Sunday, October 20, 2013

New AncestryDNA Updated Review

****10/20/13 Ancestry DNA Updated Review*******

I originally posted my review of AncestryDNA on 11/20/12. In this post I outlined the Good, Bad and Frustrating of AncestryDNA.   You may want to read that post, too.  Since some of the reasons that investing in the AncestryDNA test still may not be worth it for you are still true today.

In October 2013, AncestryDNA just launched their "new" AncestryDNA results. They have made some updates and refinements.  As with the original AncestryDNA results, it is exciting, but it is still not perfect.

In my original results, it showed that I had 40% of my ancestry originating (DNA wise) from Scandinavia.  Which was directly at odds with all my research which showed I had a large number of my ancestors from Scotland and England.  

I was interested seeing if the new refinements were any different.

The updated information was dramatically different from my previous results.  It showed the following:

  • <1 Scandinavia
  • 2% Finnish/Northern Russia
  • 2% Italy/Greece
  • 6% Great Britain
  • 21% Ireland
  • 26% European West (Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg)
  • 43% European East (Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Ukraine, etc.)
There results seem to be more inline with what my research has uncovered with the exception of the Ireland and Italy/Greece ancestry.  The only Irish ancestry I know that I have is from my 3rd Great Grandparents - William and Margaret Armstrong, who came here from Ireland in the early 1800's.  Interestingly, this is a separate Armstrong family than I have written extensively about.  It isn't clear to me if this Armstrong family (William and Margaret) may have come to Ireland from Scotland.  So there may not be ANY Irish ancestry from this part of the family, too.

The unknown in this analysis is that my grandfather on my father's side is unknown.  Does this indicate that he was Irish with some tiny amount of Italian/Greek ancestry?  Or are the results just inaccurate?  Maybe further refinements in the AncestryDNA results over time will provide better information.

A five months ago, I did receive a DNA match for a 2nd cousin.  It is a person that I wasn't aware of before.  He/She appear to be descended from my great aunt.  Which was exciting to see.  

What made it less exciting was that when I tried to reach out to them, I am yet to hear back from them.  Which continues to confound me that people invest in the AncestryDNA test and aren't more interested in connecting with their distant cousins.




Still waiting for the "surprising" DNA results which are going to open some previously unopened doors for the genealogical research.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Military Monday: John B Armstrong, Civil War Veteran or Not?

I am unsure any of ancestors fought in the Civil War.  Which seems strange, since many of my ancestors resided in the United States during the war.  I have uncovered evidence that two of my relatives took part in the Civil War Battle of Portland, Maine which I blogged about in a previous post.  I don't believe either of those relatives were active military.

However, I have reason to believe that my 2nd great grandfather, John B. Armstrong, was a veteran of the Civil War.  While researching some cemetery records, I found the plot record for the Armstrong gravesite in S. Portland, Maine.  The plot record indicated that John B. Armstrong was a Civil War veteran.  This notation was probably useful when they put out flags for memorial day and/or veteran's day.

The only problem is that when I have conducted research on John B. Armstrong's participation serving in the Union Army in the Civil War, I wasn't coming up with any records which show in what capacity he served in the war.

Recently, I found a record on familysearch.org  of Maine, Veterans Cemetery Records, 1676-1918
for John H. Armstrong with the same  date of death and in the same Armstrong plot as my ancestor.  This looked promising and it was understandable that the person who created the record may have made an error on this cemetery record between John B and John H Armstrong.

What was exciting was the record showed that John H. Armstrong had served in the Maine 7th infantry regiment, company G.  Enlistment date was listed as August 21, 1861.  He had entered as a private and was discharged as a sergeant.

So there you go.  John B. Armstrong, Civil War veteran.

The thing is that I didn't stop there.  I could have been satisfied to know that my ancestor was a veteran, but I went on to research the regiment to see if what I could find about their history of battles.  Also, I looked for more Civil War records that might show my ancestors role and involvement in the war.

Maine has such a wealth of genealogical records online, but they haven't made the Civil War records searchable, but I did find the records on familysearch.org.  The military records are under the Maine, State Archive Collections, 1718-1957.  Once you are under the archive collection, don't look at the individual Maine county records.  The civil war records AREN'T there.  They are under the first option "Maine".  Click on Maine and you will be able to select Military Records-Civil War.  From there you can browse records by the different Maine regiments and companies.

You have to review them one by one to find the records you are looking for.  Luckily, I knew the regiment and company and date of enlistment...so that should make it easy to find the records I was looking for.  

Which caused a problem.  I found the Enlistment Rolls, which includes the new recruits.  There is no listing for a John B Armstrong from Cape Elizabeth, Maine, but there is a John H. Armstrong from Portland, Maine.  Other records for John H. Armstrong for this regiment and company indicated he was born in 1838...my ancestor was born in 1822.  The discrepancies were adding up.   I suspect that there really was a John H. Armstrong and my ancestor was getting confused with his military records.

The last indicator that lead me to this conclusion was the US, Civil War Draft Registration, 1863-1865 on Ancestry.com.  The draft record indicated John B Armstrong of Cape Elizabeth, Maine eligible to be drafted in June 1863.  Seems very unlikely that an active military personnel would be listed as eligible to be drafted.

Did my ancestor, John B. Armstrong, serve in the Civil War?  I still don't know, but I feel confident it wasn't with the Maine 7th Infantry.

My search continues......


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tuesday Tip - Finding William and Mary Griffith Jones of Marcy, NY

In my last post, Catherine Jones Purcell, the Orphan from a Big Family, I uncovered that many in Catherine's family believed her to be an orphan, but I was able to uncover that she had in fact, been one of five children born to William Jones and Mary Griffith Jones of Marcy, NY.

As I mentioned in my last post, Fultonhistory.com is an invaluable source for information from old newspapers from all over NY state.  It has been an invaluable source for my research.  I can't count how many obituaries and newspaper clippings I have found which have furthered my research.  The searching of the newspaper database can be tricky.  A lot of it is trial and error.

Here is how I typically do a search and then conduct variations from this search until I narrow the number of responses down to a manageable number to review.  If you do a search for William Jones for example, you will receive thousands of responses.  Far too many to look through.   I suggest you narrow your search.  My wife's relatives primarily lived in and around Utica, NY.  So I conduct a boolean search.  Where I outline the city  and the person's first name adding w/2 (which means where the first name appears within 2 words of the following word) and then the last name.  So it would look like the picture below.

It is on a search like this that I uncovered Catherine Jones Purcell's obituary from 1940.

I have been searching for her parents for about 1 year on the Fultonhistory.com website.  I tried multiple different approaches, but with no success.  I don't remember the exact search that I conducted the other day, but one of the results returned a death notice for Mary Jones.  I didn't think much of it, but as I reviewed it, I saw that this was THE Mary Griffith Jones I had been looking for!

I can't explain what I did differently on this search, but there it was.  Mary Jones giving her death date as August 14, 1885.  The death notice mentions all her children (Catherine is referred to as Kittie)....there was no no question that this is THE Mary Jones I had been looking for.  


I was still unable to find William Jones' obituary after a year of trying.  However, with the date of Mary Griffith Jones' death, I decided to check one of my favorite website to see if I could find where she is buried.  I searched findagrave.com.  I found her listed as being buried in Salem Cemetery of Marcy, NY.  It did not have a photo of her tombstone, but had the next best thing..a transcription of the gravestone.  Which reads "wife of William Jones age 60 yrs 2 months 19 dys".  

I know what you are thinking...it is very likely that William Jones is buried in the plot next to her.  So I looked at all the William Jones buried in Salem Cemetery.  There are three William Joneses buried there, but only one had a transcription which read "Age 51 yrs 9 dys".  Which would have made him born around the date I had in my research.  Also, his date of death was June 12, 1872.  I knew he had died sometime between 1870 and 1880 (based on when he appeared in the US Census records).  Everything matched up.

Now we return to the idea of Catherine Jones and her time in an orphanage.  Let's look at the information we have.  Catherine was the youngest of the children.  She was born Jan 1867.  Which would have made her only 5 years old when her father died.  The 1870 US Census lists William Jones' occupation as a farmer.  It is unclear if he was farmer working someone else's land or his own land.  

At that time in history, the estate would have provided the land or property to the male heirs (or more likely the oldest male).  I haven't found a Will.  William Jones' oldest son was John M Jones.  I am not sure if I have an accurate record of him in the 1870 US Census (he did not live with his parents and siblings in 1870).  John married Charlotte Cavanaugh in 1874.  His obituary states that he worked in the hotel business when living in Utica, but according to the 1880 US Census he is identified as a farmer.  Was this his father's farm?  Possibly, but It is unclear.  

The 1880 US Census shows Mary Jones living with three of her children:  William, Grace and Catherine "Kitty".  They are now living in Utica and Mary's occupation is "at home", but each one of the children are said to be "Working at a Cotton Mill".  This included Catherine who was only 13 at the time.  Presumably they were all working to support their mother and themselves.

In 1885, when Mary died the kids would have had to fend for themselves.  Each of Catherine's siblings were older (20's or older by that time), so they could care for themselves.  Catherine was 18 at the time of her mother's death and unmarried.  Did she spend time in an orphanage at this age?  Seems unlikely.  

It seems more likely that Mary's son William either got married or moved away, which put the financial burden heavily on the family and this would have pushed Mary to have to put Catherine and/or Grace into an orphanage.  If so, it is unclear how or why the other siblings such as John M Jones, didn't take her in.  It would just be pure speculation on why the other family members couldn't or wouldn't take her in rather than her spending time at an orphanage.

In 1887, Catherine Jones married John F Purcell.  

None of their kids ever spent time in an orphanage.  

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sentimental Sunday - Catherine Jones Purcell, The Orphan from a Big Family

The curse of genealogy research is a common name.  No question about it.  The more common the name the more difficult it is to research your family.

Smith, Jones, Johnson.  Nightmare.

My wife's great grandmother, Catherine Jones, was my big challenge.  She married John F Purcell in Utica, NY June 23, 1887.  Her parents were unknown to my wife and her mother.  In finding Catherine's obituary (3/9/1940), I learned that her parents were named: William Jones and Mary Griffith Jones.  Catherine was born in Marcy, NY and I knew her family was originally from Wales.

Knowing that her parents were from Wales actually sounded like a great clue.  I was unfamiliar with that area of Oneida County, NY and assumed that being Welsh was fairly rare.  To my surprised, I learned that Marcy might as well be called little Cardiff (the capital of Wales).  There appeared to be dozens of Jones and Griffith families in Marcy and the surrounding area.

Family lore indicated that Catherine Jones Purcell has been orphaned at a young age and lived in an orphanage.  Which would mean it would be nearly impossible to determine which of the many Jones families belonged to her.

Fortunately, family lore was at least partially incorrect.  My first lead came from seeing newspaper notices of some of Catherine's children visiting
a William Jones in Whitesboro and another of her children had a wedding shower thrown by a cousin Maude Bullard.  I started looking for other Jones family members.

If you have relatives who lived in New York, Fulton History.com is an invaluable website.  It is a collection of scanned newspapers from all over NY State.  Searching the website can get tricky, but with an infinite amount of patience you can find almost anything that exists in the newspapers they have archived.  I started conducting some searches on "Catherine Purcell" and "Jones".  Which lead to me uncovering Catherine's 4 siblings:  John M Jones, William J Jones, Eleanor "Nellie" Jones and Grace Frances Jones.

John M Jones - John was born in Wales (where we haven't uncovered, yet) on 2/26/1847 and died on 1/19/1915.   He married Charlotte "Lottie" Cavanaugh on 3/8/1874

John and Lottie had at least 8 children:

  • Ada Jones 
  • Charlotte "Lottie" Jones 
  • William A. Jones 
  • John Jay Jones 
  • Eleanor Jones
  • Mayme Jones
  • Harriett Jones
  • Frank Jones

William J Jones - William was born in Marcy in 1854.  I haven't uncovered much about him except that he did live in Syracuse and possibly Whitesboro for a time.

Eleanor "Nellie" Jones - Nellie was born in Marcy, May 1858.  She married John Richard Thomas on Nov 25, 1874.

Nellie and John had at least 3 children:

  • William Hudson Thomas
  • Mable Jane Thomas
  • Kathyrn H Thomas  

Graces Frances Jones - Grace was born in Marcy in Jan 1862.  She died in Deaborn, MI Sept 3, 1937. She married Frank M Bullard in 1885.

Grace and Frank had at least 4 children:

  • Frank E Bullard
  • Harold M Bullard
  • Lila M Bullard
  • Maude Bullard
Catherine had 4 siblings and over a dozen cousins, so how did she end up in an orphanage?  Or did she?  I haven't found any evidence that Catherine lived in an orphanage, but all family stories have some basis in fact.  Today, we tend to think of an orphanage as a place where young children go when their parents have passed away and are wards of a religious or government institution.  What I have learned in my research is that orphanages sometimes had another purpose.  When parents we unable to financial provide for children, children would be sent to the orphanage.  Sometimes for years.  The fact that she spent time at an orphanage has survived in family lore tends to indicate that it left a negative mark on her.

But what lead to the situation where she would have had to go to the orphanage?  That is the subject of my next post:  Finding William and Mary Griffith Jones of Marcy, NY

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Talented Tuesday - Professions of the Armstrong's of Cape Elizabeth, Maine

My 3rd Great Grandparents, John Armstrong and Betsey Woodbury Dyer Armstrong, together had at least 8 children:  Simon, Mary, Eben, Lucy, John B., Israel, Arthur and George.

I am interested in the professions of my ancestors and relatives.  It is fascinating to see how occupations change over time and this is what I was able to uncovered about the Armstrong sons professions.

Much of this information is extracted from the City of Portland, City Directory from 1871.

Simon Armstrong (1812-1839) - Simon was a mariner.  The only evidence of this is that he died while traveling by ship in Havana, Cuba.  If he made his living on the sea, it wasn't for long, since he died far too young at the early age of 27.

Eben Armstrong - (1818-1884) - Eben was a cooper.  The profession of cooper is not one you hear about often anymore, but it was an important profession in its day.   A cooper is the traditional occupation of making barrels out of wooden staves.  These barrels would be used to contain dry and liquid goods for storage and sale.  It should not be underestimated the skill required to make these barrels.  Coopers are still used to make barrels for specialty products such as aging wine, but wooden barrel containers have been replaced by pre-made plastic, wood and metal containers.

John B Armstrong - (1822-1900) - John B had a few professions including as a farmer, but in 1871 he was a Ferryman.  Portland, Maine and Cape Elizabeth (Now South Portland) are separated by Portland Harbor.  The most efficient way to go from Portland and Cape Elizabeth was to take the ferry.  John B. Armstrong ran the ferry business bringing people and goods between the two locations.  Eventually, their was a bridge built between the two locations which effectively ended the ferry business.

Israel Armstrong (1824-1892) - Israel is described as a mariner.  I didn't see any evidence of what type of business he conducted on the sea in 1871.  However, I did see that he was involved running the Portland-to-Cape Elizabeth Ferry in 1866.  Making a living from the sea was very popular in coastal Maine.

Arthur B Armstrong (1827-1893) - Arthur was a sparmaker.  A sparmaker is someone who works on building masts for ships.  This was during the time when most shipping was done by sailing ships and making and repairing "spars" or masts would have been a very desirable profession.  As more shipping moved to steam ships, this would have become less in demand.

George Armstrong (1832-1884) - I don't find any records of George in any profession.

Many of these professions would be considered obsolete today.  It is interesting to consider that some of the professions that we take for granted will be obsolete in 100 years.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Mystery Monday - The Arrival of David and Mary Fuller to Portland, Maine

When we think about immigration to the east coast of the United States, our first thought is Ellis Island.  This was the first stop for many of my relatives on their American journey.  If you are from Irish descent, then perhaps your ancestors first arrived in Boston.  Many would be surprised to know that immigrants arrived to many of the other ports on the Atlantic coast, just not in the numbers that we associate with Ellis Island and Boston.

My 3rd great grandparents, David and Mary Fuller immigrated to Portland, Maine from Nova Scotia.  I have been looking for any record of David and Mary Fuller arriving in Portland, Maine for a long time.  Those of you who have been following my blog, will know that David and Mary Fuller lived in Horton, Nova Scotia.  They were married Sept 10, 1812.  Together they had at least 11 children:  Lavinia, Rebecca, Sephrona, Matilda, Martha, David Bishop, Benjamin, James, Theodore, Andrew and Collingwood.

The oldest children (the daughters) are all recorded as their children in the Horton Township Book.  However, the book is incomplete and doesn't include any of their younger children (the sons).

The sons all moved to Portland, Maine and the daughters stayed in Canada (at least for a while).  This created a challenge of proving that the David and Mary Fuller who are the parents of the sons were the same David and Mary Fuller who was the parents of the daughters.  In my previous post, Can a Published Genealogy be Wrong?, I outline my proof for David and Mary (Cary) Fuller being the parents of all eleven children.  

There are a few records which I would like to have found which had escaped me and now I have found one of them.

David and Mary Fuller show up in the Canadian census records of 1838 as living in Horton, Nova Scotia.  They do not appear in the US Census records from 1840.  They do appear in the US Census records as living in Portland, Maine with their sons:  James, Theodore, Andrew and Collingwood.   This had lead me to believe that David and Mary had arrived in Portland sometime between 1840-1849.

But how to prove it.  I had assumed that their were no immigration records of ships arriving with forein passengers to the port of Portland at that time.  I was wrong.  I found that the LDS Church (Mormons) had microfilmed records of arrivals at Atlantic ports including Portland during this time period.  If you are interested in this information check out the following records for FamilySearch.org :  

Copies of lists of passengers arriving at miscellaneous ports on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts and at ports on the Great Lakes, 1820-1873 : NARA RG36 M575.

There is no index to these immigration records, so you do have to look through each passenger list to find your relatives. 

It was here that I found David Fuller and Mary Fuller arriving on the British Schooner Harmony on August 1, 1849.   It showed that they were citizens of Nova Scotia and had left from Windsor, Nova Scotia (about 15 miles from Horton, NS).  Interestingly, I have various records which indicate that several of their sons may have arrived prior to David and Mary.  So instead of the parents paving the way for their sons, they may have followed their sons.  

I have read in other publications that in the early to mid 1800's that the Nova Scotian economy had hit on hard times and there was an exodus of people to the US at that time.  So it isn't surprising that young men moved to the US to seek their fortunes.

While I was very pleased to find the record of David and Mary's arrival in Portland, Maine it isn't surprising that there is something in the record which doesn't match what I expected.  In this case, the record lists David's age as 50 and Mary's age as 45.  Where David's age should have been 68 and Mary's 58.  I don't think it is that unusual for the harbormaster to be inaccurate in the ages they recorded or the immigrants to misinform the person recording information.  I have seen this a lot in my genealogy research.

Surprisingly, David and Mary arrived without any of their children, so I will keep looking through these records to see if I can find arrivals of the sons separately.

The only records I have yet to uncover are birth records for any of the sons in Nova Scotia and a death record for David Fuller.  Mary Fuller died in Portland in Sept 16, 1873.  She died as a widow.  There is no records of David Fuller after 1858 in Portland.  I have speculated that he returned to Nova Scotia at some point and died while there, but have been unable to find any death records in Maine or Canada.

One more mystery solved.  So many more to go.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Mystery Monday: Two Gula Brothers Marry the Same Woman - Mary Smey

Ok, ladies I have a question for you.  Would you ever marry your brother-in-law?  If you would, I suggest you not tell your husband.  It would likely start a nasty fight.

This is the story of two brothers:  Stefan "Steve" and "Nat" Gula and "their" wife, Maria "Mary" Smey.  These two brothers are my great grand uncles.  Steve and Nat were born in the small village of Wolowiec in present day southern Poland.  Records show that Steve was born on November 10, 1880 and that Nat was born about 1891.  Mary was born about 1883.  I am not sure where Mary was born, but likely she was Rusyn and was born close to where the Gula's originated.

Steve immigrated to the US in 1899.   His original destination was listed as Cleveland, OH.  Not clear how long he spent there, but he did eventually return to Wolowiec for a time.  He married Mary sometime prior to 1907 and returned from Wolowiec on August 14, 1907.  He and Mary lived for a time in Ansonia, Connecticut.  

Steve and Mary had 5 children:  John "Iwan", Peter, Joseph, Michael and Stephen.

In the 1920 US Census, Steve Gula is listed as an invalid.  He died on December 6, 1921.  In a death notice it states he was ill for 8 years prior to his death and died when only 42 years old.  

When Steve Gula died all of his children were all still quite young.  I am sure his death was a devastating blow to the family.  In the 1920's it would have been very difficult for a woman with small children to support the family.  Even prior to Steve's death things must have been tough financially.  Steve and Mary's oldest son, John, had been living in Wolowiec with an uncle (Teodor Smij) since he was an infant.  John would have never really known his father as he didn't return to the US until after his father died.  Also, since Steve had been unable to work they had taken on 4 or 5 boarders (according to the 1920 US Census).  

On Nov 24, 1923, Mary Smey Gula remarried Nat Gula.  There was obvious financial need for her to remarry and to do so quickly.  But did they fall in love?  Did Nat feel a responsibility to support his sister-in-law and nephews?  Was there some necessity?

Nat Gula and Mary had at least 4 children of their own:  William, George, Harry and Mary.

Mary died March 23, 1936 at only 53 years old.

Nat lived to be 71 years old and died October 27, 1962.

When I started my research into the Gula brothers which included my great grandfather, George Gula, I had no idea about the Steve and Nat "sharing" a wife.  When I found obituaries from Steve and Nat's children I was getting confused because they all mentioned Mary as their mother, but the names of the father would differ.   I had thought this was some sort of variance do the americanized name versus the Rusyn or original name.  I was quite shocked when a distant cousin corrected me and told me that the brothers had both married Mary.   I had never considered that possibility.

The realities are that even though the marrying a brother-in-law wasn't common, it may have been a financial and even cultural necessity in some cases.  This sort of marriage situation is even addressed in the Bible and is referred to as a Levirate Marriage.  This type of marriage is an obligation on a brother to marry his brother's widow.  It was seen as protection of the brother's widow and family and was common in tight, close ethnic groups.