• Blog Update August 2022

    Wow! It has been awhile since I last updated this blog. Lots of things have come up over the past year such as a cross-country move to Sussex County, Delaware, getting a new puppy, commercial acting work, getting kids settled into their new home and writing my family history book.

    I wondered what I should write about in this blog post today then it hit me that it is almost September. This is a good time to determine if you will be sending out genealogy gifts to family members for the holiday season. Last year I sent out family tree charts to my family and my husband's family as Christmas gifts. The gifts were well-received and it gave me an opportunity to do some research on some branches of our family tree that I hadn't looked at in awhile. A combination of new dna matches and recently posted records resulted in adding some new surnames and places of origin to our combined family trees. 

    This year I am thinking of making a family cookbook to send to our families. We have some favorite recipes that we have acquired over the years, but we really don't have many recipes that have been passed down. I would especially like to include some dishes that reflect my Irish, Scottish, English, German, Cornish, Swedish and Finnish heritage. Any suggestions out there? I've got a great soda bread recipe, but that is about all. We are looking for some Polish recipes to represent my husband's side of the family tree as well. I look forward to receiving feedback from readers.

    Also, feel free to send me any questions. 

    Until next time,




  • Joseph Applegate, Revolutionary War Soldier

    Joseph Applegate (1760-1836) was my 5th great granduncle. He was a soldier of the Revolutionary War (2nd Battaltion, New Jersey), and gave an account of his experience to a local court in Ohio in the early 1830s in an effort to gain a pension. Joseph had no documentation of his service, so the court in Ohio had to determine if his story was true. The court believed that Joseph was truthful and, as a result, was granted his pension.

    The document was handwritten and was very difficult to read. I transcribed that document and I am posting it here because I believe it gives the reader an idea of what it was like to be a soldier of the American Revolution.

    The following account was taken during Joseph’s declaration to obtain a pension on November 12, 1833 by the Court in Columbiana County, Ohio:

    “He [Joseph Applegate] entered the service the first time in the year 1776, about the month of June in said year and continued one month, when we were ­relieved by the other company and we went home – the Commandment of our regiment (number not known) was Colonel Robert Nixon, the Lieutenant Colonel’s name was Seuddard, the Captain of our company was Isaac Koons – that he resided when he entered the service in New Windsor Township in the county of Middlesex County and the State of New Jersey – we marched from there to Hattenfield [Haddonfield] from thence to Elizabethtown from thence to Fox Pond, from thence to Elizabethtown Port, where the enemy were near being on Staten Island, so near that we could hear them hail their country and at which place the enemy killed two of our picket guards, and at which time there were sixteen of us (of whom I was one) attempted to take a Privateer, but we failed. Captain Smock commanded us. 

    That he entered the service the second time three months after the exposition of the first month and continued one month when we were again relieved by another Company that Captain Chambers, commander of our company, during said month and Colonel Scudder commanded the Plymouth. That he resided in the same county and state as aforesaid that we marched from thence to Hidestown [Heightstown] from thence to head quarterly at Newark, the enemy were then on Lory Island and Staten Island. There were some erofs firing or skirmishes.

    That he entered the service the third time immediately before the Battle of Monmouth and continued one month when we were again relieved by another company, it being usual for militia companies to relieve one another that we marched to Monmouth and got there upon the day of the Battle – that General Washington commanded the troops there. That Captain Koons or Conley was our Commander and Colonel Nixon commandment of the regiment. That he resided in the county and state aforesaid. 

    That he entered the service the fourth time in the Winter of the year 1777 and continued for the space for four months – that he was engaged during that time in driving “baggage wagons” that he loaded at Trenton and drove to Kings Ferry on the North River where we unloaded - that Jonathan Akard was our wagon master during the three first months and during the last month William Hale was our wagon master, when we drove from Trenton to Philadelphia and part of us were engaged in “carting wood” and others “providing for the soldiers”. 

    That drove wagon one month more under Samuel Abbott in the year 1778 – that were engaged in hauling provisions and loaded at Morristown and Trenton and drove to Kings Ferry on the North River where we unloaded. 

    That he was engaged in the service for one month or more in scouting parties along “Toms River” sometimes two weeks at a time and sometimes three weeks at a time – we were these “minute men” and were compelled to go wherever warned”.



  • February 2021 Blog Post

    February 2021 Blog Post

    I have been away from my blog for a while due to homeschooling my two kids, work commitments, etc. Finally, I am back!

    I have started a weekly genealogy tip on my twitter @dawnharvey.com. Tip #1 is about using the Latin variants of first names in an effort to find your Irish Catholic ancestors in birth, marriage and death records. Some of the Latin variants are too different for search engines to recognize. For example, my third great grandfather was William Walshe. I was having trouble finding him in the New York Catholic Parish records then I decided to search for the Latin variant which was “Gulielmus”. As soon as I listed “Guilelmus Walshe” in the search field his records appeared. Here is another example: My husband’s third great grandfather was Dennis King. I couldn’t locate Dennis’ Philadelphia Catholic Parish Marriage record until I searched for “Dionysius King”. Sure enough, I found his 1847 church marriage record to Mary Sweeney. 

    A twitter follower noted that sometimes priests would make up a Latin variant if none existed – and this is true!  Here is a hint: if you cannot find the Latin variant to a name then simply search using the first letter of the first name. 

    What brick walls have you encountered in your search for ancestors?  Let me know what questions you would like to have answered at mail@dawnharvey.com.

    Happy Searching!



  • Using Ancestry ThruLines

    April Blog Post


    Using Ancestry ThruLines

    In this blog post, I will discuss Ancestry ThruLines, a relatively new service from Ancestry.com that compares your DNA to the DNA of your shared matches and provides a diagram of both known and potential ancestors. Information from your family tree and the family trees of other DNA matches and other users are also used in the algorithm. ThruLines can be a great tool in your research, but only if used correctly. I will explain the situations where ThruLines can be very helpful and I will also discuss when users should use caution before adding suggested ancestors to their family tree.

    Ancestry ThruLines is available to Ancestry.com users who have had their DNA tested with the company. Users also need to have a populated family tree on Ancestry.com, meaning if you only have yourself listed in your family tree then this service will not be available to you. First and foremost, always do additional research beyond what Ancestry ThruLines tells you, even if you think the information being provided is fairly plausible.   

    Here are three ways that Ancestry ThruLines can help you with your research:


    1).        Confirming Suspected Records for Ancestors:

    William Morris Orem was my third great grandfather and was born sometime around 1800 in the area known as “Eastern Shore, Maryland”. There was a christening record for a William Morris Orem born on October 15, 1802 in Dorchester, Maryland with parents named James and Henrietta Orem. I believed that this was likely a record for my third great grandfather, but I had no concrete evidence. This record sat in my “shoebox” on Ancestry.com for a few years without being added to my family tree. I searched high and low for additional information on this family, but I just couldn’t find a breakthrough in my research.

    Fortunately, potential ancestors appeared on my Ancestry ThruLines several weeks ago which gave me the confirmation that I needed. I knew that John and Mary Orem were believed to be the parents of my suspected fourth great grandfather, James Orem. Ancestry ThruLines displayed two other lines of DNA matches descended from John and Mary’s two other children. These other DNA matches were shared matches with my other known Orem cousins. Ancestry ThruLines also presented another DNA match who was descended from another sibling of my suspected fourth great grandparents, James and Henrietta Orem. This DNA match was also a match with my other known Orem cousins.

    All of the information provided by Ancestry ThruLines allowed me to confidently accept the christening record for my third great grandfather and helped me add fourth and fifth great grandparents to my family tree.


    2).        Confirming Relatives When No Records are Available:

    My husband’s third great grandfather, Thomas Miskell, was born in Baltimore, Maryland sometime around 1820 and died in 1876 in Philadelphia. The names of Thomas’ parents and their exact locations of birth were unknown. No names of parents were listed on Thomas’ Philadelphia Death record and I was told by the Maryland State Archives that I would not be able to obtain a record of Thomas’ birth since he was born before civil birth records were required. I searched through newspapers, church records, connected with distant cousins, you name it – I could not find any additional information. I knew that Thomas had connections to Ireland based on the census reports of his children and a distant cousin stated that Thomas was from Ireland according to family lore.

    This is where Ancestry ThruLines proved helpful. Several descendants of Patrick Miskell appeared on my husband’s ThruLines. All of these DNA matches were shared matches with my husband’s known Miskell cousins, so this seemed promising. I did extensive research on Patrick Miskell and was able to determine that he was an ancestor of Thomas’, likely his father or an uncle. Either way, Patrick and Thomas were related. Fortunately, an 1844 Missing Friends ad in the Boston Pilot stated that Patrick was from Kilchreest, Roxborough, County Galway, Ireland.  Thanks to ThruLines we now had a place of origin in Ireland for the Miskell family.


    3).        ThruLines Illustrates Exact Descendancy of Your DNA Matches:

    I had several DNA matches that I knew were descended from my Teague ancestors from Cornwall, but I did not know their exact relationship. ThruLines helped identify the exact relationship for many of these DNA matches by showing which sibling of my fourth great grandparents, Thomas Teague and Honor Bastian, they were descended. Having exact information on how you are related to your DNA matches is extremely helpful, especially when you have to rely on DNA for information when records are not available.


    Now, Ancestry ThruLines has been very helpful to me over the past few months, but ThruLines doesn’t always get it right. You have to recognize when the information doesn’t add up, so you don’t add the wrong ancestors to your tree.

    Here are two examples of red flags:


    1).  There Is No Other DNA Evidence:  

    Meaning you are the only DNA match, or your close relatives are the only other DNA matches used to prove relationship to a suspected ancestor according to ThruLines. Other relationship paths are necessary in determining the validity of the algorithm’s recommendation. Relationship paths illustrate how DNA matches are descended from the other children of your ancestors. 

    I have one branch of my family tree from Ireland who immigrated to Pennsylvania in the 1850s, the McQuades. I have not had any luck finding the names of my fourth great grandparents or the family’s origin in Ireland. Ancestry ThruLines has been recommending potential fourth great grandparents bearing the McQuail surname, but I am skeptical of this information. First of all, I have no evidence of a surname change for my third great grandmother, Julia McQuade Hickey. Secondly, Ancestry ThruLines offers no other DNA matches descended from the McQuail family to help validate this information. The only thing that has kept me from totally disregarding the algorithm’s suggestion is that the McQuades and McQuails both resided in Pottsville, Pennsylvania in the mid to late 1850s. Pottsville is not a major city, so I do think it is curious that my third great grandparents lived in this smaller community before moving on to Philadelphia.

    The bottom line: perhaps Ancestry ThruLines is correct, but I do not have enough evidence to determine this information. As a result, I cannot claim the McQuails as my fourth great grandparents at this time. I recommend passing on ThruLines suggested ancestors in these situations at least until more information becomes available. Who knows? Maybe someday I will be able to confirm the McQuails as my fourth great grandparents, but I am not there yet. Avoid putting the wrong ancestors in your tree at all costs.


    2)  When the Suggested DNA Relationship is Based on an Unsourced Tree:

    Asa Ridgway, my fourth great grandfather, was born sometime around 1800 in either Philadelphia or Delaware. He was descended from Richard Ridgway (1654-1723), but I still do not know the names of Asa’s parents. Now, I have countless DNA matches who are descended from Richard Ridgway and I have not been able to determine Asa’s parents based on these other DNA matches.  

    I was excited when I noticed that Ancestry ThruLines had a suggested father for Asa with two other DNA paths descended from Andrews Ridgway. Andrews Ridgway and his father, Jacob, are very well documented in various New Jersey history books. There is no mention anywhere of Andrews having a son named Asa. There is another user on Ancestry who has Andrews Ridgway listed as Asa’s father, but there is no documentation to support this. I tried to contact the tree owner, but I never got a response from that person. I can only conclude that the Ancestry ThruLines algorithm got the potential ancestor suggestion from this unsourced tree. Perhaps this information is correct, but I cannot determine if this is the case at this time. I would like to add that I have several other DNA matches who are descended from Richard Ridgway’s other children and I share more DNA with some of these descendants than the descendants of Andrews Ridgway. I am going to have to pass on adding Andrews Ridgway as my fifth great grandfather, at least for now. Other Ancestry ThruLines users should also pass on adding ancestors to their tree in similar situations.


    In Conclusion:

    Ancestry has created a very useful tool with their ThruLines service, which can help researchers knock down brick walls in their family tree. Additional research must be conducted to verify that the information provided by ThruLines is correct. Important factors to look for are: 1) are the DNA matches presented by ThruLines shared matches with known DNA matches from that branch of the family tree?  2). Are there other relationship paths illustrated? Relationship paths show that the suggested potential ancestor had other children and the descendants of those other children are now appearing as your DNA matches.  3). Is the information coming from ThruLines based on a sourced or unsourced tree?  ThruLines will show you the trees that the algorithm used to come up with your potential ancestor suggestions. Be very wary of trees that have little or no sources.


    In next month’s blog I will discuss Collateral Research, the practice of researching extended family and neighbors in order to find additional information on your direct ancestors.

    In the meantime, feel free to contact me with any questions or comments at mail@dawnharvey.com.

    Best Regards,

    Dawn Harvey










  • Using Cemetery Records

    Using Cemetery Records

    Cemetery records can be an extremely helpful tool in genealogical research. In this blog post, I will cover how these records can help you find the information that you need and how to obtain these records. You can often obtain burial lists at little or no charge. Cemeteries who do request payment for this information usually charge between $10 and $50.

    Always make sure to visit the cemetery’s website to find out what their procedure is for obtaining genealogical information.  Some cemeteries take requests by phone or email while others require a written request sent via US mail.

    I have outlined four circumstances where burial records can really help you further your research:


    1. When no death record is available:

    I had been working on the genealogy of my husband’s second great grandparents, Michael and Elizabeth Cleary. There were no death records to be found online and I suspected that they died in New Jersey sometime after the 1940 US Census report (this assumption proved correct).  New Jersey doesn’t post death records or death indexes from this time period online and you need to have a pretty good idea of when the person died in order to obtain a death record.  It also costs $25 per death record plus additional charges if you do not have the exact date of death.

    I knew that Michael and Elizabeth’s daughter, Ethel, was buried in November of 1991 at Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon, Pennsylvania (just outside of Philadelphia). I visited Holy Cross Cemetery’s website and read that they offer free genealogical assistance. I called them on the phone, and I had Ethel’s exact burial date and age at death in front of me (it is important to have this information at your fingertips so they can quickly help you – the people working in these offices are very busy). They placed me on a brief hold then came back with the names and burial dates of the people buried alongside Ethel. Sure enough, Ethel was laid to rest alongside her late parents, Michael and Elizabeth Cleary. Using the burial dates, I was able to find both Michael’s 1946 obituary and Elizabeth’s 1950 obituary (I had searched their names on newspapers.com prior to this, but their obituaries did not appear in keyword searches). Thanks to the burial list provided by Holy Cross Cemetery, I now had this important genealogical information for my husband’s family tree.


    2.    When the correct death record cannot be determined:

    John and Catharine Martin were my third great grandparents and I knew that they both died in Philadelphia sometime between 1889 and 1910. John Martin was born in Ireland sometime around 1831 and his wife, Catharine, was born in Pennsylvania sometime around 1832.  There were numerous death records for people named John Martin and Catharine Martin with similar birth dates and birth places who died in Philadelphia between 1889 and 1910.  I was having trouble determining which records were the correct death records for my ancestors.  This is where burial records proved helpful.

    John and Catharine had a daughter named Aloysia G. Martin who died on April 10, 1888 and was buried at Cathedral Cemetery in Philadelphia. Aloysia was unmarried and died at the age of 22 years old.  I figured that her parents were likely buried alongside their late daughter. 

    I called Cathedral Cemetery on the phone and asked how to obtain Aloysia’s burial information including the information of the people buried alongside her. I was told that I needed to send a check for $45 along with a written request, which I did. I was hopeful that Aloysia G. Martin’s burial list from Cathedral Cemetery would also contain the death information of my third great grandparents.  I was in luck!  I received a burial list of ten relatives that included John and Catharine Martin.  As a result, I was able to locate their Philadelphia death records along with their obituaries on newspapers.com.  Catharine died in Philadelphia in December of 1891 and John died in Philadelphia in February of 1907.  I would not have been able to determine their exact dates of death if it were not for Aloysia’s burial list provided by Cathedral Cemetery.  


    3.   Using cemetery records to discover new stories

    I was researching my husband’s fourth great grandparents, Terrence and Mary Donahue, and I was having trouble confirming Terrence’s death information. I suspected that he died in July of 1863 and was buried in Philadelphia, but I couldn’t be certain. I ordered the suspected burial record in an effort to confirm Terrence’s date of death, but I also discovered something really amazing in the process. I knew that Terrence had several children in addition to my husband’s third great grandfather, James, but I did not have death information on all of the children. There were a lot of Donahues born in Ireland and living in Philadelphia in the mid to late 1800s, so confirming records on this family was challenging at times.

    I received Terrence’s burial list which confirmed my suspicions that he died in July of 1863 in Philadelphia. Several of his children were buried alongside of him including his son John. I had not been able to confirm John’s date of death prior to this. I located John’s October 1865 death record by referencing his newly found burial date. The occupation on his death certificate read “soldier”. Things started getting interesting. I then located his obituary in the Philadelphia Inquirer which listed several details about John’s Civil War service including his regiment, the battle where he was injured, his age and his last residence. No one knew that John was a Civil War solider prior to this! I then ordered John’s Civil War pension records from the National Archives and learned that the family emigrated from County Donegal, Ireland. This was information that we would not have known otherwise. In short, Terrence’s burial list lead us to information on a Civil War ancestor and ultimately the family’s origin in Ireland.


    4.   Using cemetery records to find new ancestors

    Thomas Tracy, an Irish immigrant and saloon owner, was my second great grandfather. I wanted to find as much information on the Tracy family as possible including the names of Thomas’ parents, which I did not have.

    I ordered Thomas’ April 1927 burial list in hopes of finding more information on the family.  It worked!  Thomas’ parents, Thomas and Catharine, were both buried alongside him at Cathedral Cemetery in Philadelphia. Using the dates on the burial list I was able to locate their death records and obituaries. Catharine’s obituary led me to another ancestor: her son, Bernard.

    Discovering Bernard also led me to a very sad story for the family history books. I learned through newspaper research that Bernard went missing in 1906 in Philadelphia and was never heard from again. His brother, Thomas, made a few desperate attempts to locate his brother using newspaper articles and classified ads in the 1920s, but he had no luck. To this day, nobody knows what happened to my third great uncle.

    Obtaining Thomas’ 1927 burial record led me to the names of his parents along with their death dates in addition to discovering a sibling that I did not know that Thomas had. I would have not been able to connect Thomas with these other relatives because they were never listed on the same census report and never had similar addresses.



    Burial records can be an incredible tool in researching your family history and sometimes you can obtain this information at no charge and over the phone. Just have your information ready at your fingertips including your ancestor’s burial date and age at death. 


    Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments at mail@dawnharvey.com


    In April’s blog post, I will discuss how Ancestry Thrulines can help you with your research.



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