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Turning Broken Branches into Trees

The first Kelly/McCurdy DNA match I got has never responded to the message I sent to him at 23andMe back in 2014.   I was fortunate that he had an unusual name and was easy to find when I Googled him up.  Google also coughed up an obituary in which he was mentioned in as a grandson of the deceased.  From that obituary I found conducting a simple Google search, I gleaned three generations of names and a couple of locations.  Never underestimate the power of Google.

Using census records at Ancestry, I found his deceased grandparent on the 1940 census.  This was all I needed to build a substantial tree for my DNA match going back to about the year 1800.  With fourth cousin DNA matches, I figured I’d likely bump into our in-common ancestors a couple of centuries ago, give or take a decade, so whenever possible, I brought my DNA cousins trees back to about the year 1800.  The paternal side of this match’s tree consisted of Ashkenzi Jewish ancestors and not being Ashkenzi Jewish myself, I could temporarily dismiss that side and focus on his maternal side.   I didn’t see any connection to this match with any of my Allagash DNA matches other than the fact they both families had come from the same general area in New Brunswick, Canada as the original McBreairty family in Allagash.  I explored the Kelly surname in this fourth cousin’s tree at length as it’s a surname found in Allagash, but I couldn’t seem to connect this man’s Kelly family to anyone there.  As interesting as this match was, he was (yet another) dangling fourth cousin match.   Feeling as I had exhausted my work on this match, I tucked his tree away for future reference.

Over the course of a couple of years, others began making connections to me with the same, in-common ancestor couple: James Kelly (b. 1827) and his wife, Mary Ann McCurdy (b. 1836).  I traced all of James Kelly and Mary McCurdy’s children to people who would be alive, male, and possibly in Lewiston, Maine in January of 1964.  Nada.  Nothing.  Most, though not all of the descendants of this union seemed to be in Canada which made it more difficult to search for them.  I could have missed someone; I knew that was 100% possible, but having exhausted the descendant connections to James Kelly and Mary Ann McCurdy to anyone related to the people in Allagash, I put this tree on the back burner.  Again.

In early 2015, I got a DNA hit to Mary Ann McCurdy’s brother, Patrick’s descendants.

In July of 2015,  I got a DNA match to Mary Ann McCurdy’s brother, John’s descendants.

It finally occurred to me that if I were DNA matching descendants of Mary Ann McCurdy and two of her brothers, maybe the in-common ancestor couple wasn’t James Kelly and Mary Ann McCurdy after all.  Maybe it was Mary Ann McCurdy’s parents: James McCurdy (b. 1807) and his wife, only known as “Mary.”  I expanded the Kelly/McCurdy tree to include Mary Ann McCurdy’s parents and siblings, and I brought those branches forward to present day people as best I could.  I still couldn’t find any connection with them to the fourth cousins in Allagash so again, I put the McCurdy tree on the back burner.  Meanwhile, I kept working on those Allagash trees.  I was convinced that the answer was sitting in front of my face.  I just couldn’t see it.

In 2016, I got a fourth cousin match that wasn’t a McBreairty from Allagash, but was directly related to them.  This person had a very small family tree created at Ancestry. At first glance, none of the surnames in this tiny tree looked familiar but I copied it, made a private, unsearchable tree (no need to scare people needlessly) and expanded it to present day and found a connection to the Allagash McBreairtys.  All of the Allagash McBreairtys had one of two ancestor couples in their family tree: James McBrearity and either his first or second wife.  This match was matching James McBreairty, the Allagash patriarch’s mother. One generation back from the Allagash McBreairtys and in Canada.   

Screen Shot 2017-12-07 at 10.08.04 AM

Sarah Gallagher’s husbands and children.  The Allagash descendants use the surname spelled, “McBreairty” while their Canadian cousins tend to use the surname spelled “McBriarty/McBrearty”.

Sarah Gallagher (b. 1784) married James McBreairty (b. 1775); the couple had nine children.  They had moved from Donegal, Ireland to New Brunswick, Canada in the early 1800’s.  Sarah Gallagher’s son, James McBreairty was the McBrearity patriarch that went to on to father (and grandfather) all the McBreairtys in Allagash, Maine.  But… Sarah Gallagher was married twice.  After she was widowed by her husband, (also named) James McBreairty, she married Francis Gallagher.  Sarah went on to have two more children, daughters, with her second husband, Francis.  This DNA match was descended from Sarah Gallagher’s second marriage to Francis Gallagher; a direct descendant of her daughter Ann.  Soon after, I got another DNA match to a descendant of the other daughter of the Sarah Gallagher/Francis Gallagher union, Jane.  None of my DNA matches to Sarah Gallagher were breaking out of the fourth cousin designation and I didn’t know how this all came together on a tree for me, but I did know, with DNA matches to both sets of her children, that Sarah Gallagher was my great-great-great (or some number of great) grandmother.

She just had to be.





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.

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