On Completing My Mayflower Society Application Over Eight Years Late

Years ago I submitted a Society of Mayflower Descendants Preliminary Application believing that my  mother’s ancestor Thomas Mitchell (c. 1627-1709) of Malden, Massachusetts was a descendant of Mayflower passenger Francis Cooke.  The Society informed me that Thomas has not been proven to be a Cooke descendant, so my first application was a non-starter.  I told my husband of my disappointment, and he reassured me by saying “I’m sure you’ll weasel your way in somehow.”


USAF F-94B Starfire Interceptors greet the replica ship Mayflower II arriving stateside in 1957, a gift from the United Kingdom.

In 2010 I filled out another Preliminary Application, showing my line to Mayflower passenger John Howland via proven descendant David Hamlin (c. 1737-1825) of Salisbury, Connecticut and Great Barrington, Massachusetts.  This was a go, but I still had to prove each generation between me and David with solid documentation, including as much primary evidence as possible.


Illustration by H. B. Vestal depicting the rescue of John Howland, who was swept overboard during a storm.

One issue that held me up was the inability to find my own maternal grandparents’ marriage.  I didn’t want to have the saddest application ever, proving their marriage by their eventual divorce, or in some other roundabout way.

I was pretty sure my grandmother Elisabeth Oblenis Bogert was married 30 Mar 1931.  In 1963 when George Olin Zabriskie was compiling The Zabriskie family; a three hundred and one year history of the descendants of Albrecht Zaborowskij (ca. 1638-1711) of Bergen County, New Jersey he asked for her data.  (She is descended at least nine times from Albrecht through three of his five sons.)  The book says that she was married 30 Mar 1930, but she was listed as single in both places in which she appears in the 1 Apr 1930 U.S. census.  She was somehow enumerated both with her brother Regis Zabriskie Bogert in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and with her parents back in Paramus, New Jersey.

Unfortunately no one in my family had any idea where she got married, so I did not know where to look for an official record.  Since people are most often married in the bride’s hometown, I thought she might have gone home to be married in the Paramus Dutch Reformed Church, but New Jersey had no record.  Albuquerque seemed like another possibility, but there was no New Mexico record.  My grandfather was living in Los Angeles at the time, but California also had no record.


Kingman, Arizona Train Station.  Photo by Dean Cote via Wikimedia Commons.

Finally in 2016 Ancestry.com added Arizona County Marriages from 1865 to 1972 to their databases, and a hint appeared on my grandmother’s profile.  My grandparents were married 30 Mar 1931, as I had guessed, in Kingman, Mohave County, Arizona, possibly because it was approximately midway between Albuquerque and Los Angeles.


With this and the many other certificates and records I have collected over the years, I believe my application is finally in order.  I am meeting with a woman from the Society next week just to make sure I have all my ducks in a row.  If so, I will be mailing my papers that day.

Unitarians in Yorkshire: David Linley (1782-1859) and Sarah Hemsworth (1785-1823) of Flanshaw Lane, Alverthorpe, Wakefield

I was at first surprised to find that quite a few of my Dad’s Yorkshire ancestors were Non-Conformists, people who belonged to denominations other than the Church of England.  Most of these dissenters were Congregationalists, but the family of David and Sarah (Hemsworth) Linley belonged to a Unitarian chapel that is still standing and active today.


Westgate Chapel, built in 1752.  Photo by Mike Kirby via Wikimedia Commons.

Unitarian theology holds that God is one person rather than three, and that Jesus was a great teacher but fully human rather than God incarnate.  Emphasizing the importance of reason and of freedom of conscience in religion, the Unitarian movement grew along with Enlightenment thought.   The first formal Unitarian congregation in England was founded in London in 1774, and at some point soon after this Westgate Presbyterian in Wakefield, Yorkshire became Westgate Unitarian.

Wakefield 1823 (2)

Portion of an 1823 map of the town of Wakefield showing its westernmost part, the township of Alverthorpe where the Linleys lived.  The Unitarian Burial Ground is marked in the center, on the north side of Westgate where the road forks.  (Here “gate” means street, from the Norse “gata” or pathway.)

David’s parents Samuel and Hannah (Wood) Linley were members of Westgate Chapel before David’s baptism there 28 Oct 1782.   His father was a successful wool-stapler, meaning someone who purchased raw wool, graded it and sold it on.

David’s wife Sarah was the daughter of John and Elizabeth (Whitaker) Hemsworth.  Her father was, among other things, a maltster, a producer of malted grain.  The Hemsworths did not belong to a dissenting congregation, baptizing Sarah 9 Feb 1785 in their parish church, Woodkirk St. Mary, about 5 miles northwest of Wakefield.

David and Sarah married in 1809 at Woodkirk St. Mary.  He is listed as a clothmaker, and he seems to have manufactured woolens until his retirement.  (He was of independent means by the 1841 census.)  This couple had at least six children, one of whom was my Dad’s second great-grandfather Samuel Linley (1813-1886), eventual manager of the Barnsley Banking Company.


Market Hill, Barnsley, location of the Barnsley Banking Company.  Barnsley is about nine miles south of Wakefield.

The baptismal record for their last child indicates that Sarah died in childbirth or fairly soon thereafter.  It reads: “Sarah Linley daughter of David and Sarah Linley of Flanshaw was born [blank space] Septr. 1823 and baptized 28th September, the day her poor mother was buried.”  Her death notice in the Leeds Intelligencer is more affecting than most British notices of the day:  “Yesterday week, in the prime of life, sincerely lamented, Sarah, the wife of Mr. David Linley, of Flanshaw lane, near Wakefield.”  Sarah was 38.

David lived another 36 years and never remarried.  Both he and Sarah are buried in the Unitarian Burying Ground.  Important question for further research:  Are we related to actors Luke, Liam and Chris Hemsworth?

Linley, David 1859 Death


The Mysterious Continental: Francis Bell (c. 1798-1866) of Clinton County, New York

The earliest evidence I have that that my Dad’s brick wall immigrant ancestor Francis Bell was in the United States is an 1825 notice in the Plattsburgh (Clinton County, New York) Republican saying that he had two letters waiting for him at the Post Office.  The 1850 census lists him as a shoemaker, and the 1860 as a farmer.  He is said to have died in 1866 though I can find no evidence.

Bell, Francis 1825 Letter Plattsburgh Republican 10 Dec

Notice found in the Plattsburgh Republican at nyshistoricnewspapers.org.

On 6 Oct 1840 Francis became a citizen of the United States.  Unfortunately early naturalization records give little or no information regarding the person’s origin.  The only record I have found for this event says that Francis was age 40 and lived in Peru, a town in Clinton County, N.Y.

Bell, Francis 1840 Naturalization (2)

Francis Bell’s naturalization in a list found on FamilySearch.org.

The 1850 census lists his birthplace as “Holland,” while the 1860 says “Saxony,” and his children’s records all give their father’s birthplace as “Germany.”  He may have been born in the Netherlands, perhaps within the province of Holland, or in the Electorate of Saxony, a German state nearer to Poland than to the Netherlands.

Another possibility is that he was from Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen in German), a German state bordering the Netherlands.  East Frisia (Ostfriesland) is a region within Lower Saxony adjacent to the Netherlands.  Napoleon made East Frisia part of the Kingdom of Holland in 1806, a puppet state he created for his brother.  A birth there might explain why Francis would say he was born in both Holland and Saxony.

There is little chance of finding a baptism for Francis not knowing exactly where he was born, besides which I am not even sure of what his name was at birth.  Is Bell his original surname or is this an anglicized spelling of a German name like Böhl or Böll, or a translation of the German Glocke (bell) or Glockner (bell-ringer), or just an assumed name?  His parents may have called him Franz rather than Francis.

I do know that Francis married Susan Pray about 1826, likely the daughter of Daniel Pray and his wife Zuba Wickham.  They had at least six children:

  • Francis Bell, Jr. enlisted in Co. K of the 47th New York Volunteers in 1863, giving his occupation as shoemaker.  He died in Smithville, North Carolina soon after the close of the Civil War and is buried in Wilmington, North Carolina at the National Cemetery there.
Bell, Francis

The gravestone of Francis Bell, Jr. at Wilmington National Cemetery in North Carolina.

  • Marcelia married John W. Weatherwax.  Weatherwax comes from the German surname Wiederwachs, and if this family had arrived in New York at about the same time as Francis, I would look for his birthplace somewhere in the same region.  However the Weatherwaxes arrived about 100 years earlier, with other Palatines.
  • Charles Frederick married twice and had a total of four children.  My Dad has a third cousin DNA match with a second cousin once removed in this line.
  • Henry moved to Washburn County, Wisconsin as a young man and had a large family there.  My Dad has a third cousin match to a person in this line.
  • George W. Bell married Marceline Duell and had a large family.  My Dad has three fourth cousin matches to people in this line.
  • Delia married Calvin Luther Norton and is my Dad’s second great grandmother.

I am hoping that my Dad will eventually have a reasonably close DNA match with a relative of Francis’ in Europe, and that this will make his origin more clear.


Evening on the Ausable River by Arthur Parton.


The Noones of Killacorraun: Patrick Noone (c. 1845-1890) and the Accident Near Placerville, California

In my first post about the Noone family I mentioned that my husband’s ancestors Peter  and Catherine (Mulherin) Noone arrived in New York City 11 Apr 1863 on the ship Thornton with their two small daughters Bridget and Winifred, and that Peter’s younger, single brothers James and Patrick were also aboard.  Like many others from Crossmolina parish in County Mayo, these Noones settled in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where their older brother Daniel had already made his home.

NYM237_227-0043 (1)

Passenger manifest for the Thornton found on Ancestry.com.

Early ship manifests provide very little information, and the list for this voyage tells us only that “Patt” is a male laborer, age 18, coming from Ireland to America in steerage, and that he did not die in the crossing.  Though Catholic baptisms for Crossmolina survive from 1831, there is a gap in the records between 1841 and 1845, and I have not found Patrick’s baptism, but I think he was born about 1845 as the manifest indicates.

By the 1870 census some of the Noones and a related Mulherin family were living on Railroad Avenue, filling up more than half of a page for Scranton’s Sixth Ward.  The Sixth Ward was a small section of the city, conveniently sandwiched between the Oxford (coal) Mine where most of the Noones then worked, and the yards of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, which would employ several of them later.

Near the top of this census page are a couple I believe to be the parents of the nine Noone siblings I know of:  Peter and Bridget (Hopkins) Noone, ages 70 and 64 respectively, living with their youngest son Michael, age 20.  (Their eldest son Andrew remained in Ireland on the farm in Killacorraun.)  Next door are Patrick and his wife Bridget Jordan, who must have married about 1867 because they have a son Peter born in 1868, as well as a son John born in 1869, the first of their eventual 11 children.  Also on this page are Patrick’s brother and shipmate James, and his sister Catherine (Noone) Rowan/Ruane.

Patrick is listed as a laborer, and was possibly learning stonemasonry, as this was his occupation according to an 1873 Scranton directory as well as the 1880 census.  By 1880 he and Bridget have had four more children, and their two eldest, now ages 12 and 10, are already “Laboring.”


Southern Pacific Viaduct over Weber Creek near the area where Patrick Noone died.  Photo by Mark Yashinsky licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

For years I could not find anything about Patrick’s death, though I saw that Bridget was listed as his widow in Scranton directories after 1890.  Eventually I found an 1891 newspaper notice mentioning that Patrick was killed on the Southern Pacific in California, and that Bridget had received compensation from the railroad.  Looking for articles about his death outside Pennsylvania I found several about the tragic accident that occurred 13 Feb 1890.

Noone, Patrick 1891 Estate Scranton Republican 28 Nov

Notice from the Scranton Republican 28 Nov 1891 found on Newspapers.com.

Patrick had been part of a crew repairing storm-damaged railbeds on the line between Sacramento and Placerville, California.  The construction train he worked from was composed of an engine, a tender, several gravel cars and a caboose.  The engine and tender were uncoupled from the other cars in order to take the workers to lunch in Placerville.  Unfortunately the brakes failed on the return trip, and the engine ploughed into the caboose sitting on the track, killing Patrick and two other men who were riding on the cow-catcher.

Noone, Patrick 1890 Obit (2)

Article from the Huntington, Indiana Daily Democrat 13 Feb 1890 found on Newspapers.com.

After an inquest the other two men were buried locally, but Patrick’s body was shipped to Scranton for burial at Cathedral Cemetery.  Bridget died in 1903, and the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the local Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen attended her funeral.

DNA Match Leads to “New” Maybury Descendants in Dublin, Ireland

DNA matches can confirm (or invalidate) our paper trail, and can help us solve brick walls.  And sometimes they turn up branches of our family we did not know we were missing.  This must be particularly common with research in difficult areas like Ireland, where the paucity of census records means you rarely have a good “snapshot” of an entire family in the 19th century, and where the civil registration of births began so late, in 1864.  It is very easy to miss children born before that date, especially in the absence of baptismal records.

Looking at my Dad’s AncestryDNA matches a few weeks ago, I noticed that he had a “high confidence” match to a woman living in Dublin, Ireland at the fourth to sixth cousin level.  To my knowledge at the time nearly all of his Irish relatives had emigrated before 1900, and the few who stayed did not have children who survived and had children.

Looking at this woman’s tree I noticed she had a great-grandmother named Annie Tennant Dagge without any parents listed.  Knowing that my Dad’s direct ancestors James Maybury (c. 1799-1870) and Maria Shaw (c. 1812-1888) of Killarney, County Kerry had had a daughter Isabella who married a James Dagge, I guessed that this was the connection.

I knew James and Isabella had had six children between 1864 and 1878, as well as a daughter born about 1862, and that three of these children had moved to Montreal, Quebec, Canada as did Isabella in her widowhood, while the remaining four either died young or do not appear in any records after their births that I can find.  However since they married in 1853, it seems likely that James and Isabella had other children between then and 1864, and also possible that one or more of these remained in Ireland and had children.

Dagge-McConnell 1905 Marriage

The DNA match did not provide a birthdate for Annie Tennant Dagge, only an approximate death date (1972) and a spouse, John McConnell, said to have died about 1941.  Since Dagge is a much less common surname than McConnell, I searched for the marriage of an Annie Dagge in the civil records on the free website IrishGenealogy.ie.  The first record that came up was the marriage of a John George McConnell and Annie Tennant Dagge on 19 April 1905 in the Church of Ireland parish of St. George in Dublin.  The groom was of major age and a schoolteacher, the bride was a minor and the daughter of James Dagge, a Superintendent at Dublin’s General Post Office or G.P.O.

Dagge, Annie Tennant 1884 Birth (2)

Dagge, Annie Tennant 1884 Baptism

I was then able to find both the birth and baptism of Annie Tennant Dagge in Dublin in 1884 on the same website, her parents being James and Elizabeth (Tennant) Dagge, which explained her middle name.  Using Ancestry.com I also found her living with her parents in the 1901 census, and with her husband in 1911, as well as her exact date and place of death from the National Probate Calendar of England and Wales.

Dagge, Annie Tennant 1972 Probate

Turning to Annie’s father James Dagge, I was not able to find a baptism, but this did not surprise me as I would probably already have known of his existence if one were now available online.  I was able to find records of his marriage to Elizabeth Tennant on 14 Jan 1880, as well as a second marriage as a widower in 1929, and his death 2 Sep 1944.  Using the Irish newspapers searchable at findmypast.com, I also found an article on his retirement from the Post Office in 1918.  This means he was employed there during the Easter Rising in 1916, when the G.P.O. became the headquarters of the revolutionary forces, so I wonder what he experienced at that time.

Dagge, James 1918 Retirement Weekly Irish Times 2 Nov

Article on James Dagge, Jr.’s retirement from the Weekly Irish Times of 2 Nov 1918, found on Findmypast.com.

James Dagge’s death record gives his age as 88, placing his birth about 1856, squarely between his likely parents’ marriage and the beginning of civil registration in Ireland in 1864.  Both of his marriage records list his father as James Dagge, the earlier one giving his father’s occupation as “Clerk” and the second as “Superintendent Railway”.  Because the births and baptisms of the known children of James Dagge Sr. and Isabella Maybury list his occupation as “Railway Clerk” and “Railway Porter” among other things, I am fairly certain the younger James Dagge was their son.  The taker of the DNA test would then be my father’s third cousin twice removed, a relationship that would jibe with the fourth to sixth cousin relationship level suggested by AncestryDNA.


Larkin monument in O’Connell street, outside the GPO, General Post Office, Dublin.

“Soupers” in Kerry, Ireland: New McCarthy Discoveries

This weekend I made new discoveries regarding the family of Robert McCarthy and Elizabeth Neil, including finding a formerly unknown daughter of theirs who married and had a large family!  I would have found this child earlier if I had kept a more open mind about this family:  As far as I knew they were Protestants, so I rarely looked for them in Catholic records.  Frankly the number of Catholic McCarthys in Kerry makes searching for the right ones somewhat daunting.

What lead to my breakthrough was a find in the National Folklore Collection on the website of Dublin City University.  The collection includes scanned images of many Irish schoolchildren’s papers from 1937-1938 regarding the social history of their local area.  Though these papers are of a late date, children were encouraged to get information from their oldest relatives, and they captured a goldmine of 19th century data along with fascinating glimpses into local lore and customs.  Also most of the handwriting is extremely neat, and many of the papers are easily searchable having been transcribed.  Most are in English but some are in Irish.

Apparently as late as the 1930s some in the older generations recalled who had been a “souper” or “taken the soup,” who had abjured Catholicism in order to obtain food from Protestant Bible Society proselytizers during the potato famine.  For years I have looked for possible earlier McCarthy ancestors in the Convert Rolls of the 18th or early 19th centuries, but it turns out it was Robert himself who converted, probably in order to keep his young family fed in the late 1840s.  Twice in her paper on Blennerville Kathleen O’Brien mentions that McCarthy the Harbour Master was a souper.  She obtained this valuable information from her grandfather, then over 80 years old.

McCarthy, Robert 1847 Souper Blennerville 1930 2 (1)

This find gave me the idea to look for the baptisms of Robert and Elizabeth’s earliest children in the Catholic records for Kerry available at IrishGenealogy.ie.  I did not find any but I did find the 1879 adult baptism of an Ellen McCarthy, born in 1855 with parents named Robert McCarthy and Elizabeth Neil!  The only other document I have found showing Elizabeth’s maiden name is the 1888 marriage of this couple’s daughter Harriet in Ontario, Canada, so I was very glad to have another piece of evidence for that.  (My Dad’s autosomal DNA is also matching many Neil and O’Neill descendants from the Tralee area.)

Moriarty-McCarthy 1879 Marriage

I guessed that Ellen probably converted in order to marry a Catholic, and sure enough on the same day that she was baptized she married Michael Moriarty, a shopkeeper in Tralee.   The marriage record lists her father as “Robert McCarthy / Dead / Harbour Master”.

Michael and Ellen (McCarthy) Moriarty went on to have 11 children and I was able to find all of their civil birth records and Catholic baptisms on IrishGenealogy.ie, using the 1901 census as a guide to most of the children’s names.  Though no child Robert appears in the census, I looked at the record for a Robert Moriarty born 1882, thinking they would likely name a son for Ellen’s father, and it turned out to be another son, who must have died before 1901.

I will now be able to follow up new leads, including Ellen’s address at marriage, Tullivadeen, which does not appear on any lists of townlands so I’m not sure yet where it was.  (I know someone else is looking for it from a genealogy message board, though it is discouraging that another person replied “No such feckin place.”) I will of course follow all of the children’s lives through, which will probably explain more of my Dad’s DNA matches.  It may also lead to information or contacts that will give me what I really want:  Just one more generation back on both Robert and Elizabeth.  Just one.


Death by Opiate: Duncan Clerk Winter (1829-1874)

Researching hundreds or thousands of direct ancestors and collateral relatives, one expects to find some alcoholics or problem drinkers.  They often show up in the newspapers getting into accidents or getting arrested.  Sometimes their death records make it clear that alcohol caused or accelerated their demise even if their obituary does not.  One of the saddest death notices I have read was for Joel Wilkins, the husband of my 5th great aunt Elizabeth Haseltine West.  She had left him a few years before he was found in December of 1891, “frozen stiff” in a shed in Danvers, Massachusetts.  His death record indicates he died of “alcohol and exposure.”

Wilkins, Joel 1891 Obit Boston Journal 19 Dec (2)

From the Boston Journal of 19 Dec 1891, found on GenealogyBank.com.

Though alcohol has been the most common drug of abuse throughout European and American history, I have a British relative who died from an overdose of laudanum, an  alcoholic extract of opium.

A typical bottle of laudanum would be 25-60% alcohol and about 10% opium by weight.  In the 19th century it was prescribed to people of all ages for everything from coughs and menstrual cramps to heart disease and yellow fever.  It was also used in many home remedies and in the patent medicines whose makers guaranteed that their product would solve all of one’s problems.  As a result many people became laudanum addicts, including Mary Todd Lincoln and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Duncan Clerk Winter was born 16 May 1829 in Martock, Somerset, the son of glove manufacturer John Winter and his wife Mary Presgrave.  The 1841 census captures him in Kent, living at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School at Sevenoaks, where the headmaster was Duncan’s uncle, the Rev. William Presgrave.

By 1851 Duncan was boarding in Leeds, Yorkshire and working as a commercial traveler or traveling salesman, selling shoe lastings, a trade he would follow the rest of his life.  In 1858 at Bradford, Yorkshire, he married Sophia Vincent Whitworth, the daughter of my ancestor Robert Whitworth, a wine merchant in Wakefield, Yorkshire.  Duncan and Sophia had five children between 1858 and 1867, though one died in infancy.


Bradford St. Peter, where Duncan and Sophia were married.  By Merete25 via Wikimedia Commons.

At some point about two years before his death, Duncan became very ill and had difficulty sleeping.  The opium and alcohol in laudanum do promote sleep, and he seems to have become addicted to the substance in the last months of his life.  The inquest after his death determined the cause to be an overdose.  Sadly Sophia died the next year, leaving their four living children orphaned.  The youngest, James Presgrave Winter, was only eight years old.

Winter, Duncan Clark 1874 Inquest Edinburgh Evening News 16 Jun

From the Edinburgh Evening News 16 Jun 1874 found on Findmypast.com.

(More) Rare Given Names from Aurilla to Zelotes

Here are some more rare and interesting names I have encountered in my research:

Aurilla:  Meaning “golden” and sometimes spelled (or misspelled) Orilla.  Aurilla Yates (1816-1904) of Quebec and Burlington, Vt. married my relative Albert Fuller.

Drusilla:  Via Latin from the Greek drosos meaning “dew.”  Drusilla the daughter of Herod Agrippa appears in Acts of the Apostles, and died in the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 C.E.  This name has never been very popular in America, but was favored by descendants of Drusilla (Hicks) Thurber (1771-1857) of the Eastern Townships of Quebec.  One relative bearing this name used the nickname Dilly.

Job:  Before I began researching, it never occurred to me that anyone would name their child after someone who suffered as many trials as Job, though you do see it once in a while.  The only Jobs in our tree are three members of the Peace family in the West Riding of Yorkshire.

Lubbert:  This masculine name and its feminine form Lubbertje are not uncommon among my Dutch ancestors in New York and New Jersey.  It is composed of Germanic roots meaning “bright tribe,” with “bright” suggesting famous or renowned.

Mathurin:  A boys’ name after a French saint who died about 300 C.E. Because he was supposed to have been good at driving out demons, people called for St. Mathurin’s help in cases of mental illness.  He is also the patron saint of jesters and clowns.  Mathurin Chalifour was the father of Paul Chalifour, who had arrived in Quebec by 1647.


By Hans Vollebregt via Wikimedia Commons.

Meribah:  A girls’ name from a place mentioned twice in Exodus.  Meribah Everest was born in 1875 in Clinton County, New York.

Narcissa:  A flower name referring to the daffodil family, and probably not used much anymore because of the association with narcissism.  I have only seen it among my Cornell relatives.

Novella:  I have only seen this Italian girls’ name meaning “new” in 19th century Yorkshire.  Since one of the girls with this name was actually named “Clara Novella,” I wonder if the name became popular in England because of acclaimed London-born soprano, Clara Novello (1818-1908).

Persis:  A girls’ name meaning “of Persia,” I have only come across this name among the Anglo-Protestants of Quebec.

Quirinus:  Quirinus was a god of the Roman state whose name may derive from the Sabine word for spear, and several saints have borne the name.  The only Quirinus in our tree is my ancestor Quirinus Bertholf, the father of Dutch Reformed minister Guilliam Bertholf  (1656-1726) of Sluis, Zeeland, Netherlands and Hackensack, New Jersey.

Rezinah:  This name and its nickname Ziney were popular among my relatives in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.  I had assumed it must be the name of a Biblical woman, but it seems to be from the Latin word for “queen” (regina) as spelled in some versions of the Gospel of Matthew.

Sealed:  I assume this name has a Christian theological meaning, perhaps “sealed by the Holy Spirit”.  The only one in our tree is Sealed Landers (1752-1777) of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

Sirrildia / Rildia:  My mother-in-law’s second cousin Rildia Bee O’Bryan was the mother of pianist Van Cliburn, and her mother was named Sirrildia Early McClain.  I am not sure of the origin–perhaps creativity?


Van Cliburn and his mother Rildia.  From the Dutch National Archives via Wikimedia Commons.

Sukie / Sukey:  A nickname for Susan or Susannah that is not heard much anymore, though many are familiar with the old song that goes “Polly put the kettle on, Sukey take it off again.”

Tavernier:  I believe my francophile ancestor John Kipp Vermilyea named his son Tavernier, born in 1836, after a French notable of this name.  Possibilities include the politician Jean André Tavernier (1777-1850) or the explorer and trader Jean-Baptiste Tavernier (1605-1689).

Thankful:  One of the more adorable Puritan girls’ names, I have two direct ancestors named Thankful.

Wiley:  Originally a Scottish nickname for William, I see this name most often among my mother-in-law’s relatives in the American South.

Zelotes:  Referring to Jesus’ apostle, Simon the Zealot.  The only one in our tree is my relative Zelotes Lear Fowler (1825-1902) of Quebec.

Margaret (Tillman) Willis (1930-2018) and her DNA

My wonderful mother-in-law Margaret “Bitsy” (Tillman) Willis passed away last month, two days before her 88th birthday, and I have been thinking of her and also focusing on her ancestors lately.

Tillman, Margaret 5

Even though my husband and two of his sisters had already taken the AncestryDNA test, I was glad that Bitsy took it recently as well, knowing that she was one generation closer to her ancestors–including her brick walls–than her children.  It is also nice to have a test that does not have my late father-in-law’s DNA mixed in, and I should eventually be able to reconstruct much of his DNA using the children’s results and subtracting out Bitsy’s.

Tillman, Margaret 4 (2)

There was nothing surprising about the ethnicity results.  The “high confidence” groups Ancestry suggests are what I would expect for a person of English, Scottish, Scots-Irish and Irish ancestry with a few Huguenot refugees in the mix.

ancestrydnastory-margaret-150119 (1)

The data also place her in two migration groups that make sense: North Alabama Settlers (this group includes settlers of North Mississippi) and Western North Carolina Settlers.  Bitsy was born in Texas and her ancestors include early settlers of Virginia whose descendants migrated to Mississippi, some via the Carolinas and some via Georgia, as well as Highland Scots who immigrated to the Cape Fear River area of North Carolina in the 1730s and quickly headed west.

Tillman, Alvin Young I and Clark, Margaret Latimer

Bitsy’s parents, Alvin Young and Margaret Latimer (Clark) Tillman.

I am just beginning to work with her results, and I am not an expert in DNA research, but I do hope they will shed light on some brick walls.  The two most recent ones, like many problem ancestors, have very common names:  William Young was born about 1795 somewhere in Virginia and died 1838 in Green County, Kentucky; John Harris was born about 1800 somewhere in South Carolina and died in 1882 in Copiah County, Mississippi.  Ideally DNA matches will help me figure out which Young and Harris families these men came from, and exactly where they were born.

Tillman, Margaret 6

Bitsy and my late father-in-law Bernard John Willis in 1950.

Not surprisingly, many of her closer matches are other descendants of Baptist minister Pleasant Barnett Chandler (1816-1904) and his wife Mary E. O’Kelley (1817-1886) who had 13 children, most of whom lived to adulthood.


Ancestry has placed Bitsy in 42 DNA Circles™,  groups of individuals “who all have the same ancestor in their family trees [within six generations], and where each member shares DNA with at least one other individual in the circle.”  (For comparison, my mother has been placed in only eight circles and my father in six.)  Many factors contribute to a person’s winding up in a large number of DNA Circles™, and they do not prove descent from these ancestors, but it is reassuring that Bitsy does seem to be genetically related to many of the people she should be related to based on the paper trail.

The Tragic Death of Leonidas Prather Tillman (1881-1905)

I have come across quite a few sudden and tragic deaths resulting from accidents on the job in my research.  My husband’s Scranton Irish relatives include men crushed in the anthracite coal mines and a teenaged girl killed when she jumped from her burning workplace, the Imperial Underwear Factory.  Other branches of the tree include a man killed in a grist mill accident, another at a quarry by an out-of-control gravity railroad car, and of course mariners lost at sea.

My husband’s 2nd great uncle Leonidas “Daredevil” Tillman also died while working, though in a more unusual accident.  Leonidas was an aeronaut, part of a traveling circus known as the Great Alamo Shows, boasting six large tents and “high-class exhibitions” including glass blowers.  According to one newspaper, the Alamo Shows were “unusually free from objectional features.”  Besides a 60 foot high Ferris wheel and a minstrel troupe, the circus featured Tillman’s act, which consisted of ascending in a balloon and then parachuting to the ground from the balloon.

Tillman, Leonidas Haden Family Group Sheet

Family group sheet my mother-in-law gave me, with Leonidas at the bottom and the note “Was accidentally k[illed].

 The last jump he had made before the fatal one was at Cherokee, Kansas, and all went well except that the balloon landed on a barbed wire fence and was severely damaged.  Newspaper reports indicate that Tillman worked all night at the next stop, Galena, Kansas, to make a new balloon.  For some reason the new balloon did not ascend high enough for his jump at the next show in Horton, Kansas.  He jumped anyway, and his parachute caught on the steeple of the local high school, causing him to be thrown against the building and then down to the ground, at some point breaking his neck.  He was only 23.

Tillman, Leonidas Prather 1905 Death Galena Evening Times 10 Aug (2)

Account of the accident from the Galena Evening Times 10 Aug 1905 found on Newspapers.com.