New Step in the Journey

I originally started my genetic research to answer some questions about my paternal family.  I got that information, and have since discovered multitudes of Reynolds DNA matches.  In fact, they have become so commonplace that I seldom follow up on new ones.  I have traced the Reynolds family back to 1530 through DNA matches and several genealogical books written on the Reynolds family.  It is a huge, huge family with roots in the Quaker immigrants from England.  In fact, I even found out that my 8th great grandfather is my husbands 10th great grandfather on his mother’s mother’s side. So what next? I knew that my maternal grandfather was born in England and I connected with a cousin years ago that gave me several generations information about his family.  My maternal grandmother was born in Washington, and her grandparents immigrated from Canada, and have traced them back to Ireland.  But there are two mysteries in that family; my great grandmother and 2nd great grandmother.  The pictures of my great grandmother haunt me.  She looks so sad and lost, that I just feel her crying out to me.

My journey to find the family of my great grandmother, Jenny Canniff has been full of ups and downs.  A little review here…  My great grandmother was born Lydia Jane Canniff in 1862 and orphaned 6 years later.  She was raised  from age 9 to 19 with the Isaac Fox family in Hastings, Ontario.  There is no record of where she was from age 6 to 9, no birth record and no death record for her parents.  I have visited the Family History Library in Utah and came away empty handed after help from their Ontario expert.  There just happens to be no birth records for the area for her year, and no death records for when her parents supposedly died. She is presumed to have a brother who was living with another family near the Fox’s in the same years, but there is no proof of a connection between then yet.

I have one solid DNA 2 or 3rd cousin in the Canniff family, and a couple other distant cousins.  Charles, my nephew has a few different Canniff matches.  I have started a separate Canniff tree based originally on books written on the Canniff family of Ontario, Canada, and adding the genealogical information from my Canniff cousins.  I feel like I have made great strides with these efforts, identifying the common ancestors of these different Canniff families as John/Jonas Canniff b. 1723 and Marietje Tietsoort, b. 1726, and narrowed down the next generation to Abraham T. Canniff 1770, and James/Jonas Canniff 1765.  Of course, my direct ancestor may be the other brother John 1757.

In tracing all these families down the lines, I have identified other cousins by the names of Flagler and Clapp.  The Flagler DNA connections have come back unidentified, and the Clapp, lo and behold showed up in a Reynolds match! This was very discouraging, but I’ve not lost hope.  So there is a possibility that these Canniff DNA matches could also be from my Reynolds line and not my great grandmother’s Canniff’s line.

So, what is next?  I’m not giving up.  I have ordered FTDNA’s Full Sequence mtDNA test.  Our maternal haplogroup is passed down from mother to daughter over the generations  virually unchanged.  This should confirm which side of the family that my Canniff matches exist on.  It will at least give me more clues.

I will write later about the presumed brother of Lydia Jane, Jonas Canniff.  He has a mysterious past that parallels hers nearly identically, yet there is no real connection between the two.



Canniff Quest

After my huge disappointment from my visit to Family History Library, I have struggled to get back in to my research.  It seems like everything leads to dead ends.  Every time I decide to go back and search another branch of the tree, I end up going back to my great grandmother trying to find some hint that will connect her to the many, many Ontario Canniff’s .

I am fairly certain that the Thomas Canniff of Michigan that immigrated from Hastings, Ontario is either not the same as the Jonas Canniff in the 1881 and 1871 census, or if it is, he is likely not related to my great grandmother.  He list Jonas Canniff and Jane Lucas as his parents in his marriage license.  I had thought that Phoebe Canniff may have been another sister.  and was buoyed when I found her with her parents Jonas Canniff and Jane Lucas.  But alas, her parents lived much past 1868, thus eliminating them as parents of my Lydia Jane.

So, now back to DNA.  I was in high hopes that my 87 year old aunt would agree to testing, but when I visited her with test in hand she declined, feeling it was “creepy.”  But, all hope is not dead.  I was checking my nephew’s matches in ancestry the other day, and found one that not only has Canniff in his surname list, but he is a Canniff!  He is a 5th to 8th cousin to my nephew, even though he does not match me.  Ancestry has a new feature called “Shared Matches.” When I clicked on this new Canniff there were two more DNA matches.  Now we have a total of four, (6 with my nephew and I) certified CANNIFF matches!  All of us have Abraham T. Canniff b. 1770 d. 1843, m. Mariejte Tietsoort.  Three  have the next generation Jonas Weeks Canniff 1797 and the others have Isaac Canniff 1806.  It is ever so slowly chipping away.

I tried to join the Quinte Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society, but will wait until November when I can get a full year.  In the meantime I found the main branch Facebook page, and some very nice and helpful people.  They lead me to the Directory of Hastings County 1860.  This is two years before my great grandmother was born, so hoping to find her father here.  So far I have found a Jonas Canniff, Phillip Flagler Canniff, James Canniff and a few others.  Jonas owned a “flouring mill”, and was a trustee of the Weslyan Methodist Church.  Does this give me any hints?  Not really.  But it was fun to find.  It also listed the by laws of the county. The early homesteaders were given 100 of which they had to build a house and plant crops in at least 20 acres of the land within the first year.  Building the house done by the neighbors all pitching in and building a log house that was complete in 4-5 days.  They also had regulations for all the men and young boys, should a fire break out.  Everything from who would haul water to ringing the bell to warn and gather people together.  I felt like even though I didn’t learn any specifics as to who is the father of my great grandmother, it was fun to put myself in their lives for a few minutes.

canniff 1 canniff2 IMG_0908

I have ordered a book on the history of Belleville, Ontario.  It should be here in a couple days.  Can’t wait to start weeding through that one!

The UP’s and Down’s of Research


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.

When it All Comes Together…..Or Not

Have you ever had a brick wall, and no matter what you do you cannot get any information on that person.  I have two, and they are both on the Maxwell side of my family.  My great-grandmother Lydia Jane (Jennie) Canniff Maxwell, and Arvilla Dibble Maxwell my 2nd Great-Grandmother.  My 3rd cousin Chris has been looking for Arvilla for 30 years and the only thing we can come up with is a possible father in New York.  It’s crazy, but she just seems to be dropped out of the sky in to our world.


My Great Grandmother Jennie, pictured above, was born in 1862 in Hastings Ontario.  Apparently her parents died when she and her brother were 7 and 8 years old and they were both raised by different people.  Jennie by the Fox family, and brother Jonas, or Thomas Jonas was raised by the Stratons. In the 1871 Census of Hastings Ontario, Canada they are listed with the respective families in the same area, possibly close neighbors.  There is no other record of Jennie until her marriage to my great-grandfather William Henry Maxwell.  She bore 10 children between 1880 and 1903, with my grandmother Cora Myrtle being the last child.  According to my aunt who was born in 1928, they lived with my grandparents and other family members when they were elderly and Jennie “lost her mind.”  The way it was described to me and for the lack a diagnosis in those years, I believe she may have had Alzheimer’s disease.  I so much want to learn more about her, but that is the sum of everything I know about her.  The Canniff’s were a large family in Ontario, large enough that there is a town named for them, Cannifton, Ontario.  But do you think that I can connect even one of them to my Jennie?  I found an e-book about the Canniff’s online, so I have started a separate  tree for them, hoping to find her.  There also happens to be a Flagler connection, so I have been following that also.  In one document it lists her parents as Jonas and Lillie, but this has not been actually proven.  One of her children was also named Jonas Canniff Maxwell.

One day I was on 23andme and I did a random search for the surname Canniff in my DNA matches, and lo and behold, there it was!  Someone who has a great-grandmother with the surname of Canniff.  Caroline Canniff!  In this particular tree there is also a Jonas Canniff married to Letty Flagler!  Then just the other day I came across another DNA match with the surname Flagler!  I still have not been able to connect them, but I feel like that wall is being chipped away, a little at a time.  And I actually have two DNA matches that I can connect to her!

One of the things I have learned from my search in to Caroline Canniff and Thomas Jonas Canniff, is that I think one of the ways we have all gone wrong, is by limiting myself to Canada for the search.  Many family members of Caroline’s immigrated to Michigan, as did Thomas Jonas.  It just so happens, that my 2nd Great Grandfather William Maxwell hung out in Michigan also, and many of his children were born there.  Could Jennie’s parents have lived in Michigan and immigrated to Ontario?  The mystery is waiting to be solved!