Ethnicity Reports in Your DNA Do Offer Genealogy Clues

I have already done DNA testing on my mother and her brother. Both tested at Family Tree DNA and I really have been one to ignore the Ethnicity reports. But read on as there are clues given in those reports that can be very telling.

I recently asked my mother’s sister to also take a DNA test. Overkill? Well, maybe but I did hear from DNA experts that to get a better picture of the parents it is worthwhile to get three siblings to test if you are able. My mother has four siblings that are still with us so I was very pleased that her sister agreed to take the test.

I decided to test with Ancestry, and not because of the amazing analysis features offered, but because of the number of testers they have, 7 million! My aunt’s results arrived and nothing jumped out at me at first but yesterday I was looking at her matches and there was a group that wasn’t matching her siblings. I looked at each match individually to see if they had trees and sure enough there were two trees that caught my attention. The surname Stickle/Stickles appeared in their trees. STICKLE – are you really kidding me?

Anna Eliza Stickle was my mother’s great-grandmother, we know very little about her before she was in Canada. Anna and her husband Lewis had three children in the USA before settling in Etobicoke, Ontario. The family first appears in the 1852 Canadian census, further information was gleaned on the family from the 1861 census which asked married during the year and the enumerator actually put the year of marriage! 1836.

Anna married Lewis Harrop from Manchester, England, the couple moved to Canada between 1843-1849, as their son John was born in N.Y. in ’43 and daughter Mary in Canada in ’49. William Lewis was their last child and my ancestor.

Lewis died in 1861 and is buried at St. George’s-On-The-Hill Cemetery in Islington with no headstone to mark his grave. Anna remained a widow the rest of her life. Anna Eliza lived with her family until her passing in 1907 in Orangeville, Dufferin Co., Ontario.

For years descendants of Anna have been on a search for her family. Now DNA is pointing us in a direction. The Stickle DNA matches that have trees show the family lived in Dutchess, New York and the origins of the Stickles before coming to the USA is Amsterdam!!

How exciting, after years and I mean years of researching Irish records I now have a new place to explore and learn about.

A peek at my Aunts ethnicity report also seems to support her inheriting more of Anna Stickle’s DNA  –Screen_Shot_2018-03-16_at_7_52_53_PM_1


The New York Settlers ethnicity breakdown is NOT found in either her sister or brother’s DNA results!

Next, I will be researching the locations that the DNA matches have for their Stickle/s family in New York. I hope they have good Methodist records for B/M/D. Seriously though, how cool – Amsterdam!

A new place to add to my list of locations for a ‘family holiday’, good thing my kids don’t read my blog!

And I will be paying a little closer attention to the Ethnicity reports in the future! And test your Aunts and Uncles they may have the clue you need.

Did Your Ancestor Leave You A Clue at the Cemetery?

Did your ancestor leave you a clue at the cemetery? Mine did.

Sites like Find-A-Grave and Canadian Headstones are great tools to use in helping us research our family but a trip to your ancestors grave could lead to more discoveries. What you don’t see in the pictures posted on those sites is the headstones surrounding an ancestor. I found the clues my ancestor left on a visit to a cemetery which I wouldn’t have found without being there.

The trip took place in 1998 when my mother and I drove to Saskatchewan to discover more about her grandparents whom she had never met. They were all deceased so the trip would be to the cemeteries to pay our respects.

Up until that point, I had done most of my research on my mother’s family by making phone calls, sending emails, applying for b/m/d certificates and visiting my local library & LDS Centre looking at census records. I was on a limited budget and working with next to no information (my mother knew very little about her family history).

My husband agreed to watch our kids and my mother and I set off, loaded with maps and hope in our hearts. On our list was Indian Head, Saskatchewan (where her mother was from) and Yorkton, Saskatchewan for her paternal side. We hit up numerous antique shops along the way and enjoyed our mother-daughter time.

In Yorkton, we visited King Cemetery armed with the knowledge that this was the final resting place of David Stewart & his wife Bridget McMahon, her grandparents. After locating her grandparent’s headstone and getting a photo, I noticed that beside was a matching headstone but the names were unfamiliar. It read –

In Memory of Margaret McGowan
Beloved wife of John McGowan
Born Nov. 27, 1848 Died Dec. 27. 1916.
Also the above named
John McGowan
Born April 1842 Died March 28, 1920

This was puzzling, further investigation around the stones showed that there was a cement border enveloping the stones and a third stone that was David & Bridget Stewart’s daughter Violet. But who were these McGowans?

Finding The Connection

Once we returned from our trip, I checked the Rootsweb mailing list for a surname mailing list for the McGowan name. These mailing lists were a great way for genealogists to be in touch before the advent of Facebook and more modern communications. So I joined the list and sent a query asking if anyone knew why the McGowan stone was close to the Stewart’s and if anyone knew of the connection. About an hour later I zipped back down to the basement to check and see if I had received a response, after waiting for the dial-up of our internet I saw that there was a reply from Dani Lee McGowan. Dani Lee had been to the same cemetery two years previous and took nearly identical photographs.

David Stewart stone King Cemetery

The Stewart stone, photo by Patricia Greber

McGowan stone, King Cemetery

McGowan stone, photo by Dani Lee

Stewart, Violet stone, King Cemetery

My mother Mary (Stewart) Dever is holding back the bush so we can read the inscription on Violet Stewart’s stone. This is the third stone enclosed in the cement border which you can see on the right.

Dani Lee knew the families were connected, but she also questioned how. This began the start of a friendship and collaboration that continues to this day. I started researching the McGowan family and eventually found that we share a common relative, Mary Loftus.

Mary Loftus McGowan Stewart

Mary was born about 1822 in Sligo, Ireland (not proven) and married Felix McGowan, either in Ireland or in New York. In 1839 their first child Bridget was born, and two sons John (1842) and Thomas (1844) arrived after the family moved to West Flamboro, Wentworth Co., Ontario. In about 1845 Felix passed away, the following year Mary who was a devout Catholic marries a Scotch Presbyterian in 1846. Enter my ancestor William Stewart who becomes a father to Mary’s children and together they have six more, James, Margaret, Alexander, David, William all born in West Flamboro. Mary Ann, their last child, was born in 1857 after the family moved to Ayton, Normanby Twp., Grey Co., Ontario.

The flurry of emails between Dani Lee and I during this research period and discovery was almost daily. Every new discovery was celebrated, we were thrilled to have found our connection.

Evidently, our great-grandfathers David Stewart and John McGowan were close. They traveled from Normanby, Ontario settling in Manannah, Meeker Co., Minnesota for about 30 years, and later they both moved back to Canada and finally chose to rest side by side in death.

The Trip was Worth It

Would I have ever discovered this without a visit to the cemetery? I may have, but I think it would have taken me a lot longer to figure out the connection and I would have missed out on years of collaboration with my cousin!

Seeing the stones side by side was a big clue that these families were connected. The cement border indicating the shared plot drove home that I needed to spend time researching this family.

My advice to you, take the time to visit your ancestors final resting spot and keep your eyes open for any clues the left you.

Meet Up?

Dani Lee and I have never met face-to-face but she has plans to travel to Canada this summer and I hope that we will be able to have a reunion that is 20 years in the making!

Still to Discover 

We still have yet to find when our common ancestress Mary Loftus died. We know she was in Minnesota in 1888 according to “Illustrated Album of Biography of Meeker and McLeod Counties Minnesota” where she is mentioned in the write up for John McIntee, her son-in-law.

Her next and last appearance is in the 1891 Canadian census where she is living with her oldest son James Stewart in Ayton, Ontario. That is the last record we have been able to find for her, someday we hope to find where she is buried so we can journey to her resting place and pay our respects.


How Far Can DNA Take You?

Can DNA break down my long-standing brick wall? Good question, and one of the reasons I started doing DNA testing. Last night I found new information that may yet hammer down another wall and it was uncovered due to DNA.

I have been on the hunt for information on a maternal great, great, grandmother for ages. Here is a brief summary of what I know –

  • Name: Anna Eliza Stickle
  • Born: 1814 in USA
  • Married: 1835ish to Lewis Harrop
  • Lived: Pennsylvania, New York and Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada. She had children in all these locations.

I have census records, land, and death records but as this is the main details I will not list all the information here. I don’t know a lot when you think about how long I have been researching this family. Maybe DNA will help me to find some of the missing information.

Ancestry DNA Tools

The tools that Ancestry offers are the most useful I have found in comparison to other testing companies. Why? The trees! Many people have connected their trees to their DNA results which is the key to unlocking many puzzles. Couple that with the search feature and discoveries are within reach.

If you haven’t used the search feature on Ancestry here is a quick walk-through. On your DNA page click on View All DNA Matches.

View All DNA matches.png

The following page, you want to click on Search Matches.


I entered the Stickle surname and left the birth location blank.


I received 5 matches to people and each person has a tree that I am able to access! screen_shot_2017-02-23_at_9_37_36_am

The matches were not close matches (5th-8th cousin) so instead of getting in touch with them I wanted to investigate their trees to see what I could glean from them. I proceeded to look at each tree, my Anna did not show up in any of them, but there were clues.


What the trees offered were locations which I did not have before. Most of the Stickle matches have the location of Rhineland, Dutchess County, New York. This information is not conclusive but it contains clues to where I can look for information on Anna.

Try doing a surname search and see if you can find clues to follow. I also recommend connecting your DNA results to a tree so you and your DNA matches can do what I have done. If you would rather keep your tree private create a DNA tree, this is what I have done, it will help you to get the most out of your matches. If you haven’t yet taken a DNA test, what are you waiting for?

And to answer the question how far can DNA take you? I think pretty far and farther all the time.

Finding Margaret

You know when you first started doing your family tree and it seems that every time you hit the library you found something new? Well, that’s what my memory of first starting out researching my family tree was like. It probably was a bit more onerous than that, but it’s the discoveries that suck you in. It is like winning the lottery or sitting at a slot machine in Vegas (minus the flashing lights), you get a win and you are hooked. In genealogy, uncovering another record or breaking through a brick wall is the best feeling in the world! These discoveries do not occur as often, but the euphoria still happens every time.

Today was one of those days, I am thrilled to say! I have been on the hunt for my geat great grandmother’s sister for quite a few years. Margaret Jeffery was born Quebec City October 8, 1830, to parents Elizabeth Tipper and Robert Jeffery and her nine siblings, four of which died in infancy. A life of adventure was in store for her, when she was seventeen, she met and married George Humphry, a Captain of the aptly named ship the Margaret.

Chalmer's Presbyterian Church, Quebec City

Chalmer’s Presbyterian Church, Quebec City — witnesses were her sister Elizabeth and her husband Frederick Yeates.

The Morning Chronicle Oct. 30, 1847

The Morning Chronicle Oct. 30, 1847

Margaret moves to her husband’s home in Saint Sauveur, Devon, England, and children start arriving. First George, followed by Emily and then Margaret Adelaide. Little George, only lives four months, but Emily and Margaret survive infancy. Margaret and her children are back in Quebec City in 1858, the girls Emily and Margaret are baptized and husband George is listed as deceased on the baptism record.

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Quebec City

Baptism of Emily & Margaret, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Quebec City — Hannah my 2x great grandmother signs with the mother Margaret.

Margaret appears to stay put marrying again in Quebec City. The marriage takes place at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church on September 8, 1864, and the groom is James J. Atkins. Further searching on the couple lead me to the birth record of Frannie Elizabeth. I wasn’t sure if this was the right family as the birth was in a Methodist church in Montreal. I next look for the family in New York, as I know daughter Margaret’s daughter Emily Humphry gets married there.

In the 1875 New York census I find this family and I think it could be them.

1875 census Kings, Brooklyn Ward, E.D. 3

1875 census
Kings, Brooklyn Ward, E.D. 3

The entry lists the Atkins family consisting of parents James, Margaret with children Addie, Fannie, Henry and Lillie. This family looks promising, it states the right birth places for everyone.

The clincher arrived in the mail today, I had ordered a marriage record for Frannie Atkins who married in New York. This Frannie I suspected to be from the family in the census. A longshot but I was feeling lucky! The marriage record arrived today for Frannie Elizabeth Atkins to Gerald Forest Burroughs taking place in Brooklyn, New York in 1886. Frannie’s parents were listed as… James J. Atkins and Margaret Jeffery,!!!! and Fannie is from QUEBEC!! Success! My gamble paid off and I am so happy I followed my hunch that this was her.

Frannie Atkins marries Gerald Burroughs

Frannie Atkins marries Gerald Burroughs

I was saddened to discover that Margaret (Jeffery) (Humphry) Atkins passed away in New York on July 30, 1878. I do hope to track down where she is buried and someday get an opportunity to pay my respects and connect with some Atkins cousins!

52 Ancestors – #8 Anna Eliza (Stickle) Harrop

Anna is my 2x great grandmother and passed away at the age of 93 in 1907 in Ontario, Canada. I don’t know much about her life, but I will share what I do know with the hopes of uncovering more information. Census records list Anna as being born in the United States in 1814, and she could possibly be Pennsylvania-Dutch but without parent’s names I can only speculate.
Her husband Lewis Harrop is said to have left England with a brother and his first stop was also said to be Pennsylvania.
The first fact I can find on this family is the 1852 Canadian census where they are living on Con. 1 Lot 13 in Etobicoke, York Co. in Ontario. Lewis is listed as 51 along with his wife who is 38, they have 4 children Benjamin, Elizabeth, Robert and Mary Ann. The first 3 kids along with their mother, have the United States as their place of birth. Further census records will reveal that the 3 children were born in New York. Mary Ann and my great grandfather William Lewis were both born in Ontario.
The Harrop family is in the same location for the 1861 census but they lose the breadwinner July of that year. I found the father, Lewis after some searching, he was buried in St. George’s-on-the-Hill, on the outskirts of what is now Toronto in an unmarked grave.
The family relocated after Lewis’ death and settled in Orangeville, Dufferin Co. Benjamin the oldest had by this time married Mary Jane Russell and they had moved to Esquesing, Halton Co.
Elizabeth married William Young a widow with 4 young children. William was a gardner from England who died suddenly in 1888, leaving Elizabeth with 3 children of their own to raise. Elizabeth did not remarry but lived with her mother Eliza Anne.
Robert married Sarah Jackson and was a photographer, he later ran a newspaper in Chesterville, and his last occupation was for the railway.
Mary Ann married Michael Renahan and lived in Weston, Ontario where they raised their 3 children.
And my great grandfather William who lost his father when he was 5 was a butcher’s apprentice at 16, living with the butcher’s family. Later moved to Saskatchewan and married a girl from North Dakota who was a widow. He brought her and her daughter Fora Bell to his farm but lost his wife after 2 short years. William remarried in 1907 to Rachel Hodgins and they lived in Balcarres, Saskatchewan.
Anna Eliza or Eliza Anne (I have seen it written both ways) spent the remainder of her years living with her daughter Elizabeth Young. She did not remarry after losing Lewis and I do not know anything more about her life.

If you are connected to this family or know of the Stickle family in Pennsylvania/New York we should talk!! Get in touch with me by commenting or send me an e-mail cpgreber at! Look forward to hearing from you!