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Do You Have Former Ancestors?

   You know…those people you’ve been researching for years, only to discover they’re in the wrong family!  I use this line quite often in my lectures and it usually gets a laugh.  We've probably all have that problem.   It is incredibly easy to do with the Irish, with both their surnames (do you have Murphys, Sullivans or Dalys?) as well as their given names because of Irish naming patterns.  

   What made me think about this was an article written by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak in the Huffington Post this week about Hillary Clinton’s ancestry.   It should be required reading (and a warning) for all genealogists and family historians.  Check your sources and analyze your findings to make sure you have the correct person.  If you find two people with the same name living in the same area, you must research both of them to separate them.  Don’t ever take information in an online tree and merge it with your (well researched) data.  I’m not opposed to online family trees…I frequently use the information I find in them as hints for future research…but remember, that’s all they are…hints.

   Changing subjects (just a bit) and following up on last week’s blog, I’ve been in contact with a new cousin through a DNA match.  Back in 2004 I posted a query regarding my Johnston family in County Leitrim.  My great great grandmother, Rachel Johnston married James Mackey in 1866 and a witness on their marriage was Glasgow Johnston who I though might be her brother.  I heard from a descendant of Glasgow’s, but when I obtained his marriage certificate, I discovered his father was Arthur, and my Rachel’s father was James.  This family was Church of Ireland and the church records were destroyed in the PRO fire in 1922 so there aren’t any early records to look at.  There were a number of Johnston families in this area of Leitrim including the land owning family so we didn’t follow up.  Well, I heard from this individual again last week and we match on one chromosome at 46.8 cM.  That appears to make us somewhere around third cousins or third cousins once removed.  Although we are the same age, our charts show us in different generations.  If Arthur and James were brothers, that would make us fourth cousins once removed but the cM in that case should be more like 6.64.  So what else is going on?  I don’t have the name of Rachel Johnston’s mother, so is there possibly another connection I’m not aware of?  We know that there is a collateral line marriage that connects our trees further down, but no blood relationship.  A little knowledge is a dangerous thing <g>.  Stay tuned as I continue to work on this problem.    

   Happy Hunting!


I’ll be lecturing at the New England Regional 

Genealogical Conference in Providence Rhode Island 

on April 16th and 17th.  If you’re going to be there, I look 

forward to meeting you.

© Donna M. Moughty 2007- 2017