Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Road Trip: Albany, the Arrival

This trip to Albany could not have come at a better time.

Hurricane Sandy ravaged my hometown.  Combined with the full moon, rivers flooded what the hurricane didn't destroy with winds.  My home is without power, heat, hot water, phone, and internet.  Huge trees are down.  Stores and businesses are closed.  A local nursing home had to evacuate all of its patients because the roof blew off.  Road detours are everywhere.  Traffic lights do not work.  Gas stations with electricity have run out of gas; those without electricity can't access the gas; and still other have had the fuel tanks compromised with flood waters.  Gas-run generators will become inoperable.  Schools are closed.

The town is very still.  Nightfall brings complete darkness and silence.

Line for gallon of gasoline.
New Jersey
31 October 2012

I am on genealogical reprieve, staying at the Hotel Albany.  Discoveries begin tomorrow at the New York State Archives with the assistance of researchers from the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society.  I am enjoying the internet service, working lamps, ice, and hot water.

My thoughts are with everyone miles south of me at home.

View of Albany City Hall
from my room at Hotel Albany

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Road Trip: Albany

I received this fortune inside a cookie just when the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society announced its trip to the New York State Archives in Albany.  I leave tomorrow!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Frame your search in the context of the times

When searching newspapers online, keep in mind that most search options do not distinguish keywords from proper names.
Advanced search screen

Searching for last name COOK in the Palladium of Liberty at GenealogyBank provides us with these unfortunate results with "cook" indicating a job, not the last name.

Palladium of Liberty, Morristown, Morris County, New Jersey
27 May 1813

Palladium of Liberty, Morristown, Morris County, New Jersey
23 November 1820
Slavery was legal in New Jersey at least through the 1840s, so do not be surprised if you find this situation among your New Jersey ancestors.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

DNA studies: Sketching genetic branches

Family Tree Maker 2012

In the family tree above, orange represents the inheritance path shared by my father and his paternal first cousin once removed, D. W.  The purple represents the inheritance path shared by my father and his maternal third cousin, R. S. They are related one more generation back to Calvin Cook and Mary Neil.

At this time, my father and these two cousins have tested their DNA at 23andMe.  The key to figuring out your matches is to test family members from different branches of your tree.

My father matches both R. S. and D. W. on the same area of Chromosome 13.  You have two sides to each of your autosomes-22 of your 23 chromosomes.  [The 23rd pair is the sex chromosomes and they are inherited differently.]  One side is from your mother, the other side from your father.  Current DNA analysis that we are using for genealogy is not able to report which side of the chromosome is being read.  Instead, the matches for both sides are mixed together, making it very hard to distinguish your paternal matches from your maternal matches.  My father has Colonial American ancestry on both his paternal and maternal sides, making it difficult to decide which of his parent's trees we should look to for the common ancestor.

23andMe DNA comparison
My father versus his third cousin and his first cousin once removed.
The area of focus for this discussion is Chromosome 13.

Now that I have both cousins matching in the same area, I can look for matches in the database who match my father on this same area of Chromosome 13 and compare them against the known cousins.

Using R. S. as a guiding point, as he shares the largest segment with my father in this area of Chromosome 13, we find that J. G. and P. J. J. also match my father on this area of Chromosome 13.  Note that where one chromosome breaks, the other starts.  I find this quite often in the matches.

We compare these matches to R. S.  This will represent our test to see if they match on my father's mother's side, specifically the Cook/Neil branch.

P. J. J. and J. G. do not match my father's maternal third cousin.  This is not conclusive proof that they do not match, as errors occur in testing and slight mutations occur in every generation.

We have to try the other option, that P. J. J. and J. G. match through my father's father, Clifford Lutter.  So we look at the ancestry of my paternal grandfather.  His mother, Laura Winterton, was of Colonial American extraction.  His father, Howard Lutter, was of entirely German descent.

Distant genetic cousin J. G. was born in the United States and has heavy German ancestry.  One of his ancestral names looks a lot like one of my ancestral names in this branch of my tree.  We are unable to find a common ancestor in our trees at this time, but I would like to place J. G. in the Lutter/Uhl branch.

P. J. J. has very limited access to her ancestral tree, more of a blank slate.  I actually find unknown ancestries easier to work with because they have no preconceived notions of who and where their ancestors were.  Based on the break in the DNA segment, my hypothesis was that P. J. J. matched through my father's paternal grandmother, or the Winterton/Dunn branch.  When I tested my cousin D. W. of the Winterton/Dunn branch, my hypothesis was that he would match P. J. J. but not J. G.

Here's the comparison.

I was right, but with a catch.  P. J. J. does indeed match D. W., but not on our area of focus, Chromosome 13.  They match on Chromosome 10.  I would feel more certain attributing P. J. J. to the Winterton/Dunn branch if the match were on Chromosome 13.  This may be the best we can get right now, so I will proceed at this point in our studies that P. J. J. matches in the Winterton/Dunn branch and J. G. matches in the Lutter/Uhl branch.

If I can identify more genetic matches in either branch, we can establish more common matches and be more certain that we are assembling the genetic trees accurately.

If any of my fellow 23andMe users have any advice on utilizing both close cousins, please let me know.  Thank you.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Where in Ireland?

Speaking of Brady from yesterday, Mary Brady Cook's death certificate from 1942 is unique among my findings.  She died in Jersey City, New Jersey.  The informant lists the full names of both parents and the county in Ireland where they were born.

Most of my records for Irish immigrants merely list "Ireland" as the country of origin.  This is not helpful when attempting to locate records in Ireland.  Bernard [also called Patrick in some records] Brady and Elizabeth Duffy were from County Meath in Ireland.  I am not sure how accurate this is, but this is a first for me, being offered a possible County.

The Brady/Duffy line is important because it could be the link between my mother and my father's third cousin.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Wife Resurfaces

Always visit the cemetery and get a plot listing!  It's a fast way of obtaining a list of family members, spouses, and dates of birth and death.

Yesterday I wrote of locating the grave of Calvin Cook and Mary Neil by locating the grave of one of their children, William, born 1849, at Locust Hill Cemetery in Dover, New Jersey.  Another child of this couple, Catherine, born 1854, wife of Calvin Peck, is also buried in this plot.  We also have Emma L Cook, born 1853, died 1891.

Locust Hill Cemetery
Dover, Morris County, New Jersey

You may be tempted to include her as a child of this couple.  Not so fast.  I have been looking for Emma for a while.  She is actually a wife of one of the sons not buried here.

1873 Marriage of Francis Cook to Emma Tuttle
Rockaway, Morris County, New Jersey
I happened up this marriage by chance, and it was a good thing I did.  Francis remarried after Emma's death to Mary Brady in 1897.  On the marriage return, this second marriage is listed as his first.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Locating the Graves of Calvin Cook and Mary Neil (Finally)

After several years, I have located the final resting spot of my great great great grandparents, Calvin Cook and Mary Neil.  Here is the story.

Calvin Cook and Mary Neil were both born around 1830 in Morris County, New Jersey.  They were married in the 1840s (different records exist- we'll save that for another post).  I know little about Mary Neil's parentage, but the Cooks were a Morris County fixture for generations before Calvin's arrival. 

I combed through area cemeteries and burial grounds, including the burial place of Calvin's parents, Stephen Cook and Elizabeth Vanderhoof, at the aptly named Cook Cemetery, now engulfed by the Rockaway River Country Club.

Locating a large cemetery plot is a great way to find out names and dates of deaths, making it easier to locate their death certificates.  Depending on which is easier and more accessible to you, you can aim to locate the death certificate or the cemetery first.  I actually had Calvin Cook's death certificate and obituary.  He died in 1889 and burial was "at Dover."  Where in Dover?  That was my issue.

Location of burial of Calvin Cook, died 1889, on his death certificate.
New Jersey Department of Health

Two official cemeteries exist in Dover, Morris County, New Jersey:  Locust Hill and Orchard Street.  I visited both.  Orchard Street Cemetery has no office on site.  I walked around, but saw no Cook graves.  Records for Locust Hill do not start until the late 1890s, so there was no record of Calvin Cook and no matching record for Mary.

The Dover Historical Society has a compilation of gravestone transcriptions for Orchard Street Cemetery.  No Cooks are listed.

Gravestone transcriptions by Brianne Kelly-Bly.
Obtained online through the Dover Historical Society website.
Next I looked for Calvin Cook and Mary at the burial locations of their children.  I was making my way through the children when I stumbled on the Hudson County, New Jersey probate records for Calvin Cook.  Calvin had died in Jersey City, where he was living.  Mary, his widow, submitted papers from Hudson County to Morris County enabling her to dispose of real property held in Morris County.  The actual will and certifications were held in Hudson County.  In Calvin's will, all of the expected children were mentioned, except William Cook.  I thought I had William in the census through 1930.  I erased this 20th century death and looked for a William Cook who died before Calvin in 1889.  This was the key.

Children Francis, James, Charles, Margaret, and Catharine are mentioned, but not William.
1889 Probate papers of Calvin Cook
Hudson County, New Jersey
Obtained online at

Someone posted a gravestone for William H Cook, son of Calvin and Mary, 1849-1871.  This fit the names and time frame.  And the location?  Locust Hill Cemetery in Dover.

So back to Locust Hill Cemetery I went, hoping that someone would recognize this stone:  white with a fallen cross.  I also hoped that Calvin and Mary were buried nearby.  The caretaker did recognize the stone- he had lovingly re-cemented the cross many times over the years.

The taller dark stone nearby was for William's parents, Calvin Cook and Mary!  Finally I had found them.

Mary died in 1898.  This is puzzling because I have already searched for a death certificate for her through the early 1900s.  I must return to the Archives at Trenton with this death date in mind.

Calvin and Mary's daughter, Catherine Cook, wife of Calvin Peck,
is also buried in this plot.  Like the other burials, her death date predates
the cemetery's records.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Good Times Searching the Deutsche Zeitung

Someone sent me newspaper clippings from the New Jersey Deutsche Zeitung- "German Times."  These articles are invaluable to my research.  More in later posts.

So much is available online now that I did not realize that Deutsche Zeitung is digitized and available at GenealogyBank.  Years 1880-1898 are digitized and searchable.  These years cover a lot of my lines in Newark, New Jersey.  The problem is that the newspaper is written in German (naturally) and the elaborate typeface is hard to read, especially when smeared.  German was one of my minors as an undergrad [useful after all], so I jumped right in.

Searching for "Lutter" in English newspapers produces hits for "butter" and "letter."  Searching this German paper produces results for "Mutter."  [German for "mother."]  By limiting the date, I managed to find the announcement of the nuptials of my great great grandparents, Herman Lutter and Clara Uhl.

Married 24 January 1888 in Newark by Reverend William Rieb.

The names of the witnesses can be compared against the actual marriage return filed with the state of New Jersey.

It looks like the witnesses were Henriette Ebbede [or Ebbecke?] and Pauline Freemann for the bride, Clara Uhl.  Note that Pauline's signature has only one N in Freemann.  The N has a line over it, a short-hand way of noting a double consonant.  The witnesses for the groom were Alex Lutter and Henry Uhl.  Henry Uhl was the brother of Clara Uhl.  I am happy to see this other version of the witnesses because I was not sure if the name was Alex Lutter on the marriage return.  I do not know who this person is.  I find no trace of Alex Lutter in Newark.  He possibly shows up in Chicago, gets married, and has a few children.

The moral of the story is to collect as much information as you can about an event.  Don't just look for the birth, death, and marriage certificates.  Dig up the local newspaper and look for an announcement.  Look for the church record.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Jumping Over the Border

Tonight I attended a presentation at the Morris County Library hosted by the Morris Area Genealogical Society.  The topic was Researching Common Surnames and the speaker was Vince Smith.  Most of us who study American ancestry have common surnames to deal with:  Smith, Miller, Jones, Johnson.  I have all of these surnames in different branches of my tree.  The offered tip is to narrow your search as much as possible by limiting the time period and geographical area.  There may be thousands of men named John Miller in New Jersey, but very few John Millers in a particular town born in a certain year.

Another helpful tidbit for those of us researching people in the New England states:  check Canadian records.  New Brunswick is next door to Maine.  A free index is online for you to check for records of life events.

If you had ancestors in the New England states, you may wish to check Canadian records as well.
Google Maps

Thank you, Mr Smith, for a wonderful and informative presentation.

Monday, October 1, 2012

October is Family History Month

October is National Family History Month!  You'll find more seminars and activities to assist you in your research at this time of year, so take advantage and aim to work on your genealogy every day.