thegenealogygirl


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Book, Book, & Book – Plus a Wee Glimpse of a Tale of Using Indirect Evidence

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I have loved books for as long as I can remember.  I probably even loved them before that.  When I was a teenager there was a certain book I checked out from the library several times.  I loved it so much that I asked my mom if I could say that I “lost it” and pay the lost book fee so I could keep it.  I was only joking.  Mostly.  You see, it was out of print and I really wanted my own copy.

That is definitely not the only time I have longed for an out of print book.

A few years ago I solved a long-standing brick wall using indirect evidence.  It was a lot of work.  I was nervous to call my conclusion solid.  The whole concept of indirect evidence was new to me.  I didn’t even know that phrase until well after I had drawn my conclusions.

Then I took an excellent class taught by Tom Jones at RootsTech in 2016 and realized I was, in fact, solid.  I had already done the very things he was teaching us, but I was uncertain until I watched him masterfully lay out how to use direct, indirect, and negative evidence.

But before taking that class and learning the phrase “indirect evidence”, I was scouring the web searching for more information to help solidify my conclusions.  I came across the book pictured above – Reminiscences of My Life and Times by, Telesphore Brouillette.

I could find it in only one location in the world – The University of Washington.

Telesphore was the brother of my previous brick wall.  I wanted desperately to get my hands on that book and see if my conclusions were correct.  Would he mention his sister in that 183 page volume and confirm my conclusions?

So onto the genealogy to-do list that book went.  I tried getting inter-library loan privileges, I considered asking my brother to go visit the library (but there is noooooo way he would scan all 183 pages for me), and I thought about going to Seattle myself and scanning away.

But I was definitely more thought than action on this to-do list item.  There were just other projects that were simpler to tackle.

Can any of you relate to that?  😉

Well, this past summer I connected with a newly found cousin, Margaret.  Margaret happens to own a copy of that prized book.  She generously offered to loan it to me to scan.  It arrived on Friday!

❤️  ❤️  ❤️

Can you feel my pure genealogy joy pouring off your screen right now?  Because it is like the mighty Mississippi in both volume and current – lots and lots of joy!

So now I will interrupt my current and equally joyful scanning project (My Grandpa’s journals from his LDS mission to New Zealand in the late 1940s with a recap of his time in the Marine Corps during WWII) so that I can scan and return this precious book to Margaret.

Who needs chocolate when you can have rare books?

Thank you, Margaret!

 

 

Now for a very quick bit about two additional books written by dear genealogy friends.

Last Wednesday I completed reading Kin Types by, Luanne Castle.

kin types

Oh!  Be still my heart and soul.  This slim, but powerfully moving chapbook (44 pages) of poetry, prose, and flash non-fiction is the perfect read for anyone who loves language, history, and genealogy.  You will be drawn into so many different compelling events in Luanne’s family tree.  Please read it and tell your friends about it.  You will love it!

I know exactly who needs to receive a copy of this book from me for Christmas.

Read Luanne’s own words describing the project here, and purchase this lovely book here.

 

In June, I finished reading Pacific Street by, Amy Cohen.

pacific street

Why haven’t I told you all about this book sooner?  Life, I suppose.  😉  Amy has created a beautiful historical fiction account of her own grandparent’s early lives.  It is lovely, moving, and so eye-opening.  Amy brings to life the experience of first-generation immigrants in America, of the challenging process for families to save and work to slowly bring everyone safely to America, and the persecution Jewish families have experienced pre-WWII.  It was especially meaningful to me to know that she wove this story using facts.  It felt like being invited into Amy’s home to listen to her tell you all about her Grandparents youth and how they met and I loved every minute of the tale.

You can read Amy’s own words about the project here, and you can purchase her wonderful novel here.

 

 

Ahhhh, books.  My love for you just never ends.  ❤️

 

 

Do you love books like you love air?  What is your favorite?

 

 

ps – Nobody take away my chocolate, please.  I may have been exaggerating a tiny bit about rare books replacing chocolate.  😉

 


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DNA Happy Dance & A New-To-Me Resource

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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.

 

 


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My Unexpected DNA Discovery – Conclusion and Tips

DNA Discovery

Finding Bob’s* birth mother and father was such a privilege.  I learned a lot, and felt like I was on a rollercoaster.  Because we were successful, I thought I would reemphasize the biggest lessons and tips that I gathered along the way.

 

DNA tester's warning

First – Please go into the DNA world with your eyes wide open.  There will be surprises.  Possibly, surprises that are upsetting.  Like, it turns out your favorite Grandpa isn’t your Grandpa after all – at least not biologically.  Or, you have a half-sibling you never knew about.  Or, one whole brach of your tree is completely wrong, genetically speaking.

For me, the surprises were not unwelcome.  That is not always the case.  So please, if you choose to DNA test, or ask someone else to DNA test, be open to surprises.  (People have been having babies outside of marriage for like, ever.  It bears repeating: There will be surprises.)

 

DNA Discovery, lesson one

Luckily for us, Bob had already tested with FamilyTree DNA and 23 and Me – three total tests.  Additionally, my uncle had Y-DNA tested with FTDNA and autosomal tested with Ancestry.  Having multiple tests in multiple places was really the key to finding Bob’s parents so quickly.

Most people can’t afford to test with every company.  As the person working with Bob’s matches, I can tell you that each one of those 5 tests played a crucial role in the process.  If even one of them hadn’t existed, we wouldn’t have gotten our answer.  Well, at least not so quickly and easily.

So what do you do if you are an adoptee and can’t afford multiple tests?  Learn about autosomal transfers so you get the most bang for your buck.

 

DNA Discovery, lesson two

I know this one is easier said than done in many cases.  For adoptees, they have a whole bunch of matches that they can’t differentiate.  They have nothing to work with.  There are plenty of cool science-y things you can do.  If that speaks to your soul, and you have the time – by all means, learn the cool science-y DNA tricks that barely register in my pianist/dreamer/reader/artistic brain.  If that is not you, pull up a chair and let me give you a few of my sneaky detective tricks.

Study your closest matches – up to third cousin.  Look to see if they have a tree.  If you are looking at matches in Ancestry, please note that just because there is not a tree attached to someone’s DNA results, does not mean they don’t have a tree.  Here is an example from my matches:

Screen Shot 2017-07-14 at 3.13.43 PM copy

This is a match I have been working with over the last few weeks to help solve some long standing mysteries.  She has not linked a tree to her DNA results.  But if you look at the very bottom left, I have the option to “Select a tree to preview” with a drop-down arrow.  After clicking the arrow I see the tree she does have.  If she had more than one tree, they would all be listed here.

Screen Shot 2017-07-14 at 3.13.52 PM

Her tree is quite small, because she had a dead-end she was trying to solve.  I have been able to help her, and she has been able to help me.  Win-win!

Okay, let’s get back to the point here.  Compare the trees of your matches and look for the closest common ancestors.  Everyone will fall into two camps – maternal and paternal matches.  If you can group them based on common ancestors you will be in better shape.  Try to connect your matches.  There are connections – find them.  Pay attention to names, but be careful, they could be maiden or married surnames.  Pay attention to dates and places.  You are looking for patterns.

Use the tools in the DNA service you are using to look at matches you share with your matches.  This tool can help you separate your matches into two groups.

Look for a match who is really into genealogy, they love to help!  Even if they are a little bit more distantly related, a 3rd cousin say, they probably know a lot about their tree and can help you narrow things down.

In my case, it was easy.  I already knew which of Bob’s matches belong to my side of his tree.  I was just looking for common ancestors of the remaining matches.  All of these matches were from his birth mother’s side.  Each of them added a clue or two that helped me identify Bob’s 2nd great grandparents as the common ancestors of his closest matches.  From there I had to switch to descendancy research.

 

DNA Discovery, lesson three

What is descendancy research?  I’m glad you asked.  I happen to have an info graphic handy that answers that very question.

gg defined- descendancy research

I know that is super tiny and not the least bit reader friendly.  Just click on the image and it will take you to the original post.

Completing descendancy research on the common ancestors of your matches, will help you build a tree filled with your family members.  You may not know how you are related, but you do know that you are related.  Building that tree will lead you to living family members who may be able to help.

Remember – you can switch any trees in Ancestry and FT DNA to descendancy view.  This will help.  Don’t overlook those living people who are marked private.  They still show gender.  I actually looked at Lucy in someone’s descendancy view, I just couldn’t see any data other than her gender.  She and her siblings gave me a pattern to look for – a family with a certain number of sons and daughters.  That key obituary for her brother, backed up the pattern I had already discovered.

By the way, there is a delightful bit of serendipity I left out of my previous posts.  Lucy’s brother who died?  He has the exact same first name as Bob, spelled the same way.  I know there is only one way to spell Bob, but there are several ways to spell Bob’s actual name.  Bob’s given name was chosen by his adoptive mother, who did not know that Lucy’s brother had that name.  I hope that was a tender and helpful thing for Lucy in her journey.  ❤

 

DNA Discovery, lesson four

Once you have built the descendancy tree of your common ancestors, start adding living family members by searching for obituaries.  Recent obituaries can often be found by simply googling someone.  Learn how to do targeted google searches to help with this.  My favorite tricks are putting quotation marks around a name, like this, “Ronald Skeen Peterson”.  If I search google with that phrase, I’ve just said to google, please bring me things about a person with this EXACT name.  Be careful though, not everything uses a full name.  So I should also try, “Ronald S Peterson”, “Ronald Peterson”, and “R S Peterson”.

Ronald Peterson is a super common name, so I can make my search even more targeted by adding additional facts.  Use operators like OR, AND, NOT, etc.  So if I wanted to find an obituary for my Grandpa I could try something like this: “Ronald Skeen Peterson” AND “1997” AND (death OR funeral OR obituary).  I’ve just told google to only bring me results that include the exact name Ronald Skeen Peterson, and the year 1997, and one of these three words: death, funeral, or obituary.

These google tricks can help you find LOTS of goodies.  Of course, remember to use variants.  In fact, if I want to get reeeeeaaaaally fancy I would do this: “Ronald (Skeen OR S OR ?) Peterson” AND “1997” AND (death OR funeral OR obituary).

If you can’t find obituaries using google, consider trying GenealogyBank or another newspaper website.  Many libraries or Family History Centers have subscriptions to such websites that you can utilize in their facility for free.

Once you find an obituary, update your tree with all of the people mentioned.  Even if you only know their first name.  Get everyone linked together and make good notes so you remember which obit added which people.

 

DNA Discovery, lesson five

Now if you are thinking to yourself you just did that when you found some obits, you are correct.  But what I mean here is you need to learn how to find contact information for living people.  This is where we get into creepy stalker territory.  This is where my particular skill set goes into the danger zone – that area where some people may use the skills for good, like me, or for not so good.  So I will be a bit on the vague side here.  If you know me and need personal pointers, and I know you will be using your powers for good, shoot me an email.  If not, well – shape up creepy stalker!  😉

I will just point you to my three main websites for finding living people: Facebook, the White Pages, and Family Tree Now.

If you don’t have luck finding people on Facebook, spend a little more time learning how to search it effectively.  Use a name but also add a city or state.  And so on…

The White Pages are good for people who still have a landline.  However, they are constantly tweaking their website hoping to make money off of you, so there is less info here now than there used to be.

Family Tree Now is a hackers dream come true.  I urge you to go there and get you and all of you family members off of their website by “opting out”.  However, you can track down those living people you found in the obits on this website because hardly anyone has opted out yet.  This website is free, but scary!  It definitely could be used for evil.

I know I said I was only going to mention three websites, but I should also mention that High School yearbooks helped me identify Lucy.  You can find many at Classmates.com.  But, you can often find them in local libraries online.  I found them in both places and found Lucy in them.

 

DNA Discovery, lesson six

I know it doesn’t always feel this way, but people are good.  There are always helpers in every family.  If your first, second, third interactions are discouraging – keep trying!  Don’t you quit.  You will find someone one day who will be happy to help.

Look for the helpers, there are always helpers.

 

Here are a few last tips:

Contact your matches.  Remember that people like reciprocal relationships.  They love messages that say things like, “Hey cousin, I see that we are a DNA match, I have some family photos I would be happy to share.”  Now.  An adoptee can’t say things like that.  So come up with something that invites that same type of reciprocity.  Be creative!  Maybe you are willing to help fund other family members DNA testing or something like that.

If your matches don’t respond, try again.  Be nice.  VERY nice, low-key, low-pressure.  Keep your messages short and open.  Try to deal with only one question or issue at a time.  Think like you would if you were texting someone who you know is really busy.  Once you get a feel for the other person’s interest level and time, adjust your message length and content accordingly.

Learn about DNA.  I barely know anything about DNA research, all the crazy cool, ultra-smart and nerdy charting and phasing and segmenting and so on, but it would have been the next step if my genealogy skills weren’t so robust.  Find ways to learn, watch Legacy Family Tree webinars, find Facebook groups for adoptees and DNA research, read one of Blaine Bettinger’s books, attend classes at your local Family History Center/Archive/Library, attend a genealogy conference and go to DNA classes etc.

 

A few closing thoughts:

I began my journey with a very clear goal – find matches that would help me learn more about my great grandfather John Costello.  I did not set out expecting to find a first cousin who was adopted at birth.  That wasn’t anywhere on my radar at all.  And yet, that is what I found.

The journey we took together was overwhelming, emotional, exhilarating, surprising, and of course had a few hiccups.

I will forever be grateful and humbled that I was able to help Bob find his birth parents.  That is a distinct honor and privilege that will hold a special place in my heart all of my days.  I hope to do it again one day.  Although… hopefully not for the same uncle.  😉

I imagine that John Costello is smiling down on all of us, a bit like a puppet master who somehow managed to keep his pre-marriage life a secret so that I would go looking at our DNA and find his long lost great grandson.

Well played Grandpa John, well played.

 

 

Isn’t genealogy cool?!  Isn’t DNA cool?!  But the combo – WOW, that is a powerhouse combo!

 

 

Thank you for sharing this journey with me.  A lot of you have been reading along.  In fact, a lot more than normally click on over to my little corner of the genealogy blogosphere.  Thank you for sharing your own stories both here and through email, text, and FB messages.  I am inspired by how many of you have a personal connection to Bob because of your own experiences or the experiences of your loved ones.  You are awesome!

 

 

*Names, dates, and places in this series of posts have been changed or omitted for privacy purposes.  Previous posts in this series found here – Part OnePart TwoPart Three, Part Four, and Part Five.


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My Unexpected DNA Discovery – Part Five

DNA Discovery

Thankfully that email arrived very late and I was really tired.  I replied that I would be delighted to help.  Bob* immediately emailed me his usernames and passwords to his FTDNA and 23 and Me DNA accounts.  I drifted off to sleep wondering if it was even possible to track down Bob’s birth mother.

Let’s review what information I had to work with:

  • Bob’s birth date.
  • Bob’s possible birth state.
  • Bob’s possible adoption city.
  • Bob’s birth mom’s possible age at the time of Bob’s birth.
  • Bob’s birth mom’s possible first name – we’ll use Lucy*.

That is not a lot to go on.

But the other very important, absolutely essential, data we had to work with were Bob’s DNA matches with two different companies.

I logged in to each account and took a cursory look at his matches.  Right away I could set aside several that I knew belonged to my side of Bob’s family.

I looked at his close cousin matches – 1st through 3rd cousins.  There was a small handful of people to try to connect.  On the surface there was no obvious connection.  Several of those matches had absolutely no information to work with aside from their name.

Luckily, one of his close cousin matches had a rather extensive tree including descendants.  After comparing the scant clues between all of these people, I was fairly certain that I knew exactly who Bob’s 2nd great grandparents were.  They seemed to be the common ancestors for all of Bob’s close cousin matches that weren’t part of my family.

One important thing to note here is that the only clue connecting some of them to the common ancestors was their surname – not the surname of the common ancestors, but surnames that matched some of their other descendants.  This isn’t a perfect indicator, but a good possible clue.

So I had a family to comb through.  I was looking for descendants of this specific couple who lived in the right place at the right time and that had a family member named Lucy.

Luckily for me, this couple, the common ancestors, were immigrants.  They settled in one state and their children lived in that state and the neighboring state.  But still not the state Bob was possibly born in.

I moved down the tree to the grandchildren of the common ancestors.  This is where it gets sticky.  Some of these folks are still alive and not viewable in any online trees.  That doesn’t mean I couldn’t find them, I did, but it took some of my genealogy street smarts.

I wish I could show you the steps that I took.  But out of respect for Lucy, her privacy, and being sensitive to her experience in all of this – we will have to keep this all theoretical.

Her father is a grandson of the common ancestor couple.  The only grandson to live in the state of Bob’s birth.  He raised his children in the city Bob was possibly adopted from.  He died in that city.  His wife, children, and grandchildren still live in that city.

All, except for his one son who died a few years ago.  That young death generated an obituary.  In that obituary I found the name I was hoping to find – Lucy.  She was listed as his sister, along with her husband and children’s names.

I found Lucy in old High School Yearbooks.  I found her and the nexus of her family on Facebook.  She was the right age, in the right place, at the right time.  All told, I found Bob’s mom in about 40 minutes.

It happened so fast that I wasn’t sure what to think.  Did I really find her?

Did I just find the birth mother of my newly discovered first cousin?

He is in his early 40s and has been searching for years.  Did I just solve his life-long mystery?  In 40 minutes?!

I retraced my steps again and again.  I thought about something Tom Jones always says about puzzle pieces only fitting together one way even if there are a bunch of missing pieces.  My puzzle pieces were only fitting together one way.

I had found her.

What followed will, again, remain private out of respect for Lucy.  But needless to say, I was able to confirm my work.  Lucy is Bob’s birth mother.

And once again, in less than a week’s time, I was able to do something I never expected to be able to do in my entire life.  I was able to tell Bob who his birth mother is.  Let’s take a moment and let that sink in.

Wow, wow, wow!  Seriously, WOW!

 

 

I felt like some strange and fantastic genealogy combination of Santa Claus and Wonder Woman, and I loved it.  I love it.  There is really nothing like it.  I totally want to do it again.

I was able to give someone the gift of knowing where they come from.  In this crazy and delightful world of genealogy, I am constantly searching and learning more about who I am.  But the core of who I am – who my parents are, my grandparents – I’ve always known.  I have no earthly idea what it feels like to wonder who you are.  To have a completely blank slate.  No understanding of your family’s history.  At all.  No knowledge of your ethnic, religious, and cultural background.  No idea if your family is filled with recent or long ago immigrants.  I, who constantly seek more understanding of my past with a real hunger, have no idea what it feels like to be an adoptee with no knowledge of my past.  I was able to use a very tiny list of possible facts, DNA, and my super-hero like genealogy skills and find someone’s mother and father.

I don’t think I’ll ever get over how cool it has been.

 

So, so, so, so cool.

 

 

Seriously.

 

Coming Monday, one last post to wrap it all up with a few more lessons learned, as well as some tips.  I hope you will join me and share with anyone who is searching for their family.  Maybe this story will help them make their own amazing discoveries.  I hope so!

 

 

*Names, dates, and places in this series of posts will be changed or omitted for privacy purposes.  Previous posts in this series found here – Part OnePart Two, Part Three, and Part Four.

 

 


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My Unexpected DNA Discovery – Part Four

DNA Discovery

I was up earlier than normal that Saturday morning.  I didn’t want to call my uncle since I knew he had gotten home so late the night before.  Mid-morning I got a text from my aunt saying to call when I was up, my uncle was anxious to talk to me about Bob*.

The second I read the text, I called.  My uncle was super cool about the whole thing.  He was positive that he wasn’t the father, but not opposed to learning the truth.  Can we just take a pause and consider what he must have been feeling?  Genetically, Bob can only be his or his brother’s son.  If we were just talking straight odds, not accounting for any other factors, he was facing a 50/50 chance that he had a son he never knew about.

But, with courage, he faced it head on.  I explained the fastest two options we had.  Option 1 – I could walk him through downloading his raw data file from Ancestry and uploading it to Family Tree DNA.  Option 2 – He could make me the administrator of his Ancestry DNA account and I could do everything.  He happily went with option 2.  It took us about 10 minutes to complete the steps needed to transfer administrator rights to me.

I very methodically downloaded his raw DNA file and uploaded it to FTDNA.  I was so nervous that I triple checked every step.  Because I had previously completed a Y-DNA test on my uncle with FTDNA, I uploaded his raw ancestry DNA to the same account.  I didn’t know if Bob would be on top of it all enough to be checking his matches or not, so I changed my uncle’s profile name to a different first initial.  I thought my uncle should know first if it turned out he was the father.

The default email that is generated when you make an autosomal transfer to FTDNA tells you that your first matches will begin to show up as early as an hour later and before 24 hours has passed.  The thought that I might be waiting for 24 hours was a bit much for my nerves.

I tried to keep myself busy with other tasks for about 45 minutes.  And then I began the obsessive refreshing of my uncle’s FTDNA page.

I would just like to point out that if my psychologist Grandpa were alive and reading this – he would likely be somewhat concerned about my mental state.  Deservedly so.  This was a lot to handle – a lot of emotions, a lot of pressure, a lot of holding multiple people’s futures in the palm of my hand.  Kind of like this:

dna-1500076_1920

At minute 60, I clicked refresh again with no updates.  My heart sank, was I going to have to wait a full 24 hours?

At minute 61, the waiting ended.

My brain had a really hard time processing what was finally in front of me.  Was I reading this all correctly?  Suddenly I felt like I didn’t know which column was which.  I called my husband over and made him listen as I tried to explain what I was reading.  I thought his eyes and mind would likely focus better and help me process correctly.  I was wrong – he didn’t get it and tried to tell me I was reading it wrong.  🙂  Suddenly, I was back.  I knew what I was looking at.

My DNA tested uncle was also Bob’s uncle.  Not his father.

My first call was to my uncle.  He wasn’t a bit surprised.  I let him and my mom take it from here for a while.  They knew that their brother had a child he didn’t know about.  Once again, I thought that was a conversation better had with a sibling than with a niece.

From here, I was able to do something I never expected to do in my entire life.  I had the distinct privilege of telling Bob who his father is.  Let that soak in.

Wow.

 

My DNA tested uncle called his brother and told him the news.

Arrangements were made for contact between father and son.

I felt like Santa Claus.

There was just one problem.  Bob wanted to know who his birth mom was.  In a perfect world, the story would be one of teenage love, being too young, or something along those lines.  But that is not our story.  My uncle did not know who Bob’s mother might be.  He was, shall we say, a bit on the promiscuous side.

That got my nerves all in a tangle once again.  But this wasn’t my journey.  It was Bob’s.  I was just helping him find answers.

We had our first answer.  We knew Bob’s father.  I sent more pictures and shared some cool and unique facts about my uncle.  He is quite well known in a specific sporting history.  In fact, famous, is actually a better word for it.  I hoped connecting to that cool history might soften the blow of not being able to hand Bob details of a teenage romance, and the name of his birth mother.

A few days passed.  Father and son spoke.

And then late one night I got this email:

 

Subject line:  Any interest in looking at my 23 and me and ancestry.com info and seeing what

Message:  Info you can figure out?  Maybe mom side stuff?

 

 

You have come to the right place cousin!

 

 

This Santa Claus definitely needed to turn Wonder Woman and find Bob’s mom.

 

But how…?

 

 

to be continued…

 

*Names, dates, and places in this series of posts will be changed or omitted for privacy purposes.  Previous posts in this series found here – Part OnePart Two, and Part Three.


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Unraveling the John Boles Mystery – Conclusion

BOLES, John Thompson & Christina, headstone

John Thompson Boles & Christina Montgomery Boles headstone, Stellawood Cemetery, Durban, Kwazulu-Natal.  Photograph by Maureen Kruger for the Gravestones in South Africa project on the eGGSA website.

John Boles is my 3rd great granduncle.  The disappearance of his entire family from Scotland in 1890 has been a mystery to me for several years.  With the discovery of the existence of his possible estate file, and the microfilm containing that file, I ordered the film from BYU and looked forward to learning new details that might finally answer my two big questions:

When did John Boles leave Scotland for South Africa?

and

Why did John Boles move his entire family of 9 to South Africa?

 

After ordering the microfilm containing his possible estate file, life got busy and I didn’t make it over to BYU to view the file before RootsTech.  So, I decided to look up the file while in Salt Lake City at the FHL.

To my utter delight, I found both John’s 27 page file and Christina’s 2 page file very quickly and made several discoveries.  The important first discovery was that they contained information that confirmed these estate files were about my John and Christina Boles.

MONTGOMERY, Christina, 1927 Estate File

Christina Montgomery Boles’ death notice.

The biggest discovery was that John and Christina had two children after they settled in South Africa – Alice and John.  They are listed as children numbered 10 and 11 on Christina’s death notice.  Child number 12, Isabella Miller, belongs in position 3.

I also learned that John owned land, several pieces of very nice land.

durban-bay-map

1930 map of Durban Harbour, from the collection of Allan Jackson.  Used with permission.

At the time of his death in 1935, John owned land that was part of the Farm Sea View.  This development is found west of Durban Bay just north of the sizable Clairmont Estate.

In addition to the land, John owned shares in several different mines.

He also had quite a list of movable property, nice furnishings, a piano, and many other possessions acquired during the years he lived in South Africa.

John and Christina’s estate files did not enlighten me on when they came to South Africa, but they did open my eyes as to why they came.

In Scotland, John was a coal miner.  This was not a life that afforded opportunity.  He would never own land.  His daily existence was hard and his earnings were meager.  His children would work from a young age and live a similar life.

In studying the estate files of John, Christina, and their children, I discovered that the entire family experienced a much better life, financially, in South Africa than they ever would have experienced in Scotland.  They helped manage mines and stores.  They owned land and homes and movable property of value, as well as shares in several mines.

This knowledge is bittersweet for me.  They went from being the poor workers to managing the poor workers.  My understanding of South African history and apartheid is limited, but it’s broad enough to know that my Boles family benefited from this cruel system.  I am happy that they were able to experience more comfort and safety in their new life but I am also saddened to know that it came at the expense of others.  History is complicated.

When they came is still a bit of a mystery.  I reviewed the documents I currently hold for this family and have this timeline:

  • 4 July 1889, Agnes Smellie Boles is born in Holytown, Lanark, Scotland and her father John is the informant.
  • 18 February 1890, John Boles dies in Holytown, Lanark, Scotland.  The informant is not his father John Boles, but his uncle Alexander Boles.  It is possible that John has already left Scotland for South Africa at this point.
  • 5 November 1890, the 7 living Boles children travel to Natal, South Africa aboard the Methven Castle, traveling with Chas M Boles.  A recently found record indicates that their father John Boles, residing in Dundee, was the surety name for the children.

John left Scotland sometime after 4 July 1889 and before 5 November 1890.  While I haven’t found an immigration record for John or his wife Christina, I know that neither of them traveled to South Africa with the children.  Did they come together?

My original goal in learning more about John Boles was to hopefully learn more about his parents, my 4th great grandparents.  Unfortunately, learning the end of John Boles’ life did not add new information about his parents.  I did learn more about John, Christina, and their children.  I do feel a sense of closure for their family, but as is the case with most research, I now have more questions than when I started.  Fortunately the questions are not essential to my research so I will be able to put them away and move on to other members of the Boles family.

It was a fitting end to find an image of John and Christina’s headstone pictured at the top of this post.

This research journey from Scotland to South Africa that John and Christina took me on deserves two follow-up posts – one about FamilySearch records and one about South African records found in various places online.

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

 


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Shout Out!

Alice Elizabeth Grant Cheney Funeral Home Record, California, San Francisco Area Funeral Home Records, 1895-1985, accessed at ancestry.com.

Alice Elizabeth Grant Cheney Funeral Home Record, California, San Francisco Area Funeral Home Records, 1895-1985, accessed at ancestry.com.

Happy Monday!  I have a happy genealogy story for you.  A shout out for a new-to-me record collection, and for kind strangers.

Thursday I was preparing a class on Family History Basics.  Part of the class was a demo portion within Family Tree on FamilySearch.  I clicked around in my own tree and found an area that was missing sources, facts and some people.  The person related to me was James W. Cheney.  In the tree he had a wife name Alice G. Tinsley.  Alice wasn’t jiving with the other records I was finding.  I was pretty sure Alice didn’t belong with my James.  But I was also sure that someone named Alice Grant did belong with James.

I did some checking in findagrave and there was an Alice Elizabeth Grant Cheney.  She seemed like a pretty good potential match for the Alice belonging to my James.  I did some basic searching and couldn’t find an obit.  I was hoping an obit would tie up some loose ends.

This is when I thought I would try something out.  I posted a help request in Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness on Facebook.  I asked for help locating an obituary to match the Alice Elizabeth Grant Cheney on findagrave.

Within a few minutes a kind stranger had found the funeral home record above.  This fabulous record was step one in proving that my James was not married to Alice G. Tinsley but was married to Alice Elizabeth Grant.  Isn’t that record amazingly detailed?  I love that the obit is at the bottom of the page!  I was however a bit embarrassed that I hadn’t found this myself.  Somehow I missed it.  (Insert sheepish head shake here.)  But a story with a happy ending nonetheless.

So – two big shot outs.

One – Hooray for the new-to-me collection, “California, San Francisco Area Funeral Home Records, 1895-1985“!

Two – Hooray for kind strangers willing to help at Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness!

But also, hooray for being able to clear up the Alice confusion.  I love a good puzzle.  I love it even more when I solve it.