My autosomal DNA test results indicate I’m 98% European, which is further broken down to 49% British Isles, 36% East Europe, 9% Iberia and 4% Scandinavia. The remaining trace 2% is either Southeast Europe or simply “noise,” which is unexplained variations in the data.
Ethnicity predictions depend on many factors and are only approximate. They represent similarities of my DNA, my past really, with representative samples from modern populations. The ethnicity map does agree strikingly with my mother’s lineage. Her father’s side was likely from Scotland and her mother’s side is proven to be from Hungary and Slovakia. However, I inherited roughly 50% of my autosomal DNA from my father. That means my father’s side is also some combination of this very same ethnic mix, with a little Spanish (9%) and Scandinavian (4%) thrown in somewhere.
I am related to Peter Joseph Voisin (1807-1892), the patriarch of the Voisin families of Waterloo County, Ontario, near Kitchener. This was proven by a Y-chromosome DNA match between me and a known descendant of the Kitchener Voisins, Clifton Voisin. I also determined Peter Joseph’s sister Maria Anne Voisin (1798-1879) immigrated to Waterloo county. The next piece of the puzzle was a family connection to Buffalo, New York. That’s where I found a third sibling, Henry Joseph Voisin (1801-?) and his family, in Welland County, Ontario, just across the Niagara River from Buffalo.
I would like to take this opportunity to recognize Magdalena Voisin. She helped me find Joseph and Anne Voisin, who were my ancestors, and quite possibly my great great-grandparents. She provided such a big clue for a little girl only eleven years old. You see, she was born about 1841.
The Buffalo Connection
Magdalena was listed in the 1851 Canadian census for Waterloo County in the household of Peter Joseph Voisin (1807-1892), the patriarch of all the Voisin families near Kitchener, Ontario. (The family is listed as “Wisong” in that census.) She was probably not his daughter however. Instead her usual residence was “Buffalo.” She was probably visiting the family and was from Buffalo, New York. This fits with another clue from the obituary of one of Peter Joseph’s sons, Anthony. It indicates his parents walked to Buffalo annually to visit relatives.
To find the ancestors of my great-grandfather Joseph Voisin (1858-1916) in connection with the Ontario patriarch, Peter Joseph Voisin (1807-1892), it helps to research other families in the area that may be related. They can help me “triangulate” in on my direct-line ancestors. With a little detective work, one such family proved to be a surprising discovery.
An early settler in Waterloo County, Ontario was Maria Voisin, and her son August Voisin, who was a tailor. A reference to her and her son is found in a history of the Catholic Church in Waterloo County. The reference indicates she was present in or before 1850 and it includes a picture of Madame Voisin herself. I suspected she was related by marriage to Peter Joseph Voisin (1807-1892), and was perhaps his sister-in-law.
My paternal great-grandfather, Joseph Voisin was probably born January 10, 1858. For twenty-five years I’ve tried unsuccessfully to discover where he was born and who his parents were. I turn now to genetic genealogy, to both autosomal DNA and Y-DNA testing. Hopefully it will provide the additional clues needed to solve this mystery once and for all.
The names of Joseph Voisin’s parents are unknown, but his father’s name could also be Joseph Voisin. He perhaps lived for a time near St. Clements, which is near Kitchener, Ontario. There are several Voisin families in this area today. They are descendants of the patriarch Joseph Voisin (1805/7-1892). However there is no evidence yet that links our Joseph to these families.
Johann Fuchs (1777-1847) and his wife Anna Maria (Schüller) Fuchs (1788-1860) immigrated to America from Langenfeld, Germany in the fall of 1840. They probably made their way via the Erie Canal to Buffalo, New York, where they spent the winter of 1840/1841. Johann wrote several letters home to his grown children, and his relatives and neighbors. In these glowing letters he espoused the abundance and virtues of America in hopes of persuading them to make the same journey.
In the 1930s, researcher Joseph Scheben solicited letters received by families in Germany from their relatives in America. He studied several hundred such letters to trace the origin and final destination of German emigrants in America. One community he studied was Westphalia, in Clinton County, Michigan just west of St. Johns. It so happens Johann and Anna Maria Fuchs settled in Westphalia in the spring of 1841. Scheben studied at least one letter by Johann Fuchs and found it so endearing that he transcribed it in his book about the community. He calls Johann Fuchs the Father of Immigration.
In a previous post I explored whether my great great-grandfather, Jacob P. Yuncker (1837-1905), served in the Civil War. Apparently he was drafted in August 1863, but I could find no record of him actually serving. I concluded he was probably granted an exemption to care for his sick wife Rosa. Or perhaps he had already left the area either coincidentally or to avoid the controversial draft. I have since discovered more of his story.
An 1855 plat map of Erie County, New York shows the house where Jacob’s parents lived, and no doubt where Jacob and his siblings grew up. It is a nondescript community half way between Lancaster and Alden, just east of Buffalo, New York. The map indicates it is “Town Line” post office and it does straddle the boundary of both Lancaster and Alden townships.
Sacred Heart Catholic parish has been a fixture of the Mount Pleasant, Michigan community for generations. You may not know that it began as St. Charles parish. In the late 1860s and early 1870s, a priest would come from a neighboring town like Saginaw, and several families celebrated mass held at various homes. About 1872 they decided to build a church. After obtaining the land and raising the money, construction started on January 25, 1875. The church was a wooden structure that measured 38 by 60 feet and was 24 feet high.
My great-grandparents, Joseph and Mary Ann (Yuncker) Voisin were married in this church on February 16, 1885. This was a few years after the church was completed about 1877. They were married by the first resident priest of the parish, Reverend James J. McCarthy. (Although Joe and Mary lived near Beal City, a church there would not be built until 1892.)
“Glück Auf” has been the traditional greeting used by miners. No doubt my ancestors, who were coal miners, used this expression daily. In German, it means “good luck.” Not only did miners wish each other luck in finding and extracting the minerals they sought, but it was a wish that they also come back alive.
Pécsbánya is a coal-mining district about three miles northeast of Pécs, Hungary. The area was also called Pécsbányatelep. Literally translated they mean Pécs-mine and Pécs-mine-settlement. Pécs was known as Fünfkirchen by the Germans. For 250 years, more than 35 different coal mines operated at one time or another and 40 million tons of coal were produced here.
The Danube Steamship Company (Dunai Gőzhajó Társaság, or DGT) was a large consumer of coal. In 1852 it expanded into ownership of coal mines. To house workers for its growing operations, DGT started a “colony” in 1855, named Colonia. It was located on Gesztenyés hill ridge near the András (Andrew) mine. The first settlers there were Hungarians, Germans, Czech-Moravians, Slovakians, Bosnians and Slovenians.
Western Pennsylvania and the vicinity of Pittsburgh was a wilderness frontier at the time of the Revolutionary War and for years afterward. The few settlers who ventured into this area not only endured the hardships of pioneer life, but they also had hostile encounters with Native Americans.
In his work, History of Indiana County Pennsylvania: 1745-1880, editor Walter F. Arms provides a map of the county. He indicates the location of two blockhouses within Buffington Township.
It happened again. This time Zsuzsanna Jácint contacted me with information about my ancestors. She lives in Hungary and it turns out we are distant cousins. My great-grandmother Mary (Bittner) Pohl (1867-1944) is the younger sister of her great great-grandmother, Julianna (Bittner) Szeidl (~1857-1916).
Zsuzsi even provided an image of the elusive marriage record of Mary to Albert Pohl, for which I’ve searched a long time. She provided Mary’s birth record too. There’s no doubt now about the parents of both Mary and Albert.
I must admit I was not very familiar with World War I history. I had studied it in school history classes, watched the old movies and read a couple books on the subject. I never really appreciated the courage and bravery of those who served in that war until I investigated the life of my mother’s uncle, Private First Class Russell Stewart. He served in Company M of the 319th Infantry Regiment, 80th Infantry Division. He died at the battle of the Meuse-Argonne on November 2, 1918, just as the war was ending.
In reading the relevant regimental and divisional accounts of that battle, I found the most interesting and moving account of all. It was written by Lieutenant Colonel Ashby Williams (1874-1944) in his book, “Experiences of the Great War” (Roanoke, Virginia: The Stone Printing and Manufacturing Company, 1919). He started out as commander of Company E, 320th Infantry and was promoted to battalion commander, with the rank of Major, over Companies A, B, C and D, of the 320th. Although he was an officer, he endured only slightly better conditions than his men. He describes in great detail the experience of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
The 320th and 319th were in the same brigade, the 160th, and undoubtedly shared the same locations, movements and conditions. Therefore his is probably the closest description of what my granduncle experienced. I have included here the most poignant and eloquent passages from Lt. Col. Williams’ book. His words describe the indescribable horrors of existence and death in the trenches. It is something the world often forgets, as I did, in my generation. But now I remember.
My great-granduncle John Yuncker was a piano sales manager in Los Angeles during the early 20th century. Here he participated in aviation history by taking one of the first-ever commercial passenger trips on August 30, 1919. As I describe in a previous post, he flew from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara to close on the sale of a very expensive piano.
This is my grandfather Ernie Voisin standing with his daughter, my aunt Nora May as a little girl. This was taken at Houghton Lake, Michigan on July 4, 1927. They went for a ride in this airplane, which appears to be a 1927 Waco 10.
My granduncle George Voisin was my grandfather’s younger brother. He apparently owned a Ford Model-T Coupe, which is pictured in a few old family photographs from the mid- to late-1920s. It appears to be a 1924 or 1925 Coupe. Here it is along with a montage of an unrelated, restored 1925 Coupe.
It was an automobile I had not heard about until I saw this old family photo. This is a snapshot of a 1917 Dort owned by my great-grandparents, Lorenz and Louisa Rademacher, who lived in rural Isabella County, Michigan.
Corporal Arthur Nelan Pollock served in Company F, 320th Infantry Regiment, 80th Infantry Division during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in World War I. Amazingly, he kept a diary. It so happens he got separated from his regiment and became attached to the 319th Infantry. This was the same regiment in which my granduncle Russell Stewart served, as I describe in a previous post.
It is enlightening to read Corporal Pollock’s account of the battle. Since both men were then in the same regiment, this is very likely what Russell Stewart also experienced. Here is an excerpt of Corporal Pollock’s account from September 26 to October 2, 1918. It was originally published in the Pittsburgh Press, April 20, 1919 and continued on May 18, 1919. This excerpt was transcribed by Lynn Beatty and the full text is found at the Allegheny County, Pennsylvania USGenWeb.
What motivated my fourth great-grandparents John and Margaret (McFarland) Stewart to settle in the wilderness of western Pennsylvania near the end of the Revolutionary War? There may be a very simple explanation: They saw a newspaper ad.
There once was a precious little girl named Violet who died at age 2. More than one hundred years later, it is she who helped me unravel a compelling mystery.