Saturday, August 31, 2019

Updating Burial Location Information in My RootsMagic Database

It has been awhile since I've updated on how the family history work is going.  While work has kept me busy, I have managed to begin updating and adding to my RootsMagic database by utilizing the WebHints to add burial locations for individuals.  Many have been found where I had a death location, but hadn't added a burial record.

Utilizing sites such as FindAGrave or Billongraves, I've managed to find additional clues for research about families and have added them to my working file for later research.

In RootsMagic, I began this by setting my search criteria to show me individuals with a a Death date that was after 2000 and whose Burial fact was false.  Working through the large database in this manner gave me some of the more recent generations to update.


Of course, not all of the individuals had WebHints that provided details about their burial location.  Some had hints at FindAGrave, but actually weren't buried, but were cremated.  This seems to have become a more popular option in recent years.  In those instances I've added the cremation information, if given.

Once I worked through the database for all deaths after 2000, then I moved back twenty years and began working individuals who had deaths after 1980.  Many of these individuals at FindAGrave had details linked to them regarding siblings and parents.  For those who were direct lines, I added the additional children's information.

By working backwards in this manner, I hope to be able to catch additional information on the recent generations, which in turn will help me better identify some of my DNA matches.

In my database, when a couple marries, I try to add the parents information for the spouses if known.  In so many cases, there are families that are intermarried and later I find out they were distant cousins.  This is particularly true in areas where my lines have stayed in the same geographical location for generations.  Additional children who are listed are entered if the line is one that I am researching as well.

As I work backwards in successive increments, I will catch family members I've missed on the first pass and increase the size of my database.  Mainly I'm been able to work on this early in the morning each day before I head out to work.

One thing to be aware of is that FindAGrave and Billiongraves provide information that is user submitted and often has errors with date transcriptions and birth/death information.  There have been some 'hints' that I've caught that are incorrect guesswork.  Like anything, it has to be examined.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Waiting on the Y-DNA Results


I took advantage of the Father's Day sales at FamilyTreeDNA to order the Y-37 marker test to explore my deep paternal ancestry.

I don't have enough time in the day to work on the autosomal results from the various testing companies, but I have been thinking about having a Y DNA test done for several years.

I'm not expecting any surprises, but I would be interested in seeing if I match with others in the Lemaster study to confirm the line of descent.  I had previously written about my paternal haplogroup here, from my test results at 23andMe.

With my paper-trail genealogy not being able to complete to my satisfaction the descent from Abraham Lemaster of St. Mary's County, Maryland.  The proposed line was described here initially, but given in more detail in this Surname Saturday post.  As always, I'm looking for additional information to tie the branches together.

Perhaps this Y-DNA test will help me determine whether or not my ancestor dropped out of the sky in 1804 Mason County, Virginia.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Sifting Through the DNA Matches

I continue to sift through mom's AncestryDNA matches, making identifications and grouping them into family groups using the shared matches feature.  I've been pleasantly surprised at how accurate and helpful this feature has been.

For each match that I can identify how they are connected with mom, I am looking at the shared matches and marking each of the shared matches with a note of my hypothesis of how they are connected.

For example, mom's maternal first cousin has tested at AncestryDNA, and their MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestor) couple would be Lambertson-Gilliland.  I am then theorizing that any of these shared matches between mom and her first cousin would also share ancestry somewhere along the upline of this couple.  In essence, this should give me places to expect to find the connection.



By taking a look at each of these 'shared matches' and seeing if they have a tree where I can make a connection, I can bolster my theory.  For those who do not have a complete tree, I can create a 'Quick & Dirty' tree at Ancestry to see if I can get the automated system to generate a tree back far enough to make a connection.

Depending on how far back the identified match goes, I could move shared matches 'up-the-line' as far the hypothesis goes for which branch they should be on. 

I have currently worked my way through all of my mom's DNA matches down to the 20 cM level.  I'm using that as my cut off for now.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

What You'll Find on my Public Tree

I've hemmed and hawed through the years about whether to make my family tree at Ancestry public or keep it private.  I've finally decided that it should remain public, though I've added "Working File" to the title to make sure that fellow researchers know it is an evolving file.  I sync my RootsMagic database with Ancestry fairly regularly with my results.

I'm not getting any younger, and I want to make sure the research is out there for someone else to pick up the torch.  The link to my public tree is here. There are several types of information in my tree:


  • Cumulative research on my direct family lines, started back in the 1980s when I was a young Boy Scout;
  • The ancestry of my wife's family lines;
  • The ancestry of my daughter's family lines (ex-wife's);
  • The ancestry of my step-children's family lines;
  • One name studies - such as LeMaster families that are either distantly or not yet connected to my main lines.
  • Place name studies - such as records of related families in locales such as Madison or Jay Counties, Indiana where I have concentrations;
  • Quick & Dirty trees of DNA matches that have undiscovered connections to my main lines (before I learned to keep them separate)
In a nutshell, there is a little bit of everything in my tree, which has grown quite large - over 40,000 individuals.  My citations and facts from RootsMagic are tied to the profiles in Ancestry, though I haven't uploaded documents in every case to attach.  Some of that I am hoping to get around to adding - I have Dropbox files for each surname of the families I am researching where I keep the images.

I'm hoping that by keeping it public, more researchers might reach out to me to share information.  What has been your experience with public versus private trees?

Monday, May 27, 2019

The Ultimate Sacrifice

Today in the United States it is Memorial Day, a day to remember and recognize those who have given the ultimate sacrifice while in military service to our country.  


Looking through my RootsMagic database, I found the following individuals who gave the ultimate sacrifice (undoubtably, not a complete list) :


  • Daniel Beals (1822-1863), died in Louisville, KY while a member of Company A, 101st Indiana Infantry during the Civil War.  He was the son of Nathan C. & Elizabeth (Chew) Beals, making him my maternal 4th-great granduncle.
  • Samuel Chew (c1743-1778), died in Connecticut during the Revolutionary War while serving in the Continental Navy.  He was the son of Thomas & Martha (Taylor) Chew, making him my maternal 7th-great granduncle. The USS Chew was named in his honor.
  • Joseph Davis ( -1777), died in New York City after capture by the British on 13 Feb 1777, while serving in the 1st Regiment out of Monmouth, New Jersey.  He was the son of Thomas & Bethia (Maxson) Davis, making him my paternal 1st cousin 8 times removed.
  • Johann Jacob Deutsch (1821-1863), died of yellow fever while serving in Company D, 13th Connecticut Infantry during the Civil War.  He was the 4th-great grandfather of my daughter, Corinne.
  • John W. Duffey (1845-1863), died at Cumberland Gap while serving in Company G, 118th Indiana Infantry during the Civil War.  He was the son of Daniel L. & Susanna (Freese) Duffey, making him Eileen's 2nd-great granduncle.
  • John Wesley King (1837-1865), died at Paducah, Kentucky while serving in Company G, 17th Indiana Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War.  He was the son of William & Nancy (Owings) King, making him my maternal 3rd-great granduncle.
  • John Cooper LeMaster (1934-1953), Marine Pfc., killed in action in Korea.  He was the son of Donald Cooper & Luella (Gibbons) LeMaster, making him my paternal 2nd cousin.
  • Gurdon Lord Pierce (1841-1864), died at Cold Harbor while serving as Lt. of Company C, 112th New York Volunteers.  He was the son of Austin & Mary Ann (Sterlin) Pierce, making him my maternal 1st cousin 5 times removed.
  • Reuben Sherman (1845-1864), died at Andersonville Prison while serving in 135th Ohio Infantry.  He was the son of Lorenzo & Sophia (Moulton) Sherman, making him my paternal 1st cousin 4 times removed.
  • Frederick Charles Wildt (1921-1944), killed in action 20 Jul 1944 in France.  He was the son of Arthur & Anna Magdalena (Damm) Wildt, making him Corinne's great-granduncle.
Looking over this list, I am honored by their sacrifice and proud of their history.  Though I have the service records for some, there are many in this list that I need to document their time in service.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Categorizing Mother's AncestryDNA Matches

After the Indiana Genealogical Society's annual conference, where I heard some powerful lectures from Blaine Bettinger, I've been spending more time at AncestryDNA looking over my DNA matches.  In particular, I've been focusing on my maternal side matches, as that is where I hope the 120-year old mystery of June Gilliland's father might be solved.

Using some of the tools at AncestryDNA, I've been marking the matches that I can identify in a couple of ways. 

If I know the relationship, I am using the Note feature to add a note to the match that spells out the exact relationship.  This has come in handy when I've had to try to remember exactly how a match ties into a family.


These notes are edited when I click into the matches, but will also display the first couple of lines when I am at the main screen looking at all of mom's matches.



Another feature I've been using is the ability to color-code groups of matches.  Ancestry gives you a color palete and allows you to create groups of matches that you can use in any way you would like.  I've chosen to create groups based on ancestral couples, so I can tell in an instant what branches of ancestors the match shares with mom.


I use these groups to indicate the MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestor) of the match.  For example, if the match shares, Charles Lambertson and Pearl Beals, then I group them in the Lambertson-Beals group, even though they might also fall into the more recent Lambertson-Gilliland group.

Using these features, I've been able to identify and catergorize several matches without having to reach out to them and ask them how we might be related - I'm able to figure out our common connections and can decide who to reach out to for more information at a later date.



Friday, May 24, 2019

Meeting Cousin Judy

Back in April, I had the opportunity to hear Blaine Bettinger speak at the Indiana Genealogical Society annual conference in Fort Wayne.  The talks on DNA and utilizing AncestryDNA to the fullest has inspired me to take an additional look at the matches on my mom's side in an attempt to solve the mystery of my maternal great-great grandfather.  

While at the conference, I was able to connect with my cousin and fellow researcher, Judy Hill.  Judy and I have been corresponding since around 1983 about the family history, and it was nice to finally meet in person.  She and I share a common ancestor in Mary Ellen Swafford (1854-1932).  Judy is my 2nd cousin twice removed, her grandmother was the half-sister to my great-grandmother.  Judy has done genealogy and DNA research for several years, recently helping as a search angel for solving DNA mysteries.  Hopefully, we can work together and she can give me some pointers on solving my mystery ancestor.

Cousin Judy Hill and me, IGS Conference, 2019
Excuse the sunburn in the photo, I had just returned the night before from a week in Florida.  Made the mistake of getting too much sun the first day at the beach. Somehow this year has seemed to just fly by, it's hard to believe it's Memorial Day weekend already. 

At the conference, I learned some valuable tips for researching my DNA matches - and a door prize - 6 months of Ancestry World subscription.  I never win door prizes, maybe this was a good sign.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Adding Relatives To My Tree Through the 1880 Census

While I haven't posted lately to the blog, it doesn't mean I haven't been actively researching the family tree.  My latest project has been to systematically work through my RootsMagic database and update/add to relatives from the 1880 U.S. Federal Census.

Why add relatives this way?

Not only am I able to make sure that I have a more complete picture of the lifetime of my immediate relatives, I've also been able to add additional descendants from family groups that are roughly in the time frame of my great-great grandparents.  Many of these families had not been traced down into the current generations, and by adding the newly found members to my database, I'm one step closer to tracing the lines down to the present day.  Doing so will come in handy as I continue to have 2nd-4th cousin matches through the various DNA testing sites whose connections I don't always immediately recognize.

Why the 1880 census?

The 1880 U.S. Federal Census was the first census to actually indicate the relationship to the head of the household.  While the 1850 census was the first to name all of the individuals listed in the household, the relationships were not spelled out.  Many assumptions have been made through the 1850-1870 census about the relationships to the family members which have later turned out to be incorrect.  For example, all of the children in the household with the same surname might not be children of the couple.  

How I'm doing this:

Using my RootsMagic database, I'm using the RootsMagic Explorer to search for anyone who was born before 1880 and died after 1880, as a starting point for relatives to search for.



Doing this gives me an individual to start with.  If I already have a 1880 census fact sourced for this individual, I move on.  However, if I don't, then I try to find them in the 1880 census using Ancestry.com based on the other facts I have about the family.

Note that there are many individuals I have in my database that should appear in the 1880 census, but I don't yet have enough identifying information (names of spouses/parents/children, etc.) in order to positively identify that the census record found matches the individual in my database.  In those instances, I have to skip them and move on to the next individual.

Creating the sources:



Once I've found a record for a relative, I create a census record fact and add it to my Master Source list at RootsMagic.  I then tie each individual who appears in the household to that event.  I am using the date that the census was enumerated on the page, rather than the standard June 1, 1880 date that was given as a guideline by the census department.  I find it interesting how many census takers were delayed in getting the actual rounds done in taking the census.  Of course, not all of them have the best handwriting either, so often I am having to use my best judgment on the spelling of a name if I cannot make it out clearly.

Who I'm including:

I'm adding all members of the household that I find, including boarders, servants and other non-relatives.  While this does add some "unconnected" members to my family tree in my database, one never knows what ties will later be found.  For instance, I've already discovered instances where the "servant" in the household was actually a relative (niece/nephew), but was not listed as such by the census taker.  Additionally, these individuals in the household are part of the FAN group (Friends, Associates & Neighbors) who may later interact through marriage or land dealings with your relatives.  It's better to include them when you find them rather than having to go back and add them in later.

Database Expansion:

Since my database is synched with my Ancestry Tree, each time I add an indvidual to my database that kicks off a whole series of 'hints' on that site for additional information as well.  I'm trying to not go down the path of chasing those bright shiny objects just yet.

Next Steps:

Right now, I'm searching my database for everyone who was born before 1880 and died after 1880 to including them in my search parameters.  Later, I will go back and exclude the death date parameter, as there are many in my database who I do not have a death date yet.  My thoughts are that by doing this process systematically, I will eventually have captured as many individuals as possible with a census fact for the 1880 census.

Then, the hope is to repeat this process working forward to the 1900 census or even backwards to the 1870 census.  The possibilities are only limited by my time and willingness to keep going.