I have two major quests of late. One is my totally awesome newly found nephew, Charles Montgomery Cook. Charles is the son of my late sister who was placed for adoption at birth. This search is one that is several blog posts in itself, and will be addressed more thoroughly later. We found each other through Ancestry DNA and have been looking for his birth father’s family since February of this year. We are now awaiting the results of his Big Y test on FTDNA. In the meantime I have resumed my search for my great-grandmother Lydia Jane (Jennie) Canniff’s family. This is another adoption story.
Jennie’s parents apparently died (or at least the mother), when she was 8 years old and she is found living with the Isaac Fox family in Hastings, Ontario. She was still living with them ten years later in the same location. She married my great-grandfather, William Henry Maxwell at the age of 19 and moved to Daisy, Washington. I have been totally unable to get any information on her before the age of 8. No birth records, no death records for her parents, nothing! In the same years census her brother Jonas Canniff was living with the Abner Stratton family very near the Fox’s residence. He was with them for 10 years.
The Canniff family was very large in Hastings and there is even a town named after them, Canniffton. I found a book on the area that had a large section devoted to the family. Still no hints of the illusive Jonas or James and Lillie, her parents. There are many, many Jonas’s, but nothing that matches the approximate dates. So, I decided to start a tree based on the original Canniff family in Canada to see if I could connect any Jonas and Lillie that could have been my 2nd great grandparents. In building my trees, I do not use any member trees, unless I am connected by DNA and have had a chance to talk to the person and know that they have other sources for their information. Even then, at times I have found errors in their trees. But there were many dignitaries in the Canniff family so it was pretty easy to trace. But still no luck.
I am always looking for the Canniff name in surname lists and one day I was in FTDNA and did a quick search of my DNA matches and found a Canniff! I can’t tell you how elated I was to find this! The first solid hit on my Canniff family! Ok, so now to send an email off to this person… will they actually respond to me, or will this be another aggravating non-response? Yes! Just a couple of days later I received a reply. It is from Robert Caverly, the administrator of his 1/2 first cousin Paul’s account. Their great-grandmother is Caroline Canniff! She married Joseph Caverly. With the measure of our DNA connection and the birth dates of their Caroline and my Jenny, they are most likely first cousins! Hooray! Who could ask for any better of a clue? I started another tree with Caroline, researching every male born to see whom Jenny may have inherited that name and genes. So far, nothing.
Mr. Cavarly, the administrator, has been very helpful, going back in his data bases trying to find any connection with my Great Grandma Jenny. He has found the information on her brother Jonas also, and believes that he may be the same as a Thomas Jonas that immigrated to Michigan. This Thomas Jonas and my Jonas of Hastings have the same mysterious background, and I believe they are the same person. The Maxwell family (Jenny’s husband) also has a history in Michigan, the same county which Thomas Jonas immigrated. Many of my great grandfather’s siblings were born in Michigan. I am thinking that we (the family that has been searching for Jenny) have all been limiting ourselves by searching for her family in Canada or Ireland. What else would make this young man suddenly immigrate to another country, by himself to a county and state where he had never been?
Now my search continues in Michigan with Thomas Jonas Canniff. If I can confirm that Thomas Jonas is actually the brother of my great-grandmother this will be a huge leap! Unfortunately he had only girls so the Canniff name will not be perpetuated in Michigan, but I am follow his girls trying to find another DNA connection. One of the girls married a Houle. It doesn’t seem to me to be a very common name. I did a surname search and have found three DNA Houle connections in Ancestry! I have sent messages to all three, but have yet to hear back from any of them. As each day passes with no response, my hope is waning. This really is an emotional roller coaster. One day a solid hint appears, and the next it dead ends. But, just the fact that I now have at least one genetic connection to our Canniff family, and have been able to verify four generations that are related to me, it will keep me going and searching, even though I can’t find just exactly how Caroline and Jenny are related.
**** Pictured above: William Henry Maxwell 1862-1937, Lydia Jane Canniff 1862-1928 and their children Wilbert W. 1888-1912, Aden 1891-1960, Jonas Canniff (J.C.) Maxwell 1891-1976, Estella Arvilla 1897, Susie Alice 1898-1984. There were four other children born in between these five, why they are not pictured I do not know, but this is how they have been identified to me. My grandmother Cora Myrtle was the last to be born in 1903 and not pictured here.