Thursday, October 11, 2018

An NPE in the Tree

It has been one long, crazy summer. Life has been filled with all sorts of adventure; so much so that I just have not had the time to write. My days have been filled with countless revisions of my tenure portfolio, massive amounts of travel packing and unpacking, 3 or 4 jobs (I can't keep track), and lots of genealogical digging.

Shortly after I returned home from my trip to my ancestral homeland in Newfoundland with Uncle Thomas in July, I was contacted through by a man who stated he had a DNA match with me. Well, he actually has a match with a relative of mine for whom I manage their DNA test. Three or 4 emails into our exchange, (again, I can't keep track), I called him. It was obvious this man had done a lot of research before taking a DNA test and didn't quite understand the results he was seeing. 

It was not long into our conversation, maybe 3 or 4 minutes, I asked him, "Jack (I'll call him Jack), do you think you're adopted." To which he responded, "I didn't think so until this morning."

It was at that instant that I was fully invested. (By the way, he isn't adopted but...)

What Jack is experiencing is what many are referring to as an NPE; a Non-Paternity Experience. And I have seen it before with others I have worked with one-on-one doing genealogy research. His life is going along just fine, he takes a DNA test with no real serious expectations, just wants to see a pie chart of his ethnicity, further his research, and maybe meet a cousin or two (or 3 or 4 - hee hee), and BAM!  He discovers that the man he knows to be his father is not his biological parent. His mother is his biological mother; we found people who he matches on that side of his family tree. Sadly though, his mother has passed away and so he has no one in his own immediate family to ask about these results. 

This initialism, NPE, is a term not just used for people who discover their father is not their biological parent but for those who discover they are adoptees as well. It is also sometimes called a false paternal event or misattributed paternity. These are all terms I just don't like but I haven't come up with anything better yet. In any case, I read somewhere that in one specific yDNA study the rate of NPE was about 10%. In other words, 1 in every 10 men who contributed to that specific yDNA study experienced an NPE; 1 in 10. That's a lot. NPEs are not at all uncommon but each one is unique and each deserves sensitivity and intense research. 

Back to Jack. Since our initial contact we have communicated nearly every day. We've dug through records, translated foreign records, contacted lots of other people he matches, combed through family photos, talked about centimorgans, sketched out diagrams of potential connections, shot down a handful of theories, found biological connections to his mother, and have arrived at a short list of potential biological fathers. We don't have the answer yet, but we will. 

Jack has a tenacity that I respect and admire. It's not ferocious, it's a patient, respectful, relentlessness that is going to bring to light exactly where he comes from. Where for some people this might completely unhinge their entire sense of self, for Jack it doesn't seem that way. He seems confident, accepting, and again, completely respectful of the other lives this discovery might impact. For others though, these revelations often stir up family secrets that are scandalous and perhaps even dark and painful; like infidelity and rape. Painful discoveries occur so often because of these simple DNA test that there are actually support groups for people who experience these discoveries.

It's my hope that people would go into these DNA tests with their eyes wide open to the fact they may learn things they were not expecting and may not want to know. Jack wants the people who take these tests to participate in their DNA findings; provide information to the people you match to. "Don't just take the test and leave," he says. It's my prayer that everyone is like Jack and has the courage to approach their matches for insight; ask them all to share what they know! Do so with respect, sensitivity, and persistent patience. Those matches, those are your cousins; they are your family. So when someone comes to you in the midst of an NPE, remember, if they match you, you are their family. Be kind.

Yeah. It's been an incredibly wonderful, enlightening, long, crazy summer.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Cousins in Unlikely Places: Part 2

Uncle Thomas and I got to visit with the Pumpkin House host, Charlie, at his own newly acquired property just down the road; the property that once belonged to John Earle. 

I have to say, Charlie seemed just as excited as we were to have us this close to our Earle Family history. He was eager to take me on a walk down his beach, to marvel with me at the fact that this was probably the beach my great grandfather, Abe Earle, played on as a child.

The two small red structures near the center of the image are Charlie's stages. The white house on the left is his home on Farmers Arm Road, Durrell, Twillingate, Newfoundland

Charlie was also eager to show Uncle Thomas around his stage. A stage is a kind of shed along the water where fisherman would have unloaded and cleaned the fish they caught.

While Uncle Thomas and Charlie poked around the old structure, I stood outside on the beach chatting with Charlie's friend, Sylvain. Our conversation went a little like this.

"So do you live here year round?"
"No, I live in Montreal."
"Oh, that's where my mom's side is from. My father's side is from here in Twillingate but my mom's side has deep roots in Montreal."
"I have ancestors who were early settlers in Montreal. What's the family name?"
"It would have been Desjardins." 

And he froze. This very blank expression came across his face and he slowly said, "My mother's maiden name is Desjardins."

I stared at him what must have been a whole minute. "Get the fuck out. Are you kidding me?"

Shortly there after the four of us ventured into Charlie's actual house where Sylvain and I scrolled through our phones looking at our respective family trees. Sure enough he and I have my 9th great grandfather in common; Claude Jourdain Desjardins Charbonnier.

I don't know much about Claude except that he was born in France in in 1636 and 30 years later married Marguerite Lardon Cardillon in Montreal. Marguerite was a Filles du roi, one of the "King's Daughters." Not really royalty she had the support of the royalty. She was one of many women sent to the New French settlement between marry and help settle the area.

 I know that AND that I still have a cousins in Montreal.
Cousin Sylvain, me, and Cousin (by Association) Charlie
on Farmers Arm Road, Durrell, Twillingate, Newfoundland
June 21, 2018

Monday, July 9, 2018

Cousins in Unlikely Places: Part 1

This past June I traveled to Newfoundland with my Uncle Thomas. This was his first visit to our ancestral homeland; my second. I had been to the town of Twillingate once before in 2014 with Cousin Kelly and Cousin Peter. Twillingate is the town where my great grandfather, Abram Thomas Earle, was born in January 1891. This location was on Uncle Tom's bucket list and so when I was determining where I wanted to go for my birthday vacation this year and my usual travel companions were unable to accompany me, I invited Uncle Tom to go with me.

Uncle Thomas has a strong affinity for his grandfather, Abe. So much so that he named his boat "Twillingate" after his boatsman grandfather's birthplace.

In Newfoundland there are not many chain hotels in the small towns; not even in the small towns that are touristy. Most people stay in B & Bs. In advance of our travels, I used AirBnB to reserve places for my uncle and I. That's good because we could get multi-bedroom locations for nearly the same price as hotel rooms in which we would have to share a room. 

In my search on AirBnB, I came across a place called The Pumpkin House located on Farmers Arm Road in Twillingate. The funny thing is that according to the birth registration for Great Grandpa Abe, he was born on Farmers Arm; a section of the Durrell side of Twillingate.

Pumpkin House - image taken from
So there we were in the bright and bonnie abodes of The Pumpkin House owned and operated by Nancy and her son Charlie. Turns out Charlie recently purchased a house of his own just a few doors down from Pumpkin House. On his deed it shows a survey conducted by Thomas Peyton who was once the local magistrate. Thomas Peyton was also the father of Edgar Peyton; the brother-in-law of my great grandfather and thus my uncle's great uncle. Family connections were happening. 

More stunning though was the fact that the property Charlie owns was once owned by John Earle. Yup an Earle! The deed, which can also be viewed in the Peyton Family Papers held in the Special Collection of Memorial University in St. John's Newfoundland, shows the property of both John and Thomas Earle side by side on Farmers Arm; now Farmers Arm Road. The deed indicates the land was once owned by the Late William Earle who, one would assume is the father of John & Thomas, the aforementioned land owners.

Land Survey conducted by Thomas Peyton of land once owned by William, Thomas, and John Earle of Farmers Arm, Durrell, Twillingate, Newfoundland in 1894.
I haven't pieced all the family connections together just yet but my gut tells me that my great grandfather was born on Charlie's land or that of Charlie's neighbor; Daphne Earle who now owns the land that belong to her grandfather-in-law, Thomas Earle. 

Oh but wait, it gets even better...

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Tombstones in Templenoe, Ireland

Cousin Kelly is the most Irish of all my family members; well, at least amongst all the family AncestryDNA results I manage. She comes in at a whopping 75% Irish. So I was a little disappointed that she was not able to accompany Cousin Pete and I on our recent trip to Ireland. 

However, I researched her maternal line, as well as our shared line, as much as I could before making the trip. It wasn't really a research trip. Cousin Peter and I did not plan on spending hours in cemeteries or archives, we didn't contact any research facilities in advance of our travels, etc. We simply planned to drive through the areas we knew our Irish ancestors were from. If we saw a church or cemetery, maybe we'd poke around to see if there were any surnames we identify with among the stones. So I jotted down that Cousin Kelly's great-great grandfather was baptized in Templenoe; a town on the Ring of Kerry. 

The Ring of Kerry is a highly traveled route by tourists; which means there are an awful lot of tour buses along it. Driving in Ireland was very stressful for this American driver who has been back and forth across the U.S. several times. In Ireland, like the rest of the United Kingdom, drivers sit in the right front seat and they drive on the left side of the road. Every time I got in the car - I mean EVERY time without fail - I reached over my left shoulder to grab a seat belt that wasn't there. I just could not get used to being on the other side of the car and the other side of the road but I digress. 

While on the Ring of Kerry, we did note when we reached the town of Templenoe. In fact, as soon as we entered town I saw a sign pointing to the "Old Templenoe Cemetery." Cousin Peter and I figured, "ah, what the heck? Let's go look around."

It is a relatively small cemetery right on the water. Beautiful. With big old Celtic cross markers, all carved up with intricate Celtic knot patterns. Beautiful. And right smack dab in the middle there is a ruins of a church built around 1450 - you know, just like 40 years or so before Columbus reached the Western Hemisphere. 

Photo by John (Paul) Hallissey taken from
Cousin Peter and I got out and trampled about the cemetery, apologizing to the graves below. "Sorry. Pardone me. Excuse me. So sorry." Until we got all the way around and saw the gravesite of the Morley Family.

The Morley Family Plot
 Daniel Morley is Cousin Kelly's great-great grandfather. It seems to me as though the first burial in the plot was for Cousin Kelly's great-great grandmother; Abbey Meara-Morley who died in July 1885 at the age of 40. I suspect she dies in childbirth or shortly there after but have not been able to confirm that. I just see that she had a child the same year that she died. I also suspect that her maiden name was actually O'Meara and that she is the daughter of Timothy O'Meara and Julia Fogarty-O'Meara. I am still working on sorting out this family but it seems to me they want to be found.

You see, it never happens like this. I never by chance happen upon a cemetery and just wander up onto the right grave marker. I mean, more often then not I seek out a cemetery. I obtain all the possible information that I can in advance of my visit. I traipse up and down rows and rows of headstones to find no headstone at all. But here they are. And with a stone that reveals details I did not have before and a plot that groups together family members I would have otherwise have been unsure were connected.

I am convinced some ancestors just want to be found.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

In the House Where He Lived

I have some patrons who bring me extremely interesting research. In my last post I wrote about Jack and his quest to find out more about the uncle he is named after who died in WWII. This past week Jack returned to my desk with an object he said I would not believe; and he was right.

Jack brought in a deep shadowbox frame; about 18"x 18" and 4 inches deep. Contained in it was a round ornate circular silver frame. At the center of which was a 3 inch circular photo of a couple in their mid to late 50s, maybe very early 60s. Curved around the top of the photo it said 1878-1903; beneath it said 2 May. Around the couple's photo were 1 inch round photos of 5 younger people; presumably their children. This was a silver wedding anniversary frame; silver in color and material, as well as in the fact that it is a 25th anniversary commemorative frame.

Jack proceeded to tell me how this was in the home his parents bought in 1969 in Flushing, Queens, NY. Jack surprisingly knew the name of the previous homeowner. Do you know the name of the person who owned the house you grew up in? I sure as heck don't.

Even though their was no indication on the object as to who was in the photos, Jack believed it belonged to the former homeowner and wanted to get it back to the family. The former homeowner's name was George Washington Anger. I guess that is a pretty hard name to forget.

A search for George quickly resulted in finding his WWI draft registration card. The card confirmed that George lived in Flushing and it provided his date of birth which made subsequent searches much easier.

From there we back up through the U.S. Federal Census records, 1940 to 1930 to 1920 etc, to find George living with his parents at the address Jack had grown up at. Sure enough, George was 1 of 5 children of August and Caroline Anger.

1900 Census

Turning our interest to the parents, we found their marriage record in the New York, New York Marriage Index as, wouldn't you have it, 2 May 1878. This frame was theirs and those photos were these people we had seen in all these records.

Jack then asked if we could find any living family members. I always tell my patrons that it is easier to find the dead than it is to find the living. We took a shot though and searched the public family trees on We found someone who appeared to be the great-great grandson of August and Caroline. Using my personal account I was able to email the tree owner through Ancestry. I could see this Ancestry user was an active researcher because he had had an account since 2012 and had last logged in 2 days before.

We simply sent a note saying I was a genealogy librarian working with a patron who had an object that might be of interest to him if he was indeed related to this couple.

Today Jack and I received a reply to that email saying that yes, those are his great-great grandparents and that he would be delighted to know what we have in store for him.

I know that it is Jack's wish to see this object back in the hands of a family member who will love and cherish it as much as he has all these years - these strangers whose house he once lived in.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Souls without Heirs

Direct ancestors get researched all the time. Their graves are often visited and well tended, but those who left no heir, and sometimes not even a single record (like children who died between the censuses), those souls call to me.

Like my Cousin Mary over at Heritage & Vino I too have a strong affinity for those family members who left no heirs. Cousin Mary recently wrote about the siblings, Rebecca & Jacob Raynor; neither married but both obviously left strong impressions on the nieces and nephews around them.

I have recently been struggling to obtain a birth record from the City of New York for my relative, John Fay, who died in WWII and left no heirs. Part of the struggle is that I am not his direct descendant. I just want to document his existence for my family. Don't get me started...

BUT I have recently had some brilliant success, though, helping a patron connect with people that I will call his cousins even though they aren't really. Let me explain.

My patron, who I will call Jack, came to see me in search of information about the uncle he was named after but never knew. Uncle Jack died in WWII and is buried oversees. This patron came with a photo in hand of his Uncle Jack besides a woman who we believe to be Uncle Jack's wife; her name was unknown.

After some poking around on we found a record for Uncle Jack in the U.S. Headstone and Interment Records for U.S. Military Cemeteries on Foreign Soil, 1942 - 1949 dataset. Had we just looked at the indexed information and not opened the actual image file we would have never seen the note that in 1965 a woman in Missouri requested a photo of Uncle Jack's headstone in France.

We both suspected this woman, Helen, might be Uncle Jack's wife and so we set off on researching what became of her which lead us to a post on that included a photo of Helen. Although the FindAGrave photo showed a woman much older then the one in the photo with Uncle Jack, there was definitely a resemblance. I reached out to the FindAGrave contributor to see if perhaps he was related to the woman in the photo he posted.

In short time I received a response from the contributor. Unfortunately he was not related to Helen but he got the image from her online obituary which he sent to me. The obituary was a gem. It told of her life with great detail and mentioned that the last feat she wanted to accomplish before her passing was to write an autobiography. At the end of the obituary it listed all her children and their spouses by name and the cities they lived in when she passed in 2016.

I immediately went to Facebook and searched for her children who all had quite unusual names. I wrote to three people who I was 99% certain would be her kids but I still wasn't sure if Helen was Uncle Jack's wife. I told them that I was a NY genealogist working with a man who might have a connection to their mother. I asked if they had ever heard of her having a first husband who died in WWII. If so, I asked if I could get a copy of her autobiography. The next morning I received a response.

Yes, my mom Helen's first husband was [Jack], who died in WWII. ...As for the autobiography, it is 109 pages long and I only have my copy. Pages 19 through 24 are about [the Uncle Jack].

This was them. This was my patron's uncle's widow's family. That being said, obviously, there is no biological connection between my patron and these children of Helen; especially given the fact Helen's children are all adopted. But what makes family is not simply genetics.

Souls who leave no heirs does not mean they did not leave family, they most certainly did. They loved and influenced people around them and those energies emit long passed one's lifetime.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Dear Representative

Anyone who has been reading my recent posts knows that I am now on the path of learning all I can about my first cousin twice removed, John Michael Fay.

I recently acquired the marriage record for my great aunt, Anna Josephine Fay-McGarry which shows that John was her witness at her wedding.

On the marriage certificate recorded John's address as it was in 1943. That address confirmed for me another record which included his date of birth. John was born on 8 May 1919.

With the help of a contact at the NYC Municipal Archives I learned that the New York, New York, Birth Index, 1910-1965 is available on The NYC Municipal Archives, however does not have the birth certificates. They are held by the New York City Department of Health, Office of Vital Records. But get this...

I cannot have access to the record unless my name is on it as the child or the parent. 

Um, John was born in 1919. This birth record is nearly 99 years old and he has been dead for 73 years having died in WWII. Yet, I can't get his record?

I'm willing to pay the $15 fee. I'm even willing to go get the application request form notarized as New York City Department of Health requires but um, no. I was told that unfortunately I am not eligible to order that record.

Now I know I am not dealing with New York State but rather New York City. Just so you know, though, you can order a birth certificate from New York State "if [the birth certificate has been] on file for at least 75 years and the person whose name is on the birth certificate is known to be deceased." 

Again John's record has been on file for nearly 99 years and John has been dead for 73 years. His parents are long gone. John left no heirs. What could possibly be "wrong" with me having a copy of this record?

So, I wrote to my representative in Congress. 

I'm getting that damn record.