52 Ancestors

– First –

Week 1 features John Nation of Rowan County, North Carolina, my first Nation ancestor to settle in America. Follow John’s journey from indentured service to the Beakes family to land ownership in the colonies.

– Challenge –


Week 2 is a call to all genealogists and family historians to share a lost family photo. The only clue? One of the Peterson sisters wrote, on the back of the photo, Mother Lodie Don. This week’s post was featured on Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors favorites list!

– Unusual Name –

Week 3 is the story of my great-great-grandmother, Celestia Melvina (Merrill) Peterson. Celestia means “heavenly,” and she definitely lived up to the name.

– I’d Like to Meet –

…my great-great-grandmother’s mystery brother! Week 4 features a letter written to Mary (Witkowski) Marczynski by a brother I didn’t know she had. He signed off with Your Brother, and I’m still searching for clues about his identity.

– At the Library –

Week 5 is a detour to showcase my own story. I reflect on my visit to the Trinity College Library in Dublin, Ireland two summers ago, and I walk you through each part of the exhibit.

– Surprise –

Week 6 is all about DNA! Right before the holidays, I uploaded my raw DNA data from AncestryDNA to MyHeritage, and this post details the surprises and discrepancies in my results.

– Love –

For Week 7, I researched a potential connection between my Younglove ancestors and Jane Austen. It was the perfect topic for Valentine’s Day!

– Family Photo –

Week 8 features the first photo I’ve found of my Applegate ancestors; I’ve finally found my ancestor look-alikes in my family tree.

– At the Courthouse –

Week 9 tells the harrowing story of John Hawkins’ arrest during the War of 1812 for refusing to bear arms. He was a Quaker–and was committed to peace–and his friends and neighbors fought his arrest in court.

– Bachelor Uncle –

Week 10 features the only bachelor uncle in my family tree: Serafin Zielinski. According to my grandmother, he was quite the catch, but circumstances outside of his control kept him from marrying.

– Large Family –

My great-grandmother, Hattie (Marczynski) Zielinski, had seven full siblings: Viola, Agnes, Eddie, Vicky, Tessie, Blanche and Pat. Week 11 tells the story of these eight close-knit sisters and brothers who grew up in the Fourth Ward of Dunkirk, New York.

– 12 –

For Week 12, I traced back twelve generations to Tristram Hull, a member of Myles Standish’s militia in Plymouth Colony and, later, a captain of The Catch and Hopewell.

– In the Paper –

Week 13 is all about Peter Tofil: his political campaigns in the city of Dunkirk generated a lot of news coverage, and his every move–from running for the Board of Water Commissioners to spraining his ankle before work–made the Dunkirk Evening Observer.

– Brick Wall –

Week 14 features a story seven years in the making: I take you along with me as I trace my great-great-grandfather’s paper trail back to Mecklenburg, Germany and finally find his parents’ names.

– DNA –


My great-great-grandmother, Victoria (Drag) Kuznicki, has always been a mystery; that is, until a few weeks ago, when a new AncestryDNA cousin match led me to her sister in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. This week’s post was featured on Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors list!

– Out of Place –

Week 16 features Adair “Addie” Mudd, my great-great-grandfather’s first wife (who we never knew about!). This week’s post is a bit out of place–some would say that I’m not really related to Addie at all–but I’m hoping to find a cousin who can share more insights into her past.

– At Worship –

Thomas Beals, my 7th great-grandfather, arrived in America aboard the Welcome with William Penn; in the years following, he traveled throughout the Northwest Territory and found himself at odds with the government on more than one occasion. Read all about Thomas’ adventures (and misadventures) in this week’s post!

– Road Trip –

This week, I’m using Google Tour Builder to tell my ancestor’s story. Follow Casimir Marczynski’s journey from Poland to New York and learn how to make your own virtual tours–it’s the perfect medium for genealogy!

– Nurture –

Week 19 features Betsy Maria (Penfield) Cook’s letter to her son toward the end of her life; in it, she expresses her hope that the Civil War will be over soon–allowing him to come home–and laments the loss of her other son to the same fight. It’s an uplifting Mother’s Day story you won’t want to miss!

– Nature –


Week 20 features the other Nathan Hawkins of Wayne County, Indiana; he sold his land and sawmill to John F. Miller in 1880, and it’s since been turned into Glen Miller Park–right at the heart of the city of Richmond. It’s the perfect story for this week’s nature theme, and it was featured in Amy Johnson Crow’s weekly email!

– Military –

This week’s Memorial Day post is a tale of two brothers: one returned home from the Civil War in 1865, and one was lost along the way. Read all about Wesley and Arthur Cook’s March to the Sea in this week’s story!

– At the Cemetery –

Genealogists can have a favorite cemetery, right? Week 22 features Laona Cemetery and the four generations of Merrills and Petersons–from Lyman Burton Merrill in 1890 to Margaret Isabelle Peterson in 1993–buried there.

– Namesake –

Week 23 tells the story of the four Content’s in my family tree; it’s frustrating to have unexplained gaps in our female ancestor’s paper trails, but we genealogists work with what we have, don’t we?

– Dear Diary –


This week, I’m sharing my Aunt Monie’s butter cookie cutout recipe; for the women in my family tree, recipe books and boxes filled with recipe cards are our versions of diaries and journals, anyway.

– Earliest –

Week 25 features the “earliest” Getman in my family tree–Frederick Getman of Stone Arabia, New York–and the 93 acres of land he passed down from generation to generation. The old family barn, farmhouse and chicken coop joined the National Register of Historic Places in 2010!

– Legend –

This week, I’m sorting through the family legends and setting the record straight about what’s fact and what’s fiction. Learn all about my great-grandfather (and my almost great-grandfather) in this week’s post.

– Independent –

This week’s post celebrates the service and sacrifice of PFC Manley J. Merrill, a young man who served in the 307th Airborne Medical Company and lost his life much too soon. He’s an inspiration for sure, and he deserves to be remembered.

– Reunion –

In 1886, the Nelson family of Coudersport, Pennsylvania–all 200 family members–met at Almeron Nelson’s house for a picnic-slash-family-reunion. It was a huge event in the town’s history, and it even made the local newspaper.

– Challenging –

I’m pretty sure this is my new worst nightmare: on July 3, 1939, Joseph Niedbalski’s fishing boat capsized, and he clung to the side for over three hours. He and his friends were finally rescued–all safe and sound–at 4:45 in the morning, but it must’ve been one challenging night.

– Easy –

This week’s post is a reflection on my search for two sisters–Nellie (Drag) Trella and Victoria (Drag) Kuznicki–using DNA, a New Jersey marriage index, a Pennsylvania newspaper archive and a long lost family photo. It’s an easy “recipe for success” that I’m hoping will help you break down your own brick walls.

– Brother –

My great-great-grandfather, Milton Cook, was a Methodist circuit rider, and everyone called him “Brother Cook.” This week, I’m sharing notes from the sermon spoken at his funeral; it’s a message about “hope eternal” and our need to find a “refuge” for our soul.

– Sister –


This week, I’m sharing the story of three sisters–Mary Eva, Frances and Lauretta–who became, well, Sisters. Each joined the Sisters of Saint Francis, took their perpetual vows in the early 1920s and chose a new name–Sister Mary Leonora, Sister Mary Felicia and Sister Mary Maristella–to mark their commitment to following in the footsteps of Christ.

– Comedy –

I sat down with my grandfather last week and asked him to tell me all of the stories he could remember–and of course, they were all about his crazy high school antics. Read all about the time he set some train tracks ablaze in this week’s post!

– Tragedy –

This week’s post features the tragic story of Adolphus Nelson, a young man who enlisted in Company G of the Pennsylvania 53rd Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. Their motto? We might as well die here.

– At Work –

It turns out that I have a lot of entrepreneurs in my family tree; this week’s post features John and Belle Hamernik, a young couple who dreamed of opening a café together–and did. Johnny Hamernik’s Café was popular for its dancing, mixed drinks and roast beef sandwiches.

– Harvest –

This week’s post isn’t your traditional harvest; after World War II, the people of Dunkirk banned together and harvested funds and supplies to send to their sister city for Thanksgiving. It’s the perfect story of gratitude and thanks for the holiday season.

– Trick or Treat –

This year’s Halloween story features a nineteenth-century lighthouse and a group of lighthouse keepers that supposedly still haunt the grounds to this day–but I’ll let you decide.

– 52 Ancestors in 2018 –

Want more 52 Ancestors stories? Check out last year’s list, featuring teacups, Tolstoy and five bearded Bonds.