Wednesday, July 27, 2016

AncestryDNA Shared Ancestor Hints

AncestryDNA provides what they call "Shared Ancestor Hints." That is, if both you and a DNA match have linked to an Ancestry Family Tree, and there is a shared ancestor on those trees, they will provide you with the information. So instead of guessing how closely you are related by the amount of shared DNA, you know exactly how close. (Assuming both sets of research is accurate.)

A recent email exchange with one of these matches sparked my curiosity enough to categorize these matches by shared ancestor. I have 22 Shared Ancestor Hints. Breaking the hints down into the generational categories Ancestry provides as estimates:

2nd Cousin – 3rd Cousin
Shared ancestor
1. Melvin Vanevery (2nd cousin)

4th Cousin – 6th Cousin
Shared ancestor
1. Andrew Vanevery (4th Cousin)
2. William Denyer (4th Cousin)
3. Samuel Vanevery (3rd Cousin)
4. Israel Swayze (Sr) (6th cousin)

Distant Cousin (5th to 8th Cousin)
Shared ancestor
1. George W Hartley (4th cousin)
2. Samuel Swayze (7th cousin)
3. Samuel Vanevery (3rd cousin)
4. Israel Swayze (Jr) (5th cousin)
5. Israel Swayze (jr) (5th cousin)
6. Barbara Oberholzer (7th cousin)
7. Samuel Swayze (7th cousin)
8. Samuel Swayze (7th cousin)
9. Israel Swayze (Sr) (6th Cousin)
10. Samuel Swayze (7th cousin)
11. Adam Johann Schauers (7th cousin)
12. Adam Johann Schauers (7th cousin)
13. Joseph Swayze (8th cousin)
14. Adam Johann Schauers (7th cousin)
15. Israel Swayze (Jr) (5th Cousin)
16. Michael Schauers (6th cousin)
17. Barnabas Horton (8th cousin)

Totals by Surname
• Denyer: 1
• Hartley: 1
• Horton: 1
• Oberholtzer: 1
• Schauers: 4
• Vanevery: 4
• Swayze: 10

What traits do all these ancestors share:

1) They are all relatives through my maternal grandmother. I have many matches that I know are through my paternal grandparents’ and maternal grandfather’s lines. However, these matches haven’t posted their family trees back far enough for the Shared Ancestor Hints. Mostly because it is difficult to trace ancestry in Eastern Europe. Especially if your ancestors are Jewish.

2) My Swayze, Vanevery, and Schauers/Showers ancestors during the Revolutionary War were all Loyalists. It is possible that having ancestors in North America at the time of the revolution increases the likelihood that you will have traced your family tree back that far in order to identify Patriot or Loyalist lineage. (Or it's just a matter of having ancestors that far back in North America, where the research is relatively easy compared to other countries.)

Barbara Oberholtzer was part of a Mennonite family, who were mostly Conscientious Objectors. There were Patriot Hortons, but by the time of the Revolution they weren’t my ancestors.

3) I have a lot of Swayze matches. Does the celebrity nature of the Swayze name also have an influence on the likelihood of research?

Three out of the 21 matches (14%) are actually more closely related than Ancestry's estimate based on shared DNA. An 86% correct rate seems to me to be pretty good.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Amanuensis Monday: London School Records for Nelly and Bella Newmark - 1898

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 some school records from the Westminster Jews Free School (obtained from referencing a Nelly and Bella Newmark. Are they the sisters of my great grandfather, Barney? Quite Possibly. If it is them, it provides the earliest record of their dates of birth - and neither date provided matches later records.

Register of Admission

Admission Number: 1325
Date of Admission or ReAdmission: 93.10
Name of Child: Newmark Nelly
Birth Date (Exact Date) 25.12.86
Name and Address of Parent or Guardian: 36 Broad St. Golden Sq.
Whether Exemption from Religious Instruction is Claimed: No
Last School (if any) attended: Not Any
In What Class at Admission: 5
Date of Leaving 8.7.98
Remarks: Required at Home

Admission Number: 1326
Date of Admission or ReAdmission: 93.10
Name of Child: Bella
Birth Date (Exact Date): 14.3.89
Name and Address of Parent or Guardian: 36 Broad St. Golden Sq.
Whether Exemption from Religious Instruction is Claimed: No
Last School (if any) attended: Not Any
In What Class at Admission: 5
Date of Leaving: 8.7.98
Remarks: Work


1. Dates of Birth: Since the Polish birth records haven't yet been found, this would be the earliest document with their dates of birth if we accept this as them. Later records indicate Bella was born on March 14, 1890. This document states March 4, 1889. It's not uncommon for a year to be subtracted from someone's age. The similarity in month and date reinforces the likeliness of this being a match.

Later documents indicate a date of birth for Nelly of March 1889, this document states December 25, 1886. This is a significant difference. However, the 1901 UK census indicates a 2-year difference between sisters and ages that correspond with the document above. Alone, the 1901 census wasn't enough to suggest the family records were wrong. Mistakes by census takers are common. But this document seems to confirm the 1901 census with respect to age differences, and the census seems to confirm this document is for the same Nelly and Bella.

If Nelly was born in December of 1886, and my great grandfather was born in March of 1886, there was nine months difference between them.

2) The sisters in this document, while born a little over two years apart, were both enrolled in the school in October of 1893 and were both in the same class at admission. (Class doesn't necessarily refer to grade level.) With the last sibling of my great-grandfather born in Poland thought to have been born in 1892 and the first sibling born in London known to have been born in 1894, 1893 has long been the estimate for immigration. (Passenger manifests from Europe to the United Kingdom are not available.)

3) Below is a current map of the Soho area with the addresses marked where I now know my second great grandparents and their family lived between 1893 and 1908. They lived at 55 New Compton in 1894 and 1895, and at 56 Wells Street in 1901 and 1904. It's not clear from the above document whether they lived on Broad Street in 1893 when Nelly and Bella were enrolled, or 1898 when they left. Hanway Place is where the Westminster Jews Free School was located. Broad Street changed its name to Broadwick. #36 would have been on the corner of Poland Street. #28 Broad Street was the birthplace of poet, William Blake.

4) The book of records this page comes from lists only the girls admitted 1868-1896, in admission order. The order suggests the address would apply to admission date. If that is the case, the Newmark family didn't remain long on Broad Street, since they were at 55 New Compton Street by November of 1894 when Kate was born.

There doesn't appear to be a companion book online yet for boys. Though Ancestry notes that the records come from the London Metropolitan Archives, which could have additional records.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Memorial Day 2016

Below is my annual post for Memorial Day Weekend.

A post on what Memorial Day is for, besides barbecues.

The above image comes from a past version of the Memorial Day page at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, explaining that Memorial Day is a day for remembering those who died in the service of their country.  [Read the full text of the poem.]
Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates U.S. men and women who died while in the military service. First enacted to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War (it is celebrated near the day of reunification after the civil war), it was expanded after World War I to include American casualties of any war or military action. [source]
[More on the history of Memorial Day]

Unnamed Remains the Bravest Soldier - by Walt Whitman (From 'Specimen Days')

OF scenes like these, I say, who writes—whoe’er can write the story? Of many a score—aye, thousands, north and south, of unwrit heroes, unknown heroisms, incredible, impromptu, first-class desperations—who tells? No history ever—no poem sings, no music sounds, those bravest men of all—those deeds. No formal general’s report, nor book in the library, nor column in the paper, embalms the bravest, north or south, east or west. Unnamed, unknown, remain, and still remain, the bravest soldiers. Our manliest—our boys—our hardy darlings; no picture gives them. Likely, the typic one of them (standing, no doubt, for hundreds, thousands,) crawls aside to some bush-clump, or ferny tuft, on receiving his death-shot—there sheltering a little while, soaking roots, grass and soil, with red blood—the battle advances, retreats, flits from the scene, sweeps by—and there, haply with pain and suffering (yet less, far less, than is supposed,) the last lethargy winds like a serpent round him—the eyes glaze in death—none recks—perhaps the burial-squads, in truce, a week afterwards, search not the secluded spot—and there, at last, the Bravest Soldier crumbles in mother earth, unburied and unknown.

The cartoon above is by John T. McCutcheon - published circa 1900

I have many ancestors and kin who served in their nation's armed forces during war-time. I honor them on Veterans Day.
However, the closest relative who was killed in action was my grandfather's brother, my great-uncle, Mandell Newmark.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Some Mistakes I've Made

Little Bytes of Life
Elizabeth O'Neal over at Little Bytes of Life is trying to breathe some life into the old Carnival of Genealogy, rebranding it a Genealogy Blog Party. For May she asks:
For this month's Genealogy Blog Party, tell us about a mistake you've made in your genealogy research, how you discovered it, and ultimately, how you solved it.
The point, of course, is for others to learn from the mistakes you made, so they don't have to learn it the hard way.

Instead of just one, I'll admit to having made a handful of mistakes.

1) The first one is illustrated by two photographs of the same gravestone. Front and Back.

Do you notice anything unusual?

Yes! They were taken in different seasons. (Leaves had fallen in the photograph on the right.)
Just like a photograph, a tombstone has a backside. Make sure you look.

2) Here's another mistake I made in a cemetery. You may be searching for one tombstone in particular, but don't be in such a hurry that you don't look around at neighboring stones.

[My own camera alerted me to my mistake, but only after I got home. Cissie Newmark Gold was a daughter of Samuel and Rose.]

3) Don't upload private information to a public database

That pretty much goes without saying, but I did so without realizing it, and correcting the mistake wasn't simple. Not only did I have to remove the data from the entry, I had to remove the cached pages on multiple search engines. Each search engine has different procedures for removing a page.

4) Keep an open mind to the possibility that you have transcribed a document incorrectly

I originally read the manifest clipping above to indicate the passengers (a great grandfather, and a great great grandfather) landed in Quebec in May of 1904 on the Tunisian, and crossed the Canadian border into the US on July 15, 1907. I knew that 4s and 7s often look similar, but the document is in a single individual's handwriting. The year in column 31 is definitely a different number than the year in column 33. Well, it looks that way. But, no. I found the manifest for the Tunisian from May of 1907. My ancestors were only in Quebec for two months.

I've made other mistakes, but that's enough for now.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Amanuensis Monday: Melvin Newmark on Being a Judge

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 quote from my grandfather, Melvin Newmark, which appeared in a much longer news article that interviewed several local municipal judges. (The image is from family records, and not the newspaper.)

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb 22, 1972, page 5.

Once a municipality has obtained a good judge, it may have a problem keeping him.

Melvin L. Newmark, a lawyer who resigned after several years on the municipal bench in Olivette, did so because he had become discouraged about the public’s attitude toward the lower courts.

“I quit because being a judge got to be a problem, “ Newmark says. “Friends expected me to do favors for them. I thought my job was to enforce the ordinances, but some of my neighbors wouldn’t talk to me because I wouldn’t fix a ticket.”

“I’m disappointed about the attitude of the public towards traffic courts,” Newmark said. “Often the people who yell and scream for strict law enforcement are the same people who would not hesitate to get a ticket fixed.”


1. My grandfather was municipal court judge from 1962-1967, so this quote  is from five years after he resigned. It's great to have 'on record' the reason he left the position.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Amen Stone - by Yehuda Amichai

In honor of Israeli Independence Day and Jewish Heritage Month, here is part of a poem by Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000) - considered by many to be one of Israel's greatest modern poets.

The Amen Stone

By Yehuda Amichai
Translated by Chana Bloch

On my desk there is a stone with the word “Amen” on it,
a triangular fragment of stone from a Jewish graveyard destroyed
many generations ago. The other fragments, hundreds upon hundreds,
were scattered helter-skelter, and a great yearning,
a longing without end, fills them all:
first name in search of family name, date of death seeks
dead man’s birthplace, son’s name wishes to locate
name of father, date of birth seeks reunion with soul
that wishes to rest in peace. And until they have found
one another, they will not find a perfect rest.
Only this stone lies calmly on my desk and says “Amen.”

The rest of the poem