Hiram Bauke Ferverda (1854-1925), Part 1: The Baker’s Apprentice – 52 Ancestors #222

Henry & Hiram Ferverda

Hiram (Harmen Bauke) Ferverda (Ferwerda) at left, Henry (Hendrik) Ferverda at right, assuming the Ferverda booklet is labeled correctly.

Hiram Bauke Ferverda was my mother’s grandfather. Since today would be my mother’s 96th birthday if she were still with us, I’ll let her introduce you – just like she introduced me.

Mother and I were visiting on the blustery spring morning of March 3, 2002, while drinking coffee or tea at her kitchen table, plotting our genealogy adventures for the upcoming months. Those were the days, and I miss them!

Mom said, “Grandfather Ferverda came over with his brother from Holland. They had a disagreement and the brother went up by Nappanee near or among the Amish. Mawmaw and Pawpaw [Hiram and Eva Miller Ferverda] weren’t Amish, but she did wear the hat on her head. She wasn’t among the real strict sect.”

That’s the first I had heard of any of this.

Mom was right. According to immigration records, Hiram, along with his parents and brother, Hendrick, known as Henry, immigrated from the Netherlands.

But Amish? Mennonite? Hat on her head? What was that all about?

And so began the Ferverda quest.

Meet Yvette Hoitink

Before I go any further with this story, I have to take a minute and introduce Yvette Hoitink, a Dutch professional genealogist. The Dutch records for this family are available because of her diligent research. I love her reports as well. Oh, how I love those reports!! They are concise and chocked full of information, complete with images of the document, a translation and source information. Even if I could find the records myself, I can’t read them.

If it’s a Dutch ancestor in my family, I absolutely guarantee you that Yvette is involved as a research partner. And no, this is not a paid announcement, it’s my unending gratitude for an amazing friend (that I met thanks to a blog article) and a job well done.

Let’s dive right in!

Neither Hiram nor Ferverda

Ferverda family records in Indiana provided Hiram’s birth date, which was verified by Yvette. But that’s it, all we had about Holland. No location, nothing else. We didn’t even know Hiram’s mother’s name, or, as it turns out, his real name.

Hiram was born, according to Dutch records, on September 21, 1854 in Hiaure, Westdongeradeel, The Netherlands, to Bauke Hendrick(s) Ferverda (known as Henry in the US) and Geertje Harmens de Jong.

The original birth record is shown below, and the first thing that pops out at me is that the surname is spelled Ferwerda in Holland. In the US, Hiram’s line spelled their surname Ferverda and his brother, Henry’s line spelled it Fervida. No one on this side of the pond spelled it Ferwerda! In fact, I initially thought those records were misinterpreted (meaning the handwriting), but they aren’t. The surname probably changed to the phonetic pronunciation here in the US.

Birth record of Harmen Ferwerda, born Westdongeradeel September 21, 1854

Yvette provided the following translation:

In the year one thousand eight hundred fifty-four, the twenty-third of the month of September appeared before us, Zijtse Sijbouts de Haan, mayor, clerk of the civil registration of the municipality of Westdongeradeel province Friesland:

Bauke Hendriks Ferwerda aged twenty-four years, head teacher, living in Hiaure, who declared to us that on the twenty-first of this month of September, at half past ten in the evening, in Hiaure, was born a child of the male sex from him declarer and his wife Geertje Harmens de Jong, aged twenty-five years, without occupation living with him which child he declares to give the first name of Harmen.

Said statement occurred in the presence of Oene Klazes Hofman, aged fifty-four years, cow milker living in Hiaure and of Egbert Oebeles Kijlstra, aged thirty-nine years, clerk at the “secretarie” [municipal administration] living in Ternaard.

Of which we have created this record, that, after having been read aloud, was signed by us, the declarer and the witnesses.

[signed]

B H Ferwerda

O: K Hofman

E O Kijlstra

ZS de Haan

Source: “Netherlands, Civil Registration, 1792-1952”, Familysearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 29 August 2012), digital image, “Geboorten 1851-1856” [Births 1851-1856], Westdongeradeel (Friesland, The Netherlands), p. 66 reverse;  Birth record of Harmen Ferwerda.

Look at Bauke’s beautiful signature!

Not only do we discover that the surname is spelled differently, we also discover that Hiram’s name was originally given as Harmen, his mother’s middle name which was her paternal grandmother’s birth surname. Harmen’s parent’s names are provided, along with their ages and his father’s occupation. Not only that, but he was born at half past 10 in the evening. How many of us know what time we were born today?

I decided right on the spot when I saw these records that I loved Dutch record-keeping.

Visiting my Dutch Homeland

In 2014, both as a result of Yvette’s work, and with Yvette, I was fortunate enough to visit many of my ancestral Dutch locations in what amounted to a whirlwind tour.

Additionally, my Ferverda cousin, Cheryl and my husband, Jim, rounded out our foursome and did we EVER have a good time. We also worked with the wonderful staff at the Friesland branch of the Dutch National Archives in Leeuwarden, named Tresoar. If that name sounds a lot like treasure to you, there’s a reason and yes, it is indeed full of treasure – both in terms of their records and wonderful employees who we now count among our friends.

Ummm….maybe I should explain…

The Dutch really go all out celebrating King’s Day on his birthday, April 27th. Everything shuts down, all public offices are closed and a huge nationwide party takes place. We were accidentally present for the first King’s Day, which changed from the previous Queen’s Day when the Queen’s eldest son, William Alexander became King. The King is a member of the “House of Orange” and let’s just say we wanted to fit in with the locals – and we did. After all, we’re Dutch, right? Yes, there’s obviously a story behind this and yes, eventually, I’ll tell – but not today😉

I’ll be sharing lots photos of the locations where my Dutch family lived and relevant history in this and several upcoming articles.

Hamlet and Record Confusion

Many locations in the Netherlands are very small hamlets. Often records indicate ancestors living in the larger region but don’t give the name of the tiny village. It’s a bonus to find the village name and Yvette is persistent.

For example, Hiaure is a small hamlet in the larger, now extinct, region of Westdongeradeel, now Dongeradeel, which is an administrative district that includes several hamlets, villages and towns.

Additionally, there may be several places in the Netherlands, even in Friesland with the same name. For example, there are about 5 different towns, hamlets and villages with the name of Oudega. In my case, the Oudega I would have assumed, just about 3 miles from another location the family lived, is not at all the Oudega where they moved. All I can say is thank goodness for Yvette or I would have fallen directly into that tar pit.

Another complication for my family is that they didn’t do what families are supposed to do. (Now there’s a surprise – NOT.)

Ancestors are supposed to marry in the town where they were raised. Stay there. Have children there. Marry someone of their own religion. Have their children baptized in the same church with the baptism witnessed by other family members. Don’t move around, and don’t marry across the country from where their first wife died. And don’t, absolutely DO NOT, no matter what else, marry someone of a religion that does NOT KEEP RECORDS.

Oh, and don’t change your name either, first or last and certainly not both. Just sayin’…

Yep, Hiram Ferverda’s father did ‘em all.

Hiaure

Welcome to Hiaure!

You can see a short video clip of Hiaure in this YouTube video.

As with all Dutch towns and villages, the church is located on the highest point of land, a small mound called a terp, because the cemetery lies in the churchyard and the Netherlands is an extremely low, meaning wet, country.

Compared to the countryside of the US, Europe is a very small place with limited land. There’s an old saying that the US has land, but Europe has history. In every square foot, I might add.

It’s quite common to be standing in one village and be able to see the church steeple of several churches by turning and looking in various directions. Those churches are the center of yet another village. This is true even in very small villages. Today, Hiaure has about 65 residents and that probably hasn’t changed much since Hiram was born there.

Because the Netherlands is so low, much of the country is reclaimed either from the sea or extreme lowlands. Windmills furnish wind-power to pumps and are commonplace scenes across the landscape.

This photo, taken close to Hiaure as we drove through the Dutch countryside is a typical Dutch scene. Today, it’s also not unusual to see wind turbines generating electricity in addition and sometimes side by side with older traditional windmills. Note the windmill in the clearing to the right of the house.

Village life centered around the church. Children were baptized there, families attended services, marriages took place, as did funerals. After the funeral service, parishioners walked outside and buried the person in close proximity to the church – sometimes in a grave the family owned, used and reused for generations.

As you can see, the Hiaure church is located on a small “terp” or raised area, the highest location in the village. One does not want to strike water when digging graves.

Hiram’s father was a school teacher. A house was typically provided to the teacher as part of their salary and research suggests strongly that this small house is indeed where Hiram was born.

The current resident was very generous to allow us to visit the backyard as well.

Was this where Hiram played as a child? Possibly, but he probably wouldn’t have remembered because by the time his brother was born in October of 1857, when Hiram had just turned 3, they were living in Eernewoude.

The traditional barns, like the one shown above at right, would have been similar to what Hiram saw when he lived in Hiaure or elsewhere in the countryside.

The Dutch love gardens, and tulips, of course. Such old-world beauty and charm.

Sometime between Hiram’s birth and the birth of his brother, 3 years later, the family moved from Hiaure to Eernewoude, Tietjerksteradeel, Friesland, about 20 miles away, probably so that Bauke could accept a different teaching position.

However, in Eernewoude, Hiram’s young life would change forever.

Hiram and Hendrick Ferwerda

Hiram had a brother Hendrick, later known as Henry in the US, born in 1857 in the village of Eernewoude, Tietjerksteradeel, Friesland, and a sister Lysbertus, born November 12, 1859, probably in the same location.

You may notice location spelling disparities, which I find quite confusing. There is a difference between the languages of Dutch and Frisian, the common language spoken in Friesland, the northwesternmost province of the Netherlands. Most people living in Friesland understand and speak Dutch perfectly well, but not all Dutch people speak or understand Frisian, a west Germanic language.

The original spelling is shown as Eernewoude (Dutch) and the current spelling is Earnewald (Frisian), at least I think I have those right.

Eernewoude, as is recorded in the Ferwerda records, was then and remains today a small low-lying village with a 2017 population of around 409 people.

Hiram’s sister died on July 23, 1860 at 8 months of age, not quite 3 months before her mother perished on October 3rd, leaving Bauke with 6 year old Hiram (Harmen) and 3 year old Hendrick to raise alone.

Young Hiram would just have turned 6 years old less than two weeks before his mother died. He would surely have been old enough to remember both his sister’s and his mother’s deaths and funerals.

We don’t know why Geertje died, but the death notice placed in the newspaper by Bauke Ferwerda on October 12th  and translated by Yvette reveals a lot:

Tonight at 9 ¼ hours died, after a very long but patient suffering, my beloved wife Geertje Harmens de Jong, in the yet youthful age of 31 years and 6 months, leaving me, after a comfortable union of almost 7½ years, two sons.

Eernewoude, 3 October 1860

Did their daughter die of something related to her mother’s death? Was her mother so ill that the child died? What malady related to the birth could have caused Geertje to suffer for nearly 11 months, killing her and the child both. I would think that infections or issues related to childbirth would be terminal much sooner than that. Whatever Geertje’s affliction, it clearly wasn’t contagious, because no other family members died.

Sadly, young Hiram would have seen his mother’s suffering.

We don’t know positively where Hiram’s mother, Geertje, is buried, but given that the family had been living in Eernwoude for several years, it’s very probable that both she and her daughter are buried in the churchyard there.

The church in Eernewoude was built in 1794, so this would have been where Hiram’s sister and mother’s funerals were both held and probably where they would have been buried as well unless there was a separate Mennonite cemetery which is unlikely.

Graves are reused in European countries after a few years, so the stones, if any ever existed for Geertje and the baby would no longer be preserved today. Perhaps the church records themselves record the location of the plots where they were buried, but that too is rare. It will have to be enough to know they are there someplace.

I would love to have been able to decorate Geertje and her daughter’s grave like this beautifully decorated Dutch grave on a little terp all its own. I so wanted to tell Geertje that her son did just fine. That I’m living proof and that she is my great-great-grandmother. To whisper that her little boy, Harmen, would become Hiram. That he sailed to America and became a leader in his community. That he too married an Anabaptist woman, just like she was. That we came back to find her. That she is not lost to us.

I was not able to visit this village, and I would not have been able to find her grave today, but she is there and I honor her none-the-less.

Rauwerderhem, Friesland, Netherlands

The Dutch population registers show that Hiram lived in Rauwerderhem between January 1, 1861 and Dec. 31, 1881. Another population register says that he lived here between 1854 and 1941. That’s surely true, just only a fraction of that time – and we don’t know exactly which fraction.

We know positively that Hiram had sailed to America long before 1881. In fact, we know that in May of 1863, the family had moved to Oudega.

Rauwerderhem as a region ceased to exist in 1984 and became Boarnsterhim which ceased to exist in 2014. Rauwerderhem includes several municipalities including Irnsum which is probably our clue as to when he lived there.

Oudega and a Step-Mother

Hiram’s father, Bauke, remarried on October 30, 1863, three years after his wife’s death, to Minke “Minnie” Gerb ens Van der Kooi. We know that Bauke moved to Oudega on May 6, 1863, several months before he married Minke. A year later, in 1864 when their first child was born, the family was still living in Oudega (Hemelumer Oldeferd), near the coast.

In 1866, Hiram’s father, Bauke, was listed as the head teacher there.

I wonder who cared for Hiram and Hendrick for the 3 years that Bauke Hendricks Ferwerda was a widower and teaching school. His older son, Hiram who had just turned 6 when his mother died was probably attending school, but assuredly the younger child was not.

A newspaper ad that Yvette discovered answers that question:

A few weeks after Geertje’s death, Bauke advertised for a housekeeper. Their first known housekeeper was Romkje Rintjes Dooijema, a 69-year-old widow who joined the family in July 1861. It is possible that they had a housekeeper before her, that did not live with the family. Romkje was in the household for two years, probably until Bauke’s second marriage in October 1863 to Minke Gerbens van der Kooi.

Hiram moved to Oudega with his father in May 1863 when he would have been 9 years old and lived there for the next four years.

We drove from Leeuwarden to Oudega which took about an hour. The Netherlands is connected by roads today, but in the 1860s and before, the Netherlands was a riverine country – connected by natural waterways and canals constructed strategically to drain the land. Boats tied loosely in canals are equivalent to second cars in the driveway here. You may well be able to get to town more quickly by water than by land.

While it appears that the residents of the Netherlands are in a constant battle with water, in reality, for the most part, they’ve learned to adapt and co-exist. In some cases, they have to tame the water, generally the sea, and they have to find ways to retain what little land they have.

Regardless of what they do, the Dutch are always innovative.

The church in Oudega was constructed in 1850, so would have been relatively new at the time that Hiram started attending with his father.

When they first arrived, Bauke, being the schoolteacher, would have been introduced around. He probably entered the church for the first time, holding his sons’ small hands in each of his larger ones as they made their way to a pew where they boys would have sat on either side of their father, probably fidgeting and squirming. A routine they likely repeated every Sunday.

Bauke was single and available, so any widows near the same age would have taken notice and maybe sat strategically nearby. Perhaps Minke Ger bens Van der Kooi sat nearby as well, exchanging furtive glances with the handsome schoolteacher widower.

Given that Bauke was a music teacher, perhaps he took a more active role in the church.

Bauke and both of his sons were listed on their emigration paperwork as Dutch Reformed, but both of Bauke’s wives were Mennonite. So maybe Minke wasn’t sitting in this church after all.

As with most Dutch churches, the cemetery surrounds the church.

Next to the church is the school and parsonage. Bauke would have likely lived in one of these buildings. It’s unclear from historical records which building was which at the time.

The building immediately next door looks like it might well have been the school, and the schoolmaster might well have lived here too.

It’s also possible that another structure stood at that time that does not remain today, in the part of the churchyard where Jim is standing, between the church and that brick building.

There is definitely space for another structure, but no physical evidence that one existed.

Regardless, this is where Hiram lived, attended church and played as a child, probably in the cemetery among the gravestones.

During the time the family lived in Oudega, Minnie and Bauke presented Hiram with 2 sisters, Lysbeth born August 21, 1864 and Geertje born May 15, 1867. Lysbeth died at sea during the August 1868 crossing. That must have been a heartbreaking, terrifying day, watching your child, or your 4-year-old sibling, slip beneath the waves – especially after having lost your mother and sister just a few years before. Did Hiram ever feel safe from death?

Minnie and Bauke would give Hiram two more sisters and a brother in the US.

When Did Hiram Emigrate?

On August 1, 1868, the Ferwerda family sailed for America, but Hiram may not have been with them. Did he arrive with his parents, or did he join the family later? He wouldn’t have been quite 14, but children then were trusted to travel alone at much younger ages than today.

Yvette provides the following information:

Lists of Overseas Emigrants:

Since 1848, the Dutch national government required each province to compile lists of emigrants each year. The government wanted to understand who was leaving and for what reasons. The lists were usually compiled by requesting lists of emigrants from each municipality. The municipality often based these lists on information in their population registers. If people failed to register their departure, their emigration may go unnoticed for some time and sometimes shows up in the lists years after the emigration took place.

1. Harmen Ferwerda

Information in the source:

The list of emigrants shows that Harmen Ferwerda emigrated from Wijmbritseradeel, Friesland in 1869. He was a 14-year-old baker’s apprentice and listed “geluk te zoeken” [finding happiness/luck] as his reason for departure. His destination was listed as North-America, precise location unknown. He was less well-to-do and had not paid poll tax the previous year.

Source: “Staten van Landverhuizers overzee” [Lists of overseas emigrants], Wijmbritseradeel, Friesland, Netherlands, 1869, p. 88-89; microfiche, Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie, The Hague; citing Nationaal Archief, Ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken [Department of the Interior], afdeling Statistieken [Statistics department], record group 2.04.23.02, call number 26V

Analysis: The other emigrants from Wijmbritseradeel listed ‘to make a fortune’ or ‘amelioration of circumstances’ as reason to emigrate. To find “geluk” (happiness/luck) is an uncommon reason that is not mentioned elsewhere in the list. It may be that this reflects Harmen’s own choice of words.

2. Bauke Hendriks Ferwerda

Information from the source:

The list of emigrants shows that Bauke Hendriks Ferwerda emigrated from Hemelumer Oldephaert en Noordwolde, Friesland in 1868 with 1 wife and 4 children. His destination is listed as Minnesota. The record shows he was less well-to-do, with an annual income of fl.425 the previous year. The notes column states that he was married to a sister of Bergstra. This refers to the first emigrant named in the list of emigrants from Hemelumer Oldephaert en Noordwolde, Rimmer Johannes Bergstra. Several other emigrants in the list of emigrants from that municipality were also related to Rimmer Johannes Bergstra.

Source: “Staten van Landverhuizers overzee” [Lists of overseas emigrants], Hemelumer Oldephaert en Noordwolde, 1868, p. 69-70; microfiche, Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie, The Hague; citing Nationaal Archief, Ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken [Department of the Interior], afdeling Statistieken [Statistics department], record group 2.04.23.02, call number 26V

Yvette’s note: No relationship between Bauke Hendriks Ferwerda’s second wife, Minke Gerbens van der Kooi, and Rimmer Johannes Bergstra is known at this stage. We could investigate this as this might lead to a better understanding of their reasons for emigrating. The way that the list mentions different relationships suggests that they traveled as a group.

The fact that Bauke and his wife have 4 children with them strongly suggests that Hiram was with them and did not make the trip, alone, later. There were only 4 children in total, including the child who died en route.

I wonder why Bauke and family decided to settle in Indiana. It looks like their original destination was Minnesota. Maybe they met someone en route who provided information that changed their minds.

The Elkhart County history book states that there was a group of Dutch that settled in this area, so the Ferwerda family was not the only family in the settlement group. I wonder how they selected Elkhart County, and why.

Checking others in the immigration group with Rimmer Johannes Bergstra (age 67) we find Dirk Peekes Hoogeboom who died in 1887 in Nappanee, Indiana, and is buried in the Union Cemetery where Hendrick Fervida and family are buried. The Union Cemetery is across the road from the Brethren Church. According to Find-A-Grave, a G. R. Bergstra was married to Kirk Hoogeboom, and the emigration record states that Hoogeboom is married to the daughter of Bergstra. Gerben Willems DeBoer was married to Anna (died 1911), a sister of Bergstra, and died in 1874. They are also buried in Union Cemetery. These people lived in the area where Bauke Ferwerda and family settled and provided tenuous ties to the old country.

A second group that was traveling with the Bergstra group from the same location in Holland settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan by 1870 and remained. Gosse Jans Molenaar, age 35, whose wife was the sister of Durk Jeremias Quarre, age 32.

More from Yvette:

Population registers

Population registers were retrieved for Bauke Hendriks Ferwerda and his son Harmen Ferwerda for the period covering their emigration.

Population registers were kept in the Netherlands since 1850, with some earlier local attempts. Population registers show who lived where in the municipality.

In the 19th century, a population register typically covered a period of 10 to 20 years, depending on the size of the municipality and the mobility of its inhabitants. This register was kept up to date, whenever somebody moved, died or was born their addition or removal from the household was noted. People were required to register whenever they moved into a municipality or moved out of a municipality.

Some population registers were arranged by address. In this case, when people moved, they were struck from the page of their previous address and added to the page of their new address. Other municipalities quickly changed to a system that arranged the population registers by household. In this case, addresses were struck and corrected every time a family moved.

Struck through names in the population register usually indicate one of two things:

  • The person died during the time period covered by the register
  • The person moved away.

All people not stricken through were apparently still living there at the end of the period covered by the register.

Populations give a very good insight in the composition of a household. However, because a population register covers a period of several years, not all people listed on the page may have lived there at the same time. Some people may have died or moved away before other people were born or moved in. Careful analysis of the dates is needed to draw conclusions about the composition of a household.

Hemelumer Oldeferd en Noordwolde 1860-1869

This population record shows the household of Bauke Hendriks Ferwerda. It covers the period 1860-1869 and shows that Bauke Hendriks Ferwerda arrived in Oudega in the municipality of Hemelumer Oldephaert en Noordwolde on 6 May 1863 together with his two sons Harmen and Hendrik. They had come from the municipality of Tietjerksteradeel. The record lists that Bauke married Minke Gerbens van der Kooi on 30 October 1863. She is listed as number 4. Subsequently, two children are born in 1864 (Lijsbert) and 1867 (Geertje).

Son Harmen Baukes Ferwerda leaves the parental home on 22 July 1867 to go to Rauwerdehem. He is also shown as incoming from Wijmbritseradeel on 17 July 1867, when he is added as nr. 8 to the household.

Source: Hemelumer Oldeferd en Noordwolde, Friesland, Netherlands, Bevolkingsregister [Population Register] 1860-1869, p. 88, household of Bauke Hendriks Ferwerda; microfiche, Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie, Den Haag, Netherlands

Analysis: the dates of Harmen Baukes Ferwerda’s departure and return do not add up, as he arrived back home 10 days before leaving it. Since his listing as number 8 is below that of his sister Geertje b. 18 May 1867, we can be sure he arrived back home after 18 May 1867. More analysis is needed in comparison with the Wymbritseradeel population register.

I wonder why Hiram left and went to Rauwerdehem and then Wijmbritseradeel. Yvette wondered too – and she found the answer!

Wymbritseradeel 1862-1880

The population register of Wolsum shows Harmen Baukes Ferwerda as living in the household of Johannes Jousma in Wolsum in the municipality of Wymbritseradeel. He arrived there from Irnsum on 20 November 1867.

Now that’s quite interesting. If Hiram left home of July 22, 1867 and stayed in Irnsum until November 20th of that year, where was he in Irnsum during that time? He was only 12 years old when he left and turned 13 that September. He certainly was living with a family, perhaps someone from his mother’s side of the family who was Mennonite?

Irnsum, today Jrnsum, was a Mennonite stronghold, known to be a center of Mennonite activity before 1600. Two Mennonite congregations originally existed, but one died out relatively early. The second joined the Mennonite conference in Friesland in 1695. In 1684, that congregation had a meeting house with stained glass windows, quite the exception to the traditional “very plain” lifestyle. In 1838 the membership was 83 and in 1871, 160.

This would have been the Mennonite church that Hiram probably attended in Irnsum during his 4 months living there.

A Baker’s Apprenticeship in Wolsum

We may not know who Hiram was living with and what he was doing in Irnsum for 4 months, but we do know more about the time he spent in Wolsum living with Johannes Jousma.

From Yvette:

Johannes Jousma was a baker and Harmen Baukes a “bakkersknecht” [baker’s hand]. The term ‘knecht’ was also used for apprentices, which translation would fit with his age (13). By comparing the arrival and departure dates of the other people in the household, Johannes Jousma is shown to have at most one apprentice at the time, sometimes none.

So, Hiram was apprenticing to be a baker. Fortunately, Wolsum was on our itinerary. It’s such a small “place” that we almost missed it, literally.

Our visit to Wolsum was just amazing, for several reasons. In fact, this was one of the highlights of the trip. Ironic that we nearly abandoned this stop because we couldn’t find this hamlet amid the maze of canals and waterways. I’m so glad my friends didn’t give up.

The Wolsum church on the raised terp. While Hiram would probably have attended this church regularly, none of our ancestors or family members are buried here. Or are they?

Yvette came up with a surprise and tells us that:

In the population register Harmen lived with baker Johannes Jousma (Anabaptist) and Pierkje de Jong (Dutch Reformed). I only now realize that Pierkje was his aunt! She was the daughter of Harmen Gerrits de Jong and Angenietje Wijtzes Houtsma and sister to Geertje Harmens de Jong. Therefore, given that Pierkje was Dutch Reformed, she would have attended this church and is likely buried here as well.

Amazing what is hidden away in the details of these records. Anabaptist connections keep popping up. Hiram would cross the ocean and eventually marry an Anabaptist women himself.

In the back of every church, we find a small unobtrusive building like the one shown below.

I thought these were sheds for the groundskeepers holding lawnmowers or perhaps supplies for digging graves, but that’s not at all the purpose for these generally nondescript structures. They are ossuaries for the bones encountered when the grave is dug for the next occupant. Any bones remaining are put into the ossuary and stacked with all of the other bones where the “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” process continues.

Now, I must admit, in locations where I know my ancestors or their family members are buried, I look longingly at these buildings. I know that their DNA is just laying there, but unavailable to me☹

In fact, I’m probably related to everyone in many small villages. No point crying over split-milk, or bone-dust, so let’s walk through this lovely village.

Flowers bloom everyplace in Holland in the spring, peeking through small spaces, seeking the sun.

Beautiful moss-covered walkway beside the church. I love these little peek-a-boo Dutch gardens. So inviting!

Looking across the fields. The next hamlet is always within view. The fence below isn’t between fields, but across a canal or waterway. We fence roads here, the Dutch fence canals.

Some hamlets are too small to even have a church.

One such place is named Fiifhus translated as “Five Houses,” for obvious reasons, within sight of Wolsum.

A one lane road reaches across the fields and canals in the direction of the tiny Five Houses where we were told the Wolsum baker once lived. Of course, we’re going!

A one car bridge and quaint, beautiful cottages greeted us.

It was here, in 5 Houses, officially a part of Wolsum because the two hamlets shared the church, that Hiram served his apprenticeship with Johannes Jousma.

Five Houses was located at the end of the little dead end one-vehicle-wide “road” that ended beyond the 5th house. The street looked more like a walkway and we weren’t sure we were supposed to drive there, or could turn around, so we parked at the end and walked.

The people in Wolsum told us that the “old baker” had lived in Fiifhus. There were literally 5 houses originally and only one more today, all lined up in a row across from the canal. The “road” in the 1860s to 5 Houses was the canal by boat.

Wood decays quickly in the Netherlands which is why most structures are built of brick. Stone is scarce in this lowland country. Note the moss growing on the fence. It grows everyplace.

Cheryl, always shy (humor), began talking to people and asking questions. Fortunately, Yvette and some of the Frisian-speaking archives staff were along to help with translation, although most Dutch people speak at least some English.

The residents were amazingly friendly and as interested in us as we were in their little village. In the Netherlands, many residences were both a house and a barn, combined. This one was built, remodeled or at least roofed in 1871. The house portion for the people is much smaller than the barn portion, which is typical.

We continued walking along the canal, on the left, below.

It was absolutely amazing to stand where we knew Hiram had stood, in his footsteps, and I mean exactly, daily, 146 years earlier. This boy who would become a man and have the sons who would be Cheryl’s father and my grandfather. And here we were, standing where he stood, looking at the same scenes he saw.

I’m sure Hiram never imagined such a thing, just as I could never have imaged anything like standing here when I was a young teen. When Hiram was living in Five Houses, he couldn’t possibly have imagined that he would sail to America just a year later. He planned to be a baker, perhaps right here, for the rest of his life. But life had something very different in store for young Harmen who would soon become Hiram.

If mother could only have been with us that day. My heart both rejoiced and broke. I’m incredibly glad that Cheryl and I were together, representing our family lines. I wish this could have happened a decade earlier when Mom could have joined us. I’m sure she was with us in spirit.

At the very end of the red brick road, we found the baker’s house where the driveway was wider than the road. The garage portion in front is new, but the rear is older and original. The current resident told us that when he bought the property, some 30+ years ago, he had to tear out the old ovens and haul them away, so we knew unquestionably that we were in the right place and had indeed found the baker’s house where Hiram lived.

My heart broke again.

Hauled. Them. Away.

Lead in a genealogist’s heart. Wasn’t there even one brick left? Someplace?

Nope. The Dutch are fanatically neat and tidy – a trait which I did NOT inherit.

The homeowner graciously invited us to walk on his property and here we found the old barn and building where Hiram likely lived.

Another small building at the rear of this property, below.

The Dutch seldom tear a building down. They simply refurbish, again and again, and the old building isn’t so old. Old in European terms is measured in hundreds of years. The perspective is very different from the US.

Hiram would have walked on these bricks or on this path if bricks weren’t yet laid, and perhaps gone to the supply building for what he needed for the day’s baking.

Structures are mostly made of stone because the almost constant moisture causes wood to rot quickly.

Each property along the small dead-end street also had a “location” for their boat or boats to be tied up on the canal, right across from the house.

Hiram probably rose early, before dawn, to bake bread, then loaded the boat with the baked good to deliver to Wolsum, visible across the field from where we stood, in front of the baker’s house where Hiram would have boarded the boat. It was as if he was standing with us, had guided us back in time to this very place to stand in his footprints.

Was this young man, barely a teen, homesick? Did he miss his father, step-mother and siblings? Did he think about them and wonder what they were doing in the misty or rainy mornings on the boat to Wolsum?

If you cry in the rain, no one knows.

Emigration

Yvette tells us that:

The emigration record shows that Harmen Baukes Ferwerda emigrated with his father, step-mother and siblings on October 15, 1868 to North America.

Source: Wolsum, Wymbritseradeel, Friesland, Netherlands, Bevolkingsregister [Population Register] 1862-1880, p. 30, household of Johannes Jousma; microfiche, Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie, Den Haag, Netherlands

So, Harmen, known to us as Hiram, did immigrate in 1868, not later, but I still wonder if he traveled separately since the rest of the family is recorded as leaving on August 1st.

We’ll catch up with Hiram on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean in part 2 of his story, but first, we have a DNA riddle to solve.

The DNA Twist

This story would not be complete without something about DNA, and the DNA aspect of this story is quite unexpected.

One day, I received an e-mail from Yvette whose mother had recently taken an autosomal DNA test. The results were nothing short of amazing!

Yvette’s mother and my mother matched on 5 chromosomes. They matched at Family Tree DNA, although it was easier to compare them at Gedmatch since my cousin, Cheryl and her brother had both tested at 23andMe their results were transferred to GedMatch.

While the matches on chromosomes 6, 11 and 15 between our mothers are too small to be meaningful, the matches on chromosomes 18 and 22 are large enough to potentially be relevant, meaning identical by descent, not identical by chance.

This is exciting not just because Yvette is a friend, but because it might help both of us unravel our respective genealogy. Plus, how cool would that be – to meet through genealogy and then discover we are related.

GedMatch predicted 6.6 generations to a common ancestor between our mothers, but both Yvette and I think that a common ancestor would be further back in time. Obviously, Yvette knows both her and my Dutch ancestry quite well.

Yvette took a look at both of our pedigree charts and identified 4 different potential lines where one or both of us had holes in our tree where we could potentially intersect. That sounded hopeful.

Had my mother not tested before her death, and had Yvette not tested her mother, we would never have known of this match, because it does not extend to matches between us daughters.

The Rest of the Story

This match originally occurred about 5 years ago. I recorded it at that time, excited that someplace, Yvette and I probably shared an ancestor.

However, things have evolved, developed and changed over time.

While writing this article, it occurred to me that I should recheck our DNA matches and see if we could discern anything new.

Was I ever surprised.

Our mothers are no longer matches to each other at Family Tree DNA. At GedMatch, their matching algorithm has apparently changed too, because now they are shown only as matching on chromosome 18. The match on 22 is entirely gone. I didn’t recheck the smaller segments.

This is confounding.

Checking Yvette’s mother to see if she matches either Cheryl or her brother shows no match on this segment.

That’s not terribly unusual, because Mother could have inherited a different piece of DNA from her ancestors that Cheryl and Don did not. Nothing unusual about that for first cousins. Mom and Cheryl/Don share grandparents, so each would be expected to only share about 12.5% of their DNA with mother – and not entirely the same 12.5%.

I could have checked at that time to see if Mom and Cheryl matched on that same segment, given that Cheryl did not match Yvette’s mother, but I was waiting for Don’s results to come back and never got back to checking. Plus, I wanted to retest Cheryl and Don on a fully compatible chip at Family Tree DNA.

The next thing I knew, 5 years had passed and here we are.

However, today we have a much easier visual tool in DNAPainter.

Mom, Cheryl and Don are related in the following fashion.

Mom, Don, Cheryl and another Ferverda line cousin named Mike all match on this same segment, telling me that this is indeed either a Ferverda or a Miller segment, given that Hiram Ferverda married Eva Miller, a Brethren woman.

If Mom matches Yvette’s Mom on this segment and if the segment is a valid IBD (identical by descent) match, then Yvette’s mother will match all three of the Ferverda cousins on the same segment where she matches mother. The only way that mother can match both Cheryl and Don (on very large segments, 17 and 35 cM respectively) is through their common grandparents. Their respective mothers are not related to each other or the Ferverda line. Mike, another Ferverda descendant also matches Mom, on 27 cM that includes Yvette’s Mom’s blue segment and overlaps with both Cheryl and Don.

The perfect triangulation scenario – except they don’t.

Yvette’s mother does not match Cheryl, Don or Mike. Therefore, because mother does match all 3 of her Ferverda cousins, and they all match each other as well on this same segment, that means that the match between Yvette’s mother and my mother is not identical by descent, but identical by chance. Rats!

Better to know than not.

  1. I’m glad we have enough people tested that we can now make this determination.
  2. I’m very grateful for the visual DNAPainter tool which makes the comparison easy.
  3. I’m disappointed that Yvette and I don’t share a common ancestor someplace in the relatively recent past, but I’m glad that we can prove this conclusively one way or another. Yea, I’m trying to make lemonade.

The Moral of the DNA Story

  • Stay away from segments under 7cM. They are more likely to be IBC than IBD and we have enough larger segment matches today that we don’t have to fish in the weeds.
  • Write match results down when you do the initial comparison. Tools change over time.
  • Recheck matches, because the vendor’s algorithms change over time. GedMatch is going through a major retool right now.
  • Understand that matches over the match threshold can still be IBC. Mom and Yvette’s Mom lost one 7.8 cM segment match, and the 7.5 match was reduced to 7.1, which was subsequently proven to be IBC. Generally, matches above 10 cM are relatively safe, 15 cM or above quite safe and I’ve never seen a 20 cM or higher match that turned out to be IBC.
  • Don’t fall in love with results until (minimally) they are actually proven to triangulate with known cousins.
  • Do the basic triangulation steps at the time when you discover the match. I could have solved this riddle long ago had I simply run the comparison between Yvette’s Mom and Cheryl. Better late than never.

But most of all, test those cousins and older family members because often their DNA is every bit as important to genealogy, if not more so, than yours.

Acknowledgements:

A huge thank you to the Tresoar staff as well as Yvette Hoitink.

Initially, Tresoar was planning to offer “Back to Your Roots” genealogical tourism packages, although the project never emerged in quite the way it was initially imagined. If you have Dutch ancestry, please contact either Tresoar in Friesland or Yvette for assistance anyplace in the Netherlands.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Ethnicity is Just an Estimate – Yes, Really!

Lots of people will have received DNA tests as gifts over the holidays. This pleases me to no end, because I know I’ll match any number of them and maybe, just maybe, those matches will help me fill in those pesky blanks in my tree or break down brick walls.

However, for the most part, those testers probably aren’t genealogists, at least not yet. They are most likely curious about “who they are” or didn’t even realize they might be curious about anything until they unwrapped that gift and discovered a DNA test inside.

Let’s hope they test with one of the major 4 companies, being Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage, Ancestry or 23andMe. (Sale prices are still in effect.) Some additional firms are certainly reputable and provide ethnicity only tests (meaning no matching), such as the Genographic Project, LivingDNA and Insitome, but then there are also a growing number of questionable pop-up DNA testing, upload sites and interpretation “services.” And yes, I’m using that word loosely. Buyer beware.

For genealogists, the gold is in the cousin matching. We already know that DNA is more than ethnicity, and ethnicity is far more than percentages.

Ethnicity, for the most part, is a shiny red bauble that the magic wand of advertising transforms from a diamond in the rough into the glittery Hope diamond with a free kilt to lederhosen conversion (or vice versa) thrown in to boot.

Ethnicity bauble

Yay – Results are Back

Everyone who received DNA test kits during the holiday season has hopefully spit or swabbed and mailed and is now waiting excitedly. Waiting is always the hardest part!

Soon, they will be discussing their ethnicity results. Reactions will vary, swinging like a pendulum – and you may well get to help interpret.

  • Some people will be thrilled because their results will confirm what they see or believe and their family stories. For example, if their family carries oral history of a Native American ancestor and their DNA ethnicity results show Native American heritage, they’ll be thrilled.
  • Some people will be pleasantly surprised with whatever information they receive – treating their ethnicity results as a nice package to unwrap, regardless of what’s inside.
  • Another large group will be confused? My mother said her grandmother was French! Why don’t I see France? Substitute <country of your choice> for French/France.
  • And then we have the truly upset. The distraught. The entirely disbelieving. “My great-grandmother was a full-blood Cherokee. Why don’t I show Native American? These tests are wrong!”
  • Some people will doubt their parentage based on ethnicity results alone. This is NOT under any circumstances appropriate. Please have them read Ethnicity and Physical Features are NOT Accurate Predictors of Parentage or Heritage.

Explanations

To help people understand, you may need to explain about how Native Americans, especially east of the Mississippi were admixed very early in our national history, so their “fully Native” ancestor probably wasn’t.

You can explain about how autosomal DNA is diluted in each generation since their Native (or French, or Italian, etc.) ancestor lived – to the point that the Native DNA might not show today.

You can talk about reference populations, or the lack thereof, and that people in France and Israel can’t legally take DNA tests for recreational purposes.

You can educate people about how we all need to research our genealogy, and how, as Blaine Bettinger writes in this classic article, we have both a genetic and genealogical tree. The ancestors are always there in our tree, but we may not have inherited measurable DNA from a particular individual if they are several generations back in time.

If that coveted Native ancestor doesn’t appear in their DNA, then they need to look in their family tree. She or he might be waiting there, AND, they may still be able to prove their Native heritage using either Y or mitochondrial DNA testing at Family Tree DNA.

There’s more than one kind of DNA and more than one way to prove Native heritage.

The Underlying Truth

But the truth of the matter is, while each and every one of those statements above is entirely valid, the fundamental truth about ethnicity testing is that…

Ethnicity percentages.png

Yes, really.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why.

Size Matters

Everyone in the Americas (except for Native American, First Nations or aboriginal peoples) wants to know where their ancestors “came from.” As genealogists, we deal with no records, damaged records, misplaced records, burned records, rapid westward migration with no links “back home” and at least three wars on our soil. It’s no wonder that we often can’t track those ancestors back across the pond or even to the shore.

Therefore, we hope that DNA testing can help us bridge that gap. And indeed, both Y and mitochondrial DNA testing is wonderful for doing just that for matrilineal and patrilineal lines.

But ethnicity results, in most cases, are really only useful for making continental-level discoveries. What we really want, refinement and granularity to the country level within Europe, for example, isn’t really feasible.

Size is part of the reason why. Look at the size of the contiguous 48 US states as compared to Europe, courtesy thetruesize.com.

Ethnicity US over Europe.png

Would you expect to be able to tell the genetic difference between people that live in Washington State from people that live in Idaho? That’s roughly the same distance as from the UK to Germany. France is located down in California and Nevada.

Can you tell the difference genetically between people who live in Washington State from California or Nevada? That idea sounds rather preposterous when you look at it that way. Now, is it any wonder that your ancestor’s “French” doesn’t show up, but German does?

Ethnicity Texas over Europe

Here’s Texas compared to Europe. Can you tell the people in Dallas from the people who live in San Antonio from the people who live in Houston, genetically? That’s the same difference as Germany, Italy and Austria. The Czech Republic is over near Shreveport. You get the drift.

Western European Countries are the Size of US States

Western European countries are even more difficult.

Ethnicity states over Europe

How about discerning the difference between Indiana and Illinois residents, or Illinois and Missouri? European countries are the size of medium sized US states. Larger states, like Texas cover most of the Iberian Peninsula including Spain and Portugal and reach over into Morocco.

To make this relatively small region even more complex, people have moved freely across these areas for thousands of years. The people from the Russian Steppes moved into Eastern Europe displacing and assimilating with the hunter-gatherer population that had resided there for millennia.

The Germanic tribes moved towards the coast and into the British Isles. The people from “Indiana and Ohio” moved into “Illinois” and then that entire group populated parts of Scandinavia. According to a recent genetic paper, some of those “New Yorkers” and on east moved into Scandinavia too.

Oh, and the Sephardic Jewish people moved from the Middle East into “Texas” aka Spain and then on up to “Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania” some 500 years ago to join their Ashkenazi brethren. Fortunately, Jewish people generally stayed together and didn’t intermarry or assimilate much into the local population, so we can still identify them genetically.

Europe is indeed a great melting pot.

Ethnicity Alaska and states over Europe and Asia

Adding the largest US state, Alaska onto the map makes the rest of the states and their corresponding European countries look really tiny.

Ethnicity is Really Only Reliable at a Continental Level

Ethnicity really is only reliable at a continental level, plus Jewish and in particular, Ashkenazi. Very small or trace percentages may not be reliable at all. We’ll discuss ways to prove or disprove minority admixture in my next article, Minority Ethnicity Percentages – True or False?.

This continental-level-only phenomenon is more understandable if you look at a world map.

Ethnicity continents

It’s extremely difficult to discern any reliable level of granularity between regions as tiny as US states in Europe, no matter how badly testers want to know. Of course, that doesn’t keep the testing companies from trying, and kudos to them. As they make improvements, your intra-continental estimates will change over time – so don’t fall in love with them. And don’t trade that lederhosen for a kilt or vice versa – or get that Viking tattoo just yet.

It’s much more reasonable to rely on ethnicity estimates based on much larger regions, where people after migration have been separated from people in the other regions for a much longer period of time, allowing time for unique mutations to develop.

Less admixture happens with greater geographic distance. People who aren’t neighborly don’t produce offspring because begetting requires proximity. Mutations that occurred after the populations split into different regions are found only in the new or the old populations, but not both – at least not in high frequencies. Of course, population boundaries are fluid and people (continue to) move from place to place, back and forth.

What You Can Do!

When your family and friends begin to discuss their confusion or disappointment with their ethnicity results, you’ll have this article to explain the situation visually. Please feel free to share and encourage them to learn more.

Sometimes it’s difficult to be the cold voice of reason in a positive way, but there is so much more to learn. I always hope to spark curiosity about why, and then provide ways that the person can fall in love with discovering their ancestors and ancestry.

Another good resource is the article, Ethnicity Testing – A Conundrum which explains how DNA ethnicity testing actually works – in terms that everyone can understand.

If your family is wondering what happened to their Native American DNA, you’re not alone. I’ve put together a page of Native American Resources to help everyone!

Have fun, enjoy and let’s hope that newly baptized ethnicity testers will like the water enough to engage in a bit of genealogy. You can encourage them by helping construct their first tree by recording what they know about their parents and grandparents. Maybe give them a taste of success by helping them find a record or two. Give them a taste of genealogy crack.

You never know, it just might be habit forming!

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Childhood Christmas Memories

This is the time of year, of course, that families gather.

But families change, sometimes slowly, and sometimes abruptly.

Slowly as babies are added, one by one and children grow.

And abruptly when people depart this earth, leaving behind that empty chair and its accompanying empty cavern in our hearts, having carved great gashes with the roughhewn saw of grief.

For some of us, when the here and now become a bit overwhelming, there is a happier place to visit in that space of our childhood. Those first Christmas memories when we dreamed all starry-eyed of what Santa would bring. No matter what was wrong, everything would be alright – because after all – Santa was coming and we had been (relatively) good.

Your Earliest Memories?

What are your earliest memories of Christmas?

Roberta second Christmas

I was too young to remember anything in this photo, but this is me in the first recorded Christmas photo at my grandmother’s house. This would have been my second Christmas and I was probably full of energy; bound and determined to get into that attractive distraction called a Christmas tree.

That’s my ornery brother, John on the right side of the photo, and my cousin, Mike on the left. Mike’s sister, Nancy is holding me. I wonder what was going on, because both boys are eyeing me askance. I do believe that’s called the “stink eye” and brothers excel at that!

Christmas Tree Special Delivery

At our house, Santa Claus also visited a week or two before Christmas and put up the Christmas tree. I waited daily, for days and days and DAYS until that fateful morning when Santa would have arrived secretly during the night. As I cracked the door open, the Christmas tree stood silently waiting with its lights twinkling and its tinsel gently swaying with the air currents in the living room.

I KNEW when Santa arrived one year, because I HEARD him. Not in the living room, mind you, but on the roof. I was just positive and sure enough, I discovered the next morning that he had in fact been there. If I ever doubted, I was convinced.

Roberta Christmas age 4

I do remember the Christmas in this picture when I was age 4. See that tiny piano against the wall – I LOVED that piano. I think I loved it so much that it disappeared or maybe I loved it to death!

My father was present that year, because I was holding his little dog, Timmy. Dad’s arrival, with Timmy, would have been the best present EVER. Kids are so exuberant.

My Dad bought that rocking chair for me and I still have it, although I clearly haven’t sat in it in decades. But my children did and bears with quilts do now too.

Roberta rocking chair

I also recall my absolutely favorite gift that year.

A drum.

Yes, that’s right, a tin marching drum. Somewhere I know there was a photo at one time, but that photo apparently disappeared.

I’m sure my mother wished she could have made that drum disappear too. I’m positive that my much-beloved father brought me said drum, because I’m equally as positive that my mother would NEVER have bought me that noisy thing. NEVER!

I distinctly remember proudly parading around the house in my new too-big brown bathrobe gleefully beating with all my strength on that drum, much to my mother’s chagrin.

Grandmother’s House

Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house we go.

Our version was a tad bit different, but we did indeed go “home” to grandmother’s house every Christmas. For mom, Christmas wouldn’t have been Christmas otherwise.

As you can see, my brother was by that time a teenager and had begun to drive. He didn’t have much use for his pesky little sister.

Roberta Christmas age 4 grandmother's house

I don’t recall this particular day, or Christmas at my grandparents. Christmas, the holiday, was overshadowed by what followed.

My grandmother suffered a heart attack, collapsed on the floor and died just a few days later, on January 4th.

Roberta Christmas grandparents

This photo of my grandmother and grandfather, with Nancy’s son, Bruce was taken that Christmas. I notice that the photo was printed in July, and it must have pained my mother greatly to open that packet of photos when she picked them up at the drugstore.

My grandmother loved Christmas and the fact that her grandchildren, and then great-grandchildren were all gathered together at home. My mother inherited that from her as well.

I’m in the corner of a second very poor photo taken at this same time. I remember the throw on the back of the couch. I could put my fingers in the little inverted popcorn-like shapes. The couch was brown and made from scratchy rough fabric. It’s amazing the memories these photos trigger.

While I don’t specifically remember this Christmas, or any Christmas at my grandmother’s house, I do have very fond memories of my grandmother herself. In particular, she always ran to hug me.

I also have very vivid memories of the heart attack, her laying on the kitchen floor, and the aftermath. For a young child, it was a frightening time. Not only was something wrong with my beloved grandmother, but my mother and everyone else was a wreck too, and I didn’t understand why. My understanding of “sick” was that you threw up, and I kept looking at the floor for evidence of her being sick.

Sick meant something else altogether. Sick meant our life was about to change forever.

I’m glad we had that final Christmas together.

Suffice it to say, my mother was never really “alright” with Christmas again, although she made every effort to hide that fact from me.

Over time, as her grandchildren began to gather in her home as well, enough Christmases had been put between her and that devastating year that she could smile and sing again.

But that didn’t happen for a very long time.

Change Cometh

Christmas and our family traditions changed dramatically at that point in our lives.

I have only vague recollections of the next several Christmases. My grandfather was still living in December of 1960, but would have been ill in December of 1961. I remember that he asked for peanuts for snacks and I was so pleased to give him a can of peanuts. The kind with Mr. Peanut on the side.

My grandfather passed away in June of 1962 and by that December, the house my mother had grown up in had been sold. Mom took her portion of the inheritance and purchased a house. We moved in, you guessed it, on December 23rd.

I was in first or second grade that year, and I was quite worried that Santa wouldn’t be able to find us at our new house.

Would he know to come on the night of the 23rd to put the tree up?

Yes, mother asserted me, Santa was magical.

Would we have to do without a tree that year?

“No, of course not,” mother assured me.

I wasn’t very reassured.

Not only that, but I couldn’t sleep very well in my new bed in a strange new house and I heard a strange “rustling” in the living room, right beside my bedroom.

Sure enough, the next morning, Santa had somehow managed to find us and put up that tree among the boxes of our still-packed household.

What a sight, boxes and boxes and a fully decorated Christmas tree.

All was well in my young world again. My mother, however, was incredibly sleep-deprived for some reason. Apparently, she had been up waiting for Santa too!

Three Years Later

The next Christmas photo I have was taken three years later in 1965 sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace and the Christmas tree. In fact, there’s my rocking chair again.

I’m hugging my mom, who is dressed up for Christmas Eve, and my sister-in-law is to our right. My brother is partially visible behind her. They didn’t have children yet at this point, so it would have only been our small family gathered. My father had passed away the year before. I think my Mom’s boyfriend must have taken the photo.

Mom always decorated the fireplace mantle with the Christmas cards we received after faithfully writing any changed addresses on the Christmas card list.

Roberta Christmas age 9

At the time, I didn’t realize of course that my grandmother’s tree had merged with our own, but looking at our Christmas tree now, I realize that’s exactly what happened. Of course, today my tree and Mom’s have merged too.

The Ubiquitous Camera

In that day and age, photos were rarely taken and then only on very special occasions. It wasn’t unusual to go for years with no family photos and one roll of film often lasted several years. So long that you had no idea what photos were actually going to be printed.

The next Christmas photo was taken in 1970 when my mother just happened to have the flu on Christmas Day. She opened her packages laying on the couch. She’ll haunt me if I publish that one.

Roberta Christmas age 15

Grandchildren’s pictures are on the table, of course, with the ever-present Christmas candle choir in front. God help you if you decided to light one of those candles.

By this time, our tree was artificial but still dripping with tinsel. Artificial trees were so much easier. In fact, I think that tree itself was a gift one year.

I have several of these ornaments on my tree today.

This was the first year that Christmas photos were in color.

Roberta Christmas Snowball

What memories – the “record player,” our old television, the stuffed Santa that I still own and our rescued cat, Snowball. Um, now that I think about it, I might still own that record album too.

These photos sure bring back memories of what life was like then.

Roberta Christmas age 15 gifts.jpg

In case you’re wondering what the heck was in that huge package, I had saved my money for weeks to purchase Mom this “painting” at Woolworths. Did she want this? I have no idea, but it hung in her house for the next 25 years. I surely hope she liked it!

The small framed item was a print I had purchased in Paris as an exchange student. Mom had the set of prints framed for me. I still have those as well.

Of course today, we’re used to taking digital pictures with our cell phones and photos are just a daily fact of life. Instant gratification, no printing costs and delete them if they don’t turn out well.

Of course, finding them in another few years, or decades – well, that might be quite another matter because today’s photos aren’t printed and in most cases, aren’t archived either.

Poof, the phone or computer is gone and so are your photos.

What About Your Family Memories?

I bet by now you’re thinking about your own childhood Christmas photos.

  • Where were they taken?
  • Who was there?
  • What year was it?
  • What gifts did you give or receive?
  • Do items in the background jog any forgotten memories?
  • How did life change in the following years?
  • Was that photo of a first or last something?

The best thing you can do with your photos is to get them out of the box and share them with your family this Christmas, as you gather.

If you have siblings or older family members, ask them to share their memories with you.

As they tell their stories, write them down.

If you ARE that older family member now, share your memories with others. They might not appreciate them today, but they will be polite and humor you. (If they don’t, just cast that stink-eye in their direction – just like my brother did.)

Then, do them a favor – write down your memories. Include the photos.

Some day they will wish desperately that they had paid attention, and you can leave them the best gift of all!

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

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Genealogy Research

Muller, Ringeisen and Stutzman Families of Schwarzenmatt, Switzerland – 52 Ancestors #221

Sometimes, truth is so much stranger than fiction. I just couldn’t make these things up!

If you haven’t been keeping track – and believe me, I understand why you wouldn’t be – let me give you a brief update before I tell you about this amazing turn of events. My own version of that Christmas genealogy miracle.

The Legend of Johann Michael Muller (1692-1771) and Jacob Stutzman (1705-1773)

In the US, Johann Michael Muller 1692-1771 (the second) and Jacob Stutzman 1705-1773 were originally believed to have been “not blood related,” but functionally brothers.

By this, I mean that the original story was that Johann Michael Muller (spelled Miller here) the second was born to Johann Michael Muller the first, and his wife, Irene Charitas <some last name, although sometimes Charitas was listed as her surname>.

As the story went, Irene died and Johann Michael Muller the first remarried to Regina Loysa <some surname, and sometimes the surname was listed as Loysa>.

Then Johann Michael Muller the first died in 1795, leaving the young child Johann Michael Muller the second at age 3 to be raised by his step-mother, Regina, who subsequently married Johann Jacob Stutzman.

Are you following this? Because lots of previous researchers didn’t, believe me – and I had to draw pictures myself. It was flat out confusing!

Schwarzenmatt Muller

Regina then had a son, Johann Jacob Stutzman (Jr.) with her second husband, Johann Jacob Stutzman. Her son was always known simply as Jacob Stutzman. In the US, Johann Michael Muller was known as Michael Miller.

That’s what we thought happened. But it wasn’t!

What Actually Happened

What actually happened was this:

Schwarzenmatt Muller actually.png

That person with the long red name is really one person. I know, I know, that just doesn’t sound realistic – but that’s actually what happened and records proved it.

Jacob Stutzman and Michael Miller were half-brothers through their mother. Even though they were about 15 years apart in age, they were clearly very close and immigrated to America together on the same ship in 1727.

Michael Miller and Jacob Stutzman were never far apart during their lifetimes, both converting at some point to the Brethren religion. In the US, they only had each other – although it’s certainly possible that at least a few cousins immigrated as well.

The sun truly set on that original story, because once we unraveled all the unforeseen twists and turns, there were several factual errors. However, there were valid reasons those earlier mistakes had originally been made. The records were extremely confusing, with multiple people sharing the same names, people whose names morphed into something else during their lifetimes and people who moved across not one, not two, but three countries and the ocean.

What else could go wrong?

It’s no wonder everyone was confused, me included.

Recap

Here’s what we know, along with the relevant articles providing documentation:

  • Johann Michael Muller, the first, was indeed the father of Johann Michael Muller, the second born in 1692, who immigrated to Pennsylvania.

https://dna-explained.com/2015/11/08/johann-michael-mueller-the-first-1655-1695-pietist-refugee-52-ancestors-97/

https://dna-explained.com/2015/12/27/johann-michael-miller-mueller-the-second-1692-1771-brethren-immigrant-52-ancestors-104/

https://dna-explained.com/2018/06/03/johann-michael-muller-the-first-was-a-widower-52-ancestors-196/

  • Charitas was not the surname of Irene Charitas. Neither was Schlosser. My bad on this one.

https://dna-explained.com/2015/11/29/irene-charitas-c1665-c1694-and-her-aching-mothers-soul-52-ancestors-100/

https://dna-explained.com/2017/12/23/irene-charitas-schlosser-beware-the-overlooked-umlat-52-ancestors-176/

https://dna-explained.com/2018/01/28/anna-ursula-schlosser-1633-1701-and-the-ides-of-march-52-ancestors-181/

  • Irene Charitas was actually a Heitz, daughter of Conrad Heitz.

https://dna-explained.com/2018/04/15/backpedaling-irene-charitas-is-a-heitz-not-a-schlosser-52-ancestors-191/

Yea, that retraction article was particularly ugly and embarrassing. I like to think of it as a teachable moment. If I was a cat, I’d lick my paw and claim I meant to fall of the couch backwards😊

However, it was the marriage record of Johann Michael Muller to Irene Lisabetha Heitz that gave us the name and location of Johann Michael Muller’s father – Heinsmann Muller of Schwarzenmatt, Canton Bern, Switzerland. What a gift that record was, twice over.

https://dna-explained.com/2018/09/15/heinsmann-heinrich-muller-1635-1684-of-schwarzenmatt-switzerland-52-ancestors-208/

  • Irene’s first and middle names morphed several times. She must have answered to anything and everything.

As it turned out, Irene Lisabetha’s name became Irene Charitas and even that name managed to morph over time, as she changed churches and moved from Steinwenden to more distant locations. She was called Irene Elisabetha, then Irene Charitas, then Regina Loysa, then Regina Elisabetha. She was identified as the mother of Johann Michael Muller, the second, when he was baptized in Steinwenden and then years later when she stood up at the baptism of his children. All I can say is God bless those Germans and their records.

  • Johann Michael Muller and Jacob Stutzman shared a mother.

Those church records confirmed that Irene/Regina by whatever name was the mother of both Jacob Stutzman and Johann Michael Muller. Johann Michael Muller the second was actually the half brother of Jacob Stutzman, through their mother.

https://dna-explained.com/2018/05/21/johann-michael-muller-and-johann-jacob-stutzman-half-brother-saga-its-complicated-52-ancestors-194/

Chris and Tom, my trusty friends, had tracked the Stutzman family through the records. I thought they were going to an awful lot of work for pretty much nothing since I wasn’t related to the Stutzman line, but they continued just the same. I sure am glad they knew what they were doing. Tom has so much more experience with old German records that I do or ever will have.

  • The Stutzmans and Mullers came from the same Swiss valley.

In those records, Tom and Chris tracked the earliest known Stutzman ancestor to Erlenbach, another village in the Simmental valley in Switzerland, about 10 miles from Schwarzenmatt.

Schwarzenmatt Simmental Valley

By Hadi – Own work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2369972

In the late 1660s, brothers Hans and Hans Jacob Stutzman, sons of Peter Stutzman had migrated from Erlenbach to Geislartern in the Saar Region of Germany.

  • Jacob Ringeisen is Johann Michael Muller’s cousin.

In the Steinwenden church records, a cousin of Michael Muller, Jacob Ringeisen is identified as being from Erlenbach as well. Erlenbach is about 10 miles from Schwarzenmatt, but Steinwenden is about 275 miles, so the chances of both Michael and Jacob accidentally winding up in the same locations is pretty remote. A group of Swiss settled in Steinwenden and clearly, Michael and Jacob were among those early immigrants.

  • The Boltigen church burned.

As far as the Muller records in Schwarzenmatt, the records had run out. The church was actually a mile or two down the valley, in Boltigen, and it burned, along with all the records in 1840.

That’s where we are in the story today.

Done, finit, right?

Not so fast!

Peter Mosimann

In the Heinsmann Muller article, I introduced you to Peter Mosimann whose wife’s ancestors lived in the house descended from the Muller family in Schwarzenmatt.

Heinsmann Muller original house

Peter authored a historical book about the area, including the Muller family, which much to my chagrin is out of print. Writing to his publisher and asking for the e-mail to be forwarded was not fruitful.

After waiting a respectable amount of time, Chris graciously wrote a snail mail letter to Peter Mosimann, who kindly replied.

In Peter’s reply, he mentioned a 1653 house inventory of Schwarzenmatt.

Johann Michael Muller, the first, was born about 1655 in Schwarzenmatt to Heinsmann Muller. 1653 is only two years before Michael’s birth, so surely Heinsmann was living there then.

Chris and I reasoned that if there was one Heinsmann Muller in Schwarzenmatt in 1653, he had to be the father of Johann Michael Muller.

Keep in mind how small this village is today.

Schwarzenmatt map

The original village is the area encircled in purple. Peter Mosimann’s wife’s Muller family home is located there – house number 409, right at the bottom right of the encircled area, at the intersection of the roads where the red arrow is pointing.

A Stutzman Researcher

Earlier this month, after discovering the work Chris had done with the Stutzman records, another researcher contacted him stating the following:

Just to keep you updated, I have found out that Stutzmanns living in Boltigen and Erlenbach are connected through Bettler family. Namely, Hans Stutzmann born in Erlenbach in 1625 married Magdalena Bettler, while another Magdalena Bettler who deceased in Boltigen in 1687 was also a wife of Hans Stutzman (see page 71: https://www.query.sta.be.ch/Dateien/18/D94449.pdf). The Hans Stutzmann who deceased in Boltigen in 1693 (see page 78) may be the husband of this Magdalena and might be the father of Hans who emigrated to Mönsheim.

I was excited. Chris and Tom were both more reserved.

They discussed this finding, and although it was interesting, this researcher also faced the same problem of the Boltigen records having burned, so they were rightly skeptical of this connection.

Then, the researcher sent another comment:

It is indeed intriguing as I have spotted one Stutzmann living in the very Schwarzenmatt hamlet, see here on page 44 (in pdf file, page 87 in the document): https://www.query.sta.be.ch/Dateien/18/D94449.pdf

You can bet that I jumped on that link right away which led to a book in the Canton Bern archives, from Boltigen. (Hmmm, apparently ALL the records didn’t burn after all.)

The dates on the book spine look like the records are from 1669 to 1720 or 1728. Of course, I can’t actually read this book, but I can do limited pattern matching and I do see a Muller on page 19 under 1682. I also found the record on page 87 that the researcher above referring to, along with several Muller names. It appears that the two Muller families in 1653 probably had several descendants by the early 1700s.

Christmas Wish

Ok, I’ve decided – what I want most for Christmas this year is for someone at the archives to transcribe this book into German that I can then enter into a translator. That would be just dandy. Santa, are you listening?

Really, what I need most is a name index. These old records written in German script are difficult for even the most seasoned translator, so all kidding aside, it’s no small feat. Let’s hope that Peter Mosimann has already transcribed these records. Will I be that lucky?

The House List

Peter Mosimann’s letter mentioned the 1653 house inventory in addition to saying that he would copy and send the relevant chapter of his book to Chris for translation. Peter does not speak English.

Patiently waiting apparently isn’t a trait that either Chris or I possess, so Chris found the Schwarzenmatt 1653 house list showing 43 houses in total. I’ve also learned that this isn’t actually a house register, but a hearth or chimney register and it’s possible that two families could be living in the same actual “house” but be listed separately because the house was large enough to have two chimneys.

Schwarzenmatt 1653 house list

With appreciation to Bern State Archive (Berner Staatsarchiv), BE II 283, page 69, Peter Mosimann and Chris.

Nine lines up from the bottom on the left page, we find Heintsman Muller. So it really is Heintzman or Heintsman, not Heinrich misspelled. This is me, doing a happy dance!!!

Schwarzenmatt two Mullers

If my eyes aren’t playing tricks on me, we also find a Wolfgang Muller four from the bottom, just 5 below Heintzman Muller. Is Wolfgang perhaps Heintzmann’s brother or maybe even his father?

Then, at the top of the right hand page we find Hans Stutzman.

Schwarzenmatt Stutzman

Bern State Archive (Berner Staatsarchiv), BE II 283, page 69

Yes, one Hans Stutzman lived right in the tiny village of Schwarzenmatt in 1653. Is it possible that he is the progenitor of the Stutzman line, and that both Hans and Hans Jacob found in the late 1600s in Erlenbach descended from Jacob in Schwarzenmatt or Jacob’s ancestor? If so, it’s certainly possible, if not probable, that Michael Muller born in 1655 and Hans Jacob Stutzman born in 1645 were already related. In fact, one would expect no less in a small mountain village in the Swiss Alps. Who else was available to marry except your neighbors, who had probably been neighbors in that same village or valley for generations. I wonder when surnames were adopted in this region.

Schwarzenmatt Miller Stutzman pedigree

It’s feasible that Jacob Stutzman and Michael Muller might well have been related, perhaps several times, on their respective father’s lines, in addition to sharing the same mother. They could have been second cousins paternally, or more distant. Or cousins several times over.

Further down on the right-hand page, below the heading for what appears to be a different village, it looks like there might be two more Mullers, but I can’t tell for sure. Eight rows below the heading it looks like Mulford Muller followed by two other words, and 4 below that might be Jacob Muller.

Although I can’t read the surnames on the list today, it’s also likely that Heintzmann Muller’s wife’s family is also from this village. Her parents may be listed as well. We just don’t know who, and probably never will, barring a new miracle of course.

Let’s do Math!

If 43 houses existed in 1653, and each couple had 10 children total, with half living in each generation, and half of the survivors being males, how many generations working backward until the first person settled in Schwarzenmatt. We are assuming no new people settled in the village which probably is not a legitimate assumption – but hey, how many people travel up a valley into the high mountains looking for a small village to live in.

For this exercise, we divide each generation by two. Two surviving male children and one child gets the existing house. The surviving females marry males in other families.

  • 43/2= 21 houses 1622
  • 21/2 = 11 houses in 1590
  • 11/2 = 5 houses in 1560

Using this example, in 1530, only 2 or 3 houses would have existed in Scharzenmatt, except settlement wasn’t exactly that linear or predictable. For example, in 1396 when the Canton of Bern acquired the land, the villages of Boltigen, Eschi, Schwarzenmatt and Weissenback were all listed, so clearly someone lived there long before 1530.

The local Boltigen church of St. Mauritius was first mentioned in 1228, so people were living there then, and enough people to organize and attend church. This also suggests that these families were probably all interrelated and had been in 1653 for at least the previous 4 generations and probably much longer.

Another Cousin

We know from the Ringeisen church records in Steinwenden that people living in the village of Erlenbach, 10 miles distant, are recorded as being cousins of Johann Michael Muller.

First cousins would share grandparents.

Of course, we don’t know if the church records in Steinwenden meant first cousins, or cousins more broadly.

Schwarzenmatt Ringeisen

It’s very difficult to discern more, but two of the possibilities are that Johann Michael Muller’s mother was a Ringeisen or a Seiler, sister to Jacob Ringeisen’s father or mother, or that Jacob Ringeisen’s mother or father was a sibling to Heintzman Muller’s unknown wife.

At this point, I’d like to say that we’ll probably never know, but this family, with the help of Chris, Tom and other researchers continues to surprise me. Maybe Peter Mosimann’s letter will contain additional information!

DNA

My mother is one generation closer than I am, and I am fortunate to have her autosomal DNA results at Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage and GedMatch.

The Stutzman/Miller line is greatly confused, not just by the fact that the two men are actually interrelated through their mother, but also by the fact that the Miller and Stutzman families subsequently intermarried in the US as they progressively migrated across the country together in Brethren communities, generation by generation.

I decided to see what I could find utilizing Ringiesen/Ringeisen, even though Ringeisen is very likely to be misspelled in the US. The Miller-Ringeisen connection, if it pertains to my line, is at least 10 generations back in time. A segment could persist, but it’s more likely NOT to. On the other hand, if endogamy is in play, that might help because many people in that population will carrying the same segments of DNA from a few founding ancestors.

Endogamy may have started in Schwarzenmatt and the Simmental Valley, but it continues to this day in Brethren communities.

At Family Tree DNA, I found no matches using Ringeisen or Ringiesen.

At MyHeritage, Mother does match an individual who has Ringeisen ancestors in Thurnen, Switzerland, not terribly far from Erlenbach. Is this a match from a common line, and in particular, this common line? I don’t know. I don’t recognize any of the other people that they match in common.

Schwarzenmatt Thurnen Erlenbach

I decided to paint that matching segment at DNAPainter to see if I could rule it out as a possibility or determine if it matches my Miller line which would lend the match some credibility. An 11.8 cM match is significant.

Schwarzenmatt DNAPainter

That gray-green segment overlaps with Mom’s nephew (burgundy), but so far, no other matches on that particular segment. The lavender colored band below the burgundy segment is Mom’s European ethnicity estimate from 23andMe. Both the lavender and burgundy are mostly obstructed by the black information box.

While Mother does triangulate with several people on this segment at MyHeritage, I don’t recognize any of them. Their trees, if they exist, don’t provide hints. I’ll need to be patient until Mom has a match on that segment from a known relative or someone who descends from a common ancestor to make more progress.

At GedMatch, by searching the pedigree charts for Ringeisen, I found one person who listed Hans Jacob Ringeisen born July 13, 1653 in Erlenbach who died on June 1, 1691 in Steinwenden. I then checked my mother’s kit and there was no match to the person’s email address listed as the Gedcom owner. They did have parents for Jacob listed as Christen Ringeisen who married Cathrina Seiler on December 23, 1629 in Erlenbach.

I checked my two first cousins for matches as well as a few another Miller cousins, all with no luck.

I’m striking out here.

At Ancestry, I have one Ringeisen DNA match of 15.6 cM on 1 segment to a man with 3 people in his tree. His mother’s birth surname was Ringeisen. I was able to track his Ringeisen line back to John H. Ringeisen born in 1812 in Germany. His first 4 children were born in Germany before he migrated to Ohio between 1844 and 1852. A private tree shows Johann Henrich Ringeisen born in 1812 in Waldmohr, Kusel, Germany, about 15 miles from Steinwenden.

We may have found a segment of Miller/Ringeisen DNA. Of course, without knowing  ore about other potential common ancestors in that gentleman’s tree and without being able to utilize a chromosome browser, I won’t be able to confirm. Perhaps I’ll ask if my Ancestry match will transfer to either Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage or GedMatch where I can confirm that segment.

In Summary

We made an amazing find on the 1653 house list among those 21 families living in Schwarzenmatt, positioning Hans Stutzman and Heintzman Muller as near neighbors. This opens the very real possibility that perhaps the Miller and Stutzman lines were related in the Simmental Valley, prior to immigrating to Germany, given that the families in Schwarzenmatt were few and located in a fairly remote alpine region.

Solving the mystery of how the Muller and Ringeisen families are related will have to wait for another day, if ever. I suspect that the Muller roots run deep in that beautiful alpine valley and Michael may have literally been related to everyone.

We have truly found the home of the Miller family in the beautiful Bernese Oberland, the highest portion of the Canton of Bern, in Schwarzenmatt, just beneath the Juan Pass.

My heart reaches back in time to Heintzmann Muller and before, to countless generations of my ancestors whose dust and DNA grace the majestic mountains and lush valleys of Switzerland. Johann Michael Muller may have left, but my soul found its way home.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

When DNA Leads You Astray

I’m currently going through what I refer to as “the great purge.”

This occurs when you can’t stand the accumulated piles and boxes of “stuff” and the file drawers are full, so you set about throwing away and giving away. (Yes, I know you just cringed. Me too.)

The great news is that I’ve run across so much old (as in decades old) genealogy from when I first began this journey. I used to make lists of questions and a research “to do” list. I was much more organized then, but there were also fewer “squirrel moments” available online to distract me with “look here, no, over here, no, wait….”

Most of those questions on my old genealogy research lists have (thankfully) since been answered, slowly, one tiny piece of evidence at a time. Believe me, that feeling is very rewarding and while on a daily basis we may not think we’re making much progress; in the big picture – we’re slaying that dragon!

However, genealogy is also fraught with landmines. If I had NOT found the documentation before the days of DNA testing, I could easily have been led astray.

“What?”, you ask, but “DNA doesn’t lie.” No, it doesn’t, but it will sure let you kid yourself about some things.

DNA is a joker and has no problem allowing you to fool yourself and by virtue of that, others as well.

Joke’s On Me

Decades ago, Aunt Margaret told me that her grandmother’s mother was “a Rosenbalm from up on the Lee County (VA) border.”

Now, at that time, I had absolutely NO reason to doubt what she said. After all, it’s her grandmother, Margaret Claxton/Clarkson who she knew personally, who didn’t pass away until my aunt was in her teens. Plenty close enough to know who Margaret Claxton’s mother was. Right?

DNA Astray Rosenbalm

Erroneous pedigree chart. Rebecca Rosenbalm is NOT the mother of Elizabeth Claxton/Clarkson.

I filled Rebecca Rosenbalm’s name into the appropriate space on my pedigree chart, was happy and smugly smiling like a Cheshire cat, right up until I accidentally discovered that the information was just plain wrong.

Uh oh….

Time Rolls On

As records became increasingly available, both in transcribed fashion and online, Hancock County, TN death certificates eventually could be obtained, one way or another. Being a dutiful genealogist, I collected all relevant documents for my ancestors, contentedly filing them in the “well that’s done” category – that is right up until Margaret Clarkson Bolton’s death certificate stopped me dead in my tracks.

margaret clarkson bolton death

Oops

Margaret’s mother wasn’t listed as Rebecca Rosenbalm, nor Rebecca anyone. She was listed as Betsy Speaks. Or was it Spears? In our family, Betsy is short for Elizabeth.

Who the heck was Elizabeth Speaks, or Spears. This was one fine monkey wrench!

A trip to Hancock County, Tennessee was in order.

I dug through dusty deed and court records, sifted through the archives in basements and the old jail building where I just KNEW my ancestors had inhabited cells at one time or another.

Yes, my ancestor’s records really were in jail!

Records revealed that the woman in question was Elizabeth Speaks, not Spears, although the Spears family did live in the area and had “married in” to many local families. Nothing is ever simple and our ancestors do have a perverse sense of humor.

Elizabeth Speak(s) was the daughter of Charles Speak, and the Speak family lived a few miles across the border into Lee County, Virginia. This high mountain land borders two states and three counties, so records are scattered among them – not to mention two fires in the Hancock County courthouse make research challenging.

Why?

I asked my Aunt Margaret who was still living at the time about this apparent discrepancy and she told me that the Rosenbalms “up in Rose Hill, Virginia” told her that her grandmother, Margaret Claxton/Clarkson was kin to them, so Margaret had assumed (there’s that word again) that Margaret Claxton’s mother was their Rebecca Rosenbalm.

Wrong!

The Kernel of Truth

Like so many family stories, there is a kernel of truth, surrounded by a multitude errors. Distilling the grain of truth is the challenge of course.

Margaret Claxton’s mother was Elizabeth (Betsy) Speak and her father was Charles Speak. Charles Speak’s sister, Rebecca married William Henderson Rosenbalm in 1854, had 4 children and died in February 1859. So there indeed was a woman named Rebecca (Speaks) Rosenbalm who had died young and wasn’t well known.

Rebecca’s sister Frances “Fanny” Speak also married that same William Henderson Rosenbalm in November 1859, a few months after Rebecca had died. Fannie also had 4 children, one of which was also named Rebecca Rosenbalm. Do you see a trend here?

So, indeed there were 7 living Rosenbalm children who were first cousins to Elizabeth Speak who married Samuel Claxton and lived a dozen miles away, over the mountains and across the Powell River. Now a dozen miles might not sound like much today, but in the mountains during horse and wagon days – 10 miles wasn’t trivial and required a multi-day commitment for a visit. In other words, the next generation of the family knew of their cousins but didn’t know them well.

The following generation included my Aunt Margaret who was told by those cousins that she was related to them through the Rosenbalm family. While, that was true for the Rosenbalm cousins, it was not true for Aunt Margaret who was related to the Rosenbalms through their common Speak ancestor.

Here’s what the family tree really looks like, only showing the lines under discussion.

DNA astray correct pedigree

You can see why Aunt Margaret might not know specifics. She was actually several generations removed from the common ancestor. She knew THAT they were related, but not HOW they were related and there were several Rebecca’s in several branches of the family.

Why Does This Matter?

You’ve probably guessed by now that someplace in here, there’s a moral to this story, so here it is!

You may have already surmised that I have autosomal DNA matches to cousins through the Rosenbalm/Speaks line.

DNA astray pedigree match

This is one example, but there are more, some being double cousins meaning two of Nicholas Speak’s 11 children’s descendants have intermarried. Life is a lot more complex in those hills and hollers than people think – and unraveling the relationships, both paper and genetic (which are sometimes two different things) is challenging.

DNA astray chromosome 10.png

I match this fourth cousin once removed (4C1R) on a healthy 18 cM segment on chromosome 10.

Wrong Conclusions

Now, think back to where I was originally in my research. I knew that Margaret Claxton/Clarkson was my aunt’s grandmother. I knew nothing at all about the Speak family and had never heard that surname.

Had I ONLY been looking to confirm the Rosenbalm connection, I certainly would have confirmed that I’m related to the Rosenbalm family descendants with this match. Except the conclusion that I descend from a Rosenbalm ancestor would have been WRONG. What we share are the Speak ancestors.

So really, the DNA didn’t lie, but unless I dissected what the DNA match was really telling me carefully and methodically with NO PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS, I would have “confirmed” erroneous information. Or, at least I would have thought that I confirmed it.

I would actually have been doing something worse meaning convincing myself of “facts” that weren’t accurate, which means I would have then been spreading around those cancerous bad trees. Guaranteed, I do NOT want to be that person.

Foolers

I can tell you here and now that I have found several matches that were foolers because I share multiple ancestors with a person that I match, even if those multiple ancestors aren’t known to either or both of us. Every single DNA segment has its own unique history. I match one individual on two segments, one segment through my mom and one segment through my dad. Fortunately, we’ve identified both ancestors now, but imaging my initial surprise and confusion, especially given that my parents don’t share any common ancestors, communities or locations.

We have to evaluate all of the evidence to confirm that the conclusion being drawn in accurate.

DNA astray painting

One of the sanity checks I use, in addition to triangulation, is to paint my matches with known ancestors on my chromosomes using DNAPainter. Here’s the match to my cousin, and it overlaps with other people who share the same ancestor couple. Several matches are obscured behind the black box. If I discover someone that I supposedly match from a different ancestor couple sharing this segment of my father’s DNA, that’s a red neon flashing sign that something is wrong and I need to figure out what and why.

Ignoring this problem and hoping it will go away doesn’t work. I’ve tried😊

Three possible things can be wrong:

  1. The segment is identical by chance, not by descent. With a segment of 18 cM, that’s extremely unlikely. Triangulation with other people on this same segment on the same parent’s side should eliminate most false matches over 7cM. The larger the match, the more likely it is NOT identical by chance, meaning that it IS identical by descent or genealogically relevant.
  2. The segment is accurately matched but the genealogy is confused – such as my Rosenbalm example. This can happen with multiple ancestors, or descent from the same family but through an unknown connection. Looking for other connections to this family and sorting through matches’ trees often provides hints that resolve this situation. In my case, I might have noticed that I matched other people who descended from Nicholas Speak, which would not have been the case had I descended through the Rosenbalm family.
  3. The third scenarios is that the genealogy is plain flat out wrong. Yea, I know this one hurts. Get the saw ready.

The Devil in the Details

Always evaluate your matches in light of what you don’t know, not in order to confirm what you think you know. Play the devil’s advocate – all the time. After all, the devil really is in the details.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Barbara Jean Ferverda “Bouché”: The Dancing Years – 52 Ancestors #220

As a grandparent, I love attending my granddaughters’ dance and theater performances. Every time, I think of mother and miss her. At every single performance, as I sit in the dark as the lights drop, before the program begins, I ponder how much mother would have loved to see her granddaughters’ perform. How proud she would be. I touch her ring that I always wear, bringing her with me, as much as I can.

My eldest granddaughter performed this fall in “The Music Man” at the local college. I see my mother clearly in her face.

My youngest granddaughter danced in “The Nutcracker” this year. She shares mother’s zest for life.

They sing, they dance, they play the piano beautifully. They didn’t get that from me.

It came directly from my mother, a woman they would never get to meet. But boy, would she ever be proud of them.

Girls, I’d like to introduce you to your great-grandmother. Long before she was a great-grandmother (although she was always a great grandmother😊), she was a grandmother and before that a mother and before that, a beautiful young woman with aspirations, just like you.

Like you, she was beautiful, both in body and soul, and it showed through her entire life in her every action. She was a glowing presence, leaving no one’s heart untouched. She saved lives, changed lives and loved deeply. She perfected dance, and through it she learned, inspired and taught. Dance changed her life, propelling her into an uncertain, amazing, terrifying future.

I’d like for you to meet that incredible woman, that hard-working professional dancer.

Mom danced tap and ballet in a modern style for the 1930s and 1940s when she was performing. She also sang beautifully and played the piano.

She began with local dance lessons and danced in recitals, just like you.

I think you’ll like her. Get a cup of tea and pull up your iPads, because hers is quite an incredible story that we’re about to unfold.

Silver Lake, Indiana

This older black and white picture of the house where Mom was born looks somewhat bleak, but the house still stands today. The porch has been enclosed and everything looks better in color and drenched in sunlight. Mom’s bedroom was upstairs in the little roof area that you can see extending over the porch.

Now, don’t laugh, but Mom’s childhood home is a funeral home today. Mom avoided all funerals held here. She just didn’t think she could deal with that.

Mom was born and raised in Silver Lake, Indiana back in 1922 when people used horses and buggies to get from place to place and cars were rare.

Mom began dancing about 1932 after a long painful bout with rheumatic fever, a disease that damaged her heart. She was 10 years old, exactly the age of my youngest granddaughter.

Mother spent months recovering and told me stories about how the weight of her own arms hurt her so badly she couldn’t stand the pain – or stand up. Her father carried her up and down the stairs and laid her on the couch. Her lifelong love of books began with him reading to her for hours to distract her through the characters in the book from her all-too-present unrelenting pain.

Physical therapy didn’t exist at the time, so dancing was suggested by her doctor to strengthen her heart after she recovered. Of course, dancing was vorbotten by the conservative churches in Silver Lake – but mother danced anyway. After all, it was for her health, not her enjoyment.

Dancing apparently worked. Mom lived another 73 years, until 2006 when she passed away at 83 years of age, still carrying the scars of that childhood disease but it did not defeat nor define her. Neither did the conservative churches nor the wagging tongues of the church women. Even her Brethren grandmother, Evaline Miller Ferverda who helped care for mother during the long months of her illness relented and approved.

Mom danced for years, studying with Violet Reinwald in Fort Wayne, Indiana, a nationally known dance instructor and performer. As mom got older, she began teaching and then performing professionally with Violet’s dance company. They toured northern Indiana, performing in theaters and in colleges. Her mother, Edith Lore Ferverda often played the piano and accompanied the performers.

Marriage, WWII and Divorce

Mom’s life took shape in another way, marked by WWII, graduation from high school, a marriage to her high school sweetheart, Dan Bucher, a child and divorce. All of those things happened quickly, in 1942 and 1943. Mom was all of 19 and 20 years old.

Mother and my brother John lived with her parents as she waited for her husband to return from WWII, but that marriage was destined to dissolve before he ever came home. Let’s just say that he wasn’t ready to settle down.

Divorced with a baby, Mom had to earn more than she could in tiny Silver Lake teaching dancing. There weren’t many options in a farming crossroads town – actually – there weren’t any options.

The divorce decree called for Dan to pay $4 per week child support, and no one could live on that and support a child as well.

The closest big city that sported a professional dance troupe – the only thing Mom knew how to do – was Chicago. Mom told me many years later that dancing, let alone dancing in Chicago far from her family wasn’t at all what she wanted to do. But she had no choice.

Mom wanted to go to school and become a bookkeeper, but her family didn’t believe in spending money on educating a female. Her brother, on the other hand, was sent to college to become a chemist. Besides, they had already spent all that money on dance lessons. So dance is what she did. And how!

Mom always made lemonade out of whatever lemons life served up.

Off to Chicago

Wearing an old borrowed fur coat and a hat made out of a muff, Mom traveled to Chicago with fingers crossed to audition for the Dorothy Hild Dancers.

Mother must have been terrified. Trembling in her dance shoes. What would have happened if she hadn’t gotten the job? Her life would have taken a dramatically different path, that’s for sure.

Mom aced the audition, got the job and began the next chapter of her life in Chicago. That sounds glamorous and seductive, but the reality was much different. She worked at least 12 hours a day, 7 days a week and lived in a hotel room with another dancer as a roommate with Dorothy Hild acting as both the house mother and the warden, enforcing strict rules.

According to the Chicago Tribute whose posh entertainment columns covered the Dorothy Hild Dancers’ every move, shows were offered in the Marine Dining Room at the Edgewater Beach Hotel daily at 8:30 and 10:30, except for Sunday when the dinner show was performed at 7:30.

The challenge in show business, of course, was to keep up and stay one step ahead of the competition. Acts couldn’t get stale.

An article on March 11th, 1945 mentions that the Dorothy Hild Dancers in the Marine Dining Room at the Edgewater Beach Hotel would offer four new routines; Arabian Nights, a swing novelty, Paper Dolls and Spangled Bolero. The dancers were accompanied by the full Wayne King Orchestra. At other times by Emil Vandas and his orchestra.

The Dorothy Hild Dancers’ reviews were glowing, such as, “the dazzling production numbers staged by Dorothy Hild who is doing the sort of work that should make some veteran producers search their souls and see if they haven’t been resting on dusty laurels.”

I even found a Thanksgiving dinner ad in the Chicago Tribute for the Marine Dining room, so we know what Mom was doing on Thanksgiving Day 1944 – and it wasn’t eating turkey with her family.

She was smiling through the pain of knowing that her family was gathered together and she was not there with them and her 17 month old son.

Judging from the reviews in the Tribune for just 1944 and 1945, it looks like the dancers prepared for at least a new set of 4 shows every other month, so 24 new complete shows each year – plus the renowned Christmas Extravaganza. On some of Mom’s clippings, the dates indicate that a particular specialty show only ran for 3 or 4 weeks. No wonder they were known as the most ambitious and the best show in Chicago.

What a grueling schedule. Learning the next set of shows while you were practicing and performing the current shows.

Stage Name

Mother’s birth surname was Ferverda and her married name was Bucher. Neither name made a good stage name, so she became Barbara Boucher or Bouché, with a French flair and a stage presence that belied her humble conservative Brethren roots in small-town Indiana. It may have only been 139 miles from Silver Lake to the Edgewater Beach Hotel, but show business was another world entirely.

This photo of Mom, one of my all-time favorites, was taken at the height of her dancing career when she was dancing in Chicago in the early 1940s. She always told a funny story about this picture, which was one of the marque slicks outside the theater.

Apparently in her haste to get to the studio in time for her photo shoot, Mom forgot her dance trunks. Trunks are like shorts that cover underwear. Costume skirts are short and you’re really not seeing anything risqué underneath.

She had a running tug-of-war with the photographer (Maurice Seymour) who kept exposing more of her legs for artistic purposes, and mother kept readjusting her skirt more modestly.

Based on the final photo, mother won. If you knew my mother, there was never any doubt about that.

As beautiful as mother was, and as glamorous as her life seemed, she missed her family, and in particular, her son desperately.

This photo was taken during these years and she looks profoundly sad. Makeup can hide a lot, but not this.

Dorothy Hild Dancers at the Edgewater Beach Hotel

By July of 1944, John had just celebrated his first birthday and Mom was in Chicago performing with the Dorothy Hild Dancers at the esteemed Edgewater Beach Hotel.

This was during the heyday of grand hotels who each tried to outdo the others with their Hollywood big band type shows. The Edgewater Beach was Chicago’s finest luxury hotel, on the waterfront with its own private beach, catering to the rich and famous including several presidents of the United States. One of their claims to fame was that they offered seaplane service.

The hotel was surrounded by a private park and gardens which you’ll see in some of the following photos.

Below, one of the lounges at the Edgewater Beach hotel.

A rare aerial photo at the time shows the massive structure on the lake.

Today, all that remains of the Edgewater Beach hotel built in 1916 and the apartments built in 1928 is the apartment building, now upscale condos with a pink façade.

The Scrapbooks

Mom faithfully kept scrapbooks, at least for the first couple of years she lived in Chicago.

I think that the scrapbooks of yesteryear were much like today’s resume. If you were looking for another dancing position, or side work, you took your scrapbook along. Not to mention my grandmother loved it!

Mother didn’t always use her stage name.

Above, a promotional photo of the Dorothy Hild Dancers with Mom second row far right. Look at those eye lashes! On the following page, on the back of the picture, Mom wrote the 10 dancer’s names.

Mary Lou Hai, probably not her real name, was mother’s roommate. Mother recalled that during World War II, Mary Lou’s family was “detained” in one of the detention camps in Arizona where the government secretly sent Americans of Japanese heritage living in this country. Mother said they were always afraid the authorities would come after Mary Lou, so Mary “became” Chinese. The war was very difficult for these young women, especially Mary Lou and mother whose families were affected in dramatically different ways.

Mary Lou couldn’t communicate with her family for fear of discovery. No letters, no calls, nothing. The US was at war with Japan, and Mary Lou couldn’t be exposed as Japanese or she would be sent to the detainment center with the rest of her family. All Japanese at that time and those with Japanese heritage, more than half of whom were US citizens, were suspected of being enemies.

Mother, on the other hand, was dating and then engaged to a man in the military. He was actively fighting the Japanese and would ultimately die in the war – yet these two women shared a room and a bond, dance, that transcended prejudice.

The Edgewater Beach Hotel advertised the shows on theater marquis style billboards outside like the old-time theaters. The Dorothy Hild Dancers opened for the big bands and famous acts like Frank Sinatra, Charlie Chaplin, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller and Wayne King, among others.

These photos were taken by Maurice Seymour known as “the photographer to the celebrities.” His specialty was theater, dance and in particular, ballet.

These “Maurice” photos, in addition to the one at the beginning of the article have been framed and hanging in my home for decades. He was clearly a talented photographer, catching Mom at her best. I’m so very grateful to have these.

I would love to have seen those larger-than-life marquee slicks outside the Edgewater Beach Hotel, advertising the performances by these lovely ladies. My grandparents and family members were also given copies of these photos. I hope that all those small-town naysayers who gossiped so cruelly about my mother caught a glimpse.

A friend sent me this video of the glitzy Chicago nightlife in 1947.

I believe mother was still dancing with the Dorothy Hild dancers at that time, and the Dorothy Hild Dancers are featured at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in the video. I think Mom may be the dark-haired woman in the front beginning at about minute 6:14. The Dorothy Hild group begins at minute 5:45 but the dancing horse received more coverage than the humans. I was so excited to see this – transporting me back 75 years in time – allowing me a brief glimpse into mother’s world.

Regardless of whether this is actually mother in the video, it’s the vibrant Chicago that mom knew.

Promotional Photos

The great news about being a dancer is that photos were taken. In fact, lots of photos.

If you’re wondering why I’ve included so many photos, that’s all I have left now. Photos and memories, and oh yes, her DNA. But as time creeps on and I pass from this earth and join mother, eventually, no one will have the memories to share, and fewer still will carry her DNA. The only thing I can pass on are the photos and the stories so that she isn’t forever erased.

The following pictures found in Mom’s scrapbook were taken in order to provide photos to the newspapers and for other publicity purposes. As I worked with these photos, I do believe we have an entire photo shoot here. How many people are that fortunate!

The above two photos were also pressed onto wood about one quarter inch thick. Then small statues approximately 6 inches high were cut in the shape of the outline of the dancer from the wood. The feet of the cutout were placed in a small wooden base. When I was a child, these two “dancers” stood on the table in the living room. Eventually, the extended hand broke off. I surely wish I had these mementoes today.

Mother had beautiful legs even into her 80s. She wore heels and skirts her entire life.

At one point, mother became almost skeletally thin. There are photographs of her  where her cheeks are sunken and she looks virtually anorexic, although anorexia had not been defined as a disease yet at that time, and I know that she did not have an eating disorder. She had a dancing disorder!

I also know mom missed a lot of meals, both due to scheduling and finances. The Dorothy Hild Dancers were regularly performing two shows per evening, plus one practice daily, and Mom told me she would lose 9-12 pounds a day during this time. She couldn’t keep weight on.

The metabolism she acquired during her dancing career would stay with her for the duration of her lifetime and would successfully see her through many years of 3 desserts, chocolate Hershey bars and plates of homemade fudge without gaining an ounce. I didn’t get that from her either.

As a teen, I was incredibly envious of how much Mom could eat. I would gain weight just watching her. She could and literally did make and eat copious quantities of anything and everything and never gained weight. When she passed away, weighing less than 100 pounds, we thought she had frozen prepared meals in her freezer, but the entire freezer was crammed full of different kids of ice cream. “Second” and “third” dessert she called them.

Mother loved chocolate. That, I did get from her!

The War Interferes

Once again, the War would directly affect Mother’s life.

Sometime before the end of 1944, mother met Frank Sadowski, a medical student who had enlisted to serve in the Army in February of 1943.

Frank’s sister, Margie or Maggie, also danced with the Dorothy Hild dancers which explains how they met – especially given that Dorothy’s dancers were not allowed to date nor to go out in the evenings. There would be no rumors about her dancers!

By the end of 1944, Mom and Frank were an item and planned to marry when his military tour was over.

Frank’s military service ended brutally when he was killed on April 19, 1945 on Okinawa, attempting to save another man.

Frank’s body wasn’t returned to the family until March of 1949, just a couple of weeks before Mom abruptly ended her dancing career. I don’t know positively, but suspect those two things are related.

I wrote about Frank here, here and here. (Entire case of Kleenex warning.)

The Premonition

Mother confided that she knew Frank would be killed, in the same way she knew so many things she couldn’t have known. Mom said she cried too long the last time Frank left from the train station, and couldn’t stop crying…because she knew it would be the last time she saw him on this earth. Frank’s death devastated mother – to the point where she was never the same. Throughout the rest of her life, this chapter was extremely difficult for her to discuss. It only closed when she rejoined him across the divide.

In 1945, the war was drawing to a close. Had Frank managed to survive just a little longer…

If only.

If only.

Victory in Europe Day

Mother was at the home of her voice coach in Chicago when the word of VE (Victory in Europe) Day arrived on May 8th, 1945, via a call from the Mayor’s office requesting a group of singers for a victory celebration in the circle that evening in downtown Chicago.

Her coach hung up and asked Mother if she could perform. Mother said yes, she could, and she did, singing her heart out for America and “the boys” on State Street, along with 20-25 others, many of whom were vocal students at Northwestern University.

This photo from the Chicago Tribute shows the massive crowds. The city literally shut down. In the paper the next day, the following column tells more about the atmosphere.

I never realized until I read this article that lights were dimmed to conserve resources during the war.

Mom said that the VE Day announcement was wonderful and that some of the people she worked with had family in the European theater.

She also told me that she almost didn’t make it through her solo, knowing that while many would come marching home, Frank would not. He hadn’t even been gone a month. I’m amazed she could perform at all. It’s a testament to her strength. She straightened her back and stiffened her spine and that mighty women simply did whatever was required. If any single moment defines my mother, this is it.

In a 1995 interview with the Kokomo Tribune to celebrate the 50th anniversary of VE Day, Mother said “we were kind of a chorus on a hastily constructed stage.” Festivities began “two o’clockish and the downtown was very, very crowded.“ Everyone was celebrating. Mom said they performed songs that everyone knew, such as God Bless America, the National Anthem and “most everything of a patriotic nature.”

The program lasted about 90 minutes and “I remember I got tired standing.” Her voice breaking even then, a half century later, as she recalled “the sad undercurrent. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it was VJ Day too?” (VJ = Victory in Japan)

For Frank, and for mother, victory had come too late.

The newspaper article indicated that Mother communicated with two men fighting the Japanese, and she mentioned “underneath the festivities was the fact that there was still war in the Pacific; you couldn’t see any end in sight.”

Mom wasn’t alone. This small buried article tells what was happening in Okinawa on VE Day, and how those men felt.

Mom continued, “I felt kind of lonesome in the crowd…there was no one I knew there. But I did sing…I did what I was supposed to do. I was glad those people in Europe were ready to come home.”

What she never told the reporter was that Frank had just been killed – 19 days earlier. I’m not sure how long Mom had known. Dan had returned alive, but that relationship and her hope of being his wife and raising a family in Indiana was lost to mother just the same. WWII was nothing but one heartbreak after another for Mom – and she danced and sang through it all.

I asked mother if she was excited, and she said that she was, but she knew all of the problems were not yet over. Many of her friends were serving in Europe and Japan, and not all of them would return alive.

Frolicking on the Lawn

Mom continued dancing. At some point in time, a roll of film was taken of her friends in the Dorothy Hild Dancers enjoying themselves on the lawn of the Edgewater Beach Hotel.

Cameras and film were both rare, and many items were rationed during this time in order that the country’s resources could be focused on the war effort. A roll of film was a luxury indeed.

There’s more than one way to climb a slide! Success!!

Mary Tan Hai

Mom at the wishing well. I wonder what she was wishing for.

Mom is sitting second from left in the chair.

I’m glad to see that the ladies knew how to have fun. I suspect Mom took these photos since she isn’t in the ones above.

I love this candid. Mom is so beautiful.

Mom in both photos, above. These photos were taken on two different days because she has two outfits on, and coats are worn on one day and not the other.

Mom and Mary look so happy in this photo. It’s one of my favorites. Two lovely young souls. Sadly, Mom lost track of Mary and her address book, still in my possession lends no clues.

Mom’s and Mary’s two worlds collided head on. Mom’s fiancé was killed by the Japanese in the war, while she was rooming with Mary. Mary’s family had been incarcerated in the US because they were of Japanese heritage, despite being citizens.

It would have been so easy to blame each other for circumstance neither woman could either influence or control, but they didn’t. They loved each other as sisters and the protective shield that the dancers wove around Mary may well have spared her life. It certainly preserved her freedom.

On the Road

At some point, the dancers began to travel. I know that Mother met my father on a train between Philadelphia where she was dancing and Chicago where the troupe was returning. There are other hints as well in the various newspaper articles in her scrapbook.

Below, she performed at the State Fair at the Coliseum, with Jimmy Dorsey, but it never says what state’s fair.

Mom’s second left from the end.

Judging from the newspaper article, Andy’s was in Minneapolis.

A few of the girls formed their own smaller dance troupe. Mom also performed on her own.

The Club Belvidere was in Springfield, Illinois

At least one of Mom’s engagements was in Cincinnati, Ohio.

I have to laugh. “Slick tap routines.”

1331 Hennepin Avenue was in Garden City, Michigan, which surprised me. I had no idea she had danced in Michigan.

The Silver Cloud was located in Chicago.

Mom performed at the Faust Club in Peoria, Illinois. I see her stage name was Boucha here, or misspelled.

Wayne King was a Big Band leader. This appears to be the gentleman in the dance promotional photograph with mother.

This photo looks like another from the Maurice Seymour studio.

More clippings from Mom’s scrapbook.

I sure wish I had the originals of these photos.

Fencing? Well, I had to admit that’s different!

The Club Hollywood was located at 9000 West Belmont in Franklin Park, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. Today, this location is the O’Hare Logistics Center for the airport.

There’s a significant gap in Mom’s scrapbook entries. I wonder if she simply got tired of clipping, or if an entire book went missing.

While many of Mother’s engagements were in the Chicago area, some were fairly distant. The program for this event tells us that she was Miss Zenith Radio.

Who knew. It looks like this might have been in 1948.

The event below took place in Omaha, and they thought she was sweet.

The Trocadero was a well-known up-scale club in Omaha in the 1940s. I’m sure mother received lots of propositions and proposals too.

Mom probably developed a second sense about situations like this. However, as a very interesting side-note, George Bentley IS in Mom’s address book with two phone numbers. Four digit phone numbers no less. Now you know I just HAVE to research this person.

In the 1940 census, George, an electrician is married and 41 years old, if it’s the same George. Of course, by 1948, he might not have been married, although his wife is still listed as his SS death beneficiary in 1972. Or he might have been separated, or not been truthful about being married. I might have the wrong George Bentley too, as the address doesn’t match that of the City Directory or the 1940 census, but there isn’t another George Bentley in Omaha.

Looking at the map today, 1411 N. 30th, the address in mother’s book is a residential neighborhood with a contemporary church on the property, not the type of area where clubs are located. Judging from this and other hints, it appears that mother might have been attracted to older men. My father was about 20 years older than Mom. Hmmm….

Was George another heartbreak that we know nothing about? Is that why his note is in her scrapbook and his name in her address book?

The above photo is inside the Memories of Omaha folder. I just have to ask myself, what was Mom doing in Omaha and is there a “rest of the story?”

This is also the only photo in existence where my Mom appears to be a bit “chubby.”

The duration of a dancing career is by necessity, short. A dancer’s body just can’t withstand the prolonged abuse. At some point, mother broke her foot, the kiss of death for a dancer.

In 1949, she withdrew her membership in the American Guild of Variety Artists, officially ending her career as a performer just a couple weeks after Frank’s body was returned home and buried. I can’t say for sure that those two things are connected, but I’m willing to bet that they are.

The Scrapbooks End

Mother’s Chicago scrapbook ends between 1945 and 1948 although she didn’t withdraw from the guild until 1949. The Miss Zenith Radio clipping was from 1948 and she was clearly still performing at that time. Mom said that after the war ended, dancing engagements were more difficult to procure, and things had changed. There was less interest in big bands and the clubs were becoming more interested in less clothing, a style of dancing Mom personally did not embrace.

There’s no question that dancing profoundly influenced Mother’s life. Dancing probably saved her life when it functioned as physical therapy to strengthen her heart, but it also cost her greatly in many ways, as she was never able to be “normal.” Mother traveled and performed, a lifestyle not conducive to a traditional relationship. And far from anything she had seen or dreamed of growing up in Silver Lake. This was not in any of the accepted role “scripts” for women of that era.

Because of her nontraditional career, in a time when few women had any career and most women aspired to marry, have children and not work outside the home, she was never a candidate to become a traditional wife and mother. Mom struggled mightily with that dichotomy. It “shouldn’t” have mattered, but it did.

Like other women, mom very much wanted a loving relationship and a family. She was also divorced which carried with it a shameful stigma at that time as well, not to mention that her parents were raising her child. Mother was supposed to somehow fit into a traditional mold, which she clearly couldn’t, and was judged personally by failing at those “traditional” standards. She was trapped between two worlds and didn’t fit in either.

Whether dancing ultimately benefitted her more or cost her more, only she could say.

Looking Back

As I look back on her life, I’m impressed at the incredible bravery and fortitude my mother exhibited. Of course, I had no idea of the challenges she faced when I was younger. True to form, she never shared the negative aspects of her life.

I could not have realized the magnitude of the discrimination faced by women and the stigma painted upon women who worked, especially in the entertainment industry, that many conflated, intentionally or otherwise, with “working girls.”

Mother spent the first third of her life working hard and training to be “good enough” to dance professionally, and the rest of her life trying to leave her showgirl life behind and simply be considered be “good enough,” period. Good characteristics of an outgoing performer weren’t considered assets in a demure obedient wife.

While it wasn’t guarded as a secret, let’s just say we didn’t discuss Mom’s dancing career at the Baptist church after she married my wonderful step-father and moved to a hog farm in conservative, rural Indiana. Her previous career was treated much as a mysterious “famous” past that mother was simply too humble to brag about.

However, that suitcase full of beautiful, glittering sequenced costumes holding their secrets of spotlights past bedeviled the plain “housewife” existence she tried to mold herself into for the rest of her life. Perhaps that was her greatest and most successful act of all, guild actor’s card or not.

After the dancing chapter of her life ended, she found a way to pursue the career she had dreamed of initially – that of becoming a bookkeeper. Her new career, although it paid poorly as all women’s jobs did at the time, ultimately led her to heartland Indiana where I was raised.

Ironically, the life of struggle that she endured stoically and bravely and tried so hard to put behind her is one of the very reasons I’m so proud of her today.

Proud that she broke ground for the rest of us.

Proud of her sacrifice.

Proud of who she was.

Proud that she never let her beauty alter her moral character.

Proud of her humility and lifelong service to others.

Proud that she endured in a period of unending challenges and struggle – and survived.

Proud that she ultimately found a way to follow the dream she had never been able to pursue. She became a bookkeeper for more than 20 years, followed by being an Avon lady for another quarter century. Mom didn’t retire until she was 82.

Here’s Mom, saying goodbye to her last Avon customer in May of 2005.

Proud of her three careers, spanning more than 65 years.

Proud of that stunningly beautiful dancer who would one day become my mother and infect me with her hard-won tenacity.

Proud that she has passed her legacy on to her lovely granddaughters.

I see her in their beautiful faces and hear her in their sweet voices. She would be so proud of them.

Mom loved Christmas, Christmas music, and Christmas performances. She would have been in the midst of her element at these performances, making sure everyone’s makeup was “just so.” Their lipstick on straight and enough rouge and powder. No washing out and no shining skin on stage. Yes, she would have been right in the middle of everything, a mother hen, helping everyone.

So girls, even though she can’t sit in the theater seats beside me in person to watch your stage productions, she is here, always here, always beside me, proudly watching. I guarantee it!

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The first number represents the number of non-matching locations you have above 111 markers – in this case, 4. In the csv download file, this value is displayed in the “Big Y-500 Differences” column.

The second number represents the total number of markers above 111 that have a value for both of you – in this case, 441. In other words, you and the other man are being compared on 441 marker locations. In the csv download file, this value is displayed in the “Big Y-500 Compared” column.

Because the markers above 111 are processed using NGS (next generation sequencing) scan technology, virtually every kit will have some marker locations that have no-calls, meaning the test doesn’t read reliably at that location in spite of being scanned several times.

It’s more difficult to read STRs accurately using NGS scan technology, as compared to SNPs. SNPs are only one position in length, so only one position needs to be read correctly. STRs are repeated of a sequence of nucleotides. A 20 repeat sequence could consist of 20 copies of a series of 4 nucleotides, so a total of 80 positions in a row would need to be successfully read several times.

Let’s take a look at how matching works.

How Does Big Y-500 STR Matching Work?

If you have a total of 441 markers that read reliably, but your match has a total of 439 that produced results, the maximum number of markers possible to share would be 439. If you both have no calls on different marker locations, you would match on fewer than 439 locations. Here’s an example just using 9 fictitious markers.

Y500 match example

Based on the example above, we can see that the red cells can’t match because they experienced no-calls, and the yellow cells do have results, but don’t match.

Y500 summary

New Filter

There’s also a new filter option so you can view only matches that have taken the Big Y-500 test.

Y500 filter

Let’s look at some of the questions people have been asking.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question 1: Are the markers above 111 taken into account in the Genetic Distance column?

Answer: No, the values calculated in the genetic distance column are the number of mismatches for the marker level you are viewing using a combination of the step-wise and infinite alleles mutation models. (Stay with me here.)

In our example, we’re viewing the 111 marker level, so the genetic distance tells you the number of mismatches at 111 markers. If we were viewing the 67 marker level, then the genetic distance would be for 67 markers.

The number of mismatches above 111 markers shows separately in the “Big Y-500 STR Differences” column and is calculated using the infinite alleles model, meaning every mutation is counted as one difference. You can read more about genetic distance in the article, Concepts – Genetic Distance.

The good news is that you don’t need to calculate anything, but you may want to understand how the markers are scored and how the genetic distance is calculated. If so, go ahead and read question 2. If not, skip to question 3.

Question 2: What’s the difference between the step-wise model and the infinite alleles model?

Answer: The step-wise model assumes that a mutated value on a particular marker of multiple steps, meaning a difference between a 28 for one man and a 30 for another is a result of two separate mutation events that happened at different times, so counted as 2 mutations, 2 steps, so a genetic distance of 2.

However, this doesn’t work well with palindromic markers, explained here, where multi-copy markers, such as DYS464, often mutate more than one step at a time.

Counting multiple mathematical differences as only one mutation event is called the infinite alleles model. For example, a dual copy marker that has a value of 15-16 could mutate to 15-18 in one step and would be counted as one mutation event, and one difference and a genetic distance of one using the infinite alleles model. The same event would count as 2 mutation events (steps) and a genetic distance of 2 using the step-wise mutation model. In this article, I explain which markers are calculated using which methodology.

Another good infinite alleles example is when a location loses it’s DNA at a marker entirely. If the marker value for most men being compared is 10 and is being compared to a  person with no DNA at that location, resulting in a null value of 0 (which is not the same as a no-call which means the location couldn’t be read successfully), the mutation event happened in one step, and the difference should be counted as one event, one step and a genetic distance of one, not 10 events, 10 steps and a genetic distance of 10.

To recap, the values of markers 1-111 are calculated by a combination of the step-wise model and the infinite alleles model, depending on the marker number and situation. The differences in markers above 111 are calculated using the infinite alleles model where every mutation or difference equals a distance of one unless a zero (null) is encountered. In that case, the mutation event is considered a one. However, above 111 markers, using NGS technology, most instances where no DNA is encountered results in a no-read, not a null value.

Question 3: Has the TIP calculator been updated?

Answer: No, the TIP calculator does not take into account the new markers above 111. The TIP calculator relies upon the combined statistical mutation frequency for each marker and includes haplogroup differences. Therefore, it would be difficult to compensate for different numbers of markers, with various markers missing for each individual above 111 markers. The TIP calculator only utilizes markers 1-111.

Question 4: Do projects display more than 111 markers?

Answer: No, projects don’t display the additional markers, at least not yet. The 111 marker results require scrolling to the right significantly, and 500 markers would require 5 times as much scrolling to compare values. Anyone with an idea how to better accomplish a public project display/comparison should submit their idea to Family Tree DNA.

Question 5: Which markers above 111 are fast versus slow mutating?

Answer: Results for these markers are new and statistical compilations aren’t yet available. However, initial results for surname projects in which several men who share a surname and match have tested indicate that there’s not as much variation in these additional markers as we’ve seen in the previous 111 markers, meaning Family Tree DNA already selected the most informative genealogical markers initially. This suggests that the additional markers may provide additional mutations but probably not five times as many as the initial 111 markers.

Question 6: Why do I have more mutations in the first 111 markers than I do in the 389+ markers above the 111 panel?

Answer: That’s a really good question. You’ve probably noticed in our example that the men have dis-proportionally more mutations in the first 111 markers than in the markers above 111.

Y500 genetic distance

The trend is clearly for the first 111 markers to mutate more frequently than the 379+ markers above 111. This means that the first 111 markers are generally going to be more genealogically informative than the balance of the 379+ markers. However, and this is a big however, if the line marker mutation that you need to sort out your group of men occurs in the markers above 111, the number of mutations and the percentages don’t mean anything at all. The information that matters is how you can utilize these markers to differentiate men within the line you are working with, and what story those markers tell.

Of course, the markers above 111 are free as part of the Big Y-500 test which is designed to extract as much SNP information as possible. In essence, these STR markers are icing on the cake – a treat we never expected.

Bottom Line

Here’s the bottom line about the Big-Y 500 STR markers. You don’t know what you don’t know and these 379+ STR markers come along with the Big Y test as a bonus. If you’re looking for line-marker STR mutations in groups of men, the Big Y-500 is a logical next step after 111 marker testing.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Connect With Your Inner Viking

Let’s take a walking heritage tour of Oslo, Norway. We’ll see the city of Olso, the harbor and waterfront, excavated Viking ships, historic Norwegian villages, the Sami people and the Museum of Cultural History. Yes, Oslo has all that…and more.

But first, let’s talk about the Vikings, their history and why you might just care – as in personally.

The Vikings and You

Might you have a bit of Viking blood? If your ancestors came from, well, almost anyplace in coastal or riverine Europe, you might. The Vikings tended to follow the waterways, both sea and river.

Earth map by NASA; Data based on w:File:Viking Age.png (now: File:Vikingen tijd.png), which is in turn based on http://home.online.no/~anlun/tipi/vrout.jpg and other maps.

If your ancestors came from Scandinavia, Normandy, Ireland or England, you probably do have a Viking someplace in your past whether they show up in your DNA or not.

Max Naylor – Own work

However, you may find hints in your DNA.

I’m still complete fascinated by the fact that my mitochondrial DNA originated in Scandinavia even though my most distant known matrilineal ancestor is found in Germany. My Scandinavian matches are shown clustered below.

My mitochondrial match list at Family Tree DNA is full of surnames like Jonsdotter, Nilsdotter, Jansdotter, Larsdotter, Martensdotter, Persdotter, Olsdotter, Pedersdotter, Karldatter, Johnson, Palsdatter, Olausdotter and so forth. There’s no question about where this line originated. The only question is how, when and why Elizabeth Wenig’s matrilineal ancestors traveled to Germany where she was married to Hans Schlicht and gave birth to Elizabeth Schlicht in 1698. Elizabeth married in Wirbenz, Germany, far from Scandinavia.

That white pin shows where my most distant ancestor, Elizabeth Wenig lived. My best guess, and that’s what it is now, is that her arrival may have been connected with the Swedish involvement in the 30 Years War.

Regardless, Scandinavia is my mitochondrial heritage and I loved it in Oslo. I was quite surprised, because I never thought I’d fall in love with a “cold” country – but I did.

My paper trail genealogy suggests that I also descend from Rollo, the Viking warrior best known for having besieged Paris and ruled Normandy. Of course, given that Rollo was born about 860 and died about 930, there’s no genetic proof. It’s a fun story, but my own mitochondrial DNA holds proof of my Scandinavian heritage.

Is there a bit of Viking in you too? Join me in exploring the cultural heritage of Oslo and Norway. I’d love to share this beautiful city with you and your inner Viking. Come along!

Oslo

Welcome to Oslo, a beautiful city located on a fjord, full of history and Scandinavian charm. This was my first glimpse through the clouds. Even sleep deprivation of the red eye trip couldn’t mute my excitement.

One of the things I noticed is that dusk falls early, beginning about 2:30 in early November.

I didn’t realize until the second day that this really was dusk, not just a cloudy sky. The latitude is about the same as Anchorage, Alaska.

The Scandinavians have adapted art to dark.

This beautiful fountain in front of the University of Oslo along the main street, Karl Johann’s Gate, changes from pink to red to white to aqua to apple green to teal to magenta to red to dark purple to royal blue to kind of a frosty blue – and back again. This isn’t night, it’s late afternoon and the city center is full of people.

Bordering the public fountain area on one side we find the National Theater.

Ulven, which I think is a rock musical is playing, but we didn’t attend.

Standing between these stately columns of the Oslo University building, looking across the beautiful cobblestones, you see the National Theater. The fountain is between these two buildings, to the right slightly, just outside this photo.

I just love this design. Even art-inspired cobblestones.

We strolled through the Oslo University campus, enjoying every minute. Trash on the streets and ground is almost non-existent. The Natural History Museum is visible in the distance.

Statues grace the streets and parks. Some older and some contemporary.

Historic buildings are around every corner.

Experiences are made of people. Dr. Penny Walters (England), Martin McDowell (Northern Ireland) and me were the dynamic trio for two days, immersed in as much culture as we could cram in, including our own version of a haunted troll bridge.

This blue structure was designed to keep pedestrians safe in a construction area, but when you stepped on the end, something back in the middle, behind you, clunked disconcertingly. We joked and laughed, a bit uneasily perhaps, about having our own Norwegian troll, because it happened every single time😊

Trolls are part of the cultural heritage of Norway, a legend of Norse mythology.

Here’s the front of Oslo City Hall. The other side is the waterfront area.

This contemporary art is found along the waterfront with the masts of the tall ships showing at right, above the sign, in front of the Nobel Peace Center and Museum.

The entire waterfront area is cultural, with performers and ever-present activities.

I’m not exactly sure what this is, other than interesting. Coffee shops abound, and don’t bother asking for decaf, or Starbucks.

The waterfront is both lovely and historic.

The Nobel Peace Center and Museum faces the harbor.

The old fort still stands sentry in the distance above the harbor.

Viking Ship Museum

We caught tram number 30 on the waterfront and rode some distance to the Viking Ship Museum.

This incredible museum was literally built around and for salvaged Viking ships that had been pulled out of the sea and used for burials of high-status Vikings, probably chieftains or warriors, or perhaps individuals who were both.

In addition to the ships, this museum holds the remains of burial mounds, skeletons (I want their DNA), artifacts, a beautifully carved cart and more – much more.

This is the welcome that greets visitors. Utterly breathtaking.

I particularly love the shadows of the ships on the walls. Graceful elegance – perhaps this design needs to work itself into my future quilts.

These ships were incredibly crafted and are amazingly well preserved.

Is this the Viking version of a sea serpent? A creature from mythology? Dragon ships, called Drakkar from Norse mythology carried dragons and snakes on their prow. No actual dragon ship has ever been discovered, but these prow creatures might serve a similar function.

The grace and artistry on these longships is absolutely amazing. They were huge, more than 70 feet long and 16 feet wide.

When sailed, they could travel more than 11 MPH and they traversed the open sea – to Iceland, Greenland and eventually, as far as L’Anse aux Meadows in Canada, called Vinland.

These ships could also be rowed. Notice the oar holes on the sides and the brackets on the top of the sides to hold the oars.

The fact that these people were willing to sacrifice something so valuable and beautiful to become a virtual casket says something profound about the person being buried.

This museum was created to house these priceless relics. Each burial was accompanied by a burial hut, with a mound on top. The ship was buried first, followed by the hut on top with the mast sticking through. Then the entire ship and hut were covered with an earthen mount. The top of the mast was left protruding through the top of the mound.

The museum created an amazing 3D experience projected on the walls and ceiling around the ship in one of the four rooms housing the ships and artifacts, representing what the burial process must have been like – as historically accurate as possible, reconstructed from the archaeology. It’s almost like reaching back in time and standing right there as the burial occurred. I took this short 5 minute video and it’s incredible!

If you can’t get in touch with your inner Viking here, you can’t get in touch with your inner Viking!

Viking Grave Goods

This carved cart was excavated from one of the burials. The Vikings clearly sent their dead to the afterlife with the finest they had to offer.

Those wheels! Notice the human face above the wheel.

Every ship had a different carved creature on the prow. Was this a good luck charm of sorts, a protecting amulet or perhaps meant to frighten anyone who might come into contact with the ship or its inhabitants?

I so wonder what these were meant to portray. Good luck? Fear? A deity? Confer protection?

These designs remind me of later Celtic work. I have to wonder which came first – chicken or egg?

I wonder if these are mythical creatures, each with a long-lost story. Imagine sitting by the fires at night, or sailing in the ships themselves as they rocked on the waves, listening to stories about the Norse Gods that had been handed down in the same way for millennia.

Viking shoes laced up the center and then the laces were tied around the ankles. The people’s feet were small compared to ours today.

A carved sled, one of two on display.

These artifacts are pieces of art.

I wonder if these items were actually used or were ceremonial in nature, given their intricate carving.

Norwegian Museum of Cultural History

Next door to the Viking Ship Museum is the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, called the Norsk Folkenmuseum. It’s an outdoor “folk museum.”

We are actually moving forward in time, from the Viking era to early Norwegian villages scattered along the coastlines and protected from the open sea inside fjords. Of course, many of these villages probably began as Viking encampments and evolved into farming and agricultural hamlets.

We walked along the sidewalk and the thickly vine-covered wall. .

This coffee-shop was just too inviting and as it so happened, the gateway to the folk museum – a series of “villages” designed to represent various historical regions of Norway.

The outdoor museum was constructed as groups of structures, clustered in villages from various parts of Norway. Instead of destroying these old structures, they were disassembled piece by piece and brought here to be conserved and preserved.

Let’s go inside for a walk – or as it turned out, a hike.

Notice the sod roofs.

The roof was layered with grass, sod, wood or rock edges and birch bark.

We couldn’t tell if the rocks simply lined the edge or were a base layer. This would seem awfully heavy.

Some roofs were shimmed.

The doors were small, probably to conserve heat.

Many buildings were elevated to keep rodents out.

Buildings clustered around a plowed field.

Look at this incredible decorative carving. Each structure had the owners initials and the year of construction incised above the door. (You can click to enlarge the images.)

Around a curve, we discovered a Sami family homestead.

A barn or animal enclosure.

Some of the Sami structures, called lavvu, look like teepees of the Native Americans in North America, but genetically, they don’t seem to be related. The Sami are, however, related genetically to the Russian people of the Uralic region.

The Sami people of the north are nomads, traditionally living a subsistence culture centered around the reindeer.

Their bone carvings and weaving are stunning.

Nothing goes to waste.

We should have known we were in trouble when we noticed mile markers. How many were there? A lot!

Notice the roofs in the background. The museum is quite hilly.

In some places, outright steep. Notice those stacked rocks beside the path.

Maybe a barn in an odd shape?

One of the museum highlights was the incredible stave church.

The church, from the 12th century, saved by the very visionary King of Norway in 1881 is undergoing repair but was open to visitors.

The King with the church.

Interior door. The carving on this doorway is very similar to the carving on the Viking prows – so you can see that the Norwegian culture evolved from the Vikings to contemporary residents. The Vikings didn’t “go” anyplace and live on today.

The church interior Last Supper painting after the Norwegians were converted to Christianity from Paganism.

The carved doors are amazing. Notice how worn the thresholds are from millions of footsteps.

What a beautiful, peaceful, view.

Ornate church roof structures.

So, how many genealogists does it take to decipher the roman numerals on the front of this church?

The answer: III

The construction of some of these buildings is amazing.

These were built to last!

Saying goodbye to the church, we found ourselves overlooking another village.

The sod roof is also being repaired (replaced?) on one of the structures.

Another milestone.

Do you see the face? Is this a troll?

Buildings from another region with rounded and taller arches over doorways.

I love this fence.

Walking down this hillside feels like we are arriving from the country into the village. This village has its own sauna drying laundry facility.

Complete with scented herbs.

This barn smells with the sweet scent of hay. Reminds me of home.

Regional differences in architecture are quite visible.

Each door and post is carved.

Love these ornate doors but mind your head.

I think we found the jail.

These structures had one room that functioned for everything for the entire family. No such thing as privacy.

Smoke exited, light entered. These were carved in the wall, not the roof.

For the most part, windows didn’t exist. We did not notice vent holes on the top or in the roofs of most structures.

Although some had chimneys with metal tops to keep the birds out, weighted down by rocks to keep the tops from blowing away.

This larger home was ornate and 2 story.

Built in bird houses.

Martin pondering Norwegian heritage.

I just love these different fence styles – many of which I’ve never seen before. You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl.

Just humor me and my fence infatuation.

Two styles of fences along with two styles of rock walls – all in one picture.

Yet another fence type in another region.

In Hardanger, a few buildings had slate roofs.

This building’s cornerstones look like they might break under the weight.

Snuck another fence in on you😊

It was getting dark by the time we finished our tour of Norway’s little villages, so we caught the tram back into Oslo. The next morning, we visited the Museum of Cultural History.

Museum of Cultural History

The ticket for the Viking Ship Museum included a free pass for Museum of Cultural History, visible from my hotel room, a block or so from the hotel. The outside is getting a facelift and inside, new exhibits, so only portions were open – but they were well worth the visit.

While this museum held several fascinating exhibits, the ones I enjoyed the most were the ones related to Scandinavian history.

I can see myself drinking out of this beautiful Viking drinking horn. Mead perhaps?

The Vikings were clean people, combing their hair regularly and the manes of their horses as well.

The Vikings and Scandinavians were incredible craftsmen.

That Stave Church again with life-size carved religious statues.

A runestone from Tune, 400 AD, that discussed three daughters and an inheritance.

Oldest Sami drum in existence, confiscated in 1691 by the Norwegian authorities. The Sami were very resistance to acculturation. It’s somehow ironic that the only reason this artifact still exists is that it was taken away from the Sami people.

Sami medicine man robe. For every vision or trance, he tied another piece of fabric onto his robe.

The back. I was curious what happened to these robes when the medicine man died. Obviously, this one came to live at the museum.

As we exited the Sami exhibit, we found ourselves on a different continent entirely.

How About Egypt Next?

Although these Egyptian mummies are clearly not Norwegian, I can’t resist including them because I’ve never seen mummies in this condition. These are amazing, ornate and beautiful.

Penny Walters who has spent a significant amount of time in Egypt was thrilled with this part of the exhibit. We learned a great deal from her as well.

I think the pyramids might officially be on my bucket list now.

I so want to sequence the mummy’s DNA.

The walls of the tomb where this mummy was found were painted with these stars. The sign below provides information about the mummy above.

Thankfully, some of the signage includes an English version for us language-challenged visitors.

These colors are incredibly vibrant, even today.

I love these hands.

Notice her breasts too. I had to wonder if this is the first known depiction of a bra.

We exited the Egyptian gallery to find ourselves celebrating the Day of the Dead. That’s a pretty dramatic cultural shift!

Day of the Dead

The Latino Day of the Dead roughly corresponds to Halloween in the US, but it’s a wonderful cultural celebration of ancestors – those who have gone on.

This lovely celebratory “Day of the Dead” weekend includes food, the honoring of ancestors by creating altars and inviting them back with their favorite foods, and festively decorating graves.

This exhibit was colorful, cultural and fun. After all, it is the Museum of Cultural History – and not just Scandinavian culture.

Day of the Dead altar and skeletons of course.

This beaded skull is stunning. Click on this picture for a close-up.

Good thing they didn’t have one of these in the gift shop. It would have been named and on its way home with me.

The Pub

How can I possibly develop “favorite places” in just a few days? I seem to do this wherever I go and often, they are pubs.

Many restaurants in Oslo aren’t open until evening which makes lunch challenging.

Fortunately, right across the street from the hotel was a wonderful pub. The best thing about pubs is often the laid-back and welcoming atmosphere.

By the last day, I was exhausted. A combination of the excitement before the trip, the overnight flight itself, followed by three jet-lagged conference days, then two days of cultural absorption. I was running on adrenaline alone, because I certainly wasn’t sleeping well.

On the final day, Penny left for the airport around noon. Martin and I went back to the pub for lunch after discovering two other choices were closed. We had originally decided to walk to the fort on the waterfront after lunch, but lunch led to coffee which led to more conversation and another coffee and let’s just say when it started getting dark, we decided to simply go back to the hotel and pack. I took my leftovers and had them for dinner.

Our pub afternoon was lovely, sipping coffee (Martin) and Ginger Joe (me.) We caught up on what had happened since our last adventure outside Belfast, Ireland last year.

The Summit

But before we began packing, we had one more stop to make – a visit to the summit bar of the Radisson Blu hotel which is the highest location in the city.

The Cultural Museum (with the Egyptian and Day of the Dead exhibits) is the white building in the left lower corner.

On the other side of the hotel, the palace is illuminated at center left.

There was too much glare for me to take good pictures, but you can see the hotel’s gallery here and some beautiful photos here.

I loved Oslo. I made fond forever memories with both old and new friends. But alas, it was time to leave.

You can read about my incredible 5 AM ride to the airport – and yes, it really was amazing: Norwegian Cultural Gems – Burial Practices, Cemeteries, Heritage Clothing and Family Traditions

One Final Treat – Greenland

On my way home, winging through the air at over 500 miles per hour as compared to those Viking ships clipping right along at 11, I was treated to an incredibly stunning view of Greenland.

Glaciers, fjords, the sea and sunset. How does it get better than this?

The Vikings wouldn’t have believed their eyes.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our trip to Norway and the wonderful culture this country has to offer. If you’d like to learn more, please check out my earlier articles:

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Finding Mary Younger’s Mitochondrial DNA – 52 Ancestors #219

Ah, the blessings of cousins.

The Y and mitochondrial DNA of our ancestors can provide us with a smorgasbord of information. Unfortunately, we only carry the Y and mitochondrial DNA of one or two lines. If you’re a female, you carry the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of your matrilineal line only, and if you’re a male, you carry the paternal (patrilineal meaning surname) Y DNA line (blue squares) in addition to your mother’s matrilineal line (red circles.) You can read about the difference between maternal versus matrilineal and paternal versus patrilineal here.

Y and mito

Therefore, to collect the rest of the haplogroups and match information about our ancestral lines, meaning those with no color above, we must depend on cousins who descend from those ancestors in such a way that they carry the desired Y or mtDNA.

For men, their surname is generally reflective of the Y DNA inheritance path, presuming that neither the surname nor the Y DNA was changed, intentionally or otherwise – meaning adoption or name changes, for example.

Women contribute their mitochondrial DNA to both genders of their children, but only females pass it on to the next generation.

This inheritance path assures that neither the Y nor mitochondrial DNA is admixed with the DNA of the other parent, meaning the DNA changes little if at all generation to generation and we can see back a very long distance into the past by following the stair-step mutations that have accumulated over hundreds and thousands of years.

Think of it as your genetic periscope!

Recently a press article reported that in very limited cases with a medically co-presenting mitochondrial disease, the father’s mitochondrial DNA is found in children. Blaine Bettinger explained further here. It’s actually not new news and you really don’t need to worry about this in regard to genealogy.

Mary Younger

When I originally wrote Mary Younger’s 52 Ancestors article, I didn’t know anything about her mitochondrial DNA because no one from that line had yet tested.

In that article, I detailed her descendants as best I could, and of those descendants, who would carry Mary’s mitochondrial DNA.

A cousin, Lynn, read the article and replied that indeed, she descends from Mary through all females – and was willing to DNA test. Thank you Lynn!!!

Mary’s mtDNA Dispells a Myth

Lynn’s results came back and told us that Mary Younger’s mitochondrial DNA is haplogroup H1a3a.

Often in early genealogy research, when a colonial lineage brick wall was encountered, the comment that “maybe she was Indian,” was made. Sometimes those comments fanned the flames of myths that took hold like wildfire and are reflected today in many online trees. The “maybe” became quickly omitted and the comment was elevated from the realm of speculation to gospel.

Mary Younger was born about 1766, probably in either Essex or King and Queen County to Marcus Younger and his wife, Susannah whose surname we don’t know. Therefore, Susannah would have been born between 1720 and 1746.

There’s a persistent rumor that Susannah’s surname was Hart and there is some reason to suspect that it may have been, but the bottom line is that we don’t know.

If Susannah’s surname IS Hart, we don’t know which Hart individual was her father, although Anthony Hart (1755-1832) and Marcus Younger were both associated with one Robert Hart, believed to be Anthony’s father, but that too is unproven. The King and Queen County courthouse burned and that’s where the Hart land was located, so most records are gone. Bummer.

There is some amount of suspicion that Anthony Hart and Susannah that married Marcus Younger were siblings. To make matters even worse, Marcus and Susannah Younger’s son, John Younger married Lucy Hart – so autosomal DNA from that line will match the Hart line and not (necessarily) because of Susannah. Therefore, John Younger’s line can’t be used for comparisons to the Hart line for either mitochondrial or autosomal. However, cousin Lynn’s DNA as Mary Younger’s direct matrilineal descendant can be utilized for both mitochondrial and autosomal comparisons.

What we do know, from Mary Younger’s mitochondrial DNA alone is that Susannah through her matrilineal line was NOT Native American. Haplogroup H1a3a is European, unquestionably European.

We can dispel that Native American myth forever, at least about this particular line.

Lynn’s H1a3a Matches

What can we tell about haplogroup H1a3a and in particular, Lynn’s matches?

Mary Younger matches map

None of Lynn’s three exact matches have completed their geographical information for their most distant known ancestor. These match maps are such powerful tools if people would only complete the information.

Other than the three with no information, so aren’t shown on the map – the matches on the map in the US aren’t terribly relevant unless specific clusters suggest a particular migration path. In this case, nothing of note, although those 3 Canadian maritime matches are curious. I don’t know if there is any useful information there or not.

However, Europe is different, because those matches are fairly tightly clustered.

All of Lynn’s matches are either in the British Isles or in Scandinavia. This could suggest either that descendants of her ancestors, hundreds or thousands of years ago migrated to both locations, or it could mean that the English locations are perhaps showing a Viking influence.

Lynn’s matches themselves are unremarkable other than the fact that her only rare mutation occurs in the coding region, which means that we really do need the full sequence test to make use of this information. She has 107 full sequence matches, of which three are exact, providing the following most distant ancestor information.

  • Martha Patsy Terry was born in 1805 in North Carolina and died after 1865 in Alabama
  • Sarah Emma Doyle was born in 1824 in Fayette County, TN and died in 1890 in Cass Co., Texas.
  • The third match says “information needed.” Well, me too😊

The only person with one mutation difference shows their most distant ancestor with a name and birth of 1534. They apparently misunderstood what was being asked, because if you look at their tree, their most distant matrilineal ancestor is Margaret Moore born in NC, died in Texas, and who had daughter Dicie Moore in 1830 in Tennessee.

Unfortunately, these matches aren’t terribly helpful either, at least not today.

Two of the three exact matches have trees which I checked for the surname of Hart and Younger and looked for geographic proximity.

Checking advanced matches by selecting both Family Finder and the Full Sequence mitochondrial matches shows no individual who matches on both tests.

Haplogroup H1a3a

If Lynn’s mtDNA matches aren’t being productive, what can I tell about haplogroup H1a3a itself?

Doron Behar in his 2012 paper placed the age of H1a3a at 3859 years, give or take 1621 years, so therefore haplogroup H1a3a was born between 1238 and 6480 years ago. An exact match with no additional mutations could be from long ago. Fortunately, Lynn does have a few additional mutations, so her exact matches share mutations since the birth of haplogroup H1a3a.

Using the Family Tree DNA mitochondrial tree and searching for H1a3a, we discover the following information.

Mary Younger H1a3a

Haplogroup H1a3a is found in a total of 21 countries. The most common location is Germany, which isn’t reflected in Lynn’s matches.

Mary Younger mtDNA countries

This is especially interesting, because it suggests that the haplogroup itself may have spread from the Germanic region of Europe into both England and Sweden. Lynn’s matches are only found in those diaspora regions, not in Germany itself. To me, this also suggests that the people still in Germany have accrued several mutations as compared to Mary Younger’s DNA. They are no longer considered a match since their common ancestor is far enough back in time that they have accumulated several mutations difference from cousin Lynn today. Conversely, the people closer in time that share some of those mutations do qualify as matches.

And no, haplogroup H1a3a is not Native American, in spite of the one person who had indicated such (the feather icon.) Many people record “American” or “Native American” because they believe, before testing, that they have Native American on “that side,” as opposed in that specific line. Of course, the maternal side could mean any one of many ancestors – as opposed to the matrilineal line which is directly your mother’s mother’s mother’s line until you run out of direct line mothers in your tree.

What we know now is that sometime between 1200 and 6500 years ago, the haplogroup defining mutations between H1a3 and H1a3a occurred, probably someplace in Germanic Europe. From there, people migrated to both the British Isles and portions of Scandinavia.

Given that we find Susannah in the early 1700s in King and Queen County, Virginia, it would be a reasonable working hypothesis that she was English (or at least from the British Isles) and not Scandinavian. Alexander Younger, the grandfather of Marcus Younger was from Scotland and many of the early era colonial settlers in that region were English.

Hopefully, time and more DNA testers will eventually tell more of Susannah’s tale – either through mitochondrial or autosomal DNA matches, or both.

What About You?

If you haven’t yet tested your mitochondrial DNA, now would be a great time. In fact, you can click here to order the mtFull test. Who knows what you might learn. Are there specific questions you’d like to answer about dead end female lines? Mitochondrial DNA is one way to circumvent a surname/genealogical blockade – at least partially.

If you don’t carry the mitochondrial DNA line that you need, sponsor a test for a cousin. You’ll get to meet a really cool person to share information with, like Lynn, and learn about your common genealogical bond as well as your ancestor’s DNA.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

AutoClustering by Genetic Affairs

The company Genetic Affairs launched a few weeks ago with an offer to regularly visit your vendor accounts at Family Tree DNA, Ancestry and 23andMe, and compile a spreadsheet of your matches, download it, and send it to you in an e-mail. They then update your match list at regular intervals of your choosing.

I didn’t take advantage of this, mostly because Ancestry doesn’t provide me with segment information and while 23andMe and Family Tree DNA both do, I maintain a master spreadsheet that the new matches wouldn’t integrate with. Granted, I could sort by match date and add only the new ones to my master spreadsheet, but it was never a priority. That was yesterday.

AutoClustering

That changed this week. Genetic Affairs introduced a new AutoClustering tool that provides users with clustered matches. I’m salivating and couldn’t get signed up quickly enough.

Please note that I’ve cropped the names for this article – the Genetic Affairs display shows you the entire name.

In short, each tiny square node represents a three-way match, between you and both of the people in the intersection of the grid. This does NOT mean they are triangulated, but it does mean there’s a really good chance they would triangulate. Think of this as the Family Tree DNA matrix on steroids and automated.

This tool allows me by using my mother’s test as well to actually triangulate my matches. If they are on my mother’s side of the tree, match me and mother both, and are in the match matrix, they must triangulate on my mother’s side of my tree if they both match me on the same segment.

With this information, I can check the chromosome browser, comparing my chromosomes to those other two individuals in the matrix to see if we share a common segment – or I can simply sort the spreadsheet provided with the AutoCluster results. Suddenly that delivery service is extremely convenient!

No, this service is not free, but it’s quite reasonable. I’m going to step through the process. Note that at times, the website seemed to be unresponsive especially when moving from one step to another. Refreshing the page remedied the problem.

Account Setup

Go to www.geneticaffairs.com. Click on Register to set up your account, which is very easy.

After registering, move to step 2, “Add website.”

Add websites where you have accounts. All of your own profiles plus the other people’s that you manage at both Ancestry and 23andMe are included when you register that site in your profile.

You’ll need your signon information and password for each site.

At Family Tree DNA, you’ll need to add a new website for each account since every account has its own kit number and password.

I added my own account and my mother’s account since mother’s DNA is every bit as relevant to my genealogy as my own, AND, I only received half of her DNA which means she will have many matches that I don’t.

When you’re finished adding accounts, click on “Websites and Profiles” at the top to open the website tab of your choosing and click on the blue circular arrows AutoCluster link. You are telling the system to go out and gather your matches from the vendor and then cluster your matches together, generating an AutoCluster graphic file.

There are several more advanced options, but I’m going to run initially with Approach A, the default level. This will exclude my closest matches. Your closest matches will fall into multiple cluster groups, and the software is not set up to accommodate that – so they will wind up as a grey nonclustered square. That’s not all bad, but you’ll want to experiment to see which parameters are best for you.

If you have half-siblings, you may want to work with alternate settings because that half-sibling is important in terms of phasing your matches to maternal or paternal sides.

Asking me if “I’m sure” always causes me to really sit back and think about what I’ve done. Like, do I want to delete my account. In this case, it’s “overworry” because the system is just asking if you want to spend 25 credits, which is less than a dollar and probably less than a quarter. Right now, you’re using your free initial credits anyway.

The first time you set up an account, Genetic Affairs signs in to your account to assure that your login information is accurate.

I selected my profile and my mother’s profile at Family Tree DNA, plus one profile each at 23andMe and Ancestry. I have two profiles at both 23andMe (V3 and V4) and Ancestry (V1 and V2).

When making my selections, I wasn’t clear about the meaning of “minimum DNA match” initially, but it means fourth cousin and closer, NOT fourth and more distant.

My recommendation until you get the hang of things is to use the first default option, at least initially, then experiment.

Welcome

While I was busy ordering AutoClusters, Genetic Affairs was sending me a welcome e-mail.

Hello Roberta Estes,

Thank you for joining Genetic Affairs! We hope you will enjoy our services.

We have a manual available as well as a frequently asked questions section that both provide background information how to use our website.

You currently have 200 credits which can be supplemented using single payments and/or monthly subscriptions. Check out our prices page for more information concerning our rates.

Please let us know if anything is unclear, we can be reached using the contact form.

The great news is that everyone begins with 200 free credits which may last you for quite some time.  Or not. Consider them introductory crack from your new pusher.

Options

Genetic affairs will sign on your account at either Ancestry, 23andMe or Family Tree DNA, or all 3, periodically and provide you with match information about your new matches at each website. You select the interval when you configure your account. After each update, you can order a new AutoCluster if you wish.

Each update, and each AutoCluster request has a cost in points, sold as credits, associated with the service.

To purchase credits after you use your initial 200, you will need to enter your credit card information in the Settings Page, which is found in the dropdown (down arrow) right beside your profile photo.

You can select from and enroll in several plans.

Prices which varies by how often you want updates to be performed and for how many accounts. To see the various service offerings and cost, click here.

Here’s an example calculation for weekly updates:

This is exactly what I need, so it looks like this service will cost me $2.16 per month, plus any Autoclustering which is 25 credits each time I AutoCluster. Therefore, I’ll add another 100 credits for a total of $3.16 per month.

It looks like the $5 per month package will do for me. But don’t worry about that right now, because you’re enjoying your free crack, um, er, credits.

Ok, the e-mail with my results has just arrived after the longest 10 minutes on earth, so let’s take a look!

The Results E-mail

In a few minutes (or longer) after you order, an e-mail with the autoclustering results will arrive. Check your spam filter. Some of my e-mails were there, and some reports simply had to be reordered. One report never arrived after being ordered 3 times.

The e-mail when it arrives states the following:

Hello Roberta Estes,

For profile Roberta Estes: An AutoCluster analysis has been performed (access it through the attached HTML file).

As requested, cM thresholds of 250 cM and 50 cM were used. A total number of 176 matches were identified that were used for a AutoCluster analysis. There should be two CSV files attached to this email and if enough matches can be clustered, an additional HTML file. The first CSV file contains all matches that were identified. The second CSV file contains a spreadsheet version of the AutoCluster analysis. The HTML file will contain a visual representation of the AutoCluster analysis if enough matches were present for the clustering analysis. Please note that some files might be displayed incorrectly when directly opened from this email. Instead, save them to your local drive and open the files from there.

Attached I found 3 files:

  • Matches list
  • Autocluster grid csv file
  • Autocluster html file that shows the cluster itself

The Match Spreadsheet

The first thing that will arrive in your e-mail is a spreadsheet of your matches for the account you configured and ordered an AutoCluster for.

In the e-mail, your top 20 matches are listed, which initially confused me, because I wondered if that means they are not in the spreadsheet. They are.

At 23andMe, I initially selected 5th cousins and closer, which was the most distant match option provided. I had a total of 1233 matches.

23andMe caps your account at 2000 (unless you have communicated with people who are further than 2000 away, in which case they remain on your list), but you can’t modify the Genetic Affairs profile to include any people more distant than 5th cousins

Note that the 23andMe download shows you information about your match, but NOT the actual matching segment information☹

At Ancestry, I selected 4th cousin and closer and I received a total of 2698 matches. I could select “distant cousin” which would result in additional matches being downloaded and a different autoclustering diagram. I may experiment with this with my V2 account and compare them side by side.

This Ancestry information provides an important clue for me, because the matches I work with are generally only my Shared Ancestor Hints matches. If the Viewed field equals false, this tells  me immediately that I didn’t have a shared ancestor hint – but now because of the clustering, I know where they might fit.

At Family Tree DNA, I selected 4th cousin, but I could have selected 5th cousins. I have a total of 1500 matches.

This report does include the segment information (Yay!) and my only wish here would be to merge the two downloads available at Family Tree DNA, meaning the segment information and the match information. I’d like to know which of these are assigned to maternal or paternal buckets, or both.

AutoClustering

The Autocluster csv file is interesting in that it shows who matches whom. It’s the raw data used to construct the colored grid.

My matches are numbered in their column. For example, person M.B. is person 1. Every person that matches person 1 is noted at left with a 1 in that column.  Look at the second person under the Name column, C. W., who matches person 1 (M.B.), 2 (C.W.), 3 (T.F.), 4 (purple) and 5 (A.D.).

All of these people are in the same cluster, number 3, which you’ll see below.

The AutoCluster Graph

Finally, we get to the meat of the matter, the cluster graph.

Caveat – I experienced a significant amount of difficulty with both my account and my graph. If your graph does not display correctly, save the file to your system and click to open the file from your hard drive. Try Edge or Internet explorer if Chrome doesn’t work correctly. If it still doesn’t display accurately, notify GeneticAffairs at info@geneticaffairs.com. Consider this software release late alpha or early beta. Personally, I’m just grateful for the tool.

When you first open the html file, you’ll be able to see your matches “fly” into place. That’s pretty cool. Actually, that’s a metaphor for what I want all of my genealogy to do.

This grid shows the people who match me and each other as well, so a trio – although this does NOT mean the three of us match on the same segment.

The first person is Debbie, a known cousin on my father’s side. She and all of the other 12 people match me and each other as well and are shown in the orange cluster at the top left.

I know that my common ancestor couple with Debbie is Lazarus Estes and Elizabeth Vannoy, so it’s very likely that all of these same people share the same ancestral line, although perhaps not the same ancestral couple. For example, they could descend from anyone upstream of Lazarus and Elizabeth. Some may have known ancestors on either the Estes or Vannoy side, which will help determine who the actual oldest common ancestors are.

You’ll notice people in grey squares that aren’t in the cluster, but match me and Debbie both. This means that they would fall into two different clusters and the software can’t accommodate that. You may find your closest relatives in this grey never-never-land. Don’t ignore the grey squares because they are important too.

The second green cluster is also on my father’s side and represents the Vannoy line. My common ancestor with several matches is Joel Vannoy and Phoebe Crumley.

Working my way through each cluster, I can discern which common ancestor I match by recognizing my cousins or people who I’ve already shared genealogy with.

The third red cluster is on my mother’s side and I know that it’s my Jacob Lentz and Fredericka Ruhle line. I can verify this by looking at my mother’s AutoCluster file to see if the same people appear in her cluster.

You can also view this grid by name, # of shared matches and the # of shared cMs with the tester. Those displays are nice but not nearly as informative at the AutoClusters.

Scroll for More Match Information

Be sure to scroll down below the grid (yes, there is something below the grid!) and read the text where you’re provided a list of people who qualify to be included in the clusters, but don’t match anyone else at the criteria selection level you chose – so they aren’t included in the grid. This too is informative.  For example, my cousin Christine is there which tells me that our mutual line may not be represented by a cluster. This isn’t surprising, since our common ancestor immigrated in the 1850s – so not a lot of descendants today.

You’re also provided with AutoCluster match information, including whether or not your match has a tree. I do have notes on my matches at Family Tree DNA for several of these people, but unfortunately, the file download did not pick those notes up.

However, the fact that these matches are displayed “by cluster” is invaluable.

You can bet your socks that I’m clicking on the “tree” hotlink and signing on to FTDNA right now to see if any of these people have recognizable ancestors (or surnames) of either Elizabeth Vannoy or Lazarus Estes, or upstream. Some DO! Glory be!

Better yet, their DNA may descend from one of my dead-ends in this line, so I’ll be carefully recording any genealogical information that I can obtain to either confirm the known ancestors or break through those stubborn walls.

Dead ends would become evident by multiple people in the cluster sharing a different ancestor than one you’re already familiar with. Look carefully for patterns. Could this be the key to solving the mystery of who the mother of Nancy Ann Moore is? Or several other brick walls that I’d love to fall, just in time for Christmas. Who doesn’t have brick walls?

By signing on to Family Tree DNA and looking carefully at the trees and surnames of the people in each group, I was able to quickly identify the common line and assign an ancestor to most of the matching groups.

This also means I’ll now be able to make notes on these matches at Family Tree DNA paint these in DNAPainter! (I’ve written several articles about using DNAPainter which you can read by entering DNAPainter into the search box on this blog.)

Mom’s Acadian Cluster

Endogamy is always tough and this tool isn’t any different. Lots of grey squares which mean people would fit into multiple clusters. That’s the hallmark of endogamy.

My Mom’s largest clustered group is Acadian, which is endogamous, and her orange cluster has a very interesting subgroup structure.

If you look, the larger loosely connected orange group extends quite some way down the page, but within that group, there seems to be a large, almost solid orange group in the lower right. I’m betting that almost solid group to the right lower part of the orange region represents a particular ancestral line within the endogamous Acadian grouping.

Also of interest, my Mom’s green cluster is the same as my red Jacob Lentz/Frederica Ruhle cluster group, with many of the same individuals. This confirms that these people match me and that other person on Mom’s side, so whoever in this group matches me and any other person on the same segment is triangulated to my Mom’s side of my genealogy.

You can also use this information in conjunction with your parental bucketing at Family Tree DNA.

In Summary

I’m still learning about this tool, it’s limitations and possibilities. The software is new and not bug-free, but the developer is working to get things straightened out. I don’t think he expected such a deluge of desperate genealogists right away and we’ve probably swamped his servers and his inbox.

I haven’t yet experimented with changing the parameters to see who is included and who isn’t in various runs. I’ll be doing that over the next several days, and I’ll be applying the confirmed ancestral segments I discover in DNAPainter!

This is going to be a lot of fun. I may not surface again until 2019😊

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research