Saturday, June 28, 2014

#52Ancestors (26) Margaret Kerr McBride, Strength Defined

Mother's Day has passed, but one of the strongest women and mothers in my family tree is my paternal great-grandmother, Margaret 'Maggie' Donaldson KERR McBRIDE.

Maggie was born in Kilwinning, Ayr, Scotland in 1876. As an infant, she traveled to America with her parents, Robert KERR and Sarah DONALDSON for new opportunities in America. Her life was filled with tragedies almost from the moment she set her tiny foot on American soil.

Maggie, c 1945 in Joliet

Barely a year later, in 1877, her mother was run over and killed by a coal train car as she collected extra coal along the railway lines in Braidwood, Will, Illinois. Robert then remarried in 1878 to Catherine ALLEN, and they had 12 children. Maggie was no longer an only child.

So Nice They Counted Her Twice

Maggie lived with her large family in Braidwood until the late 1890's, when coal mining took a downturn. They moved about 20 miles north, to the city of Joliet, Will, Illinois, which offered her father and eventually her stepbrothers other opportunities for employment. Robert, her father, found work as a prison guard in Joliet. Maggie was now also working as a housekeeper to assist the family. She was enumerated with her family in 1900 in Joliet:

1900 US Federal census, Joliet Township, Will, Illinois

She was also enumerated as Maggie Carr with her 'employer,' the McBride family:

1900 US Federal census, Joliet Township, Will, Illinois

All About The Brogue

Notice that the second census snip says 'McBrady.' This was one of my early Genealogy Happy Dance conquests. When I was initially searching for the McBride's, it was still in the days of driving to the library to read microfilm. I know where the family lived because my dad, aunt and cousins had been at that house on Cleveland Avenue. [That's what they all called it: the Cleveland Avenue House!] This entry is the third to last in this enumeration district, possibly because the house was skipped initially. When I finally saw it, I knew it was my family. Now try rolling your R with an Irish accent: McBride can easily be turned into McBrady, can't it?! I remember vividly being at the library, finding and printing this page, then asking random strangers what they thought the names could be. They concurred!

In 1902, Maggie married Joseph McBride. Both of Joe's parents had died by then, and he and Maggie started their life together in the Cleveland Avenue House. I'm sure it was somewhat a marriage of convenience: they already knew each other, they were about the same age, and Joe needed someone to look after the family home. They had their first child, Robert, in 1903, and then two infants that died.

In late 1908, Maggie was pregnant with my grandfather-to-be, John. In March of 1909, Joe walked home on his lunch hour from the iron mill near their home. He was coughing uncontrollably and within a few hours, died of pneumonia. My grandfather was born six weeks later, and was rumored to be premature and fit in a cigar box. I suspect that the stress of losing your husband could bring on premature labor. Maggie persevered.

McBride-Kerr House

Maggie remained in the Cleveland Avenue House for almost the rest of her life. She never remarried and raised her two sons on her own. She was only ever occasionally listed as a housekeeper on the census records. As her father and stepmother aged, they moved into the house, and later her unmarried stepbrother did as well. The house was in the family for nearly 100 years, with various generations of KERR and McBRIDE family members residing there.

For all of the hard times she experienced, Maggie lived a good long life. She died at age 87 at home with her family. She is buried with her parents in Elmhurst Cemetery in Joliet, Will, Illinois.

An interesting footnote to Maggie's life: my newly married parents were at Maggie's funeral when they learned of the death of President John F. Kennedy on 22 November 1963. That is a fact my father always remembers and it is fascinating how history intertwines with our lives.

© 2014 Sally Knudsen

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

#52Ancestors (25) The Next Robert Kerr

Last week's post introduced Robert KERR and Mary WILSON of Ireland and Scotland. Their firstborn son was Robert KERR, born 3 Mar 1853 in Kilbirnie, Ayr, Scotland. Robert worked as a iron miner in Scotland like his father and brothers.

In 1874, Robert married Sarah DONALDSON and shortly thereafter, had a daughter, Margaret (or Maggie) DONALDSON KERR. The young family set off to America, presumably in search of a better life. They arrived in Illinois in 1876. Robert was a widower within the year. You can read his wife Sarah's sad tale here. On New Year's Eve of 1878, Robert married for a second time to Catherine ALLEN, the daughter of Scottish immigrant miners. Robert and Catherine went on to have 12 children.

For several years, Robert continued to work in the coal mines of Braidwood, Will, Illinois. The coal mines eventually ran 'dry' and workers moved away to find other employment. By 1900, the KERR family lived in Joliet, Will, Illinois. Robert worked as a prison guard in the famous/infamous Joliet Correctional Center.

Robert died in Joliet on 18 Oct 1927. He is buried in Elmhurst Cemetery in Joliet with Catherine and many of his family members.

© 2014 Sally Knudsen

Monday, June 16, 2014

#52Ancestors (24) Robert Kerr, An Irish Miner in Scotland

This week we cross the North Atlantic and the Firth of Clyde, en route to Scotland and the home of my great-great-great-grandparents, Robert KERR and his wife Mary WILSON.

Robert and Mary were both born in Ireland, though I have yet to learn where. They first appeared in Scottish records in 1848, at their marriage in Kilbirnie, Ayrshire, Scotland. By 1851, they had adopted a daughter, Mary Jane, as well as boarded Mary's sister and widowed mother. Eventually, they had eight children of their own, all born in Kilbirnie. Robert and all of his sons worked in the local iron foundries.

I first learned about Robert and Mary from a somewhat mysterious 'photocopied page from family records that a cousin of my dad's gave me.' You know the sort.

Anyway, here is the page:

Pretty cool, huh?!

And I have been able to verify all of the records via ScotlandsPeople. Note that it is titled in Joliet, Illinois, and not Kilbirnie, Scotland. Their first son Robert is my ancestor, and to my knowledge, the only family member to come to America.

Mary died in 1890 and Robert in 1908 in Kilbirnie. I do not have burial records for them, but they are likely buried in the Kilbirnie Old Kirkyard.

© 2014 Sally Knudsen

Sunday, June 8, 2014

#52Ancestors (23) Sally Joslin Spencer

This week on 52 Ancestors, we meet Sarah 'Sally' JOSLIN SPENCER, a maternal great-great-great grandmother. That sad face in the corner is me. Me, because I do not have a photograph or a description of Sally and I dearly wish that I did.

Incidentally, I am not named for Sally. However, the story of my learning about Sally and then sharing her name is even better. You can read it here.

Sally was born in Town of Sheldon, Genesee, New York in 1819. Her name at birth and death was Sarah, but all through her life it was Sally. Her parents were Benjamin JOSLIN and Betsey WYMAN. Betsey had a twin sister Sally, so that may be the origin of the name. Sally had an older brother Wyman and a younger brother Daniel.

[] 1820 US Federal census: Town of Sheldon, Genesee, New York

Sally married a local Sheldon farmer, Wright SPENCER, in 1841. He was several years older and had his own farm. Sally and Wright had eight children:
  1. Elizabeth Nancy (1842-1919)
  2. Benjamin J. (1847-1881)
  3. Asa Wyman (1850-1911)
  4. Edward J. (1852-1888)
  5. Cordelia L. (1854-1912)
  6. Washington Irving (1858-1925)
  7. Byron P. (1861-1867)
  8. Addie Elmosa (1863-1912)
Byron was their only child to die in New York. He was only six and I don't know the circumstances of his death. He is buried with his grandparents in Varysburg Cemetery. I can't imagine how Sally felt, literally leaving one of your children behind.

The SPENCER's moved west in the 1860's, like many families from this area, into central Michigan. They purchased 40 acres in Locke Township, Ingham, Michigan, which is just east of Lansing. Wright eventually had a farm of over 100 acres and as he aged, his son Asa took over the farm duties.

Sally died at the SPENCER family farm on 9 March 1895 and was buried in the local Rowley Cemetery. 

I still wish I had a picture of her :(

© 2014 Sally Knudsen 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Confessions of a Haplogroupie™

I have a confession to make: I am addicted to DNA testing.

The whole idea of it completely fascinates me. I now consider myself a haplogroupie (™ me!). I've participated long enough that I have a basic understanding of what a centiMorgan is, or where my haplogroups originated, and who might be my MRCAs.

Don't get me wrong - I am anything but an expert. Perhaps to family or non-genealogy friends, I sound downright scientifically educated. But as genetic genealogy goes, I am in kindergarten.  I remember being in high school biology class and just getting the most basic introduction of what DNA and helixes and chromosomes were. Just a few years ago, we all heard when the human genome was first mapped. Now? I have a copy of my own genome on my computer!  I love to learn and absorb new information. And really, that's a big part of why I work on my family history. This is genealogy for us nerds!

My DNA story began about a year and a half ago, as I read more and more about the popularity of DNA testing for genealogy. My paper records go a pretty substantial way and I figured this is a great opportunity to see what new data I could inject into those old facts. The company 23andMe advertised a $99 holiday special in December 2012, so I ordered a kit and dipped my first toe in the DNA testing waters. About a month later, I received my results and was hooked. I didn't learn anything really new, but the haplogroup (simply put, your geographic + genetic place in the world) results confirmed what the paper records told me. 23andMe offered the autosomal testing kit, which essentially tests a broad spectrum of your distant family. As a woman, I was unable to specifically learn information from my paternal side. 

By the end of 2013, two very close relations showed up in my list of DNA matches: they turned out to be two sisters, who were first cousins once removed on my dad's side of the tree. Now we had something to work with! I requested contact and sharing with them and with all reasonably close matches in my list. I also asked my dad to get tested...and he did. (Thanks Dad!) Receiving his results really showed the power of 23andMe's connections. We could link our profiles together and suddenly a list of 'P' names showed up for me - those who matched on my paternal side. Then, by default, the others were maternal matches.

I have since tested with AncestryDNA, and transferred my 23andMe results to FamilyTreeDNA. I guess that's the trifecta of testing - getting into all three major databases. Both sets of new results came back just this week, so I'm now neck-deep into my data.

So Sally, what can you share with us?

1. My haplogroups matched exactly with my paper records.

My maternal haplogroup is U5a2b which originated in northern Europe. I received this through my mother's mother's, etc side. Sure enough, my grandmother's family can be traced back to small villages in eastern Poland, which was previously the edge of West Prussia.

My paternal haplogroup, derived from my dad's test, is R1b1b2a1a2f2, which even to a novice seems mighty specific. A little research determined this group shows a very high likelihood of being from northern Ireland. Two for two - that is exactly my father's ancestry. There is speculation this line is from an ancient Irish king, Niall of the Nine Hostages. Maybe we'll never know, but it makes a great story!

My dad's maternal haplogroup is X2c1. This is a fairly rare group which originated in central Europe but has the highest current concentration in Quebec. Ding, ding, ding! My paternal grandmother's family is indeed French-Canadian with some Belgian influence.

2. How do you keep your matches straight?

23andMe has tools to analyze your chromosomal similarities with your matches. I found a wonderful free spreadsheet download [1] that allows you to 'paint' your matches. Yes, it was a little tedious, but of course I did it! I simplified the spreadsheet to one page and assigned a color to each match. Then using the matching strands from each of the 23 chromosomes in 23andMe's comparison table, I color blocked the pieces. I am finding it very easy to use and visually see my matches.

Here is my dad's sheet, showing chromosomes 1-10:

Note some of the very long strands in purple and orange. Those are the cousins. You can graphically see how much they have in common with my father. At least know we can determine which part of the tree future matches might be from.

I'll blog again about how things are going with my matches from each of the three websites. It's too early at this point and I'd like to be able to give a fair comparison of the three companies.

It's a new world out there. Go get tested!

[Disclosure: I paid for my own tests and have no commercial relationship with any of the DNA testing companies]

© 2014 Sally Knudsen

Sunday, June 1, 2014

#52Ancestors (22) Benjamin Joslin: An 1836 Death by Poisoning?

This week's 52 Ancestors subject is a maternal great-great-great-great-grandfather, Benjamin JOSLIN. The JOSLIN (or also JOSLYN or JOSLEN) name has a long history in New England. Before that, it likely came from France as JOSSELYN or JOCELIN or other variants.

Here is what I do know:

Benjamin was born 1 December 1783 in Tyringham, Berkshire, Massachusetts. His parents were Zebediah JOSLIN and Hannah HALE. He married Betsey WYMAN, possibly in Vermont, about 1815.

By the late 1810's, the JOSLIN's lived in Genesee County in western New York. They had three children: Wyman, Sarah (Sally), and Daniel. Benjamin died in 1836 and is buried in Frink's Corners cemetery in what is now Wyoming County, New York.

Much of the information I have about Benjamin comes from an unpublished, but lengthy lineage of Israel JOSLIN (1693-1761) of Connecticut. I was contacted many years ago by the family and supplied them my own records. I now have a copy of the private publication but it is simply a family tree compilation, without sources. That, for now, is the path I am using to research this family.

New England history has been my own semi-built brick wall. I've had much better luck searching international records. When it comes to finding pre-1850 information in the United States, I have research paralysis!

Thankfully, the compiler has provided many tantalizing hints to Benjamin's life that I can pursue:

  • served in the War of 1812 in the Battle of Queenstown
  • was a fairly early settler in western New York
  • was robbed and poisoned in a Buffalo, New York hotel in 1836


Oh yes, there is plenty to keep me hunting on the life and death of Benjamin JOSLIN!

For now, here is his brief lineage:

1-Benjamin JOSLIN
  born: 1 Dec 1783, Tyringham, Berkshire, Massachusetts
  died: Nov 1836, Buffalo, Erie, New York
  parents: Zebediah JOSLIN and Hannah HALE
 +Betsey WYMAN
  born: 27 Feb 1789, Shrewsbury, Rutland, Vermont
  marr: Abt 1815, Huntington, Chittenden, Vermont
  died: 7 Aug 1878, Bennington, Wyoming, New York
  parents: Israel WYMAN and Molly UNKNOWN

       2-Wyman JOSLIN
         born: Abt 1817, Sheldon Town, Genesee, New York
        died: Abt 1839, Genesee County, New York

       2-Sarah 'Sally' JOSLIN
         born: 19 Nov 1819, Sheldon Town, Genesee, New York
         died: 9 Mar 1895, Locke Twp, Ingham, Michigan

        +Wright SPENCER
         born: 22 Jan 1811, Shaftsbury, Bennington, Vermont
         marr: 7 Jan 1841, Sheldon Town, Genesee, New York
         died: 15 Feb 1899, Locke Twp, Ingham, Michigan
         parents: Asa SPENCER and Sarah CALKINS
              3-Elizabeth Nancy SPENCER
              3-Benjamin J. SPENCER                
              3-Asa Wyman SPENCER                
              3-Edward J. SPENCER                
              3-Cordelia L. SPENCER                
              3-Washington Irving SPENCER                
              3-Byron P. SPENCER                
              3-Addie Elmosa SPENCER
       2-Daniel Norton JOSLIN
         born: Abt 1823, Sheldon Town, Genesee, New York
         died: 23 Jan 1884, Bennington, Wyoming, New York

        +Cordelia L. KNOX
         born: 1828, New York
         marr: Abt 1850, Sheldon Town, Wyoming, New York
         died: 21 Aug 1851, Sheldon Town, Wyoming, New York
         parents: Henry KNOX and Lettie UNKNOWN

        +Emily Rowley PIERCE
         born: 1835, Bennington, Wyoming, New York
         marr: Abt 1855
         died: 8 Oct 1879, Bennington, Wyoming, New York
         parents: Isaac PIERCE Jr and Laura M. ROWLEY
              3-Bert JOSLIN
        +Mary A. JAMES
         marr: 26 Apr 1882, Bennington, Wyoming, New York

Have a connection or suggestion? Let me know!

(c) 2014 Sally Knudsen