Uncovering Dad’s Ethnicity Without Dad

So much buzz in the DNA world with DNA Day sales yesterday, and then 23andMe allowed Ancestry uploads, well only if you live in the USA but still it created some excitement.

This had me review the reports at 23andMe, years ago I had my brother take their DNA test, as I like to fish in all the pools. I recently tested my mother at that site as I wanted to take advantage of some of the utilities they provide when you add in a parent. My dad passed away in 2008 and I did get his DNA tested at Family Tree DNA but I cannot add his DNA to any site that doesn’t allow uploads.

A feature that people have been talking about at 23andMe is the Ethnicity tool which is quite good if you have a lot of mixture in your ancestry. Our family is mostly Irish and it is a broad category at 23andMe but there are some cool things you can see, even if you have only one parent tested.Screen_Shot_2018-04-26_at_1_52_44_PM_1This view shows that my mother and my brother and would like me to connect my father, which I cannot do.


This next view shows my mother’s ethnicity on the right and what’s left over, so my dad! A very exciting thing for those that cannot test one parent.

*this is not a complete picture of Dad, it is the portion of DNA from dad that is passed to my brother.

Another interesting thing 23andMe does is break it down where on your Chromosome these pieces of ethnicity are showing up.


And if you click on say the French/German in the table on the right it will highlight that portion of the chart – Screen_Shot_2018-04-26_at_1_53_44_PM

So my brother’s itty-bitty French-German ancestry appears for him on Chromosome 12. If I have someone who matches him at that spot I could explore the fact that they may fall into our Stickle line.

This is a fun exercise that I can also take a step further by downloading the ethnicity report and adding it into DNA Painter.

And it has made me decide to take a 23andMe test to see my comparison with my mother and brother.

PS. 23andMe is having a sale on kits right now, buy two and get the third one free in time for Mother’s Day!

Fairview, BC is No More

As with most genealogists, a trip for me anywhere is an opportunity to do some exploring in your family tree.

My kids are away this weekend swimming and no parents other than chaperones it meant a free weekend for my husband and me. With our corner of Alberta still blanketed in snow, we decided to find some better scenery. A trip to Osoyoos, BC was planned, an oasis to our eyes after so many months of beautiful but never-ending white landscape

Yesterday we landed in Kelowna and with a free-schedule, I convinced him to wait for the Kelowna Library to open before heading to our destination. I had some Harrop family members in the area and I wanted to see what I could find. It took 20 minutes to look them up in the newspaper on microfilm.

Microfilm reader at the Kelowna Library

Microfilm reader at the Kelowna Library


Next stop was Oliver. I have written before about my mom’s ancestor James Stewart who ran a store in Hedley, BC from 1908-1920 (approx. dates) but before James was in Hedley his store was located in the town of Fairview, BC. I had not tracked down where exactly the community of Fairview was located on previous visits. A quick stop at the Visitors Centre in Oliver and we were on our way. We were directed to follow the Fairview Road that cuts through the heart of Oliver (and right past the Oliver Archives I might add).

We traveled up the windy trail and found the Kiosk that marks the spot on the landscape where this mining town had once thrived.

The Fairview information Kiosk and the amazing view

The history of Fairview and the area was told on the panels. Fairview was a booming mining town that boasted to be the biggest city north of San Francisco in its heyday (the early 1900s).

A map of Fairview showing the location of some of the businesses


The history told at the kiosk describes a thriving community until the gold “played out” around 1906. A great reason for my 2x great uncle to close up shop and move to the next booming mine town of Hedley.


Location of the Fairview Presbyterian Church stood at the old Fairview, BC townsite



A short 20 km drive down the road and we had arrived at Osoyoos, a favourite place for us to visit.

And last night I was enjoying our spectacular view from our balcony in Osoyoos.

Last Day of Our Mom & Daughter Road Trip

We spent time at the Flamborough Archives located in the Waterdown Library. Here we were helped two wonderful volunteers who brought out land books from the back shelves. We found the entries for William Stewart who was on Con 5 Lot 5 & Lot 8. As well we looked up the McGowan family whose connection to us is through William’s wife Mary Loftus. Other surnames on the radar were Kenny and Doyle so we had a look at them as well. All these families lived on the Brock Rd. in West Flamborough, Wentworth Co. This area had such a heavy concentration of Irish settlers and that it was dubbed “Little Ireland”. The 1840s-1850s  when the William Stewart’s family was living in the area means there are few records to be found outside of census, church and land records but it was great to visit the Archives after communicating via email over the years.

Another stop on our adventures was to pay respects at the grave of John McMahon. John was a deaf-mute who I wrote about, a brother to Michael, Cornelius and Edward he spent over 30 years institutionalized in the Hamilton Psychiatric Hospital. A chilly walk through the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Section ‘S’ left us saddened that John’s his final resting spot was not marked.

It felt so important to me to make this journey to remember him.

We also made sure to visit what remains of the Hamilton Psychiatric Hospital John’s home for so many years. (here we tried out the selfie stick, I think we need some lessons)


The trip has been fantastic, met family, toured Ontario and most importantly spent an amazing week one on one with my mom!

Shoutout goes to my husband who is at home managing work and kids. I am guessing he is already planning his next golf trip!



Searching For a Hidden Cemetery

Our day began with a drive to the Wellington County Archives near Fergus, Ontario. I wanted to see what information they may have on a Stewart family what was living in Ermosa (DNA is pointing me to a possible Stewart connection). The Grey County Archives is only open on Saturdays so we will miss visiting it.

The Wellington Archives is located in a beautiful building and after a summary of their holdings from a staff member I did some light research. I was happy to see they had some records from Normanby Township where mom’s family was from. I showed her the 1861 census index and she enjoyed looking at the different places people were born, mostly Scotland and Ireland.

We had lunch in Elora and after looking around we decided we loved his little town that has so much character. If I am ever back this way I will definitely be staying at the Historic Elora Mill which is being restored at the moment and is supposed to open later this year. The town is full of cute shops and the town has a wonderful feel, I would love to see it in the summer.

Our next plan was to find the elusive Orchardville Cemetery, this is my third trip to Grey and I still had not stopped there. This turned out to be a bigger deal than we had anticipated. Before searching for it we stopped at the Ayton Library to get directions, again we had wonderful help from a staff member and left feeling confident we would not have a problem.qVpvHqpsTvyMIXnHCLrE0g

We used our Sat Nav to get us close, which told us to pull over along the highway and walk, we believed it, a bit of a mistake. After wandering around and not seeing anything we headed back to the vehicle.

Feeling rather determined we stopped at three houses to ask directions…no luck. Back to the map, reviewed what Sat Nav was saying and I had an idea. I opened up my Find-A-Grave App. I was happy to see that the person who had uploaded the Orchardville Cemetery photos had also added photos of the road signs near the hidden turnoff.
We drove a little further up the road and recognized the sign from the App. I pulled over, and we walked to the top of the hill easily spotting the big white cross and headstones in the distance.
I finally was at the resting spot of Michael McMahon (1806-1856), my mother’s great great grandfather. Also mentioned on the stone is his grandson Michael McMahon (1854-1872), Cornelius’s oldest son.


Michael Sr. & his grandson Michael McMahon

Michael Sr.’s son Cornelius also has a headstone in this cemetery and likely is his final resting spot, although his name is on a headstone in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Ayton.


Cornelius McMahon’s headstone

I am not sure why but most of the headstones in the Orchardville Cemetery have been gathered and placed side-by-side in a cement slab.

We celebrated our success by treating ourselves to some food and wine!

Road Trip Progress

Yesterday traveled Toronto to Delhi 149 km

Met mom’s third cousin for the first time and stayed in the McMahon home that is 118 years old. The famous Irish welcome we were granted was followed by quick-witted conversation, offers of food and a warm place to sit by the crackling fire. We were quickly at ease with our newly met family; the conversation and stories flowed, soon followed by bursts of laughter. A sense of ease and comfort that can only be identified as the familiarity of family.


McMahon family home built in 1900


Followed by hours spent happily scanning their enormous family collection of pictures/documents


One of the 3 bins of family pictures and documents they have preserved + a very long evening of scanning = genealogy heaven


Today began with a visit to La Salette Cemetery to pay our respects to my mother’s great-great uncle Michael McMahon and many of his descendants buried there


Mary Stewart with her cousin John McMahon at Michael McMahon’s headstone in La Sallete Cemetery, Norfolk


Followed by a 166 km drive to our next stop at Saint Mary’s Cemetery in Ayton, Ontario. This is where my mother’s paternal great-grandfathers are both buried, William Stewart (1804-1883) and Cornelius McMahon (1824-1893). As well her paternal great-grandmother Sarah McCue/McHugh (1825-1915) and her great aunt Sarah Culliton (1866-1925).

Words cannot convey how amazing it has been the last couple of days. Connecting my mother with her McMahon family and seeing her standing beside the final resting place of people that she did not know the names of before I began my genealogy journey.

*featured image is the interior of the La Salette Catholic Church in Norfolk County, Ontario


Road trip Update

We have made it this far!

We landed in Ottawa and picked up the rental, and made to the hotel! A victory!

We had a light meal at the D’arcy McGee pub where they have mold of his hand on display. I was able to share a little of what I knew about him with my mom. It was good timing as the 150th anniversary of his assassination was Saturday.

The following day we paid a visit to my relative who will be turning 105 later this month. Edith is a lively person and brings a smile to everyone’s face with her bubbly personality. After some teasing she very willingly spit into the tube and I will be forever grateful to have her DNA in the Ancestry database. It was very hard to leave Edith but I was so pleased to see she keeps her copy of the Jordan book right beside her chair. I could tell by the wear on the pages that she has studied her copy and delights in its contents.

Our next stop was Toronto and again much to my surprise we arrived without incident (credit to Google Maps).

After quickly checking in, depositing my bags and getting mom settled at the hotel I hoofed it to Blaine’s talk on DNA. I was late and almost didn’t go in. I knew I didn’t want to miss so I managed to make myself go in. Thank goodness I did.

Blaine was discussing Triangulation which I would like to try my hand at. I learned a lot and feel I can get started.

Day 2 with Blaine was also well worth my time he went over Chromosome Mapping and it’s benefits. Blaine like many of us is a big fan of DNA Painter and one of his tips was to make good notes when painting people.

Dinner last night was with my daughter-in-law who is studying dental hygiene in the area. It was great to catch up!

Today we leave Toronto, first stopping to meet a DNA cousin who is adopted. Being adopted is pretty difficult in itself when doing genealogy but the kicker is her mother was also adopted. I believe her connection to me is through her mother’s adoption and I look forward to meeting her.

Our final destination today is the home of my mother’s third cousin John McMahon. My mother’s McMahon family settled in Grey County but this branch went to Norfolk. My mom has never met a McMahon cousin so we are both looking forward to seeing John and family for the first time.

I am so grateful to be able to take this trip with my mom.

Off on a Genealogy Research Trip

I am leaving in a couple of days to attend Blaine Bettinger’s DNA talk hosted by the Toronto Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society. I will be bringing my mother and after the 2 days of learning, we are embarking on a road-trip to locations in Ontario where her family lived.

Where do we go?

Narrowing down the places to visit in under a week is going to be very difficult. We do plan to meet one of her 3rd cousins who is still residing on their original McMahon farm. Although this is not the home of my mother’s ancestor Cornelius who settled in Ayton, Ontario, it was the home of Cornelius’ brother Michael who settled in Windham Twp, Norfolk, Co.

Dundas, Hamilton, Ontario

This is where William Stewart married widow Mary Loftus in 1846 so it is on the list. The couple farmed in West Flamborough and we also plan to visit the Archives and see the area.

Hamilton Psychiatric Hospital

Where John McMahon who was deaf and dumb lived for over 30 years, yup plan to visit. John is buried in the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery so we will be paying our respects.

Orchardville Cemetery

Michael McMahon, mom’s 2x great-grandfather is buried here along with his son Cornelius (her great-grandfather) and Cornelius’ son Michael who died at the age of 18.

Ayton Union Cemetery

Cornelius’ brother Edward McMahon who was a Civil War veteran is buried here and Cornelius has a second headstone in this cemetery.

Historical Meeting

We also may get a chance to meet Bob McIntee who I have corresponded with for years. I wouldn’t have been able to get very far in researching the McMahon and Stewart families without his help.

Also, he is a descendant of the McIntee who was in the cart that over-turned and resulted in the death of Cornelius’ McMahon in 1893. I don’t think we will go for a drive together…

What I wish we could add in…

What is really hard is knowing what we won’t have time to do.

  1. Visit Mary Potter & George Mordy’s grave in Ramsey, Lanark Co. Mary is our direct maternal line and we have yet to find her parents.
  2. Go to Huntley, Carleton County where her Hodgins and Mordy families settled in the 1820s.
  3. Spend time doing research at the various Archives along the way

We are packing a lot in for such a short span of time. Do you see why I need to move to Ontario?!