Wednesday, November 1, 2017

I'm Going to RootsTech 2018!!!





I entered a contest to win a 4-day pass to RootsTech 2018 on the Family History Fanatics website. I learned about the site when I took a webinar on Power Scrapbooking with Devon Noel Lee a few weeks back. If you have any interest at all in digital scrapbooking, I encourage you to check out the Power Scrapbooking Boot Camp digital download. Anyway, I entered. I crossed my fingers and....

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Sharing My Master Toolbox

I did it!! I made a commitment to post every day for Family History Month and actually achieved it! As my final post this month, I want to share my Master Toolbox with you. Click on the link to open and view.

Several years ago I participated in Thomas MacEntee's Genealogy Do-Over. One of the tasks was to create a "Master Toolbox" of sites that I use frequently. Yes, I could add those sites as bookmarks. Yes, I could organize the bookmarks by category. But, I never do.

Here's a small screenshot:



Truthfully, I haven't added to this list in a while. I probably should review it for sites that have closed and/or changed their links as well. The spreadsheet that resides on my personal computer also contains the username/password combos, which is pretty helpful. The other nice thing is I can share this list with others.

I enjoyed this past month and hope you did too. Pretty certain I won't continue posting every day but I will try to post at least once a month. Now - back to my writing projects!! See you soon!


Monday, October 30, 2017

Genealogy for Kids

I was planning to report on the DNA Webinar I watched today, but the organizer postponed it until November 5. Click on the link if you're interested in registering.

Instead, I will share some points I learned from one of the webinars I viewed during today's My Heritage One-Day Genealogy Seminar. Actually, it was the perfect thing to do on this nasty, rainy day. I watched several of the presentations, but the one that resonated most with me was given by Jessica Taylor. Here is a summary of the points she made in "How to  Pass Your Ancestors' Legacy to Your Grandchildren."

For a good article on sharing genealogy with kids, see “The Stories that Bind Us.” The New York Times.


Ideas for sharing with the very young

  • Have conversations - simply chat with the younger children about what your ancestors did or tell family stories. Relate daily tasks to what life was like "in the old days." An example was simply sharing with kids that we used to have wires attached to our phones.
  • Create a simple storybook - Jessica provided a really sweet example of a storybook she created. She stapled a few sheets of blank paper together to form a booklet and wrote one simple sentence about the "featured" ancestor at the bottom of each page. The child then illustrated each page by drawing a corresponding picture. 
  • Talk about foods and meals - a great way to instill memories of family traditions and the ethnic foods of ancestors.


Ideas for sharing with older kids

  • Conversation - see above - conversations with older kids can be in more detail of course. Teenagers, in particular, may connect with stories of obstacles overcome. Resilience (a trait sadly lacking in today's teens, IMHO) is demonstrated as the cyclical nature of families is discussed. VERY simplified example: "We were poor. Then Dad got a great job. We bought a new house. Then Mom got really sick. Mom got better. Dad lost his job. But we made it through...."
  • Books - self-published books about ancestors
  • Watch shows - Shows such as "Who Do You Think You Are?" and "Finding Your Roots" are great to watch. There is a new web series, "Finding Your Roots: The Seedlings" which is geared to young people. 


Jessica stressed the importance of recording your own story (actually, she kind of begged.)  We often don't think about our stories, but we will become ancestors to our descendants. If we don't memorialize our own stories, we create the same scenario we face today as genealogists desperately trying to recreate the life stories of those we've lost.

All the seminar sessions were recorded and should be available to view by Tuesday on LegacyFamilyTree Webinars. Here are the topics:

  • Google for Genealogy: Search Tricks to Tease Out Information
  • How to Pass Your Ancestors’ Legacy to Your Grandchildren
  • Introduction to the Use of Autosomal DNA Testing
  • Advanced Autosomal DNA Techniques Used in Genetic Genealogy
  • Filling in the In-Between of the Jewish BMD
  • Jewish Family Research Challenges
  • Discover Your Family History with MyHeritage’s Unique Technologies


Sunday, October 29, 2017

So I'm NOT Irish - A Follow-up

As a follow-up to yesterday's post, I'm sharing the results of my DNA test.


I tested with FamilyTreeDNA way back in 2014. At that point, I was 100% Jewish. Their algorithms have become more refined since then, so now I'm only 98%!! 

Notice the big blue bubble over Europe? I used a red arrow to point it out in case it's not clear that ALL my DNA originates from that area of the world.

Just to be completely sure you understand that I am NOT IRISH, I placed the "NO" symbol over what, sadly, is the country I no longer can claim as part of my heritage. (Yes - I know the shape is over the entire UK as well. It's funnier when the symbol is so huge!)

Guess there will be no more jokes about me being a leprechaun. Yes, I may have blue eyes, freckles, and fair skin. And, yes, I'm only 4' 9" tall. But - NOT IRISH!!! Wonder what sort of tiny creatures they had back in olden Europe. 

So - a negative result regarding what I thought was my heritage. However, the test results may help me break through a long-standing brick wall. I uncovered a clue to the origin of my 5th Great-Grandfather, Moshe Jacob Samuel on the Synagogue Scribes website, which may mean he came from a place called. Aachen. Aachen is a town in Germany. It seems likely that he may have traveled from Germany (by 1795 when his son Lazarus was born) to settle in England. At least it's a crack in the wall I can now explore.

Here's the other problem:



I have 13,145 potential matches. Yeah - not dealing with that. Too overwhelming. I know the system works though because my sister Jeanne tested with FTDNA as well. But, other than her, I really can't figure out the best way to determine which matches I should follow-up. It's been explained to me many, many times. I'm the same with cell phone plans and health insurance policies -  just can't get my head around it. 

I'll be taking viewing a webinar on how to use the GedMatch website later today. I'll let you know if I'm any closer to understanding!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Family History and Me - My Family "Bramblebush"

As Family History Month winds down (Yay! I'm 28 for 28 posts!!) I decided to share why I started doing genealogy.

My family is a little bit complicated. My father divorced my mother when I was 7 and remarried three times. I have three full-sisters from his first marriage, a half-sister from his second marriage, and a step-brother and three adopted siblings from his third. He married wife number four late in life, so no children there. My mother remarried a man who had three children and then, together, they created my half-brother. So, essentially, I have 12 people whom I consider my siblings.

Add to that, my marriage to a man whose father married twice, creating a blended family of seven children and you can understand why I use the term “bramble bush” when describing my family instead of “family tree.”

Another characteristic of my family is that we are “semi-hoarders.” My mom always referred to herself as a “museum curator” to explain why she kept all of our various mementos. In her “collection” were family photographs, papers, and objects belonging to her parents, aunt, and uncle and both sets of grandparents. Everything was stored (and I use the term loosely) in cardboard boxes in her attic. I found these objects really interesting and wanted to learn more about the people who had owned them.

In July of 2007, my father held a family reunion in honor of his 75th birthday. I suspected he had a hidden agenda behind his wanting to get the family together. As it turned out, two months after the reunion, we received news that Dad was suffering from pancreatic cancer.  Years ago, Dad told me about “Barney the Red” an Irish guy in our family. I always had a love for anything Irish. St. Patrick’s Day was my favorite holiday. I have fair skin and freckles. We named our children Caitlin and Meghan. Now that Dad was getting ill, I thought it best to find out more about his side of the family.
I began searching the websites and found Samuel family going back to 1824 in England. No Irish. The only “Barney” I found was my father’s grandfather, Barnett. He was born in Jamaica, New York in 1882 to John Samuel who had emigrated from Stepney, England in 1857. Not Irish.

In the summer of 2008, I traveled to Toronto to visit my father who, by then, was in hospice. I shared with him the results of my research. He was quite pleased with the work I had accomplished. I asked him about “Barney the Red” and his supposed Irish ancestry. His response? “Oh. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe we’re Scottish.”

Ten years later I still have not proven my Irish ancestry. However, I have been able to trace back two more generations of the Samuel family to Moshe Jacob Samuel, the father of Lazarus Samuel (b. 1795 England) and grandfather of John.

Genealogy is the perfect hobby for me. It’s a great match for my personality. I don’t like to go outside. I love possessing little bits of curious information. I get totally invested in finding the solution to a specific problem. I love to write. But most of all, I love that I am making use of my mother’s “museum” and sharing the history of our family.

Friday, October 27, 2017

On This Day

I'm pretty proud that I have, so far, stuck to my commitment to post every day of October -  Family History Month. But, I must admit, I'm running short on ideas! Today, I'm posting a few significant events that happened on this date throughout the years. I ran the "On this Date" report from my RootsMagic genealogy software. There were a lot more entries. I just picked out ones that appealed to me.


Famous Births
1811 - Isaac Singer, American inventor (d. 1875) (I own an antique treadle-operated Singer sewing machine!)
1858 - Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (d. 1919)
1873 - Emily Post, American etiquette author (d. 1960) 
1896 - Edith Brown, survivor of the Titanic (d. 1997)
1920 - Nanette Fabray, American actress
1939 - John Cleese, British actor and writer
1940 - John Gotti, American crime boss (d. 2002)
1984 - Kelly Osbourne, English television personality


Famous Deaths
1990 - Xavier Cugat, Spanish-born musician (Born 1900)
1996 - Morey Amsterdam, American actor (Born 1908)


Historical Events
1275 - Traditional founding of the city of Amsterdam. (Interesting because we're traveling there this summer!)
1682 - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is founded.
1810 - United States annexes the former Spanish colony of West Florida.
1838 - Missouri governor Lilburn Boggs issues the Extermination Order, which orders all Mormons to leave the state or be exterminated.(Wow! I never knew that!!)
1904 - The first underground New York City Subway line opens; the system becomes the biggest in United States, and one of the biggest in world.
1936 - Mrs Wallis Simpson files for divorce which would eventually allow her to marry King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom, thus forcing his abdication from the throne.
1944 - World War II: German forces capture Banska Bystrica during Slovak National Uprising thus bringing it to an end.
1953 - British nuclear test Totem 2 is carried out at Emu Field, South Australia.
1954 - Benjamin O. Davis Jr. becomes the first African-American general in the United States Air Force.
1961 - NASA launches the first Saturn I rocket in Mission Saturn-Apollo 1.
1967 - Catholic priest Philip Berrigan and others of the Baltimore Four protest the Vietnam War by pouring blood on Selective Service records. (again - wow)
1973 - The Canon City meteorite, a 1.4 kg chondrite type meteorite, strikes in Fremont County, Colorado.
1988 - Ronald Reagan decides to tear down the new U.S. Embassy in Moscow because of Soviet listening devices in the building structure.
1992 - United States Navy radioman Allen R. Schindler, Jr. is brutally murdered by shipmate Terry M. Helvey for being gay, precipitating first military, then national, debate about gays in the military that resulted in the United States "Don't ask, don't tell" military policy.
1994 - The U.S. prison population tops 1 million for the first time in American history.
1997 - October 27, 1997 mini-crash: Stock markets around the world crash because of fears of a global economic meltdown. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plummets 554.26 points to 7,161.15.
2004 - The Boston Red Sox win the World Series for the first time in 86 years. (Hope my husband, the Yankee fan, doesn't read this!)

Family Events
1918 - Burial: Ralph Samuels (my second cousin - four times removed)
2007 - Death: James A. Hardy - Jim is the father of Matt Hardy, the wonderful man who is married to our eldest daughter, Caitlin. Today, therefore, marks the 10th anniversary of his death. Had I not decided to do this post, I would have had no idea of the importance of this day. Jim died after battling colon cancer. If you want to do something really important today, consider making a donation to cancer research. And - if you're of a "certain age" be sure to make and keep those important preventative test appointments.

On the lighter side -  a fun gift idea would be to use these "On This Day" facts to create 
personalized birthday cards! Here are a few websites with date lists: 





Thursday, October 26, 2017

Thoughtful Thursday - Is Insanity Hereditary?

The old joke goes, "Is insanity hereditary? Yes- you get it from your kids!" But, truly, mental illness is no joke. So, I tread very carefully when dealing with this difficult issue in my research. What purpose does it serve to expose ancestors' mental health issues? In the case of my current project, the story of Catherine Kenny Seeley [alias Catherine C. Fitzallen], I think it may be helpful. Without the context of a history of mental illness in her family, Catherine's life appears to be a series of criminal acts, committed by a crazy old lady who just wanted to amass as much money for herself as possible. Somehow, at least to me, the possibility that she suffered from an undiagnosed mental illness, makes her a much more sympathetic character.


Research into her family (assuming I am researching the correct family), indicates that Catherine's eldest sister, Rose had been committed to an “insane asylum” in Utica, New York, sometime between 1855 and 1866.  Another sister, Theresa, died quite young, at the age of 26. Theresa married a man named Solomon Shattuck in 1866. They had five children, one of whom was William Henry Shattuck, born in 1870. 

In September, 1893, William was on trial for killing his wife, Sadie Radley, to whom he had been married less than a year. In the course of William’s trial, it was brought out that his mother, Theresa,  had suffered from “violent headaches which rendered her flighty” since the birth of her first child. During her last illness, in 1876, her husband described her as being irrational. William Shattuck’s defense at her murder trial, was that, like his mother and aunt, he was insane.


The insanity defense failed. William was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. On October 5, 1893, a few weeks after entering prison, the Albany Morning Express reported that William had been sent to the prison hospital because he was “mentally unbalanced.” The reporter added, “It is really too bad that the Dannemore [prison] insanity expert was not secured to testify for the defense at the trial.” William died in prison on January 16, 1897. He was 26 years old.

The words used to describe William’s mental condition certainly could apply to Catherine as well. Her behavior over the years most definitely demonstrated “exalted lies, the telling of strange stories…” and “delusions.” The fact that she did “foolish things” can not be denied. Thinking about Catherine as possibly suffering from serious emotional issues sheds a different light on her life story - one that is actually quite heart-breaking.