Monday, June 30, 2014

Mappy Monday: US Enumeration Maps on Family Search

Gosh I love a good map! Have been known in times past to grab an world atlas or the AAA Road Atlas off the shelf and just take a browse. It always made me happy. So now it makes me real happy whenever I find a good map that's also helpful in my genealogy pursuits.

Over at RootDig, Michael John Neill wrote about FamilySearch's browsable US Census Enumeration District maps, and you can see his post here. Usually, I am reluctant to jump into big browsable record set, but on Sunday morning it seemed the perfect thing to do, provided I had a big cuppa.

It was so easy to find what I was looking for that I almost felt like a hidden hand was guiding me, or maybe the path to what I was looking for was well organized. Yeah that's probably it. First you go here to FamilySearch and NARA's list of states and microfilm roll numbers. And thank you FamilySearch for scanning and putting these online! If you go there you'll see that it's pretty easy to scroll on down and find the state you're looking for.

I'm looking for Maryland so that's where I click. Now I'm into the pool and have to swim. It's a-browsing I do go. After a couple of stabs at it I find Baltimore city and Anne Arundel County, and then Allegany County which is located in the western mountainous part of the state and what I was looking for. There's a couple of maps and I am easily tempted to stop and take a meander but I press on and find the little mountain town of Frostburg where my family and ancestors come from. Here's the map I saved to the computer.

SOURCE: "United States Enumeration District Maps for the Twelfth through the Sixteenth US Censuses, 1900-1940," images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 29 Jun 2014), Roll 26, Maryland, Allegany-Worcester 1900-1940 > image 578 of 596; citing NARA microfilm publication M1882, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

It might not look pretty or like much to you but it's solid gold to me! I could sit here all day looking at it and I just might. Here's a close up.

If you click to enlarge and look closely you'll see little dots. Those are buildings, such as residences. Imagine what you can do with that!
Did I mention I really like maps? Mappy Monday turned into Happy Monday!
A downtown view of Frostburg about 1906. You can see more of the album it came from by clicking on the tab "Album: Nat'l Pike" at the top. 

A fall view of Frostburg, 2012.
Mappy Monday is a blogging prompt fro GeneaBloggers.
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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Random Photo Saturday: kids at play

I check the stats for this blog regularly, not because I'm expecting the modest number of visitors to grow, but because I'm looking for patterns. Have noticed that posts that appear on the Friday - Saturday - Sunday schedule don't really get looked at until the next week. Guess everyone is busy playing "Saturday Night Genealogy Fun" with Randy Seaver:) Because of that and because maybe my weekend posts aren't usually very thrilling but your weekend activity is, today let's try something different. I'll go find a couple of random photos from the archive and post them with a bit of commentary. How's that? Shouldn't be too taxing for either you or I. Now for the photos!

That's my Gandma Kelly, Helen (Zeller) Kelly (1894 - 1985). She's what, maybe five years old? She's in her back yard of their home at 89 West Main Street, Frostburg, Allegany, Maryland. The yard was resplendent with fruits, vegetables, chickens, roses and other flowers, and as you can see, dogs. Her father, Gus Zeller (1858 - 1927) owned barber shops in Western Maryland and his shop on Main Street at the heart of the market district was a showplace of mercantile marketing. It sported a ten-foot barber pole and in the window passersby were entertained by a giant fish tank that held "fancy fish" or colorful goldfish that entertained men, women and children alike. There was a flair to most everything he did so if there were to be dogs they had to be special too. I'd heard about Grandma's dogs well before I saw this old photo so I wasn't too surprised to see this grouping of white pooches. Grandma is likely playing "baby" with them and the one in her carriage seems to look at us with the thought, "For gosh sakes, save me from this child!"

I'd be hard pressed to name a favorite cousin because I do really like them all. Here are the two children of my aunt Helen Lee (Kelly) Natolly (1914 - 1989), Chrissy and her brother Tom who we all called Tommy Lee. They lived in the house just one door west of where Grandma and Grand Pop Kelly lived at 89 West Main Street. When Grandma Kelly's father (Gustav Zeller 1858-1927) passed he left the house to Grandma. Her mother, who all called Ma (Moretta (Workman) Zeller 1859- 1946) lived with the family.
Chrissy was born in 1940 and was just enough older than I that she saved special outfits for me after she was done with them. I loved visiting and trying on her old dresses, especially when she started going to school dances. I remember a beautiful deep turquoise satin number with a bubble skirt. Wore it to one of my very first high school dances. Thank you Cousin Chrissy!
Her brother was too much older - and a boy, yuck - so that he and I didn't have much in common and I didn't know him as well as his sister. She was fun and he was, well, a boy. Yuck.
Chrissy got married and lived in the house just opposite her parent's house and Grandma's house on Main Street.

That's me there. I'm about five years old and maybe about the same age as Grandma in that picture of her with the dogs. I'm riding my tricycle on East Main Street in front of the apartment Mom and Dad rented until 1952 when we moved from little Frostburg in the western mountains of Maryland to the big city of Cleveland. When we lived here Mom and I walked everywhere, from our place on East Main Street, uptown to the main business district, and then further up to Grandma Kelly's house on West Main Street. We'd also walk to Mom's parents house and visit with Grandmother Williams, and Grandfather if he was home. We walked and walked. I thought it was the best!
A word about the name of the street. It was named Union Street and the two ends were North Union and South Union. About 1938 it was renamed Main Street and the two ends became East Main and West Main. Whenever I think about that change I have to laugh. What the heck happened? The four compass points remain constant so how did the street change from north and south to east and west. East and west is correct on the compass, so the unfortunately mistaken naming was the earlier north and south. Anyway, a bunch of streets were renamed about the same time and Mom's beloved Loo Street was renamed to College Avenue. It really helps to know this when looking at older records! Loo Street? Where's Loo Street??

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

GEDmatch, I love you but you're driving me crazy!

And this is what I saw this morning when I tried to sign in to GEDmatch! Grrrr.

At this point I'd pay, as would Kerry, blogger extraordinaire over at the Clue Wagon. In this post she says that she'd gladly pay if it meant GEDmatch would be up and running more. Here's what she wrote about it all and a bunch more stuff to boot. It's worth your reading time.

Here’s the thing, though: I can’t complain. GEDmatch is run by a couple of smartiacs who are real humans, with full-time jobs and lives that (oddly) don’t seem to revolve around my personal needs. The site is 100% free, and subsists only on donations and the generosity of its owners. Under those circumstances, it’s a miracle that the site ever works. We’re extremely lucky to have it.

And I have to agree with her, as I usually do. I too am really thankful that those guys over at GEDmatch are as clever as they are! What they do is genius. And the site keeps getting better all the time. The new triangulation tools are Da Bomb. So here I was all excited this morning to get back going on the Farrell project because I had some traction now, but there was that nasty gray screen you see above. The thing that worries me most is that the usual message that the site is down and they are working on it and it should be back up in _________ (fill in the blank with the timeframe of your choice, often 2 weeks) is missing. But today all I get is that stupid gray screen. Now I'm sad.

UPDATE, 6/26/2014: This morning GEDmatch entry page says that they should have some limited services up by the weekend. They are trying to move the servers again and full service will hopefully resume in a couple more weeks. They are trying and I'm no longer sad.

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Zellers of Frostburg and Chicago Part II

I'm working on the Zellers at the moment and doing yesterday's post and this one in hopes of connecting with and cousins who might be out there and we might have overlooked. In a nutshell, Charles Zeller immigrated to America about 1851 and went back in 1854 to marry Anna Mary Browning (or possibly Bruning) at Sankt Vitus Katholisch, Ellwangen, Jagstkreis, Wuerttemburg, Germany. The newlyweds immediately came back to the states and resided in Frostburg, Maryland. Charles opened a candy and baked sweets store. They started their family in 1865 and had 11 children.

In the last post you met Gustav my great grandfather and barber entrepreneur, Charles the retired engineer, Gottlieb who died young at 28, and George the barber shop owner. In this post we'll look at the twins Frederick and John, Henry and William who both died young, and Charles and Anna Mary's only daughter Annie Mary. First, the twins.

Frederick Zeller was born in 1868 and died sometime after he was counted in the 1940 census. We don't know where he died or when nor where he is buried but we find him in the 1900 census living at home with parents and sibs at 5248 Dearborn in Chicago. I tried to google a street view and saw an empty lot. Too bad because I was able to find some of the other properties were this Zeller family lived. He is listed as working as a machinist. In the 1910 census he's living with his sister Annie Mary and her husband Charles Lill at 5254 Dearborn and Frederick is working as a machinist. I can't find him in the 1920 census, darn it, but in the 1930 census he's living at 7229 Champlain Ave, is single and listed as a retired mechanic. He's 62 years old and living with his brothers John and George who own the building. In 1926 I see a listing in a business directory that might be him and if him, he's listed as an investment broker, with offices of FM Zeller & Co. in the Rookery Building at 209 S. LaSalle Street, Suite 209. Don't know how to confirm if this is him or not. In the 1940 census he's living with his twin, John, at 836 55th Street and retired. Then he is gone.

John Zeller was Frederick's twin and born in 1868 and died in 1945 at age 76. He's buried in Oak Woods Cemetery in the family plot. He was 76. He's another barber in the family. In the 1900 census he's living with the family at 5248 Dearborn in Chicago and already working as a barber. In the 1910 census he's found as a lodger at 827-829 Bowen Avenue and again working as a barber. In 1920 he's a renter at 4302 Langley which has 32 lodgers and roomers. He is listed as working at a barber shop. In 1930 he's a retired barber. He owns the building at 7229 Champlain Ave. with brother George and it's valued at $5000 with two renters who pay $65 per month. Brothers Frederick and George are also there. In 1940 he's still a retiree barber and living with his twin Fred at 836 55th Street. He died five years later.

Henry Zeller was born in 1872 and died in 1886 at age 16 in Chicago. He's buried in the family plot in Oak Woods Cemetery. In the 1880 census the family was in Frostburg in Western Maryland and Henry died and is buried in Chicago so that leads me to think the family moved in 1884 and not 1894. He was the first to be buried in the family plot.

William Zeller was born in 1872 and died in 1906, the year his mother died and his two brothers, George and Charles, got married. In the 1900 census he too is working as a barber. He's buried in the family plot in Oak Woods Cemetery.

Daniel Zeller  was born in 1875 and died in 1928 at age 53. He too is buried in the family plot in Oak Woods Cemetery. In the 1900 census he's living at home with the family at 5248 Dearborn is single and works as a clerk in a crockery store. In 1910, after his parents both died and three of the siblings got married, he's living with his sister Annie Mary and her husband Charles Lill at 5254 Dearborn. He's a traveling salesman for a "glass house", which I presume means that he sells glass ware. In the 1920 census he's still living with sister Annie but they have moved to Stony Island Ave. He's working as a china salesman. Eight years later he was gone.

Last on the list of siblings is the only girl, Annie Mary, born in 1878 and died in 1944 at age 66. She lived with her family on Dearborn until her marriage to Charles Lill on June 10, 1905. Interestingly, Charles mother's birthplace is listed as Maryland. Did Annie know Charles back when they lived in Maryland? Can't say at present but might delve into it later. Annie and Charles are the only couple to have produced a child and they had just  one, a son Daniel Lill born in 1907. Sad to think that neither of Mary's parents lived to see this grandchild, which they undoubtedly would have loved. In the 1910 census they reside at 5254 Dearborn and son Daniel is 3 years old. Also living with them is Annie's brother Frederick. Charles works as a paper cutter and later a "paper man" at a printing company. In 1920 they reside on Stony Island Avenue but in 1930 they reside at 7246 Champlain and own the property valued at $8000. In 1940 the same property is only valued at $3500 and four renters are present. Annie Mary died on September 2nd, 1946 and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery. She last resided at Fox Lake Village, Lake County, Illinois. The death index says that her father's birthplace was O'leablinger, Wurtenburg, Germany. I've tried to quickly find that location because it's a good clue as to Annie's father Charles' birthplace but have come to the conclusion that it might be a phonetic spelling, so it goes on the list for later.

I found Annie and Charles Lill's son Daniel Lill. Born in 1907 in Chicago, he died in 1987 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He moved there between 1940 and 1957 because I can find him in business directories. It seems that he worked doing something in radio and perhaps this is the work that moved him out west. He married Martha Whiteker and her mother Anna age 62 and sister Edith age 32 are living with them in the 1940 census. Daniel and wife own the house at 6415 Marzack and the value of their home is $4100. They had one son, named Daniel after his father.

Daniel Lill and his wife Martha had one son, Daniel Frederick Lill. He was born in 1932 and died in 2007. I just missed him. Too bad. An obit on Find A Grave says that he was in the Air Force and fought in Korea which you can see here. It states that he moved to Cheyenne in 1948 so that's a tip-off as to when his parents left Chicago. There's a lot of information and good clues in that obit posted to Find A Grave. He was interested in mysticism and was a Rosicrucian. And it says that friends can make a donation in his name to the local animal shelter. I would have liked to know him because he sounds very interesting. He never married and had no children.

Well that's the run down on the Zeller family. Now if Daniel Frederick Lill would have married and had a bunch of kids I might have someone to call and chat with about this Zeller bunch of ours. Maybe he would have had pictures or some object that belonged to his great grandparents from Germany. But he didn't.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Getting to better know the Zellers of Frostburg and Chicago

The Zellers are on my Dad's side, his mother's father's family. They go back to Germany and you could probably guess as much. When picking which family to look into and explore next they got overlooked by me until recently. I guess that because I heard so much about them growing up, their lives seemed an open book with not much left to explore. Of course I was wrong. There's always so much more to learn! Silly me. And the best part of this has been comparing what I thought I remembered about the Zeller, especially the group who moved from Frostburg, that little mountain town in Western Maryland that gets written about so often here, to Chicago in either 1884 or 1894, I'm still not sure which. So let me tell you what I found out.

Charles William Zeller (1829-1901)

There he is, the first of our Zeller folks to land in America. Charles William Zeller. Born in Wuerttemburg, Germany in 1829, he came to the states about 1851. We haven't a clue as to why, other than the usual reasons such as escaping poverty or persecution. He landed in Western Maryland and Mom's genea-sense says that he probably had relatives there or east of there near Hagerstown or Frederick. There were Zellers in both those locations just about the time he came and one could easily imagine him visiting them and then working his way in a westerly direction along the National Road, ending up in Frostburg, a town just on the brink of boom due to coal mines. Prosperous times were ahead and Charles was there and ready.

His occupation was as listed on the 1860 and 1870 census was confectioner. He brought his candy and baking skills with him from Germany to little Frostburg and opened a successful shop. Checking some history writings for the area I found that he was one of very few confectioners when he first opened the door of his shop but as time went on competition grew fierce. It seems that Frostburg had a sweet tooth back then.

The 1880 census gives hints to the family circumstances. Charles, age 51, doesn't own a candy shop anymore but is listed as working for a coal company. That's hard to imagine. How must he have felt about closing his shop and then needing income, going to work for a coal company, which was hard dirty work. It doesn't say he was a miner so I'm thinking that he had an office job. This census page is hard to read and names and jobs are abbreviated so one is left trying to figure out what's what, but it clearly says that Charles "works for coal co." and his son "mines coal". That gives me a hint as to the logic of the enumerator.

About 1884 Charles moves his family to Chicago. They are there in the 1900 census and Charles is a baker again and 71 years old. All of his children are living with he and Anna Mary, except my great grandfather Gustav Zeller who stayed in Frostburg, and Gottlieb who died in 1889.

So here's my purpose in this post. Once you read this you'll understand what I'm up to but let me save you some time and just go on and tell you what's happening. There are few descendants of this couple who married and even fewer who had kids. This family unit is highly unusual in that regard because the other ancestral family groups in this time period were busy growing families that had a dozen or more offspring. So this post is a way of reaching out to any cousins who descend from this family. If you slipped through the cracks in our research, I really want to connect with you, and I'm hoping that if you google names you'll find this post and email.

Charles and Anna Mary had these 11 children:
 Charles H. Zeller (1855 - 1837)
  Gustav William Zeller (1858 - 1927)
   Gottlieb Zeller (1861 - 1889)
    George W. Zeller (1862 - 1931)
      Frederick Zeller (1869 - after 1940), he and John are twins
       John Zeller (1869 - 1945), he and Frederick are twins
        Henry Zeller (1870 - 1886)
         William Zeller (1872 - 1906)
          Daniel Zeller (1875 - 1828)
           Annie Mary Zeller (1878 - 1944)

Gustav William is my great grand father and we know tons about him. If you want to see what he was about just type his name in the search box right under the surname graphic to the right.

At a tangent let me say that in about half the census listings Charles is listed as "Charles J" and not Charles William, so that's confusing. Also, Charles William died in 1901 at the age of 72 and Anna Mary died in 1906 at age 72 as well. The kids in Chicago pretty much lived with them until right after their parents died. By the 1910 census they are scattered... well not really because they continued to live with each other from time to time, as you'll see.

Let's proceed now and I'll list the children of Charles and Anna Mary and share the bones of what we know about them. First there was Charles H. Zeller (1855 - 1837). In the 1900 census he's living with his parents at 5248 Dearborn in Chicago and working as a machinist. He married Christina Long (1851-1930) on 8 March 1906 a few months before his mother died. Christina was born in Germany, as were Charles' parents. In the 1910 census he and Christina are residing at 7001 Calumet. It says that he is living on his own income, whatever that means, but to me it sounds like he might have investment or an inheritance he put to good use. He's still married but they have no children. In the 1920 census he and Christina own the house at 7258 Calumet and they have two renters. He's listed as a retired engineer. In the 1930 census he's widowed and living as a renter at 518 E 70th Street and renting for $58 per month. He's retired, it says. Charles H. and Christina never had children so there's no hope of finding a living descendant on this line. Charles is buried in the family plot at Oak Woods Cemetery.

Mom thinks Gottlieb Zeller (1861 - 1889) died in 1989 at age 28. In the 1880 census he's 19 and living with his family in Frostburg in Western Maryland and working as a coal miner. He too is buried in the family plot at Oak Woods Cemetery. Wonder why he died? At some point I'll have to try for the death certificates for this family.

George W. Zeller (1862 - 1931) is another one of the family who married. In the 1900 census he's living with his family at their home at 5248 Dearborn in Chicago and working as a barber and single. On March 20, 1906 and before his mother died but just a couple of weeks after his brother Charles H. married, George marries Karloine Jansen. I seriously can't find him in 1910 and I've looked high and low. Did he and Karoline move away, perhaps back to Germany to visit family? He and Karoline are just invisible to me. In the 1920 census he's single and renting at 4138 Cottage Grove Ave. He's manager in a barber shop and owns it. By the way I should point out here that his brother and my great grandfather owned very successful barber shops in Western Maryland. In the 1930 census he's listed as a retired barber living with his brothers John and Frederick at 7229 Champlain Avenue. He owns the building and has two renters who pay $65 a month to him. The building is worth $5000. His death listing indicates that his mother's name was Mary Browning born in Stuttgart, Germany and his father was born there as well. He died at the age of 68 and is buried in the family plot at Oak Woods Cemetery.

Now for the twins, Frederick Zeller (1869 - 1932) and John Zeller (1869 - 1945). Let's consider Frederick first. I'll get to them in the next post.
My great grandfather Gustav Zeller (1884 - 1927.)

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Why wouldn't you want to know about your ancestors?

I have to confess to not understanding those folks who don't care a fig about getting to know their ancestors. It's so much fun, isn't it? Sure, a lot of hard work and challenges, but fun in the end. Mom's sister Dot had no interest in genealogy even when Mom talked about it and told her stories about their shared ancestors who had interesting lives. On more than one occasion Mom offered to help Dot get started, especially on her husband's Conrad side, but she'd have none of it. Kinda funny because Dot's son and my cousin Steve is an avid genealogist, when he's not playing golf.

I bring this up because recently I asked Mom how she came to have such an impressive collection of family photos. Probably got them from her mother I thought, but wanted to confirm the occasion and circumstances. I was sorting through the photo file while making up an ancestor book for Mom's cousin Bill and thought about how fortunate it is that we have so many pictures of our ancestors. They all had big families and we are missing pictures of some of them but it is surprising how complete her collection is. But how did she get so many?

She told me that after her mother Emma died in 1956 and they were cleaning out the house, Dot took the photos. Dot didn't value them but before throwing them out called Mom to ask if she wanted them. Of course Mom did! It has become a precious family treasure.

Mom kept on adding to her stash over the years and got or copied many more pictures from cousins near and far. They would even call her and say, "I have this box of old family photos in the attic. Do you want them?" Mom always said yes.

Every time I sort through them I notice a new one and today here's the one that jumped out. Why hadn't I noticed it before?

Emma Susan (Whetstone) Williams, Mom's mother, holding Mom.
About 1919.
How precious is this photo to me, I can't even say.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

A thought about AncestryDNA retiring products

Maybe you read the news on the blogs or news feeds? AncestryDNA is retiring both the Y-DNA and mtDNA products (along with a couple more products including one I particularly enjoyed, MyCanvas) and deleting all trace from their site, which will include content and matches. See what CeCe Moore posted to her excellent blog, Your Genetic Genealogist here. Below is part of what she wrote.

Q: Will the entire Y-DNA and mtDNA site interface be retired? Will you be able to view and contact your matches?
A: The entire interface will be retired, including the match lists and the ability to contact your matches.

My comments: If you have tested there, I strongly encourage you to contact your matches before September 5th (and so does because you will not have another opportunity to do so.  You can download your raw data (CSV file) until September 5th by going to and upload to other services like
Family Tree DNA.

This is scary stuff if you ask me. If you tested with these products your stuff is gone as of September 5th. Just gone. So of course, as CeCe suggests, you need to get on over there and download your stuff soon if you want it.

The reason I find it scary is that some folks paid for a service and aren't going to get it anymore and to me that's a big ol' black eye on Ancestry and calls into question their commitment to products. It's not about the money and paying for a service that one would assume is offered indefinitely, but about it calling into question Ancestry's commitment to those of us who chose to use it. How hard would it be to leave that part of the AncestryDNA web site up and running? What would that cost them? Peanuts, I'm thinking.

But my own take-away is that when we buy a DNA testing service we are depending on that company's commitment to a business model that is dedicated to DNA testing. Ancestry is a gigantic corporate entity with fingers in many pots. It's revenue stream has many sources and a very small part of that is likely the earnings from AncestryDNA's Y and mt testing. If they were making money on it they'd just continue on offering it, wouldn't they? How serious can their commitment be if a product isn't earning as hoped for? It must go... is that what they're thinking? Is their priority the revenue stream and not users? It would seem so, at least in this case. Makes me wonder what will eventually happen to all the Member Trees if revenues from the main site ever falter? Sure, genealogy is real popular now but what's going to happen in 50 years? Will that tree I've been working so hard on with all the photos and documents just up and disappear? For the first time I'm thinking, yeah, maybe.

I don't know about you but I am so far into this DNA matching thing that if either 23andMe, AncestryDNA for autosomal DNA testing, or GEDmatch went away, I'd be a hurting cowgirl! Sure I've downloaded everything you can, but now I depend on the interfaces and how they work, and that point has been driven home recently now that GEDmatch is down for service.

When we buy a DNA product we're buying into a corporate philosophy and commitment... or lack thereof. To us it's not a product so much as it is a tangible connection to our ancestors.

My great grandparents and Mom's grandparents on her mother's side. Gone now but their DNA lives on in Mom and me... and at 23andMe and AncestryDNA.

Catherine Elizabeth (House) Whetstone 1865 - 1947
and Joseph Hampton Whetstone 1858 - 1939.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Oh no! It happened again!

This really makes me sad and I bet it will you too. I just heard another story of a family's lost history. Weren't we going to do something about this problem? I thought we did. It's not enough sorrow that our oldest generation loses their best story tellers all the time but the deliberate destruction of personal family treasures is hard to take. My heart breaks.

Here's what happened recently and it tells of two kinds of family history loss. I sent a message to a user on when I found her tree with some of Mom's House people. She's descended from one of Samuel Albert House and Mary Elizabeth (Farrell) House's 15 children and Mom and I descend from another. We messaged back and forth a while in the beginning of the year and then she got busy with life, as we do from time to time. But a couple of days ago we got messaging again.

Now I'm super fortunate in that Mom saves everything. We have photos, birth and death certificated, copies of wills and land transactions. It's a vast treasury of our family's history. But not everyone is so lucky, and my House cousin isn't one of us in that regard.

Her mother wasn't one to keep ties strong so when her immediate family moved far away, that was pretty much the last my House cousin saw of her extended family. There was one trip back east when cousin visited her Aunt Sue and noticed all the old family photos on the wall. I thought about how different that was than my upbringing where we just about lived in everyone else's pockets. Grandmas told stories, aunties shared traditions, and you knew your immediate family tree because they all sat at the supper table. I tell ya, I felt bad for my new-to-me House cousin and wanted to reach right out and give her a big hug. I'm guessing that because of that physical distance as well as the emotional distance from relatives, she didn't feel that she was able to make a deeper connection there. I've done that same thing with certain family connections and just didn't take full advantage of what they know or had in their stash. Opportunity lost.

I have come to think that most of us yearn for the knowledge of family and to know how we're connected to them. We want to feel connected to our own people. Our House cousin could see that there was a family to be connected to, just out of reach. After cousin's mom's health failed as well as her memory, she realized that the connections were also fading. She remembered her Aunt Sue and these photos and wished that she'd paid more attention. Who hasn't done that?

And then House cousin related a story about her Aunt Sue and when she passed. Aunt Sue had three boys and she left them everything, including the family home place and all the family history treasures. Which they threw out. House cousin would have gladly taken all of the old family stuff, but they hardly knew her and if they remembered her at all probably wouldn't have guessed that she of all people would be interested in that old stuff. So, not knowing what to do with it all, they just went on and threw it all out.

You've likely heard of stories that are greatly similar to this one. Gosh, my own Dad's aunt died without passing on her holdings of family history and photos. So, not knowing what to do with it all and not wanting to take it on themselves, her sons burned it all out in the yard. Oh, what Mom and I would give right this minute to have it! But we'd grown distant from the boys and they had no way of knowing that we wanted it, would have gladly taken it all.

It's like that sometimes. We keep from reaching out because of something or other when all the while all we want is to be closer and to share.

No photo today
to represent all the lost photos.

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Thomas and Judah Farrell DNA Project: First try at chromosome mapping and GEDmatch is down

I love GEDmatch and my most serious DNA analysis work is done there. Sure, it's fun to contact DNA cousins at 23andMe or AncestryDNA but I really need a good chromosome browser and GEDmatch is the ticket. But today it's down and right at a critical junction when I badly need the use of its tools and it's going to be down for a couple of weeks. Grrr.

Now that I've moaned and groaned a moment let me tell you what I'm up to. Cousin Rich and I have about a dozen or so people in various states of DNA match. Mom and Uncle Sonny are the most solid match and share the most DNA. They both descend from the two oldest daughters of Thomas and Judah Farrell. (You can read the overview of the Farrells and this project here.) Mom tested with 23andMe and Uncle Sonny and his sister Aunt Mary tested with AncestryDNA. Mom has now tested at AncestryDNA too. Rich and I have kept a list of DNA cousins and some have good trees and some don't. One guy is adopted so we don't know how he fits in. But they all have some matching segments shared with Mom and Uncle Sonny.

Mom and Uncle Sonny are our "benchmarks" because they share the most DNA. Here's a look at the chart GEDmatch whipped up for us showing exactly how they share their DNA. Nice, huh?

Chromosome browser from GEDmatch.

As each new DNA cousin popped up an idea kept forming and reforming in my noggin. I could see the relationships and the stream of chromosomes, but a pattern wanted to form but just couldn't. Ever have that happen? Now let me tell you how I stumbled into exactly what I needed.

First, I saw that there were two terms and that I might have confused: chromosome browser and chromosome mapper. What you see above is a chromosome browser. It is a tool that lets you compare the DNA of two or more individuals to see exactly which segments of DNA are shared. You can then introduce a third person into this mix and that's called triangulation. If you have three people sharing exact (or very close) chromosome segments, that's called triangulation and with solid trees for all three and only one shared most recent ancestor, it's a sure bet that the chunk of shared chromosomes came from the shared ancestor.

A chromosome mapper is a spread sheet that shows you which segments on which chromosomes are shared between many people. In this way you can determine which chromosome segments came from which ancestor with even greater confidence. With any sort of luck, you can then know that anyone with those exact segments descends from that same ancestor. Yes, that's right. If an adoptee who knows nothing about his ancestors also shares those specific segments they descend from that common ancestor.

Chromosome mapping spreadsheet using a Kitty Cooper template with our DNA matches.
Thank you, Kitty Cooper!!!
You need to know that I have never used Excel before, and it kinda scared me. Looked too complicated. Never mind, because I wanted to do this mapping thing so bad I just jumped in the Excel water. I went on ahead and downloaded a template from Kitty Cooper which you can find here. It's the CSV one. I googled how to use Excel and played with it for a while and found out that I could enter any value in a column and then use Sort and Filter on the Home bar to get the numbers in numerical order. Sounds way, way harder than it is. (Cousin Rich is a whiz at spreadsheets and he'll have a good laugh at my expense reading this! He's in Scotland with family playing golf so maybe he'll miss this post.)
Next step was to decide what the column heading should be. You can see the ones I chose but now that I've played with it, think I'll add "number of generations to MRCA" or most recent common ancestor. See post before this for an overview of our requirements and that should tell you why this is important. There are two columns that you don't see here and those are GEDmatch kit number and email. And obviously you can see the attempted redaction of surnames. Not pretty but it works. 
There are two names that don't have any MRCA or most recent common ancestor info and they are Stephen and David. One is adopted so he came to our DNA matching party with no tree. What we can now tell him is that he shares some of the DNA that came down to us through the Thomas and Judah Farrell pairing. It could be DNA that came with them from Ireland and thereby came from ancestors "upstream". Or it could have come to him from one of the other of Thomas and Judah's children. We just don't know. But he's real family to us.
The second name without a MCRA has a nice tree and ancestors who lived about 10 to 15 miles from where Thomas and Judah lived in what's now West Virginia. We have yet to find our shared ancestor and connect our trees. He's one of us but we don't know exactly how.
There's more to this spreadsheet than you can see here. I have some names and GEDmatch kit numbers but not too much more than that ... because GEDmatch is what I need right now and it's down. Again. GEDmatch, I love ya but you're about to drive me crazy!
The GEDmatch web site says that they are moving to new servers and once that's done the world will be bright and new because the new servers should increase reliability. It's going to take a couple of weeks. Ugh.
The old railroad overpass on the Potomac River near what was once Magnolia, Vest Virginia, home of the Farrell, House, Hartley, and Biggerstaff families who are the subjects of this DNA study.