My Revised AncestryDNA Estimate

AncestryDNA updated my “Ethnicity Estimate” today.

As usual, I’m taking this with a huge shaker of salt only to be used on buttered popcorn while watching entertainment. Keeping in mind that these estimates are based on ethnicity reports from submitted tests (and I think a few known migration details from history) and are “further back” that I’ll ever trace most of my tree, it really is a quick diversion. In my case:

  • On paper I’m 1/8 Irish (1860-era immigrants). Maybe that’s not showing up because at least half of my Irish were Protestants from the North and could have easily actually been from Scotland.
  • On paper I’m 1/2 Ostfriesen (1850-1880 era immigrants).  That area of Germany (near the Dutch border with modern-day Germany) is part of   AncestryDNA‘s “England, Wales & Northwestern” region and probably accounts for my 56% from that region. That might even account for the little bit of Scandinavian (maybe).
  • On paper I’m 1/8 German (from Thuringia and other unknown German areas–immigrating in the mid-19th century).
  • The remaining 1/4? That portion consists of pre-Revolutionary War immigrants to the US. Probably a scattering from the areas in my estimate–which I already figured to begin with.

The only “surprise” in my estimate at  AncestryDNA is the “England, Wales & Northwestern Europe” portion. But it’s all relatively consistent with what I expected and I’ve got more recent people to work on and worry about.

Now if I had said I was twenty-five percent Native American–that would have been a different story.


Reserving the Apples: Part I

On 1 July 1788 Jonathan and Jamime Puffer, along with Matthias Rice and Mary Rice, deeded eight acres in Stow, Massachusetts, to Luke Brooks. Like most deeds during this time and place, a metes and bounds description of the property is included. There’s an interesting phrase after the description of the property’s location:

Reserving to the aforesaid Mary Rice all the apples that may be annually in the old Orchard that is fenced in during her natural Life.


That phrase got me to thinking: why?

Why Mary and not Mary and Matthias (they appear to be married giving how they are stylized in the deed) both get the apples? Why don’t the Puffer people get the apples for their natural lives as well?

And why are the Puffers and the Rices selling this property? How did they come to acquire it?

Stay tuned!


Those Old pre-1900 Published Genealogies

It’s a rush to judgement to say that “old genealogies are worthless.”

When analyzing information from pre-1900 genealogies, it’s advised to keep in mind the likely way that information from the book was obtained. Generally speaking, genealogical facts in these publications came from one of three places:

  • other published books
  • correspondence with living family members
  • original civil and church records

The accuracy of what is taken from another book rests on how accurate the original compiler was and how accurately the copier copied the information. Photocopiers and scanners were not available.  If the book you are looking at contains no information about where information was obtained from, it can be difficult to know what was copied from other compilations and what was not. The problem is compounded if more than one previously publication was used. But those publications did not obtain all their information from the previously printed page.

Living family members likely supplied information for some of these pre-1900 genealogies as well. They might have copied information from family bibles, copied it from other published genealogies they may have had, or shared what they knew from first hand knowledge. Some books will indicate when family members supplied information. Many do not. The time frame matters. A genealogy published in 1885 may easily contain information submitted from someone born in 1835–some of which they knew first hand. The difficulty rests in knowing what was submitted by someone who had reasonable knowledge of the event and what was copied from an unknown book.

And some of these publications included information obtained from official civil or church records. Sometimes the date, location, and type of event is suggestive of where the information was obtained (eg. “Elijah’s will was admitted to probate in Middlesex County, on 1 October 1792.”).  Some authors were more diligent in obtaining information from original sources than were others. The user of these publications also needs to remember that during the time period these publications were published, information obtained from original records required someone to actually see the actual record and record that information (either an abstract, extract, or a transcription) by hand. That was a limitation that is not faced by researchers today.

Any published reference can contain errors.

Just because some of these books contain mistakes that have been repeated numerous times and others make claims to ancestors stretching back to the early Christian era does not mean that the whole of them should be ignored.

Some questions to ask when using one of these genealogies:

  • how possible, probable, likely is it that the information on events taking place less than 100 years before the publication of the book was submitted by someone with “reasonably accurate knowledge” of the event?
  • what events, dates, and locations seem to possibly come from some type of official record?

I think back to a genealogy of one of my families printed in the early 1980s. Most of the information on events in the 100 years or so preceding the book’s publication came from family members. The compilation process for this book was not unique. There’s always a chance that some information in the book is incorrect. But it may be the only source I have. When the time period moves further back, the ability to compare statements with contemporary church or civil records to dwindle. And in some cases, especially with a genealogy published in 1900, there may be no “official” record of those events.

A little something to chew on the next time you pull a genealogy published in 1885 off the shelf–virtually or physically.




What Name Do You Use and Why?

Do you use your “real” name? Or do you use a diminutive based upon your first or middle name? Do you use a nickname?

In the notes section of your genealogy software indicate why you used the name you did. Future genealogists and relatives might like to know why you used it.

I have always used Michael, never “Mike.” This is largely because my family always called me Michael and mother always said “if I had wanted him called ‘Mike’ I would have named him ‘Mike.'”. And I always thought Mike Neill sounded too short to be an actual name–at least to my ears–probably the result of being half German where every name needs to be somewhat long and have a lot of consonant sounds.

I started using my middle name because when I started my job, there was another guy in town named “Mike Neal” who was always getting arrested for one various thing or another. That was a way of distinguishing myself.

I know my great-grandmother Neill never used her “real” name of Francis–she used Fannie on everything, Francis appears ONLY on her birth record.

But jot this sort of thing down in your genealogy notes. Someone in a hundred years may want to know and you won’t be around to tell them.


The Only Child of Cornet Joseph Daby of Stow, Mass.

I’m working on the parents of a Joseph Daby of Stow, Massachusetts, who died by 15 June 1767 when his will was admitted to probate in Middlesex County, Massachusetts. He’s the father of Mary (Daby) Puffer Brown, my ancestress. Work on Mary is incomplete, particularly after her second husband Amos Brown died in 1766, but the connection of her to Joseph (died 1767) is solid enough that I decided to work on him, partly in hopes that something may turn up on her.

Joseph (died 1767)’s FindAGrave page indicated his father was  “Cornet” Joseph Daby who died in Stow in the 1734/1735. The FindAGrave page for Joseph (died 1767) was accessed simply because I wanted to get a look at his stone. There was nothing on the memorial for Cornet Josesph to indicate how the relationship to the Joseph who died in 1767 was determined.

Cornet Joseph was married twice:

  • Jane Plimpton in Sudbury, Mass. on 14 January 1676–located in town vital records.
  • Elizabeth–mentioned in Cornet Joseph’s will and listed as his wife in 1732 when a daughter is born.

A little more about Abigail Daby–the daughter of Cornet Joseph and Elizabeth.

Abigail Daby:

  • was born in Stow, Massachusetts on 21 December 1732 to Joseph and Elizabeth Daby (page 28 of Stow, Massachusetts Vital Records)
  • married in Sudbury, Massachusetts on Mar. 8, 1748-9 to Jonathan Wood (page 187 of Sudbury, Massachusetts Vital Records)

Cornet Joseph Daby’s will from Middlesex County, (written in January of 1734/1735 and admitted to probate two months later) indicated he had only one child: Abigail. His will uses the phrase “only child Abigail” twice and does not mention any other children, grandchildren, etc. He does mention his wife Elizabeth, a brother-in-law (surnamed Plimpton), and a nephew Joseph Daby. The Joseph Daby purported to be the son of the will writing Joseph was alive at the time this will was written and it seems highly unusual for the phrase “only child” to be used if there were other children. Even if the will writing Joseph had meant to disinherit children, the typical practice would to have been to mention them and indicate they were to receive nothing or to give them a token bequest.

Abigail’s request for her brother Joseph Clark to be appointed her guardian on 23 January 1746/1747 also indicated that she was Cornent Joseph Daby’s only child.

Based on the evidence I’ve found, it seems safe to conclude that Cornet Joseph had one daughter and was not the father of the Joseph who died in 1767.

There are quite a few entries for these Dabies in FamilySearch. For now, I’ve decided to focus on the vital records for the area, the probate records, and the land records that can be located and see what conclusions they allow me to reach.

And sometimes it’s good to use FindAGrave for the stones and just the stones.


Dead Husbands Usually Cause Women to Leave Better Records

Here are few of my female ancestors for whom I was able to locate a great deal of records and where those records were located:

  • Barbara (Siefert) Beiger Fennan Haase Haase (died in Illinois in 1903)–two divorces (1870s and 1880s) and the guardianship of her children in the 1850s.
  • Nancy Jane (Newman) Rampley (died in 1923 in Illinois)–her denied Civil War widow’s pension was finally approved in the very early 20th century, after a great deal of testimony which documented much of her life before and after her marriage to the Civil War veteran.
  • Antje (Jaspers) Habben Fecht (died in 1900 in Illinois)–a family court case after her husband’s death in 1877 documented her operation of the family farm after his demise.
  • Susannah Rucker (died in the 1780s [probably in Amherst County, Virginia])–deeds executed by her children in Orange and Amherst Counties in Virginia in the mid-18th century document her move from one county to another.

In every case, the husband was dead first.

There is no doubt that female ancestors are more difficult to document than male ancestors. One key is making certain you have researched everything you can get your hands on and have interpreted every document in the appropriate legal and historical context. Often records that are not directly about females indirectly contain significant clues about them.

Do You Know the Qualifications?

How one gets listed in a record is an important part of the analysis process.

It should be fairly obvious how someone gets listed in a death record–at least the principal person. There are other people who may be alive and whose names may appear on a death certificate (the parents, the informant, the doctor, etc.).

In the cases of other records the qualifiers may not be so clear:

  • What were the qualifications to vote in Ohio in 1823?
  • Who had to pay personal property taxes in Maryland in 1845?
  • Who was required to register for the Civil War draft?
  • Who was eligible to serve on a jury in South Carolina in 1810?
  • Who could witness a document in Maryland in 1798?
  • Who could serve as an administrator in Missouri in 1878?
  • Who could serve as a guardian in Illinois in 1856?
The answers to the above questions usually lies in contemporary state statute–but not always, especially if the document is a Federal one.
But there are more:
  • Who was eligible to naturalize in the United States in 1860?
  • Who was supposed to be enumerated in the 1840 census?
  • Who was eligible to be a schoolteacher in Ohio in 1920?
If your relative acted in any capacity, appeared in an official record, or was “required” to do something, find out more about why that was necessary.
The way may not be stated in the record, but knowing it may tell you more about your ancestor.

An Alienist?

I was reviewing some letters from an insanity file from the early 20th century. I had seen them before, but apparently had not read every word on every page. When reading the letterhead on a letter contained in the file, I came across a title I had never heard of before: Alienist.
Simply put, it’s an obsolete term for a doctor who dealt with mental disorders. This is fitting for a doctor who was on the board of administration for the Illinois State Hospitals, which concentrated on patients who had been adjudged to be insane.
The term really had nothing direct to do with my research, but was an interesting short diversion.

My Blogs

I maintain the following genealogy blogs:

  • Rootdig.comMichael’s thoughts, research problems, suggestions, and whatever else crosses his desk
  • Genealogy Tip of the Dayone genealogy research tip every day–short and to the point
  • Genealogy Search Tipwebsites I’ve discovered and the occasional online research tip–short and to the point
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