Revisiting Ancestry dot com

I recently ran in to this video from Ancestry and was surprised to see an improvement that they have made in their reports.  It has always bugged me that they are the only company that doesn’t report the actual genetic match, but just the family tree.  While it is very helpful to have the family trees available for comparison, it is discouraging not to have the actual genetic information. But now with the press of a button you can find out how large your match is with your cousins and see how they make the determination of what distance that cousin presents. It does not tell you where the match is, but it is a huge improvement.

This video should explain it pretty well. It also brought to my mind the reason why I have so many Reynolds matches in all of my DNA matches.  A large number of the Reynolds/DeMoss family were Quakers.  Quakers had to marry within their faith, and have their marriage approved by the church.  After several generations it became more difficult to find unrelated Quakers, so they started marrying 1st cousins.  This would also explain the high infant mortality.

We inherit 50% of each parent’s genetic make-up, decreasing in half for each generation.  No two siblings, except identical twins will inherit the same 50% from each parent.  But, if our ancestors marry a first cousin that has inherited 25% of anonymous DNA from the same grandparent, they will have a stronger DNA match than normal, allowing for more 4-6 cousin matches in our reports. A cousin may be reported as a 4th-5th in say, FTDNA or 23andme, because of the larger match, but when you compare your trees as in Ancestry you may find that they are actually a 5th or 6th cousin. The inner-marriage philosophy is mine alone, not backed up by any scientific research, but it sure makes sense to me.

On the other end of the spectrum, I have two cousin with the same shared great grandparents.  One of them measures as a 2nd  cousin in 23andme and the other, a known 3rd cousin, does not show a genetic match at all to me. They both have a strong 2nd cousin match to each other.  Apparently, cousin #1 inherited one set of matching  segments with me and cousin #2 inherited different genes from the same grandparents that I don’t share.  She still has that family’s dna, but just different ones than I do.  I’ve always had a strong interest in inheritance, without knowing anything about DNA.  This really brings it all in to focus.





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!

A Fated Trip to the Family History Library


When my husband and I were planning our summer vacation trip, I hinted that since we were going to be in Utah for a few days, I’d like to visit the Family History Library.  He was more than happy to schedule some time in to our itinerary. I was out of my mind happy and excited and started plotting my visits months early.  I visited the local Family History library to familiarize myself and to ask questions about how to make the most out of my time there. Thinking that he was scheduling me three days in Salt Lake, neither one of us considered that it was actually going to be shorter because by the time we got checked out of one hotel, travel to Salt Lake, get checked in, we would actually lose that first day.  Okay, so I can deal with two days.  But wait a minute, check out time is 11 am at the hotel, then we have to get to the next location to check in on time.  So now we are down to one full day.  Okay, I can handle that.  I can get a lot done in one day, and after all I had already decided to limited my search to my mysterious great-grandmother.  To make things quicker I made a list of everything I knew as fact about her; where she lived between 1871 and 1881, her marriage, where they lived and where each one of her children were born.  You know how when you are on vacation you kind of lose track of days of the week.  Since you are not working, a Saturday or Sunday is just like the rest.  But wait a minute…. my one day was a Sunday!  The Family History Library is owned and operated by the Mormon Church, and of course is closed on Sunday.  I was heartbroken and my husband felt bad for me as well.  So, last resort… I will be at the door at 8am sharp Monday morning, and get the most of my 3 hours instead of 3 days.  The people there are at the door, cheerful and ready to help in any way they can.  I was lead to the 2nd floor and introduced to a sweet lady that is from Canada and their resident “expert” on the area.  The only problem is, she is French Canadian and not familiar at all with Ontario or the Bay of Quinte.  But she trudged through with me trying to find my orphaned great-grandmother who was born in 1862 and married in 1881.  After a few minutes of searching we discover that their birth records for Ontario start in 1863, and death records (which would be for her parents who died in 1868) started in 1869,  NOTHING, NOTHING and more NOTHING!  So she finds a record for a book in the library that has Weslyan Methodist baptisms for the area, so I head up to the 3rd floor.  Sitting on the floor going through the book trying to find my great-grandmother, I again find NOTHING.  I did find some other books that I brought back to the 2nd floor with me and while I find some other Canniff’s that I am familiar with, still nothing to tie my great-grandmother with the rest of the Canniff families.  So she suggests I go to the microfilm to find her marriage record, hoping that it will contain more information than is listed. I start searching for it, as my minutes area ticking away.  I finally give up as I know that I have already seen it and it lists her parents as “unknown.”  She wanted so badly to help me find something, and I hated to disappoint her, so I just disappeared out the front door after re-filing the microfilm.  So now I am back to depending on DNA to find that connection.  I am going to ask my 87 year old aunt to do a test, just hoping she will say yes.

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!

Ancestry dot com

According to Wikipedia  as of December 2013, the company provided access to approximately 12.7 billion records and had 2.14 million paying subscribers. User-generated content included 191 million uploaded photos and more than 16 million uploaded stories. With the advent of the TV program, “Who do you think you are?” and Ancestry DNA not mentioned here,  I think that these numbers are quite outdated.  In addition to its flagship site, operates,, ProGenealogists,,,,, and 

Family Tree Maker is a software developed by the company.  When you purchase the program you generally get a limited free subscription to Ancestry dot com.  This allows you to start developing your family tree.  The subscription you get with it provides only U.S. records which doesn’t allow you to go very far back in your family history.  I chose to upgrade my subscription to the World Explorer Plus on a month to month plan.  With this I am able to access and  When I have been able to access what I need from these two sources I will downgrade to World.  So far, I haven’t found that helpful, but I did find muster roles and ships diary from my Dad’s ship during World War II that were priceless to me.  My Mom had told me that Dad piloted one of the landing craft on Iwo Jima, and I found the diary that gave a detailed description of what was happening that day, including that there was heavy fire over head and they were using smoke screens from other ships to hide them.  It was fascinating knowing that my Dad was there and had a big part in the landing.

The actual program that you get with the Family Tree Maker will sync with your online tree every time you open or close it.  But one thing you have to be very careful about is that you shut down the application before powering down your computer.  I know that this sounds like a given, but there have been 3 times that I have either had my computer lock up while working on it or have otherwise lost power.  In that case, when you go back on, it will not sync up with your online tree and you must call the support number for Ancestry and have you walk you through the steps to sync it again.

ftm prtsc

There are several features that I really like about this application over entering information in the online tree.  When you want to search for a certain person, you click the “person” button and it gives you a list on the left side of the page of every person in your tree alphabetically by surname.  It also tells you how many people are in your tree on the top of this list, without having to go to tree pages and tree overview in the online tree.  It is right at your fingertips.  It gives you a view of your tree in the center, and you can list each family member below and to the right with all the pertinent data at once.  No having to enter each child separately, and then all data like marriage separately, it’s all on one page.  It is kind of pricey initially, but in my opinion it is worth the money.  One BIG drawback – it can only be run on one device.  I originally installed it on my desktop, then purchased a new laptop and installed it there, but it won’t sync to two devices.  It has to be one or the other.  A real bummer!  So I have chosen to use it on the laptop, that way I can take it with me when I travel, and I still have the option of using the online tree as well. Hopefully at some day in the future they may make it so you can use it on both.

The other app available through Ancestry dot com is the mobile app.  I really love this one.  It is free from the Apple store for iPad, you just have to have an ancestry subscription.  The tree view is standard and when you tap an individual in the tree it brings up their story view on the right. If you lightly touch the person in tree view it gives you little icons for editing, viewing that individuals tree, or adding family. The story view window can be hidden, but you can also access hints, edit, show relationship or delete the person. If you delete, it will take you back to the home person, not the family you were working on.  In this window you can also go to the family view (similar to the profile in the online tree), or the gallery and it will show all documents or media that have been added to this person.

On the bottom of the screen are icons to access a page with all your hints listed, with the option of newest or oldest. There is a comments icon that you can see all the comments that have been made on your trees.  There is an icon for the tree view, or to view your DNA page if you have one.  The DNA page is identical to the online one.  In the settings icon you can access all trees that you have online.  I have had this app for months and didn’t know that I could access the other trees until recently.  This includes trees that other Ancestry members have shared with you.

I hope that this has been helpful to anyone that is thinking about purchasing or using any of these items.  While there are many applications out there to build your family tree, I have found these invaluable.