Thursday, April 21, 2011

DNA Update

Have I found any common ancestors through my DNA matches at 23andme?  No.  But I am still hopeful.  I have more  people to contact- matches for both parents and me.  When a genetic match shares genomes, I can see where the common segment or segments lie and who else overlaps.  I have over twenty people matching me at the beginning of chromosome 7, but only one person matches on chromosome 5.  In theory, all 20+ of us are related from the same ancestor- if only we could discover this ancestor.

As the database grows, so does my chances of finding more matches and discovering the connections.  In the meantime, I am more motivated to uncover older generations on each line.

As of today, I have 1006 genetic matches in the database.  I can contact five people per day to ask them to correspond and share genomes.  About 50 of the 350 that I asked to share have accepted.  I am working with a very small sample size of genetic matches, so I am not too surprised that I have not figured out any connections yet.  I also have not figured out a way to inspire people to respond to my inquiry.

Monday, April 11, 2011 DNA testing sale is having a sale on its DNA kits today only.  The kit costs nothing; you pay $14.95 for shipping PLUS $9 per month for one year for the "personal genome service."  For those of you debating having your DNA analyzed, this is a great deal.

I paid $100 back in December and then $200 for each kit for my parents earlier this year.  I am hoping that lots of people take advantage of this sale and grow the pool of genetic matches in the 23andme database.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Daughters of the American Revolution: Solomon Brewer

Last week I had the opportunity to visit the Daughters of the American Revolution Library in Washington, D.C.  The building is beautiful and the staff is helpful and polite.  DAR is offering more and more information online; some for free, some for a price.

I focused on one of my Revolutionary War ancestors, Solomon Brewer (1746-1824).  Not many of his descendants seem to be researching him.  I lucked out with several generations of this line because they are all buried very close together at Sleepy Hollow, Westchester County, New York.  Solomon and his second wife, Rene Benton, are buried with several children in The Old Dutch Church and Burying Ground.  More children and their children and grandchildren are buried in the adjoining Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

Gravestone of Solomon Brewer at Sleepy Hollow, New York.  The stone is becoming worn.

DAR offers its Genealogical Research System (GRS) online.

I plugged "Solomon Brewer" into the Descendants Database Search and came up with eight applications associated with him.

The "purchase" icon indicates that the original application, and possibly supporting documentation, have been electronically scanned into the system and you may purchase them for $10.  At the DAR Library, I was able to view the applications and supporting documentation without purchasing.  By doing this, I clarified what I was viewing in the above list.  The librarian told me to start with the highest number; in this case, 474812.  The higher number indicates a more recent application.  The older applications did not have to supply as much supporting documentation and the actual documentation may have been returned or lost.  The first name in each row, Sally, Martha, or Erastus, indicates a child of Solomon Brewer.  In my reading, Solomon had perhaps over thirty children by two wives, and the above list does not indicate which wife bore which child.  Clicking on the most recent application for Erastus clarifies which of Solomon's wives was his mother.

This application postulates Erastus Brewer as the son of Solomon Brewer and his first wife, Martha Smith.
My line comes from Solomon's second wife, Rene Benton, so this application does not help establish that line.  Onto the next application: the daughter Martha.

This application postulates Martha as the daughter of Solomon Brewer and Rene Benton.
This application is more useful to my line, as it establishes that Solomon Brewer had at least one other wife, Rene Benton.  Now if I were interested in joining DAR, I would need to start proving descent from Solomon Brewer and Rene Benton.  I descend from their son James.  Nobody else has sought membership through James Brewer, so I would have to show that Solomon Brewer and Rene Benton had a son named James; then gather his wife, children, and so forth.

I hope this clarifies what information you can glean when you locate someone in the DAR database.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Murky Days = Cemetery Visits

The early spring weather here in New Jersey has been dismal.  This cold and rainy spring following a long winter of snow has delayed the regeneration of plant life.  To those pursuing family research, these factors make for great cemetery visits.  There are few growing plants to interfere with the finding of gravestones.  Cloudy skies mean no shadows on graves, making for better pictures.

I had the opportunity to visit a few cemeteries in the area this past week.  I had never visited St. Mary's Cemetery in East Orange, Essex County, New Jersey before today.  That cemetery is in poor shape.  The gates were closed and I did not try to go in.

St. Mary's Cemetery is maintained by the Archdiocesan Catholic Cemetery Program.  I did not call the number because I was visiting another cemetery run by them, Gate of Heaven in East Hanover, Morris County, New Jersey.  Upon inquiring about St. Mary's, I was told that Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in East Orange could arrange access to St. Mary's.  Gate of Heaven is an active cemetery and is very well maintained, but they will try to hit you with a $25 inquiry fee.

image from Newark Cemeteries

Older records for St. Mary's Cemetery are on microfilm through your local family history center.

Description of microfilm of St. Mary's Cemetery records from
When you do photograph a grave of interest, take a close-up of the grave, the stones surrounding it, as well as a more distant view.  This process will help you, or those who come after you, to locate the grave in the future.  Plus, unknown relatives could be buried nearby.  If any of the close graves share a surname or variant, get a picture of them, also.

These two graves were side by side at Rosedale Cemetery in Montclair, Essex County, New Jersey.  One is spelled Eckert; the other, Eckhardt.  They may be the same family, or they may not be.  Take a picture just in case.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


If your research leads you to suspect a divorce, look for the divorce record.  Herman Lutter and Clara Uhl were married in Newark, New Jersey in January of 1888.  They are not found living together as a couple in the 1900, 1910, or 1920 census.  I suspected that the couple may have divorced because Herman married Emma Neubauer in Newark in March of 1915.  The marriage certificate lists Herman as divorced.

Divorces in the late 1800s in New Jersey were heard in the Chancery Court.  The records for a divorce may be in a few locations with no clear dividing points.

Description of holdings for divorces at the website for the New Jersey Archives.

The Archives in Trenton carries microfilm of the docket for some years of cases heard in Chancery, so I started there.  I found proceedings for Lutter versus Lutter for 1894 and 1895.  I was told that the records for these years are held by the manuscripts room at the Archives, but off site.  I placed an order for copies and about ten days later, I had copies of the divorce proceedings.

There are few details provided in the record, such as the marriage date and place, that I already had.  I discovered the cause of action, desertion of Herman by Clara, not even ten months into the marriage.

You may need to read what is not there.  The marriage ended very quickly.  You also need to gather any other documents that you can find.  There is no mention of a child in these divorce proceedings, but Clara filed a delayed birth certificate for a child in 1935, claiming a birth date of June 1889.

Filing a delayed birth certificate, especially in the mid to late 1930s, is common because of the Social Security Act.  While we should not necessarily read into Clara's not filing for a birth certificate at the time of the birth, we have more of a prospective on Clara's circumstances in 1888.  She left her marital home and returned to her mother when she was newly pregnant.  She may or may not have known about the pregnancy, but that is the timing of the events.

Herman acknowledged his son in his will, dated 1923, leaving him $5.  (Not a large sum of money then or now.)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Marriage Redone

I had a poor copy of a marriage return from New Jersey for Newark in 1888.  Viewing the microfilm at the Archives in Trenton was no better.  The information that I really wanted was the birthplace of the groom and his parents.  My copy looked like this:

Some original records are kept onsite in the manuscripts area, currently open in the afternoons only.

The staff was able to find the original blue marriage return and copy it for me.  It's a much better reproduction than what is on microfilm.  The place of birth now looks like this:

This looks like Sachsen.  I have more work to do to discover the area within Sachsen and possible records.

As a bonus, the back of the marriage return contains signatures of the bride and groom.  The back of the document is not microfilmed and can only be obtained from the manuscripts room.

The marriage itself did not last the year.  Bridge and groom separated in November of 1888.  The details of the divorce will be in an upcoming post.

Friday, April 1, 2011

More Relatives

My father's DNA relative finder results grew this morning at 23andme to 419.  He has several predicted 4th and 5th cousins, while my mother and I have mostly distant relations.

I can compare my genetic matches with both parents now to see which parent's tree holds the common ancestor.  There are still some people whose DNA I share, but neither parent matches.