23andMe Concludes Their Investigation – 6.9 Million Customers’ Data Exposed

On October 10th, 23andMe filed a document with the SEC stating that a “threat actor” (hacker) had accessed about 0.1% of their user accounts. That amounts to about 14,000 compromised users, according to their May 2023 earnings report where they state that they have about 14 million users. In addition, the hacker accessed their matches, and potentially matches of matches, through DNA Relatives.

I wrote about the initial compromise in three articles as information unfolded.

  1. 23andMe User Accounts Exposed – Change Your Password Now
  2. The 23andMe Data Exposure – New Info, Considerations and A Pause Strategy
  3. 23andMe: DNA Relatives, Connections, Event History Report and Other Security Tools

I expected that 23andMe would provide additional information directly to their customers as their investigation proceeded and concluded.

They have not published a new blog article nor notified customers directly.

They updated their original October 6th blog article on both December 1st and 5th, stating that their investigation has concluded and the results.

23andMe stated that:

  • They have concluded their investigation and will be notifying affected customers as required by law.

This is a bit confusing because they already HAD notified many people of the original compromise event, that their data had been affected, and forced a password reset. I’m unclear whether this means an additional notification will be sent, or that the earlier notification is what they were referencing.

I’m also curious about the “as required by law” comment, as laws vary widely between countries and even states sometimes. Are they only notifying people to the extent required by law where the customer lives? This would seem both impractical and confusing when some people receive breach notices, and others do not when both are equally affected. Or is 23andMe trying to say they are complying with applicable laws?

  • They verified that the compromise was via credential stuffing, where names (email addresses, in this case) and passwords exposed in previously compromised websites were used to sign into 23andMe accounts.
  • In addition to the entire account information of those 14,000 compromised individuals, all of their DNA Relatives (matches) and information about those relatives were exposed and scraped. In other words, all of your matches and everything you could see about them.

This is also confusing because, in additional details, 23andMe states that the hacker (threat actor) “used the compromised credential stuffed accounts to access the information included in approximately 5.5 million DNA Relatives profiles and 1.4 million Family Tree features profiled, each of which were connected to the compromised accounts.”

The math doesn’t add up. Every test (account) has one AI-generated family tree. If 1.4 million family trees were exposed, and each fully compromised account has one family tree, doesn’t that mean that (minimally) 1.4 million accounts were exposed, not 14,000? That’s 100 times more than 14,000 accounts. Is the decimal in the wrong place?

Is 23andMe perhaps counting the number of people in those trees? I find it difficult to believe that everyone’s trees have 100 people. Mine only has 15 people, and all of them are my highest matches on my DNA Relatives match list, so they are already included in that breach number of 5.5 million. Assuredly, 23andMe is not double counting exposed individuals, so they would not be counted in both places.

Adding together 1.4 million family trees and 5.5 million exposed DNA Relatives, a total of 6.9 million customers have had data exposed in this breach. Apparently,1.4 million people were directly exposed, or their trees could not have been exposed because no one can see your 23andMe-provided tree other than you, and 5.5 million exposures via DNA Relatives matching. Exposed information would have also included your matches matching each other, even if their accounts were not directly compromised.

6.9 million is approximately half of the 23andMe 14 million total customers.

What 23anMe doesn’t say is how many customers, of the 14 million total, actually participate in DNA Relatives. Many of their customers only test for health and traits information, and do not opt-in to DNA matching. Those customers would NOT have trees generated, so would NOT be included in that 1.4 million trees generated, nor the 5.5 million exposed DNA Relatives. Those customers would be in addition to those numbers.

To be clear, you can’t assume that you’re in the clear just because you’re not using the genealogy aspect of 23andMe. Of course, it’s very unlikely that any customers not involved with genealogy will ever see this article.


23andMe has implemented additional industry-standard security protections for customers to prevent a recurrence.

  • Forced password reset.
  • Added two-factor authentication (2FA) that they are calling both 2SV, two-step verification, and MSV, multiple-step verification, which you can read about in their blog post, here.
  • Provided a Privacy and Security Help Center, here.

Why This Matters

I realize that many people are very unhappy about 2FA, MFA, or 2SV, which are different names for the same thing. However, given the magnitude of this exposure, it’s the responsible step for 23andMe to take.

Those techniques are based on something you know plus something you have or have access to. The something you know is your sign-in and password, and the something you have access to is your phone or email to retrieve a code. A bad actor, unless they stole your phone or have also compromised your email account, won’t be able to obtain the six-digit 2FA number mailed or texted to you.

I know this is somewhat inconvenient, but I’d like to explain why this level of security matters.

Let me give you a brief example. Let’s say that I’m a Jewish person, and the threat actor is interested in harming Jewish people. Based on my ethnicity, I can be clearly identified as Jewish. Therefore, my children and closest relatives can also be identified as Jewish. The tree generated by 23andMe tells the hacker how people fit together, and my closest relatives are clearly identified.

Their names are exposed along with, potentially, their locations, photo, birth year, and other clearly personally identifying information.

Don’t want to think about this in terms of Jewish people? Think about it in terms of any “us versus them” discriminatory situation or even in terms of a domestic violence perpetrator or a stalker gaining access to your children’s information.

Now think about identity theft, which seems benign in comparison to your safety and being targeted, but identity theft is still a very real threat and can wreck your life.

The bad actor (and anyone who buys the compromised data – your information) has enough information to do serious harm, one way or another, depending on their motives, to every person whose information they obtain.

That information may be for sale on the dark web or in some data dump somewhere. We don’t know and will never know who has it and their motivation for obtaining it.

Even if you don’t personally care what is exposed about you – due to trees and matches and information that is typically NOT exposed publicly – you’re connected via matching to OTHER PEOPLE whose data has been exposed because they match you – and your data was breached. Like it or not, we’re all in this together.

Genetic genealogy is a team sport. That’s why we love it. That’s why the hacker loves it, too. So do the hacker’s “customers.”

Most websites have moved or will be moving to 2FA shortly. All “social sites” where people interact with each other one way or another are major targets and are moving in the 2FA direction, too. Just this past week, a dear friend’s entire Facebook account was hacked and subsequently permanently disabled, meaning it’s gone, forever, all within 15 minutes. He lost 11 or 12 years of his life, journaled, along with MANY family and other photos that are no longer on his phone or anyplace else.

All of this pales in comparison to what would happen to your bank account, retirement account, or other financial vehicles. If someone reuses passwords in multiple locations, they are likely to continue the behavior across several accounts because they want to be able to remember the password. This increases the chances DRAMATICALLY of becoming a victim.

2FA is a new way of life that protects us all, and yes, it’s inconvenient, but then again, so are seat belts, and everyone wears those.

Don’t blame the companies who are trying to keep us safe, often in spite of ourselves. Companies certainly don’t relish the idea of angering or inconveniencing their customers, which is probably why they didn’t do it sooner. Blame the bad actors who necessitate this step.

Terms of Service Change

While 23andMe didn’t directly notify customers about the results of their investigation, that it is over, or the people whose accounts were directly compromised – they have sent emails about a change in their terms of service (TOS).

23andMe has upgraded their TOS (terms of service), here, to include mandatory arbitration of disputes, which precludes jury trials or class action lawsuits. In all caps, no less.

And yes, if you’re wondering, class action lawsuits have now been filed in both the US and Canada.

I’m not a lawyer, but based on the language, the new TOS appear to affect all 23andMe customers going forward UNLESS YOU NOTIFY 23andME OTHERWISE.

I received this email on December 5th for one of the tests I manage, and it states that the updated TOS go into effect in 30 days UNLESS YOU NOTIFY 23andME, in which case you will be held to the earlier terms.

Here’s the applicable section, as provided by 23andMe in the Dispute Resolution portion of their TOS, here.

If you do NOT agree, click the “notify us” link in the email, which opens a new email to legal@23andme.com to notify 23andMe.

Remaining Unanswered Questions

23andMe stated that they learned about this breach in early October, but as reported in my earlier articles, some of their customers’ data was reportedly available for sale as early as August 2023. 23andMe does not mention this, so we don’t know if that is a different breach, or if those numbers are included in the 6.9 million 23andMe customers whose accounts have been compromised.

I’d like to know if my account was actually compromised, meaning signed in to, or was my account compromised solely through DNA Relatives matching? It makes a difference in terms of how much of my and my family’s information is exposed.

I assumed that 23andMe would provide people with additional information, but to the best of my knowledge, they have not. Has anyone received an email telling you that your account was personally compromised, meaning signed in to? My notification from 23andMe and the others I’ve seen all say the same as mine, sent in late October, below.

After further review, we have identified your DNA Relatives profile as one that was impacted in this incident. Specifically, there was unauthorized access to one or more 23andMe accounts that were connected to you through DNA Relatives. As a result, the DNA Relatives profile information you provided in this feature was exposed to the threat actor.

Based on our investigation so far, we believe only your DNA Relatives profile attributes were exposed.

Did anyone receive an email that says their account was one of those directly compromised, meaning NOT through DNA Relatives?

Return of Features

Many people have been asking about the return of features that were “temporarily” disabled.

  • Relatives in Common – shared matching, meaning three-way matching
  • Your matches matching with each other, or not
  • Triangulation through Relatives in Common – meaning shared common segments
  • Matches Download File, both including and excluding segments
  • Chromosome browser

Sadly, 23andMe has provided no update on this topic.

Unfortunately, these features include nearly all of the tools that genealogists use, except for individual matching, the 23andMe-created genetic tree, and haplogroups.

We’ve lost the ability to determine how our matches match us through shared matching or triangulation. We now have no way to determine which side, maternal or paternal, a match is on because we can’t tell who else they match or “how” we match them.

I know that genealogy hasn’t been a priority for 23andMe for some time. Medical research is their focus. On October 30th, 2023, 23andMe signed another $20 million one-year deal, plus potential future drug royalties, with GSK for access to the 23andMe database of customers who have consented to medical research.

Genealogists have been an important source of testers in the past because many opted-in for medical and drug research. However, unless 23andMe returns the genealogy functionality, they’ve removed nearly all incentives for genealogists to test there.

If genealogists can’t do genealogy, why would genealogists purchase or recommend their test?

I’m glad I did not repurchase the updated DNA test that would allow me to subscribe to a premium membership to receive 5000 matches instead of 1500 matches. Initially, that membership required purchasing a new test, plus $29 per year, but the membership has now been raised to $69 per year. In August 2023, when their original agreement with GSK expired, 23andMe raised their test prices and laid employees off. I wrote about the August changes here.

Of course, that was about the same time as the original August data exposure, which was followed by the October data exposure, assuming those are two discrete events. 23andMe was clearly experiencing significant financial difficulties, and the 1-2 million spent on the data exposure investigation would have added to those woes.

Regardless, without tools, matches simply aren’t useful. There has been no mention of refunds to people who have subscribed and cannot effectively use the higher level of matches they are receiving. Those of us who haven’t subscribed can’t use ours either.

At this point, 23andMe would be my last testing choice of the four major vendors. I probably wouldn’t recommend them unless someone is searching for an immediate family match, such as an unknown parent or close relatives, and has been unsuccessful elsewhere. Without genealogy tools, unless 23andMe can place a match in the genetic tree they provide, or the match is either very close or previously known, there’s no way to determine how you are related.

Clearly, the investigation and security measures had to be their #1 priority, and patience was in order. But now that the investigation is complete, I hope 23andMe gets this straightened out, returns functionality, and provides additional information to their customers soon


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FamilyTreeDNA Provides Y DNA Haplogroups from Family Finder Autosomal Tests

Big News! FamilyTreeDNA is delivering holiday gifts early!

Y DNA haplogroups are beginning to be delivered as a free benefit to men who took the Family Finder test at FamilyTreeDNA. This is the first wave of a staggered rollout. Haplogroup results will be delivered to several thousand people at a time, in batches, beginning today.

This is no trivial gift and includes LOTS of information that can be used in various ways for your genealogy. Please feel free to share this article. The new Family Finder haplogroups are another reason to take a Family Finder test and to encourage other family members to do so as well.

How is this Even Possible?

Clearly, Y DNA is not autosomal DNA, so how is it possible to obtain a Y DNA or mitochondrial DNA haplogroup from an autosomal test? Great question!

Many autosomal DNA processing chips include a limited number of targeted Y and mitochondrial DNA SNP locations. Generally, those locations are haplogroup predictive, which is how haplogroup information can be obtained from an autosomal DNA test.

Compared to the actual Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA tests, only a small fraction of the information is available through autosomal tests. Only the full sequence mitochondrial DNA test or the Big Y-700 test will provide you with the full story, including your most refined haplogroup, additional information, and matching with other customers.

Having said that, haplogroups obtained from Family Finder provide important clues and genealogical information that will hopefully whet recipients’ appetites for learning even more.

Delivery Schedule

This first group of men to receive haplogroup results consists of testers who have purchased the Family Finder test since March 2019 when the most recent chip was put into production.

FamilyTreeDNA will be rolling haplogroups out in batches of a few thousand each day until everyone’s is complete, in the following order:

  • Family Finder tests purchased since March 2019 (their V3 chip)
  • Family Finder tests purchased between the fall of 2015 to March 2019 (their V2 chip)
  • Family Finder tests purchased from 2010 to the fall of 2015 (their V1 chip)
  • Autosomal uploads from other vendors for customers who have unlocked the advanced Family Finder features for $19

Uploaded DNA Files from Other Vendors

After the results are available for all males who have tested at FamilyTreeDNA, haplogroups will begin to be rolled out to customers who uploaded autosomal DNA files from other companies, meaning MyHeritage, Vitagene, 23andMe, and Ancestry.

To receive haplogroups for files uploaded from other vendors, the Family Finder advanced tool unlock must have been (or can be) purchased for $19. In addition to haplogroups, the unlock also provides access to the chromosome browser, myOrigins (ethnicity), Chromosome painting for myOrigins ethnicity, and ancient Origins.

Both MyHeritage and Vitagene tests are performed in the Gene by Gene lab. Those “uploads” are actually a secure business-to-business transaction, so the file integrity is assured.

Ancestry and 23andMe DNA files are downloaded from those companies, then uploaded to FamilyTreeDNA. Some people build “composite” files in the format of these companies, so FamilyTreeDNA has no way to assure that the original DNA upload file hasn’t been modified and it is a legitimate, unmodified, file from either 23andMe or Ancestry. Hence, in some situations, they are treated differently.

Both Ancestry and 23andMe utilize different chips than FamilyTreeDNA, covering different SNPs. Those results may vary slightly from results available from native FamilyTreeDNA tests, and will also vary from each other. In other words, there’s no consistency, and therefore haplogroup accuracy cannot be confirmed.

Haplogroups resulting from tests performed in the FamilyTreeDNA lab will be visible to matches and on the SNP pages within projects. They will also be used in both Discover and the haplotree statistics. This includes Family Finder plus MyHeritage and Vitagene DNA file uploads.

Tests performed elsewhere will receive haplogroups that will only be visible to the user, or a group administrator viewing a kit within a project. They will not be visible to matches, used in trees or for statistics.

At their recent conference, FamilyTreeDNA provided this slide during an update about what to expect from Family Finder haplogroups.

Today, only Y DNA haplogroups are being provided, but after the new mitochondrial tree is available, customer haplogroups are updated, and MitoDiscover (my name, not theirs) is released, FamilyTreeDNA is planning to provide mitochondrial DNA haplogroups for Family Finder customers as well. The current haplogroup estimate is late 2024 or even into 2025.

Unfortunately, some of Ancestry’s DNA files don’t include mitochondrial DNA SNPs, so some customers who’ve uploaded Ancestry files won’t receive mitochondrial haplogroups.

STR Haplogroups to be Updated

All FamilyTreeDNA customers who have taken Y DNA STR tests, meaning 12, 25, 37, 67, or 111 markers, receive predicted haplogroups. Often, the Family Finder extracted results can provide a more refined haplogroup.

When that is possible, STR test predicted haplogroup results will be updated to the more refined Family Finder haplogroup.

Furthermore, while STR results are quite reliably predicted, Family Finder results are SNP-confirmed.


When your Family Finder test has received a haplogroup or your STR-derived haplogroup has been updated, you’ll receive an email notification with a link to a short, less than 2-minute video explaining what you’re receiving.

You can also expect emails in the following days with links to additional short videos. If you’d like to watch the videos now, click here.

You can also check your results, of course. If you should have received an email and didn’t, check your spam folder, and if it’s not there, notify FamilyTreeDNA in case your email has managed to get on the bounce list.

Group project administrators will receive notifications when a haplogroup is updated for a member in a project that they manage. This doesn’t just apply to Family Finder haplogroup updates for STR results – notifications will arrive when Big Y haplogroups are updated, too.

Emails about haplogroup updates will include both the old and the updated haplogroup.

Haplogroups may change as other testers receive results, forming a new haplogroup. The Big Y-700 test is evergreen, meaning as the Y tree grows, testers’ results are updated on an ongoing basis.

New View

Let’s take a look at what customers will receive.

In one of my surname projects, one male has taken a Family Finder test, but not the Y DNA test.

Several other men in that same paternal line, who are clearly related (including his brother), have taken Y DNA tests – both STR and the Big Y-700.

We have men who have taken the Big Y-700 test, STR tests only (no Big Y), and one with only a Family Finder test, so let’s compare all three, beginning with the man who has taken a Family Finder test but no Y DNA tests.

He has now been assigned to haplogroup I-BY1031, thanks to his Family Finder test.

Before today, because he has not taken a Y DNA test, he had no haplogroup or Y DNA Results section on his personal page.

Today, he does. Of course, he doesn’t have STR results or matches, but he DOES have confirmed SNP results, at least part way down the tree.

He can view these results on the Haplotree & SNPs tab or in Discover. Let’s look at both.

Haplotree & SNPs

By clicking on the Haplotree & SNPs link, you can view the results by variants (mutations,) as shown below, or by countries, surnames, or recommended projects for each haplogroup.

Of course, as more Family Finder results are rolled out, the more names and countries will appear on the Haplotree.

Recommended Projects

It’s easy to determine which haplogroup projects would be a good fit for people with these new haplogroups to join.

Just view by Recommended Projects, then scan up that column above the selected haplogroup. You can even just click right there to join. It’s that easy!

Results still won’t show on the public project page, because these testers don’t have STR results to display. Perhaps this will encourage additional testing in order to match with other men.

Download SNP Results

If you’re interested, you can download your SNP results in spreadsheet format.

I’m only showing four of my cousin’s positive SNPs, but FamilyTreeDNA was able to extract 358 positive SNPs to assign him to haplogroup I-BY1031.

Are Family Finder Haplogroups Better Than STR Test Predicted Haplogroups?

How do Family Finder haplogroups stack up against STR-predicted haplogroups?

Viewing the Y DNA results of related cousins who have taken STR tests, but not the Big Y-700, we see that their Y DNA haplogroup was predicted as I-M253.

We also know that the haplogroup determined by the Big Y-700 for this line is I-BY73911.

How can we use this information beneficially, and what does it mean?


Family Finder haplogroups can access Discover, which I wrote about, here.

Clicking on the Discover link takes you to your haplogroup story.

Let’s look at the new Family Finder Haplogroup Story for this tester.

Haplogroup I-BY1031 is about 3100 years old and is found in England, Sweden, the US, and 14 other countries. Of course, as more Family Finder haplogroups are provided to customers, this information will change for many haplogroups, so check back often.

Of course, you’ll want to review every single tab, which are chapters in your ancestral story! The Time Tree shows your haplogroup age in perspective to other haplogroups and their formation, and Ancient Connections anchors haplogroups through archaeology.

You can share any Discover page in several ways. This is a good opportunity to excite other family members about the discoveries revealed through DNA testing and genealogy. Prices are reduced right now with the Holiday Sale, too, so it’s a great time to gift someone else or yourself.

Compare – How Good is Good?

Ok, so how much better is the Family Finder haplogroup than the STR-predicted haplogroup, and how much better is the Big Y-700 haplogroup than the other two?

I’ll use the Discover “Compare” feature to answer these questions.

First, let’s compare the STR-predicted haplogroup of I-M253 to the Family Finder haplogroup of I-BY1031.

I clicked on Compare and entered the haplogroup I wish to compare to I-BY1031.

I-M253 I-BY1031 I-BY73199
Haplogroup Source STR Predicted Family Finder Big Y-700
Formation Year 2600 BCE 1100 BCE 1750 CE
Age – Years ago 4600 3100 270
Era Stone Age, Metal Age Metal Age Modern
Ancestral Locations England, Sweden, Germany, UK, +100 Sweden, England, US, +14 Netherlands
Tested Descendants 26,572 121 2
Branches 6779 69 0 – this is the pot-of-gold end leaf on the branch today

I created this chart to compare the major features of all three haplogroups.

The STR-predicted haplogroup, I-M253, takes you to about 2,600 BCE, or about 4,600 years ago. The Family Finder haplogroup shifts that significantly to about 1100 BCE, or 3100 years ago, so it’s about 1500 years more recent. However, the Big Y haplogroup takes you home – from 3100 years ago to about 270 years ago.

Notice that there’s a LOT of room for refinement under haplogroup I-M253. A Big Y tester might wind up on any of those 6779 branches, and might well be assigned to a newly formed branch with his test. The Family Finder haplogroup, I-BY1031, which was, by the way, discovered through Big Y testing, moved the autosomal test taker forward 1500 years where there are 121 descendants in 69 branches. The Big Y-700 test is the most refined possible, moving you directly into a genealogically relevant timeframe with a very specific location.

I-M253 is found in over 100 countries, I-BY1031 in 17 and I-BY73199 is found only in one – the Netherlands.

Based on confirmed genealogy, the common ancestor of the two men who have Big Y-700 haplogroup I-BY73199 was a man named Hendrik Jans Ferwerda, born in 1806 in the Netherlands, so 217 years ago. Of course, that haplogroup itself could have been born a generation or two before Hendrik. We simply won’t know for sure until more men test. More testers refine the haplotree, haplogroup ages, and refine our genealogy as well.

Haplogroup Comparison and Analysis

Let’s look at the Discover “Compare” feature of the three haplogroups from my family line from the Netherlands. Please note that your results will differ because every haplogroup is different, but this is a good way to compare the three types of haplogroup results and an excellent avenue to illustrate why testing and upgrades are so important.

The haplogroup ages are according to the Discover Time Tree.

Y-Adam to Haplogroup I1 I-M253 STR Haplogroup  to I-BY1031 Family Finder Haplogroup I-BY1031 Family Finder Haplogroup to BY73199 Big Y Haplogroup
Y-Adam (haplogroup A-PR2921) lived about 234,000 years ago
I1 I1
I-M253 lived about 4600 years ago
BY1031 I-BY1031 lived about 3100 years ago
I-BY73199 lived about 270 years ago

 All of the base haplogroups in the first column leading to Haplogroup I span the longest elapsed time, about 230,000 years, from Y-Adam to I-M253, the STR-predicted haplogroup, but are the least relevant to contemporary genealogy. They do tell us where we came from more distantly.

The second column moves you about 1500 years forward in time to the Family Finder confirmed haplogroup, reducing the location from pretty much everyplace in Europe (plus a few more locations) with more than 6700 branches, to 69 branches in only 17 countries.

With the fewest haplogroups, the third column spans the most recent 2800 years, bringing you unquestionably into the genealogically relevant timeframe, 270 years ago, in only one country where surnames apply.

If we had more testers from the Netherlands or nearby regions, there would probably be more branches on the tree between BY1031 and BY73199, the Big Y-700 haplogroup.

The second column is clearly an improvement over the first column which gets us to I-M253. The Family Finder upgrade from I-M253 to BY1031 provides information about our ancestors 3000-4500 years ago, where they lived and culturally, what they were doing. Ancient Connections enhance that understanding.

But the third column moves into the modern area where surnames are relevant and is the holy grail of genealogy. It’s a journey to get from Adam to the Netherlands in one family 270 years ago, but we can do it successfully between Family Finder and the Big Y-700.

Family Finder Matching

Given that these new haplogroups result from Family Finder, how do these results show in Family Finder matching? How do we know if someone with a haplogroup has taken a Y DNA test or if their haplogroup is from their Family Finder test?

  • All Family Finder haplogroups will show in the results for people who tested at FamilyTreeDNA as soon as they are all rolled out
  • All MyHeritage and Vitagene uploads, because they are processed by the Gene by Gene lab, will be shown IF they have purchased the unlock.
  • No Ancestry or 23andMe haplogroups will be shown to Family Finder matches

To determine whether or not your matches’ haplogroups result from a Y DNA test or a Family Finder haplogroup, on your Family Finder match page, look just beneath the name of your matches.

The first man above received the Family Finder haplogroup. You can see he has no other tests listed. The second man has taken the Big Y-700 test. You can see that he has a different haplogroup, and if you look beneath his name, you’ll see that he took the Big Y-700 test.

For other men, you may see the 67 or 111 marker tests, for example, so you’ll know that they are available for Y-DNA matching. That may be important information because you can then visit the appropriate surname project to see if they happen to be listed with an earliest known ancestor.

After the rollout is complete, If you have a male Family Finder match with no haplogroup shown, you know that:

  • They did not test at FamilyTree DNA
  • If they uploaded from MyHeritage or Vitagene, they did not unlock the advanced Family Finder features
  • Or, they tested at either 23andMe or Ancestry, and uploaded their results

You can always reach out to your match and ask.

How to Use This Information

There are several great ways to utilize this new information.

I have a roadblock with my Moore line. Moore is a common surname with many, many origins, so I have autosomal matches to several Moore individuals who may or may not be from my Moore line.

I do know the base haplogroup of my Moore men, but I do not have a Big Y, unfortunately, and can’t upgrade because the tester is deceased. (I wish I had ordered the Big Y out the gate, but too late now.)

As soon as the results are complete for all of the testers, I’ll be able, by process of elimination to some extent, focus ONLY on the testers who fall into Family Finder haplogroup of my Moore cousins, or at least haplogroup close for Ancestry or 23andMe upload customers. In other words, I can eliminate the rest.

I can then ask the men with a similar haplogroup to my proven Moore cousins for more information, including whether they would be willing to take a Y DNA test.

  • Second, as soon as the Family Finder processing is complete, I will know that all male Family Finder matches and uploads from MyHeritage and Vitagene that have paid for the unlock will have haplogroups displayed on the Family Finder Match page. Therefore, if there’s a male Moore with no haplogroup, I can reach out to see where they tested and if a haplogroup has been assigned, even if it’s from Ancestry or 23andMe and isn’t displayed in Family Finder.

If so, and they share the haplogroup with me, I’ll be able to include or exclude them. If included, I can then ask if they would consider taking a Y DNA test.

  • Third, for lines I don’t yet have Y DNA testers for, I can now peruse my matches, and my cousins’ matches for that line. See items one and two, above. Even if they don’t reply or agree to Y DNA testing, at least now I have SOME haplogroup for that missing line.

Discover will help me flesh out the information I have, narrow regions, find projects, look at ancient DNA for hints, and more.

  • Fourth, the haplogroups themselves. I don’t know how many million tests FamilyTreeDNA has in their database, but if we assume that half of those are male, some percentage won’t have taken a Y DNA test at all. We’ll be able to obtain Y-DNA information for lines where there may be no other living descendant. I have at least one like that. He was the end of the surname line and is deceased, with no sons.

I’m literally ecstatic that I’ll be able to obtain at least something for that line. If it’s anything like my example Netherlands lineage, the Family Finder haplogroup may be able to point me to an important region of Europe – or maybe someplace else very unexpected.

The Bottom Line

Here’s the bottom line. You don’t know what you don’t know – and our ancestors are FULL of surprises.

I can’t even begin to tell you how MUCH I’m looking forward to this haplogroup rollout.

To prepare, I’m making a list of my genealogical lines:

  • If the paternal line, meaning surname line, is represented by any match in any database
  • If that line is represented by a known person in the FamilyTreeDNA database and by whom
  • If they or someone from that line has joined a surname or other FamilyTreeDNA project, and if so, which one
  • If they’ve taken a Y DNA test, and what kind – watch STR results for an updated haplogroup
  • If they’ve taken a Family Finder test – my cousin is a good example of a known individual whose kit I can watch for a new haplogroup
  • Old and new haplogroup, if applicable

If my only relative from that line is in another vendor’s database, I’ll ask if they will upload their file to FamilyTreeDNA – and explain why by sharing this article. (Feel free to do the same.) A Y DNA haplogroup is a good incentive, and I would be glad to pay for the unlock at FamilyTreeDNA for cousins who represent Y and mitochondrial DNA lines I don’t already have.

One way I sweeten the pie is to offer testing scholarships to select lines where I need either the Y DNA or mitochondrial DNA of relevant ancestors. It’s a good thing these haplogroups are being rolled out a few thousand at a time! I need to budget for all the scholarships I’ll want to offer.

I feel like I won the lottery, and FamilyTreeDNA is giving me a free haplogroup encyclopedia of information about my ancestors through my cousins – even those who haven’t taken Y DNA tests. I can’t even express how happy this makes me.

What lines do you want to discover more about, and what is your plan? Tests are on sale now if you need them!


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Geneanet DNA to End on December 20, 2023

Today, Geneanet announced that they are discontinuing all DNA features on their platform.

Geneanet was purchased by Ancestry more than three years ago and offered DNA uploads and matching, with a chromosome browser, beginning in 2020. They did not offer DNA testing, so anyone who uploaded has to have tested elsewhere, meaning they are in another database somewhere.

Geneanet announced that:

  • As of today, DNA uploads will no longer be accepted.
  • On December 20th, in exactly 30 days, the entire DNA section will be permanently deleted, including your DNA file that you uploaded.

They don’t give any reason other than the DNA program didn’t meet their expectations, and they will focus on other customer-requested features now.

My initial reaction was that this might be due to the 23andMe data exposure issue that I wrote about here, here, and here. However, given the 7-week delay, I think that’s unlikely. Additionally, Geneanet is encouraging people to download their matches now, before the deletion. During this same time, other genealogy DNA companies have removed or restricted match downloads, which makes the 23andMe issue seem like an unlikely catalyst for their decision.

Geneanet states that none of its premium member features will be affected by this decision.

If Geneanet’s pending DNA exit affects you, you might want to take whatever action you deem appropriate, now, before the holidays distract you and you forget about it altogether.

Many people used Geneanet for its European focus to connect with European DNA matches. If this applies to you, I suggest that you upload your DNA files to both MyHeritage (here) and FamilyTreeDNA (here) if you haven’t already done so. MyHeritage has a significant European customer base, thanks to their abundant genealogy research records, and FamilyTreeDNA has many European testers with its 23-year history and European project offerings.

While the Geneanet exit from DNA may be inconvenient, it’s not a disastrous loss. You can find those Geneanet DNA matches elsewhere because they didn’t test at Geneanet.

You can read Geneanet’s blog posting, here.


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I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

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First Aid for the Holidays: It’s OK to Grieve, Just Breathe

As you begin this article, I want to assure you that it ends on a VERY positive note, with tools to help you or others who find themselves in a dark place. The holidays is a very difficult time for many.

Grief wears many faces, and we grieve many things.

This is about my journey out of the tunnel and life on the other side.

These past three years have been indescribably brutal for many people who have experienced loss, and often, multiple losses.

People, family, parents, siblings, children, pets, jobs, homes, and even more devastating losses sometimes – relationships and even entire families. Poof, just gone, sometimes without explanation or reason. Fractured forever, irreparably.

Funerals, when they were held, were often unable to be attended.

There’s no closure.

And now, once again, we face the holidays in this landscape of absence, in an even more politically charged and divisive environment.

Did you just feel your stress level increase?

I know it can be dark and brutal, but I want to share rays of hope with you, and some tools for getting there.

The only way to it is through it.

Please walk with me in this landscape for a bit.

Suicide Hotlines – Just in Case

I know the holidays can be particularly difficult, so just in case you’re overwhelmed, here’s a list of international suicide prevention hotline numbers. Please, please reach out if you need help.

In case you’re wondering, I’m fine. Today, I just talked to someone who isn’t, though.

Change is Tough

For many, including me, the holidays are not and can never be what they once were. Yet, we torture ourselves trying to paste on a smile and go through the motions of the traditions that were once warm and joyful in another time and place. But they aren’t anymore for a wide variety of reasons.

Do yourself a favor.

Just stop.

You don’t HAVE to do this.

And you shouldn’t try to recreate past times through tradition if it’s painful.

Let me share some personal experiences with you. You may have experienced or are experiencing something similar in your life. If you aren’t, good, but rest assured that someone you know and love probably is.

Grief and vulnerability are the secrets no one talks about.


We are all more vulnerable during holidays or periods of traditional cultural celebration, partly because we have expectations based on past experience. Or maybe it’s actually hope for the holidays and the relationships with the people in our lives. Maybe this year will FINALLY be better than the last, and the last, and the last, and everyone will be “home for the holidays” once again.

After all, traditionally, holidays have been a homecoming that looks like a Hallmark greeting card, at least in our minds.

Real life just doesn’t work this way. And if it once did, it doesn’t anymore.

As life moves on, so do people, pets, and family members, for a wide variety of reasons, including death, often making those memories increasingly painful. In some cases, it’s the cumulative number of those events, layer upon layer of grief. Sometimes, it’s how quickly they occur, an agonizing cluster that changes things forever. And sometimes, it’s the fracture of finality, leaving people feeling like they were thrown away like so much trash.

Sometimes, in our efforts to uphold our own expectations and those of others by recreating legendary family traditions and events, we inadvertently fall into a cycle of repeated disappointment, which can lead us to dread these very events in the future.

That’s a downward spiral.

Let Me Give You an Example

My mother cherished Christmas, treasuring it as a time when all the people she loved gathered together, united under one roof in celebration and togetherness.

The house was bustling, and conversations flowed in every room.

Food was abundant, and children zigzagged excitedly through adult legs on the way to their special table.

Sometimes, Santa even visited, although he looked a lot like my brother or the neighbor from the farm down the road. I’m sure that was just a coincidence, though.

In my family, Christmas was both a holiday and our only family reunion.

After Dad passed away, Mom moved to an apartment, and those large family Christmas gatherings were no more, although we regrouped in a different setting. Mom used to be so joyful, singing in the kitchen, but she often cried at Christmas after Dad and others were gone, although she tried to hide her tears from the rest of us.

After Mom passed away, Christmas was just PAINFUL. We tried to focus on our wonderful memories of Mom, but the pain of her departure was very real. Everyone experiences some version of these events, and it’s normal to feel grief, but what we often aren’t prepared for is that someone’s absence changes the dynamics of everything.

For a few years, we still tried to connect with each other and have something resembling a “family holiday,” but not everyone was interested, and people drifted away. The “glue” was gone.

After both of my brothers died of cancer within a few months of each other just six years later, any semblance of family tradition fell completely apart.

I then tried to pivot into the matriarch role and provide family Christmas traditions for my own offspring. I longed for those earlier joyful days, too. They lovingly remembered “Christmas at Mawmaw’s house,” which, in turn, was some iteration of her family Christmas traditions that had been passed down in her maternal line for unknown generations.

I wanted to continue those warm traditions and create loving memories for my family, passing the tradition of togetherness and love to future generations.

That was a wonderful aspiration, but it just wasn’t to be.

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

Physical Mementos

I was bound and determined to continue family traditions. That’s just what the next generation does. My mother picked up the mantle when my grandmother passed away in 1960, and nearly a half-century later, it was my turn.

Mom gave each of her children and grandchildren a special Christmas ornament every year, most of them handmade. She loved to crochet and started working on ornaments and Christmas gifts months before the holiday season. After all, she had several to make and enjoyed every minute. Love was woven in every stitch.

Sometimes, the ornaments were representative of the year, like an Olympics year, for example, or maybe a ballerina or football ornament for children who participated in those activities. The theory was that each child would have a “starter set” of personal Christmas ornaments with loving memories when they fledged from the nest and started their own home with their own Christmas tree.

Mom even taped a tiny year someplace on the ornament, generally on the hanger, so they would know which ornament went with which year.

I thought that was wonderful, so I began to do the same thing.

In addition to making ornaments for my children, I made this ornament for Mom the year she won a Best of Show ribbon at the Indiana State Fair. Mom and I so enjoyed attending those exhibits together, often with grandchildren in tow. That was a red-letter year for her, and she proudly displayed the ornament on her tree, right in the front. Then, 17 years later, I inherited that ornament. It’s bittersweet, of course, but reminds me of our wonderful times together and Mother’s beautiful handwork.

I made and gifted special ornaments each year, not only to my children, but eventually to my grandchildren.

While my children began their adult life with their own ornament set, the next generation wasn’t interested and didn’t even remember that they received ornaments year to year. I tried everything, special boxes, allowing them to select ornaments from my tree that they liked, but nothing worked.

Then, in time, it wasn’t just the ornament tradition that bit the dust, but all of the traditions. Put simply, no one cared. I finally got the message.

That left me with boxes full of Christmas tree ornaments, and two trees. I tried putting the tree up regardless, because – you know – Mom and memories, and she would have liked that. And maybe, just maybe, things would be different this year.

But I sat alone, sadder every year, because there was no family gathering Christmas tradition anymore, despite my continuing efforts. There were no songs, no Christmas smells in the house, and what at one time had been a wonderful, warm tradition became just the opposite. Those ornaments seemed to mock me and served to remind me of pointed absence, not presence.

I dreaded the holidays more each year.

The family had shrunk dramatically and been cleaved into two. One of my adult children continued to come with their spouse and remained engaged, but the silence of the absence of the balance of the family members was deafening.

It’s not like we could pretend that empty chairs weren’t empty.

Then came Covid and unraveled the rest.

Enough is Enough

In some families, Covid, sometimes combined with ugly politics, broke traditions and relationships that haven’t resumed or recovered.

The forced isolation of Covid and traditions shattered by estrangement have continued for many. That situation now exists by choice, not by Covid.

Life is simply too short to continue enduring the repeated pain of rejection, especially for no discernible reason.

Hope is not a strategy, and repeated disappointment evolves into a cycle of ever-deepening grief.

At some point, enough is enough. There needs to be an end to the spiral of recurring pain.

Wishing, hoping, inviting, and even begging simply can’t make people care or succeed in recreating past traditions. People don’t show up if they don’t want to. Recurrent flimsy excuses that really say “I don’t care,” take the place of people. I think guilt then discourages showing up and “facing people” in the future, too, so it’s a self-perpetuating cycle of “can’t bother, don’t care.”

Even if the wished-for people begrudgingly attend, somewhat under duress, or maybe from a sense of obligation, it’s not the same because it’s obvious that they really don’t want to be there. That’s almost worse than absence.

When things no longer work, it’s time to accept that fact, release them, and move on. It’s much like going through the motions in a bad marriage – not good for anyone and never gets better.

For me, that moment arrived when I almost died. I found myself perilously close to death, and in those moments, as life hung perilously in the balance, something inexplicable changed.


Working from home during Covid provided the opportunity to move – something we had considered for years. We knew it was time to move, and move on.

The next challenge was packing, which means you have to sort through everything and decide what to do with things. Take, leave, give away, sell, or trash. As you come across all those things you boxed up years ago, you relive all of those shallowly buried memories. Ghouls come leaping from the grave.

After consulting with my daughter, I gave away all the Christmas ornaments and both trees to loving homes. I kept a few ornaments – some that Jim and I had purchased on special occasions, those yearly ornaments from Mom, some made by my children, and the ones from my grandmother as well. My daughter will inherit those someday.

The rest just needed to go.

I no longer feel obligated to “try” to recreate traditions that died.

I no longer feel obligated to put up a Christmas tree that simply makes me cry every time I see ornaments that remind me of people, lives, traditions, and relationships that have passed away, either literally or figuratively.

I don’t do any of that anymore.

Life’s too short, and self-care is critically important.


Triggers are like unexpectedly poking an old wound. Maybe cracking your shin or crazy bone against something sharp. OUCH!

It seems that we are more susceptible to triggers during the holidays. That’s when holiday decorations, ads, and songs are more in evidence, reminding us of times past whether we want to be reminded or not.

Sometimes, though, triggers are found when and where we least expect them – like in the cedar chest.

This past week, I was ill and wanted to add an extra quilt to the bed, so I grabbed a quilt that one of my friends lovingly made for my small family wedding 20 years ago.

It seemed like such a good idea at the time, asking attendees to sign squares. Each of those yellow centers holds a signature and, often, a message too.

It was late at night, and I was already “sick and tired,” literally. For some reason, I decided to read those squares. It seemed like such a positive thing to do, because it was such a joyful day, and they had been lovingly penned.

What was I thinking? I thought they would be comforting. I should have known better.

As I began, the one signed by my daughter, who stood up with me as my maid of honor, made me smile. There were lovely messages from long-time friends and my quilt sisters.

I saw Mom’s shaky signature, a couple of years before she left us, and that made me both smile and cry. That response didn’t surprise me, but some of the rest did.

Most of the people have either passed away or migrated away. I don’t necessarily mean that in a universally negative sense because, in some cases, it was due to aging and necessary life changes. Even for the best of reasons, it represented a loss of sorts, like Christmas tree lights that dim and wink out one by one.

Sometimes, the reason was darker. Some people died, and in other cases, relationships ended – some horribly and bitterly, inflicting great pain.

But the square that absolutely gutted me was the tiny traced handprint of a child, no longer here. Ripped my heart right out of my chest, threw it on the floor, and stomped on it. Daggers to my soul.

That was it. I folded that quilt up and put it away. I may never unfold it again.

It vividly resurrects all the memories of those now-gone people and traditions in both their glory and deepest tragedy.

We all reach a low at some point, often for unexpected reasons. The proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back, but that does not need to be the end of the story. It’s just the shutting of that door and the opening of another.

Let’s open a door.

New Traditions

I am determined that I will not allow change, even unwelcome or forced change, to defeat me and define my life.

I did not die on that life-changing day, nor with those traditions, relationships, or those people. Those who love or loved me would not want me to, and the rest don’t matter.

Let me say that again, THE REST DON’T MATTER.

I’m still here, relatively healthy, and living the next chapter of life in beautiful surroundings.

Yes, Thanksgiving is on the calendar, and so is Christmas. You can’t miss those dates or events. There will be Thanksgiving dinner, but just for me, Jim, and maybe a friend or two – and that’s now fine.

Yes, just fine.

My daughter and I have mutually agreed to release old habits and make glorious new ones that better suit our lives now. Or, maybe just the tradition of enjoying the moment whenever it occurs. Let’s face it: travel is brutal in the middle of the winter, so we select easier, less-crowded times.

There will be no traditional Christmas tree, for either me or her. And guess what, that’s not only absolutely fine, it’s cathartic and a relief. This is my Charlie Brown Christmas tree now, and I love it. It comes with no hassle and no tears.

Our small remaining family has decided that gifts will no longer be exchanged during the holiday season. We will simply do things for each other during the year, as the opportunity arises and we see something a family member would enjoy.

For example, my daughter and I took a glorious trip together this summer.

Art, gardens, parks, dogs, eagles, moose, coffee, luscious food in little-known quaint restaurants and family – how does it get better???

Sometimes, surprise boxes arrive. That’s such fun. I’m now the proud human adopter of a rescued manatee, Ariel.

Here’s the beautiful part. We are both very much looking forward to our next adventure together – not dreading the holidays.

We will embark on a wonderful journey soon, together, on a white sand beach in a place neither of us ever imagined. I can hardly wait.

No more dreading the holidays and trying to breathe life into dead traditions. She’s probably relieved, too.

We’re free.

It wasn’t easy or immediate, but…

We. Are. Free.

We are no longer adrift or cast away on a sea of grief.

Just Breathe

Today, I can breathe instead of grieve. No more tightness of dread in my chest, increasing each day as the holidays approach, knowing assuredly that things will go wrong, just not how this year. No more fighting back hot, unwelcome tears from mid-November to New Year’s when the holidays are finally over.

Now that I’ve found peace in embracing change, it no longer feels like chronic loss, but a stream of new opportunities to be enjoyed. The joy is being spread in different, less traditional ways.

The past no longer binds me. It wasn’t working any more.

As for Christmas Day, I’m starting a new tradition for myself. I’m going to walk on the beach and feel the salty breeze in my hair. Either alone or with Jim.

No one else will be there. I will commune with Mom and Dad, my brother Dave, my sister Edna, my cousin Cheryl, and the rest of those I’ve loved and lost.

They will be with me there, gliding with the gulls on the ocean breeze.

With immense gratitude, I’ll remember my ancestors who survived incredibly difficult journeys. Without them, I wouldn’t have this priceless opportunity to live and make a difference in other people’s lives.

I will be thankful for those opportunities and send positive energy into the universe for the earth and her people.

I’ll lift a prayer for peace and unity, which we so desperately need right now.

But I won’t, I will NOT grieve the past. I’ve had that funeral, and it’s at rest now.

I, too, will be at peace.

Your Turn

Put whatever brings you pain to rest and release it so that you can make space to breathe in the new.

You’re not obligated to uphold old traditions. Don’t stay trapped in what no longer works.

This is a labyrinth, not a maze.

There’s a way out, an exit, an off-ramp.

Your ancestors will help you. They walk with you in unseen ways, offering guidance and wisdom.

Move on to something new, more suited to you.

Give yourself permission.

Release yourself from the pain of the past.

Create beautiful, new, imaginative traditions, or none at all.

Either is fine.

When life gives you scraps, make quilts.

Find or make something new and joyful.

Allow yourself flights of fancy and to dream.

The sky is not the limit.

There is no limit.

And breathe.

Just breathe.

Help With Inspirational Positivity

What we view interacts with our brain. As a quilter, I’m very aware of how color and pattern make us feel. The images I used in the section above were created with that in mind. How did they make you feel?

If you’re having trouble feeling positive, and who doesn’t from time to time, motivational or inspirational images will help. AI is your friend, so let’s give it a try.

If you subscribe to ChatGPT 4, enter a request into DALL-E, the image generator. If you don’t subscribe to ChatGPT, my favorite, use a free image generator. You can ask ChatGPT’s free version for free AI image generators to get started, or you can try DALL-E for free through Bing’s Image Creator, here. Personally, I think the $20 a month for ChatGPT 4, which includes Dall-E, is well worth the investment, even if you just use it for one month for a daily dose of positivity during a difficult time.

Ask ChatGPT 4’s DALL-E or your AI generator of choice to create an inspirational image. You may or may not provide more direct or additional instructions. You can even just google.

I asked DALL-E to “create a picture by interpreting the phrase, ‘when life gives you scraps, make beautiful quilts’.”

Next, I included a photo of myself as a young person and asked ChatGPT to “put the person in a positive and inspirational setting with a labyrinth.”

ChatGPT doesn’t use people’s photos, but it generates images with likenesses. This is what I received. I can continue refining this image by asking ChatGPT to change it or by submitting a new request. (Please note that ChatGPT’s image generator is sometimes overburdened, and you have to wait a bit and try later.)

Be sure to include words in the instructions like “uplifting, “positive,” “ethereal”, “beautiful,” or “colorful.”

Next, I asked Dall-E to add a quilt theme to the same labyrinth image, above.

ChatGPT’s DALL-E doesn’t always follow directions exactly, but I must admit, I really love this, and now I want to make it as a quilt.

If you’re in a difficult space and can do nothing else right now, utilize ChatGPT, other AI image generators, Pixabay or even Google to bombard yourself with positive, hopeful images of your new or imagined life.

I’m serious.

Inspiration comes from many places, and beautiful images lift our spirits.

You WILL feel better.

Happy Holidays

Thanksgiving week begins now, so gird your loins if you need to, and maybe consider something novel. If you’re concerned about Thanksgiving dinner going off the rails, CNN’s newsletter today, here, provided a list of “20 Questions to Spark Gratitude.” It’s a thoughtful piece and worth taking a look, even if you don’t need it for Thanksgiving. I exchanged answers with Jim, which was fun, and we both learned something.

I asked ChatGPT for nontraditional Thanksgiving celebration ideas, and it suggested a barbeque or picnic celebration on a beach, a craft day, or a gratitude scavenger hunt.

You can ask the free version of ChatGPT for ideas, too.

I wish you the happiest of holidays over the next few weeks, no matter how you do, or don’t, decide to celebrate.

Please do something that brings YOU joy.


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15th Annual FamilyTreeDNA Conference for Genetic Genealogy – Reunion, Reception and Keynote

Fifteen years is a VERY long time in this industry. The first conference for group project administrators took place in 2004 in Houston. The “annual” part was interrupted twice by hurricanes, and then along came Covid.

It was nothing short of WONDERFUL to be back together again. Five of us have attended all 15 conferences. Nearly half of the attendees were there for the first time. It’s always nice to engage with new people.

While the conference is open to Group Administrators, the sessions aren’t focused, for the most part, on group project administrator activities. However, some sessions are focused on optimum ways to handle and group large numbers of testers, like in surname projects. Project administration affects us all.

Many session topics reflect education, such as how phylogenetics works, or ancient DNA, or how to find your Native American ancestor. And then, of course, the keynotes are always amazing.

This was the first year the conference was blended, combining in-person and virtual.

Janine Cloud, shown here smiling as she enjoyed a presentation, manages the Groups group at FamilyTreeDNA and coordinates FamilyTreeDNA’s conference presence.

Janine shouldered the responsibility for putting this conference together, and while she had lots of help, there would have been no conference without her. I want to say a HUGE thank you to Janine.

During part of the conference, there were three session tracks to choose from, and I clearly couldn’t be in all of them simultaneously to take pictures. I also presented, and there are no photos of my session. I thought about giving my phone to someone and asking for a favor, but I didn’t want to interfere with their experience.

I was initially going to publish one article about the conference and presentations, but it simply grew too long, so I’m separating the conference experience into several, more meaningful articles. I learned something new in every session, so I hope you’ll “come along.”

Part Conference, Part Reunion

I’m taking a point of personal privilege here and posting fun photos first.

I was already excited, but when the plane was landing, and the Houston skyline came into view, I knew it would only be another hour or so before I saw my friends again. Like a little kid, I could hardly wait.

I hadn’t realized a couple of things.

First, how much I’ve missed people during the Covid “pause.” Not only was that difficult because of the disease itself and the necessary social restrictions to halt the spread, but because I lost SO MANY friends and family members. Many deaths resulted from Covid, and some were due to other things.

Both individually and cumulatively, the losses were brutal and devastating. Added on to the isolation.

Some people accumulate more family members as they age. If you had lots of siblings or several children – you’re adding to the family with new grandbabies, nieces and nephews. However, if you had a small family to begin with, and a small family yourself, your family may be rapidly shrinking instead of rapidly expanding.

That’s what has been happening to me.

My siblings are all gone now. My closest cousin who was functionally my sister passed over earlier this year.

Other than my immediate family and quilt-sisters, the people I’m the closest to are my cousins that I met through genealogy, and my genealogy friends. We have developed a bond that has endured and survived all kinds of obstacles for decades – including the grim-reaper and Covid.

None of us were or are ever assured of seeing each other again. We used to take that for granted, when we were younger, but not anymore. Now we are vividly aware, through painful experience, that none of us are invincible, nor do we know when any one of us is going to join the ancestors.

These past few years, many of us held our breath as each other suffered through Covid and family loss – praying, sewing masks when there were none, making front porch soup deliveries, and sometimes delivering care quilts. Then there were the virtual hugs at virtual funerals. I’ll not even mention the other crushingly difficult situations that have arisen during this time.

But here we were, in Houston, finally together once again. Survivors.

I didn’t realize in advance that I was attending a family reunion.

There are just no words to express the joyful reunions. People seeing each other for the first time in four and a half years, names shouted from across the room, and people literally running to embrace.

Tears, hugs, joy.

Jennifer Zinck snapped this photo of me and Janine Cloud meeting once again and graciously permitted me to use it and a few others in this article.

Speaking of Jenn, it was wonderful seeing her and her daughter as well. More joyful reunions. Can you see the chromosomes on Jenn’s dress? What fun!

Bennett Greenspan, the founder and President Emeritus of FamilyTreeDNA, “retired” a couple of years ago, but only to do what genealogists do in retirement. Genealogy, of course, and in his case, genetic genealogy. Would you expect anything less? I was thrilled for this photo op of me, Bennett, and long-time project administrator and friend, Bonny Cook.

Courtney Eberhard was kind enough to take this wonderful group photo at the Friday night reception. Left to right, Katy Rowe, Product Owner at FamilyTreeDNA; Katherine Borges, ISOGG founder; Max Blankfeld, retired co-founder of FamilyTreeDNA; Dana Leeds, creator of the Leeds method; Tim Janzen, MD, long-time genetic genealogist with an interest in Mennonite DNA; Bennett Greenspan; me and Tom Cloud, Cloud Project co-administrator. I’m sure you recognize these faces and names. I’ve discovered over the years that I’m related to at least two of these people, which is part of the fun of genealogy. Right?

Bennett and Max did humanity, particularly genealogists, an incredible service by founding FamilyTreeDNA 23 or 24 years ago. Who knew where we’d be a quarter-century later.

Those of you who know me know that I have an affinity for chocolate, especially dark chocolate. I also often take chocolate with me and pass out Ghirardelli squares. Sometimes I can be a bit of a pest and ask a lot of questions, so I learned long ago that chocolate in advance is the best form of asking forgiveness.

Mags Gaulden, my sister-of-heart, apparently agrees and was trying to save me from too much chocolate. I greatly appreciate her sacrifice on my behalf. 😊

Actually, Mags was my front-row seatmate and we had so much doggone fun. We tried, without much success, to behave. Or maybe we didn’t really try that hard!

This lovely lady, Marilyn Souders, one of the five people who have attended every conference, dressed the part and granted permission to publish her photo with these lovely helix tops. She said she found them on Etsy. Now I want one too.

I was lucky enough to get a photo with the R&D team, who were all present except Dr. Paul Maier.

To include Paul in the group picture, Dr. Miguel Vilar, at right, is holding “flat Paul.”

Trying to take selfies made us all laugh. The person with the longest arm gets to hold the phone, someone else gets to tap the button, and everyone tries to smile at the same time!

My lovely friend, Derrell Oakley Teat, who, in honor of HER birthday hand-made and brought gifts for others.

I’m always excited when young people are interested in both science and genealogy. Juniper Zinck has been attending conferences for years now and met Derrell in 2016. Derrell made Juniper a lovely critter, now named Hermie the Wormie to go with Franklin the Spider who accompanied Juniper and posed with many of us at her first conference.

I was stunned to find this lovely gift pack at my seat – everything handmade by Derrell.

Inside the package were several goodies including a hotpad, drink cozy, dishcloth and skillet handle hotpad. I came home with “conference cred” and have been using the hotpad as a mini placemat for my soup bowls.

Plus, my very own adorable little Woggley Worm, who also enjoyed the sessions.

How cute is this with a “family tree” and a tiny passport. I confess, this made me cry. So many of us have been on such adventures together, all bonded through genetic genealogy.

I wasn’t the only lucky person. I saw Derrell passing gifts out to others, too. What a wonderful, thoughtful way to celebrate your birthday.

However, Derrell wasn’t getting off the hook that easy, because the entire room “sang” to her, or at least attempted to sing to her. I’ll spare you my caterwauling! One gentleman who is a retired opera singer sang Happy Birthday to her property, but sadly,  I missed it.

Derrell is “retiring” as a project administrator, so we suspect it will be the last time she joins us at the conference.

Before I close this section, I need to say a personal thank you to several people who brought me goodies and mementos from where they live. Pins, remembrances, and chocolate from around the world. Did I mention chocolate? Thank you. Thank you. I was quite surprised to be the lucky recipient and oh so grateful. I’m still rationing the chocolate so I can enjoy it and think fondly of my years of friendship with the gifter.

Thank you, Bennett

The R&D team, without Paul, but including Bennett Greenspan, who began it all.

Bennett has certainly earned his place as a team member. I’d say “honorary member,” but Bennett is still quite involved with his extensive research and focus.

I can’t tell you how many times over the years I approached Bennett, often at conferences, and said, “I have an idea,” or “I’ve observed something interesting,” or, “We need to update and redo the mitochondrial tree.”

Bennett has always been an advocate for scientific research to advance our knowledge about the intersection of historical and genetic information and discoveries.

Sometimes Bennett asked intense questions, but if your ideas stood up to scrutiny, his answers were always some version of, “Let’s do it!” Then, you were expected to do just that.

While Bennett did officially retire, his legacy never will. In fact, it’s still being written. The Million Mito Project with the updated MitoTree and accompanying MitoDiscover, actively under development and currently planned for 2024, began with his approval and has his signature all over it.

The discoveries made under Bennett’s stewardship have changed lives in untold and immeasurable ways. Bennett’s vision didn’t just launch a company, it birthed an industry that has expanded and continues to expand exponentially, beyond even Bennett’s wildest dreams. He was just a genealogist, trying to reassemble his family.

The 2004 FamilyTreeDNA conference was the first conference anywhere focused solely on genetic genealogy, specifically for project administrators who act as shepherds for projects of interest to them and their project members.

This week in Houston, that legacy of generosity and helping each other also lived on.

Bless your heart, Bennett, in all the best ways, and thank you from the bottom of mine.

The Conference

Check-in began, goodie bags were passed out (thank you, FamilyTreeDNA), and the traditional reception occurred on Friday evening. FamilyTreeDNA had arranged unofficial tutoring sessions with volunteers on Friday afternoon for those who arrived early.

My first view of the tables below where the conference rooms were located and meals were served. Breakfast and lunch were included.

I could hardly wait to get down there!

Everyone was engaged. There was lots of visiting and catching up.

The conference is small enough that attendees have the opportunity to visit with, encourage, and exchange ideas with everyone over the three-day event.

Over the years, so many ideas and collaborations have been birthed and problems solved at these tables.

Lior Rauchberger, the CEO of myDNA which includes FamilyTreeDNA opened the conference remotely from Australia, welcoming everyone.

Thank you, Lior, for continuing this fine tradition of education and excellence.

Clayton Conder, VP of Marketing, and Katy Rowe, Product Manager, shared emcee duties for the weekend.

Years ago, Max and Bennett established the tradition of recognizing the administrators who had passed away since the last conference.

I had a huge lump in my throat. Not only did I know many of these people, four were co-administrators with me on projects. And then, there was legendary Bob McLaren, loved by all.

Making Connections

Genealogy, including genetic genealogy, is about making connections.

At conferences, I have this love-hate relationship with the FamilySearch app’s feature called “Relatives Around Me.” Mostly love!

You are connected to the FamilySearch “one world tree,” and have the app installed on your phone. At a conference or any place with multiple people who have the app open, you can click on the “Relatives Around Me” tab, which then displays, according to the FamilySearch tree, who you’re related to.

This app is lots of fun and a conversation starter.

Of course, caveats always apply about validating the information, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used this tool to find cousins and share information.

Courtney and I discovered that we are confirmed 8th cousins three times removed.

The bad news is that once you encourage people to use “Relatives Around Me,” you’re going to lose your audience for the next 15 minutes as they find each other and compare ancestors!

The Keynote

Stephanie Gilbert – Sojurns in Truth, My First Time Travel

Stephanie Gilbert delivered an AWESOME keynote, in addition to a second session the following day.

Stephanie told her stories for the first time as presentations, to us, and what a stories they were. Things every genealogist dreams of, like finding your ancestors’ homes or recovering their possessions, but even more challenging and emotionally difficult for the descendants of enslaved people.

Stephanie was adopted by a loving African-American family. Her first session told how she traced her adoptive family’s heritage to the Richland Farm in Maryland, where their ancestors were enslaved.

By HoCoHistory – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60128519

Stephanie’s ancestors were not slave hands, at least some of them, but worked in the “big house,” pictured here in 2014.

Like many genealogists, Stephanie began by asking family members about their known history.

Stephanie asked Cousin Bert to tell her what she knew about the family. Cousin Bert knew some things, but Stephanie’s digging led to far more – things nobody knew.

I don’t want to steal any of Stephanie’s thunder, in case you have the opportunity to hear her speak, or listen to the recorded sessions if you signed up as a conference attendee – but she’s one of the best storytellers I’ve had the honor of listening to.

You could have heard a pin drop as she told of her formerly enslaved ancestor, Oliver Cromwell Gilbert, a “house slave” at Walnut Grove, son of Cynthia, the enslaved cook. Unlike many enslaved people who could not read or write, Oliver penned a precious manuscript, now in Stephanie’s possession.

Stephanie connected with the Watkins family who formerly enslaved her family and has been able to repair many of the “fractures of slavery.” The family had additional information that allowed Stephanie to learn more about two earlier generations of her family, AND, eventually, to own many of the items that her ancestors lived with and touched on the plantation.

Stephanie visits, yet today, on her yearly sojourn where she sits peacefully and communes with those ancestors who still speak in whispers.

You can read more of Stephanie’s story here, here and here.

Finding Suzanne

Stephanie’s second presentation was about her own adoption journey and connecting with her biological family.

Stephanie was known at the time of adoption, when she was not a newborn, as “Baby Girl Rice.”

Stephanie would come to learn that, in essence, her mother was forced into placing Stephanie, then Baby Girl Rice, for adoption. When the time came to sign the papers, her mother informed the agency that she had changed her mind and was told that she could not do so.

The baby was taken, adopted, and renamed Stephanie with her new family.

Clearly, that was unethical and perhaps illegal, but it’s also water long under that bridge.

Stephanie’s journey is not only fascinating, it’s incredibly inspirational.

She takes us to the filling station, where a chance meeting between her husband and a man in line led to her father’s family, and a day later, to her father.

Stephanie shared with us the truly “stranger than fiction” lives of her two biological parents, how and when they met in the most unlikely circumstances.

During her presentations, Stephanie made a couple of resonant points.

We are approaching the last opportunity to reconnect with ancestors from the mid-1800s using DNA. By this, she means that the generations we need to test that carry enough autosomal DNA of our ancestors are passing away. This is particularly important for people who lose their lineage before the 1860s when slavery ended. We are now at the 5 or 6 generation inflection point.

Stephanie didn’t mention this, but for those who were not enslaved, reaching back before the 1850 census is challenging. In 1850, all family members were listed by name, but in 1840 and earlier, just the head of household.

Furthermore, older generations may not even realize they possess valuable information and take that library of information along with them into the great beyond when they pass away. I wish desperately I had known what to ask my great-aunt before she died in the 1990s.

Stephanie has focused on repairing the fractures of slavery, both through genetics and relationships with people today. For example, she established a relationship with the family who enslaved her ancestors and, through that relationship, was able to discover even more about her family. She has also reunited with her biological family, another type of fracture that has been repaired, and relationships recovered.

The Sale Started

Keeping with tradition, the holiday sale starts with the conference, and the sale prices are available, here, now. If you’re interested in the Big Y-700 test, now’s a great time.

Join me soon for the second day of the FamilyTreeDNA 2023 conference.


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Marie Gaudet (c1633-1710) – The Three Maries – 52 Ancestors #415

Just wait till you hear Marie Gaudet’s entire story!!! It’s a doozy. Truth be told, she has a secret so well kept that Marie may not have known about it herself.

But first, we have to set the stage. You need to meet the three Maries – Marie Gaudet and her two daughters – both named Marie. Nothing confusing about that, right?

Of course, you’ll meet the rest of the family as we navigate their adventures and misadventures in early Acadia, now Nova Scotia.

Of course, in the beginning, Acadia consisted of just a few houses on a distant peninsula of land, jutting into the North Atlantic. Only the very brave, or maybe the crazy, would choose to go there where death was only one misstep or mistake away!

Destination Acadia!

Marie Gaudet (also Godet), the subject of this article and the mother of the other two Maries, was born between 1630 and 1633, someplace in France, to her father, Jean Gaudet, and an unknown mother. I can’t help but wonder if her mother was named Marie, too.

Several ships arrived with settlers around 1648, so she may have been on board one of those along with at least her father and two siblings.

We know of the following arrivals, plus many undocumented ships bringing both supplies and workers from France.

  • 1632 – two ships from Auray in lower Brittany and a third from La Rochelle
  • The 1636 St. Jehan roster lists Jehan Guiot and wife, but no children.The departure location is unstated.
  • 1640s – ships from La Rochelle with workers, many of whom returned to France after their work contract expired.
  • Supply ships arrived in 1648.

There are few records of family arrivals, but clearly, they happened.

Marie was probably married about 1650 because her oldest known child, Marie Hebert, was born in 1651.

In the early 1650s, Port Royal was quite small, especially as the seed of the French-Acadians whose descendants number in the millions today. In 1653, there were about 45-50 households primarily clustered around Port Royal, and the population was estimated to be about 270 residents in 1654.

We don’t know when these families arrived, but we do know that French families would not have been transported during English rule, and they were likely in Acadia by 1650. Control of Acadia was batted back and forth like a ping-pong ball, amid much fighting, between the English and the French.

In 1654, Port Royal was burned by the English, but upriver homesteads may have been spared.

This map was drawn by the English in 1758, but shows the farms scattered along the river to the east of Port Royal, named here as Fort Annapolis.

In 1667, Acadian rule again shifted to the French who, in turn, required censuses be taken for tax purposes! Gotta love that tax man for generating records.

We’re lucky we know as much about Marie Gaudet as we do. As it turns out, we’re indebted to many of her descendants who provided depositions decades after her death.

1767 Depositions

After the forcible expulsion of the Acadians from Nova Scotia by the British beginning in 1755, some 3,500 eventually found themselves back in France. Of those, 78 Acadian families were repatriated to Belle-Ile-en-Mer, an island off the coast of Brittany.

On the order of Parliament of Brittany at Vannes, 58 depositions of the Acadians regarding their original heads of families were taken on the island between February and March of 1767. The parish priest recorded what the Acadian exiles, under oath, had to say about their ancestors and their origins. The purpose was to allow French officials to determine which Acadian refugees were entitled to the King’s protection.

Lucie LeBlanc Consentino graciously transcribed the essence of the depositions in English, here.

According to ten of Marie Gaudet’s descendants who gave depositions in 1767, Marie came from France and was married to Etienne Hebert. The descendants all stated that Marie and Etienne came from France, in fact, they said that Marie came “with her husband,” according to Lucie’s translation, but what they don’t say is whether or not they were married in France, or in Acadia. Acadian church records from that time no longer exist. In other words, they could have come separately, both from France and even potentially on the same ship. There may have been no marriage record in France, even if the records from where they originated are still extant. We simply don’t know when they arrived, or from where, or where they married.

Marie’s first or middle name may have been Anne, because two of her descendants mistakenly called her Anne, not Marie.

Depositions were given by:

  • Grandson Jean Hebert
  • Pierre Trahan, husband of her granddaughter Madeleine Comeau
  • One from their son, Pierre Trahan
  • One from their nephews Sylvestre and Simon Trahan
  • Two from the husbands of Marie’s great-granddaughters
  • One from a great-great-grandson
  • Two from husbands of her great-great-granddaughters

All depositions named Marie specifically except for the two Pierre Trahans.

Marie was the younger sister of Francoise Gaudet, who reportedly “came from France” with her husband, Daniel LeBlanc. Marie was also Denis Gaudet’s younger sister. The tree of Karen Theriot Reader, here, in an immigration note, provides the following information:

Robert C. West, AN ATLAS OF LOUISIANA SURNAMES OF FRENCH AND SPANISH ORIGIN; 1625-1880; Baton Rouge, Louisiana State Univ., 1986; p. 98; own copy. “All members of the clan being descendants of a single couple, Daniel LeBlanc and Francoise Gaudet of La Chaussée, Loudun area, France, who settled near Port Royal in 1659.” (A footnote cites: Sclanders, Ian 1972, “The LeBlancs of Acadia,” in FRENCH-CANADIAN AND ACADIAN GENEALOGICAL REVIEW, 4:11-16; Auger 1972, ibid., pp. 21-36; Godbout 1972, ibid. pp. 17-20; Massignon 1962, 1:42; Arsenault 1978, op cit., vol. 2:648; Pollard, Nora Lee, THE BOOK OF LEBLANC, Baton Rouge, Claitor’s, 1973, p. 1)

This, of course, begs the question of whether the Gaudet family was from La Chaussee. I wonder if anyone has searched the records for anything resembling Gaudet in or near that location.

Life In Acadia

Acadians were subsistence farmers, raising what they needed to live with hopefully a little extra to sell to passing ships, English soldiers at the fort, or maybe on a ship bound for New England – although trading with New England was illegal for the most part.

ChatGPT Dall-E’s interpretation of Acadians working in the field in 1686. ChatGPT is insistent on retaining the steeple on the barn, although we know clearly that the Acadians were Catholic and did not attend church in barns in the fields. Beyond that, this is probably a fair representation of communal farmwork.

The 1671 Census

While Marie’s life in Acadia began at least two decades earlier, the first actual record of Marie Gaudet in Acadia is the 1671 census of Port Royal, where Marie is shown as a 38-year-old widow living in the household next to her daughter Marie Hebert, age 20, and her husband Michel De Forest.

Thankfully, Marie Gaudet’s children are listed:

  • Marie 20 (born about 1651, married to Michel DeForest)
  • Marguerite 19 (born about 1652, married to Jacques LePrince)
  • Emmanuel 18, not yet married (born about 1653)
  • Etienne 17 (born about 1654)
  • Child born in about 1656 likely perished
  • Jean 13 (born about 1658)
  • Child probably born about 1660 likely perished
  • Francoise 10 (born about 1661)
  • Catherine 9 (born about 1662)
  • Child probably born about 1664 likely perished
  • Martine 6 (born about 1665)
  • Michel 5 (born about 1666)
  • Child probably born about 1668 likely perished
  • Antoine 1 (born about 1670)

Marie also has 4 cattle, 5 sheep and 3 arpents of land.

Marie’s residence is located between Michel DeForest, her son-in-law, and Denis Gaudet, her brother, age 46, with his wife Martine Gauthier. Their father, Jean Gaudet, laborer, age 96, is living with Denis. Jean’s age is almost certainly wrong since he was still living seven years later in the next census – although it’s possible he lived to 103. Regardless, that poor old man was still listed as a laborer.

Marie had endured a lot of recent grief. The obvious gaps between children strongly suggest that she had buried four children, including a child between 1668 and 1670. Given that she had one-year-old Antoine, Marie’s husband, Etienne Hebert, had died about 1670, or at least within the past two years, sometime after Marie had become pregnant for Antoine. Marie could have been pregnant when Etienne died.

There she was, 36 or 37 years old, living on the frontier, either pregnant or with an infant, plus seven other children to care for. Perhaps her two sons-in-law saved the day, along with her teenage sons Emmanuel and Etienne. Regardless, no one wants to be needy and beholden to others.

Marie already had three grandchildren through daughter Marie Hebert with Michel DeForest, and probably two grandchildren through daughter Marguerite through her marriage with Jacques LePrince, although they are not listed in the 1671 census.

Under the circumstances, how was Marie to survive?

How did she survive?


Marie was single in a time when wives in Acadia were a scarce commodity. She also had land, so she probably had her choice of suitors.

Maybe she intended to wait for Mr. Right, but I’d think that Mr. Right-Now would have been imminently attractive with a farm to run and seven hungry mouths to feed.

The next census wasn’t taken for another seven years, in 1678, but a lot happened during that time.

In 1677, Marie’s oldest daughter, age 26, also named Marie, who lived next door, died. I’ve always wondered if she died in childbirth. Marie must have been utterly heartbroken and probably wondered why it couldn’t have been her instead, although she wasn’t even yet 50.

In the 1678 census, which might have been taken in early 1679, we find Dominiq Garrau (Dominique Gareau) and Marie Godet. With them is listed Jean Godet, no age given, which would be Marie’s father, in addition to a boy, age 3, who would have been born about 1675. Another girl is listed, age 4, so born about 1674, along with 3 acres (arpents?) and 8 cattle. The rest of Marie’s Hebert children are missing.

It’s difficult to interpret this. Marie’s two young children must be by Dominique Gareau, or at least by a husband after Etienne died in 1670. Her two youngest children by Etienne Hebert, sons Michel and Antoine, would have been 12 and 8, respectively. The children listed in 1678 were aged 3 and 4, which suggests that Marie remarried about 1673, two years following the earlier census.

But where were her Hebert children? And what happened to these two children with Dominique?

It’s worth noting that the Hebert and Gaudet land may have been well located, meaning higher land and not swampy.

A note on the census says, “Sans Soucy 29, which means “without worry 29,” 1 acre of high land, bordering at one end on the river, at the other end on the north wood [and] on one side Anthoine Hebert [and] Denis Godet.” Antoine Hebert is Etienne Hebert’s brother, and Denis Godet is Marie Godet’s brother.

In this case, “high ground” may be a relative term.

Children Settle Elsewhere

By 1680, Marie’s adult children began to move away. Now, granted, Les Mines wasn’t terribly far away, by today’s standards. But in 1680, transportation was by canoe.

Les Mines generally meant settlements in the Minas Basin. There was no road at that time, because we know in the early 1700s, when forced to flee, the Acadians tried to cut a cart road to Les Mines.

Grand Pre was the largest settlement, and where most of Marie’s children who left settled, but there was no bringing the children for visits to Grandma’s house.

Gone to Les Mines meant gone for good. Marie’s children may have made the voyage to visit occasionally, particularly her sons, but not the entire family and if those visits occurred, they were assuredly rare.

Marie’s son, Etienne Hebert, age 26, had made the trip by 1680 when his first child was born in Grand Pre.

The exodus of the next generation had begun with a trickle, but soon it would be an open faucet.

The 1686 Census

In 1686, Dominique Garault is shown as age 60 (born 1626), along with Marie Godet (no age given, but she would have been in her 50s); children of Marie (and Etienne Hebert): Michel 20, Antoine 16 and Elarie Garault 9 (born about 1677), with 3 arpents of land, 4 sheep and 3 hogs.

Only one Garault child is shown in 1686, the female, meaning Marie’s youngest son, has died. Elarie is later shown to be a misspelling or misinterpretation of Marie, born about 1677.

Marie Gaudet is still living beside her son-in-law, Michel DeForest, who remarried after his wife, Marie’s daughter, Marie, died.

The rest of Marie Gaudet’s children by Etienne Hebert have married and most live nearby, beginning families of their own. Catherine, age 24, had followed the path of other young Acadians to Les Mines and already had four children.

By 1686, Marie had about 41 grandchildren, 11 of whom she had buried, along with five or six of her own children and, of course, her first husband, Etienne.

Marie’s father had also died in the years since the 1678 census. I bet these Acadian families were in church often. Sundays for Mass, of course, plus at least a baptism and a funeral each week.


On May 19th, 1690, the Battle of Port Royal occurred. Most of the Acadian soldiers were absent, and the fort was in a state of disrepair with no cannons mounted. The old fort had been razed, and a new one was in the process of being built, which made Acadia an easy mark as she could not defend herself. The fort, and with it, Port Royal and the rest of Acadia fell immediately. In an act of revenge, the English plundered not only the fort but also the countryside and residents in breach of the surrender agreement.

We don’t know exactly what happened to Marie in 1690, but we do know that Acadian homes were ransacked by the English and stripped of anything and everything valuable. Farms were burned and animals slaughtered for sport. The church and at least 28 homes went up in flames, but the upriver farms were reported to have been spared the torch.

From 1690 through about 1694, this land and her people were embroiled in a tug-of-war between the English and French. Antoine de Cadillac reported that the Acadians, “creolles” as he termed them, “traveled most of the time by bark canoes. Their wives do the same and are very bold on the water.”

I wonder if by the term “Creolle,” which today means a person of mixed descent or a result of two or more cultures, he was referring more to language than anything else.

Three of Marie’s children, Martine, Michel, and Jean Hebert were in Les Mines by about 1690. If they left before the attack, she was probably very thankful for their safety. If they left after, it was just one more loss for her. They may well have decided to leave and settle elsewhere because of the attack.

I would hazard a guess that the Acadians absolutely despised the English. 

1693 Census

Neither Marie nor her husband are listed in the 1693 census, transcribed by Lucie. Their location is a mystery. Perhaps they decided to journey to Beaubassin or Les Mines and then decided later to return. Or, maybe their residence was simply missed, although that’s hard to fathom since the entire census of Port Royal consists of 500 people in 80 households, 878 cattle, 1,240 sheep, 704 hogs, and 120 guns. The entire community is cultivating 1,315 arpents of land. Beaubassin has about 119 people in 20 households, and Les Mines, 307 people in 57 households. Other families are scattered.

Everyone knows everyone as they all attend the same church.

Marie’s daughter, Marguerite, age 40, was living in Les Mines. Her husband, Jacques LePrince, had recently died. Marguerite was raising a 15-year-old daughter, twin boys age 13, along with younger children ages 5 and 1. Her mother might have been a lot of help, but Marie, who would be about 63 by now, isn’t listed in Les Mines either.

Marie’s youngest daughter, Marie Gareau is living in La Heve (LaHave today), her name spelled as Garost, age 17, with a 45-ear-old man simply listed as LaChapelle. There are only three households listed, plus one male “volunteer.” No children are listed for any household, but Marie likely had two before her marriage to her second husband about 1698. The census records 50 people at La Heve, 54 cattle, and 14 guns. Based on the lack of inhabitants, this would be considered a remote outpost. Le Have was the original capital on the southern coast of Acadia, abandoned in favor of Port Royal in 1635.

1696 – Another Attack

Another English attack occurred in 1696. Buildings were burned, animals slaughtered, and the dykes that held back the sea were ruined. It would be three long years before the Acadians could work those fields after rebuilding the dykes once the seawater saturated the ground.

This area along the Annapolis River near and adjacent Bloody Creek on the south, shown on the GIS system above in purple, was dyked and drained by the Gaudet/Hebert family for farmable land. Without dykes to hold the salty seawater back and maintain drainage, the purple land reverted to salt marsh.

I can see the family standing on their ruined fields, knowing their crops would be limited or nonexistent for the next few years, and crying. What were they to do?

What was left?

Was there other nearby land that could be farmed?

1698 Census

By 1698, Dominique, who would have been about 72, had died. In fact, he was dead by 1695 when the loyalty oath was forced upon the Acadian people.

Marie Godet is living alone in 1698 and is noted as a widow, age 60. Her age is clearly incorrect, as that puts her birth in 1638. Her first child was born about 1651, so she was probably 65-68ish.

Marie lives one house away from her daughter Francoise Hebert and her husband Jean Commeau. Marie’s youngest son, Antoine Hebert, and his family live two houses in the other direction. Marie apparently lives in her own home, but the land is being farmed by some family member or maybe collectively.

Family members have far more allotted land by 1698, maybe as a result of the 1696 attacks that ruined the fields. Francoise and her family are farming 39 arpents with 83 fruit trees, and Antoine is farming 16 arpents with 21 fruit trees. Orchards have matured, and families own many cattle, sheep, and hogs. Life seems good for a change!

I do wonder if any of those orchards remain today.

1700-1708 Censuses

It would be tempting to assume that Marie died before the 1700 census, since she isn’t shown in the 1700, 1701, 1703, 1707 or 1708 censuses. But she didn’t. Church records, beginning in 1702, remain, and we know that Marie didn’t die until 1710. She was likely living with a family member and simply wasn’t listed in the census.

Warfare continued and, unfortunately, had become a way of life in Acadia. Pirates, always opportunists, joined in the fray.

In 1708, Queen Anne’s War ramped up. Marie Gaudet was in her late 70s and had probably given up hope that she would ever see peace.

It’s nothing short of a miracle that Marie managed to live to the ripe age of 80, given what the Acadian people faced. But Marie wasn’t done with adversity quite yet.

June 1704 Raid on Grand Pre

In June of 1704, the English again raided Acadia in retaliation for a raid on Deerfield Massachusetts earlier that year. Seventeen warships with 550 men first proceeded to Port Royal, then on to Grand Pre.

The incensed English arrived in Grand Pre, which was entirely unfortified, during the last week of June and approached the village from the dense woods, hoping for a surprise attack.

Col. Benjamin Church, the commander, gave the Acadians and Micmac one hour to surrender, delivering this note.

We do also declare, that we have already made some beginnings of killing and scalping some Canada men, which we have not been wont to do or allow, and are now come with a great number of English and Indians, all volunteers, with resolutions to subdue you, and make you sensible of your cruelties to us, by treating you after the same manner.

Church’s forces got stuck in the tidal mud, giving the Acadians the opportunity to hurriedly evacuate into the woods.

When the muddy soldiers reached the village, the Acadian and Micmac men attempted defense, but were no match for the angry soldiers who proceeded to destroy everything.

According to one of Church’s dispatches, they destroyed 60 houses, six mills, the church, many barns, and about 70 cattle. Still not satisfied with his destruction, Church then gave orders on the third day to destroy the dykes and crops.

On the fourth day, Church left Grand Pre and advanced to raid Pisiguit, present-day Windsor and Falmoth, where he took 45 prisoners who were to be used as barter to negotiate the release of prisoners taken in the Deerfield Massacre.

Church then returned to Port Royal where he joined up with the rest of his fleet, burned a few more buildings, and took a few more hostages for good measure. Church then raided and burned Chedabucto, now Guysborough, before returning to Boston where he bragged that “only five dwellings remained in all of Acadia.” If he was right, this tells us what Marie endured at the age of 74. It’s not surprising that we never find Marie listed in the census in her home, again.


In Boston, initially, the Acadian hostages were allowed to roam the city freely, much to the dismay of the residents. Twice, they complained to the House of Representatives, asking that the Acadians be confined.

From that point in late 1704 until their release, the Acadians were confined in Castle William on an island in Boston Harbor which would be where Marie Gareau gave birth on February 1, 1705.

Marie’s youngest daughter, Marie Gareau, gave birth to her son, Paul, in Boston while she and her husband were imprisoned there. The child was baptized in Port Royal on September 26, 1706, just days after their release. This tells us that Marie was in the second group of hostages to be released.

After two long years of imprisonment in exile, the hostages were released in two groups. The first group of 57 left in December 1705, and the second group of 51 was released on September 18, 1706. We have to presume that Marie’s four, five, or six older children were included in the hostages.

Marie Gaudet, Marie’s mother, must have been out of her mind with worry. The baptism of Marie’s baby in Port Royal tells us that Marie got to see her daughter and grandchildren.

I can only imagine the joy of that tearful reunion.

Marie, age 32, along with her husband and five surviving children, were back in Grand Pre by 1709 when she gave birth there.

Later reports indicated that the residents of Grand Pre, not to mention those held hostage, never forgot, never trusted the English, and never felt safe.

Ironically, for Marie Gareau, that fear was entirely justified, as she would be one of the Acadians captured once again, rounded up in Grand Pre, and deported at the hands of the English in 1755.

Then 78 or 79 years old, she died in horrific conditions in 1755 or 1756 onboard the overcrowded disease-infested ships that the Virginians refused to allow to land or accommodate in any way. Hundreds died of illness and malnutrition on the ship held at Williamsburg before the survivors were shipped to England as hostages until 1763.

All I can say is that I hope Marie’s mother, Marie, was waiting with open arms to receive her on the other side.


We do know where Marie Gaudet and both of her husbands lived in Acadia.

In 1653, when Marie was a bride with two young children, Port Royal was described thus:

“There are numbers of meadows on both shores, and two islands which possess meadows, and which are 3 or 4 leagues from the fort in ascending. There is a great extent of meadows which the sea used to cover, and which the Sieur d’Aulnay had drained. It bears now fine and good wheat, and since the English have been masters of the country, the residents who were lodged near the fort have for the most part abandoned there houses and have gone to settle on the upper part of the river. They have made their clearings below and above this great meadow, which belongs at present to Madame de La Tour. There they have again drained other lands which bear wheat in much greater abundance than those which they cultivated round the fort, good though those were. All the inhabitants there are the ones whome Monsieur le Commandeur de Razilly had brought from France to La Have; since that time they have multiplied much at Port Royal, where they have a great number of cattle and swine.”

By 1670, Acadia had grown to about 400 people.

According to a 1733 map at the Nova Scotia Archives based on the 1707 census route, the Hebert and Gaudet families lived in close proximity near a bend in the Riviere Dauphin, now the Annapolis River, at the mouth of Bloody Creek.

Hebert Village is found on the south side of the river, image courtesy of MapAnnapolis, below.

Indeed, the Hebert and Gaudet families had settled upstream from Port Royal several miles, which may have been the only thing that saved them.

If only, if only we had Marie’s journals. It’s doubtful that Marie could either read or write, but we can wish, of course.

Marie Gaudet Dies

Marie lived for a very long time, especially in the age before modern medicine – not to mention that Acadia seemed to remain in a state of almost chronic warfare that ebbed and flowed for Marie’s entire life.

On July 30, 1710, a simple entry recording her death was scribed into the church records by the priest.

Marie’s age is given as 80 years, which puts her birth about 1630, assuming her age is accurate.

That same priest would have given Marie Last Rites, then delivered her final Requiem Mass. The entire community was assuredly present. She was a matriarch, and by then, everyone was probably related to Marie in one way or another.

The Acadians were preparing for war, which descended upon the land once again like an angry plague of locusts less than two months after Marie’s demise.

Her sons, grandsons, sons-in-law, and many descendants would be fighting for their very lives. Maybe it’s a good thing Marie passed when she did.


Marie was buried in what is now known as the Garrison Cemetery. This resting place is located beside the fort’s garrison and what was the Catholic church, which was destroyed along with Acadian graves in 1755.

Marie joined her children and grandchildren: her daughter Marie who died in 1677, her second husband Dominique Gareau who had been gone for about 20 years, her sister Francoise who had died nearly a decade earlier, her brother Denis who died the October before, and of course Etienne Hebert who had been gone for nearly 40 years. They must have had a joyful reunion.

Marie rests in an unmarked grave near the ghostly image of Fort Anne, keeping eternal watch over the bay. Her grave was probably marked with a simple wooden cross at the time, as her family said goodbye and prepared for the war they knew was sure to be visited upon them soon. 

Perhaps Marie’s spectre watched her remaining daughter, grandchildren and their families being rounded up and herded onto ships in their forced deportation 45 years later.

Perhaps Marie still watches today.

Marie’s Children

We depend upon the various censuses, later church records, and suggestive gaps between known children to determine how many children Marie brought into this world.

Few women were spared the sorrowful experience of burying children.

Child Spouse Total Children Born by 1710 – Grandchildren Marie knew Died by 1710 – Grandchildren Marie buried Total Survived
Marie Hebert c1651-1677 Port Royal Michel DeForest 7 6 1 6
Marguerite Hebert c1652-died aft 1715 Pisiquit Jacques LePrince 12 6 6 6
Emmanuel Hebert c1653-1744 Grand Pre Andree Brun 6 6 0 6
Etienne Hebert c1654-1713 Saint Charles des Mines, Grand Pré Jeanne Comeau 15 11 4 11
Unknown Hebert child c1656- died bef 1671 0 0 0 0
Jean Hebert c1658-1744 probably Pisiquid Jeanne Doiron 17 11 2 13
Unknown Hebert child c1660-died bef 1671 0 0 0 0
Francoise Hebert c1661-1713 Annapolis Royal Jean Comeau 20 17 3 17
Catherine Hebert c1662-1727 Louisbourg Philippe Pinet 14 12 2 12
Unknown Hebert child c1664-died bef 1671 0 0 0 0
Martine Hebert c1665-died aft 1797 Pisiquit Nicolas Barrieau 14 9 5 9
Michel Hebert c1666-1736 Les Mines, Grand Pre Isabelle Pellerin 16 12 0 16
Unknown Hebert child c1668-died bef 1671 0 0 0 0
Antoine Hebert c1670-1753 Jeanne Corporon & Anne Orillon 17 9 0 15
Male Gareau c1675-d bef 1686 0 0 0 0
Marie Gareau c1677-c1755 Virginia Unknown LaChapelle & Jerome Darois 16 6 3 (including her first 2 children) 10
Total 154 105 26 121

Children in bold remained at Port Royal. The rest moved away.

People who lived longer experienced more joy at the addition of grandchildren and even great-grandchildren – but also more frequent funerals and visits to the cemetery.

When Marie died, she had given birth to 16 children, buried five as infants and one as an adult who predeceased her.

And yes, Marie actually did have two daughters named Marie who both lived – her eldest child from her first marriage and her youngest child from her second marriage. Essentially bookends. No, I don’t know why. Maybe they had different middle names or were named after different people, but we will never know.

At her death, Marie had welcomed 105 grandchildren and buried 26, or 25% of them. A total of 154 grandchildren were eventually born to Marie, but only 121 would survive beyond the cradle.

Upon deeper investigation, we discover that Marie probably didn’t know most of her grandchildren, even though two-thirds were born before she died.

Several of Marie’s children moved as settlers to more distant parts of Acadia, probably for available land. We don’t know exactly when they left, but we have some idea.

  • Etienne Hebert was in Grand Pre by 1680
  • Catherine Hebert was in Les Mines by 1686
  • Martine, Michel, and Jean Hebert were all in Grand Pre by 1690
  • Marguerite Hebert was in Les Mines by 1693 as a widow
  • Marie’s youngest daughter, Marie Gareau, was in La Heve in 1693 at the age of 17, in Pisiguit by June of 1704 where she was kidnapped and in Grand Pre by 1709

It must have killed Marie for her baby to leave, especially so young.

Les Mines could have been a more generalized name for the region surrounding and perhaps including Grand Pre. At least those children lived near each other and could rely on family in difficult times. That would have been some comfort to Marie.

Only four of Marie’s children stayed near Port Royal: her oldest daughter Marie Hebert who had died by 1677, Emmanual, Francoise and Antoine Hebert. Those four blessed Marie with 38 grandchildren before her death. It’s sad that she never knew the rest, but based on those 1767 depositions, at least they knew her name and remembered her.

Marie said a final goodbye to seven of her children in a different way before her death. I suspect that at least three of them, if not more, left together.

While Marie herself was one of the original immigrants prior to 1650, one of her children, the youngest Marie, lived long enough to be deported in 1755, more than a century later. Marie Gareau died in either 1755 or 1756, languishing on one of the deportation ships off the coast of Virginia at about age 78. There would have been no Catholic Mass as a funeral for her. She would either have been buried at sea or lost to history in a pauper’s grave, because that’s what the Acadians had been reduced to.

Not the End

This was not the end for Marie Gaudet, nor was her birth the beginning.

Marie’s mysterious past would wait for another 313 years to be revealed – on a glorious late fall day after the last colorful leaves fall to the ground on the old homeplace beside Bloody Creek in Nova Scotia.

As the first snowflakes fall and cling to the earth along the tidal flats of the Riviere Dauphin, Marie has one more story to tell…and trust me; it’s gonna be one humdinger!


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Holiday DNA Sales Are Here!!!

I apologize for the brevity of this posting, but I came home from the FamilyTreeDNA Conference this past weekend with “conference crud.”

I’ll catch you up on that great conference later, but sales won’t wait, and the holiday sales have already begun. This is a great time to order. These prices are the lowest ever.


The MyHeritage autosomal test is only $36, and shipping is free if you order two or more DNA tests. That’s a GREAT deal. Click here to order.

If you’ve already tested elsewhere, you can upload your raw DNA file from that vendor to MyHeritage, here. I’ve provided step-by-step instructions, here. After you’ve uploaded, be sure to purchase the $29 unlock for advanced autosomal features, including the MyHeritage chromosome browser and Theories of Family Relativity, which shows you how you connect with DNA matches who share the same ancestor in MyHeritage’s collection of 52 million trees.

If you’re new to MyHeritage, you can also purchase a data or records subscription here, including a free trial.

I use this combination of DNA, trees, and tools almost daily and love that MyHeritage sends me regular record matches from their billions of genealogy records.


Every test is on sale at FamilyTreeDNA.

As you know, FamilyTreeDNA provides Y-DNA, mitochondrial, and autosomal testing through their Family Finder test. They also accept autosomal DNA file uploads from Ancestry and MyHeritage. You’ll find easy download and upload instructions for each vendor, here. The advanced feature unlock is on sale now for just $9!

You can order each test individually or bundle tests for a better price.

Note that the introductory Y-DNA 37-marker test is available for $99, and can later be upgraded to the Big-Y test. However, the Big Y-700 is on sale for $399 which is a great price. Y-DNA testing unlocks your paternal ancestor’s history revealed in FamilyTreeDNA‘s world-class Discover tools.

If you’ve already tested at FamilyTreeDNA and would like to add another test for yourself or upgrade, say to the Big-Y test, just click here, sign on, and click on the Add Ons and Upgrade button in the upper right-hand corner.

I hope I’m not spilling the beans, but all sale prices, including upgrades and autosomal transfer unlocks, are shown below:

Genealogy Goals

The holidays are coming! Take a look at what you need for your genealogy.

I decided a long time ago it’s absolutely fine to “gift myself” with purchases and upgrades for my cousins. Especially the Big Y-700 at FamilyTreeDNA and the mitochondrial DNA test, which is vastly underutilized. This helps my genealogy immensely, as well as theirs. Most people are happy to swab, especially if you’re doing the genealogy work.

My goal is to:

  • Have the autosomal DNA of each of my family members and cousins in both databases that provide chromosome browsers so that I can confirm ancestors at FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage.
  • Find male cousins to test for the Y-DNA, the surname lineage of each of my ancestral lines. Males who descend paternally from each male ancestor can usually be tracked by their surname.
  • Mitochondrial DNA for each of my ancestors. For mitochondrial DNA testing, we need testers descended through all females from each female ancestor, although males in the current generation can test. Everyone has their mother’s direct matrilineal line mitochondrial DNA.

To find testing candidates for your lineages, check projects at FamilyTreeDNA, autosomal matches at all vendors, your ancestors at WikiTree, ThruLines at Ancestry, even though ThruLines is still having issues, and Theories of Family Relativity at MyHeritage.

With DNAtests on sale right now, this is a great time to purchase tests at MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA.


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You’re always welcome to forward articles or links to friends and share on social media.

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I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase your price but helps me keep the lights on, and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

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23andMe: DNA Relatives, Connections, Event History Report and Other Security Tools

A few days ago, I suggested a pause strategy while you ponder whether or not you wanted to delete your DNA file in light of the recent data exposure at 23andMe. I need to revise this with additional information today.

First and foremost, disabling DNA Relatives does NOT remove all matching. You need to remove Connections separately.

Secondarily, there’s a report at 23andMe for you to order to determine whether your account may have been individually compromised. I’ve described how to find it and use the information in the report.

This article includes several sections with important information about how these intertwined features at 23andMe work and instructions to protect yourself.

  • An update on the breach situation with informational links
  • Customer notifications
  • Confusion regarding types of sharing – DNA Relatives vs Connections
  • Explaining the difference between DNA Relatives and Connections
  • Step-by-step instructions for removing Connections – disabling DNA Relatives doesn’t accomplish this or stop matching/linkage to Connections
  • Who sees what, when?
  • DNA Relatives and Connections comparison chart
  • Account Event History – how to determine when your account was signed into, from where, what they (or you) did, and when
  • Deletion instructions and caveats
  • Summary

Update on Breach Information

I’m not going to post anything from the hacker(s) – but please, in an abundance of caution, presume your data is now available publicly or will be when the hacker sells the balance of the accounts they have and act accordingly.

The hacker has posted millions of accounts already, and I know people who have found themselves in the “sample” download provided by the hacker to convince people that the breach and resulting data is for real. If you really want to see this for yourself, the hacker, Golem, is very active at BreachForums, under Leaks, 23andMe – but I DO NOT recommend hanging out there. I reached out to colleagues who work with security and breach monitoring services. I am not poking around myself.

This 23andMe customer information first appeared in August, not October, when a hacker by a different name on Hydra posted images of the accounts of both Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki, CEO of 23andMe and her former husband, CEO of Google. The hacker said that the information was obtained through an API provided by 23andMe to pharmaceutical companies. Additionally, the hacker said they had already sold all of that initial data to “an individual in Iran.” You can read about this here.

Furthermore, if what the hacker or hackers say is accurate, this situation is far more serious than a password recycling issue. I don’t want to speculate because I can’t verify, although many people have written to me to say two things:

  • They were seeing leaked customer information weeks earlier
  • They did use a unique password at 23andMe

Here are four additional articles that I suggest reading to understand the scope of the situation and why there’s so much uncertainty:

One of my blog readers asked why anyone would want to do this. Of course, there can be many or even multiple motivations, but based on some of the commentary, it appears that Jewish people were targeted and compiled identifying data sold to Iran who backs Hamas. If you’re a Jewish person, anyplace in the world, you have to be extremely concerned especially since this test identifies your closest relatives and (if provided) the location where you live.

Both 23andMe and Ancestry display your current location if provided and selected. I NEVER recommend doing that under any circumstances. Of course, if the hacker gained access to individual accounts as reported and you entered that information, even if you didn’t choose to share it, they have it anyway.

Customer Notification

Please note that so far, the only notifications received by 23andMe customers say that their information was revealed through DNA relatives, meaning that at least one of their matches’ accounts was compromised. No one, to my knowledge, has received a notification that their own account has been directly compromised. Perhaps 23andMe doesn’t know whose accounts were compromised yet.

Near the end of this article, I’ll show you how to obtain a list of all the activity that has taken place on your 23andMe account so you can see if there are logins from locations not your own or other suspicious activity.

According to the original announcements from 23andMe and others, the data exposure was a result of two things:

  • Direct access to accounts due to reused passwords allowing the hacker to aggregate data and sign in as the user. You can see if your email address has been found in a data breach at the site, haveibeen pwned.com. I know this list is incomplete, though, because I’ve been notified by letter by other companies not listed here.
  • DNA Relatives information shows DNA matches, segments, and your matches’ potential relationships to each other along with their shared data, permitting triangulation.

The more I read about this from credible sources, combined with how 23andMe has handled this situation, the more “uncomfortable” I become.

Before 23andMe even straightened this mess out, this week, they introduced a new “Total Health” subscription for the low price of $99 PER MONTH. Seriously. Billed as one payment of $1,188 per year. To me, this smacks of a company desperate for money.

How do we even begin to place any confidence in this service, given what has already been exposed and the unanswered questions? Especially given that for weeks, 23andMe dismissively replied to customers who informed them of the issue that their systems had not been accessed in an unauthorized manner. Not to mention, this announcement is entirely tone-deaf as we struggle to deal with what has already been exposed one way or another.

In response to this, if you still want to maintain your existing account at 23andMe, I have help for you. If you want to delete it, I’ve provided instructions for that too.

Questions and Challenges

I discovered that DNA Relatives and Connections don’t work in exactly the way I believed they did, and it’s very confusing. Nothing, not one thing that 23andme has provided has addressed exactly what information has been exposed or what customers can do other than change their password and add 2FA.

  • Was the breach only DNA Relatives, or was it Connections, too?
  • Connections is essentially a subset of DNA Relatives plus potentially some unrelated people.
  • Not everyone has DNA Relatives enabled, but if not, Connections still exposes/exposed you if your account was individually breached.
  • 23andMe only mentioned DNA Relatives, so you may think you’re in the clear if you don’t have DNA Relatives enabled. That’s inaccurate if you have any Connections and your account was individually breached.
  • If the hacker did sign on to your account, Connections are equally vulnerable.
  • The hacker could enable DNA Relatives without your knowledge to create a more lucrative fishing environment. I’ve provided instructions for how to determine if this might have happened.

Disabling DNA Relatives is not enough.

23andMe Sharing Options Are Confusing

I first reported the breach here and said in my article, here, that a pause strategy would be to stop sharing in DNA Relatives, which would effectively provide you with time to make a decision.

I knew that DNA Relatives did not unilaterally disable Connections, but I did NOT realize how much information your Connections can see.

Over the years, 23andMe has revised how their sharing works. I remember when DNA Relatives opt-in and opt-out was added in 2014. It was extremely confusing then and still is.

DNA Relatives and Connections are confusing individually and together. I could not find any feature comparison or side-by-side table for each tool, either individually,  compared to each other, or with both enabled.

Because of this confusion, what we need right now is a one-button invisibility cloak that we can click to JUST STOP being visible to everyone until we reverse the invisibility cloak by opting in again – without losing anything or being penalized.

That’s what most people think happens when you stop sharing through DNA Relatives, but it’s not.

There is no invisibility cloak at 23andMe like there is at other vendors.

No Invisibility Cloak

I spent a considerable amount of time over the past few days trying to figure out the differences between DNA Relatives and Connections.

Believe it or not, that information was almost impossible to find, as it was scattered piecemeal across several places.

Let me step you through where to find it, and then compile an easy reference.

If you sign on to your account, you can see on the left-hand side that you have several selections under DNA Relatives.

Under Connections, you have the statuses of Connected, Pending, and Not Connected.

If you mouse over Connections, you see a general description.

I have two separate tests at 23andMe, and I have DNA Relatives enabled on one of the tests and disabled on the other, so I can see the differences when compared to the same people.

I have 1803 DNA Relatives, meaning matches, but the connections option told me that 348 were also Connections.

Why Do I Have 348 Connections?

Remember that 23andMe limits your matches to 1500, and the lowest matches roll off your match list without a subscription, which was only introduced in the last year or so. The subscription only allows 5,000 matches before the matches roll off your match list.

The only way to prevent matches from rolling off your list was/is to “Connect” with them, either through DNA relatives or initiating messaging. So, for years, genealogists sent a connection request to every match they had, beginning with the smallest first, in order to preserve matches that would otherwise be gone. That’s why I have 1803 matches and not just 1500 like I do on the second account where I have not established “Connections.”

Given my number of matches at the other DNA testing companies, I would likely have well over 20,000 matches, so preserving as much as possible was important to genealogists.

Understanding Connections

I switched to a different account that I manage that opted out of DNA matching a decade ago, but has more Connections than I do with many of the same people that I match.

You can view your DNA Connections by clicking on Family & Friends and then on Your Connections.

As you can see on the left, you can either share “Ancestry” with these Connections, which means typical genealogy info, or “Health + Ancestry.” Relevant to the breach, your Ancestry Composition (ethnicity) results as compared to your Connections (and DNA Relatives) are shown.

You can invite anyone to connect with you, including people on your match list or anyone else you know who has tested. In other words, your spouse or a cousin whom you DON’T MATCH.

Here’s an example of a cousin by marriage who I’ve known for years. We connected even though we don’t match and are only related by marriage.

Some Connection invitations that you receive or send are for Ancestry only, and other invitations are for BOTH Ancestry and Health.

Melissa sent me a combined request for both Ancestry and Health.

Remember that the focus of 23andMe has always been medicine, big pharma and health. Unfortunately, 23andMe PRECHECKS to accept the Health sharing option when you’ve been invited to share Health. It’s easy to miss, so UNCHECK Health if you don’t want to share YOUR HEALTH INFORMATION. The only people I’ve ever shared Health with are my immediate family members.

What’s Different?

I wanted to know what information was different about someone you’re NOT connected with and someone you’re connected with.

One of my DNA matches, Gwen, requested a Connection. Here’s the information I can see with Gwen before her Connection request.

I verified that this information is accurate by comparing Connections requests with a family member who is opted into DNA Relatives, one who is not, and also with my research-buddy cousin who is a Connection but not a match.

Any one person can potentially be:

  • A DNA Relative and not a Connection
  • A Connection and not a DNA Relative
  • A Connection but not participating in DNA Relatives even though they are a match

Today, the information a Connection and a DNA Relative can see since 23andMe disabled some DNA Relatives features seems identical.

Gwen’s profile card shows her name, location where she lives, and year of birth, if provided and selected for display. She obviously did not allow her birth year to be displayed, but she did allow the city/state where she lives.

23andMe estimates how I may be related to Gwen and how much DNA we share..

Gwen’s family background, which I’ve blurred. I have removed my information as I ponder whether to delete my account or not.

Ancestry Composition (ethnicity) of both people. Note that even if DNA Relatives is not enabled, either person’s account can view the shared ethnicity of both accounts.

Amounts of Neanderthal Ancestry.

How Sharing Works

23andMe discussed sharing, but differentiating between DNA Relatives and Connections is unclear.

Based on my comparison and their descriptions, I think I’ve figured out the differences. Let’s begin with their description of how sharing works.

Here, they describe part of what Connections shows.

At this point, the features of DNA Relatives that were available IN ADDITION to what could be viewed in Connections have been disabled due to the breach.

The next image is part of the Connections section, followed by DNA Relatives,

I was surprised that Shared DNA was displayed using Connections alone, before 23andMe (possibly temporarily) disabled this functionality in response to the breach. I would have presumed that if you disabled DNA Relatives, your DNA would NOT have been shown to your DNA relatives.

DNA Relatives was necessary for advanced features, including viewing relationships between your matches, meaning you and two other people, and also between your matches and each other. That means you could compare them to each other.

That feature selection is now gone as well. For the record, this graphic was out of date anyway, but now it doesn’t matter.

Connections DOES have access to the tree calculated by 23andMe but (apparently) only for people you are connected with unless you have DNA Relatives enabled. Please note that all accounts managed by one person appear to be connected to each other, although that might not be universal. I manage four kits, and all of them are shown as connections to each other.

Considerations provided by 23andMe

Here’s what they don’t say.

Disabling Your DNA Relatives Option does NOT Change Connections

This is very important considering how much information Connections can view:

  • Disabling DNA Relatives does NOT disable sharing. You can disable DNA Relatives across the board with one setting, but you CANNOT do that with Connections.
  • Each Connection must be deleted individually.

After you disable DNA Relatives, as I described in this article, under the heading, “Opting Out of DNA Relatives” you need to additionally remove each Connection if you genuinely don’t want to be seen by other people as a match. If you DO want to be seen as a match, then don’t disable DNA Relatives.

DNA Relatives will eliminate new matches from automatically occurring but won’t remove anyone you’ve previously added as a Connection.

To view and edit your connections, select “Your Connections” under “Family and Friends.”

For each Connection, click on the gear, then select which type of sharing to remove.

Please note that you may have to refresh the page to reload Connections, as there is no “load more” button, until you see the message, “You aren’t connected with anyone yet.”

Connections Versus DNA Relatives Chart

If you’ve had a hard time keeping this straight, me too. I created a chart that lists each feature and if it’s present in DNA Relatives, Connections, or both.

Feature Connections Only DNA Relatives Comment
Profile Yes Yes
Current Location, Year of Birth, Genetic Sex Yes Yes If provided and selected for display
Additional info about yourself Yes Yes If provided
Prevents Rolling Off Match List at Threshold Yes No Only Connections or people you’ve initiated contact with are retained
Matches Yes, only Connections Yes
Non-Relatives Can send an invitation to people you’re not biologically related to meaning not on your match list No, only DNA matches
Ancestry Yes Yes, plus shared matches and additional information If selected
Health If selected If selected
Genetic Relationship Yes Yes Estimated
Shared DNA Percent Yes Yes
Genetic Constructed Family Tree Connections only Yes all To about 4th generation shared ancestors
Family Background – birth places of grandparents Yes Yes
Other ancestors’ birthplace Yes Yes
External Family Tree Link Yes Yes If provided
Ancestry Composition (ethnicity) Yes Yes
Shared ethnicity Yes Yes
Maternal, Paternal Haplogroups Yes Yes Base to mid-level
Neanderthal Ancestry Yes Yes
Matching segments Shown in 23andMe documentation, currently disabled Yes, currently disabled Disabled due to breach
Chromosome browser Not shown in 23andMe documentation Yes, currently disabled Disabled due to breach
Shared matches No Yes, currently disabled Disabled due to breach
Triangulation No Was changed recently to be more difficult, now disabled Disabled due to breach
Shared Matches compared to each other’s tests No Yes, currently disabled Disabled due to breach
Shared Matches relationships to each other No Yes, currently disabled Disabled due to breach
Download Matches I don’t think so, but I can’t positively confirm Yes, currently disabled Disabled due to breach
Download Segment information No Yes, currently disabled Disabled due to breach
Download Raw data file (Your own) Yes Yes

Now that you know what can be seen and done and by whom, let’s take a look at how your account has been accessed.

Account Event History – Who Signed In To Your Account?

There’s a little-known feature at 23andMe that you can utilize to view the locations of sign-ins to your account and what was done, including changes and file download requests.

Navigate to settings.

Scroll down to “23andMe Data,” then click on View.

Scroll to profile data, click on “Account Event History,” then “Request Download.” 23andMe says it may take several days, but mine was ready the following day. You’ll receive a link to sign in and download a spreadsheet. Click on the blue “Account Event History” to download the report.

At the top, you’ll see column names. Please note that I added the Location column to record the results of the “Client IP Addr” lookup.

The “Client IP Addr” field is a record of where the login was initiated from. It’s your electronic address, or more specifically, the address of your internet provider, and it may not be the exact town where you live, but someplace close. I’ve blurred mine, but not where failed logins originated.

I use this site or this site to identify IP address sources.

As you can see, on May 1, 7, and 10, someone tried to sign in with my email address. It wasn’t me or the region where I live, and I was not traveling.

I was able to track these IP addresses to cities but not to individuals, of course. One tracked to a specific Internet Service Provider in that city, but nothing more.

However, that tells me that someone tried three times to use what was probably a compromised password. Thank goodness I don’t reuse passwords.

I also need to mention that you can find legitimate differences in location. For example, if you are traveling or use tools like Genetic Affairs that sign on on your behalf from their location, the IP address will reflect connection services from those locations.

You will also see interesting IP addresses, like that 127 address. That means the host computer made the change. In essence, that means that another 23andMe user removed sharing with me. That’s clearly legitimate.

I did not see any successful sign-ins from unauthorized locations. If you see a successful sign-in from an unknown location that’s not close to your home sometime in 2022 or 2023, and you weren’t traveling, nor using a location masking tool like TOR, then please notify 23andMe immediately.

The notification email I received from 23andMe was that my information had been exposed through DNA Relatives. Based on their notification in addition to the information in my report, my personal account does not appear to be individually breached.

23andMe clearly has access to this IP address information for all users, so I’m really surprised that they have not notified anyone, at least not that I know of, that their accounts have been DIRECTLY compromised – meaning NOT through DNA Relatives. Even if someone signed on using the correct password, there could/should be some pattern of sign-ons through not-normal locations for a group of customers during this time.

Of course, if the hacker was telling the truth and the breach was NOT through password reuse (stuffing,) and was through an API, neither users nor 23andMe may see unauthorized account accesses. I hope 23andMe and the professionals they have retained are able to sniff out the difference and will update their customers soon.

Regardless, I recommend requesting and reviewing this report and implementing 2FA everyplace that you can.

Deleting Your Profile

Based on your comfort level, you may decide to delete your test at 23andMe. It’s a personal decision that everyone has to make for themselves. There is no universally right or wrong decision, and I’m not recommending either way.


  • If you want to delete only your profile, you can transfer other profiles under your care to someone else.
  • If you manage multiple profiles and click delete, all of the profiles you manage will be deleted.

To find the delete function, click on the down arrow by your initials at top right, then on Settings.

Scroll to the very bottom.

Click on “View,” then scroll to the bottom to the Delete Data section.

23andMe provides links in this section to review, so please do. This includes information about how to transfer profiles and things to consider.

If you want to download your raw DNA file to use as an upload to other vendors, be sure to do it before you delete, because it won’t be available after. You can find instructions, here.

Remember, delete is permanent, and you’ll need to pay to retest if you change your mind.

In Summary

I hope this information has helped organize and explain things in a logical manner.

To recap, to become totally invisible, meaning no other tester can see you:

  • Disable DNA Relatives
  • Delete Connections individually and selectively

If you delete connections and those matches are lower than your 1,500th match, they will roll off your match list unless you have a subscription, and then it’s 5,000.

Additional Tasks

  • Request your Account Event History and review for anomalies.
  • For security purposes, change your password to one you have not used elsewhere, if you have not already, and enable 2FA.

I hope that 23andMe has or will take care of whatever issues they have, post haste, and will be transparent about what actually happened. I also hope they will find a way to re-enable the tools that have been disabled. That functionality is critically important to genealogists, and without those tools and the lack of trees, there’s little reason for genealogists to test at 23andMe.

We can’t change what has already happened. Each one of us has to decide whether we want our test to remain at 23andMe and, if so, what steps we want to take to move forward successfully.

I hope this information helps you decide how to handle the situation and perhaps relieve some anxiety. Now you know how to check your activity report, understand who sees what in DNA Relatives and Connections, associated options, what needs to be done, and how to take appropriate action.

Other Vendors

You probably have observed and will continue to see other vendors implementing additional security measures, such as required 2FA, precautions against account scraping, and not accepting uploads from 23andMe in case the hacker downloaded DNA files.

These revisions may be temporary or permanent, or some of each. I’m grateful for each vendor taking steps to protect our information from unauthorized access. I’ll write more after things settle down and we better understand the new landscape.


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The 23andMe Data Exposure – New Info, Considerations and A Pause Strategy

As most of you know, 23andMe has been suffering the effects of what appears to be a significant data compromise, meaning many of their customers’ information has been compromised or exposed.

Here’s the latest news indicating that information from millions more accounts has been offered on the dark web, along with 23andMe’s latest update, here.

I’ve been trying to keep up with the changes, and I must tell you, the hacker’s quotes in that Cybernews article chill me to the bone.

Furthermore, the depth of this issue is still unfolding, with a report of an earlier August breach.

What Has Happened

Essentially, due to users who have reused and recycled passwords, a bad actor was able to sign on to many customer’s accounts, directly, acting “as” the customer, which allowed them to:

  • View (or change) personal information
  • View matches’ information
  • View matches in common
  • View triangulation information
  • View how your matches also match each other
  • View health information if you and your match have agreed to share at that level
  • View ethnicity, shared ethnicity, and ethnicity chromosome painting
  • View the family tree provided by 23andMe that provides an estimated reconstruction of your matches to you and each other to ancestors several generations into the past
  • View your profile information
  • Download your matches
  • Download your raw data file

Anything you can do or see, they could do or see because they were signed on as “you.”

That’s a lot, and I’m sure that 23andMe is struggling with how to keep their customers safe, especially since this data compromise was reportedly not due to a breach or “break-in” of their system or site, but due to social engineering failures. It’s also difficult to sort the truth from the rest.

Right now, things are moving so fast on this front that every time I have an article ready to publish, something else changes. I’m going to share what I do know, and what you can do.

Some Users Have Been Notified

I know of at least two people who have been notified by 23andMe that their data was exposed in the compromise, receiving the same email. The communication was nonspecific, partially extracted as follows.

After further review, we have identified your DNA Relatives profile as one that was impacted in this incident. Specifically, there was unauthorized access to one or more 23andMe accounts that were connected to you through DNA Relatives. As a result, the DNA Relatives profile information you provided in this feature was exposed to the threat actor.

Based on our investigation so far, we believe only your DNA Relatives profile attributes were exposed.

They did not say, nor do I know how 23andMe identified those customers.

This only applies to people whose information was partially exposed as a match to a compromised account. I don’t know if they have identified the compromised accounts and are notifying those people, too.

Given the reported magnitude of this exposure, I wonder why only two people have mentioned being informed. None of my accounts have been informed, nor those of family members.

Using Email as a User ID

Using an email address as half of your user ID essentially gives that piece of the puzzle away.

It makes users particularly vulnerable because bad actors only have to obtain the second half – a password. That’s a lot easier than you’d think.

If nothing else, this 23andMe incident illustrates just how many people engage in unsafe security practices.

Not all vendors utilize email as part of your user id, and those that do often utilize other safety practices, including but not limited to two-factor authentication (2FA.)

Forced Password Reset

Several days ago, 23andMe forced their customers to reset their passwords before signing in. Of course, by that time, millions of cows had already left the proverbial barn. Still, that was certainly the responsible thing for 23andMe to do, preventing additional damage, assuming their customers didn’t reuse yet another password.

I finally managed to reset my password, although that was anything but easy. In order to do a password reset, the standard procedure and the one 23andMe follows, is to send a reset link or key to your email address on file. However, if you changed your email, or it has been “blacklisted” because your carrier was down at some point when 23andMe tried to communicate with you, or the reset email wasn’t received for some other reason, you have to contact support to obtain assistance. Needless to say, 23andMe support is overwhelmed at this point.

23andMe has provided a Privacy and Security page, with suggestions, here.

Two-Factor Authentication

23andMe has NOT required their customers to implement two-factor authentication, known as 2FA.

They DO provide an option to enable 2FA, and I recommend that you do so. Generally, this means that every time you sign in, as part of that process, after entering your password, 23andMe will text a code to your phone or email one to you, or you can utilize a third-party authenticator application. Essentially, this adds a a third step that communicates with you through some methodology that you control, in addition to your username and password. Yes, 2FA can be a pain, but it works. You’ll find information, here.

The Relatives in Common Change Before the Compromise

I was writing about this change when all Hades broke loose with this data compromise.

A week or two prior to the compromise, 23andMe made what may have appeared to them to be “cosmetic” changes, but to genealogists, 23andMe made genealogy and triangulation much more tedious and difficult. Certainly not impossible, just requiring several steps instead of one.

Previously, Relatives in Common under DNA Overlap said “yes” or “no.” Yes meant that me, a match (Tim), and a third person (Tony) triangulated. No meant we all matched each other but no triangulation.

The 23andMe change replaced yes and no with “Compare.” That meant that customers were required to complete the following steps to get to “yes” or “no.”

  • You compared to person A (Tim)
  • You compared to person B (Tony)
  • Person A compared to person B (Tim to Tony)

It went from easy to painful, and now, since the compromise, it’s gone altogether.

Before I move on to what else has changed, I want to comment on the original change. I don’t think it’s connected to the current exposure situation, but I have no insider knowledge.

Given my background in technology, creating a permanent yes/no link means storing the relationships of each DNA segment to your matches, which quickly become a HUGE three-dimensional matrix. Storage requirements would be substantial. If you only compare three people when requested, those storage requirements disappear. Storage = $$$, and 23andMe has been struggling financially for some time.

23andMe stock is down 62% year to date, 72% since this time last year, and 92% over five years.

Based on this data, my assumption was that 23andMe was trying to save money, shaving anything anywhere it could. Genealogists were hoping to convince 23andMe to reverse their decision, but now it’s a moot point because DNA Relatives is gone altogether, at least for now, and 23andMe has much, much larger fish to fry.

23andMe Update

23andMe provided an update on their blog about changes they’ve made related to DNA Relatives, here.

However, DNA Relatives is ONLY HALF THE PROBLEM. 23andMe did not address the rest.

  1. A Direct Compromise – Your data was very clearly compromised IF YOUR ACCOUNT WAS DIRECTLY COMPROMISED. This means the situation where the bad actor was able to sign on to your account as you because your email and password were found in other data breaches. If you’ve ever reused a password, you have no way of knowing if your account was compromised and you must assume it was.
  2. Compromise Through DNA Relatives Matching – Your DNA Relatives information, as described in this 23andMe link may have been compromised, meaning revealed if ANY OF YOUR MATCHES’ ACCOUNTS WERE COMPROMISED. In other words, your information shown to a match was exposed if any of your 1500 (non-subscriber) or 4500 (subscriber only) matches had their account directly compromised – meaning signed into because they reused a password. Less of your data was compromised than in a direct exposure, but some of it very clearly would have been exposed in this scenario.

The link 23andMe provided only addresses what can be viewed through DNA Relatives. They did not mention health information if you and any specific match have authorized that level of sharing. I have not.

That’s not all, either.

If Your Account Was Directly Compromised, Your RAW DNA File Could Have Been Downloaded

If YOUR account has been signed into, the bad actor is functioning as you, and they can download your raw DNA file, which means they could upload it elsewhere. The hacker mentioned that specifically.

You do have to request a download at 23andMe. A notification is sent to your email when the download is ready, BUT, you don’t actually need that email to retrieve your download. If you simply sign out and back in again, and return to the download function, a notification awaits you that your download is now ready. Just click to download.

If your email address used at 23andMe is functioning correctly, you would have received a notification that you had requested a DNA file download. If you received a notification like this in the past few days/weeks/months, and you did NOT request a download, please inform 23andMe immediately. This could be one way that 23andMe might be able to determine whose accounts were directly compromised, and therefore whose accounts were indirectly compromised using DNA Relatives.

In my case, I was not receiving email notifications from 23andMe because my account had been blacklisted due to carrier issues, so I would never have received that email.

If your account was one that was compromised, your file may have already been downloaded. Check your inbox and spam folder to see if you have any notifications from 23andMe that escaped your notice.

It Could Still Be Happening

23andMe can only do so much.

They can force users to select a new password, but they can’t prevent people from reusing a different password, which means that the bad actor could still be trying to sign on to accounts – and getting into some.

Genealogy, including DNA is a team sport. We have to depend on our matches.

23andMe could force everyone to use 2FA, but so far they have not opted to do that, probably because it would be very unpopular.

Additional Changes

The following DNA Relatives features have either been temporarily or permanently disabled or removed:

  • Download matches (which included matching segments) is no longer available
  • Relatives in common (three-way matching) is disabled entirely, so there are no shared matches or shared segments
  • Viewing how your matches match each other is gone
  • The chromosome browser is gone

However, other tools such as the family tree which shows relationships and health sharing are still available.

At 23andMe, What Can You Do?

Truthfully, I’ve been a hair’s breadth from deleting all of my tests at 23andMe for days. I manage two tests of my own and other relatives’ too.

23andMe has never been committed to genealogy and was always the least useful site for me. Having said that, I have had some close and very useful matches there that aren’t elsewhere.

I’m certainly never testing there again, but I really don’t want to give up on 23andMe altogether, at least not yet. I’ve already paid for several tests, and I would lose valuable information today, and the potential of the same in the future.

We can’t undo any damage that has already been done. That ship has sailed. However, we can take steps to protect ourselves, both today and tomorrow. In other words, we have options other than deleting our tests.

I’ve decided to pause, at least for now.

The Pause Strategy

Only you can protect yourself by selecting a unique, strong password. Not just at 23andMe, but every site you use on the internet for any purpose.

Until and unless 23andMe requires 2FA, you need to decide on a strategy to protect yourself from other people’s negligence.

You don’t have to permanently delete your tests. Instead, you can disable DNA Relatives, which means matching.

I’ve opted-out of DNA Relatives while waiting to see what happens as 23andMe works through this quagmire. That means that I’m not participating directly in matching anymore. I’ve also opted all of the tests I manage out as well. I can always opt back in when this problem is resolved, if that ever happens.

Opting-Out of DNA Relatives

Here’s how to opt-out.

Under the Ancestry tab, select DNA Relatives.

Click on Edit profile.

Scroll all the way to the very bottom.

At the bottom, click on “I would like to stop participating in DNA Relatives.

I clicked on “Finish,” then verified that this profile is not shown as a match.

My profile prior to disabling DNA Relatives looked like this:

These same fields after disabling DNA Relatives.

Unfortunately, it does not appear that you can disable Connections broadly.

Apparently, you need to disable Connections one by one. I know that Connections can still see you, but they can’t see everything. You can find instructions here.

What I’d really like is an “invisibility” function that simply stops all sharing by making me invisible until I want to be visible again, without deleting my accounts. I’m more than a little irritated that connections remained, other than within the accounts I actually manage.

I still have not decided if I will eventually retain or delete my accounts, but disabling DNA Relatives helps somewhat and buys me some pause time while I make a final decision about 23andMe.

Your decision may not be as difficult. In addition to my genealogy research, I depend on my accounts at the various vendors for instructional articles for my blog.

Minimum Two Steps

No matter what else you do, implement the following NOW:

  1. Use a unique, difficult-to-guess, strong password at every vendor. Here and here are some ideas and guidelines for strong passwords.
  2. Turn on 2-factor authentication.
  3. If you did not previously use a unique password at 23andMe, presume your data was compromised.
  4. If you have to assume your data was compromised, be hyper-vigilant of anything unusual or strange.
  5. Check to see if your email address associated with 23andme received a DNA file download request that you did not initiate, and if so, notify 23andMe immediately at customercare@23andme.com or 1-800-239-5230.

Other Companies

Other DNA testing companies are taking precautions and reviewing safeguards. Some have or may disable some features as they move through the process. Don’t be angry if a feature you depend on is gone for now.

The situation is changing very rapidly. I don’t know if the changes at the vendors, including 23andMe, will be permanent, and the companies probably don’t yet either.

Right now, overall, patience is the word as this mess sorts itself out – but while being patient, be sure to review your own safeguards and follow safe online practices.


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Barney Campbell’s Descendants in the 1872 Chancery Court Suit – 52 Ancestors #414

Cousin Sherri, who is related to the Campbells, found a newspaper notification in the Knoxville Weekly Chronicle dating from July 24, 1872, and it clearly has to do with the Claiborne County, TN Campbell line.

Them’s my people!

So down the rabbit hole I went!!!

Who are these people? How are they connected together?  What is this all about?

Why Do I Care?

Why might an 1872 Chancery Court suit be important? My Campbell ancestors, John Campbell and his daughter, Elizabeth Campbell, were long dead by then, so why would I care what was happening 30+ years later?

Well, it’s complicated.

First, we don’t know much about the father of the two men, John and George Campbell, who settled in Claiborne County around the time the county was formed in 1801. They are believed to be brothers, both sons of Charles Campbell, but we lack definitive proof.

Second, we don’t know who the father of Charles Campbell is, but we have Y-DNA hints, and we’ve been chipping away at this brick wall for decades now. You just never know when and where that desperately needed tidbit is going to drop. Property and arguments over property are generational and often reach significantly back in time.

Third, Jacob Dobkins’ two daughters, Jenny Dobkins and Elizabeth Dobkins married John and George Campbell, respectively. Then, their grandchildren and great-grandchildren intermarried. All was NOT quiet on the homefront. In fact, these families seemed to be wracked with one scandal after another. Thank goodness, because those court records make them much more human, and often, it’s all we know about the family. Not to mention buried and not-so-buried hints.

Fourth, Jacob Dobkins was quite controversial. Jacob was a Revolutionary War soldier who bought a ton of land in Claiborne County, 1400 acres to be precise, apparently to keep his family together instead of his sons and son-in-laws moving off to claim land someplace else. Jacob was buried on the old home place, which wound up in the possession of his grandson, Barney Campbell, who himself is surrounded in mystery.

As it turned out, Jacob’s will was hidden and there was a huge brouhaha and resulting lawsuit over all that, complete with soap-opera-worthy drama and first-person details. I didn’t discover that Supreme Court case until this time last year when another cousin notified me. So old Jacob Dobkins still continues to surprise me, as do his family members. That one was juicy, too, and went all the way to the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1853, which is the only reason we found it.

Fifth, Barney Campbell himself. This man – Lord Have Mercy. He was Elizabeth Dobkins’ first-born child. There was debate for decades about whether he was born to Elizabeth before she married George Campbell, or after. And, based on that and other anomalies, whether or not Barney was fathered by George Campbell or someone else. The fact that George’s other children were mentioned by name in his will, but Barney was not, fueled that flame.

The story from WITHIN Barney’s line as told by a descendant:

My grandmother, Sally, died (in 1951) when I was about 10. I heard the story of Barney from her many times growing up…Barney was a Dobkins, his mother was Elizabeth, and he took the Campbell name when Elizabeth married George Campbell.

To explain that and probably to rescue Elizabeth’s reputation, another story emerged in a different child’s line – that George and Elizabeth had found an abandoned baby boy whose parents had been killed in Indian raids and raised him as their own. This, of course, removed the tongue-clucking about long-deceased Elizabeth’s morals. Tisk. Tisk.

Initially, based on DNA results, it looked like the answer was that Barney’s father was “someone else,” but his mother was Elizabeth Dobkins based on his descendants’ autosomal matches. Then, the results from the descendant of a second son of Barney tested and matched the Campbell line. Of course, we can’t go back in time to figure out what REALLY happened. Given those circumstances, I found it odd that Barney, of all the grandchildren, eventually would wind up owning his grandfather, Jacob Dobkins’ farm – especially after the accusations surrounding Jacob Dobkins’ will – yet he did.

I need about four Bingo cards to keep track of all of this.

To add to that suspense, someone else who lived in Claiborne County told me years ago that one of their relatives in Barney’s line started researching this family decades earlier, found something, tore everything up, and stopped searching. They wouldn’t tell anyone what they found and said no one needed to know. There’s clearly SOMETHING there, a story begging to be told.

What was it?

Where did they find that information?

Were the destroyed papers the originals?

Is this the key to that big secret?


I transcribed the article so I could work with the names of the plaintiffs and defendants. It was quite helpful that the suit told us where the defendants lived. I used my own research plus Joe Payne’s website here, which isn’t always correct, but Joe obtained the information from the old-timers in Claiborne County. In other words, the stories haven’t been sifted through the Ancestry filter hundreds of times and “stretched.”

Joseph Lanham and Levi Brooks vs

Residents in Claiborne County:

    • Benjamin Campbell
    • Eldridge Campbell
    • D. Campbell
    • John Campbell
    • Elizabeth Jennings
    • Mary Walker
    • David Campbell
    • Abraham Campbell
    • Alexander Campbell
    • Emily Brooks
    • Louisa Lewis
    • Abraham Lewis
    • Eliza Shumate
    • Daniel Shumate
    • Isaac Campbell
    • Mary Campbell
    • Benjamin Campbell
    • Margaret Campbell
    • George Campbell
    • Nancy Campbell
    • Reuben Kesterson

Non-residents of Tn:

    • Arthur L. Campbell
    • Newton J. Campbell
    • Andrew Campbell
    • Eldrige Campbell

Residents of Union County, TN:

    • Lucy Walker
    • John Walker

Resident of Hancock County:

    • Robert Campbell

Resident of Grainger County:

    • James Campbell

In this cause it appearing from the allegations in the bill filed, which is sworn to, that Arthur L. Campbell, Newton J. Campbell, Andrew Campbell, and Eldridge Campbell are non-residents of the state as aforesaid, so that the ordinary process of law cannot be served on them. It is therefore ordered that publication be made for 4 successive weeks in the Knoxville Chronicle notifying said non-resident defendants to appear before the Chancellor at a Chancery Court to be holden at the courthouse in Tazewell, TN on the second Monday in October 1872, then and there to make defense to complainants said bill, or the same will be taken as confessed and set for hearing ex parte to them.

July 16, 1972

Note that the second Monday of 1872 was October 13.

Who are these people? How are they related to each other? Who are the plaintiffs, and why do they have an interest in whatever the complaint is. And what is the complaint that they are suing over?

I have to know, so down that rabbit hole I leaped. I sure hope there’s a big fat rabbit down there!

Who Are These People?

Of course, the Campbell family, like all Southern families, named children after ancestors, other family members, and so forth. That means there are a bazillion Johns, Georges and Williams, etc. Many are about the same age in the same county. They need to take numbers.

“Hello, I’m John Campbell #372; pleased to meet you.”

The first thing I did was to try to sift out who these people’s parents were. I was actually HOPING that they would be a mix of the descendants of John Campbell and George Campbell, which meant they had a common interest, might link back to their fathers and confirm that they were brothers, or even give hints a generation further back.

Multiple people are listed with the same name, so I had to figure out which person was being referenced.

Also, who are the plaintiffs, and what is their interest?

I created a table and listed every defendant in the suit, the location as given in the suit, then their parents and birth year, if known, along with any commentary. By the way, Barney Campbell had two wives, but that doesn’t matter in this suit, so I’ve only listed him as the parent.

Name 1872 Location Birth/Spouse Parents Comment
Arthur L. Campbell Outside TN Born circa 1842 Barney Campbell
*Newton J. Campbell Outside TN Born 1845, died 1911 in Claiborne, m Lucy Williams 1885 Barney Campbell In 1870, he was living in Pleasant Grove, Kansas, but had moved back to Claiborne Co. by 1885 when he married.
Andrew Campbell Outside TN Born c 1842 Barney Campbell In 1870, Andrew is living with his brother Newton with the Nelson Lanham family in Kansas.
Eldridge Campbell Outside TN B 1827, died > 1880 Claiborne, m 1845 Emeline Hazelwood Barney Campbell Probably this guy, but check his death location since he is reported to have died in Claiborne.
Lucy Walker Union Co., TN B c 1834 m John Walker 1850 Claiborne Barney Campbell
John Walker Union Co., TN Husband of Lucinda (Lucy) Campbell
Robert Campbell Hancock Co., TN B 1845, d 1914 Pennington Gap, VA, m Sarah Thomas George Campbell (son of Barney) & Nancy Eastridge Probably this guy – Robert S. Campbell
James Campbell Grainger Co., TN Probably James C., son of George d 1864, son of Barney
Benjamin Campbell


Claiborne Co., TN B 1820 d 1882 Claiborne m Eliza “Louisa” Eastridge Barney Campbell
Eldridge Campbell (second listing) Claiborne Co., TN Uncertain. The only other Eldridge I show is the son of Jacob Campbell, son of John Campbell.
T. D. Campbell (probably Toliver Dodson known as “Dock”) Claiborne Co., TN B 1835 d 1899 Claiborne m Sarah Lewis Barney Campbell
John Campbell Claiborne Co., TN Many candidates, Barney’s son b 1829 d 1900 Claiborne Barney Campbell Many John candidates
Elizabeth (Louisa) Jennings Claiborne Co., TN B 1823, m James Jennings, died aft 1866 Barney Campbell She is likely a widow
Mary Walker Claiborne Co., TN Uncertain, could be Barney’s daughter who married John Lanning and perhaps remarried?
David Campbell Claiborne Co., TN B 1841, d 1919 Claiborne m Missouri Williams Barney Campbell Middle initial either H or R
Abraham Campbell Claiborne Co., TN B 1850 d 1914 Claiborne m Nancy Williams Barney Campbell
Alexander Campbell Claiborne Co., TN B 1853 d 1923 m 2C Sallie Campbell Barney Campbell
Emily Brooks Claiborne Co., TN B 1831 d c 1887 m Levi Brooks Barney Campbell Levi Brooks is one of the plaintiffs.
Louisa Lewis Claiborne Co., TN B 1843, d 1920 m Abraham Lewis George Campbell d c 1879 & Nancy Eastridge, son of Barney
Abraham Lewis Claiborne Co., TN Husband of Louisa Campbell
Eliza Shumate


Claiborne Co., TN B 1847 d 1914, m 1866 Daniel Shumate George Campbell d c 1870, son of Barney
Daniel Shumate Claiborne Co., TN Husband of Eliza Campbell
Isaac Campbell Claiborne Co., TN B 1851 d > 1885 George Campbell d c 1879, son of Barney
Mary Campbell Claiborne Co., TN B c 1853 George Campbell d c 1879, son of Barney
Benjamin Campbell Claiborne Co., TN B c 1855 George Campbell d c 1879, son of Barney
Margaret Campbell Claiborne Co., TN B c 1860 George Campbell d c 1879, son of Barney
George Campbell Claiborne Co., TN B 1864 d 1922 Claiborne George Campbell d c 1879, son of Barney
Nancy Campbell


Claiborne Co., TN Unknown
Reuben Kesterson Claiborne Co., TN Unknown

*Newton J. Campbell was very confusing. Not only are there multiple men by that name, but the Newton under discussion moved to Kansas, then back before marrying. Before this, I’m not sure anyone realized he had ever moved away. I don’t think his brother Andrew moved back because there is almost no information about him.

Barney Campbell’s first wife was Mary Brooks with whom he had a dozen children between 1820 and 1835. She died between 1835 and 1840. His second wife was Martha Jane Kesterson (1810-1889), the daughter of David Chadwell Kesterson and Elizabeth Lanham. Note the family connection in that Newton and Arthur Campbell are living with a Lanham family in Kansas in the 1870 census.

Barney and Martha had six children that lived, and probably at least one that died, between 1840 and 1853.

Regarding the Mary Campbell who married a John Lanning, I can’t help but wonder if this is actually a misspelling of Lanham. I can’t place her.

I can’t fit Reuben Kesterson, who was ordered to appear as a defendant cleanly into this family. However, in that valley, everyone was literally related to everyone else within a couple of generations, thanks to intermarriage. In the 1870 census, Reuben’s wife was deceased, so he may well have been listed as a surviving spouse. Or, he could be George Campbell’s minor children’s guardian. Or, something else.

It’s worth noting that every one of these people that I can place is either the child of Barney Campbell, through both of his wives, or the child of Barney’s son George, who died in 1864, with the exception of the second Eldridge. There is only one other Eldridge living at that time who is not Barney’s son or grandson. Was Eldridge accidentally listed twice? Did Barney’s son George have a son Eldridge that is unknown?

Barney was born about 1797 and died sometime between 1853 and 1856. A will for Barney has not been found – which may be the predicating force behind this lawsuit.

In 1860, Levi Brooks, one of the plaintiffs, is living beside Barney’s widow with his wife, Emily Campbell, and their children.

Barney’s Children

As a sanity check, I created a table of Barney’s children and what I know about them, then bolded the abovementioned children.

Name Birth, Death Spouse Comments
Benjamin 1820-1882 Claiborne Married Eliza Louisa Eastridge Alive in 1872
George (deceased 1864, not in lawsuit but his children are) B c 1821, d 1864 in Civil War Married Nancy Eastridge Captured in Civil War
Mary E. B c 1822 d ? Married John Lanning in 1853 Uncertain. There’s also a Mary Ann Campbell.
Louisa “Eliza” (deceased, not in lawsuit) B c 1823 d c 1866 Married James Jennings in 1840 – why is he not on the list? Their daughter, Mary Jennings b 1831 married c 1870 Joseph Lanham, one of the plaintiffs
Andrew B c 1826 died ? Married Louisa “Eliza” Campbell, his 2C
Eldridge B c 1827 d after 1880 Claiborne Married Emeline Hazelwood
John B c 1829 d after 1900 Claiborne Married Mary Ann Chadwell
Mary Ann B c 1829 d 1908 Claiborne Married James Walker in 1840
Emily A. B c 1831 d 1877 Claiborne Married Levi Brooks  in 1848 Levi Brooks is a plaintiff.
Lucinda B c 1834 d > 1886 Claiborne Married John Wesley Walker in 1850
Toliver D B 1835 d 1899 Claiborne Married Sarah Lewis in 1854
Charles B c 1841, probably died in Civil War. He served and is not found after. No record of marriage 20 in 1860 census, not found in 1870 nor listed in the suit
David H. (R.) B 1842 d 1919 Claiborne Married Missouri Williams in 1874
Arthur L B c 1842 d 1904 Married Sarah Ellen Clingensmith in 1875
Newton J. B 1845 d 1911 Claiborne Married Louisa “Lucy” Williams c 1885
Abraham B 1850 d 1914 Claiborne Married Nancy Williams his 2C c 1890
Alexander B 1853 d 1923 Claiborne Married Sarah Campbell his 2C c 1880

This is beginning to make more sense.

It appears that this suit probably has to do with Barney’s estate. His second wife, Martha Jane Kesterson was living in 1872 and is not a party to this suit. She would have, by law, inherited one-third of Barney’s estate. Perhaps that portion wasn’t under debate.

In 1839, Barney was taxed for 200 acres, so he clearly had land to be divided which descended through his descendants to recent times.

The Chancery Suit

Ok, so what does the Chancery Bill filed in the Chancery Court in Tazewell have to say? That’s where the meat of this lawsuit will be revealed.

Chancery bills tell us what is alleged. In other words, let’s say that person A claims they paid person B for some land, but person B died before conveying the land, died without a will, and the heirs either didn’t know about the deal, or don’t want to recognize it. Complicating matters further, the heirs planted a crop on the land which needs to be harvested, and person A claims it’s his crop since he bought the land. Person A would file against all of the heirs in order to obtain satisfaction. A judge would have to figure out what happened, and what is equitable under the circumstances.

In most places, Chancery Court is entirely different than Circuit or Criminal Court. Disputes requiring a judge to determine a fair and equitable settlement are resolved in Chancery Court. Think about a couple’s assets in a divorce. A Criminal Court would try someone for murder or a crime that broke a state or federal government law. Civil or “regular” court would be used to collect an undisputed debt, register a will, record tax payments or “prove” a deed transfer in open court by testimony.

Additionally, a Chancery Court generally served a region, not just a county, where county courts only served that particular county.

The second Monday of 1872 was October 13 and the Claiborne County chancery notes do not appear in the regular Claiborne County court notes, although the Chancery Court bills, pleadings and minutes were recorded in the courthouse at Tazewell in Claiborne County.

I browsed the court minutes at FamilySearch and read the circuit court minutes page by page, hoping for something. Anything.

Claiborne County is one of my “home” counties, so I have just about every published resource. I don’t have those notes, but maybe I missed something. I checked every available source, just in case.

I was getting a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach because I was beginning to suspect that those records may not exist. The courthouse burned twice, once in 1863 during the Civil War, and again in 1931. Thankfully, not all records burned either time, but plenty did, including some crucial records.

The FamilySearch Catalog and FamilySearch Claiborne wiki don’t list Chancery suits or minutes at all.

Then, I found it, here.

I Found Something

No, no, I didn’t find the Chancery filing or anything else whatsoever about the suit. What I found was confirmation that those records don’t exist.


This Tennessee Secretary of State site confirms that the Claiborne Chancery Court records began in 1934. Given that divorces were heard in Chancery Court, this also explains why I could never find the divorce records between Martha Ruthy Dodson and John Y. Estes. At least this exercise was good for making sense of that.

However, all that was waiting down this rabbit hole about John and George Campbell was a laughing rabbit. But maybe not for Barney’s descendants.

Sometimes, even some information is better than no information. Just the newspaper article alone helps assemble Barney’s family.

So, now the rest is up to Barney’s descendants. Does anyone know what happened in 1872? Any juicy stories about land, Barney’s estate, or a rift in the family?

One thing we know for sure – something assuredly happened! So far, it’s still a mystery, and this newspaper filing was just a teaser.

Update 10-24-2023

Not long after this article was published, a cousin sent me the following deed from Claiborne County Deed book 12, page 598 that may pertain to the lawsuit filed in 1872. This deed was filed in 1880, so by inference, this deed, if related, would have been related to the result of that suit.

Based on the language, it would appear that Barney had given advancements to his children, but not his son George who had died before Barney. It’s worth noting that not all of the people in the suit are reflected in this deed.

Extracted as follows:

Lucinda Walker, wife of John W. Walker appeared separately…acknowledged annexed deed…signed on August 25, 1880.

Indenture entered into 10th day of March 1869 between Benjamin Campbell, Andrew Campbell, John Campbell, Eldridge Campbell, Emily A. Brooks, Loucinda Walker, T. D. Campbell, Mary Ann Walker, Louiza Jennings all of the county of Claiborne, state of Tennesee, of the first part and A. L. Campbell, David H. Campbell, Newton Campbell, Abraham Campbell, Alexander Campbell of the county aforesaid of the second part.

In consideration of that Barney Campbell had advanced to the party of the first part considerable property both parties being heirs at law of the said Barney Campbell, and that party of the first part for the consideration of their having had advancements by the said Barney Campbell their father before his death do hereby convey, sell, bargain, enfroff? and confirm into the said party of the second part all the right, title or claim to the reversionary interest in the dower of said Barny Campbell’s widow Jane Campbell her dower is the first part laid off to her out of the lands that Barney Campbell owned and lived on at the time of his death, to have and to hold to the said A. L. Campbell, David H. Campbell, Newton Campbell, Abraham Campbell and Alexander Campbell all the right that the said Benjamin Campbell, Andrew Campbell, John Campbell, Eldridge Campbell, Emily A. Brooks, T. D. Campbell and Mary Ann Walker, Loucinda Jennings has or may have in and to the dower of said Jane Campbell widow of Barney Campbell, decd, the part of the first part does hereby covenant to and with the party of the second part that they have a good right to convey their title in the lands before mentioned and that said Party of the first part will forever warrant and defend the title to the said lands as before stipulated to the party of the second part their heirs and assigns forever in fee simple.

Said party of the first part have hereunto set their hands and seals…


Jeremiah Brooks
Levi Brooks
Attest as to T. D. Campbell
Robert Campbell
John Cales
as to Mary A. Walker
D. Cardwell
J. A McGriff
as to Louiza Jennings
D. Cardwell
F. L. McVey
as to Loucinda Walker
D. C. Smith
William B. Hodges
Attest to Emily Ann Brooks
Signature Sept 10
Henly Buise
J. W. Buise

Second column:
Benjamin x-mark Campbell
Andrew x-mark Campbell
John x-mark Campbell
Eldridge x-mark Campbell
T. D. x-mark Campbell
Mary Ann x-mark Walker
Louiza x-mark Jennings
Loucinda x-mark Walker
Emily Ann x-mark Brooks

Filed in my office October 4, 1880
B. H. Campbell Registrar


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