Kimmitt Genealogical Research

13 November 2017

The Joys of DNA: It's a Girl!

This was my year to study DNA in more detail, so I enrolled in the Advanced Genetic Genealogy course at the July 2017 Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP). It was an informative and fun class, led by CeCe Moore and Blaine Bettinger. Late at night on the first day of class I visited to explore a tool mentioned in class that I hadn't played with much. When I navigated to the "DNA Relatives" page, imagine my shock when I saw this!


I nearly jumped out of my skin and had to stifle a squeal of delight. I messaged my match noting that we shared a goodly amount of DNA and I was ready to hear her story. Then I started my calculations. At 25% the relationship also could have been half sister, double first cousin or grandparent/grandchild. I was able to rule out everything but niece. I noted that the test taker's mtDNA haplogroup was A2g1 and in my initial late-night Googling found that meant either Asian or Native American maternal lineage. Well, well!  I was therefore sure this was not my sister's child. I have two brothers. One served in Vietnam, lived in Massachusetts and (died too young) in 2003. The other one lived in New Mexico for a while but is now in Massachusetts.

Tuesday morning I had a response that she was specifically searching for her father, so I asked if she could provide place and date of birth. In class I was all aflutter but luckily the material being covered was still pretty basic, so I spent the morning investigating.* I didn't want to scare my new relative by asking too many questions. At that point she had provided only a first initial and surname. The surname is Hispanic, and I located a possible candidate from Santa Fe, New Mexico born about 1985, but I couldn't be sure with only a first initial. It just so happens that brother lived in New Mexico in the 80s, so I could tell I was getting warmer. My match then emailed me her date and place of birth: 1985, New Mexico! Bingo, I found her dad!

Courtesy of Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce
I spoke with brother on phone and he was shocked! He had not known of this baby and initially had a hard time believing it, having heard that the DNA sites were "BS." I explained the difference between the ethnicity estimates which can be very imprecise, and the actual segment matching which leaves nothing to doubt, and he came around to the science at that point––that New Baby Girl Niece and I were a 25% match and he had a not-so-new child. I advised he just go let it sink in for a day.

From then on in I served as intermediary, trying not to push Newest Precious Niece to share too much about herself, but wanting to see that raw DNA file so that I could make a direct comparison, since brother had tested at Family Tree DNA. By uploading both raw data files to Gedmatch I could directly compare and there would be no doubt. After only a day brother was so intrigued that he was ready to meet her! I can only imagine what they both were going through at that time. I just know that I felt much as I did the on the days all of my nieces and nephews were born. This surprised me a bit! How can you instantly feel love for someone you've never met? It must be built into our genes. It took all of my self-control not to ask questions or be too creepily warm and welcoming, so I tried to just let her know that wow, but okay, we're on board!

My good friend (a psychologist) told me that both of them (and their families) would need at least a couple of months to come to terms with this news, so once I connected them by providing emails, I backed out of the situation completely. Brother broke the news to his wife and three children. And Adorable Accomplished Artsy Niece planned a trip north to meet her dad, accompanied by her good friend.

So I got to meet this Brand New Relative two days ago. Her name is Raelynn. She is lovely. I'm a little freaked out at how familiar she seems. She is a really nice young woman (and so is her friend). She is well educated, has good manners, is a great conversationalist, is artistic, has a good sense of humor, and a great job. The most amazing thing is that she managed to get my husband to talk, not an easy feat! As we spoke and she registered various emotions I could see the features of other family members skittering across her face.  She says her thoughts have often been drawn to coming north to visit, with images of seafaring people and stained glass windows. I don't discount these feelings and wonder what mysterious force could be giving her hints of her ancestry all along. Most of her paternal ancestors have lived near the sea, and she's got a number of sea captains and mariners in her ancestry, not to mention Mayflower.

I'm in love. We're all in love. Welcome to the family, Raelynn!

Raelynn, me, Myles (my husband), brother Tim

[I don't like this pic because I wasn't ready with my smile yet. I felt a lot happier than I look!]

* After lunch I started paying attention again!

13 September 2017

Proof That You Can't Judge a Book By Its Cover

I recently attend the 41st Triennial Congress of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants in Plymouth, Massachusetts, along with ~599 other enthusiastic descendants of our earliest Massachusetts settlers. It was a great experience and many exciting developments of genealogical import were announced. More on that in a later post.

One little fun aspect was a freebie book table. I don't need any more books and I try not to browse, but they were from the Mayflower Society's library and so I had a gander. I picked up one called Vermont Guide since many of my clients' ancestors migrated up to Vermont and then to NY and I thought it might be of interest.

I opened to the first page and found the page below. So far, cover and inside match. No date of publication, and clearly about Vermont.

By thumbing through I learned that it is several booklets, only the first 50 of 173 pages of which are about Vermont!

The booklets are numbered sequentially and bound in order. They cover all of the New England states and those that are dated were published in 1926. For each town it gives the map reference, population, description, historical events and advertisements. So what we really have inside is well beyond a guide to Vermont. [Official National Survey Maps and Guide for Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Southern New England  (Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island) (Chester, Vermont: National Survey Co., 1926).]

Why is my house always in the binding?!

On top of that, someone has added bits of extraneous articles that got bound right in with the booklets.

Above is a typical story of a house that remained in one place but fell into the jurisdictions of multiple states and counties over time--a not uncommon story.

Somebody also made annotations, especially Native American names of towns/areas. For Scituate it references the Bates' sisters house and the site of the Old Oaken Bucket.

The clip below is a bit of a head-scratcher and causes the immediate urge to Google, but I'll leave that to you!

So instead of simply a Vermont Guide we have a 1926 New England business directory specialized in travel, along the lines of AAA's guides, but with customized with personal notes. See what you can miss if you don't at least flip through the pages of a book?

23 August 2017

St. Patrick's Missionary Society, Kiltegan Fathers

Courtesy of Saint Patrick's Missionary Society, "Our Work."

When Myles' family lived in Africa (circa 1960-1980) they were friends with some Catholic missionaries, both in Kenya and later in Nigeria. They called them the "Catholic fathers."  I was always a little surprised by this because father-in-law Brian was fairly rigid on his Church of Ireland theological doctrines. But he also enjoyed a good debate, so I expect he welcomed a discussion on the finer points of Biblical exhortations.

They maintained contact over the years through Christmas cards, phone calls, and even a few visits. Since Brian passed away last year Myles has been gently closing the various chapters of his father's life, and this was one that cried out for closure. So on a recent visit to Ireland we made it our mission (pun partially intended) to seek them out.

Idyllic countryside

Saint Patrick's Missionary Society maintains a retirement home for these missionaries in beautiful Kiltegan, County Wicklow. It's probably not accidental that it is located not too far from the ancient monastic city of Glendalough. After a long and winding drive through the gentle hills we arrived at what seemed to be a campus, and indeed, this is where they had all been schooled by the Saint Patrick Missionary Society. I like this concept and hope that someday the University of Massachusetts at Amherst will have my cohorts and me back for retirement, perhaps giving us our old rooms back!

Poor Father Lawler at first was puzzled as to why we were there. He was humble and honored by our visit and showed us around. Since we arrived half an hour before lunch he invited us to join him. They have a fine, efficient cafeteria and we enjoyed a healthy meal together. Father Lawler pointed out a few other priests that had served with him and Myles vaguely remembered them, too. A few of them joined us at our table. I loved seeing them perk up as the memories started to flow. They became quite animated and stood a little straighter by the time we left.


Remembering Africa

It looked just like any other retirement home, but I had to marvel at the collective global experience of those men as I scanned the room. They have seen a lot of suffering, probably endured it themselves. And they've done a lot of good as well.

Well cared for in their old age

Of course as a genealogist I was drawn to the cemetery. The uniformity of the markers was striking but it seems a suitable resting place.

Row upon row of identical cross grave markers at the cemetery of the Kiltegan Fathers

As I sat among them I fervently hoped that they had been untouched by scandal, but sadly there was one case where a man was associated with another who had abused a young girl. These guys were once young, idealistic and brave, and I hate to think of all the good they have done being ruined by the corrupt, but that's the story of today's church. 

There are no more missionaries being trained here. The seeds these men planted 50 years ago have come to fruition and now missionaries hail from the very countries they served in--Nigeria, Kenya, Malawi, and more. 

15 June 2017

Sheelagh Leslie Churton, 1925-2017: Tribute to an Extraordinary Woman

We lost Myles' Aunt Sheelagh (Auntie Tealy) a few weeks ago. She was precious to us and to everyone who ever knew her. A highly unusual example of a completely selfless person––tolerant, kind, nurturing, hard working, capable, and fun! Here is the tribute I read at her funeral last week, on June 8th at the Chester Crematorium. Sadly, her church, St. Mary Without the Walls in Handbridge, was closed for repairs. 

There is so much more to her than I was allowed to delve into in the precious six minutes I was alloted, but you get the gist. The majority of it was written by Teals herself. I just interjected here and there. I didn't mention her sense of humor. She had her feet planted firmly in the world of fun and enjoyment, so she was just a great person to hang around with. The vicar pointed out that another thing I missed was her incredible stillness. She NEVER got flustered, ever. Never got angry. She was never gossipy or hateful or jealous. She just existed to please others and in doing that, pleased herself and her God. 

Sheelagh once said “I can’t imagine a world without me.” Well, Teals, neither can we!…

Anyone who knew Sheelagh knew she was highly efficient. So it won’t surprise you to know she provided me with her obituary over 25 years ago! It’s how she wanted to be remembered and I am honored to be the one to present it, with a few tweaks, on this solemn occasion.

Sheila Leslie Churton, born July 9, 1925, premature and weighing just under 5 pounds, was teeny. When big sister Rosemary tried to say teeny, it came out Tealy. And the nickname stuck—for 91 years. It seemed everyone had a pet name for her—Churt was another big one. Professionally she was known as Sister Churton. And to everyone else she was just Sheelagh. But despite what it says on her birth certificate she did not spell it in the conventional way. Instead she adopted the Irish spelling of Sheelagh, as a nod to her mother’s Irish heritage.

She was the youngest daughter of Harry Leslie Churton and Elizabeth Mary Stephens Drapes. And she was so proud of her parents: Leslie was a Cestrian with deep roots here [Chester, England], son and brother of two mayors of Chester. He was an electrical engineer and met Elsie when he was sent to work in Ireland at the Asylum in Enniscorthy. In World War I he served in the Cheshire Regiment and lost an arm in battle. He adapted by taking a degree in law and joined the family firm of W. H. Churton and Sons.

In the days before dyxlexia was understood, Sheelagh suffered through her early school years and had sad memories of being shamed, forced to wear a dunce cap and ridiculed. She worked extra hard to compensate for her dyxlexia and took a domestic science degree.

But since the age of four she had always wanted to nurse, so she pursued her SRN at the QE Hospital. She took her first part midwifery at the City Hospital, Chester, and her second part in the slums of Birmingham, delivering 99 babies without losing a-one! Just as they do on Call the Midwife she rode her bike everywhere, but she said the show is a highly sanitized version of conditions at the time. She donated many a cardigan to families that had not even a rag in which to wrap their babies.

By 1950 she was appointed Ward Sister of the Medical Professional Unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, and at 25 was one of the youngest ward sisters ever to be appointed.

Sheelagh never married, but that was not for want of proposals! She was tops in her field, and the demands of her profession precluded marriage. Eventually she decided marriage would have limited her ability to help so many people, and she was happy with her single life.

In 1960 she was sent to the US and Canada to gain experience in the care of patients undergoing open heart surgery.

Also in 1960, her nephew, Myles, was born in Africa. At eight he was sent to school in England while his parents remained in Kenya, surely a jarring experience for any child. It was then that Auntie Tealy became his surrogate mother. She came to see him on his sports days, brought him home for school holidays, nursed him when he had a relapses of tropical illnesses, and drove him to the airport, reassuring him that at 8 years old he could make that flight to Africa on his own!

In 1967, Glaxo Pharmaceuticals awarded her a scholarship to study nursing in the Far East, at one point even working with lepers. In Australia she served with the Flying Doctors Service. She had a great urge to travel, and felt privileged to have visited so many countries.

Before retiring, she worked in a hospice in Sheffield, studying the effect on children of a death in the family.

Once retired, she greatly increased her volunteer work, including
  • cooking for the luncheon club at St. Mary’s Church,
  • doing the Housebound Library, 
  • helping with the homeless Soup Kitchen for 18 years, 
  • helping with the Parkinson’s Society, 
  • leading foreign visitors on tours of Chester, 
  • and visiting families through the church’s Pastoral Link.
She had many interests, one of which was shell collecting, chiefly from the coral reef in North Africa and the southwest coast of America.

She was an avid travel photographer and her sensitive shots reveal the deep empathy she felt for all of humanity.

She was a keen sportswoman! In Birmingham she belonged to a hockey and tennis team and studied dance. Skiing, water-skiing, swimming and walking were also activities she enjoyed. She was in great shape her whole life, and at 90 could spring up from a low sofa better than most 40-year olds!

In her "auto-obituary," Sheelagh wrote: “Sheelagh attended the births of her three grand-nephews in America, supplying love, support and stamina to the family. She visited every year and enjoyed watching them grow up.”

What an understatement! What Sheelagh couldn’t describe was how much she was loved by those around her, especially our little family. I know each one of you has a story about her: how she came to care for a shut-in, to give the caregiver several days of relief—sometimes difficult patients, with the violent type of Alzheimers, sometimes, heartbreakingly, her own friends who were ill. Or children. And, as in my case, new mothers. She came to us as an aunt but transformed into a nurse when we really needed her. She was a phenomenal help, taking babies to change and “wind” them just when we were on the verge of collapse. She once pulled an all-nighter the day she arrived from England!

Of course our boys adored Aunty Tealy. She played endless imaginative games with them and spurred them on to be sensitive and creative fellows. I will always be grateful to her for the gentle love and nurturing she brought to us and to everyone with whom she came in contact.

Aunty Tealy, your favorite saying was “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Surely, there is a shining place for you in heaven today.