Thursday, September 20, 2018

Deaf Ancestor Mary Emma Rose ~ 52 Ancestors #38

I am participating in this year's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks writing challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Each week has an optional writing prompt and this week's writing prompt is Unusual Source. In fact, Amy introduced the idea of this source in another blog post from last week: Researching Deaf Ancestors.

I didn't think I had any deaf ancestors; I'm still pretty sure that none of my direct ancestors were deaf. However, I explored the Ancestry database she mentioned, U.S. Special Census on Deaf Family Marriages and Hearing Relatives, 1888-1895, and I found a fourth great aunt. All I knew of this 4th great aunt was from her gravestone: Mary Rose Mitchell Totten, 1808-1897, which I photographed when visiting Rose Hill Cemetery in Matawan, New Jersey, in 2013.

Mary Emma Rose was the daughter of Joseph Rose and Frances Stanton. From the few records that I previously had on this family, I only knew of six children of Joseph Rose and Frances Stanton and I had complete birth and death dates for only my direct ancestor, Joseph Stanton Rose, whose detailed obituary I transcribed at Joseph Rose (1809-1877). He is buried at Rose Hill Cemetery in Matawan, New Jersey, and was the reason I visited the cemetery. Finding GGGG Aunt Mary's gravestone was by chance.

This survey of deaf individuals collected a lot of family information and WOW: I now know that Joseph and Frances had ten children with four dying very young. This is a wonderful example of researching collateral relatives to obtain more information. Not only does the survey include all of Mary's siblings, but their full names and birth dates. No specific death dates are listed, but several siblings died young and those are mentioned. Mary Emma signed the last page.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

AncestryDNA Updates Ethnicity Results

As reported today by AncestryDNA, they have made a significant update to their ethnicity results, providing more precise results across Asia and Europe. Users will see changes to their ethnicity percentages and new regions (as some of their regions have been redefined).

My AncestryDNA ethnicity estimates, which haven't shown an update for me in five years, still reflect 100% European, but have been refined.

Ancestry reports that as they've gotten more data (i.e. 16,000 reference samples where previously they had 3,000), they have improved their ability to distinguish between regions, especially for regions which are closely related and have similar genetic makeup such as Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, Northwestern Europe (well, that's just about all my ethnic makeup right there). This is their explanation as to why I now show no Scandinavian DNA.

My original results (April 2012) looked like the following:

About a year and a half later (October 2013), they looked like this:

By last spring, they referred to "Low Confidence Regions" instead of "Trace Regions." The percentages hadn't changed:

As of today, my ethnicity estimate is still just about all European, just rearranged:

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Reverend Joseph Sewall, 1688-1769 ~ 52 Ancestors #36

I am participating in this year's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks writing challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Each week has an optional writing prompt and last week's writing prompt was Work.

I explored my tree for unusual occupations, and found a somewhat famous minister in my ancestry.

Son of Justice Samuel Sewall of Boston, Joseph Sewall, my 6th great-grandfather, was the fourth minister of Old South Church in Boston, serving from 1713 until his death in 1769. [Church website and Wikipedia]

Old South Church is one of the older religious communities in the United States. It was organized by Congregationalist dissenters from Boston's First Church and was known as the Third Church (to distinguish it from the First and Second Congregational Churches in the city). The Third Church's congregation met first in their Cedar Meeting House (1670), then at the Old South Meeting House (1729) at the corner of Washington and Milk Streets in Boston.

The following image, in the public domain, is a John Smibert (1688-1751) oil on canvas painting done about 1735 of the Reverend Joseph Sewall. Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery.

Son of Justice Samuel Sewall and his wife, Hannah Hull, Joseph was born at Boston on August 15, 1688, and baptized at the Old South Church on August 19, 1688. He was his parents' eighth child and sixth son. He attended Harvard College, graduating in 1707 and completing his second degree in 1710.

He was elected as associate minister of Old South in 1712 and ordained in September of 1713. About six weeks later, he married Elizabeth Walley, daughter of Hon. John Walley and Sarah Blossom. (Justice John Walley was an associate of Joseph's father, Samuel, for many years.) He and Elizabeth had two children; only one survived infancy: Samuel, born in 1715.

He was offered the presidency of Harvard College, which he declined (he wanted to remain in Boston), but did serve as a fellow of the college from 1728 to 1765.

He served as minister at Old South for 56 years, from 1713 until his death in 1769.  He baptized so many children that when I perform a search for his name in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register at, there are thousands of results.

Only three of his father's 14 children outlived him, and Joseph outlived all his siblings. He died at Boston on June 27, 1769 and two days later, was buried at the Granary Burying Ground in Boston. See his FindAGrave memorial, where there is a brief biography, though no gravestone photo. An obituary in the Boston Post-Boy reports that "Scarce any one ever passed through life with a more unblemished character, or performed its various duties with more universal esteem."

Sources include:
Hamilton Andrews Hill, "The Rev. Joseph Sewall: His Youth and Early Manhood," The New England Historical and Genealogical Register 46 (1896): 3-10; digital images, American Ancestors ( : accessed 11 September 2018).

Obituary, Joseph Sewall, Boston Post-Boy, 3 July 1769, issue 393, p. 2; digital image, GenealogyBank ( : accessed 11 September 2018).

"Old South Church," Wikipedia ( : accessed 11 September 2018).

"Old South Meeting House," Wikipedia ( : accessed 11 September 2018).


My descent from Reverend Joseph Sewall is as follows. His third great-grandson, Samuel Sewall Greeley, married his fourth great-granddaughter, Eliza May Wells.

Joseph Sewall
Samuel Sewall
Dorothy Sewall
Louisa May (sister of Elizabeth Sewall May)
Samuel Sewall Greeley (married Eliza May Wells)
Ethel May Greeley
Lowell Townsend Copeland
my mother

Second line:
Joseph Sewall
Samuel Sewall
Dorothy Sewall
Elizabeth Sewall May (sister of Louisa May)
Elizabeth Sewall Willis
Eliza May Wells (married Samuel Sewall Greeley)
Ethel May Greeley, see above

Samuel Sewall Greeley and Eliza May Wells were first cousins once removed.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Ogontz School Yearbook 1926 ~ 52 Ancestors #35

I am participating in this year's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks writing challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Each week has an optional writing prompt and last week's writing prompt was Back to School.

Yes, I have found family members in school yearbooks, but also, I own one of a small number of yearbooks created upon the 1926 graduation of my grandmother from Ogontz School, Rydal, Pennsylvania. The school, an all-girls finishing school, no longer exists; it is now the campus of Penn State, Abington.

Yes, that's a latch on the right.