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DNA testing, Legacy, and FindMyPast's hints - why I'm closer to solving my genealogy brick wall

One of the great stories of the year is how DNA testing is solving so many genealogy brick walls. Between DNA and the recent release of the largest online collection of US marriage records at FindMyPast, I'm closer than ever to solving the long-standing brick wall of Asa Clark Brown's two missing children.

Remember this slide? It explains it all.


In the recent "Watch Geoff Live: DNA" webinar, I discovered that John and Griffin Brown DO share DNA with my grandmother, and that somehow they fit into OUR family. If you missed it, watch the recording here. Some people are saying it was the "best overall DNA presentation I've every caught." It certainly felt that way to me as I learned what I did about my family.

I've long suspected Griffin Brown to be Asa's third child but haven't found enough evidence to be confident about it. Now that DNA has proven that he fits in somewhere, his family is my #1 priority again. Knowing that the answers to our ancestors' questions often lie in the records of their children, grandchildren and beyond, I am now resuming my research on Griffin's family, but with a heavy emphasis on his children.


In my recent article, "My first look at FindMyPast's new 100 million marriage records" I explained how Legacy Family Tree found 8,301 individuals in my family file who had no place of marriage recorded. I then searched FindMyPast and quickly found a marriage record for one of these individuals. With this finding, I predicted that "my relationship with FindMyPast is going to get a lot closer in these next few months."

After hours of sleeplessness last night, thinking about Griffin Brown's family, a brilliant idea came - in the morning I would export a GEDCOM file of Griffin's family, upload it to a new tree in FindMyPast, and see how FindMyPast's new Hinting tools would perform.

After explaining to my wife that it must have been someone else who was snoring all night, I made my way to the office, opened Legacy, and created the GEDCOM. Here's how:

1. At File > Export > GEDCOM file I clicked on the Record Selection button, clicked on the "Edit Focus Group" button, selected the "Add an Individual and Entire Family Line", selected Griffin Brown, clicked OK, and clicked Close.


2. I clicked on the "Select File Name..." button in the upper right, gave it a file name, and clicked Save.

The small GEDCOM file was now created. Following the steps below, I uploaded the file to FindMyPast:

1. At FindMyPast.com, click on the Family Tree menu, then click on Import a tree.


2. Select the GEDCOM file, and click the Upload button.

Eleven seconds later, the tree was complete.


What showed up next was completely unexpected and very exciting! Griffin's family appeared, as expected, but what I did not anticipate was how quickly FindMyPast's Hinting would get to work.


Here is a zoomed-in portion of Carl A. Brown, one of Griffin's children. Notice all the orange circles? The numbers represent the number of hints waiting for me. Maybe they appeared so quickly because the GEDCOM file only included 36 individuals, but I was ready for some instant gratification, and I was not disappointed.


I first clicked on Carl Brown's orange circle and was shown this screen with the six hints:


Since Carl was one of the 8,301 individuals in my Legacy file without a marriage place, I was delighted to see three FindMyPast hints about a possible marriage for him. From prior census research, I estimated his marriage to Gertrude Sturgeon to be about 1896 in Pennsylvania.

The first hint's screen looked like this:


The real jewel of this screen is the small View Transcript button in the upper right which brought me to this page, which this time had the full marriage date displayed:


Finally, clicking on the View Image button displayed what looked like the first page of his application for a marriage license:

Brown, Carl A and Sturgeon, Gertrude B 1897 marriage record

The next hint led me to a digital copy of the marriage certificate:

Brown, Carl A and Sturgeon, Gertrude B 1897 marriage record page 2

And the last hint led me to one of the most interesting marriage records I've ever seen:


There are lots of goodies in this marriage record including the exact birth dates of both Carl and Gertrude. It also lists Carl's exact place of birth, which matches where Griffin and Griffin's father were from! And then it says this:

...that he has once been married before to his present wife in Camden NJ Feby 1897 now desire to remarry

How cool is that?!? Apparently, this marriage in Philadelphia, which occurred on May 17, 1897, was their SECOND marriage to each other in three months. I bet there's a really interesting story there.

Since there were no other hints for Carl related to marriage records, I went to the main United States Marriages database here and did a manual search for Carl and Gertrude to see if I could pick up their marriage in New Jersey. Look what it found:


This time there was no digital image, and it gave their first marriage date as May 6, 1896, not the February date like the other marriage record showed.


I then noticed that there was a FamilySearch film number in the record, so I turned to FamilySearch to see if they had anything else.


While they had the digital image of the index page, it did not have a copy of the original record. So it'll take a little more effort to obtain the original. 

So...why two marriages? Looking at Google Earth, Camden and Philadelphia were right across the river from each other. Was Camden a "Gretna Green" as webinar speaker Gena Philibert-Ortega often discusses? Did they have a late-night decision and later regret it? I don't know. Maybe I'll get lucky and find a newspaper article or a family story somewhere.

My Conclusions

  1. DNA testing should be mandatory. Test yourself, or the oldest living relatives in your family - today!
  2. FindMyPast's tree hinting brings the research to you! And with their massive US marriage records collection, FindMyPast should be in every US researcher's toolbox. I encourage all Legacy Family Tree users to upload, at the very least, a small GEDCOM file of the portion of the tree they are currently working on, and then check out the new hints. Guess what I'll be doing all weekend?
  3. You never know what you are going to discover. That's why genealogy is so much fun!


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Great finds !!! Thanks for sharing....

Well Geoff. I had the DNA run a while ago and more is currently processing. But, this post has convinced me to try FindMyPast. I'd used it previously for records from Great Britain, without much success. I knew they had changed and just hadn't been to the site since the change. You can bet I will be there tomorrow.
Thanks so much, great post!

Just goes to show, always trust your instincts and follow where they lead. LoVe the Camden/Philly connection. One of my hometowns.

Being female had a first cousin do the YDNA. I've done the mtDNA and autosomal DNA.
Hasn't helped all that much researching back in 1700s and 1600s but still trying.

Since you found a Sturgeon line you might be interested in their reunion. This year it is in Louisville, Kentucky. website: www.sturgeonreunion.org

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