Wells Family Genealogy

The study of my Family Tree

22 Jan 2017: It’s here! Get your copy today! January 22, 2017

Yay!!!! My latest book is up for sale on Amazon.  I can’t tell you how excited I am that I finally took the time to gather together my genealogy knowledge in a user friendly how to book for those just beginning their genealogical journey.

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Check it out at: https://goo.gl/eSSZwa

Here’s what it’s about:

Every generation needs a family historian.

Where do we come from and how did we get here? To answer these questions you’ll need to sit down and piece together the story of your family. For over thirty years Jennifer Geoghan has tirelessly traced not only her own family tree, but also assisted many others in doing just the same. Now she brings her wealth of experience to you with this easy to read guide to help you jump-start your family research.

Some of the topics covered are …

  • Interviewing your relatives
  • Understanding Vital Records
  • Making sense of the US Census
  • Uncovering Military Records.
  • How to cite your sources.
  • Top websites for genealogy research.
  • Getting the most from you internet searches
  • Cemeteries
  • Genetic DNA Testing
  • Preserving your family memories

Intended for those just beginning to trace their family history, this Quick Start Guide includes an abundance of useful worksheet, templates and other tools to help you organize your research all in one convenient place.

  • Individual Person Worksheets
  • Family Worksheets
  • Pedigree Charts
  • Family Heirloom Inventory
  • Family Medical History
  • Research Logs
  • Family History Questionnaires
  • Activities to get your kids excited about family history

My book is now available in paperback on Amazon for $4.99.

-Jennifer

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17 Dec 2016: Don’t believe everything you read … on a death certificate. December 17, 2016

As part of my research for my new genealogy “how to” book, I ordered copies of my great grandparents (John and Amalia Kranz) death certificates from the City of New York Department of Records.  What I received in the mail, quite frankly, shocked me.  Amalia’s wasn’t surprising but what was listed on John’s is nothing short of baffling.

Death Certificate of John Kranz

Death Certificate of John Kranz

What is so disturbing is the names listed for his parents, Safaya Kranz and Elizabeth Schmidt.  These are not the names of John’s parents.  His parents were Francisci Xaverii Kranz and Elizabeth Hahn.  Yes, this is the correct death certificate for John.  It has his correct dates of birth and death, has his place of birth and profession correct.  It even has his correct address.

So who are this Safaya and wife?

I can only think that at the time of his death, no family was around to provide the correct information to the doctor about John’s parents. We know that John and his wife, Amalia, were estranged and didn’t have contact for long periods of time.  The back of the certificate says that his daughter (my grandmother) Elsie was the one who hired the undertaker to take his body.  His wife was still alive at this time so I have to assume that if she left that task to her daughter to handle, she was not on speaking terms with her husband when he died. I’m thinking the names of his parents on this certificate are nothing more than the result of the doctor wanting to fill in the blanks.

I really wish I was able to make out his cause of death. There is a family story that John died from the result of injuries he suffered while falling out of a cherry tree while picking cherries to make wine.  I heard he hit his head, but the certificate says that he was admitted to Kings County Hospital on June 28th 1920 and died there on September 13th.  That’s a long stay for a head injury.

Here’s John’s wife Amalia’s death certificate:

Death Certificate of Amalia Kranz

Death Certificate of Amalia Kranz

Nothing too surprising here.  Says she died of stomach cancer, sadly that seems to run on both sides of my family.

If anyone is able to decipher the cause of death on John’s certificate, I’d love to hear from you!

-Jennifer

 

5 Nov 2016: You Should Write a Book About That! November 5, 2016

Since I’m not only a novelist, but a genealogist as well, over the years I’ve had several friends tell me I should write a book about genealogy.  Well, I’m taking their advice and doing just that.

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I’ve started to write a guide for those just starting out on the journey of tracing their family tree.  I’ve helped dozens of friends over the years do just that so I really just have to write down what I’ve been telling people over the last decade or so.

But it’s never that easy.

My “Step One” so to speak is to have the reader gather up as much information as they can find, things they have scattered around the house, littering the back corners of the attic.  My list of suggested items to look for includes:

  • Newspaper clippings
  • Birth certificates or Baptism records
  • Adoption paperwork
  • Marriage records
  • Military records
  • Immigration records
  • Death Certificates
  • Obituaries
  • Family Bibles
  • Old letters or other correspondence written to or from you ancestors
  • Photos of each family member

vital-records

From these items, most people can begin to gather enough information start with before they reach out to relatives and the dreaded internet to fill in the blanks.

Can you think of any other items to tell people to be on the look out for?

Yes, I’m looking for suggestions, so please comment on this post if you feel so inclined.  🙂

-Jennifer

UPDATE: 22 Jan 2017

The book is now available on Amazon.com at https://goo.gl/eSSZwa

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16 Oct 2016: Wonderful Images from a Bygone Era. October 16, 2016

While sorting through my Dad’s postcard collection I came across this little packet of pictures from the Europa:

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I’ve always been fascinated by these old ships.  Perhaps because I used to work on one, perhaps because I always wonder if someone’s immigrant ancestor came to America on her.  Either way, the photos in this little package are a wonderful peephole into what it would have been like to sail on such a beauty as the Europa.  Here’s a little info I dug up on her history:  (From Wikipedia)

SS Europa, later SS Liberté, IMO 5607332, was a German ocean liner built for the Norddeutsche Lloyd line (NDL) to work the transatlantic sea route. She and her sister ship, Bremen, were the two most advanced, high-speed steam turbine ocean vessels in their day.

Europa was built in 1929 with her sister ship SS Bremen to be the second 50,000–gross ton North German Lloyd liner. They both were powered with advanced high-speed steam turbine engines and were built with a bulbous bow entry and a low streamlined profile.

Europa and her slightly larger sister ship were designed to have a cruising speed of 27.5 knots, allowing an Atlantic crossing time of 5 days. This enabled Norddeutsche Lloyd to run regular weekly crossings with two ships, a feat that previously required three.

Here are the pictures in the pack:

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The Europa

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Dining Room on the Europa

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Swimming Pool on the Europa. (At first I thought this photo was upside down!)

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Ship’s Interior on the Europa

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Ship’s Interior on the Europa

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Ship’s Interior on the Europa

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Ship’s Interior on the Europa

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Ship’s Interior on the Europa

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Ship’s Interior on the Europa

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Ship’s Interior on the Europa

Anyway, I thought I’d share these photos.  Maybe it will inspire you to watch Titanic tonight.  🙂

-Jennifer

 

15 Oct 2016: A postcard from the past October 15, 2016

A few weeks ago my cousin, Sharon, mailed me an old postcard she’d come across.  It’s from our great-uncle Frederick Kranz to our great grand father John Kranz.  The card  was sent from Cristobal, Panama on December 1, 1919.  Here it is:

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The caption on the front of the card says “Looking Through arches showing guard gates Pedro Miguel, Panama Canal.”

The note on the back of the card says “Monday 12/1/19 Dear Father, Have arrived safe at Colon, Panama and am leaving for New York Thursday Dec 4. I will expect to see you about the 12th of December.”  It is addresses to Mr. John Kranz, 194 Elizabeth Street C/O Empire Wagon Works, New York, U.S.A.

I don’t know as much as I wish I did about what happened to my Kranz cousins.  Unfortunately I never had to the opportunity to sit down with my Grandmother when I had the interest to know the answers to these questions.  Sadly now that she’s gone, I’m left with holes in my understanding of what happened to my greater Kranz family relatives.  When it came to my grandmother’s brother Fred, I suspected he was the Fred Kranz I found on this ships manifest/crew listing I discovered on ancestry.com, but was never 100% certain until Sharon mailed me this postcard.

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According to these papers, Frederick Kranz is listed an ordinary seaman, age 20, from America, height 5’9, weight 158, sailing on the General W.C. Gorgas arriving in the port of New York on October 13, 1919 from Cristobal, Canal Zone.  So these papers confirm that Fred was sailing on the General W.C. Gorgas at the same time as the postcard was sent.  It also confirmed that my great Grandfather did work at the Empire Wagon Works.  He was a blacksmith and made part for wagon wheels, or so my father always said.

Here’s a picture of the General W.C. Gorgas, the ship Fred was sailing back and from Panama to New York on back in 1919:

General W.C. Gorgas

General W.C. Gorgas

Ironically enough, I too have been through the Panama Canal, four times no less!  I used to work on a small cruise ship and we sailed through the canal on our Costa Rica/Panama cruises.  I even remember sailing through the Pedro Miguel locks, one of the three locks you pass through while sailing the Panama Canal.  Here’s some pictures I took of the Canal when I sailed through back in the mid 1990’s:

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The Panama Canal as seen from the deck of the Yorktown Clipper

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I doubt what I saw a I sailed through the canal was much different from what Fred saw.  It’s pretty old school technology.  I wish I’d known of his adventures on the canal when I was there.  I do remember wondering if I was the first in my family to go that far south in the world.  Looks like I wasn’t.  Fred died back in 1984.  I never met him so I have no memories of this man who led such an interesting life. The lesson to be learned here is to ask those questions of your relatives now, before it’s too late to discover the interesting life stories of the generations that came before us.

-Jennifer

 

6 July 2016: Forgotten Soldiers in a box of old postcards July 6, 2016

My father passed away a little over a month ago and so we’ve started the long process of organizing his belongings.  Dad was a bit of a pack rat but what he did have, I’m finding, was some very odd and interesting items. While home this past weekend I was looking through a box of vintage postcards he’d had and found an odd collection of what look like picture postcards from a military unit stationed in the South Pacific.  From the uniforms I’m going to guess they were taken during World War One.  Wondering who these men might have been I googled US Military in the South Pacific during WWI and discovered that we were indeed fighting there during WWI.  I have to admit, I don’t think I’d ever heard that in school.

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According to Wikipedia:

The Asian and Pacific theatre of World War I consisted of various naval battles and the Allied conquest of German colonial possessions in the Pacific Ocean and China. The most significant military action was the careful and well-executed Siege of Tsingtao in what is now China, but smaller actions were also fought at Bita Paka and Toma in German New Guinea. All other German and Austrian possessions in Asia and the Pacific fell without bloodshed. Naval warfare was common; all of the colonial powers had naval squadrons stationed in the Indian or Pacific Oceans. These fleets operated by supporting the invasions of German-held territories and by destroying the East Asia Squadron.  One of the first land offensives in the Pacific theatre was the Occupation of German Samoa in August 29 and 30 1914 by New Zealand forces. The campaign to take Samoa ended without bloodshed after over 1,000 New Zealanders landed on the German colony, supported by an Australian and French naval squadron.

I’m not sure how much involvement American troops had in these actions but I have to assume we were there in some capacity.  I mean, we’re Americans … we generally don’t sit on the sidelines well.

Where did these postcards come from?  I’m not sure.  Dad could have just picked them up someplace because they looked cool but that seems unlikely.  A few of the other cards in the box were addressed to my great uncle Theodore VanSickles (Husband of Dorothy Pauline Wells – Daughter of Williams Rogers Wells) so maybe one of the men in this unit was a friend of his.

So what clues do I have as to who these men might be?  Well, there is writing on the back of two cards.  The first one is:

img528On the back of the card above with the men in the field is written: “I am all so on this picture were the x is. Please write soon.  From your loving son John.”

img531The only other card with writing on it is this one:

img526It says: “This is a picture of three XX Co. when doing a guard. No. 1 is James A Moore.  2. Mr. Lawrence and 3 Corporal McNally.   From John.  P.S. The next letter you write, why xxx me know how many cards that I have sent you while I was in the Army.”

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From this I know these cards are of an Army unit. Unfortunately the last name of Lawrence and McNally aren’t much help and neither is James Moore as it’s a very common name.  So here I am posting them on the internet in the hopes that maybe a family member of a man in these photos might find me so I can find a good home for these cards.  Plus I’d really love to know more about what these men were doing during their service to our country.

Here are the rest of the cards:

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Jennifer Geoghan, genealogist and author of The Purity of Blood novel series and If Love is a Lie: A Partly True Love Story.

I’d love to hear from you! So click on “Leave A Comment” below and let me know what’s on your mind.

 

2 July 2016: Using Gedmatch.com to find my cousins July 2, 2016

I’ve posted about my experiences using FamilyTreeDNA.com before.  Their site is fine but of course you’re limited to matches of people who’ve uploaded their DNA to that site only.  To widen my DNA net a little more, I downloaded my DNA info from FamilyTreeDNA and uploaded it to GedMatch.com.

GedMatch.com is a free site.  Refreshing, no?  But it’s not exactly user-friendly.  First of all their dashboard page is totally confusing if you don’t have a degree in genetics.  Be that as it may, it was pretty easy to follow their directions on how to download my data from FamilyTreeDNA and upload it onto GedMatch … which was what I thought would be the difficult part.  However GedMatch does not appear to notify you when you have DNA matches in their system.  I’d uploaded my DNA file a while back and was told it would take a few days to upload into their system.  I was never notified that it had been processed and so … completely forgot about it until a few days ago.

Here’s what the main page looks like after you log in:

Gedmatch.com

Gedmatch.com

HINT #1:  When they say to write down you Kit Number …. DO IT.  You have to have that number for everything.

It was yesterday I found the little sticky note with my DNA Kit Number jotted down on it which was what reminded me I’d never heard back from GedMatch.  So I logged back on to the site to see if I’d had any matches.  Looking at the options on the Dashboard had me a little lost.  I expected something like “See Your Matches.”  No, it seems the best way to see your DNA matches is to click on GEDCOM + DNA Matches.  First I’ll say that the best way to search and also be found is to upload a GedCom file for your ancestors.  How do you to this?  Well, if you use any sort of genealogy computer program you can export a gedcom file from it, which is what I did.  The GedCom contained all the names of my ancestors going back 12 generations.  I uploaded the file and connected it to my Kit Number … remember I told you to write down that Kit number!

So after I clicked on GEDCOM + DNA Matches, this is what I get:

My GedMatch Matches

My GedMatch Matches

For the privacy of my matches I’ve blacked out their private info.  I’ll just say they give names and email addresses.  You can click on the number under the column “GEDCOM ID” to get more info on that member.

Individual Detail Display Gedcom member

Again, I blacked out the info for their privacy.  It was this one, about 5 or 6 down on my list, that caught my attention.  They’re from Lanarkshire, Scotland!!!  Yes, that’s where the trail goes cold on my Geoghan Family.  I sent this member and email this morning with all my Geoghan info to see if it rang any genealogical bells for them.  Wish me luck!

So what else can you do on Gedmatch?

I’m not really into the technical DNA stuff but I like to see a good pie chart.  If you click on “Admixture – Heritage” and select the Eurogenes project, this the kind of report you’ll get:

GedMatch - EuroGenes Report for me

GedMatch – EuroGenes Report for me

Looks a lot like the report I got from FamilyTree DNA (See below)

Mtdan Frequency map close up

So what else is on GedMatch?  On the same “Admixture – Heritage” there are several projects to pick from.  Here’s what the MDLP Project looks like:

MDLP Project

MDLP Project

You’re definitely going to want to click on the “Click here for more information” link.  When you do, it takes you to Wikipedia where all those numbers are explained.  My breakdown goes as follows:

  • 40.18% … ENF: the component of the ancient European Neolithic Farmers with the peak in the ancient samples of LBK culture (Lazaridis et al. 2014, Haak et al. 2015). Among the modern populations – the highest values have been detected in Sardinians, Corsicans and Basques.
  • 25.97% … WHG-UHG: the native component of the ancient European Mesolithic hunter-gatherers (Lazaridis et al. 2014, Haak et al. 2015). Among the modern populations – the highest percentage in the population of Estonians, Lithuanians, Finns and others.
  • 21.26% … ANE: component from North-Eurasian component by interpolating the non-East-Asian part of Native Americans’ ancestry.
  • 10.59% … Caucas – Gedrosia: identical to Pontikos’s Caucasus-Gedrosia cluster
  • 0.93% … NearEast: the modal component of Middle Easterners
  • 0.50% … Paleo-African: the modal component of African Pygmies and Bushmen
  • 0.47% … Amerindian: the modal component of the Native American
  • 0.09% … Oceanian: the modal component of the aboriginal inhabitants of Oceania, Austronesian, Melanesia and Micronesia(the peak in modern Papuans and Australian Aborigines)

Basically, I’m European … duh … knew that.  I’m definitely not Native American.  Would be nice though.

Here’s what the Dodecad Project looks like:

Dodecad ProjectThis one seems pretty spot on with what I know about my family.   There are a few other projects that give you different pie charts but they’re all pretty similar.

There are also comparisons that you can do between your DNA test kit and someone else’s. I did it between me and the gal from Lanarkshire.  There were a couple of other matches but really distant looking from the numbers.

There’s also a test called “Are your parent’s related?” Of course I had to check that one out.  Good news …..

Are your parents relatedI see there is something called Tier 1 membership which you have to pay for.  To be honest I can’t see that paying the $10 gets you much other than helping support the site.

So … If you’re a relation of mine and have your DNA results from another site, upload your DNA data onto GedMatch.com and let’s see if we’re related!

-Jennifer

Jennifer Geoghan, Genealogist and author of The Purity of Blood novel series and If Love is a Lie: A Partly True Love Story.

I’d love to hear from you! So click on “Leave A Comment” below and let me know what’s on your mind.