Whatever Happened to Mary Murri?

I’ve been on a roll lately with research into my Bavarian Murri ancestors, who settled in Buffalo, New York. Recently, I was able to confirm a hypothesis, generated through genetic genealogy and cluster research (also known as FAN research), that they originated in the town of Waldmünchen. I was also able to find an answer to the question of what happened to Mary Murri, Joseph and Walburga (Maurer) Murri’s oldest daughter, which is my topic for today.

Mary Murri of Waldmünchen, Bavaria, and Buffalo, New York

Mary Murri was born on 16 September 1863 in Waldmünchen in the Kingdom of Bavaria to Joseph and Walburga (Maurer or Mauerer) Murri.1 At the age of five, she immigrated to Buffalo, New York, with her parents, arriving in the port of New York on 3 April 1869.2 The 1880 census shows her living with her family (Figure 1).3

Figure 1: Mary Murry (sic) in the family of Joseph and Walburga Murry, living at 309 North Street in Buffalo, New York, in 1880. Click image to enlarge.

In 1880, the Murri family was living at 309 North Street in Buffalo. Joseph, age 53 years, was supporting the family as a laborer, while Walburga was keeping the home, and the children were at school. Mary was reported to be 16 years of age, and her occupation appears to be “At: Servace,” which might suggest that she was employed in servitude, e.g. as a housekeeper. On 21 January 1884, she married Christian Leonard, a discovery made by my Aunt Carol when she obtained Christian and Mary’s civil marriage record.4 However, after the marriage, the Leonard family seemed to disappear. They were not found in the 1900 U.S. census, nor were there any promising matches for them in the 1892 census for New York State, living anywhere in Western New York. Leonard is a common surname, and it was easy to drop this pursuit in favor of easier targets—until now.

DNA Lights the Way, Yet Again

As I reported previously, in recent weeks, I’ve been examining clusters of autosomal DNA matches, looking for leads that would help me connect to earlier generations of my Murri/Maurer family. Figure 2 shows a portion of my dad’s autocluster matrix, generated by DNAGedcom, based on Ancestry DNA matches who share between 9 and 400 centimorgans (cM, a unit of genetic distance) with him. The supercluster outlined in yellow, containing the dark green cluster (334), the red cluster (335) and related matches, is the same one previously assigned to documented Maurer descendants. The boxes that are colored gray, with greenish tops and pinkish bottoms, located in the column above the green arrow, represent comparisons between one particular DNA match, whom I’ll call Donna (not her real name) with two other matches in that cluster. It was Donna’s tree that led me to discover what happened to Mary (Murri) Leonard.

Figure 2: Portion of Dad’s autosomal DNA autocluster matrix, generated by DNAGedom based on Ancestry DNA matches who share between 9 cM and 400 cM DNA with Dad. The supercluster outlined in yellow has been found to include documented Maurer/Mauerer descendants. The colored boxes above the green arrow represent comparisons between a particular DNA match, J.P., and two other matches in that cluster.

Donna’s public tree, linked to her DNA results, indicated that she was a granddaughter of William Jack Lenhardt, who was born and died in Canada. William’s wife was also Canadian, and in fact, every non-privatized individual in the limited tree was from Canada. That threw me at first. Examining this match outside the context of shared matches, I assumed that we must be related through one of Dad’s Canadian ancestral lines, such as Walsh, Dodds, Hodgkinson, etc. So how could Donna be part of a supercluster of DNA matches who share common Maurer ancestry?

That’s when it hit me. Lenhardt = Leonard! Christian and Mary Leonard must have moved to Canada!

Filling in the Blanks

My focus turned to the connection between William Jack Lenhardt and Mary Murri Leonard. Although Donna’s tree lacked evidence for William Jack Lenhardt’s parents or grandparents, a search on Ancestry pointed me to a different family tree—one among many—which identified William John “Jack” Lenhardt as the son of Michael Lawrence Lenhardt and Henrietta Agnes Henderson.5 Further searches for Michael put all the pieces into place. His marriage record identified his parents as Christian Lenhardt and Mary Murray (Figure 3), a deceptive spelling which turned a Bavarian surname into something decidedly Irish-sounding.6

Figure 3: Marriage record for Michael Lawrence Lenhardt and Henrietta Agnes Henderson, who were married in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on 25 October 1919. The names of the groom’s parents are boxed in red. Click image to enlarge.

The groom’s age, 27, suggests a birth year circa 1892 rather than 1894, but he may have fudged that a bit. His religion was reported as Methodist, rather than Roman Catholic, but despite these minor discrepancies, the evidence from this marriage record supports the DNA evidence tying the Christian Lenhardt family of Toronto to Mary Murri Leonard of Buffalo, New York.

Although a number of family trees cite Michael’s date of birth as 8 June 1894, his baptismal record, shown in Figure 4, confirms that he was baptized in the Roman Catholic faith at St. Basil’s in Toronto on 24 June 1894, and that he was born in Toronto on 26 May 1894.7

Figure 4: Baptismal record from St. Basil’s Roman Catholic church, Toronto, Ontario, for Michael Lenhardt, born 26 May 1894. Click image to enlarge.

According to this record, Michael’s parents were Christopher (sic) Lenhardt and Mary Muri, both born in Germany. Only one godparent was identified, whose name looks like M. J. Crotter.

Mary Lenhardt’s own death record adds to the growing body of evidence that she is the same as Mary Murri Leonard of Buffalo, New York (Figure 5).8

Figure 5: Death certificate for Mary Lenhardt, 13 July 1929. Click image to enlarge.

According to this document, Mary was living at 70 Shaftesbury Avenue in Toronto, where she died at the age of 66 years on 13 July 1929. The informant was her husband, Christian Lenhardt, who was living with her. Mary was born in Germany circa 1863, and was the daughter of Joseph Murray, consistent with existing evidence. She was buried on 16 July 1929 in Mount Hope Cemetery. Her grave marker may have been placed some time after her death, because the inscription states incorrectly that she died at the age of 62 years.9

Coming Full Circle

Thanks to documentary evidence from the U.S. and Canada, a more complete picture of Mary’s life has now emerged. After her marriage on 21 January 1884, Mary and Christian Lenhardt remained in Buffalo for eight more years. Parish records from St. Boniface Church reveal that four sons were born to them during this time: Nicholas John, on 28 November 1886; Robert John, on 3 June 1888; Joseph John Baptist on 28 June 1890, and Frederick Christian on 7 December 1891.10 Nicholas John died some time before 1892, since his death was indexed in the Buffalo, New York, Death Index, 1885–1891.11 Further research in burial records from St. Boniface church should be sufficient to establish a precise date of death. (This is on my to-do list for the next time I’m at the Family History Center.) The Lenhardt family must have moved to Toronto early in 1892, since they are not found in the 1892 New York State census, for which the official enumeration date was 16 February 1892.

Having settled in Toronto, the couple had four more children: a stillborn daughter, Marie, who was born on 28 May 1893;12 the aforementioned son, Michael Lawrence Lenhardt, born 26 May 1894; a stillborn infant son, unnamed, who was born on 17 June 1897;13 and another daughter, Mary, born 6 March 1904.14 The family appears in the 1901 census in Figure 6.15

Figure 6: 1901 census of Canada, showing the family of Christian and Mary Lenhardt living in Toronto. Click image to enlarge.

The census confirms that the Lenhardt family arrived in Canada in 1892. Christian Lenhardt was reported to have been born 8 November 1861 in Germany; he was Roman Catholic, and employed as a basket maker. Mary (Murri) Lenhardt was reported to have been born 15 August 1863 in Germany, which is reasonably close to her actual birthdate of 16 September 1863. Mary was employed as a charwoman. Birth dates reported for Robert and Joseph correspond exactly with dates found in the baptismal records from St. Boniface. Frederick’s reported date of birth was exactly one year off—7 December 1892, rather than 7 December 1891, which was reported on his baptismal record. Michael Lawrence—recorded here as just Lawrence—was reported to have been born on 8 June 1894, which explains why so many family trees contain this error in his birth date.

The next census in which we might expect to find the Lenhardt family is the 1911 census of Canada. However, they are not found. Why might that be? The Toronto city directory for that year identifies Christian, Robert J., and Frederick Lenhardt as residents at 42 Hillsboro Avenue.16 Library and Archives Canada offers a street index to facilitate the determination of census districts and sub-districts for major cities, and according to this index, Hillsboro Avenue was in District 126, Sub-district 2. A search of the 1911 census database, omitting any surnames and specifying only the province of Ontario, District 126, Sub-district 2, returned no results, which suggests that this sub-district must be one for which the census returns have not survived. However, Library and Archives Canada’s index to districts and sub-districts for the 1911 census states that District 126 (Toronto North), Sub-district 2 (Ward 3), is found on Microfilm T-20401. It’s unclear to me whether this suggests that the scans from that microfilm are somehow absent from the database, or if the index information is incorrect, and the census returns from that location truly did not survive. I wrote to the archive this morning and am awaiting their reply.

Mary Lenhardt appears in the census in 1921 for the last time before her death in 1929 (Figure 7).17

Figure 7: 1921 census of Canada, showing the family of Christian and Mary Lenhardt living at 70 Shaftesbury Street in Toronto. Click image to enlarge.

By 1921, Mary Lenhardt was 57 years old, and living in her final home, at 70 Shaftesbury Street, in a multigenerational household with her husband, two of her adult sons, a daughter-in-law, and several grandchildren. The adult children who were living with Mary and Christian were 31-year-old Joseph Lenhardt, working as a chauffeur, and 28-year-old Michael, employed as an elevator operator, along with Michael’s wife, recorded here as Agnes Etta. The household also included two grandsons, 7-year-old Harold and 5-year-old William. They were the children of Mary’s son, Frederick, and his wife, the former Dora May Redman, whom he married on 29 June 1910.18 The influenza pandemic of 1918 took Dora’s life on 11 October of that year, and Frederick followed her to the grave five days later, on 16 October 1918, leaving their two little boys as orphans.19 Mary’s husband, Christian, was still supporting the family as a basket weaver, although this census described him as a “willow worker.”

Verna or Mary?

The final member of the household enumerated in 1921 was 19-year-old Verna, who was recorded as a daughter of the head-of-household, Christian Lenhardt. I believe this is meant to be Verna Lenhardt, the oldest daughter of Michael and Agnes Etta, who are listed immediately above her in in the census. However, it’s curious—but certainly not unprecedented—that the census-taker was so far off in recording her age. Since Verna was born 4 May 1920, she would have celebrated her first birthday just prior to the census enumeration date of 1 June 1921, so the census-taker missed the mark by 18 years.20 Moreover, the fact that she was recorded as “daughter” of the head of household, rather than “granddaughter,” and the fact that her age suggests a birth circa 1902, led me to speculate whether “Verna” might instead be Christian and Mary’s daughter, Mary Lenhardt, who was born in 1904, and is notably absent from this census. Again, it’s not unprecedented for a person to use a name that’s not recorded on a birth record, so it’s possible that Mary’s full name was Mary Verna, and she was known as Verna among family members.

Nonetheless, I’m inclined to think that the Verna recorded here really was meant to be one-year-old Verna Lenhardt, oldest daughter of Michael and Agnes Etta, since she is otherwise unaccounted for. Furthermore, if Mary Lenhardt, born in 1904, survived to adulthood, it’s likely that she would have been mentioned in one of the dozen or more online trees that document this family. It’s probable, then, that little Mary died in infancy or early childhood, since broad searches in indexed records at Ancestry and FamilySearch failed to produce promising matches. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to confirm this hypothesis that Mary died young. Scanned burial records from St. Basil’s parish in Toronto, where her brother Michael was baptized, are not available before 1906, and Mary is not found in the database, “Canada, Ontario Deaths, 1869-1937 and Overseas Deaths, 1939-1947.” So, the question remains, was Mary Lenhardt still alive at the time of this census? Could it be that both she and one-year-old Verna were living with Christian and Mary Lenhardt in 1921, and the census-taker conflated their identities? The missing 1911 census might shed some light on the situation, in addition to cemetery records, but for now, the fate of Mary Lenhardt, youngest child of Christian and Mary (Murri), will have to remain a mystery.

And so, we’ve now got a pretty good idea of the story arc for Mary (Murri) Lenhardt, thanks to hints obtained from DNA matches. The family tree has been extended by another branch, and a disconnect in the data has been resolved. As a genealogist, I think that’s a pretty good thing.

Sources:

1 Roman Catholic Church, Waldmünchen parish (Waldmünchen, Cham, Bayern, Germany), Bd. 4, “Taufen 1831-1867,” 1863, p. 383, no. 154, Anna Maria Murri, Bischöfliches Zentralarchiv Regensburg, St. Petersweg 11 – 13, 93047 Regensburg, Germany.

2 Manifest, SS Hansa, arriving 3 April 1869, lines 38-42, Muri family; imaged as “New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 07 August 2022); citing Microfilm Serial M237, 1820-1897; Line 42; List no. 292.

1880 United States Federal Census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Buffalo city, Enumeration District 147, sheet 12D, family no. 120, Joseph Murry household; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : 07 August 2022), citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 830 of 1,454 rolls, Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29, National Archives, Washington, D.C., Family History microfilm no.1254830.

4 Carol Roberts Fischer (Ancestry user cfish1063), “Boehringer Family Tree,” Ancestry Public Member Trees, database, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : 5 August 2022).

5Ancestry user “angt10,” “Tompkins Family Tree,” Ancestry Public Member Trees, database, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : 07 August 2022).

6 “Canada, Ontario Marriages, 1869-1927,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 07 August 2022), Michael Lawrence Lenhardt and Henrietta Agnes Henderson, 25 October 1919; citing registration no. 006061, Toronto, York, Ontario, Canada, Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 2,210,696.

7 Roman Catholic Church, St. Basil’s Parish (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), Parish registers, 1858–1910, Baptisms 1858–1910, p 81, unnumbered entries in chronological order, Michael Lenhardt, born 28 May 1894; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : 07 August 2022), Family History Library film no. 1305640, DGS no. 5106877, image 83 of 138.

8 “Canada, Ontario Deaths, 1869-1937 and Overseas Deaths, 1939-1947,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 07 August 2022), Mary Lenhardt, 13 July 1929, citing registration no. 05647, Registrar General. Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 2,210,916, image 93 of 1598.

9 Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/148960636/mary-lenhardt: accessed 07 August 2022), memorial page for Mary Murray Lenhardt (1867–13 Jul 1929), Find a Grave Memorial ID 148960636, citing Mount Hope Catholic Cemetery, Toronto, Toronto Municipality, Ontario, Canada; Maintained by Pete C. (contributor 47614007).

10 “New York Births and Christenings, 1640-1962”, database, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 07 August 2022), Nicolaum Johannem Lenhard, born 28 November 1886; citing Roman Catholic Church, St. Boniface Parish (Buffalo, New York), Baptisms 1849-1899, FHL microfilm no. 928704/DGS no. 7585930.

Ibid., Robertum Johannem Lennardt, born 3 June 1888; and

Ibid., Joseph Johannem Baptistam Lenhardt, born 28 June 1890; and

Ibid., Fredericus Christianus Lenardt, born 7 December 1891.

11 Buffalo City Clerk’s Office, Buffalo, New York, Death Index, 1885-1891, p. 456, Nicholas J. Lenhardt, Vol. 10, p 345; digital image, Internet Archive (https://archive.org/: 7 August 2022), image 511 of 990.

12 “Canada, Ontario Births, 1869-1912,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 5 August 2022), Marie Lenhardt, 28 May 1893, citing birth registration no. 014831, Toronto, York, Ontario, Canada, citing Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 1,846,239; and

“Canada, Ontario Deaths, 1869-1937 and Overseas Deaths, 1939-1947,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 6 August 20220), Marie Lenhardt, stillborn, 28 May 1893; citing Registrar General, death registration no. 02226, Toronto, York, Ontario; Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 1,853,581.

13 “Canada, Ontario Births, 1869-1912”, database, FamilySearch, (https://www.familysearch.org/), digital images, unnamed male infant Lenhardt, 17 June 1897, citing birth registration no. 003207, Toronto, York, Ontario, Canada, citing Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 1,846,239; and

“Ontario, Canada, Deaths and Deaths Overseas, 1869-1948,” database, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 6 August 2022), male infant Lenhardt, stillborn, 17 June 1897; citing Registrar General, death registration no. 002554, Toronto, York, Ontario; Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 1,853,835.

14 “Canada, Ontario Births, 1869-1912,” database with images, FamilySearch, (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 5 August 2022), Mary Lenhardt, 6 March 1904; citing birth registration no. 003553, Toronto, York, Ontario, Canada, citing Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 2,210,619.

15 1901 Census of Canada, Ontario population schedule, District no. 131, West York, Subdistrict E, Toronto City, Ward 4, Division no. 4, page no. 12, family no. 108, Christi Lenhardt household; digital image, Library and Archives Canada (https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/census/1901/Pages/item.aspx?itemid=2633998 : 07 August 2022), citing RG31 – Statistics Canada, microfilm T-6508, item no. 2633998, image no. z000119179.

16 The Toronto City Directory 1911, Might Directories, Ltd. (Toronto, Ontario, Canada: 1911), p 822, Lenhardt, Christian; digital image, Toronto Public Library (https://digitalarchive.tpl.ca/objects/357796/toronto-city-directory-1911-vol : 08 August 2022), image 824 of 1508.

17 1921 Census of Canada, Ontario population schedule, District no. 132, Toronto North, Subdistrict no. 8, Toronto, Ward 2, page 24, family no. 262, Christian Lenhardt household; digital image, Library and Archives Canada (https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/ : 07 August 2022), citing RG31, Statistics Canada, Item no. 3427899, image no. e003039918.

18 “Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1826-1938,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : 07 August 2022), Frederick C. Lenhardt and Dora May Redman, 29 June 1910; citing registration no. 003013, Toronto, York, Ontario, Canada, Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 1,872,068.

19 “Canada, Ontario Deaths, 1869-1937 and Overseas Deaths, 1939-1947,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : 07 August 2022), Dora May Lenhardt, 11 October 1918; citing registration no. 005962, Toronto, York, Ontario, Canada, Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 1,862,693; and

Ibid., Frederick Lenhardt, 16 October 1918; citing registration no. 006632, Toronto, York, Ontario, Canada.

20 Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/138941522/verna-stauffer: accessed 08 August 2022), memorial page for Verna Lenhardt Stauffer (4 May 1920–23 Sep 2014), Find a Grave Memorial ID 138941522, citing Huxley Cemetery, Hillsburgh, Wellington County, Ontario, Canada; Maintained by Anonymous (contributor 48340051).

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2022

Sweet Success! Finding My Murre Family in Waldmünchen!

In my last post, I described my quest to determine the place of origin in Bavaria of my immigrant Murre/Murri/Murie/Murrÿ ancestors, including my great-great-grandmother, Anna (Murre) Boehringer and her parents, Joseph and Walburga (Maurer) Murre. Using Collins-Leeds Method autoclusters of Ancestry autosomal DNA matches to my dad, I was able to identify a cluster of matches that includes documented descendants of Joseph and Walburga Murre, as well as descendants of a Franz/Frank Maurer. Zeroing in on this particular Maurer family, I was able to confirm through documentary research that Franz Maurer was, in fact, strongly connected to the Murre family—part of their FAN club. Although I’d been unable to find evidence for Joseph and Walburga’s specific place of origin in Bavaria, I found evidence that Franz Maurer and his first wife, Franziska Geigand, emigrated from the town of Waldmünchen, along with the family of a Maria Maurer and her two children. The group of travelers from Waldmünchen also included the family of Alois and Josephine Geigand, who were additional members of the Murre family’s FAN club. Logic would suggest, then, that Joseph and Walburga Murre’s family should also be from Waldmünchen, so I arranged to have a professional researcher, Marcel Elias, visit the Regensburg Bischöfliches Zentralarchiv (Regensburg Diocesan Central Archive) for me, in order to find evidence for my Murre/Maurer families in church records from Waldmünchen.

The Emigrants from Waldmünchen

Marcel nailed it! During the course of a one-day trip to the archive, he located documentation to create a tree which included 71 individuals, including the five members of my Murre family who were known to have been born in Bavaria. Thanks to Marcel’s research, so many questions have been answered, and the story of the Murri family has been fleshed out considerably. We now know that Joseph Murri was born 27 August 1827 in Waldmünchen—a date which is reasonably consistent with the date of birth of August 1825 which was stated in the 1900 census.1 His parents—whose identities were previously unknown—were Joseph Murri and Joseph’s third wife, Magdalena Schmaderer. Joseph married Walburga Maurer (or Mauerer, as the name was more frequently spelled in German records) on 5 November 1862. Their marriage record is shown in Figures 1a and 1b.2

Figure 1a: First page of marriage record from Waldmünchen for Joseph Murri and Walburga Mauerer, 5 November 1862. Click image to enlarge.
Figure 1b: Second page of marriage record from Waldmünchen for Joseph Murri and Walburga Mauerer, 5 November 1862. Click image to enlarge.

In translation, the record describes the groom as Joseph Murri, an unmarried, Catholic, day laborer and a resident of Waldmünchen, born in Waldmünchen on 22 August 1827 to Joseph Murri, a cottager from Waldmünchen, and Magdalena Schmaderer from Grosenkirchen. The bride was Walburga Mauerer, an unmarried, Catholic, carpenter’s daughter, born on 28 April 1834 to Andreas Mauerer and Catharina Weidner, both from Waldmünchen. Joseph and Walburga were married in the church by an officiant whose surname was Beck on 5 November 1862, in front of witnesses Martin Haller, a cloth maker and Johann Baptist Hausladen, a master mason, both from Waldmünchen. The couple’s civil marriage took place before a magistrate on 22 October 1862.

Joseph and Walburga’s three oldest children were known to have been born in Bavaria, and birth records from Waldmünchen indicate that the oldest, Mary Murre, was baptized as Anna Maria Murri, born 16 September 1863.3 Their second child, my great-great-grandmother Anna Murre, was baptized as Anna Francisca Murri, and her date of birth was 27 September 1865, exactly as it was reported on her death record.4 Finally, their son, John Murre, was baptized as Johann Murri, born on 23 April 1867.5

Revealing the Mysteries of the Past

Beyond documenting the German-born members of the Murri family itself, Marcel was able to discover evidence to elucidate the relationships among the Maurers and Geigands who emigrated together on 1 May 1867. His findings confirm that Walburga (Maurer or Mauerer) Murri and Franz Maurer were, in fact, related, as suggested by DNA evidence. They were siblings: two of the eight children born to Andreas and Katharina (Weidner) Mauerer. Moreover, Alois and Josephine Geigand were the parents of Franziska (Geigand) Mauerer, as I hypothesized in my last post. Franz and Franziska’s marriage record is shown in Figures 2a and b.6

Figure 2a: First page of marriage record from Waldmünchen for Franz Georg Mauerer and Franziska Geigant, 17 October 1864. Click image to enlarge.
Figure 2b: Second page of marriage record from Waldmünchen for Franz Georg Mauerer and Franziska Geigant, 17 October 1864. Click image to enlarge.

Translated, the record states that, on 17 October 1864, an officiant named Sichert married Franz Mauerer and Francisca Geigant (sic) in the parish of Waldmünchen. The groom was an unmarried, Catholic carpenter, who was born on 14 July 1839 in Waldmünchen to Andreas Mauerer, a carpenter, and Catharina Weidner. The bride was unmarried and Catholic, born in Waldmünchen on 25 February 1838. Her parents were Alois Geigant, a mason, and Josepha Lechner. Witnesses were Xaver Mauerer, a carpenter, and Johann Alt, a cottager. The bride and groom, their parents, and both witnesses, were all residents of Waldmünchen. The civil marriage took place at the city office on 27 September 1864.

The fact that Josepha Geigand’s maiden name was Lechner clears up another mystery found in U.S. records. While most of the baptismal records for Franz and Franziska Maurer’s Buffalo-born children reported Franziska’s maiden name as Geigand or Geichand, the baptismal record for their son, Michael Maurer, reported the mother’s maiden name as Lechner.7 Since the Maurers and the Geigands all settled in St. Boniface parish, it’s probable that the priest there was well-acquainted with the whole family, making it plausible that he mixed up Franziska (Geigand) Maurer’s maiden name with that of her mother, Josepha (Lechner) Geigand. It’s also worth noting that Marcel’s research did not turn up any evidence that the Geigands were blood relatives of the Murri family. Previously, I’d wondered about that, since Alois and Josephine Geigand were named as godparents to two of Joseph and Walburga Murri’s children. However, thus far, it appears that Alois and Josephine were only related to by marriage to the Murri family, since their daughter Franziska (Geigand) Maurer was sister-in-law to Joseph and Walburga (Maurer) Murri.

There’s more. Maria Maurer who emigrated with her two children, Anna and Johann, was also the sister of Walburga and Franz.8 Georg Macht, who was traveling with them, was the children’s father.9 Restrictive marriage laws in 19th century-Bavaria resulted in a high rate of illegitimate births,10 and it was not uncommon for a couple to have one or more children together prior to marriage. That may explain their speedy marriage, less than two months after arriving in Buffalo.11

As for that relatively small amount of DNA shared between my dad and five of the great-grandchildren of Franz/Frank Maurer—just 10 cM—I’m inclined to chalk it up to the randomness of DNA inheritance through recombination. As I mentioned in my previous post, 10 cM shared DNA would be more typical of a relationship that was more distant than third cousins once removed (3C1R), according to data from the Shared cM Project. However, since Walburga and Franz were, indeed, siblings, Dad and Franz’s great-grandchildren are 3C1R nonetheless.

Deeper Roots of the Murri and Mauerer Families

Although the Murri surname had already disappeared from Bavaria by 1890,12 the surname was readily found in earlier records. Marcel was able to trace the Murri line back five more generations from my 3x-great-grandfather, Joseph Murri, who was born in 1827. In the time allotted for the research, Marcel got back as far as the marriage of Peter Muri and Eva Braun, who were married in Waldmünchen on 4 June 1703.13 Although the mothers of the bride and groom were not identified, Peter was noted to be the son of Blasius Muri, while Eva was the daughter of Martin Braun. This makes Blasius and Martin two of my 8x-great-grandfathers.

The Mauerer family, however, proved to be more difficult to trace. Although Marcel located a baptismal record for Andreas Mauerer, Walburga (Maurer) Murri’s father, the birth record stated that Andreas was illegitimate. Andreas’s baptismal record is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Baptismal record from Waldmünchen for Andreas Mauerer, born 25 October 1793. Click image to enlarge.

The Latin transcription is as follows, with credit to both Marcel Elias, and to Mente Pongratz (researcher and frequent contributor to the German Genealogy Facebook group, as well as the Genealogical Translations Facebook group) for their assistance and insights:

“Waldmünchen. 25. Nat[us] et a R[everendus] D[ominus] Joanne Nepomuc[ene] Gresser, Supern[umerarius] baptizatus est Andreas, Christinae Lineburgerin, Michaelis Linneburger textoris tibialium filiae, adhuc solutae hic, et ut mater ascerit Conradi Mauerer militis ex legione principis de Taxis hic, fil[ius] illeg[itimus]. Levante Andreas Meixlsperger soluto textore in Hochabrun ejus vices Franciseno Reischl adstans hic.”

In translation, it states,

“Waldmünchen. On the 25th [day of October 1793; the month and date were recorded on a previous page], is born, and by Reverend Lord Joannes Nepomucene Gresser, Supernumerary, is baptized, Andreas, of Christina Lineburger, as yet unmarried daughter of Michael Linneburger, stocking weaver herein, and as the mother asserts, illegitimate son of Conrad Mauerer, soldier in the legion of the Prince of Taxis here. Lifted by Andreas Meixlsperger, unmarried weaver in Hochabrun by his proxy, Francis Reischl, standing here.”

This sounds rather awkward in English, but it helps to know that a Supernumerary was more or less an associate pastor, so Andreas was baptized by Fr. Johann Nepomucene Gresser. The mother was Christina Lineburger/Linneburger/Lüneburger, who stated that the baby’s father was Conrad Mauerer, a soldier. The term “levante,” or lifted, refers to the person who lifted the child out of the waters of the baptismal font—the godparent. In this case, the godfather, Andreas Meixlsperger of Hochabrun was not present, so Franz Reischl stood in as proxy. The “legion of the Prince of Taxis” seems to refer to the Königlich Bayerisches 2. Chevaulegers-Regiment „Taxis“ (2nd Royal Bavarian Chevaulers Regiment “Taxis,”) which was a cavalry unit of the Bavarian Army, belonging to the Prince of Thurn und Taxis. I’m hoping we might be able to get a further glimpse of Conrad Mauerer in military records from the Bayerisches Armeemuseum (Military History Museum of Bavaria), located in Ingolstadt, as it would be nice to know who his parents were, and where he was born. Marcel found no evidence of additional children born to Christina and Conrad in the baptismal records from Waldmünchen, and neither was there any evidence that they ever married each other.

All in all, I’m absolutely thrilled with the results of this latest round of research. Thanks to Marcel, I was finally able to establish definitively that Waldmünchen was the place of origin of my Murri and Maurer ancestors, and identify at least a portion of Joseph and Walburga’s ancestors, going back five more generations. Although each answer has led to to two more questions, for now, I’m content to savor the victory.

Sources:

1 1900 U.S. Census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Buffalo Ward 25, Enumeration District 222, Sheet 2A, Erie County Almshoouse, line 16, Joseph Murri; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 27 July 2022), citing Family History Library microfilm no. 1241033, original data from National Archives and Records Administration publication T623, 1854 rolls; and

Roman Catholic Church, Waldmünchen parish (Waldmünchen, Cham, Bayern, Germany), Bd. 3, “Taufen, 1788-1830,” p 395, birth record for Joseph Murri, 22 August 1827; Bischöfliches Zentralarchiv Regensburg, St. Petersweg 11 – 13, 93047 Regensburg, Germany.

2 Ibid., Bd. 4, “Trauungen, 1831-1867,” unnumbered pages, 1862, no. 6, Joseph Murri and Walburga Mauerer.

3 Ibid., Bd. 4, “Taufen 1831-1867,” p. 383, no. 154, Anna Maria Murri, 16 September 1863.

4 Ibid., Bd. 4, “Taufen, 1831-1867,” p. 413, no. 183, Anna Francisca Murri, 27 September 1865; and

New York State Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics, Death Certificates, no. 2064, Anna Mertz, 29 March 1936; Buffalo, New York, City Clerk, 1302 City Hall, 65 Niagara Square, Buffalo, New York.

5 Roman Catholic Church, Waldmünchen parish (Waldmünchen, Cham, Bayern, Germany), Bd. 4, “Taufen, 1831-1867,” p. 442, no. 71, Johann Murri, 23 April 1867; Bischöfliches Zentralarchiv Regensburg, St. Petersweg 11 – 13, 93047 Regensburg, Germany.

6 Ibid., Bd. 4, “Trauungen, 1831-1867,” unnumbered pages in chronological order, 1864, No. 6, Franz Georg Mauerer and Franziska Geigant, 17 October 1864.

7 “New York Births and Christenings, 1640-1962,” database, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FDT1-ZS4 : 27 July 2022), Michael Maurer, born 21 July 1869.

8 Roman Catholic Church, Waldmünchen parish (Waldmünchen, Cham, Bayern, Germany), Bd. 4, “Taufen 1831-1867,” p. 50, unnumbered entries in chronological order, Anna Maria Mauerer, 2 July 1836; Bischöfliches Zentralarchiv Regensburg, Regensburg, St. Petersweg 11 – 13, 93047 Regensburg, Germany.

9 Ibid., p. 355, no. 129, “Anna, illeg.”daughter of Georg Macht and A. Maria Mauerer, born 9 August 1861; and

Ibid., p. 430, no. 169, “Joh. Baptist, illeg.” son of Georg Macht and A. Maria Mauerer, born 12 August 1866.

10 Knodel, John, “Law, Marriage and Illegitimacy in Nineteenth-Century Germany,” Population Studies, vol. 20, no. 3, 1967, pp. 279–94, JSTOR (https://doi.org/10.2307/2172673 : 27 July 2022).

 11 “New York Marriages, 1686-1980”, database, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:F6SQ-512 : 27 July 2022), Maria Maurer and Georgius Macht, 18 June 1867.

12 Namensverbreitungskarte (Name distribution map), data for Murri surname in 1890, (https://nvk.genealogy.net/map/1890:Murri : 27 July 2022).

13 Roman Catholic Church, Waldmünchen parish (Waldmünchen, Cham, Bayern, Germany), Bd. 5, “Ehen 1628-1735,” p. 636, unnumbered entries in chronological order, Peter Muri and Eva Braun, 4 June 1703; Bischöfliches Zentralarchiv Regensburg, St. Petersweg 11 – 13, 93047 Regensburg, Germany.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2022

Gaining a Toehold: Identifying a Potential Place of Origin for Joseph and Walburga Murre

The longer I research, the more I am convinced of the unstoppable power of cluster research, combined with autosomal DNA testing, when it comes to breaking through genealogical brick walls. Cluster research is also known as FAN research—genealogical research into an ancestor’s friends, associates and neighbors—and this method has proven to be very successful when the paper trail dries up, and historical records cannot be found which offer direct evidence for parentage or place of origin.

Last autumn, this combination helped me break through a long-standing brick wall, and discover the place of origin of my Causin/Cossin ancestors from Pfetterhouse, Alsace, France. Bolstered by that success, I’ve been attempting to utilize that same magic combination of FAN plus DNA research to discover the origins of my Murre/Muri ancestors, who immigrated to Buffalo, New York in 1869 from somewhere in Bavaria.

From Bavaria to Buffalo: The Joseph Murre Family

Let me start with a brief introduction to my 3x-great-grandparents, Joseph and Walburga (Maurer) Murre. Joseph Murre (or Murrÿ, Muri, Murri, Murrie, etc.) was born circa 1825 in Bavaria, Germany.1 Around 1862, he married Walburga Maurer, who was born circa 1835.2 They had at least three children while in Germany: Maria/Mary Murre, born circa 1863; Anna Murre (my great-great-grandmother), born 27 September 1865; and Johann/John F. Murre, born circa April 1867.3 The Murre family emigrated from the port of Bremen, arriving in New York on 3 April 1869 aboard the SS Hansa.4 Their passenger manifest is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Manifest from the SS Hansa showing the family of Joseph, Walburga, Maria, Anna, and Johann Muri (sic). Click image to enlarge.

Unfortunately, the manifest does not specify a place of origin beyond simply “Bavaria,” and neither have any other records discovered to date been informative in that regard—including naturalization records and church records, which are so often helpful in identifying an immigrant’s place of origin.

Three more children were born to Joseph and Walburga Murre in Buffalo: Josephine, born in 1869, Alois/Aloysius Joseph, born in 1872, and Frances Walburga, born in 1876.5 Walburga Murre—who became known as Barbara in the U.S.—died on 18 September 1886 and is buried in the United German & French Cemetery in Cheektowaga, New York.6 Her husband, Joseph, was living in the Erie County Almshouse at the time of the 1900 census, and he died in 1905.7 He, too, is buried in the United German & French Cemetery in Cheektowaga, albeit in a different plot from the one where Walburga is buried.

While it would oversimplify the situation considerably to state that this summary is “all” that was known about the Murre/Maurer family, the fact remains that thus far, I have not identified any siblings or parents for either Joseph Murre or Walburga Maurer, nor have I been able to identify their place of origin in Bavaria.

Step 1: Use DNA to Light the Way

When faced with a similar research question for my Causin/Cossin line, I believe I missed an opportunity by failing to exploit genetic genealogy methodology early on in the research. Now that I’m older and wiser, I decided to tackle my Murre/Maurer origins question using genetic genealogy methods right from the start. Specifically, I began by examining the Collins-Leeds Method autoclusters of my Dad’s autosomal DNA matches, gathered from all his Ancestry DNA matches who share between 20 cM (centimorgans, a unit of genetic distance) and 400 cM of DNA with him. These autoclusters are created by the DNAGedcom Client, an app available with a subscription to DNAGedcom. The clusters are displayed in a matrix that resembles the one shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: A portion of the Collins-Leeds Method autosomal cluster matrix generated by the DNAGedcom client for Ancestry DNA matches who share between 20 cM and 400 cM DNA with my dad.

At the time I ran this autocluster analysis, Dad had 385 Ancestry DNA matches who met the specified requirements of sharing between 20 and 400 cM DNA with him. So, Figure 2 shows only a portion of the matrix, which is set up as a grid with those 385 names along the top and also along the left side. Those 385 people are organized into clusters based on common ancestry, and Cluster 57, indicated by the red arrow, is the cluster to focus on to start. Clicking the popup box, “View Cluster,” brings up the image shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Details about Cluster 57, obtained by selecting “View Cluster” option in autocluster matrix generated by the DNAGedcom Client.

The green tree icon (circled in red) indicates a DNA match with a family tree linked to his or her test results; names of matches (in the “Person” column) have been redacted for privacy. By scrolling down through the list of Ancestors in Cluster, or by examining the trees (when available), I was able to determine that two of these DNA matches are descendants of Josephine (Murre) Hummel—the sister of my great-great-grandmother, Anna (Murre) Boehringer. The third match lacks a family tree, so it’s not immediately clear how we are related; however, these initial findings imply that we must be related through DNA passed down from ancestors of either Joseph Murre or Walburga Maurer.

The fourth member of that Cluster 57, whom I’ll call L.O., is even more interesting, because her family tree indicates that she is the great-granddaughter of German immigrants Frank and Matilda Maurer of Buffalo, New York. L.O. is the DNA match who shares 41.5 cM DNA with my dad, in the list of people in Cluster 57 shown in Figure 3. At this point, I did not have any information on Frank Maurer’s ancestry. But the fact that he shared a surname with Walburga Maurer, combined with the fact that one of his descendants shares DNA with three documented descendants of hers, strongly suggested that (a) Cluster 57 is a Maurer DNA cluster and not a Murre DNA cluster, and (b) Frank must somehow be related to Walburga.

Hoping to gather more data, I examined the Collins-Leeds Method autoclusters that were generated from gathering Dad’s DNA matches who shared between 9 cM and 400 cM DNA with him. By dropping the minimum threshold for inclusion in the analysis all the way down to 9 cM, I picked up DNA matches who are related more distantly, and the total number of individuals included in the analysis jumped from 385 to 1,651. The cluster that contains the same individuals found in Cluster 57 of the previous analysis, is now numbered as Cluster 334, shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: A portion of the Collins-Leeds Method autosomal cluster matrix generated by the DNAGedcom client for Ancestry DNA matches who share between 9 cM and 400 cM DNA with my Dad.

Examination of the new and improved version of that “Maurer Cluster” (Cluster 334) revealed that there’s some overlap with the adjacent Cluster 335, as well as some other DNA matches (336–342) that are more loosely related, creating a supercluster. That supercluster includes all the greyed-out boxes around Clusters 334 and 335.

Inspection of available family trees for people in the 334–342 supercluster produced the following data (Figure 5):

Match IDShared cM with DadPedigree notes
L.O.41.5 cMGranddaughter of Eleanor Maurer, daughter of Franz Maurer & Matilda Grenz
M.L.11.1 cMGreat-granddaughter of John J. Maurer, son of Franz Maurer & Matilda Grenz
C.M.11.0 cMGrandson of Joseph J. Maurer, son of Franz Maurer & Matilda Grenz
R.H.10.8 cMGrandson of John J. Maurer, son of Franz Maurer & Matilda Grenz
D.U.9.2 cMGrandson of Eleanor Maurer, daughter of Franz Maurer & Matilda Grenz
T.M.10 cMGrandson of John J. Maurer, son of Franz Maurer & Matilda Grenz
Figure 5: Summary of DNA and family tree data for DNA matches from supercluster 334–342 whose precise relationship to my Dad has yet to be determined.

The DNA matches summarized in Figure 5 were in addition to other DNA matches from that cluster who were already known to me as descendants of Joseph and Walburga (Maurer) Murre.

Most of these matches are in the 10 cM range, with the outlier being L.O., who shares roughly 42 cM with my dad, and this variability may be due simply to the randomness of DNA inheritance through recombination. However, other possibilities exist, such as the possibility that L.O. shares more than the expected amount of DNA with Dad because she’s also related to him in some other way, besides just the Maurer connection. That’s a question for another day, but in any case, there’s ample DNA evidence here to suggest that the genetic link between my family and all these DNA cousins lies in that Maurer DNA. Nonetheless, the precise relationship between Franz Maurer and my 3x-great-grandmother, Walburga (Maurer) Murre, remains unclear. Were they siblings, or perhaps first cousins? If we hypothesize that Franz and Walburga were siblings, then that would mean that Dad and all these great-grandchildren of Franz Maurer would be third cousins once removed (3C1R). While it’s within the realm of statistical possibility for 3C1R to share only 10 cM DNA, according to data from the Shared cM Project, a more distant relationship between Franz and Walburga is more probable.

Step 2: Research Franz Maurer’s Family in Historical Records

Now that we’ve identified a family of interest, who was Franz Maurer, and what evidence can be found in historical records that might offer some clues for our research question? Preliminary research indicated that Franz/Frank Maurer was born circa 1839 in Bavaria, and was married to Franziska/Frances Geigand in Germany. Figure 6 shows the family in the 1880 census.8

Figure 6: 1880 U.S. Census showing the family of Franz Maurer living at 240 Locust Street in Buffalo, New York.

Franz was a carpenter, born in Bavaria, and the couple had two children while in Germany: a son, Alois, born circa 1861, and a daughter, Anna, born about 1865. They immigrated in 1867,9 and settled in Buffalo, New York, in the same parish where my Murre family would settle two years later—St. Boniface, formerly located at 145 Mulberry Street. Church records show that another son, Joseph, was born to Franz and Franziska on 18 August 1867, followed by Michael on 21 July 1869.10 Twin boys, Joannes Aloisius and Franciscus (as they were identified in their Latin baptismal records), were born on 2 February 1872,11 but they both died of smallpox that summer, which also took the life of four-year-old Joseph.12 Another son, Frank, was born on 26 June 1873, followed by Henry on 14 July 1876.13 A daughter, Francisca, born 18 August 1880,14 must also have died in infancy, because she disappears from the records. She is not, however, buried in the same cemetery plot as many of the other Maurer children who died in childhood.

On 15 April 1881, Franziska/Frances Maurer died,15 leaving behind her husband and five living children, ranging in age from about 5 years to 20 years old. Four months later, on 22 August 1881,16 Franz remarried a fellow German immigrant, 33-year-old Franziska (Eppler or Ebler) Schabel, a widow whose previous husband, Frank Schabel, died in April 1880.17 At the time of her remarriage, Frances was the mother of two children, Frank Schabel, Jr. (about age 4), and Rose Schabel, who was barely two years old.18 Although Frank Jr. retained his biological father’s surname, Rose was subsequently known as Rose Maurer, and she identified her father as Francis Maurer—not Schabel—on her marriage record.19 Although Frances was still within her childbearing years when she married Frank Maurer, no children from this marriage have been discovered thus far.

The second Frances Maurer must have died before 1888, because Franz Maurer remarried for the third time on 24 January of that year.20 Oddly, there is no evidence for Frances’ death in the Buffalo, New York, death index 1885–1891. However, there may have been a miscommunication with the civil clerks when the certificate was recorded, because there is a death certificate for a Frank Marer (sic) in that time period, which might be that of Frances, despite the masculine version of the given name.21 (Research is ongoing.)

Franz Maurer’s new bride was 34-year-old Matilda Grenz, another German immigrant, and four children were born to this couple: Joseph, on 15 January 1889; Matilda, on 30 April 1891, John, on 21 December 1892, and Eleanor, on 22 January 1897.22 Franz/Frank Maurer, Sr., died in 1910 and is buried in the United German & French Cemetery.23 In 1924, his wife, Matilda, passed away, and she is buried by his side.24

Step 3: Confirm FAN Club Membership

As expected, evidence from Joseph and Walburga Murre’s FAN club confirms the importance of the Franz Maurer family to my quest for the origins of my Maurer/Murre ancestors. Joseph and Walburga Murre named Franz and Franziska Maurer as godparents to their youngest child, Frances Walburga Murre, whose baptismal record from St. Boniface church is shown in Figure 7.25

Figure 7: Baptismal record from St. Boniface Church in Buffalo, New York, for Francisca Walburga Murre. Click image to enlarge. The record states, “Die 22 Octobris baptizavi Franciscam Walburgam, nat[am] 20 h[ujus] m[ensis] fil[ia] Josephi Murrÿ et Walburgae Maurer. Patrini fuere Franciscus Maurer et Francisca Maurer.” In translation, “On the 22nd day of October, I baptized Francisca Walburga, born on the 20th of this month, daughter of Joseph Murrÿ and Walburga Maurer. Godparents were Franciscus Maurer and Francisca Maurer.”

Interestingly, for both of their other Buffalo-born children, Josephine and Alois Joseph, they named as godparents Alois Geigand and his wife, Josephine. Josephine Murre’s baptismal record is shown in Figure 8.26

Figure 8: Baptismal record from St. Boniface Church in Buffalo, New York, for Josephine Murre. Click image to enlarge. The record states, “No. 542, Josephina Muri Oct 31. Baptizavi Josephinam, natam 28 hujus ex Joseph Muri & Walburga Maurer, conjugibus. Sponsores fuere Aloisius & Josephina Geigand.” In translation, “I baptized Josephine, born on the 28th of this [month] of Joseph Muri & Walburga Maurer, spouses. Sponsors were Aloisius & Josephine Geigand.”

Cemetery data from United German and French Cemetery, where Walburga and Joseph were buried, confirm the close relationship between the Maurer and Geigand families. The lot where Walburga was laid to rest was a large one, with at least 20 burials in it, owned by Alois Geigand and Frank Maurer.27 Of the twenty burials, all but four of them have been identified as descendants of Maurer or Geigand families. (Those remaining four burials may also be related, but currently their connection to these families is unclear.) The 1880 census, shown previously in Figure 6, also illustrates the strong links between the families, since they were living in the same house at 240 Locust Street at that time. A detail from this census is shown in Figure 9.

Figure 9: Detail from 1880 census showing Alois and Josephine Geigand living with the family of Frank Maurer in Buffalo, New York. Click image to enlarge.

According to this census, Alois and Josephine Geigand were both 68 years old, which implies that they were born circa 1812. These ages suggest that perhaps they might be the parents of Frances (Geigand) Maurer, and I’m hoping that her burial record from St. Boniface might shed some light on that.

This brings us to the Hamburg emigration manifest for these folks, the document that gives me a glimmer of hope that I might be able to discover the origins of my Maurer/Murre family (Figure 10).28

Figure 10: Hamburg emigration manifest for the Geigand and Maurer families, who departed for New York on 1 May 1867 on the SS Victoria. Click image to enlarge.

This manifest is irrefutably the correct one for these families. The names and ages of all passengers line up perfectly with data from U.S. records, confirming that 55-year-old laborer, Alois Geigand (indexed as Geigant), and his 54-year-old wife, Josephine, traveled to the U.S. with their two children, 24-year-old Georg and 17-year-old Walbur (sic), aboard the SS Victoria, departing from Hamburg on 1 May 1867. Traveling with them were the family of Franz (indexed as “Fraz”) Maurer, a 23-year-old carpenter; his wife, Franziska, and two children, Alois and Anna. Their place of origin was indexed by Ancestry as Waldmünchen, Bayern—a town in Bavaria, Germany, that’s barely two miles from the Czech border (Figure 11).

Figure 11: Location of Waldmünchen. Click image for interactive Google Map.

It’s always good to get more than one piece of evidence for place of origin before attempting to dive into records from Europe, and in this case, the emigration register from Mainz, Germany, provided that additional evidence (Figures 12a and b).29

Figure 12a: First page of the emigration register from Mainz, Germany, identifying the families of Aloys Geigand and Franz Maurer. 17-year-old Walbur Geigand, who was identified as Alois’s daughter on the passenger manifest, appears two rows down.
Figure 12b: Second page of the emigration register from Mainz, Germany, identifying the families of Alois Geigand and Franz Maurer. 17-year-old Walbur Geigand, who was identified as Alois’s daughter on the passenger manifest, appears two rows down.

Professional researcher, Marcel Elias, provided the following translation of these entries:

“Nr. 394, 24 April 1867, agent’s name Humann, Schiffsvertrag (a confirmation about booked ticket) from 24 April 1867, Names of emigrants:

Geigant Aloys, 55yo

his wife Josepha, 54 yo,

their son Georg, 24 yo

all from Waldmünchen, Bayern, Auswanderungszeugniss (approval for emigration) from Waldmünchen from 27 March 1867, heading to New York, port of departure Hamburg on April 26

Nr. 395, 24 April 1867, agent’s name Humann, Schiffsvertrag (a confirmation about booked ticket) from 24 April 1867, Names of emigrants:

Maurer, Franz, 28yo

his wife Franziska, 26 (or 28 yo)

children: Alois, 4 ¼

Anna 1 ¼

all from Waldmünchen, Bayern, Auswanderungszeugniss (approval for emigration) from Waldmünchen from 27 March 1867, heading to New York, port of departure Hamburg on April 26″

Observant readers may have noticed that there were other emigrants from Waldmünchen recorded on both the passenger manifest, as well as the emigration register. These other emigrants included group 393, consisting of 30-year-old Maria Maurer and her children, Anna and Johann, as well as 42-year-old Georg Macht. They, too, belong to the Maurer-Geigand FAN Club, and I was not surprised to discover that Maria and Georg were married at St. Boniface on 18 June 1867, less than two months after they arrived in Buffalo.30 Ship-board romance or marriage of convenience? Who knows?

Step 4: Seek Evidence for Murre/Maurer Family in Records from Waldmünchen

Unfortunately, my own ancestors, Joseph and Walburga Murre, were not found in the database of Mainz, Germany, emigration registers, which suggests that they registered in another administrative center. (They also departed from Bremen, rather than Hamburg.) So, these two pieces of evidence—the passenger manifest and the emigration register—are my best hope for tracking down my Murre family. You may also note that Ancestry indexed the last place of residence of the emigrant Maurer-Geigand clan as “Waldmühlen,” rather than “Waldmünchen,” based on the “Wohnort” column. However, the place was clearly recorded as Waldmünchen in the “Legitimationen” column in Figure 12b. This discrepancy might be concerning, apart from the fact that I also happened to find a Buffalo Evening News article from 1933 about the 60th wedding anniversary of Joseph and Anna (Pongratz) Geigand, which states that Joseph Geigand was born in Waldmünchen, Bavaria, Germany, and came to the U.S. in 1871.31 Do I know how Joseph Geigand is related to my family at this point? Heck no. Nonetheless, FAN principles would suggest that he’s got to be a part of the Maurer-Geigand FAN Club, and at this point, that’s good enough for me.

Finding my Murre family in records from Waldmünchen sounds pretty straightforward, but it’s not a slam-dunk. It may be that the Maurers were approximating their place of origin to Waldmünchen, when in fact they were from some smaller village in the vicinity. We won’t know until we try. However, trying is not something I can do on my own. FamilySearch has no scans online for Roman Catholic records from Waldmünchen, nor am I sufficiently proficient in my ability to read German. Church records from Waldmünchen are at the Bischöfliche Zentralarchiv Regensburg (diocesan archive in Regensburg), which is an archive that’s quite familiar to Marcel Elias, the professional researcher I mentioned previously. So, I handed the ball off to Marcel, and I’m awaiting his results with bated breath. Stay tuned.

Sources:

1 1900 U.S. Census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Buffalo Ward 25, Enumeration District 222, Sheet 2A, Erie County Almshouse, line 16, Joseph Murri; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 12 July 2022), citing Family History Library microfilm no. 1241033, original data from National Archives and Records Administration publication T623, 1854 rolls.

2 1870 United States Federal Census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Buffalo Ward 7, page 73, family no. 603, Joseph Murri household; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 12 July 2022), citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 934 of 1,761 rolls. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d; Family History Library Film no. 552433.

3 1880 United States Federal Census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Buffalo city, Enumeration District 147, sheet 12D, family no. 120, Joseph Murry household; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : 12 July 2022), citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 830 of 1,454 rolls, Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29, National Archives, Washington, D.C., Family History microfilm no.1254830; and

New York State Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics, Death Certificates, no. 2064, Anna Mertz, 29 March 1936; Buffalo, New York, City Clerk, 1302 City Hall, 65 Niagara Square, Buffalo, New York; and

1900 U.S. Census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, West Seneca, Enumeration District 264, Sheet 28A, line 10, John Murra in Alois Klug household; digital image, Ancestry (http://search.ancestry.com : 12 July 2022), citing National Archives and Records Administration, 1900. T623, roll 1034 of 1854 rolls, FHL microfilm no. 1241034.

4 Manifest, SS Hansa, arriving 3 April 1869, lines 38-42, Muri family; imaged as “New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 12 July 2022); citing Microfilm Serial M237, 1820-1897; Line 42; List no. 292.

5 St. Boniface Roman Catholic Parish Records,142 Locust St. Buffalo, New York, microfilm publication, 2 rolls (Buffalo & Erie County Public Library : Western New York Genealogical Society, 1982), Roll 1: Baptisms (1849-1912), 1869, no. 542, baptismal record for Josephina Muri; and

Ibid., 1872, no. 977, baptismal record for Aloisius Joseph Muri; and

Ibid., 1876, no. 90, baptismal record for Francisca Walburga Murrÿ.

6 Ibid., 1886, baptisms, no. 124, record for Walburga Barbara Murry. Although it was recorded among the baptisms, the text makes it clear that this is a death record. “Walburga Barb. Murry. no. 124. Die 18a Sept. Walburga Barbara Murri quinqueqinta duos annos nata animam Deo reddidit confesso atque Viatico refecta die 20a b.m. rite sepultum est ejus corpus. Ferdinand Kolb.”; and

United German and French Cemetery Roman Catholic Cemetery, Mount Calvary Cemetery Group (500 Pine Ridge Heritage Boulevard, Cheektowaga, New York) to Julie Szczepankiewicz, Murre/Maurer/Geigand burial data, including record of lot owners for Lot 66, Section S; diagram of plot, and record of burials on lot; burial records for Walburga Barb Murri (1886) and Joseph Murre (1905).

7 Ibid., and

1900 U.S. Census, record for Joseph Murri.

8 1880 United States Federal Census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Buffalo city, Enumeration District 147, page 31C, family no. 305, Frank Maurer household; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/1716337:6742 : 12 July 2022), citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 830 of 1,454 rolls, Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C.

9 Manifest, SS Victoria, departing 1 May 1867 Hamburg to New York, p328, nos. 46-49, Franz Maurer family (indexed as Fraz); imaged as “Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : 12 July 2022), citing Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Volume: 373-7 I, VIII A 1 Band 021 A; Page: 327; Microfilm No.: K_1712.

10 “New York Births and Christenings, 1640-1962”, database, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FDT1-CXT : 12 July 2022), Joseph Maurer, born 18 August 1867; and

Ibid., Michael Maurer, born 21 July 1869.

11 Ibid., Joannes Aloisius Maurer, born 2 February 1872; and

Ibid., Franciscus Maurer, born 2 February 1872.

12 United German and French Cemetery Roman Catholic Cemetery, record of burials for Lot 66, Section S.

13 “New York Births and Christenings, 1640-1962”, database, Franciscus X. Maurer, born 26 June 1873; and

Ibid., Henricum Aloysium Mauerer, born 14 July 1876.

14 Ibid., Francisca Maurer, born 19 August 1880.

15 Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/79956024/franziska-mauerer : accessed 12 July 2022), memorial page for Franziska Mauerer (28 Feb 1838–15 Apr 1881), Find a Grave Memorial ID 79956024, citing United German and French Cemetery, Cheektowaga, Erie County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Phyllis Meyer (contributor 47083260).

16 “New York Marriages, 1686-1980”, database, FamilySearch ( https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:F6S7-SJ6 : 12 July 2022), Franciscus Maurer and Francisca Schable, 22 August 1881.

17 1880 U.S. Census, Erie County, New York, mortality schedule, Buffalo city, Enumeration District 141, sheet 1, line 19, Frank Schabel, died April 1880; imaged as “U.S., Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 12 July 2022), citing New York State Education Department, Office of Cultural Education, Albany, New York; Archive Roll No. M10.

18 1880 United States Federal Census, Erie County, New York population schedule, Buffalo city, Enumeration District 141, Sheet 93A, household no. 249, Francis (sic) Schabel household; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 12 July 2022), citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 829 of1,454 rolls.

19 Roman Catholic Church, Our Lady of Lourdes parish (Buffalo, Erie, New York, USA), Marriages, 1883-1907,1903, no. 22, Joannes C. Bauer et Rosa K. Maurer, 17 June 1903; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QSQ-G928-9NHL : 12 July 2022), “Church records, 1850-1924,” Family History Library film no. 1292741/DGS no. 4023115, image 1048 of 1740.

20 “New York Marriages, 1686-1980”, database, Franz Maurer and Matilda Grenz, 24 January 1888.

21 City of Buffalo, Buffalo, NY, Death Index, 1885-1891, p. 486, Marer, Frank, unknown date (bet. 1885-1891), Vol. 10, p 62; digital image, Internet Archive (https://archive.org/ : 12 July 2022), image 549 of 990.

22 “New York Births and Christenings, 1640-1962”, database, Joseph Maurer, born 15 January 1889; and

“U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007,” database, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 12 July 2022), Matilda Catherine Maurer, born 30 April 1891, SSN 058342914; and “New York Births and Christenings, 1640-1962”, database, Martinam Maurer, born 30 April 1891. Matilda’s baptismal record identifies her as Martina, with the same date of birth, but I believe they are the same individual.

“New York Births and Christenings, 1640-1962,” database, Johannem Maurer, born 21 December 1892; and

“New York Births and Christenings, 1640-1962”, database, Elleonoram Maurer, born 22 January 1897.

23 Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/79897696/frank-x-maurer : accessed 12 July 2022), memorial page for Frank X. Maurer (1839–1910), Find a Grave Memorial ID 79897696, citing United German and French Cemetery, Cheektowaga, Erie County, New York, USA ; Maintained by DPotzler (contributor 47357059).

24 Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/79896453/matilda-r-maurer : accessed 12 July 2022), memorial page for Matilda R. Grenz Maurer (1853–19 Mar 1924), Find a Grave Memorial ID 79896453, citing United German and French Cemetery, Cheektowaga, Erie County, New York, USA ; Maintained by DPotzler (contributor 47357059).

25 St. Boniface Roman Catholic Parish Records,142 Locust St. Buffalo, New York, 1876, no. 90, baptismal record for Francisca Walburga Murrÿ.

26 Ibid., 1869, no. 542, baptismal record for Josephina Muri.

27 United German and French Cemetery Roman Catholic Cemetery, record of lot owners and record of burials on Lot 66, Section S.

28 Manifest, SS Victoria, families of Franz Maurer and Alois Geigant.

29 “Mainz, Germany, Emigration Register, 1856-1877,” database and images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 12 July 2022), Franz Mauer family (Ordnungs no. 395), Aloys Geigand family (Ordnungs no. 394), and Walbur Geigand (Ordnungs no. 397), Auswanderungszeugniss [approval for emigration] from Waldmünchen from 27 March 1867, schiffsverträge [shipping contract] 24 April 1867, citing Auswanderungsregister 1856-1877, Stadtarchiv Mainz, Germany, Serial no. 395, Identification no. 1632, reference no. 70 / 1358.

30 “New York Marriages, 1686-1980,” database, Maria Maurer and Georgius Macht, 18 June 1867.

31 Buffalo Evening News (Buffalo, New York), 21 April 1933 (Friday), p 21, col 2, “Married 60 Years,” anniversary announcement for Joseph and Anna (Pongratz) Geigand,” digital image, Newspapers (https://www.newspapers.com/ : 12 July 2022).

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2022

Should Auld Ancestors Be Forgot: The Year in Review

2021 is on its way out, and we’re about to get a fresh start with 2022. It’s traditional to reflect on the past year and consider our accomplishments, as well as our goals and resolutions for the new year, and this practice seems to be no less relevant to genealogical research. With that in mind, I’ve been taking stock of my genealogical triumphs and tribulations from 2021, and creating some research resolutions for the new year.

Connecting the Dodds

In 2021, I furthered my understanding of the history of my Dodds family. As of 2020, I had traced the family of Robert and Catherine (Grant) Dodds to 1871, when they were living in Yarmouth township in East Elgin, Ontario. I knew the fates of the parents, Robert and Catherine, after 1871, as well as the fates of their oldest three daughters, Hannah, Isabella, and Margaret. I also knew what became of their youngest two children, Martha Agnes (my great-great-grandmother), and Warner Howard. However, three of their sons—Alexander, John H., and Gilbert M.—disappeared from Canadian records after 1871. Thanks to clues gained from DNA matches, I was able to discover a second marriage which produced two children for Alexander Dodds, prior to his death in Buffalo in 1899. I was also able to discover the record for Gilbert’s death in Buffalo in 1898. Furthermore, DNA was instrumental once again in determining that John H. Dodds migrated to Pennsylvania, where he and Gilbert were working as day laborers in 1880. Although Gilbert eventually moved on to Buffalo, where other family members were also living, John remained in Pennsylvania, married Lena Frazier in 1892, and settled in Pike Township (Potter County) to raise a family.

Archival Acquisitions and Album Assembly

In the spring and early summer, researching my roots gave way to other demands on my time as I dealt with the task of cleaning out my parents’ home in preparation for sale. I’ve been slowly working my way through that pile of boxes in my basement, finding new homes for all their books and furnishings with sentimental value. However, I have yet to start scanning all the family photos and documents which I acquired. Similarly, I’m still chipping away at the process of filling my daughter’s baby album—never mind that she graduated from high school in June. I took a break when I realized that, having waited this long, it makes more sense to do the job right by organizing all the materials first, rather than grabbing the first box of photos from the time of her birth and hoping that additional photos from that era don’t turn up in other boxes. I think if I can get all the family photos and documents scanned and organized, with physical copies stored in archival boxes or albums, and digital images edited to include meta data, I will be satisfied. It may take the rest of my life to accomplish that, but it would mean that my kids could inherit a manageable, accessible family history collection.

DNA Discoveries

Autosomal DNA testing has been a consistent theme in my genealogy research in 2021. DNA Painter has allowed me to coordinate my research across test companies through ongoing development of my ancestral chromosome map. Over the summer, I was able to connect for the first time to living descendants of my great-great-great-great-great-grandparents, Wojciech Słoński and Marianna Duras. I was thrilled to be able to add them as a new ancestral couple to my chromosome map, bringing the total to 16 ancestral couples from whom I can now verify my genetic descent. Of course, there are still some ancestral lines where DNA has not yet shed any light, due to a small number of “close” (3rd-5th cousin level) DNA matches. This is often because the families were small, with few living descendants, or because those descendants live in countries such as Poland, where DNA testing is relatively uncommon. Lack of available data on living individuals in Poland—for example, from newspaper obituaries, or public records databases such as we have in the U.S.—makes it difficult to identify living individuals for target testing, but perhaps this can be a focus of my research in 2022.

Honing in on the Hodgkinsons

In October, I spent some time researching my Hodgkinson ancestors, a well-researched family of Canadian Loyalists. I was especially excited to discover a baptismal record for Ellender “Huskinson,” whom I believe to be a previously-unknown daughter of John Hodgkinson and his first wife, Mary Moore. I examined a number of hypotheses regarding the origins of the Hodgkinson family, based on assertions made by family trees online, and discovered that these hypotheses ranged from “possibly true,” to “patently false.” I also started some research into the history of Mary Hodgkinson, who was named as godmother to Ellender Hodgkinson, and who was (I believe) a sister to John. I hope to write about this in another blog post early in 2022.

Caus(in) for Celebration

Of course, the biggest discovery of the year for me was the identification of the parents of my great-great-great-grandmother, Mary Magdalene (Causin) Roberts, and their place of origin in Pfetterhouse, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France. This discovery was made through identification of the family’s FANs—specifically, a godmother named Anna Maria Hensy, who was mentioned in the baptismal record for Maria Magdalena Gosÿ—combined with evidence from family trees of DNA matches who descend from that same godmother, Mary Ann/Anna Maria (Hanses/Hanzi/Heinze) Schneider. Even though my process was not perfect, this breakthrough has had a profound impact on my research. Although I haven’t blogged about all the individuals I’ve been able to add to my tree as a result, I can now state definitively that Mary Magdalene (Causin/Cossin) Roberts was born in Buffalo, New York on 14 August 1832 to Joseph Antoine Cossin (“Gosÿ”) and Marie Agathe Hentzÿ, who were married in the village of Pfetterhouse, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, on 8 September 1829. Marie Agathe was the daughter of Dionisÿ Hensÿ and Agnes Antony, while Joseph Antoine was the son of Jakob Cossin and Barbara Maker from the nearby village of Seppois-le-Bas (or Niedersept, in German). Figure 1 summarizes the ancestors in my direct line that I’ve been able to add to my tree as a result of this breakthrough.

Figure 1: Pedigree chart for Mary Magdalene (Causin) Roberts suggested by data gathered to date from the records of Pfetterhouse and Seppois-le-Bas. Click the chart to view a larger image. Research is ongoing and some of these conclusions remain tentative, pending discovery of additional evidence.

Everything Else

Rounding out the year, I was able to locate some ancestral signatures in Detroit probate records for my Roberts ancestors, Michael Roberts and Frank M. Roberts. I wrote about the Martin-Opitz-Bibliothek as a source for vital records, particularly for those with ancestors from the Warmia historical region. Finally, I analyzed Ancestry’s newest ethnicity estimates for a family group (mine!) consisting of four children, their parents, and both sets of grandparents. All in all, 2021 presented ample opportunities for me to do what I love to do: research my family tree using all the tools, technologies, and resources I can muster, discover the stories of my ancestors as told in historical documents, and share my findings.

A Look Ahead

As I think about what I’d like to accomplish in the new year, a few research projects stand out, listed below, in no particular order:

  1. I’d like to continue my research into the Hodgkinson family, both in North America and in England, to see if I can convince myself that the Loyalist Hodgkinsons of Grantham, Upper Canada were really born in Mansfield, England.
  2. I’d love to be able to leverage DNA and FAN research to identify the parents of Catherine (Grant) Dodds and their place of origin, in the same way that I was able to answer those questions in the case of Mary Magdalene Causin.
  3. I hope to further my research into the Causin/Cossin and Hentzy/Hensy families in records from Haut-Rhin, Alsace.
  4. On my mom’s side, I’d like to resume the search for the elusive Antonina (Naciążek) Zarzycka, my great-great-grandmother, in the hope of being able to find a birth, marriage or death record for her that would reveal her parents’ names. Failing that, I would like to explore alternative historical sources for evidence of her origins, such as Księgi Ludności Stałej (permanent population registers).
  5. I’d love to utilize that same magic combination of FAN plus DNA research to discover the origins of my Murre/Muri ancestors, who immigrated to Buffalo, New York in 1869 from somewhere in Bavaria.
  6. I’d like to invest more time in learning to decipher German handwriting, and gain proficiency in translating German records, so that I can independently research my German and Alsatian ancestors, as well as my husband’s ancestors who were Poles from the Prussian partition.

This is just a modest sample of my research aspirations. If I ever did manage to succeed in accomplishing each of these goals, I could try to discover the origins in Ireland for my Walsh ancestors, identify the maiden name of Christina Hodgkinson, and plan another trip to Poland for onsite research in the ancestral parish of my Zieliński ancestors. The supply of research questions is endless, as is the fascination that accompanies the search for answers, and the satisfaction when victory is attained. Nonetheless, these six items seem like a good place to start, and I’m itching to get started. So, how about you? What are your genealogical goals, hopes, and dreams for the new year? Whatever they may be, I wish you success, prosperity, and joy in the journey.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2021

A New Comparison of Ancestry’s Ethnicity Estimates for Three Generations of My Family

Back in March 2019, I wrote about the most recent ethnicity estimates from Ancestry DNA for three generations of my family: myself, my husband, all four of our parents, and our four children. Since this is a rather unique data set, I thought it would be interesting to see what insights such analysis might offer about DNA inheritance, and also about the limitations inherent to these estimates.

Ancestry DNA has updated their ethnicity estimates several times since that first blog post, adding new reference groups and Genetic Communities™ for increased granularity. Last month, they released another update, bringing the total number of Genetic Communities™ to 61 for Poland. So, this seems like a good time to revisit that concept and compare the newest ethnicity estimates for my family members to each other and to those previous estimates, to see how they have changed over time.

For those who might be unfamiliar with the term, Ancestry’s Genetic Communities™ are the result of Ancestry’s effort to identify more precisely the regions from which each DNA tester’s ancestors originated. They’re assigned automatically, so if Ancestry is able to place you into one of their Communities, they will, without any requirement to opt-in. Ancestry’s algorithm takes into consideration the family trees of clusters of DNA testers who all match each other, and uses the locations mentioned in those family trees to identify birthplaces or migration destinations common to the group. Theoretically, if a majority of the family trees incorrectly identified a place of origin for a group of people, the algorithm might be thrown off, but I suspect that this risk is minimized due to the size of Ancestry’s database.

With this most recent update, Ancestry correctly assigned me to a Genetic Community of those with ancestry from Southeast Poland, and further refined that to Northeastern Lesser Poland (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Map of the region identified as the geographic place of origin for members of the Northeastern Lesser Poland Genetic Community, courtesy of Ancestry DNA.

I’ve traced my Klaus and Liguz ancestors to villages in that region between Szczucin and Mielec, so Ancestry nailed that one. Moreover, they were able to be even more precise with my mother’s estimate, specifying Dąbrowa County as one of her ancestral places of origin (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Map of the region identified as the geographic place of origin for members of the Dąbrowa County Genetic Community, courtesy of Ancestry DNA.

I was also assigned to the Genetic Community of Northeast Poland, indicated by the larger yellow area on the map in Figure 3, with a further assignment to the Łódź Province and Surrounding Area Community.

Figure 3: Map of the region identified as the geographic place of origin for members of the Northeast Poland Genetic Community, (pear-shaped light yellow area), with the region identified as Łódź Province & Surrounding Area defined in dark yellow. Image courtesy of Ancestry DNA.

Zooming in on that map reveals that the “Łódź” area is defined rather broadly, so I’m not surprised that their map encompasses my ancestry from parishes that are in the Mazowieckie province, but are only a few kilometers east of the border with Łódź province. However, I am a little surprised by the extent to which these Genetic Communities overlap, and by the fact that I was not assigned to all of the Genetic Communities that cover a particular geographic area. For example, the geographic region identified as “Łódź Province and Surrounding Area” encompasses my ancestry from parishes in Słupca County, Wielkopolska, nearly 150 km west of Łódź. However, Ancestry has identified other Genetic Communities (e.g. West Central Poland Community, Greater Poland Community, and Central Poland Community) which also cover this region. The map in Figure 4 defines the geographic region identified as the place of origin of those in the definition of the Central Poland Community, so one might expect that someone with roots in Słupca County—located west of Konin and east of Poznań—would be assigned to this community, but that was not the case for me. My mother-in-law was assigned to this area, however, so the map shown in Figure 4 comes from her ethnicity estimate.

Figure 4: Map of the region identified as the geographic place of origin for members of the Central Poland Genetic Community, courtesy of Ancestry DNA.

Of course, these estimates and Genetic Community assignments are still a work in progress, and we have every reason to expect that the accuracy will continue to improve over time. With that in mind, here is the table which compares the ethnicity estimates for my family, consisting of a group of four siblings, their parents, and all four grandparents (Figure 5). For each ethnicity component, the reported value is given in bold, with the range indicated in the line below. Check marks indicate the Genetic Communities that were assigned to each tester. A dash indicates that a person was not assigned to a particular ethnic group or Genetic Community. Ancestry tests for over 1500 ethnicities, but only the ten groups shown were reported in ethnicity estimates for members of my family.

Figure 5: Comparison of Ancestry DNA ethnicity estimates among four siblings, their parents, and grandparents using current data from the November 2021 update. Click on the table to view a larger version.

As with my previous post, it’ll be helpful to discuss the ethnicities in my family based on pedigree. The ancestors of my father-in-law (“Paternal Grandpa” in the chart) were ethnic Poles from the Russian and Prussian partitions as far back as I’ve been able to discover. (A brief discussion of the partitions of Poland and subsequent border changes is found here.) My mother-in-law’s (“Paternal Grandma’s”) ancestors were also ethnic Poles, from the Prussian partition. My mother’s (“Maternal Grandma’s”) family were ethnic Poles from the Russian and Austrian partitions. My father’s (“Maternal Grandpa’s”) ancestry is more mixed. His mother’s family was entirely German, and his father’s family was half German/Alsatian, half English/Irish/Scottish.

Based on those pedigrees, “Paternal Grandpa, “Paternal Grandma,” “Dad,” and “Maternal Grandma” should all be 100% Polish ethnicity, since all of their ancestors were Poles, living in Polish lands, as far back as I have traced thus far. I’m half Polish, since all my ancestors on my Mom’s side were Polish and none of my Dad’s ancestors were, and my kids, then, are 75% Polish.

For comparison, the summary chart for the data from March 2019 is shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6: Original comparison of Ancestry DNA ethnicity estimates among four siblings, their parents, and grandparents based on ethnicity estimate from March 2019. Click on the table to view a larger version.

In comparison with these earlier data, the November 2021 ethnicity estimates for each person have not changed significantly. My father-in-law (“Paternal Grandpa”), for example, was previously reported to be 83% Eastern Europe & Russia,16% Baltic States, and 2% Finland; in this current estimate, 84% of his ethnicity was Eastern Europe & Russia, with 11% Baltic, and 5% Sweden & Denmark. The Baltic and Sweden & Denmark components may or may not be real, since the reported ranges indicate 0% at the low end. It may happen that these components eventually disappear, just as the “Finland” component did, as the ethnicity estimates are continually refined. However, it’s also possible that these components are real, and reflect retained traces of more ancient ancestry. Time will tell.

My father-in-law was also assigned to some Genetic Communities™, specifically, the Northeast Poland community, with additional sub-assignments of Central & Northeast Poland, Central Poland, and Łódź Province and Surrounding Area. Given the degree of overlap between those communities, I think this is, at best, a modest improvement over the simple statement that his ethnicity is Polish, but it’s a step in the right direction, at least.

Figure 7: Ethnicity estimate for my father-in-law (“Paternal Grandpa”), showing extent of geographic overlap among the Genetic Communities™ of Central & Northeast Poland, Central Poland, and Łódź Province & Surrounding Area. Each smaller orange area in the image corresponds to a sub-community within the parent Genetic Community, Northeast Poland. Image courtesy of Ancestry DNA.

Another interesting difference between the 2019 ethnicity estimate and the current estimate is the increase in my Dad’s (“Maternal Grandpa’s”) reported Scottish ethnicity. This is due to Ancestry’s attempt in 2020 to differentiate between the closely-related ethnic groups in the United Kingdom. As explained in this blog post by Barry Starr, Ph.D., Director of Scientific Communications at Ancestry, earlier reference panels included only two groups for this region, an Irish/Celtic/Gaelic group and an Anglo-Saxon/British/English group. In 2020, Ancestry added additional reference panels in an attempt to offer increased granularity, so testers with U.K. ancestry could now be assigned to one or more of four ethnic groups for this region: England & Northwestern Europe, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

Unfortunately, this particular change to the algorithm led to inflated estimates of Scottish ancestry for many of us. In 2019, my Dad’s combined “Ireland & Scotland” component represented 4% of his ethnicity (range = 0–5%). For comparison, we can calculate Dad’s ethnicity by pedigree. His most recent Irish ancestor was his great-great-grandfather, Robert Walsh, from whom Dad would have received, on average, 6.25% of his DNA. Another great-great-grandmother, Catherine (Grant) Dodds, was the source of Dad’s Scottish ancestry, but her family’s origins are unclear, as she herself was most likely born in Canada of parents or grandparents who were Scottish immigrants. If we assume that Catherine’s ancestry was purely Scottish, then Dad would be expected to inherit 6.25% Scottish ethnicity from her, for a total of 12.5% “Ireland & Scotland.” So, the 4% “Ireland & Scotland” reported in 2019 falls short of that, partly due to the random nature of DNA inheritance through recombination—Dad may simply have inherited less than the average amount of DNA from each of those two ancestors—and partly due to the inexact science of generating ethnicity estimates.

However, in Dad’s current ethnicity estimate, his Scottish component is inflated to a whopping 31% (range = 12–33%), while his Irish estimate is 3% (range = 0–7%), and his England & Northwest Europe component comes in at 18% (range = 0–51%). These changes are the result of that attempt in 2020 to distinguish between Irish, Scottish, Welsh, and English/Northwestern European ethnicities, and they effectively double his total U.K. ancestry, which should be about 25% since all of his English/Irish/Scottish roots are through one grandmother, Katherine (Walsh) Roberts. (Dad’s other three grandparents were all German or Alsatian.) I suspect that this over-estimate of Scottish ancestry will be resolved in a future ethnicity estimate update.

I think the rest of the data in the charts largely speak for themselves, so an exhaustive analysis of each person’s results is unnecessary. However, a few observations can be made:

  1. Both Child 1 and Child 4 both had ethnicities reported that were not detected in the tests of either their parents or their grandparents. Child 1 was reported to have 1% DNA (range = 0–4%) from Sardinia, and Child 4 was reported to have 6% (range = 0–12%) DNA from Norway. Since DNA cannot “skip a generation,” these results cannot reflect any true ethnic origins in those areas. Since we only recognize that that these results are spurious by comparing them with data from both parents, this illustrates the need for caution in interpreting ethnicities reported at values less than about 10%.
  2. Even if a reported ethnicity matches the known pedigree, checking the range of values is recommended; anything that dwindles down to 0% should be taken with a grain of salt, in the most conservative interpretation.
  3. Ancestry’s Genetic Communities™, identified in conjunction with place data from family trees, track well across generations. There were no Communities assigned to children which were not also assigned to their parents, and in one case, a parent’s data exhibited a higher degree of accuracy and precision ((Northeastern Lesser Poland > Dąbrowa County) than was detected in the child.
  4. Identification of Genetic Communities™ did not always line up with known data about ancestral origins, even when those origins are confirmed through DNA matches. Despite having a grandmother born in Greater Poland and having deep ancestry in that region confirmed by DNA matches, my mother was not assigned to this Community. Despite having no evidence of ancestry from places further south than Greater Poland, my mother-in-law was assigned to the Southeast Poland Genetic Community. Go figure.

At the end of the day, these are only estimates of one’s ethnicity, and they are liable to change, modestly or significantly, as additional testers enter the data pool and new reference populations are added for comparison. DNA match lists are ultimately more useful than ethnicity estimates in answering genealogical research questions, but it’s nonetheless fascinating to see how these estimates play out within a family group.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2021

Would’ve, Should’ve, Could’ve: Lessons Learned from the Search for Magdalena Causin

In my last post, I wrote about my recent confirmation of the parents of Mary Magdalene (Causin/Cossin) Roberts and the discovery of their place of origin in Pfetterhouse, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France. Although this was a thrilling breakthrough for me, in hindsight, I’m frankly amazed that it took me this long to find them. Let’s unpack the process and see what can be learned from it.

1. Thorough Documentary Research is Always Key

Although this was definitely a stubborn research problem, it’s probably overstating the case to call it a “brick wall” because the documentary research was far from complete. The Genealogical Proof Standard requires “reasonably exhaustive” documentary research, and it’s up to the researcher to identify all collections that are potentially relevant to the research problem and add them to the research plan. Although I’ve been chipping away at research in onsite collections in Detroit as time and money (and the pandemic….) permit, I had not yet examined all of the relevant birth, marriage and death records from the Roberts’ parish in Detroit, Old St. Mary’s, either in person or by proxy. Similarly, my local Family History Center has not been open for quite a while due to the pandemic, making it difficult to research digitized collections with restricted access, such as the church records from St. Louis in Buffalo, where I might have found death records that offered a transcription of “Cossin” that would have been more recognizable. So, it’s entirely possible that this problem could have been solved solely through documentary research, given enough time and focused effort.

2. Don’t Overlook Online Family Trees

Even if I had accepted immediately that the Maria Magdalena Gosÿ who was baptized at St. Louis church in Buffalo, was my Maria Magdalena Causin, I would have had to rely on FAN research for the identification of their ancestral village, since the baptismal record did not mention the parents’ place of origin. So, finding those family trees that mentioned Anna Maria/Maria Anna Hentzi was a critical clue. One of the things I find most surprising is that searches for “Anna Maria Hensy” did not turn up results for Anna Maria/Maria Anna Hentzy Schneider, given the number of family trees in which she appears. Even now, when I repeat those searches to see if I can tease her out of the database, using only the search parameters I knew previously (before the trees from the DNA matches gave me her married surname), she is not readily found. I like to think I’m not a rookie when it comes to database searches, and I certainly tried a variety of search parameters, based on what I knew for a fact, and as well as what I could speculate.

Assuming that the godmother was actually present at the baptism of Maria Magdalena “Gosÿ,” I knew that “Maria Anna Hensy” was living in Buffalo in 1832, was most likely born in France, and was probably between the ages of 16 and 60 when she served as godmother, suggesting a birth between 1772 and 1816, although I suspected that a narrower range from 1800–1816 was more likely. I guessed that she was also probably living in Detroit by 1857 when Maria Magdalena was married, so I set up parallel searches with either Buffalo or Detroit specified as her place of residence. I tired varying the specificity of the search, leaving out some information, such as approximate year of birth, and I also tried making the search more restrictive by specifying “exact search” for some parameters, such as her place of birth in France. I used wild card characters to try to circumvent problems with variant spellings in the surname, and I performed all these same searches at FamilySearch, since they offer a different assortment of indexed databases. Despite all that, no promising candidates emerged for further research until DNA matches permitted me to focus on particular family trees.

Why might this be? Good question. One thing I did not do was try drilling down to the Public Member Trees database, specifically. It’s standard research practice among experienced researchers to drill down to a particular database where the research target is expected to be found, e.g. “1870 United States Federal Census,” or “New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957,” especially when the desired results don’t turn up readily in broader searches of all the databases, or within a sub-category of databases, like “Immigration & Emigration” or “Census & Voter Lists.” So, although I searched for “Maria Anna Hensy,” in specific historical records databases (e.g. 1840 census, 1850 census, etc.), my research log indicates that I never drilled down to the Public Member Trees to look for clues. I suspect this reflects some unconscious bias on my part—mea culpa! I’m so accustomed to frustration over all the inaccuracies that I find in so many online trees, that I failed to give these trees the consideration they deserved in generating good leads. When I repeat those searches for Maria Anna Hensy in the Public Member Trees database, the correct Maria Anna/Anna Maria Hentzy Schneider shows up in the first page of search results.

3. Analyze the Surname Hints from DNAGedcom

Had I also dug deeper into Aunt Betty’s DNA matches using some of analytical tools out there, I might have found my Cossins sooner. Several weeks ago, I ran a Collins-Leeds analysis at DNAGedcom on all of Aunt Betty’s matches at Ancestry that were within the 20–300 centiMorgan (cM) range, and the results included an enormous cluster with 36 members, whom I realize now are all related through the Hensy line (Figure 1). I’ve written a little previously about DNAGedcom, and more information can be found on their website. However, the purpose of autocluster analysis tools like this is to sort your autosomal DNA match list into clusters of people who are related to each other through a common line of descent.

Figure 1: Detail from Collins-Leeds analysis of Aunt Betty’s Ancestry DNA matches ranging from 20–300 cM showing Cluster 7. The pink/green shaded squares to the right are part of a supercluster between this group and the adjacent Cluster 8 (colored in green, not shown in this image), indicating matches in common between these two clusters, which implies related lines of descent.

The really cool thing about DNAGedcom for these analyses is the amount of information that is provided—assuming you take the time to dig into it, which I had not done previously. For that cluster shown in Figure 1, you’ll notice that some of the pink squares are marked with a green leaf. Those leaves mark the intersections of two DNA testers who have family trees linked to their DNA tests, and hovering the cursor over those squares will reveal the names of individuals found in both trees. You can even go one better and tap on any colored square (marked with a leaf or not) to see the option to “View Cluster,” or “View Chromo[some] Browser,” as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: The “View Cluster” and “View Chromo Browser” options that appear for viewing more information about a particular cluster identified via autocluster analysis at DNAGedcom.

The data used for this autocluster analysis came from Ancestry, and much to the dismay of pretty much everyone interested in genetic genealogy, Ancestry does not offer a chromosome browser or any sort of segment data. So, the “View Chromo Browser” option will not work here, although it would work if these data were gathered from another source like 23&Me. However, clicking on “View Cluster” brings up the chart shown in Figure 3. Names of testers have been redacted for privacy.

Figure 3: Details about Cluster 7, obtained by selecting “View Cluster” option in autocluster matrix generated at DNAGedcom.

Clicking on the name of anyone in that list will take you to the DNA match page for that person at Ancestry. Tree icons on the left indicate those matches with linked family trees. Nice information, but if you keep scrolling down, it gets even better. After identifying the individuals with whom DNA is shared in each cluster, DNAGedcom goes one step further, identifying individual ancestors who appear in the family trees linked to those matches (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Ancestors mentioned in family trees linked to autosomal DNA tests for individuals from Cluster 7, as identified by DNAGedcom.

The names of the DNA matches who own each family tree are listed in the column on the far right, and have been redacted for privacy, but the chart indicates that Nicolaus, Johann Anton, and Servatius Thelen all appear in 4 different family trees of individual members of Cluster 7, as do Anna Maria and Andrew Schneider and Peter Simon. As it happens, the most recent common ancestral couple between Aunt Betty and these matches—Dionisy Hentzy and Agnes Antony— is not mentioned in this top part of the list. However, if we were to scroll down a bit, we would find them (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Dennis (Dionisy) Hanzi in ancestor list generated by DNAGedcom for ancestors identified in family trees of DNA matches in Cluster 7.

Admittedly, this is still a “Some Assembly Required” type of tool. The ancestor list for a given cluster identified by DNAGedcom does not immediately identify the most recent common ancestral couple. However, in conjunction with a list of ancestral FANs, and with guidance from the public member trees, which explain the relationships between individuals mentioned in the list, this is a powerful tool, indeed.

4. Use All the Information in Each Historical Record

The mistake that galls me the most in all of this is that I failed to fully examine the death record for Mary M. Roberts until I sat down to write that first blog post about this discovery. (Actually, had I blogged about my “brick wall” with Maria Magdalena earlier, I might have found my answers faster, since writing about something always forces me to review, organize, and reanalyze my information.) When I looked at my evidence for her date of death, I noticed that I had her probate packet and cemetery records, but I was still citing the index entry for her Michigan death certificate, which I had obtained years ago, and not the original record, which is now readily available online. Duh! One of the cardinal rules of genealogy is to always go to the original source, rather than trusting the information in an index, because so often there is additional information in the original, or there are transcription errors that are caught after viewing the original. Such was the case here, as well. The index entry, shown in Figure 6, only states that Mary M. Roberts was born “abt. 1833.”1

Figure 6: Index entry from Ancestry’s database, “Michigan, U.S., Deaths and Burials Index, 1867-1995” for Mary M. Roberts.

However, the entry from the death register contains more information than was indexed regarding her precise age at the time of death.2 The death register states that she was 61 years, 6 months, and 10 days old when she died, as shown in Figure 7.

Figure 2: Detail of death record for Mary M. Roberts, showing age at time of death as 61 years, 6 months, 10 days (boxed in green).

When I ran this through a date calculator (such as this one), it points to a birth date of 17 August 1832. This is almost an exact match to the birth date of 14 August 1832 that was noted on the baptismal record for Maria Magdalena “Gosÿ” from St. Louis Church in Buffalo.

Facepalm.

Had I made this connection sooner, I would have been much more confident in accepting that baptismal record as the correct one for Mary Magdalene Causin/Casin/Curzon/Couzens. I guess this is why we have Genealogy Do-Overs. All of us start our research by making rookie errors, so at the very least, it’s important to periodically step back and re-evaluate the search to see what is really known, and to make sure that nothing has been overlooked. Better still, consider a full-blown, Thomas MacEntee-style Do Over, which I have never yet had the courage to do.

Not all breakthroughs are the result of elegant or sophisticated methodology. Sometimes, you just keep hacking away at a problem, and you get to the answer in the end, and that’s what happened here. While the origins of the Causin family could possibly have been discovered, in time, using thorough documentary research in church records from Detroit and Buffalo, the process was expedited when the focus switched from the Causin surname to the Hentzy surname of one of their FANs. With the addition of insight gained from examination of DNA matches, the process was expedited still further. The combination of cluster research, autosomal DNA matching, and standard documentary research, is so powerful that it can even overcome a flawed research process. So, while this may not have been a pretty victory, it was a victory nonetheless. I’ll take it.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2021

Sources:

1 “Michigan, U.S., Deaths and Burials Index, 1869-1995,” database, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 17 November 2021), Mary M. Roberts, died 27 February 1894, citing Family History Library film no. 1377697.

2 “Michigan Deaths and Burials, 1800-1995,” database and image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FHH5-3XW : 17 November 2021), Mary M. Roberts, 27 February 1894, citing Wayne, Michigan, Deaths, v. 13-17 1893-1897, no. 3598.

From Curzon to Gosÿ: Finding Maria Magdalena Roberts

Recently, a long-standing “brick wall” came tumbling down, and I’m still reveling in the victory. I was finally able to definitively identify the parents of my great-great-great-grandmother, Maria Magdalena (Causin) Roberts, and establish their place of origin. This has been a research problem for nearly a decade, so it’s an especially sweet victory. Here’s how it unfolded.

Introducing Mary Magdalene Roberts

Mary Magdalene (or Maria Magdalena) Roberts has been quite the mystery for me, but it’s not as if she left no traces whatsoever in the historical record. On the contrary, her life is well-documented from the time of her marriage until the time of her death. I knew that Mary was born in New York about 1833–1834 and that she died on 27 February 1894 in Dearborn, Michigan.1 She married Michael Roberts (formerly Michael Ruppert), a German immigrant from the village of Heßloch in Rhineland-Palatinate, and together they became the parents of eight children, four of whom outlived her. However, her family’s origins prior to her marriage were considerably less clear. The record of Mary’s marriage to Michael Ruppert from St. Joseph’s (Roman Catholic) Church in Detroit is shown in Figure 1.2

Figure 1: Marriage record for Magdalena Causin and Michael Rupert from St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic church (Detroit, Michigan) 12 May 1857.

The record is in Latin, and states that Michael Rupert married Magdalena Causin on 12 May 1857, and names Michael’s brother, Arnold Rupert, as a witness, along with Maria Brant (?). Unfortunately, the record does not provide the names of the parents of the bride and groom, and neither were Maria Magdalena’s parents identified on her death record.3 However, the death record stated that her parents were born in Switzerland, and the 1880 census reported that both her parents were born in France.4

Mary’s place of birth was identified as Buffalo, New York, on baptismal records for her children from Old St. Mary’s, and these records provided additional evidence for her maiden name. Figures 3a and b show the baptismal record for Franc. Henricus (Franz Heinrich, or Francis Henry) Ruppert in 1866.5

Figure 3a: Left page of baptismal register from Old St. Mary’s Church showing baptismal record for Franc. Henricus Rupert boxed in red.

In this image, the mother’s name in the column at the far right, slightly cut off in the photo, appears to be “Magdalena Causin.”

Figure 3b.

Figure 3b: Right page of baptismal register from Old St. Mary’s Church, showing baptismal record of Franc. Henricus Rupert boxed in red.

The first column on the left in Figure 3b is the mother’s place of birth, which was identified as Buffalo, New York. The godparents, recorded in the next column, were Franciscus (Frank) Rupert and Catherine Rupert, the baby’s paternal grandparents.

Similarly, Buffalo was identified as the Mary Magdalene’s place of birth in the baptismal record for her son, Franz Georg, in 1871 (Figure 4b), but the mother’s name looks more like Casin or Cosin than Causin (Figure 4a).6

Figure 4a: Left page of baptismal register from Old St. Mary’s Church in Detroit, showing baptism of Franz Georg Rupert, boxed in red. The mother’s name, Magdalena Casin, appears in the column on the far right.
Figure 4b: Right page of baptismal register from Old St. Mary’s Church in Detroit, showing baptism of Franz Georg Rupert, boxed in red.

The godparents noted here were Franz Rupert, again, and “Charl.” (presumably Charlotte) Braun, and again, Magdalena was reported to have been born in Buffalo.

To further complicate the issue of Mary Magdalene’s maiden name, it was recorded as Couzens on the death record for her daughter, Katherine “Kitty” Hecker (Figure 5).7

Figure 5: Death certificate for Katherine “Kitty” Hecker, reporting mother’s name as Mary Couzens.

Moreover, Mary’s maiden name was reported as Curzon in the brief biographical entry about her son, Frank M. Roberts, which appeared in the Buffalo Artists’ Register published in 1926 (Figure 6).8

Figure 6: Detail from entry for Frank M. Roberts in the Buffalo Artists’ Register.

The Search for Causins in Buffalo

With no hard evidence for her parents’ names, but pretty good evidence for a birth in Buffalo, New York, circa 1833, my Aunt Carol and I hoped to find a baptismal record for Mary Causin/Casin/Couzens/Curzon in the church records from St. Louis parish in Buffalo. St. Louis was the only Roman Catholic church in Buffalo at that time, having been established by immigrants from Germany, France and Ireland in 1829, and records are available from the Family History Library, originally on microfilm (currently digitized).9 Aunt Carol had a chance to review them first, and was disappointed to discover no good matches for a baptismal record for Maria Magdalena Causin. Her best guess was an 1832 baptismal record for Maria Magdalena Krauter, daughter of Matthias Krauter and Anna Eva Knab, but she conceded that this was a shot in the dark. I took a look at the film myself, and similarly struck out. Broad searches in indexed databases at Ancestry and FamilySearch for “C*s*n” living in Buffalo in 1832 produced plenty of results for Casin, Cassin, Cushion, Cousin, etc. but many of the individuals identified were Irish or English, arrived in Buffalo too late, or were ruled out for other reasons. A History of Germans in Buffalo and Erie County, New York, published in 1898, contains a list of the German heads of household of St. Louis parish in 1832, but there were no surnames similar to Causin.10 We had no knowledge of any siblings that Maria Magdalena might have had, and no evidence for the family’s whereabouts from the time between her birth in Buffalo circa 1833, and her marriage in Detroit in 1857. Whoever Mary Magdalene’s parents were, they seemed to have left no trace of their time in Buffalo.

Hoping to get some new perspective on the problem, I posted in the Facebook group for the Western New York Genealogical Society back in 2013, wondering if there might be some other places besides St. Louis church that Mary might have been baptized.11 Admin Nancy Archdekin came through with an interesting suggestion: a birth record from St. Louis parish that Aunt Carol and I had overlooked, for Maria Magdalena Gosÿ, daughter of Joseph Antonius Gosÿ and Maria Agatha Hensy (Figure 7).12

Figure 7: Baptismal record from St. Louis church in Buffalo, New York, for Maria Magdalena Gosÿ, 14 August 1832.

According to this record, Maria Magdalena Gosÿ was born on 14 August 1832 and baptized (“renata vero”) the same day, with godparents Joseph Lang and Maria Anna Hensy. I was intrigued. I could see how “Gosÿ” might be a phonetic approximation of “Causin,” if the latter were pronounced with a nasal French ending. Could Gosÿ be the “correct,” original version of the surname, and all the subsequent records got it wrong? Searches for Gosÿ in Buffalo in 1832 were negative, suggesting that the name was a misspelled version of something. Could it be Causin?

I put that record on the back shelf, thinking that we had not yet exhausted documentary research which may still produce some leads or insights. I searched the 1840 census in both Detroit and Buffalo, the Buffalo, New York, Death Index, and Buffalo city directories, chasing down every Cousin, Cossin, Causin, Cassin, Curson, Cozzens, and any other surnames that seemed remotely similar phonetically. I checked probate records from Wayne County, Michigan, for any references to Mary as an heir, and although Mary was not mentioned specifically, I came up with one promising reference to “Pierre Casson (Coussin),” that was at least close to the right name. However, subsequent searches suggest that he may have been French Canadian rather than Alsatian. Still, it was a lead that I could have pursued further. I checked probate records in Buffalo, as well, but found nothing. Church records from St. Joseph’s might still be revealing. Perhaps they have records of premarital investigations, which sometimes provided more information about the bride and groom than is found in the actual marriage record? Furthermore, church records (deaths, in particular) from both St. Louis in Buffalo and St. Mary’s in Detroit had not yet been examined. There was—and still is—work to be done.

I also had some nagging doubts. What if Mary was never baptized? There was some evidence that the Alsatian community in Buffalo in the 1820s was “not unduly devout;” might her parents have omitted that rite?13 This hypothesis might have been more likely had Mary been born in Buffalo prior to 1829, but if a Catholic church was already in existence by about 1833 when she was born, it seemed probable that she would have been baptized there. But then another concern presented itself. In my research experience, many immigrants approximated their place of origin to the closest big city. What if Mary was not born in Buffalo, but near it? I’d found evidence in my research for Alsatian families farming in rural communities throughout the Western New York area, from Buffalo to Rochester. Maybe she was born in one of those communities?

Clues from the Causins’ Cluster

Since cluster research (also known as FAN research, research into an ancestor’s Friends/family, Associates, and Neighbors) has been so fruitful for me in the past, I decided to take a closer look at Maria Brant (or Brandt) and Charlotte Braun, two of the Roberts family’s FANS who were noted on church records, and were not known family members. Again, nothing jumped out at me; surveys of indexed records did not produce any good candidates who were born in France, Alsace, or Switzerland and who might have been connected to Mary. I kept coming back to that baptismal record for Maria Magdalena Gosÿ: the mother and the godmother had the same surname, Hensy, and I suspected that they were at least cousins, if not sisters. Searches for “Hensy” in Buffalo and Detroit suggested that this surname, too, may have been misspelled, and I quickly discovered a plethora of German surname possibilities from indexed records, including Hintse, Hantz, Hense, Hentzi, Hentz, Hentzy, Hans, and even Hohensee. There were no obvious matches for Maria Anna Hensy, however. Something more was needed to shed light on this research problem, and I hoped that something would be DNA.

DNA to the Rescue

Although I could have used my own DNA match lists, I have in my arsenal DNA match lists for both my Dad and his paternal aunt. Aunt Betty is two generations closer to Mary Magdalene Roberts than I am, and she should have inherited roughly 12.5% of her DNA from this particular ancestor. With so much “Causin” DNA, I expected that it would not be too difficult to identify matches in Aunt Betty’s match list that are related to us through Mary Magdalene Causin. Nonetheless, it took some time to get to the point where I had identified enough matches that were probably related through the ancestors of Mary Magdalene Causin—and not one of our other German or Alsatian ancestors—that I could try to compare family trees and look for common surnames and places.

And that’s when it happened.

I was looking through Aunt Betty’s DNA matches one evening for something completely unrelated to Causin research. I was examining the public tree associated with one of her matches, when a name jumped out at me: Anna Maria Hanzi, who was married on 8 October 1838 to Moritz Schneider at Old St. Mary’s church in Detroit. It suddenly dawned on me that this must be the Anna Maria “Hensy” of the baptismal record! Shared matches for this person included people I’d previously identified as having probable Causin ancestry, and several of them had public trees. All of them had Mary Ann (Anna Maria) Hanses/Hanzi/Heinze in them, and Ancestry reported that this same Mary Ann (Anna Maria) Hanses/Hanzi/Heinze appeared in 326 trees, quite a number of which cited a birth in 1814 in “Vaterhunn,” Alsace, France—information which was supposed to have come from the church record of Anna Maria’s marriage at Old St. Mary’s. Furthermore, Anna Maria’s parents were identified as Dionysius/Dennis Hanzi and Agatha (__), both of whom also immigrated to Michigan. The fact that this Mary Ann/Anna Maria had the same name as Mary Magdalene’s godmother, was also married in Detroit, and was showing up in the family trees of multiple DNA matches to Aunt Betty, could not possibly be a mere coincidence. This was the key to the whole problem!

A quick internet search revealed that “Vaterhunn” does not exist. It may have been a phonetic misrendering of whatever village name was provided orally to the priest, or it may have been a mistranscription by whomever tried to decipher the handwriting in the church record, or a combination of these. My first thought was that I needed to write to the church to request a copy of the marriage record. Although these records have been microfilmed and are available for research as part of the Burton Historical Collection at the Detroit Public Library, the Collection is temporarily unavailable (as of this writing) due to major renovations at the library. Obtaining the record from the church so I could see the handwriting myself seemed like the fastest way to discover what the real village name ought to be.

In the meantime, I decided to take a shot at guessing what the town name should have been. Lacking a good gazetteer for Alsace, I approximated one by searching the FamilySearch catalog for “France, Haut-Rhin,” and then drilling down to “Places within Haut-Rhin” for a list of about 400 locations for which FamilySearch has microfilmed/digitized records. I have no idea how complete this coverage is, but it seemed like a good start. Since many vital records for Haut-Rhin are online, I started searching for a civil birth registration for Maria Anna/Anna Maria Hentze in 1814, to confirm the location. I thought perhaps that the “-hunn” in “Vaterhunn” might be “-heim,” instead, so I checked records from Waltenheim, Wettolsheim, Battenheim and Bartenheim for a few years around 1814, but did not find Anna Maria’s birth, nor even evidence for the existence of the Hentze surname in these locations.

Not feeling especially patient at this point, I switched gears and searched the Alsace & Lorraine Genealogy Facebook group for “Vaterhunn.” If there are 326 family trees out there that mention Anna Maria Hanzi in them, and a large percentage of them repeat this information about “Vaterhunn,” then I figured it was quite possible that someone before me had sought help in trying to identify this village. Lo, and behold, I discovered an old post from 2014 in which a group member (whom I’ll call “OP”) had asked about this very same question, for the very same reason.14 The comment thread was incomplete; it looked as though some comments had been deleted, but it appeared that a baptismal record had been located by a member of the group. A second search of the group’s history for OP’s name produced a second thread in which she requested a translation of a birth record which had been found by a group member previously—a birth record for Anna Maria Hentze.15 The record came from a collection of civil birth registrations for the village of Pfetterhouse—the elusive “Vaterhunn” mentioned in the oft-cited marriage record for Anna Maria Hentze. I quickly looked up the original birth record, which confirmed that Maria Anna Hensÿ was born 29 April 1814 to Dionisÿ Hensÿ, a 34-year-old laborer, and his wife, Agnes.16 Having nailed down the location, I started searching marriages records for Pfetterhouse for the marriage of Joseph Antoine “Gosÿ” and Maria Agatha Hensÿ, and voilà! I discovered their civil marriage record on 8 September 1829 (Figures 8a and 8b).17

Figure 8a: First page of the marriage record for Joseph Antoine Cossin and Marie Agathe Hentzÿ from the civil registry office in Pfetterhouse, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France, 8 September 1829.
Figure 8b: Second page of marriage record for Joseph Antoine Cossin and Marie Agatha Hentzy, showing signatures of groom and witnesses.

My transcription is as follows, with thanks to Margaret Fortier, CG, of the Genealogical Translations Facebook group who volunteered a bit of editing.18

“No. 6, Cassin, Joseph Antoine Avec Marie Agathe Hentzÿ, Le 8 Septembre 1829

L’an mil huit cent vingt neuf le huit septembre à quatre heures après midi pardevant nous Jacques [Hemis?], maire et officier de l’etat civil de la commune de Pfetterhausen, canton d‘hirsingen, arrondissement d’altKirch département du haut-rhin, sont comparus le sieur Joseph Antoine Cossin, cordonnier né le douze thermidor l’an neuf de la republique constaté par l’extrait de naissance de la commune de Seppois le bas domicilié à Pfetterhausen fils majeur légitime de feu Jacques Cossin cultivateur et de feu Barbara Maker en leur vivant domicilié à Seppois le bas, le père décedé le dix avril mil huit cent quatorze constaté par l’extrait mortuaire du dit lieu, et la mère décedé la quatorze germinal an onze de la republique constaté par l’extrait de décé de Seppois le bas, et quant aux aieuls, le dit Cossin s’est présenté avec quatre habitans de la commune de Seppois le bas, les nommés François Joseph Wendlinger cultivateur âgé de soixante sept ans, Joseph Waller cultivateur âgé de cinquante sept ans, Moritz Cossin cultivateur âgé de cinquante six ans, et Antoine Martin marschal ferrant âgé de cinquante trois ans tous les quatre nous ont déclaré qu’ils n’ont point de connaissance et ne savent pas ôu les aïeul du dit Joseph Antoine Cossin sont décedés et d‘aprés la lettre de M. le maire Colin de Seppois le bas qui est àjointe, il parait et justifie qu’ils ne sont pas no plus inscrits dans les archives de la commune, et la demoiselle Marie Agatha Hentzy journalliere née le vingt sept mars mil huit cent onze constaté par l’extrait de naissance de Pfetterhausen fille mineure de Thienisy Hentzy cabaretier et d’Agnoise Antony ses père et mère tous les trois domiciliés au dit lieu à présent et consentant les quels nous ont requis de procéder à celebration du mariage projété entre eux, dont les publications ont été faites devant la porte principale de notre Maison commune, savoir, la première le dimanche vingt trois aôut et la seconde le dimanche trente même mois de la présente année, chaquefois à l’heure de midi, et aucune opposition au dit mariage ne nous ayant été signiffiée [?], faisant droit à leur requition et après leur avoir donné lecture de toutes les pièces ci dessus mentionnées du chapitre six du titre cinq du code civil intitule du mariage, nous avons demandé aux future Epoux et Epouse, s’ils quelent se prendre pour mari et pour femme chaqu’un d’eux ayant repondu séparement et affirmatisement Déclarons au nom de la loi que le sieur Joseph Antoine Cossin et la demoiselle Marie Agatha Hentzy sont unis par le mariage, de tout quoi nous avons dressé acte en presence des sus dits quatre habitans de Seppois le bas témoins, dont aucun n’est pas parentes ni alliés de l’un ni de l’autre des deux Epoux, les quels aprés lecture et interprétation en allemand faites, ont signé avec nous et les parties contractantes, dont aite, la mère Agnoise Antonÿ a déclaré ne savoir écrire. [Signed] Joseph Antonÿ Cossin, Frantz J. Wendlinger, Joseph Waller, Moritz Cossin, Antonÿ Martus, J. Hemis [?], maire.”

I’ve translated the record below:

“The year one thousand eight hundred and twenty nine on the eighth of September at four o’clock in the afternoon. Before Us, Jacques [Hemis?], mayor and civil registrar of the commune of Pfetterhausen, Canton of Hirsingue, District of Altkirch, Department of Haut-Rhin, appeared Mr. Joseph Antoine Cossin, shoemaker, born on the twelfth [day of the French Republic month of] Thermidor of the year nine of the Republic, according to the birth record of the commune of Seppois-le-Bas; residing in Pfetterhausen, son of legal age of the late Jacques Cossin, farmer, and of the late Barbara Maker in their lifetime residing in Seppois-le-Bas, the father deceased on the tenth of April eighteen hundred and fourteen according to the mortuary extract of the said place, and the mother died on the fourteenth [day of the French Republic month of] Germinal [in the] year eleven of the Republic, according to the extracted death record of Seppois-le-Bas, and as for the grandparents, the said Cossin presented us with four inhabitants of the commune of Seppois-le-Bas, by name, François Joseph Wendlinger, farmer, age sixty-seven years; Joseph Waller, farmer, aged fifty-seven; Moritz Cossin, farmer, aged fifty-six years, and Antoine Martin, blacksmith, aged fifty-three years; all four declared to us that they have no knowledge and do not know where the grandparents of the said Joseph Antoine Cossin are deceased and according to the attached letter of Mr. Colin, the mayor of Seppois-le-Bas, it appears and can be judged that they are no longer registered in the archives of the of the commune; and the Miss Marie Agatha Hentzy, [female] day laborer, born on March twenty-seventh, eighteen hundred and eleven, as verified by the extract of birth of Pfetterhausen, minor daughter of Thienisy Hentzy, cabaret owner, and of Agnoise Antony; her father and mother all three domiciled in the said place at present and consenting, who have required us to proceed to the celebration of the marriage planned between them, of which the publications were made in front of the main door of our common House; namely, the first one on Sunday, August twenty-third, and the second one on Sunday, the thirtieth [day of the] same month of the present year, each time at the hour of noon; and after no opposition to the said marriage [was found], and after having read them all of the documents from Chapter Six of Title Five of the Civil Code pertaining to marriage, we have asked the future spouses, if they want to take each other as husband and wife [and] each of them having answered separately and affirmatively, We declare in the name of the law that Mr. Joseph Antoine Cossin and Marie Agatha Hentzy are united in marriage, of which we have drawn up an Act in the presence of the above-mentioned four witnesses of Seppois-le-Bas, none of whom is related to either of the two Spouses, who after reading and interpreting in German, have signed with us and the contracting parties; the mother Agnoise Antonÿ declared [that she does] not know how to write. [Signed] Joseph Antonÿ Coſsin, Frantz J. Wendlinger, Joseph Waller, Moritz Coſsin, Antonÿ Martus, J. Hemis [?], Mayor.”

The groom’s name was recorded as Joseph Antoine Cossin, with a “long s,” (Figure 9), and the names of the bride and groom are an exact match to the names of the parents of Maria Magdalena in the baptismal record from St. Louis church in Buffalo, eliminating any further doubt that the “Gosÿ” of the baptismal record was intended to be something closer to the “Causin” more commonly found on records pertaining to Mary Magdalene Roberts.

Figure 9: Detail from marriage record for Joseph Antoine Cossin and Marie Agatha Hentzy showing Joseph’s name written with a long s.

Joseph’s parents were identified as Jacques Cossin and Barbara (née Maker) Cossin, both deceased—a brand-new ancestral couple for me to research! I even got a bonus ancestral signature on the second page, where Joseph himself signed the record. The record is packed with genealogical gold, including the dates of birth of both the bride and groom and the dates of death of both of the groom’s parents. Some of the dates are given according to the old calendar of the French Republic, created after the French Revolution. Steve Morse offers a handy tool for converting old French Republic dates into their modern Gregorian calendar equivalents, and after conversion, we see that Joseph Antoine Cosson was born 28 July 1804, and his mother, Barbara, died 1 April 1806, when Joseph was just two years old.

The Cossin family was from the nearby village of Seppois-le-Bas, shown on the map in Figure 10, and the two villages are just a stone’s throw away from the Swiss border.

Figure 10: Locations of Pfetterhouse and Seppois-le-Bas within France. Google Maps.

The marriage record tells the story of Joseph Cossin’s process of fulfilling the legal requirements of the Napoleonic Code for marriage by rounding up four witnesses to accompany him to the mayor’s office. The Code specified that, in cases where the parents of a bride or groom of legal age for marriage were deceased, the permission of the grandparents was nonetheless required, until the age of 30 for grooms and 25 for brides. Article 155 further states,

“In case of the absence of the ancestor to whom the respectful act ought to have been made, the celebration of the marriage may be proceeded in, on producing a judgment given declaring absence, or in default of such judgment that which shall have directed an inquiry, or if such latter judgment shall not yet have been pronounced, an act of notoriety delivered by the justice of the peace of the place where the ancestor had his last known domicil. This act shall contain the deposition or four witnesses officially summoned by the justice of the peace.”19

So, in order to avoid possible fines and imprisonment, Messieurs les maires of the communes of Seppois-le-Bas and Pfetterhouse had to carefully document that Joseph’s grandparents were deceased and that he had no family members whose consent was required for the marriage. Although the record states that none of the witnesses were related to either the bride or the groom, the fact that one of the witnesses, Moritz Cossin, shares a surname with the groom and was from the same small village, suggests that he may, in fact, have been a distant relative, although they were apparently unaware of any relationship.

On the bride’s side, the record states that she was the daughter of “Thienisy” Hentzy, cabaret owner, and of Agnoise Antony, which are reasonable phonetic matches to the Dionisy and Agnes Hentzy who were reported to be the parents of Maria Anna Hentzy Schneider, according to numerous family trees on Ancestry. This confirms that Mary Magdalene’s godmother, Anna Maria Hensy, was in fact, her aunt.

While many genealogical research questions remain, this is such a satisfying breakthrough for me, and I look forward to growing my family tree in this fertile ground of records from both the U.S. and France. From Causin to Curzon to Gosÿ and back to Cossin; from Pfetterhouse to Buffalo to Detroit to “Vaterhunn,” this has been quite a journey of discovery. And yet, in hindsight, I’m frankly amazed that it took me this long to find them. In my next post, I’ll share all the missteps I made, the things I wish I had done differently, and the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2021

Selected Sources:

Featured image: The author at the grave of Mary Magdalene Roberts, Mt. Elliott Cemetery, Detroit, Michigan. Photo credit, Valerie Koselka.

11860 United States Federal Census, Wayne County, Michigan, population schedule, Detroit Ward 6, page 142, dwelling no. 1066, household no. 1148, Mary Roberts in household of Michael Roberts; digital image, Ancestry (http://ancestry.com : 6 July 2021), citing NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 566 of 1,438 rolls; and

1870 United States Federal Census, Wayne County, Michigan, population schedule, Detroit Ward 6, page 476B, dwelling no. 998, household no. 1114, Magdalena Robert in household of Michael Robert; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 6 July 2021), citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 713 of 1,761 rolls; and

Wayne County Probate Court (Detroit, Wayne, Michigan), Probate packet no. 19856, Mary M. Roberts, died 27 February 1894; digital images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : 28 June 2021), “Probate estate packets, 1797-1901,” FHL Film no.967194, path: Wayne > Probate packets 1894 no 19805-19856 > images 975-984.

2 Roman Catholic Church, St. Joseph’s parish (Detroit, Wayne, Michigan, USA), “Marriages, 1835-1866”, 1857, no. 15 (?), marriage record for Michael Ruppert and Magdalena Causin, Burton Historical Collection microfilm no. 1286, reel 32A, Detroit Public Library, 5201 Woodward Ave, Detroit, Michigan, USA. Photo credit Valerie Koselka.

3 “Michigan Deaths and Burials, 1800-1995,” database and image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FHH5-3XW : 31 October 2021), Mary M. Roberts, 27 February 1894, citing Wayne, Michigan, Deaths, v. 13-17 1893-1897, no. 3598.

4 1880 United States Federal Census, Wayne County, Michigan, population schedule, city of Detroit, Enumeration District 298, page 123A, dwelling no. 92, household no. 92, Mary Roberts in household of Michael Roberts; database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 1 July 2021), citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 613 of 1,454 rolls.

5 Roman Catholic Church, St. Mary’s parish (Greektown, Detroit, Michigan, USA), “Baptisms, 1866-1919,” 1866, no. 194, Franc. Henricus Rupert, born 29 August 1866, Burton Historical Collection microfilm no. 1286, reel 32, Detroit Public Library, 5201 Woodward Ave, Detroit, Michigan. Photo credit Valerie Koselka.

6 Roman Catholic Church, St. Mary’s parish (Greektown, Detroit, Michigan, USA), “Baptisms, 1866-1919,” 1871, line 188, Franz Georg Rupert, baptized 8 October; Burton Historical Collection microfilm no. 1286, reel 32, Detroit Public Library, 5201 Woodward Ave, Detroit, Michigan. Photo credit Valerie Koselka.

7 “Michigan, U.S., Death Records 1867-1952,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 30 October 2021), Katherine Hecker, died 13 June 1942, file no. 293521, citing Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics; Lansing, Michigan.

8 Lee F. Heacock, The Buffalo artists’ register : a general review of the activities of representative organizations of Buffalo, N.Y. … related to … the creative and interpretive arts (Buffalo, New York: Heacock Publishing Company, 1926), pp 381-382, Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, 1 Lafayette Square, Buffalo, New York.

9 “St. Louis Roman Catholic Church,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Louis_Roman_Catholic_Church : 1 November 2021).

10History of Germans in Buffalo and Erie County, New York (Buffalo, New York: Verlag und Druck von Reinecke & Zesch, 1898), p. 38; e-book, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 1 November 2021).

11 “Western New York Genealogical Society (WNYGS) Discussion Group,” discussion thread from post by Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz, 23 November 2013, Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/WNYGS/posts/10152032075711041 : 1 November 2021).

12 Roman Catholic Church, St. Louis parish (Buffalo, Erie, New York), Church records, 1829-1910, Baptisms 1829-1881, 1832, unnumbered entries in chronological order, Maria Magdalena Gosÿ, 14 August 1832.

13Andrew P. Yox, “The Parochial Context of Trusteeism: Buffalo’s St. Louis Church, 1828-1855,” The Catholic Historical Review, vol. 76, no. 4, Catholic University of America Press, 1990, pp. 712–33; JSTOR (http://www.jstor.org/stable/25023400 : 1 November 2021).

14 “Alsace & Lorraine Genealogy,” Facebook Group, Facebook, discussion thread from post on 26 October 2014, poster’s name omitted for privacy, Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/alsace.genealogy/posts/10152755337639754 : 4 November 2021).

15 Ibid., discussion thread from post on 28 October 2014, poster’s name omitted for privacy, Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/alsace.genealogy/posts/10152760909764754/ : 4 November 2021).

16 Officier de l’état civil (Pfetterhouse, Altkirch, Haut-Rhin, France), “Naissances, 1793-1862,” 1814, no. 6, birth record for Maria Anna Hensÿ, 29 April 1814, accessed as browsable images, Archives départementales du Haut-Rhin, (https://archives.haut-rhin.fr/ark:/naan/a011455803237L7WIvz/e408e21f4f : 4 November 2021), image 194 out of 391.

17 Officier de l’état civil, Pfetterhouse, Altkirch, Haut-Rhin, France, “Mariages, 1793-1862,” 1829, no. 6, Joseph Antoine Cossin and Marie Agatha Hentzÿ, 8 September 1829; browsable images, Archives départementales du Haut-Rhin (https://archives.haut-rhin.fr/ark:/naan/a0114558031560HCYzb/5e563166a7 : 4 November 2021), image 192 of 338.

18 Genealogical Translations Group, Facebook, discussion thread from post by Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz, 29 October 2021 (https://www.facebook.com/groups/GenealogicalTranslations/posts/908406220105478/ : 3 November 2021).

19 “French Civil Code, Book 1: Of Persons, Title 5: Of Marriage,” The Napoleon Series (https://www.napoleon-series.org/research/government/code/book1/c_title05.html : 4 November 2021).

Visualizing Challenges to Genetic Genealogy Research Using Leeds and Collins-Leeds Methods

When it comes to genetic genealogy, it’s best to hope that each generation in your family tree was large, with lots of descendants living in countries where DNA testing is popular. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way. Small families, and families in which many of the distant cousins are living in a place where DNA testing is not as popular (e.g. Poland) make it difficult to find those DNA matches that can lead to breakthroughs in your research. Whether you know, or only suspect, that this is the case for your family, you can visualize the situation using some of the available tools out there, such as Leeds worksheets, and Collins-Leeds matrices.

What is the Leeds Method?

Back in 2018, which is a lifetime ago in the world of genetic genealogy, researcher Dana Leeds described her method for color-coding DNA matches using a spreadsheet, which she developed in order to help a client identify his biological family. Elegant in its simplicity, the Leeds Method took off, and it inspired a number of next-generation automated tools which cluster a tester’s DNA matches based on shared ancestry. Sites which offer autocluster tools include MyHeritage, DNAGedcom, Genetic Affairs, and GEDMatch, and AncestryDNA’s colored-dot grouping tool is also based on this method. With all these automated options available, it’s become a bit passé to create a Leeds Method spreadsheet manually. Nonetheless, I want to share one with you here, because it’s a compact visual aid for illustrating some “structural defects” in my mom’s family tree, and their impact on her DNA match list.

Figure 1 shows a Leeds Method worksheet created from my mother’s list of DNA matches on Ancestry.

Figure 1: Leeds Method worksheet for my mom’s DNA matches on Ancestry. Click image to view larger.

Leeds’ basic goal was to sort a list of DNA matches into four clusters, representing matches who are related to the tester through each of that person’s four grandparents. Individuals to whom we are related through only one of our four grandparents are our second cousins, so second cousins would be ideal test subjects for creating a Leeds worksheet. Thanks to the random nature of DNA inheritance, the amount of DNA shared between any two second cousins can vary, but typically, they share about 200 centiMorgans (cM) DNA, where a cM is the unit used to express genetic distance. (More cM shared = closer genetic relationship.) The exact amount of shared DNA between two second cousins can be as little as 41 cM, and as much as 592 cM, according to data gathered by Blaine Bettinger’s Shared cM Project.

With that in mind, Leeds opted to focus on DNA matches who shared between 90 cM and 400 cM DNA. Using her method, a color is assigned to the first match in the the list who shares between 90–400 cM with the tester, and then that same color is assigned to all the shared matches (or “in common with”) matches. This process is repeated until all the matches who share 90–400 cM have been assigned a color. Ideally, you want to exclude first cousins (1C), and descendants of first cousins (1C1R, 1C2R, etc.), because they will match you on two grandparents, not just one. This can be a little tricky if your family tree is not well-developed, because the amount of DNA shared between two people who are 1C1R, 1C2R, or 1C3R, can fall within that 90–400 cM range. However, the beauty of the Leeds Method is that it works even if you don’t know precisely how you’re related to someone, so having a few “mystery” matches in your worksheet that are 1C1R, etc., shouldn’t throw you off too much.

The 33 matches shown in Figure 1 were culled from my mom’s top 52 matches. Since I do know how most of my mom’s top matches are related to her, I took those first 52 matches and subtracted out all children, grandchildren, first cousins, and their descendants, who would match Mom on more than one grandparent. I removed the names of the DNA matches to protect their privacy, but they’re identified by the documentary relationship (if known), as well as by the amount of shared DNA in both cM and number of shared segments. The next ten columns, labelled 1 through 10, are the result of sorting Mom’s match list according to the Leeds Method. In column 1, the blue bars represent matches to whom Mom is related through one of the ancestors of her maternal grandmother, Veronica (née) Grzesiak. The red bars in column 2 represent matches to whom Mom is related through one of the ancestors of her paternal grandmother, Genevieve (née) Klaus. Columns 3 and 4 represent those matches to whom Mom is related through her paternal grandfathers, John Zazycki (purple bars) and Joseph Zielinski (green bars).

This brings us to the first observation I’d like to make. By looking at those four columns, it’s pretty clear that Mom has substantially more DNA matches who are related to her through the families of her grandmothers (Grzesiak and Klaus, blue and red), than she does through the families of her grandfathers (Zazycki and Zielinski, purple and green). She has exactly one match at this level who is related to her through John Zazycki: a 2C1R who is descended from John’s older sister, Marianna (née Zarzycka) Gruberska. Worse, I have to go all the way down to the level of a 4C2R to find a match that’s related to my mom through her grandfather Joseph Zielinski. The common ancestors between Mom and that match are my 6x-great-grandparents, Stanisław and Urszula Swięcicki, who lived back when there was still a Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and who had already finished having children by the time of the final partition of Poland in 1795. (The story of that DNA match can be found here.) In other words, Mom has few-to-no “close” matches, depending on how you define “close,” who are related to her through either of her grandfathers.

So, what factors cause this phenomenon? In the case of the Zielinski family, my mother’s grandfather was the only one of the ten children in his family to survive long enough to marry and have children. This means that my mother has no second cousins who are related to her through her Zielinski family, and second cousins are what the Leeds Method hopes to exploit when developing initial groupings. The situation with the Zazycki family may be similar. My mother’s Zazycki grandfather, John, was one of eleven children, six of whom (including John) had children. John was the only one of his siblings to immigrate to the U.S., however, and it seems that not many of his siblings’ descendants opted to immigrate, either. Research is ongoing, but thus far it appears that only John’s eldest sister, Marianna Gruberska, had any children who immigrated. Presumably, the descendants of the other Zazycki (or Zarzycki) siblings remained in Poland. It may be that more of those Zarzycki relatives from Poland will start showing up in my DNA match lists, as DNA testing becomes more affordable and more popular among Poles. Time will tell. And If there are cousins in Poland who might be testing their DNA, it’s more likely that they’ll be showing up in DNA databases from MyHeritage and FamilyTree DNA, since those sites are are more popular than Ancestry DNA in Poland. So, I keep checking all the databases regularly, but thus far the situation has been similar in all of them, with few matches on the Zazycki and Zieliński sides.

Of course, any time one observes a lack of DNA matches to one particular line, there’s always the possibility of a misattributed parentage event, also known as a non-paternity event, or NPE. I’d be more likely to suspect this if Mom had no matches to a particular line, rather than a few distant ones. I’d be even more likely to suspect an NPE if I could find documentary evidence to suggest that a family was large and had plenty of descendants, and she still had no DNA matches. However, the fact that Mom has DNA matches to documented cousins on her Zielinski and Zazycki lines, and that the amount of DNA shared between her and those matches is within the expected range for the documented relationships, suggests that NPEs are not the issue here. (Or at least, it suggests that there are no NPEs that occurred in the generations between Mom and the ancestral couple shared between her and each DNA match.)

Rather than viewing the glass as half empty, it might be better to focus on all those DNA matches to the Grzesiak and Klaus families. Columns 5 through 10 indicate which matches are descendants of particular ancestral couples. In the case of the relatively close DNA matches shown in Figure 1, all but two of the Grzesiak matches are descendants of mom’s great-grandparents, Józef Grzesiak and Marianna Krawczyńska, as indicated by the light blue bars in column 5. The other two matches near the bottom, which are noted with a dark blue bar but not a light blue one, are not in my tree yet, so additional work is needed to make the documentary connection. However, we know they must be related somehow to the Grzesiak family because of all the matches they share in common with documented Grzesiak descendants. The Klaus matches are even more abundant, and can be broken down into descendants of various couples who were ancestors of either Andrzej Klaus, mom’s great-grandfather, or Marianna Łącka, mom’s great-grandmother.

Autoclusters: The Leeds Method on Steroids

Of course, thanks to the wonders of modern technology and gifted software engineers, we can go one better. Figure 2 shows a screenshot of the top portion of Mom’s autoclusters report at MyHeritage.

Figure 2: Autoclusters report from MyHeritage for Mom’s DNA matches. Click figure for larger image. Typically names of testers appear above the columns and to the left of the rows, but they’ve been removed here for privacy purposes.

This utilizes the same principle as the Leeds Method spreadsheet, except it does the heavy lifting for you, automatically clustering your matches into groups which likely share a common ancestor. Each square on the grid represents a comparison of one of Mom’s DNA matches to another, and colored squares represent two people who match each other, in addition to matching my mom. You’ll note that there are some uncolored squares within each cluster; these occur because it’s possible that two members of a cluster will not match each other (even though they both match Mom) due to the random nature of DNA inheritance. So, I can gain insight into Mom’s relationship to all the members in the orange cluster shown in Figure 2, simply by determining her connection to one member of this cluster.

While it’s sometimes possible (e.g. with DNAGedcom) to vary the parameters for inclusion to create tighter or looser groups, that’s not possible with the autocluster tool at MyHeritage. MyHeritage utilizes an algorithm that automatically adjusts that parameters to yield the best clusters for each kit. Note also that not all of a tester’s matches will appear on the grid. MyHeritage provides a ReadMe file with each autocluster analysis which specifies the parameters that were used, the number of kits included in the analysis, and the names of DNA matches who were not included in the analysis as well. In my mom’s case, 109 DNA matches were used to create 26 clusters; 41 matches were excluded because they did not have any shared matches, and another 127 matches were excluded because, although they met the criteria for inclusion in the analysis, they would have ended up in singleton clusters (matching each other and Mom and no one else).

As MyHeritage states in their explanatory ReadMe file, “Everyone in a cluster will be on the same ancestral line, although the most recent common ancestor between any of the matches, and between you and any match, may vary. The generational level of the clusters may vary as well. One may be your paternal grandmother’s branch, and another may be your paternal great-grandfather’s branch.” This can be illustrated using the red cluster shown at the top left in Figure 2. This cluster represents 10 testers who are related to Mom through her grandmother, Weronika Grzesiak. I know how we’re related to eight of them: five of the matches share Weronika’s parents, Józef Grzesiak and Marianna Krawcyńska as the most recent common ancestral couple, and three share Józef Grzesiak’s maternal grandparents, Maciej Dąbrowski and Barbara Słońska, as the most recent common ancestral couple. Descendants of this couple were highlighted in light blue in Figure 1. So, the remaining two mystery matches in that red cluster shown in Figure 2 might be related to to Mom through a bit of DNA inherited from any of the ancestors of Weronika Grzesiak; we can’t really claim to know anything more definitive than that from these data.

The beauty of the autocluster option is that it eliminates the necessity of going through a match list by hand and tagging each match with a colored dot based on shared matches. Although the clusters themselves are extremely informative, it’s also worth noting the DNA matches who were omitted from the cluster analysis. In Mom’s case, one of the matches who was omitted due to lack of any shared matches was a 5th cousin who matches her through her Wilczek line. Since Mom descends from the Wilczeks through her paternal grandfather, it’s disappointing, but unsurprising, that there are no shared matches between Mom and her Wilczek 5th cousin, given the general lack of DNA matches who are related to Mom through either of her grandfathers.

Extrapolating to Other Surname Lines

For want of a better term, I’ll call the relative lack of DNA matches to Mom through either of her paternal grandfathers the “Small Family/International Family Effect.” Unfortunately, it seems to be at work on my Dad’s side of the family as well. I had high hopes that DNA testing might provide some clues regarding the birthplace in Ireland of my great-great-great-grandfather, Robert Walsh. Despite the fact that I’ve identified DNA matches with whom Robert Walsh and his wife, Elizabeth Hodgkinson, are the most recent common ancestors, DNA has not provided any strong leads to Walsh relatives in Ireland as of yet. I’ve even tested my father’s 100-year-old paternal aunt, whose great-grandfather was Robert Walsh. She would be expected to have more numerous and genetically closer DNA matches to this line than I would, since she inherited a greater percentage of Robert Walsh’s DNA. One might have expected that some of her matches would include Walshes from a particular location in Ireland, or even that one region of Ireland might stand out as an area from which a preponderance of DNA matches originated. However, no great leads have turned up yet. Similarly, DNA has not been especially illuminating as of yet with another brick wall ancestor, Maria Magdalena (née Causin/Casin/Couzens/Curzon) Roberts, who also seems to have come from a very small family which left few descendants. Does that mean that my DNA test results can’t help me? No, it just means that there’s nothing obvious to leverage, no low-hanging fruit to harvest.

There is hope, of course. By identifying “autoclusters of interest” that seem to share common ancestors on my brick-wall lines, I can examine their family trees of DNA matches within those clusters, or attempt to build family trees for them if none are available, and search for common surnames and ancestral locations. It should be noted that some sites (e.g. DNAGedcom) even have automated tools for identifying common ancestors based on GEDCOM files (family tree files) that are associated with DNA test kits. Another possible approach is to use research into an ancestor’s social network of friends, associates and neighbors (i.e. his “FAN club”) to identify putative parents for a brick-wall ancestor, trace their descendants forward to the present day, and then do autosomal target testing on individuals who would be predicted to share DNA, based on this hypothesis. Where there’s a will, there’s usually a way.

It can be incredibly rewarding to connect DNA matches to your family tree. Thanks to DNA matches, I’ve been able to discover and connect with distant cousins that I never knew I had, some of whom have even been willing to share old family photos. I’ve been able to track down a number of “lost” siblings of my ancestors who disappeared from the records. And DNA is an especially powerful tool when leveraged for tracking migrations of relatives with popular surnames. However, small families with few descendants can produce “lopsided” DNA match lists, which can be readily visualized using Leeds and Collins-Leeds clustering techniques. While these analytical methods won’t fix “structural defects” in your family tree, they can help you make the most of the matches you do have.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2021

Goal-Focused Genealogy, or, Connecting to a DNA Match in 20 Minutes

If you’re reading this, you probably know how time-consuming genealogy can be. The supply of historical documents and individuals to research is endless, so before sitting down for a research session, it’s important to always be asking ourselves, “What is it I want to know?” Having a specific question in mind can help drive you toward the sources of information that are most relevant to the problem.

When I’m researching a DNA match, for example, my essential question is, “How am I related to this person?” I’m not interested in fully documenting that person’s family history; I just want to get to the documents that will allow me to connect him or her to my family tree. I think of this method as “quick and dirty genealogy,” but “goal-focused genealogy” might be a more accurate description. During or after the research session, I’m still careful to create source citations for each document I find, extract each piece of information from each document (e.g. name, date and place of birth, place of residence, etc.), and attach those source citations to each fact I create in my family tree. Nonetheless, keeping my focus on the goal permits me to ignore a lot of “low-hanging fruit”documents that turn up quickly in a search of historical records databases (e.g. Ancestry or FamilySearch), but aren’t likely to give me the information I need to solve the problem. For example, if the 1940 census and the 1920 census both turn up in a database search for a given research target, I’m likely to ignore the 1940 census and investigate the 1920 census result. Why? Because the 1940 census didn’t ask questions about year of immigration or year of naturalization, while the 1920 census did ask those questions, and the information provided by that census record about immigration and naturalization is relevant to the process of tracing immigrant ancestors back to the Old Country. Recently, staying goal-focused enabled me to discover, in about 20 minutes, how a DNA match was related to me, and it made me so happy that I want to share that story with you today.

Introducing Fred Kowalski

Since this is a story about our Polish origins, I’ll call my DNA match Fred Kowalski (not his real name). Fred appeared in my list of autosomal DNA matches at 23&Me, and we were reported to share DNA in a single segment consisting of 51 centimorgans (cM, a unit for measuring genetic distance) on Chromosome 15. Shared matches gave me no clues regarding how we might be related; I didn’t recognize a single name in the list. In his profile on 23&Me, Fred reported that all four grandparents were born in Poland, and he gave me six family surnames to work with, including one that was familiar to me: Słoński. Painting the match onto my chromosome map at DNA Painter revealed that the segment shared with Fred falls into a larger segment of DNA which I inherited from my maternal grandmother, consistent with my preliminary hypothesis that our relationship might be through the Słoński family. Fred’s real surname is not especially popular, so a quick internet search turned up an online obituary for his father. From there, I used the subscription database at Newspapers to find an obituary for his grandmother. I’ll begin the story with her.

The Bengier Family of Steubenville, Ohio

Fred’s grandparents were Peter J. and Constance A. Bengier of Steubenville, Ohio. Constance’s obituary was very informative, but for the sake of this narrative, the most important information was that she was born in Poland on 6 April 1889 to Joseph and Anna Kujawa, and that she married Peter Bengier on 4 February 1907.

Figure 1: Newspaper obituary for Constance A. Bengier.1

Constance’s Social Security application (Figure 2) provided somewhat different information about her parents’ names, in that her father’s name was reported to be Stanley, rather than Joseph. Since Constance would have provided the information for this form herself, rather than another family member providing it after her death, we can consider the information from the Social Security Applications and Claims index to be more reliable than the obituary in this regard.

Figure 2: Information from Social Security Applications and Claims Index for Constance Anna Bengier.2

The 1930 census (Figure 3) provided additional details relevant to tracing the family back to Poland. Although the information on the entire family group is important when documenting the family history, my focus was on tracing the family back to Poland, and the data that was most germane to that issue is contained within the red box.

Figure 3: Image extracted from the 1930 census for German township, Harrison County, Ohio, showing the Bengier family.3

According to the census, Constance Bengier was age 41, suggesting a birth year circa 1889, nicely consistent with previous data from the Social Security application and her obituary. The census record offers enough additional evidence (such as names of other family members) for us to be certain that this Constance Bengier is a match to the Constance Bengier in the obituary. Once we establish that fact, then the most important piece of new information found in this record is her year of immigration, 1910, and the fact that her husband and oldest daughter also reported immigrating in that year. We would expect to find all of them on the same passenger manifest, or possibly on two different manifests, if Peter came over first to secure employment and lodging before sending for his wife and child.

The critical pieces of information that are required at minimum in order to locate an immigrant in records from his or her home country are the person’s name, approximate date of birth, parents’ names, and specific place of origin. With Constance Kujawa Bengier, I was nearly ready. The missing piece was evidence for her place of origin.

The Bengier Family of Wola, But Which One?

Since the 1930 census provided information about the year of arrival, I decided to seek a passenger manifest next. The Hamburg emigration manifest popped up first, revealing that Konstancia (or Konstancja, modern Polish spelling) Bengier departed from the port of Hamburg on 29 September 1910 at the age of 21, along with her 3-month-old daughter, Walerya (or Waleria, in modern Polish; Figure 4).

Figure 4: Detail from the Hamburg emigration manifest of the SS Cleveland, departing Hamburg on 29 September 1910, showing passengers Konstancia Bengier and her 3-month-old daughter, Walerya.4

The ages matched well with my expectations based on previous data. Given the propensity of immigrants for adapting their given names to sound more “American,” I was not surprised to find that the original name of the daughter, “Voila” (or Viola) from the 1930 census, was actually Waleria. If additional confirmation were required before concluding that this was the correct passenger manifest, the corresponding Ellis Island arrival manifest could also be located. In those days, it took about 2 weeks for a steamship to cross the Atlantic. Assuming no manifest turned up with a search of indexed records, one could browse the manifests in Ancestry’s database, “New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957,” and look for the arrival of the Cleveland at the port of New York some time in mid-October 1910. However, as it happens, Ancestry’s database is incomplete, and there are instances such as this where the arrival manifest is not found. If this happens, Ellis Island arrivals can be searched directly at the Ellis Island site, or via Steve Morse’s more sophisticated One-Step search form. (Konstancja’s Ellis Island arrival manifest is here. It confirms and extends the information found in the Hamburg emigration manifest, but I won’t discuss it in detail since it was not part of my original research process.)

The key piece of information found in this manifest that permitted me to advance the search was her place of residence, which was recorded as “Wola,” in Russia. (If you’re wondering why a woman who said she was Polish in 1930 might have been coming from Russia in 1910, there’s an overview of those border changes here.) Now, if this were an ordinary research process, and not one guided by DNA, I would have needed a time-out here to fall back and regroup, and seek additional sources of documentation for Konstancja’s place of birth. That’s because “Wola” is one of those Polish place names that’s so common that it strikes fear into the hearts of even seasoned Polish genealogists. Just how common is it? Mapa.szukacz.pl, which is an interactive Polish map site, reveals that there are 848 places called Wola, or containing Wola in the full name, within the borders of Poland today. And that’s not counting all the additional places called Wola that were previously part of Poland, but are outside of Poland’s current borders.

The situation would have been ameliorated somewhat by the fact that Konstancja’s Wola was recorded as being located in the Russian partition, so we could safely ignore all the places called Wola that were within the German and Austrian partitions. Nonetheless, that would still leave us with a lot of places called Wola to check, unless we could find some additional documentation (naturalization records, church records, military records, etc.) that might provide some geographic clues to help us narrow the field. However, this was not an ordinary research process; it’s a genetic genealogy story, and one with a happy ending.

The Missing Link

Since my hypothesis was that I was related to Konstancja Kujawa Bengier through the family of her mother, Anna Słońska, I immediately suspected that “Wola” might be Wola Koszucka, a village belonging to the Roman Catholic parish of Kowalewo-Opactwo, where I’d found records for my Słoński ancestors. This Wola was in the Russian Empire in 1910, so it would fit the description found in the passenger manifest. Records for this area are indexed in a number of different databases, including Geneteka, BaSIA, the Poznan [marriage] Project and Słupca Genealogy. Each of those databases has its strengths and weaknesses, and there’s a fair amount of overlapping coverage between them. I decided to cut to the chase and search for a marriage record for Stanisław Kujawa and Anna Słońska first, since that would tell me Anna’s parents’ names, rather than searching for a marriage record for Piotr Bengier and Konstancja Kujawa, or a birth record for Konstancja. I plugged in my search parameters at the Słupca Genealogy site, and there it was, bada boom, bada bing! The marriage record for Stanisław Kujawa and Anna Słońksa which connected the dots (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Marriage record for Stanisław Kujawa and Anna Słońska from the parish of Kowalewo Opactwo.5

The record is in Russian, and here’s how I translate it:

“No. 12

Wola Koszutska

This happened in Kowalewo on the first/thirteenth day of November in the year one thousand eight hundred eighty-two at three o’clock in the afternoon. We declare that in the presence of witnesses Antoni Zieliński, age fifty, and Józef Buczkowski, age forty, both owners* of Wola Koszutska, on this day was celebrated a religious marriage between Stanisław Kujawa, bachelor of Wilczna, born in Cienin Kościelny, 27-year-old son of the laborers Łukasz and his deceased wife, Wiktoria née Przybylska Kujawa, and Anna Słońska, single, born and residing with her parents in Wola Koszutska, daughter of Antoni and Marianna Słoński née Kowalska, age twenty-two. The marriage was preceded by three announcements published on the eighth, fifteenth, and twenty-second days of October of this year in the local parish churches of Kowalewo and Cienin Kościelny. The newlyweds declared that they had no prenuptial agreement between them. This Act was read to the illiterate newlyweds and witnesses, and was signed by Us only. [Signed] Fr. Rzekanowski.”

*хозяева, a word which can mean hosts, landlords, owners, proprietors, or masters. In my experience, it’s used to describe the same individuals who were described in Polish-language records as gospodarze, peasant farmers who owned their own land.

The record stated that Anna was the daughter of Antoni Słoński and Marianna Kowalska, and her age at the time of her marriage 22, suggested a birth year circa 1860. I checked my family tree, and there she was, quietly sitting there the whole time, waiting to be rediscovered. Many years ago, I had added Anna to my family tree when I found her birth record, but I had never gone further with seeking a marriage record for her, or birth records for her children. Anna was born on 14 July 1860,6 and she was in my tree because her father, Antoni, was the son of Bonawentura Słoński and his second wife, Marianna Muszyńska, as evidenced by both Antoni’s birth record7 and the record of his marriage to Marianna Kowalska.8 But wait, there’s more! Bonawentura Słoński was the brother of my great-great-great-great-grandmother, Barbara (nee Słońska) Dąbrowska. Barbara and Bonawentura were both children of Wojciech Słoński and Marianna Duras,9 and it is they who are the most recent shared ancestors between me and this DNA match, whom I can now state is my documented fifth cousin once removed. Wojciech Słoński and Marianna Duras are the genetic and documentary link that connects me to the Bengier family of Steubenville, Ohio.

I love a happy ending.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2021

Sources:

1 “Deaths and Funerals: Mrs. C.A. Bengier,” The Weirton Daily Times (Weirton, West Virginia), 3 August 1970, p. 2, col. 1; Newspapers (https://www.newspapers.com/ : 8 August 2021).

2 “Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007,” database, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : 8 August 2021), Constance Anna Bengier, born 6 April 1889, SSN 268447885.

3 1930 United States Federal Census, Harrison County, Ohio, population schedule, Geman township, E.D. 34-10, Sheet 7B, dwelling no. 174, family no. 175, Pete Bengier household; database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : 8 August 2021), citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm publication T626, 2,667 rolls, no specific roll cited.

4 Manifest, SS Cleveland, departing 29 September 1910, p 2226, lines 288 and 289, Konstancia Bengier and Walerya Bengier; imaged as “Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 8 August 2021), citing Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Volume: 373-7 I, VIII A 1 Band 226; Page: 2222; Microfilm No.: K_1815.

5 “Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej Kowalewo-Opactwo” (Kowalewo-Opactwo, Słupca, Wielkopolskie, Poland), Ksiega urodzen, malzenstw, zgonów, 1882, marriages, no. 12, Stanisław Kujawa and Anna Słońska; digital image, Szukajwarchiwach (https://www.szukajwarchiwach.gov.pl/ : 8 August 2021), Sygnatura 54/771/0/-/71, scan 27 of 37.

6 “Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej Kowalewo-Opactwo” (Kowalewo-Opactwo, Słupca, Wielkopolskie, Poland), Ksiega urodzen, malzenstw, zgonów, 1860, births, no. 27, Anna Słonska; digital images, Szukajwarchiwach (https://www.szukajwarchiwach.gov.pl : 8 August 2021), Sygnatura 54/771/0/-/49, scan 6 of 24.

7 “Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej Kowalewo-Opactwo” (Kowalewo-Opactwo, Słupca, Wielkopolskie, Poland), Ksiega urodzen, malzenstw, zgonów, 1823, births, no. 16, Antoni Jan Słoński; digital image, Szukajwarchiwach (https://www.szukajwarchiwach.gov.pl/ : 8 August 2021), Sygnatura 54/771/0/-/13, scan 4 of 25.

8 “Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej Kowalewo-Opactwo” (Kowalewo-Opactwo, Słupca, Wielkopolskie, Poland), Ksiega urodzen, malzenstw, zgonów, 1845, marriages, no. 8, Antoni Słoński and Marianna Kowalska; digital image, Szukajwarchiwach (https://www.szukajwarchiwach.gov.pl/ : 8 August 2021), Sygnatura 54/771/0/-/34, scan 17 of 28.

9 “Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej Ladek,” (Lądek, Słupca, Wielkopolskie, Poland), Ksiega malzenstw, 1819–1820, 1819, no. 24, Bonawentura Słoński and Jagnieszka Wilczewska; digital images, Szukajwarchiwach (https://www.szukajwarchiwach.gov.pl/ : 8 August 2021), Sygnatura 54/776/0/-/46, scans 13 and 14 of 14; and

“Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej Kowalewo-Opactwo (pow. slupecki),” Akta urodzen, malzenstw i zgonów, 1845, deaths, no. 5, Barbara z Slonskich Dabrowska; digital image, Szukajwarchiwach (https://www.szukajwarchiwach.gov.pl/ : 8 August 2021), Sygnatura 54/771/0/-/34, scan 23 of 28.

6 Tips for Selecting DNA Matches to Paint in DNA Painter

DNA Painter is one of the coolest websites out there for genetic genealogy, offering an arsenal of tools to help genealogists visualize and understand their DNA matches through chromosome mapping. Let’s face it, there is tremendous aesthetic appeal in generating chromosome maps with neat little color-coded segments indicating specific chunks of DNA that can be traced back to a particular ancestor. But beyond just the aesthetics, it’s very useful to be able to predict how one must be related to an unknown DNA match, based on the location of the matching segment(s). In order to generate a useful chromosome map, however, there are decisions that must first be made about which matches to paint, so today I’d like to offer a few tips on how to do that, based on my own experience with using DNA Painter.

Getting Started with DNA Painter

DNA Painter is the brain child of Jonny Perl, a web developer and genealogist based in London, UK. He has created a very user-friendly site with a host of linked blog posts, webinars, videos, and instructions right on the site, making it easy for beginners to get started with chromosome mapping. Nonetheless, chromosome mapping isn’t exactly intuitive, and some thought is required to produce a good map. Therefore, there are some questions you should ask yourself before you begin.

What is My Goal?

For many of us, it’s inherently cool to be able to visualize a segment of DNA, lurking in nearly every cell of one’s body, and know that it was inherited from a particular ancestor who lived decades or centuries ago. If you’re content with knowing in a general way that your DNA was inherited from previous generations in your family, and you really don’t care about pinpointing a 46-centiMorgan segment on Chromosome 12 that you inherited from your great-great-great-grandfather, then maybe chromosome mapping isn’t your thing. But if you’d like to use a chromosome map to better understand your DNA match list, then your initial goal should be to create a map that identifies segments you inherited from each of your four grandparents.

On average, 25% of a person’s DNA was inherited from each of the four grandparents, but this number can vary a bit due to the randomness of genetic recombination. If you can identify on each chromosome the specific segments of DNA that were inherited from each grandparent, you can use this as a first step toward understanding unknown DNA matches.

Once you’ve established this goal, then you can decide which of your DNA matches to paint onto your chromosome map, based on the criterion of whether or not painting this match will bring you closer to your goal. The thing is, just because you can paint a match doesn’t mean you should paint it, as some of them will not be especially informative.

For example, if you have DNA test data from a parent, you could paint that on your chromosome map. But there’s no point in doing so, because you already know that you have inherited one of each of your 22 autosomes from your mother, and one from your father. By painting your DNA matches with a parent, all you’ve done is change the color of the canvas on which you’re painting your matches. Not sure what I mean by that? Figure 1 shows the blank canvas you start with, courtesy of DNA Painter.

Figure 1: Top portion of the page of a new, “unpainted” profile at DNA Painter, showing maternal (pink) and paternal (pale blue) copies of Chromosomes 1-10. If you were to scroll down the page, you would see the remaining chromosomes.

Now let’s say I’ve tested my mother, and I want to paint that DNA match onto my chromosome map. Figure 2 shows how that looks.

Figure 2: Top portion of the page showing Chromosomes 1-10 after I “paint” that blank canvas with segments of DNA shared between me and my mom.

You can see that all I’ve done here is to change those pink bars to lavender, which is not very informative. As a side note, you will see some regions on certain chromosomes where the lavender color does not “paint” all the way to the tip of the chromosome. That’s because those tips correspond to regions which exhibit a low density of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs, or “snips”). Family Tree DNA does not test those SNP-poor regions, and since the segment data used in this map came from Family Tree DNA, we see those “unpainted” regions.

Similarly, some close matches, such as a full-blooded aunt or uncle, don’t help you identify the segments of DNA you inherited from each of your four grandparents. Why? A full-blooded aunt or uncle, let’s say on the paternal side, will have inherited a mix of DNA from your paternal grandparents, just as your father did. But painting these segments only tells you which bits of DNA were passed down from your grandparents to both the paternal aunt or uncle and to you. It doesn’t bring you any closer to knowing which paternal grandparent provided those segments. Additionally, painting DNA matches from a sibling onto your chromosome map isn’t particularly useful, because it only identifies segments that you both inherited from your parents. It doesn’t help you to assign those segments to either parent, or any grandparents.

Note that there are other great reasons for testing one’s siblings, and the data that comes from those tests can be very useful. For example, if you have data from three siblings, but none of their parents, you can do visual phasing, which will assign segments of DNA to each grandparent. Blaine Bettinger offers a 5-part tutorial on visual phasing here, and Andy and Devon Lee of Family History Fanatics offer a tutorial on visual phasing using only two siblings here. Note that visual phasing as described in these tutorials is not for the faint of heart; DNA Painter is much easier.

The best matches to paint are the ones with whom you share DNA from only one of your four grandparents, or those with whom you share DNA from generations earlier than that. Therefore, second cousins are ideal, as are any half first cousins you might have. Don’t despair, however, if you don’t have a huge selection of “ideal” matches to paint; you’ve just got to go with what you’ve got. My mom’s paternal grandfather, Joseph Zielinski, was the only one of the ten children in his family to marry and have children; all the rest died unmarried, before the age of 32. This means that every single one of Mom’s paternal second cousins is a match on her grandmother’s side. I have to go back at least one generation, to the level of 3C or more distant cousins, before I can hope to find any matches to her paternal grandfather’s family. Similarly, my paternal grandmother had only one sister who died at the age of 14, so my only paternal second cousins are on my grandfather’s side. If you know you come from a small family, it becomes even more important to research your family tree as thoroughly as you can, in the hope of identifying cousins from whom you can beg DNA samples.

Putting it all together, then, here is my list of tips for creating an ancestral chromosome map, focused on mapping your chromosomes to each of your four grandparents.

  1. Don’t paint willy-nilly. Think before you paint, and ask yourself if painting this match will bring you closer to your goal of identifying (at minimum) segments inherited from each of your four grandparents.
  2. Don’t paint matches to parents, full siblings, half siblings, or full aunts or uncles, as these will not help you identify segments inherited from each of your four grandparents. You can, of course, create separate profiles at DNA Painter for each person you test, and keep track of their DNA matches as well as your own. The ability to create multiple profiles for chromosome mapping is a benefit available with a subscription to DNA Painter; you can create one profile for free with a basic membership.
  3. Similarly, matches to first cousins, and first cousins X-times removed, will not help you identify which portions of your chromosomes were inherited from which grandparent. Full first cousins share both grandparents with you on either your maternal or paternal side. Therefore it’s not possible to identify the grandparent who contributed the DNA from any segments you share, so painting those matches is not informative.
  4. Try the Inferred Segment Generator for additional segments to map. This is a really neat tool that uses deductive reasoning to generate segments. I used it to generate segments from my maternal grandfather to paint onto my chromosome map. The principle here is simple: the chromosomes that I inherited from my mother must be a mixture of DNA she inherited from her mother, and DNA she inherited from her father. Since I was able to test my maternal grandmother before she passed away, I know precisely which segments I inherited from her. So, by deduction, I know that the remaining portions of my maternal chromosomes where I do not match Grandma, must have come from Grandpa.
  5. If there’s good evidence (e.g. through triangulation) to suggest that a segment was inherited from an earlier ancestor (great-grandparent, great-great-grandparent, etc.) by all means, paint it.
  6. If you have test data from a particular relative, additional test data from descendants of that relative will be less informative, so you may want to skip painting it. Figure 3 illustrates this. The blue bars represent DNA segments which I share with a documented third cousin (3C), and the red bars represent the DNA that I share with her daughter, my third cousin once removed (3C1R). I’ll definitely want to paint those blue segments onto my chromosome map at DNA Painter, because those segments represent DNA which I inherited from one of the great-great-grandparents that I have in common with that cousin. However, my 3C1R cannot inherit any DNA from our common ancestors unless it came through her parent (my 3C). The only exception to this would be in cases where her parents are related. So, the red bars will necessarily be fewer and shorter than the blue bars, and painting those segments of DNA onto my chromosome map will not provide any new information about regions of my own chromosomes that can be assigned to particular ancestral couples. Of course, you may choose to paint them anyway, if you just want to keep track of all of your DNA segment data this way, and you would definitely want to paint the matches to a 3C1R if you don’t have test data from your 3C.
Figure 3: Chromosome browser from Family Tree DNA, showing segments of DNA I share with one of my third cousins (blue) and her daughter (red).

At the end of the day, how you map your chromosomes is really a personal choice. Maybe you just want to create one heck of a colorful map, including data from your parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and all your first cousins, and if that’s the case, then go for it! After some trial and error, I’ve found that this mapping strategy works best for me, because it focuses on quality of information, rather than quantity. Maybe it will help some of you, too. Happy mapping!

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2021