Friday, December 30, 2016

Susan Bell and her Marriages

A DNA match of my father's contacted me.  She and my father share a small segment of DNA.  The relation could be anywhere from a third cousin to very distant.  She is adopted and without a tree.  The shared segment is on an unassigned area of my father's genome, meaning that the ancestral source is unknown for this piece of my father's DNA.

Recently a closer match appeared for her with shared DNA in the second to fourth cousin range.  All three people- my father, the DNA cousin, and her new close match- all match one another on this original small segment.  This new DNA match has a robust family tree with roots in New Jersey.

The idea is that if the connection between my father and this new DNA match can be identified, then the adopted DNA cousin will have a narrow branch to work with for her connection to us.

Spoiler alert:  This mystery has not been solved (yet).

In viewing this other person's family tree, the surname Sayre popped out.  My father's third great grandparents were Reuben Bishop (1805-1856) and Susan.  Reuben died in Morristown, Morris County, New Jersey.  Susan remarried to Enos Littel Whitehead (1804 - 1880) in 1860, a few months after the federal census.

A death certificate for Susan Whitehead, died September 9, 1890 in Plainfield, Union County, New Jersey, provided her parents as Abner or Asher Ayers and Sarah.  No marriage record was located for Susan Ayers to Reuben Bishop.  After seeing Sayre in the family tree of the DNA cousin, I thought that maybe the name could be Sayre, not Ayers, and reviewed Susan.

Reviewing the records on Susan, I realized that I had no other records revealing her full name.  Her marriage record to Enos L Whitehead in Newark on September 7, 1860 did not include the names of the parents for the bride or groom.

Enos Littel Whitehead died February 2, 1880 in Newark, right before the 1880 census.

The obituary for the Susan Whitehead who died in 1890 gave her husband's name as Frazee Whitehead.  I was not too concerned.  Next to this obituary was an advertisement for Marsh and Ayers.  Susan's son, William Reuben Bishop, married Susan Jane Marsh.  Clearly the right path, yes?

No.  In seeking Susan and Enos Whitehead in the 1870 census, I found Susan and Frazee Whitehead.  Maybe Enos used the name Frazee?  Expanding the search into other census years produced a couple named Susan and Frazee Whitehead, who lived for decades in Plainfield, not Morristown or Newark.

So the death certificate for Susan Whitehead, died 1890 in Plainfield, was for Susan Ayers, wife of Frazee Whitehead, and not for my Susan, wife of Reuben Bishop and Enos Whitehead.

A visit to Evergreen Cemetery in Elizabeth, Union County, New Jersey produced the record of the plot of Enos Whitehead.  No Susan.

Buried in Evergreen Cemetery are Susan and Reuben Bishop's son, William Reuben Bishop (1843-1915), William's wife, Susan Jane Marsh (1848-1932), and Susan's parents, Eliakim Marsh (1816-1881) and Susan Long (1819-1882).  Somehow I noticed Eliakim's worn stone.  He is buried near Enos Whitehead.  I could not find a marker for Enos on this trip.

So what happened to my Susan and who were her parents?  I made a list of all her children to locate their marriage and death records in the New Jersey State Archives in hopes that Susan's name was included in one of these records.

In the meantime, I googled Susan and Enos.  I found a blurb about Susan C Bishop in the History of the First Presbyterian Church, Morristown, New Jersey.  A third husband was named:  E P DeGroot.

Mary Jane Bishop (born about 1836 in New Jersey) was a daughter of Susan C Bell and Reuben Bishop.

The online marriage index at listed a marriage between Edward P DeGroot and Susan C Bell on February 14, 1880 in Newark.  Enos died February 2, 1880, making Susan eligible to remarry, though the year could have been 1881 because this index can be off by one year.

The record is housed at the New Jersey State Archives.  Susan C Bell married Edward P Degroot on February 14, 1881 (not 1880) in Newark.  Susan's parents were listed as John Bell and Jane Bockover.

Using the name Susan DeGroot, a death certificate was located.  Susan died March 1, 1888 in Newark.  Burial was at Fairmount Cemetery in Newark.  Note that the names of her parents are not on the death record.  If she had not remarried in 1881, the names of her parents may not have ever been known.

Susan's estate was probated in Morris County, New Jersey, which is not online at like the other twenty counties.  A trip to the courthouse provided documentation that Susan DeGroot was the mother of the Bishop children:

1- William R[euben] Bishop
2- Mary (wife of Edward Skinner)
3- Emma (wife of Silas Totten)
4- Julia (wife of George Ward)
5- George Bishop

A trip Fairmount Cemetery in Newark, New Jersey provided Susan's burial records.  She was buried in the plot of her daughter, Julia Bishop(1842-1902), wife of George Ward (1837-1889) and later William Condon.  The plot was purchased in 1866 for the burial of Ida C Ward (1859-1866), the six year old daughter of Julia Bishop and George Ward.

Susan has no marker.  There are stones for eight of the fourteen people buried in this plot.

Susan Bell's ancestral branch can be expanded with the revelation of her parents' names.  This may or may not be the branch in common with the DNA cousins, but each possibility must be explored.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Funeral Card Friday: Katherine Powers, died 1952

My maternal grandmother, Jeannette ODonnell (1920-1993), saved this funeral card for Katherine Powers, died September 22, 1952.  Jeannette's family is buried at Holy Name Cemetery in Jersey City, Hudson County, New Jersey.  No record for Katherine was found at Holy Name.

I was going to feature this funeral card for a Friday blog post and leave it as a mystery, until I remembered that death certificates can be searched for the year 1952 at the New Jersey State Archives.  Glad I looked.

Death certificate for Katherine Powers, nee ODonnell
(See FindAGrave memorial)

My grandmother held onto this funeral card because Katherine was her paternal aunt.  Katherine's last definite sighting was in the 1930 federal census in Bayonne, Hudson County, New Jersey.  She lived with her father, Patrick; brother, Joseph; and niece, Jeannette (my grandmother).

Katherine was born on March 5, 1904 in Bayonne.  She was the seventh and final child of Patrick ODonnell (1856-1931) and Delia Joyce (1862-1929).

Katherine is buried with Maurice Powers (died 1981) at Holy Cross Cemetery in North Arlington, Bergen County, New Jersey.  (See Newark Archdiocese Find a Loved One search.)  This is also the name of the informant on Katherine's death certificate.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

More Morris County, New Jersey DNA

A connection was solved with a DNA cousin at 23andMe.

This match stood out because the shared DNA was 1.57% over a single segment.  This placed the match among my father's closest family, where it sat anonymously for over a year.

A name was finally revealed this week and I found the person on FaceBook.  She accepted my request to "share" on 23andMe and provided the names of her four grandparents so we could figure out the precise relation.

Her grandparents were from New Jersey, which is where we needed to be geographically.

The FindAGrave memorial for her grandfather, Charles Graner (1924-1985), included a note about the 1920 federal census in Denville, Morris County, New Jersey.  Her grandfather was living with Cooks.  My paternal grandmother was Beulah Cook (1921-2003), descended from Cooks in Morris County.

After reviewing the Cook branch, Charles Graner's mother was determined to be Lena Cook, a daughter of Charles Cook (1859-1921), granddaughter of Henry Cook (1828-1902), and a great granddaughter of Stephen H Cook- my ancestor.

Thus, our most recent common ancestors were Stephen H Cook (1797-1853) and Elizabeth Vanderhoof (1799-1878).  This DNA cousin is related to my father as a fourth cousin, once removed, and to me as a fifth cousin.

Below is the shared DNA reported at 23andMe between this Cook/Vanderhoof cousin and my father, his siblings, and a third cousin of theirs.  All five have the exact relation to the newly discovered cousin- fourth cousins, once removed.  Note that two of them share only one small segment.

Almost all of chromosome 10 remained intact for my father and one of his brothers.  Total length was 116 cM and 21,000 SNPs for my father.

For the next generation, comparing what my father passed on to my sister and me, I inherited the entire segment while my sister received half.  Amazing that this whole segment survived six generations down to me.  We do not know if the segment is from Stephen H Cook or Elizabeth Vanderhoof.

For fourth and fifth cousins to share such a long segment is an outlier in expected amount of shared DNA.

These are pictures of photographs housed in the Denville Historical Society and Museum.  Henry Cook (1828-1902) and Emiline Young (1834-1906) were the third great grandparents of this latest DNA cousin.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Digitized New York Newspapers Database

Thanks to Barbara over at Barb's Family Stories for alerting us to a great (and free) searchable resource for New York State newspapers, HRVH Historical Newspapers.  You can also edit the transcribed text, if you wish.

I found another mention of the deaths of Abraham Lent Brewer and Fannie Duryea, husband and wife, who died within hours of each other in 1901 in Ramapo, Rockland County, New York.

Abraham (1826-1901) was the brother of my 4th great grandmother, Rene Brewer (1824-1904).

Fannie (1830-1901) was the sister of my third great grandfather, Stephen C Duryea (1814-1887).

The Brewer Fire Engine Company in Monsey is named after Abraham.

Abraham and Fannie died without living descendants.  Abraham's estate passed to Fannie and then to Fannie's family a few hours later when she died.  Fannie's full sister and the children of Fannie's deceased full siblings inherited Abraham and Fannie's estate.  Abraham's side was cut off from any inheritance.  Fannie's nieces and nephews by her half-brothers also inherited nothing because whole-bloods inherited to the exclusion of half-bloods under New York law in 1901.  (That took years to figure out.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

New Jersey Unseals Birth Certificates of Adopted Persons

This is not another ordinary request for a vital record in New Jersey.

This envelope contains a request for a copy of a birth certificate that was sealed because the child was adopted.

THIS IS BIG NEWS for New Jersey.  If your birth certificate was sealed because you were adopted, you can now request your original birth certificate, containing the names of your biological parent(s).  The certificates will be mailed beginning January 1, 2017.

New Jersey Statues Annotated 26:8-40.1 has been amended to:

   c.  The State Registrar shall cause to be placed under seal the original certificate of birth and all papers pertaining to the new certificate of birth.  Such seal shall not be broken except:
     (1)  by order of a court of competent jurisdiction; or
     (2)  upon request for an uncertified, long-form copy of the adopted person's original certificate of birth by a person 18 years of age or older who can establish himself as one of the following:
        (a)  the adopted person;
        (b)  a direct descendant, sibling, or spouse of the adopted person;
        (c)  an adoptive parent, legal guardian, or other legal representative of the adopted person; or
        (d)  an agency of the State or federal government for official purposes.

The Department of Health has a link to the form (REG-41) with instructions.  (The links for the State change often, so if the link does not work, turn to Google.)

The certificate that I requested is for a birth from 1936.  The court records about the adoption were not sealed, so the name of the birth mother was known.  (New Jersey sealed adoption records in 1940.)  Several women carried this name, so the exact birth mother was not identified with certainty and most candidates were dead.  A few years ago, DNA testing linked several close cousins of one possible mother, prompting an elderly family member to identify the birth mother and explain some of the story.

The biological father was not named in the court records.  His name may or may not appear on the original birth certificate; however, he has been identified through DNA tests submitted by some of his descendants and close cousins.  His identity may have never been uncovered if not for DNA testing.

Both biological parents are long deceased.

DNA testing influences the debate when deciding to grant access to original birth certificates of adopted persons.  As more people test their DNA, chances increase for an adopted person to figure out their biological family without the help of viewing the original birth certificate.  If a relative as distant as a third cousin of a biological parent tests his/her DNA, the adopted child can possibly figure out the identity of the biological parent.  As the pool of DNA testers grows, finding biological parents becomes inevitable.  Other states should unseal the birth certificates of adopted people.  The child was not a party to the decision to seal the certificate.

Monday, December 12, 2016

New Jersey Vital Records Index 1901-1903 is Online

Indexes for New Jersey records are online for the early 1900s!

A year ago I wrote about the efforts of Reclaim the Records to obtain copies of indexes for New Jersey vital records in the custody of the State Archives.  The group received microfilm rolls of the indexes for:
-Births 1901, 1902, and 1903
-Deaths 1901, 1902, and 1903
-Groom index 1901, 1902, and 1903
-Bride index 1901 through 1914.

Previous acquisitions of New York City records appeared (for free) at

This New Jersey collection is also at; however, I found the collection on also.

To view the vital records indexes at, you need to browse page by page to find a desired entry. has indexed the names- an index of the index.  (Records earlier than 1901 are indexed at

Remember that you are viewing an index and NOT the actual record of birth, marriage, or death.  To acquire a copy of the certificate, you need to order it (for a fee) from the Archives in Trenton.  (You can place your order online for records through 1915.)  Also remember that indexes are not exhaustive and names may be spelled as interpreted by the typist.

I already found an entry for a marriage certificate from 1908 that should help a brick wall.  The bride's name is listed in the index as "Blaney."  If I have the correct couple, the name should be "Birney."

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Chasing Irish Hometowns

Spoiler alert:  Irish hometowns not discovered (yet).

I am trying to discover where in Ireland Patrick Joyce (1830-1905) and Margaret Campbell (1835-1870) were from.  They were my maternal grandmother's great grandparents.  Their first appearance in the United States was in the 1860 Federal Census in Patterson, Putnam County, New York. Family Tree of Jody's mother.
I recently figured out how to change the background color to purple.

We start with Patrick and Margaret themselves.  I do not know if they married in New York or Ireland.  I have found no church records for the Patterson, Putnam County area circa 1860 and no mention in a newspaper, which is not unusual.  Patrick's death certificate from 1905 in Pawling, Dutchess County, lists his birthplace as "Ireland" and names one parent, his father, Richard, of Ireland.  Margaret's death in 1870 was recorded on the federal census mortality schedule and in newspapers without mention of her town of origin or her parents.  Deaths were infrequently reported to the state at this time.

So next we turn to the records of their children.  My direct line is through Patrick and Margaret's daughter, Delia Joyce (1862-1929), who married Patrick ODonnell (1856-1931) in Bayonne, Hudson County, New Jersey in 1887.  I cannot find a record of this marriage filed with the states of New Jersey or New York.  Saint Mary's Church in Bayonne, New Jersey has a record of this marriage.  Delia's parents are listed without a place of birth.

Even if a marriage record surfaces for this couple in the New Jersey State Archives from 1887, the certificates in this time period asked for the country of birth of the parent, so the answer could be merely "Ireland."

You can view this digitized microfilm at a Family History Library.
John Joyce was a brother of Delia Joyce.
Rose Kenny was a sister of Patrick ODonnell.  She married James Kenny in 1883 in Bayonne.

Delia died in 1929 in Bayonne.  Her parents were listed as Patrick Joyce of Ireland and Cannot Learn of Ireland.  (Sixty years after Delia's mother's tragic death, her name had been forgotten.)

So next we turn to Delia's siblings, the other children of Patrick Joyce and Margaret Campbell.  There were three:
Mary, born about 1861, last seen in the 1870 census
John, born about 1867, married Mary Delaney
James, born about 1869, married Ellen [-]

After Margaret died in 1870, Patrick Joyce remarried to Bridget Cortney (1850-1910) and had several more children.

The problem with finding records for the siblings of Delia Joyce is that they are in New York.  For New Jersey records, I can go to the Archives in Trenton and retrieve the records myself and copy what I need.  For New York records, you need to place an order via postal mail and pay at least $22 (US Dollars) and then wait.

The more time that passed, the less likely Patrick Joyce's children and grandchildren would remember the ancestral Irish hometowns, if this information was even requested.

Obituaries for these siblings were not difficult to track down thanks to  (This site is a free resource of digitized newspapers, mostly from New York.)  Still no Irish hometowns.

I ordered the marriage certificate for John Joyce (1867-1934) and Mary Delaney (1866-1941).  They were married in Pawling, Dutchess County, New York on October 28, 1888 by Reverend Daniel J McCormick of Saint John's Church.  Only the names of the parents were requested; not the birth place.

The bride's parents were Edward Delaney and Catherine McCue.

The witnesses were John Delaney and Mary Ann Walsh.  Delaney was likely for the bride.  I don't know who Mary Ann Walsh could be.  Maybe the lost older sister of John Joyce?  More research needed!  Always investigate the witnesses.

The records kept by Saint John's Church in Pawling may be a great help.  This family was also buried in the church cemetery.  If anyone has a way for me to look at these records, please reach out to me.  Thank you.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Thirteen Years at FindAGrave

This year, I more than doubled my entries at (mostly owing to a continued debilitating physical condition that prevents my participation in my athletic endeavors).

Marion Bishop (1906-1999) and Thomas Harold Joyce (1902-1964) were two graves that I happened upon.  My mother is descended from Joyce and my father from Bishop.  I have not figured out what relation, if any, Thomas Joyce has to my mother; however, Marion Bishop was found to be my father's second cousin, twice removed.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Finding Entries using a Flawed Index

When you cannot locate someone in an index, try searching with only a first name or view every name in the entire location.  Depending on the commonality of the name and the size of the potential search area, this may be a cumbersome task, but when a thorough researcher needs a record, this is the technique.

Patrick Joyce and his first wife and children were finally located in the 1865 New York State Census without using their last name.

The criteria was to search Pawling, Dutchess County, New York for this family:
- father Patrick
- mother Mary or Margaret
- and at least two children, Mary and Adelia or Delia.

The index at produced only 1,694 people living in Pawling in 1865.  I forwarded to the J surnames in hopes that at least the first letter was recorded correctly.

Found them!

The Joyce surname was transcribed for the index as JAIN.  When you view the actual record (always look at the record, not just the index!), the name was probably spelled JOICE, a variant of Joyce.

It is great to get another glimpse of Margaret Campbell, wife of Patrick Joyce.  She died in 1870  when her skirt was caught as she stepped from a moving train to not be separated from her child.

Adelia was listed as Cordelia.  In the 1870 federal census, she was Adelia.  In the 1875 New York State census, she was Delia.  My grandmother referred to her as Delia Joyce, her paternal grandmother.