in Family history

Family History in the Midst of a Heatwave

Sunset in summer behind our house

Sunset in summer behind our house

Due to the current high temperatures, I was going to take a break from family history.  But then came a series of remarkable coincidences.

First, I idly logged in to each kit in FtDNA and noticed that while my daughter’s Family Finder test is now overdue, the kits for both my husbands’ parents are showing My Origins information.  This is usually a precursor to completion by just a couple of days.

A long time ago I posted my son’s My Origins results and speculated that he had gotten the Scandinavian portion (10%) from his paternal grandfather’s Irish ancestors, and the Western and Central Europe (12%) from his paternal grandmother’s Italian ancestor.  Now that I could view their My Origins results – albeit with a little final tinkering still to occur maybe – I could see that I had this exactly wrong.

I couldn’t have known back then that the paternal grandfather of very Irish surname would turn out to have British and Scottish ancestors due to a long-ago NPE, so it makes sense.  As it turns out, he comes out 96% European and 4% Asia Minor.  The European portion is a nice mix of parts of Europe but he is predominantly made up of British Isles ancestry.

My mother in law is rather different.  The first surprise is 8% Jewish Diaspora being Ashkenazi Jewish.  I have absolutely no idea where that comes from – yet.  My aunt’s kit also showed this amount of Jewish Diaspora and I have found it just four generations back.  Maybe I’ll do it again for my mother in law.

As well as the Jewish Diaspora, she is 92% European which didn’t surprise me at all. But only 27% of this 92% is British Isles and this is quite a pleasant surprise.  The majority – 57% – shows as Scandinavian. The remainder is 8% Southern Europe. This, presumably, is her Italian ancestry coming out, which is five generations back.

But due to the heat, I closed it all down.  We don’t have air conditioning.

46 degrees Celsius in the shade

46 degrees Celsius in the shade

On to the second coincidence!  About two hours after I signed out of FtDNA, I received a message on Facebook from a stranger who had searched my name.  The man was searching for male descendants of Robert Appleyard Fitzgerald born 1797 in Limerick, Ireland, who could do a Y-DNA test for him.

Robert Appleyard Fitzgerald is an ancestor of my mother in law and some part of her Scandinavian probably comes from him.  He’s also one of my favourite ancestors to research, his wife having been a born archivist and a very good writer, there are materials galore to be found about this family scattered among the descendant branches.  Robert Appleyard Fitzgerald was a wealthy man who married twice.  Two daughters survived to adulthood from his first marriage, and six daughters and two sons survived to adulthood from his second marriage. He lost five sons in infancy that we have found.

Our branch is through the second daughter to the second wife.  There is a small group of us researching this man, all of us descendants of different children of his.  I am definitely interested to see if the DNA results can find us any new cousins to this man.  It was a huge coincidence that someone would cold-call me asking about DNA tests when we had a family finder test about to come through.  This man has tested at FtDNA and has a family finder there, so it certainly will be interesting to see if he matches my mother in law.

Robert Appleyard Fitzgerald

Robert Appleyard Fitzgerald 1797-1890

The third coincidence came three hours after my message from the Fitzgerald descendant.  This was yet another cold-contact via Facebook, this time from a woman.  She asked if I was the one researching Robert Appleyard Fitzgerald and wanted to share information.  Believe it or not, she had not heard from the man who contacted me earlier and has no idea who he was.  He did not know who she was either.

This lady is a descendant of Robert A Fitzgerald and his first wife, whose origins have been something of a mystery to us for family years.  This lady had the answer, but Robert himself had always been the mystery to her.  We are now engaged in a mutually fruitful exchange of documents, since a number came down her side of the family too.  She had the first wife’s family bible, I had the emigration journal, another descendant had the portraits and photographs, another had property deeds and purchase documents … as more and more descendants meet up, the family is coming very strongly to life.

What can a heatwave really mean in the face of all this new knowledge? Although not useful for my DNA research, I have added the first wife’s ancestry into my family tree and I now understand why those daughters made the marriages they did, why they were suitable wives for very influential men.  It explains a great deal.  I can also see why Robert A Fitzgerald received help in securing a good position from the people who helped him – they knew his first wife’s family!

Nonetheless, by the full heat of late afternoon I was making basic spelling errors and the computer was showing signs of overheating.  I was forced to stop but luckily, it’s a cooler morning and though forecast to be very hot today, a cool change is expected this evening.  I look forward to continuing the investigation.

The new tally of individuals in my tree, after adding in RAF's first wife's siblings and immediate ancestry.

The new tally of individuals in my tree, after adding in RAF’s first wife’s siblings and immediate ancestry.

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  1. hello I am doing some research for a friend of mine, she is descended from an a sister of Robert Appleyard FitzGerald Ellen Mary FitzGerald 13/9/1800 who married 20/4/1820 Capt. William Pierce Brown of Wilton House Co Limerick. They were the children of William FitzGerald and Ellen/Ellenor Appleyard, regards Aoife FitzGerald

    • Hi Aoife, I’ll send you an email. I’m very glad you posted. I think I have two sons and six daughters in my tree attached to William Brown and his wife Ellen nee Fitzgerald but my research on this branch is still sketchy.