Monday, December 30, 2013

Whynot? WHAT?!?!

After following an shaking leaf on yesterday, I've come to learn that my great grandfather had a maternal aunt named Jane "Jennie" Samms-Whynot who may have played an instrumental role in bring my Earle line to the United States from Newfoundland.

After reviewing the 1900 U.S. Census that listed my great grandfather's sister, Susie Earle, living with the Whynots in Boston, Massachusetts, I set about to see what else Ancestry might have on the Whynots. After linking my tree to the one census record, 44 additional hints appeared...and then it increased to 71.

Among the hints were some photographs that a researching cousin uploaded to Ancestry from their own personal collection of family photos.

Immediately I saw a resemblance. You tell me. 

The woman on the left is Jane "Jennie" Samms-Whynot; the very handsome gentleman on the right holding the child is my great grandfather, Abram Thomas Earle. Jane would be his aunt.

They aren't the clearest of photographs but I see the same square jaw and that same furrowed brow.

The baby, by the way, is my great uncle, Allen Preston Earle. I never met any of these people.

I still have not determined when exactly my great grandfather, Abe, or any of his older sisters arrived in the U.S. but I know for sure that the eldest sister was in Boston in June of 1900 with the Whynots.

After seeing the photo of Great-Great Aunt Jane I called my grandmother; Abe's daughter-in-law, to see if she had any recollection of anyone ever mentioning family in Boston, or of Jane Whynot. Now granted, my grandmother's memory is not as sharp as it could be but she immediately said, "Yes, Aunt Susie did live in Boston." 

"Did she live with her Aunt Jane?" 

"Hmm, I don't know; but Abe's Aunt did come from Boston for our wedding."


My next step is to show my grandmother this photo and see if maybe - just maybe this woman could be the Aunt who attended my grandmother and grandfather's wedding in 1949.

The Arrival of Earles

I have stated this in my blog before; 6 of my 8 great grandparents were born a stones throw away from where I currently reside in New York. The other two great grandparents were born in Canada. 

Great Grandma Mary Elizabeth Sharp-Gardner, otherwise known as Mayme, was born in Sherebrook, Quebec and arrived in the United States by way of Lowell, Massachusetts in 1914 at the tender age of 23. She is my most recent immigrant ancestor.

Great Grandpa Abram Thomas Earle, also known as Abe, was born in Twillingate, Newfoundland in January of 1891. He was born after the death of his father, Abraham Earle, who was lost at sea on a ship called the "Rise and Go." His mother, Sarah Samms-Earle, remarried in 1894 to a man named James Bromley. When Abe was just 8, his mother succumbed to pneumonia and died on March 20, 1899. 

From my understanding, it was very soon after her death that Abe and his four older sisters, Susie, Frances, Elizabeth, and Marie, took off for the United States. But I have never had any documentation of on their immigration just a notation in the 1920 U.S. Census, which is the earliest U.S. record I have for Abe, stating his date of immigration as 1902. Abe would have been about 11 and that statement to the census taker may or may not have been given by Abe himself and so one can never really trust those dates of immigration from the census.

I do not know if the siblings came to the U.S. together. I don't know if they came directly to New York. I just don't know.

This morning I set to poke around on for a friend. When I opened the site I had a hint notification. It was not for the friend's tree that I have been working on, no, it was for my own Earle Family Tree. It was a 1900 U.S. Census record for a "Susie Earle" living in Boston, Massachusetts. 

I had to decide if this Susie Earle was indeed my Susie Earle. It's nice that the 1900 census includes the month and year of birth for every person. Both this Susie and my Susie were born in June of 1877 in Canada. It is relatively safe to say that they are one in the same person; that this is my Susie. 

Interestingly enough the Census record lists her date of immigration as 19900; the same year as the Census itself. Susie would have arrived in Boston before June 5, 1900 when the record was created.

Abe is not with her. She is listed as a niece of George and Jane Whynot.

A little more poking around and I learned that Sarah Samms-Earle did indeed have a sister named Jane.

And so, here we go... I am off and running on Earle Family research this morning.
...just after I said I have not been collecting family history documentation for myself.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Like Moving Away from the Painting

In my heart I am a painter. 

I don't paint much these days; it is what I studied in college, though. These days my time is filled up with work and working on my second master's degree which is a requirement for my employment. So it is all pretty much about work which I really only do to finance my desire to travel and research my family history. 

I bring up painting because I learned a very important life lesson from painting you must step away from your work in order to see, as it were, the big picture. You could spend all your time working on one precise detail only to look back and see it is in the wrong place; that this one little section is fabulous and the rest is shit. In fact, when I was taught how to paint I was instructed to take a very specific stance; to never stand behind the canvas with both feet together - no, never! You have to keep one foot in front of you (in my case my left foot) and the other foot behind you so can easily change your perspective; forward and back, constantly moving.

This concept of distancing for clarity also directly relates to why I love to travel and research my family history. If you want to better understand the world you live in and the family surrounding you, leave and go back over and over again until you can see it clearly.

Which brings to me to the point of today's post. I have taken a hiatus from researching my own family history. Yes, I did the DNA testing and have also made my sister, father, and grandmother drool into test tubes but I have not really been tracking down family history records. I have connected with some of my DNA matches but I have not been collecting documentation for myself. I've been reading about DNA as a genealogy research tool and... 

I've been working on someone else's family tree. 

Yes, I confess I do this from time to time. I like to do it. I've done it for several friends and co-workers. Like moving away from the painting it gives me perspective.

My gene pool has been on this side of the proverbial pond for a long long time; meaning, many branches of my family have resided in the Unites States long before the United States existed. By working on the family tree of a gentleman who's relatives arrived in the U.S. in the late 1800s early 1900s I've come to realize I KNOW how to research New York resources like nobody's business. When it comes to accessing European resources - which do exist - I don't know much. 

Typical American, right? I don't know anything about anyone's history but my own. Shame, shame, shame. 

Yes, of course, I have dabbled in French Canadian research but that is just New-York-light if you ask me; it's just over the boarder there. I could walk there if I didn't know how to drive. Big Whoop! Researching cousins have provided me with documentation for my few immigrant ancestors - German and Austian/Czech. And well, I did look at a few Italian records for someone once - - once.

I think it is high time I expand my genealogical researching skills into European territories no matter how taxing it may be. I look forward to the challenge of taking this new tree as deep into European history as I can. And hey, who knows, maybe it will help me to understand my own ancestry better. At the very least I am sure I will dig up dirt on someone else's family for once; because, come on, I can't be the only one this filthy in family history.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Problem with DNA Research

I have had my DNA results from for about a month now. I can not say that I have had any profound discoveries since investing my $100 in this genealogical research but I have learned an awful lot.

One of the the big lessons has been that people don't understand DNA. 

I have tried to correspond with some of the people Ancestry says I have genetic matches with. Many of the response have included phrases like, "we are probably related, but not directly." Um, no. See a DNA match means we are probably directly related; that somewhere, maybe way back in history, we have a common ancestor. Now granted, we may never be able to determine who that ancestor is because DNA has been around a lot longer than Watson and Crick's 1953 publication about the double helix; DNA has been around a lot longer than NEHGS (the New England Historic Genealogical Society, founded in 1845); a lot longer than the first human records. DNA has been around as long as life. 

So some of these distant cousin matches Ancestry has provided me with go back much further than human records. An generation is approximately 30 year. My parents were born in the 50s, my grandparents were born in the 1920s, my great grandparents were born in the 1890s; and that is just 4 generations. So when Ancestry indicates that there is a low possibility that I am in the range of being 5th to 8th cousins with someone your talking about maybe having a common ancestor 7 generations ago; people born in the late 1700s, before birth certificates, before death certificates, longer than most church records have survived. We may never know if or how I am related to these low-level certainty distant cousins - - BUT...

...BUT, if I can pinpoint a documented ancestor of mine living in the same community in the 1700s as one of your documented ancestors and the two just happen to shared the same surname, um, that is probably the line through which we are somehow directly related; YES, directly. Maybe our common ancestor is much further back than those two contemporaries but I'd bet that is where our common gene pool resides. 

And if you don't think that is possible then, well, I kind of don't understand why you took this test; and furthermore I kind of hope I'm wrong about how DNA works. But guess what? I'm not.

If you have 45 minutes to invest in learning more about DNA, I highly recommend watching this video (; The Human Family Tree.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Results are IN!

Early yesterday morning I received an email from AncestryDNA that the results from my DNA test were available.

The results give insight into one's genetic ethnicity and connects one with other who have taken the test and have DNA in common with you.

First it gave me a breakdown of my genetic ethnicity. I am:
44% - Ireland
18% - Scandinavia
18% - Great Britain
7% - Eastern Europe
3% - Italian/Greek
3% - Caucasus
2% - Europe West
2% - European Jewish
1% - Iberian Peninsula
<1% - Finland/Northwest Russia
<1% - Near East

These results did not surprise me. Looking at the the tree I have created through my research it makes sense. If I examine the ethnic origin of my 32 great-great-great grandparents, each of which theoretically provided me with 3.125% of my DNA, I'm about 34% Scotch/Irish, 25% English, 16% French, 13% German, 6% Czech, 3% Swiss, 3% Dutch. I'm a mutt. 

And even though my researched ethnicity doesn't exactly match my genetic ethnicity, it is not startling. I didn't come back 20% Italian/Greek or 18% European Jewish. The Scandinavian was mildly surprising but after reading about the migration patterns of this genetic group and checking out my winter white, pasty skin-tone, I'm not surprised.

Now really, I did not get 3.125% of my DNA from each of my great-great-great grandparents. It's only in theory that I got an even amount from each of them. 

I absolutely got 50% of my DNA from my mother and 50% from my father but because of the recombinant nature of meiotic cell division I absolutely did not get an even 25% from each of my grandparents. When my parents sex cells divided I might have gotten 30% from my paternal grandmother and 20% from my paternal grandfather. And in theory I could have gotten 49.9% from my maternal grandmother and .1% from my maternal grandfather. 

Cell division and recombination is why none of us are genetically the same except for identical twins. My sister and I will have more DNA in common that we would with any first cousin but we will not be exactly the same. A cousin got 50% of their DNA from an entirely different family. If my sister took the test her results would be different but not alarmingly so unless of course there was some hanky panky going on and she is a half-sister. My half sister would be as genetically close as a first cousin.

That being said we as a species are all genetically very similar as well. Ready to have your mind blown?

All blue-eyed people have 1 single genetic ancestor. 

Did that statement just blow your mind?

Of course that first genetic occurrence happened millions of years ago and has been passed down to billions of people. You are not going to find a relative in common with every blue-eyed person you meet. 

So your DNA can tell you about very recent connections - those you share a lot of similar DNA patterns with. And DNA will tell you about very distant connections - regions where there are high concentrations of people with DNA patterns similar to yours.

That ethnic breakdown is the distant connections. also tells you about the recent connections. It uses your DNA findings and matches you to others who have taken the DNA test. 

To my knowledge none of my first or second cousins have taken this test yet and thus I was not surprised to find that the system could only match me to a few individuals who could be as close as 4th cousins or further back. 

Looking at those potential 4th cousins' trees, I could not see a common relative. In one of them there was an unusual common surname though; Carre. The Carre family was from the Montreal area of Quebec; I am connected to them through my maternal grandfather. The man who may genetically be a 4th - 6th cousin is probably a 7th cousin to me. If he and I could document back a generation or two more we could probably find out common ancestor. I emailed him through Ancestry to see if we could learn more from each others' research.

Being 4th cousins mean that the individual and I share a 5th great grandparent; could be further back and it may involve some of that "removed" business but let's say we share 5th great-grandparents. The 5th great-grandparents that I can trace back through records were born in the later half of the 1700s. In most lines I can not get back that far through records. So to say I could be 4th - 6th cousins with someone might not reveal an obvious common relative in our trees. There may be no records to connect to the name of our common ancestor. It does not mean we are not cousins, it just means we don't know who made us cousins.

I was shocked that Cousin Mary did not show up as a genetic match. She and I know through our documentation that we are 6th cousins once removed; her daughter and I are 7th cousins. I'm older but she is a generation above me. She has taken this test. I though for sure we would be matched. The relatives that Cousin Mary and I share are Jacob and Rebecca Raynor who were born around 1760. But again, that recombinant nature of DNA. We both have DNA from our Raynors but not the same piece of DNA. We're not a match but our research proves we are indeed cousins.

Ancestry provides an interesting feature though. Amongst your list of those you share genetic information with, you can limit it to those who have "hints." You have probably seen the commercial about the "shaking leaves." Those are "hints." They indicate there is a record in their database that may match an ancestor you put in your tree or, in this case, that another researcher has the same individual in their family tree.

When I limited my DNA matches to those who had "hints" there was only 1 result. A woman who listed in her tree the parents of my Rebecca Raynor. She is descended from Rebecca's brother Thomas. She and I share this same set of 6th great-grandparents; Joseph Raynor and Elizabeth Lester-Raynor - - without a doubt.

The reason I find that so excited is because Cousin Mary is undoubtedly a Raynor too. Her mother had the maiden name Raynor. My connection to the Raynor name is from my father's father's mother's father's father's mother's mother. (Hee hee hee, writing that just makes me giggle.) If it was Cousin Mary or I who were going to have an error in their Raynor research it would have been most likely been me error. 

This genetic match though, proves my research is good. The DNA test matched me to a set of direct ancestors who Cousin Mary and I have in common. She and I just do not have the same DNA from this couple which does not mean we are not related. We most definitely are! And I am most definitely related to this newly found cousin. I have dropped an email to her too through I anxiously await her reply.

I am also anxious to get closer, known relatives to take the test. First cousins, second cousins, third cousins, if you are interested in taking the test, let me know. Right now it's $100 which is not pocket change, I know, but it is not as expensive as it once was. I'm also really itchin' to get my dad to do the test. And I am pretty sure I know what Nanny is getting for Christmas. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

I Ordered My DNA Kit!

I may have mentioned before that I am still in school. My new job requires that I obtain a second master's degree. This requires that I make four very large payments per semester; the last of which I made today! YAY!

I promised myself that after I made this semester's last payment I would treat myself to a DNA kit from AncestryDNA. Aww, yay! Now there is a treat!!

You may be wondering - - what the heck? or hell or some other profane word I will not write here. Why would I want a DNA kit?

Well, for sometime now DNA has been used in genealogy research.

I know what you're thinking, "Don't you know who your father is?" Hee, hee, hee. Yeah, I do. I look just like him. Unlike all those kids on those Jerry Springer episodes, I have no doubt who my dad is.

DNA, though, can be used for so much more than confirming paternity. It can help one dig deeper into her/his genealogy research. How you ask. Well, I am glad you asked that...

At some point records run out. Birth certificates just didn't exist when Jacob Raynor was born in the 1770s on Long Island. Oh sure there were church registers of baptisms but those registers haven't survived. And frankly, I am at the stage in my research where almost every line of my family tree has hit a brick wall. So what do I do? Just call my family tree complete? Well, I suppose I could but...

Inside each of my cells lives information about who I came from. Analysis of my DNA will provide me with information about my genetic ethnicity and linking me with others who share my DNA. In other words, this test will confirm the regions of the world that my ancestors came from AND link me to other cousins; living, breathing, researching cousins.

When this DNA analysis first started it was most helpful to ethnic groups like African-Americans. Their ancestral information was lost due the institution of slavery in this country. Few records existed for African-Americans before Emancipation. DNA testing can determine which region of the world one's DNA stems from; thus, African-American could learn what region of Africa their ancestors most likely came from giving them an ancestral homeland. Very cool.

Now it doesn't give you a family tree. It won't tell you the names and dates of birth for your grandparents. It will point you to a region where genes matching yours are most prevalent in the inhabitants.

Now I can tell you many areas of Europe my ancestors came from through records. Again, though, records only go back so far. This testing can take me further back in time.

And what is this business about connecting to cousins? 

Well, once they examine my DNA, the results will be matched to others who have already taken these DNA tests. Those individuals whose DNA patterns match mine are cousins; we have some direct line ancestor in common. Not "they could be cousins," No they ARE cousins. Figuring out how I connect to those who share my DNA will open up a whole new realm of research for me. 

Additionally, that means this test should tell me that Cousin Mary over at Threading Needles in a Haystack  is my cousin. 

How is that? 

Well, Cousin Mary has already taken this test and so she is in the AncestryDNA database. She and I share a common set of ancestor. Her 5th great grandparents are my 6th great grandparents. And although that sounds really far away, genetically speaking 200 years ago is very recent. These test results should match us up because we undoubtedly share some DNA.

We'll see!

And honestly, I couldn't think of a better way to finish celebrating Family History Month than by doing this; by trying to open up my research road blocks and connect to more family.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Edward Hughes Murdered??

So many novice family history researchers think that is the end-all-be-all of online genealogy research. 


Don't get me wrong, is wonderful! It has revolutionized the field of genealogy. I would credit it with making genealogy the ubiquitous past-time that it is today. It has tons of resources but it is not all there. Real genealogy research still requires visits to libraries, archives, cemeteries, and churches. AND there are also many other free and subscription-based databases available besides I recently tried a free 30-day trial of; which is primarily digitized U.S. newspaper articles. I found a lot of interesting things.

Years ago I discovered the death certificates for my 4th great-grandparents; Terrance Hughes and Ellen Sweeney-Hughes. The certificates didn't tell me much more than their ages and dates of death. Both death certificates did reveal, though, that the couple was buried in Calvary Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. A simple call to Calvary Cemetery directed me to their unmarked plot in Cemetery #1, Section 3, Range 1, Plot A, Graves #1-4.

I knew from census records the names and approximate dates of birth for some of their children; Patrick, Anna, and Edward. Anna Hughes-Gray was my 3rd great-grandmother.

A simple search in for last name: Hughes, first name: Terrance, limited to New York (where he died), and then limited further by his death (1873) kicked back an obituary for him from the New York Herald.
Hughes - On Saturday, September 20, after a long and painful illness, TERRANCE HUGHES, a native of Lincolman [Liscolman], parish of Connmare [Connemara], county Wicklow, Ireland in his 73d year of age.
The relatives and friends are invited to attend his funeral from his late residence, 603 East Ninth Street, on Monday afternoon, September 22, at one o'clock.
Dublin and Carlow papers please copy.
What a find right? It's very difficult to do Irish research without a parish and county. So that's very nice.

Then I found an obituary for Ellen Hughes; like her husband, Terrance, it was also in the New York Herald. The obituary was posted on March 12, 1884 and reads as follows:
Hughes - On Monday, March 10, ELLEN HUGHES, mother of the late Patrick Hughes, in her 81st year of age.
Funeral from the residence of her daughter, Mrs. Gray, 535 East 11th St., Wednesday, March 12 at half-past one P.M. Internment at Calvary Cemetery.
Mrs. Gray, again, was my 3rd great-grandmother. There was no mention of a son Edward though, who like her son Patrick could have predeceased her.

So then I tried to look for Edward whom I know nothing about except his name, approximate date of birth, and a guess at the date of death I gleaned from the NYC death record index; March 22, 1874. Now keep in mind that his date of death is just from the index, I did not actually see the death record and so I may have the wrong Edward Hughes. My Edward Hughes had a lot of contemporaries of the same name living in the same city; New York City. However, I found these headlines which coincided with the date of death for an Edward Hughes:
New York Herald - March 22, 1874 - "Coroners' Cases"
New York Tribune - March 23, 1874 - "Two Probable Homicides"
New York Tribune - March 27, 1874 - "Supposed Homicides"
Was MY Edward Hughes Murdered???

A simple call to Calvary Cemetery answered my question. I asked the woman who answered the phone if she could give me the plot location for a man named Edward Hughes who died in March 1874. Sure enough he is buried in Cemetery #1, Section 3, Range 1, Plot A, Graves #1-4. That is the same plot as my Terrance and Ellen Hughes; Edward's parents.
March 27, 1874 - New York Tribune 
Supposed Homicides
Coroner Woltmann held and inquest yesterday in the case of Edward Hughes, who was found dead on the 20th inst. at his home in Thirty-third-st. near Tenth-ave.
James Cory, residing at No. 787 Tenth-ave., testified that he had seen Hughes and a man named Cain fighting near Tenth-ave. and Thirty-third-st. on the day previous to Hughes's death. He did not know that either of them was drunk. James Goss testified that Cain struck Hughes several times in the face, holding him in the back of the head, while Hughes was so drunk he could not stand nor get up when he was knocked down. Dr. Shine testified that death apparently ensued from alcoholism, there being no signs of any bruises on the body. The jury rendered a verdict that Hughes died from alcoholism, death being accelerated by the beating received, and Coroner Woltmann committed Cain to the Tombs to answer in default of $5,000 bail.
So according to a jury of his peers, James W. Cain did not murder Edward Hughes; Edward succumbed to alcoholism in a very sad and dramatic scene. 

I tend to have a very soft spot in my heart for those relatives who, like Edward, leave no heirs. No heirs theoretically means that there are no relatives to visit the grave, to remember who he was, to keep the memories of him alive. Edward's story reaches me very deeply, though. Today I pray especially hard for those who suffer from the same affliction as Edward, and for those who judge them, and for those who beat them down.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Post By Cousin Mary

I am not sure how long ago it was now but it has been a while since I met Cousin Mary through genealogy research on She and I are 6th cousins once removed. (I love that removed stuff!) She and I share the same brick wall. "Ooo you, Jacob Raynor, you!!" Shaking my fist in the air. 

After you read her post here you should check out her blog over at .

Thank you for your post, Cousin Mary! I love you!

Hi, my name is Mary, and I’m a genealogy addict.
Genealogy seems to be a hobby – alright, alright, obsession! – tailor-made just for me. Before I even knew there was such a thing as the study of family history, I was a huge history buff. If it took place in the past, it was right up my alley. I loved to write, loved to learn, loved to organize and I loved names and families. Yes, you read that right. I used to have a list of favorite names that I updated on a weekly basis, and I used to make up families – this person married that person and they had these kids. These kids grew up and moved here and there, did this for a living, married so-and-so, and had those kids. Grandma and Grandpa died, and the grandkids grew up and had their own kids…sounds insane, right? And yet, oh so familiar?

So, yes, genealogy was tailor-made just for me. Or maybe I was tailor-made for genealogy. It’s something I’m SUPPOSED to be doing. It’s not for everybody. Like any kind of vocation, to borrow a religious term from my old job as a Catholic newspaper reporter, not everybody is called to it. Sure, lots of people dabble. Lots of people are honestly interested. Lots of people THINK they’re interested, until they realize all the work that’s involved. I used to be one of those people who just wanted to get to the next generation, to see how far back I could get. When I realized that it was possible to document and prove (or disprove, as the case often was) the things I was learning – well, where others might have been deterred, I just fell in love even more. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with being a Christmas-and-Easter family historian, someone who only occasionally opens the family folders, who really is interested but just doesn’t have the time to pursue it as obsessively as we do. Because I’m sure we all know (and if you don’t yet, if you’re just starting out, you will know soon!) how time-consuming genealogy can be. Sometimes in an unbelievably frustrating way, in a I-wish-I-had-just-taken-up-gardening kind of way. But usually in an I-can’t-sleep-I’m-so-excited-I-just-found-a-long-lost-picture-of-Great Grandma Annie-through-a-third-cousin-I-never-knew-I-had-and-I-need-to-find-more-info-NOW kind of way. We NEED those occasional genealogists because, as luck usually has it, they’re the ones in possession of Great Grandma Annie’s photo. The more people who are out there doing this, even in the most casual of senses, the better it is for all of us. Collaboration is key! But if you’re one of the Chosen Ones (and there are quite a lot of us!) you know it. You eat, drink, and breathe vital records and cemeteries and newspaper archives. In college, I used to stay up all night. Partying with my friends? Quite a bit, yes. Glued to my computer screen searching online genealogy databases? Oh, most definitely. Genealogy is my drug of choice, after all.

But maybe that’s not the best metaphor. Addicts, for all intents and purposes, have the ability to stop. When you’re CALLED to something, it’s a part of who you are. I was a genealogist before I even knew there was a thing called genealogy. I just didn’t know it yet. It’s brought me closer to my grandmother, who also has The Calling, and to my father, who sits on the fence between casual-and-obsessive family history researcher. And I’ve gotten to discover and meet so, so many wonderful cousins and friends through our mutual research. And now that I have a daughter and my cousins have started to have kids, and the next generation of my family tree has begun blooming, I can’t wait to see which of them (hopefully a few!) I get to share this calling with!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Researching the Prinz / Prince Family Line by Cousin Carol

I met Cousin Carol online while researching my mother's side of the family through Carol and I share our most maternal lines. Hmm, Carol, does that mean we have the same mitochondrial DNA?

Thank you so much for sharing your research story on my blog AND specifically, for sharing your research with me.

Researching the Prinz / Prince Family Line by Cousin Carol

After years of family research, the desire to visit the villages of our ancestors has gone from dream to reality.  Summer 2013 seemed the perfect time for our family - my husband and I were celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary, the kids were able to clear their schedules and we found ourselves on a plane heading to Prague. (Anyone who has undertaken such a trip with four adults understands the many conversations, e-mails, texts, & phone calls it takes to pull this all together, over the course of many months.)

While the trip was still in the “someday” stage, I began gathering information on Czech and German villages, possible routes, hotels, train schedules, plane schedules and guides.  As luck would have it, the guides I located were the best possible for our plans.  If anyone needs guide services in Central Europe, Tom and Marie Zahn are the best! Tom is an American and Marie is Czech.  Marie is incomparable when it comes to communicating, setting schedules, making suggestions and confirming everything, so all goes smoothly before and during the trip.  Tom does the actual driving with many interesting stories along the way.  They provide genealogical research and ancestral tours, and arrange for local day guides as well.  They thoroughly prepare in advance, arranging meetings with village historians, mayors and church historians.

The days in the Czech Republic were like a trip back in time.  It was delightful to see the beautiful countryside that my ancestors lived, driving the same roads they would have traveled, leaving their villages to eventually arrive in New York.  A particularly memorable day found us unexpectedly climbing the bell tower of my grandmother’s church in Mlady Smolivec, Bohemia, Czech Republic where I had the privilege of ringing the church bell which had been cast in 1491.

Another day found us sampling a Czech pastry, called buchty, which I had not tasted since childhood.  I’ve since found the recipe and made these, similar to cheese Danish, but in a round roll shape.  They will become a new/old family tradition for us.

Leaving the countryside of the Czech Republic, we were driven to Bremen to meet our tour guide for Germany, Dr. Wolfgang Grams who is the German counterpart to the Zahns. 

Dr. Grams was one of the co-founders of the German Emigration Museum

Since many of our Czech and German ancestors traveled to Bremerhaven to board a ship to go to America, this was a must-see Museum.  It is the largest theme museum for emigration and immigration in Europe.  It truly allows you a glimpse into the hardships faced traveling to the new world. We had been to Ellis Island and Bremerhaven was the completion of the circle for us.

Dr. Grams was also a font of information on German villages, connecting us with church elders, finding farm lands where ancestors lived and arranging unique experiences.  Our travels ended in the town of my husband’s ancestors.  As it turns out, the former mayor is a distant cousin several times removed, as well as being the village historian and a vintner.  The village of Framersheim is surrounded by vineyards, and we spent a lovely afternoon sampling some delightful German wines. 

When it was time to leave Europe, we felt like we were stepping out of a fairy tale.  Not only did we walk in the steps of our ancestors, but we sampled the food, drank in the culture (literally) and were delighted with our side trips to castles and historic sites.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

My Grandfather - by Cousin Lisa

October is Family History Month and in celebration of it I have decided to turn my blog over to my favorite type of relatives; cousins!

Today's post is written by my Cousin Lisa who is a first cousin on my mom's side of my family. My mother's family is not especially close knit. Lisa and I grew up very far apart; Lisa in Florida, I in NY. In my teens I got to spend a lot of my summer vacations with my grandfather, Clarence Albert Gardner otherwise known as Whitey. I was always a little jealous, though, that Lisa got to be so close to him; geographically and personally. Thanks for your post Li. I love you!

My Grandfather - by Cousin Lisa

Up until a few years ago, my grandfather was the closest person to me who passed away. It was one of the hardest feelings I could ever express, especially since, at the time, I lived so far away and hadn't seen him as often as I use to. 

My grandfather had a tough life. Not that everyone is handed an easy one, but my heart breaks for what he had to go through. He lost, what I like to assume, was the love of his life at the tender age of 41. Leaving him with six children to raise by himself, the youngest being only 2 years old. I cannot even begin to imagin what that must have felt like. Like most kids who lose a parent when they are young, I know that at least one of his kids (my father, specifically), took it very hard. My father turned towards alcohol and drugs to cope and in turn, became a very rebellious and hard to handle teenager. 

Knowing who my grandfather was, I have no doubt he tried his best to raise his children all by himself. He never remarried. He also never told me about my grandmother. However, I can't help but think he never remarried because she was his one true love, therefore, there could be no other. I could be completely wrong for all I know but that is what I like to think.

To me, my grandfather was the strongest person I had ever known & maybe, just maybe, a hopeless romantic too.

Cousin Lisa, Grandpa Gardner, Uncle Ron

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Family History Month is Coming

October is Family History month. For the last few years I have tried to do something special or at least intentional to celebrate my family's history during the month. One year I started this blog, another year I set the goal to find all 32 of my great-great-great grandparents names (which I achieved), and this year I have decided to give up my blog. Yup, I am going to turn this month's writings over to relatives. I haven't found many who want to participate but there are a few. You'll see.

Do you have plans to celebrate Family History Month? Can you think up any creative way you or someone else could celebrate their family's history? I'm always looking for next year's big idea.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Who Do You Think You Are? Reviews 2: 2nd half of Season 4

Season 4 of Who Do You Think You Are? has not come and went. The second half of the season included episodes on celebrities Chris O'Donnell, Cindy Crawford, Trisha Yearwood, and Jim Parsons.

Episode 5. I love how Chris O'Donnell's episode started out with him learning what he could about his father's family history from his niece. Most people develop an interest in their genealogy later in life; I didn't, I was about 16 when I caught the disease. It was nice to see someone turn to someone younger for guidance. That being said though, I wish the episode ended with Chris going home to tell his niece what he discovered about their family. 

I loved how with every discovery Chris could see how significant family was to each of his forefathers. I too believe that family dynamics are inherited. By that I mean that it seems to me that one learns how to treat and interact with their relatives from the examples set before them. In my mother's line it seems that every generation suffers some sort of estrangement from one sibling or another. On my father's line it seems that every generation has taken in some distant family member or person in need for an extended period of time. Chris saw a pattern of men requesting to leave wars to return home and care for family. 

And dude, family heirlooms in the Smithsonian?!?! Chris had some amazing discoveries.

Episode 6. I have a lot in common with Cindy Crawford!! First off, gorgeous!! (Hee, hee, hee.) It must be in the genes. 

I too am supposedly descended from King Charlemagne. I came across that online somewhere but the source lacked documentation so I didn't believe it; but then again if Charlemagne lived 40 generations ago, and you have 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents, then you have about 1,099,511,627,776 40th great-grandparents - no joke, that's true, that is 2 to the 40th power. In other words, it is virtually impossible for anyone of European descent not to be descended from Charlemagne. But, can everyone document their ancestry back to Charlemagne like Cindy can? I think not. I wish I could solidly prove my connection to him. I want a scroll!

Additionally, like Cindy, I too know Chris Child of the New England Historic Genealogical Society of Boston. I am a member of NEHGS, the oldest genealogy society in the United States, which is how I know Chris. He's such a nice man and very good at the work he does. And guess what, Cindy? I knew him first! Nanner-nanner, Cousin Cindy.

Episode 7. I really loved this episode. Trisha Yearwood seems so really down-to-Earth. 

She learned that one of her direct ancestors was orphaned young, committed the treacherous crime of steeling deer, and rather than be executed was sentence to be indentured in American. At one point she made a comments, "If I didn't know his history, if I had just heard a relative of your's broke into someone's private property and killed animals and stole them, I would think he's just a criminal; he's just a common criminal and has no character. But it's hard for me to say that though knowing his life; knowing what he's been through."

Upon hearing this I thought to myself, "I hope she sees other "common criminals" as having circumstances worthy of compassion."

I really do think genealogy teaches people compassion. I think when one learns that they are descended from thieves, beggars, slave-owners, indigents, struggling people, whatever the case maybe, they tend to cast a softer light on those around them.

Another aspect of Trisha's experience that I could relate to is that in the end she learned that she grew up in close proximity to where her first immigrant Winslut ancestor owned land back in the 1700s. I live no more than 10 minutes away from where one of my first immigrant ancestors settled in the 1600s.

Episode 8. Jim Parsons, like many novice family history researchers, was interested in getting "across the pond." That expression means that American is interested in finding their European roots. In Jim's case it was his connection to France. For most Americans their connection to France will connect them to New Orleans and/or Quebec, Canada. In Jim's case his French came by way of New Orleans. For me, my French connection came from Quebec. That is not to say I have not done a ton of Louisiana State research for friends; one in particular, Toni, has relatives from Iberville, LA just like Jim.

One thing I really loved about Jim during this process was that he constantly paused to do math; to figure out how old his ancestor would have been at the time the relative documents were created. Then he would compare the age to his own. I do the same thing. I look at family photos and think, "I am 5 years older than my grandmother was in this picture." 

It was pretty cool to ultimately learn that his ancestors hobnobbed with royalty and political figures of their times such as King Louis XV, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams. What I appreciated most though is that Parsons was just as enamored to learn the details of the lives of those ancestors of his that did not have great fame and that he saw the common quality of paternal love and support through many generations of fathers and sons in his family line.


I really do love this show. I am sad to see the season end and I really do hope that TLC keeps it going and brings it back for another season soon. 

Now I am off to read Cousin Mary's posts about this TV series over at Threading Needles in a Haystack. I wonder if her take on these episodes are anything like mine; they must be, we're related, right? :) 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

On the Henry Homefront

This past summer I got to visit with my grandmother's sister-in-law, Great Aunt Jeannette. She is not only my grandmother's sister-in-law, she is also my grandfather's second cousin; a Henry AND a Losee, for those of you familiar with my family surnames.

Great Aunt Jeannette gave me a great newspaper clipping from April 20, 1945 about her husband (grandma's brother) Richard Henry. I don't know what newspaper it came from but I hope by sharing it, my Losee and Henry cousins might come to understand how WWII effected our family and so many others like it.

Young Richard Aid Vets
East Hempstead - A very special letter was delivered to 15 Fenimore Ave., last week. Addressed to Master Richard Henry, it was signed "Lawrence F. Lowe, Commander, Hempstead Post 390, American Legion."

The letter was one of commendation and expressed "sincere appreciation of the post for your splendid work in the salvage drive."

For Richard has been conducting virtually a one-man campaign for waste paper in his neighborhood the past few months. His efforts over this period, have yielded a total of 4,600 lbs of scrap. This he crated and stored in the basement of his home and delivered from time to time to the Legion headquarters.

In his letter, Lowe states that with Richard's help, 30.000 cigarets had been supplied to veterans at Kings County State hospital. Comics and books collected by the energetic 13 year-old were sent to patients at Camp Santini hospital.
The prized bit of correspondence closes with the words "your efforts have greatly assisted the war effort as well as work which we have pledged to do for the veterans of this war."
Richard, son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Henry, says he wants to "do something for the war." That's his way of saying "I want to help my two brothers overseas." Lt. Charles, 23, is attached to an anti-aircraft unit in Saipan. Pfc. Robert, 19, is with the 1st Army in Germany.
They'll want to read that letter, too, when they come home.

I asked my grandmother if she remembered her brother doing this. She didn't really but she wasn't surprised by it. She said, "Richard was like that."

I encourage fellow genealogist to focus not just on the depth of their roots but also the breathe of their branches. In other words, look at more than just your direct ancestors; learn all you can about the siblings of your direct ancestors and maybe even some of those siblings' in-laws. 


Because maybe you don't come from the line that holds on to family records; maybe by researching collateral lines (siblings and in-laws) you'll find someone who did hold on to your family heirlooms and information like this.

Spread out, people! Find your kin.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Recycling Names

If you're seasoned at this genealogy game, or if you've watched the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you probably know that various cultures have traditional naming patterns. In that movie all the children are Anita, Diane, and Niko.

The cultural patters are often the first son is named after the father's father and the first daughter after the mother's mother, or perhaps that first daughter is named after the father's mother; depends on the culture, depends on the parents, depends on that name sometimes.

It was news to me though that if a child died sometimes the name would be re-used for another child. No really, it happened a lot; especially among my Irish branches of my family tree. Personally I find it a little creepy but it happened.

Take for example my great-great grandfather, Michael Fay, and his siblings. Michael was the eldest child of Lawrence and Bridget Fay children. Michael had a brother named Lawrence as well. As not to confuse him with his father we will call the brother Lawrence Jr. although I am not sure he ever used Jr.

The first time a Lawrence Fay Jr. appears on the U.S. census is in 1860 at the age of 2 as the youngest child of Lawrence and Bridget Fay four children at the time. In the 1870 census Lawrence appears again but this time he's only a few months old. Hmm.

Did the census taker just record the information wrong?
No, I don't think so.
I do believe that the first Lawrence Fay, Jr. died as a child. 

These are the 8 children of Lawrence and Bridget Fay that I know of:
  1. Michael Fay born 1850
  2. James Fay born about 1855
  3. John Fay born about 1856
  4. Lawrence Fay born about 1858
  5. Martha Fay born about 1860
  6. Joseph Fay born about 1862
  7. Ann Fay born about 1868
  8. Lawrence Fay born about 1869
Those dates of birth were gleaned from various census records (1860, 1870, and 1880); thus, the "about" because the census does not record a date of birth just an age.  

I suspect the first Lawrence Fay Jr. died after the birth of his brother Joseph otherwise I think they would have re-used the name Lawrence then.

No Lawrence Jr. appears with his family in the 1880 census, though. His absence from the 1880 census lead me to believe that the second Lawrence Jr. had perhaps also died young .


In the 1920 census I found a Lawrence Fay born in about 1869 in NY, married to a woman named Dora living in Jackson, Missouri.

Is this Lawrence Fay, Jr. #8?
Could be.
So I contacted a person who linked to the same census record and remarkably, she was able to send me a photo of the man.

This here is Lawrence Fay, Jr., likely my great-great grandfather's youngest brother, standing on the far left with the handsome mustache.

Taken in Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Pennsylvania around 1913.

My quest now is to obtain this man's death certificate or obituary to see if it names his parents. And I hope that perhaps I can locate some information about the death of the first Lawrence, Jr.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Defining an Accomplished Life

I recently read an interesting quote from New York Times columnist, Alina Tugend. The quote was, "We have such limited views of what we consider an accomplished life that we devalue many qualities that are critically of the most important conversations we can have with our children is what we mean by success." 

The ellipsis, the "...", made me curious. That symbol means something was left out. Therefore, I took the time to find the article from which that quote was taken in order to read what was edited out. The quote came from an article Tugend wrote on June 29, 2012 called "Redefining Success and Celebrating the Ordinary" (

The article confronts the reality that just because children are told by their parents that they are amazing and exceptional it does not mean that they are; and in all likelihood, the world will not see them as such. Tugend quotes author and educator, Brené Brown, from Brown's book, "The Gifts of Imperfection." "In this world, an ordinary life has become synonymous with a meaningless life." Making a lot of money, having a fancy job title, making babies, being a star of some realm are all very narrow definitions of success. Brown questions, "What about being compassionate or living a life of integrity?" I ask, What about overcoming struggles?

What does this have to do with genealogy and digging up the "dirt" on my ancestors? Well..................

Genealogy is a way to show youth that the ordinary struggles of ordinary people are worthy of reverence.

The article goes on to discuss another article written in the Toronto Star about a woman, Shelagh Gordon, who had died of a brain aneurysm at the age of 55. The article was titled, "Shelagh was here — an ordinary, magical life." The Toronto Star then ran over 100 interviews with people who had been touched by the life of  Ms.Gordon. Obituaries, as the article points out, read a lot like resumes; list of the concrete actions one took in life. Ms. Gordon, however, did not live an extraordinary life; she was remembered by others for her kindness.

I don't have famous people in my family tree. Maybe a few of them in their days were noteworthy in their own communities; maybe a few had medals pinned upon their chests for valor, bravery, and honor; maybe their names made it into the newspaper for something admirable, although more often then not I find them on the police blotters. For the most part, though, my ancestors lead quiet, ordinary lives. 

Know that you are no less valuable a human for being ordinary; for having talents unrecognized by the masses; for surviving day-to-day without causing harm.

Humanity would suffer a world of good if we encouraged our children to aspire for something more than to impress on another. 

Tugend shares a great quote from David McCullough, Jr., "Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you."

But I will end my writing as Tugend ended hers, with a quote from George Eliot’s novel “Middlemarch;” which I have not read. "...that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs." 

Visit them.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Who Do You Think You Are? Reviews: 1st half of Season 4

This morning Cousin Mary over at Threading Needles in a Haystack posted her reviews of the recent episodes of Who Do You Think You Are?;

Back in May the television network, TLC, announced that it was bring back the show, Who Do You Think You Are? (WDYTYA) which originally ran in the U.S. on NBC. For those of you unfamiliar with the television show, each one-hour episode is really a documentary of a celebrity's research into their own family history. Well, I say the celebrity's research but as Cousin Mary so correctly points out in her post we are really watching the celebrity being handed research already done for them. Ah, the perks of fame. Seriously, I'd be willing to put up with some paparazzi in exchange for someone breaking through my genealogical brick walls; but I digress...

So far this season on WDYTYA there has been 4 episodes; Kelly Clarkson, Christina Applegate, Chelsea Handler, and Zooey Deschanel.

Episode 1. Kelly Clarkson's episode focused on her Civil War ancestor, Isaiah Rose. I myself have spent a great deal of time on this period in history in my own family history. I feel very close, research-wise, to many of my ancestors who served in this horrific war. I could relate to how very moved Kelly was by the stories she discovered about Isaiah. However, she made this one comment that really made me roll my eyes. She commented that she had sung at the inauguration of a man who got to be president because of the cause her ancestor fought for. Well, Kelly, your 3rd great-grandpa didn't exactly put Obama in the White House. I understand what she was saying but truthfully, a majority of those who fought in the Civil War weren't there for the cause of racial equality, many were poor farmers there for the paycheck. The cause they fought for was preserving the Union. My advice, Ms. Clarkson, is that she you should watch Lincoln; maybe twice. But my own heart resonnates with Kelly hope that those who fought to save the Union somehow know that what they did mattered; still matters.

Episode 2. I wholeheartedly agree with Cousin Mary when she states that "Christina Applegate's episode was possibly one of the best episodes and stories I've ever seen on this show." Christina's father came from a "broken home." He had very little information about his mother and very inaccurate stories about the circumstances surrounding his parents' divorce and his upbringing. Like Cousin Mary I enjoyed this episode because it wasn't about heroes. It was about normal people struggling with their own demons and the effects that has on the lives around them - - for generations to come.

This episode underscored for me that genealogy has the power to heal. Uncovering the truth, however painful it may be, most definitely brings about a understanding and compassion for others around us and who have come before us. That is mostly what my research and my blog are about. I believe that my behavior, reactions, and personality have a lot to do with how I was raised; or in some instances how I have unlearned what my parents taught me. For example, my mother's side suffers a lot of estrangement. I've always wondered why they treat one another like that - - not speaking to sister and/or brothers for decades at a time. My research into her line revealed that it really was a learned behavior that was perpetuated for generations. Whereas on my father's side there is a history of taking in these "cousins," "aunts," and "uncles" that really aren't related at all. Christina's research was able to provide her father with some much needed personal closure and a clearer understanding of who his parents were.

Episode 3. Chelsea Handler's episode focused on the life of her German grandfather through WWII.  Despite my statements regarding episode 1, all my research into the Civil War, and my love of my soldier/sailor ancestors, I hate war. And I feel like I had just watched the Clarkson-Civil War one. Chelsea who is a Jewish, was very concerned about her German grandfather being a Nazi sympathizer. She knew her grandfather though and recounted how he was very loving towards her even though he himself was not Jewish. I wonder if she had found out that he was a Nazi what it would have really changed for her. Would she have turned to hating the man? I think what the experience did for Chelsea, and for all those watching it, was to clarify the fact that most German soldiers were not Nazis; they fought in that war out of necessity, they had to, their government made them, and they were trying to protect their families.

Episode 4. Zooey Deschanel's episode focused on her Quaker roots. I did not have a strong religious upbringing really. I was raised Catholic and identify myself as one though. However, I have always found religions to be intriguing. After reading about Quakerism in my high school, I thought, hmm, maybe I could be a Quaker. They were very progressive in their support of gender equality, racial freedom, and liberal education. I like them for that, and I do love oatmeal. (It was through Quaker brand oatmeal that I first learned about Quakerism from my mom, really.) But I don't know if I could cut it as a Quaker, they conservatively refrain from alcohol, dancing, and swearing. Eh. "F that in the A," she says as she swigs her whiskey and dances a jig. And it also doesn't bode well for them in my book that Richard Nixon was a Quaker.

Zooey learned, though that her ancestor, Sarah Henderson Pownall was indeed a strong Quaker woman at a time when abolitionism was extremely unpopular and most women were stifled from expressing strong convictions. Her family's connection to pivotal events in the history of the Underground Railroad was really quite moving. The recorded personal recollection of Sarah Pownall's son-in-law was an amazing family history find; that resource made me jealous.

All in all I think it is shaping up to be a wonderful season of WDYTYA and I am eagerly looking forward to seeing the second half of season 4 with episodes on Chris O'Donnell, Cindy Crawford, Trisha Yearwood, and Jim Parsons. Tuesday night at 9pm Eastern (repeated at 11pm Tuesdays) on TLC.