Monday, October 24, 2016

More Thoughts on Ancestry's We're Related App

Since downloading Ancestry's We're Related App, and receiving an initial list of a handful of famous kin, almost once a day I get notified of one new relative.

I wonder how long they can keep this up.

Am I being too cynical?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, if I am descended from Rev. John Smith of Barnstable, I am certainly cousins with President Obama. (With my cited sources being two highly respected genealogists.) We're Related hasn't mentioned Obama yet to me. I find it very difficult to believe that he isn't in their initial list of celebrity genealogies. On day one they whetted my taste with five celebrity kin. I have no clue how the coding in the software works, but it seems to me if they can connect me with Celebrity X through Ancestor Y, any other Celebrity with Ancestor Y could be instantly revealed to me.

But that's not happening.
One celebrity a day.
I'm wondering how long they can keep this up.

Don't get me wrong. I completely understand.

If I got a list of 100 celebrities on Day 1, and no new celebrities for several months, I'd lose interest in the app. It makes perfect sense. From a marketing perspective.

I am not as negative against the app as some. While the accuracy of the relationships is as reliable as the accuracy of information in online family trees in general - not so much without sources - it does provide the family historian potential end-of-line research hints. Yes, many will input the information into their family trees without additional research. This already happens with the online family trees that Ancestry has mined for this app. But for the careful genealogist, this isn't an issue, and for the careless genealogist, they're going to be careless anyway.

I also think the truly beneficial use of this app is the 'Nearby' function allowing you to see who is related to you within 500 feet. This could be used at genealogical society meetings and conferences to quickly find cousins who are researching the same ancestors.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Weekly Genealogy Picks

Highlights from news stories and blog posts I have read in the past week that deal with my overlapping interests in Genealogy, History, Heritage, and Technology.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Descendants of Rev John Smith of Barnstable

Yesterday I mentioned that Ancestry's new app We're Related said Rev. John Smith of Barnstable was my ancestor, along with being the ancestor of Justin Bieber and Britney Spears.

A little research today found another potential cousin.  (Three if we go back another generation to Rev John Smith's inlaws, Samuel and Sarah Soole Hinckley.)
The source is Ancestors of American Presidents, Gary Boyd Roberts, 2009 edition. Gary Boyd Roberts is a senior research scholar for the New England Historic Genealogical Society, and is highly trusted in the field. So I feel comfortable saying, if I can prove my descent from John Smith, I'm cousin to President Obama. (As well as to the individuals in the left-hand column.)

[If I do the math correctly: President Obama's 8th great-grandparents are my 7th great-grandparents, so we're 8th cousins once removed, and my sons would be 9th cousins. George HW's 9th great-grandparents are my 9th great-grandparents, so we would be 10th cousins.]

William Addams Reitwiesner was also a highly respected researcher. He passed away in 2010, but also conducted some research on Obama. He stated that Samuel Smith and Elizabeth Pierce had other descendants:

Samuel Smith m. Elizabeth Peirce
.Susannah Smith m. James Pitney
 .Benjamin Pitney m. Abigail Byram
 |.Sarah Pitney m. Mahlon Pitney (below)
 | .Mahlon Pitney m. Lucetta Banks Cooper
 |  .Henry Cooper Pitney m. Sarah Louisa Halstead
 |   .MAHLON PITNEY (1858-1924), US Supreme Court Justice, m. Florence Theodora Shelton
 |    .Beatrice Louise Pitney m. Horace Rand Lamb
 |     .Barbara Pitney Lamb m. Franklin D'Olier Reeve
 |      .CHRISTOPHER REEVE (1952-2004), actor
 .Elizabeth Pitney m. Caleb Swayze
 |.Daniel Swayze m. Bethia Horton
 | .Mehitable Swayze m. John Leonard Sliker
 |  .John Leonard Sliker m. Nancy Johnson
 |   .Renzila Sliker m. Alfred Allen Seguine
 |    .Margaret Seguine m. Benjamin Kinsey
 |     .Alfred Seguine Kinsey m. Sarah Ann Charles
 |      .ALFRED CHARLES KINSEY (1894-1956), entomologist

I already considered Kinsey a cousin through my Stoughton descent, but Reeve is new information.

All the links in my ascent from Mary [Pitney] Swayze to Rev. John Smith of Barnstable are confirmed by Roberts and Reitwiesner except the initial link - that Mary Pitney was the daughter of Susannah and James Pitney.

Susannah and James' daughter Elizabeth married Caleb Swayze, a brother of Israel Swayze, Mary's husband. I'd say the odds are good, but I don't have a source to cite yet besides a few online sites I've found which all cite in turn the generic 'Online Family Trees.'

But this is a link I definitely want to be true.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Ancestry says I'm Related. Am I?

Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings and DearMyrtle have both discussed's new mobile app - We're Related.

The website states:
Find the fame in the fam. 
Are you related to someone famous or one of your closest friends? We’re Related can show you the surprising, significant, or boast-worthy connections in your tree. Your coworker could be your cousin. Or your cousin could be an icon.
As Randy suggested, it certainly sounds at first like they've resurrected their old One World Tree, which I wrote much about in past years. One World Tree did claim that Chaucer was my 18th Great Grandfather, but unfortunately I was able to disprove the relationship.

Of course I downloaded the app to see who they found.

1) You don't sign in with your Ancestry account. You don't need one. You sign in with your Facebook account. If you don't have an Ancestry account, by checking who you've indicated on Facebook relationships as parents, siblings, cousins, etc, it probably tries to find you in their public trees. I'm unsure how successful they are, because naturally, they quickly figured out my Ancestry account userid, and I checked that they were correct.

2) I then selected one of my trees to use to find famous relatives, and once I did that, it stated that it was searching all of their Public Trees. I think their old One World Tree was at least partially based on their Public Tree database, but I also think there were other trees involved.

Who did they find?

First: They didn't find Chaucer. Nor did they find any descendants of my ancestor, Thomas Stoughton. Stoughton is in my public tree, so I am somewhat surprised that none of my famous Stoughton cousins are yet in their database. (e.g. FDR, Grant, Romney, Palin, Kerry) Maybe these relatives will turn up later.

Lady Gaga is my 10th Cousin? Cool! It says our shared ancestor is a Thomas Mapes, born in 1628. Apparently, his daughter, Mary Mapes, my ancestor, was born in 1638. Hmm. This is reminiscent of One World Tree. Maybe both of these years of birth are estimates, and Thomas really is the father of Mary. Or, maybe not. How common is/was the Mapes surname? Perhaps, with a little bit of research, I might discover she isn't my 10th cousin, but 11th, or 12th.

Britney Spears and Justin Bieber?! This doesn't really excite me, but perhaps it will excite some in my family. It also appears Britney and Justin are cousins.

It's important to note that the John Smith in question is not the Mayflower passenger. The Mayflower landed in 1620, and this John Smith was born in 1614. I believe it's Rev. John Smith of Barnstable

Am I really a descendant?

I don't have parents for Mary Pitney in my database.

Is Susannah, Samuel and John Smith accurate? Perhaps. Definitely worth researching. Smith is a much more common surname than Mapes.

For Matt Damon to be confirmed as my 9th cousin 1x removed, I'd need to confirm Abigail Clark's father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.

Finally, the only individual they found for whom the shared ancestor is currently in my databsase:

Not Bad. And our shared ancestor is a Captain (though likely not a pirate.) Of course, I don't know if Depp's ancestry is correct.

Perhaps the best part of the app (like One World Tree) is that it provides suggestions for research.

Another feature of the app, which does sound intriguing, is you can get together with friends who have the app, press a button, and see if anyone within 500 feet is related to you.

That could be great fun at genealogy conferences, or at genealogical society meetings.

Update 10/20: Just realized that if I can confirm that Mary Pitney is the daughter of Susanna Smith, according to William Addams Reitwiesner (whose research I trust), I am descended from John Smith of Barnstable, and furthermore, I'm cousins with President Obama.

Am I Prescient?

Back in 2007 I asked the question

What to expect when your favorite genealogical conference merges with a local SF convention.

I missed an opportunity then to look extremely prescient, but I didn't miss it in 2012, when I updated the list.
3) Media Guest of Honor: LeVar Burton - (Geordie LaForge on ST:TNG; Kunta Kinte on Alex Haley's Roots)
LeVar Burton will be Keynote Speaker at RootsTech 2017

Unfortunately, I don't think I will be able to make it.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Fossils and Genealogy

Today's webcomic from XKCD

Just like fossil evidence might give scientists of the future an incomplete picture of spiders, genealogists have to remember to ask ourselves what's missing, when looking at documents we find in archives. There could be important information about our ancestors (such as spider webs) that hasn't been preserved.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Weekly Genealogy Picks and Calendar

Highlights from news stories and blog posts I have read in the past week that deal with my overlapping interests in Genealogy, History, Heritage, and Technology.
Upcoming holidays - religious and secular, national and international - for the next two weeks
  • October 16
    • Sukkot Oct 16-23 (Jewish) [Begins at sunset]
    • World Food Day (UN)
  • October 17
    • International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (UN)
    • Boss's Day (US/Canada)
  • October 18
    • St. Luke, Apostle and Evangelist (Christian)
    • Persons Day (Canada)
  • October 20
    • Birth of the Bรกb (Baha'i)
    • Installation of Scriptures as Guru Granth (Sikh)
    • World Statistics Day (UN)
  • October 21
    • Trafalgar Day (UK)
  • October 23
    • Shemini Atzeret (Jewish) [Begins at Sunset]
    • Mole Day (Geek) [Celebrated at 6:02]
  • October 24
    • Simchat Torah (Jewish) [Begins at Sunset]
    • United Nations Day (UN)
    • World Development Information Day (UN)
  • October 27
    • World Day for Audiovisual Heritage (UN)
  • October 30
    • Diwali - Deepavali (Hindu/Sikh/Jain)
  • October 31
    • All Hallows Eve/Halloween (Christian)
    • Reformation Day (Protestant Christian)
    • New Year (Jain)
    • World Cities Day (UN)

Monday, October 10, 2016

Amanuensis Monday: Samuel and Rose Newmark's 59th Wedding Anniversary

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, newspaper articles, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them.

Below I transcribe a newspaper article from the St. Louis Star and Times mentioning my great great grandparents, Samuel and Rose Newmark.

St. Louis Star and Times 
Dec 13, 1939, page 27

'Round the Town with Regan

...When Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Newmark, of 1364 Hodiamont avenue, staged a fifty-ninth anniversary party at their home last Sunday they were one week ahead of themselves, advises their son, "Buddy," who declares the wedding celebration was pushed ahead that it might include out-of-town relatives who were in the city last week-end. The actual date falls on next Sunday, he states, when a second edition of anniversary merriment will be presented...


1. This article was found in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch archives.  I have no official record of marriage from Poland of my second great grandparents. This is the only indication I have seen of the date. This article places it on December 17, 1880.

2. "Buddy" (Israel David), Sam and Rose's youngest child, would have been 36 in 1939.

3. The reason behind observing a 59th wedding anniversary with a huge family gathering may have been an expectation that there wouldn't be a 60th.

It appears a month earlier, in November, Samuel had begun selling off his tailoring equipment.

November 12, 1939.
St. Louis Post Dispatch

In June the reason is specifically stated.

June 2, 1940.
St. Louis Post Dispatch

On July 20, 1940, Samuel died from cancer of the liver and stomach. Age 78.

July 28, 1940.
St. Louis Post Dispatch