Catharina Baur (1608-1688), Survived the Destruction of Heiningen – 52 Ancestors #287

Catharina Baur was born August 21, 1608 in Heiningen to Leonhardt Baur & Margareta Jauss.

Catharina Baur birth

Baptism: the 21st of August 1608, child: Catharina. Father Lientin? Baur, Ulrich’s son. Mother Margaretha. Godparents Petter Wolff and Anna, wife of Jacob Ganss.

This record also tells us the name of Catharina’s grandfather, Ulrich Baur.

Catharina would have been 10 years old when the Thirty Years’ War brought waves of devastation that consumed much of Europe over the next 30 years.

Still, war didn’t stop love, although it might have inconvenienced it a bit. One might suggest that perhaps warfare delayed marriages, but it might actually have had just the opposite effect, encouraging people to marry more quickly than they might have otherwise. The sense that time might be short, and there was none to waste might have prompted relationships to be solidified in days or weeks instead of a courtship taking months.

When Catharina was 29 years old, she became the second wife of Johannes Haag, also known by the names of both Hanss and Koss. The Haag surname was often written as Haga in the early records, perhaps a phonetic spelling.

Catharina was not Koss’s first wife. He had married Margaretha, whose surname is unknown, in 1628. They baptized a child in 1631, but no further records exist for either Margaretha or their child. Burial records for that timeframe are missing.

We know that Margaretha died sometime before 1637 when Hanss Haga married for the second time on August 27, 1637, in Heiningen to Catharina Baur.

Johannes Haag marriage 1637

Marriage: the 27th of August 1637 Hanss Haga called Kos a widower here and Catharina, surviving legitimate daughter of Leonhardt Baur, of blessed memory, from here.

“Of blessed memory,” tells us that Leonhardt was probably deceased.

The Thirty Years’ War

Not only did Catharina marry in the midst of a war, by the time she married, she had already survived the destruction of the village of Heiningen in 1734 by Imperial Catholic soldiers marauding the countryside after the Battle of Nordlingen. The Lutheran Michaelskirche church history in Heiningen tells us about the death, devastation, and trauma to the people, and that many were killed through unspeakable atrocities.

I wonder if Catharina’s father died in 1734.

None of Catharina’s 8 siblings survived to adulthood. Due to the lack of death records and no mention of her mother in Catharina’s marriage record, we don’t know if her mother attended her wedding or was a few feet away, outside in the churchyard.

We do know that none of Catharina’s mother’s siblings appear to have survived either. Life was tough in Germany in the 1500s, and one was significantly less likely to survive to adulthood than to perish.

During the 30 years that the war lasted, Heiningen’s population dropped from 1000 in 1618 to just 200 in 1648. Catharina, Koss, and one child were three of those surviving residents.

By that time, Catharina had buried 4 children in the churchyard, clearly along with hundreds of close and distant family members.

Michaelskirche

Katharina would have baptized all of her babies in the beautiful Michaelskirche, located in the center of Heiningen, inside the village’s fortified wall surrounding the church. Then Lutheran, Michaelskirche was built in the 1200s and was Catholic before the Reformation in 1534.

Catharina Baur Michelskirche aisle

Of course, the church would have looked somewhat different at that time, but probably not substantially. The entrance, through the north tower would have been to the left rear, and the sacristy to the right, near the cross.

It would have been here that Catharina sat and squirmed as a child, wept tears of grief during funerals and tears of joy at weddings, especially those of her children. It was here that she prayed for the weak and ill to survive, and for the souls of those who did not.

It was probably here that Catharina sheltered in 1634 when the troops destroyed the village, the “house of God,” literally protecting her, allowing her to survive.

And it was here that Catharina would have married widower, Koss Haga in 1637, in the midst of a war. Perhaps he had sheltered her or her family in 1634.

Baptisms

Catharina Baur baptismal font

The 16th-century gothic baptismal font, minus the copper bowl added recently, held the water as each of Catharina’s 7 children were baptized, their godparents standing with the parents, promising to raise them in the ways of the Protestant church and the Lord.

How hopeful Catharina must have been for her newborn babies on baptismal days.

Godparents were crucial at that time because all-too-many children were orphaned by warfare, infections, childbirth, typhoid, dysentery, and other afflictions and diseases. Godparents stepped in to raise parentless children.

Catharina herself was baptized in this very font and, eventually, would have stood by this baptismal bowl as a godmother herself. She may well have stood up with her two grandchildren, baptized in 1671 and 1686, named Catharina in her honor.

Funerals

All things considered, it’s absolutely amazing that Catharina lived to be almost 80 years old and died of an “old person’s” affliction, a stroke.

Catharina Baur Haag died on July 16, 1688 in Heiningen.

Catharina Baur burial

Burial: 16 July 1688

Catharina, Hanss Haag(en) Koss, surviving widow died from a stroke; her age 80 years, less two months.

Reaching 80 years of age was probably remarkable. Similar to what the minister scribed, her neighbors, who were likely all family members of some description, probably referred to her as “almost 80,” quite a landmark, especially given everything she had seen, endured, and survived.

Catharina’s funeral would have been attended by the entire village of course, among them her 3 surviving children and 12 grandchildren. Another 4 grandchildren would be born and baptized in that same baptismal font after Catharina’s death.

Catharina Baur church yard

Catharina would be joining 4 children and 13 grandchildren in the churchyard, meaning that she had buried her husband and more than half of her children and grandchildren.

Catharina must have been an incredibly strong person. Peasant life in Germany was not for the faint of heart.

Children

Catharina had a total of 7 children, all in Heiningen, 3 of whom lived to adulthood. At least she was able to enjoy her grandchildren during her decade of widowhood.

  1. Elisabetha Haag, born June 29, 1640; married August 1, 1665 in Heiningen to Johannes Alt, born 1640 in Regensburg, Bavaria.
  2. Anna Haag, born August 13,1641; no family found.
  3. Barbara Haag, born July 5,1643; no family found.
  4. Johannes Haag, born February 19, 1645; no family found.
  5. Leonhard Haag, born June 27, 1647; no family found.
  6. Michael Haag, born January 4, 1649; married 28 July 1671 to Margareta Bechtold; died 9 April 1727 in Heiningen. My direct ancestral couple.
  7. Johannes Haag, born May 20, 1653; married Margareta Hässler on May 18, 1680; died February 24, 1703 in Heiningen.

Unfortunately, none of Catharina’s daughters lived to adulthood, married, and had surviving daughters themselves, so Catharina’s mitochondrial DNA does not descend to living people today – at least not through Catharina directly. Typically, we would look to Catharina’s sisters or her mother’s sisters to see if they had female offspring who have descendants through all females to the current generation. That won’t work in Catharina’s case, because none of Catharina’s sisters survived either, and her mother’s parents are unknown.

Catharina’s mitochondrial DNA line has daughtered out, meaning it’s extinct to us today. Perhaps it lives on in unknown family members.

Acknowledgements

A special thank you to my friends Tom and Christoph for their never-ending assistance, research and patience, and to the Michaelskirche in Heiningen for the beautiful church photos and history.

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Johannes “Koss” Haag (1604-1678), Survived the Thirty Years’ War – 52 Ancestors #286

Johannes, known as Hanss, Haag was born November 9, 1604 in Heiningen, Göppingen, Württemberg to Johannes Haag and Margareta Reich.

Johannes Haag 1604 birth

Baptism: the 9th of November: child: Johannes. Father Hanss Haga and mother Margaretha. Godparents: Mark Rapp, ? and Dorothea, wife of Vid? Hamss?

Haag is written as Haga in all of the old records, and Johannes of course is Hanss.

Hanss Haga married for the first time on November 21, 1628 in Heiningen to Margareta, widow of Hanss Ganssen.

Johannes Haag marriage 1628

Marriage: Hanss Haga, the smith’s son called Koss and Anna (x) Margaretha!, Hanss Ganssen widow

Note that the minister corrected his entry from Anna to Margaretha. How does the minister make a mistake on the bride’s name?

Margaretha’s identify remains a mystery. The Ortsippenbucher for Heiningen does not reveal a Hanss Ganss married to a Margaretha from the necessary time frame. Fortunately, she is not my direct ancestress.

It’s from this record that we learn that Hanss’ nickname was Koss and that he was the “smith’s son.” His name is also given again as Hanss Haga, not Haag, which makes me wonder if Haga was an early word or surname that over time became Haag.

Hanss Haga amd Margaretha had one child, also by the name of Margaretha. This child was born on June 10, 1631 in Heiningen.  No further information is available about this child or Margaretha, her mother.

There are no death records in the church register of Heiningen for 1631-1637, so we have no way of knowing when Margaretha and the child died. Given that there was no second child born in 1633, one might speculate that Margaretha died before then, but maybe not. It’s possible that Koss was absent, because a war was raging.

The Thirty Year’s War

Koss, as he was called, was 14 years old in 1618 when the Thirty Years’ War began in Germany, ultimately devastating Heiningen.

Koss witnessed the entire three decades of carnage, 11,000 days. How terribly that must have affected him. From 14 through age 44.

In 1618, when the war began, Heiningen had 1000 inhabitants; in 1648 there were only 200. According to the Michaelskirche history, generously provided by the reverend, the town did not recover from the war until around 1800, 150 years later. While Heiningen was not often the center of the action, the war advanced in waves, washing over the country. Württemberg was particularly affected.

Then, in 1634, Heiningen was destroyed and looted by the “Kaiserliche,” soldiers of the Imperial Army that were either German or under the control of the Catholic German Kaiser. Those soldiers marauded through the country after the Battle of Nördlingen fought on September 5 and 6.

In that battle, the Roman Catholic Imperial Army of the Hapsburg Dynasty, aided by 15,000 Spanish soldiers crushed the combined Protestant armies of Germany and Sweden.

Johannes Haag Nordlingen

After the Battle of Nordlingen, Imperial soldiers ransacked the countryside.

We don’t know if Koss served as a soldier, but he likely did. I don’t know how any able-bodied man would avoid service with battles consuming the countryside all around.

The war killed soldiers and civilians directly, caused famines, destroyed livelihoods, disrupted commerce, postponed marriages and childbirth, and forced large numbers of people to relocate. The overall reduction of population in the German states was typically 25% to 40%, but Württemberg was disproportionally affected and lost three-quarters of its population during the war.

Johannes Haag Wurttemberg

By Ssch – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=350991

On the map above, Heiningen is located near Goppingen and Nordlingen is located just over the border in the green area of Bayern.

Much of the destruction of civilian lives and property was caused by the cruelty and greed of mercenary soldiers. Villages, like Heiningen, were especially easy prey to the marauding armies. Many did not survive. The Swedish armies alone may have destroyed up to 2,000 castles, 18,000 villages, and 1,500 towns in Germany, one-third of all German towns.

In Heiningen, those who could not find safety were in dire straits. Contemporary witnesses stated that their children and grandchildren were traumatized. Three-fourths of the population died.

Johannes Haag crucifix

The Michaelskirche church history tells us that the face of the crucified man on the Gothic altar crucifix from early 16th century, the time of the Thirty Years’ War, reflects the furies of war: torture, plunder, desolation of the fields, hunger, plague, typhus and dysentery.

The residents of the village were devastated. Certainly, no family was untouched by death, but the village does not appear to have been abandoned at any point. While there are no burial records conserved today, we do find one or more baptisms and marriages each month beginning in September 1634 through the first half of 1635. Clearly, children conceived before the war were going to be born, regardless, but baptisms could have been performed at a later date, as could marriages.

There were people living in the village during that entire time, although I’d wager there were an inordinate number of burials. Koss, being one of the survivors, then age 30, was probably digging graves as rapidly as he could – possibly for his own wife and child. That is, when he wasn’t defending the village.

Given what we know about the village of Heiningen, I do wonder if the villagers took shelter inside the walls surrounding the church. The church walls were thick as well, providing a second barrier, and the church itself may have served as protection and fortification to protect the village.

The terror that took place in the fall of 1634 endures in the history of the village to this day. That seemed to be the darkest of times. Those who escaped death were grief-stricken, traumatized and impoverished.

Although Margaretha and her child died sometime after June 10, 1631, Koss survived and remarried.

Remarriage

We know that Margaretha died sometime before 1637 when Hanss, aka Koss, married for the second time on August, 27th to Catharina Baür in Heiningen, still before the end of the Thirty Years’ War.

Johannes Haag marriage 1637

Marriage: the 27th of August 1637 Hanss Haga called Kos a widower here and Catharina, surviving legitimate daughter of Leonhardt Baür, of blessed memory, from here.

“Of blessed memory” tells us that Catharina’s father, Leonhardt, is probably deceased.

How I wish they had stated Koss’s occupation. Maybe at that point, there were no more “occupations,” per se, the only occupation being survival. If only we knew more.

Hanss Haag, aka Koss, died February 3, 1678 in Heiningen.

Johannes Haag death 1678

Burial: Hanss Haga called Koss, 73 years, 3 months old with a sermon.

I wish the church record had included what Biblical references were used in that sermon. I wonder if his funeral service mentioned his first wife or deceased children, or the war that he survived. What was this man’s legacy?

Johannes Haag Heiningen early church photos

The Michelskirche on the day of Koss’s funeral probably looked much as it does in these photos taken before a 1904 renovation.

At the time Koss’s funeral sermon was preached, the miserable War had been over for 20 years. Those atrocious memories surely hadn’t faded, especially given that of Koss’s 6 children born during that War, only one survived to adulthood.

The family likely sat on those wooden benches, the minister standing in the pulpit with the staircase overlooking the coffin, center front, preaching Koss’s funeral sermon to his widow, Catharina, three surviving children and 6 surviving grandchildren. None, not one of Kos’s 17 siblings appears to have survived to have children, or if they did, they are not reflected in any Heiningen records. How did Koss managed to survive?

Of course, after the funeral, Koss’s casket was carried out the side door of the church, through the sacristy, and was buried outside in the churchyard, someplace between the church itself and the defensive wall.

Was the churchyard full? Later records mention that at one time, the ground became so elevated outside due to all of the “digging” that parishoners actually had to walk down steps into the church from the churchyard.

Johannes Haag Michaelskirche layout

At least 800 people died between 1618 and 1648 and had to be buried. Historical records elsewhere in Germany indicate that bodies were buried minimally 2-3 years before being removed to the ossuary.

Did bodies buried in 1734 have to be exhumed and taken to the now-sealed ossuary beneath the sacristy on the south side of the church to make room for Koss, or had those bones already been disinterred? Was the ossuary still in use at that time, or had it already been sealed? Were families buried in family grave plots, and if so, was Koss buried where his parents or first wife, Margaretha, had lain?

Children

The births recorded in the early records all reflect the surnames as Haga, not Haag. In the Heiningen heritage book, the surname is recorded as Haag, which tellus us that today, the surname is Haag.

Hanns, Koss, had a total of 8 children, one with his first wife, and 7 with Catharina Baür. Of those children, we have no further information about 3 females and two males, which suggests they perished young.

Koss had two surviving sons who were born, married and died in Heiningen:

  1. Michael Haag, born January 4, 1649, just 8 months after the end of the Thirty Years’ War; married July 28, 1671 to Margareta Bechtold; died April 9, 1727. Michael, my ancestor, had three sons, at least one of whom had sons who lived to marry and have children.
  2. Johannes Haag, born May 20, 1653; married Margareta Hässler on May 18, 1680; died February 24, 1703. Johannes had 4 sons who survived, married and had sons who may descendants who are Haag males today.

Any male born to Michael or Johannes who descends through all Haag males to men today carries the Y DNA of Hanss, or Koss, Haag or Haga.

By testing the Y DNA of those male Haag descendants, we can determine where the Haag family originated, before they settled in Heiningen.

I have a DNA testing scholarship for Y DNA for any Haag male descending from this line. Please let me hear from you.

Conclusion

We know so very little about Koss’s life.

He was unquestionably Protestant as was the entire village of Heiningen. The Reformation had occurred only 70 years before Kos’ birth, so the remnants of Catholicism and the troubled times surrounding that tumultuous religious transition still haunted Europe. The Thirty Years’ War was, again, a Catholic/Protestant conflict that literally depopulated large swaths of Protestant Germany.

Koss almost assuredly served in some capacity at some time in the military. Military service was probably synonymous with self-defense in that time and place and may have been required. In the midst of a devastating war, there was probably no avoiding military service, especially as a young man, even if he had wanted to – and I’m guessing he would have taken pride in serving and protecting his family, village and fighting for his religion.

Koss was 24 years old when he married the first time. For all we know, he may have already served for years as a soldier, which might be why no occupation was listed.

Koss buried one wife and at least 5 children, along with a few grandchildren. He didn’t have many grandchildren, because not many of his children survived.

The fact that Koss managed to live through the entire Thirty Years’ War, through incessant religious turmoil, through the destruction of Heiningen by Catholic soldiers in 1734, and until the age of 73 years and 3 months is nothing short of miraculous. He probably never expected to survive that long, given the destruction and devastation swirling around him most of his life. Most people died much younger.

I shudder to think about the atrocities that Kos assuredly witnessed, and how those memories probably haunted him.

As I reflect upon Koss’s life and times, I reach the conclusion that I’m very, very fortunate to be here today.

Acknowledgements

A special thank you to my friends Tom and Christoph for their never-ending assistance, research and patience, and to the Michelskirche in Heiningen for the beautiful church photos and history.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some 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.

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Y DNA: Step-by-Step Big Y Analysis

Many males take the Big Y-700 test offered by FamilyTreeDNA, so named because testers receive the most granular haplogroup SNP results in addition to 700+ included STR marker results. If you’re not familiar with those terms, you might enjoy the article, STRs vs SNPs, Multiple DNA Personalities.

The Big Y test gives testers the best of both, along with contributing to the building of the Y phylotree. You can read about the additions to the Y tree via the Big Y, plus how it helped my own Estes project, here.

Some men order this test of their own volition, some at the request of a family member, and some in response to project administrators who are studying a specific topic – like a particular surname.

The Big Y-700 test is the most complete Y DNA test offered, testing millions of locations on the Y chromosome to reveal mutations, some unique and never before discovered, many of which are useful to genealogists. The Big Y-700 includes the traditional Y DNA STR marker testing along with SNP results that define haplogroups. Translated, both types of test results are compared to other men for genealogy, which is the primary goal of DNA testing.

Being a female, I often recruit males in my family surname lines and sponsor testing. My McNiel line, historic haplogroup R-M222, has been particularly frustrating both genealogically as well as genetically after hitting a brick wall in the 1700s. My McNeill cousin agreed to take a Big Y test, and this analysis walks through the process of understanding what those results are revealing.

After my McNeill cousin’s Big Y results came back from the lab, I spent a significant amount of time turning over every leaf to extract as much information as possible, both from the Big Y-700 DNA test itself and as part of a broader set of intertwined genetic information and genealogical evidence.

I invite you along on this journey as I explain the questions we hoped to answer and then evaluate Big Y DNA results along with other information to shed light on those quandaries.

I will warn you, this article is long because it’s a step-by-step instruction manual for you to follow when interpreting your own Big Y results. I’d suggest you simplyread this article the first time to get a feel for the landscape, before working through the process with your own results. There’s so much available that most people leave laying on the table because they don’t understand how to extract the full potential of these test results.

If you’d like to read more about the Big Y-700 test, the FamilyTreeDNA white paper is here, and I wrote about the Big Y-700 when it was introduced, here.

You can read an overview of Y DNA, here, and Y DNA: The Dictionary of DNA, here.

Ok, get yourself a cuppa joe, settle in, and let’s go!

George and Thomas McNiel – Who Were They?

George and Thomas McNiel appear together in Spotsylvania County, Virginia records. Y DNA results, in combination with early records, suggest that these two men were brothers.

I wrote about discovering that Thomas McNeil’s descendant had taken a Y DNA test and matched George’s descendants, here, and about my ancestor George McNiel, here.

McNiel family history in Wilkes County, NC, recorded in a letter written in 1898 by George McNiel’s grandson tells us that George McNiel, born about 1720, came from Scotland with his two brothers, John and Thomas. Elsewhere, it was reported that the McNiel brothers sailed from Glasgow, Scotland and that George had been educated at the University of Edinburgh for the Presbyterian ministry but had a change of religious conviction during the voyage. As a result, a theological tiff developed that split the brothers.

George, eventually, if not immediately, became a Baptist preacher. His origins remain uncertain.

The brothers reportedly arrived about 1750 in Maryland, although I have no confirmation. By 1754, Thomas McNeil appeared in the Spotsylvania County, VA records with a male being apprenticed to him as a tailor. In 1757, in Spotsylvania County, the first record of George McNeil showed James Pey being apprenticed to learn the occupation of tailor.

If George and Thomas were indeed tailors, that’s not generally a country occupation and would imply that they both apprenticed as such when they were growing up, wherever that was.

Thomas McNeil is recorded in one Spotsylvania deed as being from King and Queen County, VA. If this is the case, and George and Thomas McNiel lived in King and Queen, at least for a time, this would explain the lack of early records, as King and Queen is a thrice-burned county. If there was a third brother, John, I find no record of him.

My now-deceased cousin, George McNiel, initially tested for the McNiel Y DNA and also functioned for decades as the family historian. George, along with his wife, inventoried the many cemeteries of Wilkes County, NC.

George believed through oral history that the family descended from the McNiel’s of Barra.

McNiel Big Y Kisumul

George had this lovely framed print of Kisimul Castle, seat of the McNiel Clan on the Isle of Barra, proudly displayed on his wall.

That myth was dispelled with the initial DNA testing when our line did not match the Barra line, as can be seen in the MacNeil DNA project, much to George’s disappointment. As George himself said, the McNiel history is both mysterious and contradictory. Amen to that, George!

McNiel Big Y Niall 9 Hostages

However, in place of that history, we were instead awarded the Niall of the 9 Hostages badge, created many years ago based on a 12 marker STR result profile. Additionally, the McNiel DNA was assigned to haplogroup R-M222. Of course, today’s that’s a far upstream haplogroup, but 15+ years ago, we had only a fraction of the testing or knowledge that we do today.

The name McNeil, McNiel, or however you spell it, resembles Niall, so on the surface, this made at least some sense. George was encouraged by the new information, even though he still grieved the loss of Kisimul Castle.

Of course, this also caused us to wonder about the story stating our line had originated in Scotland because Niall of the 9 Hostages lived in Ireland.

Niall of the 9 Hostages

Niall of the 9 Hostages was reportedly a High King of Ireland sometime between the 6th and 10th centuries. However, actual historical records place him living someplace in the mid-late 300s to early 400s, with his death reported in different sources as occurring before 382 and alternatively about 411. The Annals of the Four Masters dates his reign to 379-405, and Foras Feasa ar Eirinn says from 368-395. Activities of his sons are reported between 379 and 405.

In other words, Niall lived in Ireland about 1500-1600 years ago, give or take.

Migration

Generally, migration was primarily from Scotland to Ireland, not the reverse, at least as far as we know in recorded history. Many Scottish families settled in the Ulster Plantation beginning in 1606 in what is now Northern Ireland. The Scots-Irish immigration to the states had begun by 1718. Many Protestant Scottish families immigrated from Ireland carrying the traditional “Mc” names and Presbyterian religion, clearly indicating their Scottish heritage. The Irish were traditionally Catholic. George could have been one of these immigrants.

We have unresolved conflicts between the following pieces of McNeil history:

  • Descended from McNeil’s of Barra – disproved through original Y DNA testing.
  • Immigrated from Glasgow, Scotland, and schooled in the Presbyterian religion in Edinburgh.
  • Descended from the Ui Neill dynasty, an Irish royal family dominating the northern half of Ireland from the 6th to 10th centuries.

Of course, it’s possible that our McNiel/McNeil line could have been descended from the Ui Neill dynasty AND also lived in Scotland before immigrating.

It’s also possible that they immigrated from Ireland, not Scotland.

And finally, it’s possible that the McNeil surname and M222 descent are not related and those two things are independent and happenstance.

A New Y DNA Tester

Since cousin George is, sadly, deceased, we needed a new male Y DNA tester to represent our McNiel line. Fortunately, one such cousin graciously agreed to take the Big Y-700 test so that we might, hopefully, answer numerous questions:

  • Does the McNiel line have a unique haplogroup, and if so, what does it tell us?
  • Does our McNiel line descend from Ireland or Scotland?
  • Where are our closest geographic clusters?
  • What can we tell by tracing our haplogroup back in time?
  • Do any other men match the McNiel haplogroup, and what do we know about their history?
  • Does the Y DNA align with any specific clans, clan history, or prehistory contributing to clans?

With DNA, you don’t know what you don’t know until you test.

Welcome – New Haplogroup

I was excited to see my McNeill cousin’s results arrive. He had graciously allowed me access, so I eagerly took a look.

He had been assigned to haplogroup R-BY18350.

McNiel Big Y branch

Initially, I saw that indeed, six men matched my McNeill cousin, assigned to the same haplogroup. Those surnames were:

  • Scott
  • McCollum
  • Glass
  • McMichael
  • Murphy
  • Campbell

Notice that I said, “were.” That’s right, because shortly after the results were returned, based on markers called private variants, Family Tree DNA assigned a new haplogroup to my McNeill cousin.

Drum roll please!!!

Haplogroup R-BY18332

McNiel Big Y BY18332

Additionally, my cousin’s Big Y test resulted in several branches being split, shown on the Block Tree below.

McNIel Big Y block tree

How cool is this!

This Block Tree graphic shows, visually, that our McNiel line is closest to McCollum and Campbell testers, and is a brother clade to those branches showing to the left and right of our new R-BY18332. It’s worth noting that BY25938 is an equivalent SNP to BY18332, at least today. In the future, perhaps another tester will test, allowing those two branches to be further subdivided.

Furthermore, after the new branches were added, Cousin McNeill has no more Private Variants, which are unnamed SNPs. There were all utilized in naming additional tree branches!

I wrote about the Big Y Block Tree here.

Niall (Or Whoever) Was Prolific

The first thing that became immediately obvious was how successful our progenitor was.

McNiel Big Y M222 project

click to enlarge

In the MacNeil DNA project, 38 men with various surname spellings descend from M222. There are more in the database who haven’t joined the MacNeil project.

Whoever originally carried SNP R-M222, someplace between 2400 and 5900 years ago, according to the block tree, either had many sons who had sons, or his descendants did. One thing is for sure, his line certainly is in no jeopardy of dying out today.

The Haplogroup R-M222 DNA Project, which studies this particular haplogroup, reads like a who’s who of Irish surnames.

Big Y Match Results

Big Y matches must have no more than 30 SNP differences total, including private variants and named SNPs combined. Named SNPs function as haplogroup names. In other words, Cousin McNeill’s terminal SNP, meaning the SNP furthest down on the tree, R-BY18332, is also his haplogroup name.

Private variants are mutations that have occurred in the line being tested, but not yet in other lines. Occurrences of private variants in multiple testers allow the Private Variant to be named and placed on the haplotree.

Of course, Family Tree DNA offers two types of Y DNA testing, STR testing which is the traditional 12, 25, 37, 67 and 111 marker testing panels, and the Big Y-700 test which provides testers with:

  • All 111 STR markers used for matching and comparison
  • Another 589+ STR markers only available through the Big Y test increasing the total STR markers tested from 111 to minimally 700
  • A scan of the Y chromosome, looking for new and known SNPs and STR mutations

Of course, these tests keep on giving, both with matching and in the case of the Big Y – continued haplogroup discovery and refinement in the future as more testers test. The Big Y is an investment as a test that keeps on giving, not just a one-time purchase.

I wrote about the Big Y-700 when it was introduced here and a bit later here.

Let’s see what the results tell us. We’ll start by taking a look at the matches, the first place that most testers begin.

Mcniel Big Y STR menu

Regular Y DNA STR matching shows the results for the STR results through 111 markers. The Big Y section, below, provides results for the Big Y SNPs, Big Y matches and additional STR results above 111 markers.

McNiel Big Y menu

Let’s take a look.

STR and SNP Testing

Of Cousin McNeil’s matches, 2 Big Y testers and several STR testers carry some variant of the Neal, Neel, McNiel, McNeil, O’Neil, etc. surnames by many spellings.

While STR matching is focused primarily on a genealogical timeframe, meaning current to roughly 500-800 years in the past, SNP testing reaches much further back in time.

  • STR matching reaches approximately 500-800 years.
  • Big Y matching reaches approximately 1500 years.
  • SNPs and haplogroups reach back infinitely, and can be tracked historically beyond the genealogical timeframe, shedding light on our ancestors’ migration paths, helping to answer the age-old question of “where did we come from.”

These STR and Big Y time estimates are based on a maximum number of mutations for testers to be considered matches paired with known genealogy.

Big Y results consider two men a match if they have 30 or fewer total SNP differences. Using NGS (next generation sequencing) scan technology, the targeted regions of the Y chromosome are scanned multiple times, although not all regions are equally useful.

Individually tested SNPs are still occasionally available in some cases, but individual SNP testing has generally been eclipsed by the greatly more efficient enriched technology utilized with Big Y testing.

Think of SNP testing as walking up to a specific location and taking a look, while NGS scan technology is a drone flying over the entire region 30-50 times looking multiple times to be sure they see the more distant target accurately.

Multiple scans acquiring the same read in the same location, shown below in the Big Y browser tool by the pink mutations at the red arrow, confirm that NGS sequencing is quite reliable.

McNiel Big Y browser

These two types of tests, STR panels 12-111 and the SNP-based Big Y, are meant to be utilized in combination with each other.

STR markers tend to mutate faster and are less reliable, experiencing frustrating back mutations. SNPs very rarely experience this level of instability. Some regions of the Y chromosome are messier or more complicated than others, causing problems with interpreting reads reliably.

For purposes of clarity, the string of pink A reads above is “not messy,” and “A” is very clearly a mutation because all ~39 scanned reads report the same value of “A,” and according to the legend, all of those scans are high quality. Multiple combined reads of A and G, for example, in the same location, would be tough to call accurately and would be considered unreliable.

You can see examples of a few scattered pink misreads, above.

The two different kinds of tests produce results for overlapping timeframes – with STR mutations generally sifting through closer relationships and SNPs reaching back further in time.

Many more men have taken the Y DNA STR tests over the last 20 years. The Big Y tests have only been available for the past handful of years.

STR testing produces the following matches for my McNiel cousin:

STR Level STR Matches STR Matches Who Took the Big Y % STR Who Took Big Y STR Matches Who Also Match on the Big Y
12 5988 796 13 52
25 6660 725 11 57
37 878 94 11 12
67 1225 252 21 23
111 4 2 50 1

Typically, one would expect that all STR matches that took the Big Y would match on the Big Y, since STR results suggest relationships closer in time, but that’s not the case.

  • Many STR testers who have taken the Big Y seem to be just slightly too distant to be considered a Big Y match using SNPs, which flies in the face of conventional wisdom.
  • However, this could easily be a function of the fact that STRs mutate both backward and forwards and may have simply “happened” to have mutated to a common value – which suggests a closer relationship than actually exists.
  • It could also be that the SNP matching threshold needs to be raised since the enhanced and enriched Big Y-700 technology now finds more mutations than the older Big Y-500. I would like to see SNP matching expanded to 40 from 30 because it seems that clan connections may be being missed. Thirty may have been a great threshold before the more sensitive Big Y-700 test revealed more mutations, which means that people hit that 30 threshold before they did with previous tests.
  • Between the combination of STRs and SNPs mutating at the same time, some Big Y matches are pushed just out of range.

In a nutshell, the correlation I expected to find in terms of matching between STR and Big Y testing is not what I found. Let’s take a look at what we discovered.

It’s worth noting that the analysis is easier if you are working together with at least your closest matches or have access via projects to at least some of their results. You can see common STR values to 111 in projects, such as surname projects. Project administrators can view more if project members have allowed access.

Unexpected Discoveries and Gotchas

While I did expect STR matches to also match on the Big Y, I don’t expect the Big Y matches to necessarily match on the STR tests. After all, the Big Y is testing for more deep-rooted history.

Only one of the McNiel Big Y matches also matches at all levels of STR testing. That’s not surprising since Big Y matching reaches further back in time than STR testing, and indeed, not all STR testers have taken a Big Y test.

Of my McNeill cousin’s closest Big Y matches, we find the following relative to STR matching.

Surname Ancestral Location Big Y Variant/SNP Difference STR Match Level
Scott 1565 in Buccleuch, Selkirkshire, Scotland 20 12, 25, 37, 67
McCollum Not listed 21 67 only
Glass 1618 in Banbridge, County Down, Ireland 23 12, 25, 67
McMichael 1720 County Antrim, Ireland 28 67 only
Murphy Not listed 29 12, 25, 37, 67
Campbell Scotland 30 12, 25, 37, 67, 111

It’s ironic that the man who matches on all STR levels has the most variants, 30 – so many that with 1 more, he would not have been considered a Big Y match at all.

Only the Campbell man matches on all STR panels. Unfortunately, this Campbell male does not match the Clan Campbell line, so that momentary clan connection theory is immediately put to rest.

Block Tree Matches – What They Do, and Don’t, Mean

Note that a Carnes male, the other person who matches my McNeill cousin at 111 STR markers and has taken a Big Y test does not match at the Big Y level. His haplogroup BY69003 is located several branches up the tree, with our common ancestor, R-S588, having lived about 2000 years ago. Interestingly, we do match other R-S588 men.

This is an example where the total number of SNP mutations is greater than 30 for these 2 men (McNeill and Carnes), but not for my McNeill cousin compared with other men on the same S588 branch.

McNiel Big Y BY69003

By searching for Carnes on the block tree, I can view my cousin’s match to Mr. Carnes, even though they don’t match on the Big Y. STR matches who have taken the Big Y test, even if they don’t match at the Big Y level, are shown on the Block Tree on their branch.

By clicking on the haplogroup name, R-BY69003, above, I can then see three categories of information about the matches at that haplogroup level, below.

McNiel Big Y STR differences

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By selecting “Matches,” I can see results under the column, “Big Y.” This does NOT mean that the tester matches either Mr. Carnes or Mr. Riker on the Big Y, but is telling me that there are 14 differences out of 615 STR markers above 111 markers for Mr. Carnes, and 8 of 389 for Mr. Riker.

In other words, this Big Y column is providing STR information, not indicating a Big Y match. You can’t tell one way or another if someone shown on the Block Tree is shown there because they are a Big Y match or because they are an STR match that shares the same haplogroup.

As a cautionary note, your STR matches that have taken the Big Y ARE shown on the block tree, which is a good thing. Just don’t assume that means they are Big Y matches.

The 30 SNP threshold precludes some matches.

My research indicates that the people who match on STRs and carry the same haplogroup, but don’t match at the Big Y level, are every bit as relevant as those who do match on the Big Y.

McNIel Big Y block tree menu

If you’re not vigilant when viewing the block tree, you’ll make the assumption that you match all of the people showing on the Block Tree on the Big Y test since Block Tree appears under the Big Y tools. You have to check Big Y matches specifically to see if you match people shown on the Block Tree. You don’t necessarily match all of them on the Big Y test, and vice versa, of course.

You match Block Tree inhabitants either:

  • On the Big Y, but not the STR panels
  • On the Big Y AND at least one level of STRs between 12 and 111, inclusive
  • On STRs to someone who has taken the Big Y test, but whom you do not match on the Big Y test

Big Y-500 or Big Y-700?

McNiel Big Y STR differences

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Looking at the number of STR markers on the matches page of the Block Tree for BY69003, above, or on the STR Matches page is the only way to determine whether or not your match took the Big Y-700 or the Big Y-500 test.

If you add 111 to the Big Y SNP number of 615 for Mr. Carnes, the total equals 726, which is more than 700, so you know he took the Big Y-700.

If you add 111 to 389 for Mr. Riker, you get 500, which is less than 700, so you know that he took the Big Y-500 and not the Big Y-700.

There are still a very small number of men in the database who did not upgrade to 111 when they ordered their original Big Y test, but generally, this calculation methodology will work. Today, all Big Y tests are upgraded to 111 markers if they have not already tested at that level.

Why does Big Y-500 vs Big Y-700 matter? The enriched chemistry behind the testing technology improved significantly with the Big Y-700 test, enhancing Y-DNA results. I was an avowed skeptic until I saw the results myself after upgrading men in the Estes DNA project. In other words, if Big Y-500 testers upgrade, they will probably have more SNPs in common.

You may want to contact your closest Big Y-500 matches and ask if they will consider upgrading to the Big Y-700 test. For example, if we had close McNiel or similar surname matches, I would do exactly that.

Matching Both the Big Y and STRs – No Single Source

There is no single place or option to view whether or not you match someone BOTH on the Big Y AND STR markers. You can see both match categories individually, of course, but not together.

You can determine if your STR matches took the Big Y, below, and their haplogroup, which is quite useful, but you can’t tell if you match them at the Big Y level on this page.

McNiel Big Y STR match Big Y

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Selecting “Display Only Matches With Big Y” means displaying matches to men who took the Big Y test, not necessarily men you match on the Big Y. Mr. Conley, in the example above, does not match my McNeill cousin on the Big Y but does match him at 12 and 25 STR markers.

I hope FTDNA will add three display options:

  • Select only men that match on the Big Y in the STR panel
  • Ddd an option for Big Y on the advanced matches page
  • Indicate men who also match on STRs on the Big Y match page

It was cumbersome and frustrating to have to view all of the matches multiple times to compile various pieces of information in a separate spreadsheet.

No Big Y Match Download

There is also no option to download your Big Y matches. With a few matches, this doesn’t matter, but with 119 matches, or more, it does. As more people test, everyone will have more matches. That’s what we all want!

What you can do, however, is to download your STR matches from your match page at levels 12-111 individually, then combine them into one spreadsheet. (It would be nice to be able to download them all at once.)

McNiel Big Y csv

You can then add your Big Y matches manually to the STR spreadsheet, or you can simply create a separate Big Y spreadsheet. That’s what I chose to do after downloading my cousin’s 14,737 rows of STR matches. I told you that R-M222 was prolific! I wasn’t kidding.

This high number of STR matches also perfectly illustrates why the Big Y SNP results were so critical in establishing the backbone relationship structure. Using the two tools together is indispensable.

An additional benefit to downloading STR results is that you can sort the STR spreadsheet columns in surname order. This facilitates easily spotting all spelling variations of McNiel, including words like Niel, Neal and such that might be relevant but that you might not notice otherwise.

Creating a Big Y Spreadsheet

My McNiel cousin has 119 Big Y-700 matches.

I built a spreadsheet with the following columns facilitating sorting in a number of ways, with definitions as follows:

McNiel Big Y spreadsheet

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  • First Name
  • Last Name – You will want to search matches on your personal page at Family Tree DNA by this surname later, so be sure if there is a hyphenated name to enter it completely.
  • Haplogroup – You’ll want to sort by this field.
  • Convergent – A field you’ll complete when doing your analysis. Convergence is the common haplogroup in the tree shared by you and your match. In the case of the green matches above, which are color-coded on my spreadsheet to indicate the closest matches with my McNiel cousin, the convergent haplogroup is BY18350.
  • Common Tree Gen – This column is the generations on the Block Tree shown to this common haplogroup. In the example above, it’s between 9 and 14 SNP generations. I’ll show you where to gather this information.
  • Geographic Location – Can be garnered from 4 sources. No color in that cell indicates that this information came from the Earliest Known Ancestor (EKA) field in the STR matches. Blue indicates that I opened the tree and pulled the location information from that source. Orange means that someone else by the same surname whom the tester also Y DNA matches shows this location. I am very cautious when assigning orange, and it’s risky because it may not be accurate. A fourth source is to use Ancestry, MyHeritage, or another genealogical resource to identify a location if an individual provides genealogical information but no location in the EKA field. Utilizing genealogy databases is only possible if enough information is provided to make a unique identification. John Smith 1700-1750 won’t do it, but Seamus McDougal (1750-1810) married to Nelly Anderson might just work.
  • STR Match – Tells me if the Big Y match also matches on STR markers, and if so, which ones. Only the first 111 markers are used for matching. No STR match generally means the match is further back in time, but there are no hard and fast rules.
  • Big Y Match – My original goal was to combine this information with the STR match spreadsheet. If you don’t wish to combine the two, then you don’t need this column.
  • Tree – An easy way for me to keep track of which matches do and do not have a tree. Please upload or create a tree.

You can also add a spreadsheet column for comments or contact information.

McNiel Big Y profile

You will also want to click your match’s name to display their profile card, paying particular attention to the “About Me” information where people sometimes enter genealogical information. Also, scan the Ancestral Surnames where the match may enter a location for a specific surname.

Private Variants

I added additional spreadsheet columns, not shown above, for Private Variant analysis. That level of analysis is beyond what most people are interested in doing, so I’m only briefly discussing this aspect. You may want to read along, so you at least understand what you are looking at.

Clicking on Private Variants in your Big Y Results shows your variants, or mutations, that are unnamed as SNPs. When they are named, they become SNPs and are placed on the haplotree.

The reference or “normal” state for the DNA allele at that location is shown as the “Reference,” and “Genotype” is the result of the tester. Reference results are not shown for each tester, because the majority are the same. Only mutations are shown.

McNiel Big Y private variants

There are 5 Private Variants, total, for my cousin. I’ve obscured the actual variant numbers and instead typed in 111111 and 222222 for the first two as examples.

McNiel Big Y nonmatching variants

In our example, there are 6 Big Y matches, with matches one and five having the non-matching variants shown above.

Non-matching variants mean that the match, Mr. Scott, in example 1, does NOT match the tester (my cousin) on those variants.

  • If the tester (you) has no mutation, you won’t have a Private Variant shown on your Private Variant page.
  • If the tester does have a Private Variant shown, and that variant shows ON their matches list of non-matching variants, it means the match does NOT match the tester, and either has the normal reference value or a different mutation. Explained another way, if you have a mutation, and that variant is listed on your match list of Non-Matching Variants, your match does NOT match you and does NOT have the same mutation.
  • If the match does NOT have the Private Variant on their list, that means the match DOES match the tester, and they both have the same mutation, making this Private Variant a candidate to be named as a new SNP.
  • If you don’t have a Private Variant listed, but it shows in the Non-Matching Variants of your match, that means you have the reference or normal value, and they have a mutation.

In example #1, above, the tester has a mutation at variant 111111, and 111111 is shown as a Non-Matching Variant to Mr. Scott, so Mr. Scott does NOT match the tester. Mr. Scott also does NOT match the tester at locations 222222 and 444444.

In example #5, 111111 is NOT shown on the Non-Matching Variant list, so Mr. Treacy DOES match the tester.

I have a terrible time wrapping my head around the double negatives, so it’s critical that I make charts.

On the chart below, I’ve listed the tester’s private variants in an individual column each, so 111111, 222222, etc.

For each match, I’ve copy and pasted their Non-Matching Variants in a column to the right of the tester’s variants, in the lavender region. In this example, I’ve typed the example variants into separate columns for each tester so you can see the difference. Remember, a non-matching variant means they do NOT match the tester’s mutation.

McNiel private variants spreadsheet

On my normal spreadsheet where the non-matching variants don’t have individuals columns, I then search for the first variant, 111111. If the variant does appear in the list, it means that match #1 does NOT have the mutation, so I DON’T put an X in the box for match #1 under 111111.

In the example above, the only match that does NOT have 111111 on their list of Non-Matching Variants is #5, so an X IS placed in that corresponding cell. I’ve highlighted that column in yellow to indicate this is a candidate for a new SNP.

You can see that no one else has the variant, 222222, so it truly is totally private. It’s not highlighted in yellow because it’s not a candidate to be a new SNP.

Everyone shares mutation 333333, so it’s a great candidate to become a new SNP, as is 555555.

Match #6 shares the mutation at 444444, but no one else does.

This is a manual illustration of an automated process that occurs at Family Tree DNA. After Big Y matches are returned, automated software creates private variant lists of potential new haplogroups that are then reviewed internally where SNPs are evaluated, named, and placed on the tree if appropriate.

If you follow this process and discover matches, you probably don’t need to do anything, as the automated review process will likely catch up within a few days to weeks.

Big Y Matches

In the case of the McNiel line, it was exciting to discover several private variants, mutations that were not yet named SNPs, found in several matches that were candidates to be named as SNPs and placed on the Y haplotree.

Sure enough, a few days later, my McNeill cousin had a new haplogroup assignment.

Most people have at least one Private Variant, locations in which they do NOT match another tester. When several people have these same mutations, and they are high-quality reads, the Private Variant qualifies to be added to the haplotree as a SNP, a task performed at FamilyTreeDNA by Michael Sager.

If you ever have the opportunity to hear Michael speak, please do so. You can watch Michael’s presentation at Genetic Genealogy Ireland (GGI) titled “The Tree of Mankind,” on YouTube, here, compliments of Maurice Gleeson who coordinates GGI. Maurice has also written about the Gleeson Y DNA project analysis, here.

As a result of Cousin McNeill’s test, six new SNPs have been added to the Y haplotree, the tree of mankind. You can see our new haplogroup for our branch, BY18332, with an equivalent SNP, BY25938, along with three sibling branches to the left and right on the tree.

McNiel Big Y block tree 4 branch

Big Y testing not only answers genealogical questions, it advances science by building out the tree of mankind too.

The surname of the men who share the same haplogroup, R-BY18332, meaning the named SNP furthest down the tree, are McCollum and Campbell. Not what I expected. I expected to find a McNeil who does match on at least some STR markers. This is exactly why the Big Y is so critical to define the tree structure, then use STR matches to flesh it out.

Taking the Big Y-700 test provided granularity between 6 matches, shown above, who were all initially assigned to the same branch of the tree, BY18350, but were subsequently divided into 4 separate branches. My McNiel cousin is no longer equally as distant from all 6 men. We now know that our McNiel line is genetically closer on the Y chromosome to Campbell and McCollum and further distant from Murphy, Scott, McMichael, and Glass.

Not All SNP Matches are STR Matches

Not all SNP matches are also STR matches. Some relationships are too far back in time. However, in this case, while each person on the BY18350 branches matches at some STR level, only the Campbell individual matches at all STR levels.

Remember that variants (mutations) are accumulating down both respective branches of the tree at the same time, meaning one per roughly every 100 years (if 100 is the average number we want to use) for both testers. A total of 30 variants or mutations difference, an average of 15 on each branch of the tree (McNiel and their match) would suggest a common ancestor about 1500 years ago, so each Big Y match should have a common ancestor 1500 years ago or closer. At least on average, in theory.

The Big Y test match threshold is 30 variants, so if there were any more mismatches with the Campbell male, they would not have been a Big Y match, even though they have the exact same haplogroup.

Having the same haplogroup means that their terminal SNP is identical, the SNP furthest down the tree today, at least until someone matches one of them on their Private Variants (if any remain unnamed) and a new terminal SNP is assigned to one or both of them.

Mutations, and when they happen, are truly a roll of the dice. This is why viewing all of your Big Y Block Tree matches is critical, even if they don’t show on your Big Y match list. One more variant and Campbell would have not been shown as a match, yet he is actually quite close, on the same branch, and matches on all STR panels as well.

SNPs Establish the Backbone Structure

I always view the block tree first to provide a branching tree structure, then incorporate STR matches into the equation. Both can equally as important to genealogy, but haplogroup assignment is the most accurate tool, regardless of whether the two individuals match on the Big Y test, especially if the haplogroups are relatively close.

Let’s work with the Block Tree.

The Block Tree

McNIel Big Y block tree menu

Clicking on the link to the Block Tree in the Big Y results immediately displays the tester’s branch on the tree, below.

McNiel Big Y block tree descent

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On the left side are SNP generation markers. Keep in mind that approximate SNP generations are marked every 5 generations. The most recent generations are based on the number of private variants that have not yet been assigned as branches on the tree. It’s possible that when they are assigned that they will be placed upstream someplace, meaning that placement will reduce the number of early branches and perhaps increase the number of older branches.

The common haplogroup of all of the branches shown here with the upper red arrow is R-BY3344, about 15 SNP generations ago. If you’re using 100 years per SNP generation, that’s about 1500 years. If you’re using 80 years, then 1200 years ago. Some people use even fewer years for calculations.

If some of the private variants in the closer branches disappear, then the common ancestral branch may shift to closer in time.

This tree will always be approximate because some branches can never be detected. They have disappeared entirely over time when no males exist to reproduce.

Conversely, subclades have been born since a common ancestor clade whose descendants haven’t yet tested. As more people test, more clades will be discovered.

Therefore, most recent common ancestor (MRCA) haplogroup ages can only be estimated, based on who has tested and what we know today. The tree branches also vary depending on whether testers have taken the Big Y-500 or the more sensitive Big Y-700, which detects more variants. The Y haplotree is a combination of both.

Big Y-500 results will not be as granular and potentially do not position test-takers as far down the tree as Big Y-700 results would if they upgraded. You’ll need to factor that into your analysis if you’re drawing genealogical conclusions based on these results, especially close results.

You’ll note that the direct path of descent is shown above with arrows from BY3344 through the first blue box with 5 equivalent SNPS, to the next white box, our branch, with two equivalent SNPs. Our McNeil ancestor, the McCollum tester, and the Campell tester have no unresolved private variants between them, which suggests they are probably closer in time than 10 generations back. You can see that the SNP generations are pushed “up” by the neighbor variants.

Because of the fact that private variants don’t occur on a clock cycle and occur in individual lines at an unsteady rate, we must use averages.

That means that when we look further “up” the tree, clicking generation by generation on the up arrow above BY3344, the SNP generations on the left side “adjust” based on what is beneath, and unseen at that level.

The Block Tree Adjusts

Note, in the example above, BY3344 is at SNP generation 15.

Next, I clicked one generation upstream, to R-S668.

McNiel Big Y block tree S668

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You can see that S668 is about 21 SNP generations upstream, and now BY3344 is listed as 20 generations, not 15. You can see our branch, BY3344, but you can no longer see subclades or our matches below that branch in this view.

You can, however, see two matches that descend through S668, brother branches to BY3344, red arrows at far right.

Clicking on the up arrow one more time shows us haplogroup S673, below, and the child branches. The three child branches on which the tester has matches are shown with red arrows.

McNiel Big Y S673

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You’ll immediately notice that now S668 is shown at 19 SNP generations, not 20, and S673 is shown at 20. This SNP generation difference between views is a function of dealing with aggregated and averaged private variants on combined lines and causes the SNP generations to shift. This is also why I always say “about.”

As you continue to click up the tree, the shifting SNP generations continue, reminding us that we can’t truly see back in time. We can only achieve approximations, but those approximations improve as more people test, and more SNPs are named and placed in their proper places on the phylotree.

I love the Block Tree, although I wish I could see further side-to-side, allowing me to view all of the matches on one expanded tree so I can easily see their relationships to the tester, and each other.

Countries and Origins

In addition to displaying shared averaged autosomal origins of testers on a particular branch, if they have taken the Family Finder test and opted-in to sharing origins (ethnicity) results, you can also view the countries indicated by testers on that branch along with downstream branches of the tree.

McNiel Big Y countries

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For example, the Countries tab for S673 is shown above. I can see matches on this branch with no downstream haplogroup currently assigned, as well as cumulative results from downstream branches.

Still, I need to be able to view this information in a more linear format.

The Block Tree and spreadsheet information beautifully augment the haplotree, so let’s take a look.

The Haplotree

On your Y DNA results page, click on the “Haplotree and SNPs” link.

McNIel Big Y haplotree menu

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The Y haplotree will be displayed in pedigree style, quite familiar to genealogists. The SNP legend will be shown at the top of the display. In some cases, “presumed positive” results occur where coverage is lacking, back mutations or read errors are encountered. Presumed positive is based on positive SNPs further down the tree. In other words, that yellow SNP below must read positive or downstream ones wouldn’t.

McNIel Big Y pedigree descent

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The tester’s branch is shown with the grey bar. To the right of the haplogroup-defining SNP are listed the branch and equivalent SNP names. At far right, we see the total equivalent SNPs along with three dots that display the Country Report. I wish the haplotree also showed my matches, or at least my matching surnames, allowing me to click through. It doesn’t, so I have to return to the Big Y page or STR Matches page, or both.

I’ve starred each branch through which my McNiell cousin descends. Sibling branches are shown in grey. As you’ll recall from the Block Tree, we do have matches on those sibling branches, shown side by side with our branch.

The small numbers to the right of the haplogroup names indicate the number of downstream branches. BY18350 has three, all displayed. But looking upstream a bit, we see that DF97 has 135 downstream branches. We also have matches on several of those branches. To show those branches, simply click on the haplogroup.

The challenge for me, with 119 McNeill matches, is that I want to see a combination of the block tree, my spreadsheet information, and the haplotree. The block tree shows the names, my spreadsheet tells me on which branches to look for those matches. Many aren’t easily visible on the block tree because they are downstream on sibling branches.

Here’s where you can find and view different pieces of information.

Data and Sources STR Matches Page Big Y Matches Page Block Tree Haplogroups & SNPs Page
STR matches Yes No, but would like to see who matches at which STR levels If they have taken Big Y test, but doesn’t mean they match on Big Y matching No
SNP matches *1 Shows if STR match has common haplogroup, but not if tester matches on Big Y No, but would like to see who matches at which STR level Big Y matches and STR matches that aren’t Big Y matches are both shown No, but need this feature – see combined haplotree/ block tree
Other Haplogroup Branch Residents Yes, both estimated and tested No, use block tree or click through to profile card, would like to see haplogroup listed for Big Y matches Yes, both Big Y and STR tested, not estimated. Cannot tell if person is Big Y match or STR match, or both. No individuals, but would like that as part of countries report, see combined haplotree/block tree
Fully Expanded Phylotree No No Would like ability to see all branches with whom any Big Y or STR match resides at one time, even if it requires scrolling Yes, but no match information. Matches report could be added like on Block Tree.
Averaged Ethnicities if Have FF Test No No Yes, by haplogroup branch No
Countries Matches map STR only No, need Big Y matches map Yes Yes
Earliest Known Ancestor Yes No, but can click through to profile card No No
Customer Trees Yes No, need this link No No
Profile Card Yes, click through Yes, click through Yes, click through No match info on this page
Downloadable data By STR panel only, would like complete download with 1 click, also if Big Y or FF match Not available at all No No
Path to common haplogroup No No, but would like to see matches haplogroup and convergent haplogroup displayed No, would like the path to convergent haplogroup displayed as an option No, see combined match-block -haplotree in next section

*1 – the best way to see the haplogroup of a Big Y match is to click on their name to view their profile card since haplogroup is not displayed on the Big Y match page. If you happen to also match on STRs, their haplogroup is shown there as well. You can also search for their name using the block tree search function to view their haplogroup.

Necessity being the mother of invention, I created a combined match/block tree/haplotree.

And I really, REALLY hope Family Tree DNA implements something like this because, trust me, this was NOT fun! However, now that it’s done, it is extremely useful. With fewer matches, it should be a breeze.

Here are the steps to create the combined reference tree.

Combo Match/Block/Haplotree

I used Snagit to grab screenshots of the various portions of the haplotree and typed the surnames of the matches in the location of our common convergent haplogroup, taken from the spreadsheet. I also added the SNP generations in red for that haplogroup, at far left, to get some idea of when that common ancestor occurred.

McNIel Big Y combo tree

click to enlarge

This is, in essence, the end-goal of this exercise. There are a few steps to gather data.

Following the path of two matches (the tester and a specific match) you can find their common haplogroup. If your match is shown on the block tree in the same view with your branch, it’s easy to see your common convergent parent haplogroup. If you can’t see the common haplogroup, it’s takes a few extra steps by clicking up the block tree, as illustrated in an earlier section.

We need the ability to click on a match and have a tree display showing both paths to the common haplogroup.

McNiel Big Y convergent

I simulated this functionality in a spreadsheet with my McNiel cousin, a Riley match, and an Ocain match whose terminal SNP is the convergent SNP (M222) between Riley and McNiel. Of course, I’d also like to be able to click to see everyone on one chart on their appropriate branches.

Combining this information onto the haplotree, in the first image, below, M222, 4 men match my McNeill cousin – 2 who show M222 as their terminal SNP, and 2 downstream of M222 on a divergent branch that isn’t our direct branch. In other words, M222 is the convergence point for all 4 men plus my McNeill cousin.

McNiel Big Y M222 haplotree

click to enlarge

In the graphic below, you can see that M222 has a very large number of equivalent SNPs, which will likely become downstream haplogroups at some point in the future. However, today, these equivalent SNPs push M222 from 25 generations to 59. We’ll discuss how this meshes with known history in a minute.

McNiel Big Y M222 block tree

click to enlarge

Two men, Ocain and Ransom, who have both taken the Big Y, whose terminal SNP is M222, match my McNiel cousin. If their common ancestor was actually 59 generations in the past, it’s very, very unlikely that they would match at all given the 30 mutation threshold.

On my reconstructed Match/Block/Haplotree, I included the estimated SNP generations as well. We are starting with the most distant haplogroups and working our way forward in time with the graphics, below.

Make no mistake, there are thousands more men who descend from M222 that have tested, but all of those men except 4 have more than 30 mutations total, so they are not shown as Big Y matches, and they are not shown individually on the Block Tree because they neither match on the Big Y or STR tests. However, there is a way to view information for non-matching men who test positive for M222.

McNiel Big Y M222 countries

click to enlarge

Looking at the Block Tree for M222, many STR match men took a SNP test only to confirm M222, so they would be shown positive for the M222 SNP on STR results and, therefore, in the detailed view of M222 on the Block tree.

Haplogroup information about men who took the M222 test and whom the tester doesn’t match at all are shown here as well in the country and branch totals for R-M222. Their names aren’t displayed because they don’t match the tester on either type of Y DNA test.

Back to constructing my combined tree, I’ve left S658 in both images, above and below, as an overlap placeholder, as we move further down, or towards current, on the haplotree.

McNiel Big Y combo tree center

click to enlarge

Note that BY18350, above, is also an overlap connecting below.

You’ll recall that as a result of the Big Y test, BY18350 was split and now has three child branches plus one person whose terminal SNP is BY18350. All of the men shown below were on one branch until Big Y results revealed that BY18350 needed to be split, with multiple new haplogroups added to the tree.

McNiel Big Y combo tree current

click to enlarge

Using this combination of tools, it’s straightforward for me to see now that our McNiel line is closest to the Campbell tester from Scotland according to the Big Y test + STRs.

Equal according to the Big Y test, but slightly more distant, according to STR matching, is McCollum. The next closest would be sibling branches. Then in the parent group of the other three, BY18350, we find Glass from Scotland.

In BY18350 and subgroups, we find several Scotland locations and one Northern Ireland, which was likely from Scotland initially, given the surname and Ulster Plantation era.

The next upstream parent haplogroup is BY3344, which looks to be weighted towards ancestors from Scotland, shown on the country card, below.

McNiel Big Y BY3344

click to enlarge

This suggests that the origins of the McNiel line was, perhaps, in Scotland, but it doesn’t tell us whether or not George and presumably, Thomas, immigrated from Ireland or Scotland.

This combined tree, with SNPs, surnames from Big Y matches, along with Country information, allows me to see who is really more closely related and who is further away.

What I didn’t do, and probably should, is to add in all of the STR matches who have taken the Big Y test, shown on their convergent branch – but that’s just beyond the scope of time I’m willing to invest, at least for now, given that hundreds of STR matches have taken the Big Y test, and the work of building the combined tree is all manual today.

For those reading this article without access to the Y phylogenetic tree, there’s a public version of the Y and mitochondrial phylotrees available, here.

What About Those McNiels?

No other known McNiel descendants from either Thomas or George have taken the Big Y test, so I didn’t expect any to match, but I am interested in other men by similar surnames. Does ANY other McNiel have a Big Y match?

As it turns out, there are two, plus one STR match who took a Big Y test, but is not a Big Y match.

However, as you can see on the combined match/block/haplotree, above, the closest other Big Y-matching McNeil male is found at about 19 SNP generations, or roughly 1900 years ago. Even if you remove some of the variants in the lower generations that are based on an average number of individual variants, you’re still about 1200 years in the past. It’s extremely doubtful that any surname would survive in both lines from the year 800 or so.

That McNeil tester’s ancestor was born in 1747 in Tranent, Scotland.

The second Big Y-matching person is an O’Neil, a few branches further up in the tree.

The convergent SNP of the two branches, meaning O’Neil and McNeill are at approximately the 21 generation level. The O’Neil man’s Neill ancestor is found in 1843 in Cookestown, County Tyrone, Ireland.

McNiel Big Y convergent McNeil lines

I created a spreadsheet showing convergent lines:

  • The McNeill man with haplogroup A4697 (ancestor Tranent, Scotland) is clearly closest genetically.
  • O’Neill BY91591, who is brother clades with Neel and Neal, all Irish, is another Big Y match.
  • The McNeill man with haplogroup FT91182 is an STR match, but not a Big Y match.

The convergent haplogroup of all of these men is DF105 at about the 22 SNP generation marker.

STRs

Let’s turn back to STR tests, with results that produce matches closer in time.

Searching my STR download spreadsheet for similar surnames, I discovered several surname matches, mining the Earliest Known Ancestor information, profiles and trees produced data as follows:

Ancestor STR Match Level Location
George Charles Neil 12, 25, match on Big Y A4697 1747-1814 Tranent, Scotland
Hugh McNeil 25 (tested at 67) Born 1800 Country Antrim, Northern Ireland
Duncan McNeill 12 (tested at 111) Married 1789, Argyllshire, Scotland
William McNeill 12, 25 (tested at 37) Blackbraes, Stirlingshire, Scotland
William McNiel 25 (tested at 67) Born 1832 Scotland
Patrick McNiel 25 (tested at 111) Trien East, County Roscommon, Ireland
Daniel McNeill 25 (tested at 67) Born 1764 Londonderry, Northern Ireland
McNeil 12 (tested at 67) 1800 Ireland
McNeill (2 matches) 25 (tested Big Y-  SNP FT91182) 1810, Antrim, Northern Ireland
Neal 25 – (tested Big Y, SNP BY146184) Antrim, Northern Ireland
Neel (2 matches) 67 (tested at 111, and Big Y) 1750 Ireland, Northern Ireland

Our best clue that includes a Big Y and STR match is a descendant of George Charles Neil born in Tranent, Scotland, in 1747.

Perhaps our second-best clue comes in the form of a 111 marker match to a descendant of one Thomas McNeil who appears in records as early as 1753 and died in 1761 In Rombout Precinct, Dutchess County, NY where his son John was born. This line and another match at a lower level both reportedly track back to early New Hampshire in the 1600s.

The MacNeil DNA Project tells us the following:

Participant 106370 descends from Isaiah McNeil b. 14 May 1786 Schaghticoke, Rensselaer Co. NY and d. 28 Aug 1855 Poughkeepsie, Dutchess Co., NY, who married Alida VanSchoonhoven.

Isaiah’s parents were John McNeal, baptized 21 Jun 1761 Rombout, Dutchess Co., NY, d. 15 Feb 1820 Stillwater, Saratoga Co., NY and Helena Van De Bogart.

John’s parents were Thomas McNeal, b.c. 1725, d. 14 Aug 1761 NY and Rachel Haff.

Thomas’s parents were John McNeal Jr., b. around 1700, d. 1762 Wallkill, Orange Co., NY (now Ulster Co. formed 1683) and Martha Borland.

John’s parents were John McNeal Sr. and ? From. It appears that John Sr. and his family were this participant’s first generation of Americans.

Searching this line on Ancestry, I discovered additional information that, if accurate, may be relevant. This lineage, if correct, and it may not be, possibly reaching back to Edinburgh, Scotland. While the information gathered from Ancestry trees is certainly not compelling in and of itself, it provides a place to begin research.

Unfortunately, based on matches shown on the MacNeil DNA Project public page, STR marker mutations for kits 30279, B78471 and 417040 when compared to others don’t aid in clustering or indicating which men might be related to this group more closely than others using line-marker mutations.

Matches Map

Let’s take a look at what the STR Matches Map tells us.

McNiel Big Y matches map menu

This 67 marker Matches Map shows the locations of the earliest known ancestors of STR matches who have entered location information.

McNiel Big Y matches mapMcNiel Big Y matches map legend

My McNeill cousin’s closest matches are scattered with no clear cluster pattern.

Unfortunately, there is no corresponding map for Big Y matches.

SNP Map

The SNP map provided under the Y DNA results allows testers to view the locations where specific haplogroups are found.

McNiel Big Y SNP map

The SNP map marks an area where at least two or more people have claimed their most distant known ancestor to be. The cluster size is the maximum amount of miles between people that is allowed in order for a marker indicating a cluster at a location to appear. So for example, the sample size is at least 2 people who have tested, and listed their most distant known ancestor, the cluster is the radius those two people can be found in. So, if you have 10 red dots, that means in 1000 miles there are 10 clusters of at least two people for that particular SNP. Note that these locations do NOT include people who have tested positive for downstream locations, although it does include people who have taken individual SNP tests.

Working my way from the McNiel haplogroup backward in time on the SNP map, neither BY18332 nor BY18350 have enough people who’ve tested, or they didn’t provide a location.

Moving to the next haplogroup up the tree, two clusters are formed for BY3344, shown below.

McNIel Big Y BY3344 map

S668, below.

McNiel Big Y S668 map

It’s interesting that one cluster includes Glasgow.

S673, below.

McNiel Big Y S673 map

DF85, below:

McNiel Big Y DF85 map

DF105 below:

McNiel BIg Y DF105 map

M222, below:

McNiel Big Y M222 map

For R-M222, I’ve cropped the locations beyond Ireland and Scotland. Clearly, RM222 is the most prevalent in Ireland, followed by Scotland. Wherever M222 originated, it has saturated Ireland and spread widely in Scotland as well.

R-M222

R-M222, the SNP initially thought to indicate Niall of the 9 Hostages, occurred roughly 25-59 SNP generations in the past. If this age is even remotely accurate, averaging by 80 years per generation often utilized for Big Y results, produces an age of 2000 – 4720 years. I find it extremely difficult to believe any semblance of a surname survived that long. Even if you reduce the time in the past to the historical narrative, roughly the year 400, 1600 years, I still have a difficult time believing the McNiel surname is a result of being a descendant of Niall of the 9 Hostages directly, although oral history does have staying power, especially in a clan setting where clan membership confers an advantage.

Surname or not, clearly, our line along with the others whom we match on the Big Y do descend from a prolific common ancestor. It’s very unlikely that the mutation occurred in Niall’s generation, and much more likely that other men carried M222 and shared a common ancestor with Niall at some point in the distant past.

McNiel Conclusion – Is There One?

If I had two McNiel wishes, they would be:

  • Finding records someplace in Virginia that connect George and presumably brothers Thomas and John to their parents.
  • A McNiel male from wherever our McNiel line originated becoming inspired to Y DNA test. Finding a male from the homeland might point the way to records in which I could potentially find baptismal records for George about 1720 and Thomas about 1724, along with possibly John, if he existed.

I remain hopeful for a McNiel from Edinburgh, or perhaps Glasgow.

I feel reasonably confident that our line originated genetically in Scotland. That likely precludes Niall of the 9 Hostages as a direct ancestor, but perhaps not. Certainly, one of his descendants could have crossed the channel to Scotland. Or, perhaps, our common ancestor is further back in time. Based on the maps, it’s clear that M222 saturates Ireland and is found widely in Scotland as well.

A great deal depends on the actual age of M222 and where it originated. Certainly, Niall had ancestors too, and the Ui Neill dynasty reaches further back, genetically, than their recorded history in Ireland. Given the density of M222 and spread, it’s very likely that M222 did, in fact, originate in Ireland or, alternatively, very early in Scotland and proliferated in Ireland.

If the Ui Neill dynasty was represented in the persona of the High King, Niall of the 9 Hostages, 1600 years ago, his M222 ancestors were clearly inhabiting Ireland earlier.

We may not be descended from Niall personally, but we are assuredly related to him, sharing a common ancestor sometime back in the prehistory of Ireland and Scotland. That man would sire most of the Irish men today and clearly, many Scots as well.

Our ancestors, whoever they were, were indeed in Ireland millennia ago. R-M222, our ancestor, was the ancestor of the Ui Neill dynasty and of our own Reverend George McNiel.

Our ancestors may have been at Knowth and New Grange, and yes, perhaps even at Tara.

Tara Niall mound in sun

Someplace in the mists of history, one man made a different choice, perhaps paddling across the channel, never to return, resulting in M222 descendants being found in Scotland. His descendants include our McNeil ancestors, who still slumber someplace, awaiting discovery.

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Margaretha Bechtold (1646-1726), Born During the 30 Years War – 52 Ancestors #285

Margaretha’s marriage record in Heiningen, Germany provided us with the names of her parents which led us to her birth record.

Margaretha Bechtold birth

On May 1, 1646, Margaretha was born in Ebersbach, Germany to Christoph Bechtold  and Margaretha Ziegeler.

Christoph’s name was also spelled Bechtoldt when twins, Maria and Margaretha were baptized in 1640, Christophorus Bachtoldt in the baptism of Leonhardus in 1642, and Bechteles when Jacobus was baptized in 1644.

Margaretha was born in 1646, two years before the end of the 30 Years War, a time of massive heartache and depopulation in this part of Germany. Neighbor villages were sacked in 1634, with many villagers being massacred, leading to a population drop to 20% of pre-war levels. By the time Margaretha was born, the war had raged for 28 years, an entire generation, and villagers probably wondered if they would ever be safe.

Yet, life went on. People married and babies were born. According to church records, there were a total of 25 baptisms in 1646, suggesting a reproductive population of about 50 families.

Growing up, Margaretha would have heard the first-person stories about the war that shaped the lives of her parents and grandparents, literally changing the course of history in every village in Wurttemberg. Those weren’t stories passed down, but actual memories of experiences lived.

Ebersbach is a small village on the River Fils. Margaretha’s father was the village baker. We know little about her parents, other than her father was dead by July 28, 1671, when Margaretha married Michael Haag nine miles down the road, in Heiningen.

Haag Michael marriage

Marriage: Friday, the 28th of July 1671

Michael Hag, legitimate son of Hanss Hag, Koss, & Catharina Bäur(in) and Margaretha, legitimate daughter of Christoph Bechtold deceased baker in Ebersbach and Margaretha Ziegeler. Bride pregnant.

A Family of Bakers

Michael Haag was a baker too, and that fact may indeed hold clues about how he and Margaretha met and their courtship – especially given that they lived in different villages that were 9 miles distant.

Although not where she was born or where her family lived, Heiningen would have felt quite familiar to Margaretha. The villages were about the same size. The local church in Ebersbach looked eerily similar to the church in Heiningen and was likely built around the same time, in the 1200s. By the time Margaretha married in the Lutheran church in Heiningen, that church was already 400 years old, or maybe even older.

Margaretha was already comfortable with baking, growing up as a baker’s daughter – she became a baker’s wife at the age of 25. She likely helped Michael as much as she could, between taking care of their children who began arriving shortly.

Heiningen was recovering from the 30 Years War too. At the beginning of the war, the population was about 1000, and at the end, 200. Diseases including typhoid and dysentery were rampant which becomes evident in the death records, as are deaths from emaciation.

Given a total population of 200, roughly, and an average household size of perhaps 5, the total number of families probably wasn’t more than 40 or maybe 50.

Children

Margaretha and Michael had 8 children, all born and baptized in Heiningen over the next 20 years.

  1. Catharina Haag, born September 18, 1671; married Michael Sattler on January 26, 1692, in Heiningen; died September 20, 1745, in Heiningen. Catharina had three children, two sons that reached adulthood and one daughter who died of typhus in 1710, just before her 18th birthday. Margaretha would have known these children, and attended the funeral of Magdalena when she was 64 years old.
  2. Michael Haag, born September 3, 1673; married Barbara Widmann on  February 2, 1723, in Heiningen; died April 4, 1745, in Heiningen of decrepit senility. He was a baker by occupation and had 3 children, one who was born in 1727, but no further information is available. Generally that means the child died. One child was born and died in 1733 and a daughter, Anna Catharina lived to adulthood. These children were all born after Margaretha’s death, so she wouldn’t have known them. I do wonder if the records are complete, because it’s odd that this young couple didn’t have children for the first 4 years of their marriage.
  3. Margaretha Haag, born July 21, 1677; married Ulrich Traub on November 3, 1705, in Heiningen; died May 29, 1724 of typhoid fever and dysentery when her mother was 78 years old. It must have been extremely difficult on elderly Margaretha to bury her adult daughter. That’s not how the cycle of life is supposed to work. Margaretha had 6 children, but left 4 living, the eldest being 18. She had 3 sons and 1 daughter who lived to adulthood. Two daughters died, one in 1717 of dysentery at the age of 2, and one born in 1720 with no further information. Margareta Traub, the daughter who lived, married Georg Haag and had one daughter who lived to adulthood, had children and passed Margaretha Bechtold’s mitochondrial DNA on to future generations. Margaretha would have known all 6 of these grandchildren and buried two of them.
  4. Johann Georg Haag, born April 22, 1682; married Anna Hofschneider on February 2, 1706, in Heiningen; died June 4, 1762, in Heiningen of “weakness of old age.” His occupation was a baker. Johann George had 8 children, 4 of whom lived to adulthood. One daughter was born in 1797 with no further information and one in 1716, one died in 1715 at one year of age and a son died in 1722, just a year old. Margaretha would have known all of these children as well and buried the last 3 in her 70s.
  5. Anna Haag, born December 15, 1684; died July 4, 1685, when Margaretha was 39. Twin births are very unusual, and either twin surviving is even more so. Unfortunately, this twin died a few months later. It’s interesting that Margaretha’s mother also had twins that died.
  6. Maria Haag, born December 15, 1684 when her mother was 38 and died the next day, December 16, 1684. This must have been a miserable Christmas with one twin gone and the other struggling. Twins are often born prematurely and underweight.
  7. Jacob Haag, born June 26, 1687; married Margareta Stolz on May 12, 1711, in Heiningen; died January 17, 1755, in Heiningen of fever and stroke(?). He had 6 children, all born before Margaretha’s death, and 4 of whom lived to adulthood. A daughter was born in 1713 with no further information and a son the following year who died in 1715 wen Margaretha would have been 69 years old.
  8. Anna Maria Haag, born March 4, 1691; married Peter Horn on November 15, 1712, in Heiningen; died December 15, 1768, in Heiningen. She had 5 children, 4 of whom lived to adulthood. One daughter, born in 1718 has no further information. Three daughters married and had children, 2 having daughters who survived to pass on their mitochondrial DNA to future generations. Margaretha would have known all of these children. Her namesake granddaughter Margareta married Lorenz Widmann and Anne Marie Horn married Johann Georg Kummel, both having daughters who had children whose descendants might carry Margaretha Bechtold’s mitochondrial DNA today.

Mitochondrial DNA

Margaretha’s mitochondrial DNA is carried by anyone, male or female in the current generation, descended from Margaretha through all females. Her mitochondrial DNA can give us a view into the past to understand more about her ancestors, where they came from, and when.

The females whose names are bolded, above, had daughters who produced daughters – candidates for having descendants who carry Margaretha’s mitochondrial DNA. You can read more about that, here.

I have a DNA testing scholarship for anyone descending directly from Margaretha through all females. I’d love to hear from you.

Funerals – So Many Funerals

By the time Margaretha passed on, she had borne 8 children, 6 of whom graced her with 31 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. One of her great-grandchildren died in 1725, but the other lived and Margaretha likely enjoyed that baby, born in 1723, and named for her.

Margaretha buried her husband, the twin girls, and then her daughter Margaretha in 1724 who died of dysentery at the age of 47. It’s likely that Margaretha helped raise her name-sake daughter’s children after her daughter’s death. Margaretha also buried 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Life was tough and grief was always nearby. I expect there were always freshly dug graves in the churchyard. Looking at just the recorded deaths for 1712, and I suspect that not all babies/childrens deaths were entered into the books, there were 22 burials. Given that the entire village knew each other well and were probably related, the entire village population would have attended every funeral, one every couple of weeks.

Then, it was Margaretha’s turn. Margaretha (Bechtold) Haag died on the 27th of June 1726, in Heiningen.

Margaretha Bechtold death

Burial: the 27th of June 1726 died between 5 and 6 a.m. of a preceding half stroke, Margaretha, legitimate wife of Michael Haag aka Coß, baker and oldest judge here and was buried on the feast of Peter & Paul.  Age 80 years. Offering?

I’m not sure what a half stroke is, exactly. Perhaps she was only half paralyzed? Regardless, it’s well known today that people who have experienced one stroke are at risk for complications and additional strokes. Reaching the age of 80 was a remarkable feat in a time of tainted water, minimal medical care, and no antibiotics.

After her death, Margaretha’s body would have been taken to the sacristy in the church after being washed, dressed, and prepared for her funeral.

Margaretha Bechtold sacristy

After the funeral service, her body would have been carried out the door in the sacristy, directly into the churchyard for burial.

A chameleon guards the doorway lintel. The pastor tells us:

During church tours, we declare the small creature to be a chameleon, which traditionally symbolizes change, the change of life transitions: being born, growing up, learning to think, becoming an adult, building trust, also in one’s own abilities. Taking responsibility for doing and not doing. Accepting change, dealing with illness, decrepitude and death. This is sometimes exhausting. The chameleon admonishes to accept change and to keep the ability to change alive.

A hidden ossuary beneath the sacristy, sealed long in the past and only rediscovered in the 1990s, may indeed have been the final resting place of Margaretha’s bones some years later.

Margaretha’s funeral was on the Feast Day of Peter and Paul.

Feast of Peter and Paul

Margaretha Bechtold Peter and Paul

This painting from 1564 shows Jesus being resurrected, surrounded by Peter and Paul, two of his apostles, and two angels.

The Feast of Peter and Paul, Christian martyrs, is always celebrated on June 29th, that date either being the date of their deaths or the translation of their relics. Relics in this sense generally meant a venerated body part and translation means the relic was moved from one location to another.

Some traditions hold that they were both martyred on June 29 in 67 AD, but others state that it was on that day in 258 that their remains were moved to the catacombs.

For centuries, the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul was treated as a Holy Day equal to Christmas or Easter. Three masses were celebrated, one for St. Peter, one for St. Paul, and one for the Apostles.

It’s unclear exactly how the Lutheran Church in Heiningen would have celebrated this Holy Feast Day in 1726, but someplace during this feast day, Margaretha’s funeral was held. A sermon was preached and an offering taken.

I would expect that the scriptures typically used on this feast day, telling the story of Peter’s imprisonment and rescue, here, and Christ’s instructions to go and preach before ascending into Heaven, here, were woven into Margaretha’s service.

Then, Margaretha joined her family members someplace outside in the churchyard.

Margaretha Bechtold Heiningen church south side

The sacristy on the south side of the church is the extended portion of the building, at right, behind the flowering tree.

Margaertha Bechtold Heiningen church north side

Burials surrounded the church, on both the north and south sides. The north side is marked by the tower, at far right, the top hidden behind the tree.

No graves remain in the churchyard today, having been removed many years ago. Given that an ossuary is speculated to be buried beneath the sacristy, the parishoners likely removed bones from older graves to make room for new burials for hundreds of years. In other words, the ossuary practice is nothing new in Europe and extended into antiquity.

Three stones in the churchyard, one from the 1600s, are all that is left to remind us of those early burials.

Margaretha Bechtold churchyard

Margaretha was buried here, someplace between the church and the surrounding wall. Remnants of her bones, long ago turned to dust, still remain in this churchyard.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some 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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Pandemic Journal: Memorial Day 2020

Memorial half mast

This year, in addition to honoring our brave soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice, the US flag will be flown at half-mast as a national expression of grief. The brutal trail of Covid as it rips through our country and the world.

5,288 deaths in my state, alone, 98,004 in the US as I write this – probably rolling across the threshold of 100,000, ironically, on Memorial Day.

Why didn’t I round 98,004 to 98,000?

Because every single one of those people matter.

Those 1, 2, 3 and 4 people above 98,000 may seem like a rounding error, but they aren’t. They have names, families and they suffered, just like those 98,000 other souls.

They may not have been old – not that being older should make anyone expendable.

The best of their life may not have been lived. We are all deprived and diminished by the loss of their potential – as are they.

But they all, every single one of them, have something in common.

They were all infected unintentionally and probably unknowingly by someone else. No one, not one person, signed up for this. Most of them had no idea they were putting their life on the line as they went about their business. This isn’t the military – no one enlisted fully aware of what the consequences might be.

It pains me greatly to see wearing a mask in public politicized. Wearing a mask is literally the very least we can do. Taking care of each other by doing such a small thing. Like it or not, we really are all in this together. What goes around, comes around.

Let me explain the very basic foundation of decision making that I’ve utilized for most of my life.

What’s the Worst That Will Happen?

If you wear a mask and you don’t need to:

  • You may never know that you didn’t need it
  • You might be a little uncomfortable or inconvenienced
  • You might be made fun of by someone not wearing a mask

Bottom line – you’re slightly inconvenienced if you wear a mask but you might save someone’s life, including your own.

If you DON’T wear a mask and needed to, the worse is:

  • You take the unnecessary chance of getting infected yourself. No, a mask won’t protect you entirely, but it helps.
  • You may, unknowingly, infect others who may suffer and die. They then infect others too, keeping the cycle of infection and death in motion and the numbers rising.
  • You’ll probably never know that you are responsible for infecting others and possibly killing people because you may never develop symptoms yourself, so you think everything is just fine. If you do develop symptoms, it’s too late to undo the exposures of the days before you manifested symptoms.

Bottom line – you may become infected yourself and/or infect others. You’re not just risking yourself, but everyone you come in contact with. They may suffer and die, or live terribly impaired, and be financially devastated in the process.

And…this outcome is avoidable.

The preventative step of wearing a mask in public, especially in public enclosed spaces, is so simple and entirely painless.

Who’s Vulnerable?

Everyone.

My immediate family, consisting of 7 people, 5 adults and 2 children, is healthy.

But…of those 7…

  • One is over 65.
  • One young person has a partial lung.
  • One child has partial kidneys.
  • One has an ongoing undiagnosed health issue.
  • One has a high risk housemate who is over 60 and had a heart issue last year.

If your family member exposes you, and you expose me, I will expose my loved ones, intentionally or not. If my family member dies because I inadvertently exposed them, I would never forgive myself.

If they die, that gaping wound would never heal.

Right now, 98,004 families feel that exact same way.

And some unknown person infected every one of them, accidentally.

Honoring the Dead

Memorial Day is supposed to be about honoring our military dead who gave their life defending our country.

Memorial poppy

Memorial Day was called Decoration Day when I was a kid. It’s a federal holiday for honoring and mourning military personnel who died while on active duty.

Volunteers often place flags on graves of all veterans.

A single red poppy has come to represent the fallen, symbolizing each life lost.

The US has suffered a total of 666,441 combat casualties during wars and conflicts from 1775-2019, with an additional 673,929 dying of other causes.

Wars are expensive in terms of lives lost and soldiers torn from their futures and families.

War Years Deaths
Civil War (both sides) 1861-1865 755,000 estimated
WWII 1941-1945 405,399
WWI 1917-1918 116,516
Vietnam 1961-1975 58,209
Korea 1950-1953 36,574
Revolutionary War 1775-1783 25,000 estimated
War of 1812 1812-1815 15,000 estimated
Mexican-American 1846-1848 13,283
Iraq 2003-2011 4,576
Philippine-American 1899-1902 4,196
Spanish-American 1898 2,246
Afghanistan 2001-present 2,216

There is no glory in death and warfare. There is, however, immense gratitude and respect.

Thank you seems like so few and such small words for their sacrifice – but it’s all I have.

Thank you one and all.

Memorial Arlington

On Memorial Day, flags decorate the graves of our brave soldiers buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

My friend, Bob McLaren, who died in March will be buried there soon. I have decorated his grave in my heart and made masks in his honor.

Family Traditions

Memorial cemetery cleanup

In my family, Decoration Day was expanded to visiting and caring for all graves in the family. A combination of love for those gone, sorrow at the loss of their companionship and celebration of their life and the upcoming summer together – at least for those of us remaining on the green side of the sod.

Grass was manicured from the edges of the stones, stories were told and retold, and fresh-cut flowers lovingly placed.

In some locations, families spread quilts and have picnics in the cemeteries near their loved ones.

Memorial cemetery picnic

Military Family Members Honored

Ironically, few of my family members killed in the service of their country have stones.

James Claxton died in the War of 1812 and was buried in a now-lost hastily-dug grave just outside the stockade of Fort Decatur, Alabama.

My family members who died in the Civil War are buried anonymously; their battlefield resting places lost to time.

The body of my 1st cousin, Robert Vernon Estes, who died horrifically as a POW in Korea still hasn’t been returned, and likely never will.

Samuel Bolton Plank Cem

Samuel Bolton, my grandmother’s brother, gave his life during WWI. He was brought home and does have a stone. I hope someone is tending his grave today.

Frank Sadowski

And then, there’s Frank Sadowski, my mother’s almost-husband who was killed on Okinawa just days before the end of WWII.

All, lives cut short.

The Covid War

Depending on how you look at this, Covid deaths are approaching the total of all WWI combat deaths, or the combination of Vietnam, Korea and either the War of 1812 or the Revolutionary War.

Since February 28th – just under 3 months – 86 days.

That’s 1116 people on average that have died every single day – that we know of – not counting all the people who died but were never tested or diagnosed.

Look at this another way. The average commercial airliner holds between 150-200 passengers.

Using 150 as the average number, that’s 653 airliners that have crashed in 86 days, with everyone on board perishing. That’s 7.6 crashes per day, or one crash every 3 hours and 15 minutes – in the US alone.

Memorial week planes

Here are today’s planes that crashed and burned with 150 people each on board.

Just today.

Memorial month planes

Here are the planes from just this week.

Now, multiply that picture by 12.29 weeks since February 28th. If you printed that out on your printer it would be about 10 pages of solid airplanes.

And we know there are more coming, tomorrow, and the next day. We just don’t know how many more, or for how long.

So, are you willing to get on a plane and fly? That would take a lot of bravery, right?

But it takes no bravery at all to wear a mask. How about we do that instead, especially since masks can help prevent those Covid-planes from crashing!

Would preventing one plane crash be worth it?

Two?

Half of the crashes?

How many lives saved would be worth wearing a simple mask?

Memorial poppy field

If we need an extra 100,000 poppies this Memorial Day to honor the lives of each of the Covid victims since February, God forbid, if we don’t wear masks, stay home when we can and take precautions, how many will we need next Memorial Day?

If our ancestors can march off to war and lay their lives down for the rest of us, we can wear masks. People taking care of people.

And if we don’t, whose graves will you be decorating next Memorial Day?

Genetic Affairs: AutoPedigree Combines AutoTree with WATO to Identify Your Potential Tree Locations

If you’re an adoptee or searching for an unknown parent or ancestor, AutoPedigree is just what you’ve been waiting for.

By now, we’re all familiar with Genetic Affairs who launched in 2018 with their signature autocluster tool. AutoCluster groups your matches into clusters by who your matches match with each other, in addition to you.

browser autocluster

A year later, in December 2019, Genetic Affairs introduced AutoTree, automated tree reconstruction based on your matches trees at Ancestry and Family Finder at Family Tree DNA, even if you don’t have a tree.

Now, Genetic Affairs has introduced AutoPedigree, a combination of the AutoTree reconstruction technology combined with WATO, What Are the Odds, as seen here at DNAPainter. WATO is a statistical probability technique developed by the DNAGeek that allows users to review possible positions in a tree for where they best fit.

Here’s the progressive functionality of how the three Genetic Affairs tools, combined, function:

  • AutoCluster groups people based on if they match you and each other
  • AutoTree finds common ancestors for trees from each cluster
  • Next, AutoTree finds the trees of all matches combined, including from trees of your DNA matches not in clusters
  • AutoPedigree checks to see if a common ancestor tree meets the minimum requirement which is (at least) 3 matches of greater to or equal to 30-40 cM. If yes, an AutoPedigree with hypotheses is created based on the common ancestor of the matching people.
  • Combined AutoPedigrees then reviews all AutoTrees and AutoPedigrees that have common ancestors and combine them into larger trees.

Let’s look at examples, beginning with DNAPainter who first implemented a form of WATO.

DNA Painter

Let’s say you’re trying to figure out how you’re related to a group of people who descend from a specific ancestral couple. This is particularly useful for someone seeking unknown parents or other unknown relationships.

DNA tools are always from the perspective of the tester, the person whose kit is being utilized.

At DNAPainter, you manually create the pedigree chart beginning with a common couple and creating branches to all of their descendants that you match.

This example at DNAPainter shows the matches with their cM amounts in yellow boxes.

xAutoPedigree DNAPainter WATO2

The tester doesn’t know where they fit in this pedigree chart, so they add other known lines and create hypothesis placeholder possibilities in light blue.

In other words, if you’re searching for your mother and you were born in 1970, you know that your mother was likely born between 1925 (if she was 45 when she gave birth to you) and 1955 (if she was 15 when she gave birth to you.) Therefore, in the family you create, you’d search for parents who could have given birth to children during those years and create hypothetical children in those tree locations.

The WATO tool then utilizes the combination of expected cMs at that position to create scores for each hypothesis position based on how closely or distantly you match other members of that extended family.

The Shared cM Project, created and recently updated by Blaine Bettinger is used as the foundation for the expected centimorgan (cM) ranges of each relationship. DNAPainter has automated the possible relationships for any given matching cM amount, here.

In the graphic above, you can see that the best hypothesis is #2 with a score of 1, followed by #4 and #5 with scores of 3 each. Hypothesis 1 has a score of 63.8979 and hypothesis 3 has a score of 383.

You’ll need to scroll to the bottom to determine which of the various hypothesis are the more likely.

Autopedigree DNAPainter calculated probability

Using DNAPainter’s WATO implementation requires you to create the pedigree tree to test the hypothesis. The benefit of this is that you can construct the actual pedigree as known based on genealogical research. The down-side, of course, is that you have to do the research to current in each line to be able to create the pedigree accurately, and that’s a long and sometimes difficult manual process.

Genetic Affairs and WATO

Genetic Affairs takes a different approach to WATO. Genetic Affairs removes the need for hand entry by scanning your matches at Ancestry and Family Tree DNA, automatically creating pedigrees based on your matches’ trees. In addition, Genetic Affairs automatically creates multiple hypotheses. You may need to utilize both approaches, meaning Genetic Affairs and DNAPainter, depending on who has tested, tree completeness at the vendors, and other factors.

The great news is that you can import the Genetic Affairs reconstructed trees into DNAPainter’s WATO tool instead of creating the pedigrees from scratch. Of course, Genetic Affairs can only use the trees someone has entered. You, on the other hand, can create a more complete tree at DNAPainter.

Combining the two tools leverages the unique and best features of both.

Genetic Affairs AutoPedigree Options

Recently, Genetic Affairs released AutoPedigree, their new tool that utilizes the reconstructed AutoTrees+WATO to place the tester in the most likely region or locations in the reconstructed tree.

Let’s take a look at an example. I’m using my own kit to see what kind of results and hypotheses exist for where I fit in the tree reconstructed from my matches and their trees.

If you actually do have a tree, the AutoTree portion will simply be counted as an equal tree to everyone else’s trees, but AutoPedigree will ignore your tree, creating hypotheses as if it doesn’t exist. That’s great for adoptees who may have hypothetical trees in progress, because that tree is disregarded.

First, sign on to your account at Genetic Affairs and select the AutoPedigree option for either Ancestry or Family Tree DNA which reconstructs trees and generates hypotheses automatically. For AutoPedigree construction, you cannot combine the results from Ancestry and FamilyTreeDNA like you can when reconstructing trees alone. You’ll need to do an AutoPedigree run for each vendor. The good news is that while Ancestry has more testers and matches, FamilyTreeDNA has many testers stretching back 20 years or so in the past who passed away before testing became available at Ancestry. Often, their testers reach back a generation or two further. You can easily transfer Ancestry (and other) results to Family Tree DNA for free to obtain more matches – step-by-step instructions here.

At Genetic Affairs, you should also consider including half-relations, especially if you are dealing with an unknown parent situation. Selecting half-relationships generates very large trees, so you might want to do the first run without, then a second run with half relationships selected.

AutoPedigree options

Results

I ran the program and opened the resulting email with the zip file. Saving that file automatically unzips for me, displaying the following 5 files and folders.

Autopedigree cluster

Clicking on the AutoCluster HTML link reveals the now-familiar clusters, shown below.

Autopedigree clusters

I have a total of 26 clusters, only partially shown above. My first peach cluster and my 9th blue cluster are huge.

Autopedigree 26 clusters

That’s great news because it means that I have a lot to work with.

autopedigree folder

Next, you’ll want to click to open your AutoPedigree folder.

For each cluster, you’ll have a corresponding AutoPedigree file if an AutoPedigree can be generated from the trees of the people in that cluster.

My first cluster is simply too large to show successfully in blog format, so I’m selecting a smaller cluster, #21, shown below with the red arrow, with only 6 members. Why so small, you ask? In part, because I want to illustrate the fact that you really don’t need a lot of matches for the AutoPedigree tool to be useful.

Autopedigree multiple clusters

Note also that this entire group of clusters (blue through brown) has members in more than one cluster, indicated by the grey cells that mean someone is a member of at least 2 clusters. That tells me that I need to include the information from those clusters too in my analysis. Fortunately, Genetic Affairs realizes that and provides a combined AutoPedigree tool for that as well, which we will cover later in the article. Just note for now that the blue through brown clusters seem to be related to cluster 21.

Let’s look at cluster 21.

autopedigree cluster 21

In the AutoPedigree folder, you’ll see cluster files when there are trees available to create pedigrees for individual clusters. If you’re lucky, you’ll find 2 files for some clusters.

autopedigree ancestors

At the top of each cluster AutoPedigree file, Genetic Affairs shows you the home couple of the descendant group shown in the matches and their corresponding trees.

Autopedigree WATO chart

Image 1 – click to enlarge

I don’t expect you to be able to read everything in the above pedigree chart, just note the matches and arrows.

You can see three of my cousins who match, labeled with “Ancestry.” You also see branches that generate a viable hypothesis. When generating AutoPedigrees, Genetic Affairs truncates any branches that cannot result in a viable hypothesis for placing the tester in a viable location on the tree, so you may not see all matches.

Autopedigree hyp 1

Image 2 – click to enlarge

On the top branch, you’ll see hyp-1-child1 which is the first hypothesis, with the first child. Their child is hyp-2- child2, and their child is hyp-3-child3. The tester (me, in this case) cannot be the persons shown with red flags, called badges, based on how I match other people and other tree information such as birth and death dates.

Think of a stoplight, red=no, green are your best bets and the rest are yellow, meaning maybe. AutoPedigree makes no decisions, only shows you options, and calculated mathematically how probable each location is to be correct.

Remember, these “children,” meaning hypothesis 1-child 1 may or may not have actually existed. These relationships are hypothetical showing you that IF these people existed, where the tester could appear on the tree.

We know that I don’t fit on the branch above hypothesis 1, because I only match the descendant of Adam Lentz at 44.2 cM which is statistically too low for me to also inhabit that branch.

I’ve included half relationships, so we see hyp-7-child1-half too, which is a half-sibling.

The rankings for hypotheses 1, 2, and 7 all have red badges, meaning not possible, so they have a score of 0. Hypothesis 3 and 8 are possible, with a ranking of 16, respectively.

autopedigree my location

Image 3 – click to enlarge

Looking now at the next segment of the tree, you see that based on how I match my Deatsman and Hartman cousins, I can potentially fit in any portion of the tree with green badges (in the red boxes) or yellow badges.

You can also see where I actually fit in the tree. HOWEVER, that placement is from AutoTree, the tree reconstruction portion, based on the fact that I have a tree (or someone has a tree with me in it). My own tree is ignored for hypothesis generation for the AutoPedigree hypothesis generation portion.

Had my first cousins once removed through my grandfather John Ferverda’s brother, Roscoe, tested AND HAD A TREE, there would have been no question where I fit based on how I match them.

autopedigree cousins

As it turns out they did test, but provided no tree meaning that Genetic Affairs had no tree to work with.

Remember that I mentioned that my first cluster was huge. Many more matches mean that Genetic Affairs has more to work with. From that cluster, here’s an example of a hypothesis being accurate.

autopedigree correct

Image 4 – click to enlarge

You can see the hypothetical line beneath my own line, with hypothesis 104, 105, 106, 107, 108. The AutoTree portion of my tree is shown above, with my father and grandparents and my name in the green block. The AutoPedigree portion ignores my own tree, therefore generating the hypothesis that’s where I could fit with a rank of 2. And yes, that’s exactly where I fit in the tree.

In this case, there were some hypotheses ranked at 1, but they were incorrect, so be sure to evaluate all good (green) options, then yellow, in that order.

Genetic Affairs cannot work with 23andMe results for AutoPedigree because 23andMe doesn’t provide or support trees on their site. AutoClusters are integrated at MyHeritage, but not the AutoTree or AutoPedigree functions, and they cannot be run separately.

That leaves Family Tree DNA and Ancestry.

Combined AutoPedigree

After evaluating each of the AutoPedigrees generated for each cluster for which an AutoPedigree can be generated, click on the various cluster combined autopedigrees.

autopedigree combined

You can see that for cluster 1, I have 7 separate AutoPedigrees based on common ancestors that were different. I have 3 AutoPedigrees also for cluster 9, and 2 AutoPedigrees for 15, 21, and 24.

I have no AutoPedigrees for clusters 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 14, 17, 18, and 22.

Moving to the combined clusters, the numbers of which are NOT correlated to the clusters themselves, Genetic Affairs has searched trees and combined ancestors in various clusters together when common ancestors were found.

Autopedigree multiple clusters

Remember that I asked you to note that the above blue through brown clusters seem to have commonality between the clusters based on grey cell matches who are found in multiple groups? In fact, these people do share common ancestors, with a large combined AutoPedigree being generated from those multiple clusters.

I know you can’t read the tree in the image that follows. I’m only including it so you’ll see the scale of that portion of my tree that can be reconstructed from my matches with hypotheses of where I fit.

autopedigree huge

Image 5 – click to enlarge

These larger combined pedigrees are very useful to tie the clusters together and understand how you match numerous people who descend from the same larger ancestral group, further back in time.

Integration with DNAPainter

autopedigree wato file

Each AutoPedigree file and combined cluster AutoPedigree file in the AutoPedigree folder is provided in WATO format, allowing you to import them into DNAPainter’s WATO tool.

autopedigree dnapainter import

You can manually flesh out the trees based on actual genealogy in WATO at DNAPainter, manually add matches from GEDmatch, 23andMe or MyHeritage or matches from vendors where your matches trees may not exist but you know how your match connects to you.

Your AutoTree Ancestors

But wait, there’s more.

autopedigree ancestors folder

If you click on the Ancestors folder, you’ll see 5 options for tree generations 3-7.

autopedigree ancestor generations

My three-generation auto-generated reconstructed tree looks like this:

autopedigree my tree

Selecting the 5th generation level displays Jacob Lentz and Frederica Ruhle, the couple shown in the AutoCluster 21 and AutoPedigree examples earlier. The color-coding indicates the source of the ancestors in that position.

Autopedigree expanded tree

click to enlarge

You will also note that Genetic Affairs indicates how many matches I have that share this common ancestor along with which clusters to view for matches relevant to specific ancestors. How cool is this?!!

Remember that you can also import the genetic match information for each AutoTree cluster found at Family Tree DNA into DNAPainter to paint those matches on your chromosomes using DNAPainter’s Cluster Auto Painter.

If you run AutoCluster for matches at 23andMe, MyHeritage, or FamilyTreeDNA, all vendors who provide segment information, you can also import that cluster segment information into DNAPainter for chromosome painting.

However, from that list of vendors, you can only generate AutoTrees and AutoPedigrees at Family Tree DNA. Given this, it’s in your best interest for your matches to test at or upload their DNA (plus tree) to Family Tree DNA who supports trees AND provides segment information, both, and where you can run AutoTree and AutoPedigree.

Have you painted your clusters or generated AutoTrees? If you’re an adoptee or looking for an unknown parent or grandparent, the new AutoPedigree function is exactly what you need.

Documentation

Genetic Affairs provides complete instructions for AutoPedigree in this newsletter, along with a user manual here, and the Facebook Genetic Affairs User Group can be found here.

I wrote the introductory article, AutoClustering by Genetic Affairs, here, and Genetic Affairs Reconstructs Trees from Genetic Clusters – Even Without Your Tree or Common Ancestors, here. You can read about DNAPainter, here.

Transfer your DNA file, for free, from Ancestry to Family Tree DNA or MyHeritage, by following the easy instructions, here.

Have fun! Your ancestors are waiting.

_____________________________________________________________

Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

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Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

 

10 Ways I Wish I Had Organized My Research Library

library.png

No, I don’t quite have that many books – it just feels that way. Nor are my books that neatly organized, believe me. In fact, that’s the problem.

My organizational lament isn’t so much about the physical locations of my books, but about the organizational tools and methods of finding the correct book when I need it. I know I’m missing things in my research as a result.

Let me explain.

My bookshelves today are organized by county and state, sort of. Keep in mind that I’ve been accumulating books and resources for decades, and I’ve moved during this period, more than once.

Accumulation over time tends to outgrow the originally allotted space. And no, Marie Kondo and books should not even be in the same article. ALL of my books bring me joy – and that’s that.

However, organizing books usefully for genealogy research has been challenging. How is “usefully for genealogy research” defined? Genealogy is in some ways different than library systems and books for pleasure reading.

Let’s take a look.

My Library

To begin with, genealogists often deal with published resources that aren’t published in the traditional manner.

This is (a small) part of my area for Tennessee county records.

library spiral.png

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to shelve or even see the names of spiral bound resources. I also ran out of space, so some books are stacked on top of others. Notice how few names I can see.

library 3 ring.png

Then of course, those 3-ring binders. Real libraries don’t have to deal with 3-ring binders either, but they are an organizational staple for genealogists.

I have bookshelves, but not enough shelf space. Who does?? Some things that probably belong in spiral binders are in filing cabinets, and vice versa. I actually Marie Kondoed something and threw away the printed 1790 NC census (yes, seriously) because it’s available online in lots of places.

My shelving resources were not all created at the same time. It’s kind of like a house that has been added onto for years. I did not redo my shelving plan with each addition. I just started using the added shelf space. So some things are in separate rooms from others. These county and state resources are intermixed.

library place books.png

Another problem is that some books have information that doesn’t really “go” in any one place. For example, the Virginia records could have information for many families and counties. How do I remember to check them for each family that they might/would pertain to?

Some books are even less specific – about Native American, Acadian or Scotch-Irish people, or women of a particular genre. And what is “Lethal Encounters” about, anyway? If I take it off the shelf to look, I may get nothing else done for the rest of the day.

library leftovers.png

Now add into that mixture technical and academic papers about genetics, labels that fell off, misfiled resources (why is Tinkling Springs in with the haplogroup binders?), ebooks that I own but are not on a shelf and therefore, easy to lose or forget about, papers on my computer along with physical overflow – and I’m sunk.

Yes, ahem, I do have two copies of the same book in those pictures. I just noticed. Another reason why I need a better system and to check it before I make purchases.

I know I should be embarrassed to even publish these pictures – but it’s the truth and I’d wager every one of you has something similar.

And I haven’t even gotten to that thing called pleasure reading. Those books are overflowing off of a different shelf in another room with little organization other than by general topic. For the most part, I haven’t touched them with the exception of historical stories, including novels, especially juicy ones. My pleasure reading tends to be something about my ancestors or genetics although I have a shelf full of good intentions.

My Solution

Several years ago, I paid one of my college-student offspring to help me set up a spreadsheet to track my holdings. You can use Excel in MSWord or if you have a Google account, Sheets is free under Google Docs.

Library Docs.png

Library Sheets.png

That student-labor approach worked great for a while, at least until said child no longer needed extra income. The project wasn’t complete, and I didn’t complete or continue the project myself. My bad. I’d rather work on genealogy, genetics or write blog articles.

Library spreadsheet.png

As you can see, this spreadsheet is a good start. Because it’s in spreadsheet format, it’s sortable. This helps immensely, but I’ve discovered it’s not enough.

What I Wish I Had Done

  1. I actually wish I had numbered the books and numbered the shelves too. In essence, similar to a library system, just not as complex. Then the books could be assigned to a shelf and I would know where to look for them. You might notice that I have a general location, but nothing more. If I knew where to look, even if the book was spiral bound, I’d see that in a note, know what I was looking for, and find the location between the shelf number and county affiliation or topic.
  2. I wish I had added a column for geography, probably counties, that the resource pertains to. I could add several in one cell, but that means I’d have to search, not sort, for the county name, like Wilkes, North Carolina. The state would need to be a second column, because county names repeat between states.
  3. Another alternative, of course, would be to work with a database instead of a spreadsheet because databases allow multiple entries for a single field. I could have Wilkes, Ashe, Surry and several more counties and states for a single book. In a different spreadsheet for another topic, I entered a duplicate row for each separate resource. In this case, I would have the book entered once for Wilkes County and once for Ashe County, which negates the need for a database in a bit of a clunky way.
  4. I wish I had added a column for the surname lines that each resource would or might pertain to in my genealogy. For example, I have several surnames in the same county, because that’s what happens when your ancestors stay in the same place for a few generations. When I discover a new surname, or need to recheck something, I need to be able to find the resources that are available for that location, and then add the new surname to all books that could be useful for that ancestral line.
  5. I wish I had added a column to track which resources I’ve used for a particular surname and person. For example, did I search in the 1787 Lunenburg County census for all of the surnames and people, or do I need to review that resources for people I’ve found more recently?
  6. I wish I had recorded when I added that resource to my library which might help me remember who I have and have not used it for.
  7. I have not added any resources that I don’t own, but that are available for counties elsewhere. I use FamilySearch and FamilySearch wiki for county information, but it’s not complete. Generally, it also doesn’t list more general resources that might pertain to that county. For example, I just discovered transcribed court notes for Wilkes County on Lulu.com. Now I need to search at Lulu for all of the rest of my research counties and surnames. Who knew?
  8. I wish I had made notes. For example, what exactly is “The 10,000 Year Explosion” about, and how might it pertain to my research, either genealogy or anthropological? I don’t remember if I read it.
  9. I need to add a disposition (de-accessioning) field. Yes, although the thought is traumatizing for me, I will be passing some books on before I pass on, hopefully, and have already begun that process. I need to know when the books left and who they are now living with. Having said that, it might be nice to note where I got the book in the first place and how much it cost. I do have a few rare books and some that are first edition signed collectors’ items. I fear those being sold at a garage sale after my death for a dime. (I think I might have an unnatural attachment to my books😊)
  10. The ever-changing DNA testing landscape and multiple (kinds of) tests providing DNA matches from multiple vendors needs to be recorded, somehow, as a resource too. For example, did I search for a Y DNA tester for my John Combs (1705-1762) line? If so, are they in the Combs surname project at Family Tree DNA? Did I send an Ancestry or MyHeritage message to someone to see if they would take a DNA test, or about their results? Have I used DNAGedcom.com to search for specific target surnames in my match list or GeneticAffairs to look for ancestral clusters? You get the idea.

DNA is a resource by line, surname, individual ancestor, both known and unknown, as well as location because sometimes that’s all we have to work with. I actually have two separate spreadsheets for DNA which I’ll share in a separate article – but DNA results are also a research resource that needs to be tracked along with various tools applied, and when.

What Have You Done?

Have you addressed this research organization problem, and if so, how?

What resources are you using?

What works for you, what didn’t, and why?

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I receive a small contribution when you click on some 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.

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Michael Haag (1649-1727), Village Baker and Judge – 52 Ancestors #284

Michael Haag was born on January 4, 1649, in Heiningen, Germany, the 6th of 7 children born to his parents, but probably only the third child to live.

Haag Michael birth

Michael’s birth record reads:

Baptism: 4 January 1649
Child: Michael (+ 1727 the 10th of April)
Parents: Hanss Haga (Haag) aka Koß & Catharina
Godparents: Michael Fischer & Maria ?

Michael married at the age of 22 years and 6 months, in the midst of the summer in his home church. Hopefully, the church was cool inside the stone walls on July 28, 1671, when Michael wed Margaretha Bechtold, 3 years his elder, daughter of Christoph Bechtold and Margaretha Ziegler of Ebersbach.

The location is somewhat unusual because marriages usually occur in the home church of the bride.

Haag Ebersbach

Ebersbach is about 9 miles through the German countryside from Heiningen.

Haag Michael marriage

Marriage: Friday, the 28th of July 1671

Michael Hag, legitimate son of Hanss Hag, Koss, & Catharina Bäur(in) and Margaretha, legitimate daughter of Christoph Bechtold deceased baker in Ebersbach and Margaretha Ziegeler. Bride pregnant.

Hmmm, perhaps that last statement had something to do with why they were married in his church, instead of hers. However, it’s not like her pregnancy would have been a secret.

Margaretha wasn’t just a couple months pregnant, she delivered their first child less than 2 months after the wedding. Why did they wait so long to marry? Clearly, Margaretha, along with her family, had to have known for several months. She was 25 years old by then.

While it’s noted that the bride was pregnant, ultimately, that mattered little given that Michael was clearly respected within the Heiningen community, serving as a judge for many years.

Given that Margaretha’s father was a deceased baker, and Michael was noted as a baker in Heiningen, I wonder if Michael and Margaretha met when he visited her father. Perhaps Michael apprenticed with her father. I’m sure there’s more to this story that we’ll never know.

Apprentices lived with the family, which would undoubtedly give the young couple ample opportunity to get to know one another. While 9 miles isn’t far, especially not today, a flat mile takes an average person about 20 minutes to walk. That’s 3 hours each way unless one hitched a ride on a wagon. Not convenient for courting, that’s for sure.

Michael and Margaretha went on to have 8 children over the next two decades, including one set of twins that died – the first twin, Maria, the day following their birth, and the second twin, Anna, a little over 6 months later.

Michael Haag’s family register is preserved in the church book, below.

Haag Michael register 2Haag Michael register

Thanks to Chris and Tom for obtaining and translating these various church documents. I can almost reach out through time and touch them.

The Heiningen Heritage book, here, provides us with additional information as well.

Haag Michael family history

Michael’s Sons and Y DNA

Michael and Margaretha had 3 sons. If those sons had sons who continued the Haag male line to present, Haag men can take the Y DNA test which provides insight into Michael’s patrilineal line. Where did the Haag family originate before they adopted the Haag surname? Y DNA can answer that question after church records go stonily silent.

  • Michael’s eldest son, also Michael Haag, a baker, was born in 1673 in Heiningen and died there in 1745. He married Barbara Widmann and had 2 sons, one who died shortly after birth, and Michael (the third) born in 1727 in Heiningen, but of whom nothing more is known.
  • Johann Georg Haag, my ancestor and also a baker, was born in 1682 and died in 1762 in Heiningen. He married Anna Hofschneider and had only one surviving son, Johann Georg, born in 1718, who had one son that might have survived.
  • Jacob Haag was born in 1687 and died in 1755, both in Heiningen. He married Margareta Stolz and had two sons, Johann George and Michael, who lived to marry and have children.

If you are a male who carries the Haag surname patrilineally and descends from this family, I have a Y DNA testing scholarship for you. I’d love to hear from you.

Michael was Buried on Good Friday

Michael Haag lived to be 78 years old, outliving Margaretha by just under 10 months.

Michael died on April 9, 1727, in Heiningen, the same village where he was born, married, and baked during his lifetime.

Haag Michael burial

Burial: the 10th of April 1727, Michael Haag Coß from a stroke and was buried on Good Friday, when he had reached his 79th year and had been in respectable service for forty years; offering at his funeral.

There must be some significance to, “offering at his funeral.” Was this unusual, or special. Was this for the family or the church, in particular, relative to Good Friday? If an offering was normally taken, it probably wouldn’t have been mentioned, so I have to wonder why this was worth recording, remarkable in some way.

Death from strokes have been reported in many members of this family line. I wonder if there was an underlying issue or if Michael had heart disease or another ailment.

This record reveals a very interesting tidbit.

Koss or Cos

Michael’s father, Johannes, is noted as “Kos” several times in his own records:

Hanss Haga aka Koß as well as Hanss Haga, the smith’s son called Koss

Now, in his death record, we see that Michael himself is referred to as Coß as well. Is this Michael’s nickname, called after his father?

Tom and Chris, a Native German speaker, are uncertain what “Kos” means, although it seems to be a nickname or alternate name of some sort. Tom suggested perhaps a farm name, and Chris mentioned that a certain type of peasant farmer is known as a “kossat,” but that term is found more in eastern Germany, not in this region.

The location of the word “Koss” and “Cos” in the records is always positioned after the surname, which may be a second hint, although I don’t know what it’s hinting at.

Regardless of what Kos means, it tickles me to know that I’m seeing Michael’s nickname, and one that was his father’s as well. It must have been quite affectionately bestowed, bonding the two generations together, and likely brought Michael comfort and peace after his father’s death in 1678 when Michael was 29 years old. Cos likely brought a smile to his lips, after it stopped bringing a tear to his eye.

Village Life

German towns were generally arranged with farmhouses clustered into small villages that were often walled, or the houses themselves formed village walls in order to protect the residents who then walked into the fields. Farms in Germany were different than farms in the US, which were (and are) widely scattered.

The old portion of the village is the central squared area above, bordered by Hauptstrasse and Kirchstrasse, an area that includes portions of the old wall surrounding the church.

You can see photos of Heiningen, here, including the old wall and buildings dating from the time when Michael would have lived.

Even today, Heiningen isn’t large, although modern homes are built on the land that was once fields, between the old village center with its ancient market fountain and the local water source, a creek only a few hundred feet away. Michael and Margaretha likely made that trip to the stream, or to the central well, thousands and thousands of times. A baker can’t bake without water, and Michael would have baked every single day.

It’s certainly possible that Michael lived on the farm or in the house that his parents originally lived in as well, which might confer the “house name” along with the property. When Michael married, his father was called Koss, and when Michael died, he was referred to as Cos.

I wonder if other people in Heiningen were known by nicknames that might reflect their house or farm or something else. For that name to be recorded in the official church records, Cos must somehow have been a defining name, as either a nickname or perhaps even as an alternate surname. Perhaps Koss differentiated this Haag family from another, unrelated, family. I find neither Koss, Cos nor anything similar among the surnames listed in Heiningen.

I wonder if Michael’s 40 years of “respectable service” mentioned in the church death entry means that’s how long he served as a judge in the community. Forty years would date back to 1687, when Michael would have been 37 years old and had at least 6 children, with the 7th arriving that June.

By 1687, Michael would have been well-established within the community. Margaretha’s death entry mentioned that Michael was a baker and “oldest judge.”

A Good Friday Funeral

Haag Michael Good Friday

Michael was buried on Good Friday, known then as Holy Friday, the liturgical date commemorating Christ’s Crucifixion.

Generally, Lutheran churches, draped in black paraments, undertake a three hours devotion of some sort, from noon to 3, the time during which Christ suffered before death.

The Eucharist was received, and church services were often accentuated by special music such as St. Matthew Passion, written by Johann Sebastian Bach and first performed on Good Friday in 1727, the year Michael died. You can view the nearly 3-hour classical music performance by the Bach Society, here.

We learn more about Good Friday in the Lutheran Church, as follows:

In Lutheran tradition from the 16th to the 20th century, Good Friday was the most important religious holiday, and abstention from all worldly works was expected. During that time, Lutheranism had no restrictions on the celebration of the Eucharist on Good Friday; on the contrary, it was a prime day on which to receive the Eucharist.

The Good Friday liturgy appointed in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, the worship book of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, specifies a liturgy similar to the revised Roman Catholic liturgy. A rite for adoration of the crucified Christ includes the optional singing of the Solemn Reproaches in an updated and revised translation which eliminates some of the anti-Jewish overtones in previous versions. Many Lutheran churches have Good Friday services, such as the Three Hours’ Agony centered on the remembrance of the “Seven Last Words,” sayings of Jesus assembled from the four gospels, while others hold a liturgy that places an emphasis on the triumph of the cross, and a singular biblical account of the Passion narrative from the Gospel of John.

More recently, Lutheran liturgical practice has recaptured Good Friday as part of the larger sweep of the great Three Days: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Vigil of Easter. The Three Days remain one liturgy which celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus. As part of the liturgy of the Three Days, Lutherans generally fast from the Eucharist on Good Friday. Rather, it is celebrated in remembrance of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday and at the Vigil of Easter.

One practice among Lutheran churches is to celebrate a Tenebrae service on Good Friday, typically conducted in candlelight and consisting of a collection of passion accounts from the four gospels.

Haag Michael tenebrae

By Bhuck – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6469502

Fifteen candles on a Tenebrae hearse at the Mainz Cathedral, where the candles are extinguished one by one during the course of the service.

Haag Michael candles

During the Lutheran Tenebrae service, there is a gradual dimming of the lights and extinguishing of the candles as the service progresses. Toward the end of the service, the central Christ candle, if present, is removed from the sanctuary.

A concluding Strepitus, or loud noise, typically made by slamming shut the Bible, is made, symbolizing the earthquake that took place, and the agony of creation, at the death of Christ.

Haag Michael church program

The front cover of a Lutheran Church Good Friday bulletin explains that extinguishing the candles represents abandonment and loneliness.

Along with observing a general Lenten fast, many Lutherans emphasize the importance of Good Friday as a day of fasting within the calendar. A Handbook for the Discipline of Lent recommends the Lutheran guideline to “Fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday with only one simple meal during the day, usually without meat.”

Candles

Candles seem to be an ever-present important theme in the life of the Haag family in Heiningen. Michael’s son, Hans, born in 1682, married Anna Hofschneider on February 2, 1706, the feast of Candlemas. During that celebration, candles to be used throughout the year for families and the church would be blessed.

The candles lit and extinguished on Good Friday, during the traditional church service, as well as for Michael’s funeral, would assuredly have been blessed that previous February at Candlemas. I wonder how the priest or minister tied Michael’s life and funeral service a sermon to Good Friday. Surely, he must have.

I wonder if Michael was buried in the churchyard before or after the Good Friday service?

I wonder if the funeral attendees, all of the village residents, were quite serene, in the spirit of both Michael and Christ’s deaths, or if they celebrated Michael’s life by eating hot cross buns sometime after 3 PM.

Personally, I’m voting for the latter.

Hot Cross Buns

Haag Michael hot cross buns

Given that Michael was a baker and taking into account my love for all things yeast (Michael would approve) – I have to include hot cross buns in Michael’s story.

For all I know, hot cross buns might have been baked in Germany when Michael was the village baker. Hot cross buns are certainly popular today, and an abundance of recipes are available, all making me hungry.

Hot cross buns, with a cross marked on top, are buns eaten on Good Friday at the end of Lent. They are sometimes made with fruit and spice, signifying the spices used to embalm Christ. In traditionally Christian countries, plain unleavened bread with no dairy products is eaten during Lent, to midday Good Friday. It’s no wonder these raised yeast buns are so widely enjoyed.

English folklore includes many protective superstitions surrounding hot cross buns. One theory is that the buns began in the 1300s at St. Albans Church in London, but no one really knows.

There is mention of hot cross buns being for sale for Good Friday by a London street crier in Poor Robin’s Almanac in 1733 and rules about when those scrumptious buns could and could not be sold dated to the 16th century. Seriously, bun regulations. They must have been absolutely wonderful to require rules.

Indeed, a tradition this wonderful would have migrated throughout Europe before long.

Somehow, it would only have been fitting for Michael Haag, Koss, the baker, to have his life celebrated at his funeral with warm and wonderful hot cross buns.

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Pandemic Journal: It’s a Web

Recently, I saw something that’s at once amazing, alarming, and haunting.

This YouTube video, here, shows aggregated anonymized cell phone data from March, provided by Tectonix Geo, a data analysis company. This is the same company that provided the maps showing travel patterns of spring-breakers on one beach in Florida, shown here.

A huge thank you to Tectonix Geo.

In the first Tectonix video about fixing the supply chain, they track travel to and from meat processing plants across the country during the month of March. I’m familiar with the plant in Logansport, Indiana, so let’s take a look.

Logansport, Indiana

I grew up in central Indiana, near Logansport. People I knew worked at the slaughterhouse in Logansport.

I don’t recall who owned the plant back then, but I do vividly remember the squalid working conditions. Most employees never lasted beyond their first shift. It was the one place someone could ALWAYS find a job because the heat, smell, death, noise, and packed working conditions were overwhelming, and they always needed workers. I hope things have improved since then.

Let’s just say that I can’t eat either hotdogs or bologna to this day, but this conversation isn’t about that.

As most people are now aware, those same close working conditions are fostering Covid outbreaks among workers in meat processing plants across the nation. Different states, cities, and companies are reacting with varying levels of alarm, testing, and remediation plans. I’m also not going to comment on that, given the associated politics, but what I am going to discuss is the map and associated cell phone traffic patterns.

pandemic tyson map

This satellite google map shows the Tyson plant itself, with the adjacent employee parking lot to the south, the trucking areas where the animals arrive and the processed meats leave, the retention ponds to deal with the fluids and waste, and the local roads. There’s also a train track leaving the facility.

I counted approximately 410 semi-trailers at the plant and adjacent, connected businesses in the photo, above. Each one of those semis, of course, will be arriving or leaving with cargo, traveling to and from other locations, as will the 2200 employees as they go home in Cass County and adjacent communities.

Pandemic logansport

The packing plant is on the outskirts of Logansport, near highways that conveniently connect it with other local communities. In other words, you don’t have to go through town to get to work. Being located away from town is necessary anyway, due to odors.

pandemic logansport rural

Many people from rural farms, nearby cities like Kokomo, Lafayette, Monticello, Rochester, Wabash, and Peru, along with residents of other small towns travel to Logansport daily to work in the plant.

When I lived there, many people didn’t work at the plant for long, just until they could get a better job, so they never moved closer. Or, their parents owned a farm. This is prime Hoosier farm country.

Often, workers at the plant were among the most economically disadvantaged. They lived paycheck to paycheck and worked for minimal wages in conditions that served as inspiration for many of us to continue our education so we could work someplace else. Anyplace else.

Yet, these people go to work every day, sometimes even when sick because they can’t afford not to. Trust me, they work very hard.

Tectonix Geo Data

The Logansport Tyson plant became a Covid hotspot when more than 900 of the 2200 employees, or more than 40%, tested positive in April. The plant reopened last week after being closed for cleaning for two weeks, a politically hot-potato topic in general that I’m also not discussing.

Tectonix Geo analyzed anonymized cell phone data from the plant facilities throughout March 2020, beginning at the first of the month.

pandemic tectonix tyson

The blue on these maps shows the dots representing cell phones that are transmitting location data as they connect with cell towers. This first map shows the cell phones in the Tyson facility on one day in early March.

pandemic tectonix tyson close

Now that you know the lay of the land, we can identify which dots represent specific areas.

pandemic tectonix tyson markup

At the top of the plant area, you can even see the row of blue that tracks to the row of parked semis in the aerial photo of the plant.

pandemic tyson dot

To put this in perspective, this tiny blue dot is the Tyson plant, shown in the Google images.

Pandemic tyson begin spread

Throughout the month, every few days, the Tectonix data shows the highlighted blue as the cell phones moved away from the plant. You can still see the plant as the brightest spot, of course, because that’s where people with those phones gathered every day for work.

The areas most commonly inhabited and travel locations, according to the blue lines and clusters, were in Logansport itself, and along the feeder highways.

pandemic tyson spread local

Next, we see adjacent communities light up. Lafayette, Kokomo, and Peru have a lot of people who work in that plant, driving back and forth. It’s about 25 miles to Kokomo, 20 to Peru, and 40 to Lafayette. Of course, lots of smaller communities are lit up too, like Delphi, half-way to Lafayette, and Monticello, 20 miles due west of the Tyson plant.

In the first few days, these blue pathways and clusters likely represent where employees live or visited in the local region.

pandemic tyson midwest spread

As time passed, the blue clusters and lines became more pronounced and spread further from the plant, each tiny point of light representing a cell phone traveling – at first primarily within the state of Indiana, but then further.

Given this data, it’s not surprising that Cass County has an infection rate higher than any other county in Indiana.

pandemic tyson region spread

The tiny blue dots are too small for us to see individually, but each one is a potentially Covid-exposed person as their travels take them throughout Indiana and into major metropolitan areas in other states and Canada. Look at Chicago, for instance. Indianapolis, the state capital, becomes blue too, as does Fort Wayne, both of which are travel and economic hubs to elsewhere.

The time-lapse video shows the blue web extending across the US and on into Canada.

pandemic tyson country spread

By the end of March, you can clearly see that all of Indiana is pretty much blue, meaning that people who were in that plant on that initial day in early March have traveled to all of those locations. For a location to literally “turn blue,” many, many people need to have visited that location for the cell tower to pick up those signals thousands of times.

The Midwest is heavily affected by just this one plant, and the tendrils reach into many other parts of the country, along with southern Canada. Some of these may be trucking routes whose drivers loaded at the Tyson plant, but many represent travel by production employees and perhaps a few visitors who were present in the plant that initial day in March when Tectonix took their first snapshot in time.

What probably isn’t represented here is air travel, especially outside the US. Air travel was on a decline increasingly in March anyway, and stay-at-home orders had already begun in many places. Indiana’s governor ordered Hoosiers to stay at home on March 23rd, limiting their activities to only essential travel. Food production is an essential activity, and the Tyson plant remained open at that time.

As I look at these maps, I’m reminded that this is ONLY the phones of less than 2200 people who were in the plant on one day in March. It doesn’t even begin to speak to the people they interacted with and exposed, who traveled as well.

That’s the purpose of contact tracing of Covid-positive people – to determine the identities of those exposed people.

The gravity and importance of this web of contact and exposure don’t become apparent until Covid visits a facility near you, or a family member, or maybe your neighbor who may be exposing you or exposing someone else at the local convenience store or gas station who will expose you. Then, suddenly, this is all critically important.

The Message

I’m a visual person. That old adage about a picture being worth 1000 words holds true for me.

My first thought was how much this looks like a cobweb. Then I thought of the world-wide-web and how electronically interconnected we are.

I remember initially hearing about 6 degrees of separation years ago and being surprised when I discovered several cases where it was true. Now, older, wiser, and a genealogist, I’m no longer surprised.

With Covid, it’s more like 2 degrees of separation, if that. If you don’t know someone with Covid, or who has died of Covid, I guarantee you, one of your friends does. Me, and probably others as well.

As a society, in our lifetimes, we’ve never dealt with a run-away pandemic before. A situation where our very high degree of mobility which facilitates physical connectedness threatens our very safety.

Those 900+ infected Tyson employees were contagious long before they knew they were ill – perhaps as long as two weeks – if they even became ill. Super spreaders, as we now call them, a Covid-created term.

Infectious but not ill, they went to work and about their business in the community, and clearly, outside of the community, along major corridors – at work, church, family gatherings, restaurants, eating, shopping, touching doors, gas pump handles and using public restrooms where uninfected people assuredly followed. Truck drivers, upon whom we depend for our food supply, among other things, drove cross-country, truck stop to truck stop, warehouse to warehouse, perhaps taking an invisible passenger along with them.

Social distancing guidelines are being relaxed in some places, and people are clearly sick and tired of them, that doesn’t mean those unwelcome precautions are any less necessary.

If you have doubts, just look at this Johns Hopkins COVID-19 map of confirmed cases by county for where you live and think about the map of the contact spread from that one Tyson plant in Cass County, Indiana.

pandemic johns hopkins cass county

It’s Not Over

Easing of restrictions doesn’t mean the danger is over. It’s not.

If you were at risk before, you’re still at risk now. Epidemiologists estimate that only 5% of Americans have been exposed in total. 95% of us are yet to be exposed. Think about that. That’s almost everyone.

Put bluntly, everyone is at risk. No exceptions. We don’t even know if previous infection conveys immunity. We are still one big social epidemiological experiment with the outcome still unknown. The global “we” will undoubtedly survive, but our personal outcomes and those of our loved ones may be a different story.

The line of Xs shows how societies survive pandemics.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The bold Xs, approximately 70%, get infected. The red Xs die. Yes, society as a whole, represented by the entire row of Xs, survives, but several individuals do not. Not only that, but many of the bold Xs, even though they live, are not unscathed and not entirely recovered. In other words, surviving is not necessarily equivalent to “getting well” and returning to life as before.

To date, 294,000 worldwide have died, with 83,807 deaths in the US, and those numbers are still rising at an alarming daily rate. In the US alone, that’s more than 28 times the number of people who died during 911.

Those red Xs representing 84,000 dead aren’t just Xs, or numbers, or dry percentages heard daily on the news, they are people who are someone’s beloved family member. And there will assuredly be more to follow, probably more than have already died.

We may be getting numb to bad news, but that doesn’t mean the news is better.

The POINT of social-distancing restrictions was to flatten the curve so that hospitals would not be overwhelmed all at once. In other words, so that people would get infected slowly, across time. A flattened curve and easing of restrictions just mean that now, there’s probably a hospital bed and maybe a ventilator available for you when you become a bold X, hoping not to become a red X.

The GOAL, at least my goal, is to be a boring non-bold black X, meaning to remain uninfected until we at least have a relatively successful treatment and, preferably, a vaccine. I don’t want to become infected, nor do I want to infect anyone who winds up being one of those people needing a hospital bed, a ventilator, or a body bag.

Some infected people are entirely asymptomatic or exhibit only slight symptoms, but others begin an uncontrolled spiral into death. There’s no telling in advance which you might be, and once begun, there’s no brakes or steering on that run-away train.

Prevention is much easier, albeit inconvenient.

Easing of restrictions does NOT mean Covid is gone and does NOT mean you won’t catch it.

We still don’t fully understand this disease, have any reliable treatments, nor a vaccine. Dr. Fauci stated yesterday that a 2020 vaccine is unlikely, so we’ll need to protect ourselves, and others, for some time to come. Protection and prevention need to become our new way of life – at least for the foreseeable future.

If you ever doubted how you and others potentially spread germs – and in this case, a deadly virus – look again at that blue spider web on the Tectronix map that was seeded by fewer than 2200 people in one place on the same day.

Your life or that of someone you don’t know, do know, or love may depend on internalizing the spiderweb message from that map.

This isn’t like the flu. Those who survive Covid are physically (not to mention economically) devastated.

However, there are still positive messages to be found amid the Covid-carnage, and I’d like to share two of my favorites with you.

Finding Our Way

Here’s a wonderfully inspirational story and beautiful video telling the story of a young couple who both contracted Covid. Both nearly died, barely escaping death, but both survived and were in rehab facilities because of the utter devastation Covid wreaked on their bodies.

Yes, I said a young couple. Covid-19 doesn’t just kill old people, as if that was any kind of justification for anything, anyway.

Yes, I know, I’m sick of social distancing too, desperately want to see my family and friends and have a haircut – but certainly not unhappy enough to risk lives – mine, those of people I love, or yours. Any inconvenience pales by comparison to the possible consequences.

By the way, I wrote the draft of this article on Mother’s Day afternoon, safely tucked away at home. Yes, I’m sad not to see my family, but oh-so-grateful that we are all being safe and that my family cares enough about me to keep me safe too.

Please, don’t take chances.

  • Distance – remain at home unless you really have to go someplace.
  • Do more genealogy.
  • Engage in things that bring you joy.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Wear a mask when you do need to go out in public.
  • Walk outside, away from others. Wave to others.
  • Stay out of crowds and away from people not taking proper precautions.

A Kindness Web

That blue web that we see on the map…it’s a web of warning today, prompted by pragmatic fear of this virus. But keep in mind that our human web of contact can also be a web of good, helping others in many ways. We don’t always need to see each other in person to do that. Failing any other act of kindness, the kindest thing we can do is to stay home.

Our ability to bestow kindness continues, and there are more people in need today than ever.

Donations, contributions, and porch-pickups or drop-offs work. Make an act of kindness and charity a part of your pandemic experience.

Your kindness, in whatever way you can, may make all the difference in the world and change someone’s story.

Telling the Story

Speaking of telling the story, I’d like to leave you with something quite uplifting and inspirational.

The Great Realisation: Hindsight 2020 is a short bedtime story told sometime in the future about the time of “the virus,” back in 2020, read to a little boy by his father. The storybook tells how “the virus” changed us, our world, and the future in which they live. I so want this to be our clarifying, unifying truth, the silver lining to this cloud. Please listen, here, after the obligatory ad, of course.

I promise, you’ll be glad you did.

Stay safe so we will all be here on the other side, whenever that really is, to tell our stories.

MyHeritage: Brand New Theories of Family Relativity

MyHeritage has run their Theories of Family Relativity (abbreviated sometimes as TOFR) software again, refreshing their database, which means more Theories of Family Relativity for DNA testers.

According to the MyHeritage blog:

The number of DNA Matches that include a theory increased by 42.5% from 9,964,321 to 14,201,731.

Sometimes we arrive at a theory through multiple paths, indicating a strong theory and providing additional supporting evidence. After the previous update, there were a total of 115,106,944 paths. This update increased the number of paths by 40.5% to 161,762,761.

The number of MyHeritage users who now have at least one Theory of Family Relativity™ for their DNA Matches has increased by 33.6%.

I’m SOOO glad I added all of those branches to my tree, including all children and grandchildren of my ancestors. Every piece of information is utilized in developing Theories.

I sure hope I have new Theories. Let’s see.

My New Theories

Yay, under DNA Matches, I have the purple banner that indicates there are new Theories waiting for me.

Theories new.png

I can just click on View Theories to see all of the TOFR, including new ones.

Theories 65.png

You can see that clicking on the “View theories” button filters my matches to only those matches who have Theories. I have 65 matches, many of whom will have multiple Theories for me to evaluate. That’s an increase from 52 Theories previously, or a 20% increase.

New Theories result from people who have tested or transferred since TOFR was last run in July 2019. Some will be people who can now connect because someone’s tree or research documents now provide enough information to suggest a common ancestor – which of course is the foundation of Theories for DNA matches.

You can sort by new matches, but there isn’t a way to see only your new Theories of Family Relativity. That’s OK, because I make notes on each person with whom I have a Theory, plus I keep a separate spreadsheet.

Theories notes.png

Matches with notes show up with a purple note box. “No notes” have no color, so it’s easy to click through my TOFR matches pages, looking for TOFR matches with no color. Those are new TOFR matches.

Are the New Theories Accurate?

Theories with DNA matches are formed based on a combination of your tree, your matches tree, other people’s trees, community resource trees like FamilySearch, plus various documents like census records that tie people together.

The reason multiple Theories exist for the same match is because there are different possibilities in terms of how you and your match might be related or how different trees might tie you together. In some cases, Theories will be for different lines that you share with the same person.

Each Theory has a confidence calculation that weighs the reliability of each theory connecting segment based on internal parameters. As you can see below, this connection is given a 50% probability weight of being accurate. You can click on that percentage to review the match and comparative data.

Theories weight.png

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Path 1 of my first new Theory is accurate, even though birth and death dates of Ann McKee’s husband are different at FamilySearch.

Theoreis multiple trees.png

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Looking further down this tree, you can see that my match had only extended their tree through Roxie, but a FamilySearch tree spanned the generations between Roxie and our common couple, Charles Speak and Ann McKee.

My tree didn’t extend down far enough to include Roxie.

Of the other 4 paths/Theories, 3 simply connect at different levels in the same basic trees, meaning that I connect at Margaret Claxton instead of Ann McKee.

The 5th path, however, is ambiguous and I can’t tell if it’s accurate or not. It doesn’t matter though, because I have 4 different solid paths connecting me and my new match.

Theories can connect people with almost no tree. One man had a total of 7 people in his tree, yet through multiple connections, we were connected accurately as 5th cousins.

One accurate Theory combined a total of 6 trees to piece together the Theory.

Working the Theories

I stepped through each match, making notes about each Theory, confirming the genealogy, checking for additional surnames that might indicate a second (or third or fourth) line, as well as SmartMatches.

SmartMatches only occur if the same people are found in both trees. I had no SmartMatches this time, because each of these Theories was more complex and required multiple tree hops to make the connection.

One match was a duplicate upload. After eliminating that from the totals, I have the following results for my newly generated Theories of Family Relativity.

Scorecard

Match Total Theories/Paths Accuracy Comments
1 5 4 yes, 1 ambiguous
2 3 Not exactly, but close Close enough that I could easily discern the common ancestor
3 2 Yes
4 5 Yes
5 1 Not exactly, but close Within 1 generation
6 1 No Acadian, needs additional research
7 5 Yes, but 2 with issues 2 were accurate, 2 with ancestor’s first wife erroneously as mother, and one with private mother
8 2 Not exactly, but close Within 1 generation, also, 2 separate lines
9 2 Yes
10 4 Not exactly, but close Within 1 generation
11 5 Yes One wife shown as unknown
12 3 Not exactly, but close Within 1 generation, also 4 separate common lines in total
Total 38 23 yes, 1 ambiguous, 13 close, 1 no

All of the close matches were extremely easy to figure out, except one in a heavily endogamous population with many “same name” people. That one needs additional research.

I’m not at all unhappy with the Theories that weren’t spot on because Theories are meant to be research hints, and they got me to the end goal of identifying our common ancestor.

I wrote about how to use Theories, in detail, here.

Observations and Commentary

Theories of Family Relativity has been run by MyHeritage for the third time now. It doesn’t run all the time, so new testers and uploaders will need to wait until the next run to see their Theories.

You can expect some Theories to come and go, especially if someone has deleted a tree or changed a piece of data that a Theory utilized.

I did not go back and recheck my earlier Theories because I had already ascertained the common ancestor.

I have a total of 65 matches with whom I have TOFR, one of which is a duplicate.

I have a total of 99 paths, or Theories, for those 64 matches.

Of my 64 non-duplicate matches, only 5 don’t have at least one correct Theory. Of those 5, all incorrect Theories are a result of an incorrect tree or name confusion that I was able to easily resolve. Only one needs more research.

Reviewing the match for additional surnames often reveals multiple lines of descent beyond the Theories presented.

Previously, I only had 11 matches with multiple Theories, but of my 12 new matches, only 2 don’t have multiple paths. Multiple Theories are a function of more matches, more trees, and more resources. I’m grateful for all the hints I can get.

Remember, Theories are just that – theories that point you in a research direction. They require confirmation. Good thing we’re genealogists!

Next, DNAPainter

Of course, the good news is that I could paint my new matches at DNAPainter, having assigned them to our common ancestor, thanks to Theories. DNAPainter is a great sanity check. If you have the same reasonably sized segment attributed to multiple ancestors, something is wrong, someplace.

That something could be:

  • That the segment is identical by chance in some matches
  • Someone’s genealogy is inaccurate
  • Imputation added invalid data
  • You’re related in more ways, on more lines, that you know
  • There’s an unknown parentage event in a line someplace
  • That your ancestors were related

What About You?

Do you have new Theories of Family Relativity waiting for you?

Sign on and take a look.

If you haven’t tested at or transferred your DNA to MyHeritage, you can order a test, here. Tests are currently on sale for $39.

MyHeritage offers free transfers from the DNA testing companies whose step-by-step upload instruction articles are listed below.

Instructions for uploading TO MyHeritage are found here:

If you test at MyHeritage, all DNA features, functions, and tools are free.

If you transfer your DNA file to My Heritage, DNA matching is free, but Theories of Family Relativity requires either a site data subscription to access genealogical records, which you can try for free, here, or a one time $29 unlock fee for the advanced DNA tools which include:

  • Theories of Relativity
  • Chromosome browser
  • Triangulation
  • Ethnicity estimates

Have fun!

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