- Posts for Family History Friday category
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Joined Together | Our Prairie Nest
52 Ancestors, Week 12: Joined Together

Oh gosh, this week’s topic gave me so many ideas, but making it genealogically relevant was hard! So I thought I would go for a how-to and why sort of post. Let’s talk about merging duplicates on WikiTree!

First of all, when I joined WikiTree, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting into there. A collaborative tree is not for everyone, but once you get into the teamwork aspect and the idea of making the profiles the best they can be, it can get addictive. Of course, the goal of WikiTree is one connected family tree, which means one entry per person, be they descendant or ancestor. I feel that WikiTree works well when people embrace it in the intended spirit – working together to provide the best and most complete profiles possible for our ancestors!

Naturally, duplicate profiles happen. Many exist and go unnoticed, unless members are working on a particular person, or a new member uploads a GEDCOM and receives notifications of duplicates. How should you manage a merge on WikiTree?

First and foremost, make sure you’re actually looking at the same people. I had a merge proposed for the Pardon Simmons profile when I managed it (I cleaned my watchlist recently, because it was far beyond what I am actively researching and willing to manage at this time):

The other Pardon Simmons that was proposed as a match/the same person was this one:

The first step when someone proposes a merge on WikiTree is to compare the profiles side by side. It is obvious in this instance that the two men of the same name and same place of birth were not the same person, simply by the birth and death dates. I rejected the merge, however I did find a duplicate of the Pardon Simmons born in 1768 that I was able to merge into one tidy profile.

Then again, sometimes you will find not just one duplicate, but many. I recently took on an unsourced bio with no dates and no locations for an Ephraim Burrell. I did that because I have Burrells in my family, the Burrells are well-documented in Weymouth and Braintree, Massachusetts, so I thought it would be easy to find information on him, and I just wanted to improve a profile to help improve the tree.

Once I started digging and compiling sources on him, I found that there was not one profile for him, but 3 on WikiTree. None of the information was consistent. One had a birth date. One had a birth and death date. One had two of his children. Neither had his wives, however the profile I had adopted had one wife.

It was a bit of a task to merge all 3 mostly blank profiles into one…

I had to adopt all 3 profiles, merge one into another, and then merge that merged profile into yet another. But the end result of my work was that we went from 3 profiles for the same person with varying and minimal amounts of information to this profile encompassing as many details as I could find about Ephraim’s life:

So if you are a fellow WikiTreer and would like to do something for the overall “health” of the tree, why not search out potential duplicates to join together and improve by merging, followed by sourcing and bio improvement? Of course, be sure to confirm that the profiles you’re merging are definitely the same person! If the profiles are managed by other people, they will have to approve the merge, and that’s where communication becomes important. Personally, I like to look for orphaned profiles that need some TLC and go from there.

Regardless, this helps everyone who comes to WikiTree, whether as a registered user or someone who happens to find it in a search for an ancestor.

52 Ancestors - Flowers | Our Prairie Nest
52 Ancestors, Week 11: Flowers

The prompt for 52 Ancestors, Week 11 is Flowers, and I don’t have any flower-centric family stories to share. I thought that, instead, I would talk about my Mayflower lines. When DNA testing revealed my maternal grandfather’s paternity, I “lost” some Mayflower ancestors, but 56 lines remain. My Mayflower ancestors are:

  • John Alden
  • Isaac Allerton 
  • Mary (Norris) Allerton
  • John Billington
  • William Brewster
  • Peter Brown
  • Francis Cooke
  • Stephen Hopkins
  • John Howland
  • William Mullins
  • Joan (Hurst) (Rogers) Tilley
  • John Tilley
  • Henry Samson
  • George Soule
  • Myles Standish
  • Richard Warren

Maternal Mayflower Lines

When I first started digging into my family history, making connections through old New England ancestors was pretty easy to do. The first Mayflower lines I found were through my Nana, whose mother is Italian, but whose father is a Bartlett. I soon discovered multiple connections through my maternal grandfather, as well. His father was Italian, but his mother had only Massachusetts ancestors.

We have several lines to John Alden, and those lines are doubled because his father-in-law, William Mullin, was also a passenger. The majority of my lines through my mother, however, are through Richard Warren. There are several cousin marriages that made this possible, especially through my Bartletts. We also have a William Brewster line. My only Peter Brown and Francis Cooke lines come through my mother.

There are more potential branches back to the Mayflower here, if my theories about certain brick walls in Plymouth are correct. They would add another 6 or so Richard Warren lines. Of all the Mayflower passengers from whom I descend, the majority of my lines of descent come from Richard Warren, with John Alden as a close second.

My mother’s Mayflower ancestors all remained in Massachusetts, mostly in Plymouth and Norfolk Counties.

Paternal Mayflower Lines

On my father’s side, about half the lines come through his mother and half through his father. My Henry Samson, Myles Standish, Stephen Hopkins, John Billington, Isaac Allerton, and Mary (Norris) Allerton lines are only through my dad. I have several lines through John Alden and Richard Warren through my father, just as I do through my mother. I share William Brewster through my father, as well.

We go back to John Howland through his daughter Hope. All John Howland lines area doubled because his in-laws, John Tilley and Joan Hurst, were also passengers. I also have quite a bit of George Soule here.

Many of my father’s Mayflower lines migrated from Plymouth, Massachusetts to Hancock County, Maine. It wasn’t a surprise to find them through my paternal grandmother, who was a Shaw and whose family mostly stayed in the Middleborough and Carver, Massachusetts areas. It was, however, a surprise when I was working on my grandfather’s side. Our Wood family is from Blue Hill, Maine and we descend from one of the two first settlers, Joseph Wood. However, many descendants of John Howland ended up in Maine, as did descendants of Henry Samson and Myles Standish.

And there you have it. Not the most exciting post, but a little bit about my Mayflower ancestry for 52 Ancestors this week!

52 Ancestors - Worship | Our Prairie Nest
52 Ancestors, Week 10: Worship

This week’s topic is going to be a little all over the place for me, because religion may have played a major role in the lives of my distant ancestors, but I have few stories to tell. My father is somewhere between Atheist and Agnostic, so I grew up without any knowledge of religion until I was in fourth grade and became fascinated by various ancient pantheons of deities.

By the time I was 13, I’d told my father I wanted to be a Witch. Maybe the diverse people I had in my life – a Wiccan babysitter and my dad’s astrology-loving girlfriend when I was younger – had a part in that, as well. My dad never explained church or Christianity to me, because we never attended. But, ever the hippie, my dad responded to my desire to be a Witch by giving me a book by Scott Cunningham, along with some candles and incense, and I’ve never looked back.

For personal interest, I’ve learned about Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, but to this day my spiritual path is still Pagan. My mtDNA has me pondering my Jewish lineage about which I knew – and still know – nothing, until DNA gave me some hints. I do, however, have a couple of stories on my mother’s mother’s family to share when it comes to worship.

Catholic… Except not anymore

My Italian ancestors were, of course, Catholic (which makes me think my maternal ancestors may have possibly fallen more into the Crypto-Jew side of things, and perhaps found a way to hide their beliefs or integrate them with Catholicism somewhere in the transition from Spain to Portugal to Italy). Five of my great-great grandparents’ eight children were born in Massachusetts.

According to the story told by my great-grand aunt Espezzia, her baptism caused a little bit of a stir for the family. After the priest baptized Espezzia, my great-great grandfather gave him everything he had on him to pay. However, he wasn’t able to pay in full at the time. He told the priest he would bring the rest of the money later.

The next Sunday, the priest announced to the congregation that he had done a baptism for which he hadn’t gotten paid. My great-great grandfather paid the balance after that and said they would never return to the church. “And they did not,” according to the family history my aunt Espezzia recorded. Sometime later – whether it was months or years, I don’t know – they started attending the local Methodist church with a family friend.

A bishop… Except not a bishop

Another family story shared in that same history was that my great-great grandmother had an uncle who was a bishop. Well, I looked and looked, and found nothing on either side of her family as far as uncles involved in the church. Perhaps there is one out there, because I’m still researching my 3rd and 4th great-grandparents in northern Italy.

However, there was a nephew who was a Catholic theologian. Ernesta’s older half-brother, Bartolomeo Spiazzi (1865 – aft. 1925), married Anna Costa on 30 Jan 1910 in Moneglia, Genova, Liguria, Italy, and had two sons: Enrico Giacomo Attilio (born 1920) and Aurelio Giovanni Emmanuele (8 Jan 1918 to 14 Oct 2002). Aurelio changed his name to Raimondo Spiazzi, perhaps upon his ordination in 1944 (I’m not sure how Catholic priest naming works). Raimondo taught religion and published many treatises on his beliefs. He was a theological advisor to Pope Pius XII from 1954 until the pope died in October of 1958.

Our family doesn’t know much about Raimondo or his life, but it’s clear from the information out there that his work was controversial, and that he was deeply devoted to it.

52 Ancestors, Week 9: Females

I’ve spent so much time writing about my paternal side of the family for 52 Ancestors that this week offers the perfect topic to shift the focus to my maternal side. When DNA testing first emerged as commercially-available, I got an mtDNA test from Family Tree DNA. The autosomal testing was less of a thing, so I thought this was the best place for me to start my DNA foray. Over time, I upgraded to full sequence to refine the results, while also testing or uploading my autosomal DNA with every company available. Learning more about my mtDNA matches and trying to make a family connection has been an ongoing project and challenge.

My mtDNA haplogroup is H1aJ1, and of the full sequence matches I have, two are at a genetic distance of 0, seventeen are at a genetic distance of 2, and five are at a genetic distance of 3. Most of these matches have ancestors from western Europe and have Jewish surnames. Of my two closest matches, one is my maternal uncle and the other is an Italian man whose maternal ancestors are from Gratteri, Palermo, Sicily. I have been able to take his maternal tree back to approximately 1740 at this time. He is the person with whom I am trying to find a common ancestor, by researching both of our maternal lines. Will mine ever connect with his? Well…

My Mother & My Nanas

My mother is 66-years-old as I write this. While I didn’t grow up with her, we communicate fairly regularly now. She shares my interest in genealogy, among many other things. I tend to tell her about all the interesting things I find.

Her mother, my Nana, is also still living. She will turn 92-years-old next week. Most of Nana’s siblings have passed away, including all of her sisters, the last one only a few weeks ago. Nana is one of 8 siblings – four boys, four girls – and I was able to spend many wonderful days with her during my childhood, and even more when I became an adult.

Her mother, Nana Bartlett, passed away in 1991 at the age of 88, and I have some memories of her. Nana Bartlett was always short, white-haired, and very sweet. She was also one of 8 children, also four boys and four girls. The firstborns, twin boys, died as infants in Italy. Except for the third brother, who emigrated to the U.S. with their mother, the remaining five siblings were all born in the United States. Nana Bartlett used to admire my drawings, even though I wouldn’t have considered myself at all talented.

Ernesta Maddalena Pedemonte Bergamasco

My most confusing maternal ancestor was great-great grandma Ernesta. That’s because you can find her under 3 different surnames, depending on what records you’re looking at. Thank goodness I was able to sort them out, from birth to death!

Ernesta was born 14 May 1873 in Moneglia, Genoa, Liguria, Italy. Her birth record is under the name Maddalena Pedemonte, and her father is not named. She had 6 full siblings and 3 older half-siblings, all through her mother. When Ernesta married my great-great grandfather, Bartolomeo Giovanni Michele Galfré, her birth was basically legitimized by her mother marrying the man who we believe to be the father of the 6 full siblings, Giuseppe Bergamasco. However, Ernesta’s name at the time of her marriage on 24 October 1896 in Sanremo, Imperia, Liguria, Italy is listed as Maddalena Pedemonte.

She emigrated to the United States sometime in or about 1899, though we don’t have an exact date, or port of departure or entry. All we know is the family story that she and her son, Dante Michele Giuseppe Galfre, arrived “on a cow boat.” In U.S. records, she starts showing up as Ernesta Bergamasco when named on her children’s marriages, and that is also given as her maiden name at the time of her death. Ernesta is pictured here in front of the family’s home in Middleborough, Plymouth, Massachusetts. She passed away on 8 March 1925, only 51 years old, and remembered by her daughters as “a saint on earth.”

Ernesta Maddalena Bergamasco

Catarina Santina Pedemonte

Catarina is my 3rd-great grandmother, and we don’t know much about her. She was born on 15 December 1842 in Cogoleto, Genova, Liguria, Italy. By about 1864, she was married to Giacomo Spiazzi, the son of Bartolomeo Spiazzi. He was from Verona and, after having three children with Catarina, went to South America. Why he left Italy, we don’t know. Maybe it was for business or maybe it was to emigrate.

We will probably never know, because he died of cholera in Buenos Aires, Argentina in February of 1869, leaving Catarina with three young children – Bartolomeo, born 13 June 1865 in Finale Pia, Savona, Liguria, Italy; Emilia Spiazzi, born about 1866; and Angela Spiazzi, born 23 June 1868 in Cogoleto. Giuseppe Bergamasco was the godfather of the eldest child and, it seems, the father of Catarina’s next six children.

Between 1870 and 1886, Catarina and Guiseppe had six children. However, only one of the parents is named in each birth record, sometimes the mother and sometimes the father. The children – Giovanni, Maddalena, Theresa, Enrico, Pietro, Alessandro, Battista, and Adele – all appear with different last names because of this. Giuseppe was only five years older than Catarina, so there wasn’t a significant age difference or anything like that.

I really wish I knew Catarina’s story, how she ended up married first to a butcher from Verona and then to a simple miner from Cairo Montenotte. I also wish I knew why it took so long for her and Giuseppe to finally get married on 25 October 1894 in Moneglia. Catarina died on 16 December 1909 in Moneglia, while Giuseppe lived on until at least 1941. By family accounts, he lived to be 104 years old, went to church one night, said goodbye to his friends, and then had passed away by morning. That story interests me, of course, but not as much as Catarina’s!

Angela Giusto & Maria Bruzzone

Here, we get even fuzzier on maternal knowledge, because I can’t find records earlier than Catarina’s baptism. However, I know her parents were Tomaso Pedemonte and Angela Giusto, both of which are common surnames in Cogoleto. Perhaps Angela was born about 1814, but that’s an estimate based on the births of her two known children – Catarina and Giovanni. Giovanni may have been born about 1830, based upon his age at the time of his marriage in 1867, the births of his children, and his death in 1887. I’m sure there must also be other siblings in that 12-year gap between Giovanni and Catarina.

Angela must have passed away between 1842, when Catarina was born, and 1865, because available Cogoleto vital records begin in 1866 and I can’t find a death for her there. Both she and Tomaso Pedemonte passed away before Catarina’s marriage in 1894, because her parents are listed as “fu” (deceased). I have Tomaso’s death record from 1893 but, again, nothing on Angela. Where Catarina appears to have lived quite a topsy-turvy life, I think Angela’s was probably tame by comparison. She married, had children, and passed away rather young.

Her father was Giovanni Giusto and her mother may have been Maria Bruzzone. Unfortunately, this is where the trail goes cold. I can estimate that both Giovanni and Maria were born about 1780 and died before 1866. They had certainly passed away before 1872, because another daughter, Lorenzina, died in 1872 and her death record specified that her parents were deceased. Naturally, I would like to be certain about Angela’s mother as I strive to bridge the gap between my maternal ancestors in Northern Italy and my closest mtDNA match’s ancestors in Sicily. 

These are two totally different worlds within one country, as you may know. So I wonder if my ancestors came north from Sicily, or if my DNA match’s went south from Liguria. It’s also likely that I have to work further back, to Portugal or somewhere else on the Iberian Peninsula, to find that shared ancestor. And, of course, we may not be able to identify any common ancestor in a genealogically relevant time frame, simply because of the slowly-mutating nature of mtDNA.

Regardless, I’m enjoying the hunt. I just wish my female ancestors in Italy had found a way to tell their stories, because I’m endlessly fascinated with them.