Using DNA to add branches to the family tree

I’ve talked about DNA before, and this post is an example of how I use DNA to extend the family tree. I’ve had some pretty cool discoveries – this is an example of one of them!

Sometime ago a match appeared, will call her “Mary” to keep her anonymous.

DNA_match_Mary
Screenshot from Ancestry DNA

What caught my eye about this match was that she was a “High” confidence 4-6th cousin match (so likely to find the connection in the last 4-5 generations) and her surname was one of the prominent surnames in my tree.

Ancestry allows you to link a tree to your DNA results, and you can then use that tree to look for common ancestors. In this case “Mary” had a small tree with her mother only – Anna Theresa [surname] but in also included birth and death dates for her mother. Anna Theresa was born and died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Thankfully Philadelphia BMD are available online on ancestry and familysearch, so I set to work. I wasn’t aware of any cousins in Philadelphia, but there were some in NY and in Boston, so it was possible somebody moved to a nearby state.

I quickly realised that my match’s surname was her married name, so not relevant to my family tree. However, her grandmother’s name was a nice surprise –  she was a Gallagher! The Gallaghers are a very early brick wall for me but there are so many of them, I have been unsuccessful so far to link anybody to the tree. I hit a brick wall again with Mary’s Gallagher line –  Bernard Gallagher b. 1832 in Ireland and moved to Pennsylvania, no indication where in Ireland or who his parents were. It is still possible there may be a connection there but if so, I haven’t found it yet.

His wife, however, was the breakthrough – Anna Theresa SWEENEY, born 1835 Ireland and died 21 Jun 1912 in Philadelphia. I have seen few Sweeney matches in Philadelphia but never seen any connection. Anna Theresa’s death certificate held the clue:

1912death_cert_AnnaTSweeneyGallagher
Death certificate for Anna Theresa (Sweeney) Gallagher, 1912, Philadephlia. Source: familysearch.org (click to see a larger version)

 

Anna Theresa’s parents were Miles Sweeney and Ann Gorman, who were my husband’s 4x great-grandparents! It still doesn’t list the place of birth, but with a match at this level (3rd cousins on paper) I’m pretty confident that this is correct and I’ve added her to the tree, and hopefully in future this will help linking the other Philadelphia Sweeney DNA matches to my tree.

Unfortunately so far I haven’t been able to get in contact with “Mary” (she is eldery, so may not use the computer much) but I will continue searching for more evidence.

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The SWEENY family in Derry

Catherine Sweeny (sometimes spelt Sweeney) is my husband’s 3-times great-grandmother. Catherine was born in Derry around 1839, widowed young from her first marriage (no children) and re-married again to Thomas Cooper, a tinsmith, in 1865 in Liverpool. They lived for number of years afterwards in Glasgow, and returned to Derry sometime in the period 1878-1882.

Catherine’s father was Miles Sweeny, engineer, who died in 1864, the year prior to her second marriage.

1865_marriage_SweenyCooper

I was lucky to find Miles’ death certificate as civil records only started in 1864! Miles died in 1864 from asthma, such an unfortunate cause of death which in those days was obviously not treatable.

1864_death_MilesSweeny
1864, death Miles Sweeny, 55 years old, Granny lane

1864_death_MilesSweeny_newspaper

 

Derry City Cemetery provided more clues about Catherine’s mother and siblings. I had requested information about Catherine’s grave, and they sent me a list of ALL people buried there!

Derry City Cemetery, Grave No CA170 – Proprietor JAMES HAGAN THE ROCK

 (1) Mary Hagan, The Rock Died 23/9/1867 – Aged 28yrs Parents: Miles and Anne Sweeney

(2) Joesph Sweeney, Fountain St Died 10/5/1870 Aged 1 day – Parents: Denis and Jane Sweeney

(3) Patrick Sweeney Fountain Street, Died 15/3/1871 Aged 10 days, Parents: Denis and Jane Sweeney

(4) Susan Strain, Creggan St, Died 14/6/1878 – Aged 75 yrs Parents: not listed

(5) Anne Sweeney, 2 Sloans Tce Born Raphoe Died 21/1/1881 – Aged 56yrs Parents: Miles and Anne Sweeney

(6) Miles Cooper 28 Bridge St, Born Glasgow Died 19/12/1882 – Aged 4 yrs Parents Thomas and Catherine Cooper

(7) Catherine Cooper 14 Bridge St Died 21/2/1904 – Aged 61yrs Parents: Miles and Anne Sweeney

(8) MaryAnn Sweeney, 8 Mountjoy St Died 12/10/1913 49yrs Parents: James and Mary McGlinchey

(9) Margaret Kyle, 21 The Rock Died 15/7/1917 2yrs Parents: Robert and Annie Kyle

I haven’t been able to find a birth record for Catherine as she was born too early for a civil record, and the old Catholic baptisms for Derry city don’t cover this particular year (however as we’ll see later it’s possible she was born outside Derry). According the above her mother is Anne.

While there are a number of Sweeny families in Derry, I’ve only found one Miles Sweeeny, who was an engineer, and he was married to Ann Gorman.

The cemetery record above lists few other likely siblings for Catherine.

(1) Mary Hagan, The Rock Died 23/9/1867 – Aged 28yrs Parents: Miles and Anne Sweeney

Mary (abt 1839 – 1867) seems to be Catherine’s sister, married to John Hagan who is the proprietor listed on this grave plot.

(2) and (3) – Joseph and Patrick Sweeny are the young sons of Denis and Jane Sweeny. Denis and Jane were married in 1867, Denis’ father is Miles Sweeny, an engineer.

I have not found how (4) Susan Strain is related to the family yet.

(5) Anne Sweeney, 2 Sloans Tce Born Raphoe Died 21/1/1881 – Aged 56yrs Parents: Miles and Anne Sweeney: I’m not sure if this is a sister or a sister-in-law yet, there seems to be a mistake in one of the records. The original death record states Anne was a widow, and the informant was her son Miles Sweeny. I’m undecided for now.

(6) and (7) are Catherine and her youngest son, who died age 4.

(8) MaryAnn Sweeney is the wife of Miles Sweeny (b. abt 1855) Miles Sweeny and Mary McGlinchy were married in 1882 in Derry city, Miles was an engine driver,  son of Miles Sweeny, factory manager.

Miles and MaryAnn were living in Derry in 1911 and had just moved into the area from Urbalshinny, Donegal couple of years prior. All their children apart from the youngest were born in Donegal. Miles reported he was born in Derry city in 1901 census, and Co.Donegal in 1911 census. I’ve found a baptism for Miles Sweeny 20 May 1852 at St Columb’s, Derry city and his parents were Miles Sweeny and Ann Gorman. Looks like GORMAN is the maiden name of Catherine’s mother!

There are few more children born to Ann Gorman and Miles Sweeny, and baptised in St Columb’s – Brigit (1842), Agnes (1846), Myles (1852), James (1857 – this one is a bit hard to read).

There is also a son Alexander (b abt.1836) who married Elizabeth Doherty in 1867, and marriage certificate lists him as a son of Miles Sweeny, an engine fitter.

I have traced numerous Sweeny families in Derry, and have eliminated some as likely unrelated. There are also many Sweeny families as Donegal who I’m not sure if are related to our Miles Sweeny – was he originally from Derry city,  was he from Donegal, or was he from somewhere else completely different!

I’ve included a diagram, this is still a work in progress and quite likely to be more siblings out there!Sweeny_diagram_Apr2017

PS The last little girl buried in that family plot – (9) Margaret Kyle was the daughter of Annie Sweeny, grand-daughter of Miles Sweeny and great-grand-daugher of Miles Sweeny and Ann Gorman. She died just a month before her 2nd birthday from tuberculous meningitis.

Also, the name Miles and Myles seems to have been used interchangably in the records, and same with Sweeny and Sweeney.