Monday, May 31, 2021

He Was a Brave Boy

I enjoy researching the military veterans of the family. The records that you can find can tell you so much about their lives and give you a sense of what they encountered during times of peace as well at war. I've highlighted several military ancestors in my blog. I've recently been digging into my 2nd cousin 1x removed, Horace Joseph.

Source: - Daily News 28 July 1944

Horace died on 6 June 1944 in Normandy, France. He was a paratrooper and broke his leg upon impact. He bled out and died. According to his Find a Grave memorial, he tried to use a tourniquet. Apparently, Horace is included in a book, which I plan on getting a copy of at some point. 

6/14 Update: Here's an excerpt from the book Enfin Libres that discusses Horace: "The other soldier did not wore no trace of bullet or stab, but a tourniquet he had made himself above the knee revealed the nature of the wound from which he had succumbed.  His parachute having presumably not working, or too late, he had fallen like a stone, hence its broken limb on landing. The, bone having punctured the flesh an abundant haemorrhage was resulted that the American had tried to stop by squeezing strongly, but to no avail, his thigh with his strip of bandage."

Up until today I only knew about his mother, Sura Siegel, but did not know his father's name. I learned his father was Henry Joseph. Horace's father was listed as his next of kin in addition to his wife, who I also knew nothing about. 


I learned more information about his family through this interesting article. Horace's wife Anna was arrested for burglary along with another woman. According to the article, the War Department informed her parents, who then told their daughter about her husband's death. Horace's parents met with the police when they were discussing their daughter-in-law's case and were then informed. Here's an excerpt:

"They wept, but quickly composed themselves and spoke proudly of their boy. He enlisted soon after Pearl Harbor and gave up a non-commissioned officer's rating to become a paratrooper."

His father said that "He was a brave boy". He was indeed brave to enlist in the military to go overseas and jump out of a plane, sustaining an injury that ultimately led to his death. 

Horace's body was brought back from France and buried in the Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, New York. Rest in peace cousin. You are not forgotten. 

Monday, May 17, 2021

Tips for Smashing Brick Walls

 It's been several months since I did my last post. I've had a number of lectures to write and client cases to work on. My personal genealogy research has been increasing slowly during my free time. I even made some breakthroughs in my tree including the following:

  • Confirmed the burial site of my great grandmother Tessie Freundlich and her son, Alfred Schild. 
  • Located an obituary for my great grand-aunt Rose Siegel, sister of my great grandmother Matilda Siegel. It even had a lead on one of her sisters with a married name! 
  • Located a new cousin who shared a picture of my great grandmother Tessie Freundlich, someone who I have never seen photos of.
  • Identifying some more leads on my maternal great grandfather Anton Gailunas' service on a merchant ship during WWI. 
  • Confirmed one of my 2nd great aunts died in Alberta, Canada
  • Obtained a photo of my 2nd great grandmother Eva Bodner's headstone
Here are some of my tips that I used to help accomplish the above:

  • Used the power of social media to seek out cousins. Look for potential cousins with public photos that may give you leads on the family. If you find a good lead, send a friend request and then immediately send a message introducing yourself. I personally don't like getting friend requests from random people without some type of message. 
  • If you're looking for the burial for someone, collect a list of the possible places it could be. I interviewed my grandmother and she gave me a lead that Tessie and her son were buried together in a cemetery on Long Island. The family was Jewish so that narrowed down the options. A friend on Twitter suggested a few cemeteries very close together. I had my answer in under 48 hours after calling and searching cemetery sites for their burial listings. 
  • To confirm a vital record event, look for any possibilities within a year range. If you have a good candidate and think they were a little far from home, don't completely dismiss that possibility. Many people would move in with their adult children and may relocate a far distance. Then order that record. Worst case, you know it's not them and can look at other possibilities. 
  • Going back to burials, if you find someone that you think may be related request a headstone photo request. It may give you more information. I was fortunate that someone took a picture of a someone I thought may be related and also of someone a few headstones down - it was my 2nd great grandmother! It also helps to provide the burial coordinates for anyone you're interested and other relatives nearby so a volunteer can go down the rows and get all of the photos you need. 
  • Searching newspaper records for clues, trying different variations of names. Particularly for 20th century and later, I try to collect all of the street addresses my family lived at. These addresses can be searched in newspapers and can help you tell the difference between two people of the same name.
What brickwalls have you busted recently? What are some of your favorite tips? 

Monday, March 1, 2021

RootsTech Connect 2021 Recap

RootsTech Connect is officially over. The event was officially on February 25th through 27th. Over one million attendees attended! Let me repeat that - one million! And what an experience it was. I desperately miss the in-person interaction that I feel when I go to Salt Lake City. This was the next best option - to be safe at home while we are still trying to surviving this awful pandemic. And best yet it was FREE! And the videos will be available for one year. 

Speaking as someone who was working a booth and also a presenter, I enjoyed using the chat room features to connect with others. Many had expressed interest in starting their own enslaved person memory project, mirroring what was done for Georgetown Memory Project. Others commented that the gravestone series "The Stones Speak" gave them new ideas for their own family history. I helped answer genealogical questions from attendees who were getting stuck on a particular brick wall or just wanted some advice on where to turn next. It was great that the chat rooms were being used. I have found in other virtual conferences, the chat rooms are hard to navigate and nobody really "pops in". As we move more features online, this is something that needs to be explored to help make it user friendly for all. 

Some highlights from the conference:

  • Relatives at RootsTech - I finally had relatives attending! And there were new cousins. Usually when I go to Salt Lake City, I'm one of the lonely people that has no relatives attending the conference in person. Since the conference went virtual this year, I have 7 relatives. I'm already in touch with a few of them to help fill in gaps on the family tree and see where we can collaborate to learn more. 
Want to find out how you may be related? You can still use the tool at

  • MyHeritage's Deep Nostalgia tool - I used it to bring to life a cousin of mine who died in World War II. And even used it to animate a Doppelganger of myself. Check it out! Some may find it creepy or haunting. I felt a connection to my cousin - someone who was once alive that I never met. It's a great tool that I encourage you to try at least once. 

Thank you FamilySearch for making RootsTech free and virtual this year. I was so glad to be part of this experience and appreciate the work that was done to make it a roaring success. If you haven't registered to watch the sessions, register today for FREE at 

Did you attend RootsTech Connect? What was your favorite part? 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

RootsTech is Here!

It's time for RootsTech Connect! 

Around this time of year I would make the annual trip to RootsTech, one that I have been making the last four years (starting in 2017). RootsTech is where everything changed for me. I connected with so many friends and I really ramped up my genealogy. It was when I made the decision that I wanted to do professional genealogy full time. I was determined to be on stage within the next couple of years. And it happened! I changed jobs and started working at American Ancestors/NEHGS. The next year I gave my first lecture on using Roman Catholic Church Records, a record set that I use regularly to research my Irish ancestors. I was so honored that the RootsTech team gave me two sessions for this talk. I was invited back each year to give more lectures. My favorite was honoring my grandfather last year in Reporting for Duty. It was very emotional for me to share the story of my grandfather's WWII service. You can read about some of my journey at RootsTech on this blog, starting with my first trip there. I refer to RootsTech as the Wrestlemania of genealogy conferences. 

Due to the pandemic, genealogy events are being moved online. This also includes RootsTech. FamilySearch has generously made the decision to make it a free global conference. Registration is over 500,000 people and counting! We are reaching so many people that we have not been able to reach, talking about what we love most: family history. It is this love of family history is why I love I what I do. It's seeing the joy in someone's eyes when you've found their ancestor, taking words off a page and breathing life into that person. They're real, they existed, they are a part of you. I want to hear about these discoveries. 

I will be giving two classes this year:

So what should we expect for RootsTech Connect? 

  • Thousands of hours of genealogy classes, multiple languages, various topics 
    • Build a playlist of what you want to watch next 
    • Classes are available for 1 year! 
  • Chat rooms in each session 
    • Many speakers like myself will be popping into them or putting up notices when we'll be online
  • Main stage events with key note speakers 
  • Virtual exhibit hall 
  • A global relatives tool using the FamilySearch tree
    • I'm truly excited about this. I only have five relatives but that's five more than I ever had in the past. I'm already starting to make connections. 
I'm so excited about the next few days and I hope you are too. If you haven't already, register today at If I can help answer any questions, please feel free to reach out to me in the comments, on Twitter, Facebook. Let's enjoy the next few days and connect! 

Preview from the RootsTech web site


Sunday, February 14, 2021

It's a Nice Day for an Irish Wedding

 This week's prompt for #52Ancestors is Valentine. One of the first things that comes to mind is my 3rd great grandparents, Francis Dougherty and Catherine Clerkin. They married on Valentine's Day in 1828 in the Tydavnet parish, County Monaghan, Ireland. It seems like a romantic day to get married. 

It is more likely a coincidence and that was the date available at their parish church when they married on a Thursday (Saturday and Sunday were not options). The couple was likely following the rules of Shrovetide, where Irish couples married between January 6th and Lent. It must have been a very cold wedding day. I'm fortunate to have found this record as many of my Irish ancestors' parish records were not recorded this early. 

The marriage entry of Francis Dougherty and Catherine Clerkin in the Tydavnet parish register

We don't know much about Catherine. We can estimate her birth around 1810 in County Monaghan. Several of her siblings, identified through DNA matches, were born between 1814 and 1825. They were baptized in the same parish Catherine later married in. Her suspected parents are Michael Clarkin and Ellen Connolly. More research needs to be completed to confirm. 

Francis and Catherine moved to Prince Edward Island (PEI) about 1839, before the Great Famine. They had ten children: 5 sons were born in Ireland and 5 daughters were born in PEI. By 1881 Canada Census, we know that Francis is a widower. He eventually moves to live near his son Peter in Dickinson County, Kansas. As far as we know, he never remarried. I'm hopeful that I will help locate the final resting place for Catherine, possibly near her siblings or parents' plot. 

Tonight I raise a glass of champagne to my 3rd great grandparents on their wedding day and wish them this Irish blessing:

"May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rain fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand."

Monday, February 8, 2021

In the Kitchen


Last week's prompt for #52Ancestors was "In the Kitchen". It seems appropriate that this was my memory shared three years ago. I entered this photograph of me and my grandmother, Rose (Corcoran) Doherty in her kitchen in the RootsTech photography contest. I didn't win but that was ok - I wanted to share this piece of my family history. I adore this picture because my grandmother looks so happy. 

The kitchen was her domain and she was quite a baker. She is known for her chocolate chip cookies and my personal favorite, her yellow cake with the homemade royal icing. She also made homemade bread each day for my grandfather. She did cheat a little with her pies - using store bought crust but made the apple pie filling (a trick I use today). And of course she made Irish soda bread, a recipe passed down from her mother. The recipe has been changed up slightly to allow for a more bite size proportion. Readers may recall my family's famous Irish soda bread recipe being shared each year around St. Patrick's Day. 

My grandmother was one of the main reasons why I got so interested in genealogy. She died when I was a little girl and I didn't really know anything about the family at that time. I eventually would learn more as the family would talk about their stories of visiting Dillonstown, County Louth, Ireland (where her father Thomas James Corcoran was born) as well as Prince Edward Island, Canada (where her mother Bridget Connolly was born). I was hooked as I found out more and more on her and my grandfather. I honor her memory each day as I add a new person on the family tree and enjoy baking the soda bread each St. Patrick's Day. 

Rose Alice Corcoran was born on 18 Jun 1914 in Long Island City, Queens, New York City. She was one of 7 children. She was born in NYC shortly after my great grandparents, Thomas and Bridget, came back to the USA after living in Prince Edward Island for a few years. She was a bus girl in NYC. That is likely how she met my grandfather, who was working at Bickford's in Manhattan. I always wonder if they worked in the same restaurant. My grandmother served as a witness for her future husband's naturalization petition in 1939. She married my grandfather, Michael Joseph Doherty, on August 2, 1941 at St Mary's Church in Long Island City, Queens. She had five children, including my father. She held down the homestead with a young baby while my grandfather served during World War II. She was a homemaker the rest of her life and was a proud Bingo player at her local church.  

What family recipes were passed down in your family? Do you have pictures of any ancestors in the kitchen?

Monday, February 1, 2021

Favorite Photo - My Hero

 This past week's #52Ancestors prompt is "Favorite Photo". This is not an easy decision for anyone, let alone a genealogist who treasures each photograph. A long standing tradition for the last few years is receiving a group of photos and family letters from my aunt for my birthday and Christmas. One of my favorite photos is this one of my grandfather, Michael Doherty, during his service in the U.S. army. 

It has been hung on the basement wall of my parents' former home for over 18 years. Over the last few years I have been digging into more of my grandfather's service during World War II. I even hired a researcher to go to the National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri to request and scan his military personnel record. Sadly his record was destroyed in the 1973 fire like many of the other Army and Air Force records. There wasn't even a "B file" that remained.  His final payment voucher was kept in a separate location. 

This resulted in having to turn to morning reports to fill in the gaps on where he was overseas in Europe. Morning reports detailed where a particular organization was stationed. Think of it like a muster roll. They also note any particular events such as hospitalization, deaths, prisoners taken, etc. 


Morning Report when my grandfather was in Italy

The patch on his uniform is from the 45th Infantry Division. The division was known as the "Thunderbirds". I was fortunate to find an active group on the Thunderbirds on Facebook that helped me find more about my grandfather. One particular discovery was a scan of the general order for Michael being awarded the Silver Star (which I previously blogged about). His unit liberated Dachau on April 29, 1945. 


General Order for Michael J Doherty (from the National Archives)


Flags of liberating divisions at the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.


My grandfather is my hero. As I shared at my RootsTech lecture last year "Reporting for Duty", I wondered what he felt holding his granddaughter who was half Irish and half Jewish. This is one of my last photos with my paternal grandfather. He died on September 12, 1986, just after my second birthday. He will always remain my hero and I keep him with me everyday. 

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Finding the Origin of a Name

 This week's #52Ancestors challenge prompt is namesake. Discuss an ancestor you were named after or a name being passed down from someone else. My first name "Melanie" comes from my great grandmother, Matilda (Mollie) Siegel. My middle name "Elizabeth" comes from Matilda's husband Eddie (which was actually Anton before he changed his name). 

I find myself looking at names in my family tree. There are often names being passed down from one generation to the next. Sometimes the children have the middle name from their mother's maiden name. This is a fun bonus to come across as it often holds the clue to finding out more about the mother's line. 

A few months ago, I used traditional Irish naming patterns and DNA clustering to uncover the identity of my 4th great grandfather. I started with looking at the details on his son, Francis Dougherty. The marriage witnesses to the wedding of Francis and Catherine were a Patrick Keenan and Michael Doherty. 

I had no clues to the identify of Patrick and there was no sign of Michael Dougherty coming to Prince Edward Island. In the 1861 Canada census, there was a clue. Francis was enumerated in Lot 58, PEI as "Frances O. Dochardy". Francis' first son was named Owen. Given that the oldest son is usually named for the father's father and that Francis may have had a middle name of "Owen", a search was conducted for an "Owen Dougherty" who came to Prince Edward Island from Ireland. 

An obituary was found on (a wonderful newspaper web site for Prince Edward Island ancestry) in The Examiner newspaper on 22 Apr 1861. The article is found below:

This Owen sounded promising. He came from the same county in Ireland and is old enough to be the father of Francis Dougherty. I next conducted a search to identify any children of Owen that may be possible siblings to Francis. Several candidates were identified in my DNA matches including a Patrick, Honora, and Catherine. I researched Patrick and found an obituary for him that said that his father was Owen. The article even confirmed that Owen lived to be 101 years old! This matched the Find a Grave memorial I found for Owen.  

Find a Grave Memorial #117784318 -

An excerpt from the article is below:

                                                 Excerpt from The Examiner - 9 Mar. 1899 (from

 I updated my tree with Owen as the father of Francis and added Patrick, Honora, and Catherine as children of Owen. I then patiently waited about 24-48 hours for my ThruLines to update. And then the results came in...

I had DNA matches with Patrick, Honora, and Catherine! This helped me confirm that I had the correct common ancestor, Owen Dougherty. I also know where the family name of Owen came from. 

The name Owen has been passed down over several generations: 

  • Owen Dougherty (1760-1861) - 4th great grandfather
  • Francis Owen Dougherty (1788-1892) - 3rd great grandfather
  • Owen Dougherty (1829-1901) - 2nd great grandfather
  • Peter Owen Dougherty (1832-1923) - 2nd great granduncle
  • Owen Francis Dougherty (1856-1959) - great granduncle
  • James Owen Dougherty (1908-1968) - 1st cousin 2x removed
  • Owen Dougherty (1905-1985) - great uncle

Some definite lessons learned:

  • Take another approach to solving a direct line - look for possible siblings to eventually find out more about your direct ancestor, including their parents. 
  • Pay attention to naming patterns. Not all families will follow them but they will give you some good names to pay close attention to.
  • DNA clustering in conjunction with genealogical research can help you go back further in your family tree. 

  • What are your some of the names you have in your tree that are passed down from generation to generation? Have you learned the origin of the earliest ancestor with that name? 

    Sunday, January 17, 2021

    Family Legend (With a Nugget of Truth Found)

     This week's prompt for the 52 Ancestors challenge is "Family Legend". We all have these stories in our families and it's no exception with mine. One of the family legends that my father passed down was that my paternal grandfather, Michael Doherty came to America aboard the S.S. Carpathia. Yes, that Carpathia that helped rescue the Titanic survivors in 1912. My grandfather Michael did take a ship aboard to America but it was definitely not the Carpathia. It was the S.S. Calvin Austin. This information was confirmed in my grandfather's naturalization record. 

    However, I digress from who I want to highlight in this week's post. My maternal great grandfather Anton Gailunas was a man of legend. I have been slowly piecing his timeline together based on the stories I heard of him serving in World War I for the British navy after leaving Latvia (serving as a quartermaster), and even going down to Brazil for a time. I was told stories about him living amongst the tribes on the Tocantins River, using his machete to cut through the rainforest and seeing the anacondas and other wildlife that you would likely encounter. My grandmother would tell about a fish that he liked to prepare after eating it in Brazil. 

    Now this story sounds a bit outrageous and you're probably thinking how could you even verify such a thing. If he was living amongst a tribe, there is not likely going to be any records that you can just simply look up or contact the Brazil archives for. And I thought it was a lost cause. Until I came across an interesting item: 

    In a column called "Marine Mishaps" of the 10 Sep. 1920 issue of American Shipping, there was an entry for the ship Northwestern Bridge. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you may recall that this is the same ship that brought Anton to America (New Orleans). The entry reads "NORTHWESTERN BRIDGE - Bahia, str., in collision with Brazilian steamer Itapuhy. Slight damage."  Bahia is one of the states of Brazil. The Brazilian state of Tocantins is bordered by Bahia. It is likely that Anton was on the ship while transporting goods and had to remain in Brazil for some time while the ship was repaired. 

    This will require further investigation to study more about the merchant vessel, Northwestern Bridge and look for any newspaper accounts that may have talked about this collision. I'm hoping that I will find a virtual machete to cut through this story and find out the truth about my great grandfather, Anton Gailunas. 

    What family legends have been passed down in your family? What records have you uncovered that may prove or disprove the stories? 

    Monday, January 4, 2021

    New Year Means New Resolutions (Or Perhaps a Return to Existing Projects)

     It's a new year and it's time for new resolutions. I want to do more with putting my lines on shared trees like FamilySearch, WikiTrees, etc. In addition to sharing the research that I have done, I find it a great way to set out "cousin bait", and meet new cousins that descend from the same lines. 

    I also want to get back to writing more as this more blog has been neglected. You would think that being home all of the time due to quarantine, I would be inspired to write. Unfortunately, that did not happen. After hours of working from a screen with little time for my poor eyes, I couldn't think of writing each evening after work. At times I lacked ambition and would resort to comfort eating and watching some rubbish tv (90 Day Fiancee is my current binge show along with restarting The Office on Netflix). 

    One of my writing resolutions was to try to contribute to one of the ongoing campaigns like Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors. I tried to do so in the past and got a few posts out for a couple of months before I lost my inspiration and stopped writing. There is no pressure to get a blog post out each week. I'm no longer in school having one of my teachers yell at me for not doing my homework. It's a self imposed deadline on myself to get something else accomplished on my own time.

    I have a lot of genealogy projects I want to work on. I signed up to do a one place study on the Tydavnet parish of Ireland - an ambitious project based on the number of townland (I think 151). I need to whittle it down to the Roman Catholic parish inhabitants or fear that I will never get much accomplished. I also have a blog series that I never got up and running, Wicked History. I have my first post drafted but sadly did not finish the research. Something else I need to get back to. 

    And then of course there is all of the correspondence. I'm slowly catching up with all of the messages on the genealogy platforms, emails, social media, etc. Yes, I'm that person you write to and it's crickets for a while. Not because I don't want to help but because I don't have an immediate answer to help you. I've been better over the last few months writing something but I frequently need a nudge from those that reach out to me to see if I found anything new that will help find our connection. I find it easiest if you ask for access to my tree so you can figure out the connection yourself. This is helpful when I'm knee deep in the next lecture and just don't have time to work on my genealogy. 

    And of course I want to start publishing my research so that it can outlive me one day. I may never write "the book" on my family genealogy. I tend to do more micro blogging on Twitter and Facebook, with a little sprinkled into Instagram. Perhaps it's time to at least get a few more blog posts out there and maybe an article submitted on my Dougherty descendants. 

    I don't think that I will accomplish everything I have outlined in this post but maybe this will give me the nudge to work on at least one project this year. 2020 is officially over and there's hope for a better year ahead. 

    What genealogy projects are you working on or are planning to return back to?