Sunday, December 31, 2017

DNA Smashes a Brick Wall

Tekla Raczynska Dachtera, my paternal grandmother, has been a huge challenge in my research. Her parents were married in Cerekwica, Poland; she was baptized 6 years later in Breckerfeld, Germany,  I looked for her parents in Cerekwica with no luck; I found nothing else in Breckerfeld. Passenger lists were no help. 

She immigrated and settled in St. Paul, MN. There were others in the St. Paul area with the same Raczynski surname.  I pieced them together as best I could, given the information I had, and put them in my tree on in hopes that someone would either disprove or help me prove my assumptions. No one contacted me about them.


And Then.

I received an email from someone who matched my DNA and looked at my tree.  The question was whether my Raczynski family was connected to her Reczynski family. Yes, they are!!  She gave me some information about her family and the FHL film where I could find them.

A new cousin!  Our MRCA is our third great grandfather. I was able to find my grandmother’s siblings, and paternal ancestors two generations back.  But now comes the work of making my tree coherent for this family. 

Smashing a brick wall is a great way to end the year. Learning about my “new” relatives is a great way to begin a new year.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Am I Missing the Point?

I am baffled by people who have tens of thousands of people in their family trees.  How far removed are the individuals at the very outer branches and twigs?  Why are they there?

Is there any value in having the 3rd great grandmother of the wife of my mother’s cousin 2X removed?

Should I be including these distant in-laws?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Genealogy Blog Party: DNA Discoveries

DNA testing has led me down a wonderful path of discovery.  Not about me and my family but about European history. 

My DNA was tested by 23andMe back in 2013. I had breast cancer and, for my daughter’s sake, was concerned about BRCA gene mutations. I turned to 23andMe because a $4,000.00 full genetic assay just wasn’t in the budget. I was relieved to find that I don’t have that mutation.

My ethnic mix showed no big surprises, but a couple of small ones.  My favorite surprise is the 3% Neanderthal component.  I love it!  That’s been the subject of a couple of previous blog posts:

And just today came across another article: 

New DNA From a Neanderthal Bone Holds Evidence of a Lost Tribe of Humans

I’ve traced my ancestry back to the late 18th century in Poland. Ethnicity estimates from 23andMe, FTDNA, My Heritage, and Gedmatch all agree that is where my ancestry is centered. But they also show Southern European and Northern European roots, and that got me wondering if those are real or are false positives.

Poring over history books, historical atlases, and Wikipedia gave me quite an education.  The Northern European component may have come from the late 1600’s when Sweden invaded Poland. There are still ruins of Swedish fortifications in Poland.  Possibly this is the source of my Northern European connection.

My mother’s maiden name is Ganas, a name more common among Greeks than among Poles. It seems that in the 12th and 13th centuries merchants from Greece and Turkey plied their trade in Central Europe. My guess is that at least one of them, with the name of Ganas, stayed in Poland.  I have yet to convince any of my male cousins from that line to do a DNA test; but I’d love to see what their Y chromosome could tell us.

The knowledge and insights into history that I’ve gained are priceless.
Here are links to previous posts European history.

As for family discoveries, DNA has helped me find only two previously unknown 2nd cousins – none more remote that that.  I keep hoping to find more. I know they’re out there somewhere.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Narrative Fallacy: It’s easy to fall into this trap

This post on Narrative Fallacy by James Tanner on his Genealogy Star blog is a gentle reminder to all of us. It is far too easy to reject research that doesn’t fit with the story we’ve woven.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Different Brick Wall

Last week, a circuit breaker flipped.  I was working intensely on two projects when my circuits apparently overloaded. The projects have been sitting untouched on my desk for several days now.  I’m running in neutral  - idling.

What happened?  I haven’t a clue; but it seems useless to fight it.  In the meantime, I’ve been catching up on my reading and surfing the net.

My project trying to connect Sip families in Poland is temporarily on hold.  That’s OK.  The information will still be there when I get back to it – or maybe more information will have surfaced by then.

I am hopeful that using Genome Mate Pro will become clearer to me as discussion continues on the Facebook group.

Until my research gene gets turned on again, I’ll probably do some writing and reopen the video projects waiting in the queue.  Yep, the video projects sound good.  And I’ll find topics to keep this blog alive.

To everything there is a season.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Tribes of Great Britain and Their DNA

I don’t remember where I first saw this (It was about 20 minutes ago, after all), but it is interesting whether or not you have British ancestry.

The list of the study’s findings beneath the maps is especially interesting.  The maps are from

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Genome Mate Pro – A Steep Learning Curve

A  link to a 2015 post on IOWADNAPROJECT led me to look at Genome Mate Pro software.  The best description I’ve found of this app comes directly from that post:

Genome Mate is a desktop tool used to organize in one place the data collected while researching DNA comparisons. Besides data storage it has many features to aid in identifying common ancestors.
·         Multiple Profiles for multiple kits
·         Import of 23andMe, FTDNA and GedMatch data
·         Chromosome Mapping of Common Ancestor
·         In Common With (ICW) Groups
·         Import of Gedcom data for each Profile
·         Surname Matching and Searching
·         Display of Overlapping Segments
·         X-List of X Chromosome Donors

It sounds like the perfect tool.

The software has been upgraded since that post, so while the description is good, the screenshots are no longer accurate.

This software is FREE. It was developed by Becky Mason Walker as she worked to coordinate and analyze information on her own DNA matches from 23andMe, FTDNA, and GEDmatch.

This software is also very complex – because it is very comprehensive.  But there are Youtube videos to help you get going; and there is a 16 part tutorial on Facebook co-authored by Leah La Perle Larkin and Blaine T. Bettinger. There is also a User Manual. See links below.

I’ve been at this for four days now, and have gotten to part 12 of the tutorial.  So far I’ve watched 3 of the videos.  I think that the videos will make more sense after completing the tutorial.  I expect to need to review some of this material more than once.

I am looking forward to actually trying to use this app – once I’ve had a first pass through the training process.  I’ll post a progress report.

Here are some links

Download the software:

There are nine videos. Links are on the getgmp site shown above, but here the link to the Introduction.

Tutorial - 16 part

There is a downloadable user’s guide in PDF format (265 pages).  Link is on the getgmp site.

The developer’s blog is here:

And there’s a group on Facebook.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Taking a Break Led to New Discoveries

After being so completely wrapped up in trying to connect my various Sip families, a short break was welcome and profitable.

I took time to read blogs that had been waiting for me get around to them. Found a lot of interesting stuff, but I hit paydirt with this tip about Google Books:  

Because my own peasant ancestors are fairly recent immigrants, they’re not likely to appear in books except for city directories.  But I did search for one of my husband’s ancestors and one of my chlldren’s paternal ancestors.

My husband’s 7X GGfather came to The Colonies in 1702. It was a time when Britain was shipping convicts to the West Indies and The Colonies.  Library research[1] had told me That Francis Foxworthy was shipped to the colony of Virginia having been pardoned of his conviction for murder. A juicy detail like that demands more research but I set it aside at the time because I didn’t know where to look.

Search Google Books for Francis Foxworthy and here it is.  Now I know where to get more information.

I’ve struggled making the correct Rose family connections before 1812.  Search Google Books for Solomon Rose and find what may be the perfect resource: The Rose Family Bulletin

I found the Rose Family Association site which has a list of family reports available for purchase.  I’ve ordered Solomon Rose (w Mary/Polly) Oneida Co., NY; Rock Co., WI

If you haven’t used Google Books as a genealogy resource, you may be missing out on some good information.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Owning a Piece of Someone’s Life

I plagiarized borrowed this title from a post on Olive TreeGenealogy by Lorine McGinnis Schulze because her post describes my feelings as well. Owning objects that were a part of a person’s life does seem to me like owning a piece of that life.  I have very few such objects – all extremely precious to me.

I have my Dad’s rosary.  My parents were devout Catholics who prayed the rosary daily.  It’s not just something that belonged to him; it is something that was important to him that he used every day.

A small diamond that my Dad gave to my Mom represents their love and devotion to one another. It is more precious to me than its monetary value.

I have my Aunt Martha’s First Communion prayer book - in Polish. It was not merely a token of that occasion, but something she used often enough that the spine is repaired with adhesive tape. She was a delightful woman full of spunk and spirit.

There are a few more items in my treasure chest - all equally cherished.

Photographs are great, but I love having something tangible to reinforce the memories and reality of their lives


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Taking a short break from the Sip family

 It’s time to step back from this family for a couple of days to let my thoughts and ideas organize themselves in the background.  I’ve collected data and made spreadsheets that so far result in building a number of family “shrubs” that may or may not get grafted to my family tree.

Data is incomplete. The same first names are used repeatedly, as was common in the 18th and 19th centuries. Example: two male births on the same day given the same name and registered at the same office. At this point, I’m not certain whether their fathers were brothers or cousins.  There are a few obvious transcription errors, and probably some subtle ones I haven’t found yet.  Spreadsheets evolved as my ideas evolved and I’m beginning to confuse myself. I know. I should have taken the time up front to make a plan. But I didn’t do that.

These various Sip families all lived in the same region. I believe that they are all connected but the problem is in finding the connecting thread.

For the next few days, I’ll be getting back to DNA.  I haven’t been on GedMatch or FTDNA for quite a while. There are new things to learn and, I hope, new matches for follow up.

With any luck, I’ll be able to get back to the Sip shrubs refreshed and with new ideas.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Missing Pieces

Searching for missing pieces of information is the definition of a family history project. I’m looking at another family jigsaw puzzle with many missing pieces.

In the past few months, via DNA matches, I’ve learned of two distant cousins in my Schipp line and I’m now down that particular “rabbit hole”.  The video project is on the back burner for now.

Both of these new cousins are descended from great aunts on my mother’s side – my great grandfather, Michael Schipp (Sip) is our MRCA (most recent common ancestor).  Even though I’d said that I’d put it aside for a while, I’m back looking for Sip families in Poland

Using BaSIA, I’ve found a treasure trove of Catholic church sacramental records at the State Archive inPoznan. Now the job is to get them matched up as best I can.  MS Excel is a great tool for this.  I’m building this spreadsheet

Once I get the information entered I’ll be able to sort it every which way to try to extract facts, matching parents with children and grandchildren, seeing local migration patterns, and more, I hope.  There are several families clustered with an area of about 3 square miles, but it seems that a few of them moved from one place to another.

The challenge here is reading the records. BaSIA gives most of the vital facts, but there should be more information in the record itself. Unlike later church records which were written in Latin, these older records are written in Polish.

I’ll be busy for a while.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Sip to Schipp: Evolution of a Surname

In June, 2015 I published apost with a theory about how my great grandfather, Michael Sip became Michael Schipp. Quoted from that post:

How did Sip become Schipp?  Here’s my theory.

In the 19th century, the Province of Poznan was in the Prussian partition of Poland. There was a concerted effort to erase Polish culture and impose German language and culture. Civil authority was German and all civil records were in German. Schools taught only the German language and classes were in German.

In Polish the name Sip would be pronounced: ship or szip. 

My current thinking is that the German civil authorities wrote the name as it was pronounced.  The family were farmers in the boondocks of a relatively small city. I have no idea whether they were at all literate at the time.  Did they not understand that the spelling had changed?  Did they simply submit to the authorities rather than make a fuss?  I’ll never know.”

I have finally found evidence in civil records in the State Archive in Poznan. Until recently I’d been focused on church records because, in Poland and then in Prussian Poland, there were no civil records before 1874.

Here is the birth record of Michael’s son Theodor from 1882.  The yellow highlight shows the father as Michael Sip.  The note on the left highlighted in blue says: # Instead of "Sip" it has to read "Schip" in the sixth and tenth line.
The registrar

Michael’s son Ludwig was born two years later in 1884.  His birth record shows the surname as Szyp. Theodor’s and Ludwig’s births were registered at the same registry office.

(Note to my cousins:  This is the first and only record I’ve found for Ludwig.  He did not come to the US with his mother and siblings. As of this writing, I have not found a death record for him, but still, my current thinking is that he died as a child.)

In between the two births above, in 1883, Michael’s half-sister, Magdalena, was born to his father and stepmother. Please note that this record shows Sip as the surname.

Other records for this family as late as 1886 show the name as Sip.

My only reasonable conclusion is that the spelling was dependent on the person who happened to be working in the registry office that day.

Unless someone has a better solution for this name quandary, I’m putting this question to rest for now.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Projectus Interruptus

My project for a video of my Ganas family history in Poland didn’t get off the ground because I realized that I needed more information. I ordered a couple of FHL (Famiy History Library)  microfilms and put it on hold. Now that I have as much information as I can reasonably get for now, it’s a matter of getting materials organized and creating the video.

But wait…

A message arrived from one of my DNA matches on 23andme. Turns out that she’s a 2nd cousin 1x removed on my Schipp line!  YAY!!  My attention immediately shifted to that line.  Dug out copies of records that haven’t yet been scanned and verified that they’re all duly recorded in my family tree.
But wait…

There are a couple of things that don’t match up. So back to online records on FamilySearch, Ancestry, and the Polish site BaSIA.  My great grandparents, Michael and Elizabeth Schipp had children that don’t appear on immigration passenger lists, but for whom I find no death record. Then there’s the daughter who is on a passenger list with her mother but for whom I find no birth record.  A new mystery to be solved. A new BSO (Bright Shiny Object) to chase.

But wait….

I’m convincing myself to let this mystery rest for a while and get back to the video mentioned above.  BaSIA is a volunteer project indexing vital records in Poland.  I have no idea what percentage of records have yet to be indexed.  The volunteers may simply not have gotten to these “missing” records yet.


I will get back to this mystery.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Microfilm Monday

In my 10 March, 2017 post I described finding a connection in my Ganas line to a family that settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It gets even better.  Further research on BaSIA led me to records of other Ganas individuals in the same line – descended from my 3X great grandfather, Johann Ganas.  Looking at records on and showed me additional US immigrants in Buffalo, New York, and Detroit, Michigan.

BaSIA gave me links to digitized records at the State Archive in Poznan, Poland where I was able to determine where some of Johann’s children were married; and where some of  his grandchildren were born and married.  But state archives began in 1874, and very few Catholic church records are online.  So, that sent me back to FamilySearch to look for microfilms from the specific towns for years before 1874.

The films are finally here!  I’m anxious to see what new information I can dig up.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Z is for Zeitgeist - 2017 A to Z Challenge


Just because I like the word.  

It is  time to start planning my list for the 2018 A to Z Challenge.

I  now return you to your regularly scheduled program.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Thursday, April 27, 2017

X is for X Marks the Spot - 2017 A to Z Challenge

Same title as last year’s X post, but I want to point out that there are new enhancements to Google Earth.

Here’s James Tanner’s recentpost about it.

And here’s a link to my Xpost from last year.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

W is for Why - 2017 A to Z Challenge


Why?  That is the most difficult question that arises in researching family history. With some exceptions, we can usually answer the other four Ws: Who, What, When and Where.  Finding those still leaves with a big empty space in the Why column.

“Why?” is the most interesting part of the search.

Why did they migrate?
Why did they settle where they did?
Why would a young man in the south enlist in the Union Army?
Why did a parent abandon family?
Why didn’t they finish school?
Why did they die so young, or so suddenly?

Why? Why, Why?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

V is for Verify - 2017 A to Z Challenge

It is so exciting to find a family member in a database!  Perhaps you find a gem in someone else’s online family tree, or an ancestor’s name pops up on a passenger list, or birth or death record.  WOW!

However tempting it may be to take what you find at face value, it is important to verify all information. Check everything you can check.




Do your best to make sure that you’re not following a false positive.

Disclaimer:  I copied this from last year's A to Z Challenge. It is always pertinent.

U is for Underwater - 2017 A to Z Challenge

Underwater is not where we are supposed to be most of the time. I suspect that most of us know the feeling of drowning in obligations or details or fears or ……

Being overwhelmed is really what I mean but I needed a “U” word for today’s A to Z post. What happens to me when I’m overwhelmed is that my brain seems to shut down – or maybe it’s the opposite, my mind just spins out of control.

Going back to the underwater metaphor, what’s to do to get back to the surface without getting the bends?

Step away for a bit.
Breathe. Read a book, Take a walk. Go out to lunch. Watch a video.  Play an engaging game. Anything that has nothing to do with whatever is nagging at you.

Pick one thing to tackle.
Preferably one of your easier issues.  Focus on that one thing. Put everything else on a temporary back burner. This concentrated focus helps get things back on track.

This usually works for me, but I often need to remind myself.  You’re correct if you’re guessing that I’m a bit overwhelmed at the moment.  Think I’ll go read a book.

Monday, April 24, 2017

T is for Time Machine - 2017 A to Z Challenge

Time Machine – a family historian’s fantasy.  We read history, old newspapers, and we pore over
maps. All these give us hints about our ancestors’ lives. We know what kinds of clothes they wore, what their options were for transportation, and for home furnishings. We can read about the important issues of the day.  But we can’t know how they coped on a day to day basis.

What were their personalities? How did they entertain themselves? What were the family dynamics?  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to observe their day-to-day lives! 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

S is for Substitute - 2017 A to Z Challenge

My most recent blog posts have been substitutes for “real” posts. The A to Z Challenge has been an opportunity to post to my blog at a time when I really have nothing much to say.

I’ve been in waiting mode – waiting for FHL films to arrive so that I can continue my current project.  I’m not good at waiting.  Most people would use this time to work on getting things organized – and that was my intent. 

But instead, I focused on coming up with a post for each letter.  Some of these substitutes have been better than others, but they keep me occupied while I am waiting.

Still waiting.

Friday, April 21, 2017

R is for Religious Records - 2017 A to Z Challenge

For certain periods, religious records are almost all we have to trace our ancestry.

In the US, some states did not begin keeping vital records until the early 20th century. Counties or municipalities may have kept vital records before that, but there was no consistency.  There were census records after 1790.  There were tax rolls, court records, land and deed records but they did not necessarily yield the information we search for.

The situation was similar in many European countries. Where my ancestors resided in Prussian Poland, civil records of births, marriages, and deaths began only in 1874. 

But houses of worship often kept very complete records.  There were membership rolls and tithing records.  And there were (and still are) sacramental records that include specific details.  Marriage records, for example, may include not only the names of the bride’s and groom’s parents, but the town in which they lived.  They are a wonderful resource.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Q is for Questions - A to Z Challenge

Questions are both the bane and the joy of genealogy research.

Pursuing a question and finally finding an answer is a joyful experience. New information about our family is precious and wonderful. But…. For every answer, we also find more questions.  They never stop!  Few answers are definitive. And even those that seem definitive will generally lead to more questions. 

Truth is, it’s the questions that fuel our family history ventures and keep us going. Bring on the questions!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

P is for Poland - A to Z Challenge

Poland is my ancestral homeland.  All 4 of my grandparents were born there.

I’ve read multiple histories, historical novels, and studied maps and historical atlases to try to get a comprehensive sense of my ancestors’ lives.  All of this has given me an intense pride in my heritage.

Not that my ancestors were at all instrumental in shaping that history.  They were peasants – the people most affected by oppressive rules.  They survived.

Poland and her people have persisted in their steadfast faith in their nation and their destiny.

Wikipedia has a good overview of Poland and her history.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

O is for Organized - A to Z Challenge

I am not.  Organized. 

Actually, I am multi-organized.  I have manila folders from the early days when I had Broderbund’s Family Tree Maker on my computer and everything else on paper.  I have notebooks where I recorded my findings (more or less) – in notes so cryptic that I can barely decipher them.

As technology improved I came up with methods to preserve records.  I have several methods devised at different times but hardly ever retrofitted older methods to the new ones.

I have folders, binders, CDs, flash drives, hard drives…. 

Problem is, synchronizing all this comes under the heading of one of my earlier posts: Grunt Work.

I need a file clerk!

Monday, April 17, 2017

N is for Newspapers - 2017 A to Z Challenge

Old newspapers give us a glimpse into the everyday lives of our ancestors.  Not to mention that it’s a lot of fun to browse through them.

In years past, newspapers printed the same kinds of news that we find in today’s papers. The volume of information was, as today, dependent on the location and size of the paper’s circulation base.  They covered local, national and international politics, business, events, and sports. There were legal notices and accounts of court proceedings.

Social events were described in flowery language.

There were commercial ads and classified ads.

There were human interest articles and stories.

What were the local issues of the day?  What was happening that affected your ancestors?  Were streets being paved?  Street car tracks being laid? Land being annexed to the city?  What kinds of entertainment were available?

History books tell of significant events, but newspapers tell us about everyday life.

Here are some online sources for historic newspapers

This is a collaboration between the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for  the Humanities. – Subscription

Genealogy Bank - Subscription

Saturday, April 15, 2017

M is for Microfilm - A to Z Challenge

My genealogy adventure would never have gotten off the ground without microfilm – first through the National Archives, and then through the LDS Family History Library.

Microfilm and its cousin, microfiche, have been used since the late 19th century as a method of preserving documents.  John Benjamin Dancer was one of the first to produce microphotographs in 1839 [1]    By the 1920’s microphotography was coming into wider commercial use to preserve books, documents, cancelled checks, etc.

For decades, microfilm has been a primary document preservation method for libraries and institutions, archives and commercial businesses around the world.  The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) microfilm collections include census records, immigration and naturalization records, military records among many others.  This NARA link takes you to more information about their film collections.

 Its use in genealogical document preservation began in 1938 when the Genealogical Society of Utah, which now does business as FamilySearchInternational the official organization for the genealogy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (LDS) began its microfilm project.[2]   Church members have traveled the world filming civil records as well as religious record books from churches and synagogues.  These films are available to view through any LDS Family History Center.

Reading films was once a tedious process.  The readers were huge devices. Once the film was loaded, it required hand cranking to go through the film frame by frame. Before the age of computers and printers, information had to be transcribed by hand.  Later, there were readers that would send the desired image to a printer.


Today some of us are lucky enough to have access to electronic readers controlled by computers. No more hand cranking.  I can use these at the Indian River County main library here in Vero Beach, Florida.  I simply plug a flash drive into the computer and this reader scans the image to the drive for me.  It's great!

Using microfilm, I’ve found birth, marriage and death records from churches in Poland.  I’ve found family in census records at NARA before the advent of online databases.  I’ve found obituaries in old newspapers. 

Microfilm may not be one of the seven wonders of the world, but it is definitely a wonder in my world.

[3] By User:Grillo - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

[4] ScanPro

Friday, April 14, 2017

L is for Law - 2017 A to Z Challenge

One of the challenges to understanding the documents left by our ancestors is understanding the law at that particular time and place.

I was privileged to hear Judy G Russell The Legal Genealogist, speak at an all-day seminar in February of this year. To most of us, law seems like a pretty dry and dull subject but Judy makes it lively as she reminds us how pertinent and valuable it is to our genealogy.

In some places and times, women were not permitted to inherit land.

In some places and times, a widow’s children were given to her husband’s family to raise. 

Why wasn’t the eldest son mentioned in the will?  Perhaps the law of primogeniture guaranteed the he automatically inherited the land; and the will merely distributed other property. Don’t assume that he was dead.

Why wasn’t the wife mentioned in the will?  If the law of dower was in place, it may mean only that he intended to leave her only what the law of dower allowed.  Again, don’t assume that she was deceased or divorced.

Did you know?  I certainly didn’t.  Here are a few resources:

FamilyTreeWebinars – Ms. Russell has done several of these

And check state archives for information on statutes and legislation.

Sometimes we don’t know what it is that we don’t know.