Great Moments

I’ve again decided to participate in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. And I’m already off to a slow start—indecisive about what I want to talk about. Or maybe more accurately indecisive about whether I should tell the story I want to talk about. It’s not a secret per say but it still feels like it falls into the realm of delicate.

Back in 2018, I started talking around an NPE (I’m running with Judy Russell here and translating as “Not the Parent Expected”) in my Genetic research. In other words, after a long time of looking at our matches that didn’t quite make sense and a conversation with someone who should have been registering as a first cousin but wasn’t a match at all, it was clear that one of my grandparents was not actually a genetic match to my parent.  One of my aunts tested to confirm the findings—proving she and my parent were only half siblings. Trauma and angst aside that changed my research dramatically.

I now had another family to figure out. But luckily, we had a lot of matches to work with and my aunt as a match that I could use to help narrow down the possibilities through our non-shared matches. The discovery prompted a deep dive into doing genetic research—with huge thanks to Blaine Bettinger, Diahan Southard, Judy Russell, and Angie Bush whose presentations I have attended and hung on their every word, the members of the Capital Area DNA Interest Group which grew out of  our community need for help with these kinds of experiences, and Ancestry’s Crista Cowan who in a prize consult took a quick look over my theory and basically said yes you’re on the right track.

I was able to lay out our matches and identify, not my actual grandparent—it’s one of four siblings—but very definitely their parents. I had a surname and a large extended family through a multitude of verifiable trees. It has introduced me to research in different counties and states, as well as my first experiences using records like the Dawes Rolls (no, I’m not indigenous), a very informative disputed will, and a first known relative who was a member of the United States Colored Troops (with a gigantic informative pension file).

Dawes Example

This is the family of a 3rd Great Aunt by marriage who were Choctaw Freedmen.

In short starting this line over—no matter how jarring at the time—has opened me up to so many new and interesting experiences. And honestly, we, the addicts, are always looking for a new line to trace.

Happy hunting,


P.S. The above-mentioned Capital Area DNA Group will hold its quarterly meeting at CADL Downtown Lansing on January 25th., 10-12 pm. Join us!

It’s one thing to know the bare facts of a story but a totally different thing when you find a more personal or intimate view of a person. This was a heartbreaking find tucked among my Great Aunt June’s belongings.

The following is an entry from my 2nd Great Aunt Ethel Augusta Packer’s diary. She was born 12 November 1887 in Oxford, Ontario to Cornelius and Flora (Massy) Packer. The family came to Michigan and settled in a house on 163 Shirley St, in Grand Rapids around 1891. At the time of the entry she was twelve years old and stricken with tuberculosis. She died the following September just short of her thirteenth birthday. My grandmother was named after her.

January 18, 1900 Entry from Ethel Packer's Diary.

It reads:

Freddie Ellingham is sick and so am I and he sent me two oranges. I am setting up and I have been in bed six  weeks. Papa is sitting by the bed reading my story book and mama making me a tidy. I have taken my medicine good all day to day. I had me bed drown up by the window to see the children snow ball.

For more information on the TB epidemic in the late 19th and early 20th Century check out this post.

Happy hunting,


I’m settling into a new office at work, family members are moving out of long held homes, and I’m still piecing through a collection of materials from my Great Aunt’s passing. It’s fascinating what you can find at  times like this—long lost photos, documents you had to hunt down or send away for because no one knew they actually had them tucked away, and odds and ends you would never have thought to look for.

A handful of interesting examples we’ve found include:

Grandma Shea’s Sears charge card giving me an address I hadn’t had before and a glimpse into the history of credit cards that I had never thought about–it’s a metal plate. I’d never seen one like it.


Grandpa Johnson’s ration card (1942), a sobering bit of United States history:


Or 3rd Great Grandfather Cornelius Packer’s Naturalization papers… Yes, I had already tracked the packet down at the Archives of Michigan but the journey is just as important as the document in hand and I needed that experience of researching at the Archives:


Have you found anything interesting or odd?

Happy hunting!



Things might get a little spotty here as I we work through changes at my day job—I can’t believe I missed Wordless Wednesday!—But hopefully I’ll be able to get reorganized quickly.

Nephew #1 on a computer

I don’t know if it will last or what he will retain but my almost nine-year-old nephew, inspired by his mother who has discovered, asked me if I would show him how to make a tree (online, of course) like his mom. So, last Sunday we met up at my parents and sat down with my laptop and got started. He quizzed/interviewed my parents for their full names and birthdates and birthplaces and the names of their parents. Taking the hint that my father was a Junior so his father’s name was probably…?  It’s a bit of a trick question as my Grandpa changed the spelling of his name somewhere along the way.

My nephew then started a private tree in Ancestry that I’ve shared with his mother as a full editor so he can work on it with her as well.  I was fascinated watching him enter in the information and think of more questions. And I was doubly impressed when he started really thinking out the hints that he was offered through He really looked at what the records said, pulling up the originals and actually listening to the stories I was telling—no, really,  you have to understand, my leading complaint is that he doesn’t listen—so that he  caught a few errors in the indexing before I got to them. He was reading through the page for himself, asking thoughtful questions, spelling things mostly on his own, and he didn’t want to stop for dinner—which was an issue because, among other things, I didn’t want Parmesan cheese in my laptop.

I am so thankful for that afternoon which has gotten me through a rough week. I had a wonderful time and I hope he did too!

Happy hunting,


This is the headstone of my Great Grandparents. I never met either Harrison or Rhodie but I’ve heard stories and seen fabulous pictures. They are buried in the cemetery at the Palestine AME Church in Johnsville, Bradley County, AR.

I learned more about my family walking around this cemetery with my Father, Aunt, Grandmother, and a few cousins for a couple of hours in 1999 than I did in years of solitary research. It is a memory I treasure.

Happy Hunting!


Photographed by Ledges Photographic Studio, 2010

We were gearing up for a family picnic this weekend and as Mom and I were discussing the menu (beyond hot dogs and hamburgers) it occurred to me that another big way I’ve gotten people talking about customs, history and such is over food. We each have our memorable or comfort meals. Gran would make Schnitzel for my uncle’s birthday, Mom would make her Seven Layer Salad or Cannonballs for various get-togethers, and, as I’ve mentioned before, I remember my paternal grandfather best manning the grill for superb barbeque. We have our major disagreements—my cousin and I each prefer a different family version of lasagna, there is a deep split on the subject of lumps in potatoes, and I’m probably the only one left in the family that must have Deviled Eggs made with Miracle Whip versus Mayonnaise. Regardless, we gather and associate important family moments with food.

One of the ways we’ve tried to preserve some of that information is through a cookbook my Aunt created specifically for immediate family members—though I think versions have spread out farther. It has most of our favorite recipes, stories associated with the foods, and some general family history and pictures. It’s a project I would highly suggest for a food-oriented family. It can be a pain to compile but it’s a keepsake we all treasure!

I leave you with one of my contributions for the picnic. It’s a variation on Raspberry Tiramisu that I love to make… but only if I have somewhere to take it! It’s much too lovely (and tempting) to have in my home.

And thanks to Ledges Photographic Studio for the magazine-quality pic!

Happy hunting,


So, I was hanging out at my parents working on genealogy on my computer when my nephews and niece came over. My seven-year-old nephew came right over and wanted to know what I was doing. At the time I was bouncing between and my database. He asked when the person I was working on was born; it was about 308 years ago. He thought that was cool. Then he wanted to see a chart from him, and one from his brother. He was picking out people that he knew. It was a lovely moment.

Then, his three-year-old sister came around and wanted to see pictures. So I showed her pictures of her brothers that I have tied to their database entries, then pictures of their parents. Then she asked to see pictures of me. So, I showed her the ones of me ranging from probably age 2 up to 32. She looked at two of the pictures and said, “That’s me!!” In the grand scheme of things we look nothing alike, but she would not be convinced—she was right as only a very stubborn three-year-old can be.

This is not my niece!

I am hoping I have a chance to convert the eldest to genealogy but I don’t have such high hopes with darling little Miss Thing. Though, all three have offered to be cemetery assistants this summer!

Happy Hunting,