Friday, August 29, 2014

Computer crashed. Need I say more?

Yeah, that's what happened. It was ugly and got even uglier before the dust cleared. Final score: lost no data, all files are recovered. Programs did have to be reloaded, no big deal really. Now I'm just rearranging the furniture and hanging a few pictures to make it feel like home again.

I want to thank my external hard drive and Carbonite who both made me feel more secure while the storm raged. Also need to thank the guys at the Geek Squad who really know what they're doing, even though at one point they might have been part of the problem. Maybe. But no finger pointing because it all worked out.

I missed the little guy, this laptop of mine, while it was gone. But we're back together again. I bask once more in the warm glow of my laptop screen. All is well:)

Have a very good Labor Day weekend!

An old grainy picture of my Mom on the left, her father, and her sister Dot.
Virginia (Williams) Kelly, Cambria "Camey" Williams (1897-1960), Dorothy "Dot" (Williams) Conrad (1920-2007).

Monday, August 25, 2014

The DAR Chapter Meet & Greet

I was kinda nervous. I was going to meet some of the local chapter DAR ladies to see about joining. (See previous posts here and here for the full background on how I got to this point.) The more I thought about joining, the more I liked the idea. I love genealogy and have a lot of warm feelings about my ancestors especially those who served in the Revolutionary War. I love finding out about them and was sort of looking for an excuse to dig deeper, as if I even need one. Back in May of this year I did a post for the theme "Military Memories" listing both my proven and suspected Revolutionary War ancestors, which you can see here. I decided then that I wanted the chance to figure out if they served and in what capacity. This DAR adventure could help me do that because it would give the task structure, another level of motivation, and some really great support in the form of DAR records and fellow Daughters who are much better than I at research in this area.

I checked out the activities of one of the local chapters online and liked what they were doing. They were a medium sized group and their projects were worthwhile. They even have a connection to a local military memorial and museum, the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier that's a very popular local attraction in San Diego Bay on the Embarcadero. Now it was time to take the first step and see where I might fit in. That's where the Meet & Greet comes in.

I thought about what to wear. A long time. Too long in fact. But that says more about me than them. I finally settled on an outfit that I can best describe as a selection from my summer wardrobe I call "clean casual". No spots? I'm good to go!

I walked into Mimi's Café in Mission Valley and saw three ladies in the waiting area who glanced in my direction and these were the ladies I had come to meet. What is it about walking into a place and meeting people you don't know? It can be off-putting and might take a small muster of courage, but good things often take that. I was feeling awkward for all of 20 seconds and then, poof, we had already met and it was OK. No, it was more than OK because I felt welcome.

Once we got going - there were four of us, we two prospective transfers plus the Regent and the Registrar - time flew and we had a great good time getting to know each other. The Regent is like the head of the group and the Registrar is a mystery to me because it seems she does just about everything from taking in new and prospective members to giving guidance to those navigating the waters of getting applications approved. (And remember here that I am beyond new and don't know much at all so that might be all wrong.) There had just been a change of the guard and they were the incoming officers. Still, they really knew what they were doing!

I could tell right away that I wanted to be part of the team these ladies were on. Even the other "new kid" who was transferring from a chapter in another state was super nice and knowledgeable. I felt right at home. Sign me up!

There were some take-away points that came up. It so happened that both myself and the other transfer are working on an additional ancestors and are researching, compiling materials, and readying ourselves for the official papers called a Supplemental Application. I picked up that the review process is now much more rigorous than in the past. Past applications were approved way back when, pretty much on the basis of "because my grandmother told me so." As time went by and the art and science of genealogy got spiffed up, the applications needed increasingly more rigorous back-up documentation. Now with so much available online the hunt is easier, but there are still elusive documents in out of the way archives. Aren't there always?! But the very best effort must be put forth and often explained with notes and proper source citations. I tell ya, it really makes you spiff up your game, and I do like that!

Another aspect of the rigor of the process is that you have to show real links between generations with supporting documents. The idea is to use the best direct evidence that you can and if that's not available it should be explained as to why only supporting evidence is being used. The first four generations (me plus three) need to be pretty much locked in with birth, marriage, and death certificates. Exceptions are made and substitutes accepted for cause.

This isn't as hard as it sounds, if it does sound that way. It's a bit laborious and time is required but that's true of all good genealogy. But if you ask what's required first and then take the time to find it, you'll probably be just fine. It's a process. It can be hard when documents aren't where they are supposed to be or not available for 100 years or whatever, but it's at those moments when you need to ask for help that help is there waiting for you. I have to remind myself to take time and enjoy the process. It feels great when you can finally prove a relationship that you once took for granted because grandma told you so!

I got a briefing on the committees looking for assistance. The other transfer was very experienced and had held committee positions at her old chapter in another state. I asked to exchange contact info with her because she obviously knows what's going on and I so do not!

I left the meet and greet feeling very good about this group:)

My Grandpop Kelly visiting his sister in sunny Florida from cold and snowy Maryland.
About 1950.
It was his mother's ancestor, Nehemiah Newan who was the Revolutionary War ancestor under whom I was accepted into the NSDAR.

The URL for this post is:

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Not my grandmother's DAR anymore!

The first post here under the Nut Tree about the DAR, which you can see here, was all about how I came to get interested in the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, or as everyone usually calls it, the DAR. I was going to now write about the Meet and Greet but first I want to give my impressions of the DAR today. I know that it's early on for me to even have an opinion but sometimes first impressions are more true than not. And I am first to admit that I, along with many others, might have a misconception about the group with out of date images of very proper ladies who always wear white gloves, even to the grocery store, sporting big blue sashes while decked out in, what, maybe hoop skirts. And they never laugh and are always reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. That sure isn't what I found! And I have to say, these ladies laugh. A lot!

Guess I should make it real clear here that I speak for myself alone. This stuff is not approved by anyone, let alone the NSDAR. I'm barely in the door there and my transfer from Member at Large to the local chapter is still working its way through the channels. This is my own deal here and I don't represent anyone or anything. I just think it might be interesting to someone or other what the DAR experience is about for one person. Or maybe not.

And speaking of grandmothers, if my Grandma Kelly would have known about the DAR she would have loved being a part of it. She had, after all, two for-sure Revolutionary War patriots on her own grandmother's side, and that's not counting two more on her grandfather's side that I still need to investigate because they are on the list of DAR's Patriots. So that's potentially four patriots for Grandma Kelly. She would have been so very proud of that. And she would have loved being part of a group of ladies who are interested in their ancestors and work on civic projects. And, she loved to have lunch and listen and talk about history and her community! Yes, she would have just adored the DAR. Sadly, Grandma Kelly didn't know about the DAR and about her ancestors' patriotic past until very late in life but when my Mom told her, she soaked it up!

The question begs asking: can an organization like this be relevant now? I'm thinking that we all believe in the power of people in the community pulling together to help others. We see that within the genealogy community all the time. Here in San Diego, in many ways a military town, there are numerous opportunities to help veterans and their families. But it's just harder to do something really worthwhile for them by yourself except the holiday food drive. And I'm not sure that I would know how to make a difference on my own. I can easily see the greater good in being part of something larger than ones self to help make your community a better place.

So let's float this: is patriotism relevant today? Maybe some people don't have time to even consider this question due to their busy lives. I get that too. But after September 11th, 2001 I never once went back to taking my country for granted. It means something to me. And to be honest, having ancestral lines that go back to the very beginning here feels great. (Not that I'm not equally proud of my recent immigrant ancestors too. They struggled and overcame as well.)

My impression is that things have changed at the DAR, changed with the times and probably for the better. I think I read somewhere that the NSDAR has recently enjoyed a mini boom in inquiries due to their online presence and the wonderful Ancestor Search portal to the patriot listings, which you can access here. You can use it to find out if your ancestor is already listed as one of their Patriots. Just pick an ancestor you think might have been alive during the Revolutionary War and plug in the surname to get instant gratification! And here's a look at the search page, below. It's super easy to use, as you can see.

Check it out. Go ahead, just plug in a surname and see what happens. Maybe you too have an ancestor who is listed? I run all of the ancestors through this search engine if they were born anywhere near 20 to 30 years before that 1776 date. And remember, some were older and served, some paid a tax in support, and some took a loyalty oath so be inclusive with your ancestor list. And don't forget the little drummer boys too! (Was that actually a thing? I think so.) The American Revolution took a lot of support from a lot of people. Don't forget the ladies because they served as well. Do remember that not all who might qualify are already listed so you could be the first to get your patriot approved. That would be exciting!

I simply can not imagine Grandma using a laptop, although once I did see her in a pants suit. I have to tell you, that was real shocking!

OK, I know that not all the DAR ladies are toting laptops and smart phones and multitasking. There are some who are maybe 30 or 40 years in and are proud that they don't use email. At all. Ever. I get that, and have to say I respect it too. It's real nice when people aren't "run" by their electronic devices. And what genealogical society doesn't have members of long standing that aren't on the email list? Yeah, I don't think my Grandma would have embraced the social network that drives portions of my life. She just loved sitting in her dining room in the corner at the telephone stand talking on the black rotary phone. If we don't respect those who have gone before us, what have we got? I just love the most senior of the DAR ladies for all that they have done. They paved the way.

Another thing that might be different about today's DAR, although I really don't know, is that everyone is so upbeat and kind and energetic. Maybe it was always like that but as I say, I really don't know because I'm new to all this. But I can't even imagine anyone being nicer and more accepting of newcomers. I have the feeling that the pace of the organization now is as swiftly moving as life today itself. I got a feel for just how lovely they are and how willing to help when I lurked on the "Daughters of the American Revolution" Facebook page. Go see for yourself. Here's a recent post there.

DAR Facebook page, recent post. Yeah, it's like that there:)
Find the DAR Facebook page here.

And it's all-inclusive: moms, working women, moms who are working outside the home. And retired ladies like myself too. One woman I got to know at the Meet and Greet worked full time and participated in DAR activities as best she could for a bunch of years before she was able to work full DAR chapter participation into her schedule.

And one last thing. Do you remember back when there were rumors and stories about the DAR being elitist? Very exclusive? No? I don't either but I think there might have been an issue back in the 1950s but there were a lot of issues about many aspects of life back in the 1950s and 1960s. Everyone learned and grew in spirit, and that's as it should be.

I have the feeling that it might be a changing world out there in DAR land where tradition is kept and honored while finding modern ways to "be" in the world. And if you think you might like to be a part of it, all you have to do is let them know and you'll get all the help you need.

OK, wanting to help everyone is very much like my Grandma!! Yup, she would have loved it.

Mom and Dad, Grandpop Kelly with Grandma Kelly on the right.
Frostburg, Allegany, Maryland, 1942.

The URL for this post is:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mom and I have fun with the 1870 US Census

Mom, who was 96 years old just last month, has been doing genealogy since the early 1970s, only recently announced to me that she was retiring from it. She might have trouble seeing the computer screen due to eye issues, but you can't dampen her interest. We were talking about the copies of death certificates I'd received in the mail from my guy at Maryland State Archive that were for Mom's mother and father and Dad's birth certificate. We had such a good time exploring every line and wringing every last drop of meaning out of it! You get that, don't you? "He died of what???"

The only great grandparent I now don't have a death cert for is Dad's paternal grandfather, Gustav Zeller (1858-1927) and that request is in. He was born and died in Frostburg, Allegany, Maryland, a small mountain town in Western Maryland as so many other of my ancestors. In fact my parents, grandparents, and six of my eight great grands were all born and died there.  If I want to find out who was doing what about 1870 I check out the census for good old District 5 in Allegany County, that's Frostburg.

US Census 1870, District 5, Allegany, Maryland; Roll: M593-566; Page: 148A; Image: 299.
My Zeller family.

After Mom and I had some fun with death certificates we went on and chatted about how much we like just browsing census pages before and after the page on which our ancestor appears. We agreed that for us the most fun census to browse is the 1870. You see, Frostburg was on the upswing then. Coal mining, the railroad, ironworks, and brickworks all fed the main pipeline of prosperity. And merchants followed and built strong businesses. The region drew immigrants like a great big magnate from the British Isles and Germany especially. Hard work and great promise drew my own ancestors from Ireland, Germany and Wales about 1840. The head of household in the 1870 census was often listed as having a surprising amount of personal wealth.

The first thing that struck me was the uncommon names for the German states. My great great grandfather Charles Wm. Zeller (1829-1901) had immigrated from Wurtemburg in 1851. He returned a year later and married Anna Mary Bruening. They were back in Frostburg in time for the 1860 census and he was listed as a confectioner and she a milliner or hat maker. Doesn't that sound like a fun couple? His son and my direct ancestor and great grandfather was Gustav. But what of all these different German states? Look at part of the census page to see, below.

When I look at the 1870 census the families listed right before my Zeller family are from Hesse and  from Prussia. My Zellers are listed as born in Wurtemburg. Where was that? I had to know and German history is not my strength. So off to Wikipedia which you can see here. I won't take time to explore here what the unification was all about but you can go see for yourself. Here's a map from that page showing where everything was after unification. You might have to go to the Wikipedia page to see the full map. Look at the golden color area. That's where the Zellers came from and where Charles returned to marry Anna Mary Bruening.

Thanks, Wikipedia!

The neighbors listed past the Zeller family were also from the German states as well as Ireland, Wales and England. It seems to me that every-other head of household was not from Maryland or the adjoining states of Pennsylvania or even West Virginia but were immigrants. The churches in town served the diverse population and my own ancestors worshiped at St. Michael's Catholic Church (Irish), the Welsh Shiloh Congregational Church, and the Lutheran Church. My Zeller people, you might think, could have worshiped at the Lutheran Church but they were Catholic. It was the old-line Revolutionary War families who were Lutheran.

And what of local prosperity? There was plenty of work to go around and pay day brought locals and those living in adjacent town to Frostburg to shop. Saturday night downtown was a busy place!


Frostburg, Allegany, Maryland. Main Street, about 1900.

Charles Zeller's confectionery and sweets shop prospered and his family grew too. Here they are in the 1870 census and look, he owns $2000 in real estate.

Other families are doing well and buying up real estate too. George W. McCulloh living three residences away has $30,000 in real estate and his wife has $5000 in her own name. He's a banker. Edward Hoffman a brewer from Saxony had no real estate holdings but his neighbor Albert Holly from Hanover, also a brewer, is holding $9000 worth of real property. Their neighbor Thomas H. Paul from New York is a machinist and has $16,000 worth of real estate holdings and $7000 of personal property. Yes, it sure looks like a prosperous little mountain town. Opportunity abounded!
Mom and I had a real good time on the phone reviewing the Frostburg 1870 census. We just don't get people who don't get us;) Imagine, not enjoying looking at the census!
Gustav Zeller in the white barber's coat standing on the front steps of the first electric trolley that came to Frostburg. Notice his hand touching his hair... to signify that he was a barber? He was a super promoter!

Gustav Zeller again, this time close-up so we can see his grooming.

Gustav's father, Charles Wm. Zeller.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What!? AncestryDNA isn't going to provide segment analysis?! Say it ain't so!!

I have to stop my posts about recent adventures with the NSDAR and say a thing or two about this  recap of the 2014 (and first) Institute for Genetic Genealogy conference in Washington, D. C. by The Legal Genealogist which you can find here brought to us by Judy G. Russell. This is longish excerpt and I would rather use shorter (and less copyright offensive) clips but this is real important, so Judy I hope that you don't mind. Here's what she said in the opening paragraphs of her post about the conference and AncestryDNA's recent decision.

The Institute for Genetic Genealogy — brainchild of Tim Janzen and CeCe Moore — opened Friday with registration and three overview sessions on the testing companies. Attendees got a chance to take a look at information from AncestryDNA, 23andMe and Family Tree DNA in general, with some good general background information being offered.

There weren’t any surprises in that general info — except perhaps the depth of the genetic genealogy community’s unhappiness with AncestryDNA and its decisions (a) not to provide segment data to its customers and (b) to discontinue YDNA and mitochondrial DNA testing and to discontinue even providing links to results of those tests taken at Ancestry. Let’s just say that the unhappiness was abundantly clear during AncestryDNA’s presentation.

OK, do you get that? AncestryDNA will NOT be providing segment data. I thought they were going to. This is a major problem and I really do not understand why they wouldn't want to. We need that segment data.

So it works like this. If you did autosomal testing then you see the list of "cousin" matches. On AncestryDNA you might get to see the other person's tree if they have one there and if you're really lucky you might be able to get a hint about where you and the other person match and who your common ancestor might possibly be. There are problems with this. It is only matching both of your trees.

Here's what I mean. The other person got on your match list because the DNA matched to some degree stated as a percent and a guess about degree of cousin you might be to each other. The tree match is a separate thing and simply a search function on trees and has nothing whatsoever to do with shared DNA. Nothing.

If you want to know which portion of your DNA you share or have in common, you need to look at chromosomes. And that's the "real deal" when it comes to this DNA for genealogy thing. If you can't look at and compare chromosomes then you're just taking someone else's work that your shared match is at that ancestor Ancestry found on both trees. There's no proof. So if one of you has a big error on the tree, and that can happen, you might get an entirely false match.

Chromosome matching is the very best tool when it comes to working with DNA for genealogy. And don't we deserve to work with the best tools available? Sure we do. AncestryDNA, get your act together, man!

The URL for this post is:

Friday, August 15, 2014

My own DAR adventure begins

In 1987 Mom was totally engaged with genealogy and devoted to building out our family tree. OK, so truth be told, she got obsessed with it and spent just about every available waking hour on it! She loved entertaining me with various stories about our ancestors and painted a word picture for me whenever we had some time together and I just loved listening to her. (I think she was selling me something; a good sales pitch often begins with an engaging story.) I was super busy running my business, but she had me working with her on my DAR application which was approved the first time through.

Flash forward 20 years and it's 2007. Dad had passed, Mom was adjusting to living alone and working on genealogy more than ever. I was enjoying retirement. One thing hadn't changed: Mom was still telling me about the ancestors and I was finally becoming as obsessed as she was. In no time I was caught up in chasing down some family history too. But during this time, I have to confess, I didn't think too much about the good ol' DAR.

You ever have that experience when something appears on your personal radar screen once, twice, and then three times over? For me it takes three times before I really get the hint that this might be something I need to act on. Well that sort of happened with the DAR recently. The first appearance on my radar happened when I found my old DAR records and remembered how that came about. Once retired and into genealogy one of the first projects I undertook was continuing to research my DAR Patriot ancestor, Nehemiah Newan. (You can see some of that effort put into a timeline on one of the tabs above.) I loved researching him! Was shocked to find that he did not die at Yorktown as was commonly believed but instead never returned to his wife and son and ended up having a full life in upstate New York. What a story!!

The second appearance of the DAR on my radar screen happened a half-dozen weeks ago when I stumbled into a DAR Facebook group called Daughters of the American Revolution. The Facebook page fascinated me and I popped back in to see what was going on every once in a while and finally clicked the Join button. Right at the moment there are over 12,000 members and growing all the time. That's encouraging right there. The comments were kind and welcoming and I got a warm feeling about the online group. The ladies were happily helping others take first steps, offering helpful research pointers, and were glad to help them find the right area of the NSDAR (National) web site. My DAR train was picking up speed.

All of this lead me to think about other of my ancestors who might have been Patriots. I popped on over to the National web site which you can find here. You can search and see if your ancestor is already approved and recognized as a Revolutionary War Patriot here. I quickly found out that both  Peter Troutman and Isaac Workman were listed! How cool is that?! Plus I had it on my To-do list to work on them. This might be the perfect excuse to get my act together and finish my inquiry into both of them at the same time. So that was the third appearance of the DAR on my radar screen and I really liked what I was seeing. Now I had to do something about this DAR radar thing.

Maybe I'd like being a part of one of the local chapters here in San Diego? I had already met two members over in the genealogy library in town and they were equally as nice and helpful as the ladies on the Facebook DAR page. Yeah, I might like being part of a group that loves genealogy, is interested in civic pride and doing projects along those lines. It was only going to take as much time as I wanted to invest, what with the once a month meetings, except in summer months. I'd be more that willing to help others get started with genealogy if I could and knew enough to be useful. And who knew how else I might be helpful? And yes, I would like to meet more ladies who are friendly and helpful, and like to have fun.

I wasn't going to find out just sitting here, so I emailed the Regent, that's the lady at the top of the local chapter. Got a reply fast. I was on the way.

Next blog post is about the "meet & greet" at a local restaurant. I really like these ladies! And they just love researching ancestors!

Here are some handy NSDAR links:

Become a member or just inquire.
Chapter locator. Want to find the chapters near you? Just plug in your zip code. Alternately you can Google your town or city and "DAR".
Want to let them contact you? Just fill out the Membership Interest Form here.
Not familiar with the NSDAR research options? Then check out the GRS or Genealogical Research Services here.
And don't forget that ever-popular Ancestor Search. All you need is a surname. How easy is that?

There's my paternal grandfather, John Lee Kelly (1892-1969), top row middle, in this Kelly family portrait that was likely his wedding portrait. His parents are in the front middle. It's his mother, Christiana (Eckhart) Kelly (1861-1932) who is in my DAR ancestor's line and Nehemiah Newans was her great grandfather.

Nehemiah Newans was thought to have died at the battle of Yorktown, yet here he is selling some land in upstate New York in 1817! That was worth knowing.


The URL for this post is:

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

It didn't phase me but it sure did dad

Now that GEDmatch is back up (mostly, although I do read about an occasional outage now and again on the GEDmatch Facebook page, but that could be to ISP issues, you never know) I'm checking out features and functions. I do love a good DNA utility! And the latest do-dad that caught my interest is phasing.

I'm still learning about what phasing is and how it works and you can see some links to good info on phasing from those more wise than I at the end of this post. Basically, as I've come to understand it, if you have the DNA raw file of one parent and one offspring and have uploaded it to GEDmatch, you can use both of them in the phasing utility to get an idea about the DNA of the untested parent. For example, both my brother and I tested and so did Mom. I ran the phasing utility in an effort to see who might match Dad. Cool, huh?

So let me step you though it and then let's see what we get, shall we? I took my kit number and Mom's kit number and ran them through the phasing utility and got a phased theoretical kit for Dad. Find the utility at the arrow above on the main page. Then I took Mom's kit and Brother's and ran that through the phasing utility and got another theoretical kit for Dad. Then I played around with both theoretical Dad's kits - one for Mom and Brother and the other for Mom and me - and ran them through two utilities: "One to Many", and "People who match both kits or 1 of 2 kits". First is the One to Many and you can see that below.

Theoretical Dad using Mom and Brother.
Click to view larger.
The next thing I did is run the same utility for the kit based on Mom and me. Here's that one, below.
Theoretical Dad using Mom and me.


Next, I'll want to go through both results to pick out the folks who match both of these reports and contact them to see if there's a connection to Dad's ancestors. That should be fun!

And here's the coolest report as far as I'm concerned. It's the People who match both kits utility. I plug in the theoretical Dad kit number based on Mom and Brother's phased results and then my kit number (based on just me, no Dad) and this is what I got back.

I have a lot of people to contact! But I'm happy to be able to do this second-best matching of Dad's DNA, even if it is theoretical.

Want to know more about Phasing? Here are some links.
DNA Genealogical Experiences and Tutorials
Kitty Cooper's Blog

The URL link to this post is:

Saturday, August 9, 2014

GEDmatch is coming back real strong! is my all out favorite tool when getting down to the comparison of cousins DNA results to see where we match. Was recently in touch with one of Mom's strong matches on AncestryDNA and even though we both have good healthy sized trees to look at, neither of us - nor the Ancestry matching function - could see where we matched! 3rd to 4th cousin, and no match on our trees...? Huh? Obvious conclusion: a big fat mistake on one of our trees.

Cousin Michael was the match. He's great to work with, replies quickly and with as much info as he has. When I told him about GEDmatch he popped on over and had his raw file uploaded in a flash. And now that GEDmatch is going again (and looks to be better than ever) his data was finished with the first phase of processing, called tokenizing, by days end and that means that our kits were available for one-to-one comparison. The full processing which allows one-to-many analysis will take longer.

Because that one-to-one comparison was quickly available I could see that his kit and Mom's kit had really juicy matches on three chromosomes. Here's what that looked like.

Chr Start LocationEnd LocationCentimorgans (cM) SNPs
Largest segment = 27.9 cM
Total of segments > 7 cM = 65.1 cM
Estimated number of generations to MRCA = 3.9

Then I took that information on over to my Farrell DNA Project spreadsheet and could see right away that he doesn't fit in there because there were no shared chromosome segments. My Farrell Project peeps do not match anywhere on chromosome 1 or 6, at all! And only one person even has even an inkling of anything happening on 21 and it's not on this particular segment.

So where does he fit? If not the Farrell line, which includes the surnames of House, Biggerstaff and Hartley too, then where on Mom's tree might he match. I went on over to Ancestry to check out Mom's Big Tree so that I could more easily visualize where the match could be and here's what I saw, with the candidate lines in the red box.

Click to enlarge.

The Williams, Price, and Whetstone lines are what we're after. Because Michael matches at about the 4th generation back, a list of the surnames and locations we're looking for is helpful.

Williams, Edwards, Price and another Williams are the surnames associated with Mom's paternal grandfather's line and they're all from Wales. None of Michael's ancestors are from Wales but that doesn't mean that there might not be a connection back before he can see, based on what's not on his tree. 

Mom's paternal grandmother's lines are from Wales - Thomas - but Mom's paternal grandfather's line - Price and Hill- are mostly form Virginia. Michael has a lot of folks from Virginia on his tree so this is a commonality that bears closer scrutiny.

Now we come to the Whetstones. They hail originally from Germany and then probably Switzerland and on to Pennsylvania before the Revolutionary War. I don't see anything hopeful there.

So it looks like we need to take a closer look at the Price and Hill lines from the earliest days of the Virginia Colony forward. And we especially need to look at any lines that aren't filled out to about the 5 generation mark.

Well that's the problem in a nutshell and how we'll proceed. Don't know how much luck we'll have but at least it's a way forward. What I need is some Williams DNA and I know where to find it. Cousin Andrew tested on and so now I'm off to connect up again and ask if he'd be willing to upload to GEDmatch. It would be very helpful to have Whetstone DNA as well... but I have to figure out how to get that.

Hey, I just stumbled into another GEDmatch tool that helps me get an idea of Dad's DNA! Dad passed before all of this DNA for genealogy stuff got going. But now I see how to get it! I'll blog about that next time when I've had more time to explore this new-to-me GEDmatch tool.

The URL for this post is:

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Mom has officially retired from active pursuit of genealogy! That's big news!

I guess I thought that she'd keep working at her big family tree until she "fell of the edge of the world", which is our euphemism for passing. But Mom's eyes are not as good as they once were and now limit her vision so she can't be on the computer or read too much, activities that she dearly loved. It wasn't too long ago that I'd call her and we'd both get on our computers to dig deep for some small tidbit that made us very happy to find. Heck, we even had fun when we didn't find a thing. I think it's been very difficult for her, getting used to not doing those things anymore. So finally she just up and retired from genealogy.

I hope that it eased the transition to know that I also cherish what we know about our ancestors. I've said it many times here before, any work I do in the arena of genealogy is done while standing tall on her shoulders... figuratively, of course because otherwise that would be elder abuse;) (Mom likes that joke.) There is, for all of her work, a built in succession plan, and she's trained this pip-squeak of a successor well, but I still have so much to learn from her.

Before I went to see her recently to celebrate her 96th birthday, she said quite a few times that she was retiring from genealogy. I guess I was reluctant to believe it, or maybe I didn't want to. But when I arrived I could see that she was serious. The binders were put away and the computer untouched. It made me sad. Yeah, I could see that she meant what she said about retiring.

But then I thought about it all and finally put it in perspective: Mom can rest, knowing she's made a real contribution. Cousin Rich had told me that Mom has built a tree that links together many, many families in the Morgan and Hampshire Counties of West Virginia, especially in the mid-1800s. It's landmark work, nothing as comprehensive out there, he indicated. I have seen for myself how important her work is and continues to be due to the numerous people who have contacted me because of her tree on Ancestry. You know her tree: Virginia Williams Kelly's Big Tree, the one with almost 70,000 people on it.

I asked Mom if I could "borrow" one of her books and she said, "Take what you want. I'm done with it." So I carefully went up to her room and started browsing to determine what I wanted. But I was melancholy doing it, I can tell you.

It marks the end of an era. I can easily remember the days when we were back and forth burning up the internet and the phone lines with what we'd found and comparing notes. By the time I got going on my own projects Mom was no longer making trips to court houses and libraries, so she'd slowed a bit already. For her to continue to slow was a natural progression.

Mom and I had a nice talk about it, in a round about sort of way. We both agreed that life events can sometimes limit our activities, and when that happens we need to get over ourselves as quickly as possible and start looking for a way to grow. Both she and I knew it was true from personal experience and chatted about ways in which events in our own lives had come to curtail certain activities. We concluded that it's our own individual responsibility to discover what's left that gives us joy and brings meaning. Life's never a static event, that's for sure!

As I got a bunch of her binders ready to take to the pack-and-ship place I saw it as the formal passing of the baton. I feel the responsibility to honor her work in the best ways that I can. It's a duty that I embrace, joyfully. I already have my inheritance and it's more valuable than a pot of gold!

I got sad, and now I'm glad. Thanks a million, Mom!


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Looking for church records at St. Peter's Catholic Church in Hancock, Maryland. Oh my!

I have no lovely trip photos from my visit to St. Peter's Catholic Church to use here so I'll pop in something scenic at the end to spruce it up. Instead I have quick snaps of index cards and a register page. If you're crazy-wild about genealogy, and some of you are, you'd probably just rather see the dusty records:)

Cousin Joseph whom we met because of an AncestryDNA match was a deep well of information about our shared ancestors and friends who inhabited the area around Magnolia, West Virginia. He was the one who told me about St. Patrick's Catholic Church just across the wide Potomac River on the Maryland side in Little Orleans. He also explained that the oldest records for that church were not at the church because it was a mission church. That means that that services - and records - were supplied by a circuit priest who traveled to a couple of satellite churches. That's still the case even today and the priest from St. Peter's in Hancock MD visits St. Patrick's and does the ritual on Saturday evening then returns and celebrates at St. Peter's on Sunday. It really must be difficult, if not impossible, to keep that schedule in the deep heart of winter! And that arrangement has been going on for at east 150 years, as far as I can tell, back when he was making his way on horseback. Can you imagine?!

Before we knew for sure the story of St. Patrick's in Little Orleans across the Potomac River from Magnolia, Mom had always speculated that it must have been a circuit rider who performed baptisms and marriages for all the Catholics in the area. Cousin Rich emphasized in an email not too long ago that these ancestors of ours were Irish Catholics and would probably have made whatever journey needed to get children baptized and the young folks wed. It was probably only a matter of time before we acted on our hunch and found where our ancestors worshiped, but Cousin Joseph pointed us right at it.

I had talked to the parish administrative staff a couple of times before the visit. I could tell that they were very willing to help but also very busy. I noted the hours the office was open and then checked their location on maps so we knew where we were going. I also got crystal clear in my mind what I was after and ranked them in importance so that no time would be wasted.

Originally Cousin Rich said that he might meet us there but then that didn't work out for him. So I got a list of what he was looking for too. Now I thought I was set.

The one thing I overlooked was directions on where the church office was. Silly, really. After knocking on a ridiculous number of doors, I stood outside and called the office number I brought with me. Of course the correct door was the very inviting one that entered into the kitchen... and right in front of me.

Once inside I was directed to the index files. Some fastidious and caring volunteers had transcribed all of the old registers and typed up index cards with all the information provided in the original entries. In this case the index was very thorough and correct as far as I could tell. Unfortunately, I did not find our Farrells. But I did find some other O'Farrells that we know aren't our folks but are fun to follow as a side entertainment. I carefully pulled the cards for any records that might need further investigation and marked their location in the file to insure easy and correct return. Then they were carefully placed on the big dining room table that was part of the office and photographed  using both my camera and phone. The phone pic were immediately send to Cousin Rich for back up and his perusal.

I chatted up the assistant who was helping me and asked if I could just look at the old registers. Sure, she said, and out they came from the big safe where they were held. I was thrilled! Don't know what it is but I love looking at old books like this. They were in rather fragile condition and needed to be handled very gently or they might come apart any moment. She ended up bringing out four in all and we thumbed through sample pages. She showed me entries by a priest who did all his accounting in Latin. Too bad I couldn't read a thing. And there was another priest who mostly scrawled in a big lose hand. His were the most frustrating of all the entries. The entries I liked best were just short of calligraphy and tidily elegant.

One hears about these old parish registers and the priests who wrote in the big books. Some, it is said, drank to keep the cold away and make the job rest easy on the bones. I couldn't help guess if it might be the scrawler, the Latin scribe or the fastidious calligrapher who might have been fond of a little spirits to warm on a cold night?


Above, a register page.
Below, a sampling of index cards.
One of a hundred thousand fields in Maryland, this one just across
the Potomac River from Paw Paw West Virginia.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Honoring his service: James O'Farrell 1842-1914

The name of James O'Farrell inscribed on the War Memorial
across from the Morgan County (West Virginia) Court House.
Notice that it's spelled "O'Ferrall."

While working on the Thomas and Judah Farrell DNA project I wrote about their son James a couple of times which you can see here and here. Must admit that I was so impressed by his life and the way he survived the Civil War that I had to blog about it a couple of times, and probably spent a bit too much time on him. But there is a moment when it's past time to move on, and so I did. However on my recent trip to see Mom (who is an avid genealogist and just turned 96) we swung by Berkeley Springs and checked out the War Memorial to see if we could find his name inscribed on the Civil War side of it.

Guess I should mention that James' parents were Thomas and Judah Farrell who came to the United States from Ireland about 1840. Most likely fleeing unfortunate economic times in their native land, the couple left with their two oldest daughters, Mary Elizabeth (Farrell) House 1835 - 1919, and Catherine (Farrell) Boxwell 1838-1910. Once here, they had two sons and four more daughters and the line up for their children born here looks like this:

    James O'Farrell (1842-1914), who used the O' convention for the rest of his life
    Thomas Farrell (1843 - ?), who just disappears from the records
    Ann Farrell (1845 - ?), she also has disappeared as far as we can tell
    Ellen Farrell (1846 - ), she disappears as well
    Bridget Farrell (1849 - ?), and she disappears from view too,
    Sarah "Sallie" (Farrell) Wageley, who married John W.

Strangely, just before I set off on my trip, I heard from one of Mom's DNA matches who mentioned the War Memorial! I found out what I could and tried to google a good photo of it to see if it was worth the trip but the images weren't what I needed. Well, it was located right on the way after lunch, so Mom, Brother and sis-in-law all went in search of the memorial and hopefully to find Thomas' name.

We pulled up and all piled out when we saw it. It's an large imposing affair with a big bronze spread eagle atop. Mom waited in the car as it was on a small incline and surrounded by a couple of steps. "Not on this side. It's for WWII." "Not over here either. Wrong war." Then: I found it! Just happened to be on the right side for me. Everyone swarmed the good side and looked for names. James Snider and his brother William Hutchison Snider were found under those who returned and survived the war, which we found very curious as James died early on in the war.

So there's his name in the image up top. It was a thrill to see it there. He earned the right to be included on this war memorial roll over 150 years ago. And here we stood looking and paying respects.

Worth the trip? Oh, yes!

The War Memorial in front of the Court House in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Over the River (the Potomac) and on to St. Patrick's Church

That's the Potomac River there on the left in the photo up top, and it's the stretch of river along which our Farrell, House, Hartley, and Bigerstaff ancestors lived. It's near the long ago town of Magnolia, West Virginia, now all but gone except in the memories of a small group of folks. See that ridge line on that left far mountain? And see where it dips down, presumably to meet the river behind the greener ridge that rests in front of it? Right along in there is where Magnolia sat. And a bit down river and across from Magnolia still stands an old mission church, St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Little Orleans, Maryland. It sits up the hill aways from the river and the C & O Canal that runs next to it, looking too beautiful and historic in the warm summer sun. It captured my imagination at first sight.

Actually, we began our day driving east from the Western Maryland town of Frostburg in Allegany County where Mom lives to Little Orleans. Brother drove because he knows the area all around Little Orleans where a friend had a hunting cabin. He's been there many a time with the guys, and even thought the cabin was back in the thick woods, at night they'd all drive to a gathering place in Little Orleans, a town that somehow bills itself as the Sturgis of the East because of a motorcycling event. This year it's taking place between August 6 to 10. The rest of the year it's as peaceful as can be.

But up on the hill a bit is our target: a quiet county church. Take a look at these photos below from Cousin Joseph. Beautiful!

Visit the page for St. Patrick's Catholic Church on Find A Grave here.

How I came to visit this place is a story unto itself and so let me share that first. (Isn't it funny in genealogy how one thing for sure leads to another?) It starts with a DNA match over on AncestryDNA. Mom matched cousin Joseph and he was a wealth of knowledge! He shared that our mutual ancestors living as they were along the river on the West Virginia (formerly Virginia) side were Irish Catholic immigrants who boated across the river to attend services at St. Patrick's on the Maryland side. He found some of his Irish ancestors buried there and so did Cousin Rich.

The oldest church records from about the 1830s were still available and could be seen at St. Peter's Church in Hancock, Maryland. WOW! I imagined going there and finding the Farrell's registering baptisms and confirmations. Maybe I'd find the burial records for Thomas and Judah Farrell, our ancestors. But more on that later.

So up the hill we drove and parked. Mom waited in the car while brother and I quickly walked the grounds searching for Farrells. I took as many photos of stones as I could with the intention of eventually checking Find a Grave to see if another photo is needed. The size of the cemetery surprised me. The last picture above is deceptive and didn't give me any idea of the depth of the grounds. I had also expected to find the oldest stones closest to the church, but I could see right away that old stones were everywhere, so my strategy of looking for old stones to save time was not going to work. So up and down we walked. We got nothing. Bummer.

Oh, well. Sometimes you look and find and sometimes you look and don't find. When I just started with genealogy I was like a genea-junkie and always expected that "found it" high every time out. But now I've learned that I better just relax and enjoy the looking too. And I did enjoy this visit to the old mission church here in Little Orleans just for being there. And besides, just because I didn't find them doesn't mean that they aren't buried there. Sometimes there are some things we just don't get to know with certainty.

The bed of the old C&O Canal. These days it sits next to a hiking trail and picnic park.
Old stone work next to the hiking trail. Lush green beauty all around.

Down at the edge of the Potomac River, looking east towards Magnolia.


The URL for this post is: