CANTON — Mary Saunders of Canton enjoys genealogy. While pursuing this hobby, she has found some surprising family connections. She shared some information about her research recently with The Sunday Review.
Q: How long have you been doing genealogy?
A: I started asking my mother and maternal grandmother genealogy questions back when I was in high school, because we were always told growing up that we were somehow related to John F. Kennedy through my grandmother, whose maiden name was FitzGerald. It wasn’t until I had my own children that they then became aware of the possible connection with our family to the JFK family that I started to get more motivated about working on my family heritage. Five years ago, I started having my mom write down some of my family lines back through my great-grandparents and great-aunts and -uncles so I could begin to try to put the pieces together.
(Editor’s Note: Saunders said she still is researching her family’s connection to the Kennedy family and JFK.)
Q: What do you like about it?
A: It has been interesting to see the different names that are connected to your family tree and to find out that you are related to local people that you never even knew that you were related to. It is amazing the connections that you can make as you keep digging deep within your family roots. I grew up in Upstate New York very close to the Vermont border, and when I was doing an Internet search on my paternal grandmother’s family, it amazed me when I came across a 150-page article that had been written on her Bentley family. It was while I was reading that article that I was able to see where her family line of Bentleys had been a part of the reason why Bentley Creek in Bradford County was named Bentley Creek.
The same Bentley family is also where the town of Veteran in Chemung County, N.Y. got its name. The name of the town honors the first settler, a veteran of two wars. The first settler was Green Bently (former spelling), a veteran of both the American Revolution and the French and Indian War, who arrived around 1798. The Town of Veteran was formed in 1823.
Q: What tools do you use?
A: I have a paid subscription through and use their Family Tree Software to work on my family genealogy. The amount of records you can find through an account seem to be never-ending. The main things I use a lot with my ancestry account is the state and federal census, which will list the members within the household so I can verify the location and the family members to check to see if it is my family. I also have access to military records and I have access to other people’s family trees who are working on the same surnames as I am. I am also able to send and share private information or messages with anyone who has an account. I have submitted my DNA through, which connects me to other members with the same DNA strains that I have.
I have a paid subscription to The New York Times newspaper so I can search in the archives for my maternal grandmother’s relatives who were FitzGerald’s from New York City, which has helped me find news stories and obituaries for my family members, which has led me to add more branches to my family tree.
I also just use basic Internet to do searches for family members’ names to see if I can locate any additional information on them.
Q: Name a few interesting things that you have found.
A: I have been able to make a family connection to Mick Jagger from The Rolling Stones, whose real given name is Michael “Mick” Philip Jagger, to my children through their dad’s family line. Mick’s fourth great-grandmother, Finch Dowle Morgan, is my children’s fourth great-grand-aunt. Mick’s fifth great-grandparents, Solomon and Elizabeth Mummery Morgan, were also my children’s fifth great-grandparents. That makes my children sixth cousins with Mick Jagger.
On my side of the family, I had been searching for months trying to locate one of the children from a specific side of my family tree. I finally got lucky and was able to locate someone and was able to speak to her. It was while I was talking to her that I found out who her children were. In my conversation with her, I had explained to her that I kept coming up with the same last name in the area of New Jersey that I knew she was from, but that the first name was not making sense to me, and that is when I started to connect the dots that this person I kept finding was her son. Her son, Frank DiNinno, was my third cousin. DiNinno was a lead prosecutor in Rutgers University sex scandal case where a young man committed suicide, which got national attention.
Q: Would you recommend this hobby to others?
A: I think that genealogy is a great hobby for everyone. Too many people don’t realize growing up how important and how much information that our parents and older relatives know until they are no longer around to be able to tell us. I have had a lot of laughs with my relatives in their 80s and 90s, as there seems to be a story behind everything back in the older days.
My mom got diagnosed with cancer four years ago and passed away within a year. Shortly after she became sick, I spent a great deal of time with her going through old photo albums trying to get pictures labeled so we would know who they were. We had a lot of conversations about who was in those pictures and how they were related to me.
Eric Hrin can be reached at (570) 297-5251; email: