Friday, December 19, 2014

What Should I Research this Recess?

The semester has ended. I have off from work between Christmas and New Year's Day. Thus, I am staring at my family tree pondering which brick-wall I would like to beat my head against for a few wintery days.

I have a pretty full tree. Pretty impressive if I do say so myself. 

I can name all 32 of my 3rd great grandparents. Their dates of birth range in time from 1782 to 1855. And of those 32 there are only 7 of them for whom I do not know either parents' names. Some of those will remain brick-walls, I know, but man would I love to be able to name all 64 of my 4th great grandparents. I really only have 15 unknowns.

For me though, my research is not about gathering names and dates so much as it is about gathering stories. There is no better resource for stories of your ancestors than newspapers. Hmm. Newspapers.

I think I will let brick-walls stand for this recess and use my time to glean what stories I can from the digitized newspapers I can access for free online. Watch out Brooklyn Daily Eagle! I'm coming for you!!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Wait! What About the Neighbors?

I am very frustrated by not being able to find Nicholas and Caroline Carillion (or how ever the hell you spell it) in the 1860 census. I find myself staring blankly at the their names listed in the 1875 NY State Census record I found for them.

Nicholas, Caroline, Louisa (who may be my Mary Carrion-Henry), John, Victor, Mary, Victor...wait!

The neighbors are Victor, Mary, and Victor. Wait Wait Wait Wait Wait.

My 3rd great grandmother Mary Carrion was married to a tinsmith name Victor Henry. Victor was Swiss but I'm inclined to believe he spoke French, as many Swiss do. Their first child was my great-great grandfather, also named Victor Henry who was born in June of 1874. This census would have been taken right before he turned 1.

You say Henry with your best French accent. Does it sound like An-ray? Arrai?

That is my Mary Carrion-Henry living right next door to her parents Nicholas and Caroline Carrion, with now who I believe is her sister Louisa and her brother John. John goes on to formalize the family name to Carillion.

I now have no doubt that John Carillion was indeed the brother of my Mary Henry. No doubt! None.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Spelling and Genetics

Anyone who really knows me knows that I really can't spell. Well, that is not to say my spelling is as bad as my father's - -  that man can't spell at all. And so it does not surprise me in the least bit that this tale of variant spelling stems from his side of the tree.

Many years ago, more than a decade I'm sure, I got a copy of my third great-grandmother's death certificate. Mary Henry, born about 1857, died in Woodhaven, Queens, New York in January of 1907. Her son August Henry (1879-1960) is listed as the informant. On the death certificate was scrawled a note that stated that August could  not recall his mother's maiden name but the maiden name is listed as Carrian.

At about that same point in time I observed August's marriage certificate from 1906. There too his mother's maiden name is listed as Carrion. His best man was Harry Carillion. Carrion. Carillion. Hmm. I thought those two names were pretty similar and thus I began researching Harry Carillion with the sense that this might have been a cousin. I could never find a family connection between the Mary Henry and Harry Carillion.

Years have passed.

Now I have taken a DNA test, as has my father and sister. Recently I was looking at some matches on my dad's side and I came across a woman who matched all three of us. I looked at her tree and initially I saw some old Long Island family names and thought for sure this must be a connection through my paternal grandfather's side. But then I saw it!

Down on her mother's side of the tree was the name John Carillion (born1863) and it all came flooding back to me. Harry Carillion's father was John Carillion. 

I wouldn't genetically match to an ancestor of some random childhood neighbor friend of great-great uncle August. Those Carillion's were cousins and more-so I suspect John Carillion was my Mary Henry's brother.

I contacted the man who administered the DNA test for this person we matched. He shared with me an article from The Brooklyn Eagle written on Wednesday, February 6, 1907 but I can't follow who's mother they are talking about in the article; August's or John's. I think it is John Carillion who wanted his nephew, August Henry, to pay support for John's mother & thus August's grandmother, but you tell me...

I ordered John Carillion's death certificate; his dates would be (1863-1940). It lists his parents as Nicholas Carillion and Caroline Laplage both born in France.

Some more poking around on I have been able to find 3 census records:

1880 - Caroline Carrilion widow age 55 (born about 1855), John Carrilon age 16 (born about1864).
1875 - Nickolas Karron age 67 (born about 1808), Carline Karron age 55 (born about 1850), Louisa Karron age 18 (born about 1957) , John Karron age 11 (born about 1864).
1855 - Nicholas Carellon age 42 (born about 1813), Caroline Carellon age 28 (born about 1827).

And a search of the NYC death index revealed a death certificate for a Nicholas Carrion who died on March 10, 1876 at the age of 64 (born about 1812) in Brooklyn...which I have ordered.

Still no mention of Mary but that Louisa Karron would have been born the same year as my Mary Carrian-Henry. I think that is her. I think that Louisa Karron is my Mary Carrian-Henry.

Don't ask me the spelling of her maiden name though. I've no idea. Apparently, spelling was never a skill in this family.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Finding Your Roots: Our People, Our Tradition (S2E7)

Oh education. How you get in the way of my blogging.

The last episode of this season has already aired. I'm 4 episodes behind in my reviews. Not good, not good.

I'm not home Tuesday nights when this program aired on PBS so I typically watched them Wednesday nights online after I get home from school. That is when I start writing my reviews but eh, I haven't had time to proofread and flesh these most recent posts until now. 

Episode 7: Our People, Our Traditions, originally aired on Tuesday, November 4, 2014. It features musician Carole King, attorney Alan Dershowitz, and writer Tony Kushner and explores their Jewish ancestry. All three had ancestors who fled Eastern Europe to find sanctuary in America. Their ancestors showed incredible perseverance in the face of religious persecution.

Carole King was born Carol Joan Kline in Brooklyn, New York. She changed her name as a teenager. Not only was typical of Jewish performers to change their names at that time but Carole expressed that then there was something she just didn't like about herself. It was revealed that Carole's grandmother, whom she only knew as Sarah Besmogin, also changed her name. In December of 1911 Sarah fled the anti-Semitic Pogroms of Russia for New York. She arrived at Ellis Island as Sheina Besmosgin and from then on rarely spoke of her life back in Russia.

Tony Kushner, best known for his Pulitzer prize winning play, Angels in America, grew up in Louisiana. Many people are shocked to realize that there is a historic Jewish presence anywhere in the South but Tony said the Jewish community eh grew up in in Lake Charles, LA was very proud to express their culture but not devoid of anti-semantic experiences. He also expressed that antisemitism prepared him to face the homophobia he would endure coming out as a gay man while as a student at Columbia University in New York City. In fact, he goes on to say that it was his parents that taught him to not be ashamed of who he was and he used that lesson to inform them of his homosexuality.

Alan Dershowitz, a high-profile attorney also does pro-bono work for those in need of legal assistance. This is a value he learned from his Orthodox Jewish father; that it is a "Jew's job to defend the underdog." He credits the historic persecution of the Jews and the atrocities of the Holocaust as the force behind his commitment to protect and defend the individual's right to practice their faith.

Typically each episode concludes with looking at the guests DNA results. Interestingly, this episode did not.

The ancestors of these guests presented experiences that were typical of many Jewish immigrant experiences. Their ancestors experienced prejudice and discrimination due to their Jewish faith and those struggles against intolerance led them to America. To give the impression that religious freedom in America is without discrimination though, is false. 

As we sit down to Thanksgiving dinner this week let us remember that we live in a country where religious freedom is one of our founding principles. Cultivate tolerance of differences. Allow others to worship, or not, as they see fit. Happy Thanksgiving!

Watch this episode at :

Monday, November 17, 2014

Finding Your Roots: We Come From People (S2E6)

Ugh. Mid-term. It's that time of semester when my whole life becomes about homework. This semester it really isn't that bad. The course I am taking is really well designed and not as overwhelming as last semester BUT, I still don't have time to watch all that much TV and I certainly don't have time to write about it. I am very behind on reviewing this episode which initially aired on October 28, 2014

Episode 6: We Come From People featuring musician NAS, actor Angela Bassett, and presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett.

This episode traces the very prominent African-American guests’ ancestry into the institution of slavery in the U.S. Like most African-Americans, the guest knew very little about their ancestors of the 1800s. Tracing an African-American family back into slavery is often impossible so these guests' finds are pretty incredible. 

NAS, is a hip-hop artist born and raised in Brooklyn, NY but his roots are very southern. The researchers discovered that on his mother's line there were generations who married individuals with the same last name.

I don't want any comments about southern inbreeding, this happened among my very northern ancestors too. In small communities there aren't a lot of mates to choose from. In NAS's case, though, he has five generations of Littles marrying Littles from the same community.

One census record showed his black grandmother, Fannie Little-Little, living right next door to a white Fannie Little. As it turns out, the black Littles derived their last name from the white slave owners. Not all that unusual really; however, it does mean that not all those black Littles were biologically related. They had lost their names in slavery and took their slave owners name as their own last name. That is the irony of African-American genealogy; that we have to use the records and names of the white owners to learn about slave ancestors

Angela Bassett fully expected to find slaves in her lineage but expressed that it was overwhelming to imagine what it must have been to go through what they experienced.

Again, her ancestors white neighbor's name helped to unlock the family history. The neighbor, Elizabeth Ingram, was the daughter-in-law of the man who owned Angela's great-great grandparents. Their child, her great grandfather, was separated from his parents by sale to the white Bassett family. The researchers brought her face to face with the white slave-owning Bassetts. Quite a breathtaking moment. 

Valerie Jarrett, the senior adviser to President Barack Obama, has a history of high achieving African-Americans. Her great grandfather, Robert Robinson Taylor, was the first black person to graduate from MIT and was the first professionally trained black American architect. Another of her ancestors was Victor Rochon, a pre-Civil War free man of color was also an elected state representative in Louisianan who railed against the notion of separate but was interesting to see how she had lines of both free and enslaved African-Americans.

These lineages showed that finding the records of a slave ancestor can be bittersweet but the relationships between white slave owners and black slaves is often much more complex than one would expect. The episode underscored the fact that it is difficult if not impossible to extricate whites from the research of African-American genealogy.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Finding Your Roots Review: The Melting Pot (S2E5)

This episode of Finding Your Roots originally aired on Tuesday October 21, 2014. It featured three of America's celebrated chefs; Aaron Sanchez, Ming Tsai and Tom Colicchio. Each chef is noted for exploring the cuisine of his immigrant ancestors; Mexican, Chinese, and Italian respectively. 

You can watch it online at 

I found this episode incredibly fascinating because I personally do not feel ties to any specific ethnicity. I identify myself as American. If pressed I might tell you that I'm mostly Irish-American; a people not highly noted for their delicious dishes.

I had a few great-great grandparents who were born in Ireland and came to the U.S. In their childhood whereas Aaron, Ming, and Tom are descended of recent immigrants.  

Aaron's mother was raised in Sonora, Mexico and came to New York to open a restaurant when Aaron was a child. But that was not Aaron's family member to come to the United States. His great-grandfather, Rafael Gabilondo was one of more than 890,000 Mexicans who fled to the U.S. during the Mexican Revolution. At the height of the Revolution, he persuaded the U.S. to allow him to bring 2,000 head of cattle from his ranch in Mexico to the U.S. In 1931, two decades after fleeing Mexico, Gabilondo bought a new ranch in Mexico where his descendants would live for generations.

Tom Colicchio's research took Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. to Ellis Island - which is a little misleading because one does not have to go Ellis Island to research their immigrant ancestor. Ellis Island's records are available online through and for free at

Tom's grandfather was born in Italy in 1903 but Tom's great-grandfather arrived in the U.S. in 1901. Similar to Aaron's story, we learn Tom's ancestors traveled back and forth between the U.S. and their native homeland multiple times at a time when travel was an arduous task.

As for Ming, he knew his immigrant ancestors well. His grandparents came from China later in their lives after having endured many atrocities during the Communist Revolution. 

I think the most exciting revelation was the one object Ming's grandfather took with him when he left China. That was a book tracing Ming's genealogy back to 891 A.D. The researchers for this program were able to confirm the contents of the book with the one remaining stele, or stone table, that exists in Ming's family's hometown. These records revealed the identity of Ming's 36th great grandfather; 36th!! The stele led the researchers to records in the Shanghai Library that stretched the family history back even further to ninety generations. Ming is a direct descendant of one of the first five emperors of China, Huang Di; his 116th great-grandfather is often cited as the father of the Chinese Language.

I think this episode really presented the fact that immigrants find their way to the United States not because of a lack of love for their homeland but rather because in many instances the living conditions are difficult to endure due to war, natural disasters, and/or poverty. However proud of their ancestors' cultures, I do believe these guests would include the "hyphen American" when identifying their ethnicities.

Tonight's episode features actor Angela Bassett, rapper NAS, and presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Finding Your Roots Review: Roots of Freedom (S2E4)

This week's episode featured guests Ben Affleck, Khandi Alexander, and Benjamin Jealous. All three guests had ancestors in the American Revolution. Hey, I have ancestors who served in the American Revolution. And my niece, Sofie, has patriots on both sides of her family tree. I suspect this is not as unusual as most Americans think.

The message that was really underscored in this episode is that the American Revolution which was fought for independence from Great Britain on the basis that all men were created equal did not create a country that treated all men equally. Once independent, the infant nation of the United States continued to uphold the institution of slavery for nearly another century.

Actor Ben Affleck learned that his sixth great-grandfather served in the Revolution during the summer of 1776 when he was just 18 years old. Actor/dancer Khandi Alexander, knew nothing of her family history. She learned that her second great-grandfather was a slave who was fathered by the white slave-owner. It was through that man that Khandi is descended from a patriot soldier. That patriot owned 85 slaves who worked his large Southern plantation. Some patriot, right? But the truth is that most of our founding fathers owned slaves.

Khandi spoke a bit about identifying herself as "black" as opposed to "African-American." She said she didn't feel connected to Africa. Her DNA test showed that she was 74% African and was able to point to the specific regions in African from which her slave ancestors originated. These results obviously moved her to the point of stating that she guessed she was African-American after all.

 I didn't know of Benjamin Jealous until this program. He is a civil rights activist and former president of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). Jealous is biracial; his mother is black and his father is white. His black lineage showed that he is descended from an man named Peter G. Morgan who was born a slave but in his lifetime worked and earned money enough to purchase his own freedom right before the Civil War. Once freed, he purchased the ownership of his wife and daughters. Then he freed them as well with a beautifully written, very moving, manumission statement written in 1864.

I loved that the document brought Jealous to tears. And loved that Jealous expressed his love for the document.

Additionally, the research revealed that Jealous had 8 ancestors who served in the Revolution including a man who served as a fife player at the battles of Lexington and Concord. That man lived to be 100 years old and the researchers were able to find a photograph of him; not the most attractive photo but still a very impressive find.

He identified himself as African-American yet his DNA test revealed that he is 80% European and only 18% African which Gates commented on to the effect of Jealous was the whitest leader of the NAACP. Sometimes I feel Gates comments too much on race, really. We're only of one race, Dr. Gates; human. And personally, I think it's much more important who we identify with as individuals than what DNA says we are or are not.

All in all I really enjoyed this episode and I really loved how the guests were moved by the stories Gates revealed to them. You can what this episode online at  

Next Tuesday's episode will explore the ancestry of three celebrity chefs; Tom Colicchio, Aaron Sanchez and Ming Tsai.