Jane “Jenny” Dobkins (c1780-c1860), Roots 58 Years Deep – 52 Ancestors #232

Jane, sometimes known as Jenny Dobkins was born around 1780 someplace in Virginia to Jacob Dobkins and his wife, Dorcas Johnson.

Local Claiborne County, Tennessee, attorney and historian, P.G. Fulkerson (1840-1929), recorded his memories of the relationships of the early pioneer families which were later published in the local newspapers and historical society bulletins under the name of both “P. G. Fulkerson Papers” and “Early Settlers of Claiborne County.” P. G. would have been about 20 years old when Jane Dobkins Campbell died. If he didn’t know her, her certainly knew of her.

P. G. said:

Jacob Dobbins (sic)…children were Elizabeth who married George Campbell, Solomon married Nancy Adams, Jane married John Campbell, Jacob, Reuben, George married Nancy Parks, John and Peggy.

Jane’s birth year is as reliable as the 1850 Claiborne County census, which we all know is a “somewhat reliable” source.

Jane Dobkins 1850 census.png

In 1850, Jane is living with her son, Jacob Campbell and 70 years old would put her birth in about 1780.

Jane Dobkins 1860 census..png

Jane is found in the 1860 Claiborne County non-population census, known as the agricultural census, taken on June 1st, providing us with very interesting information about her agricultural possessions:

  • 75 acres of land, 57 unimproved (Wow, she’s living off of only 18 acres and likely has been her entire life.)
  • $1000 cash value of land, $30 value of farm equipment
  • 4 horses, no asses or mules, 2 milch cows, 2 working oxen, 5 other cattle, 17 sheep, 25 swine, all of which were valued together at $496
  • 63 bushels of wheat
  • No rye
  • 350 bushels of Indian corn
  • 30 bushels of oats
  • No rice or tobacco
  • No ginned cotton
  • 29 pounds of wool
  • No peas or beans
  • 10 bushels of Irish potatoes (white potatoes)
  • 15 bushels of sweet potatoes
  • No barley, buckwheat, orchard products, wine or other market garden produce
  • No cheese, hay, clover, grass, hops, hemp, flax, flaxweed or silk
  • 150 pounds of butter
  • 29 pounds of maple sugar
  • 30 gallons of molasses
  • No cane sugar or beeswax
  • 34 pounds of honey
  • $30 value of homemade manufactures (not sure what this would be)
  • $75 value of animals slaughtered

The photos of Jane’s land, today, show that it’s extremely hilly. Look at the mountain behind the house.

John Campbell house

But, it has a good spring!

The spring emerges from the earth beneath the rock pile in front of the trees, shown below. A fresh spring, meaning clean uncontaminated water was the single most important aspect of scouting for land.

John Campbell hs 11

Obviously, part of Jane’s land was farmable – but I’m shocked to realize how much wasn’t. It wasn’t lying fallow because it was noted as unimproved which means there were trees standing and it had simply never been converted into farmable land – if it even could be. Looking at the steep incline, that’s very questionable.

The agricultural census allows us a different kind of glimpse into Jane’s life. One thing becomes immediately apparent – at age 80 she could not have possibly performed all of the work necessary to plant, cultivate, harvest and process the items on the list above.

Interestingly, Jane isn’t found in the 1860 regular census. She would have been approximately 80 years of age. It has been presumed that she died between 1850 and 1860, but given that other estates of deceased people in the agricultural census are listed as owned by the heirs, Jane must have been living as of the census date. I wonder how she was missed in the regular census which was supposed to have been recorded “as of” the same date. She definitely is not listed living with Jacob Campbell in 1860 as she was in 1850.

Perhaps she died right around this time and was recorded on one form, but not the other.

Burial

Not only don’t we know exactly when Jane died, although at this point, I’d presume sometime in 1860, but we also don’t know exactly where she is buried.

Jane was married to John Campbell, but there doesn’t appear to be a Campbell Cemetery from this early date. It’s possible of course that she and John are buried in what eventually became the Liberty Cemetery, above their home, in unmarked graves. The earliest marked grave at Liberty dates from 1889 with the burial of Daniel Jones, but the marker is contemporary.

Jane dobkins Liberty Cemetery.jpg

If they are not buried in the Liberty Cemetery, then Jane and John are both likely buried in the beautiful Dobkins/Campbell Cemetery on her father’s original land which has remained in the family for more than 200 years.

Jane Dobkins, Dobkins Cemetery.jpg

The Dobkins/Campbell cemetery where Jane probably rests with her parents overlooks “Little Ridge” in the distance that separated her home from that of her parents.

Jane Dobkins Little Ridge.jpg

While today one travels the roads, in years past, there were shortcuts over the ridge between the properties. John Campbell and Jane Dobkins lived “above” current day Liberty Church, which didn’t exist then, and Jacob Dobkins lived on what is today the private road called A. L. Campbell Lane.

Jane Dobkins map Campell to Dobkins.png

Back then, there was assuredly a direct route over the hills through those passes to Jacob’s house.

What else do we know about Jane?

While we don’t know exactly when or where Jane was born, we do have some fascinating clues.

Jane’s Childhood

We know that Jane’s father, Jacob Dobkins, states in his Revolutionary War pension application that he enlisted in May of 1779 and resided at the time in Harrodsburg, Kentucky.

Jacob provides further details of where he served until August of 1781, so it’s likely that Jane was born in 1779 or perhaps early in 1780. Jane’s mother, Dorcas, could have been pregnant when Jacob enlisted. If Jane wasn’t born by February of 1780, then she probably wasn’t born until at least May of 1782, 9 months after Jacob returned home from the Revolutionary War. It’s unlikely that Jane was born after 1780, because all 3 census records agree that she was born between 1770 and 1780.

Jane is reported by many researchers to have been born in Dunsmore County, now Shenandoah County, Virginia, but based on Jacob’s 1779 enlistment, the Dunsmore County location is at least somewhat questionable. Was Jacob living in Harrodsburg alone when he enlisted? It’s possible, but then his wife could not have gotten pregnant during that timeframe.

Harrodsburg was one of the first 3 settlements in Kentucky, established in 1774, abandoned the following year due to Indian raids, then re-established in 1776. Harrodsburg is considered to be the oldest city in Kentucky and the oldest permanent American settlement west of the Appalachians. Jane may have been born there.

Keep in mind that at that time, neither Kentucky nor Tennessee was yet a state, and that part of the country was indeed Virginia, which is where Jane’s 1850 birth location is given after “Tennessee” was marked through.

In 1788, we find Jacob purchasing land in Washington County, Virginia, but the family might never have lived there. The boundaries of Washington County were vast at that time.

In 1789, when Jane would have been about 9 years old, Jacob, signed a petition to the state of North Carolina submitted by the residents living south of the French Broad River, somewhat of a no-mans land; not Virginia, not North Carolina and not yet Tennessee either. These people, most of whom had once been living in the by-then-defunct “State of Franklin” were asking for assistance – or more specifically, protection from the Indians – a plea that was denied by the North Carolina legislature.

Many years of Jane’s life are missing, but we know that regardless of where the family was residing in 1789, in the 1790 census, Jacob is listed in Shenandoah County, Virginia with 8 people in his household. Did he move back, or did his wife and children never leave? That’s hard to imagine, especially since he had several children. Proximity is required for that to occur.

In 1794, Jacob is listed in Washington County, Virginia in a lawsuit with John Sevier, the eventual governor of Tennessee. In 1795, Jacob is deposed in Shenandoah County, VA. Of course, he didn’t necessarily live there at the time, and he was clearly a woodsman, comfortable with rough, mountainous travel. I do believe this man had a case of wanderlust!

On March 12, 1795, Jacob bought land on the Whitestone Fork of Bent Creek in what was then Jefferson County of the Territory South of the River Ohio, on land where he would live as Tennessee emerged as a state in 1796 and until Jacob moved to Claiborne County by 1801.

This is the land where Jane would have grown up, or at least finished growing up. In 1795, she would have been about 15 and approaching “courting age.” By 1800, she was likely already married.

Jane dobkins Whitethorn creek.jpg

Unfortunately, these photos were taken during a trip years ago and I wrote on the backs before I knew better.

Jane would have blossomed into a young woman here, meeting John Campbell as his family came and went up and down the main road. Perhaps she and her sister coyly flirted, waving as the Campbell men passed by in their wagon or on their horses. Perhaps John and George tipped their hats, finding every excuse possible to ride up and down that road, eventually falling in love with the Dobkins sisters.

The Charles Campbell family didn’t live far away in Hawkins County.

Jane Dobkins Whitehorn Creek map.png

From the Whitehorn Branch of Bent Creek to the area where Charles Campbell owned land, near the ferry crossing the Holston River, would have been approximately 8 miles via the main road.

The Dobkins sisters would have married the Campbell brothers in Hawkins County.

The land that Charles Campbell deeded jointly to sons George and John in 1793 could have been a wedding gift to both boys. Did they have a double wedding, marrying the Dobkins sisters? We simply don’t know. Many records are burned or otherwise nonexistent.

We can only imagine what a joyful day this must have been for both families!

A Permanent Home in Claiborne County, Tennessee

By 1801, Jacob Dobkins was in Claiborne County, and on February 26, 1802, John and his brother George Campbell, married to Jane’s sister Elizabeth, both sold the land they jointly owned in Hawkins County, originally sold to them by their father, Charles Campbell in 1793. Both John and George Campbell appeared in Claiborne County near Jacob Dobkins. On May 1, 1802, John Campbell purchased land.

Campbell map

On the map above, George Campbell’s land is at left, Jacob Dobkins’ land at right and John Campbell’s below – all roughly 3 miles apart as the crow flies.

By 1802, based on later records of their children, we know that Jane had at least one child, Jacob Campbell, who was born about 1801. Jane and John would have married in 1800 or earlier in Hawkins County. Perhaps she rode in the wagon from Hawkins County to Claiborne with an infant on her lap, pregnant for the next family member.

Based on what we know, Elizabeth’s birth year is reasonably well confirmed in 1780 or earlier, although it’s certainly possible that Jane was somewhat older and had borne several children by 1800.

From 1802 until her death about 1860, for 58 years, it appears that Jane lived on the land she and John purchased on Little Sycamore Road in Claiborne County, just above the Liberty Church and below the Liberty Cemetery today.

The changes that woman must have seen!

Jane Dobkins house location Liberty Church.png

The arrow points to the Campbell home. The church is the brown building in the left lower corner, and the Liberty cemetery is the loop road in the upper right.

Campbell house from cemetery

Looking down at the house from Liberty Cemetery, on top of the ridge behind the house.

Years later, Jane and John’s descendants donated an acre of land for Liberty Church, and later yet, gave land for Liberty Cemetery.

Jane Dobkins back of Liberty Church.jpg

Looking south at the back of Liberty Church from the Campbell homestead.

Jane Dobkins Liberty Cemetery towards Dobkins land.jpg

Over the decades, Liberty Cemetery has become a neighborhood burying ground. If you could see “over yonder,” across the hills, you would see Jacob Dobkins land in the distance.

Jane Dobkins Liberty Cemetery towards Estes land.jpg

George Campbell’s homestead is over yonder in this photo, as is the Estes land. Jane raised granddaughter Ruthy Dodson after Ruthy’s mother, Elizabeth Campbell Dodson, died. Ruthy married John Y. Estes in 1841. He probably came calling, walking right across these bothersome “hills” that stood in the way between him and his sweetheart.

Jane’s Home

Maybe Jane was tired – tired of migrating from place to place as a child on what was then the westernmost frontier. Tired of fearing for her life from Indian raids. Or simply tired of moving and the instability therein.

Regardless of the motivation, the two Campbell brothers with their Dobkins wives bought land in Claiborne County and never sold it nor moved. They put down roots, deep roots. Jacob Dobkins may have been an adventurer in the walkabout generation, but his daughters and sons-in-law clearly were not.

Jane Dobkins and John Campbell probably built this house, or at least the central core cabin, with their own hands. The owners told us that a small log cabin was in the center of this house, along with a “hidden room” beneath the foundation.

Campbell foundation

Perhaps memories of spending long nights hidden in fear for your life were all-too-present for Jane.

Campbell step

I love these original stone steps leading into the original cabin door of the home. Jane and John built this, log by log and nail by nail. Jane stepped through this door, on these steps, every single day.

The Vintage Tour

Jane Dobkins house.jpg

I was fortunate to visit several years ago and the owners were gracious enough to permit us to walk around and view the home’s exterior.

In 1830, John and Jane were both enumerated on the census as age 50-60, so born between 1770-1780.

John and Jane raised their children in this home on Little Sycamore, but in 1838, John Campbell died at about 66 years of age. The local carpenter built his casket, as recorded in his estate inventory, and John was laid to rest, leaving Jane to manage a farm.

In 1840, Jane was enumerated as the head of household, age 60-70 (so born 1770-1780), living with 2 other people, a male 10-15 and a female 15-20. These were probably her grandchildren through daughter Elizabeth who had died around 1830. Those grandchildren were probably a great comfort and help to Jane who must surely have been feeling her accumulating years.

By 1850, Jane was living with her eldest son, although they could all have been living on the old home place which fortunately, still stands.

campbell house 2

Walk around with me.

Jane Dobkins back of house.jpg

It’s easy to see as additions were made to the original home.

Jane Dobkins side of house.jpg

Beside the house, this spring nourished Jane and all of her children for her entire adult life.

Campbell spring 2

There was probably an empty hollowed-out gourd left by the spring for all to use as a cup. Dip, drink and enjoy the wonderful cool water emerging from mother earth in the sheltering shade of the old trees.

Campbell spring

I can close my eyes and see Jane walking to this spring several times each day. Furthermore, her milk and butter would have been put in a pool of the cool spring water to keep the milk from spoiling and the butter from going rancid. Water emerging from the earth is a consistent refreshing 52 degrees.

Jane visited this life-sustaining spring for roughly 58 years, and of those, more than two decades were as a widow.

At the end of her years, Jane probably sat in the shade reflecting, remembering and hearing the echoes of the voices of her children from decades earlier as they splashed gleefully in the welcoming water. Those children, some gone from this earth, some gone from Tennessee, and some with adult children of their own had picked up the torch and moved on.

Jane, probably on the north side of 80 years old was ready to pass over and join John.

Jane Dobkins Campbell’s Children

All known children of Jane “Jenny” Dobkins Campbell were born in Claiborne County, Tennessee.

  • Jacob Campbell born about 1801 married Temperance Rice about 1820 and died in 1879/80 in Collin County, TX having 8 children, 5 males and 3 females.
  • Elizabeth Campbell, my ancestor, born about 1802, married Lazarus Dodson about 1820 and moved to Alabama. She died sometimes between 1827 and 1830, possibly in Alabama, having 4 children, 2 males and 2 females. Lazarus moved back to Tennessee with the children, including Ruthy Dodson.
    • Rutha or Ruthy Dodson (1820-1903) married John Y. Estes and had 5 daughters, including Elizabeth Estes (1851-1946) who married William George Vannoy and moved to Nocona, Texas. Elizabeth had two daughters, Doshia Phoebe Vannoy (1875-1972) who married James Matthew Hutson and Eliza “Louisa” Vannoy who married Joe Robert Miller.
  • Elmira Campbell was born about 1804 and died after 1839 but before 1850. She was mentioned in John Campbell’s estate settlement in 1839 and was married to John Pearson, having at least 5 children, 2 females and 3 males. One daughter is possibly Catherine Pearson who was born in 1825 and married Walter Davis in 1842, having daughters herself.
  • Jane Campbell was born about 1807 and died in Texas. She apparently had one child but not by Johnson Freeman who she married about 1829 and was divorced from two years later. See a future article about Jane.
  • Martha Campbell born in 1807/1808 married about 1827 to Elisha Jones. She died after 1850 in Coles County, Illinois, having 9 children, 4 males and 5 females including Mary Ann Jones born about 1833, Elizabeth Jones born about 1836, Martha Jones born about 1839, Susan Jones born about 1843 and Margaret Jones born about 1847.
  • Rutha (also called Mahala) Campbell born about 1808, married Preston Holt about 1827 and died after 1870 in Grainger County, TN, having 12 children, 6 males and 6 females including Eliza Louvesta Holt born in 1828/1829 and married Hugh Bray, Matilda Holt born about 1837 and married James Alexander Willis, Nervesta Holt born about 1842 and married Anderson Kingsolver, Malissa Holt born about 1842 and married James M. Brewer, Clemantine Holt born about 1843 and Minerva Holt born about 1849.
  • George Washington Campbell was born in 1813 and married initially to Nancy Eastridge, then about 1844 to Mary, surname unknown. He died sometime after 1870, probably in Denton County, Texas, the father of at least one son, John.
  • William Newton Campbell was born on June 9, 1817, married about 1835 to Sydnia Holt and died on November 12, 1908 in Tillman Co., OK, having 12 children, 5 males and 7 females.

Given this information, Jane had at least 52 grandchildren and likely more since several are probably either unknown or died before they could be enumerated in the census.

Jane’s Mitochondrial DNA

You may wonder why I noted and bolded Jane Dobkins’ granddaughters through daughters but not males. Women contribute mitochondrial DNA to all of their offspring, but only the females pass it on. It’s not mixed with the DNA of the father, so the mitochondrial DNA passed down through all females to the current generation, which can be male, is that solely of our ancestor. In this case, that ancestor is Jane “Jenny” Dobkins who received it from her mother Dorcas Johnson.

We know almost nothing about Dorcas Johnson’s mother except her name which can’t be confirmed. Was she European or was she perhaps Native American? If she was from Europe, what part of Europe? What was her heritage before the reach of genealogical records?

Those are the answers held by mitochondrial DNA testing.

If you descend from Jane “Jenny” Dobkins who married John Campbell through all females to the current generation, which can be male, I have a free DNA testing scholarship for you. Simply add a comment to this article or e-mail me at robertajestes at att.net with “Jane Dobkins DNA” as the subject. Guaranteed, that will get my attention right away! 😊

July 2019 Update – We now have Jane’s mitochondrial DNA. Check the next article about Jane for this information by typing Dobkins into the blog search box.

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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

Family Tree DNA Sale Prices Including Big Y-700 Upgrade

I was attempting to finish an article about the Family Tree DNA conference this past weekend and include special conference sale price information, but it looks like that article just isn’t going to happen right now.

Typically, the conference is held in November, so the Holiday Sale begins the last day of the conference. That’s not the case this year, so Bennett announced a special sale just for conference attendees, project members, and through me, you too! Read on, because these sale prices are NOT available to the general public although you can certainly share with your families.

Thank you Bennett!!!

The good news is that while I realize I just can’t get that article written right now, I’m providing the sale price information which is only valid through month end. These are really good prices.

  • $30 off Family Finder ($49) – Use Code: GGC19FF
  • $50 off Y-37 ($119) – Use Code: GGC19Y37
  • $70 off Y-67 ($198) – Use Code: GGC19Y67
  • $70 off Y-111 ($289) – Use Code: GGC19Y111
  • $200 off Big Y-700 meaning have never taken any Y DNA test ($449) – Use Code: GGC19BIGY
  • $50 off MtFull Sequence ($149) – Use Code: GGC19MTFULL

If you have taken one of the Y DNA STR tests, have never taken the Big Y-500 but want to upgrade from an existing 12, 25, 37, 67 or 111 marker STR test to the Big Y-700, here are the upgrade codes:

Upgrade Regular Price Final Price Code
Y12 to Big Y-700 $629 $449 GCC19122BY
Y25 to Big Y-700 $599 $449 GCC19252BY
Y37 to Big Y-700 $569 $449 GCC19372BY
Y67 to Big Y-700 $499 $399 GCC19BYUP
Y111 to Big Y-700 $449 $349 GCC19BYUP

All coupons codes expire March 31, 2019 and may not be used in conjunction with other promocodes, discounts, or offers.

Big Y-700 Upgrade – $179

The greatly anticipated Big Y-700 upgrade is now available.

In addition to the above sale prices for purchases, Bennett is offering the introductory upgrade price to move from the Y-500 to the Y-700 at just $179 through the end of the month. I was actually very surprised to see the price this low since it’s an actual rerun.

Family Tree DNA reviews each order to assure that enough DNA remains for the test. If not, they will reach out to you before processing begins to request another vial. If the tester is deceased, meaning they can’t provide an additional sample, please notify Family Tree DNA so that they can flag the sample for special handling in the lab, if necessary.

I wrote about the Big Y-700 here. If you want to read the scientific nitty-gritty, the Big Y-700 white paper is here. The white paper refers to the Big Y and compared to the Big Y-700. The Big Y is the same test as the Big Y-500, the difference being that Family Tree DNA added the additional STR markers for free (totaling 500) for all testers who had taken the Big Y and renamed the test at that time to Big Y-500.

To recap the benefits of a Big Y-700 as compared to the Big Y-500:

  • Big Y-700 provides 50% increase in quality SNPs over Big Y-500
  • Provides quality reads of Y chromosome regions not previously available
  • An additional 200 STR markers bringing the total from at least 500 to at least 700
  • Better coverage meaning fewer no-reads

Note that with the improved sequencing technology, it’s possible that men run on the Big Y-700 platform may not exactly match men run on the earlier Big Y-500 platform. If you’re working with a group of men who you “need” to be on the exact same platform in order to derive family lineages, then you’ll want all of the men on the same platform so you are comparing apples to apples. In the case of the Estes project, I’m hoping that the new technology will further divide my roughly 10 Big-Y men into distinct lineages in order to provide increased granularity.

I know that the price will increase after month-end and I don’t want anyone left behind. With my luck, the man I don’t upgrade will of course be the one with a newly-to-be-discovered mutation that I need.

If you are interested in upgrading from an existing Big Y-500 to a Big Y-700, there is no code needed. Click here to sign in to your account and then click on the upgrade button on your Y-DNA section of your personal page.

Y DNA Upgrade

You’ll then see the Big Y-700 upgrade, but only at this price for a few more days.

Big Y-700 upgrade

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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

Family Tree Magazine and Family Tree University Files Bankruptcy

Earlier today, after I said the words, “what the heck else can go wrong,” apparently the Universe took that as a challenge.

I opened the mail and inside was a bankruptcy notification that F&W Media had filed bankruptcy. While you probably won’t recognize that name, you will recognize Family Tree Magazine and Family Tree University with their online classes, conferences and huge, huge bookstore. Here’s the link, but this is NOT an affiliate link, just so you know. To be very clear, I’m not recommending that you purchase anything. (Please note that these companies, in spite of similar-sounding names are NOT in any way affiliated with Family Tree DNA.)

If you look at who is teaching at the Family Tree University upcoming Virtual Conference this weekend, you’ll see names you recognize. If you look at the bookstore, it’s a who’s who of authors within our community. It’s also heavily weighted towards genetic genealogy.

Those people aren’t being paid. Not now, and maybe never.

Bankruptcy Notification

This is the lovely howdy-do that I and every other instructor with unpaid classes and most (if not all) authors received in the mail today.

F&W Media bankruptcy 1.jpg

You can click to enlarge.F&M media bankruptcy 2.jpg

What Does This Mean?

This notification means that F&W Media applied in court about a week ago for protection FROM their creditors. The court was provided with a list of creditors 542 pages in length, with 30 names per page, for a whopping total of 16,260 people or companies that they owe money.

Almost all of those people you see on their website are creditors meaning we have sent them an invoice for recent services, such as the upcoming conference, or they owe us money and haven’t paid it. In some cases, a LOT of money.

While I’m angry, I’m “only owed” hundreds of dollars as compared to others who are owed thousands.

In the case of the Virtual Conference scheduled this upcoming weekend, my sessions were due to be delivered to F&M media on February 15th. I did and subsequently sent them an invoice on February 19th for those sessions. Instead of a check, I received this bankruptcy notification. Actually, that’s probably a good thing, because some of the checks they did send to people bounced, causing the recipients overdraft fees and additional headaches, especially if they wrote checks themselves on the deposited funds.

However, Family Tree University is continuing to present the conference this weekend utilizing the work of the people who will probably never receive payment.

How Does Bankruptcy Work?

I’m not a lawyer, but I have been a creditor in two prior bankruptcies. Obviously, bankruptcy is filed when the company has no possibility of paying their bills, so they seek protection from their creditors under the law and direction of how to distribute the money they do have among those creditors.

After the bankruptcy suit is filed, any debt before the filing is now within the bankruptcy court meaning managed by the court. The company may be able to continue business, starting over debt-free, in essence from that day forward. The court decides.

Whether, as a contractor who just got jilted, you want to continue to work for them and believe that the company can and will pay you for future work is another matter. To say that the trust has been eroded would be the understatement of the year.

In this bankruptcy filing, the book division may be sold off, which may provide future relief for the authors. I say “future relief,” meaning that they may be paid for the books sold in the future. Whether they are paid anything at all for the amount of money they are currently owed for royalties or for the books already sold is up to the judge.

To have a PRAYER of collecting anything, the creditors (meaning me and the others) must file additional paperwork with the court in Delaware by June 7th.

Then, the court will decide what debts are legitimate and will divide the assets of the company among the approved creditors. Creditors with secured debts are paid in full first.

In personal debt, a secured debt means that the debt is secured by something tangible, like your house or car. If you don’t pay the bill, that item can be sold to liquidate the debt.

Credit cards are examples of unsecured debt which is one reason why the interest rates are so much higher. So is the risk to the creditor of not being paid.

In corporate debt, tangible assets could be land, buildings or things like a book division that has residual value and is not losing money.

Next, the unsecured debt is paid in the order that the judge deems fit.

Here’s what I know for sure – in the two cases I previously was involved with as a creditor, I jumped through a lot of hoops and received absolutely not one red cent. Zero, zip, zilch. Nada.

In one case, the final disposition took years and I was owed more than $10,000, depending on how you count – meaning whether or not you include interest from when the debt was originally incurred. If you count from the beginning when the debt was incurred to the miserable end, that total approached $20,000, with interest included.

Poorly Handled

This situation was very poorly handled by F&W Media. They clearly knew there were having huge issues, yet they proceeded, signing contracts they clearly knew they could not honor, taking advantage of the giving spirit of the genealogical community. That’s bad faith, pure and simple.

The leaders of this community already contribute a lot. What we are paid for each session is almost a token amount, but many of us provide these and other similar sessions as a way of giving back to the community in a medium that can reach the highest number of people. That’s in addition to contributing things like this blog that is free for everyone.

Every professional that I can think of does similar things utilizing different technologies and contributes in many ways.

Shock Waves

This bankruptcy, in part because of the massive scale and the thousands of dollars owed to some people just before tax time has sent shock waves through the professional levels of the genealogical community.

No one can afford to take a “pay check” hit of, in some cases, thousands of dollars.

We feel betrayed, and at the same time, we feel sorry for the employees we’ve worked with for years. Most of them are gone now too, without a peep or a goodbye, before we knew. I hope they land on their collective feet and I certainly want to believe they had no direct knowledge that F&W was taking advantage of us.

At least they qualify for unemployment. We don’t.

We Need to Have a Discussion

After the shock of this situation wears off, after we’ve had a chance to deal with the ramifications, and after tax season when we’re all insane, especially those who were counting on those funds owed to pay their corporate taxes, we, the community, need to have a discussion about education and payment of professionals for their services.

While I understand that we all would like for everything to be free – it isn’t. Education isn’t free and neither is continuing education required for us to stay on top of what’s happening in this industry. Every. Single. Day.

Those of us who work professionally in this field incur the costs of incorporation, a CPA to help with our corporate taxes and filings, sometimes lawyers, the cost of computer equipment, software, subscriptions, blogs, websites, servers, ISPs, travel and education. We also don’t have paid vacation, sick time, insurance or any other benefits, AND we pay all of our social security contribution (including the 7% paid by employers) as well as required federal and state unemployment tax, which we, as business owners, can never collect.

If you think, “what fun to go to conferences,” let me just say that I paid about $2500 to attend RootsTech which meant that I substituted RootsTech for paid client work for roughly a week. It was not an unpaid vacation. I attended 2 classes, 2 keynotes plus one that I left early, and 2 lunches. I went to the FHL for parts of 2 days, so about a day in total for my own research. That’s it.

What was I doing the rest of the time for those 7 days? Contributing one way or another. Unpaid. Gratis. Including the class where I prepared the session and substituted for another speaker who became ill. That’s what genealogists do for each other.

Here’s a surprise. At least one speaker got to attend NO sessions at all. Not a single one.

This isn’t a pity party, it’s the reality that people never see behind owning a business. The last thing we need is to be unpaid, especially when others are making money as a result of those very efforts that we’re not being paid for. That’s adding insult to injury.

Consider that it takes approximately 2 to 3 DAYS, minimally, to produce a quality one-hour webinar or presentation. The pay from F&W Media was equal to approximately 1.5 HOURS of privately billed client work, so you’ll understand the outrage that we’re not even going to be paid that amount now AND the virtual conference that customers are paying to attend that includes our unpaid material is still going forward this coming weekend.

And just saying, this might not be a good time to say, “But you get to work for yourself,” either. 😊

All of the professionals that I know personally want to teach and provide services, but we want to be fairly compensated and paid. Perhaps contracts in this industry need to read differently and contain clauses that specifically address this type of situation. Maybe contracts need to contain clauses that state that the material can’t be utilized until it’s paid for and address bankruptcy specifically – and perhaps we all need to require that verbiage be included in every contract we sign.

I’m not sure how to address the issues of royalties and book sales, but I do know that we have a lot of bright people in this community and we can collectively figure out a way to protect ourselves from something like this happening again.

Once burned, twice shy.

What Can You Do?

Genealogical education, in particular for genetic genealogy, is absolutely crucial.

I hope you’ll support the authors and educators who give us so much by purchasing their books, webinars, subscriptions, products and services that they sell through OTHER outlets and avenues. If you’re buying anything, click through their (our) affiliate links. I won’t cost you anything and it provides a little something to them.

For blogs especially, affiliate links keep the lights on and the free articles coming.

If you’re purchasing a book, the author may well sell the book personally or can tell you the most advantageous methodology for purchasing. Check their website or drop them a line.

I know they won’t ask on behalf of themselves, so I am. The F&W bankruptcy is hurting a lot of people right now.

Thank you for your support as we struggle through this.

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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

Traut Enterlein – Journeyman Apprentice; Now You See Him, Now You Don’t – 52 Ancestors #231

We only know two things for certain about Traut Enterlein. Where he was between March 25th and April 6th, 1822 and where he wasn’t on December 21st of the same year.

These are the dates when Elisabetha Mehlheimer would have conceived the child she bore on December 21st.

Easter that year fell on April 7th, so maybe they were celebrating the end of Lent, or the beginning of spring, or maybe Traut was moving on and the local people hosted a goodbye party for him with lots of good German beer and wine.

Traut Enterlein may never have known he was a father, at least not to Barbara Mehlheimer who was born to Elisabetha Mehlheimer on December 21, 1822 in Goppmannsbuhl, Germany.

Barbara was given her mother’s surname when she was baptized, because apparently Traut was gone and the couple never married.

Truthfully, it may not have been his fault. He was an apprentice, a journeyman on his requisite walkabout.

Traut medieval apprentice.jpg

No, Traut wasn’t a baker’s apprentice as shown in this medieval print, but apprenticeships began in the middle ages in most trades and crafts. Apprenticeships still exist today in parts of Europe, particularly in Germany.

The Baptismal Record Tells a Story

My friend Chris translated Barbara’s baptismal record from 1822:

Göppmannsbühl number 64 [This must be a lot number in Göppmannsbühl.]

Barbara Melheimerin is born the 21 December 5 o` clock in the morning and was baptized the 26th of the same month.

Father: reportedly Traut Enterlein, clothier apprentice from Klein Schlaßung [?] in Saxony.

Mother: Elisabetha Margaretha Melheimerin, daughter of Johannes Melheimer, master weaver in Göppmannsbühl

Godmother: Barbara Melheimer, unmarried daughter of Johannes Melheimer, master weaver in Göpmannsbühl

Order of birth: the third child

Kind of birth: easy, fast

Midwife: none

Wow, no midwife. The baby must have been delivered by Elisabetha’s mother or maybe even Elisabetha herself.

One interesting note is that Barbara was Elisabetha’s third child, and she had apparently never been married because her surname is that that of her father. When Barbara was born, Elisabetha was 38 years old, which begs the question of Traut’s age.

We know that Traut would have been a minimum of 18, so let’s just use 20, meaning that he was born in 1802 or before. If he was Elisabetha’s age, he would have been born in 1784 which would have made him 38 as well. Typically, one doesn’t think of an apprentice in their late 30s. Apprentices began working at their trade in their teens. The best we can do is to bracket his birth between 1784 and 1802 and his death, sometime after April 7th, 1822. Not very definitive.

So Many Questions

Was Barbara a surprise to Elisabetha after enjoying a few glasses of wine at a festive dinner a few weeks earlier, perhaps? Did Elisabetha hide her pregnancy as long as possible, perhaps even up until the time she delivered? Is that why there was no midwife? In a small village, the midwife would have been easily accessible, living just a few houses away.

Was Traut already working elsewhere in his apprenticeship when Elisabetha discovered that she was pregnant? Would it have mattered, especially if there was a significant age difference between the couple?

Was Traut unable to be found? How would you find a wandering journeyman? Were there perhaps extenuating circumstances that we’ll never know about involved?

Chris wondered about the situation too, and wrote the following:

Why did the young Elisabetha Margaretha Mehlheimer, unmarried mother of your Barbara Mehlheimer born in 1822 not marry the father of Barbara, Traut Enterlein? This is a tough one.

Honestly, we will probably never know. What I can tell you is that Traut Enterlein did not marry or die in Wirbenz. There is a church book register for all baptisms, marriages and burials from 1815 onwards and the name Enterlein or Enderlein is not in there at all. My guess – but mind, only a guess! – is that Traut Enterlein had already moved on to another place when Elisabetha Margaretha Mehlheimer found out she was pregnant.

About Traut Enterlein: I searched for the name and did not find anything at all. I did find some mentionings of the name “Enderlein” (not in Wirbenz) and so assume this may have been the usual writing.

In the 1822 baptism entry, he is called a “Tuchmachergeselle”. I translated this to “clothier apprentice”. But thinking about it again, I wonder if you are familiar with the German term “Geselle”, since I think it is not something common in the US or even the UK: In former times it was required for any craftsmen that after completion of their apprenticeship they had to move through the country and work for other masters. Read more (in English) in this Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journeyman_years

These “journeyman years” is what Traut Enterlein obviously was doing when Barbara Mehlheimer was born. So this makes me think that he worked (probably for Johannes Mehlheimer, the father of Elisabetha Margaretha) in 1821/1822 and then moved on. But this is only my hypothesis.

I am not sure at all about the place of origin of Traut Enterlein. It clearly reads “in Sachsen” = “in Saxony”, but the town name is much less clear. I have looked and tried Google searches again and again and have not found the place. It probably is not “Klein Schlaßung” either but rather it is two “e” in the middle and a “z” at the end of the word, which would make it something like “Klein Schleßenz/Schlessenz”. But I cannot find such a place name either. I am sorry, but I think I am lost here and cannot help you further.

What makes it worse: The church book records from Saxony (and the entire Eastern part of Germany) are hard to access and many of them are not even on microfilms yet. So there are less possibilities for searching.

Journeyman Years

The article Chris directed me to elaborated on something I was told in Germany a few years ago. Journeymen wore distinctive clothing as they roamed about the countryside carrying their only belongings, a parcel of clothing, and staying with families.

Given that Traut was a clothier apprentice, he could well have been working for Elisabetha’s father and moved on before he knew that Elisabetha was pregnant. This makes sense, given that Elisabetha’s father was a weaver.

In a certain tradition, the journeyman years (Wanderjahre) are a time of travel for several years after completing apprenticeship as a craftsman. The tradition dates back to medieval times and is still alive in German-speaking countries. Normally three years and one day is the minimum period of journeyman/woman. Crafts include roofing, metalworking, woodcarving, carpentry and joinery, and even millinery and musical instrument making/organ building.

In medieval times, the apprentice was bound to his master for a number of years. He lived with the master as a member of the household, receiving most or all of his compensation in the form of food and lodging; in Germany it was normal that the apprentice had to pay a fee (German: Lehrgeld) for his apprenticeship. After the years of apprenticeship (Lehrjahre) the apprentice was absolved from his obligations (this absolution was known as a Freisprechung). The guilds, however, would not allow a young craftsman without experience to be promoted to master—they could only choose to be employed, but many chose instead to roam about.

Until the craftsman became a master, they would only be paid by the day (the French word journée refers to the time span of a day). In parts of Europe, such as in later medieval Germany, spending time as a journeyman (Geselle), moving from one town to another to gain experience of different workshops, became an important part of the training of an aspirant master. Carpenters in Germany have retained the tradition of travelling journeymen even today, although only a small minority still practice it.

In the Middle Ages, the number of years spent journeying differed by the craft. Only after half of the required journeyman years (Wanderjahre) would the craftsman register with a guild for the right to be an apprentice master. After completing the journeyman years, he would settle in a workshop of the guild and after toughing it out for several more years (Mutjahre), he would be allowed to produce a “masterpiece” (German: Meisterstück) and present it to the guild. With their consent he would be promoted to guild master and as such be allowed to open his own guild workshop in town.

Some wandering years extended much beyond the 3 years and 1 day. This man’s ropemaking apprenticeship lasted for 8 years as the man worked in 112 places in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. It’s a fascinating read, with a corresponding map here. This journeyman who worked 112 places in 8 years averaged 52 days in any one place. Now Traut’s absence makes much more sense. In fact, based on this, it’s very likely that by the time Elisabetha suspected that she was pregnant, Traut was already gone. This next paragraph calls into question what would have happened if Traut has discovered that Elisabetha was pregnant before he left.

The journeyman brotherhoods had established a standard to ensure that wandering journeymen are not mistaken for tramps and vagabonds. The journeyman is required to be unmarried, childless and debt-free—so that the journeyman years will not be taken as a chance to run away from social obligations.

This begs the question of what would have happened to an apprentice that fathered a child during their wandering years. What would have happened to Traut and his apprenticeship? Was it possible that Elisabetha didn’t search for Traut, on purpose?

In modern times the brotherhoods often require a police clearance. Additionally, journeymen are required to wear a specific uniform (Kluft) and to present themselves in a clean and friendly manner in public. This helps them to find shelter for the night and a ride to the next town.

A travelling book (Wanderbuch) was given to the journeyman and in each new town, he would go to the town office asking for a stamp. This qualifies both as a record of his journey and also replaces the residence registration that would otherwise be required. In contemporary brotherhoods the “Walz” is required to last at least three years and one day (sometimes two years and one day). During the journeyman years the wanderer is not allowed to return within a perimeter of 50 km of his home town, except in specific emergency situations, such as the impending death of an immediate relative.

How could apprentices be informed that a relative was ill or even had died before the days of modern technology? How was the wanderer tracked? It seems to me that when you returned at the end of your journey, it’s entirely possible that you could find your entire family deceased or having moved. At least others could tell you where they had gone, but if it was to America, the apprentice would clearly never see them again unless he too emigrated and attempted to find his family. After many years of being on their own, that seems unlikely. Skills they would assuredly have learned are self-reliance and adaptability.

At the beginning of the journey, the wanderer takes only a small, fixed sum of money with him (exactly five Deutschmarks was common, now five Euros); at its end, he should come home with exactly the same sum of money in his pocket. Thus, he is supposed neither to squander money nor to store up any riches during the journey, which should be undertaken only for the experience.

There are secret signs, such as specific, involved handshakes, that German carpenters traditionally use to identify each other. They are taught to the beginning journeyman before he leaves. This is another traditional method to protect the trade against impostors. While less necessary in an age of telephones, identity cards and official diplomas, the signs are still retained as a tradition. Teaching them to anybody who has not successfully completed a carpenter apprenticeship is still considered very wrong, even though it is no longer a punishable crime today.

Traut journeyman's traveling book.jpg

This traveling book, from 1818 in Bremen would be similar to the book that Traut probably carried with him. That book, if we could find it, probably carries the signature of Elisabetha Mehlheimer’s father, Johannes, vouching that Traut had indeed spent time in his workshop. Johannes was called a “master weaver” in the baptismal record, which also tells us that Johannes likely served an apprenticeship in the same way as well.

Journeymen can be easily recognized on the street by their clothing.

Traut journeyman's clothing

By A.stemmer, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1780852

The carpenter’s black hat has a broad brim; some professions use a black stovepipe hat or a cocked hat. The carpenters wear black bell-bottoms and a waistcoat and carry the Stenz, which is a traditional curled hiking pole. Since many professions have since converted to the uniform of the carpenters, many people in Germany believe that only carpenters go journeying, which is untrue – since the carpenter’s uniform is best known and well received, it simply eases the journey.

The uniform is completed with a golden earring and golden bracelets—which could be sold in hard times and in the Middle Ages could be used to pay the gravedigger if any wanderer should die on his journey. The journeyman carries his belongings in a leather backpack called the Felleisen, but some medieval towns banned those (for the fleas in them) so that many journeyman used a coarse cloth to wrap up their belongings.

Clearly many records are missing today in Germany, but it does make me wonder if Traut died. No marriage, later births of children or death is found for anyone with any similar name, anyplace. Or, perhaps the minister in Goppmansbuhl recorded Traut’s surname as it sounded to him, which may not have been how it was recorded elsewhere.

I would think, however, given that his journeyman’s book was issued from a specific place that we would find records of him there, either before or after his apprenticeship, or both.

Or maybe Traut never made it home. A person traveling on foot throughout the country, known to probably be wearing a gold earring and bracelet might be a target for those very items meant to keep them safe.

Perhaps Traut literally did just disappear, paying for his own funeral with his golden jewelry.

Traut’s Story

My own year spent abroad opened my eyes – widely. I can only imagine what many years would do for a young person, teaching them self-reliance, resiliency, resourcefulness and of course a trade.

Oh, the stories that Traut must have had. How I would love to hear those and all about his journey. The good and the bad. Those years surely shaped him. What did he do? Where did he go? Were there a few special relationships, or was there a different girlfriend in every village? How many children does he actually have? Of course, as we’ve demonstrated, maybe Traut didn’t even know the answer to that question. It’s very unlikely that he knew about Barbara.

Even if we did find Traut in the records, unless we also miraculously found an existing journal or at least his travel book, we would never share a glimpse into those years except for this one very important record in which one single word, “Tuchmachergeselle,” revealed so much.

Traut’s Staff?

As I researched for this article, I remembered a “staff” that has descended in my mother’s family and went digging in the umbrella stand to find it.

No one knew where the staff originally came from. It just kept being passed on, generation to generation. Many of the family heirlooms that my mother owned came from the “Kirsch House,” which means they descended through Barbara Drechsel Kirsch.

Traut Pedigree.png

My mother cherished heirlooms, even if she didn’t know their provenance. The fact that they had been passed down within the family was enough.

Traut staff.png

This staff descended along with a beer stein and plates from the Kirsch House, owned by Jacob Kirsch and Barbara Drechsel. Did this belong to them, or did this staff arrive through Nora Kirsch and Curtis Benjamin Lore in the next generation? Was this staff something cherished by Elisabetha Mehlheimer and brought to America by her daughter, Barbara Mehlheimer who married George Drechsel?

In Mom’s later years, she “spruced” this staff up a bit with a new coat of shellac or something similar, and I know she added the rubber foot so she could use it as a cane. She received lots of compliments, questions and comments and when asked about the source, she simply replied that it was a family piece.

Ironically, I think the reason it descended to Mom was that it was deemed “just an old stick” and “not worth anything” to others who were looking for sales value and not family value.

Wouldn’t it be the greatest of ironies that I inherited this “homely” cane because no one else wanted it and it actually was Traut’s stenz used during his journeying? It had to come from someplace and it was clearly treated as an heirloom for generations even though we don’t know why or where it came from today.

Is this even remotely possible?

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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

Things That Need To Be Said: Victims, Murder, and Judgement

moccasin

Unfortunately, the events that have unfolded during the last few months relative to using genetic genealogy data bases in order to identify murder victims and perpetrators of those murders have divided the genetic genealogy community.

Polls show that most people are in favor of this usage, some polls approaching 90% in favor. Within the community, the opinion is divided, with many of the leaders on opposite ends of the spectrum for various reasons.

I’d like to discuss this division and the inherent judgement – as rationally and as unemotionally as this topic can be.

I’m not going to list cases or examples. There have been many since the first case identified through genetic genealogy, the Golden State Killer, broke in May of 2018. At that time, the GSK case was plastered all over every news outlet, but today the announcements are less dramatic, approaching routine, often only covered in the local news. I don’t know whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. These cases have become normalized in the same way that discovering unknown parents or siblings has in the past couple of years. It’s a daily unremarkable occurrence now – unless it happens to you of course.

GedMatch was utilized to solve the earliest cases.

In late January, Family Tree DNA announced that they too are allowing law enforcement uploading, implementing a more restrictive approach than GedMatch wherein controlled, pre-screened and registered forensic samples can be upload after approval by law enforcement for matching and will be tracked internally by Family Tree DNA. These cases all involve violent crimes meaning unidentified victims, murder and rape. You can read their Law Enforcement FAQ here and their Law Enforcement Policy here. As opposed to early click-bait news articles, Family Tree DNA has not and never did “turn over” their data base to the FBI and neither did GedMatch. Forensic kits work the same way everyone else’s kits work – and nothing more. Please also note that this matching and identification process is the exact same process created several years ago within the community to identify unknown parents.

Ancestry, 23andMe and MyHeritage do not support law enforcement matching.

If you don’t want your kit utilized for law enforcement matching. You can opt out of matching at GedMatch by selecting the “research” option where you can see matches to the kit, but other people can’t see you.

At Family Tree DNA, all European Union customers are now automatically opted out but can opt-in, and all non-EU customers have the option of opting out by turning off law enforcement matching if they don’t want their kits to show as a match to law enforcement kits.

I don’t think there’s a soul alive that will argue that we don’t want rapists and murderers apprehended and off the streets. We individually and as a society want them to be identified and held accountable for their crimes. In some cases, the perpetrators are living freely and don’t appear to have committed additional crimes, but still, they need to pay for what they did. Depriving another human of their life or raping them is simply not acceptable. That’s how the justice system in the US works and the job of law enforcement to find those who break the law and bring them to justice.

Another aspect of forensic DNA matching that has gone largely unmentioned is that if a person is wrongly convicted of a violent crime, and DNA evidence from the scene remains, DNA matching can also exonerate the innocent. DNA matching technology has improved dramatically in the past decades, moving from the 26 CODIS markers to the 700,000+ SNP markers utilized today for genealogy matching.

The Great Divide

However, the great divide is whether or not law enforcement should be allowed to upload forensic samples extracted from the victim or taken from other evidence at the crime scene (such as blood or semen, for example) to genetic genealogy data bases in order to identify these people – and in what circumstances.

In a recently solved case, a live-born baby abandoned intentionally to freeze to death by his mother in a ditch in 1981, in the northern US, in February, was identified which also identified the parents. This case has illuminated a huge divide in the community.

It has also surfaced something I had never really thought about, illustrating why we need to attempt to remain free from judgement, as much as possible. By this, I mean that we need to listen to the points of all parties involved, weigh what they are saying and try to understand their perspective. That doesn’t mean we need to change our minds, but we do need to see if the “opposing counsel” has points that need to be considered. Unfortunately, when it’s a topic we feel strongly about, it’s so easy to rush to judgement.

Sometimes the problem is a lack of education or understanding.

The Legal Process

It recently came to light from a discussion that someone outside the US had no comprehension of how the US law enforcement process works. In the US, there are three distinct stages:

  • Investigation and gathering of evidence – This is where DNA matching is BUT ONE CLUE in the investigatory steps of whether a crime occurred and who should be charged. When the investigators are finished, they may arrest someone, book them into jail, and send the paperwork to the prosecutor who will decide what charges, if any, are to be filed against that person.
  • Prosecution – From the time the charges are filed, the prosecutor’s job is to present the evidence to the court that a crime was committed along with any extenuating circumstances. The attorney for the accused person presents the evidence to favor them, such as an alibi, an insanity plea, or evidence that they are somehow mentally incapacitated.
  • Courts -. While they are awaiting trial, the judge will decide if the person arrested can post bail in order to be released from jail while awaiting their trial date. Different factors are taken into consideration. Whether or not they are a flight risk and the severity of the crime rank high among the criteria. Ultimately the person is either convicted or found not guilty of the charges. If they are found not guilty, it’s all over. If they either plead guilty or are found guilty of some or all of the crimes with which they were charged, then the sentencing phase begins wherein the judge decides what punishment fits the crime and considers any extenuating circumstances. For example, when someone is found guilty but insane, they won’t serve time in prison, but will be remanded to a psychiatric facility for treatment instead. Many factors are involved with sentencing including victims’ statements, statements from the families of the victims, extenuating circumstances and any requests for leniency.

The person from outside the US thought that the DNA evidence automatically just convicted the person. Even people in the US may be reacting emotionally, without understanding the steps in the legal process designed to be as fair and equitable as possible.

This is Intensely Emotional

Over the last several weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to talk individually with many community members. I’ve come to realize that these cases bring to the surface issues of rape, murder, incest, parental abandonment and child abuse (including sexual) by parents and family members that people continue to love anyway. Needless to say, this situation creates extremely conflicting emotions and resurrects long-buried pain for many.

Almost everyone I’ve talked to has their own intensely personal and oftentimes gut-wrenching reason for feeling the way they do about the situation at hand. The revelations have been as astounding as they have been heartbreaking and are a true testament to the triumph of the human spirit. People can and do survive, but not unscarred. Most people hide those scars – sometimes from everybody and sometimes forever.

When I hear their stories, I suddenly understand WHY they personally feel the way they do, even if I don’t agree. It takes the edge off of the purely academic discussion of the technicalities of why or why not these data bases should or should not be utilized.

Suffice it to say, that cow has left the barn. They are being utilized and probably were before we knew it. It’s much better to have a process in place and consumer knowledge that it’s occurring, allowing people to make their own participation decisions.

Do I wish this process had been handled a bit differently? Yes, certainly, but this is literally the frontier – the leading bleeding edge. I’m afraid that if someone hadn’t taken the bull by the horns, it would never have happened because the topic would have been debated into oblivion. There is simply no way to achieve an agreement from polar opposite yes/no positions involving topics this emotional.

I’m actually surprised that this didn’t happen sooner, because the technology has been available for years.

There are some people who stand to benefit personally from one position or the other or have an ax to grind. After eliminating anyone with obvious opportunistic motivations or bias from the mix, the rest of the people have a very valid reason for feeling the way they do. People’s feelings can’t be right or wrong – whether or not I agree with them.

We don’t need to demonize the individual to disagree. It’s OK to disagree without attacking others and still respect them as individuals and remain on speaking terms. Perhaps the understanding we gain will even deepen our appreciation for them and what they have endured. Agreement isn’t required for that to happen.

It benefits us all to row in the same direction, together. We have the same love, genetic genealogy.

My Own Perspective

I am a supporter of utilizing the tools at our disposal for identifying the victims and perpetrators of violent crimes, defined as rape and murder. I would personally be comfortable adding aggravated assault in cases such as where an 80+ year old woman was beaten nearly to death in a robbery, but that’s not my call to make.

For now, I would be happy to simply process the backlog of the hundreds of thousands of rape kits that have never been tested and identify the plethora of cold case unknown murder victims that include many children.

This is very personal to me for a variety of reasons. I’m going to share one of them with you.

Here’s where I take the deep breath.

My child was kidnapped more than 30 years ago and was missing for several weeks. Even today, just thinking about or typing this, I can feel my chest tighten, my heart rate elevate and my blood pressure rise. There are simply no adequate words.

My child was one of the lucky ones, “recovered” several weeks later in another state roughly 1000 miles away.

The word terror doesn’t even begin to describe my emotions.

There was not one minute of one day that I didn’t very clearly know that my child might never come home.

That my child might already be dead, buried in some shallow grave I would never find.

Or with animals gnawing on their tiny body.

Maybe starving.

Maybe hurt but not dead…yet.

Maybe floating bloated in some river someplace.

Or, that they might be being used in the child pornography industry or even worse, tortured in snuff movies. (If you don’t know what that is, just trust me and don’t google it.)

If you sit down for one minute, put yourself in my position and think about this as your own child, or grandchild, you will understand fully why I fully support the use of genetic genealogy databases for the identification of victims and those who victimize.

Even if I didn’t support this position, it’s a done deal now. It’s already been happening for almost a year.

In the case of the mother who abandoned the baby to die in the freezing cold – if there are extenuating circumstances that should be considered in terms of the mother’s behavior or mental condition, they will be revealed at the trial and taken into consideration.

If a rapist or murderer should receive leniency or be judged mentally incompetent in other cases, that evidence too will come before the judge. Let’s not conflate the investigation and gathering of information and evidence stage with the prosecution and sentencing after a perpetrator either pleaded guilty or was found guilty. We should NOT stop investigating and identifying victims and perpetrators because some of the people who committed these crimes might have extenuating circumstances. The evidence must stand on its own – all of it, together as a whole.

Here’s the important part. Without the genetic genealogy data bases, the victims and perpetrators of these cold cases would never be identified. My child could have been one those bodies. I will never forget. Every time a new victim is identified, I’m grateful all over again that it’s not my child but so glad for the families to finally have closure.

At the same time, as we talk to and read what our fellow genetic genealogists have to say, we must realize that while they aren’t telling you their personal story, many of which are simply far too intimate and painful to divulge, they have them just the same and those experiences inform their opinions. They may be writing or speaking from a place of great sorrow and betrayal, from a place of anger or from a place of healing – but they are speaking from an extremely personal space. All you are hearing is their opinion based on things you don’t understand.

It’s possible to empathize, and still disagree.

I can tell you with no hesitation whatsoever that if my child had not been found, I would go to the literal ends of the earth for the identification of their body AND for the conviction of their kidnapper/murderer.

Every time I read about an unidentified body, I remember those days, so seared into my memory that I can never forget.

So seared in that I still, to this day, have nightmares and wake up terrified – awake for the rest of the night.

So seared into my brain that 3+ decades later I still can’t even talk or write about this without crying. I don’t mean an escaped tear – I mean full on tears-streaming-down-my-face embarrassing ugly-crying.

Every.  Single.  Time.

So seared into my memory that today I still utterly despise the kidnapper with every ounce of my being.

That said, I was truly one of the lucky ones, as was my child.

I can’t offer these less fortunate families their family member back, bring their child back to life or un-rape them, but I can help to offer them closure and justice by including my DNA in both data bases. I fervently hope my DNA can help.

At this point with the technology and data bases available, it would be negligent of law enforcement NOT to utilize the available tools to identify victims and their murderers. As a society, why would be not embrace this opportunity so long as people have the opportunity not to participate if they wish?

In or Out?

My DNA absolutely stays in the databases.

I was rather shocked at first, last May when the GSK case first broke, and I didn’t know what to think, truthfully. Over the ensuing months, my position has become clear in my own mind, especially as I’ve seen the results pour forth.

My biggest regret is the division within the community that this has caused.

My fear is the knee-jerk over-regulation that may follow based on inaccurate reporting, fear and a rush to “do something.”

It’s Your Decision

As strongly as I feel about this topic, I encourage everyone to listen to the different perspectives and not stand in judgement of the people voicing those opinions. We don’t know what that walk in their moccasins looked like. It may have been and may still be torturous. We often move on, only to have the thin scab ripped off when emotional situations involving the most primal bond of nature, mothers and their entirely dependent babies, rape and murder surface.

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been individually affected by these horrific crimes, meaning rape or murder – either personally or someone within their family. If you think your family is exempt, it’s probably because the victim has never divulged what happened.

When all is said and done, you’ll need to make your own personal decision about how to handle your DNA according to your life’s journey, conscience and moral compass. You can leave it in the data bases if it’s already there, transfer it in to both to support law enforcement matching, or you can opt out entirely. Make the decision that’s right for you. The good news is that with an off-on toggle switch, you can change your mind in either direction at any time.

______________________________________________________________

Please note that I am a member of the Citizen’s Panel formed in late February by Family Tree DNA to provide feedback on ethics and policy questions. I provided a list of questions, concerns and suggestions to Family Tree DNA after their initial law enforcement announcement in late January and before their recent update on March 12th. The Citizen’s Panel is an entirely volunteer (uncompensated) position and I serve along with:

  • Katherine Borges – Director of ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogy)
  • Kenyatta Berry – Professional genealogist, host of PBS’s Genealogy Road Show
  • Dr. Maurice Gleeson – Genetic genealogist, speaker and organizer of the Genetic Genealogy Conference in Ireland, and FamilyTreeDNA volunteer Group Project Administrator
  • Dr. Tim Janzen – Family Practice physician, long-time genealogist, genetic genealogy lecturer for Oregon’s local ISOGG group and other genetic genealogy conferences, and FamilyTreeDNA volunteer Group Project Administrator
  • Amy McGuire – Lawyer and Leon Jaworski Professor of Biomedical Ethics and Director of the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the Baylor College of Medicine
  • Bob McLaren – An early adopter of genetic genealogy and FamilyTreeDNA volunteer Group Project Administrator

Ancestry’s ThruLines Dissected: How to Use and Not Get Bit by the ‘Gators

Ancestry’s new tool, ThruLines has some good features and a lot of potential, but right now, there are a crop of ‘gators in the swimmin’ hole – just waiting for the unwary. Here’s help to safely navigate the waters and not get bit!

Gator

Let’s start with first things first.

Maybe it’s wishful thinking or a slip of the keyboard (or phone) but I see people referring to ThruLines as TrueLines, and that’s absolutely NOT true. ThruLines must be verified and proven, just like connections with trees must always be proven – especially when new ancestors are suggested.

ThruLines are not necessarily true lines.

Having said that, there’s lots to unpack here, so let’s get started looking at Ancestry’s latest discovery tool, ThruLines.

It took me a few days to wrap my head around this – meaning what ThruLines is attempting to do, with what information, and why. In other words:

  • How is ThruLines supposed to help us?
  • How can ThruLines actually help us?
  • What are the limitations and dangers?
  • How can we avoid the problems?

The difference in the answer depends on your goals. Let’s dissect ThruLines into pieces to see how it can help with genealogy, when and where – along with what to avoid. There are some useful features here alongside some very large neon-flashing danger signs right beside the ‘gator pond.

What is ThruLines?

Ancestry’s blog announcing ThruLines can be seen here.

ThruLines does two things:

  • ThruLines groups DNA matching descendants by ancestor. ThruLines shows you, by ancestor, which people match your DNA and claim to be descended from that same ancestor. Notice the words “claim to be.” As always, when other people’s trees are involved, there is a danger of conflated trees and other concerns. We’ll discuss that shortly.

Especially for more closely related relatives, this grouping of DNA matches by ancestor is a great feature because their trees and who they believe they are descended from are more likely to be accurate in the past 3 or 4 generations when the relationship with the ancestor is a result of direct knowledge as opposed to further back where the relationship to an ancestor is a result of genealogical research. This also means the relationship to your match is easier for you to confirm, if you don’t already have your match in your tree. These gathered matches allow you to add family members and cousins to your tree. You never know who might have photos or other information, so matching and discovering that you are connected makes it easy to reach out.

These match groupings use ancestors that you already have in your tree.

  • ThruLines provides “suggestions” for potential ancestors by extrapolating from other trees. These “suggestions” include replacing your researched ancestors with other ancestors from other people’s (often inaccurate) trees, many of whom are not DNA matches to you. This is Gatorland!

Ancestry has provided this product announcement but has not yet released a white paper about how ThruLines performs the following:

  • Utilizes DNA matches.
  • Utilizes trees, including how decisions are made about which trees to use and how to suggest potential ancestors.
  • How Ancestry determines when to ignore your existing ancestor in your tree in favor of a suggested replacement.
  • The weighting between DNA and tree evidence. In some cases, nonsensical ancestors are being suggested through people’s step-parent’s lines, or ancestors’ “other spouses” lines that the tester is not biologically connected to, so the Ancestry selection process cannot be solely based on DNA matching and in some cases, is clearly not based on DNA matching at all.

Hopefully, a white paper will be coming shortly.

Caveats

If you’re an experienced genealogist, I’m not worried about you. You already understand about ‘gators, meaning the caveats and concerns about the massive number of incorrect trees.

My primary concern is that ThruLines encourages people to believe that ancestors are being suggested because DNA has confirmed that a specific ancestor is theirs. In many cases, erroneous trees have propagated for years, and now all of those people are “wrong together” so their incorrect ancestor is being suggested as an ancestor for many more people. Worse yet, multiple wrong trees are being stitched together by Ancestry in ThruLines.

I wish Ancestry provided a visible warning someplace where users CAN’T MISS IT. MyHeritage does exactly that, even in the name of their similar feature, Theory of Family Relativity.

Buried in the Ancestry support document for ThruLines, I found this:

ThruLines accuracy

This should be a required clickthrough before anyone can use ThruLines.

Accessing ThruLines

Not everyone at Ancestry has ThruLines yet. Ancestry has been struggling the past few days and ThruLines have been coming and going. ThruLines is in beta and will be rolled out during the month of March.

For ThruLines to work, you must be sure:

  • Your tree is connected to your DNA.
  • Your tree is either public or a private searchable tree. Unsearchable trees won’t have ThruLines.
  • Your tree is at least 3 or 4 generations deep.
  • You only have one kit for any individual person connected to that person in the same tree. If you have multiple kits for the same person connected to one tree, only one kit will have ThruLines. If this is your situation, you can create a “twin” to yourself in your tree and attach the second kit to that person and both kits should get ThruLines. There aren’t many people like me who have tested twice with AncestryDNA, so this shouldn’t be a problem for most people.

You can have multiple kits attached to the same tree, but each kit must be connected to a different person in the tree

If you want to know if ThruLines is available on your account or you are having problems with ThruLines, I wrote about that in the article, “Ancestry’s Disappearing ThruLines – Now You See Them, Now You Don’t.”

Myths and Misconceptions

  • ThruLines is NOT telling you or confirming that a specific ancestor IS your ancestor.
  • ThruLines is NOT modifying or automatically doing anything to your tree. The ThruLines “trees” you are seeing are constructed for ThruLines.
  • You are NOT necessarily related to, nor have DNA matches with the people whose trees are used to suggest potential ancestors.

Warning

For individuals seeking unknown parents, if you see your name beneath a placard that shows a “private” individual in a hashed box above your name, this does NOT mean your parent has been discovered. This only means that Ancestry has “paired” you with a potential ancestor that happens, in your case, to be a parent based on some combination of name similarity (yours) and a person with a similar surname in someone else’s tree.

If you have a parent/child match, it will be the first match on your match list. Look there.

It’s heartbreaking to get excited only to learn that the ThruLines “potential parent” shown for you has nothing to do with genetics – so be prepared for this possibility and don’t get excited. Check your DNA match list.

Facts

  • According to Crista Cowan in her RootsTech video, ThruLines is a replacement for Circles. After working with both my ThruLines and Circles, it became obvious very quickly that Circles have not been updated for some time, probably months. If you have Circles or New Ancestor Discoveries (which have been dormant for the past couple years), please archive them so you don’t lose any information you might have. I wrote about how to do that here.
  • New Ancestor Discoveries were discontinued roughly two years ago, so you may not have any.
  • Shared Ancestor Hints (green leaves) is no longer working. Neither is Filter By Common ancestors. I sure hope they fix both of these (probably related) bugs.
  • Any ThruLine card in a dotted edge box is a POTENTIAL ANCESTOR and is very likely incorrect.ThruLines hashed line.png
  • Any ThruLine card in a solid line box when you mouse over the card is an ancestor currently found in your tree. It’s as correct as your tree.ThruLines solid line.png
  • Just because you have an ancestor in your tree does NOT mean that Ancestry will use that ancestor. Ancestry may provide another potential ancestor from someone else’s tree. Watch for the hashed lines and be cognizant of who is already in your tree, and why!
  • On the ThruLine trees, any person, meaning ancestor OR other person in a grey hashed line box is only a suggestion based on someone else’s tree or multiple trees.
  • ThruLines shows you which tree that ancestor was “suggested” from, allowing you to click through to that tree and view their documentation.
  • On the ThruLine trees, any person in a solid edge box is from your own tree, shown with red arrows below, while any suggested individual is shown with hashed edges, shown with green arrows.

Thrulines tree.png

  • The summary below the ancestor’s name may indicate that you’re related to XYZ ancestor in <some number> of ways, but review the people you match very closely because you may be related to them, but not through the ancestor or in the way shown.

ThruLines number of matches.png

  • If there was a second marriage, ThruLines may be attributing your relationship to the un-related spouse. The descendants shown may be from the “other” marriage and that person’s ancestors. If you’re thinking the unrelated spouse’s ancestors can’t be genetic, you’re right – at least not through that line. Be very careful. You’re in ‘gator territory.
  • Furthermore, Ancestry may be suggesting ancestors of the “step-spouse” or other tangential line as well. More ‘gators.
  • Just because you match 5 descendants of XYZ ancestor, that does not mean any of these people match each other. In fact, you may match some of these people through another line entirely.
  • You can still click through to view the DNA comparison feature at Ancestry. However, since the Shared Ancestor Hints (green leaves) is not working at all, you will not be able to see the side-by-side tree comparison feature☹

ThruLines common ancestors.png

  • Using Shared Matches on the comparison page, you may be able to determine if some of these individuals do in fact match each other which helps to increase the likelihood of common ancestry in a specific line.

ThruLines shared matches 1.png

  • ThruLines does not replace Shared Ancestor Hints (green leaves) although ThruLines organizes the Shared Ancestor Hints by ancestor. Currently Shared Ancestor Hints is not working and says you have no matches with shared ancestors which is clearly incorrect if you previously had any Shared Ancestor Hints.
  • ThruLines may “add” projected ancestors to matches whose trees don’t reach far enough back in time, but who connect with another tree who connects with your tree. This occurs in ThruLines, not in your own tree unless you specifically add the information there. This additive “tree extension” effort is very similar to the WeRelate application which was infamously wrong – more like WeDontRelate.
  • You will still receive potential parent hints for ancestors on your actual tree, some of which will (or may) also be reflected in ThruLines. In some cases, the hint on your tree and the ThruLine suggested “potential ancestor” are different, so check both places.

Thrulines potential parent tree.png

  • ThruLines only reaches back 7 generations, so if you’re looking for a breakthrough or descendants from ancestors before that time, you won’t see them in ThruLines. Previously in this regard in relationship to Circles, Ancestry had said that there were too many unknown family lines and multiple relationship paths that far back in time.
  • Many of the ancestor ThruLines share exactly the same descendants. For example, my Dutch line only has a limited number of testers, so the same 10 people are listed for generation after generation going up in the pedigree (back in time.)
  • Once ThruLines offers a potential ancestor, they continue offering parents and grandparents of that potential ancestor until they run out of ancestors, reach the 8th generation or some other criteria for stopping. If this is a legitimate line, great – and if not, it’s a royal pain without an “off” button to reject known erroneous “potential ancestors.” “Gators having baby ‘gators!
  • There is no way to “ignore,” “reject” or tell Ancestry to “disconnect” or remove a potential ancestor. I hope they will add this feature soon. This could be useful if they suggest another ancestor, especially in lines where you are truly at a brick wall. New “potential ancestors” would provide you with ideas for who/where to search.
  • There is also no way to mark a ThruLines card as “seen” so you don’t review it again.
  • Having two kits connected to the same person in your tree will (at the time of this writing) prevent one of those kits from receiving ThruLines. In my case, I took a V1 and a V2 test and had them both connected to my own record. This can be solved by adding yourself as a sibling and connecting one kit to the sibling.
  • ThruLines is free for everyone for now but may require a subscription in the future. (Don’t forget about the Insight subscription to access DNA features only, assuming it still exists, but you must call support to obtain that limited subscription.)

Suspicions

  • That trees with “more” sources are weighted more heavily than trees without “more” sources. Case in point is my own tree for an ancestor who little is known about, so I only had an estimated birth and death year. However, Ancestry suggested a replacement with a very robust but nonsensical tree that incorporates “lots” of documentation. In fact, this amazing woman has birth records from Washington DC 1830-1955 (which didn’t exist in the 1700s when this woman lived), New Hampshire 1714-1904, PA 1669-2013 and who died in TN but is buried in PA. Any modicum of logic would have immediately down-weighted this tree’s veracity.
  • That not all relationships are genetically based. For example, I have 15 ancestors for whom I’m the only DNA tester listed, legitimately, so why are those ancestors shown as a ThruLine for me? No DNA is involved.
  • That Ancestry created, updated or still has a version of that “One World Tree” someplace, because some of this information is drawn from old trees with information removed long (as in years) ago. Does Ancestry know where this information was obtained from customer trees, and how they selected the specific tree to use? Do they update it? How often and what logic decides what is incorporated into that tree? I notice that in some cases, suggested ancestors’ spouses came from different users’ trees, even when the same spouse was in the same tree.
  • That projected ancestors are entirely tree based only, not genetically based.
  • Although Ancestry has not yet told us how they weight tree matches, it stands to reason that the most complete records are the most likely to be matched successfully – so be sure your ancestor’s records are as complete as possible.
  • Having said that, some of the suggested potential ancestors replacing my existing ancestors have much LESS documentation than my own tree, including some with the only “source” being Ancestry trees. I have no idea what Ancestry is actually doing, when, or why.

Accessing ThruLines

Sign on to your account and click on DNA and then “Your DNA Results Summary.”

Click on “Extras” and then “Ancestry Lab.”

ThruLines Ancestrylab

Once there, enable the beta functions. I’m not positive you need to do this for ThruLines, but there have been so many issues that I’d recommend doing this, just in case.

ThruLines Ancestrylab enable

If you have ThruLines available on your account, you’ll see this on your DNA Summary page.

ThruLines explore.png

Click on the green box to access ThruLines.

Please note that as of this writing, ThruLines is not stable, meaning that ThruLines and ancestors, as well as matches are tending to come and go. Some features are working sporadically and some not at all. The Shared Ancestor Hints and Common Ancestors filter is not working at all, even when ThruLines is functioning.

Sorting ThruLines

After working with ThruLines, I discovered, for me, working the different types of records together was easiest, because what I do with those records differs.

Records fall into the following categories:

  • Existing ancestors in your tree
  • Potential (suggested) ancestors

In fact, Ancestry provides the ability to filter in exactly that fashion, at the top of the ThruLines page on the left side.

ThruLines filter.png

Let’s look at these two types of records individually, because I use them differently.

In case you’re wondering how I track my ThruLines, I created a spreadsheet that includes columns for:

  • Number – numbered so that I know I’ve accounted for all 254 ancestors through 7 generations
  • Generation in which that ancestor is found – for example my 4 grandparents are generation 2
  • Surname of Ancestor
  • First name of Ancestor with birth year if multiple people by that same surname
  • “Should Be” column for when Ancestry suggests a replacement ancestor for a correct Ancestor I have in my tree. “Should be” is the correct ancestor’s name.
  • Existing – meaning does the ancestor exist in my tree already and is the ThruLines card provided by Ancestry for this existing ancestor from my tree
  • Potential – meaning is this a “potential ancestor” as indicated by a hashed line. Believe it or not, I have several cases where I have an ancestor by a specific name in my tree and Ancestry has suggested a different ancestor by the same name that is a conflated version of my ancestor and another person by that same name, so the answer can be yes for both “existing” and “potential.”
  • Members – how many people match in this ancestor’s group. The number of matching people is easy to see at the top of the ThruLine card when you click on the Ancestor card to open.

ThruLines may be related.png

  • Comments – anything that comes to mind such as why the suggested ancestor is wrong, something to look at, if they are a Y or mtDNA candidate, etc.

ThruLines spreadshet.png

Here’s an example of my spreadsheet.

I also color coded the ThruLines ancestors according to the groups identified later in this article so that I could filter by color. In the example above, the grey entry is an example of a correctly gathered ancestor and the red entry is a hypothetical example of an incorrect entry. If an incorrect person was listed, I would enter the correct ancestor in the “should be” column.

I had to create this spreadsheet to wrap my head around what Ancestry was doing with ThruLines, and to some extent, perhaps determine why.

I would suggest that you read through this entire article before deciding how to handle your ThruLines, then come back and create this spreadsheet if you want to. I had to create a spreadsheet to wrap my head around what was going on with ThruLines so I could write this article.

Existing Ancestors

ThruLines only “sees” ancestors on your linked tree. That means the tree linked to your DNA results.

If you switch trees, you’ll have to give Ancestry some amount of time to switch your results to the new tree. No, I don’t know how long that is in actuality. Hours to days. Ancestry suggests two days. Many people are reporting much longer waits.

What you’ll see when the process is complete is a very nicely organized set of “ancestor cards” that begins with the closest ancestors you have in your linked tree.

ThruLines cards.png

Linking Your Tree

If your tree is not linked, PLEASE LINK IT. You will not have ThruLines if your tree is not linked correctly.

To link your tree, click on “DNA” at the top of the page, and then on DNA Summary.

ThruLines settings.png

Click on the Settings gear in the upper right corner of the page.

Be sure you are participating in matching and then link your tree in this section:

ThruLines link tree.png

Exploring ThruLines

I have 161 individual ancestors listed on cards at Ancestry, along with 49 potential ancestors, although this number varies from hour to hour and day to day.

Existing ancestors in your tree have a solid line around their card when your cursor is above the ancestor.

ThruLines existing ancestor.png

Potential ancestors have a hashed line around their card.

ThruLines potential ancestor.png

This might be a good time to mention that Ancestry includes information from searchable but private trees. This means that information from many of those private trees that so frustrate genealogists is included. It may also mean that trees people are using as “quick and dirty trees” and they forgot to make unsearchable are included too.

However, if you have a private searchable tree, this now means that you too will have ThruLines.

As frustrating as these “private” cards appear at first glance, they actually aren’t useless. I clicked on this private placard and look what I see.

ThruLines private.png

This potential ancestor happens to be inaccurate, but at least I can see something.

ThruLines contact.png

Sometimes you’ll see this instead (even if the person lived so long ago that they can’t possibly be living), or if you’re lucky, the following which at least provides the name of the suggested ancestor so you can search elsewhere.

ThruLines private ancestor identified.png

I’m very grateful for this change to provide the ability to at least identify the ancestor being referenced.

Looking at my Ancestry tree, to the 8th generation (meaning 7 generations, inclusive, counting from my mother, means that if you expand your tree once, every ancestor other than the last column should be shown on a ThruLines card as illustrated below.

ThruLines 7 generations.png

In 7 generations, there are a total of 254 ancestors, counting our parents as generation 1.

Let’s break my 254 ancestors down into categories based on the Ancestry ThruLines.

Group 1 – Ancestors with No DNA Matches

Based on the fact that I’m the only child that has tested as a descendant of my mother, and she has a card, Ancestry appears to have taken every one of those 254 individuals and processed them in some fashion. I say this because I have a total of 20 ancestors in my tree with whom there are no DNA matches attributable to that ancestor.

ThruLines no matches.png

In fact, it’s this line of relatively recent German immigrants, the parents having arrived in the mid-1850s. Jacob Kirsch and Barbara Drechsel (Drexler) didn’t have a lot of children and many of those children didn’t marry and have children, which leaves a small descendant pool to test.

Clearly, based on this, the ThruLines, meaning the cards shown, aren’t generated based on a DNA match. That’s fine, except that I understood that a ThruLines card meant that you HAD a DNA match first, then secondarily a matching tree as well.

Obviously, that’s a misconception.

I’ll be keeping a running scorecard of my 254 ancestors and how they break down in ThruLines.

Ancestors Number Comments
Total ancestors in 7 generations 254
Ancestors with no DNA matches 20 German immigrant line
Remainder 234

Group 2 – Missing Ancestors Altogether

This next group is probably the easiest to account for, because they are missing in the Ancestry ThruLines cards altogether. They are clearly in my tree, but they have no ThruLines card showing that they exist. If they were only in the 7th generation, I could understand that they are missing AND don’t have hints about ancestors in earlier generations – because Ancestry (unfortunately) doesn’t provide anything in the 8th generation, but that’s not the case here. Two full generations are missing entirely.

ThruLines missing branch.png

This entire branch of my mother’s tree is missing altogether – both parents and all 4 grandparentts of Angenietje Houtsma.

It’s clearly NOT because there aren’t any DNA matches, because the Kirsch branch in the last example has no matches and still has ThruLines cards for ancestors.

It’s not because there aren’t parents, because Angenietje Houtsma has grandparents who should have cards as well, AND, those grandparents have record hints. So, it’s not like these people are unknown to the system, because they aren’t. In this one line alone, 6 ancestors are missing.

In the 6th generation, I have a total of 4 missing ancestors who are in my tree but have no cards, and in the 7th generation, 10, for a total of 14 missing ancestors. Where are these ancestors and why don’t they have a ThruLines card?

I have no idea.

Ancestors Number Comments
Total ancestors in 7 generations 254
Ancestors with no DNA matches 20 German immigrant line
Missing Ancestors 14
Remainder 220

Group 3 – Ancestors in My Tree with Gathered Descendants

This next group is the largest group of matches after eliminating the missing ancestors and those with no DNA matches.

This group consists of ancestors who have cards from my tree shown by Ancestry AND with whom I have DNA matches attributed to that line.

Keep in mind that many more people may have DNA tested and are descended from these ancestors, but their DNA doesn’t match my DNA. The only resource available to see that those people match others descended from that ancestor is if you have a Circle for that ancestor, you can check for people NOT shown in this ThruLine grouping.

Ancestry has stated that they are not going to continue to add to the Circles, so if you want that information, archive it now. I wrote about how to do that here.

I will be doing that for every ancestor with a Circle.

Let’s look at Lazarus Estes. He’s my great-grandfather and I know of most of his descendants, or at least I think I do. I have 6 DNA matches that descend from Lazarus.

Thrulines ancestor gathered descendants.png

Ok, maybe I don’t know most of his descendants. I know most of his descendants a generation ago. One of these names I’ve never heard of. The good news is that they might have information that I don’t. Pictures, stories, something.

If your goal is to connect with LIVING people, you’ll love this ThruLines feature.

In recent or relatively close generations, people are likely to know their genealogy which means their parents and grandparents. For example, I don’t question for a minute that the three descendants of Gracie Estes Long know that she’s their grandmother. I would hope that Tyler knows that my half-sister is his great-grandmother, but I suspect he has no idea who I am. His mother and grandfather are still living, which is why they are marked as private and have hashed lines, so he could ask them and I’m sure they know both who Edna was and who I am.

As you move further back in time where people are depending on historical research, that’s when the trees become more problematic, entering ‘gator territory, because they adopt and incorporate other people’s trees, believing them to be accurate.

One point that this graphic illustrates quite well is the difference in inherited DNA in the green boxes. Note that with my three 2C1R (second cousins once removed), I share 170cM, 161 cM and a paltry 25cM of DNA with them. That’s a very large difference. Then note that I share LESS with my half 2nd great-nephew, with whom I’m more closely related than with two of my 2C1R. Roll of the genetic dice.

You might notice that I can’t drop down the middle box because there’s not enough space for all 6 matches to show simultaneously. Sometimes you have to scroll back and forth to see the entire graphic, including all the siblings, so you can click at the top on the “List” link to see the people you match who descend from this ancestor in a list format.

ThruLines list.png

There are three additional pieces of information available from this “List” screen.

If you click on “View Relationship,” it takes you back to the tree where you will see only your relationship with that person.

ThruLines relationship.png

Notice that the solid lines mean these people are in my tree, but there’s another hint too. You can see that Becky’s father was taken from her own tree, but her grandmother, Lucy was taken from someone else’s tree. Is that accurate information? Don’t ever assume that it is. The trees are all hotlinks. Verify, verify, verify!!!

If you click on the person’s initial box or name, you’ll be taken to the DNA comparison screen that we’re all familiar with. Be sure to note how you’re related so you can check easily.

ThruLines match info.png

This confirms that Becky didn’t provide any more information than her parents in her tree.

If you click on the segment information in the middle of the “List” screen, you will see the following:

ThruLines relationship percents.png

Please note that these percentages do not correlate with the DNAPainter tool here which I use extensively. Ancestry does remove segments that they feel are “too matchy.”

ThruLines DNAPainter percents.png

There’s a pretty large difference between 40% and almost 52%. I wonder if Ancestry is a victim of their own incorrect trees where relationships are reported inaccurately. If that’s how they are calculating these statistics, it could well explain the discrepancy.

I would think that genealogists who care enough to make the effort to enter their DNA information into Blaine Bettinger’s Shared cM Project, from which the DNAPainter tool is derived would care enough to make sure the relationships reported are accurate. You can contribute to this crowd-sourced effort here.

I have a total of 148 “Ancestor Gathered Descendant Trees.” I know for a fact that not all of them are accurate for any number of reasons, but what I do know is:

  • That my path to the ancestor is accurate because it’s my tree and I’ve spent 40 years performing original research and documenting those ancestors.
  • That I’m somehow related to these people, assuming that the segment is not identical by chance.
  • The identical by chance scenario can be lessened for each match by looking at the Shared Matches for hints based on other people that also descend from the same ancestor.

ThruLines shared matches.png

Checking my match with cousin Beverly to help eliminate the identical by chance scenario, I discover that I do have shared matches with her, and that two of the closest common matches are people I recognize. Becky from my example above and another cousin I know well – both who descend from the same lines and help confirm the legitimacy of Beverly’s match.

Ancestors Number Comments
Total ancestors in 7 generations 254
Ancestors with no DNA matches 20 German immigrant line
Missing Ancestors 14 No ancestor cards at all
Ancestors from my Tree with Gathered Descendants 149 My ancestor is accurate. Ancestor of matches may or may not be accurate.
Remainder 71

Group 4 – Ancestors with Unknown Parents But No ThruLine

These are the individuals I was truly hoping would have a potential ancestor.

With one exception, all of these 9 ancestors are females with no surnames. In the one case where the ancestor is a male, the potential father is incorrect and no mother is offered. Based on the other mothers offered connected to incorrect fathers, the mother would be the wife of the incorrect father.

Ancestors Number Comments
Total ancestors in 7 generations 254
Ancestors with no DNA matches 20 German immigrant line
Missing Ancestors 14 No ancestor cards at all
Ancestors from my Tree with Gathered Descendants 149 My ancestor is accurate. Ancestor of matches may or may not be accurate.
Ancestors with Unknown Parents 9 Generally, missing parents of females with no surnames and no potential parents offered.
Remainder 62

Group 5 – Ancestors Shown as Potential Ancestors are Already in Tree

In 3 cases, I have Potential Ancestor cards for the same exact person that is listed in my tree already, with much the same information, making me wonder why mine was ignored and the other offered as a replacement.

The good news is that the other person’s tree from where these suggestions arose looks to be quite well documented, so I look forward to contacting them and researching what they have attached.

Ancestors Number Comments
Total in 7 generations 254
Ancestors with no DNA matches 20 German immigrant line
Missing Ancestors 14 No ancestor cards at all
Ancestors from my Tree with Gathered Descendants 149 My ancestor is accurate. Ancestor of matches may or may not be accurate
Ancestors with Unknown Parents 9 Generally, missing parents of females with no surnames and no potential parents offered.
Potential Ancestors Already in Tree 5
Remainder 57

Group 6 – Possibly Accurate Potential Ancestors

Only two Potential Ancestors are possibly accurate. Both of these individuals are the parents of a known and proven ancestor. A cousin has done some research on this line and eliminated a number of candidates, but I need to work with her to research further to determine if the suggested couple has been researched or eliminated.

Ancestors Number Comments
Total in 7 generations 254
Ancestors with no DNA matches 20 German immigrant line
Missing Ancestors 14 No ancestor cards at all
Ancestors from my Tree with Gathered Descendants 149 My ancestor is accurate. Ancestor of matches may or may not be accurate
Ancestors with Unknown Parents 9 Generally, missing parents of females with no surnames and no potential parents offered.
Potential Ancestors Already in Tree 5
Possibly Accurate Potential Ancestors 2
Remainder 55

Group 7 – Inaccurate Potential Ancestors (‘Gator City)

I saved this group for last because it’s just painful. As a genealogist, I have to say that truthfully, the fact that Ancestry has suggested 55 ancestors that I know positively are inaccurate terrifies me for the sheer fact that less experienced genealogists will grab gleefully onto these “new ancestors” and perpetuate the Ancestry-provided incorrect trees like kudzu vines. The perception is that these trees are now “proven” by DNA – a statement I’ve seen repeatedly the past several days.

THESE ANCESTORS AND TREES ARE **NOT** PROVEN BY DNA!!!

These trees are predicated upon other people’s inaccurate trees with suggestions being made to replace your ancestors, currently in your trees, with other ancestors from other people’s trees. There seems to be no consistent logic that applies in ‘Gatorland.

The end result will be that even more people will receive inaccurate “Potential Ancestors” because there are yet more of those incorrect trees skewing the algorithm. I don’t know if the criteria for ancestor suggestion is “most numerous” tree or something else. This scenario is the very definition of a vicious ‘gator circle.

The incredibly frustrating aspect of ThruLines for me is when Ancestry ignores the ancestor in my tree that I’ve spent years (if not decades) researching and documenting, and instead suggests a “Potential Ancestor” that defies logic. LHM!

In some cases, such as with Lydia Brown, wife of William Crumley III, the widely disseminated Elizabeth Johnson is shown as the mother of my ancestor, Phoebe Crumley, instead of Lydia Brown. Not only is Elizabeth Johnson incorrect, it’s been proven incorrect for several years now via mitochondrial DNA, AND, I’ve written and published about this case.

Imagine my frustration, to put it mildly, to discover that Ancestry is now ignoring my carefully proven ancestor and suggesting that I replace her with the unproven, erroneous ‘gator. Not only that, but I fully suspect that my tree is NEVER going to be suggested to others, because it’s a (nearly) lone voice lost in the forest of incorrect ancestors.

Truthfully, this makes my blood boil – 55 separate painful times. Once for each incorrect ‘gator masquerading as an ancestor. Why would Ancestry think that replacing my ancestors in my tree with ones from other people’s trees is even remotely a good idea?

To suggest that I “consider” a different ancestor or information in another tree is vastly different than simply ignoring the ancestor I have in my tree and providing a “Potential Ancestor” replacement, like the one in my tree doesn’t even exist. (Not to mention that this attitude in and of itself is both arrogant and condescending.)

If I should consider a different ancestor, I’d at least like for that ancestor to have lived in remotely the right place and time. People did not have children at age 5 nor after they died (except occasionally for men within 9 months), nor did they have 30 children, nor were they married, having children and living in multiple places at the same time. Well, at least not most ancestors😊

The Quality of a potential tree should be part of the recommendation factor, especially if Ancestry is blithely ignoring my existing ancestor in favor of another potential ancestor from someone else’s tree.

Simply telling you how wrong these suggested Potential Ancestors are would not do the situation justice. I’ve documented the circumstances, briefly, with the hope that you will use my experience trying to sort through this ‘gator swamp as a warning for what to look for and consider in your own ThruLines, and how.

What’s worse, when Ancestry ignores your existing ancestor and suggests others, they don’t stop with that one ancestor, but then continue to suggest and propagate ancestors on up your tree for the erroneously suggested ancestors. These recommendations are not based on DNA or your existing ancestor in your tree but on “those other” trees alone.

Let’s look at an example of what Ancestry “suggested” for my Crumley branch. The red Xs document where Ancestry replaced a known ancestor with suggested incorrect ancestors – including on up the tree. (I should have used little ‘gators instead of Xs.)

Thrulines bad tree.png

Unknown H2a1 is an unknown wife of William Crumley II with the H2a1 mitochondrial haplogroup. Ancestry did not assign a potential ancestor for her, but obviously Ancestry “believes” that she was a Johnson, because her father is suggested as Andrew Johnson. Of course, this means that H2a1’s mother is incorrectly “suggested” as well as Andrew Johnson’s wife.

I know this is wrong, because Elizabeth Johnson was a second wife who married William Crumley in 1817, long after his son, my ancestor, William Crumley III was born in 1785. Therefore, it’s impossible that Elizabeth was William III’s mother. Not only that, she was 12 years YOUNGER than William Crumley III. Twelve years younger than her step-son.

Furthermore, Lydia Brown, the proven mother of Phebe Crumley through William Crumley III in the next generation, was ignored as well, and his wife was also given as Elizabeth Johnson through a different tree. This Elizabeth Johnson’s parents were assigned as different parents than the Elizabeth Johnson who married William Crumley II in 1817. Are you confused yet? Believe me, so was I and obviously, so are other people as well as Ancestry.

The end result of this is that not only were my existing ancestors ignored and replaced, but the erroneous trees that are themselves full of impossibilities for the person they are documenting are then suggested to replace mine. Those trees are then cobbled together by Ancestry in a Frankenstein mosaic of patched together ancestors that are blatantly wrong and very difficult to unravel.

And this in only one branch of my extended tree. This scenario happened on multiple branches. If you’re thinking to yourself, “How bad can this really be?”, here’s the graphic of every branch affected, and how.

That old “picture is worth 1000 words” thing.

If you think I’m overreacting, take a look at these graphics which do NOT include missing ancestors or the two that that might potentially be accurate – only the “Potential Ancestors” provided by Ancestry that I know positively are inaccurate.

ThruLines bad tree 2.png

The red Xs show where my ancestors have been ignored and alternative incorrect ancestors suggested as “potential ancestors.”

ThruLines bad tree 3.png

ThruLines bad tree 4.png

ThruLines bad tree 5.png

ThruLines bad tree 6.png

ThruLines bad tree 7.png

ThruLines bad tree 8.png

Thrulines bad tree 9.png

ThruLines bad tree 10.png

ThruLines bad tree 11.png

ThruLines bad tree 12.png

My tree is literally bleeding red Xs. And I just realized while proofing that there are now more than there were initially, and I missed one X. Sigh. The ‘gators are “propagatoring.”

If your jaw just dropped looking at those red Xs, let this serve as a warning for your own tree.

Below, brief descriptions of what is wrong, and how. Think of this as the ‘gator trap.

Ancestor Suggestion to Replace Accurate with Inaccurate Ancestor
Joseph Bolton My ancestor ignored and suggested similar Joseph Bolton from tree with significantly less information than mine.
Lydia Brown Proven incorrect ancestor based on widely spread speculative misinformation.
Elisabeth Mehlheimer’s mother I already have her mother, Elisabetha Mehlheimer, in my tree. Why suggest a “private” person instead? (This has since disappeared.)
William Moore Replaced my William with another William Moore proven via Y DNA not to be from the same line. The William they suggest has 30 children from 3 “wives” who are obviously the same woman by different variations of a common surname, with many “children” by the same name. This tree has obviously been constructed by indiscriminately “gathering” from other trees. Yet, that tree, according to Ancestry, trumped my own carefully curated tree.
Lucy, wife of William Moore Suggested wife of yet a different wrong William Moore, above, ignoring Lucy in my tree. Birth shown in Giles County, VA but also with an attached England birth document. Shows marriage to two different William Moores, at the same time, neither one where mine lived.
Daniel Vannoy Suggested his brother, Francis, ignoring Daniel in my tree. The Francis tree has many spurious references to IGI records, Family Data Collection and Ancestry trees, but does NOT include my Elijah as his child, so how Ancestry decided to make this connection is baffling.
Sarah Hickerson Suggested Daniel’s wife from a different tree than above where Elijah is included as a child. Which Vannoy brother fathered Elijah Vannoy was proven through DNA matches to the Hickerson family, not Millicent Henderson, wife of Francis Vannoy.
Jotham Brown Because the right wife, Lydia Brown, was ignored, the wrong line continued to be suggested upwards in the tree instead of Jotham Brown, Lydia’s proven father. This “private” tree is for Zopher Johnson, as shown by his connected children even though “Zopher” himself is private. Another Potential Ancestor shows Zopher as a card a generation earlier, along with wife Elizabeth Williamson Cooper, perpetuating this wrong information up the tree another generation.
Phoebe Cole Because the right wife, Lydia Brown, ignored, the wrong line continued to be suggested upwards in the tree instead of Phebe Cole, the wife of Jotham Brown, Lydia’s proven father in my tree. This “private” ancestor is for Catherine Harrison, wife of Zopher Johnson.
James Mann Substituted James Robert Mann, the wrong person, ignoring the accurate person. This continues upstream for 2 more generations.
Mary Cantrell Substituted Mary Jane Wilson, wife of James Robert Mann. The wrong line continued up the tree for 2 more generations.
Michael McDowell Suggested replacing my Michael with a different, less correct, possibly conflated, Michael McDowell.
Samuel Muncy Suggested Samuel Munsey-Muncy, ignoring my Samuel, from a tree that shows a Civil War service record for a man who died in the early 1800s and would have been about 100 during the Civil War. Miraculous! Lots of Family Data Collection and Ancestry Trees sources.
Andrew McKee Suggested replacing my Andrew with a different, incorrect “private” Andrew McKee. The original tree for Andrew has now been made completely private.
Elizabeth, wife of Andrew McKee Ignored my Elizabeth and suggested replacing with another Elizabeth. The matches look to be correct, so the other tree has the two Elizabeths conflated. The only source for the replacement tree is “Ancestry Family Trees.” Sheesh, Ancestry.
James Moore Ignored my proven ancestor and suggested replacing him with a William Moore proven via Y DNA not to be of the same line. This William in the person’s tree was said to be born in Henrico Co., VA, but has an attached birth record from England. Can’t be both.
Mary Rice Ignored Mary Rice and suggested Margaret Hudspeth, wife of the incorrect William Moore, above. Again, shown to be born in Henrico County, with English birth record attached along with IGI record as only sources.
Charles Hickerson Since Sarah Hickerson was ignored, the incorrect family line was perpetuated up the tree with a wrong ancestor for the second generation instead of Charles Hickerson.
Mary Lytle Since Sarah Hickerson was ignored, the incorrect family line was perpetuated up the tree with a wrong ancestor instead of Mary Lytle.
Sarah Rash Ignored mine and suggested replacing with a Sarah Rash that appears to be more fleshed out, but the dates are all based on records not belonging to the correct Sarah, including a birth in England despite a shown birth date in 1732 in Spotsylvania Co., VA. We have our Sarah’s birth from the family Bible.
William Moore’s wife, Lucy’s father Nancy Moore’s erroneously given mother’s supposed father, Samuel Little Harwell. This erroneous tree now perpetuated to the second generation.
William Moore’s wife, Lucy’s mother Nancy Moore’s erroneously given mother’s supposed mother, Anne Jackson. Woman who died in 1765 has a SSDA claim record and an 1800s immigration record, even though she was supposedly born in Brunswick Co, VA in 1712. Married Samuel Harwell 5 different times – clearly has simply collected and attached data to their tree without evaluation, but Ancestry thought it was “better” than my tree.
Jotham Brown’s father Because Lydia Brown was misidentified, so was Jotham Brown, and now his father as well, perpetuating garbage up the tree for two more generations
Jotham Brown’s mother Because Lydia Brown was misidentified, so was Jotham Brown, and now his mother as well, perpetuating garbage up the tree for two more generations
John Cole Since Phebe Cole was misidentified, so was her father.
Mary Mercy Kent Since Phebe Cole was misidentified, so was her mother
Michael McDowell Sr. Since the wrong Michael was identified earlier, a wrong father, John McDowell, was also identified, proven by Y DNA not to be related. The son of this John McDowell is yet a different John McDowell than the one Ancestry substituted for my John McDowell.
Wife of Michael McDowell Sr. We don’t know who she was, but we know she wasn’t Magdalena Woods, married to John McDowell. The Magdalena Woods tree they recommended includes 13 Ancestry Family Tree, Family Data Collection and IGI records as sources, plus a German birth record for a person born (supposedly) in 1705 in Ireland, according to the tree itself. Pretty tricky!
Isabel, wife of Michael McDowell Jr. Suggested private father, Ebenezer Hall, and erroneous mother, Dorcas Abbott who lived her entire life in New Hampshire, not Virginia.
James Claxton’s parents Suggested erroneous private father and mother, widely distributed but proven via Y DNA testing not to be of the same line. Ironically, there are other trees for this person that are not private. How and why Ancestry selected the private one is a mystery. Ancestry also suggested his mother, from another tree as Catherine Kathryn Caty Middleton which is incorrect as well.
Joel Cook Ignored Joel, proven ancestor via military records to suggest Henry Cook. Henry’s only daughter, Sarah, in the suggested tree would have been 5 years old when she married and 6 when her first child was born. Another miracle!
Alice, wife of Joel Cook Ignored Alice to suggest wife of Henry Cook from a different tree with the only source being Ancestry Family Trees.
Samuel Muncy Ignored Samuel to suggest Obediah Muncy.
Agnes Craven Ignored, Agnes, wife of Samuel Muncy to suggest “private” person who was the wife of Obediah listed as “Mrs. Obediah.”
Andrew McKee Ignored Andrew McKee who is proven to suggest Hugh McKee who did not live in the correct state to have his child. The next generation up the tree is also incorrect, suggesting a George McKee who had Elizabeth Barnes, mother of Ann McKee, according to Ancestry. Ann McKee’s mother was actually Martha (probably) McCamm. Another potential ancestor card suggests George McKee’s wife is Anna Elizabeth Carney with no sources at all.
Martha possibly McCamm Ignored Martha and suggested wife of Hugh McKee, Mary Nesbit, perpetuating erroneous information for another generation up the tree. Some very convoluted trees in this mess with only source being “Ancestry trees.” This has now been made entirely private.
Elizabeth, wife of Steven Ulrich. Ignored my Elizabeth and suggested Elizabeth Cripe, a surname/person that has been disproven but rampant in trees.
Marie LePrince Ignored proven genealogy that Marie LePrince is the mother of Marguerite de Forest and replaced with Marie Claire Rivet. Shown marrying both in France and in Nova Scotia.
Hannah Drew Ignored my Hannah Drew and replaced with wrong Hannah Drew from another tree with less information, showing only an Ancestry Family Tree and a record showing the birth of her son in England, while the rest of the tree shows his birth in the colonies.
Samuel Mitchell Ignored my Samuel Mitchell and replaced with an erroneous Samuel Mitchell who was supposed to have died in 1756 in Maine, but has a Michigan death record from after 1867. I had no idea people lived to be almost 200 years old. Wow!
Elizabeth, wife of Samuel Mitchell Ignored my Elizabeth and suggested Elizabeth Penglase as the mother of Catherine Mitchell. Elizabeth Penglase was born in 1698 in Kittery Maine, but with at London England birth/baptism attached to the record. Also shows her father as Christopher Mitchell and two marriages to her husband. Tree is very confused and conflated.
Susanna Koob Ignored Susanna who is proven and suggested replacement with Anna Margaretha Kirsch with only source being “Ancestry Family Trees.” No DNA matches, so how was this done, exactly?
John Herrell Ignored my John and substituted John Isaac Herrell, incorrectly from a different location, with no documentation.
John Herrell’s father Because John Herrell was incorrectly substituted, so is his father, shown as Davie Harrell.
Francois LaFaille’s father Suggested Jean Francois LaBelle who did not live in the right location to be the parent of Francoise LaFaille, nor is the surname correct.
Francois LaFaille’s mother Suggested Marie Genevieve Auger Baron who as the mother of Francois LaFaille, who was the wife of Jean Francois LaBelle.
Jacques De Foret Ignored proven ancestor, Jacques de Foret and replaced with Bonaventure Foret who did not live where my ancestor lived.

Evaluation

If you are looking for close cousins and know your tree well, you may well find some individuals with whom to collaborate based on the grouping of DNA matching descendants by ancestor. Perhaps you’ll be fortunate and discover previously unknown family photos, history or stories.

The further back in time ThruLines reaches, the more problematic the frankentrees that are unrelated to DNA become.

The suggested “replacements” of known, proven, ancestors with incorrect ancestors are found in my tree as follows:

  • 1 individual at generation 4
  • 2 individuals at generation 5
  • 12 individuals at generation 6
  • 40 individuals at generation 7

Here’s the final scorekeeping chart.

Ancestors Number Comments
Total ancestors in 7 generations 254
Ancestors with no DNA matches 20 German immigrant line
Missing Ancestors 14 No ancestor cards at all
Ancestors from my Tree with Gathered Descendants 149 My ancestor is accurate. Ancestor of matches may or may not be accurate
Ancestors with Unknown Parents 9 Generally, missing parents of females with no surnames and no potential parents offered.
Potential Ancestors Already in Tree 5
Possibly Accurate Potential Ancestors 2
Correct Ancestors Replaced by Incorrect Potential Ancestors 55

By any measure, this is an abysmal report card relative to “Potential Ancestors,” with only 2 potential new ancestors that could be accurate and 55 wildfires that can never be extinguished – with gasoline thrown on, encouraged and propagated by Ancestry themselves. What a terrible example of stewardship. This is not just a disservice to me, but to the entire genealogy community. We should be striving for accuracy, not feeding the ‘gators and fertilizing Kudzu vines frankentrees.

Goals and Benefits

My goal with genetic genealogy, and genealogy as a whole, is fourfold, as shown in the following chart. The questions is, how does ThruLines help me achieve these goals?

Goal ThruLines
To confirm known ancestors through DNA

 

This is best achieved by segment matching which Ancestry does not provide, but less conclusive evidence can certainly be obtained through close matches and shared matches that match both me and close family members. Unfortunately, Circles which is a form of genetic networks would provide additional confirmation but is being discontinued.
To document the lives of my ancestors accurately for future generations

 

ThruLines encourages the propagation of erroneous trees by suggesting them, by linking to them, and by failing to use any discernible quality measure. A quality tree is NOT a tree with conflicting sources about the same event, the same timeframe or unreliable sources such as “Ancestry Family Trees.” We, as individuals, can’t put these fires out as fast as Ancestry flames them, especially if quality trees are discounted for larger “scavenged” trees. Size does not = accuracy.
To break through brick walls

 

The two individuals that I have yet to research, as well as perhaps viewing trees for others whose DNA I match and share a common ancestor may be illuminating. It would be difficult to sift through the chaff for a newer genealogist.
To reconstruct and paint the DNA of my ancestors For this, I need at least segment data, if not a chromosome browser. I hope that Ancestry customers will transfer their DNA files to FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage and GedMatch to reap the added advantages of the tools at those sites – including the availability of segment information and the resulting confirmation ability.

ThruLines Recommendations

The “Potential Ancestor” feature could have been, and still can be presented in an entirely different way, facilitating responsible genealogy, including the following:

  1. Extremely visible and repeated warnings cautioning that ThruLines are not definitive, only hints and MUST BE VERIFIED with research.
  2. Do not ignore the ancestor in the customer’s tree.
  3. Providing “suggestions” to look at alternate ancestors or trees for additional information for ancestors, not doling out “potential ancestors” to replace your existing ancestors.
  4. Implementing artificial intelligence (machine learning) for accuracy including factors such as looking for multiple births in various locations (a person can only be born once), cobbled together frankentrees, multiple marriages at the same time in different places, births too late or early in the lives of potential parents, and more red flag factors that should down-weight trees as being “recommendation worthy.”
  5. Sharing with the customer why these trees were considered as recommendation worthy, similar to the MyHeritage confidence factor and side-by-side comparisons.
  6. Eliminating “Ancestry Trees,” IGI records and other similar “word of mouth” types of sources as being “recommendation worthy.”
  7. The ability to “dismiss” a “Potential Ancestor” suggestion and for that dismissal to be part of the AI learning process relative to future recommendations.
  8. Ability to group ThruLines, such as by categories: Dismiss (inaccurate), Accurate and processed, Reviewed but unknown accuracy, In Process, New and not yet reviewed, etc.
  9. Restoration of shared ancestor hints.
  10. Fix bug in common ancestors causing no matches with common ancestors to be found, which I would presume is supposed to replace Shared Ancestor Hints.
  11. Permanently archiving Circles and NADs.
  12. If the Circles must be replaced, find another way to provide a genetic network that includes people who descend from the same ancestor, have DNA tested and match some of the people in the Circle or NAD but not everyone.
  13. The ability to know when looking at a tree of a descendant of an ancestor if they have tested, and if so, if they match you.
  14. Much more adequate product testing before release. By any measure, this release has been miserable and was not adequately tested in advance. No one expects new code to be bug-free, but this is unacceptable.

Ancestry, I hope you’re listening, cause the ‘gators are circling and you need to help us escape from this mess you created.

Gator

______________________________________________________________

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Nora’s Twilight – 52 Ancestors #230

It happened during the opening keynote session at RootsTech 2019 in the cavernous conference hall at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City. The stage lights were shining brightly on Steve Rockwood who was delivering the introductory keynote about connections across generations with our family and ancestors. The rest of the room was movie-theater dark.

Steve was talking about connecting, about how you FEEL, about the extremely strong emotions brought to the surface as we connect with and belong to family, both past and present.

I was but a dot in the massive sea of humanity, huddled side-by-side on plastic chairs in the darkness.

Then I felt my phone buzz in my pocket. I ignored it the first couple of times, but when it vibrated a third time, I thought perhaps I should take a look, just in case, with my family so far away.

What I saw was an e-mail from a cousin who I had found a few days earlier. Perhaps “found” isn’t the right word, because I had met Patty some 25 years ago when we had lunch at a local restaurant to discuss our family.

Patty is my second cousin. We didn’t know each other growing up, because our grandmothers lived in different parts of the country – mine in Indiana and hers in Texas. Her grandmother, Mildred was known to me, but I never met Mildred since she lived in Houston, even though she didn’t pass away until 1987.

My own grandmother, Edith, Mildred’s sister, died in 1960, leaving only one other sister, Eloise, the baby who didn’t pass over to join her sisters until 1996 at the age of 92.

My mother was always close to Aunt Eloise, a bond that tightened after my grandmother passed away. Eloise always talked fondly about Mildred who was 4 years her senior, born in 1899.

Back in the 1990s, Patty and I met one time at the local Big Boy Restaurant and exchanged stories. Since then, Patty and I lost touch with each other and we both lost the older generation.

I was quite surprised and pleased to find a DNA match at 23andMe and recognized the person as Patty.

Just before I left for RootsTech, Patty and I exchanged a brief e-mail wherein Patty said she found a letter from Nora, our great-grandmother, to Mildred.

I wrote about Nora Kirsch Lore’s life, here, but Patty had more information that she was willing to share.

That’s the thing about genealogy, you just never know what might pop up.

Nora

Nora’s life began in 1866, just after the Civil War and long before automobiles. Those were the days of horses and buggies. Nora’s daughters rode in the carriage with their father to check on his race horses, shown in the photo below. Nora’s earthly journey ended just 6 years before the beginning of the space race.

Buggy ride

It’s hard to fathom that one person’s life could be bracketed by that much change in only 82 years.

I recently found a few newspaper articles that mentioned Nora.

In 1921 Nora was living in Wabash, Indiana, then Chicago, Illinois later in 1921, 1922 and 1923. She followed where her husband’s job took them.

By 1930, Nora was living in Wabash again, and the 1930 census tells us that her mother, Barbara Drechsel Kirsch was living with her. They rented a house on Sinclair Street and Nora gave her marital status as widowed.

Nora had married her second husband, Thomas Harry McCormack, in 1916 in Rushville, Indiana.

In 1920 they were married and living together, but sometime between 1920 and 1930, they separated.

Eloise or mother told me that Nora believed McCormack was dead, and that could be why she called herself a widow in 1930. It could also have been due to embarrassment. Nora and Tom never divorced, but she also wasn’t exactly married either. He just left and she had no idea where he was.

I recently found a death certificate for Tom indicating that he died on May 1, 1936 in Chicago. Mother mentioned that eventually, someone in his family told Nora that he was dead. She wasn’t notified when his death occurred.

Nora Kirsch Lore McCormack 1940 census.png

In the 1940 census, Nora was still living in the same location in Wabash, at 123 West Sinclair, with a note that the information was provided by a neighbor. I’ve never seen that type of note before. I wish all census takers made notes like that.

Nora is again listed as a widow, and this time, she actually was widowed. Nora was shown as 65 years old, but she was actually 74. Obviously the neighbors perceived her as younger than she was.

In a September 1940 newspaper article published in Rushville, Indiana, Nora mentioned that she was living in LaFountain, Indiana with her daughter, Mildred, but was thinking about “returning some time to Wabash.” She clearly liked Wabash and lived there longer than she lived anyplace else in her life, except perhaps her childhood home of Aurora, Indiana.

On April 28, 1941, the Warsaw (Indiana) Union mentioned that Mrs. Nora McCormick from Wabash was visiting her daughter, Mrs. John Ferverda and family who lived in Silver Lake, Indiana at that time.

My mother would have been 18 years old and she loved her grandmother.

Based on this information, it appears that Nora began living with her daughters in 1940, but may have returned to live in Wabash for some time. On the other hand, the newspaper article may have been inaccurate or made an assumption, knowing Wabash is where Nora had lived. Wabash and LaFontaine are only 10 miles apart.

Mom had a few photos of Nora and we can piece together a bit of her life between 1941 and her departure for other worlds on September 13, 1949.

Nora 1944

This photo of Nora appears to have been taken about 1944, judging from the approximate age of the young man in the photo, Mildred’s son, Jerry Martin. Jerry was born in 1924 and I would guess to be about 20 in the photo, or maybe a couple years older.

Nora 1940s

Based on this information, it appears that Nora began living with her daughters in 1940.

In the last photos of Nora, she has a somewhat vacant or disconnected look on her face that I’ve come to associate with dementia.

Nora, Mildred and Eloise

If I recall correctly, Mom said Nora went to live with Eloise in Lockport because she really couldn’t care for herself anymore.

Patty’s Information

Patty found two things – a letter and a tax receipt for the mysterious property in Florida.

We had heard about property in Florida for years. We don’t know where it was, who owned it, or when it was either acquired or disposed of.

There’s a photo taken in Florida when Nora was much younger, with “Aunt Lou Fiske” who married Arthur Wellesley in 1920. It’s possible that this Florida property had been in the family for some time, since the 19-teens.

Eloise and Mildred in Florida

There is also a much later photo of Eloise and Mildred riding bicycles in Florida that I would guess are from perhaps the 1970s. Eloise looks to be in her 50s or 60s and Mildred perhaps in her 60s or even 70s. Given Eloise’s hair style and Mildred’s birth year of 1899, I’d wager this was taken about 1970-1973. I remember Eloise’s hairstyle being wildly popular when I was in high school and Mildred looks to be about 70, give or take.

The properties behind them look to be inexpensive modular type homes, maybe even double-wide trailers. I can’t tell.

Would it be possible for this same property to have been in the family for that long?

Nora Kirsch Lore McCormack tax receipt.png

Nora Kirsch Lore McCormack tax receipt page 2

 

Nora Kirsch Lore McCormack tax receipt 3.png

We were in luck. The 1940 tax receipt for Nora McCormick was sent to 123 West Sinclair, Wabash, Indiana – the same address where she had lived in both 1930 and the 1940 census and the location of the Florida property was given as lot 19, block 4 in the city of Okeechobee.

Nora Okeechobee.png

Utilizing the Okeechobee GIS system, I found a property matching that description about 25 or 30 miles from the oceanfront beaches that had been discussed in family stories, but much closer to Lake Okeechobee.

Nora Okeechobee plot.png

The parcel is bordered in red, with the property description card, below.

Nora Okeechobee property card.png

Today, this property is a vacant lot.

NOra Okeechobee neighborhood.png

Clearly, this was a plotted subdivision.

Nora Lake Okeechobee.png

It’s not exactly “in” the city as I expected, but this property is listed with a city address.

Using Google Maps, I was able to take a closer look and found the property.

Nora Okeechobee aerial.png

I was able to “drive” down the street, much to my surprise since it’s clearly a dead-end with no center line.

Nora Okeechobee parcel.png

While this property is vacant today, it doesn’t look like it always was. Notice the gravel patch under the tree.

“Driving” up and down the street, some homes are newer, but there are still many remaining that look similar to the homes in the photo of Mildred and her sister, Eloise.

I wonder how Nora was able to afford this property. Who bought it originally, and who sold it? She was widowed with children and no money when her first husband, Curtis Lore, died in 1909, then abandoned by her second husband sometime before 1930.

Perhaps when Barbara, Nora’s mother died, in 1930, Nora inherited something. Patty said that Nora had paid the taxes since about 1935 and that Nora would always send the tax receipts to Mildred, telling her to be sure to save them, because it’s the only proof she had that the taxes were paid. In 1939, the payment was returned because it was 40 cents short.

Clearly, Mildred did a fine job of saving those receipts. We still have this one today, 79 years later!

Nora’s Letter

The second thing that Patty had was a letter from Nora to Mildred, postmarked February 12, 1949.

Nora's letter to Mildred 1.png

Nora's letter to Mildred 2.png

The handwriting isn’t bad for a woman who was on the far side of her 82nd birthday.

Amazingly, I can actually read those words that would become the last thing we, her remaining family, have from her. Her handwriting was a little wobbly, but far better than mine ever has been.

By 1949, Nora was living with Eloise in Lockport, New York. Nora had lost one daughter in 1912 to tuberculosis, two and a half years after the same disease took her husband. Nora’s three surviving daughters would have been 61, 50 and 46 that year. Nora had 4 grandchildren, 2 sons by Mildred and a daughter and son by Edith.

Mom was that daughter, Jean, born in 1922.

By 1949, Nora would also have had 5 great-grandchildren, including my brother John born in June of 1943. Unfortunately, Nora’s grandchildren lived no place close to New York so she wouldn’t have been able to see them☹

Nora’s letter reads:

Lockport, New York

Dear Mildred I want to write and thank you for the lovely Tan Kid gloves you sent me for Christmas I sure was so pleased with the gloves they sure were lovely Tan Kid gloves I was so pleased I did need the lovely Kid gloves and I want to thank you for the nice Candy you sent I do love candy and I want to thank you for the lovely candy you sent I do love good candy. But my dear you spent to much on me of course we all enjoy the Candy and I thank you again fore your nice selection of candy and I sure appreciate the nice selection (over) so many thanks to you ? and I sure was surprised by the lovely things and I wish you all a very Happy New Year we are all well and hope you are all well and wish each one of you many more Birthdays. I hope little Johnie is fine and I hope he keeps well I would love to see Him and each one of your family. I do hope Johnie is well and is a fine little fellow and that each and every one is well Wish Jean good health and lots of good Health for little Johnie I Hope he got the little Horse and was so pleased I thought little Johnie would like the little Horse I sent be a good Boy Johnie I hope to see you some time. Hope John and all Keep well we are all well. I’d love to see you all lots of Kisses. Mawmaw. Nora.

I didn’t correct the punctuation or the spelling, because that lends to the authenticity of the letter and the place where Nora was in her life at the moment in time.

I found Nora’s letter heart-wrenching.

Nora clearly did have dementia. There’s no doubt based on this letter which confirmed what I suspected from the photos. We don’t know why she had dementia, of course, but Edith, her daughter was showing signs at 72, although Edith also had undiagnosed heart issues that caused her death. My own mother was having small strokes that probably caused her dementia before her death of a massive stroke at 83.

It took Nora more than 6 weeks to write the thank you letter, although you can clearly tell that she had been excited to receive the gifts and wanted to write the letter. She repeated herself over and over and couldn’t really make conversation about what might have been going on in their lives. If you live just outside of Buffalo, New York in mid-February, you’d likely talk about the snow. But no mention of that or anything else in her world.

Nora seems to be struggling to convey the social niceties, such as saying thank you and wishing everyone well. I so want to hug this woman who died before I was born.

Mildred’s children were Jim and Jerry and neither had a son named John. My mother, Jean, had the only Johnie (Johnny) in the family, and he would have been 5 years old, the perfect age to indeed love a little horse. Nora confused which of her children had daughter Jean, thinking that Mildred would know about Jean and Johnie. Nora’s other daughter, Edith, was Jean’s mother and Johnie’s grandmother.

It’s unclear if Nora had ever seen Johnie who was born in 1943, but one thing is for sure, she never saw him again. By this time, Nora couldn’t travel alone, that’s for sure – although you can feel the aching in her letter to see Johnie – even 70 years after she penned those words.

Eloise never had children, her husband, Warren, having been disabled not long after their marriage in 1929.

In 1949, Eloise was caring for both her mother and her husband, or perhaps her mother and husband were caring for each other while Eloise worked to support the family.

Nora passed away 7 months after she wrote this letter, on September 13, 1949. I don’t have her death certificate, so I don’t know the official cause of death. Maybe Patty knows or has that document.

I do know that Nora specifically requested that she NOT be buried under the surname of McCormack. Her body was transported back to Rushville, Indiana for burial where she was laid to rest beside her daughter and her first husband, Curtis B. Lore, 40 years, shy 2 months after his death – as Nora Lore, not as Nora McCormack. Thomas McCormack had been nothing more than a bad dream, a flash in the pan, as permanently erased as Nora could make him.

Mawmaw

But the final ache in my heart was seeing Nora’s next to last word. Not her name, Nora, but the word Mawmaw.

As I sat in the inky darkeness of the conference center, with Steve Rockwood’s voice in the background, I looked at Nora’s handwriting on the tiny screen between my knees. I read that word and vividly remembered the pink ribbon banner on my mother’s own casket that said “Mawmaw.”

Tears filled my eyes, blurring everything except memories.

Mawmaw was a tradition. Barbara Drechsel, Nora’s mother was probably Mawmaw too, as my mother was to her grandchildren.

Mother was adamant about that. She was never Grandma or anything other than Mawmaw, as my grandmother was to me.

I realized sitting there as Steve talked about traditions and generations that I had failed to understand the importance of Mawmaw. That the grandmothers for who-knows-how-many generations in my family had called themselves and been called Mawmaw. It was right there in this sad letter in Nora’s own handwriting, in what was probably the last letter she ever wrote. She blew kisses and signed off, calling herself Mawmaw. That, she knew clearly.

Without intending to, I had failed to continue an important tradition. I never chose what my grandchildren call me. I should have been Mawmaw. At least a 4 or 5-generation tradition has been lost forever. I wish I had realized.

My son will never be Pawpaw and my granddaughters will never be Mawmaws themselves now either.

I’m sorry.

I’m so very sorry.

It’s such a little thing that’s a big thing that could have been the umbilical cord linking future generations through that special name to the past. A torch to be passed, a right of passage.

A simple word that provides a connection and immediate comfort to those who have their own Mawmaw.

Salve for the soul aching with loss.

On September 13, 1949, as mother dealt with her own broken marriage, fiancé’s death and tragedy following on the heels of World War II, her Mawmaw slipped away forever through the veil of dementia into the twilight beyond.

Mom Rushville 1940s

My very sad mother beside Nora’s grave, not yet covered with grass, at left, beside C. B. Lore’s stone

______________________________________________________________

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

Ancestry’s Disappearing ThruLines – Now You See Them, Now You Don’t

Ancestry has quite a mess on its hands right now, and genealogists are losing their collective minds. I have some information here to help.

You are always welcome to post links to my articles on other sites, but this article in particular may help many people – so please feel free to pass it on.

I’ve been trying to write an article on ThruLines, but the Ancestry site has been experiencing so many issues that I can’t manage to actually get through my ThruLines to evaluate them and write the article.

There are two different scenarios:

  • You’ve never had ThruLines and you aren’t sure if they have been rolled out to your account yet. They will be rolled out to everyone through the month of March.
  • You’ve had ThruLines, but now you don’t and your account has reverted back, meaning ThruLines no longer shows and the Circles placard has returned, or the Ancestry site simply doesn’t work and says the pages are no longer present.

Scenario 1 – Never Had ThruLines – Does My Account Even Have Them at All?

If you’re never had ThruLines yet, or aren’t sure, you need to do the following in order to qualify for ThruLines and to make sure they work.

For ThruLines to work, you must be sure:

  • Your tree is connected to your DNA.
  • Your tree is either public or a private searchable tree. Unsearchable trees won’t have ThruLines.
  • Your tree is at least 3 or 4 generations deep.
  • You only have one kit for any individual person connected to that person in the same tree. If you have multiple kits for the same person connected to one tree, only one kit will have ThruLines. If this is your situation, you can create a “twin” to yourself in your tree and attach the second kit to that person and both kits should get ThruLines. There aren’t many people like me who have tested twice with AncestryDNA, so this shouldn’t be a problem for most people.

You can have multiple kits attached to the same tree, but each kit must be connected to a different person in the tree

Do the following:

At the top of your Ancestry DNA Summary page, you’ll see “Extras.” Click there and then on Ancestry Lab.

ThruLines Ancestrylab.png

To enable Ancestry’s new features, you’ll see the following screen.

ThruLines Ancestrylab enable.png

I’m not positive you need to enable to active ThruLines, but if you want the other new features, you definitely do, so enable just to be sure.

If you see this next “we’re sorry” screen instead of the one above, you’ll need to move to the Scenario 2 and clear your cookies, but read the instructions all the way through, first, please – to save yourself a lot of grief.

ThruLines sorry.png

Do You Have ThruLines on Your Account?

If you’ve already had access to ThruLines and now it’s not functioning correctly, move to the next section, Scenario 2. If you’ve never had ThruLines, read this.

If you don’t have access to ThruLines, you’ll see this screen with Circles showing to the far right:

ThruLines not available.png

If you have access to ThruLines, but you don’t have any ThruLines, you’ll see this placard, below:

ThruLines available but you have none.png

You do have ThruLines if you see the next screen, with the green “Explore ThruLines” box at the bottom of the ThruLines box. Click on that green box to view your ThruLines.

Thrulines present.png

Scenario 2 – You Had ThruLines But Don’t Now or They Don’t Work

I had ThruLines on one of my two accounts. They were present and I was working through them one at a time – right up until they stopped working a couple days ago. Initially, it was flakey, like the Ancestry site was having problems, but then, the old screen showing the Circles placard in place of ThruLines reappeared and ThruLines were entirely gone.

This, on top of the issues with the ThruLines themselves is proving incredibly frustrating. I’ve called ThruLines an array of not-very-complimentary names derived from Thru…but I’ll be the better person and not print those here:)

I waited, not so patiently I must admit, but today in the Genetic Genealogy Tips and Techniques group of Facebook, Paula Williams posted about how to clear specific cookies. Not ALL of your cookies and not your cache – just the Ancestry cookies. I was very skeptical, since “clear your cookies” is always the “go to” answer when the answer is unknown and it almost never works. It’s kind of the last resort and won’t hurt anything, but will make it so that no “memory” functions if you have sites that remember your preferences, for example.

However, Paula’s instructions tell you how to clear specific cookies for one site only, and they aren’t destructive to other cookies.

Best of all, this actually worked to correct the “disappeared” ThruLines issue.

I have no idea why Ancestry is having so many problems right now, but these suggestions should help you restore your ThruLines if they have disappeared or the Ancestry site is acting flakey.

Good luck and thanks to Paula. Instructions reproduced with permission, below.

Deleting Specific Site Cookies

Many of us have had issues with Ancestry in the last day or so. Deleting your Ancestry cookies should fix problems such as not being able to load pages. This particular issue is in the cookies, so you’ll need to delete your **cookies** and not your cache.

Here are some links that explain how to delete your cookies. Do note that many of these sites also explain how to delete cookies from just one site, so you can delete just your Ancestry cookies if you’re afraid to delete any others.

Chrome (note the Computer, Android, and iPhone/iPad tabs just above the words “Clear All Cookies”) :
https://support.google.com/chrome/answer/95647…

FireFox:
https://support.mozilla.org/…/clear-cookies-and-site-data-f…

Safari (Mac):
https://support.apple.com/…/manage-cookies-and-website-…/mac

Safari (iPhone / iPad):
https://support.apple.com/lv-lv/HT201265

Microsoft Edge:
https://support.microsoft.com/…/4027…/windows-delete-cookies

Internet Explorer:
https://support.microsoft.com/…/windows-internet-explorer-d…

If I’ve missed your browser, go to Google and search for “delete specific cookies” (without the quotation marks) and your browser or device – for example, delete specific cookies Samsung Galaxy.

I’ll still be writing about ThruLines as soon as I can actually finish the review.

Other Options

With or without ThruLines working, there are other DNA comparison options you may want to consider.

The MyHeritage Theories of Family Relativity tool is working fine and you can transfer your DNA file easily.

Both GedMatch and FamilyTreeDNA, although they didn’t make any announcements of new products recently work just fine too. You can also compare your segments at all three sites which you can’t do at Ancestry.

I wrote about how to transfer to MyHeritage here and FamilyTreeDNA here.

Have fun, enjoy!

______________________________________________________________

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

MyHeritage’s New Theory of Family Relativity

2019 Theory of Family Relativity

MyHeritage’s new Theory of Family Relativity, introduced February 28, 2019 at RootsTech combines the power of DNA matching with trees and documents to suggest, SUGGEST, potential common ancestors with your matches. You can read the MyHeritage announcement article here.

As the title indicates, the results are a theory about how you are related to other people you match. In fact, there may be more than one theory for a match – and multiple theories might be accurate if you descend from more than one common line.

That happened with one of my matches and the two separate theories were both accurate.

Tree resources utilized include MyHeritage trees, Geni and Family Search.

Documents include the entire library of MyHeritage resources.

I must say, I was somewhat of a Doubting Thomas on this, given the number of bad trees in cyberspace, but the results have been amazingly accurate for me.

Are Theories Accurate?

I have a total of 51 matches with theories.

There are a total of 61 theories, because some matches have multiple theories. In some cases, one is wrong and one is right. In others, both are accurate because of descent through different lines. In one case, none of the three theories were accurate because other researchers have conflated multiple William Crumley’s into one person.

However, and here’s the great news, in all cases except one, I was able to discover the correct path even in the situations where the information was not accurate. It got me “close enough” that I could do the rest myself. There is only one of 61 that I cannot yet confirm. That’s pretty amazing.

Of the 51 matches, I already knew where 20 people fit into my tree (although they weren’t in my tree at MyHeritage), so this advance knowledge helped me immensely in evaluating the accuracy of the MyHeritage genealogical theories of why these people matched me.

So are Theories accurate? Yes, for me, they are very accurate.

How Does the Theory of Family Relativity Work?

Borrowing from the MyHeritage blog article (with permission), MyHeritage shows the Big Tree with this interconnected graphic.

Theory Big Tree

They describe the Big Tree thus:

The Theory of Family Relativity™ is based on a big data graph that connects billions of data points drawn from thousands of databases on MyHeritage, in real time. We call it internally the “Big Tree”. Every node on this graph represents a person, and every edge depicts a blood relationship between two individuals that is described in a family tree or a historical record; or a match between two tree profiles that are likely to be the same person; or two records that are likely to be about the same person.

Ok, now let’s see how to use the Theories.

Finding the Theories

Sign on to your account and click on DNA.

Theory of Family Relativity

Initially, you’ll see this purple banner, but eventually you’ll just filter your matches, at right below, and look under “All tree details” and select “Theory of Family Relativity.”

Theory finding

Please note that you can click on any of the images for a larger, more clear view. Unfortunately, some images are difficult to see otherwise.

Evaluating Theories

I discovered that I have Theories for 51 matches. Many individual theories have multiple paths. In other words, MyHeritage is telling you HOW they arrived at these theories, AND they rank the paths with a confidence level based on match quality.

Please note that if you see the note “plus 1 more theory,” it’s easy to miss the second theory for a particular match. This is NOT the same thing as multiple paths on the same theory – but a completely different theory for this match altogether.

Theory multiple

To clarify, multiple paths on one theory means different trees and documents that get you and your match to the same set of common ancestors.

Different theories means that you have two potentially separate lines. Either the ancestors can be entirely different, or the path to the same ancestral couple can be different enough to result in a different end relationship for you and your match, meaning 3rd cousins versus 3rd cousins once removed for example.

I would encourage you not to skim these paths and theories, but to review them carefully and thoughtfully and compare with credible documentation.

Theory 2 theories

On a match that has multiple theories, when you view the first theory, you see “view another theory” but it’s easy to miss.

It’s worth noting that if you match on more than one segment, one segment can descend through one line and another segment through a different line. Every segment has its own history.

OK, let’s take a look. I’m going to step through my 4 closest matches with theories to illustrate how theories work and what to look for in different scenarios.

Match 1 – Known First Cousin

I filtered for matches with theories and here’s my first match.

Theory match 1

I happen to know the identity of this match who just happens to be my first cousin who is not in my tree. (I know, my bad.) However, knowing exactly how they matched and not having them in my tree helped me evaluate the accuracy of Theories.

To view the theory, click on “View theory.”

Match 1 – Path 1

You’ll notice immediately that this match has three different paths. Path 1, the highest confidence path, is displayed first.

Theory match 1 path 1

Path 1 of this theory, with a 74 % confidence level is that the tester is my first cousin on my mother’s side, based on first, DNA, and secondarily trees that show we have a common grandfather, John Ferverda.

This happens to be correct.

To review the match that connects the trees (John Ferverda), click on the green icon on the seam between the two trees. You’ll see the display below, which shows at the top that the 74% confidence factor is predicated on a SmartMatch showing a common ancestor in a tree.

I’ve noticed that it appears that the only SmartMatches that receive Theories are those with incomplete couples or with matches that aren’t clear enough to be deemed a definitive match. Don’t assume that people with SmartMatches don’t have Theories or that people with Theories don’t have SmartMatches. Filter for both separately.

On this match with both a Theory and SmartMatch, the Profile card information is not an exact match – which is probably why the confidence level is only 74%.

theory Ferverda profile

The red arrows above have to be the matching criteria because the information is either the same or similar. However, they aren’t exact. My tree is much more robust than my cousin’s tree.

The red squares are differences between the trees. Note that in one case, a surname is misspelled in my tree and my cousin’s tree is missing a great deal of information, including our grandmother’s surname.

Match 1 – Path 2

Path 2 shows that my record in my tree matches a record of me in my cousin’s tree.

Theory match 1 path 2.png

Note that in Path 2, my cousin doesn’t show either his parent or my mother as deceased. However, I’m living and showing in both trees. MyHeritage would not expose a living person unless both people gave permission by participating in matching, which is probably why neither of our parents are matched, even though both are deceased.

Clicking on the 93% green joining spinner, we can see that my cousin did not enter my father’s name and he doesn’t show my mother as deceased, which is why she is showing in his tree as private.

Theory match 1 path 2 profile.png

Match 1 – Path 3

Path 3 is actually quite interesting because it’s made up of two separate items, one being a tree match and one being a record match from the 1940 census.

Theory match 1 path 3.png

In this example, you can see three different records and the two “join seams.”

Beginning at the left, my tree is joined at my mother to the census record by the 1940 census. Note that my mother’s name is misspelled in the census. The 1940 census record is joined to my cousin’s tree by my mother’s father.

Theory match 1 path 3 review.png

This record just happens to be accurate, but the information is not identical, but similar – hence the low confidence score.

The second link between the census and my grandfather is shown below.

Theory 1 match 3 profile.png

This match connects John Ferverda, but there’s a lot missing in my cousin’s tree and my mother’s middle name is misspelled.

Match 1 Conclusion

All 3 paths are accurate, just different, which can provide me with various hints as to trees and records to view for additional information.

Match 1 Suggestions

These suggestions are in no way criticisms – it’s just that genealogists are always wanting something more😊

I’d love to be able to do three things at this point.

  • First, to click through to view the specific census page. You can hover over the record description and search the collection, but I’d like to automatically see this record since MyHeritage already found it for me.

Theory census.png

  • Second, to be notified if I already have the census attached to any of these people in my tree and if not, to have the option of attaching the census record directly from this point.
  • Third, add my cousin to my tree in the proper location. Not automatically, but with prompts perhaps.

Match 2 – Known Half Niece

This second match is my half-sister’s daughter. Half relationships are more difficult to discern.

There are two ways to reach theories.

  • Through your match page by filtering for “Theories.”
  • Through your “Review DNA Match” page.

A short summary of the most confident theory, shown below, is provided on the “Review DNA Match” page, with a link to view the full theory.

Theory match 2.png

On this summary page, the relationship between my sister and me is correctly shown as half, but the relationship with my half-niece is simply shown as niece. While I’ve always referred to my sister as my sister and my niece as my niece, and this may seem picky, it’s not genetically, because it means that we likely share about half as much DNA as a full sibling or a full niece would share. You can see the differences in the chart in the article here. Full siblings share approximately 50% of their DNA and half share approximately 25%. A full niece would share about 25% and a half niece about 12.5%.

Click on the purple “View Full Theory” button to reach the Review DNA Match page from the summary page, or, you can return to the DNA Match page, shown below.

Theory match 2 theory.png

By clicking on “View theory,” I see the following:

Theory match 2 half niece.png

The theory is actually accurate, but the relationship is named incorrectly on the Theory of Family Relativity page. My sister is actually my half-sister and this person that I match is actually my half-niece since my father had me and my sister by different wives.

Theory review match icon.png

On the Theory of Family Relativity main page, by clicking on the little green join icon above the percentage sign, I can review the match as shown below.

Theory review match profile.png

There is a lot of common information (red arrows), but there is also a lot of different or missing information (red boxes). For example, my father’s death date is incorrect in my match’s tree. The city is the same, but the county is missing in one record. Siblings are shown in my record, but not hers. My name is correct, then incorrect in the other record, including being listed with my mother’s maiden name and also with my former husband’s surname.

Theory view tree.png

Note that by flying over any MyHeritage link you can click to see the tree, which means you can click to view the profile of any individual in the tree. I’m showing mine to illustrate, but it works the same for any site listed.

When viewing the tree, click on the “box” of the person you want to view to display their detailed information at left, below.

Theory tree and profile.png

To view the attached records, click on Profile.

Theory profile records.png

You’ll notice that there are two records attached to my father, but no census, SSDI or otherwise. Don’t neglect the second, “Events” tab.

The “Events” tab, shown below, shows that indeed, he was shown in the 1910 census. If you click on the citations for any event, you’ll see the source for that piece of information. In this case, the 1910 census, even though I haven’t attached the actual image to his profile. I should do that!

Theory profile events.png

Match 2 Conclusion

This match theory is accurate.

Match 2 Suggestions

  • I’ll notify MyHeritage that their half relationships are mislabeled an I’m sure they will correct that.
  • I would like to be able to message the other person from these screens to ask them a question or inform them politely of an issue, such as my father’s death date. I would also like to be able to “invite” them to attach a record, such as a death certificate or census, for example, if it’s attached to my account.

Match 3 – Known Third Cousin Once Removed

This person descends through my great-grandparents and is my 3rd cousin once removed.

Theory match 3.png

By clicking on “View theory,” I see her tree and mine.

Theory match 3 theory.png

This stitched three tree theory is incorrect.

The middle tree shows that Margaret Clarkson was married to William Lake Monday.  She wasn’t, but her daughter Surrelda, was married to William Luke? Monday. The middle person’s tree has incorrectly married my great-grandmother to her daughter’s husband. This is the perfect example of GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) BUT, and a very big BUT, MyHeritage very clearly says these are theories and need to be verified and proven.

The second path is exactly the same as the first path, except that a different person has the exact same inaccurate information in their tree.

Match 3 Conclusion

The match 3 theory is inaccurate due to an inaccurate tree. However, if I didn’t already have this information, I have a new hint to work with.

Match 4 – Previously Unknown Third Cousin

This fourth match is more interesting for me, because I don’t know Shela or why I match her DNA.

Theory match 4 unknown.png

Shela is estimated, by DNA alone, to be my 3rd to 5th cousin.

Notice I don’t have a “Smart Match” with Shela which means that she and I don’t have a common ancestor in our trees, so how we match isn’t evident and wouldn’t be without a significant amount of work.

By clicking on “View theory” I can see how MyHeritage thinks we are related.

Match 4- Path 1

Theory match 4 path 1.png

This is actually very cool, because I just verified this connection through Leora. Obviously, Shela knows who her mother is, confirmed by DNA matches.

The path to confirmation is me ‘up” through Rachel Hill, who connects through the Family Search data base, then “down” to Shela’s mother, Leora. The amazing thing is that Shela has provided just one generation, her mother, that could match on her mother’s side of the tree. She has entered her grandmother by her married name, so Family Search picked up on the daughter, Leora Snyder. I’ve reached out to Shela, and if she’s interested, I can take her back generations on her maternal grandmother’s line.

Theory match 4 surname difference.png

Match 4 – Path 2

The second path reaches the same conclusion but connects through my grandmother which is an exact match at FamilySearch. That could be because I originally entered the FamilySearch information.

Theory match 4 path 2.png

It’s interesting that the link between the two Edith Barbara Lores is 100%, while the link between Leora V Snyder and Leora Snyder remains at 57%. MyHeritage uses the smaller of the various confidence scores to rank the entire path.

Match 4 – Path 3

This last pathway also reaches the same conclusion but connects three times with three seams: my tree to another MyHeritage tree, to FamilySearch, to Shela’s tree once again.

Theory match 4 path 3.png

Match 4 Conclusion

Match 4 is accurate whether you utilize path 1, 2 or 3.

Match 4 Suggestion

  • I would like to be able to confirm or dismiss these theories, once I’ve worked them, and have them categorized as such and held separately from new Theories that I need to work with.
  • I would like the ability to flag a theory as “seen” even if I don’t confirm or dismiss the theory so that I know it’s still a possibility.
  • I would like to quickly see if I match the owner of the intermediate trees. You can view the tree owner information when you fly over the name of the person who manages the tree.

Theory DNA icon suggestion.png

I created an example with a DNA icon. If I also match the person whose tree is being used as an intermediate, Mr. Jones in this case, I want to see that little helix icon and be able to click on it and see my match with Mr. Jones.

  • I would love to be notified by e-mail of new theories as they emerge.
  • I would like to see on the Shared DNA Matches section of the Review DNA Match page whether each match has either a shared ancestor or a theory, along with the names, so that I don’t have to go back and look individually.

Theory theory or smartmatch suggestion.png

  • I would like my “Notes” icon to show on the Shared DNA Matches view so that I can see if I’ve identified the relationship to this person. I use notes extensively.

Next Steps

Since the first three matches were already known to me and I used them as proof of concept, I don’t have homework from those, but I do from my newly discovered third cousin, Shela. What’s next and how can I further utilize this information?

  1. I’ve already clicked on the “contact Shela” on the match page. You can also fly over the name of the person managing the website at the top of the Theory page to contact as well

I told Shela that I was pleased to find this match through Theories of Relativity and that if she’s interested, I can provide her with additional information on her maternal grandmother’s line. Won’t she be surprised! I bet she doesn’t know she has a river pirate in her lineage! Maybe I won’t go there right away😊

Theory contact.png

  1. I’m going to see if Shela triangulates with other matches from this line by reviewing the DNA match.

theory review dna match.png

I noticed immediately that Shela triangulates with other known relatives on this line, such as match #1.

  1. Shela and I share 3 DNA segments, which I’m going to immediately paint on DNAPainter. You can read about DNAPainter here and here.

Theory paint chromosomes.png

  1. Shela also carries the mitochondrial DNA of Rachel Levina Hill because she descends through all females to the current generation (which can be male.) You can read more about mitochondrial DNA here. If Shela replies to me, I’ll offer to test her mitochondrial DNA at FamilyTreeDNA (MyHeritage doesn’t do mitochondrial testing) so we both have that information about our common ancestor, Rachel.

I’m only to Theory 4 of 51 matches, and it’s already a great day!

How to Get Theories of Relativity

If you tested at MyHeritage or transferred your DNA to MyHeritage prior to December 16, 2018, Theories of Family Relativity is free and included. If you transferred after that date, there’s a one time $29 fee (per kit) or you can subscribe to MyHeritage to avoid the unlock fee.

Truthfully, I recommend the subscription over the unlock fee, in part, because the subscription covers all kits uploaded to your account and you can try a subscription for free by clicking here. I already subscribe to Ancestry and doubted for a long time the utility of a second records subscription, but I’ve found the MyHeritage subscription absolutely indispensable this past year with many records (96 billion total) and collections at MyHeritage not found elsewhere. For example, I found over 1000 invaluable newspaper articles alone on the Ferverda family, farmers in northern Indiana.

If you haven’t tested at MyHeritage, you can transfer your kits from other vendors. I wrote the article, “MyHeritage Step by Step Guide: How to Upload-Download DNA Files.”

If you tested elsewhere, you can transfer today and pay the one time $29 unlock fee or subscribe to unlock Theories of Family Relativity and other advanced features.

You have not tested elsewhere, meaning you can’t transfer, you can order a DNA testing kit at this link.

DNA at MyHeritage Theories of Family Relativity
Transferred prior to Dec. 16, 2018 Free
Transferred since Dec. 16, 2018 $29 unlock per kit or subscription
Tested at MyHeritage Subscription

You can read MyHeritage’s DNA upload policy here.

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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

Archive Ancestry DNA Circles and New Ancestor Discoveries Now

With the introduction of Ancestry’s new ThruLines, after signing on and clicking on DNA Results Summary, Ancestry asks if you still want to use Circles. The answer is a very definitive yes, although I don’t think my circles have expanded in some time.

One of my accounts does not have Thrulines, and that account sees the placard below.

Ancestry no ThruLines

Regarding people who don’t have ThruLines on your account yet, ThruLines are free for everyone for now, so currently no subscription is required. However, to receive ThruLines, you must assure the following:

  • Your tree is connected to your DNA.
  • Your tree is either public or a private searchable tree. Unsearchable trees won’t have ThruLines.
  • Your tree is at least 3 or 4 generations deep.
  • You only have one kit for any individual person connected to that person in the same tree. If you have multiple kits for the same person connected to one tree, only one kit will have ThruLines. If this is your situation, you can create a “twin” to yourself in your tree and attach the second kit to that person and both kits should get ThruLines. There aren’t many people like me who have tested twice with AncestryDNA, so this shouldn’t be a problem for most people.You can have multiple kits attached to the same tree, but each kit must be connected to a different person in the tree.

Or, the placard below for those who do have ThruLines.

Ancestry Thrulines Circles

This question suggests (but I can’t confirm) that Ancestry is no longer adding to Circles.

Why Archive Circles?

What Circles provides that ThruLines doesn’t is a nice neat concise place where you can view the descendants of an ancestor, those that match you and those that don’t match you but do match each other. In other words, a genetic network.

Using ThruLines, you won’t see the ones that don’t match you any longer. In the graphic below of the Nancy Mann Circle, I match the gold lines and the grey lines match other people in the Circle including people that I match, but don’t match me.

Ancestry circle example

I have no idea if Ancestry plans to obsolete and remove either Circles or their New Ancestor Discoveries (NADs), but if so, I’d rather be prepared.

I would suggest that you copy your circles and the information to the right that lists the Circle members.

Each Circle includes links to the trees and information of the people in the circle.

Click on that link and then copy/paste the url.

You might want to do this in a spreadsheet for ease of use where you record the Circle name, a screen shot of the Circle, along with the name of each member and the associated url.

Yea, I know it’s a pain, but better safe than sorry.

Archive New Ancestor Discoveries Too

New Ancestor Discoveries NADs (which weren’t ancestor discoveries at all, but hints) were rolled out years ago, and haven’t been updated in many months, pending the new ThruLines.

NADs were hints that many people mistook for actual ancestors based on the name. They were comprised of people in trees based on matching DNA. For example, one of the NADs I received was the sister of my ancestor and another entirely separate NAD was the husband of an ancestor’s sister. Clearly the reason was that the descendants of the ancestor’s sister and the ancestor’s sister’s husband carried some of the same DNA as me and therefore my ancestor.

Eventually, I solved for nearly all of the NADs.

NADs are similar to Circles and may prove useful in the future.

Ancestry NAD example

Take everything in NADs with the entire lick of salt, but archive them, because you never know if the grain you need is held there.

Ancestry NAD circle

The difference between a NAD and a Circle is that you are inside a Circle, because you and all of the people in the Circle share the same identified ancestor but may not all DNA match to each other. You are outside of a NAD circle.

A NAD circle, shown above means that you don’t have that ancestor, Mary Polly McKee, in your tree, but you do share DNA with several people in the circle who do have her in their trees. That could be a really important hint! 

Archive Now

Better safe than sorry. I would recommend archiving both Circles and NAD information now, just in case.

I’ll be writing about Ancestry’s new ThruLines and other new features very shortly.

______________________________________________________________

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