When AncestryDNA recently updated their ethnicity algorithms, one of my communities changed. I used to be connected to the English settlers of Newfoundland community, which was mapped onto Cornwall and Devon and followed a migration arrow to Newfoundland. Here is their new assessment:
They have changed the “settler” place identification to be the place settled, not the place of origin. I’m descended from the Newfoundland & Southeastern Labrador settlers, rather than being descended from English people who settled Newfoundland. Notice also that they have divided Newfoundland into multiple regions.
My issue is that this new community doesn’t show any connections back to England. If, on the interactive Ancestry website, I click on my 23% English-Wales-NW Europe DNA percentage, it tells me I have “no connections.” That’s because literally all of my English heritage is via Newfoundland ancestors. But where in England did those Newfoundland ancestors descend from? According to my paper trail and historical guesses, probably Dorset and the Channel Islands. But that’s not reflected in the new DNA community organization. Meanwhile, in Munster, I have connections in four distinctly defined overlapping areas around Cork. Again, it’s not that it’s wrong. I just don’t understand why it’s four communities for one region of a smallish country and then no connections at all for a larger country from which a quarter of my DNA derives. (All reference to “clicking” refers to the live interactive graphic on Ancestry’s website. What you see here is just a static graphic for sharing.)
I looked at some of the other communities, just to see how things were divided up, and it looks like these divisions are meant to direct research fruitfully. My roots go back hundreds of years in Newfoundland; with the scarcity of records, it’s hard to get far enough back to research in England. So maybe these divisions were an attempt to nudge DNA discourse towards genealogical research and away from pseudo-scientific debates about ethnicity? That makes good sense, but I wonder if any of the changes were more controversial?
Did anyone else have a dramatic change in their community membership after the new DNA update?
I have had a longtime brick wall regarding the my 3rd great-grandmother, the nameless spouse of Cornelius Cronin. Her name was not included in her daughter Ellen Cronin’s marriage record. Ellen married Michael Hegarty in Cork City, but parish records from Cork City contained so many Ellen Cronins with fathers named Cornelius that it was impossible to discern which might be mine. This was a blank spot in my tree for years. There have been so many more parish registers released lately that I decided to try again to identify my 3rd great-grandmother.
I started by examining all the baptisms of Ellen Cronin Hegarty’s children, and assuming that every godparent surnamed Cronin was one of her siblings. (I know this may not always hold true, but it’s a hypothesis.) Then I searched for a Cornelius Cronin who had children with matching names and ages. There were still too many potential Corneliuses.
Because of all the new parish records, I received an Ancestry hint for Ellen Cronin, a marriage register from St. Finbarr’s South Church in Cork City showing Ellen and her husband Michael Hegarty as witnesses for the marriage of Hanora Corcoran and John Murphy. When I opened the hint and looked at the actual digital scan of the scribbled record, I saw that “Corcoran” was a mistake in the indexing and the bride was Hanora Cronin — Ellen’s sister! Then in another column it said that both the bride’s and the groom’s parents were from Kilmurry — the same village as Michael Hegarty’s parents. People were marrying friends from their hometowns! Back to my list of potential Corneliuses; there was one from Kilmurry married to Ellen Taylor. Ellen Taylor is my 3rd great-grandmother.
This discovery changes Ellen Cronin’s birthplace from Cork City with an unknown mother to Kilmurry with a known mother, and she is born about 5 years later than I thought, which means she marries at 16 instead of 21. The fact that she goes on to have 14 children seems to me to support a younger marriage, though. Also, near the end of her life, in the 1911 census of Ireland, it says she was born in Cork City. I have never been able to find any other actual birth document for her than the one I found for Kilmurry. The 1911 census also says that she’s illiterate, she’s a widow, 9 of her 14 children have died and the other 5 have emigrated or moved away. Did she specify that she was born in Cork City or did she just say she was from there? She had left Kilmurry as an adolescent and worked as a servant in Cork City before she got married and had all her children in Cork City. On balance, I think the parish baptismal records are more reliable than the birthplace column of the 1911 census, but I’ll keep an eye out for more evidence either way. Hopefully I’ll get some kind of Taylor DNA match on Ancestry to help my sense of certainty.
In the meantime, I’ve added Ellen Taylor to my names list on my overview page.
Infantryman Thomas Philip Murphy, my great-uncle, was wounded eleven times during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in France, and died in the evacuation hospital there in October 1918. He was 23. He was eventually buried in Arlington, Mass. in 1921. My father used to tell a poignant story of Thomas’ mother going to meet her son’s casket at the train station and welcoming him home.
British soldier (from Newfoundland)
My first cousin twice removed Bernard Cleary enlisted in the Newfoundland Regiment and died along with almost the entire regiment at Beaumont-Hamel on 1 July 1916. If you get a chance to see the exhibit “Beaumont-Hamel and the Trail of the Caribou” at The Rooms in St. John, definitely go.
British sailor (from Ireland)
My great-great-uncle Timothy Deasy lied about his age to join the British Royal Navy in 1897 when he was 15 years old. He served in the Royal Navy until he died with about 900 other people aboard the HMS Defence, an armored cruiser sunk during the Battle of Jutland in 1916. The wreck of the Defence has since been found by divers in the North Sea; it is currently protected as a war grave under the British Protection of Military Remains Act.
I am thankful to Mia for the question, but I am now going to turn off comments on the Family History Page. I know from previous websites that a comments section gets rapidly out of control. PLEASE DO FEEL FREE TO CONTACT ME WITH QUESTIONS THOUGH! See the Contact Page. It is also OK to comment on blog posts because they move down the page. What I don’t want is a Family History Page with a long string of comments, half of which are side conversations.
Ultimately I hope to add more Family History pages with sketches of each family.
There was really no family memory of having relatives in New York, but since I’ve moved here I find them fairly often. I’ve known for awhile that my great-grandfather’s sister Julia Hegarty King (1869-1935) is buried on Staten Island. She turned up in a New York death index on Ancestry.com and I sent away for her death certificate. Today I took advantage of the glorious fall weather and drove out to Ocean View Cemetery to see her gravesite.
Julia shaved a few years off her age once she got to the United States. So there she is with her husband Thomas. Carroll McLoughlin was Julia’s son-in-law. The surprise bonus of going out there is the discovery that Eleanora (Hegarty) Hughes is there too: she’s Julia’s sister and another great-great-aunt. I didn’t even have a death date for her until now.
In Massachusetts, my Hegarty relatives are mostly concentrated in the Cambridge/Somerville area of Middlesex County. I’ve long wondered why my great-grandfather chose that particular area. Today I found one possible reason: he had an uncle already living there. (Most immigration happens in chains; people go where they already know someone.) Since I pushed back that next generation, I’ve been able to better identify which Hegartys are mine. The FamilySearch matching engine brought forth a Massachusetts death certificate for a 3X great-uncle Jeremiah Hegarty, who died in Cambridge in 1905. He was the uncle of the women buried above and of my great-grandfather. So that’s who my great-grandfather knew in Cambridge. I suppose the next question is about who Jerry knew, but I need to actually work on things for my job for a while now.
I found a Daniel Hegarty of Brandy Lane in Cork, husband of Margaret Riordan, registering the birth of his son John Hegarty in January 1867. I remembered that a Daniel Hegarty of Brandy Lane was the informant on the birth certificate of my great-grandfather John Hegarty of Gillabbey Lane, Cork in December 1867. My theory is that Daniel was the informant for his nephew; that my great-great-grandfather Michael Hegarty of Gillabbey Lane was Daniel’s brother. I know that Michael’s father’s name was John because it was given in Michael’s marriage record to Ellen Cronin.
I searched the parish sacramental registers that are also online at the same website, and found a marriage for Daniel Hegarty and Margaret Riordan in February 1858 in Kilmurry, Co. Cork. I searched all the parish baptisms for a John Hegarty with sons named Daniel and Michael, who would be the right age to be having children in the 1860s, and sure enough he turned up in Kilmurry with his wife Eliza Kelleher. Between 1829 and 1845, John and Eliza (Kelleher) Hegarty had seven children: Daniel, Jeremiah, Ned, Ellen, John, Michael, and Patrick. John Hegarty is also listed as a tenant in Kilmurry in Griffith’s Valuation in 1853.
Therefore, I’m adding John Hegarty and Eliza Kelleher as my great-great-great-grandparents. I also found a 1796 baptismal record for a John Hegarty in Kilmurry, the son of Michael Hegarty and Mary Donnelly. It’s only one piece of evidence but I’m adding them for now as 4th-great-grandparents; it’s not like evidence is thick on the ground for this period.
So it’s worth checking out the updated Irish civil registrations site if you haven’t already. They took me back one solid generation and one more pretty good possibility.
This is the second part of my August trip to Newfoundland. First part is here.
We flew on Monday in a tiny propeller plane from Deer Lake to St. John’s to avoid the long driving slog across the island. We rented a car at the airport and drove to Harbour Grace, a former second city that has hollowed out due to job loss. Harbour Grace is also where my maternal grandmother was born. We stayed two nights at the super comfortable Rose Manor Inn. We hung out there a little more than I normally would on a trip because there is not a lot to do in this area. Fortunately, they have adirondack chairs looking out over the harbor and these were a peaceful two days.
We walked around and explored the Conception Bay Museum and the Harbour Grace visitors’ center. These are staffed by polite, charming, but very bored teenagers who obtained summer work grants from the government. There was a sort of palpable sense of “OMG why would anyone want to look at this old stuff?!” It was equally interesting to talk to them and hear what their plans were. We had a couple of beers at the almost deserted bar of the Hotel Harbour Grace, where there were just us and a few locals playing the video slot machines. We ate dinner both nights at the Rose Manor Inn because there literally were not any other restaurants open in the area. Fortunately the Inn’s dinners are fancy and delicious.
On Tuesday, we drove to Harbour Main. We visited Sts. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic church and looked at the house where my maternal grandfather was born. (We didn’t knock, so I don’t know who’s living there now.) Finally, we drove up a dirt lane and into someone’s back yard to visit the old “Irish” cemetery where my great-great-great-grandfather Vincent Costigan from Co. Tipperary is buried. We had lunch afterwards at Crooked Phil’s in Carbonear which served the platonic ideal of a ham sandwich and curried chicken soup.
On Wednesday, we went back to St. John’s and visited The Rooms. There was a very moving exhibit focusing on the 100th anniversary of the Beaumont-Hamel offensive in the Battle of the Somme, where the Newfoundland Regiment had an 85% casualty rate. I am not a military history person but this exhibit was amazing. They even had an area devoted to the keepsake photos that soldiers took before they left, including the original camera from the main photo studio. I have one of those photos from my family history files. The Rooms has an online exhibit about Newfoundland and WWI.
The whole museum was great. There was an exhibit about the influence of Irish culture and I learned that Waterford crystal was founded with money made in Newfoundland and was extremely popular in Newfoundland. I had never realized that my mother’s and grandmother’s fierce brand loyalty to Waterford crystal had any connection to their Newfoundland roots. We had a great lunch (crab cakes and salad) in the museum cafe, which has amazing views of the harbor.
After The Rooms, we returned the rental car and checked into the Quality Hotel in St. John’s, which was conveniently located downtown. We rested a bit and then embarked on perhaps the most expensive activity of the entire vacation: dinner at super fancy Raymond’s, one of the top ten restaurants in all of Canada. I had the charcuterie platter (shared), the fresh pasta, and the salmon. Also wine and some kind of lemony dessert. It was festive and fantastic. We had drinks beforehand at the The Fifth Ticket where there was a cheerful but inexperienced bartender. Nevertheless, my Blow Me Down Blueberry Mojito was delicious.
On Thursday I visited the offices of the Family History Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, where I confirmed that there are no sources I am overlooking and other people are reaching my same conclusions, so I’m not wildly offtrack in my family history research. After that I went to the small Fluvarium, which is basically a wall of windows built into the side of a river so you can watch the wild fish. I have never seen such enthusiastic aquarists as the Fluvarium staff. We had dinner with a friend of my brother’s at Chinched Bistro, more charcuterie and pasta, absolutely delicious.
And then vacation was over and I had to return to Brooklyn and the new school year which has prevented me writing this up until now. I loved this trip. The people are friendly, the vibe is very laid-back, the air and water and streets are clean. There are local problems with unemployment and the government seems to be cutting services like libraries and schools. So I can’t really say it’s actually paradise. It seemed obvious that many people make most of their money in the tourist season and survive off that the rest of the year. But a lot of places in New England are like that too. There was not much diversity outside of St. John’s. The high prices were offset by a favorable exchange rate for the US dollar, but that exchange rate could change and has in the past. Most of all, the Canadian government has prioritized tourist services which makes it easy, for the most part, to travel around and see things: there are logical schedules and good signage. I would love to go back and see more of the province and also spend more time in St. John’s.