Robert Vernon Estes (1931-1951), Nightmare: Prisoner of War – 52 Ancestors #207

Photo courtesy GraveHunter.

Robert Vernon Estes was born on March 27, 1931 to Lucille Latta and Joseph Harry “Dode” Estes, my father’s brother and best friend.

Robert’s nickname was Bobby. He enrolled in the Army during the Korean conflict and was captured on November 30, 1950. He was held as a prisoner of war and died in Korea on January 31, 1951. The family was not notified.

His nickname was Bobby.

This isn’t the end of Bobby’s story, but the beginning.

Bobby

Bobby is my uncle’s son. His father, Joseph “Dode” Harry Estes born September 13, 1904 in Claiborne Co., Tennessee and died December 9, 1994 in Fairfield, Wayne Co., Illinois.

Bobby has been a “missing” family member for years. His father, Dode, suffered from amnesia, probably from an automobile accident, and became lost to the family who believed he had died. With Dode’s absence, his sons also became lost to the family.

This week, I found Robert Vernon Estes. He is memorialized on FindAGrave, although his remains were never returned and he is not buried on American soil.

Bobby is listed at both Fold3.com and with the American Battle Monuments Commission, but some of that information was incorrect, such as his death date.

United States Korean War Battle Deaths
Name: Robert V Estes
Event Type: Death
Event Date: 30 Nov 1950 (captured on this date, he didn’t die until January 31, 1951)
Event Place: Korea
Gender: Male
Race: Caucasian
Citizenship Status: U.S. Citizen
Casualty Type Note: HOSTILE – Died while captured/interned
Military Service Branch: U S ARMY
Military Component Reserve (USAR, USNR, USAFR, USMCR, USCGR)
Military Rank: Private First Class
Service Number: 16312230
Birth Date: 1931
Residence Place: White (County), Indiana, United States
Source Reference: 7234

Newspapers.com hasn’t indexed the newspapers for Monticello, Indiana where his POW status, or death, would have been reported. MyHertiage hasn’t digitized the yearbook where he went to school either. However, FindAGrave has more, thanks to GraveHunter, including his regiment and division, which made it possible for me to track Bobby further.

Corporal Estes was a member of Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. He was taken Prisoner of War while fighting the enemy in North Korea on November 30, 1950 and died while a prisoner on January 31, 1951. His remains were not recovered. Corporal Estes was awarded the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Prisoner of War Medal, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal.

Bobby’s remains still have not been recovered or returned for burial, 67 years later.

I can’t help but wonder at the circumstances surrounding his death. Was he wounded as he was captured? Was he captured because he was wounded? Was he wounded or ill and left untreated? Or was it the unthinkable, unspeakable? Was he tortured to death?

The Korean War

The Korean War (1950-1953) began in June 1950 when the North Korean Communist army crossed the 38th parallel and invaded non-Communist South Korea. Armed with Soviet tanks, they quickly overran South Korea, executing every educated person who could, would or might lead a resistance against North Korea. The United States came to South Korea’s aid in a “police action” sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council.

The war lasted a miserable 3 years, with over 55,000 US men killed. The goal was to prevent a third world war. The American troops and people were frustrated with the lack of a decisive victory, unlike with WWI and WWII. Instead a divided Korea was established, with North Korea remaining a hostile dictatorship to this day.

The United States reported that North Korea mistreated prisoners of war. Soldiers were beaten, starved, put to forced labor, marched to death and summarily executed. War crimes were reported by both North and South Korea and document by photos of soldiers with piles of bodies. I can’t even look.

What Happened to Bobby?

From Wikipedia, we can surmise something of what was happening in Korea during the time Bobby was captured under the heading “China Intervenes.”

After consulting with Stalin, on 13 November, Mao appointed Zhou Enlai the overall commander and coordinator of the war effort, with Peng as field commander. On 25 November at the Korean western front, the PVA (Chinese People’s Volunteer Army) 13th Army Group attacked and overran the ROK (Republic of South Korea Army) II Corps at the Battle of the Ch’ongch’on River, and then inflicted heavy losses on the US 2nd Infantry Division on the UN forces’ right flank. The UN Command retreated; the U.S. Eighth Army’s retreat (the longest in US Army history) was made possible because of the Turkish Brigade’s successful, but very costly, rear-guard delaying action near Kunuri that slowed the PVA attack for two days (27–29 November). By 30 November, the PVA 13th Army Group managed to expel the U.S. Eighth Army from northwest Korea.

This is exactly when Bobby was captured, November 30th, so it would make sense that he was involved in the Battle of Ch’ongch’on River which was launched by General McArthur under the “Home by Christmas” offensive to expel the Chinese forces from the Korean peninsula and end the war. Not only did the war not end, no one came home by Christmas and Bobby still isn’t back.

This photo shows soldiers from the US 2nd Infantry Division in action near the Ch’ongch’on River on November 20th. This was Bobby’s unit just 10 days before his capture. For all we know, one of these men could be Bobby.

The terrain was rugged.

Soldiers from the Chinese 39th Corps pursue the US 25th Infantry Division. This wasn’t Bobby’s unit, but the pursuing Chinese probably didn’t look much different anyplace. Men chasing you, shooting guns is universally terrifying.

The Secret Report

A now declassified secret report states that on November 30, 1950, the day Bobby was captured, all records of the S-1 section were lost in the vicinity of Pugwon, Korea due to enemy action. This unit, Bobby’s, was known as the 9th “Manchu” infantry regiment. The secret report details the “defensive and rear-guard delaying action” that took place November 26-30 which followed an attack that had taken place November 12-25.

Extracted from the report:

On November 2nd, the unit was assigned to counterattack and destroy or hold the enemy that had broken through the Republic of Korea (now South Korea) lines and was advancing with no resistance.

On November 8th, the unit made contact with the enemy. On November 10th, tensions mounted and on the 11th, the unit celebrated Armistice Day “in its own special way firing a three-round concentration from all weapons at 1100 hours on appropriate enemy targets.”

The battled ensued until November 25th when the unit began the final push to crush the enemy and drive him across the Xaln River.

On November 25th, the 1st Battalion was attacked by the enemy and by 3 PM the following day, the entire 9th had been forced to withdraw and take up defensive positions across the Chongchon River.

On November 28th, they withdrew to Yongdam-Ni where a new defensive position was established. The 1st Battalion was attempting to withdraw from south of Pugwon.

Just before midnight, they fell under heavy enemy attack that completely cut them off until the early morning hours of November 27th when they fought their way free and reorganized in the vicinity of KuJang-Dong.

Under fire, on the 28th and 29th, the 9th reorganized in the vicinity of Kunu-Ri. As a result of the action from the late hours of the 25th to the 29th, the three battalions of the 9th had sustained over a 50% casualty rate, as a result leaving the 2nd and 3rd with less than 400 men each.

The 2nd was Bobby’s unit.

At approximately 8 PM on the 29th, a verbal order was received to attack and destroy the enemy roadblock on the Kunu-Ri-Sunchon Road. Combining the men left in each of the 2nd and 3rd into a reinforced company of approximately 400 men, the order was received and carried out during the remainder of November 29th and the early morning hours of November 30.

At 3:30 AM, the 2nd followed by the 3rd Battalion moved from the assembly area at Kunu-Ri to vicinity of the roadblock. At 6:30 AM, the 2nd Battalion on the right received enemy fire that increased in strength until 7 AM when enemy fire was coming from all sides. All vehicles withdrew. Although the fire continued for about 2 hours the unit held its position. The 3rd with a platoon of tanks contacted the enemy in the vicinity at approximately 7:15. The 9th advanced about 1000 yards through the roadblock until resistance of the enemy was such that farther progress forward was stopped.

The 9th completed a perimeter defense of the area and elements of the 2nd were allowed to pass through the roadblock. At 1:30 PM, with all available transport, the unit began to run the roadblock and engaged in a running fight while crossing it until 4 PM. However, enemy S/A fire was continuous and heavy along the entire 8 to 10 miles of the roadblock. The 2nd, on order, mounted all available transportation and engaged in a running fight with the enemy until reaching the vicinity of Sunchon at 4 PM. At 5:30 PM the group cleared the roadblock, taking fire on the rear and left flank, arriving in Sunchon area at 8 PM, proceeding to Hwange to set up a perimeter defense and reorganize.

Bobby clearly never made it to Sunchon. The report continues:

The regiment has suffered losses, heavy loses, in both men and equipment with what that undefined something that all great units have, the regiment wasn’t talking about the “downs” but what they would do the next time and hoping that time would be soon.

There was sadness, yes, but with that a grim determination that the enemy would pay, and pay the terrific price for what they had done. Instead of a defeated regiment the “Red” forces had succeeded in making a stronger, greater and inspired regiment of the 9th “Manchu” Infantry Regiment of the 2nd Infantry Division.

Signed, Edwin J. Messinger, Colonel, Infantry Commanding

The map above shows the roadblocks, the route along which Bobby was captured.

The declassified report includes summary documents stating that the regiment’s many losses occurred during November 27-30 “when the Chinese troops attacked our positions in overwhelming numbers. A total of 1766 battle casualties were suffered, 37 killed, 370 wounded and 1359 missing in action.”

On November 30th, the unit had a total of 257 enlisted men, but they don’t say whether that count is before or after the offensive.

The 2nd reported 15 killed, 125 wounded and 191 missing. They had started out with 798 on November 1st, so one way or another, lost 41% of their men. Bobby was one of those 191 missing, many of whom would have become prisoners of war.

The Gauntlet

This horrific battle was later named “The Gauntlet.”

Lieutenant Colonel William Kelleher of the US 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment described the carnage at the Gauntlet:

“For the next 500 yards the road was temporarily impassable because of the numerous burning vehicles and the pile up of the dead men, coupled with the rush of the wounded from the ditches, struggling to get aboard anything that rolled…either there would be bodies in our way, or we would be almost borne down by wounded men who literally throw themselves upon us…I squeezed [a wounded ROK soldier] into our trailer. But as I put him aboard, other wounded men piled on the trailer in such number that the Jeep couldn’t pull ahead. It was necessary to beat them off.”

A summary written later stated that when the North Korean forces collapsed, the Chinese sent their units to establish the roadblock which would have isolated and surrounded the entire Eighth Army. The 2nd infantry didn’t know the strength of the roadblock and US intelligence mistakenly reported that an alternative escape on the road from Kunu-ri to Anju was also blocked by the Chinese. Therefore, the unit decided to withdraw through the valley and the attack on the roadblock began.

On that fateful morning, four tanks were initially sent down the road, but the Chinese held their fire. The length of the roadblock caught the infantry by surprise, as they were not aware that it has been extended by the Chinese the previous day. The Chinese lured the unit into the trap, and the road was soon filled with bodies and disabled vehicles. The sterility of the official (now declassified) report belies the horror of the men inescapably trapped and abandoned there.

Those who tried to take cover in the ditches were left behind by the convoy rushing south. Air cover provided some protection in the day, but not at night. The Chinese finally blocked the road entirely by destroying parts of the 2nd Infantry Division which immobilized artillery pieces, forcing the abandonment of the rest of the vehicles. The men that could retreated by hiking through the hills, but not everyone was able to escape. The men from the 2nd, trapped in place, continued to fight after the rest had left.

In one of the last acts of the battle, the retreating 23rd infantry fired off its entire stock of 3,206 artillery shells within 20 minutes, shocking the Chinese troops and preventing them from following the regiment. The last stragglers from the 2nd Infantry division, the few left alive, arrived at Sunchon on December 1st.

On this satellite map, you can see Kaechon (Turk) near where the battle started, Sunchon and Anju, a distance of about 25 miles.

By comparing the rivers, I can map the rough location of the roadblocks. However, given the map distances and the fact that the roadblocks were reported to be 8-10 miles long, the roadblock area was probably about a third of the distance between Kaechon and Sunchon.

I believe this this region is the area where Bobby was captured. It’s somehow ironic that today, I’m viewing far more information about where their son was on that fateful day than either of Bobby’s parents were ever able to do in their lifetime. The report wasn’t declassified until after both of Bobby’s parents had died.

By the next day, the Chinese had moved on, but Bobby was in the hands of the North Koreans. The horrific final chapter of Bobby’s inescapable death had begun.

Korean Concentration Camps

Bobby didn’t die for 2 months and 1 day, so he very clearly was in some kind of detainment facility. I discovered this list of Korean POW camps. Based on proximity and the early date, the only camps possible where Bobby was held would have been:

  • Camp 5, [old] Pyoktong, 1950-52—town name moved after war

According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, the original site on the south bank of the Yalu River is believed to hold 550 remains of US servicemen.

The following holding points were in operation at that time as well:

  • The Valley at Sambakkol, mainly Nov 1950-Jan 1951 (near Pyongyang)
  • “Death Valley” at Pukchin-Tarigol, mainly Dec 1950-March 1953 (this site is believed to hold the remains of 350 US POWs)
  • “The Apex” camps at Chunggang-jin, Hanjang-ni, and An-dong, Nov 1950 to Oct 1951
  • Kanggye, used by POWs from the Chosin Reservoir, Dec 1950 to Mar 1951 (further east)

The official US POW/MIA page states that the majority of the men who died in these sites passed away during the winter of 1950-51 before food could be delivered reliably and shelter was haphazard at best. Temperatures in Korea in December and January range from 15-30 degrees. More than 7800 men were lost and remain unrecovered and about 5300 of those were lost in North Korea. This site shows a map with the locations of the various POW camps annotated.

This chills me to the bone.

Another soldier from Bobby’s unit captured in the same battle was sent to the Pukchin-Tarigol Camp Cluster, shown on the map below, about 30 miles north of Kaechon, where he starved to death on February 16, 1951, just two weeks after Bobby died.

Yet another soldier from the same unit captured at the same time died in the same prison camp four days before Bobby. There’s a reason it was called “Death Valley.” Those two soldiers were not listed on POW lists, were not among the remains returned in 1954 and were declared unrecoverable, but were found in a secondary burial site and returned in 2016 and 2018, respectively. Maybe there’s hope for Bobby yet.

I found the Pyoktong concentration camp location on the map as well, although the Korean War site says the town was moved after the war.

The notorious Pyoktong on the map today was located 60 or 70 miles north of Kaechon. Death Valley would have been closer to where Bobby was captured.

Exorbitant death rates in concentration camps probably account for the 900% (not a typo) discrepancy in the number of POWs that North Korea officially claimed to have held after the war, as compared to their own announcements and known South Korean captives during the war.

The original Pyoktong location is shown in the photo below on the south bank of the Yalu River that divides China and North Korea.

It’s reported that more than 2000 bodies are buried behind this location.

The 55 sets of remains (of over 7700+ still missing) that were recently returned by Korea only included one set with dogtags, and they weren’t Bobby’s. Given that Bobby was a POW for 2 months, they clearly had his tags. It’s unlikely that any of the remains repatriated are his.

Bobby’s Military Awards

I wondered if the awards that Bobby received posthumously might tell us more about his duty. Regardless, he deserves to be fully recognized for each one.

Combat Infantryman Badge – Awarded to infantrymen and special forces soldiers who fought in ground combat after December 6, 1941.

Prisoner of War Medal – Awarded to any person who was taken prisoner or held captive while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States

Korean Service Medal – Created November 1950 by President Harry Truman for participation in the Korean War.

United Nations Service Medal – An international military decoration established by the United Nations December 12, 1950 in recognition of the multi-national defense forces which participated in the Korean War. The back reads “For service in the defence (sic) of the principles of the charter of the United Nations.”

National Defense Service Medal – Established by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953, the medal is a “blanket campaign medal” awarded to service members who served honorably during a designated time period of which a “national emergency” had been declared during a time of war or conflict. This medal is awarded to men who served in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War or the War on Terrorism.

Korean Presidential Unit Citation – Award presented by the government of South Korea to any military unit of outstanding performance in defense of the Republic of Korea. In recognition of allied military service to South Korea during the Korean War, all US military departments were authorized the unit award for that period.

Republic of Korea War Service Medal – Military award of South Korea originally authorized in December of 1950 to honor those who participated in the counter assaults against North Korean aggression in June 1950. In 1951, South Korea authorized the award to “the brave and valiant members of the United Nations Command who have been, and are now, combatting the communist aggressor in Korea.”

Epilogue

Bobby’s mother, Lucille Latta Stockdale died on August 18, 1952 of a stroke at age 45.  She only knew that Bobby was missing, not that he had died. Or did she, in her mother’s heart? She must have worried every single hour of single every one of those 625 days between his capture and her death.

As a mother, I can’t even begin to imagine how Lucille suffered. Surely she hoped for the best. And feared the worst. Every minute of every single hour

She probably jumped every time a phone rang or someone knocked at the door. She would have been constantly waiting for a good news call, or, for the dreaded telegram to arrive. Would it be Bobby’s voice on the other end of the line, or the men in military uniform at the door, bearing dreadful news?

It was never either.

Did the constant stress of his captivity lead to her stroke? It certainly didn’t help, that’s for sure.

I wonder when the family was finally notified? I knew that my uncle’s son had been killed in “the war,” but I never knew any details, including which war, when he died, nor even Bobby’s name.

My own father died when I was young, although he kept in touch with his brother as best he could until they were both lost to all of us.

His Namesake

As I processed this heartbreaking sequence of information: the battles, Bobby’s capture, his horrific time spent in Korea including those torturous last two months, his prolonged “absence” that was in fact the stillness of death, his mother’s demise and his father’s subsequent disappearance – the warmth of a revelation suddenly crept across me like sunshine emerging from the clouds after a devastating storm.

I had always known I was named “for” someone, but I had never known who that someone was. I knew positively it wasn’t anyone on my mother’s side. Mother said my father selected my first name and she chose my middle name. She seemed none too happy about that circumstance, but it was years too late when she and I had that discussion. My mother had ongoing issues with my father, but if she had known I was named for Bobby, and the circumstances, she would have told me with pride.

Now, I realize that I was named for Robert Vernon Estes, along with his nickname, Bobby, which my father bestowed upon me as well. I love my nickname, which I spell Bobbi, but I was never the least bit pleased with Roberta. I never understood. That’s all different now.

Robert, I’m busting-at-the-seams proud to be your namesake. I will stand in the stead of your parents until my death, still praying that we can bring you home soon, hoping that the least I can do is stand at your graveside as you are buried. It would be my honor.

Thank you for your service, your name and your ultimate sacrifice.

Ancestry Step by Step Guide: How to Upload-Download DNA Files

In this Upload-Download Series, we’ll cover each major vendor:

  • How to download raw data files from the vendor
  • How to upload raw data files to the vendor, if possible
  • Other mainstream vendors where you can upload this vendor’s files

Uploading TO Ancestry

This part is easy with Ancestry, because Ancestry doesn’t accept any other vendor’s files. There is no ability to upload TO Ancestry. You have to test with Ancestry if you want results from Ancestry.

Downloading FROM Ancestry

In order to transfer your autosomal DNA file to another testing vendor, or GedMatch, for either matching or ethnicity, you’ll need to first download the file from Ancestry.

Step 1

Sign in to your account at Ancestry and click on the DNA Results Summary link.

Step 2

Click on the Settings gear, at the far upper right hand corner of the summary page, just beneath your Ancestry user ID.

Step 3

Click on the link for “Download Raw DNA Data.”

Step 4

Enter your password and click on “I Understand,” after reading of course.

At that point, the confirm button turns orange – click there.

Step 5

Ancestry will send an e-mail to the e-mail address where you are registered with Ancestry. Check your inbox for that e-mail.

Waiting…waiting.

Still waiting…

If the e-mail doesn’t arrive shortly, check your spam folder. If you’ve changed e-mail addresses, check to be sure your new one is registered with Ancestry. That’s on the same Settings page. If all else fails, request the e-mail again.

Step 6

Ahhh, it’s finally here.

Click on the green “Confirm Data Download” and do not close the window.

Step 7

Next, click on the green “Download DNA Raw Data.”

You’ll see the following confirmation screen.

Step 8

At the bottom of the page, above, if you’re on a PC, you’ll see the typical file download box that asks you if you want to open or save. Save the file as a name you can find later when you want to upload to another site.

The file name will be “dna-data-2018-07-31” where the date is the date you downloaded the file. I would suggest adding the word Ancestry to the front when you save the file on your system.

Most vendors want an unopened zip file, so if you want to open your file, first copy it to another name. Otherwise, you’ll have to download again.

That’s it, you’re done!

Ancestry File Transfers to Other Vendors

Ancestry testing falls into two different categories. V1 tests taken before May of 2016 and V2 tests taken after May 2016. Tests processed during May 2016 could be either version.

The difference between V1 and V2 files is that Ancestry changed the chips they use to test and different DNA positions are tested, resulting in a file of a different format.

If you don’t remember when you tested, make a copy of your Ancestry file using a different name, like, “Opened Ancestry file 7-31-2018.” Then just click to open the zip file.

The first four rows of the file will say something like this:

#AncestryDNA raw data download
#This file was generated by AncestryDNA at: 08/11/2017 07:23:49 UTC
#Data was collected using AncestryDNA array version: V1.0
#Data is formatted using AncestryDNA converter version: V1.0

This is a version 1 (V1) file.

A version 2 file will say V2.0.

Your upload results to other vendors’ sites will vary in terms of both matching and ethnicity accuracy based on your Ancestry version number, as follows:

From below to >>>>>>>>>>> Family Tree DNA Accepts ** MyHeritage Accepts*** 23andMe Accepts* GedMatch Accepts ****
Ancestry before May 2016 (V1) Yes, fully compatible Yes, fully compatible No Yes
Ancestry after May 2016 (V2) Yes, partly compatible Yes, fully compatible No Yes

*Note that 23andMe earlier in 2018 allowed a one-time transfer from Ancestry, but people who transferred results did not receive matches from 23andMe.

**Note that the transfer to Family Tree DNA and matching is free, but advanced tools including the chromosome browser and ethnicity require a $19 unlock fee. That fee is less expensive than retesting, but V2 customers should consider retesting to obtain fully compatible matching and ethnicity results. V2 tests typically receive only the closest 20-25% of matches they would receive if they tested directly at Family Tree DNA.

***MyHeritage utilizes a technique known as imputation to achieve compatibility between different vendors files. The transfer and tools are free, but without a subscription you can’t fully utilize all of the MyHeritage benefits available.

****I’m not sure exactly how GedMatch compensates for the V1 versus V2 differences, but they can handle both data file types. Most people don’t take both tests, but I was conducting an experiment and have uploaded both V1 and V2 tests.

A quick survey of GedMatch matches to my Ancestry V1 and Ancestry V2 kits shows that of my first 249 (125 V2, 124 V1) matches, I have 3 V1 tests that don’t have a corresponding match to a person on the V2 kit, and 5 V2 kits that don’t have a corresponding V1 kit match. That’s roughly a 6% nonmatch rate between Ancestry V1 and V2 kits. I would presume that as the genealogical and genetic distance increases with more distant matches, so would the percentage of non-matches because the segment size is smaller with more distant matches, so there is less matching DNA to have the opportunity to match in the first place.

Testing and Transfer Strategy

My recommendation, if you test at Ancestry, is to transfer your V1 results to MyHeritage, Family Tree DNA and GedMatch.

An Ancestry V1 test is entirely compatible at Family Tree DNA, but with a V2 test, because the testing platform that Ancestry uses is only about 20-25% compatible with the Family Tree DNA test, you’ll only receive your closest 20-25% matches. Family Tree DNA can’t match on those smaller segments if you don’t test on a compatible platform, so please do.

If you have Ancestry V2 results, transfer to MyHeritage and GedMatch but retest at Family Tree DNA. The cost difference at Family Tree DNA between the $19 unlock and a new Family Finder test is $60, for a total of $79 when the tests aren’t on sale. When they are on sale, it’s less. Right now, the tests are only $59.

You never know which match is going to break down that brick wall, and it would be a shame to miss it because you transferred rather than retested.

Matching and ethnicity is free with a transfer to MyHeritage, but you won’t receive the full potential benefit of SmartMatching without a subscription, as free trees are limited to 250 people and genealogical records aren’t included without a subscription. My subscription has been well worth the $.

_____________________________________________________________________

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When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

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John Whitney Ferverda (1882-1962) in the 1966 Yearbook? – 52 Ancestors #206

When MyHeritage first began autosomal DNA testing, I transferred my autosomal DNA test to MyHeritage (for free) and purchased a records subscription with little hope that a company out of Israel would have the focus or records to provide anything that an American company wouldn’t already have, or that I, as a decades long genealogist wouldn’t have already uncovered. But genealogists are desperate creatures and we’ll try anything once.

I’m happy to say, I was wrong.

The combination of my DNA and my tree, separately and together has provided a smorgasbord of new information. Of course, I view other people’s trees with the requisite grain of salt, or the entire lick, same as anyplace else. However, the MyHeritage record matches are golden, as are the DNA Smartmatches which combine DNA matches and trees with common ancestors. Just yummy!

The Yearbooks

At Rootstech 2018 when Gilad Japhet, MyHeritage’s CEO announced that they were digitizing yearbooks, I thought that was nice, but I don’t care about my own generation and yearbooks wouldn’t be relevant for my parents and grandparents.

My Mom graduated in 1940 and her parents were born in 1882 and 1888. Did yearbooks even exist as a “thing” back then? Even if they did, my mother’s family was from a small Brethren farming community in northern Indiana and my father’s family from a mountain community in Appalachia. I guarantee you there were no yearbooks in Claiborne County, Tennessee at that time. There were barely schools.

Well, guess what – I was wrong again.

I sure am glad I have that MyHeritage subscription.

Here’s the notification e-mail I received.

When I saw the year, 1966, I almost deleted this e-mail, but I’m so glad I didn’t. It seems that the 1966 Leesburg High School yearbook included historical photos which MyHeritage indexed as well.

Oswego 1900

Yearbooks, it turns out, aren’t just for high schools.

In 1900, the entire school in Oswego, Indiana turned out in front of the building for a photo. My grandfather, John Whitney Ferverda, was among the students and so were several of his siblings.

The Ferverda family was a significant contributor to the Oswego student population that year.

I didn’t know that my grandfather attended school at Oswego. They lived near Leesburg, so I assumed he attended school there. There’s that nasty word again. It appears that that Oswego children were considered Leesburg alumni? How’s that, when my grandfather turned 18 years old in 1900, so clearly graduating that year or the next?

The answer is found in a Fort Wayne, Indiana newspaper article in 1917 stating that:

“The first real commencement exercises of the Leesburg High School were held last week in the Methodist Church. Leesburg adopted the four-year high school last year and not much attention was paid to the graduating class.”

There were only two graduates in 1917, Donald Ferverda, my grandfather’s brother, being the valedictorian.

I’ve researched in the local libraries in the area too, and either they don’t have these yearbooks, or I never thought to look. The great thing about these notifications is that you don’t have to know to look. Plus, I would have NEVER looked in 1966, for anything, in Leesburg. My family was long gone by then.

The family always said they were from Leesburg, probably because “Grandma Ferverda” moved to town in her later years, but the original family farm was actually probably closer to Oswego.

I know, from family members that the Ferverda family lived on the same road as the Old Salem Church of the Brethren, about a mile south of the church. Unfortunately, Google Street view doesn’t follow the length of this road.

In any case, wherever the farm was located on this couple mile stretch, it wasn’t far from Oswego – actually closer than to Leesburg.

But that wasn’t the only surprise.

Yearbooks aren’t just for students.

School Trustee

My grandfather, John Ferverda, married Edith Lore in 1908 and they settled down the road about 20 miles in Silver Lake, Indiana where John was the railroad station master.

My mother graduated from Silver Lake High School in 1940, and beginning in 1946, my grandfather became a trustee. Who knew!

These yearbook photos provide some wonderful mid-life photos of my grandfather – none of which I’ve ever seen before. It looks like the trustees had their pictures taken every year too. My grandfather would have been 64 in 1946 and 68 in 1950, so this gives me a 5 year span of pictures.

The next mystery is why his name is in capital letters when not all of the trustees were.

John Ferverda continued as a trustee through 1950 which included a larger photo page as well.

Of course, this now begs the question of whether there were yearbooks when my mother was attending school in Silver Lake. I doubt it, but I’d surely love to be wrong for the third time. It’s back to MyHeritage to look.

All About Family Tree DNA: Webinar at Family Tree University

I’ve been teaching through Family Tree University for some time now, and I love the opportunity to reach more people through both live webinars and recorded classes.

Family Tree University offers a wide variety of courses, not just about genetic genealogy. You can read about how those course work here.

One of the things I like is that you can watch or “attend” anytime, and the courses are downloadable. Their live webinars are also available after they take place for members and people that couldn’t make it in person. After all, it’s always 3AM someplace and genealogists DO have to sleep sometime!

My live presentation of All About Family Tree DNA is scheduled for August 15 at 6 PM Central Standard Time and will be held using GoToWebinar. I’ll be taking questions online after the presentation. If you can’t attend, the recorded version will be available within 2 business days, and generally very quickly.

The price is $49.99 and you can enroll here.

What’s in the Webinar?

Family Tree DNA is the only genealogy testing company offering Y-DNA and mtDNA testing and matching in addition to autosomal. Y DNA tests the direct paternal (surname) line for males and mitochondrial DNA tests the direct matrilineal line for everyone. You can read more about how these tests work in the short article, 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy.

This webinar will familiarize attendees with the variety of test options at Family Tree DNA so you can create an informed testing strategy. You’ll also learn the tools Family Tree DNA offers for understanding and applying your DNA results to your genealogy research, from their matching tools to their surname studies.

The All About Family Tree DNA webinar is for you if:

  • you want to integrate different types of DNA testing into your genealogy research
  • you want to know what tools Family Tree DNA offers for working with your test results
  • you’re thinking about doing a mtDNA or y-DNA test, either for you or someone in your family

I’ll be stepping through all of the Y, mitochondrial and autosomal products, tools and how to use them for genealogy.

The timing of this webinar is great, because Family Tree DNA is in the middle of their summer sale. If you want to purchase a test or an upgrade, there’s no better time. You can view the prices and combo bundles here.

Hope to see you on Wednesday!

_____________________________________________________________________

Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure appears at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

I provide Personalized DNA Reports for Y and mitochondrial DNA results for people who have tested through Family Tree DNA. I provide Quick Consults for DNA questions for people who have tested with any vendor. I would welcome the opportunity to provide one of these services for you.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate.  If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase.  Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay.  This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 900 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc.  In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received.  In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product.  I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community.  If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA, or one of the affiliate links below:

Affiliate links are limited to:

Family Tree DNA Group Project Privacy Levels

Recently, Family Tree DNA sent two emails about the new Group Project privacy settings and policies that are now in effect. The first email was to project members, and the second was to administrators.

I’m combining information from both in this article, along with step-by-step instructions for what you need to do, whether you’re a project member or a project administrator.

Before GDPR came into force in May 2018, group project administrators had more latitude to help project members by viewing all fields and being able to change some that weren’t deemed critical to privacy. For example, administrators could add the member’s most distant ancestor, help them with a tree or enter the mapped location of their direct maternal or paternal ancestor. Administrators could not change personal things like name, e-mail, contact information or passwords.

With the arrival of GDPR, Family Tree DNA implemented changes in order to achieve compliance which had the unfortunate effect of restricting administrators’ ability drastically. With the pressure of the GDPR deadline past, Family Tree DNA has rethought some of the restrictions and made welcome modifications.

Who is Affected and What Changed?

Anyone who has tested at Family Tree DNA and is a member of any project is affected, even if you may not realize that you are.

Before we go any further, let’s discuss the privacy settings which fall into basically three categories:

  • very low
  • medium (normal)
  • high

In the chart below, we see the names assigned to the levels as of the GDPR rollout, and now. The names have changed.

The May 2018 names were problematic because some project members became confused, thinking that Project Only was giving full access for this project. Additionally, Full access wasn’t full, but did allow some modifications. Therefore, in an effort to minimize confusion, Family Tree DNA has now renamed the access levels. The () are my descriptions.

The GDPR Transition

In May, the pre-GDPR privacy settings for project members were programmatically converted to the new settings, the result being that many project members were converted over with new settings that were much more restrictive than they were previously. I am still hopeful that this issue will be addressed, because the expectation of individuals who joined projects in the 19 years before GDPR was that the administrators had access to work with their results – and always would have. Many of those individuals have been project members for years and have now passed away, eliminating any possibility of the project administrator obtaining even limited (partial view only) access from the member.

For example, with Minimal access, administrators can’t see either members results or trees. With Limited Access, project administrators can’t see the member’s personal profile or privacy selections, but at least can view their tree and results.

Furthermore, anyone who joined a project after May 25th was joined at the minimal level, requiring the new member to change their settings to Limited, providing the administrators a reasonable level of access. Most people didn’t realize that, and therefore the majority of people who have recently joined projects remain at the minimal level.

New Joins No Longer Default to Minimal

When joining a project, new members are currently given the option of assigning an administrator a level – meaning the minimum privacy level is no longer assigned as a default. This is a HUGE improvement.

Due to the transition as well as the “join” policy between May and August leaving many people with Miminum settings, project administrators may want to contact individuals who currently have the Minimum level and ask them to change their settings.

Moving Forward

What matters currently is that you, or kits you manage, may now be at the MOST restrictive level which was originally called “Project Only” after conversion, but has now been renamed as “Minimal Required.”

From my perspective, if a group member does not want the administrators working with their results, they shouldn’t join the project. The purpose and focus of projects is collaboration.

New Settings and Permissions

The chart below, now shown to people when they join projects, summarizes the various abilities that administrators have under Minimal, Limited and Advanced.

With the most restrictive “Minimal Required” setting, administrators cannot see critical items such as a member’s tree or who they match. Minimal Required is extremely restrictive, which means that administrators can’t group the individual within the project appropriately.

With the original GDPR privacy rollout, many people were automatically converted to what is now “Minimal Required” and are unaware that their privacy selection has been downgraded.

Access Now Granted To Individual Administrators

Another change is that members now grant each individual project administrator a specific and different level of access unique to that administrator.

This change is quite beneficial, because you may want to grant one project administrator Advanced access which allows them to change some fields, while granting the rest Limited.

New Administrators

In this latest update, you can now grant all future project administrators an access level too, creating a legacy for future project administrators to have access to your results at the level you select.

After GDPR, new project administrators were only granted “minimal” access to every project member, meaning that in essence, new administrators were entirely hamstrung if every project member didn’t individually change their access for that administrator.

Needless to say, project members who joined projects before GDPR did not expect this would ever happen. Many have died or become disinterested and that meant that their results would forever be unavailable to new administrators.

Granting at least minimal access to future administrators assures that your DNA within a project will never be dead.

Another change last week was that new administrators are now granted Limited access, unless you specifically select either Minimal or Advanced access for new administrators.

Advanced Versus True Full Access

Advanced access is not the same as full access.

If you want an individual, project administrator or otherwise, to truly have full access to your account, you need to personally give them your kit number and password, realizing that allows them to function entirely “as you.” I have done this, because when I die, I want my DNA legacy to live vibrantly into the future.

Beneficiary

Speaking of legacy, please take this opportunity to complete your beneficiary form so that Family Tree DNA knows who to allow access to your account after your death.

Access Levels

Bottom line – you need to check BOTH your “Privacy and Sharing” setting along with “Project Preferences” for each project that you belong to because your settings may be much more restrictive than you think they are.

Privacy and Sharing

The Privacy and Sharing tab allows your results to be shown in the public project.

You MUST OPT IN to project sharing, or your results won’t be included in the public project display.

Most people don’t realize that the default is to NOT SHOW in a project, believing that if they join a project, their results will automatically be anonymously displayed in the public portion of the project. You must opt-in, so be sure that little box at the right side of the Group Project Profile is checked.

Project Preferences

The Project Preferences tab is where you grant project administrator rights.

Let’s look at the various group project preference privacy levels; Minimal, Limited and Advanced, and what they provide.

Level: Minimal Required

From the Family Tree DNA Learning Center:

Minimal Required is the most limited access level. This access level permits the Group Administrator or co-administrator to access project administration tools that allow him or her to view certain results in relation to how you match other project members; however, this access level does not allow the administrator to visit your myFTDNA pages.

The following table lists the Group Administration Pages and the corresponding group member information viewable by administrators assigned the Minimal Required level:

Minimal Required
Group Administration Report Page* Viewable Information
Profile Information
(viewable by Group Administrators, co-administrators, and other project members in multiple locations)
  • Name
  • Email
Maternal and Paternal Ancestry
  • Maternal and Paternal
    Country of Origin
    (from release form only)
  • Most distant ancestor and location
  • Family tree (if public)
Order Summary
  • Y-STR
  • Big Y-500
  • mtDNA
  • Deep Clade
  • Family Finder
  • Geno 2.0
Pending and Received Lab Results
  • Pending lab results
  • Completed lab results
Received and Unreceived Kits
  • Kit status
FF Illumina OmniExpress Matrix
  • Matrix of in-project members and who they match
FF Illumina OmniExpress Results
  • Comparison and download of in-project matches and their chromosome information
mtDNA Results Classic
  • Haplogroup
  • HVR1/2 mutations
  • Coding region mutations
    (only if authorized)
Y-DNA Genetic Distance
  • Subgroup
Y-DNA TiP Report
  • Genetic distance to other project members
Y-DNA Results
  • Haplogroup
  • STR marker values
Y-DNA Results Classic
  • Haplogroup
  • STR marker values
Y-DNA Results Colorized
  • Haplogroup
  • STR marker values
Y-DNA SNP
  • SNPs
Member Subgrouping
  • SNPs
Activity Feed
  • Postings

*These pages are only accessible by Group Administrators and co-administrators unless otherwise noted.

Level: Limited and Advanced

Limited is the recommended access level. This level of access permits the Group Administrator or co-administrator to visit and view certain information on your myFTDNA pages in order to assist with kit management and to better facilitate project research. Additionally, this access level includes all of the permissions granted with the Minimal Required level.

For more information on the permissions granted with this level, see the below Limited and Advanced Access table.

Advanced access permits the Group Administrator or co-administrator to visit, view, and modify certain information on your myFTDNA pages in order to assist with kit management and better facilitate project research. Additionally, this access level includes all of the permissions granted with the Limited access level.

The Advanced access level is designed to allow an individual administrator to fully manage a project member’s kit and function on their behalf. This includes ordering products and modifying information with the exceptions of the primary email address and project preferences for other Group Projects.

The following table lists your myFTDNA pages and the corresponding limitations and permissions granted to the administrator with the Limited and Advanced access levels.

Note: In addition to the personal information mentioned below, administrators for Group Projects of which you are a member and whom you have assigned Limited or Advanced access and administrators to whom your matches have granted Limited or Advanced access, will be able to view your profile, match information (e.g., Common Matches, Genetic Distances, and Shared Segments) and some Genetic Information (e.g., genetic markers and ethnicity information).

Limited and Advanced
Group Member myFTDNA Page Limited (Recommended)
(read only)
Advanced
(modify capability)
myFamilyTree Yes Yes
Complete Order History Yes Yes
Personal Surveys No Yes
Products and Upgrades
(Ability to purchase tests or upgrades
for group member)
No Yes
Family Finder
Family Finder Raw Data Download No Yes
Family Finder Matches Yes Yes
Download Family Finder Matches Yes Yes
Family Finder Linked Relationship Yes Yes
Family Finder Chromosome Browser Yes Yes
Download Family Finder Chromosome Browser Yes Yes
Family Finder myOrigins Yes Yes
Family Finder Shared Origins Yes Yes
Family Finder ancientOrigins Yes Yes
Family Finder Matrix Yes Yes
Population Finder Survey No Yes
Family Finder Advanced Matches Yes Yes
mtDNA
mtDNA Download Matches Yes Yes
mtDNA View Matches Yes Yes
mtDNA Ancestral Origins Yes Yes
mtDNA Matches Maps Yes Yes
mtDNA Migration Maps Yes Yes
mtDNA Haplogroup Origins Yes Yes
mtDNA Print Certificates No Yes
mtDNA Download FASTA No Yes
mtDNA View Results Yes Yes
mtDNA Advanced Matches Yes Yes
Y-DNA and Big Y-500
Y-DNA Download Matches Yes Yes
Y-DNA View Matches Yes Yes
Y-DNA Ancestral Origins Yes Yes
Y-DNA Haplotree & SNPs Yes Yes
Y-DNA SNPs Download Yes Yes
Y-DNA Matches Maps Yes Yes
Y-DNA Migration Maps Yes Yes
Y-DNA SNP Map Yes Yes
Y-DNA Haplogroup Origins Yes Yes
Y-DNA Print Certificates No Yes
Y-DNA Download Y-STR Results Yes Yes
Y-DNA View Y-STR Results Yes Yes
Y-DNA Advanced Yes Yes
Big Y-500 Results Yes Yes
Big Y-500 Matches Yes Yes
Big Y-500 BAM File Download No Yes
Big Y-500 Download VCF No Yes
Y-DNA Advanced Matches Yes Yes
Other Results
All Factoids Results No Yes
X-STR Yes Yes
Individual Y-STR Yes Yes
Individual Autosomal Markers Yes Yes
Applications
Partner Applications No Yes
Vitagene Wellness No No
Account Settings
Contact Information No Yes (except primary email)
Change Password No Yes (must know the current password to change it)
Beneficiary Information No Yes
Earliest Known Ancestors Yes Yes
Surnames Yes Yes
Privacy & Sharing Yes Yes
Project Preferences Yes Yes*
Notification Preferences Yes Yes
Projects
Join a Project Yes Yes

* An administrator granted Advanced access has the ability to modify permissions for administrators in other projects who have Limited or Minimal Required access; however, they cannot grant Advanced access to or remove Advanced access from any other administrator or co-administrator. Additionally, administrators granted Advanced access by a member can, on the member’s behalf, leave other projects with the exception of those having administrators who also have Advanced access.

Checking Your Settings – Step by Step Instructions

Step 1

Sign on to your account at Family Tree DNA and select the orange “Manage Personal Information,” right under your Profile photo, or the location reserved for the photo.

Then click on the Project Preferences tab:

Click on the Edit function which shows you the current level for each administrator in a specific project, allowing you to select a new level, and then allowing you to pre-select a new level for all new future administrators of this project.

I strongly recommend that you pre-select (at least) the Limited Access level.

Then, click on Accept which shows you a summary of your new selections.

Click “Confirm” and you’re all set.

You’ll need to repeat this step to check administrator rights for all projects that you have joined.

Step 2

Next, click on the privacy and sharing tab to opt in to Project Sharing. You only have to do this one time, but if you don’t – your results will NOT BE INCLUDED in any public projects.

Why is that important?

Public project displays encourage people to participate in DNA testing and join projects, especially Y and mitochondrial. If they see several lines tested, they are much more likely to purchase a test to see if they match a line they think might be theirs. Projects serve as advertising which helps all genealogists.

So please, opt in!

Project Administrators

If you’re a Family Tree DNA project administrator, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Review your Member Information List for members who have the minimal setting AND those who are not publicly sharing their DNA results.

In my Estes project of 327 individuals, 32 converted with Minimal access, including my immediate family members whose kits I manage. I don’t know if this 10% number holds true across all projects, but that’s a nontrivial number of people whose results you can’t access, and who you can’t help.

You’ll need to do the following:

  • Educate your members about why you need either Limited or Full Access as well as why they want to consider allowing their results to be publicly displayed.
  • If as an administrator, you’ve elected to prevent your project from publicly displaying, please consider making your project public. Family Tree DNA does not display the results of any individual in a project who does not opt-in to having their results shown publicly – so you don’t have to worry about that.
  • Using the administrator’s Bulk Email function, send a project e-mail with instructions for how to check and select new Project Preference administrator settings as well as where to find the Project Sharing opt-in. (Feel free to link to this article.)
  • Follow-up by sending individual e-mails to members who don’t change their settings.
  • If you have a number of people in your project who are not grouped, you can group people with “Minimal” access into one group, and send a group e-mail to only them. I think that would be easier than e-mailing everyone individually, but as a project administrator, I’m committed to doing whatever needs to be done to preserve the integrity of my projects.

Getting Help

  • If you run into problems and need help, you can call Family Tree DNA at 713-868-1438 M-F 9-5 CST and select the customer support option or initiate a support request by clicking on help at the very bottom of every page.
  • If you’re a project administrator and run into problems, don’t forget that Family Tree DNA has a Group Support Department to help administrators. You can call the same number and select the option for groups or e-mail groups@ftdna.com.

_____________________________________________________________________

Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure appears at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

I provide Personalized DNA Reports for Y and mitochondrial DNA results for people who have tested through Family Tree DNA. I provide Quick Consults for DNA questions for people who have tested with any vendor. I would welcome the opportunity to provide one of these services for you.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 900 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA, or one of the affiliate links below:

Affiliate links are limited to:

Eleven “Soldier Boy” Love Letters from the Lost Summer of 1919 – 52 Ancestors #205

By June of 1919, my father, William Sterling Estes had already served more than two full years in the military. Born in either 1901 or 1902, he enlisted in May 1917 when he was either 14 or 15 years young. He was discharged as a Sergeant First Class in May of 1919 and re-enlisted the next day in the Army 10th Infantry. His re-enlistment papers tell us that he was a marksman, not mounted, no battles, no medals, no wounds, good condition, typhoid shots, paratyphoid and he was single.

Dad was stationed at Camp Custer, then named Fort Custer, near Battle Creek, Michigan for most of his time in the service. He was included in this human shield of 30,000 soldiers, the photo taken from the Camp Custer water tower in 1918.

WWI was coming to an end in the summer of 1919, thankfully.

Somehow, probably on leave, Dad met Virgie Houtz who lived in Dunkirk, Indiana. In the summer of 1919, Virgie was 16 years old and attended high school.

Dad was either turning 17 or 18 that October, but in one of his letters to Virgie, he told her he was turning 20. We know for a fact that wasn’t true. Not only is he not on the 1900 census, his sisters said that he was born in 1902 and several other pieces of documentation point to either 1901 or 1902 as his birth year. The 1910 census tells us that he was 8 years old in April. He was born on October 1st, so he would have turned 9 later than year, which means his birth year was 1901 if the census is accurate.

Dad and Virgie fell in love that summer. They were two starry-eyed young kids – except one of them had been toughened by being turned out on his own at age 12, then fending for himself until he was old enough to “age himself” appropriately so he could join the military. I’m guessing the Army was his best bet for regular meals.

Indeed, he was one handsome lad. He was also still a boy, and a boy who had been rejected and abandoned by both parents before he was even a teenager. Dad had completed only 8th grade, according to later census records, which would have been about the time he and his younger brother Joe hopped a train for Tennessee when his parents split and neither parent wanted the boys. Dad would further his education later, but in 1919, he wrote amazingly well, considering.

The Letters

Ninety-nine years ago, almost exactly a century, as I sit here today light-years removed, my father was using a fountain pen and ink well to write letters to his sweetheart after he finished his duties on the military base including feeding the horses which were widely used in the war effort.

In total, 14 envelopes and 11 well-worn letters remain.

From these historical gems, we gain an intrusive glimpse into their young love, and as a side-note, we also get to peer into his life at Camp Custer.

Reading these letters felt almost invasive, like I was a peeping tom, peering into something intensely personal. However, when this bundle arrived roughly 8 decades after he penned each letter with lovesick yearning, years after both of their deaths, I was exceedingly grateful to Virgie’s daughter for sending them. I read them with much trepidation, unsure of exactly what each page would reveal.

In addition to the letters, Virgie’s daughter included several photos that Virgie had cherished all of those years.

This treasure trove was truly amazing, all things considered. All things? What are those “all things?”

This is an unbelievably bittersweet love story. I’ll let Virgie’s letters and photos tell their story of summer love.

Bill and Virgie

My father was obviously very smitten with Virgie. Smitten doesn’t quite do this justice. I think the phrase head-over-heels-in-love is a better description.

We have Dad’s letters to Virgie, but of course, we don’t know what her letters to him said – although we catch some glimpses of that as well, between the lines so to speak.

I am sharing some of his letters, but not all. As you might guess, if you remember being 15 or 16 and lovestruck, they say “I love you” in every single way possible over and over. I’ll spare you that. I’d also like to afford them some privacy, even in death.

The first letter is dated June 25th, 1919.

Dad opens by telling Virgie that it’s 7:05 AM, he had already fed the horses, ate his own breakfast and is taking a few minutes to write to her. He calls her “Blue Eyes” and asks why he has only received one letter from her. He says he has written 4 to her. This appears to have been a whirlwind romance that turned serious quickly. He jokes that if she keeps it up, meaning not writing, she may “be without a hubby,” so they are obviously discussing a permanent relationship – whirlwind or not.

At first I thought he meant he had written her 4 letters since she wrote one, but based on later exchanges, I think this was actually the beginning of the relationship and he had just left Dunkirk a few days earlier.

He says that since coming back to Battle Creek:

“The girls there don’t abount (sic) to a hill of beans.”

Yep, he’s hooked!

I’m guessing that Dad had been with his friend, James, because he says that James took the car home when he was discharged and therefore, Dad has “nothing to do.” James and the car may be how he met Virgie in the first place, since he seems to write as if she knows James.

If they get paid before the 4th of July, Sergeant Lynch and Dad are going to visit Dunkirk. They may live it up after they arrive and go to Redkey or Eaton, both crossroads towns not far from Dunkirk in the land of cornfields and soybeans.

I have to wonder whatever brought these soldiers to this remote country location 171 miles from Camp Custer in the first place.

Dunkirk isn’t close to much of anything and not on the way to anywhere.

Apparently Virgie called Dad “Buddy.” I never knew that was his nickname. Maybe it was only between them.

Dad appeared to be writing to Virgie every spare minute. The next letter is dated the following day.

Later in this letter, he tells Virgie that he showed her photo to the lady at the YWCA Hostess House who told him Virgie looked like a nice girl and he must think a lot of her. I’m sure Dad was showing Virgie’s photo to anyone who would look and listen, and probably a few unsuspecting people who wouldn’t.

He told the lady:

“Yes and I’ll tell the whole world I do.”

Ah, the achiness of fresh, new, overwhelming love.

But then, he said something very prescient.

“I will be true to you till death.”

If someone had told him that day that he would die as her husband, but would not marry her until 42 years later, he would have thought them crazy.

“There isn’t anything I wouldn’t sacrifice for you, even my life.”

Then, perhaps having gotten too close to the hole in his soul, he changed topics abruptly:

“The boys, we are arguing about the war, but I don’t know about their brains. Ha. Ha.”

Later the same day, he writes a second letter. For a man in service to write two letters to his intended in the same day – he had to be wonderfully, miserably lovesick.

In Dunkirk, I can see Virgie going to the post office every day to look for a letter – maybe multiple times every day. In the era of “general delivery,” mail wasn’t delivered to homes. Of course, that meant the entire town knew who received mail from whom. In Michigan, Dad probably lived for mail call, either elated or dejected, depending on what was waiting.

Look at the back of this envelope! Apparently he had proposed and she had said yes.

If you’re groaning at the syrupiness of this, I know, me too. Yet, I remember doing this same thing at about the same age.

I should probably explain at this point that he refers to himself as her husband often. They were clearly betrothed. If you’re laughing, remember that this was nearly a century ago when women often married as soon as they were old enough to reproduce. Tennessee, where his family was from was notorious for marriages that began at 15 or 16 and lasted a lifetime, whether they should have or not. Large families and poverty are powerful cement.

Soldiers in WWI received tetanus, typhoid and smallpox vaccines although experimentation with a flu vaccine followed the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918. Regardless, only Virgie would be allowed to touch his sore arm:)

In this letter, Dad asks Virgie about Fluffy, “their child.”

I do believe this is Fluffy. This man was no dummy. Way to her heart! If he’s asking about Fluffy in the letter, this photo would have been taken just a week or two prior.

Oh, and if a kitten alone doesn’t work, try a kitten and two ducks. Who can resist this? Seriously!

Fluffy is perched on his shoulder, eyeing the ducks I suspect or wondering how to get down.

“Your hubby sure does love you with all my heart and soul.”

He tells Virgie that he’s saving for July 4th, which appears to be when he plans to visit her in Dunkirk again. He rode horses in the afternoon and had “a sweet time” but wishes she was with him. That theme, of course, permeates all of his letters.

He is probably the only soldier at the Knights of Columbus Hall that is writing to a girlfriend instead of dancing. He tells her never to doubt his love.

“I stay awake at night thinking of you. You will be my wife soon. I am yours forever and ever.”

An empty envelope is all that remains of a June 30th letter. Did she love it to death, hide it from her parents maybe, or lose it somehow?

The 4th of July

The next letter follows on July 8th, and based on its contents, we know where he was over the 4th of July.

I can’t help but wonder what happened in Fort Wayne to cause him to leave so late and drive all night. Today, that same drive is about an hour and a half or two hours, max. At about 100 miles, that means they averaged about 15 miles an hour. Cars were a lot slower then than today, roads were in a lot worse condition and tires had to be patched regularly. The Model T which began to be manufactured in 1908 was the first affordable car and is probably what they were driving.

Not only did he manage to get back to camp late, which means he was technically AWOL, but he also seems to have had a case of tonsillitis severe enough to require surgery. This is a decade before the invention of antibiotics.

Dad goes on to say that $30 a month isn’t much to live on, which I would presume is his salary. He thinks it will cost them $25 a month for “light housekeeping” but he can get his groceries on base and his clothes from Uncle Sam.

“I sure want my baby dressed nice but we’ll try and get along somehow. Oh, I know, well just live on hugs and kisses.”

I remember being so in love I could have cared less about anything and everything except for that person. Apparently, I inherited that trait from my dear father.

Dad says he’s expecting Virgie to visit the 4th of the following month. He references an old girlfriend who he identifies as having a “hairlip.” Apparently, the old girlfriend referred to him as Billy when she was inquiring as to why he had not written to her. I’ve also never heard my dad called by what was probably his boyhood nickname.

I’m suspecting that Dad told Virgie about the other gal on purpose to “keep her interested” and so that Virgie wouldn’t think that there weren’t other gals pursuing him. He doesn’t say, but if the “hairlip gal” is who I think she is, her name is Martha. Dad told Virgie that he replied that his wife was there, on base, so there was “no chance now.” Ummm, that wasn’t exactly true either, but I don’t want to get ahead of the story. Just remember Martha.

Another empty envelope from July 29th, followed by a letter on August 5th that tugged at my heartstrings.

My father was apparently quite ill.

“I thought I was a goner.”

Why did he think Virgie might not love him anymore? My heart aches for him.

“You know I was going to come and see you this pay day and then I never herd (sic) from you and now I can’t come.”

He asks:

“Have you been true to me?”

I’m not clear why they apparently need or want to wait two years to marry. Yes, he’s in the military, but other men marry while in service. Perhaps her father wouldn’t allow it until he got out, or until she was 18 or perhaps graduated from high school? The only two people who know the answer to that are together now, and not here to ask.

“I’ll be true to you.”

“For you I would die.”

Oh, my heart.

Then he says goodbye with:

“10,000 kisses and as many hugs.”

The next letter is mailed from the base hospital. If you’re keeping track, this is the third time in just over a month that Dad has been hospitalized.

He has been and remains very ill.

I wonder if he had meningitis or encephalitis introduced when they removed his tonsils. Maybe they shouldn’t have done that surgery while the tonsils were infected. He had been hospitalized at this point since about August 7th, two days after his last letter.

The next letter is dated August 20th, almost two weeks later, and he’s STILL in the hospital and hopes to get out in a couple weeks. Sadly, he mentions that Virgie is only writing him once a month. Uh oh!

He tells Virgie that he has a case of “phenomia fever.”

I can’t even imagine being a critically ill 16 or 17-year-old boy, claiming to be 20, trying to be grown up, alone, in the Army, and with my lady-love not writing. Talk about feeling frightened, alone and abandoned. Again.

First, he survived his family, then two years of military service during a war, and now something that kept him hospitalized for 3 weeks.

VIRGIE, FOR GOD’S SAKE, WRITE TO HIM!!!!!

The next letter is dated August 23rd. Virgie has apparently written, thank goodness!

He mentions his mother, Ollie Bolton Estes, in Franklin Park, Illinois. Apparently Ollie said that “Bessie is looking short,” whatever that means. He then goes on to mention that it has been “only 4 months since I busted up with her (Bessie) and Mama said she claims it’s all my fault.” I’m not quite sure how he could go with a gal in Franklin Park, Illinois and be in the service in Battle Creek, but then again, he’s going with a gal in Dunkirk, Indiana.

I’m making a mental note of a woman named Bessie in Illinois in April 1919, just in case that half-sibling DNA match arrives. However, given that 1919 is 99 years ago, I guess that match would have to be the half sibling’s child, grandchild or great-grandchild. Um, that might explain something I’ve been wondering about. I have a mystery match at MyHeritage of 383cM that is clearly on my father’s side, is about exactly perfect to be a grandchild of a half sibling, and hasn’t answered my messages, but I digress.

Why oh why does he use no one’s last name?

Dad vacillates between asking Virgie if she still wants him and then says he is “sure she is true.” This sounds like one terrified young man. I just want to hug his heart that longs to be loved.

“I will always do all that I can to make you happy and to help you.”

Dad then once-again switched abruptly to, “I am going horseback riding this afternoon.” He closes by saying he wishes she was there to ride with him, signs as “Hubby” and fills the rest of the page with Xs.

In the next letter, dated August 24th, I clearly sense an air of desperation. Note that he is still in the hospital.

“I shall love you the longest day I live and you can depend on me as your best friend in the world.”

Dear God.

“There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you.”

What else is there to say? While in the hospital no less. What pain he must have been in to have to pen the next line.

“You know I’m nothing soft, so write plain what you think and I will thank you for it.”

He knows.

This is killing me.

On August 30th, another letter on hospital stationery hints at answers. Apparently, high drama has occurred in the small down of Dunkirk, and someone told Virgie “something.” If this reminds you of Junior High School and 13-year-old girls, keep in mind how old these two were, and the naivety of the time.

Dad’s letter doesn’t tell us what Virgie said, but he replies:

“Don’t believe any thing like that for I never thought of saying such a thing. I came to see you because I loved you. I love you so much and you are the light of my life. There are lots of people in Dunkirk that would like to brake (sic) up our friendship but if it’s left up to me it will never be broken up.”

He goes on to expand on that thought in loverly fashion, and then says:

“I have been true to you since I began going with you and I have letter what can prove to you that I’ve stopped all of my correspondence with all other girls.”

A few paragraphs later he states:

“I think of you if I am idle on duty walking post at midnight or riding across the camps. You are the vision of my dreams and you always will be. Won’t you please believe in me forever and trust me.”

The next part is a bit confusing, and he is clearly flustered or exasperated, but he in essence says that he wants her to think of him when she is in specific “other company,” which means another boy.

He follows with:

“I am in camp waiting and saving for you and preparing for your future and think how much I love you. Then after you think it over and consider your love for them, if your love for me isn’t strong enough to resist other company, then you may go ahead but never with my consent. That last kiss I placed on your lips I placed it there to stay till I came back. It wasn’t placed there for other fellows to take off. If I ever have to give you up I don’t want to ever see another girl for my love is too strong for you. I have never asked for a release from our engagement for that has never entered my mind. I won’t want one if you will only be true to me and promise to believe in me. I have you a sapire (sic) ring for your engagement ring. I will bring it when I come to see you if you will only let me come and nobody else.”

He must feel terribly out of control, like he is at a severe disadvantage, remote, and unable to “compete” by being present. Yet, he somehow found the money for an engagement ring that I don’t think she ever saw.

Dad then asks when her school starts and tells her to study hard and hurry and graduate.

“I love you enough to die for you.”

“I’ll protect you till the end of time.”

Why would he invest this much effort if these feelings weren’t genuine?

He closes by telling Virgie that he’s now out of the hospital, although this 8-page letter appears to have been written in sections and probably over several days.

“Your Soldier Boy.”

My heart is screaming.

The next letter is dated September 4th and opens very differently. Instead of calling her by a pet name, he greets her with, “My Dearest Virgie” and proceeds to talk about when they went to pick strawberries, referring to that time nostalgically as “the good old days.” Something has changed.

He says he would like to visit her next month and then at Christmas. Unbeknownst to him, his life by Christmas would be very, very different.

By the end of the first page, departing dramatically from earlier letters, there are no professions of love. Instead, he asks if she ever thinks about him. At the end of page 2, he tells her he would like to kiss her and then closes by telling her one last time, and the only time in this letter, that he loves her.

“My love is yours.”

One final desperate try.

The tone has changed dramatically.

This is the last letter.

Then…

Nothing.

Nada.

Silence.

For more than 40 years.

However, this heart-wrenching picture taken outside her parents’ home with the message written in Virgie’s hand tells a different story.

“Thou Art Gone.”

She clearly grieved this loss, as did he.

I don’t exactly know what happened between them, or didn’t, but there are hints and I have some thoughts.

Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.

Remember Martha?

Martha Dodderer and Edna

My DNA confirmed half-sister, Edna, was born to Martha Dodderer on May 22, 1920. Martha, indeed, had a cleft palate which was at that time referred to as a hairlip. Edna told me that her mother met our father when she was a volunteer in the hospital or infirmary at Camp Custer.

Using a conception date calculator, and assuming that Edna was born after a normal gestation period, the most likely time of conception was August 21-28, with the possible dates ranging from August 18th to September 2nd. Right after the desperation letter and before that last letter. If we presume that he didn’t get out of the hospital until about August 30th, then the conception was closer to September 2nd, and probably before September 4th, the date of the letter in which the tone was significantly changed – like he had given up.

We have a desperately ill young man who thought he was dying – in the hospital three times, totaling 4 or more weeks in 2 months, the last time for 3 weeks – and far from any family to visit. During this time, he becomes increasingly desperate as his sweetheart is not writing to him and appears, at least to him, to be interested in someone else.

Martha, about 5 years older, took care of him in the hospital, was kind to him and perhaps commiserated with being rejected. One thing led to another, which led to Edna.

Dad didn’t marry Martha until 19 months later, in December of 1921. Their divorce was final three years later and the proceedings made it quite clear that their marriage probably should never have occurred at all.

He didn’t marry Martha in the fall of 1919 because he had already married someone else.

Yes, you read that right.

And it wasn’t Virgie.

I wonder what the engagement ring looked like.

Ilo Bailey and Lee Joseph

As if this story wasn’t complex enough, Martha apparently wasn’t the only person that my Dad had been seeing. On December 3, 1919 in Calhoun County, Michigan, he married Ilo Bailey under an assumed name. And yes, I’m positive it’s him.

Their child, unproven by DNA testing because Lee is deceased and had no children, was born on February 24, 1920. Again, using the conception calculator, the most likely time for Ilo to have become pregnant was May 29-June 2, with possible dates being May 23-June 7th.

Both of these pregnancy events, Ilo and Martha, skirt the timeframe of the letters from Dad to Virgie. Ilo before and Martha after. The letters to Virgie began in late June and ended two months later in late August, with the last one of a much different tone being dated September 4th. In other words, he may well not have been cheating on Virgie. These two relationships appear to bracket their brief engagement.

If Ilo got pregnant about the end of May or beginning of June, she would have been hunting for my father in August to tell him of her plight. It took him 4 months after that to marry her. I suspect strongly that he sincerely loved Virgie and not only had he “lost” Virgie, he had found a family he didn’t exactly anticipate. That marriage, however, didn’t last long.

In a letter from Ilo to Dad 15 months later dated March 22, 1921, Ilo states that she is leaving for Kentucky, their marriage “is illegal anyway” and “it’s in the hands of an attorney now.” Apparently, by December 12, 1921, he was unmarried because he married Martha Dodderer, Edna’s mother.

But that may not be all either.

Dad

Dad’s letters to Virgie are increasingly desperate and heart-wrenching. I’m left with the impression that both Virgie and my Dad were just too young and emotionally unprepared to withstand such a trying situation, even without complications of health, war and distance.

But there might have been more in play as well.

It’s very unusual for a healthy young man to become deathly ill for more than three weeks. It’s simply not normal. It wasn’t during the deadly flu epidemic which had hit Camp Custer hard in October of 1918 and it wasn’t during the winter, but the middle of summer. Reading historical documents from that time period, the first step of suspected flu on base was indeed to isolate the patient, but if he had the flu, he would have said so instead of “pneumonia fever.”

Dad was hospitalized for the second time right after he had a tonsillectomy. His third hospitalization was for three weeks. He mentioned that his head ached terribly, he had a high fever and was dizzy. I have to wonder if he contracted either meningitis or encephalitis during his surgery that caused some level of residual brain damage, impairing his executive function ability which regulates decision making. Executive function is the filter that keeps you from jumping out of the car and slapping the person silly who cuts you off in traffic. In other words, road rage results from the lack of executive function.

My father’s first stent in the service was not marked by any known disciplinary action and he was a Sergeant when he re-enlisted in May of 1919. Everything was fine right up until it wasn’t, and then it went to “hell in a handbasket,” as my Mom would have said, right after his illness.

Beginning right after his last letters to Virgie, his behavior changed dramatically. It’s as if there was an invisible line in the sand. Here’s a brief timeline.

  • April 1919 – Breaks up with Bessie, according to letter to Virgie, possibly in Franklin Park, Illinois
  • May 20, 1919 – Dad re-enlists in the Army at Fort Custer
  • Late May or early June 1919 – Ilo gets pregnant in Battle Creek
  • Mid/late June 1919 – Dad meets Virgie
  • June 25, 1919 – first letter to Virgie
  • July 9, 1919 – in hospital for tonsillectomy
  • August 5, 1919 – just released from hospital, but “I thought I was a goner.”
  • August 7, 1919 – hospitalized again for 3 weeks
  • August 30, 1919 – letters to Virgie increasingly desperate, out of hospital
  • September 4, 1919 – last letter to Virgie, very different tone
  • Late August or early September 1919 – Martha gets pregnant in Battle Creek
  • November 4, 1919 – Dad is AWOL and remains AWOL until April 1920
  • December 3, 1919 – Dad marries Ilo in Calhoun County, Michigan under an assumed name
  • April 1920 – Dad arrested for being AWOL and sent to Leavenworth
  • March 1921 – Dad released from Leavenworth, returns to Camp Custer
  • March 1921 – Ilo letter to Dad saying she has left and they are getting divorced, letter found in possession of Martha Dodderer at her death
  • August 8-11, 1921 – AWOL again
  • August-October 1921 – I think he was back in Leavenworth
  • November 1921 – discharged from service
  • December 1921 – married Martha Dodderer in Calhoun County, Michigan
  • February 1924 – divorced from Martha Dodderer

This also may have been about the time Dad started drinking heavily. Then again, being quite ill, having two separate women pregnant, losing the one you love who is not one of the two pregnant women, and being AWOL at the same time will do that to you.

What a mess he got himself into with absolutely no good way out.

I keep hearing the refrain, “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places.”

By then, it was simply too late.

Fast Forward to 1960

We’re going to fast forward through several decades and failed relationships. In hindsight, it feels to me like Dad never got over Virgie and continued to make decisions that lacked in judgement – each new situation weighed down by the quickly accumulating baggage of the past.

In the mid-1940s and again in the 1950s, he was involved with two women at the same time, one of which was my mother. As late as 1960, we have a photo of Dad in Fort Wayne, in his “other” wife, Ellen’s living room, provided by my “half-brother,” David Estes, who turned out not to be my Dad’s biological child.

Dad had a penchant for just showing up and hunting people down after absences of many years. In spite of his prolonged absences, he was an extremely likeable guy, and it was very difficult to remain angry with him – at least initially, according to Edna and others. Edna told me that she hadn’t seen him in literally 3 or 4 decades when he appeared at her house about 1960, wearing a suit and looking quite dapper. The photo below was taken that day with Edna’s children.

This wasn’t long after the period when he was practicing medicine in Tennessee and elsewhere. If your mouth just dropped open, welcome to my world. That’s a story for future article, and it’s a humdinger. My father was anything but boring.

About the same time that this photo was taken, Dad decided to stop by Virgie’s parents’ house in Dunkirk to see if he could find Vergie. He must have been on a search-and-recover binge that year.

Keep in mind that he had last been there 40 or 41 years earlier. Virgie’s father had died, Virgie had married, raised her kids and divorced, and just happened to be living with her mother in the same house where she resided back in 1919.

What are the chances, right?

Virgie had never remarried. She squirrelled away Dad’s pictures and letters that entire time – 4 decades. If Dad thought 2 years was a long time, 40 years is forever.

On April 24, 1961, Virgie and Dad married in Rome, Georgia. No, I don’t know why Georgia, but knowing Dad, I’m sure there’s a story there someplace.

He may or may not have been officially divorced from Ellen at that time. Mom mentioned that Virgie had to “fix” something in that regard, having to do with a divorce not being final in Florida. I found a corresponding envelope with no letter dated October 17, 1961 from the law firm Jopling, Darby and Duncan in Lake City, Florida. The official story was that the waiting period was somehow “messed up,” or that the lawyers got the divorce petition filed a day late. I have been unable to find any divorce record in Florida. Maybe I should check other Lake City (Columbia County) legal records. Maybe there’s more that I don’t know. Hmmm….

Regardless, he and Virgie lived the next two years and 4 months happily in the little house with Grandma. They had such a short time to make up for 42 irrecoverable years. Virgie loved Dad and adored him, at the same time aware of his foibles. I hope Dad found the love, security and acceptance he desperately craved.

Dad died on August 27, 1963, with Vergie at his bedside. He had promised Virgie all those years ago to love her until his death, and he did exactly that, just as he had sworn. I believe that Virgie was indeed his true love, his soul mate. I’m so glad he found his way back to Dunkirk and to Virgie.

I know this isn’t your typical love story happy ending, but I think those last two fleeting years were as happy as either Dad or Vergie ever were, except, of course, for those few days during that long-ago lost summer of 1919.

Should I Upgrade My Y DNA Test?

I’m often asked about the benefits of upgrading Y DNA tests at Family Tree DNA, and if people should order an upgrade.

The answer to this, like just about everything else DNA is “it depends.”

Yes – Upgrade!

The answer IS YES if:

  • You have tested less than 37 markers. You really need 37 or 67 markers minimally today for genealogy.
  • You want to obtain all of the information possible about your ancestral lineage and where it came from. (That’s me!)
  • You want to participate in family as well as scientific research by upgrading to the Big Y. Why the Big Y? I wrote about that here.
  • You want the most refined haplogroup possible in order to see who you match the most closely that might not be a match on the STR (12-111) panels. This is particularly useful in terms of looking for clan overlap and relatedness further back in time in Scotland, for example.
  • You have lots of matches at your current level and you wish to eliminate the ones that aren’t relevant.
  • You have (your own) surname matches at levels higher than you’ve tested and you want to further determine which matches are closer genealogically.
  • You have no matches at your current level. Sometimes you pick up matches at higher levels because they allow more mutations and your mutations (or their mutations) may simply fall in the lower panels.
  • You want to leave a legacy for future genealogists by providing as much information as possible. This is especially important if you are the last of your line, or males with surname from your family line are in short supply.

No – Maybe Not Now

The answer IS NO if none of the above applies and:

  • You’ve already tested to 37 markers, don’t have matches at lower levels, and you don’t care.
  • You’ve tested to 37 markers, don’t have matches and have to choose between a Y upgrade and a different kind of test, like autosomal or mitochondrial that you haven’t yet taken. You’ll probably learn more by testing an untapped resource.
  • You’ve tested to 37 markers and have to choose between a Y upgrade and a new test for a relative that will provide information about one of your paternal ancestral lines that hasn’t been tested. Hint, look at the surname project in question to be sure your lines aren’t already present.

Surname Project Search

You can search for the surname and projects on the main Family Tree DNA page by scrolling down until you see the surname search box.

Of course, if your ancestor is represented in a public surname project, and you have someone available to test, it’s always a good idea to test that person…well…because you never know if there was an adoption or some hanky panky – or your genealogy is wrong. Better to find out now that to go on blissfully doing genealogy on the wrong line.

Summer Sale is in Full Swing

The great news is that the Family Tree DNA Summer Sale is in full swing, and unlike last year’s sale, upgrades ARE included.

Plus, as an added bonus, when you upgrade to the Big Y-500 test, the markers between where you’ve already tested and the Big Y-500 are included in the price. So if you’ve tested to 37 markers and order the Big Y 500, you receive:

  • 67 marker upgrade
  • 111 marker upgrade
  • Big Y test
  • Additional markers to total 500 above the 111 marker panel – that’s 389 extra markers for free with the Big Y

In essence, this upgrade is 4 tests bundled into one and it’s on sale for less than the Big Y itself used to cost on sale, a year ago, at about $500. This has never been a better value than it is now.

Upgrade prices are shown above and you can order by clicking here and signing on to your account. Then, just click on the blue upgrade button by your Y DNA results.

Need to order a new test, not an upgrade? Great! Click here to view the sale prices. The sale lasts until August 31st.

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