Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday's Photo/ Leo Shannon

 L to r back row--Shannon, Phalen, Cooper, Hutchinson, Thompson, Thompson, Swarthout Shannon, Burr
1st Row--McGee, Mosey, Shannon, Thompson

     Leo Francis Shannon is the young man in the back row, one in from the right wearing a Newark uniform.  Leo was my uncle by virtue of his marriage to my great-aunt Alice O'Hora in 1935 at St. Dominic's in Shortsville, NY.  I'm not sure what year this photo was taken; Leo was born in 1910 in Stanley, NY and he doesn't look very old here, I think I'd put it shortly before their marriage.  He obviously gave this picture to Alice, it was found in her photo album after her death in 1981. 

    I don't know what team this might be, if in fact it is a team-- there are uniforms here from Newark, Stanley and that G is probably for Geneva.  The best thing about this picture, other than Uncle Leo being in it, is that he took the time to write the names of the individuals on the back!  It's only last names, but still better than what is on the back of most old photos-- namely nothing.

     Beneath the names it reads, "3 Shannons and 3 Thompson. Isn't this a great picture..." Written sideways at the end of the card is:
"Pat Sev? drownded Nov. 4, 1937".  This was clearly added later, the names are in ink and the notation in pencil.  I'm sure my uncle wrote it, Aunt Alice was a teacher and would never have made that spelling error.  Nothing in this picture seems to relate to Pat Sev. Was that a nickname?  I wondered if I could find a news article at the Old Fulton site, but I didn't have much to go on.  Not expecting much I typed in "drowned November 1937 Patrick", and came up with over 900 hits.  I noticed a good many were from Brooklyn, so I added "-Brooklyn" to the search terms.  That's more like it, only 605, good grief!  I scrolled down anyway and a short way down I saw a local newspaper, the Geneva Daily Times, so I clicked on it.  I was floored when up popped an article about Stanley, NY, my uncle's hometown--

     The unfortunate victim was the young man standing just to the left of Uncle Leo in the Camillus uniform in the above photo.  This article didn't say how the young men ended up in the water, but another one I found said they were in a motorboat that capsized.  I'm still not sure how Pat Sev turns into Leonard Swarthout, but there you have it, "Pat" must have been what the fellows called him and I just lucked out that the name Patrick appeared somewhere on the same page as the obituary.  You know, looking again at that handwriting, I think it says "Sw" not "Sev", maybe it's time for new reading glasses?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

An Irish Who Do You Think You Are

Dublin Castle, lair of the British occupation forces.

     I know you're all familiar with the TLC show Who Do You Think You Are, and many of you know the show is a spin off of the UK show of the same name.  Perhaps not as widely known, you can view episodes not only from the USA and UK, but Australian and South African versions as well at You Tube.  Today I watched the UK episode profiling Brendan O'Carroll, a well known Irish comedian, and I was blown away!

     The show looked into the tragic murder of his grandfather Peter O'Carroll during  the Irish War of Independence.  In the wee hours of an October morning the O'Carroll family was awakened by a knock on their door.  Mr. O'Carroll arose and went down the stairs to answer whereupon his wife heard a thud, then silence.  Descending the stairs herself, she found her husband murdered.  To add insult to injury, a note had been pinned upon his body with the chilling message, "A traitor to Ireland, shot by the IRA".  No one in the family or neighborhood took this seriously as three of the O'Carroll sons were themselves members of the Irish Republican Army.

     A sham court of inquiry was convened to investigate the murder but Mrs. O'Carroll refused to testify, saying in a letter to the Dublin Corporation:

     "At about 1:50 a.m. on Saturday the 16th, my husband Peter O'Carroll was foully and brutally murdered by members of the Army of Occupation.  Not content with this they placed a label on his body that maligned the living and defamed the dead.  Myself and members of my family have been notified to attend an inquiry which is to be held today by the same Army of Occupation.  I cannot see my way to recognize this inquiry for the simple reason  that it is to be conducted by the murderers of my husband."

     I. Love. This. Woman. What courage to stand up to those murderous thugs otherwise known as the Black & Tans!  She knew full well what they were capable of, her husband was far from the only one to be killed in this cowardly fashion in his own home during their vicious reign.  I don't want to say more and give the story away, but I highly recommend this video, it has an amazing ending and I think you will find it as gripping as I did.  There are only a few ads, and they are the 5 second kind, making it highly watchable.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Things That Go Bump


     The days are getting shorter here in upstate New York and there's a decided chill in the air.  As the sun's angle grows shallower, the light it casts seems to have a harsh quality that renders everything it falls upon starker in color and outline, unlike the soft, warm light of summer.  For the most part I find this terribly annoying. I'm not a fall/winter person, but it does signal the approach of Halloween.  I have loved Halloween since I was small.  On this one night of the year I was allowed out after dark to roam our small village unaccompanied, imagining ghosts behind every tree as the October wind blew the falling leaves spookily (is that a word?) up the sidewalks...does it get any better?  It wasn't even the candy that drew me, most of which my brother consumed anyway, it was the aura, the other worldliness of it that I adored and still do.

     I was pleased when years ago I discovered the origins of this auspicious evening lay in Ireland, specifically with the Celts who called it Samhain.  Could this be why I am so fond of the holiday? Maybe it's in my blood.  It was here too the eerie aspect I love so much began.  On the eve of October 31st the boundary between worlds was loosed and spirits, pukas and malevolent fairies roamed at will and witches found their powers increased-- what's not to love?

     So it's entirely appropriate that yesterday I discovered the final link between myself and Winifred Benham aka "The Witch of Wallingford".  I had the genealogy worked out to my satisfaction all the way back to James Benham, born 1679 in Wallingford, but just couldn't find the proof that Winifred was James' mother.  I saw online trees that made that assertion, but you know me, I needed proof!  Then yesterday I read, "The History of Wallingford, Connecticut, From it's Settlement in 1670 to the Present Time."  
In it I found this,  
"James Benham; male, birth-1679 of Wallingford, New Haven, Connecticut; Death 10 May 1745; Father Joseph Benham; Mother Winifred King; Spouse Esther Preston.
     A deed from 1743 mentioned James giving land to "his loving son Samuel Benham" and James' executor was another son, Jehiel Benham.  My line was from Samuel to his son, another Jehiel, (clearly Samuel named him after his brother) then to Jehiel's daughter Phoebe Benham who married Abijah Moore.  Those last two generations are well documented.  I had my proof, in time for Halloween yet.

     Grandma Winifred was never found guilty of witchcraft, though they tried three times to convict her, the last time along with her teenage daughter Winifred Jr.  The family left Connecticut after that last trial, and I can't say I blame them, but the trial of Winifred King Benham and her daughter was the last one ever conducted in Connecticut. What was it about Winifred that caused her fellow Puritans to believe she consorted with the devil?  Was she annoying, hard to get along with?  Her neighbor Hannah Parker in particular made accusations, in fact Joseph Benham threatened to shoot Hannah if she continued, landing himself in some hot water.  There is lots on the web about Winifred if you're interested in reading more about her and her fellow "witches".
       Happy, spooky Halloween season to you all!


Sunday, October 5, 2014

So? Can I Join The Tribe?


     The DNA test has returned!  I'm Irish!  Well, I knew that, but there is more to investigate.  Ancestry said 35 percent Irish which seems low since my father is 3/4 Irish.  Dad's other 1/4 is British so the 5 percent British was no surprise.  The rest was West European which encompasses Germany, Netherlands, Belgium... no surprise there either, that's my Mother's heritage.  I was however, disappointed to find no Native American DNA as described by a great-great-uncle.  After much reading on the subject of the human genome and nuclear DNA two things happened, first I began to feel really stupid, and second, things became a little clearer.  The test Ancestry uses looks at different parts of your DNA and then comes up with a "range", it's not exact in other words. The range for my Irish DNA was as high as 51 percent.  And since you inherit your DNA randomly, half from each parent, you can actually miss out on some DNA they carried around; also, the further back you go, DNA can get "watered down" (that's a scientific term), so even if there was Native American DNA way back when, it may not show up in the test. And one other thing, it may show up as something else.

    There was still another avenue open,  I downloaded my raw data to  They came up with an interesting breakdown, rather different than Ancestry's:

     They break down the results by region, not country.  And sure enough, I found Western Asian, South Asian, and Siberian, all known to show up in Native American DNA, and at .21 percent--Amerindian!  By the way, on Gedmatch's homepage in the left column is a section called "DNA For Dummies" that has some very helpful articles.

     Was Uncle George right about our Native ancestry?  It's difficult to say.  I'm currently trying to figure out if I can talk my father into spitting in a tube for me????

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

It Was There All Along


     Recently I've been taking another look at my Wiggins relatives.  There are several unknowns there that I've been trying to puzzle out.  I looked through some trees on Ancestry and nothing new came up, though I did find a tree with the incorrect parents and death date for my third great grandfather William H. Wiggins.  I left a note, I'm not sure if that will help or annoy the poster?  Anyway I left a copy of my sources, and reading through them again something hit me.  William H. is mentioned in the book, "Landmarks of Wayne County, New York", and in it he is referred to as the last surviving child of Richard Wiggins and his wife.  Her name isn't given, but I know from other records she was Hannah Ostrander.  William's obituary on the other hand, mentions two sisters among his survivors, Hannah Beasley and Nettie Owen.  Contradictions in records are nothing new to family historians but this was sort of a big one; generally speaking, last surviving children do not have two living sisters.

     I pulled up my Wiggins tree and checked through it, and William H. did indeed have a sister named Hannah who appeared to have been born the year their mother Hannah Ostrander passed away.  I always figured she probably died from giving birth to Hannah Jr.  But the other sister Nettie?  Who was she?  Had I missed her somehow?

     Richard Wiggins, father of William H. was born in 1810 somewhere in New York.  New York didn't keep the nice records New England states did, so I've found very little on him.  I know he went west to Michigan, where his daughter Hannah was born in 1848, and that he died around 1857, but there is no conclusive evidence where he died.  Some trees claim in New York, and that he is buried in Victory, NY.  There is a Richard Wiggins buried there, but nothing proves it is the right Richard Wiggins.  His wife Hannah Ostrander died in Michigan in 1848, his mother Elizabeth died in Michigan in 1856, and his sister Phoebe died in Michigan in 1858.  In fact, both of Richard's parents along with his siblings had moved to Michigan shortly after 1850, so I would think Richard likely died there too.   

Clarissa Wiggins
     But then there is Susan Gray.  I was doing a search of the 1860 census for Wiggins' in Michigan and I found a Clarissa Wiggins, born in 1855 in New York.  Clarissa was living with Susan and Abel Aldrich in Lapeer County, Michigan in 1860.  A tree on Ancestry had mentioned a Susan Gray as the second wife of Richard Wiggins.  Since the tree had no sources, I took it with a grain of salt, but kept it in mind.  Now I wondered, could Susan Aldrich be Susan Gray?  She could!  I found her death record on Family Search-- Susan Aldrich, born in New York, died in 1870 in the Lapeer County Poorhouse at age 37 of consumption, father's name...GRAY!  And he too was now living in Michigan.  This could be the widow of Richard Wiggins, making Clarissa from New York their child.  So Richard had returned to New York after all!  

     It now appears Susan and her little daughter Clarissa came to Michigan after Richard's death, possibly to the home of her father, he was there in Michigan by 1860, perhaps even earlier.  Then after a year or two, Susan married Abel Aldrich. Clarissa would have been 15 when her mother died leaving her orphaned,  what became of her after that?

     I couldn't find her in the 1870 census, and hoped she hadn't been a victim of the same disease that killed her mother.  I tried all the name variations I could think of and nothing.  Then I tried a search using just a first name and dates and places, still nothing.  Next, a search using last name, dates and places, BINGO, there was "Janette" Wiggins, age 15 from New York. Still living in Lapeer County, Michigan, now a servant with the Morse family.  
1870 Census Metamora, Lapeer, MI
     Other records confirmed her name was Clarissa Janette Wiggins.  Still I had nagging doubts, (I'm hard to convince).  I had never seen any concrete proof that my Richard Wiggins married Susan Gray and fathered a daughter.  Until last night that is, when I posted that note to the online tree.   

     Doh! (Homer Simpson forehead smack) The proof I sought had been right there in an obituary in my own computer files.  Of course!  Janette Wiggins and Nettie Owen, the other surviving sister from William's obituary, were one and the same!  A Michigan marriage record transcription at Family Search sealed the deal-- 
January 18, 1880, "Natsie" Wiggins, born in New York in 1857, married David Owen in Delhi, Michigan.
She clearly was the daughter of Richard and Susan, and William H. was her half brother, and they knew each other, or at least knew of each other.

     Technically, the book was right, Nettie Owen was not a surviving child of Richard Wiggins and Hannah Ostrander, although Hannah Jr. was, and she, (Hannah Jr.) was really the last surviving child of Richard and Hannah, not William.  Guess for now I can chalk that up to human error.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday's Photo/Alma May Magoon

     Little Alma May was born January 21, 1898 in Manchester, New Hampshire.  In the 1900 census she and her two older sisters, Marian and Ruth, were living with their grandparents John and Julia Magoon as were several older children of John and Julia.  By 1910, she and her sisters had returned to the home of their parents Carl and Susan Magoon.  Or so it seemed.

     I didn't know why the girls would be living with their grandparents in 1900?   It seemed odd that all three of them would be residing there.  So I took a look at the family trees on  There I discovered Alma's father Carl was widowed in 1899, confirmed by a Family Search death record.  That must be when the girls went to their grandparents.  Since the 1910 census had given me their father's name, I took another look at the 1900 census, and there was Carl listed in the grandparent's household too.  He had taken his girls and moved to his parent's home after the death of his wife.

Death Record From Family Search

     Alma and her sister's mother was in fact May Ellison.  Susan, (Fowler), was the children's stepmother.  Alma is with Carl and Susan in 1920 also, but not in 1930.  It appears she married between those dates.  A tree with no sources says she married and had children, but that information is marked private.  It goes on to say she died in New York City in 1953.

     Several of the trees on Ancestry mistakenly claim Susan was the mother of Alma and her sisters, but the census of 1900 placing them with their grandparents is a dead giveaway that something was up with this family.  It's easy to forget, when the 1910 census tells us the child is a "daughter", that is her relationship to the head of the household only, not to his wife; and it's easy to make assumptions looking at census records. This reminds me of the genealogical golden rule, the more records one can dig up the better.  And don't believe everything you read in an online tree.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

RootsIreland Now A Subscription Site

   This article is from the Irish Genealogy News site