Friday, September 23, 2016

23andMe Price Reversion

The DNA genealogy testing company, 23andMe, has lowered its price back to $99 (US dollars) after doubling it to $199 one year ago.  This fee is for the genealogy portion of the site only.  To receive "health reports" and information on your traits, you need to pay the full $199.  You can opt out of the genealogy section at any time (or stay in and then complain that DNA cousins contact you).

For $99, you are matched with other testers who share pieces of DNA with you, indicating that you share a common ancestor back in time.  You also receive an estimate of your inherited ancestry.

This price reversion is a step in the right direction.  The site recently overhauled its layout and offerings and I am displeased and frustrated by the new format.

This same DNA genealogy test (autosomal) is currently priced $79 at FamilyTreeDNA and $99 at Ancestry.

You may have seen 23andMe kits sold in drugstores for a low price of $30.  This does not include the lab fee of $169, which brings the price to $199.  Be aware that this is the same price as ordering online.  This is convenient if you unexpectedly meet up with a relative whose DNA you need to collect immediately.

For $5 (US) you can upload the DNA file from any of these three companies to Promethease for health and trait information.

For free you can upload to GedMatch for enhanced ancestry calculations.  You will also be matched to DNA cousins from the other companies as well as WeGene, a Chinese DNA testing company.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

DNA of Marsh and Long Ancestors

This article discusses the DNA shared by Cousin Chris G, who reached out to me as a descendant of Eliakim Marsh (1816-1881) and Susan Long (1819-1882) of Westfield, (now in Union County), New Jersey.

Chris G's father is a third cousin, once removed to my father and his siblings.  As we approach the third cousin level, DNA may or may not be shared.  We checked for shared DNA at so that we could see all the shared segments.

One of my uncles shares only a tiny segment (3 cM) of DNA with Chris G's father.  This would not have been reported as a match at the three major testing companies (23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, and AncestryDNA), but GedMatch allows you to see tiny segments.

When we look at segments above 5 cM, the other siblings share larger segments with this third cousin:
My father shares two segments totaling 42.3 cM.
My aunt shares two segments totaling 46.9 cM.
My uncle shares one segment of 17.7 cM.

Next we looked at other people who also share these same segments.  Anyone who matches my father and Chris G's father on the same segment will descend from Eliakim Marsh and Susan Long, or one of the ancestors of Eliakim or Susan.

My father and Chris G's father share a segment of 25 cM on chromosome 5.  Someone who tested at FamilyTreeDNA matched both men on this same spot with a slightly smaller segment of 15 cM.

We had to travel back in this distant DNA cousin's tree many generations until we were in New Jersey.  The common ancestors are the 3rd great grandparents of Eliakim Marsh:  John Marsh (1661-1744) and Elizabeth Clarke (1664-1739).  They lived in Rahway and Elizabeth.

But- we may also have Denman ancestors in common.  I have not confidently traced back beyond Eliakim Marsh's great grandfather, Philip Denman.  This distant cousin also has Denman ancestors in Westfield, New Jersey.

Plus, Eliakim's mother, Abigail Willis, is another tail.  She could share some ancestral lines with her husband.

We may end up with a situation seen with the Morris County DNA cousins, where we share multiple lines of ancestry and cannot isolate the DNA to a particular ancestor.

My question is:  would this DNA cousin, who is probably a seventh or eighth cousin through these Marsh or Denman lines, share a segment of DNA 15 cM long?  Shouldn't the segment have broken up into smaller, and perhaps not distinguishable, fragments?  Is it possible that someone who was born in the 1660s still has a large segment of their DNA detectable in their descendants?

Thanks to everyone who participated in this effort through DNA testing and/or researching.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Jonas Long and Elizabeth Merrell: A Union Documented in Death

With the collaboration of other researchers, we can answer the question I asked last year:  Who were the parents of Susan Long (1818-1882)?

They were Jonas Long and Elizabeth Merrell.  Estate records were the key in this mystery.

The Background

Susan Long of E Town [Elizabethtown] married Eliakim Marsh in Essex County, New Jersey in 1839.  No parents were listed, which is not unusual for such records in this time period.  Susan died in Elizabeth in 1882.  [Elizabeth was in the newly created Union County by this time.]  The death certificate listed her parents as Jonas Long and Elizabeth.

1839 July 4  Eliakim Marsh of N Y city [New York City] to Susan Long of E Town [Elizabethtown, New Jersey]

Online trees and webpages provided an unsourced marriage for Jonas Long and Elizabeth Merrell in 1816 in Piscataway, Middlesex County, New Jersey, and even provided birth and death dates for Jonas.  Nobody who answered my inquiries could tell me where this information was found.  This couple was also listed as parents of Richard Merrell, born around 1817 in New Jersey, who relocated to Virginia, married Elizabeth Culpepper, and died in 1861.  Nobody could explain why Richard carried his mother's surname of Merrell.

So my tree looked like this:

Susan's only connection to Merrell was in the 1870 census in New Brunswick, Middlesex County, New Jersey.  Phebe Merton, age 70, was living in Susan's household.  Phebe was a daughter of Richard I Merrell (1774-1864) and Nancy Ann Cole (1776-1861).

The Impetus

Chris G, a descendant of Susan Long and Eliakim Marsh reached out to me.  His DNA test at matched him to a descendant of Richard Merrell (1817-1861) of Virginia, the supposed brother of our shared ancestor, Susan Long.  [I will discuss the DNA in a separate article.]  He asked if I had made any progress on locating records to better identify the origins of Susan Long.

Well, no progress.  But I did visit the Merrell grave on November 1, 2015 in Edison, though when they were buried it was Piscataway.

I could not find Elizabeth Merrell, wife of Jonas Long, in this cemetery.  Among those buried here were Elizabeth's likely parents, Nancy Ann Cole (1776-1861) and Richard I Merrell (1774-1864).

The Strategy and Results

Richard I Merrell died after his wife and without a will in 1864.  His estate was probated in Middlesex County, New Jersey.  These papers are available (free) at  [Note that provides an index, but not for every page associated with an estate.  You need to go to and look at the court's docket and then locate the proceedings index, then locate all these files.]

At first I was disappointed because Elizabeth was not among the signatures of Richard's children.  Phebe "Murton" was.

Some more digging through the estate papers produced a big piece of the puzzle.  Elizabeth [Culpepper] Merrell of Norfolk County, Virginia, through her attorney-in-fact Abraham LONG of Elizabethport, New Jersey, petitioned for her three children to receive a part of Richard I Merrell's estate.  She stated that their father was Richard Merrell, deceased; he was the son of Mrs Elizabeth Owens, deceased, and she was the daughter of Richard I Merrell whose estate was in probate.

The family tree now looked like this:

Elizabeth Merrell had remarried to a Mr Owens after Jonas Long died.

Chris G located Mrs Elizabeth Owens not in New Jersey, but in Northfield, Richmond County, New York- Staten Island.

The oysterman, Abram Long, living with Elizabeth looks like the attorney-in-fact for the Merrell family in Virginia.  The 1850 census revealed Catherine Cook, another child of Elizabeth Merrell/Mrs Owens.  Why were Elizabeth's children not in the estate papers of their grandfather?

I needed the distribution of the estate to see if the Long children inherited anything.  This was not in the index, but I caught a mention of its location when carefully reading papers.

In the Releases and Discharges, "six of the children of Elizabeth Long a deceased daughter of Richard I Merrill late deceased" were listed:

Abram M Long
John M Long
Jacob V P Long
Susanna Marsh, wife of Eliakim Marsh
Catharine A Cook, widow
Letitia F Birch, wife of Edward Birch

Elizabeth Merrell's first son, Richard Merrell, who died in 1861 in Virginia, was not listed.  This omission could be why Richard's widow placed a claim in 1866 for her three children.

So Elizabeth Merrell and Mr Long were the parents of my Susan Long and she had six siblings!

Chris G again turned to Staten Island to provide some insight into Elizabeth Merrell's two husbands.

In 1860, Elizabeth filed in Richmond County, New York to administer the estates of her two husbands:
Jonas Long, who died August 13, 1837; and
William Owens, who died October 1, 1853.

Seven children are listed for both men.  Richard is listed as the first child of Jonas Long.

I don't know why Elizabeth waited to probate these estates.  She died sometime between the 1860 census and her father's death in 1864.

Future Research

Who were the parents of Jonas Long (died 1837)?  The discovery of five more of his children provide opportunities to uncover interactions with the Long side of the family.  If Jonas' son Jacob V P Long was named for Jacob Van Pelt, this could be a generation back on the Long line.

Where are Jonas Long and Elizabeth Merrell buried?  When did Elizabeth die?  Elizabeth's (second) husband, William Owens, is supposedly buried at the Merrell Cemetery in Bulls Head, Staten Island.  FindAGrave provides a date of death in 1852 with no picture of a headstone, while the estate index has 1853.

Why did Richard Merrell who died in Virginia in 1861 use his mother's surname and not his father's?  Why did he move to Virginia?  Were his children initially omitted from their great grandfather's estate?  Was contact lost because of the Civil War, or does their possible omission indicate that Richard Merrell was not a full sibling to the six Long children?

Thank you to the other researchers who helped bring this fractured branch together.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A More Detailed Divorce

Two years ago I shared the discoveries found in the divorce records of my great grandparents, Howard Lutter (1889-1959) and Ethel Laurel Winterton (1891-1962).  Howard filed for divorce on October 27, 1926 in New Jersey on the grounds that Ethel had abandoned him and their two children.  Ethel did not respond.

Howard remarried to Fiorita Lorenz in on October 28, 1928 in New York City.  Fiorita herself was newly divorced from James Winnie.  Howard boarded at the home of Fiorita and James in the 1920s.  Fiorita testified on Howard's behalf in his divorce case, omitting that her current address was not with her husband but rather with Howard's mother.

I wondered what really happened to end these two marriages.  Fiorita's divorce papers provided the expected details.

Fiorita filed for divorce in 1927 alleging that her husband, James Winnie, committed adultery with Mildred L Yunker in Newark.

James Winnie responded that Fiorita committed adultery with Howard Luther.

October 9, 1926 is the day of the break up claimed by Fiorita and James.  Howard Lutter filed for his divorce two weeks later.

In the 1930 census, James was living in Irvington with Laura M Winnie and stepson Clifford C Yunker.  I did not find a marriage record for them in New Jersey from 1928-1930.  [Note: Brocker was Mildred/Laura's former name.]

In 1930, Howard Lutter was living with Fiorita in Bloomfield with his two children, Clifford and Beryl, and one of hers, Rita.

You can read the divorce records for both couples at Dropbox.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

New York City Marriage Records: Application, Affidavit, and License for a Second Marriage

When the New York City Marriage Index was published online (thanks to Reclaim the Records), I requested copies of the Application, Affidavit, and License for two couples.  Records from 1928 for the first couple, Robert Paul Shaw and Jane Louise Sonntag, arrived a few weeks ago.  The genealogical gem contained in these records, and not contained on the marriage return, was that the whereabouts of the bride's father were unknown.

Records for my great grandfather's second marriage in 1928 just arrived, three weeks later than the first request, perhaps because more documents were included.

The Affidavit provided a line for the bride's occupation.  "Swimming instructor" was Fiorita's occupation.
(When she testified for her soon-to-be husband's divorce, her occupation was "the wire act on a bicycle.")
The marriage certificate did not ask the bride's occupation.

Howard Lutter and Fiorita Lorenz married in New York City on October 10, 1928.  This was a second marriage for both of them after divorcing their first spouses.  The packet from the New York City Municipal Archives included copies of the divorce decrees of both parties.

Howard Lutter divorced Laura (Ethel) Winterton in 1927.  The testimony of Fiorita Lorenz and other witnesses painted Laura as disinterested in her husband, children, and housekeeping duties.

Fiorita Lorenz was still married to James Howard Winnie when Howard Lutter and children moved into the Winnie home in Bloomfield, New Jersey.  In 1928, Fiorita divorced James for adultery.  The divorced was finalized September 6, 1928 in Essex County, New Jersey.  Fiorita sailed to France and returned to New York on October 9, 1928.  The next day she married Howard Lutter.

I still need to track down copies of the divorce testimony for Fiorita Lorenz and James Howard Winnie.  The divorce records for Howard Lutter and Laura Winterton can be found on DropBox along with the additional New York City marriage records.