Monday, February 27, 2017

Dealing with DNA fallout

While many people go into DNA testing expecting to get answers, you need to be prepared to find out information that you aren't going to like. Before DNA, when there was a non-parental event, it mostly went unnoticed in families. With DNA testing, finding out you are not biologically related to a near cousin when adoption is not involved, can be quite upsetting. 

This just happened in my family. I ended up not being related to someone who should be my 2nd cousin. Where did that leave us?  One of us is the result of a non-parental event. I was quite shocked, picturing my mother or my grandmother having an affair seemed mind blowing. I am my mother's oldest child and my father is his mother's oldest child. I was born 11 months after my parent's wedding but my father was born 6 months after his parent's wedding. 

In the other case, the child was the last child in the family and when I checked the 1940's census, the parents were separated. How does one resolve an issue like this? 

One thing that Ancestry DNA offers is the common ancestors you share with someone else you match. Through this process, I found another member of this family who I matched but my other cousin did not. I was very relieved to be able to exonerate my mother and my grandmother of having a non-parental event. 

This is just one type of thing that you may find when you check your DNA. It is a lot of fun, helpful and interesting but it can also cause anxiety and unearth things that perhaps, should be best left unknown. Be forewarned and prepared for what may end up being a shock. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

NERGC 2017 Update

If you haven't reserved your spot at this year's NERGC in Springfield, Ma. you still have until February 28, 2017,  to take advantage of the early bird rates. After that date,  it will be full price. The conference will take place April 26-29 at the MassMutual Conference Center with hotel rooms being offered at conference rates at the Marriott and the Sheraton. Hope to see you there. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Looking at old newspapers

Old newspapers are such a valuable resource for any genealogist. You will be amazed at the type of information that you can find in a newspaper.

All the obvious ones, births, deaths, marriages, engagements may show up but there are also court information if you ancestors were involved in any type of dispute or criminal case. Land records may also show up in the newspapers. 

One thing that is often overlooked is financial information. Our ancestors lived through difficult times and they may have had suits filed against them for debt or they may even have had to file for bankruptcy. While we may not want to find this sort of information, it may very well be a part of your history. 

The advertisements in the newspaper can also be informative, they may include names and information.

The social pages can tell you a lot about what your ancestors were doing at any particular time.
You may find out that great grandma was visiting her sister in Simsbury or that her niece from New York had arrived for a visit.

You can also find announcements of ship arrivals. While I can't find my grandmother at Ellis Island, I can find a record in the New York newspaper announcing the arrival of the ship she and her family were on. Also, check the weather, it is important to place your ancestor in the context of the times they lived in.

Where to find newspapers is always problematic, not all of them have survived but if you are willing to pay there are websites that allow you to search them. On the local level, check the library in town. I spent many hours perusing the Penny Press (the predecessor of the Middletown Press) looking at references to my family. Godfrey Library also has copies if you are looking in Connecticut. 

Newspapers are a valuable resource of the times our ancestors lived in and you may find documentation of events in their lives about which you had no previous knowledge and which are not documented anywhere else. It is certainly worth looking into and if nothing else you will learn a lot about the times and places where your ancestors lived. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

St Alban's List: If your ancestors came from or through Canada

The name implies that these records are just for the crossing from Canada into Vermont but they are more expansive than that. 

Many people passed through Canada in the mid and late 19th century, for these people there are no records. Many Europeans from Britain, Scandinavia, Northern Europe and Russia arrived during this time. As the US began to impose stringent rules on its ports of entry, many immigrants chose to go to Canada first and then pass easily into the United States across its open northern border. 

In 1894 the US government was finally able to convince steamship companies in Canada  to treat all passengers destined to the United States as if they would be landing at a U.S. port of entry. This meant completing a U.S. ship passenger manifest form and selling tickets only to those who appeared admissible under U.S. law. Canadian railroads agreed to carry only those immigrants who were legally admitted to the United States to U.S. destinations.

US Immigration Service had inspectors at Canadian ports of entry to collect the manifests and to inspect the immigrants who were bound for the United States. 

Between 1895 and 1906 the US also put inspectors at northern land border crossings. People who arrived by boat received a certificate of admission which they had to present to the guards at the US border when their train was stopped. Before 1906,  only foreign born immigrants are tracked but after that time also those born in Canada who were traveling to the United States. 

If your ancestors came through Canada during this time period they should be in the records. The records were kept until 1956. has records of Canadian border crossing from 1825-1960 and for Detroit until 1963. Records can also be found at