Thursday, July 7, 2011

Connecting With Family Through Ancestry

I am often asked if it's true that simply searching for a name of Ancestry (.com; .ca,;;.au,etc.) can produce a shaking leaf providing you with a full family tree or an instant connection with a distant, previously unknown relative who sends family photos that you have never seen before as is suggested in some television advertising. My answer is usually along the lines that if it were that simple, I'd be really disappointed in myself for spending so much time over the past thirty years when only a few keystrokes and a mouse click were needed.

Ancestry is certainly a great Internet site to search for historical records and documents. I have maintained a world deluxe subscription for many years (and by way of disclaimer, I pay for this entirely myself, with my own funds). It has been a tremendous source of documentation and collaboration. I have previously posted that there is benefit to exploring the 'public' member family trees in spite of any criticism that the family trees may frequently contain erroneous information.

A recent additional benefit for me has been making new connections with cousins I didn't know about who either sent a message to me asking for some additional information based on details found in my posted tree or who I sent a message to with a similar request.

I have three (!) examples to offer from the past three months.

Donius contacted me offering a correction to a date associated to her mother who appeared in my posted family tree. It turns out that Donius is my wife Ellen's 4th cousin. They share Andrew Kimmerly, a United Empire Loyalist, and his wife Susannah Sagar as common ancestors.

Another Andrew Kimmerly and Susannah Sagar common ancestor connection was made when Pat contacted me with some questions about my family tree file. Pat, as it turns out is married to my wife Ellen's 5th cousin.

I have been able to share information, tips, sources, and photos with both Pat and Donius. A truly great connection experience.

My favourite recent connection was one that I instigated. Recognizing that new trees get added and older trees updated frequently on Ancestry, I found one of my second cousins of whom I had no previous knowledge, had posted a family tree. More important to me is that this cousin and I share a great grandfather, John Foley, in common. My maternal grandmother, Gertrude Ellen Foley, was John's only daughter. My cousin Margaret's grandfather was John Joseph Foley, my grandmother's half-brother (pictured above), and John's third son but only child from his second marriage (to Annie McElroy).

John Foley without a doubt has been my greatest genealogical challenge. I have posted previously a number of stories about John who was, in modern terms, a self-made millionaire, despite his inability to read or write. I am a namesake of John's oldest son who was my mother's favourite uncle and whose funeral I can vividly remember attending when I was ten or twelve years of age. Various records provide various dates and locations of John's birth. John appears and then ten years later disappears in census records. The only thing certain seems to be that John married my great grandmother, Mary Jane Fitzgerald in 1894 in Toronto, Ontario, that they had three children before Mary Jane's sudden death at age 33 in 1899, and that John married Annie McElroy in 1903 in Toronto, Ontario. John died suddenly in 1927 while on a business related trip to Los Angeles, California in 1927.

I have never seen a photograph of my great grandfather John Foley although I feel certain that one must exist somewhere. Fortunately, through the Ancestry connection I may be getting a step closer to breaking through this stubborn brickwall.

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