Haplogroup C3* – Previously Believed East Asian Haplogroup is Proven Native American

In a paper just released, “Insights into the origin of rare haplogroup C3* Y chromosomes in South America from high-density autosomal SNP genotyping,” by Mezzavilla et al, research shows that haplogroup C3* (M217, P44, Z1453), previously believed to be exclusively East Asian, is indeed, Native American.

Subgroup C-P39 (formerly C3b) was previously proven to be Native and is found primarily in the eastern US and Canada although it was also reported among the Na-Dene in the 2004 paper by Zegura et all titled “High-resolution SNPs and microsatellite haplotypes point to a single recent entry of Native American Y chromosomes into the Americas.”

The discovery of C3* as Native is great news, as it more fully defines the indigenous American Y chromosome landscape.  It also is encouraging in that several mitochondrial haplogroups, including variants of M, have also been found in Central and South America, also not previously found in North America and also only previously found in Asia, Polynesia and even as far away as Madagascar.  They too had to come from someplace and desperately need additional research of this type.  There is a great deal that we don’t know today that remains to be discovered.  As in the past, what is thought to be fact doesn’t always hold water under the weight of new discoveries – so it’s never wise to drive a stake too far in the ground in the emerging world of genetics.  It’s likely to get moved!

You can view the Y DNA projects for C-M217 here, C-P39 here, and the main C project here.  Please note that on the latest version of the ISOGG tree, M217, P44 and Z1453 are now listed as C2, not C3.  Also note that I added the SNP names in this article.  The Mezzavilla paper references the earlier C3 type naming convention which I have used in discussing their article to avoid confusion.

In the Messavilla study, fourteen individuals from the Kichwa and Waorani populations of South America were discovered to carry haplogroup C3*.  Most of the individuals within these populations carry variants of expected haplogroup Q, with the balance of 26% of the Kichwa samples and 7.5% of the Waorani samples carrying C3*.  MRCA estimates between the groups are estimated to be between 5.0-6.2 KYA, or years before present.

Other than one C3* individual in Alaska, C3* is unknown in the rest of the Native world including all of North American and the balance of Central and South America, but is common and widespread in East Asia.

In the paper, the authors state that:

We set out to test whether or not the haplogroup C3* Y chromosomes found at a mean frequency of 17% in two Ecuadorian populations could have been introduced by migration from East Asia, where this haplogroup is common. We considered recent admixture in the last few generations and, based on an archaeological link between the middle Jōmon culture in Japan and the Valdivia culture in Ecuador, a specific example of ancient admixture between Japan and Ecuador 6 Kya.

In a paper, written by Estrada et all, titled “Possible Transpacific Contact on the Cost of Ecuador”, Estrada states that the earliest pottery-producing culture on the coast of Ecuador, the Valdivia culture, shows many striking similarities in decoration and vessel shape to pottery of eastern Asia. In Japan, resemblances are closest to the Middle Jomon period. Both early Valdivia and Middle Jomon are dated between 2000 and 3000 B.C. A transpacific contact from Asia to Ecuador during this time is postulated.

This of course, opens the door for Asian haplogroups not found elsewhere to be found in Ecuador.

The introduction of the Mezzabilla paper states:

The consensus view of the peopling of the Americas, incorporating archaeological, linguistic and genetic evidence, proposes colonization by a small founder population from Northeast Asia via Beringia 15–20 Kya (thousand years ago), followed by one or two additional migrations also via Alaska, contributing only to the gene pools of North Americans, and little subsequent migration into the Americas south of the Arctic Circle before the voyages from Europe initiated by Columbus in 1492.

In the most detailed genetic analysis thus far, for example, Reich and colleagues identified three sources of Native American ancestry: a ‘First American’ stream contributing to all Native populations, a second stream contributing only to Eskimo-Aleut-speaking Arctic populations, and a third stream contributing only to a Na-Dene-speaking North American population.

Nevertheless, there is strong evidence for additional long-distance contacts between the Americas and other continents between these initial migrations and 1492. Norse explorers reached North America around 1000 CE and established a short-lived colony, documented in the Vinland Sagas and supported by archaeological excavations. The sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) was domesticated in South America (probably Peru), but combined genetic and historical analyses demonstrate that it was transported from South America to Polynesia before 1000–1100 CE. Some inhabitants of Easter Island (Rapa Nui) carry HLA alleles characteristic of South America, most readily explained by gene flow after the colonization of the island around 1200 CE but before European contact in 1722. In Brazil, two nineteenth-century Botocudo skulls carrying the mtDNA Polynesian motif have been reported, and a Pre-Columbian date for entry of this motif into the Americas discussed, although a more recent date was considered more likely. Thus South America was in two-way contact with other continental regions in prehistoric times, but there is currently no unequivocal evidence for outside gene flow into South America between the initial colonization by the ‘First American’ stream and European contact.

The researchers originally felt that the drift concept, which means that the line was simply lost to time in other American locations outside of Ecuador, was not likely because the populations of North and Central America have in general experienced less drift and retained more diversity than those in South America.

The paper abstract states:

The colonization of Americas is thought to have occurred 15–20 thousand years ago (Kya), with little or no subsequent migration into South America until the European expansions beginning 0.5 Kya. Recently, however, haplogroup C3* Y chromosomes were discovered in two nearby Native American populations from Ecuador. Since this haplogroup is otherwise nearly absent from the Americas but is common in East Asia, and an archaeological link between Ecuador and Japan is known from 6 Kya, an additional migration 6 Kya was suggested.

Here, we have generated high-density autosomal SNP genotypes from the Ecuadorian populations and compared them with genotypes from East Asia and elsewhere to evaluate three hypotheses: a recent migration from Japan, a single pulse of migration from Japan 6 Kya, and no migration after the First Americans.

First, using forward-time simulations and an appropriate demographic model, we investigated our power to detect both ancient and recent gene flow at different levels. Second, we analyzed 207,321 single nucleotide polymorphisms from 16 Ecuadorian individuals, comparing them with populations from the HGDP panel using descriptive and formal tests for admixture. Our simulations revealed good power to detect recent admixture, and that ≥5% admixture 6 Kya ago could be detected.

However, in the experimental data we saw no evidence of gene flow from Japan to Ecuador. In summary, we can exclude recent migration and probably admixture 6 Kya as the source of the C3* Y chromosomes in Ecuador, and thus suggest that they represent a rare founding lineage lost by drift elsewhere.

This graphic from the paper, shows the three hypothesis that were being tested, with recent admixture being ruled out entirely, and admixture 6000 years ago most likely being ruled out as well by utilizing autosomal DNA.

Mezzavilla Map crop

The conclusions from the paper states that:

Three different hypotheses to explain the presence of C3* Y chromosomes in Ecuador but not elsewhere in the Americas were tested: recent admixture, ancient admixture ∼6 Kya, or entry as a founder haplogroup 15–20 Kya with subsequent loss by drift elsewhere. We can convincingly exclude the recent admixture model, and find no support for the ancient admixture scenario, although cannot completely exclude it. Overall, our analyses support the hypothesis that C3* Y chromosomes were present in the “First American” ancestral population, and have been lost by drift from most modern populations except the Ecuadorians.

It will be interesting as additional people are tested and more ancient DNA is discovered and processed to see what other haplogroups will be found in Native people and remains that were previously thought to be exclusively Asian, or perhaps even African or European.

This discovery also begs a different sort of question that will eventually need to be answered.  Clearly, we classify the descendants of people who arrived with the original Beringian and subsequent wave migrants as Native American, Indigenous American or First Nations.  However, how would we classify these individuals if they had arrived 6000 years ago, or 2000 years ago – still before Columbus or significant European or African admixture – but not with the first wave of Asian founders?  If found today in South Americans, could they be taken as evidence of Native American heritage?  Clearly, in this context, yes – as opposed to African or European.  Would they still be considered only Asian or both Asian and Native American in certain contexts – as is now the case for haplogroup C3* (M217)?  This scenario could easily and probably will happen with other haplogroups as well.

Baby Boy Hacht – Born July 1944 – Dead, or Kidnapped and Alive Today??

A baby boy who was never named was born in July 1944, in Detroit, Michigan.  The family believes that he was kidnapped and another dead baby substituted for Baby Boy Hacht.  While at first this sounds improbable, if not incredulous, it isn’t.

That child, if still living, would be 70 today.  So, if you or a male family member was born in the summer of 1944, in or near Detroit, please consider this possibility as you read this article.  It’s also possible that if the child was part of a black market baby ring, the birth location could have been falsified, so any birth in late July 1944 should be considered.

What Happened?

John James Hacht & Jean Marie Mlasko were married on November 18, 1942 in  Michigan.
hacht wedding

In 1943, Jean became pregnant, and in the heat of the summer in 1944, on July 29th, their first child, a boy was born at Grace Hospital, a Catholic hospital, in Detroit.

This date is very important, as is the fact that the hospital was Catholic as this story unfolds.

I met Patti Hacht, the sister of Baby Boy Hacht, in 2009.  We worked on this mystery for some time, but have hit a dead end.  Patti’s living brother tested at Family Tree DNA for the Y DNA and Patti has tested at Family Tree DNA, 23andMe and at Ancestry for autosomal DNA.

I’ve asked Patti to tell this story in her own words.

On 29 July 1944 a first child was born to my parents – a son who never received a name other than Baby Boy Hacht (BBH.) BBH was born at Grace Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. My mom fed him for several days and then one day “medical personnel” came in and told her that her baby had died.

BBH had not been ill, and my dad’s sister worked at Grace Hospital. These three family members never believed BBH died. They always believed he was “switched” with another baby, one that really had died.  My mother did not see the baby after death, but my father did, and he never believed the dead child was his child.

When I first heard of BBH, I was in my mid-late 40’s. I was driving in the car with my mother one day as we were driving by White Chapel Cemetery, about a year before she died, and she casually said, “That’s where our first baby is buried,” then added, “but we never believed our baby died.”  I almost drove off the freeway!

First baby?


Didn’t die??


It took me 3 years to find BBH at White Chapel.  As it turns out, he was not buried there.  He was cremated there, but his cremains were sent back to the funeral director.

Having been a family researcher for over 30 years, I went to the Detroit Vital Records Department to get a Death Certificate for BBH. As I walked away from the counter, reading this new document, I saw that BBH was listed as “stillborn.”


That was impossible.

You can’t feed a stillborn baby for “several days.”

BBH Death

So I went back to the counter, hoping to find out what was going on with this “wrong” Death Certificate. The clerk suggested we look for a Birth Record.

Ten minutes later, we had that record, and it too stated that BBH was “stillborn.”  I later discovered that a stillborn baby never received a birth certificate at that time, only a death certificate.  In 2003, Michigan began issuing Certificates of Stillbirth in addition to death certificates.

BBH birth

On closer inspection, it was clear that the Certificate of Death had been heavily altered. Someone had taken what appeared to be a thin Scripto pen (which had not even been invented yet in 1944) and “wrote over” what had originally been written on the document. The written over date was “29”, the year was “44” and the time was “9:57 a.m.”

Additionally, except for the signatures, all of the other information for BBH was typed, except for the birth date and death information…almost like the death certificate was being pre-prepared.

BBH modification

I noticed another odd detail – BBH had been cremated. This was unheard of in this timeframe and was expressly prohibited by the Catholic church.  Grace was a Catholic hospital.  My parents were actively Catholic.  All of their children attended Catholic school.  White Chapel Cemetery, where the cremation occurred told me that they would have only cremated “maybe one person” a year in 1944, and never a newborn baby.

However, his certificate clearly states that BBH was cremated.

For several years I tried to find the funeral home, J. P. Miller on Van Dyke in Detroit. Apparently my parents never picked up BBH’s cremains, apparently because they believed he had been buried, and I wondered if I might find viable DNA in them.

After about four years, I talked with someone at the funeral home. It had been sold a couple times, and the man I spoke with was retiring the very day I had called. He said that any cremains that might have remained in the building would have been destroyed as the building had been abandoned for several years and the roof had collapsed, so the inside of the building was exposed to the elements for many years.

I wondered why my Catholic family would have cremated their child and why they never picked up the cremains or had them buried.  It makes sense only in the context that my parents never believed the dead child was their son and they sent the child’s remains who were substituted for their own child’s to be handled in the least expensive way possible.  They likely had no idea that the child’s cremains weren’t buried and were returned to the funeral home.  They never visited the grave because they never believed their child died.  Unfortunately, by the time all of the details unfolded, my parents had passed away and couldn’t be asked.

This was also a very difficult time for the family for other reasons as well.  My father’s mother was terminal with cancer and would die a couple of months later.  This young couple had their hands full.

For several years the family pondered over those “write overs” in BBH’s Certificate of Death. In April of 2006 we hired Speckin Forensic Laboratory in Okemos, Michigan to conduct a forensic exam on BBH’s original Death Certificate – we wanted to know what had been “written over.” Getting to the exam had been a lengthy process. I was appointed BBH’s Personal Representative in Probate Court, and we had to obtain a court order for the State of Michigan to allow the forensic exam.

The forensic exam showed three chemical erasures – someone used some sort of chemical to first try to “erase” what had originally been written. Then they just wrote right over those chemical erasures. The original writings were: Day, 31 July. (This had been overwritten to read “29” July); Time, 10:00 a.m. (This had been overwritten to read “9:57 a.m.) So the date was changed from 31 July to 29 July and the time was changed from 10 a.m. to 9:57 a.m.  The exam also clearly showed that the “overwritten” information was written with a different ink that the original writing.

Death Day Death Time
Original Entry July 31 10 AM
Overwritten Entry July 29 9:57 AM

It was the opinion of the examiner (who was a retired Michigan State Police Officer) that the Certificate of Death was probably altered to “match” BBH’s Certificate of Birth. There probably was a baby that died and for whatever reason, and this baby probably died on 31 July. Then BBH was “substituted” for this deceased baby, and records were created that would make BBH’s Certificate of Birth and Certificate of Death “match.”  If his birth and death date and time didn’t match, by three minutes, then he wasn’t “stillborn.”

speckin 1

speckin 2

The Detroit Legal News at that time published all the births in Wayne County. The males and females each had their own column, and the name and address of the mother was listed, along with the date of her child’s birth. I have compiled a list of about 200 male births in all of Wayne County from 27 July through 31 July. I believe one of these mothers took BBH home from the hospital and raised him as her own. She may have never known BBH was not her biological child.

I have been trying for years to narrow this list of 200+ names to ONLY babies born at Grace Hospital. All attempts to accomplish this have proved unsuccessful.  Hospital records reportedly “burned” several years ago.

St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on Parson’s Street in Detroit would have been the Church that handled emergency baptisms for babies born at Grace Hospital – babies that became ill and needed to be baptized immediately. The baby baptized would have been one of those babies on my list of 200+ names from the Detroit Legal News. St. Patrick’s records do not have a baptism for BBH or any of the other names on my list. I do not know if you had to be Catholic to deliver a baby at Grace Hospital. Perhaps the baby that really died was not born to Catholic parents, so there would not be a record of a Catholic baptism?  A stillborn baby is not baptized either.

We don’t know WHY Baby Boy Hacht was substituted for a deceased baby. Were the dead baby’s parents from an elite Detroit area family? A member of the Mob? Was it someone that hospital personnel was afraid to inform that their baby had died?  Were hospital personnel negligent with someone else’s baby and decided to switch the dead baby for BBH, thinking these were young parents and they could just have another baby the next year? Did BBH become part of a black market baby ring?  Why was the death certificate backdated to say that BBH was stillborn instead of having died 2 days later?

Or was there perhaps a widow whose husband had just been killed in WWII who  delivered a stillborn baby and doctors determined to “fix” the situation for a new widow? This last idea was nixed – as in 1944, the thinking was more “stiff upper lip” and people did not necessarily treat the bereaved gently.  The thinking of the day was to “get on with your life”, and giving a recent widow someone else’s baby didn’t mesh with that way of thinking.


If something wasn’t being covered up, then why were the dates and time changed, and why was a child who had lived for 2 days listed as stillborn?

Let’s take a look at scenarios of different possibilities.

  • One Time Baby Swap – The baby of another patient died or was stillborn on the 31st and BBH was swapped for that child. If this is the case, then the swap was unplanned and the mother was likely from the area. BBH’s paperwork was altered to reflect that he was the stillborn child, on the 29th, not on the 31st as originally recorded on his death certificate.
  • BBH Died of Natural Causes – If BBH simply died, the hospital would have completed a death certificate and not gone to the trouble to falsify his death certificate, claiming a still birth to match his birth certificate time and date.
  • BBH Died of an Accident by Hospital Staff – Let’s say someone on the hospital staff accidentally dropped the baby and the baby died. This might get sticky and making the death a stillbirth, which was much more common, would avoid any questions.
  • BBH Died of an Accident by His Parents – Let’s say one of his parents accidentally dropped the baby at the hospital and he died. In this case, the hospital would certainly not have been complicit in a coverup and would not have falsified the death certificate, nor claimed that the child was stillborn. There would have been a death certificate that reflected the actual death date and cause, and not a stillbirth.
  • BBH Was Part of a Larger Baby Market Ring – In this case, the couple who raised BBH as their own would not have necessarily been from the Detroit area. Young and naïve parents would have been the best targets as they would be less likely to ask questions and/or make waves. This would also have required the involvement of at least one doctor (to sign death certificates) and more likely several medical personnel including nurses. However, this would have been much more effective if the child was simply spirited away at birth and the parents told the child was dead, not after the parents having handled the child for “several days.” Given that BBH’s paternal aunt worked at that hospital, if there was something of this nature, you would think that over the years she would have at least heard rumblings, especially given that the family, including her, believed that BBH had been swapped for a dead child.

Either the One Time Baby Swap or the Accidental Death by Hospital Staff make the most sense.  If the BBH was swapped, as his parents and family believed, then he may be alive today.

It’s very possible that the parents who raised BBH had no idea what happened, and therefore, neither does BBH himself.

Babies Born in Detroit

I asked Patti to provide the various documents involved, as well as the names of the other families who were listed as having given birth in the Detroit area in the surrounding days.

It’s most likely that the baby that died passed away on July 31st and that BBH’s death certificate was amended on July 31st, as the original writing stated, to reflect that he was stillborn on July 29th instead.  Although, I certainly have to wonder if the doctor who signed as the attending physician didn’t think that the parents would have noticed at the discrepancy – especially since the child had been attended by his parents for part of the 29th, the 30th and the 31st until he “died.”  At that time, however, one simply did not question someone like a doctor.

Perhaps the amendment was actually done after the doctor signed the original death certificate, but that is unlikely, because a cause of death would have been completed by the doctor and there is no other cause of death listed other than stillborn, which was unquestionably not true.

In any event, this first list is the list of surnames of families whose children were born in Wayne County on July 31st.  The 31st is the most likely day for the baby who was stillborn to have been born since that is the original death certificate date on BBH’s death certificate.  There is no way to determine which of these babies were born at Grace Hospital.

Also, please keep in mind that this list is very likely incomplete – births of illegitimate children and children who died weren’t listed.  Others, such as famous or notorious people, may not have been listed either.  The hospital was very clearly in control of which births were submitted for publication, and which were not – and if there was something “funny” about the birth of BBH or the other child – or the parents were famous or infamous, that birth may not have been listed.  It’s also possible that the parents who wound up with BBH were not from Detroit.

  • Akin
  • Bailey
  • Bennett
  • Boytim
  • Brow
  • Bruce
  • Cappo
  • Craver
  • Davis
  • Dellamore
  • Dinneweth
  • Downes
  • DuBois
  • Elmasian
  • Faron
  • Fletcher
  • Flood
  • Gampel
  • Grandmaison
  • Harter
  • Hicks
  • Hill
  • Jones
  • Karas
  • Kekaha
  • Koblicz
  • Kraemer
  • Liss.
  • Mitchell
  • Nadolny
  • Pospeshil
  • Quiroz
  • Ready
  • Rotenberg
  • Rutzel
  • Shoemaker
  • Shoemaker
  • Smith
  • Stallings
  • Swartz
  • Thompson
  • William
  • Zimostrad

This second list includes the surnames of all of the babies born in Wayne County between July 27 and July 31, 1944 with the municipality as listed in the birth announcements in the newspaper.

7/30 Acker Detroit
7/30 Ackerman East Detroit
7/31 Akin Detroit
7/29 Anderson Detroit
7/29 Ash Detroit
7/31 Bailey Dearborn
7/27 Bartlett
7/28 Bawiee Detroit
7/27 Bazell Detroit
7/27 Beninati Detroit
7/31 Bennett Detroit
7/29 Bills Detroit
7/30 Blankenship Detroit
7/28 Bobo Detroit
7/27 Bombalski Detroit
7/30 Bond Detroit
7/28 Boorgois Gr. Pte Woods
7/28 Bourgeois Detroit
7/28 Bowman Detroit
7/29 Bowser Detroit
7/29 Boyce Detroit
7/29 Boyd Detroit
7/31 Boytim Centerline
7/29 Brantley Detroit
7/30 Brenner Detroit
7/27 Briggs Detroit
7/31 Brow Hazel Park
7/28 Brown Detroit
7/27 Brownlee Detroit
7/31 Bruce Detroit
7/30 Burchby Detroit
7/27 Burges Detroit
7/28 Burley Highland Park
7/30 Canfield Detroit
7/31 Cappo Dearborn
7/29 Carswell Detroit
7/27 Chobot Dearborn
7/28 Ciavone Detroit
7/27 Clifton Detroit
7/27 Coba Dearborn
7/29 Common Detroit
7/28 Cook Redford
7/27 Cooper Detroit
7/31 Craver Detroit
7/28 Crichton Detroit
7/29 Cromwell Grosse Pointe
7/27 Cummins Detroit
7/27 Davidson Detroit
7/28 Davio Detroit
7/31 Davis Detroit
7/31 Dellamore Detroit
7/28 Dennis Detroit
7/27 Deraedt Detroit
7/29 Dilda Detroit
7/31 Dinneweth Detroit
7/28 Donati Detroit
7/31 Downes Detroit
7/31 DuBois Detroit
7/27 Dunn Detroit
7/27 Earl Detroit
7/28 Ehrisman Detroit
7/28 Eldridge Ferndale
7/31 Elmasian Detroit
7/29 Engel Detroit
7/28 Ettinger Detroit
7/29 Fane Detroit
7/31 Faron Detroit
7/28 Fenstermacher Detroit
7/31 Fletcher Detroit
7/31 Flood Inkster
7/27 Fontana Detroit
7/29 Fung Yee Detroit
7/31 Gampel Detroit
7/29 Garrett Detroit
7/30 George Detroit
7/28 Glasnier Detroit
7/28 Gondos Detroit
7/31 Grandmaison Detroit
7/29 Greggie Birmingham
7/28 Griem Detroit
7/27 Gualdoni Detroit
7/30 Gunderson Detroit
7/29 Gurski Detroit
7/30 Hagerstrom Detroit
7/28 Harris Detroit
7/31 Harter Detroit
7/27 Haugh Detroit
7/27 Heiner Detroit
7/31 Hicks Detroit
7/28 Higgens Detroit
7/31 Hill North Carolina
7/30 Hillier Redford
7/27 Husak Detroit
7/28 Hussett Detroit
7/30 Ilby Plymouth
7/29 Jackson Detroit
7/30 Jackson Inkster
7/30 Jerimias Royal Oak
7/31 Jones Detroit
7/27 Jorden Detroit
7/30 Jozsa Detroit
7/28 July Van Dyke (??)
7/27 Kaczmarczyk Detroit
7/29 Kampa Detroit
7/31 Karas Detroit
7/30 Kaump Detroit
7/31 Kekaha Hazel Park
7/27 Kibler Detroit
7/27 Kilgore Highland Park
7/27 Kipp Royal Oak
7/31 Koblicz Detroit
7/27 Koerber Detroit
7/28 Kolongowski Detroit
7/31 Kraemer Detroit
7/27 Kuczenski Detroit
7/30 Kujawski Detroit
7/28 LaRose Detroit
7/28 Larsen Detroit
7/28 Leland Detroit
7/29 Lennert Detroit
7/29 Lightle Wyandotte
7/30 Lisiecki Hamtramak
7/31 Liss. Dearborn
7/30 Lovince Hamtramak
7/29 Lubs Allen Park
7/30 Lucey Grosse Pt. Park
7/27 Lupo Detroit
7/28 Malczyk Detroit
7/28 Maloney Detroit
7/29 Martin Detroit
7/30 Martin Detroit
7/30 Matley Detroit
7/30 Mattei Detroit
7/29 Mc Flgunn Detroit
7/28 Mc Millan Detroit
7/30 Meisner Detroit
7/27 Mitchell Detroit
7/28 Mitchell Grosse Pointe
7/29 Mitchell Ferndale
7/31 Mitchell Detroit
7/29 Moore Farmington
7/30 Moore Farmington
7/30 Morehead Inkster
7/27 Moses Detroit
7/31 Nadolny Allen Park
7/27 Neilson Detroit
7/30 Neu. Detroit
7/29 Noder Detroit
7/28 Nowakowski Detroit
7/27 Or Detroit
7/28 Pacult Detroit
7/29 Palmer Berkley
7/29 Parker Inkster
7/30 Parr Detroit
7/29 Peguese Detroit
7/29 Perri Dearborn
7/31 Pospeshil Detroit
7/30 Powell Detroit
7/27 Prange Detroit
7/31 Quiroz Detroit
7/27 Rabidue Detroit
7/30 Randolph Detroit
7/27 Ranin Detroit
7/31 Ready Detroit
7/29 Reiss Detroit
7/28 Rey Mt. Clemens
7/30 Rhodes Detroit
7/28 Richardson Detroit
7/27 Roberts Detroit
7/31 Rotenberg Detroit
7/28 Roush Detroit
7/31 Rutzel Detroit
7/30 Ryback Detroit
7/29 Rychlicki Detroit
7/29 Scafero Detroit
7/29 Schart Detroit
7/27 Schneider Detroit
7/30 Scott Detroit
7/28 Serling Detroit
7/29 Sevener Grosse Pt. Park
7/29 Shackney Detroit
7/27 Shipley Ferndale
7/31 Shoemaker Farmington
7/31 Shoemaker Detroit
7/28 Sievert Dearborn
7/29 Simm Detroit
7/27 Slavko Detroit
7/28 Smith Detroit
7/29 Smith Detroit
7/31 Smith Detroit
7/30 Springer Detroit
7/31 Stallings Detroit
7/27 Stanton Detroit
7/29 Stefanic Detroit
7/28 Steiner Detroit
7/29 Stepulla Hamtramak
7/27 Stoven Detroit
7/31 Swartz Detroit
7/28 Tekel Melvindale
7/27 Terhaar Detroit
7/31 Thompson Detroit
7/28 Towe Detroit
7/29 Tromburrini Detroit
7/28 Trouttchaud Dearborn
7/27 Turner Detroit
7/27 Vitagliano Detroit
7/27 Voss Detroit
7/27 Watkins Detroit
7/29 Watson Hazel Park
7/30 Wenban Detroit
7/29 Westland Detroit
7/27 Wheeler Detroit
7/29 Whitman Detroit
7/31 William Detroit
7/28 Williams Detroit
7/30 Williams Detroit
7/29 Winfrey Detroit
7/29 Winters Detroit
7/28 Wolfbauer East Detroit
7/29 Wright Pleasant Ridge
7/30 Wyka Detroit
7/27 Yeszin Detroit
7/28 Yokubison Detroit
7/27 Zielinski Detroit
7/31 Zimostrad Wayne
7/30 Zink Birmingham
7/27 Zoulets Royal Oak

For additional information, contact Patti Hacht at duncaha@gmail.com.  Patti does have additional information about each family from the birth announcements.

What Might Baby Boy Hacht Have Looked Like?

This first photo is of two of BBH’s siblings, as children.

Patti & Jimmy Hacht

This second photo is of the 4 Hacht siblings as adults.

Colleen, Mark (back) Jimmy & Patti Hacht


If you think you might be Baby Boy Hacht, or might know of someone who would be a candidate – please contact Patti Hacht at duncaha@gmail.com.  Patti does have additional information about these families, such as the mother’s first name and the addresses.

If you would like to DNA test first to see if you match Patti’s brother’s Y DNA or Patti’s family by autosomal DNA, please test at Family Tree DNA.

The Y chromosome is passed from father to son intact and is what makes males male.  BBH carries his father’s Y chromosome and BBH’s sons would carry his.

Autosomal DNA is contributed to a child from both parents.  The child receives half of the DNA of both of his parents.  You can read more about how DNA is used for genetic genealogy here.

The Y DNA of Baby Boy Hacht or a his male child or male grandchild through a son will match that of Patti’s brother.  The autosomal DNA of Baby Boy Hacht or his children or grandchildren of any gender will match with Patti and her family.

If you would like to DNA test, we recommend the 37 marker Y DNA test at Family Tree DNA for males and the Family Finder autosomal test for either gender

Here’s the link if you’re interested.

The Gift…A Hickerson Cousin


Merry Christmas to Me.

Merry Christmas to Me.

Yep, I’m singing a fine little ditty today.

You see, I received a gift….a really special gift….all thanks to DNA and a cousin.

Well, actually the cousin IS the gift.

Let me explain.

I met a new cousin thanks to a DNA match between the Hickersons and the Vannoy brood.

Bill Hickerson matches one of our Vannoy cousins, and since we have been trying, for years, to prove (or disprove) that Sarah Hickerson and Daniel Vannoy were the parents of Elijah Vannoy, you’ll understand my excitement when I saw William Hickerson’s match to one of our Vannoy cousins…and subsequent excitement when more matches were discovered, confirming our Hickerson roots.

But this story was just beginning.

When I contacted Bill, he was very receptive and e-mailed me right away.

He and I exchanged pleasantries for a bit, and then got down to brass tacks.

  • Who are you?
  • How do you connect?
  • What do you have?
  • I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours.

Yep, that’s the reader’s digest version of conversations between genealogists, genetic and otherwise, researching the same lines.

Except, this time I didn’t have much in the treasure trove…and he had a lot…starting with his genealogy.

Bill is double descended from Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle, the parents of both Sarah Hickerson, my ancestor, and his ancestor, David Hickerson.

WooHooo….in DNA parlance this means that he got a double dose of Hickerson DNA and that he stands a better chance of passing some of it on than if he only had one dose.

Bill then asked if I was interested in old letters…he had some old letters and he would send them if he could find them.



Now, I’ve heard this before in the past and it often means the letters are never found, so I try not to get too excited.  But not in Bill’s case.  He found them the same day.

And if you’re wondering why I think this is so exciting, take a look at this paragraph….

hickerson letter

Then, when we were in the process of figuring out who has what, he mentioned that he has the marriage bond of Daniel Vannoy and Sarah Hickerson.




Oh Happy Day.

Not only that, but he found it as well.

Vannoy Hickerson marriage bond

Oh yea…..Bill is a keeper….that’s for sure.

I asked Bill if he has ever been back to Wilkes County, NC and if he knew where Charles’ land was located, as Charles sold it to his son David, Bill’s ancestor, before he died.

Next thing I knew, in my e-mail was Charles Hickerson’s land grant.

Charles Hickerson land grant 2

Can you see me doing the happy dance????

Snoopy happy dance

Not only is there a lot of joy in finding your ancestors, there is also a lot of joy in finding your cousins.  Cousins who are willing to share are a blessing.

When I asked Bill if I could write about this experience, using him as a “good example,” here was his reply.

“It’s important for us to encourage sharing family history information. It’s a nice way of giving back and honoring all the researchers of the past who’ve been so generous with their time and expertise.”

I can tell you, I really REALLY like my new cousin.  It’s such a breath of fresh air to find people with such good information and so very willing to share.

But then, it got even better yet, as if that was even possible… because Bill mentioned that his father might be willing to do the Family Finder test, which would put us one generation further back.

HIS FATHER.  Who hooo..


HIS FATHER…who has now agreed to DNA test.

I really, REALLY hope Bill is on Santa’s “good example” list, because he truly deserves to be.

I think Bill IS my Christmas present…along with the land grant and marriage bond!

Here’s hoping you get a wonderful new cousin for Christmas too!!!


Barbara Jean Ferverda (1922-2006), Mother’s Gifts that Keep on Giving, 52 Ancestors #50

Barbara Jean Ferverda

The holidays always make me think of my mother.  My father died when I was 7 years old in a car accident, so I was always close to my mother, although I believe I am probably singularly responsible for every grey hair on her head.  Most of them appeared in my teenage years!!!

Mom Blue Lick Well crop

In this picture, Mom and I discovered the Blue Lick well that her grandfather, Curtis Lore drilled in Aurora Indiana.  She is leaning on the pump.  We had some wonderful genealogy adventures, after I outgrew (and survived) being a teenager!

Without my father and his family’s cultural influence, all of my traditions and customs were formed by my mother, and therefore by her family.

My mother was born in northern Indiana in Amish country to Edith Barbara Lore and John Whitney Ferverda.

Mother’s father’s parents were Hiram Ferverda who was born in the Netherlands to Mennonite parents who converted to the Brethren faith upon arrival in the US and Evaline Louise Miller who was Brethren and descended from many generations of Brethren ancestors.  The Mennonite and Brethren are both Anabaptist faiths who believe that only adults can be Baptized when they are old enough to understand the scripture.  In that part of Indiana, the Brethren, Mennonite and Amish communities are intermixed to some extent, living in the same area.  These religions also tend to believe in pietism, non-violence, including not serving in the military.

Mother’s mother’s father was Curtis Benjamin Lore, the well-driller, the son of an Acadian father, Antoine Lore (Lord), and Rachel Hill, his wife of English heritage from Addison County, Vermont.  Rachel’s parents were Joseph Hill, son of John Hill and Catherine Mitchell who came from New Hampshire and Nabby, whose parents may have been Gershom Hall and Dorcas Richardson from Connecticut.

Mother’s mother’s mother was Nora Kirsch, a daughter of German immigrants, Jacob Kirsch and Barbara Dreschel, proprietors of the Kirsch House in Aurora, Indiana.

This mix of cultures is actually quite interesting.  Of the groups, three, the Brethren, Mennonite and Acadians are quite endogamous, meaning heavily intermarried.  Jacob Kirsch from the Mutterstadt and Fussgoenheim area of Germany is also very probably from an endogamous group, because there was no one to marry in these little villages except your cousins, and the church records are full of cousin marriages between the same families for generations.

It’s very rewarding to be able to read about a specific population or religious group, like the Brethren or Acadians, and understand about your ancestors.  Conversely, it’s absolutely maddening when working with DNA to match everyone else who descends from that same group.  Oh, the ying and yang of genealogy.

Mom 2 gen pedigree

The good news about the DNA is that I can generally match someone to at least my mother’s grandparent level pretty easily and there isn’t much ambiguity.

When I was growing up, I never thought about family traditions as being cultural or having a “source.”  Christmas was always Christmas and it was just the way it was and had always been.  Didn’t everyone celebrate Christmas the same way our family did, other than attending different churches???

In fact, it really wasn’t until after I had been a genealogist for a long time that I realized that our holiday traditions are very likely descended from our ancestors, perhaps slightly changed in each generation, and that we can learn something about our ancestors from those traditions.

In general, when you’re evaluating traditions, first look towards the mother’s family.  Historically, the mother is the homemaker, the cook and she will be passing on the recipes and traditions celebrated in her family.  Now, that doesn’t mean that some of Dad’s haven’t been incorporated too – especially if his family lived nearby.

In our family, Christmas Eve was the big family celebration day.  I remember Mom standing by the window in the kitchen over the sink anxiously watching the roads until the entire family was accounted for.  The weather wasn’t always wonderful and the worse the weather, the more pacing and looking out the window Mom did.

Everyone in the extended family arrived, generally with a side dish in hand, and the day was spent eating and visiting, with a gift exchange in the evening.  Often, when there were young kids, Santa would arrive, generally after dark, and asked the kids what they wanted, handing out sweet treats and admonishing them to be good.

Where might that tradition have come from?

As it turns out, Christmas Eve is the big celebration day in Germany.  Family arrives, food is eaten all day…sound familiar?  In addition, the Christmas Tree was secretly decorated by the mother – as it was in our household too.

Christmas Day was much quieter, with gifts only between the parents and children – although sometimes I wouldn’t exactly have called it quiet with paper ripping and excited squeals when the contents were revealed.  Indeed, it’s amazing how Santa always knew exactly what each child wanted, even things they forgot to tell him!

Of course, Santa came during the night on Christmas Eve and gifts from Santa awaited both naughty and good children on Christmas Day underneath the tree.  I know that’s true, because my brother always received gifts, in spite of himself.  Santa, by the name of “Kerstman” or “Christman Man” is a Dutch tradition.  The Germans have the tradition of the religious figure, Saint Nicholas, as well but by the late 1900s, Santa Claus had become quintessentially American.  In other words, I don’t think the Santa tradition was handed down in our family from any particular culture, but from how the American culture evolved as a whole.  After all, who doesn’t love a magical jolly good elf wearing a red suit that brings presents!

The Mennonites were much more practical, not utilizing wrapping paper for gifts and shying away from anything commercial or decorative or that might detract from the birth of Christ.  So, no Christmas tree, no paper, no decorations…nada.  But remember, my Mennonite family became Brethren in the 1800s. I bet their kids were thrilled!

The Brethren seemed to be more traditionally German.  They included candles and a five pointed star to symbolize the birth of Christ.  My Brethren family was probably very liberal for the Brethren faith.  I base that statement up on the fact that two of my grandfather’s brothers served in the military and his father held public office, a typical Brethren no-no because it required swearing an oath.  However, they were active church members and my grandfather’s father and his wife are both buried in the Brethren church cemetery.

Candles were a part of Christmas at home and at my grandmother’s.  A village scene which included a crèche or manger scene was set up on the top of the piano and candles were part of the display, as well as in windows.  The window candles were lit as dusk approached.  In later years, window candles were replaced with electrical candles in wreaths.  As candles became commercially available in shapes such as pine trees, reindeer and even Santa Claus, those types of candles were incorporated into the piano-top village scene, replacing the traditional candles.

My mother’s Brethren grandmother lived until 1939 when my mother was age 17, so Mom would assuredly have been exposed to whatever traditions took place in her family.  The Brethren typically did not celebrate Christmas or Thanksgiving elaborately, if at all, outside of religious services, gathering and eating, which was both the Brethren and Mennonite answer for every occasion.

As I looked for Acadian Christmas cultural traditions, everything I found involved food, and in particular, meat pies called tourtiere.  My family did not make these pies, but my mother made a similar dish with chicken instead of pork, but not specifically for the holidays.  However, I recognized another Acadian traditional item from our family holidays – Nun Farts.  Yep, Nun Farts, or in French, pets de soeurs.


Now, my grandmother would never have said that f word, so they were certainly not called that in my family.  In fact, I’m sure she just rolled over in her grave.  In our family, they were called something like Pettyswars.

However, I’d recognize them anyplace.  My mother modified them a bit by drizzling different concoctions over the top…maple syrup, powdered sugar icing or chocolate, my mother’s answer to everything.  I can’t find a recipe for these in Mom’s recipe box either, so I’m guessing this was handed down orally, or the recipe was lost.  I think she made these with scrap pie dough, so she didn’t need a recipe.  She just used whatever was handy.

The Acadian heritage was a generation further back in the family.  While this seems to be the only tradition I recognize, there may be a reason, aside from cultural attrition.  You see, Antoine Lore left his Acadian family in Canada in the early 1830s for a less volatile area…Vermont, where he married Rachel Hill who appears to have descended from early English colonists.

Antoine’s mother, Marie Lafaille had committed the heinous error in judgment, at least by Acadian standards, of becoming Protestant.  This conversion created a huge rift in the family, driving a wedge between her and her husband, Honore Lore, and dividing the children into two camps – Protestant and Catholic.  In fact, her husband would not attend her funeral and she was buried alone, not with the family in the Catholic cemetery, by the Methodist missionaries.  By that time, son Antoine had already left and had been married in Vermont to Rachel for 5 years.  To the best of my knowledge, he never embraced any religion.

Perhaps Rachel made these Christmas pastries for Antoine.  Perhaps they were one of his good memories, before the Big Divide.  Rachel died when her son Curtis was about 10 years old, so maybe this family recipe brought him comfort as well, reminding him of his mother.

One of the common themes among these cultures is the tradition of sweets and candy for children, before or at Christmas, and in Germany in particular, days were set aside for baking.

When I was young, my mother and I would begin making cookies and candy after Thanksgiving but before Christmas.  It was something we planned for and looked forward to.  We would make and decorate the cookies and give assortments for gifts in colorful Christmas tins.  I never thought of this as cultural, more as economic, but I now realize it was indeed the extension of a tradition from her childhood.  We used my grandmother’s cookie cutters and cookie press.

Christmas cookies

The assortment looked something like this, and I especially liked making the green Christmas trees and decorating them with garland made out of candy beads.

Recently, I was talking to my cousin, Cheryl, about Christmas customs when she was young.  Cheryl’s father and my mother’s father were brothers, and they lived across the street from each other most of their adult lives.

Cheryl shared with me that they too had their main celebration on Christmas Eve.  Cheryl and my mother shared the Dutch Mennonite and Brethren grandparents.

And then Cheryl mentioned the tradition of a pickle on the tree.  A pickle?  Really?  Hmmm…..maybe that explains why my grandmother had a pickle ornament.  But I had no idea why.

Catholic Supply of St. Louis, who sells pickle ornaments of course, tells us this, “In Old World Germany, the last decoration placed on the Christmas Tree was always a pickle…carefully hidden deep in the boughs. Legend has it that the observant child who found it on Christmas Day was blessed with a year of good fortune…and a special gift.”

Wiki, however, tells us a slightly different story.

This tradition is commonly believed by Americans to come from Germany and be referred to as a Weihnachtsgurke, but this is probably apocryphal. In fact, the tradition is largely unknown in Germany. It has been suggested that the origin of the Christmas pickle may have been developed for marketing purposes in the 1890s to coincide with the importation of glass Christmas tree decorations from Germany. Woolworths was the first company to import these types of decorations into the United States in 1890, and glass blown decorative vegetables were imported from France from 1892 onwards. Despite the evidence showing that the tradition did not originate in Germany, the concept of Christmas pickles has since been imported from the United States and they are now on sale in the country traditionally associated with it.

Whether it was originally a German tradition or not, it’s clearly a tradition in Cheryl’s line of the family now, although my grandmother’s pickle ornament has disappeared along the way.

pickle ornament

Now, truthfully, I had never though anything much about that pickle ornament.  My family was prone to hang just about anything on a Christmas tree, so a pickle didn’t really stand out.

For example, a green hippopotamus.  This is my bathtub toy from when I was a child, so Mom stuck it in the tree, and it’s still in the tree every year today.

green hippo

When the light bulbs burned out, my grandmother made ornaments out of them.

tree light ornament

In fact, I accidentally started a new tradition when I hung my children’s first baby shoes on the tree.  Now those children have hung their children’s shoes on their trees too.

baby shoe ornament

After Mom passed away, I realized that I was the only one left who knew anything at all about the stories surrounding the various Christmas ornaments.

One ornament, Baby New Year, still had the date of 1940 on his back in grease pencil.  Mom said they changed it every year – but since 1940 was the year she graduated from high school, I’m guessing it was Mom that changed the year and she got distracted and never did it again.

Baby New Year

I knew if I didn’t write these stories down that they would be lost forever, so I decided to create a memory book for my family.  I photographed all of the ornaments while putting them away one year.  I wrote what I knew about each ornament, put the stories along with their photo into a Word document, and gave both of my children a book of family ornaments for the following Christmas.  Hopefully, this will help preserve these memories and heritage.

Grandmother's ornament

This ornament isn’t extraordinarily beautiful, but it is in evidence on my grandmother’s tree in the 1950s, below – near the top at right.  See it?

Grandmother's tree

You can also see it on Mom’s tree from the 1970s – dead center front slightly left – forgive those horrid drapes but they were very stylish at the time.

Mother's tree

Here is the same ornament on my tree a few years ago, plus 3 or 4 more of grandmother’s in the picture.  Notice the cat???  That’s a family tradition too!  You can tell she had been playing with some of the decorations.

my tree

As I was looking through the ornaments, I found one that I made for Mom the year that she won Best of Show at the Indiana State Fair.  Now this was a REALLY big deal.  To enter the state fair, you had to win a special “State Fair” ribbon on the county level, then you could enter that item into the State Fair.  A reception was held the evening before the State Fair opened for all entrants so that you could come and see if you had won, or placed.  In the middle of the exhibition hall, for the full length of the building, was a row of tables, end to end, full of the desserts that were entered in the cooking categories.  They were served to the entrants.  What were you going to do with hundreds of cakes and pies, otherwise?

It was difficult for me to attend with Mom, because it was always on a weeknight and I lived out of state, but often, one of my children went with her.  In 1989, she won a Best of Show for her crocheting and I made her a Christmas ornament to celebrate.  What fun we had and what wonderful memories for me and for my children too…although I do admit I shed a lot of tears decorating the Christmas tree every year.

Best of Show ornament

Another year, I created a different heirloom gift for my children.  I took mother’s recipes from her recipe box and scanned them into a document.  Then, I wrote about my memories of that particular recipe.

Mom's recipe box

There are wonderful memories in that box.  My children used to go and visit my folks on the farm for a week at a time in the summer – generally in August when it was “fair time.”  They have memories of recopying recipes for my Mom at the kitchen table while she cooked, when she had soiled a recipe card, like this original gingerbread recipe.  Lots of good memories in those spots on the cards.  Mom often made gingerbread at Thanksgiving – with homemade whipped cream of course!

Mom had recopied this recipe, so I have the older one with the note about her mother, and the newer one – both obviously used!

gingerbread recipe

This gobbledygook recipe is served over angel food cake, but when you serve it, not ahead of time as an icing or it soaks in and makes the cake soggy.  This recipe was recopied when my daughter was in elementry school, but it’s one of her staples for carry-ins now that she is an adult.


Carmel popcorn balls is in my handwriting as a teen.

carmel popcorn balls

Ummm, yum…. popcorn balls – those were a Christmas tradition – from my step-Dad’s side of the family.  I remember Dad making popcorn for the balls in the popcorn popper on the stove, similar to this one. I have it someplace.

popcorn popper

Then, after he made the candy, he would grease his hands and use wax paper to handle the hop popcorn and hot candy and form it into balls.

beer bread recipe

Beer bread anyone?  This recipe, in Mom’s handwriting, is wonderful toasted with some butter and home made applesauce.  Mom made beer bread loaves, wrapped them in aluminum foil, put a red bow on the top and gave them for gifts.  She always had a couple of spare gifts like this put aside, just in case unexpected company arrived.  No one left empty-handed at Christmas.  You should have heard her, a Baptist church deacon, trying to justify why she was buying 2 or 3 six-packs of beer!

I can’t leave the topic of Christmas traditions without talking about Turtle Soup.  No, not with real turtle.  Mom always used to say, “Turtle Soup, well, it’s really mock-turtle soup.”  My grandmother used veal and then as veal turned into an ethical issue, Mom used some type of beef bones with meat.

The Turtle Soup tradition came to the US with one of mother’s German great-grandparents, Jacob Kirsch and Barbara Drechsel, from Germany.

Barbara Drechsel and Jacob Kirsch

Jacob and Barbara established the Kirsch House in Aurora, Indiana, on the Ohio River near Cincinnati.  The Kirsch House was located beside the train station just a couple blocks above the pier where the steam boats docked – a prime location not likely to flood but readily accessible to travelers.  The Kirsch House had a bar and facilities that would be similar to a bed and breakfast today.  The family lived there as well.  A beer and a bowl of turtle soup for dinner cost 10 cents.

Every Tuesday Barbara Drechsel Kirsch made (mock) turtle soup.  People in Aurora would order it in advance, and when the soup was finished, Barbara would ladle it into buckets.  The four Kirsch daughters, including mother’s grandmother, Nora, all born within a decade, would take their wagon, pulling it along the sidewalks, and deliver the buckets of soup to the residents.  When you finished your soup, you would return your bucket to the Kirsch House.

Nora’s daughter, Edith, my mother’s mother, went to live with her grandmother, Barbara, after Jacob’s death in 1917.  Edith was then a part of the turtle soup making process on Tuesdays.  That tradition lived as long as the Kirsch House, which closed in the 1920s when Barbara, then in her 70s, could no longer manage everything herself.

We’re fortunate to have a recipe for turtle soup on Kirsch House stationary.  Well, I’m using the word recipe loosely.  Clearly Barbara did not need a recipe or a reminder of any kind.  This document is reportedly in her handwriting but reads more like a stream of consciousness conversation than a recipe as we think of it.

I also have a turtle soup recipe written by my grandmother which was a bit different, and a third one written by my mother that is different yet.  I think each generation modified it a bit according to what they had available and perhaps to taste.  Like cultural traditions, recipes evolved too.

turtle soup 1

turtle soup 2

Notice that the letterhead says the proprietor is Mrs. B. Kirsch, so we know this was written after Jacob’s death in 1917.  It must have been unusual at that time to see a female listed as a proprietor.  A margin note says “Mawmaw’s recipe” at the top.  In my family, the grandmother was always called “Mawmaw” although that tradition has not extended to my grand-children’s generation, so I guess there will be no more Mawmaws in the family.  This recipe could have been written by Barbara, her daughter Nora or her daughter Edith who was staying with her after Jacob died.  I doubt that it was Edith because we have a different recipe, in different handwriting that was hers, and my brother who lived with Edith at one time verified her handwriting.  If it was written by Barbara or Nora, it suggests that the recipe probably came through Barbara’s family in Goppsmannbuhl, not the Kirsch family from Mutterstadt/Fussgoenheim.

Several years ago, I met a cousin, also descended from one of the Kirsch daughters.  She too had a super-secret copy of the turtle soup recipe which she absolutely would not share because it was a closely guarded family secret.  I explained to her that I didn’t need the recipe, but that I just wanted to see how it might differ from the 3 that I already had.  No dice.

Kirsch House Bar

In the 1980s, my mother and my daughter and I went to Aurora, Indiana to hopefully find the Kirsch House and connect with our heritage.  At that time, it was an Italian restaurant.  Miracle of miracles, the original bar installed by Jacob Kirsch was still there.  Jim and I stopped a few years ago, and the building is gravely deteriorated and the bar was gone.  I would have purchased that bar.  It would have looked great in my living room!

On the top of that bar, the current owners had decoupaged old postcards of Aurora, including one of the building in earlier days, at right, beside the train depot, at left.  Barbara Drechsel Kirsch always fed the hobos who rode the trains too, at the back door of the Kirsch House.

Kirsch House postcard

I’m so glad that the three of us made the trip to Aurora together.  There weren’t many.  Mom worked until she was 83 before she agreed to retire, and only then because of her health.  By then, it was too late to do much genealogy travel.

Making turtle soup became a Christmas tradition.  In my family, my uncle, Mom’s brother, loved turtle soup.  He too was raised on it as a special family treat.  My brother and I both loved it, as did Mom, but no one else really cared much for it. For one thing, it didn’t look terribly appealing.  I made it this week, and to me, this looks wonderful, but maybe not so much if you’re just looking at it for the first time.

Turtle soup bowl

From the time I was little, after my grandmother died, when I was 5, I remember Mom preparing to make turtle soup.  While Barbara Drechsel Kirsch made it weekly, we made it occasionally, and it was always a process.  This soup took 2 days to make.

First, you boiled the meat and the vegetables together for a few hours.  Then you removed the meat and boiled the vegetables to death.  The vegetables were then removed and thrown away.  That was day 1.  On day 2, the meat was ground in a meat grinder, along with hard boiled eggs, and added to the broth with browned flower, spices and wine.  Everything German has wine.  When the soup was finished, lemons were peeled and then sliced and the slices were floated on the top of the soup.

I inherited Mom’s meat grinder, which she inherited from her mother as well.  It looks something like this, except older, much older.  I still remember cranking the grinder.  We would bolt it to the table and one person would hold it steady while the other person cranked.  This is much easier described than done, I might add.  Four hands and not much space.

meat grinder

As a child, I got to help by browning the flower.  That was my special job.  Mom would pull a chair up to the stove and I would get to stir the flower in the cast iron skillet with a wooden spoon until it browned.  You had to stir all the time to keep it from sticking or burning.  I was SO HAPPY to get to do that, because it meant I was a big girl.  It was a hot job but I would never complain because that would mean I’d lose the privilege.

Because turtle soup was such a treat, Mom froze it and gave it as Christmas gifts to family members, right along with those tins of cookies or beer bread.  She also made summer sausage as gifts.  Nothing German about this family.

Mom made turtle soup up until her last year or two, and I helped her those years.  The kettle became too heavy for her to lift.  I have her kettle too.

I miss the turtle soup. I’ve never made it alone.  The memory always seemed too raw, but the turtle soup craving is just about to overtake the painful memories and this just might be the year.  I can freeze it and have lunches for months.  There is no one left to give it to as a gift.

Yes, I think I’ll make turtle soup for Christmas this year!  Maybe my grandkids will like it.

Update:  I made the turtle soup and it came out simply wonderful.  Mom would be proud. You can’t make a little bit of this recipe, so I’ll be freezing it and having it for lunches all winter!!  In a way, I’ll be having lunch with Mom.

Turtle soup pot 2

As I look at the holiday traditions, mostly the food, they are full of cultural memories and hidden information.

However, one of the very best gifts that my mother ever gave me was to agree to test her DNA.  Seldom a day goes by that I don’t silently thank her – and I’m not being facetious – I’m dead serious.

By having Mom’s and my DNA both, I can tell when someone matches me autosomally, immediately, onto which side of the family they fall. If they match me and Mom both, then obviously they are from her side.  From there, they often fall into the Acadian, Brethren or Dutch Mennonite groups.  So, in one fell swoop, I can often categorize my matches to three or 4 generations.  That’s a wonderful gift.

Not only that, but her DNA is going to keep on giving, to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

This Christmas, we’re starting another tradition.  We’re testing my grandchildren too – they’ll all be swabbing on Christmas Day – and thanks to Mom, we will have 4 generations of DNA to work with.  My grandchildren are going to grow up knowing about their culture, about traditions, about their ancestors, and yes, about their DNA.  Mom’s DNA and the information it provides will be available to her descendants into perpetuity.  Truly, the gift that keeps on giving – forever.

Thanks Mom.


Mom's stone

Chromosome Browser War

There has been a lot of discussion lately, and I mean REALLY a lot, about chromosome browsers, the need or lack thereof, why, and what the information really means.

For the old timers in the field, we know the story, the reasons, and the backstory, but a lot of people don’t.  Not only are they only getting pieces of the puzzle, they’re confused about why there even is a puzzle.  I’ve been receiving very basic questions about this topic, so I thought I’d write an article about chromosome browsers, what they do for us, why we need them, how we use them and the three vendors, 23andMe, Ancestry and Family Tree DNA, who offer autosomal DNA products that provide a participant matching data base.

The Autosomal Goal

Autosomal DNA, which tests the part of your DNA that recombines between parents every generation, is utilized in genetic genealogy to do a couple of things.

  1. To confirm your connection to a specific ancestor through matches to other descendants.
  2. To break down genealogy brick walls.
  3. Determine ethnicity percentages which is not the topic of this article.

The same methodology is used for items 1 and 2.

In essence, to confirm that you share a common ancestor with someone, you need to either:

  1. Be a close relative – meaning you tested your mother and/or father and you match as expected. Or, you tested another known relative, like a first cousin, for example, and you also match as expected. These known relationships and matches become important in confirming or eliminating other matches and in mapping your own chromosomes to specific ancestors.
  2. A triangulated match to at least two others who share the same distant ancestor. This happens when you match other people whose tree indicates that you share a common ancestor, but they are not previously known to you as family.

Triangulation is the only way you can prove that you do indeed share a common ancestor with someone not previously identified as family.

In essence, triangulation is the process by which you match people who match you genetically with common ancestors through their pedigree charts.  I wrote about the process in this article “Triangulation for Autosomal DNA.”

To prove that you share a common ancestor with another individual, the DNA of  three proven descendants of that common ancestor must match at the same location.  I should add a little * to this and the small print would say, “ on relatively large segments.”  That little * is rather controversial, and we’ll talk about that in a little bit.  This leads us to the next step, which is if you’re a fourth person, and you match all three of those other people on that same segment, then you too share that common ancestor.  This is the process by which adoptees and those who are searching for the identity of a parent work through their matches to work forward in time from common ancestors to, hopefully, identify candidates for individuals who could be their parents.

Why do we need to do this?  Isn’t just matching our DNA and seeing a common ancestor in a pedigree chart with one person enough?  No, it isn’t.  I recently wrote about a situation where I had a match with someone and discovered that even though we didn’t know it, and still don’t know exactly how, we unquestionably share two different ancestral lines.

When you look at someone’s pedigree chart, you may see immediately that you share more than one ancestral line.  Your shared DNA could come from either line, both lines, or neither line – meaning from an unidentified common ancestor.  In genealogy parlance, those are known as brick walls!

Blaine Bettinger wrote about this scenario in his now classic article, “Everyone Has Two Family Trees – A Genealogical Tree and a Genetic Tree.”

Proving a Match

The only way to prove that you actually do share a genealogy relative with someone that is not a known family member is to triangulate.  This means searching other matches with the same ancestral surname, preferably finding someone with the same proven ancestral tree, and confirming that the three of you not only share matching DNA, but all three share the same matching DNA segments.  This means that you share the same ancestor.

Triangulation itself is a two-step process followed by a third step of mapping your own DNA so that you know where various segments came from.  The first two triangulation steps are discovering that you match other people on a common segment(s) and then determining if the matches also match each other on those same segments.

Both Family Tree DNA and 23andMe, as vendors have provided ways to do most of this.  www.gedmatch.com and www.dnagedcom.com both augment the vendor offerings.  Ancestry provides no tools of this type – which is, of course, what has precipitated the chromosome browser war.

Let’s look at how the vendors products work in actual practice.

Family Tree DNA

1. Chromosome browser – do they match you?

Family Tree DNA makes it easy to see who you match in common with someone else in their matching tool, by utilizing the ICW crossed X icon.

chromosome browser war13

In the above example, I am seeing who I match in common with my mother.  Sure enough, our three known cousins are the closest matches, shown below.

chromosome browser war14

You can then push up to 5 individuals through to the chromosome browser to see where they match the participant.

The following chromosome browser is an example of a 4 person match showing up on the Family Tree DNA chromosome browser.

This example shows known cousins matching.  But this is exactly the same scenario you’re looking for when you are matching previously unknown cousins – the exact same technique.

In this example, I am the participant, so these matches are matches to me and my chromosome is the background chromosome displayed.  I have switched from my mother’s side to known cousins on my father’s side.

chromosome browser war1

The chromosome browser shows that these three cousins all match the person whose chromosomes are being shown (me, in this case), but it doesn’t tell you if they also match each other.  With known cousins, it’s very unlikely (in my case) that someone would match me from my mother’s side, and someone from my father’s side, but when you’re working with unknown cousins, it’s certainly possible.  If your parents are from the same core population, like Germans or an endogamous population, you may well have people who match you on both sides of your family.  Simply put, you can’t assume they don’t.

It’s also possible that the match is a genuine genealogical match, but you don’t happen to match on the exact same segments, so the ancestor can’t yet be confirmed until more cousins sharing that same ancestral line are found who do match, and it’s possible that some segments could be IBS, identical by state, meaning matches by chance, especially small segments, below the match threshold.

2. Matrix – do they match each other?

Family Tree DNA also provides a tool called the Matrix where you can see if all of the people who match on the same segment, also match each other at some place on their DNA.

chromosome browser war2

The Matrix tool measures the same level of DNA as the default chromosome browser, so in the situation I’m using for an example, there is no issue.  However, if you drop the threshold of the match level, you may well, and in this case, you will, find matches well below the match threshold.  They are shown as matches because they have at least one segment above the match threshold.  If you don’t have at least one segment above the threshold, you’ll never see these smaller matches.  Just to show you what I mean, this is the same four people, above, with the threshold lowered to 1cM.  All those little confetti pieces of color are smaller matches.

chromosome browser war3

At Family Tree DNA, the match threshold is about 7cM.  Each of the vendors has a different threshold and a different way of calculating that threshold.

The only reason I mention this is because if you DON’T match with someone on the matrix, but you also show matches at smaller segments, understand that matrix is not reporting on those, so matrix matches are not negative proof, only positive indications – when you do match, both on the chromosome browser and utilizing the matrix tool.

What you do know at this point is that these individuals all match you on the same segments, and that they match each other someplace on their chromosomes, but what you don’t know is if they match each other on the same locations where they match you.

If you are lucky and your matches are cousins or experienced genetic genealogists and are willing to take a look at their accounts, they can tell you if they match the other people on the same segments where they match you – but that’s the only way to know unless they are willing to download their raw data file to GedMatch.  At GedMatch, you can adjust the match thresholds to any level you wish and you can compare one-to-one kits to see where any two kits who have provided you with their kit number match each other.

3. Downloading data – mapping your chromosome.

The “download to Excel” function at Family Tree DNA, located just above the chromosome browser graphic, on the left, provides you with the matching data of the individuals shown on the chromosome browser with their actual segment data shown. (The download button on the right downloads all of your matches, not just the ones shown in the browser comparison.)

The spreadsheet below shows the downloaded data for these four individuals.  You can see on chromosome 15 (yellow) there are three distinct segments that match (pink, yellow and blue,) which is exactly what is reflected on the graphic browser as well.

chromosome browser war4

On the spreadsheet below, I’ve highlighted, in red, the segments which appeared on the original chromosome browser – so these are only the matches at or over the match threshold.

chromosome browser war5

As you can see, there are 13 in total.

Smaller Segments

Up to this point, the process I’ve shared is widely accepted as the gold standard.

In the genetic genealogy community, there are very divergent opinions on how to treat segments below the match threshold, or below even 10cM.  Some people “throw them away,” in essence, disregard them entirely.  Before we look at a real life example, let’s talk about the challenges with small segments.

When smaller segments match, along with larger segments, I don’t delete them, throw them away, or disregard them.  I believe that they are tools and each one carries a message for us.  Those messages can be one of four things.

  1. This is a valid IBD, meaning identical by descent, match where the segment has been passed from one specific ancestor to all of the people who match and can be utilized as such.
  2. This is an IBS match, meaning identical by state, and is called that because we can’t yet identify the common ancestor, but there is one. So this is actually IBD but we can’t yet identify it as such. With more matches, we may well be able to identify it as IBD, but if we throw it away, we never get that chance. As larger data bases and more sophisticated software become available, these matches will fall into place.
  3. This is an IBS match that is a false match, meaning the DNA segments that we receive from our father and mother just happen to align in a way that matches another person. Generally these are relatively easy to determine because the people you match won’t match each other. You also won’t tend to match other people with the same ancestral line, so they will tend to look like lone outliers on your match spreadsheets, but not always.
  4. This is an IBS match that is population based. These are much more difficult to determine, because this is a segment that is found widely in a population. The key to determining these pileup areas, as discussed in the Ancestry article about their new phasing technique, if that you will find this same segment matching different proven lineages. This is the reason that Ancestry has implemented phasing – to identify and remove these match regions from your matches. Ancestry provided a graphic of my pileup areas, although they did not identify for me where on my chromosomes these pileup regions occurred. I do have some idea however, because I’ve found a couple of areas where I have matches from my mother’s side of the family from different ancestors – so these areas must be IBS on a population level. That does not, however, make them completely irrelevant.

genome pileups

The challenge, and problem, is where to make the cutoff when you’re eliminating match areas based on phased data.  For example, I lost all of my Acadian matches at Ancestry.  Of course, you would expect an endogamous population to share lots of the same DNA – and there are a huge number of Acadian descendants today – they are in fact a “population,” but those matches are (were) still useful to me.

I utilize Acadian matches from Family Tree DNA and 23andMe to label that part of my chromosome “Acadian” even if I can’t track it to a specific Acadian ancestor, yet.  I do know from which of my mother’s ancestors it originated, her great-grandfather, who is her Acadian ancestor.  Knowing that much is useful as well.

The same challenge exists for other endogamous groups – people with Jewish, Mennonite/Brethren/Amish, Native American and African American heritage searching for their mixed race roots arising from slavery.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say that this problem exists for anyone looking for ancestors beyond the 5th or 6th generation, because segments inherited from those ancestors, if there are any, will probably be small and fall below the generally accepted match thresholds.  The only way you will be able to find them, today, is the unlikely event that there is one larger segments, and it leads you on a search, like the case with Sarah Hickerson.

I want to be very clear – if you’re looking for only “sure thing” segments – then the larger the matching segment, the better the odds that it’s a sure thing, a positive, indisputable, noncontroversial match.  However, if you’re looking for ancestors in the distant past, in the 5th or 6th generation or further, you’re not likely to find sure thing matches and you’ll have to work with smaller segments. It’s certainly preferable and easier to work with large matches, but it’s not always possible.

In the Ralph and Coop paper, The Geography of Recent Genetic Ancestry Across Europe, they indicated that people who matched on segments of 10cM or larger were more likely to have a common ancestor with in the past 500 years.  Blocks of 4cM or larger were estimated to be from populations from 500-1500 years ago.  However, we also know that there are indeed sticky segments that get passed intact from generation to generation, and also that some segments don’t get divided in a generation, they simply disappear and aren’t passed on at all.  I wrote about this in my article titled, Generational Inheritance.

Another paper by Durand et al, Reducing pervasive false positive identical-by-descent segments detected by large-scale pedigree analysis, showed that 67% of the 2-4cM segments were false positives.  Conversely, that also means that 33% of the 2-4cM segments were legitimate IBD segments.

Part of the disagreement within the genetic genealogy community is based on a difference in goals.  People who are looking for the parents of adoptees are looking first and primarily as “sure thing” matches and the bigger the match segment, of course, the better because that means the people are related more closely in time.  For them, smaller segments really are useless.  However, for people who know their recent genealogy and are looking for those brick wall ancestors, several generations back in time, their only hope is utilizing those smaller segments.  This not black and white but shades of grey.  One size does not fit all.  Nor is what we know today the end of the line.  We learn every single day and many of our learning experiences are by working through our own unique genealogical situations – and sharing our discoveries.

On this next spreadsheet, you can see the smaller segments surrounding the larger segments – in other words, in the same match cluster – highlighted in green.  These are the segments that would be discarded as invalid if you were drawing the line at the match threshold.  Some people draw it even higher, at 10 cM.  I’m not being critical of their methodology or saying they are wrong.  It may well work best for them, but discarding small segments is not the only approach and other approaches do work, depending on the goals of the researcher.  I want my 33% IBD segments, thank you very much.

All of the segments highlighted in purple match between at least three cousins.  By checking the other cousins accounts, I can validate that they do all match each other as well, even though I can’t tell this through the Family Tree DNA matrix below the matching threshold.  So, I’ve proven these are valid.  We all received them from our common ancestor.

What about the white rows?  Are those valid matches, from a common ancestor?  We don’t have enough information to make that determination today.

chromosome browser war6

Downloading my data, and confirming segments to this common ancestor allows me to map my own chromosomes.  Now, I know that if someone matches me and any of these three cousins on chromosome 15, for example, between 33,335,760 and 58,455,135 – they are, whether they know it or not, descended from our common ancestral line.

In my opinion, I would think it a shame to discount or throw away all of these matches below 7cM, because you would be discounting 39 of your 52 total matches, or 75% of them.  I would be more conservative in assigning my segments with only one cousin match to any ancestor, but I would certainly note the match and hope that if I added other cousins, that segment would be eventually proven as IBD.

I used positively known cousins in this example because there is no disputing the validity of these matches.  They were known as cousins long before DNA testing.

Breaking Down Brick Walls

This is the same technique utilized to break down brick walls – and the more cousins you have tested, so that you can identify the maximum number of chromosome pieces of a particular ancestor – the better.

I used this same technique to identify Sarah Hickerson in my Thanksgiving Day article, utilizing these same cousins, plus several more.

Hey, just for fun, want to see what chromosome 15 looks like in this much larger sample???

In this case, we were trying to break down a brick wall.  We needed to determine if Sarah Hickerson was the mother of Elijah Vannoy.  All of the individuals in the left “Name” column are proven Vannoy cousins from Elijah, or in one case, William, from another child of Sarah Hickerson.  The individuals in the right “Match” column are everyone in the cousin match group plus the people in green who are Hickerson/Higginson descendants.  William, in green, is proven to descend from Sarah Hickerson and her husband, Daniel Vannoy.

chromosome browser war7

The first part of chromosome 15 doesn’t overlap with the rest.  Buster, David and I share another ancestral line as well, so the match in the non-red section of chromosome 15 may well be from that ancestral line.  It becomes an obvious possibility, because none of the people who share the Vannoy/Hickerson/Higginson DNA are in that small match group.

All of the red colored cells do overlap with at least one other individual in that group and together they form a cluster.  The yellow highlighted cells are the ones over the match threshold.  The 6 Hickerson/Higginson descendants are scattered throughout this match group.

And yes, for those who are going to ask, there are many more Vannoy/Hickerson triangulated groups.  This is just one of over 60 matching groups in total, some with matches well above the match threshold. But back to the chromosome browser wars!


This example from 23andMe shows why it’s so very important to verify that your matches also match each other.

chromosome browser war8

Blue and purple match segments are to two of the same cousins that I used in the comparison at Family Tree DNA, who are from my father’s side.  Green is my first cousin from my mother’s side.   Note that on chromosome 11, they both match me on a common segment.  I know by working with them that they don’t match each other on that segment, so while they are both related to me, on chromosome 11, it’s not through the same ancestor.  One is from my father’s side and one is from my mother’s side.  If I hadn’t already known that, determining if they matched each other would be the acid test and would separate them into 2 groups.

23andMe provides you with a tool to see who your matches match that you match too.  That’s a tongue twister.

In essence, you can select any individual, meaning you or anyone that you match, on the left hand side of this tool, and compare them to any 5 other people that you match.  In my case above, I compared myself to my cousins, but if I want to know if my cousin on my mother’s side matches my two cousins on my father’s side, I simply select her name on the left and theirs on the right by using the drop down arrows.

chromosome browser war9

I would show you the results, but it’s in essence a blank chromosome browser screen, because she doesn’t match either of them, anyplace, which tells me, if I didn’t already know, that these two matches are from different sides of my family.

However, in other situations, where I match my cousin Daryl, for example, as well as several other people on the same segment, I want to know how many of these people Daryl matches as well.  I can enter Daryl’s name, with my name and their names in the group of 5, and compare.  23andMe facilitates the viewing or download of the results in a matrix as well, along with the segment data.  You can also download your entire list of matches by requesting aggregated data through the link at the bottom of the screen above or the bottom of the chromosome display.

I find it cumbersome to enter each matches name in the search tool and then enter all of the other matches names as well.  By utilizing the tools at www.dnagedcom.com, you can determine who your matches match as well, in common with you, in one spreadsheet.  Here’s an example.  Daryl in the chart below is my match, and this tool shows you who else she matches that I match as well, and the matching segments.  This allows me to correlate my match with Gwen for example, to Daryl’s match to Gwen to see if they are on the same segments.

chromosome browser war10

As you can see, Daryl and I both match Gwen on a common segment.  On my own chromosome mapping spreadsheet, I match several other people as well at that location, at other vendors, but so far, we haven’t been able to find any common genealogy.


At Ancestry.com, I have exactly the opposite problem.  I have lots of people I DNA match, and some with common genealogy, but no tools to prove the DNA match is to the common ancestor.

Hence, this is the crux of the chromosome browser wars.  I’ve just showed you how and why we use chromosome browsers and tools to show if our matches match each other in addition to us and on which segments.  I’ve also illustrated why.  Neither 23andMe nor Family Tree DNA provides perfect tools, which is why we utilize both GedMatch and DNAGedcom, but they do provide tools.  Ancestry provides no tools of this type.

At Ancestry, you have two kinds of genetic matches – ones without tree matches and ones with tree matches.  Pedigree matching is a service that Ancestry provides that the other vendors don’t.  Unfortunately, it also leads people to believe that because they match these people genetically and share a tree, that the tree shown is THE genetic match and it’s to the ancestor shown in the tree.  In fact, if the tree is wrong, either your tree or their tree, and you match them genetically, you will show up as a pedigree match as well.  Even if both pedigrees are right, that still doesn’t mean that your genetic match is through that ancestor.

How many bad trees are at Ancestry percentagewise?  I don’t know, but it’s a constant complaint and there is absolutely nothing Ancestry can do about it.  All they can do is utilize what they have, which is what their customers provide.  And I’m glad they do.  It does make the process of working through your matches much easier. It’s a starting point.  DNA matches with trees that also match your pedigree are shown with Ancestry’s infamous shakey leaf.

In fact, in my Sarah Hickerson article, it was a shakey leaf match that initially clued me that there was something afoot – maybe. I had to shift to another platform (Family Tree DNA) to prove the match however, where I had tools and lots of known cousins.

At Ancestry, I now have about 3000 matches in total, and of those, I have 33 shakey leaves – or people with whom I also share an ancestor in our pedigree charts.  A few of those are the same old known cousins, just as genealogy crazy as me, and they’ve tested at all 3 companies.

The fly in the ointment, right off the bat, is that I noticed in several of these matches that I ALSO share another ancestral line.

Now, the great news is that Ancestry shows you your surnames in common, and you can click on the surname and see the common individuals in both trees.

The bad news is that you have to notice and click to see that information, found in the lower left hand corner of this screen.

chromosome browser war11

In this case, Cook is an entirely different line, not connected to the McKee line shown.

However, in this next case, we have the same individual entered in our software, but differently.  It wasn’t close enough to connect as an ancestor, but close enough to note.  It turns out that Sarah Cook is the mother of Fairwick Claxton, but her middle name was not Helloms, nor was her maiden name, although that is a long-standing misconception that was proven incorrect with her husband’s War of 1812 documents many years ago. Unfortunately, this misinformation is very widespread in trees on the internet.

chromosome browser war12

Out of curiosity, and now I’m sorry I did this because it’s very disheartening – I looked to see what James Lee Claxton/Clarkson’s wife’s name was shown to be on the first page of Ancestry’s advanced search matches.

Despite extensive genealogical and DNA research, we don’t know who James Lee Claxton/Clarkson’s parents are, although we’ve disproven several possibilities, including the most popular candidate pre-DNA testing.  However, James’ wife was positively Sarah Cook, as given by her, along with her father’s name, and by witnesses to their marriage provided when she applied for a War of 1812 pension and bounty land.  I have the papers from the National Archives.

James Lee Claxton’s wife, Sara Cook is identified as follows in the first 50 Ancestry search entries.

Sarah Cook – 4

Incorrect entries:

  • Sarah Cook but with James’ parents listed – 3
  • Sarah Helloms Cook – 2, one with James’ parents
  • Sarah Hillhorns – 15
  • Sarah Cook Hitson – 13, some with various parents for James
  • No wife, but various parents listed for James – 12
  • No wife, no parents – 1

I’d much rather see no wife and no parents than incorrect information.

Judy Russell has expressed her concern about the effects of incorrect trees and DNA as well and we shared this concern with Ancestry during our meeting.

Ancestry themselves in their paper titled “Identifying groups of descendants using pedigrees and genetically inferred relationships in a large database” says, “”As with all analyses relating to DNA Circles™, tree quality is also an important caveat and limitation.”  So Ancestry is aware, but they are trying to leverage and utilize one of their biggest assets, their trees.

This brings us to DNA Circles.  I reviewed Ancestry’s new product release extensively in my Ancestry’s Better Mousetrap article.  To recap briefly, Ancestry gathers your DNA matches together, and then looks for common ancestors in trees that are public using an intelligent ranking algorithm that takes into account:

  1. The confidence that the match is due to recent genealogical history (versus a match due to older genealogical history or a false match entirely).
  2. The confidence that the identified common recent ancestor represents the same person in both online pedigrees.
  3. The confidence that the individuals have a match due to the shared ancestor in question as opposed to from another ancestor or from more distant genealogical history.

The key here is that Ancestry is looking for what they term “recent genealogical history.”  In their paper they define this as 10 generations, but the beta version of DNA Circles only looks back 7 generations today.  This was also reflected in their phasing paper, “Discovering IBD matches across a large, growing database.”

However, the unfortunate effect has been in many cases to eliminate matches, especially from endogamous groups.  By way of example, I lost my Acadian matches in the Ancestry new product release.  They would have been more than 7 generations back, and because they were endogamous, they may have “looked like” IBS segments, if IBS is defined at Ancestry as more than 7 or 10 generations back.  Hopefully Ancestry will tweek this algorithm in future releases.

Ancestry, according to their paper, “Identifying groups of descendants using pedigrees and genetically inferred relationships in a large database,” then clusters these remaining matching individuals together in Circles based on their pedigree charts.  You will match some of these people genetically, and some of them will not match you but will match each other.  Again, according to the paper, “these confidence levels are calculated by the direct-line pedigree size, the number of shared ancestral couples and the generational depth of the shared MRCA couple.”

Ancestry notes that, “using the concordance of two independent pieces of information, meaning pedigree relationships and patterns of match sharing among a set of individuals, DNA Circles can serve as supporting evidence for documented pedigree lines.”  Notice, Ancestry did NOT SAY proof.  Nothing that Ancestry provides in their DNA product constitutes proof.

Ancestry continues by saying that Circles “opens the possibility for people to identify distant relatives with whom they do not share DNA directly but with whom they still have genetic evidence supporting the relationship.”

In other words, Ancestry is being very clear in this paper, which is provided on the DNA Circles page for anyone with Circles, that they are giving you a tool, not “the answer,” but one more piece of information that you can consider as evidence.

joel vannoy circleJoel Vannoy circle2

You can see in my Joel Vannoy circle that I match both of these people both genetically and on their tree.

We, in the genetic genealogy community, need proof.  It certainly could be available, technically – because it is with other vendors and third party sites.

We need to be able to prove that our matches also match each other, and utilizing Ancestry’s tools, we can’t.  We also can’t do this at Ancestry by utilizing third party tools, so we’re in essence, stuck.

We can either choose to believe, without substantiation, that we indeed share a common ancestor because we share DNA segments with them plus a pedigree chart from that common ancestor, or we can initiate a conversation with our match that leads to either or both of the following questions:

  1. Have you or would you upload your raw data to GedMatch?
  2. Have you or would you upload your raw data file to Family Tree DNA?

Let the begging begin!!!

The Problem

In a nutshell, the problem is that even if your Ancestry matches do reply and do upload their file to either Family Tree DNA or GedMatch or both, you are losing most of the potential information available, or that would be available, if Ancestry provided a chromosome browser and matrix type tool.

In other words, you’d have to convince all of your matches and then they would have to convince all of the matches in the circle that they match and you don’t to upload their files.

Given that, of the 44 private tree shakey leaf matches that I sent messages to about 2 weeks ago, asking only for them to tell me the identity of our common pedigree ancestor, so far 2 only of them have replied, the odds of getting an entire group of people to upload files is infinitesimal.  You’d stand a better chance of winning the lottery.

One of the things Ancestry excels at is marketing.

ancestry ad1

If you’ve seen any of their ads, and they are everyplace, they focus on the “feel good” and they are certainly maximizing the warm fuzzy feelings at the holidays and missing those generations that have gone before us.

ancestry ad2

This is by no means a criticism, but it is why so many people do take the Ancestry DNA test. It’s advertised as easy and you’ll learn more about your family.  And you do, no question – you learn about your ethnicity and you get a list of DNA matches, pedigree matches when possible and DNA Circles.

The list of what you don’t get is every bit as important, a chromosome browser and tools to see whether your matches also match each other.  However, most of their customers will never know that.

Judging by the high percentage of inaccurate trees I found at Ancestry in my little experiment relative to the known and documented wife’s name of James Lee Claxton, which was 96%, based on just the first page of 50 search matches, it would appear that about 96% of Ancestry’s clientele are willing to believe something that someone else tells them without verification.  I doubt that it matters whether that information is a tree or a DNA test where they are shown  matches with common pedigree charts and circles.  I don’t mean this to be critical of those people.  We all began as novices and we need new people to become interested in both genealogy and DNA testing.

I suspect that most of Ancestry’s clients, especially new ones, simply don’t have a clue that there is a problem, let alone the magnitude and scope.  How would they?  They are just happy to find information about their ancestor.  And as someone said to me once – “but there are so many of those trees (with a wrong wife’s name), how can they all be wrong?”  Plus, the ads, at least some of them, certainly suggest that the DNA test grows your family tree for you.

ancestry ad3 signoff

The good news in all of this is that Ancestry’s widespread advertising has made DNA testing just part of the normal things that genealogists do.  Their marketing expertise along with recent television programs have served to bring DNA testing into the limelight. The bad news is that if people test at Ancestry instead of at a vendor who provides tools, we, and they, lose the opportunity to utilize those results to their fullest potential.  We, and they, lose any hope of proving an ancestor utilizing DNA.  And let’s face it, DNA testing and genealogy is about collaboration.  Having a DNA test that you don’t compare against others is pointless for genealogy purposes.

When a small group of bloggers and educators visited Ancestry in October, 2014, for what came to be called DNA Day, we discussed the chromosome browser and Ancestry’s plans for their new DNA Circles product, although it had not yet been named at that time.  I wrote about that meeting, including the fact that we discussed the need for a chromosome browser ad nauseum.  Needless to say, there was no agreement between the genetic genealogy community and the Ancestry folks.

When we discussed the situation with Ancestry they talked about privacy and those types of issues, which you can read about in detail in that article, but I suspect, strongly, that the real reason they aren’t keen on developing a chromosome browser lies in different areas.

  1. Ancestry truly believes that people cannot understand and utilize a chromosome browser and the information it provides. They believe that people who do have access to chromosome browsers are interpreting the results incorrectly today.
  2. They do not want to implement a complex feature for a small percentage of their users…the number bantered around informally was 5%…and I don’t know if that was an off-the-cuff number or based on market research. However, if you compare that number with the number of accurate versus inaccurate pedigree charts in my “James Claxton’s wife’s name” experiment, it’s very close…so I would say that the 5% number is probably close to accurate.
  3. They do not want to increase their support burden trying to explain the results of a chromosome browser to the other 95%. Keep in mind the number of users you’re discussing. They said in their paper they had 500,000 DNA participants. I think it’s well over 700,000 today, and they clearly expect to hit 1 million in 2015. So if you utilize a range – 5% of their users are 25,000-50,000 and 95% of their users are 475,000-950,000.
  4. Their clients have already paid their money for the test, as it is, and there is no financial incentive for Ancestry to invest in an add-on tool from which they generate no incremental revenue and do generate increased development and support costs. The only benefit to them is that we shut up!

So, the bottom line is that most of Ancestry’s clients don’t know or care about a chromosome browser.  There are, however, a very noisy group of us who do.

Many of Ancestry’s clients who purchase the DNA test do so as an impulse purchase with very little, if any, understanding of what they are purchasing, what it can or will do for them, at Ancestry or anyplace else, for that matter.

Any serious genealogist who researched the autosomal testing products would not make Ancestry their only purchase, especially if they could only purchase one test.  Many, if not most, serious genealogists have tested at all three companies in order to fish in different ponds and maximize their reach.  I suspect that most of Ancestry’s customers are looking for simple and immediate answers, not tools and additional work.

The flip side of that, however, if that we are very aware of what we, the genetic genealogy industry needs, and why, and how frustratingly lacking Ancestry’s product is.

Company Focus

It’s easy for us as extremely passionate and focused consumers to forget that all three companies are for-profit corporations.  Let’s take a brief look at their corporate focus, history and goals, because that tells a very big portion of the story.  Every company is responsible first and foremost to their shareholders and owners to be profitable, as profitable as possible which means striking the perfect balance of investment and expenditure with frugality.  In corporate America, everything has to be justified by ROI, or return on investment.

Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA was the first one of the companies to offer DNA testing and was formed in 1999 by Bennett Greenspan and Max Blankfeld, both still principles who run Family Tree DNA, now part of Gene by Gene, on a daily basis.  Family Tree DNA’s focus is only on genetic genealogy and they have a wide variety of products that produce a spectrum of information including various Y DNA tests, mitochondrial, autosomal, and genetic traits.  They are now the only commercial company to offer the Y STR and mitochondrial DNA tests, both very important tools for genetic genealogists, with a great deal of information to offer about our ancestors.

In April 2005, National Geographic’s Genographic project was announced in partnership with Family Tree DNA and IBM.  The Genographic project, was scheduled to last for 5 years, but is now in its 9th year.  Family Tree DNA and National Geographic announced Geno 2.0 in July of 2012 with a newly designed chip that would test more than 12,000 locations on the Y chromosome, in addition to providing other information to participants.

The Genographic project provided a huge boost to genetic genealogy because it provided assurance of legitimacy and brought DNA testing into the living room of every family who subscribed to National Geographic magazine.  Family Tree DNA’s partnership with National Geographic led to the tipping point where consumer DNA testing became mainstream.

In 2011 the founders expanded the company to include clinical genetics and a research arm by forming Gene by Gene.  This allowed them, among other things, to bring their testing in house by expanding their laboratory facilities.  They have continued to increase their product offerings to include sophisticated high end tests like the Big Y, introduced in 2013.


23andMe is also privately held and began offering testing for medical and health information in November 2007, initially offering “estimates of predisposition for more than 90 traits ranging from baldness to blindness.”  Their corporate focus has always been in the medical field, with aggregated customer data being studied by 23andMe and other researchers for various purposes.

In 2009, 23andMe began to offer the autosomal test for genealogists, the first company to provide this service.  Even though, by today’s standards, it was very expensive, genetic genealogists flocked to take this test.

In 2013, after several years of back and forth with 23andMe ultimately failing to reply to the FDA, the FDA forced 23andMe to stop providing the medical results.  Clients purchasing the 23andMe autosomal product since November of 2013 receive only ethnicity results and the genealogical matching services.

In 2014, 23andMe has been plagued by public relations issues and has not upgraded significantly nor provided additional tools for the genetic genealogy community, although they recently formed a liaison with My Heritage.

23andMe is clearly focused on genetics, but not primarily genetic genealogy, and their corporate focus during this last year in particular has been, I suspect, on how to survive, given the FDA action.  If they steer clear of that landmine, I expect that we may see great things in the realm of personalized medicine from them in the future.

Genetic genealogy remains a way for them to attract people to increase their data base size for research purposes.  Right now, until they can again begin providing health information, genetic genealogists are the only people purchasing the test, although 23andMe may have other revenue sources from the research end of the business


Ancestry.com is a privately held company.  They were founded in the 1990s and have been through several ownership and organizational iterations, which you can read about in the wiki article about Ancestry.

During the last several years, Ancestry has purchased several other genealogy companies and is now the largest for-profit genealogy company in the world.  That’s either wonderful or terrible, depending on your experiences and perspective.

Ancestry has had an on-again-off-again relationship with DNA testing since 2002, with more than one foray into DNA testing and subsequent withdrawal from DNA testing.  If you are interested in the specifics, you can read about them in this article.

Ancestry’s goal, as it is with all companies, is profitability.  However, they have given themselves a very large black eye in the genetic genealogy community by doing things that we consider to be civically irresponsible, like destroying the Y and mitochondrial DNA data bases.  This still makes no sense, because while Ancestry spends money on one hand to acquire data bases and digitize existing records, on the other hand, they wiped out a data base containing tens of thousands of irreplaceable DNA records, which are genealogy records of a different type.  This was discussed at DNA Day and the genetic genealogy community retains hope that Ancestry is reconsidering their decision.

Ancestry has been plagued by a history of missteps and mediocrity in their DNA products, beginning with their Y and mitochondrial DNA products and continuing with their autosomal product.  Their first autosomal release included ethnicity results that gave many people very high percentages of Scandinavian heritage.  Ancestry never acknowledged a problem and defended their product to the end…until the day when they announced an update titled….a whole new you.  They are marketing geniuses.  While many people found their updated product much more realistic, not everyone was happy.  Judy Russell wrote a great summary of the situation.

It’s difficult, once a company has lost their credibility, for them to regain it.

I think Ancestry does a bang up job of what their primary corporate goal is….genealogy records and subscriptions for people to access those records. I’m a daily user.  Today, with their acquisitions, it would be very difficult to be a serious genealogist without an Ancestry subscription….which is of course what their corporate goal has been.

Ancestry does an outstanding job of making everything look and appear easy.  Their customer interface is intuitive and straightforward, for the most part. In fact, maybe they have made both genealogy and genetic genealogy look a little too easy.  I say this tongue in cheek, full well knowing that the ease of use is how they attract so many people, and those are the same people who ultimately purchase the DNA tests – but the expectation of swabbing and the answer appearing is becoming a problem.  I’m glad that Ancestry has brought DNA testing to so many people but this success makes tools like the chromosome browser/matrix that much more important – because there is so much genealogy information there just waiting to be revealed.  I also feel that their level of success and visibility also visits upon them the responsibility for transparency and accuracy in setting expectations properly – from the beginning – with the ads. DNA testing does not “grow your tree” while you’re away.

I’m guessing Ancestry entered the DNA market again because they saw a way to sell an additional product, autosomal DNA testing, that would tie people’s trees together and provide customers with an additional tool, at an additional price, and give them yet another reason to remain subscribed every year.  Nothing wrong with that either.  For the owners, a very reasonable tactic to harness a captive data base whose ear you already have.

But Ancestry’s focus or priority is not now, and never has been, quality, nor genetic genealogy.  Autosomal DNA testing is a tool for their clients, a revenue generation source for them, and that’s it.  Again, not a criticism.  Just the way it is.

In Summary

As I look at the corporate focus of the three players in this space, I see three companies who are indeed following their corporate focus and vision.  That’s not a bad thing, unless the genetic genealogy community focus finds itself in conflict with the results of their corporate focus.

It’s no wonder that Family Tree DNA sponsors events like the International DNA Conference and works hand in hand with genealogists and project administrators.  Their focus is and always has been genetic genealogy.

People do become very frustrated with Family Tree DNA from time to time, but just try to voice those frustrations to upper management at either 23andMe or Ancestry and see how far you get.  My last helpdesk query to 23andMe submitted on October 24th has yet to receive any reply.  At Family Tree DNA, I e-mailed the project administrator liaison today, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, hoping for a response on Monday – but I received one just a couple hours later – on a holiday weekend.

In terms of the chromosome browser war – and that war is between the genetic genealogy community and Ancestry.com, I completely understand both positions.

The genetic genealogy community has been persistent, noisy, and united.  Petitions have been created and signed and sent to Ancestry upper management.  To my knowledge, confirmation of any communications surrounding this topic with the exception of Ancestry reaching out to the blogging and education community, has never been received.

This lack of acknowledgement and/or action on the issues at hand frustrates the community terribly and causes reams of rather pointed and very direct replies to Anna Swayne and other Ancestry employees who are charged with interfacing with the public.  I actually feel sorry for Anna.  She is a very nice person.  If I were in her position, I’d certainly be looking for another job and letting someone else take the brunt of the dissatisfaction.  You can read her articles here.

I also understand why Ancestry is doing what they are doing – meaning their decision to not create a chromosome browser/match matrix tool.  It makes sense if you sit in their seat and now have to look at dealing with almost a million people who will wonder why they have to use a chromosome browser and or other tools when they expected their tree to grow while they were away.

I don’t like Ancestry’s position, even though I understand it, and I hope that we, as a community, can help justify the investment to Ancestry in some manner, because I fully believe that’s the only way we’ll ever get a chromosome browser/match matrix type tool.  There has to be a financial benefit to Ancestry to invest the dollars and time into that development, as opposed to something else.  It’s not like Ancestry has additional DNA products to sell to these people.  The consumers have already spent their money on the only DNA product Ancestry offers, so there is no incentive there.

As long as Ancestry’s typical customer doesn’t know or care, I doubt that development of a chromosome browser will happen unless we, as a community, can, respectfully, be loud enough, long enough, like an irritating burr in their underwear that just won’t go away.


The Future

What we “know” and can do today with our genomes far surpasses what we could do or even dreamed we could do 10 years ago or even 5 or 2 years ago.  We learn everyday.

Yes, there are a few warts and issues to iron out.  I always hesitate to use words like “can’t,” “never” and “always” or to use other very strongly opinionated or inflexible words, because those words may well need to be eaten shortly.

There is so much more yet to be done, discovered and learned.  We need to keep open minds and be willing to “unlearn” what we think we knew when new and better information comes along.  That’s how scientific discovery works.  We are on the frontier, the leading edge and yes, sometimes the bleeding edge.  But what a wonderful place to be, to be able to contribute to discovery on a new frontier, our own genes and the keys to our ancestors held in our DNA.

Sarah Hickerson (c1752-?), Lost Ancestor Found, 52 Ancestors #48


Sarah Hickerson.  That was her name.  It’s a new name to me, well, new in the sense of being an ancestor… rolling around on my tongue like sweet dark  chocolate – the best – from Belgium – my favorite.  Let me say it again and savor its flavor.

Sarah Hickerson.

Sarah was my great-great-great-great grandmother.  Those are glorious words, because before now, she was a brick wall – a maybe and nothing more.  I want to introduce you to Sarah, but first, I need to introduce you to Harold.

Cousin Harold

Harold is my long-suffering cousin.  I met Harold more than 20 years ago now, probably about a quarter century ago.  I remember things relative to life events – landmark events in my life – and I know where I was living when I met Harold and that it was before my previous husband’s massive stroke.  He is my longest-standing genealogy research partner – what a testimony to his endurance!

Harold and Jayden

Harold with Jayden, his great-granddaughter.

You see, this week when I mentioned that we had broken through a 30 year brick wall, he told me that for him, it was more like a 45 year brick wall.  Suddenly my 30 year brick wall didn’t look nearly so bad.  Or maybe I should say his 45 year brick wall made me even more jubilant.

Harold and I didn’t know each other before we met through genealogy.  You’d think we would.  Our common ancestors, Joel and Phoebe Crumley Vannoy died in 1895 and 1900 respectively, and their children were our great-grandparents who clearly knew each other – and so did their children.  It seems that it was in our parent’s generation that the families lost track of each other – probably that the generation who began to move away from Appalachia in earnest – often in order to find jobs elsewhere.  Harold’s grandparents moved to Missouri, and mine moved to Arkansas and then Indiana, before divorcing a decade later and a half later, in the 19-teens.  The families moved apart and not only lost track of each other, the next generation didn’t even know the other families existed.  That was the generation of our parents.  So it was something of a miracle when Harold and I found each other, and even more amazing when we discovered we lived within 35 miles of each other in an entirely different state.

It was progress that divided the family, plus maybe a bit of bootlegging on my grandpa’s part, and it was genealogy that reunited us more than half a century later.

Harold and I are both old fashioned genealogists – meaning diggers – think of us as hound dogs after a bone.  Both of us have visited many locations over the years and we share our results and research with each other.  In this case, it’s the cumulative effort of both of our research work that has brought us this breakthrough – although in this case, much of the Hickerson research, especially the pieces that led to Higginson, is entirely Harold’s.

Who Was Elijah Vannoy’s Father?

The Vannoy family in Hancock and Claiborne Counties of Tennessee had kept good records, for the most part, since they had moved from Wilkes County, North Carolina to then Claiborne County in about 1812. Before that, not so much.

The earliest record of Elijah Vannoy is an 1807 entry in the Wilkes County, North Carolina Deed Book G-H.  He married Lois McNeil (daughter of William McNeil and Elizabeth Shepherd) sometime before 1810 and he is listed in the Wilkes County, NC 1810 Federal Census. He left Wilkes County, NC after 1811 with the McNeil family and an Elijah Vannoy is listed in the Bedford County, Tennessee 1812 Tax List.

Later in 1812, he appears in the Claiborne County, TN court notes where he lived for the rest of his life, even though his homeplace shifted to be in Hancock County in the 1840s when Hancock County was formed.

The problem is that we didn’t know who Elijah’s father was.  This should not have been so tough.  There were only 4 candidates.  All 4 Vannoy men who lived in Wilkes County in the 1784 timeframe when Elijah was born were sons of John Francis Vannoy and Susannah Baker Anderson.  How tough can this be?

Very tough, let me tell you.  Half a century tough!

Not all Wilkes County records are existent.  Seems that at some time, or times, in the past, the clerk decided to have a large bonfire because they didn’t need those old records anymore.  If you’re cringing and groaning, well, so was I.  I still do, every time I think of that being done intentionally.  The county next door, where we think Elijah and his parents may have lived for at least part of the time, Ashe, has incomplete records as well.  Ashe County was created from Wilkes in 1799.

The four candidates for Elijah’s father are:

  • Nathaniel Vannoy (1749/50-1835) and wife Elizabeth Ann Ray (1754 – before 1830), daughter of William Ray and Elizabeth Gordon
  • Andrew Vannoy (1742-1809) and Susannah Shepherd (1758-1816), daughter of John Shepherd and Sarah J. Rash(?)
  • Francis Vannoy (1746-1822) and Millicent Henderson (1754-1794/1800), daughter of Thomas Henderson and Frances, last name unknown
  • Daniel Vannoy (1752-before 1819) and Sarah Hickerson (1752-?), daughter of Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle (Little)

Fortunately, the Wilkes County local tax records are still existent as well as the 1790 census records.  Utilizing those records, I reconstructed, as best I could, the family structures and rough ages of the various children.  Then, utilizing family records, Bibles, deeds and such, I assigned the children to the parents.

At the end of this process, I had narrowed the parental candidate to either Daniel or Nathaniel Vannoy.  Harold had an uncle who told him that Elijah was “Nathaniel’s boy” and given what we had, we pretty much took that at face value.

But then, then, a Bible record emerged from a family member.  Nathaniel’s Bible, and guess what….there was no Elijah.  Now, people didn’t leave children out of the Bible.  Nonetheless, I tried to decide if there was “room” for Elijah there, because Nathaniel seemed to be such a good fit.  And there was, barely, but not very reasonably.  He would have had to have been conceived when his sibling was about 3 months old, and left out of the Bible – and both of those things individually were very remote possibilities, let alone to have happened together.

Nathaniel died at the home of his daughter in 1835 in Greenville, SC.  A few years ago, I visited Greenville, SC, on the way to another destination.  I spent the night and the next day in the local courthouse pouring over will records, deed records, probate records….anything and everything, only to determine that Nathaniel had pretty much distributed his estate to his children before his death.  However, there was no mention of an Elijah.

Daniel was the most difficult of the men.  He died early, for one thing, we think, as did his wife, leaving very few records.  Daniel married Sarah Hickerson on October 2, 1779.  He filed for a land patent in 1780, obtained the grant in 1782 and was on the Wilkes County tax list with 100 acres until 1787.  After that, he was still taxed, but he was no longer taxed on land.  He shows up in the 1790 census and on the personal property tax lists until 1795, but in 1796, he is gone and there is nothing further.  However, we know the family didn’t move away, because Elijah is living there when he married Lois McNiel not long before 1810.  Their proven son, Joel, also married in Wilkes County in 1817, so they had to be living someplace in the vicinity!

If Daniel died and had no land, there was likely no estate.  Furthermore, his widow would not have been required to pay tax because only adult males over the age of either 16 or 21 were taxed, depending on where they lived and the laws of the time.  In 1795, unquestionably, Elijah was under the age of 16 and any child born after 1880 would have been as well.

The 1800 census doesn’t exist, but in the 1810 census, we find Sarah Vannoy shown with three females.  There is no further record of Sarah, unless an 1820 census record that shows a Sarah Vannoy age  26-45 is Daniel’s widow.  This seems extremely unlikely, unless someone simply counted the boxes on the census form incorrectly, because in 1820, someone 45 years of age would have been born in 1779, the year Sarah was married to Daniel.  That’s an awfully large mistake to make.

The only known male child of Daniel Vannoy is Joel, known as “Sheriff Joel” in the family.  A daughter Susannah is also attributed to Daniel Vannoy and Sarah Hickerson.  In the 1790 census, they had two male children, and given that we only know of one son, Joel, the slot for a second male born before 1788 is enticingly vacant.

In 1810, Sarah Vannoy is shown to be age 26-45, which is too young for our Sarah.  If this is our Sarah, she is shown with three females, which would make three daughters and 2 sons, at least, if it is Sarah Hickerson Vannoy.

I tried to correlate names as well.  Elijah’s oldest son was named Joel, the same name as Daniel’s only known son.  Elijah had a daughter named Sarah too, but no male child named Daniel…at least not that survived.  But then, Joel didn’t name a son Daniel either, but he did have one named Elijah.  We didn’t have a lot to work with here.

So there we stood, for more than a decade.

I had journeyed to Wilkes County, NC, Greenville, South Carolina and the NC State Archives in Raleigh.  Harold had been to the Allen County Public library searching for Hickerson information.  That’s where he discovered that the Hickersons were originally Higginsons.  We had information alright, but nothing to tie it all together and nothing to tie it to any specific Vannoy male.

It was still only data, information, not evidence.

The New Age – DNA

When DNA testing first became available, Harold and I decided that we could at lease rule in or out one possibility, and that was that Elijah wasn’t the son of any of the Vannoy men, but was instead illegitimate or adopted.  Harold tested, and we found other males as well not in our line of descent, confirming that Elijah was indeed a Vannoy male genetically.  At least one possibility was removed.

I surmised years ago that the only way I was ever going to solve this mystery was through the wives lines.  By that, I mean that because we are going to match descendants of all 4 men utilizing both Y and autosomal DNA, because they all 4 shared a father, that the only differentiating factor was going to be the DNA of the various wives lines.

To make this even tougher that means that we had to match someone ELSE, preferably multiple someone elses, descended from the wives lines utilizing autosomal DNA.

We have just one more fly in the ointment.  Harold and I are descended from one of the wives too.  Yep, everyone married their neighbors and it was inevitable.  Andrew Vannoy’s’s father-in-law, John Shephard is the brother of our ancestor, Robert Shephard who married Sarah Rash and had daughter Elizabeth Shepherd who married William McNiel.  William and Elizabeth had daughter Lois who married…you guessed it….Elijah Vannoy.  And around and around we go.

So, if Elijah’s father was Andrew Vannoy, we were up the proverbial creek without a paddle.  And we’d never know it because only sign would be if many people who descended from the other wives lines tested and we consistently did NOT match any of them.  That’s not exactly proof – not at more than 6 generations removed.

Fortunately, Andrew had been fairly well ruled out pretty early in the game as a candidate to be Elijah’s father.

I tentatively entered Daniel Vannoy and Sarah Hickerson as Elijah’s parents in my genealogy software, more than anything as a placeholder because I knew who Elijah’s Vannoy grandparents were, unquestionably and I needed someone to connect the generations.  I felt Daniel was my best shot, although I really hesitated when I added this record to Ancestry because I felt the link was so tenuous and I didn’t want anyone else copying it as gospel.

So, that brings us to today, or this week, anyway.  It seems appropriate that I’m finishing this article on Thanksgiving day!!!

Periodically, I’d go and look, rather half-heartedly to see if I had any DNA matches with any Hickersons, Hendersons or Ray/Reys and periodically, I would find out that I didn’t…or not anyone I could connect to anyway.

Each of the three autosomal DNA vendors has the ability to search on surnames, including ancestral surnames.  However what I didn’t do was twofold.  I only searched my own account.  I did not ask Harold to search his, nor did I search the accounts that I manage who also descend from Elijah.  Duh!!!  What was I thinking?

Actually, truthfully, after so many years of that wall standing so firmly, I thought it would never fall and so I stopped pushing the envelope.  We are right at that 6 generation threshold, so I was painfully aware that I might not match someone on a big enough piece of DNA to be over the threshold for matching.

Here’s my direct line to Sarah.

  • Sarah Hickerson married Daniel Vannoy (1752-c1796)
  • Elijah Vannoy (c1784–1850/1860) married Lois McNiel (c1786-c1839)
  • Joel Vannoy (1813-1895) married Phebe Crumley (1818-1900)
  • Elizabeth Vannoy (1846-1918) married Lazarus Estes (1845-1919)
  • William George Estes (1873-1971) married Ollie Bolton (1874-1955)
  • William Sterling Estes (1902-1963)
  • Me

We don’t yet have advanced tools that are flexible enough to say “find all the Hickersons in the data base, drop the threshold to 3cM and tell me if I match them and if they match each other.  Oh yes, and tell me if any of my Vannoy cousins match these people too.”  Nope, not here yet, still a dream… so I searched my own account periodically with no results.

Secondly, I didn’t search for the surname Higginson.  I have a really good excuse for that.  I didn’t realize that Higginson was the earlier form of Hickerson.  Cousin Harold shared that with me this week.  He found it a couple years ago when he visited the Fort Wayne library, and while it didn’t seem to matter at the time, today, it matters a great deal.

A Bad Day Improves

It’s winter in Michigan…far too early, way too cold and rather a brutal and dramatic entrance.  The wind was howling the snow blowing straight sideways.  Here, just look out my back window for yourself.  You used to be able to see a lake, but not anymore!

Michgian early winter

I had just spent two days researching and writing about the new Ancestry DNA Circles rollout.  Truthfully, this seems “cute” and very easy and enticing, but certainly not adequate as compared to what genetic genealogists want and need, and not terribly relevant to me.  By this, I mean that the only thing that DNA Circles does, is, well, group your DNA matches and those who also match each other’s DNA and have a common ancestor in a pedigree chart.  That doesn’t mean that all of your DNA matches because you descend from this ancestor, but it does increase the odds, the more people in the circle.

For example, the only circle I have that is relevant to this discussion is a circle for Joel Vannoy that is made up of me, cousin Harold, a kit he administers and a fourth cousin who doesn’t reply to messages.

joel vannoy circle

Joel Vannoy circle2

I already know I’m descended from Joel Vannoy, so really, there is nothing for me here.  Now if there had been a  Hickerson circle, THAT would have been news!!!!

Given Ancestry’s suggestive “soft science” approach, I was terribly frustrated and rather grumpy when you combine the hours that the articles took and the terrible weather.  Grumpy cat’s got nothing on me.

However, because I was writing about the before and after aspect of Ancestry’s new software, I had to review all of my shakey leaf matches, before and after.  Among other things, ancestry changed the way their software sorts and matches.

Before, I had no shakey leaf match to a descendant of Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle, but afterwards, I did.

Ancestry Hickerson match

There it was, in color, sitting there just calmly staring at me.  OMG!!!!

Was this the real McCoy??  Or was this the proverbial case that we have so often found on Ancestry where the DNA does match and the pedigree does match, but they point to two different ancestors?

Need I mention that there are no tools at Ancestry, no chromosome browser, nada, to solve or resolve this issue?  Ancestry feels we don’t need them.  I’m here to tell you, we do.  Here’s the perfect example of why.

So, what was I to do?

I did what any good genealogist cousin would do.  I e-mailed Harold right away with the news!!!!  I asked him to check his results at Ancestry and those of his brother as well, and let me know if he matches the same person, or any Hickerson descendant.

And then, I waited, of course, for his answer.

I didn’t have to wait long.

Harold’s brother had a Charles Hickerson/Mary Lytle match at Ancestry too.

Vannoy Hickerson match

Neither Harold nor his brother matched the same person that I did, but one of the people they both matched was very interesting, because a third cousin, Cindy also shared a match with this person.  Cousin Cindy descends through her ancestor known as “Sheriff Joel Vannoy,” the proven son of Daniel Vannoy and Sarah Hickerson.  This match is shown above, with the current tester’s screen name and current generation removed.

So three Vannoy cousins, one not through Elijah, but through his suspected brother, all match the same Hickerson descendant.

OMG this is enticing, but the problem is that we can’t prove it because we have no tools.  This is exactly why we need a chromosome browser that shows us they not only match the same descendant, but match on the same segment of DNA.  That’s confirmation of a genetic match – and the only way to provide that confirmation.  So close but so <insert swear word of choice here> frustratingly far away.

Below, a little summary table of our Hickerson/Higginson matches at Ancestry.

Hickerson Higginson
Me 1 0
Harold 3 1
Harold’s Brother 2 2

About this time, I received another message from Harold. He told me that while cousin Cindy had tested at Ancestry, her brother had tested at Family Tree DNA – and she had just joined him to the Vannoy DNA project which Harold and I administer.

If I was ever glad that I have embraced autosomal participants in surname projects, today is that day.

Digger the Dog

I quickly signed onto the the Vannoy project and looked at Cindy’s brother’s Family Finder results.  Utilizing the “ancestral surname” search capability, I discovered that Cindy’s brother indeed matches three people who descend from a Hickerson line, including one who descends from Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle through a son.

Oh, I’m in Digger the Dog heaven now, because I do have tools at Family Tree DNA – and I also have cousins – lots of cousins.

I hadn’t really realized the true power of cousins until this exercise.

There are a total of 10 cousins, nine of whom descend from Elijah Vannoy and Lois McNiel and one from Daniel Vannoy and Sarah Hickerson’s son, Joel, who have tested at Family Tree DNA, all of whom are in the Vannoy DNA project.

Needless to say, I searched each one for both Hickerson and Higginson ancestral suranme matches, and what I found was a goldmine.  Individually, these results were interesting with a nugget or two, but cumulatively, it was the Gold Rush!!!

After I made a matrix of who matched whom, I then began the process of pushing the results into the chromosome browser.  I won’t bore you with the many iterations of that exercise, but suffice it to say that it’s very exciting to see the Vannoy, Hickerson and Higginson segments overlap.

In this example, individuals are being compared to my cousin Buster at 1cM.

  • Me – orange
  • Harold – blue
  • Reverend John Higginson descendant – green
  • Hickerson descendant – pink
  • Vannoy cousin – yellow

vannoy higginson hickerson browser

At the end of the day, we had the following match matrix.  All of the Vannoy cousins are shown at left, including William who descends from Sheriff Joel Vannoy, proven son of Daniel Vannoy and Sarah Hickerson.  The rest of the cousins all descend from Elijah Vannoy and Lois McNiel.  The top row represents all of the individuals who show Hickerson or Higginson in their ancestral surnames.  The two green individuals descend from Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle (Little).

vannoy hickerson higginson matrix

You’ll notice, above, that there are several instances where more than one cousin matched the same Hickerson/Higginson descendant.  This was very important, because it allowed me to compare their DNA by segment in the chromosome browser.

I downloaded all of the match data for the matches to the Hickersons and Higginsons, and to each Vannoy cousin as well.  Needless to say, the Hickerson and Higginson matches won’t be displayed at Family Tree DNA unless they are over the matching threshold of around 7.7cM, which does not mean they would not match at lower segment thresholds.  That can be discovered by a composite spreadsheet in which all of the matches of all of the cousins plus the Hendersons and Hickersons are compiled. Downloaded match data at Family Tree DNA includes segments of 1cM or above.

The spreadsheet is 614 rows and includes 64 matching clusters of individuals which include Vannoy cousins and at least one Hickerson/Higginson match.  Some of these matches are as large as 20cM with 6000 SNPs.  More than twenty Hickerson/Higginson triangulated matches are over 10cM with from 1500 to 6000 SNPs.   Many are much smaller.   An excerpt of one match cluster is shown below.  This is the same group as is shown on the chromosome browser on chromosome 2, at the very top of the graphic.

vannoy hickerson higginson SS

Note that the cousins are matching each other on this segment, and they are also matching the Hickerson/Higginson descendants as well on this same segment, which strongly suggests that this “Vannoy” segment is descended from the Hickerson/Higginson line of the family.

Bingo!  Checkmate!  Wahoo!!!!  Happy Dance!

Sarah Hickerson – you are now MY confirmed ancestor, along with your husband Daniel Vannoy.  Welcome back to the family – we’ll be celebrating you at the Thanksgiving table today.  You have been resurrected to us, reconnected after more than 100 years of being lost!

The dead may be dead, but our ancestors don’t have to be dead to us, even if the records are gone – they aren’t.

Their DNA runs in our veins, and that of our cousins.  The power of this solution was found in the many cousins who have tested.  Without all of us, the ancestral connection would not have been revealed.

Thank you, cousins, on this wonderful Thankgiving Day!!!!  Thank you Harold for your tireless research, and for never giving up.

And thank you Family Tree DNA for the chromosome browser, the matrix and other tools necessary to break down this brick wall.

I am truly thankful!

brick wall breakthrough

Ancestry’s Better Mousetrap – DNA Circles

This is it…the big day.

Ancestry’s better mousetrap is called DNA Circles and it launched today.

DNA Circles is a result of three things.

  1. Phased data
  2. Improved genetic Matching
  3. Pairing DNA matches with submitted trees

Yesterday I wrote about my matches in the old version.  So, let’s take a look at the new version, available now.

All three of the autosomal DNA genetic genealogy testing companies have the same issue and that’s how to provide us with quality matches, eliminate false IBS matches while preserving real ones, and making the consumer experience both productive and easy to use. All three of the companies approach this challenge in different ways.

23andMe has an arbitrary cutoff on the number of matches you can have, at 1000, unless you’re in contact with your matches and then you are allowed more. Family Tree DNA has both a cumulative match threshold of about 20cM and then an individual segment threshold of about 7.7cM.  The word “about” appears in that last sentence because the matching algorithm contains some situational variables.  Until today, Ancestry really didn’t have a good tool to eliminate low confidence, spurious or IBS (identical by state) matches.

At 23andMe, I have just over 1000 matches, which is to be expected based on their 1000 cutoff. At Family Tree DNA, I have about 1875 matches and at Ancestry, until today, I had over 13,000 matches.  Clearly, Ancestry needed to refine their matching process, and they have.

Ancestry has implemented population based phasing to help reduce false positive matches. Blaine Bettinger wrote an excellent article about how Ancestry is accomplishing this task, why it works, and how, in his article, Finding Genetic Cousins – Separating Fact From Fiction.

As I described in my article, DNA Day with Ancestry, Ancestry has discovered that we all have what they describe as pileup areas where many people from the same population will match.  This means that those matches, while they do come from specific ancestors, aren’t actually genealogical in the way we might think.

genome pileups

Here’s an example of my own genome and my pileup areas, as provided by Ancestry.

You can see that in one region I have almost 800 matches – and clearly that’s not from one ancestor, especially given that most of my match numbers are under 200, and most are significantly under 200.

genome pileups2

Here’s my same chart AFTER they ran the phasing algorithm on my matches and removed those pileup areas. Please note that the scale is different.  Now my highest number of matches is about 25.

Are some of those phased regions probably valid matches? Sure.  Are some of them occurring in people whom I match in other regions too?  Of course.  And those people will remain as matches, where people I only match on pileup regions will be removed.  In other words, any match to me in a pileup region won’t be considered a match, regardless of how many other places we match.

Ancestry did not provide us with a list of regions by chromosome that were removed in the experiment above. I wish they had, because I have a couple of chromosomal areas that I’ve been finding confusing because I have multiple matches with proven connections to specific different families from the same parental line that match me on the same segments.  Let me say that again, another way.  On Mom’s side, two different families match me on the same chromosomal segment region.

Now, unless those separate families are interrelated, that is impossible.  Those families being interrelated certainly isn’t impossible, but given one line is French (Acadian) pre-1600 and one is Swiss Brethren from the mid-1600s, an interrelationship between these families had to have occurred before 1600 which is more than 12 generations ago – and probably many more generations before that, given their strong religious leanings and lack of geographic proximity.

So, I’m presuming here that these confusing segments are an example of pileups and that explains why the multiple family lines match to the same segments.

Ancestry’s Updated Product

So how has this new technology changed your Ancestry results?

  • New Home Page
  • Updated Match List
  • DNA Circles
  • Updated Help Page and White Papers


Your home page now has a new category, DNA Circles.

But first, before we look at the circles, let’s look the matches.


Yesterday, I reported on my matches and how they were distributed. I had 262 pages of matches, or about 13,100.  Today, I have 67 pages, or about 3,350 matches.  My matches were reduced by about 75%.

Yesterday Today Shakey Leaves Yesterday Shakey Leaves Today
Total Matches 13,100 3,350
2nd Cousins 1 – 99% confidence 0 – shifted to third cousin 0 0
3rd Cousins 10 8 – shifted to fourth cousins 2 1 (shifted to 4th cousin)
4th Cousins 243 161 10 14
Distant Cousins 12,846 3,181 36 18

Of the fourth cousin shakey leaf people, three that were distant cousins are now shifted up into the fourth cousin range, my third cousin is shifted down to fourth cousin range, and one prior fourth cousin shakey leaf match is gone entirely.

However, the numbers aren’t the entire story. I compared my list of shakey leaf people from yesterday to today, and I discovered that some were missing, but I also have 6 new shakey leaf matches in the distant cousin category that I didn’t have yesterday.

And one of those shakey leaf matches, if it is correct – meaning that if the DNA does point to the genealogy – would shatter a very long-standing brick wall.

Now, before I share this with you, I want to be very, VERY clear – just because we share DNA and a common genealogy line does NOT MEAN that we are genetically connected via this genealogy path. However, having said that, it’s a very good hint and a wonderful place to start.

In my case, Elijah Vannoy was born in1784 to one of 4 Vannoy men in Wilkes County, NC. The question is, which one?  Based on census, tax, Bible and other records, I’ve positively eliminated one candidate and probably eliminated a second.  But that leaves two and possibly a third.  I decided a long time ago that this quandry would and could only be solved via a DNA connection to the wife’s line of the men involved.

  • Nathaniel Vannoy married Elizabeth Ray (Rey) – Eliminated as Elijah’s possible father via Nathaniel’s Bible record
  • Andrew Vannoy married Susannah Sheppard (I am related to Susannah’s father through a different family line.)
  • Francis Vannoy married Millicent Henderson
  • Daniel Vannoy married Sarah Hickerson.  Her parents were Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle.

Based on tax lists that include males of specific ages, my “best choice” is Daniel Vannoy and Sarah Hickerson. That’s who I have in my tree at Ancestry, even though I strongly debated entering that couple since it was so tentative.  Am I EVER glad that I did.

Here’s my new match.


I can tell you, when I saw this, it took my breath away!  Lordy, lordy, I’ve caught a mouse.  But now what do I do with it???

Now, for the frustrating-makes-me-screaming-insane part – I have NO WAY TO VERIFY THIS without a chromosome browser. So, what am I going to do?  I’m going to contact this person, and pray, PRAY, that they reply to me.  I’ll be glad to pay for them to transfer to Family Tree DNA where I have a chromosome browser to work with and can prove that this individual indeed does match other descendants of Elijah Vannoy and not just me.

If this is just true….

But wait, maybe there is more evidence at Ancestry. Let’s look at their new DNA Circles.

DNA Circles

DNA Circles is a composite tool that links people who are genetically connected with people who have the same ancestors in their trees, and puts them together in a circle.

In other words, all of these people genetically match at least one other person in the circle, but they don’t all match each other. The only matches you can see are people that match you.  The common link, is, of course, that in addition to genetically matching someone in the circle, they all share a common ancestor in their tree.  Now, yes, it does go without saying that if everyone has the same wrong ancestor – the circle will show that ancestor. Conversely, if you are the only one with the right ancestor’s name, and everyone else has the wrong name, then you won’t be shown in that circle.

Now, for the caveats.

You must be an Ancestry subscriber to see Circles.

If you have a private tree, Ancestry is respecting your request to remain private and you will not be included in Circles.  If you make your tree public, you may or may not have circles.  Not everyone does.  Ancestry updates their data base every 3-4 hours, so if you make your tree public, it won’t take effect immediately.

Of course, if you have no tree, there is no way to include you in any circles.  Ancestry is looking back 7 generations for circles, so if you’re entering a tree, enter at least 7 generations.

Having said that, both private trees and no tree matches are still included in match lists, if they pass the new matching criteria, but they won’t be included in the new Circles feature.

So, let’s take a look. Please note that the new Circles feature is in Beta.

Here are my 12 DNA Circles.  I was actually surprised that there weren’t more.  However, one person in our blogger group had no circles.  How disappointing.


Sadly, the Hickerson ancestor I was hoping to see is not identified as a circle. Maybe someday.

Let’s look at my smallest circle, Jacob Lentz.


Ancestry refers to this as an emerging circle. I match one individual genetically, but not the second individual, which I would presume (how I hate that word) means that H.C. and pawruby match each other genetically.  How I would love to see the three of us in a chromosome browser.

I can click on “View Details” to see how they both connect to Jacob.


The tree above is from my DNA match. The tree below is from the other member of the circle who I don’t match genetically, but who presumably matches H.C.


Jacob Lentz’s wife is Frederica Moselman or Musselman. The spelling of the name varies in documents.  I was curious as to why there is no circle for Frederica, so I looked to see if perhaps her name is absent from the trees.  As it turns out, two trees show her as Moselman and one as Musselman, so the disparate spelling has defeated the creation of her circle.  During the discussions with Ancestry about this product, I specifically asked about situations like this and they indicated that they have soundex and other matching tools and they felt that this would not be a problem.  Obviously, in this case, and others, those tools didn’t work.

If you want to learn more about how DNA Circles works, and you are a member of a DNA Circle, click on the “Learn More” button at the bottom of the DNA Circles information box.


Learn more takes you to this page where you can read about how the circles are created, grouped and the white paper which describes the technology behind the circles.


My larger Nancy Mann circle shows that I have 12 members in this circle, of which I match 4 by DNA and the rest have a DNA connection with other member(s) of the group. We all have a common ancestor in our trees – Nancy Mann.

To clear up any misconceptions here, ancestry has very specifically stated that they are NOT using trees to do DNA matches, but only after DNA matching is completed, they are searching for common ancestors in trees of matches.


Of the Nancy Mann circle members, I match 4 people utilizing DNA. Three of those show on my match list, but one, C.M. doesn’t show on my match list today nor on my old list.  This is a strong match, so I find this confusing.

One of my non-DNA tree matches used to be a DNA match, but isn’t anymore. This would be one example of where a legitimate match was removed by the new matching routines, but I can still see that there is a circle connection to a common ancestor.  While Circles don’t confirm a genetic connection, they are another tool that is certainly suggestive that the DNA connections between these individuals lead to a common ancestor.

Nancy Mann’s husband was Henry Bolton. She was his second wife, so there will be people who connect to Henry, via his first wife, but not to Nancy Mann.  What this means is that everyone in Nancy’s circle should also be in Henry’s circle, but some people in Henry’s circle won’t be in Nancy’s circle.

When looking at why someone in my Nancy Mann circle wasn’t in my Henry Bolton circle, I noticed that Williamlowe94 does list Henry Bolton, but has spelled his name “Henry Bolton (Boulton)” and apparently the parenthesis name was considered a non-match. C. M. has spelled Henry’s name Boulton, so that’s why C.M. is in the Nancy Mann group, but not the Henry Bolton group.

Another circle, Joseph Preston Bolton, was Henry Bolton’s son. There are 4 members of that circle, one of which I match via DNA.  There is one new member of this group that is not in the Henry Bolton group, and who is not on my DNA match list.  I wondered why they aren’t on Henry’s list, so I looked at their pedigree chart and their chart stops at Joseph Preston Bolton.  This would seem to be a good opportunity for Ancestry to utilize the power of their software to see if she actually DOES fit into the Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann circles and suggest to her that in fact, she does.  For her, this might indeed tear down a brick wall.  Most people aren’t looking for confirmation of what they have, they are looking for that next step – that elusive ancestor who isn’t identified.

That is why we do DNA, and genealogy.

The John Campbell tree only has 3 members and both of the other Circle members are a DNA match to me. Of course, that doesn’t mean they are a DNA match to each other.  All 3 of us show John’s wife to be exactly the same person, spelled exactly the same way Jane “Jenny” Dobkins, but there is no circle for her.  I wonder if somehow the quotes interfered with the circle creation.  Given that all 3 of us form a circle for John, we should also form that exact same circle for Jane.

Fairwick Claxton and Agnes Muncy hold another odd match. One charlenecarlson0126 shows to be both a DNA match and a tree match, but she does not appear on my DNA match list, nor does her tree include any Claxton or Clarkson at all.  This has to be a bug of some sort, but it seems odd that it would pass both criteria, DNA matching and the tree.


Match above, tree below.


What I was actually searching for is why Fairwick’s father, James Lee Clarkson/Clarkston/Claxton is not listed as a circle. My suspicion is that the name is not spelled consistently.  Of the 5 Circle members, one is spelled, Claxton, 2 Clarkson and 2 Clarkston.  This looks like another miss that could be a hit.

My John Hill circle is actually quite interesting. There are only 3 people and I match one via DNA.  I’ve been working with my non-DNA match on this genealogy line.  It’s nice to see him in the Circle, even though our DNA doesn’t match directly.

The John Hill group, again, begs the question of why there is no wife’s group. She was Catherine Mitchell and all 3 of us list her as such.

In Summary

Ancestry has certainly improved their methodology and utilized their new tools to add the DNA Circles feature.

Certainly, we had too many matches to deal with before and now we have a much more reasonable number. Ancestry’s shakey leaf remains one of the best tools they have ever implemented and their user interface remains clean, crisp and easy to use.  There are a few bugs, but this is a beta version and with feedback, I’m sure they will resolve those in short order.

In order to get a handle on what was really occurring, I created a spreadsheet of my pre-Circles shakey-leaf matches as compared with my matches in the new Circles version. The individuals in bold are the ones that appear in both versions, the pre and post Circles.  Non-bolded were in one or the other versions, but not both.  In some cases, like with the first 4 matches in this group, I wonder why they don’t form a James Lee Claxton group.  Me plus two more would be enough for an emerging group, and we have that for sure.

Shakey Leaf Matches and Ancestor Previous Current Circle Members
Rodneybranch1 – James Lee Claxton and Sarah “Sary” Cook distant gone
urbadntx – James Lee Claxton and Sary Cook absent distant
Ctkatherine – Fairwick Claxton and Agnes Muncy 4 4 Fairwick Claxton, Agnes Muncy
Dbreeding63 – Fairwix Claxton and Agnes Muncy 4 4 Fairwick Claxton, Agnes Muncy
charlenecarlson0126 Fairwick Claxton, Agnes Muncy
Petwin73 – John Hill and Catherine Mitchell distant gone John Hill
Greatpyr616 – Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann distant distant Nancy Mann, Henry Bolton
Marsha Bolton – Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann distant gone Nancy Mann
Ctlynch01 – Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann distant gone
C.L.M. – Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann distant distant
Tjfhorn1 – Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann distant gone
johnryder42 – Nancy Mann absent distant Nancy Mann, Henry Bolton
Dblrich – Honore Lore and Marie Lafaille distant distant
Rkoelpin – Francois Lafaille distant gone
William Lowe94 – Joseph Preston Bolton distant distant Nancy Mann, Joseph Bolton
E.J.H. – John Francis Vannoy and Susannah Anderson distant gone
Rheainhatton – Francis Vannoy and Catherine Anderson distant gone
Viero111777 – John Francis Vannoy and Susannah Anderson distant gone
Maggiejames113 – John Francis Vannoy and Susannah Anderson distant gone
J.M. – John Vanoy distant gone
annelynnward1 – Jothan Brown absent distant
RWECIII – Jotham Brown distant gone
Raymond Brown – Jotham Brown distant distant
Tgbils917 – Jotham Brown distant gone
Skyrider3277 – Jotham Brown distant gone
Browndavid239 – Jotham Brown distant distant
R.G. – John R. Estes and Nancy Ann Moore distant gone
Chuck2810 – John R. Estes and Nancy Ann Moore distant distant
Lodikid – Andrew McKee distant distant
C.A.W. – Daniel Miller and Elizabeth Ulrich distant distant
Ostate4454 – John Campbell and Jane “Jenny” Dobkins distant distant John Campbell
melby01 – John Campbell and Jane Dobkins absent distant John Campbell
A.F.B. – Nicholas Speaks and Sarah Faires distant gone
nellf_1 – Nicholas Speaks and Sarah Faires absent distant Nicholas Speaks, Sarah Faires
Razzanozoo1 – Lois McNiel distant gone
EHVannoy – Joel Vannoy and Phoebe Crumley 3 3 Joel Vannoy, Phoebe Crumley
D.V. – Joel Vannoy and Phoebe Crumley 3 4 Joel Vannoy, Phoebe Crumley
Spklegirl- Francois LaFaille 4 gone
H.C. – Jacob Lentz and Frederica Moselman 4 distant Jacob Lentz
Alyssa- Lazarus Estes and Elizabeth Vannoy 4 4 Joel Vannoy, Phoebe Crumley
J.L.B. – Daniel Miller and Elizabeth Ulrich 3 4
drjcox51 – Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle absent distant
M.S. – private tree distant gone Not in circles
Christine414 – private tree distant gone Not in circles
DDicksson – private tree (Jane Dobkins and John Campbell) distant distant Not in circles
FruitofVine – private tree distant gone Not in circles
Lisa36ang – private tree distant distant Not in circles
J.M.F. – private tree distant gone Not in circles
1_perry22 – private tree distant gone Not in circles
Jcarolynbh – private tree distant gone Not in circles
Nanbowjack – private tree 4 4 Not in circles
L.W. – private tree (John R. Estes) 4 4 Not in circles
P.B. – private tree 4 4 Not in circles
1_cmarse – private tree 4 4 Not in circles
MDgenealogy20 – private tree 4 4 Not in circles
Susanharmon – private tree 4 4 Not in circles

Obviously, several people are in multiple circles.  There are a total of 15 DNA matches distributed between 12 circles.  That leaves 3,335 matches that aren’t helping me or correlated in any way.  While I do like the circles, I’m disappointed that so few of my matches sync up with pedigree charts.  It looks like there would be a lot more if Ancestry would review the matching routine, and perhaps more yet if they would reach beyond 7 generations.  But first steps first.

Some circles contain only DNA matches.  Others have more non-DNA matches (to me) but have a pedigree match to everyone in the DNA Circle. That’s really what these are, DNA circles that happen to have a common ancestor in their family tree.

Does a circle confirm that the connection to that ancestor is via DNA? Nope.  Does it confirm that your DNA connection to your match is from that ancestor?  Nope.  You still need a chromosome browser to do that – but this certainly helps.  It’s a step in the right direction.  It gives us another tool.  And, in some cases, like my Elijah Vannoy, changing the suspected parents periodically from one possibility to the other might be viewed as a new method of fishing.  So might changing the surname spelling.

And regarding that chromosome browser from Ancestry, well, all I can say is don’t hold your breath…

Truthfully, I’ll tell you exactly when we’ll get a chromosome browser.

Tim Sullivan, Ancestry’s CEO, is a genealogist, just like the rest of us. The day he has to transfer his autosomal file to a competitor to use their chromosome browser to confirm an ancestral match…well…I’m betting that’s the day a chromosome browser will become a priority for Ancestry.

So Tim, my friend, I wish for you a lot of new circles – including one just like my Hickerson match – one that you have been desperately seeking for say, about 30 years. Wouldn’t that be a great Christmas gift?  But, you see, I know that having a hint but not knowing, i.e., no proof, is going to just about kill you.  It will break your genealogist’s heart.  It will make you beat-your-head-against-the-wall insane.  Screaming yellow zonkers nuts.  I don’t want that to happen to you, or anyone else, for that matter.

So, while you’re waiting for Ancestry’s chromosome browser to be developed, here’s the link to Family Tree DNA so you can confirm your genetic ancestral match…assuming of course that you can also convince the other people to download their results from Ancestry to Family Tree DNA as well:)