Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Came Early To My Genealogy Land

Christmas in Hadden genealogy land came a bit early this year thanks to a new cousin connection and a two-year old blog post. The gift that I received was a whole new branch of Ellen's family including approximately 200 new ancestors found so far.

The story of how this came about is quite simple and straight forward. In August 2010, I posted A Canadian Senator in the Family describing Ellen's connection to the Hon. Samuel Merner who was appointed to the Canadian Senate in 1887 on the advice of Sir John A. MacDonald, Canada's first Prime Minister. Samuel Merner served as a Senator until his death in 1908.

In October of this year, a comment was left on the blog post about Samuel Merner by Fraser Laschinger who indicated that he was also descended from the same Merner family line. Fraser is an historian and serves on his local historical society board and as turns out, he is Ellen's fourth cousin. In emails subsequent to receiving his comment, he indicated that he had some genealogical information, compiled over the years by some family members, which he has graciously sent to me. One of his documents stated that Anna Merner (the name can also be found spelled Muerner, likely it's original Swiss spelling) "married a Staebler" but offered no other reference to who the identity of the Staebler nor anything further about that family. 

Anna Merner is Ellen's 2X great grandmother and she was one of Samuel's younger sisters. Fraser 2X great grandmother, Mary, was another of Samuel's younger sisters. All were the children of Jacob Emanuel Muerner and Susanna Schluchter. Anna (Muerner) Merner married Jacob Staebler around 1840. Jacob and Anna Staebler youngest daughter Mary is Ellen's great grandmother.

The key to unlocking the new branch of Ellen's family tree was the information that Fraser offered in his posted comment, "Mary [Merner] married Joseph Laschinger ...." I didn't have that information and although I have yet to find a marriage record for Joseph and Mary, I have found many records listing them as living together and being the parents of a dozen children. 

Exploring the Merner - Laschinger branch has added, as stated earlier, about 200 more individuals to my genealogy database, and all sources have been cited. The 'new to me' Laschinger family line has discovering connections with Edmund H. Laschinger, a prominent Canadian government figure in the early 20th century, along with Russell Howard Laschinger, a prominent newspaper publisher in Gilmer, Texas along with his daughter, Sarah Jane (Laschinger) Greene who, in 2010, was inducted into the Texas Newspaper Foundation Hall of Fame.

A great early Christmas gift for a genealogist. Now if Santa could only find a photo of my great grandfather John Foley!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Wedding of My Maternal Grandparents - J. Graham O'Neill and Gertrude Ellen Foley

I have many fond memories of my maternal grandparents, John Graham O'Neill and Gertrude Ellen Foley. I was their first grandchild and grew up living just two doors away from their home. My grandmother, Nana as I referred to her, spoiled me, not that I'm complaining.  My maternal grandmother died when I was seven years old and my grandfather when I was 24 years old. I therefore only knew them in their twilight years. It is hard for me to picture them as children, teenagers or even young adults for to me as a child, they were old.

I'm certain that photos exist somewhere, held by someone, of my grandparents' wedding but I have never seen one. So it was especially helpful when I was finally able to discover a small article contained in the Toronto Star newspaper (June 25, 1926 edition, page 24) that described the marriage of my grandparents, J. Graham O'Neill and Gertrude Ellen Foley. 

I have searched for newspaper articles about family members for many years, typically relying on a surname as the search term in the local newspaper database. This approach can lead to long and tedious hours of examining multiple search term hits that are not related to my family members. I was successful this time however for two reasons: one, I used the surname Foley for my search rather than the O'Neill surname I had previously been using. As it turned out the article about my grandparents wedding consistently misspells the O'Neill surname as "O'Niel" so my prior searches for the surname skipped over this article. Two,   knowing their date of marriage, I was able to narrow the timeframe for my search, allowing me to search all sections of the newspaper without worrying about receiving an overwhelming number of results.

So here is my transcription of the small article that details my grandparents' wedding:


St. Brigid's Roman Catholic Church was the scene of a smart June wedding on Wednesday when Miss Gertrude Ellen Foley, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Foley, became the bride of Mr. John Graham O'Niel, son of the late N. J. O'Niel. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Father Armstrong, while during the signing of the register Mrs. Summerfell sang 'O Salutaris' and an Ave Maria. The bride wore an attractive frock of peach georget with hat to match, while her bridesmaid, Miss Mary McCormack, was in powder blue georget with hat to match. The bride carried a shower of Ophelin roses, while her attendant carried Columbia roses. The groom was supported by Mr. John Hammall. Following the ceremony a reception was held at the home of the bride's parents on Queensdale boulevard, where Mrs. Foley and Mrs. O'Niel received with the bridal party. The former wore a becoming gown of cocoa brown crepe, while Mrs. O'Niel was in black crepe. The groom's gift to his bride was a white gold wrist watch, to the bridesmaid a silver mesh bag, to the best man monogrammed green gold cuff links. Following the reception Mr. and Mrs. O'Niel left on a honeymoon trip to Rochester, Cleveland and Detroit. Upon their return they will establish their home at 189 Pickering street, the house being the gift of the bride's father.

Some final observations: I'm uncertain as to who authored the article. I doubt that it was submitted by a family member due to the O'Neill surname misspelling. Also, my grandfather's father was not N. J. O'Niel (or O'Neill) but rather William Emmett O'Neill, who had died two years before this wedding. The term 'georget' was also misspelled  as it should have been 'georgette.' And finally, the last line of the article confirmed a family story that the house at 189 Pickering Street in Toronto was a wedding gift to my grandparents from my great grandfather John Foley. It was also the house that I lived in with my parents for the first nine and one half years of my life.

Monday, December 10, 2012

My Autosomal DNA Test Results Included A Surprise!

On November 18th, 2012, I shared the the results that I received from Family Tree DNA for my Hadden Y-DNA test, including my Haplogroup. I have now received the results for my autosomal DNA test, called Family Finder by Family Tree DNA.

Family Tree DNA states "Family Finder uses autosomal DNA (inherited from both the mother and father, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, etc.) to provide you a breakdown of your ethnic percentages and connect you with relatives descended from any of your ancestral lines within approximately the last 5 generations." Autosomal DNA is from the 22 chromosome pairs beyond the gender determining X and Y chromosomes.

The first thing I wanted to review was the breakdown of my ethnic percentages. Having a paternal ancestry firmly rooted in Scotland and a maternal ancestry similarly rooted in Ireland, I saw little room for surprises.

My ethnic breakdown, by percentage, is 96.64% Western Europe (Orcadian), that is from the Orkney Islands, and 3.36% South Asia (Southeast Indian, North Indian). Huh? Where did that come from? The genealogy paper trails have led me to Ireland, Scotland (and from there to England) but nothing has suggested India but it seems like there might be an intriguing story somewhere in my ancestral past. The Orkney Island might also contain a great Viking warrior ancestry.

Family Tree DNA has also provided me with a list of individuals who have also been tested and who share DNA segments, measured in centiMorgans (cM), with me. A quick review of the list and the ancestral surnames associated with each of the matches doesn't immediately reveal any 'hits' to me. There are a couple of individuals who may likely be cousins, second to fourth cousins, but I need to take a closer look at how we match up before I can really understand how I can best utilize this new information.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

British Columbia, Canada Showing The Way With Free Online Records

Searching for many of my Canadian ancestors has been facilitated by them having lived for many generations in the province of Ontario. Records in Ontario for births, marriages, and deaths have been available through the Ancestry site. The Ontario records are indexed and there are digital images available of the records that can be saved on a personal computer. But, it is not free. Access to these records requires a subscription to the Ancestry site.

There are some means that can be used to obtain the same records for free but none of those opportunities mean staying at home. You could visit the Archives of Ontario or a Family History Centre to search through microfilm reels and print copies of the records you want, or perhaps your local public library has an institutional subscription to Ancestry, allowing you to find the records and save them to a USB key. Those research trips can be fun but still are not free with the cost of transportation and most importantly, time.

The province of British Columbia (B.C.) however, is leading the way by becoming the first Canadian jurisdiction I am aware of to post their vital records online and for FREE! As was reported by Dick Eastman on December 2nd, B.C. has posted more than 700,000 digital images attached to their fully indexed vital records.

My research has been halted, or at least slowed at times by what seems to be the inevitable migration of families to the west. So for example, a family living in Ontario during the latter half of the 19th century is attracted to and leaves Ontario for the chance at greater prosperity, often with free land awaiting, in the Canadian prairies. Eventually, family members venture a little further west into Alberta and B.C. That is certainly the migration pattern that I have seen with my wife Ellen's family.

I'll use Ellen's paternal grandfather, Louis Jacob Gordon Wagner (pictured to the right) to illustrate this point. Louis was born in Ontario in 1886 but by the early part of the 20th century, Louis had moved to Saskatchewan where he married Ellen's grandmother, Charlotte ('Lottie') Faulkner in 1912. By the end of his life, Louis was in B.C., living near his son Gordon in Comox on Vancouver Island, where he died in 1968.

BC has made available their records for births (1854 - 1903), marriages (1872 - 1936), deaths (1872 - 1991), colonial marriages (1859 - 1872), and baptisms (1836 - 1888). The records, as stated, are indexed and can be searched using a basic search or advanced search screen.

Here is what the search result looked like when I searched for Louis Wagner's death record.

In addition to basic data being provided in the listing such as gender, age, date and location of event, the listing includes a link to the digital image of Louis' death certificate. Louis' death certificate is typed so it is easy to read with the exception of the attending doctor's certification as to cause of death which is hand written and may be difficult to decipher.

With this record (and several others for other family members in both my family and Ellen's), I was able to enter additional facts with source citations included in my RootsMagic database and attach the record digital images to the events that each supported.

I'm hoping more Canadian provinces follow the lead of BC in making these records available and easy to access. As a Canadian researcher, life would be so much better.