Friday, December 31, 2010

2011 Goals and Resolutions

With 2011 starting tomorrow, now seems like the perfect time to plan and reflect.  2010 was a great year in terms of genealogy research for me and I'd love to just keep that momentum going into 2011.  I can't really think of any other genealogy resolutions for next year besides staying on the same path.  Here are just a few of the things I got to cross off my genealogy bucket list in 2010:
  • Went to my first conference and had tons of fun (and can't wait until I get to go to another).
  • Broke down one of my longest standing brick-walls and learned the names of my great-grandfather's parents (Matteo Lapiccirella and Carmela/Carmina Scarano).  I have my FHC and the wonderful folks at the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library to thank for it!
  • Joined several genealogical societies.  My only regret was that I wasn't able to get as involved in their activities and events as I had wanted to.  That is something I'd definitely like to do more of in 2011.
  • Met many new "cousins," enriching my genealogy database at the same time.  In fact, I've heard from so many new cousins that I'm drowning in e-mails and terribly behind in responding (apologies to anyone still waiting on a reply from me!).
I also accomplished a lot that I can't really put into words.  I've learned so much and changed and expanded my approach to genealogy research so much in the past year that I hardly recognize the researcher that I was before.  Looking back on the year, I think this has been my biggest and most unexpected accomplishment

In terms of things that I'd like to happen in 2011, my list is very much the same as in years past:
  • Find Heman Doyle's parents.  I now know he had a half-brother in Buffalo in 1840 but that hasn't proved very helpful as yet.
  • Find (Maria) Nicoletta Riccia's parents.  My great-grandmother is such a mystery and the only thing I learned about her in 2010 was that she wasn't from the village she said she was from.
  • Go further back with my Lapiccirella and Scarano lines.  I'm lucky that they lived in a village in Italy that was good about keeping records and that those records have been microfilmed.  Now I just need to spend more time are my FHC!
  • Go further back with Priscilla Mason's parents.  I'm hopeful that the mtDNA tests my mother and I took will be helpful in this area but we'll see.  As I've said before, Priscilla (and by extension her mother) are haplogroup K with a rare 16265G mutation.  I only did the HVR1 but my mother did the full test so hopefully when her results come in we'll know even more about this line.  I am hoping to learn where this line might have originated and find a cousin or two.
  • Find some information on my Allen ancestors.  My birthday present this year was for my father to take a Y-DNA test.  We're are awaiting the results and some of us (okay, just me) are a bit more excited than others.  There is an Allen group and it appears that R1b is the most common haplogroup.  I'm hoping to find a cousin or two since my Allens have only been in this country since the 1850s, before then we don't know where in Scotland they originated.
One thing I'd also like to mention that is pretty huge is that there is a new genealogy buff in my family: my mother.  I talked her into attending a few sessions at the California Family History Expo in October and she has been interested ever since.  She isn't as interested in it as me but I think one more shove gentle push and she'll be on her way.  Her interest in genetic genealogy has especially surprised me and I think is a big reason why I am as interested in the subject as I am.

I hope everyone has a happy, safe and prosperous 2011!  May your brick-walls come crashing down and your genealogy resolutions come to pass in this new year!  And, a big thank you to everyone who has stopped to read this blog in 2010 - you guys really did make my year!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Interviewing My Grandmother

I've been interviewing my grandmother and asking her all the questions I should have asked ten years ago when I first tried to interview her.  The first time I interviewed her I only asked her what she knew about her ancestors and asked her nothing about her life.  Well, now I'm righting that wrong.

Last weekend we started and covered her life in Petaluma (the first seven years of her life).  I had no idea it would be as educational as it was or that it would turn out to be as emotional as it got at times.  Here are some of the highlights of what I learned about my grandmother, and the interview process:
  • My grandmother had an older brother, David, who was either stillborn or died shortly after birth.  I'd heard rumors about a sibling of hers who had died but this was the first time she ever really spoke of him.  She didn't know much about what happened to David (like when he was born or where he is buried) as her mother (my great-grandmother) never spoke of him and would cry whenever anyone mentioned him. 
  • My grandmother was almost named Susanna Marie but her parents ended up naming her after her two grandmothers.  Problem is, the person who filled out her birth certificate misspelled her name and no one caught it until it was too late.  Not surprisingly, she has gone by a nickname all her life.
  • When my grandmother was little there was a man at her church who said he could pull himself up by the bootstraps and that if my grandmother practiced enough, she could too.  She then went home and promptly began trying to, literally, pull herself up by her bootstraps.
  • My grandmother was the youngest in her family by quite a bit and there weren't many playmates for her on the street where they lived.  So she invented her own playmates named Balloon and Barbara Shed.  Apparently she and her "friends" were pretty close.  One day, when she was about five, she was at a gathering when a little boy asked her if she wanted to play.  My grandmother told him that wanted to bring two friends and that she'd have to ask her mother if it was alright.  After she got the okay, she came back with Balloon and Barbara and the little boy went running for the hills.
  • I had my mother with me as I was interviewing my grandmother and I can't even begin to say how glad I am that she was there.  I don't think the answers I got would have been nearly as detailed without my mother's input and best of all, my mother thought to ask questions that hadn't even crossed my mind.
  • My grandmother was more than a little apprehensive about being interviewed at first.  Then I began bringing up stories and anecdotes that she had already told me.  It put her at ease and I think showed her that I was sincerely interested in what she had to say.
  • I threw the script out the window after about five minutes and just let her guide the conversation.  I'm so glad I did.
After about two or three hours we called it quits for the day.  She was getting restless and there were things to do.  I thought that was the end of it but then at dinner she started bringing up little tidbits from her youth that she had remembered through the day.  After the meal, my mother had to leave and run an errand and my grandmother and I stayed and kept talking.  She wanted to talk about her father as the last question I had asked her during our interview that morning had to do with her memories of him.  After a few stories she started to tear up and said "He never said 'I love you' but I know he did... He was such a wonderful person in so many ways."  After that the room got quiet and a few minutes later my mother got home.  We started talking about Christmas and the little things around the house that needed to be done.   Then it started to get late and my mother and I were getting ready to leave.  We were saying our goodbyes and I was hugging my grandmother when I realized that that hug lasted just a bit longer than they usually do, and that so much more had happened that day than me just interviewing my grandmother.

Monday, December 13, 2010


I was more than a little surprised to discover this morning that I had been nominated  for the Family Tree 40 for 2011 in the "My Family History" category.  Actually, I'm pretty speechless about the whole thing.  Nominations came at a pretty busy time for me and I completely missed the boat.  I'm happy that the blogs I wanted to nominate were and amazed (and humbled) that I've been included with them. 

To whomever nominated me: Thank You, Thank You, Thank You.  The last couple weeks have been kind of hard for me for a variety of reasons so I can't even begin to say how much this has lifted my spirits.

The list of nominees can be found here.  You can vote for your choices, including me (which I'd heartily appreciate) if you're so inclined here:

Thank you again for the nomination and to anyone who votes for me.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Adventures in Genetic Genealogy

Early last month I took an mtDNA test from Family Tree DNA, yesterday I got my results.  I'm in haplogroup K which can be found in many European countries and is known for being the haplogroup of many Ashkenazi Jews.  Most of my matches had traced their roots to Ireland which was exciting because one of the strongest candidate families for my furthest back matrilineal ancestor (Nancy Moore)  is from Ireland. 

I have the traditional K mutations of 16224C and 16311C as well as the "hotspot" mutation of 16519C.  I have another mutation, 16265G that doesn't (at least in the research I've done) seem to be shared by many Ks, though I found a few Hs at mitosearch that had it.  Anyway, this is all very new to me and I obviously have a lot of learning to do on the subject but I'm excited to find out all I can about genetic genealogy. 

In other genetic genealogy news, my father took the 23andme test the other day so I'm looking forward to finding out his results.  There are also rumors that my mother wants to take the 23andme test (as long as the deal is going on) which I am hoping she does at it would save me from having to order the HVR2 from Family Tree DNA. 

If there are any other Ks out there (especially ones connected to my ancestors!), please let me know and if anyone can recommend any literature on the haplogroup I'd love to know about it. 

For anyone interested, my matrilineal line goes:
Me>My Mother>My Grandmother>Georgiana Wellons>Mary Anna Webb>Priscilla Mason>Nancy Moore

Nancy was born in the 1780s or 90s in, I believe, Tennessee (then a part of North Carolina).  She married Samuel Mason in 1806 in Wayne Co., Kentucky.  They moved to Lawrence Co., Indiana some years later where Nancy died at an unknown date.

NOTE: I am in no way affliated with either Family Tree DNA or 23andme nor did I received payment or reward of any kind from either company for posting this article.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Two Finds From Out of Nowhere

The other day my grandmother was at her country club with friends when a lady walked up to her, handed her an envelope and said "these belong in your family." 

Inside the envelope were two wonderful little treasures:

They are both pictures of my great-grandfather, Elmer John Shinn.  Written on the back of the first is "May, 1889" and his name followed by the studio information ("B.P. BATCHELDER.  PHOTOGRAPHER. 133 EL DORADO ST. STOCKTON -- CAL.").  Elmer would have been eleven at the time and was born and raised in nearby Woodbridge.  The next picture is a bit harder to date, but I'm guessing (based on research I did on the photographer) it is from the early 1910s.  All that is written on the back is his name and the photographer's information ("Photographic Parisienne.  Edw. Belle-Ondry.  Over Abrahamson's Store, Entrance on 13th, Street.  Take Elevator.  Oakland, Cal.").  He never lived in Oakland so why he was getting his picture taken there is beyond me.  His future wife was from that area but they weren't married until the early 1920s. 

I'd like to get more information on the lady who gave these pictures to my grandmother.  My grandmother gave them to my mother who in turn gave them to me and told me what she knew of the encounter (which wasn't much).  The three of us will be Christmas shopping this coming weekend so I plan to ask my grandmother about it then.  The fact that the mystery person had a picture of my great-grandfather as a young boy makes me think she is somehow related to the family.  Elmer had many cousins and nieces and nephews who remained in the same area and I'm thinking this mystery lady might be connected to one of them. 

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Group Picture

Another unidentified picture from my great-grandmother's collection.  The only person that is labeled is my great-grandmother's brother, Ebb Boulder Wellons.  He attended the University of California, Berkeley between 1905 and 1907 and I'm guessing this picture has something to do with his days at Cal.  If anyone recognizes any of the other people or the lapel pins several of them seem to be wearing, please tell me!

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