Saturday, January 23, 2021

A DNA Success Story

I have written previously about my searches for my paternal grandfather's biological father, possibly a Mr. Mundy, and for the son whom my aunt gave up for adoption in 1945, both using DNA as the most promising tool.  So far I haven't made any real progress on either of those, although I continue to search and look for new approaches (hope springs eternal).

I have had another DNA search going on in the background, one I haven't posted about.  My sister had a son in 1981 and gave him up for adoption.  A few years ago, she asked if I could help try to find him.  So I gave her all the warnings (informed consent!) and bought an Ancestry DNA test for her.  When the results arrived, I downloaded her data and put it on GEDMatch, Family Tree DNA, and MyHeritage.  And waited to see if she had any close matches.

That waiting came to frution last month.

She has a match indicated as "son."

He reached out for contact via his girlfriend, who sent a message through the MH system (paraphrased):  "Hi, you show up as my mother.  Are you willing to talk with me?"  When I read the message, I shouted out, "Oh my god!"

I then immediately called my sister.  When I read the message to her, she shouted, "Oh my god!"

I guess we really are sisters, huh?

And I wrote back saying yes, she was indeed willing to talk with him and was looking forward to it.

That turned out to be a pretty nice Christmas present for both of them.

They have spent the past month talking a lot, from what I hear.  And this past week my sister flew out to see him in person and help him celebrate his 40th birthday.

I guess it makes a good birthday present also.

And yes, I do have permission to tell their story and post their photo on my blog.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Our "Academy of Genealogy and Family History" (AGFH) Nominees

Tonight Randy Seaver of Saturday Night Genealogy Fun fame should be saying, "And the winner is . . . ." while he opens an envelope.

Here is your assignment, should you decide to accept it (you ARE reading this, so I assume that you really want to play along; cue the Mission:  Impossible! music!):

(1) Does anyone recall the Academy of Genealogy and Family History (AGFH) awards from back in the 2008–2012 timeframe, hosted by Jasia on Creative gene?  Geneabloggers would nominate blog entries in different categories, and Jasia would collect all of them with links to each blogger's post.  The bloggers selected their own posts for nominations.

(2) This week, let us nominate the "best" posts from 2020 that we wrote in these categories:

*  Best Picture (a photograph)
*  Best Screenplay (a story)
*  Best Documentary (a series)
*  Best Biography
*  Best Comedy

(3) Put it in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or in a Facebook post.  Please leave a link in a comment to this post.

I have never heard of the AGFH awards or Jasia before, but I can play along.  Not only does this sound fun, but I get to use Blogger's endless page that I just complained about yesterday!

• Best Picture

This is (probably) a photograph of my great-great-grandparents Avigdor and Esther Leah (Schneiderman) Gorodetsky and their oldest child, Etta, taken in Kamenets Podolsky, Russian Empire, circa 1890.  It's my oldest family photo and my favorite.  I posted it on April 4 for a Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge.

• Best Screenplay

On January 3 I wrote about the long, twisting path I took over about 20 years to find my great-great-grandmother Ruchel Dwojre (Jaffe) Brainin and her three youngest children immigrating to the United States, the last members of that part of my family to do so.  It had drama!  Comedy!  Suspense!

• Best Documentary

I didn't have any series of research posts, so I'll have to go with my Wordless Wednesday photo collection.  Those document the past, right?

• Best Biography

On July 23, I wrote about my maternal grandfather, whose birthday was July 23.

• Best Comedy

I also didn't write any comedy posts last year, so I'll have to settle for this goofy photo of me with my sling, posted on September 2, about a week after my shoulder surgery.

Friday, January 15, 2021

How Did That Happen?

I can't believe I'm writing this.  Today is my 10th blogiversary!  Lisa Hork Gorrell and I started our blogs on January 15, 2011.  They say time flies when you're having fun, but I am amazed to realize that we've been blogging for a whole ten years.

Admittedly, the past year hasn't been as productive as some earlier ones.  What with my shoulder surgery last August and the pain leading up to it, I definitely have not posted as much as I wanted to.  I have this long list of topics I want to write about, but I still have trouble finding the energy to follow up on them.

I still managed to squeeze out a post about every three days.  (It's harder to count the posts now that Blogger has "improved" [cough] the platform interface.  Whereas before 100 posts were shown on a page, now it's one of those endless pages that keeps growing as long as you keep scrolling.  Highly annoying, if you ask me.  Which they obviously didn't.)  Most of those were Wordless Wednesdays and Saturday Night Genealogy Funs (thank heavens for regular memes).

I'm happy to say, however, that I finally did write up a couple of the stories I had on my list.  I described the tortuous path I took to find my great-great-grandmother immigrating to the United States (traveling with one more child than I had expected), and I celebrated my maternal grandfather on his birthday.  I also reported on a surprising DNA match on my mother's (Jewish) side of the family, and posted about my aunt's son on his 75th birthday, keeping my fingers crossed that I can find him (or what happned to hiim) before my 95-year-old aunt passes away.  And there were a few additional original, nonmeme posts as well.  Progress!

So it's on to the next year, with more plans to get my schedule back on track.  Hope springs eternal!

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Which Story Is True?

My mother (in back) and
me, Stacy, and Mark, 1964

Today is January 14, 2021, which on the Hebrew calendar is 1 Shevat 5781.  My mother died January 2, 1995, also 1 Shevat and therefore the date of her yahrzeit, the commemoration of her death.  The Hebrew calendar is a solar-lunar one, and the dates don't line up year to year with the Christian calendar.  So the fact that I write regularly about my mother on her yahrzeit means that the date I write about her changes from year to year.

When I was young, but not too young, my mother told me how she had decided on the names for my brother, my sister, and myself.  I'm the oldest, and she said I was named for her grandfathers, Joyne and Moishe.  So my name is Janice Marie, using the initials, a common practice among American Jews.  Probably because she wasn't an observant Jew, she did not also give me Hebrew names (hers being Mushe Ruchel, for her grandmothers, Mushe Zelda and Ruchel Dwojre).

My sister, the youngest of us three children, is Stacy Ann.  I was told that Stacy was for my mother's grandmother, Sarah, again using the initial.  Sarah died the year before Stacy was born, so that fits well.  Her middle name was for my paternal grandmother, Anna.  Ann is pretty much the same name as Anna and would seem to be in conflict with the Ashkenazi tradition of not naming after a living ancestor, but, again, my mother wasn't observant, so maybe this didn't bother her very much.

The name of my brother, the middle child, is much more entertaining, however.  Mommy told me that my father wanted him to be Bertram Lynn Sellers III (my father being Junior and my grandfather Senior).  My mother didn't want to do that, this time invoking the prohibition against naming for a living ancestor, plus the very practical consideration of what my brother would be called.  My father had gone through the early part of his life being called Sonny (although he insisted it was Sunny, for his "sunny disposition") and ended up going by his middle name as an adult.  What to call the third male with the same name?

My mother came up with what she considered a better choice, Marc Anthony Sellers.  Either because of the historical nature of the name (I was told it took my father three times through to pass history in high school) or another reason, my father objected to that idea.  After some back and forth, my mother suggested Mark Russell Sellers, which my father decided was okay.  What my mother didn't tell him was that Russell was the name of an old boyfriend!  But that's what my brother was named, and it has worked out well enough.


Some time after my mother had passed away, I was driving her mother — my grandmother — to a family event, and my grandmother related an entirely different story about the origins of our names.

According to Bubbie (grandmother in Yiddish), the story my mother told her was that our first names were for deceased ancestors, in the Jewish tradition, and our middle names were after saints, because my father was raised Catholic.

If that were true, I am Janice for Joyne (the same), my brother is Mark for Moishe (no problem), and my sister is Stacy for Sarah (again the same).  So far, so good, right?

Under this interpretation, my Marie would be for Mary, mother of Jesus.  Okay, that works.

There are at lease a few Saint Ann(e)s to account for my sister's middle name.  Check.

But who would Saint Russell be?  Not that it's an infallible source, but Wikipedia doesn't have any listings for a Saint Russell.  Lots and lots of other saints are included, which make for an extensive listing, if not an exhaustive one.  Why no Russell?

And why different stories for different people in the first place?  Let's consider the situations.

I no longer remember the circumstances when my mother told me my version of the story, but I was young when I first became interested in family history, so I might have asked my mother about our names when I was in my early teens or even before that.  I wasn't particularly interested in Judaism, so I see no advantage to the explanation my mother gave me.

But I can think of two reasons that the version my grandmother repeated to me might have been preferred in a conversation between my mother and her mother.

The first reason that came to mind is that my grandmother might not have liked the idea that her grandson was named after an old boyfriend of my mother.   It's also possible that my mother was concerned that at some point Bubbie might repeat the information and my father would learn about it.

Second, and more important, is the Ashkenazi tradition (minhag) of not naming after living ancestors.  Saying that Stacy's middle name was for a saint, not an ancestor (who was most decidedly alive), could have allayed any discomfort Bubbie might have had with the name.

And that makes a lot of sense.  When Stacy named her son after my mother's brother, Bubbie was indeed quite upset, even though my sister pointed out that she had spelled the name differently.  Many years later, when Bubbie was getting older, she declared to the family that she would like the next female child to be born to be named after her, even if she was still alive at the time.  Stacy did that, and her youngest child has Lillyan as a middle name.  But Bubbie then was upset that Stacy did that while Bubbie was alive.  Yes, even though Bubbie had made the declaration.

Based on other things I have been told, neither one of the names should have mattered anyway, because supposedly the Ashkenazi tradition is important for the Hebrew names, not the secular names.  But I know from my own experience that Bubbie was very unhappy with both names.

It seems to me that the story my mother told me is likely the accurate one, and the one she told her mother was trying to obscure some information my grandmother probably would not have liked.  So now that's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: What Do You Take after From Your Parents and Grandparents?

Get ready to dissect yourself for this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun from Randy Seaver!

Here is your assignment, should you decide to accept it (you ARE reading this, so I assume that you really want to play along; cue the Mission:  Impossible! music!):

What do you "take after" or "favor" from your parents and/or grandparents?  It could be looks, traits, mannerisms, speech, etc.

(2) Put it in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or in a Facebook post.  Please leave a link in a comment to this post.

My thanks to reader Liz Tapley for suggesting this topic.

Physical Traits and Size

• My brown hair and eyes are from my father.  When I was young he taught me that brown eyes meant I was "full of it up to there."

• My very, very fair skin that can turn red in just five minutes out in the sun is definitely from my mother.  She told me once that she had gotten skin cancer when she was young, so I've always been a little paranoid about that.

• My "robust" chest certainly didn't come from my mother (who used to call herself the president of the Itty Bitty Titty Committee).  I can probably credit either of my grandmothers for that.

• My height also didn't come from my mother, who was barely 5'2" ("eyes of blue, oh, what those five foot could do").  My father was 6'1" in his prime, so at 5'8" I guess I'm right in the middle.  I'm giving the credit to my father, especially since I would have been taller without the scoliosis and curvature.

• I have my father to thank for my big feet, also.  Not many people my height wear size 12 women's/10 men's shoes, another indication I really should been have taller.  My hands are really big for my height, too.

• My voice is all my mother's.  I sound a lot like her, so much so that when she passed away my stepfather had trouble listening to me talk on the phone for quite some time.

• I used to have a very large mole on my back, which my mother told me was the "Brainin family mole."  According to her, each Brainin family member and descendant had a mole right around the same place on the back.  Mine supposedly was the largest.  Was, because when it began to cause me pain, I saw a dermatologist who excised it and did a biopsy on it to make sure everything was okay.  It was okay, but now I have a scar instead of the mole.

• When I was younger, my mother told me at one point that her father had had flat feet and that's why he was unable to serve in the Army during World War II.  So I guess I have him to thank for my flat feet.

• I'm a lifelong klutz, which my mother said also came from her.

• Who do I look like?  Definitely my sister and half-sister (who also has brown hair, thanks to our mutual father but probably also to her mother).  (I also used to resemble my stepsister, which was kind of weird.)  When I was only with my mother, though, people knew immediately that we were related, so I must resemble her to some degree.  And when our whole family (father, mother, me, brother, sister) was together, everyone knew we were related, so that's another indication of resemblance.  When I met my half-first cousin once removed (the son of my father's niece through his half-sister; my family is really complicated), he immediately thought I looked like my paternal grandmother (his great-grandmother).  His mother thought he focused on that because he had been raised by my grandmother (which is a long story).  But I was told that when I was a baby, others also saw a strong resemblance to my grandmother

Mannerisms and Other Traits

• Along with sounding like my mother, I also talk a lot like her.  I used to pick up her New York City/Boston accent, and I use a lot of her phrases.  At times when I say something I can hear her voice in my head.

• I can credit both of my parents for my intelligence and curiosity.  They were both intelligent and encouraged me (particularly my mother) to think about and explore things.  I think my mother later came to regret that.

• My love for sports also comes from both my parents, who watched all sorts of sports on TV all the time.  My favorite is still football.  Now, my mother would watch golf and boxing, but I have my limits.

• Daddy gave me my love of cars and motorcycles, and transportation in general.  I used to hang over the engine compartment with him while he was working on a car.  I knew the engine parts and all the tools, and would run to get tools when he needed them.

• My ability in music comes from my father.  He was very talented, played piano and guitar, and competed on Ted Mack's Amateur Hour with a swing band when he was about 17 (with his group losing to a young Gladys Knight, in her first televised appearance).  Who knows, if he hadn't been lazy, he might have made a career out of music, and I wouldn't be here.

• My mother gave me a deep love of language.  She liked to play word games, such as creating "Spoonerisms" such as "chu blip stamps" (Blue Chip stamps) and "chotato pips" (potato chips) and talking about the "oneth of the month" (first day of the month).  She got me hooked on crossword puzzles, which I still enjoy.  And she sparked my interest in foreign languages.

• Even now, my handwriting strongly resembles my mother's, which resembled her mother's.  So there we have a three-generational thing going.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Significant Anniversaries of 2021

What are the important milestones to note this year?  What events happened in my family 50, 75, or 100 years ago (that I have dates for)?  This year's most important events from my family tree program are from both my father and mother's sides of the family, the Sellerses, and my aunt's family.

250 Years Ago

On February 12, 1771, in Godalming, Surrey, England, my Aunt Mary's 4th-great-grandparents, George Heath and Martha Stu(a)rt, were married.  That's as far back as I got on my aunt's Heath line several years ago, well before FindMyPast started digitizing and posting all those lovely parish records.  I should get back to work with the Heaths to see how much more information I can find about them, and maybe even take the line a little bit further back in time.

200 Years Ago

On January 18, 1821, my 5th-great-grandfather Moses Mulliner died in Tuckerton, Burlington County, New Jersey.  Moses is the first Revolutionary War ancestor I learned I had.  Even though he was about 35 years old during the war, he was a drummer, which has engendered some discussion with others about his background.  One of these days I really need to get around to applying to DAR, if nothing else to make my registrar friends happy.

150 Years Ago

My paternal grandmother's mother, Jane Dunstan, was born on April 28, 1871 in Manchester, Lancashire, England.  She immigrated to the United States in 1890 and married almost right away, immediately becoming an American citizen by virtue of marrying a citizen.  My father remembered his grandmother well, particularly her English accent.

The second event from my aunt's family is another wedding, this one for her paternal great-grandparents Isaac/Isidore Krebs and Frederika Weiss, who were married on August 16, 1871 in Peiskretscham, Obersilesia, Prussia.  Ruger Lustig helped me find dozens of records on this branch of my aunt's family; I lucked out because the family was in Gleiwitz, and Roger happens to specialize in that area and has thousands of transcribed records available to search.

100 Years Ago

The last child Laura May (Armstrong) Sellers, my paternal grandfather's mother, had, Bertolet Grace Sellers, was born March 6, 1921 in Mt. Holly, Burlington County, New Jersey.  This was the daughter born three years after her husband had died.  Imagine the scandal in 1921!  I had my sister track down Bertolet's birth and death certificates because we were hoping they would include her father's name, going on the possibility that her father might be the same man as our grandfather's biological father.  (Depending on who her father was, she was my paternal grandfather's half-sister or possibly full sister.)  No such luck!  Our great-grandmother declined to list Bertolet's father on both the birth and the death certificates.

75 Years Ago

Although I don't write much about the Sellerses anymore, I feel an obligation to include Edwin Jaquett Sellers, who died January 11, 1946, probably in Philadelphia, where he lived most of his life.  He did have a short period when he lived in California, but he returned to the East Coast after that.  The reason I decided I should write about him is because he was also a genealogist, as a hobbyist.  He published about a dozen books on different lines of his family, including two for the Sellerses.  The first came in 1903 in a private printing of 150 copies; the second was in 1925 as an update to the original, with another 150 copies.  Yes, I have one of each, plus I found a second copy of the 1903 version for my brother.

50 Years Ago

I have to admit, I was really surprised when this one came up.  My first cousin Andy Meckler will turn 50 this April.  I have several first cousins, but Andy and his younger brother were probably the two my siblings and I saw the most growing up, so I really know him.  And I just can't imagine that he'll be turning 50!  I doubt I'll get to visit him in California, so I'll have to think of something special to do.

Image of Edwin Jaquett Sellers' tombstone courtesy of Dawn-Marie Williams.  Used with permission.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You

As I look back on the past year, I want to thank all of those who were part of my genealogy world, particularly as our world in general changed so much.  First I would like to say thank you to those conferences and societies that chose me to be a speaker.  I am honored to have been part of their educational programs during the year.

And because 2020 was the pandemic year, some groups that chose me as a speaker had to cancel or significantly rearrange their events, and I didn't end up giving presentations to them after all.  I still am proud that they chose me for their original plans.

Thanks go also to the genealogical societies for which I volunteered during the past year.  I continue to serve on the board of the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society and also have responsibility for editing the quarterly journal ZichronNote, programming, and publicity.  I am the very active coordinator of the African American Special Interest Group (AA SIG) of the Genealogical Forum of Oregon.  And I am still involved with the Jewish Genealogical Society of Oregon, although I moved from board member to vice president, and then to president when the previous president had to step down for health reasons.  If it weren't for genealogical societies, many people would have even more difficulties accomplishing their research.  I am happy to be associated with thriving groups filled with other energetic volunteers.

And as my blog continues to plug along, I very much appreciate my readers.  Your comments, both online and offline, let me know that you find it worthwhile to spend some of your time reading my commentaries about our shared hobby.

I learn something from everyone I interact with, and I'm glad I leanred with all of you during 2020.  The adventure of 2021 will probably keep us on our toes, but at least we have genealogy to keep us sane at the same time.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: What Are Your 2021 Plans/Goals/Resolutions for Your Genealogy Research?

It's the first Saturday of the new year and time for the first Saturday Night Genealogy Fun of 2021!  Let's see what Randy Seaver has in store for us tonight:

Here is your assignment, should you decide to accept it (you ARE reading this, so I assume that you really want to play along; cue the Mission:  Impossible! music!):

(1) It's the New Year, and many readers and bloggers have already made resolutions, or goals, or plans for one or more tasks or projects.  Or they haven't yet, but could or should.

(2) For this SNGF, please tell us what plans you've made, or what goals you've stated, or what resolutions you've averred for 2021.  Writing them down may help you achieve them.  Do one or more, as you wish.

(3) Put it in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or in a Facebook post.  Please leave a link in a comment to this post so readers can find your resolutions/goals/plans.

I decided to start by looking at my post from 2020 about my plans for that year.  I didn't accomplish either one of the only two goals I set, but I did have shoulder surgery and recovery time to deal with, so I'll use that as my excuse.  I guess I better redouble my efforts this year.  Here are last year's goals, repeated verbatim:


1.  I will get back to work on finding the ever elusive Mr. X (probably Mundy), my paternal grandfather's biological father.  I've gone back far enough with no lines that come down to the present day that if/when I finally find someone connected to this line, it will be a distant enough cousin that DNA will probably not be helpful.  So I'm going to change my approach to looking for more documentation for my likely candidate, in particular photographs.  If I can find a photo of Bert Mundy and he looks a lot like my grandfather, I may grudgingly accept that as "proof" that he was my boilogical great-grandfather.

2.  I want to catch up on data entry in my family tree program.  I actually coughed up good money to retrieve all the data from my failed hard drive, including Family Tree Maker.  Now I need to see if it will run in a virtual environment on my Mac so that I can continue using the program I like.


I will add that one of the problems that delayed #2 is that my hard drive on my Mac is full, and I'm still trying to finish adding a larger hard drive, reconfiguring things, etc.  As for goal #1, I just didn't work on it.  Oops!


Minor Update

Because I already announced my 2021 goals in this post, I'm also sharing it on The Family Heart's January Genealogy Blog Party!

Friday, January 1, 2021

Top 10 Posts of 2020

The dawn of the new year is always the time to look back at the old year and see what you've done.  For bloggers, that usually translates into seeing which of your posts piqued people's interest the most.

Last year was another full of health problems for me, so I'm still posting only about once every three days, and most of those are Wordless Wednesday and Saturday Night Genealogy Fun.  Maybe now that I've had my long-planned surgery I'll be able to get back up to speed.

Unlike 2019, when all of the top posts were from the first quarter of the year, in 2020 they were spread out through the first half of the year.  So I'm still benefiting from the long tail, but not in as concentrated a fashion.  Well, let's start counting them off.

In the #10 spot for 2020 is a Saturday Night Genealogy Fun exercise which was the second half of a two-part pandemic meme from Pauleen.

The #9 position is held by another Saturday Night Genealogy Fun post, this one about where I expect to find my ancestors in the 1950 census when it is released in 2022.  I have an address for only one of them, but I have a good idea where everyone should be.

#8 is a Genealogy Blog Party post (just to be different!).  The theme was "Create!", so I wrote about all the photo books I have created as gifts for family members.

A Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge came in at #7, this one about favorite sites for genealogy research.  Not unexpectedly, there's a lot of similarity between people's lists.

The #6 entry on the list is the Saturday Night Genealogy Fun exercise for the first half of the two-part pandemic meme, courtesy of Pauleen.  Oh, for those early days when we were still getting used to the pandemic!

For #5 we find (yet another) Saturday Night Genealogy Fun post, about a time machine to witness an event from my family history.  I wrote about wanting to witness the adoption of the son my aunt gave up in 1945, so I could find out who adopted him and what his name became.

#4 is a Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge (are we seeing a theme here?), the "Where I'm From" poem meme that was popular for quite a while.

Believe it or not, a Saturday Night Genealogy Fun post is at the #3 position on the list.  This one was about my genealogy goals for 2020 (I'm not saying yet how I did on them).

I am happy to report that the #2 position on the Top 10 list has nothing to do with Saturday Night Genealogy Fun (nothing personal, Randy!).  It's the post where I described the tortuous path I took to finally find my great-great-grandmother and her three youngest children arriving in the United States after emigrating from the Russian Empire.

And of course the #1 post on my blog for 2020 was . . . something for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun (that makes eight of the ten, for those of us who are counting)!  This one was when Randy shared a meme from Jill Ball to focus on what we had accomplished with our family history during 2019.

This was another year when my posts did not generate many comments.  The post with the most comments was #6 on the list, the first half of Pauleen's pandemic meme, which I did as a Saturday Night Genealogy Fun exercise.