Dec 262017

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.

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Dec 172017

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 census1 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.2

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  1. 1851 Census, Canada West, Wellesley Township, Waterloo County, Ontario, Canada, district 1 Wellesley, Waterloo County, Page 33 or 17, lines 38 – 46, Joseph Wisong ; digital images, Library and Archives Canada, Censuses ( : downloaded 24 November 2017).
  2. “Descendants of Pierre (Peter) Joseph Voisin,” Obituary of Anthony Voisin, E-Mail 9-28-2017, Harvey Kuntz, Wingham, Ontario, Canada.
Dec 052017

Madame Voisin

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.1 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.

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  1. Theobald Spetz, The Catholic Church in Waterloo County. Book I : with a summary history of the Diocese of Hamilton. Book II : and a list of the clergy who labored in its district from the beginning to the present. Book III. Catholic Register and Extension, [Toronto?], 1916, page 176.
Aug 012017
Joseph Voisin (1858-1916)

Joseph Voisin (1858-1916)

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.

I have written about my “brick wall” (Brick by Brick Part 1, Brick by Brick Part 2).  Here is a quick summary.

The names of Joseph Voisin’s parents are unknown, but his father’s name could also be Joseph Voisin.1 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.

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  1. A. Wayne Edwards, II, Death Certificate of Joseph Voisin.
Jul 232016

VioletsThere 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.

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Mar 132015
John E. Yuncker circa 1923

John E. Yuncker
circa 1923

One of my great-granduncles, John Ernest Yuncker (1881-1962), was my paternal great-grandmother’s younger brother. He is mentioned in his mother’s 1921 obituary as living in Los Angeles, California. I had found him listed in the California death index years ago, but I never traced him further. I recently did so and I found that he made quite a name for himself and even had a brush with history.

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Apr 242013

WPA Propery InventoryIn the late 1930’s the Works Progress Administration (WPA) conducted property inventories of rural Michigan. This project was in conjunction with the Michigan Department of Treasury. I was able to locate the homestead of my great-grandparents, Joseph and Mary Voisin, near Beal City, Michigan. It is interesting to learn about their home and farm.

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Apr 022013

My fourth great-grandparents, John and Margaret Stewart, were two of the first settlers in what would eventually become Buffington Township, Indiana County, Pennsylvania. John Stewart married Margaret McFarland in 1788 and by 1796 they had a son, my third great-grandfather, James Stewart.

I describe here how I used records available at the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC)1 and Google Earth to pinpoint the location of the original Stewart homestead.

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  1. Pennsylvania, “Copied Surveys, 1681-1912,” database and digital images, Pennsylvania State Archives, Land Records ( : downloaded 9 December 2009), RG-17, Series #17.114, Copied Survey Book C-206, Page 221 and reverse, John Stewart,; Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Bureau of Archives and History.
Apr 232011

Another of my hobbies is shopping at garage sales and estate sales.  It’s fun to find little gizmos to fix up, clean up, and reuse.  I especially like technology and mechanical items.  Most people have no idea what many of these items are.  That means no one else buys them.  They are also very cheap, on the order of 25 cents for items that can retail for $10 to $50.

Sometimes I come across items of genealogical interest.  I once bought a stack of hard-cover genealogy books for 50 cents each.  Perhaps saddest are the old portraits of unnamed and unknown ancestors that probably graced many a farm house.

Today at an estate sale I noticed a banker’s box on the top shelf marked “Genealogy.”  I thought boy oh boy, what treasures can I save from destruction and loss to hopefully find a better home.  I anxiously brought the box down, set it carefully on another box, and lifted the cover.  Oh no!  Shreds upon shreds of paper, as if the contents had been through a paper shredder.  A family of mice had at one time made their home in this box.

All of it ruined.  Hand-written notes, Xeroxed copies of records and certificates.  Nothing but strips and fragments.  Nothing salvageable.  It was obviously someone’s careful work from the time before computers, when everything was done by hand.

The lesson:  Store your genealogical paperwork in rodent-proof containers.  Avoid attics and garages.

Apr 032011

Brick by Brick

This is another post in a series about finding the ancestors of my paternal great-grandfather Joseph Voisin1 (1858-1916). This is a brick wall I haven’t been able to get beyond for several years. Here I chip away a few more bricks from the wall in hopes of discovering a clue.

Perhaps you can help. If you found this post while searching the Internet, chances are there’s something here that piqued your interest. That means you might know something I don’t know. If so, please post a comment. No matter how small, most any information can provide a clue.

In this installment I’ll remove four bricks from the wall.  See also Bricks 1 through 10.

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  1. For source citations and images of the evidence discussed here, please see the Family Group Sheet for Joseph Voisin.
Apr 012011

Brick by Brick

I’ve reached an impasse trying to find the ancestors of my paternal great-grandfather Joseph Voisin1 (1858-1916). It’s a brick wall I haven’t been able to get beyond for several years. If I remove one brick from the wall at a time, I may discover a clue.

Perhaps you can help. If you found this post while searching the Internet, chances are there’s something here that piqued your interest.  That means you might know something I don’t know.  If so, please post a comment.  No matter how small, most any information can provide a clue.

In this installment I’ll remove ten bricks from the wall.  See also Bricks 11 through 14.

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  1. For source citations and images of the evidence discussed here, please see the Family Group Sheet for Joseph Voisin.
Mar 032011
Albert and Mary Pohl

Albert and Mary Pohl, about 1909

Who would have thought the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) could answer questions about family history?  I used NOAA to help solve a mystery about the immigration of my great-grandparents, Albert G. and Maria “Mary” (Pittner) Pohl.

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Mar 012011

Source Templates is a feature that some genealogy software programs now offer. When you create a citation to reference a source in your genealogy research, the source templates tool prompts you for the necessary information.  You simply fill in the blanks, and it constructs the actual source citation.  Citations are then complete, and in standard format.

But should you use Source Templates?  I say No! The reason?  Most if not all genealogy programs have yet to get their source templates feature working properly.  Besides minor problems with formatting and punctuation, the most serious issue is:  You will not be able to use your source citations outside of your genealogy program.

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Feb 262011

Part of the fun of genealogy is discovering your ancestors.  And part of that process is uncovering old records like baptism and marriage records.  One record leads to an older record, and so on back in time.  What is the oldest record you have ever discovered related to an ancestor?

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Jan 262011

The most important aspect of organizing a collection of digitized photographs and documents is the naming convention used to reference each item.

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Nov 012010

It is increasingly easy to obtain digital images of evidence used in genealogical research. More online databases now provide images of actual records. It is also easy to scan photographs and documents, or even record them using a digital camera.

I have already begun the process of digitizing the genealogical evidence I accumulated over the years. In the forthcoming series of blog posts entitled “Digital Evidence,” I will describe the system I use to generate, manage and display my collection.

As always, comments and feedback are welcome, especially if you have a better idea!

Apr 192007

Often you discover conflicting facts for an event, like a birth date. A particular source may give only partial information, like the place of birth but not the date, or the month and year but not the day or place. Soon you have a list of multiple alternate facts, each cited by a different source.

A “preferred” fact is a best estimate. It may include information from a combination of alternate facts. A single preferred fact is often used in genealogical reports and charts, where listing several alternate facts is infeasible.

For some facts, it is not a matter of having several conflicting facts from alternate sources. Sometimes you must draw inferences from several sources to form a conclusion. Suppose you have a hunch that a particular person is your ancestor. If you evaluate several sources, you may find proof to a reasonable degree of certainty that your hunch is correct. In other words you may be able draw a conclusion even though there are no explicit facts that prove it.

As an example, marriage records often list witnesses, their ages, and their relationship to the bride or groom. Evaluating the marriage records of two sisters may lead you to conclude that one of the witnesses who appears on both records is actually their brother. The age and hometown of this witness may lead you to conclude he is indeed your ancestor.

Therefore, besides citing individual sources for a given fact, you can also cite a conclusion. Simply document the steps that led to your conclusion, and name that as your source. Future researchers can then see your logic and verify it against your sources, and any new sources that may be discovered.

Apr 062007

With genealogical evidence, you should not trust any one source to be accurate. I contend that even a preponderance of the evidence is not necessarily accurate. Researchers often look for corroborating evidence from other sources before accepting a fact as true. Various sources have different weights as to their trustworthiness and accuracy. But it can still be a mistake to draw a conclusion based on a given set of sources.

For instance someone’s date of birth taken from their death certificate has a greater chance of being incorrect since their birth happened so many years beforehand. The person filling out the death certificate may only be guessing the deceased’s birth date. The birth date is seldom verified with other official records when the death certificate is filed.

Birth certificates are considered more accurate because they are recorded soon after birth, when everyone involved is sure when it happened. However a clerk generally recorded births in a ledger book. Sometimes these ledgers were themselves re-copied several years later. So even a “birth certificate” is subject to transcription errors and recording mistakes.

Even if a birth record and a death record each point to the same birth date, that date is not necessarily accurate. Two or more inaccurate records do not make an accurate record.

That is why citing a source in genealogical research is so important. You, or a subsequent researcher may happen upon another source in the future that corroborates or refutes a given fact. All sources will again need to be weighed for accuracy before another conclusion can be drawn. Any genealogical fact has an inherent degree of accuracy that is never 100%.