Who is the Mother of Samuel Englehart?


Sam Englehart, my great-great grandfather

Samuel A Englehart was born in March 1852 (or possibly 1853) in Missouri, likely in Jasper County, and traveled with his family to California in 1856.  The family settled in Healdsburg, Sonoma County, and Sam lived out the rest of his life there, growing up, getting married in December 1878 and raising a family, and finally dying in November 1925[1].  He gave his age as 26 on his marriage record, dated 22 December 1878.[2]  His daughter Hazel gave his birthdate as 21 March 1852 for his death certificate[3] and his age at death as 73 in various obituaries[4], which, for a November 1925 death, would correspond to an 1852 birth date.  However, other records (discussed below) seem to imply an 1853 birth date.  No document yet found names his mother, who reportedly died on the California Trail.[5]  However, it is very likely his mother was Hannah Hill, (born circa 1828 – died 1856) whom his father James married in Guernsey County, Ohio, in 1846.[6]

James, the Probable Father of Sam

After Sam’s father James Englehart died on 29 March 1890, an obituary was published in the Sonoma County Tribune, which gave a brief biography of James’ life and named his 3 surviving children: Sam, his older sister Eliza, and his older brother, Andrew.  James’ late wife is not mentioned.[7]

The obituary’s biographical information was likely provided to the Sonoma County Tribune by one of James’ children, probably Sam or his sister Eliza.  Other salient facts in the obituary include:

  • Born in Pennsylvania, 17 June 1821
  • When young, moved to Ohio, and lived there until 1848.
  • Moved to Missouri in 1848, remaining there 8 years until 1856.
  • 1856 went west to California, settling in Healdsburg

Therefore, we could expect to find James Englehart in the Healdsburg area for the 1880, 1870 and 1860 census enumerations, and somewhere in Missouri for the 1850 census enumeration, when he would have been 28 years old, and quite likely already married.  He was either married in Missouri or in Ohio.

James Englehart died intestate, and in the Decree of Distribution of the Estate on 26 Jan 1891, the administrator, Joseph Winder, names James’ three surviving children:[8] Andrew Allison Englehart, Samuel Adams Englehart, and Mrs. Eliza Ellen Winder[9].  The property inherited by and distributed to the three children is also listed, specifically land: the South half of the Southwest Quarter of Section 15, the Northeast quarter of the Northeast Quarter of Section 21, and the Northwest quarter of the Northwest Quarter of Section 22, all within Township 9 North, Range 11 West of the Mt. Diablo Meridian.  This acreage is the same land that Sam sold to his father on 27 Nov 1886.[10]  Sam originally received this land on 10 October 1882, under the Homestead Act of 1862.[11]

On the same day Sam sold his homestead land to James, James in turn sold a lot in the town of Healdsburg to Sam.[12]  The lot sold to Sam was adjacent to a lot James deeded also on the same day to his daughter Eliza Ellen Winder [13].  In deeding the lot to Eliza Ellen, James specifically refers to her as his daughter, giving her the land “in consideration of the love and affection which [James] bears for [Eliza Ellen]”.

Census Enumerations for the James Englehart household

Turning to the census enumerations for the period of 1850-1880, can we link Samuel, Eliza Ellen and Andrew with James Englehart, and potentially a wife? Sam’s relationship to James (as James’ son) is identified in the 1880 census enumeration[14].  While the informant for this census is not known – it could be James, Sam, or Sam’s wife Libbie — the 1880 census is the only document yet found which states the relationship between Sam and James, and was created during James’ lifetime.

The information provided for James correlates with his obituary; he was listed as being born in Pennsylvania, and was 58 years old, which is correct for a June 1 enumeration date if he was born on June 17.  He was also listed as widowed.

1850 Census[15] 1860 Census[16] 1870 Census[17] 1880 Census
James Englehart, 28, Penn James Englehart, 37, Penn James Englehart, 49, Ohio Jas. Englehart, 58, Penn. Widowed.
Hannah Englehart, 22, Ohio
Andrew Englehart, 2, Ohio Andrew Englehart, 13, Ohio Andrew Englehart, 22, Ohio
Eliza E, 10, Missouri Eliza E, 19, Missouri
Samuel A, 7, Missouri Samuel A, 17, Missouri Sam A., 27, Missouri.  Son
John E R, 5, Missouri
Libbie, 18, Calif., dau-in-law


In 1870, the census taker arrived at the house on 15 July.  James was already 49 at that point, and his birthplace is given as Ohio – where he did reportedly live – so it is possible one of his children provided the information on his behalf.  Also on this census, the 3 children named in the probate decree are residing with James. Sam, at age 17, was exactly 10 years younger than in 1880, and very likely to be the same person as the Sam who resided in the James Englehart household in 1880.

In 1860, the information provided to the census taker is in line with the family information as enumerated in 1870.  There is a fourth child, John, 5 years old and born in Missouri, who was not enumerated in later censuses.  He died in December 1865, at the age of 10, and is buried in Healdsburg’s Oak Mound Cemetery, where his gravestone inscriptions states he is the “son of Jas. & Hannah Englehart”.[18]  Sam was listed as aged 7, which corresponds to an 1853 birthdate, if he was born in March (as his daughter Hazel Holst stated in his obituary).  Sam consistently aged by 10 years for the two censuses following 1860. If he (or his father)  provided the information, it is inconsistent with Sam’s marriage record, and the information provided by his daughter Hazel Holst after his death, in that it implies an 1853 birth year.

Finally, in 1850, the James Englehart household consisted of James and Hannah, as well as a 2 year old child Andrew, almost certainly the Andrew enumerated with James in 1860 and 1870, as well as named as surviving heir and child of James in the probate distribution decree.  A marriage record for James Englehart and Hannah Hill, married 10 December 1846, was found in Guernsey County, Ohio.[19] This marriage date is in line with a first child being born sometime in 1848 (month unknown) and Andrew Allison Englehart appears to be that first child.

Summing up with a compilation of the stated and implied relationships of Sam and his siblings to James and to Hannah, the wife of James, in the chart below points to the likelihood that Hannah (Hill) Englehart, born circa 1828 in Ohio, and who died on the trip out to California in 1856, was the mother of all of James’ children.


Child’s Name Relationship to James Relationship to Hannah, wife of James
Andrew Allison Englehart Named as James’ child in James probate decree.  Sibling relationship with Eliza and Sam implied.


Is in the James Englehart household from 1850 through 1870.

Resided with Hannah and James in 1850 per the census.

Hannah, as wife of James, is the implied mother of Andrew.


Eliza Ellen (Englehart) Winder Named as James’ daughter in 27 Nov 1886 deed.  (James the likely informant.)

Named as James’ child in James probate decree. Sibling relationship with Andrew and Sam implied.


Is in the James Englehart household in 1860 and 1870.



No document found directly associating her with Hannah, but she lived with Andrew, who was enumerated with Hannah in 1850, and also with John, whose gravestone states he is son of James and Hannah.
Samuel Adams Englehart Named as James’ son in 1880 census.  (James the possible informant.)


Named as James’ child in James probate decree.  Sibling relationship with Andrew and Eliza implied.


Is in the James Englehart household for the census year 1850 through 1880.



No document found directly associating him with Hannah, but he lived with Andrew, who was enumerated with Hannah in 1850, and also with John, whose gravestone states he is son of James and Hannah.

Implied sibling relationship with Eliza per her obituary; information likely provided by Sam himself.[20]


John E Englehart Named as James’ son on his gravestone.


In same household in 1860 with James, and the 3 children named as James’ children in probate in 1891.


Named as Hannah’s son on his gravestone.



In conclusion, Sam was named as James’ son in the 1880 census, and in James’ probate, and was linked with James particularly in census records and land records. He was also linked with Eliza Ellen (Englehart) Winder, named as James’s daughter, throughout his life.  As stated in his obituary, his sister was the “late Mrs. David [sic] Winder” and Sam lived on the Winder property in the last few years of his life, and Eliza Ellen deeded the property to him just before she died.[21]  Reference to this deed was found in a Healdsburg newspaper online.[22] However, Sonoma County deeds after 1901 are not online, and would have to be accessed in Santa Rosa, California.  The deed would be worth reviewing on a future research trip to see if Eliza Ellen names Sam as her brother.

Given that James Englehart married Hannah Hill, and their youngest child John is identified as a son of James and Hannah, and their oldest child Andrew was found in the household with James and Hannah in 1850, and Eliza Ellen was identified as James’ daughter during his life in conveying property to her, and Sam was named as James’ son in the 1880 census enumeration, it is likely that the mother of Sam was James’ wife, Hannah (Hill) Englehart.

[1] “Pioneer Dies After Seventy Years Here, ” Healdsburg Tribune (Healdsburg, California), 7 November 1925, page 1, column 6; digital images, California Digital Newspaper Collection, Center for Bibliographic Studies and Research, University of California, Riverside, (http://cdnc.ucr.edu : accessed 30 October 2018).

[2] Sonoma County, California, Marriage records, Volume F, page 205, Sam Englehart and Libbie Jewell, 22 Dec 1878; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939V-MJ1N-R?i=19&cc=1804002 : accessed 29 October 2018), image 20; citing FHL microfilm 1,031,224.

[3] Sonoma County, California, death certificate state file no. 25-053875, Samuel A. Englehart (6 November 1925), informant Hazel Holst; Sonoma County Clerk-Recorder, Santa Rosa.

[4] “Sam Englehardt Resident for 70 Years, Crosses, ” Sotoyome Scimitar (Healdsburg, California), 7 November 1925, page 1, column 6; digital images, California Digital Newspaper Collection, Center for Bibliographic Studies and Research, University of California, Riverside, (http://cdnc.ucr.edu : accessed 30 October 2018).

[5] “Pioneer Local Woman is Dead, ” Healdsburg Tribune, Enterprise and Scimitar  (Healdsburg, California), 11 March 1920, page 6, column 3; digital images, California Digital Newspaper Collection, Center for Bibliographic Studies and Research, University of California, Riverside, (http://cdnc.ucr.edu : accessed 30 October 2018).

[6] Guernsey County, Ohio, Marriage records, Volume D 1844-1864, page 100, item 5033, James Englehart and Hannah Hill, 10 December 1846; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/004701460?cat=265414 : accessed 29 October 2018), image 83; citing FHL microfilm 894,936.

[7] “Obituary – James Englehart, ” Sonoma County Tribune (Healdsburg, California), 5 April 1890, page 3, column 6.

[8] Sonoma County, California, Probate Minutes [of] Superior Court, volume 14, p. 44-47, Decree of Distribution of Estate of James Englehart, 26 January 1891; digital images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/007601408?cat=614908 : accessed 29 October 2018), images 350-351; citing FHL microfilm 1,428,306.

[9] Sonoma County, California, Marriage records, Volume F, page 205, Joseph Winder and Eliza Ellen Englehart, 15 Sep 1878; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/004666584?cc=1804002&cat=239451 : accessed 29 October 2018), image 638; citing FHL microfilm 1,031,223.

[10] Sonoma County, California, Deeds 102:581-582, Sam Englehart to James Englehart, 27 November 1886; digital images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CS5L-2QD5-J?i=831&cat=613304 : accessed 29 October 2018), images 833-834; citing FHL microfilm 1,420,591.

[11] Samuel A. Englehart (Sonoma County) homestead file, final certificate no. 8307, San Francisco, California, Land Office; Land Entry Papers, 1800-1908; photocopy of file in possession of Cathy Dempsey; Record Group 49: Records of the Bureau of Land Management; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

[12] Sonoma County, California, Deeds 102:583-584, James Englehart to Sam Englehart, 27 November 1886; digital images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CS5L-2Q6Q-D?i=832&cat=613304 : accessed 29 October 2018), images 833-834; citing FHL microfilm 1,420,591.

[13] Sonoma County, California, Deeds 108:81-82, James Englehart to Eliza Ellen Winder, 27 November 1886; digital images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CS52-R9TL-8?cat=613304 : accessed 29 October 2018), images 693-694; citing FHL microfilm 1,420,597.

[14] 1880 U.S. census, Sonoma County, California, population schedule, Enumeration District 128, Healdsburg, page 1A, (stamped) page 183, dwelling 8, family 8, Jas. Englehart household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=6742 : accessed 29 October 2018); citing National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) microfilm publication T9, roll 84.

[15] 1850 U.S. census, Jasper County, Missouri, population schedule, District 41, page 53 (penned), page 385 (stamped), dwelling 354, no family number, James Englehart household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8054 : accessed 29 October 2018); citing National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) microfilm publication M432, roll 402.

[16] 1860 U.S. census, Sonoma County, California, population schedule, Mendocino Township, page 80 (penned), page 467 (stamped), dwelling 640, family 640, James Englehart household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7667 : accessed 29 October 2018); citing National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) microfilm publication M653, roll 69.

[17] 1870 U.S. census, Sonoma County, California, population schedule, Healdsburg, Mendocino Township, page 20 (penned), dwelling 175, family 161, James Englehart household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7163 : accessed 29 October 2018); citing National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) microfilm publication M593, roll 91.

[18] Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed 29 October 2018), memorial 43428210, John E Englehart (1855- 1865), Oak Mound Cemetery, Healdsburg, Sonoma County, California; gravestone photograph by Susan Faught.

[19] Guernsey County, Ohio, Marriage records, Volume D 1844-1864, page 100, item 5033, James Englehart and Hannah Hill, 10 December 1846; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/004701460?cat=265414 : accessed 29 October 2018), image 83; citing FHL microfilm 894,936.

[20] “Pioneer Local Woman is Dead,” Healdsburg Tribune, Enterprise and Scimitar, 11 March 1920, page 6, col. 3.

[21] “Sam Englehardt Crosses, ” Sotoyome Scimitar, 7 November 1925, page 6, col. 1.

[22] “Deeds, ” Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, California), 17 March 1920, page 12, column 2; digital images, California Digital Newspaper Collection, Center for Bibliographic Studies and Research, University of California, Riverside, (http://cdnc.ucr.edu : accessed 30 October 2018).

Ancestry, Ancestry, how does my garden (of DNA matches) grow?

At the end of each month, I use the DNAGedcom client to download my matches from Ancestry, as well as those of my father, my mother and (one of) my sibling(s).

Here are our 4th cousin level (generally, 20.0 cM or more total  DNA shared) and our total match counts as of December 30, 2018.   My dad has nearly twice as many total matches as my mom, likely because of his 100% Ireland/British Isles ancestry, while mom’s father, a 1st-generation American hails from the Marche region of Italy.  Not much DNA testing going on with that side of her family.


Notice, however, that even though my mom’s total matches is roughly half that of dad’s, she has almost as many 4th cousin level matches as he does.

Let’s take a look at a few of the numbers, percentage-wise.   You can see that my dad and my sibling are tracking at the same ratio of 4th cousin level matches to total matches.  My percentage is a bit smaller, but mom’s 4th cousins are just over 3% of her total matches.


I suspect the reason for Mom’s higher percentage of 4th cousin matches is due to the fact that she has 4 great-great grandparents whose ancestors have been in the United States since the 18th century.  Dad, on the other hand, has only 2 great-great grandparents who have been in the U.S. since the 18th century.

How fast have the numbers grown over the years?  It will vary for each person who does a DNA test with Ancestry.  In general, if you are of European heritage, and you have many colonial ancestors, you will have a lot of matches, and a lot of matches at the 4th cousin level or closer.   On the other hand, if you have ancestors that immigrated to the U.S. in the 20th century (as I do, and my mom does), you’ll have proportionately fewer matches.

That said, the number of my matches increases daily!  I’ve been averaging more than 17 new matches per day in the last 3 years.  My dad (not shown here) is averaging over 31 new matches per day in the last 3 years.  I suspect those with extended colonial roots have an even greater number of matches coming in, as more and more people test.


Have you taken a recent look at your match totals?


Cassius Dempsey: By the crook of a finger – 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, # 5

The other day I asked my dad if he knew how his parents met.  As a matter of fact, he did, and I’m glad I asked him before it got too late.
Dad told me that he mostly heard the story from his dad… Grandpa (aka Cassius Patrick Dempsey) had gone to one of the local public dance halls, I guess for the Irish neighborhood, and my grandmother was sitting against the wall with some of her friends.

Grandpa noticed her immediately, and there were plenty of men who approached her to dance; she turned down every last one of them.  She laughed and talked with,  her gal pals, but did no dancing.  But Grandpa, from across the room, kept an eye on her, and when, in her laughing and talking, she turned his way and he grinned and crooked his finger at her.


And my grandmother nodded ever so slightly, so Grandpa came over to talk to her.  

So, by the crook of a finger, here we all are: my dad, his siblings, me and my own siblings, and my cousins, and now the next generation.  It’s an odd feeling to realize an entire relationship existed and generations of the Dempsey family exist by the crook of a finger…






Pictures Really ARE worth a thousand words (or more!)…

I’ve been struggling to make sense of — or, more accurately, wisely use — my dad’s matches at Ancestry to extend some of his lines.  Dad has one great-grandparent who was born in the U.S.; the others were all born in Ireland (where all but three remained throughout their lives.)  So, I’ve long thought most of my dad’s matches are not easily assignable to one of his great-grandparents because there is much I don’t know about the aunts/uncles/first cousins of those ancestors.

Now, that may still be the case to some degree, but I did have an eye-opener when I used the NodeXL template with Excel to cluster my matches.  NodeXL is a template for graphing your networks (often in reference to social media)  — see here. I found about the tool from reading Shelley Crawford’s blog Twigs of Yore; she has an entire step-by-step series on how to create visual networks of your Ancestry DNA matches using NodeXL and Excel. (An indexed version is here.)

So, I downloaded my dad’s matches at year-end from Ancestry using DNAGedCom, and loaded the data into the NodeXL template.  I limited the number of matches to those who share at least 17 cM with my dad; I also did not include my brother or me as matches, nor my paternal 1st cousin.

The reason you want to exclude close matches is  because they will match so many people you (or your target person) that there will be connections all over the graph, and you won’t be able to discern any useful information.

For this same reason, I also excluded children and grandchildren of matches, for those cases I know about.  (As a disclaimer, just to be clear, with Ancestry’s matches, I have no way of telling if match A and match B are, say, child/parent to each other — unless I personally know A and B, or unless I’ve “met” online regarding our shared matches, and they’ve shared that with me.)

That’s the context; here is the first picture of Dad’s top 1,000 (or so) matches clustered into the top groups.


The bigger dots represent the closest genetic connections to my dad.   Big dots exist in the navy dot group (upper left), the turquoise group (lower left) and the kelly green group (upper right).

The grey lines denote connections, both within groups and between groups.  In one easy glance, one can determine that the group most tightly related to each other is the group on the top row with dark green dots.  It looks like a web.

As far as inter-group connections go, the turquoise dot group seems to have the most connections with other groups.

So, when I highlight the turquoise group, what do I find?  Connections to most every group of matches my dad has — except for the navy blue group.   Which is kinda cool — but so what?  Unless you know something about the matches within the group.

dad_ancestry_match_lamburthcluster_all her lines

So, the matches in the highlighted group above are all kin to my dad’s great-grandfather, Archibald Lamburth (born c. 1833 Tennessee – died 1909 San Francisco).  He has the distinction of being my dad’s only great-grandparent born in the United States.  Given that the bulk of Ancestry’s DNA customers are U.S.-born, and that many with colonial ancestry say they have many thousands of matches, I suspect most of these connections will tie back to 18th-century U.S. and the colonies should I ever break this “brick wall”.

My second surprise was looking at the navy blue group.  Other than the one outlier I have yet to explore, all the matches are intra-group matches.  This group includes known close relatives of my dad’s maternal side.

dad_ancestry_match_nanacluster_all her lines

My dad has matches to his maternal grandfather‘s side (and his parents AND grandparents), as well as to his maternal grandmother‘s side (and her parents), the clustering algorithm does not distinguish between the two lines — at least based on the current population of matches used.

I may need to do a separate analysis on these particular matches — perhaps bringing down the filter to 15 cM — to see if I can break out that group into Maternal Grandfather and Maternal Grandmother.

Right now, the only useful information is that my dad’s mother’s matches and my dad’s father’s matches are separate.  They weren’t related to each other, based on the information we currently have — the above graphs, plus the genealogy I’ve already done.

The next picture, below, shows how some close genetic relatives (> 275 cM shared, in this case 1st cousins 1 generation removed), share matches with other groups.  This cluster could be a Dempsey cluster, with ties to Lamburth kin.  Which makes sense in my family tree since a Dempsey married a Lamburth.

dad_ancestry_match_bartjones billydodge cluster_their daughters_dempseylamburthlandriganhurley

Notice also that the group is somewhat open, like a child’s scribble.  Not everyone within the group is closely connected to everyone else in the group.

An example of a tightly-connected group is below. This is the group with dots in chartreuse green. Right now, I have no idea how they fit into the family tree.  It’s pretty much a self-contained group, with minor ties to the Lamburth (dad’s paternal grandmother’s side) group, but nothing significant.   Yet.


That was a look at my dad’s clustered Ancestry matches; sometime in the near future, I’ll take a look at my mom’s clustered Ancestry matches using the NodeXL tool.


Clustering your Ancestry DNA matches with Excel (and DNAGedcom)

There are more and more good visualization tools available for clustering your DNA matches with the intent of discovering a new ancestor.  Recently I’ve been using a clustering tool created by Evert-Jan Blom at Genetic Affairs (more on that tool in an upcoming post). 

The DNA Color Clustering method used by Dana Leeds clustering methodology is straightforward, and especially effective for those persons who have many 2nd and 3rd cousin matches on Ancestry — which I don’t.  (Although it actually works quite well for more distant cousins, in my opinion, especially if you’ve been working on clustering your matches for several years!)  You can find out more about Dana’s method here.

Despite these cool clustering methods — and others — in the end, I keep returning to my trusty Excel spreadsheet and my list of “ICW” (In Common With) matches from Ancestry.com which I download using the DNAGedCom client tool (available here via a yearly subscription).

I’m sharing my way of clustering my matches — or, more specifically, my mother’s matches and my father’s matches — because the “best” method is the one that makes the most sense to you, or seems the most “intuitive”.


Some of Mom’s shared matches with “Cousin B”, on Ancestry

Let’s say I’m working with my mother’s DNA matches from Ancestry.com.  Using the DNAGedcom Client tool, I will download a list of all her matches, and then download a list of all her “ICW” matches into CSV format. 

Default ICW file

This is a sample of the default ICW file, before I combine it with the default Match file.

Default Match file

This is an abbreviated sample of the default match file.  The columns of interest are “Range” and “SharedCM”.

Once I have the two files, I use the VLOOKUP tool in Excel to associate (Cousin) Range and SharedCM to the primary match, and then to the In Common With matches.  The result is a combined file like that below.  The combined columns are highlighted in green.

Combined File

The “Mtch cM” and “Mtch Cousin” columns associate to Cousin B; the “icw cM” and “icw Cousin” associate to the ICW match: me, my brother, and cousins C, D, E, F, G, and H.  Shared cM (centiMorgans) = shared DNA; see my previous post here for more on centiMorgans. 

For purposes of clustering, though, all we really care about is that in general, the more DNA you share, the closer you are related — at least in the case of 2nd cousins or closer.  You can see that to some extent with Ancestry’s predicted ranges in the green highlighted columns.

The In-Common-With (ICW) list is basically a subset of your matches list.  My mom’s paternal first cousin — let’s call her “B” — has also tested at Ancestry.  So, Mom’s ICW list for “B” would include me, my brother, and six other cousins: C, D, E, F, G, H.  (Mom’s father was a first generation American, and “B”‘s father was born in Italy — not a lot of our Italian side, many still residing in Italy, have tested their DNA on Ancestry.  Hence, we don’t have a lot of matches.)  The critical point is that C, D, E, F, and G as well as my brother and I would show up on Mom’s match list AND on B’s match list — we are the “in common” matches.

So, if Mom and cousin “B” are first cousins, their Most Recent Common Ancestor(s) (MRCA) would be their shared set of (Italian) grandparents: Guiseppe Diamantini and Maria Bolognesi.  Obviously that same couple would be the great-grandparents of my brother and me.  But my brother and I are not the interesting cousins in the ICW cluster.  Cousins C, D, E, F, G and H are the key here. 


Let’s look at the example above.  I “cluster” my mom’s DNA matches by adding two columns (shown here highlighted in red).  Because I know my mom and Cousin B share the same set of grandparents, I put the MRCA couple’s name in the “Mtch MRCA” column for each row where there is an In Common With cousin.  (Note that, despite Ancestry’s prediction that my mom and Cousin B are 2nd cousins, they are in fact 1st cousins.)

The amounts of DNA shared, shown in the “Match cM” column and the “icw cM” column are the amounts Mom shares with these cousins.  We cannot determine from the information shown here how much, if any, “B” shares with “F”, or “C” shares with “D”.   We only know C, D, E, F, G, H not only share DNA with Mom, but MUST also share some amount with Cousin B because Ancestry has given us that information.

I then look at each of the ICW cousins: that is, my brother and I, plus cousins C through H.  I note that my brother and I are children, which means our DNA amounts won’t have any new information to determine cousin clustering — because whatever we share, we inherited from Mom.  (You can always exclude known children of a DNA match when you’re working with clustering, because they will always be a subset of their parents — if you have your parents or grandparents tested.)

Cousins C and D are two people whose place in my mother’s family tree I already know — therefore I include their MRCA information (Fortunato Camillucci and Maddelena Serafini).  They are my mother’s cousins on her Diamantini line.  Since the Diamantini line is my mother’s paternal line, I shade it blue for male.

Cousins E, F, G and H are unknown to me.  In this case, none of them have trees on Ancestry which might give me more detailed information as to how they relate to my mother.  The amount of DNA shared is fairly small, so it is possible the Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA) with Mom is quite a few generations back.  So I note them as “Diamantini or Bolognesi” (as I don’t yet know whether they share on the Diamantini line or the Bolognesi line) and also shade the cell in blue.  I leave those notes unbolded, since I’m not certain of how the cousin actually fits into our tree.

I then do the same thing with each of the other cousins listed here.  Below is a screen shot of the In-Common-With listing for Mom and Cousin C.  Note that there is some overlap with the In-Common-With listing for Mom and Cousin B, but there is one person who shares DNA with Mom and Cousin C, but who does not share with Cousin B.  I labeled that person Cousin J (highlighted in bright yellow.)

Bree_DNAGedCom_Example1Because the Most Recent Common Ancestor between Mom and Cousin C is the Camillucci & Serafini couple, I then use those names to populate the cell in the icw MRCA column, as shown below.


Mom doesn’t have that many matches on Ancestry.com to her paternal side, in part because her father was a 1st generation American.  A better example of the clustering is shown below, with one of her 4th cousins.  The shared Most Recent Common Ancestor between Mom and cousin “K D” is Jacob Copple and Margaret Blalock.

Cousin KD

I have hidden the names of the In-Common-With cousins, but you can see the amount of DNA they share with my mother.   What this screenprint shows is how the different In-Common-With cousins have different Most Recent Common Ancestors with Mom.  But all of them are related in some way to either Jacob Copple or Margaret Blalock.  Philip Copple and Patsy Wright, for instance, are the presumed parents of Jacob Copple.  Patsy Wright’s presumed grandparents are Richard Wright & Ann.  Ben Copple is the son of Jacob Copple & Margaret Blalock, while Nicholas Copple & wife are the likely paternal grandparents of Jacob’s father Philip.

A different cousin of Mom’s who also descends from Jacob Copple & Margaret Blalock possibly inherited some of Margaret (Blalock) Copple’s DNA.  You can see that in the ICW MRCA column below, where some of the In-Common-With cousins (names are whited-out) appear to have Blalock / Blaylock lineage.  One of the cousins who shares DNA with both Mom and “M M” is fairly closely related to Mom; you can tell that by the amount of DNA shared (140.4 cM) and the MRCA = Sam Englehart and Libby Copple.  Libby Copple is the granddaughter of Jacob Copple & Margaret Blalock.

Cousin MM

All in all, this is just one more method of using color coding and Most Recent Common Ancestor information to figure out how your unknown matches may be related to you.  It’s not an absolute — it’s just a hint.  But it gives you something to work with.

1940 WPA Model of San Francisco — Digitized

If you have any interest at all in historical San Francisco, or if you — like me — have ancestors who lived there, this is worth checking out! 


It can be viewed via Google Earth, Luna, and other tools — links available at the David Rumsey website above.  

Bay Area historian Gary Brechin has been a lead player in seeing that the model — originally used for city planning — be preserved and restored.


Margaret Colbert Dempsey: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, #4

Nearly 5 years ago, Amy Johnson Crow came up with the idea of writing about a different ancestor each week (hence “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” — see here and here.) The premise was to put together a story in words, images or videos (or some combination) about a different ancestor, so the stories you had about your family were captured.  And if you were a hard-core researcher, so much the better — it was a way to organize the “stuff” you had gathered about a family member and get it into a coherent format, perhaps even seeing where you might lack info.

Which brings me to this “52 Ancestors” post.  I realized as I wrote up this summary about my paternal grandmother that I actually know very little about her!  I saw her only a few times in my life, first of all, and most of what I know about her is either from records (census, vitals) I discovered or stories my dad told me.  And then I have to balance that with the fact that all of her children and grandchildren are still alive… how much is “too much” for a blog post?

So, what do I know of my paternal grandmother’s life?  

Her name was Margaret Aileen Colbert and she not only lived her entire life in San Francisco, California, but she lived her entire life in the same house, just off Army Street (now known as Cesar Chavez Street).  She was the third of 4 children born to William Cornelius Colbert and Ellen (aka Eileen) Houlihan, both formerly of Athea, Co. Limerick, Ireland.

Margaret was born on 19 January 1908; the name on her birth certificate is given as Eileen.[1]  She had two older sisters: Honora Marie, born in May 1902 in San Francisco, and Anita, born in September 1903 in San Francisco.  Margaret’s younger brother William C. Colbert (aka “Babe”) was born in June 1910.


A copy of my grandmother’s birth certificate (see source citation below)

Margaret was just shy of 4 years old when her mother, Ellen (Houlihan) Colbert, died in San Francisco on 15 December 1911, of peritonitis due to a miscarriage.  Her father eventually remarried, circa 1922, to a woman named Harriet Maley, and in August 1923, Margaret’s half-sister Cornelia was born.


Margaret (left) with a friend, ca. 1930

Margaret’s father died in October 1931, when Margaret was 23 years old.  Then, 18 months later, she married Cassius Patrick Dempsey.  I do not know how they met.  They married in Hollister, San Benito County, California – and I do not know why they married there instead of their hometown of San Francisco.

Throughout their marriage they lived in the house that my grandmother’s Uncle Jack Colbert built, which was also the house she grew up in.  My father was their eldest child, of three children.  A sister followed 6 years later, and a brother 11 years after that.  All of them grew up in the same house too.


My Nana and Grandpa, ca. 1933

IMAG4327 - Copy (2)

Me with my grandparents, 1962

I was 8 months old when my parents and I moved to Florida from California; we lived in Florida for 5 years, where my siblings were born.  Then we moved to the D/FW area.  My grandparents came out to Florida for Christmas in 1963, when I was a toddler.  That was the only time we ever saw them for Christmas, not that I remember it!  We do have home movies, and photographs, however.


My grandparents with my sister, Christmas 1963, in Florida

As for times I remember seeing my grandmother, I can count them on one hand, as we rarely made the long trip out to San Francisco, and they never visited us in Texas. 

The last time I ever saw my grandmother was when I visited my aunt (who is also my godmother) in San Jose over the Bicentennial Fourth of July.  My aunt and uncle were away for a short business trip, and my grandparents came down from San Francisco to stay with me and my younger cousins.

My grandmother died of heart failure on 30 October 1983, at the age of 75, when I was 22 years old.  She was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, California.



[1] City and County of San Francisco, California, birth certificate local registered No. 370, Eileen [Margaret] Colbert (1908); Office of the County Clerk, San Francisco.

How Complete is my Tree?

Are you sure that the segment of DNA you share with your DNA match is due to your common 3rd great-grandparents Joe and Sally (Harper) Booth (that’s a fictional couple, by the way) — and not due to a common ancestor you may not yet have found?  How complete is your tree? 

Recently, Blaine Bettinger posted in Facebook’s Genetic Genealogy Tips and  Techniques group, about the completeness of your genealogical tree being critical to accuracy in ascertaining the correct common ancestor with your DNA matches.  He referenced a post by Amberly Beck (see here) in which she discusses the completeness (or lack thereof) of her maternal line.

Rather than looking at just my maternal line or just my paternal line, or even just looking at my whole tree at once, I decided to review my results by grandparent. 

how complete is my tree

I “found” 9 ancestors last year on my maternal side without using DNA at all! Instead, I used DanishFamilySearch.com, a site which has been transcribing Danish census records, and allowing registered users to post their family tree information on their site, and the newly online Danish census records (in Danish, of  course!) at familysearch.org 

So, yay!, that was success for my grandmother’s line.  I now know 4 more of my maternal grandmother’s 16 2nd great-grandparents, and 5 more of my grandmother’s 32 3rd-great grandparents.

As for my 3 other grandparents, there was no change in the past year.  Not surprising, because I spent time on the BU Certificate course for 15 weeks (during which I spent little time on my own genealogy), and I also spent some time continuing to validate with DNA matches my Copple line (which is also on my maternal grandmother’s tree). 

Meaning, as I build out collateral relative trees for my Copple ancestors and find I have — more accurately, my mother has — DNA matches with descendants of those collateral relatives (siblings and 1st cousins of my own ancestors), that is slowly strengthening the case that the DNA shared belongs to the Copple line and not some other unknown line.  (Well, until I am able to build further back; the shared DNA may actually relate to, say, the wife of my most distant Copple ancestor, and not to him.)

I’ve done nothing really on my maternal grandfather’s line — I know the Italian town he came from and his grandparents’ names.  I also know I would likely find records on their parents via the local Catholic church.  As it would likely require assistance from a researcher over in Italy or a trip to Italy myself, it just has not been a priority for me.  Perhaps someday.

Like my maternal grandfather, my paternal grandmother was a first-generation American.  Her uncle was Con Colbert who was executed for his role in the Easter Uprising in 1916.  Consequently, he is somewhat famous in the Republic of Ireland; therefore, some of his family history was researched by a professional genealogist for the centenary in 2016.  So, I have a bit more on her kin than on my maternal grandfather’s kin.  I’ve also been fortunate two years ago to find some of the baptismal and marriage records for her maternal line ancestors (also Irish) online — one such place is here.

I have a “brick wall” at my great-great grandfather Patrick Dempsey.  Per his obituary, he was “of King’s County”.  That’s now County Offaly, but that doesn’t mean he was born and baptized there.  It may just mean he was from there last before coming to America circa 1850 or so.  There are about a half-dozen potential Patrick Dempseys baptised in Co. Offaly when he was thought to be born (ca. 1830), but I have no oral history as to his family.   Maybe his parents and siblings died in the Famine?

This year, I’d like to find out more about my paternal grandfather’s maternal grandparents: Anderson and Ermine (Farnham? Farley?) Lamburth — Grandpa Dempsey’s one line that has reportedly been in the U.S. since at least 1800.  Of course, I’d also like to break the brick walls of my 3rd great-grandmother (aka my maternal grandmother’s great-grandma) Phoebe Harvey — or her mother-in-law Margaret (Blalock) Copple.  We’ll see.

How about you?  Do you have a particular line you’re thinking of researching next?   

My review of the B.U. Certificate in Genealogical Education course

This past fall I took the Boston University Certificate Program in Genealogical Research.  This is a 15-week online course (for continuing ed credits only — NOT undergrad academic credit) taught by experts and professionals in the field of genealogy. 

The program was updated and modified with my class (Fall 2018).  It now has 4 modules:  (1) Genealogical Methods (5 weeks); — taught by Allison Ryall
(2) Evidence Evaluation & Documentation (4 weeks); — taught by Julie Michutka
(3) Forensic Genealogy (4 weeks);  — taught by Melinde Lutz Bryne, CG, FASG
(4) Genealogy as a Profession (2 weeks). — taught by Angela Packer McGhie, CG

Assignments were due each week, and were graded.   In addition, you are expected to log on regularly, and to participate regularly in discussions that are part of each module.  You need a grade of C or better in each module, and a B- overall to attain your certificate.  (Note: this is just a certificate.  It does NOT mean you are a Certified Genealogist through the Board for Certification of Genealogists.)

Getting on to what I thought of the course, I loved it!  It was well worth the cost (close to $2,700 — but I got 10% off, as I am a member of National Genealogical Society).  I did NOT take the 7-week Essentials course suggested by BU in advance of this course, deciding instead to just take the plunge.  I definitely needed a minimum of 20 hours per week to get through this course — but some weeks were more intense (citations!) and other weeks were “easier” (for me, that was the first module).

While I can’t make specific remarks as to the course content, my suggestion is that you are best off in the first module if you are familiar with a wide variety of records and have a high-level understanding of how DNA matches play into genealogical research.with DNA.    The module on evidence and citations has a new textbook — Thomas Jones’ Mastering Genealogical Documentation.  You are taught the art of citing your sources by understanding the source itself and the information within it — so you won’t have to just refer to templates.

The Forensic Genealogy module includes a focus on Ethics, since ethics play a significant role in dealing with living people, as far as DNA research and (financial) inheritances are concerned.  Finally, the module of Professional Genealogy covers the basics of what it takes to be a professional genealogist, using the brand-new Professional Genealogy: Preparation, Practice & Standards (published in 2018).

I found all the instructors (and their assistants) to be extremely responsive to my fellow students and myself.  I also thought the interaction between the students via discussion forums to be extremely helpful, learning as much from my classmates as from the coursework itself.  (The interaction between classmates is limited to the group you’re in, however; there were enough enrolled students for Fall 2018 that the students were divided into 2 sections, and further divided into 5 subsections of roughly 25 students each.)

All in all, if you want to ramp up your genealogical research skills very fast, this is a great course in which to do it.  Be prepared for a “grind” — you’ll likely need those 20+ hours a week to work on the readings and assignments.  There were about 4 or 5 in my own subsection of roughly 25 students that apparently dropped out before the end of the first module.  Afterwards, if you earn your certificate, you can choose to join the alumni mailing group (which includes alumni from all the past classes, back to 2009); a Facebook group exists as well.


Charles Holst: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, #3

  My great-granddad Charles Holst was one of 3 great-grandparents who were alive when I was born, and one of 2 I can actually remember, although the memory is fuzzy.  Grandpa Charlie (so-called by my aunt and uncles to differentiate him from the other grandparents) was born in Healdsburg, Sonoma County, California, on 18 October 1884, to Peter Holst, who was 37, and Caroline (Thomsen) Holst, who was 41.

Charlie had an older sister, Annie, born in 1875, an older sister Mary born in 1881.  Another son, named Peter, was stillborn a year before Charlie was born.  Reportedly, there was another brother, George, who was born in 1885, but I have found no records backing up his existence.


Grandpa Charlie Holst with his horse named Spirit

The Holsts did not live in town, but instead on a ranch on Dry Creek Road, about 4 miles from Healdsburg proper, back in the hills.   Charlie’s father had a vineyard and a winery; the winery remained in production until Prohibition.


Charlie Holst (left) with Charles Moisan, his wife’s brother-in-law

Grandpa Charlie’s parents were ethnically Danish, having both been born in the Duchy of Slesvig near Flensburg – an area which is now in Germany, and, in fact, became part of Bismarck’s Prussian Empire before they immigrated to the United States.

There is little I know about my great-grandfather.  I don’t know if he spoke Danish in addition to English.  I don’t know where he went to school, if he went to school at all – presumably there was a local school in the Healdsburg area.  I don’t know how he met the woman he would marry, Hazel Hannah Englehart, but possibly it was through her father, who reportedly built (or painted?) the Holst farm house, as he was a painter and carpenter. 

In any case, I had always been told that Charlie and Hazel married in January 1908, in Marin County, just south of Petaluma.  But when I ordered a copy of their marriage record, I discovered they married on 28 January 1909.  Their firstborn, a son named Charles (Junior) and called “Sonny”, was born just 6 months later on 2 August 1909. 

Their next child was my grandmother, Elizabeth, born in June 1914.  Another son, William, was born in 1921, and then a stillborn baby girl in 1928.

With Prohibition arriving in 1920, Charlie and his father ripped out all the vineyards they were cultivating, and starting growing plum trees.  Charlie’s father, a viticulturist, died before the repeal of Prohibition, as did his mother.  Charlie remained on the land, and made a living off the land until he died in 1968.

His children grew up and moved away, one serving in World War II and another having a family in Sonoma County, then divorcing his wife, and later moving to Oregon with his second wife.


The Holsts in 1961.  L to R: Hazel (Englehart) Holst, Grace (Proden) Holst, Bill Holst (with dog), Charlie Holst, Charlie Holst Jr. (aka “Sonny”)

Their land off Dry Creek Road was where we visited when I was a four year old.  I remember the pink house they lived in, the sunshine, the hills which seemed to hug the house they were so close.  I remember going outside, and seeing my great-grandpa in the vegetable garden they had alongside the house, wearing denim overalls.   Although my mom tells me both my great-grandparents saw me as a baby, before we moved to Florida, that is my only memory of my great-granddad.  He died 2 years later in April 1968, and is buried in Oak Mound Cemetery in Healdsburg.