Society Saturday – Using DNA to Trace Family: The Basics

Posted on September 7, 2018 in Society Saturday

Logo of the Carroll County Genealogical SocietyThe Carroll County Genealogical Society’s upcoming meeting is on Monday, September 17 at 7:30 PM. Refreshments are available at 7:00 p.m., and the meetings are free and open to the public. Our program this month features Andy Hochreiter, presenting Using DNA to Trace Family: The Basics.

Direct to Consumer DNA test kits have introduced an important tool for genealogists and family historians. Genetic Genealogy provides another way to discover family relationships, ancestral lines and geographical origins. This presentation will discuss the types of DNA and their inheritance patterns, what companies and tests are available, how to analyze your DNA results to find family, how to use it in your genealogical research, and what DNA tests tell you about ethnic makeup and ancient origins.

Andrew Hochreiter, MEd, MIS, is a genetic genealogist who manages multiple DNA surname projects and has successfully applied DNA to trace several related family branches overseas. He has over 28 years of experience in genealogical research and 12 years involved with genetic genealogy. Mr. Hochreiter instructs continuing education courses in basic and advanced genetic genealogy at Howard Community College in Columbia, MD. He is a facilitator for the genetic genealogy module of the on-line Genealogical Research Course at Boston University. Mr. Hochreiter has been a speaker for numerous organizations and he belongs to numerous genealogy organizations. He was featured on two Bavarian TV programs for his genealogical work tracing relatives in Germany using DNA. Mr. Hochreiter is a great enthusiast and user of genetic genealogy as another valuable means to trace family history and solve genealogical problems.

Meetings of the Carroll County Genealogical Society (CCGS) are usually held the third Monday of each month, March through May and September through November, at 7:00 p.m. in the Dixon Room, Westminster Library at 50 East Main Street, Westminster.

Please come to our meeting–bring a friend. You will meet other folks interested in family research and enjoy delightful talks that may help you in your research. We look forward to seeing new faces!

You can also come early and take advantage of our large collection of books and other materials housed at the Westminster Branch of the CCPL. On Thursday afternoons, between the hours of 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., one or more society volunteers will be on hand to assist researchers. Of course, this collection is available to all anytime the library is open.

The CCGS Genealogy Section at the Westminster Branch Library. Photo by Eileen Souza

The CCGS Genealogy Section at the Westminster Branch Library. Photo by Eileen Souza



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52 Ancestors: Working in the Mines

Posted on September 5, 2018 in #52Ancestors


Thomas P. Noble, son of Edward and Mary (Devine) Noble c. 1931

Thomas P. Noble, son of Edward and Mary (Devine) Noble c. 1931

My maternal great-grandfather, Thomas Noble, was a native of Liverpool, England. I recently mentioned Thomas in my post 52 Ancestors: Back to School, since he held the positions of school director in Mount Carmel Township, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. The week I am writing about his occupation as a coal miner. While he is not the only one of my ancestors who were coal miners or laborers in the mines, he is the ancestor for whom I, at least, have some information on his mining experiences.

He was born in Liverpool, Lancashire County, England on 26 November 1851, a son of Edward and Mary (Devine) Noble, natives of Ireland. As a young boy, he labored in the mines of England. Thomas and his family are enumerated in the 1861 UK census residing in the Pottery Yard in Newbottle, County Durham, England. He is 10 years old and his occupation is listed as coal miner. He shared some memories of these experiences to his friends and neighbors in America.

According to his obituary, he told of how even women and girls worked in the underground pits in England, how donkeys were used instead of mules, how much men often pulled or pushed mine cars instead of the donkeys and how some of the mines extended underneath the sea. It was so hot “inside,” he said that workmen at times had to shed some of their clothing. He further related how a kind of circular stairway was used to get in and out of the mines.

At the age of eleven and arriving in this country around 1862, Thomas and his family immediately settled in Locust Gap, located in Mount Carmel Township, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. Northumberland County and nearby counties was known as the Coal Region, which is home to the largest known deposits of anthracite (hard) coal found in the Americas.

Thomas married Margaret McGinn on 19 October 1876, and began raising their family of eleven children, of whom nine lived. The family moved to the city of Mount Carmel, remaining there only a few years before returning to the township by taking up residence in Connorsville. Thomas’ residence in Connorsville covered a period of approximately thirty-two years.

For most of his time in America, he worked at the Locust Gap Colliery, also located in Mount Carmel Township. He was considered an expert in his occupation. Thomas finally retired as a miner, after having spent 58 years working underground, including his boyhood days in England. He died on 24 March 1934 at the age of 81.


The 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. challenge, initiated by Amy Johnson Crow, is a series of weekly prompts to get you to think about an ancestor and share something about them. The prompt takes care of the guesswork of “who I should write about.” This week’s theme is Work.

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52 Ancestors: Back to School

Posted on September 4, 2018 in #52Ancestors

I was searching for material that I could use for this week’s theme “Back to School” and received a couple of surprises. Of course, I knew my father was a school teacher, but I was not aware that a couple other relatives were also connected to schools. I decided that I would write about what I know of this association for all of them.

Thomas P Noble c 1931The first and earliest connection is my maternal great-grandfather, Thomas P. Noble. From his obituary:

“Mount Carmel Township today mourned the death of one of its most prominent and most beloved residents, Thomas P. Noble, former constable, school director, supervisor, health officer and retired veteran miner.

He was first elected to public office in the township in 1887 as constable, serving on year. In 1888 he was elected a member of township school board and served two years. In 1890, he became township supervisor for two years.”

He was a 32-year resident of Connorsville, Mount Carmel Township, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. For more on Thomas, please see my posts 52 Ancestors: #27 My Great-Grandfather – Thomas Noble and Sunday’s Obituary – Thomas P. Noble (1851 – 1934).

Next there is my maternal 2nd great uncle, William T. Meisberger, the family black sheep. William Meisberger was a prominent member of the Coal Township, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania school board prior to his scandal. You can read more about it at 52 Ancestors: My Favorite Black Sheep.

Then we have David Theodore Meisberger, William Meisberger’s brother. During his life, David was a teacher, graduating from Bloomsburg Normal School in 1907. He served in various teaching positions in the Coal Township School District, finally achieving Superintendent of Schools for the district. You can read more about him at 52 Ancestors: #49 David Theodore Meisberger.

Finally, there is my father, William C. Furlani. He received his teaching certificate at Bloomsburg State Teachers College, Bloomsburg, Columbia County, Pennsylvania in 1932. He was then employed to teach in various Mt. Carmel Township, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania elementary schools. The photo is a picture of his very first class taken in 1932 or 1933. The grade and school are not known, but I would guess fifth or sixth grade. He taught in Mt. Carmel Township school district until his enlistment in the Army to serve in WWII on 30 December 1943 (he may have been called up in the draft). He was discharged from the service on 7 December 1945. His welcome home was to discover that he was one of the seven teachers dismissed by the region school board in the Mt. Carmel Township district.

In 1946, a newspaper article mentions that he is employed teaching fifth grade at Leiperville Elementary School, Crum Lynne, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, which is in the Ridley Township school district. His address is listed as Atlas, Northumberland County, PA. I remember when we first moved to Delaware County, we lived for a time in a boarding house. Until then, he must have stayed in that boarding house during the week and traveled to Atlas for the weekends. Eventually, we moved to Essington, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, where I grew up.

My father was an elementary school teacher, teaching fifth and/or sixth grades in the Leiperville Elementary School until his retirement in 1977. I occasionally see comments on my posts from former students. They all say that he was tough, but they really learned a lot in his classes and still remember him. He also taught arts and crafts at the school during the summers. I remember attending some of these sessions—making baskets and having a great time. You can read more about my father in my posts 52 Ancestors 2015 Edition: #22 William C. Furlani (1912 – 1989) – Commencements and  52 Ancestors: Finding My Dad in WWII.

The 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. challenge, initiated by Amy Johnson Crow, is a series of weekly prompts to get you to think about an ancestor and share something about them. The prompt takes care of the guesswork of “who I should write about.” This week’s theme is Back to School.

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52 Ancestors: St. Edward’s Church (1866 – 1995)

Posted on September 2, 2018 in #52Ancestors

For the theme “Non-Population,” I’m focusing on the church that my 2nd great-grandfather, Theobald Meisberger, and his family attended. Theobald was one of the original members and he is mentioned in the St. Edward’s 1897 souvenir booklet.

The digital copy that I have of this booklet was provided to me from the collection of John Haile of Shamokin, PA. John also compiled and published the cemetery books for St. Edward and St. Stanislaus Catholic cemeteries. In addition, he made all the burial information for these cemeteries available on Find A Grave.

The booklet is about 64 pages and includes 24 pages of ads, 13 pages of history, and 27 full page photos of the church, schools, rectory, priest, sisters, convent, altar boys, and classes of boys and girls from kindergarten through 4th grade.

Illustration from “Souvenir St. Edward's Church, Shamokin, Pa.” 1897 booklet. Courtesy John Haile.

Illustration from “Souvenir St. Edward’s Church, Shamokin, Pa.” 1897 booklet. Courtesy John Haile.


The information I have extracted from this record includes the following:

“Catholic families were among the pioneer settlers of the vicinity and they organized the first church in the town. As early as 1838 pastors from Pottsville and Minersville held services here; a lot of ground was purchased near the covered bridge at Cameron’s Colliery, and, in the spring of 1836, a small unplastered church 24 x 35 feet was erected…”

“In September, 1866, Rev. J. J. Koch was transferred from the Milton Parish to Shamokin; thus it will be seen that Father Koch was the first resident Pastor of St. Edward’s Parish…”

Upon his arrival, Father Koch spearheaded a large building project to meet the current needs of his parish. He was the force behind building the church, convent, rectory, and school. Surprisingly, he accomplished this Herculean effort without leaving the parish in debt upon completion. The church was dedicated on June 6, 1880.

Theobald Meisberger and Mary Catherine Strausser were married in the old St. Edward’s in 1860. My great grandparents, Thomas Noble and Margaret McGinn were married in the new St. Edward’s by Fr. Koch in 1876.

In 1888, Fr. Koch was the Very Rev. John Joseph Koch, pastor of the Shamokin Parish and Vicar-General of the Harrisburg diocese. He was born in the Province of Lorraine, France, on February 5, 1840, and he arrived in America in 1862.

In addition to St. Edward’s, Father Koch was also responsible for building St. Joseph’s Church in Locust Gap, which was dedicated August 27, 1872. My 2nd great grandfather, Christopher McGinn and much of his family are buried in St. Joseph’s cemetery.

Those that supported and insured the financial solvency of the St. Edward’s building project are mentioned in the following extract from the booklet.

“Only a few are left of the old pioneers who welcomed Father Koch when he came to Shamokin in September 1866, and who did so nobly and contributed so liberally to all the improvements of St. Edward. Those living at the present time and who are still found in the books of the church as yearly contributors are Phillip Barnett, Patrick Burke, Thomas Brown, Matthew Buckley, William Coulston, Bartholomew Dane, Edward Duggan, William Burns, John Burns, Michael Flaherty, John H. Gable, Thomas Gillespie, Anthony G. Gillespie, Mrs. M. Ludes, Martin Hayley, Mrs. Henes, Patrick Kearins, Patrick Kennedy, William Kelly, Robert Lowrey, Mrs. Isaac May, Sr., Theobald Meisberger, Daniel Musseleck, Richard Nagle, Patrick Quinn, Edmund Roche, Peter Reagan, John Ringenary, John Scholtes, Jacob Shields, Nicolas Slater, John W. Taylor, Lewis Welter. Hundreds of others are now resting in peace in St. Edward’s Cemetery, whilst their children, at least the great majority of them, are walking in their footsteps and taking good care of the inheritage left to them by their fathers …”

Theobald C. Meisberger died 13 June 1900, three years after the publication of this booklet; and he is buried in St. Edward’s Cemetery in Shamokin.

St. Edward’s Catholic Church was the first church in the United States to have electric lighting. Founded in 1866, St. Edward’s Church was closed in 1995.


The 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, initiated by Amy Johnson Crow, is a series of weekly prompts to get you to think about an ancestor and share something about them. The prompt takes care of the guesswork of “who I should write about.” This week’s theme is Non-Population.

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52 Ancestors: Three Brothers from the Tyrol, a Family Legend

Posted on August 15, 2018 in #52Ancestors

I remembered reading about the myths and legends that exist in genealogy, and it reminded me of the story of the three brothers. There is common folklore that tells of three brothers who emigrated from the Old Country. One stayed in the New World base, where they landed, one went west, and the other south. The brothers, of course, usually did no such thing, if the individuals even existed at all.

And then it hit me! I have a “three brothers’ story.” Giovanni Battista Furlani, born 8 Feb 1858 and Maria Dallabrida, born 1 Aug 1858, were married about 1882 and had three sons. All of this occurred in Vigolo Vattaro, Trentino-South Tyrol, Italy.

The Church of Saint George or Chiesa San Giorgio in Vigolo Vattaro

The Church of Saint George or Chiesa San Giorgio in Vigolo Vattaro


According to baptismal records, the first son, Giovanni Valentino Furlani, was born 18 Feb 1884; the second son, Guglielmo Giulo Furlani, was born 12 Mar 1886; and the third son, my grandfather, Candido Luigi Furlani, was born 26 Mar 1888.

The Family Story

My father’s namesake, Guglielmo [William], supposedly arrived in New York, with his two brothers. He then went to South America, either directly from New York or Mount Carmel, PA and was never heard from again. My father seems to think he stayed in New York for several months and then went to South America.

The Reality

Guglielmo left Antwerp on 14 May 1907, arriving in New York. His brothers did not travel with him. Candido arrived next, leaving the Havre, 28 Nov 1907 and arriving in New York 2 Dec 1907. I have a copy of a postcard dated 30 Dec [no year] sent from Vigolo Vattaro to Mount Carmel, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania addressed to Guglielmo with a greeting of “Dear nephews.” Because it said nephews, plural, I believe it arrived 30 Dec 1907, 1908 or 1909, when both men were still living in Mount Carmel.

The 1910 US census finds Guglielmo in a coal mining camp in Tercio, Las Animas County, Colorado with other men who had emigrated from Vigolo Vattaro. So, this brother went west. He may then have gone south to South America because he does not appear in any later US censuses. I have been unable to find him in South America.

Candido marries Anna Bianchi, my grandmother, 20 Sep 1911 and they remain in Mount Carmel until their deaths. Candido was a coal miner. They had three children, my father being the eldest.

Giovanni arrives in New York 20 Oct 1912, departing Southampton, England. His WWI Draft registration lists him living in Mount Carmel on 12 Sep 1918. I never found him in the 1920 US census but, in the 1930 US census, he is a coal miner in West Virginia, which is toward the west. He remains there the rest of his life until his death in 1963.

About fifty residents of Vigolo Vattaro, Tyrol, which before 1919 was part of the Austrian Empire, immigrated to the US from about 1880 through 1915 and settled in Mount Carmel, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania to mine for anthracite coal. In 1919, after the end of WWI, the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye divided the Tyrol, with North and East Tyrol belonging to Austria and the region of Trentino-South Tyrol being absorbed into Italy eventually becoming the province of Trentino. One map of Italy names this province as Trentino-Alto Adige, while Wikipedia states that it is officially the Autonomous Province of Trento.


The 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, initiated by Amy Johnson Crow, is a series of weekly prompts to get you to think about an ancestor and share something about them. The prompt takes care of the guesswork of “who I should write about.” This week’s theme is Family Legend.

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52 Ancestors: Identifying My Oldest Photo

Posted on August 14, 2018 in #52Ancestors

For this week’s theme “oldest,” I am featuring my oldest photograph. The photo was included in the box of photos that my sisters and I inherited from our parents. This photograph was taken by a professional photographer named M. Thomas in Shamokin, Pa. (Shamokin, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania). Initially, this is all that I knew about it.

Andrew Gunther and Eva Meisberger photo by M. Thomas, Shamokin, Pa., ca. 1884. Original photo in possession of the author.

First, I researched the photographer. Myron Thomas founded the Thomas Studio in 1878 in Shamokin, Pennsylvania. Therefore, this photo is more recent than 1878. M. Thomas is nationally known as the photographer who took Thomas Edison’s favorite photo. Please see my post “M. Thomas, Photographer of Thomas Edison’s Favorite Photo.”

A family photo given to me by a cousin includes both Eva Meisberger and Andrew Gunther, my great-grandparents. Eva strongly resembles the young woman in this photo, as does Andrew look like the young man.

My great-grandfather, Andrew Gunther, arrived in America on 2 June 1881. Mary Eva Ann Meisberger (b. 1861, Northumberland County, PA; d. 1941, Northumberland County, PA), who sometimes went by Mary but mostly by Eva, married Andrew [Andreas] C. Gunther (b. 1858, Germany; d. 1931, Northumberland County, PA) in Shamokin, Northumberland County, PA on 11 Feb 1884 at St. Edwards RC Church. Their first child was born 23 December 1884. I began to suspect that this was a photo of Eva Meisberger and Andrew Gunther, possibly taken on their marriage.

I had a session with a photo identification expert about this photo. Based on the style of the suit worn by the male, this photo, taken by M. Thomas, has been dated to the early 1880s, which fits the period of Andrew’s immigration and his marriage to Eva. The man is also wearing very stylish shoes of patent leather and regular leather with buttons. The dress worn by the woman is a functional dress with large pockets to carry items. My experience has been that, particularly in this period, people dressed in their best for a photo taken in a studio. Since the dress has ruffles, it could be her best dress.

This photo may have been taken either at their engagement or to commemorate their wedding in 1884. According to the photo expert, this photo was probably not taken on the actual day of the wedding. My pure speculation but, maybe the photo, which was comparatively expensive in those days, was a gift from Eva’s father.


The 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, initiated by Amy Johnson Crow, is a series of weekly prompts to get you to think about an ancestor and share something about them. The prompt takes care of the guesswork of “who I should write about.” This week’s theme is Oldest.

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Genealogy Mysteries 2018 – What’s New? Part 2

Posted on July 24, 2018 in Genealogy Mysteries


From acclaimed author Steve Robinson comes a thrilling new Jefferson Tayte mystery.

When genealogist Jefferson Tayte is hired to prove the identity of a black sheep in his client’s family tree, he unwillingly finds himself drawn into a murder investigation with nothing more to go on than a 150-year-old letter and a connection to a legendary ruby that has been missing for generations.

As more letters are mysteriously left for him, Tayte becomes immersed in a centuries-old tale of greed, murder and forbidden love that takes his research from the wilds of the Scottish Highlands to the colour and heat of colonial India.

A dark secret is buried in Jaipur, steeped in treachery and scandal. But why is it having such deadly repercussions in the present? Can Tayte find the ruby and prevent the past from repeating itself before it’s too late?

Letters from the Dead is the seventh book in the Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery series, but it can be enjoyed as a stand-alone story. K, KU, PB, CD NEW

Disclosure: I received a pre-release copy of this book to review and I have included that review here.

Steve Robinson is a gifted author who knows his narratives: setting, characters, plot, conflict, and resolution. I have read all his books, and he keeps getting better and better! I found myself literally holding my breath as each mystery unfolded, and genealogist, Jefferson Tayte, uncovered the clues. As a genealogist myself, one of my favorite aspects of these novels is the insight we receive on research methodology and sources.

Steve Robinson is always a must-read author. I thoroughly enjoyed Letters from the Dead and could not put it down!

The Latest Discoveries and Other New Releases

Since initial posts on this topic over the years, I have been accumulating and reading new books, authors, and series in this sub-genre, which is really taking off. For those of you who also enjoy genealogy and reading mysteries, this is my comprehensive list of all genealogy mysteries that I have discovered to date and contains any new books I have discovered since I published my last post in February 2018. Be sure to check the complete list for books marked NEW, which are new to this list since the last time I published it. I also received a reader’s request to show availability of Kindle Unlimited. I now show all the formats available on Amazon for these books.

Key to the new reading formats:

  • K Kindle
  • KU Kindle Unlimited
  • HB Hardback
  • PB Paperback
  • AD Audible
  • CD MP3 Format/Audio CD

Just finished reading first book of a new series, The Sarah Connection: A Leah McFarland Genealogy Conundrum, featuring Leah McFarland, a genealogy hobbyist. The series is written by R. L. Couch. K, KU, PB NEW

In Breadcrumbs and Bombs: A Tangled Roots Historical Mystery by Susan Finley, a young American, Lucas Landry, traces his ancestry, using breadcrumbs found in the old WW2 diaries of two German girls in Germany and the Sudetenland. The story is about secrets, lies, prejudice, betrayal, guilt, love, genealogy, and what it means to be a family. K, KU, PB NEW

A standalone historical family mystery by James Pattinson (1915-2009), The Unknown, begins with an old photograph of a girl who mysteriously disappeared without a trace one day. The mystery should have been left alone but George could not stop himself. Published posthumously September 7, 2017. K, KU, PB NEW

In When Beggars Dye, Peter Hey introduces us to Jane Madden, an ex-police detective trying to build a new life after illness and divorce. Jane is commissioned to unearth the story behind an ancestral mystery. Her search becomes a story of abandonment, obsession, one-sided love and the nature of inheritance. This book was an excellent read and I hope it becomes a series, featuring Jane. K, KU, PB NEW

A Genealogical Mystery (part of the Imp Mysteries) series by Richard Davidson, features Debbie and Jeremy Hadley, young private detectives, who use their business resources to solve family mysteries. The “Imp Mysteries” are not all genealogy mysteries. I am highlighting the two that I found: Impostor ( 2016) – K, KU, PB NEW and Impending (2017) – K, KU, PB NEW

And for fans of the Torie O’Shea mysteries by Rett MacPherson, I have some good news. The long awaited 12th book in this series, Bad to the Bones, was released May 24, 2018. K, PB NEW

In case you missed any, following is the complete list of all genealogy mysteries that I’ve found to-date.

Series Family History Mysteries

The Jefferson Tayte mysteries by Steve Robinson feature a professional genealogist who ferrets out family secrets and old mysteries using genealogy research primarily in the UK. Highly recommended.

  • In the Blood (2011) – K, KU, PB, AD, CD
  • To the Grave (2012) – K, KU, PB, AD, CD
  • The Last Queen of England (2012) – K, KU, PB, AD, CD
  • The Lost Empress (2014) – K, KU, PB, AD, CD
  • Kindred (2016) – K, KU, PB, AD, CD
  • Dying Games (May 4, 2017) – K, KU, PB, AD, CD
  • Letters from the Dead (August 14, 2018) – K, KU, PB, CD NEW

Victory (Torie) O’Shea, a genealogist in New Kassel, Missouri, is ably portrayed in a series by Rett MacPherson. Now all available in Kindle editions. Highly Recommended.

  • Family Skeletons (2014) – K, HB, PB
  • A Veiled Antiquity (2013) – K, HB, PB
  • A Comedy of Heirs (2014) – K, HB, PB
  • A Misty Mourning (2000) – K, HB, PB
  • Killing Cousins (2002) – K, HB, PB
  • Blood Relations (2014) – K, HB, PB
  • In Sheep’s Clothing (2014) – K, HB, PB
  • Thicker Than Water (2005) – K, HB, PB
  • Dead Man Running (2006) – K, HB, PB
  • Died in the Wool (2014) – K, HB, PB
  • The Blood Ballad (2014) – K, HB, PB
  • Bad to the Bones (2018) – K, PB NEW

In the Morton Farrier, Forensic Genealogist series by Nathan Dylan Goodwin, we discover a stubborn, determined man who uses whatever means necessary to uncover the past. Highly recommended.

  • Hiding the Past (2013) – K, KU, PB, AD
  • The Lost Ancestor (2014) – K, KU, PB
  • The Orange Lilies: A Morton Farrier novella (2014) – K, KU, PB
  • The America Ground (2015) – K, KU, PB
  • The Spyglass File (2016) – K, KU, PB, AD
  • The Missing Man: A Morton Farrier novella (2017) – K, KU, PB
  • The Suffragette’s Secret: A Morton Farrier short story (2017) – K, KU
  • The Wicked Trade (February 7, 2018) – K, KU, PB

The Museum Mysteries by Sheila Connolly star Nell Pratt, president of the Pennsylvania Antiquarian Society (think Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia) who spends much of her time solving murders through research in their collections. These books are fascinating for their mysteries, their history, and our glimpses into the lives of the archivists. Highly recommended.

  • Fundraising the Dead (2010) – K, HB, PB, AD, CD
  • Let’s Play Dead (2011) – K, HB, PB, AD, CD
  • Fire Engine Dead (2012) – K, PB, AD, CD
  • Monument to the Dead (2013) – K, PB, AD, CD
  • Razing the Dead (2014) – K, PB, AD, CD
  • Privy to the Dead (2015) – K, HB, PB, AD, CD
  • Dead End Street (2016) – K, PB, AD

These books by John Nixon star family historian, Madeleine Porter. While not mysteries as we think of them, they take us through the experiences of our amateur “detectives” unraveling the “mysteries” that surround them. Recommended.

  • Family Shadows (2014) – K, KU
  • The Cuckoo Clock (2014) – K, KU, PB
  • Stolen Futures (2014) – K, KU
  • Another Summer (2014) – K, KU
  • The Cost of Silence (2015) – K, KU
  • Unearthed (2017) – K, KU
  • The Dancer (2018) – K, KU NEW

The Nigel Barnes series by Dan Waddell concerns a professional genealogist who assists the police, mainly Detective Chief Inspector Grant Foster in London, England. These books are now being released in the Kindle format.

  • The Blood Detective (2017) – K, KU, HB, PB, AD, CD
  • Blood Atonement (2017) – K, KU, HB, PB, AD
  • Blood Underground – Short Story (2017) – K, KU
  • Blood Reckoning (2018) – K, KU, PB NEW

The Lottie Albright series by Charlotte Hinger features a historian and editor for the county historical society in a small town in Western Kansas.

  • Deadly Descent (2009) – K, PB, HB, AD, CD
  • Lethal Lineage (2011) – K, PB, HB, AD, CD
  • Hidden Heritage (2013) – K, PB, HB, AD
  • Fractured Families (2017) – K, PB, HB NEW

Esme Quentin solves mysteries using genealogy in the West Midlands and in Devon in the books by Wendy Percival.

  • Blood-Tied (2013) – K, HB, PB
  • The Indelible Stain (2014) – K, PB
  • Death of a Cuckoo: An Esme Quentin Short Read (2017) – K, PB
  • The Malice of Angels (2018) – K, PB NEW

Geraldine Wall writes about probate researcher Anna Ames in this trilogy. These are mystery thrillers and we are drawn in to Anna’s family, life and work.

  • File Under Fear (2014) – K, KU
  • File Under Family (2014) – K, KU, PB
  • File Under Fidelity (2015) – K, KU, PB
  • File Under Fathers (2017) – K, KU NEW

Another series by Karin Kaufman features a family tree full of witches, some ghosts, and the occult, with Anna Denning, a professional genealogist determined to find the truth.

  • The Witch Tree (2011) – K, KU, AD
  • Sparrow House (2012) – K, KU, AD
  • The Sacrifice (2014) – K, KU, AD
  • The Club (2015) – K, KU, AD
  • Bitter Roots (2017) – K, KU NEW

A Genealogical Mystery (part of Imp Mysteries) series by Richard Davidson, features Debbie and Jeremy Hadley, young private detectives, who use their business resources to solve family mysteries.

  • Impostor (2016) – K, KU, PB NEW
  • Impending (2017) – K, KU, PB NEW

The Enid Gilchrist Mysteries by Sylvia A. Nash (2014) are cozy genealogy murder mysteries set in West Tennessee. I was happy to see a new book from this author.

  • Benjamin’s Ghosts (2014) – K, KU, PB
  • Mama’s Secret (2018) – K, KU, PB NEW

Natasha Blake, a genealogist in the Cotswolds in England appears in the series by Fiona Mountain.

  • Pale as the Dead (2004) – K, PB, HB, CD
  • Bloodline (2015) – K, PB, HB

Fay Sampson is the author of the Suzie Fewings books a series about a genealogist discovering interesting secrets in her family history in England.

  • In the Blood (2009) – HB, PB
  • Malignant House (2010) – HB, PB
  • Those in Peril (2010) – HB, PB
  • Father Unknown (2011) – K, HB, PB
  • The Overlooker (2012) – K, HB
  • Beneath the Soil (2014) – K, HB

The Family Tree mysteries by Patricia Sprinkle feature Katherine Murray as an amateur genealogist who finds strange events in the past.

  • Death on the Family Tree (2007) – K, HB, PB
  • Sins of the Fathers (2007) – K, HB, PB
  • Daughter of Deceit (2008) – K, HB, PB

Mort Sinclair, a respected genealogist and lawyer on Fogge Island off the New England coast, stars in a series by Gene Stratton. Gene Stratton, a much-traveled former CIA case officer, is a well-known genealogist who has had two prior books published: Plymouth Colony and Applied Genealogy.

  • Killing Cousins (1999) – HB
  • Cornish Conundrum (2000) – K, PB

The Danny O’Flaherty series by Jonathan Harrington stars an American teacher researching his family’s roots in Ireland and New York City.

  • The Death of Cousin Rose (1996) – PB, HB
  • The Second Sorrowful Mystery (1999) – PB, HB
  • A Great Day for Dying (2001) – PB, HB

Patrick Day’s series starring Anna Fitzgerald, a career detective with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office Investigative Division, who becomes entangled with genealogy to trace old coins in this first book of the series.

  • Murders and Genealogy in Hennepin County (2012) – K, PB

Simon Shaw, professor of history and “forensic historian” in Raleigh, North Carolina, in a series by Sarah R. Shaber, uses his expertise in historical and genealogical research to help solve murders that have their roots in the past.

  • Simon Said (1997) – K, HB, PB
  • Snipe Hunt (2000) – K, HB, PB
  • The Fugitive King (2002) – K, KU, HB, PB
  • The Bug Funeral (2004) – K, KU, HB, PB
  • Shell Game (2007) – K, PB

The Alex & Briggie mysteries by G. G. Vandagriff, team up a spunky young widow and her rifle-toting grandmother, who run a genealogy research business called RootSearch, Inc. that seems to specialize in solving murders.

Cankered Roots (2011) – K, PB
Of Deadly Descent (2011) – K, PB, CD
Tangled Roots (2011) – K, PB
Poisoned Pedigree (2012) – K, PB
The Hidden Branch (2011) – K, PB

In the Family History Mysteries by Brynn Bonner, genealogist Sophreena McClure is an expert at unearthing other people’s secrets. Using old documents and photographs, Soph and her business partner, Esme Sabatier—also a gifted medium—trace family histories and create heritage scrapbooks.

  • Paging the Dead (2013) – K, PB
  • Death in Reel Time (2014) – K, PB
  • Picture Them Dead (2015) – K, PB
  • Dead in a Flash (2016) – K, PB

This is a supernatural genealogy detective series called Maze Investigations by M.K. Jones featuring Maggie Gilbert. Set in Newport, South Wales, the books draw on real historical details.

  • Three Times Removed (2015) – K, KU, PB
  • Line of Descent (2017) – K, KU, PB

If you like your genealogy mysteries with a little humor, see the series starring Ben Bones, Genealogical Consultant and self-described Articulator of Family Skeletons written by Michael Havelin.

  • Ben Bones and The Galleon of Gold (2013) – K, PB
  • Ben Bones and the Search for Paneta’s Crown (2012) – K, PB
  • Ben Bones and the Deadly Descendants (2013) – K, PB
  • Ben Bones and the Conventional Murders (2015) – K, KU, PB

In the series by Cynthia Raleigh, we follow travel nurse and amateur genealogist, Perri Seamore, as she researches her family and solves murders.

  • Poison Branches (2016) – K, PB
  • Buried Roots (2016) – K, PB
  • Drawing on the Past (2017) – K, PB

The Jayne Sinclair series by M J Lee stars a former police detective turned genealogical investigator. This interesting series takes us first through the Easter Uprising of 2016 and Ireland’s War of Independence, followed by the trenches of World War I in the Battle of the Somme and other historical events.

  • The Irish Inheritance (2016) – K, KU, PB, AD
  • The Somme Legacy (2017) – K, KU, PB
  • The American Candidate (2017) – K, KU, PB
  • The Vanished Child (2018) – K, KU, PB

A new entry in the genealogy mysteries sub-genre is a new series featuring Janie Riley, written by Lorine Schulze. Prior to entering the fiction world, Lorine authored many non-fiction genealogy books designed for improving your genealogy skills.

  • Death Finds a Way (2016) – K, PB

This series is written by Gerelyn Hollingsworth and features Janet Burney, a retired private investigator and amateur genealogist. The books are novellas and can also be read for free if you have a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

  • Death of a Headmistress (2012) – K, KU
  • Separated at Birth (2012) – K, KU

Another recent find stars historian Rob Tyler in the Wynderbury Mysteries series authored by Victoria Prescott.

  • The Plantagenet Mystery (2014) – K, KU
  • The Hawthorne Villa Secret (2016) – K, KU

Thomas McKerley and Ingrid Schippers, in their first genealogy mystery, Bloodlines – Touch Not the Cat (2012), introduce Cathy Macpherson, who uncovers her own and her husband’s past.

  • Bloodlines – Touch Not the Cat (2012) – K, KU, PB
  • Bloodlines – Traces (2016) – K, KU, PB

The Nick Herald series by Jimmy Fox features a professional genealogist in New Orleans, Louisiana.

  • Deadly Pedigree (2001) – K, KU, PB
  • Lineages and Lies (2002) – K, KU, HB, PB
  • Jackpot Blood (2014) – K, KU, HB, PB

The Demary Jones series by E. L. Larkin (deceased) is set in Seattle, Washington, with Demary as the owner of Confidential Research, specializing in genealogy and historical research.

  • Hear My Cry (1997) – HB
  • Hear Me Die (1998) – PB
  • Die and Die (1998) – PB
  • Dead Men Die (1999) – HB, PB
  • The Swallow Murders (1999) – HB
  • Die in Texas (2002) – HB

Non-Series Family History Mysteries

The Marriage Certificate by Stephen Molineux (2013) stars Peter Sefton, amateur family historian. Not quite a mystery but certainly a detective story. K, KU, PB

In Silent Legacy: Discovering Family Secrets by Diana Church (2014) some German immigration history with new finds from a research trip helps Ellen O’Donnell solve a long-standing family mystery. K, KU, PB

In Finding Eliza by Stephanie Pitcher Fishman (2014), an old diary leads Lizzie Clydell down a dusty road of lies, hidden family secrets, and a lynching that nearly destroyed her family. I loved the quote “It’s just a little family history. What could go wrong?” K, PB

Where’s Merrill? a genealogical thriller by Gearoid O’Neary (2013) is based upon real life historical events. The story unravels as Irish genealogist, Jed, researches his client’s mysterious maternal ancestry. K, PB

In the Tainted Tree by Jacquelynn Luben (2013), Addie Russell inherits a house in Surrey and begins researching her English family Her research takes her back three generations to the First World War. K

A century-old key may unlock the ancestral secrets of four families in The Fourth Descendant by Allison Maruska (2015).  K, KU, PB, AD

NOTE  While there is a new book in this series, The Seventh Seed (Fourth Descendant Book 2) (2017), it does not appear to be a genealogy mystery rather, I would call it a conspiracy thriller. That is why I have not yet listed this book in the series section.

While not a series, these genealogical mysteries by Norma Elizabeth Rawlings focus on how researching their ancestors became a life changing experience for each central character.

  • Sleeping Dogs (2012) – K, KU, PB
    Sleeping Dogs II (2013) – K, KU
    Malvern Murders (2013) – K, KU
    In the Genes (2013) – K, KU

Package from The Past by Jacqueline Opresnik is a search for a missing heir and family fortune set against the historical events of the Boer War and World War II.  K

Of course, for non-fiction fans there is Only A Few Bones: A True Account of the Rolling Fork Tragedy and Its Aftermath by John Philip Colletta. This is an outstanding read. PB

If I’ve missed any of your favorites, please let me know in the comments. I am trying to make this list as complete as possible.

Posted in Genealogy Mysteries | 3 Comments

52 Ancestors: An Italian Lullaby

Posted on July 20, 2018 in #52Ancestors

I am not sure why but as soon as I saw that this week’s theme was Music, I immediately thought of the lullaby that my Italian grandmother used to sing to me when I was a baby. Of course, she sang it to me in Italian. I don’t know why I even remember it, as I was so very young. The first two lines and the melody run through my head whenever I think about it. I knew I had to write about this lullaby.

So how do I search for something that I only know an imprecise phonetic reproduction of what I thought were the first two lines? Today’s search engines are amazing. After numerous tries, I finally came up with some results that gave me the rest of the lyrics. Of course, in Italian. It is titled “Nina Nana Bel Popin.” Now I had to find an English translation. Success!

“Nina Nana Bel Popin” is one of those folk or traditional songs that can have many variations to both the words and the music. I also discovered that what I thought was the second line is the official third line of the lullaby. My grandmother never sang the accepted second line, and now I know why. I have such fond memories of this lullaby, but when I read the English translation, I was stunned. I suspect that she may have reworded it a bit to suit herself.

The first source below was exported from Wikisource on 26 June 2018. We are requested to report any errors on their website at

Nina Nana Bel Popin by Anonymous

Nina nana bel popin
pien de caca e de pissìn
fa la nana sul cossìn
su ‘n te ‘l pra’ de me cosìn.

Mé cosìn no ‘I vol che bala
perché è mort la so cavala
perché è mort el so bobò
per dispeto balerò.

Traduzione [Traditional]

Ninna nanna bel bambino
pieno di cacca e di pipì
fa la nanna sul cuscino
su nel prato di mio cugino.

Mio cugino non vuole che balli
perché è morta la sua cavalla
perché è morto il suo cane
per dispetto ballerò.

This next source provided the English translation. I could not find a link to Monique, but I noticed that a Monique was a frequent responder to many of the questions asked by site visitors. Monique has my heartfelt thanks for providing this translation.

Source:, then then scroll down to the post from Nick dated June 18th, 2010 at 12:56 am

English Translation by Monique

Sleep sleep pretty baby
full of poo and pee
sleep on the cushion
in my cousin’s meadow.
My cousin doesn’t want me to dance
because his mare died
because his dog died
but nevertheless, I will dance.

Finally, I discovered the music for this lullaby on YouTube. Strangely all the lullabies that I found which used the words above did not use the tune I remembered. The video whose link I have here is the melody that my grandmother used but, although still a lullaby, the Italian words are very different.


This week’s post was fun to research and write, and it brought back many fond memories of my grandmother, Anna Furlani nee Bianchi.


The 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, initiated by Amy Johnson Crow, is a series of weekly prompts to get you to think about an ancestor and share something about them. The guesswork of “who should I write about” is taken care of. This week’s theme is Music.

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52 Ancestors: Traveling to a Gretna Green

Posted on July 18, 2018 in #52Ancestors
Lorraine Gunther and William J. Noble, ca.1917

Lorraine Gunther and William J. Noble, ca.1917

When I found a clue that my maternal grandparents, my grandfather, William J. Noble (1896 – 1945), and my grandmother, Lorraine Gunther Noble (1897 – 1977), married in Elkton, Cecil County, Maryland, I was extremely surprised. Both William and Lorraine, respectively, lived in Ranshaw, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. Chasing this clue, I obtained a copy of their marriage record from Elkton and learned that it was correct. They were married 29 June 1917, one-hundred and one years ago last month.

Elkton is a town in and the county seat of Cecil County, Maryland and was once known as the ‘Gretna Green’ of the East because of its popularity as a place for eloping couples to marry.

According to Google Maps, it is 115 to 131 miles one-way from Ranshaw, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania to Elkton, Cecil County, MD, taking 2hrs 48 min to 2h 55 min using modern automobiles and interstate highways, both of which did not exist at the time of their marriage. Their trip probably entailed the use of buses and trains, since William most likely did not own an automobile at that stage of his life. I can’t begin to imagine how long it took them to travel to Elkton from their home, in addition to the questions this event raises.

First and foremost, why did they travel to a Gretna Green to get married? One of the usual reasons is that one or both were under the age of consent. In this case, according to the marriage license application, William was 21 and Lorraine was 19 years of age. My research into Pennsylvania marriage laws seems to indicate that only applicants from 16 to 18 years of ages needed parental or legal guardian consent. Therefore, they could have married in Pennsylvania. Elkton had no waiting period between issuance of the license and the marriage; Pennsylvania had a 3-day waiting period. They could have been in a hurry for some reason.

Maybe there was parental disapproval of this marriage. Later events seem to indicate that all was not well within the marriage. I remember my mother telling me that her mother had to clean houses to help support that family and she (my mother) had to drop out of school in her senior year to work. William turned out to be a wee bit of a drinker.

Another of my theories is that William might have wished to avoid being drafted. He registered for the mandatory draft for WWI on 5 June 1918, almost a year from the date of his marriage. I might imagine that even in 1917, there may have already been conversations about a draft and the US entering the war. I have not found any indication that he served during this war.

In his 1918 WWI draft registration, William lists his address as 446 Main St., Ranshaw, Pa. This address is the household of his father-in-law both in 1910 and 1920. In the 1920 census, my grandmother and my mother are still living in the same household with my great-grandparents, but William is not a resident. I have so far been unable to trace William in 1920 census records. He may have traveled to find employment. He does show up, with my grandmother, in the 1926 Shamokin City Directory. His occupation is listed as an engineer (his draft card listed his employer as the R & R Railroad Co., Shamokin, Pa. in 1918, no occupation specified).

I would love to hear any thoughts as to why my grandparents may have traveled so far to get married.


The 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, initiated by Amy Johnson Crow, is a series of weekly prompts to get you to think about an ancestor and share something about them. The guesswork of “who should I write about” is taken care of. This week’s theme is Travel.

Posted in #52Ancestors | 4 Comments

52 Ancestors: Two Biker Babes!

Posted on July 11, 2018 in #52Ancestors

This photo was unidentified and in the box of photos that my sisters and I inherited from our mother.

Amy Johnson Crow in her write-up for Week 27 said that the theme, Independence, reminded her of flappers. I was having a problem with this theme until I saw her remark and remembered this photo.

The thing is I know nothing about the photo and the identity of the two women. The photo appears to be from the 20th century probably in the late teens to the early twenties.

The front of the photo has Lewistown written in pen. I assume this refers to Lewistown, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, created from part of Northumberland County in 1789. Most (if not all) of my US ancestors resided in Northumberland County.

I think that the woman on the left may be my grandmother, Eileen Lorraine Gunther Noble, but I could be wrong.

Can anyone put a name to either or both women?


The 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, initiated by Amy Johnson Crow, is a series of weekly prompts to get you to think about an ancestor and share something about them. The guesswork of “who should I write about” is taken care of. This week’s theme is Independence.

Posted in #52Ancestors | 4 Comments