I spent New Year’s Eve, doing what I’ve done for years on New Year’s Eve – celebrating by researching. In fact, it was at the stroke of midnight in 2005 that I ordered kit number 50,000 from Family Tree DNA. Yes, I’m just that geeky and yes, I had to purchase several kits in a row to get number 50,000.
That kit went on to help immensely, as I used it to test an elderly cousin of my great-grandmother’s generation who took both the Y DNA test, and then, eventually, autosomal.
This year I made a wonderful discovery to mark the new year. But first, let’s see how I did with last year’s resolution.
Last Year’s Resolution
Last year, I made 1 resolution. Just one – to complete another year’s worth of 52 Ancestor stories.
Now, that didn’t mean I had to do 52 in total. It meant I had to be committed to this project throughout the year. You know, unlike cleaning out that closet…or losing weight…or exercising more. Commitments that are abandoned almost as soon as they are made.
So, how did I do?
I published 37 stories. I shudder to think how many words or even pages that was. I’m ashamed to say that I plucked much of the “low hanging fruit” early on, so these were tough ancestors for an entire variety of reasons.
That’s not one article each week, but at least I’m making steady progress. And I must say that I couldn’t do it without a raft of helpers – all of whom I’m exceedingly grateful to. Friends, professionals, cousins, DNA testers, blog subscribers and commenters – an unbelievable array of very kind souls who are willing to give of their time and share their results. Thank you each and every one!
Now, I’m thrilled to tell you that Amy Johnson Crow has revitalized the 52 Ancestor’s project. It’s free and you can sign up here. There’s no obligation, but Amy provides suggestions and a “gathering place” of sorts. Think of her as your genealogy cheerleader or coach. It’s so much easier with friends and teammates! I miss reading other people’s stories, but I won’t have to miss that much longer!
Randy Seaver (of Genea-Musings) and I will have company once again. He’s the only other person that I’m aware of that has continued the 52 Ancestors project – and he has put me way to shame. I do believe he published number 286 this week. I keep hoping that some of his ancestors and some of mine are the same so I can piggyback on Randy’s research! I need an index! Randy, are you listening?
You might wonder why I enjoy this self-imposed deadline ancestor-writing so much.
It’s really quite simple. It’s an incredible way to organize and sort through all of your accumulated research “stuff.” I cherish the end product – documenting my ancestors lives with dates, compassion and history. BUT, I absolutely hate parts of the research process – and the deadline (of sorts) gets me through those knotholes.
I absolutely love the DNA, and I really, REALLY like the feeling of breaking through brick walls. It’s like I’m vindicating my ancestors and saving them from the eternal cutting room floor. DNA is an incredible tool to do just that and there are very few ancestors that I can’t learn something from their DNA, one way or another – Y, mtDNA, autosomal and sometimes, all three. And yes, DNA is in every one of my articles, one way or another. I want everyone to learn how to utilize DNA in the stories of their ancestor’s lives. In many cases the DNA of theirs that we (and our cousins) carry is the only tangible thing left of them. We are wakling historical museums of our ancestral lines!
How Did You Do?
Not to bring up an awkward subject, but if you recall, I asked you if you had any genealogy resolutions for 2017? How did you do?
Congratulations if you succeeded or made progress.
It’s OK if you didn’t quite make it. Don’t sweat last year. It’s over and 2018 is a brand spanking new year.
New Year Equals New Opportunities
2018 is stacking up to be a wonderful year. There are already new matches arriving daily due to the Black Friday sales and that’s only going to get better in the next month or two. Of course, that’s something wonderful to look forward to in the dead of winter. We’ll just call this my own personal form of hibernating. Could I really get away with not leaving my house for an entire month? Hmmm….
I want to give you three ideas for having some quick wins that will help you feel really great about your genealogy this year.
Idea 1 – Finding Hidden Mitochondrial DNA
This happened to me just last night and distracted me so badly that I actually was late to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Yes, seriously. One of my friends told me this is the best excuse ever!
I was working on making a combined tree for the descendants of an ancestor who have tested and I suddenly noticed that one of the female autosomal matches descended from the female of the ancestral couple through all females – which means my match carries my ancestor’s mitochondrial DNA!
Woohooooooo – it’s a wonderful day.
Better yet, my match tested at Family Tree DNA AND had already taken the mitochondrial DNA test.
Within about 60 seconds of noticing her pattern of descent, I had the haplogroup of our common ancestor. That’s the BEST New Year’s gift EVER. I couldn’t sleep last night.
So, know what I did instead of sleeping? I bet you can guess!
Yes indeed, I started searching through my matches at Family Tree DNA for other people descended from female ancestors whose mtDNA I don’t have!
So, my first challenge to you is to do the same.
Utilizing Family Finder, enter the surname you’re searching for into the search box in the upper right hand corner of your matches page.
That search will produce individuals who have that surname included in their list of ancestral surnames or who carry that surname themselves.
Your tree feeds the ancestral surname list with all of the surnames in your tree. I understand this will be changing in the future to reflect only your direct line ancestral surnames.
Some people include locations with their surnames – so you may recognize your line that way. Click on your match’s surname list (at far right) to show their entire list of surnames in a popup box. Some lists are very long. I selected the example below because it’s short.
Your common surnames are bolded and float to the top. The name you are searching for will be blue, so it’s easy to see, especially in long lists of surnames.
About half of my matches at Family Tree DNA have trees. Click on the pedigree icon and then search for your surname of interest in your match’s tree.
Hey, there’s our common ancestral couple – William George Estes and Ollie Bolton!!!
Idea 2 – Finding Hidden Y DNA
Now that I’ve shown you how to find hidden mitochondrial DNA, finding hidden Y DNA is easy. Right?
You know what to do.
I this case, you’ll be looking for a male candidate who carries the surname of the line you are seeking, which is very easy to spot on the match list.
Now, word of warning.
As bizarre as this sounds, not all men who carry that surname and match autosomally are from the same genetic surname line.
As I was working with building a community tree for my matches last night, I was excited to see that one of my cousins (whose kit I manage) matches a man with the Herrell surname.
I quickly clicked on the match’s tree to see which Herrell male the match descends from, only to discover that he didn’t descend from my Herrell line.
Whoa – you’re saying – hold on, because maybe my line is misidentified. And I’d agree with you – except in this case, I have the Y DNA signature of both lines – because at one time I thought they were one and the same. You can view the Herrell Y DNA project here. My family line is Harrold Line 7.
Sure enough, through the Family Finder match, I checked my Harrell match’s profile and his haplogroup is NOT the same as my Herrell haplogroup (I-P37.)
I could have easily been led astray by the same surname. I really don’t need to know any more about his Y DNA at this point, because the completely different haplogroup is enough to rule out a common paternal line.
Don’t let yourself get so excited that you forget to be a skeptical genealogist😊
My second challenge to you is to hunt for hidden Y DNA.
You can increase your chances of finding your particular lineage by visiting the relevant Y DNA projects for your surname.
Click on Projects, then “Join a project,” then search for the DNA project that you’re interested in viewing and click on that link.
Within the project, look for oldest ancestors that are your ancestors, or potentially from a common location. It’s someplace to start.
You can read more about how to construct a DNA pedigree chart in the article, “The DNA Pedigree Chart – Mining for Ancestors.”
Idea 3 – Pick A Puzzle Piece
Sometimes we get overwhelmed with the magnitude and size of the genealogy puzzle we’d like to solve. Then, we don’t solve anything.
This is exactly WHY I like the 52 Ancestor stories. They make me focus on JUST ONE ancestor at a time.
So, for 2018, pick one genealogy puzzle you’d really like to solve. One person or one thing. Not an entire line.
Write down your goal.
“I’d like to figure out whether John Doe was the son of William Doe or his son, Alexander Doe.”
Now admittedly, this is a tough one, because right off the bat, Y DNA isn’t going to help you unless you’re incredibly lucky and there is a mutation between Alexander Doe and his father, William. If indeed that was the case, and you can prove it by the DNA of two of Alexander’s sons who carry the mutation, compared to the DNA of one of William’s other sons who does not, then you may be cooking with gas, presuming you can find a male Doe descended from John to test as well.
This is the type of thought process you’ll need to step through when considering all of the various options for how to prove, or disprove, a particular theory.
Make a list of the different kinds of evidence, both paper trail and genetic, that you could use to shed light on the problem. Your answer may not come from one piece of evidence alone, but a combination of several.
|William’s will||No, burned courthouse||Verified|
|Alexander’s will||No, burned courthouse||Verified|
|Deeds with William as conveyor||No, burned courthouse||Verified|
|Family Bible||Nope, no Bible|
|Deeds with Alexander as conveyor, naming John||Possible, some deed books escaped fire||Check through county, Family search does not list|
|Deeds with John as conveyor||Yes, check to see if they indicate the source of John’s land||John is listed in index, need to obtain original deeds from county|
|Y DNA of John’s line||Yes, has been tested||Matches DNA of William’s line as proven through William’s two brothers|
|Y DNA of Alexander||Not tested (to the best of my knowledge), find descendant to see if they will test||Search vendor DNA testing sites for male with this surname to see if they have/will Y DNA test|
|Closeness (in total cM and longest segment) of individuals autosomal matching through any of William’s descendants||Mine both Ancestry and FTDNA for surname and ancestor matches||This step may produce compelling or suggestive evidence, and it may not. Make a McGuire chart of results.|
|Does John match any relatives of the wife of Alexander Doe?||Search FTDNA and Ancestry for matches. Triangulate to determine if match is valid and through that line.||This is one of the best approaches to solve this type of problem when paper records aren’t available. Fingers crossed that Alexander and his wife and not related.|
You can add pieces of evidence to your list as you think of them.
Making a list gives you something to work towards.
Select one thing that you’d like to accomplish and either set about to do it, like mining for mitochondrial or Y DNA evidence, or put together a plan to gather evidence, both traditional and genetic.
In the comments, share what it is you’ll be searching for or working on. You just never know if another subscriber may hold the answer you seek.
I can’t wait to hear what you’ll be doing this year!
Have a wonderful and productive New Year searching for those hidden ancestors!
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