“To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern Intellect.”–Oscar Wilde

By now we all know DNA can produce unexpected results. We’ve seen the human interest segments on the news, or watched the 20/20 or Dateline episodes featuring stories about unknown children, unexpected parents, and everything inbetween.

I was not so naive as to think our DNA would be exempt. Many of our matches have names that mean nothing to me—even though I can frequently link them to a particular family line, based on shared matches I do recognize. They are people on a descendant line I simply have not followed up on.

Nevertheless, it was still a bit unexpected when Mike’s brother emailed me about having been contacted by some guy who was a DNA match. I was puzzled about why we hadn’t been contacted, but realized I had a public tree (where this guy could see his connection to Mike), while Mike’s brother did not. I explained to Mike’s brother how they were related, and told him I’d take care of answering the guy.

It turned out he was a half first cousin to Mike & his brother. His mother, Marjorie, was an older half sister to Mike’s dad, Jerry. Marjorie and her brother, Fred, were children from their mom’s first marriage. The chart below may help:

Mildred Belle Fitzgerald is in the top row, center, with her first husband, Gordon Marshall, to the right. Marjorie is below and just to the right of her mom, in a pink-ish box. Her 3 husbands are to her right, with her brother, Fred, following, and a sister who died young. Mildred and Gordon eventually divorced, and he remarried. To Mildred’s left is her 2nd husband, Mike’s grandfather, John Joseph Carmody. Below him are their children, Michael, Joseph, and Jerry (in blue). The two sets of kids are half-siblings, sharing Mildred’s DNA, with all of their children (not shown) being half first cousins.

Marjorie was 19 when Jerry was born (and her mother died) in 1928. If she wasn’t already out on her own, her mother’s death possibly sealed the deal. By the 1930 census, John Joseph had no children living with him; they’d all been farmed out to other relatives.

I didn’t know much about Marjorie, but finding a half cousin prodded me to make an effort to flesh out her family line. She had a somewhat complicated story. Since many of the descendants are living, I did not include them in the chart above, and will not be using those names in the narrative.

I’ve still not found Marjorie in the 1930 census, but found the record for her 30 August 1930 marriage¹ to Roy L. Dale, which took place in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The marriage license said she worked as a housekeeper, and provided an address—the same as Roy’s address. I located that street and house number in the 1930 census (taken in April), but neither one was living there. It seems they weren’t living in Indiana during the census—at least not at that address.

Roy was a widower, so I tracked down his first marriage. That took place in Port Huron, Michigan, where he married² Thelma L. English, 15 July 1922. Thelma died 23 March 1930, shortly before census day, explaining Roy not being in Indiana!

Thelma’s surname raised a red flag. Marjorie’s maternal grandmother was Eliza Jane English. Were Marjorie and Thelma related? It turned out, yes! Thelma’s father, Frederick, was Eliza Jane’s brother, making Roy Dale’s first and second wives first cousins, once removed. That was unexpected!

I’ve been unable to determine if Roy and Marjorie had any children, or how their marriage ended. Some online trees suggest Roy died in 1999, but have no sources to substantiate that. There’s more than one Roy Dale out there! I also found a Ray Dale with an identical birth date, and the same parents. Was Roy playing fast and loose with his name? When I tracked down the birth register, I saw Ray and Roy were twins. That was another unexpected twist, though it didn’t fill in the gaps in Roy’s history.

Presumably Roy either died or they divorced prior to 16 February 1938 . . . at which time Marjorie married³ Roy Dunn, in Wood County, Ohio. The marriage license is extremely curious. She was living in Bowling Green, Ohio, but Roy was living in Sarnia, Ontario (across from Port Huron). Marjorie also presented herself as not previously married. She was “Miss” and using her maiden name of Marshall. Yes, she is the right woman in both documents, and both licenses (rather than registers, which sometimes have less information) have details like birth date and place, parents’ names, that are consistent.

I don’t know if Roy Dunn didn’t know she’d been married before, or she and Roy Dale simply split up (or he deserted her) and she never went through the effort to secure a divorce. I’m sure there’s a story there . . .

As with the first Roy, I don’t know what happened to Roy Dunn. Some online trees suggest he and Marjorie had 2 children, but their names are privatized. I presume Roy and Marjorie returned to Canada after the wedding, since he lived there. I didn’t find them in the 1940 US census, and there is no comparable census for Canada. It’s just a mystery.

At some point, Roy was out of the picture, and Marjorie married Jean-Marc Bedard. The two of them appear in voters’ lists in British Columbia as early as 1958. I haven’t found a marriage date, nor births for the 4 children who show up, privatized, in online trees. I found Jean-Marc’s 2007 Find A Grave memorial in Quebec (where he had been born). One tree suggests Marjorie was also buried near there, though I can’t find an entry for her, nor a death certificate.

As a result of that unexpected contact, I’ve acquired a number of details for Marjorie, though, as usual, new questions pop up as quickly as old ones are answered. I guess that’s to be expected!


¹”Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007″, database, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, FamilySearch Record Search (https://familysearch.org), Roy DALE (35) and Marjorie MARSHALL (21) accessed 2 July 2019, 30 August 2019; citing Allen County, Indiana, Marriage Registration, Indiana Commission on Public Records, Indianapolis; reference vol. 74, p. 393, image 197 of 303; citing FHL microfilm 4165102.

²”Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952″, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 21 June 2020, citing Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division of Vital Records and Health Statistics, Port Huron, 1922 Muskegon-1922 Wayne, film number 164, record # 17294. Roy L. DALE (26) and Thelma L. ENGLISH (18).

³Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013, index and images, accessed 2 July 2019, citing Marriage, Wood County, Franklin County Genealogical & Historical Society, Columbus, Ohio, FHL microfilm 4,260,731, image # 52 of 332. Roy DUNN (24) and Marjorie MARSHALL (29); FamilySearch.


“Yeah? Me, too. I’m…whatever you said. Independent.”–Rudolph in “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (1964)

After 39 years of living with an accountant (31 of them, a CPA) I’ve heard more than enough about “being independent.” In the accounting world, it has to do with auditors not having their

“integrity, objectivity, or professional skepticism” (3.03b, p. 27) compromised, “so that their opinions, findings, conclusions, judgments, and recommendations will be impartial and viewed as impartial by reasonable and informed third parties.” (3.04, p. 27-28)

“Government Auditing Standards”. 2011. U.S. GAO. https://www.gao.gov/assets/590/587281.pdf. [Accessed 4 Jul. 2019].

Reports or financial statements impacted by that requirement include a statement about being independent at the bottom; or one informing the reader the accountant was NOT independent with regard to that particular company. Not being independent isn’t necessarily a problem, but readers are alerted that maybe they should make further inquiries before relying on or acting on the financial information.

Genealogy isn’t that much different, with Genealogy Standards (Second Edition) providing the necessary guidelines. It’s published by the Board for Certification of Genealogists, but the introduction makes it very clear the standards apply to everyone — not just those who are certified, accredited, or professional:

These standards apply to all genealogical research, whether shared privately or published . . . personal research and research for clients, courts, and other employers.

Genealogy Standards. 2019. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: Board for Certification of Genealogists, p. xix.

The five standards guiding our research are:

  • Reasonably exhaustive research — “one and done” won’t work
  • Complete source citations — if I don’t know where my information is from, how can I assess it?
  • Testing, analyzing and correlating everything — sources, information, conclusions
  • Resolving conflicts — “wishing away” inconvenient information doesn’t cut it, either
  • Constructing a coherent, well-reasoned conclusion based on the best evidence available.

Reading through the standards, nowhere do we see the term “independent,” yet it’s an underlying concept through throughout. Researchers should

not allow bias, preference, or preconception to affect their choices of information to collect and not collect. They suspend judgment about the information’s effect on the research question until after they have collected sufficient relevant information, analyzed it, and compared it to other findings.

ibid., p. 18, standard 27

Remaining “independent” when researching someone else’s family is a little easier than when working on my own. The separation I have from “those guys” allows for clearer, less biased thinking than when working on “my guys.” Nevertheless, I try really hard to put on my “Joe Friday” fedora and stick to “just the facts,” instead of what I wish was there!

Researching Mike’s ancestors, I basically started from scratch. No one had done any research on either branch of his tree, so I had no preconceived notions or existing theories. Staying independent wasn’t really that hard. All I needed to do was start with the few facts I knew, and follow the trail backwards. At least, that’s the theory.

I began with John Joseph Carmody’s second wife, Mildred B. Fitzgerald (Mike’s grandmother). I had Mildred’s name from my father-in-law’s death certificate. In DNA, I followed her mother’s line up to Mike’s Crockett/Creighton DNA match. Of course, Mildred had a father, too. Her death certificate¹ tells us his name was Ashley Fitzgerald, born in Canada, and her mother, Eliza English, born in Michigan. Her parents’ names are confirmed in both of Mildred’s marriage records:

  • 13 July 1921, in Bay City, to John Joseph Carmody²
  • 1 January 1908, in Port Huron, to Gordon E. Marshall³

Her father’s (Ashley’s) marriage4 to Eliza English on 10 April 1886, in Elgin, Ontario, Canada, listed his parents as Frederick and Maud Fitzgerald. It also provided a middle initial of “C” for him. His death certificate on 8 April 1931 expanded that out to “Cooper.” His father was listed there with just initials: “F.J.” but we got a maiden name for his mother: Maud Varcoe. She variously used “Maud,” “Augusta Maud,” “Augusta,” throughout her life.

Ashley and Eliza were found in the 1901 Canadian census5, with Mildred, her siblings, and Eliza’s mother, Isabella. It’s always helpful when widowed parents show up in the census to confirm it’s the right family! I’m not going to detail all the records found for Ashley (children’s birth registers, censuses, etc.), but most are consistent for him, using his middle initial, or the full name, and reporting ages within a birth range of 1865-1867.

So far, I’ve not found him in the 1891 Canadian census, but he may have still been in the USA at that time. Mildred was born in Ohio in December, 1890. An unmarried Ashley and his parents appeared in Sarnia, Ontario6 1881, though. His mom was Augusta Maud in that list, and her widowed mother, Jane Varcoe, was living with them. Another generation proposed! His father, Frederick, was a painter, consistent with Ashley’s eventual trade. I had another indication I was on the right track.

Aged 14 in 1881, Ashley should definitely have been in the 1871 census, but no matter how creatively I searched, I couldn’t find the family. I tabled it for a while. Months later, I saw a hint for a Michigan divorce record for an Ashley Cooper Fitzgerald. I was at home, without Ancestry access, so had to wait for a trip to the library to follow up. My next trip there, I searched for a database I knew had Ashley, then looked at the suggested records list for quick access to the divorce in question. I know, I was being lazy, but I knew it would work, and I’d neglected to write down the exact database title.

So I’m scanning down the list of suggestions, when my eyes catch “1871 Canadian Census Ashley Flynn.” I did a double-take, and briefly wondered what kind of party they were having in the Ancestry databases offices. Where did they get that name? I fully expected it to be some weirdly off the wall suggestion. Should I even waste my time?

Remember, though, we are talking this week about being independent: eliminating bias and preconceived notions, suspending judgment. I braced myself for a laugh and then clicked through to it.7 There he was, 3-year-old Ashley Flynn, a 21-year old widowed, Maud Flynn, and a 56-year-old widowed Jane Varcoe. It sure looked like my people!

Simplified ancestor tree for Mildred Belle Fitzgerald. The right side you’ve seen before, in DNA. The paternal line for Ashley is different than it was when I thought Frederick John Fitzgerald was his father.

No wonder I couldn’t find Maud, Frederick, and Ashley in the 1871 census — they were not a family, yet! Further searches turned up the marriage record for Augusta Maud and her first husband, John Flynn, in 1866. Her marriage to Frederick John Fitzgerald in 1874 finally found its way online, but at the time, it wasn’t available. Had I found it earlier, I would have realized they married six years after Ashley’s birth, though I still wouldn’t have had a clue what the surname of the first husband was.

What do I know about the relationship between Ashley and Frederick? Not much, really. I don’t really know whether Ashley was adopted by him, or not. The census record shows Ashley only as “son,” not “adopted” or “step.”

My gut feeling, though, is that they had a good relationship, based on the fact that Ashley went on to work in the same profession as Frederick. I assume Ashley “apprenticed” under his stepfather, learning the trade, and spending time together. Unless a diary or letter turn up, that’s the best we can do.

In the meantime, I will continue to employ independent thinking when researching! By the way, the divorce record that triggered my discovery was for his son by a second wife I hadn’t found yet. But that’s another story . . .


¹”Michigan Death Records, 1921-1947″, database, Michigan Historical Society, Seeking Michigan (seekingmichigan.org), accessed 8 July 2019, entry for Mildred B. CARMODY, 37, 14 September 1928, citing Port Huron, St. Clair, Michigan, registered no. 355 [written].

²”Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952″, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 6 July 2019, citing Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division of Vital Records and Health Statistics; Lansing, MI, USA; 1921 Midland-1921 St. Joseph, film number 158, record # 16709. John J. CARMODY (54) and Mildred B. MARSHALL [FITZGERALD] (30).

³”Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952″, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 27 December 2015, citing Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division of Vital Records and Health Statistics,1907 Montcalm – 1907 Wayne, film number 93, record # 10124. Gordon E. MARSHALL (21) and Mildred B. FITZGERALD (18).

4“Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1801-1928”, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 27 December 2015, entry for Ashley C. FITZGERALD and Eliza ENGLISH, 10 April 1886, citing Ontario, Canada, Registrations of Marriages, 1869-1928. MS932, reel 53, certificate 002734, no. 52. Archives of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

51901 census of Canada, population schedule, Sarnia, Lambton (West), Ontario, e.d. 79; family # 246, page 24 (written); line 39; Ashley G. FITSGERALD household; accessed 7 July 2019, citing Library and Archives Canada microfilm T-6428 through T-6556. Ashley G. FITZGERALD, age 34; digital image, Ancestry.com, Canada (https://www.ancestry.com).

61881 census of Canada, population schedule, London East, Middlesex East, Ontario, e.d. 167; page 65 (written); line 20; John FITZGERALD household; accessed 28 June 2018, citing Library and Archives Canada microfilm C13162 through C13286. Ashley FITZGERALD, age 14; digital image, Ancestry.com, Canada.

71871 census of Canada, population schedule, Ward 3, London, Ontario, e.d. 10; page 95 (written); line 20; Jane VARCOE household; accessed 28 June 2018, citing Library and Archives Canada microfilm C-9906. Ashley FLYNN, age 3; digital image, Ancestry.com, Canada (https://www.ancestry.com).