Friday, February 5, 2016

Genealogy Do-Over : Month 1

For 2016, I decided to participate in the revamped twelve month Genealogy Do-Over as presented in the "Genealogy Do-Over Workbook" by Thomas MacEntee (link opens to, provided for convenience, I am not an Amazon affiliate nor do I receive any consideration or compensation for providing the link).   My genealogy was (still is) in a bad state and starting from scratch seemed as good a way to proceed as any.  Thus, my personal excursion into the Genealogy Do-Over.

Month 1 of the Genealogy Do-Over has a two point to-do list:
  • Setting Previous Research Aside
  • Preparing to Research
I'll address each of  these in turn.

Setting Previous Research Aside 

My research is a mess.  I've been researching my family history for nearly 20 years, not always with the best practices.  Add in a half dozen or so moves (including 2 in the last 5 years), and inconsistent office space to work in a few locations (and 2 kids) and you end up with chaos. At one time, my research was carefully stored in well sorted and organized hanging folders, but no longer.  Before I started this is what my research looked like:

File boxes and paper boxes, mostly unsorted and completely chaotic shoved into the closet, out of sight.

So, I sorted through the boxes, making eight piles, two per grandparent of my children, one pile for papers to be stored away and one pile for those documents that were either obtained as the result of requests for documents or obtained on trips (those documents in which either significant time and/or money have been expended upon).  The stored away boxes went back into the closet and the retained documents have been neatly stored under my genealogy desk.

Preparing to Research

The second item on the to-do list is to create a list of current research habits, the processes that you use and so forth, then determine what from that list works and doesn't and what changes you might make.  The biggest issue I've had for the last few years is that I really haven't had any processes or research habits that I consistent apply.  Rather, I'd steal the odd 15 minutes here and there to research when the opportunity presented it, not really with any plan or organization.  This lead to poorly documented work, unnecessary rework and general chaos.  This doesn't work and needs to change, and will be dealt with in Month 2.

A good start to the program, I think.  More on this in late February or early March.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

52 Weeks/52 Ancestors, Week 3 - Anna Martha Myers

This week, I'm taking a little bit of a shortcut by featuring the wife of Week 2's subject. Also, I've realized that I tend to write predominantly about male ancestors, and that needs to change to provide a more complete story.

Anna Martha Myers was born 17 August 1855 in Blair County, Pennsylvania to Harry Bender Myers and Maria Mock, the 5th of 8 children, although it is likely that there were additional children that I have not identified based on the five year gap between Anna and her next older sibling. 

The facts of her marriage and children are covered in the blog post on Thomas Christopher McNally. She survived Thomas by a few years, passing away on 11 April 1915 in Potetown, Blair County 
There are obituaries for her death which support this date, but I have yet to find a death certificate for her, even browsing through the digitized images on Ancestry. I haven't done a comprehensive browse of all death certificates from 1915 in Pennsylvania, but that would be next. 

Like Thomas, she is buried in an unmarked grave, most likely at the cemetery at the Albright Church of the Bretheren in Roaring Spring, Pennsylvania. Neither obituary lists the place of burial, but I have been told she was buried there but the grave was never marked. On multiple occasions, I have contacted the church to ask about burial records for the cemetery, but I have never received a response of any kind. I have not contacted the local funeral director yet, something I probably should do.
One of my long term goals is to verify where she is buried, and maybe at some point arrange to have a marker placed for both her and Thomas. They deserve that at the very least.

Note:  I'm a little behind schedule due to going on vacation last week.  I'll get caught back up in a few weeks.  Thanks.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

52 Weeks/52 Ancestors, Week 2 - Thomas Christopher McNally

Thomas Christopher McNally is my 2x Great Grandfather on my paternal name line. He was the son of Christopher McNally and Rosanna Pearson. He was born 6 January 1852 in Bedford county, Pennsylvania, the oldest of Christopher and Rosanna's children.

He married Anna Martha Myers on 28 July 1875 at St Patrick's Catholic Church in Newry, Blair County Pennsylvania. This apparently was not a full Catholic ceremony, as the Church record indicate that Anna was a Protestant and I know from other records she was a life long member of the Brethren Church. They had three children - Richard (my great-grandfather), Thomas Jr., and Augustus.

Besides their three natural children , Thomas and Anna "adopted" a young man named Harry Malone some time before 1900, as he is enumerated with them in 1900 and 1910. I have e-mail correspondence where I was working with another family researcher to untangle Harry's details - maybe I'll do a separate post about Harry to try to sort him out. 

The point of this story is that I think it demonstrates one aspect of Thomas's character - his generosity, which he learned from his parents. It is no small act of generosity to take in a child. 

According to a report in the Altoona Tribune from 1906, a Thomas McNally from Roaring Spring, Pennsylvania was injured by a railroad car, causing the loss of his foot. I have not been able to determine if Thomas Christopher or his son Thomas was the one injured, as they both lived in Roaring Spring and both worked for the railroad doing manual labor at different times.  Thomas Christoper would have been 54 and his son Thomas would have been 26 at the time of the accident, so both are possibilities.  If anyone has ideas about how to sort this out, I'm listening.

Thomas died 16 September 1912 in Taylor Township, Blair County, Pennsylvania.  His death certificate lists asthma as the primary cause of death.  He was buried at the St. Patrick's Cemetery in Newry, Blair County, Pennsylvania in an unmarked grave. Extracts from church records indicate that his brother Richard and his sister Lavina are buried in the same grave.  At the least, there are stones marking those graves, so the location of his burial is not lost.   

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

52 Ancestors/52 Weeks, Week 1 - Wallace Kinder

For my first "52 Ancestors/52 Weeks" entry, I'm going to discuss one of my wife's ancestors - her grandfather (my children's great-grandfather), Wallace Kinder.

I never had the opportunity to meet Wally, as he passed away long before I ever knew my wife, when she was a child, but I have many stories about him from my extended in-law family, and he seems like he was quite a character.

Wallace Kinder was born 9 July 1918 to Otis Harry Kinder and Lillian Mae Eisnaugle. He had one sibling, an older brother Donald, who died 20 February 1926 at the age of 10, when Wally was only 7.  I'm told that fact and the death of his father were the formative events of his youth.

His father died 27 November 1934, when Wally was 16. Family lore says that Otis died of a heart attack after going out on a cold day to kill a chicken for dinner after Wally refused to do the deed. I was told that Wally carried guilt from this event for many years.

He married Janet Louise Reeg on 8 August 1936, and like so many men of his generation, he served in the Army during World War II.  After the war he worked for Rockwell International building "clean rooms".  In a story told by one of his daughters, in the late 1950's he traveled to Roswell, New Mexico for work.  He would never discuss the particulars of this trip, which was out of character for Wally, who loved to tell stories - he occasionally asked why someone would need television or radio if he was around to tell stories.

He died 28 January 1989, after a battle with cancer.

At the beginning of this post, I stated I never met him.  This might not be entirely true.  The house I grew up in until the age of 10 had a small path behind it for utility access.  This path also got used by residents for quick trips to the convenience store and local pizza place.  On the other side of the path, directly behind my house, was the house where Wally and Janet lived - effectively, he was my back fence neighbor. It is more than likely that at some point in the years I lived there that I saw or spoke with Wally and Janet, at least in passing.  I just had no way of knowing at the time that he would be the grandfather of my future wife.

A note on this entry - I acknowledge that this post is lean on source citations.  Hopefully, that will improve as the year progresses, particularly as I discuss people more remote in time.  Thanks.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A New Year, a New Approach

I've done resolutions for the last few years, with varying degrees of success.  I could analyze why they have or have not succeeded, but that won't further my genealogy, so I'm not going there.  What I am going to do is take a different approach this year and participate in a weekly blogging challenge - 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.  This challenge has been going on since at least 2014, started by Amy Johnson Crow ( (but I could be mistaken about that and will gladly attribute the correct person if necessary).  The plan is to make a blog post on this challenge every Wednesday starting January 13th, with an extra post somewhere to make up for starting a week late.  I plan to have other posts as well, and I'm hoping for more activity in general in 2016.

I'm also going to be doing the year long "Genealogy Do-Over", a program started by Thomas MacEntee ( of the Geneablogger web site.  There should be at least one post near the end of each month going over what was accomplished on the progaram.  I' already behind on this, so I need to get moving on that.
Looking back at 2015 for a few moments now.  I'm not going to sugar coat it - 2015 was a year of stark contrasts.  We took our first real family vacations this year with my little dudes, building great memories and having lots of fun.  This was tempered, however, by the death's of my father and both maternal grandparents within the span of three months.  I've tried to write a few times about them, but each time, I've found it to be too soon.  The 52 Ancestors will be in no particular order, so it seems likely I'll include them at some point in the year.

Here's looking to a great 2016, full of family fun and good genealogy.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The year in review

Life is always interesting, and interesting usually means busy.  In early fall, we decided to aceelerate some plans we had made to move from spring 2015 to right away, and by the end of October, the clan was in a new residence.  It's taken some time to adjust, and we are still settling in, but on the whole, the new place is working out well and should be a good fit far into the future.

One significant benefit of the move is an upgrade in my office space, both for work and for genealogy. I'm not in the basement or wedged into a room the size of a large walk-in closet (my final office space at the old house), but have a proper room with enough space for discreet work and genealogy spaces.  It will be nice once I get it organized- the work space got situated immediately, the genealogy space has taken a little longer, but it is getting there.

Last year around this time, I posted a list of "Genealogical Resolutions".  Let's see how I did, and what I might do better.

First, I resolved to blog twice a month, more or less.  

-I did OK on this one through March, then my production fell off a cliff.  For 2015, my variation on this is a bit more modest - at least one blog post a month.

Second, I resolved to get my sources fixed and my database moved into Legacy Family Tree 8.  
-I did manage to fix some sources, but, this resolution has been made somewhat moot by two factors. First, I've switched from Legacy to RootsMagic, as I think RootsMagic is closer to true multi-platform portability than is Legacy, and otherwise the two programs are comparable in terms of features and usability.  I also have some concerns about the Microsoft Access database underlying Legacy, so, for as good a program it has been, for now, the choice is RootsMagic.  The second factor is that with the change to a new software platform, I'm starting a new filing/organizational system and am basically hitting the reset button on my genealogy - fresh database, proper citations and source analysis.  This covers my third resolution from last year as well - the use of Clooz or Evidentia to analyze source documents.

My fourth resolution from last year was get my workspce organized.  As described above, this is a work in process.  

My fifth resolution from last year was to photograph and transcribe a few local cemeteries.  This didn't happen, and probably won't in 2015 - I know my limitations in terms of time, and this just doesn't fit in.

Lastly, I made a number of resolutions concerning genealogical DNA testing.  Those are all still in play, as I made little progress on them.

That's 2014 - lets move on to 2015.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Results Are In - AncestryDNA

The news of the day is that my AncestryDNA results are in. I'm guessing a big batch of results were posted yesterday (3/19), because quite a few of the genealogy folks I follow on Twitter were reporting that they had results in too.

The test results comprise two components - the Ethnicity Estimate and your Matches. Both parts are interesting in their own way and deserve some discussion.

First, the Ethnicity Estimate.  No surprises here.  My estimate is 97% European, with the remaining 3% spread out over other categories. 

The breakdown (in descending order of prevalence) :

  • Europe West (37%) - Primarily located in: Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein
    • Most of my ancestors on my paternal line (with the exception of my surname line and a few others) are from the German speaking areas of West Europe - many early German immigrants ended up in south-central Pennsylvania, so most people who have roots in that part of the country will have deep German roots
  • Ireland (27%) - Primarily located in: Ireland, Wales, Scotland
    • Between this category and the one to follow, this covers pretty much entire maternal line as well as the Irish components of my paternal line.
  • Great Britain (25%) - Primarily located in: England, Scotland, Wales
    • My maternal line is largely predominated by that group of immigrants known as the "Scotch-Irish" or "Scots-Irish", early settlers from Northern Ireland, originally of Scottish and English origin.  More than a few of these immigrants ended up in what is now known as Appalachia.
 These three categories make up 89% of my estimate, based on the averages that Ancestry has calculated (Ancestry describes the methodology used to calculate these numbers in some detail, and I'm not going to try to explain it in detail here, but  the averages are based on a number of trials which define a potential range of values, the listed value being an average of the values in the range).   The remainder of my Estimate is composed of what AncestryDNA calls trace regions - regions that have a positive average but where the range begins at 0% and which could thus appear by chance.

Trace Regions (in descending order with no commentary:

  • Iberian Peninsula (4%)
  • Scandinavia (2%)
  • Finland/NW Russia (1%)
  • Asia South (1%)
  • Europe East (< 1%)
  • Africa Southeastern Bantu (< 1%)
  • Melanesia (< 1%)
So, according to AncestryDNA, that's my genetic heritage in a nutshell.

Now, we turn our attention to the Matches component.  At the time of writing, I have 252 pages of  matches, ranging in predicted degree of kinship from second cousin to distant cousin (5th cousin or more distant) - most in the last bucket with verying degrees of confidence.  I have not had the chance to review all of my matches so far, but i've at least browsed most of my closer matches.  I haven't initiated contact with any of my matches, but two of my matches have contacrted me - one whose user name I recignized as a known cousin and a second who AncestryDNA pegged us as 4th cousins, but who has no recognizeable paper trail to connect us at this time.

Some observations:

  • I'm seeing a lot of matches on my maternal line, and in quite a few of those the degree of kinship is overstated, primarily due to the presence of Barnabas Curry as a common ancestor. I have, I believe, three Curry lines that trace back to him, so even though he is either my 4x great or 5x great grandfather, his impact on my DNA is somewhat disproportionate
  • I need to do more work on my Ancestry Family Tree, particularly on my maternal side to facilitate matching
  • I think I need to come up with a handful of templates to use in contacting prospective cousins, one or two for each of my maternal and paternal lines

All in all, still lots of work to do.

One final note - I have located a folder that documents a potential family unit for Christopher McNally back in Ireland.  In the very near future, I'm going to document that on the blog and tie that in to the Y-DNA testing I have going on FTDNA.