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Some Family History


1.  The Timothy W Riley Family

- New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Massachusetts -


This search for "roots" started out with the presence of my great grandfather in the form of his tombstone just inside the entrance to the Clementsvale cemetery in south western Annapolis County, Nova Scotia, a location I first visited on a snowy day in January of 1997 while "back home" to attend the funeral of my half-sister. During that same day I had casually collected, with no specific intent, the birth and death dates of most of my father's siblings from my Aunt Geneva who lived in the area, and was told by one of my father's two remaining sisters, Aunt Ora, that Timothy Riley had come from Cork, Ireland, had lived in Massachusetts, had at some time been a shoemaker, and had fought in the "US War". Until that day I had been unaware of the local presence of a great grandfather and this information came as something of a surprise. Mulling over the raw data I had on the couple scraps of paper that accompanied me back to Thunder Bay on Air Canada I came to the conclusion that the US War had to have been the Civil War. The real question was whether I would ever do anything with the information.

One rainy Sunday afternoon in April I retrieved the information and decided to go to the Internet to see if there was anything available on the US Civil War. I was quick to find out there certainly was and that its volume was simply overwhelming! To narrow the search I looked for information on Union regiments from Massachusetts. Some 40 or so magically appeared with data that ranged from skimpy to highly detailed. Given I had little else to do that afternoon I elected to check each regiment for a roster and see if I could, by shear happenstance, find one Timothy W Riley. Within a half hour I had worked my way to a file on the Massachusetts 11th infantry, the so called "Boston Volunteers", which just happened to have a full roster posted. One click of the old 'find' button and there he was - Timothy W Riley, 18, shoemaker, Company D! I was amazed, and in retrospect, also hooked!   

The results of the subsequent years research are summarized below. As with all ventures of this nature there are holes, and the connections to Ireland are still less than totally definitive, and certainly not worthy of peer review in learned genealogical journals. However, as with many ventures in life it is the trip and not necessarily the destination that holds most intrigue. This has been a wonderful journey, and it still continues - As recently as 2008 I worked out generalities of the family history of Timothy's first wife, Mary Golden, a relationship that was totally unknown by members of his "second family".

I post this material here to make it generally available in 'story format' to family members who have given so generously of their time and information over the past decade. This approach alleviates the considerable work now involved in trying to effectively and efficiently update in a timely manner the paper files I had initially shared. While I had been initially singularly unsuccessful in locating even one of our American 'cousins' over the past 15 years, I was rewarded in 2012 by contact from a second cousin, once removed, who did provide additional information on some of his immediate line in Massachusetts. I thank him muchly! Since the a few others have timidly raised their hand. Perhaps the continued availability of this material may assist in encouraging additional numbers of Timothy's great grandchildren in the US to step forward.   


Reaching for a higher level:

In the spring of 2019 I finally submitted a DNA sample for analysis. My choice of analyses firms was AncestryDNA, specifically because the company had a data base of 25 million analyses for comparison (as opposed to 15 million with 23andMe), but also because I had been a subscribing member to the firms data bases for over a decade and knew the service would be good. The process was simple: i) spit in a bottle, ii) pack it in a pre-posted package, iii) and drop it in the post office on the first leg of its journey to a lab in Ireland. A couple of welcome/patience e-mail messages from Ancestry and 5 weeks later I was advised that my analyses were ready and I should follow the instructions in the e-mail to access the data. I followed the instructions and "Bingo", there I was, analyzed!

As of October 6, 2019 (new matches are added to one's comparison database as they are analyzed) I enjoyed 48,258 measurable DNA matches inside the Ancestry data base. Of those matches 1,052 were estimated by the company to be at the 4th cousin level or higher. Feedback from AncestryDNA indicated my ethnicity broke out (as revised Oct 24, 2019) as 50% England/Wales/Northwestern Europe, 48% Ireland and Scotland, and 2% Sweden, the latter representing the lasting effect of the Viking invasion of the British Isles and the Continent. So, nothing surprising in the ethnicity department. Of interest, Ancestry focused the Irish component to Southwest Munster supporting my paper trail; however, I currently have no idea of the DNA-source of this interpretation.

Next, I explored my DNA matches. By the way, the closeness of a DNA match is measured in centiMorgans (Mr. Morgan invented the measurement process) and the higher the number the closer the match. For instance, a parent would have an average match reading of some 3500cM, a sibling 2500cM, a grandparent 1730cM, a 1st cousin 800cM, 3rd cousin110cM, and a 5th cousin 47cM. The first thing I noticed with my results was that Ancestry had set out three possible first cousins matches in their data base at 924cM, 807cM, and 675cM; of the three only number 2 was a quantity known from 20 years of family genealogical research! Wow! Research over the summer of 2019, in concert with the individuals involved, (Ancestry provides a relatively private e-mail contact service) has proven that both numbers 1 and 3 are legitimate first cousins who were subject to the adoption process in childhood and who after 50 and 80 years had finally found their birth-family home.   

Ancestry had also set out 11 possible 2nd cousin matches in my DNA file. Of those 11 I could readily identify 5 and my summer sleuthing quite easily identified 4 additional. One of the remaining two 2nd cousin candidates had submitted a short family tree which allowed me to place her as a granddaughter of my aunt but the identity of her parents remains private. The last of the 2nd cousin candidates is by far the most intriguing as he was born in Guyana to a Canadian father who had gone through the adoption process as an infant and had no solid background on his birth parents.  

AncestryDNA encourages (but does no demand) individuals who submit samples for DNA analyses to at the same time submit a family tree; such a family tree may represent anywhere from 3 to 3000 individuals. Of my top 40 matches 15 individuals did not provide any family tree and 2 provided family trees which required permission from the tree owner to access; so, that would suggest that about 60% of the AncestryDNA clients provide some form of public family tree (however, it says nothing about the quality of those family trees!).

In my case I did not initially provide any family tree information. However, AncestryDNA had a third service called "ThruLines" which automatically analyses all the submitted family tree information and points out the similarity/differences of a client's family tree to the family tree of those other matches in their system. To test the system in September I submitted a family tree (sans dates) to the grandparent level and subsequently ramped it up to the 2nd great grandparent level. At this early stage I regard the system as having potential to break through some of the brick walls in identifying 3rd and 4th great grandparents and their locations. While I have to date been singularly unsuccessful in moving any yardsticks at this higher level, the experience has been worthwhile in allowing me to weigh and discard some of the less than adequate research/copying tied up in the other Ancestry clients' family trees.   

I intend in the next few weeks to have my DNA analyzed via 23andMe to take advantage of any additional DNA matches that may be contained in their suite of 15 million analyses.



Thunder Bay, Ontario

Updated 23.07.15; 06.10.24



                                  A Brief History of the Timothy W Riley Family


The Ireland Connection

     The Dennahys in the Background


The Irish Immigrant Generation in North America

     Honora The Chameleon

     The History of Seth C Vickery

     A Quick Summary on Mary Riley

     The Jeremiah and Honora Dannahy Family in America

     Honora’s Sister, Ellen F (Dennahy) Leddy


Timothy W Riley - From NB to MA to NS

    A Snapshot in the Life of TWR Jr.


Timothy W Riley - Some Background on His First Family

A Quick Summary on Mary Golden and Family


Timothy W Riley - Some Details of His Second Family

     The TWR/MJC Relationship


                                  The Children of Timothy W Riley

                                      George E Riley - A Quick Summary on His Life

                                      Ida Mae Riley

                                      Sorting out the Margaret Elizabeth (Riley) Millner Story     

                                      John P Riley - A Look at the Man & the Family

                                      Following the Life of Lottie M (Riley) Howes and Family   

                                      William Grover Cleveland Riley - a Family Summary   

                                      Following the Life of Jennie Mae (Riley) Floyd and Family

                                      Scoping the Viva (Riley) Goldsmith/Paon Saga

                                      Notes on Boyd Riley


2.  The Early History of Timothy's Cress In-Laws

                                - Nova Scotia, Massachusetts, and Maine -



Timothy Riley married Mary Jane Cress in Digby, NS in 1873. Mary Jane was the great granddaughter of Johann Heinrich Cress, a member of the German mercenary force hired by England in the 1770s to assist them in quelling the "uprising" in their southern North American colonies. Upon the termination of hostilities in 1784 some of the German mercenaries elected to remain in Canada on land provided by England rather than return to Europe. Johann Heinrich Cress was one of the so-called "Hessians" who settled in the Clements Tp area of southwestern Nova Scotia. This entry summarizes some of the early history of that family and some highlights of its eventual distribution into all Canadian provinces and some 28 US states.  


              Some Early History of the Johann Heinrich Cress Family of Clements Tp, NS


3.  The Lines of the Mother - Seretha "Dora" Rice

                                - Nova Scotia and Massachusetts -




The family lines of Seretha Dora Rice are extensive across Nova Scotia and Massachusetts, and even North America, have been extensively researched over the past 150 years, and are as a result remarkably well known. Of interest is the fact that there is in existence an organization that celebrates the Rice family – the  Edmund Rice (1638) Association – incorporated in Massachusetts in 1934  but which had its origins out of an unincorporated predecessor dating from 1912, and which itself was derived from  Rice family reunions known to have been held as early as 1851. The broad distribution of the family across North America can be seen from the locations of the Directors and Officers of the Association in 1997-1998 which included Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Oklahoma, Virginia, Kansas, Ontario, New York, and Texas. The Association maintains a website which is readily available via Google.


Most of the Rice family material used herein derives from the extensive records of the Association. Much of the detail of the Nova Scotia side of the family, particularly the Annapolis and Digby County lines, was developed by Association Member Marion (Frude) McCormick of Bear River, NS, during the 1950s and 1960s. Ms McCormick’s files are now in the Archives of Acadia University in Wolfville, NS. During the early part of the 2000s Col. George King of Williamsburg, VA, and Rice Association Historian, maintained a website devoted to the first several generations of the Nova Scotia Rices. The information on that website has recently been moved to the Edmund Rice (1638) Association website and as of April 2008 could be located in the Library section under Nova Scotia Rice Cousins. These files collate all of the previous Rice family research on the Nova Scotia branch of the family to the fifth generation (including John) and have been fine-tuned and supplemented by Col. King on an ongoing basis.  


Soretha Jane Poole was my maternal great grandmother and was born in Smiths Cove, Digby Co, NS. Research on the family in 2013 shows this particular NS branch to have originated in Paradise, Annapolis Co, NS and from there spread across NS, into NB, into New England, and as far west as Caledonia. The origins of the NS progenitor John Poole are yet to be elucidated.


My maternal grandmother was Hanna Sherriff, one of 11 children born in Caledonia, Queens Co, NS to Scottish-born farmer David Sherriff during the third quarter of the 19th century. With the exception of two daughters who emigrated to Maine, and one daughter removed to England the siblings remained closely tied to Nova Scotia.

Thunder Bay, Ontario


Expanded 14.05.14


The Family Lines of Seretha Dora Rice


Tracing the Family of Leo Krant - Seretha Dora's First Husband

       Summarizing the First Five Generations of the Family of My Maternal Great     Grandmother - Soretha Jane Poole        

       The Caledonia, NS Sherriffs



4.  Some Lines of the Distaff Side - Sonja Ann Boyko

                             - Ukraine, Saskatchewan, Ontario Westerly, and Wisconsin  -




Sonja Ann Boyko was born in Preeceville, Saskatchewan in mid-1943 to Michael and Myrtle (Kwasnycia) Boyko. Myrtle had decided that rather than have a second child (she had had her first daughter Olga in mid-1940) in the isolated gold mining community of Red Lake in Northwestern Ontario, where the only access was by air, dogsled, or scow, that it would be better for all concerned if she went "back home" to her parents for the birth. This she proceeded to do and as a result Sonja had her first airplane ride, in a float plane no less, at some six weeks of age.


Sonja's parents were of Ukrainian background. Her mother had been born in Canada as the second child of Saskatchewan homesteaders Stephan and Dora (Gudzik) Kwasnicia who had arrived in Canada in 1906 and taken up land some few miles west of Preeceville in Chechow District, SK. Michael Boyko, also of Ukrainian heritage, had immigrated to Canada on a Polish passport in 1927 at  the age of 17. He initially stayed with family in the Chechow District and followed the shoemaker's trade. However, the Depression saw him migrate to the mines where the wages were better and the work more dependable, first to Flin Flon, MB, and later to Sudbury, ON. Myrtle followed him to Sudbury and the couple married there in January 1937. Later that year the Sudbury job ran out and the couple decided to head back to Saskatchewan and the familiarity of family.


On the way back to the prairies Mike suggested it might be wise if they detoured north into Red Lake where its active gold mining industry would allow them to arrive back home with a small grubstake in their pocket. "Just for six months!" Mike promised and so north they flew. As is not to be unexpected, frontier Red Lake was booming, Mike readily found employment, and that six months turned into a lifetime.   


The Kwasnicia/Boyko story well reflects the eastern European experience in the opening of the Canadian prairies.  Because it is so recent - I have seen the poplar log house in which my mother-in-law was raised - that experience tends to be sensed as more imminent and raw than the earlier and predominately British immigrant experiences on the East Coast and/or Southern Ontario. 




                                The Stephan Kwasnicia Family in Canada

                                    The Kwasnicia Klan


                                The English and Scottish and French Canadian Background of Donald James Veal

                                    Donald James Veal