Monday, April 30, 2018

400 Years of John/James Pierponts

There are certain names that repeat in families, often being passed from father to son and beyond. The Pierponts are no exception. The first names of John/James were passed along for over 400 years.

Generation 1 – James Pierrepont (15??-1664)

James was born in the end of the 1500s in England. He made his fortune in trade between England and Ireland and owned a large estate in Derbyshire. He was also a Puritan, possibly having followed in his father’s footsteps. He remained in England when two of his sons went to America around 1640, but the English Civil War began shortly after their departure and following the war and during the reign of Oliver Cromwell his fortune disappeared. Toward the end of his life he also went to America to join his sons.

Generation 2 – John Pierpont (1617-1682)

John came to America as a young man in his early 20s. He married and made a series of purchases of land and mills. In his later years he was a magistrate so is sometimes referred to as Hon. John Pierpont. He had a large family with five sons bearing “J” names (John, John, James, Jonathan, Joseph), but two died young and two never married, leaving only James to pass on the family “J” name heritage. With his wealth, he paid for James to be educated at Harvard and enter the ministry.

Generation 3 – Rev. James Pierpont (1659-1714)

James became the pastor of the Congregational Church in New Haven, CT. I have written about him extensively before (*1, *2). He had two “J” sons – James and Joseph. Joseph had two “J” sons, James who died young, and Joseph who did not have any sons with “J” names so I will not follow that line any further.

Generation 4 – James Pierpont (1699-1776)

James was educated at Yale (which had been founded by his father), but he chose to go into business and moved back to Boston.

Generation 5 – James Pierpont (1761-1840)

James was born in New Haven, but moved to Litchfield, CT. He owned a mill in Morris, CT.

Generation 6 – Rev. John Pierpont (1785-1866)

John was born in Litchfield (*4, *5). He graduated from Yale in 1804 at the age of 19. He then studied law at the Litchfield Law School in Litchfield (founded by his cousin Tapping Reeve (*3)) and was admitted to the bar in 1809. After a short time in business where his fortunes were greatly impacted by the results of the war of 1812, he went back to school, getting degrees from both Yale and Harvard Divinity School.

John was a poet in addition to a long-time minister. He had six children, of whom three had “J” names, John, James, and Juliet. Each of these lines is discussed below with “a”, “b”, and “c” added to the generation index.

Generation 7a – Rev. John Pierpont Jr. (1819-1879)

Following in his father’s footsteps, John also became a Unitarian minister. In 1852, he was called to minister to a church in Savannah, GA (*6). But the church was struggling financially, and by 1859, with no money to pay his modest salary, he left the ministry to sell insurance. He had no children.

Generation 7b – James Lord Pierpont (1822-1893)

James was never very successful (*7). He married and had children, then left them with his parents and went to California during the gold rush. Unsuccessful there as well, he began writing poetry and playing music and joined his brother, John, in Savannah as the minister of music. When his first wife died, he left their children in the north, remarried, and had more children with his second wife. When his brother John left in 1859, James remained in the south, even writing songs for the confederate. Well known, after his death, for the song Jingle Bells, none of his other compositions are remembered today.

Generation 8b – John Pierpont (1849-1879)

Choosing not to follow in his father’s footsteps, John became an engineer, but he died at the age of only 30.

Generation 7c – Juliet Pierpont (1816-1884)

Although Juliet would not pass on the Pierpont last name when she married Junius Spencer Morgan, they would give their son the Pierpont name as a middle name along with the first name of John, so the John Pierpont name would then be passed along for several more generations.

Generation 8c – John Pierpont (J.P.) Morgan (1837-1913)

John Pierpont Morgan, who preferred to be called Pierpont, was the well-known banker/financier (*8, *9). He was educated based on a plan of his father, including stints in the Hartford Public School, the Cheshire (CT) Academy, the English High School of Boston, Bellerive in Switzerland, and the University of Göttingen in Germany. He had a long and successful career in banking/finance. His name was passed on through the next several generations.

Generation 9c – John Pierpont Morgan Jr. (1867-1943)

John took over the running of his father’s businesses when he passed away, but he was not nearly as successful.

Generation 10c – Junius Spencer Morgan Jr. (1892-1960)

A break in the “Pierpont” naming, but then continued in the following generation.

Generation 11c – John Pierpont Morgan III (1918-2004)

My grandfather was the president of the Pierpont Family Association from 1943-1945 and my mother was the secretary (this was before she was married). She often told me the story of when she wrote the letters of invitation to the annual PFA meeting and that J.P. Morgan actually responded that he was not able to attend. Since this would have been in 1944 or 1945, the response would have come from J P Morgan III.

Generation 12c – John Pierpont Morgan IV (1950-)

There have been continuous James/John Pierponts living for over 400 years!


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Jewish Cousins – part 2

I wrote in a posting earlier this month (*1), that when I loaded my DNA results into the website that they found 7000 possible matches for me and that many of them were in Germany, Israel, and other places. But when I started to do further investigation into all these matches (which were at the 3rd cousin level), I could not verify any of them as actually being anywhere in my family tree.

Upon further checking, it appears that nearly all of these possible matches were to individuals who were 90%+ Ashkenazi Jewish, i.e. they were Jews of eastern European origin. Apparently the MyHeritage software does not do nearly as good a job at determining the level of match here. As I looked at how I might be related to some of them, the software said that we had hundreds of cousins in common – anywhere from 300 to 1000 common cousins depending on the individual. And while these “common cousins” were at the 3rd cousin level for me, they were at the 1st cousin level for the other person.

Another blogger put it this way (*2):

But DNA testing for genealogy purposes poses a special problem for Jews, often called the Ashkenazi Problem: Jews tend to marry Jews, and Jews who do not marry Jews tend to drop out of the Jewish community, and we have been doing that for so long in such a small population that we all tend to have a lot of DNA in common. The technical term for this is "endogamy," or in other words, inbreeding.  As a result, one study found that the average Jewish DNA tester matched 54% of all testers with any Jewish heritage!

Each instance of intermarriage makes it appear that a relationship is closer than it really is – so while I and another individual may actually be something like 10th cousins, the DNA matching process might flag it as our being 3rd cousins. Thus, unless I can find an actual common ancestor with any of these individuals, the only thing I can say for certain is that we both have a common Jewish ancestor somewhere back in history.

I don’t have the time to sift through this list of 7000+ possible matches to find the real matches – and in fact most of these individuals do not have family trees to look through anyway. So, except for the single individual who was matched at the apparent 1st/2nd cousin level (and who in fact was a 3rd cousin), I guess I’ll just chalk this up to a learning experience.


Monday, April 16, 2018

Genealogy Story – Divorce, Death, and Remarriage

When you are looking back through your family tree it’s not always simple. Besides the difficulty of finding the records for all your ancestors, there are many cases where you encounter more than just a mother and father for an individual. These things called step-father and step-mother crop up from time to time.

Sometimes the original couple get divorced (although that’s not as common in the past as it is today) and one or both of the couple get remarried to another person. Sometimes one of the original couple pass away and the remaining spouse remarries. The step-parent may or may not have had children themselves previously, and the newly created couple may or may not have more children. Thus we introduce step-siblings or half-siblings.

While I’ve commented on many such situations during the course of my own genealogical investigations, I’d like to bring them all together in one place and note some of the consequences of such situations. This will not be an exhaustive list, but I’ll mention a couple of incidents on each leg of my family tree and a few on my wife’s family tree.

My Mother’s Pierpont Line

My grandfather’s mother, Annie [Merrill], passed away in childbirth when my grandfather, Harold Pierpont, was born (*1) (*2). Feeling unable to care for such a young child, his father, Wilson, arranged for him to be bought up by some family friends in the next town. Wilson remarried a few years later, but never brought my grandfather back to live with he and his new wife, Anna [Root] [Hall]. The consequences were that my grandfather grew up without much contact with either his father or his older brothers and sisters.

My great*7 grandfather, James Pierpont, had three wives (*3). The first passed away only a few months into their marriage, the second passed away after only two years of marriage, but the third lived a full life. There was one child by his second wife, but the rest of James’ nine children were by his third wife. Thus, there was fairly minimal impact on his children, although it can not have been pleasant for James to lose his first two wives.

My grandmother’s brother (and my great-uncle), Stanley, desired to get divorced from his first wife. Divorce was not easy to obtain in those days, so he drove all the way to Reno, Nevada, where he could get residency in just a few days, then get a no-fault divorce (*4). He even brought his new love with him as she also needed to get divorced from her first husband. Both of them had children from their first marriages. While this second marriage evidently lasted, the shame of getting a divorce in this fashion caused a rift in the family and contact between Stanley and the other members of the family was quite limited for the rest of his life.

My Father’s Russell Line

My father’s parents, Erskine and Vera, got married when they were both quite young and neither seemed to be ready for marriage (*5) (*6). Even though they had two children together, they got separated when my father was a preschooler and divorced just a few years later. Both later remarried – but to individuals who were considerably older (30 years in the case of my grandmother!) so they had someone to care for them. As a result, my father had a very nomadic existence – moving from place to place, living first with two parents, then one, then two again, then one, then with his mother and very much older step-father, then with his grandparents. This impacted him in later life in ways that I can only imagine since he seldom talked about it.

My father’s paternal grandfather, Louis Russell, had six children with his first wife, Anna (*7). Anna passed away when their last child was only four months old. The family was split up for a while with the younger children “given away” to relatives as Louis did not feel up to taking care of them. Louis eventually remarried, to a lady named Helen who had two previous marriages (and two divorces). She brought three more children into this marriage (*8). Since her children were older, they were no longer living with their mother and thus did not live with their new step-father. About the same time Louis moved to another city, so his children and his step-children were living several miles from each other. There were connections, but visits were not frequent. As a result, I never knew that these step-great-aunts and step-cousins even existed until I started doing my genealogical research – although I have now connected with one of my previously unknown second cousins.

My great-great-grandfather, Walter Russell, was married to his first wife, Lois, for several years and they had six children together (*9). Lois passed away at the age of 28. Walter remarried again to Cornelia and they had four more children. But just 12 years after the death of Lois, Walter passed away at the age of 43 and Cornelia just two years later at the age of 39. The older children were living on their own by then, but the younger ones were put into an orphanage. Even so, all the ten siblings managed to remain in touch with each other in the following years. As the offspring of the oldest of the 10, I have even managed to located and visit with some of the offspring of the youngest of the 10.

My Wife’s Mother’s Wright Line

My wife’s mother’s mother, was Cassie [Cincush] [Eaton] Wright. Cassie was first married to Adolph Eaton. They had five children in the seven years they were married, but Adolph passed away at the age of only 28. Five years later, Cassie married again to Frank Wright, who was 17 years her senior, and she and Frank had an additional five children together. However, Adolph’s mother blamed Cassie for the death of her son, removed the children from Cassie’s care, and forbid any contact with Cassie or her eventual second family. The children eventually decided on their own to ignore this edict, and there made contacts with their half-siblings when they got older.

My Wife’s Father’s VanDeCar Line

My wife’s VanDeCar line is so complicated that I’m not going to try an unravel it here. All the details are in an earlier posting (*10). Suffice it to say that (1) her grandfather, Archibald, divorced and both he and his wife remarried and had more children; (2) Archibald’s father, Dennis, had also divorced and remarried, and (3) Archibald’s mother, Alta, also remarried.  Thus, at one time while growing up, my wife had six “grandmothers” just on her father’s side – a grandmother, a step-grandmother, two great-grandmothers, and two step-great-grandmothers. It was not until after we were married that I was able to unravel this complicated mess of relationships, including step-siblings, half-siblings, and former step-siblings (what do you call a step-sibling if the marriage that makes them related to you breaks up again with yet another divorce?)


Divorce or early death and remarriage is not easy on any of the parties involved. Trying to unravel a family tree that includes any of these events is the least of the problems. It’s the impact on lives – of the parties, their relatives, and especially any children involved – that can be especially tragic. You can see how estrangement from other family members happened in a number of the above examples.

I’m happy that both my parents and my wife’s parents remained married for nearly 60 years. And I’m blessed that my wife and I are quickly approaching our own 50th anniversary in just a few years. But even in our blessed position, we can still feel the impact of the broken relationships in our ancestors lives, and we also have a number of siblings and others close to us who have gone through divorce or early death of a partner.


Genealogy Story – Religious Leader Ancestors

I’ve written before about the religious roots of New England (*1). But this is somewhat generic and I’d like to recap all the individuals in my family tree who were actually religious leaders – pastors, etc. I’ve touched on most of them in other blog entries, but I’d like to pull that together here.

Most of my New England ancestral lines can be traced back to the Puritans who settled in the Boston area during the period 1620-1640. While all of these individuals came to America seeking religious freedom, there were many different professions represented. But some of them were, or became, religious leaders as well.

Most of the religious leaders in my family can be found centered around my Pierpont ancestors. There were two brothers who were part of the Puritan group around Boston – John and Robert. While neither of these men were pastors themselves, between them they had 24 children (*2). Many died at a young age, but three of them received their education at Harvard (then a school for religious training for pastors) and entered the ministry – my great*7 grandfather James, his brother Benjamin, and his cousin Jonathan. Benjamin died without children at age 30. Jonathan had one son, also Jonathan, who followed his father into the ministry, but then his son died without children. So only James would have a great influence on others through his continued ministry and family.

James became the pastor of the congregational church in New Haven. And, as I’ve recounted before (*3), his multiple connections to other pastors both through his three marriages and his nine children were significant. In particular, one of his sons also entered the ministry and three of his daughters married pastors. However, his son Samuel died at age 23 in a drowning accident and did not have much influence. Thus, it was his sons-in-law, and my great*7 uncles, Rev. Noyes, Rev. Russell, and Rev. Edwards, through whom this pastor connection passed on. All three of these men had offspring who also became pastors. The most well-known of these men was Jonathan Edwards, who was a leader in the spread of Puritan theology.

But the impact of James Pierpont was not just through his descendants. Through his marriages and children, he also created connections to other religious leaders of the time (*4) (*5).

I have also documented other connections to religious leaders of the time, particularly in the First Church of Roxbury, where the various pastors and deacons are ancestors of mine (*6).

But not all my ancestors were part of the Great Migration into Boston. My wife and I share a common ancestor, Thomas Rogers, who came to Plymouth, MA, as part of the small group of Pilgrims who settled there. While Thomas was not one of the religious leaders of the Plymouth Colony, his grandfather was John “The Martyr” Rogers, who would have been well known to these settlers. John was not only a pastor, but was the individual who completed and published the Tyndale Bible in the UK – and for which he paid with his life (*7).

The only other large group of my ancestors not included in the above were my Jewish ancestors through my paternal grandmother (*8). But while these individuals also came to America due to religious persecution, and while the family name, Levy, indicates that they were descendants of the priestly line of Levi, I have not found any Rabbis among them.

Religion has always been important to me, and I am happy to count so many individuals in my family tree for whom it was their profession.


Sunday, April 8, 2018

Who Do You Think You Are?

This TV show has been around for several years. Like many of these types of reality/documentary shows, it started in the UK where it has now run for 14 seasons, then spread to both the US and Australia where is has run for 8 seasons in each of these countries. While many things are similar in each version, there are also unique aspects to each. Since I have some major interest in genealogy, I have watched nearly all the episodes from each version (thanks to YouTube). I’d like to point out some of these similarities and differences as well as what I have learned.


The overall format of each of the versions is identical – a known public figure (movie star, TV personality, singer, etc.) gets to explore their ancestry. They may not know much about their grandparents/great-grandparents, perhaps there is a “family story” that they’ve been told and they want to know if it’s true or not, perhaps they want to see where their passion (acting/singing/cooking/etc.) has come from. They then go on a “journey” of one-to-two weeks, traveling to different places where they “discover” the answers and learn about their ancestors – in the process learning much about themselves as well.

Likewise, the overall “formula” for each show is pretty similar. Like most “reality” shows, once you’ve seen a few of them, it’s obvious that much of the “discover” is pretty scripted. No matter where they go, the “expert” that they meet with will have exactly what they need for the next step of the “journey”. If the documents they need are in a different language, then a translated copy is already available. Everyone is always at home; there is a parking spot right at the front door (in fact the parking lot is usually empty); no one they encounter seems startled by the presence of the TV cameras; if they are in a library or some such public place, it’s nearly empty; if they ask the librarian a question or want a particular document, then just the right volume is quickly located, etc., etc.

All the research has been done long before their “journey” starts – in fact what appear to be their initial questions are exactly the ones that they are able to get answers to. There are no “accidents” – everything goes exactly as planned and they are back home with their answers by the end of the rather short “journey” and can pass information on to their families.

As anyone who has done real genealogical investigation knows, the above scenario is far from the truth. Finding the information you are looking for is a tedious process. There are lots of dead ends or mis-starts before one can pull everything together. “Reality TV” is actually far from reality. But it makes for good entertainment and may encourage people to investigate their own ancestry, so that’s okay.


Although each of the versions follow the same general format, there are some distinct differences between the types of research that the participants get involved in – and ones that are most affected by the history of each country.

Australia (AU)

Ignoring the native inhabitants (aboriginals), Australian history does not begin until the arrival of a few ships from England in the late 1700s. For the next 80 years, the country was used as a penal colony, with “transportation” being the punishment for many crimes instead of a death sentence. Over 160,000 individuals were sent to Australia during that time period. Thus, the ancestral research done for each of the people on the AU version is mostly confined to the last 200 years, i.e. the person’s grandparents/great-grandparents. Travel is also pretty much only to places in Australia. If an ancestor came from another place, say Scotland, then there is no investigation beyond the ancestor coming to Australia except to find out what type of offense they committed that required “transportation”.

Thus, there are really only a few different reasons that end up being the reason for the star’s ancestors having come to the country – transportation, ships of women who were gathered to add females to the country, those who came seeking gold in the 1850s, or those who were “recruited” by misleading advertisements to leave the UK to get a new start in a new land and be able to become property owners. There are, of course, a few exceptions to this general rule, including a few individuals who had aboriginal origins, and a few individuals who came from other locations in SE Asia. But each show tends to investigate just two specific ancestors (usually one on the person’s father’s side and one on their mother’s side), and these individuals are from just a few generations ago.

United States (US)

The history of the US, again excluding indigenous people, goes back nearly twice as far as Australia – with English settlers coming in the early 1600s. Thus, the genealogical investigation in the US version of the show tends to be much deeper. Also, there is often a bias toward finding individuals who played a part in significant events in US history – such as the Revolutionary War or the Civil war. Finally, investigation often goes to other countries, looking at things like Polish ancestors during periods of Jewish oppression such as, but not limited to, WWII.

For those with African-American roots, their investigation is often focused on finding ancestors who were slaves, with more than one show also discovering ancestors who might have been slave owners as well. Finally, there is a bias toward finding connections to known figures in US history, such as ancestors who accompanied Daniel Boone in KY, or owning a plantation where George Washington spent the night.

The US version is only 42 minutes (the other two versions are about 58 minutes) because of the number of commercials in US television. But in order to keep US viewers interested, there is a short trailer right before each commercial break that gives you an emotional hint of what’s coming next and a short rehash after each commercial break that reminds you where the actor was and what he/she was doing immediately before the break (in case the viewer forgot). Removing those, the US version is less than 40 minutes, or a full 20 minutes shorter than the UK/AU versions.

For a detailed example, see my learnings below.

United Kingdom (UK)

Because the UK has been around for as long as it has, there is not as much reliance on this limitation as in the AU or US versions. However, the British Empire not only has a long history, but it extended to many other parts of the world. At various times it controlled large swaths of North America (US and Canada), many of the islands in the Caribbean, portions of Africa stretching from the Mediterranean to South Africa, all of South Asia (India, Pakistan, etc.), as well as portions of China. Even within the confines of the British Isles, there have been various conflicts between England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. This gives the UK version a lot of different events in their history to incorporate in the ancestry of the various participants. Also, the UK involvement in various wars such as WWI, WWII, etc. can be a part of this rich tapestry.

My ancestors, although many of them are of English heritage, have been in America since the 1630s. Thus, I have not had any reason to investigate many of the above events in English history. So it’s been interesting to learn about the impact of many of these things through this program. It also means that the UK version has a certain “richness” that neither the US nor the AU version has.  

What I’ve Learned

US Example

One show I watched recently was for Valerie Bertinelli, an actress. Her questions were (1) about her paternal grandmother who came from Italy, (2) whether the English ancestors on her mother’s side had a family crest, and (3) if she was related to anyone important. After interviewing her parents, she went to the following locations:

1.     Online at where she found that her Italian grandparents had been in Lackawanna County, PA.
2.     To Scranton, PA, where her Italian grandparents came from. The “expert” here had a few newspaper clippings (via and where she learned that her ancestors were from Torino, Italy
3.     To Torino, Italy, where she learned a little more about her Italian ancestors and got to meet a distant previously unknown cousin.
4.     To London where the first expert showed her ancestral line on her mother’s side back to an individual who came to America in the late 1600s (about 10 generations ago).
5.     To another location in London where she met a Quaker expert who showed her a few more generations including a connection to William Penn, and then a few more generations back to a “gentleman” in the upper class.
6.     To another location in London where she found her family crest and then a connection back to King Edward II.

Note that in the process all her initial questions were directly answered. But the amount of “coincidence” was altogether too obvious:

1. is a sponsor of the show.
2. is a subsidiary of This research could have been done at Valerie’s home in LA, she didn’t need to go to Scranton at all. Also, the “expert” just happened to know that when searching the ship’s manifest for her grandmother that she would be traveling under her maiden name, not the name of her first husband who had died recently.
3.     This was actually one of the better locations for Valerie to visit.
4.     The expert in London was actually from the US and was presenting results that were entirely based on US census records. Again, this could have been done back in LA before she left.
5.     This expert again was from the US and had merely traveled here to present his results in an “interesting” location.
6.     While finding a connection to a historical, royal figure is interesting, as a Fox News article from 2006 notes, "experts say the odds are virtually 100 percent that every person on Earth is descended from one royal personage or another” (

While viewers of the show were probably interested, I’ve gotten to know all these “tricks” and have less interest in the US version that the UK/AU versions.

UK Learnings

Like most people in the US in my generation, I not only had a course in US history in high school, but it was an essential part of our curriculum in elementary school. However, there was not much emphasis on the history of the United Kingdom, i.e. the British Empire. Thus, while enjoying the genealogical research in this show, I also took the opportunity to think about all the history that was being recounted.

In particular, I have a fairly negative impression of how the British Empire treated other around the world. There was a definite “caste” system where those from the UK took all the top positions and relegated anyone else to a subservient position. This was true in such different environments such as (1) the treatment of slaves in places like Trinidad and Jamaica, (2) ousting all the Irish farmers off of the land in Ireland so that only the Brits, often as absentee landlords, were allowed to own land and the natives either were relegated to the role of tenant farmer (with heavy duties paid to the land owners), or were forced into the coastal cities where they had to become fisherman, or (3) ruling over the natives in India. It is no wonder that the rest of the world had such a negative view of colonialism (and not just the English, but the French, Dutch, and others as well. While the US has definitely not been a perfect society – with our treatment of Native Americans or African Slaves being quite shameful – we have not had the same history of conquering other countries around the world and economically exploiting the natives of those countries.

In many ways, the negative attitudes that many have toward the Germans and how they conquered other European countries (Poland, etc.) and tried to eliminate anyone of non-Aryan heritage, the British were not a whole lot better in their attitudes toward Jews (initially killing them or forcing them to leave for a period of several hundred years) or toward the Irish as mentioned above.

There are always new things for us to learn, and this has been an eye-opening experience for me.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Blind Couple

Yesterday on a TV show there was some talk about a couple who were both blind and how some of their children were as well. That brought back some memories I had from over 50 years ago about a couple that my parents knew who were also both blind. It also made me wonder how my parents knew them. Since my parents are no longer living, I decided to use my genealogical research skills to see if I could uncover the answer.

Initially I only recalled the name of the man in the couple, Ed Costello, so I started with him. I looked for him living in Waterbury, CT, in the 1940 census – the latest one that is available. I also found him in a couple of photos with his wife, Ann, and immediately remembered her as well.

Ed had partial sight, but as I recall saw things as fuzzy shadows. Ann was totally blind. We used to visit them occasionally on a Sunday afternoon. They lived in the Washington St neighborhood. For many years whenever I got off of I-84, I always thought as we came to the light at the end of the exit ramp that if I turned left instead of right that I would get to their house. At some point they moved to NY (I seem to recall Brooklyn, but I could be mistaken) and we visited them their only once – in an apartment building.

So I looked at the details in what I could find.

Edward was born in November of 1923, which made him only 7 months older than my mother. But his address in 1940, 155 Southmayd Ave, gave me the best lead on how my parents might have known him. He lived just one block from the Mill Plain Church (242 Southmayd Ave) which was the church that my mother’s family had attended and where my parents met when my father went to live with his grandparents in 1937 – just two blocks the other side of the church from Edward. But that was not the only connection. When Edward filled out his draft registration card in early 1942 at age 18, he listed as his employer Scovill Mfg, Eyelet Dept – the same department where my father was also working. Thus there was both a geographic proximity as well as he and my father would have walked to work on the same road and worked in the same department.

Edward and Ann both died in Cheshire, CT, in 1997 and 1988 respectively. I have not been able to find any references to them between 1940 and their death records several decades later. There are also no records of them having any children.

Those of us who are sighted have a difficult time contemplating what it must be like to go through life and not being able to see. These individuals usually have highly developed senses of hearing, touch, etc. And I’ve been amazed at this when I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside of these folks. Ed and Ann were the first ones that I encountered while growing up. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to know them.

Jewish Cousins, German Cousins, and more Cousins

Up until recently I’ve done all my genealogical research as well as my DNA analysis using However, I recently heard that one could take the raw DNA data from Ancestry and upload it to some of the other genealogy sites and get some of the benefits of that other site – and most importantly to me, without paying for another DNA analysis or a membership fee in that other site. I thought, why not? After checking out the various advantages of several of these other sites, I chose to do so with The process was fairly easy, and it only took a day or so to get the results back.

I first looked at their DNA analysis. They have far fewer regions in their analysis, so I was not as pleased with their results here. So, I’ll not spend any further time on that part. But what was more interesting to me was how they match you to others in their database and how many results they can find.

In ancestry, I have perhaps 9000 possible matches. Most of these are quite distant cousins, and I have not bothered to check them out. I started looking at the beginning of the list and have tried to make contact with those at the 4th cousin or less, especially those who have family trees where ancestry will show you exactly how you are connected. Most of the people in their database are from the US, but that’s where most of my relatives are anyway.

MyHeritage has a slightly different ranking scheme where the ranking is first determined by the number of DNA segments where you match another person and within that the total length of the matching segments. A person who shares three shorter segments is ranked ahead of someone who shares two longer segments. I’m still getting used to their ranking and working within those constraints (some of which I have because I am not a member). Also, since I have not replicated my tree there, I can’t get any tree matching so instead I can only look at the other person’s tree, if they have one, which many do not, and find matching names somewhat manually.

But what was most interesting to me was that they identified over 7000 possible cousins (7124 to be exact). There are two things within this that were especially noteworthy.

First, while the 2nd-4th person in their list were cousins that I already knew, the first one was someone whom I had not heard of before. This person turned out to be the first match that I’ve gotten where our common ancestor is part of my Jewish heritage (*1). I actually did have her father in my extended family tree. I quickly got in touch with her, found that she lives only a few miles from my sister in CA, and have put the two of them in touch with each other to share genealogy stories.

One of the great things about DNA matching is that this is scientific confirmation that the family tree that you have built using paper records is correct – that there are no cases of getting two individuals with the same name confused, or children born of affairs, etc. While getting your ethnicity results (see *2 for the results of my wife) does this to a certain extent, getting names associated with these matches is even better. By having this particular match, I have confirmed my entire Jewish family line all the way back to their immigration into the US in 1851.

Secondly, I was surprised to find a number of matches to people who are not in the US – so far I’ve found individuals in Germany (several), Israel (several), Russia, England, Netherlands, and Denmark. I have not yet contacted any of these individuals, and for those who have family trees, I have not found how we are possibly connected. But this will be the focus of some of my research over the coming weeks. Are these new cousins ones who have gone from the US to other countries so that our common ancestors are in the US, or are they more distant cousins where our connection is from far back in my family tree? It will be interesting to find out.


Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter Memories

Today is Easter Sunday, 2018. I’m up early getting ready for our church’s Sunrise Service and am having memories of some Easter Sundays in the past. Two in particular come to mind.

The first is that while growing up we always made a big deal of dressing up for the Sunday. Our parents made sure that we had nice outfits to the day. The below picture is from Easter Sunday in 1961 of myself and my siblings. The boys in suits (the youngest in short pants) and the girls in new hats, fuzzy coats and white gloves. Did your family dress like this?

My second memory is back when my wife’s “second family”, Don and Katy Kilwin owned Kilwin’s Candies and Gifts in Petoskey, MI. I suppose that this memory has come back this year because Katy passed away last year and this is our first Easter without her.

On this particular year they decided to make us custom chocolate Easter bunnies. You’ve all seen them in the stores and perhaps had to deal with the decision – do I eat the ears first or the tail? These particular ones were about 1’ tall. But what made them special is Don and Katy filled them instead of leaving them empty like the ones you find in the stores. Mine was filled with cashews and Donna’s was filled with mints! How yummy is that!

Regardless of what you own memories of Easter are, I hope that you take some time today to consider the real reason why we celebrate this date – the empty tomb. Jesus died and was resurrected for all of us – regardless of our skin color, ancestry, or political leanings. All he asked is that we accept this gift.