Sunday, March 20, 2016

Family Tree Repair: Hyser and Preston

While working on a branch of my Hyser family, I noticed that online family trees had a different year and place of death for Adelaide Hyser, wife of Sherwood Preston.  Adelaide was a sister of my father's 3rd great grandfather, Louman Hyser (1826-1895).

In the 1855 New York State census, Adelaide and husband lived in Catskill, Greene County, with two children.  In the 1860 federal census, Adelaide was living with her father and three children, minus the husband, in Catskill.  Adelaide relocated to Jersey City after the 1870 census.

My source for Adelaide's death was from a compiled genealogy of the Rockefeller family.  In this work, Adelaide died in Jersey City, [Hudson County], New Jersey on February 6, 1907.

Online trees had the year of death as 1908.  Places included Jersey City, Union Hill in Morris County, and Union Hill in Hudson County.

The source for this date and these places of death was from an application by Irving Sherwood Preston (a great grandson of Adelaide) to join the Sons of the American Revolution under the patriot Simon Rockefeller.  In viewing the actual application [database at], you can see that the date given for Adelaide's death was February 6, 1908, but no place of death was given.

The compiled genealogy and the SAR application are both derivative sources with questionable reliability.  I needed the actual death certificate.  Fortunately, I copied many years of Preston deaths because I am a Preston descendant on my mother's side of the family.  The last Preston in my line was Anna Preston (1890-1921).  I have not found a relation between my great grandmother Anna Preston and Adelaide Hyser's husband Sherwood Preston.

According to the death certificate, Adelaide M Preston, daughter of Peter Hyzer and Ella [Fritz], died in Jersey City on February 6, 1908.

Her obituary appeared in the newspaper Jersey Journal, viewable at (pay site).  A textual search for "Preston" did not yield this result.  I searched by date.

Burial was in Catskill.  Adelaide's father, brother, and other family members were buried at Catskill Village Cemetery.  I don't see a grave listing for Adelaide online.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Winter in New Jersey

This winter was mild in New Jersey.  Temperatures above freezing and little snow enabled me to visit cemeteries more this winter than in the past.  (Plus a physical issue prevents me from working out for hours like I used to, so I spend more time on genealogy.)

My contributions to Find A Grave reflect this wonderful winter weather.  During a time of year usually reserved to indoor pursuits, I added over 800 new graves and about 2500 photos.

Find A Grave is a free resource to locate final resting places.  The site is now under the umbrella.  Memorials and pictures are added by anyone who wishes to participate.  The Find A Grave mobile app enables quick creations of memorials.

To find a name at Find A Grave, you need an exact spelling. offers a search engine that permits fuzzy searching but is not updated instantly.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

First Cousins, Three Generations

Another close match appeared at FamilyTreeDNA for my maternal uncle.

The common ancestors of these three cousins were Mary Zolder (1870-1948) and Samuel Haas (1867-1945).  They were born in Slovakia, married in 1890 in New York City, and died in Bayonne, Hudson County, New Jersey.  The three cousins who tested DNA descend from three of Mary and Samuel's eleven children.

The actual relation of this newly-appeared person is first cousin, twice removed.  (Blue in the screenshot below.)  He and my uncle share ten segments* of identical DNA for a total of 198 cM.  The longest segment is 40 cM.

The prior close cousin is a first cousin, once removed.  (Orange in the screenshot below.)  He shares fifteen segments of DNA with my uncle for a total of 355 cM.  The longest segment is 80 cM.

What I found remarkable was that none of the shared DNA overlaps; no segments are identical in all three cousins.  The chromosome browser at FamilyTreeDNA does not allow me to compare other people, but the "In Common With" function shows that both cousins match each other, just not where or how much.

* Number of segments over 5 cM.  I did not include segments below 5 cM in this calculation.  FamilyTreeDNA includes these segments in its calculations.

Monday, March 7, 2016

New York City Marriage for New Jersey Folks

A reminder to check New York City records when researching New Jersey families.

I could not find a marriage record for my great grandfather Howard Lutter (1889-1959) to his second wife, Fiorita Lorenze (1890-1969) in New Jersey because they married in New York City.  (Copies can be requested online.  The current fee is $18.50.)

Howard's second wife was married to James Winnie and had two daughters with him.  Howard boarded with the Winnie family in Bloomfield (Essex County, New Jersey) and then purchased the house.  The address was 453 North 18th Street, but was renamed and renumbered to 171 Ampere Parkway.

Before Howard's divorce was final, he purchased the house where he was boarding.
The seller, Fiorita, would become the second wife of Howard.

Howard's testimony in his divorce.
You can view the full case file here.

Fiorita Lorenze and James Winnie should have divorce papers in Essex County, New Jersey.  It will be interesting to read how Howard Lutter boarded with them, purchased the house from them, and then married Fiorita.  Howard's divorce from Ethel Laurel Winterton was finalized in 1927, about 18 months before Howard remarried.  He blamed the failure of their marriage on Ethel's refusal to care for the home and children and to have his supper waiting for him when he got home from work.

The day before Fiorita Lorenze remarried to Howard Lutter, she arrived back in New York City from France.

By the 1930 census, Fiorita and Howard were living together as a family unit with his children and one of hers.

James Winnie was living with a new wife, Laura Brocker, and her son, Clifford Yunker.

Ethel Laurel did not remarry.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Family Tree Repair: O'Donnell, Part Two

To correct my O'Donnell tree, I need to documentation that Mary, wife of Cornelius "Neil" O'Donnell, was an O'Donnell herself and not named Gallagher.

A possible marriage was in the Indiana, Marriage Index, 1800-1941 at for Neil O'Donnell and Mary O'Donnell in Hancock County 1869.  A paper copy of this marriage was received from the Hancock County Clerk's office with a turn-around time of one week.

Without other identifying information, I can't be sure that this is the same couple from my tree.  No town, no ages, no parents, no witnesses.

The first child, Rose, was born in 1870.  The 1870 federal census in Center (Greenfield), Hancock County, Indiana, enumerates a couple that is probably my Neil and Mary O'Donnell, plus Neil's brother, Charles.

In the 1880s, the family relocated to Howard County, where Rose O'Donnell married Frank Lungren in 1889 and Agnes O'Donnell married Cornelius Carey in 1902.  These marriages are online (free).  Again, no towns, parents, ages, or witnesses.

The Carey-O'Donnell marriage is for this branch.  Father Charles M Carey, son of Agnes O'Donnell, edited the book of poems by his uncle, Father Charles L O'Donnell.

Additional records that may yield clues include Catholic church records and death records.

If anyone is familiar with research in Indiana, please let us know if there could be recordings of marriages at the town or state level that yield distinguishing information.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Matrilineal DNA, Destination Ireland

In December I tested my mitochondrial DNA ("mtDNA") with FamilyTreeDNA.  My first mtDNA test was over five years ago with and is now essentially defunct.

My mtDNA haplogroup is H1au1b, which is not very common.

Well, I have four matches to work with.

This DNA test looks at a specific kind of DNA in the mitochondria of cells.  Unlike autosomal DNA in the nucleus of a cell, mitochondrial DNA does not change from generation to generation.  A person's mitochondrial DNA is an exact copy (minus some mutations) of that person's mother's mitochondrial DNA.  The mitochondria are nicknamed the "powerhouses" of cells.  Their DNA is portrayed as circular like bacterial DNA, not a double helix like nuclear autosomal DNA. 

My direct maternal line is not long on paper.  I can trace back to my great great grandmother, Bridget Sheehy.  She was born in Ireland about1857.  She married John Preston (1857-1928) around 1877 in Dutchess County, New York.  The mitochondria in my cells are identical to the mitochondria that powered Bridget's cells.

Bridget Sheehy (1857-1916), wife of John Preston
Courtesy of Irene Preston

Bridget died almost one hundred years ago on 5 April 1916 in Bayonne, Hudson County, New Jersey and is buried at Holy Name Cemetery in Jersey City.  Her death certificate listed the names of both of her parents, Edmond [or Edward?] Sheehy and Bridget Frawley.

There was a couple by this name living in Dutchess County, Edmond Sheehy (1825-1893) and Bridget Frawley (1826-1905).  Bridget's death certificate lists her parents as John Frawley and Mary Shea of Ireland.  I lucked out again.  The death certificate for every ancestor on my direct maternal line includes the full names of both parents up through this possible fourth great grandmother.

A wonderful clue was in a newspaper article from 1936 in The Harlem Valley Times from Amenia, Dutchess County.  [Free access through]  The article detailed the 50th wedding anniversary of a couple, Thomas Culligan (1863-1937) and Ellen Sheehy (1866-1938).  Ellen's parents were "Edward" Sheehy and Bridget Frawley of Limerick, Ireland.

Was Ellen a sister of my Bridget?

I want to assign my Bridget Sheehy to this family from Amenia.  But there is no connection in any of the documents I found so far.  In the anniversary article above, no relatives named Preston or from Bayonne are mentioned.  The only child mentioned in the 1905 obituary of Bridget Frawley Sheehy, possible mother of my Bridget, is her daughter from the newspaper article, Ellen Sheehy Culligan.

My Bridget's first definite appearance is in the 1880 federal census in Stanford, Dutchess County, when she is already married to John D Preston and has children.  But in the 1875 New York state census is a Bridget Shehea, age 22, born in Ireland, a servant to the Bertine family in Amenia.  The next family is James Shea of Ireland, his wife, Catherine [Ahearn], and their children, Thomas, Nora, Catherine, and Margaret.

The seven year old Thomas Shea in the 1875 census is Thomas James Shehea (1867-1885) at FindAGrave and linked to parents James T Sheely (1828-1902) and Catherine Ahern (1838-1925).  This tells me that the surname underwent spelling modifications.  This family, as well as the Sheehy and Culligan families, are buried at Immaculate Conception Cemetery in Amenia, Dutchess County, New York.  Is my Bridget related to James Shehea/Sheely/Sheehy?

Consider the 1892 New York State Census.  "Edward" Sheehy and Bridget Sheehy are enumerated in Amenia.  The prior family is Mary Ahearn, age 40; she is a daughter of Edmond/Edward Sheehy and Bridget.  At the bottom of the page is a Sheehy family, unfortunately cut-off.  The male head of household is 64 years old, just one year shy of Edward Sheehy.  Could this be James Sheely/Sheehy and his wife, Catherine Ahearn?  The eleven year old child is also unviewable, but the next page has Nellie Sheehy, age 14.  Nellie was a daughter of James Sheehy and Catherine.

Were Edmond/Edward Sheehy and James Shehea/Sheely/Sheehy brothers?  Or is James a relative of Mary Shea, the possible maternal grandmother of Bridget?  Or were the names of Bridget's parents wrong on the death certificate?

To utilize my mtDNA test, if Ellen Sheehy, wife of Thomas Culligan, was a sister of my Bridget, and we could possibly find a living direct maternal line descendant of Ellen, that person's mtDNA would be identical to mine.  Ellen had one daughter, Florence (1898-1979), who had children with John McEnroe (1923-2005).  If any of those children are still alive, they could test; otherwise, the eligible candidates would be children of Florence's daughter, Eileen McEnroe (1932-2011), wife of Guenther Hans Strauss (1927-1999).