Most people that know me can’t help but notice that I am obsessed with family history. It has been almost a lifelong obsession; even as a little girl I was drawing family trees. I’ve always loved to read, and any book that had a family tree at the front or back earned extra points from me.
It wasn’t until 2017 that I started looking into DNA as a research tool for genealogy. I had already had my DNA tested (and Lonnie’s too) at two different companies (23andme and Ancestry), but like many people, I didn’t realize the full potential of a DNA test to match you up with people you are related to. So last year, I used DNA to finally discover the true identity of Lonnie’s grandfather. That question is now settled (although it still needs the paper trail to confirm it), and I moved on to help Lonnie’s stepmother, Laura discover her birth family. That has proved especially difficult. Laura’s granddaughter and I have been working on it for seven or eight months and, despite having worked on it daily and accumulating a huge file of data and correspondence, we can only say we know she is descended from the Andrews, the Flintoms, the Clicks, the Bordos, and a bunch of other people. Laura’s daughter has again filed paperwork to obtain her mom’s adoption records, which appear to be missing. Keep your fingers crossed!
I’ve managed to squeeze in a small amount of time to work on my own family tree. It is very satisfying to find DNA matches who are descended from the same people that, over the years, I have identified and researched and placed in my tree. And wouldn’t you know that the same ancestors who are my “brick walls” (dead ends on a tree branch) are the same ones whose descendants don’t show up in my matches?!?
Along the way, I’ve uploaded our raw DNA files to Family Tree DNA, My Heritage, and Gedmatch and managed to learn how to use chromosome browsers (which are not part of the ancestry.com service). I can ballpark tell you how closely you are related to a DNA match by the number of centimorgans you share, and I understand how the X chromosome is helpful in determining how you are related to someone. I knew none of this a year ago and can’t help but think all this work is good for my aging brain!
And how about the mug in today’s photo? It was a prize/gift from the head of a DNA group I’m a part of through our local genealogy society. I won it for being related to the most people in the group and for being the most enthusiastic! DNA is frustrating, but fun!
Happy National DNA Day!!!
Lest you think after yesterday’s post that my genealogy research consists of neatly organized and photo-worthy little objects, I’m posting some photos today of what I’m actually DOING these days in genealogy. After 20 years of researching obsessively- and 5 more years of slipshod sporadic research- I ended up with piles and files of papers and a computer database full of information- and not much to show for it all. I’m not getting any younger, so I decided it’s time to put my papers (and computer files) in order so that my descendants can make sense of it all- and perhaps make a few photo books.
Easier said than done.
Being an only child has its benefits and drawbacks. I have SO MUCH STUFF! And it falls to me to organize it all. In the background you can see just one of several big tubs of photos and family papers- and my new little portable scanner that I just love. I can actually scan photos while watching TV! The photo on top of the stack is of my father- one of a zillion I inherited (not all as cute as this one). What to do with them all???
Below is a project that I am so proud to have made headway on in the last month. I’m following a system of organizing and color-coding my genealogy paper files that makes finding things so much easier- especially for family members that may inherit these papers someday. These files still take up the same amount of space (two very full, deep file drawers in the garage), but I don’t feel so overwhelmed when I look at them now. Each color represents the family line of one of my grandparents- and I’ve done the same for Lonnie’s family. The yellow files actually take up more room than any other color and continue on into the next drawer. These are my New England forebears and my elusive Canadian Peaslees (lots of research but no definitive answers yet on that line).
Now that the files are organized by color, I am working on one branch at a time, mostly just up to my great-great grandparents. I’m checking sources, organizing digital media, writing bios for those that don’t have them- and noting what is missing in the files. I’m working in a very limited and structured way, so that I don’t go off on tangents. I am taking a break from researching in order to organize what I have. And it looks like it could take a few years. . .
My resolve has already been tested this week by the discovery by a distant cousin of the parents of one of my three most challenging ancestors (Lonnie’s great-great grandmother, Lucy Crump). After some screaming and jumping up and down, I noted the information and passed it on to another researcher- and am now trying to ignore the barrage of emails coming my way with more leads. Genealogy can be lots of fun when information just falls in your lap!
When I was a little girl, I was fascinated with the antique gold pencil that was kept in the chest that held the good silver. My mother said it belonged to a great-great grandmother, but that I was not named after her- which was obvious to me, because Melinda was SPELLED WRONG! My mother was not particularly interested in family history, but I was, even at a young age. I wondered who that Malinda could be (and why her named was spelled wrong).
Of course, I didn’t realize at that time that variations in spelling are the norm rather than the exception in genealogy- as are inaccurate family stories. When I started doing genealogical research, I discovered that Malinda Tucker was actually the second wife of my great-great grandfather, Luther Bean, whom he married after my great-great grandmother died. My mother’s mother would turn out to be Luther’s only heir after her aunt died, so we have quite a few of his things.
As you can see by examining the photo, he was in the Civil War as a surgeon. He grew up in New Hampshire, and he and my great-great grandmother, came from a long line of New Englanders- going all the way back to the early colonists (right AFTER the Mayflower). Later in life he moved to Waukegan, Illinois, where he continued to practice medicine.
Another inaccurate (I think) family story was that I had a great-grandfather who was in the battle of the Monitor vs the Merrimack, which I learned about in school. I remember being proud to tell my sixth grade class all about it- minus the name of this mysterious great-grandfather. I have searched and have yet to find him, the most likely candidate being Luther- but there is no record of this in his service record that I can find. This story may be as false as the story that my husband’s grandfather was “half Indian”- and his mother grew up on a reservation in Oklahoma. Wrong!
Oh- about the spelling of Malinda/Melinda– on her gravestone, her name is spelled with an E, like mine!
Photography note: the gold lines under the pencil in the top photo are reflections.
I’m slowly making progress with my project of digitally restoring old family photos. I love these old photos of my grandmother sitting in the chair and my great-aunt Margaret (at age 8) all dressed up in her fancy outfit. Both photos would have been taken in the 1890’s in the Chicago area.