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Working William

Scouring the Internet, I could find little in the way of useful information about Springfield Parish, Kings County, New Brunswick beyond the population (1576 in 2006).  Because William McBriarty was a brother to the in-common ancestor of my best DNA matches in Allagash, Maine and also memorialized in the Cromwell Hill cemetery near ancestors related to my other DNA matches, I decided to research him more fully.  I had already notated him in the tree I had made for my DNA cousin, Shelley Jo McBreairty.  I just needed to expand out William’s branches to see if I could find any other DNA connections.

My method in creating trees is to begin with my DNA match and work backwards in time.  Think: genealogy data mining.  I collect the names of all my DNA match’s parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, great-grandparents and married-ins.  And (just as important), I collect census records, birth and death records, etc to support the family connections I find.  Because I already had William McBriarty in a tree, my first step was trying to figure out who he married and who were his children.  I needed to expand this William McBriarty branch to every male that could be related to him alive in in 1964.  I also had to keep in mind that the surname of my biological father might not be McBriarty at all.  For all I knew, any connection to him might be on any number of my biological father’s grandmother’s branches.  I had to go big.

William was easy enough to find.  The first census record I found him in was the 1871 Canadian Census.  William was living in, not surprisingly, Springfield Parish.  His wife, I learned, was named, Bridget.  A quick search at Ancestry revealed her maiden name was McDermott.  I recorded it on my tree.  Next, I needed to glean as much information I could about William and Bridget and record their children into my tree.

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The William McBriarty I was looking for was found at the bottom of the sixth page of the 1871 Canadian Census for Springfield Parish.

Looking at this census record, I learned that William McBriarty (spelled “McBrairty”) was male, 55 years old in 1871, born in Ireland, a Catholic, Irish, a farmer, and married.  The other columns to the right of this information reference attending school, ability to read and write, and infirmities.  His wife, Bridget was female, 34 years old, born in New Brunswick, and married.  His children are notated as: Catherine, age 16; James, age 15 (a farmer); Francis, age 14 (a farmer); and Isabelle, age 12.

I got to work adding in William and Bridget’s children into the tree.  After including them, I went down the list of children, one by one, and figured out who they married and who their children were to present day.  I began with the eldest, Catherine.

In searching for information on Catherine McBriarty, I discovered she married Thomas Cogger and had five children.  I added Thomas Cogger and their five children into the tree:

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I began tree building with the eldest child of William McBriarty and Bridget McDermott mentioned on the 1871 Canadian Census, Catherine Louise McBriarty.

Working systematically, I next moved onto the eldest child of Catherine McBriarty and Thomas Cogger: Mary Cogger.  Researching her, I discovered she married, Thomas Thompson and had three children.  I added them into my tree:

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Mary Cogger, her husband Thomas Thompson, and their children incorporated into my tree.  Note that I added in the parents of Mary’s father, Thomas Cogger.  This is an important step in tree building.

I also added in Mary Cogger’s paternal grandparents on her Cogger line even though I had no evidence of any biological connection to them at all.  This is done because I will get DNA cousin matches to people that share in-common ancestors unrelated to the main branch of the  family I’m working on.  This is tremendously important in tree building because not all of my DNA matches will follow along a single branch of a tree.

Using my maternal grandmother’s family tree as example, if I got DNA hits to my great-grandmother, Cecile Ordway, I would expect to find my matches to have a DNA connection to her family.  But I wouldn’t know which side of her tree we connect without comparing trees.

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Some of my DNA cousins will be generated from her immediate family; from her siblings children and grandchildren but some of my connections to her will just be Ordways and some will be just Freemans.  These families have no relationship to each other until the branches merge.

Where the branches merge is where my biological connection branch (my great-grandmother) is found.  I need hits on both sides of a person’s family tree to validate a conclusion. 

I couldn’t find any DNA connection in my matches to the Cogger or Thompson families so I turned back to William McBriarty and Bridget McDermott’s next child and began the process of tree building with the next child, a son, James McBriarty.

And so on.  With each of the children mentioned on the 1871 Canadian census, I worked on their individual branches, bringing them as forward with descendants to as close as I could get to present day.  And then I went to bed.  It was about four o’clock in the morning.  Later, snuggled in bed, I felt pretty good about the tree building I had completed.  I didn’t find any connections to those McCurdys that kept showing up in my DNA matches, which troubled me, but I knew this logical method would work.  Eventually.  It had to.  Then, it occurred to me:  Bridget McDermott was 39 years old in that 1871 census.  She and William had a child about every couple of years and the youngest I found on that census was 12.

There’s got to be younger children.

I snapped on the light, walked over to my desk, and logged back into Ancestry.   I pulled up the 1871 Canadian Census again and scrolled down.  And there they were.  On the next page.

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Patrick McBriarty, age 10; John McBriarty age 8; Ann McBriarty, age 7; William McBriarty, age 5; Charles McBriarty, age 4 and Michiel (Michael?) McBriarty age 2.

A rookie mistake.  I had gotten to the end of the census sheet and assumed that was it.  It wasn’t.  I took a small measure of comfort that I had at least identified the right fellow.  His mother, Sarah Gallagher, the in-common ancestor of all these DNA cousins of mine is found living in this William McBriarty’s house but…Eleven children?

I was too exhausted to add all these children into the tree so I made notes on paper.

I also checked the 1861, 1851, and 1881 census records for any other children hiding in plain sight.  At Ancestry, I stumbled on this transcription of a newspaper, by Daniel F. Johnson, from the Provincial Archives in Canada:

Date February 11 1892

County Saint John

Place Saint John

Newspaper The Daily Sun

The language of the text is the original used in the newspaper entry and as transcribed by Daniel F. Johnson. Records acquired by the Provincial Archives are not translated from the language in which they originate.

William McBRIARTY died at his residence Springfield (Kings Co.) Tuesday, after a brief illness, age 76. When about 6 years old, deceased came out from Ireland with his parents and has ever since resided at Springfield. He leaves a widow and sixteen children, thirteen of whom were at his bedside when he died. A sister of Mr. McBriarty is the wife of John BAILEY of the I.C.R. dining rooms in this city.

Sixteen children. 

I was going to have to tree build for each of the 16 children.  Each one of them, an individual branch with all the married-ins, children, and grandchildren to at least something resembling present day.  I didn’t know if I was related to William and Bridget  by a daughter or a son.  Heck, I didn’t even know if these were even my actual ancestors at all.  I’d just have to stick it out, keep working on these branches, and hope I could find this branch merging into a McCurdy branch at some point.

It would.  But it would take another DNA cousin match to point the way.




Categories: Uncategorized

Laurie Pratt

Perpetually curious. I love history, genealogy, old movies, good books, all sorts of music, and adventures involving travel. In my spare time, I help admin a genetic genealogy Facebook page for CeCe Moore ("DNA Detectives") and coach people how to connect with their biological family using DNA.

6 replies

    1. I’ve used mirror trees but because my DNA connections were so distant, they didn’t work well for me. People that shared DNA with me rarely had trees comprehensive enough to include our in-common ancestors. I just had to find the connection myself. (Great question!)

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I did put my DNA on the early trees I created in hopes of finding direction but it didn’t really work for me. The connection to my match was beyond what most people had in their tree. I found it much easier and quicker to just build the trees for my DNA matches and find the connections myself using the Shared Matches app on Ancestry. My research trees are all private and unsearchable. Great question!

      Liked by 1 person

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