Thursday, December 10, 2015

Twelve Years at FindAGrave

Twelve year anniversary at FindAGrave.

I added almost 600 memorials since last year.  The mobile app enables fast and easy creations of memorials and additions of pictures.

This website is a free resource crucial to your genealogy hunt.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Online Index to New Jersey Vital Records 1901-1903 Coming Soon

New Jersey indexes of vital records from the early 1900s will be coming online.

This is great news from a group called Reclaim the Records.

The covered years and types of records:
---Birth Index 1901, 1902, and 1903
---Marriage Index, Grooms, 1901, 1902, 1903
---Marriage Index, Brides, 1901-1914
---Death Index 1901, 1902, and 1903

According to their announcement, Reclaim the Records purchased copies of the microfilm rolls from the New Jersey State Archives.  The images will be digitized soon and posted online for free at Internet Archive.

These are indexes and not the actual certificates of birth, marriage, and death.  You will still need to request a copy (for a fee) from the Archives or someone who does research on site.

Before a trip to the Archives, I use the online indexes so I can jump directly into the rolls of certificates.  Adding years 1901-1903 will be a great help.

Why these years?  Well, New Jersey has had funny ways of organizing their vital records over the centuries.  A proper discussion requires more than a paragraph, so for now, I'll just write that it can be confusing.  Below is an example from the Index of Births covering June 1, 1878 through June 30, 1890, just so you get an idea of what we're dealing with.

[You can search online indexes of events prior to 1901 online at Family Search, Ancestry, and the State Archives index (Google it- the URL keeps changing).  Remember that these online indexes are not records unto themselves.  The dates are wrong sometimes.]

Around 1900, New Jersey decided to organize its vital records using a different system: Year by year, from January 1 through December 31, in order of date received.  In 1904, the birth and death certificates are organized by year, then surname, eliminating the need for a yearly index.  To find a birth or death, you search the actual certificates for a surname year by year.  [1923 is the final year of births currently housed at the Archives.  The death certificates now reach to 1955, but the alphabetical organization gave way to dates starting in 1949.]

Marriages are different because there are two parties, usually with different surnames.  When marriage certificates became organized by surname ahead of date, the groom's surname was used; hence, an index of brides was needed.  This is why the Index of Brides extends into 1914 while the other indexes are only from 1901-1903.  [The Index of Brides at the Archives extends into 1938.]

1903 Index of Births, New Jersey

1901-1903 Index of Brides, New Jersey

1902 Index of Deaths, New Jersey

1903 Index of Deaths, New Jersey

1910-1914 Index of Brides, New Jersey

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Additional version of life events: Midwife's Records

Family Search digitized microfilm containing the records of Anna Weyel, a midwife in Bayonne, New Jersey.  (Thanks to the JC Geney blog for bringing attention to this latest addition.)

The records are a log of births for the years 1884 through 1917.

This midwife signed her name as the attendant on the birth certificates of my great grandfather, Frank ODonnel (1888-1959) and his six siblings.  (Or maybe just five of them.)  Frank was the oldest, born in 1888.  Katharine was the youngest, born in 1904.  Parents were Patrick ODonnell (1856-1931) and Delia Joyce (1862-1929).

The records of the midwife coincide with the information on the birth certificates except for James, born in 1892.  James' birth certificate gives a date of June 3, while the midwifery records list him as June 14.  James wrote June 3 as his birthdate on his World War I draft registration.

The main person of interest was the fourth child of Patrick ODonnell and Delia Joyce, Marguerite, born in October of 1894.  I found a birth certificate for Maggie ODonnell, born 18 October 1894 in Bayonne, but her parents were listed as James ODonnell and Ellen Gallagher.  Back at the New Jersey State Archives, I carefully searched for a birth certificate in the indexes for a child of Patrick and Delia, born in  between James born in 1892 and Joseph ("William" in birth records) born in 1897.  I found no such record.  I also searched the births filed under "O" in Bayonne for this time period.

The midwife's records are consistent with the birth certificate for Maggie ODonnell:  born 18 October 1894 to James ODonnell and Ellen Gallagher at 16 RR Av [Railroad Avenue].  Two years earlier, James ODonnell, son of Patrick and Delia, was born at 14 Railroad Avenue.

Was Maggie the biological daughter of a relative, given to Patrick and Delia to raise as Marguerite?  I doubt it.  Marguerite's children tested their DNA.  They share the anticipated amount of identical DNA for first cousins, once removed, with my mother and her brother, including a long segment on their X chromosomes.

Maybe the midwife mixed up the records.  She had been busy.  Two days earlier, she delivered a set of twins and a single.  She delivered another baby the same day Maggie was born.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Sale at Family Tree DNA

FamilyTreeDNA has launched a sale on its DNA tests for genealogy.

I ordered a full sequence mtDNA test for myself.  (More about my matrilineal line in an upcoming blog post.  Preview:  Ireland.)

Additional coupon codes are issued to existing customers.  Please visit Roberta Estes' site for a centralized location of discount codes not needed by others.

DNA tests are great "gifts" for family members.  You can start with the Family Finder test for $89.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

23andMe Modifies DNA Relatives

After reinstating its health interpretations of DNA and doubling the price, 23andMe announced changes to its genealogy offerings.  The screen shot below may be difficult to read, so here it is:

"As of November 11th [2015], some aspects of DNA Relatives have been modified in preparation for the transition to the new 23andMe experience.  Pending introductions have been canceled, and anonymous participants may no longer receive introductions or messages in DNA Relatives.  If you are anonymous you can message any Public Match, but this message will include your profile name."

DNA helps genealogy pursuits by comparing your DNA against other people who also submit DNA.  You will share tiny fragments of your DNA with other people, your "DNA cousins," handed down through the generations from an ancestor in common.

The problem with these genetic genealogy databases is that most people do not respond to inquiries.  Of the few who do answer, most lack an understanding of the meaning of the DNA test and are unable to participate in an analysis to figure out where the common ancestral lines may be.  Few people have a comprehensive family tree going back many generations on every line, which is prohibitive when the common ancestors are predicted to have lived in the 1700s.  This scenario is not unique to 23andMe.  I experience it daily at FamilyTreeDNA and AncestryDNA as well.

The problem of unresponsive, anonymous DNA donors was perhaps more noticeable at 23andMe because its main competitor, FamilyTreeDNA, required a visible name or username of its participants.  (AncestryDNA more recently joined the autosomal DNA pool, but it too is plagued with people using pseudonyms instead of names and a high non-response rate.)

Most of my tested family members have at least 2,000 DNA Relatives listed at 23andMe.  This list of matches is not exhaustive, but is dominated by anonymous cousins who ignore requests to exchange genealogical information.

[On a related note:  The letters and numbers in pink and blue are maternal and paternal haplogroup predictions.  They have nothing to do with figuring out how distant cousins connect.  If 23andMe could add these to the list of things to disappear, that would be great.]

This list shows distant cousins who have submitted their DNA to 23andMe, clicked the box to participate in the genealogy section of the website, yet never chose to reveal any genealogy information or take any further genealogy steps.  They bump out other matches who may be willing to work on genealogy, as the site limits the number of matches a person can see.

There are lots of reasons why someone (actually tens of thousands of people) may do this.  But the system at 23andMe needs to stop supporting this.  Send anonymous matches notice of their inactive status.  If they do not respond, then boot them out of the genealogy section so that genealogy-minded testers have room to appear.

The change I see today is that the anonymous matches are still present, but the ability to "send an introduction" has disappeared.

This could be the prelude to ousting these anonymous matches entirely.

The downside to anonymous matches vanishing is that you will not know if a very close anonymous match is in the system.  All of my profiles have matches in the second cousin range who are anonymous and have not responded to messages within 23andMe's mail system.  Now, with no ability to reach out to these people, we may never connect, which is a shame, because they already tested their DNA and could greatly help uncover more of the family's story.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Wordless Wednesday

Photograph of covered mother holding child.
Denville Historical Society and Museum, Morris County, New Jersey, USA
Identity of subjects not known.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Bureaucratic Redundancy

A second unrestricted copy of my mother's application for a Social Security Number came in the mail last week.  A redacted version was received in June.  After appealing, the unrestricted version arrived in August.  For some odd reason, another copy was sent in October.

You can search the Social Security Death Index for free at Family Search.  A copy of the application costs between $16 to $29 (US Dollars).

Sunday, November 8, 2015 Improves DNA Services

Ancestry has improved its DNA services by allowing you to see how much DNA you share with a DNA cousin.  To view, go to your list of matches and click on the username, then click on the tiny "i" icon.  This button is very easy to miss.

Below are the top matches for a woman who is adopted.  (I wrote in the amount of shared DNA from the screen shot.)  The "second cousin" and "third cousin" share almost the same amount of DNA with her, so the designations may be misleading.  In the "fourth cousin" category, we have someone who shares 64 cM, which is workable in an adoption case.  The next top match shares only 28 cM over two segments, which really is not useful when we have no family tree.

Seeing the actual amount of shared DNA lets us know which matches will be more helpful as we try to construct this woman's family tree.

The "third cousin" also participates at 23andMe.

Ancestry still needs to reveal WHERE the shared segments are located.  You can view this information at 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA.  (See this blog post for examples and why we need this information.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Brookdale Reformed Churchyard

The Autumn tour of cemeteries continues.

For the first time I visited a graveyard by Brookdale Park in Bloomfield [Essex County, New Jersey, USA], currently bearing the name Brookdale Reformed Churchyard.  The trees were lovely and the stones old.  Several burials dated from the early 1800s.  I am recognizing the same family names as I travel to local cemeteries:  Garrabrant, Post, Sigler, VanGiesen, VanWinkle.

The stone for Leah, wife of John Egbertson (1772-1830), is so faded that I could barely read it.  The year is not legible any more.

A member of the church kindly showed me around and explained some of the work done over the years.  The church was originally called Stone House Plains and was Dutch Reformed.  Some records exist at the Bloomfield Public Library.

I took a close-up of what remains of the etching on Leah's stone to virtually preserve it for the foreseeable future.  Please read Amy Johnson Crow's article, Five Photos You Should Take at the Cemetery.  Digital photos are so easy to take on our phones.  Your pictures of close, near, and far will aid future researchers in reading the stones and locating the stones later.

Researching this cemetery at home, with great delight I found digitized, online copies of records for this cemetery through the Bloomfield Public Library's Special Collections.  Included is a map and a compilation of gravestone inscriptions by Herbert A Fisher, Jr.

Many other records pertaining to Bloomfield are also in this online collection, so if you are researching this area of the world, this is worth a look.  City directories as early as 1870 are here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Leaves and Stones

More autumn pictures.  These stones are in the First Presbyterian Churchyard in Morristown, Morris County, New Jersey.  I will need to re-visit the cemetery.  This plot was filled with leaves, obscuring some stones.

The center stone in the front row is Susannah Scofield (died 1852), wife of William Bishop (died 1844), originally from Connecticut.  The other four stones are for their children, Charles, George, Darius, Hannah.  Readable images of the individual stones are on Find A Grave.  I wanted to see if these stones were together to solidify a family connection, which indeed they are a family.

My Bishop line hails from Morris County.  The earliest Bishop I've traced is Reuben Bishop, who died in 1856 in Morristown.  He was married to Susan Ayres (1817-1890).

I descend from a son of Reuben Bishop and Susan Ayers, William Bishop (1843-1915).  In the 1850 census, William is listed as Reuben.  Future records give his name as "William" or "William R."

Is there a connection between my William Reuben Bishop from Morris County, New Jersey and the William Bishop who moved from Connecticut to New Jersey?  Still working on it . . .

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Did they move the bodies?

Autumn is my favorite season for photographing gravestones because of the lush colors.

(For neglected cemeteries, the opportune season is at the end of winter, after the snow has melted, and before new growth has started.)

Today I visited a cemetery that I first read about years ago in an issue of Weird NJ: Your travel guide to New Jersey's local legends and best kept secrets.  The cemetery is unique enough for mention in the magazine (now online) because a parking lot was built around the burial site.

Now that I found this cemetery, I have more questions.

I didn't want to post about a cemetery on Halloween (October 31), even though cemeteries are my thing year-round.

"Mary Ellis Burial Site" is the name of this family cemetery on Find A Grave.  It is located near the Raritan River off US Route 1 in New Brunswick, Middlesex County, New Jersey.  Apparently the people who owned the land in the 1800s used this parcel for burials.  The owners and purpose of the land changed over the years, but the burials were preserved.  As the area became more commercially developed, the land was regraded, so the cemetery now sits above the parking lot.  Or at least a gravestone sits atop this pile of dirt, neatly encased in stone.

The story is that Mary Ellis, unmarried, purchased this piece of elevated land overlooking the Raritan River to pine away for a lost love, a sea captain who promised to sail back to her.  Mary died in 1828 according to the the photograph of the gravestone in the Weird NJ article.  New Jersey does not have death certificates from that time period.  Some New Brunswick newspapers are digitized online.  Mary's death appears in the Fredonian from January 14, 1829 on a list of people who died the prior year.  Mary Ellis died February 17, 1828, aged 77 years.  This is consistent with the Mary Ellis from the gravestone, born 1750.

Seven people appear on the list of those buried in this family plot.  You can read their names on the Find A Grave page for the cemetery or on the Wikipedia page.  I'm not a fan of regurgitating online lists.  I could only see the name Mildred Moody (1746-1816) on the one visible stone.

Margaret Ellis (1767-1850), wife of General Anthony Walton White (1750-1803), may have been a sister of Mary Ellis.  Or daughter, but this ruins the love story.

The horse of the sea captain is also buried in this plot, according to the story.

I found notices in newspapers from 1822, six years before Mary Ellis died.  Mary Ellis and Margaret White, likely the people buried in this family cemetery, lost their land to auction "at the suits of John Clark, Thomas Clark, William Clark, Peter Overt, Sarah Voorhees, and others."  I don't know the nature of these suits, or where these parcels of land were, other than in New Brunswick and adjoining the land of Abraham Potts.

Does this preserved mound of dirt actually contain the coffins and the horse?  Or was the remaining stone moved and future generations assumed the bodies were below?

If anyone has done research into this family and their land, please let us know.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

DNA from Morris County, New Jersey: Family Tree DNA

At FamilyTreeDNA, my uncles share a segment on chromosome 1 with two individuals.

We need to know if these two DNA cousins match each other in the same spot.  FamilyTreeDNA does not allow you to make this comparison.  One of the cousins checked on his end, and sure enough, he matches this other cousin on the same segment.

Common ancestors of all of us were Richard/Dirk Vanderhoof (b 1745) and Catrina Young/Jong (b 1753).  My line descends from Dirk and Catrina's son, Jacob Vanderhoof (1774-1847) and then granddaughter, Elizabeth Vanderhoof (1799-1878).  The cousin in blue in the first graph is also descended from Jacob Vanderhoof, but through Jacob's son, Peter Vanderhoof (1797-1847).

The cousin in orange descends from Dirk and Catrina's daughter, Elizabeth Vanderhoof (b1775).  She married John Taylor.

But that's not all.

The cousin in orange also descends from Frederick DeMouth and Charlotte Muller/Miller.  For my line, they were the maternal grandparents of Ann Hopler (1772-1841) - wife of Jacob Vanderhoof (1774-1847).  If the other distant cousin on this segment (the "blue cousin") is not descended from DeMouth and Miller, then we can say that the DNA came from Vanderhoof and Young.  With the close geography and intermingling of these lines, we may not be able to sort out exactly whose DNA this is- just that it is from the Morris County lines.

Friday, October 30, 2015

DNA from Morris County, New Jersey: AncestryDNA/GedMatch

The next DNA cousins from Morris County, New Jersey appeared among my matches at AncestryDNA.  By comparing our attached family trees, Ancestry suggested that we share a set of ancestors, Jacob Vanderhoof (1772-1847) and Ann Hopler (1772-1841).  These cousins, like the ones in prior posts, are also descended from Jacob and Ann's son, Peter Vanderhoof (1797-1847), by his marriage to Rachel Peer (1800-1850).

The actual relationship, based on descent from Jacob Vanderhoof and Ann Hopler, is fourth cousins, once removed.

We can't see the shared segments at AncestryDNA, but these cousins fortunately uploaded to GedMatch.

My father shares five segments with one of the cousins, which is a great lead.

The amount and location of shared DNA among the other relatives varies.

We can triangulate the relation using the DNA of my father's brothers and their third cousin.  All three match this AncestryDNA cousin on chromosome 12.  (This segment immediately follows the segment shared by the DNA cousins from yesterday's post.)  The branch of my father's tree common to him and his third cousin holds Jacob Vanderhoof and Ann Hopler, the predicted Most Recent Common Ancestors.

We are presented with the same issue here as with the other cousins who are descendants of the couple Peter Vanderhoof and Rachel Peer:  Are we also related through the Peer line?  More research will hopefully produce the ancestry of Rachel Peer.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

DNA from Morris County, New Jersey: 23andMe

From my Morris County, New Jersey ancestors, some cousins appear in the DNA databases.

My father's third cousin from this branch has tested his DNA.  We can see the shared segments of autosomal DNA shared with my father, his siblings, and this third cousin.  The common ancestors were Calvin Cook (1827 - 1889) and Mary Neal (1829 - 1898) of Morris County.

By viewing where the DNA is shared, we can find other, more distant cousins who also share DNA in these same spots.

For this discussion, we focus on the shared segments on chromosome 12 at 23andMe.  Two of my father's siblings share DNA on chromosome 12 with the third cousin.

A few people ("DNA cousins") also share these same segments with the relatives on my end- my uncle and our third cousin.  One of them has a family tree and responded to my inquiry.  She shares an identical segment of DNA with two of my uncles and third cousin.

We need to triangulate the match.  Two full siblings count as one point of the triangle, as their ancestors are identical.  We do not have to search our entire family tree to find the Most Recent Common Ancestor.  We look instead at the set of ancestors common to the third cousins:  Calvin Cook and Mary Neal.

Mary Neal is a tail end in my family tree.  Her ancestry is unknown to me at this time.  Only Calvin Cook's tree is available.  If the segment came from Mary Neal, we could possibly break through that brick wall.

One of two branches that may hold the Most Recent Common Ancestor
of the DNA cousin.

When asked for ancestors that were in northern New Jersey in the 1800s, the DNA cousin provided the couple Peter Vanderhoof (1797-1847) and Rachel Peer (1800-1850).  After time, research, and correspondence, the Most Recent Common Ancestors were identified as Jacob Vanderhoof (1772-1847) and Ann Hopler (1772-1841).  They were the parents of Peter Vanderhoof, the direct ancestor of the DNA match, and they were the parents of Elizabeth Vanderhoof (1799-1878), the mother of Calvin Cook, in my direct line.

This makes this DNA cousin a Fifth Cousin to my father, his siblings, and their third cousin.

Peter Vanderhoof and his wife, Rachel Peer, are buried in the DeMouth Family Burial Ground (front yard of a house) in Denville, along with Peter and Elizabeth's parents, Jacob Vanderhoof and Ann Hopler.  (Ann Hopler's mother was Elizabeth DeMouth.)

But there could be other ancestors in common.

Jane Peer was the 5th great grandmother of my father.  She married John Cook (1745-1821).  She was probably born around 1750 and died before her father, Samuel Peer, died in 1818.

Rachel Peer (1800-1850) was the 3rd great grandmother of the DNA cousin.  Rachel's place in the Peer family of Morris County has not been determined.  Rachel Peer and Jane Peer, like the other Morris County lines, were probably related.  The shared DNA could be from Peer and not Vanderhoof and Hopler.