Wednesday, January 5, 2022

                                         52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks 

                                  Week 1 - Foundations  -My Grandfather

This word can mean so many things – but when I think of it in relation to Genealogy – a few things come to mind: 

·       Foundation of your family

·       Research foundations

·       Founding Father or Ancestor

·       Foundation or cornerstone of your Family Tree – the “reason” you started researching

To me the fundamental foundation of my research, and the reason I got started on my Family Tree,  was my unusual surname. The one deceased ancestor I wished I could talk to was my paternal Grandfather, George Toulson.  

I never met my Toulson Grandfather, he died many years before I was born, but I was always curious as to our surname (which is rare in the USA) and why he emigrated from England. I was sure there was some deep dark mystery.

All I  knew was he came from a small village in rural Lincolnshire, England, emigrated in the early 1900’s, went to Iowa where he had an Uncle, was in Oklahoma at the time of the Land Rush, and ended up in California in the early 1910’s.

I started with the basics, and wrote to the Vicar in Fulbeck, asking for my Grandfather's baptism record. This was in 1976, so it was snail mail. Several months later a letter arrived with a typewritten listing of my Grandfather's baptism date, along with 4 siblings! SIBLINGS??? Who were these people? We had no idea he had any siblings, as he'd never spoken of his his family.

Turns out there was another Sister and 2 Half-Siblings born before his Mother married!

This became a new foundational pillar to my research, who were these Grand Aunts and Uncles, and did they have descendants??  

Over the ensuring years, I have uncovered more about the siblings - a Sister and Half-Sister died as infants, a Brother died in a tragic accident as a teenager, a Half-Brother was raised by Grandparents, another Brother died a bachelor, a Sister married a miner and moved to Nottingham, and finally the last Brother was a CHALLENGE. It took me until the 2000's to find his descendants - all because I made a class genealogy mistake. I discounted the possibility that this Brother would have relocated and moved away for work as a Farm Bailiff.   When I finally connected with a descendant of his and saw a photo of him, there was no doubt he was my Grandfather’s brother. 

A long and winding road, but I’ve now fleshed out all those lines – and the descendants had no idea anyone had ever left England, so were surprised to hear from an American relative!

Slowly and surely I feel I have a better idea of what his life was like and what an amazing journey from a small village in rural Lincolnshire to Ellis Island to Clinton, Iowa to Oklahoma and on to California. The story goes, he was headed to Australia next....but a little matter of a wife and a baby on the way got in the way of that!

So, I credit my Grandfather and his surname for my passion for genealogy.  And it turns out my Grandfather’s wife also plays a role in my genealogy interest – she died young, but her twin Sister lived to her 90’s in England.  She wrote us hundreds of letters in her lifetime, and when I asked about her family she drew out a rudimentary Family Tree, which had great details and traced the family back to Pendeen, Cornwall on the far southwestern tip of England.   This Cornish branch of my family has been a bonanza for research, with records going back to the 1550’s!  And the diaspora of the Cornish miners has led me to many cousins in Australia and New Zealand.  A fascinating branch of the family!

So those are my English foundations --- I could write a whole other blog on my Irish side of the family – and those foundations!  Maybe that will come in a later entry of #52ancestors.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

RootsTech Connect

 After attending every RootsTech for the past 10 years, this year will be different!  Like every Conference in the past year, this one will be virtual.   While I'm happy so many new people from around the world will be able to participate, I will miss the crowds, comraderie, classes and vendors.  

And mostly, I will miss the opportunity to spend a few extra days in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.  I have spent many a happy day and night trolling through microfilms, becoming lost in my family tree!

I've seen a preview of the RootsTech Connect platform, classes, key notes, etc and I think it will be great. I particularly like the idea that I can watch at my leisure, and dip into classes that I wouldn't have time to do if we were in person in Salt Lake City.  It's always a dilemma over which classes to go to, when there are multiple classes of interest at the same time.   

Things I won't miss:

    Queueing for a seat, queueing for a bathroom

    Enduring a room that is too cold, too hot, too stuffy, and too crowded

    Struggling to hear a presenter and enduring technical glitches

    Racing from one end of the Salt Palace to the other through huge slow moving crowds

    The cold Salt Lake City weather

Things I will miss:

    Meeting cousins and friends

    The Expo Hall and ability to chat with the experts

    The Family History Library

    The buzz of being around thousands of people who share my passion

    The complete immersion for days on end, totally focused on genealogy


I look forward to blogging about the positives/negatives of a virtual RootsTech after it's over. I have confidence that FamilySearch will do a great job of pulling it off -- and I hope that in the future we can have a hybrid model, with both in person and virtual options!

Pandemic Research!!!

 As the pandemic drones on and on, I've finally gotten my research groove back.  A year ago at the beginning of the pandemic, I couldn't focus and realized I was just trying to distract myself with research, and wasn't making any great headway due to my distraction.

Now, a year on -- I've reignited my research genes, and made some great discoveries.  I've gone back to some of my original research that I did via microfilm, before the internet even existed (sounds like the dark ages!).   New records have come online, and so I've added those and corrected some of my original suppositions with facts and records.

I've greatly expanded some of my Cornish lines -- particularly a branch that went to New Zealand and another to Montana.  I found ancestors on my Oats line via a DNA match names Atkinson, who's ancestor had married Elizabeth Sara Oats.  I had her in my tree, but she had "disappeared" -- and reappeared in New Zealand, where she and a brother emigrated.

The Montana connection is through my Davey line.  They emigrated to work in the mines, and then became ranchers.

I haven't spent that much time on my Irish side, but recently cleaned up some confusing NEE families. I had two Colman/Coleman John Nee's born the same year or so - one came to the USA (Pittsburgh) and one I'm not sure on.   Multiple online family trees have these 2 men mixed up, so trying to sort out through  original baptism/marriage records has been a challenge.

Ancestry's DNA hits, and Thru Lines have helped tremendously in unearthing some small matches that helped solidify research presumptions, and proved the connections. Sometimes just one connection this way has led to hundreds of new cousins. 

Coming back to this blog reminds me I need to document all these "new" findings, so that I can recall how I got there.  Reading back through my old blog entries reignites my interest in discoveries and documentation.  I like to set out my original assumption, why I thought this and then the records that helped to corroborate my idea or disproved my theory.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

DNA Hit equals a new Half 4th Great Uncle!!!

 I love it when a new random distant DNA match leads me on a spiraling journey deep into my tree. Today's new match led me to find a NEW very close ancestor, my half 4th Great Uncle!

Today's DNA hit had folks in New Zealand, so I realized it must be my Cornish line.  Something didn't seem quite right in the St Just in Penwith parents, so I did some digging in my files. The Geoff McKee file that documents all the St Just in Penwith families, showed an illegitemate son that I didn't have in my tree.

This child was born just after his Father's first wife died, and before he married again.  This son was baptized as Thomas Tonkin (his mother's maiden name), but his Father was James Oats -- and he used the name Thomas Oats after baptism.   

This Thomas married a Mary Davey, and their dau Elizabeth Sarah Oats b 1834, ended up emigrating to New Zealand (along with a brother) and marrying a William Francis Alexander.  Elizabeth Sarah Oats was my 1st cousin 4x removed. Thus a whole new line of ancestors to follow!  

DNA is really the only way to find some of these Cornish folks that "disappear" from England.  Their names are often very common, and so tracking down their connections is difficult unless you have a DNA match to prove things.  That's exactly the case here, where the DNA match between my Father, Sister, and 1st cousin all connect to this family -- which makes sense as it goes straight up my direct line to our 4th Great Grandfather James Oats.

The descendants of this Oats family really did scatter all across the globe, New Zealand, Australia, Montana, USA, Ireland, etc.

Of course, as with most of my Cornish family - there are intersections all over the place with marriages to other distant cousins up and down this line! Lots of work to do to merge them all together and sort out the descendants!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Connemara connections

 My Irish ancestry is 100% from the Connemara region of County Galway.  It is a beautiful, remote area of Ireland.  Genealogy research in this area has been challenging, but over time more records, resources and collaboration has improved things greatly.   Now there are several Facebook groups dedicated to specific areas, villages and families;  webpages dedicated to village's heritage, and of course lots of DNA research!

I am challenged by common names, inter-marriage, and the small gene pool in my research.  Oral history is important since records rarely exist before the Famine, with some exceptions.  We've collected family stories, hand written family trees, etc over time -- and have been able to cross reference to some records over time.

This week I was sent a hand written family tree done in Boston many years ago, by someone I hadn't corresponded with in 4 years!  This led me to the original source and more pages of the tree.  It is truly an amazing find, as it shows linkages and recent descendants that have emigrated to Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh, etc.

These are the kinds of genealogy gold that make all your hard work worthwhile!  And they always just seem to drop out of the sky!  And usually they come in bunches -- I call it Genealogy Karma.  And as a matter of fact,  I did get some other leads on one of my families last week that needs further research.

So it's either feast or famine, lots of new info to work through and research, or nothing new for ages! In the era of COVID, I have a bit of extra time to work through these bits of genealogy karma!  Can't wait to put my head together with some cousins and sort through it all!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Toulson UK-USA connection at long last!

There is a branch of TOULSON's in Georgia, USA.  I dismissed them as not related to my branch from Lincolnshire, England a long time ago.  I wrongly assumed they were related to the Colonial Era Toulson's from Maryland/Virginia, that were related to a London branch of the TOULSON's.

About 2 years ago I had a very small DNA match to one of these Georgia TOULSON's, and upon investigation found that he also matched a few others on my direct line.  The only clue was his date of birth on some Civil War records, where he stated he was born in 1827 in England.  Because of the DNA match, I knew he was from Lincolnshire, but couldn't locate a baptism for him.

Today, I stumbled across a William Toulson baptised in Grantham, Lincolnshire in Dec 1831 to Elizabeth Toulson.  He was illegitemate, and her residence was listed as Little Gonerby.  This all aligns nicely with the DNA and my Family Tree.  This Elizabeth is a sister of my GG Grandfather Michael Toulson.  She was born in 1807 In Barkston, Lincolnshire, and my Michael was the next born in 1809.

It would make sense that in 1831 she would be working in Grantham probably as a 21 year old Servant.  Little Gonerby is a village near Grantham, very close to her birthplace of Barkston. Perhaps she didn't want to go home and have her illegitemate child baptized there.  In 1834 she married James Newton and went on to have 5 children.  There is a William Newton living with her family in 1841, which is clearly William Toulson. He's gone by 1851

UPDATE:  I found a William Toulson b England, a waiter, age 21 listed on a ship from Bremen to New York in 1854.   Not sure if he was working as a waiter or just travelling, but most passengers were Prussians.  The timing makes sense....

I can't believe that I've finally found all this documentation to tease this connection out! Very exciting!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Genealogical ADD - I can't focus!

Well, with lots of time on my hands, I have been working on the Family Tree during the COVID19 lockdown.  I don't know about you, but I find it very difficult to focus!  My attention jumps between social media, news updates, and email.  Committing to just working on the Family Tree and blocking everything else out, is really difficult.

I find myself jumping from family lines to family line.  I have a zillion tabs open, with several different Ancestry trees open -- so I won't forget who I was working on.  When I go back to a tab, I often can't  recall who I was searching or why I have someone's family tree open!  It's like Genealogical ADD.

I find myself either working on 8th cousins or looking at a direct line that I never fleshed out. I've also gone down the DNA rabbit hole, researching a new match's tree and then getting lost in a family that's not mine!

I'm not very good at doing a research plan, as I've been at this for so many years -- I'm generally adding to my tree, when new records or DNA hints point me in a new direction.  New record sets are generally easier to establish a research plan for, going chronologically or searching specific surnames.

Maybe keeping a better log of the lines I'm working on, and a to-do list will help!