Friday, 27 January 2017

Italian Cousins through DNA and Genealogical Research

San Colombano Certenoli GE, Italy 
By Davide Papalini (mio lavoro) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY 2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

I suspect I am not alone in being surprised, when we have researched for years already, that breakthroughs in our genealogical research bring us exciting new family information, and if we are really lucky, new cousins! Especially, when it is not really due to our own work, but a gift of someone else’s hard work! That happened to me in just the last three weeks when a woman named Karen Migliori got in touch with me on ancestry to tell me that my DNA matched her husband’s Italian line of ancestors whose DNA and family tree she administered. I was so excited, because I knew very little about the Italian line of my mother’s family except for those who had lived in Richmond, Virginia, USA where I was born and raised. My DNA results said I was 5% Italian, and I was so happy to learn that. My mother often talked of her Italian grandmother, Mary Catherine Botto, who married her grandfather James Henry Kearse, who was Irish. Even though I am 15% Irish, I have always felt an affinity and affection for the Italian passions I inherited.

When I started my family genealogical research, I was thrilled to get my Italian line together, even if only through my second great grandparents who immigrated from Italy to America, settling in Virginia. Lewis Botto, 1831- bef. 1866, of San Colombano Certenoli (GE), Italy, married Catharina Revaro, 1825-1903 of Genoa, Genova, Italy. They married in Richmond, Virginia in 1853. Notice that from this marriage record, I learned the names of Lewis’s parents, my third great grandparents, Lawrence and Mary Botto (Lorenzo and Maria Rosa Costa Botto).

Louis Botte (Lewis Botto)
In the Virginia, Select Marriages, 1785-1940

Name: Louis Botte (Botto)
Gender: Male
Age: 21
Birth Date: 1832
Birth Place: Italy

Marriage Date: 3 Sep 1853
Marriage Place: Richmond, Virginia

Father: Lawrence Botte (Lorenzo Botto)
Mother: Mary (Maria Rosa Costa)

Spouse: Catharine Rivers (Revaro)

FHL Film Number: 31855
Reference ID: P1 #39

Together, Lewis and Catharina Botto had two children, James Lewis Botto, 1857-1923, and Mary Catherine Botto, 1858-1906. Mary Catherine as I said before, married James H. Kearse and they were my great grandparents, making Lewis and Catherine Revaro Botto my second great grandparents.. On the 1860 census, Lewis appears as a confectioner in Richmond, VA. and is living with his wife and two children.

1860 United States Federal Census
Name: Lewis Batto (Botto)
Age: 28
Birth Year: abt 1832
Gender: Male

Birth Place: Italy
Home in 1860: Richmond Ward 1,Virginia, USA
Post Office: Richmond

Family Number 207

Household Members:
Name                    Age
Lewis Batto           28
Catharine Batto     20
James Lewis Batto  4
Mary Catherine       3

However, I have not yet been able to discover for sure what happened to Lewis Botto. I do not know if he died in the Civil War, if he and Catharine got divorced, or just why he disappeared, but I do know that in 1866, Catharine married her second husband, Nicholas Raffo, 1837-1873, also born in Italy. Together they had one son, John Francis Raffo, 1867-1951. On the marriage record of Catharine Revaro Botto to Nicholas Raffo, I finally learned that Catharine’s father’s name was Anton Revaro, sometimes seen as Andrew Rivers. At last, I knew the names of my third great grandfathers.

Catharine Botto

Name:Catharine Botto
[Catharine Revaro] 
Birth Date:1823
Marriage Date:7 May 1866
Marriage Place:Richmond, Virginia, USA
Father:Anton Revaro
Spouse:Nicholas Raffo
FHL Film Number:33620
Reference ID:p 90

Catharine Revaro Botto Raffo had three children altogether, two sons and one daughter. James Lewis Botto married Margaret Slattery and had six children. Catharine’s daughter Mary Catherine Botto married James Kearse and had four children, including a set of twin girls and two boys. Catherine Botto Raffo’s son John Francis Raffo , 1867-1951, married Mary Margaret “Minnie” Finnegan and had eight children! Blessed to have three children, Catharine had 18 grandchildren! Lewis Botto had ten grandchildren. What a legacy!

James Lewis Botto owned and operated a nightclub in Richmond called the St. Helena. Mary Catherine B. Kearse was a business woman like her mother, collecting rents from rental property they owned, and she was also a jeweler, the co-owner of a well known jewelry store in Richmond. John Francis Raffo was a firefighter who became the Chief of the City of Richmond Fire Department with a career that spanned fifty years! Teachers, Police Officers, Firefighters, and a Catholic Priest. the caretakers of Richmond, Virginia, USA were some of my own family!

Previously, I had met, through ancestry, some of my living Raffo cousins, in California, Virginia, and right here in North Carolina, only about an hour away!

That was about all I knew until two weeks ago. Even though I had met and become friends with another Botto cousin through our own DNA match- Eric Dimiceli from New York, he only knew that he had a second great grandmother named Catarina Botto, 1837-1913, who was born in San Colombano, Certenoli, GE, Italy also! She had married a Carlo Molinari. We knew they were related, but could not determine how for lack of records.

Then two weeks ago, I got a note on Ancestry from Karen about her husband Tom Migliori and his cousin Raymond Malispina. She and Ray are the genealogists of the family. Raymond had been to Italy at least five times, and had a cousin who did original research there. Ray sent me this lovely note for my records just a few days after we met:

“Good morning cousin
Amen to that!

One piece of new news you might want for the records is the church containing the data on Botto, Cuneo, et. al. is S. Maria Assunta in the town of S. Colombano Certenoli. It is just about a mile or so southeast of the wonderful city of Chiavari, on the sea some 40 miles south of Genoa and just below Portofino (the Cinque Terra is just a short train ride south of Chiavari). We've used Chiavari as our base city on five visits to Italy. Ray”

Raymond shared his own genealogical research and family tree with us, which gave us more ancestors! It also let us know that the four of us descended from siblings! Lorenzo (Lawrence) Botto, 1801-1860, married Maria (Mary) Rosa Costa, 1806-1883. I checked my DNA for matches to the surname Costa, and there they were, I matched Eric, Ray and Thomas--Karen’s husband. In fact, Ancestry has now put the four of us in an ancestry DNA circle! Lorenzo and Maria Rosa had six children, and now we know descendants from three of them! Ray sent this information to Eric Dimiceli and me:

“Botto Family Records S. Colombano Certenoli

As promised here is the information found in the records of the church in S. Colombano Certenoli.

Lorenzo Botto (son of Bernardo) was born in the town of Rapallo in 1801 on July 19 1826 he married Maria Rosa Costa (daughter of Luigi) at the church in S. Colombano. Lorenzo died November 14,1860.They had six children:

-Angela Maria born October 16, 1827, She married Bartolomeo Daveggio on February 5 1845 This is my second great grandmother!!!!

-Giacomo Luigi was born July 23, 1831. No record of marriage in S. Colombano.

-Maria Teresa was born October 13. 1834. She married Antonio Raggio May 2, 1859.

-Caterina was born April 17, 1837. She married a Carlo Molinari (no date). She died July 25, 1913.

-Rosa was born October 19, 1841. She died October 9, 1842.

-Bartolomeo born October 9, 1845. Married Angela Cademartori December 31, 1865. Died February 18, 1906."

How exciting to discover that our second great grandparents were siblings! Eric descends from Catherina Botto;  Ray and Tom descend from her sister Angela Maria Botto; and I descend from their brother Giacomo Luigi! Giacomo Luigi, I was so happy I could hardly stop saying that name. I had only known him as Lewis who married Caterina Revaro, and had a son named James Lewis Botto and daughter Mary Catherine Botto! Giacomo Luigi translates to James Lewis also, the name of his son! Live and learn! It was so much fun! I immediately sent out an email to all of my Kearse/Botto first and second cousins to introduce Ray and Eric, and give them the information! I also learned the names of two of my fourth great grandparents! Lorenzo’s father was Bernardo Botto, and Maria Rosa Costa’s father was Luigi Costa! There it was, Luigi, a family name.

Since Ray, Eric, Tom, and I are fourth cousins, we should share a third great grandparent, and indeed we are all descendants of our third great grandparents, Lorenzo and Maria Rosa Costa Botto! Ray and I share 13.1 centimorgans of DNA across one DNA segment! Eric and I share 12.0 cM’s of DNA over one DNA segment and Tom and I share 22.5 cM’s over 2 DNA segments.  Below are our relationship charts, detailing our kinship.

What a blessing from DNA and genealogical research to find three new cousins from California, to New York to North Carolina, USA--from Italy with love!

Sono cosi felice! (I am so happy!)

Fino a quando ci incontriamo di nuovo, benedizioni,

Helen Y. Holshouser, blogging at

Raymond (Ray) Malispina (1935 - )
father of Raymond (Ray) Malispina

Louisa Cuneo (1888 - 1953)
mother of Elvin George Malispina

Jennie Deveggio (1867 - 1932)
mother of Louisa Cuneo

mother of Jennie Deveggio

father of Angela Maria Botto

Giacomo Luigi (James Lewis) Botto (1831 - )
son of Lorenzo (Lawrence) Botto

Mary Catherine Botto (1858 - 1906)
daughter of Giacomo Luigi (James Lewis) Botto

son of Mary Catherine Botto

Margaret Steptoe Kearse (1918 - 1980)
daughter of Thomas Philip Kearse

Helen Spear Youngblood Holshouser
You are the daughter of Margaret Steptoe Kearse

Eric Dimiceli
4th cousin

Private Silvinsky 
mother of Eric Dimiceli
mother of Private Silvinsky

Francesco Molinari 
father of Catherine C Molinari

Caterina Botto (1837 - 1913)
mother of Francesco Molinari

Lorenzo (Lawrence) Botto (1801 - 1860)
father of Caterina Botto

daughter of Giacomo Luigi (James Lewis) Botto
son of Mary Catherine Botto

Margaret Steptoe Kearse (1918 - 1980)
daughter of Thomas Philip Kearse
daughter of Margaret Steptoe Kearse Youngblood

Thomas Migliori
4th cousin

Dora Pedrucci (1916 - 2012)
mother of Thomas Migliori

Della Catherine Cuneo (1891 - 1944)
mother of Dora Pedrucci

Jennie Deveggio (1867 - 1932)
mother of Della Catherine Cuneo

Angela Maria Botto (1827 - )
mother of Jennie Deveggio

Lorenzo (Lawrence) Botto (1801 - 1860)
father of Angela Maria Botto

Giacomo Luigi (James Lewis) Botto (1831 - )
son of Lorenzo (Lawrence) Botto

Mary Catherine Botto (1858 - 1906)
daughter of Giacomo Luigi (James Lewis) Botto

Thomas Philip Kearse (1883 - 1939)
son of Mary Catherine Botto

Margaret Steptoe Kearse (1918 - 1980)
daughter of Thomas Philip Kearse

Helen Spear Youngblood Holshouser
You are the daughter of Margaret Steptoe Kearse

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Secret Wife of John Wilkes Booth, Presidential Assassin?

With the recent inauguration of a new United States president, I was reminded of some of the odd bits of presidential history. I found once such story in my sister-in-law's family tree. Martha Lizola Mills; her daughter, Ogarita Elizabeth Bellows; and her granddaughter, Izola Louis Hills, all believed Martha was the secret wife of John Wilkes Booth, the person many witnessed assassinated then president Abraham Lincolon. They also believed Booth escaped and lived several more years and that he fathered a son with Martha Lizola after Lincoln's assassination.

Documentation and the recollections of Martha Lizola's granddaughter, which she included in a book, This One Mad Act, agree. Her parents were Abraham Standish and Izola Maria (Mendosa) Mills. Abraham was the owner and captain of a trading schooner in the China Trade. He met his wife in Spain. According to Martha's granddaughter, Izola Maria died giving birth to her only daughter on board ship off the coast of Martha's Vineyard, during a storm. Martha Lizola was primarily raised by her aunt, Abraham's sister, Fanny (Mills) D'Arcy.

Martha Lizola (Mills) Bellows Stevenson
Photograph from This One Mad Act

Charles Bellows is never mentioned in This One Mad Act but Massachusetts marriage records indicated he and Martha Lizola were married 30 Jul 1855 in Boston. Rhode Island birth records listed Charles and Martha as the parents of Ogarita Elizabeth, who believed she was actually John Wilkes Booth's daughter. Navy muster rolls seem to prove that Charles could not have been the father as he was stationed on a ship off Montevideo, Uruguay, during the critical period.

The 1860 census indicated Martha Lizola was living in Boston with Ogarita and a son, Harry, aged  five. Little Harry disappeared from the records after that; so I assume he died as a child. Martha's story was that she was a young actress and met John Wilkes Booth in Richmond in 1858 or 1859. It was love at first sight. She said she and Booth lived on a small farm in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley and that Booth would return to their home between acting engagements.

After the Civil War, Martha Lizola married John Stevenson on 23 Mar 1871 in Boston. This is supported by Massachusetts marriage records. She claimed it was a marriage of convenience and that the son born to them a month earlier, Harry Jerome Dresback Stevenson, was actually the son of John Wilkes Booth. She claimed she married Stevenson, a friend of Booth's so she could travel to California and meet Booth while he was in hiding before leaving the country. It was during that meeting that Harry Jerome was conceived.

Harry Stevenson; photograph from This One Mad Act

Martha Lizola died in 1887 and is buried in Plains Cemetery at Canterbury, Connecticut.

Her daughter, Ogarita, was also a stage actress, and began using Booth as her stage name in 1884, six years before her death at the age of 32. Ogarita's daughter, Lizola Louise (Hills) was adopted by George Forrester, a Chicago newspaper man, after her mother's death. Her second husband, Mann Page, was my sister-in-law's 8th cousin once removed.

Ogarita Elizabeth (Bellows) Wilson Henderson
Photograph from This One Mad Act

So do you believe Martha Lizola (Mills) Bellows Stevenson married John Wilkes Booth and that he fathered two of her children?

Related posts: Izola Forrester: American Author and She Seemed Rather Fantastic and Extravagant.

Martha Lizola Mills was born at Stamford, Fairfield, Connecticut, in 1837 to Abraham Standish and Izola Maria (Mendosa) Mills. Her father was a sea captain. She married first Charles Still Bellows on 30 Jul 1855 at Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts; second John H Stevenon on 23 Mar 1871; and third, according to her granddaughter, but no documentation has yet been found, Edwin S Bates two or three years before her death. She died in Nov 1887 in Canterbury, Windham, Connecticut and is buried in Plains Cemetery at Windham. She went to her death believing she had been married to John Wilkes Booth, that both her children were his, and he escaped capture at the Garrett farm and died in 1879.

According to Wikipedia, muster rolls indicate Charles Still Bellows was aboard a ship near Montevideo, Uruguay, for the critical time period, making it impossible for him to be the father of Ogarita (Bellows) Henderson, Izola Forrester's mother.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Stimulating Memory Sharing

Gathering memories was a frequent topic of several friends at the Family History Center I work at. There was much discussion trying to come up with the right formula for family responsiveness.
It is easy to say ask questions at reunions, family gatherings, visits 
with the older members of the family, but the results are not always what you had hoped for.
I have written several memories on my personal blog most in regards to holidays and many with recipes. It was all my memories. I had asked my husband’s twin to share memories and he would always say, “I don’t remember anything about growing up.” ๐Ÿ˜‰ 
Both you and I know that was true, he just wasn’t focused. To experiment, since I was one of the advisers on getting stories over the holidays, I decided to utilize my Facebook page to try and pull in cousins and siblings of my husband’s family to share some of their stories. It didn’t quite turn out the way I had thought, but it did turn out that I filled a need of the Hero’s cousins.

I first shared this…short post and a scrapbook page from the book… 

"Merry Christmas from the Ellsworth Domestic Goddesses.  Many years ago my oldest daughter put together a cook book of recipes from all the Older Ellsworth ladies back in 2001, the great grandmother, great aunt, grandmother, and aunts for Christmas. Kathleen and Ginny, I loved this picture of Mary with Mom. Two lovely Ellsworth ladies. Megan were there recipes from you and Laura in there? Love all ya'all. "

This was some of the responses:
Derrell Hankins: What a lovely idea! Wish I'd have thought of that... about 50 years ago! (not related on this side)

Kathleen Ellsworth Chelette: Thanks Fran ๐Ÿ’•(The Hero's cousin, sister of Tom)

Fran Langley Ellsworth: You are welcome Kathleen Love ya

Barbara Thole Taylor: What a treasure! (not related on this side, but they are thinking of doing it for their family now.)

Ginny Ellsworth: Love it! Thanks, Fran! (daughter of Tom, a cousin. She has never seen these.)

Laura Wheatley-Hughes: Wonderful. Thanks for keeping memories alive (daughter of the Hero's sister)

Alta Turner: So cute!

Tom Ellsworth: Love to see the other recipes too! (the Hero's cousin)

Fran Langley Ellsworth” I am making a copy for Laura, will make one for you too.

Tom Ellsworth: Fran Langley Ellsworth Thank you!

Kathleen Ellsworth: Chelette Fran if you're making copies could I put my name in the bunch? Thanks

Fran Langley Ellsworth: Of course. You were in my thoughts. Didn't know if you had gotten one.  <3

Kathleen Ellsworth Chelette: Fran Langley Ellsworth thanks Fran you're an  ๐Ÿ˜‡.

This family has not been sharing for some time and now they had something they wanted to keep for a memory. I having 4 books made from mine and a barrier went down for sharing. Also, later my brother-in-law brought it up at a dinner with his sister and we discovered, she had found an original recipe that she had copied wrong for the book. This will be fixed now. ๐Ÿ˜Š
This was the scrapbook page…very simple.

The second event was a “Blog Caroling” prompt from FooteNoteMaven.
I chose to do a cute song my husband had sang to our kids every Christmas. He loved it and after I posted the scrapbook page with the short post, I found my brother-in-law loved it too. When we had our dinner he began remembering all the fun songs they had sung at Christmas as kids and looked them up on YouTube. His sister added what she had remembered. 
This is the Scrapbook Page and the short post:
"When the Hero and I would talk about Christmas plays and our children were in the Church party Manger scenes, he would always break out in song about "The Angel in the Christmas Play". This Christmas song was written in 1949 by Spike Lee.  The Hero would have been about 3 when it first came out. 
Wonder if our children remember the song... Good question."

There were several other posts I made including old group photos of the family that stimulated conversations about when, where they were at the time of the photo and who was doing what at that time.  It was fun seeing the cousins come together across the miles, who have not been together for years, and engage each other with their thoughts as memories. That would not have happened if I had not reached out to them and had given them a visual stimulus.
This was my personal success story this year of extracting fun and personal stories from family. I hope you had a great experience too. ๐Ÿ˜Š

Thursday, 12 January 2017

New Year, New Approach

Getting Organised with a bullet journal could help me Build a Family Tree Book 

So another year has flown by and it is that time of the year again when we resolve to get things straight and write that Family History book we have been promising. So here is what I plan to do this year and a bit about how I am changing the way I tackle the organisation challenge.

At the end of last year I discovered Bullet Journaling and decided that this year I was going to give it a try. I hope that it will help me to become more organised and allow me to look back at what I can achieve. Several others are also starting this so you may see posts from them on genealogy blogs.

I have gathered some useful links in a collection on Google+ if you think you might be interested.

As part of this I had to decide how I would approach this and what tools I would use. I started with a cheap notebook but soon realised that the pages were too thin. 
I then ordered a relatively expensive notebook known as a LEUCHTURM 1917 which has numbered pages. The order could not be fulfilled so I had to find an alternative. 
The idea of having a book I could add to and customise appealled to me but the Levenger system that some in the US were using was not available here in the UK. Staples do a similar system known as ARC and I was looking at this as an alternative. 
Before, I purchased what I would need, I was discussing what I wanted to do with others. It was at this point that it came to me that, what I needed I already had, sitting in a drawer at home, waiting for me to use it, a springback binder. These are sold to family historians to help them create their own books. The same company also sell archival quality paper and other items to help us preserve our history.

Now I have spent time creating pages for my journal and using it to help me with my organisation schedule. It is a project which will evolve. When I originally bought my binders I also obtained a set of preprinted Family Tree Book Pages included with these was a discount code to order a pdf copy of the pages to use for additional pages. I bought a copy yesterday and had thought I could just print the pages for me to fill in by hand. However on further investigation today I find the sheets are fillable pdf and I can cut and paste information from my family history software program.
Since the older family members may prefer to see my research in book format I hope to use these forms as a starting point. The one thing I do like with these forms is the emphasis on adding the sources.

I am hoping to produce hand written pages for people I am currently working on so I can see where there are gaps. 
I started doing something similar in this book.
If I can easily translate the information into a page which I can printout, and replace if I need to, it will be more flexible especially if I later find I have missed something. I can easily correct without having to rewrite a whole section.
Working with paper rather than just in the digital can help with thought processes and creativity.

Next month I will report on how the bullet journal has progressed and if I have found it useful for my genealogy organisation.

If you are using a bullet journal have you found it helpful particularly for genealogy projects. 
Please share any thoughts you may have on this topic in the comments.