Category Archives: Technology

El Dorado 1914

Jeff Record’s post on Monday, and the comments on it, have nudged me into summarizing how I was able to use his father’s DNA results to determine Jeff’s grandmother’s biological father. Jeff has written two articles in Mayflower Descendant, one on the Young family from whom his grandmother descends, so with that, as well as his past blogposts, I’ve been aware of the general chronology on this family. Jeff also shared with me his ahnentafel with all of his known ancestors, as we both have connections to Kansas. His grandmother, Georgia Lee Young, later Katheryn Elizabeth Ogle, was born in 1914 in Newton, Kansas, which is the same place of birth as my mother. Continue reading El Dorado 1914

‘The perfect is the enemy of the good’

Figure 1

Originating in an Italian proverb in 1603 and popularized by Voltaire in 1770, we have all heard the phrase “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” This phrase is very well-suited to the topic of searching genealogical databases, and particularly for

Over the last year, the NEHGS web team has been researching a wide variety of things that we can do to improve the search experience for our 250,000 members. Along the way it has become clear that one of the bigger problems our members face is the dreaded “0 records returned” message (Figure 1). You just know that the record you are looking for is out there, but you can’t seem to find it when you fill out the search form. Continue reading ‘The perfect is the enemy of the good’

The hidden face

“Katheryn,” ca. 1920.

My questions about him had been endless. He was, after all, the phantom in my ancestry, a great and impervious vapor, a Wizard of Oz if you will. He was my fleeting great-grandfather, the drawn curtain of my pedigree chart, his family lines going, well … nowhere. I don’t know that I ever really expected to find him, or to see his face. I certainly did not expect any DNA results to fall from the sky, making a picture of his smile even possible. Yet those DNA results did pull back the curtain (coming in just last week) and therein I was able to find his face, albeit grainy in brown and white, and sheepishly grinning down and away, as if to say he knew I’d been looking for him for a very, very long time. Indeed, I had been. Continue reading The hidden face

A photographic puzzle

Our house has lots of dusty boxes that came from the houses of deceased family members. There’s the box of stuff from my father’s bachelor brother, William “Bud” Buzzell, who served on an LST during World War II and who sold me my first car for a dollar. There are several boxes from my mother’s mother, Thelma Jane MacLean, about whose Telluride parents I have written before.

Not to be outdone by my family’s packrat tendencies, we also have boxes from my husband Scott’s Inglis, Milne, Munroe, and MacCuish ancestors. The Inglis family hailed from Galashiels, south of Edinburgh; the Milnes were from Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. The Munroes left Scotland to settle in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. We believe the MacCuishes emigrated from the island of North Uist in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides to Newfoundland. Continue reading A photographic puzzle

Missing years

How old was Catherine Dwyer when this photo was taken in Newport’s Leavitt Studio, around 1882?

Before the internet and the digitization of some Irish records, one needed patience, persistence, and problem-solving skills to connect the lives of Irish immigrants here in America to the world they left behind. Guessing someone’s true age and their birth order within their parents’ household amounted to a shot in the dark.

In January 1941, the death certificate of my great-grandmother, Catherine (Dwyer) Dwyer, recorded her age as 76 years and ten months. She had lived in Newport, Rhode Island, for sixty years, and in that time knowledge of her specific birthplace had vanished from her children’s memory. One of her sons, who acted as informant, also misremembered his mother’s maiden name! Catherine’s obituary mentioned no siblings.

My imagined time line in Ireland of vital events for these Dwyers erred by an entire generation. Continue reading Missing years

‘Of police court fame’

My grandfather, born in 1931.

The benefits of newspaper databases when conducting family research can be remarkable. One usually hopes to find valuable birth, marriage, and death notices, or, if you’re lucky, an interesting detail you may not be able to glean from the usual genealogical record. It is not so often that you discover your ancestors (and their exploits) were a favorite subject of the local newspaper, or how public family turmoil can sometimes be.

As someone with a close relationship with my maternal grandparents, it was interesting to learn that my grandfather does not know much about his own maternal grandparents – just that his grandfather, William Hatin, was such a small man that he supposedly wore children’s shoes. Continue reading ‘Of police court fame’

Haitian ancestors

Telésforo Ramírez, son of Jacinto Peltan/Ramírez. Courtesy of

A few months ago I posted that, in tracing my wife’s ancestors, I had yet to find an ancestor who was born anywhere but in the Dominican Republic. This all changed within the last few days, thanks for a few detailed records, some very useful DNA matches, a detailed history of my mother-in-law’s hometown, and some luck! I now have three other places of birth for my wife’s ancestors, two within the Caribbean and one back to Europe – and not in Spain!

This started when I found the civil death record of my wife’s great-great-great-grandfather Jacinto Ramírez (1824–1910) of Santiago, Dominican Republic. This record not only listed Jacinto’s parents but also his place of birth, which was quite a surprise: Continue reading Haitian ancestors

By any other name

Sometimes I wonder why my husband and I even maintain a landline telephone. It seems to be used almost exclusively by telemarketers … including the scammer from “Technical Support” who called me twice at 11:00 p.m. this past week! Every once in a while it proves its value, though, such as the time last November when I received a call from an unknown woman in Berkeley, California, asking whether I had a grandmother or great-grandmother named Purle. Continue reading By any other name

Peer review

Genealogists can learn from Fantasy Football. The focus with which some people research yards per game or number of completed passes is the same that every genealogist should put into learning about the “team” of authors upon whom they are basing their own work. Is your team reliable in the “red zone”?

Fortunately, today we have pretty nearly full access to thousands of book reviews online. Continue reading Peer review


Courtesy of

This past Christmas weekend I was re-introduced to a medium of family history that may have gone out of style. No, I’m not talking about my own use of outdated published materials (yikes!) or any of my attempted genealogical gleanings (snore…) or even my possible faux pas in giving dad a DNA test for Christmas.

Rather, I am referring to a medium of family history generally associated with oral histories and a medium where we (almost…) never actually hear anyone speak! Continue reading Intermissions