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This family tree was last updated on 10 July 2018.

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Places in time and space
5 July 2017 - 06:08:12

Description of the Coasts, Points, Harbours and Islands of New France, by Samuel de Champlain (1567-1635)There are many ways to recognize a place where an event occurs.

Most genealogists use a 'place hierarchy' which move, left to right, from the most specific/local to the broadest/national government or administrative level. In most cases each 'element' is contained within the next element, for example village, township, county, state, nation.

This works really well when all the events being considered are contemporary. But genealogy can be concerned with very broad swathes of time. Nations may begin, rise, fall, and be completely replaced while a single family line remains in place. An early ancestor was established in North America before the existence of any formal colony, and xyr family remained in place through the development of Nouvelle France, Nouvelle France Royale, Province of the Kingdom of Great Britain, Province of the United Kingdoms, Canada of the United Kingdom, to Canada of the Commonwealth of Nations. And there were several other stages within those larger nation-state changes.

But an example is better than a theoretical discussion.

The Kingdom of England flag.Take the reported place of death for Jacques Maugras (P206), who died in 1690: Salmon Falls, Massachusetts Bay Colony, Kingdom of England. The Kingdom of England[en.wp] existed from the 10th century to 1707, when it merged with the Kingdom of Scotland[en.wp] to become the Kingdom of Great Britain[en.wp].

The flag of Nouvelle France RoyaleThe next level of administration is rather more disputed. In 1686 James II of England had amalgamated the several provinces of New England into a single entity because they were developing disputes over land claims, to prevent the over-reach of the Puritan colony of Massachusetts, and to reduce costs. But James was deposed by William and Mary in 1688, and the Dominion of New England collapsed, leaving the region encompassing Salmon Falls without a second-tier administration. The former Province of Massachusetts claimed authority, as the remnant of the Massachusetts Bay Company, the Province of New York believed they had a claim, as did the former Province of New Hampshire. And the local English settlers believed they were independent since none of the above were actually providing services or security. With the news of the new English monarchs came the knowledge they had joined the League of Augsburg in war against France, and immediately engaged in raids into Acadia, Nouvelle France, abrogating the Treaty of Casco 1678 among other agreements which settled King Philip's War.

Finally, we need to mention that Salmon Falls was a long-populated location. Under the Abenaki peoples it was known as Newichawannock, but European settlers had begun appropriating land in the region as early as 1630 calling it Kittery Commons or Kittery North Parish. By 1675 the settlement was known as Salmon Falls, though it was small, and it was raided during King Phillip's War. The village was razed, the survivors sent north as captives, in 1690 as part of a revenge campaign by the French Baron de Saint-Castin for the Governor of Massachusetts's raids and massacres of Acadians and Abenaki. Saint-Castin and the Abenaki Confederation effectively depopulated the entire region of English and Dutch settlers, and the area of Salmon Falls was not resettled until 1703 when the previous name Newichawannock was again used for the rebuilt settlement. In 1713 the Massachusetts legislative body incorporated the village under the name Berwick, named after Berwick-upon-Tweed - the northernmost town in England. 

So, here are the reasonably correct names for this location in 1690 though by no means an exhaustive list:

  • Based on the Kingdom of England
    • Salmon Falls, Massachusetts Bay Colony, Kingdom of England
    • Salmon Falls, Province of New Hampshire, Kingdom of England
    • Salmon Falls, Province of Maine, Kingdom of England
    • Salmon Falls, Dominion of New England, Kingdom of England
  • Based on the Kingdom of France/Wabanaki Confederation
    • Newichawannock, Acadia, Nouvelle France Royale, Kingdom of France
    • Newichawannock, Wabanahkik, Wabanaki Confederation


Now consider that the town went through at least two more names, the American Revolution, decades of negotiations about Maine's borders (which were not settled until 1842, and even now there are a few issues outstanding with Québec, Canada.)  And all these names, and shifts in government, are about a single populated location which has at most 500 years of recorded history.

Flag of MaineSo every event which happened here must be located not only in space, but in time. Starting with the incorporation, the names likely would be:

  • Under British rule:
    • (1713) Berwick, Province of Massachusetts Bay, Kingdom of Great Britain (with the Treaty of Utrecht)
  • Under United States rule:
    • (1783) Berwick, Massachusetts, United States
    • (1820) Berwick, Maine, United States


A pair of photos
27 February 2017 - 21:56:58

If you are connected via the Ranum family surname, I discovered a pair of photographs of individuals you have probably never heard from who are quite distantly connected. This is more of my old photos obsession, of course. So maybe I will explain the story in photos, since I can.

Betty (Waagedahl) Ranum

Fern (Davis) Waagedahl

Mary-Alnora (seated) and Eva Dixson

Isaac Elliot DixsonMary-Alnora's father was Isaac Elliot Dixson, whose mother was Phoebe (Elliot) Dixson and his sister was Ruth McCall (Dixson) Gruwell.

Phoebe Elliot Dixson and daughter Ruth McCall Dixson Gruwell

Ruth McCall Dixson married Daniel Ira Gruwell, and their daughter Mary Alice Gruwell is the subject of the new photo. Mary Alice Gruwell's husband, Thomas Elmer Williams is the other.

Mary Alice GruwellThomas Elmer Williams


Mary's photo is purported to be from 1894, when she would have been 15 years of age, according to Sarah Gruwell who shared the photos on Find-a-grave. The age of Thomas's photo was not given.


You Are Related to Everybody: Or, how I stopped worrying about numbers and started worrying about accuracy.
22 February 2017 - 19:16:48

Mathematically the odds of any two people sharing a distant ancestor and both having inherited the same unique genetic trait is astronomically unlikely. There are just far, far too many variables which contrive to reduce the chances.

Graph example of genetic heritageAnd yet it happens all the time; a person born in Norway shares genetic material with a person born in Turkey. Or even more divergently. That it happens at all between, say, an Inuit in Canada and a Maori in New Zealand is mindboggling.

Until you begin to look at the numbers.

The number of ancestors you have grows very rapidly as you go back through the generations, as we all know. Every generation back raises the number of possible ancestors by the power of 2, 2^2 = four grandparents, 2^3 = 8 great-grandparents, and so on. Assuming a conservative average of 33 years between generations (what generation really waits that long to begin having babies on average?), that comes to 30 generations in 1 000 years, 1 073 741 824 possible ancestors, which is almost certainly more than the entire population of Europe in the year 1017.

Which means two things: many more of your ancestors married your other ancestors than you probably know about, and many more of your ancestors traveled further than you probably thought possible way back then.

Y-DNA frequencies in Europe.To give an example of the latter first, a specific genetic heritage for red hair is mapped to Ireland about 4500 years ago. But this same genetic trait was found in a burial site in the Tibetan highlands from 6000 years ago, in a location known for its use as a trade route. Either the genetic mapping is presumptuous in guessing the trait started in Ireland, or people with the trait were traveling all the way to China along trade routes nearly 3700 years before Alexander the Great.

But looking at the numbers you realize just how much endogamy must have been taking place, probably for the most part unknowingly. The estimated population of Europe at the beginning of the High Middle Ages (1000-1250) may have been 30 million, and would rise to 100 million. Any person of European genetic extraction must be descended from nearly every one of these with many many crosses to come up with the more than a billion possible ancestors from this generation. We can roughly estimate there must be 60% shared ancestors throughout the person's ancestry, if we accept the premise that Europeans held firm to only breed with other Europeans.

Map of the range Scythia in 100 BCEBut they didn't. If we look at early Roman art we see they looked far more like the North African people of Carthage prior to the sweeping invasions from Asia. In the east, bronze-age Scythian and Cimmeran cultures show clear genetic blending from Mongolia, Siberia, and China with predominatey Eastern European, while recent studies of iron-age samples show a more insular Iranic-speaking people of south-central Asia.

The numbers dominate, they over-rule prejudice and persuasion and family myths. Our longest known chain of ancestry is 18 generations. If they never intermarried and I looked only from that most recent generation through just the ancestors there could be 262 144 people at the furthest generation. And I know two of them.

The family tree currently includes more than 3 000 individuals, almost all of them in the most recent 3 generations - aunts and uncles, cousins, and so on. I will almost certainly never fill in the hundreds of thousands of people in those 18 generations of ancestors, and all their inter-relations. But I will try to fill in some of the blanks.

And since the task of numbers is impossible, I will focus instead on accuracy.

Partial family try of Elizabeth II of England

Sources, sourcing, and citation
5 February 2017 - 18:31:16

This is more a blog entry than a news item, yet useful for me to write because it forces me to think about this vital topic critically.

Webtrees allows every event to include reference to sources. To be reliable, every event should be documented with at least two independent sources, but in practice this is almost never possible. When we do have a source to rely on, we need to rank the subjective quality of the source, and Webtrees helps us here by listing the standard four quality levels for sources, although with non-standard nomenclature:

Baptism of Jean-Baptiste Tessier, 1672, Basilique Notre-Dame Montréal Primary evidence

Source material which is very close to the event in time, and directly documents the event. Note the phrase "directly documents" - having a ticket stub to the first Superbowl game documents the game, but having a cancelled, dated check written by an ancestor to pay for that ticket would be required to directly document the ancestor attending the game. (Even then it might be considered secondary evidence - they may have purchased the ticket for someone else.)

This class of source is an artifact—a photograph, document, recording, or other source of information—which was originally created at or near the time being studied. If created by a person, for example someone telling a story in a letter, it must be someone with direct personal knowledge of the event in question—writing about an accident they were involved in is primary evidence, writing about an accident they had heard about is not.

Jacques, Jean, and Rene Huot families in the TanguaySecondary evidence

Secondary sources is information based on primary sources, but collected/collated/presented at second hand. Academic sources are generally secondary sources. The source may incidentally influence or bias the data through interpretation and selection criteria. An example is the paternity of Joseph St. George (1839), who was baptised twice - as a bastard in 1839, and as legitimate at his parent's wedding in 1846, the priest at the wedding verifying (in marginalia) that after examining the records Joseph was the lawfully born and baptised child in a post-hoc selective interpretation of the facts.

Questionable evidence (Tertiary)

Tertiary sources rely on secondary sources, interpret facts, or have unknown criteria for selection of facts to include, and may rely on deduction and opinion to 'fill in' where facts are not known. They may not disclose the sources of their facts. Basically, tertiary sources are less reliable, but still useful.

Unreliable evidence (Private sources)

This includes sources which do not use, or do not disclose that they use, any evidence. For non-members of this family tree, this family tree is an unreliable source. This is because our sources are not publicly viewable in situ. In addition, this family tree accepts entries and events which are not reliably sourced, using them to guide further research. Like most family trees on the internet we publish unverified hearsay, family stories, legends and gossip, as well as our reasonably well-documented events. And only members can tell which are which.

Unreliable evidence can help direct genealogy efforts, and can send you down rabbit holes and waste literally years of your life. For this reason you should never use unreliable sources to document events. In fact, unreliable sources are a useful way of identifying research tasks—the event to which they are attached requires better attestation.

In the Our Family GED we have far too many unreliable sources, to go along with far too many utterly unsourced events.


18 January
18 January 2017 - 04:48:04

Today in our family history is actually rather interesting, in part because the events we have recorded happened so very long ago.

There were several rather important weddings. Joseph Lavoie DeLavoye married Marie Charlotte Gagnon in Les Eboulements, Quebec, Canada in 1745 - that was 272 years ago, roughly 30 years before certain colonies of Britain would declare their independence and 122 years before the establishment of Canada as a nation. Their great-grandaughter Tatienne Rouais or Ruest would marry Pierre Gagne dit Bellavance, and four further generations would produce Evelyn Ordner, the grandmother of my spouse.

1909 Joseph and Elizabeth Cartier FamilyEvelyn's mother was Mabel Rosalie Cartier, and the Cartier family line is one of our longest branches - but unfortunately sparsely documented in this specific repository. Luckily there are a number of historically relevant individuals in this branch, and it has been well-researched even though we might not (yet!) have copies of the evidence. Mabel's great-great-great-great-great grandfather (7 generations back) was Guillaume Cartier (1647) who married Marie Etiennette Garnier Grenier at Neuville, Portneuf, Quebec on this day in 1685.

Marie Etienette was following the tradition of her parents, Francois Jr. Garnier & Jacqueline Freslon, who also married on this day, only in 1663, a whopping 354 years ago! I wonder if they could imagine that in two hundred years France would lose her colonies, lose her King, gain and lose an Emperor, and Canada would be on the cusp of becoming a nation state.  


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