#52Ancestors |Earliest


I’d loosely researched my family tree back in the 4th grade, when it was a school assignment, and then later, as an adult. But I’d always focused on my mom’s family, specifically, her Italian side. About 5 years ago, when my genealogy interest was ignited again, it was with my dad’s family.

My earliest (the 3rd time around) genealogy research started with my paternal grandfather. I’d been visiting my parents for the holiday weekend and for some reason, I had my dad pull out whatever documents and photos he had regarding his father, who had passed in 2007.


So it all (re)started with this dried up, falling apart birth certificate. Prior to that, I don’t think I even knew that my grandfather had been born in Washington. I’d always assumed it was Montana, since that was where my dad was from. The early research was enhanced by a letter and photos from my great aunt, Lona, my grandfather’s sister. 

William Ray Fitzgerald was born on February 4, 1931 in Yakima, WA, to Grace Martin and William John Fitzgerald. My great aunt Kay says that their mother had wanted a girl to call Patricia, so they called him Pat as a consolation. He was known as Pat in his younger years, but later switched to Bill, when he moved to Montana. As I’ve written before, the family lived in the Yakima area where his father worked in the fruit packing sector. When his father died of pneumonia, Pat, his mother and 2 sisters moved to Renton to be closer to his father’s cousin. The kids were enrolled in Catholic schools. Pat didn’t finish high school, leaving before he graduated. He had been working for a girlfriend’s dad that had some white Lipizzaner show horses and they traveled to Montana for a show and he either stayed or later moved to Montana. He lived in Anaconda in some apartments and worked for the Anaconda Company at the smelter. Somehow he ended up in Butte working in the mines.  

He met my grandmother, Wilma Seyler, we think through their friends, Millie and Philip Aguirre. He and Wilma were married in 1951 in Butte, MT. He was 21; she was 15. Over the next 20 years they had 11 children. Wilma died in 1978 and William later remarried in 1983.

His youngest sister, Kay, recalls that she went to visit Bill in Montana one summer. She said her brother was so proud to show her off. He drove them to his wife’s Uncle Bob’s ranch in “Pete Pickup.” Kay initially sat up front, in the cab, but then moved to the back. It was very dusty going down the dirt roads and at one point they stopped so they could wash their dirty faces in the creek. 

I have few memories of my grandfather. Growing up in a military family, we only lived in the same state as him during my earliest years. I remember his house, his small dog, named Taco, and the doll he gave me. 


#52Ancestors | Legend


In researching my Dempsey family history, I kept coming across various stories involving a round barn, a Kentucky Derby winning horse and my 4th great uncle. That sure catches the eye, but as I researched, I found that the the truth was likely twisted and misinterpreted several times.

Let’s start with the legends:

One “source” claims that my 4th great uncle, John Dempsey, was the jockey who rode the horse Spokane on his winning romp at the Kentucky Derby in 1889. John would have been 14 at the time, and too young, so the source claims that he used an alias, Thomas Kiley. 

Another “source” claims that Spokane’s career ended when his rider, John Dempsey, was thrown off, and then trampled and killed by Spokane at Garfield Park in Chicago. 

And now for the facts:

Doncaster Barn is a round barn in Twin Bridges, MT, built in 1882 to house race horses. It is on the National Register of Historic Places, but it’s claim to fame is as the birthplace of the Kentucky Derby winning horse, Spokane. Spokane was trained here for a few years, then shipped east for race training. He won the Kentucky Derby in 1889, the only horse foaled in Montana to ever do so.

John Dempsey was born to Robert Dempsey, a Montana Pioneer, and “Margaret” Bright Star, a Shoshone Indian, in 1875 near Twin Bridges. He shows up in only one census, in 1880, at the age of five. This is where the official records end, thanks to the missing 1890 census, until he next appears at his death.

Newspapers report that John Dempsey was indeed riding a horse at Garfield Park in August, 1892. But he was riding another horse, Fauntleroy, when he was thrown and trampled by half a dozen horses. He suffered broken ribs, a lung “pressed in” and abdominal injuries. He died 2 days later. His death certificate states he came to his death “from shock and injuries received by being accidentally thrown from the horse Fauntleroy on Garfield Park Race Track Aug 11th, 1892.” 

There is no mention of Spokane being present at Garfield Park and trampling a young jockey that day. But there wouldn’t be, because Spokane was retired to stud two years earlier, in 1890. 

As for the claim that John rode under an alias due to being too young,  according to the records for the Kentucky Derby in 1889, Spokane’s jockey was indeed a Thomas Kiley. However, he was not a young Montanan riding under an assumed name, but a 30 year old from Illinois. The real Thomas Kiley died in 1914 at the age of 55.

All in all, I suspect that John may have had some connection to Spokane, likely the Doncaster Barn. John was born and raised around the Twin Bridges area and his father was known for being good with horses. It is possible that John worked at the barn and maybe even began his jockey career there. Maybe he helped train Spokane. But I think that is likely where the connection ends. 

Lastly, I will add that I have no conclusive proof that the John Dempsey who was trampled to death at Garfield Park that day was my John Dempsey. He was about the right age, but it is a common name. Unfortunately, my John’s life was short, and little else is known about him.


File:Doncaster Round Barn 01.JPG. (2016, September 17). Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. Retrieved 23:51, June 29, 2019 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doncaster_Round_Barn

#52Ancestors | Dear Diary



Pat, Lona and “Pat Dog” – 1938

The prompt for this week, Dear Diary, was a little troublesome, seeing as how I don’t have any journals from ancestors. But I do have a letter that my great aunt, Lona, wrote. She penned the letter shortly after my grandfather died, recounting her memories of their childhood. I’ve taken her words and written them in diary format. I’ve tried to add as little embellishment as possible. And you’ll have to excuse the fact that she would have been very young when “writing” these journal entries. I added some approximate dates to a few entries when known.

Here are the key players:

  • Pat….my grandfather, William Ray Fitzgerald. Pat was his childhood nickname.
  • Daddy….my great grandfather, William John Fitzgerald
  • Mother…. my great grandmother, Grace Martin Fitzgerald.
  • Pal….their dog, a collie
  • Others mentioned are explained in context.


December, 1936

Dear Diary,

Pat and I got a new knife and fork set for Christmas. I guess we got a little bored because we took them outside and cut the bark off a young tree. Daddy caught us. He got some strips of fabric and wrapped the bark back around the tree. I hope it lives.


May, 1937

Dear Diary,

For my birthday, I got a life size doll with a long pink dress. I cried because I didn’t want it. I had asked for a baby sister. So Daddy drove me to town for a grape soda as a special treat.


July, 1937

Dear Diary,

Pat and I went to pick some wildflowers for Mother’s birthday today. There was a snake close to me and Pal barked until Daddy came out and threw a hatchet to kill it. Mother is going to keep the rattler.


Dear Diary,

We have to get rid of Pal. A neighbor kid ran a stick on the fence today. Pal jumped the fence and chased the kid, so now we have to get rid of him.



Dear Diary,

We’ve moved to Cowiche. Our new house is next to an apple orchard. There’s a barn and a warehouse across the street. We’ve been warned not to go over there.


Dear Diary,

Our new neighbor, Gordon Davis, came over today. He wanted to go to the barn across the street, so we did. I dared him and Pat to jump from the loft. Pat bit his tongue almost off when he landed!


Dear Diary,

We got a new dog today! His name is Pat Dog. He’s a black water spaniel.


Dear Diary,

We went over to the warehouse today. I know we’re not supposed to and we shouldn’t have because Pat stepped on a rusty nail that went straight through his bare foot!


Dear Diary,

Today I told Pat to stick a hair pin in a light socket and he did! His hand was pretty scorched after that.


Dear Diary,

Aunt Ella, Mother’s youngest sister, came to live with us for a while to finish school.


Dear Diary,

There’s a big weeping willow tree in front of the house. We’ve been climbing it and sliding down the branches, landing in Daddy’s hedges. Today Daddy found the big hole we’d made in the hedges.


September, 1939

Dear Diary,

I finally got a baby sister! Martha Kay was born this morning!


Dear Diary,

Pat and Gordon have been using me as their target for their BB guns. There’s a BB stuck  in my right knee cap.


October, 1940

Dear Diary,

Daddy is sick. He went to the hospital.


I’ve ended the entries here. Their father died of peumonia 2 days after entering the hospital. He was 51 years old. Pat was 9, Lona was 8 and Kay was 2. The family moved to Renton, WA shortly after that to be near their father’s cousin, Grace.

At the beginning of her letter, Lona describes her father as “a very gentle man” who “would do anything for you.” She wrote that he “would get angry with us but only scold, never spank.” She added that “Mother always let him discipline.”


#52Ancestors | Namesake

In thinking about this topic, I realized that everyone in my immediate family has a namesake. My mom is Theresa; her paternal grandmother was Teresa. My sister and I are named after our paternal and maternal grandmothers, Wilma and Mary, respectively. And then there’s my dad, Edwin John (neither of which name he actually goes by). Turns out his maternal grandfather was Edwin, and Edwin’s twin brother was John—–> Edwin John.

So I decided to write about Edwin and John Seyler, my great grandfather and 2nd great uncle.


John (Happy), Wehrle, Edwin (Gloomy)

Edwin and John were born on November 23, 1909 to Amos and Sarah Irene Seyler. At some point during their lives, they acquired nicknames: Gloomy for Edwin and Happy for John. For some reason, both of their birth years were often listed incorrectly (anywhere from 1908 to 1910, including on a headstone). Also, John shows up as John Seyler Jr. in many records, including his draft registration which he signed as John Seyler Jr. Too bad their father’s name was Amos!


Twin Bridges, MT Public School, 1920. #120 is John, #121 is Edwin

Edwin and John attended school in Twin Bridges, MT. Edwin’s highest level of education was one year of high school.  They took different paths once in adulthood. Edwin worked first as a miner (1930) and then a carpenter (1940). He married Olive Mae Magee in 1935 and together they had three daughters. When he registered for the draft in 1940, he was working for the WPA Projects. In 1941 Edwin applied for a job with the Northern Pacific Railway Company and was hired as a section laborer at 40 cents per hour. He likely returned to mining later and retired in 1960. John worked as a ranch laborer until he was drafted into the Army in 1942. He served overseas during World War 2 and was honorably discharged on November 24, 1945. He then returned to ranch work.

On their draft cards, both men were blue eyed with brown hair, though John was reportedly 2 inches taller.

John passed in 1978, Edwin in 1987.


#52Ancestors | Military


There are so many of my ancestors who served in the military. I’ve chosen to write about my 2nd great-grandfather, Patrick Henry Magee. I’ve written a little about his parents and his family before. Patrick was born in Utah in 1888. He moved to Montana with his family by young adulthood and became a plumber. He married Olive Francis Smith at the age of 22. Together they had 3 children: Walter, Olive Mae and Joseph. Sadly, his wife passed away after 5 years of marriage, leaving him with 3 small children.

The following year, on July 19, 1917, Patrick enlisted in the Forestry Regiment of the US Army.1 By December, he was part of Company A of the 30th Engineers (1st Gas Regiment) and the day after Christmas, he shipped out of New Jersey, aboard the President Grant, headed for Brest, France.2 During the trip, the ship narrowly avoided a torpedo; the German submarine that attacked was sunk. The President Grant arrived in Brest on January 10th, 1918. The troops took a train to Wizerns, then marched to Helfaut where they began 5 weeks of training.3 Though he was part of the 1st Gas Regiment, Patrick served as a cook.

Here is a video of the US 102nd infantry cooks preparing meals for troops during World War 1 at Vailly in France (not Patrick’s unit). It shows them preparing food, loading it into horse drawn carriages and delivering it to soldiers in the trenches.

Here is the Manual for army cooks, 1917 that Patrick may have used. It includes regulations for rations, preparation and sanitation of food, mess management, field cooking, and of course, recipes (that make 100 servings).

From September 26, 1918 until the Armistice on November 11, 1918, Patrick’s unit was involved in the Argonne-Meuse Operation.3 This was part of the final Allied offensive of World War 1 and helped to bring an end to the war.

Patrick returned back to the States on February 2, 1919 and was honorably discharged at the end of the month.4 He returned home to Montana and his children (who’d resided at the Children’s Home in his absence) and resumed his plumbing career. He never remarried. He was an active member of the local American Legion and served as Vice Commander of the Post. He died in 1951 at the age of 62. He is buried in the veterans section of Sheridan Cemetery in Sheridan, MT.

  1. The Daily Missoulian, Missoula, MT. Eight more sign for service in Army yesterday. 18 Jul 1917, page 2. Online database: Newspapers.com, accessed 7 Jun, 2019. 
  2. The National Archives at College Park; College Park, Maryland; Record Group Title: Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774-1985; Record Group Number: 92; Roll or Box Number: 533 U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939. Online database: Ancestry.com. 
  3. Addison, James Thayer. The Story of the First Gas Regiment. Houghton Mifflin company, Boston and New York, 1919. Accessed via archives.org on 6 Jun, 2019. 
  4. Military Enlistments (Montana), World War I, (LODE-MCIVER), image 830. Montana. Adjutant General’s Office; Montana. National Guard. Online database: mtmemory.org, accessed 6 Jun, 2019. 

#52Ancestors | Road Trip

I’ve previously written about an epic road trip along the Oregon Trail. This time, I’m writing about a  much shorter and more modern road trip.


Lona, Grandma Grace, Pat at Mount Rainier

This was a trip taken by my grandfather, William Ray “Pat” Fitzgerald, his parents, William John and Grace, and his younger sister, Lona in 1937. Sister Martha wasn’t born until two years after this trip. Pat, as he was called back then, was about six years old at the time of this trip. Lona was five.

The family was living in Cowiche, WA at that time. They motored over to Paradise Park in Mount Ranier National Park. Their home was about 107 miles from Paradise Park. Today that would take about 2 hours, 45 minutes to travel; I suspect it would have taken longer back in 1937. Did they go for a day trip, an overnight, or maybe even a long weekend? I’ll probably never know. Unfortunately, I don’t have any details about that trip, just these photos, which were labeled and given to my parents by Lona, who has since passed. My great grandfather was likely the one behind the camera, given that he isn’t in any of the photos.

Lona and Pat posing with a small guitar (ukelele, maybe?) by a tree. Was it their instrument, or their fathers? Was it just a prop?


The caption on this one says “Pat with salt shaker.” It looks more like a soda can to me, but Lona labeled it as a salt shaker. Why is he holding a salt shaker? Did they pack their own provisions for lunch and bring the salt with them? If so, why is he seemingly holding it here, with no food in sight? His expression looks like he is watching something, tentative. I love his suspenders. He is wearing them in other photos I have of him too.

I previously wrote about how they acquired their car here.

#52Ancestors |At Worship


When I saw the prompt for this week, the first ancestor I thought of was John W. Wiggins, who helped found the Holiness Church in Denton, MD in 1898. But, I’ve already written about him and wanted to explore someone new. Around the same time, I’d decided to start exploring some of my lines that I’d sort of been ignoring. One of the shortest line on my paternal grandmother’s side was the Smith/Ellis line.

I set out to learn more about my 4th great grandmother, Nancy E. Ellis, who married John R. Smith around 1865 in Beaverhead County, Montana. At the time, everything I knew about Nancy, that she was born in Missouri around 1849, came from the 1880 Federal Census and her children’s marriage or death records. I didn’t know her parents’ names or when she’d died. I couldn’t find the family in the 1870 census (and still haven’t), so I resorted to the newspapers. Luckily, I found an extensive obituary for her which filled in some blanks.

She was born 1 Aug, 1847 in Missouri. The family came to Bannack, MT in 1863 and she married John R. Smith shortly after that. They had five children, 2 of whom preceded her in death. She was survived by three children and two brothers, Charles Ellis and Thomas Ellis. Her obituary also mentioned that she was a devoted member of the Presbyterian Church, but her funeral was conducted by a Reverend from the M.E. Church due to there being no Presbyterian minister in the city.[1]

Having learned two of Nancy’s sibling’s names, I set out to learn more about them. I hit another jackpot with the obituary of her brother, Thomas H. Ellis. His obituary reads very similarly to hers, with the family starting out in Missouri and crossing the plains to Montana by 1863. His obituary however, also provided the names of their parents, Henry Ellis and Eliza Kingsbury Ellis.[2] Having added another generation to my family tree, I was off to discover what I could about Henry and Eliza.

After some digging, I learned that Eliza was born in Massachusetts. I’m still not sure of Henry’s birth location or date. They had seven children that I could identify, all seemingly born in Missouri. Then Henry died, likely between 1847, when Nancy was born, and 1848, when Eliza married Milton Kinnison.[3] I actually wonder if Henry ever met Nancy or if he passed before her birth.

Eliza and Milton had two children that I’ve identified. Both Nancy and Thomas’ obituaries mentioned that “Mr. and Mrs. Ellis” moved with the family to Iowa for a few years before moving to Montana. However, I suspect this was actually Eliza and her 2nd husband, Milton, with their mixed brood. And Milton likely died in Iowa because Eliza’s obituary mentions that she was widowed before settling in Bannack in 1863. I am also not certain how many of their children moved to Montana with her because I haven’t been able to trace the older children very well. It’s possible some of them remained in Iowa or even in Missouri.

Eliza died in 1910 and her obituary was also enlightening. I don’t know who was writing obituaries for this family, but they did a fabulous job! Hers revealed that she was the mother of 13 children by her two husbands, eight of whom she saw pass away. I’ve been able to only document 10 of those children, so I suspect there were some births and losses between censuses. Her obituary also mentions that “her parents were Presbyterians and she was baptized in the church, but while she lived in Montana, she never had an opportunity of uniting with the church of her youth.” It also mentions that despite this, “her life was a Christian one in every sense of the word.”[4]

I’d noticed both Nancy and Eliza’s obituaries mention their Presbyterian faith but the lack of Presbyterian churches or ministers. So I did a little research about Presbyterianism in Montana.

Thanks to a book on Google Books, I learned that the first Presbyterian missionaries were sent to Montana in June of 1864, one year after the Ellis/Kinnison family arrived in Bannack. Montana Territory has just been formed from part of Idaho Territory and Bannack was its capital. A Mr. George G. Smith (no relation) detailed his experience in the Bannack and Virginia City area in letters he wrote to the Rev. Thomas V. Moore, D.D. Besides chronicling his adventures with ministering to the people, his letters highlighted the area at that time.[5]

He was “assigned to private apartments at the leading hotel in Bannack City, in the office, with bar, gambling table, gamblers, and highwaymen, every man clothes in buckskin and adorned with a pair of navy revolvers and bowie knife in the bootleg and Mexican spurs and dangles on the heel.” The only regular preacher in that day was an M.E. preacher in Virginia City, who came in 1865. Smith organized the first public schools, took a census (where oh where is this census?), opened Sunday Schools, prayer meetings, married and buried people, and helped to close all businesses on the Sabbath.[5]

Though he began his work in Bannack, the territorial capital was later moved to Virginia City, so he moved there, renting a 10×12 log cabin with one window. He “began preaching in an empty storeroom, organized a Sunday School and commenced regular Sabbath services with good and attractive audiences.” Smith left Montana in 1866, apparently leaving “no permanent results” of his labors. It wasn’t until three years later, in 1869, that another Presbyterian reverend, Sheldon Jackson, arrived in Montana, this time in Helena, and organized a Presbyterian church. Jackson is considered the father of organized and permanent Presbyterianism in Montana.[5] Helena is about 150 miles northeast of Bannack, so a minister there was of course not helpful for the Kinnison, Ellis and Smith families. They obviously utilized the M.E. church for their funerals and weddings. After the gold rush, Bannack dwindled until the 1970s, when the last residents left, and it is now a ghost town.


[1] The Dillon Tribune, Dillon, MT. 28 Jan, 1910 page 2. (montananewspapers.org, accessed 16 Apr 2019).

[2] The Dillon Tribune, Dillon, MT. 29 Jan, 1929 page 1. (montananewspapers.org, accessed 16 Apr 2019).

[3] Missouri, Compiled Marriages, 1754-1850 [database on-line, Ancestry.com].

[4] The Dillon Tribune, Dillon, MT. 22 Jan, 1892 page 1. (montananewspapers.org, accessed 16 Apr 2019).

[5] Edwards, George. The Pioneer Works of the Presbyterian Church in Montana. Independent Publishing Company, Helena, MT. 1907. pages 15-21.

#52Ancestors | Out Of Place


Grace and Harold Moran

One ancestor who is “out of place” is Grace Evelyn Meins King Moran, my 1st cousin, 3x removed. I’ve briefly written about her before, when I wrote about the death of her mother. If you glance at my family tree, you’ll see that Grace Evelyn Meins has parents Martha Mathilda Keegan and Louis D. King and may wonder why she has a different surname. This is because Martha and Louis were not her birth parents, though many a family tree would lead you to believe this.

My first introduction to Grace was through my own great-grandfather’s funeral record. William J. Fitzgerald died in 1940 in Yakima, WA. Along with his spouse and children, listed as family on his funeral home record were an aunt, Mrs. Martha King and a cousin, Mrs. Grace Moran. At the bottom of the record was written “Aunt raised the Mrs. Moran and Mr. Fitzgerald from small infants.”1 All the other family trees I’d seen from other researchers identified Martha as Grace’s mother, and this was how I’d assigned their relationship too. The note at the bottom of the funeral home record didn’t tip me off at this point. I just thought it meant that Martha raised her own child along with her nephew.

I knew Grace had married Harold Moran in 1925. Grace’s maiden name on their marriage certificate was Grace Evelyn King.2 Working back in time, she was Grace King, daughter of Martha and Louis in the 1920 census.3 In 1910, she was Grace King, niece of Martha and Louis.4 So there’s the first mention of her not being their child, though she was using their surname. I then found a Grace E. Meins on the Montana birth index5 with the same birth date at Grace Moran, 15 Jan 1901. Being an index, there were no parents’ names listed. I knew Martha’s sister’s married name was Mary Meins, so I started looking further into Mary’s life and found that she died 9 days after Grace’s birth.

And then I found Mary’s obituary6 , which further clarified the situation:


Talk about an a-ha moment! More newspaper blurbs helped to fill in the blanks. In July, Grace’s father, John, came to visit “his little babe, Grace” at the home of “its aunt, Mrs. King” when she was ill.7 By February of 1902, Grace’s father had moved to Washington with his 2 youngest sons, leaving his 3 oldest children with their grandmother and little Grace with her aunt, Martha. 8 From then on, Grace was raised by Martha and Louis. By this time, my great grandfather was already living with Martha and Louis; his mother died in 1896 and his father had moved back to Illinois. William always retained his birth surname of Fitzgerald, and was always listed as nephew to Martha and Louis, whereas Grace quickly took on the King surname and always listed them as her parents. Both Martha’s and Louis’ obituaries mention them as the beloved mother or father of Grace.

Grace and Harold had two children, Betty Jean and James Lewis. Grace’s highest level of education was the 8th grade. She died in 1969 at the age of 68.9

Once I’d figured out the truth about her parentage, I had to decide where to place Grace on my tree. I thought about moving her to the Meins family, but in the end, I kept her with Martha and Louis King, just with her birth surname of Meins. I have Martha and Louis noted as adoptive parents while I have her biological parents listed as alternate parents. And of course, I’ve entered this information as a comment on my tree so that other researchers can see how I came to the conclusion that Martha and Louis were not her birth parents, but understand why I have her listed “out of place” with them.

  1. Funeral record for William J. Fitzgerald, 1940, Shaw & Sons Funeral Home, Yakima, WA. Provided by Yakima Valley Genealogical Society. 
  2. Washington State Archives; Olympia, Washington; Reference Number: kingcoarchmcvol7_984. Ancestry.com. Washington, Marriage Records, 1854-2013[database on-line]. 
  3. United States of America, Bureau of the Census. 1920 United States Federal Census, Renton, King, Washington; Roll: T625_1925; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 59 Ancestry.com [database online] 
  4. United States of America, Bureau of the Census. 1910 United States Federal Census, Renton, King, Washington; Roll: T624_1657; Page: 16B; Enumeration District: 0052; Ancestry.com [database online] 
  5. Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services; Helena, Montana; Montana, Birth Index, 1920-1986. Ancestry.com.Montana, Birth Index, 1870-1986[database on-line]. 
  6. Great Falls Tribune, Great Falls, MT.  Thur, Jan 31, 1901, page 3. Newspapers.com [online database, accessed 12 Nov 2017]. 
  7. Great Falls Tribune, Great Falls, MT.  Tue, Jul 30, 1901, page 3. Newspapers.com [online database, accessed 12 Nov 2017]. 
  8. Great Falls Tribune, Great Falls, MT.  Sat, Feb 8, 1902, page 3. Newspapers.com [online database, accessed 12 Nov 2017]. 
  9. Washington State Department of Health. State Death Records Index, 1940-1996. Microfilm. Washington State Archives, Olympia, Washington. Ancestry.com. Washington, Death Index, 1940-2014 [database on-line]. 

#52Ancestors | DNA

My very first post for the 52 Ancestors project was about my own DNA and ethnicity estimates. For this week’s prompt, I thought I’d share about a DNA puzzle I am still trying to solve.

A couple years ago, a new DNA match at the 2nd cousin level popped up for my dad. I’ll call her Betty. I have been able to identify Dad’s 2nd cousins fairly easily, but this one didn’t seem to fit. More recently, another match at the 3rd cousin level popped up. I’ll call him Marty. Both Betty and Marty are descended from the same grandparents. I’ve since communicated with Marty and he has confirmed that he and Betty are indeed 1st cousins. Betty shares 227 cM with my dad, and Marty shares 165 cM. You can see the most likely relationships to my dad below:



I think the most likely relationship would be either 2nd cousins or half 2nd cousins. The reason I excluded the possibilities with the “removed” relationships is because both Betty and Marty are in the same generation as my dad, rather than 1 or more generations removed. This would also exclude the aunt/uncle and niece/nephew relationships (I am no DNA expert, someone correct me if I am wrong).

Second cousins share great grandparents. Unfortunately, none of the names in Betty’s or Marty’s tree matched my tree. What was similar however, was the time and place. Their family was living in the Great Falls, MT area at the same time as some of my family. Upon further examination of their tree, I discovered that their grandmother, Frances, was listed as an adopted daughter on the 1910 census.


This was the first census she appears on, having been born in 1907. In future censuses, she is just listed as daughter. This means that Frank and Martha Linhoff were likely not her biological parents. And our connection with Betty and Marty likely is with one of Frances’ birth parents.

In corresponding with Marty he told me that knew his grandmother was adopted. At some point his grandmother was told who her birth mother was, but she never shared that information. There was a story though that her birth mother was a school teacher. Of course, I don’t know if our connection is through the birth mother or father.

My dad’s great grandparents were Catherine Keegan Fitzgerald and William Fitzgerald. Catherine died in 1896, so she’s out as a contender. William Fitzgerald was living in Illinois by 1907. He moved back to Illinois after his divorce from Catherine. Their son Charles moved with him, but their youngest son, the one we are descended from, remained in Montana with his Aunt Martha. They were still living outside Great Falls in 1900, but sometime between then and the 1910 census, they moved to Washington. So were they still living in Montana in 1907 and the elder William came back to visit his son and had an affair with a woman, which produced a baby girl that was put up for adoption? ::insert shrugging emoji here::

I scoured the birth records of the time, leaving out the name and only searching for a female born on Frances’ known birth date/month, but I haven’t found a record for her birth with either birth or adoptive parents’ names listed. I also did a newspaper search around the year of her birth, on the off chance there was a mention of Frank and Martha Linhoff adopting a baby. So far I haven’t some up with anything.

I have very few DNA matches from this part of my tree and have been unable to use the ones we do have to help corroborate my theory. I am hoping one day we will find more information that helps determine our connection.

Who knows, maybe I’m way off base with all of this!

#52Ancestors | Brick Wall


Ahh, the genealogy brick wall. That wonderful structure we all want to bang our heads against. That ancestor we just cannot trace back further. I’ve written about one of my brick walls before, the mysterious Fred Martin, who seemingly appeared out of the ether one day. But I’ve got another brick wall. This one is a couple, my 3rd great grandparents, William Fitzgerald and Mary Lynch. They were an Irish couple who immigrated to the US and lived and died in Morris, IL.

Here are the basics of what I know about them:

William FITZGERALD born Sep 1830 in Armagh. His occupation is always listed as a laborer. I believe he was naturalized around 1862. He died 30 Jan, 1910.

Mary LYNCH born 21 Jul 1831 in Armagh. She died 13 Aug, 1893. Her maiden name was taken from her son’s death certificate.

They had three known children:

  1. Thomas b. 1857, d. 1930
  2. William John b. 1860, d. 1922
  3. Anna M b. 1967, d. 1929

According to the 1900 Census, William arrived in the US in 1854. I do not know if he and Mary came together, or separately. I do not know if they were married before or after they left Ireland. (I’m pretty sure Dad and I looked for their marriage record when we visited the Grundy County Courthouse and didn’t find a record, but now I’m second guessing myself.)

They were Catholic and attended the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Morris. We visited and found the children’s baptism records.


  •  William’s place of birth was taken from his death certificate. I suspect one of his children was the informant. I am not sure how accurate his birth location is. Mary died first, and as you can see, her birth place is etched on her headstone. I think it is possible that when William died, his children just assumed he was also from the same location. Despite the fact that the cemetary records list William as being buried in the same plot as Mary, his name and details are not etched on that headstone, or any other headstone.
  • Death certificates from that time and place do not even have a place to record parent’s names.
  • I requested William’s naturalization record. There were supposedly records for 3 different William Fitzgeralds at the clerk’s office….but of course they could only find two. And you can guess which one they couldn’t find.
  • I’ve tried to search Irish records for their marriage and births and not come up with much. Usually the dates are off and I know so little information that I can’t confirm if they are my people or not. Armagh is a large county and I don’t know specifically where in the county they came from.
  • I have posted on a Reaching Out Ireland forum and a County Armagh Genealogy Facebook page for help, but again, not come up with much. One potential hit is a baptism for a Mary Ann Lynch, baptised 02 Oct, 1831 in the Catholic Parish of Shankill.  Parents were William Lynch and mother Mary Grimley. I’ve found siblings for this Mary Ann but otherwise been unable to connect to them to my own family.
  • Neither Thomas nor Anna had children. William John had 2 sons, one of whom is my great grand father. The other son did not have children. This means there aren’t any other cousins out there who could possibly have some information on their grandparents and beyond.
  • In Morris, IL, there was another Fitzgerald/Lynch family at the same time my family was there. I built a tree for them, trying to find a connection. This Fitzgerald/Lynch couple was married in Massachussets, had one child there, then moved to Morris. However, the wife came from Cork. I eventually found a descendent of this couple who had done DNA testing. We compared GedMatch numbers and there was no match.
  • My dad did a Y-DNA test, which confirms his male line is indeed Fitzgerald (haplogroup R-M269 and descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages). Honestly, I don’t know what most of it means, and it is one area I could study more. I have his DNA in a Fitzgerald DNA project and a North of Ireland DNA project, but again, I really just don’t know enough to make it useful to us at this point.