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?