‘My spice in life’

Not surprisingly, this week’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks theme is “Love” and today is Valentine’s Day. So it seems a perfect time to write about my maternal grandparents and a Mother’s Day long ago.

Joyce Walker and Warren Tinseth cut their wedding cake, 1952.

It was Sunday morning, 11 May 1975. I imagine my maternal grandfather, Warren Tinseth, waking up at “oh dark thirty” to start a pot of coffee. My grandmother, Joyce, loved her coffee. While the rest of the house slept, Warren held open the front door at 628 Infantry Post Road on Fort Sam Houston for Bowser to run outside to do his business. He stood on the wooden front porch, letting the screen doors shut behind him as he perused the neighborhood and made sure the dog didn’t wander too far off.

Warren took a few steps down to the sidewalk to pick up that day’s edition of the San Antonio Express-News, whistled for the dog and went back inside.

He had plenty of quiet time to read the paper. The kids wouldn’t wake for hours. On any other Sunday, he might skim the headlines on the front of each section and then start reading the one with the most interesting news.

But not this morning. Before he settled into his reading routine, there was something he had to find.

The front page screamed “CIA spy network found in U.S. firms,” but he wasn’t interested in that just yet. The top of the B section had a picture of a custom car with a bunk bed for a roof. Page 1-C had an odd mix of photos of a Silkie terrier dressed in unusual duds, a story from England about motorcycle-riding vicars, and a report from Havana about the state of Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution. He moved on.

Then he reached the D section. The nameplate at the top read “The Golden Twins” and underneath was the slogan “Largest classified and real estate section in South Texas for more than 100 years.” He wasn’t in the market for a house or a job. Army quarters served just fine for now and the career helicopter pilot wasn’t quite ready to retire.

He flipped past articles about new developments, floor plans for new apartment complexes, and advertisements for condos and houses touting tax credits and financing deals. Finally, on page 7, he found Category 110 of the classifieds, the Special Notices. The top left quarter of the page sported the headline “Mother’s Day Messages.” He started skimming.

Some of the little ads were as short as one line: “GAYLE I Love You Mommy! Holly.” Some were an inch tall. He quickly realized all the messages were alphabetized by the first word and his eyes skimmed for the J’s.

There it was in the middle column, sixth message down. Just as he had written it:

Mothers_Day_message_to_Joyce_from_Warren SAEN 11 May 1975

My grandfather’s Mother’s Day message to my grandmother.

“Joyce Carol Tinseth; Mother, Sweetheart, Lover, Wife. You have been my spice in life, Warren.”1

Satisfied, he took a sip of coffee and pondered his next step. Should he put the newspaper back together again and see if she’ll find it? Or should he leave this public declaration of love out for her to see?

I imagine he settled on the latter, folding the paper just so, ensuring the special section couldn’t be missed. Maybe he even took a pen and circled it, then set it in on the table in front of her usual seat.


Mother’s Day Messages in the classified section of the San Antonio Express-News, 11 May 1975.

As he went back to his routine and started reading the paper, she shuffled into the kitchen, making a beeline for the coffee pot. He played it cool, trying not to grin. She poured her cup—no cream, no sugar, always black—and made her way to the table.

“What’s this?” she asked, setting down her cup.

He stood up, wrapped his arms around her, and planted a big kiss. “Happy Mother’s Day, JC!”

“Oh, Warren!” she replied, and kissed him back.

TINSETH_Joyce and Warren Infantry Post house edit crop

Joyce and Warren Tinseth at Fort Sam Houston, mid-1970s.

Of course this is a completely fictionalized account of that morning, but imagining it makes me smile. Growing up, I never doubted my grandparents’ love for each other. They found each other as teenagers and stayed together their whole lives. The benefit of having young grandparents is I had them in mine for many years.

They didn’t leave a treasure trove of old love letters—at least not that I know of—but Grandpa said so much about their relationship in those three short lines.

I ran across this classified ad last year and wanted to write about it for their anniversary but didn’t have a chance. When doing newspaper searches, whether online, on microforms, or hard copies, we often look for obituaries, wedding announcements, birth notices, and, of course, news articles. But we shouldn’t forget that we also can find rich, personal genealogical gems in the classifieds!

Have you ever found an ancestor in a classified ad? What did you learn? I’d love to hear about it!

#52ancestors #genealogy


1. “Joyce Carol Tinseth,” Mother’s Day Messages, San Antonio Express-News (San Antonio, Texas), 11 May 1975, Newspapers.com (http://newspapers.com: accessed February 2019), page 7-D, col 3, item 6.


‘Scrapbook on steroids’

This week’s #52Ancestors prompt, “At the Library,” gives me a chance to write about something wild that happened in the summer of 2017.

I had spent a week in Athens, Georgia, at the fabulous Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR) taking a beginning DNA class. Afterward, I stayed with friends in Atlanta for a few days. My next stop before driving home to Texas was LA, as in Lower Alabama—Enterprise, in particular, to visit with a cousin and do a little research on my paternal lines.

The drive would take several hours and I had queued up all the episodes of the short-lived genealogy podcast “Twice Removed.” Sometime after I’d exited I-85 and turned south on U.S. Highway 231, Episode 2 started. Host A.J. Jacobs was featuring Ted Allen, host of “Chopped” on the Food Network.

Jacobs began the journey through Allen’s ancestry with his great-great grandfather, a Confederate soldier named Thomas Andrew Byrd. Allen recalled that a photo of him had hung in his grandparents’ home.

I found it interesting because Byrd was my paternal grandmother’s maiden name. The fifth of 10 children, Virginia Byrd Sansbury came from a close-knit Byrd family. I credit her and her oldest sister, Maud Byrd Windham, with kindling my interest in genealogy at a very young age. When I was about 7, Grandma proudly showed me a huge new book called “Byrd History and Related Families of Averett, Calloway, Chancey and Goff.” The book traces the descendants of Redding Byrd and Bright Byrd, two brothers (sons of Richard Byrd) who migrated to southeast Alabama from North Carolina. The author, Tera Byrd Averett, descended from Bright. “Our Byrds” descended from his older brother, Redding. Although she wasn’t credited on the cover as an author, the research of the Redding line in the book was a labor of love for Aunt Maud.1


The Byrd book

The book features pages upon pages of newspaper clippings and photographs as well as birth, marriage and death information for what must be thousands of Byrd descendants.

I was in awe.

And then Grandma showed me page 103 and blew my mind.


Was IN.


An ACTUAL book! And a BIG book at that, with a hard, black cover. In my eyes, it looked like a very important book. Seven-year-old me naturally concluded this must have meant I belong to a very important family.

Eventually, Grandma gave me my very own copy, which remains my most treasured book. I pressed flowers in it after my Sweet Sixteen. I’ve used it to flatten curled old photographs. It’s full of sticky notes and scraps of paper. I started my genealogical journey with it.


The author’s 3X great-grandfather Curtis Byrd and his wife, Elizabeth Harper, are pictured at the top left of p. 658. A photo of their headstones appears on the bottom of the page.

But I digress.

So there I am driving down 231 to visit a Byrd cousin, listening to this podcast, when I hear A.J. Jacobs say:2

So Ted it turns out there’s this really amazing resource about your family. It’s an obscure book that chronicles the life of your ancestors. There’s only one copy in New York. So we went and found it.

The audio shifted to an on-location recording.

Here we are in the Milstein Division of the New York Public Library, surrounded by thousands of obscure books, and we’ve got one of the most obscure right here in front of us, Byrd History and Related Families of Averett, Calloway, Chancey, and Gough, by Tara Byrd Averett, Enterprise, Alabama.

THAT’S MY BOOK!!! I screamed and I screamed and I slapped the dashboard and I finally had the good sense to pull over. My heart raced and I just sat there trying to get my head around the moment:

I was driving home from a genealogy institute and a genealogy podcast was citing the book that inspired me to become a genealogist.


Once I calmed down, I continued listening. The audio and the entire transcript can be found on the Gimlet Media site. Here’s what came next:

Now the first thing I should say is that this book is massive.

(Loud thud)

AJ: That’s a good thud.
Ted: I thought you’d been shot. (laughs)

AJ: No, that was the actual thud.

Now Ted, this book is more than 900 pages. It’s basically a scrapbook on steroids, and there are newspaper clippings about your family going back centuries.

Ted: Well I’m flabbergasted. I had no idea about that. [laughs] I wonder if my mom knows.

AJ: Let me take a picture of that

So this book, this massive tome was compiled by a distant relative of yours named Tara Byrd Averett, and amidst the hundreds of Byrds, hundreds of pages, on page 542, we found lots of stuff about your great-great-grandfather,

Ted: Thomas.

AJ: Right.

When I arrived at my cousin’s house, I found the podcast online and played it for her. She got just as excited as I had and then pulled out the copy of the Byrd book that had belonged to her father, my great-uncle.

She looked up Thomas Andrew Byrd—and darned if he wasn’t HIGHLIGHTED! (But there was no obvious indication why her father had been interested in him.)

It turns out Thomas Andrew was the grandson of Redding Byrd through his son Benjamin Bertis.3 I am descended through Redding’s son Curtis. It appears Ted and I are fifth cousins. (Hi Cuz!)

Fortunately for any other Redding or Bright Byrd descendants who might want to see what the fabulous Byrd book might have to say about their specific line, WorldCat.org shows there are copies in about 100 libraries all over the U.S. It is, indeed, a “scrapbook on steroids” and well worth the time to track it down.

#52ancestors #genealogy


1. Tera Byrd Averett, “Byrd History and Related Families of Averett, Callaway, Chancey and Goff,” Enterprise, Alabama: Wiregrass Printing Company, 1978, p. 93.
2. Twice Removed, “#2: Ted Allen,” https://www.gimletmedia.com/twiceremoved/2-ted-allen : accessed 3 February 2019.
3. Averett, p. 116.

LivingDNA gets real

Roughly six weeks ago, I sent in my LivingDNA test. Within a few weeks I received some ethnicity results, which I intend to compare to what other companies have provided. (I just haven’t sat down down to do it yet.)

But today I got a curious email from the company telling me “Your DNA adventure just got real.” Now THAT’s an attention-getter! So of course I had to log in to check it out.

LivingDNA calls its matching feature Family Networks. To my surprise, I have a match! I’m now being included in the cousin-matching beta feature!

screen shot 2019-01-29 at 5.49.35 pm copy

Clicking “View Profile” shows me what features the company will offer in the future, such as a chromosome viewer, messaging and a map of my match’s ethnicity breakdown.

screen shot 2019-01-29 at 5.52.25 pm copy

Fortunately, this predicted 5th cousin is someone I know and have worked with based on DNA results at other sites, so I don’t have to agonize over not being able to reach out to her yet. In fact, as soon as I saw it I sent her a Facebook message to tell her the match showed up!

But I certainly look forward to the day when I have a lengthy new match list full of promise and I can explore those connections with LivingDNA’s tools!

Remember, this site accepts transfers of raw DNA data. If you’ve already tested elsewhere, take a look and consider whether you might want to upload yours—particularly if you have ancestry from the United Kingdom. It would help build up this company’s DNA database and might make a difference for one of your genetic cousins!

#LivingDNA #geneticgenealogy #genealogy


A grand idea

This week’s #52Ancestors prompt, “I’d like to meet,” leaves me a bit paralyzed by choice. I’m looking at my pedigree chart and can’t manage to choose someone. I’d love to meet SO MANY of my ancestors! My grandparents on both sides played such a huge role in my upbringing. From them I learned invaluable life lessons about how to treat others, how to set goals and work to achieve them, and how to appreciate the things I have. Who taught THEM those things?

Wouldn’t it be fascinating to sit around the dinner table with, say, all of THEIR grandparents? Did my grandparents’ grandparents have the same type of influence on them?

So I looked at something I hadn’t thought about before: how the birth and death dates of my grandparents and their grandparents (my 2X-great grandparents) overlap. Here’s what I came up with (minus the dates):

grandparents grandparents

White: Died before my grandparent was born. Green: Alive during my grandparent’s lifetime. Yellow: Died when my grandparent was younger than 5 years old.

What I discovered was only one of my grandparents began life with four living grandparents. Realistically speaking, each of my four grandparents probably only really knew two grandparents. So this means:

  • My paternal grandpa, who became the man of his house at age 17 after his father died, never had his own grandfather around to help teach him how to run his farm.
  • My paternal grandma lost both paternal grandparents in the same year, but probably never remembered them. I suspect this made her feel more connected with her maternal side.
  • My maternal grandpa only really would have known his two grandmothers. Since both of his grandfathers were Norwegian immigrants to America, just imagine the fascinating stories he missed out on!
  • My maternal grandma’s living grandparents had each lost a spouse. (I knew that, actually! There’s a lot more to that story…)

Nevertheless, I would like to meet each of those 2X great-grandparents. What expressions or mannerisms might I recognize that I associate with my grandparents? (For that matter, which of those expressions or mannerisms do I or my siblings carry on?) What interests might they have had in common with my grandparents? How did they want to be remembered by their grandchildren?

So here’s a parting challenge to my readers: How many grandparents could YOUR grandparents have known? What does that suggest to you about their influence on your grandparents’ lives?

#52ancestors #genealogy

Y those surnames?

See, I’m already running late for #52Ancestors. I mulled over the Week 2 prompt, “Challenge,” trying to decide how best to approach it. Genealogy is nothing if not a challenge. After all, our ancestors like to hide from us behind metaphorical brick walls, built of myriad research obstacles such as courthouse fires, missing censuses, and egregious misspellings.

Genealogists investigate mysteries based on careful analysis of documents, developing and exploring hypotheses, and what we called in my past life “old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting.” But sometimes the tried and true methods need a little help — from DNA. DNA testing can help prove or disprove a line, reunite relatives, reveal secrets. Learning to work with it can be challenging, but worth the effort.

Once the DNA bug bit me, I started buying kits like crazy. One of my goals has been to leave some bait out there in hopes of catching a cousin who might be descended from an unknown child of a great-great grandfather who disappeared. (For any non-genealogists who stumble onto this blog, yes, “cousin bait” is a thing. In addition to DNA results, it includes public family trees, internet forums and blogs like this one!) Autosomal DNA, which is the type tested by Ancestry, 23andMe, MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA’s Family Finder, is most likely to catch that cousin — if he or she even exists — because it can reveal relatives along all ancestral lines, up to a point. Test-takers can be male or female. But this post is not about that missing ancestor.

One of my other goals is to learn more about my Sansbury line, which I’ve mentioned before. I bought my father a Y-DNA test from FamilyTreeDNA in 2016. Only men can take Y-DNA tests, which reveal information about their father’s direct paternal line. This test can be helpful, for example, for male adoptees looking for a birth father because it can quickly narrow down the search to a certain surname. But, to my dismay, the surnames of the initial matches to my father’s test showed no Sansburys. None. Their names were Gibbs, Yeager, Galbraith, Easter, Easter, Ash, Daugherity, Dietrich, Dubois, Lowe, Haywood, Galbraith, Miller, Davis, Galbraith, Galbraith, Sintes, Galbraith, Elkington, Mayo, Lowe, Leheup, Stockdale, Falk.

I started wondering if maybe we weren’t Sansburys after all. Were we Galbraiths? But then where was the break in the line? We have a strong autosomal match whose common ancestor is my great-great grandfather John Nelson Sansbury, so it had to be prior to him. Also, my father had tested at the 67-marker level, but these matches were only at 25 markers, so I knew none of them were very close. Still, I joined the Galbraith DNA surname project at FTDNA, where I learned there were so many variations in my father’s DNA markers that any Galbraith connection would be far beyond a genealogically relevant timeframe.

I didn’t have the money to seek out other Sansbury men for Y-DNA testing, so I had to set the question aside for a while.

Just a little more than a year after those first results came back, I saw a notification of a match at the 37-marker level. I felt a little genealogy adrenalin rush as I logged in and saw a familiar surname: Sansbury! After some correspondence back and forth, it became clear the common patrilineal ancestor is Daniel Sansbury of pre-Revolutionary War South Carolina.

sansbury y-dna match

Whew! It appears I’m still a Sansbury! (Although I’d feel a lot better if I could see a few more Sansburys in my dad’s Y-DNA match list.) I still have a challenge before me because much work remains to be done to extend that line further back into the colonies or across the pond. But now I have much stronger evidence my paternal line has carried the Sansbury surname for several hundred years.

If you have a Sansbury line, I’d love to hear from you!

#52ancestors #genealogy #sansbury


Caroline Golembefski Lanz

A long line of firsts

Happy 2019! This year I resolve to blog more frequently! To that end, I’m joining the #52Ancestors challenge. Let’s get real, though. I feel absolutely confident that I will NOT manage to keep up with 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. However, I do look forward to drawing on the prompts for inspiration as often as possible.

Caroline Golembefski Lanz

Caroline “Carrie” Golembefski Lanz

This week’s prompt, “first,” is beautifully vague. All day I’ve pondered which ancestor should come first. I decided to go back to the beginning … of my blog. If you’re just tuning in—or you need a refresher—here’s my first post. In it, I mentioned my name almost was Carrie, which would have been a nod to my maternal great-great-grandmother, Caroline Laura Golembefski Lanz Walker, aka “Grandma Carrie.”

Over the past few years, I have learned so much about her and her family and yet I know I’ve barely scratched the surface. If you’re looking for details, you’ll have to wait as I have plans to write more about her later. For today, what matters is she was the first-born daughter of her parents and their only child not born in America.

And I am her first daughter’s first daughter’s first daughter’s first daughter.

#52Ancestors #genealogy


Testing, testing. 1, 2, 3 … 4!


I haven’t even started writing about my DNA addiction.  It began about four and a half years ago after my last living grandparent passed away. I realized if I wanted to understand the DNA craze, preserve this important family record, and use genetics to enhance my genealogy research, I shouldn’t waste any more time. I bought my mom a kit for Mother’s Day in 2014 and it snowballed from there!

I started with AncestryDNA, an autosomal DNA test—not that I quite understood what that meant at the time. It doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female. This type of test analyzes all of your chromosome pairs for your ethnic admixture and cousin matching. I very quickly found myself spending more money than I should buying DNA kits for other people! This has been so incredibly interesting and is a gift that keeps on giving!

Second, I took a mitochondrial (mtDNA) test at FamilyTreeDNA. I wanted to see how the results differed from the autosomal test and learn about my direct maternal haplogroup. I’m still waiting for a match that’s even remotely close!

Third, I took advantage of an Amazon Prime Day special to order the health+ancestry test offered by 23andMe. I’d been wanting to check out the health reports, but couldn’t justify the expense until they offered a 50 percent discount. Score!

I haven’t taken the other popular autosomal tests (FamilyTreeDNA’s Family Finder and MyHeritage) mainly because I had to rein in my DNA spending. Fortunately for those of us who love to explore our matches, both of those companies allow you to transfer in your raw DNA results from Ancestry or 23andMe.

With that, I thought my personal DNA test-taking days had come to an end.

Here are the contents of my Living DNA kit.

I’m hoping this Living DNA test will help me find cousins across the pond!

Then genealogists started talking and writing about Living DNA. At first I didn’t think it had much to offer me. It sounded exciting that it could pinpoint your British origins, but the British origins I assume I have predate the American Revolution. There’s no recent English ancestry on any of my lines. Then I heard Living DNA is working on a Germany project. Hmm. My German peeps are a little more recent. But I still didn’t bite. Then during a recent appearance at the Houston Genealogical Forum’s Fall Seminar, DNA guru Blaine Bettinger told the audience Living DNA will soon launch cousin matching. Count me in! Could I find a Sansbury cousin across the pond? Some distant relatives to meet during some future trip to Europe? A match who’ll help me break through a brick wall?

I bought my kit during a post-Thanksgiving sale and it arrived a few days ago. This blog entry has been written during the 60-minute period I had to wait after eating and drinking so I could swab my cheek. Even though this is my fourth DNA test, I’ll ship this one off tomorrow with just as much excitement as the first!