courage for me to fight my way to his doorstep.  But I feel a sense of peace now that was worth every bit of my effort.

I will likely never see Vince again.

And that is okay.

I will probably still call him Vince.  But describing him as my grandfather as I type is becoming less and less uncomfortable each time.  I may always think of him as Vince, but after last week, I think I will be okay with also thinking of him as my grandfather.

The moment that will stay with me until I leave this life is the moment he spread his arm wide, inviting my teenager into his embrace for a photo.  Vince squeezed and jostled my son a bit, just like my Uncle does.  My son smiled.  And then we all stood together for a few pictures.

 

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It turns out 6-year-olds also don’t view a moment like this as important.  No real smiles from my little darling, but this photo is a treasure anyway.

 

I can’t possibly heal the deep wounds of the past.  But last Tuesday I accomplished something that I hope will open a way for Vince’s posterity to know just a little bit about him.  To think of him as more than just the man who left.

I hope I built a bridge of sorts.

I hope.

 

 

 


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My Top Ten RootsTech 2018 Moments

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Me, RootsTech 2018, posing with my Photo+Story submission

Wow!  Last week was a blur of genealogy goodness at RootsTech.  There were so many awesome moments.  If you were not at RootsTech, but want to enjoy some of the awesomeness, you can view the general sessions and many of the classes for free here.

I made notes of so many fantastic quotes during the general sessions.  I will share those slowly over time.  My favorite keynote address was Scott Hamilton.  His love and respect for his mother was so moving.

One of the main reasons to attend RootsTech is for the classes.  They were great.  Lots of choices about lots of topics.  There was definitely something for everyone.

I loved being there all week long with one of my favorite friends, Catrina.  That definitely made the week the best RootsTech yet.  Even though we were together every day, we failed to take a picture together.  Does anyone else have that problem?  Haha.

Aside from hanging with my pal, there were lots of other amazing moments, here’s a quick recap of my RootsTech Top Ten:

 

10 – I spent a lot more time in the Expo hall this year.  There were so many cool sales, coupons, products, and demos.  I could have happily spent a small fortune for sure!

 

9 – The DNA sales were fantastic!  Living DNA was $49, 23 & Me was $99 for the autosomal + health, Ancestry was $59, and FTDNA was $59 for atDNA and $139 for YDNA.  I may or may not have purchased 7 tests from 4 different vendors…

 

8 – On Wednesday evening I stopped by the Larsen Digital booth and shared with them the short video of Grandpa Costello they digitized for me last year.  I thanked them for helping me discover and preserve this special treasure.  The darling woman running the booth said, “Can you say that again and let me record you?”  I laughed and then agreed.  There really is nothing like being asked to record a video on the spot to promote something.  Of course, watching it after the fact, I realized I am basically a super happy genealogy cartoon character.  😂  Here it is:

 

 

7 – On Friday I attended the BYU Sponsored Lunch.  I ended up sitting next to the head of the BYU Family History department and the Deputy Chief Genealogist for FamilySearch.  Very cool experience!  Next year I will definitely attend another sponsored lunch or two.

 

6 – I skipped class on Friday morning and wandered the Expo hall in relative quiet.  I met Johanne Gervais at the Québec Genealogical Society booth and learned about some awesome resources available to society members.  She also looked at two curious records for me and shared some insight.  I was delighted when she said she hadn’t seen a record quite like that before.  It’s always nice to know that a record you find curious is just as curious as you thought.  😉

 

5 – During my Friday morning Expo hall wanderings, I joined NGS and learned about a few opportunities from the wonderful ladies running the booth.  This was definitely a good thing for me!

 

4 – My first year at RootsTech I met Kit.  We chose a lot of the same classes and both love the front row so we kept sitting by each other.  By the afternoon of the first or second day, I had shared a snack with her and we have been pals ever since.  Kit and her friend Karen travel to RootsTech together each year.  This year Kit and Karen met Grace on the flight to SLC and so our circle of friends grew.  On Friday evening, Kit, Grace and I enjoyed a lovely, long dinner that was super fun!

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Thursday morning – me, Kit, and Grace (who I didn’t realize was in the shot until later, I should have gotten her in closer and with a smile ;))

 

3 – Meeting Diahan Southard on Thursday at her booth.  I thanked her for helping me smash a brick wall and she said, “Can you say that again and let my assistant record you?”  So on Friday, I met Diahan at her booth and we recorded a video together.  Twice in two days!!  What are the odds?  I quit thanking strangers for helping me with my genealogy after that.  😂  But it was a super fun experience!

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Diahan Southard & I on Friday after recording a video together.

 

2 – Finding a VERY important land deed at the FHL on Saturday for a (sort of) end-of-line ancestor that helps tighten up his timeline!  🎉

 

And finally… my top moment at RootsTech 2018 was…

 

 

1 – My Photo+Story Submission won 3rd place!  New Canon Rebel DSLR camera for me!  🎉

 

 

 

Thank you, FamilySearch and RootsTech for a great week of genealogy goodness, learning, friendship, and connections!

xoxo

 

 

 

 

Thinking about RootsTech for next year?  The dates are – February 27-March 2, 2019.  I hope to see you there!

 

 


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Quick Disney Break – AWESOME Genealogy Day – Miracle Update

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A few weeks ago my hubby was checking Disneyland prices and noticed a big price drop for last week.  We decided to move up our tentatively planned February Disney trip to last week.  It was fantastic!  I’m so glad we fit it in this year.  Our youngest is at the perfect age – he can ride everything and he LOVES the magic of Disneyland.

Hastily moving a trip to the same week as the big Family History Fair in my town meant I had to go into serious prep mode for both the trip and the Fair.  It all worked out wonderfully.  The Fair was this past Saturday (we got home late Thursday).

I had been a little bit nervous to be teaching four different classes all on the same day but it went great!  We had a fabulous turnout, especially considering the major snowstorm the night before.  I learned I can teach four different classes on the same day without losing my voice, mind, or ability to make sense.  Phew!

But the BEST part of the Fair was having a minute to talk to my sweet friend and catch up on her recent discoveries.  She is my elderly friend whose own father was her brick wall.  She had only one picture of him.  ONE!  And did not know for sure who his parents were.  Using her DNA results, we were able to identify those grandparents and come up with a hypothesis for which of their children is her father – he changed his name.  It turns out we were correct!  It also turns out that her father was married before he married her mother.  My friend has FOUR previously unknown half-siblings.  They are much older and have all passed away.  But there are two living children of those half-siblings.  They have connected and will meet for the first time THIS WEEK!  Photos have been shared and relationships have begun.

Using DNA with your research = MIRACLES.

Give it a try!

❤️❤️❤️

 

I have lots of catching up to do but had to share the fantastic news.  xoxo

 


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Happy New Year! 2017 Review & 2018 Goals

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Happy New Year!

 

2017 was packed with amazing genealogy experiences, milestones of both the personal and genealogical kind, the sorrow of loss, and the joys of life.  When I reflect back over the year, these are some of the biggest moments:

 

Digging into the story of Rosey, my 2nd great-grandaunt, has been a fascinating adventure.  I’m still finding tidbits scattered across the world.  Just last week I found a big one I wasn’t expecting.  The story that is unfolding is so enthralling that I think it is worthy of its own book.  Here are the 2017 posts about Rosey:

 

John Costello continues to elude me.  He is my great-grandfather and my most challenging brick wall.  Despite his continued brick wall status, I have had some major breakthroughs this year.  I discovered seven seconds of color video of him with my great grandma and my mom as a baby!  I added to my collection of photos of him including the first one of him looking at the camera and smiling!!  I learned that he was ethnically Jewish.  He is still a brick wall, but I feel like I am making some meaningful progress for my own sense of connection to him, and preserving details for future generations to know something about him.

 

I finished organizing and filing all of the letters my grandparents wrote to each other during WWII and their LDS missions.  TEN Hollinger boxes worth.  I have also begun the process of digitizing and transcribing those precious letters.

 

I made enough progress in my Young surname study of Renfrew, Renfrew, Scotland to untangle my 5th great-grandparents James Young and Janet Robertson in the Family Tree on FamilySearch.

 

In my DNA efforts to learn about John Costello, I discovered a first cousin who was adopted at birth.  Together we went on an amazing journey to identify his father and mother.  I still can’t get over what a cool experience that was!  You can read about that journey here:

 

Still on a DNA high, I watched a Legacy Family Tree webinar on DNA and heard a tip from Diahan Southard that led me to solve my Priority 2 brick wall!!!

 

In September, I rushed to the bedside of my grandmother to be with her in her final days.  She was diagnosed with leukemia on a Thursday and passed away on Sunday.  I deeply miss her and the genealogy experiences we shared.  But I am so grateful that I started my genealogy adventures in my very early twenties.  That meant I got 20 precious years of asking her questions.

 

In October I finally held in my hands a long sought after, precious, and very rare book because of a cousin connection I made on Ancestry.com.  It confirmed my previous research efforts and added a richness of story to a family line that had been lost to time and young deaths.

 

I ended the year with a bang! when I helped my friend end her 50 year-long search for her paternal grandparents using her DNA results.  What a joyful experience!

 

As I consider 2018, I am struggling to put my finger on my top three goals.  I know that I want to continue to learn, research, digitize, archive, solve, teach, share, help, write, and answer questions I have.  But those are the things I do all of the time.  The one thing that often eludes me is a very important word – FINISH.

So I am pondering on what three things I want to FINISH this year.

The list of projects I am considering is long enough for a lifetime of effort.  I’m never short on projects.  But which three are the most important, the most pressing, the most meaningful?

I’m still pondering that and will be for a bit.

For now, I am grateful for the progress and experiences of 2017.  I hope 2018 will be just as richly rewarding.

 

How about you?  What do you hope to accomplish in 2018?

 

 

ps – The moment I am looking forward to the most in 2018 is standing in the baggage claim area of the Salt Lake Airport in August and wrapping my arms around my precious first-born, missionary son for the first time in two years and 5 days.  That will be a big milestone moment right there!  ❤️

 

 


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Spreading Genealogy JOY! one Brick Wall at a Time

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GUYS!

 

I am literally bursting with joy as I type.

Several years ago I met a sweet, elderly, cheerful woman who also volunteers at my local Family History Center.  I was shocked when she told me that her father is her brick wall.

I don’t know why I was shocked.  It’s a story I hear a lot.  I suppose it might be because she is an elderly Mormon lady and we Mormons tend to know a lot about our family trees…?

We talked for a bit and honestly, she didn’t say anything that gave me ideas on how to figure it all out.

Time passed.

I hadn’t seen her.

A few months ago I prepared a class on DNA Basics to teach at my local FHC and I started thinking about my friend.  Had she solved it yet?  If not, had she DNA tested yet?

It wasn’t long after that she happened to walk into the center during my shift to talk to someone else.  I asked – had she solved it, had she tested?

The answers were no and yes.  But the DNA results hadn’t helped her.

My inner genealogist/detective/puzzle-solver started doing this:

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And it was all I could do to calmly ask if she would be willing to let me take a peek at her DNA results.

I was ANYTHING but calm on the inside.  I was full on Hermione raising my hand as high as possible wanting to shout, “Let me try!  Let me try!!!”

She told me about a granddaughter who has been working on it and some theories she has and she told me about some new discoveries they have made that they are hoping will help.

Like, as in one document.

(But I suppose when you have literally been searching for 50 years, even one new document that leads you nowhere feels like an accomplishment).

There I sat, with a kind smile, understanding eyes, gentle head nods all masking my internal jumping up and down yelling, “Pick me, pick me!  I reeeeeeeeeally want to try to help you!!!!!”

She agreed to give me access to her Ancestry DNA.  But it was totally in a, “Do you know how many people have tried to help me over the years?” kind of way.

One thing led to another, and a few weeks later I was sitting on my cozy couch with my laptop going through her DNA matches.

I could see notes made by her granddaughter.  I found her tree.  I found a blog her granddaughter put together outlining every bit of detail they had.  Which was almost nothing.

I started sorting.  I took every scrap of a lead in each record and dug deeper than they had ever considered going.  I created a tree for the person her father listed as someone who would always know how to find him.

I compared that tree to her DNA matches trees.  I started grouping her matches into clusters.  Those clusters started lumping together into two groups.  Even her matches without trees were matching other matches in just two groups.

The woman who was listed as the person who would always know where her father was?  That woman’s parents had the same first and middle names that my friend had been told might be her father’s parents’ names.  Those potential parents had a son born at the right time in the right place to be my friend’s father.  He just had a different name.  That son, the firstborn son, completely disappears at about the time my friend believes her father became estranged from his parents.

Oh boy.

The stars were aligning.

Did I just begin the end of a 50-year journey for my friend?

(Insert clapping, dancing, shouting for joy – all loud enough for our entire small town to hear!)

And then I reined it in.  There was more work to do.

But my hypothesis was looking pretty fantastic, so I emailed my friend and told her I had found some interesting things and would she have time to come see me so that I could show her what I had discovered?  In fact, I suggested that she could come to my DNA Basics class in a few days and I could show her after or we could meet the following Thursday.

Sure enough, she came to my class.

After class, I pulled out my laptop and began the slow build.

I showed her the US Consular record that she already had.  I showed her that woman who her father listed as someone who would always know where he was.  I showed her that woman’s family, including her siblings and the parents whose first and middle names matched what she believed her grandparent’s first and middle names might be.

She stopped and said, “But their last name is Key, not Campbell.”

Yes, yes it is.

I gently suggested that when a young man becomes estranged from his family – so estranged that he never goes home again – it is not uncommon for that young man to change his name.

I explained that while I wouldn’t call my hypothesis solid yet, so far, there was not another possible set of parents emerging from her DNA matches or from any documents.

I offered a research plan that we could follow to work through the process of trying to prove or disprove my theory.

It really didn’t take her long to go from, “But their last name is Key, not Campbell.” to “My whole life I thought I was a Campbell, but I’m really a Key!”

I gently refocused her and suggested that while it was looking like that was true, we better spend some more time to be certain.

My sweet, elderly, cheerful friend was headed out of town for several weeks.  She would be back to work on everything some more.

And last Thursday was the day she showed back up at the center.

She was literally bursting with joy – just like me – as she told me that this is all she can talk about with every person she comes across.  She wanted to keep working.

So work we did.

I showed her my spreadsheet of her matches.  I showed her how I was working through some of the nitty-gritty.  We dug in and started researching and connecting more of her matches to this family.  We dug and read and compared and analyzed and updated and attached and discarded and worked and worked and worked.

We only found more connections and further proof that my theory was correct.

I wouldn’t say we are done.

But I also can’t offer you any other hypothesis.  So far, every match is easily connected to her mother’s side, or it’s connected to the possible grandparents I discovered.  Parents of a father whose life was cut short.  A father who was only around for her first six years of life.  A man for whom my friend has only one picture.

There is no third cluster to consider.

We have two clusters.

We have ONLY two clusters.

I think we are nearly there.

And that, my friends, is filling my entire heart and soul with joy.

 

 

Happy Monday, do you have a brick wall?  Have you tried using DNA to smash it?  I highly recommend that you do.

 

 


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Save the Date!

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I work one shift each week at my local Family History Center.  Every year, that center puts together a fantastic – and FREE – Family History Fair during the winter months.  We always draw a large crowd of people from our small town and the surrounding cities.  In fact, the last few years, we have filled the church almost to capacity.  This year I am teaching four classes.  It will be a busy day!

I know that most of my readers live far away from me and can’t possibly attend, but some of you live close by, so please, feel free to join us.  All are welcome.  The entire day is free and lunch is served.  It’s usually pizza, fresh veggies, cookies, and water.  Nothing too fancy, but it means you can stay all day without starving.  😉

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The classes I am teaching are the following:

DNA Basics – Have you wondered about using DNA in your research?  Come and learn about the different types of DNA tests, the different companies you can test with, what genealogy problems can be addressed with DNA, and a few examples of what DNA can do to knock down those brick walls.

Finding Hidden Records on FamilySearch – Did you know that FamilySearch has several different types of record collections? Come and learn how to find them all as we explore indexed collections with images, indexed collections with no images attached (but they might still be on FamilySearch), partially indexed collections with additional browse images, browse only collections, digitized microfilm found in the catalog that can be accessed from home, and digitized microfilm that can only be viewed at a Family History Center.

Making the Most of Ancestry.com – Come and learn how to supercharge your research on Ancestry.com by understanding the website and collections better and learning some fantastic smart search strategies that will help you find the records you are looking for more quickly.

Making the Most of Ancestry.com Trees – Why have a tree on Ancestry.com?  Is public or private better?  Learn how to create and use Ancestry.com Trees from scratch, by uploading a gedcom file, or by importing from FamilySearch.  Give your research a boost by adding the power of an Ancestry Tree.

I have been teaching the two Ancestry classes for a few years now, but they are a hit and draw a large crowd so I will just keep on teaching them as long as I am asked to do so.  😉  The DNA Basics class and the Finding Hidden Records on FamilySearch class are both new classes that I created this fall.  I LOVED teaching them and look forward to teaching them again.

Please feel free to join us and invite your friends!

 

Happy Tuesday, I hope you make a fantastic genealogy discovery today!

 

 

 

ps – We have had an unseasonably warm fall.  I think it was 60 degrees on Saturday.  FINALLY, it snowed on Sunday night.  My little fella has had his snow gear all gathered and ready for weeks now.  Well, not really his gear, a collection of items from the coat closet that he decided were the coolest.  😉  He was sooooo delighted to put it all on for school today.

 

pps – Su, in September I mentioned that we had snow on the mountains and everything was still in full bloom.  Here you go – three pictures taken on the same day, at about the same time, from about the same spot.  The mountain as seen from the front of my neighborhood, the flowers on my porch.  Utah weather is crazy!

 


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DNA Happy Dance & A New-To-Me Resource

dna-3d-2146389_1920

Guys!

 

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.

MAFFIT, Orrin, 1906 burial article - crop

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.

BROUILLETTE, Nelson, 1919 Car accident article - crop

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.