MyHeritage Expands DNA Testing to Include (Optional) Health Information

Recently, I received news that MyHeritage is now offering a DNA test for genealogy that can also be utilized to obtain health information. I had some questions about the service and reached out to MyHeritage, so after I share their announcement, I’ll provide the information I received from MyHeritage.

The MyHeritage Health service is different from the services currently provided by either 23andMe or, individually, Promethease, by uploading your file.

MyHeritage Health and Ancestry.png

The text of the MyHeritage announcement e-mail follows below:

The new test provides comprehensive health reports that can empower future health and lifestyle choices. It is a superset of the current MyHeritage DNA test and includes its pillar features: a percentage breakdown of ethnic origins and matching to relatives through shared DNA. MyHeritage is now the only global consumer DNA company to offer an extensive health and ancestry product in dozens of languages. The two tests will be offered on our website side by side.

The new test provides health reports that show users their risk of developing or carrying genetic conditions. Reports include conditions where single genes contribute to the risk, such as hereditary breast cancer, late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and late-onset Parkinson’s disease; conditions associated with multiple genes, such as heart disease, and type 2 diabetes; and carrier status reports on conditions that can be passed down from a couple to their children, such as Tay-Sachs disease and cystic fibrosis.

Learn more about the MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry test by reading the press release and the blog post.

For an overview of the new test, you are invited to view the “About MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry Test” video. This video has a separate version for US users.

The MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry kit is available at the price of $199 + shipping on the MyHeritage DNA website. Users who have already purchased the genealogical (ancestry-only) MyHeritage DNA test can upgrade to receive health reports for $120. The new health kit is available globally except in a few countries that do not allow health-related consumer genetic testing.

Privacy is our top priority. All health data is protected by state-of-the-art encryption. Health report data is secured using additional password protection and is so secure that even MyHeritage employees cannot access it. MyHeritage has never licensed or sold user data, and has committed to never do so without explicit user consent. MyHeritage is the only consumer DNA company that has pledged to never sell data to insurance companies. It also applies a strict policy to prohibit the use of its DNA services by law enforcement agencies.

There’s more detail in the MyHeritage press release:

In total, MyHeritage’s Health+Ancestry test covers one of the most extensive ranges of conditions offered by an at-home DNA test: 11 Genetic Risk Reports, including a hereditary breast cancer (BRCA) report that tests 10 pathogenic variants; 3 Polygenic Risk Reports; and 15 Carrier Status Reports.

The World Health Organization identifies cardiovascular disease as the number one cause of death globally. This makes MyHeritage’s unique report for heart disease risk particularly beneficial. This report is based on a cutting-edge method called Polygenic Risk Score that examines hundreds, and in some cases thousands of variants across the entire genome.

In addition to heart disease, the Health+Ancestry product also includes a Polygenic Risk Score for type 2 diabetes, a condition that has significantly increased in prevalence in recent decades and now affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide and 40% of Americans within their lifetime. MyHeritage is also unique in providing a third Polygenic Risk Score for breast cancer, which delivers a risk assessment for breast cancer when none of the BRCA variants that MyHeritage tests for are found. MyHeritage is currently the only major home DNA testing company to offer Polygenic Risk Reports for multiple conditions, and more Polygenic Risk Reports will be added shortly after the product’s initial release. The three initial Polygenic Risk Reports support only populations with European ancestry, but the company has begun conducting research to allow the polygenic reports to cover a broader spectrum of populations in the future.

The list of conditions and genes reported can be found here.

The unique aspect of the MyHeritage Health test is that they include diseases or conditions that are polygenic, meaning that multiple locations on multiple genes are taken into consideration in combination to create the report.

From the MyHeritage blog, for people in the US:

In the United States, we work with an independent network of physicians called PWNHealth, which supervises this new service and provides clinical oversight.

As with our current genealogical DNA kit, activation is required to associate the kit with the individual who is taking the test. With the MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry kit, activation must be done by the user who took the DNA test and it includes an additional step: completing a personal and family health history questionnaire. This ensures that users receive the reports that are appropriate for them. In the United States, an independent physician will review each health history questionnaire, approve the processing of the test, and evaluate all health reports before they are released. When a report indicates an increased risk for a specific condition, the physician will further determine whether genetic counseling is advised. If genetic counseling is recommended, a phone or video consultation with a genetic counselor from PWNHealth is included at no additional cost.

In the United States, the physician oversight and genetic counseling is an important benefit of the MyHeritage DNA Ancestry + Health test. This ensures that users will not be on their own when interpreting the results, in cases where the results indicate increased risk and the physician considers genetic counseling to be essential. In other words, our test provides access to experts who can help people understand their results, which our major competitor does not provide.

I personally feel that the physician oversight and access to a counselor is extremely important. I greatly appreciate that the counselor is included free in cases that merit that level of attention.

Of course, having taken the 23andMe test and utilized Promethease, I’m curious what the MyHeritage information might reveal that wasn’t covered in either of those others. In particular, my father had heart disease and my sister died of a heart attack, so I’m particularly concerned about heart health.

Questions, Answers and Things to Note

  • If you transferred your DNA to MyHeritage from any vendor, you’ll need to test on the MyHeritage chip in order to receive the health reports.
  • The health part of the test is not available to residents of NY, NH and RI due to their state laws. Sorry folks.
  • If you tested your DNA at MyHeritage, you are eligible for an upgrade to the Health product for the price of $120 by signing on to your account here and clicking on the Health tab. If you do not see the $120 upgrade option, that means that you are not eligible for the upgrade because you either haven’t tested yet, or you transferred your DNA file from another vendor.

MyHeritage Health.png

  • To order a new DNA+Health test or upgrade, click here. Current subscribers after signing on will see the new Health tab beside the DNA tab.

MyHeritage DNA tab.png

  • If you order a DNA kit without ordering through the Health tab, you’ll receive an Ancestry only test, but you can still upgrade for the $120 later, so don’t worry.

Occasionally, you can save a few $$ by ordering the initial genealogy-only MyHeritage DNA kit on sale, like for the current price of $59, then wait until your results are back and order the upgrade for $120, for a total of $179 – representing a $20 savings over the $199 price for the Ancestry+Health kit. Now is a great time to order!

  • The upgrade or purchase of the Health test provides initial health information for the first year, but after year 1, if you want updated health information as it becomes available, a health subscription costs $99 per year.

MyHeritage Health subscription.png

I was confused about exactly what the $99 Health Subscription covers, so I asked MyHeritage if I already have a full subscription (which I do, love, and you can try for free), would I still need to purchase the $99 Health Subscription?

I received the following reply:

Yes, you would still need the $99 Health Subscription, if you wish to gain access to all new Genetic Risk and Carrier Status Reports as they are released, beyond those you will get in your initial health results. None of the current subscriptions negates the need for the additional Health subscription for receiving health updates.

However, the Health Subscription will also unlock the advanced MyHeritage DNA genealogical features (see such as AutoClusters and Theory of Family Relativity.

So, a non-genealogist who buys the new MyHeritage DNA Health+Ancestry kit and adds the health subscription will not need to buy another type of subscription to unlock the advanced MyHeritage DNA genealogical features.

What’s Next?

MyHeritage Kit.jpg

I literally have my new MyHeritage DNA kit in my hands (because I transferred by DNA from another vendor initially) and I’m getting ready to swab.

After I receive my results, I’ll write a comparison about my MyHeritage health results as compared to my 23andMe results.



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Honoring Veteran USMC William Tully Brown, Navajo Code Talker

Veteran USMC William Tully Brown, Navajo Code Talker

Veteran USMC William Tully Brown, 97-year-old Navajo Code Talker of North Cottonwood, Arizona, holding his DNA kit from Family Tree DNA after swabbing, photo courtesy Vee F. Browne-Yellowhair.

I can’t even begin to describe the honor I feel to be able to write a Memorial Day article honoring WWII USMC veteran, William Tully Brown, one of the few living Navajo Code Talkers.

I first became aware of William because he matches the Anzick Child in one of the DNA projects at Family Tree DNA that I administer. I reached out to his daughter Vee F. Browne-Yellowhair who has graciously facilitated communications with her father.

William is 100% Native American, Navajo, as confirmed by his autosomal DNA, family genealogy and tribal history.

If you’re wondering about how a Navajo man born on the Navajo reservation in Arizona might match the DNA of a child buried approximately 12,500 years ago in Montana, the answer is because they share a common ancestor very long ago from a highly endogamous population.

Neither Anzick Child nor William have any ancestors that weren’t Native American, so any DNA that they share must come from Native American ancestors. In other words, their DNA is identical by population.

The original group of individuals migrating across Beringia who would settle in the Americas, the ancestors of all of the Native people extending across North, Central and South America, is thought to have been very small. Of course, there were no humans living in the American continents at that time, so that founding population had no new DNA sources to introduce into the expanding population. All aboriginal people descended from the original group.

beringia map

By Erika Tamm et al – Tamm E, Kivisild T, Reidla M, Metspalu M, Smith DG, et al. (2007) Beringian Standstill and Spread of Native American Founders. PLoS ONE 2(9): e829. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000829. Also available from PubMed Central., CC BY 2.5,

It’s believed by some scientists that over time, additional migrations arrived from far Northeast Asia, in what is now Siberia, but that founding population in Asia is the same population that the original group left.

Today, we see fully Native people, including William, with ethnicity results that include North and Central America, Siberia and often, a small amount of East Asian, totaling 100%.

William’s DNA contributions are amazing, and we’ll cover them in a future article, but what I’d really like to do today is to honor his military service and incredible legacies. Yes, legacies, plural. When I think I couldn’t love and respect this man any more, he contributes selflessly again as he approaches the century mark. God Bless this man!

Let’s begin by talking about William’s incredible service with the Navajo Code Talkers.

The Navajo Code Talkers

Veteran USMC William Tully Brown, Navajo Code Talker WWII

William Tully Brown in a younger photo, courtesy Vee F. Browne-Yellowhair.

The Navajo Code Talkers, highly intelligent and incredibly brave men, were the heroes of WWII. The original group of Navajo Marines recruited specifically for their language skills to serve in the Pacific theater numbered 29 but had been expanded to more than 400 by the end of the war.

Only 7 Code Talkers are still alive today. William Tully Brown is 97 years old and is pictured at the beginning of this article in his Marine uniform, which he still loves, and above in a younger photo.

The great irony is that the Navajo had been forbidden as children to speak their Native language, practice their religion, arts or culture, raised often in boarding schools intended to assimilate them and rid them of their Native “ways.” It’s those same children, as men, who saved the very country that tried to “beat the Indian” out of them, teaching them to suffer in silence, according to now deceased Code Talker, Chester Nez.

We should all be incredibly grateful that the Navajo were so forgiving.

Navajo is a very complex language with many dialects, making it unintelligible to other language speakers. It was estimated that only about 30 non-Navajo individuals spoke or understood Navajo in 1942 – making it a wonderful choice for a secret code.

The Navajo language proved to be undecipherable, even by the best cryptographers, and remained so for decades. Meanwhile, the Code Talkers translated communications and tactical information to and from the Navajo language, utilizing radio, telephone and other communications on the front lines of the war. The work of the Code Talkers was essential to the Allied Victory of WWII, with Code Talkers being present at many important battles including Utah Beach and Iwo Jima.

At the Battle of Iwo Jima, Major Howard Connor, 5th Marine Division signal officer, had six Navajo code talkers working around the clock during the first two days of the battle. These six sent and received over 800 messages, all without error. Connor later stated, “Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.”

For many years, the humble Navajo men weren’t recognized, keeping their military secrets, even from their families. It wasn’t until 1968, a quarter century later, that the documents were declassified, resulting in recognition for the brave Code Talkers.

August 14th was designated as National Navajo Code Talkers Day in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan. In 2000, Bill Clinton signed a law which awarded gold medals of honor to the 29 men who developed the special Navajo military code, and silver congressional medals to all Code Talkers. You can view William Tully Brown’s name in the Congressional Record, here.

Their pride and loyalty remains unwavering.

You can read more about the Code Talkers here.

The Language of Our Ancestors

Veteran Code Talker, Kee Etsicitty said, ” We, the Navajo people, were very fortunate to contribute our language as a code for our country’s victory. For this, I strongly recommend we teach our children the language our ancestors were blessed with at the beginning of time. It is very sacred and represents the power of life.”

The Navajo language isn’t the only language and legacy that William Tully Brown will be remembered for. His DNA, yet another language, is a second selfless legacy that he leaves.

William Brown tested his DNA at Family Tree DNA which matches not only with the Anzick child, but with many other individuals who are Navajo or carry Native American DNA.

The Navajo history tells us that they migrated from the far north. Remnants of that journey remain in their oral legends. Archaeologists suggest that the migration from the northwest occurred around the year 1500.

The Navajo language roots confirms that connection.

Navajo is a Na Dene language, a derivative of Athabaskan which is also spoken in Alaska, in northwestern Canada, and along the North American Pacific rim.

This map shows the areas where the Na-Dene languages are spoken today.

The languages spoken in areas of the southwestern part of the US are referred to as Southern Athabaskan languages.

Therefore, it doesn’t come as a surprise that we find DNA matches to William Brown by several individuals whose ancestry is Native from and who still live in areas within the northern orange regions.

DNA is Forever

William Tully Brown’s legacy isn’t only in the Navajo code words he spoke in WWII, or his bravery, but also the code carried in his DNA that he has so generously contributed. William’s DNA has now been documented and will endure forever.

William’s genetic legacy reaches out to future generations, extending the connection to the ancestors through the threads of time, back to the Anzick child and forward for generations to come – drawing us all together.

Thank you Marine veteran William Tully Brown for your immense generosity, sacrifices and altruistic contribution of both life-saving and live-giving codes. How fitting that your heroism began 80 years ago with a war-winning language that would rescue both our country and democracy, as well as our Allies – and now, near your century mark, you are leaving a remarkable legacy by contributing your own genetic words, your DNA, for posterity.

Preserving our country then and our Native heritage now, uniting past, present and future. Gathering the generations together, lighting their way home.



Thank you to Vee F. Browne-Yellowhair, the daughter of USMC veteran William Tully Brown, Code Talker, for permission to write this article, her generosity, and for his photos.



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

Thank you so much.

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Mitochondrial DNA: Part 2 – What Do Those Numbers Mean?

This is the second part in a series about mitochondrial DNA. The first article can be found here:

When people receive their results, generally the first thing they look at is matches, and the second thing is the actual results, found under the Mutations tab.

Mitochondrial personal page mutations.png

We’re going to leave working with matches until after we discuss what the numbers on the Mutations page actually mean.

Fair warning – if you’re not interested in the “science stuff,” then this article probably isn’t for you. We’re going to talk about the different kinds of mutations and how they affect your results and matching. I promise to make the science fun and understandable.

However, it’s only fair to tell you that you don’t need to understand the nitty-gritty to make use of your results in some capacity. We will be covering how to use every tab on your mitochondrial DNA page, above, in future articles – but you may want to arm yourself with this information so you understand why tools, and matching, work the way they do. All matches and mismatches are not created equal!

The next article in the series will be “Mitochondrial DNA: Part 3 – Haplogroups Unraveled” in which we’ll discuss how haplogroups are assigned, the differences between vendors, and how haplogroup results can be utilized for genealogy.

If you have your full sequence mitochondrial results from Family Tree DNA, it would be a good idea to sign on now, or to print out your results page so you can refer to your results while reading this article.


I’m using my own results in these examples.

When you click on the “Results” icon on your personal page, above, this is what you’ll see.

Mitochondrial mutations

You can click to enlarge this image.

After you read the information about your haplogroup origin, your eyes will drift down to the numbers below, where they will stop, panic spreading throughout your body.

Never fear – your decoder ring is right here.

Where Did Those Numbers Come From?

The numbers you are seeing are the locations in your mitochondrial DNA where a mutation has occurred. Mutations, in this sense, are not bad things, so don’t let that word frighten you. In fact, mutations are what enables genetic genealogy to work.

Most of the 16,569 locations never change. Only the locations that have experienced a mutation are shown. Locations not listed have not experienced a mutation.

The number shown is the location, or address, in the mitochondrial DNA where a mutation has occurred.

However, there is more than one way to view your results.

Two Tabs – rCRS and RSRS

Mitochondrial RSRS

Click to enlarge this image.

You’ll notice that there are two tabs at the top of the page. RSRS values are showing initially.

rCRS and RSRS are abbreviations for “revised Cambridge Reference Sequence” and “Reconstructed Sapiens Reference Sequence.”

The CRS, Cambridge Reference Sequence was the reference model invented in 1981, at Cambridge University, when the first full sequencing of mitochondrial DNA was completed. Everyone has been compared to that anonymous individual ever since.

The problem is that the reference individual was a member of haplogroup H, not a haplogroup further back in time, closer to Mitochondrial Eve. Mitochondrial Eve was not the first woman to live, but the first woman to have a line of continuous descendants to present. You can read more about the concept of Mitochondrial Eve, here and about rCRS/RSRS here.

Using a haplogroup H person for a reference is kind of like comparing everyone to the middle of a book – the part that came later is no problem, but how do you correctly classify the changes that preceded the mutations that produced haplogroup H?

Think of mitochondrial DNA as a kind of biological timeline.

Mitochondrial Eve to rCRS.png

In this concept example, you can see that Mitochondrial Eve lived long ago and mutations, Xs, that formed haplogroups accrued until haplogroup H was born, and additional mutations continued to accrue over thousands of years.

Mitochondrial Eve to H and J.png

Haplogroup J, a different haplogroup, was born from one of mitochondrial Eve’s descendants with a string of their own mutations.

The exact same process occurred with every other haplogroup.

You can see a bare-bones tree in the image below, with H and J under different branches of R, at the bottom.

Mitochondrial bare bones tree.png

Using the rCRS model, the descendants of haplogroup J born today are being compared to the rCRS reference person who is a descendant of haplogroup H.

In reality, everyone should be being compared directly to Mitochondrial Eve, or at least someone much closer to the root of the mitochondrial phylotree than haplogroup H. However, when the CRS and then the revised CRS (rCRS) was created, scientists didn’t know as much as they do today.

In 2012, Dr. Doron Behar et al rewrote the mitochondrial DNA phylotree in the paper A “Copernican” Reassessment of the Human Mitochondrial DNA Tree from its Root by discerning what mitochondrial Eve’s DNA looked like by tracking the mutations backwards in time.

Then, the scientists redrew the tree and compared everyone to Mitochondrial Eve at the base of the tree. The RSRS view shows those mutations, which is why I have more mutations in the RSRS model than in the rCRS model where I’m compared with the haplogroup H person who is closer in time than Mitochondrial Eve. In other words, mutations that were considered “normal” for haplogroup J because haplogroup H carried them, are not considered mutations by both haplogroup J and H because they are both being compared to Mitochondrial Eve.

Today, some papers and individuals utilize the CRS version, and others utilize the RSRS version. People don’t adapt very well or quickly to change. Complicating this further, the older papers, published before 2012, would continue to reference rCRS values, so maintaining the rCRS in addition to the RSRS seemed prudent.

You can see the actual mtDNA haplotree here and I wrote about how to use it here.

Let’s look at the differences in the displays and why each is useful.

The Cambridge Reference Sequence

My rCRS results look a little different than the RSRS results.

Mitochondrial RSRS

Click to enlarge this image.

I have more mutations showing on the RSRS page, above, than in the rCRS page below, including only the information above the second row of black headers.

Mitochondrial rCRS page

Click to enlarge.

That’s because my RSRS results are being compared to Mitochondrial Eve, much further back in time. Compared to Mitochondrial Eve, I have a lot more mutations than I have being compared to a haplogroup H individual.

Let’s look at the most common example. Do you see my mutation at location 16519C?

Mitochondrial 16519.png

In essence, the rCRS person carried this mutation, which meant that it became “normal” and anyone who didn’t have the mutation shows with a mutation at this location.

Therefore, today, you’re very likely to have a mutation at location 16519C in the rCRS model.

In the RSRS results below, you can see that 16519C is missing from the HVR1 differences.

Mitochondrial DNA RSRS mutations.png

You can see that the other two mutations at locations 16069 and 16126 are still present, but so are several others not present in the rCRS model. This means that the mutations at locations 16129, 16187, 16189, 16223, 16230, 16278 and 16311 are all present in the rCRS model as “normal” so they weren’t reported in my results as mutations.

However, when compared to Mitochondrial Eve, the CRS individual AND me would both be reported with these mutations, because we are both being compared to Mitochondrial Eve.

Another difference is that at the bottom of the rCRS page you can see a list of mutations and their normal CRS value, along with your result.

Mitochondrial HVR1 rCRS mutations.png

For location 16069, the normal CRS value is C and your value is T.

Why don’t we have this handy chart for the RSRS?

We don’t need it, because the value of 16069C in the RSRS model is written with the normal letter preceding the location, and the mutated value after.

Mitochondrial nucleotides.png

You might have noticed that you see 4 different letters scattered through your results. Why is that?


The letters stand for the nucleotide bases that comprise DNA, as follows:

  • T – Thymine
  • A – Adenine
  • C – Cytosine
  • G – Guanine

Looking at location 16069, above, we see that C is the normal value and T is the mutated value.

Let’s look at different kinds of mutations.

Transitions, Transversions and Reversions

DNA is normally paired in a particular way, Ts with As and Cs with Gs. You can read more about how that works here.

Sometimes the T-As and C-Gs flip positions, so T-C, for example. These are known as transitions. A mutation with a capital letter at the end of the location is a transition.

For example, C14352T indicates that the normal value in this location is C, but it has mutated to T. This is a transition and T will be capitalized. The first letter is always capitalized.

If you notice that one of your trailing letters in your RSRS results is a small letter instead of a capital, that means the mutation is a transversion instead of a transition. For example, C14352a.

Mitochondrial DNA transitions and transversions.png

You can read more about transitions and transversions here and here.

When looking at your RSRS results, your letter before the allele number is the normal state and the trailing noncapital letter is the transversion. With C14352a, C is the normal state, but the mutation caused the change to a, which is a small letter to indicate that it is a transversion.

Original Value

Typical Transition Pairing (large trailing letter)

Unusual Transversion Pairing (small trailing letter)


C a or g



c or t



a or g


c or t

An exclamation mark (!) at the end of a labeled position denotes a reversion to the ancestral or original state. This means that the location used to have a mutation, but it has reverted back to the “normal” state. Why does this matter? Because DNA is a timeline and you need to know the mutation history to fully understand the timeline.

The number of exclamation marks stands for the number of sequential reversions in the given position from the RSRS (e.g., C152T, T152C!, and C152T!!).

Mitochondrial DNA reversions.png

This means that the original nucleotide at that location was C, it changed to T, then back to C, then back to T again, indicated by the double reversion-!!. Yes, a double reversion is very, very rare.


Mitochondrial DNA insertions.png

Many people have mutations that appear with a decimal point. I have an insertion at location 315. The decimal point indicates that an insertion has occurred, and in this case, an extra nucleotide, a C, was inserted. Think of this as DNA cutting in line between two people with assigned parking spaces – locations 315 and 316. There’s no room for the cutter, so it’s labeled 315.1 plus the letter for the nucleotide that was inserted.

Sometimes you will see another insertion at the same location which would be noted at 315.2C or 315.2A if a different nucleotide was inserted.

Complex insertions are shown as 315.XC which means that there was an insertion of multiple nucleotides, C, in this case, of unknown length. So the number of Cs would be more than 1, but the number was not measurable so the unknown “X” was used.

Some locations, such as 309 and 315 are so unstable, mutating so often, that they are not included in matching.


Deletions occur when a piece of DNA is forever removed. Once deleted, DNA cannot regenerate at that position.

A deletion is indicated by either a “d” or a “-“ such as 522d or 522-.

Deletions at locations 522 and 523 are so common that they aren’t utilized in matching either.

Extra and Missing Mutations

On the RSRS tab, you’ll notice extra and missing mutations. These are mutations that vary from those normally found in people who carry your haplogroup. Missing and extra mutations are your own personal DNA filter that allow you to have genealogically meaningful matches.

Mitochondrial DNA extra and missing mutations.png

Extra mutations are mutations that you have, but most people in your haplogroup don’t.

Missing mutations are mutations that most people have, and you don’t.


A heteroplasmy is quite interesting because it’s really a mutation in progress.

What this means is that you have two versions of the DNA sequence showing in your mitochondrial DNA at that location. At a specific location, you show both of two separate nucleotides. Amounts detected of a second nucleotide over 20% are considered a heteroplasmy. Amounts below 20% are ignored. Generally, within a few generations, the mutation will resolve in one direction or the other – although I have seen some heteroplasmies that seem to be persistent for several generations.

Heteroplasmies are indicated in your results by a different letter at the end of the location, so for example, C16069Y where the Y would indicate that a heteroplasmy had been detected.

The letter after the location has a specific meaning; in this case, Y means that both a C and a T were found, per the chart below.

Mitochondrial DNA heteroplasmy.png

Heteroplasmy Matching

Technically, using the example of C16069Y, where Y tells us that both C and T was found, this location should match against anyone carrying the following values:

  • C (original value)
  • T (mutated value)
  • Y (letter indicating a heteroplasmy)

However, currently at Family Tree DNA, the heteroplasmy only counts as a match to the Y (specific heteroplasmy indicator) and the CRS value or C, but not the mutated value of T.

Genetic Distance

The difference in matching locations is called the genetic distance. I wrote about genetic distance in the article, Concepts – Genetic Distance which has lots of examples.

When you have unusual results, they can produce unexpected consequences. For example, if a heteroplasmy is found in the HVR 1 or 2 region, and a woman’s child doesn’t have a heteroplasmy, but does have the mutated value – the two individuals, mother and child, won’t be shown as a match at the HVR1/2 level because only exact matches are shown as matches at that level.

That can be pretty disconcerting.

If you notice something unusual in your results, and you match someone exactly, you know that they have the same anomaly. If you don’t match the person exactly, you might want to ask them if they have the same unusual result.

If you expect to match someone, and don’t, it doesn’t hurt to begin discussions by asking about their haplogroup. While they might be hesitant to share their exact results values with you, sharing their haplogroup shouldn’t be problematic. If you don’t share at least the same base haplogroup, you don’t need to talk further. You’re not related in a genealogically relevant timeframe on your matrilineal line.

If you do share the same haplogroup, then additional discussion is probably warranted about your differences in results. I generally ask about the unusual “extra and missing” mutations, beginning with “how many do you have?” and discussing from there.


I know there’s a lot to grasp here. Many people don’t really want to learn the details any more than I want to change my car’s oil.

For more information, you can call, e-mail or e-chat with the support department at Family Tree DNA which is free.

Next Article – Haplogroups

Your haplogroup, which we’ll discuss in the next article, can eliminate people as being related to you in the past hundreds to thousands of years, but you need the information held in all of your 16,569 locations to perform granular genealogical matching and to obtain all of the available information. In order to obtain all 16,569 locations, you need to order the mtFull Sequence test at Family Tree DNA.



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

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GedMatch Implements Required Opt-In for Law Enforcement Matching

GedMatch has provided an autosomal suite of tools for genealogists that isn’t offered elsewhere for several years now. Their basic service is free but their advanced tools, known at Tier 1, are subscription. GedMatch is comprised of two individuals, Curtis Rogers and his partner. I know them both and have for years.

Every serious genealogist uses or has used GedMatch because it’s the only place that provides the unique blend of tools they offer. In addition to testing at or transferring to multiple vendors, GedMatch is an integral part of fishing in every pond.

However, GedMatch has been under fire for a year.

Law Enforcement Kit Matching

In April 2018, GedMatch made news, and eventually the New York Times, when the database was utilized to catch the Golden State Killer (GSK). I wrote about that here.

GedMatch felt that they were unable to stop the uploading of forensic kits, meaning kits created from evidence left at crime scenes, so they chose to embrace working with law enforcement to catch violent criminals and identify victims whose DNA is obtained from their remains.

How often does this really work?

In the fall of 2018, a paper titled Re-identification of genomic data using long range familiar searches was published by Yaniv Erlich et al and stated:

“Here, we leveraged genomic data of 600,000 individuals tested with consumer genomics to investigate the power of such long-range familial searches. We project that half of the searches with European-descent individuals will result with a third cousin or closer match and will provide a search space small enough to permit re-identification using common demographic identifiers. Moreover, in the near future, virtually any European-descent US person could be implicated by this technique.”

This certainly gives law enforcement reason to believe that if they could upload evidence kits from violent crime scenes and victims, that they could be identified. The cases solved since that time have proven the paper’s statement to be accurate.

Legally, this is known as “probable cause” and would provide law enforcement with a valid reason to petition the court for a search warrant to order that forensic kits be allowed to be uploaded to identify murderers and rapists. It’s likely that they can be identified, which would justify the issuance of a search warrant.

A few months later, in January 2019, Family Tree DNA began allowing law enforcement to upload kits of murderers, rapists and cases of abduction in addition to deceased unidentified victims after screening and approval on a case by case basis. The Family Tree DNA Law Enforcement Guide is here and their Law Enforcement FAQ is here.

I don’t think a comprehensive list exists of the cases solved since GSK, but I know it’s in excess of 30. Not all solved cases have been revealed at this point.

The Kerfuffle

Within the genetic genealogy community, allowing law enforcement to upload DNA kits in order to identify the perpetrators of crimes and unidentified victims has caused an uproar, to put it mildly. Said another way, it has divided the community in half in an ugly way with both sides feeling they are on morally sound and superior ground.

Although surveys published in this academic article show that more than 90% of people are in favor, some of the genetic genealogy community influencers feel otherwise and specifically, that without every person in the data base giving individual consent for this type of matching, that law enforcement matching is unethical. Some are reasonable and will discuss the situation civilly, and others, not so much.

I disagree, in part, because other types of searches such as for biological parents that can have devastating consequences are viewed in another light entirely with many of these same people employed in the search for unknown parents. These searches using the exact same techniques and databases have resulted in destroyed families and murders.

In one case, Michael Lacopo’s mother murdered her father after Michael identified the father using DNA. You can read Michael’s story, here. There are also other very ugly incidents that I’m not at liberty to discuss.

Law enforcement searches for matches to identify criminals, on the other hand, lead to the apprehension of violent offenders.

I shared my opinion in the article, Things That Need To Be Said: Victims, Murder and Judgement.

Every time a new case is solved and hits the news, the outrage begins anew, culminating this past week when Curtis Rogers allowed law enforcement to utilize GedMatch for the identification of a person who broke into a church in Utah and assaulted the elderly 71 year old organist who was practicing in the church alone, strangling her from behind and leaving her for dead. You can read about the assault here.

Had the organist died, it would have been within the GedMatch guidelines, but because she did not, this was technically a breach of the GedMatch terms of service – although in one place their guidelines said “violent crimes” and from my perspective, there is no question that this event qualifies. Thank goodness the 17 year old perpetrator has been identified and is being dealt with before he actually does kill someone.

Regardless, this episode in addition to other recently solved cases culminated with a number of community “influencers” removing both GedMatch and Family Tree DNA from presentations and openly discouraging the use of both companies on Facebook, in blog articles and in other venues. In other words, a boycott and censure, effectively.

Some of the “influencers” have been repeatedly working with BuzzFeed, as in this Buzzfeed story about the Utah case, yet others called for a more balanced approach that would not destroy the resources, companies and community built over the last two decades. Shannon Christmas wrote a balanced article here as did Maurice Gleeson here.

What Happened?

Yesterday, GedMatch sent e-mails to law enforcement providers and a few others, stating that they were changing their terms of service. The contents of the e-mail have been posted on social media, but I’m not comfortable publishing the exact verbiage, other than to say that GedMatch has proceeded, both initially and now, with the best interests of everyone at heart.

Curtis Rogers is concerned that the extreme paralytic division and resulting polarization  is in essence threatening genetic genealogy as a whole.

Extrapolating from that, if the “influencers” manage to kill GedMatch and Family Tree DNA, not only will the community have lost incredibly important resources that are not and cannot be duplicated elsewhere, law enforcement will have lost extremely valuable resources for identifying both criminals and victims. In other words, everyone loses.

Therefore, GedMatch has implemented a new opt-in policy for law enforcement matching.

GedMatch’s New Opt-In Policy

Effective immediately, GedMatch has set all kits, of everyone in their database, to opt-out, meaning that now no kits at all can be used for matching by law enforcement unless users specifically opt-in. Here’s the GedMatch announcement on their webpage after you sign in.

GedMatch LE opt in change.png

This means that if you are at GedMatch, no kits in your account can now be utilized for law enforcement matching. This is clearly a devastating blow to law enforcement, in part because every database is biased towards whatever the default value is. People either don’t read or don’t bother to make changes. Many have abandoned their accounts or died.

GedMatch has already added an opt-in capability meaning that everyone will have to select “opt-in” to make their kit available for law enforcement matching.

The new GedMatch new Terms of Service are here.

Please Opt-In

We are much better as a society with the likes of John Miller, identified through GedMatch, who raped and murdered 7 year old April Tinsley put behind bars where he can’t damage anyone else. DNA identification has also provided closure to many families whose relatives have been missing for years, such as Audrey Lee Cook and Donna Prudhomme who were killed in the 1980s and whose remains were identified using the Family Tree DNA database.

I hope everyone will opt-in, and quickly, so we can rebuild the data base available to law enforcement for matching.

GedMatch LE opt out.png

Viewing the list of kits that I manage on GedMatch, you can see that my kit is listed with a red X through police BY DEFAULT, even though I never made that selection. Your default is “NO” as well.

Clicking on the pencil enables viewing and changing my profile.

Enable Law Enforcement Matching

Here are the steps necessary to enable law enforcement matching.

GedMatch profile.png

Update – note that I’m told that the options above, with LE and no LE have been positionally swapped – so please read, not just follow my pattern.

Notice my default status is “Public, no LE access.” LE means law enforcement.

GedMatch LE opt in.png

In order to change my status, I must BOTH click the radio button that says “Public, with LE access” AND click Change.

This is a 2-step process and if you forget to click change, you’ll think you enabled LE matching, but you didn’t.

Other options include:

  • “No public access” at all, which means that you cannot utilize the kit for matching
  • “Research” which means you can use the kit for matching, but no one else can see your results in their match list.

After the change, your kit should show the status as “Yes, opt-in LE access,” shown at left, below.

GedMatch opt in success.png

Please take the time to change your kits to “Public, with LE access” at GedMatch to enable matching to law enforcement kits to get the criminals off our streets and identify victims, providing closure to families.

Family Tree DNA

Please also upload your kits to Family Tree DNA for the same reason. At Family Tree DNA, currently if you are in the US you are opted in automatically, and if you are in an EU country you were opted-out automatically due to GDPR regulations. EU users since March 12th when the initial opt-out occurred should check their status. You can change either option after signing in by clicking on “Manage Personal Information,” then “Privacy and Sharing.”

The DNA file transfer and matching are both free. Here are instructions.



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Robert Vernon Estes (1931-1951): MIA, POW, Military Records – 52 Ancestors #239

When I first discovered that my father’s nephew, Robert Vernon Estes, was a prisoner of war in North Korea and died, probably of starvation, in their hands during his captivity, I was determined to discover as much as possible about Robert’s short life – and death. Maybe after all of these years more information would be available, although many of his records burned in the Records Center fire in St Louis in 1973.

I asked a research firm to find and obtain as many of his military records as possible, from as many sources as possible.

I felt that this is the very least I could do for Robert, known as Bobby in the family, 68 years after he was robbed of life by an inhumane enemy.

Killed in warfare is one thing – but starvation is another. I just don’t understand how humans WITH food could deprive other starving humans – to the point of death. How could they not only observe that horrific suffering, but be responsible for inflicting it willfully upon the miserable and dying who were probably begging for any morsel of food?

That’s not war – it’s torture, pure and simple.

Bobby’s Records

The packet of information arrived in an e-mail while I was speaking at a conference last week. I was almost afraid to open the document for fear of what might be inside, but I had to know.

The first record reveals the date that Bobby’s Missing in Action (MIA) status was communicated to his family. He became MIA and was taken prisoner on November 30th, 1950 but the family wasn’t notified until January 4th, 1951 using message “68.”

Robert Vernon Estes record 1

MyHeritage shows that Bobby was a truck driver.

Robert Vernon Estes record 2

I was hopeful that the MyHeritage yearbook collection would include Bobby’s photo, but neither Bobby nor his brother Charles is shown in any yearbook from their collection. I called the local Monon library as well, and while there are some years missing in the Monon yearbook collection, there are also years present where Bobby should have been included. Perhaps the Estes boys attended a different school system, or maybe they dropped out early to farm. In any case, sadly, there is no known photo of Bobby.

Joseph Dode Estes in WWI.jpg

The closest I can get is a photo of Joseph “Dode” Estes, Bobby’s father, taken during WWI. Bobby probably looked something like Joe.

Bobby was an Army Corporal, promoted during his captivity. His address was given as Route 1 in Monon, Indiana, which indicates that he lived in the country.

Robert Vernon Estes record 3.png

Bobby’s mother, Lucille Latta, had remarried to Harry Stockdale in 1941. She died at age 45 of a stroke on August 18, 1952 where her obituary states that Robert is MIA and had been since November 30, 1950.

Robert Vernon Estes record 4

Lucille was not notified in person that Bobby was missing, but by an impersonal letter, even after a several weeks delay.

Robert Vernon Estes record 5

Robert Vernon Estes record 6Robert Vernon Estes record 7Robert Vernon Estes record 8

My heart aches to think about Lucille opening this letter. Did she know as soon as she saw the envelope in the mailbox, standing on that country road that cold January day?

By the time the military sent the letter, Bobby had been missing for all of December and into January. By the time his mother received it, another week or so.

Did Lucille wonder why she hadn’t received any mail from Bobby, especially given the Christmas holiday? Or was mail so scarce from the front that no mail was normal?

Unbeknownst to the family, Bobby had probably been starving since his capture, was laboring in a mining camp, and may have already died by the time this letter reached his mother.

Did her mother’s sixth sense tell her that her son was in trouble and was being tortured?

All Lucille could do was wait half a world away.

Robert Vernon Estes record 9

By June, even though Lucille wasn’t aware, the military was requesting dental information which suggests that they had no information that he was alive. They probably had no information at all.


In June of 1952, Lucille was apparently very frustrated with the lack of response from the military and engaged her elected representatives for assistance.

Robert Vernon Estes record 10

Based on dates, letters seemed to have crossed in the mail.

Robert Vernon Estes record 11Robert Vernon Estes record 12

Lucille just wanted Bobby’s things, whatever remained with the military. He certainly couldn’t use them whether he was missing, dead or in captivity.

At this point, Lucille didn’t know if he had been captured or killed. What she did know was that he didn’t reappear after being considered MIA, so he wasn’t just lost, injured or displaced.

Robert Vernon Estes record 13Robert Vernon Estes record 14

Bobby’s personal items were going to come home. Lucille, as a mother, would have been hopeful that Bobby would return home too, eventually.

Robert Vernon Estes record 15Robert Vernon Estes record 16

The letter to Lucille’s Congressman was written by the Army a few days before the letter to her.

Robert Vernon Estes record 17Robert Vernon Estes record 18

“Period of anxiety.” That’s an incredible understatement.

Robert Vernon Estes record 19Robert Vernon Estes record 20


Robert Vernon Estes record 21

It’s interesting to note that Lucille’s Congressional inquiry did serve to expedite things.

Robert Vernon Estes record 22

Dirty towels and worn, torn socks. Lucille probably cherished them since they carried part of Bobby.

Apparently, these items had been sitting someplace since April.

Robert Vernon Estes record 23

The shipment inventory of effects is dated May 16, 1952.

Robert Vernon Estes record 24

These few items were sent to Bobby’s mother. The bottom items appear to have been sent in July, but the top 2 were sent in a second, later, shipment.

In October of 1952, the Army requested his dental information, again.

Robert Vernon Estes record 25

Lucille died in August 1952. When I made that discovery, I wondered if the stress of Bobby’s captivity in any way contributed to her early death of a stroke.

Bobby’s Bible and “misc brass” weren’t returned until after Lucille had passed away.

Robert Vernon Estes record 26Robert Vernon Estes record 27

Given that Lucille had died, Harry wrote to the military on her behalf.

Robert Vernon Estes record 28Robert Vernon Estes record 29Robert Vernon Estes record 30

Where’s Joseph “Dode” Estes?

Reading this letter from Harry, I realized that no-place in Bobby’s records is his father, Joseph “Dode” Estes either mentioned or communicated with. In fact, it’s Bobby’s step-father who wrote this letter, which leads me to wonder about the absence of Dode.

Where was Bobby’s father and why was he not involved at some level? One would think the military would communicate with a father before a step-father, although Harry married Lucille when Bobby was 10 years old.

The Estes family knew, at least eventually, that Bobby had died. Somehow, someplace, Joe had been told. I noticed in one of my father’s records that the authorities in Lafayette, Indiana in 1938 were asking my father if he had seen Joe. My father stated that he had not seen Joe since the previous Christmas at their mother’s house in Chicago.

This makes me wonder if Joe was in some sort of legal trouble.

Regardless, it tells us that by 1938, Joe was not in the area, assuming my father was truthful, which might not be a valid assumption.

Joe Estes 1940

This September 1940 newspaper clipping tells us that Lucille and Joe were getting divorced and had been separated for a decade. In fact, their separation date is in September 1930 and Bobby’s birth date is March 27, 1931, telling us that they separated when Lucille was 3 months pregnant. Joe may never have been involved much in Bobby’s life.

This might, just might, have something to do with the fact that Lucille wanted to marry Harry Stockdale. Joe seemed to be chronically in trouble and clearly failed to provide for his family.

In 1926, Joe had been in trouble for stealing a car, although he wasn’t convicted because the prosecution’s witness failed to appear.

However, in February 1930, Joe was jailed due to intoxication.

Joe Estes 1930

The State Penal Farm isn’t the local jail, so this sentence must have been non-trivial, although we know he had been released by late June 1930 when Bobby was conceived.

On September 27, 1930, Joe went to jail once again for stealing chickens.

Joe Estes chicken thief

This date coincides with the separation date in Lucille’s divorce pleading. She had had enough, pregnant or not. Joe was still in jail, unless he accrued “good time,” when Bobby was born.

Apparently, in 1930, Joe escaped and returned home. He was obviously caught and returned to prison.

The daughter of Bobby’s brother, Charles, told me years ago that Charles remembered that, as a child, between the ages of 8-10, a group of men with guns came and took Joe away in a vehicle. If Charles’ memory is accurate, that would put that event between 1935 and 1937. The family was shrouded in secrets, and Charles, born in 1927, didn’t see Joe again until he was an adult and somehow found his father.

I’d wager that the event between 1935 and 1937 was yet another jail episode. If the White County newspapers are ever indexed, maybe we’ll find out.

Aunt Margaret sent a photo of Joe in San Pedro, California in 1942.

Estes, Joe Dode 1942 Dan Pedro Ca..jpg

Joe’s location in 1950/51 is a mystery but Aunt Margaret’s letter says that prior to her mother’s death in 1955, she had been sending Joe money to help with his medical bills. He had reportedly been hit by a car in Indiana or near Chicago. My father thought Joe had died, either then or eventually, as did the rest of the family. Joe didn’t pass away until 1988 in Fairfield, Illinois. More secrets.

Another of Margaret’s letters places Joe in Claiborne County, Tennessee in 1957.

“I also chewed him out in 57 when Ed and I visited Eppersons and Dode was working in the cain patch after telling me he was down and couldn’t get up. We went after him and when Aunt Corny Epperson told me Joe had come there splurging money received from his son’s death in the armed service – yet crying hard luck to me, I flipped my lid and really laid him out flat with a good lecture.”

Unfortunately, there are no records regarding payment of any funds related to Bobby’s death.


Robert Vernon Estes record 31Robert Vernon Estes record 32

Bobby’s Bible wasn’t returned until after Lucille died. $1.47 and a Bible – all the makings of an appropriately sad country song.

Robert Vernon Estes record 33

The Bible was worn from usage. I hope Bobby found solace and comfort there.

Robert Vernon Estes record 34

The months must have dragged on for Harry after Lucille’s death and the interminable waiting on word about Bobby’s whereabouts.

Hopefully, Bobby was just a prisoner of war and would be released or exchanged after the war ended. If Harry was a praying man, that would have been his daily prayer.

The Korean conflict ended in 1953. Other men who were missing and actually POWs were released, but still nothing about Bobby.


Then the inevitable…

Robert Vernon Estes record 35

Word had come that Bobby was dead, not informed by the Koreans diplomatically, but from a friend of another soldier who had direct knowledge of Bobby’s death. The soldier grapevine.

And then this entry in Bobby’s file.

Robert Vernon Estes record 36Another antiseptic letter. You’d think a personal visit would have been much more respectful to deliver this type of devastating news.

Robert Vernon Estes record 37Robert Vernon Estes record 38

Word came, albeit through the grapevine, that Bobby had died of dysentery and pneumonia. I have to wonder if this was secondary to starvation, or his body was unable to heal due to lack of food. We know that other men died of starvation in these camps days on either side of Bobby’s death.

Clearly, the North Koreans were not interested in the health and welfare of their captives – or even basic human decency.

The money that Joe was spending that he received from Bobby’s death was likely Bobby’s pay for the time that he was captured in November 1950 until he was declared dead in January 1954. Bobby’s pay would have been $83.20 per month, plus $8 for foreign duty pay as a private, and slightly more as a corporal. That promotion was actually posthumous.

Three years and a couple months pay was certainly a windfall to Bobby’s father, equivalent to about $30,500 today. One family member said Joe purchased a restaurant in Tazewell, Tennessee, but I found no documentation of that rumor.

This card in Bobby’s file documents the source of the determination that he had died.

Robert Vernon Estes record 39Robert Vernon Estes record 40Robert Vernon Estes record 41

“The Letter,” direct, to the point, short and final.

Robert Vernon Estes record 42Robert Vernon Estes record 43

Pneumonia – not starvation directly – although other men did starve at this camp during this time.

I wonder if the family actually accepted this letter as final. If one wanted to continue to hope, there is enough ambiguity with the notification being a friend of a friend that one could possibly refuse to abandon hope. Lucille was gone, Harry as a step-parent might have been more accepting, but I wonder about Bobby’s brother, Charles.

Robert Vernon Estes record 44Robert Vernon Estes record 45Robert Vernon Estes record 46

An identical letter was sent to Charles, Bobby’s brother, but nothing was sent to Bobby’s father. The military may have had no information about Joe. Joe was known to drink and was reported to have been hit by a car, incurring amnesia. Joe could also have been in jail someplace. The Estes men of Joe’s generation were not known for their good behavior.


January 1956 brought this letter.

Robert Vernon Estes record 47Robert Vernon Estes record 48Robert Vernon Estes record 49Robert Vernon Estes record 50


Such a final verdict.

Bobby was held in North Korea, not in the DMZ. The Koreans never tracked their prisoners, never informed anyone of their capture, and never kept records of their location, treatment, deaths or burials. Bobby may be in a mass grave someplace with the other men that died each day.

In short, the Koreans never had any intention of these men surviving to release.

Bobby’s remains would never leave Korean soil. He is literally buried at the feet of his tortuous captors.

The only saving grace is that Lucille had joined Bobby and she already knew. She no longer cared about bodies.

Mining Camps

I narrowed the possible POW camps based on the description of the camp where Bobby was held as a mining camp which helped immensely. I found the following candidates.

  • Pukchin Mining Camp – between Kunu-ri and Pyoktong – (aka. Death Valley Camp).
  • Suan Mining Camp – P’yong-yang
  • Koksan Mining Camp

Based on the location, near Kunu-ri where Bobby was captured, he was most likely at the Pukchin Camp, also known as the Death Valley Camp.

I wish Bobby’s records had said specifically where he was held and died. Surely Eugene Inman, the soldier who provided the death information, knew.

Eugene provided the following description of the Death Valley Camp in the book, American POWs in Korea, Sixteen Personal Accounts.

Robert Vernon Estes Death Valley Camp

Eugene Inman, POW

Eugene Inman was the soldier and fellow POW who informed the military that Bobby had died. Eugene and Bobby were in the same unit when they were captured.

Eugene Inman is honored as a veteran and former Korean POW on this page. I want to thank Mr. Inman, now deceased, for his sacrifices and for telling the story of his capture and subsequent POW experience – which is also Bobby’s story.

I am quoting the full portions of Eugene’s biography relevant to Bobby, below, because Bobby can’t tell his own story:

I served with the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, 9th Infantry Ret. I saw action in various parts of Korea from the Naktong River Line in last of July-Aug. 1950 as a member of an RCT plugging holes here and there under highly stressed and traumatic scenes until Chongchon River Line in November 1950.

The early activities in July were struggles to beat back probing and breakthrough efforts of the Koreans. Then my capture running the gauntlet at the pass in the Kunu-ri-Sunchon roadblock of the Kuni-ri area November 30, 1950, when the Chinese entered the conflict. Years of torment and abuse followed, thinking only of survival. Finally my freedom when I was repatriated at “Big Switch,” crossing “Freedom Bridge” Aug. 30, 1953.

The last week or so before capture was very difficult and dangerous. The extreme cold and confusion of the ambushes at roadblocks had cut us off from our own lines. At the time of capture we were separated from the main company, and my outfit was cut off by the enemy forces. Resultant conditions forced our surrender by ones, twos and small handfuls. Broken up into small groups we were to seek our own way out. We were out of ammunition and supplies, and the way to our lines was totally blocked. As the battle of Kunu-ri receded, there were many wounded and dead lying on all sides of us on the hillsides, on the road and in the ditches. The pass was blocked with all kinds of equipment, a mass of destroyed junk.

We were gathered up and placed into a holding area of animal sheds and vacant huts without any protection from the cold. The chill factor drove the cold deep into our bodies to the point that it was debilitating pain and restricted movement, thinking and reaction. The weather was at its worst, for the area was mountainous and it was bitter cold. The temperature was well below zero, in the 30- below-or-more area.

We lost all our warm clothing we had to the enemy who took off of us whatever they wanted. I was left with only light clothing, a field jacket being the heaviest article with a fatigue cap and a tattered scarf. I used the scarf, which was very long, to wrap around my face and neck covering all the exposed area I could. My breath caused a layer of ice to form from my jaw down to my waist. It acted somewhat as an insulator in the area it formed. There was no real protection from the extreme cold, even the equipment, rifles, machine guns, trucks, jeeps and most things with oil turned to glue in the punishing cold refusing to function.

We were forced to march under these frightening conditions for 15 or so days from sundown to sunup. We walked without food, and as we passed civilians they would stone us. Many of the stones found their mark and caused serious injuries. The police and home guard were especially brutal. The wounded and the exhausted among us began to suffer. It was unbelievable. If they fell out and could not go on they were indiscriminately shot, bayoneted, or clubbed to death. During the march we truly had no shelter from the elements, and food, as such was provided, only on irregular intervals of days. It consisted of cracked corn and sometimes was mixed with soybeans. This kind of food did two things to me on each intake; (1) a case of dysentery, fever, bowel discharge of mucus and blood. I was always thirsty, that never really stopped, (2) abdominal cramps and rectal pain. No time of the day or night freed one from the constant urge to purge oneself.

In what I believe was the month December in 1950 we arrived in a deserted mining town in the Pukchin area. The place was called “Death Valley.” We faced the inclement weather, lack of shelter, food, death, and the attempts to indoctrinate us, with “Marxism” given in small groups. It was here that various conditions of fear, beatings and death of many from lack of proper food, potable water and bowel discharge of mucus and blood increased. It took a large toll in lives.

The huts and animal shelters were made from mud, stones and thatched roofs. The room was made of dried mud and the floors were large flat rocks and mud. The rooms were extremely small and we were packed into them in such a manner as to have no room to rest. It seemed that every time a guard wanted to express his anger at the world in general and me in particular he would strike, shove or kick me in the same areas and I never seemed to completely heal. The favorite areas for the guards on the march and/or in the camps seemed to be the arms, shoulders, leg joints and back area.

These areas always seemed to be re-injured by the repeated hits and falls when carrying heavy wood products in the slippery ice and snow.

We left the “Valley” and marched to Camp Five at Pyoktong, arriving Dec 25,1950. I stayed there until Aug 12, 1952. The cold in the marches and food of poorest quality of whole kernel corn, sometimes mixed with soybeans, given every 24 to 72 hours didn’t help matters either. There was little change in food to corn and millet with a little rice on special days. But still men died of starvation.

Then the camp authorities added bean curd and seaweed, which helped those not too weak to make a recovery. Malnutrition was very ghastly in the period from Jan. 1951 to August 1952. I experienced profound changes in the condition of my body. My ankles and legs swelled, and the pain in time became acute. This “bone ache” pain was not in the swelling but seemed to center in the very bones that no rubbing or any other efforts could relieve.

This condition never seemed to let up. It acted up through the day and at night followed up by leg cramps. Then the work details began with long trips to carry wood back on my person over ice and snow causing many slips and falls causing much pain to my extremities. The pain drove me with the insanity of it, to argue and/or resist the camp authorities. It was at this time a guard knocked out some of my teeth when I failed to satisfy him. I was made to stand at the proper figure of attention in the cold and snow, without shoes until the guard was satisfied that I learned to be humble and obedient after knocking me around.

I could barely read these words, dreading each next one, because I knew that Bobby’s experience was even worse. He died. It would have been better, more humane, had Bobby been killed outright.

The Korean War Legacy Foundation provides additional information on the Korean War, including interviews with former POWs, here. I will tell you that I cannot watch these at this point. If any of you watch the videos, please tell me if by some remote possibility, Bobby is mentioned, which video, and where.

Honoring Corporal Robert Vernon Estes

The American Battle Monuments Commission maintains a page honoring each missing soldier in addition to operating and maintaining military cemeteries.

Robert Vernon Estes memorial page.png

Bobby’s page lists his service and military awards. I wonder if anyone in the family ever received those.

Robert Vernon Estes memorial.png

Family can print Memorial Certificates.

Robert Vernon Estes wall.jpg

Photo of Bobby’s name, along with others in “Court 4” of the missing.

I’m glad his service to his country is memorialized.


I believe I have all of Bobby’s extant records from the military now. Anything else will have to be accomplished using DNA on recovered remains, if we would be that fortunate.

More than 7,800 men were lost who remain unrecovered in North Korea. Eugene’s story explains why, given the conditions. Many POWs were probably not buried in “graves,” per se, but along roads and wherever was expeditious at the time to dispose of a body.

I’m still hopeful, in spite of seemingly insurmountable odds, that Bobby’s remains will be found, identified and brought home. He did reportedly die in a “camp,” although North Korea never acknowledged that soldiers were held at Pukchin, shown below. In an effort to conceal the site, bodies were removed from the camp known as “Death Valley” and were reburied or sealed up in nearly abandoned mine shafts.

Robert Vernon Estes Pukchin location

Bobby’s remains, such as they are, are probably someplace in this photo in North Korea, far, far from home.

Robert Vernon Estes North Korea Pukchin

Pukchin is located about 40 mountainous miles south of the North Korean border with China as the crow flies, in an inhospitable region. Access is only via roads following rivers and valleys.

I don’t carry Bobby’s mitochondrial DNA, typically used to identify the remains of soldiers, but I assuredly would match him autosomally if enough DNA could be recovered for that type of comparison.

I stand ready to claim Bobby, for whom I was named after the family was notified of his death.

Ready to welcome Bobby home and watch his flag covered coffin roll off of the airplane into a waiting Honor Guard.

Ready to thank Bobby for his service and ultimate sacrifice, as tardy and insignificant as that might be.

Ready to proudly stand at his grave site as Taps is played and Bobby is truly laid to rest, a hero, on American soil.

I will remain ready all the days of my life.

I still pray for the return of Corporal Robert Vernon Estes.

Robert Vernon Estes name wall.jpg



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Mitochondrial DNA: Part 1 – Overview

This is Part 1 of a series about mitochondrial DNA, abbreviated as mtDNA, and how to use it successfully for genealogy.

What is Mitochondrial DNA and Why Do I Care?

Mitochondrial DNA.jpg

Mitochondrial DNA is different from nuclear, or autosomal, DNA. Nuclear DNA resides within the nucleus of a cell, while mitochondrial DNA resides outside the nucleus.

Mitochondrial DNA nucleus.png

Every cell has thousands of mitochondria while it only has one nucleus.

Mitochondrial DNA is a circular ring with 16,569 base pair locations. The biological purpose of mitochondria is to power the organism, converting chemical energy into a form that the cells can utilize.

Mitochondrial DNA is also different from autosomal DNA in how it is passed to offspring.

Inheritance Path

Mitochondrial DNA is unique because all people, males and females, inherit their mitochondrial DNA from their mothers, but only females pass it on to their children.

Y and mtDNA inheritance

The chart above illustrates which individuals in your tree inherit their mitochondrial DNA from whom.

Mitochondrial DNA inheritance.png

The daughter and son both inherit their mitochondrial DNA from their mother, who inherits hers from her mother, and so forth – on up the direct matrilineal line. You can read about the difference between matrilineal and maternal lines, here. In essence, maternal can be referring to anyone on your mother’s side of your tree, while matrilineal is your mother’s mother’s mother’s line ad infinitum.

However, every person in this tree carries mitochondrial DNA of specific ancestors.

Mitochondrial DNA inheritance 2.png

The red arrows show the inheritance path of mitochondrial DNA for individuals whose contributors are also in the tree.

The father of the children inherited his mitochondrial DNA from his magenta mother’s matrilineal line.

His father inherited his mitochondrial DNA from his lavender mother’s line.

The maternal grandfather in dark blue inherited his mitochondrial DNA from his red mother’s line.

Mitochondrial DNA inheritance 3.png

The gold arrows show that the contributors of these individuals are not shown on this tree, but they all inherited their mitochondrial DNA from their matrilineal lines as well.

When discussing mitochondrial DNA, we generally think in terms of ourselves, but the application of mitochondrial DNA to genealogy is as far reaching as all of our ancestors.

Each line has its own unique story for us to harvest – assuming we can find an appropriate candidate for testing or find someone who has already tested.

Why Mitochondrial DNA Works

Mitochondrial DNA is inherited from our matrilineal line directly, with no genetic contribution from any males. This inheritance path allows us to use mitochondrial DNA for matching to others reaching back generations as well as providing a way to view beyond the line-in-the-sand of surnames.

In other words, because mitochondrial DNA is not mixed with DNA from the fathers, it’s very nearly identical to our matrilineal ancestors’ mitochondrial DNA many generations ago.

In fact, by tracing a series of mutations, we can track our ancestor over time from mitochondrial Eve, born in Africa tens of thousands of years ago to where we are today.

Mutations Happen

If mutations never occurred, the mitochondrial DNA of all people would be identical and therefore not useful for us to use for genealogy or to peer back in time beyond the advent of surnames.

Mutations do occur, just not on any schedule. This means that it’s difficult to predict how long ago we shared a common ancestor with someone else based solely on mitochondrial DNA mutations.

There might be a mutation between us and our mother, or there might be no mutations for hundreds or even, potentially, thousands of years.

Part of the success of matching genealogically with mitochondrial DNA testing has to do with the regions tested.

Testing fewer locations results in matches that are much less relevant.

The Regions

Mitochondrial DNA is divided into 4 regions used for genealogy.

  • HVR1 – Hypervariable Region 1 – locations 16021-16569 (548 total locations)
  • HVR2 – Hypervariable Region 2 – locations 1-437 (437 locations)
  • HVR3 – Hypervariable Region 3 – locations 438-576 (138 locations)
  • Coding Region – the balance of the mitochondria (15,445 locations)

If you think of mitochondrial DNA as a clock face, the hypervariable regions span the time from approximately 11-1. The Coding Region is the balance.

Mitochondrial DNA loop.png

Family Tree DNA bundles the HVR3 region with the HVR2 region in their results. They test the entire D Loop, meaning a total of 1124 locations in their mtPlus product.

Matching at the HVR1 or HVR1 plus HVR2/3 levels alone can reach back thousands of years in time. I strongly encourage testers to test at the higher full sequence level with the mtFull product, allowing much more granular matching.

The HVR1, 2 and 3 regions are exactly as their name suggests – hypervariable – meaning that they mutate faster than the coding region.

The mtFull or full sequence test tests the entire mitochondria – all 16,569 locations.

Genealogists need a full sequence test in order to do two things:

  • Match with other testers reliably
  • Obtain a full haplogroup which acts as a periscope in time, allowing us to look much further back in time than autosomal and on one specific line. There’s no confusion as to which line the results came from with mitochondrial DNA.

If you’ve only taken the mtPlus test, don’t worry, you can sign on here and upgrade at any time to the mtFull.

Medical Information

The coding region carries most of the potentially medically relevant locations. Medical data is not provided in the results of the testing – only genealogically relevant information.

Family Tree DNA does provide for HVR1 and HVR2/3 results to be shown in projects that testers join, if testers so choose. Coding region results are never shared anyplace unless individual testers share them individually with each other.

I’m personally not concerned about this, but mitochondrial DNA testing has been occurring for 20+ years now and it was uncertain at that early date what medical information might be discovered in the coding region, so the decision to not share was made by Family Tree DNA at that time and remains in effect today.

Today, Family Tree DNA is the only vendor to test your full sequence mitochondrial DNA and provide matching. Therefore, all examples in this series utilize results and tools at Family Tree DNA.

So, what can people see of your actual results?

What Matches See

Mitochondrial DNA match view

You can click this image to enlarge.

People whom you match can see that you do match, but they can’t see any differences or mutations. They see the name you’ve entered, your earliest known ancestor and can send e-mail to you. Aside from that, they can’t see your results or mutations unless you’ve joined a project.

Within projects, participant names are never listed publicly. In other words, your matches can’t tell that it’s you unless they recognize your earliest known ancestor on the project list and you are the only person with that ancestor.

Don’t worry though, because only your HVR1 and HVR2 region results are listed in projects, as shown in the next section.

Benefits of Joining Projects

The great news is that even if you’ve just ordered your test and are waiting for results, you can research and join projects now.

Projects at Family Tree DNA provide testers with access to volunteer administrators to help as well as clustering users in projects that are meaningful to their research.

Mitochondrial DNA hap A project.png

The haplogroup A project is shown above with maternal earliest known ancestor (EKA) names as provided by testers.

Another important project feature is the project map function, allowing testers in a specific haplogroup to view the locations of the earliest known ancestors of other members of the same haplogroup – whether they match each other or not. Your ancestors traveled with theirs and descended from a common ancestor. Cool, huh!

Mitochondrial DNA hap A10 map.png

For example, here’s the haplogroup A10 cluster around Montreal. What’s the story associated with that distribution? Whatever it is, it’s probably important genealogically.

Mitochondrial DNA hap A5a1a1 map.png

Here’s haplogroup A5a1a1 in Japan.

Do you have clusters? You can see if you join relevant projects.

Another type of project to join is a geographical or interest group.

The Acadian AmerIndian Project welcomes descendants who have tested the Y, autosomal and/or mitochondrial DNA of the various Acadian families which includes French and English settlers along with First Nations indigenous ancestors.

Mitochondrial DNA Acadian Amerindian project.png

The map shows the distribution of the haplogroup A2f1a ancestors of various Acadian testers.

Mitochondrial DNA Acadian hap A2f1a map.png

Projects such as the Acadian AmerIndian Project facilitate genealogists discovering the haplogroup and information about their direct line ancestor without testing.

For example, if Anne Marie Rimbault, shown above, is my ancestor, by viewing and hopefully joining this project, I can harvest this information about my ancestor. I can’t personally test for her mitochondrial DNA myself, but thankfully, others who do descend matrilineally from Anne Marie have been generous enough to test and share.

Furthermore, I’ve contacted the tester through the project and gained a great cousin with LOTS of information.

Just think how useful mitochondrial DNA would be to genealogists if everyone tested!

Finding Projects to Join

I encourage all testers to join appropriate haplogroup projects. There may be more than one. For mitochondrial haplogroup J, there is only one project, but for those who carry haplogroup H, there is a haplogroup H project and many additional subgroup projects.

I also encourage you to browse the selections and join other interest projects. For example, there are projects such as Cumberland Gap which is regional, the American Indian project for people researching Native ancestry, in addition to your relevant haplogroup project(s).

When deciding which projects to join, don’t neglect your mitochondrial DNA. Your selection may be a huge benefit to someone else as well as to your own research.

How to Join Projects

Sign on to your personal page at Family Tree DNA and click on myProjects at the top, then on “Join A Project.”

mitochondrial dna project join.png

Next, you’ll see a list of projects in which your surname appears. These may or may not be relevant for you.

Mitochondrial project list

You can click to enlarge this image.

You can search by surname.

Mitochondrial project search.png

More importantly, you can browse in any number of sections.

Mitochondrial project browse.png

For mitochondrial DNA, I would suggest specifically mtDNA haplogroups, of course, along with mtDNA Geographical Projects, Dual Geographical Projects, and mtDNA lineage projects.

Surname projects are more challenging for mitochondrial DNA since the surname changes every generation.

When you find a project of interest, click to read the description written by the volunteer administrators to see if it’s a good fit for you, then click through to join.

Next Article in the Series

Of course, you’re probably wondering what all of those numbers in your results and shown in projects mean. The next article in about a week will address exactly that question.

Reference Articles

These articles may be of interest.

Mitochondrial DNA is often confused with X DNA, and they are not at all the same.

Mitochondrial DNA can quickly confirm or put to rest that Native American ancestor family story.

A great example of using mitochondrial DNA to break through a brick wall that would never have fallen otherwise!

If you haven’t yet tested, your can order your mtFull Sequence test today!



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

Thank you so much.

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Mother’s Day and the White Cross – 52 Ancestors #238

This Mother’s Day morning I woke up half way home from St. Louis. I had been speaking at the 2019 NGS Conference in St. Charles, Missouri and drove part way yesterday after my luncheon session.

The rain has been incessant not for hours, not days, but weeks. The rivers aren’t just swollen, they have crested and then crested their crests. Entire farms are underwater, half way up grain silos and barns.

Those farmers won’t recover.

I anticipated a difficult drive in the rain, which is why I stopped as dusk fell – outside Indianapolis last evening.

Indy is about an hour from where I grew up – and I was NOT driving through my hometown.

Mother’s Day is difficult enough without that on top of the fact that the only thing left there to visit is Mother’s grave. I made that stop on my way to St. Louis, taking Mom flowers and rocks from her ancestors’ land.

Barbara Ferverda grave 2019


I didn’t immediately remember that it was Mother’s Day when I woke up in my roadside hotel this morning but was quickly reminded at the first place I stopped for coffee. I needed coffee to stay awake in the four and a half hours of grey drizzle.

Of course, I immediately began thinking about mother. It IS Mother’s Day, after all.

Barbara Jean Ferverda high school photo 1940

Mom’s high school graduation photo in 1940. You’ll pardon me if I say that she was beautiful and reminds me so much of my daughter.

I pondered memories of the farm, my kids spending summers there with Mom – and when my son dropped his pop upside down in Mom’s purse. Such fun but all memories since she is gone.

Just over 4 hours to home, now.

The rain increased, the sun hiding forever. Boring grey windshield time.

I remembered earlier Mother’s Days; ones that mother celebrated with us.

Often, we drove to Fort Wayne or Auburn, Indiana, about 3 hours each way to meet Mom for lunch on Mother’s Day. We generally met at the Ponderosa in Auburn. Ponderosa had a buffet AND a senior discount. Never mind that Mom wasn’t paying – that’s where she wanted to go.

I also recalled the miserable Mother’s Day, also raining, that I loaded the last of the items from her apartment into a rental truck, a couple weeks after her death. I do believe that was literally the worst Mother’s Day I ever had. I tried not to think about that today – actively having to put those thoughts out of my mind as they snuck in from time to time.

I drove past State Road 18, the road that if I turned west would take me past the cemetery where Mom is buried and another 20 miles or so on down that road, to the farm that I loved so much. Such wonderful memories there.

Yes, State Road 18 had always been the road home – but not today. In fact, not for the past many years. My mind wandered down 18, reliving memories, regardless of whether I wanted it to or not.

Mother’s Day tribute songs were playing on the radio.

I decided that I needed a bathroom break near Auburn, but there are too many memories there, so I decided to bypass that exit and stop at the rest stop up the road.

As I drove past the Ponderosa at the Auburn exit, I noticed the sign on the building that said “Available.” The Ponderosa had closed – just one more thing that connects me to Mom gone.

I cried and pulled in at the rest area, needing a break and a walk. The rain wasn’t the only difficult part of this drive today.

State of Indiana seal

Inside the rest area was the seal of the State of Indiana, laid into the tile floor.

I smiled, realizing that I was literally driving through a lifetime of memories – from my birth to this very day.

On the road again, I remembered little things.

Like when I made my own clothes and Mom marked the hems while I stood on a kitchen chair. She would tell me to stand still. I don’t think those hems were ever straight!

Or when a date would arrive to pick me up – he had to come to the door and converse with my mother before we could leave. The date always looked incredibly uncomfortable. That just might have been the idea.

One certainly did NOT go outside and just get into the car. And if any young man would have had the bad judgement to honk the horn, I wasn’t going anyplace with him then or ever.

Thank goodness the boys all had more common sense than that.

I had to smile as I remember Mom shaking her finger and lecturing one young man about something as he repeated “Yes Ma’am” over and over. I don’t think he ever asked me out again. That too was probably the idea:)

I passed by tractors with their plows attached, abandoned in the fields, and I knew the farmers had started plowing and couldn’t go further. I also know what that means – they’re probably stuck, and stuck or not – they aren’t doing anything until the land has an opportunity to dry. Every day lost in the spring can’t be recovered and the farmers try not to show their worry or emotion – but you can hear it in their voices.

I crossed the state line into Michigan, glad to leave Indiana and her memories behind.

Just 2 and a half hours to go now.

Crossing the Line

No one tells you when your mother dies that you never “get over” the grief. No one explains that while you may be a mother yourself, and you cherish your own children recognizing Mother’s Day and spending time with you, that your smile is hiding the tears you shed earlier for your own mother.

No, it’s never over and it never ends.

I try very hard to salve the grief with the good memories, but good memories are gateways to the tears – because there are no new good memories.

I had to focus on the road construction and the rain. Maybe that was a good thing.

I passed Lansing where I moved when I left Indiana. Mom visited often and we set out on new adventures. She loved antique shops and there were lots to explore in Michigan.

Now, half an hour east of Lansing, the grey rain continued as did the construction. However, there seemed to be a problem.

The Cross

Across the median I noticed a car pulled over with its doors open as if someone exited hurriedly. I slowed, immediately thinking that someone might need help. I saw people in the median.

Glancing back and forth between the median and the road with the orange barrels, I caught a quick glimpse of the scene – now seared into my memory in those brief seconds.

First, I saw two dark grey shapes, silhouettes of people, along with bright colors, which confused me.

Then, I realized that one person was on their knees, on the ground in the rain, their back towards me, with the other person bent over them from the right, hand on their shoulder. What looked like flowers were on both sides of the person on the ground.


What is someone doing on their knees in the rain?

Was someone or something hurt?

Had someone been hit?

Was there also a car in the median someplace?

Did I need to call 911?

Did I need to stop and help?

I slowed, preparing to stop, when I saw it…

A white cross in front of the person on their knees.

A few months ago, there was a horrific accident in that stretch of highway involving many cars and semis which resulted in 3 fatalities.

That white cross was not there before.

Those people get to spend this Mother’s Day remembering – in the rain, in the median, on their knees, head bowed, in front of the white cross, planting colorful flowers.

They can’t take their mother flowers anymore.

Or, is the person kneeling the mother who is marking the location of her child’s death? Two young people died that terrible day.

I don’t have the answer, and it only matters to them. Grief is grief regardless.

I wished I could have taken a quick photo in the cold rain. Nothing could ever be more effective or poignant in promoting safe driving, but I would never have intruded into such a private space.

I realized in that soul searing moment that the sadness I carry about my mother’s death – and will for the rest of my life – can’t be compared to the agonizing grief these people must surely feel. In the median of an expressway, alone but at the same time, on public display.

Mother passed over at 83, she wasn’t ripped from me, from the prime of her life, in a horrific pileup accident that took nearly a day to clear.

I’m suddenly grateful for my flavor of grief.

I’m fortunate that I can grieve softly, and slowly, knowing that mother completed her life. Realizing that missing her and wanting more goodness is normal. I’m not grieving for what could have and should have been but that I was robbed of by someone else’s negligence. Her life was not cut short – it just wasn’t long enough for me.

Not everyone celebrates this or other holidays which surface painful memories, or sometimes lack of them. Those who cannot bear children or have lost children or parents tragically. I need to be more cognizant of this situation, my words and what silence might mean.

I hold those people in the median into the light along with all others who suffer in a river of unrelenting grief.



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

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Mother’s Day, Mitochondrial DNA and New Series

Mother's Day 2019 sale

What better way to celebrate Mother’s Day than by testing your (or your Mom’s) mitochondrial DNA?

Everyone, males and females both receive their mitochondrial DNA from their mothers, but only females pass it on to both genders of their children.

yline mtdna

This means that your mitochondrial DNA tracks your direct matrilineal line, shown above with the red circles. This is your mother’s mother’s mother’s line – back in time until you run out of mothers that you can identify.

However, your DNA doesn’t stop there and provides you with the story of your ancestors before they have names and are present in your tree.

In other words, mitochondrial DNA can peer behind that veil of time into history plus match you to current people.

Mitochondrial DNA can also break down brick walls. Here’s just one example.

But I Don’t Understand Mitochondrial DNA…

I’m at a genealogy conference this week, as I write this article, and people have mentioned that they don’t understand mitochondrial DNA, how it works, or how to use it.

So, drum roll….I’ll be writing a short series, as follows:

  • Decoding Mitochondrial DNA – how it works, why it works, and what those numbers mean
  • Using Mitochondrial DNA for Genealogy – how to utilize the various tools on your Family Tree DNA personal page
  • Breaking Down Brick Walls with Mitochondrial DNA – taking mitochondrial DNA one step further

So, here’s the deal.

Mitochondrial DNA is on sale at Family Tree DNA for Mother’s Day. They are the only DNA testing company to offer the full sequence test and matching which is the combination you need for genealogy.

If you’ve tested elsewhere and obtained your haplogroup – that’s not enough. You need the mtFull, full sequence test.

A haplogroup test tests a few mitochondrial locations – just enough to assign a base haplogroup.

The mtPlus test at Family Tree DNA is the “toe in the water test” and tests about 2000 locations – enough for basic matching plus a basic haplogroup assignment.

The mtFull test tests all 16,569 locations in the mitochondria. This is the test needed for genealogical matching and for your full haplogroup assignment.


The Family Tree DNA Mother’s Day sale is in effect now offering 25% off of the mitochondrial DNA, autosomal Family Finder and bundled tests through May 13th.

Mother's Day 2019 sale prices

If you haven’t purchased a mitochondrial DNA test, click here to purchase the mtFull sequence test.

If you have taken the mtPlus test, click here to sign on to your account and upgrade to the mtFull.

I suggest ordering the autosomal Family Finder if you haven’t taken that test or transferred your raw data file to Family Tree DNA from elsewhere.

Using the Family Tree DNA advanced matching tool to compare Family Finder in conjunction with the mtDNA test matches is one of the steps in utilizing the mitochondrial DNA test for genealogy. I strongly suggest that you have the results of both tests available.

Fortunately, Family Tree DNA is offering a bundled package savings for both tests for $198, normally $278. The regular price of the mtFull alone is $199 – so in essence the Family Finder is free when you buy the bundle. That’s a GREAT DEAL!

Be Ready for the Series

I’ll begin the series of articles soon – so by the time your results are ready, you’ll have a roadmap available.

We’re going to have a lot of fun. Who knows what you might discover!

PS – Don’t forget to test your Dad too, or his siblings if he’s not available to test – because you didn’t receive your Dad’s mitochondrial DNA and it holds genealogical secrets of his mother’s line!



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

Concepts – Endogamy and DNA Segments

Members of endogamous populations intermarry for generations, creating many segments that match, especially at small centiMorgan levels. These matching segments occur because they are members of the same population – not because they are genealogically related in a recent or genealogical time-frame.

Said another way, endogamous people are all related to each other in some way because they descend from a small original population whose descendants continued to intermarry without introducing people outside of the community into the genetic line. In other words, the DNA segments of the original population simply keep getting passed around, because there are no new segments being introduced.

If you only have 10 segments at a specific genetic location to begin with, in the original population – then the descendants of those original people can only have some combination of the DNA of those original people until another person is introduced into the mix.

Examples of endogamous populations are Ashkenazi Jews, Native Americans, Acadians, Mennonite, Amish and so forth.

If you have some family lines from an endogamous population, you’ll match with many members of that group. If you are fully endogamous, you will have significantly more matches than people from non-endogamous groups.

I suggest that you read my article, Concepts: The Faces of Endogamy to set the stage for this article.

In this article, I want to provide you with a visual example of what endogamy looks like in a chromosome browser. It doesn’t matter which vendor you use so long as you can drop the cM count to 1, so I’m using FamilyTreeDNA for this example.

I’ve used three people as examples:

  • Non-endogamous European
  • Ashkenazi Jewish
  • Native American (Sioux)

For all testers, I selected their closest match above 200 cM total plus the following 4 for a total of 5 people to compare in the chromosome browser. I have only shown chromosomes 1-8 because I’m trying to convey the concept, not exact details of each chromosome, and 8 chromosomes fit into one screen shot.

If you’re not familiar with the terminology, you can read about cM, centiMorgans, in the article “Concepts – CentiMorgans, SNPs, and Pickin’Crab.”

Let’s take a look at our 3 examples, one at a time.

Non-Endogamous European Individual

The tester is non-endogamous. Four of the 5 individuals are known family members, although none were target tested by the tester.

Endogamy non-endogamous.png

The tester’s matches at 1 cM are shown below:

Endogamy non-endogamous 1cM.png

Note that the grey hashed regions are regions not reported, so no one matches there.

Below, the same 5 matches shown at 7 cM where roughly half of the matches will be identical by chance. Identical by descent segments include identical by population. You can read about the various types of “identical by” segments in the article, “Concepts – Identical by…Descent, State, Population and Chance”.

Endogamy non-endogamous 7cM.png

Ashkenazi Jewish Individual

The tester, along with both of their parents have tested. None of the matches are known or identified relatives.

Endogamy Jewish.png

Even though none of these individuals can be identified, two are related on both sides, maternal and paternal, of the person who tested.

In the chromosome browser, at 1cM, we see the following:

Endogamy Jewish 1cM.png

At 7cM, the following:

Endogamy 7cM.png

Native American Individual

The tester is 15/16 Native from the Sioux tribe. It’s unlikely that their matches are entirely Native, meaning they are not entirely endogamous. None of the matches are known or identified family members.

Endogamy Native.png

At 1 cM shown below:

Endogamy Native 1cM.png

At 7 cM, below:

Endogamy Native 7cM.png

Side by Side

I’ve placed the three 1 cM charts side by side with the non-endogamous to the left, the Jewish in the center and the Native, at right.

endogamy side by side.png

It’s easy to see that the Jewish tester has more 1 cM segments than the non-endogamous tester, and the Native tester more than both of the others.

Summary Comparison Chart

The chart below shows the difference in total number of segments, number of segments between 1 and 6.99 cM, and number of segments at 7 cM or larger. I downloaded these results into a spreadsheet and counted the rows.

Total Segments Total segments at 1 – 6.99 cM Total at 7 or > cM % 7 or >
Non-Endogamous 98 70 28 29
Jewish 168 139 29 17
Native American 310 295 15 5

You’ll note that the non-endogamous individual only has 58% of the number of total segments compared to the Jewish individual, and 32% compared to the Native American individual. The Jewish individual has 54% of the number of segments that the Native person has.

I was initially surprised by the magnitude of this difference, but after thinking about it, I realized that the Native people have been endogamous for a lot longer in the Americas than the Ashkenazi Jewish people in Europe. At least 12,000 years compared to roughly 2000 years, or approximately (at least) 6 times longer. Furthermore, the Native people in the Americans were entirely isolated until the 1400s, with no possibility of outside admixture. Isolation lasted even longer in the tribes that were not coastal, such as the Sioux in the Dakotas.

Note that the Jewish person and non-endogamous person have almost as many 7cM segments as each other, but the Native person has roughly half as many when compared to the other two. That means that because I made my selection starting point based on total cM, and the Native person has a LOT more 1-6.99 cM segments than the others, at that level, there are fewer strong segment matches for the Native individual.

The Native person’s percentage of 7 cM or greater segments is a much smaller percentage of the total segments.

As a percentage, the 7 or greater cM segments are 29% of the non-endogamous person’s total, 17% of the Jewish person’s, but only 5% of the Native person’s total.

Endogamy not only makes a difference when comparing results, but the specific endogamous population along with their history, how heavily endogamous they are, and how long they have been endogamous appears to factor heavily into the comparison as well.

The Fervida (Ferwerda, Ferverda) Farm – 52 Ancestors #237

I never write my 52 Ancestor stories from the road, but this is an exception because of the incredible series of events that happened over the past couple days. So, be warned, nothing you are seeing is “cleaned up,”

My Jewish friend, Moishe, shared with me the Yiddish phrase, “bashert” – destined to be. I’ll let you decide.

I’ll just simply say that once again, I had to call my husband and begin the conversation with, “Well, you’re never going to believe this…”

I swear, I think our ancestors reach out and help us from time to time – that is, when they aren’t stubbornly hiding😊

One key to accurately remembering people, places and events is to record things when they happen. We all think we are going to remember, but we don’t. Consider this my “journal” and you’re coming along on my great adventure!

The Best Laid Plans

This week marks the 13th anniversary of mother’s passing over.

Barbara Jean Ferverda

Mom and I set out on ancestor search adventures from time to time. I did the genealogy and research part, but we traveled together to discover our ancestral locations. What fun we had, and how I miss her.

My plan this week was to visit Warsaw, Indiana to obtain deeds, wills and court information for Hiram B. Ferverda (1854-1925) my great-grandfather – mother’s grandfather – who died when she was a toddler. She knew of him, but doesn’t remember him, although she knew her grandmother who lived another 14 years well. How I wish I could ask mother to show me exactly where they lived, but alas, I can’t so I went searching through genealogical means.

I thought that finding mother’s grandmother’s house, where she played as a child, was fitting on the day of that 13th anniversary. Not only would it honor mother, it might take some of the sting out of the day, and I would wind up in the cemetery where Mom is buried at days end, sharing my discoveries with her. Who knows, maybe she would even answer a few questions!

But that wasn’t at all what happened – and I’m blaming mother. It was her influence, pure and simple!

Warsaw – Finding My Way

My goal was to determine which lot in the very small town of Leesburg, Indiana that Hiram owned and drive by. Does the house still remain today?

Seems pretty simple – right?

While I was in Warsaw, the Kosciusko County seat, I also wanted to obtain Hiram’s will and take a look in the court indexes.

That sounds a lot easier than it turned out to be – not the least of which was because the several hours drive was undertaken in the midst of spring rains that had lasted for days. Everything was entirely sodden and the sky hadn’t seen any color other than grey for days.

The good news was that I managed to arrive at the Kosciusko County courthouse before noon. The bad news was that while the deed was easy to obtain and the recorder’s staff was quite helpful, the clerk’s office wasn’t nearly as accommodating. When I told them I needed copies of 3 wills, they informed me that they normally didn’t “just stop work to take care of people.” I explained my situation and asked what my options were, given that a preliminary call hadn’t been helpful either and I drove from out of state.

The person stated that she was leaving for the day and I could look in the will index myself. Hurray! That’s what I wanted to do in the first place. However, after that, I didn’t feel I should press my luck and ask for court records too. Besides that, time was running short and I still wanted to drive to Leesburg as well as on to Elkhart County before ending the day at Mom’s grave.

Suffice it to say that on my way out the door, I asked the Kosciusko County surveyor, who had been extremely helpful by plotting the lots in Leesburg for me, if he happened to know which road on the neighboring Elkhart County Union Township plat map abutted Kosciusko County. Hiram Ferverda grew up on his father’s farm in Union Township and I was having trouble correlating the old plat map with the current roads.

Roads change names from county to county, the old names aren’t the current names and new roads are constructed, which makes everything more confusing.

The surveyor was kind enough to tell me the names of the Kosciusko County roads I’d need to turn onto in order to be on the right road when I crossed the county line into Elkhart County.

Fervida plat map

My chicken scratches and the surveyor’s directions to the intersection of sections 35 and 36 in Union Township, Elkhart County from Kosciusko County. I hand drew State Road 6, in red, built since this 1929 plat map and cutting across section 35 where I believed Bauke’s land was located.

Union Township, Elkhart County

After locating Hiram’s land in Leesburg, I was planning to drive by what I believed to have been the land of Hiram’s father, Bauke Hendrik Ferwerda, known as Baker here in the US. Both Hiram and Bauke were immigrants from the Netherlands and settled in Elkhart County in 1868. Bauke proceeded to both farm and teach.

At the time that Bauke immigrated, he was married to his second wife, Minke Van der Kooi, known at Minnie. Names tended to be Anglicized, probably based on pronunciation.

Minke and Bauke had 2 daughters when they left the Netherlands, but only one would survive the passage. The youngest child, about a year old, learned to walk on the ship according to family stories passed through the generations.

Bauke had been married previously to Geertje Harmens de Jong who died in 1860. She and Bauke had 3 children, a daughter who died, Hiram whose Dutch name was Harmens Bauke and Henry, whose Dutch name was Hendrik.

Hiram and Henry Ferverda (2)

Both boys, above, ages 14 and 11 in 1868 when they immigrated helped their father homestead.

The Ferwerda’s were a Dutch Mennonite family in the US who spoke neither English nor German. They settled among the German Brethren in Elkhart County along with some of the other Dutch families who sailed on the same ship. The Mennonite and Brethren religions are more similar than different and Bauke and family soon became Brethren – if not immediately.

I haven’t yet written Bauke’s story, and this is certainly a part of the larger picture, but this adventure is deserving of its own individual article because it’s just so doggone amazing!

Horses and Buggies

After a few wrong turns, I found myself on the back roads of Kosciusko County. Turning north onto Kosciusko County road 300 West, I quickly found myself crossing over the county line where I was on Elkhart County Road 15, not to be confused with Indiana State Route 15 which runs parallel about 2 or 3 miles east.

I told you it was confusing!

It’s no wonder I couldn’t put these pieces together from maps alone.

I pulled to the side of the road to photograph two beautiful horses in a green field. Emphasis on green. In Michigan it is still very cold and nothing is green. Indiana is about 3 weeks ahead of Michigan.

Fervida horses

While I was trying to encourage the horses to meander closer to the fence for a better picture, an Amish horse-drawn buggy passed me.

Fervida Amish buggy on hills

How many people in a Jeep can say they’ve been passed by an Amish buggy?

This land is very hilly, and the last thing I wanted to do was spook the horse, so I stayed quite a ways back until after we finished in the hilly section, including the railroad tracks which parallel the county line a few feet away.

The children in the back of the buggy were packed in snugly and coyly waved.

Fervida Amish buggy

After we crossed the bridge spanning Turkey Creek, the buggy moved to the right and I very slowly passed on the left where the bridge widened.

I drove on past, looking for the first road, which I thought was the road on the north side of Bauke’s land. Google maps wouldn’t let me “drive” down that road, because it was dirt, but it looked from the aerial to have an older house that might, just might, be Bauke’s original home. I wanted to take a look.


On the plat map, you can see that the land was owned by William O. Ferverda, Bauke’s son, in 1929. Bauke had died in 1911.

In section 35, there’s a divit with an arrow that looks like it was owned by someone else.

It had begun to rain again, as I turned down the road.

Not to be deterred, I found the house that looked to be older, but of course I had no way of knowing if that house was Bauke’s old home. It was located where it could be the divit.

I continued driving down the road, when I became a bit hesitant. The road was dirt and it was VERY muddy.


So muddy, in fact, that I was seriously concerned about becoming stuck. Looking down the road, I realized that there was too much water, and although the road wasn’t entirely flooded, it was certainly uncomfortably water-logged. Jeep or not, stuck is stuck.

Fervida road photo

Not only that, but I didn’t have enough room to turn around and I could feel the road “squishing” under my tires.

Nope, no turning around. I needed to back straight out of there, very slowly. One false move and I’d be there until the road hardened enough that a tractor could get to me. Translate – days.

I began backing, fully intending to turn into the driveway of the house I had passed near the corner.

I backed for nearly half a mile.

Looking in the rear-view mirror – I saw it. That same buggy.

I slowed once again and was going to tell them that the road was in bad shape if not impassable, when they turned into the farmhouse where I was going to turn around.

I still needed to turn around.

I pulled into their driveway when I decided that I’d have to overcome my shyness and pull on up to the barn and ask if they knew any of the Ferverda family. That old plat map was from 90 years ago, so I was sure the land was sold out of the family generations before, but perhaps they knew some local history. Maybe they knew if it was the Fervida farm at one time. Memories in farm country are long and farmers tend to know the history of their land – but almost 100 years might be hoping for too much.

Approaching the buggy, I realized that the oldest person was a female, perhaps in her 30s, so I wasn’t very hopeful. She was understandably reserved, but after petting her dog, chatting for a few minutes, showing her the plat map with the Ferverda name and asking if a specific plat across the road from William Ferverda’s land was her land – she acknowledged that it was and told me that yes, she did know some Ferverdas and I might want to stop at the house across the road.

The House Across the Road

When you’re on a corner, the house across the road can be multiple houses. There were 2 within view. Both houses in question were newer, so I was fairly sure that neither was the house I was looking for. I was disappointed, but given that the road was flooded, I had no other options. I pulled slowly down the road, hoping someone might be outside – but it was raining so that was unlikely.

As I approached the first, smaller house, with grain bins and barns behind the home, I noticed a large rock out front.

Then, I saw it. My brain didn’t believe what my eyes were registering.

Fervida farm me


I sure am glad I didn’t just drive on. Between the horse, buggy, corner, rain and mud, I had never looked at the rock. Yes, I had driven by it before but since the house was modern, I hadn’t paid much attention.

I pulled into the driveway, just as a pickup was pulling out of the driveway on the other side of the house. I frantically waived for him to stop.

The man pulled down to my driveway and I asked if he was a Ferverda. “No,” he said, “I work for Scott Fervida and he’s home with a sick child.” I asked if this was still the Ferverda farm and he confirmed that it was – then told me to go on over to the house across the road where Scott lived.

I was extremely hesitant to just walk up to someone’s door and knock. They are going to be justifiably suspicious and I’m actually rather shy. Plus – farm dogs can be pretty intimidating.

The man in the truck did me the favor of calling Scott and warning him, then offered to take my photo with the Fervida farm stone.

Meeting Scott

I summoned my courage and walked up to Scott’s door. He graciously asked me inside. The nice young man in the truck had told him that I was “related somehow.” I had the plat map in hand and explained that my mother was a Ferverda and that Hiram had been Bauke’s son.

Scott said that he had the immigration papers of Bauke in his office. By this time, he could have been Jeffrey Dahmer because I would follow him willingly to my death to see Bauke’s naturalization papers – with the original seal no less!!!

Fervida naturalization

Scott’s lovely wife and children were home too, and we all began chattering and talking like magpies.

Fervida mantle

Scott mentioned that their fireplace mantle, above, and one beam, above the window, below, was from Bauke’s old barn. Those logs were hand stripped of bark with an adze.

Fervida beam

A few minutes later, Scott mentioned that his parents lived just down the road on the next farm. His wife called them, and they arrived in short order.

How exciting, an impromptu family reunion!

Scott went to the safe and retrieved a file folder of goodies. We looked through the old envelopes and papers, most of which were from the late 19-teens, the 1920s and later.

Scott is the 5th generation Ferwerda, then spelled Ferverda, now Fervida, to own this land.

Ferwerda, Ferverda or Fervida?

The answer is yes, all 3. In the Netherlands and in Bauke’s naturalization papers, the name is spelled Ferwerda. In short order, here, the w became a v. On the 1929 plat map, William’s name is spelled Ferverda. In a 1940 newspaper article, it’s Fervida.

In the cemetery, Bauke’s name is spelled Fervida, as is William’s. I suspect Bauke’s stone was set later, not when he died in 1911.

By the time Hiram was found in the records, his surname was spelled Ferverda.

So yes, all 3 and now the descendants of the two sons of Bauke spell their surnames Ferverda (through Hiram) and Fervida (through William.)

Bauke’s House

Scott’s father, Don, told me that Bauke’s original house was a small cabin. Most early cabins were about 10X12 or maybe 12X16 – amazingly small for a family – but what every family began with.

By at least 1920, a new house had been built, and probably long before.

Fervida house

I mention this because in the 1910 census, Bauke is living with son William and family who is listed as the head of household, beside Cletus Miller, as shown on the 1929 plat map. It’s likely that the new house is shown in this photo above, with the old cabin right next door to the right.

Don showed me where the old house stood, not terribly far from the Fervida rock, and then he pointed out where the cornerstones for the original cabin had remained, long after the cabin was gone.

Fervida silo cabin

Eventually, the cornerstones had to go when a new grain silo needed to be installed where the cabin once stood.

Bauke’s Barn

Another item in Scott’s office was a framed aerial photo of the property that included the original barn, now torn down.

Fervida old barn

There’s a lot of glare on the glass from the window, but you can see the barn.

We know that the barn immediately in front of the original barn is 40X80 because of this article detailing the barn raising in 1920.

Fervida article

I laughed at the mention of how many automobiles were there. Apparently the horse and buggy had been replaced in the Brethren families, but most women never drove.

The barn wall of the original barn was incorporated into the “new” barn as a cost savings measure. Farmers were always frugal.

I grew up on a farm and love barns. Don took me inside the barn and showed me the original studs remaining and how they “shored up” old wall and retrussed it to be part of the new wall.

Fervida barn

You can see that the studs have been reused as there are notches for connecting beams no longer present.


Pinch me, here I was standing in Bauke’s barn.

A day ago, I didn’t even know it existed.


Surreal doesn’t even begin to touch this.

Don grew up on this farm, helping his father, Eldon, who was William’s son. William didn’t pass away until 1960, so Don knew him well.

Fervida tractor

This early International Harvester tractor looked much like the one I learned to drive.

Of course, now its dwarfed by contemporary monstrous tractors and modern equipment.

Fervida rock tree

I tool this photo for the rock, but it shows the current “new” barn and other out-buildings in relation to the grain silo with the conical shaped bottom, to the right behind the tree and barn.

William Fervida and Family

Unfortunately, we don’t have a photo of Bauke, although Don is checking with his sister to be sure.

We do have a lovely photo of William and family.

Fervida, William

Fervida, William back

Thank goodness someone wrote on the back!

Bauke’s Furniture

When the Fervida family had to tear William’s house down, they salvaged the remaining original furniture.

Scott was kind enough to show me both pieces, lovingly integrated into his home.

Fervida Don and Scott Hoosier cupboard

Here, Scott and Don stand beside Bauke’s cupboard. My mother called these pieces “Hoosier cupboards.” One of the reasons I think Bauke built the larger house before his death, as opposed to William later, is because a piece of furniture this size would take a disproportionate part of a log cabin. It simply wouldn’t fit.

Scott said that this piece, and the one below were both refinished by an Amish craftsman because they were literally black with age and wear.

Fervida dresser

This dresser lives in the spare bedroom. That’s me, very happily taking the picture and framed in the mirror, like a mirror into the past. That was Scott’s lovely daughter’s suggestion! I told her she needs to study genetics😊

Notice the candlestands beside the mirrors.

The corners of the drawers are beautifully dovetailed.

Fervida dovetail

Saved the Best for Last

After returning downstairs, I mentioned my Mom’s Bible in the context of my article last week. Scott said, “well, maybe you’d like to see this,” walked into his office again, and pulled this off of his shelf.

Fervida Bible

“What’s this?”, I asked.

Don told me that before his grandfather, William, died, William told him to be sure this Bible didn’t leave the family.

The Bible always sat on the dresser in William’s house, in the center. That’s the same dresser with me in the mirror.

Fervida Bible spine

This beautiful Bible is worn.

Fervida Bible page

The first thing Scott’s mother and I did was to look for names, births, deaths and marriages. Not one thing was recorded.

On the front page, we noted that the Bible was published by Mennonite Publishing Company.

It’s interesting because the oral family history on my side stated that the brother, William, who lived near Nappanee was Mennonite. However, Don indicated that the family was always Brethren to the best of his knowledge.

Clearly, William felt this was a heirloom when he passed away.

The Mennonite Publishing Company published from 1875-1908 but of course this doesn’t necessarily mean that’s when the Ferverda family obtained the Bible.

Fervida Bible 1884

There was no copyright, per se, but we did find that this had been registered in the Library of Congress in 1884 which at that time seemed to function in essentially the same way. It’s likely that this Bible was purchased originally sometime after 1884 and before 1908, meaning before Bauke’s death.

Unfortunately, there were no dates recorded in the Bible, but a lot of political newspaper clippings from later years.

That was torture!

These large “Big Bibles” or “Great Bibles” as they were called weren’t carried to church, but were used in home readings and study.

Judging from the wear on the cover, this Bible was well-used. It’s in amazingly good condition given that it’s someplace between 110 and 135 years old.

We know unquestionably that it was Williams. Was it Bauke’s?


As the afternoon turned into early evening, I realized I really needed to get on the road as I had miles to go before reaching my destination for the evening. Furthermore, I was probably standing between these people and their dinner.

Scott’s wife asked me if I would join them for dinner, but I felt I had already intruded enough. I had literally been there for hours.

I declined, mentioning that I wanted to visit my grandparent’s graves in Silver Lake yet that day, winding up in Peru an hour and a half further south near where Mom was buried, preferably before nightfall.

As Scott’s parents exited through the garage, I left with them, saying my goodbyes. Don asked me once more if I wouldn’t join them in town, Nappanee, for dinner. I really, really wanted to, but I needed to visit Mom’s grave yet and had planned to be another 90 minutes south before morning when I would drive on to St. Louis. It was already going to be a long day. If I stayed for dinner, I wouldn’t make it any further south. And I wouldn’t see Mom on the 13th anniversary of her passing.

What to do?

Don’s wife suggested a couple hotels in Nappanee, and I decided to call my husband and see if he could book me in someplace. While that was taking place, I would indeed join Don and his wife for dinner. Fingers crossed.

As we drove the few miles into town, the rain became torrential, meaning that we were soaked to the skin in the 10 feet from the vehicles to the door of the restaurant. I was VERY glad I had opted not to drive further and very much enjoyed visiting with my Fervida cousins.

As our meal was delivered to our table, Don said grace, a practice long lost in most places, but not in the Fervida family in Indiana. I added my own special thank you for finding my Fervida family, thanks to a buggy and a flooded road.

I so enjoyed absorbing everything Don had to say. I wish I had more time to spend.

The Hotel

Fervida round barn

I spent the night in the “red hotel” as the locals call it, just down the road from this round Amish barn on Amish Acres. I grew up with round barns nearby and hadn’t seen one in years.

As I tucked myself in for the evening, in a room with quilts and handmade curtains, the rain poured relentlessly. I looked outside to see torrents of water running and inches everyplace. There was too much rain and no place for it to go.

The morning light would reveal floods, including flash floods that washed across roads, stripping the fertile topsoil in the fields away. These are the days that try farmers’ souls. I wondered if Bauke saw floods like this.


My morning began with water in the lower level of the hotel. Fortunately, my room was on the second floor.

The rains had lulled, at least momentarily, but every time I woke up during the night, the rain was still pounding on the roof.

Fervida morning

The sun tried to peek through the clouds, but soon gave up and retreated.

Fervida Amish buggies

The first thing I needed to do was find a grocery store or someplace to purchase a bouquet of flowers to divide between the graves of my grandparents, my Mom and step-father and my two step-siblings. All stores in Amish country have special areas for parking horses and buggies.

I realized that in my excitement the previous day that I had forgotten to ask Scott if I could have a rock for my garden from Bauke’s farm. I often collect a rock to take home, something permanent and tangible from the land that once belonged to my ancestors. I particularly like rocks plowed from their fields, and no farmer ever says, “No, I want all those rocks to hit with the plow.”

Scott indicated that he wasn’t home, but that he’d call Don and see if he was available. I told Scott I could easily find a rock along the edge of a field, I just needed permission, not assistance.

Fervida flooded land

As I drove down State Road 6, I looked to the right to see Bauke’s land entirely covered with water. Turkey Creek had not only overflowed its banks, it had over-washed the road and covered the fields. You can see the grain silos in the distance in the location of Bauke’s original home.

I was sick at heart for Don and Scott, because as a farm girl, I knew exactly what this meant.


I went the “long way round,” avoiding the floodwaters and pulled into the driveway of the barn.

I saw a rock that someone had thrown out of the field and that was waiting for me to rescue it, sitting patiently in the roots of a nearby tree.

Fervida rock for John

As I carried the rock to the car, Don pulled in the driveway too. I quickly explained that Scott had given permission for me to rock shop, and I explained to Don that I add ancestor rocks to my garden as a way of bringing a little bit of them home with me. As it turned out, Scott had called Don and Don had found me a wonderful rock, in addition to the one I picked up.

As we talked, I mentioned that I’d like to pick up a couple small stones to take to my grandfather’s grave and my mom’s. He offered to help, and we drove across the road to a culvert where Don had installed catch basins the year before.

Fervida catch basin

The road was full of corn cobs, meaning that during the night, the water had over-washed the road, taking with it soil and anything else it could carry away as it raced towards Turkey Creek. Not just flash flood warnings, but flash floods indeed.

Don helped me select and clean the mud off the rocks to take to the cemeteries.

Fervida pretty rock

As we drove back to my vehicle, I noticed yet another rock, about half the size of a small car. We opined that this one was a bit too large for the Jeep. What a beautiful stone that Bauke didn’t even know he had. Don found it plowing and decided it was too beautiful to bury. I wondered what kind of stone it was, and Don replied that it was “just a stone of some kind,” an answer very similar to one my beloved step-father gave my kids decades ago when asked the same question about one of his field rocks.


I asked Don if I could take his picture in front of the Fervida Farm rock that he and his wife had engraved for Scott’s birthday. The farm equipment in the background is just so appropos. Wouldn’t Bauke be amazed at the changes in farming since he plowed this ground, probably using a mule and standing on the plow.

I thanked Don again, for everything, but in particular for being such a wonderful steward of our ancestor’s farm. I’m so glad that Scott loves it as much as Don.

Turkey Creek

Fervida Turkey Creek across field

Turkey Creek snakes its way through Bauke’s farm, swollen and flooded.

Fervida Turkey Creek flooded

No driving down the road today. The creek has overflowed everyplace!

Fervida Turkey Creek flood

Skeletal irrigation equipment looks strangely out of place.

Fervida bridge

As I drove away, I turned back one last time to take a final, lingering look and say goodbye.

I crossed the bridge where less than a day earlier, I had passed that Amish buggy.

Today, on my way out, I was stopping at the church that had once been Turkey Creek Brethren Church. Don said that to the best of his knowledge, the Ferverda family had always been Brethren in the US. Bauke and family were members of Turkey Creek Church.

I asked why they were buried at Union Center Church cemetery if they had attended Turkey Creek, and Don said that there was no cemetery at Turkey Creek – even though it was an older church. All Brethren were buried at Union Center. I never thought of that.

Turkey Creek Church

Turkey Creek Brethren church ceased operation in 2012 and the building has since been purchased by another congregation.

Fervida Turkey Creek church

The church remains the same, with the original structure incorporated into the current building.

Fervida Turkey Creek 2

The old trees were probably here when Hiram drove his horse and buggy up this same pathway to the church.

Fervida Turkey Creek sign

A sign commemorates the original church.

I pulled into the parking lot to take a closer look. I was hoping to see some part that I could identify of the original building, but no dice.

Fervida Turkey Creek cross

Even the cross is much more contemporary that it appears from a distance.

Fervida Turkey Creek church 3

As I walked towards the rear of the church, I realized something very important.

That grain elevator in the distance is Bauke’s land, a mile away.

Fervida plat map churches

You can see the church on the 1929 plat map, at left. I’ve marked it as well as the location of the barns and grain bins today with red arrows. A section is a mile wide.

Fervida land from Turkey Creek church

The flooded fields between the church and the grain silos are Bauke’s. It’s no wonder that Bauke and family attended Turkey Creek Church – it was literally right next door, within sight. The next generations of Ferverda/Fervida men would also attend Turkey Creek Church. Understanding the history of Turkey Creek Church and Union Center explained why the Fervidas were members in one place and buried in another. Previously, I had presumed membership at Union Center because that’s where they were buried.

My Grandfather, Pawpaw

Leaving Turkey Creek church behind, I headed for Silver Lake, 45 minutes away where John Ferverda, my grandfather, Bauke’s grandson is buried.

John Ferverda stone

I arranged the flowers in a milk jug I had brought along for the occasion, placing the rocks lovingly at John’s end of the stone. The larger rock from Bauke’s farm and the smaller one from Hiram’s. John grew up on Hiram’s farm, of course, but he assuredly visited his grandfather. Bauke didn’t pass away until John was 29 years old. John probably played in Bauke’s fields and along the banks of Turkey Creek.

Fervida stones John Ferverda


My next stop was the cemetery in Galveston, Indiana where Mom is buried. I feel like I’ve traveled the Ferverda Cemetery trail these past few days.

Barbara Jean Ferverda stone

Mom’s married surname at her death was Long, but my brother and I had her birth surname inscribed on the front as well, along with his and mine on the back. Once a genealogist, always a genealogist.

Fervida stones Barbara Ferverda

I placed the stone from Hiram’s farm where Mom’s father grew up beside the stone from Bauke’s farm – the one Don had so graciously washed for the journey.

I wonder how long those stones, a small piece of her ancestor’s lives, will remain. I hope that they will survive to greet a future generation who will stand where I stood and wonder why someone placed those stones on Mom’s grave.

One might say that Mom wanted these stones. She certainly sent me on quite the round-about adventure on the way to visit her grave – and it made me a day late.

What an incredible gift.

Thanks Mom!



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