Saturday 8 April 2017

A new approach to our DNA results

This is the beginning of a new approach to my genetic genealogy research.  The aim is to trace forward the lives of known ancestral relatives, who emigrated to America and Australia during the nineteenth century. Presumably, it’s their descendants who account for most of our ‘third cousin’ DNA matches at Family Tree DNA. So, if I can figure out the names of their children and grandchildren, I may be better able to recognise them among the list of matches, or so the theory goes. 

DNA Diary, Black Raven Genelaogy

Starting with my paternal lineage and the children of my third great-grandparents, Andrew Byrne and Anne Clynch - their youngest son Andrew was born in Athgarvan, Co. Kildare, in March 1855. He grew up to become a carpenter and married Anne Cunningham in Kingstown, Co. Dublin, on 21 July 1884. Their daughter Anne Mary Byrne was born in Townsend Street, in Dublin city, on 26 September 1886, before the whole family promptly vanished from the Irish record.[1]

It wasn’t long before I picked up their trail in Chicago, Illinois. A global search on the FamilySearch web-site revealed their son, John Patrick Burns, was born in that city, just a few years later, on 8 March 1889. The name change didn’t concern me much, as several of my proven Byrne relatives, on both sides of the family tree, morphed into ‘Burns’ following a brief spell in the U.S. But, my Irish relatives typically moved to New York, and it’s not clear yet what brought Andrew to Chicago. 
Death of John Patrick Burns, 1943, Chicago
Death of John Patrick Burns, 1943, Chicago

Still, at the time of the U.S. Federal Census in 1900, the family were found all living together at 3402 Irving Avenue, Chicago. There was Andrew Burns, a house carpenter by trade, along with his wife Annie, their daughter Annie, born in Ireland in September 1886, and their son John, born in Illinois in March 1889. It certainly looks like my great-great-granduncle’s family.

Andrew Burns family, 1900 Census, Chicago
Burns family, 1900 Census, Chicago

Sadly, however, Andrew Byrnes died shortly after the census was taken. He was said to have been forty-three years old when he passed away on 19 December 1900. He was really forty-five, though the cause of his untimely death is not apparent.

Death of Andrew Byrnes, 1900, Chicago
Death of Andrew Byrnes, 1900, Chicago

It's easy to conclude this death relates to the same Andrew Burns found in the census. On 22 December 1900, the Chicago Tribune published details of burial permits issued the previous day, and they included one for Andrew Byrnes of 3400 Irving Avenue, who died on 19 December, aged forty-three years.[2] And, on 21 January 1901, Annie Byrnes was appointed the administrator of his estate, which was valued at not more than $1,950.[3]

Annie survived her husband by more than twenty years. She died on 25 September 1922. She was buried in Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery in Chicago, same as her husband.[4] I searched for Andrew's and Annie's obituaries in the Chicago Tribune, to see if they would shed a light on what brought them to Chicago, but there was nothing doing.

My resolve to trace forward Andrew’s children fell short at the first hurdle too - I found no further mention of his daughter Annie, after the census record in 1900. She may have died, unmarried, or her descendants may continue to form part of our numerous unknown cousin matches. [Annie married James Ellsworth Coughlin - see update here]

The search for her brother, John Patrick Burns, was more successful.  He married twice. His first wife was Katie Bauer, who he married in 1913, and after Katie died, he married Sigrid Wisten. John died on 10 October 1943, and according to a notice of his death, he left three surviving daughters. One may still be living, so suffice to say two of his daughters married – their husbands' surnames being Lee and Naughton.[5]
Death of John P Burns, Chicago, 10 Oct. 1943.
Death of John P Burns, Chicago Daily Tribune, 11 Oct. 1943, p. 22

None of these names are jumping out at me from our list of DNA matches!

© Black Raven Genealogy  

[1] Catholic Parish Registers at the NLI.
[2] Chicago Tribune Archives.
[3] Andrew Byrnes in the Illinois, wills and probate records, 1772-1999 on
[4] Anna Burns in the Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994, database, on FamilySearch.
[5] Various records at FamilySearch


  1. Dara, did you look through Chicago city directories for these descendants? Best of luck with your DNA matches!

    1. Thank you Marian. I just checked the ones on Ancestry and those free online, as I don't have a subscription to Fold3, which seems to contain the most directories.

  2. I was searching for two collateral women and what I found was they both joined the nunnery. That was pretty common in that time frame. My DNA matches on Ancestry do not have many trees, I would say at least 80% and if you contact them most likely they will not answer.

    1. Claudia, my family were seemingly not wealthy enough to send their daughters to the convent, but I do have an issue with people having zero interest in our 'match'. And, even with the few who can trace their families back to Ireland - neither of our trees are early enough to identify a common ancestor.

  3. Your right. I am finding Nee, McDonnell, Conroy and Joyce. They are not in my trees. This summer I am taking a course on Irish research, I hope it helps. It is in Pittsburgh PA. USA


I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!