Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Birth Certificate Answers Some Questions

Following up on the expanding Lutter branch with the connection to Charles, I received the birth certificate for Otto Herman Luther.  He was born January 31, 1907 in Neillsville, Clark County, Wisconsin.

My great great grandfather was Herman Lutter and his brother was Otto.  Repetition of names is a clue that there is a relationship here.

This certificate was ordered online through for $15 and arrived via email within a few days.

I was hoping that a hometown in Germany was provided for the father, Charles, or Charlie.  No.  Saxony, Germany was the birthplace of Charlie Lutter.  The birthplace of the mother, Theresa Turnow, was provided: Kolmar, Posen [Prussia]; now in Poland.

My great great grandfather, Herman Lutter (1860-1924) was from Scheibe, now in Thuringen.  This area was south and east of Sachsen in the late 1800s.  What we know as Germany today was a collection of states that grew and shrank and were renamed often in the time that Herman Lutter left the area until his death.  It is possible that one member of the family referred to their area of origin as Thuringen and another as Sachsen.

States of Germany 1871-1918

And why is the reporting person Carl Luther?  Is this Charlie Luther, also known as Charles Luther?  Or do we have another relative living with them?

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Year of Death Questionable in Spite of Multiple Records

In what year did Emma Dunn, wife of Andrew J Newcomb (1851-1929), die?

She was born around 1855, likely in Matawan, Monmouth County, New Jersey, to Ezra A Dunn (1821-1898) and Hermoine Dunlop (1827-1900).

She died in East Orange, Essex County, New Jersey, according to the resources that provide a location.  All resources have the same month and day- January 31.

The year differs.

Below are the offerings.

1.  Gravestone: 1890
Entry on Find A Grave and photo by CindyS.

2.  Online death indexes for New Jersey

Of note- New Jersey indexes for deaths prior to 1901 do not run on a calendar year.  Deaths for the years of concern here (1888, 1889, or 1890) were compiled from July 1 of one year through June 30 of the following year.  So the entry at Family Search for a death from January through June of 1888 would have been in 1889.  Entries for January through June are off by one year.

     a.  Family Search: 1888

     b.  New Jersey State Archives Index: 1889

3.  Death certificate:  January 31, 1889.

Cause of death was pneumonia.

4.  Deaths listed in newspaper, The Red Bank Register: 1890.

So which one is correct?

The indexes are not actually records; rather, they are guides to help find the record, which I did- the death certificate.  The death certificate is a primary source.  It was created at the time of the event.  This certificate has the year 1889.  I included the indexes to demonstrate that this certificate with a date of death of January 31, 1889 was filed with the other death certificates for July 1, 1888 through June 30, 1889.  Certificates for the time period are not filed alphabetically, but by fiscal year.

The gravestone is a derivative source.  We don't know when the stone was carved.  It is possible for gravestones to have the wrong dates, especially if created years after a person died.  Emma's stone may have not been carved when she died.  Her infant daughter, Viva, died shortly before Emma in 1888.  Viva's information is carved below Emma's entry and there is no room on the stone for anyone else.  This indicates that the stone was not created for Viva, but for Emma, evidencing a time lag.  But it is a vote for 1890.

The death listing is another matter.  While not a primary source, a newspaper would contain contemporaneous information.  The news of Emma's death may have taken a few days to reach the Red Bank newspaper from East Orange, but it should not have taken a year.  This is another vote for 1890.

We go back to the death certificate.  A habit that people have every January is that they write the prior year instead of the new year.  The year on the death certificate is a scribble.  If Emma actually died in 1890, and the writer put 1889 on the death certificate, how did it get filed with the prior year's certificates?  There is no "received date" on the certificate.  Were the certificates not organized and logged until later?

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Another Family Tip via Find A Grave

Another family research tidbit in the form of a correction at Find A Grave.

Someone requested an amendment to Andrew J Newcomb's Find A Grave memorial to display his date of death in January.  No day.  The year, 1929, is from the stone.  How could someone know that he died in the month of January, but not which day?  I investigated.

Andrew J Newcomb (1851-1929) married my third grand aunt, Emma Dunn (1855 - 1889 or 1890) in 1875 in Matawan, Monmouth County, New Jersey.  I descend from Emma's sister, Catherine Dunn (1865-1944).

After Emma died, Andrew remarried to Ann McKee (born about 1856) in Brooklyn, New York in 1892.  Andrew and Ann lived in Brooklyn and later North Hempstead, Nassau County, New York.

Andrew was buried in his family plot in Green Grove Cemetery in Keyport, Monmouth County, New Jersey.  Only the years of birth and death are etched on the fallen monument.

Newcomb monument at Green Grove Cemetery in Keyport, New Jersey.
Picture taken 2015 April 23 by Jody Lutter.
William was the son of Andrew Newcomb and Emma Dunn.

I'm not one to blindly amend information that Andrew Newcomb died in January of 1929.  So I checked out the newly released indexes for New York state deaths.  [Nassau County deaths are filed with the State of New York.]  No match for Andrew.  Nothing in the New York City deaths.  Yes, New York City is not filed with New York State.

New Jersey does not have an online index for deaths after 1903.

So I turned to newspapers to try to find the source of Andrew Newcomb's death in January of 1929.

I found two articles.  Sad story.  He left his home in North Hempstead to visit family in Matawan.  He never arrived.  His frozen body was found in nearby Laurence Harbor in January of 1929.

On my next trip to the New Jersey State Archives in Trenton, I will look for a death certificate filed in 1929.

This branch is of interest to me because Andrew's grandson, William J Newcomb (1903-1984), is one of the few people identified in photographs from an album I have.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Triple Cousins

Two interesting DNA matches appeared at 23andMe on my father's side.

They are close cousins to each other.  Each shares one to four small segments of DNA with my father and his siblings.

Sharing several small segments can indicate endogamy, or intermarrying within a small group of people over several generations.

Below is the DNA shared by my aunt and these two matches.

A comparison of family trees produced the same location of Morris County, New Jersey.  From there, we had to figure out the common ancestors, which turned out to be on more than one line, as predicted by the DNA.  These two DNA cousins are descended from Anna Augusta Cook (born 1843) and James Augustus Estler (1840-1921).

The common ancestors were:

- John Cook (1745-1821) and Jane Peer (dates not determined): My sixth great grandparents.
  My line descends from their son, Henry Cook (1777-1831).
  The Estler/Cook cousins descend from another son, David Cook (1780-1860).

- George Wiggins (dates not determined) and Unknown: My sixth great grandparents.
  My line descends from their daughter, Susannah Wiggins.
  The Estler/Cook cousins descend from another daughter, Jemima Wiggins (1780-1851).

Yes, two brothers married two sisters.

- Jacob vanderHoof (1774-1847) and Ann Hopler (1772-1841): My fifth great grandparents.
  My line descends from their daughter, Elizabeth vanderHoof (1799-1878).
  The Estler Cook cousins descend from another daughter, Charlotte vanderHoof (1809-1886).

A family tree contained a picture of James Augustus Estler and ten of his children.  These children are my cousins in three different ways.

If anyone has further information on Wiggins in Morris County, New Jersey, please reach out to me.  Thank you.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Expanding the Lutter Branch

I have more information on the first direct line Lutter DNA match found at last month among my father's results.

This DNA match descends from Charles Lutter, born about 1862 in Germany.  Charles may have been a brother to my great great grandfather, Herman Lutter (1860-1924).  If not brothers, they were close cousins.  The amount of shared DNA skews beyond the parent-child relationship, so the amount of shared DNA alone will not tell us how current descendants are precisely related.

The family tree below illustrates the possible relationship.

Explanation of the Relations

- The father of Otto and Herman Lutter is given as William or Wilhelm on their records; their mother's name differed every time.
- Ottillia's age is unknown; Otto was born in the 1840s.  Herman and the other possible siblings were born in the 1860s.  They might not share the same mother.
- Herman Lutter's will named Otto as his brother and Ottillia as his deceased sister.  No other siblings were mentioned.
- Ottillia had three children according to Herman's will.  They were Paul, Edeline, and Anna Michel and they lived in Neuhaus, Theuringen, Germany.  I do not know what became of them.
- Otto had children, but only one, Augusta, lived to adulthood.  She had one child, James Michael Kittson (1919-2003), who had no known issue.

Explanation of the DNA

The amount of shared DNA is from  One of the matches would have to share results with my account in order for me to see how much DNA they share with each other.  Ideally, they would both upload to so that I could see the shared segments on my father's genome and attribute those areas to Lutter inheritance.

Charles' descendant and my father are second cousins, once removed if they above diagram is correct.  They share 150 cM of DNA, which is on the high end, but still within range, of the expected amount of DNA shared between people of this relation.

Alexander's descendant and my father are third cousins, once removed.  They share only 23 cM of DNA.  Once we reach the third cousin level, we might see no shared DNA.  So this amount is within the range of expected DNA.

The Paper Trail

The only clue that Herman was related to a Charles Lutter is in the Newark, New Jersey city directory for 1884.  Herman, a wheelwright, and Carl Luther, a cabinet maker, both resided at 40 Rankin.

The other DNA match at is descended from Alexander Lutter (1864-1897), the same Alexander Lutter who I tracked in Chicago because someone by this name was a witness to Herman Lutter's marriage to Clara Uhl in Newark, New Jersey in 1888.  The DNA match showed that I picked the correct Alexander Lutter.  But how was Alexander Lutter related?

In Chicago, Charles and Alexander Lutter lived together for several years.  This shows a relationship between them.

In 1887 in Chicago, Charles Lutter married Theresa Doanow (spelled many ways, even with a T).  I ordered this record, but do not expect to see the names of parents because Alexander's marriage record from 1890 did not ask the names of parents.

Charles and Theresa had four children in Chicago.  Charles' last entry in the Chicago city directories was 1897, when Alexander died.  The 1898 directory listed Ottelia as Alexander's widow.

Charles had moved to Wisconsin sometime between the birth of Martha in August of 1895 and Emma in February of 1900.

Charles and family remained in Wisconsin for the 1905 state census.

Charles' last child was Otto Herman Lutter, born in Wisconsin in 1907.  The index is online; Charles' birthplace is given as Saxony.  I ordered the record to see if a town is provided.

Charles moved again, this time to Brooklyn, New York.  He and his family appeared in Brooklyn in the federal 1910 census and the 1915 state census.

In 1917, Charles' wife, Theresa, remarried to Fredrick Brink in Brooklyn.  They eventually moved to Connecticut.

I don't see an entry in the New York City death index that matches Charles Lutter.  His death certificate might provide the names of his parents.

Questions and Further Research

So what became of Charles Lutter?  He probably died between 1915 and 1917, but where?

Alexander Lutter's wife, Ottilia Dalke, died in 1904, orphaning their three children, who went to the custody of Gustav and Herman Schwabe.  Were these men related?  Why didn't Charles take in Alexander's children?

Alexander's children kept accounts of their spending.  I purchased these records years ago through eBay.  One of the children, Emma, listed names and addresses, but no Lutter was among the entries.  Why?

Why didn't Herman Lutter mention Alexander and Charles in his will?  They predeceased him, but they had living children.  Were they cousins and not brothers?

Monday, July 31, 2017

First Direct Line Lutter DNA Match

My father tested his DNA at  He spit July 12th and the results appeared today- a quick turn-around time.

I am already tested at  I cannot test my mother because she has passed.  (Ancestry does not accept file transfers from other testing companies.)

To my delight, someone with the Luther surname appeared among the matches.  This is a first.  The amount of shared DNA places him in the second to third cousin range.

No family tree.

Ancestry has a function to check for close cousins in common.  This Luther cousin matches a woman who appeared among my DNA matches two years ago.  This woman is a descendant of Alexander Lutter of Chicago.  A man named Alex Lutter witnessed the marriage of my great great great grandparents, Herman Lutter and Clara Uhl, in 1888 in Newark, Essex County, New Jersey.

Herman Lutter's father was Wilhelm Lutter, based on the marriage records of Herman and his brother, Otto (who used the surname Luther).  That is the end of the Lutter line traced to date- the shortest in my family tree.  Herman was from Scheibe (renamed Neuhaus) in Thuringia (Germany).  (Herman and Otto's mother's name varies.)

This DNA connection could break down that brick wall.

Let's hope he answers my message.

Monday, July 10, 2017

My Heritage Offers an Ethnicity Estimate

Most people who ask me about DNA testing are interested in finding out their "ethnicity."

"Do your family tree instead," I tell them.


First, you do not carry DNA of all your ancestors.

Second, your DNA is not a proportional representation of your ancestors beyond your mother and father.

Third, your results will vary from company to company and over time.

Fourth, modern-day political boundaries of countries do not represent a homogeny of inhabitants now or throughout history.

Three months ago, I uploaded DNA files to My Heritage because it was free.  I am looking for relatives to fill in missing leaves and branches of my family tree.  So far, my mother has two matches in the second to fourth degree cousin range, but neither has responded to my inquiries.

Today an email signaled the arrival of My Heritage's Ethnicity Estimate.  The spinning globe with music, supposedly from the area of origin, is eye-catching and unique.  I could not reproduce the spinning globe here, so I created some screen shots.  It seems that the spinning globe function is limited to five regions.

The beginning of my spinning globe ethnicity display

The end of my spinning globe

Greek is new to me.  The beauty of my situation is that I can compare my ethnicity results with my parents.  From either parent I can inherit all of a particular ethnicity, a portion, or none.

Neither of my parents is Greek, according to My Heritage.  We've done this before with Family Tree DNA and 23andMe.  Some of the purported ethnicities do not line up with my parents.

The remaining ethnicities for my father do not include Greek.
His Baltic and Scandinavian are not reflected in my estimate.

My mother.  I currently describe her as three quarters Irish and one quarter Russian.

My maternal grandmother's first cousin (O'Donnell/Joyce branch) came up 100% Irish.

Friday, June 23, 2017

DNA Chart for Cook/VanderHoof Descendants

It took a while, but I finally created a McGuire Method DNA Chart for a branch of my family.

Several descendants of my fourth great grandparents, Stephen Cook (1797-1853) and Elizabeth Vanderhoof (1799-1878) have tested their DNA.  Most have uploaded to, where we can compare everyone, even though people tested at three different companies.

The Mystery Cousin discussed a few weeks ago also belongs on this chart; I just don't know where yet.

click to enlarge

Monday, June 12, 2017

Mystery DNA Cousin Demystified

A few years ago at 23andMe a close match appeared for my father, his siblings, and their third cousin, Bob, on their shared Cook/Neil line of Morris County, New Jersey.  Common ancestors are Calvin Cook (1826-1889) and Mary Neil (1830-1898).

The amount of shared DNA ranged from 1.66% with my uncle to 3.82% with cousin Bob.

The probable relation would be second to third cousin.  The variance in amount of shared DNA is within normal.  Or the higher amount could indicate that this mystery cousin is closer to Bob.

Either way, the person ignored my requests to connect through the 23andMe website.

Recently, 23andMe required users to not be anonymous.  This person bypassed this non-anonymous requirement and instead blocked sharing requests.

This person won't make or break my family tree, so I moved on.

Then Cousin Bob's cousin contacted me.  They share ancestors Patrick Bernard Brady (1830-18xx) and Elizabeth Duffy (1837-1918) of County Meath, Ireland.  They were the parents of Mary Brady (1870-1942), wife of Francis Asbury Cook (1851-1919).

She wondered how Bob was so closely related to her highest DNA match.  This Mystery DNA Cousin had limited contact with Bob's cousin and revealed Brady ancestors on two separate ancestral lines from two counties in Ireland, Cavan and Donegal.

In this situation, we are not using haplogroups to assign relationships or ancestral lines.
We are using them to confirm that we are dealing with the same elusive DNA tester.

The shared percentage with Bob, as well as the haplogroups, were the same for the Mystery Brady Cousin as for the Mystery Cook/Neil Cousin.

So if the Mystery Cousin is the same for both situations, this explains why Cousin Bob shares more DNA with the Mystery Cousin.  They are related through Cook/Neil ancestors as well as the separate Brady line.  For Bob, these lines merged in his great grandparents, Francis Cook and Mary Brady.

The above diagram is my theory on how the Mystery Cook/Neil Cousin (Mystery Brady Cousin) is related to my branch.  If this person comes forward, we can revise the this diagram if needed.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Locations of My DNA Family at 23andMe

The genetic testing site 23andMe released a new tool called "Your DNA Family."

Part of this feature displays the locations of the people who share your DNA.

This is a different concept from "ethnicity."  The three major testing companies offer ethnicity estimates with different labels.

23andMe: Ancestry Composition
Family Tree DNA:  My Origins
AncestryDNA:  Genetic Ancestry/Ethnicity Estimate

My Heritage is attempting to join the genetic genealogy market.  It offers Ethnicity Estimate (beta).

AncestryDNA recently offered an additional view on origins called Genetic Communities.

Ethinic estimates will differ from company to company and over time because the reference populations will change based on new information and increased people who test.  For the latest take on my ancestors, see my post about Living DNA's interpretation of me.

Based on my exchanges with DNA matches at 23andMe, they live across the globe, but mainly in the United States.  The other countries I see most often are Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, and Hungary.

I was not surprised to see that a lot of my DNA relatives live in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania because this area is where my ancestors settled after leaving Europe.  Florida and California are popular destinations for New Jersey natives to relocate.

Next I compared my United States map to my parents.  My father has more relations spread across the United States, while my mother does not.

A list view captures the numbers.

I'm not sure where 23andMe is getting the numbers.  A tester answers (or doesn't) questions about themselves, including their current residence.  With the worldwide totals, hundreds of my DNA relatives are unnacounted for.  Maybe people did not answer this question and are not tallied in this breakdown.

Another important factor is that 23andMe (and direct-to-consumer DNA testing) is not available in every country in the world.  According to its website, 23andMe ships to over fifty countries; health reports are not available in most of them.  So if your DNA relatives live in a country that 23andMe cannot ship to, or does not offer the health information interpretation, you have diminished chances of finding these relatives in your matches.

If 23andMe wanted to be more useful for genealogy, it would bring back the profile pages of participants and allow searching and sharing of genomes with people not on your list of matches, currently called "DNA Relatives."

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Preston DNA Double Match

A new DNA cousin appeared among my matches at

He also matched two known Preston cousins at this site.  He displayed his name, which is unusual, so I was able to identify him as a descendant of Hannah Preston (1888-1935), a sister of my great grandmother, Anna Preston (1890-1921).

Ancestry enables people to link their DNA profile to a person in a family tree.  This DNA match did not do this, but his non-DNA Ancestry profile page offered a link to a small tree.

I started with the one person in the family tree who had a name.  I quickly uncovered that the mother of the only identified person was Jane Pearl (or Pearl Jane) Preston, born around 1903 in Kentucky.  This is not where I expected the match to be.  I followed this line over many generations through Virginia to Philip Preston (1711-1774), who came from Staffordshire, England, according to his Find A Grave page.

I saw no intersection with my Preston line from (County Wicklow?) Ireland to New York and New Jersey.

The family tree of this DNA match can be extended to include Prestons on two separate branches.

We need more research and more DNA comparisons to decide where the shared segment of DNA came from and if these two Preston lines arose from the same ancestor.