Hello, and welcome to the latest edition of Branches, Twigs, and Roots!

Genealogy Tip of the Month

Thinking outside the box
helps to break down
brick walls

Your Brick Walls

This month’s brick wall deals with similar-sounding names. Here's what our contributor wrote:

"I have been researching my father's family for some time now. I can't get out of a little area around the Mississippi River.

My father was born in Hickman County, Kentucky. His father lived there and across the river in Mississippi County, Missouri.

His Father, James Hiram Mitchell, was married 3 times. His second wife was my father's mother. I cannot find his parents George and Ermaline (?) anywhere. I have little information and lots of blanks need to be filled in.

The 3 wives of James Hiram Mitchell were:

  1. Ermalene Mahon (? spelling)

  2. Cippie Crain (Mississippi Missouri Crain)(? This is what my father said her name was. Her Grandmother's name was Mississippi and she had an aunt named Missouri so this could have been her name, but she went by Cippi, Cippie and Sippi, Sippie) 1891 - 1956

  3. Robbie Jackson 1890 – 1934."

This is a case that illustrates what often happens in genealogy research; that is, in finding what may be one answer, more questions are raised!

I was able to locate Sippy Crain (or Crane, depending on the document) in the census documents. The 1910 census lists her as age 18, living with her parents, Anderson and Dora Crane, and her siblings, and gives her marital status as 'divorced'. Subsequent census documents list her as two years older (i.e., born in 1890, rather than 1892). Either may be correct.

Kentucky's divorce records are not online, as far as I can tell, but it certainly would be worthwhile to write to the courthouse that holds records for Hickman County, Kentucky, and obtain a copy of any available records. At the very least, it would tell you who she was divorced from before she married James Hiram Mitchell.

Also of note, I was unable to locate Sippy as James Hiram's wife, or a marriage record for any of James's marriages. I did find the name of their son, born in 1913, and searched for him in the 1920 census. This yielded a Sippy Jones, married to Louis (or Lewis) R Jones, with her son (surname Mitchell) living with them in Columbus, Hickman County, Kentucky, in both the 1920 and 1930 census documents. I also located her death record, under Sippy Jones.

In addition, James Hiram and Robbie Mitchell appear in the 1920 census, along with 6 children between the ages of 12 and 2. (As this would put the year of birth of the 12-year-old at 1908, it appears that some of these children were from prior marriages). They were living at Wolf Island, Mississippi County, Missouri.

It therefore appears that James Hiram and Sippy must have married between the 1910 and 1920 censuses, and divorced during that period, as both are seen with other spouses in the 1920 census documents.

With respect to James Hiram's parents, I did not find an Ermalina married to a George Mitchell, but I did find a Permelia (variously spelled Parmelia, Termelina, and Purmelia). I have not yet found a James Hiram Mitchell listed as their son in the census documents; more research is required, to find a birth record of some description for him, showing his parents' names.

There is also a couple, George and M.E. Mitchelle, in the 1880 census, with a son listed as J.H. Mitchelle. It is possible this is James Hiram; the E in his mother's initials could stand for Ermaline, or Emmaline.

Assuming for the moment that Permelia and George were his parents, I see that George Mitchell and Permelia Underhill were married December 14, 1859, in Boone County, Kentucky. They were still alive, in their 80s, and living in Germantown, Kentucky, at the time of the 1920 census.

I hope that this brief 'look-in' has given the inquirer a few more possibilities to think about, in terms of getting past this brick wall. If I can be of any further assistance, please let me know.

Interested in Breaking Down Brick Walls,
and in knowing your genetic predispositions?

One thing you might want to try, in terms of breaking down a brick wall, is DNA testing.

While there are several different types of DNA tests, each with its own particular purpose, the most useful one at present, in terms of finding family members, is the autosomal DNA test.

There are currently three companies offering autosomal DNA testing:

  • 23andMe;
  • Family Tree DNA; and
  • Ancestry.com .

While 23andMe and FamilyTree DNA have been doing this test for a couple of years now, Ancestry has just jumped on the bandwagon and begun to offer it.

Of all these companies, 23andMe is the only one which offers a health analysis along with the DNA chromosome matches. 23andMe provides a listing of your genetic risk for various illnesses, including Parkinsons, various kinds of cancers, and about 200 other diseases or illnesses.

It also lists the likelihood of various physical traits, such as height, hair color, eye color, etc., and of your likely sensitivity to various medications, based on an analysis of your genetic material.

With respect to the genealogy side of the test, the three companies have a very similar offering. The basic premise is that each child inherits 1/2 of his or her genes from each parent. Each parent, in turn, inherited 1/2 of their genes from their parents.

That means, then, that each grandchild receives 1/4 of his or her genetic material from each grandparent. Similarly, each great-grandchild receives 1/8 of his or her genetic material from each great-grandparent. And so on.

Logically, then, if two persons share an identical segment in their DNA, they must have had a common ancestor.

The companies take a saliva sample from each individual test subject, analyze it, and compare the DNA to that of everyone else in their database, looking for matching segments.

Individuals are given a list of people with whom they share DNA segments. It is then up to those with matching segments to compare their family trees and find out who the common ancestor was.

Naturally, the closer the common relative is, the more segments you and a particular relative will have in common, and the larger the segments will be. For instance, my maternal aunt and I both tested with 23andMe. We share 26% of our DNA, over 46 segments.

A third cousin once removed and her brother, on my father's side of the family, are also on 23andMe. The sister matches me on 2 segments, and .36% of my DNA; her brother matches me on 1 segment, and .16%.

Interestingly, when I checked them against my maternal aunt (just to make absolutely certain that we were dealing only with a match on my father's side), there was a match between my maternal aunt and my female third cousin once removed! She has confirmed that her mother's side of the family came from Scotland in the past few generations, which is where many of my mother's ancestors were from.

We are still looking for the common ancestor.

There is also a free website which allows people from both 23andMe and FamilyTree DNA to upload their raw data for comparison purposes. That website also has a number of interesting algorhythms you can run, which provide further insights into your background.

For instance, one such function looks at the number of segments in your DNA which are completely identical at a particular location. When this occurs, there can be only one reason: both of your parents inherited that block of DNA from a common ancestor. Thus, your parents are related if the number of identical segments exceeds the thresholds they list.

My own results said my parents were not related - something about which I was not surprised. However, when I ran my maternal aunt's results, there were a number of such segments, indicating that my maternal grandparents likely had a common ancestor six or seven generations back! Given that we know very little about my grandfather's parentage, this was somewhat startling, and very interesting, news!

While I took this piece of information with the proverbial grain of salt, it seems to be consistent with what I am currently seeing in the DNA matches, as I work my way through all of the matches and attempt to find out more about my grandfather's family. At present, it appears that his father may have had some Irish heritage, as a group of matches are consistently pointing in that direction. Until now, I was not aware of any Irish connection in my direct ancestral line, although many of my relatives in collateral lines married into Irish families.

In any event, if you are interested in pursuing this further, see my page at http://www.familyhistoryalive.com/DNA-Testing--Tracing-Family-Trees-with-Family-Finder-and-Relative-Finder-Tests.html.

To order a test, or for more information:

News, Stories, Contests, etc.

Some interesting additions to the digitized records, coming up soon! Take a look at some of those currently in process

In keeping with the genetic genealogy theme, here's an article about genetics and how it will have an impact on medicine in the near future!

What did Dr. Michael Synder, professor and chairman of the genetics department at the Stanford University School of Medicine find out once he got his genome sequenced? Read more about his fascinating discovery here

To access this month's webinars, click here

Don't forget - if you have expertise in a particular area related to family history, or would just like to share your experiences, we'd love to hear from you!

Many of the pages on the website have 'invitations' at the bottom, which allow you to upload your contributions with respect to a particular topic, create your own webpage, and add up to 4 photographs (if applicable). Contributions can be anonymous, if you're shy. So - have your say!

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