Year In Review 2019: Newtown Residents Discover Their Ancestry
Whether the person is hoping to gain insight on their family’s past, connect with living relatives, or know their genetic makeup, there is an innate curiosity that has fueled the surge in people participating in DNA-based websites.
In the beginning of 2019, The Newtown Bee invited residents to share stories of what they discovered after participating in these sites and how their findings have affected their lives.
Sandy Hook resident Doreen (Murphy) Kelleher kicked off the series in February and said that after taking a 23andMe DNA test, it confirmed what she long suspected.
“[I’m] 100 percent Irish,” Ms Kelleher revealed.
What did come as a surprise, though, was that after creating her family tree on ancestry.com, she found living relatives all over the world.
Her family was so excited to connect in person that Ms Kelleher helped organize a Murphy Family Reunion with 180 of her relatives — the youngest in attendance was a newborn and the eldest was 94 years old.
Lifelong Newtown resident Sandy Schill never guessed that when looking into her ancestry she would find that her family played a part in founding multiple towns in Connecticut, including Waterbury, Middlebury, Farmington, Milford, and Norwalk.
After using the genealogy site MyHeritage, her family tree began expanding at a booming rate, and she discovered nearly half a dozen ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War.
“It’s amazing to me how when you look at the family tree and it’s all these branches, you think, ‘Gosh, all of this had to come together just right for me to be here,’” she said.
Overall, Ms Schill’s genealogy search brought her together with relatives she never knew existed, answered family mysteries, and set in motion a multi-generational family adventure to Sweden.
As a history teacher, Sally (Leety) Stevens spent her 35-year career educating students about America’s history and people. What she did not know at the time was that her family’s stories would bring her lessons to life in a whole new way.
After retiring, Ms Stevens took on a number of personal projects that involved her going through a variety of old family photographs. Discovering the old photos inspired her to try out ancestry.com and utilize the free one-month offer to start a family tree.
She used additional resources, including newspapers.com, findagrave.com, and the Civil War Pension Files, to learn about her paternal great-great-grandfather, John Miller; her paternal second great-uncle, Joseph Mercill; and her second cousin, three times removed, Gotlieb Luty of Emsworth.
Capping off the ancestry series in April was Jane Sharpe, a 52-year resident of Newtown whose family tree is as diverse at it comes.
After teaming up with her cousin, Donald “Don” Jacobs of Rhode Island, who used ancestry.com, the two found out that Ms Sharpe is a descendant of kings, queens, and an orphan.
She even discovered an unexpected family connection to Sandy Hook, specifically to the Loveland family. When the trail of information seemed to stop cold, much remained a mystery surrounding her family member Bessie Smith.
After the article was published, however, Ms Sharpe was contacted by a number of Loveland family members and friends to help her continue her genealogy journey.