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