Sprinkles on a ThruLines Cupcake

In my previous post about the Haussler immigrant family I cobbled together using records, I speculated that my Francis X Haussler had two brothers: Andrew C and Leonard Haussler. There are DNA cousin matches to descendants of at least four of Andrew’s grandchildren. It pays to check ThruLines often because the results change regularly. Like today when I checked the ThruLines profile for Frederick Haussler I found this:Haussler Update

A cousin match to someone descended from Leonard Haussler! My half first cousin has two more matches on his results. So now we share DNA with descendants of three men who might be related in some fashion; they might be brothers, or at the very least they are cousins. One more data point to put in the column that supports my hypothesis that this is the original immigrant family.  I can be confident that I would not have found these connections without this match engine. So thank you, ThruLines.

This made me happy, so I’m guessing there were some endorphins involved.


Hypothesis + ThruLines = ?

I have the luxury of being able to spend a lot of time playing with Ancestry’s new beta ThruLines. I get to see how it is evolving on a daily basis. Doing so is helping decipher the data in more careful terms. One of those careful terms is ‘work in progress’. There is a tendency to take the results we see as fact when in reality ThruLines is changing too rapidly to weight the results that heavily. This tool is still in the experimental phase. That said, the results still merit attention along with a healthy dose of skepticism. Rushing toward the hit of endorphins our brain supplies us with whenever a belief is confirmed is a sure way to get tripped up by the data presented to us by this match engine.

The farther back in time we go, the more the term hypothesis applies to our research. For me the best way to test a hypothesis with ThruLines data is to choose a line I don’t have an emotional attachment to; one I already labeled as speculation.

Haussler, Frederick profile

Frederick Haussler appears in the New York, Passenger and Immigration Lists, 1820-1850 on Ancestry as having arrived in New York on 23 Jun 1841 on the ship Rose, place of origin is France and he was listed as being aged 49. The same date and ship lists a Leonard Haussler, male aged 21 and a ‘Mann’ Haussler, female aged 16. My speculation is that ‘Mann’ equals M. Ann. Very few other passengers on this arrival were from France; the vast majority were from Deutschland. The only indicator that they might be a family is they share a Family Identification number: 30049159.

The New York Public Library’s Digital Collection has many city directories available to search. Here is Frederick in the 1849 issue.

Haussler, Frederick 1949

Haussler, Frederick 1852
Frederick and Leonard 1852 NYC directory
Haussler, Francis X 1855
Leonard and Francis X (my ancestor) 1855

I have not found Francis X in any passenger list, but he lived long enough to answer the immigration question in the 1900 census (with his 2nd wife) for Secor, Woodford, Illinois, Enumeration District 133.

Haussler, Francis X 1900 cropped

Leonard Haussler was born about 1820 in France. Francis X was born 1824 in France, was a cabinetmaker and arrived  in 1841. Francis X has the claim that both his parents were born in France.

Shortly after appearing in the 1855 NYC directory, Leonard joins another Haussler household in upstate NY.

Haussler, Leonard and Andrew 1855


Andrew C. Haussler is three years younger than Leonard, also born in France. Leonard has been at this location for 2 months and is a shoemaker (bootmaker in NYC); Andrew has been at this location for 6 months and is a watchmaker. Take note of Andrew’s daughter Fanny. Are Andrew and Leonard brothers or cousins? There exists a photograph of Andrew with two of Leonard’s sons apparently as part of a musical trio, but that isn’t proof. Is Francis X a brother, a cousin or is it merely coincidence that they’re all from France, lived near one another in NYC and came to this country in the same year?

ThruLines has a hint that at the very least there is a relationship of some sort that goes beyond coincidence.

Haussler, Frederick ThruLines 01

Haussler, Frederick ThruLines mine

There’s Fanny and four of her known children, all of whom have at least one descendant with a cousin match to me and similar results appear for my half first cousin. ThruLines is suggesting that those cousin matches are related to us through our shared Haussler lines.

Does this prove Andrew and Francis are brothers? No. Does this prove that Frederick is their father? No. What statement can I make about these results? I feel confident saying the following: There are five people with whom I share small bits of DNA that the ThruLines tool has placed in the Haussler family suggesting a relationship between Francis and Andrew.

No endorphins for me. This doesn’t confirm my hypothesis. It suggests my hypothesis, in the strictest sense, has not yet been disproven. It’s one more data point that can be placed in the likely column along with birthplace, age, immigration year and proximity. Unfortunately, Andrew didn’t live to be included in the 1900 census, so it might never be known when he arrived. Francis and Andrew were probably related in some way but the DNA can’t tell us how they were related. I cobbled together a possible immigrant family using records and I might have been right, or at the very least on the right track.




ThruLines Quick Update

Yesterday I watched this video from RootsTech 2019 on the cool things Ancestry is doing with DNA results. From it I learned that they read all the comments people make in the feedback from their beta testing. Well, I thought, I have something that needs fixing, so let’s test that.

My g-g-grandfather Jacob Myers was adopted by his step-father Daniel Myers. His biological father was John Naylor. Close to 50% of all the matches for me and my uncle are Naylor/Carpenter, so it was frustrating to me that ThruLines kept showing Daniel Myers as Jacob’s father instead of John Naylor. I clicked on the little link at the bottom of the page where we can give feedback on Beta testing and filled out their four-slide survey. On two of the slides there are boxes where text can be entered to augment the answers to the Strongly Disagree > Strongly Agree choices for questions in the survey. On the last slide I explained the problem, mostly just hoping it would help them improve their algorithm for choosing parents. I also mentioned that my William Wood kept showing up as a potential ancestor from other people’s trees even though he’s on my tree. I submitted the survey and gave it no more thought.

This morning I checked ThruLines (I do that every day because it’s not static, it changes) and lo and behold John Naylor was shown as an ancestor! It gets better. Now that they have the correct ancestor, John Naylor’s parents showed up as well and BOOM my uncle has 56 possible matches spread out over 10 children and I have 37 over 6 children!

AND William Wood is a real ancestor now.

All this happened in less than 24 hours. Now that is one amazing customer experience.

ThruLines Thoughts

Ancestry recently introduced a new feature for visualizing DNA cousin matches called ThruLines. Rather than spend time explaining how it works, I recommend reading this blog where the author shows how she broke through a brick wall using this feature.

ThruLines is an excellent tool, but like all tools has its limitations. The results are shown as a redux of the existing tree on Ancestry, with plenty of ‘potential ancestors’ sprinkled in to fill the gaps. The relationships are visualized in a grid from parent to 5th great-grandparents, which is the limit of how far back we can get with DNA.

Something I noticed right off is that they added half relationships: half-cousin, half-aunt, etc. That is an improvement over the profile version of the tree. Sometimes the half-relationships are correct, and sometimes not so much. Because the data is dependent upon trees, the genealogy still has to be done to benefit from this new data.

Here is an example of half relationships that are correct.ThruLines Half relationships 01

Angeline, Jeannette and James are all children of different wives of Jacob Myers, so they’re all half-siblings. That is reflected in their stated relationships to me of half-great-aunts.

This is supported by the visualization of James’ mother Amarilla Cox. The other two half-sisters don’t appear as her children.ThruLines Half relationships 02

Next is an example of a missing half relationship.

ThruLines Half relationships 03

Margaret Jane Smith is the daughter of John Clark Smith and his second wife, where Maria Ann and Anna Marie are the daughters of his third wife.

This example shows a half-relationship that can’t be explained and shouldn’t exist. To adequately show this I’m putting John D Allen and his wife Martha Clark together to show how Francis Clark only appears on John D Allen but not on Martha Clark

ThruLines John D AllenThruLines Martha Clark

The problem I have with this is that the descendant of Francis C Allen only shares 7 centimorgans. How is it possible for this new system to determine if those 7 cMs came from the father or mother? I check these every day. At first Francis was appearing then disappearing then reappearing, sometimes as a half-relation and sometimes as a full relation, but has settled into the half-relation and no longer appears on Martha Clark’s results. Clearly it would require many more matches to sort this out, but the variability has to be taken into account. If half relationships were always correct, then I’d put some stock in this result. The system still has glitches that need to be sorted out.

Here is another half-relation that ThruLines get right, which is surprising because it’s so nuanced.

ThruLines John Holmes

Sarah and William Holmes are offspring from John Holmes’ first wife and Lourena Holmes is from his second wife. To go back that many generations and still get it correct is impressive.

Here is another nuanced relationship that ends up not being correct.

ThruLines Jeriah Wood

Jeriah Wood is most definitely the son of John Wood; that’s not in question. And the descendant listed for him is very probably descended from Jeriah Wood. The problem is that when I click on that person’s DNA profile and look at the shared matches, the DNA shared between this person and my uncle is actually from my uncle’s maternal line, not his paternal line. ThruLines currently lacks the ability to distinguish, which is why I question the above issue with Francis Clark. If this system can’t detect that her 17 cMs are from my uncle’s Cox (maternal) line, then how can it know if the 7 cMs from the descendant of Francis Clark is from the father or mother?

Like with so many of the amazing tools we now have to use online to assist us with solving our heritage, nothing takes the place of old-fashioned hard work and critical thinking skills. ThruLines is an excellent finding aid. To Ancestry’s credit, they don’t claim otherwise. They’re very careful to use words like ‘suggests’ and ‘may be’ in the presentation of the data. Overall I’m quite pleased with this feature and hope it sticks around and continues to improve.



Long Lost Daughter

Sometimes the only path to a solution is to wait for it to present itself. Many people with Irish ancestors learn fairly quickly that the first place to start learning more about the ancestor’s family is to find out in which County the ancestor was born, then narrow it down to a Parish. I had given up believing even the County would become known for my John Clark Smith born circa 1814 in Ireland. He was married three times that I know of. His first wife was Catherine. Nothing is known about her except that she is listed as the mother of John’s son Richard in his baptism on 10 Oct 1847 at St. Peter’s Church in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Smith, Richard original baptism

The second known child of John Clark Smith was his daughter Margaret. I’ve written about trying to learn more about her before (2015). I was frustrated by the lack of a baptism record for her and my inability to find a marriage record for her. She just disappeared.

No one in my family knew of the existence of Richard or Margaret. They both appeared in the 1860 census in Reading, Pennsylvania and then the 1870 census in Jackson Township, Nodaway County, Missouri. Both were named in the Will of John Clark Smith in 1875. As covered in the previous post, the 1860 census was confusing; at first glance it appeared John’s wife, my ancestress, Elizabeth McIntyre was the mother of Margaret, aged 5 in 1860. Then I discovered the marriage record for John and Elizabeth dated 27 Jan 1859 (the date appears in the transcription, not this cropped version of the original.)

Smith, John married McIntyre, Elizabeth original
St. Peter’s Church Reading, Berks, Pennsylvania

Margaret’s mother was most likely someone else then. Poor Margaret became the victim of my neglect. Then one day came a miracle in the form of a DNA cousin match on ancestry.com.  At first I paid no attention to the common surname Smith in this individual’s tree that she had attached to her results. I see the Smith name in the list of common surnames frequently, as would most people of British/Irish extraction. Then I scrolled down her tree and saw this:

Smith, John on cousin match

So I clicked on Margaret and found this:

Smith, Margaret on cousin match

My first thought was: She survived!!! I am pretty darn happy about that. I have enough experience researching people in Missouri that the next thing I did was go looking for Margaret Blakeley’s death certificate. Missouri has an awesome database of original death certificate images from 1910-1967. [Insert Hallelujah Chorus here:]

Smith, Margaret dc cropped

Now I know who John’s second known wife was and…the County where he was born!!!!!!!

I still can’t find Margaret’s marriage record. I did find her future husband Robert Blakeley in the 1880 Census living a few miles from the Smith family; he was a saloon keeper and 23 years older than Margaret. The family seems to have done well; four of their eight children survived to adulthood. Apparently they moved to Cass County, Missouri then on to Lafayette County, Missouri.

It is very nice to know what happened to her; the added bonus of finding what County John Clark Smith came from is pretty great, too.



I Love Me Some Half-siblings

Working with DNA matches on ancestry.com is a fun challenge for me. The one thing basic matches can’t do is tell us which part of an ancestral couple provided the DNA match. Was it from the mother or the father? That’s why DNA circles tend to show up in pairs. We have to dig a little deeper to make that determination.

Holmes 01
Abigail C Holmes and George H Wood family

Abigail C Holmes and George H Wood had seven known children. My ancestor is their daughter Josephine. I have cousin matches to descendants of all five of the children who lived to have children of their own (includes Josephine). Does this tell me that I share DNA with both Abigail and George? Not exactly. I shared DNA with one of them, that much is certain. To learn if it is one or the other or both, more has to be learned about their families, in particular their siblings if they have them.

No document has yet been found stating the identities of Abigail C. Holmes’ parents. Normally the above direction: look at the siblings, would apply. Except that two of Abigail’s unproven siblings married proven siblings of her husband George H. Wood. The only clear DNA cousin matches I have for her full siblings are also Wood relatives. How do I then distinguish between Holmes DNA and Wood DNA?

Circumstantial evidence points to Abigail’s father being John Holmes, born 1790 in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, and died circa 1857 probably in Nodaway County, Missouri.

1850 Census John Holmes
1850; Census Place: District 19, Edgar, Illinois; Roll: M432_105; Page: 165B; Image: 338

Here is John Holmes with his second wife Rebecca Partridge née Miller. Line 30 is Elma J. who lived long enough to have a death certificate issued by the state of Illinois. It shows that her parents were John Homes (sic) and Sarah Collins. We believe Sarah Collins was John’s first wife who probably died before John remarried on 29 Apr 1847. Line 32 is Melissa L Holmes, believed to be the first known child of that union between John and Rebecca. Line 33, Isaac N(ewton) Partridge is believed to be one of the known children from Rebecca’s first marriage to Robert Partridge. Line 39 is Polly Holmes, who married the day before John Holmes and Rebecca Partridge.

Holmes 02
Illinois Regional Archives Depository Edgar County Marriages

Here is the presumed widow Rebecca Holmes with her reassembled family in 1860.

Holmes 03
1860; Census Place: Ottumwa, Coffey, Kansas Territory; Roll: M653_347; Page: 772

Line 14 is Melissa seen in the 1850 census; line 15 is Lourena C. Holmes born in 1852, line 16 is L. Isaac Holmes, and line 17 is Almira Holmes who was born in 1857 in Missouri, which is why I place the death place for John in Missouri. The older members of this household are the children from Rebecca’s first marriage. Line 21 is Isaac N. (yes, that’s an ‘N’) from 1850; line 22 is Rebecca’s daughter who was living with Rebecca’s mother in the 1850 census. It took some real doing for a single woman to reassemble a wide-ranging family in one place like this. I have some admiration for this woman, even though she’s not my kin. Her daughter is, though.

One of the many advantages to building families laterally and down to more recent generations is all the surnames we get to collect to use to search DNA matches trolling for identifiable cousins. One of Lourena Holmes’ descendants had an unusual surname that I remembered, so when this cousin match showed up and I looked at her tree, I recognized it as being one I had recently added to my tree. (I won’t use the name here because the recently deceased relative is too close to the living cousin.) It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be to figure out how we were related because she had another unique name on her tree that threw me off the scent. This cousin was enormously patient with me as I tried to sort it out. I was thrilled when I finally figured out that she was a descendant of John Holmes and Rebecca Miller Partridge! Proof positive that John Holmes really is my ancestor. The DNA we share came from him, and him alone.

Is this enough to satisfy a lineage society? No. But it moves John Holmes out of the realm of pure speculation and into a solid connection.

George H Wood has many proven siblings and parents and aunts and uncles, so proving his DNA wasn’t a challenge. Now I know I have DNA from both parents of my Josephine Wood, one of the parents of Abigail Holmes. All because of a half-sibling.

Brick Wall Paper

Autosomal DNA testing is such a miracle. How did people do genealogy before this technology was introduced? You know what else is a miracle? Ancestry message boards. Well, genealogy message boards in general. Third miracle? The Family History Library. Well, the Mormon church with all their dedication to preserving our heritage on microfilm. It’s like the holy trinity of ancestor worship.

Too much? I effuse about all three things coming out of Utah right now. I would not have gotten as far as I have with tracking down the ancestors of my James Henry Myers without all three of these capabilities. Bored of him yet? I wouldn’t blame you if you were, but honestly, this story just keeps getting better and better, and promises to get even better. I’m having too much fun right now.

Quick refresher from previous posts: DNA results led me to the father of James Henry Myers: Jacob Myers. Ancestry Discovery and FHL digital marriage image led me to a possible biological parent for Jacob Myers (James’ father) in John Naylor. FHL digital search gave me the marriage record for Jacob to Amarilla Cox.

One of the problems with breaking down one brick wall is that there is another brick wall right behind it. Never thought in a million years I might figure out who were the parents of Amarilla Cox. On paper, I may have found them.

Let me see if I can adequately recap the timeline of how this progress came about. I performed a Google search for Emarilier Cox, the name on the marriage record. I discovered a message board post asking for information from her descendants. Lucky for me the individual who posted it is still a member of Ancestry, so I was able to send a message to her; we began corresponding. She has a wealth of information about Jacob Myers. I learned from her that he, and subsequently his ‘widow’ had a Civil War pension file, which I ordered. My first reading from it didn’t give much new information since I’m not descended from his last wife, but it does present me with the ability to create a timeline of where he was and when from 1850 until his death in 1888. This is valuable for many reasons, primarily because he’s so difficult to pin down in Census records, and there might be another Jacob Myers in Putnam county around the same time. She also told me about a record where Jacob had transferred ownership of some land to Amarilla Cox after they married.

Meanwhile I requested the index to court records for Putnam County from Family Search. Armed with case and page numbers from the index, I ordered the reel with the first two volumes of court records and read through the references. The index showed me a tantalizing Myers v. Myers file that I was eager to learn more about. My thought was that it might have been a divorce record for his first wife Elizabeth Minick. Imagine my surprise when I found that he had initiated divorce proceedings against Amarilla! He married Amarilla on 18 May 1856. What do I find for 18 Oct 1856?

Amarilla Myers responding to Divorce suit.
Amarilla Myers responding to Divorce suit.1

The cad. The birth month and year I have for James Henry Myers is May 1857. Uh. Hmmm. Anyone else thinking what I’m thinking? Was this a shotgun wedding? Was James conveniently told he was born in 1857 rather than 1856? Luckily the index gave a case number for this petition. I called the Putnam County Circuit Court this week and learned this file still exists! I’m excited to learn what, if anything, might have been said about Amarilla when the copy is received. (On a side note: the woman who helped me with this is super nice.) I do know from these records and the clerk that the divorce was not granted.

I haven’t captured an image of it yet, but on that same reel is a reference to another case where Jacob was indicted for Felonious Assualt with Intent to Kill! I suspect that is going to be another post all by itself. I’m on pins and needles waiting for the copy of that file! Key in the record was mention of a witness named Martha Cox. It doesn’t take much to guess how little time transpired between me getting home from the Family History Center and searching the 1860 Census for Martha Cox2.

Possible parents for Amarilla Cox

I love my life. This thing is so tantalizing and has so many possibilities. James H. Cox aged 5. None of the people who have saved this image to their Cox lines have a clue who that is, or the set of two-year-old twins on the page. I can’t stop myself from speculating that James H. Cox is really James H. Myers, and that he is living with his grandparents. If James really was born in 1856, then he would have just turned four when this census was taken. If he really was three, this is a stretch, but not unheard of if the informant was John Cox. A forty-seven-year-old male not knowing how old his grandchildren are is hardly news.

Enter the Message Board Miracle, part deux. Back in 2001, a message was posted asking for descendants of John T. Cox from the 1860’s. Other people might remember when Heritage Quest had superior transcriptions for census records before Ancestry ruined it. Back then I could have found this record myself. Bless this person’s heart for transcribing this to make it so I could find it now, because Ancestry’s transcription of it is way off.

1850 Cox family in Clinton County, KY
1850 Cox family in Clinton County, KY3

John T. Cox 35 KY (the initial is actually an ‘S’)
Martha Cox 35 KY
Lucrecy C. Cox 15 KY
Winey A. Cox 13 KY
Lucinda P. Cox 10 KY
Leann E. Cox 6 KY
Jeremiah Cox 4 KY

These are significant names. That same Missouri marriage database that gave me the Cox-Myers marriage record also has the three other girls on this census: Lucinda married Richard Summers. They are living next door to Margaret and John in the 1860 Census. Lucretia married F.P. Ashlock; Leann E married Solomon Wisman. Amarilla married Jacob Myers…all of them took place in the 1850’s in Putnam County. Is Amarilla that Winey A. Cox? The age is plausible; the proximity to the other Cox girls is supportive. James’ 1900 Census record reports that his mother was born in Kentucky. I’m prepared for this to fall apart. Not for the first time with this family. I will probably have to wait to see if a descendant from one of these other children gives me a DNA match I need for proof, but I’m hopeful that I’ve made some serious progress on this family thanks to some 14-15 year-old message board posts, FHL and Ancestry DNA.


1 Court records v. A-B 1855-1867 Putnam County, FHL Film # 1010790

2 1860 US Census, Missouri, Putnam, Liberty, pg 346, HH# 35

3 1850 US Census, Kentucky, Clinton, District 2, pg 188A, HH# 62