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.

14 November, 2016

Back to Salem and Marblehead

While researching my disputed Valpey line, which I first wrote about here, I came across an organization that I wasn't aware of. It is called the ADEAW, or Associated Daughters of Early American Witches. Since it is my belief that my
Marblehead, MA - Old Postcard
ancestor, Elizabeth Valpey (b abt 1761), was a direct descendant of Elizabeth Carrington Paine (b 1639), accused witch, I was immediately intrigued and wondered if I could come up with enough documentation to prove my lineage to her and join the association. What a cool association to belong to!

I've already struggled mightily with the Valpey/Valpy/Walpee connection, but figured I'd give it another go. I started with my assumption that Elizabeth Valpey, mother of Nancy Lilley (or Lillie), was the daughter of Abraham Valpey (b 1737) and Lydia Clough. However, going back over it, I cannot figure out how I settled on this, since I don't have any original records to indicate that the Valpey couple even had a daughter Elizabeth. The only daughter I can find records for is Lydia. (This is where it's a good thing to keep research notes!)

I concluded that I must have gotten the Elizabeth Valpey daughter based on three or four other trees on  ancestry who list this daughter. However, when I checked those trees, they had no documents to support a daughter Elizabeth. I took another look at the family of Abraham Valpey, supposed father of Elizabeth, and found that one of his brothers, Benjamin, DID have a daughter Elizabeth. At least ..... I think he did.

The records are not very complete from this time period, in that they don't tend to list parents' names on marriage records, which would be very helpful. I did find evidence for Benjamin as the brother of Abraham in their mother's will, which lists her four sons. There is a Benjamin Valpey of his age group who marries an Abigail Pittman in Marblehead (neighboring village to Salem), and they have three daughters, one of them Elizabeth. But the marriage record doesn't say if this Benjamin is the son of Abraham Valpey and Elizabeth or not! And then Elizabeth's marriage record doesn't say if SHE is the child of Benjamin and Abigail! Benjamin's death record does show that he died in Marblehead, an indication that he did marry Abigail of that town, but far from proof.

So I have two links that are missing here, and not at all sure if it is even possible to resolve them, as the information may not be on record at all. I am wondering if perhaps there were also marriage intention records made, which may have parents' names. In the absence of this, I may have to go to Marblehead/Salem and research property records to figure out who is who.
Marblehead Property Map

Apart from these two links, I have proof and documents to support the line on either side of the disputed generations. I have contacted a few sources to inquire as to how I might proceed, including seeking advice from a genealogist through NEHGS. 

One other side note that may represent a monkey wrench in this whole thing... many of the dna matches, which I mentioned in that previous post, are in Lydia Clough's line! The woman who presumably only had a daughter named Lydia! If I descend from her family and NOT the Valpeys, then my line to the witch is non-existant.

Not giving up! If the answers are out there at all, I will find them.

21 April, 2016

A Possible Surname Comes to Light!

Glasgow, Scotland
Well, my results from FTDNA came back much sooner than expected! I was so excited to get the email! However, the results have not been as conclusive as I'd hoped. I paid for testing out to 37 markers, which is the lowest you can choose. (they also do 67 and 111 markers) Apparently, at that level of comparison, there are matches on Dad's list that are close enough to register as a match, but are not, in fact, direct paternal relatives. There were many surnames on the matches list, which totaled 58 people at 37 markers matched.

However, I do have a good idea now of what the surname likely is. I will have to go further to confirm it, but out of 58 matches, 13 of them are named McLaughlin or a derivative thereof! So, the surname of John Reid's father was most likely McLaughlin. AND, most of those on the match list named McLaughlin trace their ancestry back to Ireland! So I may be more Irish than I thought.

I joined the McLaughlin dna group through FTDNA, but that group appears to have been abandoned by the group owner, since his email address bounces. I also joined Dougherty, since the second most frequent name on Dad's matches list is Dougherty, or some variation on it. The owner of that group sent me an email and suggested another test I can have done that checks SNPs, and will give us more info on how closely he matches each individual on his list. I don't know what SNPs are, but I am taking his expert advice and have ordered the test. It costs $99, but since I have a $30 credit on my account, it will only cost me $69.

I have done a census search for McLaughlin men in and around Paisley in 1871. I have a list of possible suspects! The best one, so far, is a man named Robert McLaughlin who was boarding with a family in Neilston and working as a worsted weaver, which could have been in the same factory that
Caroline worked in. In 1871 he was 43 years old, and his birthplace is listed as Tyrone, Ireland. He was apparently a single man, unless he had family back in Ireland.

There are several others who are possible suspects too, but I will wait for this new test to come back before spending a lot of time on McLaughlins, in case the results point in another direction. Fingers crossed that this test will be the charm!

29 February, 2016

Waiting on Y

Well, I haven't gotten terribly far in my search for my mystery gr-gr-grandfather, but I have made some marginal progress. Going through the dna matches for my Dad turns up a list of surnames that are NOT on my family tree, but DO occur with some frequency on his matches' trees. The names most commonly found include: Gemmell, Anderson, Johnson, Wilson, Robertson, Allison, Smith, Campbell, Kerr, Paterson, Walker and Marshall. There are another two dozen or so that are seen less frequently, but enough to be possibilities for the mystery man's surname.

I have also found two of my Dad's dna matches who live still in Scotland and in the same area where gr-grandad John Reid was born. One lives in Paisley and the other in Glasgow, which are only a few miles apart. I have also learned quite a bit about life in mid-19th century Paisley by reading through the city directories from that era, which can be found online

Within the pages of these books I have discovered occupations I never knew existed, businesses long obsolete, social and charity organizations, even a street index which has also been of help. One of the poor relief institutions I found is called "Female House of Refuge". 

I did some further reading on these and apparently they were homes instituted to get "fallen women" off the streets and into honest work. To that end, they usually ran a laundry out of these homes where the women were employed. I found this very interesting, as I had long wondered why, on Caroline Reid's death record. her occupation was listed as "pauper, formerly washerwoman". It got me to wondering if perhaps my Caroline had been desperate enough to ply her wares on the streets of Paisley as a means of earning money to feed herself and her one year old son. (Gramma, I'm sorry if this speculation is in error, no offense intended!)

Even if this was the case, that does not stop me from identifying the man who fathered her son John. 

When I first got Dad's dna done, I went for an autosomal test for a few reasons. First, it covers both paternal and maternal dna, and I wanted to find matches for both sides of Dad's family. Secondly, I wanted to be able to match his results with my tree, which I could only do on ancestry .com, and they only do autosomal tests.

However, autosomal is limited in its broad coverage too. So, on Saturday last I mailed in another dna test that my Dad took for me. This one is a Y-dna test, which will return results ONLY from Dad's direct paternal line! This means that, if I get some matches, I should be able to identify the probable surname of my mystery man! 

There may be some matches with a different surname due to what genealogists call NPEs, or non-paternal events. This would include testers who were adopted or, as in my case, who received the maternal surname somewhere along the line. But most of the matches would likely have the surname that my mystery gr-gr-grandfather carried.

Unfortunately, this test takes 12 weeks to complete! I figure I can expect to know by June. If I do not get enough matches to identify a surname, I can pay more to have more markers tested.

I had emailed my brother about how sad it was that we didn't have any photos of John Reid, our great-grandfather. Next
John Reid 1872-1904
thing I know he sent me a photo of him that I'd had no idea he even had! I was more than thrilled to see his face. Note the tartan tie! While this photo would have been taken a while after he arrived in New Jersey, he evidently didn't forget where he came from! A handsome man, in my opinion, and eerily comparable to my younger brother.

Twelve weeks and counting!

14 December, 2015

More Reid Revelations

I have a new 3rd cousin! This in itself is actually nothing remarkable, since I have been gaining cousins at a pretty good clip since having had my dna analysis done. However, this cousin (I'll call her Loren) is special, because she comes from an ancestor about whom I have had very little information... Caroline Reid! I wrote about Caroline here, and at that time I only presumed that a first son, William, existed. I had thought he must have died young, as I could not find any further mention of him in the records. Had William lived, he would have been the brother of my great-grandfather, John Reid.

As part of my quest to find the father of William and John, who would be my great-great-grandfather, I went back to Rootschat, where I'd found such wonderful help in identifying Caroline Reid in the first place and in tracing the life of her son John. My goal was to pinpoint her whereabouts in the year 1871, the year prior to John's birth, so that I could use that area as a starting point in my search for her child's father.

I asked for any information that others may have access to regarding Caroline Reid in or about 1871, thinking that perhaps someone else could locate her in the census of that year where I had come up empty handed. I did not find with certainty where she lived in that year, but I discovered so much more that I now know she did remain in the area where her children were born during that time frame.

Neilston, Renfrewshire, Scotland

I want to thank all who had a hand in assisting me in my research regarding Caroline. In particular, one terrific woman in Scotland by the name of Anne was tremendously kind and generous with her time. It was Anne who discovered for sure that William was indeed Caroline's first child, and that he grew to adulthood and had children! One of his sons, John, is the grandfather of my new 3rd cousin, Loren.

Apparently, William was born in June of 1870 in Neilston, Renfrewshire. The address Broadlea Bank Street was also on the birth record. William then turns up with his mother's admittance to the Paisley poorhouse in the fall of 1871. She was pregnant at that time, and gave birth to John in January of 1872 at the poorhouse.

William next appears at an "industrial school" in Paisley after his mother's death in 1881. We also uncovered records of his marriage to Elizabeth Alexander in 1901, and William's service in the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders in WWI, 1914.

He raised a large family, living first in Paisley and later moving to Glasgow. He died at the age of 67 in Glasgow of complications from diabetes.

Whether or not brothers William and John kept in touch will never be known, but William named a son John and John named a son William, so perhaps they were at least in one another's thoughts. As it happened, John's son William was my grandfather and William's son John was Loren's grandfather. 
John Reid, son of William Reid

As a post-script, on William's marriage record, he recorded William Reid and Elizabeth McVey as his birth parents. These were falsified names, proved by William's death record where his son confirmed that his birth mother was Caroline Reid. However, upon further research, there was a John McVey, two years younger than Caroline, living in Broadlea Bank Street, Neilston in 1871. His occupation is listed as bobbin turner. Caroline was listed as bleacher (probably bleaching the cotton thread or fabric that was produced in the factory where she worked). Did William know his father's surname and did he use it as his "mother's" name on his marriage record? We may never know.

At any rate, John could well have had a different father, so I'm not putting a lot of energy into tracking down McVeys, though it will remain a possibility throughout my quest. In the meantime, I have my new cousin (who lives now in England) who I never would have met, had it not been for the help of Anne and others in Scotland.

My father's dna test has come back, by the way, and it yields some interesting findings. In particular, there is one dna match who is estimated to be a 2nd to 3rd cousin, but this cousin's family tree dead-ends after a few generations and I haven't been able to find a likely connection as of yet. Onward and upward with my quest. I believe that Caroline is somehow aware of it, and that she will help steer me in the right direction in the end.