Sadowski WWII Scrapbooks Salvaged From Trash Heap, 52 Ancestors #149

In the 2015 Memorial Day article, Frank Sadowski, My Almost Father, I shared the story of the man my mother was engaged to before his untimely death in WWII, killed in action on April 19, 1945.

Frank Sadowski

I thought when I finished that article, and hit the publish button, Frank’s story was complete. After all, Frank was killed 70 years earlier, now almost 72 years ago.

But Frank’s story wasn’t yet over. In fact, in many ways, that was a new beginning.

Chapter 2

Exactly a month later, Frank’s nephew, Curtis, found me in a moment of spontaneous serendipity when on a whim he typed Frank’s name into Google and discovered my article.

A month after that, in July 2015, I met Curtis and his wife, Janet, half way between where we live and gave Curtis the original photos of Frank and Frank’s father, Curtis’s grandfather. The family photos had all disappeared, so Curtis was extremely grateful for those two, shown above and below.

Frank Sadowski and father

During the visit with Curtis, I also returned Frank’s class ring to the Sadowski family – the ring my mother had cherished her entire life. Certainly not a decision I reached without a lot of soul-searching.

Frank's ring in box

With mother gone, the ring would have faced a lonely dead end in my family, especially after I join mother on the other side. Frank’s ring belonged with the Sadowski’s…in particular…one special person – and I was on a journey to make that happen.

Now this sounds all matter-of-fact, dry and boring today, but let me assure you, it was anything but. In fact, I cried my way across Indiana that hot July day in 2015. Not only was I about to return Frank’s ring, 70 years later, but I was also “driving through my life,” places I hadn’t visited in years. Where Mom last lived, the farm where my brother, John, lived, past the restaurants where we all met and shared meals on Sunday after church. I passed near where Mom and John both died and are buried and drove through the Indiana of both my and Mom’s childhood – past tractors and corn fields, inhaling the smell of Indiana summertime – all of which brought intense memories rushing back. Every landmark brought fresh tears. All of those things, plus the errand I was on combined into a huge emotional swirley to become a bleary-eyed tornado. I certainly didn’t anticipate any of that. I turned on the radio to divert my mind…only to hear songs that reminded me of…yep…mother and life in Indiana.

Word to the wise – never listen to country music if you’re already crying. It doesn’t help a bit, but you can at least cry with the radio blaring and sing along with the sobbing songs.

Emotional avalanche or not, that trip was destined to be.

At Christmas 2015, when Bert, Curtis’s son was home on leave, Frank’s ring went to Bert who is today serving in Kuwait with a medical unit in the Army. That’s when I published the article, Frank’s Ring Goes Home.

When Bert put that ring on his finger, I felt closure. I knew the ring was where Mom and Frank would have both wanted it to be, protecting Bert, with a future in the Sadowski family.

I thought the Sadowski book was closed for sure then, but it wasn’t.

Chapter 3

A week ago, I received another one of those very unexpected messages on my blog. The kind that makes you blink to be sure you’ve seen what you thought you saw. You read it a second and then a third time, then sit in utter shock for a few minutes, trying to decide if it’s for real. The Sadowski’s seem to produce this kind of unexpected phenomenon.

Joan Mikol, who shall forevermore be referred to as “the angel,” was walking her dog a dozen years or so ago, in Chicago, when she spotted some scrapbooks in the trash. It looked like a home was being cleaned out and there were bags and bags of trash waiting for the trash truck, but one of the bags had popped open and scrapbooks were peeking out.

Curious, Joan stopped and took a look. She saw what appeared to be old letters, and then looking closer, noticed that they were from WWII.  Joan couldn’t leave them in the trash. Having lost a family member in that war, Joan gathered them up and took them home.

Then, Joan read the letters, one by one. She sobbed. Her husband couldn’t read them.

Joan didn’t quite know what to do with the scrapbooks, so her sister took them to California for 5 or 6 years and for awhile, considered writing a book. She didn’t, and once again, the scrapbooks came back to Illinois. Thankfully!

Joan contacted a museum in Washington DC who was hesitant to accept them and encouraged her to try to find the family. They suggested she type Frank’s name into a search engine – which is exactly what Joan did and found my article. Next, Joan contacted me.  You can click to enlarge Joan’s message, below.

scrapbook-e-mail

As you’ve probably guessed already, in a very kind and loving gesture, Joan returned the scrapbooks to the Sadowski family.

scrapbook-joan

This is both a beautiful and a heartwrenching story, and I’d like to share it with you.

But before this most recent chapter unfolds, let’s step back in time some 70 years and take a look at how the scrapbooks became lost in the first place.

The Aftermath

Frank’s death was devastating for the Sadowski family, a loss they collectively and individually never recovered from. According to Curtis, it was like someone extinguished a flame and the light never came back on.

When Curtis and I were discussing how Frank’s death dramatically affected so many lives, because in an unmistakable way, Frank’s death affected me too – Curtis quite succinctly said, “We’ve all grown up in the shadow of the same man.”

The three Sadowski children were very close in age, with Frank having been born in 1921, Margie in 1922 and Bobbie in 1924.

Frank’s mother, Harriett, dreamed that all 3 of her children would marry and all live in the Sadowski home together, raising their families under one roof. Not only was that not to be, but two of the Sadowski children never had children and the only one to remain at home was Margie who cared for her parents.

After Frank’s death, the Sadowski family tried to rebuild their lives, but their world was clearly divided into two halves, as was my mother’s. Before Frank’s death, and after. Harriett blamed Frank’s father for encouraging Frank to enlist. Harriett didn’t want either of her sons to serve. She had visited a fortune teller before the war who told her that two sons would serve, but only one would come home. Frank’s father probably blamed himself. At one point after Frank’s death, his parents nearly divorced.

Frank’s brother, Edmund Robert Sadowski, known affectionately as Bobbie, was also serving in the military at the time that Frank was killed and experienced what we today know as survivor guilt. Frank’s father, Dr. Frank Sadowski Sr., a general practice physician, begged Bobbie to come home, sending him letters filled with myriad reasons why he, medically, shouldn’t be serving and encouraging him to seek a medical discharge.

Bobbie finished his tour and eventually did come home, much to the relief of his parents and sister, Margaret Rita Sadowski, known as Margie.

Mother met Margie about 1942 or 1943 when they were both dancing with the Dorothy Hild Dancers at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago, then a swanky upscale lakefront property where featured acts like Bing Crosby performed. The dancers opened for those acts, and when less famous names weren’t on the marquee, their dance programs were the entertainment.

Dorothy Hild Dancers

Bobbie came home the war, married in the early 1950s and started a family. Margie never had children, but that wasn’t the life she had planned.

On December 10, 1952, Margie obtained a marriage license and had a civil marriage ceremony, but never the Catholic wedding her husband promised. In fact, before the all-important church wedding could occur, he abandoned Margie and then, when she divorced the cad, the Catholic Church excommunicated her, so Margie lost both, plus her dreams. Margie did not do well with any of this and spent time “hospitalized” out of state as she tried to recover. At that time, this type of medical event was termed a “nervous breakdown” and both the breakdown and the “failed” secret marriage followed by divorce and excommunication were colored by shame and embarrassment, to be hidden away and never discussed, ever.

One of the ways that Margie dealt with the losses in her life was by volunteering at the St. Mary of Nazareth hospital where her father treated patients as a physician.

scrapbook-margie-1957

In 1956 Margie was a featured speaker for the annual luncheon and in 1957, she received a special award for more than 1000 hours of volunteer work through the women’s auxiliary. Looking at the photos above, with Margie at right, you can see that this was truly a dress up and wear gloves social event. Margie was truly a beautiful woman, inside and out.

Despite the fact that Margie, for the most part, never “worked” outside the home, she had a degree from Northwestern University in Chicago.  In the 1941 Steinmetz High School Yearbook, she is quoted as saying she wanted to dance professionally and obtain a music degree. Margie accomplished both goals. She played the piano and had a beautiful voice, in addition to dancing. Margie’s photo from the 1941 yearbook is shown below.

scrapbook-margaret-1941-yearbook

Margie lived in the family home, caring for her aging parents and with Frank’s ever present photo. Curtis tells that Frank’s mother placed his photograph dead center on top of the grand piano in the living room and that Frank’s eyes followed you everyplace you went in the room, the silent sentinel watching everything, always, never resting.

On June 18, 1971, Frank’s mother, Harriett died after a long illness.

scrapbook-harriett-1971

I’m sure that Margie and her father struggled after Harriett’s death. Harriet had been an invalid for years, and Margie had probably taken over household duties years before. By this time, Margie was just shy of 50 years old and Dr. Frank was 83 and still practicing medicine.

Margie’s life would change dramatically in the not too distant future.

Murder

Just when you think this story couldn’t possibly get any sadder, it does.

scrapbook-frank-murder

Published Dec. 6, 1971, Chicago Tribune

Dr. Sadowski practiced at a time when doctors dispensed their own prescriptions. Furthermore, doctors still made house calls with their infamous black bags – something doctor Sadowski continued to do, often not returning home until 9 or 10 at night after a full day seeing patients in his office.  He would then smoke a cigar and have a beer with a raw egg before turning in.

scrapbook-doctor-bag

By Sandrine Z – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Everyone knew the local doctors, and when the doctor arrived at your house carrying his black bag, the entire neighborhood knew someone was “too sick” to go to the doctor’s office. Often, doctors of that generation made house calls until they retired or died, but the next generation didn’t, of course.

I recall when I was growing up that you never went to a pharmacy – in fact – there weren’t pharmacies. No need. The doctor had everything you needed and you left the doctor’s office with a small while envelope, about 2 by 3 inches, if not smaller, with instructions for how to take the medication written on the outside with the medicine on the inside.

Apparently, others knew that too. According to the family, drug seekers broke into Dr. Sadowski’s office when he was alone completing paperwork, demanded drugs and beat the good doctor when he refused their demands. At 83, Dr. Sadowski, a former wrestler, was no slouch and could still take his sons arm-wrestling. He put up a good fight, but was outnumbered. Did they simply land a lucky punch?  We’ll never know, but that beating eventually proved fatal.

Dr. Sadowski didn’t die right away. He lingered for a couple months in the hospital, finally having a stroke that took him. By that point, it was probably a blessing. He was severely injured, more so than the articled indicated.  And in case you’re wondering, two men were tried for murder but not convicted. It’s difficult for the prosecution when the victim who is the only one who can positively identify the perpetrators dies. The defense argued, of course, that it wasn’t their clients who beat the doctor, and that the beating didn’t kill the doctor, the stroke did – and that the stroke was unrelated to the beating. That was before the days of DNA evidence, of course.  The trial might have an entirely different outcome today.

The family, who attended the trial daily, said that when the judge dismissed the charges he said, “Well, he was an old man anyway.”  They found that comment both incredibly inhumane as well as unbelievable.

scrapbook-frank-sr-obit

Published Feb. 7, 1972, Chicago Tribune

During the time that Margie’s father was in the hospital, she met a man named Ray Stehl whose family member was also in the hospital and also died. After Margie’s father died, she married Ray within months. She also inherited the Sadowski family home.

scrapbook-estate-sale

For some reason, the estate auction wasn’t held for another 6 years, in September of 1978.  While the property itself was apparently included in the sale, the home was not sold.

The Memory Keeper

It was Margie that lovingly assembled the scrap books.

scrapbook-franks-letter

Each letter was carefully centered and its envelope exactly centered on the facing page or above the letter, if there was space.

scrapbook-envelope

I’d wager she read those letters over and over again. Maybe they were her link to sanity, or comfort when she had none other. These scrapbooks were Margie’s way of memorializing Frank’s life.

Frank wrote letters home to his parents and to Margie as well. She kept all of those letters, mounting them in the scrapbook, plus included other family memorabilia like her grandfather’s naturalization papers.

Frank Sr. wrote letters to son Bobbie when he was in the service, and Bobbie brought those letters home. Margie included them in the scrapbooks too.

It’s easy to tell what Margie felt was important by what she included in the scrapbooks.

Frank’s personal effects were never returned after his death, including any letters he had in his possession. It took Frank’s father 4 years of constant fighting to have Frank’s body returned. I can’t help but wonder if the body shipped home was actually Frank’s, but it really doesn’t matter now and it didn’t matter then if it brought the family comfort.

Talk about an open wound. I hope the family had some semblance of closure when they finally buried Frank and had a funeral in 1949.

The family never forgot and never stopped grieving. I don’t believe they ever healed.

In 1973, Margie placed a memorial in the newspaper on Frank’s death date, April 19th – 28 years after he died.

scrapbook-1973-memorial

Later that same year, she memorialized her parents’ 54th wedding anniversary.

scrapbook-1973-anniversary

And Frank’s birthday in 1974.

scrapbook-1974-birthday

Her father in 1975.

scrapbook-1975-memorial

Her mother in 1981.

scrapbook-1981-memorial

Margie continued to place memorials for Frank and her parents. In a sense, this is the social equivalent of posting to your Facebook page, except newspaper memorials weren’t free and required advance planning and thought.

In 1996, Bobbie passed away, having blessed Frank and Harriett with grandchildren and great-grandchildren, even if they didn’t all live under the same roof as Harriett had once hoped.

Haunting

After Dr. Frank’s 1971 death and their marriage later that year, Margie and Ray lived in the Sadowski home, referred to by the family as “the big house.”  By all reports, the house was extremely haunted.  The home, originally build in 1896, shown below as it appears today on Google Maps Streetview.

scrapbook-2350-north-oak-park-avenue

The Sadowski children and grandchildren report that they saw shadowey figures walking up to the attic, heard footsteps on the second floor when no one was there and continually heard voices in the house, just out of earshot. Neighbors reported repeatedly seeing a woman watching them from the sewing room in the tower. That house was anything but peaceful.

Eventually, Margie and Ray couldn’t stand the haunting anymore, purchased a motor home and lived in the back yard. Sometime later, they moved to the home that Ray inherited, about 10 blocks away, but still owned the Sadowski home although it sat fully furnished, just like it always had been, but abandoned in time. It was burglarized in 1972 while Margie and Ray were on an extended honeymoon, and ransacked, taking Margie and her brother Bobbie and his children years to straighten out entirely.

The ironic part of this equation is that Margie took the Sadowski scrapbooks with her to Ray’s house, because where Joan found them in the trash was on North Luna Street in the Jefferson Park area where Ray lived, not in the 2300 block of North Oak Park Avenue where the Sadowski home was located.

Even in her later years, those scrapbooks obviously meant a lot to Margie. I wonder what happened to Frank’s picture on the piano and the other family photos as well.

Margie’s Death

Margie died in April of 2004.

scrapbook-margie-death

Joan Mikol tells us that she found the scrapbooks in about 2005, so very near Margie’s death.

According to the Social Security Death Index, Ray died on March 31, 2008.

As her husband, Ray inherited all of Margie’s estate. The Sadowski family was not informed of Ray’s death and his family disposed of his possessions and estate however they saw fit. Ray had no children.

So, now you know the rest of the story…how Frank’s letters came to be found on a trash pile some 60 years after his death a few blocks from the family home. I’m betting Margie turned over in her grave. That’s not all that got thrown away. All of the family photos bit the dust too – all of them. All the family had left were memories of those eyes, watching them from the piano.

Frank’s Voice

These scrapbooks give Frank one last chance to speak. His letters give shape and a personality to the man who died 72 years ago. They also give a contemporary voice to other family members, allowing everyone memorialized in the scrapbook to speak from the other side of the grave.

I can’t help but wonder what was in the letters Frank had in his possession when he was killed in Okinawa. You know as a GI he coveted each letter from home, and especially from his girlfriend, my mother.

And since I’m wondering, I wonder what became of the letters that Frank wrote mother. I know she would never have thrown them away. Given that I never saw them, not as a child nor as an adult – nor at her death – I know beyond any doubt that they were either lost or thrown away by someone else – not mother. I’m sure they were extremely personal and probably quite intimate. Aside from professing their deep love for one another, the letters probably discussed their dreams for their future together, their wedding and their eventual family.

I suspect Frank’s letters to mother were disposed of in a fit of jealousy. Mother told me that my father was insanely jealous of Frank, even though Frank was dead and had been a decade before I was born. Maybe the jealousy was so intense because Frank was dead – and died a hero. You cannot compete with a ghost that someone still loves, and I’m sure in many ways no one could or ever did live up to Frank in mother’s eyes.

Mother must have grieved the loss of those letters too. She, like Margie, probably read them repeatedly, seeking any shred of solace. Another part of Frank taken from her, ripped from her very heart.

The Scrapbooks Go Home

On the morning of February 22, 2017, following a sleepless night due to adrenaline and excitement – Curtis drove from southern Illinois and I drove from Michigan on a grey but unseasonably warm winter day. We met Joan at a McDonalds in Portage, Indiana where she gave us the scrapbooks.

scrapbook-mcdonalds

Bless Joan for salvaging what little can be recovered of Frank’s all-too-brief life. My mother too, plays a part in those letters – albeit a bit role.

scrapbook-joan-with-books

Curtis’s wife, Janet, is going to scan all 4 scrapbooks and share the images. I started to read one letter, written near Christmastime just four months before Frank’s death, and teared up immediately. I stopped, because blubbering for hours in a McDonalds reading scrapbooks is unacceptable – especially times 3 people and 4 scrapbooks. They would have called the men with the white coats and the butterfly nets to come and get us.

Instead, Curtis, Janet and I had a lovely visit, for about 3 hours. I love e-mail, but visiting in person is just so much fun!

scrapbook-me-and-curtis

Were it not for that bullet, Curtis and I would have been first cousins. We’d be comparing our DNA results. I’d be part Polish and those scrapbooks that include a few early letters from 1917, written in Polish, would have made my heart quicken and skip a beat.

Curtis and I aren’t biologically related, but our families are certainly indelibly entwined, a kinship, for lack of a better word, formed by the same tragic death almost 72 years ago, before either of us was born.

I never knew before these scrapbooks surfaced that Frank was killed on only his 4th day on that particular medical unit assignment. Frank had previously been ill with malaria and injured his foot with an ax. Oh, that the malaria had been just a little worse or his foot injury had been severe enough to disqualify him from active duty. As a medic, Frank dove, under fire, to rescue an injured soldier, only to be killed himself. I wonder if the other soldier survived, and if so, if he or his family had any idea what Frank sacrificed. Or did those two soldiers die together on the battlefield that day?

The fourth day.

The. Fourth. Day.

And VE Day was just a month away. VJ Day was just 4 months after that. The war was ending. How horribly tragic, in every sense of the word.

Frank came so close to NOT dying.  Four days one way, a few seconds perhaps on the battlefield, a few weeks in the other direction and Frank wouldn’t have died. But he did and that bullet irreversibly changed the lives of so many people, snuffing out possibilities in an instant. Giving me a different father a decade later.  Making Curtis and I only partners on this bittersweet co-journey and not cousins.

Gratitude

Curtis, Janet and I parted so incredibly grateful for Joan’s generosity and that our reunion was for such a wonderful occasion. A homecoming of the best kind – beyond anything we could ever have imagined in our wildest dreams.

I hope Mom and Frank were watching. Maybe somehow they helped. I can see them smiling and applauding – the young Frank and mother, happy, back in 1944 before Frank left the last time.

After I have an opportunity to read and digest the letters, you’ll be hearing Frank’s voice. I promise you, there will be a Chapter 4 – thanks to Joan and the generosity of the Sadowski family.

Thank you Joan, from the bottom of our hearts.  You’ve assuredly earned your halo!

Curtis, Janet and Roberta

scrapbook-curtis-me-janet

MyHeritage – Broken Promises and Matching Issues

For additional information and updates to parts of this article, written three months later, please see MyHeritage Ethnicity Results. My concerns about imputed matching, discussed in this original article, remain unchanged, but MyHeritage has honored their original ethnicity report promises for uploaders.

Original Article below:

My Heritage, now nine months into their DNA foray, so far has proven to be a disappointment. The problems are twofold.

  • MyHeritage has matching issues, combined with absolutely no tools to be able to work with results. Their product certainly doesn’t seem to be ready for prime time.
  • Worse yet, MyHeritage has reneged on a promise made to early uploaders that Ethnicity Reports would be free. MyHeritage used the DNA of the early uploaders to build their matching data base, then changed their mind about providing the promised free ethnicity reports.

In May 2016, MyHeritage began encouraging people to upload their DNA kits from other vendors, specifically those who tested at 23andMe, Ancestry and Family Tree DNA and announced that they would provide a free matching service.

Here is what MyHeritage said about ethnicity reports in that announcement:

myheritage-may-2016

Initially, I saw no matching benefit to uploading, since I’ve already tested at all 3 vendors and there were no additional possible matches, because everyone that uploaded to MyHeritage would also be in the vendor’s data bases where they had tested, not to mention avid genetic genealogists also upload to GedMatch.

Three months later, in September 2016, when MyHeritage actually began DNA matching, they said this about ethnicity testing:

myheritage-sept-2016

An “amazing ethnicity report” for free. Ok, I’m sold. I’ll upload so I’m in line for the “amazing ethnicity report.”

Matching Utilizing Imputation

MyHeritage started DNA matching in September, 2016 and frankly, they had a mess, some of which was sorted out by November when they started selling their own DNA tests, but much of which remains today.

MyHeritage facilitates matching between vendors who test on only a small number of overlapping autosomal locations by utilizing a process called imputation. In a nutshell, imputation is the process of an “educated guess” as to what your DNA would look like at locations where you haven’t tested. So, yes, MyHeritage fills in your blanks by estimating what your DNA would look like based on population models.

Here’s what MyHeritage says about imputation.

MyHeritage has created and refined the capability to read the DNA data files that you can export from all main vendors and bring them to the same common ground, a process that is called imputation. Thanks to this capability — which is accomplished with very high accuracy —MyHeritage can, for example, successfully match the DNA of an Ancestry customer (utilizing the recent version 2 chip) with the DNA of a 23andMe customer utilizing 23andMe’s current chip, which is their version 4. We can also match either one of them to any Family Tree DNA customer, or match any customers who have used earlier versions of those chips.

Needless to say, when you’re doing matching to other people – you’re looking for mutations that have occurred in the past few generations, which is after all, what defines genetic cousins. Adding in segments of generic DNA results found in populations is not only incorrect, because it’s not your DNA, it also produces erroneous matches, because it’s not your DNA. Additionally, it can’t report real genealogical mutations in those regions that do match, because it’s not your DNA.

Let’s look at a quick example. Let’s say you and another person are both from a common population, say, Caucasian European. Your values at locations 1-100 are imputed to be all As because you’re a member of the Caucasian European population. The next person, to whom you are NOT related, is also a Caucasian European. Because imputation is being used, their values in locations 1-100 are also imputed to be all As. Voila! A match. Except, it’s not real because it’s based on imputed data.

Selling Their Own DNA Tests

In November, MyHeritage announced that they are selling their own DNA tests and that they were “now out of beta” for DNA matching. The processing lab is Family Tree DNA, so they are testing the same markers, but MyHeritage is providing the analysis and matching. This means that the results you see, as a customer, have nothing in common with the results at Family Tree DNA. The only common factor is the processing lab for the raw DNA data.

Because MyHeritage is a subscription genealogy company that is not America-centric, they have the potential to appeal to testers in Europe that don’t subscribe to Ancestry and perhaps wouldn’t consider DNA testing at all if it wasn’t tied to the company they research through.

Clearly, without the autosomal DNA files of people who uploaded from May to November 2016, MyHeritage would have had no data base to compare their own tests to. Without a matching data base, DNA testing is pointless and useless.

In essence, those of us who uploaded our data files allowed MyHeritage to use our files to build their data base, so they could profitably sell kits with something to compare results to – in exchange for that promised “amazing ethnicity report.” At that time, there was no other draw for uploaders.

We didn’t know, before November, when MyHeritage began selling their own tests, that there would ever be any possibility of matching someone who had not tested at the Big 3. So for early uploaders, the draw wasn’t matching, because that could clearly be done elsewhere, without imputation. The draw was that “amazing ethnicity report” for free.

No Free Ethnicity Reports

In November, when MyHeritage announced that they were selling their own kits, they appeared to be backpedaling on the free ethnicity report for early uploaders and said the following:

myheritage-nov-2016

Sure enough, today, even for early uploaders who were promised the ethnicity report for free, in order to receive ethnicity estimates, you must purchase a new test. And by the way, I’m a MyHeritage subscriber to the tune of $99.94 in 2016 for a Premium Plus Membership, so it’s not like they aren’t getting anything from me. Irrespective of that, a promise is a promise.

Bait and Renege

When MyHeritage needed our kits to build their data base, they were very accommodating and promised an “amazing ethnicity report” for free. When they actually produced the ethnicity report as part of their product offering, they are requiring those same people whose kits they used to build their data base to purchase a brand new test, from them, for $79.

Frankly, this is unconscionable. It’s not only unethical, their change of direction takes advantage of the good will of the genetic genealogy community. Given that MyHeritage committed to ethnicity reports for transfers, they need to live up to that promise. I guarantee you, had I known the truth, I would never have uploaded my DNA results to allow them to build their data base only to have them rescind that promise after they built that data base. I feel like I’ve been fleeced.

As a basis of comparison, Family Tree DNA, who does NOT make anything off of subscriptions, only charges $19 to unlock ethnicity results for transfers, along with all of their other tools like a chromosome browser which MyHeritage also doesn’t currently have.

Ok, so let’s try to find the silk purse in this sows ear.

So, How’s the Imputed Matching?

I uploaded my Family Tree DNA autosomal file with about 700,000 SNP locations to MyHeritage.

Today, I have a total of 34 matches at MyHeritage, compared to around 2,200 at Family Tree DNA, 1,700 at 23andMe (not all of which share), and thousands at Ancestry. And no, 34 is not a typo. I had 28 matches in December, so matches are being gained at the rate of 3 per month. The MyHeritage data base size is still clearly very small.

MyHeritage has no tree matching and no tools like a chromosome browser today, so I can’t compare actual DNA segments at MyHeritage. There are promises that these types of tools are coming, but based on their track record of promises so far, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

However, I did recognize that my second closest match at MyHeritage is also a match at Ancestry.

My match tested at Ancestry, with about 382,000 common SNPs with a Family Tree DNA test, so MyHeritage would be imputing at least 300,000 SNPs for me – the SNPs that Ancestry tests and Family Tree DNA doesn’t, almost half of the SNPs needed to match to Ancestry files. MyHeritage has to be imputing about that many for my match’s file too, so that we have an equal number of SNPs for comparison. Combined, this would mean that my match and I are comparing 382,000 actual common SNPs that we both tested, and roughly 600,000 SNPs that we did not test and were imputed.

Here’s a rough diagram of how imputation between a Family Tree DNA file and an Ancestry V2 file would work to compare all of the locations in both files to each other.

myheritage-imputation

Please note that for purposes of concept illustration, I have shown all of the common locations, in blue, as contiguous. The common locations are not contiguous, but are scattered across the entire range that each vendor tests.

You can see that the number of imputed locations for matching between two people, shown in tan, is larger than the number of actual matching locations shown in blue. The amount of actual common data being compared is roughly 382,000 of 1,100,000 total locations, or 35%.

Let’s see how the actual matches compare.

2016-myheritage-second-match

Here’s the match at MyHeritage, above, and the same match at Ancestry, below.

2016-myheritage-at-ancestry

In the chart below, you can see the same information at both companies.

myheritage-ancestry

Clearly, there’s a significant difference in these results between the same two people at Ancestry and at MyHeritage. Ancestry shows only 13% of the total shared DNA that MyHeritage shows, and only 1 segment as compared to 7.

While I think Ancestry’s Timber strips out too much DNA, there is clearly a HUGE difference in the reported results. I suspect the majority of this issue likely lies with MyHeritage’s imputated DNA data and matching routines.

Regardless of why, and the “why” could be a combination of factors, the matching is not consistent and quite “off.”

Actual match names are used at MyHertiage (unless the user chooses a different display name), and with the exception of MyHeritage’s maddening usage of female married names, it’s easy to search at Family Tree DNA for the same person in your match list. I found three, who, as luck would have it, had also uploaded to GedMatch. Additionally, I also found two at Ancestry. Unfortunately, MyHeritage does not have any download capability, so this is an entirely manual process. Since I only have 34 matches, it’s not overwhelming today.

myheritage-multiple-vendors

*We don’t know the matching thresholds at MyHeritage. My smallest cM match at MyHeritage is 12.4 cM. At the other vendors, I have matches equivalent to the actual matching threshold, so I’m guessing that the MyHeritage threshold is someplace near that 12.4. Smaller matches are more plentiful, so I would not expect that it would be under 12cM. Unfortunately, MyHeritage has not provided us with this information.  Nor do we know how MyHeritage is counting their total cM, but I suspect it’s total cM over their matching threshold.

For comparison, at Family Tree DNA, I used the chromosome browser default of 5cM and 5cM at GedMatch. This means that if we could truly equalize the matching at 5cM, the MyHeritage totals and number of matching segments might well be higher. Using a 10cM threshold, Family Tree DNA loses Match 3 altogether and GedMatch loses one of the two Match 2 segments.

**I could not find a match for Match 1 at Ancestry, even though based on their kit type uploaded to GedMatch, it’s clear that they tested at Ancestry. Ancestry users often don’t use their name, just their user ID, which may not be readily discernable as their name. It’s also possible that Match 1 is not a match to me at Ancestry.

Summary

Any new vendor is going to have birthing pains. Genetic genealogists who have been around the block a couple of times will give the vendors a lot of space to self-correct, fix bugs, etc.

In the case of MyHeritage, I think their choice to use imputation is hindering accurate matching. Social media is reporting additional matching issues that I have not covered here.

I do understand why MyHeritage chose to utilize imputation as opposed to just matching the subset of common DNA for any two matches from disparate vendors. MyHeritage wanted to be able to provide more matches than just that overlapping subset of data would provide. When matching only half of the DNA, because the vendors don’t test the same locations, you’ll likely only have half the matches. Family Tree DNA now imports both the 23andMe V4 file and the Ancestry V2 file, who test just over half the same locations at Family Tree DNA, and Family Tree DNA provides transfer customers with their closest matches. For more distant or speculative matches, you need to test on the same platform.

However, if MyHeritage provides inaccurate matches due to imputation, that’s the worst possible scenario for everyone and could prove especially detrimental to the adoptee/parent search community.

Companies bear the responsibility to do beta testing in house before releasing a product. Once MyHeritage announced they were out of beta testing, the matching results should be reliable.  The genetic genealogy community should not be debugging MyHeritage matching on Facebook.  Minimally, testers should be informed that their results and matches should still be considered beta and they are part of an experiment. This isn’t a new feature to an existing product, it’s THE product.

I hope MyHeritage rethinks their approach. In the case of matching actual DNA to determine genealogical genetic relationships, quality is far, far more important than quantity. We absolutely must have accuracy. Triangulation and identifying common ancestors based on common matching segments requires that those matching segments be OUR OWN DNA, and the matches be accurate.

I view the matching issues as technical issues that (still) need to be resolved and have been complicated by the introduction of imputation.  However, the broken promise relative to ethnicity reports falls into another category entirely – that of willful deception – a choice, not a mistake or birthing pains. While I’m relatively tolerant of what I perceive to be (hopefully) transient matching issues, I’m not at all tolerant of being lied to, especially not with the intention of exploiting my DNA.

Relative to the “amazing ethnicity reports”, breaking promises, meaning bait and switch or simply bait and renege in this case, is completely unacceptable. This lapse of moral judgement will color the community’s perception of MyHeritage. Taking unfair advantage of people is never a good idea. Under these circumstances, I would never recommend MyHeritage.

I would hope that this is not the way MyHeritage plans to do business in the genetic genealogy arena and that they will see fit to reconsider and do right by the people whose uploaded tests they used as a foundation for their DNA business with a promise of a future “amazing ethnicity report.”

I don’t know if the ethnicity report is actually amazing, because I guarantee you, I won’t be paying $79, or any price, for something that was promised for free. It’s a matter of principle.

If MyHeritage does decide to reconsider, honor their promise and provide ethnicity reports to uploaders, I’ll be glad to share its relative amazingness with you.

Andreas Kirsch (1772-1819) of Fussgoenheim, Bayern, Germany, 52 Ancestors #148

Andreas.

Such a beautiful name. I’ve loved it since I first saw the name as part of our family history, although that first time was in such a sad context.

When researching the Kirsch family in Ripley County, Indiana, I ran across a cemetery listing for the child, Andreas Kirsch, by himself in a long-abandoned cemetery. I wondered to myself, was this child “ours,” and why was he all alone?

The child, Andreas Kirsch, was born right after the immigrants, Philip Jacob Kirsch and Katharina Barbara Lemmert arrived in the US in 1848. Andreas was recorded in the 1850 census with his parents in Ripley County, Indiana, but died in 1851 or so, still a toddler. He is buried in the “Old Lutheran Cemetery” near Milan, the location of a Lutheran Church founded by German immigrants, probably a log cabin, long gone now and remembered by none.

Lutheran lost church cemetery

The only reminder is a few old gravestones, including Andreas’ now illegible marker. Andreas is buried alone, with no other family members close by. After the church was abandoned, the family attended church elsewhere, and eventually, the parents died and were buried near Aurora near where their son, Jacob Kirsch, lived.

Andreas Kirsch stone

Andreas was the youngest son of Philip Jacob Kirsch, whose father was an earlier Andreas Kirsch…a man who never left Germany. The younger Andreas was named after his grandfather nearly 30 years after the elder Andreas died.

fussgoenheim-sign

Philip Jacob Kirsch’s father, Andreas Kirsch was born on August 10, 1772 in the village of Fussgoenheim, in Bayern, Germany to Johann Valentine Kirsch and Anna Margaretha Kirsch. We don’t have his baptismal record, but he was probably baptized as Johann Andreas Kirsch.  At that time, German men had a first “saints” name, typically Johann, followed by a middle name that was the name by which they were called. It’s not unusual to see them referred to by only their middle name and last name.  I have only seen records that refer to Andreas as Andreas, so that’s what we’ll call him.

Kirsch was Andreas’ mother’s name before she married his father, so yes, both Andreas’ parents were Kirschs. And yes, they were related on the Kirsch line, second cousins once removed, both descendants of Jerg Kirsch, a man born about 130 years before Andreas and who founded the Kirsch line in Fussgoenheim.

kirsch-lineage

Andreas married Margaretha Elisabetha Kohler or Koehler sometime before December 1798 when their (probably first) child was born, also in Fussgoenheim. If this isn’t their first child, it’s the first child that we know survived. Unfortunately, the church records don’t appear to be complete.

Equally as unfortunately, there were multiple men named Andreas Kirsch living in Fussgoenheim at the same time, so figuring out who was who was challenging, to say the least. Family records failed me. It was church records that saved me. Fortunately, Germans recorded almost everything in the church records. If you missed a birth, you’d have another opportunity to glean information about the child’s parents when they married, or died, and perhaps at other times as well.

Philip Jacob Kirsch and his wife, Katharine Barbara Lemmert weren’t the only people from the Kirsch family to immigrate to Indiana. Philip Jacob Kirsch’s sister, Anna Margaretha Kirsch married Johann Martin Koehler and the two families immigrated together and settled in Ripley County, Indiana.

Another family who immigrated with the Kirschs, on the same ship, and is found living beside them in Ripley County in the 1850 census is the Andrew (Andreas in German) Weynacht family. The Weynacht’s are also found functioning as Godparents for Kirsch baptisms in Fussgoenheim. I’m not sure how, but the Weynacht family is surely related in one or perhaps several ways. Often children were named for their Godparent, so I wonder if Andreas Weynacht was the Godfather to baby Andreas Kirsch when he was born and christened in the now-forgotten Lutheran church in Ripley County, just weeks after these families arrived from Germany. So perhaps Andreas Kirsch was named after his grandfather with his name given by his godfather as well. At that time, it was the Godparents’ responsibility to raise the child if something happened to the parents.  This would have been very important to immigrants to a land where they knew no one nor the language.  All they had was their circle of immigrants.

The marriage record from the Fussgoenheim Lutheran Church of Andreas Kirsch’s daughter, Anna Margaretha Kirsch to Johann Martin Koehler in 1821 states that Andreas Kirsch is deceased by this time.

kirsch-anna-margaretha-to-johann-martin-koehler

Translated by Elke, a German interpreter and my friend, back in the 1980s, the record says:

Johann Martin Koehler, farmer, single, 24 years 11 months born and residing in Ellerstadt son of Philipp Jacob Koehler son of Peter Koehler farmer in Ellerstadt, present and consenting and his wife who died in Ellerstadt, Maria Katharina Merck and Anna Margaretha Kirsch, single, no profession 17 years 7 months born and residing here daughter of the deceased Andreas Kirsch and his surviving wife Elisabeth Koehler, present and consenting.

Witnesses Ludwig Merck (brother of Maria Katharina, his mother), farmer in Ellerstadt 10 years 6 months old uncle of the groom, Peer Merck, farmer, from here, 43 years old, uncle of the groom (his mother’s other brother) and Johannes Koob, farmer, from here 70 years old, uncle of the bride and Mathias Koob, farmer from here, cousin of the bride.

You might be wondering if Johann Martin Koehler who married Anna Margaretha Kirsch was related to Anna Margaretha’s mother, Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler. Why, as a matter of fact, yes. Johann Martin Koehler’s father was Philip Jacob Koehler, brother of Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler, making Anna Margaretha Kirsch and Johann Martin Koehler first cousins, shown in yellow below.

Are you getting the idea that these families in Mutterstadt were all heavily intermarried?

koehler-intermarriage-2

And because I wasn’t confused enough, the son of Anna Margaretha Kirsch and Johann Martin Koehler Sr., shown above in green as Johann Martin Koehler born in 1829, married his mother’s youngest sister, his aunt, Katharina Barbara Kirsch born in 1833. One of Anna Margaretha Kirsch and Johann Martin Koehler’s other children, Philip Jacob Koehler married Anna Elisabetha Kirsch, but she wasn’t as closely related. These families married and intermarried for generations, using the same names repeatedly, causing massive confusion trying to sort through the families and who belonged to whom.

Noting the relationships mentioned in the 1821 marriage record, if Johannes Koob was Anna Margaretha’s uncle, he had to be either a sibling of one of Anna Margaretha’s parents (Andreas Kirsch or Anna Margaretha Koehler) or the husband of a sibling of one of her parents.

We know that Anna Margaretha (Andreas’ wife) was a Koehler, not a Koob, so Johannes had to be the husband of one of Anna Margaretha’s aunts through either her mother or father. However, checking the church records, we only find that Andreas’s Kirsch’s siblings married Koobs, but no aunts married to Koobs. However, the records do show a Mathias Koob married to one Anna Elisabetha Koehler. I’m confused. Could the good Reverend have been a bit confused too by all of the intermarriage? Is something recorded incorrectly? If so, which information is incorrect?

A second record confirms that Andreas Kirsch married Margaretha Koehler. Philip Jacob Kirsch’s marriage record, shown from the original church record as follows:

Kirsch Lemmert 1829 marriage

It translates as:

Today the 22nd of December 1829 were married and blessed Philipp Jacob Kirsch from Fussgoenheim, the legitimate, unmarried son of the deceased couple, Andreas Kirsch and Margaretha Koehler and Katharina Barbara Lemmerth the legitimate unmarried daughter of the deceased local citizen Jacob Lemmerth and his surviving wife Gertrude Steiger, both of protestant religion.

This tells us that by 1829, both Andreas and his wife, Margaretha had passed away.

This marriage record and translation is further confirmed by this record at FamilySearch.

kirsch-lemmert-marriage

We know from Anna Margaretha Kirsch’s 1821 marriage record that her father, Andreas had already passed away by that time. We discover his death date through a record from Ancestry.

andreas-kirsch-death

Ancestry has select deaths and burials, 1582-1958 and Andreas Kirsch’s burial date is listed as May 22, 1819 in Fussgonheim with his wife listed as Margaretha Elisabetha Kohler. That’s now three independent confirmations that Andreas Kirsch’s wife was Margaretha Elisabeth Koehler.

Generally, burials are recorded in the church record, because that’s when the minister was involved. People died a day or two before they were buried.- never longer in the days before refrigeration, at least not unless it was winter.

Why Are These Three Records So Important?

There was a great amount of confusion surrounding who Andreas Kirsch married, and for good reason.

The church records show that the Andreas born in 1772 and married to Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler died before 1821.  Andreas’ wife’s name is again confirmed by the 1829 marriage record, followed by discovering Andreas’ own 1819 death record.

However, a now deceased cousin and long-time researcher, Irene, showed the coup[le as Johannes Andreas Kirsch married to Anna Margaretha Koob.

Walter, another cousin, showed Andreas’ wife as Anna Margaretha Koob, his occupation as schmiedemeister – master smithy. Andreas is noted as Johannes II “der Junge” in Walter’s records, so there may be some generational confusion.

As it turns out, Walter wasn’t entirely wrong – but he wasn’t entirely right either. That couple did exist – but the husband wasn’t our Andreas Kirsch.

There was an Anna Margaretha Koob married to a Johannes Kirsch. Their son, Johannes Kirsch married Maria Catharina Koob. Anna Elisabetha Kirsch, daughter of Johannes Kirsch and Maria Catharina Koob married Philip Jacob Koehler (shown in the Koehler pedigree chart above,) son of Anna Margaretha Kirsch and Johann Martin Koehler, and moved with the immigrating group to Ripley County, Indiana. It’s no wonder people living more than 100 years later were confused.

Two additional cousins, Joyce from Indiana and Marliese, who still resided in Germany, also showed that Andreas was married to Anna Margaretha Koob, born in 1771 and who died in 1833, instead of to Margaretha Elizabetha Koehler. Marliese indicated that this information was from family records.

The death record of Anna Margaretha Koob shows her husband as Johannes Kirsch Senior, not Andreas Kirsch – but I didn’t have this record yet at that time.

koob-anna-margaretha-1833-death

I began to wonder if I was losing my mind and if the original record I had was wrong – or for the wrong person with all of the same name confusion. However, the marriage record for Philip Jacob Kirsch and Katharina Barbara Lemmert clearly said that Andreas Kirsch was his father and Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler was his mother.  Philip Jacob and Katharina Barbara are my ancestors, and the Lemmert family was from Mutterstadt, so not heavily intermarried with the Kirsch line – meaning that mistaking this couple for any other couple was a remote possibility.  Furthermore, the church records indicate that they and their children all immigrated, and Katherina Barbara’s obituary in Indiana gives her birth location – so it’s unquestionably the same couple. Their 1829 marriage record is very clear, but still, I was doubting.

Mistakes do sometimes happen and at that point, it was 4 researchers who I respected with the same information, against one, me, with one church record. Was the church record somehow wrong?  Elke, my friend and interpreter said no, it wasn’t wrong, and dug harder and deeper and searched for more records, eventually finding the second  marriage record from 1821 that also indicated Andreas Kirsch’s wife was Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler.

Before additional records surfaced, given these conflicts, I struggled with knowing what to believe. Now, given three different church records that show Andreas as married to Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler, it would take a lot to convince me otherwise. I am so grateful for those German church records.

Church records also tell us that Andreas Kirsch’s brothers married Koobs, but that Andreas did not.

  • Johann Adam Kirsch married Maria Katharina Koob.
  • Johann Wilheim Kirsch married Katharina Barbara Koob.

This could have been the source of the “family memory” in Germany in the early/mid 1900s that Andreas Kirsch was married to a Koob. The family history recanted that the Kirsch brothers were married to Koob twin sisters. These Koob/Kirsch marriages could also have been some portion of the source of the confusion in the 1821 marriage record as well, especially if the reverend was new to the area or didn’t know the family history.

And of course, it seems that all women were named either Maria, Katharina, Barbara or Elizabetha, sometimes with a Margaretha thrown in for good measure. Men almost always had the given name of Johann or Johannes and were generally called by their middle name, which was the same as many of their cousins of course. You could have shouted “Andreas” in the middle of the main street in Fussgoenheim, been heard to each end of town, and at least one person would probably have answered from each household.

DNA and Endogamy

To make this confusing situation even more difficult by rendering autosomal DNA useless, these families all resided in the small village of Fussgoenheim and the neighboring village of Ellerstadt, and were likely already very intermarried and had been for 200 years or so by the time our family immigrated. This is the very definition of endogamy.

Not to mention that Germans aren’t terribly enamored with DNA testing for genealogy. Most of the families in Germany feel they don’t need to DNA test because they have been there “forever.” No need to discover where you are “from” because you’re not “from” anyplace else.

The only difference between Fussgoenheim and other German villages is that the church records are complete enough in Fussgoenheim to document the amount of intermarriage. Limited numbers of families meant little choice in marriage partners. Young people had to live close enough to court, on foot – generally at church, school and at the girl’s parents home. You married your neighbors, who were also your relatives at some level. There was no other choice. Endogamy was the norm.

Y DNA

Autosomal DNA is probably too far removed generationally to be useful, not to mention the endogamy.  However, I’d love to find out for sure if a group of Kirsch/Koehler descendants would test.  Being an immigrant line, there are few descendants in the US, at least not as compared to lines descending from colonial immigrants in the 1600s.

On the other hand, Y DNA, were we able to obtain the Kirsch Y DNA, would be very useful. Y DNA provides us with a periscope to look back in time hundreds and thousands of years, since the Y chromosome is only inherited by men from their fathers. The Y chromosome is like looking backwards through time to see where your Kirsch ancestor came from, and when, meaning before Fussgoenheim. Yes, there was a “before Fussgoenheim,” believe it or not.

Andreas Kirsch didn’t have a lot of sons.  Only two are confirmed as his sons and had male children.

  • Johann Adam Kirsch was born on December 5, 1798, married Maria Katherina Koob and died in 1863 in Fussgoenheim, noted as a deceased farmer. Family documents suggest he was one of the wealthiest farmers in the valley. Johann Adam had sons Andreas born in 1817, Valentine born in 1819, Johannes born in 1822 and Carl born in 1826, all in Fussgoenheim. It’s certainly possible that some of these men lived long and prospered, having sons who have Kirsch male descendants who live today.
  • Johann Wilhelm Kirsch married Katharina Barbara Koob. This person may not be a son of Andreas. The relationship is assumed because this couple acted as the godparents of the child of Philip Jacob Kirsch. This may NOT be a valid assumption. It’s unknown if Johann Wilhelm Kirsch had male children.
  • Philip Jacob Kirsch, the immigrant to Indiana did have several sons, all of whom immigrated with their parents to Indiana. Philip Jacob Kirsch born in 1830 never married. Johann William Kirsch married Caroline Kuntz, had two sons, but neither had sons that lived to adulthood, ending that male Kirsch line. Johannes, or John, born in 1835 married Mary Blatz in Ripley County, Indiana and moved to Marion County where he died in February 1927. John had sons Frank and Andrew Kirsch. Frank died in August, 1927 and left sons Albert and John Kirsch. Philip Jacob’s son, Jacob, had son Martin who had a son Edgar who had no children. Jacob also had son Edward who had son Deveraux “Devero” who had son William Kirsch, who has living male descendants today.

I am very hopeful that eventually a Kirsch male will step forward to DNA test. DNA is the key to learning more about our Kirsch ancestors before written records. If you are a male Kirsch descending from any of these lines, I have a DNA testing scholarship for you.

Summary

Fortunately, we finally confirmed who Andreas married – Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler. Andreas, if he is watching, is probably greatly relieved that we have him married to the correct wife now…or maybe he’s just amused.

Looking back, Marliese’s family in Germany reestablished communications with the Kirsch/Koehler family in Indiana during the 1930s and shared her family genealogical information. By that time, the Kirsch/Koehler families here had no information on the historical family back in Germany.

These families maintained some level of interaction, writing letters, for the next two generations. I think that the family genealogy information from Germany, much of it from family memory, was inadvertently in error relative to Andreas Kirsch’s wife. The German family members graciously shared their information with various researchers in the US, who shared it with others. Therefore, the original “remembered” information was incorrect in exactly the same way when gathered some 50 years later from descendants. I don’t know how the US researchers would have obtained the identically incorrect information otherwise. That was before the days of online trees that could easily be copied and even before the days of the LDS church’s microfilmed records, which is where I found the records for Elke to translate in the 1980s. Of course, there are even more records available today through FamilySearch and Ancestry.

Sadly, my Kirsch cousins have all passed on now. I would love to share this with them. I’m sure they would be grateful to learn that we know unquestionably, confirmed by three individual church records, who Andreas married. That was a brick wall and sticking point for a very long time.

Andreas did not live a long life. He was born in 1772 and died in 1819, at the age of 46 years, just 3 months shy of his 47th birthday. Surely, at that age, he didn’t die of old age. Perhaps one day, we’ll obtain the actual death record from the church which may include his cause of death. Some churches were religious (pardon the pun) about recording as much information as possible, including causes of death and scriptures read at the funeral, and others recorded the bare minimum.

I’m grateful to know Andreas a little better. I like to think he was rooting for me as I searched for accurate records. I hope that someday, a record will be found to tell us a little more about his actual life – like his occupation, perhaps. Hope springs eternal!

Seventh Season “Who Do You Think You Are?” Airing March 5th

I received a very welcome e-mail this week about the 7th season of my favorite genealogy program, WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? (WDYTYA). I can hardly wait!

These programs are inspiring to everyone, novices to experienced genealogists. They embody the search and the discoveries we all seek. Not only are the shows just plain fun and interesting, we can pick up valuable research tips and historical information relevant to our own family.  We all seek those AHA moments that the featured celebrities often find – and you just never know where your AHA-producing tidbit will be found.

I mean, let’s face it (pardon the pun), who among us DOESN’T want this expression on our face relative to a genealogy discovery?

wdytya-season-7

From the press release:

TLC’s Emmy Award-winning series, WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? returns this spring with a new group of celebrities ready to delve into their lineage and get answers to the questions they’ve wondered about their entire lives. Eight new one-hour episodes bring more unexpected turns and surprising discoveries of great historical significance. Executive Produced by Lisa Kudrow and Dan Bucatinsky, the new season premieres on Sunday, March 5th at 10/9c.

This season’s celebrity contributors include:

  • Jessica Biel makes surprising discoveries that change what she thought knew about her heritage.
  • Julie Bowen uncovers the story of two relatives whose moral codes are from opposite ends of the spectrum.
  • Courteney Cox traces her maternal line back seven centuries to the Medieval times to discover royalty in her lineage and an unbelievable tale of family drama.
  • Jennifer Grey uncovers new information about the grandfather she thought she knew, learning how he survived adversity to become a beacon of his community.
  • Smokey Robinson searches for answers behind the mystery of why his grandfather disappeared from his children’s lives and finds a man tangled in a swirl of controversy.
  • John Stamos digs into the mystery of how his grandfather became an orphan, and learns of tensions between families that led to a horrible crime.
  • Liv Tyler learns that her family is tied into the complicated racial narrative of America.
  • Noah Wyle unravels the mystery of his maternal line, uncovering an ancestor who survived one of America’s bloodiest battles.

For a sneak peek, take a look at this link.

I’ll be writing about each episode and I hope many will include DNA. If not, we’ll discuss how DNA might aid and abet the search!

All Matches Now FREE at Family Tree DNA for Transfer Kits

Family Tree DNA just sent the following e-mail to the project administrators regarding the new Ancestry and 23andMe file upload ability. It’s full of good news! This information is in addition to my article this morning, available here.

Exciting new points are that ALL of your matches are free for transfer kits, not just the first 20 matches. In addition, the matrix feature is free too, so you can see if your matches also match each other. Great added free features and a reduced unlock price for the rest of Family Tree DNA’s nine autosomal tools.

Did you already upload your results, but never unlocked? Now you can unlock for just $19.

family tree dna logo

Dear Project Administrators,

You’ve all been waiting for it, and it’s finally here – transfers for 23andMe© V4 and AncestryDNA™ V2 files!

Here are the details, point by point.

  • Customers can now transfer 23andMe© V4 and AncestryDNA™ V2 files in addition to the 23andMe© V3 and AncestryDNA™ V1 files that Family Tree DNA accepted previously. MyHeritage and Genographic transfers will be supported in the coming weeks.
  • Family Tree DNA still does not accept 23andMe© processed prior to November 2010. A Family Finder test will need to be purchased.
  • 23andMe© V3 and AncestryDNA™ V1 now receive a full list of matches and the ability to use the Matrix feature FOR FREE. For only $19, the customer can unlock the Chromosome Browser, myOrigins, and ancientOrigins.

ftdna-myorigins-transfer

  • 23andMe© V4 and AncestryDNA™ V2 receive all but the most speculative matches (6th to remote cousins), also for free. After transferring, if the customer wants to receive speculative matches, they will have to submit a sample and have a Family Finder run at the reduced price of $59.
  • Matches should take somewhere between one and 24 hours to appear, depending on the volume of tests in the autosomal pipeline.
  • myOrigins update will be released in the coming weeks. Until then transfers will include only broad populations.
  • Additionally, all previously transferred files that have not been unlocked will receive their matches and have access to the Matrix feature for free as long as the release form is signed.  These kits will be also be able to unlock the other Family Finder features for $19. If the transfer was on a kit with another product where the release form has already been signed, then the matches will appear with no further action necessary.
  • The Autosomal Transfer webpage has been enhanced to include a new image and a FAQ section. The FAQ section is displayed towards the bottom of the page.

ftdna-new-transfer

  • If a customer tries to transfer the same autosomal file a second time, a message will be displayed that the file is a duplicate and will list the kit number of the original kit.
  • The main Autosomal Transfer topic in the Learning Center has been updated. This topic contains the most recent information and now includes all transfer subtopics on the same page. Additional FAQ information will be added to this topic as needed in the future.

Click here to get started!!!

Family Tree DNA Now Accepts All Ancestry Autosomal Transfers Plus 23andMe V3 and V4

Great news!

Family Tree DNA now accepts autosomal file transfers for all Ancestry tests (meaning both V1 and V2) along with 23andMe V3 and V4 files.

Before today, Family Tree DNA had only accepted Ancestry V1 and 23andMe V3 transfers, the files before Ancestry and 23andMe changed to proprietary chips. As of today, Family Tree DNA accepts all Ancestry files and all contemporary 23andMe files (since November 2013).

You’ll need to download your autosomal raw data file from either Ancestry or 23andMe, then upload it to Family Tree DNA. You’ll be able to do the actual transfer for free, and see your 20 top matches – but to utilize and access the rest of the tools including the chromosome browser, ethnicity estimates and the balance of your matches, you’ll need to pay the $19 unlock fee.

Previously, the unlock fee was $39, so this too is a great value. The cost of purchasing the autosomal Family Finder test at Family Tree DNA is $79, so the $19 unlock fee represents a substantial savings of $60 if you’ve already tested elsewhere.

To get started, click here and you’ll see the following “autosomal transfer” menu option in the upper left hand corner of the Family Tree DNA page:

ftdna-transfer

The process is now drag and drop, and includes instructions for how to download your files from both 23andMe and Ancestry.

ftdna-transfer-instructions

Please note that if you already have an autosomal test at Family Tree DNA, there is no benefit to adding a second test.  So if you have taken the Family Finder test or already transferred an Ancestry V1 or 23andMe V3 kit, you won’t be able to add a second autosomal test to the same account.  If you really want to transfer a second kit, you’ll need to set up a new account for the second autosomal kit, because every kit at Family Tree DNA needs to be able to have it’s own unique kit number – and if you already have an autosomal test on your account, you can’t add a second one.

What will you discover today? I hope you didn’t have anything else planned. Have fun!!!

Valentine’s Day – Can You Really Love Your Facebook Cousins and Friends?

In the new world of DNA testing, now combined with social media, the word cousin and its meaning have morphed a bit.

Classically, historically, your cousins were the children of your parents’ siblings. Often you were the same age and grew up with them as neighbors, especially in a rural, small town or farming community. Typically your cousins were your playmates and the people you got into trouble with when you were teenagers, and maybe who you married as an adult. You would likely be lifelong friends as well, attending the same church and social functions. Your kids knew each other too, and the pattern repeated itself generation after generation.  Your cousins were the people you saw every single day of your life, cradle to grave.

But often, that’s not the case anymore.

My Neighbor, My Cousin

A good example of a historical cousin relationship would be my grandfather, John, who lived across the street in the tiny town of Silver Lake from his brother, Roscoe. Their children, first cousins, grew up as neighbors. My mother’s first cousin is Cheryl.

cousins-pedigree-2

The stories of Cheryl and Mom are typical of small town America where there were no jobs. Mom moved away for a job and married. Mom visited her parents often, living an hour or so away, but after her parents died, Mom had no reason to go back to Silver Lake.  Mom did keep track of family members and exchanged letters and Christmas cards with many, updating addresses and phone numbers religiously in her address book. Phone calls, being “long distance” were expensive, reserved for Sunday evenings when the rates were lower, and often placed only in emergencies.

Mom’s brother, Lore, went to college and eventually moved out of state, living in several locations in his lifetime. After moving away, he seldom returned to Indiana. His daughter, Nancy, lived a couple hours away and was close to Mom, but his son, Mike, moved to Arizona and then on to China. A world apart.

Cheryl, Mom’s first cousin, the first woman in our family to graduate from college, moved about 40 miles away, also for employment. Cheryl’s degree was in education, and sadly, her incredible aptitude for science wasn’t realized, at least not in a professional setting.  Women of her generation simply weren’t encouraged or allowed to study science. Even when I was in school, a number of years later, I was told that a seat in an advanced placement science class wasn’t going to be” wasted on a girl” and was going to be “saved for a boy who would make something of himself.” Cheryl did amazingly well for herself, especially considering what she had to contend with throughout her career. She was indeed a woman on the frontier.

Cheryl’s brother Don, after serving in the military, still lives in Silver Lake near where he grew up. He’s the only one – everyone else is gone – scattered like dust in the wind.

I’m one generation removed, and I never met Cheryl until I was in my late 30s. I knew she existed, but really wasn’t sure how we were related. That all changed due to genealogy and in a very ironic twist of fate, Cheryl and I are much closer than Mom and Cheryl were, or than I am to any other family members in that line.

cousin-cheryl-holland

If Cheryl and I look like we’re having a wonderful time and maybe engaged in a bit of mischief, we were, I assure you. You’ll get to read about those stories when I write the articles about our Dutch ancestors and our visit to Holland.

Moving Away

Moving, across the state, the country or the world bifurcated families, especially before the days of the internet and Facebook. The family moved, and while that generation may have remained in touch through occasional letters, the next generation didn’t know each other, and the next generation didn’t even know OF each other, let alone know each other. You can see the perfect example in the pedigree chart of my own family, above. There was no family connection at all after a couple generations. I guarantee you, my children can’t recall the names of Lore’s children, let alone Nancy’s children who they’ve never met.

The past 20 years or so has dramatically changed the nature of moving away and distance. E-mail made communications easy and Facebook made it instantaneous. “Long distance” phone charges no longer apply and for the most part communicating with family has never been easier.

Bifurcated Families

This past week, the message about bifurcated families came home to roost.

My first cousin, Nancy, died….last July…and no one, not one person, notified me, or my sister-in-law, or Cheryl or Don. Nancy had a sibling and children and a spouse, all of whom we knew. Yet no one in this day of electronic media and incredible findability made a phone call or sent a note.

I knew Nancy my entire life. Nancy was beautiful and lovely and smart and talented – shown here with our shared grandmother.

cousin-nancy

Nancy’s father was my mother’s brother, and they visited the farm where I grew up. There was never a family issue or rift.

cousin-nancy-farm

Mother’s brother, Lore, and daughter Nancy at the table on the farm in 1977. Mom even used the “special occasion” plates and was always thrilled when family visited.

After Dad died in1994 and Mom moved to town, she drove to Ohio to visit Nancy several times. I visited Nancy a few years ago, but Nancy did not reply to e-mails nor did she reply to letters. You cannot sustain a one-sided relationship. There didn’t seem to be any hard feelings, and we had a lovely visit, but apparently communicating wasn’t Nancy’s strong suite. Nancy also had a degenerative disease that I’m sure eventually took her life.

I discovered Nancy’s death by googling the surname for something genealogical in nature, when her obituary popped up. Imagine my surprise. And then the sorrow. And then realizing that we hadn’t been notified of her death.

What is Family?

I’ve thought about this a lot the past few days, and about the definition of family. I realize that I’m very close to several cousins who aren’t my first cousins and some who turned out not to be cousins at all. In fact, I met all of them (except one) as a result of either genealogy or DNA testing.

Before genealogy, DNA testing and Facebook, my world of cousins would have been a lot smaller.

Ironically, Cheryl isn’t on Facebook, but the rest are. I’m still working on Cheryl.

While I met these folks as a result of common ancestors, and genealogy was our introduction, I’ve become close friends with many.

Daryl

Daryl and I met through genealogy about 15 years ago now, when we met for lunch and coffee, and managed to consume the entire afternoon.  Since we virtually disappeared, and both of us were meeting someone we “met on the internet,” both husbands were nearly ready to call the police about our disappearance.  Fortunately, we went home in time to avert that phone call – but it was close! After that, we journeyed across the country on many genealogy adventures together.

In fact, our adventures are legendary. Daryl and I have the distinction of being cornered in a cemetery by a bull. We think he wanted to add us to his harem. We were held captive until Mr. Bull got bored with courting us – and then we ran like hell for the car. That would have been very comical to watch.

clarkson-cemetery-bull

Quite a handsome guy, wouldn’t you say???

Daryl and I have been through some really rough spots, including the death of both of our mothers. Now, Daryl’s son Brent desperately needs a kidney donor, and we are going through that together as well.

lovin daryl

Daryl and I wading in a cool creek one miserably hot summer day on a genealogy adventure.  Love you Daryl!

Dolores

My cousin Dolores and I used to write handwritten letters on stationery back in the 1980s, believe it or not.  I still have them. Now we communicate regularly through our Facebook feed and an occasional e-mail. I feel much more involved in her life. Before, I only knew her as a genealogist, and she is an incredible wealth of knowledge, but now, I know her on a much more personal level. We recently discovered, thanks to Facebook, that Dolores’s neighbor is my other cousin, Kay.  Small world!

In Dolores’ recent “Friend’s Day” video I noticed a quilt that I made for another cousin and presented when several of us were together for an event in Richmond, Virginia. Seeing that made me feel good and brought back such warm memories. Yes, I love Dolores.

cousin-dolores-friend

Lola-Margaret

And there’s Lola-Margaret, that “other cousin” mentioned above – bless Lola-Margaret. She and I share the same ancestor that Dolores and I do, Nicholas Speaks. Should I admit in public that I kinda sorta kidnapped Lola-Margaret and Dolores in Middlesboro, KY one time? Ummm…probably not. I don’t think the statute of limitations has yet expired.  However, they were willing victims, especially after they discovered that I had kidnapped them to see the newly rediscovered and restored cabin of our ancestor, Nicholas.

nicholas-speaks-cabin-winter

Lola-Margaret and I have been on several adventures together, the last one returning to the land of our ancestor in Maryland, with another dear cousin, Susan, between Lola-Margaret and me, below.

societies5

I met Lola-Margaret in the hazy past through the Speaks Family Association although I feel like she has been in my life forever. We are very different but have some undefinable bond that neither of us fully understands. I clearly love her, very much.

societies6

In the photo above, we three cousins are walking the land of our ancestor together in what can only be described as a spiritual adventure. That day was such an incredible blessing – especially given that Lola-Margaret traveled across the country just 10 days out of back surgery. To say Lola-Margaret is incredible would be an understatement.

Susan

Susan, another cousin who is near and dear to my heart arranged a trip to England after we discovered, through DNA testing, where our Speaks ancestor was from.

Speak Family at St Mary Whalley

Descendants of the Speak family, cousins from literally around the globe rendezvoused in England, many meeting for the first time. As I look at this photo, I think about how fortunate I am, in so many ways – and were it not for DNA testing, Susan and social media – none of this would have happened. I love Susan for her tenacity and wonderful ability to get things done.

I love this group photo, because I see Mary, another cousin that I love, and John, and Dolores is there too….you get the idea.

Mary

lovin mary

At the church where our ancestors worshipped, cousin Mary and I exchange hugs. Yep, I love Mary too! Bless her heart, she called me to see how I was doing this past week – when she herself has had so many challenges this past year.

These are all people, so far, that I’ve eventually met, but there are many I have never met in person.

Kathy

Looking at my Facebook feed, just today, I see my Estes line cousin Kathy who I love and supported through a health challenge that she thankfully overcame.  I felt incredibly powerless – all I could do was make her a quilt and say prayers.

kathy-amazing-grace-quilt

I’ve never met Kathy personally, but I now “know” her family, and her cat who is an honorary cousin to my cats. I always look forward to her posts and to seeing what she is doing.  Sometimes having someone to talk to who cares about you but that isn’t right in the middle of the emotional dilemma is a blessing. I also know that if I had a health crisis, she would be there for me too.

In the middle of her own health issue, she helped me post daily flower pictures for my brother John (when I had to be gone) to help him through a very rough spot in his journey. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but it meant the world to John during very dark days when that is literally all he had to look forward to, and Kathy’s help meant the world to me. Yes, I love Kathy and John too.

John

John, my “brother” who is neither my biological brother nor even a bio-cousin, but my adopted brother, as of a couple years ago.  John’s story and our bond are very unique. We met through an e-mail list about the Cumberland Gap region that I began as an offshoot of the Cumberland Gap DNA project. He offered to send me fabrics from Japan where he lived at the time to help with making quilts for a fund-raiser.

crane-quilt

John is an amazing example of bravery and triumph over tragedy and is incredibly inspiring after cheating the grim reaper, not once, but twice. In fact, John was the inspiration for this new blog, Victory Garden Day by Day with the hope that it will inspire others.

john-mcdonald-and-son

I love this picture of John and his son, because it shows his inner spirit of courage and joy.  Love you oceans, JT!!!

Los and Denise

There’s Los with his two lovely children. I would never have met Los or cousin Denise were it not for our naughty ancestor, William Harrell, with two wives. This all came to light with genealogy followed by DNA testing.

I love that ancestor story, but I love even more Carlos and what he has made of his life, what it represents, his intelligence, drive and conviction. Can I brag on Los for a minute?  He’s a double PhD teaching at a university and he’s an absolutely incredible father, driving across the country alone with 2 small children for the genealogy reunion in the photo below. He’s an amazing man. I love my cousin, Los and his wonderful babies, who aren’t exactly babies anymore. I’ve gotten to watch them grow up, thanks to Facebook. I would love to be their honorary grandma if we lived closer.

lovin los and denise

Here, me, Carlos, his daughter and our cousin Denise meet for the first (and so far, only) time. Denise has an amazing story of resilience and success of her own.  Denise found our cousin group, scattered across the country, through genealogy, drew us together, and the rest, as they say, is history. I’m so fortunate to have been found by these wonderful cousins and so proud to claim them as my own.

Denny

I love my amazing cousin, Denny, aka Santa. Denny’s Santa activities are focused on nursing homes, the elderly and often forgotten. Denny just dropped me a line to say that he is thinking about me. Sometimes it’s just nice to know that someone cares about you. Obviously, I’m not on Santa’s bad list – maybe it’s still too early in the year. Give me time!

Denny Santa

I made Denny’s acquaintance a dozen years ago by accident when someone at his high school reunion told him that some lady was looking for Lore family descendants from Warren County, PA on a rootsweb forum.  That woman was me, and Denny replied.

I met Denny and his lovely wife when I visited during a research trip the next summer. A few years later, we lamented on the phone that we wished were siblings. Denny’s research and knowledge of Warren County, PA were indispensable in understanding the life of Anthony Lore, our own personal adventurer, trader, pirate, whatever. I see his resilient spirit in Denny and recognize it, because I have it too.

Kathy and Mary

One last cousin story that falls in the “truth is stranger than fiction” category.

I was working at a client site about 16 or 17 years ago, when I became increasingly close to one particular woman, Kathy. We went to lunch often, and we just seemed to be on the same page repeatedly. She told me she was trying to finish a quilt, and I invited her to my house to “quilt day” with a few of my friends. I never, ever did this with clients, but Kathy was the exception and we got along so well.

One day, Kathy and I were the only two people on time for a meeting, and we were discussing technology in the conference room as we waited for the tardy attendees. I made a comment that my Brethren great-grandmother would roll over in her grave to know that her great-granddaughter not only drove a car (gasp), but embraced all things technology – you know – like electricity and telephones – not to mention computers. Kathy said that she had Brethren family as well.

The following conversation went something like this:

Me: “I didn’t know there were any Brethren communities in this area.”

Kathy: “My family was from northern Indiana.”

Me: “Where in Northern Indiana?”

Kathy: “Around Elkhart.”

Me: “My family too. What is their name?”

Kathy: “Miller.”

Me: “SERIOUSLY???? Mine too.”

Kathy: I’ll bring my genealogy file tomorrow.

I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that Kathy and I are cousins too through our ancestor, Daniel Miller, whose children settled in Elkhart County, Indiana.

Not only is Kathy my cousin, she is my very close friend, all these years later, and my quilt sister too.

kathy mary quilt

Here, Kathy, at left above, and I are presenting our other quilt sister, Mary, at right, in the photo below, with a memory quilt for her 50th wedding anniversary. Yes, Kathy and Mary and I all follow each other on Facebook and that’s how we keep track of each other and each other’s families – which are our families too!

me mary quilt

Do I love Kathy and Mary? You bet your britches I do. In fact, my husband and I have spent every Christmas Eve evening with Mary and her family since my mother passed away a decade ago. I do believe we have created a new tradition. Above, Mary and I are working on a care quilt together at her son’s house.

No, Mary and I aren’t biologically related – and yes, she tested her DNA just to be sure.

Kathy and Mary are family in every sense of the word – whether by blood or not. Which brings us full circle.

A New Definition of Family

Sometimes the family we were born into slips away, intentionally or otherwise. But family we choose, our family of heart is what sustains us. All of the people above are my family, in various ways and for differing reasons – but the common unifying fact is that they are family and live in my heart – along with many more people not mentioned.

Today, with the availability of Facebook and other electronic communications, we can follow families as they grow up and remain in touch outside of that yearly Christmas card. Those relationships we cultivate and nurture are the ones that survive. The rest starve to death and die of neglect.

In my case, this social evolution or maybe revolution has redefined what cousin means, as well as family. Aside from Cheryl and her brother, I can’t tell you how distantly or closely related I am to any of my cousins, at least not without cheating and looking at my genealogy software. But I know we are “cousins” and that’s really all I need to know.

Occasionally, “cousin” might just mean a close relationship with someone I “feel” is a cousin. In some cases, cousin refers to someone we thought was a cousin, only to discover they weren’t, genealogically or biologically, but they are still “cousins” of heart and referred to as such.

In the south, elder cousins (and sometimes elders that aren’t related) that you are close to and respect are referred to as “aunt” and “uncle,” as in Uncle Buster who was really my first cousin once removed.  So yes, the word cousin is now redefined a bit and has become more a term of affection or simply stating that one is related in some fashion rather than referring to a specific degree of relationship.  In a way, it harkens back to the southern word, “kin.”  “We’re kin” means “we’re somehow related but I’m not sure how.”

Social media is an incredibly powerful venue – as politicians have recently discovered. But for family, both close and distant, social media has the ability to help us forge relationships and nurture them, keeping them strong and allowing us to maintain a continuity never before available – an advantage our ancestors never had. Genealogy and DNA testing has allowed us to expand the size of our known family, and social media has facilitated easily becoming more inclusionary – encompassing and cultivating our ever-expanding family.

Don

As I was finishing this article, I received one of those phone calls no one wants to receive. It wasn’t about a cousin’s death, but that of a friend.  Yes, my cousins didn’t call, but my friend did.

Our mutual friend, Don, died unexpectedly this morning.  I didn’t always agree with Don, but I valued his friendship and always looked forward to his research and what he had to say.  We were warriors on a common path, seeking the truth.

We are all bonded and bound by the seeds we sew, those common causes that draw us together, and we are united by years on a collective journey.

I will miss Don.  He always sent me a Jackie Lawson card e-mail at various holidays and when I was feeling blue.  His e-mails, contentious or reflective, will no longer grace my inbox.  His journey is finished, but ours wasn’t, nor was his work complete. I am gravely saddened. I hope I enriched his life as much as he enriched mine.

However, Don’s death vividly points out that while I was related to Nancy, our only commonality was that we were born into the same family, while my common journey with my “Facebook cousins” and close friends is one of reciprocal caring, shared experiences and mutual interests – having walked side by side, step by step and sometimes hand in hand over the rocky road of life for many years.

Love

Fortunately, love is not like a pie that is divided into pieces and when it’s gone, it’s gone. It’s the only resource in our human arsenal that isn’t decreased when some is given away. Love is boundless and endless, a renewable and ever-expanding resource that enriches both the giver and receiver. The more you give, the more you receive. I am so very blessed to have many “cousins” and family members of heart. While I have only mentioned a few cousins and friends, I am unbelievably blessed to have a great many.  So if your name isn’t here, it’s not because I don’t love you.

Sometimes family isn’t who you are, or the relatives you are born to, but the family you make, woven into a whole from the strands and fibers of love from each individual, colorful and unique person. The most beautiful patchwork quilt imaginable.

We are all on a journey together – enriching each others lives. That enrichment is what we will be remembered for – and why we will be missed when it’s our turn to finish our earthly journey.

So yes, you can indeed love your Facebook cousins and friends! What a wonderful unintended consequence of genealogy and DNA testing!

Love, it’s a renewable resource – give it away! Tell your family and friends you love them.  You never know when it will be the last opportunity – don’t miss it.

Here’s wishing you a Happy Valentine’s Day and many wonderful cousins to love!!!

nested-hearts