When I was growing up, my father would sometimes solemnly remind me to remember Francis Ward Lewis. I would just nod absentmindedly in response. I don’t recall him explaining who this man was or why he was important—I’m not sure that he even knew himself. But for some reason, it was vital to him that I remember and honor this name.
Later, when I was in my forties, my paternal grand aunt Em causally mentioned that Francis Ward Lewis (17 July 1817¬-9 November 1906) was her grandfather. Finally, I knew how he and I were linked. She recounted that on the Fourth of July, he would march in his uniform in the local parade in Concord, California, and then return home to set off a canon from the roof of his home. He did sound like an interesting individual. So, when I began my genealogy research, he was naturally the first relative I sought out.
As I researched my paternal great-great-grandfather, I was surprised to encounter some of his other descendants, previously unknown to me, who had also been told to “remember Francis Ward Lewis.” Despite the shared family mythology, none of us knew much about him. Together, we eagerly shared our clues and combined our research to discover his identity and his importance in our lives. Cousin Paul shared a note that his mom had written, stating that at one time he had sailed on the brig Elizabeth. Unfortunately, she did not list a source for this information. Pam Lewis, a cousin by marriage, uncovered his “Reminiscences” in the California State Library, which he had written shortly before his death in 1906. The fourteen-page memoir recounted his life following his 1846 arrival in California. Lucky for us, it included his photograph as an old man. As we read his thoughts, it seemed as though we were sitting at the knee of a fascinating, kind elder as he reflected on his adventures and times past. Continue reading Finding Francis Ward Lewis→
When I began researching my family history, I initially focused very little time on the Dunn family. The Dunn line had already been almost completely traced back to Ireland by cousins of my grandmother, and I had been given numerous notes and write-ups from over the years. The family was descended from Thomas Dunn and Mary Eagan, who lived in John’s Well and Kilderry in Kilkenny County. Thomas and Mary had the following children:
James Dunn (1817-1873), my 3rd great grandfather
Michael John Dunn (1820-1901)
Patrick Dunn (1823-1869)
Thomas Dunn (1826-1918)
John Dunn (1829-1864)
Mary Ella Dunn (1832-1906)
Catherine Dunn (1835-1911)
Richard Dunn (1838-?)
Lawrence Henry Dunn (1840-1888)
Most of the research on the early generations of the Dunn Family (Thomas, Mary, and their children) came from the Dunn Family Bible, which had been owned by James Dunn and contained numerous notes on the family’s arrival in America and whereabouts thereafter. Curiously missing from the bible was Richard—it was assumed he died young in Ireland. This story centers on this entry written by James Dunn about John Dunn (1829-1864):Continue reading The Curious Case of John Dunn→
The other day, I was confronted by an unexpected “hint” in my online family tree based on a DNA match. It outlined genetic ties between myself, an individual I had never heard of before named Samuel Morey, and the descendants of two of his children, Joseph Morey and Lucinda (Morey) Waterbury.1 It also alleged a possible additional Morey daughter, who was possibly the mother of my great-great-great grandmother Melinda (Adams) (Nestle) Dewey.2 I was immediately intrigued—I’ve been researching “Grandma Melinda” for years, but chasing her ancestry had always led me to a brick wall.
I must have stared at this hint for hours. Did I really want to go down that rabbit hole again? But looking more closely at Samuel Morey, I realized that he might just be the guy who could provide me with a Mayflower line for my mother.(Okay, I know that might make me seem like a snob, but I’ve been looking for one for years.) It appears thatSamuel Morey has a well-documented ancestry to Mayflower passenger Richard Warren. 3 I decided that the best thing I could do was to mull through the facts, and come up with some genealogical arguments both for and against my relationship with Samuel Morey and his ties to the Mayflower.Continue reading Chasing Grandma→
For many years, I have advocated backing up one’s work using an external hard drive. In fact, I have been using a portable external hard drive for years, purchasing a new one only when I needed more space—I have many of images of documents stored, relating both to my own genealogy and to other historical subjects in which I am interested. For instance, my records on immigration and naturalization alone consist of 13,728 items (images, PDFs, Word and Excel files) that total 36.5 GB (gigabytes).
With so many resources available in a digital format, I no longer print out documents when I find them on my own family, saving them instead to an external drive containing 232 folders (one for each couple on my multi-generational chart, named for the husband). I have also been taking my hard copies from 30 years of research and digitizing them with my digital camera. Of course, I still save original items in paper form as well, such as wedding announcements, diaries, and personal letters.
Before recently, I believed that using an external hard drive was all I needed to protect me from data loss. I have always maintained that it is not a question of IF your computer will eat your data, but WHEN. But recently, I had the nightmare of all nightmares when I experienced an unexpected issue—something that had never happened to me before with an external hard drive. Continue reading My Technological Nightmare→
Did you know that, at least as of 2021, there were more than 16,000 genealogy-based groups on Facebook?1 Say what you will about the platform in general, using targeted genealogy groups can be a boon to research. I have been taking advantage of them—specifically, groups based on geographic locations—for more than ten years, beginning when I discovered a Finnish Genealogy group when I was planning an ancestral trip to Finland. In fact, I would say that if you don’t have a Facebook account already, it’s worth joining simply to take advantage of this resource in your research. A recent experience has taught me this lesson once again.
Locational genealogy groups are populated with family historians, the kind we rub shoulders with at genealogy events and at NEHGS and other repositories, the kind we correspond with via Ancestry and other genealogy websites. In other words, they’re populated with people who are eager to help and love to search. In the Finnish group, I connected with people who had visited my ancestral town already, and could offer hints on what to do when there. I was also able to connect with a genealogist in the town, who offered to serve as guide and translator, and with cousins I’d never met, both American and Finnish. Making those connections made my two tripsto Finland extremely memorable. I met several of the cousins there and in Stockholm, and one has since visited me in Massachusetts.
I was on the phone with my father, talking about connections to relatives we had discovered through our Ancestry DNA testing. My father is from Yauco, Puerto Rico. He came to live in New York during his early teen years, but he always talks about his relatives and his memories of Puerto Rico.
I grew up knowing about Cayetano Canchani, my father’s maternal great-grandfather, a jeweler who came from Naples, Italy, and settled in Puerto Rico. I also knew about my father’s maternal grandmother, Maria Canchani y Ramirez, Cayetano’s daughter. Maria “cooked for rich people” in Yauco and every day would bring her family leftover food to eat.
A recent series of posts on lodgers who are possibly relatives hit close to home in my search for information about my wife’s great-grandfather. In three consecutive Scotland census reports he is listed first as boarder, then as son, and finally lodger. It took some digging to sort this out.
John Faulds (1870-1951) emigrated from Scotland to the United States in 1893. The passenger list for his arrival in New York from Glasgow shows that he was a baker. No doubt he entered that profession when he settled in the Chicago area. However, his interests soon turned to the equipment side of the baking industry, and he went to work for the Middleby Marshall company, which was founded in 1888 in Chicago to make commercial bake ovens and equipment.1 Credited along with John Marshall, a licensed engineer, John Faulds received U.S. patents for improvement in bake oven designs in 1900 and 1909. The first patent was filed in 1899, only six years after John arrived in the United States. In 1932, he used his expertise in equipment and mechanical design to launch his own company, the Faulds Oven and Equipment Co. His continued oven improvements resulted in five more patents, in his name only, for bake oven designs. The company stopped making ovens in the 1970s, but as of 2016, there were at least eleven Faulds ovens still in use in Chicago, and several in Washington State.2 Many of these in are in pizzerias due to the fact that they can hold thirty pizzas at a time, using a stack of revolving oven trays similar to a Lazy Susan. Continue reading Identifying Another “Boarder”→
I recently solved a long-standing family mystery after discovering a new DNA match to other descendants of my mother’s Irish great-great grandparents, Dominick and Bridget (Flynn) Counihan. One of their children, with the surname “Cronan”—who I long thought to have moved to Clearwater, Nebraska—actually lived in the Boston area for forty years. Understanding how I (literally) misplaced Dominick and Bridget’s daughter, Jane, baptized on 21 July 1839 in Abbeydorney, County Kerry, and failed to connect her to husband Daniel Cronin, requires some unfolding of previous research.
The Counihans present a fascinating study of global migration from poverty-stricken County Kerry, Ireland in the 1860s. Baptismal records of their seven known children show movement among four townlands within a radius of thirty miles. On 21 March 1863, daughters Margaret and Ellen Counihan, among 600 passengers, sailed aboard the Beejapore from Cork to Keppel Bay, Queensland, a journey that took 140 days. Their passage, undoubtedly funded by the Catholic Church, was granted with the expectation that they would marry and raise Catholic children. They did indeed marry, and between them produced twenty children! Australia’s records of birth, marriage, and death document these families in extraordinary detail. Of course, Margaret and Ellen never saw their parents and siblings again. But, as revealed below, Ellen kept track of her relatives in Massachusetts. Continue reading Finding Jane Cronan: The Missing Counihan Sister→
My grandfather, Salvador Sanchez, was born 15 February 1921 in Mexico. It was there that he met my grandmother, Rosa Fonseca, and started a family before immigrating to the United States in 1957.
Belo, as we called him, worked for the railroad in Gary, Indiana and stayed there until he retired. Before starting a family, he had traveled to the states for seasonal work. I don’t know what my grandfather did during his trips. Unfortunately, he died in 2002, when I was only nine years old. He didn’t talk to his children about his life before them, and I wasn’t old enough to ask questions when we lost him, so much of my grandfather’s life is a mystery to me.
In a recent post I examined the curious case of young “lodger” George Stepper, who was enumerated in the 1920 census in the home of Joshua and Mary (Craven) Harron in Revere, Massachusetts. As I eventually discovered, he was their nephew, and lived with them for more than twenty years after his young widowed mother died. Further research into the Harron, Stepper, and Craven families revealed that each of these families suffered a rash of premature deaths and other adversities.
Following George Stepper’s descendants exposed another misidentified “boarder” in the 1920 census, as well as many other inaccuracies in official records. Moreover, like the Harrons and Cravens, George’s descendants experienced their own family problems, including out-of-wedlock births, infidelity, divorces, stillborn children, and early deaths.
As related in Part I, George married Miriam Frances Kelley in 1941. Miriam was born in Lynn on 10 November 1912 to Frederick Clifford Kelley(1893-1937) – who appears in various records as Frederick C., F. Clifford, or Fred – and Irene Nora Girard (1894-1968). Their marriage record shows that Fred was 21 and Irene 18 when they wed on 1 August 1912 in Hartford, Connecticut, just two months before Miriam was born; actually, it was Fred’s 19th birthday. Fred’s parents were Frederick A. W. Kelley (1866-1948) and Annie Laura Handren (1859-1954). Annie, born in St. Martins, New Brunswick, Canada, was one of eleven children, three of whom did not survive childhood. Continue reading Lodgers or Relatives? (Part II)→