What is a signature anyway?
A signature is defined as a mark or something that personally identifies an individual. A form of undeniable self-identification.
Of course, that’s exactly why I seek my ancestors’ signatures, both their handwriting and their genetic signature.
Jacob Lentz was born in Germany in 1783 and died in 1870 in Ohio.
Most documents of that timeframe contained only facsimiles of actual signatures. Original deeds indicate that the document was signed, but when recorded in deed books at the courthouse, the clerk only transcribed the signature. The person recorded the physical deed that they had in their hand, and then took it home with them. Therefore, the deed book doesn’t hold the original signature – the original deed does. I was crestfallen years ago when I discovered that fact. ☹
Hence, the actual physical signature of an ancestor is rare indeed.
Recently, I’ve been lucky enough to find not one, but two actual signatures of Jacob Lentz – plus part of his genetic signature as well.
Jacob’s Handwritten Signatures
When Jacob Lenz, later Lentz in the US, petitioned to leave Germany in 1817, he signed the petition document.
The original document is in the “Weinstadt City Archive”, which kindly gave permission for the reproduction and was graciously retrieved by my distant cousin, Niclas Witt. Thank you very much to both!
Here’s Jacob’s actual signature.
Jacob’s life has a missing decade or so, after he completed his indentured servitude about 1820 or 1821 in Pennsylvania and before he arrived in Montgomery County, Ohio about 1830. In Ohio, he purchased land and began creating records. That’s where I found him initially.
Jacob’s youngest child, Mary Lentz, was born in May or June of 1829, before leaving Pennsylvania. She married in Montgomery County, Ohio on December 19, 1848 to Henry Overlease. That marriage document contains the signature of her father, Jacob Lentz.
This signature is slightly different than the German one from 31 years earlier, but it’s still clearly our Jacob, as the document states that the parents have signed. It looks like he’s also incorporated the “t” into the name now as well.
Jacob Lentz’s Genetic Signatures
As I was celebrating the discovery of not one, but two versions of Jacob’s written signature, I realized that I carry part of Jacob’s genetic signature too, as do others of his descendants. I just never thought of it quite like that before.
His genetic signature is every bit as personal, and even better because it’s in me, not lost to time.
There are three types of DNA that can provide genetic signatures of our ancestors; mitochondrial, Y DNA and autosomal.
Mitochondrial DNA is passed from mothers to all genders of their children, but only their daughters pass it on. Therefore, it’s primarily unchanged, generation to generation.
Being a male, Jacob couldn’t pass his mitochondrial DNA on to his descendants, so we have to discover Jacob’s mitochondrial DNA by testing someone else who descends from his mother’s direct matrilineal line through all females but can be a male in the current generation.
Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to discover Jacob’s mitochondrial DNA that he inherited from his matrilineal line, meaning his mother’s mother’s mother’s line.
However, we only identified his parents a few months ago. Most of Jacob’s family didn’t immigrate, so perhaps eventually the right person will test who descends from his mother, or her matrilineal line, through all women to the current generation.
Jacob’s matrilineal line is as follows, beginning with his mother:
- Jacob’s mother – Maria Margaretha Gribler born May 4, 1749 and died July 5, 1823 in Beutelsbach, married Jakob Lenz November 3, 1772.
- Her mother, Katharina Nopp born April 23, 1707 and died November 27, 1764 in Beutelsbach, married Johann Georg Gribler on October 26, 1745.
- Agnes Back/Beck born November 26, 1673 in Aichelberg, Germany, died February 10, 1752 in Beutelsbach and married Johann Georg Nopp from Beutelsbach.
- Margaretha, surname unknown, from Magstadt who married Dionysus Beck who lived in Aichelberg, Germany.
If you descend from any of these women, or their female siblings through all females to the current generation, I have a DNA testing scholarship for mitochondrial DNA at Family Tree DNA for you! I’ll throw an autosomal Family Finder test in too!
If you’d like a read a quick article about how mitochondrial, Y DNA and autosomal DNA work and are inherited, click here.
On the other hand, Jacob did contribute his Y DNA to his sons. Lentz male descendants, presuming no adoptions, carry Jacob’s Y DNA signature as their own.
We are very fortunate to have Jacob Lentz’s Y DNA signature, thanks to two male Lentz cousins. I wrote about how unique the Lentz Y DNA is, and that we’ve determined that our Lentz line descends from the Yamnaya culture in Russia some 3500 years ago. How did we do that? We match one of the ancient burials. Jacob’s haplogroup is R-BY39280 which is a shorthand way of telling us about his clan.
On the Big Y Tree, at Family Tree DNA, we can see that on our BY39280 branch, we have people whose distant ancestors were found in two locations, France and Germany. On the next upstream branch, KMS67, the parent of BY39280, we find people with that haplogroup in Switzerland and Greece.
Our ancestors are amazingly interesting.
Jacob shares his Y and mitochondrial DNA, probably exactly, with other relatives, since both Y and mitochondrial DNA is passed intact from generation to generation, except for an occasional mutation.
However, Jacob’s autosomal DNA was the result of a precise combination of half of his mother’s and half of his father’s autosomal DNA. No one on this earth had the exact combination of DNA as Jacob. Therefore, Jacob’s autosomal DNA identifies him uniquely.
Unfortunately, Jacob isn’t alive to test, and no, I’m not digging him up – so we are left to piece together Jacob’s genetic signature from the pieces distributed among his descendants.
I realized that by utilizing DNAPainter, which allows me to track my own segments by ancestor, I have reconstructed a small portion of Jacob’s autosomal DNA.
Now, there’s a hitch, of course.
Given that there are no testers that descend from the ancestors of either Jacob or his wife, Fredericka Ruhle, at least not that I know of, I can’t sort out which of these segments are actually Jacob’s and which are Fredericka’s.
In the chart above, the tester and my mother match each other on the same segments, but without testers who descend from the parents of Jacob and Fredericka, through other children and also match on that same segment, we can’t tell which of those common segments came from Jacob and which from Fredericka. If my mother and the tester matched a tester from Jacob’s siblings, then we would know that their common segment descended through Jacob’s line, for example.
Painting Jacob’s Genetic Signature
The segments in pink below show DNA that I inherited from either Jacob or Fredericka. I match 8 other cousins who descend from Jacob Lentz and Fredericka Ruhle on some portion of my DNA – and in many cases, three or more descendants of Jacob/Fredericka match on the same exact segment, meaning they are triangulated.
As you can see, I inherited a significant portion of my maternal chromosome 3 from Jacob or Fredericka, as did my cousins. I also inherited portions of chromosomes 7, 9, 18 and 22 from Jacob or Fredericka as well. While I was initially surprised to see such a big piece of chromosome three descending from Jacob/Fredericka, Jacob Lentz and Fredericka Ruhle aren’t really that distantly removed – being my great-great-great-grandparents, or 5 generations back in time.
Based on the DNAPainter calculations, these segments represent about 2.4% of my DNA segments on my maternal side. The expected amount, if the DNA actually was passed in exactly half (which seldom happens,) would be approximately 3.125% for each Jacob and Fredericka, or 6.25% combined. That means I probably carry more of Jacob/Fredericka’s DNA that can eventually be identified by new cousin matches!
Of course, my cousins may well share segments of Jacob’s DNA with each other that I don’t, so those segments won’t be shown on my DNAPainter graph.
However, if we were to create a DNAPainter chart for Jacob/Fredericka themseves, and their descendants were to map their shared segments to that chart, we could eventually recreate a significant amount of Jacob’s genetic signature through the combined efforts of his descendants – like reassembling a big puzzle where we all possess different pieces of the puzzle.
Portions of Jacob’s genetic signature are in each of his descendants, at least for several generations! Reassembling Jacob would be he ultimate scavenger hunt.
You can order Y and mitochondrial DNA tests from Family Tree DNA here, the only company offering these tests.
You can order autosomal tests from either Family Tree DNA or MyHeritage by clicking on those names in this sentence. You’ll need segment information that isn’t available at Ancestry, so I recommend testing with one of these two companies.
23andMe and Gedmatch also provide segment information. Some people who test at both 23andMe and Ancestry upload to GedMatch, so be sure to check there as well.
Whose genetic signatures can you identify?
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