28 December, 2017

Mystery Man Unmasked! (90% certain)

free photo from pxhere
With many genealogical discoveries from more than 100 years ago, records can only give us the bare bones of what was once a real person, a full life, a vibrant family. Such is the case with my mystery man, and it is likely that I will never have more than those bare bones as evidence of his paternity to my great-grandfather, John Reid. However, what I have discovered since my last entry on this topic brings me to about 90% certainty that my conclusions are accurate, and that I know who John Reid's father was.

In my last entry, I had pretty much settled on Daniel McLaughlin as the probable father of John. In the meantime, a new Irish census record appeared on ancestry that had not been available when I had begun my search. When I came upon this record, it piqued my interest because it had a Daniel McLaughlin the likely age of "my" Daniel, and it also listed other children in the family with first names that were also used by Daniel for his own children, such as Rebecca, Dominick and Jane. I wondered if this family, from an 1851 census report, could be Daniel's family of origin.

Another match to my Dad's dna with Daniel McLaughlin as an ancestor also appeared on ancestry, a woman who turned out to be a niece of one of the other matches. I calculated her match, using the amount of dna she held in common with Dad, and she too fell within range to be a half cousin of Dad's in the generation she was from. In other words, Daniel McLaughlin could be the ancestor of both she and Dad, according to amount of dna shared between those two.

However, as with the other dna matches who have Daniel as an ancestor, the amount shared wasn't near the median amount expected for the given relationship. For most, the amount shared was less than the "average" amount expected for that relationship. This hadn't bothered me before, because the amount shared can vary so much that you can't really expect that they'll be "average", particularly several generations removed from the common ancestor. Still, I decided to take another look.

photo by jimmyharris/flickr
What if the real father of John Reid wasn't Daniel after all, but a brother of his? With the new census record, which I suspected was Daniel's family, I had a few names to run with. According to this record, Daniel had two brothers, Dominick and James. To make a long story short, I spent a few hours on rootsireland, and found that the parents of this family, named only as John McLaughlin and Jane in the record, were in fact John McLaughlin and Jane Quigley. The baptism records of several of their children confirmed that they were the family in the census report (though Daniel's baptism record wasn't one of them).

Following the records, it became apparent that brother James married and had several children. He was a successful blacksmith, and he and his children remained in Ireland, as far as I could tell. Dominick, however, popped up in Neilston, Renfrewshire, Scotland!! The very town where Caroline is recorded as living prior to her 1871 admission to the poorhouse where John was born! 

from WikimediaCommons/Rosser1954
Dominick was a railway worker, apparently coming to Scotland for the job. He married Bridget Kerr in Neilston in August of 1871, four months after Caroline Reid had conceived her son. He remained in Neilston and fathered two daughters. Both daughters died young and childless. So Dominick had no descendants, except for John whom he likely never knew existed! No wonder I was getting matches to Daniel and not the "real" father!

The main problem that remains is that I cannot find Dominick in the 1871 census, which was taken the very month of John Reid's conception, in April of that year. I have not been able to find Caroline either, but figured she may have been homeless and drifting from place to place at the time and the census missed her and her one-year-old son. Why Dominick isn't present in the 1871 census I don't know. Maybe he was newly arrived and staying at a boarding house or someplace else that wasn't properly counted. To find him in that census in Neilston would clinch it for me, but the fact that he married there 4 months later is good enough for me to assume that he is my mystery man.

I concluded that the Daniel in the census report was indeed "my" Daniel, even though I didn't have the baptismal record connecting him to the same parents as Dominick. I found that his wife's brother turns up lodging with Dominick in the 1881 census. So Daniel's family and Dominick's were connected. Not 100% certain evidence, but pretty darn solid.

The dna estimates match more closely with Dominick as father, though still, in most cases, not the "average". I am fortunate that two of Daniel's children emigrated to USA, because it was his descendants testing with ancestry that gave me the match to the right family. Though testing is available in Britain (and Northern Ireland, I think), it is apparently more expensive there, so not many have done it. However, I've also tested with livingdna, which is a British based company. They don't have dna matches yet, but intend to add that next year, so hopefully I'll get some Irish matches to Dominick's siblings' descendants then. photo
As for now, I'm naming Dominick McLaughlin as my great-great-grandfather. As I've said before, I believe that Caroline Reid was making a bit of money on the side when she conceived her two sons. Analysis of dna data with the great-great-granddaughter of her other son, William, indicates that the two boys had different fathers, and her life circumstances and clues on records point in that direction. So Dominick died never knowing he had a son. Never dreaming that his son emigrated to USA and had a family. And in his wildest imagination, he could never have imagined that his great-great-granddaughter would spend three years chasing him down and finally name him, using his own dna that floats in his great-grandson's blood.

Dominick, you are on my family tree now. Rest in peace.

04 April, 2017

The Great Quest Nearly Complete?

Scotland (pixabay)
I have some very hopeful news regarding my great quest to discover the identity of my great-great-grandfather, the father of Caroline Reid's child John, born in a Scottish poorhouse in 1872. The main story can be found HERE. And a follow up entry HERE.

In short, I had my Dad's y-dna tested and the most likely surname that I could glean from those results was McLaughlin, probably from Ireland. Recently I have finally found three people, who are dna matches to my Dad, who also all descend from one Daniel McLaughlin from a small town called Magilligan in Derry, Northern Ireland.

Ancestry tells you how many centimorgans (cM) of dna you share with each of your matches. With this information and some handy dandy charts that I found online, I was able to calculate the amount of dna these matches WOULD share with Dad if Daniel McLaughlin was Dad's great-grandfather. It was well within range of the amount shared with these matches! So, I have concluded that the "mystery man" almost has to be Daniel McLaughlin. If it were a brother or cousin, the amount of dna shared would be much lower. And it couldn't be his father or his son, since the time frame would not match up with when John Reid was born.

I do know that Daniel McLaughlin was married and had six children with his wife, Elizabeth Cummins. His second child was apparently born in Scotland, not far from where Caroline lived, in 1868. Most likely he had found work in Scotland, as many Irish did, and took his wife and their first child with him. But, the family returned to Ireland, because the rest of his four children were born there. Only three of his children reached adulthood, and all three emigrated to the United States. 

That is all I know about Daniel. I do not know who his parents were, any siblings he may have had, or what he did for a living that may have brought him back to Scotland in 1871, leaving his family behind in Ireland. On two of his children's birth records, it says "labourer" for occupation, but that could mean almost anything.

Ireland (pixabay)
I have sent to Ireland for a death certificate on Daniel. There is a record of his death, at least it is probably him, because his wife died two months prior to his death, and his daughter recounted to her family when she was an old woman that she'd been orphaned and raised by nuns. The wife, Elizabeth's, death is recorded in June and then Daniel in August of 1877 in the parish register. I am praying that his parents will be listed on the death record, because they weren't always in Ireland as they almost always were in Scotland and England. Even a birth date would help to narrow it down.

My theory is that his parents were named John and Mary and that he was born in 1844. That John's parents were Patrick McLaughlin and Mary Spence, who appears on at least two of the match's trees. But that remains to be seen. I paid for the death record one week ago and am waiting impatiently for it. Will update! 


21 March, 2017

Olive Baxter and Her Heartbreaking Tragedy

One of the reasons I love genealogy so much is the tendency to come across so many little stories, and snippets of stories, about individuals in times past. It is these that make the history of a family or a town truly come to life.

Recently I have been perusing the archives of the Barnstable Patriot newspaper, which is searchable on the website of the Sturgis Library in Barnstable, MA. The searchable years include 1830 to 1930. My family was living in every town that this paper covered during those years, so I've been having a field day reading articles that mention them. What a wonderful resource!

I came across a very sad story that I'd not heard about before which took place in mid-19th century West Dennis, MA. I discovered that the main character in this sorry tale was the sister-in-law of my gr-gr-grandmother, Paulina Baxter.

Paulina's brother, Elijah Howes Baxter (b 1825), was a sailor. He married, in 1847, Olive Baker Crowell (b 1828 and also related to me via the Crowell line). The following year the couple had a child whom they named Mary Howes Baxter. In July of 1853 they had a second daughter, Olivia Howes Baxter.

About five months later, in December of 1853, Elijah was lost at sea in a storm. Apparently, Olive remained in the Baxter home with her two daughters, as she is listed as head of household in the next census with her daughters, ages 2 and 7.

West Dennis, MA

No doubt Mrs. Baxter was distraught at the loss of her young husband. No doubt she struggled to continue on with the task of raising two small girls. We cannot know how her husband's death affected her over the ensuing years, but somehow something went terribly wrong.

As the story in the newspaper relates, the local pastor was aroused one afternoon in February of 1858 by a neighbor of Olive Baxter's and urged to come quickly to the Baxter home. Once there, the terrible truth was immediately apparent. Little 4-year-old Olivia Baxter lay dead. Incredibly, the child had been strangled to death with a scarf - by her own mother.

The newspaper said "No question but that the act was the result of insanity. No mother loved her children better than Mrs. Baxter."

I have not found how this crime was adjudicated, but I suspect that Olive was found incompetent or not guilty by reason of insanity. She is found in subsequent census reports listed as "servant" living with the Kelley family, then living with her brother and sister-in-law. Finally, her obituary indicates that she died at the home of her elder daughter, Mary, in New Bedford. No mention is made of the murder in the obituary. She was 80 years old at her death.

(photo D J Pimentel/
Perhaps Olive Baxter lapsed into depression when her husband drowned, only to have her condition worsen over the next few years, culminating in some sort of psychotic break in 1858 when she murdered her child. Little was understood about mental illness in those days, of course, and if friends and neighbors had noticed anything amiss, they would have had no idea what to do to help her.

Such horrific events happened then as they do now. But somehow, reading of this tragedy that occurred in the small village of West Dennis one hundred and fifty-nine years ago brings all of its citizens into a new perspective. They must have struggled with the enormity of the event as a community, and perhaps treated Mrs Baxter with care and pity for the affliction that had caused her to commit such a terrible act.

Mary Baxter, the elder daughter of Olive Baxter who was nearly 10 when her sister was murdered, married Eugene Perry in 1873. She named her daughter Olivia May Perry.