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.




Mattie Dawley Marion. 1882-1954 was my great grandmother on my paternal line. I was very young, but I met her at least once.  My siblings and I all thought with all sincerity that she was 100 years old.  Needless to say when I started doing genealogy I was totally shocked to see that she was actually only 72 years old when she died.  Quite a stretch from 100, but in my young mind she was the oldest person I knew, so she must be 100 years old.

One thing I have learned in researching family history is that just as a child looking at a 72 year old woman thinking she is ancient, everyone has a different perception as to family relationships.  Looking at these pictures you would think that she is a sweet little old lady that was once a beautiful young woman and was happily married with a growing family.

Edward Marion deserted his family some time before 1920, as he is listed as divorced in the 1920 census.  However, he lists himself as widowed in the 1930 census, and he was never remarried after leaving Mattie and the three children.

My grandmother, Naomi Adeline, was the last born to Edward and Mattie in 1904.  According to what she told me, her parents could not care for her and she was sent to live with the preacher and his wife at about 8 years old. The other two children, Loree Pearl and Albert were raised by their mother.  Grandma never had fond memories of her mother, quite the opposite, yet Loree Pearl was very close to Mattie, and they lived together in Thurston County after Pearl’s marriage dissolved.

I have found the same difference of perspective in my own immediate family.  My sister and I have a totally different perspectives on our upbringing and my mother and her sister, the same.  It makes me wonder what perspective each one of my children will have as time goes on.  Even though they are genetically similar and raised in the same family, they each have their own distinct personalities and preferences.  Though genetics have a lot to do with how we view life, I think it has less to do  than family placement and environment (circumstances). What do you think?  Do you have different perspectives than your siblings?



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.


23andMe DNA Kit

My introduction to genetic genealogy was with I ordered my kit, spit into a little tube, mailed it off and waited impatiently.  It takes several weeks for the autosomal results to be complete.  I anxiously sign in to start this fantastic journey! Setting up your profile is an integral part of being able to locate other relatives in your relative database.  23andme will automatically enter your ancestral locations, then you can edit this to add where you know your ancestors came from more specifically.  If you know where your grandfather was born, enter that in your profile, etc.  What I see as the most important part of your profile is the surname list.  The larger your list, the more cousins are going to be able to find you when they search.  For the surnames you are most seeking, put them in all caps, I’ll tell you why later.

You need to decide whether you are going to allow others to send you “share” requests, or if they must send you a message first and introduce themselves.  A share must be accepted before you can compare inherited segments of a chromosome, it does not happen automatically.  When I first started I chose the second option, but soon learned that it was not really threatening my privacy at all, and was actually much easier and quicker to get to what I wanted… to identify relatives.

23andme will not share your email address with other users.  If you wish to contact a DNA match, you must send a message through the 23andme message option, then if you choose to share your email with them you can do so.

On the home page you will see your Ancestry Composition, options for viewing your DNA Relatives list, Message Boards, how to download your Raw Data, Video tutorials, Surveys and optional Family Tree.

Ancestry Composition tells you where your ancestors came from. It tells me that I am 58.4% British/Irish.  Not a big surprise to me as I knew that my grandfather was born in England, and 3rd great grandfather in Ireland.  But then it breaks down all the rest of the little segments down to <0.1% East Asian and Native American.  Ending up with 99.6% Broadly European.  Knowing what I know about my family, I think that of the three companies that I have tested with, 23andme is far more accurate than the others.


You can download your Raw Data for future use on other websites.  I have used mine for health reports on,, Genome Mate data base, even transfer data to at a reduced cost.  I am sure there is more, but this has been my experience so far.

The Video Tutorials are good and will give you a basic introduction to understanding DNA and chromosome analysis.  Personally, I think there could be a lot more added to it, and they may do so in the future.

Survey’s really don’t really seem to benefit us much in our search, but I am sure that they help in the long run, and they are kind of interesting.

When I first started with 23andme you could start a family tree here for others to view.  I never did plan on doing much with it, since I already had an extensive tree on Ancestry.  Before I could get to far with it they changed the format to “My Heritage” and there is an additional fee, comparable to a membership with Ancestry.  Since I don’t use it, I can’t really give it a review.

What I would consider the heart of 23andme is the DNA Relative list and chromosome browsers.  The list will give you the basic profile of each of your DNA matches.  If you have set your profile to private, it will not give the name, otherwise you will see the name, the amount of chromosomes shared, projected relationship, and all the information you put in your profile plus your maternal haplogroup and paternal haplogroup if you are a male.  It will give you the option to “Send an invitation” or “send a message.”

To search surnames you can enter them into the search box at the top of the Relatives list, or you can go to Ancestry Tools at the bottom of each page and select Profile Smart Search.  This is why you want to put your most desired surnames in caps, because this search engine will zero in on those names and show you everybody in your list that also has those surnames (and others) in their profiles.

Once your invitation has been accepted you can start trying to locate your most recent common ancestor(MRCA).  The first of course was comparing surnames, but now you get to dig a little deeper.  Go to Family and Friends>Family Traits and it will take you to your first chromosome browser.  The is a drop down list and you select yourself, then whoever you are comparing with.  This can be turned around if you want to compare two of your DNA matches to each other instead of yourself. This one does only a one to one match and cannot be run on iPad as it needs flash player.

The other browser is found in the Ancestry Tools > Family Inheritance.  It allows you to match yourself, or someone else to 5 different people.  This is the best way to form family groups, by matching chromosomes overlaps.

To protect the privacy of my matches, I left the spaces open, but these are drop down menus.


All 22 chromosomes are listed in this graph, but not shown here.  Each person that you have chosen above will be assigned a color.  The green in this graph represents a close relative and the bar indicates how many segments he matches me. If you notice on chromosome 13, there is a long green line with a red line under it.  This indicates an overlap in chromosome match, so most likely, green and red are also related.  Take a look now at chromosome 8, I have a large match with green, and the small purple line on the left side of the chromosome shows a  match to me, but since it does not overlap the green, it is not related to green.  There is an area in between these two graphs not shown here because it has identifying information of my matches, but it also lists how many centimorgans (cM), or the size of the match.


There are other fun things in the Ancestry Tools list mentioned earlier.  These tools are things that are in the process of development and could be improved or eliminated at any time, so take advantage of them when you can.  I have had fun with the DNA medley.  They look at your genotype and create a unique melody.  Just a fun thing to do in between serious searches.

All of this, and I haven’t even mentioned the message boards.  There is  just about every topic that you could imagine available for your scientific quest for roots. I hope that this has helped you or sparked your interest in genetic genealogy.  23andme has become the largest DNA testing company with over one million people tested already!  All the tools in the world are only as good the amount of people available for comparison, and this one has it!

The Ancestors

This sweet poem reflects my feelings so perfectly, I just had to re-post it here.

The Ancestors

The ancestors call me,
they whisper in my ear
Tell my story for all to hear.

I had a family, I had a home.
I walked this earth
but not alone.

We’ve been silent for all these years.
Speak our dreams
and share our tears.

The ancestors call me,
They whisper their name,
Tell my story so we may live again.

– Ellen Thompson-Jennings

Ellen Thompson-Jennings is a fellow genealogy blogist with some great stuff to share at Hound on the Hunt.

Every time I make a new entry into my tree I tend to get very involved in their lives.  I always wonder, why did they have 15 children?  Did they love each of their children the same?  Why did this one, in a time of large families, only have two children?  Were they suffering the effects of infertility?  And what of those that had no children at all?  How many of us just skip over them because there were no heirs of their genes?  They were just as much a part of humanity as someone with 10 children.  I am sure that they made huge contributions to society of their era.    Every time I see a child that died within the first few years of life, I grieve with the family, especially the mother at the loss of her child.  I think of myself and my dear mother as she lost her beloved son that was born a year before me and died of a heart defect.  Even though I wasn’t born then, I grieved his loss and always wondered what it would have been like to have a sibling near my age. Or the mother that gave her life giving birth to her child? And what of the women who never married?  They are nearly forgotten in the field of genealogy, and it makes me sad.

Recently I visited the Machias Community Cemetery  in Snohomish, Washington.  I don’t know any of these people, but


I lived across the street from this cemetery for 18 years, so I almost feel related to them all.  In photographing and sharing these headstones and many more that day, I feel like I have done something to perpetuate their memories.  There is nothing like being a genealogy addict that makes you understand your mortality more.  Each time I enter a death date in my tree, It makes me realize even more that death is just as much a part of our lives as birth. Some people, and myself included  believe in an eternity, so I don’t fear dying.  To go to a cemetery and photograph headstones is to me like honoring them and passing on something of their life to this generation. We as genealogy hobbyists or professionals are an odd bunch I guess, because we get excited to go visit the graveyard.


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!