Wednesday, September 13, 2017


I consider myself a novice when it comes to DNA.  Although I've taken many classes and seminars, I still have a lot to learn. I'm getting there......slowly.

One of the most Aha! moments I've had came when I was looking at my husband's DNA on GedMatch.   This was the number one match on his One to Many list.

This match has a total cM of 75.6 with a 3.8 MRCA (most recent common ancestor).  That would mean the match is at about the 3rd cousin level, sharing 2nd great grandparents.  Other possibilities are 3rd cousin once removed or even 3rd cousin twice removed.  For any of those it would mean sharing 2nd great grandparents.

The exciting thing was that I noticed there is a Gedcom associated with this match.  That means I can go into the Gedcom and try to find those 2nd great grandparents and see if I can locate the match.  

NOTE: When I click on the GED link a screen comes up with "Individual Detail Display"  This gives me some information on the specific match, but not what I'm looking for.  So, I always click on "Pedigree." 

This pedigree is pretty full, which is exciting.  I count back from the point person to the level of 2nd great grandparents.  I browse down that level in the pedigree chart to see if I recognize any names.  BINGO!  There is a surname I immediately recognize as being associated with my husband's line, CUPPS.  And the location in Pennsylvania also fits.

I immediately go to my Legacy database and find the only Cupps entry I have, which happens to be the first wife of my husband's 2nd GREAT GRANDFATHER.  Now that's exciting as it is in line with what the shared DNA indicated.  

I didn't even know that my husband's 2nd great grandfather, William W. Bright (1835-1916) had a first wife until I received his Civil War pension file.  I only knew about his second wife, Mary Jane Flynn, which is whom I thought my husband descended from, based on dates and other records.  
Mmmmm..........could I be wrong?  I'm certainly anxious to find out.  

Was my husband's great grandfather, Ellmer E. Bright the son of Mary Jane Flynn or Catherine Cupps?

I set out on a research mission to find out all I could about the CUPPS names listed in that Gedcom file that was a match to my husband's DNA. 

The first thing I did was try to find the 2nd great grandparents listed on that Gedcom in GedMatch, Henry Cupps and Catherine Strauss.   I went over to, where my husband's DNA is located.  I immediately found a public tree with the same pedigree as the one on GedMatch.

There are Henry Cupps and Catherine Strauss and two of their children, Sarah and Catherine.  

That, of course, isn't good enough for me, but it's surely a strong indication.  

I located Henry Cupps and his wife Catherine in the 1850 census and guess who two of the children were......that's right, Sarah and Catherine Cupps.  Further proof. 

Next, I began reviewing the dates of marriages for William W. Bright and his two wives and the dates of death of both women.

We all know that prior to about 1900 anything is possible.  You may or may not find records.  A strong indicator of when William's first wife Catherine Cupps died is in his Civil War pension file. In his deposition he states that she died "during the war."  That puts her death between 1861 and 1865.  Also in the pension file is the date of the marriage of William to Catherine Cupps, 1853 in Sharpsburg, Allegheny, Pennsylvania.  Further reading in the pension file gives her death date of August 1862.  Also listed in that pension file are the names and years of birth of all of William's children from both marriages, including Ellmer E. Bright (my husband's direct line), who is said to have been born in 1861.  I had a year of birth for him of 1859.  Either way, he was born prior to Catherine Cupps death and prior to William marrying his second wife in Feb 1864.

I have more research to do to bring out all the details for this family.  

  • First of all, I didn't look closely enough at the Civil War pension file.  I read though it a couple of times and caught, what I thought, were most of the details. 
  • I didn't consider or look closely enough at the years of birth for all six children born to William W. Bright.   I don't have a death certificate or register of death, but I do have an obituary and a probate record for Ellmer.  The obituary gives his age at death of 29 years and 5 months.  Given his date of death that would indicate he was born in November 1859.
  • This family was one of the very first I worked on back in 2003-2004.  Not an excuse, but certainly a reason for all of us to review ALL of our work.
  • I have officially changed my husband's direct line and now have Catherine Cupps as his 2nd great grandmother instead of Mary Jane Flynn.  
This has been a LOT of fun and really points out the value of our DNA tests.  Not only that, but making sure your DNA is uploaded to every possible site.  
This match showed up as the first hit on GedMatch.
On Ancestry it is buried several pages down with the 4th - 6th cousin matches.

I have yet to check on MyHeritage and FtDNA where my husband's test is also uploaded.

Have you had similar experiences?  Are you using your DNA matches to verify or disprove your paper trail?  

AMANUENSIS MONDAY - The Last Will & Testament of Ellmer E. Bright

SURNAME SATURDAY - Who Was Daisy Bright? (my husband's grandmother) 

If you are connected with the families mentioned here, I would love to hear from you.

Happy hunting,

Michigan Girl

Copyright ©  2010-2017   Diane Gould Hall

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


Paul Abrahams Senior Photo

This post is a bit of a change from my regular posts. In this case I am writing about a young man, not a member of my family, killed by a drunk driver.
That drunk driver, Hubert L. Pepper, is connected to my family by marriage. He was the husband of a 2nd cousin, once removed.

I thought I would honor the memory of the young man he killed.
I’ve done what research I can about Paul Abrahams and this is what I found out.
Paul Abrahams was born 15 Jun 1909 in Hancock, Michigan. It appears he was the youngest of four or five sons. His parents were immigrants. Morris Abrahams1, born in London, England and Rebecca Gold1, also born in London, England, according to Paul’s death certificate. 
However, in reviewing census records and the passport application for Morris Abrahams, I believe both he and his wife were born in Europe (Morris in Poland and Rebecca in Germany). Both spoke Hebrew leading me to believe they were possibly of Jewish descent. Morris applied for a passport renewal in 1920, to return to Poland to be with his sisters.2
  • In the 1910 census Paul is living with his parents in Hancock, Houghton, Michigan.3
  • In the 1920 census Paul is 10 years old and living with his parents & siblings in Hancock, Houghton, Michigan. His siblings were: William H., Samuel R. and Harold.4
  • In the 1930 census Paul is still living with his parents and one sibling, Harold.5
I also located Paul Abrahams name in the Hancock Central High School Yearbook for 1925, page 68. He was listed as a junior.
In 1926 we find Paul Abrahams listed as a senior at Hancock High School, page 101, titled Senior ROASTER. It’s pretty cute what they had to say about those listed here. The list gives Name, Occupation, Wants and Might Be. For Paul they listed the following:6
Name: Paul Abrahams
Occupation: Kidding ability
Wants: His own way
Might be: Bachelor

Here is the death certificate and FindAGrave memorial for Paul Abrahams. 

Cause of death listed on certificate – Broken neck, struck by auto while crossing street, car driven by drunk driver 
I’m sure the sudden death of Paul was a shock to his family and friends. May he rest in peace.
Drunk driving penalties have certainly changed (for the most part) in our country, since 1936. The driver in this case was only given 9 months in jail and 3 years probation. 

That driver was the same age as his victim, only 27. I hope he made something of the rest of his life. Such a tragic story.
1. Michigan death certificate for Paul Abrahams
2. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925
3. U.S. Federal census 1910
4. U.S. Federal census 1920
5. U.S. Federal census 1930
6. U.S. School Yearbooks, 1880-2012
7. Newspaper articles courtesy of
8. Death certificate located on
Happy hunting,
Michigan Girl
Copyright © 2010-2017 Diane Gould Hall

Sunday, July 30, 2017



First of all, I want to say that I’ve missed writing my blog posts.  Since we returned from our vacation in June I have been completely focused on DNA results.  I am trying to assist our daughter-in-law with finding her biological family.  I have been trying to learn how to use each of the DNA sites and all the resources they offer.  And, how to interpret results.  This is no small task.

I originally wrote about this subject last November.  But, I’ve changed my method since then.  Always a work in progress, as you know.  Here’s the earlier post:

Now that I am the administrator for other family member’s tests, and I am dealing with multiple sites, it’s necessary to be sure I have a good tracking method.

So, you contact someone who is a match on FtDNA, Ancestry or GedMatch. If your lucky enough that the connection responds, what then? 
  • How do you keep track of the initial contact?
  • How do you record their response?
  • How do you keep track of which side of the family they may be connected to?
Those are the questions many people have asked.  Everyone has their own method.  Some may go old school and print everything and keep it in a binder.  Some might use a spreadsheet or a Word document.  Others might just keep a special folder in their email account.  Maybe a combination of all that?


I have been using Evernote for several years.  I find it very useful for all areas of my life.  But, especially for genealogy.  Why?
  • Because you can create up to 250 Notebooks
  • Because you can create as many notes as you want to
  • BUT, especially because you can tag each of those notes with specific tags (you can use up to 100,000 tags in your Evernote account)
  • Because I can sort by date created, title or date updated
  • Because you can add text, images, and links to websites
  • Because you can annotate your notes with arrows and boxes
  • Because you can add highlights, tables, check boxes or audio
You get the idea.  There’s a LOT you can do.  AND, it syncs from your desktop to any other device on which you’ve downloaded the app.

Back to my original topic.  How I have been keeping track of DNA correspondence.
I have a notebook titled “DNA Correspondence.”  For tags I use “DNA matches” and whatever surnames are connected, if I have that information, and/or places.

Here’s what I record in a note in Evernote.  I use copy and paste.
I have redacted personal information for this match.

I begin with the date of the correspondence, who I contacted and how we match.

5/30/2017 Email from Audie
I contacted her from a match on GedMatch
Comparing Kit A918842 (*DGouldHall) and M897041 (Audie Hartson)
Largest segment = 28.3 cM
Total of segments > 7 cM = 67.8 cM
4 matching segments

Estimated number of generations to MRCA = 3.9
We match on segments 3, 11, 12 and 14

Next I take a screenshot or copy and paste the graph of the chromosome match or matches.

Audie screenshot 1
Audie screenshot 2

I then copy and paste our correspondence in date order.

I sent out my first contact email (I have a standard email that I send, which I modify as needed) and she responded.

NOTE:  Every DNA class or seminar I have attended has stressed that those first contact emails be friendly, short and to the point.
Here is my initial contact email.
Tuesday, May 23, 2017 11:12 AM, Diane Hall wrote:
Hi Audie,
My name is Diane Gould Hall. You have come up as a match to both my brother and
myself on GedMatch.

We have been searching for nearly 15 yrs. to try and find out who the parents of
our 2nd great grandfather might be. I am an experienced genealogist and have
hired 3 professionals, who have never found a link to his parents.
I figured DNA was the best bet.

So, according to GedMatch you are matching us at 63 cm (my brother) and 67 cm
(me) and about 4 generations.
This means that we probably have 2nd great grandparents in common.

Would you be interested in exchanging information with me? I have a tree on
Ancestry. Do you? I will gladly share my research with you.

Thank you for your time. I hope to hear from you soon.
Best regards,
Diane Gould Hall

I received a response back the following day.  I was on vacation at the time, but was checking my email while we were gone.  

Here is what I wrote back to her.  She had mentioned that she was going to be on vacation.

May 24 2017 20:18:13
Hi Audie,
  Thanks for getting back to me.  I know you are still on vacation.  I was gone when your email came in and I'm home now.
  Well, you nailed it when you listed the names and now I know how we are connected.  It's through the Surdam name.  Here's how it goes:
Edith Eliza Thorp (1843-1915) married George Beech Surdam - they are my 2nd great grandaunt and uncle
Their daughter, Ida F. Surdam married Augustine A. Lighthouse, just like you stated.  The only child I had thus far for Ida & Augustine was Grace B. Lighthouse born about 1889.  I probably haven't done a lot on this link yet.
However, I have LOTS of info on the Thorp line and pretty good info on all the children of George B. Surdam and Edith Eliza Thorp.
  I am very happy to share any of my information with you.  This is very exciting.  It's the first time I've contacted a possible DNA match and have actually received information back that I can connect to.  I'm also a rookie at all this and hoping to continue to learn more.  This should help both of us.
Look forward to hearing back from you.

She responded back to me with the following email.

From: Audie Hartson []
Sent: 5/30/2017 4:24:19 PM
Subject: Re:  GEDMatch  - we are connected, but how?

Hi Diane,
I am not good at figuring out GedMatch, or 23andMe-ancestry as yet.  I do have
some information on my Mother's side going back to my grandfather's and
grandmother's parents.  My Dad's side I have very little information.

My Grandmother's name is Audria Glenn Gerkin (Riggs).  Her parents were Alfred
Gerkin and Lizzie Whittington married Nov. 3, 1878
My Grandfather's name is Ollie Marshall Riggs.  His parents were Henry Harvey
Riggs (born 12-8-1849) and Mary Catherine Stechman (Born 4-29-1855).

My Father is James Earl Lund.  His parents are Otto Gerhard Lund and Lillian
Lighthouse (Lund).  I believe Lillian's parents were August Lighthouse and Ida
Surdam.  I also have the names of George Surdam and Edith Thorp who may be her
parents.  Otto Gerhard Lund's parents are Ole Gerhardt Lund and Jermine
Thompson.    That is about it.

I do have information on the Riggs dating back to 1632
If you have any of those names on your side, I would be very interested.  

I do not have a tree on ancestry.  I went through 23andme for DNA.
I am going on a trip this Friday for 3 weeks, so if you write back I will not be
able to answer you until the end of June.  It is so exciting hearing from
relatives that you did not know you have.

Best of luck..  If you need more on the Riggs side, I can help.  If you have
information on any of the names above, I would be very interested.  I hope we can
find the link.


There has been no further correspondence between us.  Knowing she would be gone for 3 weeks, I left her alone.  Since then, I’ve been sidetracked on other DNA items.  What this is reminding me, is that I need to send another email.

So far, this method is working well for me in regards to keeping track of correspondence.  There may be a time in the not to distant future where I will add a spreadsheet to my toolbox to also keep track of correspondence.  Perhaps just names, email addresses, how we connect and the dates back & forth.  Then I can come into my Evernote account and see the correspondence.

I would love to hear how all of you are keeping track of this incredible, but sometimes overwhelming tool, called DNA.  Please share with me in a comment or on your own blog, with a link to the post.


Happy hunting,

Michigan Girl

Copyright ©  2010-2017   Diane Gould Hall

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


My husband, Ron and I on the train from Fairbanks to Talkeetna
Me getting ready to head out on our ATV adventure

My husband and I just returned from a two week vacation.  What with the preparation prior to the trip and being sick since we’ve returned home, I’ve been away from my research now for about 4 weeks.

That’s a long time for me.  Since I’m retired, I have the luxury of being able to set my own schedule (in other words, I can research pretty much as often as I want to).  Isn’t that what we all hope for?  Of course I still have other interests and activities, but I generally have time to sit down each day and do some sort of research.  Sometimes that’s just cleaning up images or reviewing what I’ve recently located.

Today’s question is, where do I begin?  Which line of the family do I want to focus on right now?  I keep copious research notes in my Legacy database. I enter the date I’ve done something and what that something was, what I located, where it was located etc.  This allows me to return to a particular ancestor and see exactly what I’ve done and when.

Legacy keeps track of the last 200 people I’ve viewed.  That will give me some idea of where I’ve been recently.

To view your History list in Legacy go to the View tab and select “History List.”  Because I use this list all the time, I have included it in My Toolbar, where it is readily available.

Here is where you will find the History List in your Legacy program.


As I viewed my History List today, I was able to go back to some of the people I was working on prior to vacation.  This helps bring back my train of thought at the time (well, at least I hope it does).

Another way I will decide who I might want to work on, is to go to my Ancestry tree and see what hints have popped up.  You know, the little shaky leaf.  When I first went onto Ancestry after my return there were 64 new hints.  As we know, new hints tend to generate as you work on people in your tree.  When I see a red number above the leaf I always check to see who the hints are for.  Is it someone I want to look at or a distant family connection or possibly someone I don’t want to work on right now?

NOTE:  I have turned off Member Tree hints.  This way, I am only seeing hints for record collections or media.  I can turn those Member Tree hints back on any time.

Another thing I did during our vacation, was to keep up with genealogy Facebook groups I belong to.  I learn a lot from those groups.  However, I don’t want to spend a lot of time online while on vacation.  When I came across something of interest I used the “save link” option in Facebook, which allows me to come back to that item.  Once I returned home I spent some time reviewing articles and tutorial videos.  One of the videos was a tutorial for using the Chronicling America newspaper site.  The tips I learned helped me to immediately find a death notice from 1838.  Definitely worthwhile.
With this said, now it’s time to decide where my next research adventure will begin.

I’d like to know what method you use to pick up your research when you’ve been away.  Maybe it was only a few weeks, perhaps months or even years.  Where do you begin?

Stay tuned for more posts about our family.  Hopefully I can connect with some new cousins or help others researching their own families.

Happy hunting,
Michigan Girl

Copyright ©  2010-2017  Diane Gould Hall