March 2020

I had the chance to read a digital ARC of the following title from NetGalley so thanks to them and Abrams Press.

You should know how the use of DNA tests could affect you, even if you never take one.


Cover of "The Lost Family" by Libby Copeland.If you’ve taken, want to take, or even never want to take a DNA test, The Lost Family by Libby Copeland is for you. I came into this with a background in genealogy and genetic testing and I very much appreciate the way Copeland lays out the more challenging aspects of the genetic genealogy boom–results that contradict the stories you’ve been told all your life, the fact that you testing could totally affect the lives of genetic relatives that never intended to test, the use of testing for health research or law enforcement purposes. These are all very big topics that people generally don’t consider when they get a kit for Christmas or arbitrarily decide that it would be cool to see they pie chart (or some other “ethnic” breakdown depending on the company). Whether you’re Interested in family history or not this is a compelling and important read.


Happy hunting and reading,


One of the cool things I’ve found in my research is that people lived in areas I had never considered possible. One branch of my family generally thinks of itself as poor farmers and while we have many of those, we also come from a line of landed or aristocracy adjacent Brits. This includes younger sons who chose or were slotted for military service like Hugh Massy, or military families who through their standing and acquaintances were able to get children on the track for foreign service like Charles Alison. And if you do have people in those middle to high echelons of British Society, then you have to consider the previous global reach of the British Empire and consider all the possibilities. For example, Charles, noted above, was probably born in the West Indies, married a  resident of Constantinople at the British Embassy in Paris, and died in Tehran, Persia. And even having researched Charles, I still was surprised to find my 2nd Cousin, 4 times removed, Maud Mary (Rothwell) Mardon traveling the world.

Maud was born 12 Apr 1881 in Brantford, Ontario the daughter of Burrows Rothwell and Mary Merryweather. However, while Mary, older brother Percy, and her next two siblings (were born in Canada, Burrows had actually emigrated to Michigan as early as 1856. He married Mary in 1867 in Oakland, Michigan and their first four children (Horatio, Fanny, Arthur, and Charles) were born in Eastern Michigan. But by the time of the 1900 Census he was firmly established as a major player in Detroit and Western Ontario real estate. All of this left Maud well placed in Detroit Society during her formative years including participating in multiple charity theatrical events on the Lyceum and Detroit Opera House stages as a teenager.

In 1901 Maud was invited to stay with her aunt and uncle Julia Hill (Rothwell) and James Digges La Touche—a noted Irish civil servant in British India. Maud first joined the family in Dublin then traveled with them to India when La Touche took up his appointment of Lieutenant-Governor of the North-Western Provinces and Chief Commissioner of Oudh. Two years into her stay with the family her engagement to Evelyn John Mardon, also of the British civil service, was announced in the Detroit Free Press on 27 September 1903.

Detroit Free Press Wedding Announcement for Mr . and Mrs. Evelyn John Mardon.

Wedding Announcement for Mr . and Mrs. Evelyn John Mardon. Detroit Free Press, 06 December 1903, p. 28

The couple married 5 October 1903 at Naini Tal, Bengal, India, with the La Touche family standing in for her parents. John and Maude’s first children, John Kenric La Touche and Eveline Mary, were born in Bengal in 1905 and 1908. By 1911 the family had been recalled to England and the remaining children, Victor Rothwell, Julia Alison, Maude Elizabeth, Geoffrey Burrows, and Cedric Hall, were born in Devon. The family appears to have retired to Halsway Manor in Somerset in 1938 where members of the family lived until Mardon’s death in 1958.


It appears that Mardon is best known for his work in India and traveling the world as a big game hunter. Ah… colonizers and big game hunting. Really not my thing, but fascinating research, nonetheless.  The family remained an international one—you can find them on passenger lists in and out of the Americas including Brazil, Canada, and the United States. It appears that Victor even took up farming in the Kenya Colony until the Kenya Colony and Protectorate came to an end and Kenya became independent in 1963. This might explain the fact that Maud died 13 February 1950 at the War Memorial Hospital in Nakura, Kenya. Her headstone is noted in the Nakuru North Cemetery at East African Cemeteries and Memorials.

Will entry for Maud Mardon, England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995,

England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995,

I’d never imagined I’d find all these relatives so far away.

Happy hunting,


Edit: As of March 12th this event has been cancelled.

This one snuck up on me. Join us on Saturday, 14 March 2020 at the Downtown Lansing Library. On Saturdays street parking is free and there is a lot behind the library with entrances on Washington and Kalamazoo that’s also free. Join us!


I may never catch up (because life) but the  #52 Ancestors writing prompts are still great! And I enjoy teasing them out in different directions. So, that said…

The week 4 prompt was ”Close to Home” and I had a bunch of different ideas of what I wanted to talk about, but then life happened. However, that included getting to present in a number of venues (thank you WMGS, Redford Township District Library, Grand Rapids Public Library, and LAAAGS) in February. Those experiences redirected my ideas for this prompt. Instead of spotlighting a specific ancestor or family member this time I want remind everyone to take advantage of the resources you have “close to home.” I realize I’m extremely lucky in my local community—we have multiple societies, great resources libraries from public branches to the State Archives and Library. But regardless of where you live, I think there’s a very good chance that there are people ready and willing to talk genealogy.

LAAAGS2020WGCMy last event of the month was presenting at and participating in a joint program hosted by our local African American genealogical society and two area churches and I was overwhelmed by the turnout, interest, and discussions. And listening to the many speakers, it reminded me that in my community there is so much experience to be shared, stories to be told, support to be given. Hearing how these avid researchers worked through their brick walls gave me so many ideas for my own. Sharing that I as one of the presenters still have a ton of brick walls,  I think helped other newer genealogists. Comparing notes with new acquaintances researching in the same communities gave everyone in the discussion new ideas.

If you are able to get out and make connections locally—with a group you’re able to commiserate with, or brainstorm with, or simply cheer each other on… it helps. Don’t overlook your local resources—try a society, a library program, or a genealogy workshop. And talk to people, ask your questions, ask for advice, share your experiences—all politely and while listening at least as much as you talk.

Give it a try!


P.S. The fact that I finally finished this as events across the country are being cancelled because of the Coronavirus is not lost on me. But I still think the point is good in normal times.

P.P.S. This also is not meant to knock the fabulous online community I have found. Shout out to  BlackProGen, #genchat, and Genealogy Twitter in general, as well as the Virtual Genealogical  Association.