DNA Happy Dance & A New-To-Me Resource




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.




Ancestor Story – Orrin Seth Maffit, a child with two names? – 52 Ancestors

"Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878-1922," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 07 May 2014), Orin Maffit, 05 Jan 1906; citing Chicago, Cook, Illinois, reference 10380, Cook County Courthouse, Chicago; FHL microfilm 1288111 (film accessed 06 May 2014 at BYU).

“Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878-1922,” index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 07 May 2014), Orin Maffit, 05 Jan 1906; citing Chicago, Cook, Illinois, reference 10380, Cook County Courthouse, Chicago; FHL microfilm 1288111 (film accessed 06 May 2014 at BYU).


I’ve been working on a bit of a puzzle this past year.  Let’s start with the straightforward part.

Orin Maffit was born 5 January 1906 in Chicago to Emma Jerrain and Seth Maffit.  He was the second child born to Emma and the only child currently living at the time of his birth.  Orin and his family were living at 2896 Archer Avenue.  The informant of his birth was his uncle William T Maffit who was a doctor living about 3 1/2 miles away.

"Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1922," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 07 May 2014), Orrin Seth Maffit, 23 Mar 1906; citing 2896 Archer Ave, Chicago, Cook, Illinois, Cemetery, cn, Cook County Courthouse, Chicago; FHL microfilm 1239737 (film accessed 06 May 2014 at BYU).

“Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1922,” index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 07 May 2014), Orrin Seth Maffit, 23 Mar 1906; citing 2896 Archer Ave, Chicago, Cook, Illinois, Cemetery, cn, Cook County Courthouse, Chicago; FHL microfilm 1239737 (film accessed 06 May 2014 at BYU).


A short 2 months and 18 days later, Orrin Seth Maffit died 23 March 1906 in Chicago.  He was buried the following day in St. Anne, Illinois.  The Maffit family was still living at the same address.  Once again the informant was Uncle William.  The cause of death was acute fermental diarrhea with a contributing complication of convulsions.

A sadly short life with very straightforward records.

Except, no one in my family has ever heard of Orrin.

Orrin is my great grand uncle, older brother to my great grandma Estelle the photographer.  Orrin has several living nieces and nephews, none of whom know anything about his existence.

Now you may be thinking to yourself that it’s pretty common for families to refrain from speaking about deceased children.  True.  But how about I muddy up the waters a bit?

Emma Jerrain, mother of Orrin and Estelle, liked family history.  She liked to keep records.  Her daughter carried on the tradition.  I have found about half a dozen typed documents that are essentially a collection of family group records created by Emma & Estelle.  They seemed to care a great deal about accuracy as there are many notations and they used their own version of a genealogical numbering system.  Among these records are listed the children of Emma Jerrain and Seth Maffit.  Each list is almost identical.  The children are listed as:

  • Honor Marie Maffit, b. 14 April 1904, d. 17 April 1904
  • Chesterfield Jerrain Maffit, b. 5 January 1905, d. 20 January 1905 OR 21 March 1905
  • Maynard Seth Maffit
  • Hilan Thorne Maffit
  • Orville Maffit, b. 12 May 1910, d. 8 October 1926
  • Hope Estelle Maffit
  • Everard Wayne Maffit
  • Lorado Shorman Maffit
  • Dale Gilbert Maffit
  • Marjorie Irene Maffit
  • Jacquelin Unity Maffit
  • Seth Maffit

Never, not once, is Orrin listed.

To complicate matters nicely, Chesterfield has two death dates listed on different sets of records.  On top of that, I can find no records for a Chesterfield Jerrain Maffit.  His birth date is identical to Orrin’s just one year earlier.  One of his death dates is one year and two days earlier than Orrin’s death date.  The 1910 census for the Maffit family lists Seth, Emma, Maynard, & Hilan.  Emma is listed as a mother of 4 with 2 living.  Orrin’s birth record lists his birth as the second birth for Emma.  If there is both a Chesterfield and an Orrin, then both the census and Orrin’s birth record are inaccurate.

So here is the question of the day – Are Orrin Seth Maffit and Chesterfield Jerrain Maffit actually the same person?

Did they name him Orrin Seth and then at some point after his death decide to call him Chesterfield Jerrain?  Do people do that?  Or is there another child born to Seth and Emma that Emma did not include in her many family group sheets?

What I know for sure is that a male child was born to Seth and Emma, they named him Orin Maffit and when he died 2 1/2 months later they listed his name as Orrin Seth Maffit.  I know when and where he was born and died.  I can prove that much.  Now what do I do about Chesterfield?

It seems I need to spend a little time paging through the Chicago birth and death records for 1905 to see if I can’t find something about Chesterfield.  I also need to get to know the folks at the cemetery in St. Anne where Honor and Orrin are buried.  If Chesterfield is in fact a separate person from Orrin maybe he is buried there as well.

I think this puzzle may be one without a perfectly complete answer, but I am going to do my best to find every piece I can.  For now, my tree has an Orrin Seth and a Chesterfield Jerrain.


note:  I only included the birth and death dates for the children who died before reaching adulthood to make the list more manageable for the reader.


Photograph Showcase: A Chain of Mothers

Emma Esther JerrainEmma Esther Jerrain

Emma is my mother’s mother’s mother’s mother.  My 2nd great grandma.  She is the last generation for which I have a photograph on this maternal line.

This photo was in an envelope with the negative.  Super cool.  Now I just need to find a local place to have a print made from the negative.  I wonder what details will improve in a new print.

The photo and envelope have VERY different dates on them.  One says about 1885, the other says about 1900.  The funny part is that the handwriting looks remarkably similar as if the same person wrote both dates but on different days.  Emma was born in 1882 and married in 1901.  Clearly this photo was taken many years after 1885.  I zoomed in on her ring finger in photoshop.  There is something there but it could be a scratch or speck or a small ring.  Either way – 1900 is much closer to accurate.

I’m so glad to have this photo of Emma in her youth.  I think the details of her dress are lovely.  She seems a bit reserved, maybe even sad.  I love her wavy hair.  Most of all I love looking into her eyes and thinking that she and I are two links in a long chain of mothers.