Sunday, 19 March 2017

Ireland Research Hopes Revisited

My turn to blog is a wee bit after St Patrick's Day but the thought of researching the Irish ancestors is not bound by time.

My Irish quest has been begging to start for years. Recently due to a DNA find, I have been sent on a new Irish quest when an O'Toole turned up as an ancient DNA match for our Langley DNA project.
I have felt intimidated by the challenge of delving into the films on FamilySearch or Ireland, and just trying to sort out all the Michaels, Williams, and Margrets that I see when I go to FindMyPast or other Irish sites...words escape me. One thing I do know and follow is...the obvious search for our ancestors begins with a name, and, if you have it, a place. On the Hero's and my mom's side of the family there are many Irish names to look for.
There are some blogs and websites that specialize in Ireland research
Smallest Leaf is one of those. She has so much Irish information and many books listed on her blog. It is wonderful to stop by and browse. Click here to see her blog.
Another site I really like it Irish Genealogy Tool Kit.
I like these because I need someone to give me direction. I am so ingrained in United States research it will take some shift in my paradigms to hopefully finds some success in venturing into Ireland research.
What I have done so far...
I started making a note of all the names I was looking for, variants of the names, and places the names were found.  An example for the is : A Rootsweb site for Researching Irish Names. I searched for Magill from my mom's ancestors. They were adamant in the 1830's per a letter written by John Magill that their family was the only ones who spelled it that way.
"...I have been particular so that you may know if you meet with any person of the name of Magill you can tell whether they are your relation. I have seen several from Ireland that are no kin of mine. They spell their name McGill. They are generally native Irish and Roman Catholic. I recollect to have seen my grandfather's certificate from Ireland dated 1725. It was spelled Magill and all his descendants spell their names the same way. Any who do not are not of our kindred..."  Click here to read the rest of the transcribed letter.
My finding:
MacGiolla ancient of Magill,
Turning to my Hero's Irish ancestors, I was able to glean the following for his known surnames.
Death certificates helped with clues as to where the places were correct.

FURLONG              Wexford
FURLONG              Wicklow
O'AHERN,               Cork
O'DWYER              Tipperary
Dwyer                      Lemerick
Dyer                         Sligo

I have toyed with learning Gaelic, but I haven't gotten that far yet.
Besides knowing the surname, I discovered that the old Irish had a naming pattern. Most but not all used it. The Irish Tool Kit website points out that in the 1700s and 1800s those that immigrated to America did use this...making it hard to sort out the descendants when 5 brother, in the same area named their sons in the same pattern (true experience). I have posted on the naming patterns before click here to read the post then click back to return.

I have ascribed to the method of looking to others who have already done research reading how to find records in Ireland, talking to people who have UK experience in searching, and utilizing the free course on I take the time to watch videos by those who have done the walk such as David Rencher's videos Tips for Researching your Irish Ancestors. I HAVE to mention the's Irish Collection which includes images... Ireland Historical Records.

There is something so exciting in searching for families that have been apart for years and reuniting them. I love genealogy research and have been excited to share how to research and source with the upcoming generation to get them involved in their history to know their ancestors. So Far, it has been a positive experience for both generations. πŸ˜‰

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Rootstech 2017 from across the pond

This year I am writing my review from the perspective of a UK family historian watching from afar and wishing she had made the journey across the pond.

When I first started to write this post I started to discuss what was happening in Salt Lake City. But I am not in Salt Lake City this year I am at home in Wales.
How can I write about a conference when I am not one of the attendees.
The Rootstech conference did not get underway until the Thursday but for me the excitement builds from the Monday.
In keeping with the tradition at 10am MST (SLC time) 5pm GMT the Rootstech week starts with Mondays with Myrt from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. The usual panel (including me) has little to say as Pat Richley-Erickson aka DearMYRTLE interviews a variety of folks from across the globe who have made the journey to Utah arriving early enough to get some research time in the Family History Library. 
Later on Monday early attendees from the Commonwealth countries enjoyed another tradition the Commonwealth dinner. This year they went to the Blue Lemon and afterwards photographs appeared on the Geniaus blog. I must say that when I went in 2015 this was a great way to meet others prior to the conference.

Going to an event like a genealogy conference is a great way to network with other genealogists/family historians. I know that for many attending classes is low priority. We all love to find connections with others (especially someone who may have photographs) and with such a large group many do find a link. This year a cousin of someone I met in 2015 made a connection with Judy G Russell The Legal Genealogist after watching her talk on the live stream. I knew about this via facebook before she wrote her post but she illustrates my point so well (better than I could).

I managed to catch all the RootsTech General Sessions on the live streaming and some of the classes that were streamed. Now that the recordings are up, those I missed I can catch up with later, there are more than those that livestreamed. Some are US centric but may hold useful suggestions most are general and the keynotes, in particular, inspirational and passionate.

If watching or attending RootsTech does nothing more than provide inspiration to feed your passion for your family then it has done its job. But we need innovators to provide us with the means to record, communicate and preserve. 
Some of the technology advances have brought about the success of this conference in getting to folks across the world. In the early years you could lose the video if anyone else was online. This year those at home could vote using the RootsTech app on their phone. 

We need new ideas rather than more of the same. I wonder what the innovators in the industry will bring us next year.

Before I go here courtesy of Lilian Magill (in the lilac sweater) is a photograph of many of the Geneabloggers at RootsTech 2017, noticeably absent were Russ Worthington (aka Cousin Russ) and Thomas MacEntee (Geneabloggers).

The final event for many of those in the photograph was an evening to wind down with friends courtesy of DearMyrtle who has some of her friends visit her house for an after party.

I love seeing the photographs from the other get togethers which are not part of the main RootsTech event. These are as much about why we should attend as the conference and you cannot get what I call "the buzz" unless you are actually there. 
There will be lots of tired, enthusiastic people headed home today or in the coming week (some stay on to do research) but for many it is so good you want to come back again.
Maybe next year I can write a first hand report. (fingers crossed)

Monday, 6 February 2017

Why Should You Participate in a Blog Carnival?

You've seen them. People writing a blog post dealing with a specific subject and asking for input in the form of a post or comment. These can either stay on one blog or move from blog to blog.

In the case of one blog hosting the carnival or party, the comments and posts are aggregated and put in a follow-up post. Some don't have a follow-up but request links in the comments section so that others can view posts.
With the moving carnival, a reader goes from blog to blog reading the posts on the given subject.

Some examples are Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Fun on GenaMusings, Elizabeth O'Neils's monthly Blog Party on her Little Bytes of Life Blog, the yearly Blog Caroling event from FootnoteMaven, and my monthly GeneaChat posts for the In-Depth Genealogist Blog.  Please post the links to others that you know of in the comments section below!

So, why should you participate?
 First, it's fun! Joining with other genealogists to blog or comment about a topic can be a fun way to associate with others.

 Second, it gives you a topic to write about. I don't know about you, but sometimes, it's hard to get that idea formed so that you can get a new post out. The topics provided by these events will help.

Third, it's a win/win situation! If you are the host of the party, it brings people to your blog as they read about your topic.
As a participant, it brings attention to your post and using the link you provide brings traffic to your blog.
When the Blog Carnival provides a follow up with all the comments and links contributed for the theme, your post will be highlighted and linked back.  Again, bringing readers to your blog.

So what are you waiting for? Join the fun and network with other bloggers by hosting or participating in a Blog Carnival. Party on Genealogy Bloggers!


Friday, 27 January 2017

Italian Cousins through DNA and Genealogical Research

San Colombano Certenoli GE, Italy 
By Davide Papalini (mio lavoro) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY 2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

I suspect I am not alone in being surprised, when we have researched for years already, that breakthroughs in our genealogical research bring us exciting new family information, and if we are really lucky, new cousins! Especially, when it is not really due to our own work, but a gift of someone else’s hard work! That happened to me in just the last three weeks when a woman named Karen Migliori got in touch with me on ancestry to tell me that my DNA matched her husband’s Italian line of ancestors whose DNA and family tree she administered. I was so excited, because I knew very little about the Italian line of my mother’s family except for those who had lived in Richmond, Virginia, USA where I was born and raised. My DNA results said I was 5% Italian, and I was so happy to learn that. My mother often talked of her Italian grandmother, Mary Catherine Botto, who married her grandfather James Henry Kearse, who was Irish. Even though I am 15% Irish, I have always felt an affinity and affection for the Italian passions I inherited.

When I started my family genealogical research, I was thrilled to get my Italian line together, even if only through my second great grandparents who immigrated from Italy to America, settling in Virginia. Lewis Botto, 1831- bef. 1866, of San Colombano Certenoli (GE), Italy, married Catharina Revaro, 1825-1903 of Genoa, Genova, Italy. They married in Richmond, Virginia in 1853. Notice that from this marriage record, I learned the names of Lewis’s parents, my third great grandparents, Lawrence and Mary Botto (Lorenzo and Maria Rosa Costa Botto).

Louis Botte (Lewis Botto)
In the Virginia, Select Marriages, 1785-1940

Name: Louis Botte (Botto)
Gender: Male
Age: 21
Birth Date: 1832
Birth Place: Italy

Marriage Date: 3 Sep 1853
Marriage Place: Richmond, Virginia

Father: Lawrence Botte (Lorenzo Botto)
Mother: Mary (Maria Rosa Costa)

Spouse: Catharine Rivers (Revaro)

FHL Film Number: 31855
Reference ID: P1 #39

Together, Lewis and Catharina Botto had two children, James Lewis Botto, 1857-1923, and Mary Catherine Botto, 1858-1906. Mary Catherine as I said before, married James H. Kearse and they were my great grandparents, making Lewis and Catherine Revaro Botto my second great grandparents.. On the 1860 census, Lewis appears as a confectioner in Richmond, VA. and is living with his wife and two children.

1860 United States Federal Census
Name: Lewis Batto (Botto)
Age: 28
Birth Year: abt 1832
Gender: Male

Birth Place: Italy
Home in 1860: Richmond Ward 1,Virginia, USA
Post Office: Richmond

Family Number 207

Household Members:
Name                    Age
Lewis Batto           28
Catharine Batto     20
James Lewis Batto  4
Mary Catherine       3

However, I have not yet been able to discover for sure what happened to Lewis Botto. I do not know if he died in the Civil War, if he and Catharine got divorced, or just why he disappeared, but I do know that in 1866, Catharine married her second husband, Nicholas Raffo, 1837-1873, also born in Italy. Together they had one son, John Francis Raffo, 1867-1951. On the marriage record of Catharine Revaro Botto to Nicholas Raffo, I finally learned that Catharine’s father’s name was Anton Revaro, sometimes seen as Andrew Rivers. At last, I knew the names of my third great grandfathers.

Catharine Botto

Name:Catharine Botto
[Catharine Revaro] 
Birth Date:1823
Marriage Date:7 May 1866
Marriage Place:Richmond, Virginia, USA
Father:Anton Revaro
Spouse:Nicholas Raffo
FHL Film Number:33620
Reference ID:p 90

Catharine Revaro Botto Raffo had three children altogether, two sons and one daughter. James Lewis Botto married Margaret Slattery and had six children. Catharine’s daughter Mary Catherine Botto married James Kearse and had four children, including a set of twin girls and two boys. Catherine Botto Raffo’s son John Francis Raffo , 1867-1951, married Mary Margaret “Minnie” Finnegan and had eight children! Blessed to have three children, Catharine had 18 grandchildren! Lewis Botto had ten grandchildren. What a legacy!

James Lewis Botto owned and operated a nightclub in Richmond called the St. Helena. Mary Catherine B. Kearse was a business woman like her mother, collecting rents from rental property they owned, and she was also a jeweler, the co-owner of a well known jewelry store in Richmond. John Francis Raffo was a firefighter who became the Chief of the City of Richmond Fire Department with a career that spanned fifty years! Teachers, Police Officers, Firefighters, and a Catholic Priest. the caretakers of Richmond, Virginia, USA were some of my own family!

Previously, I had met, through ancestry, some of my living Raffo cousins, in California, Virginia, and right here in North Carolina, only about an hour away!

That was about all I knew until two weeks ago. Even though I had met and become friends with another Botto cousin through our own DNA match- Eric Dimiceli from New York, he only knew that he had a second great grandmother named Catarina Botto, 1837-1913, who was born in San Colombano, Certenoli, GE, Italy also! She had married a Carlo Molinari. We knew they were related, but could not determine how for lack of records.

Then two weeks ago, I got a note on Ancestry from Karen about her husband Tom Migliori and his cousin Raymond Malispina. She and Ray are the genealogists of the family. Raymond had been to Italy at least five times, and had a cousin who did original research there. Ray sent me this lovely note for my records just a few days after we met:

“Good morning cousin
Amen to that!

One piece of new news you might want for the records is the church containing the data on Botto, Cuneo, et. al. is S. Maria Assunta in the town of S. Colombano Certenoli. It is just about a mile or so southeast of the wonderful city of Chiavari, on the sea some 40 miles south of Genoa and just below Portofino (the Cinque Terra is just a short train ride south of Chiavari). We've used Chiavari as our base city on five visits to Italy. Ray”

Raymond shared his own genealogical research and family tree with us, which gave us more ancestors! It also let us know that the four of us descended from siblings! Lorenzo (Lawrence) Botto, 1801-1860, married Maria (Mary) Rosa Costa, 1806-1883. I checked my DNA for matches to the surname Costa, and there they were, I matched Eric, Ray and Thomas--Karen’s husband. In fact, Ancestry has now put the four of us in an ancestry DNA circle! Lorenzo and Maria Rosa had six children, and now we know descendants from three of them! Ray sent this information to Eric Dimiceli and me:

“Botto Family Records S. Colombano Certenoli

As promised here is the information found in the records of the church in S. Colombano Certenoli.

Lorenzo Botto (son of Bernardo) was born in the town of Rapallo in 1801 on July 19 1826 he married Maria Rosa Costa (daughter of Luigi) at the church in S. Colombano. Lorenzo died November 14,1860.They had six children:

-Angela Maria born October 16, 1827, She married Bartolomeo Daveggio on February 5 1845 This is my second great grandmother!!!!

-Giacomo Luigi was born July 23, 1831. No record of marriage in S. Colombano.

-Maria Teresa was born October 13. 1834. She married Antonio Raggio May 2, 1859.

-Caterina was born April 17, 1837. She married a Carlo Molinari (no date). She died July 25, 1913.

-Rosa was born October 19, 1841. She died October 9, 1842.

-Bartolomeo born October 9, 1845. Married Angela Cademartori December 31, 1865. Died February 18, 1906."

How exciting to discover that our second great grandparents were siblings! Eric descends from Catherina Botto;  Ray and Tom descend from her sister Angela Maria Botto; and I descend from their brother Giacomo Luigi! Giacomo Luigi, I was so happy I could hardly stop saying that name. I had only known him as Lewis who married Caterina Revaro, and had a son named James Lewis Botto and daughter Mary Catherine Botto! Giacomo Luigi translates to James Lewis also, the name of his son! Live and learn! It was so much fun! I immediately sent out an email to all of my Kearse/Botto first and second cousins to introduce Ray and Eric, and give them the information! I also learned the names of two of my fourth great grandparents! Lorenzo’s father was Bernardo Botto, and Maria Rosa Costa’s father was Luigi Costa! There it was, Luigi, a family name.

Since Ray, Eric, Tom, and I are fourth cousins, we should share a third great grandparent, and indeed we are all descendants of our third great grandparents, Lorenzo and Maria Rosa Costa Botto! Ray and I share 13.1 centimorgans of DNA across one DNA segment! Eric and I share 12.0 cM’s of DNA over one DNA segment and Tom and I share 22.5 cM’s over 2 DNA segments.  Below are our relationship charts, detailing our kinship.

What a blessing from DNA and genealogical research to find three new cousins from California, to New York to North Carolina, USA--from Italy with love!

Sono cosi felice! (I am so happy!)

Fino a quando ci incontriamo di nuovo, benedizioni,

Helen Y. Holshouser, blogging at

Raymond (Ray) Malispina (1935 - )
father of Raymond (Ray) Malispina

Louisa Cuneo (1888 - 1953)
mother of Elvin George Malispina

Jennie Deveggio (1867 - 1932)
mother of Louisa Cuneo

mother of Jennie Deveggio

father of Angela Maria Botto

Giacomo Luigi (James Lewis) Botto (1831 - )
son of Lorenzo (Lawrence) Botto

Mary Catherine Botto (1858 - 1906)
daughter of Giacomo Luigi (James Lewis) Botto

son of Mary Catherine Botto

Margaret Steptoe Kearse (1918 - 1980)
daughter of Thomas Philip Kearse

Helen Spear Youngblood Holshouser
You are the daughter of Margaret Steptoe Kearse

Eric Dimiceli
4th cousin

Private Silvinsky 
mother of Eric Dimiceli
mother of Private Silvinsky

Francesco Molinari 
father of Catherine C Molinari

Caterina Botto (1837 - 1913)
mother of Francesco Molinari

Lorenzo (Lawrence) Botto (1801 - 1860)
father of Caterina Botto

daughter of Giacomo Luigi (James Lewis) Botto
son of Mary Catherine Botto

Margaret Steptoe Kearse (1918 - 1980)
daughter of Thomas Philip Kearse
daughter of Margaret Steptoe Kearse Youngblood

Thomas Migliori
4th cousin

Dora Pedrucci (1916 - 2012)
mother of Thomas Migliori

Della Catherine Cuneo (1891 - 1944)
mother of Dora Pedrucci

Jennie Deveggio (1867 - 1932)
mother of Della Catherine Cuneo

Angela Maria Botto (1827 - )
mother of Jennie Deveggio

Lorenzo (Lawrence) Botto (1801 - 1860)
father of Angela Maria Botto

Giacomo Luigi (James Lewis) Botto (1831 - )
son of Lorenzo (Lawrence) Botto

Mary Catherine Botto (1858 - 1906)
daughter of Giacomo Luigi (James Lewis) Botto

Thomas Philip Kearse (1883 - 1939)
son of Mary Catherine Botto

Margaret Steptoe Kearse (1918 - 1980)
daughter of Thomas Philip Kearse

Helen Spear Youngblood Holshouser
You are the daughter of Margaret Steptoe Kearse

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Secret Wife of John Wilkes Booth, Presidential Assassin?

With the recent inauguration of a new United States president, I was reminded of some of the odd bits of presidential history. I found once such story in my sister-in-law's family tree. Martha Lizola Mills; her daughter, Ogarita Elizabeth Bellows; and her granddaughter, Izola Louis Hills, all believed Martha was the secret wife of John Wilkes Booth, the person many witnessed assassinated then president Abraham Lincolon. They also believed Booth escaped and lived several more years and that he fathered a son with Martha Lizola after Lincoln's assassination.

Documentation and the recollections of Martha Lizola's granddaughter, which she included in a book, This One Mad Act, agree. Her parents were Abraham Standish and Izola Maria (Mendosa) Mills. Abraham was the owner and captain of a trading schooner in the China Trade. He met his wife in Spain. According to Martha's granddaughter, Izola Maria died giving birth to her only daughter on board ship off the coast of Martha's Vineyard, during a storm. Martha Lizola was primarily raised by her aunt, Abraham's sister, Fanny (Mills) D'Arcy.

Martha Lizola (Mills) Bellows Stevenson
Photograph from This One Mad Act

Charles Bellows is never mentioned in This One Mad Act but Massachusetts marriage records indicated he and Martha Lizola were married 30 Jul 1855 in Boston. Rhode Island birth records listed Charles and Martha as the parents of Ogarita Elizabeth, who believed she was actually John Wilkes Booth's daughter. Navy muster rolls seem to prove that Charles could not have been the father as he was stationed on a ship off Montevideo, Uruguay, during the critical period.

The 1860 census indicated Martha Lizola was living in Boston with Ogarita and a son, Harry, aged  five. Little Harry disappeared from the records after that; so I assume he died as a child. Martha's story was that she was a young actress and met John Wilkes Booth in Richmond in 1858 or 1859. It was love at first sight. She said she and Booth lived on a small farm in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley and that Booth would return to their home between acting engagements.

After the Civil War, Martha Lizola married John Stevenson on 23 Mar 1871 in Boston. This is supported by Massachusetts marriage records. She claimed it was a marriage of convenience and that the son born to them a month earlier, Harry Jerome Dresback Stevenson, was actually the son of John Wilkes Booth. She claimed she married Stevenson, a friend of Booth's so she could travel to California and meet Booth while he was in hiding before leaving the country. It was during that meeting that Harry Jerome was conceived.

Harry Stevenson; photograph from This One Mad Act

Martha Lizola died in 1887 and is buried in Plains Cemetery at Canterbury, Connecticut.

Her daughter, Ogarita, was also a stage actress, and began using Booth as her stage name in 1884, six years before her death at the age of 32. Ogarita's daughter, Lizola Louise (Hills) was adopted by George Forrester, a Chicago newspaper man, after her mother's death. Her second husband, Mann Page, was my sister-in-law's 8th cousin once removed.

Ogarita Elizabeth (Bellows) Wilson Henderson
Photograph from This One Mad Act

So do you believe Martha Lizola (Mills) Bellows Stevenson married John Wilkes Booth and that he fathered two of her children?

Related posts: Izola Forrester: American Author and She Seemed Rather Fantastic and Extravagant.

Martha Lizola Mills was born at Stamford, Fairfield, Connecticut, in 1837 to Abraham Standish and Izola Maria (Mendosa) Mills. Her father was a sea captain. She married first Charles Still Bellows on 30 Jul 1855 at Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts; second John H Stevenon on 23 Mar 1871; and third, according to her granddaughter, but no documentation has yet been found, Edwin S Bates two or three years before her death. She died in Nov 1887 in Canterbury, Windham, Connecticut and is buried in Plains Cemetery at Windham. She went to her death believing she had been married to John Wilkes Booth, that both her children were his, and he escaped capture at the Garrett farm and died in 1879.

According to Wikipedia, muster rolls indicate Charles Still Bellows was aboard a ship near Montevideo, Uruguay, for the critical time period, making it impossible for him to be the father of Ogarita (Bellows) Henderson, Izola Forrester's mother.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Stimulating Memory Sharing

Gathering memories was a frequent topic of several friends at the Family History Center I work at. There was much discussion trying to come up with the right formula for family responsiveness.
It is easy to say ask questions at reunions, family gatherings, visits 
with the older members of the family, but the results are not always what you had hoped for.
I have written several memories on my personal blog most in regards to holidays and many with recipes. It was all my memories. I had asked my husband’s twin to share memories and he would always say, “I don’t remember anything about growing up.” πŸ˜‰ 
Both you and I know that was true, he just wasn’t focused. To experiment, since I was one of the advisers on getting stories over the holidays, I decided to utilize my Facebook page to try and pull in cousins and siblings of my husband’s family to share some of their stories. It didn’t quite turn out the way I had thought, but it did turn out that I filled a need of the Hero’s cousins.

I first shared this…short post and a scrapbook page from the book… 

"Merry Christmas from the Ellsworth Domestic Goddesses.  Many years ago my oldest daughter put together a cook book of recipes from all the Older Ellsworth ladies back in 2001, the great grandmother, great aunt, grandmother, and aunts for Christmas. Kathleen and Ginny, I loved this picture of Mary with Mom. Two lovely Ellsworth ladies. Megan were there recipes from you and Laura in there? Love all ya'all. "

This was some of the responses:
Derrell Hankins: What a lovely idea! Wish I'd have thought of that... about 50 years ago! (not related on this side)

Kathleen Ellsworth Chelette: Thanks Fran πŸ’•(The Hero's cousin, sister of Tom)

Fran Langley Ellsworth: You are welcome Kathleen Love ya

Barbara Thole Taylor: What a treasure! (not related on this side, but they are thinking of doing it for their family now.)

Ginny Ellsworth: Love it! Thanks, Fran! (daughter of Tom, a cousin. She has never seen these.)

Laura Wheatley-Hughes: Wonderful. Thanks for keeping memories alive (daughter of the Hero's sister)

Alta Turner: So cute!

Tom Ellsworth: Love to see the other recipes too! (the Hero's cousin)

Fran Langley Ellsworth” I am making a copy for Laura, will make one for you too.

Tom Ellsworth: Fran Langley Ellsworth Thank you!

Kathleen Ellsworth: Chelette Fran if you're making copies could I put my name in the bunch? Thanks

Fran Langley Ellsworth: Of course. You were in my thoughts. Didn't know if you had gotten one.  <3

Kathleen Ellsworth Chelette: Fran Langley Ellsworth thanks Fran you're an  πŸ˜‡.

This family has not been sharing for some time and now they had something they wanted to keep for a memory. I having 4 books made from mine and a barrier went down for sharing. Also, later my brother-in-law brought it up at a dinner with his sister and we discovered, she had found an original recipe that she had copied wrong for the book. This will be fixed now. 😊
This was the scrapbook page…very simple.

The second event was a “Blog Caroling” prompt from FooteNoteMaven.
I chose to do a cute song my husband had sang to our kids every Christmas. He loved it and after I posted the scrapbook page with the short post, I found my brother-in-law loved it too. When we had our dinner he began remembering all the fun songs they had sung at Christmas as kids and looked them up on YouTube. His sister added what she had remembered. 
This is the Scrapbook Page and the short post:
"When the Hero and I would talk about Christmas plays and our children were in the Church party Manger scenes, he would always break out in song about "The Angel in the Christmas Play". This Christmas song was written in 1949 by Spike Lee.  The Hero would have been about 3 when it first came out. 
Wonder if our children remember the song... Good question."

There were several other posts I made including old group photos of the family that stimulated conversations about when, where they were at the time of the photo and who was doing what at that time.  It was fun seeing the cousins come together across the miles, who have not been together for years, and engage each other with their thoughts as memories. That would not have happened if I had not reached out to them and had given them a visual stimulus.
This was my personal success story this year of extracting fun and personal stories from family. I hope you had a great experience too. 😊

Thursday, 12 January 2017

New Year, New Approach

Getting Organised with a bullet journal could help me Build a Family Tree Book 

So another year has flown by and it is that time of the year again when we resolve to get things straight and write that Family History book we have been promising. So here is what I plan to do this year and a bit about how I am changing the way I tackle the organisation challenge.

At the end of last year I discovered Bullet Journaling and decided that this year I was going to give it a try. I hope that it will help me to become more organised and allow me to look back at what I can achieve. Several others are also starting this so you may see posts from them on genealogy blogs.

I have gathered some useful links in a collection on Google+ if you think you might be interested.

As part of this I had to decide how I would approach this and what tools I would use. I started with a cheap notebook but soon realised that the pages were too thin. 
I then ordered a relatively expensive notebook known as a LEUCHTURM 1917 which has numbered pages. The order could not be fulfilled so I had to find an alternative. 
The idea of having a book I could add to and customise appealled to me but the Levenger system that some in the US were using was not available here in the UK. Staples do a similar system known as ARC and I was looking at this as an alternative. 
Before, I purchased what I would need, I was discussing what I wanted to do with others. It was at this point that it came to me that, what I needed I already had, sitting in a drawer at home, waiting for me to use it, a springback binder. These are sold to family historians to help them create their own books. The same company also sell archival quality paper and other items to help us preserve our history.

Now I have spent time creating pages for my journal and using it to help me with my organisation schedule. It is a project which will evolve. When I originally bought my binders I also obtained a set of preprinted Family Tree Book Pages included with these was a discount code to order a pdf copy of the pages to use for additional pages. I bought a copy yesterday and had thought I could just print the pages for me to fill in by hand. However on further investigation today I find the sheets are fillable pdf and I can cut and paste information from my family history software program.
Since the older family members may prefer to see my research in book format I hope to use these forms as a starting point. The one thing I do like with these forms is the emphasis on adding the sources.

I am hoping to produce hand written pages for people I am currently working on so I can see where there are gaps. 
I started doing something similar in this book.
If I can easily translate the information into a page which I can printout, and replace if I need to, it will be more flexible especially if I later find I have missed something. I can easily correct without having to rewrite a whole section.
Working with paper rather than just in the digital can help with thought processes and creativity.

Next month I will report on how the bullet journal has progressed and if I have found it useful for my genealogy organisation.

If you are using a bullet journal have you found it helpful particularly for genealogy projects. 
Please share any thoughts you may have on this topic in the comments.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Sharing your research process

How do you share your  research?

I have recently joined my local (Gwynedd) family history society. I have no ancestor research in the area but it gives me a chance to share with others.

I already use ways of sharing my research online as a blogger and a participant in groups on Google+ and Facebook.

Tonight we have a members evening and I am sharing something from my research.

I have converted my post from July in to a presentation and will take it with me to the meeting.

Face to face discussions can help both the person sharing the research and the audience.
The audience may help with suggestions for further research. The methods used by the presenter may help others to use them for their research.

On line discussion with Hangouts on Air such as Mondays with Myrt are a new way of creating discussion amongst researchers across the globe.
With all the emigration over the years this international discussion is proving to be extremely helpful.

We discussed what I am presenting in the hangout today so if you want to see what I mean go to the link above and view the video.

Just because you do not have research in your local area does not mean you cannot benefit from joining the local group.

Genealogy research can be a lonely process but we all need to learn how to do it if we want to do it right.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

One is the Loneliest Number

 When it comes to Family Trees, Backups, DNA and Research we need to take a "more is better" approach.

 Where do you keep your family tree? Are you an online tree, computer database or a file cabinet/binder person?
Personally, I use all 3 methods. I have my family tree on,,, and
 My tree is also in a database on my computer. I use Legacy Family Tree to store my ancestor's information, pictures, and documents.
Each family has a file in my cabinets to store original documents and other important information.
 Binders for each surname contain copies of pertinent information and are put together so that others can pick them up and look through them to discover their family's story.
 Why not just one online tree? Having my family included in the   databases available will help me connect with more people.  Perhaps the person who has the information on my Great Great Grandmother has uploaded their tree to one and not the other.
 By not spreading my tree around, I am limiting my cousin connections.
  Why have other storage methods if I have my tree on so many places on the web?  Simply to ensure I can always access it.
 Have you ever tried to pull up one of your trees and the site is down, or your internet is having issues and isn't working?
 My Legacy program functions as my working database as I research and find evidence about my ancestors. I can write as I go in the notes section and make sure I have followed the correct steps in finding the answers to my questions before I attach someone to an online tree. It also is a backup in case my internet goes out.
Filing cabinets serve as storage for originals and information that I haven't processed yet and the binders put it all together for those who would rather have a book to flip through.

 While my files and binders and online trees serve as a type of backup, they are not always up to date. They are not a substitute for making sure everything - pictures, documents, and data downloaded to my computer files or added to my Legacy Family Tree program- is protected from a computer crash.
 Trying to cover all my bases, I use, and to send all my genealogy and other data to the cloud. If I experience a crash or loss of information, it can easily be restored. When buying a new computer everything can be reinstalled while I am busy doing something else.
 An external hard drive is updated on the first of the month, Genealogy Back Up Day, and kept in a safe place. Thumb drives, while not as stable, store my important files too. I keep one on my keychain. Just in case.
These fulfill the advice of having the information in at least 3 different places to avoid data loss.

Have you taken a DNA test? Again, this is another area where one is not the best solution to connecting with family members.
There is no way of knowing where others have tested and if the if the matches you need can be found on one particular site. Each company has a different database of testers.
 Spreading your DNA around to other places will put your information out there for a better chance of finding those matches. is a free way to upload your raw DNA from any of the testing companies and add your results to a greater variety of people.

One can also be a lonely number when it comes to our research. Often we tend to work by ourselves and not take advantage of networking with other genealogists. From Genealogy Societies to Social Media, there are those who can help us with our brick walls, transcription of a hard to read document or use as a sounding board as we work through the research process.
 The best is having someone to share those 'happy dance' moments when we need those who understand to celebrate with us.

When it comes to protecting our information and reaching the greatest potential of connections, one is the loneliest number.
Get out there and spread it around!


Sunday, 27 November 2016

Genealogy--30,000+ Ancestors in One Family Tree, Twelve Trees, What's Next?

After five exciting years of  working on the genealogy of my family, a period of time small in comparison to the work of so many researchers, I had found myself thrilled with discovering more than 30,000 ancestors with connections to the Jamestowne Colony, the Mayflower, the American Revolution and Continental Congress, the Civil War,  presidents, royalty, thieves and police-- yet wondering what might be next?  What else would spark the passion and interest I'd found in discovering ancestors?  Then I took a dna test on Ancestry, and my brother took one on FTDNA (Family Tree DNA), one cousin did both, and then he got four other cousins to participate and test!  I got two other cousins from different branches to test also!  Oh my gracious, a whole new world of genealogical research opened for us!   Only this time, our research was backed up by proof, not just from documents like censuses and marriage records, but from DNA!  

A lot of you know exactly what I have experienced because you have been doing it also!  I know, because in the last year or two , since testing my DNA, I have met something like  200 cousins I never knew I had!  Can you believe it, two hundred people I am actually related to that I never knew before!  I have even discovered that I am related to about half of the people on my street, people who were strangers to me ten years ago, now I know that we share ancestors some as long ago as the 1600’s and 1700’s!  How incredible is that to be talking with someone who is descended from your 9th great  grandparents also!  Can you imagine our ninth great grandchildren meeting and finding out that they are also kin to each other?  Amazing!

Facebook has become an extended family to me.  I have joined groups of people with ancestors in certain areas where mine came from, like the mountains of southwest Virginia.  I’ve joined groups of common surnames, and groups of historical societies, all are full of cousins!  My sense of roots, and my sense of “family” has exploded!  

So what would be next?  What would be as exciting and challenging? Suddenly, there it was--adoption--who am I really?  Who were my birth parents?  What is my true background? Those are the types of questions many adoptees ask, even when happy with their adopted families.  One day this new emphasis in my research was born--it just happened-- one person contacted me and said their dna matched mine, indicating we were fourth cousins.  They then told me that they had been adopted, and had not a single biological surname that they knew!  They found my match, looked at my tree and all the people, and wondered if I might help. “Yes!  Yes, of course! But I am a beginner at DNA myself. The will and passion is there, but not the knowledge.  You might be better off with someone more experienced, but I’ll be glad to help if I can.”  Remember, this person was related to me by DNA, we were already cousins--family!  Here was an adventure like none I’d experienced, a whole new way to be of help, to serve, and to use my genealogical skills as well.  

I started a crash course in at least beginning DNA research, and met some experienced people in the field of adoption.  I knew I was an amateur.  But my heart was all in--into the search and trying to help!  I became immersed in blog posts and journals and personal stories.  
And I worked with my new cousin who was the most highly motivated to find her family!  As it turns out, I felt called to help this person.  And surely enough, very soon a second person reached out with a similar situation, then  another,and before long, two years had passed,and I had helped eight people find their birth parents.  Can you believe it?  From knowing nothing, to knowing their roots!  We found the birth mother of one woman, alive and anxious to reunite just before Mother’s Day last year!  It still warms my heart to think I helped  even a little with that reunion.  

I thought some of you might like to know where to begin to look for birth parents--at least, where and how we began.  In this first case, we were fourth cousins, the first person a lady and I. Fourth cousins share a third great grandparent! Of course, we each have 32 third great grandparents, but that is one of thirty two, when an adoptee had been looking out at the world and thinking that they’d never find their biological family in all those millions! The adoptee had to be willing to share a lot with me, starting with their DNA so that I could have free access to it. Ancestry makes it easy to share DNA.  Then I created a tree for us to connect to their DNA. This would be a research tree, meant for us to use for experiments as we searched for family.(Some call this a mirror tree.)  Therefore, we kept it private on ancestry, because we didn’t want to mislead others when we said this person was a parent, when that might not even be true. We planned to take the tree public when relationships were proved.

If we were lucky, the adoptee had closer cousins with their DNA than me.  Remember, a first cousin is the child of an Aunt or Uncle, the sibling of their mother or father!  First cousins share grandparents. A second cousin shares great grandparents, a third cousin shares 2nd great grandparents, and a 4th cousin as we said, shares 3rd great grandparents.  So, if we had some possible matches, we might make her tree start with her and two “private” or “unknown” parents, even grandparents or great grandparents.  But as soon as we could ,we would put in possible names, right or wrong.  

Taking your DNA raw data to sites like Gedmatch also helps.  Not only do you get matches there, but there are many applications which help you understand just how many generations there might be to your common ancestor with your match.  Also, you get centimorgans there.

“The genetic genealogy testing companies 23andMe, AncestryDNA and Family Tree DNA use centiMorgans to denote the size of matching DNA segments in autosomal DNA tests. Segments which share a large number of centiMorgans in common are more likely to be of significance and to indicate a common ancestor within a genealogical timeframe.
The centiMorgan was named in honor of geneticist Thomas Hunt Morgan by his student Alfred Henry Sturtevant. Note that the parent unit of the centiMorgan, the Morgan, is rarely used today.”--Wikipedia,

Armed with the number of cM’s of your match, you can use a chart like the one below to also learn what level of cousin you are, first, second, third or so on, so that you might know what ancestor you share. I love this chart, first shared with me on facebook by a member of the ”DNA Detectives” Group.

As you work, you will find common surnames and grandparents and fill in possible names in the research tree. For example, one of your third great grandparents is a Miller,and your cousin adoptee thinks that might sound familiar. You put your 3rd great grandparent Miller in place in your research tree. Then you search all of your adoptee cousin's dna surname matches for Miller. If you find a line of Millers which is the same as your 3rd great grandparent Miller, then you have got his third great grandparents for sure! The second great grandparents are going to be one of their children,and should be matched by one of their third cousin matches. Soon you will have both second and third great grandparents and even great grandparents if there are second cousin matches!

You also need to keep checking Ancestry DNA for shared matches and or placement in a circle which will confirm that you have indeed found ancestors matching the adoptee’s dna.  Also, once you find a great grandparent possibility, it helps to find an obituary that might name children, who might even be living and won’t be identified elsewhere.  I find sites like and especially helpful in the search for obituaries.

I have been very impressed by the attitude of all of the adoptees with whom I have worked who are trying to find their birth families.  Most of them love their adoptive families and respect them. They are simply trying to find out about their true origin, and perhaps reconnect with biological relatives.  One 40 year old woman told me I was the very first biological relative she had ever spoken with!  Wow, that was incredible to consider.  But she and others say things like, “I don’t want to hurt anyone, or to interrupt their family. I am not angry, I do not need money, I just want information, and a relationship if they also want one.  I have been so impressed with the kindness of the cousin adoptees I’ve met, that I admire them greatly, and think that their families are missing an opportunity to know a very nice person.  This is important.  I am all for reuniting  biological relatives, but only if all are willing and able without harming the other.

Once you have some possible living people names, you can begin looking for them. If they have done DNA testing, write to them on Ancestry or wherever they did their testing, and hope they write back!  Otherwise,  you might find them on facebook, or on LinkedIn, or other social media sites, giving you a chance to send them a message privately  in hopes of contacting family. At this point, some decide to write letters to biological siblings or parents identified, some opt for a phone call.  There is no guarantee as to what will happen upon contact, and already I have seen varied outcomes you must be prepared for psychologically.  First, they may ignore you and refuse to even answer, acknowledge, or respond in any way.  That is their right of course, maybe motivated by fear, shame, or a million other reasons.  The adoptee must be ready to cope with outright rejection, or with no response.  There are also deceased parents, more often the case it seems than finding living ones.  Occasionally there is a half sibling, hard to predict how they might react. But you will get cousins, I can promise you that--there are enough people matching your DNA once you do it that you will have biological family members, maybe not immediate family, but as many as you might like extended!  Fun!

One note, if an adoptee writes to you, please at least respond. You can say you don’t know anything, you don’t want to meet-- anything is better than being ignored and left in  limbo.However, if you can bring yourself, ask what the person wants, and see if you can at least give information if not a relationship.

Another important step, if possible, the adoptee might offer to pay for a DNA test to be sure this is their true parent.  You do so much research, why not be absolutely sure--for you both.

Of my own experiences:

The best result so far--was with an adoptee raised in New York, adopted from Pennsylvania, is living in California.  After finding  distant grandparents, her living family was identified through obituaries, found on facebook, and soon phone calls ensued!  Mom lived in Oregon, and a Mother’s Day reunion went very well.

Other results were not so great-- we found one parent, and got in touch with half-sisters.  They said not to contact the parent who would be too ashamed and hurt!  They blocked all phone calls and kept this individual from knowing the truth of the birth parent’s reaction--acceptance or not.

Some adoptees are still looking--it can be a lengthy process.

One of the worst-- after identifying a probable birth father, deceased, the adoptee requested military records trying to get a picture. With the records, he learned of extensive criminal history including rape convictions, leading to the conclusion that, considering this new information  in conjunction with a story a family member had heard, that his deceased mother had probably been raped by his deceased father, and that he was the child of that rape. OMG, a nightmare for any of us.  He had been smart however, when he first learned he was not the child of the deceased parents he’d been raised by, he sought professional counseling to help him cope, and now he really needed all the support he could get.

This is the human experience-- agony and ecstasy, love and hate, joy and sadness.  Remember, joy can come in a million ways, don’t let the denial of ones who should love you ruin your life, reach out to the ones who will love and support you.  One of the joys of DNA testing and genealogical research, is finding family, especially cousins, friendly, loving, supportive cousins who are dying to meet you and know you. Enjoy the adventure!

Until we meet again, I am wishing you well,  Helen Y. Holshouser