Category Archives: My Family Lines

Awesome autosomal DNA solves the mystery of Martha’s maiden name!

Autosomal DNA. One of the most powerful tools in the genealogist’s toolbox! No, it will never, ever replace the elbow grease required in completing an accurate family tree (nor would I want it to – it would spoil the fun of the hunt!), but used correctly, the results are incredible!

I’ve previously shared how I used autosomal DNA to determine the parents my third great grandmother, Cynthia Day.   (You can read the post here.)  No, the DNA itself didn’t tell me who they were, but cousin connections put me on the right path. I can now state with confidence that Cynthia’s parents were Aaron Day and his wife, Martha.

As we all know, one answered question often leads to several more inquiries. So now: who is Martha? While I was hopeful that maybe one day DNA would provide clues to that answer, I put the question on the shelf and didn’t pursue it further. I figured it would be a puzzle to be solved some time in the future. However, the future came considerably faster than anticipated! Thanks to an email from another cousin connection on FamilyTreeDNA, I was given a few hints.

First, some background info. What was known about Martha was minimal:

  • Her headstone read, “Martha, wife of Aaron Day, died Feb. 16, 1844, AE 66.” Short and sweet. However, from this, we know Martha was born about 1778.i
Headstone of Martha, wife of Aaron Day.  Upper Ferry Cemetery, Medford, ME.  (Photo courtesy of Sherece Lamke)

Headstone of Martha, wife of Aaron Day. Upper Ferry Cemetery, Medford, ME. (Photo courtesy of Sherece Lamke)

  • Aaron and Martha’s first three children (Nathaniel, John and Sarah) were born in Starks, Somerset County, Maine, where Aaron, was also enumerated on the 1810 census.ii It seemed likely that Martha lived and married in that region.
Starks, Maine Town & Vital Records, FHL microfilm #12060

Starks, Maine Town & Vital Records, FHL microfilm #12060

I searched through a dozen rolls of microfilm, starting with Starks and working outward, hoping to find the marriage record of Aaron and Martha. My search was in vain, but I became very, very familiar with families that lived in the locations around them, and one name in particular stuck with me: BUMPS/BUMPAS.

So it was with considerable interest that I learned of a FamilyTreeDNA match who had a BUMPS in her family tree. Even more interesting, her ancestor, Mary (Tibbetts) Bumps named a son, AARON DAY Bumps. Bingo. Continue reading


Finding the families of Ernest Loren Simpson

I had other plans for today, but as I began organizing my office, I became distracted with this photo:

Deloise Jessie Pearl Simpson

Since finding this picture, I’ve been captivated by it.  I’ve cropped it down, but the full portion of the back is shown below:

Jessie Pearl's note to her sister-in-law, Abbie (Dalton) Simpson

Jessie Pearl’s note to her sister-in-law, Abbie (Dalton) Simpson

She writes: Continue reading


Evidence-based Reasoning Reveals the Parents of Cynthia (Day) Bursley

As Elizabeth Shown Mills states, often we will never find the “smoking gun” – that single document which states the parentage of an individual. This is certainly the case with Cynthia (Day) Bursley, who was born in rural Maine in the early nineteenth century, in a place and time in which few records were kept. In fact, the first known record directly naming Cynthia was the 1850 Federal Census, in which she was enumerated in Bangor, Maine at the age of 37 with her husband, Benjamin Bursley.1 Despite this obstacle, however, using evidence-based reasoning, along with the genealogical proof standard, one can deduce Cynthia’s parentage with a high degree of confidence.

Cynthia (Day) Bursley

Cynthia Bursley died 13 May, 1874, in Santiago, Sherburne County, Minnesota, at the age of 60 years and 3 months.2  (We can thus extrapolate her birth as approximately February 1814.) The certificate of her death states she was born in Maine to parents simply listed as “________ Day.”   This document also indicates her parents were natives of Maine as well.

Cynthia (Day) Bursley death certificate

Cynthia (Day) Bursley death certificate

Nearly twenty years later, in 1892, Cynthia’s daughter, Lavina (Bursley) Stanwood, began the process to probate Cynthia’s estate.3 These documents confirm that Benjamin Bursley, with whom Cynthia was enumerated on the 1850 and 1860 U.S. Federal Censuses, was in fact, her husband. Continue reading


Mystery photo – are these Day family women?

Five unknown ladies, about 1905

Five unknown ladies, about 1905

I love old pictures, and love to solve the mysteries associated with them. Who are the subjects? When was the photo taken? It doesn’t even have to be my own relatives in the picture – the challenge is just is fun. However, the reward of solving the mystery is greater when it is my own family, and it makes the individuals I’m researching come alive.

The photo above is quite a mystery. The picture recently came to me by way of my aunt, who had priceless treasures that she entrusted to my care. Here is what is known:

  • Cormany photo studio, where the photo was taken, operated in Duluth, Minnesota from 1887 to 1888.
  • The studio apparently moved locations in 1889, and continued 307 West Superior in Duluth through 1890.
  • In 1894, the studio was situated in Minneapolis
  • In the 1880s and 1890s, Cormany Studio had photographers in Princeton, Minnesota.
  • The studio continued as late as 1914, when Gilbert Maggert published in the Princeton Union his rental of the studio’s premises and equipment “in all its locations”

Continue reading


The life expectancies of our ancestors

My grandmother never told her age. Ever. When I was a kid, she made it into a game but would never give me enough hints to guess. She said she’d be dead by the time I was 21, but that she would leave a note for me which I could open on my 21st birthday letting me know how old she was.  (She didn’t need to – I was nearly 40 by the time she died!)  Obviously, my grandmother clearly thought she would die young, and as her own mother was only 61 when she passed away from a heart attack.  I can understand – my own mother was only 63 when she died, and now that I’ve reached the half-century mark myself, my own mortality is even more real.   So….I decided to do a simple pedigree chart showing  my ancestors’ ages at death:

death genogram

Of course, while I’m pleased to see those who enjoyed extended golden years, like most families, I also have my fair share of ancestors who went to the pearly gates in their 50s and 60s.  Analyzing this a bit further, the life expectancy of my grand parents, great grandparents and great-great grandparents looks like this: Continue reading


Charles M. and Julia C. (Veland) Uphouse

My great grandparents, Charles Madison Uphouse and Julia Christine Veland, have always been somewhat of a mystery. So few stories have been passed down about them, and so little is known of their lives. Here are some photos and documents recently sent to me by my wonderful aunt.

Charles M. Uphouse, in uniform

Charlie was born 4 March 1889 in Davenport, Thayer County, Nebraska.  The couple had one child, Charles W. Uphouse, who was killed in an automobile accident on his way to California in 1949.   Sometime after his marriage to Mary Belle, Charlie enlisted in  Company H, 5th Nebraska Infantry: Continue reading


Finding family treasures – better than the lotto!

I received a box of pictures of and documents from my aunt on Thursday. It was like winning the lotto, but 1000% better.   My grandmother had given to me all of her family pictures and documents before she died, so I didn’t think there was much else left to find. WRONG! My aunt sent me photos of my grandfather, Harold T. Uphouse, as a child that I’d never seen. There were photos of my grandmother, Goldie (Simpson) Uphouse Edwards as a toddler. Pictures of Harold’s mother, Julia (Veland) Uphouse as a child and young woman. And pictures of Julia’s parents, grandparents, and one of her great grandparent. There were letters written in Norwegian that I need to have translated. I am beyond thrilled.

Julia (Veland) Uphouse

My great grandmother, Julia (Veland) Uphouse.

Elizabeth "Lizbett" (Gravdahl) Veland

My great-great grandmother, Elizabeth “Lizbett” (Gravdahl) Veland

John Veland

My great-great grandfather, John Veland

John and Elizabeth (Gravdahl) Veland

John and Elizabeth (Gravdahl) Veland

Haldor Gravdahl

My third great grandfather, Haldor Gravdahl

Gunhild (Laude) Gravdahl

My third great grandmother, Gunhild (Laude) Gravdahl

Front: Haldor, Gunhild, Elizabeth and Anna.  Back: Gabriel, Margret, Lars, Ole, Martha, Cecilia, and Harry.

Front: Haldor, Gunhild, Elizabeth and Anna.
Back: Gabriel, Margret, Lars, Ole, Martha, Cecilia, and Harry.

Johanna Elizabeth (______) Gravdahl

My fourth great grandmother, Johanna Elizabeth (Haldorsdatter) Gravdahl


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